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Title: Five Little Plays
Author: Sutro, Alfred, 1863-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Five Little Plays" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



FIVE LITTLE PLAYS



FIVE LITTLE PLAYS

BY ALFRED SUTRO


BRENTANO
NEW YORK 1922

_Printed in Great Britain
by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh_



CONTENTS


THE MAN IN THE STALLS

A MARRIAGE HAS BEEN ARRANGED....

THE MAN ON THE KERB

THE OPEN DOOR

THE BRACELET



THE MAN IN THE STALLS

A PLAY IN ONE ACT



THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY

HECTOR ALLEN
ELIZABETH ALLEN (BETTY)
WALTER COZENS


_This play was produced
at the Palace Theatre
on October 6, 1911_



THE MAN IN THE STALLS


_The sitting-room of a little flat in Shaftesbury Avenue. At back
     is a door leading to the dining-room--it is open, and the
     dinner-table is in full view of the audience. To the extreme
     right is another door, leading to the hall._

     _The place is pleasantly and prettily, though quite
     inexpensively, furnished. To the left, at angles with the
     distempered wall, is a baby-grand piano; the fireplace, in which
     a fire is burning merrily, is on the same side, full centre. To
     the right of the door leading to the dining-room is a small
     side-table, on which there is a tray with decanter and glasses;
     in front of this, a card-table, open, with two packs of cards on
     it, and chairs on each side. Another table, a round one, is in
     the centre of the room--to right and to left of it are
     comfortable armchairs. Against the right wall is a long sofa;
     above it hang a few good, water-colours and engravings; on the
     piano and the table there are flowers. A general appearance of
     refinement and comfort pervades the room; no luxury, but evidence
     everywhere of good taste, and the countless feminine touches that
     make a room homelike and pleasant._

     _When the curtain rises,_ HECTOR ALLEN, _a youngish man of
     forty, with an attractive intellectual face, is seen standing by
     the dining-table in the inner room, draining his liqueur-glass,
     with_ WALTER COZENS _to the right of him, lighting a cigarette._
     WALTER _is a few years younger than his friend, moderately
     good-looking, with fine, curly brown hair and a splendid silky
     moustache. His morning-clothes are conspicuously well-cut--he is
     evidently something of a dandy;_ HECTOR _wears a rather shabby
     dress-suit, his boots are awkward, and his tie ready-made._
     BETTY, _a handsome woman of thirty, wearing a very pretty
     tea-gown, is talking to the maid at the back of the dining-room._

     HECTOR _puts down his glass and comes into the sitting-room,
     followed by_ WALTER. HECTOR _is puffing at a short, stumpy little
     black cigar._

HECTOR [_Talking as he comes through, continuing the conversation--he
walks to the fireplace and stands with his back to it._] I tell you, if
I'd known what it meant, I'd never have taken the job! Sounded so fine, to
be reader of plays for the Duke's Theatre--adviser to the great Mr.
Honeyswill! And then--when the old man said I was to go to all the first
nights--why, I just chortled! "It's the first nights that show you the
grip of the thing--that teach you most"--he said. Teach you! As though
there were anything to learn! Oh my stars! I tell you, it's a dog's life!

WALTER. [_Sitting to left of the round table._] I'd change places with
you, sonny.

HECTOR. You would, eh? That's what they all say! Four new plays this week,
my lad--one yesterday, one to-day--another to-morrow, and the night after!
All day long I'm _reading_ plays--and I spend my nights seeing 'em! D'you
know I read about two thousand a year? Divide two thousand by three
hundred and sixty five. A dog's life--that's what it is!

WALTER. Better than being a stockbroker's clerk--you believe _me!_

HECTOR. Is it? I wish _you_ could have a turn at it, my bonny boy! _Your_
hair'd go grey, like mine! And look here--what are the plays to-day?
They're either so chock-full of intellect that they send you to sleep--or
they reek of sentiment till you yearn for the smell of a cabbage!

WALTER. Well, you've the change, at any rate.

HECTOR. [_Snorting._] Change? By Jove, give me a Punch and Judy show on
the sands--or performing dogs! Plays--I'm sick of 'em! And look here--the
one I'm off to to-night. It's adapted from the French--well, we know what
_that_ means. Husband, wife and mistress. Or wife, husband, lover. That's
what a French play means. And you make it English, and pass the Censor, by
putting the lady in a mackintosh, and dumping in a curate!

BETTY. [_Coming in, and closing the door leading to the dining-room._] You
ought to be going, Hector.

     [_She, stands listening for a moment, then goes through the other
     door into the hall._

HECTOR. [_Disregarding her, too intent on his theme._] And I tell you, of
the two, I prefer the home-made stodge. I'm sick of the eternal triangle.
They always do the same thing. Husband strikes attitudes--sometimes he
strikes the lover. The lover never stands up to him--why shouldn't he? He
would--in real life. [BETTY _comes back, with his overcoat and
muffler--she proceeds affectionately to wrap this round his neck, and
helps him on with his coat, he talking all the time._] He'd say, look
here, you go to Hell. _That's_ what he'd say--well, there you'd have a
situation. But not one of the playwriting chaps dares do it. Why not, I
ask you? There you'd have truth, something big. But no--they're
afraid--think the public won't like it. The husband's got to down the
lover--like a big tom-cat with a mouse--or the author'd have to sell one
of his motor-cars! That's just the fact of it!

BETTY. [_Looking at the clock on the mantelpiece._] Twenty-five past,
Hector.

HECTOR. [_Cheerily._] All right, my lass, I'm off. By-bye, Walter--keep the
old woman company for a bit. Good-bye, sweetheart. [_He kisses her._]
Don't wait up. Now for the drama. Oh, the dog's life!

     [_He goes._ BETTY _waits till the hall door has banged, then she
     sits on the elbow of_ WALTER'S _chair, and rests her head on his
     shoulder._

BETTY. [_Softly._] Poor Hector!

WALTER. [_Uncomfortably._] ... Yes ...

BETTY. Doesn't it make you feel dreadful when he talks like that? [_She
kisses him; then puts her arms round his neck, draws his face to her, and
kisses him again, on the cheek._] Doesn't it?

     [_She nestles contentedly closer to him._

WALTER. [_Trying to edge away._] Well, it does. Yes.

BETTY. [_Dreamily._] I--like it.

WALTER. Betty!

BETTY. Yes, I like it. I don't know why. I suppose I'm frightfully wicked.
Or the danger perhaps--I don't know.

WALTER. [_Making a futile effort to get up._] Betty--

BETTY. [_Tightening her arms around him._] Stop there, and don't move. How
smooth your chin is--_his_ scrapes. Why don't husbands shave better? Or is
it that the forbidden chin is always smoother? Poor old Hector! If he
could see us! He hasn't a suspicion. I think it's lovely--really, I do. He
leaves us here together, night after night, and imagines you're teaching
me bridge.

WALTER. [_Restlessly._] So I am. Where are the cards?

BETTY. [_Caressing him._] Silly, have you forgotten that this is
Tuesday--Maggie's night out? She's gone--I told her she needn't wait to
clear away. We've arranged master's supper. Master! _You're_ my master,
aren't you?

WALTER. ... I don't know what I am ...

BETTY. Oh yes you do--you're my boy. Whom I love. There. [_She kisses him
again, full on the lips._] That was a nice one, wasn't it? Poor old
Hector, sitting in his stall--thinks he's so wonderful, knows such a lot!
Yes, Maggie's out--with _her_ young man, I suppose. The world's full of
women, with their young men--and husbands sitting in the stalls.... And I
suppose that's how it always has been, and always will be.

WALTER. [_Shifting uneasily._] Don't, Betty--I don't like it. I mean, he
has such confidence in us.

BETTY. Of course he has. And quite rightly. Aren't you his oldest friend?

WALTER. [_With something of a groan._] I've known him since I was seven.

BETTY. The first man he introduced me to--his best man at the wedding--do
you remember coming to see us during the honeymoon? I liked you _then._

WALTER. [_Really shocked._] Betty!

BETTY. I did. You had a way of squeezing my hand.... And then when we came
back here. You know it didn't take me long to discover--

WALTER. [_Protesting._] I scarcely saw you the first two or three years!

BETTY. No--you were afraid. Oh I thought you so silly! [_He suddenly
contrives to release himself--gets up, and moves to the card-table._] Why,
what's the matter?

WALTER. [_At the table, with his back to her._] I hate hearing you talk
like this.

BETTY. Silly boy! [_She rises, and goes to him; he has taken a cigarette
out of the box on the table, and stands there, with his head bent, tapping
the cigarette against his hand._] Women only talk "like this," as you call
it, to their lovers. They talk "like that" to their husbands--and that's
why the husbands never know. That's why the husbands are always sitting in
the stalls, looking on. [_She puts her arms round him again._] Looking and
not seeing.

     [_She approaches her lips to his--he almost fretfully unclasps
     her arms._

WALTER. Betty--I want to say a--serious word ...

BETTY. [_Looking fondly at him._] Well, isn't what _I'm_ saying serious?

WALTER. I'm thirty-eight.

BETTY. Yes. I'm only thirty. But I'm not complaining.

WALTER. Has it ever occurred to you--

     [_He stops._

BETTY. What?

     [WALTER _looks at her--tries to speak, but cannot--then he breaks
     away, goes across the room to the fireplace and stands for a
     moment looking into the fire. She has remained where she was, her
     eyes following him wonderingly. Suddenly he stamps his foot
     violently._

WALTER. Damn it! DAMN it!

BETTY. [_Moving towards him in alarm._] What's the matter?

WALTER. [_With a swift turn towards her._] I'm going to get married.

BETTY. [_Stonily, stopping by the round table._] You ...

WALTER. [_Savagely._] Going to get married, yes. Married, married!

     [_She stands there and doesn't stir--doesn't speak or try to
     speak; merely stands there, and looks at him, giving no sign. Her
     silence irritates him; he becomes more and more violent, as
     though to give himself courage._

WALTER. You're wonderful, you women--you really are. Always contrive to
make us seem brutes, or cowards! I've wanted to tell you this a dozen
times--I've not had the pluck. Well, to-day I must. Must, do you hear
that?... Oh, for Heaven's sake, say something.

BETTY. [_Still staring helplessly at him._] You ...

WALTER. [_Feverishly._] Yes, I, I! Now it's out, at least--it's spoken! I
mean to get married, like other men--fooled, too, I dare say, like the
others--at least I deserve it! But I'm tired, I tell you--tired--

BETTY. Of me?

WALTER. Tired of the life I lead--the beastly, empty rooms--the meals at
the Club. And I'm thirty-eight--it's now or never.

BETTY. [_Slowly._] And how about--me?

WALTER. You?

BETTY. [_Passionately._] Yes. Me. Me!

WALTER. You didn't think this would last for ever?

BETTY. [_Nodding her head._] I did--yes--I did. Why shouldn't it?

WALTER. [_Working himself into a fury again._] Why? You ask that? Why? Oh
yes, it's all right for _you_--you've your home and your husband--I'm
there as an--annexe. To be telephoned to, when I'm wanted, at your beck
and call, throw over everything, come when you whistle. And it's not only
that--I tell you it makes me feel--horrid. After all, he's my--friend.

BETTY. He has been that always. You didn't feel--horrid--before.... Who is
she?

WALTER. [_Shortly, as he turns back to the fire._] That doesn't matter.

BETTY. Yes, it does. Who?

WALTER. [_Fretfully._] Oh, why should we--

BETTY. I want to know--I'm _entitled_ to know.

WALTER. [_Still with his back to her._] Mary Gillingham.

BETTY. Mary Gillingham!

WALTER. [_Firmly, swinging round to her._] Yes.

BETTY. That child, that chit of a girl!

WALTER. She's twenty-three.

BETTY. Whom I introduced you to--my own friend?

WALTER. [_Grumbling._] What _has_ that to do with it? And besides ...
[_He suddenly changes his tone, noticing how calm she has become--he takes
a step towards her, and stands by her side, at the back of the table, his
voice becomes gentle and affectionate._] But I say, really, you're taking
it awfully well--pluckily. I knew you would--I knew I was an ass to be
so--afraid.... And look here, we'll always be pals--the very best of pals.
I'll ... never forget--never. You may be quite sure ... of that. I want to
get married--I do--have a home of my own, and so forth--but you'll still
be--just the one woman I really have loved--the one woman in my life--to
whom I owe--everything.

BETTY. [_With a mirthless laugh._] Do you tell all that--to Mary
Gillingham?

WALTER. [_Pettishly, as he moves away._] Do I--don't be so absurd.

BETTY. You tell _her_ she is the only _girl_ you have loved.

WALTER. [_Moving back to the fire, with his back to her._] I tell her--I
tell her--what does it matter what I tell her? And one girl or
another--she or someone else--

BETTY. But you haven't answered my question--what's to become of me?

WALTER. [_Angrily, facing her._] Become of you! Don't talk such nonsense.
Because it is--really it is. You'll be as you were. And Hector's a
splendid chap--and after all we've been frightfully wrong--treating him
infernally badly--despicably. Oh yes, we have--and you know it. Lord,
there've been nights when I have--but never mind that--that's all over! In
future we can look him in the face without feeling guilty--we can--

BETTY. [_Quietly._] _You_ can.

WALTER. What do you mean?

BETTY. _You_ can, because of this girl. Oh, I know, of course! You'll come
here three or four times--then you'll drop off--you'll feel I'm not quite
the woman you want your wife to know.

WALTER. [_With genuine feeling, as he impulsively steps towards her._]
Betty, Betty, what sort of cad do you take me for? What sort of cad, or
bounder? Haven't I told you I'd never forget--never? And you think you'll
pass out of my life--that I _want_ you to? Why, good Heaven, I'll be your
best friend as long as I live. Friend--yes--what I always should have
been--meant to be! And Hector. Why, Betty, I tell you, merely talking
to-night, as I've done, has made me feel--different--sort of--lifted--a
load. Because I've always had it--somewhere deep down in me--when I've
thought of--him.

BETTY. [_Calmly._] Liar.

WALTER. [_Falling back._] Betty!

BETTY. Liar--yes. Why these stupid, silly lies? "Always, deep down in me!"
Where was it, this beautiful feeling, when you got me to go to your rooms?

WALTER. [_Harshly._] We needn't--

BETTY. I liked you--I've said that--I liked you from the first. But I was
straight enough. Liked you, of course--but I had no idea, not the
slightest.... Thought it fun to play the fool, flirt just a bit. But it
was you, you, _you_ who--

WALTER. [_Breaking in sulkily and stamping his foot._] Never mind about
who it was.

BETTY. [_Passionately._] Never mind! You dare!

WALTER. [_Doggedly._] Yes--I dare. And look here--since you force me to
it--that's all rot--yes, it is--just rot. Just as you like it now, hearing
Hector ask me to stop with you, and kissing me the moment his back is
turned--so you met me halfway, and more than halfway.

BETTY. You cur!

WALTER. That's what a woman always says, when a man speaks the truth.
Because it _is_ the truth--and you know it. "The way I squeezed your
hand!" D'you think I _meant_ to squeeze it--in a way! Why, as there's a
Heaven above me, you were as sacred to me--as my own sister!

BETTY. [_Quietly, as she sits, to right of the table._] What I'm
wondering is--you see, you're the only lover I've had--what I wonder is,
when a man breaks off, tells a woman he's tired of her, wants to get
married--does he _always_ abuse the woman--

WALTER. [_Sulkily._] I haven't--

BETTY. Degrade, and throw mud on, the love she has had for him?

WALTER. [_With a bitter shrug._] Love--

BETTY. [_Passionately, as she springs to her feet._] Love, love, yes,
you--cruel man! Love, what else? I adore you, don't you know that? Live
for you! would give up everything in the world--everything, everything!
And Walter, Walter! If it's only _that_--that you want a home--well, let's
go off together. He'll divorce us--we can get married. Don't go away, and
leave me here, alone with him! I couldn't stand it--Walter, I couldn't, I
couldn't!

     [_She goes eagerly to him, flings her arms round his neck, and a
     dry sob bursts from her._

WALTER. [_Very gently._] Betty, Betty, you've been so brave ... Betty,
dear, the horrid things I've said were only to make you angry, to make you
feel what a brute I was, how well you're rid of me. Oh, I'm not proud of
myself! But look here, we must be sensible--we must, really.... You know,
if you were divorced--if I were the co-respondent in a divorce case--I'd
lose my berth, get the sack--

BETTY. [_Clinging to him._] We could go to Australia--anywhere--

WALTER. I've no money.

