Our American Cousin

Asa Well, no, Miss Mary, that won’t do, neither; them eyes of yourn
takes my breath away.

Mary What will I do, then?

Asa Well, I don’t know, Miss Mary, but, darn me, if you could do
anything that wasn’t so tarnal neat and handsome, that a fellow
would want to keep on doing nothing else all the time.

Mary Well, then, I’ll go away. [Rises.]

Asa [Stopping her.] No, don’t do that, Miss Mary, for then
I’ll be left in total darkness. [She sits.] Somehow I feel kinder lost,
if I haven’t got you to talk to. Now that I’ve got the latitude
and longitude of all them big folks, found out the length
of every lady’s foot, and the soft spot on everybody’s head,
they can’t teach me nothing; but here, [Whittling.] here I come to school.

Mary Then throw away that stick, and put away your knife, like a good boy.
[Throws away stick up stage.] I must cure you of that dreadful trick
of whittling.

Asa Oh, if you only knew how it helps me to keep my eyes off you, Miss Mary.

Mary But you needn’t keep your eyes off me.

Asa I’m afraid I must, my eyes are awful tale-tellers,
and they might be saying something you wouldn’t like to hear,
and that might make you mad, and then you’d shut up school,
and send me home feeling about as small as a tadpole with
his tail bobbed off.

Mary Don’t be alarmed, I don’t think I will listen to any tales
that your eyes may tell unless they’re tales I like and ought to hear.

Asa If I thought they’d tell any other, Miss Mary, I pluck them
right out and throw them in the first turnip patch I came to.

Mary And now tell me more about your home in America. Do you know
I’ve listened to your stories until I’m half a backwoodsman’s wife already?

Asa [Aside.] Wouldn’t I like to make her a whole one.

Mary Yes, I can shut my eyes and almost fancy I see your home
in the backwoods. There are your two sisters running about
in their sunbonnets.

Asa Debby and Nan? Yes!

Mary Then I can see the smoke curling from the chimney,
then men and boys working in the fields.

Asa Yes.

Mary The girls milking the cows, and everybody so busy.

Asa Yes.

Mary And then at night, home come your four big brothers
from the hunt laden with game, tired and foot sore, and covered with snow.

Asa That’s so.

Mary Then how we lasses bustle about to prepare supper. The fire
blazes on the hearth, while your good old mother cooks the slapjacks.

Asa [Getting very excited.] Yes.

Mary And then after supper the lads and lasses go to a corn husking.
The demijohn of old peach brandy is brought out and everything is so nice.

Asa I shall faint in about five minutes, Miss Mary you’re a
darned sight too good for this country. You ought to make tracks.

Mary Make what?

Asa Make tracks, pack up, and emigrate to the roaring old state of
Vermont, and live ‘long with mother. She’d make you so comfortable, and
there would be sister Debby and Nab, and well, I reckon I’d be there, too.

Mary Oh! I’m afraid if I were there your mother would find the
poor English girl a sad incumbrance.

Asa Oh, she ain’t proud, not a mite, besides they’ve all seen
Britishers afore.

Mary I suppose you allude to my cousin, Edward Trenchard?

Asa Well, he wan’t the only one, there was the old Squire, Mark Trenchard.

Mary [Starting Aside.] My grandfather!

Asa Oh! he was a fine old hoss, as game as a bison bull,
and as gray as a coon in the fall; you see he was kinder mad
with his folks here, so he came over to America to look after
the original branch of the family, that’s our branch.
We’re older than the Trenchard’s on this side of the water.
Yes we’ve got the start of the heap.

Mary Tell me, Mr. Trenchard, did he never receive any letters
from his daughter?

Asa Oh yes, lots of them, but the old cuss never read them, though.
He chucked them in the fire as soon as he made out who they come from.

Mary [Aside.] My poor mother.

