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The Lynbrook Tragedy: Short Story Adaptation

The 1914 film The Lynbrook Tragedy was adapted into a short story for the Photoplay Magazine in October 1914, which spelled the title The Lynnbrook Tragedy. As far as i can tell, the name Lynbrook has nothing to do with the film.

Photoplay Magazine, November 1914, p. 101-110

The Lynnbrook Tragedy

by Marie Coolidge Rask
Scenario by Mrs. Owen Bronson
Illustrations from the Kalem Film, Featuring Alice Joyce

[Omitted, photo of an older woman sitting in an office near a man at a desk. Caption: "Why Can't You Get Me Something Worth While!" Asked Vivian Gregg of the Perplexed Manager]

"AND now come--come--with me--to light, to life, to liberty."

An eloquent silence followed the reading of the words. For half an hour the deep, rich tones of James Mitchell's voice had held the attention of his fiancee and her sweet-faced, invalid mother during the reading of the play upon which all their plans for the future depended.

"Well, how do you like it?" he demanded, leaning back in his chair and surveying, with an air of paternal pride, the typewritten pages spread out on the table before him. "Do you think it will make good?"

With a deep sigh of satisfaction Ruth Malloy came back to the earth from which the reading of the play had transported her.

"It is splendid!" she exclaimed, with tears in her eyes. "It can't help but meet with approval. Oh, Jimmie, I am so proud of you." She extended her arms across the table toward the smiling young man, how busily engaged gathering the scattered pages of manuscript together.

A spasm of pain crossed the face of the invalid in the chair by the fireside. She pressed her hand to her side but recovered herself before the young people at the table looked around.

"It was very interesting," she said, softly "and remarkably well written. The author deserves much credit for his perseverance."

"Thank you, Mother Mine," laughed Mitchell, rising and crossing over to the side of the invalid. "And when the play is produced and the cries of 'Author, Author,' resound from every section of the theatre you are going to be right here in a box to witness the triumph of your first son-in-law." He bent down and kissed her tenderly on the forehead."

"I am afraid I shall not be there," she whispered, gently stroking the hand of her pretty daughter who now knelt by her side, "but I thank you for the kind thoughts which prompted you to include me in your plans."

The sad eyes of the speaker seemed to look far off into the future--or was it the past--as she spoke. The delicate, blue-veined hands resting lightly in her lap seemed more than usually transparent, and the wan, white face bore traces of a sorrow not altogether accounted for by the presence of physical pain. Ruth had often wondered what caused the premature whitening of her mother's hair and brought the pathetic droop to lips which never curved in laughter.

"Mother does not seem so well this evening," whispered Ruth to her lover as he bade her good night, "but she has taken such an interest in the play. You must come tomorrow evening and tell us how you succeeded with the managers."

"Oh, I'll come," laughed Mitchell, gaily, as he descended the steps. "Maybe I'll bring the play back with me."

"No, you won't called Ruth from the door. "They'll want it--every one of them--and the first one who reads it will keep it, never fear."

Early next morning the young playwright started out to make the round of the managers. He was a trimly built young fellow, keen eyed, with clear cut features, waving dark hair and a genial personality that won for him hosts of friends.

In the office of John Thornton, theatrical manager, a handsomely gowned woman sat petulantly discarding as unfit every manuscript which the weary manager offered for her consideration.

"Too thin," she remarked after a cursory glance at one of the plays. "Not enough plot," was the comment which the second elicited. "Lacks originality," she said of the third as she tossed it contemptuously back on the desk. "Why can't you get me something worth while?"

The manager groaned, inwardly. "I've cornered the market," he exclaimed, "and still you are not satisfied. Guess we'll have to get someone to write one for us."

"Well, get it done quickly, then" she replied. "For weeks the whole theatrical world has been speculating as to what Vivian Gregg is going to star in next season. We ought to be rehearsing now and here you've not even got a play selected."