BETTY. [_With a sudden movement, raising her head and leaving him._] And
Mary Gillingham has lots?

WALTER. It's not for her money that I--

BETTY. [_With a start._] You love her?

WALTER. [_Dropping his head, and speaking under his breath._] Yes.

BETTY. [_Wringing her hands._] You do, you do?

WALTER. Yes, that's the truth--I do. Oh, Betty I'm so frightfully
sorry--

BETTY. [_With a groan._] Then you don't love me any more ...

WALTER. It's not that. But you see--

BETTY. [_Moaning._] You don't, you don't!

     [_She stands there, crushed, overwhelmed, dry-eyed, broken moans
     escaping from her; suddenly she hears a key turning in the lock
     of the hall-door outside, and rushes to the card-table._

BETTY. Hector! Quick, quick--the cards!

     [WALTER _flies to the table, and sits by her side. He seizes one
     pack and proceeds to shuffle it, she is dealing with the other.
     All this takes only a second._ HECTOR _comes in--they both spring
     up._

BETTY. Hector! You're not ill?

HECTOR. [_Kissing her._] Play postponed, my child--bit of luck! When I got
to the theatre I found that the actor-manager's car had collided with a
cab outside the stage-door--he was thrown through the window--there's a
magnificent exit for you! and has been cut about a bit. Nothing serious.
But the play's postponed for a week. Bit of luck!

WALTER. [_Sitting._] Not for him.

HECTOR. Oh _he_ has had luck enough--tons of it! I'll get into a
jacket--then we'll have some bridge. See what progress you've made, Betty!

     [_He hurries out, and closes the door._

BETTY. [_Producing a little mirror from her bag, looking into it,
touching her hair._] We were only just in time.

WALTER. [_Eagerly, as he bends across the table._] You're splendid--you
are--splendid!

BETTY. Yes. All very nice and comfortable for you--isn't it? [_She puts
the mirror back into the bag._]

WALTER. [_Coaxingly._] Betty.

BETTY. To-morrow you'll go to her--or to-night perhaps--

WALTER. To-night--ridiculous! At this hour!

BETTY. She's a deceitful little cat. I saw her last week--she never told
me--

WALTER. I don't think she knew. I only proposed to-day.

BETTY. [_Flinging herself back in her chair, and opening wide eyes._]
You--proposed--to-day!

WALTER. [_Very embarrassed._] Yes--I mean--

BETTY. You--proposed--to-day! And waited till she had accepted you--to
tell _me_--

WALTER. [_Eagerly._] Don't be so silly--come, come, he'll be back in a
minute.... And, believe me, I'm not worth making a fuss about!

BETTY. [_Looking contemptuously at him._] That's true.

WALTER. Yes, it is, worse luck! I deserve all you've said to me. And
you'll be ... much better ... without me.

BETTY. Better?

WALTER. Yes, better, better--any way you choose to put it! I'm a--but
never mind that!--Look here--you'd like me to stop?

BETTY. He wants to play bridge.

WALTER. Don't you think that I--

BETTY.[_Hearing_ HECTOR _coming._] Sh.

    [HECTOR _comes in--she is idly tossing the cards about._ HECTOR
    _has put on a smoking-jacket--he comes in, very jolly, fussing
    around, rubbing his hands, so glad to be home. He sits, to the
    right of_ BETTY.

HECTOR. Now for a game!

     [_He seizes a pack, and spreads out the cards._

BETTY. [_Leaning back._] Not sure that I want to play.

HECTOR. Don't be disagreeable, Betty! Why?

BETTY. [_Listlessly, as she rises and moves across the room._] No fun,
being three.

HECTOR. Good practice for you. Come on.

BETTY. [_Leaning against the other table, and turning and facing them._]
Besides, _he_ has something to tell you.

HECTOR. Walter?

BETTY. Yes.

HECTOR. [_Looking inquiringly at_ WALTER.] To tell _me?_ What is it?

BETTY. That he's engaged.

HECTOR. [_Shouting, as he leans across the table._] Never! Walter!
Engaged? You?

WALTER. [_Nervously._] Yes.

HECTOR. [_Noisily and affectionately._] You old scoundrel! You rascal and
villain! Engaged--and you don't come and tell _me_ first! Well
I--am--damned!

WALTER. [_Trying to take it gaily._] I knew you'd chaff me about it.

HECTOR. Chaff you! Silly old coon! why I'm glad! Of course we shall miss
you--but marriage--it's the only thing, my boy--the only thing! Who is
she? Do I know her?

WALTER. [_Mumbling, as he fingers the cards._] A friend of Betty's--I
fancy you've met her--

HECTOR. Who?

BETTY. Mary Gillingham. We're the first to know--he only proposed to-day.

HECTOR. Gillingham, Gillingham.... Oh yes, I've seen her, just seen her,
but I don't remember.... I say, not the daughter of the sealing-wax man?

WALTER. Yes.

HECTOR. Then there's lots of tin! Fine! Oh you artful old dodger! Is she
pretty?

WALTER. So-So.

BETTY. [_Still leaning against the table, and looking at them both._]
She's excessively pretty. She has yellow hair and blue eyes.

HECTOR. [_Chuckling._] And she has caught old Wallie. The cynical old
Wallie who sniffed at women! Though perhaps it's the money--

BETTY. No. He's in love with her.

HECTOR. That's good. I'm glad. And I congratulate you--heartily, my boy.
[_He seizes_ WALTER'S _hand, and wrings it._] We must drink to it! [_He
gets up, goes to the side-table, and pours some whiskey into a tumbler._]
Charge your glass, Walter! [WALTER _rises and goes to the side-table._]
Ladies and gentlemen. I give you the bride and bridegroom! [_He fills the
glass from the syphon and passes it to_ WALTER, _then proceeds to fill his
own._] Betty, you must join us.

BETTY. [_Quietly._] No.

HECTOR. You can't toast him in water, of course. Has she cleared away yet?
I'll get you some Hock.

     [_He puts his glass down and moves to the door at back._

BETTY. Don't be so silly. I won't drink at all.

HECTOR. [_Amazed._] Not to old Walter?

BETTY. [_Steadily._] No.

HECTOR. Why?

BETTY. [_Almost jeeringly._] Because--old Walter--has been my lover.

HECTOR. [_Stopping, and staring at her._] What?

BETTY. [_Calmly, looking full at him._] My lover ... these last two years.

HECTOR. [_Staring stupidly at her._] He has been--

BETTY. [_Impatiently, as she taps the floor with her foot._] Yes, yes. How
often must I tell you? My lover--don't you know what that means? Why do
you stare at me with those fat goggle-eyes of yours? He has been my
lover--and now he has fallen in love with this girl and means to marry
her. That's all.

HECTOR. [_Turning towards_ WALTER, _who hasn't stirred from the
side-table._] What? You?

     [WALTER _remains motionless and silent._

HECTOR. [_In muffled tones, scarcely able to speak._] You! It's true what
this woman says?

BETTY. [_Contemptuously._] This woman! Don't be so melodramatic! Have you
forgotten my name?

HECTOR. [_Turning fiercely to her, roaring madly._] Silence, Jezebel!
[_She shrinks back, in alarm, towards the fire._] Your name! Wait a bit,
I'll tell you! [_He takes a step towards her--she crouches in terror
against the wall._] You shall hear what your name is! Just now I'm dealing
with _him._ [_He swings round to_ WALTER.] You there, you skunk and thief!
You, you lying hound! I was your best friend. So you've taken my wife,
have you? And now mean to go off and marry this girl. That's it? Oh, it's
so simple! Here--come here--sit down. Sit down, I tell you. Here, in this
chair. Shall I have to drag you to it? I want to keep my hands off you.
Here. [WALTER _has moved slowly towards him._ HECTOR _has banged down a
chair behind the centre table,_ WALTER _sits in it_--HECTOR _speaks over
his shoulder to_ BETTY.] And you--fetch pen and ink and paper--

BETTY. [_In abject panic._] Hector--

HECTOR. [_Turning fiercely and scowling at her._] If you speak to me I'll
brain you too. Just you go in there and fetch the things. D'you hear? Go.
[_She moves into the other room._ HECTOR _swings round to_ WALTER.] As for
you, you're a scoundrel. A rogue, a thief, a liar, a traitor. Of the very
worst kind, the blackest. Not an ordinary case of a husband and wife--I
trusted you--you were my best friend. You spawn, you thing of the gutter,
you foul-hearted, damnable slug!

     [BETTY _comes back, dragging her feet, carrying paper and
     envelopes and a stylograph--she puts them on the table._

HECTOR. Not that stylograph--that's mine--his dirty hands shan't touch
it--I could never use it again. Fetch _your_ pen--yours--you belong to
him, don't you? Go in and fetch it. D'you hear?

     [BETTY _goes into the inner room again._

HECTOR. My wife. And you the man I've done more for than for any one else
in the world. The man I cared for, you low dog. Used my house--came here
because it was dull at the Club--and took my wife? I don't know why I
don't kill you. I've the right. But I won't. You shall pay for it, my fine
fellow--you are going to pay--now.

     [BETTY _brings a pen and an inkstand; she places them on the
     table;_ HECTOR _seizes them and pushes them in front of_ WALTER.
     BETTY _slinks to the other side of the room, and stands by the
     sofa._

HECTOR. [_To_ WALTER.] Now you write. You hear? You write what I dictate.
Word for word. What's the old brute's name?

WALTER. Whose?

HECTOR. Whose! Her father, the sealing-wax man, old Gillingham?

WALTER. [_Staring._] Gillingham?

HECTOR. Gillingham. Yes. What is it?

WALTER. You want me to write to him?

HECTOR. [_Nodding._] To him. Who else? A confession? I've had that. His
name?

WALTER. [_Dropping the pen and half rising._] I won't--

HECTOR. [_Springing upon him in a mad fury, and forcing him back into the
chair._] You won't, you dog! You dare say that--to me! By Heaven, you
will! You'll lick the dust off this floor, if I tell you! You'll go on
your hands and knees, and crawl! Sit down, you! Sit down and take up your
filthy pen. So. [_Thoroughly cowed,_ WALTER _has taken up the pen again._]
And now--his name. Don't make me ask you again, I tell you, don't. What is
it?

WALTER. Richard.

HECTOR. Very well, Richard. So write that down. To Richard Gillingham. I
have to-day proposed to your daughter, and she has accepted me. Got that?
She has accepted me. But I can't marry her--can't marry her--because I
have seduced the wife of my friend Hector Allen--

WALTER. [_Appealingly, dropping his pen._] Hector!

HECTOR. [_Frantically gripping_ WALTER _by the throat, till he takes up
his pen again._] The wife of my friend Hector Allen--write it--and
plainly, you hound, plainly--so--and because I am taking the woman away
with me to-night.

BETTY. [_With a loud cry._] Hector!

HECTOR. [_Over his shoulder, watching_ WALTER _write._] Silence, over
there, you! Hold your tongue! Go into your room and put on your
things--we've done with you here! Take what you want--I don't care--you
don't show your face here again. And you--[_he taps his clenched hand
against_ WALTER'S _arm_] write. What are you stopping for? How far have
you got? [_He peers over_ WALTER'S _shoulder._] Because--I--am--taking--
the--woman--away--with--me--to-night.

BETTY. [_Beside herself, wringing her hands._] Hector, Hector--

HECTOR. [_Savagely, as he makes a half-turn towards her._] You still
there? Wait a bit. I'll come to you, when I've finished with him. If you
haven't gone and put on your things, you shall go off without them. Into
the street. You'll find other women there like you. [_He turns back to_
WALTER.] Here, you, have you written? [_He looks over_ WALTER'S
_shoulder._] Go on--I'm getting impatient. Go on, I tell you.
I--am--taking--the--

     [WALTER _is slowly writing down the words,_ HECTOR _standing over
     him;_ BETTY _suddenly bursts into a peal of wild, uproarious
     laughter, and lets herself fall into a chair to the left of the
     card-table._

HECTOR. [_Madly._] You!

     [_He leaves_ WALTER, _and almost springs at her._

BETTY. [_Brimming with merriment._] Oh, you old donkey! _How_ we have
pulled your leg!

HECTOR. [_Staring at her, stopping dead short._] You--

BETTY. [_Through her laughter, choking._] Hector, Hector! Conventional
situations! The usual stodge! The lover and husband! You goose, you
wonderful old goose!

     [WALTER, _with a mighty effort, has pulled himself together, and
     roars with laughter too. He jumps up._ HECTOR _is standing there
     blinking, paralysed._

WALTER. [_Merrily, to_ BETTY.] Oh really, you shouldn't. You've given it
away too soon!

BETTY. Too soon! He'd have strangled us. Did you ever see such a tiger?

WALTER. [_Chuckling hugely._] He didn't give the lover much chance to
stand up to him, did he?

BETTY. And _wasn't_ he original! Dog, hound, villain, traitor!

WALTER. To say nothing of Jezebel! Though, between ourselves, I think he
meant Messalina!

BETTY. And I was to go into the street. But he did let me fill my bag!

WALTER. I think the playwrights come out on top, I do indeed. [_He goes
to_ HECTOR, _and stands to left of him._] Hector, old chap, here's the
letter!

BETTY. [_Going to the other side of_ HECTOR, _and dropping a low
curtsey._] And please, Mr. Husband, was it to be a big bag, or a small
bag, and might I have taken the silver teapot?

     [HECTOR _has been standing there stupid, dazed, dumbfounded, too
     bewildered for his mind to act or thoughts to come to him; he
     suddenly bursts into a roar of Titanic, overwhelming laughter. He
     laughs, and laughs, staggers to the sofa, falls on it, rocks and
     roars till the tears roll down his cheeks. He sways from side to
     side, unable to control himself--his laughter is so colossal that
     the infection catches the others; theirs becomes genuine too._

BETTY. [_With difficulty, trying to control herself._] The letter! Old
Gillingham! "His name, scoundrel, his name!"

WALTER. [_Gurgling._] With his hand at my throat! Sit there, villain, and
write!

BETTY. "I'll deal with _you_ presently! Wait till I've finished with
_him!_"

WALTER. "Into the street!" At least, they _do_ usually say "into the
night!"

HECTOR. [_Rubbing his eyes and panting for breath._] Oh, you pair of
blackguards! Too bad--no, really too bad! It was! I fell in, I did! Oh,
Lord, oh, Lord, what a nightmare! But it wasn't right, really it
wasn't--no really! My Lord, how I floundered--head and shoulders--
swallowed it all! Comes of reading that muck every day--never stopped to
think! I didn't! Walter, old chap! [_He holds out his hand._] Betty! My
poor Betty! [_He draws her towards him._] The things I said to you!

BETTY. [_Carelessly eluding the caress._] At least admit that you're
rather hard on the playwriting people!

HECTOR. [_Getting up and shaking himself._] Oh, they be blowed! Well, you
_have_ had a game with me! [_He shakes himself again._] Brrrrr! Oh, my
Lord! What I went through!

BETTY. It _was_ a lark! you should have seen yourself! Your eyes starting
out of your head! You looked like a murderer!

HECTOR. By Jove, and I felt it! For two pins I'd have--

BETTY. And Mary Gillingham! _That's_ the funniest part! That you could
have thought _he_ was engaged--to _her!_

     [_Involuntarily the smile dies away on_ WALTER'S _face; he turns
     and stares at her; she goes on calmly._

BETTY. When she happens to be the one girl in this world he can't stand!

WALTER. [_With a movement that he can't control._] Betty!

BETTY. [_Turning smilingly to him._] No harm in my telling Hector--he
scarcely knows her! [_She swings round to_ HECTOR _again._] Why, Walter
simply _loathes_ the poor girl! That's what made it so funny! [_At the
mere thought of it she bursts out laughing again, and goes on speaking
through her laughter._] And I tell you--if you ever hear he's engaged to
_her_--why, you can believe the rest of the story too!

HECTOR. [_Laughing heartily as he pats_ WALTER _on the shoulder._] Poor
old Walter! And, d'you know, I was quite pleased at the thought of his
getting married! I was! [_He turns to him._] But it's better, old chap,
for us--we'd have missed you--terribly! [_With another pat on_ WALTER'S
_shoulder, he goes to the fire, and drops in the letter._] Mustn't leave
_that_ lying about! [_He turns._] Well, by Jove, if any one had told
me.... And drinking to him, and all!

BETTY. If you'll fetch me that glass of Hock now, I _will_ drink to him,
Hector. To Walter, the Bachelor!

HECTOR. [_Beaming._] So we will! Good. I'll get it.

     [_He bustles into the dining-room._

BETTY. [_Moving swiftly to_ WALTER.] Well, now's your time. One thing or
the other.

