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Title: One Touch of Nature
       A Petite Drama, In One Act

Author: Benjamin Webster

Release Date: February 15, 2017 [EBook #54172]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Paul Haxo with special thanks to the University
of California, Davis.




In One Act,








“Nassau Steam Press”—W. S. Johnson, 60, St. Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, W.C.

Dramatis Personæ.

MR. WILLIAM PENN HOLDER. Old black body coat, plaid vest, black trousers, gray gaiters, black shoes, gray bald wig, gray hat with crape } MR. BENJAMIN WEBSTER.
MR. BEAUMONT FLETCHER (a Barrister and Dramatic Author). Black frock coat, fancy waistcoat } MR. BILLINGTON.
MR. BELGRAVE. Light blue long great coat, plaid trousers } MR. W. H. EBURNE.
JONES (Porter, &c., to the Adelphi Chambers). Livery coat (dark), white vest, black trousers } MR. MORELAND.

Time of Representation, 45 minutes.


L. means first entrance, left. R. first entrance, right. S. E. L. second entrance, left. S. E. R. second entrance, right. U. E. L. upper entrance, left. U. E. R. upper entrance, right. C. centre. L. C. left centre. R. C. right centre. T. E. L. third entrance, left. T. E. R. third entrance, right. Observing you are supposed to face the audience.

[Pg 5]



SCENE I.—Mr. Beaumont Fletcher’s chambers in the Adelphi, handsomely furnished, doors R., L., and C. JONES discovered.

Jones (writing). To address the lady’s-maid of a marchioness is no trifling affair, especially in the present march of intellect, when the maids know more than the mistresses. One’s obliged not only to mind one’s stops, but one’s grammar. I have been nearly three-quarters of an hour now trying to round a period—I, who French-polish the boots of a dramatic author. Ought I to put “I was smitten,” or “I was struck with your charms?”—it’s very embarrassing—I must consult Mr. Fletcher. In my letter I must inclose the order he promised to procure for me; but if, with the order, I cannot conclude my letter——

Enter FLETCHER, C. door.

Fle. The devil take the theatre, and all the actresses into the bargain!

Jones. Has the rehearsal been unsatisfactory, sir?

Fle. This Miss Constance Belmour! this Miss Constance Belmour!

Jones. Sir!

Fle. Is it talent or is it temper?

Jones. Sir!

Fle. She was execrable.

Jones. Did you think, sir—

Fle. Hey! what? What do you say?

Jones. I was going to ask, sir, if you thought of the order?

Fle. What order?

Jones. The order, sir, that I asked you for this morning, for the lady’s-maid of a marchioness, whom I met at Cremorne. I suppose you forgot it, sir?

Fle. Oh! I had other matters to attend to.

Jones. Of course, sir; of course. Then I’ll go myself, sir—in your name, sir, I’m sure to get it sir, as you write in the newspapers.[Pg 6] Only, sir, if you should want me, sir, you will please to recollect that I am obliged to go out.

Fle. Not one word of her part—not one, and the piece is to come out on Wednesday. It’s enough to drive one mad.

Jones. I have always said, sir, that you have never been done justice to, sir; yet you will persist in writing for these second-rate theatres. If I was you, sir, I would not write again till government built a legitimate theatre for scenery.

Fle. That’s your opinion, is it?

Jones. Yes, sir, and it’s the opinion of Miss Penelope, too.

Fle. And who’s Miss Penelope?

Jones. The lady’s-maid I mentioned just now, sir. When I told her your profession, sir, she immediately asked if you authorised the legitimate drama.

Fle. And you replied——

Jones. I blushed, sir, and answered that you did not, but that you intended to do so.

Fle. You did right, Jones. In future I will write only blank verse, and you shall blush no more.

Jones. If you will permit, sir, I will give you a subject.

Fle. Well, let us see what it is.

Jones. Would it not be something new and original to work up a servant whose sentiments are above his situation?

[Bell rings.

Fle. Some one rang.

Jones. I’ll attend to it, sir.

Fle. Go, then. (aside) What a life! what a life!

Jones. (returning) Oh, sir!

Fle. Still here?

Jones. “I’m struck with your charms”—is it refined English?

Fle. (bell rings) Attend to the bell.

Jones. (returning) Is it more refined—“I am smitten with your charms?” (bell rings violently.)

Fle. Devil take it, they’ll pull the bell down.

Jones. I’m going, sir! (aside.) Shall I put smitten or struck? I must toss up for it, heads or tails.

[Exit door, C.

Fle. If I allow this woman to play the part, she’ll ruin the piece.


Bel. Good morning. Do you take me for a man that can be easily imposed on? No; can’t humbug me!

Fle. What do you mean? (coldly) I’m delighted to see you.

Bel. This explains the promptitude with which I was admitted.

Fle. (satirically) By-the-bye, you have come most opportunely. I have to thank you for persuading me to confide an important[Pg 7] character to Miss Constance Belmour—that was a grand idea of yours.

Bel. Capital, was it not?

