by: Leonid Andreyev

adapted by: Walter Wykes


[Music in the ring.  More disorder backstage than usual.  All kinds of costumes are scattered about, hanging on pegs, etc… A huge bouquet of fiery-red roses sits on a table.  Three USHERS stand near the door, smoking.]

USHER #1: Ten thousand dollars?!

USHER #2: I’m telling you.

USHER #1: For roses?!

USHER #2: That’s right.

USHER #3: I don’t believe it.

USHER #2: There’s a whole truck-load outside.  Stick your head out there—you can smell them a mile away.

USHER #3: Crazy Baron.

USHER #1: What good are that many roses?!

USHER #2: He wants to cover the ring with them—the whole ring.

USHER #1: The whole thing?!

USHER #2: Thousands of roses.  Like a carpet.  That’s what he told them—make it like a carpet.

USHER #1: What a waste!

USHER #3: If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t waste it on roses, I’ll tell you that much!

[As XENA enters with HE, all three USHERS suddenly throw away their cigarettes like school boys caught in the act.  XENA stares at them.]

XENA: What are you doing here, gentlemen?  Your place is at the entrance.

USHER #2: We … we were just taking a quick break.

XENA: Don’t leave your places again.

USHER #2: Yes, Ma’am.

[The USHERS exit quickly.  XENA notices the roses.]

XENA: More roses.  They’re everywhere. 

HE: Are you jealous, Madame Xena?

XENA: You’re malicious tonight, HE.  Don’t you approve of Consuelo’s marriage?

HE: It’s an honest marriage.  Even spiders need to improve their stock.  Can you imagine what charming spiders this couple will create—with the head of their mother, Consuelo, and the stomach of their father, the Baron!  A suitable ornament for any circus ring!

XENA: Why are you out of makeup?

HE: I’m in the third act.  I have time. [Pause.] Do you approve—of the marriage?

XENA: If you ask me, Consuelo sold herself too cheap.  What is the Baron worth—a few million?  She could have done much better.

HE: She’s doing it for her father.

XENA: The Count, you mean? [Laughs.] You haven’t guessed yet?  Mancini isn’t her father.

HE: What!  Does she know?

XENA: No.  Why should she know?  He found her on the street.  Adopted her, of course—legally, she’s his daughter.  But he wanted her for business purposes.  She’s been supporting him for years.

HE: It’s curious, isn’t it—there’s more blue blood in her little finger than in all of Mancini.  One would think she found him on the street and not the other way around!

XENA: Let her go, HE.  She’s already made up her mind.

HE: Diamonds and butlers?

XENA: When did you ever see a beauty like her content to struggle along with the rest of us?  If this one doesn’t buy her, another one will.  The rich buy up everything beautiful and lock it away, out of sight, in their mansions.  It’s the way of the world, HE.  For the first few years, she’ll be a sad beauty, loyal to her husband, but sick inside.  Later, she’ll begin to attract the eyes of strangers on the sidewalk—and finally, she will take—

HE: Her chauffeur or butler as a lover?

XENA: Not a bad guess.  You can’t fight Fate.  Don’t be offended, my friend.  I like you.  But you aren’t beautiful, or young, or rich—what does it matter what you “want” or “don’t want”?  There is only one way for you.  To forget.

[Enter PAPA BRIQUET and MANCINI who wears a new suit.]

MANCINI: Madame Xena!  You are dazzling, tonight!  Your lion would be a fool if he did not kiss your hand as I do!

[He kisses her hand.]

XENA: Congratulations, Count.

MANCINI: Yes, merci.

PAPA BRIQUET: Xena, the Count wants to pay immediately for the breach of contract with Consuelo.  Do you remember how much it is?

XENA: Three thousand.

MANCINI: Is that all?  For Consuelo?  I’ll tell the Baron.

XENA: You took—


XENA: Count, you drew in advance, I wrote it down, one hundred dollars.  Will you pay that too?

