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Edward Wales is determined to trap his friend's killer. He invites 13 suspects to a seance, and one of them uses the cover of darkness to kill again. Can the medium uncover the killer's identity?
THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR
The SCENE is the Italian Room in ROSCOE CROSBY'S Home in New York. It is a handsome room. A plan of the setting will be found at the end of the play. As the curtain rises Miss HELEN O'NEILL and WILLIAM CROSBY are discovered standing R.C. They are in each other's arms, and the rising curtain discloses them as they kiss. The window blinds are drawn.
HELEN. I love you so.
WILLIAM. You are the most wonderful thing in all the world.
(She gives a little laugh and moves away from him a step right.)
HELEN. I can't believe it.
WILLIAM. That I love you?
HELEN. Oh, no, I'm sure of that.
WILLIAM. If there's any doubt in your mind, I'll prove it again.
HELEN. They'll see us. (He takes her in his arms again and kisses her. She laughs happily. And then turning a little stands with her cheek pressed against his.) Oh, my dear, my dear!
(MRS. CROSBY, a fashionably dressed and extremely attractive woman, enters from door down L. She closes the door. She stops for a moment and watches the lovers and then with a little laugh comes toward them. MRS. CROSBY is fifty-five and looks ten years younger. She has charm, beauty and kindliness.)
MRS. CROSBY (coming to C. a step). Don't move, you look so comfortable! (They separate quickly.) Well, are you happy? (To R.C.)
WILLIAM. Oh, mother!
(MRS. CROSBY crosses to HELEN, pats her hand and stands between WILLIAM and HELEN R.C.)
WILLIAM. Shall we tell 'em all?
MRS. CROSBY. Tell them? (She laughs.) What do you think they are? Blind and deaf? It's been a perfectly wonderful dinner. You were so blind to everything but each other. Oh, Billy, I thought your father would have a fit.
HELEN. I thought he had an awful cold, he was coughing terribly.
MRS. CROSBY. Coughing? He nearly choked to keep from laughing. I told him I'd send him from the table if he laughed at you.
WILLIAM. Why you never spoke to him once.
MRS. CROSBY. Child, explain to him that wives don't have to—Oh, I forget you haven't learned that yet. You know, Billy, I can talk to your father very effectively without words.
(Crosses to below table R.)
HELEN (turning to MRS. CROSBY). Mrs. Crosby—
WILLIAM. Mother, Nell's all fussed up because we've got money. She thinks you'll think—I'm—what in novels they call marrying beneath me.
(He and MRS. CROSBY laugh. HELEN looks a little hurt.)
HELEN. Well, he is.
MRS. CROSBY. Nonsense, child, don't be silly. (Sits down stage end of table.)
HELEN (moving a step to MRS. CROSBY). It's not silly, Mrs. Crosby. Everyone will say it, and they'll be right.
WILLIAM. Let's settle this thing now once and for all, then. In the first place it's all nonsense, and in the second it isn't true—
HELEN. Oh, yes, it is.
MRS. CROSBY. Oh, the first row! I'll settle this one. Nelly!
WILLIAM. Now then, Nell, out with it, get it all out of your system.
HELEN. In the first place, it's the money.
MRS. CROSBY. Yes, but—Helen—
HELEN. Please, let me say it all. You have social position, great wealth, charming friends, everything that makes life worth—Oh, what's the use? You know as well as I do the great difference between us, and—
MRS. CROSBY. My dear child, suppose we admit all that, what then?
HELEN. But don't you see—
WILLIAM (embracing her in front of table R.). You little idiot! I don't see anything but you.
MRS. CROSBY. You love each other, that's the whole of it, children. Suppose you listen to an old woman.
WILLIAM. Old! Huh!
MRS. CROSBY. Well, old enough. If Billy was the usual rich man's son it might be different. There might be something in what you say. But thank God he isn't. Mind you, I don't say he wasn't like most of them when he was younger. I dare say he was, I know he went to supper with a chorus girl once.
HELEN. What was she like?
WILLIAM. Like a chorus girl.
MRS. CROSBY. The trouble with you, my dear, is that you've been reading novels. When Billy's father married me, I was a school teacher, and he was a clerk. We didn't have any money, but we were awfully in love—we still rather like each other. Now just for the sake of argument, suppose we should have acted like stern parents, what would be the use? Billy's in business for himself, he's making his own money, he can marry when he wants to and as he wants to, and if you want my real opinion, I don't mind confessing that I think he's pretty lucky to get you.
HELEN. But you know so little about me.
WILLIAM. Oh, rot!
MRS. CROSBY (to WILLIAM). Thank you, Billy. I was trying to think of an effective word. (To HELEN.) You've been my private secretary for over a year, and no matter how much my looks belie it, I'm not a bit of a fool. I know a great deal about you.
HELEN. My family—
WILLIAM (C.). I'm not marrying your family!
HELEN. I'm afraid you are.
HELEN. There's only mother.
MRS. CROSBY (rising and moving to HELEN'S side in front of table R.). Oh, my dear, forgive me. Your mother should have been here to-night.
HELEN. No, my mother—Mrs. Crosby—mother doesn't go out—she'd be unhappy here, and you'd be uncomfortable if she came. You'll find her trying sometimes, you'll think she's common. Oh, don't misunderstand me. She's the most wonderful mother in the world. And she's—
MRS. CROSBY. Suppose, my dear, that we take your mother for granted. (She crosses to a position between WILLIAM and HELEN.) Take us as you find us and we will try to be happy.