Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Dolly Reforming Herself - A Comedy in Four Acts
Author: Jones, Henry Arthur, 1851-1929
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 "Dolly Reforming Herself - A Comedy in Four Acts" ***

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



book was produced from scanned images of public domain


Transcriber's note


Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. A few
printer errors have been changed, and are listed at the end. All other
inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been
maintained.



   THE PLAYS OF
   HENRY ARTHUR JONES


   DOLLY
   REFORMING
   HERSELF

   A COMEDY IN FOUR ACTS

   BY

   HENRY ARTHUR JONES

   AUTHOR OF

   "THE LIARS," "MICHAEL AND HIS LOST ANGEL," "THE TEMPTER,"
   "THE CRUSADERS," "JUDAH," "THE CASE OF REBELLIOUS
   SUSAN," "THE DANCING GIRL," "THE MIDDLEMAN,"
   "THE ROGUE'S COMEDY," "THE TRIUMPH OF THE
   PHILISTINES," "THE MASQUERADERS," "THE
   MANOEUVRES OF JANE," "CARNACSAHIB,"
   "THE GOAL," "MRS. DANE'S DEFENCE,"
   "THE LACKEY'S CARNIVAL," "THE
   PRINCESS'S NOSE," ETC.


   "Memnon conçut un jour le projet insensé d'être parfaitement sage. Il
   n'y a guère d'hommes à qui cette folie n'ait quelquefois passé par la
   tête." VOLTAIRE.


   COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY HENRY ARTHUR JONES


   PRICE 50 CENTS

   NEW YORK               | LONDON.
   SAMUEL FRENCH          | SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD.
   PUBLISHER              | 26 SOUTHAMPTON ST,
   28-30 WEST 38TH STREET | STRAND



   DOLLY REFORMING
   HERSELF

   A COMEDY IN FOUR ACTS

   BY

   HENRY ARTHUR JONES

   "Memnon conçut un jour le projet insensé d'être parfaitement sage. Il
   n'y a guère d'hommes à qui cette folie n'ait quelquefois passé par la
   tête." VOLTAIRE.

   COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY HENRY ARTHUR JONES

CAUTION--This play is fully protected under the copyright laws of the
United States, is subject to royalty, and any one presenting the play
without the consent of the author or his agents, will be liable to
penalty under the law. All applications for amateur performances must be
made to SAMUEL FRENCH, 28-30 West 38th Street, New York City.

   _ALL RIGHTS RESERVED_

   NEW YORK               | LONDON
   SAMUEL FRENCH          | SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD.
   PUBLISHER              | 26 SOUTHAMPTON STREET
   28-30 WEST 38TH STREET | STRAND



"The crescendo of quarrel is most skilfully and drolly arranged;--a
scene on classic lines boldly challenging and, what is more, maintaining
comparison with Sheridan." Mr. A. B. Walkley--The London Times.

"This new play, by Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, at The Haymarket, is surely
as good a comedy as he has ever written.

I should say, in evaluating Mr. Jones, that his greatest asset is his
humor. We are grateful that Mr. Jones has that comfortable gift which
prevents him from dancing on us--that gift of humor whereby he is
content to take us just as we are.

No playwright is more joyously observant than Mr. Jones; and none
observes more accurately, in the milieu that he has chosen. Other
playwrights may create more salient and memorable figures. But none of
them creates figures so lifelike as Mr. Jones.

Nor is any one of them so fine a craftsman. We are not made conscious of
it while the play is in progress. From the very outset, we are aware
merely of certain ladies and gentlemen behaving with apparent freedom
and naturalness. It is only when the play is over that we notice the art
of it. The verisimilitude of "Dolly Reforming Herself" is all the more
admirable because the play is founded on a philosophic question, and in
the whole course of it there is not a scene, not a character (not even
the butler's character), that is not strictly and logically relevant to
this question. The whole fabric is wrought in a tight and formal
pattern, yet the effect of it is as life itself. The question in point
is "Can we cure ourselves of our bad habits?" and the answer is worked
not through a story, but simply through the behavior of a few people in
a country-house.

The central scene of the play, however, is the scene between Dolly and
her husband. The whole scene is delightful, worked out with the finest
sense of dramatic rhythm: a truly great comic scene, of which Mr. Jones
may well be proud."

Mr. Max Beerbohm--The Saturday Review.



TO MISS ETHEL IRVING


My Dear Miss Irving,

Will you accept the dedication of this little comedy, whose success at
the Haymarket was so largely due to your fine and sincere performance of
Dolly?

                                          Faithfully yours

                                                     Henry Arthur Jones.



The following is a copy of the original cast of "Dolly Reforming
Herself" produced at the Haymarket Theatre, on Tuesday, November 3rd.,
1908.

CAST.

_Harry Telfer_ (Dolly's Husband) MR. ROBERT LORAINE
_Matthew Barron_ (Dolly's Father) MR. C. M. LOWNE
_Captain Lucas Wentworth_ (Dolly's Cousin) MR. CHARLES R. MAUDE
_Professor Sturgess_ MR. E. LYALL SWETE
_The Rev. James Pilcher_ (Vicar of Crookbury) MR. HERBERT BUNSTON
_Criddle_ MR. GILBERT PORTEOUS
_Mrs. Harry Telfer_ (Dolly) MISS ETHEL IRVING
_Mrs. Sturgess_ (Renie) MISS MARGARET HALSTAN
_Peters_ (Dolly's Maid) MISS ADA WEBSTER



PERSONS REPRESENTED.


HARRY TELFER (Dolly's husband).
MATTHEW BARRON (Dolly's father).
CAPTAIN LUCAS WENTWORTH (Dolly's cousin).
PROFESSOR STURGESS.
THE REVEREND JAMES PILCHER (Vicar of Crookbury.)
CRIDDLE.

MRS. HARRY TELFER (Dolly).
MRS. STURGESS (Renie).
PETERS (Dolly's maid).


ACT I.

SCENE.--THE DRAWING-ROOM AT HARRY TELFER'S, THE GABLES, CROOKBURY GREEN,
SURREY.

_Time_--THE AFTERNOON OF 1ST JANUARY, 1907.


ACT II.

SCENE.--THE SAME.

_Time_--AFTER DINNER ON THE SAME DAY.


ACT III.

SCENE.--THE SAME.

_Time_--LATER ON THE SAME NIGHT.


ACT IV.

SCENE.--THE SAME.

_Time_--THE AFTERNOON OF 1ST JANUARY, 1908.



Dolly Reforming Herself



ACT I.


SCENE: _Drawing-room at_ HARRY TELFER'S, _The Gables, Crookbury Green,
Surrey. A well-furnished room in a modern red brick country house. At
the back, a little to the right, is a door leading into the hall. All
along the right side is a glass partition, showing a conservatory which
is entered by glass doors, one up stage, the other down. On the left
side is a large fireplace. At the back, in the centre, is a handsome
writing-desk with a shut down flap lid. Above the fireplace, facing the
audience is a large sofa. To the right of sofa, and below it in the left
centre of the room is a small table, and near to it an easy chair. Right
centre down stage is a larger table._

TIME: _The afternoon of_ 1ST _January_, 1907.

_Discover at writing-table, back to audience_, DOLLY TELFER, _a bright
little woman about thirty, busied with bills and papers. Bending over
her, back to audience, is her father_, MATT BARRON, _a pleasant-looking,
easy-going cynic of sixty._ HARRY TELFER, DOLLY'S _husband, an ordinary
good-natured, weakish, impulsive Englishman about thirty-five, is
standing with his back to the fire. Sitting on sofa, reading a
scientific book, is_ PROFESSOR STURGESS, _a hard, dry, narrow, fattish
scientific man about forty-five. At the table, right, reading a French
novel, is_ RENIE STURGESS, _the Professor's wife, a tall, dark, handsome
woman about thirty_.


_Harry_. No, I can't say that I pay very much attention to sermons as a
rule, but Pilcher gave us a regular downright, no-mistake-about-it,
rouser at the Watch-night Service last night.

_Matt_. [_Turning round_.] I wonder what precise difference this rousing
sermon will make in the conduct of any person who heard it.

_Harry_. Well, it's going to make a lot of difference in my conduct. At
least, I won't say a lot of difference, because I don't call myself a
very bad sort of fellow, do you?

_Matt_. N-o--No----

_Harry_. At any rate I'm a thundering good husband, ain't I, Dolly?
[DOLLY _takes no notice_.] And I've got no flagrant vices. But I've got
a heap of--well a heap of selfish little habits, such as temper, and so
on, and for the coming year I'm going to knock them all off.

_Matt_. That will be a score for Pilcher--that is, if you do knock them
off.

_Harry_. Oh, I'm thoroughly resolved! I promised Dolly last night,
didn't I, Dolly? [DOLLY _takes no notice_.] Dolly too! Dolly was awfully
impressed by the sermon, weren't you, Dolly?

_Matt_. [_Looking round at_ DOLLY'S _back_.] Dolly was awfully
impressed?

_Harry_. Yes. Before we went to bed she gave me her word, that if I'd
give her a little help, she'd pay off all her bills, and live within her
allowance for the future, didn't you, Dolly?

_Matt_. Well, that will be another score for Pilcher--that is, if Dolly
does live within her allowance.

_Harry._ Oh, Dolly means it this time, don't you Dolly?

_Dolly._ [_Turns round on her stool, bills in hand._] I think it's
disgraceful!

_Matt._ What?

_Dolly._ These tradespeople! [_Comes down to_ MATT.] I'm almost sure
I've paid this bill once--if not twice. Then there's a mistake of thirty
shillings in the addition--you're good at figures, Dad. Do add that up
for me. My head is so muddled.

     [_Giving the bill to_ MATT.

_Harry._ Aren't you glad, Doll, that you made that resolution not to
have any more bills?

_Dolly._ It will be heavenly! To go about all day with the blessed
thought that I don't owe a farthing to anybody. It's awful!

     [_Crunching a bill in her hand, and throwing it on to
     writing-table._

_Harry._ Cheer up, little woman! You don't owe such a very alarming
amount, do you?

_Dolly._ Oh no! Oh _no_! And if you'll only help me as you promised----

_Harry._ We'll go thoroughly into it by-and-by. In fact I did mean to
give you a pleasant little Christmas surprise, and pay off all your
debts.

_Dolly._ Oh, you angel! But why didn't you do it?

_Harry._ I've done it so often! You remember the last time?

_Dolly._ [_Making a wry face._] Yes, I remember the last time.

_Harry._ And here we are again!

_Dolly._ Oh, don't talk like a clown!

_Harry._ But, my dear Dolly, here we are again.

_Dolly._ Well, I haven't got the money sense! I simply haven't got it! I
was born without it!

_Matt._ [_Hands her the bill._] The addition is quite correct.

_Dolly._ [_Taking the bill._] You're sure? Then I'm convinced I've paid
it! [_Looking at bill._] Yes! Thirty-four, seven, six. Professor
Sturgess----

_Prof._ [_Looks up from his book_] Yes?

_Dolly._ You understand all about psychology and the way our brains
work.

_Prof._ I've given my entire life to their study, but I cannot claim
that I understand them.

_Dolly._ But wouldn't you say----

_Prof._ What?

_Dolly._ I'm morally certain I've paid this bill.

_Matt._ Have you got the receipt?

_Dolly._ No! I must have mislaid it.

_Matt._ When, and where did you pay it?

_Dolly._ I cannot recall the exact circumstances. And now----

_Matt._ And now----?

_Dolly._ Fulks and Garner have sent me a most impertinent note
requesting immediate payment.

_Prof._ What is the particular brain process that you wish me to
explain?

_Dolly._ How do you account for my having the most vivid impression that
I've paid it--so vivid that I cannot shake it off?

_Prof._ Well--a----

_Matt._ Isn't it an instance of that obscure operation of the feminine
mind whereby the merest wish becomes an accomplished fact?

_Dolly._ My dear Dad, I actually remember the exact amount: thirty-four,
seven, six. Thirty-four, seven, six. I shall never enter Fulks and
Garnet's shop again!

       *       *       *       *       *

     _Enter_ CRIDDLE. [_Announces_.] Captain Wentworth!

     _Enter_ CAPTAIN LUCAS WENTWORTH, _a good-looking smart young army
     man about thirty. He is in riding-clothes. Exit_ CRIDDLE. _At_
     CAPTAIN WENTWORTH'S _entrance_ RENIE _shows keen interest, throws
     him a secret glance as he goes to shake hands with_ DOLLY.

_Dolly._ Ah, Lu! What, over again! Happy New Year once more!

_Lucas._ Same to you. [_Shaking hands._] Happy New Year, everybody! Good
afternoon, Harry!

     [_Nodding to_ HARRY.

_Harry._ Ditto, Lu.

_Lucas._ Ah, Uncle Matt! Happy New Year!

     [_Shaking hands._

_Matt._ Happy New Year, Lucas!

_Lucas._ Good afternoon, Mrs. Sturgess.

     [_Shaking hands with_ RENIE.

_Renie._ Good afternoon.

_Lucas._ None the worse for your outing last night, I hope?

_Renie._ Oh no, I'm sure Mr. Pilcher's sermon ought to make us all very
much better.

_Dolly._ May I introduce you to Professor Sturgess--my cousin Captain
Wentworth.

_Lucas._ How d'ye do?

_Prof._ How d'ye do?

_Matt._ So you came over to the Watch-night Service, I hear?

_Lucas._ Yes! I'd nothing much better to do, and Dolly was cracking up
this new parson of yours, so I thought I'd jog over and sample him.

_Matt._ A dozen miles over here at midnight; an hour's service in a cold
church; and a dozen miles back to Aldershot, in the sleet and snow. I
hope the sermon thoroughly braced you up!

_Lucas._ It did. It made me feel just as good as I knew how to be.

_Matt._ Here's another score for Pilcher!

_Dolly._ Dad, I think it's shocking bad taste of you to keep on sneering
at Mr. Pilcher!

_Matt._ I'm not sneering. I'm only curious to follow up this wonderful
sermon, and trace its results on all of you.

_Dolly._ Well, you can see its results. [LUCAS _has got near to_ RENIE,
_stands with his back to her, takes out a letter from his coat-tail
pocket, holds it out for her to take. She takes it, pops it in her
novel, and goes on reading. He moves away from her._] Take only our own
family. Harry and I both have turned over a new leaf. Renie, you said
Mr. Pilcher had set you thinking deeply----

_Renie._ Yes, dear, very deeply.

_Dolly._ Lu, you said the sermon had done you a lot of good.

_Lucas._ Heaps! I won't say I'm going to set up for a saint straight
off, because--well--I'm not so sure I could bring it off, even if I
tried----

_Matt._ That's what holds me back, my wretched nervous fear that I
shouldn't bring it off. Still, in justice to Pilcher, I hope you're not
going to let his sermon be wasted.

_Lucas._ Oh, no! My first spare five minutes I'm going to brisk about,
and do a bit of New Year's tidying up.

     [_He is standing over_ RENIE, _who has opened his letter in her
     novel; he again exchanges a secret look of understanding with her,
     and makes a sign to her to go into the conservatory._

     _Enter_ CRIDDLE.

_Criddle._ [_Announcing._] Mr. Pilcher!

     _Enter the_ REVEREND JAMES PILCHER, _a big, strong, bright, genial,
     manly, hearty English parson about forty. Exit_ CRIDDLE.

_Dolly._ How d'ye do?      [_Shaking hands._

_Pilcher._ How d'ye do? Happy New Year, once more! Happy New Year, Mr.
Barron!

_Matt._ [_Shaking hands._] A happy New Year.

_Pilcher._ How do again, Telfer?

_Harry._ How are you?

_Pilcher._ Good morning, Mrs. Sturgess.

_Renie._ Good morning.

     [_At_ PILCHER'S _entrance she has hidden her French novel behind
     her in the chair. In shaking hands with_ PILCHER _it drops on to
     the floor and_ LUCAS'S _letter drops out._ LUCAS _goes to pick it
     up,_ MR. PILCHER _is before him, picks up the novel and letter and
     hands them to_ RENIE. _In taking them she shows some confusion._

_Pilcher._ [_Genially._] Improving the New Year by getting a thorough
knowledge of Parisian life and manners, I see.

_Renie._ [_Confused._] No!--I had begun the book a week ago and so I
thought--a--I'd better finish it.

_Lucas._ Good morning, Mr. Pilcher.

_Pilcher._ [_Shaking hands._] Good morning.

_Lucas._ Rattling good sermon you gave us last night.

_Pilcher._ I'm glad you thought it worth coming so far to hear.

_Lucas._ Not at all. Jolly well worth coming for, eh, Mrs. Sturgess?

     [_With a sly little look and shake of the head at_ RENIE.

_Renie._ I thoroughly enjoyed it!

_Pilcher._ [_A little surprised._] Enjoyed it! Now I meant to make you
all very uncomfortable!

_Dolly._ Oh, you gave us a good shaking up, and we deserved it! I don't
think you've met Professor Sturgess?

_Pilcher._ [_Advancing to_ PROFESSOR.] No, but I've read his book, "Man,
the Automaton."

_Prof._ [_Bowing._] Not with disapproval, I trust?

_Pilcher._ [_Shaking hands very cordially._] With the most profound
disapproval, with boundless, uncompromising dissent and antagonism!

_Prof._ I'm sorry!

_Pilcher._ Why, you deny that man has any vestige of free will.

_Prof._ Certainly. The longer I live, the more I'm convinced that free
will is a purely subjective illusion.

_Dolly._ Do you mean that when I will to do a certain thing I can't do
it? Oh, that's absurd. For instance, I will to go and touch that chair!
[_She goes and touches it._] There! [_Triumphantly._] I've done it! That
shows I've got free will. [_The_ PROFESSOR _shakes his head._] Well,
then how did I do it?

_Prof._ I affirm that your willing to touch that chair or not to touch
it, your actual touching it, or not touching it; your possession or
non-possession of a criminal impulse----

_Dolly._ I haven't any criminal impulses----

_Prof._ [_Shakes his head and goes on._] Your yielding to that criminal
impulse or your not yielding to it--all these states of consciousness
are entirely dependent upon the condition, quantity and arrangement of
certain atoms in the gray matter of your brain. You think, you will, you
act according as that gray matter works. You did not cause or make that
condition of the atoms of your gray matter, therefore you are not
responsible for thinking or acting in this way or that, seeing that
your thoughts, and your actions, and that direction of your impulses
which you call your will, are all precisely determined and regulated by
the condition and arrangement of these minute atoms of your gray matter!

_Dolly._ [_Has at first listened with great attention, but has grown
bewildered as the_ PROFESSOR _goes on._] I don't care anything about my
gray matter! I've quite made up my mind I won't have any more bills!

_Pilcher._ [_Turning to_ RENIE.] Does Mrs. Sturgess agree with the
Professor's doctrine?

_Renie._ No, indeed! To say that we're mere machines--it's horrid.

_Prof._ The question is not whether it's horrid, but whether it's true.

_Pilcher._ What do you think, Mr. Barron?

_Matt._ It's a very nutty and knotty problem. I'm watching to see Dolly
and Harry solve it!

_Dolly._ See us solve it! How?

_Matt._ You and Harry heard a most thrilling, soul-stirring sermon last
night.

_Pilcher._ You had good hearsay accounts of my sermon?

_Matt._ Excellent! I should have heard it myself, but I've reached an
age when it would be dangerous to give up any of my old and cherished
bad habits. So in place of going to church and selfishly reforming
myself, I shall have to be content with watching Dolly and Harry reform
themselves.

_Dolly._ Don't take any notice of him, Mr. Pilcher, he's the most
cynical, hardened reprobate! I have to blush for him a hundred times a
day.

     [RENIE _strolls casually into conservatory by lower door._ LUCAS
     _casually follows her._

_Matt._ And in order to settle once and for all this vexed question of
free will and moral responsibility, I'll bet you, Harry, a simple
fiver, and I'll bet you Dolly, a new Parisian hat, and half a dozen
pairs of gloves that you won't live up to your good resolutions, and
that on next New Year's Day you'll neither of you be one ha'penny the
better for all the wise counsels Mr. Pilcher gave you last night.

