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´╗┐Title: Fanny's First Play
Author: Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fanny's First Play" ***

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FANNY'S FIRST PLAY

BY BERNARD SHAW

1911



This text was taken from a printed volume containing the plays
"Misalliance", "The Dark Lady of the Sonnets", "Fanny's First Play", and
the essay "A Treatise on Parents and Children".

Notes on the editing: Italicized text is delimited with underlines
("_ _"). Punctuation and spelling retained as in the printed text. Shaw
intentionally spelled many words according to a non-standard system. For
example, "don't" is given as "dont" (without apostrophe), "Dr." is given
as "Dr" (without a period at the end), and "Shakespeare" is given as
"Shakespear" (no "e" at the end). Where several characters in the play
are speaking at once, I have indicated it with vertical bars ("|"). The
pound (currency) symbol has been replaced by the word "pounds".



PREFACE TO FANNY'S FIRST PLAY

Fanny's First Play, being but a potboiler, needs no preface. But its
lesson is not, I am sorry to say, unneeded. Mere morality, or the
substitution of custom for conscience was once accounted a shameful and
cynical thing: people talked of right and wrong, of honor and dishonor,
of sin and grace, of salvation and damnation, not of morality and
immorality. The word morality, if we met it in the Bible, would surprise
us as much as the word telephone or motor car. Nowadays we do not seem
to know that there is any other test of conduct except morality; and
the result is that the young had better have their souls awakened by
disgrace, capture by the police, and a month's hard labor, than drift
along from their cradles to their graves doing what other people do for
no other reason than that other people do it, and knowing nothing of
good and evil, of courage and cowardice, or indeed anything but how to
keep hunger and concupiscence and fashionable dressing within the bounds
of good taste except when their excesses can be concealed. Is it any
wonder that I am driven to offer to young people in our suburbs the
desperate advice: Do something that will get you into trouble? But
please do not suppose that I defend a state of things which makes such
advice the best that can be given under the circumstances, or that I do
not know how difficult it is to find out a way of getting into trouble
that will combine loss of respectability with integrity of self-respect
and reasonable consideration for other peoples' feelings and interests
on every point except their dread of losing their own respectability.
But when there's a will there's a way. I hate to see dead people walking
about: it is unnatural. And our respectable middle class people are all
as dead as mutton. Out of the mouth of Mrs Knox I have delivered on them
the judgment of her God.

The critics whom I have lampooned in the induction to this play under
the names of Trotter, Vaughan, and Gunn will forgive me: in fact Mr
Trotter forgave me beforehand, and assisted the make-up by which Mr
Claude King so successfully simulated his personal appearance. The
critics whom I did not introduce were somewhat hurt, as I should have
been myself under the same circumstances; but I had not room for them
all; so I can only apologize and assure them that I meant no disrespect.

The concealment of the authorship, if a _secret de Polichinelle_ can be
said to involve concealment, was a necessary part of the play. In so far
as it was effectual, it operated as a measure of relief to those critics
and playgoers who are so obsessed by my strained legendary reputation
that they approach my plays in a condition which is really one of
derangement, and are quite unable to conceive a play of mine as anything
but a trap baited with paradoxes, and designed to compass their ethical
perversion and intellectual confusion. If it were possible, I should put
forward all my plays anonymously, or hire some less disturbing person,
as Bacon is said to have hired Shakespear, to father my plays for me.

Fanny's First Play was performed for the first time at the Little
Theatre in the Adelphi, London, on the afternoon of Wednesday, April
19th 1911.



FANNY'S FIRST PLAY



INDUCTION


_The end of a saloon in an old-fashioned country house (Florence Towers,
the property of Count O'Dowda) has been curtained off to form a stage
for a private theatrical performance. A footman in grandiose Spanish
livery enters before the curtain, on its O.P. side._


FOOTMAN. [announcing] Mr Cecil Savoyard. [Cecil Savoyard comes in:
a middle-aged man in evening dress and a fur-lined overcoat. He is
surprised to find nobody to receive him. So is the Footman]. Oh, beg
pardon, sir: I thought the Count was here. He was when I took up your
name. He must have gone through the stage into the library. This way,
sir. [He moves towards the division in the middle of the curtains].

SAVOYARD. Half a mo. [The Footman stops]. When does the play begin?
Half-past eight?

FOOTMAN. Nine, sir.

SAVOYARD. Oh, good. Well, will you telephone to my wife at the George
that it's not until nine?

FOOTMAN. Right, sir. Mrs Cecil Savoyard, sir?

SAVOYARD. No: Mrs William Tinkler. Dont forget.

THE FOOTMAN. Mrs Tinkler, sir. Right, sir. [The Count comes in through
the curtains]. Here is the Count, sir. [Announcing] Mr Cecil Savoyard,
sir. [He withdraws].

COUNT O'DOWDA. [A handsome man of fifty, dressed with studied elegance
a hundred years out of date, advancing cordially to shake hands with his
visitor] Pray excuse me, Mr Savoyard. I suddenly recollected that all
the bookcases in the library were locked--in fact theyve never been
opened since we came from Venice--and as our literary guests will
probably use the library a good deal, I just ran in to unlock
everything.

SAVOYARD. Oh, you mean the dramatic critics. M'yes. I suppose theres a
smoking room?

THE COUNT. My study is available. An old-fashioned house, you
understand. Wont you sit down, Mr Savoyard?

SAVOYARD. Thanks. [They sit. Savoyard, looking at his host's obsolete
costume, continues] I had no idea you were going to appear in the piece
yourself.

THE COUNT. I am not. I wear this costume because--well, perhaps I had
better explain the position, if it interests you.

SAVOYARD. Certainly.

THE COUNT. Well, you see, Mr Savoyard, I'm rather a stranger in your
world. I am not, I hope, a modern man in any sense of the word. I'm
not really an Englishman: my family is Irish: Ive lived all my life in
Italy--in Venice mostly--my very title is a foreign one: I am a Count of
the Holy Roman Empire.

SAVOYARD. Where's that?

THE COUNT. At present, nowhere, except as a memory and an ideal.
[Savoyard inclines his head respectfully to the ideal]. But I am by
no means an idealogue. I am not content with beautiful dreams: I want
beautiful realities.

SAVOYARD. Hear, hear! I'm all with you there--when you can get them.

THE COUNT. Why not get them? The difficulty is not that there are no
beautiful realities, Mr Savoyard: the difficulty is that so few of
us know them when we see them. We have inherited from the past a vast
treasure of beauty--of imperishable masterpieces of poetry, of painting,
of sculpture, of architecture, of music, of exquisite fashions in
dress, in furniture, in domestic decoration. We can contemplate these
treasures. We can reproduce many of them. We can buy a few inimitable
originals. We can shut out the nineteenth century--

SAVOYARD. [correcting him] The twentieth.

THE COUNT. To me the century I shut out will always be the nineteenth
century, just as your national anthem will always be God Save the Queen,
no matter how many kings may succeed. I found England befouled with
industrialism: well, I did what Byron did: I simply refused to live in
it. You remember Byron's words: "I am sure my bones would not rest in an
English grave, or my clay mix with the earth of that country. I believe
the thought would drive me mad on my deathbed could I suppose that any
of my friends would be base enough to convey my carcase back to her
soil. I would not even feed her worms if I could help it."

SAVOYARD. Did Byron say that?

THE COUNT. He did, sir.

SAVOYARD. It dont sound like him. I saw a good deal of him at one time.

THE COUNT. You! But how is that possible? You are too young.

SAVOYARD. I was quite a lad, of course. But I had a job in the original
production of Our Boys.

THE COUNT. My dear sir, not that Byron. Lord Byron, the poet.

SAVOYARD. Oh, I beg your pardon. I thought you were talking of the
Byron. So you prefer living abroad?

THE COUNT. I find England ugly and Philistine. Well, I dont live in it.
I find modern houses ugly. I dont live in them: I have a palace on the
grand canal. I find modern clothes prosaic. I dont wear them, except, of
course, in the street. My ears are offended by the Cockney twang: I keep
out of hearing of it and speak and listen to Italian. I find Beethoven's
music coarse and restless, and Wagner's senseless and detestable. I do
not listen to them. I listen to Cimarosa, to Pergolesi, to Gluck and
Mozart. Nothing simpler, sir.

SAVOYARD. It's all right when you can afford it.

THE COUNT. Afford it! My dear Mr Savoyard, if you are a man with a sense
of beauty you can make an earthly paradise for yourself in Venice on
1500 pounds a year, whilst our wretched vulgar industrial millionaires
are spending twenty thousand on the amusements of billiard markers. I
assure you I am a poor man according to modern ideas. But I have never
had anything less than the very best that life has produced. It is my
good fortune to have a beautiful and lovable daughter; and that girl,
sir, has never seen an ugly sight or heard an ugly sound that I could
spare her; and she has certainly never worn an ugly dress or tasted
coarse food or bad wine in her life. She has lived in a palace; and her
perambulator was a gondola. Now you know the sort of people we are, Mr
Savoyard. You can imagine how we feel here.

SAVOYARD. Rather out of it, eh?

THE COUNT. Out of it, sir! Out of what?

SAVOYARD. Well, out of everything.

THE COUNT. Out of soot and fog and mud and east wind; out of vulgarity
and ugliness, hypocrisy and greed, superstition and stupidity. Out of
all this, and in the sunshine, in the enchanted region of which great
artists alone have had the secret, in the sacred footsteps of Byron, of
Shelley, of the Brownings, of Turner and Ruskin. Dont you envy me, Mr
Savoyard?

SAVOYARD. Some of us must live in England, you know, just to keep the
place going. Besides--though, mind you, I dont say it isnt all right
from the high art point of view and all that--three weeks of it would
drive me melancholy mad. However, I'm glad you told me, because it
explains why it is you dont seem to know your way about much in England.
I hope, by the way, that everything has given satisfaction to your
daughter.

THE COUNT. She seems quite satisfied. She tells me that the actors you
sent down are perfectly suited to their parts, and very nice people
to work with. I understand she had some difficulties at the first
rehearsals with the gentleman you call the producer, because he hadnt
read the play; but the moment he found out what it was all about
everything went smoothly.

SAVOYARD. Havnt you seen the rehearsals?

THE COUNT. Oh no. I havnt been allowed even to meet any of the company.
All I can tell you is that the hero is a Frenchman [Savoyard is rather
scandalized]: I asked her not to have an English hero. That is all I
know. [Ruefully] I havnt been consulted even about the costumes, though
there, I think, I could have been some use.

SAVOYARD. [puzzled] But there arnt any costumes.

THE COUNT. [seriously shocked] What! No costumes! Do you mean to say it
is a modern play?

SAVOYARD. I dont know: I didnt read it. I handed it to Billy
Burjoyce--the producer, you know--and left it to him to select the
company and so on. But I should have had to order the costumes if there
had been any. There wernt.

THE COUNT. [smiling as he recovers from his alarm] I understand. She
has taken the costumes into her own hands. She is an expert in beautiful
costumes. I venture to promise you, Mr Savoyard, that what you are about
to see will be like a Louis Quatorze ballet painted by Watteau. The
heroine will be an exquisite Columbine, her lover a dainty Harlequin,
her father a picturesque Pantaloon, and the valet who hoodwinks the
father and brings about the happiness of the lovers a grotesque but
perfectly tasteful Punchinello or Mascarille or Sganarelle.

SAVOYARD. I see. That makes three men; and the clown and policeman will
make five. Thats why you wanted five men in the company.

THE COUNT. My dear sir, you dont suppose I mean that vulgar, ugly,
silly, senseless, malicious and destructive thing, the harlequinade of
a nineteenth century English Christmas pantomime! What was it after
all but a stupid attempt to imitate the success made by the genius of
Grimaldi a hundred years ago? My daughter does not know of the existence
of such a thing. I refer to the graceful and charming fantasies of the
Italian and French stages of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

SAVOYARD. Oh, I beg pardon. I quite agree that harlequinades are rot.
Theyve been dropped at all smart theatres. But from what Billy Burjoyce
told me I got the idea that your daughter knew her way about here, and
had seen a lot of plays. He had no idea she'd been away in Venice all
the time.

THE COUNT. Oh, she has not been. I should have explained that two
years ago my daughter left me to complete her education at Cambridge.
Cambridge was my own University; and though of course there were no
women there in my time, I felt confident that if the atmosphere of the
eighteenth century still existed anywhere in England, it would be at
Cambridge. About three months ago she wrote to me and asked whether I
wished to give her a present on her next birthday. Of course I said
yes; and she then astonished and delighted me by telling me that she
had written a play, and that the present she wanted was a private
performance of it with real actors and real critics.

SAVOYARD. Yes: thats what staggered me. It was easy enough to engage
a company for a private performance: it's done often enough. But the
notion of having critics was new. I hardly knew how to set about it.
They dont expect private engagements; and so they have no agents.
Besides, I didnt know what to offer them. I knew that they were cheaper
than actors, because they get long engagements: forty years sometimes;
but thats no rule for a single job. Then theres such a lot of them: on
first nights they run away with all your stalls: you cant find a decent
place for your own mother. It would have cost a fortune to bring the
lot.

THE COUNT. Of course I never dreamt of having them all. Only a few
first-rate representative men.

SAVOYARD. Just so. All you want is a few sample opinions. Out of a
hundred notices you wont find more than four at the outside that say
anything different. Well, Ive got just the right four for you. And what
do you think it has cost me?

THE COUNT. [shrugging his shoulders] I cannot guess.

SAVOYARD. Ten guineas, and expenses. I had to give Flawner Bannal ten.
He wouldnt come for less; and he asked fifty. I had to give it, because
if we hadnt had him we might just as well have had nobody at all.

THE COUNT. But what about the others, if Mr Flannel--

SAVOYARD. [shocked] Flawner Bannal.

THE COUNT. --if Mr Bannal got the whole ten?

SAVOYARD. Oh, I managed that. As this is a high-class sort of thing, the
first man I went for was Trotter.

THE COUNT. Oh indeed. I am very glad you have secured Mr Trotter. I have
read his Playful Impressions.

SAVOYARD. Well, I was rather in a funk about him. Hes not exactly what
I call approachable; and he was a bit stand-off at first. But when I
explained and told him your daughter--

THE COUNT. [interrupting in alarm] You did not say that the play was by
her, I hope?

SAVOYARD. No: thats been kept a dead secret. I just said your daughter
has asked for a real play with a real author and a real critic and all
the rest of it. The moment I mentioned the daughter I had him. He has
a daughter of his own. Wouldnt hear of payment! Offered to come just to
please her! Quite human. I was surprised.

THE COUNT. Extremely kind of him.

SAVOYARD. Then I went to Vaughan, because he does music as well as the
drama: and you said you thought there would be music. I told him Trotter
would feel lonely without him; so he promised like a bird. Then I
thought youd like one of the latest sort: the chaps that go for the
newest things and swear theyre oldfashioned. So I nailed Gilbert Gunn.
The four will give you a representative team. By the way [looking at his
watch] theyll be here presently.

THE COUNT. Before they come, Mr Savoyard, could you give me any hints
about them that would help me to make a little conversation with them?
I am, as you said, rather out of it in England; and I might unwittingly
say something tactless.

SAVOYARD. Well, let me see. As you dont like English people, I dont know
that youll get on with Trotter, because hes thoroughly English: never
happy except when hes in Paris, and speaks French so unnecessarily well
that everybody there spots him as an Englishman the moment he opens
his mouth. Very witty and all that. Pretends to turn up his nose at
the theatre and says people make too much fuss about art [the Count is
extremely indignant]. But thats only his modesty, because art is his own
line, you understand. Mind you dont chaff him about Aristotle.

THE COUNT. Why should I chaff him about Aristotle?

SAVOYARD. Well, I dont know; but its one of the recognized ways of
chaffing him. However, youll get on with him all right: hes a man of
the world and a man of sense. The one youll have to be careful about is
Vaughan.

THE COUNT. In what way, may I ask?

SAVOYARD. Well, Vaughan has no sense of humor; and if you joke with
him he'll think youre insulting him on purpose. Mind: it's not that he
doesnt see a joke: he does; and it hurts him. A comedy scene makes him
sore all over: he goes away black and blue, and pitches into the play
for all hes worth.

THE COUNT. But surely that is a very serious defect in a man of his
profession?

SAVOYARD. Yes it is, and no mistake. But Vaughan is honest, and dont
care a brass farthing what he says, or whether it pleases anybody or
not; and you must have one man of that sort to say the things that
nobody else will say.

THE COUNT. It seems to me to carry the principle of division of labor
too far, this keeping of the honesty and the other qualities in separate
compartments. What is Mr Gunn's speciality, if I may ask?

SAVOYARD. Gunn is one of the intellectuals.

THE COUNT. But arnt they all intellectuals?

