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Mr. Icky

THE QUINTESSENCE OF QUAINTNESS IN ONE ACT


The Scene is the Exterior of a Cottage in West Issacshire on a
desperately Arcadian afternoon in August. MR. ICKY, quaintly
dressed in the costume of an Elizabethan peasant, is pottering and
doddering among the pots and dods. He is an old man, well past the
prime of life, no longer young, From the fact that there is a burr in
his speech and that he has absent-mindedly put on his coat wrongside
out, we surmise that he is either above or below the ordinary
superficialities of life.

Near him on the grass lies _PETER_, a little boy.
_PETER_, of course, has his chin on his palm like the pictures
of the young Sir Walter Raleigh. He has a complete set of features,
including serious, sombre, even funereal, gray eyes--and radiates that
alluring air of never having eaten food. This air can best be radiated
during the afterglow of a beef dinner. Be is looking at _MR.
ICKY_, fascinated._

_Silence. . . . The song of birds._

PETER: Often at night I sit at my window and regard the stars.
Sometimes I think they're my stars.... (_Gravely_) I think I
shall be a star some day....

ME. ICKY: (_Whimsically_) Yes, yes ... yes....

PETER: I know them all: Venus, Mars, Neptune, Gloria Swanson.

MR. ICKY: I don't take no stock in astronomy.... I've been thinking o'
Lunnon, laddie. And calling to mind my daughter, who has gone for to
be a typewriter.... (_He sighs._)

PETER: I liked Ulsa, Mr. Icky; she was so plump, so round, so buxom.

MR. ICKY: Not worth the paper she was padded with, laddie. (_He
stumbles over a pile of pots and dods._)

PETER: How is your asthma, Mr. Icky?

MR. ICKY: Worse, thank God!...(_Gloomily.)_ I'm a hundred years
old... I'm getting brittle.

PETER: I suppose life has been pretty tame since you gave up petty
arson.

MR. ICKY: Yes... yes.... You see, Peter, laddie, when I was fifty I
reformed once--in prison.

PETER: You went wrong again?

MR. ICKY: Worse than that. The week before my term expired they
insisted on transferring to me the glands of a healthy young prisoner
they were executing.

PETER: And it renovated you?

MR. ICKY: Renovated me! It put the Old Nick back into me! This young
criminal was evidently a suburban burglar and a kleptomaniac. What was
a little playful arson in comparison!

PETER: (_Awed_) How ghastly! Science is the bunk.

MR. ICKY: (_Sighing_) I got him pretty well subdued now. 'Tisn't
every one who has to tire out two sets o' glands in his lifetime. I
wouldn't take another set for all the animal spirits in an orphan
asylum.

PETER: (_Considering_) I shouldn't think you'd object to a nice
quiet old clergyman's set.

MR. ICKY: Clergymen haven't got glands--they have souls.

(_There is a low, sonorous honking off stage to indicate that a
large motor-car has stopped in the immediate vicinity. Then a young
man handsomely attired in a dress-suit and a patent-leather silk hat
comes onto the stage. He is very mundane. His contrast to the
spirituality of the other two is observable as far back as the first
row of the balcony. This is_ RODNEY DIVINE.)

DIVINE: I am looking for Ulsa Icky.

(MR. ICKY _rises and stands tremulously between two dods._)

MR. ICKY: My daughter is in Lunnon.

DIVINE: She has left London. She is coming here. I have followed her.

(_He reaches into the little mother-of-pearl satchel that hangs at
his side for cigarettes. He selects one and scratching a match touches
it to the cigarette. The cigarette instantly lights._)

DIVINE: I shall wait.

(_He waits. Several hours pass. There is no sound except an
occasional cackle or hiss from the dods as they quarrel among
themselves. Several songs can be introduced here or some card tricks
by_ DIVINE _or a tumbling act, as desired._)

DIVINE: It's very quiet here.

MR. ICKY: Yes, very quiet....

(_Suddenly a loudly dressed girl appears; she is very worldly. It
is _ULSA ICKY._ On her is one of those shapeless faces peculiar to
early Italian painting._)

ULSA: (_In a coarse, worldly voice_) Feyther! Here I am! Ulsa did
what?

MR. ICKY: (_Tremulously_) Ulsa, little Ulsa. (_They embrace
each other's torsos._)

MR. ICKY: (_Hopefully_) You've come back to help with the
ploughing.

