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Title: First Plays
Author: Milne, A. A. (Alan Alexander), 1882-1956
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "First Plays" ***

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By A. A. Milne





These five plays were written, in the order in which they appear now,
during the years 1916 and 1917. They would hardly have been written had
it not been for the war, although only one of them is concerned with
that subject. To his other responsibilities the Kaiser now adds this

For these plays were not the work of a professional writer, but the
recreation of a (temporary) professional soldier. Play-writing is a
luxury to a journalist, as insidious as golf and much more expensive in
time and money. When an article is written, the financial reward (and we
may as well live as not) is a matter of certainty. A novelist, too,
even if he is not in "the front rank"--but I never heard of one who
wasn't--can at least be sure of publication. But when a play is written,
there is no certainty of anything save disillusionment.

To write a play, then, while I was a journalist seemed to me a depraved
proceeding, almost as bad as going to Lord's in the morning. I thought
I could write one (we all think we can), but I could not afford so
unpromising a gamble. But once in the Army the case was altered. No duty
now urged me to write. My job was soldiering, and my spare time was my
own affair. Other subalterns played bridge and golf; that was one way of
amusing oneself. Another way was--why not?--to write plays.

So we began with Wurzel-Flummery. I say "we," because another is mixed
up in this business even more seriously than the Kaiser. She wrote;
I dictated. And if a particularly fine evening drew us out for a walk
along the byways--where there was no saluting, and one could smoke a
pipe without shocking the Duke of Cambridge--then it was to discuss
the last scene and to wonder what would happen in the next. We did not
estimate the money or publicity which might come from this new
venture; there has never been any serious thought of making money by my
bridge-playing, nor desire for publicity when I am trying to play golf.
But secretly, of course, we hoped. It was that which made it so much
more exciting than any other game.

Our hopes were realized to the following extent:

in April, 1917. It was originally written in three acts, in which form
it was shown to one or two managers. At the beginning of 1917 I was
offered the chance of production in a triple bill if I cut it down into
a two-act play. To cut even a line is painful, but to cut thirty pages
of one's first comedy, slaughtering whole characters on the way, has at
least a certain morbid fascination. It appeared, therefore, in two acts;
and one kindly critic embarrassed us by saying that a lesser artist
would have written it in three acts, and most of the other critics
annoyed us by saying that a greater artist would have written it in
one act. However, I amused myself some months later by slaying another
character--the office-boy, no less--thereby getting it down to one act,
and was surprised to find that the one-act version was, after all, the
best... At least I think it is.... At any rate, that is the version I am
printing here; but, as can be imagined, I am rather tired of the whole
business by now, and I am beginning to wonder if anyone ever did take
the name of Wurzel-Flummery at all. Probably the whole thing is an

The Lucky One was doomed from the start with a name like that. And the
girl marries the wrong man. I see no hope of its being produced. But
if any critic wishes to endear himself to me (though I don't see why he
should) he will agree with me that it is the best play of the five.

in September, 1918, introduced afterwards into Hallo, America! at
the Palace, and played by Mr. Godfrey Tearle at the Coliseum in the
following April.

1918, with Miss Irene Vanbrugh in the name-part. Miss Ethel Barrymore
played it in New York. I hope it will read pleasantly, but I am quite
incapable of judging it, for every speech of Belinda's comes to me now
in Miss Vanbrugh's voice.

The Red Feathers has not yet been produced, one reason being (perhaps)
that it has never been offered to anybody. It is difficult enough to
find a manager, but when one has also to get hold of a composer, the
business of production becomes terrifying. I suppose there is a way of
negotiating these difficulties, but I suspect that most of the fun to be
got out of this operetta we have already had in writing it.

In conclusion, I must distress my friend J. M. Barrie (who gave me a
first chance) by acknowledging my great debt to him. It would be more
polite to leave him out of it, but I cannot let him off. After all,
these are only "First Plays." I can always hope that "Last Plays" will
be more worthy of that early encouragement.





     MARGARET CRAWSHAW (his wife).
     VIOLA CRAWSHAW (his daughter).

A Two-Act version of this play was produced by Mr. Dion Boucicault at
the New Theatre on April 7, 1917, with the following cast:

     Robert Crawshaw--NIGEL PLAYFAIR.
     Margaret Crawshaw--HELEN HAYE.
     Viola Crawshaw--PEGGY KURTON.
     Richard Meriton--MARTIN LEWIS.
     Denis Clifton--DION BOUCICAULT.
     Lancelot Dodd--BERTRAM SIEMS.

[SCENE.--ROBERT CRAWSHAW'S town house. Morning.]

[It is a June day before the war in the morning-room of ROBERT
CRAWSHAW'S town house. Entering it with our friend the house-agent, our
attention would first be called to the delightful club fender round the
fireplace. On one side of this a Chesterfield sofa comes out at right
angles. In a corner of the sofa MISS VIOLA CRAWSHAW is sitting, deep
in "The Times." The house-agent would hesitate to catalogue her, but
we notice for ourselves, before he points out the comfortable armchair
opposite, that she is young and pretty. In the middle of the room and
facing the fireplace is (observe) a solid knee-hole writing-table,
covered with papers and books of reference, and supported by a chair at
the middle and another at the side. The rest of the furniture, and the
books and pictures round the walls, we must leave until another time,
for at this moment the door behind the sofa opens and RICHARD MERITON
comes in. He looks about thirty-five, has a clean-shaven intelligent
face, and is dressed in a dark tweed suit. We withdraw hastily, as he
comes behind VIOLA and puts his hands over her eyes.]

RICHARD. Three guesses who it is.

VIOLA (putting her hands over his). The Archbishop of Canterbury.


VIOLA. The Archbishop of York.

RICHARD. Fortunately that exhausts the archbishops. Now, then, your last

VIOLA. Richard Meriton, M.P.

RICHARD. Wonderful! (He kisses the top of her head lightly and goes
round to the club fender, where he sits with his back to the fireplace.)
How did you know? (He begins to fill a pipe.)

VIOLA (smiling). Well, it couldn't have been father.

RICHARD. N-no, I suppose not. Not just after breakfast anyway. Anything
in the paper?

VIOLA. There's a letter from father pointing out that--

RICHARD. I never knew such a man as Robert for pointing out.

VIOLA. Anyhow, it's in big print.

RICHARD. It would be.

VIOLA. You are very cynical this morning, Dick.

RICHARD. The sausages were cold, dear.

VIOLA. Poor Dick! Oh, Dick, I wish you were on the same side as father.

RICHARD. But he's on the wrong side. Surely I've told you that
before.... Viola, do you really think it would make a difference?

VIOLA. Well, you know what he said about you at Basingstoke the other

RICHARD. No, I don't, really.

VIOLA. He said that your intellectual arrogance was only equalled by
your spiritual instability. I don't quite know what it means, but it
doesn't sound the sort of thing you want in a son-in-law.

RICHARD. Still, it was friendly of him to go right away to Basingstoke
to say it. Anyhow, you don't believe it.

VIOLA. Of course not.

RICHARD. And Robert doesn't really.

VIOLA. Then why does he say it?

RICHARD. Ah, now you're opening up very grave questions. The whole
structure of the British Constitution rests upon Robert's right to say
things like that at Basingstoke.... But really, darling, we're very good
friends. He's always asking my advice about things--he doesn't take it,
of course, but still he asks it; and it awfully good of him to insist on
my staying here while my flat was being done up. (Seriously) I bless him
for that. If it hadn't been for the last week I should never have known
you. You were just "Viola"--the girl I'd seen at odd times since she was
a child; now--oh, why won't you let me tell your father? I hate it like

VIOLA, Because I love you, Dick, and because I know father. He would,
as they say in novels, show you the door. (Smiling) And I want you this
side of the door for a little bit longer.

RICHARD (firmly). I shall tell him before I go.

VIOLA (pleadingly). But not till then; that gives us two more days. You
see, darling, it's going to take me all I know to get round him. You
see, apart from politics you're so poor--and father hates poor people.

RICHARD (viciously). Damn money!

VIOLA (thoughtfully). I think that's what father means by spiritual

RICHARD. Viola! (He stands up and holds out his arms to her. She goes to
him and--) Oh, Lord, look out!

VIOLA (reaching across to the mantelpiece). Matches?

RICHARD. Thanks very much. (He lights his pipe as ROBERT CRAWSHAW comes

(CRAWSHAW is forty-five, but his closely-trimmed moustache and whiskers,
his inclination to stoutness, and the loud old-gentlemanly style in
trousers which he affects with his morning-coat, make him look
older, and, what is more important, the Pillar of the State which he
undoubtedly is.)

CRAWSHAW. Good-morning, Richard. Down at last?

RICHARD. Good morning. I did warn you, didn't I, that I was bad at

CRAWSHAW. Viola, where's your mother?

VIOLA (making for the door). I don't know, father; do you want her?

CRAWSHAW. I wish to speak to her.

VIOLA. All right, I'll tell her. [She goes out.]

(RICHARD Picks up "The Times" and sits down again.)

CRAWSHAW (sitting down in a business-like way at his desk). Richard, why
don't you get something to do?

RICHARD. My dear fellow, I've only just finished breakfast.

CRAWSHAW. I mean generally. And apart, of course, from your--ah--work in
the House.

RICHARD (a trifle cool). I have something to do.

CRAWSHAW. Oh, reviewing. I mean something serious. You should get a
directorship or something in the City.

RICHARD. I hate the City.

CRAWSHAW. Ah! there, my dear Richard, is that intellectual arrogance to
which I had to call attention the other day at Basingstoke.

RICHARD (drily). Yes, so Viola was telling me.

CRAWSHAW. You understood, my dear fellow, that I meant nothing personal.
(Clearing his throat) It is justly one of the proudest boasts of the
Englishman that his political enmities are not allowed to interfere with
his private friendships.

RICHARD (carelessly). Oh, I shall go to Basingstoke myself one day.

[Enter MARGARET. MARGARET has been in love with ROBERT CRAWSHAW for
twenty-five years, the last twenty four years from habit. She is small,
comfortable, and rather foolish; you would certainly call her a dear,
but you might sometimes call her a poor dear.]

MARGARET. Good-morning, Mr. Meriton. I do hope your breakfast was all

RICHARD. Excellent, thank you.

MARGARET. That's right. Did you want me, Robert?

CRAWSHAW. (obviously uncomfortable). Yes--er--h'rm--Richard--er--what
are your--er--plans?

RICHARD. Is he trying to get rid of me, Mrs. Crawshaw?

MARGARET. Of course not. (TO ROBERT) Are you, dear?

CRAWSHAW. Perhaps we had better come into my room, Margaret. We can
leave Richard here with the paper.

RICHARD. No, no; I'm going.

CRAWSHAW (going to the door with him). I have some particular business
to discuss. If you aren't going out, I should like to consult you in the
matter afterwards.

RICHARD. Right! [He goes out.]

CRAWSHAW. Sit down, Margaret. I have some extraordinary news for you.

MARGARET (sitting down). Yes, Robert?

CRAWSHAW. This letter has just come by hand. (He reads it) "199,
Lincoln's Inn Fields. Dear Sir, I have pleasure to inform you that under
the will of the late Mr. Antony Clifton you are a beneficiary to the
extent of £50,000."


CRAWSHAW. Wait! "A trifling condition is attached--namely, that you
should take the name of--Wurzel-Flummery."


CRAWSHAW. "I have the honour to be, your obedient servant, Denis
Clifton." (He folds the letter up and puts it away.)

MARGARET. Robert, whoever is he? I mean the one who's left you the

CRAWSHAW (calmly). I have not the slightest idea, Margaret. Doubtless we
shall find out before long. I have asked Mr. Denis Clifton to come and
see me.

MARGARET. Leaving you fifty thousand pounds! Just fancy!

CRAWSHAW. Wurzel-Flummery!

MARGARET. We can have the second car now, dear, can't we? And what about
moving? You know you always said you ought to be in a more central part.
Mr. Robert Crawshaw, M.P., of Curzon Street sounds so much more--more

CRAWSHAW. Mr. Robert Wurzel-Flummery, M.P., of Curzon Street--I don't
know what _that_ sounds like.

MARGARET. I expect that's only a legal way of putting it, dear. They
can't really expect us to change our name to--Wurzley-Fothergill.

CRAWSHAW. Wurzel-Flummery.

MARGARET. Yes, dear, didn't I say that? I am sure you could talk the
solicitor round--this Mr. Denis Clifton. After all, it doesn't matter to
him what we call ourselves. Write him one of your letters, dear.

CRAWSHAW. You don't seem to apprehend the situation, Margaret.

MARGARET. Yes, I do, dear. This Mr.--Mr.--

CRAWSHAW. Antony Clifton.

MARGARET. Yes, he's left you fifty thousand pounds, together with the
name of Wurzley-Fothergill--

CRAWSHAW. Wurzel--oh, well, never mind.

MARGARET. Yes, well, you tell the solicitor that you will take the fifty
thousand pounds, but you don't want the name. It's too absurd, when
everybody knows of Robert Crawshaw, M.P., to expect you to call yourself

CRAWSHAW (impatiently). Yes, yes. The point is that this Mr. Clifton has
left me the money on _condition_ that I change my name. If I don't take
the name, I don't take the money.

MARGARET. But is that legal?

CRAWSHAW. Perfectly. It is often done. People change their names on
succeeding to some property.

MARGARET. I thought it was only when your name was Moses and you changed
it to Talbot.

CRAWSHAW (to himself). Wurzel-Flummery!

MARGARET. I wonder why he left you the money at all. Of course it was
very nice of him, but if you didn't know him--Why do you think he did,

CRAWSHAW. I know no more than this letter. I suppose he
had--ah--followed my career, and was--ah--interested in it, and being a
man with no relations, felt that he could--ah--safely leave this money
to me. No doubt Wurzel-Flummery was his mother's maiden name, or
the name of some other friend even dearer to him; he wished the
name--ah--perpetuated, perhaps even recorded not unworthily in the
history of our country, and--ah--made this will accordingly. In a way it
is a kind of--ah--sacred trust.

MARGARET. Then, of course, you'll accept it, dear?

CRAWSHAW. It requires some consideration. I have my career to think
about, my duty to my country.

MARGARET. Of course, dear. Money is a great help in politics, isn't it?

CRAWSHAW. Money wisely spent is a help in any profession. The view of
riches which socialists and suchlike people profess to take is entirely
ill-considered. A rich man, who spends his money thoughtfully, is
serving his country as nobly as anybody.

MARGARET. Yes, dear. Then you think we _could_ have that second car and
the house in Curzon Street?

CRAWSHAW. We must not be led away. Fifty thousand pounds, properly
invested, is only two thousand a year. When you have deducted the
income-tax--and the tax on unearned income is extremely high just now--

MARGARET. Oh, but surely if we have to call ourselves Wurzel-Flummery it
would count as _earned_ income.

CRAWSHAW. I fear not. Strictly speaking, all money is earned. Even if it
is left to you by another, it is presumably left to you in recognition
of certain outstanding qualities which you possess. But Parliament takes
a different view. I do not for a moment say that fifty thousand pounds
would not be welcome. Fifty pounds is certainly not to be sneezed at--

MARGARET. I should think not, indeed!

CRAWSHAW (unconsciously rising from his chair). And without this
preposterous condition attached I should be pleased to accept this
trust, and I would endeavour, Mr. Speaker--(He sits down again
suddenly.) I would, Margaret, to, carry it out to the best of my poor
ability. But--Wurtzel-Flummery!

MARGARET. You would soon get used to it, dear. I had to get used to the
name of Crawshaw after I had been Debenham for twenty-five years. It is
surprising how quickly it comes to you. I think I only signed my name
Margaret Debenham once after I was married.

CRAWSHAW (kindly). The cases are rather different, Margaret. Naturally a
woman, who from her cradle looks forward to the day when she will change
her name, cannot have this feeling for the--ah--honour of his name,
which every man--ah--feels. Such a feeling is naturally more present in
my own case since I have been privileged to make the name of Crawshaw in
some degree--ah--well-known, I might almost say famous.

MARGARET (wistfully). I used to be called "the beautiful Miss Debenham
of Leamington." Everybody in Leamington knew of me. Of course, I am very
proud to be Mrs. Robert Crawshaw.

CRAWSHAW (getting up and walking over to the fireplace). In a way it
would mean beginning all over again. It is half the battle in
politics to get your name before the public. "Whoever is this man
Wurzel-Flummery?" people will say.

MARGARET. Anyhow, dear, let us look on the bright side. Fifty thousand
pounds is fifty thousand pounds.

CRAWSHAW. It is, Margaret. And no doubt it is my duty to accept it.
But--well, all I say is that a _gentleman_ would have left it without
any conditions. Or at least he would merely have expressed his _wish_
that I should take the name, without going so far as to enforce it. Then
I could have looked at the matter all round in an impartial spirit.

MARGARET (pursuing her thoughts). The linen is marked R. M. C. now. Of
course, we should have to have that altered. Do you think R. M. F. would
do, or would it have to be R. M. W. hyphen F.?

CRAWSHAW. What? Oh--yes, there will be a good deal of that to attend to.
(Going up to her) I think, Margaret, I had better talk to Richard about
this. Of course, it would be absurd to refuse the money, but--well, I
should like to have his opinion.

MARGARET (getting up). Do you think he would be very sympathetic, dear?
He makes jokes about serious things--like bishops and hunting just as if
they weren't at all serious.

CRAWSHAW. I wish to talk to him just to obtain a new--ah--point of view.
I do not hold myself in the least bound to act on anything he says. I
regard him as a constituent, Margaret.

MARGARET. Then I will send him to you.

CRAWSHAW (putting his hands on her shoulders). Margaret, what do you
really feel about it?

MARGARET. Just whatever you feel, Robert.

CRAWSHAW (kissing her). Thank you, Margaret; you are a good wife to me.
[She goes out]

(CRAWSHAW goes to his desk and selects a "Who's Who" from a little pile
of reference-books on it. He walks round to his chair, sits down in
it and begins to turn the pages, murmuring names beginning with "C"
to himself as he gets near the place. When he finds it, he murmurs
"Clifton--that's funny," and closes the book. Evidently the publishers
have failed him.)

[Enter RICHARD.]

RICHARD. Well, what's the news? (He goes to his old seat on the fender.)
Been left a fortune?

CRAWSHAW (simply). Yes.... By a Mr. Antony Clifton. I never met him and
I know nothing about him.

RICHARD (surprised). Not really? Well, I congratulate you. (He sighs.)
To them that hath--But what on earth do you want my advice about?

CRAWSHAW. There is a slight condition attached.


CRAWSHAW. The condition is that with this money--fifty thousand
pounds--I take the name of--ah--Wurzel-Flummery.

RICHARD (jumping up). What!

CRAWSHAW (sulkily). I said it quite distinctly--Wurzel-Flummery.

(RICHARD in an awed silence walks over to the desk and stands looking
down at the unhappy CRAWSHAW. He throws out his left hand as if
introducing him.)

RICHARD (reverently). Mr. Robert Wurzel-Flummery, M. P., one of the most
prominent of our younger Parliamentarians. Oh, you...oh!... oh, how too
heavenly! (He goes back to his seat, looks up and catches CRAWSHAW'S
eye, and breaks down altogether.)

CRAWSHAW (rising with dignity). Shall we discuss it seriously, or shall
we leave it?

RICHARD. How can we discuss a name like Wurzel-Flummery seriously? "Mr.
Wurzel-Flummery in a few well-chosen words seconded the motion."...
"'Sir,' went on Mr. Wurzel-Flummery"--Oh, poor Robert!

CRAWSHAW (sitting down sulkily). You seem quite certain that I shall
take the money.

RICHARD. I am quite certain.

CRAWSHAW. Would you take it?

RICHARD (hesitating). Well--I wonder.

CRAWSHAW. After all, as William Shakespeare says, "What's in a name?"

RICHARD. I can tell you something else that Shakespeare--_William_
Shakespeare--said. (Dramatically rising) Who steals my purse with fifty
thousand in it--steals trash. (In his natural voice) Trash, Robert:
(Dramatically again) But he who filches from me my good name of Crawshaw
(lightly) and substitutes the rotten one of Wurzel--

CRAWSHAW (annoyed). As a matter of fact, Wurzel-Flummery is a very good
old name. I seem to remember some--ah--Hampshire Wurzel-Flummeries.
It is a very laudable spirit on the part of a dying man to wish
to--ah--perpetuate these old English names. It all seems to me quite
natural and straightforward. If I take this money I shall have nothing
to be ashamed of.

RICHARD. I see.... Look here, may I ask you a few questions? I should
like to know just how you feel about the whole business?

CRAWSHAW (complacently folding his hands). Go ahead.

RICHARD. Suppose a stranger came up in the street to you and said, "My
poor man, here's five pounds for you," what would you do? Tell him to go
to the devil, I suppose, wouldn't you?

CRAWSHAW (humorously). In more parliamentary language, perhaps, Richard.
I should tell him I never took money from strangers.

RICHARD. Quite so; but that if it were ten thousand pounds, you would
take it?

CRAWSHAW. I most certainly shouldn't.

RICHARD. But if he died and left it to you, _then_ you would?

CRAWSHAW (blandly). Ah, I thought you were leading up to that. That, of
course, is entirely different.


CRAWSHAW. Well--ah--wouldn't _you_ take ten thousand pounds if it were
left to you by a stranger?

RICHARD. I daresay I should. But I should like to know why it would seem

CRAWSHAW (professionally). Ha-hum! Well--in the first place, when a man
is dead he wants his money no longer. You can therefore be certain that
you are not taking anything from him which he cannot spare. And in the
neat place, it is the man's dying wish that you should have the money.
To refuse would be to refuse the dead. To accept becomes almost a sacred

RICHARD. It really comes to this, doesn't it? You won't take it from him
when he's alive, because if you did, you couldn't decently refuse him a
little gratitude; but you know that it doesn't matter a damn to him
what happens to his money after he's dead, and therefore you can take it
without feeling any gratitude at all.

CRAWSHAW. No, I shouldn't put it like that.

RICHARD (smiling). I'm sure you wouldn't, Robert.

CRAWSHAW No doubt you can twist it about so that--

RICHARD. All right, we'll leave that and go on to the next point.
Suppose a perfect stranger offered you five pounds to part your hair
down the middle, shave off your moustache, and wear only one whisker--if
he met you suddenly in the street, seemed to dislike your appearance,
took out a fiver and begged you to hurry off and alter yourself--of
course you'd pocket the money and go straight to your barber's?

CRAWSHAW. Now you are merely being offensive.

RICHARD. I beg your pardon. I should have said that if he had left you
five pounds in his will?--well, then twenty pounds? a hundred pounds?--a
thousand pounds?--fifty thousand pounds?--(Jumping up excitedly) It's
only a question of price--fifty thousand pounds, Robert--a pink tie with
purple spots, hair across the back, trousers with a patch in the
fall myself Wurzel-Flummery--any old thing you like, you can't insult
me--anything you like, gentlemen, for fifty thousand pounds. (Lowering
his voice) Only you must leave it in your will, and then I can feel that
it is a sacred duty--a sacred duty, my lords and gentlemen. (He sinks
back into the sofa and relights his pipe.)

CRAWSHAW. (rising with dignity). It is evidently useless to prolong this

RICHARD (waving him dorm again). No, no, Robert; I've finished. I just
took the other side--and I got carried away. I ought to have been at the

CRAWSHAW. You take such extraordinary views of things. You must look
facts in the face, Richard. This is a modern world, and we are modern
people living in it. Take the matter-of-fact view. You may like or
dislike the name of--ah--Wurzel-Flummery, but you can't get away from
the fact that fifty thousand pounds is not to be sneezed at.

RICHARD (wistfully). I don't know why people shouldn't sneeze at money
sometimes. I should like to start a society for sneezing at fifty
thousand pounds. We'd have to begin in a small way, of course; we'd
begin by sneezing at five pounds--and work up. The trouble is that we're
all inoculated in our cradles against that kind of cold.

CRAWSHAW (pleasantly). You will have your little joke. But you know as
well as I do that it is only a joke. There can be no serious reason why
I should not take this money. And I--ah--gather that you don't think it
will affect my career?

RICHARD (carelessly). Not a bit. It'll help it. It'll get you into all
the comic papers.

[MARGARET comes in at this moment, to the relief of CRAWSHAW, who is not
quite certain if he is being flattered or insulted again.]

MARGARET. Well, have you told him?

RICHARD (making way for her on the sofa). I have heard the news, Mrs.
Crawshaw. And I have told Robert my opinion that he should have no
difficulty in making the name of Wurzel-Flummery as famous as he has
already made that of Crawshaw. At any rate I hope he will.

