This is an excerpt from a play I am writing about Mark Twain.
Author's note on the historical accuracy of this play.
Although this play is based on an actual historical incident, some of the events are exaggerated for dramatic purposes. In 1884, George Washington Cable visited Samuel Langhorn Clemens (Mark Twain) at his home in Hartford, Connecticut. Cable stayed so long that he wore out his welcome. Later Sam Clemens and Cable departed on a 10,000 mile, 100 night tour. Historical research shows that the two men were incompatible with their personality differences magnifying their friction.
A photo taken of the two before the trip reveals George Washington Cable as a short prissy man in a black formal suit. He stands stiffly. Sam Clemens, on the other hand, wore a shock of woolly hair badly in need of a cut, a moustache badly in need of a trim, and an open coat exposing a wrinkled shirt. It was clear he was not raised in the embrace of polite society.
The Mark Twain Home in Hartford, Connecticut. Upstage left taking two thirds of the upstage area is the Drawing Room modeled after the Drawing Room in the Mark Twain House. Filling the rest of upstage is the Billiard room modeled after the Billiard Room of the Mark Twain House. During some portions of the play, the action will be in the Drawing room and the billiard room lighting will be dimmed to one fourth to one half so that the furnishings are barely visible. The opposite will be true when the action is in the billiard room. On other occasions the lighting will be balanced as the action is taking place simultaneously. There will also be a drop down flat of the porch, and a hotel room which will block the upstage area.
Sam Clemens (Mark Twain)
Livy Clemens (Sam's wife)
George Washington Cable (visitor to the Clemens' home)
George Griffins (Clemens' Butler)
Katie Leary (Clemens' Maid)
Patrick McAleer (Clemens' Coachman)
William Dean Howells
Rev. Joseph Twitchell
Scene 1: Around 8:00 PM Saturday Evening, late February, 1884
Scene 2: Around 3:00 AM the next morning
Scene 3: Several weeks later.
Scene 4: A few days later.
Scene 5: Several weeks later.
Scene 6: Several weeks later.
Scene 7: The next day.
Scene 8: Several weeks later.
Scene 1: Three months later.
Scene 2: The next day.
Scene 3 Two weeks later.
Scene 4. Several months later.
Scene One: Drawing Room
(Lights up on the drawing room. The rear wall is pink with silver stenciling. To the right side of the drawing room is a Victorian style loveseat with chairs facing it. There is a small table between the loveseat and the chairs. On the wall behind the loveseat is a large picture entitled, The Holy Family, surrounded by a gold frame. The picture is hung in the Victorian style with two wires attached to hooks in the ceiling molding. Other smaller pictures dot the rear wall of the drawing room. There is a small alcove in the middle of the wall with a table in it. To the left of the alcove is a grand piano and stool. Sam enters USL followed by Livy.)
SAM: (Pacing and waving his arms, frustrated.) Where the hell is he, Livy? I sent Patrick to the station over an hour ago. The train was due at 7:15. The guests will be arriving any moment.
LIVY: I hear people at the front door. Maybe it's him.
(George enters followed by the Adlriches.)
GEORGE: Mister Clemens, the Aldriches are here. There's someone else at the door.
(George turns and leaves as he hears a knocking at the door.)
SAM: Mrs. Aldrich, Tom. Welcome.
MRS. ALDRICH: (nodding her head frostily. She clearly has little use for Clemens.) Thank you Samuel. (She turns to Livy with a sympathetic smile as if feeling sorry for her.) Olivia dear, how are you doing these days?
TOM ALDRICH: Well, has our guest of honor arrived yet? (Looks around.) Apparently not. We're the first here.
(George enters followed by Rev. and Mrs. Twitchell and Mr. And Mrs. Howells. There are nods and greetings among the arrivals.)
SAM: (Scowling and looking around.) No, I sent Patrick to the station an hour ago. Don't know what's keeping him.
(Patrick enters and calls Sam aside.)
PATRICK: (Breathing heavily.) Sorry to be so long Mr. Clemens. His train was an hour late leaving his last stop. It seems that the delay was because of all his luggage. It took extra time at his last stop to load it all.