Fle. (satirically) I was charmed with her at rehearsal just now. Luckily I can undo what is done. I mean to take the part away from her.

Bel. A brilliant idea that, I must confess, and any one but me would let you follow your bent.

Fle. What do you say?

Bel. It is useless to disguise matters. I know all. Can’t humbug me.

Fle. What do you know?

Bel. All! (showing bouquet.) Here is your bouquet, returned like a dishonest bill—no effects.

Fle. My bouquet?

Bel. Do you deny that you sent these flowers to Constance?

Fle. I’m in a nice humour to send her flowers. I am going to write to her.

Bel. To anyone else you please, but not to her; this rage is all moonshine. Can’t humbug me!

Fle. Moonshine is it?

Bel. You are in love with Constance, and you would have us believe you intend taking this part from her and lose by the change.

Fle. I will soon prove that.

Bel. I am not a man to be easily imposed on. Can’t humbug me!

Fle. This is folly. It was not I who sent the bouquet.

Bel. Not you?

Fle. On my honour!

Bel. Then I will find out if I go to every flower-shop in London.

Fle. Do, my good fellow, do.

Bel. I will, depend on it. I will not rest until I have discovered the truth. I will know who sent this bouquet. Adieu. I am not a man to be easily imposed on. Can’t humbug me!

[Exit C.

Fle. Now there goes a man determined to make himself miserable. To win Constance from him would be no very difficult task. The day before yesterday I spoke to her, she was not at all coy, and when I took her hand in mine——it is true that this act of sensibility has borne its fruits. Till then her rehearsing was very so so. But since she imagined I was fascinated by her coquetry, she has not rehearsed at all. Love is evidently no[Pg 8] friend of mine. Once a man gets his legs entangled in the steel traps of a crinoline it’s all over with him. So I’ll pluck up resolution, and inform this popular lady that I will relieve her from the part. (Writes.) “My dear young lady.” Hum! It is rather difficult to write disagreeably to a woman whose hand you have pressed in yours but two days since. “My dear.” (A rap at door C.) Come in. (Rap repeated.) Come in.

Enter HOLDER with manuscript C.

Hol. (at door) It’s me, sir.

Fle. Oh! good day, Mr. Holder.

Hol. Do I disturb you?

Fle. No. Come in.

Hol. Here is your manuscript. I have copied it all but the last scene, which you did not give me.

Fle. Here it is. I had some corrections to make.

Hol. Shall I take it home with me and finish it?

Fle. No, no. Copy it here; it will not take ten minutes.

[He looks over the MS.

Hol. Is it readable?

Fle. It is beautifully clear.

Hol. You flatter me. I know it is only good feeling induces you to give me your manuscripts to copy.

Fle. No, Mr. Holder, no.

Hol. But for you I should have starved.

Fle. Starved! Die of hunger in wealthy London!

Hol. It is true, though; that day when you found me almost fainting near the stage-door of the theatre.

Fle. Ah! what the devil were you doing there?

Hol. I was waiting.

Fle. Waiting? For what?

Hol. (quickly). Nothing. I expected nothing. I, I came there by accident, because I had not strength to go any further. Ah! sir, I wish I was enabled to prove to you that I am not ungrateful.

Fle. Do not mention it.

Hol. But I will mention it. Why yesterday I received through you a guinea for copying a comedy—a guinea, sir, a whole guinea. I have not been so rich for many a day.

Fle. (laughing.) Which you doubtless invested in stocks.

Hol. No sir, roses.

Fle. Roses! and you spoke of starving.

Hol. It was for another, and I may never have the means again. Self-denial was, in this instance, a pleasure to me.

[Pg 9]

Fle. Well, well, privately as politically, I suppose you have a right to do what you like with your own.

Hol. Ah! if you only knew—no matter. Your piece is very pretty.

Fle. You like it?

Hol. Yes; perhaps I am presuming in giving an opinion.

Fle. Not at all. I rather like it.

Hol. It’s very pretty. There is one part in particular that affected me to tears.

Fle. Which was that?

Hol. The scene where the father finds his daughter.

Fle. (aside). The very part that Miss Constance Belmour absolutely murders.

Hol. It’s fine, very fine! The father speaks as a father should; I, if I found myself in a similar situation, I feel I should express myself exactly as you have written.

Fle. The eulogium pleases me infinitely.

Hol. I have read that scene over at least ten times. I know it by heart.

Fle. Indeed!

Hol. Let me see—“My child! my child! come to my arms. It is you alone can efface the sufferings of twenty years!”

Fle. That’s it; that’s just what I mean.

Hol. That scene requires to be well acted.

Fle. Does it not?

Hol. Well acted by the man, and well acted by the lady, in particular.

Fle. (aside) He’s quite right.

Hol. The lady has but one word to say, but one exclamation: “My father!” but the success entirely depends upon the manner of her giving it.

Fle. You are right, and I shall hesitate no longer. (Writes.) “My dear Miss Belmour,—It is quite impossible”——

Hol. Miss Belmour! Did you say Miss Constance Belmour?