WALTER. [_Savagely._] You fiend!

BETTY. I'll go and see her to-morrow--see her constantly--

WALTER. Why are you doing this?

BETTY. You've ruined my life and his. At least, _you_ shan't be happy.

WALTER. And you imagine I'll come back to _you_--that we'll go on, you and
I?

BETTY. [_Scornfully._] No--don't be afraid! You've shown yourself to me
to-day. That's all done with--finished. _His_ friend now--with the load
off you--but never _her_ husband. Never!

     [HECTOR _comes bustling back, with the bottle of Hock, and a
     wine-glass that he gives to_ BETTY--_she holds it, and he fills
     it from the bottle._

HECTOR. Here you are, my girl--and now, where's my whiskey? [_He trots
round to the side table, finds his glass, and_ WALTER'S--_hands one to_
WALTER.] Here, Wallie--yours must be the one that's begun--I didn't have
time to touch mine! Here. [WALTER _takes it._] And forgive me, old man,
for thinking, even one minute--[_He wrings him by the hand._] Here's to
you, old friend. And Betty, to you! Oh, Lord, I just want this drink!

BETTY. [_In cold, clear tones, as she holds up her glass._] To Walter, the
Bachelor!

     [_She drains her glass;_ WALTER _has his moment's hesitation; he
     drinks, and with tremendous effort succeeds in composing his
     face._

HECTOR. [_Gaily._] To Walter, the Bachelor! [_He drinks his glass to the
dregs and puts it down._] And now--for a game.

WALTER. I think I--

HECTOR. [_Coaxingly._] Sit down, laddie--just one rubber. It's quite
early. Do. There's a good chap. [_They all sit:_ HECTOR _at back,_ BETTY
_to the left of him,_ WALTER _to the right--he spreads out the cards--they
draw for partners._] As we are--you and Betty--I've got the dummy. [_He
shuffles the cards_--BETTY _cuts--he begins to deal._] That's how I like
it--one on each side of me. Also I like having dummy. Now, Betty, play
up. Oh, Lord, how good it is, how good! A nightmare, I tell you--terrible!
And really you must forgive me for being such an ass. But the way you
played up, both of you! My little Betty--a Duse, that's what she is--a
real Duse! [_He gathers up his cards._] And the gods are kind to me--I've
got a hand, I tell you! I call NO TRUMPS!

     [_He beams at them--they are placidly sorting their cards. He
     puts his hand down and proceeds to look at his dummy, as the
     curtain falls._


CURTAIN



A MARRIAGE HAS BEEN ARRANGED....



THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY


MR. HARRISON CROCKSTEAD
LADY ALINE DE VAUX


_Produced at the
Garrick Theatre
on March 27, 1904_



A MARRIAGE HAS BEEN ARRANGED....


SCENE _The conservatory of No. 300 Grosvenor Square. Hour, close on
midnight. A ball is in progress, and dreamy waltz music is heard in the
distance._

     LADY ALINE DE VAUX _enters, leaning on the arm of_ MR. HARRISON
     CROCKSTEAD.

     LADY ALINE _is a tall, exquisitely-gowned girl, of the
     conventional and much-admired type of beauty. Put her in any
     drawing-room in the world, and she would at once be recognised as
     a highborn Englishwoman. She has in her, in embryo, all those
     excellent qualities that go to make a great lady: the icy stare,
     the haughty movement of the shoulder, the disdainful arch of the
     lip; she has also, but only an experienced observer would notice
     it, something of wistfulness, something that speaks of a sore and
     wounded heart--though it is sufficiently evident that this organ
     is kept under admirable control. A girl who has been placed in a
     position of life where artificiality rules, who has been taught
     to be artificial and has thoroughly learned her lesson; yet one
     who would unhesitatingly know the proper thing to do did a camel
     bolt with her in the desert, or an eastern potentate invite her
     to become his two hundred and fifty-seventh wife. In a word, a
     lady of complete self-possession and magnificent control._ MR.
     CROCKSTEAD _is a big, burly man of forty or so, and of the kind
     to whom the ordinary West End butler would consider himself
     perfectly justified in declaring that her ladyship was not at
     home. And yet his evening clothes sit well on him; and there is a
     certain air of command about the man that would have made the
     butler uncomfortable. That functionary would have excused himself
     by declaring that_ MR. CROCKSTEAD _didn't look a gentleman. And
     perhaps he doesn't. His walk is rather a slouch; he has a way of
     keeping his hands in his pockets, and of jerking out his
     sentences; a way, above all, of seeming perfectly indifferent to
     the comfort of the people he happens to be addressing. The
     impression he gives is one of power, not of refinement; and the
     massive face, with its heavy lines, and eyes that are usually
     veiled, seems to give no clue whatever to the character of the
     man within._

     _The couple break apart when they enter the room;_ LADY ALINE _is
     the least bit nervous, though she shows no trace of it;_ MR.
     CROCKSTEAD _absolutely imperturbable and undisturbed._

CROCKSTEAD. [_Looking around._] Ah--this is the place--very quiet,
retired, romantic--et cetera. Music in the distance--all very appropriate
and sentimental.

[_She leaves him, and sits, quietly fanning herself; he stands, looking
at her._] You seem perfectly calm, Lady Aline?

ALINE. [_Sitting._] Conservatories are not unusual appendages to a
ball-room, Mr. Crockstead; nor is this conservatory unlike other
conservatories.

CROCKSTEAD [_Turning to her._] I wonder why women are always so evasive?

ALINE. With your permission we will not discuss the sex. You and I are too
old to be cynical, and too young to be appreciative. And besides, it is a
rule of mine, whenever I sit out a dance, that my partner shall avoid the
subjects of women--and golf.

CROCKSTEAD. You limit the area of conversation. But then, in this
particular instance, I take it, we have not come here to talk?

ALINE. [_Coldly._] I beg your pardon!

CROCKSTEAD. [_Sitting beside her._] Lady Aline, they are dancing a
cotillon in there, so we have half an hour before us. We shall not be
disturbed, for the Duchess, your aunt, has considerately stationed her
aged companion in the corridor, with instructions to ward off intruders.

ALINE. [_Very surprised._] Mr. Crockstead!

CROCKSTEAD. [_Looking hard at her._] Didn't you know? [ALINE _turns aside,
embarrassed._] That's right--of course you did. Don't you know why I have
brought you here? That's right; of course you do. The Duchess, your aunt,
and the Marchioness, your mother--observe how fondly my tongue trips out
the titles--smiled sweetly on us as we left the ball-room. There will be
a notice in the _Morning Post_ to-morrow: "A Marriage Has Been Arranged
Between--"

ALINE. [_Bewildered and offended._] Mr. Crockstead! This--this is--

CROCKSTEAD. [_Always in the same quiet tone._] Because I have not yet
proposed, you mean? Of course I intend to, Lady Aline. Only as I know that
you will accept me--

ALINE. [_In icy tones, as she rises._] Let us go back to the ball-room.

CROCKSTEAD. [_Quite undisturbed._] Oh, please! That won't help us, you
know. Do sit down. I assure you I have never proposed before, so that
naturally I am a trifle nervous. Of course I know that we are only supers
really, without much of a speaking part; but the spirit moves me to gag,
in the absence of the stage-manager, who is, let us say, the Duchess--

ALINE. I have heard of the New Humour, Mr. Crockstead, though I confess I
have never understood it. This may be an exquisite example--

CROCKSTEAD. By no means. I am merely trying to do the right thing, though
perhaps not the conventional one. Before making you the formal offer of my
hand and fortune, which amounts to a little over three millions--

ALINE. [_Fanning herself._] How people exaggerate! Between six and seven,
_I_ heard.

CROCKSTEAD. Only three at present, but we must be patient. Before throwing
myself at your feet, metaphorically, I am anxious that you should know
something of the man whom you are about to marry.

ALINE. That is really most considerate!

CROCKSTEAD. I have the advantage of you, you see, inasmuch as you have
many dear friends, who have told me all about you.

ALINE. [_With growing exasperation, but keeping very cool._] Indeed?

CROCKSTEAD. I am aware, for instance, that this is your ninth season--

ALINE. [_Snapping her fan._] You are remarkably well-informed.

CROCKSTEAD. I have been told that again to-night, three times, by charming
young women who vowed that they loved you. Now, as I have no dearest
friends, it is unlikely that you will have heard anything equally definite
concerning myself. I propose to enlighten you.

ALINE. [_Satirically._] The story of your life--how thrilling!

CROCKSTEAD. I trust you may find it so. [_He sits, and pauses for a
moment, then begins, very quietly._] Lady Aline, I am a self-made man, as
the foolish phrase has it--a man whose early years were spent in savage
and desolate places, where the devil had much to say; a man in whom
whatever there once had been of natural kindness was very soon kicked out.
I was poor, and lonely, for thirty-two years: I have been rich, and
lonely, for ten. My millions have been made honestly enough; but poverty
and wretchedness had left their mark on me, and you will find very few
men with a good word to say for Harrison Crockstead. I have no polish, or
culture, or tastes. Art wearies me, literature sends me to sleep--

ALINE. When you come to the chapter of your personal deficiencies, Mr.
Crockstead, please remember that they are sufficiently evident for me to
have already observed them.

CROCKSTEAD. [_Without a trace of annoyance._] That is true. I will pass,
then, to more intimate matters. In a little township in Australia--a
horrible place where there was gold--I met a woman whom I loved. She was
what is technically known as a bad woman. She ran away with another man. I
tracked them to Texas, and in a mining camp there I shot the man. I wanted
to take the woman back, but she refused. That has been my solitary love
affair; and I shall never love any woman again as I loved her. I think
that is all that I have to tell you. And now--will you marry me, Lady
Aline?

ALINE. [_Very steadily, facing him._] Not if you were the last man in this
world, Mr. Crockstead.

CROCKSTEAD. [_With a pleasant smile._] At least that is emphatic.

ALINE. See, I will give you confidence for confidence. This is, as you
suggest, my ninth season. Living in an absurd milieu where marriage with a
wealthy man is regarded as the one aim in life, I have, during the past
few weeks, done all that lay in my power to wring a proposal from you.

CROCKSTEAD. I appreciate your sincerity.

ALINE. Perhaps the knowledge that other women were doing the same lent a
little zest to the pursuit, which otherwise would have been very dreary;
for I confess that your personality did not--especially appeal to me.

CROCKSTEAD. [_Cheerfully._] Thank you very much.

ALINE. Not at all. Indeed, this room being the Palace of Truth, I will
admit that it was only by thinking hard of your three millions that I have
been able to conceal the weariness I have felt in your society. And now
will you marry me, Mr. Crockstead?

CROCKSTEAD. [_Serenely._] I fancy that's what we're here for, isn't it?

ALINE. [_Stamping her foot._] I have, of course, been debarred from the
disreputable amours on which you linger so fondly; but I loved a soldier
cousin of mine, and would have run away with him had my mother not packed
me off in time. He went to India, and I stayed here; but he is the only
man I have loved or ever shall love. Further, let me tell you I am
twenty-eight; I have always been poor--I hate poverty, and it has soured
me no less than you. Dress is the thing in life I care for most, vulgarity
my chief abomination. And to be frank, I consider you the most vulgar
person I have ever met. Will you still marry me, Mr. Crockstead?

CROCKSTEAD. [_With undiminished cheerfulness._] Why not?

ALINE. This is an outrage. Am I a horse, do you think, or a
ballet-dancer? Do you imagine I will sell myself to you for your three
millions?

CROCKSTEAD. Logic, my dear Lady Aline, is evidently not one of your more
special possessions. For, had it not been for my--somewhat eccentric
preliminaries--you _would_ have accepted me, would you not?

ALINE. [_Embarrassed._] I--I--

CROCKSTEAD. If I had said to you, timidly: "Lady Aline, I love you: I am a
simple, unsophisticated person; will you marry me?" You would have
answered, "Yes, Harrison, I will."

ALINE. It is a mercy to have escaped marrying a man with such a Christian
name as Harrison.

CROCKSTEAD. It has been in the family for generations, you know; but it is
a strange thing that I am always called Harrison, and that no one ever
adopts the diminutive.

ALINE. That does not surprise me: we have no pet name for the East wind.

CROCKSTEAD. The possession of millions, you see, Lady Aline, puts you into
eternal quarantine. It is a kind of yellow fever, with the difference that
people are perpetually anxious to catch your complaint. But we digress. To
return to the question of our marriage--

ALINE. I beg your pardon.

CROCKSTEAD. I presume that it is--arranged?

ALINE. [_Haughtily._] Mr. Crockstead, let me remind you that frankness has
its limits: exceeding these, it is apt to degenerate into impertinence.
Be good enough to conduct me to the ball-room.

     [_She moves to the door._

CROCKSTEAD. You have five sisters, I believe, Lady Aline? [ALINE _stops
short._] All younger than yourself, all marriageable, and all unmarried?

     [ALINE _hangs her head and is silent._

CROCKSTEAD. Your father--

ALINE. [_Fiercely._] Not a word of my father!

CROCKSTEAD. Your father is a gentleman. The breed is rare, and very fine
when you get it. But he is exceedingly poor. People marry for money
nowadays; and your mother will be very unhappy if this marriage of ours
falls through.

ALINE. [_Moving a step towards him._] Is it to oblige my mother, then,
that you desire to marry me?

CROCKSTEAD. Well, no. But you see I must marry some one, in mere
self-defence; and honestly, I think you will do at least as well as any
one else. [ALINE _bursts out laughing._] That strikes you as funny?

ALINE. If you had the least grain of chivalrous feeling, you would realise
that the man who could speak to a woman as you have spoken to me--

     [_She pauses._

CROCKSTEAD. Yes?

ALINE. I leave you to finish the sentence.

CROCKSTEAD. Thank you. I will finish it my own way. I will say that when a
woman deliberately tries to wring an offer of marriage from a man whom
she does not love, she deserves to be spoken to as I have spoken to you,
Lady Aline.

ALINE. [_Scornfully._] Love! What has love to do with marriage?

CROCKSTEAD. That remark rings hollow. You have been good enough to tell me
of your cousin, whom you did love--

ALINE. Well?

CROCKSTEAD. And with whom you would have eloped, had your mother not
prevented you.

ALINE. I most certainly should.

CROCKSTEAD. So you see that at one period of your life you thought
differently.--You were very fond of him?

ALINE. I have told you.

CROCKSTEAD. [_Meditatively._] If I had been he, mother or no mother, money
or no money, I would have carried you off. I fancy it must be pleasant to
be loved by you, Lady Aline.

ALINE. [_Dropping a mock curtsey, as she sits on the sofa._] You do me too
much honour.

CROCKSTEAD. [_Still thoughtful, moving about the room._] Next to being
king, it is good to be maker of kings. Where is this cousin now?

ALINE. In America. But might I suggest that we have exhausted the subject?

CROCKSTEAD. Do you remember your "Arabian Nights," Lady Aline?

ALINE. Vaguely.

CROCKSTEAD. You have at least not forgotten that sublime Caliph, Haroun
Al-Raschid?

ALINE. Oh, no--but why?

CROCKSTEAD. We millionaires are the Caliphs to-day; and we command more
faithful than ever bowed to them. And, like that old scoundrel Haroun, we
may at times permit ourselves a respectable impulse. What is your cousin's
address?

ALINE. Again I ask--why?

CROCKSTEAD. I will put him in a position to marry you.

ALINE. [_In extreme surprise._] What! [_She rises._

CROCKSTEAD. Oh, don't be alarmed, I'll manage it pleasantly. I'll give him
tips, shares, speculate for him, make him a director of one or two of my
companies. He shall have an income of four thousand a year. You can live
on that.

ALINE. You are not serious?

CROCKSTEAD. Oh yes; and though men may not like me, they always trust my
word. You may.

ALINE. And why will you do this thing?

CROCKSTEAD. Call it caprice--call it a mere vulgar desire to let my
magnificence dazzle you--call it the less vulgar desire to know that my
money has made you happy with the man you love.

ALINE. That is generous.

CROCKSTEAD. I remember an old poem I learnt at school--which told how
Frederick the Great coveted a mill that adjoined a favourite estate of
his; but the miller refused to sell. Frederick could have turned him out,
of course--there was not very much public opinion in those days--but he
respected the miller's firmness, and left him in solid possession. And
mark that, at that very same time, he annexed--in other words stole--the
province of Silesia.

ALINE. Ah--

CROCKSTEAD. [_Moving to the fireplace._]

    "Ce sont là jeux de Princes:
    Ils respectent un meunier,
    Ils volent une province."

