by: Leonid Andreyev

adapted by: Walter Wykes


[HE sits alone, motionless.  Enter PAULIE and WALLY, playing their kazoos.]

PAULIE: Ah!  Morning, HE.

WALLY: We were just rehearsing.  For the benefit.

PAULIE: Wally has about as much rhythm as an elephant.

WALLY: I resemble that remark!

HE: Are you preparing something special?

PAULIE: No.  The usual.

WALLY: If we’d had more time.  But it all happened so fast.  You do know it’s her last night?

PAULIE: Of course he knows it’s her last night.  Would she be getting a benefit otherwise?

WALLY: What about you, HE—preparing something special?

HE: Yes.

WALLY: What is it?

HE: You’ll have to wait and see.

MANCINI: [Entering.] There!  A true showman!  He doesn’t give away all his secrets beforehand!

WALLY: [With a look at MANCINI.] Come on, Paulie.  Let’s rehearse.

PAULIE: Remember—don’t dance like an elephant this time.  You’re an ant!

[WALLY and PAULIE go off, playing.]

MANCINI: I can hardly believe it, HE!  We’re finally escaping this second-rate circus!  And a benefit performance to boot!  No more Papa Briquet!  No more stupid posters or silly clowns!  No offense.

HE: None taken.

MANCINI: Things are finally taking a turn for the better.

HE: How does Consuelo feel about it?

MANCINI: How should she feel?  She’ll be the wife of an important man.  She’ll attend receptions, have butlers—

HE: And the girl?

MANCINI: What girl? [Off HE’S look.] Oh—that.  It’s taken care of.  For a small sum, her parents have agreed to drop all charges.  The Baron will pay them off after the ceremony.

HE: Then you’ve managed to wriggle out of your little predicament.

MANCINI: One of the many benefits of wealth—you can get away with anything. [MANCINI laughs.  Enter PAPA BRIQUET.] Ah!  Papa Briquet!  I wanted to thank you for this evening’s benefit.

PAPA BRIQUET: Don’t thank me.  It was Xena’s idea.  If it were up to me, you’d get nothing.

MANCINI: I’m sure your exaggerating.

PAPA BRIQUET: I love Consuelo like a daughter, Mancini.  Here she has an honest job, wonderful comrades—what more could she ask for?

MANCINI: I asked you to increase her salary, Briquet.  If you’d been more reasonable—


[Enter CONSUELO in tears.]


MANCINI: Consuelo?

HE: What’s wrong?

CONSUELO: I can’t, Daddy!  Tell him!  He has no right to yell at me!


CONSUELO: Bezano!  He threatened to hit me with his whip!


CONSUELO: I can’t work under these conditions!

MANCINI: What kind of operation are you running here, Briquet! 

PAPA BRIQUET: Where is he?

CONSUELO: With the horses.

PAPA BRIQUET: I’ll talk to him!  Threaten to hit you, will he?!


HE: Did he really threaten you?


HE: He’s only jealous, you know.

MANCINI: That’s no excuse.

HE: He doesn’t want you to go.

CONSUELO: Well, he should have said something before now!  It’s a little late!

MANCINI: Are you all right, child?  You seem different today.

CONSUELO: It’s nothing.  I’m just … I’m going to miss this place.  Everyone.  Even Bezano.  You should have heard the things he said.

MANCINI: You’ll get over it, believe me.

CONSUELO: The Baron promised to make a ring for me to gallop in and buy me the finest horse.  Do you think he really means it?

MANCINI: Of course.  Barons do not lie.

CONSUELO: I think it will be nice to have money.  You can do what you want then.

MANCINI: Exactly!

CONSUELO: But he scares me sometimes.  The way he looks at me.  Like a spider.  Like I’m his fly.  You should hear the way he talks.  Bezano never talks like that.

MANCINI: Bezano!  Bezano is a child—he doesn’t dare talk to you like that!  The Baron is a real man!  You must learn to accept it!


MANCINI: All men are like that, child.

CONSUELO: I don’t like your advice.  You think everyone is as dirty as you.

MANCINI: They are.

HE: Not HE.


CONSUELO: You love me—don’t you, HE?

HE: I do, my Queen.  I am your fool.

CONSUELO: And when I leave, will you find another queen?

HE: No, I will follow you.  I will carry the train of your dress and wipe away your tears.

MANCINI: Idiot! [Laughs.] You don’t know how sorry I am, HE, that I don’t live in the days of my ancestors when we had scores of motley fools to kick and slap around.  Now, Mancini is compelled to go to this dirty circus to find a good fool—and then, whose fool is he?  Mine?  No.  He belongs to everyone who pays a few dollars.

HE: We are the servants of those who pay.

MANCINI: A sorry state of affairs.  Imagine, HE—we are in my castle, I near the fireplace with my glass of wine, you chattering nonsense at my feet, jingling your little bells, diverting me.  Then, after a while, I get sick of you and want another fool, so I give you a good kick … Ah, HE, how wonderful it would be!

HE: It would be marvelous, Mancini!  And when the Count tires of my chattering, I will lie down at the feet of my queen!

MANCINI: Of course, I’d throw you a gold coin every now and then to keep you happy.  Well, when I become rich, I’ll hire you.  It’s settled. [Checks his watch.] Good lord!  It’s getting late!  I still need to meet with the Baron—we have a few details still to discuss.


CONSUELO: HE, come and lie down at my feet and tell me something cheerful.  I’m in a mood.

