Metropolitan, February 1912
OW sad it is in this world of ours! We look around us, and what do we see? We look north, south, east and west, and what meets our eye? A solid phalanx of deserving young men cruelly hampered for want of money. That is the landscape. Let us select an instance. Exhibit A: Bentley (Joseph W.).
Joe Bentley was feeling embarrassed. He had just explained to Mr. Edward Shepperd that his income, including private means and the salary paid him by the bank in which he was employed, was a thousand dollars per annum, and, further, that he wished to marry Mr. Shepperd’s only daughter Audrey; and Mr. Shepperd, having put on his glasses, was now examining him through them, as if he were some rare kind of insect. It was a trying situation, and Joe with difficulty restrained himself from standing on one leg and twiddling his fingers. He had not realized that this sort of thing ever happened nowadays outside the comic papers. By the end of the second minute of the inspection he would not have been surprised to find himself sailing through the air, urged by Mr. Shepperd’s foot, his transit indicated by a dotted line and a few stars.
Mr. Shepperd’s manner was inclined to bleakness. He had met Joe first at dinner at the house of his Uncle Henry, a man of unquestioned substance, whose custom it was to invite each of his nephews to dinner once a year. Mr. Shepperd, not being aware of this custom, had assumed that Joe was in the habit of reveling with the great man every night, and he had invited him to call at his own home. Now that he had elicited from Joe the fact that his Uncle Henry had eleven nephews, all trailing him like smell-dogs, and that of the entire eleven he, Joe, was perhaps the least likely to inherit the avuncular dollars, he was feeling aggrieved. He could not say that it had been sharp practice on Joe’s part to accept his invitation to call, and, having called, to continue calling long enough to make the present deplorable situation possible; but he certainly felt that it would have been in better taste for the young man to have behaved more like a bank clerk and less like an heir.
He indicated this in a crisp speech.
“And it would be best,” he concluded, “in the circumstances I think, if you did not see my daughter again——”
“She’s waiting outside,” said Joe.
“—After to-day. Good-by.”
The applicant then withdrew.
He found Audrey hovering in the neighborhood of the door. She came quickly up to him.
“Well?” she said.
He shook his head.
“Nothing doing,” he announced simply.
Audrey considered the problem for a moment, and was rewarded with an idea.
“Shall I go in and cry?”
“It wouldn’t be any use.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“He said I mustn’t see you again.”
“He didn’t mean it.”
“He thinks he did.”
“We shall simply have to keep writing, then. And we can talk on the telephone. That isn’t seeing each other.”
“That’s all right, then. I’ll call you up every day.”
“I wish I could make some money,” said Joe thoughtfully. “But I seem to be one of those chumps who can’t. Nothing I try comes off. I’ve taken a whirl at dozens of good things, and there’s been a string tied to every one of them. It’s not for want of working. Why, once, when I was at college, I worked myself to a shadow dramatizing a novel. I sat up nights till my brain creaked. Nothing came of it.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve read it. It was a bestseller in its time though. A thing called ‘White Roses,’ by a woman named Edith Butler.”
Audrey looked up quickly.
“I suppose you knew her very well? Were you great friends?”
“I didn’t know her at all. I’d never met her. I just happened to buy the thing, and thought it would make a good play. I had plenty of time for that sort of thing then. I expect it was pretty bad. Anyway, she never took the trouble to send it back or even to acknowledge receipt.”
“Perhaps she never got it.”
“I registered it.”
“She was a cat,” said Audrey decidedly. “I’m glad of it though. If another woman had helped you make a lot of money, I should have died of jealousy.”
They then began to say good-by.
Routine is death to heroism. For the first few days after his parting with Mr. Shepperd, Joe was in heroic mood, full of vaguely dashing schemes, regarding the world as his oyster and burning to get at it, sword in hand. But routine, with its ledgers and its copying-ink and its customers, fell like a gray cloud athwart his horizon, blotting out rainbow visions of sudden wealth dramatically won. Day by day the glow faded and hopelessness grew.
If the glow did not entirely fade, it was due to Audrey, who more than fulfilled her promise of calling him up on the telephone. She called him up at least once, frequently several times, every day, a fact which was noted and commented upon in a harshly critical spirit by the head of his department, a man with no soul and a strong objection to doing his subordinates’ work for them.
As a rule, her conversation, though pleasing, was discursive and lacked central motive, but one morning she had genuine news to impart.