     [_The music stops._

ALINE. You speak French?

CROCKSTEAD. I am fond of it. It is the true and native language of
insincerity.

ALINE. And yet you seem sincere.

CROCKSTEAD. I am permitting myself that luxury to-night. I am uncorking,
let us say, the one bottle of '47 port left in my cellar.

ALINE. You are not quite fair to yourself, perhaps.

CROCKSTEAD. Do not let this action of mine cause you too suddenly to alter
your opinion. The verdict you pronounced before was, on the whole, just.

ALINE. What verdict?

CROCKSTEAD. I was the most unpleasant person you ever had met.

ALINE. That was an exaggeration.

CROCKSTEAD. The most repulsive--

ALINE. [_Quickly._] I did not say that.

CROCKSTEAD. And who prided himself on his repulsiveness. Very true, in the
main, and yet consider! My wealth dates back ten years; till then I had
known hunger, and every kind of sorrow and despair. I had stretched out
longing arms to the world, but not a heart opened to me. And suddenly,
when the taste of men's cruelty was bitter in my mouth, capricious fortune
snatched me from abject poverty and gave me delirious wealth. I was
ploughing a barren field, and flung up a nugget. From that moment gold
dogged my footsteps. I enriched the few friends I had--they turned
howlingly from me because I did not give them more. I showered money on
whoever sought it of me--they cursed me because it was mine to give. In my
poverty there had been the bond of common sorrow between me and my
fellows: in my wealth I stand alone, a modern Ishmael, with every man's
hand against me.

ALINE. [_Gently._] Why do you tell me this?

CROCKSTEAD. Because I am no longer asking you to marry me. Because you are
the first person in all these years who has been truthful and frank with
me. And because, perhaps, in the happiness that will, I trust, be yours, I
want you to think kindly of me. [_She puts out her hand, he takes it._]
And now, shall we return to the ball-room? The music has stopped; they
must be going to supper.

ALINE. What shall I say to the Marchioness, my mother, and the Duchess, my
aunt?

CROCKSTEAD. You will acquaint those noble ladies with the fact of your
having refused me.

     [_They have both risen, and move up the room together._

ALINE. I shall be a nine days' wonder. And how do you propose to carry
out your little scheme?

CROCKSTEAD. I will take Saturday's boat--you will give me a line to your
cousin. I had better state the case plainly to him, perhaps?

ALINE. That demands consideration.

CROCKSTEAD. And I will tell you what you shall do for me in return. Find
me a wife!

ALINE. I?

CROCKSTEAD. You. I beg it on my knees. I give you carte blanche. I
undertake to propose, with my eyes shut, to the woman you shall select.

ALINE. And will you treat her to the--little preliminaries--with which you
have favoured me?

CROCKSTEAD. No. I said those things to you because I liked you.

ALINE. And you don't intend to like the other one?

CROCKSTEAD. I will marry her, I can trust you to find me a loyal and
intelligent woman.

ALINE. In Society?

CROCKSTEAD. For preference. She will be better versed in spending money
than a governess, or country parson's daughter.

ALINE. But why this voracity for marriage?

CROCKSTEAD. Lady Aline, I am hunted, pestered, worried, persecuted. I have
settled two breach of promise actions already, though Heaven knows I did
no more than remark it was a fine day, or enquire after the lady's health.
If you do not help me, some energetic woman will capture me--I feel
it--and bully me for the rest of my days. I raise a despairing cry to
you--Find me a wife!

ALINE. Do you desire the lady to have any--special qualifications?

CROCKSTEAD. No--the home-grown article will do. One thing, though--I
should like her to be--merciful.

ALINE. I don't understand.

CROCKSTEAD. I have a vague desire to do something with my money: my wife
might help me. I should like her to have pity.

ALINE. Pity?

CROCKSTEAD. In the midst of her wealth I should wish her to be sorry for
those who are poor.

ALINE. Yes. And, as regards the rest--

CROCKSTEAD. The rest I leave to you, with absolute confidence. You will
help me?

ALINE. I will try. My choice is to be final?

CROCKSTEAD. Absolutely.

ALINE. I have an intimate friend--I wonder whether she would do?

CROCKSTEAD. Tell me about her.

ALINE. She and I made our debut the same season. Like myself she has
hitherto been her mother's despair.

CROCKSTEAD. Because she has not yet--

ALINE. Married--yes. Oh, if men knew how hard the lot is of the
portionless girl, who has to sit, and smile, and wait, with a very
desolate heart--they would think less unkindly of her, perhaps--[_She
smiles._] But I am digressing, too.

CROCKSTEAD. Tell me more of your friend.

ALINE. She is outwardly hard, and a trifle bitter, but I fancy sunshine
would thaw her. There has not been much happiness in her life.

CROCKSTEAD. Would she marry a man she did not love?

ALINE. If she did you would not respect her?

CROCKSTEAD. I don't say that. She will be your choice; and therefore
deserving of confidence. Is she handsome?

ALINE. Well--no.

CROCKSTEAD. [_With a quick glance at her._] That's a pity. But we can't
have everything.

ALINE. No. There is one episode in her life that I feel she would like you
to know--

CROCKSTEAD. If you are not betraying a confidence--

ALINE. [_Looking down._] No. She loved a man, years ago, very dearly. They
were too poor to marry, but they vowed to wait. Within six months she
learned that he was engaged.

CROCKSTEAD. Ah!

ALINE. To a fat and wealthy widow--

CROCKSTEAD. The old story.

ALINE. Who was touring through India, and had been made love to by every
unmarried officer in the regiment. She chose him.

CROCKSTEAD. India? [_He moves towards her._]

ALINE. Yes.

CROCKSTEAD. I have an idea that I shall like your friend. [_He takes her
hand in his._]

ALINE. I shall be careful to tell her all that you said to me--at the
beginning--

CROCKSTEAD. It is quite possible that my remarks may not apply after all.

ALINE. But I believe myself from what I know of you both that--if she
marries you--it will not be--altogether--for your money.

CROCKSTEAD. Listen--they're playing "God Save the King." Will you be my
wife, Aline?

ALINE. Yes--Harry.

     [_He takes her in his arms and kisses her._


CURTAIN



THE MAN ON THE KERB

A DUOLOGUE



THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY

JOSEPH MATTHEWS
MARY (HIS WIFE)

TIME--_The present_

SCENE--_Their home in the West End_

_Produced at the
Aldwych Theatre
on March 24, 1908_



THE MAN ON THE KERB


SCENE: _An underground room, bare of any furniture except two or
     three broken chairs, a tattered mattress on the stone floor and
     an old trunk. On a packing-chest are a few pots and pans and a
     kettle. A few sacks are spread over the floor, close to the empty
     grate; the walls are discoloured, with plentiful signs of damp
     oozing through. Close to the door, at back, is a window, looking
     on to the area; two of the panes are broken and stuffed with
     paper._

     _On the mattress a child is sleeping, covered with a tattered old
     mantle;_ MARY _is bending over her, crooning a song. The woman is
     still quite young, and must have been very pretty; but her cheeks
     are hollow and there are great circles round her eyes; her face
     is very pale and bloodless. Her dress is painfully worn and
     shabby, but displays pathetic attempts at neatness. The only
     light in the room comes from the street lamp on the pavement
     above._

     JOE _comes down the area steps, and enters. His clothes are of
     the familiar colourless, shapeless kind one sees at street
     corners; he would be a pleasant-looking young fellow enough were
     it not that his face is abnormally lined, and pinched, and
     weather-beaten. He shambles in, with the intense weariness of a
     man who has for hours been forcing benumbed limbs to move; he
     shakes himself, on the threshold, dog-fashion, to get rid of the
     rain._ MARY _first makes sure that the child is asleep, then
     rises eagerly and goes to him. Her face falls as she notes his
     air of dejection._

MARY. [_Wistfully._] Nothing, Joe?

JOE. Nothing. Not a farthing. Nothing.

     [MARY _turns away and checks a moan._

JOE. Nothing at all. Same as yesterday--worse than yesterday--I _did_
bring home a few coppers--And you?

MARY. A lady gave Minnie some food--

JOE. [_Heartily._] Bless her for that!

MARY. Took her into the pastrycook's, Joe--

JOE. And the kiddie had a tuck-out? Thank God! And you?

MARY. Minnie managed to hide a great big bun for me.

JOE. The lady didn't give you anything?

MARY. Only a lecture, Joe, for bringing the child out on so bitter a day.

JOE. [_With a sour laugh, as he sits on a chair._] Ho, ho! Always so ready
with their lectures, aren't they? "Shouldn't beg, my man! Never give to
beggars in the street!"--Look at me, I said to one of them. Feel my arm.
Tap my chest. I tell you I'm starving, and they're starving at
home.--"Never give to beggars in the street."

MARY. [_Laying a hand on his arm._] Oh, Joe, you're wet!

JOE. It's been raining hard the last three hours--pouring. My stars, it's
cold. Couldn't we raise a bit of fire, Mary?

MARY. With what, Joe?

JOE. [_After a look round, suddenly getting up, seizing a ricketty chair
by the wall, breaking off the legs._] With this! Wonderful fine furniture
they give you on the Hire System--so solid and substantial--as advertised.
[_He breaks the flimsy thing up, as he speaks._] And to think we paid for
this muck, in the days we were human beings--paid about three times its
value! And to think of the poor devils, poor devils like us, who sweated
their life-blood out to make it--and of the blood-sucking devils who sold
it and got fat on it--and now back it goes to the devil it came from, and
we can at least get warm for a minute. [_He crams the wood into the
grate._] Got any paper, Mary?

MARY. [_Taking an old newspaper from the trunk._] Here, Joe.

JOE. That will help to build up a fire. [_He glances at it, then lays it
carefully underneath the wood._ MARY _gets lamp from table._] The Daily
Something or other--that tells the world what a happy people we are--how
proud of belonging to an Empire on which the sun never sets. And I'd sell
Gibraltar to-night for a sausage with mashed potatoes; and let Russia
take India if some one would give me a clerkship at a pound a
week.--There, in you go! A match, Mary?

MARY. [_Standing above_ JOE, _handing him one._] Ok Joe, be careful--we've
only two left!

JOE. I'll be careful. Wait, though--I'll see whether there's a bit of
tobacco still in my pipe. [_He fishes the pipe out of his pocket._] A
policeman who warned me away from the kerb gave me some tobacco. "Mustn't
beg," he said. "Got a pipe? Well, here's some tobacco." I believe he'd
have given me money. But it was the first kind word I had heard all day,
and it choked me.--There's just a bit left at the bottom. [_He bustles._]
Now, first the fire. [_He puts the match to the paper--it kindles._] And
then my pipe. [_The fire burns up; he throws himself in front of it._]
Boo-o-oh, I'm sizzling.... I got so wet that I felt the water running into
my lungs--my feet didn't seem to belong to me--and as for my head and
nose! [_Yawns._] Well, smoke's good--by the powers, I'm getting warm--come
closer to it, Mary. It's a little after midnight now--and I left home,
this fine, luxurious British home, just as soon as it was light. And I've
tramped the streets all day. Net result, a policeman gave me a pipeful of
tobacco, I lunched off a bit of bread that I saw floating down the
gutter--and I dined off the kitchen smell of the Café Royal. That's my
day.

MARY. [_Stroking his hand._] Poor boy, poor boy!

JOE. I stood for an hour in Leicester Square when the theatres emptied,
thinking I might earn a copper, calling a cab, or something. There they
were, all streaming out, happy and clean and warm--broughams and
motor-cars--supper at the Savoy and the Carlton--and a hundred or two of
us others in the gutter, hungry--looking at them. They went off to their
supper--it was pouring, and I got soaked--and there I stood, dodging the
policemen, dodging the horses' heads and the motors--and it was
always--get away, you loafer, get away--get away--get away--

MARY. We've done nothing to deserve it, Joe--

JOE. [_With sudden fury._] Deserve it! What have I ever done wrong! Wasn't
_my_ fault the firm went bankrupt and I couldn't get another job. I've a
first-rate character--I'm respectable--what's the use? I want to
work--they won't let me!

MARY. That illness of mine ate up all our savings. O Joe, I wish I had
died!

JOE. And left me alone? That's not kind of you, Mary. How about Mrs.
Willis? Is she worrying about the rent?

MARY. Well, she'd like to have it, of course--they're so dreadfully poor
themselves--but she says she won't turn us out. And I'm going to-morrow to
her daughter's upstairs--she makes matchboxes, you know--and I don't see
why I shouldn't try--I could earn nearly a shilling a day.

JOE. A shilling a day! Princely! [_His pipe goes out. He takes a last
puff at it, squints into it to make sure all the tobacco is gone, then
lays it down with a sigh._] I reckon _I'll_ try making 'em too. I went to
the Vestry again, this morning, to see whether they'd take me as
sweeper--but they've thirty names down, ahead of me. I've tried chopping
wood, but I can't--I begin to cough the third stroke--there's something
wrong with me inside, somewhere. I've tried every Institution on God's
earth--and there are others before me, and there is no vacancy, and I
mustn't beg, and I mustn't worry the gentlemen. A shilling a day--can one
earn as much as that! Why, Mary, that will be fourteen shillings a
week--an income! We'll do it!

MARY. It's not quite a shilling, Joe--you have to find your own paste and
odds and ends. And of course it takes a few weeks to learn, before you
begin to make any money.

JOE. [_Crestfallen._] Does it though? And what are we going to do, those
few weeks? I thought there was a catch in it, somewhere. [_He gets up and
stretches himself._] Well, here's a free-born Englishman, able to conduct
correspondence in three languages, bookkeeping by double entry, twelve
years' experience--and all he's allowed to do is to starve. [_He stretches
himself again._]

    But in spite of all temptations
    To belong to other nations--

[_With sudden passion._] God! I wish I were a Zulu!

MARY. [_Edging to him._] Joe--

JOE. [_Turning._] Well?

MARY. Joe, Joe, we've tried very hard, haven't we?

JOE. Tried! Is there a job in this world we'd refuse? Is there anything
we'd turn up our nose at? Is there any chance we've neglected?

MARY. [_Stealing nervously to him and laying a hand on his arm._] Joe--

JOE. [_Raising his head and looking at her._] Yes--what is it? [_She
stands timidly with downcast eyes._] Well? Out with it, Mary!

MARY. [_Suddenly._] It's this, Joe.

     [_She goes feverishly to the mattress, and from underneath it she
     pulls out a big, fat purse which she hands him._

JOE. [_Staring._] A purse!

MARY. [_Nodding._] Yes.

JOE. You--

MARY. Found it.

JOE. [_Looking at her._] Found?

MARY. [_Awkwardly._] In a way I did--yes.

JOE. How?

MARY. It came on to rain, Joe--and I went into a Tube Station--and was
standing by a bookstall, showing Minnie the illustrated papers--and an old
lady bought one--and she took out her purse--this purse--and paid for
it--and laid the purse on the board while she fumbled to pick up her
skirts--and then some one spoke to her--a friend, I suppose--and--there
were lots of people standing about--I don't know how it was--I was out in
the street, with Minnie--

JOE. You had the purse?

MARY. Yes--

JOE. No one followed you?

MARY. No one. I couldn't run, as I had to carry Minnie.

JOE. What made you do it?

MARY. I don't know--something in me did it--She put the purse down just by
the side of my hand--my fingers clutched it before I knew--and I was out
in the street.

JOE. How much is there in it?

MARY. I haven't looked, Joe.

JOE. [_Wondering._] You haven't looked?

MARY. No; I didn't dare.

JOE. [_Sorrowfully._] I didn't think we'd come to this, Mary.

MARY. [_Desperately._] We've got to do something. Before we can earn any
money at making matchboxes we'll have to spend some weeks learning. And
you've not had a decent meal for a month--nor have I. If there's money
inside this purse you can get some clothes--and for me too--I need them!
It's not as though the old lady would miss it--she's rich enough--her
cloak was real sable--and no one can find us out--they can't tell one
piece of money from the other. It's heavy, Joe--I think there's a lot
inside.

JOE. [_Weighing it mechanically._] Yes--it's heavy--

MARY. [_Eagerly._] Open it, Joe.

JOE. [_Turning to her again._] Why didn't you?

MARY. I just thought I'd wait--I'd an idea something might have happened;
that some one might have stopped you in the street, some one with a
heart--and that he'd have come in with you to-night--and seen us--seen
Minnie--and said--"Well, here's money--I'll put you on your legs
again"--And then we'd have given the purse back, Joe.

JOE. [_As he still mechanically balances it in his hand._] Yes.

