II. CREATIVE ACCOUNTING 

 THE FAIRWEATHERS' 

 

Henry

 

 

 

Otis

 

Henry

Otis

Henry

Otis

 

Henry

 

Otis

 

Henry

Otis

 

Ophelia

Henry

 

Ophelia

Henry

Otis

Henry

Otis

Henry

 

Otis

Henry

 

 

Otis

 

Ophelia

Henry

Otis

Henry

Otis

 

Ophelia

Henry

 

 

Otis

 

Henry

Ophelia

Henry

Otis

Ophelia

Otis

Henry

Otis

Henry

Otis

Henry

Ophelia

Otis

Henry

Otis

Henry

(1899.)

 

(Suddenly, across stage: HENRY in another spot. JAMES watches the following, unseen.)

 

It pains me to tell you, in no uncertain terms, that I was once a man of means. There was a time, sir, when the liturgy of respect stood for a customary value.

                       

Which is to say, it had currency.

 

We live, sir, in an age of destitution. We have slain our God and buried him in the beakers and burning Bunsen of the laboratory. We speak His word in the clatter of the telegraph, searching for a deity composed of truth and reason. We inhabit the liminal space between the known and the unknown – a Godless realm in which humanity and human nature are in a state of deadly flux. Society stands upon the brink of Armageddon, looking to men of vision and resource – men such as we – to either save them, or condemn. We lack only the means to do so.

 

We are mankind’s last and only hope.

 

And yet you – a man of ordinarily compassionate means – assume the gall to refuse me the means to know the unknown?

 

I submit to you that this is both an outrage to my moral character and an injustice to the name of science.

 

It is, I put to you… a humanitarian disaster.

 

(The spot widens, revealing OTIS & OPHELIA FAIRWEATHER. OTIS sits behind a desk. OPHELIA stands behind him. Both are unimpressed.)

 

That may be so, Mister Black, and we appreciate your verve. But the answer, regrettably, is still ‘no’.

 

Impossible.

 

I can assure you it isn’t, Mister /

 

Doctor, if you please. Biomechanical Philosophy, PhD, Geneva.

 

Notwithstanding, Doctor Black, in the past three years, Fairweather and Fairweather Associates have issued, in total, fourteen loans of substantial proportions… of which exactly half have been returned at a fiscal rate below our rate of loaning. You have been granted six extensions alone on funds currently outstanding – at a modest rate of interest, I might add. A number, you’d agree, being more than amply fair…

 

Terms of interest agreed and accepted, you’ll be aware, willingly and without exception /

 

Indeed, Mister Black. Doctor. You’ve been more than willing to provide us with… shall we say… reliable business. It has simply reached a point beyond reasonable circumstance, I’m sure must agree /

 

I do nothing of the sort.

 

Sir, my circumstance, as you must know, is hardly the stuff of reason.

 

We’re… aware. Your account history reads less like a draft ledger and more like an account by Dickens. And in light of your many… tragedies… we feel we’ve been more than fair in extending you a hand through this… trying personal time. Which is why it pains us to insist the point, but your application for a further loan has been, on grounds of reasonable clemency, refused.

 

We’re a business, Mister Black. Not a charity.

 

Sir… Madam… I appreciate you agreeing to see me here today. I understand that our… professional relationship… has often been… less than professional, even… fractious, at times…

 

You don’t say.

 

I do. In fact, I admit it. Freely. I have not been the model client. But if you’ll allow me to explain my motives for a small financial advancement /

 

I think we’ve heard quite enough already…

 

I am on the brink of a breakthrough /

 

Mister Black, you so often are…

 

I shan’t assume to bore you with the particulars – as we’ve established, such concerns are not shared between us. Let me thus appeal to you in terms you can relate.

 

(A beat.)

 

Continue…

 

This loan – a commission, if you will – is instrumental in the application of a thorium not only of value to myself as a man of science, but to the fraternity of human invention. You need look only to the advancement in electrics by my contemporaries – Tesla and Thomas Edison among them – to grasp the ramifications of such an endeavour. Think of your investment not in service of my personal vanity, but in the betterment of all mankind.

 

Your unfortunate current circumstances not withstanding, the issue of your contribution to mankind’s betterment – as yet unsubstantiated by general public consensus – is not presently under scrutiny. Rather, it is your ability to repay our investment, culturally or not, in a meaningful fiscal fashion. Currently, I see no motive in doing so. As my wife and associate has so eloquently put it /

 

We are not a charity.

 

Need I remind you, sir, that Thomas Edison is the single largest holder of patents currently operating in the United States?

 

Indeed. His exploits are plainly visible to any in possession of the evening standards and the tuppence required to do so.

 

And how many times have his investors reaped the rewards of the electric light blub? Or the value of their investment – in triplicate – for the phonographic machine?

 

Edison is indeed a fine man: an expert in his field, shrewd in business and keen of vision. Comparison, in this case, is equivocal, compounded by factors difficult to relate, exactly…

 

You, Mister Black, are no Thomas Edison.

 

(A silence.)

 

Sir… Madam… As I have stated to you before, I was once a man of means. I had a household, and all its holdings. A Doctorate, from the schools of Geneva. And the name of Black, as yet untarnished by misfortune. I was, in my way, a man of renown and good standing – the sin of my pride hard won before God.

 

Never before, in all my trials, have I resigned myself to the mercy of others – to do so was to bend unaccustomed to my nature. What use are our own feet if we are not to stand upon them? But in finding myself with no means to advance… I find no use in retaining the vice of my undoing.

 

So it is that I address you now, head bowed and bent of knee. I humbly present myself before your Christian judgement… and trust you’ll not ask me to beg.

 

(A silence. OTIS and OPHELIA exchange glances.)

 

Mister Black… Doctor… While it is not in our habit to indulge our clients in a spiral of perpetual credit… we are not, despite our profession, entirely monstrous. Suffice to say, we may see fit to extend you a further loan… conditional, I might add, upon a favourable rate of return…

 

You need only name it.

 

Twenty-seven per cent, per quarter.

 

(Taken aback) Twenty-seven… per cent?

 

A reasonable rate, given the circumstances.

 

More than fair.

 

You don’t agree…?

 

No, of course. More than fair. I agree to these terms.

(OPHELIA places a contract on the desk. OTIS annotates it.)

 

Very well. You are provisionally approved for a further extension of three-hundred fifty pounds sterling, with the first repayment payable at the end of the month.

 

Provisional upon…?

 

Inspection of your remaining assets, and measured at a rate of interest set at thirty-three and a third against your current owing.

 

Which assets?

 

Whatever you have left, of course.

 

(HENRY hesitates, then takes up a pen and signs the contract.)

 

Very good, Mister Black. As always, it is a pleasure doing business with you…

 

Of course.

 

Let us hope this new endeavour proves, as you say, ‘beneficial to the betterment of mankind’… as much as it may prove beneficial to present company.

 

(OTIS and OPHELIA fade out.)

 

As do I, sir. As do I.

 

(Soft voices begin to sing: music, melodious at first, a chorus of wondrous possibilities. A WOMAN in white steps forward out of the darkness and takes HENRY’s hand. They smile. The music changes; discordant, no longer melodious. Horrible, tragedy. The WOMAN’s smile fades. She begins to bleed across her body. HENRY releases her. The bloodied WOMAN fades.)

 

(The music changes again. Lonely, wounded. HENRY turns to JAMES. A silence between them. HENRY offers JAMES his hand. JAMES turns and exits. HENRY looks at his hand, seeing blood on it.)

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