“Joe”—her voice was excited—“have you seen the paper to-day? Then listen. I’ll read it out. Are you listening? This is what it says: ‘Hymack’s Theater will re-open shortly with a dramatized version of Miss Edith Butler’s popular novel, “White Roses.” A strong cast is being engaged for the production, including . . . .’ And then came a lot of names. What are you going to do about it?”
“What am I going to do?”
“Don’t you see what’s happened? That awful woman has stolen your play. She has waited all these years, hoping you would forget. What are you laughing at?”
“I wasn’t laughing.”
“Yes, you were. It tickled my ear. I’ll ring off if you do it again. You don’t believe me. Well, you wait and see if I’m not——”
“Edith Butler’s incapable of such a thing.”
There was a slight pause at the other end of the wire.
“I thought you said you didn’t know her,” said Audrey jealously.
“I don’t, I don’t,” said Joe hastily. “But I’ve read her books. They’re simply chunks of superfatted sentiment. She’s a sort of literary onion. She compels tears. A woman like that couldn’t steal a play if she tried.”
“You can’t judge authors from their books. You’ll see I’m right. I’m absolutely certain that woman is trying to swindle you . . . . Don’t laugh in that horrid way . . . . Very well, I told you I should ring off, and now I’m going to.”
It happened that at the beginning of the next month Joe’s annual holiday arrived. The authorities of the bank in which he was employed were no niggards. They recognized that a man is not a machine. They gave their employees ten days in the year in which to tone up their systems for another twelve months’ work.
Joe had spent his boyhood in a Vermont village, a sleepy midget of a village tucked away in the heart of the mountains, and, seeking for a spot in which to spend his ten days, his mind turned to this. Depressing if taken in too great quantities, for a week the Green Mountains are soothing. There is something about their massive detachment from the stress of human life that calms the wounded spirit and forms a pleasant background for sentimental musings.
It was comfortable at the farm at which he had found lodgings. The household consisted of Mr. Fry, the farmer; his ten-year-old son George, and Mr. Fry’s mother, an aged lady with (he discovered) a considerable local reputation as a wise woman. Rumor had it that the future held no mysteries for her, and it was known that she could cure warts, bruised fingers, and even the botts by means of spells.
Except for these three, Joe had fancied that he was alone in the house. It seemed not, however. There was a primeval piano in his sitting-room, and on the second morning it suited his mood to sit down at this and sing “Asthore,” the fruity pathos of which ballad appealed to him strongly at this time, accompanying himself by an ingenious arrangement in three chords. He had hardly begun, however, when Mr. Fry appeared, somewhat agitated.
“Say,” said Mr. Fry, in rich Vermontese. “I forgot to tell you. There’s a lit’ry cuss boardin’ in the room above, and he hates a noise wors’n the toothache.”
A muffled stamping from the ceiling bore out his words.
“Sure as you’re alive,” continued Mr. Fry. “Young George was up to some kind o’ hell on the stairs yesterday, and this cuss gives him a clump on the side of the head. Gave him a nickel afterwards and said he’d skin him if he ever did it again. So I guess——”
“Oh, all right,” said Joe. “Who is he?”
“Cuss of the name of Prosser.”
Joe could not recollect having come across any work by any cuss of that name; but he was not a wide reader; and, whether the man above was a celebrity or not, he was entitled to quiet.
“I never heard of him,” he said, “but that’s no reason why I should disturb him. Let him rip. I’ll cut out the musical effects in future.”
The days passed smoothly by. The literary man remained invisible, though occasionally audible, tramping the floor in the frenzy of composition. Nor, until the last day of his visit, did Joe see old Mrs. Fry.
That she was not unaware of his presence in the house, however, was indicated on the last morning. He was smoking an after-breakfast cigarette at the open window and waiting for the buggy that was to take him to the station, when George, the son of the house, entered.
George stood in the doorway, grinned, and said: “Pasezjerligranmatellyerforchbythercards?”
“How’s that?” said Joe.
The youth grinned again and repeated the word.
On the second repetition light began to creep in. A boyhood spent in the place, added to this ten days’ stay, had made Joe something of a linguist.
“Pa says would I like grandma to do what?”
“Tell yer forch’n by ther cards.”
Joe was of an amiable and obliging disposition. He followed the youth into the kitchen, where he found Mr. Fry, and, seated at the table fumbling with a pack of cards, an old woman with beady eyes and the alert manner of an elderly chipmunk.