MARY. Can't go on like this, can we? You'll cough all night again, as you
did yesterday--and the stuff they gave you at the Dispensary's no good. If
you had clothes, you might get some sort of a job perhaps--you know you
had to give up trying because you were so shabby.

JOE. They laugh at me.

MARY. [_With a glance at herself._] And I'm really ashamed to walk through
the streets--

JOE. I know--though I'm getting used to it. Besides, there's the kiddie.
Let's have a look at her.

MARY. Be careful you don't wake her, Joe!

JOE. There's a fire.

MARY. She'll be hungry.

JOE. You said that she had some food?

MARY. That was at three o'clock. And little things aren't like us--they
want their regular meals. Night after night she has been hungry, and I've
had nothing to give her. That's why I took the purse.

JOE. [_Still holding it mechanically and staring at it._] Yes. And, after
all, why not?

MARY. We can get the poor little thing some warm clothes, some good food--

JOE. [_Under his breath._] A thief's daughter.

     [_Covers his face with his hands._

MARY. Joe!

JOE. Not nice, is it? Can't be helped, of course. And who cares? For three
months this game has gone on--we getting shabbier, wretcheder,
hungrier--no one bothers--all _they_ say is "keep off the pavement." Let's
see what's in the purse.

MARY. [_Eagerly._] Yes, yes!

JOE. [_Lifting his head as he is on the point of opening the purse._]
That's the policeman passing.

MARY. [_Impatiently._] Never mind that--

JOE. [_Turning to the purse again._] First time in my life I've been afraid
when I heard the policeman.

     [_He has his finger on the catch of the purse when he pauses for
     a moment--then acting on a sudden impulse, makes a dart for the
     door, opens it, and is out, and up the area steps._

MARY. [_With a despairing cry._] Joe!

     [_She flings herself on the mattress, and sobs silently, so as
     not to awaken, the child._ JOE _returns, hanging his head,
     dragging one foot before the other._

MARY. [_Still sobbing, but trying to control herself._] Why did you do
that?

JOE. [_Humbly._] I don't know--

MARY. You gave it to the policeman?

JOE. Yes.

MARY. What did you tell him?

JOE. That you had found it.

MARY. Where?

JOE. In a Tube Station. Picked it up because we were starving. That we
hadn't opened it. And that we lived here, in this cellar.

MARY. [_With a little shake._] I expect he'll keep it himself!

JOE. [_Miserably._] Perhaps.

     [_There is silence for a moment; she has ceased to cry; suddenly
     she raises herself violently on her elbow._

MARY. You fool! You fool!

JOE. [_Pleading._] Mary!

MARY. With your stupid ideas of honesty! What have they done for you, or
me?

JOE. [_Dropping his head again._] It's the kiddie, you know--her being a
thief's daughter--

MARY. Is that worse than being the daughter of a pair of miserable
beggars?

JOE. [_Under his breath._] I suppose it is, somehow--

MARY. You'd rather she went hungry?

JOE. [_Despairingly._] I don't know how it was--hearing his tramp up
there--

MARY. You were afraid?

JOE. I don't want you taken to prison.

MARY. [_With a wail._] I'll be taken to the graveyard soon, in a pauper's
coffin!

JOE. [_Starts suddenly._] Suppose we did that?

MARY. [_Staring._] The workhouse?

JOE. Why not, after all? That's what it will come to, sooner or later.

MARY. They'd separate us.

JOE. At least you and the kiddie'd have food.

MARY. They'd separate us. And I love you, Joe. My poor, poor Joe! I love
you.

     [_She nestles up to him and takes his hand._

JOE. [_Holding her hand in his, and bending over her._] You forgive me for
returning the purse?

MARY. [_Dropping her head on his shoulder._] Forgive you! You were right.
It was the cold and the hunger maddened me. You were right!

JOE. [_Springing to his feet, with sudden passion._ MARY _staggers back._]
I _wasn't_ right--I was a coward, a criminal--a vile and wicked fool.

MARY. [_Startled._] Joe!

JOE. I had money there--money in my hand--money that you need so badly,
you, the woman I love with all my ragged soul--money that would have put
food into the body of my little girl--money that was mine, that belonged
to me--and I've given it back, because of my rotten honesty! What right
have I to be honest? They've made a dog of me--what business had I to
remember I was a man?

MARY. [_Following him and laying a hand on his arm._] Hush, Joe--you'll
wake Minnie.

JOE. [_Turning and staring haggardly at her._] I could have got clothes--a
job, perhaps--we might have left this cellar. We could have gone out
to-morrow and bought things--gone into shops--we might have had food,
coal--

MARY. Don't, Joe--what's the use? And who knows--it may prove a blessing
to us. You told the policeman where we lived?

JOE. A blessing! I'll get up to-morrow, after having coughed out my lungs
all night--and I'll go into the streets and walk there from left to right
and from right to left, standing at this corner and at that, peering into
men's faces, watching people go to their shops and their offices, people
who are warm and comfortable--and so it will go on, till the end comes.

MARY. [_Standing very close to him, almost in a whisper._] Why not now,
Joe?

JOE. [_With a startled glance at her._] The end?

MARY. There's no room for us in this world--

JOE. If I'd taken that money--

MARY. It's too late for that now. And I'm glad you didn't--yes, I am--I'm
glad. We'll go before God clean-handed. And we'll say to Him we didn't
steal, or do anything He didn't want us too. And we'll tell Him we've died
because people wouldn't allow us to live.

JOE. [_With a shudder._] No. Not that--we'll wait, Mary. Don't speak of
that.

MARY. [_Wistfully._] You've thought of it too?

JOE. Thought of it! Don't, Mary, don't! It's bad enough, in the night,
when I lie there and think of to-morrow! Something will happen--it must.

MARY. What? We haven't a friend in the world.

JOE. I may meet some one I used to know.

MARY. You've met them before--they always refuse--

JOE. [_Passionately._] I've done nothing wrong--I haven't drunk or
gambled--I can't help being only a clerk, and unable to do heavy work! I
can't help my lungs being weak! I've a wife and a child, like other
people--and all we ask is to be allowed to live!

MARY. [_Pleading._] Let's give it up, Joe. Go away together, you'd sleep
without coughing. Sleep, that's all. And God will be kinder than men.

JOE. [_Groaning._] Don't, Mary--don't!

MARY. Joe, I can't stand it any longer--I can't. Not only myself--but
Minnie--Joe, it's too much for me! I can't stand Minnie crying, and asking
me for her breakfast, as she will in the morning. Joe, dear Joe, let there
be no morning!

JOE. [_Completely overcome._] Oh, Mary, Mary!

MARY. It's not _your_ fault, dear--you've done what you could. Not _your_
fault they won't let you work--you've tried hard enough. And no woman ever
had a better husband than you've been to me. I love you, dear Joe. And
let's do it--let's make an end. And take Minnie with us.

JOE. [_Springing up._] Mary, I'll steal something to-morrow.

MARY. And they'd send you to prison. Besides, then God would be angry. Now
we can go to Him and need not be ashamed. Let us, dear Joe--oh, do let us!
I'm so tired!

JOE. No.

MARY. [_Sorrowfully._] You won't?

JOE. [_Doggedly._] No. We'll go to the workhouse.

MARY. You've seen them in there, haven't you?

JOE. Yes.

MARY. You've seen them standing at the window, staring at the world? And
they'd take you away from me.

JOE. That's better than--

MARY. [_Firmly._] I won't do it, Joe. I've been a good wife to you--I've
been a good mother: and I love you, though I'm ragged and have pawned all
my clothes; and I'll strangle myself rather than go to the workhouse and
be shut away from you.

JOE. [_With a loud cry._] No! I'll _make_ them give me something; and if I
_have_ to kill, it shan't be my wife and child! To-morrow I'll come home
with food and money--to-morrow--

     [_There is a sudden wail from the child;_ JOE _stops and stares
     at her;_ MARY _goes quickly to the mattress and soothes the
     little girl._

MARY. Hush, dear, hush--no it's not morning yet, not time for breakfast.
Go to sleep again, dear. Yes, daddy's come back, and things are going to
be all right now--No, dear, you can't be hungry, really--remember those
beautiful cakes. Go to sleep, Minnie, dear. You're cold? [_She takes off
her ragged shawl and wraps it round the child._] There, dear, you won't be
cold now. Go to sleep, Minnie--

     [_The child's wail dies away, as_ MARY _soothes her back to
     sleep._

JOE. [_Staggering forward with a sudden cry._] God, O God, give us bread!


THE CURTAIN SLOWLY FALLS



THE OPEN DOOR



THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY

SIR GEOFFREY TRANSOM
LADY TORMINSTER



THE OPEN DOOR


SCENE: _The drawing-room of_ LORD TORMINSTER'S _cottage by the
     sea. It is 2 a.m. of a fine July night; the French windows are
     open on to the lawn. The room is dark; in an armchair,_ SIR
     GEOFFREY TRANSOM, _a man of forty, with a frank, pleasant face,
     is seated, deep in thought. Suddenly the door opens, and_ LADY
     TORMINSTER _appears and switches on the light. She starts at
     seeing_ SIR GEOFFREY.

LADY TORMINSTER. Oh!

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Rising._] Hullo! Don't be afraid--it's only I!

LADY TORMINSTER. What a start you gave me Why haven't you gone to bed?

SIR GEOFFREY. I'm tired of going to bed. One always has to get up again,
and it becomes monotonous. Why haven't you gone to sleep?

LADY TORMINSTER. I don't know--it's too hot, or something. I've come for a
book.

SIR GEOFFREY. Let me choose one for you.

     [_He goes to the table._

LADY TORMINSTER. Why were you sitting in the dark?

SIR GEOFFREY. Because the light annoyed me. What sort of book will you
have? A red one or a green one?

LADY TORMINSTER. Is there a virtue in the colour of the binding?

SIR GEOFFREY. Why not? They're all the same inside. There are three
hundred ways, they say, of cooking a potato--there are as many of dressing
up a lie, and calling it a novel. But it's always the same old lie. Here
take this. [_He hands her a book._] Popular Astronomy. That will send you
to sleep.

LADY TORMINSTER. The stars frighten me. But I'll try it. Good-night.

SIR GEOFFREY. Good-night.

LADY TORMINSTER. And you really had better go to bed.

SIR GEOFFREY. I move as an amendment that you sit down and talk.

LADY TORMINSTER. At this time of night!

SIR GEOFFREY. Why not? It's day in the Antipodes.

LADY TORMINSTER. And in this attire!

     [_She glances at her peignoir._

SIR GEOFFREY. Pooh! You are more dressed than you were at dinner. That's
awfully rude, isn't it? But then, you see, you're not my hostess
now--you're a spirit, walking in the night. One can't be polite to
spirits. Sit down, oh shade, and let us converse.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Hesitating._] I don't know--

SIR GEOFFREY. The household have all retired; and we will make this
concession to Mrs. Grundy--we will leave the door open. There! [_He flings
it open._] The Open Door! Centuries ago, when I was alive, I remember
paragraphs with that heading.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Laughing._] So you're not alive now?

SIR GEOFFREY. Sir Geoffrey Transom ceased to be when he said good-night to
Lady Torminster. Sir Geoffrey is upstairs asleep. So is her ladyship. We
are their souls. Let us talk.

LADY TORMINSTER. You are in your whimsical mood.

SIR GEOFFREY. And you in your wrapper--peignoir--tea gown--it don't matter
what you call it. You look--jolly. Ridiculous word--I don't mean that at
all. You look--you. More you than I've seen you for years. Sh--don't
interrupt. Shades never do that. By the way, do you know that the old
lumber-room, my owner--my corporeal sheath--means to go away in the
morning, before you are up?

LADY TORMINSTER. Sir Geoffrey! What nonsense! You've promised to stay a
month!

SIR GEOFFREY. I assure you I have been charged to invent fitting and
appropriate lies to account for the ridiculous creature's abrupt
departure. The man Transom is a poor liar.

LADY TORMINSTER. You are making me giddy. Would you mind putting on your
body? I've not been introduced to your soul.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Springing up with a flourish._] How very remiss of me!
Permit me. Gertrude this is Geoffrey. You have often heard me speak of
him.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Rising._] I think I'll go to bed.

SIR GEOFFREY. Now that is preposterous. Jack, my dear old friend--the best
and only friend I have in the world--is slumbering peacefully upstairs,
and Jack's wife is reluctant to talk to Jack's old pal because the sun
happens to be hidden on the other side of the globe. Lady Torminster, sit
down. If you're good you shall have a cigarette.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Sitting._] Well, just one. And when I've finished it,
I'll go.

SIR GEOFFREY. Agreed.

     [_He hands her the box; she takes a cigarette; he strikes a match
     and holds it for her; he then takes a cigarette himself, and
     lights it._

SIR GEOFFREY. And, while smoking it, remember Penelope's web. For I've
heaps of things to tell you.

LADY TORMINSTER. They'll keep till to-morrow.

SIR GEOFFREY. That's a fearful delusion. Nothing keeps. There is one law
in the universe: NOW.

LADY TORMINSTER. I want to know what you mean by this nonsense about your
going.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Puffing out smoke._] Yes--I'm off in the morning. It has
occurred to me that I haven't been to China. Now that is a serious
omission. How can I face my forefathers, and confess to them that I
haven't seen the land where the Yellow Labour comes from?

LADY TORMINSTER. China has waited a long time--a month more or less will
make no difference. They are a patient race.

SIR GEOFFREY. There is gipsy blood in my veins--I must wander--I'm
restless.... Not like Jack--he's untroubled--he can sleep. Jack's a fine
sleeper, isn't he?

LADY TORMINSTER. Yes.

SIR GEOFFREY. Calm, serene, untroubled, with the conscience of a
babe--one, two, three, he sleeps. He and I have had some rare times
together. I've been roped to him on the Andes--he shot a tiger that was
about to scrunch me--I rubbed his nose when it was frost-bitten. He saved
my life--I saved his nose. I always maintain that the balance of gratitude
is on his side--for where would he have been without his nose?

LADY TORMINSTER. You _are_ absurd.

SIR GEOFFREY. Would you have married him without a nose?

LADY TORMINSTER. I might have.

SIR GEOFFREY. Now you know you wouldn't. You'd have been afraid of what
people would say. And what would he have done when he became
short-sighted, and had to wear glasses?

LADY TORMINSTER. My cigarette has gone out.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Jumping up and handing her the box._] Take another. Never
re-light a cigarette--it's like dragging up the past. Here.

LADY TORMINSTER. I said only one.

SIR GEOFFREY. This is not the hour for inflexibility. The Medes and
Persians have all gone to bed.

     [_She takes the cigarette; he lights it for her._

LADY TORMINSTER. Tell me why you mean to leave us. And remember--I shan't
let _this_ one go out.

SIR GEOFFREY. My explanation will be handed to you with your cup of tea in
the morning.

LADY TORMINSTER. And you will be gone?

SIR GEOFFREY. I shall be gone. There is a train at 7.45--which will be
packed with husbands. I shall breakfast in town.

LADY TORMINSTER. Why?

SIR GEOFFREY. Well, one must breakfast somewhere. It's a convention.

LADY TORMINSTER. Sir Geoffrey, I want you to tell me what this means.

SIR GEOFFREY. Give your decision, said the judge to the arbitrator, but
never your reasons. I go, because I go. Besides, has one reasons? Why do
people die, or get married, or buy umbrellas? Because of typhoid, love, or
the rain? Not at all. Isn't that so?

LADY TORMINSTER. I wish you'd be serious.

SIR GEOFFREY. I'm fearfully serious. When Jack shot that tiger he had to
go so near the brute that he held his life in his hands. Do you know what
was my chief impression as I lay there, with the ugly cat's paw upon my
chest, beginning to rip me?

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Shuddering._] Horrible! What?

SIR GEOFFREY. I resented his having eaten something that smelt like
onions.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Smiling._] A tiger!

SIR GEOFFREY. Onions may have been his undoing. That's the beggar's skin
on the floor. But you should have seen me rub Jack's nose!

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Warningly._] Sir Geoffrey, there's very little
cigarette left--

SIR GEOFFREY. There are lots more in the box--and dawn is a long way off.
Hang it, Lady Torminster, don't be in a hurry! Do you hear the sea out
there? It's breathing as regularly as old Jack. And don't you think this
is fine? Here we are, we two, meeting just as we shall meet on the other
side of the Never-Never Land. It's a chance for a man to speak to a woman,
and tell her things.

LADY TORMINSTER. What things!

SIR GEOFFREY. That's just it--what things? What have I to say, after all?
I am going to-morrow because I am a fantastic, capricious ass. Also
because I'm lonely.