MANCINI: Of course.  Three thousand one hundred. [Laughs.] I never knew I could be so accurate. [Seriously.] Listen, Consuelo and the Baron expressed a desire to bid the whole cast farewell.

HE: The Baron, too?

MANCINI: Yes.  They want to do it at intermission.  So if you could gather everyone—

PAPA BRIQUET: Of course.

MANCINI: And HE, if you could run to the buffet and ask about the champagne, bottles and glasses—that sort of thing?

HE: Your wish is my command.

MANCINI: Wait a minute—is that a new costume?  You look like a devil in that outfit!

HE: Not a devil, Count—just a poor sinner who the devils are frying a little.

[HE exits, bowing like a clown.]

MANCINI: That fellow is gifted, but too cunning for his own good.

PAPA BRIQUET: It’s the Tango color—in honor of your daughter.  He needs it for a new stunt he’s doing.  Some kind of surprise.

MANCINI: [Sits and looks about the room.] You know … I’m actually sorry to leave you, old friend.  I know it’s hard to believe, destined as I am for high society, castles, the company of noblemen … but where else could I find such freedom and … simplicity. [Pause.] By the way—how do you like my new suit?

XENA: I like it.  You look like a nobleman of the courts of long ago.

MANCINI: You don’t think it’s too conspicuous—do you?  I mean, who wears lace and satin nowadays?  Is this jabot out of place?

XENA: No.  It’s perfect.

[HE returns, carrying a basket of champagne and glasses.]

MANCINI: Ah!  Thank you, HE. [Checking his watch.] Good lord!  The act’s about to end!  I have to go!

[MANCINI hurries out.]

PAPA BRIQUET: The devil take him!

XENA: Not so loud!

PAPA BRIQUET: High society!  Castles!  Noblemen!  He’s a common swindler!

[Enter JACKSON .]

JACKSON What an audience!  No laughter!  Nothing!  They’ve forgotten how!

PAPA BRIQUET: A benefit performance crowd.

JACKSON : In the orchestra, I saw some Barons and a few Egyptian mummies, I think.  They just stare at you as if you’d stolen their wallet.  You’ll have to take a good many slaps tonight, HE, if you want any reaction out of them.

HE: Don’t worry, Jackson .  I’ll avenge you.

XENA: How is Bezano?

JACKSON Bezano!  A madman!  He’s going to break his neck tonight!

PAPA BRIQUET: [To XENA.] You must have inspired him.

XENA: What’s eating you?

PAPA BRIQUET: Nothing.  I don’t like all these Barons in my circus.  It makes me feel like a swindler instead of an honest artist.

JACKSON There’s something to that.

PAPA BRIQUET: Let’s be honest—the foxes have come to steal our hen.

[Enter PAULIE and WALLY, along with several other performers.]

WALLY: Is it time for champagne yet?


WALLY: All right, all right.

PAULIE: HE, did you see how the Count walks in his new suit?

[PAULIE imitates MANCINI.  Laughter.]

JACKSON : [Peeking onstage.] It’s almost intermission.  Consuelo is galloping now.  It’s her waltz.  They love her! 

WALLY: She’s so beautiful!

[Suddenly, a crash as if a broken wall were tumbling down: applause, shouting, screaming.  The performers begin pouring champagne.  More performers enter, in costume, talking and laughing.]

WALLY: They’re coming!

JACKSON What a success!

PAPA BRIQUET: Silence!  Silence, please!  Here they come!

[Enter CONSUELO, on the arm of the BARON who is stiff and erect.  In his button-hole, the BARON wears a fiery-red rose.  MANCINI follows, serious and happy.  Behind them, more performers enter, crying: “Bravo, bravo!”]

CONSUELO: Friends … oh, I’m so … Father, I can’t—

[She throws herself into MANCINI’S arms and hides her face on his shoulder.  MANCINI looks with a reassuring smile over her head at the BARON.  The BARON smiles slightly, but remains stiff and motionless.  A new burst of applause.]

