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Neith Boyce

CONSTANCY BY NEITH BOYCE (1915)
ART ::: THEATRE :::

Constancy is considered to be first of its kind and helped launch American Modern Theatre. Relying on a realistic approach to dialogue, Boyce and her cronies penned thinly-veiled-tales about each other changing only the names to protect the guilty. In this particular case, it was Boyce's retelling of what she had witnessed between Mabel Dodge and Jack Reed while overseas.

CHARACTERS

MOIRA: Originally played by Neith Boyce.
REX: Originally played by Mary Heaton Vorse's husband, journalist and labor activist, Joe O'Brien, who would succumb to stomach cancer in October of 1915.

A room, luxurious and gay, in delicate, bright colors. Long arched windows at the back open on a balcony flooded with moonlight, overlooking the sea. In the center of the room a long sofa piled with bright cushions.

Moira, sitting at a desk under a shaded lamp, writing busily. She is dressed in a robe of brocade with straight lines, brilliant in color.

A whistle sounds under the balcony. She looks up, glances at a tiny clock on the desk, which delicately chimes twelve, smiles and finishes her phrase. A second whistle, prolonged. She rises and goes out on the balcony, leans over the rail.

REX (Off): Moira.

MOIRA: Rex. There you are. Come Ďround, the door is open.

REX: The door. The door. Oh, very well . . .

(Moira comes back into room, laughing softly. She glances into mirror, touching the circlet around her temples, takes cigarette, lights it, stands leaning against end of couch, looking at Rex. . .

Enter Rex in cape and soft hat which he drops on floor as Moira lazily takes two steps to meet him, with both hands held out.)

MOIRA: Well. Well. Here you are.

REX (Quickly): Yes. Iíve come back.

MOIRA (Lazily): You have come back. How well youíre looking.

REX: Iím not well. Iím confoundedly ill. Iím a wreck.

MOIRA: Oh, no. Come here, let me look at you. (Draws him nearer lamp) Well, youíre a little thinner, but itís becoming. And you do look tired. But then youíve had a long journey. Come, sit down and make yourself comfortable. (She drops onto couch. and draws him down.)

REX: Comfortable.

MOIRA: Yes; why not there? (Tosses cushion behind his head.) Will you have something to eat? A drink?

REX (Darkly): No, Moira.

MOIRA: Have a cigarette. I think Iíve some of your kind left. Look over there.

REX: Oh, never mind. (He is gazing intently at her; mutters) I donít care what kind.

MOIRA: You donít care. And Iíve kept them all this time. Well then, have one of mine. (She leans to take one from desk, offers it to him, he lights it absently, looking at her steadily as though perplexed.)

REX: Thanks. Moira, I must say you look well.

MOIRA: Yes, I am ó very well.

REX: And ó happy?

MOIRA: Oh, very busy, andóyes, pretty happy, I should say.

REX (Gloomily): Iím very glad. (She smokes luxuriously, looking at him. He smokes nervously, looking at her.)

MOIRA: And now tell me all about yourself, my dear. It seems ages since you went away and yet itís only four months... but such a lot of things have happened.

REX: Yes. A lot indeed. (Abruptly) I wrote you.

MOIRA: Oh yes, but letters ... Thereís a lot one doesnít say in letters.

REX: Yes, there is. (Gets up, strides to railing, hurls cigarette out, comes back and stands back of couch.) Moira, the last thing on earth I expected was that you should receive me like this.

MOIRA: But why, Rex. How did you expect me to receive you? With a dagger in one hand and a bottle of poison in the other?

REX: Well, I donít know. But (bitterly) I didnít expect this.

MOIRA: But what is this?

REX: You know well enough. You treat me as though I were an ordinary acquaintance, just dropped in for a chat.

MOIRA: Oh, no, no. A dear friend, Rex. . . . Always dear to me. (She leans over languidly, drops cigarette in tray, takes gray knitting from desk and knits.)

REX: Friend. (Walks away to window) When we parted four months ago we werenít friends. We were lovers.

MOIRA (Sweetly): Yes, but you know a lot of things have happened since then. (She knits with attention.)

REX: Well . . . (Stops for a moment then turns toward her with indignation) Well, even if things have happened. I donít see how you can have changed so completely.

MOIRA (Counting stitches): One, two, three . . . Well, my dear Rex, youíve changed a good deal yourself.

REX (Vehemently coming back.): I have not changed.

MOIRA (Dropping her knitting and looking around at him.): Well . . . Really.

REX (Hotly): Of course I know what you mean. Perhaps itís natural enough for you to think so.

MOIRA (Coolly): Yes, I should think it was.

REX: And yet I did think you were intelligent enough to understand. But even if I had changed as completely as you thought, I still donít understand why ó why you are like this.

