Meet us on:
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Morality is herd instinct in the individual."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Act II

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    [Scene shows the library in a Fifth Avenue mansion; spacious and magnificent. There are folding doors right centre. There is a centre table with a reading lamp and books, and soft leather chairs. The walls are covered with bookcases. An entrance right to drawing-room. Also an entrance left.]

    [At rise: GERALD, in evening clothes, reading in front of fire.]

    GER. [Stretching, and sighing.] Ah, me! I wish I'd stayed at the club. Bother their dinner parties!

    MRS. IS. [Enters right, a nervous, fussy little woman, in evening costume.] Well, Gerald . . .

    GER. Yes, mother?

    MRS. IS. You're not coming to dinner?

    GER. You don't need me, mother. You've men enough, you said.

    MRS. IS. I like to see something of my son now and then.

    GER. I had my lunch very late, and I'm honestly not hungry. I'd rather sit and read.

    MRS. IS. I declare, Gerald, you run this reading business into the ground. You cut yourself off from everyone.

    GER. They don't miss me, mother.

    MRS. IS. To-night Renaud is going to give us some crabflake a la Dewey! I told Mrs. Bagley-Willis I'd show her what crabflake could be. She is simply green with envy of our chef.

    GER. I fancy that's the reason you invite her, isn't it?

    MRS. IS. [Laughs.] Perhaps.

    [Exit right. He settles himself to read.]

    HICKS. [Enters centre.] Mr. Gerald.

    GER. Well?

    HICKS. There was a man here to see you some time ago, Sir.

    GER. A man to see me? Why didn't you let me know?

    HICKS. I started to, Sir. But he disappeared, and I can't find him, Sir.

    GER. Disappeared? What do you mean?

    HICKS. He came to the side entrance, Sir; and one of the maids answered the bell. He was such a queer-looking chap that she was frightened, and called me. And then I went to ask if you were in, and he disappeared. I wasn't sure if he went out, Sir, or if he was still in the house.

    GER. What did he look like?

    HICKS. He was a little chap . . . so high . . . with a long beard and a humped back . . .

    GER. [Startled.] Mimi!

    HICKS. He said you knew him, sir.

    GER. Yes! I would have seen him.

    HICKS. I didn't know, sir . . .

    GER. Watch out for him. He'll surely come back.

    HICKS. Yes, Sir. I'm very sorry, sir.

    [Exit centre.]

    GER. [To himself.] Mimi! What can that mean?

    Mimi. [Opens door, left, and peeps in.] Ha!

    GER. [Starts.] Mimi!

    MIMI. Ssh!

    GER. What is it?

    MIMI. Where is Prince Hagen?

    GER. I don't know.

    MIMI. You don't know?

    GER. No.

    MIMI. But I must see him!

    GER. I've no idea where he is.

    MIMI. But . . . you promised to take care of him!

    GER. Yes . . . and I tried to. But he ran away . . .

    MIMI. What?

    GER. I've not heard of him for two years now.

    MIMI. [Coming closer.] Tell me about it.

    GER. I took him to a boarding school . . . a place where he'd be taken care of and taught. And he rebelled . . . he would not obey anyone . . . [Takes some faded telegrams from pocket book.] See! This is what I got.

    MIMI. What are they?

    GER. Telegrams they sent me. [Reads.] Hagen under physical restraint. Whole school disorganized. Come immediately and take him away.

    MIMI. Ha!

    GER. That's one. And here's the other: Hagen has escaped, threatening teachers with revolver. Took train for New York. What shall we do? [Puts away papers.] And that's all.

    MIMI. All?

    GER. That was over two years ago. And I've not heard of him since.

    MIMI. But he must be found!

    GER. I have tried. I can't.

    MIMI. [Vehemently.] But we cannot do without him!

    GER. What's the matter?

    MIMI. I cannot tell you. But we must have him! The people need him!

    GER. He has lost himself in this great city. What can I do?

    MIMI. He must be found. [Voices heard centre.] What is that?

    GER. It is some company.

    MIMI. [Darts left.] We must find Prince Hagen! He must come back to Nibelheim!

    [Exit left.]