Miss Gregg, for it was she, rose, and with the air of an injured queen, took her departure. A the elevator door swung open to admit her, James Mitchell stepped out and disappeared into the manager's office.

When he emerged half an hour later his beaming countenance attested the fact that Ruth's prophecy had been fulfilled and the first manager to whom he had offered his play had promised to consider it.

Vivian Gregg, in her beautiful country home with its carefully cultivated atmosphere of Bohemia, surrounded by congenial friends, received the news that her manager was interested in the work of a new playwright with much satisfaction. Ambitious and avaricious, Vivian Gregg's whole life had been devoted to planning and scheming for her own advancement. As a girl she had known nothing but unhappiness. Everyone had been against her. In her resolution to better her condition, to secure and education and to develop the talents with which she knew she was endowed regardless of the means employed, she failed to realize that she was crushing out all the highest and best instincts of her nature.

Her temperament demanded beauty, luxurious surroundings, pictures, music, the association of clever people. In her childhood she had chafed against circumstances. As a girl she had rebelled against the world's injustice. In the early days of her career she had found herself deceived and disappointed by those whom she had trusted. Her attitude toward the world grew more bitter, her confidence in men was forever destroyed. Henceforth they were nothing to her except as they might be able to serve or amuse her. Dazzlingly beautiful, talented, her rise to a position of prominence in the realms of Bohemia, as well as in her profession, had at least been the reward of her struggle. The name of Vivian Gregg was known everywhere.

The success and favor which had attended James Mitchell's visit to the great theatrical manager filled the heart of the young playwright with great expectations. He hastened to tell Ruth, but at the Malloy home there was little opportunity for rejoicing. Mrs. Malloy was much worse. Ruth was greatly alarmed. Mitchell himself telephoned for the doctor. When the physician arrived the sweet-faced, long-suffering little woman with prematurely whitened hair was already past hope.

During the days of sorrow which followed all thought of the play was forgotten. Then John Thornton sent for Mitchell, explained the possibilities which lay before him, and himself aided the less experienced man to reconstruct the play along lines especially suited to the famous star, Vivian Gregg.

Ruth Malloy, so suddenly bereft of the mother whom she had idolized, was well-neigh inconsolable. The fact that she must at once look about for some occupation, and her love for Mitchell, alone sustained her. He pleaded with her to marry him, but she refused to consider this until his success had become assured. With the ultimate success of the play yet in question it would not be wise, she argued, for him to burden himself with a wife. She had a plan, she insisted, by which she would be quite able to support herself until such time as Mitchell should be in a position to marry. What the plan was she would not disclose.

A few days later, when Mitchell arrived at the house unexpectedly, he found Ruth on her knees before a partially draped lay figure such as dressmakers use. Odds and ends of lace, silk, and various fripperies of fashion were scattered about.

"Ruth!" he exclaimed, in astonishment. "You don't mean that you are going to--"

"--open a dressmaking establishment?! finished Ruth, smiling. "Not exactly. Rather an establishment for exclusive designs. I'm rather good, you know, in the development of artistic ideas." She was very pleased of the success of her little surprise.

[Omitted: photo of Joyce on her knees next to a dressmaker's model, Tom Moore watching in evident amusement. Caption: "But Remember," Mitchell Insisted, "as Soon as My Play is Assured This Designing Corporation Goes Out of Business."

When Ruth explained her plan in detail Mitchell reluctantly consented. "But remember, "he insisted, "that as soon as the success of the play is assured, this designing corporation goes out of business."

"Oh course," Ruth answered. "This is only a temporary arrangement--a mere experiment."

But the experiment proved as success. The gown designed by Ruth and exhibited in a shop window brought many fashionable applicants to the young girl with the Madonna-like face, the soft voice, and winning manner. She found her designs the fad of the hour. A reception room and assistants became necessary.

"I shall have to use Mother's desk," Ruth remarked, reluctantly, one day when she was explaining her rapidly increasing business to Mitchell.

