Daughters of the Rich: A One Act Play

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MASTERSON: Who's there? (Turns in chair. Sees EDNA.) Oh! When did you get in, my dear?

EDNA: Daddy, how you startled me,--I just came in. (Taking another cigarette.)

MASTERSON: Must have fallen asleep over my paper. What time is it?

EDNA: Time all dads were in bed. Two o'clock.

MASTERSON: Did you have a nice time at the ball? (Rises, stretching, etc.)

EDNA: Yes. (Crosses to chair.)

MASTERSON: Danced your feet off, I suppose.

EDNA: Almost.

MASTERSON: Many there?

EDNA: Usual crowd.

MASTERSON: You sent Smithson home early. (Crosses to chair.)

EDNA: Yes. The Arnolds brought me home in their car. (Sits in chair, L.C., smoking.)

MASTERSON: I wish you wouldn't smoke those things.

EDNA: Old-fashioned Daddy. Everbody smokes. I have smoked ever since I was twelve years old--learned it in school, in fact.

MASTERSON: So that is what you learned at that expensive school?

EDNA: That--and other things. (Police whistle outside.) The police----(Door bell rings) I'll go----

MASTERSON: My dear, you can't go to the door at this hour. I'll answer it.

EDNA: I suppose the servants are all in bed. Let them ring. Someone has mistaken the house.

(MASTERSON exits C.D. through hall.)

POLICEMAN: (Outside) Sorry to trouble you, Sir----We traced a woman to this house. She let herself in with a latch key--she had just given us the slip.

MASTERSON: You are mistaken, officer. No woman you were after could possibly have a latch key to this house.

OFFICER: She surely came in here.

MASTERSON: Nonsense! Well, don't keep me standing here in the cold. Come in, if you must see for yourself. (Comes down hall and enters C.D., followed by police officer and FRANK BURT.) Well----well----what's it all about?

OFFICER: Well, Sir, since this new law went into effect, we've had to keep an eye on the down-town rooming houses and restaurants. We raided a restaurant with private rooms tonight. Had orders to take everyone we found there to the station. I had this young fellow and his lady friend in tow. He stumbled and pretended to turn his foot. She cleared out and jumped into a cab. I did not see her face, she kept her fur over it----but she was a swell all right. I shoved him into another cab and we followed the young lady. She got out in the last block, we stopped a block farther down, and chased her. She came in here all right. I'll swear to that.

EDNA: You couldn't swear to it if you were on the witness stand. You simple got mixed and followed the wrong cab.

OFFICER: (Without turning head looks at EDNA, then back to BURT.): May----be!

MASTERSON: Tut-tut, officer, this is too much! You see there is only myself and my daughter here.

OFFICER: (Looks pointedly at EDNA. To BURT) I don't suppose you ever saw that young lady before?

BURT: Never!

MASTERSON: (Crosses, sputtering with rage): You blockhead! Are you daring to insinuate that my daughter was the woman you followed? This will cost you your job--do you know whose house you are in? I am John Masterson. (Crosses, D.R.) Good God! What's the world coming to? When a man can be insulted in his own house like this.

OFFICER: (His manner changing): No insult meant, Sir. Of course it was a mistake. I did not know it was your house, Mr. Masterson. I am sorr--

BURT: Haven't we inconvenienced this lady and gentleman long enough, officer?

MASTERSON: Yes,----you'll hear more of this----dragging strange men from some brothel into the homes of respectable people. A few more mistakes of this sort and you'll be in for suspension instead of promotion. (Crosses to table) Young man, this should be a lesson to you, too. Well, good-night, officer. Hope you catch the hussy, whoever she is. Take a tip from me and don't break into any more decent homes to look for her.

(OFFICER turns to go. Stops in doorway.)

OFFICER: The lady was very careless, Sir. She dropped this. (Hands jeweled pin to MASTERSON, who, crossing over, examines it.) Must have cost a pretty penny.

BURT: You can't be sure that the lady who was with me dropped that.

OFFICER: I can. Dead sure! I saw it fall from her dress. Her given name and the date are engraved on the back, you see. Pity they didn't put the last one on.

MASTERSON: H--m--m. Yes, great pity. Valuable piece too. Perhaps the lady will be more careful in the future. You have aroused my curiosity, officer. What are you going to do with this? Keep it until it is advertised for?

OFFICER: Yes sir.

MASTERSON: And then?

