Gibson Upright

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3. Act III



The scene is the same as the first, the factory office—with a difference. It is now littered and disorderly. Files have been taken from the cases and left heaped upon the large table and upon chairs. Piles of mail are on the desk and upon the table. The safe is open, showing papers in disorder and hanging from the compartments. Hanging upon the walls, variously, are suits of old overalls and men's coats and, hats. The chairs stand irregularly about the large table; a couple of old soft hats are on the water filter. The former posters have been replaced by two new ones. One shows a brawny workman with whiskers, paper cap, and large sledge hammer leaning upon an upright piano. Rubrics: "The Freedom and Fraternity Coöperative Upright." "The Piano You Ought to Support." The other poster shows a workman with a banner upon which is printed: "No Capital! The Freedom and Fraternity Coöperative Upright The Only Piano Produced by Toilers Not Ground by Capital. Buy One to Help the Cause!"

Nora is busily engaged at Gibson's desk. Her hat and jacket hang on the wall.

Carter enters, smoking a pipe; he wears overalls and jumper. He carries a heavy roll of typewritten sheets. Tosses this upon the table, glances at Nora, who does not notice him, divests himself of overalls and jumper, and puts on the black frock coat which he wore in Act II. He looks at his watch and at the clock on the wall.

Carter [straightening out his coat]: I thought it might look better to get on my Sunday clothes for the meeting, as you might say, Miss Gorodna. Being as I'm chairman it might look more dignified; kind o' help give a kind of authority, maybe.

Nora [absently, not looking up]: Yes.

Carter [looking at his watch and at the clock again]: It ought to be wound up for meetings. [He steps upon a chair; moves the hands of clock.] There, doggone it, the key's lost! I believe Mrs. Simpson took that key for their own clock. [He goes to the table; sits, unrolls the typewritten sheets, puts on his spectacles, and studies the sheets in a kind of misery, roughing his hair badly and making sounds of moaning.] Miss Gorodna, can you make this figure out here for me? Does that mean profits—or what?

Nora: Oh, no; that's only an amount carried over.

Carter: They's so many little puzzlin' things in this bookkeeper's report. I don't believe he understands it himself. I don't see how he expects me to read that to the meeting. Some parts I can't make head or tail of. Others it looks like he's got the words jest changed round.

Nora: Oh, we'll work it all out at the meeting, Mr. Carter!

Carter: My, we got a lot to work out at this meeting.

Nora: We'll do it, comrade!

Carter [cheering up]: Sure! Sure we will! It's wonderful what a meeting does; I'm always forgettin' all we got to do is vote and then the trouble's over.

[Instantly upon this a loud squabbling and women's voices are heard outside, in the factory.]

Nora [troubled]: I was afraid this would happen. Of course after Mrs. Simpson came other wives were bound to.

Carter [uneasily moving toward the door to the street]: Well, I guess I better—

[The door into the factory is flung open by Mrs. Simpson, in a state of fury. Another woman's voice is heard for a moment, shouting: "Old Cat! Old She-Cat! Wants to be a Tom-Cat!"]

Mrs Simpson: See here, Carter, if you still pretend to be chairman you come out here and keep order!

Carter: Now, Mrs. Simpson, you better go on home!

Mrs. Simpson [raging]: Me! My place is right here, but I'm not going to stand this Commiskey woman's insults! She come down here this morning with her husband and started right in to run this factory. My heavens! Ain't she got five children at home? As long as you still pretend to be chairman I demand you come out and tell this woman to go about her business.

Shrewish Voice: It is my business!

Mrs Simpson: I'll show you! I was here first; everything was going all right. Carter, are you going to come out here and do your duty like I said?

Carter [attempting sternness and failing]: You shut that door! I got to get this report in order before the meeting. I'm not comin'.

Mrs Simpson: Then I won't be responsible for what happens! She ain't the only one. Mrs. Shomberg is out here messin' things up, too. If you won't do your duty there'll be direct action took here! [She goes out violently.]

Carter: That's got to come up in meeting. It certainly has. These here wives! For example, my wife's an awful quiet woman, but you s'pose she's goin' to stand it when she hears about all these others? I'd like to keep her at home.

Nora: I just wonder—

Carter: What was you wondering, Miss Gorodna?

Nora: Well, if that's something the meeting can settle?

Carter [doggedly]: Well, it's got to vote on it.

Nora: We did vote on Mrs. Simpson last meeting.

Carter: Well, we got to vote on her and all the rest of 'em this time.