That evening, sitting before her mother's desk, tearfully looking over the letters and papers so carefully put away by the dear hands she had loved so well, Ruth came across a small packet, tied with a faded ribbon. Thinking they were letters from the father whom she had never seen since an infant, , she untied the ribbon and opened the letter that was uppermost. A small picture fell out. She picked it up and looked at it. Placing it on the desk, she turned her attention to the letter. It was very brief. As she read it the affection which had shown in the girl's face upon viewing the picture gave way to surprise, shame and anger. This, then, was the cause of her mother's secret sorrow.

"And though you have always been a loyal and loving wife," read the letter, "I am not morally strong enough to resist this other love which has come into my life--"

Ruth could read no more. Throwing herself down in front of the chair in which for years her mother had so often sat, she bowed her head in her arms and gave way to unrestrained grief.

It was with a sad and heavy heart that she entered her little atelier next morning. With the advent of the first customer, however, all was, for the time being, forgotten. Vivian Gregg, the great actress, had seen her designs and liked them. She would consider having Ruth supply the designs for her season's wardrobe. Realizing the advantage it would be to have the patronage of such a woman, Ruth exerted herself to meet the exacting demands of the spoiled woman. She explained that her method consisted in studying the personality of her subjects.

"That is just what I want," declared Miss Gregg. "I should like every gown to express my soul and personality. There must be complete individuality in every creation."

"I regret that I have had so little opportunity for seeing you," commenced Ruth when Vivian interrupted.

"Come down to my country home," she exclaimed, in a burst of enthusiasm, "and spend a week. Then you can study me in my own environment."

The day that Ruth Malloy arrived at the country home of Vivian Gregg also marked the arrival of James Mitchell. Thornton had insisted that he must read his play to Vivian himself and, pursuant to a suggestion from her manager, she had written to Mitchell, asking him to bring the play and come for a week at the same time when a costumer would be present to design the gowns to be worn in the play. As Vivian was naturally unaware of the engagement existed between the young playwright and the new creator of exclusive fashion designs, Ruth and Mitchell deemed it best to make the journey to the actress' country house by separate trains.

Very beautiful was the environment in which Vivian Gregg had established herself at Larchmont. Broad piazzas, supported by columns of roughly-hewn stone, overhung with masses of clinging vines, surrounded the house. On the lawns tall trees stood like majestic sentinels on guard before a palace. From the window of the room allotted to Ruth a rose garden could be seen that filled all the air with fragrance, while just beyond, artistic summer house, reached by a small bridge across a miniature lake completed the picture spread out before the eyes of the enraptured guest.

"Like a dream of paradise," she murmured to herself as she turned to go down and meet her hostess. "No wonder Miss Gregg wished me to study her in her own environment."

But if the atmosphere of beauty, art, music and luxury had its effect so instantly upon Ruth, the subtlety of their influence upon Mitchell, the imaginative playwright, was indescribable. For the time being he felt transported to another sphere. He was not himself. He lived in the scenes and among the people created in his play. He could hardly wait for the moment when he should sit beside the great actress and read to her the lines which he felt so sure she alone would be able to interpret in all their fullness and beauty.

[Omitted, picture of Joyce with a customer in her design atelier. Caption: The Gowns Designed by Ruth Exhibited in the Shops Brought Many Fashionable Applicants to Her Atelier.]

But strangely enough, Vivian Gregg did not seem in the least anxious to hear the new play of which her manager had written.

"They're all more or less alike," she observed, one day as Mitchell joined her on the veranda and broached the subject. "Sit down, I'd rather hear you talk."

It was a disappointment, but, realizing that the moods of the actress must be humored, Mitchell yielded to her request and drew a chair up beside her. Since he could not read the play he would have much preferred being with Ruth. She was waiting for him, somewhere about the grounds, he felt sure. He would have to explain to her later.

