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PEGGY PLAYS PARIS

When Peggy Lane sets out across the English Channel bound
for France, she is both thrilled and frightened. Thrilled because at
last she will be in ParisCity of Lightthe glamour center of
the world. Frightened because this will be the most difficult
undertaking the young actress has ever attempted.
The role of Irma, in One Last Chance, young Randy
Brewsters latest play, has been played only by Amy Preston,
Peggys greatest friend back in the States. But now, just when the
Penthouse company has been invited to present the play in the
Festival of Nations at the Thtre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris, a
great honor for so young a company, Amy is seriously ill and
cannot make the trip.
It is up to Peggy to step into this important part, and she has to
admit that she is completely confused by the role. And it doesnt
help matters one bit when Andr Rodier, the attractive but
arrogant young dramatic critic, tells Peggy with brutal frankness
that she still has a lot to learn about acting.
Peggys ludicrous efforts to get about Paris without
understanding a word of French, her difficulty in adjusting to
French ways, and most of all, her frantic attempt to make the part
of Irma come alive bring her almost to the brink of despair. But
Andrand Francehave had their effect on Peggy; and when
the curtain goes up on the last performance, and Randy himself is
there to see his play performed, Peggy goes on stage with joy in
her heart because she knows she has mastered the part of Irma at
last.

Peggy Lane Theater Stories


PEGGY FINDS THE THEATER
PEGGY PLAYS OFF-BROADWAY
PEGGY GOES STRAW HAT
PEGGY ON THE ROAD
PEGGY GOES HOLLYWOOD
PEGGYS LONDON DEBUT
PEGGY PLAYS PARIS
PEGGYS ROMAN HOLIDAY

PEGGY LANE THEATER STORIES

Peggy Plays Paris


By VIRGINIA HUGHES
Illustrated by SERGIO LEONE

GROSSET & DUNLAP Publishers


New York

COPYRIGHT BY GROSSET & DUNLAP, INC. 1965


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 65-13778


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

CONTENTS

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19

STRANGER ON THE TRAIN


WRONG DATE
FRENCHMEN!
Cest la Vie
FATE INTERVENES
DRAMATIC CRITICISM
ROUND TWO: ANDR
CULTURE CLASH
SURPRISE FROM NEW YORK
MAY BERRIMAN
THE SPANIARDS VOW
PEGGYS DECISION
DELAYED REACTION
TO TRUST HIM OR NOT?
ONE LAST CHANCE
OBJECT LESSON
AMERICANS IN PARIS
PREVIEW AUDIENCE
HAPPY ENDING

1
12
25
37
46
55
62
75
83
94
102
112
119
130
138
146
155
162
169

I
Stranger on the Train

Outside the train on the pier, the porters shouted in


French as they passed luggage through the open
windows of the compartments. But Peggy Lane no
longer listened. Mentally counting her suitcases,
now stacked on the racks above the row of seats
facing her, the young actress wearily settled her dark
chestnut curls against the upholstery of her chair.
Leaving London, arriving in France, all of it so
quickly, was too utterly confusing.
And she had been up all night. First, the actors
and actresses with whom she had worked in London
had given her a farewell dinner that ended only
when she boarded the boat train at Victoria Station.
Then had come the excitement of crossing the
English Channel and seeing the white cliffs of
Dover fade from view in the mists. Peggy had
stayed on deck, watching the stars, shivering a little
in the chill, but not wanting to miss anything.
Finally, as the night faded, the port of Dunkirk had
1

appeared all of a sudden, bathed in the early


morning light.
Immediately, people had stirred everywhere
immigration officers checking passports, ship
officials distributing landing cards, crew members
hustling luggage ashore, passengers buttoning coats.
At first, it had been amusing to try to tell French
custom officials in sign language that she had
nothing to declare and to try to learn from French
railroad officials, also in sign language, where she
must go. But now she was tired, and she suddenly
felt absolutely isolated in a land where she didnt
speak the language. It had been so different when
she arrived in Great Britain. Celia Wycliffe, an
English girl, had taken her through customs, and
Randy Brewster had surprised her by meeting her at
the pier. But shed see Randy and all the members of
the Penthouse Theater Company from New York
this morning. Then she could enjoy Paris and not
feel like such a stranger.
Peggy relaxed into the cushion, and her soft wide
mouth curved into a semi-smile as she closed her
eyes and remembered happily that she actually was
in France. Her nap lasted only a few minutes.
Someone had entered the compartment. Too tired to
straighten up, Peggy studied the newcomer from
under her thick dark eyelashes.
Tall, slender, but with wide shoulders, he walked
2

with an economy of motion that Peggy would learn


was typically French. Thick black hair, cut a little
more shaggily than the American style, matched
brown eyes so dark they appeared to be black.
Ignoring Peggy, he moved to the window and deftly
took his suitcase from the porter. He started to
install the bag in the rack above the seats opposite
Peggy, then turned to her with an irritated frown
because her suitcases occupied the rack that
belonged to him. As he frowned at her, he caught
her studying him. Embarrassed, Peggy closed her
eyes and pretended to be asleep. She could feel his
eyes on her face. Peggy stole another quick look,
and again he caught her watching him. Firmly, she
shut her eyes and feigned sleep.
She felt the train lurch forward once, then glide
gently away from the station. She stole another
glance. He was handsome, she decided, wondering
who he was and what he did and where he lived and
what his life was like. He was reading now. Her
eyes caught the name of the newspaperLa Revue.
It was the paper that she had been told in London
would decide the fate of the Penthouse Theaters
production of Randolph Clark Brewsters One Last
Chance. The company and the play had been invited
to represent the United States at the Paris Thtre
des Nations. This was a great honor, especially for
so recently established a company and for such a
3

young playwright as Randy.


Peggy was joining the company in Paris because
Amy Preston, Peggys New York roommate, had
mononucleosis, and the doctors had ordered her to
take a long rest. Peggy would take her role in the
play. She shivered a little at the thought. Playing to
an audience in a language they didnt understand, or
understood imperfectly, was a big enough challenge.
But, in addition, if she had understood correctly
Randys cable from New York, she would have only
two days of rehearsals. It simply wasnt enough time
for the part of Irma, and she knew it. But there
seemed no other solution if the play was to be
presented at the festival.
Bad luck for Amy that she couldnt play her role
of Irma in Paris, Peggy thought sadly. Amy had
been Peggys best friend since the two of them had
arrived at the Gramercy Arms, a theatrical rooming
house in New York, on the same day nearly two
years ago. Peggy, who had left college in her home
town of Rockport, Wisconsin, to study at the New
York Drama Academy, had immediately liked the
shy, soft-spoken blonde from Pine Hollow, North
Carolina. It was a pity she and Amy couldnt both be
in the play in Paris. But, of course, there was only
one part. Its Amys helplessness that makes her
portrayal of Irma so convincing, Peggy thought
irrationally. But youve never felt helpless. And how
4

on earth can you convincingly play something


youve never felt?
The French youth looked up, pointedly meeting
Peggys eyes. Peggy blushed. Unconsciously, she
had been staring at his newspaper. It appeared as if
shed been reading it.
Voulez-vous lire mon journal? he inquired.
Pardon, said Peggy, giving the word what she
hoped was the proper French pronunciation. Je ne
parle pas franais.
Je ne parle pas franais, he repeated,
correcting her pronunciation of every syllable of
every word. You should learn, he said in English.
Americans are so arrogant, he observed, turning
back to his paper. They never learn any language
but their own. You are in France now, he advised,
as if it might be a surprise to her, and in France,
you must speak French. He began reading again.
How am I ever going to learn, Peggy thought
angrily, if everyone is as rude as you? No, she
corrected herself immediately, he wasnt really rude.
Youre angry because what he said is true. How
many times on the ship coming over had Peggy
wished that she had worked harder at a foreign
language? All the Europeans on the boat seemed to
know several, while Peggy had had to make do with
English. But Im not arrogant, Peggy protested
silently. Its simply that you cant practice speaking
5

French unless you have someone with whom to talk.


Not quite true, said the small voice of Peggys
conscience. You could have practiced with Gaby
Odette. Gaby was a Parisian who now lived at the
Gramercy Arms in New York while she launched
her own theatrical career. Dear Gaby! Peggy thought
suddenly with warmth. Your countrymen cant all
be as cold as this one or you wouldnt be so warm
yourself. Maybe your friends can help me to
understand France.
Gaby had cabled that she was writing to several
of her friends in Paris, and that Peggy must
immediately telephone Gabys good friend, Andr
Rodier, whom Gaby was wiring to expect Peggys
call. Dear Gaby! Briefly, Peggy wondered who
Andr Rodier was and what he was like. No matter.
Any friend of Gabys would be nice. And a French
friend in Paris would be welcome. Heavens! Did
Andr speak English?
You would like to see the newspaper? the
young Frenchman asked courteously, this time in
English.
Guiltily, Peggy started. She had been staring
again. Her eye had been caught by a headline that
read: THTRE DES NATIONS. The article was signed
with the name of Thierry de Constant who, Peggy
had learned before leaving England, was the most
important drama critic in Paris.
6

Yes, thank you, Peggy said.


What interests you? inquired the Frenchman.
The article about the theater festival, Peggy
replied.
Shall I read it to you? he asked.
I can read a little French, Peggy said shyly.
Very good, he said approvingly, handing her
the paper.
Peggy studied the words, trying to make out if the
review was favorable or not, but even the French she
did know deserted her. All she could understand
from the article was that a Greek company was
performing Sophocles Oedipus Rex at the Festival
of Nations.
What do you think of the French critics? the
young man inquired. Do you think they are harder
to please than those in New York?
One review really isnt enough to make a
comparison, Peggy said, not willing to admit she
couldnt read the review after all.
There are others, he said politely, indicating
two other articles.
Suddenly, Peggy spotted the name Andr Rodier
signed to one of the columns. Heavens! Was Gabys
friend Andr a critic? Did he write for La Revue?
Hurriedly, she studied the article. It had a London
dateline, but Peggy couldnt translate the name of
the play. Wrinkling her forehead, she tried to think
7

what play had opened recently in London.


Do you think he writes well? the Frenchman
said casually.
Its too difficult to judge when it isnt ones own
language, Peggy replied evasively.
Do you agree with his criticism? the stranger
inquired.
I havent seen the play, Peggy said.
But I thought you were interested in the theater,
the Frenchman said in a politely bored voice. In
France, were told that Randolph Clark Brewster is
one of the most promising young playwrights in the
States. I saw his Come Closerhe tapped the
newspaperin London. Promising, he said, not
great. But I guess you like the more commercial
things. Big shows. Big productions. Lots of
costumes. Thats America, he said. Brewsters
plays are staged off-Broadway because theyre too
good to be commercial. I thought if you liked the
drama that you might have seen one or two of
them. With that parting shot, he leaned back in his
seat and closed his eyes.
Oh! Peggy fumed inwardly. Of all the rude
people! So the article in La Revue by Andr Rodier
was about the closing performance of Come Closer
in London. Peggy herself had taken six individual
curtain calls that last night. Didnt like the drama!
Preferred commercial theater! Of all the nerve! She
8

was tempted to tell him indignantly that she, Peggy


Lane, had acted in that play. She suppressed the
impulse. What did that review say? He had asked
her if French critics were harder to please than
American ones. Was it a bad review? Peggy stole a
look at the newspaper in his lap. His hand was
folded over it so she couldnt take it from him
without disturbing him. What did that review say? It
was maddening not to know. He might have read it
to her. But then, he had offered, and shed declined
the offer. But he really was rude! Peggy thought
over his remarks. No, he didnt know who she was
or that shed been in the play. Her name probably
wasnt mentioned in the article. It was just that he
had a trick of rubbing her the wrong way.
He appeared to be sleeping now, and Peggy tried
to close her own eyes. But suddenly she was wide
awake, watching the passing French countryside. It
was all sunshine and tall green poplar trees planted
in straight lines and old stone houses and quite
proper vegetable gardens.
Abruptly, Peggy began worrying about the part of
Irma again. She had her lines letter perfect. She was
a quick study, and since she knew the play well, she
had learned them in only a few days. Shed almost
known them already from watching Amy play the
part so often. It was the interpretation of Irmas
character that puzzled her. Amy seemed to have
9

found a clue to Irma that eluded Peggy. She


certainly didnt want to disgrace herself or the
United States by giving a bad performance to an
audience composed of sneering Frenchmen like this
one. Sneering! That was it, thought Peggy. Hes
polite, but behind the politeness, hes making fun of
me. Ill show him
Theres an American company coming to Paris,
her companion remarked as if theyd been talking all
along. At the Thtre Sarah Bernhardt. I suppose
youll go. Americans always like to be with other
Americans. I often wonder why they travel.
What on earth do you reply to that? Peggy asked
herself. She started to tell him that shed be in that
American play, but before she had a chance, he
spoke again.
I dont advise you to goto the American play.
In Paris, you should see Corneille and Racine and
Molireat
the
Comdie-Franaise.
Or
Sophoclesat the Sarah Bernhardt. He gave the
last words the French pronunciation. Then, again
before Peggy could reply, he changed the subject.
Did you see the French movie
Gare du Nord. Gare du Nord, a train official
interrupted, poking his head into the compartment.
Peggy looked blankly at him for a second, then
realized with a quick beat of her heart that that
meant they were in Paris. Paris! City of Light!
10

Peggy stared out the window, but she could see


nothing but the walls of the station. They had been
talking, and she hadnt realized when the train
entered the city.
Are these your bags? the Frenchman inquired,
not unkindly.
Peggy nodded.
Ill take them down for you, he volunteered.
Thank you, replied Peggy, rising to help him.
Sit down, he ordered. You are in France now.
Its not like America. Here, girls dont take down
the bags.
If she hadnt been an actress, Peggy knew she
would have been open-mouthed in astonishment.

11

II
Wrong Date

Peggy stood in the line outside the station, her


suitcases at her feet. She wasnt certain what the
queue was for, but she had followed the porter, and
he had left her there. Apparently, people were
waiting for taxis, which pulled up and took on
passengers with fair regularity.
You speak English? a voice behind her said in a
thick French accent.
Peggy turned and nodded to a heavy-set man
wearing chauffeurs livery.
I have the private taxi service, he said. I take
you and your valises wherever you wish. Very fast.
Very cheap. No waiting, he added, indicating the
line with a movement of his head. Where you wish
to go? he demanded, picking up one of Peggys
suitcases.
Thtre Sarah Bernhardt, said Peggy.
Oh, the man exclaimed, pretending to put down
the suitcase. That is very far. Have you money?
12

How much? Peggy asked hesitantly.


Nine dollarsAmerican, said the man.
Nine dollars, repeated Peggy, surprised.
Thats quite a lot.
Thtre Sarah Bernhardt is on the Right Bank,
the chauffeur told her. It is very far. Nine dollars.
Again, he moved as if to put down her bag but kept
holding it.
All ri Peggy began to agree, but before she
could finish speaking, the young Frenchman from
her compartment on the train appeared at her side
and took control of the situation. With one fluid
motion, he rescued her suitcase from the chauffeur
to whom he spoke emphatically in French.
How much did he ask? he inquired of Peggy, as
the chauffeur disappeared into the crowd.
Nine dollars.
Nine dollars! Thats forty-five francs! Its
robbery!
Peggy shrugged helplessly. What should it be?
she asked.
Seven or eight francs, no more, he said.
Its five dollars from Kennedy Airport into
Manhattan, Peggy defended herself.
You are in France.
I know, Peggy said accusingly, meaning that
the chauffeur who had tried to cheat her had been
French.
13

He studied her face. Come, he said kindly,


taking her arm, Ill get you a taxi.
In only minutes, Peggy and her suitcases were
installed in a small French car operated by a little
gnome of a man who kept smiling reassuringly at
Peggy as the young Frenchman gave him
instructions in French. Peggy saw a bill change
hands. Reaching into her handbag, she located her
passport case, opened the money compartment, and
silently offered it to her train companion.

14

He rejected her offer with a twist of his head. I


have told you, he said. You are in France. In
France, girls dont pay. His voice changed as he
reached inside the taxi window to touch her hand
gently. Youll be all right now, he said kindly.
But you must learn to speak French.
It wasnt until the taxi was underway that Peggy
wondered how hed known where she was going.
She had heard him say the name Thtre Sarah
Bernhardt to the taxi driver. It was curious. Perhaps
he had heard her tell it to the private chauffeur.
She wondered if hed remember the conversation on
the train about the American company that was to
perform at the Sarah Bernhardt and connect her with
it. She half hoped he would. It was incurably
romantic of her, but she would like to know who he
was. In spite of his constantly changing personality,
he seemed interesting. Perhaps if he came to the
theater, hed recognize her and come backstage. . . .
Oh, stop it. Next youll have him wearing armor and
riding a white charger. You dont need to be rescued
from anything. Nothing except a dishonest taxi
driver. Come to think of it, where was this one
taking her? She didnt see anything that looked like
a theater.
La Madeleine, the driver said excitedly to
Peggy, pointing straight ahead.
Peggy stared out her window. It didnt matter that
15

she couldnt understand his language. The stately


neo-classical temple centering the circular
intersection was the Church of the Madeleine. Peggy
stared at the massive cream-colored pillars almost in
awe. Then as the taxi crawled forward slowly, she
looked around, catching a glimpse of gray or creamcolored buildings adorned with black wrought iron,
their ground floors housing small shops and
restaurants which spilled out onto the sidewalks as
outdoor cafs. Traffic moved merrily and a bit
wildly, with strange foreign cars darting in every
direction. It was all gay and colorful. Even the
people looked gay and colorful.
Rue Royale, the driver announced as the taxi
pulled away from the square that Peggy was to learn
was called a place in Paris. The taxi moved down
the Rue Royale, weaving in and out of traffic.
La Place de la Concorde, said her guide,
accompanying the words with fluent gestures. As
they approached the place, Peggy recognized the
tall, thin monument centering the intersection: the
Luxor Obelisk. Its twin, Cleopatras Needle, was in
Central Park in New York City. Breathlessly, Peggy
looked out one window and then the other as the taxi
halted for traffic. Fountains, statues, massive gates,
antique street lights, streetwide promenades, a
beautiful cream-stone wall far to her left and a treelined park far to her right greeted her eyes.
16

Frequently called the most beautiful square in the


world, the place was a harmony created from
spaciousness, light, and architectural art.
The taxi sped forward and the driver called, Les
Champs Elyses, gesturing to his right. Peggy
could see only a wide avenue bordered by trees and
flanked by old-fashioned street lights, but she knew
it was one of the most admired shopping districts in
the world, and that Le Jardin des Tuileries, which
the driver called to her attention on her left, was the
famous seventeenth century formal garden in front
of the Louvre, itself once the home of French
royalty but now a museum housing a treasure of art.
Suddenly, Peggy remembered her history. It was on
this very spot, La Place de la Concorde, that Louis
XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, had met their
deaths by guillotine. Peggy shivered. It was so
beautiful that it didnt seem possible it had once
been the scene of violence.
Paris est trs beau, the driver said happily, as
if reading her thoughts, or at least half of them.
Very beautiful, Peggy agreed. Trs beau, she
repeated softly.
Once past the intersection, the driver turned the
taxi left; then, having maneuvered it into the traffic
pattern, he gave his attention to Peggy. La Seine,
he announced, pointing to the right.
The Seine! The river celebrated by so many
17

poets! It looked just the way the artists had painted


itopaque waters spanned by ancient bridges, its
banks lined with the stalls of book vendors and
painters.
Le Palais du Louvre, the driver said again, and
Peggy realized he was giving her a side view of the
enormous palace. What treasures it held! The Mona
Lisa, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus
de Milo, Rubens Marie de Medici Room. To say
nothing of the remaining crown jewels of France
and the gemmed sword of Charlemagne. Streaks of
sunlight played on the old stone walls, and sunshine
danced on the waters of the Seine. Peggy sank back
against her seat, too happy to absorb any more.
Thtre Sarah Bernhardt, the driver announced
importantly.
Thank you, Peggy said. Merci she repeated,
remembering that she was in France. He smiled
gaily at her, and Peggy was certain he understood
how much she meant by the one word.
Paris est trs beau, the driver repeated softly,
as he deposited Peggys suitcases at the entry to the
theater.
Trs beau Peggy agreed.
Inside the theater, Peggy realized that she hadnt
even looked at the Sarah Bernhardt from the outside.
The lobby was a cool, wide, high-ceilinged,
semicircular corridor with stately stairways and a
18

black-and-white marble-inlay floor.