Nora: It didn't seem to settle Mrs. Simpson, did it?

Carter: Well, it hadn't got so bad then. Now it's got to be settled! We got to git everything fixed up now.

[A frightful dispute is heard in numerous male voices; some speaking Italian, some Yiddish, and some broken English. This grows louder as Frankel rushes in, throwing the door shut behind him and leaning against it, wiping his forehead.]

Frankel: Life ain't worth livin'! Life ain't worth livin'!

Carter: Serves you right, Frankel!

[At the filter Frankel pours water from the glass upon a dirty handkerchief and passes the handkerchief over his forehead.]

Frankel: I got to git some peace! I got to collect myself.

Carter: That shows you ain't got no rights like you claimed. You can't control your labour element.

Frankel [bitterly]: I'll control 'em all right! I'll show 'em who's their master!

[A man's head with shaggy hair and ragged whiskers is thrust in at the factory door. This is Polenski.]

Polenski [ferociously]: Are you goin' to come out here like a man?

Frankel: You bet I'm comin' out there, Polenski! I'll show you who's the man here! You Hunnyacks try to browbeat me!

[As he goes out, babbling fiercely, the howls of a Roman mob are heard greeting him.]

Carter: I don't feel no sympathy with him.

Nora: No; I should think not!

[A more distant outbreak of the mob is heard, brief but fierce, and just a moment before it ceases Mifflin enters, beaming. He is dressed as usual, with his umbrella and the same old magazines and newspapers under his arm.]

Mifflin: Everything is lovely! How do you do, Miss Gorodna! Carter, old fellow! It's a great morning, a great morning! Mr. Gibson drove me down in his car. It's wonderful to feel the inspiration it's going to be for an ex-capitalist to see this place and its harmony. My phrase for it is "harmonized industry." It will mark an epoch for him.

[Gibson comes in. Mifflin greets him.]

Mifflin: Ah, Mr. Gibson! You'll see a difference! You'll see a difference!

Gibson: Yes, I do. Good morning, Miss Gorodna!

Nora [just barely looking round]: Good morning, Mr. Gibson.

Mifflin: I was just saying what an inspiration it's going to be for you to see what we're doing down here. [Pats Carter'S shoulder.] These noble fellows are teaching us intellectuals a lesson. I keep going among them; what they're doing here keeps flowing into me. You'll get it, Mr. Gibson. You'll get it, too!

[Beamingly he goes out into the factory.]

Carter [cordially]: Take a chair, Mr. Gibson. Make yourself right at home!

Gibson: Thanks!

[He makes a grave tour of inspection of the place, his expression noncommittal; goes about casually without making a point of it; he writes his initials in the dust on a filing case. He turns and looks at Nora thoughtfully; she has not seemed to notice him.]

Do you think I will, Miss Gorodna?

Nora [not looking up]: Do I think you will what?

Gibson: That I'll get what Mifflin meant? That it will be an inspiration to me to see this meeting?

Nora: I don't know what will be an inspiration to you.

Gibson: I know one thing that is—a brave woman!

[The only sign she gives is that her head bends over her work just a little more.]

Carter, do you think this meeting is going to be an inspiration to me?

Carter: Well, Mr. Gibson, since the time you give up our rights to us, as Mr. Mifflin says, we're an inspiration to the whole world. All the time! Yes, sir; and we would be, too, if we could jest git these dog-goned inequalities straightened out. We got this Frankel trouble on our hands, and them wives, and one thing and another, though they ain't botherin' me so much as my own rights. But they're goin' to git brought up in the meeting. You'll see!

Gibson: Is the safe usually kept open?

Carter [heartily]: Why, yes, sir; open to each and all alike.

Gibson: Oh, yes, of course! Seems to be some business mail left over here.

Carter: Oh, yes. But you'll find every one of 'em's been opened; we never miss opening a letter. You see they's checks in some of 'em.

Gibson: I see. Then everything is running right along, is it, Carter?

Carter: Oh, sure! Right along, right along!

[The uproar breaks out again. Frankel bursts in, wiping his forehead as before. He hurries to the water filter for more water.]

Frankel: By golly! The bloodsuckers! They want my life! They don't get it! Hello, Mr. Gibson! Well, I am pleased to see you! Say, Mr. Gibson, lemme say something to you. Look here a minute. [He draws Gibson aside.]

Gibson: What is it, Frankel?

