Story type: Literature
A certain young person who lived in a boarding-house in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, was approaching her thirteenth birthday, which fact made her feel very old, and also very anxious to do some kind of work, as she saw her mother busily engaged from morning to night, in an effort to earn a living for her young daughter and herself.
Spring came in that year with furious heat, and the young person, seeing her mother cruelly over-worked, felt hopelessly big and helpless. The humiliation of having some one working to support her–and with the dignity of thirteen years close upon her, was more than she could bear. Locking herself into her small room, she flung herself on her knees and with a passion of tears prayed that God would help her.
“Dear God,” she cried, “just pity me and show me what to do. Please!” Her entreaty was that of the child who has perfect confidence in the Father to whom she is speaking. “Help me to help my mother. If you will, I’ll never say ‘No!’ to any woman who comes to me all my life long!”
In her story of her life, which the young person wrote many years later, she says, in telling of that agonized plea: “My error in trying to barter with my Maker must have been forgiven, for my prayer was answered within a week…. I have tried faithfully to keep my part of the bargain, for no woman who has ever sought my aid has ever been answered with a ‘No!’”
Somewhat relieved at having made known her longing to Some One whom she believed would understand and surely help, the young person went through the dreary routine of boarding-house days more cheerfully, to her mother’s joy. And at night, when she lay tossing and trying to sleep despite the scorching heat, she seemed to be reviewing the thirteen years of her existence as if she were getting ready to pigeon-hole the past, to make ready for a fuller future.
With clear distinctness she remembered having been told by her mother, in the manner of old-fashioned tellers, that, “Once upon a time, in the Canadian city of Toronto, in the year 1849, on the 17th of March–the day of celebrating the birth of good old St. Patrick, in a quiet house not far from the sound of the marching paraders, the rioting of revelers and the blare of brass bands, a young person was born.” Memory carried on the story, as she lay there in the dark, still hours of the night, and she repeated to herself the oft-told tale of those few months she and her mother spent in the Canadian city before they journeyed back to the United States, where in Cleveland the mother tried many different kinds of occupations by which to support the child and herself. It was a strange life the young person remembered in those early days. She and her mother had to flit so often–suddenly, noiselessly. Often she remembered being roused from a sound sleep, sometimes being simply wrapped up without being dressed, and carried through the dark to some other place of refuge. Then, too, when other children walked in the streets or played, bare-headed or only with hat on, she wore a tormenting and heavy veil over her face. At an early age she began to notice that if a strange lady spoke to her the mother seemed pleased, but if a man noticed her she looked frightened, and hurried her away as fast as possible. At first this was all a mystery to the child, but later she understood that the great fear in her mother’s eyes, and the hasty flights, were all to be traced to a father who had not been good to the brave mother, and so she had taken her little girl and fled from him. But he always found her and begged for the child. Only too well the young person remembered some of those scenes of frantic appeal on the father’s side, of angry refusal by her mother, followed always by another hasty retreat to some new place of concealment. At last–never-to-be forgotten day–there was a vivid recollection of the time when the father asserted brutally that “he would make life a misery to her until she gave up the child”–that “by fair means or foul he would gain his end.” Soon afterward he did kidnap the young person, but the mother was too quick for him, and almost immediately her child was in her own arms again.
This necessary habit of concealment, and also the mother’s need to earn her own living, made life anything but an easy matter for them both. The mother’s terror lest her child be taken from her again made her fear to allow the little girl to walk out alone, even for a short distance, and in such positions as the older woman was able to secure, it was always with the promise that the child should be no nuisance. And so the young person grew up in a habit of self-effacement, and of sitting quietly in corners where she could not be seen or heard, instead of playing with other children of her own age. Then came a great hope, which even as she lay in bed and thought about it, brought the tears to her eyes, she had so longed to have it come true.
When she was six years old, she and her mother had been living in a boarding-house in Cleveland, where there was a good-natured actress boarding, who took such a fancy to the shy little girl who was always sitting in a corner reading a book, that one day she approached the astonished mother with a proposition to adopt her daughter. Seeing surprise on the mother’s face, she frankly told of her position, her income and her intention to give the girl a fine education. She thought a convent school would be desirable, from then, say, until the young person was seventeen.
The mother was really tempted by the offer of a good education, which she saw no way to give her daughter, and might have accepted it if the actress had not added:
“When she reaches the age of seventeen, I will place her on the stage.”
That ended the matter. The mother was horror-stricken, and could hardly make her refusal clear and decided enough. Even when her employer tried to make her see that by her refusal she might be doing her daughter a great injustice, she said, sharply: “It would be better for her to starve trying to lead an honorable life, than to be exposed to such publicity and such awful temptations.” And thus, in ignorance of what the future had in store for her child, did she close the door on a golden opportunity for developing her greatest talent, and the young person’s first dream of freedom and a fascinating career had come to grief. As she reviewed her disappointment and the dreary days that followed, a flood of self-pity welled up in the girl’s heart, and she felt as if she must do something desperate to quiet her restless nature.
Fortunately the disappointment was followed by a welcome change of scene, for mother and daughter left Cleveland and went to try their fortunes in what was then “the far west.” After a long trip by rail and a thirty-mile drive across the prairie, they arrived at their journey’s end, and the marvelous quiet of the early May night in the country soothed the older woman’s sore heart and filled the child with the joy of a real adventure.
They remained in that beautiful world beyond the prairie for two years, and never did the charm of the backwoods’s life pall on the growing girl, who did not miss the city sights and sounds, but exulted in the new experiences as, “with the other children on the farm, she dropped corn in the sun-warmed furrows, while a man followed behind with a hoe covering it up; and when it had sprouted and was a tempting morsel for certain black robbers of the field, she made a very active and energetic young scarecrow.”
