A Romantic Parlor Play

By Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

From The Ladies' Home Journal Vol. XXVII No. 8 (July, 1910)

Scene: A large arbor covered with climbing roses. Entrance door on left, and one on right.


The Reverend Edward Litchfield, D. D.: A widower with one daughter.
Roger Procter: A blind young man, the son, by a former marriage, of Doctor Litchfield's second wife.
Dr. David Lyman: An eye specialist.
Eglantina Litchfield: Doctor Litchfield's daughter by first wife.
Charlotte Wyatt: Eglantina's cousin.
Pamela Litchfield: Doctor Litchfield's unmarried sister and housekeeper.

Act I

Interior of rose arbor. Enter Doctor Litchfield from left. Something on door arrests his attention. Squints at it, takes out and puts on spectacles, and examines door.

Doctor L.: H'm! (Crosses arbor, seats himself in chair, leans head on hand reflectively.)

[Enter Pamela, L. Elderly lady in black, white lace cap with lappets. Moves about arbor picking dead leaves from roses. Does not see Doctor L. He turns and watches her.

Doctor L.: Pamela!

Pamela (starting): Oh, are you there, Edward?

Doctor L.: Have you seen anything unusual, Pamela?

Pamela: What do you mean, Edward? What should I see unusual? I did not notice you because you were quite concealed by the high back of your chair, which faced the other way.

Doctor L.: I did not mean that. I mean, did you see nothing unusual about the door when you entered?

Pamela (staring at door): Unusual? No. What is there unusual for me to see?

Doctor L. (rising and approaching the door; turns it and points): What is that written on the door?

Pamela: You don't mean to say anybody has been writing on the door, Edward? Is it written in ink? If it is I don't know how it can ever be cleaned.

Doctor L.: No, Pamela, it is not written in ink. It is cut. All the letters are cut clean by a penknife.

Pamela: Worse and worse! Then the whole door will have to be taken down, planed over, and painted. Whoever could have done it, Edward, and what is it?

Doctor L.: Why don't you read it, Sister?

Pamela: I cannot read it. I have not my spectacles.

Doctor L.: Take mine.

Pamela: No, Brother, I cannot see with yours. Read it to me.

Doctor L. (reads):

“Eglantina, tall and fair,
  Queen of beauty and of grace,
All my darkened house of life
  Is illumined by thy face.

“Sweet'neth thou my every thought
  Like the bud when night hath passed,
And she breaks her seal of bloom
  To become a rose at last.

“Though in gloom thy lover sighs,
  Eglantina, tall and fair,
Love, the blind, hath touched his eyes,
  And he sees thee past compare.”

Pamela (stares at Doctor L.): Whoever wrote them?

Doctor L.: Cannot you guess, Sister?

Pamela: Roger, about Eglantina?

[Doctor L. looks gravely at his sister and nods.

Pamela: Then —

Doctor L.: It seems so.

Pamela: I did not think that poor Eglantina would ever —

Doctor L.: Would ever what?

Pamela: Marry.

Doctor L.: Why should she not marry? May I inquire, Pamela, why my daughter should not marry?

Pamela: Oh, Brother, do not be hurt. You know how I love the poor dear child, and nobody knows better than I do what a beautiful character she has.

Doctor L.: Whoever said that she had not a beautiful character?

Pamela: Nobody, dear Brother. Eglantina is as sweet as an angel.

Doctor L.: She is an angel if she is my daughter.

Pamela: Yes, she is, Edward. I often think so.

Doctor L.: Then why, may I inquire, did you say you did not think that my daughter would ever marry?

Pamela: Dear Brother, you must know why. I had in mind our dear girl's blemish.

Doctor L. (angrily): What blemish? She has no blemish. Who has ever dared say Eglantina had a blemish?

Pamela: Now, Brother, you know as well as I do that poor Eglantina's blemish has distressed us all, and the more because she would have such beauty without it, and because she has such loveliness of character with it.

Doctor L.: Pamela, you are a fool.

Pamela: Why, Brother Edward!

Doctor L.: I repeat it; you are a fool. Eglantina would not have had her loveliness of character without what you are pleased to call a blemish. You might as well say a rose could be as sweet and not be a rose. And as for saying that Eglantina's little birthmark is a blemish, it is absurd!