_Harry._ A fiver! Done!

_Dolly._ I'll take you, too! In fact, I'll double it; two new Parisian
hats, and a dozen pairs of gloves!

_Matt._ Done, my dear!

_Pilcher._ I hope I sha'n't be accused of talking shop if I venture to
recall that betting was one of the bad habits I especially warned my
congregation against, last night!

_Harry._ By Jove, yes--I'd forgotten all about that! Of course, if you
wish us to cry off----

_Pilcher._ Well, not exactly. I might perhaps suggest an alternative
plan which was tried with great success in my late parish----

_Dolly._ What was that?

_Pilcher._ A very capital good fellow--an auctioneer and land surveyor,
my churchwarden in fact, by name Jobling--found that in spite of
constant good resolutions, certain small vices were gradually creeping
upon him. There was an occasional outburst of temper to his clerks, an
occasional half glass too much; and on one lamentable market day, he
actually discovered himself using bad language to Mrs. Jobling----

_Dolly._ [_Looking at_ HARRY.] Oh! Ah!

_Matt._ Jobling's gray matter can't have been in good working order.

_Pilcher._ We corrected that! We got his gray matter under control.

_Dolly._ How?

_Pilcher._ My Christmas Blanket Club happened to be on the road to
bankruptcy. By the way, our Blanket Club here is in low water. Well, I
gave Jobling a small box with a hole at the top sufficiently large to
admit half a crown. And I suggested that whenever he was betrayed into
one of these little slips, he should fine himself for the benefit of my
Blanket Club----

_Harry._ Good business! Dolly, where's that collecting-box they sent us
from the Hospital for Incurables?

_Dolly._ In the cupboard in the next room.

_Harry._ Right-o! No time like the present!      [_Exit._]

_Matt._ And how did you get out of this dilemma?

_Pilcher._ Dilemma?

_Matt._ Did your Blanket Club remain in bankruptcy, or what must have
been an even more distressing alternative to you, did Jobling continue
to use bad language to his wife?

_Pilcher._ We struck a happy medium. My Blanket Club balance was
considerably augmented, and Jobling's behaviour considerably improved
under the stress of the fines.

     _Re-enter_ HARRY _with an old, dusty collecting-box on which is
     printed in large letters, "County Hospital for Incurables."_

_Harry._ [_Placing the box on the table._] There! My name's Jobling for
the present! By Jove! that was a very neat idea of yours.

_Pilcher._ Ah, by the way, I didn't give you Jobling's tariff----

_Harry._ Tariff?

_Pilcher._ Jobling's tariff for a mild little profanity like "By Jove,"
was a mere sixpence.

_Harry._ Oh!      [_Feels in his pocket._

_Pilcher._ Of course you needn't adopt Jobling's scale.

_Harry._ Oh yes! I'll toe the mark! [_Takes six pence out of his pocket
and puts it in his box._] I'm determined I'll cure myself of all these
bad little tricks----

_Matt._ [_To_ DOLLY, _pointing to the money-box._] Are you going to
contribute?

_Dolly._ [_Snappishly._] Perhaps, when I've paid off my bills.

_Matt._ [_To_ PILCHER.] Will you kindly let my daughter have your lowest
tariff for ladies?

_Dolly._ Oh, please don't be in such a hurry. What about your own
contribution? Mr. Pilcher, I hope you don't intend to let my father
escape.

_Pilcher._ I understood Mr. Barron was prepared to risk a five-pound
note that you and Mr. Telfer will not carry your New Year resolutions
into practice?

_Matt._ With the almost certain chance of drawing a five-pound note from
Harry and a new hat from Dolly.

_Pilcher._ I'm afraid I can't hold out those inducements. But I can
offer you the very pleasing alternatives of chuckling over your
daughter's and Mr. Telfer's lapses, or of contributing five pounds to an
excellent charity!

_Matt._ H'm! Well I'll do my best to oblige you, Mr. Pilcher! Let me
see!

     [_Looking round, his eye falls on_ RENIE _and_ LUCAS _who, at the
     beginning of the above conversation have gone into conservatory at
     lower door, and now come out again at upper door. She has a
     hot-house flower in her hand, and they are eagerly absorbed in
     their conversation. The_ PROFESSOR _talking to_ HARRY _and not
     noticing._

_Renie._ [_Becoming aware that_ MATT _is watching them._] Yes, that
arrangement of the stamens is quite unusual. It's what the gardener
calls a "sport"----

_Lucas._ [_Examining the flower._] Jolly good sport, too!

_Matt._ I'm not sure that we haven't even better sport here----

_Renie._ [_Coming to him._] Sport? What sport? can we join?

_Matt._ That's just what I was going to propose. There are four of you
here, who heard Mr. Pilcher's excellent discourse last night. And you
are all determined to turn over a new leaf this year. Isn't that so?

_Dolly._ Yes!

_Harry._ I know I am.

_Matt._ Mrs. Sturgess?

_Renie._ Yes, indeed!

_Matt._ Lucas, you?

_Lucas._ Yes, Uncle.

_Matt._ On the first of January next, I am prepared to put a sovereign
in that money-box for every one of you who can honestly declare that he
has broken himself or herself of his bad habits during the year.

_Lucas._ I say, not all our bad habits?

_Matt._ H'm. I don't wish to be exacting--I've no doubt each of you has
his own little failing or weakness. Well, come to me and say on your
honour that you've conquered this or that pet special weakness--and in
goes my sovereign.

_Lucas._ You don't really mean it?

_Matt._ Indeed I do. I hope you won't stand out and--spoil sport, eh?

_Lucas._ Oh, I don't mind coming in--just for the lark of the thing.

_Matt._ Then you all agree?

_Dolly._ Oh yes.

_Harry._ Certainly.

_Matt._ Mrs. Sturgess?

_Renie._ We don't know where we may be next Christmas.

_Dolly._ You'll be here with us. I invite you on the spot. You accept?

_Renie._ Yes, delighted, if my husband----

_Prof._ Very pleased.

_Matt._ Well, Mr. Pilcher, I think I've made your Blanket Club a very
handsome offer.

_Pilcher._ Very handsome. [_Taking out watch._] I hope our friends will
cordially respond, for the sake of my Blanket Club.

_Dolly._ You'll stay for a cup of tea?

_Pilcher._ I've heaps of New Year's calls to make. I'm afraid I must be
going; good afternoon, Professor!

_Prof._ Good afternoon.

_Pilcher._ Good afternoon, Telfer.

_Harry._ Good afternoon.

_Pilcher._ Good-bye, Mrs. Sturgess.

_Renie._ Good-bye. So many thanks for your eloquent sermon.

     [_Shaking hands._

_Pitcher._ Now, was I eloquent? I suppose I was, since I've produced
such an invigorating New Year atmosphere.

     [RENIE _moves her French novel._

_Matt._ And brought Lucas over from Aldershot in the snow!

_Lucas._ Rather! I shall come again next year.

     [_Shaking hands._

_Pilcher._ Do. And then we shall be able to estimate the effect of my
eloquence.

_Matt._ [_Tapping the money-box._] We shall!

_Pilcher._ Good-bye, Mrs. Telfer.

_Dolly._ Good-bye. [_Rings bell._

_Pilcher._ Good-bye, Mr. Barron.

_Matt._ Good-bye.

_Pilcher._ You might be inclined to risk a sovereign on yourself for the
Blanket Club?

_Matt._ I daren't. I can't trust my gray matter--I should make a
dreadful fiasco.

     [CRIDDLE _appears at door._

_Pilcher._ Mrs. Telfer, I leave him in your hands.

     [_Exit_ PILCHER. CRIDDLE _closes the door after him._

_Matt._ Dolly, I don't mind having that new Parisian hat on with you.

_Dolly._ Done! I don't mind how much I punish you.

_Prof._ [_Taking out his watch._] Half past three, my dear.

_Renie._ I don't think I'll go out this afternoon.

_Prof._ Oh, you'd better take your little constitutional. You missed it
yesterday. I'm sure your restlessness is due to your not taking regular
exercise.

_Renie._ Which way are you going?      [_Yawning._

_Prof._ My usual round, up to the White House and back by the fish-pond.

_Renie._ Perhaps I'll join you at the fish-pond.

_Prof._ [_To_ MATT.] Nothing like living by rule and measure.

_Matt._ I shouldn't wonder. I've never tried it.

_Prof._ I ascribe my constant good health and contentment to my
unvarying routine of work and diet and exercise.      [_Exit._

_Matt._ Then where do my constant good health and contentment come from?

_Lucas._ Dolly, I left my evening kit here. Could you put me up for the
night?

_Dolly._ Delighted! You'll make up our rubber.

_Lucas._ Right!

_Matt._ Not going to ride back to Aldershot again to-night?

_Lucas._ Not to-night, thank you.

_Matt._ Just a shade too bracing, eh?

_Lucas._ Just a shade! Dolly, I haven't seen your new fish-pond. Is
anybody going to meet the Professor?

     [_Glancing at_ RENIE.

_Matt._ I am. [_Linking his arm in_ LUCAS'S.] We'll get into an
unvarying routine of exercise for the next hour. Come along!

     [_Takes_ LUCAS _off as he is exchanging a look with_ RENIE. RENIE
     _makes to follow them, stops at door, turns back a little, stops,
     takes out_ LUCAS'S _letter from her French novel, goes to fire and
     reads it. Meanwhile the following scene takes place between_ DOLLY
     _and_ HARRY.

_Harry._ [_To_ DOLLY.] Now, Dolly, we can go through your bills.

     [_Going to her writing-desk._

_Dolly._ Yes. Hadn't I better sort them out first?

_Harry._ [_Taking up bills._] Oh, I'll help you sort them out----

_Dolly._ Take care! You'll muddle all my papers. [_Taking bills out of
his hands, and closing down the writing-desk._] I want to have a little
talk with Renie--you'd better join them at the fish-pond.

_Harry._ Well, so long as you do get them sorted, and squared up. What
about after tea?

_Dolly._ All right. After tea.

_Harry._ After tea. We'll have a nice cosy half-hour, all to ourselves,
and sweep them all out of our minds.

     [_With a gesture._

_Dolly._ [_Nods cheerfully._] Yes, a nice cosy half-hour and sweep them
all out of our minds. [_With his gesture. Exit_ HARRY _briskly. She
repeats his gesture._] Sweep them all out of our minds. [_Opening desk
and regarding bills with dismay._] Oh, don't I wish I could! Oh, Renie!

     [RENIE _is busy with her letter at the fire._

_Renie._ [_Puts letter into pocket._] What is it?

_Dolly._ [_Has taken up one or two bills._] These bills! These awful
bills! These vampires!

_Renie._ Yes, dear! I suppose it's rather dreadful, but it must be sweet
to have a dear, kind husband who'll pay them all off.

_Dolly._ Harry? He made a dreadful fuss last time. And then I didn't
show him all.

_Renie._ Well, dear, after all, it's only bills----

_Dolly._ Only bills! Only? Well, I'm going to show him every one this
time. And what a lesson it shall be to me! That's why I'm so grateful to
Mr. Pilcher.

_Renie._ Why?

_Dolly._ Yesterday afternoon I thought I'd screw up my courage to go
through the bills just to see where I was. My dear, I was paralysed! I
had the most appalling time! Well, Mr. Pilcher's sermon came just in the
nick of time. I thought "what an idiot I must be to endure all this
misery just for want of a little resolution."

_Renie._ Mr. Pilcher's sermon came just in the nick of time for me too.

_Dolly._ Did it?

_Renie._ I had an awful afternoon yesterday!

_Dolly._ You?! You haven't any bills?

_Renie._ No! [_Sighs._] I almost wish I had.

_Dolly._ Wish you had?!

_Renie._ I almost envy you the delicious experience of having to
confess----

_Dolly._ Yes dear, you always were fond of scenes, but I'm not!

_Renie._ And then the heavenly feeling of being forgiven, and taken in
the arms of the man you love!

_Dolly._ Yes, that part of it is all right. It's what comes before----

     [_With a little shudder._

_Renie._ After all, your husband isn't a machine. He is a human being!

_Dolly._ Oh, Harry's a perfect dear in most things, but he has got a
temper!

_Renie._ My husband never even swears at me! Oh, Dolly, you are lucky!

_Dolly._ Hum!

_Renie._ Oh, Dolly----      [_Sighs and goes away._

_Dolly._ Is anything the matter?

_Renie._ No dear. Nothing, except--oh, life is so hard! so hard!

_Dolly._ Renie, if you're in trouble----

_Renie._ Thank you, dear. I knew you'd help me.

_Dolly._ Yes, so long as it isn't money. And even then I'd help you,
only I can't.

_Renie._ It isn't money.

_Dolly._ Then what is it?

_Renie._ [_Looking at_ DOLLY _curiously._] I wonder if you would
understand.

_Dolly._ I'll do my best.

_Renie._ It's such a strange story. [_Moving away,_ DOLLY _makes a
little dubious grimace behind her back._ RENIE _suddenly comes up to_
DOLLY _very effusively._] Dolly, I will trust you. You know I thoroughly
admire and honour my husband.

_Dolly._ [_A little startled._] Ye-es.

_Renie._ You know that nothing could ever induce me to wrong him for a
moment?

_Dolly._ No----

_Renie._ Nothing could be further from my thoughts.

_Dolly._ No--but is there anybody--Renie, who is it?

_Renie._ Give me your sacred promise you'll never breathe a word to any
living soul?

_Dolly._ Not a word--who is it?

_Renie._ Not even to your husband?

_Dolly._ Not even to my husband.

_Renie._ Nor to him?

_Dolly._ Him? No, of course not. Who is it?

_Renie._ Well, dear, you know what my life has been. Few women have met
with so little real sympathy as I. Few women have suffered----

_Dolly._ No, dear. Who is it? Do I know him?

_Renie._ Your cousin Lucas has a deep and sincere admiration for me.

_Dolly._ Lu!? Lu!? Of course! I might have known he'd never ride a dozen
miles in the snow for a sermon! It's disgraceful of him!

_Renie._ No, dear, he's not to blame. We are neither of us to blame.

_Dolly._ [_Contemptuously._] Oh! Why you haven't known him a month, have
you?

_Renie._ I met him for the first time in this room three weeks ago last
Thursday afternoon.

_Dolly._ It's a great pity the Professor didn't come down with you.

_Renie._ That would have made no difference. It had to be!

_Dolly._ What had to be? Renie, how far has this gone? You've been
meeting him alone----

_Renie._ Once or twice.

_Dolly._ You've slipped away every afternoon this week.

_Renie._ However often I may have met him, he has offered me nothing but
the most chivalrous attention. He has always respected me----

_Dolly._ Well then, he mustn't respect you any more. It must be stopped.

_Renie._ Dolly, I didn't expect you to take up this attitude.

_Dolly._ You don't suppose I'm going to have this sort of thing in my
own house, do you?

_Renie._ What sort of thing?

_Dolly._ Do you remember the awful row I got into at school when your
boy's love letter was discovered in the Banbury cakes you'd persuaded me
to take in for you?

_Renie._ But you received Banbury cakes of your own!

_Dolly._ Not since I've been married. Of course before your marriage
your outrageous flirting didn't much matter----

_Renie._ Outrageous flirting?--If I seemed to flirt----

_Dolly._ Seemed?!

_Renie._ It was only in the vain hope of meeting with one who could
offer me the perfect homage that I have always felt would one day be
mine.

_Dolly._ Well, he mustn't offer it here! I shall tell him so very
plainly. He'd better not stay to dinner.

_Renie._ There is no reason Captain Wentworth should not stay to dinner.
He has given me the one absolutely blameless unselfish devotion of his
life. I've accepted it on that distinct understanding. I've trusted you
with my secret, a secret honourable alike to Captain Wentworth and
myself. You've promised not to breathe a word to any living soul. You
surely don't mean to break your word?

_Dolly._ I don't mean to stand the racket of your Banbury cakes.

_Renie._ I didn't expect you to be so unsympathetic. You promised to
help me!

_Dolly._ Help you! How did you expect me to help you?

_Renie._ My husband has to go to Edinburgh next week to give a course of
lectures there.

_Dolly._ Well?

_Renie._ He wants me to go with him. Dearest, it would be perfectly
sweet of you to ask me to stay on another fortnight here.

_Dolly._ [_Makes a little movement of indignant surprise._] I see!

_Renie._ There could be no possible harm in it now that you know our
attachment is quite innocent and that you can look after me every
moment. Dearest, you might oblige me in a tiny little matter like this.

_Dolly._ [_After a pause._] I'll think it over----

_Renie._ Thank you so much.

_Dolly._ Renie, you said Mr. Pilcher's sermon came just in the nick of
time----

_Renie._ So it did.

_Dolly._ You don't call this the "nick of time"?!

_Renie._ Yes, indeed. I went to church in a perfect fever. I didn't know
what to do. Well, as I listened to Mr. Pilcher everything became quite
clear to me. I resolved I would accept Captain Wentworth's pure
unselfish devotion and make it a lever to raise all my ideals and
aspirations!

_Dolly._ But there wasn't anything in Mr. Pilcher's sermon about----

_Renie._ Oh yes, there was a lot about ideals and aspirations.

_Dolly._ Yes, but not the sort of aspirations you have for Lucas. I
suppose you know he makes love to every woman he comes across?

_Renie._ He told me he had been led into one or two unworthy
attachments.

_Dolly._ Yes! That's quite right. So he has! One or two!

_Renie._ That was before he met me.

_Dolly._ Yes, and this will be before he meets the next lady.

_Renie._ [_Looks at_ DOLLY _severely._] My dear Dolly, with your light
frivolous nature it is impossible for you to understand a pure and
exalted attachment like ours. Listen! [_Taking out a letter._] This will
show you his fine nature, his fine feelings--"From the first moment I
saw you----"

     MATT _enters._

_Renie._ [_Putting letter in pocket._] Well, have you had a pleasant
walk?

_Matt._ Very pleasant--and instructive. The Professor asked me to remind
you that he's waiting for you at the fish-pond.

_Renie._ I'd better go. I shall get a little lecture all to myself if I
don't. [_Going off, to_ DOLLY.] Thank you, dear, so much for your kind
invitation to stay on!

_Dolly._ Don't mention it!

_Renie._ I shall try to manage it.      [_Exit._

_Dolly._ Yes, I'm sure you will.

_Matt._ Mrs. Sturgess going to stay on?

_Dolly._ She wants me to invite her. But I won't if I can help it.
[_Goes to him suddenly._] Dad!

_Matt._ Well?

_Dolly._ That wretched Lucas!

_Matt._ What about him?

_Dolly._ No, I've promised her not to breathe a word. So you must guess.
[_Pause._] Have you guessed?

_Matt._ [_After a pause._] Yes. Well, I--[_Begins to chuckle._] So Lucas
is up to his old games!

_Dolly._ My own guest! Under my own roof! It's too horrid of him.

_Matt._ [_Chuckling._] It is! It's too bad! The rascal.

_Dolly._ Oh, it's more than half her fault! It's just like her!

     [MATT _suddenly bursts from a chuckle into a roar._

_Dolly._ What are you laughing at?

_Matt._ I've just left---- [_Chuckling._] I've just left the Professor
down at the fish-pond explaining to Lucas all about his gray matter,
and----      [_Roars._

_Dolly._ I don't see anything to laugh at.

_Matt._ Twelve miles in the snow----I say, Doll, we're making a
splendid start for the New Year!

     [_Laughing._

_Dolly._ Dad! Will you please leave off? [_Shaking his shoulder._] Will
you be serious?

_Matt._ Yes, my dear!! [_Pulling himself together and straightening his
features._] Yes, I will. After all, it's a serious matter.

_Dolly._ It's very serious for me, in a neighbourhood like this!

_Matt._ It's serious for me, as I was Lucas's guardian. And it's serious
for him. If he goes and plays the fool, it may spoil his career--the
young ass!