There didnt seem to be anyone around. Odd.
There should be someone at the box office
wherever it wasand some company rehearsing. On
a wall to her left, she spied a poster which gave the
schedule of the playsbut in French. Top billing
went to the Greek company she had read about in La
Revue. Reading on down, Peggy made out that a
company from Chile would perform a play by
Miguel. Good! Shed never seen Miguel staged,
although he was one of the handful of playwrights
ever to be awarded a Nobel prize. The Latin poet
had fled Spain toward the end of the Spanish Civil
War, vowing his plays would never be performed
again until liberty had been restored in Spain. Still,
the Chilean company was listed for a Miguel play.
Peggy didnt know the drama, at least not under its
title in French.
Her eyes moved on down the poster, and her
heart lurched as she read: PENTHOUSE THTRE DE
NEW YORKONE LAST CHANCEpar RANDOLPH
CLARK BREWSTER. Its beat quickenedthis time not
in elation, but in shock. The Penthouse Companys
opening night was listed as May 19. Surely, there
must be a mistake! Their performances started May
9. Today was May 7, and they had two days of
rehearsals before their opening. But the poster
definitely read May 19. Puzzled and anxious, Peggy
19

opened her handbag and groped for the cable from


Randy. May 9, she read. She hadnt made a mistake.
Well, nothing to do but find out which was
correctthe poster or the wire. But who was she
going to ask? What if no one spoke English? Oh,
nonsense, she scolded herself. You can manage.
Besides, someone always pops up who speaks
English. All the same, she wished the Frenchman
from the train were there.
Resolutely, she marched down the corridor,
pulled at a door. It wouldnt open. The auditorium
was locked. There has to be a stage door, she
reminded herself. Where would it be? In the back, of
course. She crossed the lobby, and as she
approached the entry doors, she spotted the box
office tucked away in a cubbyhole of an office. It
too was deserted. Peggy checked her watch. Not
quite ten. Undoubtedly, it was too early. Well,
thered certainly be someonea watchman or
someoneat the stage door. She decided to leave
her luggage in the lobby.
Walking toward the side of the theater, Peggy
noticed a sidewalk caf in the theater building itself.
Smelling coffee, she remembered she hadnt had
breakfast. She turned the corner and walked along
the street, stopping once in awe to admire the nearby
Tower of St. Jacques, a Gothic monument of the
sixteenth century.
20

But this theater didnt seem to have any back. She


had come to the next cross street, and there wasnt
anything on it that looked like a stage door. Slowly,
she retraced her steps and about halfway back she
spotted a sign that announced: UNIVERSIT DU
THTRE DES NATIONS. This must be the stage door.
She walked up two steps, pulled open the door, and
entered a tiny, shabby hallway. A doorbell button on
the second, inside door was marked: Concirge.
Peggy rang the bell, but no one came. She waited a
few seconds, then tried the door. It wasnt locked.
As she stepped into the interior hallway, she
suddenly knew that she had come to the right place.
This was the stage entrance. She could feel the
presence of the theater all around herthe lingering
ghosts of actors and actresses who had walked here
in the past, the dim echo of music from orchestras
long silenced, and the ringing applause of audiences
who had clapped and cheered before they went
home a hundred years ago.
There were several doors in the hallway, but
Peggy instinctively began climbing the steps,
knowing without thinking about it that those stairs
led to the stage. Again she was right. On the first
landing, she walked through a small room, almost a
passageway, groped her way through darkness for a
step or two, and emerged on the stage of the Sarah
Bernhardt. She had entered at stage right, and as she
21

walked to the center, she stayed with the ghosts and


the past for a moment before she cast a practiced eye
over the auditorium. It had about twelve hundred
seats, she judged. Good. Not too large. They
wouldnt have to shout to be heard. One, two, three,
four, five tiers of boxes and balconies which circled
the house. Acoustics probably were okay. Then for a
second Peggy was all artist as she admired the
elegance of red velvet cushions, gilt leaf on antiqued
ivory wood, handworked friezes, and geometric
harmony achieved with the curved lines of the
circle.
Footsteps sounded behind Peggy. She whirled
around. A tall, thin workmanhe was clad in dark
trousers and a blue denim shirteyed her
admiringly. Were all Frenchmen tall and thin with
dark hair and dark eyes? Peggy wondered. He spoke
to her in French.
Je ne parle pas franais, Peggy said, shaking
her head. Im American, she added. Where is the
American company?
He repeated the word American, giving it a
French pronunciation.
Yes, said Peggy. American. Where are the
American actors?
He shook his head, saying something in French at
the same time.
Do you speak any English? Peggy asked
22

hopefully.
Un peu, he said. A little.
Oh! Peggy exclaimed in relief. Im an
actress, she said, talking much too fast. Im with
the New York company, and Im supposed to meet
the other actors here. Only the poster says were not
going to play until the nineteenth and I thought it
was the ninth. So I must find out which date is right,
and I need to find out what hotel well be at. Do you
know the hotel? She stopped, completely out of
breath.
The man shrugged, still smiling. More slow, he
instructed her. Slowly, Peggy repeated herself.
Again, he shook his head. Peggy started again.
Non, he stopped her, speaking in French.
Feeling helpless, Peggy remembered shed been
up all night and that she was absolutely worn out.
How was she going to make him understand that she
must find the Penthouse Company so she could go
to the hotel and sleep?
Actors, Peggy said, striking a dramatic pose.
Actors, she repeated. Actors from New York.
New York, he echoed her. Actors. Then a
slow smile of comprehension spread over his face.
Too soon, he advised. Greek now.
I know. Peggy nodded. When do the New
York actors arrive?
New York actors arrive, he repeated, puzzling.
23

Once again the smile came. Dix jours, he said,


holding up both hands and spreading all his fingers.
It was Peggys turn to smile. Ten days, she
said.
Oui, he agreed. Yes.
Ten days, Peggy murmured. Ten days! What on
earth would she do? She was so tired, and it was
impossible to communicate with these people. What
would she do about a hotel? Helplessly, Peggy felt a
tear slide down her cheek.

24

III
Frenchmen!

Five minutes later, Peggy was sipping strong black


coffee and nibbling a delicious crescent-shaped roll
called a croissant in the sidewalk caf beside the
theater entry. The French electricianPeggy had
guessed he was an electrician because he did
something at the light board before he led her out of
the theaterhad gone to find someone, presumably
someone who spoke English. Tears, it seemed, were
understood in every language. She hadnt been able
to translate a word that he spoke on their way out of
the theater toward the caf, but she had understood
by the soothing tone of his voice that she neednt be
frightened.
He was returning now, accompanied by a blueeyed, sandy-haired youth with a fierce red beard
neatly barbered and combed. He was dressed
casually in slacks and a shirt and carried a book in
his hand. As they approached, Peggy saw that it was
a volume of plays by Racine. He must be a student,
25

she decided, and she responded to his shy, tentative


smile. Hello, he said. Jacques here tells me
youve been crying. Youre in Paris now, and you
must be happy.
Youre not French! Peggy exclaimed. You
have a British accent.
Not quite, he replied. He took a chair and
motioned Jacques to take another. Aussie, he
clarified. Im a student at the acting school here.
Ive been here two years now, and I love it. He
smiled again. What is your name?
Peggy Lane. Im with the New York group.
Only I understand Im too early. I came from
London to join the company here, and theres been a
mixup.
Im David Cooper, and this is Jacques Duval.
Hes chief light man at the theater. Peggy nodded
to acknowledge the introduction as David continued
talking. Your companys not due for another ten
days. Im sure about that because Im assigned to be
your interpreter. Once more, he smiled, and this
time he pulled his beard. Ten days in Paris isnt too
tragic, he told her cheerfully.
Its marvelous, said Peggy. I can see
everything.
Dont waste too much time at museums, he told
her. Just try to feel Paris. Thats the important
thing.
26

But I want to see the museums, Peggy


protested.
All right, he agreed. Theyre important in a
way. Theyre the past. But theres something more
important here. You must try to feel it.
I dont understand, said Peggy.
No, he said, I dont suppose you do. Look
his tone changed as he changed the subjectdo
you have a hotel?
Peggy shook her head. Where are we supposed
to be staying?
No special place, he advised her. The
neighborhood is full of hotels. You want to see
Paris? he asked. Well, the best thing then is to
have the complete experience. Just strike out and
find a hotela French hotel. Get all involved in
inadequate French and sign language and French
people who speak un peu English. They all speak un
peua littleEnglish. He frankly laughed now.
Do you think I could? asked Peggy, pleased
with the suggestion.
Why not? Its the only way to see Paris. If you
go to an American hotel, or see only the museums
and the tourist places, youve missed the best of
Paris.
Ill do it, she agreed.
Good girl, he said approvingly. Wheres your
luggage?
27

In the lobby of the theater.


Leave it there, and when youve found a hotel,
come back and Ill carry it for you.
I dont want to trouble
Youre in France, he interrupted, grinning at
her.
I know, said Peggy, laughing, and in France,
girls dont carry the luggage.
Youre learning, he approved. Now go along.
Ive got a class, and Jacques here should be
working. But come back if you have any problem.
You can find me in a studio on the third floorat
the back of the theater, where you found Jacques.
He rose and patted her shoulder, while Peggy
said, Merci to Jacques, who also got up and
smiled his farewell before the two departed.
When they had gone, Peggy finished her coffee
and then, choosing a street at random, began to look
for a hotel. She wandered along, pausing to admire
the effect created by flowers in a window, the
delicate detail of a wrought iron gate, the
architectural perfection of whole blocks of houses
each in perfect harmony with one another. She was
conscious that she was in an unfashionable district,
but somehow, unlike the rundown districts of
American cities, it didnt make her feel pity for the
people who lived in it. Paris casts a spell, she
thought, and it seems like a dream, or is it just that
28

Im tired? Abruptly, she wondered how she was


going to recognize a hotel.
She hadnt passed anything that looked like one.
She scanned the street, but there were no signs.
Suddenly, the glow she had felt since the French
electrician had taken her in charge wore off, and she
again knew she was alone, as she had known it on
the train. There was no point in stopping a passerby
to ask. No one would understand what she said.
Bewildered, she looked around, her eyes focused
now not on the beauty of the street but on the
practical problem of recognizing a hotel.
Almost immediately, the problem was solved. On
the six-story house across the street, she spotted a
red, white, and blue plaque: HTEL DE TOUEISME.
The building looked exactly like the others on the
block, cream-colored, with wrought iron balconies,
French windows, and red geraniums in boxes. It was
so picturesque that Peggy decided immediately that
she wanted to stay there.
Crossing the street, she walked up to the black
double doors and rapped the brass knocker against
the wood. While she waited, she speculated on what
she would find on the other side. She rapped again.
This time, one of the doors began to open and a tiny
Frenchwoman, a dust cap on her head, an apron tied
around the waist of her dark blue dress, and a broom
in her hand, poked her nose through the crack.
29

Oui? she asked.


Je ne parle pas franais, Peggy said, hating
that she had to say it. English? she asked.
The maid pulled the door open wider and
beckoned. Entrez, she said, smiling. Inside in the
lobby, Peggy admired the recently scrubbed marble
floor, the fading fleur-de-lys patterned paper on the
walls, and the curve of the circular stairway to her
left. There was a big door on her right, and the
Frenchwoman edged toward it. Un moment, she
said, nodding her head.
She reappeared almost immediately, this time
accompanied by a small, delicately boned man
dressed in slacks and an English tweed jacket. His
mustache seemed to widen his smile as he
approached Peggy.
Yes, he said softly. You wish something?
Oh, Peggy said in relief. You speak English.
A little, he said, smiling. But you are in
France. You must speak French.
Oh dear, Peggy thought in wry amusement, do
they all say that? Im sorry, she said. Im trying
to learn.
You wish a room? he asked.
Peggy nodded. For at least two weeks or longer.
Im an actress, and I need to be near the theater.
Ah! he said, pleasure in his voice, you will be
at the Thtre Sarah Bernhardt, no?
30

Yes.
Very good. Here, we have many actors. It makes
my work interesting. But come, I will show you a
very good room, not too expensive.
How much? Peggy asked. She remembered the
private chauffeur at the train but was ashamed of
herself for thinking about him after the other taxi
driver and the French electrician had been so kind.
Thirteen francsby the day, said the man. It
is a very good room.
Hastily, Peggy mentally translated thirteen francs
into American dollars and cents. Why, it was quite
cheap I She could easily afford it.
Seeing her hesitation, her companion looked sad.
It is too expensive? The price includes breakfast.
Breakfast? said Peggy.
Yes, he replied. The maid will bring breakfast
to your room at whatever hour you say. It is our
custom. It is not too expensive?
No, said Peggy, but Id like to see the room.
Of course. He led the way toward the circular
stairway. There are many stairs, he apologized.
One, two, three, four, five, Peggy counted the
landings as they passed them. She was having
trouble breathing by the time they arrived at the top,
but still she wanted to stay at this hotel. Even the
circular stairway with its carpeting of fading roses
was charming.
31

Selecting a huge iron key, the man inserted it in a


keyhole and flung open the door with a flourish.
Voil! he said proudly. There it is.
The room wasnt large, but it was light and airy.
The bed, covered with a chintz spread, looked
comfortable, and the old marble fireplace, topped
with a Louis XIV mirror, gave the chamber a touch
of elegance. Yellow wallpaper in a delicate flower
print intensified the sunlight streaming through the
French windows, and there was a balcony. When
Peggy spotted the balcony, she knew she must have
the room.
Walking across the faded green carpeting, she
pulled open the windows and stepped outside. The
roofs of Paris were at her feet, and far below were
the waters of the Seine. Ill take it, she decided.
It is settled, said the man. Here is your key.
When you have time, you can write your card. He
backed toward the door.
Card? said Peggy.
The registration. It is nothing.
Ill do it after I clean up.
I hope you will be very happy here, he said,
bowing formally as he backed out the door.
Im sure I will, said Peggy, returning to the
balcony. Oh, she exclaimed, turning again, I have
to make a telephone call. Where is the telephone?
In the office, he told her. When you have time,
32

I will telephone for you.


Half an hour later, with fresh makeup, newly
combed hair, and hands scrubbed clean of the grime
of the train, Peggy descended the circles of steps and
presented Andr Rodiers telephone number to the
hotel manager, who introduced himself as Monsieur
Sorel. Taking the slip of paper with Andrs
number, he dialed, spoke rapidly in French, then
handed the receiver to Peggy. Peggy put it to her
ear, and heard a voice repeating, allo, allo.
Hello, said Peggy. Monsieur Andr Rodier,
please.
Im Andr Rodier, the voice said. Whos
calling?
Im Peggy Lane, Peggy said formally. Gaby
Odette suggested that I telephone you. Gaby and I
are friends in New York.
Yes, he said. I have a cable from Gaby. Where
are you? he asked conversationally.
At a hotel. I dont know the name. Its near the
Thtre Sarah Bernhardt.
Oui. Gaby said you would perform at the
Thtre des Nations. But I think your play is not for
two weeks. You have arrived early.
I made a mistake, said Peggy. I thought it was
the ninth, not the nineteenth.
He laughed, a very nice laugh. For an
American, he said, that is amusing. Americans are
33

always on time. Never too early, never too late. And


now you have made a mistake of ten days!
Peggy didnt know whether to laugh with him or
to be offended.
What do you do now? he asked. Until your
company arrives?
See Paris, said Peggy.
Good, he said. Ill show you. Paris, I think, is
very nice at this season. You are at a hotel? he said
sharply. You are all right?
Naturally, said Peggy, as if finding a hotel in a
strange city in a foreign country were an everyday
experience for her.
Thats good, he said. I am working now. I am
at La Revue. But this evening, we could have dinner,
if you wish.
So he was the critic for La Revue! Peggys heart
beat faster. Gaby should have told her.
We can have dinner? he asked again.
Love to, said Peggy. What time?
Oh, you Americans, he said, youre always
worried about time. But today, it is good to be
worried about time. Because tonight, I must work.
We will take dinner at seven oclock if that suits
you.
Seven is okay, said Peggy.
Bon. Its settled. Now what do you like to eat?
Anything.
34

But you give me no assistance. All right. But I


am surprised that an American girl has no opinions.
American girls always have opinionson every
subject, even subjects about which they know
nothing. It is very amusing.
His words reminded Peggy of the young
Frenchman on the train. Andr Rodier was using the
same trick of needling her without actually being
rude. Good heavens! France was supposed to be a
nation of individualists. Were they all alike?
Any French food will be delicious, Im sure,
said Peggy. The manner in which she spoke needled
him back.
You are a sensible girl, he advised her
smoothly, ignoring her sarcasm. We will dine on
the Left Bank. Thats the other side of the river. At
seven oclock promptly. Tonight, we will be
American and dine promptly at seven. He gave her
the name and address of the restaurant, waited while
Monsieur Sorel handed her paper and a pen to write
it down, then repeated the hour. Dont be late, he
said. I must work tonight and for a good dinner,
one must have time.
Im an American, said Peggy, needling him
again. Ill be on time.
Very good, he replied. At seven. I am looking
forward to seeing you, he added, his voice
changing as warmth replaced the reserved
35

amusement.
They all are alike, Peggy decided, returning the
receiver to Monsieur Sorel. The man on the train
had been the same wayfirst politely rude, then
very kind. There was something about the voices
toothey sounded somewhat alike. Probably all
French accents sounded the same in English. Well,
tonight should be interesting. What should she
wear? What does one wear to meet a French drama
critic at a restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris?
Excitedly, Peggy thanked Monsieur Sorel, her mind
already with her suitcases at the Thtre Sarah
Bernhardt, mentally trying to choose the right dress
for her first date in Paris.

36

IV
Cest la Vie

A strange chanting, not quite singing, greeted


Peggys ears as she re-entered the Thtre Sarah
Bernhardt. The Greek company must be rehearsing!
Hastening into the auditorium, which she now found
unlocked, Peggy chose a seat midway in the
orchestra, forgetting all about her suitcases and her
dinner date.
It took her only seconds to identify the play and
the scene being rehearsed. It was Sophocles
Oedipus Rex, and the fifteen-actor chorus was
reciting the first strophe. Peggy had arrived almost
at the beginning of the rehearsal, just after Oedipus
had announced that the death of Laius must be
avenged. The chorus, garbed in ankle-length Greek
tunics of sackcloth, moved as one unit while they
chanted the hymn to Apollo, but their dress and their
demeanor whispered of the tragedy to come.
Peggy watched, fascinated. The paramount
difficulty in the modern staging of any of the plays
37

of the three great Greek poets of the fifth century,


B.C.Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripideswas
management of the chorus. Yet, it was impossible to
stage a Greek tragedy without a chorus.
Peggy knew that some scholars thought that
Greek tragedyand all tragedy of western
civilization was an outgrowth of what the Greeks
had donehad its roots in the ancient festival of
worship of the god Dionysus. They speculated that
theater had originated with songs chanted in his
honor. Their theory was that sometime during the
middle of the sixth century B.C., Thespis of Attica
had selected one member of the chorus to speak to
all the others, narrate the history of the god, and
even act out dramatic episodes of the gods career.
Thus, drama had begun. Aeschylus, the great
predecessor of Sophocles, had added the second
actorreally the third, if you counted the chorus as
one unit, which the Greeks did.
Peggy watched as this chorus finished its ode, and
Oedipus, majestic, every inch a ruler, strode onto the
stage. He too, although a king, wore sackcloth, but
in a lighter shade than that of the chorus and the
assembled citizens of Thebes. For the first time,
Peggy noticed that all the players were wearing stark
gray makeup. With the grays of the sackcloth, the
effect was somber and dignified, foreshadowing the
tragedy.
38

Listening to the rich, resonant voice of Oedipus,


Peggy shivered. In low, musical tones, he
unknowingly pronounced his own doom as he
proclaimed the death sentence on the undiscovered
murderer of Laius. Sophocles tragedy, however,
was more profound than simple crime and
punishment. It taught a lesson about the necessity
for self-knowledge. For Oedipus himself had killed
Laius, his father, and married Jocasta, his own
mother, all unknowingly. Abandoned as an infant
because the oracles had forecast this very tragedy,
Oedipus had grown to manhood believing himself
the son of other parents.
Peggy was lost in the play until she sensed
movement at her side and glanced over to see that
David Cooper quietly had taken a seat next to her.
They didnt speak until the Greek actors had
finished the scene.
What do you think? asked David.
Theyre great, said Peggy. And with a
playwright like Sophocles to back them up, how can
they miss?
Dont worry, said David, grasping what she
hadnt said. Really, the festival isnt for the
competition. Its to show the best plays from all over
the world. The prizes arent too important. He
smiled the warm smile that was part grin and already
was familiar to Peggy.
39

40

But theyre so good, Peggy said uneasily.