Fle. Yes, I cast her this part—I am writing to relieve her of it.

Hol. Take the part from her? from Constance—christened during the run of the Love Chase.

Fle. Your “Father!” has decided me.

Hol. My “Father!” decided you? In opposition to Knowles’s most beautiful creation? You shall write no such thing.

Fle. What!

Hol. Take this part from her, give it to another, and humiliate her. You must not write. Why would you take it from her?

Fle. Because she’ll murder it.

[Pg 10]

Hol. Murder it! poor child! The part contains sentiments she is a stranger to. She does not appear to feel sufficiently strong the expression, “My father!” Who knows? perhaps she has never known a father, or a father’s love.

Fle. You seem quite affected.

Hol. You will not write? If you take this part from her I shall hate you—to know that you caused her pain through what I have said. It would drive me mad—it would kill me!

Fle. What did you say?

Hol. Pay no attention to what I say—my head is a little shaky. Promise me, only promise me, you will not take this part from her. She will play it admirably—beautifully.

Fle. Oh!——well, there. (tears up letter.)

Hol. Bless you! Bless—don’t mind me—I’m an old fool. Explain it to her. If I could speak to her, I——explain to her what you wish. She’ll play it to perfection. She has intelligence—you have not observed it. Ah! you don’t know her—she’s a genius.

Fle. You speak of Miss Belmour? (knock and bell.)

Hol. Hush! some one’s called. It is she!

Fle. How do you know?

Hol. It is she, I tell you. I am not mistaken—it is she!

Fle. Well, this is the most singular—

Enter CONSTANCE, door C.

Hol. (to FLETCHER) I was right, you see.

Con. Good morning, my dear Mr. Fletcher. What nice chambers you have here—only a little high.

Fle. (coldly) You here, Miss Belmour!

Con. Oh, dear! what a refrigerating reception.

Fle. I was writing to you—

Con. To tell me—

Fle. That I should not require you in my piece.

Hol. (aside to FLETCHER) Oh, sir!

Con. Very amiable of you, very amiable, indeed. (Seeing pieces of the letter, and picking up one.) “Belmour—it is quite impossible”—why did you tear up the letter?

Fle. Because I was entreated to allow you to retain the character.

Con. By whom?

Fle. Mr. Holder.

Con. Mr.——I remember your face somewhere, sir.

Hol. (subdued and quite overpowered.) At the theatre, probably.

Con. If I am not mistaken, I have often seen you as I entered the theatre.

[Pg 11]

Hol. Possibly! possibly!

Con. What ails you? are you ill?

Hol. No, oh dear no; it’s only a——I was not prepared——it is the first time you have spoken to me.

Con. And that produces such an effect on you?

Hol. Yes. I don’t know how it is—but it is nothing.

Con. Poor man!

[She is about to take out her purse, but on a look from HOLDER, she arrests her hand.

Hol. (to FLETCHER aside.) You see? She would not insult me by offering me money.

Fle. Will you finish copying the last leaf?

Hol. Ah! yes, directly—conclude it’s done.

Fle. There is some mystery about you——

Con. (R., taking of her bonnet and shawl.) Will you be kind enough to assist me, Mr. Fletcher. What an ungallant man you are.

Fle. I beg your pardon.

Con. As I came here, I met Fitzcharles in her brougham with her father.

Fle. Was the father on the box?

Con. No, inside.

Fle. You astound me.

Con. Perhaps it’s his birthday.

Hol. Oh! Lord!

Fle. (to HOLDER.) Can’t you make it out?

Hol. I’d come to the tag, sir; the tag!

Fle. (aside.) I can’t make him out.

Hol. Your conversation distracts me.

Fle. Then copy it in my study. (pointing to door R.)

Hol. No, I shall be more at home in the hall. (going.)

Con. (to HOLDER.) Adieu, my good friend. I shall make it a point of speaking to you whenever I see you now. I wish you to get accustomed to my voice.

Hol. (aside.) Ah! Ah! she has not insulted me by offering me money.

[Exit, C.

Con. What and who is this Mr. Holder?

Fle. A copyist; he is often here. You have produced a singular effect upon him.

Con. Then I am to understand that but for the intercession of this good creature I should have received by post, stamped at its full value, the gracious compliment.

Fle. On second thoughts I might not have sent my letter.

Con. The fact is that you are like Macbeth, “Letting, I dare[Pg 12] not, wait upon I would.” My dear sir, between ourselves, you want it here (touching her forehead); you do indeed!

Fle. Confess, now, that you rehearsed to-day on purpose to turn the whole piece into ridicule.

Con. Well, and if I did—the piece deserves it? A father—a daughter—the old story, old as the world.

Fle. What matters, if the situations are new.

Con. It’s a dramatised police affair.

Fle. What signifies if the manager is bound over to keep the piece.

Con. Well said! Capital! Now don’t put itself out of temper. I freely admit that the story is very touching, but if I do not feel it, what would you have? It is a sentiment I have never experienced, and, therefore, cannot comprehend.

