By Eudora Welty
EVANS (Miss Fortescue’s maid)
MISS FORTESCUE’S sitting room in the Brevoort, a room not yet reached by wreckers
dismantling the building and obviously occupied by her.
Set marked off perhaps by one collapsible wall and one folding screen. A window heavily looped
with curtains. A large dark oil painting of a lady ancestor in ornate frame, which can fall.
Crowded and abundant Victorian furnishings, two scrolled wicker high-backed chairs and a
wicker settee, a tea table down front big enough to load with china and service and fixed so as to
shudder or shimmy with every crash outside as the Brevoort is being torn down, so that some
dishes and a flower vase eventually fall off. Right, a stand with old-fashioned telephone on it, a
big seashell, and a large silver dish with a mountain of calling cards in it. In rear, a dumbwaiter.
Other things might be stacked albums, a fishnet full of postcards and Valentines, at least one
musical instrument. Plant stands with luxuriant growth appropriately placed. Door, down left.
Curtain rises to show FORTESCUE, WHICHAWAY, and CHROME, three old Brevoort relics, in
FORTESCUE'S sitting room, each playing her own game of solitaire—one on the as yet unlaid
tea table, the other two perhaps on checkerboards on their knees.
The old ladies are dressed de rigueur. Suggest FORTESCUE in lace, CHROME in velvet or in
floral silk, WHICHAWAY in tweeds with white shoes and stockings. A lace
Parasol will be available for FORTESCUE. All wear hearing aids, though WHICHAWAY
may prefer the trumpet. CHROME and WHICHAWAY, who come from across the hall, may wear
their hats throughout. EVANS will wear an elaborate maid's uniform, starched and winged, with
frilled cotton drawers as seen. DESMOND DUPREE, for whom the extra chair waits, is an old
sport in a chesterfield, with a furled umbrella (as he goes out to the park) and yellow gloves.
The moment before curtain rise, a few bangs and a dull thud. The wreckers dismantling the
building are coming closer and closer as play proceeds. Noises come intermittently, sometimes a
hoarse shout. The ladies do not hear, or else they ignore these crude sounds. But a moment after
curtain rise: A faint tinkle. Ladies all hear that. They sit bolt upright in polite, pleased
anticipation. All speak up in high, carrying voices.
FORTESCUE (Waving her battery gaily.) Teatime! Teatime! Four o'clock! Did you notice I'd
had an alarm put in my hearing aid? Tiffany's sent a man down. To work by the hour, my dears.
WHICHAWAY Et tu, Tiffany.
FORTESCUE (Calling out.) Tea, Evans! Isn't Evans back?
CHROME (As crash, off, dies away. Without flinching.) I haven't heard even a little mouse.
FORTESCUE I sent her to Charles'—for petit fours. Desmond's coming, with his appetite.
CHROME Our Thursday Tiger!
WHICHAWAY Desmond! Shall we go back to our rooms for our hats?
FORTESCUE You have on something, dear.
WHICHAWAY (Touching up top.) Chances are it hasn't been removed since yesterday’s tea.
Simpler. (Tinkle again, from hearing aid.)
FORTESCUE There goes the second bell. If Evans isn't back soon, I'll telephone down and have
the Brevoort search Sixth Avenue.
(Enter EVANS, from door left, in cape, parcel in both hands and purse swinging from teeth. She
is riding a bicycle. They don't turn to see her.)
EVANS (Speaking through teeth.) The cheese straws from Charles's, mum.
FORTESCUE Evans: don't—hiss.
(EVANS dismounts. With faint clicking sound as she walks, goes with burdens behind screen,
comes out in her elaborate apron, and begins business of setting the tea table for high tea. Brings
from behind screen a linen cloth and napkins, elaborate tea service, which seems to overflow the
whole set, covered dishes, several pots, silver and china, cake stand with half a tiered cake.
Whenever the pounding or a crash occurs off, all this shakes.)
CHROME (Sharply clapping her hand to her back as if shot by an arrow.) Oh! There's a draft! It
WHICHAWAY For thirty-nine years I've said the Brevoort had a draft. And have mentioned it
Downstairs. They know it.
