Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Porcelain and Pink

A ROOM in the down-stairs of a summer cottage. High around the wall
runs an art frieze of a fisherman with a pile of nets at his feet and
a ship on a crimson ocean, a fisherman with a pile of nets at his feet
and a ship on a crimson ocean, a fisherman with a pile of nets at his
feet and so on. In one place on the frieze there is an overlapping--here
we have half a fisherman with half a pile of nets at his foot,
crowded damply against half a ship on half a crimson ocean.
The frieze is not in the plot, but frankly it fascinates me. I could
continue indefinitely, but I am distracted by one of the two objects
in the room--a blue porcelain bath-tub. It has character, this
bath-tub. It is not one of the new racing bodies, but is small with a
high tonneau and looks as if it were going to jump; discouraged,
however, by the shortness of its legs, it has submitted to its
environment and to its coat of sky-blue paint. But it grumpily refuses
to allow any patron completely to stretch his legs--which brings us
neatly to the second object in the room:

is a girl--clearly an appendage to the bath-tub, only her head and
throat--beautiful girls have throats instead of necks--and a
suggestion of shoulder appearing above the side. For the first ten
minutes of the play the audience is engrossed in wondering if she
really is playing the game fairly and hasn't any clothes on or whether
it is being cheated and she is dressed.

The girl's name is_ JULIE MARVIS. _From the proud way she sits
up in the bath-tub we deduce that she is not very tall and that she
carries herself well. When she smiles, her upper tip rolls a little
and reminds you of an Easter Bunny, She is within whispering distance
of twenty years old.

One thing more--above and to the right of the bath-tub is a window.
It is narrow and has a wide sill; it lets in much sunshine, but
effectually prevents any one who looks in from seeing the bath-tub.
You begin to suspect the plot?

We open, conventionally enough, with a song, but, as the startled
gasp of the audience quite drowns out the first half, we will give
only the last of it:

JULIE: (_In an airy sophrano--enthusiastico_)

When Caesar did the Chicago
He was a graceful child,
Those sacred chickens
Just raised the dickens
The Vestal Virgins went wild.
Whenever the Nervii got nervy
He gave them an awful razz
They shook is their shoes
With the Consular blues
The Imperial Roman Jazz

(_During the wild applause that follows_ JULIE _modestly moves
her arms and makes waves on the surface of the water--at least we
suppose she does. Then the door on the left opens and_ LOIS MARVIS
_enters, dressed but carrying garments and towels._ LOIS _is a
year older than_ JULIE _and is nearly her double in face and
voice, but in her clothes and expression are the marks of the
conservative. Yes, you've guessed it. Mistaken identity is the old
rusty pivot upon which the plot turns._)

LOIS: (_Starting_) Oh, 'scuse me. I didn't know you were here.

JULIE: Oh, hello. I'm giving a little concert--

LOIS: (_Interrupting_) Why didn't you lock the door?

JULIE: Didn't I?

LOIS: Of course you didn't. Do you think I just walked through it?

JULIE: I thought you picked the lock, dearest.

LOIS: You're _so_ careless.

JULIE: No. I'm happy as a garbage-man's dog and I'm giving a little

LOIS: (_Severely_) Grow up!

JULIE: (_Waving a pink arm around the room_) The walls reflect
the sound, you see. That's why there's something very beautiful about
singing in a bath-tub. It gives an effect of surpassing loveliness.
Can I render you a selection?

LOIS: I wish you'd hurry out of the tub.

JULIE: (_Shaking her head thoughtfully_) Can't be hurried. This
is my kingdom at present, Godliness.

LOIS: Why the mellow name?

JULIE: Because you're next to Cleanliness. Don't throw anything

LOIS: How long will you be?

JULIE: (_After some consideration_) Not less than fifteen nor
more than twenty-five minutes.

LOIS: As a favor to me will you make it ten?

JULIE: (_Reminiscing_) Oh, Godliness, do you remember a day in
the chill of last January when one Julie, famous for her Easter-rabbit
smile, was going out and there was scarcely any hot water and young
Julie had just filled the tub for her own little self when the wicked
sister came and did bathe herself therein, forcing the young Julie to
perform her ablutions with cold cream--which is expensive and a darn
lot of troubles?

LOIS: (_Impatiently_) Then you won't hurry?

JULIE: Why should I?

LOIS: I've got a date.

JULIE: Here at the house?

LOIS: None of your business.