Fle. (aside) Holder’s right.

Con. At any rate I shall look the character to the life, and that’s everything now-a-days. I shall have a simple white robe. Oh! I have been very studious about my dress.

Fle. And you don’t know a word of your part yet.

Con. Ah! that’s because I have not studied that.

Fle. That reason’s conclusive.

Con. Besides, I was out of temper. Some one sent me a bouquet this morning, and Belgrave has been making such a fuss about it.

Fle. He came to me, pretending that I had sent you the bouquet.

Con. And it was not you.

Fle. Certainly not.

Con. Decidedly, that Belgrave is insupportable.

Fle. He quitted me, swearing that he would find out who sent it, if he searched every flower-shop in London.

Con. And he is not a man to be imposed upon—at least, that’s his monomania. I was very curious to know who sent this bouquet, and he charged himself with satisfying my curiosity. I fear he will have only his trouble for his pains.

Fle. Why are you so anxious to know?

Con. Because in the present day the man who sends a bouquet anonymously, and does not inform you what it cost, is a rare specimen of the genus homo worth knowing.

Fle. You have a rare wit beyond a doubt, and you would be perfect if you would study the part in my piece.

Con. Ungrateful monster! Now can you guess why I have come here?

Fle. No.

Con. To go over the part with you seriously.

Fle. Is it possible?

[Pg 13]

Con. At the theatre, instead of rehearsing we were saying disagreeable things to each other; as that did not appear to me to advantage the piece, I thought an hour with you in good earnest would not be thrown away.

Fle. You’re an angel.

Con. That’s an incontrovertible fact, for what everybody says must be true; but since you intend this character for another——

Fle. I!

Con. Have you not told me so to my face? and (sings)

“My face is my fortune, sir, she said.”

Fle. A moment of irritation—I was not serious.

Con. Did you intend to give the part to Fitzcharles? They say you are smitten in that quarter. She’ll listen to you. She delights in literary men—but they are not the wise men who know themselves to be fools.

Fle. I did not intend to give the part to Fitzcharles, I am not smitten with her, and you know that well.

Con. Well, now, we must attend particularly to the scene when the father and daughter recognize each other. I candidly confess that at present I have no idea of it. When I exclaim “My father!” I always feel inclined to laugh.

Fle. Then that would damn the piece.

Con. Hush! Let us hope that I shall find it no laughing matter on the day of representation.

Fle. Most fervently, I hope so.

Con. Ah! you must send some one for my part; I have left it at home.

Fle. You go to the rehearsal without your part, and you don’t know a word of it.

Con. But I have the credit of knowing it, for I spoke to my cue.

Fle. Not without a prompter; I’ll send for it. Jones! Jones! Where is he? Jones! Jones!

Enter HOLDER, C.

Hol. Jones is gone out, sir.

Fle. There now!

Hol. He’s gone to the theatre for the order you promised him.

Fle. Devil take him! and the order too.

Con. You have yourself to blame—you should not break your promises. You should not “palter with him in a double sense,” when the order was doubtless for two.

Hol. As I have finished copying, if I can be of any service—

Con. Yes; it’s a great service you can render me with very little trouble.

[Pg 14]

Hol. A service—to you!

Con. It is to go to my house, and ask my servant to give you my part.

Hol. I fly.

Con. Where are you going to fly?

Hol. To your house.

Con. Without knowing the address.

Hol. Oh, I know it—Norfolk Street, No. 90—close by.

Con. You know my address?

Hol. Yes, at the theatre—heard it accidentally—the prompter told the call-boy, the call-boy told the messenger—and I fly.

[Exit C.

Con. What a strange man! I recollect seeing him often about the theatre. How very singular.

Fle. When you spoke to him just now, I thought he would have fallen.

Con. I perceived it.

Fle. Perhaps he has fallen—in love with you.

Con. Absurd!

Fle. Has it never crossed your mind when the curtain fell, to think that among those who had seen and applauded you, many perhaps loved you who never would be enabled to declare their love——

Con. “But let concealment like a worm in the bud,” &c. Yes, such a vain idea has flitted through my brain.

Fle. Without the slightest impression?

Con. Yes, a momentary pleasure.

Fle. You are a very woman to your fingers’ ends.

Con. Beware of them. But come to business. It will be awkward rehearsing without Melfort, who plays the father.

Fle. I’ll send for him.

Con. Melfort stands upon his dignity. He’s a fettered lion. Send for him. You had better go for him yourself.

Fle. Where shall I find him?

Con. At the theatre until four.

Fle. (looking at his watch.) And it’s five minutes past.

Con. You have no time to lose.

Fle. It will not take five minutes to go to the theatre, and they allow ten for the variation of clocks.

Con. Do it, “nor leave the task to me.”

[He is running off, C., when he knocks against BELGRAVE, who seizes him by the collar.

Bel. A word, if you please.

Fle. Presently, my friend; I’m in a hurry.

