The Idea Advances
Parlor in the Central Hotel at Westfield. This setting may be made as elaborate as the stage and its equipment will permit. If possible use a center door, fancy flat, boxed with doors R. and L. At rise of curtain all the characters in the play except Reggie are discovered. They are sitting and standing about, with Bob, Dorothy and Jim in the center. All are wearing ordinary street clothing.
Bob - Remember, Jim Bates, you are Zam-Zammeh from now on. We have been over it all a dozen times. Go get into your Persian dress suit and be ready when Harold brings Reggie up to the hotel. And you, Miss Davis.
Dorothy - I won't play if you are going to continue calling me Miss Davis. I'm Dorothy or nothing.
Jim - Righto, Friend of the World and Eye of Beauty. Let us indeed drop the distinctions of Western civilization and assume the easy manner of the Orient. Farewell Miss Dorothy Davis, and the rest of you shameless beggars, I go to array and to annoint myself for the great change. When next I look upon thee, Light of the Rosy Dawn, thou shalt be the Princess Bibi Miriam. Wah-Wah. (All stand aside as he goes to center door.) Which is my poor pronunciation of farewell in Persian. (Boies very low) I go to Umballa. (Exit.)
Ves - You can go to Jericho. Just so you are back on time.
B9b - Now, Harold, skip down to the sanctum sanctorum of the editor of The Lamp and be back here with Reggie, as soon as you can. The rehearsal was satisfactory and I am sure all will go well.
Harold - So be, Mahbub Ali. Thou hast spoken and the dog of a slave obeys. As Jim Bates, alais Zam-Zammeh, said, "Wah, wah!" (Rmis off center door.)
Nina - Isn't it going to be great?
Bob - Perhaps. You never can tell. There is an old Persian adage which says "There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip."
Pauline - That isn't so. Aristotle said that in Avitates.
Daisy - For goodness sake, Pauline, where do you get that stuff?
Pauline - Why, as Byron said in "Childe Harold" in canto II, stanza 6. "In my dome of thought, the palace of the soul."
Walter - Please understand the rest of the Phillips family is not afflicted in the same way. Pauline is the only one that has it.
Bob - You had better be getting ready to play the old priest. It will take you some time to make up and we may need you in a hurry. Remember much depends upon you.
Walter - I'm ready. Just one word of caution to all of you. Don't make me laugh when it comes to the wedding ceremony. It is going to be hard enough to get by without any horse play. Be kind to your priest, oh, fellow conspirators. Wah, wah. (Exits center door.)
Hazel - (to Dorothy) You will soon meet the most conceited fellow in Westfield. Don't let him put anything over on you.
Harriet - He thinks he is as wise as an owl and we are all counting on you making a pionkey of him.
Gladys - Oh, do not fail us. A girl like you can do anything to a boy like Reggie.
Dorothy - Now listen, all of you. I'm going to do my best, but it isn't going to be easy. I've played a few parts in amateur theatricals but this thing of making a man fall in love with you is an entirely different matter.
Bob - Not with those eyes. Miss Davis. I mean Dorothy. After it is all over and Reggie has been made a proper fool of, I'm going to fall in love with you myself.
Dorothy - Beware! I warn you I have no time for foolishness.
Boh - Remember you are the Princess Bibi Miriam. I'd rather you'd hang hard to that fact. I don't want Dorothy Davis making eyes at Reggie.
Ves - Why, Bob, I do believe you're jealous.
Pauline - Beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.
Dorothy - There's the girl that should play the princess. She can talk like a Persian.
Hazel - She can talk like anything, but she can't act.
Nina - Come on. Harold and Reggie may get here any minute and we've got to help Dorothy dress.
Gladys - Yes, come on girls. We mustn't waste any time. (Exit Gladys, Nina, Hazel and Pauline.)
Daisy - We'd better go, too, Harriet. I'm crazy to get into my slave-girl costume.
Harriet - If it only works, this will be one of the happiest days of my sad, young life. (Exit Daisy and Harriet.
Boh - Do you know, Dorothy, I meant what I said. I hate to think of you letting that bonehead make love to you.
Dorothy - Silly. It's all in the play, isn't it? And to think I haven't even seen him.
Boh - All right. I'll go through. Be sure and help us to put proper weight on your wonderful riches. It isn't you Reggie is going to fall in love with. It's your immense fortune.
Dorothy - It wasn't necessary to say that, Mr. Warring. But we shall see. Perhaps before I am through he may love me for myself alone. (Goes to door.)