Asa You see, as nigh as we could reckon it up, she had gone and
got married again his will, and that made him mad, and well,
he was a queer kind of a rusty fusty old coon, and it appeared that
he got older, and rustier, and fustier and coonier every fall,
you see it always took him in the fall, it was too much for him.
He got took down with the ague, he was so bad the doctors gave him up,
and mother she went for a minister, and while she was gone the old man
called me in his room, `come in, Asa, boy,’ says he, and his voice
rang loud and clear as a bell, `come in,’ says he. Well I comed in;
`sit down,’ says he; well I sot down. You see I was always a favorite
with the old man. `Asa, my boy,’ says he, takin’ a great piece of paper,
`when I die, this sheet of paper makes you heir to all my property
in England’. Well, you can calculate I pricked up my ears
about that time, bime-by the minister came, and I left the room,
and I do believe he had a three day’s fight with the devil,
for that old man’s soul, but he got the upper hand of satan at last,
and when the minister had gone the old man called me into his room again.
The old Squire was sitting up in his bed, his face as pale as
the sheet that covered him, his silken hair flowing in silvery locks
from under his red cap, and the tears rolling from his large blue eyes
down his furrowed cheek, like two mill streams. Will you excuse
my lighting a cigar? For the story is a long, awful moveing,
and I don’t think I could get on without a smoke. [Strikes match.] Wal, says he to me, and his voice was not as loud as it was afore–
it was like the whisper of the wind in a pine forest, low and awful.
`Asa, boy,’ said he, ‘I feel that I’ve sinned in hardening my heart
against my own flesh and blood, but I will not wrong the last
that is left of them; give me the light,’ says he. Wal I gave him
the candle that stood by his bedside, and he took the sheet of paper
I was telling you of, just as I might take this. [Takes will from pocket.] And he twisted it up as I might this, [Lights will,] and he lights it
just this way, and he watched it burn slowly and slowly away.
Then, says he, `Asa, boy that act disinherits you, but it leaves
all my property to one who has a better right to it. My own
daughter’s darling child, Mary Meredith,’ and then he smiled,
sank back upon his pillow, drew a long sigh as if he felt relieved,
and that was the last of poor old Mark Trenchard.

Mary Poor Grandfather. [Buries her face and sobs.]

Asa [After bus.] Wal, I guess I’d better leave her alone.
[Sees half burned will.] There lies four hundred thousand dollars,
if there’s a cent. Asa, boy, you’re a hoss. [Starts off, R. 1 C.]

Mary To me, all to me. Oh Mr. Trenchard, how we have all wronged
poor grandfather. What, gone? He felt after such tidings,
he felt I should be left alone–who would suspect there was such delicacy
under that rough husk, but I can hardly believe the startling news–
his heiress–I, the penniless orphan of an hour ago, no longer penniless,
but, alas, an orphan still, [Enter Florence.] with none to share my wealth,
none to love me.

Flo [Throwing arms around Mary’s neck.] What treason is this, Mary,
no one to love you, eh, what’s the matter? You’ve been weeping,
and I met that American Savage coming from here;
he has not been rude to you?

Mary On no, he’s the gentlest of human beings, but he has just told me
news that has moved me strangely.

Flo What is it, love?

Mary That all grandfather’s property is mine, mine, Florence,
do you understand?

Flo What! he has popped, has he? I thought he would.

Mary Who do you mean?

Flo Who? Asa Trenchard, to be sure.

Mary Asa Trenchard, why, what put that in your head?

Flo Why how can Mark Trenchard’s property be yours,
unless you marry the legatee.

Mary The legatee? Who?

Flo Why, you know Mark Trenchard left everything to Asa.

Mary No, no, you have been misinformed.

Flo Nonsence, he showed it to me, not an hour ago on
a half sheet of rough paper just like this. [Sees will.] Like this. [Picks it up.] Why this is part of it, I believe.

Mary That’s the paper he lighted his cigar with.

Flo Then he lighted his cigar with 80,000 pounds.
Here is old Mark Trenchard’s signature.

Mary Yes, I recognize the hand.

Flo And here are the words “Asa Trenchard,
in consideration of sole heir”–etc.–etc.–etc.

Mary Oh Florence, what does this mean?

Flo It means that he is a true hero, and he loves you,
you little rogue. [Embraces her.]

Mary Generous man. [Hides face in Florence’s bosom.]

Flo Oh, won’t I convict him, now. I’ll find him at once.

Runs off, R. 3 E., Mary after her calling Florence!!! Florence!!!
as scene closes.

Change

Scene 2.–Chamber as before.

Enter Mrs. Montchessington, and Augusta, L. 1 E.

Mrs M Yes, my child, while Mr. De Boots and Mr. Trenchard are both here,
you must ask yourself seriously, as to the state of your affections,
remember, your happiness for life will depend upon the choice you make.

Aug What would you advise, mamma? You know I am always advised by you.

Mrs M Dear, obedient child, De Boots has excellent expectations,
but then they are only expectations after all. This American is rich,
and on the whole I think a well regulated affection ought to incline
to Asa Trenchard.

Aug Very well, mamma.