_Dolly._ Very well, then, will you please treat it seriously and set to
work and help me?

_Matt._ How far have matters gone?

_Dolly._ Oh, there's no real harm done at present.

_Matt._ How do you know?

_Dolly._ Oh, Lucas is writing her silly letters and she's talking about
his pure and exalted devotion, and making it a lever to raise all her
ideals and aspirations.

_Matt._ [_Shakes his head._] That looks bad! That looks very dangerous
for her.

_Dolly._ Oh, no; she knows how to take care of herself. But it's
dangerous for me!

_Matt._ How, dangerous for you?!

_Dolly._ If there's the least bit of scandal she'll contrive to drag me
into it! I know her so well.

_Matt._ [_Walking about, cogitating._] Yes, and we mustn't let Lucas
make a mess of it.

_Dolly._ What can we do?

_Matt._ When I was over at Aldershot last week Sir John said something
about giving Lucas an A. D. C. in India. I'll drive over to-morrow and
ask Sir John to pack Lucas out of the country for a year or two!

_Dolly._ That's a good idea. But it may take some time?

_Matt._ A week or so, perhaps more.

_Dolly._ But if they find out they're going to be parted, it is just
this next week when there will be all the danger.

_Matt._ That's true.

_Dolly._ They ought to be parted to-night.

_Matt._ They ought! They ought! Not a doubt about it! Not a shadow of
doubt! They ought to be parted to-night!

_Dolly._ Dad! I believe I can frighten Renie out of it.

_Matt._ Frighten her?

_Dolly._ I'll try! And you must take Lucas in hand----

_Matt._ H'm! Isn't Harry the right person----?

_Dolly._ No, I sha'n't tell Harry. Harry would only get into a temper
and muddle it. No, you must get Lucas to take himself off.

_Matt._ Take himself off!

_Dolly._ I won't have him here. You can tell him so. Be very severe with
him.

_Matt._ [_Dubious._] H'm!

_Dolly._ Take a very high tone.

_Matt._ I'm not sure that taking a high tone is quite in my line.

_Dolly._ Then please try it. Dad, you do realize how very serious this
is, don't you?

_Matt._ Yes, of course. Very well, I'll tackle Lucas. We'll see what a
high tone will do with him. Heigho! Sad! Sad!! Sad!!!--Sad! Sad!!
Sad!!!

_Dolly._ Hush!

     LUCAS _and_ HARRY _enter._ LUCAS _looks round for_ RENIE. DOLLY
     _and_ MATT _talk in whispers as if settling a plan._ HARRY _goes up
     to the collecting-box, takes out his knife and begins to scrape off
     the label._

_Dolly._ [_In a very severe tone to_ LUCAS, _who is peeping into
conservatory._] Are you looking for anything?

_Lucas._ I was wondering whether there was any tea going.

_Dolly._ [_Same severe tone._] The tea is not in the conservatory.

_Lucas._ No, but I thought it might be getting on to the time----

_Dolly._ [_Same tone._] The tea will be served in due course.

_Lucas._ [_Surprised at her tone._] Is anything the matter?

     [DOLLY _looks at him severely, says nothing, turns to_ MATT. LUCAS
     _looks puzzled, goes away, and again looks furtively into
     conservatory for_ RENIE.

_Harry._ [_Scraping away at the collecting-box._] Don't forget,
Doll--our cosy half hour after tea----

     [_Nodding at the writing-desk._

_Dolly._ I won't forget.

_Matt._ [_Has come up behind_ HARRY, _touches the arm he is scraping
with._] Hospital for Incurables! I shouldn't scrape that off at present.


CURTAIN.



(_Four or five hours pass between Acts I and II._)

ACT II.


SCENE: _The same, on the same evening, after dinner. The sofa is now
brought down below the fireplace, and fronts the audience a little
diagonally, its right end being farthest up stage. The small table with
the hospital box, and the easy chair are above the sofa, a little to the
right of it._

     _Enter_ RENIE, _much distressed and agitated._ DOLLY _follows
     quickly, closes the door cautiously and mysteriously._

_Renie._ But I don't understand. Captain Wentworth and I have been so
little together----

_Dolly._ Well, my dear, there it is! My father is the last man to pry
into other people's affairs, but you see it has been forced upon his
notice. And from the tone he took----

_Renie._ What tone?

_Dolly._ He was very severe.

_Renie._ [_Alarmed._] But what did he say he had seen?

_Dolly._ He wouldn't go into particulars. He seemed very much upset----

_Renie._ Upset?!

_Dolly._ Perhaps I ought to say shocked.

_Renie._ Shocked?!

_Dolly._ And when my father is shocked it must be something very
glaring----

_Renie._ [_More and more alarmed._] But there hasn't been anything
glaring----

_Dolly._ Well, dear, of course, you know.

_Renie._ But I cannot imagine---- [_Suddenly._] It must have been that
day at the stile!

_Dolly._ Perhaps. What happened? No, I don't wish to hear----

_Renie._ Captain Wentworth assisted me over the stile----

_Dolly._ Well?----

_Renie._ That's all. He may have taken a little longer about it than was
quite necessary, and I may have leaned a little heavier than the
circumstances required. But it was all done in perfectly good taste.

_Dolly._ [_Shakes her head._] It can't have been the stile.

_Renie._ Then what----? [_Cudgels her brains._] The dairy!

_Dolly._ Very likely. Was that very--no, don't tell me----

_Renie._ There's nothing to tell. The woman at the farm, Mrs.----

_Dolly._ Biggs----

_Renie._ Biggs, asked me to go over her model dairy.

_Dolly._ Did she ask Lucas?

_Renie._ He came. Mrs. Biggs insisted on our tasting her mince pies----

_Dolly._ Mince pies--? Yes?

_Renie._ While she went to get one----

_Dolly._ Get one----

_Renie._ She wasn't out of the dairy ten seconds----

_Dolly._ No--and then?

_Renie._ Captain Wentworth----a----

_Dolly._ Respected you!

_Renie._ [_Firing up._] He is always most respectful! In the most
delicate, exquisitely chivalrous way, he implored me for one first and
only kiss, and just as I was refusing him, somebody passed the dairy
windows----

_Dolly._ My father often strolls that way----

_Renie._ But I was quite cold and correct---- [_Very anxiously._]
Dolly, tell me exactly what Mr. Barron said?

_Dolly._ At first he was going to speak to you himself, but I said, "No,
that's my duty! I'm her oldest friend; I'll talk to her!"

_Renie._ Ye--es?

_Dolly._ So, at last he consented, and said: "Very well. Be very firm
with her, because this sort of thing taking place under my very nose and
under my daughter's roof is what I cannot, and will not, tolerate for
one moment!"

_Renie._ He must have passed the dairy windows!

_Dolly._ Yes.

_Renie._ And jumped to a wrong conclusion.

_Dolly._ Yes. And that isn't the worst----

_Renie._ [_Freshly alarmed._] Not the worst?!

_Dolly._ Now, don't be alarmed, dear----

_Renie._ About what?

_Dolly._ Didn't you notice something strange in your husband's manner at
dinner?

_Renie._ No. What makes you think----?

_Dolly._ My dear, if my father noticed it, why not your husband? Suppose
all this time the Professor has been quietly, stealthily watching you
and Lucas.

_Renie._ [_Alarmed._] Dolly!

_Dolly._ And waiting his time----

_Renie._ Oh, Dolly!

_Dolly._ Didn't you notice how he insisted on your going to the
fish-pond?

_Renie._ Yes, he did!

_Dolly._ Didn't it strike you there was something in that?

_Renie._ No, and he hasn't said anything----

_Dolly._ Of course not. Naturally he would hide his suspicions from you
till the right moment.

_Renie._ Right moment?

_Dolly._ Now, dear, you see how serious things are. You mustn't run any
more risks. This must be broken off to-night.

_Renie._ To-night?!

_Dolly._ Now, what can I do to help you?

_Renie._ You might tell Mr. Barron there was nothing in the dairy
windows.

_Dolly._ Of course I'll tell him, but if he saw----

_Renie._ But there was nothing. Absolutely nothing----

_Dolly._ No, dear. What else can I do?

_Renie._ Could you find out exactly how much he has seen and heard,
and--a--pump him a little?

_Dolly._ I don't like pumping people--still--What else?

_Renie._ [_Breaking down._] Oh, Dolly, this blow could not have fallen
at a more cruel moment.

_Dolly._ No, dear.

_Renie._ It came just when I had lost all the illusions of girlhood,
when all my woman's nature began to cry out----

_Dolly._ Yes--[_Suddenly._] Hark! [_Listens._] Hush!

     [_Creeps up to door, listens, opens it, looks out, closes it
     again._

_Renie._ What was it?

_Dolly._ Hush! Voices! I thought it might be Lucas and the Professor
quarrelling.

_Renie._ I really don't think my husband suspects----

_Dolly._ No, I daresay it's only my imagination.

_Renie._ And if he did--Dolly, is there one man living, except my
husband, who would condemn me for being the object of a noble,
single-hearted devotion like Captain Wentworth's?

_Dolly._ No, dear, perhaps not. But, you see, as husbands they take
quite a different view of things from what they do merely as men.

_Renie._ Tell me candidly, Dolly, you see nothing wrong in it, do you?

_Dolly._ Well, dear, when you say wrong----

_Renie._ But I assure you there isn't--nothing could be further from my
thoughts.

_Dolly._ No, dear--still, people are so full of prejudice--now what can
I do?

_Renie._ [_Clasping_ DOLLY'S _hand warmly._] Oh, Dolly, you can help me
so much.

_Dolly._ [_A little alarmed._] Can I? Tell me----

_Renie._ If Lucas and I are parted---- [_Breaks down._] I can't bear it!
I can't bear it!

_Dolly._ Try, dear! Try!

_Renie._ [_Sobbing._] I will. And if at any time I long to hear how he
bears our separation, you won't mind receiving a letter, and sending it
on to me?

_Dolly._ I'm afraid I couldn't do that, dear. You see, I'm so careless,
and if I left the letter about, and Harry found it--no, dear----

_Renie._ You won't help me?

_Dolly._ Yes, dear, I'll do anything in my power! [_Suddenly._] I'll
tell you what I can do!

_Renie._ Yes?

_Dolly._ My father is telling Lucas he must leave to-night. Well, I can
spare you all the pain and misery of saying "Good-bye," and take one
last message to him.

_Renie._ [_Curtly._] No, thank you. It's most unkind of you to send him
away like this. I must see him alone before he goes.

_Dolly._ [_Shakes her head._] My father insists, and suppose Lucas feels
that he owes it to your reputation to go quietly----

_Renie._ Without seeing me?!

_Dolly._ And suppose the Professor is really watching you----

     [RENIE shows great perplexity. DOLLY _is watching her._

_Dolly._ If you don't see Lucas, what message shall I take him?

_Renie._ Tell him how proud I am of his noble, unselfish devotion; tell
him I shall always look upon it as the one supreme happiness of my life
to have known him----

     _The_ PROFESSOR _and_ MATTHEW _enter. The_ PROFESSOR _has diagrams
     and illustrations in his hand. Following the_ PROFESSOR _and_ MATT
     _are_ HARRY _and_ LUCAS. LUCAS, _after a little time, comes up to_
     DOLLY _and_ RENIE, _who are seated on sofa. The_ PROFESSOR _is
     speaking to_ MATT _as he enters, and is showing him an
     illustration._

_Prof._ [_In his hard, metallic voice._] Observe that woman's facial
angle--[_pointing_] the peculiar curve of the lip, and the irregular
formation of the nose.

     [_Describing a little upward curve on the paper with his thumb._

_Matt._ I have seen sweeter things in ladies' lips and noses.

     [_Describing the same little upward curve with his thumb on the
     paper._

_Prof._ Can you be surprised at her history?

_Matt._ Who was she?

_Prof._ Jane Sweetman, the notorious trigamist. Looking at that woman's
cranium I maintain it was impossible for her to avoid----

_Matt._ Committing trigamy?

_Prof._ Well, some species of grave moral delinquency.

     [DOLLY _clutches_ RENIE'S _wrist significantly. The_ PROFESSOR
     _hands the illustration to_ HARRY, _who examines it._ MATT _moves
     away a step and unobtrusively feels his own nose and forehead._

_Harry._ [_Has examined the illustration._] By Jove, yes--anybody can
see she was bound to come a moral cropper, eh?

     [_He hands the illustration to_ DOLLY, _who passes it to_ RENIE,
     _with a very significant glance, pointing out something on the
     paper._ LUCAS _leans over the back of the sofa between_ RENIE _and_
     DOLLY _to look at the illustration. As he leans on the back of the
     sofa_, DOLLY _draws herself up very indignantly, gives him a severe
     look; moves a little away from him, sits and looks very severely in
     front of her. He cannot understand her attitude, draws back a
     little and looks puzzled._

_Prof._ [_Bringing out another illustration, offering it to_ MATT.] Now
look at this.

_Matt._ [_Taking illustration._] Somebody's brains!

_Prof._ Tell me if you notice anything peculiar.

     [HARRY _leans over_ MATT'S _shoulder, and looks at the
     illustration._ LUCAS _again leans over the sofa, between_ DOLLY
     _and_ RENIE. DOLLY _again moves a little further away from him with
     another indignant look._ LUCAS _is again puzzled, but bends and
     looks over the illustration in_ RENIE'S _hands._

_Lucas._ So that's Jane Sweetman! Well, if Jane was bound to come a
moral cropper, I'm very glad I wasn't bound to come a moral cropper with
Jane, eh, Dolly? [_Very pleasantly._

_Dolly._ [_Very severely._] I should scarcely have thought you troubled
whom you came a moral cropper with!

     [_Looks at him severely, goes up to writing-desk, seats herself and
     writes letter. He feels himself snubbed, and moves a step or two
     back, stands and looks puzzled._ PROFESSOR _has been critically
     regarding_ MATT _and_ HARRY, _who have been looking at the
     illustration._

_Prof._ Well, does anything strike you?

_Matt._ No. [_Holding it out._] Looks rather
pulpy--rather--a--squashy----

_Prof._ Exactly! Observe the soft, almost watery condition of that gray
matter. What is the inevitable consequence?

_Matt._ I couldn't quite say--whom did that gray matter belong to?

_Prof._ Harriet Poy.

_Matt._ I don't remember Harriet----

_Prof._ The Pyromaniac. At the age of four set fire to her mother's bed.
At twelve was found saturating blankets with petroleum; at sixteen fired
three hayricks, for which she was sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

_Matt._ Poor Harriet! But of course if her gray matter went and got
watery----

_Prof._ Just so! I maintain that with her gray matter in that condition
it was a stupid crime to send her to prison.

_Dolly._ [_Looking round from desk._] But what are we to do with people
whose gray matter goes wrong?

_Prof._ I propose to deal with that question at Edinburgh. [_To_ MATT.]
You might, perhaps, care to run down to Edinburgh for my lectures----

_Matt._ I should love it above all things; but the fact is, I'm so
thoroughly of your opinion----

_Prof._ Are you?! I'm delighted I've convinced you.

_Matt._ Completely. All my life I've been doing things I should never
have dreamed of doing if my gray matter had done its duty and not got
watery.

_Harry._ [_Begins._] Yes, when you come to think of all the rotten
things you find yourself doing, you feel, by Jove----

     [_Suddenly recalls that he has said "by Jove," and being near the
     collection-box, he quietly pulls sixpence out of his pocket and
     drops it in._

_Matt._ Bravo, Harry! [_Patting him._

_Harry._ Oh, I mean it!--Professor, isn't it time for our hundred up?

_Prof._ [_Taking out watch._] In two minutes.

_Harry._ I'll go and get the balls out and chalk the cues. [_Going up to
door._] Doll, [_taps the writing-desk_] you put it off after
tea--by-and-by, you know!

_Dolly._ [_She has finished letter, has risen, and closed
writing-desk._] By-and-by.

_Harry._ Before we go to bed--don't forget.

_Dolly._ Oh, I sha'n't forget.

     [_Makes a wry face. Exit_ HARRY.

_Prof._ Renie, you were complaining of headache. It would be wise to
take a short stroll in the cool air.

_Renie._ Oh, very well.

_Prof._ Wrap up thoroughly. Ten minutes, not longer.

     [_Exit._ DOLLY, _unseen by_ RENIE _and_ LUCAS, _slips the note she
     has been writing into_ MATT'S _hands. He takes it down stage,
     right, and reads it._ RENIE _and_ LUCAS _have been talking, apart;
     they move towards the door to get out, but_ DOLLY _is standing in
     the way of their exit._

_Dolly._ Oh, Renie! I'll put on my things, and come with you.

_Renie._ But Captain Wentworth has offered----

_Dolly._ I've a splitting headache--I must get a little air. And Dad
wants to have a talk with Lucas, don't you?

_Matt._ If he can spare five minutes.

_Lucas._ Won't by-and-by be just as convenient?

_Dolly._ [_Facing_ LUCAS, _speaking firmly._] No, by-and-by will not be
just as convenient. Now, Renie, we'll leave them together.

     [_Gets_ RENIE _off, turns, looks daggers at_ LUCAS, _goes off
     after_ RENIE, _closes door in his face. He opens it, and goes after
     her._

_Lucas._ I say, Doll, what's up? [_Follows her off._] What's the matter?

_Matt._ [_Reading_ DOLLY'S _note._] "Be very severe with him. Make a
great point of the dairy windows. He'll understand." Dairy windows?

     [_Puts the note in his pocket, as_ LUCAS _re-enters, puzzled and
     disappointed._

_Lucas._ I can't think what's the matter with Dolly. She has done
nothing but snub me all the evening.

_Matt._ [_Looking at him sternly._] So I should imagine!

_Lucas._ [_Startled by his manner._] I say, have I done anything?

_Matt._ Done anything! I'm a man of the world! nobody can accuse me of
being strait-laced, and therefore I suppose you think you can come here
and set at defiance all the----it's disgraceful!

_Lucas._ Would you mind telling me what you're hinting at?

_Matt._ I'm not hinting! I'm going to speak out very plainly, and I tell
you that I look upon your conduct as something atrocious!

_Lucas._ I say, Uncle, what's all this about?

_Matt._ What's it about? What's it about? It's about the dairy windows!

_Lucas._ Then it was you--phew!--so it was you?

_Matt._ Well, after the dairy windows, can you stand there and tell me
you aren't thoroughly, completely, heartily ashamed of yourself?

_Lucas._ Well, I suppose I am. But, after all, it wasn't so very bad----

_Matt._ Not bad?!

_Lucas._ Well, not so d--ee--d awful.

_Matt._ [_Regards him for a few moments._] Well, I'm astonished! If you
don't consider your behaviour d--ee--d awful, will you please find me
some word that will describe it?

_Lucas._ You know you're putting a much worse construction on this than
the necessities of the case demand.

_Matt._ What?!

_Lucas._ I've nothing to reproach myself with. Mrs. Biggs wasn't out of
the dairy three minutes, and you were hanging about the windows all the
time.

_Matt._ I was hanging about the windows?

_Lucas._ Yes, and I must say that when you saw two people engaged in an
interesting conversation the least you could do was to pass on and take
no notice.

_Matt._ "Interesting conversation"?!

_Lucas._ Well, what did you call it? If it comes to that, what do you
accuse me of?

_Matt._ Well, here you are, on the first day of the year, after
listening to a most eloquent sermon, after making a solemn resolution to
give up all your bad habits----

_Lucas._ Excuse me, I expressly stated that I didn't mean to give up
_all_ my bad habits. And I don't call this a bad habit.

_Matt._ You don't call making love to a married woman a bad habit?!

_Lucas._ Of course in one sense it is a bad habit. But it isn't a bad
habit in the sense that other bad habits are bad habits. Look at all the
decent chaps who've been led into it!

_Matt._ That doesn't excuse you. And if you think that I'm going to
countenance your conduct, you are very much mistaken in your estimate of
my character.