SAVOYARD. Lord! no: heaven forbid! You must be careful what you say
about that: I shouldnt like anyone to call me an Intellectual: I dont
think any Englishman would! They dont count really, you know; but
still it's rather the thing to have them. Gunn is one of the young
intellectuals: he writes plays himself. Hes useful because he pitches
into the older intellectuals who are standing in his way. But you may
take it from me that none of these chaps really matter. Flawner Bannal's
your man. Bannal really represents the British playgoer. When he likes
a thing, you may take your oath there are a hundred thousand people in
London thatll like it if they can only be got to know about it. Besides,
Bannal's knowledge of the theatre is an inside knowledge. We know him;
and he knows us. He knows the ropes: he knows his way about: he knows
what hes talking about.

THE COUNT. [with a little sigh] Age and experience, I suppose?

SAVOYARD. Age! I should put him at twenty at the very outside, myself.
It's not an old man's job after all, is it? Bannal may not ride the
literary high horse like Trotter and the rest; but I'd take his opinion
before any other in London. Hes the man in the street; and thats what
you want.

THE COUNT. I am almost sorry you didnt give the gentleman his full
terms. I should not have grudged the fifty guineas for a sound opinion.
He may feel shabbily treated.

SAVOYARD. Well, let him. It was a bit of side, his asking fifty. After
all, what is he? Only a pressman. Jolly good business for him to earn
ten guineas: hes done the same job often enough for half a quid, I
expect.

_Fanny O'Dowda comes precipitately through the curtains, excited and
nervous. A girl of nineteen in a dress synchronous with her father's._

FANNY. Papa, papa, the critics have come. And one of them has a cocked
hat and sword like a-- [she notices Savoyard] Oh, I beg your pardon.

THE COUNT. This is Mr Savoyard, your impresario, my dear.

FANNY. [shaking hands] How do you do?

SAVOYARD. Pleased to meet you, Miss O'Dowda. The cocked hat is all
right. Trotter is a member of the new Academic Committee. He induced
them to go in for a uniform like the French Academy; and I asked him to
wear it.

THE FOOTMAN. [announcing] Mr Trotter, Mr Vaughan, Mr Gunn, Mr Flawner
Bannal. [The four critics enter. Trotter wears a diplomatic dress, with
sword and three-cornered hat. His age is about 50. Vaughan is 40. Gunn
is 30. Flawner Bannal is 20 and is quite unlike the others. They can be
classed at sight as professional men: Bannal is obviously one of those
unemployables of the business class who manage to pick up a living by a
sort of courage which gives him cheerfulness, conviviality, and
bounce, and is helped out positively by a slight turn for writing, and
negatively by a comfortable ignorance and lack of intuition which hides
from him all the dangers and disgraces that keep men of finer perception
in check. The Count approaches them hospitably].

SAVOYARD. Count O'Dowda, gentlemen. Mr Trotter.

TROTTER. [looking at the Count's costume] Have I the pleasure of meeting
a confrere?

THE COUNT. No, sir: I have no right to my costume except the right of a
lover of the arts to dress myself handsomely. You are most welcome, Mr
Trotter. [Trotter bows in the French manner].

SAVOYARD. Mr Vaughan.

THE COUNT. How do you do, Mr Vaughan?

VAUGHAN. Quite well, thanks.

SAVOYARD. Mr Gunn.

THE COUNT. Delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr Gunn.

GUNN. Very pleased.

SAVOYARD. Mr Flawner Bannal.

THE COUNT. Very kind of you to come, Mr Bannal.

BANNAL. Dont mention it.

THE COUNT. Gentlemen, my daughter. [They all bow]. We are very greatly
indebted to you, gentlemen, for so kindly indulging her whim. [The
dressing bell sounds. The Count looks at his watch]. Ah! The dressing
bell, gentlemen. As our play begins at nine, I have had to put forward
the dinner hour a little. May I shew you to your rooms? [He goes out,
followed by all the men, except Trotter, who, going last, is detained by
Fanny].

FANNY. Mr Trotter: I want to say something to you about this play.

TROTTER. No: thats forbidden. You must not attempt to _souffler_ the
critic.

FANNY. Oh, I would not for the world try to influence your opinion.

TROTTER. But you do: you are influencing me very shockingly. You invite
me to this charming house, where I'm about to enjoy a charming dinner.
And just before the dinner I'm taken aside by a charming young lady to
be talked to about the play. How can you expect me to be impartial? God
forbid that I should set up to be a judge, or do more than record an
impression; but my impressions can be influenced; and in this case youre
influencing them shamelessly all the time.

FANNY. Dont make me more nervous than I am already, Mr Trotter. If you
knew how I feel!

TROTTER. Naturally: your first party: your first appearance in England
as hostess. But youre doing it beautifully. Dont be afraid. Every
_nuance_ is perfect.

FANNY. It's so kind of you to say so, Mr Trotter. But that isnt whats
the matter. The truth is, this play is going to give my father a
dreadful shock.

TROTTER. Nothing unusual in that, I'm sorry to say. Half the young
ladies in London spend their evenings making their fathers take them to
plays that are not fit for elderly people to see.

FANNY. Oh, I know all about that; but you cant understand what it means
to Papa. Youre not so innocent as he is.

TROTTER. [remonstrating] My dear young lady--

FANNY. I dont mean morally innocent: everybody who reads your articles
knows youre as innocent as a lamb.

TROTTER. What!

FANNY. Yes, Mr Trotter: Ive seen a good deal of life since I came to
England; and I assure you that to me youre a mere baby: a dear, good,
well-meaning, delightful, witty, charming baby; but still just a wee
lamb in a world of wolves. Cambridge is not what it was in my father's
time.

TROTTER. Well, I must say!

FANNY. Just so. Thats one of our classifications in the Cambridge Fabian
Society.

TROTTER. Classifications? I dont understand.

FANNY. We classify our aunts into different sorts. And one of the sorts
is the "I must says."

TROTTER. I withdraw "I must say." I substitute "Blame my cats!" No: I
substitute "Blame my kittens!" Observe, Miss O'Dowda: kittens. I say
again in the teeth of the whole Cambridge Fabian Society, kittens.
Impertinent little kittens. Blame them. Smack them. I guess what is on
your conscience. This play to which you have lured me is one of those in
which members of Fabian Societies instruct their grandmothers in the art
of milking ducks. And you are afraid it will shock your father. Well,
I hope it will. And if he consults me about it I shall recommend him to
smack you soundly and pack you off to bed.

FANNY. Thats one of your prettiest literary attitudes, Mr Trotter;
but it doesnt take me in. You see, I'm much more conscious of what you
really are than you are yourself, because weve discussed you thoroughly
at Cambridge; and youve never discussed yourself, have you?

TROTTER. I--

FANNY. Of course you havnt; so you see it's no good Trottering at me.

TROTTER. Trottering!

FANNY. Thats what we call it at Cambridge.

TROTTER. If it were not so obviously a stage _cliche_, I should say Damn
Cambridge. As it is, I blame my kittens. And now let me warn you. If
youre going to be a charming healthy young English girl, you may coax
me. If youre going to be an unsexed Cambridge Fabian virago, I'll treat
you as my intellectual equal, as I would treat a man.

FANNY. [adoringly] But how few men are your intellectual equals, Mr
Trotter!

TROTTER. I'm getting the worst of this.

FANNY. Oh no. Why do you say that?

TROTTER. May I remind you that the dinner-bell will ring presently?

FANNY. What does it matter? We're both ready. I havnt told you yet what
I want you to do for me.

TROTTER. Nor have you particularly predisposed me to do it, except out
of pure magnanimity. What is it?

FANNY. I dont mind this play shocking my father morally. It's good for
him to be shocked morally. It's all that the young can do for the old,
to shock them and keep them up to date. But I know that this play will
shock him artistically; and that terrifies me. No moral consideration
could make a breach between us: he would forgive me for anything of that
kind sooner or later; but he never gives way on a point of art. I darent
let him know that I love Beethoven and Wagner; and as to Strauss, if he
heard three bars of Elektra, it'd part us for ever. Now what I want you
to do is this. If hes very angry--if he hates the play, because it's a
modern play--will you tell him that it's not my fault; that its style
and construction, and so forth, are considered the very highest art
nowadays; that the author wrote it in the proper way for repertory
theatres of the most superior kind--you know the kind of plays I mean?

TROTTER. [emphatically] I think I know the sort of entertainments you
mean. But please do not beg a vital question by calling them plays. I
dont pretend to be an authority; but I have at least established the
fact that these productions, whatever else they may be, are certainly
not plays.

FANNY. The authors dont say they are.

TROTTER. [warmly] I am aware that one author, who is, I blush to say, a
personal friend of mine, resorts freely to the dastardly subterfuge of
calling them conversations, discussions, and so forth, with the express
object of evading criticism. But I'm not to be disarmed by such tricks.
I say they are not plays. Dialogues, if you will. Exhibitions of
character, perhaps: especially the character of the author. Fictions,
possibly, though a little decent reticence as to introducing actual
persons, and thus violating the sanctity of private life, might not be
amiss. But plays, no. I say NO. Not plays. If you will not concede this
point I cant continue our conversation. I take this seriously. It's a
matter of principle. I must ask you, Miss O'Dowda, before we go a step
further, Do you or do you not claim that these works are plays?

FANNY. I assure you I dont.

TROTTER. Not in any sense of the word?

FANNY. Not in any sense of the word. I loathe plays.

TROTTER. [disappointed] That last remark destroys all the value of your
admission. You admire these--these theatrical nondescripts? You enjoy
them?

FANNY. Dont you?

TROTTER. Of course I do. Do you take me for a fool? Do you suppose I
prefer popular melodramas? Have I not written most appreciative notices
of them? But I say theyre not plays. Theyre not plays. I cant consent to
remain in this house another minute if anything remotely resembling them
is to be foisted on me as a play.

FANNY. I fully admit that theyre not plays. I only want you to tell my
father that plays are not plays nowadays--not in your sense of the word.

TROTTER. Ah, there you go again! In my sense of the word! You believe
that my criticism is merely a personal impression; that--

FANNY. You always said it was.

TROTTER. Pardon me: not on this point. If you had been classically
educated--

FANNY. But I have.

TROTTER. Pooh! Cambridge! If you had been educated at Oxford, you
would know that the definition of a play has been settled exactly and
scientifically for two thousand two hundred and sixty years. When I say
that these entertainments are not plays, I dont mean in my sense of
the word, but in the sense given to it for all time by the immortal
Stagirite.

FANNY. Who is the Stagirite?

TROTTER. [shocked] You dont know who the Stagirite was?

FANNY. Sorry. Never heard of him.

TROTTER. And this is Cambridge education! Well, my dear young lady, I'm
delighted to find theres something you don't know; and I shant spoil you
by dispelling an ignorance which, in my opinion, is highly becoming to
your age and sex. So we'll leave it at that.

FANNY. But you will promise to tell my father that lots of people
write plays just like this one--that I havnt selected it out of mere
heartlessness?

TROTTER. I cant possibly tell you what I shall say to your father about
the play until Ive seen the play. But I'll tell you what I shall say to
him about you. I shall say that youre a very foolish young lady; that
youve got into a very questionable set; and that the sooner he takes you
away from Cambridge and its Fabian Society, the better.

FANNY. It's so funny to hear you pretending to be a heavy father. In
Cambridge we regard you as a _bel esprit_, a wit, an Irresponsible, a
Parisian Immoralist, _tres chic_.

TROTTER. I!

FANNY. Theres quite a Trotter set.

TROTTER. Well, upon my word!

FANNY. They go in for adventures and call you Aramis.

TROTTER. They wouldnt dare!

FANNY. You always make such delicious fun of the serious people. Your
_insouciance_--

TROTTER. [frantic] Stop talking French to me: it's not a proper language
for a young girl. Great heavens! how is it possible that a few innocent
pleasantries should be so frightfully misunderstood? Ive tried all my
life to be sincere and simple, to be unassuming and kindly. Ive lived a
blameless life. Ive supported the Censorship in the face of ridicule
and insult. And now I'm told that I'm a centre of Immoralism! of Modern
Minxism! a trifler with the most sacred subjects! a Nietzschean!!
perhaps a Shavian!!!

FANNY. Do you mean you are really on the serious side, Mr Trotter?

TROTTER. Of course I'm on the serious side. How dare you ask me such a
question?

FANNY. Then why dont you play for it?

TROTTER. I do play for it--short, of course, of making myself
ridiculous.

FANNY. What! not make yourself ridiculous for the sake of a good cause!
Oh, Mr Trotter. Thats _vieux jeu_.

TROTTER. [shouting at her] Dont talk French. I will not allow it.

FANNY. But this dread of ridicule is so frightfully out of date. The
Cambridge Fabian Society--

TROTTER. I forbid you to mention the Fabian Society to me.

FANNY. Its motto is "You cannot learn to skate without making yourself
ridiculous."

TROTTER. Skate! What has that to do with it?

FANNY. Thats not all. It goes on, "The ice of life is slippery."

TROTTER. Ice of life indeed! You should be eating penny ices and
enjoying yourself. I wont hear another word.

_The Count returns._

THE COUNT. We're all waiting in the drawing-room, my dear. Have you been
detaining Mr Trotter all this time?

TROTTER. I'm so sorry. I must have just a little brush up: I [He hurries
out].

THE COUNT. My dear, you should be in the drawing-room. You should not
have kept him here.

FANNY. I know. Dont scold me: I had something important to say to him.

THE COUNT. I shall ask him to take you in to dinner.

FANNY. Yes, papa. Oh, I hope it will go off well.

THE COUNT. Yes, love, of course it will. Come along.

FANNY. Just one thing, papa, whilst we're alone. Who was the Stagirite?

THE COUNT. The Stagirite? Do you mean to say you dont know?

FANNY. Havnt the least notion.

THE COUNT. The Stagirite was Aristotle. By the way, dont mention him to
Mr Trotter.

_They go to the dining-room._



THE PLAY



ACT I

_In the dining-room of a house in Denmark Hill, an elderly lady sits at
breakfast reading the newspaper. Her chair is at the end of the oblong
dining-table furthest from the fire. There is an empty chair at the
other end. The fireplace is behind this chair; and the door is next the
fireplace, between it and the corner. An arm-chair stands beside the
coal-scuttle. In the middle of the back wall is the sideboard, parallel
to the table. The rest of the furniture is mostly dining-room chairs,
ranged against the walls, and including a baby rocking-chair on the
lady's side of the room. The lady is a placid person. Her husband, Mr
Robin Gilbey, not at all placid, bursts violently into the room with a
letter in his hand._

GILBEY. [grinding his teeth] This is a nice thing. This is a b----

MRS GILBEY. [cutting him short] Leave it at that, please. Whatever it
is, bad language wont make it better.

GILBEY. [bitterly] Yes, put me in the wrong as usual. Take your boy's
part against me. [He flings himself into the empty chair opposite her].

MRS GILBEY. When he does anything right, hes your son. When he does
anything wrong hes mine. Have you any news of him?

GILBEY. Ive a good mind not to tell you.

MRS GILBEY. Then dont. I suppose hes been found. Thats a comfort, at all
events.

GILBEY. No, he hasnt been found. The boy may be at the bottom of the
river for all you care. [Too agitated to sit quietly, he rises and paces
the room distractedly].

MRS GILBEY. Then what have you got in your hand?

GILBEY. Ive a letter from the Monsignor Grenfell. From New York.
Dropping us. Cutting us. [Turning fiercely on her] Thats a nice thing,
isnt it?

MRS GILBEY. What for?

GILBEY. [flinging away towards his chair] How do _I_ know what for?

MRS GILBEY. What does he say?

GILBEY. [sitting down and grumblingly adjusting his spectacles] This is
what he says. "My dear Mr Gilbey: The news about Bobby had to follow me
across the Atlantic: it did not reach me until to-day. I am afraid he
is incorrigible. My brother, as you may imagine, feels that this last
escapade has gone beyond the bounds; and I think, myself, that Bobby
ought to be made to feel that such scrapes involve a certain degree of
reprobation." "As you may imagine"! And we know no more about it than
the babe unborn.

MRS GILBEY. What else does he say?

GILBEY. "I think my brother must have been just a little to blame
himself; so, between ourselves, I shall, with due and impressive
formality, forgive Bobby later on; but for the present I think it had
better be understood that he is in disgrace, and that we are no longer
on visiting terms. As ever, yours sincerely." [His agitation masters him
again] Thats a nice slap in the face to get from a man in his position!
This is what your son has brought on me.

MRS GILBEY. Well, I think it's rather a nice letter. He as good as tells
you hes only letting on to be offended for Bobby's good.

GILBEY. Oh, very well: have the letter framed and hang it up over the
mantelpiece as a testimonial.

MRS GILBEY. Dont talk nonsense, Rob. You ought to be thankful to know
that the boy is alive after his disappearing like that for nearly a
week.

GILBEY. Nearly a week! A fortnight, you mean. Wheres your feelings,
woman? It was fourteen days yesterday.

MRS GILBEY. Oh, dont call it fourteen days, Rob, as if the boy was in
prison.

