From a copy in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress,
Copyright deposits, 1901-1944 ; reel no. 81.
Copied (June 1998) and Transcribed (January 2000) by Rich Edwards
"WIFE OR COUNTRY"
ELLA WHEELER WILCOX & MATTIE KEENE.
TIME- CIVIL WAR, 1864.
Curtain rises on lively patriotic music. Lights well up.
Clock striking seven.
(Vivia enters with tea pot. Takes up count of clock.)
188.8.131.52.Oclock, and tea not over. (over to table) I guess this is
enough. (bus). yes thats all right. (to Annies room).
Hurry sister or
the tea will be cold. (down stage) Poor Annie she has'nt seemed
old self since Bro Jack left us. Its over a year since he joined his
regiment, and six months since we saw that awful death list, with Jacks
name at the head. It seems to have completely broken Annies heart.
to picture on mantle). But Brother I can't believe you dead,
I think of you
always as alive and --
(outside) Vivia where are you ?
Annie. I must be cheerful enough for two. (bus) Here sister here.
(enter) Ah youre in here.
Yes, and I have tea all ready for you, that would make a japanese weep
tears of joy. (bus) And some cakes with carraway seeds,
Oh-O-O.Now sit down.
It certainly looks inviting.(sits)
(pours tea) Look see that bead on your tea, that means money.
(gives Annie tea) Hurry, hurry, drink it up,never leave it in
No use talking, I'm a born poet. Here come drink your tea dearie, (Annie
bus with drink) hurry up. Dont mind a little burn, so long as
You heartless child i've burnt my mouth.
Better burn for gold, than freeze for want of it.
(pats V's cheek) What would I do without you Vivia,(bus) my
I was fond of my Bro, but I felt more pride, than sorrow, when he enlisted.
Vivia how could you.(up)
Oh I've been ashamed of it since.You love Jack in such a wild way,it made
you forget every thing else.
You dont understand sister, This war has seemed like a family row to me.
Brother against Brother, Father against Son. It seems like murder for
to go to battle to settle disputes.
It must be awful this husband sweetheart sort of love,what you feel for
your folks is like a warmish coolish breeze.
And what you feel for the man who wins your heart, is like a storm at sea,
a big cyclone. Grand to look at, but dangerous to mix up in.
Whew!! I hope I'll never mix up in it. (bus) That is I sort of hope
Any way I'm too sensible to fall in love. You know you said I ought
have been born a boy.
(has one to mantle, bus with picture) Oh Jack my husband, what would
give to see you again, just for a day, an hour.
For just one kiss that your lips have given,
In the lost and beautiful past to me,
I would gladly barter my hopes of Heaven
And all the bliss of Eternity.
For never a joy are the Angels keeping
(goes to Annie) sister you must'nt give way to these feelings, there,
To lay at my feet in paradise,
Like that into your strong arms creeping,
And looking into your love lit eyes.
(burst out crying) Jack, Jack.
come and lie down, there's a dear, (bus for Annie with picture b)
I'll tuck you up for a nice nap. (bus) now go to sleep.forget
calm yourself sister.(has taken Annie to couch etc. bus with curtain.
turns light down, singing "cuddle your head." over to Annie, looks
curtains.) Asleep! (dark stage quick)
(lights up. Jack enters. orders to join regiment in hand)
Well the die is cast, and here are the orders to join my regiment.
at eleven oclock, three hours of miserable happiness, misery in the
of leaving home, happiness in the possession of such a Wife, as my
Annie. How can I tell her that I have broken the promise I gave her
fever of courtship. That I have enlisted. Wife, Country. I stand between
the two. But when the last call came for two hundred thousand more,
no longer refuse to listen to it. We are coming Father Abram two hundred
thousand strong. The thought of being able to respond to that call,
save the dear old Flag from dishonor, thrills my being, but I grow
when I think of Annie's despair. If like her old Grand Mother she would
her reason, Oh---the thought is awful. I would far rather sent the
in the fiercest battle than to face my darling wife with this news.
(outside) All right in a minute.
Vivia, little sister, oh, tonight is her first ball. her first long dress,
I am expected to escort them. another complication, I must confide
she may find some way to tell Annie.
(enter C.D.) Well here I am Jack, all dressed. I feel starched stiff
over the top,and tangled up in the lower regions. How do I look? Just
I had a ram rod stuck down my back I'll bet.(bus) tum-rum
rum-rumoh my buttons (bus) Jack gives Vivia pin)
(smiling) Well sister, any way you look very pretty, but why
are you dressed
so early? It is only eight oclock.
(fixing pin in dress) Oh I wanted to get through with my agony,
with pin) Oh--(finger in mouth) I know I'd do it,
Um, just wait till
you try being a girl once, and getting into your first long dress,
you'll find it takes time and patience and --(bus)
(finger in mouth) uh-huh- then I don't want to be late, I'm going
and not miss a dance. I must have the first waltz with you Bro, let's
Vivia, I can't go with you tonight.
Not go, Jack you're joking (bus) you look serious, what is it (Jack
nervously) the tragic air. Have you and Annie quarrelled? that's
awful tradgedy I can think of.