Frankel [hastily, in a low voice]: Mr. Gibson, keep it under your hat, but I got a pretty good interest in this factory right now. What date I'm goin' to own it I won't say. But what I want to put up to you: How much would you ask me to manage it for me?

Gibson: What?

Frankel: I wouldn't be no piker; when it comes to your salary you could pretty near set it yourself.

Gibson: I'm afraid I've already had an offer that would keep me from accepting, Frankel.

Frankel: When the time comes I'll git a manager somewhere; no place like this can't run itself; I seen that much.

Gibson: Even if I didn't have an offer, Frankel, I doubt if I'd accept yours. You know I used to have some little trouble here.

Frankel: You got my sympathy now! I got troubles myself here. [Hastily drinks another glass of water.] Well, where's that meeting? They're late, ain't they?

Carter: If they are it's your fault. Them wops of yours won't hardly let a body git by out yonder.

[Salvatore and Shomberg come in from the factory, Salvatore pausing in the doorway to shout in the direction of an audible disturbance in the distance.]

Salvatore: Oh, shut up; you'll git your pay!

[Following Salvatore come Simpson and his wife and Riley. They all speak rather casually but not uncordially to Gibson. Mifflin is with them, his hand on Simpson'S shoulder. The outbreak outside subsides in favour of a speech of extreme violence in a foreign language. Italian, Yiddish, or whatever it is, it seems most passionate, and by a good orator. It continues to be heard as the members of the committee take their seats at the big table. Mifflin beams and nods at Gibson; and takes his seat with the committee.]

Shomberg [hotly, to Mrs. Simpson]: Here, you ain't a member of this committee! Git her chair away from her there, Salvatore! She's got no right here!

Mrs Simpson: Oh, I haven't?

Shomberg: Already twice this morning I got hell from my own wife the way this woman treats her tryin' to chase her out the factory. You think you're on this committee?

Mrs. Simpson [taking a chair triumphantly]: My husband is. I was here last time, and I'm goin' to keep on.

Carter [referring to the speech in the factory]: My goodness! We can't do no work.

Riley: Frankel, that's your business to shut 'em up.

Frankel: Talkin' ain't doin' no harm. Let 'em talk.

Riley: Yes, I will! [Goes to the door, and roars]: Cut that out! I mean business! [Shuts the door and returns angrily to his seat.]

Carter [rapping on the table with a ruler]: The meeting will now come to order! Minutes of the last meeting will now be read by the secretary.

Mifflin [to Gibson, beaming]: You see?

Nora [rising, minute book in hand]: The meeting was called to order by

Chairman Carter, Monday, the—

Salvatore: Aw, say!

Frankel: I object!

Simpson: What's the use readin' all that? It's only about what we done at the last meeting.

Salvatore: We know that ourselves, don't we?

Shomberg: What'd be the use? What'd be the use?

Riley: All we done was divide up the money.

Salvatore: Cut it out, cut it out! Let's get to that!

Carter: All right, then. I move—

Mrs. Simpson [shrilly]: You can't move. The chairman can't move. If you want to move you better resign!

Carter: Well, then, somebody ought to move—

Mrs Simpson: Cut out the moving. She don't haf to read 'em, does she?

Carter: All right, then. Don't read 'em, Miss Gorodna.

Salvatore: Well, git some kind of a move on.

Carter: I was thinkin'—

Nora [prompting]: The next order—

Carter: What?

Nora: The next order of business—

Carter: Oh, yes! The next order of business—

Nora: Is reports of committees.

Carter [in a loud, confident voice]: The next order of business is reports of committees. [Takes up some papers and goes on promptly.] The first committee I will report on is my committee. I will state it is very difficult reading, because consisting of figures written by the bookkeeper, and pretty hard to make head or tail of, but—

Mrs Simpson: Oh, here, say! We got important things to come up here! 'Fore we know how much we're goin' to divide amongst us we got to settle at once for all and for the last time how it's goin' to be divided and how much each family gets.

Salvatore: Family?

Carter and Shomberg [together]: Yes—family!

Riley: You bet—family!

Carter: Yes, sir!

Simpson: You bet we'll settle how it's goin' to be divided!

Salvatore: Why, even, of course; just like it has been. Ain't that the principle we struggled for all these years, comrades?

Mrs Simpson: Well, it's not goin' to be divided even no longer.

Salvatore [violently]: Yes, it is!

Simpson and Carter [hotly]: It is not!

Salvatore: You bet your life it is!

Shomberg: I'd sooner wring your neck, you sporty Dago!