MOIRA: This again. (Puts up hand to him) My dear Rex, Iím awfully glad to see you again. Do come, sit down and let us talk about everything.

REX (Dolefully): Glad to see me. (He sits at end of sofa) I didnít think youíd let me in the door.

MOIRA: You didnít? (Springs up suddenly, drops knitting.) Rex, you didnít expect to come by the ladder, did you?

REX: Well, no ó

MOIRA: I believe you did. This romantic hour, your boat, your whistle ó just the same ó I know you looked for the ladder.

REX: No, no, I didnít. I tell you I didnít think youíd see me at all. But what have you done with it, Moira?

MOIRA: The ladder? (Walks across to table, opens drawer, drags out rope ladder, comes back to couch.) Here it is.

REX: Soóyouíve kept it.

MOIRA: Yes ó as a remembrance.

REX: Only that?

MOIRA: Absolutely. If you like Iíll give it to you now.

REX: To me.

MOIRA: Yes. You might find use for it some time.

REX: Moira.

MOIRA (Laughing): Well, you know, my dear Rex, you are incurably romanticóand then, youíre still young. As for me, my days of romance are over.

REX (Leaning towards her, violently): I donít believe it. I believe you love some one else. Iíve believed it ever since your telegram to me. Otherwise you couldnít have behaved so ó so ó

MOIRA: So well?

REX: If you call it that.

MOIRA: I do, of course. I think I behaved admirably. But youíre wrong about the reason. I donít love anyone else and I donít intend to. Iíve done with all that.

REX (Softened, taking her hand.): No, Moira.

MOIRA: Yes, indeed. (Sits up, drawing her hand away, more coolly.) As to my telegram, what else could I do? You had fallen in love with Ellen. You telegraphed me, ďLet us part friendsĒó

REX: But, Moira ó

MOIRA (Quickly): Then came your letter telling me that you and Ellen loved one another; that this was the real love at last, that you felt you never had loved me ó

REX: Yes, but Moira ó

MOIRA: You reminded me how unhappy you and I had been togetheróhow we had quarreled ó how we had hurt one another ó

REX: Yes, yes, I know, but listen ó

MOIRA: And then you begged me to forgive you for leaving me ó so ó I did forgive you. What else could I do if I couldnít hold on to you when you loved and wanted to marry another woman.

REX: Moira, if you wonít listen to a word from me, how can I explain to you?

MOIRA: Why, Rex, Iíll listen to you all night if you like... but I donít see that you have anything to explain.

REX: Well, I have, though. Youíve got an entirely wrong idea of this business...

MOIRA: I donít see that. Your letters were quite explicit. You were tired of me ó

REX: I was not.

MOIRA: You fell in love with another woman, younger, more beautiful ó

REX: Moira ó

MOIRA: Thatís all natural enough. I know what men are. TheyĎre restless, changeable. You wanted to marry this one ó just as ó

REX: I didnít want to marry her.

MOIRA: You didnít? You wrote me ó

REX: Well, perhaps I did, or thought I did, just then... But really it was she that wanted to marry me.

MOIRA: Oh, Rex, you wrote me ó

REX: Oh, I admit I was in love with her. Yes, I was, for a while and I was willing to do anything she wanted, then.

MOIRA: Well, then.

REX: But, Moira, what I canít understand is your giving me up like that ó like a shot, without a struggle.

MOIRA: But, my dear Rex, what else ó

REX: When I think what you were last year. What scenes you made if I even looked at another woman. How you threatened to kill yourself when I had just a casual adventure.

MOIRA: Yes ó thatís true ó I did.

REX: Well, what can I think now except that you have absolutely ceased to love me.

MOIRA: But, my dear Rex, did you want me to go on loving you when you had left me for another woman?

REX: I never left you.

MOIRA: Oh.

REX (Hastily): But, anyhow, it isnít a question of what I wanted. Itís a question of fact. You stopped loving me. The real truth is you never never loved me.

MOIRA: Oh, yes, I did, Rex.

REX: No, else you couldnít have stopped. Itís true; itís true. ďLove is not love that alters when it alteration finds or bends with the remover to remove.Ē

MOIRA: Oh, my dear Rex, you are really wonderful. How about you? You stopped loving me.

REX: I never stopped loving you.

MOIRA: Oh, heavens. You wrote me that you never had loved me.

REX: Never mind what I wrote. I was in a very excited frame of mindóand wrote a lot of things I didnít mean. And you must remember Ellen was there at my elbow, and of course her point of view influenced me a lot.

MOIRA (Coldly): Naturally. And what was her point of view?

REX: Why that we were fatally in love; had fallen in love at first sight and that we were to marry and settle down together.

MOIRA: Well, that certainly seemed to be your point of view.

