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Title: Plays: Lady Frederick, The Explorer, A Man of Honor
Author: Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965
Language: English
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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.

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_LADY FREDERICK_

_HEINEMANN'S MODERN PLAYS_

16mo. Each price is 6d paper, or 2s 6d cloth

By the same Author


_A MAN OF HONOUR_

_JACK STRAW_

_THE PLAYS OF SIR ARTHUR W. PINERO_
Complete Edition Twenty-three Volumes

_PLAYS OF HUBERT HENRY DAVIES_
Two Volumes

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Four Volumes
Also in One Volume, crown 8vo, buckram, Price 6s

_THE COLLECTED WORKS OF HENRIK IBSEN_
Copyright Edition entirely revised by
WILLIAM ARCHER

Complete in Eleven Volumes, crown 8vo, Price 4s each.

_LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN_

_21 Bedford St., W.C._



_LADY FREDERICK_


_A COMEDY_

_In Three Acts_

_BY W. S. MAUGHAM_

_LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN_

_MCMXII_

_Copyright: London William Heinemann 1912_

This play was produced at the Court Theatre on Saturday, October 26,
1907, with the following cast:

    LADY FREDERICK BEROLLES            ETHEL IRVING
    SIR GERALD O'MARA                  EDMUND BREON
    MR. PARADINE FOULDES                C. M. LOWNE
    MARCHIONESS OF MERESTON             BERYL FABER
    MARQUESS OF MERESTON            W. GRAHAM BROWN
    CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE          ARTHUR HOLMES-GORE
    ADMIRAL CARLISLE                   E. W. GARDEN
    ROSE                             BEATRICE TERRY
    LADY FREDERICK'S DRESSMAKER       FLORENCE WOOD
    LADY FREDERICK'S FOOTMAN          CLAUDE VERNON
    LADY FREDERICK'S MAID                 INA PELLY
    THOMPSON                          REGINALD EYRE
    A WAITER                      HEATH J. HAVILAND



_LADY FREDERICK_


_CHARACTERS_

LADY FREDERICK BEROLLES

SIR GERALD O'MARA

MR. PARADINE FOULDES

MARCHIONESS OF MERESTON

MARQUESS OF MERESTON

ADMIRAL CARLISLE

ROSE

LADY FREDERICK'S DRESSMAKER

LADY FREDERICK'S FOOTMAN

LADY FREDERICK'S MAID

THOMPSON

A WAITER AT THE HOTEL SPLENDIDE

TIME: _The Present Day_

ACTS I and II--_Drawing-room at the Hotel Splendide, Monte Carlo._

ACT III--_Lady Frederick's Dressing-Room._


     _The Performing Rights of this play are fully protected, and
     permission to perform it, whether by Amateurs or Professionals,
     must be obtained in advance from the author's Sole Agent, R.
     Golding Bright, 20 Green Street, Leicester Square, London, W.C.,
     from whom all particulars can be obtained._



LADY FREDERICK



THE FIRST ACT


     SCENE: _Drawing-room of the Hotel Splendide at Monte Carlo. A
     large, handsomely furnished room, with doors right and left, and
     French windows at the back leading to a terrace. Through these is
     seen the starry southern night. On one side is a piano, on the
     other a table with papers neatly laid out on it. There is a lighted
     stove._

     LADY MERESTON, _in evening dress, rather magnificently attired, is
     reading the papers. She is a handsome woman of forty. She puts down
     the paper impatiently and rings the bell. A servant answers. He has
     a French accent._


LADY MERESTON.

Did Mr. Paradine Fouldes come this evening?

SERVANT.

Yes, miladi.

LADY MERESTON.

Is he in the hotel now?

SERVANT.

Yes, miladi.

LADY MERESTON.

Will you send some one up to his room to say I'm waiting to see him?

SERVANT.

Pardon, miladi, but the gentleman say 'e was on no account to be
disturbed.

LADY MERESTON.

Nonsense. Mr. Fouldes is my brother. You must go to him immediately.

SERVANT.

Mr. Fouldes his valet is in the 'all. Will your ladyship speak with him?

LADY MERESTON.

Mr. Fouldes is more difficult to see than a cabinet minister. Send his
servant to me.

SERVANT.

Very good, miladi.

[_Exit Servant, and presently_ THOMPSON, Mr. Fouldes' _man, comes in_.

THOMPSON.

Your ladyship wished to see me.

LADY MERESTON.

Good evening, Thompson. I hope you had a comfortable journey.

THOMPSON.

Yes, my lady. Mr. Fouldes always has a comfortable journey.

LADY MERESTON.

Was the sea calm when you crossed?

THOMPSON.

Yes, my lady. Mr. Fouldes would look upon it as a great liberty if the
sea was not calm.

LADY MERESTON.

Will you tell Mr. Fouldes that I should like to see him at once?

THOMPSON.

[_Looking at his watch._] Excuse me, my lady, but Mr. Fouldes said no
one was to disturb him till ten o'clock. It's more than my place is
worth to go to him at five minutes to.

LADY MERESTON.

But what on earth's he doing?

THOMPSON.

I don't know at all, my lady.

LADY MERESTON.

How long have you been with Mr. Fouldes?

THOMPSON.

Twenty-five years, my lady.

LADY MERESTON.

I should have thought you knew how he spent every minute of his day.

[PARADINE _comes in. He is a very well-dressed man of forty-odd.
Self-possessed, worldly, urbane. He is never at a loss or put out of
countenance. He overhears_ LADY MERESTON'S _last words_.

FOULDES.

When I engaged Thompson I told him the first thing he must learn was the
very difficult feat of keeping his eyes open and shut at one and the
same time.

LADY MERESTON.

My dear Paradine, I've been waiting to see you for the last two hours.
How tiresome you are.

FOULDES.

You may give me a kiss, Maud, but don't be rough.

LADY MERESTON.

[_Kissing his cheek._] You ridiculous creature. You really might have
come to see me at once.

FOULDES.

My dear, you cannot grudge me a little repose after a long and tedious
journey. I had to repair the ravages to my person caused by twenty-seven
hours in the train.

LADY MERESTON.

Don't be so absurd. I'm sure your person is never ravished.

FOULDES.

Ravaged, my dear, ravaged. I should look upon it as an affectation at my
age if I were not a little upset by the journey from London to Monte
Carlo.

LADY MERESTON.

I'll be bound you ate a very hearty dinner.

FOULDES.

Thompson, did I eat any dinner at all?

THOMPSON.

[_Stolidly._] Soup, sir.

FOULDES.

I remember looking at it.

THOMPSON.

Fish, sir.

FOULDES.

I trifled with a fried sole.

THOMPSON.

Bouchées à la Reine, sir.

FOULDES.

They have left absolutely no impression upon me.

THOMPSON.

Tournedos à la Splendide.

FOULDES.

They were distinctly tough, Thompson. You must lodge a complaint in the
proper quarter.

THOMPSON.

Roast pheasant, sir.

FOULDES.

Yes, yes, now you mention it, I do remember the pheasant.

THOMPSON.

Chocolate ice, sir.

FOULDES.

It was too cold, Thompson. It was distinctly too cold.

LADY MERESTON.

My dear Paradine, I think you dined uncommonly well.

FOULDES.

I have reached an age when love, ambition and wealth pale into
insignificance beside a really well-grilled steak. That'll do, Thompson.

THOMPSON.

Very well, sir.

            [_He goes out._

LADY MERESTON.

It's too bad of you, Paradine, to devour a substantial meal when I'm
eating out my very heart with anxiety.

FOULDES.

It seems to agree with you very well. I've not seen you look better for
years.

LADY MERESTON.

For heaven's sake be serious and listen to me.

FOULDES.

I started immediately I got your telegram. Pray tell me what I can do
for you?

LADY MERESTON.

My dear Paradine, Charlie's head over ears in love.

FOULDES.

It's not altogether an unexpected condition for a young man of
twenty-two. If the lady's respectable, marry him and resign yourself to
being a dowager. If she's not, give her five hundred pounds and pack her
off to Paris or London or wherever else she habitually practises her
arts and graces.

LADY MERESTON.

I wish I could. But who d'you think it is?

FOULDES.

My dear, there's nothing I detest more than riddles. I can imagine quite
a number of fair ladies who would look without disdain upon a young
marquess with fifty thousand a year.

LADY MERESTON.

Lady Frederick Berolles.

FOULDES.

By Jupiter!

LADY MERESTON.

She's fifteen years older than he is.

FOULDES.

Then she's not old enough to be his mother, which is a distinct
advantage.

LADY MERESTON.

She dyes her hair.

FOULDES.

She dyes it uncommonly well.

LADY MERESTON.

She paints.

FOULDES.

Much better than a Royal Academician.

LADY MERESTON.

And poor Charlie's simply infatuated. He rides with her all the morning,
motors with her all the afternoon, and gambles with her half the night.
I never see him.

FOULDES.

But why should you think Lady Frederick cares two straws for him?

LADY MERESTON.

Don't be ridiculous, Paradine. Every one knows she hasn't a penny, and
she's crippled with debts.

FOULDES.

One has to keep up appearances in this world. Life nowadays for the
woman of fashion is a dilemma of which one horn is the Bankruptcy Court
and the other--dear Sir Francis Jeune.

LADY MERESTON.

I wish I knew how she manages to dress so beautifully. It's one of the
injustices of fate that clothes only hang on a woman really well when
she's lost every shred of reputation.

FOULDES.

My dear, you must console yourself with the thought that she'll probably
frizzle for it hereafter.

LADY MERESTON.

I hope I'm not wicked, Paradine, but to wear draperies and wings in the
next world offers me no compensation for looking dowdy in a Paquin gown
in this.

FOULDES.

I surmised she was on the verge of bankruptcy when I heard she'd bought
a new motor. And you seriously think Charlie wants to marry her?

LADY MERESTON.

I'm sure of it.

FOULDES.

And what d'you want me to do?

LADY MERESTON.

Good heavens, I want you to prevent it. After all he has a magnificent
position; he's got every chance of making a career for himself. There's
no reason why he shouldn't be Prime Minister--it's not fair to the boy
to let him marry a woman like that.

FOULDES.

Of course you know Lady Frederick?

LADY MERESTON.

My dear Paradine, we're the greatest friends. You don't suppose I'm
going to give her the advantage of quarrelling with me. I think I shall
ask her to luncheon to meet you.

FOULDES.

Women have such an advantage over men in affairs of this sort. They're
troubled by no scruples, and, like George Washington, never hesitate to
lie.

LADY MERESTON.

I look upon her as an abandoned creature, and I tell you frankly I shall
stop at nothing to save my son from her clutches.

FOULDES.

Only a thoroughly good woman could so calmly announce her intention of
using the crookedest ways to gain her ends.

LADY MERESTON.

[_Looking at him._] There must be some incident in her career which she
wouldn't like raked up. If we could only get hold of that....

FOULDES.

[_Blandly._] How d'you imagine I can help you?

LADY MERESTON.

A reformed burglar is always the best detective.

FOULDES.

My dear, I wish you could be frank without being sententious.

LADY MERESTON.

You've run through two fortunes, and if we all got our deserts you would
be starving now instead of being richer than ever.

FOULDES.

My second cousins have a knack of dying at the psychological moment.

LADY MERESTON.

You've been a horrid, dissipated wretch all your life, and heaven knows
the disreputable people who've been your bosom friends.

FOULDES.

With my knowledge of the world and your entire lack of scruple we should
certainly be a match for one defenceless woman.

LADY MERESTON.

[_Looking at him sharply._] Common report says that at one time you were
very much in love with her.

FOULDES.

Common report is an ass whose long ears only catch its own braying.

LADY MERESTON.

I was wondering how far things went. If you could tell Charlie of the
relations between you....

FOULDES.

My good Maud, there were no relations--unfortunately.

LADY MERESTON.

Poor George was very uneasy about you at the time.

FOULDES.

Your deceased husband, being a strictly religious man, made a point of
believing the worst about his neighbours.

LADY MERESTON.

Don't, Paradine; I know you didn't like one another, but remember that I
loved him with all my heart. I shall never get over his death.

FOULDES.

My dear girl, you know I didn't mean to wound you.

LADY MERESTON.

After all, it was largely your fault. He was deeply religious, and as
the president of the Broad Church Union he couldn't countenance your
mode of life.

FOULDES.

[_With great unction._] Thank God in my day I've been a miserable
sinner!

LADY MERESTON.

[_Laughing._] You're quite incurable, Paradine. But you will help me
now. Since his father's death, the boy and I have lived a very retired
life, and now we're quite helpless. It would break my heart if Charlie
married that woman.

FOULDES.

I'll do my best. I think I can promise you that nothing will come of it.

     [_The door is flung open, and_ LADY FREDERICK _enters, followed by_
     MERESTON, _a young boyish man of twenty-two; by her brother_, SIR
     GERALD O'MARA, _a handsome fellow of six-and-twenty; by_ CAPTAIN
     MONTGOMERIE, ADMIRAL CARLISLE, _and_ ROSE, _his daughter_. LADY
     FREDERICK _is a handsome Irish woman of thirty to thirty-five,
     beautifully dressed. She is very vivacious, and light-hearted. She
     has all the Irish recklessness and unconcern for the morrow.
     Whenever she wants to get round anybody she falls into an Irish
     brogue, and then, as she knows very well, she is quite
     irresistible._ CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE _is a polished, well-groomed man
     of thirty-five, with suave manners_. THE ADMIRAL _is bluff and
     downright_. ROSE _is a pretty ingénue of nineteen_.

LADY MERESTON.

Here they are.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Enthusiastically going to him with open arms._] Paradine! Paradine!
Paradine!

MERERSTON.

Oh, my prophetic soul, mine uncle!

FOULDES.

[_Shaking hands with_ LADY FREDERICK.] I heard you were at the Casino.

LADY FREDERICK.

Charlie lost all his money, so I brought him away.

LADY MERESTON.

I wish you wouldn't gamble, Charlie dear.

MERERSTON.

My dear mother, I've only lost ten thousand francs.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_To_ PARADINE FOULDES.] I see you're in your usual robust health.

FOULDES.

You needn't throw it in my face. I shall probably be very unwell
to-morrow.

LADY FREDERICK.

D'you know Admiral Carlisle? This is my brother Gerald.

FOULDES.

[_Shaking hands._] How d'you do?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Introducing._] Captain Montgomerie.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I think we've met before.

FOULDES.

I'm very pleased to hear it. How d'you do. [_To_ MERERSTON.] Are you
having a good time in Monte Carlo, Charles?

MERERSTON.

A 1, thanks.

FOULDES.

And what do you do with yourself?

MERERSTON.

Oh, hang about generally, you know--and there's always the tables.

FOULDES.

That's right, my boy; I'm glad to see that you prepare yourself properly
for your duties as a hereditary legislator.

MERERSTON.

[_Laughing._] Oh, shut it, Uncle Paradine.

FOULDES.

I rejoice also to find that you have already a certain command of the
vernacular.

MERERSTON.

Well, if you can browbeat a London cabby and hold your own in repartee
with a barmaid, it oughtn't to be difficult to get on all right in the
House of Lords.

FOULDES.

But let me give you a solemn warning. You have a magnificent chance,
dear boy, with all the advantages of wealth and station. I beseech you
not to throw it away by any exhibition of talent. The field is clear and
the British people are waiting for a leader. But remember that the
British people like their leaders dull. Capacity they mistrust,
versatility they cannot bear, and wit they utterly abhor. Look at the
fate of poor Lord Parnaby. His urbanity gained him the premiership, but
his brilliancy overthrew him. How could the fortunes of the nation be
safe with a man whose speeches were pointed and sparkling, whose mind
was so quick, so agile, that it reminded you of a fencer's play? Every
one is agreed that Lord Parnaby is flippant and unsubstantial; we doubt
his principles and we have grave fears about his morality. Take warning,
my dear boy, take warning. Let the sprightly epigram never lighten the
long periods of your speech nor the Attic salt flavour the roast beef of
your conversation. Be careful that your metaphors show no imagination
and conceal your brains as you would a discreditable secret. Above all,
if you have a sense of humour, crush it. Crush it.

MERESTON.

My dear uncle, you move me very much. I will be as stupid as an owl.

FOULDES.

There's a good, brave boy.

MERESTON.

I will be heavy and tedious.

FOULDES.

I see already the riband of the Garter adorning your shirt-front.
Remember, there's no damned merit about that.

MERESTON.

None shall listen to my speeches without falling into a profound sleep.

FOULDES.

[_Seizing his hand._] The premiership itself is within your grasp.

LADY MERESTON.

Dear Paradine, let us take a stroll on the terrace before we go to bed.

FOULDES.

And you shall softly whisper all the latest scandal in my ear.

            [_He puts on her cloak and they go out._

LADY FREDERICK.

May I speak to you, Admiral?

ADMIRAL.

Certainly, certainly. What can I do for you?

            [_While_ LADY FREDERICK _and the_ ADMIRAL _talk,
            the others go slowly out. Through the
            conversation she uses her Irish brogue._

LADY FREDERICK.

Are you in a good temper?

ADMIRAL.

Fairly, fairly.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm glad of that because I want to make you a proposal of marriage.

ADMIRAL.

My dear Lady Frederick, you take me entirely by surprise.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] Not on my own behalf, you know.

ADMIRAL.

Oh, I see.

LADY FREDERICK.

The fact is, my brother Gerald has asked your daughter to marry him, and
she has accepted.

ADMIRAL.

Rose is a minx, Lady Frederick, and she's much too young to marry.

LADY FREDERICK.

Now don't fly into a passion. We're going to talk it over quite calmly.

ADMIRAL.

I tell you I won't hear of it. The boy's penniless.

LADY FREDERICK.

That's why it's so lucky you're rich.

ADMIRAL.

Eh?

LADY FREDERICK.

You've been talking of buying a place in Ireland. You couldn't want
anything nicer than Gerald's--gravel soil, you know. And you simply dote
on Elizabethan architecture.

ADMIRAL.

I can't bear it.

LADY FREDERICK.

How fortunate, then, that the house was burnt down in the eighteenth
century and rebuilt in the best Georgian style.

ADMIRAL.

Ugh.

LADY FREDERICK.

And you'd love to have little grandsons to dandle on your knee.

ADMIRAL.

How do I know they wouldn't be girls?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, it's most unusual in our family.

ADMIRAL.

I tell you I won't hear of it.

LADY FREDERICK.

You know, it's not bad to have the oldest baronetcy in the country but
one.

ADMIRAL.

I suppose I shall have to pack Rose off to England.

LADY FREDERICK.

And break her heart?

ADMIRAL.

Women's hearts are like old china, none the worse for a break or two.

LADY FREDERICK.

Did you ever know my husband, Admiral?

ADMIRAL.

Yes.

LADY FREDERICK.

I was married to him at seventeen because my mother thought it a good
match, and I was desperately in love with another man. Before we'd been
married a fortnight he came home blind drunk, and I had never seen a
drunken man before. Then I found out he was a confirmed tippler. I was
so ashamed. If you only knew what my life was for the ten years I lived
with him. I've done a lot of foolish things in my time, but, my God, I
have suffered.

ADMIRAL.

Yes, I know, I know.

LADY FREDERICK.

And believe me, when two young things love one another it's better to
let them marry. Love is so very rare in this world. One really ought to
make the most of it when it's there.

ADMIRAL.

I'm very sorry, but I've made up my mind.

LADY FREDERICK.

Ah, but won't you alter it--like Nelson. Don't be hard on Rose. She's
really in love with Gerald. Do give them a chance. Won't you? Ah,
do--there's a dear.

ADMIRAL.

I don't want to hurt your feelings, but Sir Gerald is about the most
ineligible young man that I've ever come across.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Triumphantly._] There, I knew we should agree. That's precisely what I
told him this morning.

ADMIRAL.

I understand his place is heavily mortgaged.

LADY FREDERICK.

No one will lend a penny more on it. If they would Gerald would borrow
it at once.

ADMIRAL.

He's got nothing but his pay to live upon.

LADY FREDERICK.

And his tastes are very extravagant.

ADMIRAL.

He's a gambler.

LADY FREDERICK.

Yes, but then he's so good looking.

ADMIRAL.

Eh?

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm glad that we agree so entirely about him. Now there's nothing left
but to call the young things in, join their hands and give them our
united blessing.

ADMIRAL.

Before I consent to this marriage, madam, I'll see your brother----

LADY FREDERICK.

Damned?

ADMIRAL.

Yes, madam, damned.

LADY FREDERICK.

Now listen to me quietly, will you?

ADMIRAL.

I should warn you, Lady Frederick, that when I once make up my mind
about a thing, I never change it.

LADY FREDERICK.

Now that is what I really admire. I like a man of character. You know,
I've always been impressed by your strength and determination.

ADMIRAL.

I don't know about that. But when I say a thing, I do it.

LADY FREDERICK.

Yes, I know. And in five minutes you're going to say that Gerald may
marry your pretty Rose.

ADMIRAL.

No, no, no.

LADY FREDERICK.

Now look here, don't be obstinate, I don't like you when you're
obstinate.

ADMIRAL.

I'm not obstinate. I'm firm.

LADY FREDERICK.

After all, Gerald has lots of good qualities. He's simply devoted to
your daughter. He's been a little wild, but you know you wouldn't give
much for a young man who hadn't.

ADMIRAL.

[_Gruffly._] I don't want a milksop for a son-in-law.

LADY FREDERICK.

As soon as he's married, he'll settle into a model country squire.

ADMIRAL.

Well, he's a gambler, and I can't get over that.

LADY FREDERICK.

Shall he promise you never to play cards again? Now, don't be horrid.
You don't want to make me utterly wretched, do you?

ADMIRAL.

[_Unwillingly._] Well, I'll tell you what I'll do--they shall marry if
he doesn't gamble for a year.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, you duck. [_She impulsively throws her arms round his neck and
kisses him. He is a good deal taken aback._] I beg your pardon, I
couldn't help it.

ADMIRAL.

I don't altogether object, you know.

LADY FREDERICK.

Upon my word, in some ways you're rather fascinating.

ADMIRAL.

D'you think so, really?

LADY FREDERICK.

I do indeed.

ADMIRAL.

I rather wish that proposal of marriage had been on your own behalf.

LADY FREDERICK.

Ah, with me, dear Admiral, experience triumphs over hope. I must tell
the children. [_Calling._] Gerald, come here. Rose.

            [GERALD _and_ ROSE _come in_.

LADY FREDERICK.

I always knew your father was a perfect darling, Rose.

ROSE.

Oh, papa, you are a brick.

ADMIRAL.

I thoroughly disapprove of the marriage, my dear, but--it's not easy to
say no to Lady Frederick.

GERALD.

It's awfully good of you, Admiral, and I'll do my best to make Rose a
ripping husband.

ADMIRAL.

Not so fast, young man, not so fast. There's a condition.

ROSE.

Oh, father!

LADY FREDERICK.

Gerald is to behave himself for a year, and then you may marry.

ROSE.

But won't Gerald grow very dull if he behaves himself?

LADY FREDERICK.

I have no doubt of it. But dullness is the first requisite of a good
husband.

ADMIRAL.

Now you must pack off to bed, my dear. I'm going to smoke my pipe before
turning in.

ROSE.

[_Kissing_ LADY FREDERICK.] Good-night, dearest. I'll never forget your
kindness.

LADY FREDERICK.

You'd better not thank me till you've been married a few years.

ROSE.

[_Holding out her hand to_ GERALD.] Good-night.

GERALD.

[_Taking it and looking at her._] Good-night.

ADMIRAL.

[_Gruffly._] You may as well do it in front of my face as behind my
back.

ROSE.

[_Lifting up her lips._] Good-night.

[_He kisses her, and the_ ADMIRAL _and_ ROSE _go out._

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh lord, I wish I were eighteen.

[_She sinks into a chair, and an expression of utter weariness comes
over her face._

GERALD.

I say, what's up?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Starting._] I thought you'd gone. Nothing.

GERALD.

Come, out with it.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, my poor boy, if you only knew. I'm so worried that I don't know what
on earth to do.

GERALD.

Money?

LADY FREDERICK.

Last year I made a solemn determination to be economical. And it's
ruined me.

GERALD.

My dear, how could it?

LADY FREDERICK.

I can't make it out. It seems very unfair. The more I tried not to be
extravagant, the more I spent.

GERALD.

Can't you borrow?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] I have borrowed. That's just it.

GERALD.

Well, borrow again.

LADY FREDERICK.

I've tried to. But no one's such a fool as to lend me a penny.

GERALD.

Did you say I'd sign anything they liked?

LADY FREDERICK.

I was so desperate I said we'd both sign anything. It was Dick Cohen.

GERALD.

Oh lord, what did he say?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Imitating a Jewish accent._] What's the good of wathting a nithe clean
sheet of paper, my dear lady?

GERALD.

[_Shouting with laughter._] By George, don't I know it.

LADY FREDERICK.

For heaven's sake don't let's talk of my affairs. They're in such a
state that if I think of them at all I shall have a violent fit of
hysterics.

GERALD.

But look here, what d'you really mean?

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, if you want it--I owe my dressmaker seven hundred pounds, and last
year I signed two horrid bills, one for fifteen hundred and the other
for two thousand. They fall due the day after to-morrow, and if I can't
raise the money I shall have to go through the Bankruptcy Court.

GERALD.

By George, that's serious.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's so serious that I can't help thinking something will happen.
Whenever I've got in a really tight fix something has turned up and put
me on my legs again. Last time, Aunt Elizabeth had an apoplectic fit.
But of course it wasn't really very profitable because mourning is so
desperately expensive.

GERALD.

Why don't you marry?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, my dear Gerald, you know I'm always unlucky at games of chance.

GERALD.

Charlie Mereston's awfully gone on you.

LADY FREDERICK.

That must be obvious to the meanest intelligence.

GERALD.

Well, why don't you have him?

LADY FREDERICK.

Good heavens, I'm old enough to be his mother.

GERALD.

Nonsense. You're only ten years older than he is, and nowadays no nice
young man marries a woman younger than himself.

LADY FREDERICK.

He's such a good fellow. I couldn't do him a nasty turn like that.

GERALD.

How about Montgomerie? He simply stinks of money, and he's not a bad
sort.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Surprised._] My dear boy, I hardly know him.

GERALD.

Well, I'm afraid it means marriage or bankruptcy.

LADY FREDERICK.

Here's Charlie. Take him away, there's a dear. I want to talk to
Paradine.

            _Enter_ PARADINE FOULDES _with_ MERESTON.

FOULDES.

What, still here, Lady Frederick?

LADY FREDERICK.

As large as life.

FOULDES.

We've been taking a turn on the terrace.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_To_ MERESTON.] And has your astute uncle been pumping you, Charlie?

FOULDES.

Eh, what?

MERESTON.

I don't think he got much out of me.

FOULDES.

[_Good-naturedly._] All I wanted, dear boy. There's no one so
transparent as the person who thinks he's devilish deep. By the way,
what's the time?

GERALD.

About eleven, isn't it?

FOULDES.

Ah! How old are you, Charlie?

MERESTON.

Twenty-two.

FOULDES.

Then it's high time you went to bed.

LADY FREDERICK.

Charlie's not going to bed till I tell him. Are you?

MERESTON.

Of course not.

FOULDES.

Has it escaped your acute intelligence, my friend, that I want to talk
to Lady Frederick?

MERESTON.

Not at all. But I have no reason to believe that Lady Frederick wants to
talk to you.

GERALD.

Let's go and have a game of pills, Charlie.

MERESTON.

D'you want to be left alone with the old villain?

FOULDES.

You show no respect for my dyed hairs, young man.

LADY FREDERICK.

I've not seen him for years, you know.

MERESTON.

Oh, all right. I say, you're coming for a ride to-morrow, aren't you?

LADY FREDERICK.

Certainly. But it must be in the afternoon.

FOULDES.

I'm sorry, but Charles has arranged to motor me over to Nice in the
afternoon.

MERESTON.

[_To_ LADY FREDERICK.] That'll suit me A 1. I had an engagement, but it
was quite unimportant.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then that's settled. Good-night.

MERESTON.

Good-night.

            [_He goes out with_ GERALD. LADY FREDERICK
            _turns and good-humouredly scrutinises_
            PARADISE FOULDES.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well?

FOULDES.

Well?

LADY FREDERICK.

You wear excellently, Paradine.

FOULDES.

Thanks.

LADY FREDERICK.

How do you manage it?

FOULDES.

By getting up late and never going to bed early, by eating whatever I
like and drinking whenever I'm thirsty, by smoking strong cigars, taking
no exercise, and refusing under any circumstances to be bored.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm sorry you had to leave town in such a hurry. Were you amusing
yourself?

FOULDES.

I come to the Riviera every year.

LADY FREDERICK.

I daresay, but not so early.

FOULDES.

I've never surrendered so far to middle age as to make habits.

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear Paradine, the day before yesterday, Lady Mereston, quite
distracted, went to the post office and sent you the following wire:
"Come at once, your help urgently needed. Charlie in toils designing
female, Maud." Am I right?

FOULDES.

I never admit even to myself that a well-dressed woman is mistaken.

LADY FREDERICK.

So you started post-haste, bent upon protecting your nephew, and were
infinitely surprised to learn that the designing female was no other
than your humble servant.

FOULDES.

You'd be irresistible, Lady Frederick, if you didn't know you were so
clever.

LADY FREDERICK.

And now what are you going to do?

FOULDES.

My dear lady, I'm not a police officer, but a very harmless, inoffensive
old bachelor.

LADY FREDERICK.

With more wiles than the mother of many daughters and the subtlety of a
company promoter.

FOULDES.

Maud seems to think that as I've racketted about a little in my time,
I'm just the sort of man to deal with you. Set a thief to catch a thief,
don't you know? She's rather fond of proverbs.

LADY FREDERICK.

She should have thought rather of: When Greek meets Greek, then comes
the tug of war. I hear Lady Mereston has been saying the most agreeable
things about me.

FOULDES.

Ah, that's women's fault; they always show their hand. You're the only
woman I ever knew who didn't.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With a brogue._] You should have avoided the Blarney Stone when you
went to Ireland.

FOULDES.

Look here, d'you want to marry Charlie?

LADY FREDERICK.

Why should I?

FOULDES.

Because he's got fifty thousand a year, and you're head over ears in
debt. You've got to raise something like four thousand pounds at once,
or you go under. You've got yourself a good deal talked about during the
last ten years, but people have stood you because you had plenty of
money. If you go broke they'll drop you like a hot potato. And I daresay
it wouldn't be inconvenient to change Lady Frederick Berolles into Lady
Mereston. My sister has always led me to believe that it is rather
attractive to be a Marchioness.

LADY FREDERICK.

Unlike a duchess, its cheap without being gaudy.

FOULDES.

You asked me why you might want to marry a boy from ten to fifteen years
younger than yourself, and I've told you.

LADY FREDERICK.

And now perhaps you'll tell me why you're going to interfere in my
private concerns?

FOULDES.

Well, you see his mother happens to be my sister, and I'm rather fond of
her. It's true her husband was the most sanctimonious prig I've ever met
in my life.

LADY FREDERICK.

I remember him well. He was president of the Broad Church Union and wore
side-whiskers.

FOULDES.

But she stuck to me through thick and thin. I've been in some pretty
tight places in my day, and she's always given me a leg up when I wanted
it. I've got an idea it would just about break her heart if Charlie
married you.

LADY FREDERICK.

Thanks.

FOULDES.

You know, I don't want to be offensive, but I think it would be a pity
myself. And besides, unless I'm much mistaken, I've got a little score
of my own that I want to pay off.

LADY FREDERICK.

Have you?

FOULDES.

You've got a good enough memory not to have forgotten that you made a
blithering fool of me once. I swore I'd get even with you, and by
George, I mean to do it.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] And how do you propose to stop me if I make up my mind
that I'm going to accept Charlie?

FOULDES.

Well, he's not proposed yet, has he?

LADY FREDERICK.

Not yet, but I've had to use every trick and device I can think of to
prevent him.

FOULDES.

Look here, I'm going to play this game with my cards on the table.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then I shall be on my guard. You're never so dangerous as when you
pretend to be frank.

FOULDES.

I'm sorry you should think so badly of me.

LADY FREDERICK.

I don't. Only it was a stroke of genius when Nature put the soul of a
Jesuit priest into the body of a Yorkshire squire.

FOULDES.

I wonder what you're paying me compliments for. You must be rather
afraid of me.

            [_They look at one another for a moment._

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, let's look at these cards.

FOULDES.

First of all, there's this money you've got to raise.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well?

FOULDES.

This is my sister's suggestion.

LADY FREDERICK.

That means you don't much like it.

FOULDES.

If you'll refuse the boy and clear out--we'll give you forty thousand
pounds.

LADY FREDERICK.

I suppose you'd be rather surprised if I boxed your ears.

FOULDES.

Now, look here, between you and me high falutin's rather absurd, don't
you think so? You're in desperate want of money, and I don't suppose it
would amuse you much to have a young hobbledehoy hanging about your
skirts for the rest of your life.

LADY FREDERICK.

Very well, we'll have no high falutin! You may tell Lady Mereston that
if I really wanted the money I shouldn't be such an idiot as to take
forty thousand down when I can have fifty thousand a year for the
asking.

FOULDES.

I told her that.

LADY FREDERICK.

You showed great perspicacity. Now for the second card.

FOULDES.

My dear, it's no good getting into a paddy over it.

LADY FREDERICK.

I've never been calmer in my life.

FOULDES.

You always had the very deuce of a temper. I suppose you've not given
Charlie a sample of it yet, have you?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] Not yet.

FOULDES.

Well, the second card's your reputation.

LADY FREDERICK.

But I haven't got any. I thought that such an advantage.

FOULDES.

You see Charlie is a young fool. He thinks you a paragon of all the
virtues, and it's never occurred to him that you've rather gone the pace
in your time.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's one of my greatest consolations to think that even a hundred
horse-power racing motor couldn't be more rapid than I've been.

FOULDES.

Still it'll be rather a shock to Charlie when he hears that this modest
flower whom he trembles to adore has....

LADY FREDERICK.

Very nearly eloped with his own uncle. But you won't tell him that story
because you hate looking a perfect ass.

FOULDES.

Madam, when duty calls, Paradine Fouldes consents even to look
ridiculous. But I was thinking of the Bellingham affair.

LADY FREDERICK.

Ah, of course, there's the Bellingham affair. I'd forgotten it.

FOULDES.

Nasty little business that, eh?

LADY FREDERICK.

Horrid.

FOULDES.

Don't you think it would choke him off?

LADY FREDERICK.

I think it very probable.

FOULDES.

Well, hadn't you better cave in?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Ringing the bell._] Ah, but you've not seen my cards yet. [_A servant
enters._] Tell my servant to bring down the despatch-box which is on my
writing-table.

SERVANT.

Yes, miladi.

            [_Exit._

FOULDES.

What's up now?

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, four or five years ago I was staying at this hotel, and Mimi la
Bretonne had rooms here.

FOULDES.

I never heard of the lady, but her name suggests that she had an
affectionate nature.

LADY FREDERICK.

She was a little singer at the Folies Bergères, and she had the
loveliest emeralds I ever saw.

FOULDES.

But you don't know Maud's.

LADY FREDERICK.

The late Lord Mereston had a passion for emeralds. He always thought
they were such pure stones.

FOULDES.

[_Quickly._] I beg your pardon?

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, Mimi fell desperately ill, and there was no one to look after her.
Of course the pious English ladies in the hotel wouldn't go within a
mile of her, so I went and did the usual thing, don't you know.

            [LADY FREDERICK'S _man comes in with a small
            despatch-box which he places on a table. He
            goes out._ LADY FREDERICK _as she talks,
            unlocks it_.

FOULDES.

Thank God I'm a bachelor, and no ministering angel ever smoothes my
pillow when I particularly want to be left alone.

LADY FREDERICK.

I nursed her more or less through the whole illness, and afterwards she
fancied she owed me her worthless little life. She wanted to give me the
precious emeralds, and when I refused was so heart-broken that I said
I'd take one thing if I might.

FOULDES.

And what was that?

LADY FREDERICK.

A bundle of letters. I'd seen the address on the back of the envelope,
and then I recognised the writing. I thought they'd be much safer in my
hands than in hers. [_She takes them out of the box and hands them to_
PARADINE.] Here they are.

            [_He looks and starts violently._

FOULDES.

89 Grosvenor Square. It's Mereston's writing. You don't mean? What! Ah,
ah, ah. [_He bursts into a shout of laughter._] The old sinner. And
Mereston wouldn't have me in the house, if you please, because I was a
dissolute libertine. And he was the president of the Broad Church Union.
Good Lord, how often have I heard him say: "Gentlemen, I take my stand
on the morality, the cleanliness and the purity of English Family Life."
Oh, oh, oh.

LADY FREDERICK.

I've often noticed that the religious temperament is very susceptible to
the charms of my sex.

FOULDES.

May I look?

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, I don't know. I suppose so.

FOULDES.

[_Reading._] "Heart's delight".... And he signs himself, "your darling
chickabiddy." The old ruffian.

LADY FREDERICK.

She was a very pretty little thing.

FOULDES.

I daresay, but thank heaven, I have some sense of decency left, and it
outrages all my susceptibilities that a man in side-whiskers should call
himself anybody's chickabiddy.

LADY FREDERICK.

Protestations of undying affection are never ridiculous when they are
accompanied by such splendid emeralds.

FOULDES.

[_Starting and growing suddenly serious._] And what about Maud?

LADY FREDERICK.

Well?

FOULDES.

Poor girl, it'd simply break her heart. He preached at her steadily for
twenty years, and she worshipped the very ground he trod on. She'd have
died of grief at his death except she felt it her duty to go on with his
work.

LADY FREDERICK.

I know.

FOULDES.

By Jove, it's a good card. You were quite right to refuse the emeralds:
these letters are twice as valuable.

LADY FREDERICK.

Would you like to burn them?

FOULDES.

Betsy!

LADY FREDERICK.

There's the stove. Put them in.

            [_He takes them up in both hands and hurries to
            the stove. But he stops and brings them
            back, he throws them on the sofa._

FOULDES.

No, I won't.

LADY FREDERICK.

Why not?

FOULDES.

It's too dooced generous. I'll fight you tooth and nail, but it's not
fair to take an advantage over me like that. You'll bind my hands with
fetters.

LADY FREDERICK.

Very well. You've had your chance.

FOULDES.

But, by Jove, you must have a good hand to throw away a card like that.
What have you got--a straight flush?

LADY FREDERICK.

I may be only bluffing, you know.

FOULDES.

Lord, it does me good to hear your nice old Irish brogue again.

LADY FREDERICK.

Faith, and does it?

FOULDES.

I believe you only put it on to get over people.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Smiling._] Begorrah, it's not easy to get over you.

FOULDES.

Lord, I was in love with you once, wasn't I?

LADY FREDERICK.

Not more than lots of other people have been.

FOULDES.

And you did treat me abominably.

LADY FREDERICK.

Ah, that's what they all said. But you got over it very well.

FOULDES.

I didn't. My digestion was permanently impaired by your brutal
treatment.

LADY FREDERICK.

Is that why you went to Carlsbad afterwards instead of the Rocky
Mountains?

FOULDES.

You may laugh, but the fact remains that I've only been in love once,
and that was with you.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Smiling as she holds out her hand._] Good-night.

FOULDES.

For all that I'm going to fight you now for all I'm worth.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm not frightened of you, Paradine.

FOULDES.

Good-night.

            [_As he goes out_, CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE _enters_.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Yawning and stretching her arms._] Oh I'm so sleepy.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I'm sorry for that. I wanted to have a talk with you.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Smiling._] I daresay I can keep awake for five minutes, you
know--especially if you offer me a cigarette.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Here you are.

            [_He hands her his case and lights her cigarette._

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With a sigh._] Oh, what a comfort.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I wanted to tell you, I had a letter this morning from my solicitor to
say that he's just bought Crowley Castle on my behalf.

LADY FREDERICK.

Really. But it's a lovely place. You must ask me to come and stay.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I should like you to stay there indefinitely.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With a quick look._] That's charming of you, but I never desert my
London long.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

[_Smiling._] I have a very nice house in Portman Square.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Surprised._] Really?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

And I'm thinking of going into Parliament at the next election.

LADY FREDERICK.

It appears to be a very delightful pastime to govern the British nation,
dignified without being laborious.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Lady Frederick, although I've been in the service I have rather a good
head for business, and I hate beating about the bush. I wanted to ask
you to marry me.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's nice of you not to make a fuss about it. I'm very much obliged but
I'm afraid I can't.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Why not?

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, you see, I don't know you.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

We could spend the beginning of our married life so usefully in making
one another's acquaintance.

LADY FREDERICK.

It would be rather late in the day then to come to the conclusion that
we couldn't bear the sight of one another.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Shall I send my banker's book so that you may see that my antecedents
are respectable and my circumstances--such as to inspire affection.

LADY FREDERICK.

I have no doubt it would be very interesting--but not to me.

            [_She makes as if to go._

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Ah, don't go yet. Won't you give me some reason?

LADY FREDERICK.

If you insist. I'm not in the least in love with you.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

D'you think that much matters?

LADY FREDERICK.

You're a friend of Gerald's, and he says you're a very good sort. But I
really can't marry every one that Gerald rather likes.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

He said he'd put in a good word for me.

LADY FREDERICK.

If I ever marry again it shall be to please myself, not to please my
brother.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I hope I shall induce you to alter your mind.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm afraid I can give you no hope of that.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

You know, when I determine to do a thing, I generally do it.

LADY FREDERICK.

That sounds very like a threat.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

You may take it as such if you please.

LADY FREDERICK.

And you've made up your mind that you're going to marry me?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Quite.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, I've made up mine that you shan't. So we're quits.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Why don't you talk to your brother about it?

LADY FREDERICK.

Because it's no business of his.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Isn't it? Ask him!

LADY FREDERICK.

What do you mean by that?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Ask him? Good-night.

LADY FREDERICK.

Good-night. [_He goes out._ LADY FREDERICK _goes to the French window
that leads to the terrace and calls_.] Gerald!

GERALD.

Hulloa!

            [_He appears and comes into the room._

LADY FREDERICK.

Did you know that Captain Montgomerie was going to propose to me?

GERALD.

Yes.

LADY FREDERICK.

Is there any reason why I should marry him?

GERALD.

Only that I owe him nine hundred pounds.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Aghast._] Oh, why didn't you tell me?

GERALD.

You were so worried, I couldn't. Oh, I've been such a fool. I tried to
make a _coup_ for Rose's sake.

LADY FREDERICK.

Is it a gambling debt?

GERALD.

Yes.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Ironically._] What they call a debt of honour?

GERALD.

I must pay it the day after to-morrow without fail.

LADY FREDERICK.

But that's the day my two bills fall due. And if you don't?

GERALD.

I shall have to send in my papers, and I shall lose Rosie. And then I
shall blow out my silly brains.

LADY FREDERICK.

But who is the man?

GERALD.

He's the son of Aaron Levitzki, the money-lender.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Half-comic, half-aghast._] Oh lord!


END OF THE FIRST ACT



THE SECOND ACT


     _The scene is the same as in_ ACT I. ADMIRAL CARLISLE _is sleeping
     in an armchair with a handkerchief over his face_. ROSE _is sitting
     on a grandfather's chair, and_ GERALD _is leaning over the back_.


ROSE.

Isn't papa a perfectly adorable chaperon?

            [_The_ ADMIRAL _snores_.

GERALD.

Perfectly.

            [_A pause._

ROSE.

I've started fifteen topics of conversation in the last quarter of an
hour, Gerald.

GERALD.

[_Smiling._] Have you?

ROSE.

You always agree with me, and there's an end of it. So I have to rack my
brains again.

GERALD.

All you say is so very wise and sensible. Of course I agree.

ROSE.

I wonder if you'll think me sensible and wise in ten years.

GERALD.

I'm quite sure I shall.

ROSE.

Why, then, I'm afraid we shan't cultivate any great brilliancy of
repartee.

GERALD.

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.

ROSE.

Oh, don't say that. When a man's in love, he at once makes a pedestal of
the Ten Commandments and stands on the top of them with his arms akimbo.
When a woman's in love she doesn't care two straws for Thou Shalt and
Thou Shalt Not.

GERALD.

When a woman's in love she can put her heart on the slide of a
microscope and examine how it beats. When a man's in love, what do you
think he cares for science and philosophy and all the rest of it!

ROSE.

When a man's in love he can only write sonnets to the moon. When a
woman's in love she can still cook his dinner and darn her own
stockings.

GERALD.

I wish you wouldn't cap all my observations.

            [_She lifts up her face, and he kisses her lips._

ROSE.

I'm beginning to think you're rather nice, you know.

GERALD.

That's reassuring, at all events.

ROSE.

But no one could accuse you of being a scintillating talker.

GERALD.

Have you ever watched the lovers in the Park sitting on the benches hour
after hour without saying a word?

ROSE.

Why?

GERALD.

Because I've always thought that they must be bored to the verge of
tears. Now I know they're only happy.

ROSE.

You're certainly my soldier, so I suppose I'm your nursery-maid.

GERALD.

You know, when I was at Trinity College, Dublin----

ROSE.

[_Interrupting._] Were you there? I thought you went to Oxford.

GERALD.