_Lucas._ [_Very quietly._] May I ask you one simple question?

_Matt._ Well?

_Lucas._ When you were my age, if you found yourself alone in a dairy
with a good-looking woman, and she was good for a dozen kisses or so,
wouldn't you have taken advantage of it?

_Matt._ No!

_Lucas._ Not at my age?

_Matt._ No--no----

_Lucas._ Well, what would you have done?

_Matt._ I should have summoned all my resolution----

_Lucas._ Oh, that be hanged! Come, Uncle, no humbug! Man to man!

_Matt._ Well, I don't say that at your age I might not have been
tempted--and of course we must all go through a certain amount of
experience, or how should we be able to advise you youngsters?

_Lucas._ I say, no confounded nonsense--your uncle Archie----

_Matt._ Dear old chap!

_Lucas._ What use did you make of his advice?

_Matt._ Well, I remember his talking to me very seriously--I suppose I
was about your age--did I ever tell you, Lucas, [_taking_ LUCAS'S _arm
affectionately_] about a very remarkable auburn-haired girl, Madge
Seaforth?

_Lucas._ No.

_Matt._ And my racing her across Salisbury Plain at night?

_Lucas._ No.

_Matt._ Forty-eight miles one glorious May night! I let her beat me! God
bless her! I let her beat me! And just as the sun rose we caught sight
of Salisbury spire.

_Lucas._ Sounds rather jolly!

_Matt._ Jolly? And the bacon and eggs we got through for breakfast!
Jolly? It was romance! It was poetry! Ah! Lu, my boy, you may say what
you like, there's nothing like it on this side heaven. I told you about
Mrs. Satterwaite dressing up as a widow and selling her husband?

_Lucas._ No?

_Matt._ Well, I bet the little hussy a fiver. Oh, Satterwaite richly
deserved all he got--I can see Satterwaite's face now, and hers, as she
stepped out of the cupboard, with the wickedest twinkle in the wickedest
black eye! Ho! Ho! Heigho! Sad! Sad!! Sad!!!--Sad! Sad!! Sad!!! Come,
come, Lucas! This won't do! This will never do! Now to get back to this
business of yours----

_Lucas._ Well----

_Matt._ When I was your guardian I let you have a pretty good fling?

_Lucas._ You did!

_Matt._ The pace was rather scorching?

_Lucas._ Rather!

_Matt._ I never pulled you up?

_Lucas._ No, and I'm grateful.

     [_Shaking hands very cordially._

_Matt._ That's all right. Now, old chap, you've got to pull up!

_Lucas._ Pull up?

_Matt._ Short. This Mrs. Sturgess--Dolly says there's a lot of nonsense
going on, gushing letters and so on,--damned silly thing writing
letters, Lu----

_Lucas._ Yes, I know.

_Matt._ Well, what do you do it for?

_Lucas._ I don't know.

_Matt._ You're seeing her every day. If you must carry on this
tomfoolery, why not do it by word of mouth? Why write it down, to show
what an ass you've been?

_Lucas._ I'm sure I don't know.

_Matt._ Do you know why you're carrying on with her at all?

_Lucas._ Well, naturally a chap--naturally----

_Matt._ You're either in love with her, or you aren't?

_Lucas._ I can't say I'm exactly in love with her----

_Matt._ Then why are you making love to her?

_Lucas._ Well, she's a jolly good-looking woman, and naturally a
chap--naturally--I don't know that I ain't a bit in love with her.

_Matt._ Well, it doesn't much matter. If you aren't in love with her
you're a fool to risk a scandal. If you are in love you'll most likely
do some silly jackass thing that will knock your career on the head, eh?

_Lucas._ Well, when you look at it that way----

_Matt._ Look at it that way! Anyhow, she's a married woman, and you're
here as a guest--it isn't the right thing to do, is it?

_Lucas._ No, it isn't.

_Matt._ Very well, then, don't do it. Don't do it! Cut it! You will?

_Lucas._ I've got to, I suppose.

_Matt._ Yes, you've got to. You can tell Doll I gave it to you hot and
strong, and you're going to clear out, and not see Mrs. Sturgess
again----

_Lucas._ Not see her again?

_Matt._ Isn't that what you mean to do?

_Lucas._ Yes, I suppose. I say, what did you see at the dairy windows?

_Matt._ I didn't see anything at all!

_Lucas._ Nothing at all?

_Matt._ I wasn't there!

_Lucas._ Then how----?

_Matt._ Dolly put me up to it.      [_Laughs at him._

_Lucas._ Dolly?

     DOLLY _enters with a cloak which she throws on sofa._

_Matt._ Ah, Doll----

_Dolly._ [_Looking severely at_ LUCAS.] Have you spoken to him?

_Matt._ Yes, very seriously, extra seriously, and he's going to do the
right thing and clear out, aren't you, Lucas?

_Lucas._ [_A little unwillingly._] Yes.

_Matt._ [_Clapping him on the shoulder._] Good chap! Good chap!

_Dolly._ [_Still a little severe._] I'm pleased to hear it. [_To_
LUCAS.] You've behaved in a most scandalous----

_Matt._ He has. I've told him all that. [_Winks at_ DOLLY _to keep her
quiet._] And he sees it quite plainly, don't you?

     [_Winks at_ LUCAS _to prompt him._

_Dolly._ Then it's quite broken off?

_Matt._ Quite! Isn't it, Lu?

_Lucas._ Yes, I suppose. I should like to say----

_Dolly._ Yes?

_Lucas._ That nothing has taken place which, if rightly looked at, could
reflect discredit either upon the lady, or, I hope, upon myself. And
secondly, whatever fault there may have been, is entirely mine.

_Matt._ That's satisfactory! It always ought to be the man's fault.
Heaven forbid it should ever be theirs. Good chap! Good chap! [_Patting
him._] Dolly, he's behaving splendidly. Now, Lu, good-night.

     [DOLLY _rings bell._

_Lucas._ [_Surprised._] Good-night?!

_Dolly._ Good-night, and good-bye! [_Holding out her hand._

_Lucas._ You aren't going to turn me out to-night!

_Dolly._ You said it was quite broken off.

_Lucas._ Yes, but---- [_turns to_ MATT _with appealing gesture._] Uncle,
you didn't mean to pack me off like this----

_Matt._ Yes, my boy! Remember the occasion. First day of the New Year.
Take time by the forelock. Off you go!

     [_Taking him by the shoulder and trying to get him off._

_Lucas._ [_Resisting._] Oh no! I don't see it in that light at all.

     [_Sinks comfortably into arm-chair._

     CRIDDLE _appears at door._

_Dolly._ Criddle, please have Captain Wentworth's portmanteau taken to
the billiard-room.

_Criddle._ Yes, ma'am.

_Dolly._ He wishes to change there, and please send to the Red Lion and
ask them to have Captain Wentworth's horse saddled.

_Criddle._ Yes, ma'am.      [_Going._

_Lucas._ Criddle, what's the weather like?

_Criddle._ It's a bit colder, sir. Looks as if we were going to have
another heavy fall of snow.

_Lucas._ I don't think I'll go to-night, Criddle. If I want the gee
saddled, I'll go and tell them myself.

_Criddle._ Yes, sir.      [_Exit._

_Lucas._ [_In arm-chair._] I say, Dolly, you don't really expect me to
go careering over that heath at this ungodly hour?

_Dolly._ You can't stay here. Renie is very much upset; she has had
hysterics. So I've put her in the spare room.

_Lucas._ Well, you can give me a shake-down somewhere--in the
billiard-room.

_Dolly._ [_Shakes her head._] I can't ask the servants to make up
impossible beds in impossible places at this ungodly hour.

_Lucas._ I call this beastly unfair of you, Doll.

_Dolly._ Unfair?

_Lucas._ Just as I'd summoned up all my resolution to do the right
thing, and avoid ructions for your sake, you pounce down on me, and
order me off the premises, and----

_Dolly._ [_Getting angry._] If you don't behave yourself and go off
quietly, I shall have to order you off the premises.

     [_Makes an appeal by gesture to_ MATT _to get him off._

_Matt._ Now, my hero! [_Lifting him out of the arm-chair._] Buckle on
your armor! Sally forth! Once more unto the breach!

     [_With some difficulty he raises_ LUCAS _out of the chair._

_Lucas._ Well, I'll go and have a look at the weather. [_Goes sulkily up
to door._] Mind you, if you turn me out I won't be responsible if
there's a flare up----

_Dolly._ Very well, so long as we don't have a flare-up here. Oh!

     [_Rings the bell again._

_Lucas._ [_Goes off, sulky, muttering._] Of all the--turning me
out--beastly infernal nuisance!

     [_Exit grumbling, leaving door open._

_Dolly._ It would serve them both right if there was to be a
flare-up--only I'm sure she'd drag me into it somehow. [CRIDDLE _appears
at door._] Please send and ask them at the Red Lion to saddle Captain
Wentworth's horse and send it here at once.

_Criddle._ Yes, ma'am.      [_Exit._

_Dolly._ Lucas is going to behave as badly over this as he did over the
governess. Dad----!

_Matt._ Well?

_Dolly._ Of course, Lucas is in the army, but surely he--he isn't a fair
sample?

_Matt._ Oh no, oh no! Lucas is very exceptional--quite exceptional.

_Dolly._ I thought so! They can't all be----

_Matt._ Oh no! I'm glad to say----

_Dolly._ I'm determined he shall go to-night.

     LUCAS _re-enters._

_Lucas._ I say, Dolly, I wish you'd come and look at the weather.

_Dolly._ What for?

_Lucas._ There's a great black cloud--it's going to come down!

_Dolly._ [_Enraged._] I don't care if the heavens come down! You're
going back to Aldershot to-night.

_Lucas._ But I tell you---- [_Appeals to_ MATT.] It's simply impossible
for me to ride across that heath----

_Matt._ But you rode across it last night in a howling snowstorm----

_Lucas._ Yes, I did! Last night! And never again, thank you! No! I don't
mind shaking down anywhere to oblige----

     [_He is about to drop again into the arm-chair, but_ MATT _gently
     pushes him aside and drops into the chair himself._

_Lucas._ [_Going to sofa._] Anywhere to oblige!

     [_Drops comfortably on to sofa._

_Dolly._ [_Comes up to him finally._] Lucas, this is abominable! I
suppose you think because we treated you so leniently over that wretched
governess----

_Lucas._ Well, I thought you were pretty deuced hard down on us----

_Dolly._ What?! Oh!      [_Appeals to_ MATT.

_Lucas._ I didn't mind your slanging me, but you might have had a little
consideration for her feelings, because, after all, she was one of your
own sex!

_Dolly._ My own sex! The minx!

_Lucas._ And an orphan!

_Dolly._ Orphan! [_To_ MATT.] Go and speak to him! Go and speak to him!

     [MATT _rises and goes to_ LUCAS. DOLLY _sits down in despair._

_Matt._ Come, Lu. You're not playing the game! You promised to take
yourself off.

_Lucas._ [_Comfortably seated._] Well, I will take myself off, only let
me take myself off in my own way.

_Dolly._ It's useless your staying! Renie won't see you again.

_Lucas._ Won't she?

_Dolly._ No. She gave me a last message for you----

_Lucas._ Did she? Why didn't you give it to me?

_Dolly._ If I tell you, will you take yourself off?

_Lucas._ Yes, of course. What was her last message?

_Dolly._ She said "She should always value your noble devotion, and be
proud that she had known you; but you must see how hopeless it was, and
that she trusted you would go away at once and leave her to respect you,
as you had always respected her!"

_Matt._ A very pretty, touching little adieu! Does her great credit.
Now, Lu! Cut it! Come, my boy!

     [_Lifts him up off sofa._ LUCAS _gets up very reluctantly._

_Lucas._ Well, if I must go--good-night!

_Matt._ Good-night. [_Shaking hands._] I may see you to-morrow
afternoon.

_Lucas._ Where?

_Matt._ I'm driving over to Aldershot to see Sir John. I shall look you
up----

_Lucas._ I may not be there in the afternoon----

_Dolly._ Lucas, you're coming over here----

_Lucas._ No--no; I'm not. You shouldn't suspect me.

_Dolly._ It won't be the least use your coming----

_Lucas._ I know that. Well, good-bye, Doll----

_Dolly._ Good-bye.      [_Shaking hands._

_Lucas._ [_Is going up to door slowly and reluctantly, turns._] I
suppose if I were to give you my solemn promise I wouldn't see her, I
couldn't shake down on that sofa.

_Dolly._ [_Sternly and decisively._] No!

_Lucas._ [_Goes a few more steps towards door, turns._] I suppose I
couldn't see Mrs. Sturgess? [DOLLY _looks indignant._] Only to say
good-bye.

_Dolly._ No! She was nearly undressed when I left her. She's asleep by
now!

     _Enter_ RENIE _fully dressed, looking very interesting and tearful.
     Throughout the scene she preserves the air of a martyr._

_Dolly._ [_Indignantly._] Renie, you promised me you wouldn't come
downstairs again!

_Renie._ Yes, dear, but I felt I couldn't rest under your
father's unjust suspicion. [_Goes up to_ MATT, _seizes his hand
sympathetically._] Dolly tells me you have been watching the friendship
that all unconsciously has sprung up between Captain Wentworth and
myself----

_Matt._ [_Uncomfortable._] Not exactly watching----

_Renie._ I feel you may have seen, or guessed something, that has given
you a wrong impression.

_Matt._ No, no! I assure you----

_Renie._ If you have, I beg you to speak out and give us a chance of
defending ourselves. Tell us exactly what you have seen, and what you
suspect----

_Matt._ My dear Mrs. Sturgess, I haven't seen anything, and I don't
suspect anything.

_Renie._ You really mean that?

_Matt._ Yes--yes----

_Renie._ [_Clasping his hand eagerly._] Thank you so much. Friendship
between a man and a woman is _so_ misunderstood.

_Matt._ It is.

_Dolly._ Yes, Lucas had a friendship with a governess here which we all
misunderstood--till afterwards.

_Lucas._ I say, Dolly, don't you----

_Renie._ Now that there is no chance of your misjudging our friendship,
I don't mind saying---- [_Shows signs of breaking down._] You won't
misunderstand me?      [_Clinging to his hand._

_Matt._ No, no!

_Renie._ My life has not been altogether a happy one.

_Matt._ I'm sure it hasn't!

_Renie._ Under other circumstances--let that pass! [_Wrings_ MATT'S
_hands._] Thank you, thank you! [_Goes to_ LUCAS.] Captain Wentworth, I
shall always be proud to have known you.

_Dolly._ I've told him all that!

     [MATT _hushes_ DOLLY _with a gesture._

_Renie._ I shall always cherish the memory of our friendship, but it
might be misunderstood, and so [_breaking down, but bearing up with an
effort_], you will behave like the gallant gentleman I know you to be,
and say good-bye to me for ever!

_Matt._ Nobly spoken! Very nobly spoken indeed!

_Lucas._ Well, if you insist----

_Renie._ I do! Good-bye for ever!

_Lucas._ Good-bye.      [_They have a long hand-shake._

_Renie._ Good-bye.

     [_Tears herself away from him and tragically throws herself on
     sofa._ LUCAS _follows her up._

_Lucas._ I say, Mrs. Sturgess----

_Renie._ [_Face buried in hands, moans out._] Go, go! In pity's name
don't make it harder for me!

_Matt._ In pity's name don't make it harder for her.

_Dolly._ [_Looking off at door._] They'll be coming out of the
billiard-room directly.

_Matt._ Now, Lucas----

     CRIDDLE _appears at door._

_Criddle._ Your horse is waiting for you, sir.

_Lucas._ My horse?!

_Criddle._ Yes, sir, just outside.

_Lucas._ What on earth do they mean? A valuable horse like that--just
clipped--standing about on a night like this--who told them?

_Dolly._ I did. The horse is waiting to take you back to Aldershot.

_Lucas._ I can't go back to Aldershot in this kit. [_Pointing to his
dress-clothes._] Tell them to take it back to the Red Lion!

_Dolly._ And Criddle, give the man Captain Wentworth's portmanteau to
take to the Red Lion at the same time.

_Criddle._ Yes, ma'am.      [_Exit._

_Lucas._ [_Grumbling._] Well, of all----Good-bye, Mrs. Sturgess.

_Dolly._ You've said good-bye----

_Renie._ [_Still tragic on sofa._] Farewell--for ever!

_Lucas._ Good-night, Dolly!

_Dolly._ Farewell--for a good long time.      [_Shaking hands._

_Lucas._ Good-night, Uncle.

_Matt._ Good-night, Lucas.      [_Shaking hands._

_Lucas._ [_Turns at door._] Happen to have your cigar-case handy?

     [MATT _takes out cigar-case, offers it._

_Lucas._ Could you spare two?

_Matt._ Certainly!

_Lucas._ I've got a jolly long ride, I'll take three if you don't mind.

_Matt._ Do!

_Lucas._ Thank'ee. Well, good-night, everybody.

     [MATT _gets_ LUCAS _off, closes door after him._

_Renie._ [_Rouses herself from sofa._] Has he gone? Is it all over?

_Dolly._ I hope so.     [_Goes and rings bell twice._

_Renie._ [_Goes to_ MATT _impulsively--and seizes his hand._] At least
this bitter experience has gained me one true friend.

_Matt._ [_Embarrassed._] Yes----

_Renie._ [_Wrings his hand in gratitude._] Thank you so much----

     [_He gets away from her and shows relief; takes out cigar and
     prepares to light it._

_Renie._ [_Standing in the middle of the room, pitying herself._] That's
where we get the worst of it, we women who have hearts! We must feel, we
must show our feelings, and then we get trampled down in the fight. Oh,
Dolly, how I envy you your nature!

_Dolly._ [_Very chilly._] Are you going into the spare room, dear?

_Renie._ Anywhere! Anywhere! Yes, the spare room!

     PETERS, DOLLY'S _maid, appears at door._

_Dolly._ Peters, will you bank up the fire in the spare room and make
everything comfortable for Mrs. Sturgess?

_Peters._ Yes, ma'am.      [_Exit._

_Renie._ [_Still in the middle of the room, pitying herself._] So my
poor little tragedy is ended!      [_To_ MATT.

_Matt._ Yes. Well, let's be thankful no bones are broken!

_Renie._ No bones, but how about hearts? Well, I must bear it. [_With a
weary smile._] Mustn't I?

_Matt._ I'm afraid you must.

_Renie._ Good-night! [_Wrings his hand with gratitude._] Good-night!

_Matt._ Good-night.

     [_Gets away from her, and busies himself with his cigar, lights
     it._

_Renie._ Good-night, Dolly!

_Dolly._ I'll come up with you, and stay till you're quite comfortable.

_Renie._ Shall I ever be comfortable again? Will things ever be the
same? I wonder!

     [_Goes off mournfully and tragically at back with a prolonged
     sigh._ MATT _has seated himself on sofa and taken up paper._

_Dolly._ [_Calls his attention to_ RENIE'S _exit and makes a furious
gesture after her._] I know she'll be here next Christmas! [_Marches
down enraged to_ MATT _and repeats in an angry, aggrieved way,
emphasizing each word._] I know that woman will be here next
Christmas!

_Matt._ [_Seated comfortably with his cigar and paper_] I daresay she
will----

     [DOLLY _marches indignantly and decisively to door and exit._


CURTAIN.



(_Half an hour passes between Acts II and III._)

ACT III.


SCENE: _The same. Discover_ MATT _in the same seat and attitude, with
paper and cigar._ DOLLY _enters._

_Matt._ Well??

_Dolly._ I've had an awful time with her----

_Matt._ How?

_Dolly._ [_Seated._] First she had another fit of hysterics--then she
longed to go out into the night air to cool her fevered brow--then she
moaned out something about her noble Lucas----

_Matt._ And now?

_Dolly._ I've persuaded her to let Peters undress her. I've got her off
my hands at last.

_Matt._ That's a comfort.

_Dolly._ Dad!

_Matt._ Yes.

_Dolly._ I won't have her here next Christmas.