Pamela: Perhaps it is not a blemish, but it is — unusual.

Doctor L.: Stuff and nonsense! What is this blemish? It is nothing in the world except a little rose-mark, shaped like a rose, in Eglantina's left cheek, and her lovely curls droop over that and almost conceal it. Who shall say that a little pink rose painted by Nature on a girl's cheek is a blemish and not an especial adornment? You talk stuff and nonsense!

Pamela: But —

Doctor L.: What? What, I say?

Pamela (laying her hand on her brother's arm and speaking quickly): Brother, do you think Roger would have written those verses about Eglantina if he could have seen her?

Doctor L.: But he cannot see, and, what is more, he never will see. Why argue about impossibilities?

Pamela (picking a rose): Very well, Brother. I dare say you are right. Nothing would please me better than to see our dear girl happily married; and Roger is as angelic for a man as she is for a woman. She will make him very happy.

Doctor L.: Happy! He is inestimably fortunate to get her. It isn't every girl like Eglantina who would marry a blind man. You don't seem to think that is a blemish!

Pamela (as they near door): I cannot, Edward. Roger is so beautiful to look at, and he goes about without difficulty, and I never seem to fairly realize that he is blind.

Doctor L. (as they go out): Well, he is.

[Enter Eglantina from opposite door, dressed in rose color, with hair arranged in soft curls which fall over her face, almost concealing it. She crosses arbor, looks at roses, then suddenly notices the door. She reads to herself, then sinks into chair, takes out handkerchief, and her shoulders heave with silent sobs. Enter Roger Procter, who runs toward Eglantina, kneels beside her, and gently tries to take her hands from before her face.

Roger: What is troubling you, Eglantina?

Eglantina (removing her hands from her face, sitting up straight and smiling): Nothing whatever ails me.

Roger: But I heard you sob, Eglantina, and you were sitting with your hands over your face.

Eglantina: I often sit so. So does everybody.

Roger: I do not know. I cannot see everybody.

Eglantina (starting back): You speak as if you saw me.

Roger: Yes, I am blind, but I see you with my whole soul. You are the most beautiful girl in the whole world.

Eglantina: How do you know?

Roger: When a blind man sees with his soul he sees more than any man who sees with his eyes, Eglantina. I made a poem to you.

Eglantina: You should not.

Roger (eagerly): Have you read it? Did you like it? Do you think the verses are pretty?

Eglantina: Very pretty. You write very pretty verses, but you must not write them about me, Roger.

Roger: Why not? You are so beautiful. You are a rose among girls.

Eglantina: No, I am not.

Roger: The rose does not know that she is herself, or she would be no rose.

Eglantina: I am a poor mockery of a rose with this dreadful mark on my cheek.

Roger: The rose has a scratch from a thorn on one of her petals. What of it? Is there not enough beauty left? A mark on your cheek! What is a mark on your cheek but a part of your beauty, since it is a part of you? Fret no more about it, Sweetheart.

Eglantina (leaning toward him): Roger, are you sure that it makes no difference?

Roger: Of course I am sure. Have I not been told of that rose on your cheek until I no longer think of you as being without it, or love you as being without it?

Eglantina: Roger, you must wait until tomorrow before I tell you.

Roger: Why, Eglantina, you love me, don't you?

Eglantina: Oh, yes, I love you. Who could help that?

Roger: You mean I must wait until tomorrow to know if you will marry me?

Eglantina: Go now, Roger. Father is coming.

Roger (rises): Let me tell him now.

Eglantina: No, no! Go out by the other door.

[Exit Roger. Doctor L. enters by opposite door. Eglantina rises as her father enters.

Doctor L. (going to her and kissing her): Well, Daughter?

Eglantina: It is not well with me, Father.

Doctor L. (looking at the door): Did not Roger just go out?

Eglantina: Yes, Father.

Doctor L.: Have you seen the verses the lad has cut on the door?

Eglantina: Yes, Father. (Turns passionately upon him.) See what I am. What have I to do with love verses?

Doctor L.: Eglantina, if your heart leads you in that direction I should be happy to see you settled.

Eglantina (turning face from audience, lifts curls from left cheek and confronts her father): See me, Father, and don't talk to me of love and marriage.