GILBEY. How do you know hes not in prison? It's got on my nerves so,
that I'd believe even that.

MRS GILBEY. Dont talk silly, Rob. Bobby might get into a scrape like any
other lad; but he'd never do anything low.

_Juggins, the footman, comes in with a card on a salver. He is a rather
low-spirited man of thirty-five or more, of good appearance and address,
and iron self-command._

JUGGINS. [presenting the salver to Mr Gilbey] Lady wishes to see Mr
Bobby's parents, sir.

GILBEY. [pointing to Mrs Gilbey] Theres Mr Bobby's parent. I disown him.

JUGGINS. Yes, sir. [He presents the salver to Mrs Gilbey].

MRS GILBEY. You mustnt mind what your master says, Juggins: he doesnt
mean it. [She takes the card and reads it]. Well, I never!

GILBEY. Whats up now?

MRS GILBEY. [reading] "Miss D. Delaney. Darling Dora." Just like
that--in brackets. What sort of person, Juggins?

GILBEY. Whats her address?

MRS GILBEY. The West Circular Road. Is that a respectable address,
Juggins?

JUGGINS. A great many most respectable people live in the West Circular
Road, madam; but the address is not a guarantee of respectability.

GILBEY. So it's come to that with him, has it?

MRS GILBEY. Dont jump to conclusions, Rob. How do you know? [To Juggins]
Is she a lady, Juggins? You know what I mean.

JUGGINS. In the sense in which you are using the word, no, madam.

MRS GILBEY. I'd better try what I can get out of her. [To Juggins] Shew
her up. You dont mind, do you, Rob?

GILBEY. So long as you dont flounce out and leave me alone with her. [He
rises and plants himself on the hearth-rug].

_Juggins goes out._

MRS GILBEY. I wonder what she wants, Rob?

GILBEY. If she wants money, she shant have it. Not a farthing. A nice
thing, everybody seeing her on our doorstep! If it wasnt that she may
tell us something about the lad, I'd have Juggins put the hussy into the
street.

JUGGINS. [returning and announcing] Miss Delaney. [He waits for express
orders before placing a chair for this visitor].

_Miss Delaney comes in. She is a young lady of hilarious disposition,
very tolerable good looks, and killing clothes. She is so affable and
confidential that it is very difficult to keep her at a distance by any
process short of flinging her out of the house._

DORA. [plunging at once into privileged intimacy and into the middle
of the room] How d'ye do, both. I'm a friend of Bobby's. He told me all
about you once, in a moment of confidence. Of course he never let on who
he was at the police court.

GILBEY. Police court!

MRS GILBEY. [looking apprehensively at Juggins] Tch--! Juggins: a chair.

DORA. Oh, Ive let it out, have I! [Contemplating Juggins approvingly as
he places a chair for her between the table and the sideboard] But
hes the right sort: I can see that. [Buttonholing him] You wont let on
downstairs, old man, will you?

JUGGINS. The family can rely on my absolute discretion. [He withdraws].

DORA. [sitting down genteelly] I dont know what youll say to me: you
know I really have no right to come here; but then what was I to do? You
know Holy Joe, Bobby's tutor, dont you? But of course you do.

GILBEY. [with dignity] I know Mr Joseph Grenfell, the brother of
Monsignor Grenfell, if it is of him you are speaking.

DORA. [wide-eyed and much amused] No!!! You dont tell me that old geezer
has a brother a Monsignor! And youre Catholics! And I never knew it,
though Ive known Bobby ever so long! But of course the last thing you
find out about a person is their religion, isnt it?

MRS GILBEY. We're not Catholics. But when the Samuelses got an
Archdeacon's son to form their boy's mind, Mr Gilbey thought Bobby
ought to have a chance too. And the Monsignor is a customer. Mr Gilbey
consulted him about Bobby; and he recommended a brother of his that was
more sinned against than sinning.

GILBEY. [on tenderhooks] She dont want to hear about that, Maria. [To
Dora] Whats your business?

DORA. I'm afraid it was all my fault.

GILBEY. What was all your fault? I'm half distracted. I dont know what
has happened to the boy: hes been lost these fourteen days--

MRS GILBEY. A fortnight, Rob.

GILBEY. --and not a word have we heard of him since.

MRS GILBEY. Dont fuss, Rob.

GILBEY. [yelling] I will fuss. Youve no feeling. You dont care what
becomes of the lad. [He sits down savagely].

DORA. [soothingly] Youve been anxious about him. Of course. How
thoughtless of me not to begin by telling you hes quite safe. Indeed hes
in the safest place in the world, as one may say: safe under lock and
key.

GILBEY. [horrified, pitiable] Oh my-- [his breath fails him]. Do you
mean that when he was in the police court he was in the dock? Oh, Maria!
Oh, great Lord! What has he done? What has he got for it? [Desperate]
Will you tell me or will you see me go mad on my own carpet?

DORA. [sweetly] Yes, old dear--

MRS GILBEY. [starting at the familiarity] Well!

DORA. [continuing] I'll tell you: but dont you worry: hes all right. I
came out myself this morning: there was such a crowd! and a band! they
thought I was a suffragette: only fancy! You see it was like this. Holy
Joe got talking about how he'd been a champion sprinter at college.

MRS GILBEY. A what?

DORA. A sprinter. He said he was the fastest hundred yards runner in
England. We were all in the old cowshed that night.

MRS GILBEY. What old cowshed?

GILBEY. [groaning] Oh, get on. Get on.

DORA. Oh, of course you wouldnt know. How silly of me! It's a rather
go-ahead sort of music hall in Stepney. We call it the old cowshed.

MRS GILBEY. Does Mr Grenfell take Bobby to music halls?

DORA. No. Bobby takes him. But Holy Joe likes it: fairly laps it up like
a kitten, poor old dear. Well, Bobby says to me, "Darling--"

MRS GILBEY. [placidly] Why does he call you Darling?

DORA. Oh, everybody calls me Darling: it's a sort of name Ive got.
Darling Dora, you know. Well, he says, "Darling, if you can get Holy Joe
to sprint a hundred yards, I'll stand you that squiffer with the gold
keys."

MRS GILBEY. Does he call his tutor Holy Joe to his face [Gilbey clutches
at his hair in his impatience].

DORA. Well, what would he call him? After all, Holy Joe is Holy Joe; and
boys will be boys.

MRS GILBEY. Whats a squiffer?

DORA. Oh, of course: excuse my vulgarity: a concertina. Theres one in
a shop in Green Street, ivory inlaid, with gold keys and Russia leather
bellows; and Bobby knew I hankered after it; but he couldnt afford it,
poor lad, though I knew he just longed to give it to me.

GILBEY. Maria: if you keep interrupting with silly questions, I shall go
out of my senses. Heres the boy in gaol and me disgraced for ever; and
all you care to know is what a squiffer is.

DORA. Well, remember it has gold keys. The man wouldnt take a penny less
than 15 pounds for it. It was a presentation one.

GILBEY. [shouting at her] Wheres my son? Whats happened to my son? Will
you tell me that, and stop cackling about your squiffer?

DORA. Oh, aint we impatient! Well, it does you credit, old dear. And you
neednt fuss: theres no disgrace. Bobby behaved like a perfect gentleman.
Besides, it was all my fault. I'll own it: I took too much champagne. I
was not what you might call drunk; but I was bright, and a little beyond
myself; and--I'll confess it--I wanted to shew off before Bobby, because
he was a bit taken by a woman on the stage; and she was pretending to be
game for anything. You see youve brought Bobby up too strict; and when
he gets loose theres no holding him. He does enjoy life more than any
lad I ever met.

GILBEY. Never you mind how hes been brought up: thats my business. Tell
me how hes been brought down: thats yours.

MRS GILBEY. Oh, dont be rude to the lady, Rob.

DORA. I'm coming to it, old dear: dont you be so headstrong. Well, it
was a beautiful moonlight night; and we couldnt get a cab on the nod; so
we started to walk, very jolly, you know: arm in arm, and dancing along,
singing and all that. When we came into Jamaica Square, there was a
young copper on point duty at the corner. I says to Bob: "Dearie boy: is
it a bargain about the squiffer if I make Joe sprint for you?" "Anything
you like, darling," says he: "I love you." I put on my best company
manners and stepped up to the copper. "If you please, sir," says I, "can
you direct me to Carrickmines Square?" I was so genteel, and talked so
sweet, that he fell to it like a bird. "I never heard of any such Square
in these parts," he says. "Then," says I, "what a very silly little
officer you must be!"; and I gave his helmet a chuck behind that knocked
it over his eyes, and did a bunk.

MRS GILBEY. Did a what?

DORA. A bunk. Holy Joe did one too all right: he sprinted faster than he
ever did in college, I bet, the old dear. He got clean off, too. Just as
he was overtaking me half-way down the square, we heard the whistle; and
at the sound of it he drew away like a streak of lightning; and that
was the last I saw of him. I was copped in the Dock Road myself: rotten
luck, wasn't it? I tried the innocent and genteel and all the rest; but
Bobby's hat done me in.

GILBEY. And what happened to the boy?

DORA. Only fancy! he stopped to laugh at the copper! He thought the
copper would see the joke, poor lamb. He was arguing about it when the
two that took me came along to find out what the whistle was for, and
brought me with them. Of course I swore I'd never seen him before in
my life; but there he was in my hat and I in his. The cops were very
spiteful and laid it on for all they were worth: drunk and disorderly
and assaulting the police and all that. I got fourteen days without the
option, because you see--well, the fact is, I'd done it before, and been
warned. Bobby was a first offender and had the option; but the dear boy
had no money left and wouldnt give you away by telling his name; and
anyhow he couldnt have brought himself to buy himself off and leave me
there; so hes doing his time. Well, it was two forty shillingses; and
Ive only twenty-eight shillings in the world. If I pawn my clothes I
shant be able to earn any more. So I cant pay the fine and get him out;
but if youll stand 3 pounds I'll stand one; and thatll do it. If youd
like to be very kind and nice you could pay the lot; but I cant deny
that it was my fault; so I wont press you.

GILBEY. [heart-broken] My son in gaol!

DORA. Oh, cheer up, old dear: it wont hurt him: look at me after
fourteen days of it; I'm all the better for being kept a bit quiet. You
mustnt let it prey on your mind.

GILBEY. The disgrace of it will kill me. And it will leave a mark on him
to the end of his life.

DORA. Not a bit of it. Dont you be afraid: Ive educated Bobby a bit: hes
not the mollycoddle he was when you had him in hand.

MRS GILBEY. Indeed Bobby is not a mollycoddle. They wanted him to go
in for singlestick at the Young Men's Christian Association; but, of
course, I couldnt allow that: he might have had his eye knocked out.

GILBEY. [to Dora, angrily] Listen here, you.

DORA. Oh, aint we cross!

GILBEY. I want none of your gaiety here. This is a respectable
household. Youve gone and got my poor innocent boy into trouble. It's
the like of you thats the ruin of the like of him.

DORA. So you always say, you old dears. But you know better. Bobby came
to me: I didnt come to him.

GILBEY. Would he have gone if you hadnt been there for him to go to?
Tell me that. You know why he went to you, I suppose?

DORA. [charitably] It was dull for him at home, poor lad, wasnt it?

MRS GILBEY. Oh no. I'm at home on first Thursdays. And we have the
Knoxes to dinner every Friday. Margaret Knox and Bobby are as good as
engaged. Mr Knox is my husband's partner. Mrs Knox is very religious;
but shes quite cheerful. We dine with them on Tuesdays. So thats two
evenings pleasure every week.

GILBEY. [almost in tears] We done what we could for the boy. Short of
letting him go into temptations of all sorts, he can do what he likes.
What more does he want?

DORA. Well, old dear, he wants me; and thats about the long and short of
it. And I must say youre not very nice to me about it. Ive talked to him
like a mother, and tried my best to keep him straight; but I dont deny
I like a bit of fun myself; and we both get a bit giddy when we're
lighthearted. Him and me is a pair, I'm afraid.

GILBEY. Dont talk foolishness, girl. How could you and he be a pair, you
being what you are, and he brought up as he has been, with the example
of a religious woman like Mrs Knox before his eyes? I cant understand
how he could bring himself to be seen in the street with you. [Pitying
himself] I havnt deserved this. Ive done my duty as a father. Ive kept
him sheltered. [Angry with her] Creatures like you that take advantage
of a child's innocence ought to be whipped through the streets.

DORA. Well, whatever I may be, I'm too much the lady to lose my temper;
and I dont think Bobby would like me to tell you what I think of you;
for when I start giving people a bit of my mind I sometimes use language
thats beneath me. But I tell you once for all I must have the money to
get Bobby out; and if you wont fork out, I'll hunt up Holy Joe. He might
get it off his brother, the Monsignor.

GILBEY. You mind your own concerns. My solicitor will do what is right.
I'll not have you paying my son's fine as if you were anything to him.

DORA. Thats right. Youll get him out today, wont you?

GILBEY. It's likely I'd leave my boy in prison, isnt it?

DORA. I'd like to know when theyll let him out.

GILBEY. You would, would you? Youre going to meet him at the prison
door.

DORA. Well, dont you think any woman would that had the feelings of a
lady?

GILBEY. [bitterly] Oh yes: I know. Here! I must buy the lad's salvation,
I suppose. How much will you take to clear out and let him go?

DORA. [pitying him: quite nice about it] What good would that do, old
dear? There are others, you know.

GILBEY. Thats true. I must send the boy himself away.

DORA. Where to?

GILBEY. Anywhere, so long as hes out of the reach of you and your like.

DORA. Then I'm afraid youll have to send him out of the world, old dear.
I'm sorry for you: I really am, though you mightnt believe it; and I
think your feelings do you real credit. But I cant give him up just to
let him fall into the hands of people I couldnt trust, can I?

GILBEY. [beside himself, rising] Wheres the police? Wheres the
Government? Wheres the Church? Wheres respectability and right reason?
Whats the good of them if I have to stand here and see you put my son in
your pocket as if he was a chattel slave, and you hardly out of gaol as
a common drunk and disorderly? Whats the world coming to?

DORA. It is a lottery, isnt it, old dear?

_Mr Gilbey rushes from the room, distracted._

MRS GILBEY. [unruffled] Where did you buy that white lace? I want some
to match a collaret of my own; and I cant get it at Perry and John's.

DORA. Knagg and Pantle's: one and fourpence. It's machine hand-made.

MRS GILBEY. I never give more than one and tuppence. But I suppose youre
extravagant by nature. My sister Martha was just like that. Pay anything
she was asked.

DORA. Whats tuppence to you, Mrs Bobby, after all?

MRS GILBEY. [correcting her] Mrs Gilbey.

DORA. Of course, Mrs Gilbey. I am silly.

MRS GILBEY. Bobby must have looked funny in your hat. Why did you change
hats with him?

DORA. I dont know. One does, you know.

MRS GILBEY. I never did. The things people do! I cant understand them.
Bobby never told me he was keeping company with you. His own mother!

DORA. [overcome] Excuse me: I cant help smiling.

_Juggins enters._

JUGGINS. Mr Gilbey has gone to Wormwood Scrubbs, madam.

MRS GILBEY. Have you ever been in a police court, Juggins?

JUGGINS. Yes, madam.

MRS GILBEY [rather shocked] I hope you had not been exceeding, Juggins.

JUGGINS. Yes, madam, I had. I exceeded the legal limit.

MRS GILBEY. Oh, that! Why do they give a woman a fortnight for wearing a
man's hat, and a man a month for wearing hers?

JUGGINS. I didnt know that they did, madam.

MRS GILBEY. It doesnt seem justice, does it, Juggins?

JUGGINS. No, madam.

MRS GILBEY [to Dora, rising] Well, good-bye. [Shaking her hand] So
pleased to have made your acquaintance.

DORA. [standing up] Dont mention it. I'm sure it's most kind of you to
receive me at all.

MRS GILBEY. I must go off now and order lunch. [She trots to the door].
What was it you called the concertina?

DORA. A squiffer, dear.

MRS GILBEY. [thoughtfully] A squiffer, of course. How funny! [She goes
out].

DORA. [exploding into ecstasies of mirth] Oh my! isnt she an old love?
How do you keep your face straight?

JUGGINS. It is what I am paid for.

DORA. [confidentially] Listen here, dear boy. Your name isnt Juggins.
Nobody's name is Juggins.

JUGGINS. My orders are, Miss Delaney, that you are not to be here when
Mr Gilbey returns from Wormwood Scrubbs.

DORA. That means telling me to mind my own business, doesnt it? Well,
I'm off. Tootle Loo, Charlie Darling. [She kisses her hand to him and
goes].