OFFICER: Well, after the hearing tomorrow morning nothing can bother the young lady unless it happens to get into the newspapers. I hate to think, though, that she gave me the slip. It's my duty to produce her in the police court tomorrow morning, if possible.

MASTERSON: If possible. Well, she did give you the slip and you won't find her by standing here. I did not know that the young women of position, as you seem to think this one was--er--indulged in--er----slumming.

OFFICER: You'd be surprised, Sir, to see some of the swells from the Avenue who get caught in these little affairs.

MASTERSON: I am surprised. Well, well, good-night, Officer. Sorry I could not help you out. My daughter and I came home from a dance just before you rang. We saw no one. Good-night.

OFFICER: (Starts out D.C. Turns back.) The--pin--Sir.

MASTERSON: Oh! Yes--yes--the pin. (Hands it to the officer who exits after a searching look at EDNA. Masterson shows them out, then enters C.D. and stands looking down at EDNA who is quietly sobbing.)

MASTERSON: That was the pin I gave you on your birthday--where did you meet the man? (EDNA sobs.)

MASTERSON: (Crosses over to her.) Answer me.

EDNA: Here in this room.

MASTERSON: Who is he? What is he?

EDNA: He came to fix the telephone.

MASTERSON: Came to fix the telephone? Good God! What next? (Crosses C.D.) How long have you known him?

EDNA: Three months.

MASTERSON: And you have been meeting him ever since? (She sobs.)

MASTERSON: Answer me!

EDNA: Yes.

MASTERSON: It is unbelievable----my own daughter! You have been brought up like a princess. You were all I had. (Crosses D.R.) And I've worked, slaved, toiled, molled at my desk day and night like the veriest laborer for you. For you lay awake nights scheming how to make money for you. (Crosses C.) That you could disgrace me like this, never entered my head. My reward was the thought that you were happy, that you hadn't a wish ungratified. That you were envied and pointed out as the daughter of John Masterson, and heiress to untold millions. It was my ambition to combine my fortune with an old-world title for you. You were my pride and delight, and what do you do? You get into a vulgar affair with a man who comes to fix the telephone, meet him in a down-town brothel, get caught in a raid,--and are chased to your very door by a policeman. (Crosses C.P.) This may leak out at any time. If the reporters get hold of it, it will cost a fortune to hush it up. (Crosses D.C.) How could you do it?

EDNA: I wanted to live.

MASTERSON: Wanted to live? (Crosses D.R.) Haven't you been living? God knows it has cost enough.

EDNA: That's it! The cost! You think only in dollars and cents. Buy and sell. Horses, houses, land, stocks, bonds, titles, flesh and blood, your own flesh and blood. You are so busy buying and selling that you forget your women are human beings, They are instead things to hang jewels on to reflect your great success.

MASTERSON: Have you ever had a wish ungratified? (Crosses to her.)

EDNA: That is just the trouble. I have had too much of everything all my life. (Rises, crosses down to couch.) You tried to keep me in cotton-wool and you made me think I could have anything I wanted, even the moon, if I cried long enough and hard enough. (Sits on couch.) And I, like so many others, of my kind, was brought into the world with diseased nerves.

MASTERSON: Diseased nerves!

EDNA: Yes,----diseased by too much indulgence before my birth, on the part of those who were responsible for me.

MASTERSON: That is some of the up-to-date twaddle you learned in school. (Crosses to her.)

EDNA: I learned it from life. (Crosses to R. and sits in chair.) I was born a neurasthenic and brought up in an expensive school with the daughters of other rich men. All of us born old, all of us tingling with curiosity, our frayed nerves crying out for new sensations, and driving us to win the mystery at the back of life.

MASTERSON: Hysteria!

EDNA: The money of our fathers meant to us only so much license. We smoked cigarettes incessantly,--we spent our pocket-money on sweets filled with alcohol, and on novels our mothers would blush to read. We told stories that you would be ashamed to tell in your club to-day, and then came out into society, still driven by our nerves. We eat and drink and dance and smoke too much in order to excite ourselves, and we dress to excite men. We listen with a laugh to unspeakable things that lecherous old men and lustful young men whisper in our ears, and all the time we are as deadly in our pursuit of out destinies as were the monkey women.

MASTERSON: That is hysterical exaggeration.

EDNA: It is the truth.

MASTERSON: (Crosses to her.) Now you who might have been a princess and are, after all, only a harlot, what are you going to do with yourself?

EDNA: No harlot, a free gift to the man I love.