SAM: Where's Cable?
PATRICK: He told me to leave him at the station while he checked the unloading of the rest of his luggage. He told me to drop off the first load here and return for the next few loads.
SAM: (Warily.) Next few loads?
PATRICK: Yeah, it seems that he brought along his whole wardrobe. Including his spring and summer clothes. I just unloaded the first stack. I'll guess we'll have to use the carriage house to store it all. I have to go back for the rest.
SAM: (Turning to his guests.) Well it seems that Mr. Cable will be a little late. Train delay or something.
(Looking around for some ways to entertain his guests while waiting.) Did I ever tell you about that time I went to the mining camp outside Virginia City and sold the burro to…?
(His voice fades as the lights dim to half to show the passage of time. Sam continues talking. George brings in more guests who mill around aimlessly. Occasionally, someone pulls out a pocket watch to check the time. It is clear that the guests are becoming bored. Some begin to yawn. After a short time Patrick enters and Clemens approaches him with relief. Lights up.)
PATRICK: It took five trips to get all his luggage. Most of it's stored in the carriage house.
SAM: Is he here?
PATRICK: Yes, here he comes.
(George enters with George Washington Cable. Cable is a tight-knotted, short man with a carefully waxed moustache and a tightly trimmed black beard. With his suit buttoned up to the neck, he looked like one of New England's stern pilgrim forefathers. Even when relaxed, Cable will wear a suit and shirt buttoned up to the neck. George brings him over to Clemens who looks extremely relieved.)
GEORGE: Mister Clemens, this here is Mister Cable.
SAM: (Shakes Cable's hand.) I'm glad you finally made it. We were all getting worried. (Calls for attention) May I have everyone's attention? I take great pleasure in introducing to you that great Southern novelist, lecturer and writer, George Washington Cable.
(The guests applaud with various welcoming responses.)
CABLE: (Bows deeply and formally to the guests) Thank you all for your kind welcome. You are indeed generous to greet me with such a magnanimous display. I look forward to meeting you all over the next several weeks.
SAM: (Aside.) Next several weeks? What just happened here?
(Guests break into small groups as Cable mingles among them. He soon speaks with Mrs. Aldrich.)
MRS. ALDRICH: (She beams and gushes as Cable bows deeply and kisses her hand.) How glad I am to meet you, Mr. Cable. I have heard so much about your writing. I can't wait to hear you speak.
CABLE: (Flattered.) Thank you very much for your kind words, Mrs. Aldrich. I look forward also to sharing my thoughts with you and the Hartford public. (He notices a speck on a nearby table and pulls out a handkerchief from his sleeve to dust it. He glances at the handkerchief and sneezes.)
MRS. ALDRICH: (Speaking in a low, conspiratorial voice as she observes his action.) Yes, You see them too, I notice.
CABLE: I beg your pardon?
MRS. ALDRICH: The furs. I am speaking about the cat furs of course. Mr. Clemens possesses six dogs and twelve cats. They absolutely have the run of the place. How horrid! (She wrinkles her face in an expression of disgust.)
CABLE: We must talk when we have more time. However, I do see that Rev Twitchell wants to speak with me. (Aside as he approaches Twitchell.) Twelve cats and six dogs. I hope my allergies can handle it. Reverend Twitchell I presume.
TWITCHELL: (Offering Cable his hand.) Yes, Mr. Cable, Welcome to Hartford. We all look forward to meeting you.
CABLE: (Bows meticulously.) I also look forward to getting to know you. I am especially looking forward to your services on the morrow.
TWITCHELL: (Grins mischievously.) I wonder if you can do me a favor. You see Sam rarely attends services. I've been trying to get him to come to church once in a while. Do you think you could have him accompany you tomorrow? Normally, I wouldn't ask, but since I expect a full house tomorrow, I won't have time to introduce you to everyone. Sam can perhaps perform that function for me.
CABLE: I shall ask him. It certainly can't hurt his soul. I'll ask him now. (Approaches Clemens who is standing with Livy.)