Bob - Aw, I say. You took me the wrong way. Dorothy - Oh, no, I didn't. You've only put me on my mettle. (Exit.)
Boh - Confound it! I've made her mad. She's a dandy girl and a good scout. If she don't make a monkey of Mr. Reginald De Rigor, I'll eat my hat.
Harold - (outside) He said to meet him here. That's all I know about it.
Bob - Great Scott! Here they come. (Rushes off L. 1 E.) (Enter Harold and Reggie, center door.)
Reggie - I can't see why the fellow could not come to my rooms or the office of The Lamp. I'm not used to running after people. It is much more dignified and becoming an editor to make them come to you.
Harold - But he is such a strange fellow. He wears some weird Oriental costume.
Reggie - That settles it. He is no doubt a patent medicine fakir and you know how I hate them. (Starts off and Harold catches him by the sleeve.) Let me go. I've wasted enough time already.
Harold - Please, Reggie. Listen to me a minute. The man is not a fakir. He is a gentleman. Anyone can see that and I am sure the business upon which he wants to see you is most important. Please sit down a minute and I'll tell him you are here.
Reggie - Pretty soft, old boy. This is some hoax. You are trying to put something over on me. Want me to sit down and wait while you and my classmates hold your watches and count how many minutes I'll play the fool waiting for a distinguished gentleman in Oriental costume. What do you think this is? April first? Not much, Harold, old dear. You'll have to work harder than that to make a fool of Reginald De Rigor. Get out of my way, you simp. (Starts toward door.)
Harold - (in distress) Oh, please, please, Reggie. Don't spoil everything.
Reggie - Spoil everything? So it was a joke, eh? Well all I've got to say is you folks certainly underestimated me if you thought I'd fall for any of your silly schemes. Give them all my love, Harold, and tell them whenever they put anything over on Reggie they have got to change their ways. Good morning. (Goes to door and meets Jim Bates in Persian costume and turban.)
Jim - (holds up his hand. Speaks with much dignity) I beg your pardon. The stars should bow and pay homage to the distinguished young American.
Reggie - (steps back) Who are you, sir? Are you masquerading?
Jim - Would that I were. Indeed, no. I am an American like yourself and I am proud of it. Nevertheless, I wear this foreign costume because it is my right. I take it, sir, I am speaking to Mr. Reginald De Rigor, the celebrated editor of an excellent class paper called The Lamp.
Reggie - That is my name, and yours ?
Jim - Pardon me. What I have to say is in strict confidence. May I ask this gentleman to leave us to ourselves ?
Harold - Certainly. But perhaps you have forgotten that you yourself asked me to bring Mr. De Rigor here.
Jim - A thousand thanks, my young friend. I meant not to offend. But my message to Mr. De Rigor is a strange one and meant only for his ears.
Harold - Of course. I beg your pardon. (Icily) I have no desire to intrude.
Reggie - Stick around Harold. I may want a witness. This thing looks phony to me.
Jim - Then my effort is in vain, for my strict injunction was to speak to you in private.
Harold - Let him have his way, Reggie. I'll not leave the hotel. If he tries to put anything over on you, yell and I'll be in for the finish. (At door) You don't suppose he's one of those Oriental thugs, do you?
Jim - (smiling) I mean no harm to your friend. Perhaps I come to bring him great honors and good fortune. Leave us, I pray thee. (Bows.)
Harold - All right. But Reggie's one of us you know and we stick together. (Exits.)
Jim - Will you be seated, sir? (Ojfers chair.)
Reggie - (sits) May I ask you to be brief. My time is limited.
Jim - Ah, time, my ambitious youth, was made for slaves. If what I have to say interests you at all, it will mean the end of marking time for you.
Reggie - (starts up) You threaten me. I am not afraid of you.
Jim - Be seated, please. I can make it well worth your while to hear me.
Reggie - (sits) What's the idea of the advertising clothes? Advance agent for a show, or patent medicine?
Jim - (sits) I forgive you that. Later you will apologize.
Reggie - Oh, I'll apologize now if I'm wrong. But a fellow who edits a paper goes up against all sorts of games.
Jim - May I speak? And will you regard my revelations in confidence? I must have your promise, otherwise I am not at liberty to say more.
Reggie- Cut out the mystery stuff. I joined a lodge once. I promise never to reveal the secrets of this degree.