PAPA BRIQUET: Enough!  Enough!

MANCINI: Calm yourself, child.  See how they all love you!

[CONSUELO looks around at everyone.  She laughs and cries at the same time.]

MANCINI: Ladies and gentlemen, yesterday Baron Regnard did me the honor to ask for my daughter’s hand in marriage— [Applause.] —the Countess Veronica, whom you know simply as “Consuelo.”  Please take your glasses.

CONSUELO: No, tonight I am still Consuelo!  I shall always be Consuelo!  Oh, Xena!

[She falls on XENA’S neck.  Fresh applause.]

PAPA BRIQUET: Stop it!  Silence!  Take your glasses!  What are you standing there for?  If you came, then take your glasses!

[The performers take their glasses.  CONSUELO stands near the BARON.  In her hand, she holds a glass of champagne, which spills over.]

BARON: Be careful, Consuelo.  You’re going to spill.

CONSUELO: I’m sorry!  I’m so nervous!  Aren’t you, Father?

MANCINI: Silly child.

PAPA BRIQUET: [Stepping forward and raising his glass.] Countess!  As the manager of this circus, who was happy enough … to witness … many times … your success—

CONSUELO: Stop it!  I am Consuelo!  What do you want to do—make me cry?  Stop with this “Countess” nonsense.  Give me a kiss, Briquet!

[PAPA BRIQUET kisses her with tears.  Laughter, applause.  The clowns cluck like hens.  The other performers become more and more lively.  In the midst of them, the BARON stands motionless.  There is a wide space around him.  Others clink glasses with him and quickly move away.  With CONSUELO, they clink willingly and cheerfully.  She kisses them all.  BEZANO appears in the crowd.]

JACKSON : [Raising his glass.] Consuelo, as of today, I extinguish my sun.  Let the dark night come after you leave us.  It was a pleasure to work with you.  We all love you and will treasure the traces of your little feet on the sand.  Nothing else remains to us.

CONSUELO: [Kissing him.] Oh, Jackson !  You are so good!  There is no one better!

WALLY: What about me?

CONSUELO: [Laughs.] Except for you, Wally!

[More laughter.  CONSUELO notices BEZANO in the crowd.]

CONSUELO: Bezano!  Come!  I was looking for you!

BEZANO: [Keeping his distance.] My congratulations, Countess.

CONSUELO: Don’t be silly!  I am always your Consuelo!

BEZANO: In the ring, yes.  But here … I congratulate you, Countess.

[He steps forward and clinks her glass—then moves away.  CONSUELO stares after him.  MANCINI looks at the BARON with a smile.  The BARON stands motionless.]

PAPA BRIQUET: Bezano, what’s wrong with you?  Don’t be an ass!

CONSUELO: No, it’s all right.


PAPA BRIQUET: Enough, enough!  Intermission is over!  Get back to work!

WALLY: Already?

CONSUELO: Not yet!  Please?  Just a few more minutes!

PAPA BRIQUET: All right.  It’s fine.  They can wait.

[From the ring, a Tango can be heard.  Exclamations.]

CONSUELO: My Tango!  Oh, I want to dance!  Who will dance with me? [She looks around, towards BEZANO who turns away.] Who then?

MANCINI: The Baron!  Let the Baron dance!

OTHERS: Yes!  The Baron!

BARON: All right. [He takes CONSUELO’S arm.] I don’t know the Tango, but I shall hold tight.

[He stands heavily and awkwardly, still holding CONSUELO’S arm—an expression of the utmost seriousness on his face.]

MANCINI: [Applauding.] Bravo!  Bravo!

[CONSUELO makes a few restless movements—then pulls away.]

CONSUELO: No, I can’t!  This is stupid!  Let me go!