No, why?

ROSE.

Only all my people go to Magdalen.

GERALD.

Yes.

ROSE.

And I've decided that if I ever have a son he shall go there too.

            [_The_ ADMIRAL _starts and pulls the handkerchief
            off his face. The others do not notice him.
            He is aghast and astounded at the conversation._
            LADY FREDERICK _comes in later and
            stands smiling as she listens_.

GERALD.

My darling, you know I hate to thwart you in any way, but I've quite
made up my mind that my son shall go to Dublin as I did.

ROSE.

I'm awfully sorry, Gerald, but the boy must be educated like a
gentleman.

GERALD.

There I quite agree, Rose, but first of all he's an Irishman, and it's
right that he should be educated in Ireland.

ROSE.

Darling Gerald, a mother's love is naturally the safest guide in these
things.

GERALD.

Dearest Rose, a father's wisdom is always the most reliable.

LADY FREDERICK.

Pardon my interfering, but--aren't you just a little previous?

ADMIRAL.

[_Bursting out._] Did you ever hear such a conversation in your life
between a young unmarried couple?

ROSE.

My dear papa, we must be prepared for everything.

ADMIRAL.

In my youth young ladies did not refer to things of that sort.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, I don't suppose they're any the worse for having an elementary
knowledge of natural history. Personally I doubt whether ignorance is
quite the same thing as virtue, and I'm not quite sure that a girl makes
a better wife because she's been brought up like a perfect fool.

ADMIRAL.

I am old-fashioned, Lady Frederick; and my idea of a modest girl is that
when certain topics are mentioned she should swoon. Swoon, madam,
swoon. They always did it when I was a lad.

ROSE.

Well, father, I've often tried to faint when I wanted something that you
wouldn't give me, and I've never been able to manage it. So I'm sure I
couldn't swoon.

ADMIRAL.

And with regard to this ridiculous discussion as to which University
your son is to be sent, you seem to forget that I have the right to be
consulted.

GERALD.

My dear Admiral, I don't see how it can possibly matter to you.

ADMIRAL.

And before we go any further I should like you to know that the very day
Rose was born I determined that her son should go to Cambridge.

ROSE.

My dear papa, I think Gerald and I are far and away the best judges of
our son's welfare.

ADMIRAL.

The boy must work, Rose. I will have no good-for-nothing as my grandson.

GERALD.

Exactly. And that is why I'm resolved he shall go to Dublin.

ROSE.

The important thing is that he should have really nice manners, and that
they teach at Oxford if they teach nothing else.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, don't you think you'd better wait another twenty years or so
before you discuss this?

ADMIRAL.

There are some matters which must be settled at once, Lady Frederick.

LADY FREDERICK.

You know, young things are fairly independent nowadays. I don't know
what they'll be in twenty years' time.

GERALD.

The first thing the boy shall learn is obedience.

ROSE. Certainly. There's nothing so hateful as a disobedient child.

ADMIRAL.

I can't see my grandson venturing to disobey me.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then you're all agreed. So that's settled. I came to tell you your
carriage was ready.

ADMIRAL.

Go and put on your bonnet, Rose. [_To_ LADY FREDERICK.] Are you coming
with us?

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm afraid I can't. Au revoir.

ADMIRAL.

A tout à l'heure.

            [_He and_ ROSE _go out_.

GERALD.

Have you ever seen in your life any one so entirely delightful as Rose?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] Only when I've looked in the glass.

GERALD.

My dear Elizabeth, how vain you are.

LADY FREDERICK.

You're very happy, my Gerald.

GERALD.

It's such a relief to have got over all the difficulties. I thought it
never would come right. You are a brick, Elizabeth.

LADY FREDERICK.

I really think I am rather.

GERALD.

The moment you promised to arrange things I felt as safe as a house.

LADY FREDERICK.

I said I'd do my best, didn't I? And I told you not to worry.

GERALD.

[_Turning round suddenly._] Isn't it all right?

LADY FREDERICK.

No, it's about as wrong as it can possibly be. I knew Cohen was staying
here, and I thought I could get him to hold the bills over for a few
days.

GERALD.

And won't he?

LADY FREDERICK.

He hasn't got them any more.

GERALD.

[_Startled._] What!

LADY FREDERICK.

They've been negotiated, and he swears he doesn't know who has them.

GERALD.

But who could have been such a fool?

LADY FREDERICK.

I don't know, that's just the awful part of it. It was bad enough
before. I knew the worst Cohen could do, but now.... It couldn't be
Paradine.

GERALD.

And then there's Montgomerie.

LADY FREDERICK.

I shall see him to-day.

GERALD.

What are you going to say to him?

LADY FREDERICK.

I haven't an idea. I'm rather frightened of him.

GERALD.

You know, dear, if the worst comes to the worst....

LADY FREDERICK.

Whatever happens you shall marry Rose. I promise you that.

            [PARADINE FOULDES _appears_.

FOULDES.

May I come in?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Gaily._] It's a public room. I don't see how we can possibly prevent
you.

GERALD.

I'm just going to take a stroll.

LADY FREDERICK.

Do.

            [_He goes out._

FOULDES.

Well? How are things going?

LADY FREDERICK.

Quite well, thank you.

FOULDES.

I've left Charlie with his mother. I hope you can spare him for a couple
of hours.

LADY FREDERICK.

I told him he must spend the afternoon with her. I don't approve of his
neglecting his filial duty.

FOULDES.

Ah!... I saw Dick Cohen this morning.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Quickly._] Did you?

FOULDES.

It seems to interest you?

LADY FREDERICK.

Not at all. Why should it?

FOULDES.

[_Smiling._] Nice little man, isn't he?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Good humouredly._] I wish I had something to throw at you.

FOULDES.

[_With a laugh._] Well, I haven't got the confounded bills. I was too
late.

LADY FREDERICK.

Did you try?

FOULDES.

Oh--yes, I thought it would interest Charlie to know how extremely
needful it was for you to marry him.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then who on earth has got them?

FOULDES.

I haven't an idea, but they must make you very uncomfortable. Three
thousand five hundred, eh?

LADY FREDERICK.

Don't say it all at once. It sounds so much.

FOULDES.

You wouldn't like to exchange those letters of Mereston's for seven
thousand pounds, would you?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] No.

FOULDES.

Ah.... By the way, d'you mind if I tell Charlie the full story of
your--relations with me?

LADY FREDERICK.

Why should I? It's not I who'll look ridiculous.

FOULDES.

Thanks. I may avail myself of your permission.

LADY FREDERICK.

I daresay you've noticed that Charlie has a very keen sense of humour.

FOULDES.

If you're going to be disagreeable to me I shall go. [_He stops._] I
say, are you quite sure there's nothing else that can be brought up
against you?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] Quite sure, thanks.

FOULDES.

My sister's very jubilant to-day. What about the Bellingham affair?

LADY FREDERICK.

Merely scandal, my friend.

FOULDES.

Well, look out. She's a woman, and she'll stick at nothing.

LADY FREDERICK.

I wonder why you warn me.

FOULDES.

For the sake of old times, my dear.

LADY FREDERICK.

You're growing sentimental, Paradine. It's the punishment which the gods
inflict on a cynic when he grows old.

FOULDES.

It may be, but for the life of me I can't forget that once----

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Interrupting._] My dear friend, don't rake up my lamentable past.

FOULDES.

I don't think I've met any one so entirely devoid of sentiment as you
are.

LADY FREDERICK.

Let us agree that I have every vice under the sun and have done with it.

            [_A_ SERVANT _comes in_.]

SERVANT.

Madame Claude wishes to see your ladyship.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, my dressmaker.

FOULDES.

Another bill?

LADY FREDERICK.

That's the worst of Monte. One meets as many creditors as in Bond
Street. Say I'm engaged.

SERVANT.

Madame Claude says she will wait till miladi is free.

FOULDES.

You make a mistake. One should always be polite to people whose bills
one can't pay.

LADY FREDERICK.

Show her in.

SERVANT.

Yes, miladi.

            [_Exit_ SERVANT.

FOULDES.

Is it a big one?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, no; only seven hundred pounds.

FOULDES.

By Jove.

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear friend, one must dress. I can't go about in fig-leaves.

FOULDES.

One can dress simply.

LADY FREDERICK.

I do. That's why it costs so much.

FOULDES.

You know, you're devilish extravagant.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm not. I'm content with the barest necessities of existence.

FOULDES.

You've got a maid.

LADY FREDERICK.

Of course I've got a maid. I was never taught to dress myself.

FOULDES.

And you've got a footman.

LADY FREDERICK.

I've always had a footman. And my mother always had a footman. I
couldn't live a day without him.

FOULDES.

What does he do for you?

LADY FREDERICK.

He inspires confidence in tradesmen.

FOULDES.

And you have the most expensive suite of rooms in the hotel.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm in such a dreadful mess. If I hadn't got nice rooms I should brood
over it.

FOULDES.

Then, as if that weren't enough, you fling your money away at the
tables.

LADY FREDERICK.

When you're as poor as I am, a few louis more or less can make
absolutely no difference.

FOULDES.

[_With a laugh._] You're quite incorrigible.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's really not my fault. I do try to be economical, but money slips
through my fingers like water. I can't help it.

FOULDES.

You want a sensible sort of a man to look after you.

LADY FREDERICK.

I want a very rich sort of a man to look after me.

FOULDES.

If you were my wife, I should advertise in the papers that I wasn't
responsible for your debts.

LADY FREDERICK.

If you were my husband, I'd advertise immediately underneath that I
wasn't responsible for your manners.

FOULDES.

I wonder why you're so reckless.

LADY FREDERICK.

When my husband was alive I was so utterly wretched. And afterwards,
when I looked forward to a little happiness, my boy died. Then I didn't
care any more. I did everything I could to stupefy myself. I squandered
money as other women take morphia--that's all.

FOULDES.

It's the same dear scatter-brained, good-hearted Betsy that I used to
know.

LADY FREDERICK.

You're the only person who calls me Betsy now. To all the others I'm
only Elizabeth.

FOULDES.

Look here, what are you going to do with this dressmaker?

LADY FREDERICK.

I don't know. I always trust to the inspiration of the moment.

FOULDES.

She'll make a devil of a fuss, won't she?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, no; I shall be quite nice to her.

FOULDES.

I daresay. But won't she be very disagreeable to you?

LADY FREDERICK.

You don't know what a way I have with my creditors.

FOULDES.

I know it's not a paying way.

LADY FREDERICK.

Isn't it? I bet you a hundred louis that I offer her the money and she
refuses it.

FOULDES.

I'll take that.

LADY FREDERICK.

Here she is.

            [MADAME CLAUDE _enters, ushered in by the_
            SERVANT. _She is a stout, genteel person,
            very splendidly gowned, with a Cockney
            accent. Her face is set to sternness, decision
            to make a scene, and general sourness._

SERVANT.

Madame Claude.

            [_Exit_ SERVANT. LADY FREDERICK _goes up to
            her enthusiastically and takes both her
            hands_.

LADY FREDERICK.

Best of women. This is a joyful surprise.

MADAME CLAUDE.

[_Drawing herself up._] I 'eard quite by chance that your ladyship was
at Monte.

LADY FREDERICK.

So you came to see me at once. That was nice of you. You're the very
person I wanted to see.

MADAME CLAUDE.

[_Significantly._] I'm glad of that, my lady, I must confess.

LADY FREDERICK.

You dear creature. That's one advantage of Monte Carlo, one meets all
one's friends. Do you know Mr. Fouldes? This is Madame Claude, an
artist, my dear Paradine, a real artist.

MADAME CLAUDE.

[_Grimly._] I'm pleased that your ladyship should think so.

FOULDES.

How d'you do.

LADY FREDERICK.

Now, this gown. Look, look, look. In this skirt there's genius, _mon
cher_. In the way it hangs my whole character is expressed. Observe the
fullness of it, that indicates those admirable virtues which make me an
ornament to Society, while the frill at the bottom just suggests those
foibles--you can hardly call them faults--which add a certain grace and
interest to my personality. And the flounce. Paradine, I beseech you to
look at it carefully. I would sooner have designed this flounce than won
the Battle of Waterloo.

MADAME CLAUDE.

Your ladyship is very kind.

LADY FREDERICK.

Not at all, not at all. You remember that rose chiffon. I wore it the
other day, and the dear Archduchess came up to me and said: "My dear, my
dear." I thought she was going to have a fit. But when she recovered she
kissed me on both cheeks and said: "Lady Frederick, you have a
dressmaker worth her weight in gold." You heard her, Paradine, didn't
you?

FOULDES.

You forget that I only arrived last night.

LADY FREDERICK.

Of course. How stupid of me. She'll be perfectly delighted to hear that
you're in Monte Carlo. But I shall have to break it to her gently.

MADAME CLAUDE.

[_Unmoved._] I'm sorry to intrude upon your ladyship.

LADY FREDERICK.

Now what are you talking about? If you hadn't come to see me I should
never have forgiven you.

MADAME CLAUDE.

I wanted to have a little talk with your ladyship.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, but I hope we shall have many little talks. Have you brought your
motor down?

MADAME CLAUDE.

Yes.

LADY FREDERICK.

That's charming. You shall take me for a drive in it every day. I hope
you're going to stay some time.

MADAME CLAUDE.

That depends on circumstances, Lady Frederick. I 'ave a little business
to do here.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then let me give you one warning--don't gamble.

MADAME CLAUDE.

Oh, no, my lady. I gamble quite enough in my business as it is. I never
know when my customers will pay their bills--if ever.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Slightly taken aback._] Ha, ha, ha.

FOULDES.

[_With a deep guffaw._] Ho, ho, ho.

LADY FREDERICK.

Isn't she clever? I must tell that to the Archduchess. She'll be so
amused. Ha, ha, ha, ha. The dear Archduchess, you know she loves a
little joke. You must really meet her. Will you come and lunch? I know
you'd hit it off together.

MADAME CLAUDE.

[_More genially._] That's very kind of your ladyship.

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear, you know perfectly well that I've always looked upon you as one
of my best friends. Now who shall we have? There's you and me and the
Archduchess. Then I'll ask Lord Mereston.

MADAME CLAUDE.

The Marquess of Mereston, Lady Frederick?

LADY FREDERICK.

Yes. And Mr. Fouldes, his uncle.

MADAME CLAUDE.

Excuse me, are you the Mr. Paradine Fouldes?

FOULDES.

[_Bowing._] At your service, madam.

MADAME CLAUDE.

I'm so glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Fouldes. [_Unctuously._] I've
always heard you're such a bad man.

FOULDES.

Madam, you overwhelm me with confusion.

MADAME CLAUDE.

Believe me, Mr. Fouldes, it's not the ladies that are married to saints
who take the trouble to dress well.

LADY FREDERICK.

Now we want a third man. Shall we ask my brother--you know Sir Gerald
O'Mara, don't you? Or shall we ask Prince Doniani? Yes, I think we'll
ask the Prince. I'm sure you'd like him. Such a handsome man! That'll
make six.

MADAME CLAUDE.

It's very kind of you, Lady Frederick, but--well, I'm only a
tradeswoman, you know.

LADY FREDERICK.

A tradeswoman? How can you talk such nonsense. You are an artist--a real
artist, my dear. And an artist is fit to meet a king.

MADAME CLAUDE.

Well, I don't deny that I'd be ashamed to dress my customers in the
gowns I see painted at the Royal Academy.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then it's quite settled, isn't it, Madame Claude--oh, may I call you
Ada?

MADAME CLAUDE.

Oh, Lady Frederick, I should be very much flattered. But how did you
know that was my name?

LADY FREDERICK.

Why you wrote me a letter only the other day.

MADAME CLAUDE.

Did I?

LADY FREDERICK.

And such a cross letter too.

MADAME CLAUDE.

[_Apologetically._] Oh, but Lady Frederick, that was only in the way of
business. I don't exactly remember what expressions I may have made use
of----

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Interrupting, as if the truth had suddenly flashed across her._] Ada!
I do believe you came here to-day about my account.

MADAME CLAUDE.

Oh, no, my lady, I promise you.

LADY FREDERICK.

You did; I know you did. I see it in your face. Now that really wasn't
nice of you. I thought you came as a friend.

MADAME CLAUDE.

I did, Lady Frederick.

LADY FREDERICK.

No, you wanted to dun me. I'm disappointed in you. I did think, after
all the things I've had from you, you wouldn't treat me like that.

MADAME CLAUDE.

But I assure your ladyship....

LADY FREDERICK.

Not another word. You came to ask for a cheque. You shall have it.

MADAME CLAUDE.

No, Lady Frederick, I wouldn't take it.

LADY FREDERICK.

What is the exact figure, Madame Claude?

MADAME CLAUDE.

I--I don't remember.

LADY FREDERICK.

Seven hundred and fifty pounds, seventeen and ninepence. You see, I
remember. You came for your cheque and you shall have it.

            [_She sits down and takes a pen._

MADAME CLAUDE.

Now, Lady Frederick, I should look upon that as most unkind. It's
treating me like a very second-rate establishment.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm sorry, but you should have thought of that before. Now I haven't got
a cheque; how tiresome.

MADAME CLAUDE.

Oh, it doesn't matter, Lady Frederick. I promise you it never entered my
'ead.

LADY FREDERICK.

What shall I do?

FOULDES.

You can write it on a sheet of paper, you know.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With a look, aside to him._] Monster! [_Aloud._] Of course I can. I
hadn't thought of that. [_She takes a sheet of paper._] But how on earth
am I to get a stamp?

FOULDES.

[_Much amused._] I happen to have one on me.

LADY FREDERICK.

I wonder why on earth you should have English stamps in Monte Carlo?

FOULDES.

[_Handing her one._] A penny stamp may sometimes save one a hundred
louis.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Ironically._] Thanks so much. I write the name of my bank on the top,
don't I? Pay Madame Claude....

MADAME CLAUDE.

Now, it's no good, Lady Frederick, I won't take it. After all I 'ave my
self-respect to think of.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's too late now.

MADAME CLAUDE.

[_Sniffing a little._] No, no, Lady Frederick. Don't be too 'ard on me.
As one lady to another I ask you to forgive me. I did come about my
account, but--well, I don't want the money.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Looking up good-humouredly._] Well, well. [_She looks at the cheque._]
It shall be as you wish. There. [_She tears it up._]

MADAME CLAUDE.

Oh, thank you, Lady Frederick. I look upon that as a real favour. And
now I really must be getting off.

LADY FREDERICK.

Must you go? Well, good-bye. Paradine, take Madame Claude to her motor.
Ada!

            [_She kisses her on the cheek._

MADAME CLAUDE.

[_Going._] I am pleased to have seen you.

            [PARADINE _offers his arm and goes out with_
            MADAME CLAUDE. LADY FREDERICK _goes
            to the window, stands on a chair and waves
            her handkerchief. While she is doing this_
            CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE _enters_.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

How d'you do?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Getting down._] How nice of you to come. I wanted to see you.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

May I sit down?

LADY FREDERICK.

Of course. There are one or two things I'd like to talk to you about.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Yes?

LADY FREDERICK.

First I must thank you for your great kindness to Gerald. I didn't know
last night that he owed you a good deal of money.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

It's a mere trifle.

LADY FREDERICK.

You must be very rich to call nine hundred pounds that?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I am.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With a laugh._] All the same it's extremely good of you to give him
plenty of time.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I told Gerald he could have till to-morrow.

LADY FREDERICK.

Obviously he wants to settle with you as soon as ever he can.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

[_Quietly._] I often wonder why gambling debts are known as debts of
honour.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Looking at him steadily._] Of course I realise that if you choose to
press for the money and Gerald can't pay--he'll have to send in his
papers.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

[_Lightly._] You may be quite sure I have no wish to bring about such a
calamity. By the way, have you thought over our little talk of last
night?

LADY FREDERICK.

No.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

You would have been wise to do so.

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear Captain Montgomerie, you really can't expect me to marry you
because my brother has been so foolish as to lose more money at poker
than he can afford.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Did you ever hear that my father was a money-lender?

LADY FREDERICK.

A lucrative profession, I believe.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

He found it so. He was a Polish Jew called Aaron Levitzki. He came to
this country with three shillings in his pocket. He lent half-a-crown of
it to a friend on the condition that he should be paid back seven and
six in three days.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm not good at figures, but the interest sounds rather high.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

It is. That was one of my father's specialities. From these humble
beginnings his business grew to such proportions that at his death he
was able to leave me the name and arms of the great family of
Montgomerie and something over a million of money.

LADY FREDERICK.

The result of thrift, industry, and good fortune.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

My father was able to gratify all his ambitions but one. He was eaten up
with the desire to move in good society, and this he was never able to
achieve. His dying wish was that I should live in those circles which he
knew only....

LADY FREDERICK.

Across the counter?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Precisely. But my poor father was a little ignorant in these matters. To
him one lord was as good as another. He thought a Marquess a finer man
than an Earl, and a Viscount than a Baron. He would never have
understood that a penniless Irish baronet might go into better society
than many a belted earl.

LADY FREDERICK.

And what is the application of this?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I wanted to explain to you one of the reasons which emboldened me last
night to make you a proposal of marriage.

LADY FREDERICK.

But surely you know some very nice people. I saw you lunching the other
day with the widow of a city knight.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Many very excellent persons are glad to have me to dine with them. But I
know quite well that they're not the real article. I'm as far off as
ever from getting into those houses which you have been used to all your
life. I'm not content with third-rate earls and rather seedy dowagers.

LADY FREDERICK.

Forgive my frankness, but--aren't you rather a snob?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

My father, Aaron Levitzki, married an English woman, and I have all the
English virtues.

LADY FREDERICK.

But I'm not quite sure that people would swallow you even as my
husband.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

They'd make a face, but they'd swallow me right enough. And when I asked
them down to the best shoot in England they'd come to the conclusion
that I agreed with them very well.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Still rather amused._] Your offer is eminently businesslike, but you
see I'm not a business woman. It doesn't appeal to me.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I only ask you to perform such of the duties of a wife as are required
by Society. They are few enough in all conscience. I should wish you to
entertain largely and receive my guests, be polite to me, at least in
public, and go with me to the various places people go to. Otherwise I
leave you entire freedom. You will find me generous and heedful to all
your wishes.

LADY FREDERICK.

Captain Montgomerie, I don't know how much of all that you have said is
meant seriously. But, surely you're not choosing the right time to make
such a proposal when my brother owes you so much money that if you care
to be hard you can ruin him.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Why not?

LADY FREDERICK.

D'you mean to say ...?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I will be quite frank with you. I should never have allowed Gerald to
lose so much money which there was no likelihood of his being able to
pay, if I had not thought it earned me some claim upon your gratitude.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Shortly._] Gerald will pay every penny he owes you to-morrow.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

[_Blandly._] Where d'you suppose he'll get it?

LADY FREDERICK.

I have no doubt I shall be able to manage something.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Have you not tried this morning, entirely without success?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Startled._] What?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

You do not forget that you have sundry moneys of your own which are
payable to-morrow?

LADY FREDERICK.

How d'you know that?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I told you that when I took a thing in hand I carried it through. You
went to Dick Cohen, and he told you he'd parted with the bills. Didn't
you guess that only one man could have the least interest in taking them
over?

LADY FREDERICK.

You?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Yes.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, God.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Come, come, don't be worried over it. There's nothing to be alarmed
about. I'm a very decent chap--if you'd accepted me right away you would
never have known that those bills were in my possession. Think it over
once more. I'm sure we should get on well together. I can give you what
you most need, money and the liberty to fling it away as recklessly as
you choose; you can give me the assured and fixed position on which--my
father's heart was set.

LADY FREDERICK.

And if I don't accept, you'll make me a bankrupt and you'll ruin Gerald?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I refuse to consider that very unpleasant alternative.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh! I can't, I can't.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

[_Laughing._] But you must, you must. When shall I come for your answer?
To-morrow? I'll come with the bills and Gerald's I.O.U. in my pocket,
and you shall burn them yourself. Good-bye.

            [_He kisses her hand and goes out._ LADY
            FREDERICK _remains staring in front of
            her_. MERESTON _enters, followed by_ LADY
            MERESTON _and_ PARADINE.

MERESTON.

[_Going to her eagerly._] Hulloa! I wondered what on earth had become of
you.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With a laugh._] It's only two hours since I chased you away from me.

MERESTON.

I'm afraid I bore you to death.

LADY FREDERICK.

Don't be so silly. You know you don't.

MERESTON.

Where are you going now?

LADY FREDERICK.

I have rather a headache. I'm going to lie down.

MERESTON.

I'm so sorry.

            [LADY FREDERICK _goes out_. MERESTON _stares
            after her anxiously, and makes a step
            towards the door_.

LADY MERESTON.

[_Sharply._] Where are you going, Charlie?

MERESTON.

I never asked Lady Frederick if I could do anything.

LADY MERESTON.

Good heavens, there are surely plenty of servants in the hotel to get
her anything she wants.

MERESTON.

Don't you think a drive in the motor would do her good?

LADY MERESTON.

[_Unable to control herself._] Oh, I have no patience with you. I never
saw such a ridiculous infatuation in my life.

PARADINE.

Steady, old girl, steady.

MERESTON.

What on earth d'you mean, mother?

LADY MERESTON.

Presumably you're not going to deny that you're in love with that woman.

MERESTON.

[_Growing pale._] Would you mind speaking of her as Lady Frederick?

LADY MERESTON.

You try me very much, Charlie. Please answer my question.

MERESTON.

I don't want to seem unkind to you, mother, but I think you have no
right to ask about my private affairs.

FOULDES.

If you're going to talk this matter over you're more likely to come to
an understanding if you both keep your tempers.

MERESTON.

There's nothing I wish to discuss.

LADY MERESTON.

Don't be absurd, Charlie. You're with Lady Frederick morning, noon and
night. She can never stir a yard from the hotel but you go flying after.
You pester her with your ridiculous attentions.

FOULDES.

[_Blandly._] One's relations have always such an engaging frankness.
Like a bad looking-glass, they always represent you with a crooked nose
and a cast in your eye.

LADY MERESTON.

[_To_ MERESTON.] I have certainly a right to know what you mean by all
this and what is going to come of it.

MERESTON.

I don't know what will come of it.

FOULDES.

The question that excites our curiosity is this: are you going to ask
Lady Frederick to marry you?

MERESTON.

I refuse to answer that. It seems to me excessively impertinent.

FOULDES.

Come, come, my boy, you're too young to play the heavy father. We're
both your friends. Hadn't you better make a clean breast of it? After
all, your mother and I are interested in nothing so much as your
welfare.

LADY MERESTON.

[_Imploring._] Charlie!

MERESTON.

Of course I'd ask her to marry me if I thought for a moment that she'd
accept. But I'm so terrified that she'll refuse, and then perhaps I
shall never see her again.

LADY MERESTON.

The boy's stark, staring mad.

MERESTON.

I don't know what I should do if she sent me about my business. I'd
rather continue in this awful uncertainty than lose all hope for ever.

FOULDES.

By George. You're pretty far gone, my son. The lover who's diffident is
in a much worse way than the lover who protests.

LADY MERESTON.

[_With a little laugh._] I must say it amuses me that Lady Frederick
should have had both my brother and my son dangling at her skirts. Your
respective passions are separated by quite a number of years.

MERESTON.

Lady Frederick has already told me of that incident.

FOULDES.

With the usual indiscretion of her sex.

MERESTON.

It appears that she was very unhappy and you, with questionable taste,
made love to her.

FOULDES.

Do your best not to preach at me, dear boy. It reminds me of your
lamented father.

MERESTON.

And at last she promised to go away with you. You were to meet at
Waterloo Station.

FOULDES.

Such a draughty place for an assignation.

MERESTON.

Your train was to start at nine, and you were going to take the boat
over to the Channel Isles.

FOULDES.

Lady Frederick has a very remarkable memory. I remember hoping the sea
wouldn't be rough.

MERESTON.

And just as the train was starting her eye fell on the clock. At that
moment her child was coming down to breakfast and would ask for her.
Before you could stop her she'd jumped out of the carriage. The train
was moving, and you couldn't get out, so you were taken on to
Weymouth--alone.

LADY MERESTON.

You must have felt a quite egregious ass, Paradine.

FOULDES.

I did, but you need not rub it in.

LADY MERESTON.

Doesn't it occur to you, Charlie, that a woman who loves so easily can't
be very worthy of your affection?

MERESTON.

But, my dear mother, d'you think she cared for my uncle?

FOULDES.

What the dickens d'you mean?

MERESTON.

D'you suppose if she loved you she would have hesitated to come? D'you
know her so little as that? She thought of her child only because she
was quite indifferent to you.

FOULDES.

[_Crossly._] You know nothing about it, and you're an impertinent young
jackanapes.

LADY MERESTON.

My dear Paradine, what can it matter if Lady Frederick was in love with
you or not?

FOULDES.

[_Calming down._] Of course it doesn't matter a bit.

LADY MERESTON.

I have no doubt you mistook wounded vanity for a broken heart.

FOULDES.

[_Acidly._] My dear, you sometimes say things which explain to me why my
brother-in-law so frequently abandoned his own fireside for the platform
of Exeter Hall.

MERESTON.

It may also interest you to learn that I am perfectly aware of Lady
Frederick's financial difficulties. I know she has two bills falling due
to-morrow.

FOULDES.

She's a very clever woman.

MERESTON.

I've implored her to let me lend her the money, and she absolutely
refuses. You see, she's kept nothing from me at all.

LADY MERESTON.

My dear Charlie, it's a very old dodge to confess what doesn't matter in
order to conceal what does.

MERESTON.

What do you mean, mother?

LADY MERESTON.

Lady Frederick has told you nothing of the Bellingham affair?

MERESTON.

Why should she?

LADY MERESTON.

It is surely expedient you should know that the woman you have some idea
of marrying escaped the divorce court only by the skin of her teeth.

MERESTON.

I don't believe that, mother.

FOULDES.

Remember that you're talking to your respected parent, my boy.

MERESTON.

I'm sorry that my mother should utter base and contemptible libels
on--my greatest friend.

LADY MERESTON.

You may be quite sure that I say nothing which I can't prove.

MERESTON.

I won't listen to anything against Lady Frederick.

LADY MERESTON.

But you must.

MERESTON.

Are you quite indifferent to the great pain you cause me?

LADY MERESTON.

I can't allow you to marry a woman who's hopelessly immoral.

MERESTON.

Mother, how dare you say that?

FOULDES.

This isn't the sort of thing I much like, but hadn't you better hear the
worst at once?

MERESTON.

Very well. But if my mother insists on saying things, she must say them
in Lady Frederick's presence.

LADY MERESTON.

That I'm quite willing to do.

MERESTON.

Good.

            [_He rings the bell. A servant enters._

FOULDES.

You'd better take care, Maudie. Lady Frederick's a dangerous woman to
play the fool with.

MERESTON.

[_To the servant._] Go to Lady Frederick Berolles and say Lord Mereston
is extremely sorry to trouble her ladyship, but would be very much
obliged if she'd come to the drawing-room for two minutes.

SERVANT.

Very well, my lord.

            [_Exit._

FOULDES.

What are you going to do, Maud?

LADY MERESTON.

I knew there was a letter in existence in Lady Frederick's handwriting
which proved all I've said about her. I've moved heaven and earth to get
hold of it, and it came this morning.

FOULDES.

Don't be such a fool. You're not going to use that?

LADY MERESTON.

I am indeed.

FOULDES.

Your blood be upon your own head. Unless I'm vastly mistaken you'll
suffer the greatest humiliation that you can imagine.

LADY MERESTON.

That's absurd. I have nothing to fear.

LADY FREDERICK. _comes in._

MERESTON.

I'm so sorry to disturb you. I hope you don't mind?

LADY FREDERICK.

Not at all. I knew you wouldn't have sent for me in that fashion without
good cause.

MERESTON.

I'm afraid you'll think me dreadfully impertinent.

LADY MERESTON.

Really you need not apologise so much, Charlie.

MERESTON.

My mother has something to say against you, and I think it right that
she should say it in your presence.

LADY FREDERICK.

That's very nice of you, Charlie--though I confess I prefer people to
say horrid things of me only behind my back. Especially if they're true.

FOULDES.

Look here, I think all this is rather nonsense. We've most of us got
something in our past history that we don't want raked up, and we'd all
better let bygones be bygones.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm waiting, Lady Mereston.

LADY MERESTON.

It's merely that I thought my son should know that Lady Frederick had
been the mistress of Roger Bellingham. [LADY FREDERICK _turns quickly
and looks at her_; _then bursts into a peal of laughter_. LADY MERESTON
_springs up angrily and hands her a letter_.] Is this in your
handwriting?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Not at all disconcerted._] Dear me, how did you get hold of this?

LADY MERESTON.

You see that I have ample proof, Lady Frederick.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Handing the letter to_ MERESTON.] Would you like to read it? You know
my writing well enough to be able to answer Lady Mereston's question.

            [_He reads it through and looks at her in dismay._

MERESTON.

Good God!... What does it mean?

LADY FREDERICK.

Pray read it aloud.

MERESTON.

I can't.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then give it to me. [_She takes it from him._] It's addressed to my
brother-in-law, Peter Berolles. The Kate to whom it refers was his wife.
[_Reads._] Dear Peter: I'm sorry you should have had a row with Kate
about Roger Bellingham. You are quite wrong in all you thought. There is
absolutely nothing between them. I don't know where Kate was on Tuesday
night, but certainly she was not within a hundred miles of Roger. This I
know because....

MERESTON.

[_Interrupting._] For God's sake don't go on.

            [LADY FREDERICK _looks at him and shrugs her
            shoulders_.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's signed Elizabeth Berolles. And there's a postscript: You may make
what use of this letter you like.

MERESTON.

What does it mean? What does it mean?

LADY MERESTON.

Surely it's very clear? You can't want a more explicit confession of
guilt.

LADY FREDERICK.

I tried to make it as explicit as possible.

LADY MERESTON.

Won't you say something? I'm sure there must be some explanation.

LADY FREDERICK.

I don't know how you got hold of this letter, Lady Mereston. I agree
with you, it is compromising. But Kate and Peter are dead now, and
there's nothing to prevent me from telling the truth.

            [PARADINE FOULDES _takes a step forward and
            watches her_.

LADY FREDERICK.

My sister-in-law was a meek and mild little person, as demure as you can
imagine, and no one would have suspected her for a moment of kicking
over the traces. Well, one morning she came to me in floods of tears and
confessed that she and Roger Bellingham [_with a shrug_] had been
foolish. Her husband suspected that something was wrong and had kicked
up a row.

FOULDES.

[_Drily._] There are men who will make a scene on the smallest
provocation.

LADY FREDERICK.

To shield herself she told the first lie that came into her head. She
said to Peter that Roger Bellingham was my lover--and she threw herself
on my mercy. She was a poor, weak little creature, and if there'd been a
scandal she'd have gone to the dogs altogether. It had only been a
momentary infatuation for Roger, and the scare had cured her. At the
bottom of her heart she loved her husband still. I was desperately
unhappy, and I didn't care much what became of me. She promised to turn
over a new leaf and all that sort of thing. I thought I'd better give
her another chance of going straight. I did what she wanted. I wrote
that letter taking all the blame on myself, and Kate lived happily with
her husband till she died.

MERESTON.

It was just like you.

LADY MERESTON.

But Lord and Lady Peter are dead?

LADY FREDERICK.

Yes.

LADY MERESTON.

And Roger Bellingham?

LADY FREDERICK.

He's dead too.

LADY MERESTON.

Then how can you prove your account of this affair?

LADY FREDERICK.

I can't.

LADY MERESTON.

And does this convince you, Charlie?

MERESTON.

Of course.

LADY MERESTON.

[_Impatiently._] Good heavens, the boy's out of his senses. Paradine,
for Heaven's sake say something.

FOULDES.

Well, much as it may displease you, my dear, I'm afraid I agree with
Charlie.

LADY MERESTON.

You don't mean to say you believe this cock-and-bull story?

FOULDES.

I do.

LADY MERESTON.

Why?

FOULDES.

Well, you see, Lady Frederick's a very clever woman. She would never
have invented such an utterly improbable tale, which can't possibly be
proved. If she'd been guilty, she'd have had ready at least a dozen
proofs of her innocence.

LADY MERESTON.

But that's absurd.

FOULDES.

Besides, I've known Lady Frederick a long time, and she has at least a
thousand faults.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With flashing eyes._] Thanks.

FOULDES.

But there's something I will say for her. She's not a liar. If she tells
me a thing, I don't hesitate for a moment to believe it.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's not a matter of the smallest importance if any of you believe me or
not. Be so good as to ring, Charlie.

MERESTON.

Certainly.

            [_He rings, and a_ SERVANT _immediately comes in_.

LADY FREDERICK.

Tell my servant that he's to come here at once and bring the
despatch-box which is in my dressing-room.

SERVANT.

Yes, miladi.

            [_Exit._

FOULDES.

[_Quickly._] I say, what are you going to do?

LADY FREDERICK.

That is absolutely no business of yours.

FOULDES.

Be a brick, Betsy, and don't give her those letters.

LADY FREDERICK.

I think I've had enough of this business. I'm proposing to finish with
it.

FOULDES.

Temper, temper.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Stamping her foot._] Don't say temper to me, Paradine.

            [_She walks up and down angrily._ PARADINE
            _sits at the piano and with one finger strums
            "Rule Britannia."_

MERESTON.

Shut up.

            [_He takes a book, flings it at his head and
            misses._

FOULDES.

Good shot, sir.

LADY FREDERICK.

I often wonder how you got your reputation for wit, Paradine.

FOULDES.

By making a point of laughing heartily at other people's jokes.

            [_The_ FOOTMAN _enters with the despatch-box,
            which_ LADY FREDERICK _opens. She takes
            a bundle of letters from it._

FOULDES.

Betsy, Betsy, for heaven's sake don't! Have mercy.

LADY FREDERICK.

Was mercy shown to me? Albert!

FOOTMAN.

Yes, miladi.

LADY FREDERICK.

You'll go to the proprietor of the hotel and tell him that I propose to
leave Monte Carlo to-morrow.

MERESTON.

[_Aghast._] Are you going?

FOOTMAN.

Very well, my lady.

LADY FREDERICK.

Have you a good memory for faces?

FOOTMAN.

Yes, my lady.

LADY FREDERICK.

You're not likely to forget Lord Mereston?

FOOTMAN.

No, my lady.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then please take note that if his lordship calls upon me in London I'm
not at home.

MERESTON.

Lady Frederick!

LADY FREDERICK.

[_To_ FOOTMAN.] Go.

            [_Exit_ FOOTMAN.

MERESTON.

What d'you mean? What have I done?

            [_Without answering_ LADY FREDERICK _takes
            the letters_. PARADINE _is watching her
            anxiously. She goes up to the stove and
            throws them in one by one._

LADY MERESTON.

What on earth is she doing?

LADY FREDERICK.

I have some letters here which would ruin the happiness of a very
worthless woman I know. I'm burning them so that I may never have the
temptation to use them.

FOULDES.

I never saw anything so melodramatic.

LADY FREDERICK.

Hold your tongue, Paradine. [_Turning to_ MERESTON.] My dear Charlie, I
came to Monte Carlo to be amused. Your mother has persecuted me
incessantly. Your uncle--is too well-bred to talk to his servants as he
has talked to me. I've been pestered in one way and another, and
insulted till my blood boiled, because apparently they're afraid you may
want to marry me. I'm sick and tired of it. I'm not used to treatment of
this sort; my patience is quite exhausted. And since you are the cause
of the whole thing I have an obvious remedy. I would much rather not
have anything more to do with you. If we meet one another in the street
you need not trouble to look my way because I shall cut you dead.

LADY MERESTON.

[_In an undertone._] Thank God for that.

MERESTON.

Mother, mother. [_To_ LADY FREDERICK.] I'm awfully sorry. I feel that
you have a right to be angry. For all that you've suffered I beg your
pardon most humbly. My mother has said and done things which I regret to
say are quite unjustifiable.

LADY MERESTON.

Charlie!

MERESTON.

On her behalf and on mine I apologise with all my heart.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Smiling._] Don't take it too seriously. It really doesn't matter. But
I think it's far wiser that we shouldn't see one another again.

MERESTON.

But I can't live without you.

LADY MERESTON.

[_With a gasp._] Ah!

MERESTON.

Don't you know that my whole happiness is wrapped up in you? I love you
with all my heart and soul. I can never love any one but you.

FOULDES.

[_To_ LADY MERESTON.] Now you've done it. You've done it very neatly.

MERESTON.

Don't think me a presumptuous fool. I've been wanting to say this ever
since I knew you, but I haven't dared. You're brilliant and charming and
fascinating, but I have nothing whatever to offer you.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Gently._] My dear Charlie.

MERESTON.

But if you can overlook my faults, I daresay you could make something of
me. Won't you marry me? I should look upon it as a great honour, and I
would love you always to the end of my life. I'd try to be worthy of my
great happiness and you.

LADY FREDERICK.

You're very much too modest, Charlie. I'm enormously flattered and
grateful. You must give me time to think it over.

LADY MERESTON.

Time?

MERESTON.

But I can't wait. Don't you see how I love you? You'll never meet any
one who'll care for you as I do.

LADY FREDERICK.

I think you can wait a little. Come and see me to-morrow morning at ten,
and I'll give you an answer.

MERESTON.

Very well, if I must.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Smiling._] I'm afraid so.

FOULDES.

[_To_ LADY FREDERICK.] I wonder what the deuce your little game is now.

            [_She smiles triumphantly and gives him a deep,
            ironical curtsey._

LADY FREDERICK.

Sir, your much obliged and very obedient, humble servant.


END OF THE SECOND ACT.



THIRD ACT


     SCENE: LADY FREDERICK'S _dressing-room. At the back is a large
     opening, curtained, which leads to the bedroom; on the right a door
     leading to the passage; on the left a window. In front of the
     window, of which the blind is drawn, is a dressing-table._ LADY
     FREDERICK'S _maid is in the room, a very neat pretty Frenchwoman.
     She speaks with a slight accent. She rings the bell, and the_
     FOOTMAN _enters_.


MAID.

As soon as Lord Mereston arrives he is to be shown in.

FOOTMAN.

[_Surprised._] Here?

MAID.

Where else?

            [_The_ FOOTMAN _winks significantly. The_ MAID
            _draws herself up with dignity, and with a
            dramatic gesture points to the door_.

MAID.

Depart.

            [_The_ FOOTMAN _goes out_.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_From the bedroom._] Have you drawn the blind, Angélique?

MAID.

I will do so, miladi. [_She draws the blind, and the light falls
brightly on the dressing-table._] But miladi will never be able to stand
it. [_She looks at herself in the glass._] Oh, the light of the sun in
the morning! I cannot look at myself.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_As before._] There's no reason that you should--especially in my
glass.

MAID.

But if 'is lordship is coming, miladi must let me draw the blind. Oh, it
is impossible.

LADY FREDERICK.

Do as you're told and don't interfere.

            [_The_ FOOTMAN _enters to announce_ MERESTON.
            _The_ MAID _goes out._

FOOTMAN.

Lord Mereston.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_As before._] Is that you, Charlie? You're very punctual.

MERESTON.

I've been walking about outside till the clock struck.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm not nearly dressed, you know. I've only just had my bath.

MERESTON.

Must I go?

LADY FREDERICK.

No, of course not. You can talk to me while I'm finishing.

MERESTON.

All right. How are you this morning?

LADY FREDERICK.

I don't know. I haven't looked at myself in the glass yet. How are you?

MERESTON.

A 1, thanks.

LADY FREDERICK.

Are you looking nice?

MERESTON.

[_Going to the glass._] I hope so. By Jove, what a strong light. You
must be pretty sure of your complexion to be able to stand that.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Appearing._] I am.

MERESTON.

[_Going forward eagerly._] Ah.

            [_She comes through the curtains. She wears a
            kimono, her hair is all dishevelled, hanging
            about her head in a tangled mop. She is
            not made up and looks haggard and yellow
            and lined. When_ MERESTON _sees her he
            gives a slight start of surprise. She plays
            the scene throughout with her broadest
            brogue._

LADY FREDERICK.

Good-morning.

MERESTON.

[_Staring at her in dismay._] Good-morning.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, what have you to say to me?

MERESTON.

[_Embarrassed._] I--er--hope you slept all right.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] Did you?

MERESTON.

I forget.

LADY FREDERICK.

I believe you slept like a top, Charlie. You really might have lain
awake and thought of me. What is the matter? You look as if you'd seen a
ghost.

MERESTON.

Oh no, not at all.

LADY FREDERICK.

You're not disappointed already?

MERESTON.

No, of course not. Only--you look so different with your hair not done.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With a little cry._] Oh, I'd forgotten all about it. Angélique, come
and do my hair.

MAID.

[_Appearing._] Yes, miladi.

            [LADY FREDERICK _sits down at the dressing-table._

LADY FREDERICK.

Now, take pains, Angélique. I want to look my very best. Angélique is a
jewel of incalculable value.

MAID.

Miladi is very kind.

LADY FREDERICK.

If I'm light-hearted, she does it one way. If I'm depressed she does it
another.

MAID.

Oh, miladi, the perruquier who taught me said always that a good
hairdresser could express every mood and every passion of the human
heart.

LADY FREDERICK.