MARGARET. How nice of you! CRAWSHAW. Well, it's settled, then. (Looking
at his watch) This solicitor fellow should be here soon. Perhaps, after
all, we can manage something about--Ah, Viola, did you want your mother?

[Enter VIOLA.]

VIOLA. Sorry, do I interrupt a family meeting? There's Richard, so it
can't be very serious.

RICHARD. What a reputation!

CRAWSHAW. Well, it's over now.

MARGARET. Viola had better know, hadn't she?

CRAWSHAW. She'll have to know some time, of course.

VIOLA (sitting done firmly on the sofa). Of course she will. So you'd
better tell her now. I knew there was something exciting going on this

CRAWSHAW (embarrassed). Hum--ha--(To MARGARET) Perhaps you'd better tell
her, dear.

MARGARET (simply and naturally). Father has come into some property,
Viola. It means changing our name unfortunately. But your father doesn't
think it will matter.

VIOLA. How thrilling! What is the name, mother?

MARGARET. Your father says it is--dear me, I shall never remember it.

CRAWSHAW (mumbling). Wurzel-Flummery.

VIOLA (after a pause). Dick, _you_ tell me, if nobody else will.

RICHARD. Robert said it just now.

VIOLA. That wasn't a name, was it? I thought it was just a--do say it
again, father.

CRAWSHAW (sulkily but plainly). Wurzel-Flummery.

VIOLA (surprised). Do you spell it like that? I mean like a wurzel and
like flummery?

RICHARD. Exactly, I believe.

VIOLA (to herself). Miss Viola Wurzel-Flummery--I mean they'd have to
look at you, wouldn't they? (Bubbling over) Oh, Dick, what a heavenly
name! Who had it first?

RICHARD. They are an old Hampshire family--that is so, isn't it, Robert?

CRAWSHAW (annoyed). I said I thought that I remembered--Margaret, can
you find Burke there?

(She finds it, and he buries himself in the families of the great.)

MARGARET. Well, Viola, you haven't told us how you like being Miss

VIOLA. I haven't realized myself yet, mummy. I shall have to stand in
front of my glass and tell myself who I am.

RICHARD. It's all right for you. You know you'll change your name one
day, and then it won't matter what you've been called before.

VIOLA (secretly). H'sh! (She smiles lovingly at him, and then says
aloud) Oh, won't it? It's got to appear in the papers, "A marriage has
been arranged between Miss Viola Wurzel-Flummery..." and everybody will
say, "And about time too, poor girl."

MARGARET (to CRAWSHAW). Have you found it, dear?

CRAWSHAW (resentfully). This is the 1912 edition.

MARGARET. Still, dear, if it's a very old family, it ought to be in by

VIOLA. I don't mind how old it is; I think it's lovely. Oh, Dick, what
fun it will be being announced! Just think of the footman throwing open
the door and saying--

MAID (announcing). Mr. Denis Clifton.

(There is a little natural confusion as CLIFTON enters jauntily in his
summer suiting with a bundle of papers under his arm. CRAWSHAW goes
towards him and shakes hands.)

CRAWSHAW. How do you do, Mr. Clifton? Very good of you to come. (Looking
doubtfully at his clothes) Er--it is Mr. Denis Clifton, the solicitor?

CLIFTON (cheerfully). It is. I must apologize for not looking the
part more, but my clothes did not arrive from Clarkson's in time. Very
careless of them when they had promised. And my clerk dissuaded me from
the side-whiskers which I keep by me for these occasions.

CRAWSHAW (bewildered). Ah yes, quite so. But you have--ah--full legal
authority to act in this matter?

CLIFTON.. Oh, decidedly. Oh, there's no question of that.

CRAWSHAW (introducing). My wife--and daughter. (CLIFTON bows
gracefully.) My friend, Mr. Richard Meriton.

CLIFTON (happily).Dear me! Mr. Meriton too! This is quite a situation,
as we say in the profession.

RICHARD (amused by him). In the legal profession?

CLIFTON. In the theatrical profession.(Turning to MARGARET) I am a
writer of plays, Mrs. Crawshaw. I am not giving away a professional
secret when I tell you that most of the managers in London have thanked
me for submitting my work to them.

CRAWSHAW (firmly).I understood, Mr. Clifton, that you were the solicitor
employed to wind up the affairs of the late Mr. Antony Clifton.

CLIFTON. Oh, certainly. Oh, there's no doubt about my being a solicitor.
My clerk, a man of the utmost integrity, not to say probity, would give
me a reference. I am in the books; I belong to the Law Society. But my
heart turns elsewhere. Officially I have embraced the profession of a
solicitor--(Frankly, to MRS. CRAWSHAW) But you know what these official
embraces are.

MARGARET. I'm afraid--(She turns to her husband for assistance.)

CLIFTON (to RICHARD). Unofficially, Mr. Meriton, I am wedded to the

VIOLA. Dick, isn't he lovely?

CRAWSHAW. Quite so. But just for the moment, Mr. Clifton, I take it that
we are concerned with legal business. Should I ever wish to produce a
play, the case would be different.

CLIFTON. Admirably put. Pray regard me entirely as the solicitor for as
long as you wish. (He puts his hat down on a chair with the papers in
it, and taking off his gloves, goes on dreamily) Mr. Denis Clifton was
superb as a solicitor. In spite of an indifferent make-up, his manner of
taking off his gloves and dropping them into his hat--(He does so.)

MARGARET (to CRAWSHAW). I think, perhaps, Viola and I--

RICHARD (making a move too). We'll leave you to your business, Robert.

CLIFTON (holding up his hand). Just one moment if I may. I have a letter
for you, Mr. Meriton.

RICHARD (surprised). For me?

CLIFTON. Yes. My clerk, a man of the utmost integrity--oh, but I said
that before--he took it round to your rooms this morning, but found only
painters and decorators there. (He is feeling in his pockets and
now brings the letter out.) I brought it along, hoping that Mr.
Crawshaw--but of course I never expected anything so delightful as this.
(He hands over the letter with a bow.)

RICHARD. Thanks. (He puts it in his pocket.)

CLIFTON. Oh, but do read it now, won't you? (To MR. CRAWSHAW) One so
rarely has an opportunity of being present when one's own letters are
read. I think the habit they have on the stage of reading letters aloud
to other is such a very delightful one.

(RICHARD, with a smile and a shrug, has opened his letter while CLIFTON
is talking.)

RICHARD. Good Lord!

VIOLA. Dick, what is it?

RICHARD (reading). "199, Lincoln's Inn Fields. Dear Sir, I have the
pleasure to inform you that under the will of the late Mr. Antony
Clifton you are a beneficiary to the extent of £50,000."

VIOLA. Dick!

RICHARD. "A trifling condition is attached--namely, that you should take
the name of--Wurzel-Flummery." (CLIFTON, with his hand on his heart,
bows gracefully from one to the other of them.)

CRAWSHAW (annoyed). Impossible! Why should he leave any money to _you_?

VIOLA. Dick! How wonderful!

MARGARET (mildly). I don't remember ever having had a morning quite like

RICHARD (angrily). Is this a joke, Mr. Clifton?

CLIFTON. Oh, the money is there all right. My clerk, a man of the

RICHARD. Then I refuse it. I'll have nothing to do with it. I won't even
argue about it. (Tearing the letter into bits) That's what I think of
your money. [He stalks indignantly from the room.]

VIOLA. Dick! Oh, but, mother, he mustn't. Oh, I must tell him--[She
hurries after him.]

MARGARET (with dignity). Really, Mr. Clifton, I'm surprised at you. [She
goes out too.]

CLIFTON (looking round the room). And now, Mr. Crawshaw, we are alone.

CRAWSHAW. Yes. Well, I think, Mr. Clifton, you have a good deal to

CLIFTON. My dear sir, I'm longing to begin. I have been looking forward
to this day for weeks. I spent over an hour this morning dressing for
it. (He takes papers from his hat and moves to the sofa.) Perhaps I had
better begin from the beginning.

CRAWSHAW (interested, indicating the papers). The documents in the case?

CLIFTON. Oh dear, no just something to carry in the hand. It makes
one look more like a solicitor. (Reading the title) "Watherston v.
Towser--in re Great Missenden Canal Company." My clerk invents the
titles; it keeps him busy. He is very fond of Towser; Towser is always
coming in. (Frankly) You see, Mr. Crawshaw, this is my first real case,
and I only got it because Antony Clifton is my uncle. My efforts to
introduce a little picturesqueness into the dull formalities of the law
do not meet with that response that one would have expected.

CRAWSHAW (looking at his watch). Yes. Well, I'm a busy man, and if you
could tell me as shortly as possible why your uncle left this money
to me, and apparently to Mr. Meriton too, under these extraordinary
conditions, I shall be obliged to you.

CLIFTON. Say no more, Mr. Crawshaw; I look forward to being entirely
frank with you. It will be a pleasure.

CRAWSHAW. You understand, of course, my position. I think I may say that
I am not without reputation in the country; and proud as I am to accept
this sacred trust, this money which the late Mr. Antony Clifton has seen
fit--(modestly) one cannot say why--to bequeath to me, yet the use of
the name Wurzel-Flummery would be excessively awkward.

CLIFTON (cheerfully). Excessively.

CRAWSHAW. My object in seeing you was to inquire if it was absolutely
essential that the name should go with the money.

CLIFTON. Well (thoughtfully), you may have the name _without_ the money
if you like. But you must have the name.

CRAWSHAW (disappointed). Ah! (Bravely) Of course, I have nothing against
the name, a good old Hampshire name--

CLIFTON (shocked). My dear Mr. Crawshaw, you didn't think--you didn't
really think that anybody had been called Wurzel-Flummery before? Oh no,
no. You and Mr. Meriton were to be the first, the founders of the clan,
the designers of the Wurzel-Flummery sporran--

CRAWSHAW. What do you mean, sir? Are you telling me that it is not a
real name at all?

CLIFTON. Oh, it's a name all right. I know it is because--er--_I_ made
it up.

CRAWSHAW (outraged). And you have the impudence to propose, sir, that I
should take a made-up name?

CLIFTON (soothingly). Well, all names are made up some time or other.
Somebody had to think of--Adam.

CRAWSHAW. I warn you, Mr. Clifton, that I do not allow this trifling
with serious subjects.

CLIFTON. It's all so simple, really.... You see, my Uncle Antony was a
rather unusual man. He despised money. He was not afraid to put it in
its proper place. The place he put it in was--er--a little below golf
and a little above classical concerts. If a man said to him, "Would
you like to make fifty thousand this afternoon?" he would say--well,
it would depend what he was doing. If he were going to have a round at
Walton Heath--

CRAWSHAW. It's perfectly scandalous to talk of money in this way.

CLIFTON. Well, that's how he talked about it. But he didn't find many to
agree with him. In fact, he used to say that there was nothing, however
contemptible, that a man would not do for money. One day I suggested
that if he left a legacy with a sufficiently foolish name attached to
it, somebody might be found to refuse it. He laughed at the idea. That
put me on my mettle. "Two people," I said; "leave the same silly name to
two people, two well-known people, rival politicians, say, men whose own
names are already public property. Surely they wouldn't both take it."
That touched him. "Denis, my boy, you've got it," he said. "Upon what
vile bodies shall we experiment?" We decided on you and Mr. Meriton. The
next thing was to choose the name. I started on the wrong lines. I began
by suggesting names like Porker, Tosh, Bugge, Spiffkins--the obvious
sort. My uncle--

CRAWSHAW (boiling with indignation). How _dare_ you discuss me with your
uncle, Sir! How dare you decide in this cold-blooded way whether I am to
be called--ah--Tosh--or--ah--Porker!

CLIFTON. My uncle wouldn't bear of Tosh or Porker. He wanted a humorous
name--a name he could roll lovingly round his tongue--a name expressing
a sort of humorous contempt--Wurzel-Flummery! I can see now the happy
ruminating smile which came so often on my Uncle Antony's face in those
latter months. He was thinking of his two Wurzel-Flummerys. I remember
him saying once--it was at the Zoo--what a pity it was he hadn't enough
to divide among the whole Cabinet. A whole bunch of Wurzel-Flummerys; it
would have been rather jolly.

CRAWSHAW. You force me to say, sir, that if _that_ was the way you and
your uncle used to talk together at his death can only be described as a
merciful intervention of Providence.

CLIFTON. Oh, but I think he must be enjoying all this somewhere, you
know. I hope he is. He would have loved this morning. It was his one
regret that from the necessities of the case he could not live to
enjoy his own joke; but he had hopes that echoes of it would reach him
wherever he might be. It was with some such idea, I fancy, that toward
the end he became interested in spiritualism.

CRAWSHAW (rising solemnly). Mr. Clifton, I have no interest in
the present whereabouts of your uncle, nor in what means he has of
overhearing a private conversation between you and myself. But if, as
you irreverently suggest, he is listening to us, I should like him to
hear this. That, in my opinion, you are not a qualified solicitor at
all, that you never had an uncle, and that the whole story of the will
and the ridiculous condition attached to it is just the tomfool joke
of a man who, by his own admission, wastes most of his time writing
unsuccessful farces. And I propose--

CLIFTON. Pardon my interrupting. But you said farces. Not farces,
comedies--of a whimsical nature.

CRAWSHAW. Whatever they were, sir, I propose to report the whole matter
to the Law Society. And you know your way out, sir.

CLIFTON. Then I am to understand that you refuse the legacy, Mr.

CRAWSHAW (startled). What's that?

CLIFTON. I am to understand that you refuse the fifty thousand pounds?

CRAWSHAW. If the money is really there, I most certainly do not refuse

CLIFTON. Oh, the money is most certainly there--and the name. Both
waiting for you.

CRAWSHAW (thumping the table). Then, Sir, I accept them. I feel it my
duty to accept them, as a public expression of confidence in the late
Mr. Clifton's motives. I repudiate entirely the motives that you have
suggested to him, and I consider it a sacred duty to show what I think
of your story by accepting the trust which he has bequeathed to me. You
will arrange further matters with my solicitor. Good morning, Sir.

CLIFTON (to himself as he rises). Mr. Crawshaw here drank a glass of
water. (To CRAWSHAW) Mr. Wurzel-Flummery, farewell. May I express the
parting wish that your future career will add fresh lustre to--my name.
(To himself as he goes out) Exit Mr. Denis Clifton with dignity. (But he
has left his papers behind him.)

(CRAWSHAW, walking indignantly back to the sofa, sees the papers and
picks them up.)

CRAWSHAW (contemptuously). "Watherston v. Towser--in re Great Missenden
Canal Company" Bah! (He tears them up and throws them into the fare. He
goes back to his writing-table and is seated there as VIOLA, followed by
MERITON, comes in.)

VIOLA. Father, Dick doesn't want to take the money, but I have told him
that of course he must. He must, mustn't he?

RICHARD. We needn't drag Robert into it, Viola.

CRAWSHAW. If Richard has the very natural feeling that it would be
awkward for me if there were two Wurzel-Flummerys in the House of
Commons, I should be the last to interfere with his decision. In any
case, I don't see what concern it is of yours, Viola.

VIOLA (surprised). But how can we get married if he doesn't take the

CRAWSHAW (hardly understanding). Married? What does this mean, Richard?

RICHARD. I'm sorry it has come out like this. We ought to have told you
before, but anyhow we were going to have told you in a day or two. Viola
and I want to get married.

CRAWSHAW. And what did you want to get married on?

RICHARD (with a smile). Not very much, I'm afraid.

VIOLA. We're all right now, father, because we shall have fifty thousand

RICHARD (sadly). Oh, Viola, Viola!

CRAWSHAW. But naturally this puts a very different complexion on

VIOLA. So of course he must take it, mustn't he, father?

CRAWSHAW. I can hardly suppose, Richard, that you expect me to entrust
my daughter to a man who is so little provident for himself that he
throws away fifty thousand pounds because of some fanciful objection to
the name which goes with it.

RICHARD (in despair). You don't understand, Robert.

CRAWSHAW. I understand this, Richard. That if the name is good enough
for me, it should be good enough for you. You don't mind asking Viola to
take _your_ name, but you consider it an insult if you are asked to take
_my_ name.

RICHARD (miserably to VIOLA). Do you want to be Mrs. Wurzel-Flummery?

VIOLA. Well, I'm going to be Miss Wurzel-Flummery anyhow, darling.

RICHARD (beaten). Heaven help me! you'll make me take it. But you'll
never understand.

CRAWSHAW (stopping to administer comfort to him on his way out). Come,
come, Richard. (Patting him on the shoulder) I understand perfectly. All
that you were saying about money a little while ago--it's all perfectly
true, it's all just what I feel myself. But in practice we have to make
allowances sometimes. We have to sacrifice our ideals for--ah--others. I
shall be very proud to have you for a son-in-law, and to feel that there
will be the two of us in Parliament together upholding the honour of
the--ah--name. And perhaps now that we are to be so closely related, you
may come to feel some day that your views could be--ah--more adequately
put forward from _my_ side of the House.

RICHARD. Go on, Robert; I deserve it.

CRAWSHAW. Well, well! Margaret will be interested in our news. And you
must send that solicitor a line--or perhaps a telephone message would be
better. (He goes to the door and turns round just as he is going out.)
Yes, I think the telephone, Richard; it would be safer. [Exit.]

RICHARD (holding out his hands to VIOLA). Come here, Mrs.

VIOLA. Not Mrs. Wurzel-Flummery; Mrs. Dick. And soon, please, darling.
(She comes to him.)

RICHARD (shaking his head sadly at her). I don't know what I've done,
Viola. (Suddenly) But you're worth it. (He kisses her, and then says in
a low voice) And God help me if I ever stop thinking so!

[Enter MR. DENIS CLIFTON. He sees them, and walks about very tactfully
with his back towards them, humming to himself.]


CLIFTON (to himself). Now where did I put those papers? (He hums to
himself again.) Now where--oh, I beg your pardon! I left some papers

VIOLA. Dick, you'll tell him. (As she goes out, she says to CLIFTON)
Good-bye, Mr. Clifton, and thank you for writing such nice letters.

CLIFTON. Good-bye, Miss Crawshaw.

VIOLA. Just say it to see how it sounds.

CLIFTON. Good-bye, Miss Wurzel-Flummery.

VIOLA. (smiling happily). No, not Miss, Mrs.

[She goes out.]

CLIFTON. (looking in surprise from her to him). You don't mean--

RICHARD. Yes; and I'm taking the money after all, Mr. Clifton.

CLIFTON. Dear me, what a situation! (Thoughtfully to himself) I wonder
how a rough scenario would strike the managers.

RICHARD. Poor Mr. Clifton!

CLIFTON. Why poor?

RICHARD. You missed all the best part. You didn't hear what I said to
Crawshaw about money before you came.

CLIFTON (thoughtfully). Oh I was it very--(Brightening up) But I expect
Uncle Antony heard. (After a pause) Well, I must be getting on. I wonder
if you've noticed any important papers lying about, in connection with
the Great Missenden Canal Company--a most intricate case, in which my
clerk and I--(He has murmured himself across to the fireplace, and the
fragments of his important case suddenly catch his eye. He picks up one
of the fragments.) Ah, yes. Well, I shall tell my clerk that we lost the
case. He will be sorry. He had got quite fond of that canal. (He turns
to go, but first says to MERITON) So you're taking the money, Mr.


CLIFTON. And Mr. Crawshaw too?


CLIFTON (to himself as he goes out). They are both taking it. (He stops
and looks up to UNCLE ANTONY with a smile.) Good old Uncle Antony--he
knew--he knew! (MERITON stands watching him as he goes.)




     BOB FARRINGDON (his elder brother).
     SIR JAMES FARRINGDON (his father).
     LADY FARRINGDON (his mother).
     MISS FARRINGDON (his great-aunt).
     PAMELA CAREY (his betrothed).
     HENRY WENTWORTH (his friend).
     THOMAS TODD (his friend).
     LETTY HERBERT (his friend).
     MASON (his old nurse).

ACT I. At SIR JAMES FARRINGDON'S in the country.

ACT II. A private hotel in Dover Street. Two months later.

ACT III. At SIR JAMES FARRINGDON'S again. Three months later.


[SCENE.--The hall of SIR JAMES FARRINGDON'S house in the country.]

[It is a large and pleasantly unofficial sort of room, used as a
meeting-place rather than a resting place. To be in it pledges you to
nothing; whereas in the billiard-room you are presumably pledged to
billiards. The French windows at the back open on to lawns; the door on
the right at the back will take you into the outer hall; the door on
the left leads to the servants' quarters; the door on the right in front
will disclose other inhabited rooms to you. An oak gallery runs round
two sides of the hall and descends in broad and gentle stairs down the
right side of it. Four stairs from the bottom it turns round at right
angles and deposits you fairly in the hall. Entering in this way, you
will see immediately opposite to you the large open fireplace occupied
by a pile of unlit logs--for it is summer. There is a chair on each side
of the fireplace, but turned now away from it. In the left centre of the
hall there is a gate-legged table to which trays with drinks on them,
have a habit of finding their way; it is supported on each side by a
coffin-stool. A sofa, which will take two strangers comfortably and
three friends less comfortably, comes out at right angles to the
staircase, but leaves plenty of space between itself and the stool on
its side of the table. Beneath the window on the left of the French
windows is a small table on which letters and papers are put; beneath
the window on the other side is a writing-table. The walls are decorated
impartially with heads of wild animals and of Farringdons.]

[At the present moment the inhabitants of the hall are three. HENRY
WENTWORTH, a barrister between forty, and fifty, dressed in rather a
serious tweed suit, for a summer day, is on the sofa. THOMAS TODD,
an immaculate young gentleman of twenty-five, is half-sitting on the
gate-legged table with one foot on the ground and the other swinging. He
is dressed in a brown flannel coat and white trousers, shoes and socks,
and he has a putter in his hand indicative of his usual line of thought.
The third occupant is the Butler, who, in answer to TOMMY'S ring, has
appeared with the drinks.]

[The time is about four o'clock on a June afternoon.]

TOMMY (to the Butler). Thanks, James; just leave it here. [Exit Butler.]
Whisky or lemonade, Wentworth?

WENTWORTH. Neither, thanks, Tommy.

TOMMY. Well, I will. (He pours himself out some lemonade and takes a
long drink.) I should have thought you would have been thirsty, driving
down from London a day like this. (He finishes his drink.) Let's see,
where was I up to? The sixth, wasn't it?

WENTWORTH. The sixth, Tommy. (With resignation) Only twelve more.

TOMMY. Yes, that's right. Well, at the seventh I got an absolutely
topping drive, but my approach was sliced a bit. However, I chipped on
within about six feet, and was down in four. Gerald took it in three,
but I had a stroke, so I halved. Then the eighth I told you about.

WENTWORTH. Was that where you fell into the pond?

TOMMY. No, no; you're thinking of the fifth, where I topped my drive
into the pond.

WENTWORTH. I knew the pond came into it somewhere. I hoped--I mean I
thought you fell in.

TOMMY. Look here, you _must_ remember the eighth, old chap; that was the
one I did in one. Awful bit of luck.

WENTWORTH. Bit of luck for me too, Tommy.


WENTWORTH. Because now you can hurry on to the ninth.

TOMMY. I say, Wentworth, I thought you were keen on golf.

WENTWORTH. Only on my own.

TOMMY. You're a fraud. Here I've been absolutely wasting my precious
time on you and--I suppose it wouldn't even interest you to hear that
Gerald went round in seventy-two--five under bogey?

WENTWORTH. It would interest me much more to hear something about this
girl he's engaged to.

TOMMY. Pamela Carey? Oh, she's an absolute ripper.

WENTWORTH. Yes, but you've said that of every girl you've met.

TOMMY. Well, dash it! you don't expect me to describe what she looks
like, do you?

WENTWORTH. Well, no. I shall see that for myself directly. One gets
introduced, you know, Tommy. It isn't as though I were meeting her at
Charing Cross Station for the first time. But who is she?

TOMMY. Well, she was poor old Bob's friend originally. He brought her
down here, but, of course, as soon as she saw Gerald--

WENTWORTH (quickly). Why, _poor_ old Bob?

TOMMY. I don't know; everybody seems to call him that. After all, he
isn't quite like Gerald, is he?

WENTWORTH. Paderewski isn't quite like Tommy Todd, but I don't say "poor
old Paderewski"--nor "poor old Tommy," if it comes to that.

TOMMY. Well, hang it, old man, there's a bit of a difference. Paderewski
and I--well, I mean we don't compete.

WENTWORTH. Oh, I don't know. I daresay he's as rotten at golf as you, if
the truth were really known.