Youre afraid that your play isnt? he asked.
No, said Peggy. Its a good play. But Randy
has used so many unconventional techniques that
Im half afraid a foreign audiencewhich doesnt
know Englishwill miss the point.
You dont know Greek, David reminded her.
Youre not missing the point. Emotiontruth, its
universal.
True, said Peggy. True on both counts. But I
know the story of this play, and it helps.
The audience gets a program with a synopsis,
and theres simultaneous translation into French for
those who need it.
Thats good, said Peggy. I didnt know that.
Whats the play about? One Last Chance is the
title, I know that much.
Well, said Peggy, speaking hesitantly, its
theme is that nothing is ever really what it appears to
be. Its so different from anything Randys done
before that its hard to explain. Theres this girl
shes crippled and poor.
Your part? David asked.
Peggy nodded. Her mother has lavished every
attention and affection on her. Shes done
everything. And Irmathats the girlis
completely dependent upon her.
And? prompted David.
41

But the girl isnt really crippled, said Peggy,


struggling to explain. She just thinks she is.
Because her mother wants her to believe it.
So the mother doesnt love her? said David.
Well, it looks that way, said Peggy. But thats
not the real truth either. When Irma finds outthat
shes not crippled, I meanshe gets more helpless
than ever. Its as if her only strength had been in her
mothers love and when she finds out that that love
doesnt exist, shes absolutely destroyed.
Whew! What a role! Randolph Brewsterthats
his name, isnt it?must be part French, creating
such great roles for women. Have you noticed that
French plays always have great roles for women?
With the Englishespecially the classicsits not
so true. But what happens at the end?
Well, when you just tell it, rather than act it, it
sounds melodramatic. Peggy was silent a moment.
Irmathats my partis supposed to have been
crippled when she was a baby. She was hit by a car.
That happens, David agreed quietly. Thats
not too melodramatic.
Irma finds out that her mother has been
blackmailing the driver of the car all those years.
She thinks her mother has kept her in a wheelchair
for money.
But thats not the truth either? David suggested.
No, said Peggy. I mean its part of the truth.
42

You dont find out the deepest truth until the end.
Of course not, said David, or you wouldnt
have a good play.
Irma hates her mother when she finds out, said
Peggy, or she thinks she does. And when you hate,
you want to kill. Only Irma is helpless. Shes never
walked a step in her life. So she cant escape her
mothereven by killing her.
I want to see this play, said David. It must be
something.
It is, said Peggy. The last scene is the most
difficult. Irma sees her mother have a heart attack
and watches her grope for her medicine. The attack
is so severe that the mother cant quite reach the
medicine cabinet.
So Irma has her revenge and her freedom.
No, said Peggy. Irma, that helpless girl, who
has never walked a step in her life and who doesnt
believe she can walk, gets up from her wheelchair
and walks across the room and gets the medicine for
her mother.
So she doesnt hate her mother after all.
No, said Peggy. The next level of truth is that
the mother has been thinking of Irma all along. The
money was for Irma. She thought from the time of
her first heart attackwhich was when she saw the
car hit Irmathat she might die any day. She didnt
want Irma left without anything. So she took the
43

wrong wayblackmailbut still she was doing it


for her daughter. She knew that when she diedand
she thought it might be any timewhoever took
charge of Irma eventually would discover that she
wasnt crippled and that everything would be all
right.
And the mother dies anyway, even after Irmas
given her the medicine, said David, almost hushed.
Its the classic pattern.
No, said Peggy. Thats the hard part. If the
mother diedthe classic patternpunishment for
guiltlike in Sophocles playI wouldnt be
worried that the audience might misunderstand. The
mother keeps on living. Thats the deepest truth,
said Peggy, that we do wrong and hurt one another,
but that somehow we must forgive and go on
living.
David was silent. Finally, he pulled his beard,
almost in bewilderment. It could be great, he
commented. It could be really great. Something
actually new. Something purely American.
Maybe, said Peggy, though its not that new.
In the great tragediesfrom Sophocles to
Shakespearethe death of the hero served as
forgiveness for the crimes of a nation. Life always
went on, but better, with new rulers. Except America
believes in the individualwe really do, even in
spite of automation. What Randys saying is that the
44

individual and his capacity to understand and


forgive others is the solution to the wrongs of the
world.
Whew! said David. Do you think a French
audienceremember the French pride themselves
on being individualswont understand?
Im not sure, said Peggy.
How does it play?
Better than I tell it. Only if Irma isnt perfect, or
if the mother isnt perfect, or if they cant play
together, its nothing. Only melodrama, with the
wrong ending.
I can see that, said David. This is a play that
demands everything from its actors.
Its difficult, said Peggy.
Youre sure of yourself? Youve done it enough
times so that you know Irma?
Ive never played it, said Peggy. I wanted to in
New York. But both the author and the director
judged that my best friend was more right for the
part. But now shes ill and cant come to Paris. Ive
got to do it, and Im worried.
Youll only have two days of rehearsals, David
protested. Thats not fairto you or to the play.
Thats life, said Peggy.
Youre in France now. He grinned at her. You
mean, Cest la vie.
45

V
Fate Intervenes

It seemed pitch dark in the salle de bain until


Peggys eyes adjusted and she realized it was only
twilight dark. Where was the light switch? Her hand
groped along the wall by the door. Nothing. She
looked up. No cord. Well, there must be a light
switch somewhere because she could see a light
fixture. The huge tub, a table, and a chair were the
only furniture in the small bathroom. Europeans
might not believe in three showers a day, but they
certainly took bathing seriously. That tub did look
inviting, and she was so dirty from the train. Where
was the fight switch?
Never mind, Peggy decided. You can bathe in the
dark. Then have a nap or youll be dull company
tonight. She flipped the lock on the door, and the
room was flooded with light. Now how did that
happen? She touched the door, examining the wood
near the lock. Nothing. Experimentally, she turned
the lock the other way. Immediately the light went
46

out.
So thats it, Peggy thought. She locked the door,
which turned the light back on, and began running
water into the tub. This hotel certainly conserved
electricity. But, oh, the hot water felt good. She
swished the bubble bath around and leaned back,
relaxing. The hot water and the perfume of the
bubble bath were soothing, and her thoughts
wandered, focusing on nothing . . .
With a start, Peggy realized that shed almost
allowed the tub to run over, and simultaneously she
decided shed better go to her room and he down
before she fell asleep right there.
Her pale green suit was slightly wrinkled from
the suitcase, Peggy noticed later, as she stood before
the Louis XIV mirror. However, its green color set
off her dark chestnut hair to perfection. The soft
wool costume was new, and Peggy didnt feel
entirely at home in it yet. She really needed to wear
a dress for about a year before she considered it
hers.
Were the copper-colored shoes and handbag
right? Peggy couldnt see the shoes in the mirror,
which wasnt full-length but began only above the
mantel. The handbag didnt look too bad. Shed
tried several accessories in different colors with this
suit, but nothing seemed exactly right. Well, about
white kid gloves there wasnt any question. Only
47

white kid would be chic enough for Paris.


She glanced at the mantel. Her traveling clock
said six thirty. She still had enough time, but she
should leave because she might have trouble getting
a taxi. Perhaps Monsieur Sorel could telephone for
her. Could you telephone for a taxi in Paris? You
couldnt in New York. But you could in Chicago.
Well, shed learn.
Downstairs in the office, Monsieur Sorels eyes
complimented her appearance.
Im going out to dinner, Peggy told him,
smiling. Is it possible to telephone for a taxi?
Ah! Dinner! His eyes lighted up again. With
someone French, I hope? He was obviously
hinting. You should dine with a Frenchman, so he
can tell you the food.
Yes, Peggy said, deciding shed humor him.
Hes French. The one you telephoned for me this
morning.
Voil! Monsieur Rodier. He is a fortunate man.
Thank you, said Peggy, blushing.
Now I telephone the taxi, he said.
She told him the place she wanted to go, and
listened while he telephoned. Then she went outside
to wait after he had assured her that the taxi
dispatcher would give the driver the address.
In only minutes, a little blue French car pulled up
to the sidewalk and a smiling driver with massive
48

shoulders and bushy black eyebrows opened the


door. Peggy slid into the back seat the way shed
been taught by May Berriman, the retired actress
who owned the Gramercy Arms, where Peggy lived
in New York. May, who mothered all her girls but
who had special affection for Peggy, had told her to
enter a car sideways so that thered never be any
ungraceful movement of the skirt. Peggy had
practiced, and it worked, and now it was second
nature to her.
She settled back to enjoy the drive through Paris,
but theyd gone only a few blocks when she realized
that they were caught in a traffic jam. Why was
there a traffic jam at quarter to seven? She hoped the
restaurant wasnt too far or she would be late.
The taxi seemed to creep along, and she couldnt
see anything but cars behind, cars ahead, and cars on
both sides. Occasionally, theyd come to an
intersection, and it seemed there were no traffic
rules because vehicles moved in all directions. She
began to be nervous.
She looked at her watch. Impossible! It was ten
after seven! Peggy hoped it wasnt much farther to
the restaurant. Andr Rodier had said he had to work
that evening. Was he covering a play that night?
What was curtain time in Paris? It was eight-thirty in
New York, but it varied in London. What if it were
eight oclock in Paris? She leaned forward. Yes, the
49

driver probably would know, but how was she going


to ask?
At last, it appeared that theyd come through the
heaviest part of the traffic. The driver was
accelerating now, and the little sedan sped down the
avenue, weaving and shaking off the traffic behind it
as a terrier shakes off water. Seven-thirty! Well, she
hoped it wasnt much farther. Andr Rodier would
be furious, and with good reason. In addition, she
was hungry. She remembered that all shed had to
eat that day was the croissant with the Australian
boyhow long ago that was!and a funny
sandwich made with French bread split down the
middle and stuffed with sausage and cheese. David
had suggested it when they stopped to rest and talk
at a sidewalk caf while he was carrying her
suitcases to the hotel. Shed like one now. She
leaned forward, and the driver sensed her question,
and pointed ahead. Within a few yards, he pulled
over to the curb, and motioning to a building at the
left, announced Voil!
David had taught Peggy that voil meant here
we are or here it is, but as Peggy looked out the
window, she knew there must be a mistake. A high,
cream-stone wall with decorative gates enclosed an
elegant eighteenth-century mansion that could only
be a private home. Peggy could see a fountain in the
courtyard, green grass and trees, and a small, dark50

haired girl playing all alone with a cat.


Restaurant? Peggy said hesitantly to the driver.
He pointed to the mansion, spoke excitedly in
French.
Peggy didnt understand a word. She shook her
head. It just wasnt possible that this was a
restaurant on the Left Bank. Come to think of it,
they hadnt crossed the Seine. They were still on the
Right Bank!
Where was she? It had taken more than forty-five
minutes to get here. Where had he brought her?
Restaurant, she repeated, her voice betraying her
anxiety.
The driver shook his head and used some words
that Peggy recognized hed said before, but she
didnt know their meaning.
Helplessly, she put her hands to her head. The
unconscious gesture of despair had its effect on the
driver. He spoke to her again in French, but his
voice was solicitous now. Peggy didnt know what
to do. She never had felt so completely incapable of
coping with a situation. It was maddening. For a
minute, she hated France.
Then she realized that all she had to do was find
the slip of paper Monsieur Sorel had returned to her
after he had telephoned the taxi. There it was. Right
in her handbag where shed put it. Strengthlessly,
she handed the paper to the driver. He exploded with
51

a volley of words, which Peggy suspected it was as


well that she didnt understand. Excitedly, he began
telling her all about the mistake, but she couldnt
translate a word. She pointed to the paper. He
nodded. He understood that she wanted to go to that
address. Next, she pointed to her watch. He looked
blank. Then came the slow smile of comprehension.
Using his finger, he pointed to the minute hand.
Then with a slow motion, his finger began circling
the face of the dial. The finger stopped at twelve.
She nodded. He meant they could be there by eight
oclock. She nodded again. He understood she
wanted him to start the car, and with one last
solicitous word to her, he floor-boarded the
accelerator and they were off on the wildest ride of
Peggys life.
The little blue car shot down the avenue, careened
around a corner, bolted into the traffic of a place,
scooted around a policeman directing traffic, barely
avoided running into a building, and ricocheted
down another street. Peggy shut her eyes and
refused to look any more. If she were going to die
that day, it was fate. She was helpless to do anything
about it.
In no time at all, they had crossed the center of
Paris, and were gliding to a stop in front of a
restaurant on the Left Bank. The name on the
restaurants canopy was correct.
52

Merci, merci, Peggy said, her voice coming


from deep within her.
A self-satisfied look on his face, the driver
motioned for her to look at her watch. It was five
minutes until eight. He reached over the front seat to
open the door for her, and only then did Peggy think
that she didnt know how to pay him. She had
English money and American money, but no French
francs. In the excitement of the day, shed forgotten
to change money. Well, perhaps he would accept
what she had.
Offering him a five-dollar bill in one hand and a
British pound note in the other, she tried to tell him
with her expression that these were the only choices.
He looked confused, and said something in
French.
Then a new voice cut in. You must learn to
speak French. You cant expect taxi drivers to speak
a foreign language. They dont in the States. The
young Frenchman from the train had poked his head
through the taxi window, his dark eyes betraying the
anger not audible in his voice. This is my day for
helping arrogant American girls with taxis, he said
smoothly.

53

VI
Dramatic Criticism

Looking taller and equally as handsome as he had on


the train, the young Frenchman deftly handed Peggy
out of the taxi, listened as the driver gave a
prolonged and dramatic explanation, nodded his
thanks, dismissed the taxi, and turned his gaze on
Peggy.
He moved back a few steps to view her from a
short distance, examined her critically, and said in a
voice that left no room for argument: The suit is
good. That line is from Dior, and its right for you.
But the shoes and purse ruin it. They spoil the whole
effect. You must wear nothing but deep cream for
the shoes and purse. Cant you see the cream tones
in the green of the suit?
Peggy looked down at her clothes. He was right.
Why hadnt she thought of it herself? But she was
too stunned to say anything more than I beg your
pardon.
I forgive you, he said easily, taking her arm.
54

In Paris, you must learn more about style.


Actresses need to know about style.
How did you know Im an actr
Im Andr Rodier, he said, laughing down at
her.
Oh, you! Peggy said in exasperation.
Youre late, he said, ignoring her wrath.
Youre an American, and I expected you to be on
time. You surprise me. Perhaps youre not
completely American after all.
Maybe you dont understand Americans, Peggy
cut in.
He continued to ignore her. I think we cannot
have dinner. There is no time. The play begins at
eight thirtymore or less. In France, there is no
hurry. But that is not time for dinner. One does not
spoil a good dinner because an American girl will
not learn to speak French so that she can tell the taxi
where to go. His tone changed, and his eyes were
warm as he looked down at her. You are very
hungry? he asked.
Yes. Very hungry, Peggy replied.
Well take an appetizer, he said. Pt and
bread, I think. Theres time for that. Then you wont
be hungry, and you can enjoy the play.
Play? questioned Peggy.
I told you. I work tonight. But you will enjoy it
too. Or you should. We will see the Greeks, he
55

announced. With a hand at her elbow, he led her to a


small table, helped her to a chair, and then without
consulting her preference, beckoned a waiter and
ordered decisively.
Well dine after the play, he announced, turning
back to her. We wont dine so well, because Paris
dines at this hour, not after the theater as they do in
New York. But I know one or two restaurants that
serve dinner late. Did you know that? he
demanded. That the restaurants in Paris serve only
at the dinner hour?
No, Peggy said. Tell me, why is there a traffic
jam at six thirty?
Jam?
Too many cars.
Paris works until six thirty. The day begins at
nine or nine thirty. Lunch is from twelve or twelve
thirty until two or two thirty. The day ends at six or
six thirty.
Thank you, said Peggy.
At what kind of a hotel are you staying? he
demanded.
A French hotel, she replied.
Good, he approved. Avoid Americans, at least
at first. You cant know Paris unless you stay with
the French.
The waiter served the pt and crusty French
bread.
56

You break itlike this, he told her,


demonstrating how to open the loaf and spread the
pt.
We have it in New York too, Peggy said stiffly.
Pardon, he said quietly.
His voice was so strange that Peggy stared for a
second, seeing with surprise that her mild reproof
had bothered him. What kind of a person is he? she
asked herself. He criticizes and needles and insults,
but when you defend yourself, even mildly, hes
hurt. She had no time to puzzle over his personality
because Andr took the initiative again.
I saw you in London, he said. You still have a
lot to learn about acting.
I beg your pardon, said Peggy, who wasnt at
all used to hearing her work criticized so bluntly,
and especially not the performances she had given in
England. The critics had been unanimous in praising
her.
Dont apologize, said Andr. You apologize
too much. Youre young. You can learn.
When an American girl says, I beg your
pardon, in that tone, she isnt apologizing, Peggy
said angrily. Shes telling you she thinks youre
rude. Its a polite way of telling you that youre
rude.
How am I rude? he demanded, amused.
You criticize all the time, Peggy said frankly.
57

Its not polite. Especially when people dont know


each other well.
How can they become acquainted if they dont
say what they think? he demanded. Leisurely, he
finished his coffee, not at all disturbed by her
censure.
Oh, you! Peggy said in exasperation.
You know Im right. You werent good in
London. Thats why you mind my saying it. You
know its true. But then the play itself wasnt that
good. How can an actress be good in her part if she
doesnt have a good play?
Thats too much! Peggy snapped. Come
Closer is a very good play. It was written by a friend
of mine, and its a very good playespecially for a
young playwright.
You apologize for the play when you point out
hes young, said Andr. What has the age of the
author to do with whether a play is good? Im not
talking about whether its going to make money. Im
talking about whether or not its going to live for
one year or fifty years or one hundred years or two
thousand yearslike the play well see tonight.
Oh, said Peggy, deflated.
Americans always apologize for their country.
When I say something true about America or
American contributions to art, the answer I always
get from Americans is, Were too young.
58

Well, Randy is young, Peggy said.


It shows in the play, Andr said in disgust. All
that false glamor, all that false sophistication. Why
doesnt he write about simple people with problems
that simple people have? Why do Americans always
write plays set in international resorts with exotic
people like ex-child movie stars and young heiresses
who have never before been outside the family
estate?
The criticism smarted. Andr was describing
Come Closer, Randys play which Peggy had done
in London. What did you say about Come Closer in
the newspaper article this morning? Peggy asked.
You read it, he said flatly.
I couldnt, said Peggy.
Its time you admitted it, he chided. You
should have admitted it this morning, and Id have
read it to you.
Im sorry, said Peggy.
Is that an apology or another way for an
American girl to tell me Im rude?
Its an apology.
I am rudea little, he acknowledged. I knew
who you were on the train this morning. I looked at
your luggage tags.
Why didnt you introduce yourself? Peggy
asked.
I wanted to learn your taste.
59

My taste?
What youre likeyour standard of valuesif
you really love the drama.
You decided I didnt.
Im not certain.
It was mean to ask me to criticize your article
without telling me you had written it.
Why? If you said something true or
interestingeither good or badId appreciate it.
Youre a new type to me, Peggy admitted.
Im French. You should learn to be a little
Frenchand appreciate honest criticism.
How do you know I dont?
Ill learn, he said.
But I can read French, Peggy insisted, at least,
a little.
His eyes questioned her statement.
I can, Peggy defended herself. Only, since
Ive been in France, I cant seem to do anything
even things I can do other places.
In America, you mean.
Peggy nodded. And in London.
Thats very good, he said. Youre feeling
France. Not too many Americans can. They come
here in groupson tourist tours. They stay with
Americans in hotels where all the staff speaks
English. They go to all the tourist places and they
may see a museum or two. Then they think theyve
60

seen France. They should stay at home. But if


France is destroying you a little, thats good.
What? Peggy demanded, not understanding
him at all.
I said, he said, explaining patiently, France is
destroying you a little. When you come into a new
culture, you have to be destroyed a little, or you
havent had the experience of the culture. It
happened to me when I went to the States. Without
it, you simply take your own country with youso
theres no point in traveling. You have to be
confused, so you can learn that there are other ways
of doing things than how Americans do them.
Thank you, Peggy said softly. Someone was
trying to tell me that this afternoon, and I didnt
understand him.
Who? demanded Andr. A Frenchman?
No, said Peggy. An Aussie.
You cant learn anything about France from an
Australian. Thats as bad as being with Americans.
Im disappointed in you.
Hes been in France two years. He loves Paris.
Maybe he can teach you something then, Andr
said wistfully. You could learn better from a
Frenchman, however, he almost snarled, signaling
the waiter for the check. Come on, he ordered, or
well be late. Youve caused me enough trouble for
one day.
61

VII
Round Two: Andr

The curtain went down, and promptly rose again as


the cast of Oedipus Rex came onstage to take their
bows. Applause rolled through the auditorium but
was almost drowned by the shouts of Bravo!
Did you enjoy it? whispered Andr.
Yes.
When the lights came on, Andr said, Look at
the theater. I think you dont have anything quite
like it in New York. This is the French eighteenth
centuryeven if it was built in the nineteenth, he
explained.
Peggy smiled. I saw it this afternoon.
It was named for Sarah Bernhardt about 1900,
Andr went on. She played here, you know. La
Tosca, LAiglon, La Samaritaine, Camille. I wish
Id seen her.
The Divine Sarah, said Peggy. Dont we all!
But its not just the past, said Andr. The first
performance of Jean-Paul Sartres The Flies was
62

here too.
Isnt that the past brought up to date? Peggy
commented.
Youre right, he said. Im surprised you
knew.
Dont be insulting, said Peggy, feeling quite
comfortable with him now.
Most Americans dont. They dont know much
about the past.
Youve met the wrong Americans, Peggy
retorted. We do too learn about the past. We learn
about the Greeks, and the Roman Empire, and the
Middle Ages, and the Renaissance.
Why dont you learn French?
Peggy could see that Andrs mood was different
by the time they were seated in the restaurant, but
she didnt know him well enough to understand
what had caused the change. Rather than the helpful
instructor of the theater, he had reverted to the
needling stranger of the train.
While he consulted with the waiter, Peggy
inspected the restaurant. This one wasnt stylish, but
it certainly had its own style. Big, noisy, crowded,
with small oak tables all jumbled together, it was
decorated with mirrors, a large map of the world,
and red velvet curtains scattered with dancing pigs
in fifty different poses. But it was the customers
63

who interested Peggy. To her left were a couple in


evening dressthe man in white tie and tailcoat, the
woman in silk and furswhile at the marble and
brass bar which extended the length of the room
three workmen in blue denim argued excitedly as
they devoured frogs legs and large quantities of
French bread.
Well start with onion soup, Andr informed
Peggy. Thats a must at Au Pied de Cochon.
Youre an American, so I suppose youd like steak,
he suggested.
Surprised, because it was the first time Andr had
consulted her preference on anything, Peggy nodded
assent, although she didnt really care what she ate.
Do you want to try something special? he
asked. Or do you already know steak tartare?
Thatll be all right, said Peggy, thinking it must
be steak with some sort of French sauce.
Youre sure? he asked. At Peggys affirmative
reply, he gave the order, told Peggy that he was
having sole, and, the ritual of choosing food
concluded, pounced. Do you think America will
ever produce art? Do you think youll ever do
anything as good as what we saw tonight? Ill take
you to Comdie Franaise. I dont think you can
equal Racine or Molire. Whats the matter with
America that you cant do anything in art?
We can, we do, Peggy retorted. Weve got
64

