TWO LOVES AND A RIVER (Act One, Scenes 3 and 4)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Act One, SCENE THREE – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – (age 22)

[June 1887, Drennan Camp.  The scene conveys travel by riverboat from Frankfort to camp, a week at camp, and back to Frankfort.   Young people in high spirits revel and frolic throughout, acting out various actions as the narrator describes them.]

Emma’s voice             The Drennon Camping Club.  A newspaper commentary, by Emma Morris.

[Several young people and chaperones enter.  Mayme’s music plays once through;   Paul and Mayme are inseparable; they dance exclusively with each other]

Tuesday June 14, 1887.  The Drennon Camping Club assembled on board the Hornet Tuesday evening and passed the whole night in dancing.  Early next morning we were steaming down the river, some still wide awake and still dancing.  It would take most of the day to reach Drennon, so we made brief stops.  At Lockport we found a grocery where the proprietor offered us as much free stick candy as we wished. There was method in his madness, for after tasting this awful stuff we left as much as we found.

When the boat rounded into Gratz, everyone except chaperones debarked to see the sights.  First attraction was a pile of lumber which promised “see-sawing.”  No sooner thought than done, several of us were soon enjoying the sport.  Without warning we were startled by a harsh unkind voice warning “trespassers away,” and sarcastically offering “fence rails” next time we came her way.  Unsubdued, we  returned to the boat where dancing continued until someone said “nearly to Drennon” and we rushed for luggage.

We greatly enjoyed the walk through wild and picturesque country to the Drennon campsite.  In a very pretty place above the dancing pavilion, the gentlemen set up tents and the girls arranged supper. Exploring the grounds afterward, and thinking all the tents were close together, imagine our surprise to find one lone tent off quite a distance to itself, making quite a pretty picture under the trees. Now who do you suppose occupied that lone tent, with easel standing outside?  It came to be known as “Poverty Point.”

Thursday morning the fun commenced in earnest.  Target shooting, dancing, hiking, games, and so forth.  Sam Bull and Ed O’Hara proved themselves wonderful hunters and brought in game for the table.  So passed each day, which we wound up with singing.  Around midnight all retired to their tents, eager for another day as bright and pleasant as this one.  Frankfort seemed so far away.

Saturday dawned sunny and hot.  By noon many local residents came flocking in to join the dancing they’d heard we were doing.  We had witnessed many country dances, but nothing to equal the wild and merry steps of these Drennon natives.  When we did a sedate round dance, their amazement and ridicule were intense.  Dancing continued until quite late Saturday night, the neighbors staying to watch and join in.

Sunday morning everyone slept late, then passed the day reading, writing, walking and talking.  Monday was our last day, so the fun was immense.  Mister Paul Sawyier, Mister Western Thomas and Doctor James made beautiful sketches of the camp and scenery. We concluded not to retire at all that night, but to dance until the boat came about six o’clock the next morning. And so we did.

Before dawn the boys  started tearing down tents, and soon our beautiful camp was a thing of the past.  It was a long dusty walk back to the landing, the sun only just up. The boat was late and the morning near gone when, hot and sleepy, we finally heard the whistle.  Back on board, though it was excessively warm, we passed yet another day in dancing and singing… and sleeping.  We reached Frankfort at nightfall. The Drennon trip will long be remembered and all are eager to go again.

[Lights fade; spot stays on Mayme who walks across stage, sits, reads aloud as she writes;

Mayme               My Liips Tonight Have Spoken

Yes, my lips tonight have spoken       Words I said they should not speak

And I would I could recall them,       Would I had not been so weak.

Oh that our unguarded moment      Were it mine to live again

All the strength of its temptations       Would appeal to me in vain.

 

True, my lips have only uttered      What is ever in my heart;

I am happy when beside you,      Wretched when we are apart.

Though I listen to your praises     Always longer than I should

Yet my heart can never hear them      Half as often as it would!

[Mayme’s music begins playing again, more softly]

And I would not, could not pain you       Would not for the world offend;

I would have you know I like you        As a brother, as a friend.

But I meant to keep one secret        In my bosom always hid

For I never meant to tell you        That I loved you – but I did.

[she rises, mimes dancing with Paul as Mayme’s music plays to end;  light fades]

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Act One, SCENE FOUR – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – (age 23)

March 1888, Aunts Mag and Mary’s house.  Mayme, Aunt Mag and Aunt Mary discuss her growing courtship with Paul.