TOMMY. No, but seriously, it's a bit different when you get two brothers
like Gerald and Bob; and whatever the elder one does, the younger one
does a jolly sight better. Now Paderewski and I--

WENTWORTH. Good heavens! I wish I hadn't started you on that. Get
back to Bob. I thought Bob was on the Stock Exchange and Gerald in the
Foreign Office. There can't be very much competition between them there.

TOMMY. Well, but there you are! Why isn't Bob in the Foreign Office
and Gerald on the Stock Exchange? Why, because Gerald's the clever
one, Gerald's the popular one, the good-looking one, the lucky one, the
county cricketer, the plus three at golf--

WENTWORTH. Oh Lord! I thought you'd get golf into it. I suppose you were
working up to your climax. Poor old Bob is about eighteen at golf, eh?

TOMMY. As a matter of fact, he's a very decent five. And there you are
again. In any other family, Bob would be thought rather a nut. As it

WENTWORTH. As it is, Tommy, there are about thirty-five million people
in England who've never played golf and who would recognize Bob, if they
met him, for the decent English gentleman that he is.

TOMMY. I think you exaggerate, old chap. Golf's been getting awfully
popular lately.

WENTWORTH. Personally I am very fond of Bob.

TOMMY. Oh, so am I. He's an absolute ripper. Still, _Gerald_, you
know--I mean it's jolly bad luck on poor old Bob. Now Paderewski and I--

[Enter GERALD from the garden, a charming figure in a golfing coat and
white flannels. Perhaps he is a little conscious of his charm; if so, it
is hardly his fault, for hero-worship has been his lot from boyhood. He
is now about twenty-six; everything that he has ever tried to do he has
done well; and, if he is rather more unembarrassed than most of us when
praised, his unself-consciousness is to a stranger as charming as the
rest of him. With it all he is intensely reserved, with the result that
those who refuse to succumb to his charm sometimes make the mistake of
thinking that there is nothing behind it.]

GERALD. Hallo, Wentworth, how are you? All right?

WENTWORTH (getting up and shaking hands). Yes, thanks. How are you?

GERALD. Simply bursting. Have you seen your room and all that sort of

WENTWORTH. Yes, thanks.

GERALD. Good. And Tommy's been entertaining you. (To TOMMY) Tommy, I
interrupted your story about Paderewski. I don't think I know it. (To
WENTWORTH) You must listen to this; it may be fairly new.

TOMMY. Don't be an ass. As a matter of fact, we were discussing
something quite serious.

GERALD (to WENTWORTH). How long have you been here?

WENTWORTH. About ten minutes.

GERALD. And Tommy hasn't told you that he did the eighth in one this

WENTWORTH. He hasn't really told me yet. He's only mentioned it once or
twice in passing.

TOMMY (modestly). Well, I mean it's bound to appear in the papers, so
naturally one--

GERALD. Oh, it's a great business. Champagne will flow like water
to-night. There will also be speeches.

WENTWORTH. Which reminds me, Gerald, I have to congratulate you.

GERALD. Thank you very much. When you've seen her you'll want to do it

TOMMY (looking through the window). Hallo, there's Letty.

GERALD. If you want to tell her about it, run along, Tommy.

TOMMY (moving off). I thought I'd just take her on at putting. [He goes

GERALD (sitting down). You'll stay till--well, how long can you?
Tuesday, anyhow.

WENTWORTH. I think I can manage till Tuesday. Thanks very much. Miss
Carey is here, of course?

GERALD. Yes, she'll be in directly. She's gone to the station to meet

WENTWORTH (smiling). And Gerald didn't go with her?

GERALD (smiling). At least six people suggested that Gerald should go
with her. They suggested it very loudly and archly--

WENTWORTH. So Gerald didn't?

GERALD. So Gerald didn't. (After a pause) I can't stand that sort of

WENTWORTH. What sort of thing?

GERALD (after a pause). Poor old boy! you've never been in love--barring
the nine or ten times you're just going to tell me about. I mean never
really in love.

WENTWORTH. Don't drag _me_ into it. What is it you can't stand?

GERALD. People being tactful about Pamela and me.... Aunt Tabitha asked
me yesterday if she might have Pamela for half an hour to do something
or other--as if she were an umbrella, with my initials on it.... And
somebody else said, "I've quite fallen in love with your Pamela; I hope
you don't mind." _Mind_? I tell you, Wentworth, my boy, if you aren't in
love with Pamela by Tuesday, there'll be the very deuce of a row. Your
electro-plated butter-dish, or whatever it's going to be, will be simply
flung back at you.

WENTWORTH. Well, as long as Miss Pamela understands--

GERALD. Of course she understands. We understand each other.

WENTWORTH (preening himself ). Then I'll do my best. Mind, if she
does happen to reciprocate my feelings, I wash my hands of all
responsibility. (Going towards the staircase) Good-afternoon, Miss

[MISS FARRINGDON is coming slowly down the stairs.]

MISS FARRINGDON. Good-afternoon, Mr. Wentworth. Welcome.

(She must be well over eighty. She was pretty once, and sharp-tongued;
so much you could swear to now. For the rest she is very, very wise, and
intensely interested in life.)

GERALD (going over and kissing her). Good-morning, Aunt Tabitha. Your
chair is waiting for you. (He conducts her to it.)

MISS FARRINGDON. I'm a nasty cross old thing before lunch, Mr.
Wentworth, so I don't come down till afterwards nowadays. Is Gerald
being as charming as usual?

WENTWORTH (smiling). Oh, pretty well.

GERALD (looking at her lovingly and then turning to WENTWORTH). It's
having a very bad effect on her, this morning seclusion. She's supposed
to be resting, but she spends her time trying to think of nasty things
to say about me. The trouble with a mind like Aunt Tabitha's is that it
can't think of anything _really_ nasty.

MISS FARRINGDON. The trouble with Gerald, Mr. Wentworth, is that he goes
about expecting everybody to love him. The result is that they nearly
all do. However, he can't get round _me_.

GERALD. It isn't true, Wentworth; she adores me.

MISS FARRINGDON. He wouldn't be happy if he didn't think so.

WENTWORTH (gracefully). I can sympathize with him there.

GERALD. The slight coolness which you perceive to have arisen between my
Aunt Tabitha and myself is due to the fact that I discovered her guilty
secret a few days ago. For years she has pretended that her real
name was Harriet. I have recently found out that she was christened
Tabitha--or, anyhow, would have been, if the clergyman had known his

MISS FARRINGDON. My great-nephew, Gerald, Mr. Wentworth--

GERALD. _Nephew_, Wentworth. I agreed to waive the "great" a long time

WENTWORTH. You'll excuse my asking, but do you never talk to each other
except through the medium of a third person?

MISS FARRINGDON (to GERALD). That's how they prefer to do it in the
Foreign Office. Isn't it, dear?

GERALD. Always, Aunt Tabitha. But really, you know, we both ought to
be talking to Wentworth and flaking after his mother and his liver--and
things like that.

MISS FARRINGDON. Yes, I'm afraid we're rather rude, Mr. Wentworth. The
Farringdons' great fault.

WENTWORTH (protesting). Oh no!

MISS FARRINGDON. How _is_ Mrs. Wentworth?

WENTWORTH. Wonderfully well, thank you, considering her age.

MISS FARRINGDON. Dear me, we met first in 1850.

GERALD. All frills and lavender.

MISS FARRINGDON. And now here's Gerald engaged. Have you seen Pamela

WENTWORTH. Not yet. I have been hearing about her from Tommy. He classes
her with the absolute rippers.

GERALD. Good old Tommy!

MISS FARRINGDON. Yes, she's much too good for Gerald.

GERALD. Of course she is, Aunt Tabitha. But if women only married men
who were good enough for them, where should we be? As lots of young men
said to you, in vain--on those afternoons when they read Tennyson aloud
to you.

MISS FARRINGDON. She ought to have married Bob.

WENTWORTH (surprised and amused). Bob? Is Bob good enough for her?

MISS FARRINGDON. She would have made a good wife for Bob.

[Enter suddenly LETTY HERBERT and TOMMY from the garden. LETTY is an
entirely delightful irresponsible girl of the type which might have
shocked Queen Victoria. However, she seems to suit TOMMY. They are not
engaged yet, but she has already that air of proprietorship.]

LETTY. I say, Tommy did the eighth in one. Why, there's Aunt Harriet.
(Going over and kissing her) How are you, darling? Tommy's done the
eighth in one. I know it doesn't mean much to you, but do say hooray,
because he's so bucked about it.

GERALD (to WENTWORTH). Do you know Miss Herbert? Letty, come and be
introduced. Mr. Wentworth--Miss Herbert.

LETTY (shaking hands eagerly). How do you do? I say, Tommy did the
eighth in one. Do you know Tommy--_or_ the eighth?

WENTWORTH. Both, Miss Herbert.

GERALD. To a man who knows both, the performance seems truly

MISS FARRINGDON. I don't know anything about golf, Mr. Todd. But doing
anything in one sounds rather clever. So I say hooray, too.

TOMMY. I wish you'd let me teach you, Miss Farringdon. Lots of people
begin when they're frightfully old.

LETTY (to WENTWORTH). This is one of Tommy's polite days.

GERALD. Mr. Todd's famous old-world courtesy is the talk of many a

MISS FARRINGDON (to TOMMY). Don't you mind them. I _am_ frightfully old.
I am very proud of it. I hope you'll all live to be as old as I am.

GERALD. I only hope we shall be half as nice.

MISS FARRINGDON. Gerald being charming as usual.

GERALD (firmly). I will also add that I hope we shall be kinder to our
great-nephews than some.

LETTY (putting her arm in his). Diddums!

GERALD. Yes, I did. I am very much hurt.

TOMMY. I say, you know, Miss Farringdon, I never meant--

LETTY. I love Tommy when he apologizes.

[Enter SIR JAMES and LADY FARRINGDON from the door to front of the
staircase. SIR JAMES, in a country check-suit, is a man of no particular
brain and no ideas, but he has an unconquerable belief in himself, and a
very genuine pride in, and admiration of, GERALD. His grey hair is bald
on the top, and he is clean-shaven except for a hint of whisker. He
might pass for a retired Captain R. N., and he has something of the
quarter-deck manner, so that even a remark on the weather is listened to
with attention. Neither of his sons loves him, but GERALD is no longer
afraid of him. LADY FARRINGDON is outwardly rather intimidating, but she
never feels so. She worships GERALD; and would love a good many other
people if they were not a little overawed by her.]

LADY FARRINGDON. Ah, you're here, Mr. Wentworth. How do you do?

WENTWORTH (coming forward). How do you do, Lady Farringdon? How do you
do, Sir James?

SIR JAMES. How are you, Wentworth? Come to see Gerald play for the

GERALD. He's come to see Pamela. Haven't you, Wentworth?

WENTWORTH. I rather hope to see both.

SIR JAMES. Ah, Aunt Harriet, I didn't see you. How are you to-day?

MISS FARRINGDON. Very well, thank you, James. (He goes over to her.)

LADY FARRINGDON. I hope they've shown you your room, Mr. Wentworth, and
made you comfortable? Gerald, darling, you saw that Mr. Wentworth was
all right?

WENTWORTH. Oh yes, that's quite all right, thank you, Lady Farringdon.

LADY FARRINGDON. Let me see, you're in the Blue Room, I think.

LETTY. It's much the nicest room to be in, Mr. Wentworth. There's a
straight way down the water-pipe in case of fire.

GERALD. And a straight way up in case of burglars.

LADY FARRINGDON (fondly). Gerald, dear, don't be so foolish.

SIR JAMES. Gerald, is it true you went round in seventy-two?

GERALD. Yes. Tommy did the eighth in one.

TOMMY (modestly). Awful fluke.

SIR JAMES (casually). Ah--well done. (To GERALD) Seventy-two--that's
pretty good. That's five under bogey, Mr. Wentworth.

LADY FARRINGDON (to WENTWORTH). Gerald has always been so good at
everything. Even as a baby.

TOMMY. He did the ninth in three, Letty. How's that for hot?

SIR JAMES (to WENTWORTH). You must stay till Thursday, if you can, and
see the whole of the Surrey match. It isn't often Gerald gets a chance
of playing for the county now. It's difficult for him to get away from
the Foreign Office. Lord Edward was telling me at the club the other

LETTY (TO LADY FARRINGDON). Gerald dived off the Monk's Rock this
morning. I'm glad I didn't see him. I should have been horribly

TOMMY (proudly). I saw him.

LETTY. Tommy, of course, slithered down over the limpets in the ordinary

LADY FARRINGDON (fondly). Oh, Gerald, how could you?

SIR JAMES (still talking to WENTWORTH). He tells me that Gerald is a
marked man in the Service now.

TOMMY (to LETTY). Do you remember when Gerald--

MISS FARRINGDON (incisively). Let's _all_ talk about Gerald.

(GERALD, who has been listening to all this with more amusement than
embarrassment, gives a sudden shout of laughter.)

GERALD. Oh, Aunt Tabitha, you're too lovely! (He blows her a kiss and
she shakes her stick at him.)

[Enter PAMELA from the door In front of the staircase, tall, beautiful
and serene, a born mother. GERALD carried her off her feet a month ago,
but it is a question if he really touched her heart--a heart moved more
readily by pity than by love.]

PAMELA. Gerald, dear, I'd know your laugh anywhere. Am I too late for
the joke?

GERALD. Hullo, Pamela. Brought Bob with you?

PAMELA. He's just washing London off himself.

LADY FARRINGDON. Pamela, dear, do you know Mr. Wentworth?

PAMELA (shaking hands). How do you do?

LADY FARRINGDON (to WENTWORTH). Miss Carey--Gerald's Pamela.

PAMELA. I've heard so much about you, Mr. Wentworth.

WENTWORTH. And I've heard so much about you, Miss Carey.

PAMELA. That's nice. Then we can start straight off as friends.

LETTY. I suppose you know Tommy did the eighth in one?

PAMELA. Rather. It's splendid!

LETTY. _Do_ say you haven't told Bob.

GERALD. Why shouldn't Bob know?

PAMELA. No, I haven't told him, Letty.

LETTY. Good, then Tommy can tell him.

TOMMY. They do pull my leg, don't they, Miss Farringdon?

[Enter BOB from the outer hall in a blue flannel suit. He has spoilt any
chance he had of being considered handsome by a sullen expression now
habitual. Two years older than Gerald, he is not so tall, but bigger,
and altogether less graceful. He has got in the way of talking in rather
a surly voice, as if he suspected that any interest taken in him was
merely a polite one.]

GERALD. Hullo, Bob; good man.

BOB. Hullo. (He goes up to LADY FARRINGDON and kisses her.) How are you,

LADY FARRINGDON. It's so nice that you could get away, dear.

BOB. How are you, father? All right?

SIR JAMES. Ah, Bob! Come down to see your brother play for the county?

PAMELA (quickly). He's come down to see _me_, haven't you, Bob?

BOB. Hullo, Wentworth. Hullo, Letty. I say, I can't shake hands with you
all. (He smacks TOMMY on the back and goes over to Miss FARRINGDON.) How
are you, dear?

MISS FARRINGDON. Very glad to see my elder great-nephew. I was getting
tired of Gerald.

LADY FARRINGDON (protesting). Aunt Harriet, dear.

GERALD (smiling). It's all right, mother. We quite understand each

MISS FARRINGDON. I quite understand Gerald.

BOB. I say, aren't we going to have any tea?

LADY FARRINGDON. It's early yet, dear. Gerald, you'd like to have it
outside, wouldn't you?

GERALD. Oh, rather. What do you say, Wentworth?

WENTWORTH. I never want to be indoors in the country if I can help it.

SIR JAMES. Quite right, Wentworth--quite right. Gerald, you'll just have
time to take Wentworth round the stables before tea.

GERALD. You'll have to see them officially after church to-morrow. I
don't know if you'd care about a private view now.

SIR JAMES. He must see your new mare. I should like to have his opinion
of her.

WENTWORTH (getting up). I never know what to say to a mare, but I should
like to come.

LETTY. She answers to "Hi!" or to any loud cry.

PAMELA. I'm sure you'll be all right, Mr. Wentworth.

GERALD. There's a way of putting one's head on one side and saying,
"Ah!" Anybody who's seen Tommy at the Royal Academy will know exactly
what I mean.

(GERALD, PAMELA and WENTWORTH move towards the door.)

WENTWORTH (to PAMELA). Ought I to have a straw in my mouth?

GERALD. It's all right, we'll go and see the spaniels first.

WENTWORTH (cheerfully). Oh, I'm all right with dogs.

LETTY (to TOMMY). Come on, Tommy. [They go out behind the others.]

LADY FARRINGDON. Would you like to have tea outside, Aunt Harriet?

MISS FARRINGDON. I'm not too old for that, Mary. Bob will bring me out.
I want to have a word with him while I can. Everybody talks at once in
this house.

SIR JAMES (picking up his hat). How's the City--hey?

BOB. Just as usual.

SIR JAMES. Coming round to the stables?

ROB. Later on, perhaps.

LADY FARRINGDON. Bob is bringing Aunt Harriet along, dear.

SIR JAMES. Ah, yes. [They go out together.]

MISS FARRINGDON. Smoke, Bob, and tell me how horrible the City is.

BOB (lighting a pipe and sitting down). It's damnable, Aunt Harriet.

MISS FARRINGDON. More damnable than usual?

BOB. Yes.

MISS FARRINGDON. Any particular reason why?

BOB (after a long pause). No.

(MISS FARRINGDON nods to herself and then speaks very casually.)

MISS FARRINGDON. My bankers sent in my pass-book the other day. I seem
to have a deal of money lying idle, as they call it. If anybody wanted
it, I should really be in no hurry to get it back again.

BOB (awkwardly). Thanks very much. It isn't that. (After a pause) Not

MISS FARRINGDON. It was a great pity you ever went into the City, Bob.

BOB (fiercely). I could have told anybody that.

MISS FARRINGDON (after waiting for him to say something more). Well,
suppose we go into the garden with the others. (She begins to get up and
he goes to help her,) There's nothing you want to tell me, Bob?

BOB (looking away). What would there be?

MISS FARRINGDON. I'm a wise old woman, they say, and I don't talk.

BOB. I don't think you can help me. Er--thanks very much.

MISS FARRINGDON (quite naturally, as she turns towards the door). If you
don't mind giving me your arm.

(As they get to the door they are met by GERALD and PAMELA coming in.)

GERALD. Hullo, Bob, we were just coming back for you.

MISS FARRINGDON. Thoughtful Gerald.

GERALD. Pamela's idea. She thought that the elder members of the family
could discuss life more freely unhampered by the younger generation.

PAMELA. What I really said was, "Where's Bob?"

GERALD. Well, it's the same thing.

MISS FARRINGDON. Bob is looking after me, thank you very much. [They go
out together.]

GERALD (after watching them go, to PAMELA). Stay here a bit. There are
too many people and dogs and things outside. Come and sit on the sofa
and I'll tell you all the news. (He takes her hand and they go to the
sofa together.) What ages you've been away!

PAMELA. An hour and a half. And it need not have been that if you'd come
with me.

GERALD (taking her hand). If I had come with you, I would have held your
hand all the way.

PAMELA. I shouldn't have minded.

GERALD. But just think what would have happened: You would have had
to have driven with one hand down all the hills; we should have had
a smash-up before we got halfway; a well-known society beauty and a
promising young gentleman in the Foreign Office would have been
maimed for life; and Bob would have to have walked here carrying his
portmanteau. Besides, I love you going away from me when you come back.
You've only got to come into the room, and the sun seems to shine.

PAMELA. The sun always shines on Gerald.

GERALD. Does it? That's a different sort of sunshine. Not the gentle
caressing September afternoon sunshine which you wear all round you.
(She is looking at him lovingly and happily as he says this, but she
withdraws into herself quickly as he pulls himself up and says with
a sudden change of tone) Dear me, I'm getting quite poetical, and two
minutes ago I was talking to Wentworth about fetlocks.

PAMELA (getting up). Oh, Gerald, Gerald!

GERALD (getting up and smiling at her). Oh, Pamela, Pamela!

PAMELA. I wonder how much you really want me.

GERALD. I'll show you when we're married. I don't think I could even
begin to tell you now.

PAMELA (wistfully). Couldn't you try?

(GERALD catches hold of her suddenly, and holding her tightly to him,
kisses her again and again.)

GERALD. There!

PAMELA (releasing herself). Oh, Gerald, my darling, you frighten me

GERALD. Did I frighten you then?

PAMELA (happily). Oh, no, no, no, no! (Earnestly) Always want me very
much, Gerald. Always be in need of me. Don't be too successful without
me. However much the sun shines on you, let me make it gentler and more
caressing for you.

GERALD. It is so, darling. Didn't I say so?

PAMELA. Ah, but I want such a lot of telling.

GERALD (laughing happily as he goes over to the table by the fireplace
and takes a cigarette). Who was the fellow who threw something into
the sea because he was frightened by his own luck? What shall I throw?
(Looking at a presentation clock on the mantelpiece) That's rather
asking for it. In a way it would be killing two birds with one stone.
Oh, Lord, I am lucky!

PAMELA (coming to him and taking his arm). As long as you don't throw

GERALD. Pamela, you're talking rubbish. I talk a good deal myself, but I
do keep within the bounds. Let's go and chatter to Bob about contangos.
I don't know what they are, but they sound extraordinarily sober.

PAMELA (gently). Poor old Bob!

GERALD (quickly). Why _poor_ old Bob?

PAMELA. He's worried about something. I tried to get him to tell me as
we came from the station, but he wouldn't.

GERALD. Poor old Bob! I suppose things are going up--or down, or
something. Brokerage one-eighth--that's what's worrying him, I expect.

PAMELA. I think he wants to talk to you about it. Be nice to him,
darling, won't you?

GERALD (surprised). Nice to him?

PAMELA. You know what I mean--sympathetic. I know it's a difficult

GERALD. All relationships are difficult. But after you, he's the person
I love best in the world. (With a laugh) But I don't propose to fall on
his neck and tell him so.

PAMELA (smiling). I know you will help him if you can.

GERALD. Of course I will, though I don't quite see how. (Hopefully)
Perhaps he's only slicing his drives again.

PAMELA. Oh, I love you, Gerald. (Wonderingly) _Do_ I love you, or am I
only just charmed by you?

GERALD. You said you loved me once. You can't go back on that.

PAMELA. Then I love you. And make a century for me on Monday.

GERALD. Well, I'll try. Of course the bowler may be in love too. But
even if I get out first ball, I can say, "Well, anyhow, Pamela loves

PAMELA. Oh, I think I hope you get out first ball.

GERALD. Baby Pamela.

PAMELA. And on Thursday we shall be alone together here, and you've
promised to take me out in the boat for the day.

GERALD. You mean you've promised to let me.

PAMELA. What happy days there are in the world!

[Enter BOB from the garden.]

GERALD. Hullo, Bob. Tea? (He moves towards the door.)

BOB. Cigarettes. (He goes over to the fireplace and fills his cigarette

GERALD. Still, I expect tea's nearly ready.

PAMELA (going towards door R. at the back). I'll join you; I'm not going
out without a sunshade again. [Exit.]

(There is an awkward silence.)

BOB (to GERALD). I say!

GERALD (turning round). Hullo!

BOB. Just wait a moment.

(GERALD comes back slowly.)

GERALD. I warn you those are rotten cigarettes. (Holds out his own case)

BOB (taking one). Thanks. (Awkwardly) You're so confoundedly difficult
to get hold of nowadays. Never less than half-a-dozen all round you.

GERALD (laughing). Good old Bob!

BOB (after lighting a cigarette). I want to talk to you about something.

GERALD. Well, of course.

BOB (after a pause). You've heard of Marcus, my partner?

GERALD (with the idea of putting himself and BOB more at their ease).
Good old Marcus and Farringdon! It's the most perfect name for a firm.
They sound so exactly as though they could sell you anything from a
share to a shaving-brush. Marcus and Farringdon's pure badger, two
shillings--gilt-edged badger half-a-crown.

BOB (fiercely). I suppose everything is just a pleasant joke to you.

GERALD (utterly surprised). Bob! Bob, old boy, what's the matter?
(Putting his hand on BOB'S shoulder) I say, Bob, I haven't hurt you,
have I?

BOB (hopelessly). Oh, Jerry, I believe I'm in the devil of a hole.

GERALD. You haven't called me "Jerry" since we were at school.

BOB. You got me out of holes then--damn you! and you were my younger
brother. Oh, Jerry, get me out of this one.

GERALD. But, of course. (Firmly, as if a little nervous of a scene from
BOB) My dear Bob, you're as right as anything. You've got nothing on
earth to worry about. At the worst it's only a question of money, and we
can always put that right somehow.

BOB. I'm not sure that it is only a question of money.

GERALD (frightened). What do you mean? (Turning away with a laugh)
You're talking nonsense.