    MRS. BAGLEY-WILLIS. [Off centre.] It was crabflake a la Dewey she promised me!

    [Enters with ISMAN.]

    GER. How do you do, Mrs. Bagley-Willis?

    MRS. B.-W. How do you do, Gerald?

    GER. Hello, father!

    ISMAN. Hello, Gerald!

    MRS. B.-W. Am I the first to arrive?

    GER. I think so.

    MRS. B.-W. And how is Estelle after her slumming adventure?

    GER. She's all right.

    ISMAN. That was a fine place for you to take my daughter!

    MRS. B.-W. It wasn't my fault. She would go. And her mother consented.

    GER. I wish I'd been there with you.

    MRS. B.-W. Indeed, I wished for someone. I was never more frightened in my life.

    ISMAN. Did you see this morning's Record?

    MRS. B.-W. No. What?

    ISMAN. About that fellow, Steve O'Hagen?

    MRS. B.-W. Good heavens!

    GER. Nothing about Estelle, I hope!

    ISMAN. No . . . apparently nobody noticed that incident. But about his political speech, and the uproar he's making on the Bowery. They say the streets were blocked for an hour . . . the police couldn't clear them.

    GER. He must be an extraordinary talker.

    MRS. B.-W. You can't imagine it. The man is a perfect demon!

    GER. Where does he come from?

    ISMAN. Apparently nobody knows. The papers say he turned up a couple of years ago . . . he won't talk about his past. He joined Tammany Hall, and he's sweeping everything before him.

    GER. What do you suppose will come of it?

    ISMAN. Oh, he'll get elected . . . what is it he's to be . . . an alderman? . . . and then he'll sell out, like all the rest. I was talking about it this afternoon, with Plimpton and Rutherford.

    MRS. B.-W. They're to be here to-night, I understand.

    ISMAN. Yes. . . so they mentioned. Ah! Here's Estelle!

    ESTELLE. [Enters, centre, with an armful of roses.] Ah! Mrs. Bagley- Willis! Good evening!

    MRS. B.-W. Good evening, Estelle.

    EST. Good evening, father. Hello, Gerald.

    GER. My, aren't we gorgeous to-night!

    EST. Just aren't we!

    MRS. B.-W. The adventure doesn't seem to have hurt you. Where is your mother?

    GER. She went into the drawing-room. [MRS. B.-W. and ISMAN go off, right; ESTELLE is about to follow.] Estelle!

    EST. What is it?

    GER. What's this I hear about your adventure last night?

    EST. [With sudden seriousness.] Oh, Gerald! [Comes closer.] It was a frightful thing! I've hardly dared to think about it!

    GER. Tell me.

    EST. Gerald, that man was talking straight at me . . . he meant every bit of it for me!

    GER. Tell me the story.

    EST. Why, you know, Lord Alderdyce had heard about this wild fellow, Steve O'Hagen, who's made such a sensation this campaign. And he's interested in our election and wanted to hear O'Hagen speak. He said he had a friend who'd arrange for us to be introduced to him; and so we went down there. And there was a most frightful crowd . . . it was an outdoor meeting, you know. We pushed our way into a saloon, where the mob was shouting around this O'Hagen. And then he caught sight of us . . . and Gerald, from the moment he saw me he never took his eyes off me! Never once!

    GER. [Smiling.] Well, Estelle . . . you've been looked at before.

    EST. Ah, but never like that!

    GER. What sort of a man is he?

    EST. He's small and dark and ugly . . . he wore a rough reefer and cap . . . but Gerald, he's no common man! There's something strange and terrible about him . . . there's a fire blazing in him. The detective who was with us introduced us to him . . . and he stood there and stared at me! I tried to say something or other . . . "I've been so interested in your speech, Mr. O'Hagen." And he laughed at me . . . "Yes, I've no doubt." And then suddenly . . . it was as if he leaped at me! He pointed his finger straight into my face, and his eyes fairly shone. "Wait for me! I'll be with you! I'm coming to the top!"

    GER. Good God!

    EST. Imagine it! I was simply paralyzed! "Mark what I tell you," he went on . . . "it'll be of interest to you some day to remember it. You may wait for me! I'm coming! You will not escape me!"