Doctor L.: Eglantina, you are acting foolishly from an overstrained sensitiveness. That mark upon your cheek has always been overestimated by you. People do not think of it at all after they have come to know you, not even they who see. What possible difference can it make to a blind man? And a blind man who has learned to esteem you for your own true worth?

Eglantina: I cannot keep it secret from him.

Doctor L.: But how can you describe your face to a blind man? Roger has been told repeatedly, but it means nothing to him. The telling conveys no meaning to him.

Eglantina (pitifully): I can see. I am not blind. I can see that he loves mistakenly.

Doctor L.: Do as your heart dictates, Daughter, and have no fear. I must go now. Think this matter well over and act according to your good sense, not from mistaken sentiment. (Turns to go. Eglantina intercepts him.)

Eglantina: Father!

Doctor L.: What is it, Child?

Eglantina: I have not told you the worst. I have not revealed to you the secret wickedness of my own heart. Yes, Father, the secret wickedness, and, what is more, against Roger. (Sobs.)

Doctor L.: A woman, when she sets out to be an angel, always thinks herself a fiend. What do you mean?

Eglantina: I — I — want Roger to be blind. I am glad that he is blind, because if he could see he would not love me. It is dreadful! (Sobs.)

Doctor L.: Nonsense, Eglantina! Roger is blind, he always will be blind, and that settles it. All of us have dark thoughts, and, perhaps, unworthy delights lurking in the corners of our minds. But as for your being wicked — after all, Roger is happy. Blind men are always happy. Perhaps he is happier than if he could see. And his blindness is a dispensation of God. What right have you to call yourself wicked because you are happy in a dispensation of God? Now I must go. Do not fear your own happiness, Daughter. It is like fearing Heaven.

[Kisses Eglantina; exit. Eglantina seats herself on arbor bench and leans her head back. Enter Roger.

Roger: Eglantina? You are here?

[Eglantina remains silent.

Roger (going straight to her and placing hand upon her head): Did you think to cheat me, Sweetheart? You cannot cheat love if he is blind.

Eglantina: Oh, Roger, you must not.

Roger (seating himself beside her and embracing her): Nay, I must. I cannot wait. Say yes, Eglantina.

Eglantina (clinging to him): Yes, then. Yes, yes!

Roger (taking little box from pocket): Here is a pearl ring for you, Dear.

Eglantina: Oh, Roger, how lovely!

Roger (puts ring on Eglantina's finger and kisses her): And, Eglantina, you must be wed in peachblow silk, and you must wear a veil.

[Enter Doctor L. hurriedly.

Doctor L.: Eglantina, I have something to say to you. Roger, will you leave us a moment?

Roger (rising): Certainly, sir. [Exit.

[Doctor L. turns to Eglantina, who has risen and stands staring at him with a shocked expression.

Eglantina (in low voice): What is it?

Doctor L.: Eglantina, Dr. David Lyman is in the South Village. He has been attending the daughter of 'Squire Eggleston, who lost her sight from scarlet fever.

[Eglantina gasps and stares.

Doctor L. (not looking at her): He will restore her sight. (Eglantina says nothing.) Roger lost his sight from scarlet fever. (Eglantina remains silent.) It might be as well if — he saw Roger.

Eglantina: Father!

Doctor L.: Yes, Daughter.

Eglantina: Would he — not lose more than he would gain?

Doctor L.: That is not for us to judge.

Eglantina: You said a few minutes ago that the blind were always happy. May it not be because there are so many sad sights in the world of which they never know?

Doctor L.: I cannot judge.

Eglantina: Oh, what have I been saying, Father? There is a-plenty that is beautiful to be seen, and Roger shall not miss it, even if he miss the beauty in me, and get a heart-stab. Who am I to say that no other woman can make him happy? Send for the doctor, Father.

Doctor L.: It may not be successful.

Eglantina: Yes, it will be.

Doctor L.: I cannot send for Doctor Lyman without consulting Roger. There must be an operation. He may not consent.

Eglantina: He will consent. When can Doctor Lyman come?

Doctor L.: Day after tomorrow.

Eglantina (going to door and calling): Roger! Roger!

Roger (entering quickly): What is it? Why do you call me so strangely, Eglantina?

Eglantina: Roger, Dr. David Lyman, the great eye specialist, has cured Dorothy Eggleston of her blindness. He can come day after tomorrow and cure you.

