The Black Cat A Play in Three Acts

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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Act I.

Scene: Denham's Studio. Large highlight window in sloping roof at back. Under it, in back wall, door to landing. l of the door the corner is curtained off for model's dressing-room. r of door a large Spanish leather folding screen, which runs on castors, shuts off from the door the other corner, in which is a "throne," pushed up against the wall. Above the "throne" hangs a large square mirror in a carved black frame. In front of the "throne" is a light couch of Greek form, without back.

Fireplace, with chimney-breasts panelled in old oak, and high overmantel, in which are shelves and cupboards, l.

Against r wall an old oak cabinet, with carved cornice, and inlaid panelled doors. Close beside it stands on a pedestal a bust of Demeter. Near the cabinet, halfway up stage r c, an easel, on which is seen the back of a large picture.

Beyond the fireplace, and at right angles to it, a large sofa, or lounge, with square ends and back, broad low seat, loose cushions, and valance. In front of the fireplace an armchair, with a book face downward on one arm.

The walls of the studio are distempered in greenish-blue, the curtains of the model's dressing-room are in rich yellow plush or brocade, the couch and sofa covered in greenish-yellow stuffs.

Various artistic properties, tapestries, embroideries, etc., hanging up, or thrown carelessly over Chippendale chairs and the screen.

Canvases leaning against the walls, on which hang designs and figure-studies in chalk and charcoal, with landscape-studies in oil and watercolour, nailed up without much attempt at arrangement.

Near the front, just r of the armchair, an oblong carved oak table, with materials for wood-drawing, paint-box, water in a tumbler, etc., is set end on to the footlights.

At the upper end of this table Undine is discovered, as she sits with a slate and arithmetic book before her, her elbows on the table, her head supported on both hands, holding a slate pencil from which a bit of sponge dangles by a string.


(pouting) I hate these old sums! Mother's always making me do sums in the holidays. It isn't fair. Seven times three is—what's father reading? (Rises, and takes up the book.) That's French, I know. Father's always reading French. G.Y.P. Gyp? I wonder what it's about. (Puts the book down, sits, yawns, and takes up the pencil.) Seven times three is—twenty-one. Put down one and carry two. Oh, but it's pence and shillings. I can't do pence and shillings! (Throws down the pencil; it falls off the table.) Horrid old things! they're always coming wrong. (She rises lazily, and stoops to pick up the pencil, then looks round her, stretching her arms and yawning.) I say, what fun to make a libation to Demeter! I will! Let's see. I wish I had mother's Greek dress. I must have one of father's rags. This'll do. (Drapes herself in a piece of embroidery, runs up stage, jumps on "throne," and poses before the mirror.) It's awfully jolly dressing up. But I have no wine. Oh, I know—I'll take some of father's painting water—though it's rather black-and-whity. (Takes up the glass, and approaches the statue.) Hail, Demeter! I have no wine for you, but here's some water. (Makes libation.) I suppose I should pray for something now. Oh, I do wish you'd stop mother persecuting me in the holidays like this! But you can't, you dear old thing. Father says the old gods are dead. I wish they'd come alive again. (Crosses to table.)

(Enter Denham. Undine drops embroidery, kicks it under the table, and sits.)


Well, imp, what's up now? (He comes to the fireplace, and takes a pipe from the rack.) Rags again! I shall have to lock them up, I see. (Takes up the embroidery, and throws it over a chair.) Get to your work at once! Sit up straight....