Aunt Mag       Mayme, I heard there may be another Drennon camping trip like that one you went on last summer.  Will you and Paul go again this year?

Mayme           We haven’t decided, but it’s a distinct possibility.  I hope so!  Last year’s camp was just wonderful!

Aunt Mary      It must have been.  People still gossip about it.

Mayme           You cannot keep people from gossiping, Aunt.  Especially the ones who were not there. There was an army of chaperones to ensure that we all had good clean fun.  If we decide to go again I shall ignore their gossip and go.

Aunt Mag       Why do you remain undecided?  You two have been thick as thieves ever since Emma Morris invited Mister Sawyier in for tea.  He couldn’t stop looking at you.

Mayme           He was pleasingly attentive, wasn’t he.   [smilingly smug]   He still is.

Aunt Mag       He must have been quite badly smitten to quit his job just so he could go on a camping trip with you.  That seems a bit drastic.  Now that he has the job back, would he have to quit again if you go this year?

Mayme           That can’t be answered just yet.  There are certain… uncertainties.

Aunt Mary      Of what sort?  He has become your constant beau and suitor these past months, at least when he’s not traveling for the mill.  I can’t remember when I saw a young couple so busy with dances and balls, and canoeing up the Elkhorn, and…  and spending so much time together!  He needs to be definite with you about his plans.

Mayme           He is, as much as he can be.  You see, Paul needs this job to earn money so he can afford the cost of continuing his art studies.  But the job keeps him away on the road so much there’s not much time to paint, or to study art… [pause]  …or to be home…

Aunt Mary      …with you.  How did he manage to get the job back after he’d quit it?

Mayme           It wasn’t easy.  They fenced around each other for a week!  Paul’s father agreed to hire him back only if Paul agreed to pay his own cost for any more art studies.

Aunt Mag       Is he planning more study?

Mayme           Yes, he says it’s necessary to invest in his future if he’s to make a decent living as an artist.

Aunt Mag       Well…perhaps so. Where would he do this?  Kentucky has no art schools.

Mayme           [subdued]    Maybe at the New York Art Students League.

Aunt Mary      New York?!  My goodness, wouldn’t that be awfully expensive?

Mayme           Yes, but he says he could live with his sister Lillian and her husband in Brooklyn, so tuition is all he’d have to pay.  His younger sister Natalie is already living there, and she is already studying at the League.  Paul says if Natalie can do it, he can do it better!  He especially wants to study under this Professor “Chase” who teaches at the League.  Paul says he’s a master.

Aunt Mag       “William Merritt” Chase?  My word, he is.  But Mayme dear, if he’s courting you, how can he be going off to New York?  How long would he be gone?

Mayme           Probably…about a year…  But he wouldn’t have to leave until about August next year.  Until then he’ll be traveling as a salesman for the mill, to earn enough money for tuition and art supplies.         [she sinks into a chair, clearly forlorn]

Aunt Mary      Oh dear.  Our Mayme…   [pause]    …do you love this young man?

Mayme           [pause]   …Yes, Auntie…I love him.  I did not plan this, I just do.

Aunt Mary      Your mother tells us you have written a poem about him.

Mayme           Yes.   [still subdued]     …I brought it with me…

Aunt Mag       Oh, will you read it to us?

[both aunts lean toward Mayme, who conveys hesitancy]

Aunt Mary                Please dear, if you don’t mind sharing. We’ve always loved your poems.

Mayme           [smile]   That’s why I brought it.    [she pulls a folded paper from her pocket, reads]

                   How It Was To Be

I never intended to fall in love            With less than six feet in height,

A boundless beard and a fathomless purse          Had always been my delight.

His pale white brow, I said, shall be swept         By masses of black waving hair,

A strange sad light in the cavernous eyes,        A shadow but not of care.

 

A dark stern face turned to the world            But glowing turned inward to me,

A heart locked and barred to the stranger’s approach      But I had the golden key.

A voice like the South wind in murmuring love,     Thunder toned in denouncing the wrong,

And a name handed down from the long ago days      Embalmed in a troubadour’s song.

Aunt Mag       Oh, that’s so pretty!

Mayme           That’s only the first half.  There’s a second part…

Aunt Mary      Read the rest then, dear, please.