ACT II

_On the afternoon of the same day, Mrs Knox is writing notes in her
drawing-room, at a writing-table which stands against the wall. Anyone
placed so as to see Mrs Knox's left profile, will have the door on the
right and the window an the left, both further away than Mrs Knox, whose
back is presented to an obsolete upright piano at the opposite side
of the room. The sofa is near the piano. There is a small table in the
middle of the room, with some gilt-edged books and albums on it, and
chairs near it._

_Mr Knox comes in almost furtively, a troubled man of fifty, thinner,
harder, and uglier than his partner, Gilbey, Gilbey being a soft
stoutish man with white hair and thin smooth skin, whilst Knox has
coarse black hair, and blue jaws which no diligence in shaving can
whiten. Mrs Knox is a plain woman, dressed without regard to fashion,
with thoughtful eyes and thoughtful ways that make an atmosphere of
peace and some solemnity. She is surprised to see her husband at home
during business hours._

MRS KNOX. What brings you home at this hour? Have you heard anything?

KNOX. No. Have you?

MRS KNOX. No. Whats the matter?

KNOX. [sitting down on the sofa] I believe Gilbey has found out.

MRS KNOX. What makes you think that?

KNOX. Well, I dont know: I didnt like to tell you: you have enough
to worry you without that; but Gilbey's been very queer ever since
it happened. I cant keep my mind on business as I ought; and I was
depending on him. But hes worse than me. Hes not looking after anything;
and he keeps out of my way. His manner's not natural. He hasnt asked us
to dinner; and hes never said a word about our not asking him to
dinner, after all these years when weve dined every week as regular as
clockwork. It looks to me as if Gilbey's trying to drop me socially.
Well, why should he do that if he hasnt heard?

MRS KNOX. I wonder! Bobby hasnt been near us either: thats what I cant
make out.

KNOX. Oh, thats nothing. I told him Margaret was down in Cornwall with
her aunt.

MRS KNOX. [reproachfully] Jo! [She takes her handkerchief from the
writing-table and cries a little].

KNOX. Well, I got to tell lies, aint I? You wont. Somebody's got to tell
em.

MRS KNOX. [putting away her handkerchief] It only ends in our not
knowing what to believe. Mrs Gilbey told me Bobby was in Brighton for
the sea air. Theres something queer about that. Gilbey would never
let the boy loose by himself among the temptations of a gay place like
Brighton without his tutor; and I saw the tutor in Kensington High
Street the very day she told me.

KNOX. If the Gilbeys have found out, it's all over between Bobby and
Margaret, and all over between us and them.

MRS KNOX. It's all over between us and everybody. When a girl runs away
from home like that, people know what to think of her and her parents.

KNOX. She had a happy, respectable home--everything--

MRS KNOX. [interrupting him] Theres no use going over it all again, Jo.
If a girl hasnt happiness in herself, she wont be happy anywhere. Youd
better go back to the shop and try to keep your mind off it.

KNOX. [rising restlessly] I cant. I keep fancying everybody knows it and
is sniggering about it. I'm at peace nowhere but here. It's a comfort to
be with you. It's a torment to be with other people.

MRS KNOX. [going to him and drawing her arm through his] There, Jo,
there! I'm sure I'd have you here always if I could. But it cant be.
God's work must go on from day to day, no matter what comes. We must
face our trouble and bear it.

KNOX. [wandering to the window arm in arm with her] Just look at the
people in the street, going up and down as if nothing had happened. It
seems unnatural, as if they all knew and didnt care.

MRS KNOX. If they knew, Jo, thered be a crowd round the house looking up
at us. You shouldnt keep thinking about it.

KNOX. I know I shouldnt. You have your religion, Amelia; and I'm sure
I'm glad it comforts you. But it doesnt come to me that way. Ive worked
hard to get a position and be respectable. Ive turned many a girl out of
the shop for being half an hour late at night; and heres my own daughter
gone for a fortnight without word or sign, except a telegram to say shes
not dead and that we're not to worry about her.

MRS KNOX. [suddenly pointing to the street] Jo, look!

KNOX. Margaret! With a man!

MRS KNOX. Run down, Jo, quick. Catch her: save her.

KNOX. [lingering] Shes shaking bands with him: shes coming across to the
door.

MRS KNOX. [energetically] Do as I tell you. Catch the man before hes out
of sight.

_Knox rushes from the room. Mrs Knox looks anxiously and excitedly from
the window. Then she throws up the sash and leans out. Margaret Knox
comes in, flustered and annoyed. She is a strong, springy girl of
eighteen, with large nostrils, an audacious chin, and a gaily resolute
manner, even peremptory on occasions like the present, when she is
annoyed._

MARGARET. Mother. Mother.

_Mrs Knox draws in her head and confronts her daughter._

MRS KNOX. [sternly] Well, miss?

MARGARET. Oh, mother, do go out and stop father making a scene in
the street. He rushed at him and said "Youre the man who took away my
daughter" loud enough for all the people to hear. Everybody stopped. We
shall have a crowd round the house. Do do something to stop him.

_Knox returns with a good-looking young marine officer._

MARGARET. Oh, Monsieur Duvallet, I'm so sorry--so ashamed. Mother:
this is Monsieur Duvallet, who has been extremely kind to me. Monsieur
Duvallet: my mother. [Duvallet bows].

KNOX. A Frenchman! It only needed this.

MARGARET. [much annoyed] Father: do please be commonly civil to a
gentleman who has been of the greatest service to me. What will he think
of us?

DUVALLET. [debonair] But it's very natural. I understand Mr Knox's
feelings perfectly. [He speaks English better than Knox, having learnt
it on both sides of the Atlantic].

KNOX. If Ive made any mistake I'm ready to apologize. But I want to know
where my daughter has been for the last fortnight.

DUVALLET. She has been, I assure you, in a particularly safe place.

KNOX. Will you tell me what place? I can judge for myself how safe it
was.

MARGARET. Holloway Gaol. Was that safe enough?

KNOX AND MRS KNOX. Holloway Gaol!

KNOX. Youve joined the Suffragets!

MARGARET. No. I wish I had. I could have had the same experience in
better company. Please sit down, Monsieur Duvallet. [She sits between
the table and the sofa. Mrs Knox, overwhelmed, sits at the other side of
the table. Knox remains standing in the middle of the room].

DUVALLET. [sitting down on the sofa] It was nothing. An adventure.
Nothing.

MARGARET. [obdurately] Drunk and assaulting the police! Forty shillings
or a month!

MRS KNOX. Margaret! Who accused you of such a thing?

MARGARET. The policeman I assaulted.

KNOX. You mean to say that you did it!

MARGARET. I did. I had that satisfaction at all events. I knocked two of
his teeth out.

KNOX. And you sit there coolly and tell me this!

MARGARET. Well, where do you want me to sit? Whats the use of saying
things like that?

KNOX. My daughter in Holloway Gaol!

MARGARET. All the women in Holloway are somebody's daughters. Really,
father, you must make up your mind to it. If you had sat in that cell
for fourteen days making up your mind to it, you would understand that
I'm not in the humor to be gaped at while youre trying to persuade
yourself that it cant be real. These things really do happen to real
people every day; and you read about them in the papers and think it's
all right. Well, theyve happened to me: thats all.

KNOX. [feeble-forcible] But they shouldnt have happened to you. Dont you
know that?

MARGARET. They shouldnt happen to anybody, I suppose. But they do.
[Rising impatiently] And really I'd rather go out and assault another
policeman and go back to Holloway than keep talking round and round it
like this. If youre going to turn me out of the house, turn me out: the
sooner I go the better.

DUVALLET. [rising quickly] That is impossible, mademoiselle. Your father
has his position to consider. To turn his daughter out of doors would
ruin him socially.

KNOX. Oh, youve put her up to that, have you? And where did you come in,
may I ask?

DUVALLET. I came in at your invitation--at your amiable insistence, in
fact, not at my own. But you need have no anxiety on my account. I
was concerned in the regrettable incident which led to your daughter's
incarceration. I got a fortnight without the option of a fine on the
ridiculous ground that I ought to have struck the policeman with my
fist. I should have done so with pleasure had I known; but, as it was,
I struck him on the ear with my boot--a magnificent _moulinet_, I must
say--and was informed that I had been guilty of an act of cowardice,
but that for the sake of the _entente cordiale_ I should be dealt with
leniently. Yet Miss Knox, who used her fist, got a month, but with the
option of a fine. I did not know this until I was released, when my
first act was to pay the fine. And here we are.

MRS KNOX. You ought to pay the gentleman the fine, Jo.

KNOX. [reddening] Oh, certainly. [He takes out some money].

DUVALLET. Oh please! it does not matter. [Knox hands him two
sovereigns]. If you insist-- [he pockets them] Thank you.

MARGARET. I'm ever so much obliged to you, Monsieur Duvallet.

DUVALLET. Can I be of any further assistance, mademoiselle?

MARGARET. I think you had better leave us to fight it out, if you dont
mind.

DUVALLET. Perfectly. Madame [bow]--Mademoiselle [bow]--Monsieur
[bow]--[He goes out].

MRS KNOX. Dont ring, Jo. See the gentleman out yourself.

_Knox hastily sees Duvallet out. Mother and daughter sit looking
forlornly at one another without saying a word. Mrs Knox slowly sits
down. Margaret follows her example. They look at one another again. Mr
Knox returns._

KNOX. [shortly and sternly] Amelia: this is your job. [To Margaret] I
leave you to your mother. I shall have my own say in the matter when I
hear what you have to say to her. [He goes out, solemn and offended].

MARGARET. [with a bitter little laugh] Just what the Suffraget said to
me in Holloway. He throws the job on you.

MRS KNOX. [reproachfully] Margaret!

MARGARET. You know it's true.

MRS KNOX. Margaret: if youre going to be hardened about it, theres no
use my saying anything.

MARGARET. I'm not hardened, mother. But I cant talk nonsense about
it. You see, it's all real to me. Ive suffered it. Ive been shoved and
bullied. Ive had my arms twisted. Ive been made scream with pain in
other ways. Ive been flung into a filthy cell with a lot of other poor
wretches as if I were a sack of coals being emptied into a cellar. And
the only difference between me and the others was that I hit back. Yes
I did. And I did worse. I wasnt ladylike. I cursed. I called names. I
heard words that I didnt even know that I knew, coming out of my mouth
just as if somebody else had spoken them. The policeman repeated them
in court. The magistrate said he could hardly believe it. The policeman
held out his hand with his two teeth in it that I knocked out. I said
it was all right; that I had heard myself using those words quite
distinctly; and that I had taken the good conduct prize for three years
running at school. The poor old gentleman put me back for the missionary
to find out who I was, and to ascertain the state of my mind. I wouldnt
tell, of course, for your sakes at home here; and I wouldnt say I was
sorry, or apologize to the policeman, or compensate him or anything of
that sort. I wasnt sorry. The one thing that gave me any satisfaction
was getting in that smack on his mouth; and I said so. So the missionary
reported that I seemed hardened and that no doubt I would tell who I was
after a day in prison. Then I was sentenced. So now you see I'm not a
bit the sort of girl you thought me. I'm not a bit the sort of girl I
thought myself. And I dont know what sort of person you really are, or
what sort of person father really is. I wonder what he would say or do
if he had an angry brute of a policeman twisting his arm with one hand
and rushing him along by the nape of his neck with the other. He couldnt
whirl his leg like a windmill and knock a policeman down by a glorious
kick on the helmet. Oh, if theyd all fought as we two fought we'd have
beaten them.

MRS KNOX. But how did it all begin?

MARGARET. Oh, I dont know. It was boat-race night, they said.

MRS KNOX. Boat-race night! But what had you to do with the boat race?
You went to the great Salvation Festival at the Albert Hall with your
aunt. She put you into the bus that passes the door. What made you get
out of the bus?

MARGARET. I dont know. The meeting got on my nerves, somehow. It was the
singing, I suppose: you know I love singing a good swinging hymn; and I
felt it was ridiculous to go home in the bus after we had been singing
so wonderfully about climbing up the golden stairs to heaven. I wanted
more music--more happiness--more life. I wanted some comrade who felt
as I did. I felt exalted: it seemed mean to be afraid of anything:
after all, what could anyone do to me against my will? I suppose I was
a little mad: at all events, I got out of the bus at Piccadilly Circus,
because there was a lot of light and excitement there. I walked to
Leicester Square; and went into a great theatre.

MRS KNOX. [horrified] A theatre!

MARGARET. Yes. Lots of other women were going in alone. I had to pay
five shillings.

MRS KNOX. [aghast] Five shillings!

MARGARET. [apologetically] It was a lot. It was very stuffy; and I didnt
like the people much, because they didnt seem to be enjoying themselves;
but the stage was splendid and the music lovely. I saw that Frenchman,
Monsieur Duvallet, standing against a barrier, smoking a cigarette. He
seemed quite happy; and he was nice and sailorlike. I went and stood
beside him, hoping he would speak to me.

MRS KNOX. [gasps] Margaret!

MARGARET. [continuing] He did, just as if he had known me for years.
We got on together like old friends. He asked me would I have some
champagne; and I said it would cost too much, but that I would give
anything for a dance. I longed to join the people on the stage and dance
with them: one of them was the most beautiful dancer I ever saw. He told
me he had come there to see her, and that when it was over we could go
somewhere where there was dancing. So we went to a place where there was
a band in a gallery and the floor cleared for dancing. Very few people
danced: the women only wanted to shew off their dresses; but we danced
and danced until a lot of them joined in. We got quite reckless; and we
had champagne after all. I never enjoyed anything so much. But at last
it got spoilt by the Oxford and Cambridge students up for the boat race.
They got drunk; and they began to smash things; and the police came in.
Then it was quite horrible. The students fought with the police; and
the police suddenly got quite brutal, and began to throw everybody
downstairs. They attacked the women, who were not doing anything, and
treated them just as roughly as they had treated the students. Duvallet
got indignant and remonstrated with a policeman, who was shoving a woman
though she was going quietly as fast as she could. The policeman flung
the woman through the door and then turned on Duvallet. It was then that
Duvallet swung his leg like a windmill and knocked the policeman down.
And then three policemen rushed at him and carried him out by the arms
and legs face downwards. Two more attacked me and gave me a shove to the
door. That quite maddened me. I just got in one good bang on the mouth
of one of them. All the rest was dreadful. I was rushed through the
streets to the police station. They kicked me with their knees; they
twisted my arms; they taunted and insulted me; they called me vile
names; and I told them what I thought of them, and provoked them to do
their worst. Theres one good thing about being hard hurt: it makes you
sleep. I slept in that filthy cell with all the other drunks sounder
than I should have slept at home. I cant describe how I felt next
morning: it was hideous; but the police were quite jolly; and everybody
said it was a bit of English fun, and talked about last year's boat-race
night when it had been a great deal worse. I was black and blue and sick
and wretched. But the strange thing was that I wasnt sorry; and I'm not
sorry. And I dont feel that I did anything wrong, really. [She rises
and stretches her arms with a large liberating breath] Now that it's all
over I'm rather proud of it; though I know now that I'm not a lady; but
whether thats because we're only shopkeepers, or because nobody's really
a lady except when theyre treated like ladies, I dont know. [She throws
herself into a corner of the sofa].

MRS KNOX. [lost in wonder] But how could you bring yourself to do it,
Margaret? I'm not blaming you: I only want to know. How could you bring
yourself to do it?

MARGARET. I cant tell you. I dont understand it myself. The prayer
meeting set me free, somehow. I should never have done it if it were not
for the prayer meeting.

MRS KNOX. [deeply horrified] Oh, dont say such a thing as that. I know
that prayer can set us free; though you could never understand me when I
told you so; but it sets us free for good, not for evil.

MARGARET. Then I suppose what I did was not evil; or else I was set free
for evil as well as good. As father says, you cant have anything both
ways at once. When I was at home and at school I was what you call good;
but I wasnt free. And when I got free I was what most people would call
not good. But I see no harm in what I did; though I see plenty in what
other people did to me.

MRS KNOX. I hope you dont think yourself a heroine of romance.

MARGARET. Oh no. [She sits down again at the table]. I'm a heroine of
reality, if you can call me a heroine at all. And reality is pretty
brutal, pretty filthy, when you come to grips with it. Yet it's glorious
all the same. It's so real and satisfactory.

MRS KNOX. I dont like this spirit in you, Margaret. I dont like your
talking to me in that tone.

MARGARET. It's no use, mother. I dont care for you and Papa any the
less; but I shall never get back to the old way of talking again. Ive
made a sort of descent into hell--

MRS KNOX. Margaret! Such a word!

MARGARET. You should have heard all the words that were flying round
that night. You should mix a little with people who dont know any
other words. But when I said that about a descent into hell I was not
swearing. I was in earnest, like a preacher.

MRS KNOX. A preacher utters them in a reverent tone of voice.

MARGARET. I know: the tone that shews they dont mean anything real to
him. They usent to mean anything real to me. Now hell is as real to me
as a turnip; and I suppose I shall always speak of it like that. Anyhow,
Ive been there; and it seems to me now that nothing is worth doing but
redeeming people from it.

MRS KNOX. They are redeemed already if they choose to believe it.