FORTESCUE We should simply avoid the corridors.
EVANS (In normal voice, since they won't hear. As she bends over to set a bud vase
with rose and fern on tea table, as final touch.) Draft, they call it. We're living in a fool's Swiss
EVANS (Bending over, arrested motion.) Mum?
FORTESCUE You've come in with your bicycle clips on. How did you come through the lobby?
EVANS (Proudly.) Sidesaddle.
FORTESCUE (To others.) And yesterday, she came in on skates!
EVANS One skate.
CHROME Millicent—is Evans slipping—or the Brevoort? (A large crash, off.)
EVANS (Sitting down hard, with the rose.) We'll go down together.
FORTESCUE And as you came scorching through the lobby, Evans, tell me—did anyone budge?
EVANS No one saw me downstairs, mum, except some persons with axes and the persons with
dynamite to blow up the building.
FORTESCUE No one with lorgnettes? Then thank your lucky stars.
CHROME Must we wait for Desmond?
FORTESCUE Dear Desmond! So dashing! Such a wreck!
CHROME Mr. Knickerbocker says nothing keeps Desmond in one piece but penicillin and passe-
WHICHAWAY Nonsense, he's always looked that way. It's only from wincing.
CHROME He insists on going out, you know.
FORTESCUE There's something gallant about him. Shine or shine, he goes forth and strolls in
the park. (They all shake their heads over it.) And I understand the elevator isn't running past our
floor. Some sort of obstruction in the passage!
EVANS It's got the hiccups. (Knock at door. Going to door and opening.) Hold that tiger.
DUPREE (Entering, with EVANS behind.) Hullo, old things.
LADIES (All together, gladly. All kissing.) Desmond dear! Desmond, you're looking shattered!
DUPREE (EVANS trying to take his coat. Does so.) Difficult time getting through again. Odd
thing in the corridor: persons all about sawing the walls. Didn't look too savory. Can't help
noticing—thing like that during Lent.
CHROME (Gives him a pat of comfort.) Riff-raff. Best not to notice them.
DUPREE (Sinking into chair, offhand.) They must be looking for treasure.
WHICHAWAY Yes. Millicent, didn't you once lose an old Carolina moonstone?
FORTESCUE (Coldly.) Not in the corridor.
(EVANS, busy with tea, now brings it in. As she bends over tea table, DUPREE stares.)
DUPREE Aluminum garters? Daresay it was bound to come.
FORTESCUE Dear Desmond. You're looking frightfully crepey.
DUPREE Thanks, old thing. Shall we feed?
FORTESCUE Evans! (EVANS skips, dropping napkins in everybody’s lap and DUPREE’S on
the floor, as in drop-the-handkerchief. Goes to FORTESCUE'S side.)
Telephone down, Evans. Ask room service for an earthen jug of hotter and fresher water.
Pouring, dears! (FORTESCUE begins to pour. All the dishes start to hobble and shake as bangs
and thuds begin coming louder. They bravely ignore. They call a little more loudly and at higher
pitch to one another to make themselves heard. Drink tea, eat cake.)
CHROME Modern times! The noise of the city is frightful. The vehicles!
WHICHAWAY Yes. Rat-a-tat—rat-a-tat.
FORTESCUE I cawn't think why they don't make vehicles go around the island!
DUPREE This cake has a marvelous texture—marvelous crumb, Millicent. Wherever did you get
EVANS (Over her shoulder. She is still at the phone, which doesn’t answer.) Hearn's and I didn't
FORTESCUE No answer below, Evans?
EVANS No, mum. The last we was in communication with the outside world was a week ago
Saturday. A copy of the Villager was thrown through the window.
CHROME (As crash comes.) I think they're trying it again. (All shudder.)
FORTESCUE Keep listening, Evans. I cawn't think they'd have given me a telephone without the
other end. Thirty-nine years in the Brevoort—why, the phone should ring incessantly by this
time. (Decides.) Hang up, and let them call us.