While the out-of-door life was a fine thing for the young person, still more to her advantage was it that she was now thrown with other children, who were happy, hearty, rollicking youngsters, and, seeing that the stranger was new to farm-life, had rare fun at her expense. For instance, as she later told:
“They led me forth to a pasture, shortly after our arrival at the farm, and, catching a horse, they hoisted me up on to its bare, slippery back. I have learned a good bit about horses since then,” she says, “have hired, borrowed and bought them, but never since have I seen a horse of such appalling aspect. His eyes were the size of soup-plates, large clouds of smoke came from his nostrils. He had a glass-enamelled surface, and if he was half as tall as he felt, some museum manager missed a fortune. Then the young fiends, leaving me on my slippery perch, high up near the sky, drew afar off and stood against the fence, and gave me plenty of room to fall off. But when I suddenly felt the world heave up beneath me, I uttered a wild shriek–clenched my hands in the animal’s black hair and, madly flinging propriety to any point of the compass that happened to be behind me, I cast one pantalette over the enameled back, and thus astride safely crossed the pasture–and lo, it was not I who fell, but their faces instead! When they came to take me down somehow the animal seemed shrunken, and I hesitated about leaving it, whereupon the biggest boy said I had ‘pluck.’ I had been frightened nearly to death, but I always could be silent at the proper moment; I was silent then, and he would teach me to ride sideways, for my mother would surely punish me if I sat astride like that. In a few weeks, thanks to him, I was the one who was oftenest trusted to take the horses to water at noon, riding sideways and always bare-back, mounted on one horse and leading a second to the creek, until all had had their drink. Which habit of riding–from balance–” the young person adds, “has made me quite independent of stirrups since those far-away days.”
Besides the riding, there were many other delightful pastimes which were a part of life on the farm, and on rainy days, when the children could not play out of doors, they would flock to the big barn, and listen eagerly to stories told by the city girl, who had read them in books. Two precious years passed all too swiftly on the farm, and the young person was fast shooting up into a tall, slender girl, who had learned a love of nature in all its forms, which never left her. She had also grown stronger, which satisfied her mother that the experiment had been successful. But now there was education to be thought of, and when news came of the death of that father, who had been the haunting specter of the mother’s life, they went back at once to Cleveland, where the mother obtained employment, and the growing daughter was sent to a public school. But at best it gave a meager course of study to one who had always been a reader of every book on which she could lay her hands. To make the dreary, daily routine less tiresome, she supplemented it by a series of “thinks.” These usually took place at night after her candle had been blown out, and the young person generally fell asleep in a white robe and a crown of flowers, before she had gathered up all the prizes and diplomas and things she had earned in the world of reverie, where her dream self had been roving.
And now came the approach of her thirteenth birthday, and her plea that she might be made more useful in the world. And then, came this:
In the boarding-house where she and her mother were living, the mother acting as assistant to the manager, the young person occupied with enduring her monotonous existence and with watching the boarders, there were two actresses, a mother and daughter. The daughter, whose name was Blanche, was only a year or two older than the young person whose eyes followed her so eagerly, because Blanche was one of those marvelous creatures whose real life was lived behind the foot-lights.
Something in the silent, keen-eyed girl who was so near her own age attracted Blanche, and the two became good friends, spending many an hour together when the young person was not in school. In exchange for her thrilling stories of stage life, Blanche’s new friend would tell vivid tales which she had read in books, to all of which good-natured Blanche would listen with lazy interest, and at the finish of the narrative often exclaimed:
“You ought to be in a theater. You could act!”
Although this assertion was always met by determined silence, as her friend thought she was being made fun of, yet the young person did not fail to brood over the statement when she was alone. Could there be any truth in the statement, she wondered? Then came a marvelous event. Blanche hurried home from the theater one day to tell her young friend that extra ballet girls were wanted in their company. She must go at once and get engaged.
“But,” gasped the young person, “maybe they won’t take me!”
“Well,” answered Blanche, “I’ve coaxed your mother, and my mother says she’ll look out for you–so at any rate, go and see. I’ll take you to-morrow.”
To-morrow! “Dimly the agitated and awed young person seemed to see a way opening out before her, and again behind her locked door she knelt down and said ‘Dear God! Dear God!’ and got no further, because grief has so many words, and joy has so few.”
That was Friday, and the school term had closed that day. The next morning, with a heart beating almost to suffocation, the young person found herself on the way to the theater, with self-possessed Blanche, who led the way to the old Academy of Music. Entering the building, the girls went up-stairs, and as they reached the top step Blanche called to a small, dark man who was hurrying across the hall:
“Oh, Mr. Ellsler–wait a moment, please–I want to speak to you.”
The man stopped, but with an impatient frown, for as he himself afterward said in relating the story:
“I was much put out about a business matter, and was hastily crossing the corridor when Blanche called me, and I saw she had another girl in tow, a girl whose appearance in a theater was so droll I must have laughed had I not been more than a little cross. Her dress was quite short–she wore a pale-blue apron buttoned up the back, long braids tied at the ends with ribbons, and a brown straw hat, while she clutched desperately at the handle of the biggest umbrella I ever saw. Her eyes were distinctly blue and big with fright. Blanche gave her name, and said she wanted to go in the ballet. I instantly answered that she was too small–I wanted women, not children. Blanche was voluble, but the girl herself never spoke a single word. I glanced toward her and stopped. The hands that clutched the umbrella trembled–she raised her eyes and looked at me. I had noticed their blueness a moment before, now they were almost black, so swiftly had their pupils dilated, and slowly the tears rose in them. All the father in me shrank under the child’s bitter disappointment; all the actor in me thrilled at the power of expression in the girl’s face, and I hastily added:
“‘Oh, well, you may come back in a day or two, and if any one appears meantime who is short enough to march with you, I’ll take you on.’ Not until I had reached my office did I remember that the girl had not spoken a single word, but had won an engagement–for I knew I should engage her–with a pair of tear-filled eyes.”
As a result of his half-promise, three days later, the young person again presented herself at the theater, and was engaged for the term of two weeks to go on the stage in the marches and dances of a play called “The Seven Sisters,” for which she was to receive the large sum of fifty cents a night. She, who was later to be known as one of the great emotional actresses of her day, whose name was to be on every lip where the finest in dramatic art was appreciated, had begun to mount the ladder toward fame and fortune.
Very curiously and cautiously she picked her way around the stage at first, looking at the scenes, so fine on one side, so bare and cheap on the other; at the tarletan “glass windows,” at the green calico sea lying flat and waveless on the floor. At last she asked Blanche:
“Is everything only make-believe in a theater?”
And Blanche, with the indifference of her lackadaisical nature answered, “Yes, everything’s make-believe, except salary day.”
Then came the novice’s first rehearsal, which included a Zouave drill to learn, as well as a couple of dances. She went through her part with keen relish and learned the drill so quickly that on the second day she sat watching the others, while they struggled to learn the movements. As she sat watching the star came along and angrily demanded, “Why are you not drilling with the rest?”
“The gentleman sent me out of the ranks, sir,” she answered, “because he said I knew the manual and the drill.”
The star refused to believe this and, catching up a rifle, he cried: “Here, take hold, and let’s see how much you know. Now, then, shoulder arms!”