REX: I tell you, Ellen was right there, influencing me... And thereís no doubt I was in love with her at the time. Sheís lovely, you know. I was mad about her.

MOIRA: Why do you say was ó was ó was? Youíre still in love with her, arenít you?

REX: No, Moira, I donít believe I am. Of course I have a feeling about her ó she is beautiful ó But even if I were in love with her, Moira, this about marrying ó

MOIRA: Well, what about it?

REX (Springing up and pacing the floor): Moira, I donít want to marry. As to settling down, I simply canít.

MOIRA: But you promised her, didnít you?

REX: I did. And of course if she insists, I suppose Iíll have to keep my promise. That is, Iíll marry her, but I wonít settle down. That I cannot do. Why, Moira, listen ó (Throws himself in corner of couch, leans forward.) What do you think she expects? She expects me to live with her in a little suburban house, and come back every night to dinner, and have a yard with vegetables, and a sleeping porch facing the east. Oh, Moira. (Buries his face in his hands.)

MOIRA: Well, my dear Rex, if you love her ó

REX (Savagely): I couldnít love anyone like that.

MOIRA: Well, how do you love her, then?

REX (Moodily): Why-I loved her as a beautiful, poetical creature, a bit of plastic lovelinessóMoira, you ought to see her; she is lovely - er - she was unhappy, too. She needed to be made love to. I made love to her; I loved her in a way, but, oh, Moira, not as I loved you.

MOIRA: What? My dear boy...

REX (Surprised): Surely you know Moira that I have loved you ever since we met; that I never ceased loving you; that I could never love anyone else as I love you.

MOIRA: But, my dear Rex, you wrote me.

REX: Oh, I wrote you, I wrote you. . . . Iíve already explained to you that I wasnít in a state of mind to know what I meant then. You remember, too, that you and I parted with a quarrel.

MOIRA: What of it? You wrote me right after that quarrel that you adored me more than ever . . .

REX: Well, so I did... But donít you see, the fact that we had quarreled so terribly, just at parting ó well, it made me feel desperate. And so ó

MOIRA (Ironically): And so ó you fell in love with Ellen.

REX: Well, yes, thatís only natural, just at first. But now, you see, Iíve had time to think it over and I know ó why, what did you think I meant when I wrote you that I was coming back?

MOIRA: Meant? Meant? Why I supposed you meant you were coming to pay me a friendly visit and make sure of my forgiveness.

REX: Forgiveness, yes, but real forgiveness, Moira.

MOIRA: Yes, yes, I do really forgive you. I donít bear you any malice at all.

REX: Then you do really love me, Moira, after all.

MOIRA: Iím very fond of you, my dear, and always shall be.

REX: No, no, that isnít what I mean and you know it. I love you just as I always did, only more, I think. Iíve come back to you, Moira.

MOIRA: But ó my dear Rex ó Ellen.

REX: Iíve written Ellen that I canít honestly promise to do what she wants... Iíve told her that I will marry her if she still wants me to, but that I canít settle dow... That I must have my freedom ó and that probably she wouldnít be happy with me. I have been as honest with her as I could be ó Just as I was always honest with you.

MOIRA (Smiling pensively): Yes, you always told me that, too.

REX: You see, I havenít deceived either of you. I may have deceived myself at times ó when I thought I didnít love you, for instance. But I know now that I do and always shall. And so, Moira, do you forgive me?

MOIRA: Iíve told you so.

REX: And love me?

MOIRA: In a way, yes ó I always shall.

REX: No, not in a way. As you did before, Moira. Surely you havenít altogether stopped loving me.

MOIRA: No, not as I did before. That was a disease, a madness. I was mad with jealousy of you... I was miserable. I tried to keep you faithful to me ó and I couldnít. I donít want to go back to that.

REX: You donít want to go back?

MOIRA: No. To have you leave me again in a few months ó or weeks ó for another woman? No.

REX: Moira, I was always faithful to you, really. I always shall be. I should always come back.

MOIRA: That is your idea of fidelity. You would always come back.

REX: Yes, always. I couldnít help myself. I couldnít stay away for long. I couldnít forget you.

MOIRA: You forgot me easily.

REX: I never forgot you. Didnít I write you nearly every day? You were always on my mind. I saw you suffering, wounded, desperate, perhaps even doing what you threatened once ó you know ó

MOIRA: Kill myself?

REX: I thought everything. I was in despair about you. Even your letters, so calm and generous, didnít reassure me. I knew your pride.

MOIRA: So you thought I was wearing a mask of cheerfulness and resignation.

REX: Yes, and I thought it noble of you.

MOIRA: And at the same time you thought I must be in love with some one else. You said so.

REX: Well, I didnít know what to think. Thatís the truth.