Jim - As I told you, I wear this costume because it is my right. I studied medicine, and gome years ago, while with a certain emissary per varios casus, found myself cast adrift in Persia. There I had the luck to become household physician to the Prince of Erzeroum, and at the same time was intrusted with teaching the English language to his daughter, the princess, a beautiful, intelligent and interesting girl. She found the study to her taste, and no expense was spared in gathering together and importing into Persia twenty camel loads of the best English literature that she read or had read to her. Her tender, sensitive feelings were sometimes wrought to so high a pitch that she was forced, through pure delight and rapture to close her eyes. She enjoyed all, praised many, but treasures only one. In the mass of books and periodicals she found a copy of The Lamp, and her favorite poem, my dear De Rigor, is one you wrote entitled "So sweet love seemed."
Reggie - Yes, I recall it. "So sweet love seemed that April morn, when first we kissed beside the thorn." Truly, quite an honor, Mr.
Jim - In Te-he-ran I am known as Zam-Zammeh, but before I left the States I was plain Jim Bates, of Kalamazoo.
Reggie - Let me call you Zam-Zammeh, Sahib.
Jim - As you please. But to continue. Just as Alexander the Great ever carried about with him in a costly casket the works of Aristotle, so does the Princess Bibi Miriam, of Erzeroum ever carry the copy of The Lamp containing your poem, "So sweet love seemed."
Reggie - That is very flattering.
Jim - Oft have I heard her say, with a sigh: "Why does not fate permit me to see this poet?" The charming princess little dreamed that the fulfillment of her heart's desire lay so near.
Reggie - I do not understand.
Jim - Since my most gracious fellow countryman is pleased to listen, I'll continue. The prince, her father, became dangerously ill and at the end of a week, in spite of my utmost endeavor to stay the hand of death, he sank into a gentle and eternal sleep. The Princess Bibi-Miriam inherited her father's domain, and as she henceforth could do as she pleased, she was unable to withstand the temptation of a trip to America in order to come face to face with the man who wrote the poem she so greatly treasured.
Reggie - What! The Princess Bibi Miriam, of Erzeroum, is really in America?
Jim - Even more than that. She has just arrived in Westfield.
Reggie - On my account? This is indeed a great honor.
Jim - She longs to see no other person or thing. I wished to show her many of our great attractions. The National Parks, Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, our mountains, rivers, cities and lakes, but she refused them all. Reginald De Rigor, editor of The Lamp, her poet, is the only object of her heart's desire.
Reggie - (sitting erect and putting on his glasses) I am overwhelmed with this honor. And do you act as her interpreter?
Jim - Merely the interpreter of her heart, for the English tongue has been so thoroughly mastered by her royal highness that you can scarce detect the Persian accent.
Reggie - So much the better. Ah, I will pay her a ceremonious call.
Jim - A fitting invitation is the aim of my visit. At the same time the princess delegated to me the honor of handing you, as the custom obtains in Persia, this gift. (Presents him with a ring set with a cluster of rhine-i stones. The ring should be presented in a large plush jeweler's box.)
Reggie - (takes it and gazes in rapture) I cannot hope to - ah - such a costly, magnificent gift!
Jim - It is merely, if I am not mistaken, a forerunner of many greater marks of favor on the part of her royal highness. I know so well the charming Bibi Miriam - a trifle too enthusiastic, her veins full of hot Oriental blood - that I should not be surprised in the least, to see you, my fellow countryman, before long decorated with the Order of the Sun, and indeed honor you as my master.
Reggie - As a matter of fact, Doctor Zam-Zammeh, if modesty were not a virtue that I am inclined to overdo, I really fear you might turn my head. The princess is beautiful, you say?
Jim - As beautiful as the dawn. As fair to look upon as June roses bathed with dew.
Reggie - And these diamonds testify that she is rich.
Jim - Beyond the dreams of avarice. She is a sovereign princess.
Reggie - I hasten to prostrate myself at her feet. Where may I find her?
Jim - We are stopping here at the Central Hotel. A poor place, indeed, for one of regal blood, but the best the village affords.
Reggie - Kindly assure the Princess Bibi Miriam of Erzeroum that Reginald De Rigor, the poor American poet, is devoured by desire to kiss the hem of her garment.
Jim - (rising) It is well. This embassy will win for me some handsome reward. Pray await her sweet presence here. I have no doubt she will see you at once. (Bows low and exits C. D.)
Reggie - (rises and strolls about) What a strange thing life is after all. What fine things may happen to one who knows how to use his head and pen. This ring seems to be of priceless value - tomorrow I'll have a jeweler tell me its true worth. Reginald, you're a lucky chap. A princess in love with you. That's going some, I should say. I hope she will not be disappointed when she meets me. And yet, how could she? I am young, a good figure, and I have talent. To think that I have appeared in her sweet dreams and that she loves me for what I have done.