“Ma wants to tell your fortune,” said Mr. Fry in a hoarse aside. “She always will tell the summer boarders their fortunes. She don’t give a darn what she tells them, at that. She told the cuss upstairs, and he got mad because she said he’d be married inside the year. He said he wasn’t that kind of fool.”
“She can tell me that if she likes. I shan’t kick.”
“Ma, here he is.”
“I seen him fast enough,” said the old woman briskly. “Shuffle, an’ cut three times.”
She performed mysterious maneuvers with the cards. Mr. Fry watched her with fond admiration.
“I see pots o’ money,” announced the sibyl.
“If she says it, you can bet it’s there sure enough,” said Mr. Fry.
“She means my bonus,” said Joe. “But that’s only fifty dollars. And I lose it if I’m late at the office twice more before Christmas.”
“It’ll come sure enough.”
“Pots,” said the old woman, and she was still mumbling the encouraging word when Joe left the kitchen and returned to his room.
He laughed rather ruefully. At that moment he could have found a use for pots o’ money.
He walked to the window and looked out. It was a glorious morning. The mountains towered majestically against the blue sky. The heat-mist was dancing over the meadow beyond the brook, and from the farmyard came the liquid “char-awks” of care-free fowls. If seemed wicked to leave these haunts of peace for New York on such a day.
An acute melancholy seized him. Absently, he sat down at the piano. The prejudices of literary Mr. Prosser had slipped from his mind. Softly at first, then gathering volume as the spirit of the song gripped him, he began to sing “Asthore.” He became absorbed.
He had just, for the sixth time, won through to “——Iyam-ah waiting for-er theeee-yass-thorre,” and was doing some intricate three-chord work preparatory to starting over again, when a loaf of bread whizzed past his ear. It missed him by an inch, and crashed against a plaster statuette of the infant Samuel standing on the top of the piano.
It was a large loaf and it practically wiped the infant Samuel off the map. At the same moment, at his back, there sounded a loud, wrathful snort.
He spun round. The door was open, and at the other side of the table was standing a large, bald, shirt-sleeved man, in an attitude rather reminiscent of Ajax defying the lightning. His hands trembled. His bald head shone. His eyes gleamed ferociously beneath enormous eyebrows. As Joe turned, he gave tongue in a voice like the discharge of a broadside.
Joe’s mind, wrenched too suddenly from the dreamy future to the vivid present, was not yet completely under control. He gaped.
And the visitor shot through the door, banging it after him, and pounded up the stairs.
Joe was annoyed. The artistic temperament was all very well, but there were limits. It was absurd that obscure authors should behave in this way. Prosser! Who on earth was Prosser? Had anyone ever heard of him? No! Yet here he was going about the country handing it to small boys on the side of the head and flinging loaves of bread at bank clerks as if he were some famous author. Joe reproached himself bitterly for his momentary loss of presence of mind. If he had only kept his head, he could have taken a flying shot at the man with some hot biscuits. They had been within easy reach. Instead of which, he had merely stood and gaped. Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.”
His manly regret was interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Fry with the information that the buggy was at the door.
Audrey was out of town when Joe arrived in New York, but she returned a week later. The sound of her voice through the telephone did much to cure the restlessness from which he had been suffering since the conclusion of his holiday. But the thought that she was so near yet so inaccessible produced in him a meditative melancholy which enveloped him like a cloud that would not lift. His manner became distrait. He lost weight.
If customers at the bank were not vaguely pained by his sad, pale face, it was only because the fierce rush of modern commercial life leaves your business man little leisure for observing pallor in bank clerks. What did pain them was the gentle dreaminess with which he performed his duties. He was in the Inward Bills Department, one of the features of which was the sudden inrush, towards the end of each afternoon, of hatless, energetic young men with leather bags strapped to their left arms, clamoring for mysterious crackling documents, much fastened with pins. Joe had never quite understood what it was that these young men did want, and now his detached mind refused even more emphatically to grapple with the problem. He distributed the documents at random with the air of a preoccupied monarch scattering largesses to the mob, and the subsequent chaos had to be handled by the wrathful head of the department in person.
Man’s power of endurance is limited. At the end of the second week the overwrought head appealed passionately for relief, and Joe was removed to the postage department, where, when he had leisure from answering Audrey’s telephone calls, he entered the addresses of letters in a large book and mailed them. He was supposed also to stamp them, but a man in love cannot think of everything, and he was apt at times to overlook this formality.