BOB. Gerald, Marcus is a wrong un. (Fiercely) An out-and-out wrong un.

GERALD. The only time I saw him he looked like it.

BOB. God knows what he's let me in for.

GERALD. You mean money?

BOB. More than that, perhaps.

GERALD. You mean you're just going bankrupt?

BOB. No. (After a pause) Prosecution.

GERALD. Well, let them prosecute. That ends Marcus. You're well rid of

BOB (miserably). Perhaps it isn't only Marcus.

GERALD (sharply, after this has sunk in). What can they prosecute you

BOB (speaking rapidly). What the devil did they ever send me to the City
for? I didn't want to go. I was never any good at figures. I loathe
the whole thing. What the devil did they want to send me there for--and
shove me on to a wrong un like Marcus? That's his life, messing about
with money in the City. How can I stand out against a man like that? I
never wanted to go into it at all.

GERALD (holding out his cigarette-case). Have another cigarette? (They
each light one, and GERALD sits down in the chair opposite to him.)
Let's look at it calmly. You've done nothing dishonourable, I know that.
That's obvious.

BOB. You see, Jerry, I'm so hopeless at that sort of business.
Naturally I got in the way of leaving things to Marcus. But that's all.
(Resentfully) Of course, that's all.

GERALD. Good. Well, then, you're making much too much fuss about it.
My dear boy, innocent people don't get put into prison nowadays. You've
been reading detective stories. "The Stain on the Bath Mat," or "The
Crimson Sponge." Good Lord! I shall be coming to _you_ next and saying
that _I'm_ going to be put in prison for selling secret documents to a
foreign country. These things don't happen; they don't really, old boy.

BOB (cheered, but not convinced). I don't know; it looks devilish bad,
what I can make of it.

GERALD. Well, let's see what I can make of it.

BOB (trying not to show his eagerness). I was wondering if you would.
Come up on Monday and we'll have a go at it together. Marcus has gone,
of course. Probably halfway to South America by now. (Bitterly) Or
wherever you go to.

GERALD. Right-o! At least, I can't come on Monday, of course, but we'll
have a go at it on Thursday.

BOB. Why can't you come on Monday?

GERALD. Well, the Surrey match.

BOB (bitterly). I suppose as long as you beat Surrey, it doesn't matter
if I go to prison.

GERALD (annoyed). Oh, shut up about going to prison! There's not the
slightest chance of your going to prison. You know perfectly well, if
there were, that I'd walk on my hands and knees to London to-night to
try and stop it. As it is, I have promised to play for the county; it's
a particularly important match, and I don't think it's fair to let them
down. Anyway, if I did, the whole family would want to know why, and I
don't suppose you want to tell them that yet.

BOB (mumbling). You could say the Foreign Office had rung you up.

GERALD (earnestly). Really, Bob old boy, I'm sure you're making too much
of it. Dammit! you've done nothing wrong; what is there to worry about?
And if it's only a question of money, we'll manage it on our heads,
somehow. I'll come up directly the match is over. It may be Tuesday
night, with luck.

BOB (grumbling). If the weather's like this, it's bound to last three

GERALD. Then at the worst, I'll come first train Thursday morning. That
I promise. Anyway, why don't you consult Wentworth? He's a good chap and
he knows all about the law. He could probably help you much more than I

BOB. I suppose you think I _like_ talking about it to everybody.

GERALD (getting up and touching BOB gently on the shoulder as he goes
past him). Poor old Bob! But you're as right as anything. I'll come up
by the first train on Thursday and we'll--good Lord!

BOB. What's the matter now?

GERALD. I am a damned fool! Why, of course, we arranged--

BOB (sneeringly). And now you can't come on Thursday, I suppose.

GERALD. Why, you see, I arranged--

BOB. You _must_ keep your promise to the county, but you needn't keep
your promise to me.

GERALD. Yes, but the trouble is I promised Pamela--oh, well, that will
have to go; she'll understand. All right, Bob, that holds. Directly the
match is over I come. And for the Lord's sake, keep smiling till then.

BOB. It's all very well for _you_.... I wish you could have--well,
anyhow, I suppose Thursday's better than nothing. You'll see just how it
is then. (Getting up) You won't say anything about it to the others?

GERALD. Of course not. What about Pamela? Does she know anything?

BOB. She knows that I'm worried about something, but of course she
doesn't know what I've told you.

GERALD. All right, then I won't tell her anything. At least, I'll just
say that bananas remain firm at 127, and that I've got to go and see my
broker about it. (Smiling) Something like that.

(BOB goes towards the garden, while GERALD stops to wait for PAMELA. At
the door he turns round.)

BOB (awkwardly). Er--thanks. [Exit.]

(GERALD throws him a nod, as much as to say, "That's all right." He
stands looking after him, gives a little sigh, laughs and says to
himself, "Poor old Bob!" He is half-sitting on, half-leaning against the
table, thinking it all over, when PAMELA comes in again.)

PAMELA. I waited for him to go; I knew he wanted to talk to you about
something. Gerald, he is all right, isn't he?

GERALD (taking her hands). Who? Bob? Oh yes, he's all right. So is


GERALD. Oh yes, he's all right.

PAMELA. I take rather a motherly interest in Bob, you know. What was
worrying him?

GERALD (smiling). His arithmetic again; compound interest. His masters
are very pleased with his progress in English. And he wants more
pocket-money. He says that fourpence a week doesn't give him enough

PAMELA (smiling). But he really is all right?

GERALD. Well, I've got to go up on Thursday to see his House Master--I
mean I've got to go up to town on Thursday.

PAMELA (drawing back). Thursday? That was _our_ day, Gerald.

GERALD. Yes, I know; it's a confounded nuisance.

PAMELA (slowly). Yes, it is rather a--nuisance.

GERALD. I'm awfully sorry, darling. I hate it just as much as you do.

PAMELA. I wonder if you do.

GERALD (shaking his head at her). Oh, woman, woman! And you asked me to
be kind to Bob.

PAMELA. It is for Bob? He really does want you?

GERALD. He thinks I can help him if I go up on Thursday. (Smiling) We
aren't going to quarrel about that.

PAMELA (holding out her hand to him). Come along. Of course we aren't
going to quarrel--I don't think I could quarrel with you for more than
five minutes. Only--you make me wonder sometimes.

GERALD (getting up and taking her arm). What do you wonder about?

PAMELA. Oh--things.

[They go out into the garden together.]


[It is a quiet old-fashioned hotel which SIR JAMES and LADY FARRINGDON
patronize in Dover Street on their occasional visits to London. Their
private sitting-room is furnished in heavy early Victorian style. A
couple of gloomy palms help to decorate the room, on whose walls are
engravings of Landseer's masterpieces.]

[MASON, a faithful kindly body, once nurse, now familiar servant, is at
the table arranging flowers, in a gallant attempt to make the room more
cheerful. As she fills each vase she takes it to its place, steps back
to consider the effect, and returns to fill the next one. GERALD, in
London clothes as attractive as ever, but looking none rather serious,
discovers her at work.]

GERALD. Hullo, Nanny, when did you come?

MASON. This morning, sir. Her ladyship telegraphed for me.

GERALD (smiling affectionately at her). Whenever there's any trouble
about, we send for Nanny. I wonder she ever came to London without you.

MASON. I told her I'd better come, but she wouldn't listen to me. Dear,
dear! there _is_ trouble about now Master Gerald.


MASON. I thought a few flowers would cheer us up. I said to Mr.
Underhill before I started, "Give me some flowers to take with me," I
said, "so that I can make the place look more homey and comfortable for
her ladyship."

GERALD. And you have. No one like Nanny for that.

MASON (timidly). Is there any news of Master Bob this morning? Of
course, we've all been reading about it in the papers. They're not going
to send him to prison?

GERALD. I'm afraid they are.

MASON. Dear, dear! (She goes on arranging the flowers.) He's not in
prison now?

GERALD. No; he's on bail for the moment. Perhaps he'll be round here for
lunch. But I'm afraid that to-night--

MASON. Even as a baby he was never quite like you, Master Gerald. Never
was there such a little lamb as you. How long will they send him to
prison for?

GERALD. We don't know yet; I expect we shall know this evening. But
there's no doubt which way the case is going.

MASON. Two of the men were making their bets about it over the
supper-table last night. I didn't wait long before giving them a piece
of my mind, I can promise you.

GERALD (turning round sharply). Who were they? Out they go to-morrow.

MASON. That wouldn't be quite fair, would it, sir? They're young and
thoughtless like.

GERALD (to himself rather than to her). After all, it's only what
everybody else has been doing.

MASON. It wouldn't be anything very bad that Master Bob has done?

GERALD (emphatically). No, Nanny. No. Nothing bad; only--stupid.

MASON. I didn't know they put you in prison for being stupid. Some of us
have been lucky.

GERALD. They can put you in prison for everything Nanny--being stupid or
being wise, being bad or being good, being poor or--yes, or being rich.

MASON (putting her last touches to the flowers). There! Now it looks
much more like what her ladyship's used to. If you aren't sent to prison
for being bad, it doesn't seem to matter so much.

GERALD. Well--it isn't nice, you know.

MASON. There's lots of things that aren't nice in the world. They
haven't come _your_ way yet, and I only hope they never will.

GERALD. I wish they hadn't come Bob's way.

MASON. Ah, Master Bob was born to meet them. Well, I'll go up to her
ladyship now.

GERALD. Oh, are they back?

MASON. Sir James and her ladyship came back from the police-station--

GERALD. The Old Bailey, Nanny.

MASON. They came back about ten minutes ago, Master Gerald. And went up
to their rooms.

GERALD. Tell mother I'm here, will you?

MASON. Yes, Sir.

(She goes out and comes back almost at once with PAMELA.)

MASON. Here's Miss Pamela. (To PAMELA) I was just saying that her
ladyship will be down directly.

GERALD (smiling). Not too directly now, Nanny.

MASON. No, Master Gerald. [Exit.]

GERALD. Pamela! Have you just come up?

PAMELA. Mother and I are staying with Aunt Judith. Oh, Gerald! Poor,
poor Bob!

GERALD. Have you seen him?

PAMELA. He came down to us last week, and he has been writing the most
heart-rending letters.

GERALD. You're a dear to be so good to him.

PAMELA. How can one help it? Oh, Gerald, he _has_ been stupid! How he
could have gone on as he did, hating it all, understanding nothing, but
feeling all the time that things were wrong, and yet too proud or too
obstinate to ask for help--hadn't you any idea, _any_ of you?

GERALD (awkwardly). You never could get him to talk about the City at
all. If you asked him, he changed the subject.

PAMELA (reproachfully). Ah! but how did you ask him? Lightly? Jokingly?
"Hullo, Rothschild, how's the City getting on?" That sort of way. You
didn't really mind.

GERALD (smiling). Well, if it comes to that, he didn't much mind how I
was getting on at the Foreign Office. He never even said, "Hullo, Grey,
how are Balkans?"

PAMELA. You had plenty of people to say that; Bob was different. I
think I was the first person he really talked to about himself. That was
before I met you. I begged him then to get out of it--little knowing. I
wonder if it would have made any difference if you had gone up with him
on--Oh, well, it doesn't matter now.

GERALD (defensively). What were you going to say?

PAMELA. Nothing. (Looking at him thoughtfully) Poor Gerald! it's been
bad for you too.

GERALD. You're not making it better by suggesting that I've let Bob down
in some way--I don't quite know how.

PAMELA (in distress). Oh, Gerald, don't be angry with me--I don't want
to hurt you. But I can only think of Bob now. You're so--you want so
little; Bob wants so much. Why doesn't he come? I sent a note round
to his rooms to say that I'd be here. Doesn't he have lunch here? Oh,
Gerald, suppose the case is over, and they've taken him to prison, and
I've never said good-bye to him. He said it wouldn't be over till this
evening, but how would he know? Oh, I can't bear it if they've taken him
away, and his only friend never said good-bye to him.

GERALD. Pamela, Pamela, don't be so silly. It's all right, dear; of
course I'm not angry with you. And of course Bob will be here. I rang up
Wentworth an hour ago, and he said the case can't end till this evening.

PAMELA (recovering). Sorry, Gerald, I'm being rather a fool.

GERALD (taking her hands). You're being--(There is a knock at the door,
and he turns round impatiently) Oh, what is it?

[Enter MASON.]

MASON (handing note). There's a telephone message been waiting for you,
sir. And her ladyship will be down directly.

GERALD. Thank you, Nanny. [Exit MASON.] (To PAMELA) May I? (He reads it)
Oh, I say, this is rather--this is from Wentworth. He's taken Bob round
to lunch with him.

PAMELA (going towards the door). I must go, Gerald. Mr. Wentworth won't

GERALD (stopping her). Look here, dear, it's going to be quite all
right. Wentworth rang up from his rooms; they're probably halfway
through lunch by now, and they'll be round in ten minutes.

PAMELA. Supposing he doesn't come? Supposing he didn't get my note? It
may be waiting for him in his rooms now.

GERALD. All right, then, darling, I'll ring him up.

PAMELA (determined). No. I'll do it. Yes, Gerald, I know how to manage
him. It isn't only that I must see him myself, but if--(bravely) if the
case is to be over this evening, and if what we fear is going to happen,
he must--oh, he must say good-bye to his mother too.

GERALD. Well, if that's all, I'll tell him.

PAMELA. He mightn't come for you. He will for me; No, Gerald; I mean it.
None of you understand him. I do.

GERALD. But supposing he's already started and you miss him?

PAMELA. I'll telephone to him at his rooms. Oh, _don't_ stand there

GERALD (opening the door for her). Oh, well! But I think you're--[She
has gone.]

(He walks up and down the room absently, picking up papers and putting
them down. MASON comes in and arranges the sofa R.)

MASON. Miss Pamela gone, Master Gerald?

GERALD. She's coming back.


LADY FARRINGDON. Oh, Gerald, I hoped you'd be here.

GERALD (kissing her). I've only just got away. I couldn't get round
to the court. (Seeing her to the sofa) You're all right, dear? [Exit

LADY FARRINGDON. Now you're here, Gerald. I telegraphed for Mason. She's
such a comfort. How nicely she's done the flowers! (She sits down on the

GERALD. I'm so glad you sent for her.

LADY FARRINGDON. I don't think your father--

[Enter SIR JAMES.]

SIR JAMES. Ah, Gerald, I had to take your mother out. She
was--ah--overcome. They have adjourned, I suppose?

GERALD. Yes. The judge is summing up directly after lunch. Bob will be
round here when he's had something to eat.

SIR JAMES (looking at his watch). Well, I suppose we ought to try and
eat something.

LADY FARRINGDON. I couldn't touch anything.

GERALD (going over to her). Poor mother!

LADY FARRINGDON. Oh, Gerald, couldn't _you_ do anything? I'm sure if
you'd gone into the witness-box, or told the judge--Oh, why didn't you
go to the Bar, and then you could have defended him. You would have been
so much better than that stupid man.

SIR JAMES. I must say I didn't at all like his tone. He's practically
making out my son to be an idiot.

GERALD. Well, it's really the only line he could take.

SIR JAMES. What do you mean? Bob is far from being an idiot.

LADY FARRINGDON. We always knew he wasn't as clever as Gerald, dear.

GERALD. You see, Bob either understood what was going on or he didn't.
If he did, then he's in it as much as Marcus. If he didn't--well, of
course we know that he didn't. But no doubt the jury will think that he
ought to have known.

SIR JAMES. The old story, a knave or a fool, eh?

GERALD. The folly was in sending him there.

SIR JAMES (angrily). That was Parkinson's fault. It was he who
recommended Marcus to me. I shall never speak to that man again. (To his
wife) Mary, if the Parkinsons call, you are out; remember that.

GERALD. He never ought to have gone into business at all. Why couldn't
you have had him taught farming or estate agency or something?

SIR JAMES. We've got to move with the times, my boy. Land is played out
as a living for gentlemen; they go into business nowadays. If he can't
get on there, it's his own fault. He went to Eton and Oxford; what more
does he want?

LADY FARRINGDON (to GERALD). You must remember he isn't clever like you,

GERALD. Oh, well, it's no good talking about it now. Poor old Bob!
Wentworth thinks--

SIR JAMES. Ah, now why couldn't Wentworth have defended him? That other
man--why, to begin with, I don't even call him a gentleman.

GERALD. Wentworth recommended him. But I wish he had gone to Wentworth
before, as soon as he knew what was coming.

SIR JAMES. Why didn't he come to _me_? Why didn't he come to _any_ of
us? Then we might have done something.

LADY FARRINGDON. Didn't he even tell _you_, Gerald?

GERALD (awkwardly). Only just at the last. It was--it was too late to do
anything then. It was the Saturday before he was--arrested. (To himself)
"The Saturday before Bob was arrested"--what a way to remember anything

LADY FARRINGDON (to GERALD). Bob is coming round, dear?

GERALD. Yes. Wentworth's looking after him. Pamela will be here too.

SIR JAMES. We haven't seen much of Pamela lately. What does _she_ think
about it?

GERALD (sharply). What do you mean?

SIR JAMES. The disgrace of it. I hope it's not going to affect your

GERALD. Disgrace? what disgrace?

SIR JAMES. Well, of course, he hasn't been found guilty yet.

GERALD. What's that got to do with it? What does it matter what a lot
of rotten jurymen think of him? _We_ know that he has done nothing

LADY FARRINGDON. I'm sure Pamela wouldn't think anything like that of
your brother, dear.

GERALD. Of course she wouldn't. She's been a perfect angel to Bob these
last few weeks. What does it matter if he does go to prison?

SIR JAMES. I suppose you think I shall enjoy telling my neighbours, when
they ask me what my elder boy is doing, that he's--ah--in prison.

GERALD. Of course you won't enjoy it, and I don't suppose Bob will enjoy
it either, but that's no reason why we should make it worse for him
by pretending that he's a disgrace to the family. (Half to himself) If
anything we've done has helped to send him to prison then it's we who
should be ashamed.

SIR JAMES. I don't profess to know anything about business, but I
flatter myself that I understand my fellow men. If I had been in Bob's
place, I should have pretty soon seen what that fellow Marcus was up
to. I don't want to be unfair to Bob; I don't think that any son of mine
would do a dishonourable action; but the Law is the Law, and if the Law
sends Bob to prison I can't help feeling the disgrace of it.

GERALD. Yes, it's rough on you and mother.

LADY FARRINGDON. I don't mind about myself, dear. It's you I feel so
sorry for--and Bob, of course.

GERALD. I don't see how it's going to affect _me_.

SIR JAMES. In the Foreign Office one has to be like Caesar's wife--above

GERALD. Yes, but in this case it's Caesar's brother-in-law's partner
who's the wrong un. I don't suppose Caesar was so particular about

LADY FARRINGDON. I don't see how Caesar comes into it at all.

SIR JAMES (kindly). I spoke in metaphors, dear.

[The door opens and WENTWORTH appears.]

GERALD. Come in, Wentworth. Where's Bob?

WENTWORTH. I dropped him at his rooms--a letter or something he wanted
to get. But he'll be here directly. (Nervously) How do you do, Lady
Farringdon? How do you do, Sir James?

SIR JAMES. Ah, Wentworth.

(There is an awkward silence and nobody seems to know what to say.)

WENTWORTH. Very hot this morning.

SIR JAMES. Very hot. Very.

(There is another awkward silence.)

WENTWORTH. This is quite a good hotel. My mother always stays here when
she's in London.

SIR JAMES. Ah, yes. We use it a good deal ourselves.

LADY FARRINGDON. How is Mrs. Wentworth?

WENTWORTH. She's been keeping very well this summer, thank you.


(There is another awkward silence.)

GERALD (impatiently). Oh, what's the good of pretending this is a formal
call, Wentworth? Tell us about Bob; how's he taking it?

WENTWORTH. He doesn't say much. He had lunch in my rooms--you got my
message. He couldn't bear the thought of being recognized by anyone, so
I had something sent up.

GERALD (realizing what it must feel like). Poor old Bob!

WENTWORTH. Lady Farringdon, I can't possibly tell you what I feel about
this, but I should like to say that all of us who know Bob know that he
couldn't do anything dishonourable. Whatever the result of the trial, we
shall feel just the same towards him.

(LADY FARRINGDON is hardly able to acknowledge this, and SIR JAMES goes
across to comfort her.)

SIR JAMES (helplessly). There, there, Mary.

GERALD (seizing his opportunity, to WENTWORTH). What'll he get?

WENTWORTH (quietly). Three months--six months. One can't be certain.

GERALD (cheering up). Thank the Lord! I imagined awful things.

SIR JAMES (his ministrations over). After all, he hasn't been found
guilty yet; eh, Wentworth?

WENTWORTH. Certainly, Sir James. With a jury there's always hope.

SIR JAMES. What do you think yourself?

WENTWORTH. I think he has been very foolish; whether the Law will call
it criminally foolish I should hardly like to say. I only wish I had
known about it before. He must have suspected something--didn't he say
anything to anybody?

SIR JAMES. He told Gerald, apparently. For some reason he preferred to
keep his father in the dark.

GERALD (eagerly). That was the day you came down to us, Wentworth; five
days before he was arrested. I asked him to tell you, but he wouldn't.

WENTWORTH. Oh, it was too late then. Marcus had absconded by that time.

GERALD (earnestly). Nobody could have helped him then, could they?


GERALD (to himself). Thank God.

SIR JAMES (to LADY FARRINGDON as he looks at his watch). Well, dear, I
really think you ought to try to eat something.

LADY FARRINGDON. I couldn't, James. (Getting up) But you must have
_your_ lunch.

SIR JAMES. Well, one oughtn't to neglect one's health, of course. But
I insist on your having a glass of claret anyhow, Mary. What about you,

GERALD. I'm all right. I'll wait for Bob. I've had something.

LADY FARRINGDON. You won't let Bob go without seeing us?

GERALD. Of course not, dear.

(He goes with them to the door and sees them out.)

GERALD (coming back to WENTWORTH). Three months. By Jove! that's

WENTWORTH. It's long enough for a man with a grievance. It gives him
plenty of time to brood about it.

GERALD (anxiously). Who has Bob got a grievance against particularly?

WENTWORTH. The world.

GERALD (relieved). Ah! Still, three months, Wentworth. I could do it on
my head.

WENTWORTH. You're not Bob. Bob will do it on his heart.

GERALD. We must buck him up, Wentworth. If he takes it the right way,
it's nothing. I had awful thoughts of five years.

WENTWORTH. I'm not the judge, you know. It may be six months.

GERALD. Of course. How does he decide? Tosses up for it? Three months or
six months or six years, it's all the same to him, and there's the poor
devil in the dock praying his soul out that he'll hit on the shortest
one. Good Lord! I'm glad I'm not a judge.

WENTWORTH (drily). Yes; that isn't quite the way the Law works.

GERALD. Oh, I'm not blaming the Law. (Smiling) Stick to it, Wentworth,
by all means. But I should make a bad judge. I should believe everything
the prisoner said, and just tell him not to do it again.

[BOB comes in awkwardly and stops at the door.]

WENTWORTH (getting up). Come along, Bob. (Taking out his case) Have a

BOB (gruffly). No, thanks. (He takes out his pipe.)

GERALD (brightly but awkwardly). Hullo, Bob, old boy.

BOB. Where's Pamela? She said she'd be here. (He sits down in the large

GERALD. If she said she'd be here, she will be here.

BOB (with a grunt). 'M! (There is an awkward silence.)

BOB (angrily to GERALD). Why don't you say something? You came here to
say good-bye to me, I suppose--why don't you say it?

WENTWORTH. Steady, Bob.

GERALD (eagerly). Look here, Bob, old son, you mustn't take it too
hardly. Wentworth thinks it will only be three months--don't you,
Wentworth? You know, we none of us think any the worse of you for it.

BOB. Thanks. That will console me a lot in prison.

GERALD. Oh, Bob, don't be an old fool. You know what I mean. You have
done nothing to be ashamed of, so what's the good of brooding in prison,
and grousing about your bad luck, and all that sort of thing? If you had
three months in bed with a broken leg, you'd try and get some sort of
satisfaction out of it--well, so you can now if you try.

WENTWORTH (after waiting for BOB to say something). There's a good deal
in that, Bob, you know. Prison is largely what you make it.

BOB. What do either of you know about it?

GERALD. Everything. The man with imagination knows the best and the
worst of everything.

BOB (fiercely). Imagination? You think _I_ haven't imagined it?

GERALD. Wentworth's right. You can make what you like of it. You can be
miserable anywhere, if you let yourself be. You can be happy anywhere,
if you try to be.

WENTWORTH (to lead him on). I can't quite see myself being actually
happy in prison, Gerald.