Eugene ONeill, and Tennessee Williams, and


Thornton Wilder
ONeill, he cut in, yes, youve got Eugene
ONeill. And you dont even appreciate him. Do you
know where you have to go to see ONeill
produced? Sweden, thats where. You cant see
ONeill produced in New York. He snapped his
fingers contemptuously.
Thats not true, Peggy protested hotly. They
do ONeill at Circle-in-the-Square, and Actors
Studio did a beautiful production of Strange
Interlude, and the new Lincoln Center repertory
theater included Marco Polo in its first season. You
can too see ONeill in New York.
All right, Andr conceded. Maybe you can see
him occasionally in New York. But not in the rest of
the States, he said triumphantly. He got banned in
Texas. They did a production of Long Days
Journey into Nightand he got banned.
In one small town, said Peggy, who knew the
story. And the director left that town and went to
Dallas. Hes formed a repertory theater, theyre
doing good work, and Id like to act there.
Why dont you? Andr suggested quietly.
Maybe I will, said Peggy. But dont say we
dont do ONeill, because its not true.
All right, said Andr. Youve got one
playwright. One playwright to measure against
65

Corneille, Racine, Molire


Stay in the twentieth century, said Peggy,
furious. We were building a country and fighting
Indians in the seventeenth century.
Okay, he agreed. But France wins in the
twentieth century too. Youve got one playwright.
Weve got Sartre, Claudel, Camus, Cocteau,
Ionesco, Anouilh
Some of them arent first-rate playwrights,
Peggy said angrily. Some of them are personalities
or philosophers or novelists, and thats not the same
as being a playwright. Weve got more than one too.
Weve got more than ONeill. Weve got Thornton
Wilder and Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams
and now weve got Edward Albee. She was almost
shouting.
Albee, said Andr musingly. You just may
have a playwright. Well have to wait and see. But
heres the soup. Be careful or youll burn yourself,
he cautioned Peggy as the waiter placed earthenware
pots in front of them.
Ouch! said Peggy, pulling her hand away from
the pot.
I warned you, said Andr. Use a spoon, and be
careful with the cheese. Its Gruyre and its
stringy.
He was right. The cheese took managing. It
wasnt sprinkled on top as shed expected. It was
66

baked into the soupa thick crust of it on the top,


which permeated deep into the pot. Now she knew
why the earthenware had been so hot. The soup had
been baked in an oven to diffuse the cheese. It was
delicious!
Tell me about this restaurant, said Peggy. She
judged it best to try to forget her anger and introduce
a new subject.
You lost the debate, Andr said, elated. Thats
why you dont want to talk about playwrights any
more. But youre right. The restaurant is interesting.
Its one of half a dozen interesting restaurants in this
area, which is called Les Halles. Its the market
district of Paris. If I didnt have to work tomorrow,
Id take youbut the market doesnt begin for a
couple of hours. What you do, he said, is enjoy
your eveningthe theater, the opera, a party,
whatever you likethen you come here to eat and
talk for a few hours. Then you go to the market. All
the fresh food eaten in Paris comes here firstthe
meats and the poultry and the fish and the vegetables
and the fruits. Its exciting. You must see the market
before you leave Paris. During the few hours its
open, its the busiest place in the worldeven more
hurried than New Yorks Grand Central Station at
rush hour, he said, laughing.
But you asked about the restaurant. Youre right,
its special. This one and the others in the area were
67

designed to serve the workersthe men who lift the


heavy crates of fruit, carry the sides of beef, and
weigh the big baskets of vegetables. So the food has
to be both substantial and well prepared, because
they work hard. I told you most of the restaurants in
Paris close after the dinner hour. Well, other people
besides workers get hungry. So they learned about

68

these restaurants, and they started coming here. Now


you can see everyone here. Its one of the things to
do in Pariseat at a restaurant in Les Halles.
Thank you, said Peggy. Im glad you brought
me here.
Its nothing, he said. I want you to see Paris.
And you have to see the market. You cant
understand a people until you see what they eat.
Peggy laughed. Okay, she said.

69

Thats better, said Andr. I dont like to hear


girls debate. All American girls debate too much.
Before Peggy could devise a sufficiently crushing
reply, the waiter arrived with their dinner. Peggy
inwardly recoiled in horror from the concoction
placed in front of her. It looked like raw hamburger,
with a raw egg on top. So this was steak tartare!
That insufferable Andr! Hed known all along what
he was doing when he ordered it. She could tell by
the way he watched her. Well, shed show him! If
she choked, shed eat it and not give herself away.
The meat looks good, he said innocently.
Delicately, he sampled his own sole. Sometimes,
the beef in cooked steak isnt too good, but they
dont dare use bad beef in steak tartare.
The only thing I dont like, said Peggy,
affecting nonchalance, is the egg. Usually, I
remember to tell them no egg. She lifted the half
eggshell from the top of the meat. Ugh! It looked
even worse. Well, she might be able to get the steak
down, but she positively couldnt eat a raw egg.
How is your sole? she asked enviously. Closing
her eyes, she took her first bite.
Not too bad, he replied. Its cooked one or two
minutes too long. Would you like to trade? His
eyes wrinkled at the corners from suppressed
amusement.
Why, no, Peggy said carelessly, I dont really
70

care that much about fish.


They ate in silence. Peggy tried to watch the other
diners so she wouldnt see what she was eating.
Andr was right. All Paris was here.
Tell me about the Lincoln Center theater, said
Andr. Did you see it last season?
Peggy nodded, glad of the distraction. Actually,
its only one manifestation of something new in the
United States. Were finally getting repertory
theatersnot only in New York, but all over the
country. Minneapolis, Washington, the West Coast,
Dallas. Youve always had itthe ComdieFranaise is so old. Now, under the arts program
since World War II, youve got the Opera and
Thtre de France and
You know about us? he asked in a kind of
pleased wonder.
Why not? Peggy asked in surprise. France
always has produced the greatest actresses . . . Her
voice trailed off, while she puzzled over Andrs
reaction. He seemed almost like a child, grateful for
her attention.
You havent finished your steak, he said
accusingly. No dessert unless you finish your
steak.
Resentfully, Peggy forked down the last few
bites. She was resolved that she wouldnt let this
maddening Frenchman see that shed made an error.
71

They ate dessertmarvelous crme caramel, a


burnt-sugar-flavored custardin hostile silence.
After Andr had paid the check and helped Peggy
into her jacket, he guided her toward the door,
remarking slyly, We must come here again for the
steak tartare.
You! Peggy exclaimed, her eyes blazing.
Youve spent the whole dinner taunting me!
She jerked her elbow free from his hand, rushed
the few steps to the door, flung it open, and ran onto
the sidewalk, intending to take a taxi home.
Are you very angry? Andr was laughing as he
caught up with her. Come on, Ill take you home.
Youll never get there by yourself.
Walking up the circular staircase towards her
room, Peggy was scolding herself for letting the
insufferable Andr win another round. Suddenly, all
the lights went out. It was pitch dark on the
stairway. Not a fight showed in the halls above or
below her. A fuse must have blown, Peggy thought
in despair. Thats all you need after such a dreadful
day. Doesnt anything go right in this country! You
should have stayed homeor in England. So what
do you do now? How are you going to find your
room? You dont even know what floor youre on.
Have you come up two or three flights? Try to think.
All at once she heard quiet footsteps behind her.
72

She screameda shriek of hysteria.


The lights went on. But Peggy had collapsed,
sitting weakly on the steps, weeping into her cupped
hands.
Its all right. Its all right, Andr soothed. I
forgot to tell you about the minuterie. French hotels
conserve electricity. When you push the hall button
to turn on the lights, they go on for one minute only.
You have to push the button on every floor. I should
have told you downstairs, but I forgot. I wasnt
being nasty. I truly forgot. I was coming to show
you when you screamed. He pushed a handkerchief
into her hand.
As he talked, the hall and stairs filled with people
who came rushing out of their rooms in response to
Peggys scream. Amid the general hubbub,
Monsieur Sorel, clad in a Scotch plaid robe, charged
up the steps shouting in French. As soon as he saw
Peggy, he began speaking in English.
Whats going on? Are you all right? he
questioned excitedly. Weve been so worried.
There was a mistake with the taxi. You took the
wrong one. We tried to find you. Weve worried all
evening. Who are you? he demanded darkly of
Andr.
A friend of Peggys, Andr said wearily. Shes
okay. She was frightened when the lights went out. I
heard her scream, so I came to help her.
73

Monsieur Sorel looked questioningly to Peggy.


Peggy bowed her head in assent. She still felt weak,
but her feeling sprang from embarrassment now.
Waking all those people! Disturbing everyone!
Shed really made a spectacle of herself!

74

VIII
Culture Clash

At a bell tower in the distance, the clock struck four.


On the final stroke, David pulled his beard,
scratched an eyebrow, then gave Peggy another cue.
Hed been helping her go over her lines for a week.
All the while, he had cautioned her not to attempt to
develop characterization until shed been through a
reading or two with the cast.
He was right, of course. If Peggy started playing
to him, shed develop a pace and rhythm that might
be wrong for the actors who played the other parts.
Then shed have to adjust her own responses to
them, and there simply werent enough rehearsal
days. Better to start with no timing and no
characterization than have to change something that
had become habit.
They finished the scene, and David glanced at his
watch. We have a few minutes. Do you want to run
over the last part of act three? You still havent got
that letter-perfect.
75

Its because I cant give anything, and I dont


get any response. I can rattle off every line of it to
you. But when I start trying to just read itwithout
acting itits too difficult.
Its a good scene, David said quietly. Just
dont try to do anything with it yet. Wait until your
companyand your propsget here. How you read
it standing up, or draped over that table, as you are
now, is different from struggling out of a
wheelchair. Wed better go, he said. Theyll want
the room. Rehearsal space at the Thtre Sarah
Bernhardt was at a premium because the Chilean
company, which had opened two nights earlier, was
working too.
Want to come along with Colette and me
tonight? David asked. He collected their empty
coffee cups. We wont do much. Just walk on the
Left Bank and stop at a caf or two and maybe talk
to a few people.
Peggy smiled. Shed gone out twice with David
and Colette, Davids French girl friend. Once, they
had gone to the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank and
once to the Chatelet area on the Right Bank. Both
evenings had been superb, a taste of Parisian life
that shed never have known without David and
Colette.
Colette, who was a student at the Sorbonne, the
University of Paris, had invited a group of her
76

friends to join them. They had organized an


impromptu party at someones apartment, and
danced and debated philosophies of life most of the
evening. Peggys French had improved remarkably
under the pressure of explaining her views.
The second evening, they had gone to a caf
frequented by students of the acting school. Peggy
had enjoyed comparing notes on training, career
prospects, and individual definitions of success.
Then a group from the Greek company had appeared
after their performance and the communication
problem rapidly had become acute. French, Greek,
and English had been all mixed together, and
everyone had begun to laugh so hard that further
serious discussion had become impossible. Not that
it was needed. One of the French students had
produced a guitar, and a Greek chorus member had
begun a wild dance on top of a table while two of
his cohorts supplied drums by beating on the chair
with tablespoons. When the proprietor chased them
out, theyd trouped down to the Seine to sing and
dance on the quay.
You didnt answer me, David prompted. Want
to come? Maybe tonight, well really have a quiet
evening.
Thanks, David, Peggy said. Ask me again. Id
love to go, and I really enjoy Colette, but tonight
Ive got a date.
77

Ah-ha! David tweaked his beard. Tell old


uncle here all about it. He closed the door behind
them, and they started down the stairs.
Well, theres nothing to tellexcept that hes
insufferableand quite interesting.
He must be French, David said with
resignation. Hes probably not insufferable at all.
Youve probably got a culture clash going.
Whats that? demanded Peggy.
Hes used to doing things one way, and you
think another is the only possible way to behave. So
each of you thinks the other is bad-manneredor
stubborn, or ignorant, or whatever the reaction
happens to be.
Hes rude, said Peggy.
What does he think about you? demanded
David.
He thinks Im arrogant, Peggy admitted
reluctantly.
Thats a frequent charge against Americans,
David replied. But, Peggy, remember there have
been a lot of Americans in Paris since the Second
World War. Most of them dont speak French. This
makes all sorts of problemsabout prices, services,
that sort of thing. The French get tired of all that
suspicion. Theyre not cheats. But deeper than that,
remember that youre Americanyour countrys the
first power in the western world. France is old, and
78

its proud. To be invaded by foreignerseven a


tourist invasionis a constant reminder that a new
country and a new culture have the lead. Im
Australian, and weve never been first as a world
power, but Ive been in France long enough, and I
love it enough, to understand how they feel.
But Americans arent arrogant, protested
Peggy. We come to France to learn. If you come to
learn, thats an admission that you dont think
youre first in everything.
You came to learn, said David, but how many
do? Dont most of them come to be able to tell their
friends at home that theyve been to Europe?
I dont think were quite that bad, Peggy said
slowly. Its just that we get tired of being criticized
toocriticized like that, I meanso we complain
back.
Mentally, Peggy tagged her date with Andr as
Round Three. Round One had been on the train.
She had lost that one because of the newspaper.
Round Two had been the night of the play. She had
lost that because of Oh, she couldnt bear to think
of all the stupid things shed done. Tonight was
Round Three. They were going to the ComedieFranaise to see a performance of Corneilles Le
Cid. Peggy had spent the previous evening reading
the play, using an English translation to help her
make out the French.
79

She put one more hairpin into her chestnut curls,


now pulled sleekly into a French chignon, and stood
away from the mirror to examine the effect. It was
interesting, but somehow it didnt look like her.
Hastily, she pulled out the pins and began brushing
her hair into a less sophisticated style. Somehow, it
looked too fussy. Her turquoise silk dress and the
little white coat were both simplegood lines and
good fabric but no ornamentation. She could use
something more, but she didnt know what. She
tried a gauze scarf, arranging it over her head,
crossing it under her chin, and draping it over her
shoulders. Not too bad. Shed wear it.
Peggy checked her makeup. Not enough powder,
because it revealed that she was wearing powder.
The more powder you used, if you put it on right,
the less anyone could tell you used any. Peggy
blotted her face carefully, and dusted it again. Once
more, she blotted. There, much better.
Time to go downstairs, she told herself. Monsieur
Sorel had telephoned five minutes ago to tell her
Andr was waiting. It was the first call shed had on
the funny little wall telephone in the center hallway.
Telephones seemingly were as scarce as electricity
in France. At the thought of electricity, Peggy
winced. How could she face Andr again? Oh, go on
downstairs, she ordered herself. Dont be a coward.
Youre just dillydallying here to avoid the meeting,
80

but you really want to see him. Go on.


The first few minutes with Andr hadnt been
uncomfortable at all. He was in his charming mood,
and no one could have been more gallant than he on
the way to the theater, pointing out places of
interest, telling her bits of history, calling her
attention to small details of architecture.
The interior of the Thtre Franaise was similar
to the Sarah Bernhardt, only more elegant, with
more red velvet, and more gilt. It had crystal
chandeliers, and individual chairs in the boxes. The
acting was stylizedjust as the Greek companys
had been. How many times had she seen Andr
make that exact gesture, Peggy wondered in
amusement, as she watched Rodrigue, the hero,
make his entrance. Did the actors copy the people,
or did the people, having seen this style of acting for
three hundred years, unconsciously copy the actors?
Would you like a Perrier? Andr asked, as they
strolled into the lobby during intermission. Its a
sort of vichy water. Soda water, I think you call it.
Its refreshing.
Ill try it, said Peggy.
Thats good, said Andr. I thought youd want
Coca-Cola.
We have Coca-Cola at home. Im in France to
learn new things. Ill try the Perrier.
While he went to get the drinks, Peggy looked at
81

the other spectators. She was in Paris all right! The


girls were so chic, the men so Latin.
When Andr returned with the Perriers, he
scanned her from head to toe, the cool, appraising
glance of the art connoisseur. Your dress is good,
but your hairs not right for it. Its too rococotoo
many curls. It should go straight back to show the
bones in your faceyou have good bones. A
chignon, I think, would be right. It wouldnt break
the silhouettethe way all those curls do.
I tried it, Peggy said defensively. I didnt feel
like myself.
Andr shrugged. Okay, he said, if you want to
be a little girl from Wisconsin all your life . . .
I am a girl from Wisconsin, Peggy said angrily.
Theres nothing wrong with being a girl from
Wisconsin. How did you know that anyway?
Gaby wrote me, he answered. But youre not,
he added with a certain ferocity. Youre not any
more. Youre an actress.

82

IX
Surprise from New York

A caravan of four taxis followed by half a dozen


assorted cars pulled up in front of the Thtre Sarah
Bernhardt. Peggy excitedly waved to Mal Seton,
whom she recognized in the lead cab. David hung
back as Peggy rushed to throw her arms around Mal
and demand, Wheres Randy? Wheres Jane?
Mal gave her a big hug, kissed her on both
cheeks, said Peggy, youre prettier than ever, and
turned to pull open the back door of the cab. Peggy
could hear other doors opening behind her, but her
eyes were glued to the figure in the back of the lead
car. A large, redheaded woman, with the dignity of
her more than sixty years, and the poise of a great
actress, slid gracefully from the taxi seat. Her
gliding motion was so smooth that not a kneecap
showed nor was there a wrinkle in her skirt as she
descended from the miniature car.
May! Peggy shouted in joy, throwing herself
into motherly arms. May! What are you doing
83

here?
May Berriman squeezed Peggy hard, then pushed
her back a little, but still held her by the arms, as she
took a long look. Youre a little thin, said May.
But, otherwise, you look good. Its that English
food, I think. But now youre in France, and well
feed you up.
May! Peggy rejoiced. Im so glad to see you!
You dont know how glad I am!
Me too, said May, touching Peggys hair. But
come on, weve got work to do. Well talk later.
Alex Zalodek, the light man and an old friend of
Peggys, claimed his welcoming kiss, while Sid
Chaney, Jo Anne Bruce, Bob Parker, and all the
others crowded around.
We came to the theater because the French
newspapers want a press conference, Bob Parker
told Peggy through the chatter about the flight and
the teasing about what Peggy had done while she
was all alone in Paris.
Atten-shun! It was Mals voice booming out
above the noise. The British accent was
unmistakable. Mal, dark, muscular, tough-looking,
with a face like a private detective or a gangster in a
grade-B movie, usually didnt resort to such drastic
measures as shouting. Consequently, he got
immediate silence.
Ive been talking to David Cooper, our
84

interpreter, and hes given me a list of hotels. If


youll quiet down, Ill give you the addresses.
Meanwhile, I think the French papers want to talk to
May. David says we can use one of the rehearsal
rooms. So I want the rest of you to get settled in
your hotels and meet here at one oclock. Bob,
would you distribute these addresses? As he spoke,
he turned to the stage manager, who was doubling as
business manager.
Rehearsal at one oclocksharp, Bob repeated
to the cast. Everyone here at one on the dot. He
took the hotel list and began checking off names.
Peggy, come along, Mal called. They may
want to photograph you with May.
Wheres Randy? Peggy demanded. And hows
Amy?
But Mal had turned to rescue May from the
newspaper reporters who surrounded her.
Gentlemen, he said, lets go inside and let the
lady sit down. Then, remembering where he was,
he switched to French, and Peggy watched as the
journalists moved back to permit May to pass.
Whats going on? Peggy demanded, as she
caught up with Mal.
Mays a celebrity in France, he said, chuckling
softly. I didnt know it until we were on the plane,
and she told me shed been at the Vieux-Colombier
in the twenties. But Randy knew it, and he wired
85

ahead to somebody, and this is whats happened. Its


good publicity for the show. He spread his hands to
include the whole spectaclethe caravan of cars,
the excited actors, the questioning reporters.
They walked inside and up the stairs, May in the
lead on Davids arm, with Mal, Peggy, and the
journalists following them. Mal, Peggy demanded,
what is the Vieux-Colombier and why is May here
and where is Randy and how is Amy? She was
breathless from talking so fast, and from almost
racing up the stairs to keep in step with Mal.
The Vieux-Colombier, my dear, said Mal, in
his most formal English voice, revitalized theater in
Paris. Oh, it was great! he enthused, forgetting his
dignity. They mixed the realistic and the poetic.
And May was part of it. Shed been a schoolgirl in
France, so her French was good. Then, during World
War I, the director who eventually organized the
Vieux-Colombier was in New York, and he saw
Mays work. When he came back to Paris, she came
too. She was marvelous! You can tell. Look at
themhe motioned to the journalistsits been
forty years, but they keep the memory. She was
great!
I didnt know that about May, said Peggy. I
knew she was good. You can feel that. But she has
never talked much about what she did.
Thats May, said Mal. Besides, you galsall
86

of you at the Gramercy Armswere always too


busy talking about what you were going to do to ask
any questions about what May already had done.
Guess youre right, Peggy said ruefully.
Take a chair, said Mal, leading Peggy into the
refreshment lounge used by patrons of the theater
during intermissions. He found a chair for May, and
stood beside her as the French journalists asked their
questions.
The interview, of course, was conducted in
French, and Peggy couldnt understand most of it.
But Mays deep, rich voice sounded even more
lovely in French than it did in English. Peggy
remembered now that shed noticed many times that
May had a talent for making even English sound like
music. She had carried over her childhood training
in French into her own language.
May snapped some words, her eyebrows arching.
The journalists laughed, but Peggy wouldnt have
had to hear their laughter to know that May had
made one of her droll observations on life. Now, she
was beckoning to Peggy.
They want to take a few pictures, Mal
explained. We dont have any to give them of you
two together.
Dutifully, Peggy walked over to May and put her
arm around Mays shoulder. It was only then that
she remembered again that she didnt know why
87

May had come to Paris.