Good heavens, you don't mean to say you can do all that?

MAID.

Miladi, he said I was his best pupil.

LADY FREDERICK.

Very well. Express--express a great crisis in my affairs.

MAID.

That is the easiest thing in the world, miladi. I bring the hair rather
low on the forehead, and that expresses a crisis in her ladyship's
affairs.

LADY FREDERICK.

But I always wear my hair low on the forehead.

MAID.

Then it is plain her ladyship's affairs are always in a critical
condition.

LADY FREDERICK.

So they are. I never thought of that.

MERESTON.

You've got awfully stunning hair, Lady Frederick.

LADY FREDERICK.

D'you like it, really?

MERESTON.

The colour's perfectly beautiful.

LADY FREDERICK.

It ought to be. It's frightfully expensive.

MERESTON.

You don't mean to say it's dyed?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, no. Only touched up. That's quite a different thing.

MERESTON.

Is it?

LADY FREDERICK.

It's like superstition, you know, which is what other people believe. My
friends dye their hair, but I only touch mine up. Unfortunately, it
costs just as much.

MERESTON.

And you have such a lot.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, heaps. [_She opens a drawer and takes out a long switch._] Give him
a bit to look at.

MAID.

Yes, miladi.

            [_She gives it to him._

MERESTON.

Er--yes. [_Not knowing what on earth to say._] How silky it is.

LADY FREDERICK.

A poor thing, but mine own. At least, I paid for it. By the way, have I
paid for it yet, Angélique?

MAID.

Not yet, miladi. But the man can wait.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Taking it from_ MERESTON.] A poor thing, then, but my hairdresser's.
Shall I put it on?

MERESTON.

I wouldn't, if I were you.

MAID.

If her ladyship anticipates a tragic situation, I would venture to
recommend it. A really pathetic scene is impossible without a quantity
of hair worn quite high on the head.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, I know. Whenever I want to soften the hard heart of a creditor I
clap on every bit I've got. But I don't think I will to-day. I'll tell
you what, a temple curl would just fit the case.

MAID.

Then her ladyship inclines to comedy. Very well, I say no more.

            [LADY FREDERICK _takes two temple-curls from
            the drawer._

LADY FREDERICK.

Aren't they dears?

MERESTON.

Yes.

LADY FREDERICK.

You've admired them very often, Charlie, haven't you? I suppose you
never knew they cost a guinea each?

MERESTON.

It never occurred to me they were false.

LADY FREDERICK.

The masculine intelligence is so gross. Didn't your mother tell you?

MERESTON.

My mother told me a great deal.

LADY FREDERICK.

I expect she overdid it. There. Now that's done. D'you think it looks
nice?

MERESTON.

Charming.

LADY FREDERICK.

Angélique, his lordship is satisfied. You may disappear.

MAID.

Yes, miladi.

            [_She goes._

LADY FREDERICK.

Now, tell me you think I'm the most ravishing creature you ever saw in
your life.

MERESTON.

I've told you that so often.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Stretching out her hands._] You are a nice boy. It was charming of you
to say--what you did yesterday. I could have hugged you there and then.

MERESTON.

Could you?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, my dear, don't be so cold.

MERESTON.

I'm very sorry, I didn't mean to be.

LADY FREDERICK.

Haven't you got anything nice to say to me at all?

MERESTON.

I don't know what I can say that I've not said a thousand times
already.

LADY FREDERICK.

Tell me what you thought of all night when you tossed on that sleepless
pillow of yours.

MERESTON.

I was awfully anxious to see you again.

LADY FREDERICK.

Didn't you have a dreadful fear that I shouldn't be as nice as you
imagined? Now, come--honestly.

MERESTON.

Well, yes, I suppose it crossed my mind.

LADY FREDERICK.

And am I?

MERESTON.

Of course.

LADY FREDERICK.

You're sure you're not disappointed?

MERESTON.

Quite sure.

LADY FREDERICK.

What a relief! You know, I've been tormenting myself dreadfully. I said
to myself: "He'll go on thinking of me till he imagines I'm the most
beautiful woman in the world, and then, when he comes here and sees the
plain reality, it'll be an awful blow."

MERESTON.

What nonsense! How could you think anything of the kind?

LADY FREDERICK.

Are you aware that you haven't shown the least desire to kiss me yet?

MERESTON.

I thought--I thought you might not like it.

LADY FREDERICK.

It'll be too late in a minute.

MERESTON.

Why?

LADY FREDERICK.

Because I'm just going to make up, you silly boy.

MERESTON.

How? I don't understand.

LADY FREDERICK.

You said I must be very sure of my complexion. Of course I am. Here it
is.

            [_She runs her fingers over a row of little pots
            and vases._

MERESTON.

Oh, I see. I beg your pardon.

LADY FREDERICK.

You don't mean to say you thought it natural?

MERESTON.

It never occurred to me it might be anything else.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's really too disheartening. I spend an hour every day of my life
making the best complexion in Monte Carlo, and you think it's natural.
Why, I might as well be a dairymaid of eighteen.

MERESTON.

I'm very sorry.

LADY FREDERICK.

I forgive you.... You may kiss my hand. [_He does so._] You dear boy.
[_Looking at herself in the glass._] Oh, Betsy, you're not looking your
best to-day. [_Shaking her finger at the glass._] This won't do, Betsy,
my dear. You're very nearly looking your age. [_Turning round quickly._]
D'you think I look forty?

MERESTON.

I never asked myself how old you were.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, I'm not, you know. And I shan't be as long as there's a pot of
rouge and a powder puff in the world. [_She rubs grease paint all over
her face._]

MERESTON.

What _are_ you doing?

LADY FREDERICK.

I wish I were an actress. They have such an advantage. They only have to
make up to look well behind the footlights; but I have to expose myself
to that beastly sun.

MERESTON.

[_Nervously._] Yes, of course.

LADY FREDERICK.

Is your mother dreadfully annoyed with you? And Paradine must be
furious. I shall call him Uncle Paradine next time I see him. It'll make
him feel so middle-aged. Charlie, you don't know how grateful I am for
what you did yesterday. You acted like a real brick.

MERESTON.

It's awfully good of you to say so.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Turning._] Do I look a fright?

MERESTON.

Oh, no, not at all.

LADY FREDERICK.

I love this powder. It plays no tricks with you. Once I put on a new
powder that I bought in Paris, and as soon as I went into artificial
light it turned a bright mauve. I was very much annoyed. You wouldn't
like to go about with a mauve face, would you?

MERESTON.

No, not at all.

LADY FREDERICK.

Fortunately I had a green frock on. And mauve and green were very
fashionable that year. Still I'd sooner it hadn't been on my face....
There. I think that'll do as a foundation. I'm beginning to feel younger
already. Now for the delicate soft bloom of youth. The great difficulty,
you know, is to make both your cheeks the same colour. [_Turning to
him._] Charlie, you're not bored, are you?

MERESTON.

No, no.

LADY FREDERICK.

I always think my observations have a peculiar piquancy when I have only
one cheek rouged. I remember once I went out to dinner, and as soon as I
sat down I grew conscious of the fact that one of my cheeks was much
redder than the other.

MERESTON.

By George, that was awkward.

LADY FREDERICK.

Charlie, you are a good-looking boy. I had no idea you were so handsome.
And you look so young and fresh, it's quite a pleasure to look at you.

MERESTON.

[_Laughing awkwardly._] D'you think so? What did you do when you
discovered your predicament?

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, by a merciful interposition of Providence, I had a foreign
diplomatist on my right side which bloomed like a rose, and a bishop on
my left which was white like the lily. The diplomatist told me risky
stories all through dinner so it was quite natural that this cheek
should blush fiery red. And as the Bishop whispered in my left ear
harrowing details of distress in the East End, it was only decent that
the other should exhibit a becoming pallor. [_Meanwhile she has been
rouging her cheeks._] Now look carefully, Charlie, and you'll see how I
make the Cupid's bow which is my mouth. I like a nice healthy colour on
the lips, don't you?

MERESTON.

Isn't it awfully uncomfortable to have all that stuff on?

LADY FREDERICK.

Ah, my dear boy, it's woman's lot to suffer in this world. But it's a
great comfort to think that one is submitting to the decrees of
Providence and at the same time adding to one's personal attractiveness.
But I confess I sometimes wish I needn't blow my nose so carefully.
Smile, Charlie. I don't think you're a very ardent lover, you know.

MERESTON.

I'm sorry. What would you like me to do?

LADY FREDERICK.

I should like you to make me impassioned speeches.

MERESTON.

I'm afraid they'd be so hackneyed.

LADY FREDERICK.

Never mind that. I've long discovered that under the influence of
profound emotion a man always expresses himself in the terms of the
_Family Herald_.

MERESTON.

You must remember that I'm awfully inexperienced.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, I'll let you off this time--because I like your curly hair. [_She
sighs amorously._] Now for the delicate arch of my eyebrows. I don't
know what I should do without this. I've got no eyebrows at all
really.... Have you ever noticed that dark line under the eyes which
gives such intensity to my expression?

MERESTON.

Yes, often.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Holding out the pencil._] Well, here it is. Ah, my dear boy, in this
pencil you have at will roguishness and languor, tenderness and
indifference, sprightliness, passion, malice, what you will. Now be
very quiet for one moment. If I overdo it my whole day will be spoilt.
You mustn't breathe even. Whenever I do this I think how true those
lines are:

    "The little more and how much it is.
    The little less and what worlds away."

There! Now just one puff of powder, and the whole world's kind.
[_Looking at herself in the glass and sighing with satisfaction._] Ah! I
feel eighteen. I think it's a success, and I shall have a happy day. Oh,
Betsy, Betsy, I think you'll do. You know, you're not unattractive, my
dear. Not strictly beautiful, perhaps; but then I don't like the
chocolate-box sort of woman. I'll just go and take off this
dressing-gown. [MERESTON _gets up._] No, don't move. I'll go into my
bedroom. I shall only be one moment. [LADY FREDERICK _goes through the
curtains._] Angélique.

            [_The_ MAID _enters._

MAID.

Yes, miladi.

LADY FREDERICK.

Just clear away those things on the dressing-table.

MAID.

[_Doing so._] Very well, miladi.

LADY FREDERICK.

You may have a cigarette, Charlie.

MERESTON.

Thanks. My nerves are a bit dicky this morning.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, blow the thing! Angélique, come and help me.

MAID.

Yes, miladi.

            [_She goes out._

LADY FREDERICK.

At last.

            [_She comes in, having changed the kimono for
            a very beautiful dressing-gown of silk and
            lace._

LADY FREDERICK.

Now, are you pleased?

MERESTON.

Of course I'm pleased.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then you may make love to me.

MERESTON.

You say such disconcerting things.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] Well, Charlie, you've found no difficulty in doing it for
the last fortnight. You're not going to pretend that you're already at a
loss for pretty speeches?

MERESTON.

When I came here, I had a thousand things to say to you, but you've
driven them all out of my head. Won't you give me an answer now?

LADY FREDERICK.

What to?

MERESTON.

You've not forgotten that I asked you to marry me?

LADY FREDERICK.

No, but you asked me under very peculiar circumstances. I wonder if you
can repeat the offer now in cold blood?

MERESTON.

Of course. What a cad you must think me!

LADY FREDERICK.

Are you sure you want to marry me still--after having slept over it?

MERESTON.

Yes.

LADY FREDERICK.

You are a good boy, and I'm a beast to treat you so abominably. It's
awfully nice of you.

MERESTON.

Well, what is the answer?

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear, I've been giving it you for the last half-hour.

MERESTON.

How?

LADY FREDERICK.

You don't for a moment suppose I should have let you into those horrible
mysteries of my toilette if I'd had any intention of marrying you? Give
me credit for a certain amount of intelligence and good feeling. I
should have kept up the illusion, at all events till after the
honeymoon.

MERESTON.

Are you going to refuse me?

LADY FREDERICK.

Aren't you rather glad?

MERESTON.

No, no, no.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Putting her arm through his._] Now let us talk it over sensibly.
You're a very nice boy, and I'm awfully fond of you. But you're
twenty-two, and heaven only knows my age. You see, the church in which I
was baptized was burnt down the year I was born, so I don't know how old
I am.

MERESTON.

[_Smiling._] Where was it burnt?

LADY FREDERICK.

In Ireland.

MERESTON.

I thought so.

LADY FREDERICK.

Just at present I can make a decent enough show by taking infinite
pains; and my hand is not so heavy that the innocent eyes of your sex
can discover how much of me is due to art. But in ten years you'll only
be thirty-two, and then, if I married you, my whole life would be a
mortal struggle to preserve some semblance of youth. Haven't you seen
those old hags who've never surrendered to Anno Domini, with their poor,
thin, wrinkled cheeks covered with paint, and the dreadful wigs that
hide a hairless pate? Rather cock-eyed, don't you know, and invariably
flaxen. You've laughed at their ridiculous graces, and you've been
disgusted too. Oh, I'm so sorry for them, poor things. And I should
become just like that, for I should never have the courage to let my
hair be white so long as yours was brown. But if I don't marry you, I
can look forward to the white hairs fairly happily. The first I shall
pluck out, and the second I shall pluck out. But when the third comes
I'll give in, and I'll throw my rouge and my poudre de riz and my
pencils into the fire.

MERESTON.

But d'you think I should ever change?

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear boy, I'm sure of it. Can't you imagine what it would be to be
tied to a woman who was always bound to sit with her back to the light?
And sometimes you might want to kiss me.

MERESTON.

I think it very probable.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, you couldn't--in case you disarranged my complexion. [MERESTON
_sighs deeply._] Don't sigh, Charlie. I daresay I was horrid to let you
fall in love with me, but I'm only human, and I was desperately
flattered.

MERESTON.

Was that all?

LADY FREDERICK.

And rather touched. That is why I want to give a cure with my refusal.

MERESTON.

But you break my heart.

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear, men have said that to me ever since I was fifteen, but I've
never noticed that in consequence they ate their dinner less heartily.

MERESTON.

I suppose you think it was only calf-love?

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm not such a fool as to imagine a boy can love any less than a man. If
I'd thought your affection ridiculous I shouldn't have been so
flattered.

MERESTON.

It doesn't hurt any the less because the wounds you make are clean cut.

LADY FREDERICK.

But they'll soon heal. And you'll fall in love with a nice girl of your
own age, whose cheeks flush with youth and not with rouge, and whose
eyes sparkle because they love you, and not because they're carefully
made up.

MERESTON.

But I wanted to help you. You're in such an awful scrape, and if you'll
only marry me it can all be set right.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, my dear, don't go in for self-sacrifice. You must leave that to
women. They're so much more used to it.

MERESTON.

Isn't there anything I can do for you?

LADY FREDERICK.

No, dear. I shall get out of the mess somehow. I always do. You really
need not worry about me.

MERESTON.

You know, you _are_ a brick.

LADY FREDERICK.

Then it's all settled, isn't it? And you're not going to be unhappy?

MERESTON.

I'll try not to be.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'd like to imprint a chaste kiss on your forehead, only I'm afraid it
would leave a mark.

            [_The_ FOOTMAN _comes in and announces_ PARADINE
            FOULDES.

FOOTMAN.

Mr. Paradine Fouldes.

            [_Exit._

FOULDES.

Do I disturb?

LADY FREDERICK.

Not at all. We've just finished our conversation.

FOULDES.

Well?

MERESTON.

If any one wants to know who the best woman in the world is send 'em to
me, and I'll tell them.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Taking his hand._] You dear! Good-bye.

MERESTON.

Good-bye. And thanks for being so kind to me.

            [_He goes out._

FOULDES.

Do I see in front of me my prospective niece?

LADY FREDERICK.

Why d'you ask, Uncle Paradine?

FOULDES.

Singularly enough because I want to know.

LADY FREDERICK.

Well, it so happens--you don't.

FOULDES.

You've refused him?

LADY FREDERICK.

I have.

FOULDES.

Then will you tell me why you've been leading us all such a devil of a
dance?

LADY FREDERICK.

Because you interfered with me, and I allow no one to do that.

FOULDES.

Hoity-toity.

LADY FREDERICK.

You weren't really so foolish as to imagine I should marry a boy who set
me up on a pedestal and vowed he was unworthy to kiss the hem of my
garment?

FOULDES.

Why not?

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear Paradine, I don't want to commit suicide by sheer boredom.
There's only one thing in the world more insufferable than being in
love.

FOULDES.

And what is that, pray?

LADY FREDERICK.

Why, having some one in love with you.

FOULDES.

I've suffered from it all my life.

LADY FREDERICK.

Think of living up to the ideal Charlie has of me. My hair would turn a
hydrogen yellow in a week. And then to be so desperately adored as all
that--oh, it's so dull! I should have to wear a mask all day long. I
could never venture to be natural in case I shocked him. And
notwithstanding all my efforts I should see the illusions tumbling about
his ears one by one till he realised I was no ethereal goddess, but a
very ordinary human woman neither better nor worse than anybody else.

FOULDES.

Your maxim appears to be, marry any one you like except the man that's
in love with you.

LADY FREDERICK.

Ah, but don't you think I might find a man who loved me though he knew
me through and through? I'd far rather that he saw my faults and forgave
them than that he thought me perfect.

FOULDES.

But how d'you know you've choked the boy off for good?

LADY FREDERICK.

I took good care. I wanted to cure him. If it had been possible I would
have shown him my naked soul. But I couldn't do that, so I let him
see....

FOULDES.

[_Interrupting._] What!

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Laughing._] No, not quite. I had a dressing-gown on and other
paraphernalia. But I made him come here when I wasn't made up, and he
sat by while I rouged my cheeks.

FOULDES.

And the young fool thought there was nothing more in you than a
carefully prepared complexion?

LADY FREDERICK.

He was very nice about it. But I think he was rather relieved when I
refused him.

[_There is a knock at the door._]

GERALD.

[_Outside._] May we come in?

LADY FREDERICK.

Yes do.

_Enter_ GERALD _and_ ROSE _and the_ ADMIRAL.

GERALD.

[_Excitedly._] I say, it's all right. The Admiral's come down like a
real brick. I've told him everything.

LADY FREDERICK.

What do you mean? Good-morning, dear Admiral.

ADMIRAL.

Good-morning.

GERALD.

I've made a clean breast of it. I talked it over with Rosie.

ROSE.

And we went to papa together.

GERALD.

And told him that I owed Montgomerie nine hundred pounds.

ROSE.

And we thought papa would make an awful scene.

GERALD.

Raise Cain, don't you know.

ROSE.

But he never said a word.

GERALD.

He was simply ripping over it.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Putting her hands to her ears._] Oh, oh, oh. For heaven's sake be calm
and coherent.

GERALD.

My dear, you don't know what a relief it is.

ROSE.

I saw Gerald was dreadfully worried, and I wormed it out of him.

GERALD.

I'm so glad to be out of the clutches of that brute.

ROSE.

Now we're going to live happily ever afterwards.

[_All the while the_ ADMIRAL _has been trying to get a word in, but each
time he is about to start one of the others has broken in._

ADMIRAL.

Silence. [_He puffs and blows._] I never saw such a pair in my life.

LADY FREDERICK.

Now do explain it all, Admiral. I can't make head or tail out of these
foolish creatures.

ADMIRAL.

Well, they came and told me that Montgomerie had an I.O.U. of Gerald's
for nine hundred pounds and was using it to blackmail you.

FOULDES.

Is that a fact?

LADY FREDERICK.

Yes.

ADMIRAL.

I never liked the man's face. And when they said his terms were that you
were to marry him or Gerald would have to send in his papers, I said ...

FOULDES.

Damn his impudence.

ADMIRAL.

How did you know?

FOULDES.

Because I'd have said it myself.

GERALD.

And the Admiral stumped up like a man. He gave me a cheque for the
money, and I've just this moment sent it on to Montgomerie.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Taking both his hands._] It's awfully good of you, and I'm sure you'll
never regret that you gave Gerald a chance.

ADMIRAL.

May I have a few words' private conversation with you?

LADY FREDERICK.

Of course. [_To the others._] Make yourselves scarce.

FOULDES.

We'll go on the balcony, shall we?

ADMIRAL.

I'm sorry to trouble you, but it'll only take three minutes.

[GERALD _and_ ROSE _and_ FOULDES _go on to the balcony_.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_When they've gone._] There.

ADMIRAL.

Well, what I wanted to say to you was this: I like Gerald, but I think
he wants guiding. D'you follow me?

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm sure he will take your advice always.

ADMIRAL.

It's a woman's hand that he wants. Now if you and I were to join forces
we could keep him out of mischief, couldn't we?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, I'll come and stay with you whenever you ask me. I love giving good
advice when I'm quite sure it won't be taken.

ADMIRAL.

I was thinking of a more permanent arrangement. Look here, why don't you
marry me?

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear Admiral!

ADMIRAL.

I don't think an attractive woman like you ought to live alone. She's
bound to get in a scrape.

LADY FREDERICK.

It's awfully good of you, but....

ADMIRAL.

You don't think I'm too old, do you?

LADY FREDERICK.

Of course not. You're in the very prime of life.

ADMIRAL.

There's life in the old dog yet, I can tell you.

LADY FREDERICK.

I feel sure of that. I never doubted it for a moment.

ADMIRAL.

Then what have you got against me?

LADY FREDERICK.

You wouldn't like to commit polygamy, would you?

ADMIRAL.

Eh?

LADY FREDERICK.

You see, it's not a question of marrying me only, but all my
tradespeople.

ADMIRAL.

I hadn't thought of that.

LADY FREDERICK.

Besides, you're Rose's father, and I'm Gerald's sister. If we married I
should be my brother's mother-in-law, and my step-daughter would be my
sister. Your daughter would be your sister-in-law, and your brother
would just snap his fingers at your fatherly advice.

ADMIRAL.

[Confused.] Eh?

LADY FREDERICK.

I don't know if the prayer-book allows things like that, but if it does
I think it's hopelessly immoral.

ADMIRAL.

Well, shall I tell them I've changed my mind and they can't marry?

LADY FREDERICK.

Then there'd be no reason for us to--commit the crime, would there?

ADMIRAL.

I hadn't thought of that. I suppose not.

LADY FREDERICK.

You're not cross with me, are you? I'm very much flattered, and I thank
you from the bottom of my heart.

ADMIRAL.

Not at all, not at all. I only thought it might save trouble.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Calling._] Gerald. Come along. [_They come in._] We've had our little
talk.

GERALD.

Everything satisfactory?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_With a look at the_ ADMIRAL.] Quite.

ADMIRAL.

[_Gruffly._] Quite.

LADY FREDERICK'S FOOTMAN _enters._

FOOTMAN.

Captain Montgomerie wishes to know if he may see your ladyship.

LADY FREDERICK.

I'd forgotten all about him.

GERALD.

Let me go to him, shall I?

LADY FREDERICK.

No, I'm not afraid of him any longer. He can't do anything to you. And
as far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter.

GERALD.

Then I'll tell him to go to the devil.

LADY FREDERICK.

No, I'm going to tell him that myself. [_To the_ FOOTMAN.] Ask Captain
Montgomerie to come here.

FOOTMAN.

Yes, miladi.

            [_Exit._

Lady Frederick.

[_Walking up and down furiously._] I'm going to tell him that myself.

FOULDES.

Now keep calm, Betsy.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Very deliberately._] I shall not keep calm.

FOULDES.

Remember that you're a perfect lady.

LADY FREDERICK.

Don't interfere with me. I ate humble pie yesterday, and it didn't agree
with me at all.

[FOOTMAN _enters to announce_ CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE, _who follows him, and
immediately withdraws._

FOOTMAN.

Captain Montgomerie.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

How d'you do.

[_He is obviously surprised to see the others._

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Pleasantly._] Quite a party, aren't we?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Yes. [_A pause._] I hope you don't mind my coming so early?

LADY FREDERICK.

Not at all. You made an appointment for half-past ten.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I trust you have good news for me.

LADY FREDERICK.

Captain Montgomerie, every one here knows the circumstances that have
brought you.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I should have thought it wiser for both our sakes not to make them too
public.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Very amiably._] I don't see why you should be ashamed because you made
me a proposal of marriage?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I'm sorry you should think it a laughing matter, Lady Frederick.

LADY FREDERICK.

I don't. I never laugh at an impertinence.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

[_Taken aback._] I beg your pardon.

LADY FREDERICK.

Surely the receipt of my brother's letter was sufficient answer for you.
After that you must have guessed there was no likelihood that I should
change my mind.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

What letter? I don't understand.

GERALD.

I sent you a note this morning enclosing a cheque for the money I lost
to you.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I've not received it.

GERALD.

It must be waiting for you at the hotel.

            [CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE _pauses and looks meditatively
            at the assembled company_.

LADY FREDERICK.

I think there's nothing for which I need detain you longer.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

[_Smiling._] I don't think I've quite finished yet. Has it slipped your
memory that the two bills fall due to-day? Allow me to present them.

            [_He takes them out of his pocket-book._

LADY FREDERICK.

I'm very sorry I can't pay them--at present.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I regret that I can't wait. You must pay them.

LADY FREDERICK.

I tell you it's impossible.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Then I shall get an order against you.

LADY FREDERICK.

That you may do to your heart's content.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

You realise the consequences. It's not very nice to be an undischarged
bankrupt.

LADY FREDERICK.

Much nicer than to marry a rascally money-lender.

FOULDES.

May I look at these interesting documents?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Certainly. [_Blandly._] I haven't the least wish to be offensive.

FOULDES.

[_Taking them._] You fail lamentably in achieving your wish. Three
thousand five hundred pounds in all. It seems hardly worth while to make
a fuss about so small a sum.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

I'm in urgent need of money.

FOULDES.

[_Ironically._] So rich a man as you?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Even a rich man may be temporarily embarrassed.

FOULDES.

Then be so good as to wait for one moment. [_He sits down at a table and
writes a cheque._] No sight is more affecting than that of a
millionaire in financial straits.

LADY FREDERICK.

Paradine!

FOULDES.

[_Handing the cheque._] Now, sir, I think that settles it. Will you
exchange my cheque for those bills?

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

Damn you, I forgot you.

FOULDES.

You may not be aware that it's unusual to swear in the presence of
ladies.

CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE.

[_Looking at the cheque._] I suppose it's all right.

            [PARADINE _goes to the door and opens it_.

FOULDES.

There is the window, and here is the door. Which will you choose?

            [CAPTAIN MONTGOMERIE _looks at him without
            answering, shrugs his shoulders and goes
            out_.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, Paradine, you are a brick.

GERALD.

I say it's awfully good of you.

FOULDES.

Nonsense. I've got a strong sense of effect, and I always cultivate the
dramatic situation.

LADY FREDERICK.

I shall never be able to pay you back, Paradine.

FOULDES.

My dear, I'm not entirely devoid of intelligence.

ADMIRAL.

Well, well, I must be off to take my constitutional.

LADY FREDERICK.

And Rose and Gerald must take care of you. We shall all meet at
luncheon.

ADMIRAL.

Yes, yes.

[_The_ ADMIRAL, ROSE _and_ GERALD _go out._ LADY FREDERICK _goes up to_
PARADINE _and takes his hands._

LADY FREDERICK.

Thanks awfully. You are a good friend.

FOULDES.

By George, how your eyes glitter!

LADY FREDERICK.

It's only belladonna, you know.

FOULDES.

I'm not such a fool as my nephew, my dear.

LADY FREDERICK.

Why did you do it?

FOULDES.

D'you know what gratitude is?

LADY FREDERICK.

Thanks for past favours and a lively sense of benefits to come.

FOULDES.

Well, yesterday you had my sister in the hollow of your hand. She gave
you great provocation, and you burnt those confounded letters.

LADY FREDERICK.

My dear Paradine, I can't get over my own magnanimity. And what are the
benefits to come?

FOULDES.

Well it might be five per cent. on the capital.

LADY FREDERICK.

I don't know why you should squeeze my hands all the time.

FOULDES.

But it isn't. Look here, don't you get awfully tired of racketting
about?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, my dear friend, I'm sick to death of it. I've got half a mind to
retire from the world and bury myself in a hermitage.

FOULDES.

So have I, and I've bought the lease of a little house in Norfolk
Street, Park Lane.

LADY FREDERICK.

Just the place for a hermitage--fashionable without being vulgar.

FOULDES.

And I propose to live there quite quietly, and I shall just subsist on a
few dried herbs, don't you know.

LADY FREDERICK.

But do have them cooked by a really good French chef; it makes such a
difference.

FOULDES.

And what d'you say to joining me?

LADY FREDERICK.

I?

FOULDES.

You.

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, I _am_ a success to-day. That's another proposal of marriage.

FOULDES.

It sounds very much like it.

LADY FREDERICK.

I've already had three this morning.

FOULDES.

Then I should think you've said "no" quite often enough.

LADY FREDERICK.

Come at ten o'clock to-morrow, and you shall see me make up.

FOULDES.

D'you think that would choke me off? D'you suppose I don't know that
behind that very artificial complexion there's a dear little woman
called Betsy who's genuine to the bottom of her soul?

LADY FREDERICK.

Oh, don't be so sentimental or I shall cry.

FOULDES.

Well, what is it to be?

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Her voice breaking._] D'you like me still, Paradine, after all these
years?

FOULDES.

Yes. [_She looks at him, her lips quivering. He stretches out his arms,
and she, breaking down, hides her face on his shoulder._] Now don't be
an ass, Betsy.... I know you'll say in a minute I'm the only man you
ever loved.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Looking up with a laugh._] I shan't.... But what will your sister
say?

FOULDES.

I'll tell her there was only one way in which I could save Charlie from
your clutches.

LADY FREDERICK.

What?

FOULDES.

By marrying you myself.

LADY FREDERICK.

[_Putting up her face._] Monster.

[_He kisses her lips._]


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *



_THE EXPLORER_


_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

(_Uniform with this Volume_)

_PLAYS_:

    _A MAN OF HONOUR_
    _LADY FREDERICK_
    _JACK STRAW_
    _MRS. DOT_
    _PENELOPE_

    (_In Preparation_)

    _SMITH_
    _THE TENTH MAN_
    _GRACE_
    _LOAVES AND FISHES_

_LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN_



_THE EXPLORER

A MELODRAMA

In Four Acts

By W. S. MAUGHAM

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN

MCMXII_

_All rights reserved_

This play was first produced at the Lyric Theatre on Saturday, June 13,
1908, with the following cast:

    ALEXANDER MACKENZIE            LEWIS WALLER
    RICHARD LOMAS                  A. E. GEORGE
    DR. ADAMSON                    CHARLES ROCK
    SIR ROBERT BOULGER, BT.      OWEN ROUGHWOOD
    GEORGE ALLERTON                 SHIEL BARRY
    REV. JAMES CARBERY         S. J. WARMINGTON
    CAPTAIN MALLINS          A. CATON WOODVILLE
    MILLER                         CHARLES CECIL
    CHARLES                            P. DIGAN
    MRS. CROWLEY                      EVA MOORE
    LADY KELSEY                      MARY RORKE
    LUCY ALLERTON                EVELYN MILLARD



_THE EXPLORER

CHARACTERS_


    ALEXANDER MACKENZIE
    RICHARD LOMAS
    DR. ADAMSON
    SIR ROBERT BOULGER, BT.
    GEORGE ALLERTON
    THE REV. JAMES CARBERY
    CAPTAIN MALLINS
    MILLER
    CHARLES
    LADY KELSEY
    MRS. CROWLEY
    LUCY ALLERTON

TIME: _The Present Day._

SCENE: _The First and Third Acts take place at Lady Kelsey's house; the
Second at Mackenzie's camp in Central Africa; and the Fourth at the
house of Richard Lomas._

_The Performing Rights of this play are fully protected, and permission
to perform it, whether by Amateurs or Professionals, must be obtained in
advance from the author's Sole Agent, R. Golding Bright, 20 Green
Street, Leicester Square, London, W.C., from whom all particulars can be
obtained._



THE EXPLORER



THE FIRST ACT


     SCENE: LADY KELSEY'S _drawing-room in Mayfair. At the back is a
     window leading on to a balcony. On the right a door leads to the
     staircase, and on the left is another door. It is the sumptuous
     room of a rich woman._

     [LADY KELSEY _is seated, dressed in black; she is a woman of fifty,
     kind, emotional, and agitated. She is drying her eyes._ MRS.
     CROWLEY, _a pretty little woman of twenty-eight, very beautifully
     dressed, vivacious and gesticulative, is watching her quietly. The_
     REV. JAMES CARBERY, _a young curate, tall and impressive in
     appearance, ponderous and self-important, is very immaculate in a
     silk waistcoat and a large gold cross._


CARBERY.

I cannot tell you how sincerely I feel for you in this affliction, Lady
Kelsey.

LADY KELSEY.

You're very kind. Every one has been very kind. But I shall never get
over it. I shall never hold up my head again.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Nonsense! You talk as if the whole thing weren't perfectly monstrous.
Surely you don't for a moment suppose that your brother-in-law won't be
able to explain everything away?

LADY KELSEY.

God forbid! But still, it's dreadful to think that at this very moment
my poor sister's husband is standing in the felon's dock.

CARBERY.

Dreadful, dreadful!

LADY KELSEY.

If you only knew the agonies I've suffered since Fred was arrested! At
first I couldn't believe it, I wouldn't believe it. If I'd only known
such a thing was possible, I'd have done anything to help him.

CARBERY.

But had you any idea he was in difficulties?

LADY KELSEY.

He came to me and said he must have three thousand pounds at once. But
I'd given him money so often since my poor sister died, and every one
said I oughtn't to give him any more. After all, someone must look after
his children, and if I don't hoard my money a little, George and Lucy
will be penniless.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Oh, you were quite right to refuse.

LADY KELSEY.

I thought it would only go in senseless extravagances as all the rest
has gone, and when he said it was a matter of life and death, I couldn't
believe it. He'd said that so often.

CARBERY.

It's shocking to think a man of his position and abilities should have
come to such a pass.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Dear Mr. Carbery, don't draw the very obvious moral. We're all quite
wretched enough as it is.

LADY KELSEY.

And two days later Lucy came to me with a white face to say that he had
been arrested for forging a cheque.

CARBERY.

I only met him once, and I'm bound to say I thought him a most charming
man.

LADY KELSEY.

Ah, that's what ruined him. He was always so entirely delightful. He
could never say no to any one. But there's not an atom of harm in him.
I'm quite certain he's never done anything criminal; he may have been
foolish, but wicked never.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Of course he'll be able to clear himself. There's not the least doubt
about that.

LADY KELSEY.

But think of the disgrace of it. A public trial. And Fred Allerton of
all people! The Allertons were always so proud of their family. It was
almost a mania with them.

MRS. CROWLEY.

For centuries they've cherished the firm belief that there was no one in
the county fit to black their boots.

CARBERY.

Pride goeth before a fall.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Smiling._] And proverbs before a clergyman.

LADY KELSEY.

They wouldn't give him bail, so he's remained in prison till now. Of
course, I made Lucy and George come here.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You've been quite charming, Lady Kelsey, as every one knew you'd be. But
don't think of these wretched weeks of suspense. Think only that Mr.
Allerton has got his chance at last. Why, the trial may be over now, and
he may this very minute be on his way to this house.

CARBERY.

What will he do when it's over? The position will be surely a little
unpleasant.

LADY KELSEY.

I've talked it over with Lucy, and--I've made it possible for them all
to go abroad. They'll need rest and quiet. Poor things, poor things!

CARBERY.

I suppose Miss Allerton and George are at the Old Bailey.

LADY KELSEY.

No, their father begged them to stay away. They've been in all day,
waiting for the papers.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But who is going to bring you the news? Surely you're not going to wait
for the papers?

LADY KELSEY.

Oh, no, Dick Lomas is coming. He's one of the witnesses for Fred, and my
nephew Bobby Boulger.

MRS. CROWLEY.

And what about Mr. Mackenzie? He told me he would be there.

CARBERY.

Is that the great traveller? I thought I saw in the paper that he'd
already started for Africa.

LADY KELSEY.

Not yet. He's going at the beginning of the month. Oh, he's been so good
to us during this time. All our friends have been good to us.

CARBERY.

I shouldn't have thought there was much of the milk of human kindness to
overflow in Alexander Mackenzie. By all accounts he dealt with the
slave-traders in Africa with a good deal of vigour.

MRS. CROWLEY.

The slave-traders must be quaking in their shoes if they know he's
starting out again, for he's made up his mind to exterminate them, and
when Alec Mackenzie makes up his mind to do a thing, he appears to do
it.

LADY KELSEY.

He has the reputation of a hard man, but no one could be more delightful
than he has been to me.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I don't think I like him, but he's certainly a strong man, and in
England just now every one's so weak and floppy, it's rather a relief to
come across somebody who's got a will of iron and nerves of steel.

            [GEORGE ALLERTON _comes in_. _He is a very
            young man, good-looking, though at the
            moment pale and haggard, with a rather
            weak face._

GEORGE.

I thought Lucy was here. [_To_ CARBERY _and_ MRS. CROWLEY.] How d'you
do? Have you seen Lucy?

MRS. CROWLEY.

I went to her room for a moment.

GEORGE.

What is she doing?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Reading.

GEORGE.

I wish I could take it as calmly as she does. An outsider would think
there was nothing the matter at all. Oh, it's too awful!

LADY KELSEY.

My dear, you must bear up. We must all hope for the best.

GEORGE.

But there is no best. Whatever happens, it means disgrace and dishonour.
How could he? How could he?

LADY KELSEY.

No one knows your father as I do, George. I'm sure he's never been
anything but thoughtless and foolish.

GEORGE.

Of course he's not been actually criminal. That's absurd. But it's bad
enough as it is.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You mustn't take it too much to heart. In another half-hour at the
utmost your father will be here with everything cleared up, and you'll
be able to go back to Oxford with a clear conscience.

GEORGE.

D'you think I can go to Oxford again when my father has been tried for
forgery? No, no! No, no! I'd rather shoot myself.

LADY KELSEY.

My poor boy.... Where have you been all day?

GEORGE.

Heaven knows! I've walked through the streets till I'm dog-tired. Oh,
the suspense is too awful. My feet carried me to the Old Bailey, and I
would have given anything to go in and see how things were going, but
I'd promised the Pater I wouldn't.

LADY KELSEY.

How did he look this morning?

GEORGE.

He was most awfully worn and ill. I don't believe he'll ever get over
it. I saw his counsel before the case began. They told me it was bound
to come all right.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Is there anything in the evening papers?

GEORGE.

I haven't dared to look. The placards are awful.

CARBERY.

Why, what do they say?

GEORGE.

Can't you imagine? "Gentleman charged with forgery." "County gentleman
at the Old Bailey." And all the rest of it. Damn them! Damn them!

LADY KELSEY.

It may be all over by now.

GEORGE.

I feel that I shall never sleep again. I couldn't close my eyes last
night. To think that one's own father....

LADY KELSEY.

For goodness' sake be quiet.

GEORGE.

[_Starting._] There's a ring at the bell.

LADY KELSEY.

I've given orders that no one is to be admitted but Dick Lomas and
Bobbie.

MRS. CROWLEY.

It must be finished by now. It's one or the other of them come to tell
you the result.

LADY KELSEY.

Oh, I'm so frightfully anxious.

GEORGE.

Aunt, you don't think....

LADY KELSEY.

No, no, of course not. They _must_ find him not guilty.

            [_The_ BUTLER _enters followed by_ DICK LOMAS,
            _a clean-shaven dapper man, with a sharp
            face and good-natured smile. He is between
            thirty-five and forty, but slim and youthful.
            With him comes_ SIR ROBERT BOULGER,
            LADY KELSEY'S _nephew, a good-looking,
            spruce youth of twenty-two_.

BUTLER.

Mr. Lomas, Sir Robert Boulger.

GEORGE.

[_Excitedly._] Well, well? For God's sake tell us quickly.

DICK.

My dear people, I have nothing to tell.

GEORGE.

Oh!

            [_He staggers with sudden faintness and falls
            to the floor._

DICK.

Hulloa! What's this?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Poor boy!

            [_They crowd round him._

GEORGE.

It's all right. What a fool I am! I was so strung up.

DICK.

You'd better come to the window.

            [_He and_ BOULGER _take the boy's arms and lead
            him to the window_. GEORGE _leans against
            the balcony_.

CARBERY.

I'm afraid I must go away. Every Wednesday at four I read _Little Lord
Fauntleroy_ to forty charwomen.

LADY KELSEY.

Good-bye. And thanks so much for coming.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Shaking hands with him._] Good-bye. A clergyman always helps one so
much to bear other people's misfortunes.

            [CARBERY _goes out, and in a moment_ ROBERT
            BOULGER _comes back into the room_.

LADY KELSEY.

Is he better?

BOULGER.

Oh, much. He'll be all right in a minute. [LADY KELSEY _goes to the
window, and he turns to_ MRS. CROWLEY.] You are a brick to come here
to-day, when they're all in such awful trouble.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_With a little hesitation._] Did you really come away before the trial
was ended?

BOULGER.

Why, of course. What did you think? You don't imagine they'll convict
him?

MRS. CROWLEY.

It's too dreadful.

BOULGER.

Where is Lucy? I was hoping to get a glimpse of her.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I wouldn't trouble her to-day if I were you. I think she most wants to
be left alone.

BOULGER.

I wanted to tell her that if I could do anything at all, she had only to
command.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I think she knows that. But I'll give her the message if you like....
You're very devoted.

BOULGER.

I've been madly in love with her ever since I was ten.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Take care then. There's nothing so tedious as the constant lover.

            [DICK _comes into the room and speaks to_
            ROBERT BOULGER.

DICK.

George is quite well now. He wants you to smoke a cigarette with him.

BOULGER.

Certainly.

            [_He goes on to the balcony._

DICK.

[_When_ BOULGER _is gone_.] At least, he will the moment he sees you.

MRS. CROWLEY.

What do you mean by that?

DICK.

Merely that I wanted to talk to you. And Robert Boulger, being a youth
of somewhat limited intelligence, seemed in the way.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Why did you leave the Old Bailey?

DICK.

My dear lady, I couldn't stand it. You don't know what it is to sit
there and watch a man tortured, a man you've known all your life, whom
you've dined with times out of number, in whose house you've stayed. He
had just the look of a hunted beast, and his face was grey with terror.

MRS. CROWLEY.

How was the case going?

DICK.

I couldn't judge. I could only see those haggard, despairing eyes.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But you're a barrister. You must have heard his answers. What did he
reply to all the questions?

DICK.

He seemed quite dazed. I don't think he took in the gist of his
cross-examination.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But the man's innocent.

DICK.

Yes, we all hope that.

MRS. CROWLEY.

What d'you mean? There can be no doubt about that. When he was arrested
Lucy went to him and begged him to tell her the exact truth. He swore
that he wasn't guilty.

DICK.

Poor Lucy! She's borne up wonderfully. She'll stick to her father
through thick and thin.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Abruptly._] Mr. Lomas, you're trying to put me off. It's not fair to
let Lucy buoy herself up with false hopes. She's absolutely convinced
that her father will be acquitted.

DICK.

Well, in another half-hour we shall all know. When I left, the judge was
just going to sum up.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Mr. Lomas, what is your opinion?

            [_He looks at her steadily for a moment._

DICK.

Were you very much surprised when you heard Fred Allerton was arrested?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Good heavens, I was overwhelmed!

DICK.

[_Dryly._] Ah!

MRS. CROWLEY.

If you aggravate me I shall box your ears.

DICK.

When first I knew Fred he was a very rich man. You know that the
Allertons are one of the oldest families in Cheshire?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Yes. I think Lucy's only failing is an inordinate pride in her family.
She thinks it very snobbish to have any particular respect for a peer of
the realm, but only natural to look up to persons of good family.

DICK.

Ah, you see, you and I who have a quite indecent lack of ancestors,
can't realise what the cult of family may be. There are families in the
remote parts of England--not very rich, not very clever, and not very
good-looking--who would look askance at a belted earl who came to demand
their daughter's hand in marriage. They have a natural conviction that
they're the salt of the earth, and in their particular corner they rule
more absolutely than half the monarchs in Europe. The Allertons were
like that. But Fred somehow seemed to belong to a different stock. The
first thing he did was to play ducks and drakes with his fortune.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But men ought to be extravagant. That's what they're there for.

DICK.

Women always took his side because he had an irresistible charm of
manner.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I think George has, too, a little.

DICK.

I hope for Lucy's sake he will turn out a different man from his father.
I wish he weren't so like him in appearance. At last Fred Allerton had
squandered every penny, and he married Lady Kelsey's sister, one of the
three rich daughters of a Liverpool merchant. But he ran through her
money, too, gambling, racing, and so forth, and she died of a broken
heart--adoring him still.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You're as well informed as an encyclopædia, Mr. Lomas.

DICK.

You see, I was made the trustee for the poor remains of Mrs. Allerton's
fortune, and I know how Lucy has managed to keep all their heads above
water. She's wonderful. Ever since she was a child she's held the reins
in her own hands. She's stuck to her father, though Lady Kelsey implored
her to leave him to his own foolish ways. She saw that George was
decently educated. She hid from the world all the little shifts and
devices to which she had to resort in order to keep up an appearance of
decency.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I suppose you, too, think Fred Allerton little better than a scamp?

DICK.

