The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Margaret Fleming opens in Philip Fleming’s private office at his mill. Philip enters and goes through the morning’s mail. He confers briefly with his manager and his foreman and then smiles when his office boy brings in a soiled calling card. It is from Joe Fletcher, who used to work at the mill for Philip’s father. Joe is now a traveling salesman who sells medicines and household articles. Joe is tired and thirsty. He eagerly takes a drink from Philip’s liquor cabinet and asks Philip if he still drinks as he used to do. Philip responds that he has now married and settled down. He proudly shows Joe the picture on his desk of Margaret, his wife, and their small child, Lucy. Joe’s visit is interrupted by Dr. Larkin, who has come to see Philip. Dr. Larkin has just learned that Philip is the father of a baby born during the night to Lena Schmidt, a girl who used to work at the mill. He angrily reprimands Philip, who says he has done all he can for Lena, but Dr. Larkin insists that Philip go to see her because she should not have to die alone. Philip reluctantly calls Margaret to say he will be late coming home.

The second scene of the first act takes place in Margaret and Philip’s living room. Margaret sits by the fireplace getting Lucy, the baby, ready for bed. Maria Bindley, the German nursemaid, is gathering up the baby’s clothes and quietly crying. Margaret tells Maria not to cry. Maria says that she has had a hard life. Her second husband was Joe Fletcher, the man who came by the house that morning. He left her, she says, and now her younger sister, Lena, is dying. Margaret tells Maria to go to her sister.

Margaret finally gets the baby to sleep and puts her in the adjoining room. Philip comes in, tired and wet. Margaret scolds him for being so late, but then she sees how weary he looks. Philip presents Margaret with a bank book and some legal papers, including a deed to the house. Margaret asks Philip if he knew that the tramp who came by the house this morning was Maria’s husband, who robbed her and left her. Maria swore at him in German and threw him down the stairs, Margaret says, laughing. Seeing how pale and tired Philip looks, Margaret insists he go to bed.

The second act takes place in the same room. It is the next morning, and the sun is shining. Dr. Larkin is putting out some medicines for Margaret, who has been having trouble with her eyes. When Margaret leaves the room, Dr. Larkin tells Philip that Margaret has a tendency toward an eye condition called glaucoma and that she must not undergo any great emotional strain. After...

(The entire section is 1061 words.)