Whats the story? she whispered to May
between smiles for the cameras.
Im your mother, May whispered back. Itll be
some showwith both female leads scarcely
knowing their lines.
May! Wheres Jane Vatermann? Peggy
demanded out loud.
The photographers called in French, and Peggy
resumed her pose, without having received an
answer.
Finally, the journalists were finished, and Mal
and David ushered them out, one or two stopping to
ask last questions or pay a final courtesy to May.
Whats going on? Peggy demanded. Someone
tell me, please. Wheres Randy? And wheres Jane
Vatermann and wheres Laughing JimI forget his
namethe one who played the errand boy?
Mono, said Mal. Its about decimated the cast.
Randys been in the hospitaldont worry, hes
getting better. Amys going to be okay too. She
sends her love, and told you to break a leg. Theyre
all going to be okay. It just takes time. Only when
Jane came down with it too, we had to make a last
minute decision whether we were going to come or
not. I said it was impossible without Jane
Vatermann, but Randy said, Ask May. So I did.
And May, the darling, said shed come. Wed never
88

have found anyone else to do the mother.


It would have been a crime to cancel the
appearance, said May. Its a good play, and I
didnt want Randy to be disappointed. This play is
the best thing hes done. Hes ready for an
international showing. He should have his chance.
Hes going to learn more from the reviews, and
more from the reactions of this audience, than he
could learn writing three more plays only for New
York. Besides, said May, a twinkle in her eye, I
dont mind a trip to Paris. There are one or two
people I might look up.
Ill bet there are, replied Mal, mischief in his
eyes as he studied her. May, were all the men in
Paris in love with you?
A few, May said vaguely. A few. She
gathered up her gloves and purse. Id better find a
hotel. I think I heard something about rehearsal at
one oclock. Peggy and I are going to need it.
Oh, come stay at my hotel, Peggy invited. Its
French, and theres a manager named Monsieur
Sorel, and theres a circular stairway, and I have a
balcony.
May smiled fondly at Peggy. I see youve
discovered Paris. All right. Do you suppose theres a
room? One without too many stairs? My old bones
wont take those stairs any more.
Madame Berriman, protested David, who had
89

remained quiet, youre in Paris. No woman feels


that way in Paris. I can see youve stayed too long in
New York. In Paris, all women are beautiful, and
they never age. And you are beautiful, he added
reverently.
Ah! said May, stretching her arms in an
extravagant gesture, I can hear Im back in Paris. I
love it!
My hotel then, said Peggy. Its settled.
I hope theres a room, said May. It would be
convenient toofor rehearsing.
Ill telephone Monsieur Sorel while Mal finds
you a taxi, said David. Therell be a room.
Monsieur Sorel adores the theater.
What happened to my luggage? demanded
May.
Its in the lobby downstairs, said David. Ill go
make that phone call, then Ill help Mal with the
suitcases. He walked toward the door, then turned
to speak to Mal. Youd better notify the festival
office officially that youre here. They received your
wire saying you were arriving a day early and asking
for rehearsal space, but you should tell them
officially.
Right, said Mal. Let me get May off, and then
you can show me the office. Ill tend to that, then see
about a hotel myself.
Want me to ask Monsieur Sorel if he has two
90

rooms?
Good idea, agreed Mal. ThenunofficiallyI
can see what these two ladies are doing. David
disappeared through the door.
No sleep for the next week, Peggy said happily.
Then her tone changed abruptly. Oh, Mal, Im so
worried about the play.
Dont be, he said, patting her arm. Youll do
okay, Peggy. And with May to play to, I couldnt
ask for a better cast.
A good cast doesnt make up for lack of enough
rehearsals, Peggy pointed out.
Unofficiallythe cast will rehearse you as much
as you need. Theyve all told me thatunofficially.
Well cope, Peggy, May said soothingly.
How are your lines? Mal asked, all business
now.
Down pat. Davids been cueing me. Isnt he
nice?
Agreed. Just what does he do here?
Hes a studentat the school. I dont think they
expect him to do as much for us as he does. Hes
just nice. He and his girl friend took me out a couple
of times, and I really felt that I saw Paris.
What did you do? inquired May, a reminiscent
smile on her face.
Oh, everything, replied Peggy. Including
dancing on the quay of the Seine.
91

Good girl, said May. But nowif were all


readyI think we should get the hotel settled. Then
I personally want un grand caf. Its been so long
since Ive had French coffee. Do you suppose its
too late in the morning to get croissants? Or has
Paris changed? Do they keep them all day now?
Only in the morning, said Peggy. But if we
hurry, they may still have some at the caf next door
to the hotel. The maid brings coffee and croissants
to your room in the morning at the hotel.
Ah! Paris hasnt changed, said May.
If you two girls are through dreaming of putting
on weight, Mal said with mock severity, I want to
remind you that weve got a rehearsal at one.
Yes, sir, said May. I always take instructions
from the director.
Is Randy really all right? asked Peggy.
Hes going to be better than ever, May
reassured her. Hell probably have a new play
finished by the time the doctor tells him he can work
again.
I wish he were here, said Peggy. If I spoil his
play
You wont, said Mal.
Mal, Peggy said slowly, how is this festival
organized? David doesnt seem to know, or else he
doesnt think its important. Is there only one prize?
Ive seen the Greek company. Theyre superb.
92

Theyre a repertory group, and theyve rehearsed


together for years. People are going to compare
Dont worry, youll be great, said Mal, a little
frown wrinkling his forehead despite his positive
words.
Mal, said Peggy, the Chilean company is here.
They play right before us. I havent seen them. But
they have a Miguel play.
Miguel!
Peggy nodded.
Miguel, Mal repeated slowly. Miguel.

93

X
May Berriman

Mays room was larger than Peggys, and it was on


the second floor, which is called the first floor in
France where the ground floor is the rez-dechausse. It had a carefully polished brass bedstead
and an immaculate white counterpane that exactly
matched the linen, visible now because Peggy had
turned back the bolster and propped a pillow against
the wall for her head. Mays room too had a grilled
balcony and a Louis XIV mantel, but there the
resemblance to Peggys room ended. Instead of a
closet, Mays room had an enormous fruitwood
wardrobe fronted with a mirror just beginning to
silver, and double chests of drawers with metal
pulls. The chairs were nineteenth century, deep,
comfortable, and overcarved. But their powder-blue
upholstery, a little shabby now, picked up the
powder blue in the print of the wallpaper and
heightened the deep blues in a Monet reproduction
hanging opposite the mantel.
94

Its a good room, said May, sinking into a chair


with satisfaction. I miss this kind of room in New
York.
Its a little like the living room at the Gramercy
Arms, said Peggy, meaning that room too was a
composite of styles.
I try, said May, but Im not French.
You couldnt tell it to hear you talk, Peggy said
wistfully.
Poor Peggy, May replied. Are they giving you
a bad time? You mustnt resent it. The Latins love
their language and they hate to hear it butchered by
foreigners, but at the same time, if you dont speak it
a little, they think youre rude. You have to learn to
steer a middle course between their two conflicting
demands, and just be yourself. Theres nothing a
Latin respects more than someone with the courage
to be herself.
Im not sure, said Peggy. Its hard to be
myselfhere.
Who is he? May asked casually. She inspected
her manicure and took a nail file from her handbag.
Peggy sat bolt upright on the bed. How did you
know?
Im psychic, said May. She suppressed a smile.
No, Peggy, youre in Paris. Ive been here before
myself. Who is he?
You remember Gabys friend? Andr Rodier.
95

The critic for La Revue? asked May.


Yes.
What seems to be the problem?
I dont know, said Peggy. Thats the problem:
I dont know what the problem is. If I knew, maybe
I could do something about it.
Whats Andr like?
Interesting, said Peggy. He knows all sorts of
interesting things. But hes unbearably rude. He
criticizes my clothes, he didnt like Come Closer
he saw it in Londonand hes always criticizing
Americans, and
Before Peggy had finished, May was laughing.
Rich, hearty laughter came from deep inside her.
Whats so funny? asked Peggy in a hurt tone.
Nothing, said May. Its nothing for you to be
upset about. Im really laughing at myself. Its just
that you remind me so much of myself when I was
your age in Paris. Thats all I was laughing about.
Want me to unpack for you? Peggy offered,
jumping up from the bed.
At that moment, there was a knock on the door,
and at Mays Entrez, sil vous plait, the little
wispy maid burst into the room. Scurrying to a
chest, she deposited a tray with two silver pitchers
of black coffee, a pot of cream, cubes of sugar in a
bowl, and matching Svres cups. A silver filigree
basket held the petits pains, which included
96

croissants and brioches, the latter also a light


breakfast roll but muffin-shaped with a cap. Silver
spoons and a single yellow rose in a bud vase
completed the trays contents.
May thanked the maid, who scurried out as fast as
she had raced in, and picked up the rose, admiring
the drop of water clinging to a petal.
Yes, you can unpack for me, May told Peggy.
Ill sit here and drink my coffee, and let you do the
work. How was London?
Good, said Peggy. I wrote you about Celia
Wycliffe and Tony Barstowe. The weddings in the
fall, and Im going to be in it.
How long are you going to stay in Europe?
I dont know, said Peggy. She hung three of
Mays dresses in the wardrobe, then turned back to
the open suitcase. As long as I can find work, I
think, and as long as I feel Im learning new things.
What about Randy? asked May.
You know, May, Peggy said slowly, I think
Randys part of the reason I should stay in Europe
for a while. I like Randy, you know that. But were
too young, we really are. I still want to meet a lot of
other people, and Randy does too.
Youre growing up, Peggy. May was
thoughtful. A year ago, you didnt have sense
enough to know that. You thought you were all
grown up when you came to New York.
97

Not really, said Peggy. I just acted like that


so it wouldnt show that I wasnt.
May laughed. Tell me about Andr, she
commanded.
Hes insufferable, said Peggy. And I dont
understand why. All he wants to do is argue that
France is better than the United States. I dont care,
she declared. I dont want to argue. I dont know
enough about France to argue about anything. I
came to learn about France, not argue against it.
You say Andr saw you act in London?
Yes. He said I wasnt too good, she confessed.
Theres something about Frenchmen you should
know, May said, handing Peggy a cup of coffee.
They always like to improve thingsthings or
people. They see something good, and they want to
make it better.
I dont understand, said Peggy, sipping the
black coffee.
I think Andrs trying to make you a better
actress by enriching your personality. I think hes
trying to show you another point of viewthe
French one.
Why is he so critical? demanded Peggy. There
are easier ways to teach.
May smiled, the indulgent smile of the aged
watching the young. Because hes young. He has to
establish his authority. He saw you act, and he
98

knows youre good. But he also knows that you can


be better.
I know that too, said Peggy. I mean I dont
want to sound conceited, but I do think Ive made
progress, and I think I can learn more.
Of course, said May. Now finish your coffee.
We should run over our lines before we go to the
theater. We have a big job ahead of us.
In a minute, said Peggy. May, how should I
act toward Andr?
Hm-m-m. May hesitated. Im not sure. Men
are individuals, and each ones a separate case. I
cant advise you until I know more about Andr.
Well, said Peggy, every date with Andr is
like another round in a boxing match. Ive even
begun to call them that. Hes always wanting to
debate American theater versus French theater.
Do you want to win the battle with Andr?
asked May.
Of course, said Peggy.
Really win, I mean?
Peggys bewilderment didnt have to be spoken;
it showed on her face.
You said you didnt care to argue, May
commented. You said in effect that youd think that
youd won if you two could be friends. Is that
right?
Yes, said Peggy. I think I understand him a
99

little better. But I still dont know how to act.


Ill tell you how you can really win. Dont
debate. Dont argue. Merely let him teach you
somethingsuch as the French language. Or let
France and Andr show you the French point of
view. If you do that, then hell adore youadore is
the French wordand youll really have won, isnt
that right?
May, Peggy said admiringly, how many men
were in love with you?
You ask too many questions, May said tartly,
pouring more coffee.
Ill finish unpacking your Peggy broke off,
her attention distracted by a rap on the door.
Its me, came Mals voice. Are you decent?
May I come in?
Come in, Peggy called.
Were organized, said Mal. He carried a tray in
front of him as he came through the door. Oh! I see
youve already had coffee. He put the tray on the
other chest, and began pouring a cup for himself. I
brought sandwiches, because if you dont mind, Id
like to work with you two before we go to the
theater.
In that case, said May, we can use the coffee. I
hope you brought me a pt sandwich. I havent had
one in ages.
At your service, madame, said Mal, passing a
100

plate. Peggy, how about you?


Later, she said.
Peggy, said Mal, all business, Id like to hear
you and May read the last scene. I know that seems
strange. But would you mind?
With or without a script? Peggy asked.
Without, if you can.
Okay, said Peggy.
You sit in this chair, Peggy, directed Mal,
pulling up the only straight chair in the room. I
want a simple reading. Dont try for anything
polished, just try to learn how your fines fit together.
But do sit quietly, as youll have to do in the
wheelchair.
When do the props arrive? Peggy asked, her
memory jogged by Mals words.
Late this afternoonwith luck, said Mal. The
set had to come by boat, of course. Darryl
Zimmerman, the tech director, is with it
babysitting it all the way. So just keep your fingers
crossed that theres no damage.
When do we get the stage for rehearsal?
Not until after the Chilean performance Sunday
night.
Not much time. Peggy almost groaned the
words.
And theyve got a Miguel play, said Mal,
thinking out loud. Read! he ordered.
101

XI
The Spaniards Vow

It was after six oclock when Mal dismissed the cast.


They were all exhausted from the long plane trip and
from some of the hardest work any of them had ever
done. Mals anxiety about lack of time to rehearse
Peggy had infected them all. The nervous tension
had made what already was a tough job that much
harder. Hed driven themand driven was the
wordthrough two readings that afternoon. Then
hed told Bob Parker, the stage manager, to call the
first stage rehearsal for ten in the morning, even
though theyd have to work with the Chilean set.
The announcement caused grumbling. The two
flunky girls, Harriet Aaron and Jo Anne Bruce,
who helped with the props and took minor roles,
complained that they wanted some time for
sightseeing in Paris. Sid Chaney, who helped with
the lights and played a small part, muttered that he
wanted to hear Mass at Notre-Dame. Joe Pride, the
male lead, said wearily that he wasnt feeling well.
102

Their attitudeand it was generalwas in


marked contrast to the willingness theyd expressed
earlier to rehearse Peggy day and night if necessary.
As they straggled out of the refreshment lounge
which had doubled as a studio, Peggy spoke
dispiritedly to Mal. Everyones cross, and its
mostly my fault. I just cant seem to make anything
fit together right.
No, Mal corrected her. Its my fault. Im the
director, and Im responsible. They know Im tense,
and its making all of them jittery. Its not you.
Youre doing okay.
Peggy shook her head. Youre sweet, Mal. But I
know Im terrible. I dont feel anything. And its
only me. Mays doing a swell job.
She had half a dozen rehearsals before we left
New York, Mal pointed out, trying to encourage
Peggy.
What am I doing wrong? Peggy demanded. I
know my lines, but I just cant seem to respond on
time, or respond in the right way.
Relax, said Mal. Youre trying too hard. Tell
you what, you go home and have a hot bath and get
all dressed up and Ill take you to dinner. You too,
May, he said.
Me too, what? May demanded. She had just
returned to the rehearsal room to see what was
keeping Peggy and had missed the first half of the
103

invitation.
Madame, would you give me the pleasure of
your company at a small dinner this evening? said
Mal, bowing formally.
With such a charming invitation, how can I
refuse? Whats the catch? Do I have to bring the
script with me?
Mother Pauling and Daughter Irma are not
invited to this dinneronly May and Peggy. Now
you two run along and dress. I have some thinking
to do.
Mal, said Peggy, after dinner, do you think we
might see the Miguel play? Id like to. Id like to see
just how good they are.
Right, said Mal, his chin squaring. Ill see
about seats. But at the moment, I need to think. This
is one of those times when I wonder why I ever
wanted to be a director.
Mal took them to Maxims, one of the most
distinguished restaurants in Paris. Its decor surprised
Peggy, whod expected the classic seventeenth
century, like several of the better French restaurants
in New York, and found instead the Belle Epoque,
the period before World War I, called turn of the
century in English. Its elegance was achieved in the
most delightfully casual fashion, with a potpourri of
styles and a mingling of plants and flowers and an
impeccably trained staff, several of whom
104

remembered May.
May, in a gray-green silk dress and emeralds,
held court in her own tart-tongue fashion,
entertaining Mal and Peggy with a series of stories
of Maxims and the Vieux-Colombier in the
twenties. Several times Parisians stopped to
exchange greetings with her, and Peggy was aware
that their table was sharing celebrity status with the
one occupied by a prince of a deposed royal house.
There must have been pictures of May and herself in
the evening papers. It was good publicity for the
play.
After the dinnerPeggy never remembered what
shed eaten, only that it was beef and melted on her
tonguethey had to hurry to make the curtain. Then
they all lost themselves in the Miguel play. Written
in poetry rather than prose, it was the story of the
sufferings endured by a peasant woman during the
Spanish Civil War. The theme was the confusion
caused in a simple person by the man-made terrors
of the world. Peggy couldnt understand the
Spanish, and, of course, the French translation didnt
help her. But the sound of the words themselves
moved her and no one could mistake the meaning of
the action taking place on the stage.
Brother! Mal said softly, after the final
applause had died, well have to work to beat that.
What a playwright!
105

It was superb, said May. Thats enough. We


dont have to beat it.
May and I should go home and begin work right
now, Peggy said grimly.
Wrong approach, Mal instructed Peggy.
Whats wrong is were all too nervous, and were
trying too hard. Tonight is the time to relax. Forget
the play. Well find a nightclub and remember its
Saturday night in Paris. Just think, Peggy, Paris!
Mal said gaily.
It took persuasion, but May eventually decided to
join them. Mal took them to a small place off the
Champs Elyses that he hadnt visited before, but
which he said a friend had recommended. They
walked through a smartly decorated foyer into a
surrealistic dance room, which was sunken several
feet below the level of the entry and crowded with
small tables, modernistic loveseats, and at one end a
jazz band. When her eyes had adjusted to the almost
nonexistent lighting, Peggy knew at once that Mal
had made a mistake. There couldnt be anyone in the
club more than twenty-one years old. As they stood
by the steps waiting for the headwaiter to take them
to a table, the roomful of people saw them. The band
missed a beat; there was dead silence for a second;
everyone stared at May.
But Peggy had underestimated May. Glancing
mischievously at Mal and then at Peggy, May all of
106

a sudden aged about twenty-five years. In a


trembling voice and slightly too loud, as if she
herself were deaf, she requested, Would you give
me your arm, my dear? Im not at all certain I can
manage these steps. And I seem to have left my cane
at the hotel.
Taking her cue, Mal promptly began to assist her,
hovering protectively as if he were afraid she might
fall and break a bone. Peggy suppressed a laugh. To
the teenagers gathered to dance, this ancient
American lady sightseeing in their private domain
must indeed be a curiosity.
On trembling legs, May allowed Mal to escort her
to a table, but she refused the soft leatherupholstered loveseat and demanded a straight chair.
My back, you know! When the waiter came, she
ordered a glass of hot milkstipulating twice that it
must be hotand ignored his outraged glare.
Where are the dancing girls? she asked in a
voice loud enough to be heard several tables away.
I thought all Paris nightclubs had dancing girls. I
dont want to miss the floor show.
Mal, who was having as much difficulty as Peggy
in carrying out his role, buried his face in his
handkerchief to hide his amusement, and it was up
to Peggy to explainin an equally loud voice to
penetrate the deafnessthat this nightclub had no
show.
107

Acting his part, Mal tried to distract May, which


gave Peggy a chance to look around. The girls were
well dressed, and although young, already were
displaying the fashion flair for which their mothers
were famous. The boys were for the most part
frankly more interested in May than in their dates.
Were the floor show, Peggy whispered. Have
you ever made such an entrance? I havent.
Its great, Mal agreed, chuckling under his
breath.
Whats going on? May demanded in her
characters loud voice. From somewhere, she had
produced a pair of glasses and had donned them to
peer at a couple oblivious to everyone, even May, as
they kissed.
Enough, May, Mal whispered. Dont overdo
it.
What have I done wrong? May demanded in
that voice. Why are you telling me to hush?
Peggy dropped a glove, giving herself an excuse
to duck her head to pick it up. Under the table, she
could release some of her pent-up laughter. Shed
never known May could be such funor so many
people. All actress at the theater. Grande dame at
Maxims. Grandma Moses-type tourist here.
Time to scram, May said in a stage whisper.
Well be losing our audience in a minute, as soon
as the shock wears off.
108

With audible complaints about the lack of


entertainment, May allowed her co-actors to
persuade her to leave. They escorted the old lady
across the dance floor and back up the stairs, with
only one stumble as a parting gesture.
Once out on the sidewalk, Peggy had to lean
against the building for support as she laughed
herself weak, while Mal kept pounding one hand
into the other as he tried to control his own mirth.
Oh, come now, I wasnt that good, May said in
her normal tart voice.
How many times have you done something like
that? Mal demanded, still laughing. I begin to
understand why Paris remembers you, May
Berriman. You were a personality as well as an
actress.
It was past two oclock when they arrived at a
little place May knew on the Left Bank. Echaud,
one of the relatively few cafs open in Paris at that
hour, was crowded with students, tourists, and Latin
Quarter night owls. Mal spotted Harriet Aaron, Jo
Anne Bruce, Keith Borgson, and Sid Chaney tucked
away at the back table, talking to two actors from
the Miguel play, and signaled for permission to join
them. They drew up an extra table, and Jo Anne,
who spoke Spanish, translated when the English of
the Latin Americans failed. But communications
were good enough that Peggy finally had her chance
109

to ask the question that had been puzzling her.