Salvatore: Now look here, comrade—

Shomberg: Comrade! Who you callin' comrade? Don't you comrade me!

Mrs Simpson: You dirty little Dago! You got no wife to support! Livin' a bachelor life of the worst kind, you think you'll draw down as much as my man does?

Salvatore [fiercely]: Simpson, I don't want to hit no lady, but if—

Simpson [roaring]: Just you try it!

Mifflin [rising in his place, still beaming, and tapping on the table with his fountain pen]: Gentlemen, gentlemen! This is all healthy! It's a wholesome sign, and I like to see these little arguments. It shows you are thinking. But, of course, it has always been understood that in any such system of ideal brotherhood as we have here we, of course, cling to the equal distribution of all our labours. We—

Salvatore [fiercely]: We? How do you git in this? Where do you git this we stuff?

Frankel: Yes; what you mean—we?

Salvatore: You ain't goin' to edge in here. Your kind's done that other places. Some soft-handed guy that never done a day's work in his life but write and make speeches, works in and gits workingmen to elect him at the top and then runs 'em just the same as any capitalist.

Mifflin [mildly protesting]: Oh, but you mustn't—

Salvatore [sullenly]: That's all right; I read the news from Russia!

Mifflin [firmly beaming]: But I was upholding your contention for an equal distribution.

Salvatore [much surprised and mollified]: Oh, that's all right then; I didn't git you!

Mifflin: Right comrade! I'm always for the under dog.

Shomberg: Call him an under dog! He's a loafer and don't know a trade!

Riley: He was gettin' three and a half a day, and now he draws what I do!

Mrs. Simpson [attacking Riley fiercely]: Yes, and you're gettin' as much as my husband is, and your wife left you seven years ago and you livin' on the fat of the land; Steinwitz's pool parlour every night till all hours!

Shomberg [attacking her]: Yes, and you and your husband ain't got no children; we got four. I'd like to know what right you got to draw down what we do—you with your limousine!

Carter: What business you got to talk, Shomberg? When here's me with my seven and the three of my married daughter—eleven in all, I got on my shoulders. Do you think you're goin' to draw down what I'd ought to?

All [shouting]: "Here! We got rights, ain't we?" "Where's the justice of it?" "I stand by my rights." "Nobody's goin' to git 'em away from me." "I bet I git my share." "Oh, dry up!" "You make me laugh!" And so on.

Riley [standing up and pounding the table, roaring till they are forced to listen]: You ain't any of you got the rights of it! The rights of it is—Who does the most work gets the most money. Look at me on that truck!

Carter [pounding on the table with a ruler]: You set down, Riley! The rights of it ain't who does the most work; but I'm willin' to leave it to who does the hardest work.

Simpson: No, sir! It's who does the best work.

Carter: There ain't only three men in my department out there that ain't soldiering on their job. I do twice as much skilled work as any man at this table, and I do it better. [Shouts of "Yes, you do!" "Rats!" "Shut up!"] I'll leave it to Mr. Gibson; he knows good work if he don't know nothing else.

[Shouts of "Leave it to nothing!" "How'd he get in this?" "You're crazy!"]

Carter [bawling]: Get back to business! We're running a meeting here!

Frankel: For goodness' sake, we ain't getting nowhere!

Salvatore: No, and you ain't never goin' to git nowhere long as you try to work big business and privilege on me! We got to keep it like Mr. Mifflin says; it's a sacred brotherhood, everything divided equal. Let's get to business and count that money.

Frankel: Well, for goodness' sake, let's get some system into this meeting!

Riley: How you goin' to get any system into it before you settle what's going to be done about Frankel's twenty-four shares?

Carter: Twenty-four? He's got twenty-six; he got two more yesterday!

Mrs Simpson: He's got thirty-five; he got nine more this morning!

Frankel [hotly]: You bet I got thirty-five!

All: What! Thirty-five shares!

Frankel: Well, ain't I got thirty-five men workin' out there?

Simpson: How in thunder we goin' to settle about him holdin' all them shares?

Salvatore: Are we goin' to let him take all that money? Thirty-five—

Frankel [leaping up, electrified]: How d'you expect I'm goin' to pay my men if I don't get it? Are you goin' to let me take them thirty-five shares' profits? No, I guess you ain't! You ain't got no say about it! The money's mine right now! I get it!

Simpson: I object!