Standing alone, burning with blushes, blinded with tears of mortification, she was put through her paces, but she really did know the drill, and it was no small reward for her misery when her persecutor took the rifle from her and exclaimed:
“Well, saucer-eyes, you do know it! I’m sorry, little girl, I spoke so roughly to you!” Holding out his hand to her, he added, “You ought to stay in this business–you’ve got your head with you!”
Stay in it! The question was would the manager want her when the fatal night of her first stage appearance had come and gone!
In those days of rehearsals, costumes were one of her most vital interests; for a ballet girl’s dress is most important, as there is so little of it, that it must be perfect of its kind. The ballet of which the young person was now a member were supposed to be fairies in one dance. For the second act they wore dancing-skirts, and for the Zouave drill, they wore the regular Fire Zouave uniform.
At last, the first performance of the play came. It was a very hot night, and so crowded was the tiny dressing-room occupied by the ballet corps, that some of the girls had to stand on the one chair while they put their skirts on. The confusion was great, and the new-comer dressed as quickly as possible, escaped down-stairs, and showed herself to Blanche and her mother, to see if her make-up was all right.
To her surprise, after a moment of tense silence they both burst into loud laughter, their eyes staring into her face. In telling of that night later, she said; “I knew you had to put on powder, because the gas made you yellow, and red because the powder made you ghastly, but it had not occurred to me that skill was required in applying the same, and I was a sight to make any kindly disposed angel weep! I had not even sense enough to free my eyelashes from the powder clinging to them. My face was chalk white, and low down on my cheeks were nice round, bright red spots.
“Mrs. Bradshaw said: ‘With your round blue eyes and your round white and red face, you look like a cheap china doll. Come here, my dear!’
“She dusted off a few thicknesses of the powder, removed the hard red spots, and while she worked she remarked; ‘To-morrow, after you have walked to get a color, go to your glass and see where the color shows itself…. Of course, when you are making up for a character part you go by a different rule, but when you are just trying to look pretty, be guided by Nature.’ As she talked, I felt the soft touch of a hare’s foot on my burning cheeks and she continued her work until my face was as it should be to make the proper effect.
“That lesson was the beginning and the ending of my theatrical instruction. What I learned later was learned by observation, study, and direct inquiry–but never by instruction, either free or paid for.”
And now the moment of stage entry had arrived. “One act of the play represented the back of a stage during a performance. The scenes were turned around with their unpainted sides to the audience. The scene-shifters and gas-men were standing about; everything was supposed to be going up. The manager was giving orders wildly, and then a dancer was late. She was called frantically, and finally, when she appeared on the run, the manager caught her by the shoulders, rushed her across the stage, and fairly pitched her onto the imaginary stage, to the great amusement of the audience. The tallest and prettiest girl in the ballet had been picked out to do this bit of work, and she had been rehearsed day after day with the greatest care for the small part.
“All were gathered together ready for their first entrance and dance, which followed a few moments after the scene already described. The tall girl had a queer look on her face as she stood in her place; her cue came, but she never moved.
“I heard the rushing footsteps of the stage-manager; ‘That’s you,’ he shouted; ‘Go on! Go on! Run! Run!’ Run? She seemed to have grown fast to the floor….
“‘Are you going on?’ cried the frantic prompter.
“She dropped her arms limply at her sides and whispered; ‘I–I–c-a-n’t.’
“He turned, and as he ran his imploring eye over the line of faces, each girl shrank back from it. He reached me. I had no fear, and he saw it.
“‘Can you go on there?’ he cried. I nodded.
“‘Then for God’s sake go–go!’
“I gave a bound and a rush that carried me half across the stage before the manager caught me, and so, I made my first entrance on the stage, and danced and marched and sang with the rest, and all unconsciously took my first step on the path that I was to follow through shadow and through sunshine–to follow by steep and stony places, over threatening bogs, through green and pleasant meadows–to follow steadily and faithfully for many and many a year to come.”
To the surprise of every one, when salary day came around the new ballet girl did not go to claim her week’s pay. Even on the second she was the last one to appear at the box-office window. Mr. Ellsler himself was there, and he opened the door and asked her to come in. As she signed her name, she paused so noticeably that he laughed, and said, “Don’t you know your own name?”
The fact was, on the first day of rehearsal, when the stage-manager had taken down all names, he called out to the latest comer, who was staring at the scenery and did not hear him:
“Little girl, what is your name?”
Some one standing near him volunteered: “Her name is Clara Morris, or Morrissey or Morrison, or something like that.” At once he had written down Morris –dropping the last syllable from her rightful name. So when Mr. Ellsler asked, “Don’t you know your name?” it was the moment to have set the matter straight, but the young person was far too shy. She made no reply, but signed up and received two weeks’ salary as Clara Morris, by which name she was known ever afterward.
In her story of life on the stage, she says, “After having gratefully accepted my two weeks’ earnings, Mr. Ellsler asked me why I had not come the week before. I told him I preferred to wait because it would seem so much more if I got both weeks’ salary all at one time. He nodded gravely, and said, ‘It was rather a large sum to have in hand at one time,’ and though I was very sensitive to ridicule, I did not suspect him of making fun of me. Then he said:
“‘You are a very intelligent little girl, and when you went on alone and unrehearsed the other night, you proved you had both adaptability and courage. I’d like to keep you in the theater. Will you come and be a regular member of the company for the season that begins in September next?’
“I think it must have been my ears that stopped my ever-widening smile, while I made answer that I must ask my mother first.
“‘To be sure,’ said he, ‘to be sure! Well, suppose you ask her then, and let me know whether you can or not.’”
She says, “Looking back and speaking calmly, I must admit that I do not now believe Mr. Ellsler’s financial future depended entirely upon the yes or no of my mother and myself; but that I was on an errand of life or death every one must have thought who saw me tearing through the streets on that ninety-in-the-shade day…. One man ran out hatless and coatless and looked anxiously up the street in the direction from which I came. A big boy on the corner yelled after me: ‘Sa-ay, sis, where’s the fire?’ But, you see they did not know that I was carrying home my first real earnings, that I was clutching six damp one-dollar bills in the hands that had been so empty all my life!
“I had meant to take off my hat and smooth my hair, and with a proper little speech approach my mother, and then hand her the money. But alas! as I rushed into the house I came upon her unexpectedly, for, fearing dinner was going to be late, she was hurrying things by shelling a great basket of peas as she sat by the dining-room window. At sight of her tired face all my nicely planned speech disappeared. I flung my arm about her neck, dropped the bills on top of the empty pods and cried:
“‘Oh, mother, that’s mine and it’s all yours!’