_Matt._ No, I wouldn't.

_Dolly._ [_Repeats in a slow, aggrieved, enraged way, emphasizing each
syllable._] Whatever happens, I will not have that woman in my house
next Christmas. You hear that?

_Matt._ Yes. You won't have her here next Christmas!

_Dolly._ I mean it, this time. And I won't have Lucas here again for a
very long time.

_Matt._ I wouldn't.

_Dolly._ [_Seated beside him._] Dad, please put away that paper. You're
going over to Aldershot to-morrow to try to get Lucas exchanged?

_Matt._ I'll try.

_Dolly._ Where can you get him sent?

_Matt._ Gibraltar--India--South Africa--according as an appointment
happens to be vacant.

_Dolly._ The further the better, and the longer.

     PETERS _appears at door._

_Dolly._ Well, Peters, have you made Mrs. Sturgess comfortable?

_Peters._ I'm trying to, ma'am.

_Dolly._ Is she in bed yet?

_Peters._ No, ma'am.

_Dolly._ Not in bed!

_Peters._ No, ma'am, but she seems rather quieter.

_Dolly._ She let you undress her, I suppose?

_Peters._ I'm just going to, ma'am. She says her brain is still
throbbing.

_Dolly._ Throbbing!

_Peters._ And could you lend her your hop-pillow?

_Dolly._ You'll find it in my wardrobe.

_Peters._ Yes, ma'am.

_Dolly._ Peters, pat up the hop-pillow for her, and insist on undressing
her----

_Peters._ Yes, ma'am.      [_Going._

_Dolly._ Don't leave her till you've seen her comfortably in bed.

_Peters._ No, ma'am.

     [_Exit. A gust of wind and a little rattle of hail on the
     conservatory window._

_Matt._ Whew! The New Year means business!

_Dolly._ And so do I, as Lucas will find out.

_Matt._ He is finding it out, on that heath!

_Dolly._ Yes! [_With a little laugh._] Ha! ha! [_A louder gust and
rattle of hail._] Listen! Listen! Ha! And he might have been here
playing a comfortable rubber by the fire--if he'd simply behaved
himself!

_Matt._ If he'd "simply behaved" himself! What we all miss through not
"simply behaving" ourselves.

     [_Another gust._

_Dolly._ [_Laughs._] Ah! He's catching it! I shall insist on Renie
driving out with me to-morrow afternoon.

_Matt._ Yes.

_Dolly._ Then she can't meet Lucas. That will be another sell for
him--[_Another furious gust and rattle._] Listen! Ha! ha! I wonder how
far Lucas has got!

     [_A noise of something being knocked over in the conservatory,
     which is lighted._

_Matt._ [_Goes to the conservatory door, looks in; is startled._] Hillo!
hillo! What?!

     LUCAS _enters from the upper conservatory door in riding-clothes of
     first Act._

_Dolly._ [_Enraged._] Lucas! [_More enraged._] Lucas! How dare you?!

_Lucas._ It's all right--don't make a fuss!

_Dolly._ [_Furious._] Why aren't you on the way to Aldershot?

_Lucas._ I didn't like the look of the weather! I didn't like the look
of it at all! So I got them to give me a shake-down at the Red Lion----

_Dolly._ [_Indignantly._] Shake-down at the Red Lion!

_Lucas._ Yes, on their sofa! You needn't look so black! I asked you
first, to let me have a shake-down here--on that sofa----

_Dolly._ But why have you come back here?

_Lucas._ Well, I must have dropped those cigars uncle Matt gave me. I
put them carefully in my side pocket, and when I got down to the Red
Lion, lo and behold, they weren't there!

_Dolly._ You could have got a cigar at the Red Lion----

_Lucas._ [_Turns to_ MATT _for sympathy._] I could have got a cigar at
the Red Lion! [_To_ DOLLY.] No, thank you! So I thought I'd just stroll
up here in the hope----

_Dolly._ In the hope of seeing Mrs. Sturgess! But she's safely in bed
this time, and there's no possible chance of your seeing her.

_Lucas._ In the hope of getting Harry to give me a decent smoke. Well, I
came into the Hall and not wishing to rile you by my hated presence--I
slipped into the conservatory----

     _Enter_ HARRY.

_Harry._ [_Surprised at the riding-clothes._] Hillo, Lu, going back to
Aldershot to-night?

_Lucas._ No, not unless the weather takes a turn. No, Dolly said that as
the spare room was occupied, would I mind getting a shake-down at the
Red Lion. So I did, and as I've got nothing to smoke, may I cadge a
cigar?

_Harry._ Yes, old fellow.      [_Taking out cigar-case._

_Dolly._ [_Intercepting._] You said I should take charge of your cigars,
in case you should be tempted to smoke more than two a day----

_Harry._ By Jove, I forgot all about two per diem--I've been smoking all
day. Here, Lu! [_About to throw cigar-case to_ LUCAS.] You'd better take
the lot and keep me out of temptation!

_Dolly._ No! I'll take charge of that, please.

     [_Takes the cigar-case, looks angrily at_ LUCAS, _goes to
     writing-desk, puts it in._

     PETERS _appears at door._

_Peters._ I beg pardon, ma'am, Mrs. Sturgess----

_Dolly._ What about her?

_Peters._ When I got back with the hop-pillow she wasn't there. I've
looked all over the house, and I can't find her anywhere. [_Glancing
off into the conservatory._] Oh, there she is!

     RENIE _enters, fully dressed from conservatory, very languidly,
     with handkerchief and smelling-salts._ PETERS _goes off._

_Dolly._ Renie!

     [_Looks at_ MATT, _who is inclined to laugh, checks it, shrugs his
     shoulders and goes over to fire._

_Renie._ My head was racking, I had to rush out--I've been pacing up and
down under the veranda, up and down, up and down, up and down--[DOLLY
_makes a little grimace of angry incredulity_] it's a little easier now,
so I'll take advantage of the lull, and try to get some sleep.

_Dolly._ Yes, I would.

_Renie._ Good-night, dear.

_Dolly._ [_Severely._] Good-night once more.

_Renie._ Good-night, Mr. Telfer.      [_Offering hand._

_Harry._ Good-night, I'm awfully sorry----

_Renie._ [_With her weary smile._] Oh, it's only a headache. I can bear
it. Thank you for your sympathy. [_Wringing his hand in fervent
gratitude._] Good-night, Mr. Barron.

_Matt._ Good-night. I hope we sha'n't have any more little tragedies,
eh?

_Renie._ [_Very fervently._] I hope not, oh, I hope not! [_To_ LUCAS
_very casually and distantly._] Good-night, Captain Wentworth.

_Lucas._ [_Same tone._] Good-night, Mrs. Sturgess.

     [_Exit_ RENIE. PETERS _is seen to join her in the hall. A little
     pause._

_Lucas._ Well, I'll be toddling back to the Red Lion. Good-night, Dolly.
[DOLLY _looks at him, furious, turns away._ HARRY _looks a little
surprised._] Good-night, Harry.

_Harry_. Good-night, Lu. Seems a pity for you to turn out on a night
like this. Dolly, can't we give him a shake-down----?

_Dolly._ No!

     [HARRY _shows surprise at her tone. A little pause of
     embarrassment._

_Lucas._ Good-night, Uncle Matt.

_Matt._ [_Comes up to him, in a low voice._] Cut it, my dear lad. Cut
it! That's understood?

_Lucas._ Yes, of course. Well, good-night, Dolly, once more. [_She
doesn't reply._] Oh well, if you're going on the rampage--[_Goes off
muttering._] Infernal nuisance--night like this----      [_Exit._

_Harry._ Is anything the matter?

_Dolly._ Lucas has offended me very much. I don't wish to speak of it.

     _The_ PROFESSOR _enters at back._

_Matt._ Well, who was the victor?

_Harry._ The Professor won all four games.

_Prof._ I ascribe the increased accuracy of my stroke at billiards to my
increased nerve force, now I have made Pableine my staple article of
diet in place of meat.

_Matt._ Flies to the gray matter, eh?

_Prof._ Instantaneously.

_Matt._ Good stuff!

_Prof._ I hope you'll try it. Shall I send a tin to your room?

_Matt._ Will you? That will be kind!

     CRIDDLE _appears at door._

_Criddle._ I've put the spirits in the hall, sir.

_Harry._ You can take them away, Criddle. In the future we shall not
require spirits at night, only soda water and tea.

_Criddle._ Yes, sir. [_Exit._

_Dolly._ [_Who has been sitting wearily on sofa, rises._] Well, I'm
going to bed.

_Harry._ You forget, dear.

_Dolly._ What? [HARRY _taps the writing-desk._] Oh, my dear Harry, we
won't go into them to-night.

_Harry._ Yes, my dear, if you please. [_Very firmly._ DOLLY _makes an
impatient gesture and pouts._] Please don't look like that. If I'm to
help you in paying off these bills, it must be to-night, or not at all.

_Dolly._ Oh, very well, but----      [_Sits down wearily._

_Prof._ [_Taking out watch._] Five minutes past my usual hour.

_Dolly._ Renie has one of her bad headaches, so I've put her in the
spare room.

_Prof._ Thank you. I'm afraid she's a little wilful. I can never get her
to see that life can yield us no real satisfaction unless we regulate
all our actions to the most minute point. Good-night.

_Dolly._ Good-night.      [_Shaking hands._

_Prof._ Good-night, Telfer.

_Harry._ Good-night.      [_Shaking hands._

_Matt._ Good-night, Harry.

_Harry._ Good-night, Dad.      [_Shaking hands._

_Matt._ [_To_ DOLLY.] Night-night, dear.

_Dolly._ Night-night, Dad.      [_Kissing him._

_Prof._ [_Has been waiting at door._] I might perhaps show you the
precise way of mixing the Pableine.

_Matt._ That would be kind! What's the dose?

_Prof._ Two teaspoonfuls. On certain occasions I have taken as much as
four tablespoonfuls.

_Matt._ Wasn't that rather--going it?

_Prof._ No. It's quite tasteless, except for a very slight beany
flavor.

_Matt._ Sounds just the thing for a New Year's drink, to brace up good
resolutions. Come along! I'll have a regular night-cap of it.

     [_Exeunt_ MATT _and_ PROFESSOR.

_Harry._ Now we can have our cosy half hour.

_Dolly._ Ye-es. I've had an awful evening with Lucas. Don't you
think----?

_Harry._ No, my darling. You put it off after tea----

_Dolly._ But our heads will be so much clearer in the morning----

_Harry._ [_Very solemnly and severely._] My darling, remember what
Pilcher said about procrastination. And remember our resolutions last
night. If we break them on the first night of the year, where shall we
be on the thirty-first of December?

_Dolly._ I'm horribly fagged.

_Harry._ Conquer it! Think how delightful it will be to put your head on
the pillow to-night, without a single anxiety, without a single
thought----

_Dolly._ Except my gratitude to you!

_Harry._ Come, dear, no time like the present!

_Dolly._ [_Jumps up very briskly._] No time like the present! [_Looking
at him with great admiration._] Oh, Harry, what a dear, kind, good
husband you've always been to me!

_Harry._ Have I, my darling? [_Modestly._] I've done my best----

_Dolly._ How I must have tried you!

_Harry._ No, dear--at least a little sometimes.

_Dolly._ When I think what patience you've had with me, and never
reproached me----

_Harry._ Well, not often. We've had our little tiffs--That day at
Goodwood--eh?

_Dolly._ Don't speak of it! I was to blame----

_Harry._ No, dear, I can't let you accuse yourself. I was quite in the
wrong.

_Dolly._ No, dear, it was my fault entirely!

_Harry._ Well, we won't quarrel about that. Now these bills----

_Dolly._ And what good pals we've been!

_Harry._ And always shall be.      [_Kissing her._

_Dolly._ [_Hugging him._] Oh, you dear!

_Harry._ Now, business, business!

_Dolly._ [_Going up to writing-desk._] What a lucky woman I am!

_Harry._ [_Seated at table._] Bring them all.

_Dolly._ [_Has opened desk and taken up some bills--she looks round
dubiously at_ HARRY.] What a splendid thing it must be to be a husband
and have it in your power to make your wife _adore_ you, by simply
paying a few bills.

_Harry._ Yes--bring them all. [_She comes down with a bundle of about
fifteen, hands them to him._] Is this all?

_Dolly._ All, of any importance.

_Harry._ I want to see them all.

_Dolly._ So you shall, but we'll go through these first, because
[_lamely_] if you want to ask any questions we can settle them on the
spot, can't we?

_Harry._ [_Reading from the bill._] Maison Récamier, Court and artistic
millinery. By Jove!      [_Looks up._

_Dolly._ What!

_Harry._ One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine--nine
hats!

_Dolly._ Different kinds of hats.

_Harry._ Yedda straw hat, four guineas, ostrich feather ruffle, twelve
pounds ten----

_Dolly._ That was the one--you remember--when I came into the room you
said, "Stay there! Just as you are! I must kiss you!"

_Harry._ Yes, but twelve pounds ten--Moss green chip hat, four,
fourteen, six. Heliotrope velvet toque----

_Dolly._ That's the dear little toque you admire so much!

_Harry._ Do I? Six guineas! Dear little toque! Hat in white Tegal with
plumes of Nattier Bleu--fifteen guineas--Fifteen guineas?!

_Dolly._ With plumes! Of Nattier Bleu!

_Harry._ But fifteen guineas!

_Dolly._ Oh, the woman's a fearful swindler! But what are you to do with
such people?

_Harry._ [_With bill._] Total, sixty-four, seven, six. And I get my one
silk topper a year, at a guinea, and three and six for doing it up.
Total for me, one, four, six. Total for you----

_Dolly._ My dear Harry, don't make absurd comparisons!

_Harry._ [_Takes another bill._] John Spearman, artistic gown maker,
ball gowns, reception gowns, race gowns--Good heavens!

_Dolly._ What's the matter?

_Harry._ Total, five hundred and fifty-six pounds--that can't be right!

_Dolly._ [_Frightened._] No, it can't be! Add it up!

_Harry._ [_Reading._] Tea gown of chiffon taffeta--

_Dolly._ The one I took to Folkestone, you remember?

     [_With a little attempt at a kiss._

_Harry._ [_Gently repulsing her._] No, I don't. [_She puts her arms
round his neck; he gently pushes her aside._] Business first, please.
[_Reads._] Gown of white cloth with Postillion coat of Rose du Barri
silk, motifs of silver, forty-five guineas----

_Dolly._ You won't grumble at that, for when I first put it on, you
stood and looked at me and said, "I want to know how it is, Doll, that
the moment a dress gets on to your shoulders, it seems to brisk up, and
be as cocky and proud of itself----"

     [_Again attempting to embrace him._

_Harry._ [_Again repulsing her._] Yes, well now I do know! Jolly proud
and cocky your dresses ought to feel at this price! [_Reads._] "Evening
cloak of strawberry satin charmeuse, trimmed silk passementerie, motifs
and fringed stoles of dull gold embroidery, thirty-five guineas." What's
a motif?

_Dolly._ It's a trimming--a lot of little touches--a sort
of--a--a--a--[_making a little descriptive gesture_] a suggestion--a
motif----

_Harry._ And Mr. John Spearman's motif is that I should pay him five
hundred and fifty-six pounds. Well, I don't like Mr. John Spearman's
motifs, and I'm not going to fall in with them. [_Puts the bill on the
table rather angrily, takes up another, reads._] "Artistic lingerie!" I
wonder why all these people call themselves artists! "Underwear of
daintiness and distinction."

_Dolly._ Well, you've always praised----

_Harry._ Yes. In future, I'm going to be very careful what articles of
your dress I praise. "Three pairs of blue silk garters, forty-five
shillings." [_She has settled herself in the armchair, looking a little
sulky and obstinate, leaning back and pettishly swinging one leg over
the other._] What have you got to say to that?

_Dolly._ Garters are necessary.

_Harry._ Yes, but why three? And why blue silk? Why don't you speak?

_Dolly._ The garters can speak for themselves!

_Harry._ Very well. Garters that can speak for themselves can pay for
themselves! [_Dashes the bill on the table, takes up another. Reading._]
Three bottles coeur de Janette--three bottles Souffle de
Marguerite--fifteen pounds for scent--and I have to smoke sixpenny
cigars! And sometimes only fourpenny!

_Dolly._ Well, if you will smoke those horrid strong things you can't
wonder I have to disinfect the house for you.

_Harry._ Disinfect the house _for_ me! You'll very soon disinfect the
house _of_ me! [_Glances through the remaining bills, groans, puts them
on the table, and walks about in despair._ DOLLY _rises and is going
off._] Where are you going?

_Dolly._ To bed.

_Harry._ [_Stopping her._] No! Now we've begun, we'll go through to the
bitter end, if you please. I want you to explain----

_Dolly._ My dear Harry, it will be quite useless for me to try to
explain in your present state----

_Harry._ [_Getting furious._] In my present state----

_Dolly._ Dancing about the room and shouting!----

_Harry._ I'm not shouting!

_Dolly._ You're not shouting?!

_Harry._ No, and if I am, isn't it enough to make a man shout when his
wife----

     MATT _appears at the door in his dressing-gown and slippers._

_Matt._ Excuse my interrupting. But you know my room is just above this,
and if you could manage to pitch your voices in rather a softer key----

_Harry._ By Jove, I'd forgotten! We were getting a little noisy. I'm
awfully sorry.

_Matt._ Don't mention it! The Professor gave me rather a stiff go of his
Pableine, and I fancy it hasn't agreed with me [_tapping his chest_] for
I can't get a wink of sleep. Is there a spoonful of whiskey about?

_Harry._ On the sideboard in the dining-room.

_Matt._ Thankee. [_Tapping his chest._] Harry, when you get over fifty,
don't change your nightcap, or any of your other bad habits.

_Harry._ I won't. Now, Dolly----

_Matt._ [_Anxiously._] You won't perhaps be very long now?

_Dolly._ No, we'd nearly finished----

_Matt._ Nothing serious, I hope?

_Dolly._ Harry doesn't approve of my using scent.

_Harry._ Not in pailfuls. Certainly not.

_Dolly._ I had three small bottles----

_Matt._ Montaigne says that the sweetest perfume a woman can have, is to
have none at all.      [_Exit._

_Harry._ Now, my darling, we shall best arrive at an understanding if we
avoid all temper, and discuss it in a calm, business-like way.

_Dolly._ [_A little frightened._] Ye-es----

_Harry._ Very well then, bring up your chair, and let us go into it,
figure by figure, item by item, and see how we stand.

_Dolly._ Ye-es. [_Bringing a chair a little way._] Harry, you aren't
going to be as business-like as all that?

_Harry._ As all what?

_Dolly._ I can't discuss it while you keep me at a distance! [_Suddenly
rushes at him, seats herself on his knee, puts his arm round her waist,
kisses him._] There! now I feel I can discuss it thoroughly.

_Harry._ Very well [_kisses her_], so long as we do discuss it
thoroughly.

_Dolly._ I began to get quite frightened of you, Mr. Jobling.

_Harry._ Jobling?

_Dolly._ The man Mr. Pilcher had to get a money-box for, because he
swore at his wife!

_Harry._ Oh, yes.

_Dolly._ You got so angry--and shouted----

_Harry._ Well, there was no reason for that, especially as getting out
of temper is _the_ one thing I'm quite resolved to conquer this New
Year----

_Dolly._ [_Kissing him._] Don't forget that!

_Harry._ [_Kisses her._] Now, business, business! [_Takes up a bill._]
What have we here? Carchet, gantier et bonnetier, artiste--Hillo, here's
another artist! In stockings this time. [_Suddenly._] I say!

_Dolly._ [_Frightened._] Eh?

_Harry._ [_Points to an item in bill._] Come now, Dolly--this is really
too bad--this really is too bad!

_Dolly._ [_Frightened._] What?!

     [_Getting off his knee._

_Harry._ One dozen pairs best silk hose, with clocks----

_Dolly._ Yes--how much does that come to?