MARGARET. Whats the use of that if they dont choose to believe it? You
dont believe it yourself, or you wouldnt pay policemen to twist their
arms. Whats the good of pretending? Thats all our respectability is,
pretending, pretending, pretending. Thank heaven Ive had it knocked out
of me once for all!

MRS KNOX. [greatly agitated] Margaret: dont talk like that. I cant bear
to hear you talking wickedly. I can bear to hear the children of this
world talking vainly and foolishly in the language of this world. But
when I hear you justifying your wickedness in the words of grace, it's
too horrible: it sounds like the devil making fun of religion. Ive tried
to bring you up to learn the happiness of religion. Ive waited for you
to find out that happiness is within ourselves and doesnt come from
outward pleasures. Ive prayed oftener than you think that you might be
enlightened. But if all my hopes and all my prayers are to come to this,
that you mix up my very words and thoughts with the promptings of the
devil, then I dont know what I shall do: I dont indeed: itll kill me.

MARGARET. You shouldnt have prayed for me to be enlightened if you didnt
want me to be enlightened. If the truth were known, I suspect we all
want our prayers to be answered only by halves: the agreeable halves.
Your prayer didnt get answered by halves, mother. Youve got more than
you bargained for in the way of enlightenment. I shall never be the same
again. I shall never speak in the old way again. Ive been set free from
this silly little hole of a house and all its pretences. I know now that
I am stronger than you and Papa. I havnt found that happiness of yours
that is within yourself; but Ive found strength. For good or evil I am
set free; and none of the things that used to hold me can hold me now.

_Knox comes back, unable to bear his suspense._

KNOX. How long more are you going to keep me waiting, Amelia? Do you
think I'm made of iron? Whats the girl done? What are we going to do?

MRS KNOX. Shes beyond my control, Jo, and beyond yours. I cant even pray
for her now; for I dont know rightly what to pray for.

KNOX. Dont talk nonsense, woman: is this a time for praying? Does
anybody know? Thats what we have to consider now. If only we can keep it
dark, I don't care for anything else.

MARGARET. Dont hope for that, father. Mind: I'll tell everybody. It
ought to be told. It must be told.

KNOX. Hold your tongue, you young hussy; or go out of my house this
instant.

MARGARET. I'm quite ready. [She takes her hat and turns to the door].

KNOX. [throwing himself in front of it] Here! where are you going?

MRS KNOX. [rising] You mustnt turn her out, Jo! I'll go with her if she
goes.

KNOX. Who wants to turn her out? But is she going to ruin us? To let
everybody know of her disgrace and shame? To tear me down from the
position Ive made for myself and you by forty years hard struggling?

MARGARET. Yes: I'm going to tear it all down. It stands between us and
everything. I'll tell everybody.

KNOX. Magsy, my child: dont bring down your father's hairs with sorrow
to the grave. Theres only one thing I care about in the world: to keep
this dark. I'm your father. I ask you here on my knees--in the dust, so
to speak--not to let it out.

MARGARET. I'll tell everybody.

_Knox collapses in despair. Mrs Knox tries to pray and cannot. Margaret
stands inflexible._



ACT III

_Again in the Gilbeys' dining-room. Afternoon. The table is not laid: it
is draped in its ordinary cloth, with pen and ink, an exercise-book, and
school-books on it. Bobby Gilbey is in the arm-chair, crouching over
the fire, reading an illustrated paper. He is a pretty youth, of very
suburban gentility, strong and manly enough by nature, but untrained and
unsatisfactory, his parents having imagined that domestic restriction
is what they call "bringing up." He has learnt nothing from it except a
habit of evading it by deceit._

_He gets up to ring the bell; then resumes his crouch. Juggins answers
the bell._

BOBBY. Juggins.

JUGGINS. Sir?

BOBBY. [morosely sarcastic] Sir be blowed!

JUGGINS. [cheerfully] Not at all, sir.

BOBBY. I'm a gaol-bird: youre a respectable man.

JUGGINS. That doesnt matter, sir. Your father pays me to call you sir;
and as I take the money, I keep my part of the bargain.

BOBBY. Would you call me sir if you wernt paid to do it?

JUGGINS. No, sir.

BOBBY. Ive been talking to Dora about you.

JUGGINS. Indeed, sir?

BOBBY. Yes. Dora says your name cant be Juggins, and that you have the
manners of a gentleman. I always thought you hadnt any manners. Anyhow,
your manners are different from the manners of a gentleman in my set.

JUGGINS. They would be, sir.

BOBBY. You dont feel disposed to be communicative on the subject of
Dora's notion, I suppose.

JUGGINS. No, sir.

BOBBY. [throwing his paper on the floor and lifting his knees over the
arm of the chair so as to turn towards the footman] It was part of your
bargain that you were to valet me a bit, wasnt it?

JUGGINS. Yes, sir.

BOBBY. Well, can you tell me the proper way to get out of an engagement
to a girl without getting into a row for breach of promise or behaving
like a regular cad?

JUGGINS. No, sir. You cant get out of an engagement without behaving
like a cad if the lady wishes to hold you to it.

BOBBY. But it wouldnt be for her happiness to marry me when I dont
really care for her.

JUGGINS. Women dont always marry for happiness, sir. They often marry
because they wish to be married women and not old maids.

BOBBY. Then what am I to do?

JUGGINS. Marry her, sir, or behave like a cad.

BOBBY. [Jumping up] Well, I wont marry her: thats flat. What would you
do if you were in my place?

JUGGINS. I should tell the young lady that I found I couldnt fulfil my
engagement.

BOBBY. But youd have to make some excuse, you know. I want to give it a
gentlemanly turn: to say I'm not worthy of her, or something like that.

JUGGINS. That is not a gentlemanly turn, sir. Quite the contrary.

BOBBY. I dont see that at all. Do you mean that it's not exactly true?

JUGGINS. Not at all, sir.

BOBBY. I can say that no other girl can ever be to me what shes been.
That would be quite true, because our circumstances have been rather
exceptional; and she'll imagine I mean I'm fonder of her than I can
ever be of anyone else. You see, Juggins, a gentleman has to think of a
girl's feelings.

JUGGINS. If you wish to spare her feelings, sir, you can marry her. If
you hurt her feelings by refusing, you had better not try to get credit
for considerateness at the same time by pretending to spare them. She
wont like it. And it will start an argument, of which you will get the
worse.

BOBBY. But, you know, I'm not really worthy of her.

JUGGINS. Probably she never supposed you were, sir.

BOBBY. Oh, I say, Juggins, you are a pessimist.

JUGGINS. [preparing to go] Anything else, sir?

BOBBY. [querulously] You havnt been much use. [He wanders disconsolately
across the room]. You generally put me up to the correct way of doing
things.

JUGGINS. I assure you, sir, theres no correct way of jilting. It's not
correct in itself.

BOBBY. [hopefully] I'll tell you what. I'll say I cant hold her to an
engagement with a man whos been in quod. Thatll do it. [He seats himself
on the table, relieved and confident].

JUGGINS. Very dangerous, sir. No woman will deny herself the romantic
luxury of self-sacrifice and forgiveness when they take the form of
doing something agreeable. Shes almost sure to say that your misfortune
will draw her closer to you.

BOBBY. What a nuisance! I dont know what to do. You know, Juggins, your
cool simple-minded way of doing it wouldnt go down in Denmark Hill.

JUGGINS. I daresay not, sir. No doubt youd prefer to make it look like
an act of self-sacrifice for her sake on your part, or provoke her to
break the engagement herself. Both plans have been tried repeatedly, but
never with success, as far as my knowledge goes.

BOBBY. You have a devilish cool way of laying down the law. You know,
in my class you have to wrap up things a bit. Denmark Hill isn't
Camberwell, you know.

JUGGINS. I have noticed, sir, that Denmark Hill thinks that the higher
you go in the social scale, the less sincerity is allowed; and that
only tramps and riff-raff are quite sincere. Thats a mistake. Tramps
are often shameless; but theyre never sincere. Swells--if I may use that
convenient name for the upper classes--play much more with their cards
on the table. If you tell the young lady that you want to jilt her, and
she calls you a pig, the tone of the transaction may leave much to
be desired; but itll be less Camberwellian than if you say youre not
worthy.

BOBBY. Oh, I cant make you understand, Juggins. The girl isnt a
scullery-maid. I want to do it delicately.

JUGGINS. A mistake, sir, believe me, if you are not a born artist in
that line.--Beg pardon, sir, I think I heard the bell. [He goes out].

_Bobby, much perplexed, shoves his hands into his pockets, and comes
off the table, staring disconsolately straight before him; then goes
reluctantly to his books, and sits down to write. Juggins returns._

JUGGINS. [announcing] Miss Knox.

_Margaret comes in. Juggins withdraws._

MARGARET. Still grinding away for that Society of Arts examination,
Bobby? Youll never pass.

BOBBY. [rising] No: I was just writing to you.

MARGARET. What about?

BOBBY. Oh, nothing. At least-- How are you?

MARGARET. [passing round the other end of the table and putting down on
it a copy of Lloyd's Weekly and her purse-bag] Quite well, thank you.
How did you enjoy Brighton?

BOBBY. Brighton! I wasnt at-- Oh yes, of course. Oh, pretty well. Is
your aunt all right?

MARGARET. My aunt! I suppose so. I havent seen her for a month.

BOBBY. I thought you were down staying with her.

MARGARET. Oh! was that what they told you?

BOBBY. Yes. Why? Werent you really?

MARGARET. No. Ive something to tell you. Sit down and lets be
comfortable.

_She sits on the edge of the table. He sits beside her, and puts his arm
wearily round her waist._

MARGARET. You neednt do that if you dont like, Bobby. Suppose we get off
duty for the day, just to see what it's like.

BOBBY. Off duty? What do you mean?

MARGARET. You know very well what I mean. Bobby: did you ever care one
little scrap for me in that sort of way? Dont funk answering: _I_ dont
care a bit for you--that way.

BOBBY. [removing his arm rather huffily] I beg your pardon, I'm sure. I
thought you did.

MARGARET. Well, did you? Come! Dont be mean. Ive owned up. You can put
it all on me if you like; but I dont believe you care any more than I
do.

BOBBY. You mean weve been shoved into it rather by the pars and mars.

MARGARET. Yes.

BOBBY. Well, it's not that I dont care for you: in fact, no girl can
ever be to me exactly what you are; but weve been brought up so much
together that it feels more like brother and sister than--well, than the
other thing, doesnt it?

MARGARET. Just so. How did you find out the difference?

BOBBY. [blushing] Oh, I say!

MARGARET. I found out from a Frenchman.

BOBBY. Oh, I say! [He comes off the table in his consternation].

MARGARET. Did you learn it from a Frenchwoman? You know you must have
learnt it from somebody.

BOBBY. Not a Frenchwoman. Shes quite a nice woman. But shes been rather
unfortunate. The daughter of a clergyman.

MARGARET. [startled] Oh, Bobby! That sort of woman!

BOBBY. What sort of woman?

MARGARET. You dont believe shes really a clergyman's daughter, do you,
you silly boy? It's a stock joke.

BOBBY. Do you mean to say you dont believe me?

MARGARET. No: I mean to say I dont believe her.

BOBBY. [curious and interested, resuming his seat on the table beside
her]. What do you know about her? What do you know about all this sort
of thing?

MARGARET. What sort of thing, Bobby?

BOBBY. Well, about life.

MARGARET. Ive lived a lot since I saw you last. I wasnt at my aunt's.
All that time that you were in Brighton, I mean.

BOBBY. I wasnt at Brighton, Meg. I'd better tell you: youre bound to
find out sooner or later. [He begins his confession humbly, avoiding
her gaze]. Meg: it's rather awful: youll think me no end of a beast. Ive
been in prison.

MARGARET. You!

BOBBY. Yes, me. For being drunk and assaulting the police.

MARGARET. Do you mean to say that you--oh! this is a let-down for me.
[She comes off the table and drops, disconsolate, into a chair at the
end of it furthest from the hearth].

BOBBY. Of course I couldnt hold you to our engagement after that. I was
writing to you to break it off. [He also descends from the table and
makes slowly for the hearth]. You must think me an utter rotter.

MARGARET. Oh, has everybody been in prison for being drunk and
assaulting the police? How long were you in?

BOBBY. A fortnight.

MARGARET. Thats what I was in for.

BOBBY. What are you talking about? In where?

MARGARET. In quod.

BOBBY. But I'm serious: I'm not rotting. Really and truly--

MARGARET. What did you do to the copper?

BOBBY. Nothing, absolutely nothing. He exaggerated grossly. I only
laughed at him.

MARGARET. [jumping up, triumphant] Ive beaten you hollow. I knocked
out two of his teeth. Ive got one of them. He sold it to me for ten
shillings.

BOBBY. Now please do stop fooling, Meg. I tell you I'm not rotting. [He
sits down in the armchair, rather sulkily].

MARGARET. [taking up the copy of Lloyd's Weekly and going to him] And
I tell you I'm not either. Look! Heres a report of it. The daily papers
are no good; but the Sunday papers are splendid. [She sits on the arm
of the chair]. See! [Reading]: "Hardened at Eighteen. A quietly dressed,
respectable-looking girl who refuses her name"--thats me.

BOBBY. [pausing a moment in his perusal] Do you mean to say that you
went on the loose out of pure devilment?

MARGARET. I did no harm. I went to see a lovely dance. I picked up a
nice man and went to have a dance myself. I cant imagine anything more
innocent and more happy. All the bad part was done by other people:
they did it out of pure devilment if you like. Anyhow, here we are, two
gaolbirds, Bobby, disgraced forever. Isnt it a relief?

BOBBY. [rising stiffly] But you know, it's not the same for a girl. A
man may do things a woman maynt. [He stands on the hearthrug with his
back to the fire].

MARGARET. Are you scandalized, Bobby?

BOBBY. Well, you cant expect me to approve of it, can you, Meg? I never
thought you were that sort of girl.

MARGARET. [rising indignantly] I'm not. You mustnt pretend to think that
_I_'m a clergyman's daughter, Bobby.

BOBBY. I wish you wouldnt chaff about that. Dont forget the row you got
into for letting out that you admired Juggins [she turns her back on him
quickly]--a footman! And what about the Frenchman?

MARGARET. [facing him again] I know nothing about the Frenchman except
that hes a very nice fellow and can swing his leg round like the hand of
a clock and knock a policeman down with it. He was in Wormwood Scrubbs
with you. I was in Holloway.

BOBBY. It's all very well to make light of it, Meg; but this is a bit
thick, you know.

MARGARET. Do you feel you couldnt marry a woman whos been in prison?

BOBBY. [hastily] No. I never said that. It might even give a woman a
greater claim on a man. Any girl, if she were thoughtless and a bit
on, perhaps, might get into a scrape. Anyone who really understood her
character could see there was no harm in it. But youre not the larky
sort. At least you usent to be.

MARGARET. I'm not; and I never will be. [She walks straight up to him].
I didnt do it for a lark, Bob: I did it out of the very depths of my
nature. I did it because I'm that sort of person. I did it in one of my
religious fits. I'm hardened at eighteen, as they say. So what about the
match, now?

BOBBY. Well, I dont think you can fairly hold me to it, Meg. Of course
it would be ridiculous for me to set up to be shocked, or anything of
that sort. I cant afford to throw stones at anybody; and I dont pretend
to. I can understand a lark; I can forgive a slip; as long as it is
understood that it is only a lark or a slip. But to go on the loose on
principle; to talk about religion in connection with it; to--to--well,
Meg, I do find that a bit thick, I must say. I hope youre not in earnest
when you talk that way.

MARGARET. Bobby: youre no good. No good to me, anyhow.

BOBBY. [huffed] I'm sorry, Miss Knox.

MARGARET. Goodbye, Mr Gilbey. [She turns on her heel and goes to
the other end of the table]. I suppose you wont introduce me to the
clergyman's daughter.

BOBBY. I dont think she'd like it. There are limits, after all. [He sits
down at the table, as if to to resume work at his books: a hint to her
to go].

MARGARET. [on her way to the door] Ring the bell, Bobby; and tell
Juggins to shew me out.

BOBBY. [reddening] I'm not a cad, Meg.

MARGARET. [coming to the table] Then do something nice to prevent us
feeling mean about this afterwards. Youd better kiss me. You neednt ever
do it again.

BOBBY. If I'm no good, I dont see what fun it would be for you.

MARGARET. Oh, it'd be no fun. If I wanted what you call fun, I should
ask the Frenchman to kiss me--or Juggins.

BOBBY. [rising and retreating to the hearth] Oh, dont be disgusting,
Meg. Dont be low.

MARGARET. [determinedly, preparing to use force] Now, I'll make you
kiss me, just to punish you. [She seizes his wrist; pulls him off his
balance; and gets her arm round his neck].

BOBBY. No. Stop. Leave go, will you.

_Juggins appears at the door._

JUGGINS. Miss Delaney, Sir. [Dora comes in. Juggins goes out. Margaret
hastily releases Bobby, and goes to the other side of the room.]