Roger: Oh, Eglantina, then I shall see!

Eglantina: Yes.

Roger: Why do you speak so strangely? Your voice sounds strange. Are you not glad that I am to see?

Eglantina: More than glad. There is no word in the language for what I feel. I am more than glad, Roger.

Roger: To think that I shall see! Now it comes to this, I have wanted to see. I will tell you why I have wanted to see. Why are you going, Eglantina?

Eglantina: I must. I have duties in the house.

[Exit Eglantina. The two men stand facing each other. Roger puts out his hand, which Doctor L. grasps.

Roger: I shall see!

Doctor L.: I trust so, my boy.

Roger: Now I may say so, I will say that I have wanted to see!


Act II

Scene: Interior of rose arbor. Enter Doctor L. Begins pacing the arbor hurriedly. On his fifth journey, halfway toward door on L., Pamela enters. She wears a sunbonnet and gingham apron, and carries scissors. Doctor L. stops short, and stands watching her while she clips withered leaves and gathers them in her apron.

Doctor L.: Well, you women do really beat the Dutch!

Pamela (without ceasing her work): Why?

Doctor L.: How in the world you can go on tending roses while Roger is lying unconscious over yonder (points) in the south chamber, and Doctor Lyman and Doctor Emmons are working over his beautiful, sightless eyes! Our boy may see, he may remain blind, or — complications may set in. The eye is a very delicate organ.

Pamela: Yes, I have always understood that the eye was a very delicate organ. (Sniffs.)

Doctor L. (pacing up and down): A ver-y delicate organ. We none of us know what may be the result; we have all assumed a terrible responsibility.

Pamela: Roger is a man grown, and he was anxious to have it done.

Doctor L.: He never would have insisted against our advice. Ours is the responsibility, Pamela, and here you are trimming roses.

Pamela: Now, Brother, what would you have me do? Tramp up and down the way you are doing? It would be enough sight better for you, Brother, if you would go out and weed the onion bed while the operation is going on.

Doctor L.: Weed the onion bed!

Pamela: Then hoe the potatoes.

Doctor L.: Hoe the potatoes!

Pamela: Then split up kindling wood.

Doctor L.: Split up kindling wood!

Pamela: Then, for goodness' sake, get Hiram to harness the horse, and drive over to the village and get some rice. I want to make some chicken broth if Roger is able to eat tomorrow.

Doctor L.: Well, I will do that. Get Hiram to harness the horse, and drive over to the village and buy some sugar.

Pamela: No, rice. I meant to send Hiram, but I need him to do some work in the house.

Doctor L. (exit, muttering): Get Hiram to harness, and then drive over to the village and buy some nails and a hammer. [Exit.

Pamela: Men are awful in times of trial.

[Enter Eglantina, L.

Eglantina: Father is going to the village?

Pamela: Yes, he was tramping up and down, and didn't know what to do with himself. I have no patience with men. They act like children, the best of them, when anything goes wrong. I sent your father to the village for some rice for chicken broth.

Eglantina: He told me he was going for some blue embroidery silk.

Pamela: Goodness! What ails the man? Who said anything about blue embroidery silk? Well, I've got to run after him and set it right, I suppose.

Eglantina: I will go, Aunt Pamela.

Pamela: No. You are your father's own daughter. You wouldn't get it right either. I will go myself.

Eglantina (as Pamela starts to leave arbor): Wait a moment, Aunt Pamela. I want to tell you something.

Pamela: Hurry, then.

Eglantina: There is time enough. Hiram has to catch the horse in the meadow first, and then harness. I want to tell you that I have sent for Charlotte.

Pamela: Your cousin, Charlotte Wyatt?

Eglantina: Yes, Aunt Pamela.

Pamela: What for?

Eglantina: I want her with me.

Pamela: Do you know what a beauty she is?

Eglantina: Yes, that is why I have sent for her.

Pamela: Are you crazy, Eglantina? If poor Roger recovers his sight and sees her —

Eglantina: I know, Aunt Pamela. It will be a less shock than for him to see me.

Pamela: You know what may happen?

Eglantina: I know, better than I have ever known anything. That knowledge is burned into my heart.

Pamela (wipes her eyes): Eglantina! If Roger Procter gets his sight and does not — Oh, my poor Eglantina, there is not a man living good enough for you.