Riley [pounding the table]: Look at the ornery little devil! He took advantage of the poor workingmen's trustfulness, got 'em in debt to him, then went and begun buying over their shares, so they had to leave the shop because he wouldn't hire 'em to do their own work, but went and hired cheaper men. Listen to the trouble they make among us!

Simpson: It's an undesirable element.

Riley: He had no right to buy them workmen out in the first place.

Simpson: And on top of that we can't git no work turned out because the fourteen skilled men he's got in there have gone and started striking just like the unskilled and they tie up everything.

Riley: I claim he hadn't no right to buy them shares.

Frankel: I didn't?

All [except Shomberg]: No, you didn't!

Frankel [hotly at Riley]: You look here. S'pose you needed money bad? Ain't you got a right to sell your share?

Riley: Sure I have!

Frankel: What you talkin' about, then? Ain't I got a right to buy anything you got a right to sell?

Riley: No, you ain't, because I object to the whole system.

Frankel: You do! [Points to Shomberg.] Look there! Ask him what he says. He's got four.

Riley: I don't care who's got what! All I say is I object to the system, and this factory'll git burned up if them wop workmen stay here jest because he holds them shares!

Simpson: You're right about that, Riley!

Salvatore: Why, you can't hear yourself think out in the shops when you might be havin' a quiet talk with a friend.

Riley: When them wops gits to talkin' strike it sounds more like a revolution to me!

Simpson: Why, they're all inflamed up. They know what's what, all right.

Frankel: What do they know?

Salvatore: They know you're drawing down on them shares about five or six times the wages you pay 'em. What I claim is that extra money he makes ought to be divided amongst us.

[Emphatic approval from Carter, Simpson, and Riley. "Yes sir! You bet! That's what!"]

Frankel: Just try it once!

Simpson: Them men ain't workin' for you, they're workin' for us. Ain't we the original owners?

Frankel: Y-a-a-a-h!

Riley [pounding the table]: That's the stuff! We're the original owners! Any money made on them wops' wages is ours. We'll tend to business with them!

[The noise outside has increased deafeningly; there is a loud hammering on the door, which is now flung open, and Polenski in patched overalls, a wrench in his hand, enters fiercely, slamming the door behind him. He begins an oration at the door.]

Polenski: Don't we git a hearing? We got to take direct action in this rotten factory before we even get a word in. [Shouts from the committee: "Get out of here, you wop!" "You ain't got no business here!" "This a committee meeting!"] Committee meeting, my nose! [Shakes his fist at Frankel.] Do you know what you're up against? You're up against the arm of labour! You monkey with labour a little more the way you have, and you'll be glad if it's only a little nitroglycerin that gits you. Hired us for two and a half, did you?

Frankel: My goodness, I rose you to three this morning!

Polenski: Yes; rose us to three! What do we care you rose us to four, to five, to six. Look what the rest you loafers here at this table is gittin'!

Salvatore: Here, don't you bring us in this!

Polenski [half screaming]: I won't? Every one of you is in his class. [Points at Frankel.] You sit up here and call yourself a committee, dividin' up the money and runnin' this factory that belongs just as much to us men he hired as it does to you! It belongs to us more—because we're the real workin'men! [Beats his chest.] My God! Don't the toilers' wrongs never git avenged? Are we always goin' to be wage slaves? We demand simple justice. We been workin' here two dollars and a half a day, now we want the wage scale abolished and double profits for each of us for every day we worked here before we found out what was goin' on, with you sittin' up here like kings in your robes, tellin' the poor man he should have only two dollars and a half a day—sittin' up here in your pomp with your feet on the neck of labour! [To Carter]: You, in your fine broadcloth, ridin' up and down the avenues in limousines with never a thought for the toiler! Don't think for a minute we deal with this little vampire here. You're all in the same boat, and the toiling masses will hold every single one of you just as responsible as it does him, you—you capitalists!

[Instantly upon this the door is opened enough to admit the heads of two wops very similar to Polenski.]

First Wop: Parasites!

Second Wop: Bloodsuckers!

Polenski: Capitalists, parasites, bloodsuckers, bourgeoisie! Do you think we expect any justice out of you? Do you think I come in this room ever dreaming you'd grant our demands? No! We knew you! And if we do assert our rights, what do you do? You set your hellhounds of police on us! Haven't we been agitatin' for our rights among you for days? We've got our answer from you, but you look out for ours, because as sure as there is a hell waitin' for all parasites, we'll send you there, and your factory, too! [Looks up at the clock.] My God, is that clock right? [He runs out at top speed.]

Simpson: They don't seem to know their place!