(Enter Jim Bates C. D.)
Reggie - Ah, she will see me? She is coming?
Jim - In just a moment.
Reggie - And what did the princess say?
Jim - Well, she said - nothing; she sighed - cast down her eyes - threw herself upon a couch - glanced at me with a blush - and then suddenly drew her veil to hide her confusion.
Reggie - (highly pleased) It appears that Persian ladies are not unlike our American girls.
Jim- Then she said: "Alas, Doctor Zam-Zammeh,. I fear I was very foolish to leave my native land."
Reggie - (laughingly) Why so?
Jim - This I also asked with deep respect. "Can you ask such a question?" she replied. "The reefs of the Caspian sea are less dangerous than your charming description."
Reggie - (shaking his finger at him) I fear youi flattered me.
Jim - You will not object to submitting yourself to Oriental custom?
Reggie - How's that?
Jim - By bending the knee when her royal highness, appears. You know it is a tribute to which she is accustomed.
Reggie - You said, did you not, that the Princess is beautiful ?
Jim - Wondrously beautiful.
Reggie - Well, who would not gladly bend his knee to such a charming lady?
Jim - (goes to door) I wish you well, my fellow countryman. She comes.
(Enter Dorothy, heavily veiled, in a rich Persian costume. She is followed by Daisy and Harriet, also heavily veiled and in Persian costumes, but of much less rich appearance. Reggie advances to meet the priyicess in center of the stage and falls upon his knees before her.)
Reggie - The happy mortal that your royal highness has condescended to receive, lies at your feet.
Dorothy - Arise. I speak English not well, else should I give you some charming compliments.
Reggie - (aside, rising) Already the sweet tones of her voice make my heart thrill with rapture.
Dorothy- You are a great man- greater than our poet Saadi.
Reggie - It were easy to surpass him, were I permitted to sing your charms.
Dorothy - I not beautiful - ah! Would that I were it.
Reggie - Why is this jealous veil allowed to hide your charming features?
Dorothy - You not flatter must. I want to talk of your land - America - of poetry - I want to learn - large voyage I maka to see you - you know everything - you say everthing beautiful.
Reggie - You are too kind. From now I forget everything but you.
Dorothy - I love America - love romance - you talk to me in poetry.
Reggie - That is very difficult; my poems are few and far between. Oh, Princess, I know nothing but you.
Dorothy - But poetry?
Reggie - It is nothing to the light in your eyes. My -verses are light, smoothly flowing and read well, I know. But hereafter they shall be even better since all my poems shall be of you.
Dorothy - See, Doctor Zam-Zammeh. I said well. He alone in America, great man.
Jim - I have never contradicted you, my Princess. (Bows very low.)
Dorothy- I so moved - so pleased. I know not how to myself express. You take this pin. (Offers him stick pin.)
Jim - (protesting) Most gracious princess, the costliest stone in your father's treasure!
Dorothy - You keep peace. Not enough costly for Reginald De Rigor.
Reggie - (takes pin) Your royal highness, I am struck dumb. (Aside.) What a magnificent solitaire!
Dorothy - Each line of your writing is more worth.
Reggie - The ring you gave me and now this pin, are certainly very precious, yet, if I may dare to beg a favor that has still greater value in my eyes-
Dorothy - Dare, dare!
Reggie - If I may be permitted to raise that envious veil and look upon the beauty of a goddess.
Dorothy - You ask too much. In Persia I cannot dare to unveil before a brother.
Reggie - We are in America, most gracious princess. Here the beauty of woman is not withheld from her brothers.
Dorothy - But the Prophet
Reggie - The Prophet shall not learn a word about it.
Dorothy - But, Doctor Zam-Zammeh. May I, think you so?
Jim - The will of the princess is the will of her servants.
Dorothy - I can you nothing deny. (She unveils herself and looks at Reggie languishingly.)
Reggie - What do I see? Has Venus arisen? Is. Hebe reincarnated? (Aside.) By Jove, she's a stunner. What do you think of that?
Dorothy - One shouldn't trust the words of a poet.
Reggie - Not words, my princess, but the promptings of the heart. Your bewitched poet stands speechless before your beauty.
Dorothy - You are pleased?
Reggie - I'm knocked out.
Dorothy - I not understand.
Reggie - My eyes glow, my lips tremble. . Dorothy - You like me?
Reggie - It is wonderful. Oh, Princess Bibi Miriam, Goddess of the Far East, I throw myself at your feet. (Kneels before her.)