Sam, I just spoke with Reverend Twitchell. I told him I plan on attending services tomorrow. He suggested that you could accompany me to introduce me to other parishioners.
CLEMENS: (Irritably and abruptly.) I don't go to church. Never darken the doors of a church.
LIVY: Sam, since Mr. Cable is our guest. I think it might be helpful if you went tomorrow to show him around. After all he is a stranger in town.
CLEMENS: But Livy…
LIVY: Sam, we'll not discuss it any more. We must be polite to our guest. (She turns away as if the matter is closed.)
SAM: (Puzzled.) What just happened here?
(Cable is left alone while small groups mingle. He notices the large picture on the wall. He signals George who is walking by with a serving tray.)
CABLE: George, does that picture seem to be tilted?
GEORGE: Looks fine to me sir.
(George walks away. Cable walks over to the picture and stares at it intensely. He tries adjusting one side but is unsuccessful. Throughout the remainder of the evening he will stare at the picture as if obsessed by the thought that it could be tilted. Periodically, he will try to adjust it.)
SAM: Your attention everyone. I have been asked to play a rendition of some of my favorite childhood songs. We can all stand around and sing.
REV. TWITCHELL: Hey Sam, How 'bout singing that new song that just came out, My Blue Heaven?
SAM: I have a better idea. I wrote a parody of that song. Just finished it today. (Sam sits down and plays the piano. He pounds out the keys randomly as he can't play the piano. He sings:)
When whippoorwills call,
And evening is nigh,
I hurry to my Blue Heaven.
A turn to the right,
And an ugly sight,
Will greet you in my Blue Heaven.
You'll see a tattered rug, an ugly mug, and a dreary room,
And a dizzy dame,
That wipes my frame, with a worn-out broom.
Just Molly and me,
And the flatiron makes three;
We'll battle in my Blue Heaven.
(Guests laugh except Mrs. Aldrich who looks disgusted and Livy who seems embarrassed. Twitchell breaks out in an uproariously loud laugh.)
MRS. ALDRICH: (To her husband.) Disgusting. It figures he would come up with something that obscene.
ALDRICH: (Trying to get his wife calmed down.) Sam, how about playing something more serious?
(Clemens plays and sings, "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." However, his voice is blocked by the voices of the guests joining in. Cable notices Clemens' lack of playing ability. After the song is over, Sam rises to polite applause.)
CABLE: (Meaning to be helpful.) Sam, Let me show you how you might play a little better. Here, let me try. (Cable impulsively sits down at the piano and plays the same song perfectly. There is enthusiastic applause. Sam is visibly irritated.)
SAM: (Annoyed and puzzled) What just happened here?
CABLE: Did you know Sam that one of your keys is off? It can easily be fixed. It's just a matter of adjusting the tuning wire in the piano box. I can do it myself. (He plunks the offending key.)
CLEMENS: (Very visibly irritated.) Never mind that now. I'll call the man out next week.
(The guests mill around as they depart. Twitchell with a mischievous grin talks quietly to Cable as he leaves.)
The lights fade
Scene Two: Drawing Room
(Lights up half on the drawing room. It is about 3:00 am. Cable, sleepwalking, enters wearing a nightshirt and carrying pliers and a candle in a holder. He sets the candle and pliers down. He mumbles.)
CABLE: Yet, here's a spot. (He rubs it with a cloth.) Out, out, damned spot. And another.
(Finally he is satisfied there are no more spots. He looks around mumbling. He sees the large painting and attempts to adjust it. He fumbles around and manages to break the wire at the point where the wire joins the painting which swings loosely held by one wire.)
(He scurries around the room and sees the piano. He raises the lid of the piano and reaches inside. He adjusts the offending key with the pliers. The key still is off. Further adjustments. There is no change in the tone of the key. He grunts as he turns harder. A loud snap is heard and he pulls a long broken wire from the piano.)
(He looks around the room and sees the swinging painting. His face lights up as he gets an idea. He removes the wire from the painting and replaces the broken piano wire with the picture wire. With a smile of satisfaction, he gathers up the pliers and candle and leaves.) …