“She kissed me, but to my grieved amazement put the money back into my hand and said, ‘No, you have earned this money yourself–you are to do with it exactly as you please.’”
And that was why, the next morning, a much-excited and very rich young person took a journey to the stores, and as a result bought a lavender-flowered muslin dress which, when paid for, had made quite a large hole in the six dollars. By her expression and manner she plainly showed how proud and happy she was to be buying a dress for the mother who for thirteen years had been doing and buying for two. “Undoubtedly,” says Miss Morris, “had there been a fire just then I would have risked my life to save that flowered muslin gown.”
Up to that time, the only world Clara Morris had known had been narrow and sordid, and lay chill under the shadow of poverty…. Now, standing humbly at the knee of Shakespeare, she began to learn something of another world–fairy-like in fascination, marvelous in reality. A world of sunny days and jeweled nights, of splendid palaces, caves, of horrors, forests of mystery, and meadows of smiling candor. All people, too, with such soldiers, statesmen, lovers, clowns, such women of splendid honor, fierce ambition, thistle-down lightness, as makes the heart beat fast to think of.
That was the era of Shakesperian performances, and out of twenty-eight stars who played with the support of Mr. Ellsler’s company, eighteen acted in the famous classic plays. All stars played a week’s engagement, some two, so at least half of the season of forty-two weeks was given over to Shakespeare’s plays, and every actor and actress had his lines at their tongues’ tips, while there were endless discussions about the best rendering of famous passages.
“I well remember,” says Miss Morris, “my first step into theatrical controversy. ‘Macbeth’ was being rehearsed, and the star had just exclaimed: ‘Hang out our banners on the outward walls!’ That was enough–argument was on. It grew animated. Some were for: ‘Hang out our banners! On the outward walls the cry is still, they come!’ while one or two were with the star’s reading.
“I stood listening, and looking on, and fairly sizzling with hot desire to speak, but dared not take the liberty. Presently an actor, noticing my eagerness, laughingly said:
“‘Well, what is it, Clara? You’ll have a fit if you don’t ease your mind with speech.’
“‘Oh, Uncle Dick,’ I answered, my words fairly tripping over one another in my haste, ‘I have a picture home, I cut out of a paper; it’s a picture of a great castle with towers and moats and things, and on the outer walls are men with spears and shields, and they seem to be looking for the enemy, and, Uncle Dick, the banner is floating over the high tower! So, don’t you think it ought to be read: “Hang out our banners! On the outward walls”–the outward wall, you know, is where the lookouts are standing–“the cry is still, they come!”‘
“A general laugh followed my excited explanation, but Uncle Dick patted me on the shoulder and said:
“‘Good girl, you stick to your picture–it’s right, and so are you. Many people read that line that way, but you have worked it out for yourself, and that’s a good plan to follow.’
“And,” says Miss Morris, “I swelled and swelled, it seemed to me, I was so proud of the gentle old man’s approval. But that same night I came woefully to grief. I had been one of the crowd of ‘witches.’ Later, being off duty, I was, as usual, planted in the entrance, watching the acting of the grown-ups and grown-greats. Lady Macbeth was giving the sleep-walking scene, in a way that jarred upon my feelings. I could not have told why, but it did. I believed myself alone, and when the memory-haunted woman roared out:
“‘Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?’ I remarked, under my breath. ‘Did you expect to find ink in him?’
“A sharp ‘ahem’ right at my shoulder told me I had been overheard, and I turned to face–oh, horror! the stage-manager. He glared angrily at me and demanded my ideas on the speech, which in sheer desperation at last I gave, saying:
“‘I thought Lady Macbeth was amazed at the quantity of blood that flowed from the body of such an old man–for when you get old, you know, sir, you don’t have so much blood as you used to, and I only thought that, as the “sleeping men were laced, and the knives smeared and her hands bathed with it,” she might perhaps have whispered, “Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?”‘ I didn’t mean an impertinence. Down fell the tears, for I could not talk and hold them back at the same time.
“He looked at me in dead silence for a few moments, then he said: ‘Humph!’ and walked away, while I rushed to the dressing-room and cried and cried, and vowed that never, never again would I talk to myself–in the theater, at all events.
“Only a short time afterward I had a proud moment when I was allowed to go on as the longest witch in the caldron scene in ‘Macbeth.’ Perhaps I might have come to grief over it had I not overheard the leading man say: ‘That child will never speak those lines in the world!’ And the leading man was six feet tall and handsome, and I was thirteen and a half years old, and to be called a child!
“I was in a secret rage, and I went over and over my lines at all hours, under all circumstances, so that nothing should be able to frighten me at night. And then, with my pasteboard crown and white sheet and petticoat, I boiled up in the caldron and gave my lines well enough for the manager to say low:
“‘Good! Good!’ and the leading man next night asked me to take care of his watch and chain during his combat scene, and,” says Miss Morris, “my pride of bearing was unseemly, and the other girls loved me not at all, for, you see, they, too, knew he was six feet tall and handsome.”
The theatrical company of which Clara Morris had become a member was what was called by the profession, a “family theater,” in which the best parts are apt to be absorbed by the manager and his family, while all the poor ones are placed with strict justice where they belong. At that time, outside of the star who was being supported, men and women were engaged each for a special line of business, to which “line” they were strictly kept. However much the “family theater” was disliked by her comrades in the profession, it was indeed an ideal place for a young girl to begin her stage life in. The manager, Mr. Ellsler, was an excellent character actor; his wife, Mrs. Ellsler, was his leading woman–his daughter, Effie, though not out of school at that time, acted whenever there was a very good part that suited her. Other members of the company were mostly related in some way, and so it came about that there was not even the “pink flush of a flirtation over the first season,” in fact, says Miss Morris, “during all the years I served in that old theater, no real scandal ever smirched it.” She adds: “I can never be grateful enough for having come under the influence of the dear woman who watched over me that first season, Mrs. Bradshaw, the mother of Blanche, one of the most devoted actresses I ever saw, and a good woman besides. From her I learned that because one is an actress it is not necessary to be a slattern. She used to say:
“‘You know at night the hour of morning rehearsal–then get up fifteen minutes earlier, and leave your room in order. Everything an actress does is commented on, and as she is more or less an object of suspicion, her conduct should be even more correct than that of other women.’ She also repeated again and again, ‘Study your lines–speak them just as they are written. Don’t just gather the idea of a speech, and then use your own words–that’s an infamous habit. The author knew what he wanted you to say. If he says, “My lord, the carriage waits,” don’t you go on and say, “My lord, the carriage is waiting!”‘”
These and many other pieces of valuable advice were stored up in Clara Morris’s mind, and she made such good use of them that they bore rich fruit in later years.