Eglantina (in an abstracted voice, as if Pamela had not spoken): I have sent for Charlotte. I love Charlotte. She is a good girl, and very beautiful.

Pamela (wiping her eyes): When is she coming?

Eglantina: I asked her to come on the noon stage.

Pamela: Then I have got to hurry. There are only six tarts for dinner, and I must allow two apiece. And I don't believe there are enough peas picked. Hiram must get some in the garden. I must hurry. Oh, dear! [Exit.

[Eglantina walks over to door and reads verses to herself.

Eglantina: “Eglantina, tall and fair.” Charlotte is tall and fair. (Kisses the lines cut on door.) Oh, my dear, my dear! It is something to have been loved for what I am not. It might have been so easy not to have been loved at all. My dear, if now you give Charlotte your love, at least I have held it in my hand. I have been blessed, and I thank thee, my dear.

[Seats herself on bench and leans back head. Folds her hands in lap with a peaceful expression on her face. Repeats the verses. Sound of wheels is heard. Eglantina rises and stands in door of arbor.

Eglantina: Charlotte! Charlotte! Come to the rose arbor. I am here. Do not go to the house. You might disturb them. Tell the stage-driver to set your trunk down in the path. Hiram will take it in.

[Enter Charlotte hastily. Sweeps back flowered lace veil and kisses Eglantina.

Charlotte: My sweetest cousin!

Eglantina (holding Charlotte from her, and gazing at her): Charlotte, is it true what they have so often said? You resemble me, but you resemble me as a perfect rose resembles a rose with her petals torn.

Charlotte (kissing Eglantina): Sweetest Cousin, do not talk so. Why did you send for me in such haste? I gathered from your message that you were in some trouble, but what?

Eglantina: Trouble? It is not trouble I am in, but joy, the greatest joy of my life. Charlotte, he will see! Roger will see! Dr. David Lyman is now performing the operation which will restore his sight.

Charlotte (wonderingly): Roger will see?

Eglantina: Yes, he will see. Only think, Charlotte, Roger will see this beautiful world, the trees, the birds and flowers, the roses, he will see! (Bursts into sobs.)

Charlotte (with her arms around Eglantina): My poor darling! I do not wonder that you weep for joy, for never was a man like Roger, and you may well love him better blind than any other man with his sight.

[Eglantina sobs.

Charlotte: What have I said to hurt you, Sweet?

Eglantina: Nothing, Dear.

Charlotte: I never loved any man overmuch, though many have said that they loved me; but I can understand how you love Roger.

Eglantina: There is no one like him. (Sobs.)

Charlotte: He will love you the same when he can see. Beauty is but skin deep. Is that why you weep?

Eglantina: Oh, I care not whether he love me or no, so he is not unhappy.

Charlotte: If he is not true to love like yours then will he be more blind when he sees than when he saw not.

Eglantina: I am afraid. Oh, Charlotte, I never before knew what a deadly thing is fear.

Charlotte: Do you fear lest, after all, Doctor Lyman should not cure him — he should not see?

Eglantina: No, he will see.

Charlotte: Then why —?

Eglantina: Charlotte, don't you understand? It is for him, not for myself, I think. There was a time when I thought of myself. You will despise me, Charlotte, but at first I dreaded the thought of poor Roger having his sight. I pitied myself, but now I think only of him. But I am afraid for him. Oh, if I knew the way to his happiness! That way would I go through flood and fire, and count myself blessed at the end with even the memory of Eglantina gone from his heart. It is so with love.

Charlotte: I have never loved. I think I should like being loved better than loving. That must bring sorrow.

Eglantina: Yes, it brings sorrow, but sorrow that one holds to her heart like a child.

Charlotte: I do not like sorrow. Never, if I can help it, will I hold sorrow to my heart. And, Eglantina, you will think me hard, but I love not children. They seem to me to bring but sorrow to their parents, and, finally, the parents are as nothing. Charlotte Wyatt loves to be loved. She loves to be praised, to sing and dance and hold gay converse. She loves the fair things of life, and now and then the sad things, like you, Sweet, but you are not to be sad. Roger will either see and love you, or he will not see and will love you; and since it is love you hold so high there is, after all, no need for you to fret. You say better loving than to be loved. Then why not love? Nothing can deprive you of that, Eglantina. Love and stop weeping. You will spoil your eyes. Tell me when we shall know.

