The Easiest Way Part 6

LAURA. No, we're not.

JOHN. Now in the first place [LAURA _rises, crosses to centre._] we'll discuss you, and in the second place we'll discuss me. We'll keep nothing from each other [LAURA _picks up cushions, places them on seat._], and we'll start out on this campaign [LAURA _turns back to centre, facing audience._] of decency and honour, fully understanding its responsibilities, without a chance of a come-back on either side.

LAURA. [_Becoming very serious._] You mean that we should tell each other all about each other, so, no matter what's ever said about us by other people, we'll know it first?

JOHN. [_Rising._] That's precisely what I'm trying to get at.

LAURA. Well, John, there are so many things I don't want to speak of even to you. It isn't easy for a woman to go back and dig up a lot of ugly memories and try to excuse them. [_Crosses to front of table, picks up magazine, places it on table_.

JOHN. I've known everything from the first; how you came to San Francisco as a kid and got into the show business, and how you went wrong, and then how you married, still a kid, and how your husband didn't treat you exactly right, and then how, in a fit of drunkenness, he came home and shot himself. [LAURA _buries her head in her hands, making exclamations of horror._ JOHN _crosses to her as if sorry for hurting her; touches her on shoulder._] But that's all past now, and we can forget that. And I know how you were up against it after that, how tough it was for you to get along. Then finally how you've lived, and--and that you and this man Brockton have been--well--never mind.

I've known it all for months, and I've watched you. Now, Laura, the habit of life is a hard thing to get away from. You've lived in this way for a long time. If I ask you to be my wife you'll have to give it up; you'll have to go back to New York and struggle on your own hook until I get enough to come for you. I don't know how long that will be, but it _will_ be. Do you love me enough to stick out for the right thing?

LAURA _crosses to him, puts her arms around him, kisses him once very affectionately, looks at him very earnestly_.

LAURA. Yes. I think this is my one great chance. I do love you and I want to do just what you said.

JOHN. I think you will. I'm going to make the same promise. Your life, dear girl, has been an angel's compared with mine. I've drank whiskey, played bank, and raised h.e.l.l ever since the time I could develop a thirst; and ever since I've been able to earn my own living I've abused every natural gift G.o.d gave me. The women I've a.s.sociated with aren't good enough to touch the hem of your skirt, but they liked me, and [JOHN _crosses to armchair, turns up stage, then faces her_.]

well--I must have liked them. My life hasn't been exactly loose, it's been all in pieces. I've never done anything dishonest. I've always gone wrong just for the fun of it, until I met you. [_Crosses to her, takes her in his arms_.] Somehow then I began to feel that I was making an awful waste of myself.

LAURA. John!

JOHN. Some lovers place a woman on a pedestal and say, "She never has made a mistake." [_Taking her by each arm he playfully shakes her_.]

Well, we don't need any pedestals. I just know you never will make a mistake.

LAURA. [_Kissing him_.] John, I'll never make you take those words back. [_Arms around his neck_.

JOHN. That goes double. You're going to cut out the cabs and cafes, and I'm going to cut out the whiskey and all-night sessions [LAURA _releases him; he backs slightly away_.]; and you're going to be somebody and I'm going to be somebody, and if my hunch is worth the powder to blow it up, we're going to show folks things they never thought were in us. Come on now, kiss me.

_She kisses him; tears are in her eyes. He looks into her face with a quaint smile_.

JOHN. You're on, ain't you, dear?

LAURA. Yes, I'm on.

JOHN. Then [_Points toward door with his left arm over her shoulder_.]

call him.

LAURA. Brockton?

JOHN. Yes, and tell him you go back to New York without any travelling companion this season.

LAURA. Now?

JOHN. Sure.

LAURA. You want to hear me tell him?

JOHN. [_With a smile_.] We're partners, aren't we? I ought to be in on any important transaction like that, but it's just as you say.

LAURA. I think it would be right you should. I'll call him now.

JOHN. All right. [_Crossing to stairway_. LAURA _crosses to door; twilight is becoming very much more p.r.o.nounced_.

LAURA. [_At door_.] Mr. Brockton! Oh, Mr. Brockton!

WILL. [_Off stage_.] Yes.

LAURA. Can you spare a moment to come out here?

WILL. Just a moment.

LAURA. You must come now.

WILL. All right. [_She waits for him and after a reasonable interval he appears at door_.] Laura, it's a shame to lure me away from that mad speculation in there. I thought I might make my fare back to New York if I played until next summer. What's up?

LAURA. Mr. Madison wants to talk to you, or rather I do, and I want him to listen.

WILL. [_His manner changing to one of cold, stolid calculation_.] Very well. [_Comes down off step of house_.

LAURA. Will.

WILL. Yes?

LAURA. I'm going home day after to-morrow on the Overland Limited.

WILL. I know.

LAURA. It's awfully kind of you to come out here, but under the circ.u.mstances I'd rather you'd take an earlier or a later train.

WILL. And may I ask what circ.u.mstances you refer to?

LAURA. Mr. Madison and I are going to be married. [_Pause_.] He [Will _looks inquiringly at_ JOHN.] knows of your former friendship for me, and he has the idea that it must end.

WILL. Then the Riverside Drive proposition, with Burgess's show thrown in, is declared off, eh?

LAURA. Yes; everything is absolutely declared off.

WILL. Can't even be friends any more, eh?

JOHN _crosses, and, taking_ LAURA'S _arm, pa.s.ses her over to seat; his back is partly to audience_.

JOHN. You could hardly expect Miss Murdock to be friendly with you under the circ.u.mstances. You could hardly expect me to [LAURA _puts scarf across her shoulders_.] sanction any such friendship.

WILL. I think I understand your position, young man, and I perfectly agree with you, that is--if your plans come out successfully.

JOHN. Thank you.

LAURA. Then everything is settled [_Crossing in front of_ JOHN _and facing_ WILL, _back to audience_.] just the way it ought to be--frankly and aboveboard?

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