As a matter of fact Vivian Gregg, surfeited with the attentions of blase men of the world, found young Mitchell himself far more interesting than the play he had written. She knew the play was all right. Thornton had said so, and Thornton was a man of judgment and discrimination. There would be time enough to read the play when they were ready to begin preparations for its production. In the meantime Mitchell amused her and she did not intend to be denied the pleasure of his society.

As days passed the situation became more complicated. In spite of the fact that Mitchell explained to Ruth that the success of the play depended entirely upon the favor and approval of Vivian Gregg, the unsophisticated young girl could not understand her lover's attitude.

The day Mitchell and Vivian had sat on the veranda and she had unwittingly intruded with some designs to be submitted for Vivian's approval, she had hastily withdrawn without attracting their notice. Later Mitchell had sought her out and during the ensuing evening had devoted himself to her, but the actress had at last called him aside and Ruth did not see him again that evening.

Existence in the land that had at first seemed like a dream of paradise suddenly palled. That night Ruth Malloy sobbed herself to sleep.

Vivian Gregg, in the privacy of her boudoir, lay back in an easy chair and laughed. "He's afraid of me," she remarked, half aloud. "Afraid to offend me and he thinks he's in love with that little designer, but--I'll wager he's no better than other men. Before he leaves here I'll have him so completely in my power that he'll never give her a thought.

She crossed to a small desk that stood near and searched for a book of addresses she thought she had placed there. Some photographs attracted her attention. Picking them up, idly, one at a time, she glanced at several and threw them aside. One she looked at long and earnestly. "Fool!" she muttered, under her breath. "The idea of his thinking that I meant to spend the remainder of my life with him. He didn't have enough money to last a year." With a quick gesture she tore the picture in half and tossed the pieces into a beribboned waste basket. "Strange," she thought, "that I should come across his picture to-night. I didn't know there was one in the house."

In a small town, some distance away, a man, tired, footsore and unkempt, sat under a tree by the roadside and ate ravenously a coarse sandwich handed him by a woman at a nearby farmhouse. Lines of grief, dissipation and privation marked his countenance. His head was well shaped, however, his features clear cut and refined. As he ate he scanned a fragment of newspaper spread out over his knees. A printed name caught his attention. At sight of it the man's whole demeanor suddenly changed. With the half-eaten sandwich poised in one hand, he paused and read the printed article through to the end. Then he clinched the paper in his hand and cursed.

"Rich," he muttered, "successful, popular beauty--the vampire!" He glanced at his own ragged attire, at the half eaten bread held in his hand and his rage increased. "And this," he groaned, "is the condition to which I have been reduced." He bowed his head on his knees. His whole frame shook with suppressed sobs.

After a few moments he rose, folded the fragment of paper and placed it in his pocket, picked up his dilapidated hat from the ground beside him and started off across country in the general direction of the railroad which passed through the village a mile to the north.

That night a freight train, east-bound, carried one extra passenger, carefully ensconced on the bumpers under one of the cars. A fierce light of determination shone in the wide-open eyes of the tourist, and when the wind fluttered the buttonless jacket which he wore a bit of folded newspaper was visible in the corner of the inside pocket.

All the next day Ruth Malloy was conscious of impending calamity. She seemed to be in the clutches of an unseen something which held her in its power and was dragging her onward in spite of her efforts to resist. She would finish the designs and go back to town at the earliest possible moment, she thought. Anything to get away from a situation which each moment became more intolerable.

With this idea in view she devoted herself with renewed application to the completion of the designs for Vivian Gregg's gowns. Once during the afternoon she encountered Mitchell. He tried to take her in his arms and kiss her. He had been drinking. He walked unsteadily.

Shocked, frightened, mortified that the lover she had respected as superior to all forms of dissipation should have so far debased himself, she had repulsed him and fled to her room She had refused to listen to his incoherent words of explanation. What she had heard was his angry retort that since she had rejected his overtures he would go back to the one who wanted him, and she had seen him disappear through the curtained doorway leading into the room.