My dear lady, when a man has had to leave his club because he plays
cards too well, it's at least permissible to suppose that there's
something odd about him.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Here's Lady Kelsey. For heaven's sake try and amuse her a little.

[LADY KELSEY _comes back into the room_.

LADY KELSEY.

Oh, Dick, I'm so full of my own troubles, I forgot to ask about yours.
I'm so sorry to hear that you're ill.

DICK.

On the contrary, I'm in the very best of health.

LADY KELSEY.

But I saw in the papers that you were going to give up your seat in the
House owing to ill-health.

DICK.

Of course, I'd forgotten. My heart is seriously deranged.

MRS. CROWLEY.

How dreadful! What is the matter with it?

DICK.

Can you ask? I've banged it about at your feet so long that its
functions are excessively impaired. And it's beaten all my waistcoats
out of shape.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Don't be so foolish. I was quite alarmed.

DICK.

I'm going to retire.

LADY KELSEY.

From the bar as well?

DICK.

From the bar as well. Henceforth I shall cultivate only such arts and
graces as are proper to the man of leisure. My fellow men are a great
deal too strenuous, and I propose to offer them the spectacle of a
complete idler who demands from the world neither honours nor profit,
but only entertainment.

MRS. CROWLEY.

D'you mean to say you're going to give up a large practice and a
position which may be very important merely to gratify a foolish whim?

DICK.

I haven't time to work. Life is so much too short. A little while ago it
occurred to me that I was nearly forty. [_To_ MRS. CROWLEY.] D'you know
the feeling?

MRS. CROWLEY.

No, of course not. Don't be so uncivil.

DICK.

By the way, how old are you?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Twenty-nine!

DICK.

Nonsense! There's no such age.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I beg your pardon, upper parlourmaids are always twenty-nine.

DICK.

For years I've spent eight hours a day meddling with silly persons'
silly quarrels, and eight hours more governing the nation. I've never
been able to spend more than half my income. I'm merely working myself
to death in order to leave a fortune to my nieces, two desperately plain
girls with red noses.

LADY KELSEY.

But what are you going to do?

DICK.

Oh, I don't know. Perhaps I'll try my hand at big game shooting, if Alec
will take me on this expedition of his. I've always thought shooting
would be an agreeable pastime if partridges were the size of well-grown
sheep and pheasants a little larger than a cow.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Then the breakdown in your health is all humbug?

DICK.

Absolute humbug. If I were to tell the truth people would shut me up in
a lunatic asylum. I've come to the conclusion that there's only one game
in the world worth playing, and that's the game of life. I'm rich enough
to devote myself to it entirely.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But you'll get bored to death.

DICK.

Not I! Why, I'm growing younger every day. My dear Mrs. Crowley, I don't
feel a day more than eighteen.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You certainly look quite twenty-five.

DICK.

I haven't a white hair in my head.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I suppose your servant plucks them out every morning.

DICK.

Oh, very rarely. One a month at the outside.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I think I see one on the left temple.

DICK.

Really! How careless of Charles! I must speak to him.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Let me pluck it out.

DICK.

I shall allow you to do nothing so familiar.

            [GEORGE _comes hurriedly into the room_.

GEORGE.

There's Alec Mackenzie. He's just driven up in a cab.

DICK.

He must have come from the trial. Then it's all over.

LADY KELSEY.

Quick! Go to the stairs, or Miller won't let him up.

            [GEORGE _runs across the room and opens the door_.

GEORGE.

[_Calling._] Miller, Miller, Mr. Mackenzie's to come up.

[LUCY ALLERTON, _hearing a commotion, comes in. She is older than
George, a tall girl, white now, with eyes heavy from want of sleep. She
has lived in the country all her life, and has brought up to London a
sort of remoteness from the world. She is beautiful in a very English
manner, and her clear-cut features are an index to a character in which
the moral notions are peculiarly rigid. Self-control is a quality which
she possesses in a marked degree, and one which she enormously admires
in others_.

LUCY.

Who is it?

GEORGE.

It's Alec Mackenzie. He's come from the trial!

LUCY.

Then it's finished at last. [_She shakes hands with_ DICK.] It's so good
of you to come.

BOULGER.

You're perfectly wonderful, Lucy. How can you be so calm?

LUCY.

Because I'm quite sure of the result. D'you imagine I'd doubt my father
for a moment?

DICK.

Oh, Lucy, for heaven's sake don't be so sure. You must be prepared for
everything.

LUCY.

Oh, no, I know my father. D'you think I've not studied him during these
years that I've looked after him? He's a child, with all a child's
thoughtlessness and simplicity. And God knows, he's weak. I know his
faults better than any one, but it would be impossible for him to do
anything criminal.

            [_The_ BUTLER _enters, followed by_ ALEC MACKENZIE.
            ALEC _is a tall, wiry man, well-knit,
            with dark hair and a small red
            moustache and beard, cut close to the face.
            He is about five-and-thirty. He has great
            ease of manner, and there is about him an
            air as though he were accustomed that
            people should do as he told them._

BUTLER.

Mr. Mackenzie!

GEORGE.

Is it finished? For God's sake tell us quickly, old man.

LUCY.

Why didn't father come with you? Is he following?

ALEC.

Yes, it's all over.

LADY KELSEY.

Thank goodness. The suspense was really too dreadful.

GEORGE.

I knew they'd acquit him. Thank God!

DICK.

[_Looking at_ ALEC'S _face_.] Take care, George.

            [_Suddenly_ LUCY _goes up to_ ALEC _and looks at
            him. An expression of horror distorts her
            features._

MRS. CROWLEY.

Lucy, what is it?

ALEC.

I don't know how I am going to tell you.

LUCY.

You say the trial was over when you came away?

ALEC.

Yes.

LUCY.

The jury had given their verdict?

GEORGE.

Lucy, what are you driving at? You don't think ...?

ALEC.

Your father asked me to come and break it to you.

GEORGE.

He's not dead?

ALEC.

Perhaps it would be better if he were.

LUCY.

They found him guilty?

ALEC.

Yes.

GEORGE.

[_With a groan of despair._] Oh! But it's impossible.

LUCY.

[_Putting her hand on his arm._] Ssh!

LADY KELSEY.

My God, my God! I'm thankful that his wife is dead.

LUCY.

I'm awfully stupid, but if he was innocent, how could they find him
guilty? I don't know what you mean.

ALEC.

I am afraid it's very clear.

LUCY.

There must be some horrible mistake.

ALEC.

I wish there were.

GEORGE.

[_Breaking down into tears and sinking into a chair._] Oh, God! What
shall I do?

LUCY.

Don't do that, George. We want all our calmness now.

GEORGE.

Don't you see they all expected it? It was only you and I who believed
in his innocence.

LUCY.

[_To_ ALEC.] Did you hear the evidence?

ALEC.

Yes.

LUCY.

And you followed it carefully?

ALEC.

Very.

LUCY.

What impression did it leave on your mind?

ALEC.

What can it matter how it affected me?

LUCY.

I want to know.

DICK.

Lucy, you're torturing us all.

LUCY.

If you had been on the jury would your verdict have been the same as
theirs?

ALEC.

I should have been obliged to judge according to my conscience.

LUCY.

I see. And you have no doubt that he was guilty?

ALEC.

Don't ask me these horrible questions.

LUCY.

But it's very important. I know that you are a perfectly honest and
upright man. If you think he was guilty, there is nothing more to be
said.

ALEC.

The case was so plain that the jury were not out of the box for more
than ten minutes.

LUCY.

Did the judge say anything?

ALEC.

[_Hesitatingly._] He said there could be no doubt about the justice of
the verdict.

LUCY.

What else?... [_He looks at her without answering._] You had better tell
me now. I shall see it in the papers to-morrow.

ALEC.

[_As though the words were dragged out of him._] He called it a very
mean and shameful crime, worse than another man's because your father
was a gentleman of ancient family and bore a name of great honour.

DICK.

[_To_ MRS. CROWLEY.] These judges have a weakness for pointing a moral.

LUCY.

And what was the sentence? [_A pause._] Well?

ALEC.

Seven years' penal servitude.

GEORGE.

Oh, God!

DICK.

My dear girl, I can't tell you how sorry I am.

LADY KELSEY.

Lucy, what is it? You frighten me.

LUCY.

Try and bear up, George. We want all the strength we've got, you and I.

[MRS. CROWLEY _puts her arms round_ LUCY _and kisses her._

MRS. CROWLEY.

Oh, my dear, my dear!

LUCY.

[_Disengaging herself._] You're all very kind, and I know you sympathise
with me....

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Interrupting her._] You know that we'll do everything we can to help
you.

LUCY.

It's so good of you. There's really nothing that any one can do. Would
you all mind leaving me alone with George? We must talk this over by
ourselves.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Very well. Mr. Lomas, will you put me into a cab?

DICK.

Certainly. [_To_ LUCY.] Good-bye, dear, and God bless you.

LUCY.

[_Shaking hands with him._] Don't worry too much about me. If there's
anything I want, I'll let you know.

DICK.

Thanks.

            [_He goes out with_ MRS. CROWLEY.

ALEC.

May I speak to you for a few minutes alone?

LUCY.

Not now, Mr. Mackenzie. I don't want to seem rude, but ...

ALEC.

[_Interrupting._] I know, and I wouldn't insist unless it were a matter
of the most urgent importance.

LUCY.

Very well. George, will you take Aunt Alice to her room? I shall want
you in a moment.

GEORGE.

Yes.

LUCY.

[_To_ LADY KELSEY.] Won't you lie down and try and sleep a little? You
must be dreadfully exhausted.

LADY KELSEY.

Ah, don't think of me now, dear. Think of yourself.

LUCY.

[_Smiling._] It's purely selfish. It eases me a little to fuss about
you.

GEORGE.

I'll wait in the smoking-room, Lucy.

LUCY.

Do!

[GEORGE _and_ LADY KELSEY _go out._

ALEC.

I think your self-command is wonderful. I've never admired you more than
at this moment.

LUCY.

You make me feel such a prig. It's not really very strange if I keep my
head, because I've had an immensely long training. Since I was fifteen
I've been alone to care for George and my father.... Won't you sit down?

ALEC.

I can say what I want in a very few words. You know that in a week I
start for Mombassa to take charge of the expedition in North-East
Africa. I may be away for three or four years, and I shall be exposed to
a certain amount of danger. When I left Africa last time to gather
supplies, I determined I would crush those wretched slave-traders, and
now I think I have the means to do it.

LUCY.

I think you are engaged on a very great work.

ALEC.

I don't know whether you ever noticed that--that I cared more for you
than for any one in the world. But with the long journey in front of me
I didn't think it was right to say anything to you. It wasn't fair to
ask you to bind yourself during my long absence. And there was always
the risk that a stray bullet might put an end to me. I made up my mind
that I must wait till I returned. But things have changed now. Lucy, I
love you with all my heart. Will you marry me before I go?

LUCY.

No, I can't do that. It's very generous of you, but I couldn't.

ALEC.

Why not? Don't you know that I love you? It would help me so much if I
knew that you were waiting for me at home.

LUCY.

I must look after my father. I shall go and live near the--prison, so
that I can see him whenever it's possible.

ALEC.

You can do that as well if you're my wife.... You have before you a very
difficult and trying time. Won't you let me help you?

LUCY.

I couldn't. Heaven knows, I'm grateful to you for offering to marry me
on this day of my bitter humiliation. I shall never forget your great
kindness. But I must stand alone. I must devote myself to my father.
When he's released I must have a home to bring him to, and I must tend
him and care for him. Ah, now he wants me more than ever.

ALEC.

You're very proud.

LUCY.

[_Giving him her hand._] Dear friend, don't think hardly of me. I think
I love you as much as it's possible for a woman to love a man.

ALEC.

Lucy!

LUCY.

[_With a smile._] Did you want me to tell you that in so many words? I
admire you, and I trust you. I should be very happy if George could grow
into so brave and honest a man as you.

ALEC.

They're very modest crumbs with which you want me to be satisfied.

LUCY.

I know in your heart you think I'm right. You would never seek to
dissuade me from what I'm convinced is my duty.

ALEC.

Can't I do anything for you at all?

[_She looks at him for a moment intently. She rings the bell._

LUCY.

Yes, you can do me the greatest possible service.

ALEC.

I'm so glad. What is it you mean?

LUCY.

Wait, and I'll tell you. [_The_ BUTLER _enters._] Ask Mr. George to come
here, please.

BUTLER.

Very well, Miss.

            [_He goes out._

LUCY.

I want you to help me.

            [GEORGE _comes in._

GEORGE.

Yes, Lucy?

LUCY.

I want to give into your charge what I love most in the world....
George, have you thought at all what you're going to do now? I'm afraid
you can't go back to Oxford.

GEORGE.

No, I don't know what's to become of me. I wish I were dead.

LUCY.

An idea has just come to me. I'm going to ask Mr. Mackenzie to take you
with him to Africa. Will you go?

GEORGE.

Yes, yes! I'd do anything to get away from England. I daren't face my
friends--I'm too ashamed.

LUCY.

Ah, but it's not to hide yourself that I want you to go. Mr. Mackenzie,
I daresay you know that we've always been very proud of our name. And
now it's hopelessly dishonoured.

GEORGE.

Lucy, for God's sake ...

LUCY.

[_Turning to him._] Now our only hope is in you. You have the
opportunity of achieving a great thing. You can bring back the old name
to its old honour. Oh, I wish I were a man. I can do nothing but wait
and watch. If I could only fill you with my courage and with my
ambition! Mr. Mackenzie, you asked if you could do anything for me. You
can give George the chance of wiping out the shame of our family.

ALEC.

Do you know that he will have to suffer every sort of danger and
privation, that often he will be parched by the heat, and often soaked
to the skin for days together? Sometimes he'll not have enough to eat,
and he'll have to work harder than a navvy.

LUCY.

Do you hear, George? Are you willing to go?

GEORGE.

I'll do anything you want me to, Lucy.

ALEC.

And you know that he may get killed. There may be a good deal of
fighting.

LUCY.

If he dies a brave man's death, I have nothing more to ask.

ALEC.

[_To_ GEORGE.] Very well. Come with me, and I'll do my best for you.

LUCY.

Ah, thanks. You are really my friend.

ALEC.

And when I come back?

LUCY.

Then, if you still care, ask your question again.

ALEC.

And the answer?

LUCY.

[_With a little smile._] The answer, perhaps, will be different.


END OF THE FIRST ACT



THE SECOND ACT


     SCENE: ALEC MACKENZIE'S _tent in North-East Africa. It is night.
     The place is dimly lighted. There is a little camp bed in one
     corner with a mosquito net over it. There are two or three folding
     chairs, some tin cases, and a table. On this a gun is lying._

     DICK _is seated with his head on his hands, leaning on the table,
     fast asleep_. DR. ADAMSON, _the surgeon of the expedition, comes
     in. He is a large-boned brawny fellow with a Scotch accent. He
     looks at_ DICK _and smiles_.


DOCTOR.

Hulloa, there! [DICK _starts up and seizes the gun. The_ DOCTOR
_laughs_.] All right. Don't shoot. It's only me.

DICK.

[_With a laugh._] Why the dickens did you wake me up? I was
dreaming--dreaming of a high-heeled boot and a neat ankle, and the swish
of a white lace petticoat.

DOCTOR.

I thought I'd just have a look at your arm.

DICK.

It's one of the most æsthetic sights I know.

DOCTOR.

Your arm?

DICK.

A pretty woman crossing Piccadilly at Swan and Edgar's. You are a
savage, my good doctor, and a barbarian. You don't know the care and
forethought, the hours of anxious meditation, it has needed for her to
hold up that well-made skirt with the elegant grace which enchants you.

DOCTOR.

I'm afraid you're a very immoral man, Lomas.

DICK.

Ah, my dear fellow, at my time of life I have to content myself with
condemning the behaviour of the younger generation. Even a camp bed in a
stuffy tent with mosquitoes buzzing all around me has allurements
greater than those of youth and beauty. And I declare for all women to
hear that I am proof against their wiles. Give me a comfortable bed to
sleep in, plenty to eat, tobacco to smoke, and Amaryllis may go hang.

DOCTOR.

Well, let's look at this wound of yours. Has it been throbbing at all?

DICK.

Oh, it's not worth bothering about. It'll be all right to-morrow.

DOCTOR.

I'll put a clean dressing on all the same.

DICK.

All right. [_He takes off his coat and rolls up his sleeve. His arm is
bandaged, and during the next speeches the_ DOCTOR _puts on a dressing
and a clean bandage_.] You must be pretty well done up, aren't you?

DOCTOR.

Just about dropping. But I've got a deuce of a lot more work before I
turn in.

DICK.

The thing that amuses me is to remember that I came to Africa thinking I
was going to have a rattling good time.

DOCTOR.

You couldn't exactly describe it as a picnic, could you? But I don't
suppose any of us knew it would be such a tough job as it's turned out.

DICK.

My friend, if ever I return to my native land, I will never be such a
crass and blithering idiot as to give way again to a spirit of
adventure.

DOCTOR.

[_With a laugh._] You're not the sort of chap whom one would expect to
take to African work. Why the blazes did you come?

DICK.

That's precisely what I've been asking myself ever since we landed in
this God-forsaken swamp.

DOCTOR.

The wound looks healthy enough. It'll hardly even leave a scar.

DICK.

I'm glad that my fatal beauty won't be injured.... You see, Alec's about
the oldest friend I have. And then there's young Allerton, I've known
him ever since he was a kid.

DOCTOR.

That's an acquaintance that most of us wouldn't boast about.

DICK.

I had an idea I'd like Bond Street all the better when I got back. I
never knew that I should be eaten alive by every kind of disgusting
animal by night and day. I say, Doctor, do you ever think of a rump
steak?

DOCTOR.

When?

DICK.

[_With a wave of the hand._] Sometimes, when we're marching under a sun
that just about takes the roof of your head off, and we've had the
scantiest and most uncomfortable breakfast possible, I have a vision.

DOCTOR.

D'you mind only gesticulating with one arm?

DICK.

I see the dining-room of my club and myself sitting at a little table by
the window looking out on Piccadilly, and there's a spotless tablecloth,
and all the accessories are spick and span. An obsequious servant brings
me a rump steak, grilled to perfection, and so tender that it melts in
the mouth. And he puts by my side a plate of crisp, fried potatoes.
Can't you smell them?

DOCTOR.

[_Laughing._] Shut up!

DICK.

And then another obsequious servant brings me a pewter tankard, and into
it he pours a bottle, a large bottle, mind you, of foaming ale.

DOCTOR.

You've certainly added considerably to our cheerfulness.

DICK.

[_With a shrug of the shoulders._] I've often been driven to appease the
pangs of raging hunger with a careless epigram, and by the laborious
composition of a limerick I have sought to deceive a most unholy
thirst.

DOCTOR.

Well, last night I thought you'd made your last joke, old man, and that
I had given my last dose of quinine.

DICK.

We were in rather a tight corner, weren't we?

DOCTOR.

This is the third expedition I've gone with Mackenzie against the
slave-raiders, and I promise you I've never been so certain that all was
over with us.

DICK.

Funny thing death is, you know. When you think of it beforehand, it
makes you squirm in your shoes, but when you've just got it face to
face, it seems so obvious that you forget to be afraid. It's one of my
principles never to be impressed by a platitude.

DOCTOR.

It's only by a miracle we escaped. If those Arabs hadn't hesitated to
attack us just those ten minutes we should have been wiped out.

DICK.

Alec was splendid, wasn't he?

DOCTOR.

Yes, by Jove! He thought we were done for.

DICK.

What makes you think that?

DOCTOR.

Well, you see, I know him pretty well. He's been a pal of yours for
twenty years in England, but I've been with him out here three times,
and I tell you there's not much about a man that you don't know then.

DICK.

Well?

DOCTOR.

Well, when things are going smoothly and everything's flourishing, he's
apt to be a bit irritable. He keeps rather to himself, and he doesn't
say much unless you do something he doesn't approve of.

DICK.

And then, by Jove, he comes down on one like a thousand of bricks. It's
not for nothing the natives call him Thunder and Lightning.

DOCTOR.

But when things begin to look black, his spirits go up like one o'clock.
And the worse they are, the more cheerful he is.

DICK.

It's one of his most irritating characteristics.

DOCTOR.

When every one is starving with hunger, and dead tired, and soaked to
the skin, Mackenzie fairly bubbles over with good-humour.

DICK.

When I'm in a bad temper, I much prefer every one else to be in a bad
temper too.

DOCTOR.

These last few days, he's been positively hilarious. Yesterday he was
cracking jokes with the natives.

DICK.

[_Dryly._] Scotch jokes. I daresay they sound funny in an African
dialect.

DOCTOR.

I've never seen him more cheerful. I said to myself: By the Lord Harry,
the chief thinks we're in a devil of a bad way.

DICK.

Thank Heaven, it's all over now. We've none of us had any sleep for
three days, and when I once get off, I don't mean to wake up for a week.

DOCTOR.

I must go and see the rest of my patients. Perkins has got a bad dose of
fever this time. He was quite delirious a while ago.

DICK.

By Jove, I'd almost forgotten. How one changes out here! Here am I
feeling happy and comfortable and inclined to make a little jest or two,
and I've forgotten already that poor Richardson is dead and Lord knows
how many natives.

DOCTOR.

Poor chap, we could ill spare him. The fates never choose the right man.

DICK.

What do you mean by that?

DOCTOR.

If we had to lose some one, it would have been a damned sight better if
that young cub had got the bullet which killed poor Richardson.

DICK.

George Allerton?

DOCTOR.

He wouldn't have been much loss, would he?

DICK.

No, I'm afraid he wouldn't.

DOCTOR.

Mackenzie has been very patient with him. I wonder he didn't send him
back to the coast months ago, when he sacked Macinnery.

DICK.

Poor George, everything has been against him.

DOCTOR.

Some men have got natures so crooked that with every chance in the world
to go straight they can't manage it. The only thing is to let them go
to the devil as best they may.

DICK.

Alec was bound to give him another chance. [ALEC MACKENZIE _comes in_.]
Hulloa, Alec! Where have you been?

ALEC.

I've been going the round of the outlying sentries.

DICK.

All serene?

ALEC.

Yes. I've just seen a native messenger that Mindabi sent to me.

DOCTOR.

Anything important?

ALEC.

[_Curtly._] Yes. How's the arm, Dick?

DICK.

Oh, that's nothing. It's only a scratch.

ALEC.

You'd better not make too light of it. The smallest wound has a way of
being troublesome in this country.

DOCTOR.

He'll be all right in a day or two.

ALEC.

How are the others?

DOCTOR.

They're going on pretty well on the whole. Perkins, of course, will be
down for some days longer. And some of the natives are rather badly
hurt. Those devils have got explosive bullets.

ALEC.

Any one in great danger?

DOCTOR.

No, I don't think so. There are two men who are in rather a bad way, but
all they want is rest.

ALEC.

I see.

DICK.

I say, have you had anything to eat lately?

ALEC.

[_With a laugh._] Good Lord! I quite forgot. I wonder when the dickens I
had some food last.

DICK.

[_Smiling._] You've had nothing to-day, have you?

ALEC.

No, I don't think so. Those Arabs kept us so confoundedly busy.

DICK.

You must be devilish hungry.

ALEC.

Now you mention it, I think I am. And thirsty, by Jove! I wouldn't give
my thirst for an elephant tusk.

DICK.

And to think there's nothing but tepid water to drink!

DOCTOR.

I'll go and tell the boy to bring you some food. It's a rotten game to
play tricks with your digestion like that.

ALEC.

[_Gaily._] Stern man, the doctor, isn't he? It won't hurt me once in a
way. And I shall enjoy it all the more now.

DOCTOR.

[_Calling._] Selim!

ALEC.

No, don't trouble. The poor chap's just turned in, dropping with sleep.
I told him he might till I called him. I don't want much, and I can
easily get it myself. [_He goes to a case and takes out a tin of meat
and some ship's biscuits._] It's rather a nuisance that we've not been
able to get any game lately.

            [_He sets the food down before him, sits down,
            and begins to eat._

DICK.

[_Ironically._] Appetising, isn't it?

ALEC.

Splendid!

DICK.

You have all the instincts of the primeval savage, Alec. It enrages and
disgusts me.

ALEC.

[_With a laugh._] Why?

DICK.

You take food for the gross and bestial purpose of appeasing your
hunger. You have no appreciation for the delicacies of eating as a fine
art.

ALEC.

The meat's getting rather mouldy, isn't it?

DICK.

Damnable! It's been a source of great anxiety to me in England.

ALEC.

What is he talking about now?

DICK.

I was going on with the thread of my observations, which you interrupted
with the entirely obvious remark that the tinned meat was getting
mouldy.

ALEC.

I apologise profusely. Pray go on!

DICK.

I was about to observe that even in England you will eat the most
carefully ordered meal with an indifference which is an outrage to
decency. Indeed, you pay less attention to it than here, because at all
events you do notice that the meat is mouldy. But if any one gives you a
good dinner, you notice nothing. I've given him priceless port, Doctor,
and he drank it as though it were cooking sherry.

DOCTOR.

I confess it is lamentable. But why is it a source of anxiety to you?

DICK.

What on earth is to happen to him in his old age?

ALEC.

Explain yourself, my friend. Clearly but with as much brevity as
possible.

DICK.

The pleasure of eating is the only pleasure that remains to the old.
Love--what is love when you lose your figure, and your hair grows thin?
Knowledge--one can never know everything, and the desire passes with the
fire of youth. Even ambition fails you in the end. But to those who have
lived wisely and well, there remain three pleasures every day of their
lives: their breakfast, their luncheon, and their dinner.

ALEC.

[_With a laugh._] I wouldn't worry about my old age if I were you, Dick.

DICK.

Why?

ALEC.

Because I think it's ten to one that we shall all be dead to-morrow
morning.

DOCTOR.

What?

            [_There is a slight pause while both men stare
            at him._

DICK.

Is this one of your little jokes, Alec?

ALEC.

You have often observed that I joke with difficulty.

DOCTOR.

But what's wrong now?

ALEC.

You'll neither of you sleep in your beds to-night. Another sell for the
mosquitoes, isn't it? I propose to break up the camp and start marching
as soon as the moon goes down.

DICK.

I say, it's a bit thick after a day like this. We're all so done up that
we shan't be able to go a mile.

ALEC.

Nonsense, you will have had two hours' rest.

DOCTOR.

But some of those fellows who are wounded can't possibly be moved.

ALEC.

They must!

DOCTOR.

I won't answer for their lives.

ALEC.

We must take the risk. Our only chance is to make a bold dash for it,
and we can't leave the wounded here.

DICK.

I suppose there's going to be a deuce of a row?

ALEC.

[_Grimly._] There is.

DICK.

Your companions seldom have a chance to complain of the monotony of
their existence, Alec. What are you going to do now?

ALEC.

At this moment, I'm going to fill my pipe.

            [_There is a pause while_ ALEC _fills and lights
            his pipe_.

DICK.

I gather from the general amiability of your demeanour that we're in a
rather tight place?

ALEC.

Tighter than any of your patent-leather boots, my friend.

DICK.

[_Gravely._] Have we any chance of getting through, old man?

ALEC.

[_Lightly._] Oh, I don't know. There's always a chance.

DICK.

Don't grin at me in that irritating fashion.

ALEC.

You must wish you were treading the light fantastic toe in a London
ball-room, Dick.

DICK.

Frankly I do.... I suppose we're going to fight again?

ALEC.

Like Kilkenny cats.

DICK.

[_Briskly._] Well, at all events that's some comfort. If I am going to
be done out of my night's rest, I should like to take it out of some
one.

ALEC.

If things turn out all right, we shall have come near finishing the job,
and there won't be much more slave-raiding in this part of Africa.

DICK.

And if things don't turn out all right?

ALEC.

Why, then I'm afraid the tea-tables of Mayfair will be deprived of your
scintillating repartee forever.

DICK.

Well, I've had a very good time in my life. I've loved a little, I've
looked at some good pictures, read some thundering fine books, and I've
worked and played. If I can only account for a few more of those damned
scoundrels before I die, I shouldn't think I had much to complain of.

ALEC.

[_Smiling._] You're a philosopher, Dick.

DICK.

Doesn't the possibility of an extremely unpleasant demise tempt you to a
few appropriate reflections?

ALEC.

I don't know that it does. I'm a bit of a fatalist, and my theory is
that when my time comes nothing can help me, but at the bottom of my
heart I can't resist the conviction that I shan't die till I let myself.

DOCTOR.

Well, I must go and put things in order. I'll bandage those fellows up,
and I hope they'll stand the jolting.

ALEC.

What about Perkins?

DOCTOR.

Lord knows! I'll try and keep him quiet with chloral.

ALEC.

You needn't say anything about striking camp. I don't propose that any
one should know till a quarter of an hour before we start.

DOCTOR.

But that won't give them time.

ALEC.

It must. I've trained them often enough to get on the march quickly.

DOCTOR.

Very well.

            [GEORGE ALLERTON _comes in as the_ DOCTOR _is
            on the point of going_.

GEORGE.

Can I come in?

ALEC.

Yes ... Doctor!

DOCTOR.

Hulloa!

ALEC.

You might stay a minute, will you?

DOCTOR.

[_Coming back._] Certainly.

ALEC.

Didn't Selim tell you that I wanted to speak to you?

GEORGE.

That's why I've come.

ALEC.

You've taken your time about it.

GEORGE.

I say, could you give me a drink of brandy? I'm awfully done up.

ALEC.

[_Shortly._] There's no brandy left.

GEORGE.

Hasn't the doctor got some?

ALEC.

No!

            [_There is a pause._ ALEC _looks at him slowly_.

GEORGE.

Why are you all looking at me like that? You look as if you were going
to try me for something.

DICK.

Nonsense! Don't be so nervous.

ALEC.

[_Abruptly._] Do you know anything about the death of that Turkana
woman?

GEORGE.

No! How should I?

ALEC.

Come now, you must know something about it. Last Tuesday you came into
camp and told me the Turkana were very excited.

GEORGE.

[_Unwillingly._] Oh, yes! I remember something about it. It had slipped
my memory.

ALEC.

Well?

GEORGE.

I'm not very clear about it. The woman had been shot, hadn't she? One of
our station boys had been playing the fool with her, and he seems to
have shot her.

ALEC.

Have you made no inquiries as to who the man was?

GEORGE.

[_In a surly way._] I haven't had time. We've all been worked off our
legs during these three days.

ALEC.

Do you suspect no one?

GEORGE.

I don't think so.

ALEC.

Think a moment.

GEORGE.

The only man who might have done it is that big scoundrel whom we got on
the coast, the Swahili.

ALEC.

What makes you think that?

GEORGE.

He's been making an awful nuisance of himself, and I know he was running
after her.

ALEC.

I understand she complained about him to you?

GEORGE.

Yes.

ALEC.

Do you think that would be enough evidence to punish him on?

GEORGE.

He's a thorough blackguard, and after all, if one does make a mistake,
he's only a nigger.

ALEC.

You'll be surprised to hear that when the woman was found she wasn't
dead.

            [GEORGE _gives a movement of consternation_.

ALEC.

She didn't die for nearly an hour.

GEORGE.

[_After a short pause._] Was she able to say anything?

ALEC.

She accused you of having shot her.

GEORGE.

Me?

ALEC.

It appears that _you_ were playing the fool with her, and when she got
angry you took out a revolver and fired point blank. Presumably that she
should tell no tales.

GEORGE.

It's a stupid lie. You know what they are. It's just like them to tell
an absurd lie like that. You wouldn't believe a parcel of niggers rather
than me, would you? After all, my word's worth more than theirs.

ALEC.

[_Taking from his pocket an exploded cartridge._] This was found about
two yards from the body. As you see, it's a revolver cartridge. It was
brought to me this evening.

GEORGE.

I don't know what that proves.

ALEC.

You know just as well as I do that none of our natives has a revolver.
Besides ourselves only two or three of the servants have them.

            [GEORGE _becomes white with fear, he takes out
            his handkerchief and wipes his face_.

ALEC.

[_Quietly._] Will you give me your revolver?

GEORGE.

I haven't got it. I lost it in the skirmish this afternoon. I didn't
tell you as I thought you'd be annoyed.

ALEC.

I saw you cleaning it less than an hour ago.

GEORGE.

[_With a shrug of the shoulders._] Perhaps it's in my tent, I'll go and
see.

ALEC.

[_Sharply._] Stop here.

GEORGE.

[_Angrily._] You've no right to talk to me like that. I'm sick to death
of being ordered about. You seem to think I'm a dog. I came out here of
my own free will, and I won't let you treat me as if I were a servant.

ALEC.

If you put your hand to your hip pocket, I think you'll find your
revolver there.

GEORGE.

I'm not going to give it to you.

ALEC.

[_Quietly._] D'you want me to come and take it from you myself?

            [_The two men stare at one another for a moment.
            Then_ GEORGE _slowly puts his hand to his
            pocket. He lakes out the revolver and
            suddenly aims at_ ALEC. DICK _beats up
            his arm as he fires, and the_ DOCTOR,
            _springing forward, seizes him round the
            waist_. ALEC _remains still_.

DICK.

[_During the struggle._] You young blackguard!

GEORGE.

Let me go, damn you!

ALEC.

You need not hold him.

            [_They leave go of_ GEORGE, _who sinks cowering
            into a chair_. DICK _hands the revolver to_
            ALEC. _He silently fits into a chamber the
            cartridge that had been brought to him._

ALEC.

You see that it fits. Hadn't you better make a clean breast of it?

GEORGE.

[_Cowed._] Yes, I shot her. She made a row, and the devil got into me. I
didn't know I'd done anything till she screamed and I saw the blood....
What a fool I was to throw the cartridge away! I wanted to have all the
chambers charged.

ALEC.

Do you remember that two months ago I hanged a man to the nearest tree
because he'd outraged a native woman?

GEORGE.

[_Springing up in terror._] You wouldn't do that to me, Alec. Oh, God,
no, Alec, have mercy on me. You wouldn't hang me. Oh, why did I ever
come to this damned place?

ALEC.

You need not be afraid. I'm not going to do that. In any case I must
preserve the native respect for the white man.

GEORGE.

I was half drunk when I saw that woman. I wasn't responsible for my
actions.

ALEC.

The result is that the whole tribe has turned against us. The chief is
my friend, and he sent a message to tell me he couldn't hold them in.
It's from him I got the cartridge. It wouldn't be so serious, only the
best fighting part of our forces are the Turkana, and we must expect
treachery. They've stirred up the neighbouring tribes against us, and
all the work we've been doing for a year is undone. That's the
explanation of the Arabs' attack three days ago.

GEORGE.

[_Sullenly._] I knew it was all my fault.

ALEC.

The natives have made up their minds to join the slave-traders, and we
shall be attacked on all sides to-morrow. We can't hold out against God
knows how many thousands.

GEORGE.

D'you mean you'll all be killed?

ALEC.

If we remain here there's no escape.

GEORGE.

[_In a whisper._] What are you going to do to me, Alec?

            [ALEC _walks up and down the tent_.

ALEC.

[_Presently._] I think you might go and see your patients now, doctor.

DOCTOR.

Very well.

DICK.

Shall I go too, Alec?

ALEC.

No, you can stay here. But don't open your mouth till you're spoken to.

[THE DOCTOR _goes out_.

GEORGE.

I'm sorry I did that silly thing just now. I'm glad I didn't hit you.

ALEC.

It doesn't matter at all. I'd forgotten all about it.

GEORGE.

I lost my head, I didn't know what I was doing.

ALEC.

You need not trouble about that. In Africa even the strongest people are
apt to get excited and lose their balance.

[ALEC _re-lights his pipe, and there its a very short pause_.

ALEC.

Did you ever know that before we came away I asked Lucy to marry me?

GEORGE.

I knew you cared for her.

ALEC.

She asked me to bring you here in the hope that you would regain the
good name of your family. I think that is the object she has most at
heart in the world. It's as great as her love for you. The plan hasn't
been much of a success, has it?

GEORGE.

She ought to have known that I wasn't suited for this kind of life.

ALEC.

I saw very soon that you were weak and irresolute. But I hoped to make
something of you. Your intentions seemed good enough, but you never had
the strength to carry them out.... I'm sorry if I seem to be preaching
to you.

GEORGE.

[_Bitterly._] Oh, d'you think I care what any one says to me now?

ALEC.

[_Gravely, but not unkindly._] Then I found you were drinking. I told
you that no man could stand liquor in this country, and you gave me your
word of honour that you wouldn't touch it again.

GEORGE.

Yes, I broke it. I couldn't help it; the temptation was too strong.

ALEC.

When we came to the station at Muneas you and Macinnery got blind drunk,
and the whole camp saw you. I ought to have sent you back to the coast
then, but it would have broken Lucy's heart.

GEORGE.

It was Macinnery's fault.

ALEC.

It's because I thought he was to blame that I sent him back alone. I
wanted to give you another chance. It struck me that the feeling of
authority might have some influence on you, and so when we came to the
lake I left you to guard the ferry. I put the chief part of the stores
in your care and marched on. I needn't remind you what happened then.

[GEORGE _looks down sulkily, and in default of excuses keeps silent_.

ALEC.

I came to the conclusion that it was hopeless. You seemed to me rotten
through and through.

GEORGE.

[_With a little laugh._] Like my father before me.

ALEC.

I couldn't believe a word you said. You did everything you shouldn't
have done. The result was that the men mutinied, and if I hadn't come
back in the nick of time they'd have killed you and looted all the
stores.

GEORGE.

You always blame me for everything. A man's not responsible for what he
does when he's down with fever.

ALEC.

It was too late to send you back to the coast then, and I was obliged to
take you on. And now the end has come. Your murder of that woman has put
us all in deadly peril. Already to your charge lie the deaths of
Richardson and almost twenty natives. Tribes that were friendly have
joined with the Arabs, and we're as near destruction as we can possibly
be.

GEORGE.

What are you going to do?

ALEC.

We're far away from the coast, and I must take the law into my own
hands.

GEORGE.

[_With a gasp._] You're not going to kill me?

ALEC.

Are you fond of Lucy?

GEORGE.

[_Brokenly._] You--you know I am. Why d'you remind me of her now? I've
made a rotten mess of everything, and I'm better out of the way. But
think of the disgrace of it. It'll kill Lucy.... And she was hoping I'd
do so much.

ALEC.

Listen to me. Our only chance of escaping from the confounded fix we're
in is to make a sudden attack on the Arabs before the natives join them.
We shall be enormously outnumbered, but we may just smash them if we can
strike to-night. My plan is to start marching as if I didn't know that
the Turkana were going to turn against us. After an hour all the whites
but one, and the Swahilis whom I can trust implicitly, will take a short
cut. The Arabs will have had news of our starting, and they'll try to
cut us off at the pass. I shall fall on them just as they begin to
attack. D'you understand?

GEORGE.

Yes.

ALEC.

Now I must have one white man to head the Turkana, and that man will run
the greatest possible danger. I'd go myself, only the Swahilis won't
fight unless I lead them.... Are you willing to take that post?

GEORGE.

I?

ALEC.

I could order you, but the job's too dangerous for me to force it on any
one. If you refuse, I shall call the others together and ask some one to
volunteer. In that case you will have to find your way back alone as
best you can to the coast.

GEORGE.

No, no! Anything rather than the shame of that.

ALEC.

I won't hide from you that it means almost certain death. But there's no
other way of saving ourselves. On the other hand, if you show perfect
courage at the moment the Arabs attack and the Turkana find that we've
given them the slip, you may escape. If you do, I promise nothing shall
be said of all that has happened here.

GEORGE.

All right. I'll do that. And I thank you with all my heart for giving me
the chance.

ALEC.

I'm glad you've accepted. Whatever happens you'll have done a brave
action in your life. [_He holds out his hand to_ GEORGE, _who takes
it_.] I think there's nothing more to be said. You must be ready to
start in half an hour. Here's your revolver. Remember that one chamber's
empty. You'd better put in another cartridge.

GEORGE.

Yes, I'll do that.

            [_He goes out._

DICK.

D'you think he has any chance of escaping?

ALEC.

If he has pluck he may get through.

DICK.

Well!

ALEC.

To-morrow we shall know if he has that last virtue of a
blackguard--courage.

DICK.

And if he hasn't, it's death you're sending him to?

ALEC.

Yes. It's death!


END OF THE SECOND ACT



THE THIRD ACT


     SCENE: _A smoking-room at_ LADY KELSEY'S, _leading by an archway
     into a drawing-room at the back. On the right is a glass door which
     leads into the garden. On one side is a sofa; on the other a table
     with cigarettes, matches, whiskey, sodas, etc._

     LADY KELSEY _is giving a dance, and the music of the Lancers is
     heard vaguely from the ball-room as the curtain rises_. MRS.
     CROWLEY _and_ SIR ROBERT BOULGER _are sitting down_. LADY KELSEY
     _comes in with the_ REV. JAMES CARBERY.


LADY KELSEY.

Oh, you wretched people, why aren't you dancing? It's too bad of you to
hide yourselves here!

MRS. CROWLEY.

We thought no one would find us in the smoking-room. But why have you
abandoned your guests, Lady Kelsey?

LADY KELSEY.

Oh, I've got them all comfortably settled in the Lancers, and I'm free
to rest myself for a quarter of an hour. You don't know what agonies
I've been suffering the whole evening.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Good gracious me! Why?

LADY KELSEY.

I'm so afraid Alec Mackenzie will come.

BOULGER.

You needn't worry about that, Aunt Alice. He'll never venture to show
his face.

LADY KELSEY.

I didn't know what to do. It was impossible to put the dance off. It's
too dreadful that these horrible revelations should....

CARBERY.

[_Supplying the word._] Transpire.

LADY KELSEY.

Yes, transpire on the very day I've at last persuaded Lucy to come into
the world again. I wish Dick would come.

BOULGER.

Yes, he'll be able to tell us something.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But will he?

CARBERY.

Wherever I go people are talking about Mr. Mackenzie, and I'm bound to
say I've found nobody who has a good word for him.

BOULGER.

[_Bitterly._] Humpty-dumpty's had a great fall.

CARBERY.

I wonder if I might have a cigarette?

MRS. CROWLEY.

I'm sure you might. And if you press me dreadfully, I'll have one, too.

BOULGER.

Don't press her. She's already had far too many.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Well, I'll forego the pressing, but not the cigarette.

CARBERY.

[_Handing her the box and giving her a light._] It's against all my
principles, you know.

MRS. CROWLEY.

What _is_ the use of principles except to give one an agreeable
sensation of wickedness when one doesn't act up to them?

[DICK _comes in as she speaks._

DICK.

My dear lady, you're as epigrammatic as a dramatist. Do you say such
things from choice or necessity?

LADY KELSEY.

_Dick!_

BOULGER.

Dick!

MRS. CROWLEY.

Mr. Lomas!

CARBERY.

Ah!

[_The four exclamations are simultaneous._

DICK.

This enthusiasm at my appearance is no less gratifying than unexpected.

LADY KELSEY.

I'm so glad you've come at last. Now we shall get at the truth.

BOULGER.

[_Impatiently._] Well?

DICK.

My dear people, what _are_ you talking about?

BOULGER.

Oh, don't be such an ass!

MRS. CROWLEY.

Good heavens, didn't you read the _Times_ this morning?

DICK.

I only came back from Paris to-night. Besides, I never read the papers
except in August.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Raising her eyebrows._] When there's nothing in them?

DICK.

Pardon me, I'm an eager student of the sea-serpent and the giant
gooseberry.

LADY KELSEY.

My dear Dick, it's too shocking. I wish I'd had the courage to write and
ask Mr. Mackenzie not to come. But since you both came back from Africa
a month ago he's been here nearly every day. And he's been so good and
kind to us, I couldn't treat him as though there was no doubt the story
was true.

BOULGER.

There can't be the least doubt about it. By George, I should like to
kick him.

DICK.

[_Dryly._] My dear chap, Alec is a hardy Scot and bigger than you, so I
shouldn't advise you to try.

BOULGER.

I was engaged to dine with him to-night, but I wired to say I had a
headache.

LADY KELSEY.

What will he think if he sees you here?

BOULGER.

He can think what he jolly well likes.

LADY KELSEY.

I hope he has the sense to stay away.

CARBERY.

I think you're pretty safe now, Lady Kelsey. It's growing late.

DICK.

Will some one kindly explain?

MRS. CROWLEY.

D'you mean to say you really don't know--seriously? After all, you were
with him.

LADY KELSEY.

My dear Dick, there are two columns of fiery denunciation in this
morning's _Times_.

[DICK _is a little startled, but at once collects himself_.

DICK.

Oh, that's only the reaction. That's nothing. Since he arrived in
Mombassa, after three years in the heart of Africa, he's made almost a
triumphal progress. Of course, it couldn't last. The reaction was bound
to come.

BOULGER.

[_Looking at him steadily._] The article is signed by a man named
Macinnery.

DICK.

[_Calmly._] Alec found Macinnery half starving at Mombassa, and took him
solely out of charity. But he was a worthless rascal, and he had to send
him back.

BOULGER.

He gives ample proof for every word he says.

DICK.

Whenever an explorer comes home, there's some one to tell nasty stories
about him. People forget that kid gloves are not much use in a tropical
forest, and grow very indignant when they hear that a man has used a
little brute force to make himself respected.