One morning, receiving from one of the bank-messengers the usual intimation that a lady wished to speak to him on the telephone, he went to the box and took up the receiver.
“Is that you, Joe? Joe, I went to see ‘White Roses’ last night. Have you been yet?”
“Then you must go to-night. Joe, I’m certain you wrote it. It’s perfectly lovely. I cried my eyes out. If you don’t go to-night, I’ll never speak to you again, even on the telephone. Promise.”
“Yes, you must. Why, suppose it is yours! It may mean a fortune. The place was simply packed. I’m going to call up the theater now and engage a seat for you, and pay for it myself. What’s that? Yes, I shall. I can’t trust you to go if I don’t. And I’ll call you up early to-morrow to hear all about it. Good-by.”
Joe left the box somewhat depressed. Life was quite gloomy enough as it was, without going out of one’s way to cry one’s eyes out over sentimental plays.
His depression was increased by the receipt, on his return to his department, of a message from the manager, stating that he would like to see Mr. Bentley in his private room for a moment. Joe never enjoyed these little chats with authority. Out of office-hours, in the circle of his friends, he had no doubt the manager was a delightful and entertaining companion. But in his private room his conversation was less enjoyable.
The manager was seated at his table, thoughtfully regarding the ceiling. His resemblance to a stuffed weak-fish—always striking—was subtly accentuated, and Joe, an expert in these matters, felt that his fears had been well founded. There was trouble in the air. Somebody had been complaining of him, and he was now about, as the phrase went, to be “run in.”
A large man, seated with his back to the door, turned as he entered, and Joe recognized the well-remembered features of Mr. Prosser, the literary loaf-slinger.
Joe regarded him amiably. Time, the great healer, had softened his resentment. He had no grievance against Mr. Prosser.
The manager started to speak, but the man of letters anticipated him.
“Is this the fool?” he roared. “Young man, I have no wish to be hard on a congenital idiot who is not responsible for his actions, but I must insist on an explanation. I understand that you are in charge of the correspondence in this office. Well, in course of the last week you have three times mailed unstamped letters to my fiancée, Miss Vera Delane. What’s the matter with you? Do you think she likes paying four cents a time, or what is it?”
Joe’s mind leaped back at the words. He was conscious of a not unpleasant thrill. He had not known that he was superstitious, but for some reason he had not been able to get those absurd words of Mr. Fry’s aged mother out of his mind. And here was another prediction of hers, equally improbable, fulfilled to the letter.
“Great Scott,” he cried, “are you going to be married?”
Mr. Prosser and the manager started simultaneously.
“What the—?” began the former.
“Mrs. Fry said you would be,” said Joe. “Don’t you remember?”
Mr. Prosser looked keenly at him.
“Why, I’ve seen you before,” he said. “You’re the young turnip-headed scallywag at the farm.”
“That’s right,” said Joe.
“I’ve been wanting to meet you again. I thought the whole thing over, and it struck me,” said Mr. Prosser handsomely, “that I may have seemed a little abrupt at our last meeting.”
“The fact is, I was in the middle of an infernally difficult passage of my book that morning, and when you began——”
“It was my fault entirely. I quite understand.”
Mr. Prosser produced a card-case.
“We must see more of each other,” he said. “Come and have a bit of dinner some night. Come to-night.”
“I’m very sorry. I have to go to the theater to-night.”
“Then come and have a bit of supper afterwards. Excellent. Meet me at the Knickerbocker at eleven-fifteen. I’m glad I didn’t hit you with that loaf. Abruptness has been my failing through life. My father was just the same. My brother is worse. Eleven-fifteen at the Knickerbocker, then.”
The manager, who had been listening with some restlessness to the conversation, now intervened. He was a man with a sense of the fitness of things, and he objected to having his private room made the scene of what appeared to be a reunion of old college chums. He hinted as much.
“Ha! Prrumph!” he observed disapprovingly. “Er— Mr. Bentley, that is all. You may return to your work—ah h’mmm! Kindly be more careful another time in stamping the letters.”
“Yes, by George,” said Mr. Prosser, suddenly reminded of his wrongs, “that’s right. Exercise a little ordinary care, you ivory-skulled young son of a gun. Do you think Miss Delane is made of money? Keep an eye on him,” he urged the manager. “These young fellows nowadays want someone standing over them with a knout all the time. Be more careful another time, young man. Eleven-fifteen, remember. Make a note of it, or you’ll go forgetting that.”