Mrs M At the same time, you must be cautious, or in grasping at
Asa Trenchard’s solid good qualities, you may miss them,
and De Boots expectations into the bargain.

Aug Oh, I will take care not to give up my hold on
poor De Boots ’till I am quite sure of the American.

Mrs M That’s my own girl. [Enter Asa L.] Ah, Mr. Trenchard,
we were just talking of your archery powers.

Asa Wal, I guess shooting with bows and arrows is just about like
most things in life, all you’ve got to do is keep the sun out of your eyes,
look straight–pull strong–calculate the distance, and you’re sure to hit
the mark in most things as well as shooting.

Aug But not in England, Mr. Trenchard. There are disinterested hearts
that only ask an opportunity of showing how they despise that gold,
which others set such store by.

Asa Wal, I suppose there are, Miss Gusty.

Aug All I crave is affection.

Asa [Crosses to C.] Do you, now? I wish I could make sure of that,
for I’ve been cruelly disappointed in that particular.

Mrs M Yes, but we are old friends, Mr. Trenchard, and you needn’t
be afraid of us.

Asa Oh, I ain’t afraid of you–both on you together.

Mrs M People sometimes look a great way off, for that which is near at hand.
[Glancing at Augusta and Asa alternatively.]

Asa You don’t mean, Miss Gusta. [Augusta casts sheeps eyes at him.] Now, don’t look at me in that way. I can’t stand it, if you do, I’ll bust.

Mrs M Oh, if you only knew how refreshing this ingenuousness of yours
is to an old woman of the world like me.

Asa Be you and old woman of the world?

Mrs M Yes, sir.

Aug Oh yes.

Asa Well I don’t doubt it in the least. [Aside.] This gal and
the old woman are trying to get me on a string. [Aloud.] Wal,
then, if a rough spun fellow like me was to come forward as a suitor
for you daughter’s hand, you wouldn’t treat me as some folks do,
when they find out I wasn’t heir to the fortune.

Mrs M Not heir to the fortune, Mr. Trenchard?

Asa Oh, no.

Aug What, no fortune?

Asa Nary red, it all comes to their barkin up the wrong tree about
the old man’s property.

Mrs M Which he left to you.

Asa Oh, no.

Aug Not to you?

Asa No, which he meant to leave to me, but he thought better on it,
and left it to his granddaughter Miss Mary Meredith.

Mrs M Miss Mary Meredith! Oh, I’m delighted.

Aug Delighted?

Asa Yes, you both look tickled to death. Now, some gals,
and mothers would go away from a fellow when they found that out,
but you don’t valley fortune, Miss Gusty?

Mrs M [Aside, crosses to Aug.] My love, you had better go.

Asa You crave affection, _you_ do. Now I’ve no fortune, but I’m
filling over with affections which I’m ready to pour out all over
you like apple sass, over roast pork.

Mrs M Mr. Trenchard, you will please recollect you are addressing
my daughter, and in my presence.

Asa Yes, I’m offering her my heart and hand just as she wants them
with nothing in ’em.

Mrs M Augusta, dear, to you room.

Aug Yes, ma, the nasty beast. [Exit R.]

Mrs M I am aware, Mr. Trenchard, you are not used to the manners
of good society, and that, alone, will excuse the impertinence
of which you have been guilty.

Asa Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well,
I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal–
you sockdologizing old man-trap. Wal, now, when I think
what I’ve thrown away in hard cash to-day I’m apt to call myself
some awful hard names, 400,000 dollars is a big pile for a man
to light his cigar with. If that gal had only given me herself
in exchange, it wouldn’t have been a bad bargain. But I dare
no more ask that gal to be my wife, than I dare ask Queen Victoria
to dance a Cape Cod reel.

Enter Florence, L. 1 E.

Flo What do you mean by doing all these dreadful things?

Asa Which things.

Flo Come here sir. [He does so.]

Asa What’s the matter?

Flo Do you know this piece of paper? [Showing burnt paper.]

Asa Well I think I have seen it before. [Aside.] Its old Mark Trenchard’s will that I left half burned up like a landhead,
that I am.

Flo And you’re determined to give up this fortune to Mary Meredith?

Asa Well, I couldn’t help it if I tried.

Flo Oh, don’t say that.

Asa I didn’t mean to do it when I first came here–hadn’t the least idea
in the world of it, but when I saw that everlasting angel of a gal
movin around among them doing fixins like a sunbeam in a shady place;
and when I pictured here without a dollar in the world–I–
well my old Adam riz right up, and I said, “Asa do it”–and I did it.

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