LADY KELSEY.

Oh, my dear Dick, it's much worse than that. First poor Lucy's father
died....

DICK.

You're not going to count that as an overwhelming misfortune? We were
unanimous in describing that gentleman's demise as an uncommonly happy
release.

LADY KELSEY.

But Lucy was heart-broken all the same. And when her life seemed to grow
a little more cheerful, came her brother's tragic death.

DICK.

[_Abruptly, to_ MRS. CROWLEY.] What is it exactly?

MRS. CROWLEY.

The long and short of it is that Mr. Mackenzie was the cause of George
Allerton's death.

DICK.

Lucy's brother was killed by the slave-traders.

BOULGER.

Mackenzie sent him into a confounded trap to save his own dirty skin.

LADY KELSEY.

And the worst of it is that I think Lucy is in love with Mr. Mackenzie.

[BOULGER _makes a slight movement, and for a moment there is an
uncomfortable pause_.

CARBERY.

I saw him this evening in Piccadilly, and I almost ran into his arms. It
was quite awkward.

DICK.

[_Frigidly._] Why?

CARBERY.

I don't think I want to shake the man's hand. He's nothing short of a
murderer.

BOULGER.

[_Savagely._] He's worse than that. He's ten times worse.

LADY KELSEY.

Well, for heaven's sake be polite to him if he comes to-night.

CARBERY.

I really couldn't bring myself to shake hands with him.

DICK.

[_Dryly._] Don't you think you'd better wait for evidence before you
condemn him?

BOULGER.

My dear fellow, the letter in the _Times_ is absolutely damning.
Interviewers went to him from the evening papers, and he refused to see
them.

DICK.

What does Lucy say of it? After all, she's the person most concerned.

LADY KELSEY.

She doesn't know. I took care that she shouldn't see the paper. I wanted
to give her this evening's enjoyment unalloyed.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Take care, here she is.

[LUCY _comes in_.

LADY KELSEY.

[_Smiling and reaching out her hand._] Well, darling?

LUCY.

[_Going to_ LADY KELSEY.] Are you growing very tired, my aunt?

LADY KELSEY.

I can rest myself for the time. I don't think any one else will come
now.

LUCY.

[_Gaily._] You faithless woman, have you forgotten the guest of the
evening?

LADY KELSEY.

Mr. Mackenzie?

LUCY.

[_Bending over her._] My dear, it was charming of you to hide the paper
from me this morning....

LADY KELSEY.

[_Startled._] Did you see the letter? I so wanted you not to till
to-morrow.

LUCY.

Mr. Mackenzie very rightly thought I should know at once what was said
about him and my brother. He sent me the paper himself this evening.

BOULGER.

Did he write to you?

LUCY.

No, he merely scribbled on a card: "I think you should read this."

BOULGER.

Well, I'm damned!

LADY KELSEY.

What did you think of the letter, Lucy?

LUCY.

[_Proudly._] I didn't believe it.

BOULGER.

[_Bitterly._] You must be blinded by your--friendship for Alec
Mackenzie. I never read anything more convincing.

LUCY.

I could hardly believe him guilty of such an odious crime if he
confessed it with his own lips.

BOULGER.

Of course, he won't do that.

DICK.

Did I ever tell you how I made acquaintance with Alec? In the
Atlantic--about three hundred miles from land.

MRS. CROWLEY.

What a perfectly ridiculous place for an introduction.

DICK.

I was a silly young fool in those days, and I habitually played the
giddy goat. In the course of which, I fell overboard and was proceeding
to drown when Alec jumped in after me. It was an incautious thing to do,
because he very nearly got drowned himself.

LUCY.

That's not the only heroic thing he's done.

DICK.

No, it's one of his hobbies to risk his life to save unnecessary and
useless people. But the funny thing is that ever since he saved mine,
he's been quite absurdly grateful. He seems to think I did him an
intentional service and fell into the water on purpose to give him a
chance of pulling me out.

LUCY.

[_With a long look at_ DICK.] It's very kind and good of you to have
told that story.

[_The_ BUTLER _comes in and announces_ ALEC MACKENZIE.

BUTLER.

Mr. Mackenzie.

ALEC.

[_Blandly._] Ah, I thought I should find you here, Lady Kelsey.

LADY KELSEY.

[_Shaking hands with him._] How d'you do? We've just been talking of
you.

ALEC.

Really?

LADY KELSEY.

It's so late, we were afraid you wouldn't come. I should have been
dreadfully disappointed.

ALEC.

It's very kind of you to say so. I've been at the Travellers', reading
various appreciations of my own character.

LADY KELSEY.

[_Somewhat embarrassed._] Oh, I heard there was something about you in
the papers.

ALEC.

There's a good deal. I really had no idea the world was so interested in
me.

LADY KELSEY.

It's charming of you to come to-night. I'm sure you hate dances!

ALEC.

Oh, no, they interest me enormously. I remember, one of the Kings of
Uganda gave a dance in my honour. Ten thousand warriors in war-paint. I
assure you it was most impressive.

DICK.

My dear fellow, if paint is the attraction you really need not go much
farther than Mayfair.

ALEC.

[_Pretending for the first time to notice_ BOULGER.] Ah, there's my
little friend Bobbie. I thought you had a headache?

LADY KELSEY.

[_Quickly._] I'm afraid Bobby is dreadfully dissipated. He's not looking
at all well.

ALEC.

[_Good-humouredly._] You shouldn't keep such late hours, Bobbie. At your
age one wants one's beauty sleep.

BOULGER.

It's very kind of you to take an interest in me. My headache has passed
off.

ALEC.

I'm very glad. What do you use--Phenacetin?

BOULGER.

It went away of its own accord--after dinner.

ALEC.

[_Smiling._] So you resolved to give the girls a treat by coming to Lady
Kelsey's dance? How nice of you not to disappoint them! [_He turns to_
LUCY _and holds out his hand. They look into one another's eyes. She
takes his hand._] I sent you a paper this evening.

LUCY.

It was very good of you.

[CARBERY _comes forward and offers his arm._

CARBERY.

I think this is my dance, Miss Allerton. May I take you in?

ALEC.

Carbery? I saw you in Piccadilly just now! You were darting about just
like a young gazelle. I had no idea you could be so active.

CARBERY.

I didn't see you.

ALEC.

I observed that you were deeply interested in the shop windows as I
passed. How are you?

[_He holds out his hand, and for a moment_ CARBERY _hesitates to take
it. But_ ALEC'S _steady gaze compels him._

CARBERY.

How d'you do?

ALEC.

[_With an amused smile._] So glad to see you again, old man.

[DICK _gives an audible chuckle, and_ CARBERY, _reddening, draws his
hand away angrily. He goes to_ LUCY _and offers his arm._

BOULGER.

[_To_ MRS. CROWLEY.] Shall I take you back?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Do!

LADY KESLEY.

Won't you come, Mr. Mackenzie?

ALEC.

If you don't mind I'll stay and smoke just one cigarette with Dick
Lomas. You know I'm not a dancing man.

LADY KELSEY.

Very well.

[_All go out except_ ALEC _and_ DICK.

DICK.

I suppose you know we were all beseeching Providence you'd have the
grace to stay away to-night?

ALEC.

[_With a smile._] I suspected it, I confess. I shouldn't have come only
I wanted to see Lucy. I've been in the country all day, and I knew
nothing about Macinnery's letter till I saw the placards at the station.

DICK.

Macinnery proposes to make things rather uncomfortable, I imagine.

ALEC.

[_With a smile._] I made a mistake, didn't I? I ought to have dropped
him in the river when I had no further use for him.

DICK.

What are you going to do?

ALEC.

It's not easy to clear myself at a dead man's expense. The earth covers
his crime and his sins and his weakness.

DICK.

D'you mean to say that you are going to sit still and let them throw mud
at you?

ALEC.

When George was dead I wrote to Lucy that he died like a brave man. I
can't now publish to the whole world that he was a coward and a rogue. I
can't rake up again the story of her father's crime.

DICK.

[_Impatiently._] Surely, that's absolutely quixotic.

ALEC.

No, it isn't. I tell you I can't do anything else. I'm bound hand and
foot. Lucy has talked to me of George's death, and the only thing that
has consoled her is the idea that in a manner he had redeemed his
father's good name. How can I rob her of that? She placed all her hopes
in George. How could she face the world with the knowledge that her
brother was rotten to the core, as rotten as her father.

DICK.

It seems awfully hard.

ALEC.

Besides, when all is said and done, the boy did die game. Don't you
think that should count for something? No, I tell you I can't give him
away now. I should never cease to reproach myself. I love Lucy far too
much to cause her such bitter pain.

DICK.

And if it loses you her love?

ALEC.

I think she can do without love better than without self-respect.

[LUCY _comes in with_ MRS. CROWLEY.

LUCY.

I've sent my partner away. I felt I must have a few words alone with
you.

DICK.

Shall I take Mrs. Crowley into a retired corner?

LUCY.

No, we have nothing to say that you can't hear. You and Nellie know that
we're engaged to be married. [_To_ ALEC.] I want you to dance with me.

ALEC.

It's very good of you.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Don't you think that's rather foolish, Lucy?

LUCY.

[_To_ ALEC.] I want to show them all that I don't believe that you're
guilty of an odious crime.

ALEC.

They've said horrible things about me?

LUCY.

Not to me. They wanted to hide it from me, but I knew they were talking.

ALEC.

You'll grow used to hearing shameful things said of me. I suppose I
shall grow used to it, too.

LUCY.

Oh, I hate them.

ALEC.

Ah, it's not that I mind. What torments me is that it was so easy to
despise their praise, and now I can't despise their blame.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Smiling._] I believe you have some glimmerings of human nature in you
after all.

LUCY.

When you came to-night, so calm and self-possessed, I admired you as I'd
never admired you before.

ALEC.

It's easy enough to command one's face. I learnt to do that in Africa
when often my life depended on my seeming to have no fear. But in my
heart ... I never knew that I could feel so bitter. And yet, after all,
it's only your good opinion that I care for.

LUCY.

I've trusted you implicitly from the first day I saw you.

ALEC.

Thank God for that! To-day is the first time I've wanted to be assured
that I was trusted. And yet I'm ashamed to want it.

LUCY.

Ah, don't be too hard upon yourself. You're so afraid of letting your
tenderness appear.

ALEC.

The only way to be strong is never to surrender to one's weakness.
Strength is merely a habit like everything else. I want you to be
strong, too. I want you never to doubt me whatever you may hear said.

LUCY.

I gave my brother into your hands, and told you that if he died a brave
man's death I could ask for no more.

ALEC.

I should tell you that I've made up my mind to make no answer to the
charges that are made against me.

[_There is a very short pause, while he looks at her steadily._

MRS. CROWLEY.

But why?

ALEC.

[_To_ LUCY.] I can give you my word of honour that I've done nothing
which I regret. I know that what I did was right with regard to George,
and if it were all to come again I would do exactly as I did before.

LUCY.

I think I can trust you.

ALEC.

I thought of you always, and everything I did was for your sake. Every
single act of mine during these four years in Africa has been done
because I loved you.

LUCY.

You must love me always, Alec, for now I have only you. [_He bends down
and kisses her hand._] Come!

[_He gives her his arm and they walk out._

MRS. CROWLEY.

I feel as if I should rather like to cry.

DICK.

Do you really? So do I.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Don't be so silly.

DICK.

By the way, you don't want to dance with me, do you?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Certainly not. You dance abominably.

DICK.

It's charming of you to say so. It puts me at my ease at once.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Come and sit on the sofa and talk seriously.

DICK.

Ah, you want to flirt with me, Mrs. Crowley.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Good heavens, what on earth makes you think that?

DICK.

It's what a woman always means when she asks you to talk sensibly.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I can't bear a man who thinks women are in love with him.

DICK.

Bless you, I don't think that. I only think they want to marry me.

MRS. CROWLEY.

That's equally detestable.

DICK.

Not at all. However old, ugly, and generally undesirable a man is,
he'll find a heap of charming girls who are willing to marry him.
Marriage is still the only decent means of livelihood for a really nice
girl.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But, my dear friend, if a woman really makes up her mind to marry a man,
nothing on earth can save him.

DICK.

Don't say that, you terrify me.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You need not be in the least alarmed, because I shall refuse you.

DICK.

Thanks, awfully. But all the same I don't think I'll risk a proposal.

MRS. CROWLEY.

My dear Mr. Lomas, your only safety is in immediate flight.

DICK.

Why?

MRS. CROWLEY.

It must be obvious to the meanest intelligence that you've been on the
verge of proposing to me for the last month.

DICK.

Oh, I assure you, you're quite mistaken.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Then I shan't come to the play with you to-morrow?

DICK.

But I've taken the seats, and I've ordered an exquisite dinner at the
Carlton.

MRS. CROWLEY.

What have you ordered?

DICK.

    Potage Bisque... [_She makes a little face._]
    Sole Normande... [_She shrugs her shoulders._]
    Wild Duck.

MRS. CROWLEY.

With an orange salad?

DICK.

Yes.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I don't positively dislike that.

DICK.

And I've ordered a soufflé with an ice in the middle of it.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I shan't come.

DICK.

I shouldn't have thought you kept very well abreast of dramatic art if
you insist on marrying every man who takes you to a theatre.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Demurely._] I was very nicely brought up.

DICK.

Of course, if you're going to make yourself systematically disagreeable
unless I marry you, I suppose I shall have to do it in self-defence.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I don't know if you have the least idea what you're talking about. I'm
sure I haven't!

DICK.

I was merely asking you in a rather well-turned phrase to name the day.
The lamb shall be ready for the slaughter!

MRS. CROWLEY.

Couldn't you infuse a little romance into it? You might begin by going
down on your bended knees.

DICK.

I assure you that's quite out of fashion. Lovers, nowadays, are much too
middle-aged, and their joints are creaky. Besides, it ruins the
trousers.

MRS. CROWLEY.

At all events, there can be no excuse for your not saying that you know
you're utterly unworthy of me.

DICK.

Wild horses wouldn't induce me to make a statement which is so remote
from the truth.

MRS. CROWLEY.

And, of course, you must threaten to commit suicide if I don't consent.

DICK.

Women are such sticklers for routine. They have no originality.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Very well, have it your own way. But I must have a proposal in due form.

DICK.

Only four words are needed. [_Counting them on his fingers._] Will you
marry me?

MRS. CROWLEY.

That is both clear and simple. I reply in one: No!

DICK.

[_As though he were not sure that he had heard correctly._] I beg your
pardon?

MRS. CROWLEY.

The answer is in the negative.

DICK.

You're joking. You're certainly joking.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I will be a sister to you.

DICK.

Do you mean to say you deliberately refuse me?

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Smiling._] I promised you I would.

DICK.

[_With much seriousness._] I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Puzzled._] The man's mad. The man's nothing short of a raving lunatic.

DICK.

I wanted to see if you were really attached to me. You have given me a
proof of esteem which I promise you I will never forget.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Laughing._] You're a perfect idiot, Mr. Lomas!

DICK.

It's one of my cherished convictions that a really nice woman is never
so cruel as to marry a man she cares for.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You're much too flippant to marry anybody, and you're perfectly odious
into the bargain.

[_She goes out._ DICK, _chuckling, lights a cigarette_. ALEC _comes in
and lies down lazily on the sofa_.

ALEC.

Why, Dick, what's the matter? You look as pleased as Punch.

DICK.

My dear fellow, I feel like the Terrible Turk. I've been wrestling, and
I thought I was going to have a fall. But by the display of considerable
agility I've managed to keep my legs.

ALEC.

What _do_ you mean?

DICK.

Nothing. It's merely the gaiety of forty-two.

[BOULGER _comes into the room, followed immediately by_ MALLINS _and_
CARBERY. _He starts slightly when he sees_ ALEC, _but then goes over to
the table on which is the whiskey_.

MALLINS.

May we smoke here, Bobby?

BOULGER.

Certainly. Dick insisted that this room should be particularly reserved
for that purpose.

[_The_ BUTLER _comes in with a small silver salver, and takes up one or
two dirty glasses_.

DICK.

Lady Kelsey is the most admirable of all hostesses.

ALEC.

[_Taking a cigarette from his case._] Give me a match, Bobby, there's a
good boy. [BOULGER, _with his back turned to_ ALEC, _takes no notice. He
pours himself out some whiskey._ ALEC _smiles slightly._] Bobby, throw
me over the matches!

BOULGER.

[_With his back still turned._] Miller!

BUTLER.

Yes, sir?

BOULGER.

Mr. Mackenzie is asking for something.

BUTLER.

Yes, sir!

ALEC.

You might give me a light, will you?

BUTLER.

Yes, sir!

[_The_ BUTLER _takes the matches to_ ALEC, _who lights his cigarette._

ALEC.

Thank you. [_Complete silence is preserved till the_ BUTLER _leaves the
room._] I perceive, Bobbie, that during my absence you have not added
good manners to your other accomplishments.

BOULGER.

If you want things, you can ask the servants for them.

ALEC.

[_Good-humouredly._] Don't be foolish, Bobbie!

BOULGER.

Would you be so kind as to remember that my name is Boulger?

ALEC.

[_Smiling._] Perhaps you would like me to call you Sir Robert?

BOULGER.

I should prefer that you would call me nothing at all. I have absolutely
no wish to know you.

ALEC.

Which shows that your taste is as bad as your breeding.

BOULGER.

[_Angrily, walking up to him._] By God, I'll knock you down!

ALEC.

You could hardly do that when I'm already lying on my back.

BOULGER.

Look here, Mackenzie, I'm not going to let you play the fool with me. I
want to know what answer you have to make to all these charges that
have been brought against you.

ALEC.

Might I suggest that only Miss Allerton has the least right to receive
answers to her questions? And she hasn't questioned me.

BOULGER.

I've given up trying to understand her attitude. If I were she, it would
make me sick with horror to look at you. Since this morning you've
rested under a direct accusation of causing George's death, and you've
said nothing in self-defence.

ALEC.

Nothing.

BOULGER.

You've been given an opportunity to explain yourself, and you haven't
taken it.

ALEC.

Quite true.

BOULGER.

Are you not going to deny the charge?

ALEC.

I'm not.

BOULGER.

Then I can only draw one conclusion. There appears to be no means of
bringing you to justice, but at least I can refuse to know you.

ALEC.

All is over between us. And shall I return your letters and your
photograph?

BOULGER.

I'm not joking.

ALEC.

It's singular that though I'm Scotch and you are English I should be
able to see how ridiculous you are, while you're quite blind to your own
absurdity.

DICK.

Come, Alec! Remember he's only a boy.

BOULGER.

[_To_ DICK LOMAS.] I'm perfectly able to look after myself, and I'll
thank you not to interfere. [_To_ ALEC.] If Lucy's so indifferent to her
brother's death that she's willing to keep up with you, that's her own
affair ...

DICK.

[_Interrupting._] Come, Bobbie, don't make a scene.

BOULGER.

[_Furiously._] Leave me alone, confound you!

ALEC.

Do you think this is quite the place for an altercation? Wouldn't you
gain more notoriety if you attacked me in my club or at Church parade on
Sunday?

BOULGER.

It's mere shameless impudence that you should come here to-night. You're
using these wretched women as a shield, because you know that as long as
Lucy sticks to you there are people who won't believe the story.

ALEC.

I came for the same reason as yourself, dear boy. Because I was invited.

DICK.

Now then, Bobbie, shut up!

BOULGER.

I shan't shut up. The man's got no right to force himself here.

DICK.

Remember that you're Lady Kelsey's nephew.

BOULGER.

I didn't ask him. D'you think I'd have come if I knew he was going to be
here? He's acknowledged that he has no defence.

ALEC.

Pardon me, I acknowledge nothing and deny nothing.

BOULGER.

That won't do for me. I want the truth, and I'm going to get it. I've
got a right to know.

ALEC.

[_Beginning to lose his temper._] Don't make an ass of yourself, Bobby.

BOULGER.

By God, I'll make you answer!

[_As he says this he goes up to_ ALEC _furiously, but_ ALEC. _with a
twist of his arm, hurls him back._

ALEC.

I could break your back, you silly boy.

[_With a cry of anger_ BOULGER _is about to spring at_ ALEC _when_ DICK
_gets in the way._

DICK.

Now then, no scenes. And you'll only get the worst of it, Bobby. Alec
could just crumple you up. Take him away, Mallins. Don't stand there
like a stuffed owl, Carbery.

BOULGER.

Let me alone, you fool!

MALLINS.

Come along, old chap.

BOULGER.

[_To_ ALEC.] You damned skunk!

DICK.

Now then, be off with you. Don't make a silly ass of yourself.

[BOULGER, MALLINS _and_ CARBERY _go out._

DICK.

Poor Lady Kelsey! To-morrow half London will be saying that you and
Bobby had a stand-up fight in her drawing-room.

ALEC.

[_Furiously._] The damned cubs!

DICK.

The position is growing confoundedly awkward!

ALEC.

They lick my boots till I loathe them, and then they turn against me
like a pack of curs. Oh, I despise them--these silly boys who stay at
home wallowing in their ease while men work. Thank God, I've done with
them all now. They think one can fight one's way through Africa as
easily as one walks down Piccadilly. They think one goes through
hardships and dangers, illness and starvation, to be the lion of a
dinner-party in Mayfair.

DICK.

My dear Alec, keep calm.

ALEC.

[_With a visible effort containing himself completely, with studied
nonchalance._] D'you think that I look wildly excited?

DICK.

[_Ironically._] I don't think butter would melt in your mouth.

[DICK _and_ ALEC _go out into the garden. In a moment_ BOULGER _comes in
with_ LADY KELSEY.

BOULGER.

Thank heaven, there's nobody here.

LADY KELSEY.

I think you're dreadfully foolish, Bobby. You know how Lucy resents any
interference with her actions.

BOULGER.

Won't you sit down? You must be dreadfully tired.

LADY KELSEY.

Why won't you wait till to-morrow?

BOULGER.

I feel that it ought to be settled at once.

[LUCY _appears_.

LUCY.

Did you send for me, my aunt? Mr. Carbery said you wanted to speak to me
here.

LADY KELSEY.

Yes, I gave him that message.

BOULGER.

I asked Aunt Alice to beg you to come here. I was afraid you wouldn't if
I asked you.

LUCY.

[_Lightly._] What nonsense! I'm always delighted to see you.

BOULGER.

I wanted to speak to you about something, and I thought Aunt Alice
should be present.

LUCY.

Is it so important that it can't wait till to-morrow?

BOULGER.

I venture to think it's very important.

LUCY.

[_Smiling._] I'm all attention.

[_He hesitates for a moment, then braces himself to the ordeal._

BOULGER.

I've told you often, Lucy, that I've been in love with you for as many
years as I can remember.

LUCY.

Surely you've not snatched me from the unwilling arm of my partner in
order to make me a proposal of marriage?

BOULGER.

I'm perfectly serious, Lucy.

LUCY.

[_Smiling._] I assure you it doesn't suit you at all.

BOULGER.

The other day I asked you again to marry me, just before Alec Mackenzie
came back.

LUCY.

It was very charming of you. You mustn't think that because I laugh at
you a little I'm not grateful for your affection.

BOULGER.

Except for that letter in this morning's _Times_, I should never have
dared to say anything to you again. But that changes everything.

LUCY.

I don't understand what you mean.

BOULGER.

[_After a little pause._] I ask you again if you'll be my wife? When
Alec Mackenzie came back I understood why you were so indifferent to me,
but you can't marry him now.

LUCY.

You have no right to talk to me like this.

BOULGER.

I'm the only man who's related to you at all, and I love you with my
whole soul.

LADY KELSEY.

I think you should listen to him, Lucy. I'm growing old, and soon you'll
be quite alone in the world.

BOULGER.

I don't ask you to care for me. I only want to serve you.

LUCY.

I can only repeat that I'm very grateful to you. I can never marry you.

BOULGER.

[_Beginning to lose his temper again._] Are you going to continue to
know Mackenzie? If you'll take the advice of any unprejudiced person
about that letter, you'll find that he'll say the same as I. There can
be no shadow of doubt that Mackenzie is guilty of a monstrous crime.

LUCY.

I don't care what the evidence is. I know he can't have done a shameful
thing.

BOULGER.

But have you forgotten that it's your own brother he killed? The whole
country is up in arms against him, and you are quite indifferent.

LUCY.

[_Much moved._] Oh, Bobbie, how can you be so cruel?

BOULGER.

If you ever really cared for George at all, you must wish to punish the
man who caused his death.

LUCY.

Oh, why d'you torment me? I tell you that he isn't guilty. It's because
I'm convinced of that ...

BOULGER.

[_Interrupting._] But have you asked him?

LUCY.

No.

BOULGER.

He might give you the truth.

LUCY.

I couldn't do that.

BOULGER.

Why not?

LADY KELSEY.

It's very strange that he should insist on this silence.

LUCY.

Do you believe that story too?

LADY KELSEY.

I don't know what to believe. It's so extraordinary. If the man's
innocent, why doesn't he speak?

LUCY.

He knows I trust him. I couldn't cause him the great pain of asking him
questions.

BOULGER.

Are you afraid he couldn't answer them?

LUCY.

No, no, no!

BOULGER.

Well, just try. After all, you owe as much as that to the memory of
George.

LADY KELSEY.

I think it's very unreasonable, Lucy. He knows we're his friends. He can
count on our discretion.

LUCY.

I believe in him implicitly. I believe in him with all the strength I've
got.

BOULGER.

Then, surely it can make no difference if you ask him. There can be no
reason for him not to trust you.

LUCY.

Oh, why don't you leave me alone?

BOULGER.

Ask him point blank. If he refuses to answer you ...

LUCY.

[_Hastily._] It would mean nothing. Why should he answer? I believe in
him absolutely. I think he's the greatest and most honourable man I've
ever known. I care more for his little finger than for the whole world.
I love him with all my heart. And that's why he can't be guilty of this
horrible crime. Because I've loved him for years, and he's known it. And
he loves me. And he's loved me always.

[ALEC _and_ DICK _stroll in from the garden_.

LUCY.

Alec, Alec, I want you! Thank God, you've come!

ALEC.

[_Going to her quickly._] What is it?

LUCY.

Alec, you must tell them now about you and me.

[ALEC _looks at_ LUCY _for a moment_, _and then turns to_ LADY KELSEY.

ALEC.

I think perhaps we ought to have told you before, Lady Kelsey. But we
wanted to enjoy our little secret by ourselves.

LADY KELSEY.

I'm afraid to understand.

ALEC.

I have asked Lucy to be my wife, and she....

LUCY.

[_Interrupting him._] She said she would be honoured and deeply
grateful.

LADY KELSEY.

[_Greatly embarrassed._] I hardly know what to say.... How long have you
been engaged?

LUCY.

Won't you tell me you're pleased, my aunt? I know you want me to be
happy.

LADY KELSEY.

Of course, I want you to be happy. But I--I....

            [BOULGER _turns on his heel and walks out_.

DICK.

[_Offering his arm to_ LADY KELSEY.] Wouldn't you like to go back to the
drawing-room?

            [_She allows herself to be led away, helplessly._
            ALEC _and_ LUCY _are left alone_.

ALEC.

[_With a smile._] I don't think our announcement has been received with
enthusiasm.

LUCY.

You're not angry with me, ALEC?

ALEC.

Of course not. Everything you do is right and charming.

LUCY.

I shall really think I'm a wonderful person if I've taught you to pay
compliments.

ALEC.

I'm so glad to be alone with you. Now, at all events, people will have
the sense to leave us by ourselves.

LUCY.

[_Passionately._] I want your love. I want your love so badly.

ALEC.

[_Taking her in his arms._] My darling!

LUCY.

[_Clinging to him._] The moment I'm with you I feel so confident and
happy.

ALEC.

Only when you're with me? [LUCY _looks at him for an instant. He repeats
the question in a caressing voice._] Only when you're with me, darling?

LUCY.

Why d'you think I made you tell them we were engaged?

ALEC.

You took me by surprise.

LUCY.

I had to tell them. I couldn't keep it back. They made me suffer so
dreadfully.

ALEC.

The brutes! Tell me what they did.

LUCY.

Oh, they said horrible things about you.

ALEC.

No more than that?

LUCY.

It's nothing to you. But to me.... Oh, you don't know what agony I
endure. I'm such a coward! I thought I was so much braver.

ALEC.

I don't understand you.

LUCY.

I wanted to burn my ships behind me. I wanted to reassure myself. [ALEC
_makes a slight movement away from her, but she holds him back
anxiously_.] Forgive me, dear. You don't know how terrible it is. I
stand so dreadfully alone. Every one is convinced that you caused poor
George's death--every one but me. [ALEC _looks at her gravely, without
speaking_.] I try to put the thoughts out of my head, but I can't--I
can't. That letter in the _Times_ looks so dreadfully true. Don't you
see what I mean? The uncertainty is more than I can bear. At the first
moment I felt so absolutely sure of you.

ALEC.

And now you don't?

LUCY.

I trust you just as much as ever. I know it's impossible that you
should have done a shameful thing. But there it stands in black and
white, and you have nothing to say in answer.

ALEC.

I know it's very difficult. That is why I asked you to believe in me.

LUCY.

I do, Alec--with all my soul. But have mercy on me. I'm not so strong as
I thought. It's easy for you to stand alone. You're iron, but I'm a weak
woman.

ALEC.

Oh, no, you're not like other women. I was proud of your unconquerable
spirit.

LUCY.

It was easy to be brave where my father was concerned, and George, but
you're the man I love, and it's so different. I don't know any more how
to stand alone.

            [ALEC _looks at her, thinking, but does not reply
            for a moment_.

ALEC.

Do you remember that only an hour ago I told you that I'd done nothing
which I wouldn't do again? I gave you my word of honour that I could
reproach myself for nothing.

LUCY.

Oh, I know. I'm so utterly ashamed of myself. But I can't bear the
doubt.

ALEC.

Doubt! You've said the word at last.

LUCY.

I tell every one that I don't believe a word of these horrible charges,
and I repeat to myself: I'm certain, I'm certain that he's innocent. And
yet at the bottom of my heart there's a doubt, and I can't crush it.

ALEC.

Is that why you told them we were engaged to be married?

LUCY.

I wanted to kill that gnawing pain of suspicion. I thought if I stood up
before them and cried out that my trust in you was so great, I was
willing to marry you notwithstanding everything, I should at least have
peace in my own heart.

            [ALEC _walks up and down. Then he stops in
            front of_ LUCY.

ALEC.

What is it precisely you want me to do?

LUCY.

I want you to have mercy on me because I love you. Don't tell the world
if you choose not to, but tell me the truth. I know you're incapable of
lying. If I only have it from your own lips I shall believe, I want to
be certain, certain!

ALEC.

Don't you realise that I would never have asked you to marry me if my
conscience hadn't been quite clear? Don't you realise that the reasons I
have for holding my tongue must be of overwhelming strength?

LUCY.

But I am going to be your wife, and I love you, and you love me.

ALEC.

I implore you not to insist, Lucy. Let us remember only that the past is
gone and we love one another. It's impossible for me to tell you
anything.

LUCY.

Oh, but you must now. If any part of the story is true, you must give me
a chance of judging for myself.

ALEC.

I'm very sorry, I can't.

LUCY.

But you'll kill my love for you. The doubt which lurked at the bottom of
my soul now fills me. How can you let me suffer such maddening torture?

ALEC.

I thought you trusted me.

LUCY.

I'll be satisfied if you'll only tell me one thing: only tell me that
when you sent George on that expedition you didn't know that he'd be
killed. [ALEC _looks at her steadily_.] Only say that, Alec. Say that's
not true, and I'll believe you.

ALEC.

[_Very quietly._] But it is true.

            [LUCY _does not answer, but stares at him with
            terrified eyes_.

LUCY.

Oh, I don't understand. Oh, my dearest, don't treat me as a child. Have
mercy on me! You must be serious now. It's a matter of life and death to
both of us.

ALEC.

I'm perfectly serious.

LUCY.

You knew that you were sending George into a death-trap? You knew he
couldn't escape alive?

ALEC.

Except by a miracle.

LUCY.

And you don't believe in miracles?

ALEC.

No.

LUCY.

Oh, it can't be true. Oh, Alec, Alec, Alec! Oh, what shall I do?

ALEC.

I tell you that whatever I did was inevitable.

LUCY.

Then if that's true, the rest must be true also. Oh, it's awful. I can't
realise it. Haven't you anything to say at all?

ALEC.

[_In a low voice._] Only that I've loved you always with all my soul.

LUCY.

You knew how much I loved my brother. You knew how much it meant to me
that he should live to wipe out my father's dishonour. All the future
was centred on him, and you sacrificed him.

ALEC.

[_Hesitatingly._] I think I might tell you this. He had committed a
grave error of judgment. We were entrapped by the Arabs, and our only
chance of escape entailed the almost certain death of one of us.

            [_An inkling of the truth seizes_ LUCY, _and her
            face is suddenly distorted with horror. She
            goes up to him impulsively. Her voice
            trembles with emotion._

LUCY.

Alec, Alec, he didn't do something--unworthy? You're not trying to
shield him?

ALEC.

[_Hoarsely._] No, no, no!

LUCY.

[_With a gasp of relief, almost to herself._] Thank God! I couldn't have
borne that. [_To_ ALEC, _hopelessly_.] Then I don't understand.

ALEC.

It was not unjust that he should suffer for the catastrophe which he had
brought about.

LUCY.

At those times one doesn't think of justice. He was so young, so frank.
Wouldn't it have been nobler to give your life for his?

ALEC.

Oh, my dear, you don't know how easy it is to give one's life. How
little you know me! Do you think I should have hesitated if my death had
been sufficient to solve the difficulty? I had my work to do. I was
bound by solemn treaties to the surrounding tribes. It would have been
cowardly for me to die. I tell you, my death would have meant the awful
death of every man in my party.

LUCY.

I can only see one thing, that you took George, George of all others.

ALEC.

I knew at the time that what I did might cost me your love, and though
you won't believe this, I did it for your sake.

            [_At this moment_ MRS. CROWLEY _enters with_
            SIR ROBERT BOULGER. _She has a cloak on._

MRS. CROWLEY.

I was just coming to say good-night. Bobby is going to drive me home.
[_She suddenly notices_ LUCY'S _agitation_.] What on earth's the matter?

            [LADY KELSEY _and_ DICK LOMAS _come in_. LADY
            KELSEY _looks at_ LUCY _and then goes up to
            her impulsively_.

LADY KELSEY.

Lucy, Lucy!

LUCY.

[_Brokenly._] I'm no longer engaged to Mr. Mackenzie. He can't deny that
what is said about him is true.

            [_They look at him in astonishment, but he makes
            no movement._

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_To_ ALEC.] Haven't you anything to say at all? You must have some
explanation to offer?

ALEC.

No, I have none whatever.

DICK.

Alec, old man, have you realised all that this means?

ALEC.

Quite. I see now that it was inevitable.

LUCY.

[_With a sudden burst of furious anger._] You killed him! You killed him
as surely as if you'd strangled him with your own hands.

            [ROBERT BOULGER _goes to the door and flings
            it open_. ALEC _gives_ LUCY _a look, then
            slightly shrugs his shoulders. He walks
            out without a word. The moment he has
            gone_ LUCY _sinks down and bursts into
            passionate tears_.


END OF THE THIRD ACT.



THE FOURTH ACT


     SCENE.--_A library in the house of_ DICK LOMAS _in Portman Square_.

     DICK _and his_ VALET. DICK _is putting flowers into a vase_.


DICK.

Has Mr. Mackenzie come in?

CHARLES.

Yes, sir. He's gone to his room.

DICK.

I expect Mrs. Crowley and Miss Allerton to tea. If any one else comes
I'm not at home.

CHARLES.

Very well, sir.

DICK.

And if a caller should ask at what time I'm expected back, you haven't
the least idea.

CHARLES.

Very well, sir.

DICK.

We shall want breakfast at eight to-morrow. I'm going down to
Southampton to see Mr. Mackenzie off. But I shall be home to dinner. How
about those cases in the hall?

CHARLES.

Mr. Mackenzie said they were to be sent for this afternoon. They're only
labelled Zanzibar. Is that sufficient, sir?

DICK.

Oh, I suppose so. Mr. Mackenzie will have given the shippers all
directions. You'd better bring the tea at once. Mrs. Crowley is coming
at four.

CHARLES.

Very well, sir.

            [_He goes out._ DICK _continues to arrange the
            flowers, than goes to the window and looks
            out. He comes back. The door is opened by_
            CHARLES, _who announces_ MRS. CROWLEY.

CHARLES.

Mrs. Crowley.

DICK.

[_Going towards her eagerly and taking both her hands._] Best of women!

MRS. CROWLEY.

You seem quite glad to see me?

DICK.

I am. But where is Lucy?

MRS. CROWLEY.

She's coming later.... I don't know why you should squeeze my hands in
this pointed manner.

DICK.

What an age it is since I saw you!

MRS. CROWLEY.

If you bury yourself in Scotland all the summer, you can't expect to see
people who go to Homburg and the Italian lakes.

DICK.

Heavens, how you cultivate respectability!

MRS. CROWLEY.

It's a sensitive plant whose vagaries one has to humour.

DICK.

Aren't you delighted to be back in town?

MRS. CROWLEY.

London's the most charming place in the world to get away from and to
come back to. Now tell me all you've been doing, if I can hear it
without blushing too furiously.

DICK.

My behaviour would have done credit to a clergyman's only daughter. I
dragged Alec off to Scotland after that horrible scene at Lady Kelsey's,
and we played golf.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Was he very wretched, poor thing?

DICK.

He didn't say a word. I wanted to comfort him, but he never gave me a
chance. He never mentioned Lucy's name.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Did he seem unhappy?

DICK.

No. He was just the same as ever, impassive and collected.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Really he's inhuman.

DICK.

He's an anomaly in this juvenile century. He's an ancient Roman who buys
his clothes in Savile Row. An eagle caged with a colony of canaries.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Then he's very much in the way in England, and it's much better for him
that he should go back to Africa.

DICK.

This time to-morrow he'll be half-way down the channel.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I'm really beginning to think you're a perfect angel, Mr. Lomas.

DICK.

Don't say that, it makes me feel so middle-aged. I'd much sooner be a
young sinner than an elderly cherub.

MRS. CROWLEY.

It was sweet of you to look after him through the summer and then insist
on his staying here till he went away. How long is he going for this
time?

DICK.

Heaven knows! Perhaps for ever.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Have you told him that Lucy is coming?

DICK.

No. I thought that was a pleasing piece of information which I'd leave
you to impart.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Thanks!

DICK.

She's only coming to indulge a truly feminine passion for making scenes,
and she's made Alec quite wretched enough already. Why doesn't she marry
Robert Boulger?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Why should she?

DICK.

Half the women I know merely married their husbands to spite somebody
else. It appears to be one of the commonest causes of matrimony.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_With a quizzical look at him._] Talking of which, what are you going
to do when Mr. Mackenzie is gone?

DICK.

Talking of the weather and the crops, I propose to go to Spain.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Opening her eyes wide._] How very extraordinary! I thought of going
there, too.

DICK.

Then, without a moment's hesitation, I shall go to Norway.

MRS. CROWLEY.

It'll be dreadfully cold.

DICK.

Dreadfully. But I shall be supported by the consciousness of having done
my duty.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You don't think there would be room for both of us in Spain?

DICK.

I'm convinced there wouldn't. We should always be running against one
another, and you'd insist on my looking out all your trains in
Bradshaw.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I hope you remember that you asked me to tea to-day?

DICK.

Pardon me, you asked yourself. I keep the letter next to my heart and
put it under my pillow every night.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You fibber! Besides, if I did, it was only on Lucy's account.

DICK.

That, I venture to think, is neither polite nor accurate.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I don't think I should so utterly detest you, if you hadn't such a good
opinion of yourself.

DICK.

You forget that I vowed on the head of my maternal grandmother never to
speak to you again.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Oh, I'm always doing that. I tell my maid that time she does my hair
badly.

DICK.

You trifled with the tenderest affection of an innocent and
unsophisticated old bachelor.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Is that you by any chance?

DICK.

Of course, it's me. D'you think I was talking of the man in the moon?

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Looking at him critically._] With the light behind, you might still
pass for thirty-five.

DICK.

I've given up youth and its vanities. I no longer pluck out my white
hairs.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Then how on earth do you occupy your leisure?

DICK.

For the last three months I've been laboriously piecing together the
fragments of a broken heart.

MRS. CROWLEY.

If you hadn't been so certain that I was going to accept you, I should
never have refused. I couldn't resist the temptation of saying "No" just
to see how you took it.

DICK.

I flatter myself that I took it very well.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You didn't. You showed an entire lack of humour. You might have known
that a nice woman doesn't marry a man the first time he asks her. It's
making oneself too cheap. It was very silly of you to go off to Scotland
as if you didn't care.... How was I to know that you meant to wait three
months before asking me again?

DICK.

I haven't the least intention of asking you again.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Then why in heaven's name did you invite me to tea?

DICK.

May I respectfully remind you, first, that you invited yourself ...

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Interrupting._] You're so irrelevant.

DICK.

And, secondly, that an invitation to tea is not necessarily accompanied
by a proposal of marriage.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I'm afraid you're lamentably ignorant of the usages of good society.

DICK.

I assure you it's not done in the best circles.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_With a little pout._] I shall be very cross with you in a minute.

DICK.

Why?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Because you're not behaving at all prettily.

DICK.

D'you know what I'd do if I were you? Propose to me.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Oh, I couldn't do anything so immodest.

DICK.

I have registered a vow that I will never offer my hand and heart to any
woman again.

MRS. CROWLEY.

On the head of your maternal grandmother?

DICK.

Oh no, far more serious than that. On the grave of my maiden aunt, who
left me all my money.

MRS. CROWLEY.

What will you say if I do?

DICK.

That depends entirely on how you do it. I may remind you, however, that
first you go down on your bended knees.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Oh, I waived that with you.

DICK.

And then you confess you're unworthy of me.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Mr. Lomas, I am a widow. I am twenty-nine and extremely eligible. My
maid is a treasure. My dressmaker is charming. I am clever enough to
laugh at your jokes, and not so learned as to know where they come from.

DICK.

Really you're very long-winded. I said it all in four words.

MRS. CROWLEY.

So could I if I might write it down.

DICK.

You must say it.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But what I'm trying to make you understand is that I don't want to marry
you a bit. You're just the sort of man who'll beat his wife regularly
every Saturday night.... You will say yes if I ask you, won't you?

DICK.

I've never been able to refuse a woman anything.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I have no doubt you will after six months of holy matrimony.

DICK.

I never saw any one make such a fuss about so insignificant a detail as
a proposal of marriage.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Dick. [_She stretches out her hands, smiling, and he takes her in his
arms._] You really are a detestable person.

DICK.

[_With a smile, taking a ring from his pocket._] I bought an engagement
ring yesterday on the off chance of its being useful.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Then you meant to ask me all the time?

DICK.

Of course I did, you silly.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Oh, I wish I had known that before. I'd have refused you again.

DICK.

You absurd creature.

            [_He kisses her._

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Trying to release herself._] There's somebody coming.

DICK.

It's only Alec.

            [ALEC _comes in_.

ALEC.

Hulloa!

DICK.

Alec, we've made friends, Mrs. Crowley and I.

ALEC.

It certainly looks very much like it.

DICK.

The fact is, I've asked her to marry me, and she....

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Interrupting, with a smile._] After much pressure--

DICK.

Has consented.

ALEC.

I'm so glad. I heartily congratulate you both. I was rather unhappy at
leaving Dick, Mrs. Crowley. But now I leave him in your hands, I'm
perfectly content. He's the dearest, kindest old chap I've ever known.

DICK.

Shut up, Alec! Don't play the heavy father, or we shall burst into
tears.

ALEC.

He'll be an admirable husband because he's an admirable friend.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I know he will. And I'm only prevented from saying all I think of him
and how much I love him, by the fear that he'll become perfectly
unmanageable.

DICK.

Spare me these chaste blushes which mantle my youthful brow. Will you
pour out the tea ... Nellie?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Yes ... Dick.

            [_She sits down at the tea-table and_ DICK _makes
            himself comfortable in an arm-chair by
            her side_.

ALEC.

Well, I'm thankful to say that everything's packed and ready.

MRS. CROWLEY.

I wish you'd stay for our wedding.

DICK.

Do. You can go just as well by the next boat.

ALEC.

I'm afraid that everything is settled now. I've given instructions at
Zanzibar to collect bearers, and I must arrive as quickly as I can.

DICK.

I wish to goodness you'd give up these horrible explorations.

ALEC.

But they're the very breath of my life. You don't know the exhilaration
of the daily dangers--the joy of treading where only the wild beasts
have trodden before. Oh, already I can hardly bear my impatience when I
think of the boundless country and the enchanting freedom. Here one
grows so small, so despicable, but in Africa everything is built to a
nobler standard. There a man is really a man; there one knows what are
will and strength and courage. Oh, you don't know what it is to stand on
the edge of some great plain and breathe the pure keen air after the
terrors of the forest. Then at last you know what freedom is.

DICK.

The boundless plain of Hyde Park is enough for me, and the aspect of
Piccadilly on a fine day in June gives me quite as many emotions as I
want.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But what will you gain by it all, now that your work in East Africa is
over, by all the dangers and the hardships?