[Pg 15]

Bel. Do you still persist in saying that you did not send the bouquet? No humbug.

Fle. I do, I do, I do! there, now let me go.

Bel. But you did send it; I am certain of it. I have proofs.

Fle. I shall be curious to know them, presently.

Bel. I will show you at once, if you’ll listen.

Fle. Impossible!

Bel. Do you think to escape me thus? I am not a man——

Fle. Unhand me, I say.

[disengages himself, and exits, C.

Bel. Well, that’s one way of cutting short an explanation. For whom do they take me? (to CONSTANCE.) You here, madame?

Con. Have you not perceived me?

Bel. You here! What are you doing with Mr. Fletcher?

Con. Rehearsing my new part.

Bel. Rehearsing! what, the part he but now vowed you should not act? At any rate, you ought at least, both of you, to recollect that I am not a man to be easily imposed upon. Can’t humbug me! something remains behind.

Con. Then leave it in the hall. You have already made yourself perfectly ridiculous this morning, and very little more will render you perfectly insupportable.

Bel. That’s very easily said, madame, very easily said, but when my mind—

Con. Your mind!

Bel. Yes, madame, my mind. I beg leave to respectfully assert that I have a mind, and when the suspicions of that mind are appeased, then, madame, and not till then—

Con. What an excellent tragedian you would have made.

Bel. Tragedian? humbug! I have my hand full of proofs—this bouquet—

Con. Pansies for thought—Love lies a-bleeding. Have you been walking London with this bouquet?

Bel. Yes, madame, I have, and have ended by finding out what I sought to know.

Con. And what is the great discovery you have made? One would almost imagine it were perpetual motion.

Bel. Mr. Fletcher sent you this bunch of flowers.

Con. The race is not to the swift. You have discovered nothing. Fletcher did not send me those flowers.

Bel. I beg your pardon; this bouquet was purchased in Regent-street this morning at 10.45 A.M. The man who bought it was old, and dressed in a drab hat and black coat. They gave me an exact description of him, and I recognised him immediately—the copyist who is always at Fletcher’s elbow, and who is literally his right hand.

[Pg 16]

Con. The copyist purchased it?

Bel. Of course. I’m not a man to be imposed on! Can’t humbug me!

Con. And that proves that Mr. Fletcher sent me these flowers.

Bel. Unless we are to believe that this poor fellow amuses himself in purchasing bouquets worth a sovereign each out of twopence a length.

Con. You have a lively imagination, and make marvellous jumps at conclusions. Has it never entered the cavity of your head that in London there may be two men who wear a drab hat and black coat?

Bel. Possibly! possibly! (Enter HOLDER, C.) But talk of the old gentleman, &c.; we can know from himself.

Hol. Here is your part, madame.

Bel. (to HOLDER) Do you know this bouquet?

Hol. The one I purchased this morning.

Bel. (to CONSTANCE) Proof positive!

Con. Well, if Mr. Fletcher did send the flowers, what then?

Hol. It was not Mr. Fletcher who commissioned me to purchase this bouquet.

Bel. Who then?

Hol. Eh! Who?

Bel. Yes—no humbug!

Hol. (confused and hesitating) Oh! it was—hum!

Con. (aside) Can Fletcher have divined?

Bel. (to HOLDER) Well—go on—Ah! Fletcher is not a man to put his light under a bushel. Fletcher is a man of imagination—a dramatic author—an original genius; not a translator of unconsidered trifles.

Con. What a fuss about a few roses.

Bel. Rose d’amour, madame. A Fletcher by any other name—I mean, any other rose is as sweet. Never mind. I don’t understand the language of flowers—no, all humbug—but this I know. There are men who resign themselves to the part you require them to act, madame. There are others who refuse to play second to any one, and who, when once they perceive their position ridiculous, cease to remonstrate, and respectfully offer to cancel the engagement.

Con. Delightful! Why did you not say so before? What a world of words it would have saved. “Stand not on the order of going, but go at once.”

Bel. Very good, madame, very good. An angel’s face, but a—

Con. Oh, mercy!

Bel. You have no heart (throws bouquet on floor). Adieu!

[Exit C.

[Pg 17]

Con. This bouquet—you purchased it, and sent it to me?

Hol. Yes.

Con. These are flowers of great price.

Hol. Yesterday, at the theatre, I was standing behind one of the wings, and—and—I heard you say you loved them.

Con. Oh! (aside.) Decidedly I have made a conquest here.

Hol. Don’t be angry, I entreat of you; nor don’t laugh at me.

Con. I am neither angry with you, nor in the mood to laugh at you. But what would you have me say to you?

Hol. Ah! Cons—madame!

Con. You are doubtless very unhappy. I feel for you; your sufferings touch me nearly.

Hol. (making a step towards her; he stops.) My chi——

Con. You must leave London, and when you see me no more you will forget me.

Hol. You are right. I will go far, far away—but first—

Con. In truth it is the only advice I can give you—see me no more—go.

Hol. I will go—but—

Con. It must be! Adieu!