GERALD. I could, Wentworth, I swear I could.

BOB. He'd get popular with the warders; he'd love that.

GERALD (smiling). Silly old ass! But there are lots of things one can do
in prison, only no one ever seems to think of them. (He gets interested
and begins to walk up and down the room.) Now take this solitary
confinement there's so much fuss about. If you look at it the right way,
there's nothing in it at all.

WENTWORTH. A bit boring, perhaps.

GERALD. Boring? Nonsense. You're allowed one book a week from the prison
library, aren't you?

WENTWORTH. You know, you mustn't think that, because I'm a barrister, I
know all about the inside of a prison.

GERALD. Well, suppose you are allowed one, and you choose a French
dictionary, and try to learn it off by heart before you come out. Why,
it's the chance of a lifetime to learn French.

WENTWORTH. Well, of course, if you _could_ get a French dictionary--

GERALD. Well, there'd be _some_ book there anyway. If it's a Bible, read
it. When you've read it, count the letters in it; have little bets with
yourself as to which man's name is mentioned most times in it; put
your money on Moses and see if you win. Anything like that. If it's a
hymn-book, count how many of the rhymes rhyme and how many don't; try
and make them _all_ rhyme. Learn 'em by heart; I don't say that that
would be particularly useful to you in the business world afterwards,
but it would be amusing to see how quickly you could do it, how many you
could keep in your head at the same time.

WENTWORTH. This is too intellectual for me; my brain would go in no

GERALD. You aren't doing it all day, of course; there are other things.
Physical training. Swedish exercises. Tell yourself that you'll be able
to push up fifty times from the ground before you come out. Learn to
walk on your hands. Practise cart-wheels, if you like. Gad! you could
come out a Hercules.

WENTWORTH. I can't help feeling that the strain of improving myself so
enormously would tell on me.

GERALD. Oh, you'd have your games and so on to keep you bright and

WENTWORTH (sarcastically). Golf and cricket, I suppose?

GERALD. Golf, of course; I'm doubtful about cricket. You must have
another one for cricket, and I'm afraid the warder wouldn't play. But
golf, and squash rackets, and bowls, and billiards--and croquet--

WENTWORTH (in despair). Oh, _go_ on!

GERALD. Really, you're hopeless. What the Swiss Family Wentworth would
have done if they'd ever been shipwrecked, I can't think. Don't you
_ever_ invent _any_thing for yourself? (Excitedly) Man alive! you've
got a hymn-book and a piece of soap, what more do you want? You can
play anything with that. (Thoughtfully) Oh, I forgot the Olympic games.
Standing long jump. And they talk about the boredom of it!

WENTWORTH (thoughtfully). You've got your ideas, Gerald. I wonder if
you'd act up to them.

GERALD. One never knows, but honestly I think so. (There is silence for
a little.)

BOB. Is that all?

GERALD. Oh, Bob, I know it's easy for me to talk--

BOB. I wonder you didn't say at once: "Try not to think about it."
You're always helpful.

GERALD. You're a little difficult to help, you know Bob. (Awkwardly)
I thought I might just give you an idea. If I only could help you, you
know how--

BOB (doggedly). I asked you to help me once.

GERALD (distressed). Oh, I didn't realize then--besides, Wentworth says
it would have been much too late--didn't you, Wentworth?

WENTWORTH (taking up his hat). I think I must be getting along now.
(Holding out his hand) Good-bye, Bob. I can only say, "The best of
luck," and--er--whatever happens, you know what I feel about it.

BOB (shaking his hand). Good-bye, Wentworth, and thanks very much for
all you've done for me.

WENTWORTH (hurriedly). That's all right. (TO GERALD, quietly, as he
passes him on the way to the door) You must bear with him, Gerald.
Naturally he's--(Nodding) Good-bye. [He goes out.]

GERALD (going back to BOB). Bob--

BOB. Why doesn't Pamela come? I want Pamela.

GERALD (speaking quickly). Look here, think what you like of me for the
moment. But you must listen to what I've got to say. You can imagine
it's somebody else speaking Pamela, if you like--Pamela would say just
the same. You _must not_ go to prison and spend your time there brooding
over the wrongs people have done to you, and the way the world has
treated you, and all that sort of thing. You simply must make an
effort--and--and--well, come out as good a man as you went in. I know
it's easy for me to talk, but that doesn't make it any the less true.
Oh, Bob, be a--be a Sportsman about it! You can take it out of me
afterwards, if you like, but don't take it out of me now by--by not
bucking up just because I suggest it.

BOB. I want Pamela. Why doesn't she come?

(PAMELA has come in while he is saying this.)

PAMELA. Here I am, Bob.

BOB (getting up). At last! I began to be afraid you were never coming.

PAMELA. You couldn't think that. I told you I was coming.

GERALD. Look here, Pamela, we've got to cheer old Bob up.

BOB (almost shouting). Good Lord! can't you see that I don't want _you_?
I want Pamela alone.

PAMELA (putting her hand on GERALD'S shoulder). Gerald, dear, you
mustn't be angry with Bob now. Let me be alone with him.

GERALD (with a shrug). All right. Poor old Bob! (He goes over to his
brother and holds out his hand.) Good-bye, old boy, and--good luck.

BOB (coldly). Good-bye.

GERALD. Shake hands, Bob.

BOB. No. I've been nothing to you all your life. You could have saved me
from this, and you wouldn't help me.

GERALD (angrily). Don't talk such rot!

PAMELA (coming between them). Gerald, dear, you'd better go. Bob won't
always feel like this towards you, but just now--

GERALD (indignantly). Pamela, you don't believe this about me?

PAMELA. I can't think of you, dear, now; I can only think of Bob.
[GERALD gives a shrug and goes out.]

BOB. Pamela.

PAMELA (coming to him). Yes, dear?

BOB. Come and sit near me. You're the only friend I've got in the world.

PAMELA. You know that isn't true.

(She sits down in the armchair and he sits on the floor at her feet.)

BOB. If it hadn't been for you, I should have shot myself long ago.

PAMELA. That would have been rather cowardly, wouldn't it?

BOB. I am a coward. There's something about the Law that makes people
cowards. It's so--what's the word? It goes on. You can't stop it, you
can't explain to it, you can't even speak to it.

PAMELA. But you can stand up to it. You needn't run away from it.

BOB. I think I would have broken my bail and run, if it hadn't been
for you. But you would have thought less of me if I had. Besides, I
shouldn't have seen you again.

PAMELA. Bob, you mustn't just do, or not do, things for _me_; you must
do them because of yourself. You must be brave because it's you, and
honourable because it's you, and cheerful because it's you. You mustn't
just say, "I won't let Pamela down." You must say, "I won't let myself
down." You must be proud of yourself.

BOB (bitterly). I've been taught to be proud of myself, haven't I? Proud
of myself! What's the family creed? "I believe in Gerald. I believe in
Gerald the Brother. I believe in Gerald the Son. I believe in Gerald
the Nephew. I believe in Gerald the Friend, the Lover, Gerald the Holy
Marvel." There may be brothers who don't mind that sort of thing, but
not when you're born jealous as I was. Do you think father or mother
cares a damn what happens to me? They're upset, of course, and they feel
the disgrace for themselves, but the belovèd Gerald is all right, and
that's all that really matters.

PAMELA. Bob, dear, forget about Gerald now. Don't think about him; think
about yourself.

BOB. I shan't think about myself or about Gerald when I'm in prison. I
shall only think of you.

PAMELA. Will it help you to think of me?

BOB. You're the only person in the world I've got to think of. I found
you first--and then Gerald took you from me. Just as he's always taken
everything from me.

PAMELA. No, no. Not about Gerald again. Let's get away from Gerald.

BOB. You can't. He's a devil to get away from. (There is silence for a
little.) When I was a small boy, I used to pray very hard on the last
day of the holidays for a telegram to come saying that the school had
been burnt down.... It never had.

PAMELA. Oh, Bob!

BOB. I suppose I've got about ten minutes more. But nothing will happen.

PAMELA (in a hopeless effort to be hopeful). Perhaps after all you

BOB. Why can't the world end suddenly now? It wouldn't matter to
anybody. They wouldn't know; they wouldn't have time to understand. (He
looks up and sees her face of distress and says) All right, Pamela, you
needn't worry. I'm going through with it all right.

PAMELA. You must keep thinking of the afterwards. Only of the
afterwards. The day when you come back to us.

BOB. Will that be such a very great day? (PAMELA is silent.) Triumphant
procession through the village. All the neighbours hurrying out to
welcome the young squire home. Great rush in the City to offer him

PAMELA (quietly). Do you want to go back to the City?

BOB. Good God, no!

PAMELA. Then why are you being sarcastic about it? Be honest with
yourself, Bob. You made a mess of the City. Oh, I know you weren't
suited to it, but men have had to do work they didn't like before now,
and they haven't _all_ made a mess of it. You're getting your punishment
now--much more than you deserve, and we're all sorry for you--but men
have been punished unfairly before now and they have stood it. You'll
have your chance when you come back; I'll stand by you for one, and
you've plenty of other friends; but we can't help a man who won't help
himself, you know.

Bon (sulkily). Thank you, Pamela.

PAMELA (shaking him). Bob, Bob, don't be such a baby. Oh, I want to
laugh at you, and yet my heart just aches for you. You're just a little
boy, Bob (with a sigh), on the last day of his holidays.

BOB (after a pause). Are you allowed to have letters in prison?

PAMELA. I expect so. Every now and then.

BOB. You will write to me?

PAMELA. Of course, dear; whenever I may.

BOB. I suppose some beast will read it. But you won't mind that, will

PAMELA. No, dear.

BOB. I'll write to you whenever they let me. That will be something to
look forward to. Will you meet me when I come out?

PAMELA (happily). Yes, Bob. So very gladly.

BOB. I'll let you know when it is. I expect I'll be owed to.

PAMELA. You must just think of that day all the time. Whenever you are
unhappy or depressed or angry, you must look forward to that day.

BOB. You'll let it be a fine day, won't you? What shall we do?

PAMELA (rather startled). What?

BOB. What shall we do directly after I come out?

PAMELA. Well, I suppose we--I mean you--well, we'll come up to London
together, I suppose, and you'll go to your old rooms. At least, if you
still have them.

BOB (instantly depressed again). My old rooms. That'll be lively.

PAMELA. Well, unless you'd rather--

BOB. I'm not going home, if that's what you mean. The prodigal son, and
Gerald falling on my neck.

PAMELA (stroking his head). Never mind Gerald, Baby. (He turns round
suddenly and seizes her hands.)

BOB (in a rush). Whatever happens, you mustn't desert me when I come
out. I want you. I've got to know you're there, waiting for me. I'm not
making love to you, you're engaged to somebody else, but you were my
friend before you were his, and you've got to go on being my friend. I
want you--I want you more than he does. I'm not making love to you; you
can marry him if you like, but you've got to stand by me. I want you.

PAMELA. Haven't I stood by you?

BOB (in a low voice). You've been an angel. (He kisses her hands and
then gets up and walks away from her; with his back to her, looking out
of the window, he says) When are you marrying him?

PAMELA (taken by surprise). I--I don't know, Bob. We _had_ thought
about--but, of course, things are different now. We haven't talked about
it lately.

BOB (casually). I wonder if you'd mind promising me something.

PAMELA. What is it?

BOB. Not to get married till after I come out. (After waiting for PAMELA
to speak) You will have about forty years together afterwards. It isn't
much to ask.

PAMELA. Why should it make a difference to you?

BOB. It would.

PAMELA. It isn't a thing I like making promises about. But I don't
suppose for a moment--Would it help you very much, Bob?

BOB (from the bottom of his heart). I don't want Gerald's wife to be
waiting for me when I come out; I want my friend.

PAMELA (standing up and facing him as he turns round towards her). All
right, Bob, she shall be there.

(They stand looking at each other intently for a moment. Voices are
heard outside, and SIR JAMES, LADY FARRINGDON, and GERALD come into the


[SCENE.--In the hall at SIR JAMES FARRINGDON'S again. It is autumn nom
and there is a fire burning.]

[LETTY and TOMMY are on the sofa side by side, holding hands, and
looking the picture of peaceful happiness. Indeed, TOMMY has his mouth
open slightly.]

LETTY. It's your turn to say something, Tommy.

TOMMY. Oh, I say.

LETTY. Now I suppose it's my turn.

TOMMY. I say, you know, I feel too idiotically happy to say anything. I
feel I want to talk poetry, or rot like that, only--only I don't quite
know how to put it.

LETTY (sympathetically). Never mind, darling.

TOMMY. I say, you do understand how frightfully--I say, what about
another kiss? (They have one.)

LETTY. Tommy, I just adore you. Only I think you might have been a
little more romantic about your proposal.

TOMMY (anxious). I say, do you--

LETTY. Yes. Strictly speaking, I don't think anybody ought to propose
with a niblick in his hand.

TOMMY. It just sort of came then. Of course I ought to have put it down.

LETTY. You dear!... "Letting his niblick go for a moment, Mr. T. Todd
went on as follows: 'Letitia, my beloved, many moons have waxed and
waned since first I cast eyes of love upon thee. An absence of ducats,
coupled with the necessity of getting my handicap down to ten, has
prevented my speaking ere this. Now at last I am free. My agèd uncle--'"

TOMMY (lovingly). I say, you do pull my leg. Go on doing it always,
won't you?

LETTY. Always, Tommy. We're going to have fun, always.

TOMMY. I'm awfully glad we got engaged down here.

LETTY. We've had lovely times here, haven't we?

TOMMY. I wonder what Gerald will say. A bit of a surprise for him. I
say, it would be rather fun if we had a double wedding. You and I, and
Gerald and Pamela.

LETTY (getting up in pretended indignation). Certainly not!

TOMMY (following her). I say, what's the matter?

LETTY (waving him back). Go away. Unhand me villain.

TOMMY. I say, what's up?

LETTY. I want a wedding of my own. I've never been married before, and
perhaps I shall never be married again, and I'm going to have a wedding
all to myself. I don't mind your being there, but I'm not going to have
crowds of other brides and bridegrooms taking up the whole aisle--said
she, seizing her engagement-ring and--Oh, bother! I haven't got one yet.

(TOMMY rushes up and takes her in his arms. At this moment GERALD comes
in by the garden door. He stops on seeing them, and then goes quickly on
to the door in front of the staircase.)

GERALD (as he passes them). Came in and went tactfully out again.

TOMMY (as LETTY frees herself). I say, Gerald, old man.

GERALD (stopping at the door, turning round and coming back in the same
business-like way). Returned hopefully.

TOMMY (in confusion). I say, we're engaged.

GERALD (looking at them happily). Oh, hoo-ray!

LETTY. Do say you're surprised.

GERALD. Awfully, awfully pleased, Letty. Of course, when I saw
you--er--thinking together in a corner--By Jove, I _am_ bucked. I did
hope so much.

LETTY. You dear!

GERALD. I feel very fatherly. Bless you, my children.

TOMMY. We shall have about tuppence a year, but Letty doesn't mind that.

GERALD (to LETTY). You'll have to make him work. (Thoughtfully) He's too
old for a caddy.

LETTY. Couldn't you find him something in the Foreign Office? He knows
the French for pen and ink.

TOMMY. What's ink?

LETTY. At least, he knows the French for pen.

GERALD. Oh, we'll find something. Only I warn you, Tommy, if you dare to
get married before Pamela and me, there'll be trouble.

TOMMY. Why don't we ever see Pamela now?

GERALD (gaily). She is coming, my children--_mes enfants_, as Tommy will
say when he gets his job as ribbon starcher to the French ambassador.
To-morrow, no less. I've just had a letter. Lord, I haven't seen her for

LETTY. She's come back?

GERALD. Yes. Egypt knows her no more. The Sphinx is inconsolable.
To-morrow at 3.30 she comes; I shall go and meet her.

TOMMY. I say, won't she be surprised about Letty and me!

GERALD. She'll be as bucked as I am. (Looking from one to the other) Has
anything else frightfully exciting happened to you since lunch? Because,
if not, I've got some more news.

LETTY. What is it? I love news.

GERALD. All ready? Then one, two, three: Bob is coming this afternoon.

LETTY and TOMMY together. No! Rot!

GERALD (Singing to the tune of "Here we go gathering nuts and may"). Oh,
Bob is coming this afternoon, this afternoon, this afternoon! Oh, Bob is
coming this afternoon, all on an autumn morning! Now then, all together.

(They join hands and march up the hall and back again, singing

ALL TOGETHER (waving imaginary hats). Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

TOMMY. It doesn't make sense, you know, coming back in the afternoon on
an autumn morning.

GERALD. Who cares for sense?

LETTY (squeezing his arm). Oh, Gerald, I _am_ glad. But I thought he had
another week or so.

GERALD. They always let you out early, you know, if you're good. We
knew he was coming soon, but we didn't quite know when. I've just had a

LETTY. Poor Bob! he must have had a time.

GERALD. What does it matter? It's over now.

TOMMY (struck by an idea). I say, this puts a bit of a stopper on our

GERALD (pulled up suddenly by this). Oh!

LETTY (going over and taking TOMMY'S arm). We'll go to a house where
they _do_ make a fuss of us, Tommy. (Very politely) Good-bye, Mr.
Farringdon, and thank you for a very pleasant Friday.

GERALD. Poor darlings! it's rather bad luck for you. Did I announce my
news too soon? I'm awfully sorry.

LETTY. It wasn't your fault; you were a dear.

GERALD. As a matter of fact, it will be rather lucky, you know. It will
give us something to talk about when Bob comes. (Smiling) Thanks very
much for arranging it.

LETTY. Poor old Bob! I wonder what it feels like coming out of prison.

GERALD. Rotten. Now, for the Lord's sake, Tommy, be tactful.

LETTY (to GERALD). I think he'd be safer if he wasn't. Tommy's rather
dangerous when he's tactful.

GERALD (thoughtfully). Yes, there _is_ that.

TOMMY. It's all the same to me. Only just let me know which you want.

GERALD. Well, as long as you don't overdo it. Don't rub it in that he's
just left prison, and--don't rub it out.

TOMMY. I suppose it would be quite safe to ask him to pass the mustard?

GERALD (laughing). Good old Tommy!

LETTY. You'd better talk to me all the time, and then you'll be all

GERALD. We'll make it go between us. And, of course, Pamela will help
to-morrow. Hooray for Pamela! It makes me quite envious seeing you young
people together. By the way, I interrupted you just now.

LETTY. You did rather.

GERALD. Well, I absolutely refuse to go away now. But, of course, if
you're longing to show each other the stables or anything--(with a wave
of the hand) pray show. Or try anywhere else. Save for Aunt Tabitha's
room upstairs and the hall down here, the whole house is at your

LETTY (sitting down firmly). Then I shall stay here. Isn't Aunt Mary
back yet?

GERALD. They are probably still eating. It's the very latest millionaire
from London, so they're having the lunch of their lives, I expect.
Afterwards father will put him at his ease by talking about crops.
(Picking up a book and settling himself comfortably in front of the
fire) Tommy, if you can't find a book, sing or something.

LETTY. Oh, come on, Tommy.

[She jumps up and goes out of the door in front of the staircase. TOMMY
following her.]

(Left alone, GERALD closes his book with a slam. He stands up and takes
the telegram out of his pocket and reads it again. He suddenly catches
sight of MISS FARRINGDON in the gallery shove, calls out "Hullo!" and
goes up the stairs to meet her.)

GERALD (as he goes). You're just the person I wanted, Aunt Tabitha. I'm
full of news. (He kisses her at the top of the stairs.) How are you,
dear? (He offers her his arm.)

MISS FARRINGDON. If I had wanted help, down the stairs, Gerald, my maid
could have given it me.

GERALD. Yes, but your maid wouldn't have enjoyed giving it you; I do.

MISS FARRINGDON. Charming Gerald. (She comes down the stairs on his

GERALD. No, happy Gerald.

MISS FARRINGDON. Is that part of the news?

GERALD. It's all because of the news.

(He arranges her in her chair by the fire and sits on the coffin-stool
near her.)

MISS FARRINGDON. I heard Mr. Todd and Letty just now, so I suppose I
shan't be the first to hear it. What a pity!

GERALD. Ah, but they don't count.


GERALD. Well, that's part of the news. They've just got engaged.

MISS FARRINGDON. In my young days they'd have been engaged a long time
ago. When are we going to see Pamela again?

GERALD. That's more of the news. She's coming down to-morrow.

MISS FARRINGDON. That will save you a lot in stamps.

GERALD (laughing). Aunt Tabitha, you're a witch. How did you know?


GERALD. That Pamela and I haven't been writing to each other.

MISS FARRINGDON (very innocently). Haven't you?

GERALD. No. You see--oh, I hate discussing Pamela with anyone, but
you're different.

MISS FARRINGDON. I always like that sort of compliment best, Gerald. The
unintended sort.

GERALD. I think, you know, Pamela felt that Bob's doing to prison might
make a difference. I don't mean that she didn't like the disgrace for
herself, but that she was afraid that I mightn't like it for her; and so
she went away, and beyond a letter or two at the start there hasn't been
a Pamela.

MISS FARRINGDON. But Gerald went on being successful?

GERALD. Oh, Aunt Tabitha, Aunt Tabitha, if ever I were going to be
conceited--and I don't think I am really--you'd soon stop it, wouldn't
you? I wonder if you _do_ know me as well as you think. You think I'm
all outside, don't you, and inside there's nothing?

MISS FARRINGDON. Oh, you've got brains, I'll grant you that. You're the
first Farringdon that's had any. Of the men, of course.

GERALD. Oh, brains--I don't mean brains. But you think that everything
only touches me on the surface, and that nothing ever goes deep inside.
You don't believe I ever loved Pamela; you don't believe I love her now.
You don't believe I've got a heart at all.

MISS FARRINGDON. Well, you've never shown it. You've shown a lot of
delightful things which silly people mistake for it--but that's all.

GERALD (curtly). No, I've never shown my heart to anybody. Some people
can't. (Gently) Perhaps I'll show it to Pamela on my wedding-day.

MISS FARRINGDON. Dear me, have I been wrong all these years? I shouldn't
like to think that. (After a pause) Any more news?

GERALD (taking his thoughts off PAMELA). Yes. Now _this_ time, Aunt
Tabitha, you'll really be as pleased as I am.


GERALD. Oh yes, you will, because it's about your favourite--Bob.

MISS FARRINGDON. So Bob's my favourite? I'm learning a good many things

GERALD. He's coming back this afternoon.

MISS FARRINGDON. Poor Bob! I'm glad he's finished with that part of it.

GERALD. You think he's got the worst part coming? (Smiling at her) Aunt
Tabitha, have you got any influence with your nephew?

MISS FARRINGDON. You or Bob? (GERALD smiles and shakes his head.) Oh,
you mean James?

GERALD. It seems hard to realize that one's father is anybody else's
nephew, but you _are_ his aunt, and--Oh, don't let him do anything
stupid about Bob.

MISS FARRINGDON. Bob's his own master; he's old enough to look after

GERALD. Yes, but he's got in the way of being looked after by other
people. I wish _you_ would look after him and tell him what to do. It's
going to be difficult for him. I expect he'll want to get away from all
of us for a bit. Where's he going, and what's he going to do?

MISS FARRINGDON (after a pause). When did you say Pamela was coming

GERALD. To-morrow. _She'll_ help, of course.

MISS FARRINGDON. Gerald, you've been very nice to me always; I don't
know why I've been rather unkind to you sometimes.

GERALD. What an idea! You know I've loved our little skirmishes.

MISS FARRINGDON. That's because you've been happy, and haven't minded
one way or another. But if ever you were in trouble, Gerald, I don't
think I should be unsympathetic.

GERALD. You dear, of course you wouldn't. But why do you say that now,
just when I _am_ so happy?

MISS FARRINGDON (getting up slowly). I'm feeling rather an old woman
to-day. I think I'll go and lie down.

GERALD (jumping up). I'll ring for your maid.

MISS FARRINGDON. No, no; I'm not going upstairs, and I don't want a maid
when I've got a great big nephew. Come and tuck me up on the sofa in the
drawing-room; I shall be quite happy there.

(She puts her hand on his arm, and they go together towards the door in
front of the staircase.)


GERALD (laughing). Why poor? [They go out together.]

[The door on the right at the back opens quietly and BOB comes in. He
stands there for a moment looking at the hall, and then speaks over his
shoulder to somebody behind him.]

BOB. It's all right, there's nobody here.

PAMELA. I wonder where Gerald is.

BOB. You're sure he's down here?

PAMELA. Yes, I had a letter from him; he told me he was going to be.

BOB (going up to her). Pamela, you can't see him alone.

PAMELA. I must. You can see him afterwards, but I must see him alone
first. Poor Gerald!

