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Chapter XI

In the late fall of 1925, Margery joined the family at Brook Farm to help Gene on the beginning of Lazarus Laughed.

During the O’Neills stay in Ridgefield, Edmund Quinn and his wife came to visit. From his days at the Art Students League, Quinn had developed into a fine and well respected artist and sculptor, having executed a statue of Edwin Booth (The Equestrian) in Gramercy Park in New York City, and had also been commissioned to do several busts of famous personalities. Gene had seen his work and decided to have him sculpt busts of himself and Agnes. The one of Gene was in an art exhibit in New York City in early January, 1924, which means he sat for it the year before. It is now at Yale. The one of Agnes remains in Switzerland with her grown grandchildren. Quinn also created a bronze plaque of Edward Boulton which is with Margery’s granddaughter and Ted Boulton's namesake, Teddi Landis, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Busts of Agnes and Gene by Edmond T. Quinn. Gene sat for Quinn in 1923.

Around this time a small package arrived from Eddie Fisk in New York. It was a striking crucifix, and meant as a gentle jibe about the characters in O’Neill's dramas. Gene wrote a letter of thanks from Brook Farm.

Letter from Gene after Eddie Fisk sent crucifix from Italy, 1925.

O’Neill’s plays were being produced one after another. The Fountain opened on December 25th at The Greenwich Village Theatre. The New Year of 1926 was ushered in with another play opening on January 23rd at The Greenwich Village Theatre, as The Great God Brown was produced by Kenneth McGowan, Bobby Jones and O’Neill. After the opening the family packed up once more and, with Margery, went to Bermuda.

A letter from Margery to her mother was dated “On the boat ...Thursday noon.”

Dearest Mother,

We are having a most wonderful trip…in the way of weather. You can tell by my writing that we are more or less rocking. It’s been beautiful and an exceptionally calm sea. So far no one of us has been sick, only poor old Gaga, and she began trembling the minute she hit the boat.

It’s really been the most hectic time getting ready and then the final rush. You can imagine. I guess I was feeling pretty spiffy yesterday morning when I was talking to you on the phone. Had a tiring day, shopping and attending to all the last minute jobs. Then I went to dinner with Mr. Thinman and after dinner met Cecil and we went to see Great God Brown. After that we went to see the Wolfs and had good red wine. The effects had not quite worn off by morning.

I wish you had been able to get down to see us before we left, but something would surely have happened if you had. We’re rocking quite a bit…now…(letter unfinished…) (Later) March 1.

Mail boat just leaving…will write tonight…awfully rocky!

Love to all, Budgie

Shane with Gene in Bermuda, 1926.
Margery with measles, 1926.
Bellevue, in Bermuda, 1926.

From February to mid-June the family stayed at Bellevue, a large Victorian mansion with Greek columns, in Paget East. During this time, Gene made plans to buy “Spithead,” overlooking Hamilton Harbor. He called it “The Stone Palace with thirteen and a half acres.” It was exhausting for all living together in a very small cottage while the large house was being renovated. It was hard on everyone. In a letter to her mother, dated February 27, Agnes wrote about the difficulties of this arrangement.

Dearest Ma,

So very glad you got the rugs off. This is again just a line, but I swear to write a real letter next time. The damn workmen are not off the place yet and as they are just finishing up, they seem to need more supervision than ever. However, this week it really should be finished...for the first time, anyhow. Meanwhile, take care of yourself. Let me know about the money situation. You didn’t let me know how much they decided to charge. Hope it was the minimum. More anon…here comes the architect.

Love to all and feeling very pregnant, A.

After a short time another letter, with great concern about Teddy, came from Agnes. She had just heard from the family about his not feeling well.

Letter from Agnes to Nanna about Teddy, 1927.

In spite of cramped quarters and too many young ones about, Gene seemed to be very productive. He had sworn off drinking, was working hard and taking good care of his health. Lazarus Laughed and Strange Interlude were both on his desk.

Spithead after O'Neills' purchase, 1926.
Saxe and Gene. Gene, Agnes and Saxe.
Gene and Shane in scull, 1925.
Shane in Bermuda, age 6, 1925. Shane on his father's shoulders, 1925.

Early summer came and it was time to return to the States once more. Gene went to New York on theater business. Margery joined the rest of her family in West Point Pleasant at The Old House before going up to Merryall. Brook Farm was still occupied by winter renters, so there was good cause for a small family reunion at The Old House. They later met with Gene back at Brook Farm, where he told them about being invited by George Pierce Baker to go to Yale to receive an honorary degree on the 23rd of June. He was very nervous about the whole presentation, but it went smoothly. He only needed to say “Thank you” with no speech expected, and he went home relieved and delighted.

Shortly after this Agnes and Gene went to New York for a week alone; perhaps, the family thought, for a second honeymoon.

Margery describes the strange time while they were away and she and Mrs. Clark were alone in the house with the two children upstairs in their beds. She called it “The Night of the Robber,” and a letter to her mother tells the story with first-hand enthusiasm.

Letter from Budgie about the robber at Brook Farm, June 8, 1926.

As the summer came on, Gene decided that going to Provincetown this year would not be a good idea. Life at Peaked Hill would only bring out all the old drinking friends he needed to avoid. He did not want to get caught up in the drinking scene again.

A friend suggested a summer on Belgrade Lakes in Maine. Loon Lodge was their choice, and they spent a busy summer there with all the children. Eugene Jr. and young Barbara, age twelve, joined them. Agnes was very involved with baby Oona, and Shane tagged along with the other children.

Note from Agnes about Barbara, 1926.

It was this summer when Gene met Carlotta Monterey for the first time. She flirted with him quite noticeably, according to young Barbara, who later told us of the provocative bathing suit Carlotta wore. It was a thin white suit with no skirt. Agnes and Gene didn't pay much attention to the display. They were quite used to this from other women.

Margery left them and returned to Merryall and her new house. She began seeing Ken Thomas again. He had become a writer, published and acknowledged in England. Budgie told me later that he came often to Merryall to see her. They were deeply in love but never married because Budgie did not want to be married again.

Many years later, as an adult, I demanded to know the truth of who my father was. It had been another family secret. Budgie told me, with tears in her eyes, that my father was Kenneth Thomas. It had been extremely disturbing for me all those childhood years, trying to accept a story that the family had told me, that my father was Carlton Stevens and that he had died. He was the man she had married for one year so long ago. My cousins told me they had known for ages and knew Budgie's story wasn't true, but they were afraid to tell the real story. Their mother would have been furious for “letting the cat out of the bag,” as they put it. This had all become a serious conflict for me as I sensed there was something not being talked about...more painful secrets kept from me. When I heard the truth, I was greatly relieved and felt happy with the story of my father…my real father. I sometimes wish I might have seen him after I knew all this.

Before Agnes and Gene left Belgrade Lakes, Margery had written again and told Aggie how sick Teddy seemed to be. Aggie immediately wrote to her father.

Letter from Agnes to Teddy, October 7, 1926.

  Chapter XII


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