[She runs to XENA and buries her face on the older woman’s shoulder.  The music continues to play.  The BARON moves quietly to the side.  There is an uncomfortable silence among the performers.]

MANCINI: [Alone.] Bravo!  Bravo!  It’s charming!  Exquisite!

PAPA BRIQUET: Shut up, Mancini.


HE: [Holding up his glass.] Baron, will you permit me to make a toast?

BARON: Make it.

HE: To your dance!

[Slight laughter from the performers.]

BARON: I don’t dance!

HE: In that case, let us drink to those who know how to wait longer, until they get it.

BARON: I don’t accept toasts I can’t understand.  Speak plainly.

JACKSON That’s enough, HE.  The Baron doesn’t like jokes.

HE: But I only want to drink with him.

[As the Tango ends, a buzzer sounds.]

PAPA BRIQUET: [Relieved.] There!  To the ring, ladies and gentlemen!  To the ring!

[As the performers make their way back to the ring, MANCINI rushes to the BARON and whispers excitedly into his ear.  HE approaches CONSUELO, who sits alone.]

CONSUELO: Don’t make him angry, HE.  Did you see how he pressed my arm?  I wanted to scream. [With tears in her eyes.] He hurt me.

HE: It’s not too late, Consuelo.  Refuse him.

CONSUELO: No.  It is too late.

HE: Do you want to marry him?

CONSUELO: Don’t talk about it.  He’s watching us.

HE: I’ll take you away from here.

CONSUELO: Where? [Laughs.] How pale you are!  Do you love me too?  Don’t, HE.  Why do they all love me—all the wrong ones?

HE: You are so beautiful!

CONSUELO: I was okay.  I had made up my mind.  But when everyone started speaking so nicely … when they said their goodbyes as if I were dying, I thought I would die for real.  Don’t talk.  Don’t talk.  Drink … to my happiness. [With a sad smile.] To my happiness, HE.  What are you doing?

HE: I’m throwing away the glass you drank from with the others.  I’ll get you another.  Wait a minute.

[HE goes to the table and pours another glass of champagne.  MANCINI approaches CONSUELO.]

MANCINI: Come.  The Baron is waiting.

CONSUELO: Not yet.

MANCINI: It’s indecent.  The Baron is waiting, and you talk here with this clown.  Everyone is watching.  They’re looking at you.

CONSUELO: [Loudly.] Leave me alone, Father!  HE is my friend!  I will come when I’m ready!

BARON: Don’t, Count.  Let her be. [To CONSUELO.] Talk to whomever you please for as long as you like.  There’s no hurry.

[HE returns with champagne.  The BARON and MANCINI give them room.]

HE: Here is your glass.  To your happiness.  To your freedom, Consuelo.

CONSUELO: Where is yours?  You won’t drink with me?

HE: Leave half.

CONSUELO: All right. [She drinks.] I’m going to be drunk.

HE: No.  You won’t be drunk.  You forget, I’m a magician.  I charmed the wine.  My witchery is in it.  Drink, goddess.

CONSUELO: What kind eyes you have.  But why are you so pale?

HE: Because I love you.  Look at my kind eyes and drink.  Give yourself up to my charms, Consuelo.  Sleep.  And when you awake, you will see your sky, your ocean, your gods …

CONSUELO: [Drinking.] I’ll see all that?  Really?

HE: Yes!  You will emerge from the sky blue waters … the whisper of foam at your marble feet …

CONSUELO: There.  Exactly half. [She gives the half-full glass to HE.] What’s wrong with you?  Are you laughing or crying?

HE: I am laughing.  And crying.

MANCINI: [Pushing HE aside.] Enough.  My patience is exhausted.  The Baron has been good enough to allow it, but I am your father, and I have had enough.  Your arm, Countess!  Step aside, sir.

CONSUELO: I’m tired.

MANCINI: You’re not too tired to chatter and drink wine with a clown.  Briquet!  Ring the bell—it’s time.