DORA. [through the door, to the departing Juggins] Well, you are a
Juggins to shew me up when theres company. [To Margaret and Bobby] It's
all right, dear: all right, old man: I'll wait in Juggins's pantry til
youre disengaged.

MARGARET. Dont you know me?

DORA. [coming to the middle of the room and looking at her very
attentively] Why, it's never No. 406!

MARGARET. Yes it is.

DORA. Well, I should never have known you out of the uniform. How did
you get out? You were doing a month, wernt you?

MARGARET. My bloke paid the fine the day he got out himself.

DORA. A real gentleman! [Pointing to Bobby, who is staring open-mouthed]
Look at him. He cant take it in.

BOBBY. I suppose you made her acquaintance in prison, Meg. But when it
comes to talking about blokes and all that--well!

MARGARET. Oh, Ive learnt the language; and I like it. It's another
barrier broken down.

BOBBY. It's not so much the language, Meg. But I think [he looks at Dora
and stops].

MARGARET. [suddenly dangerous] What do you think, Bobby?

DORA. He thinks you oughtnt to be so free with me, dearie. It does him
credit: he always was a gentleman, you know.

MARGARET. Does him credit! To insult you like that! Bobby: say that that
wasnt what you meant.

BOBBY. I didnt say it was.

MARGARET. Well, deny that it was.

BOBBY. No. I wouldnt have said it in front of Dora; but I do think it's
not quite the same thing my knowing her and you knowing her.

DORA. Of course it isnt, old man. [To Margaret] I'll just trot off and
come back in half an hour. You two can make it up together. I'm really
not fit company for you, dearie: I couldnt live up to you. [She turns to
go].

MARGARET. Stop. Do you believe he could live up to me?

DORA. Well, I'll never say anything to stand between a girl and a
respectable marriage, or to stop a decent lad from settling himself. I
have a conscience; though I maynt be as particular as some.

MARGARET. You seem to me to be a very decent sort; and Bobby's behaving
like a skunk.

BOBBY. [much ruffled] Nice language that!

DORA. Well, dearie, men have to do some awfully mean things to keep up
their respectability. But you cant blame them for that, can you? Ive
met Bobby walking with his mother; and of course he cut me dead. I wont
pretend I liked it; but what could he do, poor dear?

MARGARET. And now he wants me to cut you dead to keep him in
countenance. Well, I shant: not if my whole family were there. But
I'll cut him dead if he doesnt treat you properly. [To Bobby, with a
threatening move in his direction] I'll educate you, you young beast.

BOBBY. [furious, meeting her half way] Who are you calling a young
beast?

MARGARET. You.

DORA. [peacemaking] Now, dearies!

BOBBY. If you dont take care, youll get your fat head jolly well
clouted.

MARGARET. If you dont take care, the policeman's tooth will only be the
beginning of a collection.

DORA. Now, loveys, be good.

_Bobby, lost to all sense of adult dignity, puts out his tongue at
Margaret. Margaret, equally furious, catches his protended countenance a
box on the cheek. He hurls himself her. They wrestle._

BOBBY. Cat! I'll teach you.

MARGARET. Pig! Beast! [She forces him backwards on the table]. Now where
are you?

DORA. [calling] Juggins, Juggins. Theyll murder one another.

JUGGINS. [throwing open the door, and announcing] Monsieur Duvallet.

_Duvallet enters. Sudden cessation of hostilities, and dead silence. The
combatants separate by the whole width of the room. Juggins withdraws._

DUVALLET. I fear I derange you.

MARGARET. Not at all. Bobby: you really are a beast: Monsieur Duvallet
will think I'm always fighting.

DUVALLET. Practising jujitsu or the new Iceland wrestling. Admirable,
Miss Knox. The athletic young Englishwoman is an example to all Europe.
[Indicating Bobby] Your instructor, no doubt. Monsieur-- [he bows].

BOBBY. [bowing awkwardly] How d'y' do?

MARGARET. [to Bobby] I'm so sorry, Bobby: I asked Monsieur Duvallet
to call for me here; and I forgot to tell you. [Introducing] Monsieur
Duvallet: Miss Four hundred and seven. Mr Bobby Gilbey. [Duvallet bows].
I really dont know how to explain our relationships. Bobby and I are
like brother and sister.

DUVALLET. Perfectly. I noticed it.

MARGARET. Bobby and Miss--Miss----

DORA. Delaney, dear. [To Duvallet, bewitchingly] Darling Dora, to real
friends.

MARGARET. Bobby and Dora are--are--well, not brother and sister.

DUVALLET. [with redoubled comprehension] Perfectly.

MARGARET. Bobby has spent the last fortnight in prison. You dont mind,
do you?

DUVALLET. No, naturally. _I_ have spent the last fortnight in prison.

_The conversation drops. Margaret renews it with an effort._

MARGARET. Dora has spent the last fortnight in prison.

DUVALLET. Quite so. I felicitate Mademoiselle on her enlargement.

DORA. _Trop merci_, as they say in Boulogne. No call to be stiff with
one another, have we?

_Juggins comes in._

JUGGINS. Beg pardon, sir. Mr and Mrs Gilbey are coming up the street.

DORA. Let me absquatulate [making for the door].

JUGGINS. If you wish to leave without being seen, you had better step
into my pantry and leave afterwards.

DORA. Right oh! [She bursts into song] Hide me in the meat safe til the
cop goes by. Hum the dear old music as his step draws nigh. [She goes
out on tiptoe].

MARGARET. I wont stay here if she has to hide. I'll keep her company in
the pantry. [She follows Dora].

BOBBY. Lets all go. We cant have any fun with the Mar here. I say,
Juggins: you can give us tea in the pantry, cant you?

JUGGINS. Certainly, sir.

BOBBY. Right. Say nothing to my mother. You dont mind, Mr. Doovalley, do
you?

DUVALLET. I shall be charmed.

BOBBY. Right you are. Come along. [At the door] Oh, by the way, Juggins,
fetch down that concertina from my room, will you?

JUGGINS. Yes, sir. [Bobby goes out. Duvallet follows him to the door].
You understand, sir, that Miss Knox is a lady absolutely _comme il
faut_?

DUVALLET. Perfectly. But the other?

JUGGINS. The other, sir, may be both charitably and accurately described
in your native idiom as a daughter of joy.

DUVALLET. It is what I thought. These English domestic interiors are
very interesting. [He goes out, followed by Juggins].

_Presently Mr and Mrs Gilbey come in. They take their accustomed places:
he on the hearthrug, she at the colder end of the table._

MRS GILBEY. Did you smell scent in the hall, Rob?

GILBEY. No, I didnt. And I dont want to smell it. Dont you go looking
for trouble, Maria.

MRS GILBEY. [snuffing up the perfumed atmosphere] Shes been here.
[Gilbey rings the bell]. What are you ringing for? Are you going to ask?

GILBEY. No, I'm not going to ask. Juggins said this morning he wanted to
speak to me. If he likes to tell me, let him; but I'm not going to ask;
and dont you either. [Juggins appears at the door]. You said you wanted
to say something to me.

JUGGINS. When it would be convenient to you, sir.

GILBEY. Well, what is it?

MRS GILBEY. Oh, Juggins, we're expecting Mr and Mrs Knox to tea.

GILBEY. He knows that. [He sits down. Then, to Juggins] What is it?

JUGGINS. [advancing to the middle of the table] Would it inconvenience
you, sir, if I was to give you a month's notice?

GILBEY. [taken aback] What! Why? Aint you satisfied?

JUGGINS. Perfectly, sir. It is not that I want to better myself, I
assure you.

GILBEY. Well, what do you want to leave for, then? Do you want to worse
yourself?

JUGGINS. No, sir. Ive been well treated in your most comfortable
establishment; and I should be greatly distressed if you or Mrs Gilbey
were to interpret my notice as an expression of dissatisfaction.

GILBEY. [paternally] Now you listen to me, Juggins. I'm an older man
than you. Dont you throw out dirty water til you get in fresh. Dont
get too big for your boots. Youre like all servants nowadays: you think
youve only to hold up your finger to get the pick of half a dozen jobs.
But you wont be treated everywhere as youre treated here. In bed every
night before eleven; hardly a ring at the door except on Mrs Gilbey's
day once a month; and no other manservant to interfere with you. It may
be a bit quiet perhaps; but youre past the age of adventure. Take my
advice: think over it. You suit me; and I'm prepared to make it suit you
if youre dissatisfied--in reason, you know.

JUGGINS. I realize my advantages, sir; but Ive private reasons--

GILBEY. [cutting him short angrily and retiring to the hearthrug in
dudgeon] Oh, I know. Very well: go. The sooner the better.

MRS GILBEY. Oh, not until we're suited. He must stay his month.

GILBEY. [sarcastic] Do you want to lose him his character, Maria? Do
you think I dont see what it is? We're prison folk now. Weve been in the
police court. [To Juggins] Well, I suppose you know your own business
best. I take your notice: you can go when your month is up, or sooner,
if you like.

JUGGINS. Believe me, sir--

GILBEY. Thats enough: I dont want any excuses. I dont blame you. You can
go downstairs now, if youve nothing else to trouble me about.

JUGGINS. I really cant leave it at that, sir. I assure you Ive no
objection to young Mr Gilbey's going to prison. You may do six months
yourself, sir, and welcome, without a word of remonstrance from me. I'm
leaving solely because my brother, who has suffered a bereavement, and
feels lonely, begs me to spend a few months with him until he gets over
it.

GILBEY. And is he to keep you all that time? or are you to spend your
savings in comforting him? Have some sense, man: how can you afford such
things?

JUGGINS. My brother can afford to keep me, sir. The truth is, he objects
to my being in service.

GILBEY. Is that any reason why you should be dependent on him? Dont
do it, Juggins: pay your own way like an honest lad; and dont eat your
brother's bread while youre able to earn your own.

JUGGINS. There is sound sense in that, sir. But unfortunately it is
a tradition in my family that the younger brothers should spunge to a
considerable extent on the eldest.

GILBEY. Then the sooner that tradition is broken, the better, my man.

JUGGINS. A Radical sentiment, sir. But an excellent one.

GILBEY. Radical! What do you mean? Dont you begin to take liberties,
Juggins, now that you know we're loth to part with you. Your brother
isnt a duke, you know.

JUGGINS. Unfortunately, he is, sir.

 GILBEY.     |   What!    |
             |            | _together_
             |            |
 MRS GILBEY. |   Juggins! |

JUGGINS. Excuse me, sir: the bell. [He goes out].

GILBEY. [overwhelmed] Maria: did you understand him to say his brother
was a duke?

MRS GILBEY. Fancy his condescending! Perhaps if youd offer to raise his
wages and treat him as one of the family, he'd stay.

GILBEY. And have my own servant above me! Not me. Whats the world coming
to? Heres Bobby and--

JUGGINS. [entering and announcing] Mr and Mrs Knox.

_The Knoxes come in. Juggins takes two chairs from the wall and places
them at the table, between the host and hostess. Then he withdraws._

MRS GILBEY. [to Mrs Knox] How are you, dear?

MRS KNOX. Nicely, thank you. Good evening, Mr Gilbey. [They shake hands;
and she takes the chair nearest Mrs Gilbey. Mr Knox takes the other
chair].

GILBEY. [sitting down] I was just saying, Knox, What is the world coming
to?

KNOX. [appealing to his wife] What was I saying myself only this
morning?

MRS KNOX. This is a strange time. I was never one to talk about the end
of the world; but look at the things that have happened!

KNOX. Earthquakes!

GILBEY. San Francisco!

MRS GILBEY. Jamaica!

KNOX. Martinique!

GILBEY. Messina!

MRS GILBEY. The plague in China!

MRS KNOX. The floods in France!

GILBEY. My Bobby in Wormwood Scrubbs!

KNOX. Margaret in Holloway!

GILBEY. And now my footman tells me his brother's a duke!

 KNOX.       |   No!
             |
 MRS KNOX.   | Whats that?

GILBEY. Just before he let you in. A duke! Here has everything been
respectable from the beginning of the world, as you may say, to the
present day; and all of a sudden everything is turned upside down.

MRS KNOX. It's like in the book of Revelations. But I do say that unless
people have happiness within themselves, all the earthquakes, all the
floods, and all the prisons in the world cant make them really happy.

KNOX. It isnt alone the curious things that are happening, but the
unnatural way people are taking them. Why, theres Margaret been in
prison, and she hasnt time to go to all the invitations shes had from
people that never asked her before.

GILBEY. I never knew we could live without being respectable.

MRS GILBEY. Oh, Rob, what a thing to say! Who says we're not
respectable?

GILBEY. Well, it's not what I call respectable to have your children in
and out of gaol.

KNOX. Oh come, Gilbey! we're not tramps because weve had, as it were, an
accident.

GILBEY. It's no use, Knox: look it in the face. Did I ever tell you my
father drank?

KNOX. No. But I knew it. Simmons told me.

GILBEY. Yes: he never could keep his mouth quiet: he told me your aunt
was a kleptomaniac.

MRS KNOX. It wasnt true, Mr Gilbey. She used to pick up handkerchiefs if
she saw them lying about; but you might trust her with untold silver.

GILBEY. My Uncle Phil was a teetotaller. My father used to say to me:
Rob, he says, dont you ever have a weakness. If you find one getting a
hold on you, make a merit of it, he says. Your Uncle Phil doesnt like
spirits; and he makes a merit of it, and is chairman of the Blue Ribbon
Committee. I do like spirits; and I make a merit of it, and I'm the King
Cockatoo of the Convivial Cockatoos. Never put yourself in the wrong, he
says. I used to boast about what a good boy Bobby was. Now I swank about
what a dog he is; and it pleases people just as well. What a world it
is!

KNOX. It turned my blood cold at first to hear Margaret telling people
about Holloway; but it goes down better than her singing used to.

MRS KNOX. I never thought she sang right after all those lessons we paid
for.

GILBEY. Lord, Knox, it was lucky you and me got let in together. I tell
you straight, if it hadnt been for Bobby's disgrace, I'd have broke up
the firm.

KNOX. I shouldnt have blamed you: I'd have done the same only for
Margaret. Too much straightlacedness narrows a man's mind. Talking
of that, what about those hygienic corset advertisements that Vines &
Jackson want us to put in the window? I told Vines they werent decent
and we couldnt shew them in our shop. I was pretty high with him. But
what am I to say to him now if he comes and throws this business in our
teeth?

GILBEY. Oh, put em in. We may as well go it a bit now.

MRS GILBEY. Youve been going it quite far enough, Rob. [To Mrs Knox] He
wont get up in the mornings now: he that was always out of bed at seven
to the tick!

MRS KNOX. You hear that, Jo? [To Mrs Gilbey] Hes taken to whisky and
soda. A pint a week! And the beer the same as before!

KNOX. Oh, dont preach, old girl.

MRS KNOX. [To Mrs Gilbey] Thats a new name hes got for me. [to Knox] I
tell you, Jo, this doesnt sit well on you. You may call it preaching if
you like; but it's the truth for all that. I say that if youve happiness
within yourself, you dont need to seek it outside, spending money on
drink and theatres and bad company, and being miserable after all. You
can sit at home and be happy; and you can work and be happy. If you have
that in you, the spirit will set you free to do what you want and guide
you to do right. But if you havent got it, then youd best be respectable
and stick to the ways that are marked out for you; for youve nothing
else to keep you straight.

KNOX. [angrily] And is a man never to have a bit of fun? See whats come
of it with your daughter! She was to be content with your happiness
that youre always talking about; and how did the spirit guide her? To
a month's hard for being drunk and assaulting the police. Did _I_ ever
assault the police?

MRS KNOX. You wouldnt have the courage. I dont blame the girl.

 MRS GILBEY.     |   Oh, Maria!  What are you saying?
                 |

 GILBEY.         |   What!  And you so pious!

MRS KNOX. She went where the spirit guided her. And what harm there was
in it she knew nothing about.

GILBEY. Oh, come, Mrs Knox! Girls are not so innocent as all that.

MRS KNOX. I dont say she was ignorant. But I do say that she didnt know
what we know: I mean the way certain temptations get a sudden hold that
no goodness nor self-control is any use against. She was saved from
that, and had a rough lesson too; and I say it was no earthly protection
that did that. But dont think, you two men, that youll be protected if
you make what she did an excuse to go and do as youd like to do if it
wasnt for fear of losing your characters. The spirit wont guide you,
because it isnt in you; and it never had been: not in either of you.

GILBEY. [with ironic humility] I'm sure I'm obliged to you for your good
opinion, Mrs Knox.

MRS KNOX. Well, I will say for you, Mr Gilbey, that youre better than my
man here. Hes a bitter hard heathen, is my Jo, God help me! [She begins
to cry quietly].

KNOX. Now, dont take on like that, Amelia. You know I always give in to
you that you were right about religion. But one of us had to think of
other things, or we'd have starved, we and the child.

MRS KNOX. How do you know youd have starved? All the other things might
have been added unto you.