ALEC.

Nothing. I want to gain nothing. Perhaps I shall discover some new
species of antelope or some unknown plant. Perhaps I shall find some new
waterway. That is all the reward I want. I love the sense of power and
mastery. What do you think I care for the tinsel rewards of kings and
peoples?

DICK.

I always said you were melodramatic. I never heard anything so
transpontine.

MRS. CROWLEY.

And the end of it, what will be the end?

ALEC.

The end is death in some fever-stricken swamp, obscurely, worn out by
exposure and ague and starvation. And the bearers will seize my gun and
my clothes and leave me to the jackals.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Don't. It's too horrible.

ALEC.

Why, what does it matter? I shall die standing up. I shall go the last
journey as I have gone every other.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Without fear?

DICK.

For all the world like the wicked baronet: Once aboard the lugger and
the girl is mine!

MRS. CROWLEY.

Don't you want men to remember you?

ALEC.

Perhaps they will. Perhaps in a hundred years or so, in some flourishing
town where I discovered nothing but wilderness, they will commission a
second-rate sculptor to make a fancy statue of me. And I shall stand in
front of the Stock Exchange, a convenient perch for birds, to look
eternally upon the various shabby deeds of human kind.

            [_During this speech_ MRS. CROWLEY _makes a sign
            to_ DICK, _who walks slowly away and goes
            out_.

MRS. CROWLEY.

And is that really everything? I can't help thinking that at the bottom
of your heart is something that you've never told to a living soul.

            [_He gives her a long look, and then after a
            moment's thought breaks into a little smile._

ALEC.

Why do you want to know so much?

MRS. CROWLEY.

Tell me.

ALEC.

I daresay I shall never see you again. Perhaps it doesn't much matter
what I say to you. You'll think me very silly, but I'm afraid I'm
rather--patriotic. It's only we who live away from England who really
love it. I'm so proud of my country, and I wanted so much to do
something for it. Often in Africa I've thought of this dear England, and
longed not to die till I had done my work. Behind all the soldiers and
the statesmen whose fame is imperishable, there is a long line of men
who've built up the Empire piece by piece. Their names are forgotten,
and only students know their history, but each one of them gave a
province to his country. And I, too, have my place among them. For five
years I toiled night and day, and at the end of it was able to hand over
to the Commissioners a broad tract of land, rich and fertile. After my
death England will forget my faults and my mistakes. I care nothing for
the flouts and gibes with which she has repaid all my pain, for I have
added another fair jewel to her crown. I don't want rewards. I only want
the honour of serving this dear land of ours.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Why is it, when you're so nice really, that you do all you can to make
people think you utterly horrid?

ALEC.

Don't laugh at me because you've found out that at heart I'm nothing
more than a sentimental old woman.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Putting her hand on his arm._] What would you do if Lucy came here
to-day?

            [ALEC _starts, looks at her sharply, then answers
            with deliberation_.

ALEC.

I have always lived in polite society. I should never dream of outraging
its conventions. If Miss Allerton happened to come, you may be sure I
should be scrupulously polite.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Is that all? Lucy has suffered very much.

ALEC.

And do you suppose I've not suffered? Because I don't whine my misery to
all and sundry, d'you think I don't care? I'm not the man to fall in and
out of love with every pretty face I meet. All my life I've kept an
ideal before my eyes. Oh, you don't know what it meant to me to fall in
love. I felt that I had lived all my life in a prison, and at last Lucy
came and took me by the hand and led me out. And for the first time I
breathed the free air of heaven. Oh God! how I've suffered for it! Why
should it have come to me? Oh, if you knew my agony and the torture!

            [_He hides his face, trying to master his emotion._
            MRS. CROWLEY _goes to him and puts her
            hand on his shoulder_.

MRS. CROWLEY.

Mr. Mackenzie.

ALEC.

[_Springing up._] Go away. Don't look at me. How can you stand there and
watch my weakness? Oh God, give me strength.... My love was the last
human weakness I had. It was right that I should drink that bitter cup.
And I've drunk its very dregs. I should have known that I wasn't meant
for happiness and a life of ease. I have other work to do in the world.
And now that I have overcome this last temptation, I am ready to do it.

MRS. CROWLEY.

But haven't you any pity for yourself, haven't you any thought for Lucy?

ALEC.

Must I tell you, too, that everything I did was for Lucy's sake? And
still I love her with all my heart and soul....

DICK _comes in_.

DICK.

Here is Lucy!

            [CHARLES _comes in and announces_ LUCY.

CHARLES.

Miss Allerton!

            [_She enters, and_ DICK, _anxious that the meeting
            shall not be more awkward than need be,
            goes up to her very cordially_.

DICK.

Ah, my dear Lucy. So glad you were able to come.

LUCY.

[_Giving her hand to_ DICK, _but looking at_ ALEC.] How d'you do?

ALEC.

How d'you do? [_He forces himself to talk._] How is Lady Kelsey?

LUCY.

She's much better, thanks. We've been to Spa, you know, for her health.

ALEC.

Somebody told me you'd gone abroad. Was it you, Dick? Dick is an
admirable person, a sort of gazetteer for polite society.

DICK.

Won't you have some tea, Lucy?

LUCY.

No, thanks!

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_Trying on her side also to make conversation._] We shall miss you
dreadfully when you're gone, Mr. Mackenzie.

DICK.

[_Cheerfully._] Not a bit of it.

ALEC.

[_Smiling._] London is an excellent place for showing one of how little
importance one is in the world. One makes a certain figure, and perhaps
is tempted to think oneself of some consequence. Then one goes away, and
on returning is surprised to discover that nobody has even noticed one's
absence.

DICK.

You're over-modest, Alec. If you weren't, you might be a great man.
Now, I make a point of telling my friends that I'm indispensable, and
they take me at my word.

ALEC.

You are a leaven of flippancy in the heavy dough of British
righteousness.

DICK.

The wise man only takes the unimportant quite seriously.

ALEC.

[_With a smile._] For it is obvious that it needs more brains to do
nothing than to be a cabinet minister.

DICK.

You pay me a great compliment, Alec. You repeat to my very face one of
my favourite observations.

LUCY.

[_Almost in a whisper._] Haven't I heard you say that only the
impossible is worth doing?

ALEC.

Good heavens, I must have been reading the headings of a copy-book.

MRS. CROWLEY.

[_To_ DICK.] Are you going to Southampton to see Mr. Mackenzie off?

DICK.

I shall hide my face on his shoulder and weep salt tears. It'll be most
affecting, because in moments of emotion I always burst into epigram.

ALEC.

I loathe all solemn leave-takings. I prefer to part from people with a
nod and a smile, whether I'm going for ever or for a day to Brighton.

MRS. CROWLEY.

You're very hard.

ALEC.

Dick has been teaching me to take life flippantly. And I have learnt
that things are only serious if you take them seriously, and that is
desperately stupid. [_To_ LUCY.] Don't you agree with me?

LUCY.

No.

            [_Her tone, almost tragic, makes him pause
            for an instant; but he is determined
            that the conversation shall be purely conventional._

ALEC.

It's so difficult to be serious without being absurd. That is the chief
power of women, that life and death are merely occasions for a change of
costume: marriage a creation in white, and the worship of God an
opportunity for a Paris bonnet.

            [MRS. CROWLEY _makes up her mind to force a
            crisis, and she gets up_.

MRS. CROWLEY.

It's growing late, Dick. Won't you take me round the house?

ALEC.

I'm afraid my luggage has made everything very disorderly.

MRS. CROWLEY.

It doesn't matter. Come, Dick!

DICK.

[_To_ LUCY.] You don't mind if we leave you?

LUCY.

Oh, no.

            [MRS. CROWLEY _and_ DICK _go out. There is a
            moment's silence._

ALEC.

Do you know that our friend Dick has offered his hand and heart to Mrs.
Crowley this afternoon?

LUCY.

I hope they'll be very happy. They're very much in love with one
another.

ALEC.

[_Bitterly._] And is that a reason for marrying? Surely love is the
worst possible foundation for marriage. Love creates illusions, and
marriages destroy them. True lovers should never marry.

LUCY.

Will you open the window? It seems stifling here.

ALEC.

Certainly. [_From the window._] You can't think what a joy it is to look
upon London for the last time. I'm so thankful to get away.

            [LUCY _gives a little sob and_ ALEC _turns to the
            window. He wants to wound her and yet
            cannot bear to see her suffer._

ALEC.

To-morrow at this time I shall be well started. Oh, I long for that
infinite surface of the clean and comfortable sea.

LUCY.

Are you very glad to go?

ALEC.

[_Turning to her._] I feel quite boyish at the very thought.

LUCY.

And is there no one you regret to leave?

ALEC.

You see, Dick is going to marry. When a man does that, his bachelor
friends are wise to depart gracefully before he shows them that he needs
their company no longer. I have no relations and few friends. I can't
flatter myself that any one will be much distressed at my departure.

LUCY.

[_In a low voice._] You must have no heart at all.

ALEC.

[_Icily._] If I had, I certainly should not bring it to Portman Square.
That sentimental organ would be surely out of place in such a
neighbourhood.

LUCY.

[_Gets up and goes to him._] Oh, why do you treat me as if we were
strangers? How can you be so cruel?

ALEC.

[_Gravely._] Don't you think that flippancy is the best refuge from an
uncomfortable position. We should really be much wiser merely to discuss
the weather.

LUCY.

[_Insisting._] Are you angry because I came?

ALEC.

That would be ungracious on my part. Perhaps it wasn't quite necessary
that we should meet again.

LUCY.

You've been acting all the time I've been here. D'you think I didn't see
it was unreal when you talked with such cynical indifference. I know you
well enough to tell when you're hiding your real self behind a mask.

ALEC.

If I'm doing that, the inference is obvious that I wish my real self to
be hidden.

LUCY.

I would rather you cursed me than treat me with such cold politeness.

ALEC.

I'm afraid you're rather difficult to please.

            [LUCY _goes up to him passionately, but he draws
            back so that she may not touch him_.

LUCY.

Oh, you're of iron. Alec, Alec, I couldn't let you go without seeing you
once more. Even you would be satisfied if you knew what bitter anguish
I've suffered. Even you would pity me. I don't want you to think too
badly of me.

ALEC.

Does it much matter what I think? We shall be so many thousand miles
apart.

LUCY.

I suppose that you utterly despise me.

ALEC.

No. I loved you far too much ever to do that. Believe me, I only wish
you well. Now that the bitterness is past, I see that you did the only
possible thing. I hope that you'll be very happy.

LUCY.

Oh, Alec, don't be utterly pitiless. Don't leave me without a single
word of kindness.

ALEC.

Nothing is changed, Lucy. You sent me away on account of your brother's
death.

            [_There is a long silence, and when she speaks
            it is hesitatingly, as if the words were
            painful to utter._

LUCY.

I hated you then, and yet I couldn't crush the love that was in my
heart. I used to try and drive you away from my thoughts, but every word
you had ever said came back to me. Don't you remember? You told me that
everything you did was for my sake. Those words hammered at my heart as
though it were an anvil. I struggled not to believe them. I said to
myself that you had sacrificed George coldly, callously, prudently, but
in my heart I knew it wasn't true. [_He looks at her, hardly able to
believe what she is going to say, but does not speak._] Your whole life
stood on one side and only this hateful story on the other. You couldn't
have grown into a different man in one single instant. I came here
to-day to tell you that I don't understand the reason of what you did. I
don't want to understand. I believe in you now with all my strength. I
know that whatever you did was right and just--because you did it.

            [_He gives a long, deep sigh._

ALEC.

Thank God! Oh, I'm so grateful to you for that.

LUCY.

Haven't you anything more to say to me than that?

ALEC.

You see, it comes too late. Nothing much matters now, for to-morrow I go
away.

LUCY.

But you'll come back.

ALEC.

I'm going to a part of Africa from which Europeans seldom return.

LUCY.

[_With a sudden outburst of passion._] Oh, that's too horrible. Don't
go, dearest! I can't bear it!

ALEC.

I must now. Everything is settled, and there can be no drawing back.

LUCY.

Don't you care for me any more?

ALEC.

Care for you? I love you with all my heart and soul.

LUCY.

[_Eagerly._] Then take me with you.

ALEC.

You!

LUCY.

You don't know what I can do. With you to help me I can be brave. Let me
come, Alec?

ALEC.

No, it's impossible. You don't know what you ask.

LUCY.

Then let me wait for you? Let me wait till you come back?

ALEC.

And if I never come back?

LUCY.

I will wait for you still.

ALEC.

Then have no fear. I will come back. My journey was only dangerous
because I wanted to die. I want to live now, and I shall live.

LUCY.

Oh, Alec, Alec, I'm so glad you love me.


THE END

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_A MAN OF HONOUR_

_A TRAGEDY_

_In Four Acts_

_By W. S. MAUGHAM_

_LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN_

_MCMXII_

_Copyright: London William Heinemann 1912_

        _TO
    GERALD KELLY_

"Ich übersah meine Sache und wusste wohin ich wollte."

ECKERMANN, _Gespräche mit Goethe_.



GENERAL PREFACE


...For Clisthenes, son of Aristonymus, son of Myron, son of Andreas, had
a daughter whose name was Agarista: her he resolved to give in marriage
to the man whom he should find the most accomplished of all the Greeks.
When therefore the Olympian games were being celebrated, Clisthenes,
being victorious in them in the chariot race, made a proclamation; "that
whoever of the Greeks deemed himself worthy to become the son-in-law of
Clisthenes, should come to Sicyon on the sixtieth day, or even before;
since Clisthenes had determined on the marriage in a year, reckoning
from the sixtieth day." Thereupon such of the Greeks as were puffed up
with themselves and their country, came as suitors; and Clisthenes,
having made a race-course and palæstra for them, kept it for this very
purpose. From Italy, accordingly, came Smindyrides, son of Hippocrates,
a Sybarite, who more than any other man reached the highest pitch of
luxury, (and Sybaris was at that time in a most flourishing condition;)
and Damasus of Siris, son of Amyris called the Wise: these came from
Italy. From the Ionian gulf, Amphimnestus, son of Epistrophus, an
Epidamnian; he came from the Ionian gulf. An Ætolian came, Males,
brother of that Titormus who surpassed the Greeks in strength, and fled
from the society of men to the extremity of the Ætolian territory. And
from Peloponnesus, Leocedes, son of Pheidon, tyrant of the Argives, a
decendant of that Pheidon, who introduced measures among the
Peloponnesians, and was the most insolent of all the Greeks, who having
removed the Elean umpires, himself regulated the games at Olympia; his
son accordingly came. And Amiantus, son of Lycurgus, an Arcadian from
Trapezus; and an Azenian from the city of Pæos, Laphanes, son of
Euphorion, who, as the story is told in Arcadia, received the Dioscuri
in his house, and after that entertained all men; and an Elean,
Onomastus, son of Agæus: these accordingly came from the Peloponnesus
itself. From Athens there came Megacles, son of Alcmæon, the same who
had visited Croesus, and another, Hippoclides, son of Tisander, who
surpassed the Athenians in wealth and beauty. From Eretria, which was
flourishing at that time, came Lysanias; he was the only one from
Euboea. And from Thessaly there came, of the Scopades, Diactorides a
Cranonian; and from the Molossi, Alcon. So many were the suitors. When
they had arrived on the appointed day, Clisthenes made inquiries of
their country, and the family of each; then detaining them for a year,
he made trial of their manly qualities, their dispositions, learning,
and morals; holding familiar intercourse with each separately, and with
all together, and leading out to the gymnasia such of them as were
younger; but most of all he made trial of them at the banquet; for as
long as he detained them, he did this throughout, and at the same time
entertained them magnificently. And somehow of all the suitors those
that had come from Athens pleased him most, and of these Hippoclides,
son of Tisander, was preferred both on account of his manly qualities,
and because he was distantly related to the Cypselidæ in Corinth. When
the day appointed for the consummation of the marriage arrived, and for
the declaration of Clisthenes himself, whom he would choose of them all,
Clisthenes, having sacrificed a hundred oxen, entertained both the
suitors themselves and all the Sicyonians; and when they had concluded
the feast, the suitors had a contest about music, and any subject
proposed for conversation. As the drinking went on, Hippoclides, who
much attracted the attention of the rest, ordered the flute-player to
play a dance; and when the flute-player obeyed, he began to dance: and
he danced, probably so as to please himself; but Clisthenes, seeing it,
beheld the whole matter with suspicion. Afterwards, Hippoclides, having
rested awhile, ordered some one to bring in a table; and when the table
came in, he first danced Laconian figures on it, and then Attic ones;
and in the third place, having leant his head on the table he
gesticulated with his legs. But Clisthenes, when he danced the first and
second time, revolted from the thought of having Hippoclides for his
son-in-law, on account of his dancing and want of decorum, yet
restrained himself, not wishing to burst out against him; but when he
saw him gesticulating with his legs, he was no longer able to restrain
himself, and said: "Son of Tisander, you have danced away your
marriage." But Hippoclides answered: "Hippoclides cares not." Hence this
answer became a proverb. (HERODOTUS VI. 126, _Cary's Translation_.)

This play was first performed by the Stage Society at the Imperial
Theatre on February 22, 1903, with the following cast:

    BASIL KENT                    H. GRANVILLE BARKER
    JENNY BUSH                    WINIFRED FRASER
    JAMES BUSH                    O. B. CLARENCE
    JOHN HALLIWELL                DENNIS EADIE
    MABEL                         GERTRUDE BURNETT
    HILDA MURRAY                  MABEL TERRY-LEWIS
    ROBERT BRACKLEY               NIGEL PLAYFAIR
    MRS. GRIGGS                   HENRIETTA COWEN
    FANNY                         GERTRUDE DE BURGH
    BUTLER                        A. BOWYER



_A MAN OF HONOUR_

_CHARACTERS_


    BASIL KENT
    JENNY BUSH
    JAMES BUSH
    JOHN HALLIWELL
    MABEL
    HILDA MURRAY
    ROBERT BRACKLEY
    MRS. GRIGGS
    FANNY
    BUTLER

TIME: _The Present Day_.

ACT I--_Basil's lodgings in Bloomsbury_.

ACTS II AND IV--_The drawing-room of Basil's house at Putney_.

ACT III--_Mrs. Murray's house in Charles Street_.

_The Performing Rights of this Play are fully protected, and permission
to perform it, whether by Amateurs or Professionals, must be obtained in
advance from the author's Sole Agent, R. Golding Bright, 20 Green
Street, Leicester Square, London, W.C., from whom all particulars can be
obtained._



A MAN OF HONOUR



THE FIRST ACT

SITTING-ROOM OF BASIL'S LODGINGS IN BLOOMSBURY.


     _In the wall facing the auditorium, two windows with little iron
     balconies, giving a view of London roofs. Between the windows,
     against the wall, is a writing-desk littered with papers and books.
     On the right is a door, leading into the passage; on the left a
     fire-place with arm-chairs on either side; on the chimney-piece
     various smoking utensils. There are numerous bookshelves filled
     with books; while on the walls are one or two Delft plates,
     etchings after Rossetti, autotypes of paintings by Fra Angelico and
     Botticelli. The furniture is simple and inexpensive, but there is
     nothing ugly in the room. It is the dwelling-place of a person who
     reads a great deal and takes pleasure in beautiful things._

     BASIL KENT _is leaning back in his chair, with his feet on the
     writing-table, smoking a pipe and cutting the pages of a book. He
     is a very good-looking man of six-and-twenty, clean-shaven, with a
     delicate face and clear-cut features. He is dressed in a
     lounge-suit._


            [_There is a knock at the door._

BASIL.

Come in.

MRS. GRIGGS.

Did you ring, sir?

BASIL.

Yes. I expect a lady to tea. And there's a cake that I bought on my way
in.

MRS. GRIGGS.

Very well, sir.

            [_She goes out, and immediately comes in with a
            tray on which are two cups, sugar, milk,
            &c._

BASIL.

Oh, Mrs. Griggs, I want to give up these rooms this day week. I'm going
to be married. I'm sorry to leave you. You've made me very comfortable.

MRS. GRIGGS.

[_With a sigh of resignation._] Ah, well, sir, that's lodgers all over.
If they're gents they get married; and if they're ladies they ain't
respectable.

            [_A ring is heard._

BASIL.

There's the bell, Mrs. Griggs. I dare say it's the lady I expect. If
any one else comes, I'm not at home.

MRS. GRIGGS.

Very well, sir.

            [_She goes out, and_ BASIL _occupies himself for a
            moment in putting things in order_. MRS.
            GRIGGS, _opening the door, ushers in the
            new-comers_.

MRS. GRIGGS.

If you please, sir.

            [_She goes out again, and during the next few
            speeches brings two more cups and the tea._

            [MABEL _and_ HILDA _enter, followed by_ JOHN
            HALLIWELL. BASIL _going towards them
            very cordially, half stops when he notices
            who they are; and a slight expression of
            embarrassment passes over his face. But
            he immediately recovers himself and is
            extremely gracious._ HILDA MURRAY _is a
            tall, handsome woman, self-possessed and
            admirably gowned_. MABEL HALLIWELL _is
            smaller, pretty rather than beautiful,
            younger than her sister, vivacious, very
            talkative, and somewhat irresponsible_.
            JOHN _is of the same age as_ BASIL, _good-humoured,
            neither handsome nor plain
            blunt of speech and open_.

BASIL.

[_Shaking hands._] How d'you do?

MABEL.

Look pleased to see us, Mr. Kent.

BASIL.

I'm perfectly enchanted.

HILDA.

You _did_ ask us to come and have tea with you, didn't you?

BASIL.

I've asked you fifty times. Hulloa, John! I didn't see you.

JOHN.

I'm the discreet husband, I keep in the background.

MABEL.

Why don't you praise me instead of praising yourself? People would think
it so much nicer.

JOHN.

On the contrary, they'd be convinced that when we were alone I beat you.
Besides, I couldn't honestly say that you kept in the background.

HILDA.

[_To_ BASIL.] I feel rather ashamed at taking you unawares.

BASIL.

I was only slacking. I was cutting a book.

MABEL.

That's ever so much more fun than reading it, isn't it? [_She catches
sight of the tea things._] Oh, what a beautiful cake--and two cups!
[_She looks at him, questioning._]

BASIL.

[_A little awkwardly._] Oh--I always have an extra cup in case some one
turns up, you know.

MABEL.

How unselfish! And do you always have such expensive cake?

HILDA.

[_With a smile, remonstrating._] Mabel!

MABEL.

Oh, but I know them well, and I love them dearly. They cost two
shillings at the Army and Navy Stores, but I can't afford them myself.

JOHN.

I wish you'd explain why we've come, or Basil will think I'm
responsible.

MABEL.

[_Lightly._] I've been trying to remember ever since we arrived. You say
it, Hilda; you invented it.

HILDA.

[_With a laugh._] Mabel, I'll never take you out again. They're
perfectly incorrigible, Mr. Kent.

BASIL.

[_To_ JOHN _and_ MABEL, _smiling_.] I don't know why _you've_ come. Mrs.
Murry has promised to come and have tea with me for ages.

MABEL.

[_Pretending to feel injured._] Well, you needn't turn me out the moment
we arrive. Besides, I refuse to go till I've had a piece of that cake.

BASIL.

Well, here's the tea! [MRS. GRIGGS _brings it in as he speaks_. _He
turns to_ HILDA.] I wish you'd pour it out. I'm so clumsy.

HILDA.

[_Smiling at him affectionately._] I shall be delighted.

            [_She proceeds to do so, and the conversation goes
            on while_ BASIL _hands_ MABEL _tea and cake_.

JOHN.

I told them it was improper for more than one woman at a time to call at
a bachelor's rooms, Basil.

BASIL.

If you'd warned me I'd have made the show a bit tidier.

MABEL.

Oh, that's just what we didn't want. We wanted to see the Celebrity at
Home, without lime-light.

BASIL.

[_Ironically._] You're too flattering.

MABEL.

By the way, how is the book?

_Basil._

Quite well, thanks.

MABEL.

I always forget to ask how it's getting on.

BASIL.

On the contrary, you never let slip an opportunity of making kind
inquiries.

MABEL.

_I_ don't believe you've written a word of it.

HILDA.

Nonsense, Mabel. I've read it.

MABEL.

Oh, but you're such a monster of discretion.... Now I want to see your
medals, Mr. Kent.

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] What medals?

MABEL.

Don't be coy! You know I mean the medals they gave you for going to the
Cape.

BASIL.

[_Gets them from a drawer, and with a smile hands them to_ MABEL.] If
you really care to see them, here they are.

MABEL.

[_Taking one._] What's this?

BASIL.

Oh, that's just the common or garden South African medal.

MABEL.

And the other one?

BASIL.

That's the D.S.M.

MABEL.

Why didn't they give you the D.S.O.?

BASIL.

Oh, I was only a trooper, you know. They only give the D.S.O. to
officers.

MABEL.

And what did you do to deserve it?

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] I really forget.

HILDA.

It's given for distinguished service in the field, Mabel.

MABEL.

I knew. Only I wanted to see if Mr. Kent was modest or vain.

BASIL.

[_With a smile, taking the medals from her and putting them away._] How
spiteful of you!

MABEL.

John, why didn't you go to the Cape, and do heroic things?

JOHN.

I confined my heroism to the British Isles. I married you, my angel.

MABEL.

Is that funny or vulgar?

BASIL.

[_Laughing._] Are there no more questions you want to ask me, Mrs.
Halliwell?

MABEL.

Yes, I want to know why you live up six flights of stairs.

BASIL.

[_Amused._] For the view, simply and solely.

MABEL.

But, good heavens, there is no view. There are only chimney-pots.

BASIL.

But they're most æsthetic chimney-pots. Do come and look, Mrs. Murray.
[BASIL _and_ HILDA _approach one of the windows, and he opens it_.] And
at night they're so mysterious. They look just like strange goblins
playing on the house-tops. And you can't think how gorgeous the sunsets
are: sometimes, after the rain, the slate roofs glitter like burnished
gold. [_To_ HILDA.] Often I think I couldn't have lived without my view,
it says such wonderful things to me. [_Turning to_ MABEL _gaily_.]
Scoff, Mrs. Halliwell, I'm on the verge of being sentimental.

MABEL.

I was wondering if you'd made that up on the spur of the moment, or if
you'd fished it out of an old note-book.

HILDA.

[_With a look at_ BASIL.] May I go out?

BASIL.

Yes, do come.

            [HILDA _and_ BASIL _step out on the balcony,
            whereupon_ JOHN _goes to_ MABEL _and tries
            to steal a kiss from her_.

MABEL.

[_Springing up._] Go away, you horror!

JOHN.

Don't be silly. I shall kiss you if I want to.

[_She laughing, walks round the sofa while he pursues her._

MABEL.

I wish you'd treat life more seriously.

JOHN.

I wish you wouldn't wear such prominent hats.

MABEL.

[_As he puts his arm round her waist._] John, some body'll see us.

JOHN.

Mabel, I command you to let yourself be kissed.

MABEL.

How much will you give me?

JOHN.

Sixpence.

MABEL.

[_Slipping away from him._] I can't do it for less than half-a-crown.

JOHN.

[_Laughing._] I'll give you two shillings.

MABEL.

[_Coaxing._] Make it two-and-three.

            [_He kisses her._

JOHN.

Now come and sit down quietly.

MABEL.

[_Sitting down by his side._] John, you mustn't make love to me. It
would look so odd if they came in.

JOHN.

After all, I am your husband.

MABEL.

That's just it. If you wanted to make love to me you ought to have
married somebody else. [_He puts his arm round her waist._] John, don't,
I'm sure they'll come in.

JOHN.

I don't care if they do.

MABEL.

[_Sighing._] John, you do love me?

JOHN.

Yes.

MABEL.

And you won't ever care for anybody else?

JOHN.

No.

MABEL.

[_In the same tone._] And you will give me that two-and-threepence,
won't you?

JOHN.

Mabel, it was only two shillings.

MABEL.

Oh, you cheat!

JOHN.

[_Getting up._] I'm going out on the balcony. I'm passionately devoted
to chimney-pots.

MABEL.

No, John, I want you.

JOHN.

Why?

MABEL.

Isn't it enough for me to say I want you for you to hurl yourself at my
feet immediately?

JOHN.

Oh, you poor thing, can't you do without me for two minutes?

MABEL.

Now you're taking a mean advantage. It's only this particular two
minutes that I want you. Come and sit by me like a nice, dear boy.

JOHN.

Now what have you been doing that you shouldn't?

MABEL.

[_Laughing._] Nothing. But I want you to do something for me.

JOHN.

Ha, ha! I thought so.

MABEL.

It's merely to tie up my shoe. [_She puts out her foot._]

JOHN.

Is that all--honour bright?

MABEL.

[_Laughing._] Yes. [JOHN _kneels down_.]

JOHN.

But, my good girl, it's not undone.

MABEL.

Then, my good boy, undo it and do it up again.

JOHN.

[_Starting up._] Mabel, are we playing gooseberry--at our time of life?

MABEL.

[_Ironically._] Oh, you are clever! Do you think Hilda would have
climbed six flights of stairs unless Love had lent her wings?

JOHN.

I wish Love would provide wings for the chaperons as well.

MABEL.

Don't be flippant. It's a serious matter.

JOHN.

My dear girl, you really can't expect me to play the heavy father when
we've only been married six months. It would be almost improper.

MABEL.

Don't be horrid, John.

JOHN.

It isn't horrid, it's natural history.

MABEL.

[_Primly._] I was never taught it. It's not thought nice for young girls
to know.

JOHN.

Why didn't you tell me that Hilda was fond of Basil! Does he like her?

MABEL.

I don't know. I expect that's precisely what she's asking him.

JOHN.

Mabel, do you mean to say you brought me here, an inoffensive, harmless
creature, for your sister to propose to a pal of mine? It's an outrage.

MABEL.

She's doing nothing of the sort.

JOHN.

You needn't look indignant. You can't deny that you proposed to me.

MABEL.

I can, indeed. If I had I should never have taken such an unconscionably
long time about it.

JOHN.

I wonder why Hilda wants to marry poor Basil!

MABEL.

Well, Captain Murray left her five thousand a year, and she thinks Basil
Kent a genius.

JOHN.

There's not a drawing-room in Regent's Park or in Bayswater that hasn't
got its tame genius. I don't know if Basil Kent is much more than very
clever.

MABEL.

Anyhow, I'm sure it's a mistake to marry geniuses. They're horribly
bad-tempered, and they invariably make love to other people's wives.

JOHN.

Hilda always has gone in for literary people. That's the worst of
marrying a cavalryman, it leads you to attach so much importance to
brains.

MABEL.

Yes, but she needn't marry them. If she wants to encourage Basil let her
do it from a discreet distance. Genius always thrives best on bread and
water and platonic attachments. If Hilda marries him he'll only become
fat and ugly and bald-headed and stupid.

JOHN.

Why, then he'll make an ideal Member of Parliament.

            [BASIL _and_ HILDA _come into the room again_.

MABEL.

[_Maliciously._] Well, what have you been talking about?

HILDA.

[_Acidly._] The weather and the crops, Shakespeare and the Musical
Glasses.

MABEL.

[_Raising her eyebrows._] Oh!

HILDA.

It's getting very late, Mabel. We really must be going.

MABEL.

[_Getting up._] And I've got to pay at least twelve calls. I hope every
one will be out.

HILDA.

People are so stupid, they're always in when you call.

MABEL.

[_Holding out her hand to_ BASIL.] Good-bye.

HILDA.

[_Coldly._] Thanks so much, Mr. Kent. I'm afraid we disturbed you
awfully.

BASIL.

[_Shaking hands with her._] I've been enchanted to see you. Good-bye.

MABEL.

[_Lightly._] We shall see you again before you go to Italy, shan't we?

BASIL.

Oh, I'm not going to Italy now, I've changed all my plans.

MABEL.

[_Giving_ JOHN _a look_.] Oh! Well, good-bye. Aren't you coming, John.

JOHN.

No: I think I'll stay and have a little chat with Basil, while you tread
the path of duty.

MABEL.

Well, mind you're in early. We've got a lot of disgusting people coming
to dinner.

HILDA.

[_With a smile._] Poor things! Who are they?

MABEL.

I forget who they are. But I know they're loathsome. That's why I asked
them.

            [BASIL _opens the door, and the two women go out_.

JOHN.

[_Sitting down and stretching himself._] Now that we've got rid of our
womankind let's make ourselves comfortable. [_Taking a pipe out of his
pocket._] I think I'll sample your baccy if you'll pass it along.

BASIL.

[_Handing him the jar._] I'm rather glad you stayed, John. I wanted to
talk to you.

JOHN.

Ha! ha!

            [BASIL _pauses a moment, while_ JOHN _looks at
            him with amusement. He fills his pipe._

JOHN.

[_Lighting his pipe._] Nice gal, Hilda--ain't she?

BASIL.

[_Enthusiastically._] Oh, I think she's perfectly charming.... But what
makes you say that?

JOHN.

[_Innocently._] Oh, I don't know. Passed through my head.

BASIL.

I say, I've got something to tell you, John.

JOHN.

Well, don't be so beastly solemn about it.

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] It's a solemn thing.

JOHN.

No, it ain't. I've done it myself. It's like a high dive. When you look
down at the water it fairly takes your breath away, but after you've
done it--it's not so bad as you think. You're going to be married, my
boy.

BASIL.

[_With a smile._] How the deuce d'you know?

JOHN.

[_Gaily._] Saw it with mine own eyes. I congratulate you, and I give you
my blessing. I'll get a new frock-coat to give the lady away in.

BASIL.

You?... [_Suddenly understanding._] You're on the wrong tack, old man.
It's not your sister-in-law I'm going to marry.

JOHN.

Then why the dickens did you say it was?

BASIL.

I never mentioned her name.

JOHN.

H'm! I've made rather more than an average ass of myself, haven't I?

BASIL.

What on earth made you think ...?

JOHN.

[_Interrupting._] Oh, it was only some stupid idea of my wife's. Women
are such fools, you know. And they think they're so confoundedly sharp.

BASIL.

[_Disconcerted_--_looking at him._] Has Mrs. Murray ...?

JOHN.

No, of course not! Well, who the deuce are you going to marry?

BASIL.

[_Flushing._] I'm going to marry Miss Jenny Bush.

JOHN.

Never heard of her. Is it any one I know?

BASIL.

Yes, you knew her.

JOHN.

[_Searching his memory._] Bush ... Bush.... [_With a smile._] The only
Jenny Bush _I've_ ever heard of was a rather pretty little barmaid in
Fleet Street. Presumably you're not going to marry her.

[JOHN _has said this quite lightly, not guessing for a moment that it
can have anything to do with the person_ BASIL _proposes to marry. Then,
since_ BASIL _makes no answer_, JOHN _looks at him sharply: there is a
silence while the two men stare at one another._

JOHN.

Basil, it's not the woman we used to know before you went out to the
Cape?

BASIL.

[_Pale and nervous, but determined._] I've just told you that you used
to know Jenny.

JOHN.

Man alive, you're not going to marry the barmaid of the "Golden Crown"?

BASIL.

[_Looking at him steadily._] Jenny _was_ a barmaid at the "Golden
Crown."

JOHN.

But, good Lord, Basil, what d'you mean? You're not serious?

BASIL.

Perfectly! We're going to be married this day week.

JOHN.

Are you stark, staring mad? Why on earth d'you want to marry Jenny Bush?

BASIL.

That's rather a delicate question, isn't it? [_With a smile._]
Presumably because I'm in love with her.

JOHN.

Well, that's a silly ass of an answer.

BASIL.

It's quite the most obvious.

JOHN.

Nonsense! Why, I've been in love with twenty girls, and I haven't
married them all. One can't do that sort of thing in a country where
they give you seven years for bigamy. Every public-house along the
Thames from Barnes to Taplow is the tombstone of an unrequited passion
of my youth. I loved 'em dearly, but I never asked 'em to marry me.

BASIL.

[_Tightening his lips._] I'd rather you didn't make jokes about it,
John.

JOHN.

Are you sure you're not making an ass of yourself? If you've got into a
mess, surely we can get you out. Marriage, like hanging, is rather a
desperate remedy.

[BASIL _is sitting down and moodily shrugs his shoulders._ JOHN _goes up
to him, and putting his hands on his friend's shoulders looks into his
eyes._

JOHN.

Why are you going to marry her, Basil?

BASIL.

[_Springing up impatiently._] Damn you, why don't you mind your own
business?

JOHN.

Don't be a fool, Basil.

BASIL.

Can't I marry any one I choose? It's nothing to you, is it? D'you
suppose I care if she's a barmaid?

[_He walks up and down excitedly, while_ JOHN _with steady eyes watches
him._

JOHN.

Basil, old man, we've known each other a good many years now. Don't you
think you'd better trust me?

BASIL.

[_Setting his teeth._] What d'you want to know?

JOHN.

Why are you going to marry her?

BASIL.

[_Abruptly, fiercely._] Because I must.

JOHN.

[_Nodding his head quietly._] I see.

[_There is a silence. Then_ BASIL, _more calmly turns to_ JOHN.

BASIL.

D'you remember Jenny?

JOHN.

Yes, rather. Why, we always lunched there in the old days.

BASIL.

Well, after I came back from the Cape I began going there again. When I
was out there she took it into her head to write me a letter, rather
ill-spelt and funny--but I was touched that she thought of me. And she
sent some tobacco and some cigarettes.

JOHN.

My maiden aunt sent you a woollen comforter, but I'm not aware that in
return you ever made her a proposal of marriage.

BASIL.

And so in one way and another I came to know Jenny rather well. She
appeared to get rather fond of me--and I couldn't help seeing it.

JOHN.

But she always pretended to be engaged to that scrubby little chap with
false teeth who used to hang about the bar and make sheep's eyes at her
over innumerable Scotch-and-sodas.

BASIL.

He made a scene because I took her out on one of her off-nights, and she
broke it off. I couldn't help knowing it was on my account.

JOHN.

Well, and after that?

BASIL.

After that I got into the habit of taking her to the play, and so on.
And finally ...!

JOHN.

How long has this been going on?

BASIL.

Several months.

JOHN.

And then?

BASIL.

Well, the other day she wired for me. I found her in the most awful
state. She was simply crying her eyes out, poor thing. She'd been seedy
and gone to the doctor's. And he told her ...

JOHN.

What you might really have foreseen.

BASIL.

Yes.... She was quite hysterical. She said she didn't know what to do
nor where to go. And she was in an awful funk about her people. She
said she'd kill herself.

JOHN.

[_Drily._] Naturally she was very much upset.

BASIL.

I felt the only thing I could do was to ask her to marry me. And when I
saw the joy that came into her poor, tear-stained face I _knew_ I'd done
the right thing.

[_There is a pause._ JOHN _walks up and down, then stops suddenly and
turns to_ BASIL.

JOHN.

Have you thought that you, who've never needed to economise, will have
to look at every shilling you spend? You've always been careless with
your money, and what you've had you've flung about freely.

BASIL.

[_Shrugging his shoulders._] If I have to submit to nothing worse than
going without a lot of useless luxuries, I really don't think I need
complain.

JOHN.

But you can't afford to keep a wife and an increasing family.

BASIL.

I suppose I can make money as well as other men.

JOHN.

By writing books?

BASIL.

I shall set to work to earn my living at the Bar. Up till now I've never
troubled myself.

JOHN.

I don't know any man less fit than you for the dreary waiting and the
drudgery of the Bar.

BASIL.

We shall see.

JOHN.

And what d'you think your friends will say to your marrying--a barmaid?

BASIL.

[_Contemptuously._] I don't care two straws for my friends.

JOHN.

That's pleasant for them. You know, men and women without end have
snapped their fingers at society and laughed at it, and for a while
thought they had the better of it. But all the time society was quietly
smiling up its sleeve, and suddenly it put out an iron hand--and
scrunched them up.

BASIL.

[Shrugging his shoulders.] It only means that a few snobs will cut me.

JOHN.

Not you--your wife.

BASIL.

I'm not such a cad as to go to a house where I can't take my wife.

JOHN.

But you're the last man in the world to give up these things. There's
nothing you enjoy more than going to dinner-parties and staying in
country houses. Women's smiles are the very breath of your nostrils.

BASIL.

You talk of me as if I were a tame cat. I don't want to brag, John, but
after all, I've shown that I'm fit for something in this world. I went
to the Cape because I thought it was my duty. I intend to marry Jenny
for the same reason.

JOHN.

[_Seriously._] Will you answer me one question--on your honour?

BASIL.

Yes.

JOHN.

Are you in love with her?

BASIL.

[_After a pause._] No.

JOHN.

[_Passionately._] Then, by God, you have no right to marry her. A man
has no right to marry a woman for pity. It's a cruel thing to do. You
can only end by making yourself and her entirely wretched.

BASIL.

I can't break the poor girl's heart.

JOHN.

You don't know what marriage is. Even with two people who are devoted to
one another, who have the same interests and belong to the same class,
it's sometimes almost unbearable. Marriage is the most terrible thing in
the world unless passion makes it absolutely inevitable.

BASIL.

My marriage is absolutely inevitable--for another reason.

JOHN.

You talk as if such things had never happened before.

BASIL.

Oh, I know, they happen every day. It's no business of the man's. And as
for the girl, let her throw herself in the river. Let her go to the
deuce, and be hanged to her.

JOHN.

Nonsense. She can be provided for. It only needs a little
discretion--and no one will be a ha'porth the wiser, nor she a ha'porth
the worse.

BASIL.

But it's not a matter of people knowing. It's a matter of honour.

JOHN.

[_Opening his eyes._] And where precisely did the honour come in when
you ...?

BASIL.

Good heavens, I'm a man like any other. I have passions as other men
have.

JOHN.

[_Gravely._] My dear Basil, I wouldn't venture to judge you. But I think
it's rather late in the day to set up for a moralist.

BASIL.

D'you think I've not regretted what I did? It's easy enough afterwards
to say that I should have resisted. The world would be a Sunday School
if we were all as level-headed at night as we are next morning.

JOHN.

[_Shaking his head._] After all, it's only a very regrettable incident
due to your youth and--want of innocence.

BASIL.

[_With vehement seriousness._] I may have acted like a cur. I don't
know. I acted as I suppose every other man would. But now I have a plain
duty before me, and, by God, I mean to do it.

JOHN.

Don't you realise that you've only one life and that mistakes are
irreparable? People play with life as if it were a game of chess in
which they can try this move and that, and when they get into a muddle,
sweep the board clear and begin again.

BASIL.

But life is a game of chess in which one is always beaten. Death sits on
the other side of the board, and for every move he has a counter-move.
And for all your deep-laid schemes he has a parry.

JOHN.

But if at the end Death always mates you, the fight is surely worth the
fighting. Don't handicap yourself at the beginning by foolish quixotry.
Life is so full. It has so much to offer, and you're throwing away
almost everything that makes it worth the trouble.

BASIL.

[_Gravely._] Jenny would kill herself if I didn't marry her.

JOHN.

You don't seriously think she'd do that. People don't commit suicide so
easily, you know.

BASIL.

You've thought of a great deal, John--you've not thought of the child. I
can't let the child skulk into the world like a thief. Let him come in
openly and lawfully. And let him go through the world with an honest
name. Good heavens, the world's bad enough without fettering him all his
life with a hideous stigma.

JOHN.

Oh, my dear Basil ...

BASIL.

[_Interrupting._] You can bring forward a thousand objections, but
nothing alters the fact that, under the circumstances, there's only one
way open to a man of honour.

JOHN.

[_Drily._] Well, it's a way that may do credit to your heart, but
scarcely to your understanding.

BASIL.

I thought you'd see at once that I was doing the only possible thing.

JOHN.

My dear Basil, you talk of pity, and you talk of duty, but are you sure
there's anything more in it than vanity? You've set yourself up on a
sort of moral pinnacle. Are you sure you don't admire your own heroism a
little too much?

BASIL.

[_With a good-natured smile._] Does it look so petty as that in your
eyes? After all, it's only common morality.

JOHN.

[_Impatiently._] But, my dear chap, its absurd to act according to an
unrealisable ideal in a world that's satisfied with the second-rate.
You're tendering bank-notes to African savages, among whom cowrie shells
are common coin.

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] I don't know what you mean.

JOHN.

Society has made its own decalogue, a code that's just fit for middling
people who are not very good and not very wicked. But Society punishes
you equally if your actions are higher than its ideal or lower.

BASIL.

Sometimes it makes a god of you when you're dead.

JOHN.

But it takes precious good care to crucify you when you're alive.

[_There is a knock at the door, and_ MRS. GRIGGS _comes in._

MRS. GRIGGS.

Some more visitors, Sir.

BASIL.

Show 'em in. [_To_ JOHN] It's Jenny. She said she was coming to tea.

JOHN.

[_With a smile._] Oh, the cake was for her, was it? Would you like me to
go?

BASIL.

Not unless you choose. Do you suppose I'm ashamed?

JOHN.

I thought, after all you've told me, you might not care for me to see
her.