ULSA: (_Sullenly_) No, feyther; ploughing's such a beyther. I'd
reyther not.

(_Though her accent is broad, the content of her speech is sweet and
clean._)

DIVINE: (_Conciliatingly_) See here, Ulsa. Let's come to an
understanding.

(_He advances toward her with the graceful, even stride that made
him captain of the striding team at Cambridge._)

ULSA: You still say it would be Jack?

MR. ICKY: What does she mean?

DIVINE: (_Kindly_) My dear, of course, it would be Jack. It
couldn't be Frank.

MR. ICKY: Frank who?

ULSA: It _would_ be Frank!

(_Some risqué joke can be introduced here._)

MR. ICKY: (_Whimsically_) No good fighting...no good fighting...

DIVINE: (_Reaching out to stroke her arm with the powerful movement
that made him stroke of the crew at Oxford_) You'd better marry me.

ULSA: (_Scornfully_) Why, they wouldn't let me in through the
servants' entrance of your house.

DIVINE: (_Angrily_) They wouldn't! Never fear--you shall come in
through the mistress' entrance.

ULSA: Sir!

DIVINE: (_In confusion_) I beg your pardon. You know what I mean?

MR. ICKY: (_Aching with whimsey_) You want to marry my little
Ulsa?...

DIVINE: I do.

MR. ICKY: Your record is clean.

DIVINE: Excellent. I have the best constitution in the world---

ULSA: And the worst by-laws.

DIVINE: At Eton I was a member at Pop; at Rugby I belonged to
Near-beer. As a younger son I was destined for the police force---

MR. ICKY: Skip that.... Have you money?...

DIVINE: Wads of it. I should expect Ulsa to go down town in sections
every morning--in two Rolls Royces. I have also a kiddy-car and a
converted tank. I have seats at the opera---

ULSA: (_Sullenly_) I can't sleep except in a box. And I've heard
that you were cashiered from your club.

MR. ICKY: A cashier? ...

DIVINE: (_Hanging his head_) I was cashiered.

ULSA: What for?

DIVINE: (_Almost inaudibly_) I hid the polo bails one day for a
joke.

MR. ICKY: Is your mind in good shape?

DIVINE: (_Gloomily_) Fair. After all what is brilliance? Merely
the tact to sow when no one is looking and reap when every one is.

ME. ICKY; Be careful. ... I will-not marry my daughter to an epigram....

DIVINE: (_More gloomily_) I assure you I'm a mere platitude. I
often descend to the level of an innate idea.

ULSA: (_Dully_) None of what you're saying matters. I can't marry
a man who thinks it would be Jack. Why Frank would--

DIVINE: (_Interrupting_) Nonsense!

ULSA: (_Emphatically_) You're a fool!

MR. ICKY: Tut-tut! ... One should not judge ... Charity, my girl. What
was it Nero said?--"With malice toward none, with charity toward
all---"

PETER: That wasn't Nero. That was John Drinkwater.

MR. ICKY: Come! Who is this Frank? Who is this Jack?


DIVINE: (_Morosely_) Gotch.

ULSA: Dempsey.

DIVINE: We were arguing that if they were deadly enemies and locked in
a room together which one would come out alive. Now I claimed that
Jack Dempsey would take one---

ULSA: (_Angrily_) Rot! He wouldn't have a---

DIVINE: (_Quickly_) You win.

ULSA: Then I love you again.

MR. ICKY: So I'm going to lose my little daughter...

ULSA: You've still got a houseful of children,

(CHARLES, ULSA'S _brother, coming out of the cottage. He is dressed
as if to go to sea; a coil of rope is slung about his shoulder and an
anchor is hanging from his neck._)

CHARLES: (_Not seeing them_) I'm going to sea! I'm going to sea!

(_His voice is triumphant._)

MR. ICKY: (_Sadly_) You went to seed long ago.

CHARLES: I've been reading "Conrad."

PETER: (_Dreamily_) "Conrad," ah! "Two Years Before the Mast," by
Henry James.

CHARLES: What?

PETER: Walter Pater's version of "Robinson Crusoe."

CHARLES: (_To his feyther_) I can't stay here and rot with you. I
want to live my life. I want to hunt eels.

MR. ICKY: I will be here... when you come back....

CHARLES: (_Contemptuously_) Why, the worms are licking their
chops already when they hear your name.