The seat which Audrey had bought for him at Hymack’s Theater proved to be in the center of the sixth row of orchestra chairs. The house was full. Joe, disapproving of the whole business, settled himself in his seat, prepared for the worst. He had a vivid recollection of “White Roses,” the novel, and he did not anticipate any keen enjoyment from it in its dramatized form. He had long ceased to be a member of that large public to which Miss Edith Butler catered.
There is always a curiously dreamlike atmosphere about a play founded on a book. One seems to have seen it all before. During the whole of the first act Joe attributed to this his feeling of familiarity with what was going on on the stage. At the beginning of the second act he found himself anticipating events. But it was not till the third act that the truth sank in.
The third was the only act in which, in his dramatization, he had taken any real liberties with the text of the novel. But in this act he had introduced a character who did not appear in the novel, a creature of his own imagination. And now, with starting eyes, he observed this creature emerge from the wings and heard him utter lines which he now clearly remembered having written.
Audrey had been right! Serpent Edith Butler had stolen his play.
Joe had once read a story of an author who, having been treated in a similar way and perceiving that it was his play that was being acted with somebody else’s name attached to it, had risen in his seat, denounced the thief, and had been instantly ejected by the gentlemanly ushers. For a moment he felt inclined to do the same, but diffidence prevailed. He half rose, then sank back into his seat.
His mind, during the remainder of the play, was active. By the time the final curtain fell, and he passed out into the open air, he had perceived some of the difficulties of the affair. How could he prove his case? When one came to think of it, all dramatizations of any given novel must necessarily be very much alike.
He started to walk along Broadway, and had reached Twenty-third Street before he recollected that he had an engagement to take supper with Mr. Prosser at the Knickerbocker Hotel. He boarded a car.
“You’re late,” boomed his host, as he appeared. “You’re infernally late. I suppose, in your woolen-headed way, you forgot all about it. Come along. I’m starving.”
Joe was still thinking deeply as he began his supper. Surely there was some way by which he could prove his claims. What had he done with the original manuscript? He remembered now. He had burnt it. It had seemed mere useless litter then. Probably, he felt bitterly, the woman Butler had counted on this.
Mr. Prosser concluded an animated conversation with a waiter on the subject of the wines of France, leaned forward, and, having helped himself briskly to anchovies, began to talk. He talked loudly and rapidly. Joe, his thoughts far away, hardly listened.
Presently the waiter returned with the selected brand. He filled Joe’s glass, and Joe drank and felt better. Finding his glass magically full once more, he emptied it again. And then suddenly he found himself looking across the table at his host, and feeling a sense of absolute conviction that this was the one man of all others whom he would have selected as a confidant. How kindly, though somewhat misty, his face was! How soothing, if a little indistinct, his voice!
“Prosser,” he said, “you are a man of the world, and I should like your advice. What would you do in a case like this? I go to a theater to see a play, and what do I find?”
He paused, and eyed his host impressively.
“What’s that tune they’re playing?” said Mr. Prosser. “You hear it everywhere. One of these Viennese things, I suppose.”
Joe was annoyed. He began to doubt whether, after all, Mr. Prosser’s virtues as a confidant were not more apparent than real.
“I find, by George,” he continued, “that I wrote the thing myself.”
“It’s not a patch on ‘The Merry Widow Waltz,’ ” said Mr. Prosser.
Joe thumped the table.
“I tell you I find I wrote the thing myself.”
“This play I’m telling you about. This ‘White Roses’ thing.”
He found that he had at last got his host’s ear. Mr. Prosser seemed genuinely interested.
“What do you mean?”
Joe plunged into his story. He started from its dim beginning, from the days when he had bought the novel at New Haven, read it, and detected the play that lurked in its pages. He described his methods of work, his registering of the package, his suspense, his growing resignation. He sketched the progress of his life. He spoke of Audrey and gave a brief and biting character sketch of Mr. Shepperd. He took his hearer right up to the moment when the truth had come home to him.
The other listened admirably. He appeared absorbed, and did not interrupt once.
“What makes you so certain that this was your version?” he asked.
Joe told him of the creature of his imagination in Act Three.
“But you have lost your manuscript?”
“Yes, I burnt it.”