    GER. Why . . . he's mad!

    EST. He was like a wild beast. Everybody in the place was staring at us as he rushed on. "You have joy and power and freedom . . . all the privileges of life . . . all things that are excellent and beautiful. You are born to them . . . you claim them! And you come down here to stare at us as you might at some strange animals in a cage. You chatter and laugh and go your way . . . but remember what I told you . . . I shall be with you! You cannot keep ME down! I shall be master of you all!"

    GER. Incredible!

    EST. And then in a moment it was all over. He made a mocking bow to the party . . . "It has given me the greatest pleasure in the world to meet you!" And with a wild laugh he went out of the door . . . and the crowd in the street burst into a roar that was like a clap of thunder. [A pause.] Gerald, what do you think he meant?

    GER. My dear, you've been up against the class-war. It's rather the fashion now, you know.

    EST. Oh, but it was horrible! I can't get it out of my mind. We heard some of his speech afterwards . . . and it seemed as if every word of it was meant for me! He lashed the crowd to a perfect fury . . . I think they'd have set fire to the city if he'd told them to. What do you suppose he expects to do?

    GER. I can't imagine, I'm sure.

    EST. I should like to know more about him. He was never raised in the slums, I feel certain.

    GER. Steve O'Hagen. The name sounds Irish.

    EST. I don't think he's Irish. He's dark and strange- looking . . . almost uncanny.

    GER. I shall go down there and hear him the first chance I get. And now, I guess I'd best get out, if I want to dodge old Plimpton.

    EST. Yes . . . and Rutherford, too. Isn't it a bore! I think they are perfectly odious people.

    GER. Why do you suppose mother invited them?

    EST. Oh, it's a business affair . . . they have forced their way into some deal of father's, and so we have to cultivate them.

    GER. Plimpton, the coal baron! And Rutherford, the steel king! I wonder how many hundred millions of dollars we shall have to have before we can choose our guests for something more interesting than their Wall Street connections!

    EST. I think I hear them. [Listens.] Yes . . . the voice. [Mocking PLIMPTON'S manner and tone.] Good evening, Miss Isman. I guess I'll skip it!

    [Exit right.]

    GER. And I, too!

    [Exit left.]

    RUTHERFORD. [A stout and rather coarse-looking man, enters, right, with PLIMPTON.] It's certainly an outrageous state of affairs, Plimpton!

    PLIMPTON. [A thin, clerical-looking person, with square-cut beard.] Disgraceful! Disgraceful!

    RUTH. The public seems to be quite hysterical!

    PLIMP. We have got to a state where simply to be entrusted with great financial responsibility is enough to constitute a man a criminal; to warrant a newspaper in prying into the intimate details of his life, and in presenting him in hideous caricatures.

    RUTH. I can sympathize with you, Plimpton . . . these government investigations are certainly a trial. [Laughing.] I've had my turn at them . . . I used to lie awake nights trying to remember what my lawyers had told me to forget!

    PLIMP. Ahem! Ahem! Yes . . . a rather cynical jest! I can't say exactly . . .

    MRS. IS. [In doorway, right.] Ah, Mr. Plimpton! How do you do? And Mr. Rutherford?

    PLIMP. Good evening, Mrs. Isman.

    RUTH. Good evening, Mrs. Isman.

    MRS. IS. You managed to tear yourself away from business cares, after all!

    PLIMP. It was not easy, I assure you.

    MRS. IS. Won't you come in?

    RUTH. With pleasure.

    [Exit, right, with MRS. ISMAN, followed by PLIMPTON.]

    GER. [Enters, left.] That pious old fraud! [Sits in chair.] Well, I'm safe for a while!

    [Sprawls at ease and reads.]

    HICKS. [Enters, centre.] A gentleman to see you, Mr. Gerald.

    GER. Hey? [Takes card, looks, then gives violent start.] Prince Hagen! [Stands aghast, staring; whispers, half dazed.] Prince Hagen!

    HICKS. [After waiting.] What shall I tell him, sir?

    GER. What . . . what does he look like?

    HICKS. Why . . . he seems to be a gentleman, sir.

    GER. How is he dressed?