CONSUELO: I need to sit down.

MANCINI: Come along.

XENA: Don’t be cruel, Mancini.  Look how pale she is.

BARON: What’s wrong?

CONSUELO: Nothing.

XENA: Let her sit.  She needs to rest.

MANCINI: Nonsense!  She can rest after!

CONSUELO: Are the roses ready?

XENA: Yes, dear.  The roses are ready.  You’ll have such an extraordinary carpet.  No one will ever forget.

[Suddenly CONSUELO cries out in pain.]

BARON: What’s wrong?

XENA: What is it?


CONSUELO: It hurts!

XENA: What hurts?

MANCINI: Are you sick?

XENA: It’s all the excitement.

CONSUELO: It hurts!  Here!

[She holds her heart.]

MANCINI: Bring a doctor!

CONSUELO: What is it, Father?  I’m afraid!  My feet … I … I can’t stand …

[CONSUELO collapses.   MANCINI carries her to a couch.]

PAPA BRIQUET: What’s going on?

BARON: You heard him!  A doctor!

HE: It’s no use.

BARON: What?

HE: She’s dying.

BARON: Dying!  Don’t be—

HE: You waited too long, Baron.  You should have snatched her away when you had the chance.

BARON: What are you saying?

HE: I killed her.

BARON: You—what?!

MANCINI: You’re lying!  Damned clown!  What did you give her?  Did you poison her?  Bring a doctor!

HE: It’s too late.  There’s nothing you can do. [To CONSUELO.] You’re dying, my Queen.

CONSUELO: Are you joking again, HE?  Don’t frighten me.  I’m so frightened.  Is this death?  I don’t want it.  HE, tell me you’re joking. [Pause.] You … you said I would live forever.

HE: You will.  But sleep first.  Sleep.

CONSUELO: Yes … so tired …

HE: Can you see the light?

CONSUELO: Yes … is it the ring?  My roses?

HE: No … it is the sea and the sun … can you feel the sea foam on your ankles?  Can you feel it?


HE: You are flying to the sun.  You have no body.  You are flying higher.  I am the sea foam.  It shines … so strong …

[CONSUELO dies.  The others rush to her.]

MANCINI: Is … is she sleeping?

XENA: [Holding CONSUELO’S dead hand.] No.

[The BARON and HE are motionless, each in his place.]

JACKSON : The only thing left is the trace of her little feet in the sand. [To HE.] It would have been better if you had never come to us.

[There is music in the ring.]

PAPA BRIQUET: The music!  Stop the music!  What is happening?!

[The BARON takes the rose from his button-hole and drops it to the ground.]

XENA: [To PAPA BRIQUET.] Call the police.

MANCINI: [Awakening from his stupor, screams.] The police!  Call the police!  It’s murder!  I am Count Mancini!  I am Count Mancini!  They will cut off your head!  Murderer!  Damned clown!  Thief!  I will kill you myself!

[MANCINI produces the derringer from the handle of his cane and aims it at HE—but before he can fire, the BARON wrestles it from him.]


[HE collapses with a laugh.  A tremor shakes his body.]

JACKSON It’s true, then.  He poisoned himself as well. 

BARON: I’m going for the police. [Pause.] I am a witness.  I saw.  I saw how he put poison … I—

[The BARON exits with the derringer.  A moment later, a shot is heard in the corridor.  JACKSON rushes out.]

JACKSON : [Returning.] The Baron … he …

MANCINI: The Baron?  The Baron?!  But … he … no!

[HE bursts out laughing.]

PAPA BRIQUET: Stop it!  What’s wrong with you?  A man just killed himself!  Why are you laughing?

HE: He really did love her!  In spite of everything!  He loved her after all!  It’s the last slap!  He wants to be ahead of me even there!  But I won’t let him!  I’m coming!  I’m coming, my queen!  I won’t let him have you!

[HE clutches his throat and dies.  General agitation.]


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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

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