BOB. He never really loved you.

PAMELA. I don't think he did really, but it will hurt him.

BOB (eagerly). Say you're not sorry for what you're doing.

PAMELA. Aren't I doing it?

BOB. Say you love _me_ and not Gerald. Say you really love me, and it's
not just because you are sorry for me.

PAMELA. Oh, I have so much in my heart for you, Bob. I'm glad I'm
marrying you. But you must always love me, and want me as you want me

BOB (seizing her is his arms). By God! you'll get that. (He kisses her

PAMELA (satisfied). Oh, Bob! Oh, Bob! I'm glad I found you at last. (She
goes away from him and stands looking into the fire, one hand on the

BOB. Shall I go and look for Gerald?

PAMELA (looking into the fire). Yes. No. He'll come.

BOB. You won't let him talk you round?

PAMELA (looking up at him in surprise). Oh no; I'm quite safe now.

BOB. I can never thank you for all you've done, for all you've been to
me. When we are out of this cursèd country, and I have you to myself, I
will try to show you. (She says nothing, and he walks restlessly about
the room. He picks up a hat and says) Hullo, Tommy's here.

PAMELA (quickly). I don't want to see him, I don't want to see anybody.
We must just tell Gerald and then go.

BOB. Anybody might come at any moment. You should have let me write as I
wanted to. Or waited till he came back to London.

PAMELA. We've given up being cowards. Perhaps you'd better try and find
him. We'll only tell Gerald. If we see the others, we'll just have to
make the best of it.

BOB (moving off towards the door in front of the staircase). All right.
If I find him I'll send him in here. [He goes out.]

(PAMELA drops into a chair and remains looking at the fire. GERALD,
coming down from the gallery above, suddenly catches sight of her.)

GERALD (rushing down the stairs). Pamela! Why, Pamela! (Excitedly) Why
are you--You said tomorrow. Pamela, you said--Never mind, you're here.
Oh, bless you! (PAMELA has got up to meet him, and he is now standing
holding her hands, and looking at her happily.) Pamela's here; all's
right with the world. (He leans forward to kiss her, but she stops him.)

PAMELA (nervously). No, no; I've something to tell you, Gerald.

GERALD. I've got a thousand things to tell _you_.

PAMELA. Bob's here.

GERALD (excited). Bob? Did you come down with him?


GERALD. I had a telegram, but it didn't say--Did you meet him? Why
didn't he tell us? Where is he?

PAMELA. He just went to look for you.

GERALD. I'll soon find him.

(He turns away to go after BOB, but PAMELA stops him.)

PAMELA. Gerald!

GERALD (turning round). Yes.

PAMELA. Never mind Bob for the moment. I wanted to see you alone.

GERALD (coming back quickly). Of course. Hang Bob! Come on the sofa and
tell me everything. Jove! it's wonderful to see you again; you've been
away for years.

(He takes her hand and tries to lead her towards the sofa, but she

PAMELA. Gerald, you're making it very hard for me; I've got something to
tell you.

GERALD (afraid suddenly and speaking sharply). What do you mean?

PAMELA. Oh, don't look at me like that--I know it will hurt you, but it
won't be more than that. I want you to release me from my promise.

GERALD. What promise?

PAMELA (in a low voice). My promise to marry you.

GERALD. I don't understand. Why?

PAMELA (bravely). I want to marry Bob.

(Keeping his eyes on her all the time, GERALD moves slowly away from

GERALD (to himself). Bob! Bob! But you knew Bob first.


GERALD. And then you promised to marry me. You couldn't have been in
love with him. I don't understand.

PAMELA (sadly). I don't understand either, but that's how it's happened.

GERALD. And to think how I've been throwing you in Bob's way, and
wanting you and him to be fond of each other. (Fiercely) _That_ didn't
make you think that I didn't love you?

PAMELA (faltering). I--I don't--you didn't--

GERALD. I was so confident of you. That was your fault. You made me.

PAMELA. I think you could have made me love you if you hadn't been so

GERALD. I trusted you. You had told me. _I_ knew I should never change,
and I thought I knew _you_ wouldn't.

PAMELA. I was wrong. I never did love you.

GERALD. Then why did you say--

PAMELA (looking at him rather wistfully). You're rather charming,
Gerald, you know, and you--

GERALD (turning away from her furiously). _Damn_ charming! That's what
you all say. I'm sick of it! You think that if a man's charming, that's
the end of him, and that all he's good for is to amuse a few old ladies
at a tea party. I'm sick of it! The rude rough man with the heart of
gold--that's the only sort that can have a heart at all, according to
some of you.

PAMELA (utterly surprised by this). Gerald!

GERALD. I'm sorry, Pamela. Of course you wouldn't understand. But we
were just talking. (With a sudden disarming smile) I don't know whether
an apology is overdoing the charm?

PAMELA (in distress). Oh, Gerald, you couldn't really have loved me; you
don't really now. Of course, it will hurt you, but you'll soon get over
it. Oh, what's the good of my talking like this? I've never really known
you; I don't know you now.

GERALD (quietly). It's no good now, anyway. (He walks away from her
and looks out through the windows at the back.) Just tell me one or two
things. Were you in love with him when he went to prison?

PAMELA. I don't know--really I don't know. I was so dreadfully sorry for
him all that time before, and I felt so very friendly towards him, so
very--oh, Gerald, so motherly. And I wanted to be wanted so badly, and
you didn't seem to want me in that way. That was why, when he had gone,
I went right away from you, and asked you not to write to me; I wanted
to think it all out--alone.

GERALD. But you wrote to Bob?

PAMELA. Oh, Gerald, he wanted it so badly.

GERALD. I'm sorry.

PAMELA. I wrote to him and he wrote to me. I met him when he came
out--he told me when to come. I suppose I had decided by then; we came
down here to tell you. I had to come at once.

GERALD. You do love him, Pamela? It isn't just pity?

PAMELA. I do, Gerald; I think I found that out this afternoon. (Timidly)
Say you don't hate me very much.

GERALD. I wish to God I could.... What are you and Bob going to do?

PAMELA. Canada, as soon as we can. I've got friends there. We've a
little money between us. Bob ought to have done it a long time ago.
(Coming up to him) Just do one more nice thing for me before we go.

GERALD (moving away from her on pretence of getting a cigarette). What
is it?

PAMELA. Bob will want to see you before he goes.

GERALD. I don't want to see him.

PAMELA. Ah, but you must.

GERALD. What have we got to say to each other?

PAMELA. I don't know, but I feel you must see him. Otherwise he'll think
that he ran away from you.

GERALD (with a shrug). All right. You'll go back to London at once, I

PAMELA. Yes. We hired a car. We left it outside at the gates. We didn't
want to see anybody but you, if possible.

GERALD. Father and mother are out. Aunt Harriet knows--oh, and Tommy
and Letty--that Bob was coming to-day; nobody else. But I can make
up something. We'll keep Tommy and Letty out of it for the moment. Of
course, they'll all have to know in the end.

PAMELA. We'll write, of course.

GERALD. Yes. Tommy and Letty are engaged, by the way.

PAMELA. Oh! (Understanding how he must feel about it) Oh, Gerald! (She
makes a movement towards him, but he takes no notice.) I'll send Bob to
you; he's waiting outside, I expect. (Timidly) Good-bye, Gerald.

GERALD (still with his back to her). Good-bye, Pamela.

PAMELA. Won't you--

GERALD (from the bottom of his heart). Go away, go away! I can't bear
the sound of your voice; I can't bear to look at you. Go away!

PAMELA. Oh, Gerald! [She goes out.]

(GERALD looks up as she goes out, and then looks quickly down again.
When BOB comes in he is still resting with his arm on the mantelpiece
looking into the fire.)

GERALD (looking up). Hullo.

BOB. Hullo. (After a pause) Is that all you've got to say?

GERALD. I've just seen Pamela.

BOB (trying not to show his eagerness). Well?

GERALD. Well--isn't that enough?

BOB. What do you mean?

GERALD (bitterly). Do you want me to fall on, your neck, and say take
her and be happy?

BOB. You never loved her.

GERALD. That's a lie, and anyhow we won't discuss it. She's going to
marry you, and that's an end of it.

BOB (very eagerly). She _is_ going to?

GERALD (sharply). Don't you know it?

BOB (mumbling). Yes, but she might--Ah, you couldn't charm her away from
me this time.

GERALD (with an effort). I don't know what you mean by "_this_ time." I
think we'd better leave Pamela out of it altogether. She's waiting for
you outside. Last time I offered to shake hands with you, you had some
fancied grievance against me, and you wouldn't; now if there's any
grievance between us, it's on _my_ side. (Holding out his hand)
Good-bye, Bob, and--quite honestly--good luck.

BOB (ignoring the hand). Magnanimous Gerald!

(GERALD looks at him in surprise for a moment. Then he shrugs his
shoulders, turns round, and goes back to the mantelpiece, and takes a
cigarette from the box there.)

GERALD. I'm tired of you, Bob. If you don't want me, I don't want you.
(He sits down in a chair and lights his cigarette.)

BOB. And now I suppose you're thoroughly pleased with yourself, and
quite happy.

GERALD (looking at him in absolute wonder). Happy? You fool! (Something
in BOB'S face surprises him, and he gets up and says) Why do you
suddenly hate me like this?

BOB (with a bitter laugh). Suddenly!

GERALD (almost frightened). Bob!

BOB (letting the jealousy that has been pent up for years come out at
last). You're surprised! Surprised! You would be. You've never stopped
to think what other people are thinking; you take it for granted that
they all love you, and that's all you care about. Do you think I liked
playing second fiddle to you all my life? Do you think I've never had
any ambitions of my own? I suppose you thought I was quite happy being
one of the crowd of admirers round you, all saying, "Oh, look at Gerald,
isn't he wonderful?"

GERALD (astounded). Bob, I had no idea--I never dreamt--

BOB. They thought something of me when I was young. When I first went
to school they thought something of me. I daresay even _you_ thought
something of me then; I could come back in the holidays and tell you
what school was like, and what a lot they thought of me. They didn't
think much of me when _you_ came; you soon put a stop to that. I was
just young Farringdon's brother then, and when we came home together,
all the talk was of the wonderful things _Gerald_ had done. It was like
that at Eton; it was like that at Oxford. It's always been like that. I
managed to get away from you a bit after Oxford, but it went on just
the same. "How do you do, Mr. Farringdon? Are you any relation to Gerald
Farringdon?" (With the utmost contempt) And you actually thought I liked
that; you thought I enjoyed it. You thought I smiled modestly and said,
"Oh yes, he's my brother, my young brother; isn't he wonderful?"

GERALD (hardly able to realise it). And you've felt like this for years?
(To himself) For years!

BOB (not noticing him). And that wasn't enough for you. They got you
into the Foreign Office--they could have got me there. They could have
put me into the Army (Almost shouting) Aren't I the eldest son? But no,
it didn't matter about the eldest son--never mind about him; put him
in the City, anywhere as long as he's out of the way. If we have any
influence, we must use it for Gerald--the wonderful Gerald.

GERALD. If this is an indictment, it's drawn against the wrong person.

BOB (more quietly). Then at last I found a friend; somebody who took me
for my own sake. (Bitterly) And like a damned fool I brought her down
here, and she saw _you_. I might have known what would happen.

GERALD. Pamela!

BOB. Yes, and you took her. After taking everything you could all your
life, you took _her_. She was Bob's friend--that was quite enough. She
must be one more in the crowd of admirers round you. So you took her.
(Triumphantly) Ah, but I got her back in the end. I've got her now--and
I think I'm square, Gerald.

GERALD. Yes, I think you're square now.

BOB (rather jauntily, as he leans back against the end of the sofa and
feels for his cigarette-case). I seem to have surprised you rather.

GERALD. You've thought like that about me for years and you've never
said anything? You've felt like that about Pamela and you've never said

BOB. I've been thinking it over, particularly these last few months--in
prison, Gerald. You have a lot of time for thinking in prison. Oh,
I know; you advised me to stand on my head and waggle my legs in the
air--something like that. You were full of brilliant ideas. I had a
better idea--I _thought_.

GERALD (realising his state of mind). My God, what a time you must have

BOB (furiously). Damn you! I _won't_ be pitied by you.

GERALD (coolly). And you're not going to be. You've talked about
yourself and thought about yourself quite long enough; now I'm going to
talk about _my_self.

BOB. And it won't be the first time either.

GERALD (quickly). It will be the first time to _you_. You say I've never
tried to understand your feelings--have you ever tried to understand
mine? My God, Bob! I've thought a good deal more about you than you have
about me. Have I ever talked about myself to you? When a boy does well
at school he likes talking about it; did I ever bore _you_ with it?
Never! Because I knew how you'd feel about it. I knew how _I'd_ feel
about it, and so I tried to make it easy for you.

BOB. Very noble of you.

GERALD (angrily). Don't be such a damned fool, Bob. What's the good
of talking like that? If whatever I do is wrong, then you're only
convicting yourself; you're not convicting me. According to you, if I
talk about myself I'm being conceited and superior, and if I don't talk
about myself, I'm being noble and still more superior. In fact, whatever
I do, I can't please you. That doesn't condemn me; it condemns yourself.
(Wearily) What's the good of talking?

BOB. Go on; I like to hear it.

GERALD. Very well. We'll take the definite accusations first. Apart from
the general charge of being successful--whatever that amounts to--you
accuse me of two things. One you didn't mention just now, but it was
more or less obvious the last time I saw you. That was that I neglected
to help you when you were in trouble, and that through me you went to

BOB. Yes, I forgot that this time. (With an unpleasant laugh) But I
didn't forget it in prison.

GERALD. You had a sense of humour once, Bob. I don't know what's
happened to it lately. Don't you think it's rather funny to hate a
person steadily for fifteen years, judge all his acts as you'd hardly
judge those of your bitterest enemy, and yet, the first time you are in
trouble, to expect him to throw everything on one side and rush to your
help--and then to feel bitterly ill-used if he doesn't?

BOB (rather taken aback). I--you didn't--I didn't--

GERALD (quietly). That's been rather like you all through, Bob. You were
always the one who had to be helped; you were always the one who was
allowed to have the grievance. Still, that doesn't make it any better
for me if I could have helped you and didn't. However, I'm quite certain
that I _couldn't_ have helped you then. We'll take the other accusation,
that I stole Pamela from you. I've only got two things to say to that.
First, that Pamela was not engaged to you, and was perfectly free to
choose between us. Secondly, that you never told me, and I hadn't the
slightest idea, that you were the least bit fond of her. Indeed, I don't
believe you realized it yourself at that time.

BOB (rather shamefaced). I've realized it since.

GERALD. Yes, and you've taken Pamela back since. I think if I were you
I would keep her out of it. (BOB looks away and GERALD goes on) Now we
come to the general charge, which seems to be (very deliberately) that
I'm better than you at games, that I've got better manners than you,
that I'm cleverer than you--in fact, that I'm superior to you in
every outward way, and am only inferior to you in--well, in the moral
qualities. (Quietly) Bob, what are these moral qualities in which I
am so deficient and you so endowed? You judge me by the qualities I am
supposed to have shown to you; now what have you shown to _me_?
Have _you_ been generous, have _you_ been friendly, have _you_ been
sympathetic? No; you've just told me that for fifteen years you've hated
me and been jealous of me. Things have been rotten for you, I admit;
have you ever tried to make the best of them? You've had disadvantages
to fight against; have you ever fought against them? Never! You've
turned every trouble into a grievance, and hoarded it up. I said just
now I was sick of you. I am--utterly. You said just now you didn't want
my pity. You haven't got it; you've only got my contempt.... (He turns
away, and then suddenly turns back, and, holding out his hand to BOB,
says utterly unexpectedly) And now, damn you! will you shake hands?

BOB (incoherent with surprise). What do you--I--you didn't--(GERALD'S
hand is still held out, and he is smiling.) Oh, Jerry! (He takes the

GERALD. That's all right. Good-bye, Bob, and good luck.

BOB (bewildered). Good-bye. (He tuns round and goes towards the door.
Half-way there, he looks over his shoulder and says awkwardly) Had
rather a rotten time in prison. (GERALD nods. At the door BOB says)
Pamela and I--

[With rather a forced smile, GERALD nods again, and BOB goes out.]

(Left alone, GERALD stands looking into the fire and thinking. He tries
sitting down to see if that will make thinking any pleasanter; then he
tries standing up again. He goes to the door in front of the staircase
and opens it to see if there is anybody there; then he goes to the
windows at the back and looks through them. Evidently he sees somebody,
for he beckons and then returns to his old place by the fire. In a few
moments LETTY and TOMMY come in.)

TOMMY (excitedly). I say, has Bob come?


TOMMY. I could have sworn we saw him just now as we were coming in. At
least, Letty swore she did--

LETTY. I _know_ I did.

TOMMY. So I gave him a shout, but he fairly trekked off. Was it Bob?

GERALD. Yes. Now look here, I want you to be two nice people. Don't say
anything to anybody. He came, but he didn't want to see the whole crowd
of us. He's going to Canada. I'll do all the explaining, if you two just
say nothing. Do you see?

LETTY. Of course, Gerald.

TOMMY. Rather, old boy. Besides, it will make it much better for Letty
and me.

LETTY. No rival attraction, Tommy means.

[Enter SIR JAMES and LADY FARRINGDON from the outer hull, having just
returned from their lunch.]

SIR JAMES. Ah! here you all are.

GERALD. Had a good lunch?

SIR JAMES. Lunch was all right, but the people were dull, very dull.

LADY FARRINGDON. There were one or two nice ones, I thought, dear. They
all knew about _you_, Gerald.

TOMMY (proudly). Of course they would.

SIR JAMES. Oh, one or two were all right, but _he_ was--well, I was
discussing shorthorns with him after lunch, and he hardly seemed
interested at all. Dull, very dull. I've got no use for that sort of

(During this speech the Butler has come in with a telegram for GERALD.)

GERALD (taking it). Just a moment. (He reads it quickly.) No answer.
[Exit Butler.]

(GERALD reads his telegram again more thoughtfully.)

LADY FARRINGDON. From Pamela, dear?

GERALD. From the office. I shall have to go up at once.

LADY FARRINGDON (very disappointed). Oh, Gerald!

SIR JAMES. Something on?

GERALD. Rather an important thing really. I never thought I should get
it, but there was just a chance. (Looking at his watch) Oh, I can do it

SIR JAMES (obviously proud that GERALD is in the thick of things). What
is it? I suppose you mustn't tell us.

GERALD. Something abroad.

SIR JAMES. Diplomatic mission, eh?


LETTY. That does sound so frightfully exciting.

LADY FARRINGDON (proudly). Oh, Gerald! (Thoughtfully). I wish we had
known about it this morning, we could have mentioned it at lunch.

SIR JAMES. That ought to lead to something.

GERALD. Yes. I think it will. It's rather an opportunity:

(They are all round him now, just as they have always been. The buzz

SIR JAMES. Aha! you'll be an ambassador yet. What do you think of that,

LETTY. Well done, Gerald.

LADY FARRINGDON. How like you, Gerald!

TOMMY. Good old Gerald! I never knew such a chap. You really _are_!

GERALD (softly). I wish I weren't, Tommy! Oh, I wish I weren't!

(They don't hear him; they are still buzzing.)





This play was first produced by Mr. Owen Nares at the Victoria Palace
Theatre on September 9,1918, with the following cast:

     Philip--OWEN NARES.
     Uncle James--TOM REYNOLDS.
     Aunt Emily--DOROTHY RADFORD.
     Mary--ADAH DICK.
     Mrs. Higgins--RACHEL DE SOLLA.

[SCENE.--A room in UNCLE JAMES'S house in the Cromwell Road.]

[TIME.--The day after the War.]

[Any room in UNCLE JAMES'S house is furnished in heavy mid-Victorian
style; this particular morning-room is perhaps solider and more
respectable even than the others, from the heavy table in the middle of
it to the heavy engravings on the walls. There are two doors to it.
The one at the back opens into the hall, the one at the side into the

[PHILIP comes from the hall and goes into the dining-room. Apparently he
finds nothing there, for he returns to the morning-room, looks about him
for a moment and then rings the bell. It is ten o'clock, and he wants
his breakfast. He picks up the paper, and sits in a heavy armchair in
front of the fire--a pleasant-looking well-built person of twenty-three,
with an air of decisiveness about him. MARY, the parlour-maid, comes

MARY. Did you ring, Master Philip?

PHILIP (absently). Yes; I want some breakfast, please, Mary.

MARY (coldly). Breakfast has been cleared away an hour ago.

PHILIP. Exactly. That's why I rang. You can boil me a couple of eggs or
something. And coffee, not tea.

MARY. I'm sure I don't know what Mrs. Higgins will say?

PHILIP (getting up). Who is Mrs. Higgins?

MARY. The cook. And she's not used to being put about like this.

PHILIP. Do you think she'll say something?

MARY. I don't know _what_ she'll say.

PHILIP. You needn't tell me, you know, if you don't want to. Anyway,
I don't suppose it will shock me. One gets used to it in the Army. (He
smiles pleasantly at her.)

MARY. Well, I'll do what I can, sir. But breakfast at eight sharp is the
master's rule, just as it used to be before you went away to the war.

PHILIP. Before I went away to the war I did a lot of silly things. Don't
drag them up now. (More curtly) Two eggs, and if there's a ham bring
that along too. (He turns away.)

MARY (doubtfully, as she prepares to go). Well, I'm sure I don't know
what Mrs. Higgins will say. [Exit MARY.]

(As she goes out she makes way for AUNT EMILY to come in, a kind-hearted
mid-Victorian lady who has never had any desire for the vote.)

EMILY. There you are, Philip! Good-morning, dear. Did you sleep well?

PHILIP. Rather; splendidly, thanks, Aunt Emily. How are you? (He kisses

EMILY. And did you have a good breakfast? Naughty boy to be late for it.
I always thought they had to get up so early in the Army.

PHILIP. They do. That's why they're so late when they get out of the

EMILY: Dear me! I should have thought a habit of four years would have
stayed with you.

PHILIP. Every morning for four years, as I've shot out of bed, I've said
to myself, "Wait! A time will come." (Smiling) That doesn't really give
a habit a chance.

EMILY. Well, I daresay you wanted your sleep out. I was so afraid that
a really cosy bed would keep you awake after all those years in the

PHILIP. Well, one isn't in the trenches all the time. And one gets
leave--if one's an officer.

EMILY.(reproachfully). You didn't spend much of it with _us_, Philip.

PHILIP (taking her hands). I know; but you did understand, didn't you,

EMILY. We're not very gay, and I know you must have wanted gaiety for
the little time you had. But I think your Uncle James felt it. After
all, dear, you've lived with us for some years, and he _is_ your

PHILIP. I know. _You've_ been a darling to me always, Aunt Emily. But
(awkwardly) Uncle James and I--

EMILY. Of course, he is a _little_ difficult to get on with. I'm more
used to him. But I'm sure he really is very fond of you, Philip.

PHILIP. H'm! I always used to be frightened of him.... I suppose he's
just the same. He seemed just the same last night--and he still has
breakfast at eight o'clock. Been making pots of money, I suppose?

EMILY. He never tells me exactly, but he did speak once about the
absurdity of the excess-profits tax. You see, jam is a thing the Army

PHILIP. It certainly gets it.

EMILY. It was so nice for him, because it made him feel he was doing his
bit, helping the poor men in the trenches.

[Enter MARY.]

MARY. Mrs. Higgins wishes to speak to you, ma'am. (She looks at PHILIP
as much as to say, "There you are!")

EMILY (getting up). Yes, I'll come. (To PHILIP) I think I'd better just
see what she wants, Philip.

PHILIP (firmly to MARY). Tell Mrs. Higgins to come here. (MARY hesitates
and looks at her mistress.) At once, please. [Exit MARY.]

EMILY (upset). Philip, dear, I don't know what Mrs. Higgins will say--

PHILIP. No; nobody seems to. I thought we might really find out for

EMILY (going towards the door). Perhaps I'd better go--

PHILIP (putting his arm round her waist). Oh no, you mustn't. You see,
she really wants to see _me_.

EMILY. _You_?

PHILIP. Yes; I ordered breakfast five minutes ago.

EMILY. Philip! My poor boy! Why didn't you tell me? and I daresay I
could have got it for you. Though I don't know what Mrs. Higgins--

(An extremely angry voice is heard outside, and MRS. HIGGINS, stout and
aggressive, comes in.)

MRS. HIGGINS (truculently). You sent for me, ma'am?

EMILY (nervously). Yes--er--I think if you--perhaps--

PHILIP (calmly). _I_ sent for you, Mrs. Higgins. I want some breakfast.
Didn't Mary tell you?