[JENNY BUSH _and her brother_ JAMES _come in. She is very pretty, with
delicate features and a beautiful complexion: her fair hair is abundant
and very elaborately arranged. She is dressed smartly, rather showily.
It is the usual type of barmaid, or tea-girl, a shade more refined
perhaps than the common run. Her manners are unobjectionable, but not
those of a gentlewoman._ JAMES _is a young man with clean-shaven face
and a sharp expression. He is over-dressed in a very horsey manner, and
is distinctly more vulgar than his sister. He talks English with a
cockney accent, not invariably dropping his aitches, but only now and
then. He is over cordial and over genial._

JENNY.

[_Going up to_ BASIL.] I'm awfully late, I couldn't come before.

JAMES.

[_Jocosely._] Don't mind me. Give 'im a kiss, old tart.

JENNY.

Oh, I brought my brother Jimmie to see you.

BASIL.

[_Shaking hands._] How d'you do?

JAMES.

Nicely, thanks. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

JENNY.

[_Looking at_ JOHN _and suddenly recognising him._]

Well, I never! If that isn't old John Halliwell. I didn't expect to see
you. This is a treat.

JOHN.

How d'you do?

JENNY.

What are you doing here?

JOHN.

I've been having a cup of tea with Basil.

JENNY.

[_Looking at the tea-things._] D'you always drink out of three cups at
once?

JOHN.

My wife has been here--and her sister.

JENNY.

Oh, I see. Fancy your being married. How d'you like it?

JOHN.

All right, thanks.

[BASIL _pours out a cup of tea, and during the following speeches gives_
JENNY _milk and sugar and cake._

JAMES.

People say it wants a bit of gettin' used to.

JOHN.

Mr. Bush, you're a philosopher.

JAMES.

Well, I will say this for myself, you'd want to get up early in the
morning to catch me nappin'. I didn't catch your name.

JOHN.

Halliwell.

JAMES.

'Alliwell?

JOHN.

[_Emphasising the H._] Halliwell.

JAMES.

That's what I say--'Alliwell. I knew a fellow in the meat trade called
'Alliwell. Any relation?

JOHN.

I don't think so.

JAMES.

Fine business 'e 'ad too. There's a rare lot of money to be made out of
meat.

JOHN.

I dare say.

Jenny.

[_To_ JOHN.] It _is_ a long time since I've seen you. I suppose you've
quietened down now you're a married man. You were a hot 'un when you was
a bachelor.

JAMES.

[_Facetiously._] Don't make 'im blush, Jenny. Accidents will 'appen in
the best regulated families. And boys will be boys, as they say in the
Bible.

JOHN.

I think I must be off, Basil.

JAMES.

Well, I'll be toddlin' too. I only come in just to say 'ow d'you do to
my future brother-in-law. I'm a fellow as likes to be cordial. There's
no 'aughtiness about me.

BASIL.

[_Politely, but not effusively._] Oh; won't you stay and have some tea?

JAMES.

No, thanks. I'm not much of an 'and at tea; I leave that to females. I
like something stronger myself.

JENNY.

[_Remonstrating._] Jimmie!

BASIL.

I have some whisky, Mr. Bush.

JAMES.

Oh, blow the Mister and blow the Bush. Call me Jimmie. I can't stand
ceremony. The way I look on it is this. We're both of us gentlemen. Now,
mind you, I'm not a fellow to praise myself. But I will say this: I am a
gentleman. That's not self-praise, is it?

JOHN.

Dear me, no. Mere statement of fact.

JAMES.

Well, as I was saying, I know I'm a gentleman. It's a thing you can't
'elp, so what's the good of being proud about it? If I meet a chap in a
pub, and he invites me to have a drink, I don't ask him if he's a Lord.

BASIL.

But you just take it.

JAMES.

Well, you'd do the same yourself, wouldn't you?

BASIL.

I dare say. But will you have a drink now?

JAMES.

Oh, bless you, I know what it is to be engaged. I don't want to disturb
you canary-birds. Me and 'Alliwell 'll go and have a gargle round the
corner. I see you've got a public nice and 'andy. [_To_ JOHN.] I suppose
you're not above goin' in there now and again, eh?

JENNY.

[_With a laugh._] He came into the "Golden Crown" every day of his life,
and chance it!

JOHN.

I'm afraid I'm in a great hurry.

JAMES.

'Ang it all, one's always got time to have a drop of Scotch in this
life.

BASIL.

[_To_ JAMES, _handing him the box._] Well, take a cigar with you.

JAMES.

[_Taking and examining one._] If you are so pressing. Villar y
Villar.... What do they run you in a hundred?

BASIL.

They were given to me, I really don't know what they cost. [_He lights a
match._] Won't you take the label off?

JAMES.

Not if I know it. I don't smoke a Villar y Villar every day, but when I
do, I smoke it with the label on.

JENNY.

[_Laughing._] Jimmie, you are a caution!

JOHN.

[_Shaking hands with_ JENNY.] Good-bye and--my best wishes.

JENNY.

Thanks. You didn't expect I'd marry Basil when I used to mix cocktails
for you in the "Golden Crown," did you?

JAMES.

Come on, 'Alliwell. Don't stop there gassing. You'll only disturb the
canary-birds. So long, old tart, see you later. Ta-ta, Basil, old man.

BASIL.

Good-bye--Jimmie.

[JOHN HALLIWELL _and_ JAMES _go out_, JENNY _goes up to_ BASIL
_impulsively._

JENNY.

Kiss me. [_He kisses her, smiling._] There! Now I can sit down quietly
and talk. How d'you like my brother?

BASIL.

Oh--I hardly know him yet. He seems very amiable.

JENNY.

He's not a bad sort when you know him. He's just like my mother.

BASIL.

[_Raising his brows._] Is he? And--is your father like that too?

JENNY.

Well, you know, Pa hasn't had the education that Jimmie's had. Jimmie
was at a boarding-school at Margate.

BASIL.

Was he?

JENNY.

You were at a boarding-school, too, weren't you?

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] Yes, I was at Harrow.

JENNY.

Ah, you don't get the fine air at Harrow that you get at Margate.

BASIL.

Shall I put down your cup?

JENNY.

[_Placing it on a table._] Oh, thanks, it's all right. Come and sit by
me, Basil.

BASIL.

[_Seating himself on the arm of her chair._] There.

JENNY.

[_Taking his hand._] I'm so glad we're alone. I should like to be alone
with you all my life. You do love me, don't you, Basil?

BASIL.

Yes.

JENNY.

Much?

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] Yes.

JENNY.

I'm so glad. Oh, I don't know what I should do if you didn't love me. If
you hadn't been kind to me I should have thrown myself in the river.

BASIL.

What nonsense you talk.

JENNY.

I mean it.

[_He passes his hand affectionately over her hair._

JENNY.

Oh, you _are_ so good, Basil. I'm so proud of you. I shall be so proud
to be your wife.

BASIL.

[_Gravely._] Don't think too well of me Jenny.

JENNY.

[_With a laugh._] I'm not afraid of that. You're brave and you're
clever and you're a professional man, and you're everything.

BASIL.

You foolish child.

JENNY.

[_Passionately._] I can't tell you how much I love you.

BASIL.

I'll try with all my might to be a good husband to you, Jenny.

            [_She flings her arms round his neck and they
            kiss one another._


END OF THE FIRST ACT.



THE SECOND ACT

AN INTERVAL OF ONE YEAR ELAPSES BETWEEN ACTS I. AND II.


     _The drawing-room in Basil's house at Putney. In the wall facing
     the auditorium there is a door leading from the passage. On the
     right two doors lead into bedrooms, and opposite these is a bay
     window. The same pictures and plates decorate the walls as in the
     preceding Scene; the writing-table is between the side doors._
     JENNY'S _influence is noticeable in the cushions in the wicker-work
     arm-chairs, in the window curtains and portières of art serge, and
     in the huge chrysanthemums of the wall paper_.


            [JENNY _is sewing while_ JAMES BUSH _is lounging
            in one of the arm chairs_.

JAMES.

Where's his lordship this afternoon?

JENNY.

He's gone out for a walk.

JAMES.

[_With a malevolent laugh._] That's what he tells you, my dear.

JENNY.

[_Looking up quickly._] Have you seen him anywhere?

JAMES.

No, I can't say I 'ave. And if I 'ad I wouldn't boast about it.

JENNY.

[_Insisting._] What did you mean then?

JAMES.

Well, whenever I come here he's out for a walk.... I say, old tart,
could you oblige me with a couple of sovereigns till next Saturday?

JENNY.

[_Pained to refuse._] Oh no, Jimmie, I can't manage it. Basil made me
promise I wouldn't let you have any more.

JAMES.

What! He made you promise that?--Ugh, the mean skinflint.

JENNY.

We've lent you so much, Jimmie. And ma's had a lot, too.

JAMES.

Well, look here, you can manage a sovereign, can't you? You needn't say
anything about it.

JENNY.

I can't really, Jimmie. I would if I could. But we've got a rare lot of
debts worrying us, and the rent will be coming along next week.

JAMES.

[_Sulkily._] You can't lend it me because you won't. I should just like
to know what Basil spends his money on.

JENNY.

He's had a bad year--it's not his fault. And I was so ill after the baby
died, we had to pay the doctor nearly fifty pounds.

JAMES.

[_With a sneer._] Well, it was a wonderful fine thing you did when you
married him, Jenny. And you thought you done precious well for yourself,
too.

JENNY.

Jimmie, don't!

JAMES.

I can't stick 'im at any price, and I don't mind who knows it.

JENNY.

[_Impetuously._] I won't have you say anything against him.

JAMES.

All right--keep your shirt in. I'm blowed if I know what you've got to
stick up for him about. He don't care much about you.

JENNY.

[_Hastily._] How d'you know?

JAMES.

Think I can't see!

JENNY.

It's not true. It's not true.

JAMES.

You can't get round me, Jenny. I suppose you 'aven't been crying to-day?

JENNY.

[_Flushing._] I had a headache.

JAMES.

I know those sort of headaches.

JENNY.

We had a little tiff this morning. That's why he went out.... Oh, don't
say he doesn't care for me. I couldn't live.

JAMES.

[_With a laugh._] Go along with you. Basil Kent ain't the only pebble on
the beach.

JENNY.

[_Vehemently._] Oh, Jimmie, Jimmie, sometimes I don't know which way to
turn, I'm that unhappy. If the baby had only lived I might have kept my
husband--I might have made him love me. [_The sound is heard of a door
being closed._] There's Basil.

JAMES.

Good luck to 'im.

JENNY.

Oh, Jimmie, take care not to say anything to make him angry.

JAMES.

I'd just like to give 'im a piece of my mind.

JENNY.

Oh, Jimmie, don't. It was my fault that we quarrelled this morning. I
wanted to make him angry, and I nagged at him. Don't let him see that
I've said anything to you. I'll see--I'll see if I can't send you a
pound to-morrow, Jimmie.

JAMES.

[_Defiantly._] He'd better not start patronising me, because I won't put
up with it. I'm a gentleman, and I'm every bit as good as he is--if not
better.

            [BASIL _comes in_, _notices_ JAMES, _but does not
            speak_.

JAMES.

Afternoon, Basil.

BASIL.

[_Indifferently._] You here again?

JAMES.

Looks like it, don't it.

BASIL.

[_Quietly._] I'm afraid it does.

JAMES.

[_Becoming more aggressive as the conversation proceeds._] Are you? I
suppose I can come and see my own sister?

BASIL.

I suppose it's inevitable.

JAMES.

Well?

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] Only I should be excessively grateful if you'd time your
coming with my--with my going. And _vice versa_.

JAMES.

That means you want me to get out, I reckon.

BASIL.

You show unusual perspicacity, dear James.

JAMES.

And who are you with your long words, I should like to know?

BASIL.

[_Blandly._] I? A person of not the least importance.

JAMES.

[_Angrily._] Well, I wouldn't put on so much side if I was you.

BASIL.

I observe that you have not acquired the useful art of being uncivil
without being impertinent.

JAMES.

Look 'ere, I'm not going to stand this. I'm as good as you are any day.

BASIL.

That is a fact I should never dream of contradicting.

JAMES.

[_Indignantly._] Then what 'ave you got to turn up your nose about, eh?
What d'you mean by sneerin' and snarlin' at me when I come here?

JENNY.

[_Nervously._] Jimmie, don't!

BASIL.

[_With a smile._] You're very eloquent, James. You should join a
debating society.

JAMES.

Yes, go on. That's right. You seem to think I'm nobody. I should just
like to know why you go on as if I was I don't know what.

BASIL.

[_Abruptly._] Because I choose.

JAMES.

You can bet anything you like I don't come 'ere to see you.

BASIL.

[_Smiling acidly._] Then I have at least something to be thankful for.

JAMES.

I've got a right to come here as much as anybody. I come to see my
sister.

BASIL.

Really, that's very thoughtful of you. I was under the impression you
generally came to borrow money.

JAMES.

Throw that in my face now. I can't 'elp it if I'm out of work.

BASIL.

Oh, I haven't the least objection to your being out of work. All I
protest against--and that very mildly--is that I should be expected to
keep you. How much did you want to-day?

JAMES.

I don't want your dirty money.

BASIL.

[_With a laugh._] Have you already tried to borrow it from Jenny?

JAMES.

No, I 'aven't.

BASIL.

And she refused, I suppose.

JAMES.

[_Storming._] I tell you I don't want your dirty money.

BASIL.

Well, then, we're both quite satisfied. You seemed to think that because
I married Jenny I was bound to keep the whole gang of you for the rest
of your lives. I'm sorry I can't afford it. And you will kindly tell the
rest of them that I'm sick and tired of forking out.

JAMES.

I wonder you don't forbid me your house while you're about it.

BASIL.

[_Coolly._] You may come here when I'm not at home--if you behave
yourself.

JAMES.

I'm not good enough for you, I suppose?

BASIL.

No, you're not.

JAMES.

[_Angrily._] Ah, you're a pretty specimen, you are. You mean skinflint!

BASIL.

Don't be abusive, James. It's rude.

JAMES.

I shall say what I choose.

BASIL.

And please don't talk so loud. It annoys me.

JAMES.

[_Malevolently._] I dare say you'd like to get me out of the way. But I
mean to keep my eye on you.

BASIL.

[_Sharply._] What d'you mean by that?

JAMES.

You know what I mean. Jenny has something to put up with, I lay.

BASIL.

[_Containing his anger._] You'll have the goodness to leave the
relations between Jenny and myself alone--d'you hear?

JAMES.

Ha, that's touched you up, has it? You think I don't know what sort of a
feller you are. I can just about see through two of you. And I know a
good deal more about you than you think.

BASIL.

[_Contemptuously._] Don't be foolish, James.

JAMES.

[_Sarcastic._] A nice thing Jenny did when she married you.

BASIL.

[_Recovering himself, with a smile._] Has she been telling you my
numerous faults? [_To_ JENNY.] You must have had plenty to talk about,
my love.

JENNY.

[_Who has been going on with her sewing, looking up now and then
uneasily._] I haven't said a word against you, Basil.

BASIL.

[_Turning his back on_ JAMES.] Oh, my dear Jenny, if it amuses you, by
all means discuss me with your brother and your sister and your father
and your mother, and the whole crew of them.... I should be so dull if I
had no faults.

JENNY.

[_Anxiously._] Tell him I've not said anything against him, Jimmie.

JAMES.

It's not for want of something to say, I lay.

BASIL.

[_Over his shoulder._] I'm getting rather tired, brother James. I'd go,
if I were you.

JAMES.

[_Very aggressively._] I shan't go till I choose.

BASIL.

[_Turns round, smiling blandly._] Of course, we're both Christians, dear
James; and there's a good deal of civilisation kicking about the world
nowadays. But, notwithstanding, the last word is still with the
strongest.

JAMES.

What d'you mean by that?

BASIL.

[_Good-humouredly._] Merely that discretion is the better part of
valour. They say that proverbs are the wealth of nations.

JAMES.

[_Indignantly._] That's just the sort of thing you'd do--to 'it a feller
smaller than yourself.

BASIL.

Oh, I wouldn't hit you for worlds, brother James. I should merely throw
you downstairs.

JAMES.

[_Making for the door._] I should just like to see you try it on.

BASIL.

Don't be silly, James. You know you wouldn't like it at all.

JAMES.

I'm not afraid of you.

BASIL.

Of course not. But still--you're not very muscular, are you?

JAMES.

You coward!

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] Your repartees are not brilliant, James.

JAMES.

[_Standing at the door for safety's sake._] I'll pay you out before I've
done.

BASIL.

[_Raising his eyebrows._] James, I told you to get out five minutes ago.

JAMES.

I'm going. D'you think I want to stay 'ere? Good-bye, Jenny, I'm not
going to stand being insulted by any one. [_He goes out slamming the
door._]

            [BASIL, _smiling quietly, goes to his writing-table
            and turns over some papers_.

BASIL.

The only compensation in brother James is that he sometimes causes one a
little mild amusement.

JENNY.

You might at least be polite to him, Basil.

BASIL.

I used up all my politeness six months ago.

JENNY.

After all, he is my brother.

BASIL.

That is a fact I deplore with all my heart, I assure you.

JENNY.

I don't know what's wrong with him.

BASIL.

Don't you? It doesn't matter.

JENNY.

I know he isn't a Society man.

BASIL.

[_With a laugh._] No, he wouldn't shine at duchesses tea-parties.

JENNY.

Well, he's none the worse for that, is he?

BASIL.

Not at all.

JENNY.

Then why d'you treat him as if he was a dog?

BASIL.

My dear Jenny, I don't.... I'm very fond of dogs.

JENNY.

Oh, you're always sneering. Isn't he as good as I am? And you
condescended to marry me.

BASIL.

[_Coldly._] I really can't see that because I married you I must
necessarily take your whole family to my bosom.

JENNY.

Why don't you like them? They're honest and respectable.

BASIL.

[_With a little sigh of boredom._] My dear Jenny, we don't choose our
friends because they're honest and respectable any more than we choose
them because they change their linen daily.

JENNY.

They can't help it if they're poor.

BASIL.

My dear, I'm willing to acknowledge that they have every grace and every
virtue, but they rather bore me.

JENNY.

They wouldn't if they were swells.

            [BASIL _gives a short laugh, but does not answer;
            and_ JENNY _irritated, continues more
            angrily_.

JENNY.

And after all we're not in such a bad position as all that. My mother's
father was a gentleman.

BASIL.

I wish your mother's son were.

JENNY.

D'you know what Jimmie says you are?

BASIL.

I don't vastly care. But if it pleases you very much you may tell me.

JENNY.

[_Flushing angrily._] He says you're a damned snob.

BASIL.

Is that all? I could have invented far worse things than that to say of
myself.... [_With a change of tone._] You know, Jenny, it's not worth
while to worry ourselves about such trifles. One can't force oneself to
like people. I'm very sorry that I can't stand your relations. Why on
earth don't you resign yourself and make the best of it?

JENNY.

[_Vindictively._] You don't think they're good enough for you to
associate with because they're not in swell positions.

BASIL.

My dear Jenny, I don't in the least object to their being grocers and
haberdashers. I only wish they'd sell us things at cost price.

JENNY.

Jimmie isn't a grocer or a haberdasher. He's an auctioneer's clerk.

BASIL.

[_Ironically._] I humbly apologise. I thought he was a grocer, because
last time he did us the honour of visiting us he asked how much a pound
we paid for our tea and offered to sell us some at the same price....
But then he also offered to insure our house against fire and to sell me
a gold mine in Australia.

JENNY.

Well, it's better to make a bit as best one can than to.... [_She
stops._]

BASIL.

[_Smiling._] Go on. Pray don't hesitate for fear of hurting my feelings.

JENNY.

[_Defiantly._] Well, then, it's better to do that than moon about like
you do.

BASIL.

[_Shrugging his shoulders._] Really, even to please you, I'm afraid I
can't go about with little samples of tea in my pocket and sell my
friends a pound or two when I call on them. Besides, I don't believe
they'd ever pay me.

JENNY.

[_Scornfully._] Oh no, you're a gentleman and a barrister and an author,
and you couldn't do anything to dirty those white hands that you're so
careful about, could you?

BASIL.

[_Looking at his hands, then up at_ JENNY.] And what is it precisely you
want me to do?

JENNY.

Well, you've been at the Bar for five years. I should have thought you
could make something after all that time.

BASIL.

I can't force the wily solicitor to give me briefs.

JENNY.

How do other fellows manage it?

BASIL.

[_With a laugh._] The simplest way, I believe, is to marry the wily
solicitor's daughter.

JENNY.

Instead of a barmaid?

BASIL.

[_Gravely._] I didn't say that, Jenny.

JENNY.

[_Passionately._] Oh no. You didn't say it, but you hinted it. You never
say anything, but you're always hinting and insinuating--till you drive
me out of my senses.

BASIL.

[_After a moment's pause, gravely._] I'm very sorry if I hurt your
feelings. I promise you I don't mean to. I always try to be kind to you.

            [_He looks at_ JENNY, _expecting her to say something
            in forgiveness or in apology. But
            she, shrugging her shoulders, looks down
            sullenly at her work, without a word, and
            begins again to sew. Then_ BASIL, _tightening
            his lips, picks up writing materials and
            goes towards the door_.

JENNY.

[_Looking up quickly._] Where are you going?

BASIL.

[_Stopping._] I have some letters to write.

JENNY.

Can't you write them here?

BASIL.

Certainly--if it pleases you.

JENNY.

Don't you want me to see who you're writing to?

BASIL.

I haven't the least objection to your knowing all about my
correspondence.... And that's fortunate, since you invariably make
yourself acquainted with it.

JENNY.

Accuse me of reading your letters now.

BASIL.

[_With a smile._] You always leave my papers in such disorder after
you've been to my desk.

JENNY.

You've got no right to say that.

            [BASIL _pauses and looks at her steadily_.

BASIL.

Are you willing to swear that you don't go to my desk when I'm away to
read my letters? Come, Jenny, answer that question.

JENNY.

[_Disturbed but forced by his glance to reply._] Well, I'm you're wife,
I have a right to know.

BASIL.

[_Bitterly._] You have such odd ideas about the duties of a wife, Jenny.
They include reading my letters and following me in the street. But
tolerance and charity and forbearance don't seem to come in your scheme
of things.

JENNY.

[_Sullenly._] Why d'you want to write your letters elsewhere?

BASIL.

[_Shrugging his shoulders._] I thought I should be quieter.

JENNY.

I suppose I disturb you?

BASIL.

It's a little difficult to write when you're talking.

JENNY.

Why shouldn't I talk? D'you think I'm not good enough, eh? I should have
thought I was more important than your letters.

            [BASIL _does not answer_.

JENNY.

[_Angrily._] Am I your wife or not?

BASIL.

[_Ironically._] You have your marriage lines carefully locked up to
prove it.

JENNY.

Then why don't you treat me as your wife? You seem to think I'm only fit
to see after the house and order the dinner and mend your clothes. And
after that I can go and sit in the kitchen with the servant.

BASIL.

[_Moving again towards the door._] D'you think it's worth while making a
scene? We seem to have said all this before so many times.

JENNY.

[_Interrupting him._] I want to have it out.

BASIL.

[_Bored._] We've been having it out twice a week for the last six
months--and we've never got anywhere yet.

JENNY.

I'm not going to be always put upon, I'm your wife and I'm as good as
you are.

BASIL.

[_With a thin smile._] Oh, my dear, if you're going in for women's
rights, you may have my vote by all means. And you can plump for all the
candidates at once if you choose.

JENNY.

You seem to think it's a joke.

BASIL.

[_Bitterly._] Oh no, I promise you I don't do that. It's lasted too
long. And God knows where it'll end.... They say the first year of
marriage is the worst; ours has been bad enough in all conscience.

JENNY.

[_Aggressively._] And I suppose you think it's my fault?

BASIL.

Don't you think we're both more or less to blame?

JENNY.

[_With a laugh._] Oh, I'm glad you acknowledge that you have something
to do with it.

BASIL.

I tried to make you happy.

JENNY.

Well, you haven't succeeded very well. Did you think I was likely to be
happy--when you leave me alone all day and half the night for your swell
friends that I'm not good enough for?

BASIL.

That's not true. I hardly ever see any of my old friends.

JENNY.

Except Mrs. Murray, eh?

BASIL.

I've seen Mrs. Murray perhaps a dozen times in the last year.

JENNY.

Oh, you needn't tell me that. I know it. She's a lady, isn't she?

BASIL.

[_Ignoring the charge._] And my work takes me away from you. I can't
always be down here. Think how bored you'd be.

JENNY.

A precious lot of good your work does. You can't earn enough money to
keep us out of debt.

BASIL.

[_Good-humouredly._] We are in debt. But we share that very respectable
condition with half the nobility and gentry in the kingdom. We're
neither of us good managers, and we've lived a bit beyond our means this
year. But in future we'll be more economical.

JENNY.

[_Sullenly._] All the neighbours know that we've got bills with the
tradesmen.

BASIL.

[_Acidly._] I'm sorry that you shouldn't have made so good a bargain as
you expected when you married me.

JENNY.

I wonder what you do succeed in? Your book was very successful, wasn't
it? You thought you were going to set the Thames on fire, and the book
fell flat, flat, flat.

BASIL.

[_Recovering his good temper._] That is a fate which has befallen better
books than mine.

JENNY.

It deserved it.

BASIL.

Oh, I didn't expect _you_ to appreciate it. It isn't given to all of us
to write about wicked earls and beautiful duchesses.

JENNY.

Well, I wasn't the only one. The papers praised it, didn't they?

BASIL.

The unanimity of their blame was the only thing that consoled me.

JENNY.

And one of them advised you to study an English grammar. And you're the
fine gentleman who looks down on poor things like us!

BASIL.

I often wonder if the reviewer who abuses you for a printer's error
realises what pleasure he causes the wife of your bosom.

JENNY.

Oh, I've learnt to know you so well this last six months--since the baby
died. You've got no cause to set yourself up on a pedestal.

BASIL.

[_With a laugh._] My dear Jenny, I never pretended to be a golden idol.

JENNY.

I know what you are now. And I was such a fool as to think you a hero.
You're merely a failure. In everything you try you're a miserable
failure.

BASIL.

[_With a slight sigh._] Perhaps you're right, Jenny.

            [BASIL _walks up and down; and then, stopping,
            looks at her for a moment meditatively_.

BASIL.

I sometimes wonder whether we shouldn't be happier--if we lived apart.

JENNY.

[_With a start._] What d'you mean?

BASIL.

We don't seem able to get on very well. And I see no chance of things
going any better.

JENNY.

[_With staring eyes._] D'you mean to say you want to separate?

BASIL.

I think it might be better for both of us--at least for a time. Perhaps
later on we might try again.

JENNY.

And what'll _you_ do?

BASIL.

I should go abroad for a while.

JENNY.

With Mrs. Murray. Is that it? You want to go away with her.

BASIL.

[_Impatiently._] No. Of course not.

JENNY.

I don't believe it. You're in love with her.

BASIL.

You've got no right to say that.

JENNY.

Haven't I? I suppose I must shut my eyes and say nothing. You're in love
with her. D'you think I've not seen it in these months? That's why you
want to leave me.

BASIL.

It's impossible for us to live together. We shall never agree, and we
shall never be happy. For God's sake let us separate and have done with
it.

JENNY.

You're sick of me. You've had all you want out of me, and now I can go.
The fine lady comes along, and you send me away like a housemaid. D'you
think I can't see that you're in love with her? You'd sacrifice me
without a thought to save her a moment's unpleasantness. And because you
love her you hate me.

BASIL.

It's not true.

JENNY.

Can you deny that you're in love with her?

BASIL.

You're simply mad. Good heavens, I've done nothing that could give you
the least cause to be jealous.

JENNY.

[_Passionately._] Will you swear that you're not in love with her? Swear
it on your honour?

BASIL.

You're mad.

JENNY.

[_With growing excitement._] Swear it. You can't. You're simply madly in
love with her.

BASIL.

Nonsense.

JENNY.

Swear it. Swear it on your honour. Swear you don't care for her.

BASIL.

[_Shrugging his shoulders._] I swear it ... on my honour.

JENNY.

[_Scornfully._] It's a lie!... And she's just as much in love with you
as you are with her.

BASIL.

[_Seizing her wrists._] What d'you mean?

JENNY.

D'you think I haven't got eyes in my head? I saw it that day she came
here. D'you suppose she came to see me? She despises me. I'm not a lady.
She came here to please _you_. She was polite to me to please _you_. She
asked me to go and see her to please _you_.

BASIL.

[_Trying to compose himself._] It's absurd. She was an old friend of
mine. Of course she came.

JENNY.

I know that sort of friend. D'you think I didn't see the way she looked
at you, and how she followed you with her eyes? She simply hung on every
word you said. When you smiled, she smiled. When you laughed, she
laughed. Oh, I should think she was in love with you; I know what love
is, and I felt it. And when she looked at me I know she hated me because
I'd robbed her of you.

BASIL.

[_Unable to contain himself._] Oh, what a dog's life it is we lead!
We've been both utterly wretched. It can't go on--and I only see one way
out.

JENNY.

That's what you've been brooding over this last week, is it? Separation!
I knew there was something, and I couldn't find out what it was.

BASIL.

I do my best to hold myself in, but sometimes I feel it's impossible. I
shall be led to saying things that we shall both regret. For Heaven's
sake let us part.

JENNY.

No.

BASIL.

We can't go on having these awful quarrels. It's too degrading. It was a
horrible mistake that we ever married.

JENNY.

[_Horror-stricken._] Basil!

BASIL.

Oh, you must see that as well as I. We're utterly unsuited to one
another. And the baby's death removed the only necessity that held us
together.

JENNY.

You talk as if we only remained together because it was convenient.

BASIL.

[_Passionately._] Let me go, Jenny. I can't stand it any more. I feel as
if I shall go mad.

JENNY.

[_Full of pain and anguish._] It's nothing at all to you.

BASIL.

Jenny, I did my best for you a year ago. I gave you all I had to give.
It was little enough in all conscience. Now I ask you to give me back my
freedom.

JENNY.

[_Distracted._] You only think of yourself. What is to become of me?

BASIL.

You'll be much happier. It's the best thing for both of us. I'll do all
I can for you, and you can have your mother and sister to live here.

JENNY.

[_With a cry of grief and passion._] But I love you, Basil.

BASIL.

You!! Why, you've tortured me for six months beyond all endurance.
You've made all my days a burden to me. You've made my life a perfect
hell.

JENNY.

[_Gives a long groan of horror and dismay._] Oh!

            [_They stand facing one another, when the
            housemaid_, FANNY, _comes in_.

FANNY.

Mr. Halliwell.

            [JOHN _comes in_. JENNY, _after taking his hand,
            sinks down on a chair, paying no attention
            to the following conversation; she stares in
            front of her, quite distraught_. BASIL _tries
            with all his might to appear calm and
            natural_.

BASIL.

Hulloa, what are you doing in these parts?

JOHN.

How d'you do, Mrs. Kent? I've been having an early lunch at Richmond,
and I thought I'd just drop in on my way back. As it was Saturday
afternoon I thought I might find you.

BASIL.

I'm sure we're delighted to see you. [JOHN _gives a side-glance at_
JENNY, _and slightly raises his eyebrows_.] But you've only just come in
time, because I've got to go up to town. We might travel up together.

JOHN.

Certainly.

JENNY.

Where are you going, Basil?

BASIL.

To Chancery Lane, to see my agent on business.

JENNY.

[_Suspiciously._] On Saturday afternoon? Why, he won't be there.

BASIL.

I have an appointment with him.

            [JENNY _does not answer, but is obviously unconvinced_.
            JOHN, _somewhat embarrassed, exerts
            himself to make conversation_.

JOHN.

I was thinking as I came along that one must lead quite an idyllic
existence in the suburbs--with the river--and one's little garden.

BASIL.

[_Ironically._] And the spectacle of the fifty little houses opposite
all exactly like one another.

JOHN.

And the quiet is perfectly enchanting.

BASIL.

Oh, yes. The only vehicles that disturb the peaceful seclusion are the
milk-cart and the barrel-organs. It's quite idyllic.

JENNY.

I think it's a very nice neighbourhood. And you get such a superior
class of people here.

BASIL.

I'll just go and change. [_Looking at his watch._ There's a train at
4.15.

JOHN.

All right, hurry up.

            [BASIL _goes out of the room_. JENNY _at once
            springs to her feet and goes towards_ JOHN.
            _She is distracted and hardly knows what
            she says._

JENNY.

Can I trust you?

JOHN.

What d'you mean?

            [_She stares into his eyes, doubting, trying to see
            whether he will be willing to help her._

JENNY.

You used to be a good sort. You never looked down on me because I was a
barmaid. Tell me I can trust you, John. There's no one I can speak to,
and I feel if I don't speak I shall go off my head.

JOHN.

What is the matter?

JENNY.

Will you tell me the truth if I ask you something?

JOHN.

Of course.

JENNY.

On your oath?

JOHN.

On my oath.

JENNY.

[_After a momentary pause._] Is there anything between Basil and Mrs.
Murray?

JOHN.

[_Aghast._] No. Certainly not.

JENNY.

How d'you know? Are you sure? You wouldn't tell me, if there was. You're
all against me because I'm not a lady.... Oh, I'm so unhappy.

            [_She tries to restrain her tears, she is half-hysterical._
            JOHN _stares at her, surprised,
            at a loss for words_.

JENNY.

If you only knew what a life we lead! He calls it a dog's life, and he's
right.

JOHN.

I thought you got on so well.

JENNY.

Oh, before you we've always kept up appearances. He's ashamed to let you
know he regrets he ever married me. He wants to separate.

JOHN.

What!

JENNY.

[_Impatiently._] Oh, don't look so surprised. You're not an utter fool,
are you? He proposed it to-day before you came in. We'd been having one
of our rows.

JOHN.

But what on earth is it all about?

JENNY.

God knows!

JOHN.

It's nonsense. It can only be a little passing quarrel. You must expect
to have those.

JENNY.

No, it isn't. No, it isn't. He doesn't love me. He's in love with your
sister-in-law.

JOHN.

It's impossible.

JENNY.

He's always there. He was there twice last week and twice the week
before.

JOHN.

How d'you know?

JENNY.

I've followed him.

JOHN.

You followed him in the street, Jenny?

JENNY.

[_Defiantly._] Yes. If I'm not ladylike enough for him, I needn't play
the lady there. You're shocked now, I suppose?

JOHN.

I wouldn't presume to judge you, Jenny.

JENNY.

And I've read his letters, too--because I wanted to know what he was
doing. I steamed one open, and he saw it, and he never said a word.

JOHN.

Good heavens, why did you do it?

JENNY.

Because I can't live unless I know the truth. I thought it was Mrs.
Murray's handwriting.

JOHN.

Was it from her?

JENNY.

No. It was a receipt from the coal merchant. I could see how he despised
me when he looked at the envelope--I didn't stick it down again very
well. And I saw him smile when he found it was only a receipt.

JOHN.

Upon my word, I don't think you've got much cause to be jealous.

JENNY.

Oh, you don't know. Last Tuesday he was dining there, and you should
have seen the state he was in. He was so restless he couldn't sit still.
He looked at his watch every minute. His eyes simply glittered with
excitement, and I could almost hear his heart beating.

JOHN.

It can't be true.

JENNY.

He never loved me. He married me because he thought it was his duty. And
then when the baby died--he thought I'd entrapped him.

JOHN.

He didn't say so.

JENNY.

No. He never says anything--but I saw it in his eyes. [_Passionately
clasping her hands._] Oh, you don't know what our life is. For days he
doesn't say a word except to answer my questions. And the silence simply
drives me mad. I shouldn't mind if he blackguarded me. I'd rather he hit
me than simply look and look. I can see he's keeping himself in. He's
said more to-day than he's ever said before. I knew it was getting
towards the end.

JOHN.

[_With a helpless gesture._] I'm very sorry.

JENNY.

Oh, don't you pity me, too. I've had a great deal too much pity. I
don't want it. Basil married me from pity. Oh, I wish he hadn't. I can't
stand the unhappiness.

JOHN.

[_Gravely._] You know, Jenny, he's a man of honour.

JENNY.

Oh, I know he's a man of honour. I wish he had a little less of it. One
doesn't want a lot of fine sentiments in married life. They don't
work.... Oh, why couldn't I fall in love with a man of my own class? I
should have been so much happier. I used to be so proud that Basil
wasn't a clerk, or something in the City. He's right, we shall never be
happy.

JOHN.

[_Trying to calm her._] Oh, yes, you will. You mustn't take things too
seriously.

JENNY.

It isn't a matter of yesterday, or to-day, or to-morrow. I can't alter
myself. He knew I wasn't a lady when he married me. My father had to
bring up five children on two-ten a week. You can't expect a man to send
his daughters to a boarding-school at Brighton on that, and have them
finished in Paris.... He doesn't say a word when I do something or say
something a lady wouldn't--but he purses up his lips, and looks.... Then
I get so mad that I do things just to aggravate him. Sometimes I try to
be vulgar. One learns a good deal in a bar in the City, and I know so
well the things to say that'll make Basil curl up. I want to get a bit
of revenge out of him sometimes, and I know exactly where he's raw and
where I can hurt him. [_With a laugh of scorn._] You should see the way
he looks when I don't eat properly, or when I call a man a Johnny.

JOHN.

[_Drily._] It opens up endless possibilities of domestic unhappiness.

JENNY.

Oh, I know it isn't fair to him, but I lose my head. I can't always be
refined. Sometimes I can't help breaking out. I feel I must let myself
go.

JOHN.

Why don't you separate, then?

JENNY.

Because I love him. Oh, John, you don't know how I love him. I'd do
anything to make him happy. I'd give my life if he wanted it. Oh, I
can't say it, but when I think of him my heart burns so that sometimes I
can hardly breathe. I can never show him that he's all in the world to
me; I try to make him love me, and I only make him hate me. What can I
do to show him? Ah, if he only knew, I'm sure he'd not regret that he
married me. I feel--I feel as if my heart was full of music, and yet
something prevents me from ever bringing it out.

JOHN.

D'you think he means it seriously when he talks of separation?

JENNY.

He's been brooding over it. I know him so well, I knew there was
something he was thinking over. Oh, John, I couldn't live without him.
I'd rather die. If he leaves me, I swear I'll kill myself.

JOHN.

[_Walking up and down._] I wish I could help you. I don't see anything I
can do.

JENNY.

Oh, yes, there is. Speak to your sister-in-law. Ask her to have mercy on
me. Perhaps she doesn't know what she's doing. Tell her I love him....
Take care. There's Basil. If he knew what I'd said he'd never speak to
me again.

            [BASIL _comes in, dressed in a frock-coat; with a
            tall hat in his hand_.

BASIL.

I'm ready. We've just got time to catch the train.

JOHN.

All right. Good-bye, Mrs. Kent.

JENNY.

[_Keeping her eyes fixed on_ BASIL.] Good-bye.

            [_The two men go out._ JENNY _runs to the door
            and calls out_.

JENNY.

Basil, I want you a moment, Basil!

            [BASIL _appears at the door_.

JENNY.

Are you really going to Chancery Lane?

            [BASIL _makes a movement of impatience and
            goes out again without answering_.

JENNY.

[_Alone._] Oh, well, I'm going to see that for myself. [_Calling to the_
MAID.] Fanny!... Bring my hat and my jacket. Quick!

            [_She runs to the window and looks out at_ BASIL
            _and_ JOHN _going away_. FANNY _appears
            with the clothes_. JENNY _hurriedly puts
            them on_.

JENNY.

[_As_ FANNY _is helping her_.] What time is it?

FANNY.

[_Looking up at the clock._] Five minutes past four.

JENNY.

I think I can catch it. He said 4.15.

FANNY.

Will you be in to tea, mum?

JENNY.

I don't know. [_She runs to the door and rushes out._]


END OF THE SECOND ACT.



THE THIRD ACT

THE SAME AFTERNOON.


     [_A luxuriously furnished drawing-room at_ MRS. MURRAY'S _house in
     Charles Street, Mayfair. Everything in it is beautiful, but
     suggests in the owner good taste rather than originality._]

     [HILDA _is seated near a tea-table, elaborately gowned, and with
     her is_ MABEL. MR. ROBERT BRACKLEY _is sitting down, a stout,
     round-faced man, clean-shaven and very bald; about forty; he is
     attired in the height of fashion, in a frock-coat, patent-leather
     boots and an eye-glass. He talks very quickly, in a careless
     frivolous fashion, and is always much amused at what he says._]


MABEL.

What is the time, Mr. Brackley?

BRACKLEY.

I shan't tell you again.

MABEL.

How brutal of you!

BRACKLEY.

There's something unhealthy in your passion for information. I've
already told you five times.

HILDA.

It's very unflattering to us who've been doing our little best to amuse
you.

MABEL.

I can't imagine what's happened to John. He promised to fetch me here.

HILDA.

He's sure to come if you'll only wait patiently.

MABEL.

But I hate waiting patiently.

HILDA.

You shouldn't have let him out of your sight.

MABEL.

He went to Putney after luncheon to see your friend Mr. Kent. Have you
seen him lately?

HILDA.

John? I saw him at the Martins yesterday.

MABEL.

[_Slyly._] I meant Mr. Kent.

HILDA.

[_Indifferently._] Yes. He called the other day. [_To change the
conversation._] You're unusually silent, Mr. Brackley.

BRACKLEY.

[_Smiling._] I have nothing whatever to say.

MABEL.

That's usually when clever people talk most.

HILDA.

Are you doing anything now?

BRACKLEY.

Oh yes, I'm writing a play in blank verse.

HILDA.

You brave man. What is it about?

BRACKLEY.

Cleopatra.

HILDA.

Dear me! Shakespeare wrote a play about Cleopatra, didn't he?

BRACKLEY.

I daresay. I haven't read it. Shakespeare bores me. He lived so long
ago.

MABEL.

Of course there are people who read him.

BRACKLEY.

Are there? What do they look like?

HILDA.

[_Smiling._] They bear no distinctive mark of their eccentricity.

BRACKLEY.

The English are so original.

MABEL.

I think I shall go and ring up the flat. I wonder if John has gone
straight home.

BRACKLEY.

Do. I'm growing very uneasy about him.

MABEL.

[_Laughing._] You absurd creature.

            [_She goes out._

HILDA.

You talk more nonsense than anyone I ever met.

BRACKLEY.

That's my stock in trade. You don't imagine people would read my poems
if they knew that I was sober, industrious, and economical. As a matter
of fact I lead the virtuous life of a clergyman's daughter, but not a
reviewer would notice me if he knew it.

HILDA.

And the little things that the indiscreet read of in the papers....

BRACKLEY.

Are merely another proof of my passion for duty. The British public
wants its poets to lead romantic lives.

HILDA.

Are you ever serious?

BRACKLEY.

May I come to lunch with you on Thursday?

HILDA.

[_A little surprised._] Certainly. But why on Thursday?

BRACKLEY.

Because on that day I intend to ask you to marry me.

HILDA.

[_With a smile._] I'm sorry, I've just remembered that I'm lunching out.

BRACKLEY.

You break my heart.

HILDA.

On the contrary, I provide you with the materials for a sonnet.

BRACKLEY.

Won't you marry me?

HILDA.

No.

BRACKLEY.

Why not?

HILDA.

[_Amused._] I'm not in the least in love with you.

BRACKLEY.

People who propose to marry should ask themselves if they can look
forward with equanimity to breakfasting opposite one another for an
indefinite number of years.

HILDA.

You're very unromantic.

BRACKLEY.

My dear lady, if you want romance I'll send you my complete works bound
in vellum. I've ground out ten volumes of romance to Phyllis and Chloe
and heaven knows who. The Lord save me from a romantic wife.

HILDA.

But I'm afraid I'm hopelessly romantic.

BRACKLEY.

Well, six months of marriage with a poet will cure you.

HILDA.

I'd rather not be cured.

BRACKLEY.

Won't you be in to luncheon on Thursday?

HILDA.

No.

            [_The_ BUTLER _comes in_.

BUTLER.

Mr. Halliwell, Mr. Kent.

            [BASIL _and_ JOHN _appear_, _and at the same
            moment_ MABEL _comes in from the room in
            which she has been telephoning_.

MABEL.

[_To_ JOHN.] Wretched creature! I've been trying to ring you up.

JOHN.

Have I kept you waiting? I went down to Chancery Lane with Basil.

            [JOHN _turns to shake hands with_ HILDA _and_
            BRACKLEY, _while_ BASIL, _who has said how
            d'you do to_ HILDA, _comes down to speak to_
            MABEL. _The conversation between_ MABEL
            _and_ BASIL _is in an undertone_.

BASIL.

How d'you do. You must scold me for keeping John so long.

MABEL.

I didn't really want him, you know.

BASIL.

[_Pointing with his head to_ BRACKLEY.] I say, who is that?

MABEL.

Robert Brackley. Don't you know him?

BASIL.

The poet?

MABEL.

Of course. They say he'd have been given the Laureateship if it hadn't
been abolished at Tennyson's death.

BASIL.

[_Tightening his lips._] He's rather a low blackguard, isn't he?

MABEL.

Heavens, what's the matter with him, poor man? He's Hilda's latest
celebrity. He pretends to adore her.

BASIL.

Don't you remember the Grange case that he was mixed up in?

MABEL.

[_In tones of surprise._] But, my dear Mr. Kent, that was two years ago.

HILDA.

Mr. Kent, I want to introduce you to Mr. Brackley.