_Harry._ Eleven pounds two----

_Dolly._ It does seem rather a high price, but----

     [_Drawing up her dress and showing an inch or two of silk
     stocking._

_Harry._ You're wearing them about the house?

_Dolly._ I can't go about the house without stockings. And I put them on
for your especial benefit. [_He utters a contemptuous exclamation._]
They're a lovely quality----

     [_Drawing up her dress an inch or two higher._

_Harry._ I daresay. [_Turning away._] I'm not going to admire your
stockings, or your ostrich ruffles, or your blue silk garters, or your
motifs, or anything that is yours! It's too expensive!

_Dolly._ [_Dress an inch higher, looking down at her stockings._] It's
the clocks you have to pay for----

_Harry._ I beg your pardon, it's the clocks I haven't got to pay for!
And don't mean to--if I can help it. Idiotic thing to go and put clocks
on stockings--[_muttering_] damned silly idiotic----

_Dolly._ Ah! [_Goes to table, brings the hospital box and puts it in
front of him._] Double fine this time.

_Harry._ What for?

_Dolly._ Naughty swear word, and getting out of temper.

_Harry._ Oh well--[_fumbling in his pocket_] I did say d----, but I
didn't get out of temper!

_Dolly._ You didn't get out of temper?!?

_Harry._ Not at all. I'm quite calm. [_Sulkily puts a shilling in the
box._] There! [_Seats himself at table._] Now we'll go quietly and
methodically through the remainder---- [_Taking up a bill, looks at it,
exclaims._] Good heavens!

_Dolly._ Good heavens what?

_Harry._ [_In a low exhausted tone with groans._] Good heavens! Good
heavens! It's absolutely useless--Good heavens!

_Dolly._ But what is it?      [_Coming up, looking over._

_Harry._ [_Points to bill._] Four more hats! Nine on the other
bill--four more here. Thirteen hats.

_Dolly._ No, one was a toque.

_Harry._ But can you explain?

_Dolly._ Yes. You said yourself that Madame Récamier was horribly
expensive, so I left her and went to Jacquelin's--just to save your
pocket----

_Harry._ Never save my pocket again, please.

_Dolly._ Very well, I won't.

_Harry._ No, I daresay you won't, but I shall! I shall draw the strings
very tightly in future. Save my pocket! [_He is walking about
distractedly._] Save my pocket.      [_Groans._

_Dolly._ Now, Harry, it's useless to take it in this way--you knew when
you married me I hadn't got the money sense----

_Harry._ [_Groans._] I hadn't got any sense at all!

_Dolly._ Very likely not. But try and have a little now. What have I
done? Run a little into debt, solely to please you.

_Harry._ Yes; well, now run out of it, and I shall be better pleased
still.

_Dolly._ After all, running into debt is a positive virtue beside the
things that some wives do!

_Harry._ Oh, it's a positive virtue, is it?

_Dolly._ A husband is very lucky when his wife spends most of her time
running up a few bills. It keeps her out of mischief. I'm sure you ought
to feel very glad that I'm a little extravagant!

_Harry._ Oh, I am! I am! I'm delighted!

     [_He sits at table, takes out a pencil, hurriedly puts down the
     amounts of the various bills--she creeps up behind him._

_Dolly._ What are you doing?

_Harry._ I'm totting up to see how lucky I am! Forty-one, one, six----
[_Groans._] Ninety-four----      [_Groans._

_Dolly._ [_Has crept up behind him, puts her arms round his neck._] Now,
Harry, will you take my advice----?

_Harry._ No.

_Dolly._ It's past eleven.

     [_Trying to take the pencil out of his hand._

_Harry._ [_Disengaging her arms, speaking very sternly._] Will you have
the goodness to let me have all your bills, so that I may know what help
I shall need from my banker?

_Dolly._ Harry, you don't mean that? Oh, that's absurd with our income!

_Harry._ Will you have the goodness to do as I say, and at once, please?
[_He is dotting down figures. She stands still in the middle of the
room._] Did you hear me?

     [_She bursts into tears. He turns round and shows symptoms of
     relenting towards her, but steels himself and turns to the bills.
     She bursts into renewed tears. He goes on figuring._

_Dolly._ [_Piteously._] Harry! Harry! [_Goes up to him and plucks his
sleeve._] Harry!

_Harry._ Well?

     [_He turns and looks at her, is about to yield, but resists, turns
     away from her, settles resolutely to his figures._

_Dolly._ And on the first night of the New Year, too! Just as we were
going to be so happy! Harry! [_Holds out her arms appealingly._] Harry!
[HARRY _suddenly turns round and clasps her._] How could you be so
unkind to me?

_Harry._ Was I? I didn't mean to be. Now! Dry your tears, and help me
reckon this up----

_Dolly._ Ye-es.

_Harry._ But first of all let me have the remainder of the bills----

_Dolly._ Yes.

_Harry._ At once, my darling--it's getting late.

_Dolly._ Yes. [_Goes up to desk._] You won't reproach me?

_Harry._ Of course I won't.

_Dolly._ I can bear anything except your reproaches. Promise you won't
reproach me.

_Harry._ I won't, unless----

_Dolly._ Unless what?

_Harry._ It's something too awful.

_Dolly._ Oh, it isn't. Not at all. Not at all. [_Goes up to the desk,
brings down about ten more bills with great affected cheerfulness._]
There! You see, it's nothing.

_Harry._ [_Hastily looking at the totals._] Nothing? You call these
nothing!!?

_Dolly._ Nothing to speak about--nothing awful!

_Harry._ Good heavens! How any woman with the least care for her
husband, or her home---- [_looking at one total after another_] how any
woman with the least self-respect---- [DOLLY _goes to him, puts her arms
round him, tries to embrace--he repulses her._] No, please. I've had
enough of that old dodge.

_Dolly._ Dodge!

_Harry._ I remember that last two hundred pounds and how you sweedled me
out of it!

_Dolly._ Sweedled?

_Harry._ Yes! Sweedled!

_Dolly._ There's no such word!

_Harry._ No, but there's the thing! As most husbands know. [_Referring
to one bill after another, picking out items._] Lace coat, hand-made!
En-tout-cas, studded cabochons of lapis lazuli--studded
cabochons--studded cabochons!

_Dolly._ [_Has quietly seated herself, and is looking at the ceiling._]
Couldn't you manage to pitch your voice in rather a softer key?

_Harry._ [_Comes angrily down to her, bills in hand, speaks in a
whisper, very rapidly and fiercely._] Yes! And I say that a woman who
goes and runs up bills like these, [_dashing the back of one hand
against the bills in the other_] while her husband is smoking threepenny
cigars, will very soon bring herself and him to one of those new
palatial workhouses where, thank heaven, the cuisine and appointments
are now organized with a view of providing persons of your tastes with
every luxury at the ratepayers' expense. [_Returns angrily to the bills,
turns them over._] Irish lace bolero! [_Turns to another._] Fur motor
coat, fifty-five guineas----

_Dolly._ [_Calmly gazing at the ceiling._] You told me to look as smart
as Mrs. Colefield.

_Harry._ Not at that price! If I'd known what that motor tour would cost
by Jove! I'd----

_Dolly._ You're getting noisy again. You'll wake my father.

_Harry._ He ought to be waked! He ought to know what his daughter is
saddling me with.

_Dolly._ Very well, if you don't care how shabby I look----

_Harry._ Shabby! [_Referring to bills._] Lace demi-toilette! Point de
Venise lace Directoire coat! Shabby?

_Dolly._ My dear Harry, do you suppose we shall ever agree as to what
constitutes shabbiness?

_Harry._ No, I'm hanged if we ever shall!

_Dolly._ Then suppose we drop the subject. For the future I shall
endeavor to please you entirely.

_Harry._ Oh, you will?

_Dolly._ By dressing so that you'll be ashamed to be seen in the same
street with me. I shall make myself a perfect fright--a perfect dowdy--a
perfect draggletail!

_Harry._ Then I shall not be seen in the same street with you.

_Dolly._ You won't?

_Harry._ No, my dear. Make no mistake about that!

_Dolly._ You'll be seen with somebody else, perhaps?

_Harry._ Very likely.

_Dolly._ Have you met Miss Smithson again?

_Harry._ Not since the last time.

_Dolly._ Have you seen her since we were at Folkestone?

_Harry._ What's that to do with your bills?

_Dolly._ A great deal. That night at dinner she told you her dress
allowance was a hundred and twenty a year, and you said you wished she'd
give me a few lessons in economy.

_Harry._ I did not.

_Dolly._ Pardon me, you did!

_Harry._ Pardon me, I did not. I said she might give _some_ women a
lesson in economy.

_Dolly._ You did not! I heard every word of your conversation, and you
distinctly asked her to give me, your wife, a few lessons in economy.

_Harry._ I'll swear I didn't!

_Dolly._ Ask my father! He was there.

_Harry._ Very well! I'll ask him the first thing in the morning.

_Dolly._ No, to-night! You've accused me of deliberately saying what
isn't true, and I----

_Harry._ I have not!

_Dolly._ Yes, you have. And I insist on having it cleared up to-night! I
don't suppose he's asleep! Fetch him down!

_Harry._ Very well! I will fetch him down!      [_Exit._

_Dolly._ [_Paces furiously up and down._] Me! Lessons in economy!
Lessons in economy! Me! Lessons in economy!

     _Re-enter_ HARRY.

_Harry._ He'll be down in a minute! Meantime, [_very angry_] I want to
know what any woman in this world wants with two dozen cache corsets?

     [_Banging his free hand on the bills._

_Dolly._ We'll clear up Miss Smithson first----

_Harry._ No, we will not clear up Miss Smithson----

_Dolly._ Because you can't clear up Miss Smithson----

_Harry._ I can clear up Miss Smithson----

_Dolly._ You cannot clear up Miss Smithson----

     MATT _appears at door in dressing-gown, rubbing his eyes and
     looking very sleepy._

Dad, you remember Miss Smithson----

_Matt._ [_Coming in, very sleepy._] Smithson?

_Dolly._ The girl at the hotel at Folkestone, that Harry paid so much
attention to.

_Harry._ I paid no more attention to Miss Smithson than was absolutely
necessary. Did I, Mr. Barron?

_Dolly._ Oh! Oh! Dad, you remember----

_Matt._ Not for the moment----

_Dolly._ Not the disgraceful way Harry--there's no other word--carried
on!

_Harry._ I did not carry on--Mr. Barron, I appeal to you.

_Dolly._ Dad!

_Matt._ My dear, I certainly did not notice----

_Dolly._ No, he was far too careful to let anyone notice it, except his
own wife!

_Harry._ You lay your life when I do carry on my wife will be the last
person I shall allow to notice it!

_Dolly._ I daresay! Dad, did you hear that?

_Matt._ Yes. [_Rousing himself a little._] Now, Harry, what about this
Miss Smithson?

_Harry._ That's what I want to know!

_Matt._ Who is Miss Smithson?

_Dolly._ Surely you remember that lanky girl----

_Harry._ Miss Smithson is not lanky----

_Dolly._ Not lanky? Not lanky?! You can't have any eyes----!

_Harry._ That's what I've often thought----

_Dolly._ [_Explodes._] Oh! Oh! Dad!

_Matt._ Come, Harry, let's clear this up. [_Suddenly._] Smithson? Oh
yes! The girl who sat on your left at your dinner party----

_Dolly._ That's the one!

_Matt._ I should call her a trifle lanky, Harry.

_Dolly._ A trifle? Well, never mind! You remember that dinner party----

_Matt._ [_Cautiously._] Ye-es.

_Dolly._ You remember how she waited for a lull in the talk, and then
she said with that silly, simpering, appealing look----

_Harry._ Miss Smithson's look is not silly or simpering.

_Dolly._ Well, it's appealing, isn't it?

_Harry._ [_With a little chuckle._] Oh, yes, it's appealing.

_Dolly._ [_Enraged._] Oh! Dad!

_Matt._ [_Quiets her._] Shush!--What did she say?

_Dolly._ She said with a very marked glance at me, "My dress allowance
is a hundred and twenty a year, and I don't understand how any
reasonable woman can wish for more!" What do you think of that?

_Matt._ Well, if she did say that, and if she glanced at you, it----

_Dolly._ Yes?

_Matt._ It wasn't very nice of her.

_Dolly._ Nice? It was an insult! A direct, intentional, abominable
insult, wasn't it?

_Matt._ Yes, yes, decidedly, under the circumstances----

_Dolly._ And Harry ought to have resented it?

_Matt._ At his own dinner table he couldn't, could he?

_Dolly._ Yes! At least, if he couldn't resent it, he ought to have
_shown_ that he resented it. Instead of that, he actually asked her to
give me a few lessons in economy!

_Harry._ I did not!

_Dolly._ Pardon me, you did! Me! his wife! Lessons in economy!

_Harry._ And a thundering good thing if she had given you a few before
you ran up these bills!

     [_Dashes his hand on to the bills._

_Dolly._ There! You hear?!

_Matt._ Come, Harry, you oughtn't to have asked another woman to give
your wife lessons in economy.

_Harry._ I didn't!

_Dolly._ Dad! You were there----

_Matt._ Yes, but I don't quite remember----

_Dolly._ You don't remember?! Surely you can remember a simple thing
like that when your own daughter tells you it was so!

_Matt._ Now, Harry, what did you really say to Miss Smithson?

_Harry._ I said she might give _some_ women a lesson in economy.

_Matt._ Not meaning Dolly?

     [_Giving him a wink to say "No."_

_Harry._ No-o.

_Dolly._ Then whom did he mean? Lessons in economy? Whom _could_ he mean
if he didn't mean me?

_Harry._ Just so!

_Dolly._ Ah! There! You see, he owns it!

_Matt._ No, no, I'm sure he doesn't mean it! Did you, Harry?

     [_Winking at_ HARRY.

_Dolly._ Then will he please say what he really does mean?

_Matt._ Now, Harry, what do you really mean?

_Harry._ Well, you remember that night of the dinner party at
Folkestone.

_Matt._ [_Cautiously._] Ye-es.

_Harry._ After they'd all gone you and I went into the smoking-room,
didn't we?

_Matt._ [_Cautiously._] Ye-es.

_Harry._ And you said, "Doll's in one of her high gales again!"

_Dolly._ High gales?! [_Indignant._] Father! You didn't say that?

_Matt._ No, no, my dear----

_Harry._ Excuse me, those were your exact words. High gales!

_Matt._ I don't remember.

_Dolly._ No, you don't remember anything.

_Harry._ You said, "What on earth was up between her and Miss Smithson
at dinner?"

_Dolly._ You see! That proves exactly what I said!

_Harry._ No, by Jove, it proves that your father noticed what a
confounded, cussed----

_Dolly._ Go on! Go on! Say it!

_Matt._ Shush! Shush! Well, Harry, what did you say?

_Harry._ Well, not wishing to give Dolly away----

_Dolly._ Ha! ha! Not wishing to give me away!

_Harry._ Not then! But, by Jove, if any decent chap were to come along
now----

_Dolly._ [_Exploding._] There! There! [_To_ MATT.] And you sit there and
hear my own husband insult me in my own house!

_Matt._ No! No!

_Dolly._ But there you sit! There you sit!

_Matt._ [_Jumps up fiercely._] Now, Harry!

_Harry._ [_Fiercely._] Well, now, Mr. Barron----

_Dolly._ Why don't you defend me? Why don't you demand an apology?

_Matt._ What for?

_Dolly._ For everything! For to-night! For that night at Folkestone!

_Harry._ That night at Folkestone! Why, your father was quite on my
side----

_Matt._ What?

_Dolly._ He wasn't; were you, Dad?

_Matt._ No--no.

_Harry._ What? [_Fiercely._] Do you remember exactly what passed between
us in the smoking-room, Mr. Barron?

_Matt._ No.

_Harry._ Then I'll tell you----

_Matt._ [_Retreating towards door._] No--no--I don't want to know----

_Harry._ [_Following him up, shouting a little._] You said, "I know what
she's like in her high gales! I remember what the little devil was like
at home."

_Dolly._ [_Pursuing him up to door._] Father! You didn't say that!

_Matt._ No--no, my darling--quite a mistake--quite a mistake--altogether
a mistake.

     [_Gets thankfully off at back._

_Dolly._ [_Calls after him._] Then why don't you stay and tell him so!

_Harry._ [_Shouts after_ MATT.] It's not a mistake!

_Dolly._ [_Calls after_ MATT.] It's cowardly of you to leave me here to
be insulted.

_Harry._ [_Goes up to door, shouts._] It's not a mistake! You patted me
on the back and said, "Poor chap! Poor chap!" You know you did! [_Closes
the door, comes fiercely down to_ DOLLY.] It's not a mistake! He could
see you had insulted Miss Smithson.

_Dolly._ I had not insulted her! I was far too civil to her, considering
that the next evening you took her out on the Leas, when you ought to
have been at billiards----

_Harry._ I took her out on the Leas!

_Dolly._ Yes! You weren't in the billiard-room! So where were you? Where
were you?

_Harry._ I jolly well don't know, and I--I----

_Dolly._ Say it! Say it!

_Harry._ I damned well don't care!

_Dolly._ Ah!

     [_She seizes the box, brings it up to him, puts it irritatingly in
     front of him; he seizes it, they struggle for it, trying to take
     it out of each other's hands; she screams, he tries to get it;
     there is a scuffle round the room; he tries to rub her knuckles;
     she makes a little feint to bite him; in the struggle the box drops
     on the floor a little below the table, right._

_Dolly._ Jobling! Jobling! Jobling!

_Harry._ Now, madam, for the last time, have I all your bills?

_Dolly._ Jobling! Jobling! Jobling!

_Harry._ Have I all your bills?

_Dolly._ Jobling! Jobling! Jobling!

_Harry._ Once more, madam, have I all your bills?

_Dolly._ No, you haven't!

_Harry._ Then please hand them over to me this instant, so that I may
take proceedings.

_Dolly._ [_Laughing._] Proceedings! Ha! Take your proceedings!

_Harry._ By Jove! I will take proceedings.

_Dolly._ Take them! Take them!

_Harry._ [_Walking about furiously with the bills._] So this is the way
the money goes! [_Banging the bills._] While I have to smoke twopenny
cigars! And can't get a decent dinner!

_Dolly._ You can't get a decent dinner?

_Harry._ No! Look at those messes last night. They weren't fit for a
cook-shop.

_Dolly._ Oh! Oh! Oh! Get a housekeeper! Get a housekeeper!

_Harry._ By Jove! that's what I mean to do!

_Dolly._ Have Miss Smithson! Send for her to-morrow morning! I'll hand
her over the keys!

_Harry._ [_Shouting._] And please hand me over the rest of your bills!
The rest of your bills, madam!

     [DOLLY _marches up to the desk._

     MATT _appears at door in dressing-gown._

_Matt._ I can't get a wink of sleep----

     [DOLLY _takes out about twenty more bills._

_Harry._ I insist on seeing the whole lot! So there!

_Dolly._ [_Flourishing the bills, strewing them on the floor._] Well
there! And there! And there! And there! Now you've got the whole lot!
And I hope you're satisfied. I'm going into Renie's room!      [_Exit._

_Harry._ I insist on your going through these bills----

     [_Following her off. Their voices are heard retreating upstairs_,
     DOLLY _saying_, "go through the bills! Send for Miss Smithson! Have
     her here to-morrow morning! Take your proceedings," HARRY _saying_,
     "I insist on going through the bills to-night! Do you hear, madam,
     I insist! Will you come down and go through these bills," etc.

_Matt._ [_Listens, as their voices die away. When the voices have
ceased, he surveys the scene._] We're making a splendid start for the
New Year!

     [_Sees the box on the floor, picks it up, carefully places it on
     table and goes off._


CURTAIN.



(_A year passes between Acts III and IV._)

ACT IV.


SCENE: _The same._

TIME: _Afternoon of January 1st, 1908._

     _Enter_ LUCAS, _followed by_ CRIDDLE. LUCAS _has his left
     collar-bone broken, and his arm is strapped across his breast; his
     coat is buttoned loosely over the arm, the left sleeve hanging
     down._

_Lucas._ They've gone to meet me?