MRS. HIGGINS. Breakfast is at eight o'clock. It always has been as
long as I've been in this house, and always will be until I get further

PHILIP. Well, you've just got further orders. Two eggs, and if there's a

MRS. HIGGINS. Orders. We're talking about orders. From whom in this
house do I take orders, may I ask?

PHILIP. In this case from me.

MRS. HIGGINS (playing her trump-card). In that case, ma'am, I wish to
give a month's notice from to-day. _In_clusive.

PHILIP (quickly, before his aunt can say anything). Certainly. In fact,
you'd probably prefer it if my aunt gave _you_ notice, and then you
could go at once. We can easily arrange that. (TO AUNT EMILY as he takes
out a fountain pen and cheque-book) What do you pay her?

EMILY (faintly). Forty-five pounds.

PHILIP (writing on his knee). Twelves into forty-five.... (Pleasantly
to MRS. HIGGINS, but without looking up) I hope you don't mind a Cox's
cheque. Some people do; but this is quite a good one. (Tearing it out)
Here you are.

MRS. HIGGINS (taken aback). What's this?

PHILIP. Your wages instead of notice. Now you can go at once.

MRS. HIGGINS. Who said anything about going?

PHILIP (surprised). I'm sorry; I thought _you_ did.

MRS. HIGGINS. If it's only a bit of breakfast, I don't say but what I
mightn't get it, if I'm asked decent.

PHILIP (putting back the cheque). Then let me say again, "Two eggs, ham
and coffee." And Mary can bring the ham up at once, and I'll get going
on that. (Turning away) Thanks very much.

MRS. HIGGINS. Well, I--well--well! [Exit speechless.]

PHILIP (surprised). Is that all she ever says? It isn't much to worry

EMILY. Philip, how could you! I should have been terrified.

PHILIP. Well, you see, I've done your job for two years out there.

EMILY. What job?

PHILIP. Mess President.... I think I'll go and see about that ham.

(He smiles at her and goes out into the dining-room. AUNT EMILY wanders
round the room, putting a few things tidy as is her habit, when she is
interrupted by the entrance of UNCLE JAMES. JAMES is not a big man,
nor an impressive one in his black morning-coat; and his thin straggly
beard, now going grey, does not hide a chin of any great power; but he
has a severity which passes for strength with the weak.)

JAMES. Philip down yet?

EMILY. He's just having his breakfast.

JAMES (looking at his watch). Ten o'clock. (Snapping it shut and putting
it back) Ten o'clock. I say ten o'clock, Emily.

EMILY. Yes, dear, I heard you.

JAMES. You don't say anything?

EMILY (vaguely). I expect he's tired after that long war.

JAMES. That's no excuse for not being punctual. I suppose he learnt
punctuality in the Army?

EMILY. I expect he learnt it, James, but I understood him to say that
he'd forgotten it.

JAMES. Then the sooner he learns it again the better. I particularly
stayed away from the office to-day in order to talk things over with
him, and (looking cat his watch) here's ten o'clock--past ten--and no
sign of him. I'm practically throwing away a day.

EMILY. What are you going to talk to him about?

JAMES. His future, naturally. I have decided that the best thing he can
do is to come into the business at once.

EMILY. Are you really going to talk it over with him, James, or are you
just going to tell him that he _must_ come?

JAMES (surprised). What do you mean? What's the difference? Naturally
we shall talk it over first, and--er--naturally he'll fall in with my

EMILY. I suppose he can hardly help himself, poor boy.

JAMES. Not until he's twenty-five, anyhow. When he's twenty-five he can
have his own money and do what he likes with it.

EMILY (timidly). But I think you ought to consult him at little, dear.
After all, he _has_ been fighting for us.

JAMES (with his back to the fire). Now that's the sort of silly
sentiment that there's been much too much of. I object to it strongly.
I don't want to boast, but I think I may claim to have done my share. I
gave up my nephew to my country, and I--er--suffered from the shortage
of potatoes to an extent that you probably didn't realize. Indeed, if it
hadn't been for your fortunate discovery about that time that you didn't
really like potatoes, I don't know how we should have carried on. And,
as I think I've told you before, the excess-profits tax seemed to me a
singularly stupid piece of legislation--but I paid it. And I don't go
boasting about how much I paid.

EMILY (unconvinced). Well, I think that Philip's four years out there
have made him more of a man; he doesn't seem somehow like a boy who can
be told what to do. I'm sure they've taught him something.

JAMES. I've no doubt that they've taught him something about--er--bombs
and--er--which end a revolver goes off, and how to form fours. But I
don't see that that sort of thing helps him to decide upon the most
suitable career for a young man in after-war conditions.

EMILY. Well, I can only say you'll find him different.

JAMES. I didn't notice any particular difference last night.

EMILY. I think you'll find him rather more--I can't quite think of the
word, but Mrs. Higgins could tell you what I mean.

JAMES. Of course, if he likes to earn his living any other way, he
may; but I don t see how he proposes to do it so long as I hold the
purse-strings. (Looking at his watch) Perhaps you'd better tell him that
I cannot wait any longer.

(EMILY opens the door leading into the dining-room and talks through it

EMILY. Philip, your uncle is waiting to see you before he goes to the
office. Will you be long, dear?

PHILIP (from the dining-room). Is he in a hurry?

JAMES (shortly). Yes.

EMILY. He says he is rather, dear.

PHILIP. Couldn't he come and talk in here? It wouldn't interfere with my


EMILY. He says he'd rather you came to _him_, darling.

PHILIP (resigned). Oh, well.

EMILY (to JAMES). He'll be here directly, dear. Just sit down in front
of the fire and make yourself comfortable with the paper. He won't keep
you long. (She arranges him.)

JAMES (taking the paper). The morning is not the time to make oneself
comfortable. It's a most dangerous habit. I nearly found myself dropping
off in front of the fire just now. I don't like this hanging about,
wasting the day. (He opens the paper.)

EMILY. You should have had a nice sleep, dear, while you could. We were
up so late last night listening to Philip's stories.

JAMES. Yes, yes. (He begins a yawn and stifles it hurriedly.) You
mustn't neglect your duties, Emily. I've no doubt you have plenty to do.

EMILY. All right, James, then I'll leave you. But don't be hard on the

JAMES (sleepily). I shall be just, Emily; you can rely upon that.

EMILY (going to the door). I don't think that's quite what I meant. [She
goes out.]

(JAMES, who is now quite comfortable, begins to nod. He wakes up with a
start, turns over the paper, and nods again. Soon he is breathing deeply
with closed eyes.)


PHILIP (coming in). Sorry to have kept you waiting, but I was a bit late
for breakfast. (He takes out his pipe.) Are we going to talk business or

JAMES (taking out his match). A _bit_ late! I make it just two hours.

PHILIP (pleasantly). All right, Uncle James. Call it two hours late. Or
twenty-two hours early for tomorrow's breakfast, if you like. (He sits
down in a chair on the opposite side of the table from his uncle, and
lights his pipe.)

JAMES. You smoke now?

PHILIP (staggered). I what?

JAMES (nodding at his pipe). You smoke?

PHILIP. Good heavens! what did yolk think we did in France?

JAMES. Before you start smoking all over the house, I should have
thought you would have asked your aunt's permission.

(PHILIP looks at him in amazement, and then goes to the door.)

PHILIP (calling). Aunt Emily!... Aunt Emily!... Do you mind my smoking
in here?

AUNT EMILY (from upstairs). Of course not, darling.

PHILIP (to JAMES, as he returns to his chair). Of course not, darling.
(He puts back his pipe in his mouth.)

JAMES. Now, understand once and for all, Philip, while you remain in my
house I expect not only punctuality, but also civility and respect. I
will _not_ have impertinence.

PHILIP (unimpressed). Well, that's what I want to talk to you about,
Uncle James. About staying in your house, I mean.

JAMES. I don't know what you do mean.

PHILIP. Well, we don't get on too well together, and I thought perhaps
I'd better take rooms somewhere. You could give me an allowance until I
came into my money. Or I suppose you could give me the money now if you
really liked. I don't quite know how father left it to me.

JAMES (coldly). You come into your money when you are twenty-five.
Your father very wisely felt that to trust a large sum to a mere boy of
twenty-one was simply putting temptation in his way. Whether I have the
power or not to alter his dispositions, I certainly don't propose to do

PHILIP. If it comes to that, I am twenty-five.

JAMES. Indeed? I had an impression that that event took place in about
two years' time. When did you become twenty-five, may I ask?

PHILIP (quietly). It was on the Somme. We were attacking the next day
and my company was in support. We were in a so-called trench on the edge
of a wood--a damned rotten place to be, and we got hell. The company
commander sent back to ask if we could move. The C.O. said, "Certainly
not; hang on." We hung on; doing nothing, you know--just hanging on and
waiting for the next day. Of course, the Boche knew all about that.
He had it on us nicely.... (Sadly) Dear old Billy! he was one of the
best--our company commander, you know. They got him, poor devil! That
left _me_ in command of the company. I sent a runner back to ask if I
could move. Well, I'd had a bit of a scout on my own and found a sort of
trench five hundred yards to the right. Not what you'd call a trench, of
course, but compared to that wood--well, it was absolutely Hyde Park. I
described the position and asked if I could go there. My man never came
back. I waited an hour and sent another man. He went west too. Well, I
wasn't going to send a third. It was murder. So I had to decide. We'd
lost about half the company by this time, you see. Well, there were
three things I could do--hang on, move to this other trench, against
orders, or go back myself and explain the situation.... I moved.... And
then I went back to the C.O. and told him I'd moved.... And then I
went back to the company again.... (Quietly) That was when I became
twenty-five.... or thirty-five.... or forty-five.

JAMES (recovering himself with an effort). Ah yes, yes. (He coughs
awkwardly.) No doubt points like that frequently crop up in the
trenches. I am glad that you did well out there, and I'm sure your
Colonel would speak kindly of you; but when it comes to choosing
a career for you now that you have left the Army, my advice is not
altogether to be despised. Your father evidently thought so, or he would
not have entrusted you to my care.

PHILIP. My father didn't foresee this war.

JAMES. Yes, yes, but you make too much of this war. All you young boys
seem to think you've come back from France to teach us our business.
You'll find that it is you who'll have to learn, not we.

PHILIP. I'm quite prepared to learn; in fact, I want to.

JAMES. Excellent. Then we can consider that settled.

PHILIP. Well, we haven't settled yet what business I'm going to learn.

JAMES. I don't think that's very difficult. I propose to take you into
my business. You'll start at the bottom of course, but it will be a
splendid opening for you.

PHILIP (thoughtfully). I see. So you've decided it for me? The jam

JAMES (sharply). Is there anything to be ashamed of in that?

PHILIP. Oh no, nothing at all. Only it doesn't happen to appeal to me.

JAMES. If you knew which side your bread was buttered, it would appeal
to you very considerably.

PHILIP. I'm afraid I can't see the butter for the jam.

JAMES. I don't want any silly jokes of that sort. You were glad enough
to get it out there, I've no doubt.

PHILIP. Oh yes. Perhaps that's why I'm so sick of it now.... No, it's no
good, Uncle James; you must think of something else.

JAMES (with a sneer). Perhaps _you've_ thought of something else?

PHILIP. Well, I had some idea of being an architect--

JAMES. You propose to start learning to be an architect at twenty-three?

PHILIP (smiling). Well, I couldn't start before, could I?

JAMES. Exactly. And now you'll find it's too late.

PHILIP. Is it? Aren't there going to be any more architects, or doctors,
or solicitors, or barristers? Because we've all lost four years of our
lives, are all the professions going to die out?

JAMES. And how old do you suppose you'll be before you're earning money
as an architect?

PHILIP. The usual time, whatever that may be. If I'm four years behind,
so is everybody else.

JAMES. Well, I think it's high time you began to earn a living at once.

PHILIP. Look here, Uncle James, do you really think that you can treat
me like a boy who's just left school? Do you think four years at the
front have made no difference at all?

JAMES. If there had been any difference, I should have expected it to
take the form of an increased readiness in obey orders and recognize

PHILIP (regretfully). You are evidently determined to have a row.
Perhaps I had better tell you once and for all that I refuse to go into
the turnip and vegetable narrow business.

JAMES (thumping the table angrily). And perhaps I'd better tell _you_,
sir, once and for all, that I don't propose to allow rude rudeness from
an impertinent young puppy.

PHILIP (reminiscently). I remember annoying our Brigadier once. He was
covered with red, had a very red face, about twenty medals, and a cold
blue eye. He told me how angry he was for about five minutes while
I stood to attention. I'm afraid you aren't nearly impressive, Uncle

JAMES (rather upset). Oh! (Recovering himself) Fortunately I have other
means of impressing you. The power of the purse goes a long way in this
world. I propose to use it.

PHILIP. I see.... Yes... that's rather awkward, isn't it?

JAMES (pleasantly). I think you'll find it very awkward.

PHILIP (thoughtfully). Yes.

(With an amused laugh JAMES settles down to his paper as if the
interview were over.)

PHILIP (to himself). I suppose I shall have to think of another
argument. (He takes out a revolver from him pocket and fondles it

JAMES (looking up suddenly as he is doing this--amazed). What on earth
are you doing?

PHILIP. Souvenir from France. Do you know, Uncle. James, that this
revolver has killed about twenty Germans?

JAMES (shortly). Oh! Well, don't go playing about with it here, or
you'll be killing Englishmen before you know where you are.

PHILIP. Well, you never know. (He raises it leisurely and points it at
his uncle.) It's a nice little weapon.

JAMES (angrily). Put it down, sir. You ought to have grown out of monkey
tricks like that in the Army. You ought to know better than to point an
unloaded revolver at anybody. That's the way accidents always happen.

PHILIP. Not when you've been on a revolver course and know all about it.
Besides, it _is_ loaded.

JAMES (very angry because he is frightened suddenly). Put it down at
once, sir. (PHILIP turns it away from him and examines it carelessly.)
What's the matter with you? Have you gone mad suddenly?

PHILIP (mildly). I thought you'd be interested in it. It's shot such a
lot of Germans.

JAMES. Well, it won't want to shoot any more, and the sooner you get rid
of it the better.

PHILIP. I wonder. Does it ever occur to you, Uncle James, that there are
about a hundred thousand people in England who own revolvers, who are
quite accustomed to them and--who have nobody to practise on now?

JAMES. No, sir, it certainly doesn't.

PHILIP (thoughtfully). I wonder if it will make any difference. You
know, one gets so used to potting at people. It's rather difficult to
realize suddenly that one oughtn't to.

JAMES (getting up). I don't know what the object of this tomfoolery
is, if it has one. But you understand that I expect you to come to
the office with me to-morrow at nine o'clock. Kindly see that you're
punctual. (He turns to go away.)

PHILIP (softly). Uncle James.

JAMES (over his shoulder). I have no more--

PHILIP (in his parade voice). Damn it, sir! stand to attention when
you talk to an officer! (JAMES instinctively turns round and stiffens
himself.) That's better; you can sit down if you like. (He motions JAMES
to his chair with the revolver.)

JAMES (going nervously to his chair). What does this bluff mean?

PHILIP. It isn't bluff, it's quite serious. (Pointing the revolver at
his uncle) Do sit down.

JAMES (sitting donor). Threats, eh?

PHILIP. Persuasion.

JAMES. At the point of the revolver? You settle your arguments by force?
Good heavens, sir! this is just the very thing that we were fighting to
put down.

PHILIP. _We_ were fighting! _We_! _We_! Uncle, you're humorist.

JAMES, Well, "you," if you prefer it. Although those of us who stayed at

PHILIP. Yes, never mind about the excess profits now. I can tell you
quite well what we fought for. We used force to put down force. That's
what I'm doing now. You were going to use force--the force of money--to
make me do what you wanted. Now I'm using force to stop it. (He levels
the revolver again.)

JAMES. You're--you're going to shoot your old uncle?

PHILIP. Why not? I've shot lots of old uncles--Landsturmers.

JAMES. But those were Germans! It's different shooting Germans. You're
in England now. You couldn't have a crime on your conscience like that.

PHILIP. Ah, but you mustn't think that after four years of war one has
quite the same ideas about the sanctity of human life. How could one?

JAMES. You'll find that juries have kept pretty much the same ideas, I

PHILIP. Yes, but revolvers often go off accidentally. You said so
yourself. This is going to be the purest accident. Can't you see it in
the papers? "The deceased's nephew, who was obviously upset--"

JAMES. I suppose you think it's brave to come back from the front and
threaten a defenceless man with a revolver? Is that the sort of fair
play they teach you in the Army?

PHILIP. Good heavens! of course it is. You don't think that you wait
until the other side has got just as many guns as you before you attack?
You're really rather lucky. Strictly speaking, I ought to have thrown
half a dozen bombs at you first. (Taking one out of his pocket) As it
happens, I've only got one.

JAMES (thoroughly alarmed). Put that back at once.

PHILIP (putting down the revolver and taking it in his hands). You hold
it in the right hand--so--taking care to keep the lever down. Then you
take the pin in the finger--so, and--but perhaps this doesn't interest

JAMES (edging his chair away). Put it down at once, sir. Good heavens!
anything might happen.

PHILIP (putting it down and taking up the revolver again). Does it ever
occur to you, Uncle James, that there are about three million people in
England who know all about bombs, and how to throw them, and--

JAMES. It certainly does not occur to me. I should never dream of
letting these things occur to me.

PHILIP (looking at the bomb regretfully). It's rather against
my principles as a soldier, but just to make things a bit more
fair--(generously) you shall have it. (He holds it out to him suddenly.)

JAMES (shrinking back again). Certainly not, sir. It might go off at any

PHILIP (putting it back in his pocket). Oh no; it's quite useless;
there's no detonator.... (Sternly) Now, then, let's talk business.

JAMES. What do you want me to do?

PHILIP. Strictly speaking, you should be holding your hands over your
head and saying "Kamerad!" However, I'll let you off that. All I ask
from you is that you should be reasonable.

JAMES. And if I refuse, you'll shoot me?

PHILIP. Well, I don't quite know, Uncle James. I expect we should go
through this little scene again to-morrow. You haven't enjoyed it, have
you? Well, there's lots more of it to come. We'll rehearse it every
day. One day, if you go on being unreasonable, the thing will go off. Of
course, you think that I shouldn't have the pluck to fire. But you can't
be quite certain. It's a hundred to one that I shan't--only I might.
Fear--it's a horrible thing. Elderly men die of it sometimes.

JAMES. Pooh! I'm not to be bluffed like that.

PHILIP (suddenly). You're quite right; you're not that sort. I made a
mistake. (Aiming carefully) I shall have to do it straight off, after
all. One--two--

JAMES (on his knees, with uplifted hands, in an agony of terror).
Philip! Mercy! What are your terms?

PHILIP (picking him up by the scruff, and helping him into the chair).
Good man, that's the way to talk. I'll get them for you. Make yourself
comfortable in front of the fire till I come back. Here's the paper. (He
gives his uncle the paper, and goes out into the hall.)


(JAMES opens his eyes with a start and looks round him in a bewildered
way. He rubs his heart, takes out his match and looks at it, and then
stares round the room again. The door from the dining-room opens, and
PHILIP comes in with a piece of toast in his hand.)

PHILIP (his mouth full). You wanted to see me, Uncle James?

JAMES (still bewildered). That's all right, my boy, that's all right.
What have you been doing?

PHILIP (surprised). Breakfast. (Putting the last piece in his mouth)
Rather late, I'm afraid.

JAMES. That's all right. (He laughs awkwardly.)

PHILIP. Anything the matter? You don't look your usual bright self.

JAMES. I--er--seem to have dropped asleep in front of the fire. Most
unusual thing for me to have done. Most unusual.

PHILIP. Let that be a lesson to you not to get up so early. Of course,
if you're in the Army you can't help yourself. Thank Heaven I'm out of
it, and my own master again.

JAMES. Ah, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Sit down, Philip.
(He indicates the chair by the fire.)

PHILIP (taking a chair by the table). You have that, uncle; I shall be
all right here.

JAMES (hastily). No, no; you come here. (He gives PHILIP the armchair
and sits by the table himself.) I should be dropping off again. (He
laughs awkwardly.)

PHILIP. Righto. (He puts his hand to his pocket. UNCLE JAMES shivers and
looks at him to horror. PHILIP brings out his pipe, and a sickly grin of
relief comes into JAMES'S face.)

JAMES. I suppose you smoked a lot in France?

PHILIP. Rather! Nothing else to do. It's allowed in here?

JAMES (hastily). Yes, yes, of course. (PHILIP lights his pipe.) Well
now, Philip, what are you going to do, now you've left the Army?

PHILIP (promptly). Burn my uniform and sell my revolver.

JAMES (starting at the word "revolver"). Sell your revolver, eh?

PHILIP (surprised). Well, I don't want it now, do I?

JAMES. No.... Oh no.... Oh, most certainly not, I should say. Oh, I
can't see why you should want it at all. (With an uneasy laugh) You're
in England now. No need for revolvers here--eh?

PHILIP (staring at him). Well, no, I hope not.

JAMES (hastily). Quite so. Well now, Philip, what next? We must find a
profession for you.

PHILIP (yawning). I suppose so. I haven't really thought about it much.

JAMES. You never wanted to be an architect?

PHILIP (surprised). Architect? (JAMES rubs his head and wonders what
made him think of architect.)

JAMES. Or anything like that.

PHILIP. It's a bit late, isn't it?

JAMES. Well, if you're four years behind, so is everybody else. (He
feels vaguely that he has heard this argument before.)

PHILIP (smiling): To tell the truth, I don't feel I mind much anyway.
Anything you like--except a commissionaire. I absolutely refuse to wear
uniform again.

JAMES. How would you like to come into the business?

PHILIP. The jam business? Well, I don't know. You wouldn't want me to
salute you in the mornings?

JAMES. My dear boy, no!

PHILIP. All right, I'll try it if you like. I don't know if I shall be
any good--what do you do?

JAMES. It's your experience in managing and--er--handling men which I
hope will be of value.

PHILIP. Oh, I can do that all right. (Stretching himself luxuriously)
Uncle James, do you realize that I'm never going to salute again, or
wear a uniform, or get wet--really wet, I mean--or examine men's feet,
or stand to attention when I'm spoken to, or--oh, lots more things. And
best of all, I'm never going to be frightened again. Have you ever known
what it is to be afraid--really afraid?

JAMES (embarrassed). I--er--well--(He coughs.)

PHILIP. No, you couldn't--not really afraid of death, I mean. Well,
that's over now. Good lord! I could spend the rest of my life in the
British Museum and be happy....

JAMES (getting up). All right, we'll try you in the office. I expect you
want a holiday first, though.

PHILIP (getting up). My dear uncle, this is holiday. Being in London
is holiday. Buying an evening paper--wearing a waistcoat again--running
after a bus--anything--it's all holiday.

JAMES. All right, then, come along with me now, and I'll introduce you
to Mr. Bamford.

PHILIP. Right. Who's he?

JAMES. Our manager. A little stiff, but a very good fellow. He'll be
delighted to hear that you are coming into the firm.

PHILIP (smiling). Perhaps I'd better bring my revolver, in case he

JAMES (laughing with forced heartiness as they go together to the door).
Ha, ha! A good joke that! Ha, ha, ha! A good joke--but only a joke, of
course. Ha, ha! He, he, he!

[PHILIP goes out. JAMES, following him, turns at the door, and looks
round the room in a bewildered way. Was it a dream, or wasn't it? He
will never be quite certain.]


An April Folly in Three Acts


     DELIA (her daughter).

The action takes place in Belinda's country-house in Devonshire at the
end of April.

This play was first produced by Mr. Dion Boucicault at the New Theatre,
London, on April 8, 1918, with the following cast:

     Belinda Tremayne--IRENE VANBRUGH.
     Delia--ISOBEL ELSOM.
     Harold Baxter--DION BOUCICAULT.
     Claude Devenish--DENNIS NEILSON-TERRY.
     John Tremayne--BEN WEBSTER.
     Betty--ANNE WALDEN.


[It is a lovely April afternoon--a foretaste of summer--in BELINDA'S

[BETTY, a middle-aged servant, is fastening a hammock--its first
appearance this year--between two trees at the back. In front of these
there is a solid oak garden-table, with a comfortable chair on the right
of it and a straight-backed one on the left. There are books, papers,
and magazines on the table. BELINDA, of whom we shall know more
presently, is on the other side of the open windows which look on to the
garden, talking to BETTY.]

BELINDA (from inside the house). Are you sure you're tying it up tightly
enough, Betty?

BETTY (coming to front of hammock). Yes, ma'am; I think it's firm.

BELINDA. Because I'm not the fairy I used to be.