Shomberg: Them fellers think they own the earth.

Riley: Next, they'll be thinkin' they own our factory!

Carter [solemnly]: Well, sir, I wonder what this country is coming to!

[Here there is a muffled explosion in the sample piano, which rocks with the jar, at the same time emitting a few curls of smoke. General exclamations of horror and fright as all of the committee break for shelter.]

Shomberg [his voice rising over the others]: Send for the police!

Salvatore [shouting]: Wait! We ain't divided up the money!

Nora: It's over; it hasn't done any harm!

Frankel [on his hands and knees under the table]: It was in that piano. [Nora goes across to the piano.] Look out, he's probably got another one in there.

[Mifflin helps Nora to take off the front of the piano, which is still mildly smoking; a wreckage of wires is seen.]

Mifflin [smiling]: It must have been an accident!

Frankel and Mrs. Simpson [coming out from under the table]: Accident!

Mifflin: Of course it's unfortunate, because it might be misconstrued.

Riley: Yes, it might.

Mifflin [confidently]: Let me go talk to these new comrades!

Riley: Comrades? Frankel's wops? Ha, ha!

Salvatore: Aw, them ain't comrades; them's just Frankel's hired workers.

Mifflin: They are comrades in the best sense of the word. I am in touch with all the groups. A moment's reasoning from one they know to be sympathetic—

[He goes out into the factory.]

Salvatore: Hey, let's get that stuff divided up. I got an engagement.

Frankel: Yes; let's hurry. You can't tell what they got planted round here.

Carter [rapping]: The meeting will please come to—

Salvatore: Here, cut that out! We ain't got no time to—

Shomberg: No. Come to business; come to business!

Nora: The only way, comrades, to know how much we have gained since the last division is to read the bookkeeper's report.

Frankel: Well, for heaven's sakes, go on—read it!

Carter: Well, I did want to a long while ago, when we first set down and begun the meeting. I says then, I report on my committee and—

Various Members: Oh, for heaven's sake! Go ahead! Cut it out!

Carter [picking up the sheets]: On the first page is says Soomary.

Riley: What's that mean?

Mrs Simpson: Oh, my goodness!

Frankel: Git to the figures!

Carter: Well, here, on one side it says gross receipts—

Shomberg [rubbing his hands]: Ah!

Carter: What?

Simpson [shouting]: Read it!

Carter: Gross receipts $2,162.43. On the other side it says: "Cash paid out $19,461.53."

[All are puzzled.]

It didn't sound right to me, even the first time I read it. Looks like he's got the wrong words, crossed over.

Frankel: Why, gross receipts last month was over twenty-four thousand dollars!

Shomberg: Yes, and that was a fall off from the month before.

Carter [rubbing his head]: Well, I don't pretend to understand it, but he told me all them was mostly payments on old sales anyhow.

Riley: Read it again, read it again!

Simpson: Yes, let's see if we can't get what the sense of it is.

Carter: It says "Gross receipts, $2,162.43"—that's over here. "Cash paid out, $19,461.53."

[All seem dazed.]

Riley: What else you got there?

Carter: As near as it seems to me, just a lot of items.

Salvatore: Well, we must have a lot of money in the bank; what's the matter we draw that out and divide it?

Riley: Wait a minute! What's there besides them items?

Carter: He's got a note. "Note," he says; here it is: He says: "Bank notified us this morning we're overdrawn $59.01."

Riley: Overdrawn?

Shomberg: Then we got to deposit some to our account. Who's got charge of the checks that comes in?

Nora: The bookkeeper has charge, but there aren't any checks.

Carter: No, they ain't been any checks comin' in for some days; a week or so, or two weeks, you might say. We've looked everywhere for 'em—

Frankel [aghast]: You looked all through them letters?

Carter: They ain't none left in 'em that wasn't took out a good while ago.

Salvatore: You ain't looked through the safe, have you?

Carter: They ain't a one in it; it's got me all puzzled up, I tell you. I was jest waitin' for the meeting to settle it.

Frankel: But heaven's sakes! There must be checks comin' in from new sales!

Carter: It says here sales has fallen off. So fur this month they was only three instruments sold.

Simpson: But, my gosh, this is the end of the month!

Carter: They was two sold in Council Bluffs and one in Detroit.

[General agitation and excitement.]

Mrs. Simpson [trembling with rage and fear]: You mean to stand there and tell me we ain't goin' to git any money to-day, and my flat rent to pay to-morrow?

