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The Dog and the Playlet
by [?]

This story has been rewritten and published in “Strictly Business” under the title, The Proof of the Pudding.

Usually it is a cold day in July when you can stroll up Broadway in that month and get a story out of the drama. I found one a few breathless, parboiling days ago, and it seems to decide a serious question in art.

There was not a soul left in the city except Hollis and me–and two or three million sunworshippers who remained at desks and counters. The elect had fled to seashore, lake, and mountain, and had already begun to draw for additional funds. Every evening Hollis and I prowled about the deserted town searching for coolness in empty cafes, dining-rooms, and roofgardens. We knew to the tenth part of a revolution the speed of every electric fan in Gotham, and we followed the swiftest as they varied. Hollis’s fiancee. Miss Loris Sherman, had been in the Adirondacks, at Lower Saranac Lake, for a month. In another week he would join her party there. In the meantime, he cursed the city cheerfully and optimistically, and sought my society because I suffered him to show me her photograph during the black coffee every time we dined together.

My revenge was to read to him my one-act play.

It was one insufferable evening when the overplus of the day’s heat was being hurled quiveringly back to the heavens by every surcharged brick and stone and inch of iron in the panting town. But with the cunning of the two-legged beasts we had found an oasis where the hoofs of Apollo’s steed had not been allowed to strike. Our seats were on an ocean of cool, polished oak; the white linen of fifty deserted tables flapped like seagulls in the artificial breeze; a mile away a waiter lingered for a heliographic signal–we might have roared songs there or fought a duel without molestation.

Out came Miss Loris’s photo with the coffee, and I once more praised the elegant poise of the neck, the extremely low-coiled mass of heavy hair, and the eyes that followed one, like those in an oil painting.

“She’s the greatest ever,” said Hollis, with enthusiasm. “Good as Great Northern Preferred, and a disposition built like a watch. One week more and I’ll be happy Jonny-on-the-spot. Old Tom Tolliver, my best college chum, went up there two weeks ago. He writes me that Loris doesn’t talk about anything but me. Oh, I guess Rip Van Winkle didn’t have all the good luck!”

“Yes, yes,” said I, hurriedly, pulling out my typewritten play. “She’s no doubt a charming girl. Now, here’s that little curtain- raiser you promised to listen to.”

“Ever been tried on the stage?” asked Hollis.

“Not exactly,” I answered. “I read half of it the other day to a fellow whose brother knows Robert Edeson; but he had to catch a train before I finished.”

“Go on,” said Hollis, sliding back in his chair like a good fellow. “I’m no stage carpenter, but I’ll tell you what I think of it from a first-row balcony standpoint. I’m a theatre bug during the season, and I can size up a fake play almost as quick as the gallery can. Flag the waiter once more, and then go ahead as hard as you like with it. I’ll be the dog.”

I read my little play lovingly, and, I fear, not without some elocution. There was one scene in it that I believed in greatly. The comedy swiftly rises into thrilling and unexpectedly developed drama. Capt. Marchmont suddenly becomes cognizant that his wife is an unscrupulous adventuress, who has deceived him from the day of their first meeting. The rapid and mortal duel between them from that moment–she with her magnificent lies and siren charm, winding about him like a serpent, trying to recover her lost ground; he with his man’s agony and scorn and lost faith, trying to tear her from his heart. That scene I always thought was a crackerjack. When Capt. Marchmont discovers her duplicity by reading on a blotter in a mirror the impression of a note that she has written to the Count, he raises his hand to heaven and exclaims: “O God, who created woman while Adam slept, and gave her to him for a companion, take back Thy gift and return instead the sleep, though it last forever!”