LADY TORMINSTER. How will China help you?

SIR GEOFFREY. They colour it green on the map--and there _is_ such a lot
of it!

LADY TORMINSTER. You should get married.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_With a sudden burst of passion._] _You_ say that--you!

     [_He starts back, ashamed, and hangs his head._ LADY TORMINSTER
     _throws a quick glance at him, then looks ahead of her, puffing
     quietly at her cigarette._

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Quietly._] So that is why you are going?

SIR GEOFFREY. [_With a great sigh of relief._] Now, that really is fine of
you! Every other woman in the world would have seized that chance for a
melodramatic exit. "Good-night, Sir Geoffrey; I must go to my husband."
"Good-night, Lady Torminster." A clasp of the hand--a hot tear--mine--on
your wrist. But you sit there. Splendid!

LADY TORMINSTER. I ask you again--is that truly why you are going?

SIR GEOFFREY. Well, yes, that's the fact. I apologise humbly--it's so
conventional. Isn't it?

LADY TORMINSTER. I suppose it's difficult for human beings to invent new
situations.

SIR GEOFFREY. You've known it, of course, all the time; you've known it
ever since Jack brought me to you, the day after you were engaged. And
that's nine years ago. It's the usual kind of fatality.

LADY TORMINSTER. These things happen.

SIR GEOFFREY. Yes. Well, I thought I was cured. I've been here five days,
and I find I am not. So I go. That's best, isn't it?

LADY TORMINSTER. Yes.

SIR GEOFFREY. It's so infernally stupid. You're a beautiful woman, of
course; but there are heaps of beautiful women. You've qualities--well, so
have other women, too. I'm only forty-one--and, as you say, why don't I
marry? Simply because of you. Because you've an uncomfortable knack of
intruding between me and the other lady.

LADY TORMINSTER. That is a great misfortune.

SIR GEOFFREY. It's most annoying. So I shall try China. I shall come back
in two years--I shall be forty-three then--I shall come back, sound as a
bell; and I shall marry some healthy, pink-cheeked young woman, take a
house next to yours, and in the fulness of time your eldest son shall fall
in love with my daughter.

LADY TORMINSTER. Why not?

SIR GEOFFREY. I shouldn't have told you, of course; but I'm glad that I
have. It clears the air. Now what excuse shall I make?

LADY TORMINSTER. A wire from town?

SIR GEOFFREY. Jack knows all about my affairs; in fact, that's why I take
the early train, to avoid his questions.

LADY TORMINSTER. You find it impossible to stay out your time here?

SIR GEOFFREY. Quite. There are moments when I am unpleasantly volcanic.

LADY TORMINSTER. Then I tell you the best thing to do. Don't take your
trunks; just go up with a bag. Leave a note that you'll come back on
Tuesday. Then write from town and say you're prevented.

SIR GEOFFREY. That's a good idea--yes, that's much better.

LADY TORMINSTER. And, if you find that you really cannot come back--

SIR GEOFFREY. Exactly; you'll forward my goods and chattels. And old Jack
will ascribe it all to my wayward mood; he'll think I have found it too
dull down here. I'm immensely obliged.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_With a smile._] Remark that I've not offered to be a
sister to you.

SIR GEOFFREY. You've been superb. Oh, the good talk we've had! Do you
know, I could almost wish old Jack to have heard what I said. I'm so fond
of him, that grand old fellow, that I've been on the point of telling him,
myself, more than once. For you know he _will_ have me take you about, and
it's painful. Besides, I've felt it almost disloyal to--keep this thing
from him. You understand, don't you?

LADY TORMINSTER. Yes.

SIR GEOFFREY. He and I almost are one, you see. It's not British to show
any feeling, but really I--love him. And the devil comes along, and, of
all women in the world, singles out Jack's wife, and fills my heart with
her. That's the devil's sense of humour.

LADY TORMINSTER. Perhaps he has read Bernard Shaw. But you must never let
Jack know--never.

SIR GEOFFREY. I suppose not. He's so direct, so single-minded, that the
shock would be terrible. But I'm not to blame. How could I help it? Oh,
all that cackle about being master of one's fate!

LADY TORMINSTER. Two years in China--

SIR GEOFFREY. We'll hope so. Of course, it didn't matter about my telling
you, because you knew already.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Nodding_] Yes, I knew. Although--

SIR GEOFFREY. Oh, you've done what you could! I've felt, in a hundred
subtle ways, how you almost implored me--not to. Well, there it is. I'll
write that note at once.

     [_He sits at the table and begins to write._

LADY TORMINSTER. I'm sorry you are so lonely.

SIR GEOFFREY. That's my fault, too--the fault of the ridiculous class to
which we belong. I don't do anything.

LADY TORMINSTER. Why not?

SIR GEOFFREY. What would you have me do? Go into the House? Thank you,
I've been there. You spend your time on the Terrace or in the smoke-room
till a muffin-bell rings; then you gravely walk into the lobby, where an
energetic gentleman counts you as Polyphemus counted his sheep.
Philanthropy! Well, I've tried that, but it's not in my line. I'm quite a
respectable landlord, but a fellow can't live all by himself in a great
Elizabethan barrack. Town--the Season? Christian mothers invite you to
inspect their daughters' shoulders, with a view to purchase. I'm tired of
golf and polo; I'm tired of bridge. So I'll try the good sea and the open
plains; sleep in a tent and watch the stars twinkle--the stars that make
you afraid.

LADY TORMINSTER. Yes, I'm afraid of the stars.

SIR GEOFFREY. Why?

LADY TORMINSTER. You remember the Persian poet? "I too have said to the
stars and the wind, I will. But the wind and the stars have mocked
me--they have laughed in my face...."

SIR GEOFFREY. [_A little uncomfortable._] Persian poets, like all poets,
have a funny way of pretending that the stars take an interest in us. To
me, it's their chief charm that they're so unconcerned. They are lonely,
too.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Suddenly, violently._] Don't say that again--don't--I
can't bear it!

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Aghast._] Gertrude!!!

LADY TORMINSTER. [_In a whisper._] Yes.

     [_He stares haggardly at her; she does not move, but looks out,
     through the open window, into the night._

SIR GEOFFREY. [_With a deep breath._] Well, I suppose we had better turn
in--

LADY TORMINSTER. When do you go to China?

SIR GEOFFREY. I shall take the first boat.

LADY TORMINSTER. And you will come back--?

SIR GEOFFREY. In a year--or two--or three--

LADY TORMINSTER. We shall hear from you?

SIR GEOFFREY. [_With an effort of lightness._] Certainly. And I will send
you chests of tea--best family Souchong--and jars of ginger. Also little
boxes that fit into each other. I am afraid that is all I know at present
of Chinese manufactures.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Musing._] You will be away so long?

SIR GEOFFREY. You told me to do something. I shall learn Chinese. I
believe there are five hundred letters in the alphabet.

LADY TORMINSTER. As many as that!

SIR GEOFFREY. It is possible that I exaggerate. Well, Lady Torminster, I
think I'll say good-night.

     [_He offers his hand, which she ignores. She smiles, and motions
     him back to his seat._

LADY TORMINSTER. The sun is still shining in the antipodes, my dear
Geoffrey, and you are still Jack's old friend, talking to Jack's wife. Sit
down, and don't be foolish. You'll be away for years; it's possible we may
never meet again. It's possible, too, that next time we do meet you may be
married.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_With iron control._] Who knows?

LADY TORMINSTER. Exactly--who knows? So there's no reason why we shouldn't
look each other squarely in the face for once, and speak out what's in us.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Sorrowfully._] Oh, Lady Torminster, what is there to say?

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Bending forward a little and smiling._] How you resent
my having told _you!_

SIR GEOFFREY. [_With a guilty start._] Resent! I!

LADY TORMINSTER. You do, and you know it. In your heart you are saying,
"All was going so well--she has spoiled it! If she _does_ love me she
shouldn't have said it--Jack's wife!"

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Sturdily._] Well--Jack's wife. Yes!

LADY TORMINSTER. Geoffrey, Jack bores me.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Aghast._] Lady Torminster!

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Clapping her hands in glee._] There! I've said it! Oh,
it's such a relief! I never have before, and I don't suppose I ever shall
again--for whom can I say it to but you? Listen--I tell you--quite _entre
nous_--he bores me shockingly!

SIR GEOFFREY. [_In positive distress._] Lady Torminster! I beg of you!

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Cheerfully._] The best fellow in all the world, and he
bores me. A heart of gold, a model husband, a perfect father--and a bore,
bore, bore! There! I assure you I feel better.

SIR GEOFFREY. I suppose there are moments when every woman says that of
every man.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Fanning herself._] My dear Geoffrey, please send for
your soul; it has wandered off somewhere, and I don't like talking to
copybooks.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Doggedly._] You are talking to Jack's friend.

LADY TORMINSTER. Jack's friend--and mine--don't forget that! And could I
say these things about Jack to any one else, and can't you conceive what a
joy it is to say them? Besides, aren't we just now on the rim of the
world--aren't we a little more than ourselves--aren't we almost on the
other side of things? If we ever meet again, we shall look curiously at
each other, and wonder, was it all true? As it is, I am scarcely sure that
you are real. Everything is so still, so strange. Jack! He is up there, of
course, the dear boy, his big red face pressed on the pillow. Oh,
Geoffrey, when Jack brought you to me, and I was engaged--if you only
hadn't been so loyal!

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Grimly._] Do you know what you are saying?

LADY TORMINSTER. I am saying the things a woman says once in a lifetime,
and feels all her life. Oh, it was all so simple! You loved me--you ...
were blind because of Jack ... And I married Jack ... I mustn't complain
... I am one of the hundreds of women who marry--Jacks.

SIR GEOFFREY. A better, finer man never lived.

LADY TORMINSTER. I dare say--in fact, I am sure. But you should see us
when we are alone, sitting there night after night, with never a word to
say to each other! You tell me you're tired of polo, and golf, and bridge.
Well, how about me? And need you be scowling so fiercely, and begrudge me
my one little wail, you who are going away?

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Angrily._] Yes, I am going away, and I shall marry a
Chinese. I shall marry the first Chinese woman I meet.

LADY TORMINSTER. This is very sudden. Why?

SIR GEOFFREY. Because, at least, not knowing the language, she won't be
able to say unkind things about me to my friends.

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Her chin on her hand, looking squarely at him._]
Geoffrey, _is_ Jack a bore?

SIR GEOFFREY. He never bores me.

LADY TORMINSTER. That's because he shot your tiger, and you rubbed his
nose. Besides, you talk about horses, and so on. And yet I heard him, for
a solid hour, telling you about a rubber he lost at bridge through his
partner making diamonds trumps when he should have made spades.

SIR GEOFFREY. He's not clever, of course--and you are. But still! Is
cleverness everything?

LADY TORMINSTER. Haven't I told you he's the very best fellow in all the
world? And do you think I'm posing, pretending that I'm misunderstood, and
the rest? You know me better. I am indulging, for once, in the luxury of
absolute candour.

SIR GEOFFREY. You loved him--

LADY TORMINSTER. Of course I loved him--and I love him now.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Triumphantly._] You see!

LADY TORMINSTER. If we women had had a hand in the making of the language,
how many words there would be to express our feelings towards the men we
are fond of! Of course I love Jack. I'm cruel to him sometimes; and there
comes a look into his eyes--he has dog's eyes, you know--a faithful
Newfoundland--

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Very earnestly._] I don't think women quite realise what
friendship means to a man.

LADY TORMINSTER. I am certain that men don't realise what marriage means
to a woman! Dear funeral, am I not a good wife--shall I not remain a good
wife, till the end of the chapter? Because there isn't only Jack--there
are Jack's children.

SIR GEOFFREY. Yes.

LADY TORMINSTER. And isn't it wonderful, when you think of it--here are we
two, Jack's friend and his wife, alone on a desert island--and we have
confessed our love for each other, and we are able to discuss it as calmly
as though it were rheumatism!

SIR GEOFFREY. [_With a groan._] If only I hadn't induced you to stay!

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Smiling._] My dear friend, you didn't!

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Amazed._] I didn't?

LADY TORMINSTER. Why no--of course not. I knew you were going to-morrow.

SIR GEOFFREY. How?

LADY TORMINSTER. Oh, never mind how! I knew. And I suspected you would be
sitting up here to-night. So I came down, hoping to find you. I wanted
this talk with you. And I extracted your confession--as though it had been
a tooth.

SIR GEOFFREY. And why?

LADY TORMINSTER. Why? Because it will be something to think of, in the
dull days ahead. Because I knew that you loved me, and wanted to be told.
Because your life lies before you, and mine is ended. Because I love you,
and insisted that you should know. You leave me now, and I have no
illusions. Paolo and Francesca are merely a poet's dream. You will
marry--of course you will marry--but this moment, at least, has been mine.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Stretching out yearning hands._] This moment, and every
moment, in past and future!

LADY TORMINSTER. Ah, the future! Strange little syllables that hide so
much! I can see you, introducing your wife to me, a little shyly--I can
see myself, shaking hands with her--and with you.... My boy is seven
already--time travels fast.... But it's good to know that you really have
loved me, all these years....

SIR GEOFFREY. By day and by night--you, and only you!

LADY TORMINSTER. And I have loved you--ah, yes, I have loved you!... And,
having said this to each other, we will not meet again--till you bring me
your wife.

SIR GEOFFREY. Ah--then!

LADY TORMINSTER. I have loved you, and I love you, for the fine, upright,
loyal creature that you are. I love you for loving Jack; and it is Jack's
great quality in my eyes that he has been able to inspire such love. And,
my dear friend, let us not be ashamed, we two, but only very proud, and
very happy. We shall go our ways, and do our duty; but we shall never
forget this talk we have had to-night.

SIR GEOFFREY. [_Gently._] I am beginning to understand....

LADY TORMINSTER. You will be less lonely in future ... and I no longer
afraid of the stars.... Brave heart--oh, brave little heart that I for a
moment have held in my hands!

SIR GEOFFREY. [_With a passionate movement towards her._] Gertrude!

LADY TORMINSTER. [_Lifting a finger._] No--stay where you are.... Those
are the first rays of dawn--I must go.... Good-bye. We have no need to
shake hands, you and I.... Ah, Geoffrey--good-bye!

     [_She goes swiftly, and closes the door. He bends his head, and
     remains standing, motionless, by the table._


CURTAIN



THE BRACELET

A PLAY IN ONE ACT



THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY

HARVEY WESTERN
HIS HONOUR JUDGE BANKET
MARTIN
WILLIAM
MRS. WESTERN
MRS. BANKET
MISS FARREN
SMITHERS

TIME--_The present_


_Produced at
the Liverpool
Repertory Theatre
on Feb. 26, 1912_



THE BRACELET


_The dining-room in an upper middle-class house near the Park. It
     is furnished in the conventional modern style, soberly and
     without imagination. The room is on the ground floor, facing the
     street, the door is to the right, and leads into the hall. To the
     left of this door is a sideboard, glittering with silver. Three
     tall windows, at the back heavily curtained; between them hang
     two or three family portraits. The table, on which there is the
     usual debris of a meal that is over--coffee-cups,
     liqueur-glasses, etc.--has been laid for four persons, and their
     four chairs are still around it. The fireplace, with its rather
     crude and ambitious mantelpiece, is in the centre of the left
     wall; and uncomfortable-looking heavy armchairs are on each side
     of it. On the mantelpiece are a marble clock and a few bits of
     china. In the angle formed at the left side is a small Queen Anne
     writing-table, open. To the right of the room is a large sofa.
     The floor is heavily carpeted, and there are many rugs scattered
     about._

     _When the curtain rises, the room is in darkness._ WILLIAM, _the
     footman, enters hurriedly and switches on the electric light. He
     rushes to the table, looks eagerly around, shifting cups and
     glasses, napkins, etc., then goes on his hands and knees and
     searches on the carpet. After a moment,_ SMITHERS, _the
     lady's-maid, follows him._

SMITHERS. [_Eagerly._] Can't you find it?

WILLIAM. [_Sulkily._] No. Not yet. Give me time.

SMITHERS. [_Feeling along the table-cloth._] Under one of those rugs,
perhaps.

WILLIAM. Well, I'm looking. [_Motor-horn sounds sharply, off._] All right,
all right!

SMITHERS. [_With a jerk of the head._] Missis is telling him to do it.

WILLIAM. [_On all fours, crawling about._] Very like her voice, too, when
she's angry. Drat the thing! Where can it be?

     [_He peers into the coal-scuttle._

SMITHERS. No good looking in there, stupid.