There was great consternation for mother and daughter, on a certain day when Clara brought home the startling news that the company was to be transferred to Columbus, Ohio, for the remainder of the season. It was a great event in the young actress’s life, as it meant leaving her mother and standing alone. But as she confesses: “I felt every now and then my grief and fright pierced through and through with a delicious thrill of importance; I was going to be just like a grown-up, and would decide for myself what I should wear. I might even, if I chose to become so reckless, wear my Sunday hat to a rehearsal, and when my cheap little trunk came, with C. M. on the end, showing it was my very own, I stooped down and hugged it.” But she adds with honesty, “Later, when my mother, with a sad face, separated my garments from her own, I burst into sobs of utter forlornness.”
The salary of the ballet corps was now raised to $5 a week, and all set to work to try to solve the riddle of how a girl was to pay her board bill, her basket bill, her washing bill, and all the small expenses of the theater–powder, paint, soap, hair-pins, etc.–to say nothing of shoes and clothing, out of her earnings. Clara Morris and the Bradshaws solved the problem in the only possible way by rooming together in a large top-floor room, where they lived with a comparative degree of comfort, and with less loneliness for Clara than she could have felt elsewhere.
During that first season she learned to manage her affairs and to take care of herself and her small belongings, without admonition from any one. At the same time she was learning much of the technique of the profession, and was deeply interested as she began to understand how illusions are produced. She declares that one of the proofs that she was meant to be an actress was her enjoyment of the mechanism of stage effects.
“I was always on hand when a storm had to be worked,” she says, “and would grind away with a will at a crank that, turning against a tight band of silk, made the sound of a tremendously shrieking wind. And no one sitting in front of the house, looking at a white-robed woman ascending to heaven, apparently floating upward through the blue clouds, enjoyed the spectacle more than I enjoyed looking at the ascent from the rear, where I could see the tiny iron support for her feet, the rod at her back with the belt holding her securely about the waist, and the men hoisting her through the air, with a painted, sometimes moving sky behind her.
“This reminds me,” says Miss Morris, “that Mrs. Bradshaw had several times to go to heaven (dramatically speaking), and as her figure and weight made the support useless, she always went to heaven on the entire gallery, as it is called, a long platform the whole width of the stage, which is raised and lowered by windlass. The enormous affair would be cleaned and hung about with nice white clouds, and then Mrs. Bradshaw, draped in long white robes, with hands meekly crossed upon her breast and eyes piously uplifted, would rise heavenward, slowly, as so heavy an angel should. But alas! There was one drawback to this otherwise perfect ascension. Never, so long as the theater stood, could that windlass be made to work silently. It always moved up or down to a succession of screaks, unoilable, blood-curdling, that were intensified by Mrs. Bradshaw’s weight, so that she ascended to the blue tarletan heaven accompanied by such chugs and long-drawn yowlings as suggested a trip to the infernal regions. Her face remained calm and unmoved, but now and then an agonized moan escaped her, lest even the orchestra’s effort to cover up the support’s protesting cries should prove useless. Poor woman, when she had been lowered again to terra firma and stepped off, the whole paint frame would give a kind of joyous upward spring. She noticed it, and one evening looked back and said; ‘Oh, you’re not one bit more glad than I am, you screaking wretch!’”
Having successfully existed through the Columbus season, in the spring the company was again in Cleveland, playing for a few weeks before disbanding for that horror of all theatrical persons–the summer vacation.
As her mother was in a position, and could not be with Clara, the young actress spent the sweltering months in a cheap boarding-house, where a kindly landlady was willing to let her board bill run over until the fall, when salaries should begin again. Clara never forgot that kindness, for she was in real need of rest after her first season of continuous work. Although her bright eyes, clear skin, and round face gave an impression of perfect health, yet she was far from strong, owing partly to the privations of her earlier life and to a slight injury to her back in babyhood. Because of this, she was facing a life of hard work handicapped by that most cruel of torments, a spinal trouble, which an endless number of different treatments failed to cure.
Vacation ended, to her unspeakable joy she began work again as a member of the ballet corps, and during that season and the next her ability to play a part at short notice came to be such an accepted fact that more than once she was called on for work outside of her regular “line,” to the envy of the other girls, who began to talk of “Clara’s luck.” “But,” says Clara, “there was no luck about it. My small success can be explained in two words–extra work.” While the others were content if they could repeat a part perfectly to themselves in their rooms, that was only the beginning of work to their more determined companion. “I would repeat those lines,” said Miss Morris, “until, had the very roof blown off the theater at night, I should not have missed one.” And so it was that the youngest member of the ballet corps came to be looked on as a general-utility person, who could be called on at a moment’s notice to play the part of queen or clown, boy or elderly woman, as was required.
Mr. Ellsler considered that the young girl had a real gift for comedy, and when Mr. Dan Setchell, the comedian, played with the company, she was given a small part, which she played with such keen perception of the points where a “hit” could be made, that at last the audience broke into a storm of laughter and applause. Mr. Setchell had another speech, but the applause was so insistent that he knew it would be an anti-climax and signaled the prompter to ring down the curtain. But Clara Morris knew that he ought to speak, and was much frightened by the effect of her business, which had so captured the fancy of the audience, for she knew that the applause belonged to the star as a matter of professional etiquette. She stood trembling like a leaf, until the comedian came and patted her kindly on the shoulder, saying:
“Don’t be frightened, my girl–that applause was for you. You won’t be fined or scolded–you’ve made a hit, that’s all!”
But even the pleasant words did not soothe the tempest of emotion surging in the young girl’s heart. She says:
“I went to my room, I sat down with my head in my hands. Great drops of sweat came out on my temples. My hands were icy cold, my mouth was dry–that applause rang in my ears. A cold terror seized on me–a terror of what? Ah, a tender mouth was bitted and bridled at last! The reins were in the hands of the public, and it would drive me, where?”
As she sat there, in her hideous make-up, in a state of despair and panic, she suddenly broke into shrill laughter. Two women came in, and one said; “Why, what on earth’s the matter? Have they blown you up for your didoes to-night? What need you care. You pleased the audience.” The other said, quietly: “Just get a glass of water for her; she has a touch of hysteria. I wonder who caused it?” No person had caused it. Clara Morris was merely waking from a sound sleep, unconsciously visioning that woman of the dim future who was to conquer the public in her portrayal of great elemental human emotion.