Hol. Adieu!

Con. Stay! the bouquet you have purchased for me, give it me—at least I may keep that.

Hol. (picking up the bouquet, and giving it to her.) Ah! thanks—thanks!

Con. Poor man!

[Exits door, R.

Hol. To part without embracing her. I would have given the world for one embrace, and have called her my——; but no, it’s impossible! I will go at once—if I look on her again, my courage will fail me; and yet, I cannot leave her thus—one embrace, one kiss, and I depart forever. Ah! Constance! Constance! my dear Constance! (falls on his knees, and covers the shawl of CONSTANCE with kisses.)


Fle. Come, that’s all right—Melfort’s promised to come. (sees HOLDER.) Hollo!

Hol. Constance! my own Constance!

Fle. What are you doing there?

Hol. Some one here! Oh! it’s you, sir? I should not like to have been surprised by any one but you.

Fle. What’s the matter with you, Mr. Holder?

Hol. You think me a little cracked, I dare say. You shall know all. I can confide in you. You are good.

Fle. Speak out, man, for really I cannot comprehend.

[Pg 18]

Hol. When I have told you, you will understand that I cannot go without one embrace. You will assist me to find a way. After that, I swear, by all that’s good, I will leave the place for ever.

Fle. Well! proceed.

Hol. My story is not long: Twenty years ago I was a tailor in Long Acre. I was not a fashionable tailor, but still I did a good trade, and made money. I met a young girl—she was pretty—very pretty. She lived alone with her father, an old chorus-singer, who was always drunk, at least he was never sober—and consequently Martha was very unhappy. I proposed marriage to her, and she accepted. For three years I was the happiest of men. I was passionately fond of my wife. I had a daughter whom I adored. My happiness was too great to last. About this time a young man often came to me, and ordered a variety of clothes which he never wore. On one occasion I observed him speak to my wife in a manner I thought rather strange. I mentioned it to Martha, and she said I must be mad. I loved her—and was silenced. Some few days after, this young man came again. I hear whisperings, then bursts of laughter. This time I asserted my position as a man and a husband. Martha replied in most unblushing terms. Next day I went out. When I returned, my house was empty, my home deserted. Martha had eloped with this young man, and taken my child with her.

Fle. The wretch!

Hol. Little by little my wounded pride effaced the image of Martha, but another memory clung to me; my daughter, the child I had danced on my knee, that I taught to lisp my name, this babe whose smile was sunshine to me, whose first word was like an angel’s whisper to my ear, she was lost to me for ever.

Fle. Poor fellow! poor fellow!

Hol. Fifteen years dragged its weary time away, when one day I received a letter without an address—it was from Martha. She had doubtless written it on her deathbed. Her seducer, after having taken her to France and Italy, and dissipated time amidst their pleasures, had abandoned her. She dared not return to me. “Pardon me,” said she, “I have been bitterly punished. As for your daughter—”

Fle. Well, your daughter?

Hol. It was the greatest blow of all, but it must be told. “As for your daughter, I know not where she is, but you will easily recognize her if you recall my form and features. Such as I was when you first saw and loved me, such is your child to-day—the same face, the same look, the same voice.” I uttered a cry of joy. My child lives—I shall see her once again.

[Pg 19]

Fle. Why, this is stranger than fiction.

Hol. I traversed the town in the hope of meeting her—resorted to every public place. I was repulsed from every door—my inquiries were laughed at; but jeers and insults could not stay me. I peered into each coach and cab, watched at the door of every ball, waited by the entrance of all the theatres—everywhere. I stared in every woman’s face that passed. One day I heard a voice, the voice of Martha: a woman appeared—the form of Martha. “Constance,” said some one. The woman turned—the face of Martha. Constance—it was the name of my child!

Fle. She!

Hol. Yes, I saw her again next day. Not a day passes without my seeing her.

Fle. And you have not thrown yourself in her arms? You have not made yourself known to her?

Hol. No.

Fle. Why not?

Hol. How might she have received my burst of affection? A word effaces not fifteen years of indifference. The love of a father and child is not an instinct. I can endure being unknown to her, console myself by looking on her and loving her in secret; but to say to her, “I am your father,” and not be loved—

Fle. She would soon learn to love you.

Hol. If I had been a stranger to her for fifteen years, and they said to me, “Here is your daughter,” that would not suffice to make me love her. Now, thank heaven, I have nothing to reproach her with, poor child! To forgive is to merit forgiveness. Besides, I am poor, old, and without resources. When I shall have told her that I was her father, what would she have done? Offered me bread as a duty. There are those who would have eat of such bread. Would she have placed me beside her in her carriage, or with her groom on the box?

Fle. What then do you desire?

Hol. To depart. She has advised me to do so; only before my departure I would enfold her in my arms—press one kiss of affection on her cheek.

Enter JONES, C.

Jones. A letter, sir.

Fle. Oh! you are returned at last.

Jones. I only went to the theatre—I told you, sir, what for.