MOIRA: The one thing you couldnít believe was that I had ceased to feel about you as a lover.

REX: Yes, that was it; I admit it.

MOIRA: And yet youíll admit, too, that it was the right and reasonable thing to do.

REX: Oh, right and reasonable.

MOIRA: If I had behaved like a jealous fury, showered reproaches on you, threatened you, pursued you, tried to get you away from Ellen, that from your point of view would have been the natural thing for me to do.

REX: Yes, if you loved me.

MOIRA: Well, Rex, I donít think so. I knew that you would leave me some day. Youíre young, and as you say yourself, you must have your freedom. So when it came I took the blow, for it was a blow. I adjusted myself to the change.

REX: Very easily.

MOIRA: Well, it is done, now.

REX: And you donít want to undo it? You donít want me back?

MOIRA: As a friend, yes; always. Love passes. Friendship endures.

REX: Love never endsóreal love. But you know nothing about it. You never loved me.

MOIRA: I did, Rex. I lived only for you for a year and I wasnít happy. Donít you remember how I absorbed myself in you, gave up all my other interests, gave up my friends, could see nothing and nobody but you; was careless and indifferent to everyone but you? And I wasnít happy.

REX: That is exactly it. Did I want you to give up your interests and your friends? Did I want you to see nothing and nobody but me? Didnít I want you to be free of me and let me be free of you ó sometimes.

MOIRA: In love one cannot be free. I was constant to you every moment, while I loved you.

REX: While you loved me. Thatís not my idea of constancy.

MOIRA: No, your idea of constancy is to love a hundred other women and at intervals to come backóto me.

REX: Moira, you drove it too hard. You tied yourself and me down hand and foot. And now you say it is ended for you. Now because Iíve been what you call unfaithful you throw me off. And that is your idea of constancy.

MOIRA: I canít endure love without fidelity. It tortures me. I donít want to be the head of a harem. Yes, it is ended.

REX (Goes to balcony, stands looking out.): Look. How many times have I come to you; come up over this balcony? And you were happy then. You didnít want to push me away then.

MOIRA: It was a fever. What is real is what I feel for you now; a warm affection, aó

REX: I donít want that. I want you back as you were before.

MOIRA: You want to make me miserable again. No, Rex.

REX: (Kneels on couch, leans toward her and takes her in his arms. She does not resist.) I canít believe you mean it. Kiss me. (She kisses him. He draws back suddenly and lets her go.) You do mean it. You donít care any more. (He drops down on couch. She leans over and caresses his hair.)

MOIRA: Now, Rex, you are just a boy, crying for the moon. As long as you havenít got it you are dying for it. When you get it you go on to something else. I understand you very well and I think you are the most charming and amusing person I know, and I shall always be really fonder of you than of anyone else.

REX: (Jumping to his feet.) The moon. You are the moon, I suppose, and you are certainly as inconstant. How can you change like this? I come back to you loving you as I always did, the same as ever, and I find you completely changed; your love for me gone as thought it had never been. And you tell me it is no new love that has driven it out. I could understand that, but this... It is true, as Weiniger said, women have no soul, no memory. They are incapable of fidelity.

MOIRA: Fidelity.

REX: Yes, fidelity. Havenít I been essentially faithful to you. I may have fancies for other women but havenít I come back to you?

MOIRA (Looking at him with admiration): Oh, Rex, you are perfect; you are a perfect man.

REX: Well, I can say with sincerity that you are a complete woman.

MOIRA: After that I suppose there is no more to say. We have annihilated one another.

REX (Furiously snatching up cloak and hat): I shall leave you.

MOIRA: But you will come back.

REX: Come back. (He turns to her) You know I shall. I canít help it. And we shall see.

MOIRA: Yes, shanít we. Oh, by the way, I promised you this. (Holds up the ladder)

REX: Youíd better keep it.

MOIRA: No, Rex. (Drops the ladder at his feet.)

REX: I am going. You never loved me.

MOIRA: Oh, yes I did, Rex. Have you forgotten?

REX: I have forgotten nothing. It is you who have forgotten. It is you who have been unfaithful. I come back to you and you treat me like a stranger. You turn me out. You say you no longer love me. (Regarding her with passionate reproach.) And you told me you had forgiven me.

MOIRA: So I have.

REX: You mean-by ceasing to love me. Do you think anyone wants that sort of forgiveness?

MOIRA: Thatís the only sort anyone ever gets.

REX: No. (with emotion) Forgiving means forgetting.

MOIRA (With a wide gesture): Well, I have forgotten - everything.

REX (With a violent movement toward her): You ó (Stops and they stand looking at another) And you have called me inconstant. (He backs toward the door with a savage laugh) Constancy!

(Moira stands looking at him, motionless.)

CURTAIN.


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