Eglantina: Doctor Lyman will let us know when the operation is over.

Charlotte: Dry your eyes, Sweet; there is somebody coming now. Oh, it is Uncle Edward. Good-morning, Uncle Edward (as Doctor L. enters).

Doctor L. (shaking hands with Charlotte): How do you do, my dear? Here Pamela wanted to send me off to the village for cheese, when we have a whole one in the house, to divert my mind while they are operating on our poor boy's eyes; but I will not have my mind diverted.

Pamela (entering quickly): I did not say cheese. I said rice, but stay where you will. Nobody can do anything with a man!

Doctor L.: I will not have my mind diverted! (Begins to pace arbor.)

Pamela (greeting Charlotte warmly): How are you? And your father and mother and little Eunice, Charlotte?

Charlotte: Well, I thank you, Aunt Pamela.

Pamela: You have come here at an anxious time.

Charlotte: Yes, it seems so; but you are very hopeful, are you not? Eglantina seems to be hopeful.

Pamela: Eglantina knows nothing about it. Poor Roger may be dying this very minute. Eglantina never would look on the dark side of anything.

Charlotte: Will not the operation be over soon?

Eglantina: Yes; we ought to hear soon. Oh, suppose I am wrong! Suppose he should not see! That would be worse than anything.

Pamela: For my part, as far as you are concerned, Eglantina, you poor child —

Charlotte: Hush, Aunt Pamela.

Pamela (sobbing): I can't help it. Eglantina was always so unselfish, one might think she was underwitted.

Doctor L. (pacing rapidly): Pamela, you are a fool, and it does not make you any the less a fool to call somebody else one.

Charlotte (looking out of arbor door): There is somebody coming now. I wonder if it is Doctor Lyman. (Pats her curls, winding them over her finger, straightens her bonnet strings, perking out the bows, glancing over shoulder at fall of her skirt.)

Pamela: We may as well give it up. I am just as sure as if I had heard Doctor Lyman say it, that poor Roger is dead.

Doctor L.: Why on earth we ever consented to let that boy be operated on! Why —

Eglantina: If he cannot see! What shall I do if, after all, he cannot see?

[Enter Doctor Lyman. All stand, awaiting what he shall say.

Doctor Lyman (speaking very slowly): The operation, I am pleased to say, has so far been eminently successful. The patient must remain, with his eyes bandaged, in a darkened room for a few weeks before we can be sure of the outcome; but unless unexpected complications arise we have every reason to hope that the patient will see as well as any one of us.

Doctor L.: Thank God! (Shakes hands violently with Doctor Lyman.)

Pamela: I knew all the time it would come out all right.

Charlotte (embracing Eglantina): Dear, I am so glad! Why do you say nothing, Sweet?

Eglantina: I am too — happy.

Charlotte (after silence for a second, shaking back her curls): I am so glad that the operation is over and so well over. I am sure that the outcome, thanks to Doctor Lyman's skill, will be all that we can wish, but —

Pamela (sharply): But what, Charlotte?

Charlotte (laughing): It is half-past twelve o'clock. Look at the sun-dial in the garden and you will see that I guess right, and — I — well, I started in the stage-coach at seven o'clock this morning, and I am nigh famished. Isn't it dinner-time, Aunt Pamela?

Pamela (starting): Of course it is. I left the roast before the fire, and the pudding will be spoiled. Hannah had the vegetables dished long before I came back here. Come to dinner. Doctor Lyman, you must be faint.

Doctor Lyman: Such arduous tasks do not detract from the appetite, Miss Litchfield. Permit me.

[Offers Pamela his arm. She takes it, simpering. Doctor L. follows with Charlotte. Exit Eglantina also, but steals back in a second. She stands a moment with face raised, then sinks on her knees before the bench.

Eglantina: I thank Thee, O Lord, for Thy unspeakable mercy; that Thou hast granted this gift to my love, and hast made my love greater than myself, that I may rejoice. Roger will see, and as for me — whereas I have been blind now I see! (Sinks head upon hand.)



Time: A month later.

Scene: Interior of rose arbor. Moonlight.

[Enter Eglantina, clad in white; looks at inscription on door and kisses it. Then stands abruptly aside as Doctor Lyman enters. Eglantina courtesies.