GILBEY. Come, Mrs Knox, dont tell me Knox is a sinner. I know better.
I'm sure youd be the first to be sorry if anything was to happen to him.

KNOX. [bitterly to his wife] Youve always had some grudge against me;
and nobody but yourself can understand what it is.

MRS KNOX. I wanted a man who had that happiness within himself. You made
me think you had it; but it was nothing but being in love with me.

MRS GILBEY. And do you blame him for that?

MRS KNOX. I blame nobody. But let him not think he can walk by his own
light. I tell him that if he gives up being respectable he'll go right
down to the bottom of the hill. He has no powers inside himself to keep
him steady; so let him cling to the powers outside him.

KNOX. [rising angrily] Who wants to give up being respectable? All this
for a pint of whisky that lasted a week! How long would it have lasted
Simmons, I wonder?

MRS KNOX. [gently] Oh, well, say no more, Jo. I wont plague you about
it. [He sits down]. You never did understand; and you never will. Hardly
anybody understands: even Margaret didnt til she went to prison. She
does now; and I shall have a companion in the house after all these
lonely years.

KNOX. [beginning to cry] I did all I could to make you happy. I never
said a harsh word to you.

GILBEY. [rising indignantly] What right have you to treat a man like
that? an honest respectable husband? as if he were dirt under your feet?

KNOX. Let her alone, Gilbey. [Gilbey sits down, but mutinously].

MRS KNOX. Well, you gave me all you could, Jo; and if it wasnt what I
wanted, that wasnt your fault. But I'd rather have you as you were than
since you took to whisky and soda.

KNOX. I dont want any whisky and soda. I'll take the pledge if you like.

MRS KNOX. No: you shall have your beer because you like it. The whisky
was only brag. And if you and me are to remain friends, Mr Gilbey, youll
get up to-morrow morning at seven.

GILBEY. [defiantly] Damme if I will! There!

MRS KNOX. [with gentle pity] How do you know, Mr Gilbey, what youll do
to-morrow morning?

GILBEY. Why shouldnt I know? Are we children not to be let do what we
like, and our own sons and daughters kicking their heels all over the
place? [To Knox] I was never one to interfere between man and wife,
Knox; but if Maria started ordering me about like that--

MRS GILBEY. Now dont be naughty, Rob. You know you mustnt set yourself
up against religion?

GILBEY. Whos setting himself up against religion?

MRS KNOX. It doesnt matter whether you set yourself up against it or
not, Mr. Gilbey. If it sets itself up against you, youll have to go the
appointed way: it's no use quarrelling about it with me that am as great
a sinner as yourself.

GILBEY. Oh, indeed! And who told you I was a sinner?

MRS GILBEY. Now, Rob, you know we are all sinners. What else is
religion?

GILBEY. I say nothing against religion. I suppose were all sinners, in
a manner of speaking; but I dont like to have it thrown at me as if I'd
really done anything.

MRS GILBEY. Mrs Knox is speaking for your good, Rob.

GILBEY. Well, I dont like to be spoken to for my good. Would anybody
like it?

MRS KNOX. Dont take offence where none is meant, Mr Gilbey. Talk about
something else. No good ever comes of arguing about such things among
the like of us.

KNOX. The like of us! Are you throwing it in our teeth that your people
were in the wholesale and thought Knox and Gilbey wasnt good enough for
you?

MRS KNOX. No, Jo: you know I'm not. What better were my people than
yours, for all their pride? But Ive noticed it all my life: we're
ignorant. We dont really know whats right and whats wrong. We're all
right as long as things go on the way they always did. We bring our
children up just as we were brought up; and we go to church or chapel
just as our parents did; and we say what everybody says; and it goes
on all right until something out of the way happens: theres a family
quarrel, or one of the children goes wrong, or a father takes to drink,
or an aunt goes mad, or one of us finds ourselves doing something
we never thought we'd want to do. And then you know what happens:
complaints and quarrels and huff and offence and bad language and bad
temper and regular bewilderment as if Satan possessed us all. We find
out then that with all our respectability and piety, weve no real
religion and no way of telling right from wrong. Weve nothing but our
habits; and when theyre upset, where are we? Just like Peter in the
storm trying to walk on the water and finding he couldnt.

MRS GILBEY. [piously] Aye! He found out, didnt he?

GILBEY. [reverently] I never denied that youve a great intellect, Mrs
Knox--

MRS KNOX. Oh get along with you, Gilbey, if you begin talking about my
intellect. Give us some tea, Maria. Ive said my say; and Im sure I beg
the company's pardon for being so long about it, and so disagreeable.

MRS GILBEY. Ring, Rob. [Gilbey rings]. Stop. Juggins will think we're
ringing for him.

GILBEY. [appalled] It's too late. I rang before I thought of it.

MRS GILBEY. Step down and apologize, Rob.

KNOX. Is it him that you said was brother to a--

_Juggins comes in with the tea-tray. All rise. He takes the tray to Mrs.
Gilbey._

GILBEY. I didnt mean to ask you to do this, Mr Juggins. I wasnt thinking
when I rang.

MRS GILBEY. [trying to take the tray from him] Let me, Juggins.

JUGGINS. Please sit down, madam. Allow me to discharge my duties just as
usual, sir. I assure you that is the correct thing. [They sit down, ill
at ease, whilst he places the tray on the table. He then goes out for
the curate].

KNOX. [lowering his voice] Is this all right, Gilbey? Anybody may be the
son of a duke, you know. Is he legitimate?

GILBEY. Good lord! I never thought of that.

_Juggins returns with the cakes. They regard him with suspicion._

GILBEY. [whispering to Knox] You ask him.

KNOX. [to Juggins] Just a word with you, my man. Was your mother married
to your father?

JUGGINS. I believe so, sir. I cant say from personal knowledge. It was
before my time.

GILBEY. Well, but look here you know--[he hesitates].

JUGGINS. Yes, sir?

KNOX. I know whatll clinch it, Gilbey. You leave it to me. [To Juggins]
Was your mother the duchess?

JUGGINS. Yes, sir. Quite correct, sir, I assure you. [To Mrs Gilbey]
That is the milk, madam. [She has mistaken the jugs]. This is the water.

_They stare at him in pitiable embarrassment._

MRS KNOX. What did I tell you? Heres something out of the common
happening with a servant; and we none of us know how to behave.

JUGGINS. It's quite simple, madam. I'm a footman, and should be treated
as a footman. [He proceeds calmly with his duties, handing round cups of
tea as Mrs Knox fills them].

_Shrieks of laughter from below stairs reach the ears of the company._

MRS GILBEY. Whats that noise? Is Master Bobby at home? I heard his
laugh.

MRS KNOX. I'm sure I heard Margaret's.

GILBEY. Not a bit of it. It was that woman.

JUGGINS. I can explain, sir. I must ask you to excuse the liberty; but
I'm entertaining a small party to tea in my pantry.

MRS GILBEY. But youre not entertaining Master Bobby?

JUGGINS. Yes, madam.

GILBEY. Who's with him?

JUGGINS. Miss Knox, sir.

GILBEY. Miss Knox! Are you sure? Is there anyone else?

JUGGINS. Only a French marine officer, sir, and--er--Miss Delaney. [He
places Gilbey's tea on the table before him]. The lady that called about
Master Bobby, sir.

KNOX. Do you mean to say theyre having a party all to themselves
downstairs, and we having a party up here and knowing nothing about it?

JUGGINS. Yes, sir. I have to do a good deal of entertaining in the
pantry for Master Bobby, sir.

GILBEY. Well, this is a nice state of things!

KNOX. Whats the meaning of it? What do they do it for?

JUGGINS. To enjoy themselves, sir, I should think.

MRS GILBEY. Enjoy themselves! Did ever anybody hear of such a thing?

GILBEY. Knox's daughter shewn into my pantry!

KNOX. Margaret mixing with a Frenchman and a footman-- [Suddenly
realizing that the footman is offering him cake.] She doesnt know
about--about His Grace, you know.

MRS GILBEY. Perhaps she does. Does she, Mr Juggins?

JUGGINS. The other lady suspects me, madam. They call me Rudolph, or the
Long Lost Heir.

MRS GILBEY. It's a much nicer name than Juggins. I think I'll call you
by it, if you dont mind.

JUGGINS. Not at all, madam.

_Roars of merriment from below._

GILBEY. Go and tell them to stop laughing. What right have they to make
a noise like that?

JUGGINS. I asked them not to laugh so loudly, sir. But the French
gentleman always sets them off again.

KNOX. Do you mean to tell me that my daughter laughs at a Frenchman's
jokes?

GILBEY. We all know what French jokes are.

JUGGINS. Believe me: you do not, sir. The noise this afternoon has all
been because the Frenchman said that the cat had whooping cough.

MRS GILBEY. [laughing heartily] Well, I never!

GILBEY. Dont be a fool, Maria. Look here, Knox: we cant let this go on.
People cant be allowed to behave like this.

KNOX. Just what I say.

_A concertina adds its music to the revelry._

MRS GILBEY. [excited] Thats the squiffer. Hes bought it for her.

GILBEY. Well, of all the scandalous-- [Redoubled laughter from below].

KNOX. I'll put a stop to this. [He goes out to the landing and shouts]
Margaret! [Sudden dead silence]. Margaret, I say!

MARGARET'S VOICE. Yes, father. Shall we all come up? We're dying to.

KNOX. Come up and be ashamed of yourselves, behaving like wild Indians.

DORA'S VOICE [screaming] Oh! oh! oh! Dont Bobby. Now--oh! [In headlong
flight she dashes into and right across the room, breathless, and
slightly abashed by the company]. I beg your pardon, Mrs Gilbey, for
coming in like that; but whenever I go upstairs in front of Bobby, he
pretends it's a cat biting my ankles; and I just must scream.

_Bobby and Margaret enter rather more shyly, but evidently in high
spirits. Bobby places himself near his father, on the hearthrug, and
presently slips down into the arm-chair._

MARGARET. How do you do, Mrs. Gilbey? [She posts herself behind her
mother].

_Duvallet comes in behaving himself perfectly. Knox follows._

MARGARET. Oh--let me introduce. My friend Lieutenant Duvallet. Mrs
Gilbey. Mr Gilbey. [Duvallet bows and sits down on Mr Knox's left,
Juggins placing a chair for him].

DORA. Now, Bobby: introduce me: theres a dear.

BOBBY. [a little nervous about it; but trying to keep up his spirits]
Miss Delaney: Mr and Mrs Knox. [Knox, as he resumes his seat,
acknowledges the introduction suspiciously. Mrs Knox bows gravely,
looking keenly at Dora and taking her measure without prejudice].

DORA. Pleased to meet you. [Juggins places the baby rocking-chair for
her on Mrs Gilbey's right, opposite Mrs Knox]. Thank you. [She sits
and turns to Mrs Gilbey] Bobby's given me the squiffer. [To the company
generally] Do you know what theyve been doing downstairs? [She goes off
into ecstasies of mirth]. Youd never guess. Theyve been trying to teach
me table manners. The Lieutenant and Rudolph say I'm a regular pig. I'm
sure I never knew there was anything wrong with me. But live and learn
[to Gilbey] eh, old dear?

JUGGINS. Old dear is not correct, Miss Delaney. [He retires to the end
of the sideboard nearest the door].

DORA. Oh get out! I must call a man something. He doesnt mind: do you,
Charlie?

MRS GILBEY. His name isnt Charlie.

DORA. Excuse me. I call everybody Charlie.

JUGGINS. You mustnt.

DORA. Oh, if I were to mind you, I should have to hold my tongue
altogether; and then how sorry youd be! Lord, how I do run on! Dont mind
me, Mrs Gilbey.

KNOX. What I want to know is, whats to be the end of this? It's not
for me to interfere between you and your son, Gilbey: he knows his own
intentions best, no doubt, and perhaps has told them to you. But Ive
my daughter to look after; and it's my duty as a parent to have a clear
understanding about her. No good is ever done by beating about the bush.
I ask Lieutenant--well, I dont speak French; and I cant pronounce the
name--

MARGARET. Mr Duvallet, father.

KNOX. I ask Mr Doovalley what his intentions are.

MARGARET. Oh father: how can you?

DUVALLET. I'm afraid my knowledge of English is not enough to
understand. Intentions? How?

MARGARET. He wants to know will you marry me.

 MRS GILBEY. |   What a thing to say!
             |

 KNOX.       |   Silence, miss.
             |

 DORA.       |   Well, thats straight, aint it?

DUVALLET. But I am married already. I have two daughters.

KNOX. [rising, virtuously indignant] You sit there after carrying on
with my daughter, and tell me coolly youre married.

MARGARET. Papa: you really must not tell people that they sit there. [He
sits down again sulkily].

DUVALLET. Pardon. Carrying on? What does that mean?

MARGARET. It means--

KNOX. [violently] Hold your tongue, you shameless young hussy. Dont you
dare say what it means.

DUVALLET. [shrugging his shoulders] What does it mean, Rudolph?

MRS KNOX. If it's not proper for her to say, it's not proper for a man
to say, either. Mr Doovalley: youre a married man with daughters. Would
you let them go about with a stranger, as you are to us, without wanting
to know whether he intended to behave honorably?

DUVALLET. Ah, madam, my daughters are French girls. That is very
different. It would not be correct for a French girl to go about alone
and speak to men as English and American girls do. That is why I
so immensely admire the English people. You are so free--so
unprejudiced--your women are so brave and frank--their minds are so--how
do you say?--wholesome. I intend to have my daughters educated in
England. Nowhere else in the world but in England could I have met at
a Variety Theatre a charming young lady of perfect respectability, and
enjoyed a dance with her at a public dancing saloon. And where else are
women trained to box and knock out the teeth of policemen as a protest
against injustice and violence? [Rising, with immense elan] Your
daughter, madam, is superb. Your country is a model to the rest of
Europe. If you were a Frenchman, stifled with prudery, hypocrisy and
the tyranny of the family and the home, you would understand how
an enlightened Frenchman admires and envies your freedom, your
broadmindedness, and the fact that home life can hardly be said to exist
in England. You have made an end of the despotism of the parent; the
family council is unknown to you; everywhere in these islands one can
enjoy the exhilarating, the soul-liberating spectacle of men quarrelling
with their brothers, defying their fathers, refusing to speak to their
mothers. In France we are not men: we are only sons--grown-up children.
Here one is a human being--an end in himself. Oh, Mrs Knox, if only your
military genius were equal to your moral genius--if that conquest of
Europe by France which inaugurated the new age after the Revolution had
only been an English conquest, how much more enlightened the world would
have been now! We, alas, can only fight. France is unconquerable. We
impose our narrow ideas, our prejudices, our obsolete institutions,
our insufferable pedantry on the world by brute force--by that stupid
quality of military heroism which shews how little we have evolved from
the savage: nay, from the beast. We can charge like bulls; we can spring
on our foes like gamecocks; when we are overpowered by reason, we can
die fighting like rats. And we are foolish enough to be proud of it! Why
should we be? Does the bull progress? Can you civilize the gamecock? Is
there any future for the rat? We cant even fight intelligently: when we
lose battles, it is because we have not sense enough to know when we are
beaten. At Waterloo, had we known when we were beaten, we should have
retreated; tried another plan; and won the battle. But no: we were too
pigheaded to admit that there is anything impossible to a Frenchman: we
were quite satisfied when our Marshals had six horses shot under them,
and our stupid old grognards died fighting rather than surrender
like reasonable beings. Think of your great Wellington: think of his
inspiring words, when the lady asked him whether British soldiers ever
ran away. "All soldiers run away, madam," he said; "but if there are
supports for them to fall back on it does not matter." Think of your
illustrious Nelson, always beaten on land, always victorious at sea,
where his men could not run away. You are not dazzled and misled by
false ideals of patriotic enthusiasm: your honest and sensible statesmen
demand for England a two-power standard, even a three-power standard,
frankly admitting that it is wise to fight three to one: whilst we,
fools and braggarts as we are, declare that every Frenchman is a host
in himself, and that when one Frenchman attacks three Englishmen he is
guilty of an act of cowardice comparable to that of the man who strikes
a woman. It is folly: it is nonsense: a Frenchman is not really stronger
than a German, than an Italian, even than an Englishman. Sir: if all
Frenchwomen were like your daughter--if all Frenchmen had the good
sense, the power of seeing things as they really are, the calm judgment,
the open mind, the philosophic grasp, the foresight and true courage,
which are so natural to you as an Englishman that you are hardly
conscious of possessing them, France would become the greatest nation in
the world.

MARGARET. Three cheers for old England! [She shakes hands with him
warmly].

BOBBY. Hurra-a-ay! And so say all of us.

_Duvallet, having responded to Margaret's handshake with enthusiasm,
kisses Juggins on both cheeks, and sinks into his chair, wiping his
perspiring brow._

GILBEY. Well, this sort of talk is above me. Can you make anything out
of it, Knox?