How did you persuade Miguel to let you do his
play? I thought hed made a vow that his works
couldnt be performed until democracy was restored
in Spain?
The older of the Latins, Jose Perez, a stockily
built man with an ascetic face and intense eyes,
answered her slowly in Spanish.
He says, Jo Anne translated, that Miguel,
being a poet, is dramatic. The exact words of the
vow were that the plays could not be performed until
they were performed in Europe in Spanish.
Everyone interpreted that to mean that they couldnt
be performed anywhere until they were performed in
Spainwhere theyd been banned. Where else in
Europe but Spain would there be an audience who
understood Spanish? Where else but Spain would
there be Spanish actors? Jose says the world is
getting smaller, and that now the rest of Europe is
interested in seeing a play in Spanish. The only
other problem was a company of actors whose
Spanish was good enough not to murder the lines.
Chile furnished that. So the terms of the vow
werent violated.
There was a hush at the table when Jose had
finished speaking. Then someone rattled a spoon
against a coffee cup. Quite a story, Mal murmured
softly.
110

In the quiet, a new figure approached the table.


Everyone looked up, and Peggy started in surprise.
Hello, Andr, she said. Would you like to meet
my friends?
I already know them, he said angrily. Still
staying with Americans, I see. Youre in France.
Why dont you meet some French?
Peggy started to protest, to point out that she was
with the Chilean actors as well as Americans. But
she choked back the hot words. Andr was right; she
was with Americans. The Chileans were Americans
too.

111

XII
Peggys Decision

Peggy put down the paint brush shed used to touch


up a table, and with a paint-stained hand wearily
pushed her hair back from her face. Mal and Joe
Pride were arguing energetically over the depth at
which a wall prop should be placed, while Keith
Borgson, Sid Chaney, and Darryl Zimmerman
arranged furniture. The French stagehands, who had
helped unload the set, hadnt opened all the crates, a
job that Vic Callahan, Ike Lucifer, and Alex Zalodek
were about to finish now.
Bob Parker was with May and the two flunky
girls in one of the dressing rooms, unpacking
costumes and the hand props.
Tired, Peggy? Mal called. We wont be much
longer. Theres not much more to do. Do you want
to go home and get some sleep?
No, replied Peggy. Im no more tired than
anyone else. What time is it?
About three, Sid answered. Well all have to
112

sleep late in the morning.


Its morning now. It has been for three hours,
observed May. She had come onstage from the iron
steps that led from the dressing rooms.
Darryl Zimmerman and the set had arrived
Saturday afternoon from Le Havre, and theyd
unloaded it, hauling it crate by crate through the
trapdoor in the stage floor that opened to the garage
underneath. But they hadnt been able to unpack it
because the Chileans hadnt struck their set until
after their performance that night. Mal had asked his
entire cast to report to the theater right after
midnight because he wanted the set up and ready for
rehearsal the next day.
What a way to spend a night in Paris, Peggy
commented, as May came over to inspect the table.
Im so tired I could go to sleep on the floor.
Starting Sunday morning, the cast of One Last
Chance had pitched in and rehearsed Peggy almost
continuously. As rehearsals had progressed, it had
become more and more evident that Peggy was the
problem. May, who had the advantage of rehearsals
in New York, had firm control of her part and would
give a great performance. Peggy, miserable about
her own inadequate showing, watched May in
admiration every time May read a line. She was
greatreally great! Peggy had never worked with
such a gifted actress. No wonder the French
113

remembered her after forty years. And her long


retirement hadnt in any way diminished her talent.
Every time May walked onstage, her very presence
dominated it.
Whats the matter, Joe? May asked, as Joe
almost staggered over and sat weakly on the floor
near where Peggy and May were talking. His
handsome face showed pain, and his blond hair
somehow looked tousled in spite of the crew cut.
Im a little dizzy. I think Im catching cold. Ive
felt it coming on ever since we got to France.
May touched his forehead. Youve got fever,
she said. Youd better go home.
Whats the matter? demanded Mal, joining the
trio.
Joe has fever, May said. He thinks hes
catching cold.
Hows your throat? Mal asked in a normal tone,
only the tightening of his jaw betraying his anxiety.
Fever and a sore throat were symptoms of a cold,
but they also were the symptoms of mononucleosis.
Its sore, Joe admitted. Not raw. Just sore. It
hurts. As if it were swollen.
May and Mal exchanged worried looks. Youd
better go home, Mal ordered quietly. Were
almost finished here, and its not going to help your
voice to lose any more sleep. Ive worked everyone
too hard.
114

Ill be okay, Joe said. Its only a cold. Not


even he would say out loud what they all feared.
Ill get a good nights sleep, and be fresh for
rehearsal tomorrow morning.
You can cut the rehearsal, Mal said. Ill read
your lines. Get as much sleep as you can. Sleep is
the best cure for a cold.
Peggy cant open without more rehearsal, Joe
protested.
Go on to the hotel, Mal ordered. Well decide
tomorrow what to do.
Okay, Joe agreed. Im so tired that I can
hardly move. I wouldnt be much good here
anyway. But tomorrow, I rehearse Peggy, he said
determinedly.
The news of Joes illness spread quietly through
the cast, who finished their work in grim silence,
except for necessary words such as Move it a little
more to the right. Vic and Ike finally had opened
the last crate, only to discover that the wheelchair
was damaged. There was something wrong with one
of the wheels, and it couldnt be rolled. Darryl
Zimmerman examined it and pronounced the
damage not serious. But, somehow, it seemed like
the final straw.
Its time for everyone to get some sleep, Mal
decided. Were all tired, so everything seems much
worse than it is. Tomorrow, well all feel better.
115

But the next morning, when the rehearsal began,


things were no better. Mal had called a doctor for
Joe before he came to the theater to rehearse in Joes
place. Now the rehearsal itself was going badly.
Finally, Mal ordered a break, and sent the entire cast
except Peggy out to get coffee.
Im terrible, Peggy said miserably.
Youre terrible, Mal agreed.
Whats wrong? Peggy demanded. Youd
better tell me.
Youre playing the part as if it were about three
different people, Mal said slowly.
What do you mean?
You dont understand Irma, he told her. I
dont think youve ever been weak and helpless, so
you dont understand Irma.
I dont understand her, Peggy admitted.
So part of the time, youre Peggy Lane
pretending to be weak and helplesswhich Peggy
Lane never has been. And part of the time, youre
copying Amys interpretation of the part. And the
rest of the time . . . Mals voice trailed off. The
rest of the time, he continued, I think youre trying
to understand Irma, and interpret her for yourself,
but you havent got it yet.
What a mess! said Peggy.
With more time, I think youd get ityour own
interpretation. But we dont have any time. We open
116

tomorrow.
Peggy bowed her head. Mal, what shall I do?
she asked. Theres no one to do it, or Id step out.
But without me, we cant open. I wish Amy were
here, she said fiercely.
Mals face brightened suddenly. Peggy, he said
excitedly, youve given me an idea.
Peggy looked at him, puzzled. An idea? What?
You wont be offended? he asked.
Mal, at this point, you couldnt offend me. I just
dont want to ruin the play. Thats all.
Lets make Amy be here, said Mal.
Make Amy be here? Peggy repeated.
Yes, Mal said firmly. I mean lets make you
be Amy. Those parts of the play where youre
copying Amy, theyre the ones that are going best.
Of the three approaches that youre using, the
approach you learned from Amy is going the
smoothest.
You mean, said Peggy, her voice betraying her
pain, that you want me to deliberately copy Amys
work.
Im sorry, Peggy, said Mal, turning away. I
shouldnt have suggested it. When you get
desperate, you say things you shouldnt say. Come
on, lets get some coffee and forget about it. He got
up from the red-cushioned seat in the auditorium,
and began to walk toward the exit.
117

Wait! Peggy called. Let me think about this a


minute, Mal. Its hard on my ego, she confessed,
not to be able to figure out that part. I resented it in
New York when you and Randy picked Amy instead
of me to play Irma. I dont mean I resented Amy
having the part. She deserved it. I resented that there
was some limitation in me that I couldnt do it.
Well, Id better face the fact that I still cant do it.
But its not fair to the play or to the others if I dont
at least give the best performance that I can. And the
play, and all the work the others have done, and the
prestige of the United States, theyre more important
than my tender ego. If the best job I can do is to
copy Amy, Ill do it. I watched her enough that it
wont be too hard. I can probably work it out in one
day.
Mal watched Peggys face. Peggy, he said, I
could kiss you. In the theater, we say a lot of things.
We compliment each other, and we criticize, and we
encourage, and we praise sometimes to encourage.
Sometimes, it gets a little phony. But I want you to
know something and to know I mean it. Youre a
good kid, Peggy. Youre a good kid.

118

XIII
Delayed Reaction

There is nothing quite like an opening night. There


is no excitement and no state of expectation and
tension to match those of an opening night.
Backstage, actors nervously apply makeup, call for
someone to make a minor repair to a costume, look
for a misplaced prop. Out in the auditorium, the
audience gathers. Couples stroll in together. Groups
of three or four chat pleasantly about the events of
the day as they find their seats. An occasional
theater buff walks in alone because a friend couldnt
come or there wasnt an extra ticket.
Peggy finished buttoning the buttons on the white
blouse she wore in the first scene, and went to the
mirror to check her makeup. Dressing room
facilities were sparse at the Sarah Bernhardt, and she
and May were sharing.
The glamorous life of an actress playing in
Paris, May commented wryly as she moved over to
make room for Peggy. The plush dressing rooms
for giving extravagant after-theater parties. The
119

lavish lights and mirrors so that an actress can study


her face as she would a painting.
Peggy laughed in spite of her nervousness. May
was always May. The glamorous life of an actress in
Paris had been nothing but work, work, work, under
the most trying conditions. The lavish lights and
mirrors were one small square of looking-glass, and
one unshaded bulb dangling from a cord in the
center of the cubicle. The dressing room itself
wouldnt have held more than five people, with all
of them standing, and its walls and floors looked
more like a tenement storage room than the site of a
gala.
How do I look? Peggy asked May.
All wide-eyed and innocent, said May. She
examined Peggy critically in the glare of the yellow
bulb. Put some more white on your face. Its not
pale enough. Youre an invalid, remember.
Peggy did as May instructed, then stood watching
as May expertly applied her own makeup. What
time is it? she demanded.
We have about thirty minutes, reported May,
glancing at the clock.
Im usually not ready this early, said Peggy.
What shall I do with myself now? If I dont keep
busy, Im going to be that much more jittery.
Why dont you go down and take a look at the
house? suggested May. Id like to know what kind
120

of an audience weve got.


Bob Parker said this afternoon the house is sold
outfor all the performances.
Well, see what kind of people they are.
I wonder where I could peek, said Peggy,
already at the door.
Be careful on those iron stairs, warned May.
You break a leg, and well never get through the
last act. Youve got to walk for that.
Break a leg yourself, replied Peggy, which is
the way theater people say, Good luck! to each
other.
The big stage, hidden from the audience by the
drawn curtains, seemed secret and mysterious.
Peggy walked across it, glancing automatically to
see if everything was in place. She touched her
wheelchair; it had been repaired and was as good as
ever. She looked for a spot to peek through the
curtain. Then hearing voices in the lighting-control
room, she walked in that direction.
David Cooper, Jacques Duval, and Alex Zalodek
were huddled over the light board, with David
translating Alexs instructions into French for
Jacques.
Everything okay? Peggy asked.
a va, replied David, an expression Peggy had
learned meant okay in French.
Jacques and Alex continued to work on the board,
121

their skilled fingers more expressive than any


spoken words. They dont need me, said David.
How is it with you? I havent really talked to you
since Saturday.
Ive got stage fright, Peggy confessed. Tm
always like this right before curtain.
David smiled. So you came down to see the
beaststhose awesome people known collectively
as the audienceyour judges.
Where can I look? Peggy demanded.
Taking her hand, David led her to the corner at
stage left formed by the curtain and the support for
the proscenium arch. He pulled the curtain back
gently, and Peggy peeped out at the lighted
auditorium. About half full now, it looked
completely different than it had during dress
rehearsal that afternoon when it had been dark and
quiet.
The wild beastsyour critics, David said
softly. Is that how you feel?
Somewhat, Peggy acknowledged. But they
also can be the warmest, most cooperative co-actors
anyone ever had.
David nodded. As an actor, he too knew that a
play is communal art, and it takes a good audience
for a good performance.
Whos there? David demanded.
Everyone, said Peggy. Beatniks, intellectuals,
122

society. You can tell by the way theyre dressed.


Let me see, said David.
Reluctantly, Peggy surrendered her place. David
looked out. The auditorium was filling rapidly now.
Peggy was right. Bearded, coatless Latin Quarter
beatniks with unkempt hair and wildly eccentric
clothing sat beside quietly dressed, middle-class
intellectuals. And there was a heavy sprinkling of
Paris society in the boxesbeautifully dressed
women and men in evening clothes.
What an audience! David exclaimed. I even
see a Cabinet Minister. And youve got all age
groups. Some of them look as if they hadnt been in
a theater in twenty years. Usually, a new play like
this pulls the younger crowd and serious theater
lovers. They all want to know what the new
playwrights are doing. But tonight therere people
out there who are so busy they probably dont get to
more than one play a season. Or maybe not that.
It must be May! Peggy exclaimed. Theyve
come to see her again.
David pushed the curtain back into place. She
really must have been something.
She still is. You saw one or two of the
rehearsals.
The plays going to be okay, David said kindly.
That last rehearsal this afternoon seemed to pull it
into shape. You really came through with
123

something. Even Mal wasnt so stiff, although its a


pity the doctors keeping Joe in bed because of that
sore throat.
Peggy nodded her thanks, not telling him that it
was Amynot Peggywho had developed the
Irma he had seen.
Two minutes until curtain! Places! Places! Bob
Parker, the stage manager, called urgently. Peggy
was already seated in her wheelchair onstage. May,
also onstage, seemed deep in her own thoughtsor
nervousness. Nervous, May? Peggy asked softly.
She could hear the audience beginning to quiet.
Apparently, the auditorium lights were being
dimmed.
So who isnt? May said brusquely. In all the
first nights Ive gone through, Ive never escaped
pre-curtain jitters.
Curtain! ordered Parker.
Peggy watched the now darkened auditorium
slowly come into view. For a second, her eyes were
blinded by the stage lights, and she could see
nothing but a vast yawning blackness. Then, as the
applause rose, she could see the spectators, one by
one, then by whole rows, rising to their feet. What
were they applauding? The set? No! May, of course.
The cheers began. Vive La Berriman! Slowly,
with great dignity, May moved forward to
124

125

acknowledge the applause. She was smiling


graciously, but Peggy, who was close, saw there
were tears running down her cheeks.
Finally, Parker ordered the curtain down again,
and after a brief pause to permit the spectators to
resume their seats, he once more gave the order,
Curtain! And the play began.
The entire performance would forever be a kind
of dazed memory for Peggy, with certain sharp
pictures penetrating the haze. French audiences were
warm. They interrupted the performance to applaud
little vignettes and individual excellence in scenes.
The first time it happened, Peggy thought it was
because it was May, because May had the first
compelling lines. As the audience applauded, May
stood still, again tears in her eyes, but she never
broke characterization, never betrayed her own
emotion at the warmth of that appreciation. Later,
Peggy learnedin a wayhow May had felt,
because she knew her own eyes were damp when
the audience applauded her own first good
soliloquy. But, of course, May had earned it herself,
and Peggy really was receiving Amys tribute. Well,
at least the play was being well received, and that
was the important thing. Another sharp impression
was the timing of the audiences response. Most of
themapparently those who understood English
responded immediately in whatever way the lines
126

required. But Peggy could feel the delayed


responseit came about half a beat lateof those
who were listening to the translation. But such close
rapport with the audience, she knew, meant a good
performance. As she played the last scenethe
difficult one in which she had to get up out of the
wheelchair and walkPeggy knew she was doing a
good job. But she also knew she was tired. It was
harder to pretend you were another actress playing a
part than to play the part yourself. Even the curtain
calls, and there were several, seemed mistyas if
they were happening to someone else.
Back in the dressing room, Peggy could see that
May was jubilant. There were flowers, telegrams,
and messages scattered over the table and chairs.
Some of them were for Peggy, but she was simply
too worn out to care.
Theres a party tonight, Mal called, rapping his
knuckles against the partially closed door. Good
work, you two. Say, are you dressed? May I come
in? From what I could tell onstage, we really went
over. May, you are magnificent. Truly magnificent.
You just say that because its true, May
answered saucily.
Celebration! Celebration! Keith called, barging
into the dressing room. Harriet and Jo Anne
followed him in, or tried, but the cubicle wasnt
large enough for everyone. Party tonight! he cried
127

jubilantly. We were good! He lifted May up and


tried to whirl her around, but since there wasnt
space, settled for hoisting her high.
Put me down, May called indignantly. Im an
old lady.
When did you get on this old lady kick? Mal
asked. Look at those flowers. Look at those
telegrams. He pointed around as he spoke. How
many men are trying to take you to supper, May?
You ask too many questions, May replied, her
eyes twinkling as Keith finally set her on her feet
again.
The corridor outside the dressing room was filling
with people. Everyone, it seemed, wanted a word
with May. Everyone wanted to know where the
party was going to be, and if it would be all right for
him to come and, perhaps, to bring a friend. Well,
that meant that theyd get good reviews, Peggy
decided. People dont want to celebrate a failure.
And since these people had seen the play, theyd
know.
Suddenly, a familiar face approached, weaving in
and out between other faces. Andr Rodier made his
way directly to May and in the most reverent tones
congratulated her on her performance. Sensing
something that she didnt understand, May asked
Andr who he was, and then studied his face
carefully after hed introduced himself. Peggy heard
128

May ask how hed enjoyed the play, but there were
too many people between them and Peggy for her to
hear Andrs reply.
She turned back to the mirror, ignoring the gay
crowd, and finished applying her street makeup. As
she put her lipstick brush into her purse, Andr
touched her arm.
Hello, she said, looking at him in the mirror.
Hello, Peggy, he replied, meeting her eyes in
the glass. Its a good play, he said. Much better
than the one I saw in London. Brewster is beginning
to develop. Another play or two, and the United
States may have another playwright.
Thank you for saying that, said Peggy, her eyes
not flinching from meeting his in the glass.
Its a compliment, said Andr. I dont call
very many writers playwrights.
I know, said Peggy. I know exactly what you
mean. So thank you.
French critics are tougher than American ones?
he asked.
Sometimes, said Peggy.
You were very bad, he said brutally.
I know that too, said Peggy, hating the tears
that showed as he watched her in the mirror.
Why? he asked.
I cant act, said Peggy. Thats all. Im just not
an actress.
129

XIV
To Trust Him or Not?

May, very much the grande dame in turquoise


peignoir and pearl earrings, took her first sip of
morning caf au laitcoffee with milkand
leisurely added more sugar. Nothing like French
coffee, she said conversationally. I think Ill eat
three croissants this morning. No, maybe two
croissants and a brioche. Or should it be two
brioches and one croissant?
Oh, May, Peggy said impatiently. Hurry up.
You know Im dying to know what they say, and my
French isnt good enough to understand every
word. Peggy, in pajamas and robe, sat perched in
the center of Mays bed, her feet tucked up under
her. Scattered around her were the morning
newspapers, which she had attempted to decipher
while May combed her hair, put on her makeup, and
in general took as much time preparing for breakfast
as if she were going to Maxims.
You should learn French, said May, helping
130

herself to a croissant.
Oh, no, May, Peggy pleaded, not you too. Im
trying, I really am, but I cant do everything at once.
Now, please, read them for me.
Well, said May, picking up La Revue, I guess
we should begin with my old friend, Thierry de
Constant. H-m-m-m. Absent-mindedly, May
reached for her coffee cup as she read.
May! Peggy almost wailed.
We passed, May said cryptically. Paris arbiter
of theatrical taste finds Randys play interesting. He
draws some parallels between it and Oedipus Rex in
terms of the changing thinking of society about guilt
and punishment. Then he compares the ending to Le
Cid
Le Cid! Peggy exclaimed. I saw that with
Andr. I dont see any
Both plays are tragic, except they have happy
endings. Remember when the king makes whats her
nameChimene, the heroineforgive Rodrigue,
the hero?
Oh, said Peggy. I didnt think about it at the
time, but now that he points it out, I see that its
true.
The French always do, said May. Think about
other plays when theyre judging a new one, I mean.
They really dont believe theres anything new to
say in the worldonly fresh ways of making the old
131

meanings clear.
What else does he say?
Well, all hes doing in this paragraph is
explaining what Randys play is about. Then, he
says Well, he liked my performance.
Dont be so modest, May, commanded Peggy.
I could read all those complimentary adjectives.
Adjectives are easy. Its the verbs that are hard.
What else does he say?
Well, all in all, he thought we gave a good
performance, said May, closing the paper, putting it
down, and picking up her coffee all in one swift
motion.
No, objected Peggy. I want to know. She
opened the paper and handed it back to May. A
word-for-word translation, she instructed.
May looked at her. Peggy, you know you didnt
have time to rehearse. Sometimes its better if we
dont hear everything said about us.
Let me hear it, Peggy said wearily.
May looked at the newspaper. Its really not too
bad. He only says its a pity that the company had so
many cast problems. He says its regrettable that
Paris couldnt see Joe Pride and Amy Preston in the
roles they created. May once more put the paper
down.
What else? Peggy demanded.
He says, replied May, not needing to pick up
132

the paper, that you seem to be miscast, that you act


as if youre an actress copying an actress playing a
crippled girl, rather than an actress playing a
crippled girl.
Hes astute, Peggy said softly. He really
knows how to judge acting. No wonder he has such
influence in Paris.
It wasnt a bad performance, May said, urging
Peggy to take more coffee. With a little more time,
youd have felt the part. It really wasnt fair to ask
you to go on with so little preparation. Peggy, really,
all things considered, you did a good job.
No, May, Peggy said quietly. I didnt. Last
night, I told Andr that I wasnt an actress. I was
being bitter. Today, I wonder if I wasnt right.
Peggy, said May, we all have to fail
sometimes. Failure is a part of life. If when we fail,
we indulge in self-pity, then we havent improved
ourselves any. If we fail and then know we have to
try again, then the failure was worth something.
Right now, you want me to tell you that youre
really an actress. Im not going to do it, Peggy. Its
something you have to know for yourself. But I
seem to remember we had this conversation once
beforein New York.
The next two performances were as well received
as the first, so Mal eased off and gave the company
133

Friday afternoon for sightseeing.