(_JULIE shrugs the visible tips of her shoulders and stirs the water
into ripples._)

JULIE: So be it.

LOIS: Oh, for Heaven's sake, yes! I have a date here, at the house--in
a way.

JULIE: In a way?

LOIS: He isn't coming in. He's calling for me and we're walking.

JULIE: (_Raising her eyebrows_) Oh, the plot clears. It's that
literary Mr. Calkins. I thought you promised mother you wouldn't
invite him in.

LOIS: (_Desperately_) She's so idiotic. She detests him because
he's just got a divorce. Of course she's had more expedience than I
have, but--

JULIE: (_Wisely_) Don't let her kid you! Experience is the
biggest gold brick in the world. All older people have it for sale.

LOIS: I like him. We talk literature.

JULIE: Oh, so that's why I've noticed all these weighty, books around
the house lately.

LOIS: He lends them to me.

JULIE: Well, you've got to play his game. When in Rome do as the
Romans would like to do. But I'm through with books. I'm all educated.

LOIS: You're very inconsistent--last summer you read every day.

JULIE: If I were consistent I'd still be living on warm milk out of a

LOIS: Yes, and probably my bottle. But I like Mr. Calkins.

JULIE: I never met him.

LOIS: Well, will you hurry up?

JULIE: Yes. (_After a pause_) I wait till the water gets tepid
and then I let in more hot.

LOIS: (_Sarcastically_) How interesting!

JULIE: 'Member when we used to play "soapo"?

LOIS: Yes--and ten years old. I'm really quite surprised that you
don't play it still.

JULIE: I do. I'm going to in a minute.

LOIS: Silly game.

JULIE: (_Warmly_) No, it isn't. It's good for the nerves. I'll
bet you've forgotten how to play it.

LOIS: (_Defiantly_) No, I haven't. You--you get the tub all full
of soapsuds and then you get up on the edge and slide down.

JULIE: (_Shaking her head scornfully_) Huh! That's only part of
it. You've got to slide down without touching your hand or feet--

LOIS:(_Impatiently_) Oh, Lord! What do I care? I wish we'd either
stop coming here in the summer or else get a house with two bath-tubs.

JULIE: You can buy yourself a little tin one, or use the hose-----

LOIS: Oh, shut up!

JULIE: (_Irrelevantly_) Leave the towel.

LOIS: What?

JULIE: Leave the towel when you go.

LOIS: This towel?

JULIE: (_Sweetly_) Yes, I forgot my towel.

LOIS: (_Looking around for the first time_) Why, you idiot! You
haven't even a kimono.

JULIE: (_Also looking around_) Why, so I haven't.

LOIS: (_Suspicion growing on her_) How did you get here?

JULIE: (_Laughing_) I guess I--I guess I whisked here. You know--a
white form whisking down the stairs and--

LOIS: (_Scandalized_) Why, you little wretch. Haven't you any
pride or self-respect?

JULIE: Lots of both. I think that proves it. I looked very well. I
really am rather cute in my natural state.

LOIS: Well, you--

JULIE: (_Thinking aloud_) I wish people didn't wear any clothes.
I guess I ought to have been a pagan or a native or something.

LOIS: You're a--

JULIE: I dreamt last night that one Sunday in church a small boy
brought in a magnet that attracted cloth. He attracted the clothes
right off of everybody; put them in an awful state; people were crying
and shrieking and carrying on as if they'd just discovered their skins
for the first time. Only _I_ didn't care. So I just laughed. I
had to pass the collection plate because nobody else would.

LOIS: (_Who has turned a deaf ear to this speech_) Do you mean to
tell me that if I hadn't come you'd have run back to your

JULIE: _Au naturel_ is so much nicer.

LOIS: Suppose there had been some one in the living-room.

JULIE: There never has been yet.

LOIS: Yet! Good grief! How long--

JULIE: Besides, I usually have a towel.

LOIS: (_Completely overcome_) Golly! You ought to be spanked. I
hope, you get caught. I hope there's a dozen ministers in the
living-room when you come out--and their wives, and their daughters.

JULIE: There wouldn't be room for them in the living-room, answered
Clean Kate of the Laundry District.

LOIS: All right. You've made your own--bath-tub; you can lie in it.

(_LOIS starts determinedly for the door._)

JULIE: (_In alarm_) Hey! Hey! I don't care about the k'mono, but
I want the towel. I can't dry myself on a piece of soap and a wet

LOIS: (_Obstinately_). I won't humor such a creature. You'll have
to dry yourself the best way you can. You can roll on the floor like
the animals do that don't wear any clothes.