Lyman: I was told that you were here, Miss Litchfield.

Eglantina: Yes, sir.

Lyman: I therefore took the liberty to follow you. I have the pleasure of informing you that the time has come for the patient to be removed from the darkened room in which he has been kept since the bandages were removed, and I am most hopeful of the outcome.

Eglantina: You give me great happiness.

Lyman (uneasily): I am most hopeful, only (hesitates and looks at Eglantina)

Eglantina: Only, sir?

Lyman (still with hesitation): Only, yes, I said “only” because — Mr. Procter has expressed the wish to see you first of all, and in this very arbor, where he states your betrothal vows were plighted.

Eglantina: Yes, sir.

Lyman: And — and, to be frank, Miss Litchfield, the only thing I fear at this stage is a shock for my patient. The operation has left his naturally high-strung nervous organization in a most delicate state. I fear a shock —

Eglantina (calmly touching her left cheek): You mean this, sir?

Lyman (hastily): My dear young lady, believe me, I do not mean to be cruel.

Eglantina: No; you mean to be kind to Roger, and kindness to Roger can never be cruelty to me. I understand perfectly well what you mean, sir, and I am not hurt.

Lyman (in a troubled way): It is a sad and puzzling case. You see, my dear young lady, my patient has a most intense imagination. During his life of blindness he has invested you with such beauty of face and person that he has made of you in his mind's eyes almost an angel. If it were not for that —

Eglantina: I understand, sir. Roger shall have no shock. I think you can trust me.

Lyman: Yes, I can trust you. It might —

Eglantina: He shall have no shock. When will he come?

Lyman: In about half an hour.

Eglantina: Very well.

Lyman: I will go. Believe me, this has not been an easy thing to do.

Eglantina: I understand, and thank you most kindly, sir. Will you be so good as to beg my cousin Charlotte to come here, and will you ask her to bring with her the two silver candlesticks on the parlor mantel?

Lyman: I shall be pleased to serve you in any way, dear young lady. (Exit.)

Eglantina (turns again to door and examines verses. Covers face with hands, then removes them): After all, what matters it if I can save him?

[Seats herself on bench and waits. Enter Charlotte Wyatt, bearing candles, unlighted. She wears a rose-colored dress with pink roses in her hair and at her breast.

Charlotte: Here are the candles, Dear. What do you want them for? — and here (extending a long white scarf which glitters with silver) is your scarf. I feared lest you might take cold in your thin gown, and, Eglantina, here is this bunch of white bride roses which I have brought for your hair. It is fit that you should wear bride roses, you whose pretty name means a rose, when your lover sees you for the first time.

Eglantina: He will not see me.

Charlotte: Not see you? What do you mean, Sweet?

Eglantina: Doctor Lyman has told you, has he not, about the danger to Roger if he should have a shock when first he sees?

[Charlotte nods.

Eglantina: Then this is what I mean, what I meant when I sent for you. (Moves close to Charlotte and whispers.)

Charlotte (starting back): Impossible; have you taken leave of your senses?

Eglantina: No, I have not. Charlotte, it must be done.

Charlotte: But it cannot.

Eglantina: It can and must be done.

Charlotte: But how?

Eglantina: Nothing can be more simple. Do you not resemble me except that you have no blemish and I have? We are the same height, the same shape. Our very hands are alike, our hair is alike. Our features are almost as if cast in the same mould, except that I — Our voices are alike. Charlotte, it is you, and not me, whom Roger must see tonight.

Charlotte: But afterward? Even if I consent to such deception now, what afterward?

Eglantina: Oh, I know not. It is the present with which we have to deal. Roger must keep the precious thing he has gained. Later when he has become convinced that he loves you and is stronger nothing will matter. Oh, I do not know, I cannot reason, only — poor Roger must be spared tonight.

Charlotte: I love not Roger. Will not unhappiness come of it later? I love no man. What of the future?

Eglantina: I tell you I know not. Let what will come after, so he lives and sees.

Charlotte: It is deception.

Eglantina: Let it be deception, so I with my marred face do not hurt him.

Charlotte: But he must know soon.

Eglantina: What care I for the future when the present hangs by a thread? Charlotte, he is coming. Stay, stay, stay!