EVANS (Hanging up.) I'd rather skate across the street and fill my earthen jug at the King Cole
FORTESCUE (Offering chocolates out of enormous satin-lined candy box, requiring both hands
to handle. Ladies choose, cooing.) Desmond? The liquid cherries are in the fourteenth row—
DUPREE (Cramming.) Teddibly good of you. Any quail sandwiches, or do I presume?
EVANS (Carrying long, old-fashioned flintlock across stage and standing it in corner.)
You presume. It's Lent—remember?
CHROME (Gaily.) That last time we had a bird! Do you recall, Millicent?
FORTESCUE (A short scream.) Oh! Indelibly. That was the afternoon Raymond Duncan came to
WHICHAWAY Threading his way down from the Waldorf.
CHROME Bringing his weaving.
FORTESCUE Saint Valentine's Day! . . . And he took the bones home in his pocket.—He had
pockets, hadn't he?
CHROME For the goats. The Brevoort, of course, doesn't sanction goats.
WHICHAWAY (Calling over noises off.) Sanction who?
ALL THE OTHERS, WITH EVANS Goats ! (The portrait falls off the wall at this extra clamor.)
EVANS (Gesture of announcement.) E-o-leven! (Then rehangs portrait. On second thought, turns
it face to the wall.)
FORTESCUE (Explaining to DUPREE.) Evans is keeping count of the times Aunt Emmeline
falls—excellent count. This was her home, you know.
WHICHAWAY There are moments when I seem to notice something over and beyond the noise
of traffic and falling portraits.
FORTESCUE You hear the seashell, dear. Evans, hold up the seashell for Miss Whichaway.
(EVANS holds it up, and it vibrates and jerks in her hands as the noises sound. She shudders.)
FORTESCUE See, dear? It makes Evans shudder.—That will do, Evans.
EVANS (Gesturing with seashell aloft, reciting.)
"It was the schooner Hesperus
That sailed the wintry sea—"
FORTESCUE More tea? Let's all have more hot tea. (She begins to pour.)
EVANS (Reciting with shell.)
"We are lost, the Captain shouted
as he staggered down the stair."
(This makes DESMOND'S hand shake; his cup falls and breaks.)
DUPREE Seems to me at times china isn't lasting much better than we are. (EVANS is
immediately bringing him another cup.)
EVANS Ooh, don't talk that way—Mr. Wedgewood!
FIRST WRECKER (Off.) That's it! Hook a chain around her middle and drag her down!
CHROME Did you speak, Desmond?
FORTESCUE I think that was someone in the corridor, dealing with a maid.
EVANS Doing it with chains now, are they? (A large crash, off.)
SECOND WRECKER (Off.) Crack her open—ah! Chock full of termites!
WHICHAWAY Do you feel that life's quite the same, since traffic? I say, a disrespectful element
is creeping in.
CHROME The Brevoort should do away with the taxi stand.
DUPREE It's worse than that. I'd meant to keep it from you—but the skaters in Washington
Square of late are heavily bearded.
FORTESCUE I do think we should alarm the Brevoort. Evans, will you telephone below? Inform
the desk that out there bullies are skating.
(EVANS goes to phone, jiggles it. A pounding right at door.)
CHROME (Crossing to EVANS, graciously.) Here, Evans. Let me try. I'm awfully good with a
telephone. My father played chess for years with Mr. Bell. (Takes phone, jiggles.) Hello? Hello? .
. . There seem to be mice at the other end. (She hangs up.) (Pounding at the door.)
FORTESCUE Often I console myself by pretending the traffic noises are simply pistol shots—the
riffraff murdering one another.
DUPREE (Touched. Kissing her ear.) Dear Millicent!
FIRST WRECKER (Just outside door.) This door's locked! My God, whose bicycle?
(Crash and bicycle bell ringing.)
CHROME The traffic seems curiously active for St. Swithin's Day.
EVANS I'm holding out for St. Vitus's Day. (The WRECKERS break down the door and enter.
EVANS steps to the door as it falls. To the WRECKERS:) You knocked?
FORTESCUE Evans, we are not at home.
FIRST WRECKER Anudder nest of 'em. You can't smoke 'em out.