JULIE: (_Complacent again_) All right. Get out!

LOIS: (_Haughtily_) Huh!

(JULIE _turns on the cold water and with her finger directs a
parabolic stream at LOIS. LOIS retires quickly, slamming the door
after her. JULIE laughs and turns off the water_)

JULIE: (Singing)

When the Arrow-collar man
Meets the D'jer-kiss girl
On the smokeless Sante Fé
Her Pebeco smile
Her Lucile style
De dum da-de-dum one day--

(_She changes to a whistle and leans forward to turn on the taps,
but is startled by three loud banging noises in the pipes. Silence for
a moment--then she puts her mouth down near the spigot as if it were a

JULIE: Hello! (_No answer_) Are you a plumber? (_No answer_)
Are you the water department? (_One loud, hollow bang_) What do
you want? (_No answer_) I believe you're a ghost. Are you? (_No
answer_) Well, then, stop banging. (_She reaches out and turns on
the warm tap. No water flows. Again she puts her mouth down close to
the spigot_) If you're the plumber that's a mean trick. Turn it on
for a fellow. (_Two loud, hollow bangs_) Don't argue! I want
water--water! _Water_!

(_A young man's head appears in the window--a head decorated with a
slim mustache and sympathetic eyes. These last stare, and though they
can see nothing but many fishermen with nets and much crimson ocean,
they decide him to speak_)

THE YOUNG MAN: Some one fainted?

JULIE: (_Starting up, all ears immediately_) Jumping cats!

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Helpfully_) Water's no good for fits.

JULIE: Fits! Who said anything about fits!

THE YOUNG MAN: You said something about a cat jumping

JULIE: (_Decidedly_) I did not!

THE YOUNG MAN: Well, we can talk it over later, Are you ready to go
out? Or do you still feel that if you go with me just now everybody
will gossip?

JULIE: (_Smiling_) Gossip! Would they? It'd be more than
gossip--it'd be a regular scandal.

THE YOUNG MAN: Here, you're going it a little strong. Your family
might be somewhat disgruntled--but to the pure all things are
suggestive. No one else would even give it a thought, except a few old
women. Come on.

JULIE: You don't know what you ask.

THE YOUNG MAN: Do you imagine we'd have a crowd following us?

JULIE: A crowd? There'd be a special, all-steel, buffet train leaving
New York hourly.

THE YOUNG MAN: Say, are you house-cleaning?


THE YOUNG MAN: I see all the pictures are off the walls.

JULIE: Why, we never have pictures in this room.

THE YOUNG MAN: Odd, I never heard of a room without pictures or
tapestry or panelling or something.

JULIE: There's not even any furniture in here.

THE YOUNG MAN: What a strange house!

JULIE: It depend on the angle you see it from.

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Sentimentally_) It's so nice talking to you like
this--when you're merely a voice. I'm rather glad I can't see you.

JULIE; (_Gratefully_) So am I.

THE YOUNG MAN: What color are you wearing?

JULIE: (_After a critical survey of her shoulders_) Why, I guess
it's a sort of pinkish white.

THE YOUNG MAN: Is it becoming to you?

JULIE: Very. It's--it's old. I've had it for a long while.

THE YOUNG MAN: I thought you hated old clothes.

JULIE: I do but this was a birthday present and I sort of have to wear

THE YOUNG MAN: Pinkish-white. Well I'll bet it's divine. Is it in

JULIE: Quite. It's very simple, standard model.

THE YOUNG MAN: What a voice you have! How it echoes! Sometimes I shut
my eyes and seem to see you in a far desert island calling for me. And
I plunge toward you through the surf, hearing you call as you stand
there, water stretching on both sides of you--

(_The soap slips from the side of the tub and splashes in. The young
man blinks_)

YOUNG MAN: What was that? Did I dream it?

JULIE: Yes. You're--you're very poetic, aren't you?

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Dreamily_) No. I do prose. I do verse only when
I am stirred.

JULIE: (_Murmuring_) Stirred by a spoon--

THE YOUNG MAN: I have always loved poetry. I can remember to this day
the first poem I ever learned by heart. It was "Evangeline."

JULIE: That's a fib.