No sister. you know we never quarrel, that is it. We have been so happy
our married life that--a Vivia I have done something that I fear will
Why Brother!! Ohh-- you have enlisted.
Yes, I could'nt resist my Country's call any longer
This is awful, but I am proud of you.only your promise to Annie, how can
you tell her.
I cannot tell her, I will leave her a letter, and then sister you comfort
her, poor girl.
Brother come to the ball, tell her there . that will put her on her metal
before a crowd.
Impossible , I have orders to leave on teh eleven oclock train with my
Every other girl raves over a Uniform but Annie, she turns as pale as death
at the sight of one, I wonder why?
Why in the war of 1812, her Grand Father was struck by a flying shell,
and brought home bathed in his own blood, literally torn to pieces.
The sight crazed her Grand Mothers brain,she lived to be a very old
always hopelessly insane.
Poor Annie! I dont wonder at her predjudice to war.
The consequences are, Annie has a horror of war, amounting to monimania
And is that why she would not consent to become your
wife, until you promised her you would not enlist?
Then brother, you should have kept your promise(bus) up stage, sees
Jack takes orders out of pocket.(bus)
(Annie enters C.D. tip toeing, hands over Jacks eyes.) Guess
(Jack hastily hides order.) As if I could ever question that
Your wife full of curiosity to know what letter you hid as she came in.
What nonsense are you talking ?.
What secrets are you hiding ?.
So this is your confidence in me, to be jealous over nothing ?.
So this your allegiance to me, to be hiding something ?.
Oh.Oh, a lovers quarrel, I know things were too sweet to last.
Nonsense Vivia, Jack and I,are only in fun.(cross mix up newspaper)
Quarrels leaves soars, and we dont care to be sored up. do we Jack
(picks up paper) oh think of this, the widow Osborne's Son, her only
has enlisted, his Mother totally blind, how could he be so cruel as
But his duty to his Country.
His duty to his Mother, she who worked and toiled for him, day and night,
night and day,oh I can not understand it.
But dear the Country is our Mother.
Think how grand he will feel when he comes home all covered with glory.
Or blood.Lincoln's call for two hundred thousand more men is right I know,
God bless them all, both the blue and the gray,the honored dead, on
sides the line.
but when I think of strong vigorous men like my Jack going out to fight,
and being brought home dead, shot to pieces, a mangled.thing, oh the
Annie they are not all of them shot to pieces.
I know Jack. I know, some only lose a leg, or an arm, or, oh thank God
I have you, two armes are none to many to enfold me.
Better be hugged by a one armed hero, than a two armed coward.
Annie you forget popular sentiment.
No, it takes more courage to stand up against popular sentiment, than against
an armed regiment of soldiers. I realize all it costs you dear to keep
promise to me, I know how charged the atmosphere is with this spirit
I'd go in a minute if I were a man.
(laughs) you, why your'e afraid of a fire cracker on the 4th of
I said, if I were a man.
Let's drop the subject altogether, and talk about more pleasant things.
Yes the ball. has John ordered the carraige ? I'm just dying to go.
I'll see to the carraige myself sister, and Jack dear, go dress at once,
or Vivia will miss a dance, and that would surely break her heart.(exit
What's to be done ?
Give it up, poor girl , you can't blame her though.
She has made the task harder than ever.
Do as you said, leave a letter for her, but I doubt if she will go to the
ball without you.
She must go, you must be very much hurt at my not going, and more
so if she
refuses to go. take her away. I could not say good bye.
I'll do my best, Jack some how its the glory of what you are doing fills
me now, tomorrow when I have time to think, I'll feel the sorrow.
Sister, be kind to Annie, do everything you can for her, remember she is
alone in the world, without but you and me, and-- if --I-- if anything
happen that I never see either of you again, tell her-Ohh sister tell
to be brave--to--.
(outside) dont forget John.
Shh she's here.
(enters C.D.) Well,I told John to order the carriage, and -- why
ar'nt dressed, now that is unkind, can't you see Vivia is all excitement.
her first ball you know.
Annie, dear, I-- I find it is impossible for me to go with you this evening
an unexpected business matter has come up--
Business, at this hour of the evening ?.
Ohh- the mysterious letter you hid awhile ago I presume ?.
That letter again ? why Annie I believe you are jealous.
Then why aggrevate a jealous woman ? , show me the letter , and tell me
the business is that keeps you from escorting your sister to her first
not to mention your wife.
I will explain it all to you before I sleep dearest, but I am obliged now
to write a letter --and--to go out. Go to the ball and be happy, kiss
good night, both of you.
(Kisses Jack almost sobs) Good bye Bro. (exit R.S.)
( goes to Annie, tries to kiss her, she turns head, he tries again,
turns again.) wont you kiss me ?
Will you show me the letter ?
After awhile, Wife. (starts to kiss her again)
(turns cheeck to Jack) After the mysteries are explained
Very well, I will take what you will, good night.(exit. Jacks room L.)