KNOX. The long and short of it seems to be that he cant lawfully marry
my daughter, as he ought after going to prison with her.

DORA. I'm ready to marry Bobby, if that will be any satisfaction.

GILBEY. No you dont. Not if I know it.

MRS KNOX. He ought to, Mr Gilbey.

GILBEY. Well, if thats your religion, Amelia Knox, I want no more of it.
Would you invite them to your house if he married her?

MRS KNOX. He ought to marry her whether or no.

BOBBY. I feel I ought to, Mrs Knox.

GILBEY. Hold your tongue. Mind your own business.

BOBBY. [wildly] If I'm not let marry her, I'll do something downright
disgraceful. I'll enlist as a soldier.

JUGGINS. That is not a disgrace, sir.

BOBBY. Not for you, perhaps. But youre only a footman. I'm a gentleman.

MRS GILBEY. Dont dare to speak disrespectfully to Mr Rudolph, Bobby. For
shame!

JUGGINS. [coming forward to the middle of the table] It is not
gentlemanly to regard the service of your country as disgraceful. It is
gentlemanly to marry the lady you make love to.

GILBEY. [aghast] My boy is to marry this woman and be a social outcast!

JUGGINS. Your boy and Miss Delaney will be inexorably condemned by
respectable society to spend the rest of their days in precisely the
sort of company they seem to like best and be most at home in.

KNOX. And my daughter? Whos to marry my daughter?

JUGGINS. Your daughter, sir, will probably marry whoever she makes up
her mind to marry. She is a lady of very determined character.

KNOX. Yes: if he'd have her with her character gone. But who would?
Youre the brother of a duke. Would--

 BOBBY.      |   Whats that?
             |
 MARGARET.   |   Juggins a duke?
             |
 DUVALLET.   |   _Comment!_
             |
 DORA.       |   What did I tell you?

KNOX. Yes: the brother of a duke: thats what he is. [To Juggins] Well,
would you marry her?

JUGGINS. I was about to propose that solution of your problem, Mr Knox.

 MRS GILBEY. |   Well I never!
             |
 KNOX.       |   D'ye mean it?
             |
 MRS KNOX.   |   Marry Margaret!

JUGGINS. [continuing] As an idle younger son, unable to support myself,
or even to remain in the Guards in competition with the grandsons of
American millionaires, I could not have aspired to Miss Knox's hand. But
as a sober, honest, and industrious domestic servant, who has, I trust,
given satisfaction to his employer [he bows to Mr Gilbey] I feel I am a
man with a character. It is for Miss Knox to decide.

MARGARET. I got into a frightful row once for admiring you, Rudolph.

JUGGINS. I should have got into an equally frightful row myself, Miss,
had I betrayed my admiration for you. I looked forward to those weekly
dinners.

MRS KNOX. But why did a gentleman like you stoop to be a footman?

DORA. He stooped to conquer.

MARGARET. Shut up, Dora: I want to hear.

JUGGINS. I will explain; but only Mrs Knox will understand. I once
insulted a servant--rashly; for he was a sincere Christian. He rebuked
me for trifling with a girl of his own class. I told him to remember
what he was, and to whom he was speaking. He said God would remember. I
discharged him on the spot.

GILBEY. Very properly.

KNOX. What right had he to mention such a thing to you?

MRS GILBEY. What are servants coming to?

MRS KNOX. Did it come true, what he said?

JUGGINS. It stuck like a poisoned arrow. It rankled for months. Then I
gave in. I apprenticed myself to an old butler of ours who kept a hotel.
He taught me my present business, and got me a place as footman with Mr
Gilbey. If ever I meet that man again I shall be able to look him in the
face.

MRS KNOX. Margaret: it's not on account of the duke: dukes are vanities.
But take my advice and take him.

MARGARET. [slipping her arm through his] I have loved Juggins since the
first day I beheld him. I felt instinctively he had been in the Guards.
May he walk out with me, Mr Gilbey?

KNOX. Dont be vulgar, girl. Remember your new position. [To Juggins] I
suppose youre serious about this, Mr--Mr Rudolph?

JUGGINS. I propose, with your permission, to begin keeping company this
afternoon, if Mrs Gilbey can spare me.

GILBEY. [in a gust of envy, to Bobby] Itll be long enough before youll
marry the sister of a duke, you young good-for-nothing.

DORA. Dont fret, old dear. Rudolph will teach me high-class manners. I
call it quite a happy ending: dont you, lieutenant?

DUVALLET. In France it would be impossible. But here--ah! [kissing his
hand] la belle Angleterre!



EPILOGUE

_Before the curtain. The Count, dazed and agitated, hurries to the 4
critics, as they rise, bored and weary, from their seats._

THE COUNT. Gentlemen: do not speak to me. I implore you to withhold your
opinion. I am not strong enough to bear it. I could never have believed
it. Is this a play? Is this in any sense of the word, Art? Is it
agreeable? Can it conceivably do good to any human being? Is it
delicate? Do such people really exist? Excuse me, gentlemen: I speak
from a wounded heart. There are private reasons for my discomposure.
This play implies obscure, unjust, unkind reproaches and menaces to all
of us who are parents.

TROTTER. Pooh! you take it too seriously. After all, the thing has
amusing passages. Dismiss the rest as impertinence.

THE COUNT. Mr Trotter: it is easy for you to play the pococurantist.
[Trotter, amazed, repeats the first three syllables in his throat,
making a noise like a pheasant]. You see hundreds of plays every year.
But to me, who have never seen anything of this kind before, the effect
of this play is terribly disquieting. Sir: if it had been what people
call an immoral play, I shouldnt have minded a bit. [Vaughan is
shocked]. Love beautifies every romance and justifies every audacity.
[Bannal assents gravely]. But there are reticences which everybody
should respect. There are decencies too subtle to be put into words,
without which human society would be unbearable. People could not
talk to one another as those people talk. No child could speak to its
parent--no girl could speak to a youth--no human creature could tear
down the veils-- [Appealing to Vaughan, who is on his left flank, with
Gunn between them] Could they, sir?

VAUGHAN. Well, I dont see that.

THE COUNT. You dont see it! dont feel it! [To Gunn] Sir: I appeal to
you.

GUNN. [with studied weariness] It seems to me the most ordinary sort of
old-fashioned Ibsenite drivel.

THE COUNT [turning to Trotter, who is on his right, between him and
Bannal] Mr Trotter: will you tell me that you are not amazed, outraged,
revolted, wounded in your deepest and holiest feelings by every word
of this play, every tone, every implication; that you did not sit there
shrinking in every fibre at the thought of what might come next?

TROTTER. Not a bit. Any clever modern girl could turn out that kind of
thing by the yard.

THE COUNT. Then, sir, tomorrow I start for Venice, never to return. I
must believe what you tell me. I perceive that you are not agitated,
not surprised, not concerned; that my own horror (yes, gentlemen,
horror--horror of the very soul) appears unaccountable to you,
ludicrous, absurd, even to you, Mr Trotter, who are little younger than
myself. Sir: if young people spoke to me like that, I should die of
shame: I could not face it. I must go back. The world has passed me by
and left me. Accept the apologies of an elderly and no doubt ridiculous
admirer of the art of a bygone day, when there was still some beauty
in the world and some delicate grace in family life. But I promised my
daughter your opinion; and I must keep my word. Gentlemen: you are
the choice and master spirits of this age: you walk through it without
bewilderment and face its strange products without dismay. Pray deliver
your verdict. Mr Bannal: you know that it is the custom at a Court
Martial for the youngest officer present to deliver his judgment first;
so that he may not be influenced by the authority of his elders. You are
the youngest. What is your opinion of the play?

BANNAL. Well, whos it by?

THE COUNT. That is a secret for the present.

BANNAL. You dont expect me to know what to say about a play when I dont
know who the author is, do you?

THE COUNT. Why not?

BANNAL. Why not! Why not!! Suppose you had to write about a play by
Pinero and one by Jones! Would you say exactly the same thing about
them?

THE COUNT. I presume not.

BANNAL. Then how could you write about them until you knew which was
Pinero and which was Jones? Besides, what sort of play is this? thats
what I want to know. Is it a comedy or a tragedy? Is it a farce or
a melodrama? Is it repertory theatre tosh, or really straight paying
stuff?

GUNN. Cant you tell from seeing it?

BANNAL. I can see it all right enough; but how am I to know how to take
it? Is it serious, or is it spoof? If the author knows what his play
is, let him tell us what it is. If he doesnt, he cant complain if I dont
know either. _I_'m not the author.

THE COUNT. But is it a good play, Mr Bannal? Thats a simple question.

BANNAL. Simple enough when you know. If it's by a good author, it's a
good play, naturally. That stands to reason. Who is the author? Tell me
that; and I'll place the play for you to a hair's breadth.

THE COUNT. I'm sorry I'm not at liberty to divulge the author's name.
The author desires that the play should be judged on its merits.

BANNAL. But what merits can it have except the author's merits? Who
would you say it's by, Gunn?

GUNN. Well, who do you think? Here you have a rotten old-fashioned
domestic melodrama acted by the usual stage puppets. The hero's a naval
lieutenant. All melodramatic heroes are naval lieutenants. The heroine
gets into trouble by defying the law (if she didnt get into trouble,
thered be no drama) and plays for sympathy all the time as hard as she
can. Her good old pious mother turns on her cruel father when hes going
to put her out of the house, and says she'll go too. Then theres the
comic relief: the comic shopkeeper, the comic shopkeeper's wife, the
comic footman who turns out to be a duke in disguise, and the young
scapegrace who gives the author his excuse for dragging in a fast young
woman. All as old and stale as a fried fish shop on a winter morning.

THE COUNT. But--

GUNN [interrupting him] I know what youre going to say, Count. Youre
going to say that the whole thing seems to you to be quite new and
unusual and original. The naval lieutenant is a Frenchman who cracks up
the English and runs down the French: the hackneyed old Shaw touch.
The characters are second-rate middle class, instead of being dukes and
millionaires. The heroine gets kicked through the mud: real mud. Theres
no plot. All the old stage conventions and puppets without the old
ingenuity and the old enjoyment. And a feeble air of intellectual
pretentiousness kept up all through to persuade you that if the author
hasnt written a good play it's because hes too clever to stoop to
anything so commonplace. And you three experienced men have sat through
all this, and cant tell me who wrote it! Why, the play bears the
author's signature in every line.

BANNAL. Who?

GUNN. Granville Barker, of course. Why, old Gilbey is straight out of
The Madras House.

BANNAL. Poor old Barker!

VAUGHAN. Utter nonsense! Cant you see the difference in style?

BANNAL. No.

VAUGHAN. [contemptuously] Do you know what style is?

BANNAL. Well, I suppose youd call Trotter's uniform style. But it's not
my style--since you ask me.

VAUGHAN. To me it's perfectly plain who wrote that play. To begin with,
it's intensely disagreeable. Therefore it's not by Barrie, in spite of
the footman, who's cribbed from The Admirable Crichton. He was an earl,
you may remember. You notice, too, the author's offensive habit of
saying silly things that have no real sense in them when you come to
examine them, just to set all the fools in the house giggling. Then what
does it all come to? An attempt to expose the supposed hypocrisy of
the Puritan middle class in England: people just as good as the author,
anyhow. With, of course, the inevitable improper female: the Mrs
Tanqueray, Iris, and so forth. Well, if you cant recognize the author of
that, youve mistaken your professions: thats all I have to say.

BANNAL. Why are you so down on Pinero? And what about that touch that
Gunn spotted? the Frenchman's long speech. I believe it's Shaw.

GUNN. Rubbish!

VAUGHAN. Rot! You may put that idea out of your head, Bannal. Poor as
this play is, theres the note of passion in it. You feel somehow that
beneath all the assumed levity of that poor waif and stray, she really
loves Bobby and will be a good wife to him. Now Ive repeatedly proved
that Shaw is physiologically incapable of the note of passion.

BANNAL. Yes, I know. Intellect without emotion. Thats right. I always
say that myself. A giant brain, if you ask me; but no heart.

GUNN. Oh, shut up, Bannal. This crude medieval psychology of heart
and brain--Shakespear would have called it liver and wits--is really
schoolboyish. Surely weve had enough of second-hand Schopenhauer. Even
such a played-out old back number as Ibsen would have been ashamed of
it. Heart and brain, indeed!

VAUGHAN. You have neither one nor the other, Gunn. Youre decadent.

GUNN. Decadent! How I love that early Victorian word!

VAUGHAN. Well, at all events, you cant deny that the characters in this
play were quite distinguishable from one another. That proves it's not
by Shaw, because all Shaw's characters are himself: mere puppets stuck
up to spout Shaw. It's only the actors that make them seem different.

BANNAL. There can be no doubt of that: everybody knows it. But Shaw
doesnt write his plays as plays. All he wants to do is to insult
everybody all round and set us talking about him.

TROTTER. [wearily] And naturally, here we are all talking about him. For
heaven's sake, let us change the subject.

VAUGHAN. Still, my articles about Shaw--

GUNN. Oh, stow it, Vaughan. Drop it. What Ive always told you about Shaw
is--

BANNAL. There you go, Shaw, Shaw, Shaw! Do chuck it. If you want to know
my opinion about Shaw--

 TROTTER.    |   No, please, we dont.    |
             |                           |
 VAUGHAN.    |   Shut your head, Bannal. | [yelling]
             |                           |
 GUNN.       |   Oh, do drop it.         |

_The deafened Count puts his fingers in his ears and flies from the
centre of the group to its outskirts, behind Vaughan._

BANNAL. [sulkily] Oh, very well. Sorry I spoke, I'm sure.

 TROTTER.    |   Shaw--  |
             |           | [beginning again
 VAUGHAN.    |   Shaw--  | simultaneously]
             |           |
 GUNN.       |   Shaw--  |

_They are cut short by the entry of Fanny through the curtains. She is
almost in tears._

FANNY. [coming between Trotter and Gunn] I'm so sorry, gentlemen. And it
was such a success when I read it to the Cambridge Fabian Society!

TROTTER. Miss O'Dowda: I was about to tell these gentlemen what I
guessed before the curtain rose: that you are the author of the play.
[General amazement and consternation].

FANNY. And you all think it beastly. You hate it. You think I'm a
conceited idiot, and that I shall never be able to write anything
decent.

_She is almost weeping. A wave of sympathy carries away the critics._

VAUGHAN. No, no. Why, I was just saying that it must have been written
by Pinero. Didnt I, Gunn?

FANNY. [enormously flattered] Really?

TROTTER. I thought Pinero was much too popular for the Cambridge Fabian
Society.

FANNY. Oh yes, of course; but still--Oh, did you really say that, Mr
Vaughan?

GUNN. I owe you an apology, Miss O'Dowda. I said it was by Barker.

FANNY. [radiant] Granville Barker! Oh, you couldnt really have thought
it so fine as that.

BANNAL. _I_ said Bernard Shaw.

FANNY. Oh, of course it would be a little like Bernard Shaw. The Fabian
touch, you know.

BANNAL. [coming to her encouragingly] A jolly good little play, Miss
O'Dowda. Mind: I dont say it's like one of Shakespear's--Hamlet or The
Lady of Lyons, you know--but still, a firstrate little bit of work. [He
shakes her hand].

GUNN. [following Bannal's example] I also, Miss O'Dowda. Capital.
Charming. [He shakes hands].

VAUGHAN [with maudlin solemnity] Only be true to yourself, Miss O'Dowda.
Keep serious. Give up making silly jokes. Sustain the note of passion.
And youll do great things.

FANNY. You think I have a future?

TROTTER. You have a past, Miss O'Dowda.

FANNY. [looking apprehensively at her father] Sh-sh-sh!

THE COUNT. A past! What do you mean, Mr Trotter?

TROTTER. [to Fanny] You cant deceive me. That bit about the police was
real. Youre a Suffraget, Miss O'Dowda. You were on that Deputation.

THE COUNT. Fanny: is this true?

FANNY. It is. I did a month with Lady Constance Lytton; and I'm prouder
of it than I ever was of anything or ever shall be again.

TROTTER. Is that any reason why you should stuff naughty plays down my
throat?

FANNY. Yes: itll teach you what it feels like to be forcibly fed.

THE COUNT. She will never return to Venice. I feel now as I felt when
the Campanile fell.

_Savoyard comes in through the curtains._

SAVOYARD. [to the Count] Would you mind coming to say a word of
congratulation to the company? Theyre rather upset at having had no
curtain call.

THE COUNT. Certainly, certainly. I'm afraid Ive been rather remiss. Let
us go on the stage, gentlemen.

_The curtains are drawn, revealing the last scene of the play and the
actors on the stage. The Count, Savoyard, the critics, and Fanny join
them, shaking hands and congratulating._

THE COUNT. Whatever we may think of the play, gentlemen, I'm sure you
will agree with me that there can be only one opinion about the acting.

THE CRITICS. Hear, hear! [They start the applause].


AYOT ST. LAWRENCE, March 1911.





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