Dorothy - (putting her hand on his head and winking at the others.) My poet should not humble himself.
Reggie- I acknowledge rrf slavery. My freedom is gone forever.
Dorothy - You would wear my chains? Reggie - Always. Until death.
Dorothy - But what of me? I forget my domain, Erzeroum, and also the mighty Sophi of Teheran, my cousin.
Reggie - Love levels all ranks. It lays the shepherd's crook beside the scepter. Love forgets everything.
Dorothy - Love! Reginald De Rigor.
Reggie - It changes gods into swans and princesses into faithful wives. (Rises.)
Dorothy - My head swims - my royal blood grows cold - I totter - I fall. (Falls into Reggie's arms.)
Reggie - I will support you - always.
Dorothy - (Drawing away) Oh, what have I done! Am I crazy? Great Prophet! Doctor Zam Zammeh, how can I save me from this dangerous man? Doctor, follow me, give me a potion. I very ill. (She exits hurriedly supported by Daisy and Harriet.)
Jim - (following them) Pray remain but a moment. 'Tis nothing serious. I will return. (Exit.)
Reggie - (Strolls about.) I know that 'tis nothing serious. Such fainting fits are cured neither by potion or prophets - a rapid triumph, as usual. I must follow it up. Her princely pride must be laid low. This is a stroke of rare luck. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. She is rich and beautiful and there can be no doubt about her being gone on me.
(Enter Jim Bates, much excited.)
Jim - Alas ! What have you done, my worthy fellow countryman.
Reggie - (sits languidly in chair and puts on nose glasses) Oh, such things happen to me occasionally.
Jim - She is bathed in tears.
Reggie - All women cry. I'll dry them.
Jim - She is in despair.
Reggie - She will recover. They always do.
Jim - She swears she cannot live without you.
Reggie - Then she shall live with me.
Jim - Thoughtlessly she cries: "I shall share my throne with him."
Reggie - That may be.
Jim - But alas!
Reggie - (toying with nose glasses) Well, why the alas!
Jim - Alas ! Alas !
Reggie - Is she somewhat afraid of the Sophi of Persia?
Jim - Not that. He is an old man, in his second childhood; she can do with him what she will.
Reggie - So much the better.
Jim - But alas!
Reggie - Is she engaged to some prince? Some marriage of state provided for?
Jim - Not that. She has shown until now an utter indifference to all men.
Reggie - So much the better.
Jim - But alas !
Reggie - Oh, the devil! What do you mean by this perpetual alas?
Jim - Her royal highness Princess Bibi Miriam of Erzeroum is a pious lady, who zealously submits to the teaching of the prophet, and you, my most worthy fellow countryman, are alas ! an infidel dog.
Reggie - Oh, if it's nothing more than that' we'll get around it easily.
Jim - What! you can make up your mind to
Reggie - Why not?
Jim - Wear the turban.
Reggie - Why not? (Rises.)
Jim - (impetuously embracing him) You great man! Now I appreciate your liberal and unprejudiced mind. I'll no longer conceal that the enamoured princess, accustomed to having her royal desires fulfilled at once, delegated to me the delicate task of sounding you on this point. For she cried out in agony: "I would rather die than marry a Christian."
Reggie - She shall not die. Tell her that I am quite willing to believe anything she desires.
(Dorothy laughs happily outside.)
Reggie - What was that?
Jim - She overheard us, and is laughing from pure delight.
Reggie - May I go to her?
Jim - Not yet. She has sworn by All's grave to see you a Mussulman or never to see you again.
Reggie - All right. Go tell her I'm a Mussulman.
Jim - First a trifling ceremony is necessary.
Reggie - Oh, I say. Can't we cut it?
Jim - (shrugging his shoulders) No. We have in our retinue an old orthodox priest who is also father confessor to her royal highness. He'll attend to it.
Reggie - Can you guarantee that I'll get through all right?
Jim - I'll give you the benefit of all my skill.
Reggie - Well, a throne is worth some sacrifice.
Jim - The ceremony is, in truth, somewhat vexatious.
Reggie - Kings and kaisers must also often endure them. It goes ! I'll get through. But hasten, for I am burning with desire to make the beautiful princess happy.
Jim - A moment's patience. (Exits.)
Reggie - (drops into chair) This is a matter of princely domain. I should indeed be a fool if I hesitated a second. The Sophi of Persia will be my uncle, and who knows what may happen if we can put his sons out of the way. Americans have won in foreign intrigues before and I am an American. Play the game, Reginald. All Persia looms up large in your star of destiny.