WILLIAM. They always say it's the unlikeliest places--

     [MARTIN, _the butler, comes in._

MARTIN. Come, come, haven't you found it?

WILLIAM. No, Mr. Martin. It ain't here.

MARTIN. [_Bustling about._] Must be, must be. She says--

WILLIAM. I can't help what she says. It ain't.

MARTIN. [_Looking under the sofa._] Just you hustle, young man, and don't
give me any back-answers.

     [_Having completed his examination of the sofa, he moves to the
     sideboard, and fusses round that._

SMITHERS. [_Methodically shaking out each napkin._] I tell you she's
cross.

MARTIN. [_Hard at work, searching._] Doesn't mind disturbing _us,_ in the
midst of our supper!

WILLIAM. [_Who, all the time, has been on all fours searching._] We're
dirt, that's what we are--dirt.

MARTIN. [_Reprovingly._] William, I've told you before--

WILLIAM. Very sorry, Mr. Martin, but this is the first time I've accepted
an engagement at a stockbroker's. [_He has been crawling round the
curtains at the back, shaking them; pulling hard at one of them he
dislodges the lower part._] Lor! _Now_ I've done it!

SMITHERS. Clumsy!

MARTIN. [_Severely._] That comes of too much talk Never mind the
curtain--go on looking.

     [WILLIAM _drops on to his hands and knees again;_ HARVEY WESTERN
     _comes into the room, perturbed and restless. He is a
     well-preserved man of fifty._

HARVEY. I say--not found it?

MARTIN. Not yet, sir.

HARVEY. Nuisance. _Must_ be here, you know.

MARTIN. Is it a very valuable one, sir?

HARVEY. [_Who has gone to the table, and is turning things over._] No, no,
not particularly--but that's not the point. [_He looks under the table._

MARTIN. [_Still seeking._] When did madam find that she'd lost it, sir?

HARVEY. Oh, about five minutes after we'd started And we've turned over
everything in the car. It's certainly not there. [_He fusses around the
table._

MARTIN. Is madam quite sure she was wearing it, sir?

SMITHERS. [_Fretfully._] Yes, yes, of course she was wearing it. I put it
on her myself.

MARTIN. Where did madam put her cloak on, sir?

SMITHERS. In here. I brought it in.

MARTIN. You didn't notice whether--

SMITHERS. No. Don't you think if we moved _all_ the rugs--

     [_She moves across the room and joins_ WILLIAM, _who is still
     grovelling on the floor, and goes on her knees by his side._

HARVEY. It must be here _somewhere._

     [_They are all searching furiously_--WILLIAM _by the windows,
     peering into the spaces between the wall and the carpets,_ MARTIN
     _at the sideboard,_ SMITHERS _gathering the rugs together, all on
     their hands and knees, while_ HARVEY, _bent double, is looking
     under the table._ MRS. WESTERN _comes in stonily, followed by
     the_ JUDGE _and_ MRS. BANKET. MRS. WESTERN _is a handsome woman
     of forty-five, with a rather stern, cold face; the_ JUDGE, _a
     somewhat corpulent, genial man of fifty-five; and his wife, an
     amiable nullity, seven or eight years younger. They are all in
     evening-dress, the ladies in opera-cloaks._

MRS. WESTERN. [_Pausing on the threshold._] Well!

HARVEY. [_Rising and dusting himself._] No trace of it.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Looking around._] A nice mess you've made of the room!

MARTIN. You told us to look, Madam.

JUDGE. [_Going to the fire and standing with his back to it._] I'm afraid
we'll be shockingly late, Alice.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Firmly._] I don't go without my bracelet.

     [_She goes to the table, and proceeds to shift the cups and
     glasses._

MRS. BANKET. [_Moving to the other side of the table, and doing the
same._] Quite right, dear--I wouldn't.

     [_They all search, except the_ JUDGE, _who shrugs his shoulders
     placidly, then takes a cigarette from his case, and lights it.
     The three servants still are grovelling on the floor._

MRS. WESTERN. I _know_ I had it while I was drinking my coffee--

JUDGE. My experience is, one should never look for things. They find
themselves.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Shortly._] Nonsense.

JUDGE. A fact. Or at least one should _pretend_ to be looking for
something else. My glasses now. When I lose them I declare loudly I can't
find my cigar-case. That disheartens the glasses--they return at once.

MRS. BANKET. [_Reproachfully._] Don't be so irritating, Tom!

JUDGE. That's all very well, but how about me? I was asked here to dine.
I've dined--I'm not complaining about the dinner. But now the curtain's
up--and here am I watching half-a-dozen people looking very hard for a
thing that isn't there.

MRS. BANKET. Tom, Tom, it's those laughs you get in Court that make you so
fond of talking. Don't you see how you're vexing your sister?

MRS. WESTERN. Oh, I'm used to Tom. Harvey, I think you might be looking.

HARVEY. My dear, I've been turning round and round in this corner like a
bird in a cage.

MARTIN. [_Who all this time, like the other servants, has been crawling
around the different articles of furniture in the room, suddenly rises to
his feet and addresses his mistress firmly but respectfully._] It's not
here, madam.

     [_The other servants also rise; and stand, each in their corner._

JUDGE. That, I imagine, is perfectly clear; and I congratulate the witness
on the manner in which he has given his evidence. [_He throws his
cigarette into the fire and steps forward._] Now, my dear Alice--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Sitting doggedly in the chair in front of the table and
proceeding to pull off her gloves._ I don't go without my bracelet.

JUDGE. Heaven forbid that I should speak slightingly of a gift of
Harvey's--but really it isn't of such priceless value.

MRS. WESTERN. That has nothing to do with it.

MRS. BANKET. Of course not. Oh, these men!

HARVEY. [_Stepping forward._] Tom's right. Let's go. Look here, I'll get
you another.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Drily._] Thanks--I want _that_ one.--Smithers, and you,
William, just look again in the hall.

SMITHERS. Yes, m'm.

MRS. WESTERN. And then help the chauffeur--turn out _everything_ in the
car.

SMITHERS. Yes, m'm.

MRS. WESTERN. Bring the rugs into the house, and shake them.

SMITHERS. Yes, m'm. [_She and_ WILLIAM _go._

JUDGE. [_Going hack to the fire._] Sumptuary laws--that's what we want. If
women didn't wear bracelets, they couldn't lose them.

MRS. WESTERN. Martin, William is honest, isn't he?

HARVEY. [_Protesting._] Oh, hang it, Alice!

MARTIN. Quite, madam--excellent character--a little flighty, but a most
respectable young man.

MRS. WESTERN. I've seen him reading a sporting paper.

JUDGE. A weakness, my dear Alice, common to the best of us, I do it
myself sometimes, but I'm willing to be searched.

MRS. BANKET. O Tom, _do_ be quiet!

MRS. WESTERN. [_To the_ JUDGE.] You're very unsympathetic. [_Turning to_
MARTIN _again._] None of the other servants came in after we left?

MARTIN. No, madam.

MRS. WESTERN. You're sure?

MARTIN. Quite sure, madam. They were all downstairs, having their supper.

MRS. WESTERN. Most mysterious! Incomprehensible!

JUDGE. [_Looking at his watch._] Past nine! We shall plunge into the
play--like body-snatchers, looking for the corpse of the plot--and we
shall never know what it was that the heroine did.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Ignoring him, to_ MARTIN.] Smithers I'll answer for.

MARTIN. Oh yes, madam. If I _might_ make a suggestion--

MRS. WESTERN. Well?

MARTIN. It couldn't have fallen anywhere into your dress, madam?

MRS. WESTERN. Nonsense, how could it? [_She gets up and shakes herself._]
Absurd. [_She sits again._

MARTIN. Into your cloak?

MRS. WESTERN. Silk! No. That'll do, Martin. You might help the others
outside. [MARTIN _goes._

JUDGE. [_With a step forward._] Now, admirable sister--

MRS. WESTERN. Didn't it strike you that Martin's manner was rather
strange?

HARVEY. [_Fretfully._] Really you _must_ not suspect the servants!

MRS. WESTERN. [_Turning to him._] _Must_ not--must! That's scarcely the
way to speak to me, Harvey.

HARVEY. [_Deprecatingly._] My dear--

MRS. WESTERN. And I wasn't suspecting--I was merely asking a question of
my brother.

JUDGE. Come, Alice, let's go.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Shaking her head._] You three go. You'll excuse me.

JUDGE. [_Cheerfully._] If you insist--

MRS. BANKET. [_Coming forward._] No, no. _Do_ come, Alice!

MRS. WESTERN. I can't--I'm so puzzled. [_With a sudden idea._] Oh!

HARVEY. [_Who is behind her to the left, between her and the_ JUDGE.]
What? Have you found it?

MRS. WESTERN. No, no--of course not. But ring, please, will you?

HARVEY. Why?

MRS. WESTERN, I want you to ring. [_He presses the bell by the
fireplace._] I just remember Miss Farren came in while we were having
coffee.

HARVEY. [_Indignantly._] Alice!

MRS. WESTERN. I asked her to write a card to Harrod's--she'll have written
it in here.

HARVEY. [_Angrily._] I say--really!

MRS. WESTERN. [_Coldly._] No need to snub me again--before our guests! I
need scarcely say I am not _suspecting_ Miss Farren--but in justice to
her--

MRS. BANKET. But, Alice, she'll have gone out--you told her she might--

MRS. WESTERN. Only to her sister's close by--and she may not have gone
yet. Why don't they answer the bell? Ring again, Harvey.

JUDGE. The poor things are still searching.

HARVEY. [_Firmly._] Alice, I protest, I do indeed--

MRS. WESTERN. Don't be so foolishly sentimental--it's ridiculous at your
age. The young woman is in my employ, as governess to my children. [MARTIN
_comes in._] Has Miss Farren gone out yet?

MARTIN. No, madam. I believe she's in her room, dressing.

MRS. WESTERN. Ask her to come.

MARTIN. Yes, madam. [_He goes._

JUDGE. [_Shaking his head._] No sense of proportion, that's the
truth--they've no sense of proportion.

MRS. BANKET. Tom!

JUDGE. A fact, my dear--but you can't help it. You've every quality in the
world but just that--you _will_ always look through the wrong end of the
telescope.

MRS. BANKET. Really, Tom, this isn't the moment for your nonsense--and if
you only knew how stupid you are when you try to be funny!

HARVEY. [_Going nervously to_ MRS. WESTERN.] I say, I really do think--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Roughly._] I don't care _what_ you think. Leave me alone!

     [_There is silence. The_ JUDGE, _sitting by the fire, whistles
     loudly "Waltz me around again, Willie!"_ HARVEY _has gone moodily
     across the room and stands by the sideboard._ MRS. BANKET _is
     sitting behind the table. After a moment the door opens, and_
     MISS FARREN _comes in, with hat and cloak on, and goes straight
     to_ MRS. WESTERN. _She is an extremely pretty girl of twenty._

MISS FARREN. You want me, Mrs. Western?

MRS. WESTERN. Oh, Miss Farren, I've lost my bracelet.

MISS FARREN. Really! I'm so sorry! Where?

MRS. WESTERN. I don't know. You didn't see it, of course, after we'd gone?

MISS FARREN. [_Shaking her head._] No--and no one came in. I was writing
the letter to Harrod's.

MRS. WESTERN. No one at all?

MISS FARREN. No--I'm sure of that. And I'd hardly got to my room when I
heard the car come back.

MRS. WESTERN. Well, thank you, Miss Farren.

MISS FARREN. It's very annoying. You're sure it's not in the car?

JUDGE. My dear Miss Farren, it's not in the car, it's not anywhere, and
I'm beginning to believe it never was at all. Come, Alice, let's go. We
shan't see much of the play, but we can at least help the British drama by
buying two programmes.

MISS FARREN. [_With a light laugh--then turning to_ MRS. WESTERN _again._]
Do you want me any more, Mrs. Western?

MRS. WESTERN. No, thanks. [MISS FARREN _turns to go_--MRS. WESTERN, _who
has suddenly cast an eager glance at her, as though attracted by
something, calls her back._] Oh, Miss Farren!

MISS FARREN. [_Turning._] Yes?

MRS. WESTERN. I wonder whether you'd be so good as to shift this aigrette
of mine--it's hurting me.

MISS FARREN. Certainly.

     [_She comes back to_ MRS. WESTERN, _and stands by her side; as
     she raises her arm_ MRS. WESTERN _jumps up and seizes it by the
     wrist._

MRS. WESTERN. My bracelet!

     [_Keeping a tight hold of_ MISS FARREN'S _wrist, she holds it at
     arm's length. There is a general cry of amazement--the_ JUDGE
     _and his wife start to their feet_--HARVEY _rushes eagerly
     towards her._

JUDGE. Alice!

MRS. BANKET. Oh!

HARVEY. No, no--

     [_These three exclamations are simultaneous._

MRS. WESTERN. There it is! She took it!

JUDGE. Are you sure?

HARVEY. [_Breathless and urgent._] Alice--

MISS FARREN. [_Recovering from her shock and bewilderment._] Mrs. Western,
it isn't--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Sternly, still holding the girl by the wrist._] You dare
to pretend--

HARVEY. [_Who is now at the back of his wife's chair, looking closely at
the bracelet._] Let me look, let me look.... I say, Alice, you're wrong.
It's not yours at all. The setting's different.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Angrily._] What do you mean, different? You think I don't
know my own bracelet? Are you mad? I say it's mine--and it is!

JUDGE. [_Stepping forward._] Alice, be careful--

MRS. WESTERN. Careful! You're as bad as he! Of course the thing's
mine--I've been wearing it for weeks--and you think I can make a mistake?
She found it, and took it.

MISS FARREN. [_Very distressed._] No, no, Mrs. Western, really! It isn't
yours! I assure you!

HARVEY. Alice, I declare to you--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Roughly._] Be quiet and go away. This is no business of
yours.

HARVEY. [_Eagerly._] But it is! It was I who bought the wretched
thing--well, I am prepared to swear that this isn't the one!

MRS. WESTERN. [_A little shaken, looking at it again._] You're prepared
to.... [_She lifts her head._] How can you talk such utter nonsense? There
is not the least doubt--not the least!

JUDGE. [_Stopping_ HARVEY, _who is about to protest violently._] Alice,
mind what you're saying. You'll get yourself into trouble. If Harvey
says--

MRS. BANKET. [_Contemptuously._] He's saying it to shield her, that's all.

HARVEY. [_Indignantly._] I'm not. It's not true. But you mustn't bring
such an accusation. It's monstrous. And I won't allow--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Drawing herself up._] You--won't--allow! The girl takes my
bracelet--and you won't allow!

Miss FARREN. [_Trying to free herself._] Mrs. Western, I haven't, I
haven't!

JUDGE. [_Impressively._] Alice, will you listen to me?

MRS. WESTERN. No, I won't! This doesn't concern you, or any one, but me
and this girl! Look at her--she knows!

MISS FARREN. Mrs. Western, you're hurting my arm....

MRS. WESTERN. Come now--confess! I won't be hard on you if you confess--

     [_She wrenches off the bracelet, and releases the girl, who
     staggers back, nursing her wrist._

HARVEY. [_Almost beside himself, stamping his foot._] Alice, Alice, will
you hear--

MISS FARREN. Oh, you _have_ hurt me! And you've no right--to say such
things....

HARVEY. No, you haven't, you haven't!

MRS. WESTERN. Besides, a bracelet like that! [_She holds it up. To_ MISS
FARREN.] You won't confess? Very well, then. I'll send for a policeman.

HARVEY. [_Doggedly._] The bracelet is hers.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Jeeringly._] Turquoise and emeralds! Hers! A coincidence,
perhaps. Very likely. I'll give her in charge at once.

HARVEY. The bracelet is hers, I tell you.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Turning furiously on him._] You dare to say that?

HARVEY. [_Steadily._] Yes. Because I myself--gave it to her.

     [_There is a moment's almost stupefied silence;_ HARVEY _and_
     ALICE _are face to face._ MISS FARREN _to the left of her,_ MRS.
     BANKET _is still at the back, the_ JUDGE _by the fire._ MRS.
     WESTERN _breaks the silence._

MRS. WESTERN. [_Sternly._] You--gave--it--her?

HARVEY. [_Steadily._] Yes.

MRS. WESTERN. You ask me to believe that you gave a bracelet to--this
person--my children's governess?

HARVEY. I did.

MRS. WESTERN. An exact copy of the one you gave me?

HARVEY. I've told you--it's not an exact copy--there's a difference in the
setting.