May wanted to go to the hairdresser and then
have tea with an old friend, so Peggy went with Mal,
Keith, Jo Anne, Harriet, Sid Chaney, and David to
see Montmartre.
This particular section of the city, as David
explained, has two distinct personalities, one the
neon-lighted nightclub district, the other a provincial
village still intact in the heart of Paris. It was the
latter, he pointed out, that housed the studios of Van
Gogh, Suzanne Valadon, Utrillo, Picasso, and
Modigliani, all of whom contributed significantly to
modern art.
David took them to the Place du Tertre, the
village square of Montmartre since the seventeenth
century, and they waited while one of the sidewalk
artists sketched Jo Annes portrait. It was a good
likeness, and it was interesting to watch it being
drawn, but Peggy was most struck by the contrast
between the bustling square and the quiet of the
Jardin du Calvaire, where David took them next.
From the garden, she enjoyed a view of the
Romanesque tower and apse of the church of St.
Pierre du Montmartre, a view that in one instant
transported Peggy back to the time when the church
was built eight centuries ago.
They also visited Sacr-Coeurthe Basilica of
the Sacred Heart. From the vast terrace in front of
134

the church, they had a breathtaking view of the city.


I can recognize some of the buildings now,
Peggy said happily. Theres the Eiffel Towerand
I see the dome of the Pantheonand that building
over there is Les Invalides.
Youre learning Paris, Mal complimented her.
How many times have you been here? said
Peggy.
I studied in Paris for a year, Mal replied.
Id like to stay here forever, said Peggy.
How long will you be here? David inquired, as
they all continued to enjoy the view.
I dont know, Peggy said. I really havent
thought about what Ill do after the play. And thats
strange because its only two more nights. I guess
Ive been too busy thinking about my part.
Are you taking the play on tour? David asked
Mal. Sometimes the visiting companies do.
Mal answered negatively. We had a dozen
invitations, but Randy and I both were worried about
the cast. We cant keep May all summer, and we
didnt know if Peggy had other commitments.
I was just wondering, said David. The gossip
at the theater this morning was that a Polish dance
group invited to perform in June wont be permitted
to come. The official excuse apparently will be that
their first dancer is ill, but the unofficial word has it
that theyre afraid some of their artists will defect.
135

What happens then? demanded Keith. Do they


close the festival for a week?
Theyre only invited for three days. I dont know
what the festival will do. I think its possible theyll
invite one of the other groups to take the time.
Oh! exclaimed Harriet, who was short, a little
overweightthe color of her hair could not be
described since she changed it every weekand
potentially a good actress. What I wouldnt give for
us to get that invitation! Id love to stay in Paris
another couple of weeks.
Our reviews were good, mused Mal.
Only fair, said Peggy.
Joe will be back in the cast by tomorrow night.
The doctor says his cold will be better by then, Jo
Anne reminded them.
We were reviewed on Tuesday night, Peggy
pointed out.
The officials of the festival know youve had
cast problems. With Joe back on the job, its just
possible some of them will see the final
performance, David commented.
Thanks for telling me, said Mal. I just may
stop by the festival office late this afternoon.
May wasnt in her room when Peggy got back to
the hotel after the afternoons tour of Montmartre.
For the first time since the company had arrived in
Paris, Peggy felt lonely. Suddenly, she wanted to
136

talk to Andr and tell him she hadnt meant what


shed said Tuesday night, about not being an actress.
She didnt want him to think she indulged in selfpity. And she wanted to ask his advice about the
character of Irma. Intuitively, she suspected he could
help her. But what was the point? Shed give two
more performances, and then shed never play Irma
again. Unlessunless the company was invited to
fill the free timethat is, if there was free time.
Should she ask him? Andr might have a fresh
point of view. But he could be so insufferably
arrogant. Would he try to help her? Or would he
only give her another lecture on the superiority of
everything French? She didnt know if she could
trust him or not.

137

XV
One Last Chance

Peggy hurried up the iron stairs to the little


cubbyhole of a dressing room, calling into Keiths
dressing room as she passed, Any word yet from
Mal?
Hes still at the hotel waiting for the telephone
call from New York.
I wish Randy would hurry, Peggy said
impatiently.
Youre the one whod better hurry, Keith
advised. The intermission is only fifteen minutes,
and youve got a complete costume change.
Its going well tonight, said Peggy. She
lingered at the door a moment longer, then walked
down the corridor toward her dressing room.
Any word from Mal? demanded May, who was
making her own costume change.
Not yet, said Peggy. I just asked Keith. Mals
still at the hotel. I do wish Randy would call back.
Any word from Mal? demanded Harriet, who
138

hurried into the room to help May and Peggy with


their changes.
Not yet, said Peggy.
Here. Harriet picked up the dress Peggy had
just shed, handed her her skirt, then asked, Whats
the deal? I havent quite understood why Mal is
calling New York. You know Randy isnt going to
object if we do three more shows. Hell be delighted
that we were asked.
Moneys the deal, May said. It costs money to
keep this cast in Paris. Actors have to be paid. Mal
has to know if the Penthouse Theater can afford for
us to stay.
How will Randy know? demanded Harriet.
Hes been ill.
Hes much better, Peggy reported. Hastily she
ran a comb through her hair. It had to be restyled for
the final act, and Harriet was still assisting May. He
wrote me a few days ago that he is at his parents
home on Long Island going crazy because his doctor
wont let him work. When Mal first telephoned him
this morning, he said he was out of touch with the
exact state of the companys finances, and then he
and Bob Parker talked awhile. Randy had to
telephone the theaters business manager in
Manhattan, and hell call back as soon as he knows
whether we have enough money.
Here, give me the comb, said Harriet. She
139

began arranging Peggys hair in a modified


pageboy.
Someone tapped at the door. Come in, called
May.
David burst into the room. I just came from the
hotel, he said, still out of breath. New York is
trying to get through now. Theres some trouble
with the line, but Brewsters waiting to talk just as
soon as its cleared.
Three pairs of eyes fastened on him. Thanks,
said Peggy. Keep us posted. Were all so excited
we can hardly remember were giving a
performance.
I saw everything until nearly the end of the
second act, said David. Youre going great. With
Joe back, the love story is coming through much
stronger.
Mal never could play love scenes, explained
Peggy. Underneath that polished exterior, hes
really shy. I think thats why he prefers to direct
rather than act.
Is it definite that were invited? asked May.
No, said David. No invitation has been issued.
But it is definite that the Polish dancers cant come.
So there are three vacant dates. That much is certain.
I know Mal talked to the festival officials, but I
think they really hadnt made up their minds.
Meanwhile, they tipped him off to find out if the
140

Penthouse could accept an invitation if it were


issued.
Places! Places for the third act! came the voice
of Bob Parker in the corridor.
There goes the warning bell for the audience,
said May. Wed better get onstage.
May adjusted a stocking, while Peggy gave her
pageboy a last pat. Then the two of them left the
dressing room for what might be their final
appearance on the stage of the Sarah Bernhardt.
Even if she were copying Amys work, Peggy
enjoyed that last act. Playing opposite May was a
privilege she wouldnt soon forget. Nor would she
forget the appreciative French audiences. With inner
amusement, she fleetingly remembered her initial
fear that Parisians might not like or understand the
play. She didnt permit the amusement to show on
her face, because for a few minutes sheIrma
napped in her wheelchair. Peggy knew Amys work
well enough now that at stray seconds, she could
have private thoughts.
Responding to her cue, Peggy spoke her lines,
those helpless words of Irma which came shortly
before her true strength was shown. May responded
on cue, then Joe Pride uttered the bitter reproaches
required by the part of Dr. Tate, who had fallen in
love with Irma.
The last scene moved smoothly to its climax.
141

Now it was time for Peggy to struggle from her


wheelchair, and as she rose she already could
anticipate the applause that would follow the
dramatic moment.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Mal in the
wing, and knew that New Yorks decision had been
made. Mal gave no sign, as he undoubtedly wasnt
aware that she saw him.
The play was almost finished. Carefully, Peggy
replied to Mays cue as they concluded the last act.
The curtain was lowered.
Places! Places for curtain calls! commanded
Bob Parker.
With the curtain between her and the audience,
Peggy looked again for Mal, but he had disappeared.
No news is good news, she told May. I saw Mal
come in during the final scene, but I couldnt tell
anything from his face.
The cast was in line now, and the curtain once
more was raised. They took group applause, then
May walked forward, bowed, and impishly threw a
kiss to the audience. The curtain was lowered, but
the audience called for more bows, so up it went
again.
To Peggys surprise, David Cooper walked
onstage and thrust an enormous bouquet of red roses
into Mays arms. He was followed by Mal, who
presented a similar tribute to Peggy.
142

After that, Peggy forgot to count the curtains, but


they were numerous. However, before the audience
was satisfied, Peggy heard Bob Parker give the order
to leave the curtain down. Then he immediately
instructed the actors to hold their places. She looked
around for an explanation, but no one knew
anything.
Are we in or out? May asked.
I dont know, Peggy replied.
Suddenly, from the other side of the closed
curtain, she heard a male voice speaking French. He
made a short announcement, and the audience
applauded. When there was quiet again, Mals
voice, also in French, addressed the spectators.
Were in! The jubilant voice was Mays.
Whoopee! yelled Keith, practically dancing up
and down. Exuberantly, he grabbed Peggy and
whirled her high. Everyone else was rejoicing too.
Harriet pounded Vic on the back, Jo Anne threw her
arms around May, and pandemonium reigned.
At that precise moment, the curtain went up!
There was a moment of shocked silence in the
auditorium. Then the spectators realized why the
Penthouse company was celebrating, and the
merriment spread through the house. It pleased the
Parisians to see that the Americans liked to play
Paris. From backstage, the French technical crew
joined the cheering. Finally, Mal had to order the
143

curtain down for good.


On her way back to the dressing room,
surrounded by happy actors, Peggy thoughtfully
fingered her roses. They would be wonderful if only
she could think she had deserved them.
Mal came up behind her, and put an arm around
her shoulder. Wordlessly, she looked first at him and
then at the flowers.
There are more ways than one to earn bouquets,
Peggy, he said. Youre a good kid.
Thanks, Mal, she said. That bit of applause I
did earn myself.
At the door of the dressing room, Peggy saw that
Andr Rodier had preceded her. He had an uncanny
habit of popping up every time she was having a bad
moment.
Hello, Andr, she said, placing the roses on the
dressing table.
Peggy, he said, skipping all pretense at greeting
her, what are you going to do about your part?
I dont know.
You have another chance.
I heard the announcement.
What are you going to do?
What would you suggest? she asked hesitantly.
Are you asking my advice? I want to be certain
before I give it.
Please, said Peggy. Whatever you can tell
144

me.
Tonight is no time to talk. Youre tired. Are you
free tomorrow afternoon? Good. Well go to the
Louvre. Thats a good place to talk.

145

XVI
Object Lesson

Inside the Louvre, it was cool and slightly dim.


Peggy remembered the spacious lobby from her first
visit, but that had been on a weekday when it had
been almost empty of people. This Sunday
afternoon, it seemed that half the world was there.
The French families with children were easy to
identify. By now, Peggy had learned to distinguish
between Italians and Spaniards. But the girls in saris
might be from any one of several Eastern countries,
and the Africans, although many of them wore
distinguishing costumes, were a mystery to her.
Youve been here before? Andr inquired. I
believe I recall you said you had. He held out two
tickets to the attendant at the entry gate, and steered
Peggy through the passway.
I came one afternoon, said Peggy, but its so
enormous that I didnt see half.
Did you try? Andr asked.
Of course. But its hopeless.
146

Thats a mistake, instructed Andr\ You


should look at only one or two things. Thats enough
for one day. Try to see more, and you dont see
anything.
Peggy didnt answer, although in her heart she
acknowledged he was right. She retained from her
previous visit only a vague impression of ornate
chambers, flights of marble stairs, thousands of
paintings, and a tearoom on a terrace.
I remember the Winged Victory, Peggy said,
pointing to the statue in the distance at the top of a
flight of stairs.
Not yet, said Andr. Well go there after a bit,
but now were going to see something else.
He guided her away from the ascending staircase,
down a long passageway, and through a series of
arched-ceilinged rooms.
No, were not going to stop here, he said,
leading her along. They walked through a round
room with Greek statutes, and then a second domed
room with Egyptian sculpture. They came to another
corridor, its most striking feature being tall black
pillars which were decorative rather than being
necessary to support the roof. From the passageway,
they entered a room filled with Greek carvings,
where Andr let her pause a moment for the overall
effect. Then, in the center of the room, he directed
her attention to a single pale statue larger than life
147

size.
Its the Venus de Milo, Peggy said
complacently. I saw her before.
Did you? said Andr in his too polite voice. I
suppose youve seen so many reproductions that the
real thing almost bores you.
Peggy laughed uncertainly. I guess, she said.
Theres a good copy at the Metropolitan Museum
in New York.
Usually, said Andr, I dont approve of
tourists coming to the Louvre and racing to see the
Venus, or the Mona Lisa, or the Winged Victory.
But I think it could help you, if youll look at this
statue, really look. Its so commonplace to you now
that youre missing something.
Obediently, Peggy looked.
Notice, said Andr, that the arms are broken.
Momentarily, Peggy turned puzzled eyes on him,
then did as he directed.
Notice also that its made of marble and that its
endured for about twenty-five centuriesroughly.
Remember two things about itstrength and
weakness.
Im sorry, said Peggy. I understand what
youre saying, but I miss your point.
Dont worry, said Andr. Just do as I say.
Now its time to see something else.
He led her through another room of Greek
148

statues, then down a stairway. At the door of a small


vaulted chamber, he halted. This is what I want you
to see.
Peggy looked at the great sphinx, a monument
much larger than the Venus.
What do you see? Andr demanded.
A lion with a human head.
Youre doing better, he said approvingly.
Again, its two thingsan animal and a man. If
you view things in a certain way, theyre two
opposites. Just as strength and weakness are
opposites. Had you seen the sphinx before?
No.
Then its not everyday for you, as the Venus
was, so you can see it better.
I dont understand you at all, Peggy protested.
Were not trying to understand me. Were trying
to understand Irma.
Irma? What has Irma got to do with the sphinx?
Wait and see, said Andr.
Where do we go now?
Through more Egyptian rooms, but I dont want
you to look too much. Your mind will become
cluttered with too many details.
After more walking, Andr told Peggy to close
her eyes.
Were going down some stairs in a few minutes.
But Ill take your arm.
149

150

It never occurred to Peggy to think that this was a


strange way to talk about a play. She just did as she
was told.
Now you can open your eyes.
Peggy blinked once or twice, trying to focus.
What do you see?
Were back near where we started. Its the
Winged Victory.
No, said Andr. Thats a label. Tell me what
you see.
I see a woman with angels wings.
Good, he said. Thats what you should see.
Two things, both opposites. A woman and an angel.
Now I think well take some tea. Are you too tired
to climb a few more stairs?
On the terrace, Peggy sipped hot tea, while Andr
spooned sugar into black coffee.
Who built the Arch of Triumph of the
Carrousel? Peggy asked, watching a little boy skip
a ball under the massive carved stone monument.
Napoleon. He built the other Arch of Triumph
too.
What do French people think about Napoleon?
What do French school children learn about him?
Andr smiled fleetingly. I like that question, he
said.
You didnt answer it, Peggy prompted.
French children are taught that he was a
151

beneficial geniusand a menace. For a moment,


Andr looked like a happy child himself.
Two things, Peggy said softly. Both
opposites.
You know, Peggy, Andr said equally quietly,
the thing wrong with American girls is that theyre
too independent, too aggressive, too positive. Girls
should be a little soft, a little helpless.
Why? demanded Peggy, rising to the bait. If
youre not helpless, its dishonest to pretend you are.
Im not helpless. Ive never been, and I certainly
dont intend to be. She was irritated, and she was
ashamed that it showed. The afternoon had been so
pleasant until Andr had started carping about
Americans again.
Youre angry, he said, his voice still soft.
Peggy, he said, havent you ever felt helpless
ever at all?
Peggy shook her head emphatically. Ive always
known I could manage.
What about that night on the stairs? The night
the lights went out and you screamed.
Oh! Peggy scarcely breathed the syllable.
Yes, she said. Yes. Oh, so thats how it feels.
How did you feel about me? When I came to
help you?
I almost hated you for a second, said Peggy. I
thought it was your fault. That you should have told
152

me about the lights.


Isnt that Irmas situation? questioned Andr.
Shes helpless, and she blames her mother.
Peggy looked at him. Yes. Of course. Why
didnt I think of that before?
Maybe youve never been helpless before,
Andr suggested. Sometimes we have to enter a
new environment to have a new experience. What
else has happened to you in France? What about the
day you took the taxi from the station?
No, said Peggy. The driver was nice. He
showed me a part of Parisa real tour.
Good. I asked him to. But what about the night
in the taxi when you were lost?
Of course, said Peggy. I remember now. I
couldnt make the driver understand, and I didnt
know where we were. I didnt know what to do, and
so, for a little while, I hated France.
Helplessness can bring that reaction. But you
dont really hate France? he asked quickly.
Positively not.
Good. Now what other times have you felt
helpless? And what happened?
WellPeggy spoke hesitantlyI couldnt
make anyone understand me the first time I arrived
at the theater. But Jacques Duval, the light man, was
so kind. I was really grateful.
Excellent. Andr spoke with satisfaction. That
153

teaches you how Irma initially felt about her


motherbefore she began to blame her mother for
putting her in the wheelchair. Shes grateful.
I dont know whether to laugh or cry, Peggy
said. I can hardly wait to start going through my
lines, thinking about every one of them.
Theres one more step, said Andr. How do
you feel about the French now? Now that you can
cope with Paris and now that youre going to be a
success with Irma?
I love them, Peggy said, unconsciously copying
Mays exuberant wave of her hands.
Now you can rehearse. Thats how Irma felt
when she realized she could overcome her handicap
and help her mother. She loved her mother at the
end. Now you can play that last scene.