With incessant work and study, and a firm determination to stop short of nothing less than the perfection of art, those early years of Clara Morris’s life on the stage went swiftly by, and in her third season she was more than ever what she herself called “the dramatic scrape-goat of the company,” one who was able to play any part at a moment’s notice.
“This reputation was heightened when one day, an actor falling suddenly sick, Mr. Ellsler, with a furrowed brow, begged Clara to play the part. Nothing daunted, the challenge was calmly accepted, and in one afternoon she studied the part of King Charles, in ‘Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady,’ and played it in borrowed clothes and without any rehearsal whatever, other than finding the situations plainly marked in the book! It was an astonishing thing to do, and she was showered with praise for the performance; but even this success did not better her fortunes, and she went on playing the part of boys and old women, or singing songs when forced to it, going on for poor leading parts even, and between times dropping back into the ballet, standing about in crowds, or taking part in a village dance.”
It was certainly an anomalous position she held in Mr. Ellsler’s company–but she accepted its ups and downs without resistance, taking whatever part came to hand, gaining valuable experience from every new role assigned her, and hoping for a time when the returns from her work would be less meager.
She was not yet seventeen when the German star, Herr Daniel Bandmann, came to play with the company. He was to open with “Hamlet,” and Mrs. Bradshaw, who by right should have played the part of Queen Mother, was laid up with a broken ankle. Miss Morris says: “It took a good deal in the way of being asked to do strange parts to startle me, but the Queen Mother did it. I was just nicely past sixteen, and I was to go on the stage for the serious Shakesperian mother of a star. Oh, I couldn’t!”
“Can’t be helped–no one else,” growled Mr. Ellsler; “Just study your lines, right away, and do the best you can.”
“I had been brought up to obey,” says Miss Morris, “and I obeyed. The dreaded morning of rehearsal came. There came a call for the Queen. I came forward. Herr Bandmann glanced at me, half smiled, waved his arms, and said, ‘Not you, not the Player-Queen, but GERTRUDE.’
“I faintly answered, ‘I’m sorry, sir, but I have to play Gertrude!’
“‘Oh no, you won’t!’ he cried, ‘not with me!’ Then, turning to Mr. Ellsler, he lost his temper and only controlled it when he was told that there was no one else to take the part; if he would not play with me, the theater must be closed for the night. Then he calmed down and condescended to look the girl over who was to play such an inappropriate role.
“The night came–a big house, too, I remember,” says Miss Morris. “I wore long and loose garments to make me look more matronly, but, alas, the drapery Queen Gertrude wears was particularly becoming to me and brought me uncommonly near to prettiness. Mr. Ellsler groaned, but said nothing, while Mr. Bandmann sneered out an ‘ Ach Himmel!‘ and shrugged his shoulders, as if dismissing the matter as hopeless.”
But it was not. “As Bandmann’s great scene advanced to its climax, so well did the young Queen Mother play up to Hamlet, that the applause was rapturous. The curtain fell, and to her utter amaze she found herself lifted high in the air and crushed to Hamlet’s bosom, with a crackling sound of breaking Roman pearls and in a whirlwind of German exclamations, kissed on brow, cheeks and eyes. Then disjointed English came forth; ‘Oh, you are so great, you kleine apple-cheeked girl! You maker of the fraud–you so great, nobody. Ach, you are fire–you have pride–you are a Gertrude who have shame!’ More kisses, then suddenly realizing that the audience was still applauding, he dragged her before the curtain, he bowed, he waved his hands, he threw one arm around my shoulders. ‘He isn’t going to do it all over again–out here, is he?’ thought the victim of his enthusiasm, and began backing out of sight as quickly as possible.”
That amusing experience led to one of the most precious memories of Clara Morris’s career, when, a month after the departure of the impetuous German, who should be announced to play with the company but Mr. Edwin Booth. As Clara Morris read the cast of characters, she says, “I felt my eyes growing wider as I saw–
QUEEN GERTRUDE…………Miss Morris.
“I had succeeded before, oh yes, but this was a different matter. All girls have their gods–some have many of them. My gods were few, and on the highest pedestal of all, grave and gentle, stood the god of my professional idolatry–Edwin Booth. It was humiliating to be forced on any one as I should be forced upon Mr. Booth, since there was still none but my ‘apple-cheeked’ self to go on for the Queen, and though I dreaded complaint and disparaging remarks from him, I was honestly more unhappy over the annoyance this blemish on the cast would cause him. But it could not be helped, so I wiped my eyes, repeated my childish little old-time ‘Now I lay me,’ and went to sleep.
“The dreaded Monday came, and at last–the call, ‘Mr. Booth would like to see you for a few moments in his room.’
“He was dressed for Hamlet when I entered. He looked up, smiled, and, waving his hand, said in Bandmann’s very words: ‘No, not you–not the Player-Queen –but GERTRUDE.’
“My whole heart was in my voice as I gasped: ‘I’m so sorry, sir, but I have to do Queen Gertrude. You see,’ I rushed on, ‘our heavy woman has a broken leg and can’t act. But if you please,’ I added, ‘I had to do this part with Mr. Bandmann, too, and–and–I’ll only worry you with my looks, sir, not about the words or business.’
“He rested his dark, unspeakably melancholy eyes on my face, then he sighed and said: ‘Well, it was the closet scene I wanted to speak to you about. When the ghost appears you are to be–‘ He stopped, a faint smile touched his lips, and he remarked:
“‘There’s no denying it, my girl, I look a great deal more like your father than you look like my mother–but–‘ He went on with his directions, and, considerate gentlemen that he was, spoke no single unkind word to me, though my playing of that part must have been a great annoyance to him.
“When the closet scene was over, the curtain down, I caught up my petticoats and made a rapid flight roomward. The applause was filling the theater. Mr. Booth, turning, called after me: ‘You–er–Gertrude–er– Queen! Oh, somebody call that child back here!’ and somebody roared, ‘Clara, Mr. Booth is calling you!’ I turned, but stood still. He beckoned, then came and took my hand, saying, ‘My dear, we must not keep them waiting too long,’ and led me before the curtain with him. I very slightly bent my head to the audience, whom I felt were applauding Hamlet only, but turned and bowed myself to the ground to him whose courtesy had brought me there.