SECOND WRECKER Want to use the block and tackle on these, boss?
FIRST WRECKER Foist we'll see if dey won't come out nice. (Pounding outside keeps on.
WRECKERS galvanized at sight of the tea table shimmying. WRECKER speaks in wheedling
voice.) Folks—how about coming outside in de nice . . . sunshine?
(They all rise, reel, give little cries, and cling together.)
THIRD WRECKER (Unwinding ropes and chains and creeping up at DUPREE.) Ya see? Ya
never loin, Leonard.
FIRST WRECKER (Trying again. Smiling.) Would youse boys and goils like to come out and
see my great, big, shiny—bulldozer? (They cry out again.)
CHROME Bulldozers, or any other kind, are not mentioned in the Brevoort Hotel. (THIRD
WRECKER holds up a square rule.)
FORTESCUE I beg your pardon. I think you people are looking for Klein's on the Square. (A
carrier pigeon flies in window, bringing a note to FORTESCUE.)
FORTESCUE (Explaining brightly to WRECKERS.) Oh, the mail. There you are, my pretty.
(Pokes cake crumb at pigeon, which flies back out window. Prettily, to WRECKERS.) We much
prefer pigeons to the government. Always on time—and in the end, of course, they can be eaten.
WHICHAWAY Open your letter. Maybe it’s from the Metropolitan Museum again—insisting
that we take care of ourselves.
FORTESCUE (Opens note, reads, gasps.) Oh! Listen to this! (Reads aloud)
"The management-in-exile of the Hotel Brevoort hereby notifies you that Wreckers are on their
way to you suite. You will please receive them and carry out their wishes."
DUPREE Where’s that pigeon?
EVANS Their wishes?
FIRST WRECKER Okay, boys. (They begin moving stuff out of the room, the plant stands,
musical instruments, etc. But leave the group at tea table for moment.)
FORTESCUE Tea’s what we need dears. Fresh tea! Do sit down. (Flutters at tea table.
WHICHAWAY sits, extends cup.)
CHROME One must be impervious to the riffraff. Two lumps.
DUPREE Yes. But still, I cawn’t think too highly of those old women knitting on the roof of
FORTESCUE Desmond, dear—room service! You can get them. Tell them fresh hot tea on the
dumbwaiter instantly. (Dumbwaiter signals.) Why, here it is! Evans—tea!
(WRECKERS still carrying out. EVANS goes through them to dumbwaiter. Lifts tray and turns
to room, showing loaded with lighted dynamite sticks.)
EVANS (Taking dashing position, with crossed feet.) TNT is served, mum.
FORTESCUE Bring it on!
(EVANS brings tray forward and sets it down at the tea table. DESMOND absentmindedly
tucking in his napkin, and they all sit there grandly. FIRST and SECOND WRECKRS swoop
down on WHICHAWAY in her wicker chair and carry her off. She snatches her solitaire pack
and deliberately plays the first card, up in the air.)
WHICHAWAY I insist there’s a draft. (WRECKERS return and pick up CHROME in her chair.)
CHROME Will you dip in Suite Two for my tippet?
(They bear her away. Return for FORTESCUE, who is on the settee. She takes up her lace
parasol and opens it over her head. Rides out with it over her, as in a howdah.)
MILLICENT (Aloft.) Shall I tell you what I think about Life, all? I think there’s something of
(She is borne off. EVANS jumps up on the back of the remaining WRECKER and rides out
piggyback, showing her bicycle clips attached to her long drawers. She prods him in the back.)
EVANS What wishes?
(WRECKERS return and surround DUPREE. A fusillade of crashes, off.)
DUPREE I can go unaided, thank you.
(He opens his collar and bares his throat, as one going to the guillotine. Suffers the WRECKERS
to light his cigarette, or a long cheroot, for him with a dynamite stick. To sounds of wrecking,
mingled with a strain of the "Marseillaise," he goes nobly out ahead of WRECKERS. Last
WRECKER out lifts Aunt Emmeline’s portrait and carries it under his arm. Aunt Emmeline’s
fingers are in her ears. Explosion and walls collapse as curtain falls.)