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The Second-Story Man   By: (1878-1968)

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This etext was produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading team.




JIM FARADAY: the second story man. HARVEY AUSTIN: a lawyer. HELEN AUSTIN: his wife.

SCENE: Library of the Austin home.

Time: 2 A.M.

[The scene shows a luxuriously furnished room. In the centre is a table with a lamp. To the right is the entrance into the front hall, the front door of the house being visible. In the corner is a cabinet of curios. In the rear is a large window opening on the street. Open fire place. There are two entrances at the left. There are book shelves, several easy chairs, etc., in the room.]

[At rise: The stage is empty, and the room is darkened except for the fire in the grate. Sounds of breaking wood are heard at the window.]

JIM. [A roughly dressed young fellow with a patch over one eye, enters through window, stands gazing about nervously, looks into the hall, etc., then flashes a dark lantern.] This looks pretty good.

[Goes to mantel, takes silver cup and puts it into bag which he carries; then exit left.]

AUSTIN. [Enters at front door without much noise. Hangs up coat and hat, and then stands in entrance. He is a smooth faced young man in evening dress.] All gone to bed, hey?

[Takes out cigarette case and is about to light one, when a crash is heard off left, as of a vase falling. He starts, then runs to table, opens drawer, takes out revolver, and examines it, and steals off through the other entrance at left, saying, "That noise seemed to come from downstairs."]

JIM. [Enters panic stricken.] God! What a thing to do! [Gazes into hall and upstairs long pause.] Don't seem to have waked them.

[Proceeds to examine room, stopping now and then to listen. After placing several articles in bag, he goes to cabinet and tries to open it. This takes some time, and while he is crouching in the shadow, with his back to the entrance right, MRS. AUSTIN appears.]

MRS. AUSTIN. [She is young and beautiful, and wears a night robe and dressing gown. She stands looking about anxiously, and then goes to centre of room, when she hears a sound from JIM, and starts wildly.] Oh!

JIM. [Leaps to feet, lifting revolver.] Hold up your hands! [She starts back in terror.] Hold up your hands!

MRS. AUSTIN. [Half complyingly.] I'm not armed.

JIM. Never mind. [Long pause while they stare at each other.] I don't want to hurt you, lady.

MRS. AUSTIN. [Calmly, after first shock.] No, I suppose not. You only want to get away.

JIM. That's right!

MRS. AUSTIN. Very well, you may go.

JIM. And you yell for the police the moment I get out of the door, hey?

MRS. AUSTIN. No, I don't want the police. I don't believe in sending men to jail.

JIM. Humph!

[Another pause.]

MRS. AUSTIN. Why do you do this?

JIM. It's the way I live.

MRS. AUSTIN. Isn't it a rather trying kind of work?

JIM. It ain't all play, ma'am.

MRS. AUSTIN. [Smiling.] I should think it would be hard on the nerves. [After another pause.] Is there no honest way you can earn a living?

JIM. I don't know. Maybe so. I got tired of looking for it.

MRS. AUSTIN. I might help you if you would let me.

JIM. I ain't asking any help.

MRS. AUSTIN. No, but I'm offering it. [After a pause.] Have you been doing this sort of thing very long?

JIM. No.

MRS. AUSTIN. How long?

JIM. [After hesitation.] This is my first job.

MRS. AUSTIN. What! You don't mean that?

JIM. It happens to be true, ma'am.

MRS. AUSTIN. What made you do it?

JIM. It's a long story.

MRS. AUSTIN. Tell it to me.

JIM. It ain't just a good time for story telling.

MRS. AUSTIN. You are afraid of me? I have no quarrel with you. I don't care anything for the things you have in the bag; and, besides, I suppose you won't take them now. I'm only sorry to see a man going wrong, and I'd like to help if I could. I'll play fair, I give you my word of honor... Continue reading book >>

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