Riley: Don't talk about your flat rent to me, lady! There's others of us got a few things to pay.

Shomberg: But, my golly, when do we git paid?

Carter: I can't make out from what he's got here.

Salvatore [rapping fiercely on the table]: Hey! I got to have my money!

Carter: Well, I got to have mine, don't I?

Simpson: Go on. See what else it says.

Carter: Well, here he's got this. Here it says: "Bills payable, $17,162.48."

Frankel [leaping up]: Bills payable! My God, no money in bank, and we're $17,162.48 in debt!

Mrs. Simpson [shrieking]: Who owes it?

Simpson: We do!

Shomberg: Who's goin' to pay it?

Riley: Who run us into debt that way?

Salvatore: That's the man we're after!

Frankel: Who's the man responsible for us bein' $17,162.48 bankrupt?

Riley [hammering the table]: Who run us into debt over seventeen thousand dollars?

Simpson: Well, give him a chance to answer.

Carter: What do I know about it? That's what the report says. That's all I know.

Shomberg: Well, somebody's got us into debt. And who is it?

Nora: It's all of us! Haven't we all done this thing together?

Frankel: Well, who's got to pay it?

Nora: We've all got to!

Shomberg, Salvatore, Frankel, and Mrs. Simpson: You expect to git blood out of a stone? What do you take us for? You're crazy! You helped get us into this! [Shomberg and Salvatore begin shouting at each other.]

Shomberg: You pay me back that twenty-five dollars you got from me Friday!

Salvatore: How I'm goin' to pay you twenty-five dollars when I'm seventeen thousand dollars in debt?

Shomberg: I'll have that money!

[He takes a paper weight from desk.]

Salvatore: You throw that at me, I'll give you a little sticker where you won't like it!

[Puts his hand in the breast of his coat. Murder appears imminent. Sudden and general dispersal from the neighbourhood of the combatants, which brings Nora to Gibson, unconsciously seeking his protection.]

Shomberg: Aw, I didn't mean anything serious like that. [Puts down the paper weight.] But I'll get the money.

Salvatore: You'll need it—to pay your share what we owe!

Mrs Simpson: I'd like to see 'em get one cent out of me!

Carter: It ain't just us here of course; they's a hundred and seventy men outside the debt belongs to as well as us. The whole factory's got to pay it.

Simpson: Great gosh! Do you think we can go out there, when they're expectin' a month's pay, and tell 'em they're gettin' only a seventeen-thousand-dollar debt?

Frankel: And me, me, me! Look at me! Do you think I can go out and tell them thirty-five bloodhounds I ain't got no money to even pay their wages?

Riley [vehemently]: What's more, you owe thirty-five shares of that debt, Frankel!

All [with vindictive satisfaction]: That's it! Sure he does! He owes thirty-five shares of the debt! That's right!

Frankel: What?

Riley: You owe thirty-five shares of the seventeen-thousand debt.

Frankel: My heavens! Ain't the meetin' just settled it I didn't have no right to them shares and it was all to be divided even?

Carter: What we got to do, we got to go out there and tell 'em they owe this money.

Frankel: I can't tell mine!

Salvatore: I know one game little fellow that ain't goin' to pay nobody nothin'. Excuse me, gents; they'll have to find me!

[He goes out hastily by the door that leads to the street.]

Carter: Well, somebody's got to go out there and tell 'em.

Simpson: Well, I won't!

Mrs Simpson: It's the chairman's place.

Carter: We all got to go!

Frankel: Not me!

Simpson: Yes, you will! [Takes him by the shoulders.]

Riley [taking him from Simpson]: Put him first!

[They begin to jostle toward the factory door.]

Frankel [as they push him he waves a despairing hand at Gibson]: Mr. Gibson, that was a fine trick you played on us!

The Committee [shouting]: You go on there! Come on! We got to take our medicine!

Frankel: Lemme alone! Take your hands off me!

[They jostle out, leaving Nora and Gibson alone together. Nora has gone to the large table, sitting beside it, with her head far down between her hands. As the noise dies away Mifflin comes in from the factory.]

Mifflin: What wonderful spirits! Just great, rough boys!

[Smiles as he gets his hat, magazines, newspaper, and umbrella.]

Everything is working out. Some little inevitable friction here, some little setback there. But it all works, it all works to the one great end. I'm sorry I wasn't present for the end of the meeting to hear what success there was this month, but that's a detail. The dream has come true. It's here, and we're living it! [At the door.] I'll send you a copy of my next article, Mr. Gibson. [Modestly laughs.] They tell me the series is making a little sensation in its way. Good morning!