Not knowing the ways of women like Vivian Gregg, Ruth could not realize the forces which had assailed her young lover when in the presence of the actress. How he had been led on, little by little, to drink more than was good for him, through a desire to please his hostess and ultimately to further his ambition to win success as a playwright for Ruth's sake, that he might marry her and in future keep her far removed from the necessity which should bring her into contact and under the patronage of such as he recognized Vivian to be.

[Omitted: Photo of Joyce and Moore, seated in a room talking, and a standing woman looking angrily at them. Caption: Ruth and Mitchell had Planned to Spend the Evening Together But Vivian Called Him Away]

In her black lace dinner gown that evening Ruth seemed more delicately beautiful than ever. As she gazed at her reflection in the mirror, however, she was quite unconscious of the charming picture she presented. She dreaded that last dinner--for she had resolved to go home the following morning--for she felt quite unequal to conversation. She was homesick, heart-sick. She longed for the sympathy of her mother. Tears trembled in her lovely dark eyes as she opened the dresser drawer and looked long and lovingly at the little miniature of her mother which she had brought with her. Kissing it, fondly, she slipped it into the bosom of her gown.

"Maybe things will be easier if mother goes with me," she thought, sadly, as she pulled the folds of lace into place and glided softly from the room and down the thickly carpeted corridor toward the wind of the house in which Vivian's rooms ere located. It was her intention to explain to her hostess that for business reasons she would be compelled to shorten her stay at Larchmont.

Although the hour was early, the night was very dark. The moon was rising, but fitful, scurrying dark clouds often completely obscured it. There was a melancholy wind. The tall, sentinel trees tossed their lost, ghostlike branches and sighed like souls in torment. The summer air seemed close and heavy in spite of the breeze. A storm was apparently brewing. The ominous, oppressive sense of it was paramount.

Outside the house, crouching low among the shrubbery, now skulking around the rustic summer house and across the tiny bridge, over the miniature lake on which weird shadows were now projected, could be dimly discerned the figure of a man. There were moments when he disappeared entirely. Once, from the shelter of the rose garden he cautiously peered for some little time at the brightly lighted windows of the house. Again, nearing the porch light, he crouched back of a pillar and pulled a fragment of a newspaper from his pocket. Studying it cautiously he compared the picture of a house exterior with the lines of the one before him. A pictured interior view held his attention longest. "Madame's boudoir" was the caption under it. Now, evidently sure of his ground, the man again replaced the paper in his pocket and, in the shadow of the great trees, now soughing [sic] so restlessly, he waited till the silvery chimes from the great clock in the entrance hall sounded the quarter hour.

"Now--before they go down to dinner," muttered the man as he cautiously swung himself up and over the veranda rail. He drew a revolver from his hip pocket-an ugly, short-barreled little pistol that a man could hide in his fist, and, with his hat well over his eyes, alternately crouched and crawled forward until underneath the window he sought.

In the boudoir of Vivian Gregg, James Mitchell waited, at the request of the actress, until she should be ready to go down to dinner. She was ready now. They had been having a highball together. The woman was exerting all her blandishments to enslave the young playwright. She gazed passionately up into his eloquent eyes as she once again brushed aside the suggestion of the play.

"What is the play to me," she murmured, "so long as I have the man who wrote it."

Mitchell extended his arms toward her. The act was unpremeditated, as involuntary as it was natural. She leaned toward him. Her arm encircled his neck. At that moment Ruth, coming softly down the corridor, parted the curtains and beheld the picture.

Horrified, numbed at the sight, she stood for an instant as if transfixed. It was the final blow. First her mother had been taken from her and now her lover was faithless. She felt weak and ill, but she did not speak. She did not cry out nor faint. The velvet portiere fell from her nerveless fingers. She turned, softly, slowly--and found herself looking straight into the barrel of a short, bull-dog revolver in the hand of a tattered, unkempt man with a fragment of newspaper hanging from his coat pocket.

