Puslapio vaizdai

ment of Arthur. Burns, the tramp, accepted, "thanking you kindly."

Chambers seated his strange guest at a supper to be served by Hogg. But at the sight of "such han 'airy, hawful, hin fact, 'orrible specimen of humanity," Hogg's sense of decency was so outraged that it was only after a sharp look from Chambers that he consented to serve the tramp. That flash of class distinction alone would have repaid Chambers for bringing Burns home. But the real reward came when Burns was, with great difficulty, finally persuaded to talk. "He was an Horatian without knowing it," Chambers used to say in telling the story. Asked if he had ever worked, Burns, amazed at the thought, answered, "Certainly not; work 's for workmen." Burns's only friends in life turned out to be a cabman, called "Nighty," because he was at his stand all night; and other flotsam and jetsam, male and female, who, like himself, were sustained by the charity of the Salvation Army. The strange party ended finally by Burns "thanking you all kindly," politely bowing his way out, and leaving the house with Paul Arthur's overcoat, quietly, but effectively, taken from the hall rack.

But what Burns left behind was a play, "Passers-by," which has since earned the price of many an overcoat. The tramp's talk brought four good dramatic characters into Chambers's rooms, a philosophic tramp, an eloquent cabman, a valet with class distinction, a woman of the streets, and Chambers himself, who was any young man fond of multiplying sensations with real life. Chambers called his hero "Waverton," from the name of the street where he then lived. With that he had his characters and wrote

his first act. He employed "Burns" by his real name, "Nighty," by his, his valet Hogg he renamed "Pine," and the woman of the street, "Margaret Summers." Then an extraordinary thing happened: he could not begin his second act. None of his characters would move. The love interest he wanted to create was blocked at every turn. He had his young man and his young woman, but Margaret's character was an obstacle to any idyllic love-story. Six years went by before the playwright found a solution. As it happened, Chambers was always a great believer in the proper care of the teeth. His dentist was one of the best in London, though rather old and very loquacious. Chambers often used to visit his dentist, frequently for what the playwright called "the outside point of view"-what the public wants. It was during just such a visit that the loquacious dentist one day said to the perplexed playwright:

"How is it that nobody ever writes a play in which the modern Mary Magdalen, 'the lovely woman who stoops to folly,' gains some of the Christian sympathy accorded her in the New Testament? Why is her finish in the theater always disastrous when we know it is not so in real life?"

"Done!" cried the playwright. "I shall redeem 'Margaret Summers.' She shall not be a woman of the street, but a good woman misled by her very goodness, and yet triumphing because of it in the end. She shall marry my young man, 'Waverton.' Whereupon," as Chambers put it, “ 'Passersby' began to write itself.' That is how it happens that there is a London dentist with a dash of the dramatist about him, though he may never know it unless he reads this.


Once, as a stunt, I pitted Chambers and Arthur Brisbane against each other at a dinner in Delmonico's, with only the three of us present. Both were great talkers. As Chambers and he faced each other, there was a good deal of parrying at first, much manovering for position. But finally Brisbane led off with this body blow:

"I've seen several of your plays, Mr. Chambers. They are generally successful, and I think I know why. Any play, intelligibly written, will succeed with the masses as well as the so-called classes if it is compounded of eighty per cent. optimism and twenty per cent. pathos. That 's my observation. Is n't that a good recipe?"

"Sounds reasonable," answered Chambers. "But where is the man who can convincingly turn on eighty per cent. optimism and twenty per cent. pathos? And where is the audience that will not detect the cloven hoof of cooked-up optimism or cookedup anything? Sincerity is the first of the virtues in composing a play as in composing one's life. There is no golden rule for even golden playwriting. Technic in play-writing is simply individuality. That is why nobody can teach it and nobody can acquire it by rote. One man's technic is another man's poison. There is no one-and-all-sufficient technic of the drama. The structure which is truest to the plot in hand, causing the least amount of waste between thought and expression, is the best technic. To the practical playwright, writing and rewriting his material are the least of his labors. It is the conception and birth of the basic idea of a play that he strives for. Once he gets his idea, the making of the play consists in thinking

out its fundamental idea. Pen may never be put to paper until the entire play has acted itself out in the playwright's mind; then writing and rewriting become the mere recording of a play already born."

Overwhelmed by all this, Brisbane, with a twinkle in the eyes he gave me, passed to a much more vital topic.

"How about dining?" he said. "Is there a technic to dining?"

"Yes, old top, there is," said Chambers; "at least there are several ways of going at it, as the entire Rumanian court found out when the general of the army rang, and rang unsuccessfully, for a servant. When the myrmidon appeared, he was greeted with scowls and oaths, but genially answered, 'Sorry, my Lord; I was dining.' 'Dining!' roared the general, 'Dining! You dining! Listen to this: the King dines; I eat; and you devour.” ”

It was always during spring and the beginning of the London season that I saw most of Charles Haddon Chambers, sometimes in New York, occasionally on the Continent, oftenest in London. In the tiny lounge in the house on Aldford Street every day's adventure would be rounded off in talk, often straight through the night; and when the sparrows began to chirp in near-by Hyde Park, we both knew it was dawn, and then I would start home; but I always stood for an extra five minutes on the door-steps to plan out with my friend exactly what we should do with the nice, bright-faced young day just given us. There I like to think of him as still standing, waving me farewell as my cab turned the corner, flinging after me some parting bit of his cynical philosophy.

The Stranger


Drawing by Dorothy P. Lathrop

In the nook of a wood where a pool, freshed with dew,
Glassed daybreak till evening, blue sky glimpsing through,
Then a star, or a slip of May moon, silver-white,
Thridding softly aloof the quiet of night,

Was a thicket of flowers:

Willow herb, mint, pale speedwell, and rattle
Water hemlock, and sundew. To the wind's tittle-tattle
They nodded, dreamed, swayed in jocund delight,
In beauty and sweetness arrayed, still and bright.
By turn scampered rabbit, trotted fox; bee and bird
Paused droning, sang shrill, and the fair water stirred.
Plashed green frog, or some brisk, little, flickering fish—
Gudgeon, stickleback, minnow-set the ripples a-swish.

A lone pool, a pool grass-fringed, crystal-clear:
Deep, placid, and cool in the sweet of the year;
Edge-parched when the sun to the dog days drew near;
And with winter's bleak rime hard as glass, robed in snow,
The whole wild-wood sleeping, and nothing a-blow

But the wind from the north, bringing snow.

That is all, save that one long, sweet, June-night tide straying,
The harsh hemlock's pale, umbelliferous bloom.

Tenting nook, dense with fragrance and secret with gloom,
In a beaming of moon-colored light, faintly raying
On buds orbed with dew phosphorescently playing,
Came a stranger, still-footed, feat-fingered, clear face
Unhumanly lovely, and supped in that place.

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