_Criddle._ Yes, sir.

_Lucas._ By the road?

_Criddle._ Yes, sir.

_Lucas._ That's how I've missed them. My car broke down the other side
of the clump, and so I walked over the fields.

_Criddle._ Yes, sir. I beg pardon, I hope the arm isn't serious.

_Lucas._ No, Criddle. Just serious enough to get me a couple of months'
leave, so that I could spend the New Year in England.

_Criddle._ You had it very hot in India, I suppose, sir?

_Lucas._ Blazing!

_Criddle._ We've got the same old weather here, you see, sir.

_Lucas._ Same old weather! Had any visitors for Christmas, Criddle?

_Criddle._ Mr. Barron, of course, and Professor and Mrs. Sturgess.

_Lucas._ Same old visitors--same visitors, I should say. Mr. Pilcher
still Vicar here, I suppose?

_Criddle._ Yes, sir. He gave us a wonderful sermon at the old year's
service last night.

_Lucas._ Same old sermon!

_Criddle._ No, sir. Not exactly the same sermon, though it had similar
points to last year. Ah! You came over for the old year's service last
year?

_Lucas._ Yes, and a rattling good sermon it was!

_Criddle._ Very powerful and persuading, wasn't it, sir? It even touched
me up a bit.

_Lucas._ In what way, Criddle?

_Criddle._ I used to have my ten bob on any horse as I fancied, but I
never put a farthing on anything--not even on Sulky Susan for the Oaks.

_Lucas._ You didn't?

_Criddle._ No, and thank God, in a manner of speaking, that I didn't,
for she never pulled it off. I owe that to Mr. Pilcher. No, I never
touched a thing till the Leger. That reminds me----

_Lucas._ What, Criddle?

_Criddle._ Why, last year, after Mr. Pilcher's sermon, the master had a
collecting box, and when he found himself going a bit off the straight
he used to put in a shilling or half-a-crown for Mr. Pilcher's blanket
fund----

_Lucas._ Yes, of course! And Uncle Matt promised him a sovereign for
each of us if we had carried out our good resolutions. Is that coming
off, Criddle?

_Criddle._ I expect it is, sir. Mr. Pilcher is coming here this
afternoon, and the master told me to be sure and find the box before he
gets here.

_Lucas._ Find the box?

_Criddle._ Nobody has seen anything of it for some months. Excuse me,
sir, I must look for it.

     [_Exit_ CRIDDLE.

     LUCAS _takes out letter from an unsealed envelope, glances through
     it, sits at table, takes out pencil, adds a short note, puts letter
     in envelope, seals it up, puts it in his tail pocket, goes to
     conservatory, looks in._ RENIE _enters at door behind him. She
     starts, as he turns round._

_Renie._ [_In a whisper._] You're here already?

_Lucas._ Yes----

_Renie._ Your wound?

_Lucas._ Much better. Nearly well.

_Renie._ I'm so glad----

_Lucas._ I'm not. I shall have to cut it back to India directly. Why
didn't you answer my last letter?

_Renie._ I did--and tore it up.

_Lucas._ Tore it up?

_Renie._ What's the use? I told you last year we could never be anything
to each other!

_Lucas._ But you didn't mean it?

     [_He seizes her hand and kisses it several times._

_Renie._ [_Feebly attempting to withdraw it._] Yes--yes, I did. Hush!

_Lucas._ I want you to read this.      [_Shows her the letter._

_Matt._ [_Heard through the door which is open a few inches._] Have you
found the box, Criddle?

_Criddle._ No, sir. I've hunted everywhere.

_Matt._ Have another look. We must have it ready for Mr. Pilcher.

     MATT _enters. Meantime_ RENIE _has crept to upper conservatory door
     and gone off signing to_ LUCAS _to keep silence. He has taken the
     letter out of his pocket and held it up for her to see, putting it
     back before_ MATT _enters._

_Matt._ Ah, Lucas. So you've got here. Happy New Year!

_Lucas._ Happy New Year, Uncle Matt.

     [_Cordially shaking hands._

_Matt._ Glad to see you back in England.

_Lucas._ Glad to be back!

_Matt._ How's the arm?

_Lucas._ Splendid--nearly well. Dolly and Harry all right?

_Matt._ First rate. They'll be here directly.

_Lucas._ The Sturgesses are here again, Criddle tells me.

_Matt._ Ye-es.

_Lucas._ Gray matter still going strong?

_Matt._ Booming.

_Lucas._ How's Mrs. Sturgess?

_Matt._ As usual, a little inclined to flop about and play act----

_Lucas._ Yes. Jolly good-looking woman though, eh?

_Matt._ Very. Lucas----

_Lucas._ Well?

_Matt._ You're quite cured, eh?

_Lucas._ Cured?

_Matt._ Of your infatuation for her.

_Lucas._ Infatuation? Well, I admired her, and perhaps it was lucky I
was ordered out to India----

_Matt._ I managed that for you, my boy.

_Lucas._ You did!?

_Matt._ Sir John wanted a smart A.D.C., so I drove over to Aldershot,
urged your claims, and got you the appointment.

_Lucas._ So that was why I was packed off. It was you who----

_Matt._ Aren't you thankful I did?

_Lucas._ Yes, much obliged to you, much obliged!

_Matt._ So you ought to be. And so's the lady.

_Lucas._ Is she?

_Matt._ Yes. When we got your wire yesterday saying you'd motor down
to-day, Dolly had a long talk with her, and the result was she thanked
Dolly and me for getting you out of the way and saving her from you.

_Lucas._ Did she?

_Matt._ Yes, for twenty minutes. She kissed Dolly, and I think she would
have kissed me, only I didn't feel myself quite worthy.

_Lucas._ Oh, so that's all settled!

_Matt._ That's all settled. At least, let's hope so.

_Lucas._ What do you mean?

_Matt._ Well, you won't come----

_Lucas._ What?

_Matt._ The same old game.

_Lucas._ What same old game?

_Matt._ Why, _the_ same old game!

_Lucas._ You must be judging me by yourself, when you were young.

_Matt._ My dear boy, that's just what I am doing. Lucas, there's not
going to be any repetition----

_Lucas._ No--no.

_Matt._ Because it isn't the right thing to do, is it?

_Lucas._ No.

_Matt._ Very well then, don't do it!

_Lucas._ I won't! [_Listening._] Ah! [DOLLY _and_ HARRY'S _voices heard
in hall_] Dolly and Harry!

     DOLLY _and_ HARRY _enter very lovingly._

_Lucas._ Hillo, Doll, old girl! Happy New Year!

_Dolly._ Happy New Year, Lu!

_Lucas._ Harry, old brick, how goes it?

_Harry._ Splendid!

_Lucas._ Happy New Year!

_Harry._ Happy New Year! [_Looking lovingly at_ DOLLY.] By Jove, Doll,
you can foot it. [_To_ LUCAS.] Doll and I have just raced up from the
farm. She licked me! bless her!

_Dolly._ Yes, because you encouraged me!

_Harry._ [_Looking at her lovingly and admiringly, kisses her
heartily._] There aren't many things this little woman can't do.

_Dolly._ When you encourage me!

_Harry._ Oh, I'll encourage you!

     [_He again kisses her heartily._

_Harry._ Well, Lu, old boy, glad to see you home again. Arm pretty bad?

_Lucas._ No, nearly well, unfortunately.

_Dolly._ Down for the day?

_Lucas._ Well, now my car has broken down, I was wondering if you'd put
me up----

_Dolly._ [_Firmly._] No. We shall be pleased for you to stay to dinner.

_Harry._ There's the spare room, Doll.

_Dolly._ [_Firmly._] No. That may be wanted for Renie or myself.

_Harry._ [_Half aside to her._] I say, not for you, old girl!

_Lucas._ Oh, well, I shall have to get a shake-down at the Red Lion.

     _Enter_ RENIE _at back, still in outdoor clothes._

_Renie._ [_Feigning a little surprise._] Captain Wentworth! A happy New
Year!

_Lucas._ Happy New Year, Mrs. Sturgess.

     [_Shaking hands._

_Renie._ So sorry to hear of your wound!

_Lucas._ Oh, it's healed, thank you.

_Renie._ I'm so glad. Shall you be making a long stay in England?

_Lucas._ I fear only a few days longer.

_Renie._ I'm sorry your visit will be so short.

     CRIDDLE _enters triumphantly with the hospital box which is
     very mouldy and dusty--he has also duster in his hand._

_Criddle._ I've found him, sir--

_Matt._ Rather mouldy, eh?

_Criddle._ Oh, we'll soon put that to rights, sir.

     [_Begins to dust the box carefully._

_Matt._ Looks well for your household discipline here, Harry.

_Harry._ How?

_Matt._ You've had no occasion to use him lately.

_Criddle._ [_Displaying the box, having carefully dusted it._] There he
is, sir, Hospital for Incurables! Nearly as good as new.

_Matt._ Where did you find him?

_Criddle._ In the wine-cellar, of all places! I was getting out a bottle
of the sixty-eight port for New Year's night, and happening to put my
hand behind, there he was!

_Harry._ [_Has a sudden gesture of remembrance._] Yes, I remember!

_Matt._ What should incurables be doing in the wine-cellar? [_Holds out
his hand to_ CRIDDLE _for the box._ CRIDDLE, _who has been holding it
carefully, gives it to_ MATT. _Exit_ CRIDDLE. MATT _gives the box a
shake. It rattles as if half full of coins. He shakes it again, more
violently; it rattles again._] Internal organs sound healthy. How did he
get into the wine-cellar, Harry?

_Harry._ Well, Dolly and I had been having a little tiff one
morning--nothing serious----

_Matt._ No. When was that?

_Harry._ March, wasn't it?

_Dolly._ May, I think----

_Harry._ No, it wasn't that one--Well, never mind, I got so riled at
Dolly always poking this box in front of me whenever I happened to--so I
thought the wine-cellar would be the safest place for it.

_Matt._ [_Gives it another rattle._] Well, here he is, turned up just at
the right moment! And here you all are, Dolly, Harry, Lucas, Mrs.
Sturgess--all clamouring for me to redeem my promise and put in a
sovereign for each of you.

     CRIDDLE _appears at door announcing_ MR. PILCHER. PILCHER _enters
     with four oblong brown paper parcels of equal size. Exit_
     CRIDDLE.

_Pilcher._ Happy New Year to you all! Excuse me. [_Depositing his
parcels._] My New Year's gifts to a few of my parishioners!

_Dolly._ New Year's gifts!

_Pilcher._ To those who need them. [_Shaking hands with her._] Happy New
Year, Mr. Barron!

     [_Shaking hands._

_Matt._ Happy New Year!

_Pilcher._ How do this morning, Telfer! [HARRY _nods._] My dear Mrs.
Sturgess!      [_Shaking hands._

_Renie._ Happy New Year! What a lovely sermon you gave us again last
night!

_Pilcher._ Lovely! Well, say healthy, bracing.

_Harry._ A jolly good rouser again. Made me feel--well----

     [_Gives himself a shake._

_Pilcher._ Ah, Captain Wentworth, happy New Year!

_Lucas._ [_Shaking hands._] Happy New Year!

_Pilcher._ I heard you were wounded----

_Lucas._ Oh, that's done with.

_Matt._ We were just talking about our New Year's inquest----

_Pilcher._ Inquest?!

_Matt._ Into the characters of Dolly and Harry and----

     [_Glancing at_ RENIE _and_ LUCAS.

_Dolly._ Oh, please don't talk about inquests. Nobody's character is
dead here.

_Matt._ I hope not! We shall see----

_Lucas._ Uncle, you don't really mean----

_Matt._ It was a bona fide bargain on my side, but if you wish to avoid
any awkward little exposures, or if Mr. Pilcher will kindly waive his
claims to my contributions----

_Pilcher._ I'm afraid I can't. I have come here for the express purpose
of bearing away my trophy--Ah! [_Seeing box on table, takes it, gives it
a shake; his features assume a pleasant smile._] It seems to have proved
a very wholesome household regulator.

_Harry._ Yes, by Jove! It hadn't been in the house twenty-four hours
before I put in a sovereign.

_Pilcher._ A sovereign?

_Harry._ The first night of last year Dolly and I had a little
tiff--nothing serious--and so the next morning I made it up and--didn't
I, Dolly?----

_Dolly._ You did! And paid my bills like a lamb, you dear!

_Pilcher._ And put in a sovereign? [_Rattles the box again._] I won't
say "Don't have any more household tiffs," but I will say "Don't omit to
liquidate them." [_Gives the box another rattle._] The box must have
been in pretty constant use since----

_Harry._ Ye-es.

     PROFESSOR STURGESS _enters at back, with the proofs of his book
     in his hand._

_Prof._ How do you do?

_Pilcher._ [_Has put down box._] How do you do? [_Shaking hands._] Happy
New Year!

_Prof._ Happy New Year to you! [_To_ LUCAS.] How d'ye do?

_Lucas._ First rate. Happy New Year!

     [_Shaking hands._

_Prof._ Thank you. An accident?

_Lucas._ Bit of one. Getting over it.

_Prof._ If I might recommend the constant use of Pableine.

_Lucas._ Oh, thanks, it's quite well----

_Prof._ Try Pableine. It's a wonderful restorative. I'm intruding----

     [_Looking round._

_Pilcher._ Not at all. We were just about to settle the question Mr.
Barron raised last New Year's day----

_Prof._ Oh, yes; I remember! Curiously enough I have only this morning
received the proofs of my new volume, "Free Will, the Illusion."

     [_Showing the proofs to_ PILCHER.

_Pilcher._ Very interesting. I should like to discuss the matter with
you, but [_taking out watch_] I have so many New Year's calls to make.
[_Looking at_ MATT.] Perhaps we ought to get on with the--a----

_Matt._ Inquest.

_Pilcher._ Vindication.

_Matt._ [_Accepting the correction._] Vindication.

_Prof._ I may perhaps be allowed to point out that Mr. Barron's novel
and humorous experiment can in no sense be said to settle, or even to
touch, the question of Free Will, which as I have proved here depends
upon----      [_Again offering the proof._

_Pilcher._ I should like to look through those sheets, but----

     [_Glancing at_ MATT.

_Prof._ You shall! I have put the whole argument into the concrete case
of Sarah Mumford----

_Pilcher._ Sarah Mumford?

_Prof._ The baby farmer----

_Matt._ Sarah's gray matter gone watery?

_Prof._ Not watery, but she had a yellow effusion----

_Matt._ I suppose that's just as bad?

_Prof._ Quite.

_Matt._ What did they do with her?

_Prof._ They hanged her. They then discovered extensive lesions and this
yellow effusion----

_Matt._ Pity they didn't discover that before they hanged her.

_Prof._ My exact point! Where is the justice of punishing a woman whose
gray matter functions perversely? It is nothing short of a crime.

_Dolly._ But she had suffocated five dear little babies?

_Matt._ How could she avoid suffocating babies if she had a yellow
effusion in her brain?

_Prof._ Precisely my argument----

    [_Puts his proofs into_ MATT'S _hands. Points out a passage_. MATT, _a
    little embarrassed, takes them, looks through them._]

_Prof._ The point I wish to establish is this. While we all allow that
extensive or recognizable diseases of, or injuries to, the brain, free a
man from responsibility and punishment, how can we logically mete out
blame or praise, punishment or reward to our ordinary acts, thoughts,
and impulses, seeing that all our acts, thoughts, and impulses, good or
bad, virtuous or criminal, are equally the mere expressions of certain
inevitable physical changes in the brain, the mere register on the dial
plate of consciousness of necessary predetermined complications in the
working of certain atoms of the gray matter of our cortex?

_Matt._ Quite so! Quite so! [DOLLY _is about to speak, but_ MATT _hushes
her down with a warning look and sign._] The Professor wants to say with
Socrates that no man would be such a fool as to do wrong, if he could
possibly help it.

_Prof._ Well, if you like to put it that way----

_Pilcher._ And now perhaps we might proceed. Can you remember the exact
terms, Mr. Barron?

_Matt._ I am to pay a sovereign for everyone of your hearers who has so
far benefited by the wise admonitions of your last year's sermon as to
have broken off his bad habits, or some especial bad habit----

_Lucas._ We aren't bound to say what the habit is that we've broken
off?

_Matt._ I don't wish to be inquisitive, but if you don't mention the
particular bad habit, you will have to give me your word of honor that
you've conquered it. [_Putting down proofs on table, taking up the
money-box, giving it a shake._] Now, who will be first to step into the
confessional?      [_Looking round._

_Dolly._ I will. As I've nothing to confess.

_Matt._ Nothing?

_Dolly._ No. I had what some husbands might think a bad habit, but----

_Harry._ No bills this Christmas, eh, Doll?

_Dolly._ No.

_Harry._ You're sure now, my darling?

_Dolly._ None of any importance.

_Harry._ What do you mean of any importance?

_Dolly._ Well, you must have some bills--they grow up before you
know--such as Doctors' bills--you can't settle them all on the spur of
the moment, but I've nothing--nothing of importance. So please put in
your sovereign for me, Dad, and look pleasant about it.

_Matt._ You declare upon your word of honor that you have broken off
your bad habit of running up bills?

_Dolly._ Yes.

_Matt._ Entirely?

_Dolly._ Yes. You said you wouldn't be inquisitive.

_Matt._ Yes, but----

_Pilcher._ Mrs. Telfer has given her word. I think I may claim one
victory for free will, [_nodding victoriously at the_ PROFESSOR _who
shakes his head_], and one sovereign for the Blanket Club.

_Matt._ Hum! [_Draws a sovereign out of his pocket and very reluctantly
drops it into the box, shakes his head at_ DOLLY _who looks a little
uncomfortable._] Who volunteers next?

_Renie._ I do. No--I'll wait a little--I want to make sure that I am
perfectly honest with myself and with everybody.

_Matt._ That perhaps may need a little consideration, Lucas?

_Lucas._ Oh, let Harry have his doing first!

_Matt._ Now, Harry!

_Harry._ Oh, well, here goes! I'm going to make a clean breast. The fact
is I've made a thundering mess of it.

_Matt._ Ah!

_Harry._ I did begin all right except for a little tiff with Dolly--and
then I kept on pretty well for some time, and then--well I don't know--I
seemed to go all to pieces and--[MATT _rattles the money-box._] However,
better luck this year.

_Pilcher._ Shall we say a little more resolution?

_Harry._ Oh, I mean to pull myself together this year.

_Matt._ Perhaps you tried too much reforming, Harry--too many irons in
the fire, eh?

_Harry._ Well, it's jolly hard to keep it up. And I'd got pretty slack
till you woke us up last night--I say, that was a rouser again.

_Pilcher._ It wasn't a very bad sermon, was it? Well now for the
next year shall we make one especial effort in one especial
direction--Say----

_Dolly._ Temper, eh, Harry?

_Harry._ Right, old girl! Oh, I mean it.

_Matt._ No victory for free will, and the Blanket Club, this time. Game
and game, eh? Now which of you two----

     [_Looking at_ RENIE _and_ LUCAS.

_Renie._ I'll be your first victim. [_Coming into the middle of the
room, and posing._] It's so strange that what you started as a jest----

_Matt._ Oh no, in deadly earnest I assure you.

_Renie._ In this life who knows what is jest and what is earnest? The
least little innocent thing may turn to a tragedy in a moment----

_Matt._ Surely you haven't had any little tragedies?

_Renie._ No, last year a mere little circumstance might have turned to a
tragedy--honestly I wasn't to blame, but perhaps I was a little
careless, and two dear friends came to me with their counsel, and what
might have been a tragedy was turned to a comedy, thanks to those two
dear friends!

_Prof._ My dear, may I ask "what circumstance" you are alluding to?