MASTERSON: A common working man.

EDNA: Thank God!

MASTERSON: If you must indulge in a vulgar liaison why couldn't you select a man in your own set?

EDNA: And what then?

MASTERSON: Marriage, decency.

EDNA: I fail to see why a "vulgar liaison" ending in a marriage with another neurasthenic, like myself, necessarily means decency. I would then be, not only the envied daughter of John Masterson, but the envied wife also of Mr. Something or Other, therefore respectable, because our unholy matrimony. (Laughs hysterically. Crosses U.R.)

MASTERSON: Couldn't you remember your responsibility to society?

EDNA: I never knew I had any. In the curriculum on which all that fortune was spent to fit me for my very high place in the world, my trainers forgot to include that. (Crosses D.L.) They taught me only to gratify myself. All your millions failed to buy me a course in my responsibility to society.

MASTERSON: (Crosses to her.) I never knew you before.

EDNA: You might have known me if you had taken less time for money making. When I was a child I was always a little afraid of you.

MASTERSON: Afraid of your own father----

EDNA: You were a king to me. Never by any chance a father. (MASTERSON crosses to couch.) Nurse and I used often to drive by a row of clean shing little cottages out in the suburbs with flowers in front and children playing all about. Sometimes I saw a man getting off the car, just the common street car at the corner. He picked her up and carried her on his shoulder. Then one of the little girls, about my own age, left her playmates and ran to meet him with a whoop of joy. She buried her hands in his hair and held on tight. A little woman in a simple white dress came down to the gate. He put his arm around her and they all went into one of the cottages. Oh, how I used to envy that little girl.

MASTERSON: You had no need----

EDNA: Hadn't I? I could imagine her toys scattered all over the house, and her father sitting on the floor playing choo-choo cars with her. I used to beg nurse to drive me that way every day, and I made up my mind then, in my childish way, that some day I would have a little cottage like that. I used to lie on a big rug on the nursery floor, in front of the fire, such a lonely little thing--you do not know how lonely the baby of a rich man can be----but I do----I do! I tried to get courage to run and meet you when you came home.

MASTERSON: Why didn't you?

EDNA: You seldom came home, and I was afraid of what the splendid butler might think. Once when I knew you were in the library, I crept down to the door and stood there, but I was afraid to go in. So I, the poor lonely little heiress to almost untold millions, stood in the great big hall with my face pressed tight, tight, against the door, desperately longing to go in and snuggle up to you, as I knew the little girl in the cottage was sitting on her father's lap at that very moment, perhaps.

MASTERSON: Edna,----I never---- (Crosses C.)

EDNA: No, no, wait, Dad----you say you lived to gratify my every wish. And I want only one thing. (Rises.) Strip me of all this,--I don't want it. I want only my little cottage, with my mate. And I want a little girl who isn't afraid to run and meet her father. I don't know anything about my responsibility to society,----I've done with it,--its shame, its pettiness, its hysterical lean-heartedness. I want no more of it. I want to live my own life in my own way, with my common working-man. It's the only clean, the only decent, the only right way.

MASTERSON: This man who took you into a brothel----

EDNA: He never wanted to meet me in those places. I did not care where I met him, so long as I did meet him, and you may be sure there were others of my set there on that very night. (Crosses to him.) Dad, you must let me marry him, if he'll have me----

MASTERSON: Have you? He'll jump at the chance,----

EDNA: Oh, I'm not so sure of that. You must do this, Dad,----

MASTERSON: Edna, child, you know I would do anything for your happiness,----

EDNA: Then go quick, call up the police station. Make them let him out, now--this minute--You can fix it. You are John Masterson, you can do anything, even with the police--hurry----hurry----

MASTERSON: But this is impossible, this not for your happiness----

EDNA: You won't do it?

MASTERSON: I can't. You are mad.

(EDNA takes cloak and starts for door.)

EDNA: If your rotten society of which you think so much is sane, then thank God, I am mad.

MASTERSON: If you do----

EDNA: Well, what if I do----

(Telephone rings. MASTERSON answers.)

MASTERSON: What is it? What? Shot himself? Why call me up at three in the morning to tell me that? A letter to my daughter in his pocket? Impossible! My daughter does not know him,----

EDNA: Dad! Frank,----killed himself----

EDNA (Breaks into hysterical laughter): Now,----no need to shock society,----you can buy me a title. (Falls in faint, dragging portieres with her.)

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.