BASIL.

[_Going up._] How d'you do.

            [JOHN _comes down to his wife_.

MABEL.

Wretched creature!

JOHN.

I say, Mabel, is Basil often here?

MABEL.

I don't know. I met him here last week.

JOHN.

Why the Dickens does he come? He's got no business to.

MABEL.

You brought him yourself to-day.

JOHN.

I didn't. He insisted on coming--when I said I had to fetch you.

MABEL.

Perhaps he came to see me.

JOHN.

Fiddledidee! I think you ought to speak to Hilda about it.

MABEL.

My dear John, are you mad? She'd jump down my throat.

JOHN.

Why does she let him hang about her? She must know she's turning his
silly head.

MABEL.

I daresay she wants to prove to him that he showed very bad taste a year
ago. It is rather annoying when you're attached to a young man that he
should go and marry somebody else.

JOHN.

Well, I don't think she's playing the game, and I shall tell her so.

MABEL.

She'll snub you awfully.

JOHN.

I don't care.... Look here, you make a diversion so that I can get hold
of her.

MABEL.

How?

JOHN.

[_Dryly._] I don't know. Exercise your invention.

MABEL.

[_Going towards the others._] Hilda, John is clamouring for some tea.

HILDA.

[_Coming down._] Why on earth can't he help himself?

JOHN.

My native modesty prevents.

HILDA.

That's quite a new trait in you.

            [HILDA _sits down and pours out tea for_ JOHN.
            _He looks at her silently._

HILDA.

You've been lunching at Richmond?

JOHN.

Yes.... Then I went on to Putney.

HILDA.

You've been making quite a day of it.

JOHN.

[_Taking the cup._] I say, old gal--you're not going to make a fool of
yourself, are you?

HILDA.

[_Opening her eyes._] Oh, I hope not. Why?

JOHN.

I thought it might have slipped your memory that Basil was married about
a year ago.

HILDA.

[_Freezing._] What on earth d'you mean? [_Calling_] Mabel.

JOHN.

One moment.... You can give me a little conversation, can't you?

HILDA.

I'm afraid you're going to bore me.

JOHN.

[_Good-humouredly._] I assure you I'm not.... Isn't Basil here rather
often?

HILDA.

I wonder you haven't learnt to mind your own business, John.

JOHN.

Don't you think it's rather rough on that poor little woman in Putney?

HILDA.

[_With a suspicion of contempt._] I went down to see her. I thought she
was vulgar and pretentious. I'm afraid I can't arouse any interest in
her.

JOHN.

[_Gently._] She may be vulgar, but she told me her love was like music
in her heart. Don't you think she must have suffered awfully to get hold
of a thought like that?

HILDA.

[_After a pause, changing suddenly both voice and manner._] And d'you
think I've not suffered, John? I'm so unhappy.

JOHN.

Do you really care for him?

HILDA.

[_In a low voice hoarse with passion._] No, I don't care for him. I
worship the very ground he treads on.

JOHN.

[_Very gravely._] Then you must do as you think best.... You're playing
the most dangerous game in the world. You're playing with human
hearts.... Good-bye.

HILDA.

[_Taking his hand._] Good-bye, John. You're not angry with me because I
was horrid.... I'm glad you told me about his wife. Now I shall know
what to do.

JOHN.

Mabel.

MABEL.

[_Coming forward._] Yes, we really must be going. I've not seen my
precious baby for two hours.

HILDA.

[_Taking both her hands._] Good-bye, you happy child. You've got a
precious baby, and you've got a husband you love. What can you want
more?

MABEL.

[_Flippantly._] I want a motor-car.

HILDA.

[_Kissing her._] Good-bye, darling.

            [MABEL _and_ JOHN _go out_.

BRACKLEY.

I like this room, Mrs. Murray. It never seems to say to you: now it's
really time for you to go away, as some drawing-rooms do.

HILDA.

[_Recovering her serenity._] I suppose it's the furniture. I'm thinking
of changing it.

BRACKLEY.

[_With a smile._] Upon my word, that almost suggests that I've outstayed
my welcome.

HILDA.

[_Gaily._] I shouldn't have said that if I didn't know that nothing
would induce you to go till you wanted to.

BRACKLEY.

[_Rising._] You know me like your glove. But it really is growing
monstrous late.

HILDA.

You mustn't go till you've told me who the fair charmer was I saw you
with at the play last night.

BRACKLEY.

Ah, the green-eyed monster!

HILDA.

[_Laughing._] Don't be so absurd, but I thought you'd like to know her
yellow hair was dyed.

            [BASIL _looks over the pages of a book_, _somewhat
            annoyed that_ HILDA _takes no notice of him_.

BRACKLEY.

Of course it was dyed. That was just the charm of it. Any woman can have
yellow hair naturally: there's no more credit in that than in having it
blue or green.

HILDA.

I've always wanted to make mine purple.

BRACKLEY.

Don't you think women ought to be artificial? It's just as much their
duty to rouge their cheeks and powder their noses as it is for them to
wear nice frocks.

HILDA.

But I know many women who wear horrid frocks.

BRACKLEY.

Oh, those are the others. I treat them as non-existent.

_Hilda._

What do you mean?

BRACKLEY.

There are only two sorts of women in the world--the women who powder
their noses and the others.

HILDA.

And who are they if you please?

BRACKLEY.

I haven't examined the matter very carefully, but I understand they are
clergymen's daughters by profession.

            [_He shakes hands with her._

HILDA.

It's so nice of you to have come.

BRACKLEY.

[_Nodding at_ BASIL.] Good-bye.... May I come again soon?

HILDA.

[_Looking at him quickly._] Were you serious just now, or were you
laughing at me?

BRACKLEY.

I've never been more serious in my life.

HILDA.

Then perhaps I shall be in to luncheon on Thursday after all.

BRACKLEY.

A thousand thanks. Good-bye.

            [_He nods to_ BASIL _and goes out_. HILDA _looks
            at_ BASIL _with a smile_.

HILDA.

Is that a very interesting book?

BASIL.

[_Putting it down._] I thought that man was never going away.

HILDA.

[_Laughing._] I suspect he thought precisely the same of you.

BASIL.

[_Ill-temperedly._] What an ass he is! How _can_ you stand him?

HILDA.

I'm rather attached to him. I don't take everything he says very
seriously. And young men ought to be foolish.

BASIL.

He didn't strike me as so juvenile as all that.

HILDA.

He's only forty, poor thing--and I've never known a coming young man who
was less than that.

BASIL.

He's a young man with a very bald head.

HILDA.

[_Amused._] I wonder why you dislike him!

BASIL.

[_With a jealous glance, icily._] I thought he wasn't admitted into
decent houses.

HILDA.

[_Opening her eyes._] He comes here, Mr. Kent.

BASIL.

[_Unable to restrain his ill-temper._] Don't you know that he's been
mixed up in every scandal for the last twenty years?

HILDA.

[_Good-humouredly_, _seeing that_ BASIL _is merely jealous_.] There must
be people in the world to provide gossip for their neighbours.

BASIL.

It's no business of mine. I have no right to talk to you like this.

HILDA.

I wonder why you do it?

BASIL.

[_Almost savagely._] Because I love you.

            [_There is a little pause._

HILDA.

[_With a smile, ironically._] Won't you have some more tea, Mr. Kent?

BASIL.

[_Going up to her, speaking with a sort of vehement gravity._] You don't
know what I've suffered. You don't know what a hell my life is.... I
tried so hard to prevent myself from coming here. When I married I swore
I'd break with all my old friends.... When I married I found I loved
_you_.

HILDA.

I can't listen to you if you talk like that.

BASIL.

D'you want me to go?

            [_She does not answer for a moment, but walks
            up and down in agitation. At last she
            stops and faces him._

HILDA.

Did you hear me tell Mr. Brackley to come on Thursday?

BASIL.

Yes.

HILDA.

He's asked me to be his wife. And on Thursday I shall give him an
answer.

BASIL.

Hilda!

HILDA.

[_Earnestly._] It's you who've driven me into it.

BASIL.

Hilda, what are you going to say to him?

HILDA.

I don't know--perhaps, yes?

BASIL.

Oh, Hilda, Hilda, you don't care for him?

HILDA.

[_Shrugging her shoulders._] He amuses me. I dare say we should get on
very well together.

BASIL.

[_Passionately._] Oh, you can't. You don't know what you're doing. I
thought--I thought you loved me.

HILDA.

It's because I love you that I shall marry Mr. Brackley.

BASIL.

Oh, it's absurd. I won't let you. You're making us both utterly
wretched. I won't let you sacrifice our happiness. Oh, Hilda, I love
you. I can't live without you. At first I tried to resist seeing you. I
used to pass your door and look up at your windows; and the door seemed
as if it were waiting for me. And at the end of the street I used to
look back. Oh, how I used to want to come in and see you once more! I
thought if I saw you just once, I should get over it. And at last I
couldn't help myself. I'm so weak. Do you despise me?

HILDA.

[_Almost in a whisper._] I don't know.

BASIL.

And you were so kind I couldn't help coming again. I thought I did no
harm.

HILDA.

I saw you were unhappy.

BASIL.

I should think I was unhappy. For months I've dreaded going home. When I
saw my house as I walked along I almost turned sick. You don't know how
fervently I've wished that I'd got killed in the war. I can't go on.

HILDA.

But you must. It's your duty.

BASIL.

Oh, I think I've had enough of duty and honour. I've used up all my
principles in the last year.

HILDA.

Don't say that, Basil.

BASIL.

After all, it's my own fault. I brought it on myself, and I must take
the consequences.... But I haven't the strength, I don't love her.

HILDA.

Then don't let her ever find it out. Be kind to her, and gentle and
forbearing.

BASIL.

I can't be kind and gentle and forbearing day after day, for weeks, and
months, and years.

HILDA.

I thought you were a brave man. They wouldn't have given you that medal
if you'd been a coward.

BASIL.

Oh, my dearest, it's not hard to risk your life in the midst of battle.
I can do that--but this needs more strength than I've got. I tell you I
can't endure it.

HILDA.

[_Tenderly._] But it'll get better. You'll get used to one another, and
you'll understand one another better.

BASIL.

We're too different. It's impossible for it to get better. We can't even
go on as we have been. I've felt that the end was coming.

HILDA.

But try--try for my sake.

BASIL.

You don't know what it is. Everything she says, everything she does,
jars upon me so frightfully. I try to restrain myself. I clench my teeth
to prevent myself from breaking out at her. Sometimes I can't help it,
and I say things that I'd give anything to have left unsaid. She's
dragging me down. I'm getting as common and vulgar as she is.

HILDA.

How can you say that of your wife?

BASIL.

Don't you think I must have gone through a good deal before I could
acknowledge to myself what she was? I'm chained to her for all my life.
And when I look into the future--I see her a vulgar, slatternly shrew
like her mother, and myself abject, degraded, and despicable. The woman
never tires in her conflict with the man, and in the end _he_ always
succumbs. A man, when he marries a woman like that, thinks he's going to
lift her up to his own station. The fool! It's she who drags him down to
hers.

HILDA.

[_Much disturbed, rising from her seat._] I wanted you to be so happy.

BASIL.

[_Going towards her._] Hilda!

HILDA.

No--don't.... Please!

BASIL.

If it weren't for you I couldn't have lived. It was only by seeing you
that I gathered courage to go on with it. And each time I came here I
loved you more passionately.

HILDA.

Oh, why did you come?

BASIL.

I couldn't help it. I knew it was poison, but I loved the poison. I
would give my whole soul for one look of your eyes.

HILDA.

If you care for me at all, do your duty like a brave man--and let me
respect you.

BASIL.

Say that you love me, Hilda.

HILDA.

[_Distracted._] You're making our friendship impossible. Don't you see
that you're preventing me from ever having you here again?

BASIL.

I can't help it.

HILDA.

I ought never to have seen you again. I thought there was no harm in
your coming, and I--I couldn't bear to lose you altogether.

BASIL.

Even if I never see you again, I must tell you now that I love you. I
made you suffer, I was blind. But I love you with all my heart, Hilda.
All day I think of you, and I dream of you in the night. I long to take
you in my arms and kiss you, to kiss your lips, and your beautiful hair,
and your hands. My whole soul is yours, Hilda.

            [_He goes towards her again to take her in his
            arms._

HILDA.

Oh, no, go away. For God's sake, go now. I can't bear it.

BASIL.

Hilda, I can't live without you.

HILDA.

Have mercy on me. Don't you see how weak I am? Oh, God help me!

BASIL.

You don't love me?

HILDA.

[_Vehemently._] You know I love you. But because of my great love I
beseech you to do your duty.

BASIL.

My duty is to be happy. Let us go where we can love one another--away
from England, to a land where love isn't sinful and ugly.

HILDA.

Oh, Basil, let us try to walk straight. Think of your wife, who loves
you also--as much as I do. You're all the world to her. You can't treat
her so shamefully.

            [_She puts her handkerchief to her eyes, and_ BASIL
            _gently takes away her hand_.

BASIL.

Don't cry, Hilda. I can't bear it.

HILDA.

[_In broken tones._] Don't you understand that we could never respect
ourselves again if we did that poor creature such a fearful wrong? She
would be always between us with her tears and her sorrows. I tell you I
couldn't bear it. Have mercy on me--if you love me at all.

BASIL.

[_Wavering._] Hilda, it's too hard. I can't leave you.

HILDA.

You must. I _know_ it's better to do our duty. For my sake, dearest, go
back to your wife, and don't let her ever know that you love me. It's
because we're stronger than she that we must sacrifice ourselves.

            [_He leans his head on his hands, and sighs
            deeply. For a while they remain in silence.
            At last, with another sigh, he gets up._

BASIL.

I don't know any longer what's right and what's wrong. It all seems
confused. It's very hard.

HILDA.

[_Hoarsely._] It's just as hard for me, Basil.

BASIL.

[_Broken-hearted._] Good-bye, then. I dare say you're right. And perhaps
I should only make you very unhappy.

HILDA.

Good-bye, my dearest.

            [_He bends down and kisses her hands. She
            stifles a sob. He goes slowly to the door,
            with his back turned to her; and then_
            HILDA, _unable to endure it, gives a groan_.

HILDA.

Basil. Don't go.

BASIL.

[_With a cry of joy._] Ah! Hilda.

            [_He clasps her passionately in his arms._

HILDA.

Oh, I can't bear it. I won't lose you. Basil, say you love me.

BASIL.

[_In a madness of joy._] Yes. I love you with all my heart.

HILDA.

I could have borne it if you'd been happy.

BASIL.

Now _nothing_ can separate us, Hilda. You belong to me for ever.

HILDA.

God help me! What have I done?

BASIL.

If we lose our souls, what does it matter? We gain the whole world.

HILDA.

Oh, Basil, I want your love. I want your love so badly.

BASIL.

Will you come with me, Hilda? I can take you to a land where the whole
earth speaks only of love--and where only love and youth and beauty
matter.

HILDA.

Let us go where we can be together always. We have so short a time; let
us snatch all the happiness we can.

BASIL.

[_Kissing her again._] My darling.

HILDA.

Oh, Basil, Basil.... [_She starts away._] Take care!

            [_The_ BUTLER _comes in_.]

BUTLER.

Mrs. Kent.

            [JENNY _enters hurriedly, as he gives her name.
            The_ BUTLER _at once goes out_.

BASIL.

Jenny!

JENNY.

I've caught you.

BASIL.

[_Trying to be urbane_--_to_ HILDA] I think you know my wife.

JENNY.

[_In a loud angry voice._] Oh, yes, I know her. You needn't introduce
me. I've come for my husband.

BASIL.

Jenny, what are you saying?

JENNY.

Oh, I don't want any of your Society shams. I've come here to speak out.

BASIL.

[_To_ HILDA.] Would you mind leaving us alone?

JENNY.

[_Also to_ HILDA, _passionately_.] No, I want to speak to you. You're
trying to get my husband from me. He's _my_ husband.

BASIL.

Be quiet, Jenny. Are you mad? Mrs. Murray, for God's sake leave us.
She'll insult you.

JENNY.

You think of her, you don't think of me. You don't care how much I
suffer.

BASIL.

[_Taking her arm._] Come away, Jenny.

JENNY.

[_Shaking him off._] I won't. You're afraid to let me see her.

HILDA.

[_Pale and trembling, conscience-stricken._] Let her speak.

JENNY.

[_Going up to_ HILDA _threateningly_.] You're stealing my husband from
me. Oh, you.... [_She is at a loss for words violent enough._

HILDA.

I don't want to make you unhappy, Mrs. Kent.

JENNY.

You can't get round me with polite words. I'm sick of all that. I want
to speak straight.

BASIL.

[_To_ HILDA.] Please go. You can do no good.

JENNY.

[_Still more vehemently._] You're stealing my husband from me. You're a
wicked woman.

HILDA.

[_Almost in a whisper._] If you like I'll promise you never to see your
husband again.

JENNY.

[_With angry scorn._] Much good your promises will do me. I wouldn't
believe a word you said. I know what Society ladies are. We know all
about them in the City.

BASIL.

[_To_ HILDA.] You _must_ leave us alone.

            [_He opens the door, and she goes out, looking
            away from him._

JENNY.

[_Savagely._] She's frightened of me. She daren't stand up to me.

BASIL.

[_As_ HILDA _goes_.] I'm so sorry.

JENNY.

You're sorry for her.

BASIL.

[_Turning on her._] Yes, I am. What d'you mean by coming here and
behaving like this?

JENNY.

I've caught you at last.... You liar! You dirty liar! You told me you
were going to Chancery Lane.

BASIL.

I have been to Chancery Lane.

JENNY.

Oh, I know you have--for five minutes. It was only an excuse. You might
just as well have come here straight.

BASIL.

[_Angrily._] How dare you follow me?

JENNY.

I've got a right to follow you.

BASIL.

[_Unable to contain himself._] What d'you want here?

JENNY.

I want you. D'you think I didn't guess what was going on? I saw you come
in with Halliwell. Then I saw him go out with his wife. Then another man
went out, and I knew you were alone with her.

BASIL.

[_Sharply._] How did you know?

JENNY.

I gave the butler a sovereign, and he told me.

BASIL.

[_Looking for a word to express his contempt._] Oh, you ... you cad!
It's only what I should have expected you to do.

JENNY.

And then I waited for you, and you didn't come. And at last I couldn't
wait any longer.

BASIL.

Well, you've finished it now.

[JENNY _catches sight of a photograph of_ BASIL, _standing on a table_.

JENNY.

[_Pointing to it._] What's she got your photograph here for?

BASIL.

I gave it to Mrs. Murray before I was married.

JENNY.

She's got no right to keep it there.

            [_She takes the photograph and flings it violently
            on the floor._

BASIL.

Jenny, what are you doing?

            [JENNY _digs her heel into it savagely, viciously_.

JENNY.

[_Hissing the words._] Oh, I hate her. I hate her.

BASIL.

[_Striving to contain himself._] You drive me perfectly mad. You'll make
me say things that I shall regret all my life. For Heaven's sake, go.

JENNY.

I shan't go till you come with me.

BASIL.

[_Beside himself._] I choose to remain.

JENNY.

What d'you mean?

BASIL.

Look here, until to-day I swear to you before God that I've never done
anything or said anything that you couldn't have known. Do you believe
me?

JENNY.

I don't believe that you're not in love with that woman.

BASIL.

I don't ask you to.

JENNY.

What!

BASIL.

I said, until to-day I've been absolutely faithful to you. Heaven knows,
I've tried to do my duty. I've done all I could to make you happy. And
I've struggled with all my might to love you.

JENNY.

Say it out if you've got anything to say, I'm not afraid to hear.

BASIL.

I don't wish to deceive you. It's best that you should know what has
happened.

JENNY.

[_Scornfully._] Now for another thumping lie.

BASIL.

This afternoon I told Hilda I loved her.... And she loves me too.

JENNY.

[_With a cry of rage._] Oh!

            [_She hits at his face with her umbrella, but he
            wards the blow, and, snatching the umbrella
            from her, throws it away._

BASIL.

You've brought it on yourself. You made me too unhappy.

            [JENNY, _panting and bewildered, stands helpless,
            trying to control herself_.

BASIL.

And now it's the end. The life we led was impossible. I tried to do
something that was beyond my power. I'm going away. I can't and I won't
live with you any longer.

JENNY.

[_Frightened at herself and at what he says._] Basil, you don't mean
that?

BASIL.

I've struggled against it for months. And now I'm beaten.

JENNY.

You've got me to count with. I won't let you go.

BASIL.

[_Bitterly._] What more d'you want? Isn't it enough that you've ruined
my whole life?

JENNY.

[_Hoarsely._] You don't love me?

BASIL.

I never loved you.

JENNY.

Why did you marry me?

BASIL.

Because you made me.

JENNY.

[_In a whisper._] You never loved me--even at the beginning?

BASIL.

Never.

JENNY.

Basil!

BASIL.

It's too late now to keep it in. I must tell you and have done with it.
_You've_ been having it out for months--now it's my turn.

JENNY.

[_Going up to him and trying to put her arm round his neck._] But I love
you, Basil. I'll make you love me.

BASIL.

[_Shrinking from her._] Don't touch me!

JENNY.

[_With a movement of despair._] I really think you loathe me.

BASIL.

For Heaven's sake, Jenny, let us finish with it. I'm very sorry. I don't
wish to be unkind to you. But you must have seen that--that I didn't
care for you. What's the good of going on humbugging, and pretending,
and making ourselves utterly wretched?

JENNY.

Yes, I've seen it. But I wouldn't believe it. When I've put my hand on
your shoulder, I've seen that you could hardly help shuddering. And
sometimes when I've kissed you, I've seen you put out all your strength
to prevent yourself from pushing me away.

BASIL.

Jenny, I can't help it if I don't love you. I can't help it if I--if I
love some one else.

JENNY.

[_Dazed and cowed._] What are you going to do?

BASIL.

I'm going away.

JENNY.

Where?

BASIL.

God knows.

            [_There is a knock at the door._

BASIL.

Come in.

            [_The_ BUTLER _enters with a note, which he gives
            to_ BASIL.

BUTLER.

Mrs. Murray told me to give you this note, Sir.

BASIL.

[_Taking it._] Thank you.

            [_He opens and reads it as the_ SERVANT _goes out
            of the room, then looks up at_ JENNY, _who
            is anxiously watching him_.

[_Reading._] "You may tell your wife that I've made up my mind to marry
Mr. Brackley. I will never see you again."

JENNY.

What does she mean?

BASIL.

[_Bitterly._] Isn't it clear? Some one has asked her to marry him, and
she means to accept.

JENNY.

But you said she loved you.

            [_He shrugs his shoulders without answering._
            JENNY _goes up to him imploringly_.

JENNY.

Oh, Basil, if it's true, give me another chance. She doesn't love you as
I love you. I've been selfish and quarrelsome and exacting, but I've
always loved you. Oh, don't leave me, Basil. Let me try once more if I
can't make you care for me.

BASIL.

[_Looking down, hoarsely._] I'm very sorry. It's too late.

JENNY.

[_Despairingly._] Oh, God, what shall I do? And even though she's going
to marry somebody else, you care for her better than any one else in the
world?

BASIL.

[_In a whisper._] Yes.

JENNY.

And even if she does marry that other man she'll love you still. There's
no room for me between you. I can go away like a discharged servant....
Oh, God! oh, God! what have I done to deserve it?

BASIL.

[_Touched by her utter misery._] I'm very sorry to make you so unhappy.

JENNY.

Oh, don't pity me. D'you think I want your pity now?

BASIL.

You had better come away, Jenny.

JENNY.

No. You've told me you don't want me any more. I shall go my own way.

BASIL.

[_Looks at her for a moment, hesitating; then shrugs his shoulders._]
Then good-bye.

            [_He goes out, and_ JENNY, _looking after him,
            passes her hand wearily over her forehead_.

JENNY.

[_With a sigh._] He's so glad to go.... [_She gives a little sob._]
They've got no room for me.

            [_She takes up from the floor the photograph on
            which she stamped, and looks at it; then
            sinks down, burying her face in her hands,
            and bursts into a passion of tears._


END OF THE THIRD ACT.



THE FOURTH ACT.

THE NEXT MORNING.


     [_The scene is the same as in the Second Act, the drawing-room at
     Basil's house in Putney._ BASIL _is sitting at the table, with his
     head in his hands. He looks tired and worn; his face is very white,
     and there are great black lines under his eyes. His hair is
     dishevelled. On the table lies a revolver._


            [_A knock at the door._

BASIL.

[_Without looking up._] Come in.

            [FANNY _enters_.]

FANNY.

[_Subdued and pale._] I came to see if you wanted anything, sir.

BASIL.

[_Looking up at her slowly, his voice is dull and hoarse._] No.

FANNY.

Shall I open the windows, Sir? It's a beautiful morning.

BASIL.

No, I'm cold. Make up the fire.

FANNY.

Wouldn't you like a cup of tea? You ought to 'ave something after not
going to bed all night.

BASIL.

I don't want anything.... Don't worry, there's a good woman.

            [FANNY _puts coals on the fire, while BASIL
            listlessly watches her_.

BASIL.

How long is it since you sent the telegrams?

FANNY.

I took them the moment the office was opened.

BASIL.

What's the time?

FANNY.

Well, sir, it must be 'alf-past nine by now.

BASIL.

Good Heavens, how slowly the hours go. I thought the night would never
end.... Oh, God, what shall I do?

FANNY.

I'll make you a strong cup of tea. If you don't 'ave something to pull
you together--I don't know what'll 'appen to you.

BASIL.

Yes, make it quickly, I'm thirsty.... And I'm so cold.

            [_A ring at the front door is heard._

BASIL.

[_Jumping up._] There's some one at the door, Fanny. Hurry up.

            [_She goes out, and he follows her to the door of
            the room._

BASIL.

Fanny, don't let any one up beside Mr. Halliwell. Say I can see no one.
[_He waits for a moment, anxiously._] Is that you, John?

JOHN.

[_Outside._] Yes.

BASIL.

[_To himself._] Thank God!

            [JOHN _comes in_.

BASIL.

I thought you were never coming. I begged you to come at once.

JOHN.

I started immediately I got your wire.

BASIL.

It seems hours since the girl went to the post-office.

JOHN.

What's the matter?

BASIL.

[_Hoarsely._] Don't you know? I thought I had said it in my telegram.

JOHN.

You simply wired that you were in great trouble.

BASIL.

I suppose I thought you'd see it in the papers.

JOHN.

What on earth d'you mean? I've not seen a paper. Where's your wife?

BASIL.

[_After a pause, almost in a whisper._] She's dead.

JOHN.

[_Thunderstruck._] Good God!

BASIL.

[_Impatiently._] Don't look at me like that. Isn't it plain enough?
Don't you understand?

JOHN.

But she was all right yesterday.

BASIL.

[_Dully._] Yes. She was all right yesterday.

JOHN.

For goodness sake tell me what you mean, Basil.

BASIL.

She's dead.... And she was all right yesterday.

            [JOHN _does not understand. He is greatly
            distressed, and does not know what to say._

BASIL.

I killed her--as surely as if I'd strangled her with my own hands.

JOHN.

What d'you mean? She's not really dead!

BASIL.

[_In agony._] She threw herself into the river last night.

JOHN.

How awful!

BASIL.

Haven't you got something more to say than how awful? I feel as if I
were going mad.

JOHN.

But I can't understand! Why did she do it?

BASIL.

Oh--yesterday we had an awful row ... before you came.

JOHN.

I know.

BASIL.

Then she followed me to ... to your sister-in-law's. And she came up and
made another scene. Then I lost my head. I was so furious, I don't know
what I said. I was mad. I told her I'd have nothing more to do with
her.... Oh, I can't bear it, I can't bear it.

            [_He breaks down and hides his face in his hands,
            sobbing._

JOHN.

Come, Basil--pull yourself together a bit.

BASIL.

[_Looking up despairingly._] I can hear her voice now. I can see the
look of her eyes. She asked me to give her another chance, and I
refused. It was so pitiful to hear the way she appealed to me, only I
was mad, and I couldn't feel it.

            [FANNY _comes in with the cup of tea, which_
            BASIL _silently takes and drinks_.

FANNY.

[_To_ JOHN.] He ain't slept a wink all night, sir.... No more 'ave I,
for the matter of that.

            [JOHN _nods, but does not answer; and_ FANNY,
            _wiping her eyes with her apron, leaves the
            room_.

BASIL.

Oh, I'd give everything not to have said what I did. I'd always held
myself in before, but yesterday--I couldn't.

JOHN.

Well?

BASIL.

I didn't get back here till nearly ten, and the maid told me Jenny had
just gone out. I thought she'd gone back to her mother's.

JOHN.

Yes?

BASIL.

And soon after a constable came up and asked me to go down to the river.
He said there'd been an accident.... She was dead. A man had seen her
walk along the tow-path and throw herself in.

JOHN.

Where is she now?

BASIL.

[_Pointing to one of the doors._] In there.

JOHN.

Will you take me in?

BASIL.

Go in alone, John. I daren't, I'm afraid to look at her. I can't bear
the look on her face.... I killed her--as surely as if I'd strangled her
with my own hands. I've been looking at the door all night, and once I
thought I heard a sound. I thought she was coming to reproach me for
killing her.

            [JOHN _goes to the door, and as he opens it_, BASIL
            _averts his head. When_ JOHN _shuts the
            door after him, he looks at it with staring,
            frightened eyes, half mad with agony. He
            tries to contain himself. After a while_
            JOHN _comes back, very quietly_.

BASIL.

[_Whispering._] What does she look like?

JOHN.

There's nothing to be afraid of, Basil. She might be sleeping.

BASIL.

[_Clenching his hands._] But the ghastly pallor....

JOHN.

[_Gravely._] She's happier than she would ever have been if she'd lived.

            [BASIL _sighs deeply_.

JOHN.

[_Seeing the revolver._] What's this for?

BASIL.

[_With a groan of self-contempt._] I tried to kill myself in the night.

JOHN.

H'm!

            [_He takes the cartridges out and puts the revolver
            in his pocket._

BASIL.

[_Bitterly._] Oh, don't be afraid, I haven't got the pluck.... I was
afraid to go on living. I thought if I killed myself it would be a
reparation for her death. I went down to the river, and I walked along
the tow-path to the same spot--but I couldn't do it. The water looked so
black and cold and pitiless. And yet she did it so easily. She just
walked along and threw herself in. [_A pause._] Then I came back, and I
thought I'd shoot myself.

JOHN.

D'you think that would have done any one much good?

BASIL.

I despised myself. I felt I hadn't the right to live, and I thought it
would be easier just to pull a trigger.... People say it's cowardly to
destroy oneself, they don't know what courage it wants. I couldn't face
the pain--and then, I don't know what's on the other side. After all, it
may be true that there's a cruel, avenging God, who will punish us to
all eternity if we break His unknown laws.

JOHN.

I'm very glad you sent for me. You had better come back to London, and
stay with me for the present.

BASIL.

And d'you know what happened in the night? I couldn't go to bed. I felt
I could never sleep again--and then, presently, I dozed off quite
quietly in my chair. And I slept as comfortably--as if Jenny weren't
lying in there, cold and dead. And the maid pities me because she thinks
I passed as sleepless a night as she did.

            [_A sound of voices is heard outside, in altercation._
            FANNY _comes in_.

FANNY.

Please, sir, Mr. James.

BASIL.

[_Angrily._] I won't see him.

FANNY.

He won't go away, I told 'im you was too ill to see anybody.

BASIL.

I won't see him. I knew he'd be round, curse him!

JOHN.

After all, I suppose he has a certain right to come here--under the
circumstances. Hadn't you better see what he wants?

BASIL.

Oh, he'll make a scene. I shall knock him down. I've suffered too much
through him already.

JOHN.

Let _me_ see him. You don't want him to make a fuss at the inquest.

BASIL.

I've been thinking of that. I know the stories he and his people will
make up. And the papers will get hold of it, and every one will
blackguard me. They'll say it was my fault.

JOHN.

D'you mind if I have a talk to him? I think I can save you from all
that.

BASIL.

[_Shrugging his shoulders, impatiently._] Do whatever you like.

JOHN.

[_To_ FANNY.] Show him up, Fanny.

FANNY.

Yes, sir.

            [_She goes out._

BASIL.

Then I shall go.

            [JOHN _nods, and_ BASIL _goes out by the door
            next to that of the room in which_ JENNY _is
            lying._ JAMES BUSH _appears_.

JOHN.

[_Grave and cold._] Good morning, Mr. Bush.

JAMES.

[_Aggressively._] Where's that man?

JOHN.

[_Raising his eyebrows._] It's usual to take one's hat off in other
people's houses.

JAMES.

I'm a man of principle, I am; and I keep my 'at on to show it.

JOHN.

Ah, well, we won't discuss the point.

JAMES.

I want to see that man.

JOHN.

May I ask to whom you're referring? There are so many men in the world.
In fact, it's very over-crowded.

JAMES.

Who are you, I should like to know?

JOHN.

[_Politely._] My name is Halliwell. I had the pleasure of meeting you at
Basil's rooms in Bloomsbury.

JAMES.

[_Aggressively._] I know that.

JOHN.

I beg your pardon. I thought you were asking for information.

JAMES.

I tell you I want to see my brother-in-law.

JOHN.

I'm afraid you can't.

JAMES.

I tell you I will see 'im. He's murdered my sister. He's a blackguard
and a murderer, and I'll tell him so to his face.

JOHN.

[_Sarcastic._] Take care he doesn't hear you.

JAMES.

I want him to hear me. I'm not frightened of him. I should just like to
see him touch me now. [_He sidles viciously to_ JOHN.] H'm, you tried to
keep me out, did yer? Said I couldn't come to my sister's 'ouse--and
kept me waitin' in the 'all like a tradesman. Oh, I'll make you all pay
for this. I'll get my own back now. Measley set of West End curs, that's
all you are.

JOHN.

Mr. Bush, you'll be so good as to keep a civil tongue in your mouth
while you're here--and you'll talk less loudly.

JAMES.

[_Scornfully._] Who says so?

JOHN.

[_Looking at him quietly._] I do.

JAMES.

[_Less decisively._] Don't you try and bully me.

JOHN.

[_Pointing to a chair._] Won't you sit down?

JAMES.

No, I won't sit down. This ain't the 'ouse that a gentleman would sit
down in. I'll be even with 'im yet. I'll tell the jury a pretty story.
He deserves to be strung up, he does.

JOHN.

I can't tell you how extremely sorry I am for what has happened.

JAMES.

Oh, don't try and get round me.

JOHN.

Really, Mr. Bush, you have no reason to be indignant with me.

JAMES.

Well, I don't think much of you, any 'ow.

JOHN.

I'm very sorry. Last time we met I thought you a very amiable person.
Don't you remember, we went and had a drink together?

JAMES.

I don't say _you_'re not a gentleman.

JOHN.

[_Taking out his cigar-case._] Won't you have a cigar?

JAMES.

[_Suspiciously._] Look here, you're not trying to bluff me, are you?

JOHN.

Certainly not. I wouldn't dream of such a thing.

JAMES.

[_Taking a cigar._] Larranaga.

JOHN.

[_With an acid smile._] Nine pounds a hundred.

JAMES.

That's one and nine apiece, ain't it?

JOHN.

How quickly you reckon!

JAMES.

You must be pretty oofy to be able to afford that.

JOHN.

[_Drily._] It does inspire respect, doesn't it?

JAMES.

I don't know what you mean by that. But I flatter myself I know a good
cigar when I see it.

            [JOHN _sits down, and_ JAMES BUSH, _without
            thinking, follows his example_.]

JOHN.

What d'you think you'll get out of making a row at the inquest? Of
course, there'll be an inquest.

JAMES.

Yes, I know there will. And I'm lookin' forward to it, I can tell you.

JOHN.

I wouldn't have said that if I'd been you.

JAMES.

[_Quite unconscious of the construction that may be put on his last
words--full of his own grievances._] I've 'ad something to put up with,
I 'ave.

JOHN.

Really?

JAMES.

Oh, he's treated me shockin'! He simply treated me like dirt. I wouldn't
'ave stood it a minute, except for Jenny's sake. _I_ wasn't good enough
for 'im, if you please. And the way he used to look right through me as
if I wasn't there at all--Oh, I'll be even with 'im now.

JOHN.

What are you going to do?

JAMES.

Never you mind. I'm going to make it hot for 'im.

JOHN.

D'you think that'll do you any good?

JAMES.

[_Springing up._] Yes. And I mean to....

JOHN.

[_Interrupting._] Now sit down, there's a good chap, and let's have a
little talk about it.

JAMES.

[_Angrily._] You're trying to bamboozle me.

JOHN.

Nonsense.

JAMES.

Oh, yes, you are. Don't try to deny it. I can see through you as if you
was a pane of glass. You people in the West End--you think you know
everything.

JOHN.

I assure you....

JAMES.

[_Interrupting._] But I've had a City training, and you can lay anything
you like there ain't no flies on me.

JOHN.

We're both men of the world, Mr. Bush. Will you do me a great favour as
a--friend?

JAMES.

[_Suspiciously._] That depends on what it is.

JOHN.

It's merely to listen to me quietly for two or three minutes.

JAMES.

I don't mind doing that.

JOHN.

Well, the fact is--Basil's going away, and he wants to get rid of the
furniture and the house. What d'you think it's worth, as an auctioneer?

JAMES.

[_Looking round._] It's a very different business what a thing's worth,
and what it'll fetch.

JOHN.

Of course, but a clever man like you....

JAMES.

Now then, no bluff. I tell you it won't work with me.... D'you include
plate and linen?

JOHN.

Everything.

JAMES.

Well, if it was well sold--by a man as knew his business....

JOHN.

If you sold it, for instance?

JAMES.

It might fetch a hundred pounds--it might fetch a hundred and fifty.

JOHN.

That wouldn't be a bad present to make to any one, would it?

JAMES.

No. I think I can agree with you there.

JOHN.

Well, Basil thought of giving the entire contents of the house to your
mother and sister.

JAMES.

To tell you the truth, it's no more than he ought to do.

JOHN.

The condition is, of course, that nothing is said at the inquest.

JAMES.

[_With a sneer._] You make me laugh. D'you think you can gag me by
giving a houseful of furniture to my mother?

JOHN.

I had no such exalted opinion of your disinterestedness, Mr. Bush. I
come to you now.

JAMES.

[_Sharply._] What d'you mean by that?

JOHN.

It appears that you owe Basil a good deal of money. Can you pay it?

JAMES.

No.

JOHN.

Also it appears that there was some difficulty with your accounts in
your last place.

JAMES.

That's a lie.

JOHN.

Possibly. But altogether I fancy we could make it uncommonly nasty for
you if you made a fuss. If dirty linen is going to be washed in
public--there's generally a good deal to be done on both sides.

JAMES.

I don't care. I mean to get my own back. If I can only get my knife into
that man--I'll take the consequences.

JOHN.

On the other hand--if you won't make a fuss at the inquest, I'll give
you fifty pounds.

JAMES.

[_Jumping up indignantly._] Are you trying to bribe me?

JOHN.

[_Calmly._] Yes.

JAMES.

I would 'ave you know that I'm a gentleman, and what's more, I'm an
Englishman. And I'm proud of it. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
I've never 'ad any one try and bribe me before.

JOHN.

[_Indifferently._] Otherwise you would, doubtless, have accepted.

JAMES.

I've got more than half a mind to knock you down.

JOHN.

[_With a slight smile._] Come, come, Mr. Bush, don't be ridiculous.
You'd far better keep quiet, you know.

JAMES.

[_Scornfully._] What do you think fifty pounds is to me?

JOHN.

[_With a sharp look._] Who spoke of fifty pounds?

JAMES.

You did.

JOHN.

You must have mistaken me. A hundred and fifty.

JAMES.

Oh! [_At first he is surprised, then, as the amount sinks into his mind,
grows doubtful._] That's a very different pair of shoes.

JOHN.

I don't ask you to say anything untrue. After all, it's not worth while
for a man of the world like you--a business man--to give way to petty
spite. And we don't want to have any scandal. That would be just as
unpleasant for you as for us.

JAMES.

[_Undecided._] There's no denying that she was hysterical. If he'd only
treated me like a gentleman, I shouldn't have had anything to say.

JOHN.

Well?

JAMES.

[_With a foxy, keen glance at_ JOHN.] Make it two 'undred, and I'll say
done.

JOHN.

[_Firmly._] No. You can take a hundred and fifty, or go to the devil.

JAMES.

Oh, well, 'and it over.

JOHN.

[_Taking a cheque out of his pocket._] I'll give you fifty now and the
rest after the inquest.

JAMES.

[_With a certain admiration._] You're a sharp 'un, you are.

            [JOHN _writes out the cheque and gives it to_
            JAMES BUSH.

JAMES.

Shall I give you a receipt? I'm a business man, you know.

JOHN.

Yes, I know; but it's not necessary. You'll tell your mother and sister?

JAMES.

Don't you fear. I'm a gentleman, and I don't go back on my friends.

JOHN.

Now I think I'll say good morning to you. You can understand that Basil
isn't fit to see any one.

JAMES.

I understand. So long.

            [_He stretches out his hand, which_ JOHN _shakes
            gravely_.]

JOHN.

Good morning.

            [FANNY _comes in by one door as_ JAMES BUSH
            _goes out by another_.]

FANNY.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

JOHN.

Ah, Fanny, if there were no rogues in the world, life would really be
too difficult for honest men.

            [FANNY _goes out, and_ JOHN _walks to the door
            and calls_.]

JOHN.

Basil--he's gone.... Where are you?

[BASIL _comes out of the room in which is lying Jenny's body_.]

JOHN.

I didn't know you were in there.

BASIL.

I wonder if she forgives me?

JOHN.

I wouldn't worry myself too much if I were you, Basil, old man.

BASIL.

If you only knew how I despise myself!

JOHN.

Come, come, Basil, you must make an effort....

BASIL.

I've not told you the worst. I feel such a cad. There's one thought
that's been with me all night. And I _can't_ drive it away. It's worse
than anything else. It's too shameful.

JOHN.

What _do_ you mean?

BASIL.

Oh, it's so despicable. And yet it's too strong for me.... I can't help
thinking that I'm--free.

JOHN.

Free?

BASIL.

It's treachery to her memory. But you don't know what it is when your
prison door is opened. [_As he speaks he grows more and more excited._]
I don't want to die. I want to live, and I want to take life by both
hands and enjoy it. I've got such a desire for happiness. Let's open the
windows, and let the sunlight in. [_He goes to the window and flings it
open._] It's so good just to be alive. How can I help thinking that now
I can start fresh? The slate is wiped clean, and I can begin again. I
_will_ be happy. God forgive me, I can't help the thought. I'm free. I
made a ghastly mistake, and I suffered for it. Heaven knows how I
suffered, and how hard I tried to make the best of it. It wasn't all my
fault. In this world we're made to act and think things because other
people have thought them good. We never have a chance of going our own
way. We're bound down by the prejudices and the morals of everybody
else. For God's sake, let us be free. Let us do this and that because we
want to and because we must, not because other people think we ought.
[_He stops suddenly in front of_ JOHN.] Why don't you say something? You
stare at me as if you thought me raving mad!

JOHN.

I don't know what to say.

BASIL.

Oh, I suppose you're shocked and scandalised. I ought to go on posing. I
ought to act the part decently to the end. _You_ would never have had
the courage to do what I did, and yet, because I've failed, you think
you can look down on me from the height of your moral elevation.

JOHN.

[_Gravely._] I was thinking how far a man may fall when he attempts to
climb the stars.

BASIL.

I gave the world fine gold, and their currency is only cowrie-shells. I
held up an ideal, and they sneered at me. In this world you must wallow
in the trough with the rest of them.... The only moral I can see is that
if I'd acted like a blackguard--as ninety-nine men out of a hundred
would have done--and let Jenny go to the dogs, I should have remained
happy and contented and prosperous. And she, I dare say, wouldn't have
died.... It's because I tried to do my duty and act like a gentleman and
a man of honour, that all this misery has come about.

JOHN.

[_Looking at him quietly._] I think I should put it in another way. One
has to be very strong and very sure of oneself to go against the
ordinary view of things. And if one isn't, perhaps it's better not to
run any risks, but just to walk along the same secure old road as the
common herd. It's not exhilarating, it's not brave, and it's rather
dull. But it's eminently safe.

            [BASIL _scarcely hears the last words, but listens
            intently to other sounds outside_.

BASIL.

What's that? I thought I heard a carriage.

JOHN.

[_A little surprised._] Do you expect any one?

BASIL.

I sent a wire to--to Hilda at the same time as to you.

JOHN.

Already?

BASIL.

[_Excited._] D'you think she'll come?

JOHN.

I don't know. [_A ring is heard at the front door._

BASIL.

[_Running to the window._] There's some one at the door.

JOHN.

Perhaps it's occurred to her also that you're free.

BASIL.

[_With the utmost passion._] Oh, she loves me, and I--I adore her. God
forgive me, I can't help it.

            [FANNY _comes in_.

FANNY.

If you please, sir, the Coroner's officer.

THE END.

PRINTED BY
BALLANTYNE & COMPANY LTD
AT THE BALLANTYNE PRESS
TAVISTOCK STREET COVENT GARDEN
LONDON





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