The Second Man opens on the comfortably furnished living room of a suite in a studio apartment building; the baby grand piano, the profusion of books, and the general atmosphere suggest the occupant’s interest in the arts. When the curtain rises, Mrs. Kendall Frayne is nervously consulting her watch. She has been trying to reach Clark Storey by telephone, with no success. When it does ring, the caller leaves a message that clearly annoys her. As she turns to leave, Storey enters, late as usual, having been detained by a fellow writer at lunch. Kendall tells him about the message and displays some jealousy because the caller was Monica Grey. Monica is, Kendall believes, in love with Storey although she is engaged to millionaire Austin Lowe, an outstanding scientist. Monica’s mother wants her to marry Austin because she is poor. Storey denies any interest in Monica, pointing out that he himself is quite fond of money, of which he has very little, and would never dream of becoming involved with anyone who had none. He invites Kendall to have dinner with him later in his flat, and before she leaves to dress she writes him a check for five hundred dollars. It is clear that the two are lovers and that she has been supporting him while he tries to pursue his literary career. He has already published some short stories, but by his own admission his talent is small.
Austin arrives, disturbed because he is in love with Monica and he is afraid that she loves someone else. Storey promises to persuade her to marry Austin, who thanks Storey for his help and leaves. When Monica enters, Storey announces that he is dining with Kendall and abandons Monica to Austin, who has just returned. As the act ends, Monica and Austin try to make small talk over the meal Storey has ordered.
In the first scene of act 2 a few hours have passed; it is apparent that the dinner has not been a success. Austin mentions that Storey has sold some of his writing to a magazine (this is Storey’s explanation of Kendall’s check, which he had left carelessly on the table), but when Monica sees the signature, she crushes the check in disgust. Austin, alarmed, smooths it out and only then discovers who the real donor is. He does not disapprove,...
(The entire section is 915 words.)