“When we came off he smiled amusedly, tapped me on the shoulder, and said: ‘My Gertrude, you are very young, but you know how to pay a pretty compliment–thank you, child!’
“So,” says Miss Morris, “whenever you see pictures of nymphs or goddesses floating in pink clouds and looking idiotically happy, you can say to yourself: ‘That is just how Clara Morris felt when Edwin Booth said she had paid him a compliment.’ Yes, I floated, and I’ll take a solemn oath, if necessary, that the whole theater was filled with pink clouds the rest of that night, for girls are made that way, and they can’t help it.”
The young actress was now rapidly acquiring a knowledge of her ability to act; she also knew that as long as she remained with Mr. Ellsler there would be no advancement for her, and a firm determination took possession of her to take a plunge into the big world, where perhaps there might be a chance not only to earn enough to take care of herself, but also enough so that her mother would no longer be obliged to work, which was Clara’s bitter mortification.
While she was considering the advisability of making a change, she received an offer from a Mr. Macaulay, manager of Wood’s Museum, at Cincinnati, Ohio. He offered a small salary, but as she was to be his leading woman she decided to accept the offer. “When the matter was apparently settled, he wrote, saying that ‘because of the youth of his new star, he wished to reserve a few parts which his wife would act.’ Only too well did Clara Morris understand what that meant–that the choicest parts would be reserved. Then an amusing thing happened. She, who was so lacking in self-confidence, suddenly developed an ability to stand up for her rights. By return mail she informed Mr. Macaulay that her youth had nothing to do with the matter–that she would be the leading woman and play all parts or none. His reply was a surprise, as it contained a couple of signed contracts and a pleasant request to sign both and return one at once. He regretted her inability to grant his request, but closed by expressing his respect for her firmness in demanding her rights. Straightway she signed her first contract, and went out to mail it. When she returned she had made up her mind to take a great risk. She had decided that her mother should never again receive commands from any one–that her shoulders were strong enough to bear the welcome burden, that they would face the new life and its possible sufferings together– together, that was the main thing.” She says:
“As I stood before the glass smoothing my hair, I gravely bowed to the reflection and said, ‘Accept my congratulations and best wishes, Wood’s leading lady!’–and then fell on the bed and sobbed … because, you see, the way had been so long and hard, but I had won one goal–I was a leading woman!”
Leaving behind the surroundings of so many years was not a light matter, nor was the parting with the Ellslers, of whose theatrical family she had been a member for so long, easy. When the hour of leave-taking came, she was very sad. She had to make the journey alone, as her mother also was to join her only when she had found a place to settle in. Mr. Ellsler was sick for the first time since she had known him. She said good-by to him in his room, and left feeling very despondent, he seemed so weak. “Judge then,” says Miss Morris, “my amazement when, hearing a knock on my door and calling, ‘Come in’–Mr. Ellsler, pale and almost staggering, entered. A rim of red above his white muffler betrayed his bandaged throat, and his poor voice was but a husky whisper:
“‘I could not help it,’ he said. ‘You were placed under my care once by your mother. You were a child then, and though you are pleased to consider yourself a woman now, I could not bear to think of your leaving the city without some old friend being by for a parting God-speed.’
“I was inexpressibly grateful, but he had yet another surprise for me. He said, ‘I wanted, too, Clara, to make you a little present that would last long and remind you daily of–of–er–the years you have passed in my theater.’
“He drew a small box from his pocket. ‘A good girl and a good actress,’ he said, ‘needs and ought to own a’–he touched a spring, the box flew open–‘a good watch,’ he finished.
“Literally, I could not speak, having such agony of delight in its beauty, of pride in its possession, of satisfaction in a need supplied, of gratitude and surprise immeasurable. ‘Oh!’ and again ‘Oh!’ was all that I could cry, while I pressed it to my cheek and gloated over it. My thanks must have been sadly jumbled and broken, but my pride and pleasure made Mr. Ellsler laugh, and then the carriage was there, and laughter stilled into a silent, close hand-clasp. As I opened the door of the dusty old hack, I saw the first star prick brightly through the evening sky. Then the hoarse voice said, ‘God bless you’–and I had left my first manager.”
To say that Clara Morris made a success in Cincinnati is the barest truth. Her first appearance was in the role of a country girl, Cicely, a simple milkmaid with only one speech to make, but one which taxed the ability of an actress to the uttermost to express what was meant. Clara played this part in a demure black-and-white print gown, with a little hat tied down under her chin. On the second night, she played what is called a “dressed part,” a bright, light-comedy part in which she wore fine clothes; on the third night hers was a “tearful” part. In three nights she completely won the public, and on the third she received her first anonymous gift, a beautiful and expensive set of pink corals set in burnished gold. “Flowers, too, came over the foot-lights, the like of which she had never seen before, some of them costing more than she earned in a week. Then one night came a bolder note with a big gold locket, which, having its sender’s signature, went straight back to him the next morning. As a result it began to be whispered about that the new star sent back all gifts of jewelry; but when one matinee a splendid basket of white camelias came with a box of French candied fruit, it delighted her and created a sensation in the dressing-room. That seemed to start a fashion, for candies in dainty boxes came to her afterward as often as flowers.”
On the night of her first appearance, a lawyer of Cincinnati who saw her play the part of Cicely was so delighted with her interpretation of the small role that he at once asked: “Who is she? What is her history?”–only to find that, like most happy women, she had none. She came from Cleveland, she lived three doors away with her mother–that was all.
Having seen her a second time, he exclaimed, “That girl ought to be in New York this very moment!” and he added, “I know the foreign theaters–their schools and styles, as well as I know the home theaters and their actors. I believe I have made a discovery!”
After seeing her in the “tearful part,” he said firmly: “I shall never rest till this Clara Morris faces New York. She need clash with no one, need hurt no one, she is unlike any one else, and New York has plenty of room for her. I shall make it my business to meet her and preach New York until she accepts the idea and acts upon it.”
As a result of that determination, at a later date, he met the object of his interest and roused her to such an enthusiasm in his New York project that she wrote to Mr. Ellsler, begging his aid in reaching New York managers, and one day, shortly afterward, she held in her hand a wee sheet of paper, containing two lines scrawled in an illegible handwriting:
“If you send the young woman to me, I will willingly consider proposal. Will engage no actress without seeing her.–A. DALY.”