(_It will be noticed that some of the characters have not spoken for
some time. It will improve the technique if they can be rendering a
spirited saxophone number._)

MR. ICKY: (_Mournfully_) These vales, these hills, these
McCormick harvesters--they mean nothing to my children. I understand.

CHARLES: (_More gently_) Then you'll think of me kindly, feyther.
To understand is to forgive.

MR. ICKY: No...no....We never forgive those we can understand....We
can only forgive those who wound us for no reason at all....

CHARLES: (_Impatiently_) I'm so beastly sick of your human nature
line. And, anyway, I hate the hours around here.

(_Several dozen more of _MR. ICKY'S_ children trip out of the
house, trip over the grass, and trip over the pots and dods. They are
muttering "We are going away," and "We are leaving you."_)

MR. ICKY: (_His heart breaking_) They're all deserting me. I've
been too kind. Spare the rod and spoil the fun. Oh, for the glands of
a Bismarck.

(_There is a honking outside--probably _DIVINE'S_ chauffeur
growing impatient for his master._)

MR. ICKY: (_In misery_) They do not love the soil! They have been
faithless to the Great Potato Tradition! (_He picks up a handful of
soil passionately and rubs it on his bald head. Hair sprouts._) Oh,
Wordsworth, Wordsworth, how true you spoke!

_"No motion has she now, no force;
She does not hear or feel;
Roll'd round on earth's diurnal course
In some one's Oldsmobile."_

(_They all groan and shouting "Life" and "Jazz" move slowly toward
the wings._)

CHARLES: Back to the soil, yes! I've been trying to turn my back to
the soil for ten years!

ANOTHER CHILD: The farmers may be the backbone of the country, but who
wants to be a backbone?

ANOTHER CHILD: I care not who hoes the lettuce of my country if I can
eat the salad!

ALL: Life! Psychic Research! Jazz!

MR. ICKY: (_Struggling with himself_) I must be quaint. That's
all there is. It's not life that counts, it's the quaintness you bring
to it....

ALL: We're going to slide down the Riviera. We've got tickets for
Piccadilly Circus. Life! Jazz!

MR. ICKY: Wait. Let me read to you from the Bible. Let me open it at
random. One always finds something that bears on the situation.

(_He finds a Bible lying in one of the dods and opening it at random
begins to read._)

"Ahab and Istemo and Anim, Goson and Olon and Gilo, eleven cities and
their villages. Arab, and Ruma, and Esaau--"

CHARLES: (_Cruelly_) Buy ten more rings and try again.

MR. ICKY: (_Trying again_) "How beautiful art thou my love, how
beautiful art thou! Thy eyes are dove's eyes, besides what is hid
within. Thy hair is as flocks of goats which come up from Mount
Galaad--Hm! Rather a coarse passage...."

(_His children laugh at him rudely, shouting "Jazz!" and "All life
is primarily suggestive!"_)

MR. ICKY: (_Despondently_) It won't work to-day.
(_Hopefully_) Maybe it's damp. (_He feels it_) Yes, it's
damp.... There was water in the dod.... It won't work.

ALL: It's damp! It won't work! Jazz!

ONE OF THE CHILDREN: Come, we must catch the six-thirty.

(_Any other cue may be inserted here._)

MR. ICKY: Good-by....

(_ They all go out._ MR. ICKY _is left alone. He sighs and
walking over to the cottage steps, lies down, and closes his eyes._)

_Twilight has come down and the stage is flooded with such light as
never was on land or sea. There is no sound except a sheep-herder's
wife in the distance playing an aria from Beethoven's Tenth Symphony,
on a mouth-organ. The great white and gray moths swoop down and light
on the old man until he is completely covered by them. But he does not
stir._

_The curtain goes up and down several times to denote the lapse of
several minutes. A good comedy effect can be obtained by having
_MR. ICKY_ cling to the curtain and go up and down with it.
Fireflies or fairies on wires can also be introduced at this
point._

_Then _PETER_ appears, a look of almost imbecile sweetness on
his face. In his hand he clutches something and from time to time
glances at it in a transport of ecstasy. After a struggle with himself
he lays it on the old man's body and then quietly withdraws._

_The moths chatter among themselves and then scurry away in sudden
fright. And as night deepens there still sparkles there, small, white
and round, breathing a subtle perfume to the West Issacshire breeze,
_PETER'S_ gift of love--a moth-ball._

(The play can end at this point or can go on indefinitely.)

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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