    HICKS. For dinner, sir.

    GER. [Hesitates, gazes about nervously.] Bring him here . . . quickly!

    HICKS. Yes, sir.

    GER. And shut the door afterwards.

    HICKS. Yes, sir.

    [Exit.]

    GER. [Stands staring.] Prince Hagen! He's come at last!

    [Takes the faded telegrams from his pocket; looks at them; then goes to door, right, and closes it.]

    HICKS. [Enters, centre.] Prince Hagen.

    HAGEN. [Enters; serene and smiling, immaculately clad.] Ah, Gerald!

    GER. [Gazing.] Prince Hagen!

    HAGEN. You are surprised to see me!

    GER. I confess that I am.

    HAGEN. Did you think I was never coming back?

    GER. I had given you up.

    HAGEN. Well, here I am . . . to report progress.

    GER. [After a pause.] Where have you been these two years?

    HAGEN. Oh, I've been seeing life . . .

    GER. You didn't like the boarding school?

    HAGEN. [With sudden vehemence.] Did you think I would like it? Did you think I'd come to this world to have my head stuffed with Latin conjugations and sawdust?

    GER. I had hoped that in a good Christian home . . .

    HAGEN. [Laughing.] No, no, Gerald! I let you talk that sort of thing to me in the beginning. It sounded fishy even then, but I didn't say anything . . . I wanted to get my bearings. But I hadn't been twenty- four hours in that good Christian home before I found out what a kettleful of jealousies and hatreds it was. The head master was an old sap-head; and the boys! . . . I was strange and ugly, and they thought they could torment and bully me; but I fought 'em . . . by the Lord, I fought 'em day and night, I fought 'em all around the place! And when I'd mastered 'em, you should have seen how they cringed and toadied! They hated the slavery they lived under, but not one of them dared raise his hand against it.

    GER. Well, you've seen the world in your own way. Now are you ready to go back to Nibelheim?

    HAGEN. Good God, no!

    GER. You know it's my duty to send you back.

    HAGEN. Oh, say! My dear fellow!

    GER. You know the solemn promise I made to King Alberich.

    HAGEN. Yes . . . but you can't carry it out.

    GER. But I can!

    HAGEN. How?

    GER. I could invoke the law, if need be. You know you are a minor . . .

    HAGEN. My dear boy, I'm over seven hundred years old!

    GER. Ah, but that is a quibble. You know that in our world that is only equal to about eighteen . . .

    HAGEN. I have read up the law, but I haven't found any provision for reducing Nibelung ages to your scale.

    GER. But you can't deny . . .

    HAGEN. I wouldn't need to deny. The story's absurd on the face of it. You know perfectly well that there are no such things as Nibelungs! [GERALD gasps.] And besides, you're a poet, and everybody knows you're crazy. Fancy what the newspaper reporters would do with such a yarn! [Cheerfully.] Come, old man, forget about it, and let's be friends. You'll have a lot more fun watching my career. And besides, what do you want? I've come back, and I'm ready to follow your advice.

    GER. How do you mean?

    HAGEN. You told me to stay in school until I'd got my bearings in the world. And then I was to have a career. Well, I've got my education for myself . . . and now I'm ready for the career. [After a pause.] Listen, Gerald. I said I'd be a self-made man. I said I'd conquer the world for myself. But of late I've come to realize how far it is to the top, and I can't spare the time.

    GER. I see.

    HAGEN. And then . . . besides that . . . I've met a woman.

    GER. [Startled.] Good heavens!

    HAGEN. Yes. I'm in love.

    GER. But surely . . . you don't expect to marry!

    HAGEN. Why not? My mother was an earth-woman, and her mother, also.

    GER. To be sure. I'd not realized it. [A pause.] Who is the woman?

    HAGEN. I don't know. I only know she belongs in this world of yours. And I've come to seek her out. I shall get her, never fear!

    GER. What are your plans?

    HAGEN. I've looked this Christian civilization of yours over . . . and I'm prepared to play the game. You can take me up and put me into Society . . . as you offered to do before. You'll find that I'll do you credit.

    GER. But such a career requires money.

    HAGEN. Of course. Alberich will furnish it, if you tell him it's needed. You must call Mimi.