Fle. Does it take an hour to go there?

Jones. On my way back I called on Miss Penelope, sir, and informed her that in future, sir, you had promised to stick to blank verse.

[Pg 20]

Fle. Give me the letter.

Jones. Here it is, sir.

Fle. It’s from Melfort! “My dear fellow, you must excuse my coming to your house—remember I have a character to lose, and were I to rehearse with a girl of seventeen anywhere but in the theatre, the world would affiché me to her.” A vain ass!

[Crushes up the letter.

Jones. I’m very fond of dialect with les Dames. Is the piece French, sir?

Fle. Go to the devil!

Jones. Perhaps, sir, I could adopt it to my style sufficiently——

Fle. Will you go?

Jones. I’m going, sir. (aside) I am studying “French without a master,” that I may read the English drama in the original.

[Exit, L.

Fle. So there’s an end of our intended private rehearsal.

Hol. If I simply express to her my desire to press her to my heart, she would laugh at me. Heaven’s will be done! Would I could find some way—can you not help me?

Fle. Did you not say but now that you knew by heart the scene in my piece where the father discovers his daughter?

Hol. Yes, sir.

Fle. Capital! You shall embrace your daughter.

Hol. Indeed! How—when—where?

Fle. Here—now.

Hol. I shall embrace her—she will permit me to do so, and yet she shall not know?

Fle. She shall know nothing.


Con. Well! will Melfort come?

Fle. He has written to me to say he cannot.

Con. Then the rehearsal is a fiasco?

Fle. Decidedly, unless you rehearse without him.

Con. Will you rehearse the father?

Fle. No. I must see you; listen to you; if need be, prompt you.

Con. Who will do the father, then? (Seeing HOLDER.) You here still, sir?

Fle. I requested Mr. Holder to remain. He knows the scene by heart at which you boggled to-day.

Hol. (aside.) Ah! I understand!

Con. The scene of recognition—you know it by heart?

Hol. Yes, through copying it, it fixed itself in my memory.

Con. What a memory! I have been studying that scene more than an hour, and I do not feel myself master of it yet.

Fle. Now, if you please, we’ll go through it with Mr. Holder.

[Pg 21]

Hol. (aside to FLETCHER.) God bless you!

Con. With Mr. Holder?

Hol. You object?

Con. Well, really, it’s the oddest circumstance——

Hol. (aside to FLETCHER.) Bless you!

Fle. Listen. (To HOLDER.) Control your feelings.

Con. What’s our position? Oh! you there, sir—I here—presently you cross me. By-the-bye, Fletcher, all is over between Belgrave and I. Oh! it’s such a happy release.

Fle. Come, begin.

Con. I am ready.

Hol. We—we commence the scene after the young girl’s story?

Fle. Precisely.

Hol. (rehearsing.) “When you arrive in London repeat that to me again; the servant who accompanied you, brought you to an old lady?

Con. “Yes.

Hol. “The lady at first received you unkindly, is it not so? Soon she would not part with you?

Con. “Yes; but how know you that?

Hol. “I know it”——

Con. You are quite affected. You are perfect to a letter, and rehearse it charmingly—much better than Melfort. You ought to have been an actor.

Hol. I could not act all parts like this!

Fle. Go on! You do it much better, much better! Go on!

Hol. “Five years passed, when one day this old lady called you to her. ‘This is your home,’ said she—‘the moment has arrived when I must depart.’

Con. “Her very words!

Hol. “And she quitted you—she exhibited no sign of affection for you—she only announced to you, that a man would shortly present himself to you. This man—

Con. “Was he to whom I offered my daily vows, though to me he was unknown. ‘That man,’ said she, ‘is your father.’”

Hol. “I am he.

Con. “You?

Hol. “Yes—I—I!” my child! Yes, at last, my child. Yes, ’tis I—’tis I—

Con. Stay—that’s not it—you forget—there’s nothing of that kind in the manuscript.

Fle. No—

Hol. What is it, then?

Fle. (reading.) “My child—my child! Yes—I—your father![Pg 22] Not a minute during the twenty long years which have separated us, have I ceased to think of the day when I should be enabled to press you to my heart.”

Hol. I beg your pardon; I was mistaken. “Yes, your father! Not a minute during the twenty long years which——” What comes next?

Fle. “During the twenty long years which have separated us have I ceased to think——”

Hol. “Not a minute during the twenty long years which——” No father, on finding his daughter, would make use of such an expression.

Fle. Why, just now you said—

Hol. Here is a man who has not seen his daughter for twenty years—who seeks her—who finds her—sees her—speaks to her—and you put in the mouth of this man a long rigmarole. He could not speak it. Impossible! tears—sobs—that’s all. My child, here, come to my heart—let me gaze on you—do not speak. My child, how sweet that name. Come, your father, ’tis I. Not a word—you know not—you cannot know—my child! my child! ah! (FLETCHER writing).

Con. You are faint?

Hol. No; it’s nothing—nothing. That’s more like what I should feel.