_Matt._ We said we wouldn't be inquisitive----

_Prof._ No, but I cannot recall anything in my wife's life during the
last twelve months that even approached a tragedy----

_Renie._ I said the affair was quite unimportant----

_Prof._ Then I wish, my dear, you wouldn't magnify everything, and I
wish you would read solid scientific works in place of rubbishy French
novels--and above all, take a little more regular exercise!

_Matt._ Perhaps Mrs. Sturgess may consider that little point during the
coming year. Meantime, [_To_ RENIE] may we be confident your little
tragedy is ended----

_Renie._ Oh yes, quite.

_Matt._ We needn't ask its nature, but you give us your word of honor?

     [_Looks at her very searchingly and speaking seriously._]

_Renie._ Yes, my word of honor.

_Matt._ Thank you.

_Pilcher._ Another victory.

_Matt._ [_Looks searchingly at her, drops a sovereign in the box._]
Lucas?

_Lucas._ [_Coming cheerfully forward._] My turn for the thumbscrew!

_Matt._ You seem very cheerful about it.

_Lucas._ Yes, I'm going to make a jolly good show.

_Matt._ What particular bad habit have you conquered during the past
year?

_Lucas._ I don't know that I've conquered any one in particular, but
I've had a regular good go in all round, so altogether I can pat myself
on the back.

_Matt._ But I want to know one particular habit conquered--for instance,
you weren't very careful what ladies you made love to, or how many of
them at the same time----

_Lucas._ I say, Uncle Matt, drop this----

_Matt._ And a year or two ago you went just a little bit off the
straight----

_Lucas._ Oh no I didn't.

_Matt._ I want to know----

_Lucas._ Thank you, no more thumbscrew. I'm out of this before it goes
any further.

_Matt._ It isn't going any further. [_Putting his hand on_ LUCAS'S
_shoulder._] Give me your word of honor----

_Lucas._ That's all very well, it wasn't a very bad case, and I don't
think you should have brought it up. But as you have--well, I did meet a
lady, and I was very much attracted to her, but I summoned all my
resolution, and there the matter ended.

_Pilcher._ I think I may claim a victory here.

_Lucas._ So please put in your sovereign.

_Matt._ [_Very seriously._] If you will give me your word of honor that
you have absolutely broken off----

_Lucas._ Yes, yes, of course I have.

     [MATT _puts in a sovereign, hands the box to_ PILCHER.

_Pilcher._ Three victories and one draw out of four. Most satisfactory.
[_Taking out watch._] I must hurry off to the White House and see what
they're doing there. [_Rattling the box._] Excellent results! So
excellent that I think I'm justified in making you a little New Year's
gift.

     [_Going to his heap of brown-paper parcels._

_Dolly._ A New Year's gift! How kind of you! To me?

_Pilcher._ [_Opening his parcel._] To you and your husband. To your
husband in particular, because, although he may have fallen a little
short of perfection during the last year--like some of the rest of
us--yet I feel sure that during this coming year--[_They have all been
watching him curiously; he has now opened the parcel and displays a very
bright brand new collecting box, with Crookbury Blanket Club painted on
it, in large letters. It is much larger than the hospital box._] My
household regulator!      [_Giving it to_ DOLLY.

_Dolly._ [_Who has shown considerable disappointment on the opening of
the parcel._] Crookbury Blanket Club! Thank you so much, for Harry's
sake. Harry! For you, dear.

     [_She gives the box to_ HARRY, _who places it on the same table._]

_Dolly._ You call it the household regulator?

_Pilcher._ Yes--I have suggested it to several of my brethren. Oh, its
use will become very general throughout the diocese.

_Dolly._ You think it will work well?

_Pilcher._ It cannot fail. A box of this character--larger or smaller,
according to the size of the family and their behaviour is left at each
house on the first of the year. All little failings, peccadilloes, and
asperities are strictly fined. The inevitable result is that either the
family behaviour improves, or the parish charities benefit. I'm starting
its operation in my parish to-day. Forgive any inexcusable rudeness in
leaving the first box with you. I must hurry off! [_Shaking hands._]
Good-bye, Professor.

_Prof._ I should like to make that point clear with regard to free
will----

_Pilcher._ When you have an hour, or shall I say a year, to spare, we
might argue it out----

_Prof._ You're going to the White House? If I might accompany you----

_Pilcher._ Delighted!

     [_Shakes hands in dumb show with_ DOLLY _and_ HARRY.

_Prof._ Renie, you've had your restless fits again. You'd better come
with us----

_Renie._ But I've already been walking----

_Prof._ My dear, this bracing country air is just what you need. Keep
out in it all the day long----

_Renie._ Oh, very well--the White House, and the fish-pond as usual, I
suppose?

_Prof._ As usual. Come along.

     [_Exit._ RENIE _slightly shrugs her shoulders, very slightly
     glances at_ LUCAS _and exit after_ PROFESSOR.

_Lucas._ The dear old fish-pond! We might all take a stroll there!

_Matt._ Good idea! The dear old fish-pond! We might all take a stroll
there!

     [_Linking his arm with_ LUCAS.

_Lucas._ [_Suspicious, holding back._] I don't know that I care--we went
there last year----

_Matt._ We did! Same old game, eh? Come along.

     [_Drags_ LUCAS _off_.

_Pilcher._ [_Has been gathering up his parcels._] Well, good-bye!
Good-bye! [_Rattles the hospital box vigorously._] Three splendid
victories for free will and moral resolution!

     [_Exit, rattling the box._

_Harry._ Doll, you really haven't got any bills this year?

_Dolly._ No! no! Only the few little oddments that no woman can prevent.

_Harry._ You might let me see the little oddments----

_Dolly._ I will. [_Suddenly._] Oh Harry, I quite forgot! Do forgive me!

_Harry._ What?

_Dolly._ I never wrote the geyser bath people!

_Harry._ Never mind the geyser bath.

_Dolly._ And only this morning you rowed me because I hadn't got it
ready for the New Year! Where did you put their address?

_Harry._ I don't know! Somewhere upstairs among my papers.

_Dolly._ [_Gently pushing him off._] I can just catch to-night's post!
Make haste and get it! Quick! There's a dear! And then we can get the
bath fixed up for you next week.

_Harry._ Ye--es. I say, Doll, I mean to get those oddments fixed up
to-night.

     [_Taps the writing-case significantly and exit._ DOLLY _looks
     frightened, sees him off, goes up to writing-desk, takes out bills,
     looks at them, throws up her arms in despair, groans, slams down
     the writing-desk, looks at the chair she has touched in first act,
     shows great resolution, marches up and touches it._

_Dolly._ Yes! Yes! I have got free will.

     [_Goes back from it, again looks at it, again marches up to it,
     touches it._

_Dolly._ Then why do I keep on having bills?

     RENIE _enters in great agitation and distress._

_Renie._ Oh, Dolly!

_Dolly._ What's the matter?

_Renie._ Oh, Dolly!

_Dolly._ What is it?

_Renie._ [_Throws her arms round_ DOLLY _affectionately._] You've always
been such a true friend to me----

_Dolly._ Yes, dear.

_Renie._ More like a sister. And I know I may trust you now.

_Dolly._ [_A little suspicious._] Yes. Has anything happened?

_Renie._ Yes. Oh, Dolly----

_Dolly._ Tell me!

_Renie._ As we were going out at the garden gate, Captain Wentworth held
out a letter behind his back for me to take----

_Dolly._ What?!

_Renie._ But now his arm is wounded he couldn't manage it properly, and
he dropped it. I hurried to pick it up, and then my husband noticed and
insisted on reading it----

_Dolly._ What was in the letter?

_Renie._ It wasn't so very bad, but my husband has chosen to jump to a
wrong conclusion, and--oh, Dolly, you can help me!

_Dolly._ [_Coldly, relaxing her embrace._] How?

_Renie._ If you'd only let me tell my husband that I was receiving it
for you----

_Dolly._ What?!

_Renie._ There was no address, and fortunately it was so worded that it
showed that you weren't really guilty.

_Dolly._ Oh! I wasn't really guilty?

_Renie._ In fact, it proves your complete innocence.

_Dolly._ I'm glad of that.

_Renie._ Then you'll let me say it was you?

_Dolly._ No! You can't suppose I should let my own cousin make love to
me in my own house?!

_Renie._ You won't help me?

_Dolly._ Yes, any way but that! How could you be so foolish?

_Renie._ I don't know. When I heard yesterday he was coming, I quite
made up my mind I'd have nothing to say to him! Dolly, free will must be
an illusion, or else why am I always doing the things I don't mean to
do. Oh, what shall I do?

_Dolly._ As you are completely innocent, you'd better ask your husband
to forgive you.

_Renie._ Ye--es. No! As it is a perfectly pure and exalted attachment I
shall take that ground--at any rate at first, and see what he says.
You'll help me all you can?

_Dolly._ Yes, but promise me you'll have nothing to do with Lucas in
future!

_Renie._ No, indeed! if I once get out of this.

_Dolly._ Very well! I'll see what I can do.--Hush!

     _The_ PROFESSOR _enters with a letter in his hand_, MATT _soothing
     him._

_Prof._ [_Very angry._] Not a word more, if you please. Mrs. Telfer, you
have doubtless heard----

_Dolly._ Yes----?

_Prof._ I leave for London to-night-to consult my lawyer. Mrs. Sturgess
will, I trust, return to her friends until----

_Matt._ Perhaps Mrs. Sturgess may be able to explain----

_Prof._ What explanation can be offered of language like this. [_Reading
from letter._] "From the first moment I saw you, I felt that you were
entirely different from any woman I have ever met----" A monstrously
inexact statement to start with. And a woman who is capable of
practising such deceit----

     [RENIE _bursts into tears_.

_Matt._ I think you ought to hear what Mrs. Sturgess has to say----

_Renie._ [_Through her tears._] What would be the use? With such a
nature as his he could never begin to understand the loyal and exalted
devotion which Captain Wentworth feels for me! No, all my life I have
been misunderstood, misjudged, condemned! Let it be so till the end!
Dolly, come and help me pack!

     [_Exit_. MATT _goes up to table and takes up proofs of_ PROFESSOR'S
     _book and looks through them._

_Dolly._ You're really too severe with poor Renie----

_Prof._ I am not severe. I simply register the inevitable sentence of
the husband upon the wife who misconducts herself!

_Dolly._ Misconducts herself! She has merely had a little harmless
flirtation----

_Prof._ In my wife a flirtation of this character [_pointing to letter
in his hand_] constitutes grave misconduct.

_Dolly._ But that's perfectly ridiculous! Why it might happen to any
woman! Dad, explain to him----

_Matt._ Professor, you're taking altogether a wrong view of this. Now
this case you were pointing out to me in your own book [_pointing to
proofs_]--Number forty-nine, Mrs. Copway. Remarkably handsome woman
too!--[_reading_] "The injustice and cruelty of condemning this poor
lady must be apparent to all." My dear Professor, before publishing this
book you'll have to modify your theory.

_Prof._ I cannot modify my theory. I have spent ten years in collecting
facts which prove it.

_Matt._ Then, pardon me, you must really look over Mrs. Sturgess's
little indiscretion.

_Prof._ That is equally impossible----

_Matt._ But you say that her action in receiving my nephew's letter was
entirely due to the activity of certain atoms in the gray matter of her
brain.

_Prof._ Undoubtedly that is so.

_Dolly._ Very well then, if her gray matter keeps on working wrong,
what's the use of blaming her? You say yourself there's no such thing as
free will----

_Prof._ Precisely, but I have always allowed that in the present low
moral and intellectual condition of the herd of mankind, free will is a
plausible working hypothesis.

_Dolly._ But it doesn't work! Free will won't work at all! Look at my
own case! Do you suppose I should go on all my life having bills if I
could help myself? [_Catching_ MATT'S _eye, who looks at her gravely and
holds up his finger._] Never mind my bills! Do make him see how wrong
and absurd it is to punish poor Renie when there's no such thing as free
will!

_Matt._ Dolly's right! She's only saying what you have so admirably laid
down here. My dear Professor, you cannot possibly publish this book!

_Prof._ But it has been announced! I must publish it.

_Matt._ You cannot. Read that. [_Giving the_ PROFESSOR _the book and
pointing out passage._] Surely after that you cannot condemn Mrs.
Sturgess.

_Prof._ [_Taking book, glancing at the passage._] Really, it's most
annoying when one's own wife upsets----

_Matt._ Oh! they're always making hay of our theories one way or the
other.

_Prof._ Of course, if one presses the matter home to first
principles----

_Dolly._ Yes! Yes! Well, why not act on your own first principles! You
ought to be very sorry for poor Renie, considering all she has suffered.

_Prof._ Suffered?

_Dolly._ Yes, poor dear! You don't know what an awful struggle she has
gone through between this unfortunate flirtation and her admiration for
you.

_Prof._ Her admiration for me!

_Dolly._ Yes! She always speaks of you as her great protagonist of
science.

_Prof._ [_Mollified._] Does she? Does she?

_Dolly._ Yes. If I were you I should go upstairs, and be very sweet to
her, and above all don't reproach her. We women can endure anything
except reproaches----

_Prof._ [_Looking at his proofs._] I must publish my book. And after
all, as you say, it is useless to blame them for acting according to
the----

_Matt._ The dictates of their gray matter when, bless them, they can't
help themselves. My dear Professor, instead of condemning your wife you
ought to be condoling with her, and doing all you can to get her gray
matter into a healthy condition.

_Prof._ I will hear what she has to say.

_Dolly._ No. Go straight to her and forgive her, and then I'm sure her
gray matter will soon be all right. And what a triumph that will be for
you!

_Prof._ It does offer a way out of the difficulty. In any case I must
publish my book.      [_Exit._

_Dolly._ Dad, I won't have her here next Christmas.

_Matt._ No, my dear, I wouldn't.

_Dolly._ That wretched Lucas!

_Matt._ What is to be done with him?

_Dolly._ Pack him off! Pack him off at once!

     [LUCAS _cautiously looks in from upper conservatory door._

_Lucas._ I say, how's the old bird seem to take it?

_Dolly._ Old bird!

_Lucas._ He isn't going to make a shindy over a trifle like this?

_Dolly._ Trifle! He's threatening to divorce her and expose you!

_Lucas._ You don't say so. I'm awfully sorry!

_Dolly._ Sorry!

_Lucas._ I am, indeed! And any reparation I can make----

_Dolly._ Reparation?!

_Lucas._ Such as an apology----

     [DOLLY _utters a contemptuous exclamation._

_Matt._ Will you give me your word of honor never to see Mrs. Sturgess
again?

_Lucas._ Yes.

_Matt._ Or write to her?

_Lucas._ Yes.

_Matt._ The word of honour of an English gentleman used to mean
something, Lu.

_Lucas._ It does now, Uncle Matt!

_Matt._ [_Shakes hands with him heartily._] Then I'll take it. Now be
off as quickly as you can and let us make the best of it for you and
her.

_Lucas._ Thanks. Good-bye!

_Matt._ Good-bye!

     [LUCAS _crosses to_ DOLLY, _offers his hand._

_Dolly._ No, Lu. If Renie gets out of this safely and if you behave
yourself, I'll shake hands with you when you come back from India.

_Lucas._ You're taking this too seriously--you're taking it far too
seriously!      [_Exit._

_Matt._ We're making a splendid start again for the New Year!

_Dolly._ I hope this will be a lesson for Renie!

_Matt._ I hope so. How about yourself?

_Dolly._ What do you mean?

_Matt._ I put the sovereign in, but--you've got a few more bills, eh?

_Dolly._ Just a few oddments.

_Matt._ How much?

_Dolly._ I don't know. Dad----

_Matt._ Well?

_Dolly._ Now that South Africans have gone up at last, and you won that
splendid coup on them last week----

_Matt._ Well?

_Dolly._ You couldn't lend me--a few hundreds--till my allowance comes
due? Just a few hundreds----

_Matt._ [_In a low reproachful tone, shaking his head._] What? What?
What? Sad! Sad! Sad!!

_Dolly._ [_Listens._] There's Harry! You will help me, Dad--you will?

_Matt._ I'll see what I can do.

     HARRY _enters cheerfully._

_Harry._ That's all right, Doll! There's the address.

     [_Giving a slip of paper._

_Dolly._ Thanks, dear.

_Harry._ And now about these mere oddments?

_Dolly._ Not now, dear.

_Harry._ Yes, dear, now. [_Very sternly._] This instant!

_Dolly._ Harry, you're going to lose your temper----

_Harry._ No. I'm going to keep a firm guard on it, but [_very sternly_]
let me see those bills.

_Dolly._ [_Creeps frightened up to the desk._] I'm sure you're going to
lose your temper.

     [_Opens the desk._

_Harry._ [_Firmly._] No. I'm quite calm. Whose bill is that? [_She hands
him one timorously._] Fulks and Garner! Artist Furriers! More artists!
[_looks at total_]--one hundred and twenty-four pounds. Well, I'm----

_Dolly._ Ah, Jobling!

_Harry._ I should think I am Jobling. And you said you'd never enter
their shop again!

_Dolly._ I never meant it, but this time it was absolutely necessary----

_Harry._ Necessary?

_Dolly._ Yes--you see the chief item----

_Harry._ [_Reads._] Chinchilla toque, coat, muff and boa--eighty
guineas--eighty guineas----

_Dolly._ I got them as a surprise for you when we go South next week.

_Harry._ Surprise! Great heavens! What in the name of all----

_Matt._ Shush, Harry! Her motive was a good one. She got it to please
you!

_Dolly._ You haven't seen it yet, it's just outside--I've a great mind
to give you a great New Year's treat and let you see it on!

_Harry._ I'm not going to be sweedled----

_Matt._ Hush! Harry! Let her put it on! Let's have a look at it, and see
whether it's worth the money. Put it on, Doll.      [_Exit_ DOLLY.

_Harry._ [_Calls after her._] I tell you I'm not going to be
sweedled!----

_Matt._ What is sweedled?

_Harry._ Sweedling is sweedling! It's part swindling and part wheedling!
It's what every d--ee--d good-natured husband like me has to go through,
when he's fool enough to put up with it!

_Matt._ Well, old boy, you'll have to pay, you know; it will come to
that in the end.

_Harry._ I'm not going to be sweedled----

_Matt._ And if Dolly has been a little extravagant, I must help her out
with it to-morrow morning!

_Harry._ No, we'll go into it thoroughly to-night.

_Matt._ No, Harry, we won't. My room is just above here. Besides, the
cook is going to give us a special New Year dinner, and I want to enjoy
it. This New Year we'll start with a comfortable evening, please!

     DOLLY _enters at back in a very handsome Chinchilla coat._ HARRY
     _looks a little sulky. She stands in the middle of the room and
     displays it._

_Dolly._ Well? [_He looks at it rather sulkily, walks away; she follows
him._] Well? [Walking after him.] Well? Well?

     [_Displaying the furs._]

     [_He turns, looks at her, she stands and holds out her arms._

_Harry._ Oh, hang it all! [_Takes her in his arms and kisses her._]
There!

_Dolly._ [_Kissing him heartily._] And there! [_Another kiss._] And
there! [_Another kiss._] And there! [_Catches sight of the collecting
box, goes to it, furiously sweeps it off its table on to the floor._]
AND THERE!


                               CURTAIN.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's note


The following changes have been made to the text:

Page 7: "The Afternoon" changed to "The afternoon".

Page 12: "thirt-four, seven" changed to "thirty-four, seven".

Page 21: "no doubt each of has his own" changed to "no doubt each of you
has his own".

Page 30: "had a plesant walk" changed to "had a pleasant walk".

Page 33: "to the time---- w" changed to "to the time----".

Page 50: "Doll." changed to "Dolly.".

Page 60: "Gibralter" changed to "Gibraltar".

Page 69: "speak for themselevs" changed to "speak for themselves".

Page 76: "least self-recpect" changed to "least self-respect".

Page 76: "now organgized" changed to "now organized".

Page 78: "down in a mniute" changed to "down in a minute".

Page 95: "extensive lessions" changed to "extensive lesions".





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dolly Reforming Herself - A Comedy in Four Acts" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home