It was a difficult proposition, for to obtain leave of absence she would be obliged to pay a substitute for at least two performances–would have to stop for one night at a New York hotel, and so spend what she had saved toward a summer vacation. But the scheme was too compelling to be set aside. That very night she asked leave of absence, made all other necessary arrangements, and before she had time to falter in her determination found herself at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in the great bustling city of her dreams. She breakfasted, and took from her bag a new gray veil, a pair of gray gloves and a bit of fresh ruffling. Then, having made all the preparation she could to meet the arbiter of her fate, in her usual custom she said a prayer to that Father in whose protecting care she had an unfaltering trust. Then, she says, “I rose and went forth, prepared to accept success or defeat, just as the good Lord should will.”
Having found Mr. Daly, she looked bravely into his eyes and spoke with quick determination to lose no time: “I am the girl come out of the West to be inspected. I’m Clara Morris!”
That was the preface to an interview which ended in his offer to engage her, but without a stated line of business. He would give her thirty-five dollars a week, he said (knowing there were two to live on it), and if she made a favorable impression he would double that salary.
A poor offer–a risky undertaking, exclaimed Clara. “In my pocket was an offer which I had received just before leaving for New York, from a San Francisco manager, with a salary of one hundred dollars, a benefit, and no vacation at all, unless I wished it. This offer was fairly burning a hole in my pocket as I talked with Mr. Daly, who, while we talked, was filling up a blank contract, for my signature. Thirty-five dollars against one hundred dollars. ‘But if you make a favorable impression you’ll get seventy dollars.’ I thought, and why should I not make a favorable impression? Yet, if I fail now in New York, I can go West or South not much harmed. If I wait till I am older and fail, it will ruin my life. I slipped my hand in my pocket and gave a little farewell tap to the contract for one hundred dollars; I took the pen; I looked hard at him. ‘There’s a heap of trust asked for in this contract,’ I remarked. ‘You won’t forget your promise about doubling the contract?’
“‘I won’t forget anything,’ he answered.
“Then I wrote ‘Clara Morris’ twice, shook hands, and went out and back to Cincinnati, with an engagement in a New York theater for the coming season.”
As the tangible results of a benefit performance Clara was able to give her mother a new spring gown and bonnet and send her off to visit in Cleveland, before turning her face toward Halifax, where she had accepted a short summer engagement. At the end of it she went on to New York, engaged rooms in a quiet old-fashioned house near the theater, and telegraphed her mother to come. “She came,” says Miss Morris, “and that blessed evening found us housekeeping at last. We were settled, and happily ready to begin the new life in the great, strange city.”
From that moment, through the frenzied days of rehearsal with a new company, and with a large number of untoward incidents crowded into each day, life moved swiftly on toward the first appearance of Clara Morris on the New York stage.
With a sort of dogged despair she lived through the worry of planning how to buy costumes out of her small reserve fund. When at last all her gowns were ready, she had two dollars and thirty-eight cents left, on which she and her mother must live until her first week’s salary should be paid. Worse than that, on the last awful day before the opening night she had a sharp attack of pleurisy. A doctor was called, who, being intoxicated, treated the case wrongly. Another physician had to be summoned to undo the work of the first, and as a result Daly’s new actress was in a condition little calculated to give her confidence for such an ordeal as the coming one. She says, “I could not swallow food– I could not! As the hour drew near my mother stood over me while with tear-filled eyes I disposed of a raw beaten egg; then she forced me to drink a cup of broth, fearing a breakdown if I tried to go through five such acts as awaited me without food. I always kissed her good-by, and that night my lips were so cold and stiff with fright that they would not move. I dropped my head for one moment on her shoulder; she patted me silently with one hand and opened the door with the other. I glanced back. Mother waved her hand and called: ‘Good luck! God bless you!’ and I was on my way to my supreme test.”
A blaze of lights, a hum of voices, a brilliant throng of exquisitely gowned, bejeweled women and well-groomed men, in fact a house such as Wood’s leading lady had never before confronted! A chance for triumph or for disaster–and triumph it was! Like a rolling snowball, it grew as the play advanced. Again and again Clara Morris took a curtain call with the other actresses. Finally the stage manager said to Mr. Daly, “They want her,” and Mr. Daly answered, sharply: “I know what they want, and I know what I don’t want. Ring up again!”
He did so. But it was useless. At last Mr. Daly said, “Oh, well, ring up once more, and here, you take it yourself.”
Alone, Clara Morris stood before the brilliant throng, vibrating to the spontaneous storm of enthusiasm, and as she stood before them the audience rose as one individual, carried out of themselves by an actress whose work was as rare as it was unique–work which never for one moment descended to mere stagecraft, but in its simplest gesture was throbbing with vital human emotion.
As the curtain fell at last, while there was a busy hum of excited voices, the young person whose place on the New York stage was assured slipped into her dressing-room, scrambled into her clothes, and rushed from the theater, hurrying to carry the good news to the two who were eagerly awaiting her–her mother and her dog. “At last she saw the lighted windows that told her home was near. In a moment, through a tangle of hat, veil, and wriggling, welcoming dog, she cried:
“‘It’s all right, mumsey–a success! Lots and lots of “calls,” dear, and, oh, is there anything to eat? I am so hungry!‘
“So while the new actress’s name was floating over many a restaurant supper its owner sat beneath one gas-jet, between mother and pet, eating a large piece of bread and a small piece of cheese, telling her small circle of admirers all about it, and winding up with the declaration, ‘Mother, I believe the hearts are just the same, whether they beat against Western ribs or Eastern ribs!’”
Then, supper over, she stumbled through the old-time ‘Now I lay me,’ and, adding some blurred words of gratitude, she says, “I fell asleep, knowing that through God’s mercy and my own hard work I was the first Western actress who had ever been accepted by a New York audience, and as I drowsed off I murmured to myself:
“‘And I’ll leave the door open, now that I have opened it–I’ll leave it open for all the others.’”
She did. Through that open door has passed a long procession from West to East since the day when the young woman from Cleveland brought New York to her feet by her unique ability and dramatic perception. A lover of literature from childhood, a writer of books in later days, Clara Morris moved on through the years of her brilliant dramatic career to a rare achievement, not led by the lure of the foot-lights or the flimsier forms of so-called dramatic art, but by the call of the highest.
Well may the matinee girl of to-day, or the stage-struck young person who responds to the glitter and glare, the applause and the superficial charm of the theatrical world, listen to Miss Morris’s story of “Life on the Stage,” and realize that laurels only crown untiring effort, success only comes after patient labor, and great emotional actresses come to their own through the white heat of sacrifice, struggle, and supreme desire.