Mayme           All right…

          How It Is

Well, we have him – pray give a glance         To the gentleman vis-à-vis

Intently engaged with a chicken wing     And a cup of his favorite tea.

A round good-natured full moon of a face,      Eyes blue as the summer sky;

With the locks on his forehead – well – auburn at least,       Not to mention a redder dye.

 

He daily toils for his daily bread       He is the merriest fellow alive;

At eight in the morning in high-heeled boots      He measures but five feet, five.

He bears in his bosom the biggest heart       On this side of the broad Atlantic;

His chin is as smooth as a lawn in May      And his name is by no means romantic!”

[A beat of silence, then Aunt Mary walks to Mary, leans over and puts arms about her, then Aunt Mag does the same; lights dim as both aunts exit.]

 *          *          *

                [Spotlight up on Mayme who sits, reading a letter.  Other spotlight comes up on Paul seated across stage, pencil in hand, writing a letter which he reads aloud as he writes;  she reacts…]

Paul                 June 1888.  My dearest Mary, The prairie wind sweeps desolate over me tonight here in far away Iowa.  It’s a hot wind that makes me cold, for I wish to be with you tonight, under the beautiful green hills that hold Frankfort, our sweet old town, not off here in the middle of a land so flat the horizon looks the same in all directions.

I wish we were with our friends at the Drennon camping club, for you and I know all too well the happiness with which they are dancing and making merry this very night.  You know you didn’t have to stay home just because I couldn’t go this year.  I am so glad we went last year, for that is where I truly re-found you.

Yes, that’s it.  I re-found what was long ago first found, but waiting to be re-discovered. Looking back, I know I must have loved you always, even from our first days together in first grade at good old Second Street School.  And every year after that.  Now it’s out, it’s no secret in the public square!  It’s real, and it fills me so that I feel over-flowing like loving water from Cove Spring.  I love you, my Mary, I shall say it again!

If we cannot be at Drennon with our friends, I wish for us to be out somewhere on the banks of Benson or Elkhorn Creek, our canoe nearby, just you and me and a quiet green world with a gentle warm breeze.  I shall paint while you read, as you do.  Or maybe you will write a wonderful wise poem and then read it to me, as you sometimes do.  I’ll be home weekend after next.  Please be so kind as to prepare the picnic basket with victuals enough for two, for I have just told you how our future together shall be.

I can hardly bear the wait until that moment, but I must stick with this endless wandering about the wild prairies until I have in my pocket the price of the whole ticket to New York and the Art Students League.  It is a necessary investment in our future. That thought gives me strength to go out and sell yet more string.  More twine.  Here’s to string and twine…for now.   With enduring love and deepest affection, your Paul.

[Spotlight fades on Mayme; other spotlight stays on Paul; he rises, paces about his chair]

Russell’s Voice          Paul Sawyier, Esq., St. Peter, Minnesota, August 1888.   Dear Sir: Your telegram from Rochester is at hand. We hope you are now in running order and will get around the country at a more lively pace.  Go to the town of Casselton and call on Mr. S.P. Wall, who asked us for twine prices.  Sell him sisal at a slight loss if necessary.  If you sell twenty thousand pounds at one or two cents below cost, the loss would be only one hundred dollars, while if we carry the goods over on inventory we will probably lose four to five hundred dollars plus interest.  We again ask that you wire us at least every third day, stating the town where we can reach you by letter, also telegram.  We have had only one letter from you in the past week and need to communicate with you almost every day.  Yours truly, Kentucky River Mills.

[Paul sits again, legs akimbo, reacting with body language as he reads]

Russell’s Voice          Paul Sawyier, Esq., Ottowa, Illinois, November 1888.   Dear Sir: We regret that you did not get to Hill’s Supply at Winfield, as he wrote us in regard to twine and we believe you could have sold him.  We don’t think we can fill your Fonda order at 650 feet to the pound.  Don’t promise so much length per pound.  Don’t stop at Carthage per your recent plan. Instead, plan to stay two days up at the twin cities, owing to recent destruction by fire there of five hundred tons of  twine.  We enclose draft for $75 to cover three weeks expenses.  In your letter of the 29th you named a string of towns but did not specify which ones where you will call for your mail. Don’t forget to wire us at once and let us know where we can write to you. Yours truly, Kentucky River Mills.

[Paul throws up his hands, spotlight fades]

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