MRS. BANKET. Nonsense, nonsense, it can't be--he's just saying this--

JUDGE. Fanny, don't interfere.

HARVEY. I'm saying what's true.

MRS. WESTERN. I refuse to believe it. It's incredible. You've not sunk so
low as that. It's a lie.

HARVEY. [_Indignantly._] Alice!

MRS. WESTERN. Yes, a lie. A trumped-up story. The girl has taken it--

MISS FARREN. I have not!

MRS. WESTERN. You can tell that to the magistrate--[_She turns to_ HARVEY]
and you too, if you like. [_She moves to the bell._

JUDGE. [_Putting out a hand to stop her._] Alice--

MRS. WESTERN. Leave me alone, Tom. I know what I'm doing. I'll send for a
policeman.

HARVEY. [_Imploringly._] Alice, Alice--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Pausing, with her hand on the bell._] I'll let the girl
off, if you'll tell me the truth.

HARVEY. I _have_ told you the truth.

MRS. WESTERN. You persist in this silly falsehood?

HARVEY. It isn't--I tell you it isn't!

MRS. WESTERN. Very well, then.

     [_She presses the bell. At that moment the door bursts open, and_
     MARTIN _comes in triumphantly, with the bracelet on a salver._
     SMITHERS _and_ WILLIAM _are behind him, but do not pass beyond
     the threshold._

MARTIN. [_Eagerly._] Ma'am, ma'am, we've found the--

     [MRS. WESTERN _has turned towards him, still holding the other
     bracelet in her hand._ MARTIN _catches sight of it, and stops dead
     short, staring bewilderedly at it._

MRS. WESTERN. [_Calmly._] Where did you find it?

     [_She takes the bracelet off the salver and lays it on the
     table._

MARTIN. [_With a great effort._] It had fallen into the pocket of the
car--there was a hole in the pocket--it had worked its way right down into
the body.

MRS. WESTERN. Very well. Thank you.

     [MARTIN _goes; the other servants have already slunk off. There
     is a moment's silence._ MRS. WESTERN _suddenly flings the
     bracelet she has in her hand in_ MISS FARREN'S _direction._

MRS. WESTERN. [_Contemptuously._] Here. I return you your property. And
now pack up your things and leave the house.

HARVEY. [_Who has stepped forward and picked up the bracelet, standing
between_ MRS. WESTERN _and_ MISS FARREN.] No.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Staring at him._] What?

HARVEY. [_Violently._] I say, No!

MRS. WESTERN. I have told the girl to leave my house.

HARVEY. _My_ house--mine! And she shall stay in it! Or, at least, when she
goes, it shall be without the slightest stain or suspicion--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Scornfully._] I am not accusing her of theft.

HARVEY. But you are insinuating--I declare solemnly before you all--

JUDGE. [_Interposing._] Harvey, one moment.... I am sure that Miss Farren
would rather go to her room....

MISS FARREN. Yes.

HARVEY. By all means. Here, take your bracelet. [_He gives it to her._]
But you don't leave this house--you understand that? _I_ am master here.

     [MISS FARREN _goes quietly._

JUDGE. Now just listen to me, both of you. Be calm--all this excitement
won't help. Harvey, you too. You and Alice will have your explanation--

MRS. WESTERN. If the girl doesn't go to-night--

HARVEY. I tell you again she shall not! And there's no need. I was a fool
to give her that bracelet--she didn't want to take it--

MRS. BANKET. Why _did_ you?

HARVEY. I had given Alice one on her birthday.

MRS. WESTERN. Well?

HARVEY. And so I got _her_ one.

MRS. WESTERN. Why?

HARVEY. Because--[_He stops, very embarrassed._]

MRS. WESTERN. Well?

HARVEY. Because--oh, because--well, she admired it--and _she_ liked pretty
things too....

MRS. WESTERN. I don't think you need say anything more.

MRS. BANKET. No. He needn't. It's clear enough!

HARVEY. [_Eagerly._] Look here, on my honour--I _am_ fond of her, of
course, in a way--but I'm old enough to be her father--and I swear to you
all--I've seen her about, of course, a good deal--and I gave her that
thing--but beyond that, nothing, nothing!

MRS. WESTERN. [_Sitting, and with a shrug of the shoulder._] A ridiculous
fairy tale!

JUDGE. My dear Alice, take my advice, and believe your husband.

MRS. WESTERN. You too!

MRS. BANKET. All alike, when there's a pretty face!

JUDGE. Let her find another situation, by all means.... But to turn a girl
out, at a moment's notice! You couldn't.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Turning to the_ JUDGE.] You are really suggesting that I
should sleep under the same roof with--

JUDGE. [_Almost sternly._] You are condemning, without the slightest
evidence. And condemning, remember, an utterly defenceless creature. This
girl has a claim on you: were your suspicions justified, she-would _still_
have a claim.

MRS. WESTERN. Indeed!

MRS. BANKET. The nonsense he talks! It's really too silly!

JUDGE. You are extraordinary, you women! You exact such rigid morality
from the governess and the housemaid! You're full of excuses when it's one
of yourselves!

MRS. BANKET. [_Indignantly._] Tom!

JUDGE. Well, that's true--we all know it! And here--I believe every word
Harvey has said.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Scarcely believing her ears._] You do!

JUDGE. Because he is a man of honour, and men of honour have their code.
Their children's governess ... is safe. You will do well to believe it,
too. Now, Fanny, we'll go. Be sensible, Alice--I tell you again, Harvey's
right; the girl must not be--summarily dismissed: it would be an act of
cruel injustice. Good-bye. [_He offers to kiss her--she turns away._] As
you like. Good-bye, Harvey, old man.

HARVEY. Good-bye, Tom. [_They shake hands._] And thank you.

MRS. BANKET. [_Kissing_ MRS. WESTERN.] My poor, dear Alice!

MRS. WESTERN. Good-bye, Fanny. I'm sorry that our party to-night--

MRS. BANKET. Oh, that doesn't matter! Poor thing! I promise you that Tom
shall have a good talking to!

     [_She is too angry with_ HARVEY _to say good-bye to him: she and
     the_ JUDGE _go. The moment the door closes,_ HARVEY _begins,
     feverishly and passionately._

HARVEY. Now just listen. I'm going to speak to you--I'm going to say
things--things that have been in my heart, in my life, for years. I'm not
going to spare you, I'm going to tell you the truth, and the truth, and
the truth!

MRS. WESTERN. [_Calmly, looking ironically at him._] If it's the same kind
of truth you've been giving us to-night--

HARVEY. We've been married ten years. Oh, I know, we were neither of us
very young. But anyhow the last five have been nothing but misery for me.
Misery--do you hear that? You sitting there, calm and collected--not
caring one damn for me--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Quietly._] That's not true.

HARVEY. It is, and you know it. The mother of my children! Satisfied with
that. Never a word of kindness, or sympathy. And as for--affection!

MRS. WESTERN. We're not sweethearts--we're middle-aged people.

HARVEY. Well, I need something more. And, look here, I'll tell you. This
girl has made life worth living. That's all. I'd come home at night
dog-tired, all day in the City--sick of it, Stock Exchange, office, and
the mud and the grime and the worry--there were you, with a nod, ah,
Harvey, good evening--and you'd scarcely look up from your Committee
Report or your Blue-book, or damned pamphlet or other--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Contemptuously._] You are one of the men who want their
wife to be a mere sort of doll.

HARVEY. [_More and more vehemently._] I want my wife to care for me! I
want her to smile when I come in, and be glad--I want her to love me! You
don't! By the Lord, I've sneaked upstairs, gone in and had a peep at the
children--well, they'd be asleep. I tell you I've been hungry, hungry, for
a word, for a look! And there, in the schoolroom, was this girl. I've
played it low down, I know--she's fond of me. But I couldn't help it--I
was lonely--that's what it was. I've gone up there night after night.
_You_ didn't know where I was--and you didn't care. In my study, you
thought--the cold, chilly box that you call my study--glad to have me out
of the way. Well, there I was, with this girl. It was something to look
forward to, in the cab, coming home. It was something to catch hold of,
when things went wrong, in that dreary grind of money-making. Her eyes lit
up when they saw me. She'd ask me about things--if I coughed, she'd fuss
me--she had pretty ways, and was pleased, oh, pleased beyond words, if I
brought her home something--

MRS. WESTERN. So this isn't the first time!

HARVEY. [_With a snarl._] No, of course not! She admired that bracelet of
yours--by Jove, I said to myself, I'll get her one like it! Whatever I
brought home to _you_ you'd scarcely say thank you--and usually it went
into the drawer--I'd such shocking bad taste! _She'd_ beam! Well, as
ill-luck would have it, you took a fancy to this one. I told her she
mustn't wear hers--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Calmly and cuttingly._] Conspiring behind my back.

HARVEY. [_Raging._] Oh, if you knew what has gone on behind your back!
Not when I was with her--when I was alone! The things I've said about
you--to myself! When I thought of this miserable life that had to be
dragged on here, thought of your superior smile, your damnable cruelty--

MRS. WESTERN. [_Genuinely surprised._] Cruelty! Why?

HARVEY. What else? I'd go up to you timidly--bah, why talk of it? To you
I've been the machine that made money--money to pay for the house, and the
car, and the dressmakers' bills--a machine that had to be fed--and when
you'd done that, you'd done all. Well, there was this girl--

MRS. WESTERN. You had your children.

HARVEY. A boy of seven and a girl of five--in bed when I came home--and
_your_ children much more than mine--I'm a stranger to them! And anyhow, I
wanted something more--something human, alive--that only a woman can give.
And she gave it. Nothing between us, I swear--but just that. As Tom says,
I've not been such a cur--and _you_ ought to know me well enough, after
all these years!... But there is the truth--she's fond of me: she is, it's
a fact. And I _needed_ that fondness--it has kept me going. And now--do
you think I'll let her be thrust out into the street?

     [_As he says these last words he drops into a chair, facing her,
     and looks fiercely and doggedly at her._

MRS. WESTERN. [_Calmly._] Stop now, and listen to me. I've let you rattle
on. Will you hear me for one moment?

HARVEY. Go on.

MRS. WESTERN. All those things you've said about me--[_With a shrug._]
Well, what's the use? I suppose we're like most married people when they
come to our age. I've interests of my own, that don't appeal to you--

HARVEY. Blue-books and Committees!

MRS. WESTERN. I do useful work--oh yes, you may sneer--you always have
sneered! If a woman tries to do something sensible with her life, instead
of cuddling and kissing you all day, she's cold and cruel. We've drifted
apart--well, your fault as much as mine. More, perhaps--but it's no good
going into that--no good making reproaches. That's how things are--we must
make the best of them. Wait, let me finish. About this girl. Granted that
what you say is true--and I'm inclined to believe it--

HARVEY. [_Genuinely grateful._] At least thank you for that!

MRS. WESTERN. Or at any rate it's better policy to believe it, for every
one's sake--

HARVEY. [_Bitterly._] That's right--that's more like you!

MRS. WESTERN. We gain nothing by abusing each other. And I didn't
interrupt _you._ Let's look facts in the face. Here we are, we two--tied.

HARVEY. [_With a groan._] Yes.

MRS. WESTERN. With our two children. If it weren't for them.... Well,
we've _got_ to remain together. Now there's this girl. It's quite evident,
after what you've said, that she can't stop here--

HARVEY. [_Jumping to his feet._] She shall!

MRS. WESTERN. [_Fretfully._] Oh, do be a man, and drop this mawkish
sentiment! You say she's fond of you--you've _made_ her fond of you. Was
this a very pretty thing--for a man of your age to do?

HARVEY. [_Sullenly, as he drops back into his chair._] Never mind my age.

MRS. WESTERN. Very well then--for a married man?

HARVEY. An unhappy man.

MRS. WESTERN. Even granting that--though if you're unhappy it's your own
fault--I've always been urging you to go on the County Council--What's
to become of the girl, if she stops here?

HARVEY. [_Desperately._] I don't know--but I can't let her go--I tell you
I can't!

MRS. WESTERN. [_Scarcely able to conceal her disgust._] Oh, if you knew
how painful it is to hear you whining like this! It's pitiable, really! In
the girl's own interest--how can she stop?

HARVEY. She must. I can't let her be turned out. It would break her heart.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Turning right round, and staring at him._] What?

HARVEY. [_Doggedly._] Yes--it would. She's very fond of me, that's the
truth. I know that I've been to blame--but it's too late for that now.
She's romantic, of course--what you'd call sentimental. I dare say I've
played on her feelings--she saw I was lonely. She has a side that you've
never suspected--a tender, sensitive side--she has ideals.... Well, do you
realise what it would mean, with a girl like that? No one knows her as I
do. I'm quite startled sometimes, to find how fond she is of me. Oh, have
some sympathy! It's difficult, I know--it's terribly difficult. But she
loves me--that's the truth--and a young girl's love--why, she might throw
herself into the river! Oh yes, you smile--but she might! What do _you_
know of life, with your Blue-books? Anyhow, I daren't risk it.
By-and-by--there's no hurry, is there? And I put it to you--be merciful!
You're not the ordinary woman--you have a brain--you're not conventional.
Don't act like the others. Don't drive this girl out of the house. It
would end in tragedy. Believe it!

MRS. WESTERN. You can't really expect me to keep a girl here, as governess
to my children, who, as you say, is in love with you.

HARVEY. [_Pleading._] I expect you--I'm asking you--to help her--and me.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Shaking her head._] That's too much. We won't turn her out
to-night--I'll give her a reference, and all that--

HARVEY. [_Springing to his feet again._] Alice, I can't let her go!

MRS. WESTERN. [_Conciliatorily._] Ask Tom, ask any one--

HARVEY. [_More and more passionately._] I tell you, I can't let her go!

MRS. WESTERN. Be sensible, Harvey--you must realise yourself there's no
alternative--

HARVEY. [_With a violent and uncontrollable outburst._] I vow and declare
to you--if she goes, I go too! And the consequences will be on your head!

     [MRS. WESTERN _has also risen--they stand face to face, looking
     at each other--and for a moment there is silence. The door opens,
     and_ MISS FARREN _comes in, dressed as before. She walks straight
     to_ MRS. WESTERN.

MISS FARREN. Mrs. Western, my things are packed, and on the cab--

HARVEY. [_Wildly._] My poor child, you're _not_ to go--I told you.

MISS FARREN. [_With a demure glance at him, stopping him as he is moving
towards her._] Of course I must--I can't stay here--that's not possible.
My sister will take me in for to-night.

MRS. WESTERN. Miss Farren, my husband has explained to me--I withdraw
all--

MISS FARREN. [_Carelessly._] Oh, that's all right--though thank you all
the same. And it really doesn't matter much. I was going to give notice
to-morrow anyway--

HARVEY. [_Starting violently._] What!

MISS FARREN. Well, I put it off as long as I could, Mr. Western, because
... But the fact is I'm going on the stage--musical comedy--

HARVEY. [_Breathless, staggering back._] You--are--going--

MISS FARREN. I've accepted an engagement--oh, I'm only to be a show-girl
at first--but they believe I'll do well. They've been wanting me some
time. And my _fiancé_ has persuaded me.

HARVEY. [_Collapsing utterly, dropping into the chair by the fire._]
Your--

MISS FARREN. [_Gravely._] My _fiancé_--yes. He's one of the comic men
there.

MRS. WESTERN. [_Who has been watching them both with an unmoved face._]
I'll write a cheque for your salary, Miss Farren.

     [_She goes to the desk at back._

MISS FARREN. [_Coquettishly, to_ HARVEY.] I ought to have told you, I
know, Mr. Western. But it _was_ so dull here--and you've been most awfully
good to me. I can never be sufficiently grateful.

HARVEY. [_With difficulty, his face turned away._] Don't mention it. And I
hope you'll be happy.

MISS FARREN. [_Lightly._] Thank you. I mean to try!

     [MRS. WESTERN _returns with a cheque which she hands to_ MISS
     FARREN.

MRS. WESTERN. Here, Miss Farren.

MISS FARREN. [_Putting it into her bag._] Thank you so much. Good-bye.

MRS. WESTERN. If you should ever need a reference, don't be afraid to--

MISS FARREN. Oh, thanks, no more governessing for me. Good-bye!

     [_She trips out, without another glance at_ HARVEY, _who sits
     huddled by the fire._ MRS. WESTERN _moves slowly to the door. At
     the threshold she pauses, turns, and looks at_ HARVEY.

MRS. WESTERN. I'll take care that the next governess--shall be quite as
pretty as this one, Harvey.

     [_She opens the door and goes._ HARVEY _doesn't stir._


THE CURTAIN FALLS





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