154

XVII
Americans in Paris

Peggy was quiet at dinner that evening. She and


Andr accidentally had met David, Mal, and May at
a sidewalk caf in the Chtelet district. Theyd
joined forces, and as they waited to order, Mal
explained to Andrhed already told the cast
that the simplest way to finance the prolonged stay
in Europe was to go on tour. Theyd play Lille,
Lige, Antwerp, and Brussels. David Cooper would
go too, replacing Sid Chaney, who was leaving for
home. David knew enough about lights to help Alex,
and hed read Sids lines that afternoon. He was
dining with Mal and May as a sort of celebration,
since the tour would be the young students
professional debut.
Peggy had chosen an omelette with fine herbs, the
herbs primarily a salt grass. She ate it slowly,
relishing the taste, and not even conscious that she
had begun to understand the French spoken around
her. She realized happily that she was no longer a
155

stranger in France. She knew the peoplea little at


leastand she could guess their lives and make up
details that were reasonably accurate about them.
Still, she would like to stay for a few weeks in a
French home. A French hotel was one thing, and it
helped. But a home would be even better. Sighing,
she remembered how easy England had been for her.
Mal had arranged everything in advance, even an
apartment with the English girl, Celia Wycliffe.
Why so sad? Mal asked, hearing the sigh.
I was thinking of Celia. Did I ever thank you for
introducing us?
Youre going to the wedding? he asked.
Yes. She paused. I wonder how Randy is
feeling and if Amy is coming along all right?
Youre in a sentimental mood, May
commented. Amys letter yesterday sounds as if
shes doing okay, and Mal talked to Randy only last
night. Everything has worked out. Things have a
way of doing that.
Were all a little tired and let down after last
night, May analyzed the mood. We should all
either get some sleep, or do something very quiet
but gay.
Ive got an idea, Andr volunteered. He too had
been silent most of the meal. A moviea special
one. An American in Paris. Its at one of the theaters
on the Champs Elyses.
156

No one looked at him. It was deliberate. No one


wanted, even by a quizzical glance, to show his
surprise that Andr was suggesting an American
movie. May, however, sought Peggys eyes. Peggy,
by now concentrating on Andr, missed Mays
unspoken question.
Ive seen it three times, Peggy told Andr. But
I can always see it again, and maybe see something
new. She smiled at him.
Im agreeable, said May.
Me too, said David.
Okay. Mal made it unanimous. In a way, it
seems a pity to see an American movie in the French
capital, but maybe Peggy needs a taste of home. She
seems a bit homesick.
You know, youre right, Peggy acknowledged.
I hadnt realized it myself until you said it, but I am
a little homesick.
You werent before? Andr asked.
I was too busy, Peggy pointed out. First, I had
to learn how to live in Franceeven such simple
things as food and transportation. Then I had to
learn my part.
Mal watched her closely. May didnt look, but
Peggy felt her body stiffen. Youve got it now?
Mal asked quietly.
I think so, said Peggy. I think Ive learned
from France how to play that role.
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Only Andr smiled, because only Andr knew the


whole story.
Want to talk about it? Mal questioned softly.
Not yet, said Peggy. Lets relax. Ive been
working all afternoon at the Louvre. Tonight, its
time to play.
A sensible idea, May said. Well relax. Where
can we get the Metro? Tonight, well all be
Americans in Paris and see an American movie and
drink Coca-Cola on the Champs Elyseseven you,
Andr. Tonight, youre American too.
All right, Andr agreed. Theres really nothing
wrong with being an American.
The second-class train compartment was designed
to seat eight persons, but Mal had crowded eleven
including himself into it. Vic Callahan and Joe Pride
were sitting on the floor while Mal leaned against a
window. A suitcase on the forward rack teetered
precariously as Mal began speaking; he stopped
talking to readjust the luggage.
The great tradition is that the show must go on,
he said offhandedly. But seriously, we all know
that we have a show to perform tonight, and almost
every night from now on. We all know that were
due back in Paris in three weeks, for three more
performances at the Sarah Bernhardt. Were
committed. Not only are we obligated to do the
shows, but we also want to. He paused, and again
158

reached to the luggage rack, this time to rescue Jo


Annes overnight case. He handed it to her. Hold
it, he said, or its going to hit you in the head.
While he spoke to Jo Anne, Joe and Keith
exchanged perplexed glances over his opening
remarks about the companys bookings.
Mal resumed his place. As I was saying, we
have these commitments. But I think we have
another commitment too. I want to discuss a
commitment to a member of this cast.
Whats this all about? asked Keith. Maybe Im
dense
We all know that Peggy answered an S.O.S. so
that we could give the show in Paris. She responded
to an emergency, and in the time she had, she did a
good job. Mal hesitated. There was absolute silence
in the compartment.
We also all know that, in order to have a show,
Peggy copies Amys characterization of Irma.
At the words, Jo Anne gasped; Vic, who
especially liked Peggy, uttered a smothered protest;
and everyone stirred uncomfortably.
Its true, Peggy said quickly. I just couldnt
get the feel of the part. All of you remember how I
was stumbling in the first rehearsals. It didnt seem
fair to ruin the play by insisting on doing Irma my
way when I really didnt have a way, didnt
understand the part, and when I already knew Amys
159

characterization, and knew the play could be


successful with it.
I asked Peggy to do it, Mal explained. With
very little rehearsal and such a complex role, it was
the only way to get a show ready for opening. I
know you all knew what Peggy was doing. Youve
played with Amy long enough to know her work.
But I want you to know that Peggy and I knew it
too.
I dont think I have to tell you what a sacrifice
Peggy made. You all know how youd feel if a
director asked you to imitate someone else rather
than create your own part. But she was a good sport
and prevented us from being a failure in Paris.
Thats what I had in mind when I said I think we
have a commitment to a member of this cast. I think
we owe Peggy the chance to play the part her own
way.
There were murmurs of assent, and Vic reached
over to hold Peggys hand. Will we have rehearsal
time in each of our stops? Keith asked tentatively.
Thats the problem now, Mal pointed out.
Weve got shows to do, and we cant give halffinished performances. Why I called you together is
to find out if youre willingand ableto rehearse
in the daytime one way, but play it the other way,
the way we did in Paris, at night. It puts a strain on
everyoneespecially Peggy. But she wants to try it,
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and I think we owe her the opportunity.


Youre the director, Joe said. If you call a
rehearsal, we rehearse.
That wont quite do it, Mal said. We have to
tear this play apart again, and if everyone doesnt
understand what were doing, its going to mean
botched performances.
Vic spoke for all of them. Lets get to work, he
said.

161

XVIII
Preview Audience

For the next twenty days, Mal worked them all


unmercifully. He barely gave them time to eat, and
Peggy thought shed never have enough sleep again.
When they werent performing, they rehearsed
constantly, and eventually the cast reacted to the
strain. Tempers got short, and Jo Anne and Harriet,
close friends, exchanged hot words over whod lost
the key to their hotel room. Two things prevented
the company from breaking into warring factions
the success of their performances and the warmth of
the Belgium people whom they met in their day-today routine. In Belgium, their American citizenship
wasnt of primary importance as it had been in
France. In Brussels, they were people first,
foreigners second.
When Peggy and the Penthouse cast arrived back
in Paris, the tour had been a success. The players,
except for Peggy, were well satisfied with
themselves. All of them viewed the return to the
162

French capital almost as a homecoming.


Before they had even detrained at Gard du Nord,
Mal told Bob Parker to spread the word that there
would be a rehearsal Sunday morning. Groans and
protests were the response. Finally, Bob came back
to Mals compartment to report.
I knew they wouldnt like it, Mal commented.
But I dont want us to go stale, and this is an
opportune time to let down. So we rehearse Sunday
and we rehearse Monday, and we rehearse Tuesday
before the performance. If they complain too much,
remind them that we havent been ruled out for the
grand prix yet.
At the hotel, Peggy and May were given their old
rooms, a gesture they both appreciated. Monsieur
Sorel welcomed them as old friends, and
immediately ordered Jeanette, the little maid, to help
May unpack. Peggy went on to her own room,
grateful for the friendly greeting, but glad to be
alone.
Her room hadnt changedeven to the key that
worked upside down. Nothing, absolutely nothing,
was less than individualistic in a French hotel.
Absent-mindedly, she noticed in the Louis XIV
mirror that she badly needed lipstick, and even
worse, that she needed to have her hair set. Maybe
shed do it herself tonight, although Saturday night
in Paris seemed an odd time to shampoo your hair.
163

Somehow, she thought, you should be out amusing


yourself. She supposed she should call Andr.
But theres nothing to be amused about, she
admitted bluntly. You still havent met the challenge
of Irmanot after all your own work, and all
Andrs help, and all the work the cast put into those
new readings. Now youre going to open in Paris
again, and youre still not right.
Mal pushed them through three complete
readings on Sunday, and it was a tired, dispirited
crew that straggled out of the theater early that
evening. No rest for the weary, said Mal, checking
to be certain that Bob Parker had posted the
rehearsal notice for ten the next morning.
He, Peggy, and May started back to their hotel,
too tired even to enjoy watching the Sunday crowds
along the streets. They walked a short distance in
silence, then Peggy half tripped on a cobblestone.
Righting herself with Mals help, she finally spoke
what was on her mind. Im ready to give up, Mal.
Theres no point in killing everyone just to salve my
pride. I accept defeat. Ill just play Irma the way
Amy did. Its simpler.
Have you lost confidence in yourself, Peggy, or
in the rest of us? May queried shortly.
Oh, May! Peggy protested. I didnt mean that.
Its just
What? demanded May.
164

I dont know, Peggy said. Im just tired, I


guess. She stopped speaking, thinking for a second.
No, she said, the problem is that the cast has lost
confidence in me. Theyre my friends, so they dont
want to face it, but thats whats wrong. Ive failed
so often that they no longer believe I can do that
part.
Do you accept that? inquired May. You said
you were defeated.
I am defeated. Yes, I accept it, Peggy said.
Well, I dont, Mal said emphatically. I got you
into thisafter a fashion. Its my job to work it out.
Im the director. I make the decisions. We rehearse
again tomorrowyour way.
After a good nights sleep, Mals left-handed
encouragement had done wonders for Peggys
morale. At work the next morning, she knew she
was playing better than she had been and that the
kinks in her performance were beginning to work
out. She could feel the response of May, Joe, Vic,
and the others. A week of this, and shed have the
part. But, of course, there wasnt a week. Mal would
have to make some kind of decision today. They
could do only one run-through of the show Tuesday
before the performance or theyd be too exhausted
to play for the public. And theyd have to do that
rehearsal the way they were going to perform it.
When Mal called a break, Peggy went down to
165

talk to him where he was seated in the auditorium.


How does it look? she asked.
Its coming, he said cryptically.
Poor Mal, Peggy said softly. Have you ever
been through anything like this before? I havent.
Weve had problems with showsremember when
we had to work up one act of Come Closer because
we needed to raise money? But that was nothing like
this. It was the showdoing only one actthat was
uneven. Now its one player, me, whos not up to
the rest of the cast.
If you believe that, Peggy, Mal began slowly,
then Ill He broke off.
What? demanded Peggy, wanting him to finish.
I have a surprise for you today, he said, rather
than answering her. A special audience. A judge,
you might say. Hell be here before long.
Andr? Peggy asked.
No, Mal exclaimed, looking up in surprise.
What has Andr got to do with this?
He helped me with the part, Peggy pointed out.
He helped me understand Irma.
Well, I know someone who understands that
roleand who understands youa lot better than
Andr, Mal said resentfully. Have you gone and
fallen for that Frenchman?
Mal, Peggy reproached him, you know me
better than that.
166

Thats what it sounds like.


Before they could say any more, Bob Parker, who
was on stage, called, Places! The break was over,
and it was time to run through act three.
Thoughtfully, Peggy returned to the stage. What
had Mal meant? As Randys best friend, he would,
of course, resent the thought that she might prefer
Andr to Randy. Had she given that impression?
And what had Mal meant by a judge? For one brief
instant, she wished with all her heart that she could
talk to Randy. Hed straighten everything out.
As they started the final run-through of the day
Mal had ordered them once again to take it from
the beginningPeggy was conscious that this was
the supreme test of her performance as Irma. If the
play went badly this time, Mal would have no
choice but to order that she be Amy tomorrow night.
She slipped into her wheelchair, ready for the
opening scene, and looked up, suddenly tense, as she
heard loud applause from a solitary spectator in the
auditorium. He walked down the aisle, still half
hidden from sight by the darkness of the house. But
before he appeared in the glow from the stage lights,
Peggy knew who it was. Randy! Randy Brewster!
Randy was to be the judge!
In a second, she recognized his tall, lean physique
looming through the shadow, and then his red hair
and half-crooked grin became distinguishable in the
167

lights.
Randy! she cried out. How did you get here?
How do you feel?
Airplane, he called back. Other cast members
were rushing on stage to shout their greetings. The
Wright brothers invention, said Randy.
How are you, Randy? May called.
Great! he replied. Great!
Youre interrupting rehearsal, Mal said
delightedly, rushing over to wring Randys hand.
Playwrights arent permitted to interrupt rehearsals,
you know that.
On with the show! Randy called to the group
on the stage, as he pounded Mal on the back with his
free left hand. Lets see my two favorite actresses
at work. Itll really be a treat.
Lets show him, May said softly to Peggy.
I think we will! Peggy replied almost under her
breath.

168

XIX
Happy Ending

It was opening night again, and Harriet already had


stuck her head in the door of May and Peggys
shared dressing room to report elatedly that not only
most of the important critics but also two Cabinet
ministers were in the audience.
More old friends of yours? Peggy inquired
teasingly of May.
Maybe. Just maybe, May replied, drawing
wrinkles onto her forehead. Has somebody told you
were invited to a party after the show? Jean
Carpentier, the French movie star, is entertaining us.
Im told his apartment in Neuillythats the suburb
just west of Paris, but you cant tell where Paris ends
and Neuilly beginsIm told his apartment is one of
the most interesting in the city.
Well, that will be another ambition fulfilled,
said Peggy, combing her hair for the third time. I
wanted to see how the other halfthe sophisticated
people, the so-called privileged classlives in
169

Paris.
Everyone in Paris is sophisticated, said May.
No, objected Peggy. Civilized, yes.
Sophisticated, no. Theres a difference.
May threw her an approving look. Youre
learning, Peggy, she said. Who are you going to
the party with tonight?
You. If youll have me. Or do you have a heavy
date with one of those Cabinet ministers?
What about Randy and Andr?
I havent been asked, said Peggy.
You brought a dress from the hotel? May
asked.
Yes. Tonight, I feel self-confident enough to go
to a party alone, Peggy announced. So you can
keep your date without me as chaperon.
The way you played at rehearsal this morning,
you should feel self-confident enough to tackle Lady
Macbetheven though you arent old enough.
You just say that because its true, Peggy said,
meeting Mays eyes in the glass. They both laughed.
What a difference, May commented, from our
last opening night.
I know, said Peggy. Thoughtfully, she added,
Im tense. But deep inside me, I know everything is
going to be all right.
From out in the corridor came Bob Parkers
familiar order, Places. Places, everyone! Places!
170

Here we go, said Peggy. Break a leg.


I dont need to, said May. Ive got you playing
opposite me.
Work that night was pure pleasure for Peggy.
Everything went right. Never had she enjoyed
herself so much while on stage. She was conscious
of every line, of every word, of every nuance of
each syllable. She knew that her every gesture,
every sigh, every silence contributed toward her part
and toward the meaning of the play.
During the second-act intermission, she caught
sight of Randy standing in the wing. He gestured to
her, then raised his hands over his head, palms
clasped together, in the traditional triumphal sign of
a fight champion.
Peggy waved back, then noticed with surprise
that Randy was talking to Andr. What was he doing
backstage? Shed have given anything to know what
they were discussing, but she had to hurry up to the
dressing room to make her costume change.
The final act went as well as the first two, and
Peggy relished her curtain calls in a way she never
had in the past. Somehow, they were sweeter now
that she knew what it was like to accept applause for
someone else.
Move over, whispered May, walking up to
share the spotlight with Peggy. I was in this show
too. They bowed together.
171

I like to work with you, whispered Peggy,


never for one minute losing the dazzling smile she
was giving the now standing audience.
A good supporting cast never hurt any star,
May whispered back, bowing too. Im going to
leave you now. Tonight is your night, so step into
the center.
I love you, May, whispered Peggy. But the
older actress had withdrawn back to the line where
the assembled cast waited for the audience to finish
cheering Peggy.
Jean Carpentiers apartment was as interesting as
May had anticipated. Almost dizzy with happiness,
Peggy moved from one group to another, not really
hearing the hearty congratulations from all sides.
Hows it feel to be a success? Joe Pride asked.
It was as though he had popped up from a trapdoor
in the floor, because Peggy hadnt seen him
approaching.
Whered you come from? Peggy asked. The
last time I spotted you, you were surrounded by
swooning French females.
Wonderful, isnt it? said Joe. We should come
to Paris at least once a year. American girls dont act
like that. Ive had three proposals.
Youre kidding? Peggy demanded.
Well, maybe, he conceded. But they are
172

ahfriendly.
Whos friendly? demanded Andr.
This room is full of trapdoors, said Peggy.
What? demanded Andr of Peggy. Whos
friendly? he asked Joe again.
The French, said Joe.
Of course, said Andr in his most superior tone.
Were Latins. Latins are the warmest people on
earth.
Oh, Peggy moaned. Here we go again. Round
fiveor is it six coming up?
Andr apparently hadnt heard her. He pushed
two or three people behind him as he stepped back
to have room to view Peggy. Your dress is superb,
he said. And that coiffure is perfect for you.
Peggy didnt betray her surprise, but she felt it.
Her dress was a good inch and a half too long to
meet the current fashion. Her hair was merely piled
on her head, a compromise between the style shed
worn for the final scene and what it would have
looked like if she hadnt been too excited to comb it
properly.
Thank you, she said demurely.
You were marvelous, Andr said simply. If I
were on the judging committee, Id award the
special prize for the best actress of the festival to
you. He was almost sighing. You were perfect.
Coming from you, Peggy said, that is a
173

compliment.
Joe had disappeared into the crowd, but neither of
them noticed his absence.
American girls are so gifted, said Andr,
sighing again. We should import a few thousand to
Franceto teach French girls to be a little more
aggressive. You cant do anything well in life unless
youre willing to work aggressively for it.
Peggys eyebrows shot up, and she shook her
head in astonishment. Andr, she said solemnly,
if I stay in France ten years, I know I never will
understand you.
But I helped you, he insisted urgently. I
helped improve you a little.
You did, Peggy agreed, and thank you again.
Its a good idea, he said.
Andr, said Peggy, peering up at him, are we
both talking in the same conversation? I dont
follow you.
Its a good idea for you to stay in Franceat
least for the summer.
Peggy looked puzzled.
My mother has a summer place on the Riviera.
The sun. The sand. The ocean. She invites a lot of
interesting people too. Painters and poets and actors.
Youd enjoy it. Shed love to have you come. Shell
write you a formal invitation the minute I ask her to.
She likes Americans. Theyre so charming. He
174

hesitated, then smiled. My fathers dead. Her


husbands an American. I used to resent himI
guess everyone resents a step-parent at firstbut
Ive learned to appreciate him.
Peggy studied Andr. So, finally, hed explained
himself and his initial hostility to Americans,
hostility which turned to admiration as soon as
theyd proved themselves. But something else was
bothering her. She knew she should jump at the
chance to visit in a French homeshed wanted
tobut something made her hesitate.
Andr, sensitive as always, said hastily, Mays
invited too, of course.
Still, Peggy hesitated. Across the room, she saw
Randy elbowing his way toward her. Theyd barely
exchanged a word since Randys arrival in Paris.
First, thered been rehearsals, then the show, and
finally May and some gentleman in a top hat had
scooped Peggy into a limousine and whisked her to
the party.
You dont answer? Andr pointed out. He
caught sight of Randy nearing them. Its a good
play, Brewster, Andr said.
Thanks, said Randy. He squeezed between two
fat dowagers to reach them. Good show, Peggy,
he said disinterestedly. Your hairs a mess, he
added. I should think youd have learned
something about chic in Paris. He turned away
175

from her. Ive been thinking, Rodier, he said,


about catching that Miguel play on tour. If what
you tell me is true, I should see that play. Im
working on a simple theme myself for my next
oneand Id like to see how Miguel handles basic
human problems.
Theyll be in Nice early in August, said Andr.
Weve got an appointmentto see one Miguel
play together, Randy said formally. They had been
half huddling in order to hear one another speak, and
Peggy wasnt certain shed heard everything that
was said, because nothing seemed to make sense.
What do you think of her? Randy asked Andr.
He gestured toward Peggy and spoke as if she
werent there. My play wasnt the best at the
festivalIve accepted thatbut what do you think
of my two leading ladies? Or rather, about Peggy? I
heard about your review of Mays performance.
Not mine, said Andr. That was De Constants
review. It was printed after the first opening. I wrote
mine tonight, and itll be published in the morning
paper.
What did you say? Randy asked. His voice was
so detached that Peggy felt like kicking him.
Favoring the analytical approach to art was one
thing, but treating her like this was something else.
She decided instantly that she must visit Andrs
mother for the summer. Maybe that would make
176

Randy realize she was a girl as well as an actress.


Before she could say anything, Andr and Randy
had switched to French, Randy listening intently as
Andr explained something that seemed to call for a
great many gestures, although his words were in his
own language.
Good, Randy said in English. He nodded
thoughtfully at Andr. Ill think about that, he
said. Another point of view always is interesting
for a writer. Well see Le Cid together too.
Well talk more at Nice, said Andr. I take my
vacation in August, naturally.
What about my girl? Randy asked. Casually, he
put his arm around Peggy, drawing her into the
conversation. Isnt she pretty? Have you ever
before seen a really good actress who was actually
pretty?
Most great actresses are ugly, Andr agreed.
Its almost impossible to be both a beautiful
woman and a great actress.
What did she say about your mothers
invitation? Randy inquired, still speaking to Andr.
She hasnt answered. I hope shes not
declining.
What! Randy whirled to face Peggy. Youve
got to come, he exclaimed. I need you. Im going
to finish my play there this summer, and I need you
to read lines.
177

Of all the nerve! Peggy exploded, pulling away


from him. I havent seen you in weeks, and when
you do get to Paris, you dont find any time to talk
to me, and tonight when I gave a really good
showeven if I say it myselfI was goodyou
barely bother to thank me for helping make your
play a success. I worked and worked. And you dont
even thank me. You just want me to work some
more. Her eyes were blazing.
She has temperament, Andr told Randy with
interest. An actress needs temperament. Shes
always like that with me, he advised. Always
angry about the most trivial things. You have to
explain everything to her very carefully, or else
shes angry.
But Randy wasnt listening. Peggy, he said
gently, drawing her into his arms right in the middle
of the salon full of people, you know how I feel
about you. I told you that in London.
Do you, Randy? asked Peggy. She quit
struggling to release herself from his arms.
Whats the matter? he asked. Whats this all
about?
I was so worried, said Peggy. Her eyes were
solemn. I was so worried that Id spoil your play.
Is that all? Randy said. Is that what youre such a
spitfire about tonight? Peggy, dont you know I
wouldnt have cared? Youre more important than
178

any play.
I thought youd never tell me that, Peggy said
happily. Its okay. Ill go to Niceto the Riviera.
Now I dont mind work.
TELEGRAM
RANDOLPH CLARK BREWSTER
MAY BERRIMAN
PEGGY LANE
PARIS: THTRE DES NATIONS CHALLENGE
(THE GRAND PRIX) AWARDED TONIGHT TO
CHILEAN COMPANY FOR MIGUEL PLAY.
SPECIAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS OF
FESTIVAL
TOMAY
BERRIMAN.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ENTIRE PENTHOUSE
CAST. ARRIVING IN NICE TO JOIN YOU IN TEN
DAYS.
ANDR RODIER

179

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