    GER. Mimi is here now.

    HAGEN. [Starting.] What!

    GER. He is in the house.

    HAGEN. For what?

    GER. He came to look for you.

    HAGEN. What is the matter?

    GER. I don't know. He wants you to return to Nibelheim.

    HAGEN. Find him. Let me see him!

    GER. All right. Wait here.

    [Exit left.]

    HAGEN. What can that mean?

    EST. [Enters, right, sees PRINCE HAGEN, starts wildly and screams.] Ah! [She stands transfixed; a long pause.] Steve O'Hagen! [A pause.] Steve O'Hagen! What does it mean?

    HAGEN. Who are you?

    EST. I live here.

    HAGEN. Your name?

    EST. Estelle Isman.

    HAGEN. [In a transport of amazement.] Estelle Isman! You are Gerald's sister!

    EST. Yes.

    HAGEN. By the gods!

    EST. [Terrified.] You know my brother!

    HAGEN. Yes.

    EST. You . . . Steve O'Hagen!

    HAGEN. [Gravely.] I am Prince Hagen

    EST. Prince Hagen!

    HAGEN. A foreign nobleman.

    EST. What . . . what do you mean? You were on the Bowery!

    HAGEN. I came to this country to study its institutions. I wished to know them for myself . . . therefore I went into politics. Don't you see?

    EST! [Dazed.] I see!

    HAGEN. Now I am on the point of giving up the game and telling the story of my experiences.

    EST. What are you doing here . . . in this house?

    HAGEN. I came for you.

    EST. [Stares at him.] How dare you?

    HAGEN. I would dare anything for you! [They gaze at each other.] Don't you understand?

    EST. [Vehemently.] No! No! I am afraid of you! You have no business to be here!

    HAGEN. [Taking a step towards her.] Listen . . .

    EST. No! I will not hear you! You cannot come here!

    [Stares at him, then abruptly exit, centre.]

    HAGEN. [Laughs.] Humph! [Hearing voices.] Who is this?

    RUTH. [Off right.] I don't agree with you.

    IS. Nor I, either, Plimpton. [Enters with PLIMPTON and RUTHERFORD; sees HAGEN.] Oh . . . I beg your pardon.

    HAGEN. I am waiting for your son, Sir.

    IS. I see. Won't you be seated?

    HAGEN. I thank you. [Sits at ease in chair.]

    PLIM. My point is, it's as Lord Alderdyce says . . . we have no hereditary aristocracy in this country, no traditions of authority . . . nothing to hold the mob in check.

    IS. There is the constitution.

    PLIM. They may over-ride it.

    IS. There are the courts.

    PLIM. They may defy the courts.

    RUTH. Oh, Plimpton, that's absurd!

    PLIM. Nothing of the kind, Rutherford! Suppose they were to elect to office some wild and reckless demagog . . . take, for instance, that ruffian you were telling us about . . . down there on the Bowery . . . [HAGEN starts, and listens] and he were to defy the law and the courts? He is preaching just that to the mob . . . striving to rouse the elemental wild beast in them! And some day they will pour out into this avenue . . .

    RUTH. [Vehemently.] Very well, Plimpton! Let them come! Have we not the militia and the regulars? We could sweep the avenue with one machine gun . . .

    PLIM. But suppose the troops would not fire?

    RUTH. But that is impossible!

    PLIM. Nothing of the kind, Rutherford! No, no . . . we must go back of all that! It is in the hearts of the people that we must erect our defenses. It is the spirit of this godless and skeptical age that is undermining order. We must teach the people the truths of religion. We must inculcate lessons of sobriety and thrift, of reverence for constituted authority. We must set our faces against these new preachers of license and infidelity . . . we must go back to the old- time faith . . . to love, and charity, and self-sacrifice . . .

    HAGEN. [Interrupting.] That's it! You've got it there!

    IS. [Amazed.] Why . . .

    PLIM. Sir?

    HAGEN. You've said it! Set the parsons after them! Teach them heaven! Set them to singing about harps and golden crowns, and milk and honey flowing! Then you can shut them up in slums and starve them, and they won't know the difference. Teach them non-resistance and self- renunciation! You've got the phrases all pat . . . handed out from heaven direct! Take no thought saying what ye shall eat! Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth! Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's!