[Exit Eglantina by opposite door as Roger enters by left, hands outstretched.

Roger: Eglantina!

[Charlotte stands motionless.

Roger: Eglantina, they told me you were here. Oh, oh, I see, Eglantina! I see, Eglantina! (Clasps Charlotte in his arms, and bends head over hers.) Now have I nothing more to ask of Fate. I see you, Eglantina.

Charlotte: Thank Heaven you are able to see, Roger.

Roger (starts a little as she speaks and regards her curiously; then draws her to seat on bench beside him): Only think, Sweetheart, what a miracle has been wrought. Do you know, Dear, it was ever on my mind that you with your charms should wed a blind man? But now I see. Oh, Eglantina, you are so fair! Do you know, Dear, Doctor Lyman had to guide me through the garden path which I trod so surely when I was blind, but tonight trees were so far away, as I thought, and then a branch lashed me in the face. And this arbor which I knew so well when I could not see now seems closing in upon us. But it is shutting us into our blessed corner of love, Eglantina. I have not half seen thee. No, Dear, do not turn your face away. (Turns Charlotte's face toward his; then springs up with a cry.) You are not Eglantina. Where is she? Where is Eglantina, I say? You are not she?

Charlotte: Who, then, am I?

Roger: I know not, and I care not. It is Eglantina I want. It is Eglantina I will have.

Charlotte (to herself): What shall I do?

Roger: But you speak with Eglantina's voice. What does all this mean? Have I lived blinder than I knew? Now I can see must I lose the one precious thing I saw when blind? Give me back my blindness, then. I will have none of this cursed sight.

Charlotte: Roger, hush, you will harm yourself.

Roger: Harm myself! What do I care? What does this mean? Has Eglantina been nothing except a dream of my sightless years? Oh, I have been robbed of all I loved best. It has been fiendish cruelty and not kindness which has been shown me. Where is Eglantina?

Charlotte (to herself): What shall I do?

Roger: If Eglantina be not a myth I will find her. I will search; I will not be so mocked. I will find her if she exists, and if she does not then give me back my blindness and my dream of her.

[Rushes from arbor. Charlotte gazes after him. Enter Eglantina, cautiously, from L.

Charlotte: You need not come so carefully. He has gone.

Eglantina: Gone?

Charlotte: Yes; he would have none of me. He declared at the first full sight of my face that I was not Eglantina. He raved like a madman, and but now rushed out to find you.

Eglantina: You did not light the candles.

Charlotte: Why should I have lit the candles?

Eglantina: Then he would have seen how beautiful you are.

Charlotte: Light the candles! If he scorned my poor face by moonlight what would he have done by candlelight? No, Eglantina, in your efforts to spare Roger a shock you are giving one to him. Now you must stay and I go.

Eglantina (catching hold of Charlotte's skirt): No, no; I will not have it. Stay; here, I will light the candles. Do not go. (Lights candles.) Now he can see you for the beauty you are. He could not see you, poor dear, before. He will see you and love you.

Charlotte: You must stay and I must go.

Eglantina (catching Charlotte's arm): You shall not go.

Charlotte: Then Roger will find us both.

Eglantina (sinking upon her knees before Charlotte): Charlotte, dear Cousin, you love me, do you not? Then stay, oh, stay, for the pity of me and the love of me. I have never been happy, Charlotte; that is, not happy in my own self. I could not be, marred from my birth; but this is the cruelest unhappiness of all. I never dreamed of unhappiness like this. Oh, to think that my poor, marred face must be the undoing of my love! (Rises.) I will not have it. I tell you, Charlotte, you must stay!

Charlotte: I will not stay, Dear. Do you not realize that you are harming Roger by this?

[She shakes off Eglantina's grasp and hurries out. Eglantina sinks upon the floor, exhausted, and moans. Enter Roger.

Roger: I tell you this is cruelty worse than mortal man ever endured. Oh, why am I thus mocked? She is not. There is no Eglantina. Give me back my blindness and my beautiful Eglantina. (Starts at sight of Eglantina. Rushes to her, raises her, and turns her face toward the light.) Eglantina, Eglantina! I have found my Eglantina!

Eglantina: Roger, are you sure?

Roger: Sure? Of course I am sure. Here is the blessed beauty mark on your cheek. (Kisses it.)