THE YOUNG MAN: Did I say "Evangeline"? I meant "The Skeleton in

JULIE: I'm a low-brow. But I can remember my first poem. It had one

Parker and Davis
Sittin' on a fence
Tryne to make a dollar
Outa fif-teen cents.

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Eagerly_) Are you growing fond of literature?

JULIE: If it's not too ancient or complicated or depressing. Same way
with people. I usually like 'em not too ancient or complicated or

THE YOUNG MAN: Of course I've read enormously. You told me last night
that you were very fond of Walter Scott.

JULIE: (_Considering_) Scott? Let's see. Yes, I've read "Ivanhoe"
and "The Last of the Mohicans."

THE YOUNG MAN: That's by Cooper.

JULIE: (_Angrily_) "Ivanhoe" is? You're crazy! I guess I know. I
read it. THE YOUNG MAN: "The Last of the Mohicans" is by Cooper.

JULIE: What do I care! I like O. Henry. I don't see how he ever wrote
those stories. Most of them he wrote in prison. "The Ballad of Reading
Gaol" he made up in prison.

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Biting his lip_) Literature--literature! How
much it has meant to me!

JULIE: Well, as Gaby Deslys said to Mr. Bergson, with my looks and
your brains there's nothing we couldn't do.

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Laughing_) You certainly are hard to keep up
with. One day you're awfully pleasant and the next you're in a mood.
If I didn't understand your temperament so well--

JULIE: (_Impatiently_) Oh, you're one of these amateur
character-readers, are you? Size people up in five minutes and then
look wise whenever they're mentioned. I hate that sort of thing.

THE YOUNG MAN: I don't boast of sizing you up. You're most mysterious,
I'll admit.

JULIE: There's only two mysterious people in history.

THE YOUNG MAN: Who are they?

JULIE: The Man with the Iron Mask and the fella who says "ug uh-glug
uh-glug uh-glug" when the line is busy.

THE YOUNG MAN: You _are_ mysterious, I love you. You're
beautiful, intelligent, and virtuous, and that's the rarest known

JULIE: You're a historian. Tell me if there are any bath-tubs in
history. I think they've been frightfully neglected.

THE YOUNG MAN: Bath-tubs! Let's see. Well, Agamemnon was stabbed in
his bath-tub. And Charlotte Corday stabbed Marat in his bath-tub.

JULIE: (_Sighing_) Way back there! Nothing new besides the sun,
is there? Why only yesterday I picked up a musical-comedy score that
mast have been at least twenty years old; and there on the cover it
said "The Shimmies of Normandy," but shimmie was spelt the old way,
with a "C."

THE YOUNG MAN: I loathe these modern dances. Oh, Lois, I wish I could
see you. Come to the window.

(_There is a loud bang in the water-pipe and suddenly the flow
starts from the open taps. Julie turns them off quickly_)

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Puzzled_) What on earth was that?

JULIE: (_Ingeniously_) I heard something, too.

THE YOUNG MAN: Sounded like running water.

JULIE: Didn't it? Strange like it. As a matter of fact I was filling
the gold-fish bowl.

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Still puzzled_) What was that banging noise?

JULIE: One of the fish snapping his golden jaws.

THE YOUNG MAN: (_With sudden resolution_) Lois, I love you. I am
not a mundane man but I am a forger---

JULIE: (_Interested at once_) Oh, how fascinating.

THE YOUNG MAN:--a forger ahead. Lois, I want you.

JULIE: (_Skeptically_) Huh! What you really want is for the world
to come to attention and stand there till you give "Rest!"

THE YOUNG MAN: Lois I--Lois I--

(_He stops as Lois opens the door, comes in, and bangs it behind
her. She looks peevishly at _JULIE _and then suddenly catches
sight of the young man in the window_)

LOIS: (_In horror_) Mr. Calkins!

THE YOUNG MAN: (_Surprised_) Why I thought you said you were
wearing pinkish white!

(_After one despairing stare _LOIS _ shrieks, throws up her
hands in surrender, and sinks to the floor._)

THE YOUNG MAN: (_In great alarm_) Good Lord! She's fainted! I'll
be right in.

(JULIE'S _eyes light on the towel which has slipped from_ LOIS'S
_inert hand._)

JULIE: In that case I'll be right out.

(_She puts her hands on the side of the tub to lift herself out and
a murmur, half gasp, half sigh, ripples from the audience.

A Belasco midnight comes guickly down and blots out the stage._)


F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sorry, no summary available yet.