[He goes out jauntily. Gibson has never moved from his chair; he turns his head, still not rising, and looks fixedly at Nora. She slowly lifts her head, meets his eye; her head sinks again. He rises and slowly walks over to her, looking down at her. Then, bending still lower, she begins to cry.]

Gibson: Well, Nora, what was the matter with it?

Nora [not looking up]: I don't know. What was?

Gibson: You needed a manager to do what I had been doing.

Nora: Couldn't we have learned? Couldn't one of us?

Gibson: One of you did—Hill.

Nora: But he left!

Gibson: Why did Hill leave?

Nora: Other people offered him more money.

Gibson: Yes; he was the one man that all the rest of you depended on. He was worth more.

Nora: But were you worth all that you took? You took all that the business made.

Gibson: Yes; and last year it was fifty thousand.

Nora: Were you actually worth that much to it?

Gibson: Other men in the business think so. [Shows her a letter.] Here's an offer from the Coles-Hibbard people, out in Cleveland, of that much salary to do for them what I did here.

Nora: It isn't right; you pay labour only what you have to pay.

Gibson: The Coles-Hibbard people offer to pay me what they'd have to, and they're pretty hard-headed men. The whole world pays only what it has to.

Nora: It isn't right! It isn't right!

Gibson: Last winter I saw you in a three-dollar seat listening to Caruso. Have you ever given that much to the organ grinder who comes under these windows?

Nora: Will it always be so?

Gibson: I don't know. But it's so now.

Nora: But will the plan always fail?

Gibson: I think it will until human beings are as near alike as the ants and bees are. Your system is in full effect with them, but we—we strive; even in this fellowship here of yours the striving began to show.

Nora [looking up at him appealingly]: But are these inequalities right?

Gibson [gently, rather sadly]: I don't know. I only know what is.

Nora: Well—I'm whipped.

[Smiles ruefully, away from him; then she turns again to him.]

Are you going to accept that offer?

Gibson: What do you say?

[Her head droops again. Angry voices are heard, growing louder as they approach. The door is thrown open, and the members of the committee, noisily talking, appear in the doorway.]

Frankel: It was a bum deal all through!

Shomberg: Shovin' his run-down factory off onto us!

Riley [fiercely]: You never give us no deed to this plant, Mr. Gibson!

Simpson: They ain't a court in the land'll hold us to it!

Carter: No, sir; and we've voted this is your factory, Mr. Gibson! We ain't responsible!

Gibson: It is my factory and I'm going to run it! Any man of you not back at work in ten minutes on the old scale of wages will be fired!

[The members whoop with joy. Frankel and Carter both try to shake hands with Gibson at once.]

Carter: Well, that's a relief to me. Thank you, Mr. Gibson!

Frankel: That takes a heap off my mind!

Riley: God bless you, sir!

Gibson: Never mind that! You go back to work.

[Whooping, the committee, in great spirits and with the greatest friendliness to one another, depart rapidly. Closing the door, Gibson turns briskly to Nora, and speaks in a businesslike way.]

Gibson: Nora, will you marry me?

Nora [meekly]: Yes—I will.

Gibson: Will you marry me to-day?

Nora [with a little more spirit]: Yes, I will!

Gibson: Will you go with me and marry me right now?

Nora [more loudly and promptly]: Yes, I will!

Gibson: Well, then—

[He gets his hat and coat, then thinks of something he wants from his desk and goes over to get it. Meantime Nora, not moving so rapidly as Gibson, but more thoughtfully, goes up to the wall where hang her jacket and hat, takes off her apron, puts on the jacket and hat and goes to the door that leads to the street, where she stands waiting. There is a knock on the factory door, which opens without waiting, and Simpson comes in.]

Simpson: I don't want to detain you if you're goin' out, Mr. Gibson, but there's something's got to be settled. And the men in my department say it's got to be settled right now. That wage scale says we get time and a half for overtime, and the men in the finishing department, they ain't gettin' no time and a half on piecework and we never understood that agreement you claim we signed with you anyhow. So what we says, if we don't get double time instead of time and a half for overtime—why, Mr. Gibson, it looks like them men couldn't hardly be held back. Now what we demand is—

[He is still talking as the final curtain descends upon these three: Gibson seated at his desk, looking fixedly at Simpson, Nora waiting thoughtfully by the door that leads to the street.]

CURTAIN