    IS. Why . . . this is preposterous!

    PLIM. This is blasphemy!

    HAGEN. You're Plimpton . . . Plimpton, the coal baron, I take it. I know you by your pictures. You shut up little children by tens of thousands to toil for you in the bowels of the earth. You crush your rivals, and form a trust, and screw up prices to freeze the poor in winter! And you . . . [to RUTHERFORD] you're Rutherford, the steel king, I take it. You have slaves working twelve hours a day and seven days a week in your mills. And you mangle them in hideous accidents, and then cheat their widows of their rights . . . and then you build churches, and set your parsons to preach to them about love and self- sacrifice! To teach them charity, while you crucify justice! To trick them with visions of an imaginary paradise, while you pick their pockets upon earth! To put arms in their hands, and send them to shoot their brothers, in the name of the Prince of Peace!

    RUTH. This is outrageous!

    PLIM. [Clenching his fists.] Infamous scoundrel!

    RUTH. [Advancing Upon HAGEN.] How dare you!

    HAGEN. It stings, does it? Ha! Ha!

    PLIM. [Sputtering.] You wretch!

    IS. This has gone too far. Stop, Rutherford! Calm yourself, Plimpton. Let us not forget ourselves! [To PRINCE HAGEN, haughtily.] I do not know who you are, sir, or by what right you are in my house. You say that you are a friend of my son's . . .

    HAGEN. I claim that honor, sir.

    IS. The fact that you claim it prevents my ordering you into the street. But I will see my son, sir, and find out by what right you are here to insult my guests. [Turning.] Come, Plimpton. Come, Rutherford . . . we will bandy no words with him!

    [They go off, centre.]

    HAGEN. [Alone.] By God! I touched them! Ha, ha, ha! [Grimly.] He will order me into the street! [With concentrated fury.] That is it! They shut you out! They build a wall about themselves! Aristocracy! [Clenching his fast.] Very well! So be it! You sit within your fortress of privilege! You are haughty and contemptuous, flaunting your power! But I'll breach your battlements, I'll lay them in the dust! I'll bring you to your knees before me!

    [A silence. Suddenly there is heard, very faintly, the Nibelung theme. It is repeated; HAGEN starts.]

    MIMI. [Enters, left.] Prince Hagen!

    HAGEN. Mimi!

    MIMI. At last!

    HAGEN. [Approaching.] What is it?

    MIMI. [Beckons.] Come here.

    HAGEN. [In excitement.] What do you want?

    MIMI. You must come back!

    HAGEN. What do you mean?

    MIMI. The people want you.

    HAGEN. What for?

    MIMI. They need you. You must be king.

    HAGEN. [Wildly.] Ha?

    MIMI. Alberich . . .

    HAGEN. Alberich?

    MIMI. He is dead!

    HAGEN. [With wild start.] Dead!

    MIMI. Yes . . . he died last night!

    HAGEN. [Turns pale and staggers; then leaps at Mimi, clutching him by the arm.] No! NO!

    MIMI. It is true.

    HAGEN. My God! [A look of wild, drunken rapture crosses his face; he clenches his hands and raises his arms.] Ha, ha, ha!

    MIMI. [Shrinks in horror.] Prince Hagen!

    HAGEN. He is dead! He is dead! [Leaps at mimi.] The gold?

    MIMI. The gold is yours.

    HAGEN. Ha, ha, ha! It is mine! It is mine! [Begins pacing the floor wildly.] Victory! Victory! VICTORY! Ha, ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha! [Spreads out his arms, with a triumphant shout.] I have them! By God! Isman! Plimpton and Rutherford! Estelle! I have them all! It is triumph! It is glory! It is the world! I am King! I am King! King! KING! [Seizes MIMI and starts centre; the music rises to climax.] To Nibelheim! To Nibelheim! [Stands stretching out his arms in exultation; a wild burst of music.] Make way for Hagen! Make way for Hagen!

    [CURTAIN]
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Upton Sinclair essay and need some advice, post your Upton Sinclair essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?