The brief interval of silence which ensued seemed hours to the startled girl. She did not feel frightened. The numbing horror of the past few minutes had placed her beyond fear, but there was a strange familiarity in the look of the intruder which terrified her beyond words. As the man realized that she had no intention of screaming he lowered the revolver. With his disengaged hand he pushed his hat up from over his eyes. A second later Ruth had grasped him by the arm.

"Father--"she gasped, trembling from head to foot, "don't shoot. I am Ruth--Ruth Malloy. You--you are--my father." The words came with difficulty. It was very bitter to have to recognize in the wreck of humanity before her the man who was her natural guardian.

The effect produced by the girl's whispered words was altogether different from the one she had hoped for. He refused to believe her. She saw incredulity expressed in the distorted lines of his face. Again he raised the revolver.

"Wait--" she whispered, tugging at the lace folds of her gown, and drawing forth the miniature of her mother. "Do you recognize that?" she held the little picture close before him. "That," she murmured, half-sobbingly, "is--mother."

The sight of the picture for an instant almost unnerved the man. He choked back and exclamation as he devoured the picture of his deserted girl bride with eager, remorseful eyes. His hand trembled as he handed it back to the daughter he had never seen since infancy.

"You--" he exclaimed. "What are you doing here--in this house, of all others?"

Hurriedly, her voice choked with sobs, Ruth told him "And who is in there with her--Vivian Gregg--now?" he asked, pointing toward the room beyond the portieres.

Again Ruth stifled a sob. "My fiance," she whispered. "He has left me for her. We've only been here a few days."

The man with the gun interrupted.

[Omitted: Photo of Joyce in a dinner gown sitting at mirrored dressing table examining something. Caption: Homesick and Heartsick, Ruth Looked Long and Lovingly at Her Mother's Picture.

"Curse her!" he ejaculated, now in uncontrollable rage, "Vivian Gregg is the woman who--"

Ruth did not hear the remainder of the sentence. With leveled revolver Malloy dashed through the doorway and into the boudoir where Mitchell stood, with Vivian in his arms."

""Father--father--"cried Ruth, frantically trying to wrest the revolver from the enraged man. "Don't shoot." With a quick movement she succeeded in knocking the weapon from his hand. It fell to the floor.

Nothing daunted, Malloy tore Vivian from the protecting arms of Mitchell and hurled her from him.

"Carl, Carl," she screamed, imploringly, as with arms outstretched in supplication she fell heavily to the floor.

Mitchell, thinking he had a madman to deal with, sprang to grapple with the intruder, but Malloy warned him back.

Stand back," he shouted. "It is for your own good and hers," he pointed to Ruth, "that woman of the floor should die. She has done evil enough. The soul of Vivian Gregg is blackened with the ruin of other women's happiness."

As the vehemence of his rage wore itself out the unhappy man trembled and would have fallen had Ruth and Mitchell not caught him and half led, half carried him from the room.

Vivian Gregg, the reigning star in the dramatic firmament, crouched on the floor where the man she had wronged had cast her. The soul's awakening that had been hers at the moment when she had expected to be launched into eternity was terrible to contemplate. It had practically bereft her of reason. What she saw with those wide, wild eyes as she crouched there on the floor, warding off curse after curse that came from unseen, unheard lips were apparently descending upon her may only be conjectured. How long could she endure the torture? There, right before her, lay the fallen revolver. She saw it. It fascinated her. Slowly she drew nearer to it. Her hand reached forth steadily, fearfully, until the fingers grasped the weapon, and the way of escape was at hand.

The woman who wished her gowns designed to harmonize with her soul and personality was soon to have her wish. There were those unseen who stood by--waiting--waiting--while the fingers tightened in that death grip, to bear her soul away.

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