Con. It’s put me out completely. I don’t remember a word now.

Hol. (writing.) He’s right. His ideas are more natural than mine. “One touch of nature——”

Con. (to HOLDER.) You are crying.

Hol. Likely; it’s the character of the father. Let us finish the scene, will you.

Con. What a splendid actor you would have made!

Hol. Let us finish the scene.

Con. “You say you are my father.”

Hol. “You doubt it! Happily I can invoke remembrances that will give confidence to your heart.”—(To FLETCHER.) Here is another passage which must be altered.—“Do you not recall your days of childhood? A cottage surrounded with large trees—the high road passing before the door——

Con. “Yes—yes!

Hol. “On this road, in the distance, a man who, waving his handkerchief, shouted, ‘I am here.’

Con. “I remember well.

Hol. “He crossed the threshold—pressed you in his arms, and, kissing you again and again, he danced for joy. Can you still doubt?

Con. “My father!”

[Pg 23]

Fle. That’s not it, Belmour; not it at all—you never give sufficient force to that word.

Con. Eh! well then, let some one else do it.

Fle. Be patient—be patient. You can do it to perfection, I am sure, because you have it here and here (touching his head and heart). Why not work yourself up to the notion that this young girl who has not heard speak of her father for twenty years, and who suddenly finds herself face to face with him, is yourself.

Con. What do you say?

Hol. Imagine yourself the girl you are representing.

Con. There is something in your words and manner—

Hol. Try again. This time you will feel the words. “He pressed you in his arms, he kissed you again and again, he danced for joy. Can you still doubt?

Con. “My father!”

Fle. That’s not up to the mark yet.

Con. I know it is not, but I shall never do it better.

Hol. (to FLETCHER.) I suspect the fault rests with yourself. The remembrances you invoke in this scene are very vague. A road, a man on a road; there is nothing to lead up. Who knows, now if we were to change some words?

Con. Ah! yes; cut out, “My father!”

Fle. Cut out “My father!” You had better cut me out. Why that is the great point of the piece.

Hol. No, no; change the details.

Fle. To what? to what?

Hol. Allow me. (To CONSTANCE.) Recall to your memory my child, bethink you will—a large room—a man seated on a table—cross-legged—who sometimes crept towards you with his head moving up and down, like a monkey, to make you laugh.

Con. Ah!

Hol. Do you remember? By the side of this man a large pair of scissors, called shears, with which you always wanted to play—and the man scolded you gently—very gently—told you not to touch them.

Con. Surely that was—go on—

Hol. And one day when you cut yourself with these shears, your blood flowed, you remember?

Con. Yes—

Hol. You cried—the man jumped from the table pale with fright, but when he saw it was nothing, he pretended to laugh, and beat the scissors very hard to console you—my child, my child—that man, do you remember him?

Con. My father. (She falls in his arms. They embrace and kiss each other with strong feeling.)

Hol. She said it right then! You heard. Said it finely, eh?[Pg 24] suiting the word to the action, the action to the word. She may keep the part now.

Fle. And are you still bent on departing?

Hol. Departing! What do you mean, departing?

Fle. Why, just now, you talked of—

Hol. Ah! just now—just now she had not said, “My father.”

Con. And do I indeed embrace my father, that best protector from the world’s assaults. Oh! I have often dream’d of this, but the bright reality, with its vivid flashes of childhood’s memories, seem to endow me with a new existence of filial love and pleasure.

Hol. You hear, you hear, did I not tell you she was a genius. My good genius! One touch of nature has restored a child to a father’s heart. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

“Nassau Steam Press”—W. S. Johnson, 60, St. Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, W.C.

Transcriber’s Note

This transcription is based on the text printed, presumably soon after the first production in 1859, by Webster and Co. as number 199 of Webster’s Acting National Drama series. This text was made available as a microcopy by the University of California, Davis. However, because of the imperfections of the microcopy, the transcription was checked against a copy of an American Samuel French edition, number 287 of French’s Minor Drama, The Acting Edition series. Scans of this copy have been made available through the Internet Archive:

The Samuel French edition is essentially a reprint of the Webster edition with minor changes to punctuation.

The 1902 edition published in Philadelphia by the Penn Publishing Company was also reviewed, but because of textual changes this edition was not used. Some of these changes corrected the grammar of the original. For example, Holder enters saying “It’s me, sir” in the Webster and French editions, but says “It’s I, sir” in the Penn. Some of the changes attempted to make the language more acceptable to American sensibilities. For example, in the Webster and French editions, Fletcher enters saying, “The devil take the theatre, and all the actresses into the bargain!” In the Penn edition, he enters saying, “The mischief with the theatre, and all the actresses into the bargain!” Similar changes were made throughout the text.

In general, this transcription attempts to retain the formatting, punctuation, and spelling of the source text. Stage directions were punctuated three different ways: with parentheses without a period, with a period within the parentheses, and with a period immediately following the closing parenthesis. No attempt was made to make the punctuation of stage directions consistent.

The following changes were made to the text:

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