HE: Are you going to marry the Baron?

CONSUELO: It looks that way.

HE: Do you remember my prediction?

CONSUELO: What prediction?

HE: That if you marry the Baron …

CONSUELO: Oh—that.  But you were just making fun.

HE: Sometimes one makes fun, and it turns out to be true.

CONSUELO: [Laughs.] Well, I guess I’ll have to take my chances.

HE: And if you die?

CONSUELO: What is death, really?

HE: Nobody knows.  Like love!  Nobody knows.  But your little hands will grow cold, and your little eyes will close … the music will play without you, and without you Bezano will gallop around the ring, Paulie and Wally will play their kazoos, and Madame Xena will try to make the red lion love her …

CONSUELO: I’m so sad.

HE: Are you crying?

CONSUELO: A little.  Why did Bezano yell at me?  Is it my fault if I couldn’t do anything today?

HE: He loves you, as I love you—only he doesn’t know it yet.

CONSUELO: There’s something here. [She presses a hand against her heart.] I must be sick.  It hurts.

HE: It’s not sickness.  It’s the charm of the stars, Consuelo.  It’s the voice of your fate.

CONSUELO: Don’t talk nonsense.  Not today.  The stars don’t care about me.  I’m so small.

HE: You’re bigger than you imagine.

CONSUELO: No.  I’m nothing. [Pause.] Tell me another story—about the blue sea and those gods, you know … who are so beautiful.

HE: Don’t go to the Baron.

CONSUELO: Why not?

HE: I don’t want you to.  I won’t allow it.

CONSUELO: Who should I marry then—you? [She laughs.] Are you crazy?  “I won’t allow it.”  HE!  HE will not allow me!  What business is it of yours?

HE: I only want you to be happy.


CONSUELO: I was happy once.  I don’t remember any details of my childhood—only a feeling … there was the sea … and something … strange faces …

[She closes her eyes.]

HE: Remember, Consuelo.

CONSUELO: No. [Opening her eyes.] It’s gone.  Everything.  I have no early memories of my father.  Isn’t that strange?  Not one.  Only a feeling. [BEZANO appears, confused.] Bezano!  What do you want?

BEZANO: I … I came to apologize.

CONSUELO: For what?

BEZANO: The way I acted.  Before.

CONSUELO: Are you really sorry—or are you only apologizing because they made you?

BEZANO: I don’t know why I got so angry.  I’m confused.  It’s your last performance.  I … I wanted it to be perfect. [Pause.] Do you forgive me?

CONSUELO: [Smiles.] Of course.  Silly boy!

HE: Look at the two of you!  Wait—stand there a moment!  Yes!  Just like that!

CONSUELO: Like Adam and Eve? 

[She laughs.]

BEZANO: We should get back to work.

CONSUELO: Let me change my shoes.

[She exits.  Silence.]

HE: Do you love her, Bezano?


HE: Do you love her?  Our little Consuelo.


BEZANO: It’s none of your business.  I don’t know you.  You came off the street.  Why should I trust you?

HE: You don’t know me, but you know the Baron well enough.  Listen.  It’s hard for me to say this—she loves you.  Save her from the spider.  Or don’t you see the web he is weaving?  Get out of this vicious circle.  Take her away!  Steal her!  Whatever it takes!  Kill her if you have to—take her to heaven or the devil!  But don’t give her to this man!

BEZANO: Kill her?

HE: Or him!  Kill the Baron!

BEZANO: And who will kill those who come after him?

HE: She loves you.

BEZANO: Did she tell you that herself?

HE: What a stupid little god you are!  But you are a god!  Why can’t you see it?  Go to her!  You belong together!

BEZANO: You really are a fool!  Present your own face for slaps if you like, but leave mine out of it.

HE: Bezano!

BEZANO: I don’t want to hear any more of this!  I’m not a god.  I’m an acrobat.

[BEZANO goes out angrily.  HE is alone.  With a tortured expression, he throws his head back and begins to laugh—soundlessly at first, then louder.  After a moment MANCINI enters with the BARON.]

MANCINI: HE!  What a cheerful fellow!  Laughing even when he’s alone!  How many slaps will you get today, HE?  Will they ring you like a gong?  A funny profession—isn’t it, Baron?

BARON: Very strange.  Where is the Countess?

MANCINI: I’ll find her.  You wait here.  HE, would you be so kind as to entertain our guest?  You won’t be bored in his company, Baron—I guarantee it!

[MANCINI exits.  Pause.]

BARON: Don’t bother trying to entertain me.  I don’t like clowns.

HE: I don’t like Barons.

[HE puts on his derby hat, takes a chair and, with an exaggerated gesture, puts it down heavily in front of the BARON.  HE sits, imitating the pose of the BARON, staring him in the eyes.  Silence.]

HE: Can you be silent very long?

BARON: Very long.

HE: And can you wait very long?

BARON: Very long.

HE: Until you get what you came for?

BARON: Until I get it.  And you?

HE: I too.

[They stare at each other silently, their heads close together.  From the ring one hears the strains of the Tango.]

* * *


Copyright © 2007 by Walter Wykes

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that He Who Gets Slapped is subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional and amateur stage performing, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved.

Inquiries concerning all rights should be addressed to the author at sandmaster@aol.com

Home · Theatre Links · Monologues · One Act Plays · Bookstore · © 2006 TheatreHistory.com