“Just what one might have expected you to do,” said Mr. Prosser unkindly. “Young man, I begin to believe that there may be something in this. You haven’t got a ghost of a proof that would hold water in a court of law, of course, but still I’m inclined to believe you. For one thing, you haven’t the intelligence to invent such a story.”
Joe thanked him.
“In fact, if you can answer me one question, I shall be satisfied.”
It seemed to Joe that Mr. Prosser was tending to get a little above himself. As an intelligent listener he had been of service, but that appeared to be no reason why he should constitute himself a sort of judge and master of the ceremonies.
“That’s very good of you,” he said, “but will Edith Butler be satisfied? That’s more to the point.”
“I am Edith Butler,” said Mr. Prosser.
Joe stopped. He was conscious of a sudden suspicion that the wine of France had begun to play tricks with his hearing.
“You are Edith Butler?”
“You needn’t bellow it. Yes, I am. You are the only person besides my agent who knows it, and I wouldn’t have told you if I could have helped it. It isn’t a thing I want shouted from the housetops. Do you suppose I’m proud of writing that sort of stuff? I do it because I need the money, but I don’t want it known. I’m a self-respecting attorney, and I want to keep my clients. Do you think anyone would employ an attorney capable of perpetrating a crime like ‘White Roses?’ Great Scott, man, don’t goggle at me like a fish. Haven’t you heard of pseudonyms before?”
“Yes, but ——”
“Well, never mind. Take it from me that I am Edith Butler. Now listen to me. That manuscript reached me when I was on a vacation in the country. There was no name on it. That in itself points strongly to the fact that you were its author. It was precisely the chuckle-headed sort of thing you would have done, to put no name on the thing.”
“I enclosed a letter, anyway.”
“There was a letter enclosed. I opened the parcel out of doors. There was a fresh breeze blowing at the time. It caught the letter, and that was the last I saw of it. I had read as far as ‘Dear Madam.’ But one thing I do remember about it, and that is part of the address. You say you wrote it at Yale. Well, the address on that letter was not New Haven. How do you account for that?”
“I didn’t mail it from New Haven. I was at a summer hotel when I sent it to you.”
“What summer hotel?”
“The New Breslin, Lake Hopatcong.”
“You pass,” said Mr. Prosser. “That was it. I remember Lake Hopatcong, and, now you say it, I remember New Breslin.”
Joe’s heart gave a jump. For a moment he sat on air.
“Then do you mean to say that it’s all right—that you believe——”
“I do,” said Mr. Prosser. “By the way,” he said, “ ‘White Roses’ closes down to-morrow night.”
Joe’s heart turned to lead.
“But—but—” he stammered, “but to-night the house was packed.”
“It was. Packed with paper. All the merry deadheads in New York were there. It has been the worst failure this season.”
Joe got up.
“I think I’ll be going home,” he said.
It struck him that he had not thanked his host for his hospitality.
“It was good of you to give me supper, Mr. Prosser,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.”
“Come again,” said Mr. Prosser. “I’m afraid you’re disappointed about the play.”
Joe forced a smile.
“Oh, no, that’s all right,” he said. “It can’t be helped. Good night.”
“Good night,” said Mr. Prosser. “Oh, by the way.”
“I knew there was something I had forgotten to say,” said Mr. Prosser. “I’m as bad as you are at forgetting things. I ought to have told you that the play was produced in London last April, and is still playing to capacity. It confirms the low opinion I have always had of the English intelligence, but it’s a fact. They’re eating it there. Come round and see me to-morrow, if you can’t stop to-night. I can’t tell you the actual figures offhand, but you’ll be able to marry that girl of yours all right. You’ll have pots o’ money.”
This is an interesting case of a Wodehouse story existing in two magazine versions, each of which has substantial original material not present in the other. See the Strand version on this site. Not only are the locations reversed transatlantically, with some changes of names; the back-stories of Bentley and Prosser are quite different. The first scene is told in much different order before the stories settle down to run mostly in parallel.
The 1898 ballad “Asthore” by Henry Trotère and Clifton Bingham is indeed appropriately sentimental; the tempo marking of the verse is Andante patetico. Download the sheet music. Listen to John McCormack singing it. It is, however, more complex harmonically than Joe’s three-chord arrangement could do justice to; a rare instance of a musical inside joke by PGW.
Printer’s error in third paragraph from end: magazine had comma after ‘Prosser’; amended to period.
— Transcription, image processing, and notes by Neil Midkiff.