(bus) I should have kissed him, (goes up) JAC-JAC- no I wont--
he show me that letter--I--I dont care, still I ought to see it,bus-
ha-ha- why did'nt he make me kiss him, I wonder who that letters
Oh pshaw, how foolish I am,I dare say --I'll go--what can be in that
(over toward Jacks room).
(enter with cloak from R.) Goodness me , is'nt the carraige
coming, we'll be late, I know we will.
(still looking at Jacks room) We have time enough
Vivia, (rings bell)
the evening will be long enough goodness knows, I feel so mortified
going without an escort , don't you ?
Not I. I rather like it.(enter servant. C.D. stands)
Carriage John, (exit servant C.D.R.) I think it the strangest
ever knew Jack to do. He is usualy so considerate.
(enter C.D.) Carriage.
I'm off. (exit C.D.R.)
(John places cloak on annies shoulder. Annie gives Jacks room a
yet defiant look,and exits C.D.R. John closes C.D.curtains etc.
meets Jack as he re-enters from his room.)
Pen, ink and paper John. (John exit) Words fail me in which
to say good bye.
I tried to write them, but I could'nt, I must This has been the hardest
evening of my life. This , my last at home, until --until--(John
pen, ink, and paper on stand,starts to go) John, I am
to join my regiment
in a short time--and--.
(sadly) I know sir.
This letter I am about to write, you will give to my wife, your Mistress.
And John, promise me to serve her faithfully--for I may never see her
I will sir.
(shaking John's hand, almost overcome.) Thank you, old man,
(sits, writes letter)
My darling, My Own Wife:-
Forgive me, but I could not look in your eyes
and say, good bye,
You my love will be upermost in my mind, sleeping or waking,on field
tle, or in time of peace. Always my Wife, my Annie. Look at this as
and pray for the safty of your ever loving, and devoted.
(reaches to get orders in pocket) I will leave the
orders to join my
regiment, with the letter, she will then
all.(bus) where are
they ? I must have left them in my other pocket, (rises, starts
for his room)
I will get them, when she sees them, she will know there is nothing
jealous of,(to John) lights, and come with me.(exit in room
(John turns lights down, and exits after Jack, in room L.
(outside softly) Jack, Jack dear.(enter C.D.)
Jack, not here, he cant have
gone so soon,Jack. (going toward his room) he must be in his
room. I wonder
what he will think of me, but I just could'nt wait till after the ball
see him,and tell him how ashamed and sorry I am that I acted as I did,
that I refused to kiss him, I could scarcely wait till I got Vivia
ball room. She will not miss me now, that she is enjoying herself,
I will go
for her after Jack has forgiven me. I feel such a terrible depression,
our little lover's quarrel over that letter, ought not give me such
of loss, an indeffinable something (bus) how dark, oh I shall
I xx (starts to turn up lamp, Jack enters, with orders to his hand,
goes up, Picture! Annie gives Stifled scream
Jack quietly gives orders to Annie,she takes them, stands rigid,
outside faintly. At noise of drum, she crushes papers in her hand,turns,
sees Jack again in uniform, rushes at him, grabs coat, trying to
tear it off.
(As she grabs coat) Take it off--Take it off.
Annie darling, be calm. (drums heard a little louder)
Take it off.
Annie, listen to me.
Dont say it, Take it off.
Annie, be brave. (drums louder, and fife playing "Girl I Left Behind
(bus) Jack, Jack. Dont, Dont. (drums and fife keep getting louder
Annie, Wife, I,--
No Jack, war is wrong, wrong I tell you, take it off.
Wife I must go-good bye. good bye.(break away from Annie's arms and
My God dont leave me Jack.(faints, drums very loud, dark stage.)
(light stage, clock striking 9.
VIVIA. (enters R.2.E.)
Nine oclock, what will Annie do to me. I let her sleep longer than I intended.
two hours. Oh--(Knock heard) why who's that ?(Knock
heard again) Well?
(opens door.John enters with letter) Oh John you.
Yes miss Vivia, only me, here's a letter Miss that just came. (hands
A letter this time of night ? I wonder who its from ?
Read it miss and see, read it.
I dont underst-- why it looks like Jack's writing
(excited) Is it Miss, Is it?.
Oh be still John. dear I am all shivery down my spine.
So am I, open it.
I will, no its for Annie, of course it is'nt from Jack. (bus)
what if it was
and he not dead.
Oh Miss I'm so happy.
Youre crazy,John.(over to Annie's room. peeps in.) still asleep
I must see
whats inside this envelope befroe I wake her. (opens letter quickly)
Oh John it is from Jack, he's alive.
(jumping up and down) I knew it. I knew it,.
He's been in that cruel prison, six months he says he'll be home on the
Yes, its only 9 oclock. I'll tell Annie, I must break it to her gently.
(starts up calling loudly)Annie.). Annie Ann--.
(appears at curtains) Vivia, I dreamed it all over again.(coming
C. between John and Vivia) .
Sister, Jack's alive.
Alive. (Jack enters at back) Alive, Jack, Jack. (turns, sees
(in Jacks arms)
JACK.(in Jacks arms)
END OF ACT