BETTY (trying the knots at the other end of the hammock). Yes, ma'am;
it's quite firm this end too.

BELINDA. It's not the ends I'm frightened of; it's the middle where the
weight's coming. (She comes into the garden.) It looks very nice.

BETTY. Yes, ma'am.

BELINDA (trying the middle of it with her hand). I asked them at the
Stores if they were quite _sure_ it would bear me, and they said it
would take anything up to--I forget how many tons. I know I thought it
was rather rude of them. (Looking at it anxiously) How does one get in?
So trying to be a sailor!

BETTY. I think you sit in it, ma'am, and then (explaining with her
hands) throw your legs over.

BELINDA. I see. (She sits gingerly in the hammock, and then, with a
sudden flutter of white, does what BETTY suggests.) Yes. (Regretfully.)
I'm afraid that was rather wasted on you, Betty. We must have some
spectators next time.

BETTY. Yes, ma'am.

BELINDA. Cushions. (She arranges them at her back with BETTY'S help.
With a sigh of comfort) There! Now then, Betty, about callers.

BETTY. Yes, ma'am.

BELINDA. If Mr. Baxter calls--he is the rather prim gentleman--

BETTY. Yes, ma'am; the one who's been here several times before.

BELINDA (giving BETTY a quick look). Yes. Well, if he calls, you'll say,
"Not at home."

BETTY. Yes, ma'am.

BELINDA. He will say, "Oh--er--oh--er--really." Then you'll smile very
sweetly and say, "I beg your pardon, was it Mr. _Baxter_?" And he'll
say, "Yes!" and you'll say, "Oh, I beg your pardon, sir; _this_ way,

BETTY. Yes, ma'am.

BELINDA. That's right, Betty. Well now, if Mr. Devenish calls--he is the
rather poetical gentleman--

BETTY. Yes, ma'am; the one who's always coming here.

BELINDA (with a pleased smile). Yes. Well, if he calls you'll say, "Not
at home."

BETTY. Yes, ma'am.

BELINDA. He'll immediately throw down his bunch of flowers and dive
despairingly into the moat. You'll stop him, just as he is going in, and
say, "I beg your pardon, sir, was it Mr. _Devenish_?" And he will
say, "Yes!" and you will say, "Oh, I beg your pardon, sir; _this_ way,

BETTY. Yes, ma'am. And suppose they both call together?

BELINDA. We won't suppose anything so exciting, Betty.

BETTY. No, ma'am. And suppose any other gentleman calls?

BELINDA (with a sigh). There aren't any other gentlemen.

BETTY. It might be a clergyman, come to ask for a subscription like.

BELINDA. If it's a clergyman, Betty, I shall--I shall want your
assistance out of the hammock first.

BETTY. Yes, ma'am.

BELINDA. That's all. To anybody else I'm not at home. (Trying to secure
book on table and nearly falling out of the hammock.) Oh, just give me
that little green book. (Pointing to books on the table.) The one at
the bottom there--that's the one. (BETTY gives it to her.) Thank you.
(Reading the title.) "The Lute of Love," by Claude Devenish. (To herself
as she turns the pages.) It doesn't seem much for half-a-crown when you
think of the _Daily Telegraph_. ... Lute... Lute.... I should have
quite a pretty mouth if I kept on saying that. (With a great deal of
expression.) Lute! (She pats her mouth back.)

BETTY. Is that all, ma'am?

BELINDA. That's all. (BETTY prepares to go.) Oh, what am I thinking of!
(Waving to the table.) I want that review; I think it's the blue one.
(As BETTY begins to look.) It has an article by Mr. Baxter on the "Rise
of Lunacy in the Eastern Counties"--yes, that's the one. I'd better have
that too; I'm just at the most exciting place. You shall have it after
_me, _Betty.

BETTY. Is that all, ma'am?

BELINDA. Yes, that really is all.

[BETTY goes into the house.]

BELINDA (reading to herself). "It is a matter of grave concern to all
serious students of social problems--" (Putting the review down in
hammock and shaking her head gently.) But not in April. (Lazily opening
the book and reading.) "Tell me where is love"--well, that's the
question, isn't it? (She puts the book down, gives a sigh of happiness,
and lazily closes her eyes. DELIA comes into the garden, from Paris.
She is decidedly a modern girl, pretty and self-possessed. Her hair
is half-way up; waiting for her birthday, perhaps. She sees her mother
suddenly, stops, and then goes on tiptoe to the head of the hammock. She
smiles and kisses her mother on the forehead. BELINDA, looking supremely
unconscious, goes on sleeping. DELIA kisses her lightly again. BELINDA
wakes up with an extraordinarily natural start, and is just about to
say, "Oh, Mr. Devenish--you mustn't!"--when she sees DELIA.) Delia!

DELIA. Well, mummy, aren't you glad to see me?

BELINDA. My darling child! (They kiss each other frantically.)

DELIA. Say you're glad.

BELINDA (sitting up). My darling, I'm absolutely--Hold the hammock while
I get out, dear; we don't want an accident. (Getting out with DELIA'S
help) They're all right when you're there, and they'll bear two tons,
but they're horrid getting in and out of. (Kissing her again) Darling,
it really _is_ you?

DELIA. Oh, it is jolly seeing you again. I believe you were asleep.

BELINDA (with dignity). Certainly not, child. I was reading "The
Nineteenth Century"--(with an air)--and after. (Earnestly) Darling,
wasn't it next Thursday you were coming back?

DELIA. No, this Thursday, silly.

BELINDA (penitently). Oh, my darling, and I was going over to Paris to
bring you home.

DELIA. I half expected you.

BELINDA. So confusing their both being called Thursday. And you were
leaving school for the very last time. If you don't forgive me, Delia, I
shall cry.

DELIA (stroking her hand fondly). Silly mother!

(BELINDA sits down in a basket chair and DELIA sits on a table next to

BELINDA. Isn't it a lovely day for April, darling! I've wanted to say
that to somebody all day, and you're the first person who's given me the
chance. Oh, I said it to Betty, but she only said, "Yes, ma'am."

DELIA. Poor mother!

BELINDA (jumping up suddenly and kissing DELIA again). I simply must
have another one. And to think that you're never going back to school
any more. (Looking at her fondly) Darling, you _are_ looking pretty.


BELINDA. Lovely. (Going back to her seat) And now you're going to stay
with me for just as long as you want a mother. (Anxiously) Darling, you
didn't mind being sent away to school, did you? It _is_ the usual thing,
you know.

DELIA. Silly mother! of course it is.

BELINDA (relieved). I'm so glad you think so too.

DELIA. Have you been very lonely without me?


DELIA (holding up a finger). The truth, mummy!

BELINDA. I've missed you horribly, Delia. (Primly.) The absence of
female companionship of the requisite--

DELIA. Are you really all alone?

BELINDA (smiling mysteriously). Well, not always, of course.

DELIA (excitedly, at she slips off the table). Mummy, I believe you're
being bad again.

BELINDA. Really, darling, you forget that I'm old enough to be--in fact,
am--your mother.

DELIA (nodding her head). You are being bad.

BELINDA (rising with dignity and drawing herself up to her full height).
My child, that is not the way to--Oh, I say, what a lot taller I am than

DELIA. And prettier.

BELINDA (fluttering her eyelids). Oh, do you think so? (Firmly) Don't be
silly, child.

DELIA (holding up a finger). Now tell me all that's been happening here
at once.

BELINDA (with a sigh). And I was just going to ask you how you were
getting on with your French.

DELIA. Bother French! You've been having a much more interesting time
than I have, so you've got to tell.

BELINDA (with a happy sigh). O-oh! (She sinks back into her chair.)

DELIA. Is it like the Count at Scarborough?

BELINDA (surprised and pained). My darling, what _do_ you mean?

DELIA. Don't you remember the Count who kept proposing to you at
Scarborough? I do.

BELINDA (reproachfully). Dear one, you were the merest child, paddling
about on the beach and digging castles.

DELIA (smiling to herself). I was old enough to notice the Count.

BELINDA (sadly). And I'd bought her a perfectly new spade! How one
deceives oneself!

DELIA. And then there was the M.P. who proposed at Windermere.

BELINDA. Yes, dear, but it wasn't seconded--I mean he never got very far
with it.

DELIA. And the artist in Wales.

BELINDA. Darling child, what a memory you have. No wonder your teachers
are pleased with you.

DELIA (settling herself comfortably). Now tell me all about this one.

BELINDA (meekly). Which one?

DELIA (excitedly). Oh, are there lots?

BELINDA (severely). Only two.

DELIA. Two! You abandoned woman!

BELINDA. It's something in the air, darling. I've never been in
Devonshire in April before.

DELIA. Is it really serious this time?

BELINDA (pained). I wish you wouldn't say _this_ time, Delia. It sounds
so unromantic. If you'd only put it into French--_cette fois_--it sounds
so much better. _Cette fois_. (Parentally.) When one's daughter has just
returned from an expensive schooling in Paris, one likes to feel--

DELIA. What I meant, dear, was, am I to have a stepfather at last?

BELINDA. Now you're being _too_ French, darling.

DELIA. Why, do you still think father may be alive?

BELINDA. Why not? It's only eighteen years since he left us, and he was
quite a young man then.

DELIA. Yes, but surely you'd have heard from him in all those years, if
he'd been alive?

BELINDA. Well, he hasn't heard from _me, _and I'm still alive.

DELIA (looking earnestly at her mother). I shall never understand it.

BELINDA. Understand what?

DELIA. Were you as heavenly when you were young as you are now?

BELINDA (rapturously). Oh, I was sweet!

DELIA. And yet he left you after only six months.

BELINDA (rather crossly). I wish you wouldn't keep on saying he left me.
I left him too.


BELINDA (smiling to herself). Well, you see, he was quite certain he
knew how to manage women, and I was quite certain I knew how to manage
men. (Thoughtfully.) If only one of us had been certain, it would have
been all right.

DELIA (seriously). What really happened, mummy? I'm grown up now, so I
think you ought to tell me.

BELINDA (thoughtfully). That was about all, you know... except for his

DELIA. Had he a beard? How funny!

BELINDA. Yes, dear, it was; but he never would see it. He took it quite

DELIA. And did you say dramatically, "If you really loved me, you'd take
it off"?

BELINDA (apologetically). I'm afraid I did, darling.

DELIA. And what did _he_ say?

BELINDA. He said--_very_ rudely--that, if I loved _him_, I'd do my hair
in a different way.

DELIA. How ridiculous!

BELINDA (touching her hair). Of course, I didn't do it like this then.
(With a sigh.) I suppose we never ought to have married, really.

DELIA. Why did you?

BELINDA. Mother rather wanted it. (Solemnly.) Delia, never get married
because your mother--Oh, I forgot; _I'm_ your mother.

DELIA. And I don't want a better one.... And so you left each other?


DELIA. But, darling, didn't you tell him there was going to be a Me?


DELIA. I wonder why not?

BELINDA. Well, you see, if I had, he might have wanted to stay.

DELIA. But--

BELINDA (hurt). If he didn't want to stay for _me_, I didn't want him to
stay for _you_. (Penitently.) Forgive me, darling, but I didn't know
you very well then. (DELIA jumps off the table and hugs her mother
impetuously.) We've been very happy together, haven't we?

DELIA (going back to her seat). I should think we have.

BELINDA. I don't want to deny you anything, and, of course, if you'd
like a stepfather (looking down modestly) or two--

DELIA. Oh, you _have_ been enjoying yourself.

BELINDA. Only you see how awkward it would be if Jack turned up in the
middle of the wedding, like--like Eugene Aram.

DELIA. Enoch Arden, darling.

BELINDA. It's very confusing their having the same initials. Perhaps I'd
better call them both E. A. in future and then I shall be safe. Well,
anyhow it would be awkward, darling, wouldn't it? Not that I should know
him from Adam after all these years--except for a mole on his left arm.

DELIA. Perhaps Adam had a mole.

BELINDA. No, darling; you're thinking of Noah. He had two.

DELIA (thoughtfully). I wonder what would happen if you met somebody
whom you really did fall in love with?

BELINDA (reproachfully). Now you're being serious, and it's April.

DELIA. Aren't these two--the present two--serious?

BELINDA. Oh no! They think they are, but they aren't a bit, really.
Besides, I'm doing them such a lot of good. I'm sure they'd hate to
marry me, but they love to think they're in love with me, and--_I_ love
it, and--and _they_ love it, and--and we _all_ love it.

DELIA. You really are the biggest, darlingest baby who ever lived.
(Kisses her.) Do say I shan't spoil your lovely times.

BELINDA (surprised). Spoil them? Why, you'll make them more lovely than

DELIA. Well, but do they know you have a grown-up daughter?

BELINDA (suddenly realizing). Oh!

DELIA. It doesn't really matter, because you don't look a day more than

BELINDA (absently). No. (Hurriedly.) I mean, how sweet of you--only--

DELIA. What!

BELINDA (playing with her rings). Well, one of them, Mr.
Baxter--Harold--(she looks quickly up at DELIA and down again in pretty
affectation, but she is really laughing at herself all the time) he
writes statistical articles for the Reviews--percentages and all those
things. He's just the sort of man, if he knew that I was your mother,
to work it out that I was more than thirty. The other one, Mr.
Devenish--Claude--(she looks up and down as before) he's rather, rather
poetical. He thinks I came straight from heaven--last week.

DELIA (jumping up). I think _I'd_ better go straight back to Paris.

BELINDA (jumping up and catching her firmly by the arms). You will do
nothing of the sort. You will take off that hat--(she lets go of the
arm and begins to take out the pin) which is a perfect duck, and I don't
know why I didn't say so before--(she puts the hat down on the table)
and let me take a good look at you (she does so), and kiss you (she does
so), and then we'll go to your room and unpack and have a lovely talk
about clothes. And then we'll have tea.

[BETTY comes in.]

BELINDA. And now here's Betty coming in to upset all our delightful
plans, just when we've made them.

DELIA. How are you, Betty? I've left school.

BETTY. Very nicely, thank you, miss. You've grown.

BELINDA (patting the top of DELIA'S head). I'm much taller than she
is.... Well, Betty, what is it?

BETTY. The two gentlemen, Mr. Baxter and Mr. Devenish, have both called
together, ma'am.

BELINDA (excited). Oh! How--how very simultaneous of them!

DELIA (eagerly). Oh, do let me see them!

BELINDA. Darling, you'll see plenty of them before you've finished. (To
BETTY) What have you done with them?

BETTY. They're waiting in the hall, ma'am, while I said I would see if
you were at home.

BELINDA. All right, Betty. Give me two minutes and then show them out

BETTY. Yes, ma'am. [Exit.]

BELINDA. They can't do much harm to each other in two minutes.

DELIA (taking her hat). Well, I'll go and unpack. You really won't mind
my coming down afterwards?

BELINDA. Of course not. (A little awkwardly) Darling one, I wonder if
you'd mind--just at first--being introduced as my niece. You see, I
expect they're in a bad temper already, having come here together, and
we don't want to spoil their day entirely.

DELIA (smiling). I'll be your mother if you like.

BELINDA. Oh no, that wouldn't do, because then Mr. Baxter would feel
that he ought to ask your permission before paying his attentions to me.
He's just that sort of man. A niece is so safe--however good you are at
statistics, you can't really prove anything.

DELIA. All right, mummy.

BELINDA (enjoying herself). You'd like to be called by a different name,
wouldn't you? There's something so thrilling about taking a false name.
Such a lot of adventures begin like that. How would you like to be Miss
Robinson, darling? It's a nice easy one to remember. (Persuasively.) And
you shall put your hair up so as to feel more disguised. What fun we're
going to have!

DELIA. You baby! All right, then, I'm Miss Robinson, your favourite
niece. (She moves towards the house.)

BELINDA. How sweet of you! Oh, I'm coming with you to do your hair. You
don't think you're going to be allowed to do it yourself, when so much
depends on it, and husbands leave you because of it, and--[They do in

[BETTY comes from the other side of the house into the garden, followed
by MR. BAXTER and MR. DEVENISH. MR. BAXTER is forty-five, prim and
erect, with close-trimmed moustache and side-whiskers. His clothes
are dark and he wears a bowler-hat. MR. DEVENISH is a long-haired,
good-looking boy in a négligé costume; perhaps twenty-two years old, and
very scornful of the world.]

BETTY (looking about her surprised). The mistress was here a moment ago.
I expect she'll be back directly, if you'll just wait. [She goes back
into the house.]

(MR. BAXTER puts his bowler-hat firmly on his head and sits down very
stiffly and upright in a chair on the left-hand side of the table.
DEVENISH throws his felt hat on to the table and walks about
inquisitively. He sees the review in the hammock and picks it up.)

DEVENISH. Good heavens, Baxter, she's been reading your article!

BAXTER. I dare say she's not the only one.

DEVENISH. That's only guesswork (going to back of table); you don't know
of anyone else.

BAXTER. How many people, may I ask, have bought your poems?

DEVENISH (loftily). I don't write for the mob.

BAXTER. I think I may say that of my own work.

DEVENISH. Baxter, I don't want to disappoint you, but I have reluctantly
come to the conclusion that you _are_ one of the mob. (Annoyed.) Dash
it! what are you doing in the country at all in a bowler-hat?

BAXTER. If I wanted to be personal, I could say, "Why don't you get your
hair cut?" Only that form of schoolboy humour doesn't appeal to me.

DEVENISH. This is not a personal matter; I am protesting on behalf of
nature. What do the birds and the flowers and the beautiful trees think
of your hat?

BAXTER. If one began to ask oneself what the birds thought of
things--(He pauses.)

DEVENISH. Well, and why shouldn't one ask oneself? It is better than
asking oneself what the Stock Exchange thinks of things.

BAXTER. Well (looking up at DEVENISH'S extravagant hair), it's the
nesting season. Your hair! (Suddenly.) Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!

DEVENISH (hastily smoothing it down). Really, Baxter, you're vulgar. (He
turns away and resumes his promenading. Suddenly he sees his book on
the grass beneath the hammock and makes a dash for it.) Ha, my book!
(Gloating over it) Baxter, she reads my book.

BAXTER. I suppose you gave her a copy.

DEVENISH (exultingly). Yes, I gave her a copy. My next book will be hers
and hers alone.

BAXTER. Then let me say that, in my opinion, you took a very great

DEVENISH. Liberty! And this from a man who is continually forcing his
unwelcome statistics upon her.

BAXTER. At any rate, I flatter myself that there is no suggestion of
impropriety in anything that _I_ write.

DEVENISH. I'm not so sure about that, Baxter.

BAXTER. What do you mean, sir?

DEVENISH. Did you read _The Times_ this month on the new reviews!


DEVENISH. Oh, nothing. It just said, "Mr. Baxter's statistics are
extremely suggestive." I haven't read them, so of course I don't know
what you've been up to.

BAXTER (turning away in disgust). Pah!

DEVENISH. Poor old Baxter! (He wanders about the garden again, and,
having picked a flower, comes to rest against one of the trees from
which the hammock is swung. He leans against this and regards the flower
thoughtfully.) Baxter--

BAXTER (crossly). I wish you wouldn't keep calling me "Baxter."


BAXTER. It is only by accident--an accident which we both deplore--that
we have met at all, and in any case I am a considerably older man than

DEVENISH. Mr. Baxter--father--I have a proposal to make. We will leave
it to this beautiful flower to decide which of us the lady loves.

BAXTER (turning round). Eh?

DEVENISH (pulling off the petals). She loves me, she loves Mr. Baxter,
she loves me, she loves Mr. Baxter--Heaven help her!--she loves me--

BELINDA (at the garden door.). What _are_ you doing, Mr. Devenish!

DEVENISH (throwing away the flower and bowing very low). My lady.

BAXTER (removing his bowler-hat stiffly). Good afternoon, Mrs. Tremayne.

(She gives her left hand to DEVENISH, who kisses it, and her right to
BAXTER, who shakes it.)

BELINDA. How nice of you both to come!

BAXTER. Mr. Devenish and I are inseparable--apparently.

BELINDA. You haven't told me what you were doing, Mr. Devenish. Was it
"This year, next year?" or "Silk, satin--"

DEVENISH. My lady, it was even more romantic than that. I have the
honour to announce to your ladyship that Mr. Baxter is to be a sailor.

BELINDA (to BAXTER). Doesn't he talk nonsense?

BAXTER. He'll grow out of it. I did.

BELINDA. Oh, I hope not. I love talking nonsense, and I'm ever so old.
(As they both start forward to protest) Now which one of you will say it

DEVENISH. You are as old as the stars and as young as the dawn.

BAXTER. You are ten years younger than I am.

BELINDA. What sweet things to say! I don't know which I like best.

DEVENISH. Where will my lady sit?

BELINDA. I will recline in the hammock, an it please thee, my lord--only
it's rather awkward getting in, Mr. Baxter. Perhaps you'd both better
look at the tulips for a moment.

BAXTER. Oh--ah--yes. (He puts his hat on and turns his back to the

DEVENISH (leaning over her). If only--

BELINDA. You'd better not say anything, Mr. Devenish. Keep it for your
next volume. (He turns away.) One, two, three--that was better than last
time. (They turn round to see her safely in the hammock. DEVENISH leans
against the tree at her feet, and BAXTER draws the chair from the right
side of the table and turns it round towards her. He presses his hat
more firmly on and sits down.) I wonder if either of you can guess what
I've been reading this afternoon!

DEVENISH (looking at her lovingly). I know.

BELINDA (giving him a fleeting look). How did you know? (to BAXTER).
Yes, Mr. Baxter, it was your article I was reading. If you'd come five
minutes earlier you'd have found me wrestling--I mean revelling in it.

BAXTER. I am very greatly honoured, Mrs. Tremayne. Ah--it seemed to me a
very interesting curve showing the rise and fall of--

BELINDA. I hadn't got up to the curves. They _are_ interesting, aren't
they? They are really more in Mr. Devenish's line. (To DEVENISH.) Mr.
Devenish, it was a great disappointment to me that all the poems in your
book seemed to be written to somebody else.

DEVENISH. It was before I met you, lady. They were addressed to the
goddess of my imagination. It is only in these last few weeks that I
have discovered her.

BELINDA. And discovered she was dark and not fair.

DEVENISH. She will be dark in my next volume.

BELINDA. Oh, how nice of her!

BAXTER (kindly). You should write a real poem to Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA (excitedly). Oh do! "To Belinda." I don't know what rhymes,
except cinder. You could say your heart was like a cinder--all burnt up.

DEVENISH (pained). Oh, my lady, I'm afraid that is a cockney rhyme.

BELINDA. How thrilling! I've never been to Hampstead Heath.

DEVENISH. "Belinda." It is far too beautiful to rhyme with anything but

BELINDA. Fancy! But what about Tremayne? (Singing.) Oh, I am Mrs.
Tremayne, and I don't want to marry again.

DEVENISH (protesting). My lady!

BAXTER (protesting). Belinda!

BELINDA (pointing excitedly to BAXTER). There, that's the first time
he's called me Belinda!

DEVENISH. Are you serious?

BELINDA. Not as a rule.

DEVENISH. You're not going to marry again?

BELINDA. Well, who could I marry?

DEVENISH and BAXTER (together). Me!

BELINDA (dropping her eyes modestly). But this is England.

BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, I claim the right of age--of my greater years--to
speak first.

DEVENISH. Mrs. Tremayne, I--

BELINDA (kindly to DEVENISH). You can speak afterwards, Mr. Devenish.
It's so awkward when you both speak together.

BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, I am a man of substantial position, and perhaps
I may say of some repute in serious circles. All that I have, whether
of material or mental endowment, I lay at your feet, together with an
admiration which I cannot readily put into words. As my wife I think you
would be happy, and I feel that with you by my side I could achieve even
greater things.

BELINDA. How sweet of you! But I ought to tell you that I'm no good at

DEVENISH (protesting). My lady--

BELINDA. I don't mean what you mean, Mr. Devenish. You wait till it's
your turn. (To BAXTER.) Yes?

BAXTER. I ask you to marry me, Belinda.

BELINDA (settling herself happily and closing her eyes). O-oh!... Now
it's _your_ turn, Mr. Devenish.

DEVENISH (excitedly). Money--thank Heaven, I have no money.
Reputation--thank Heaven, I have no reputation. What can I offer you?
Dreams--nothing but dreams. Come with me and I will show you the world
through my dreams. What can I give you? Youth, freedom, beauty--

BAXTER. Debts.

BELINDA (still with her eyes shut). You mustn't interrupt, Mr. Baxter.

DEVENISH. Belinda, marry me and I will open your eyes to the beauty of
the world. Come to me!

BELINDA (happily). O-oh! You've got such different ways of putting
things. How can I choose between you?

DEVENISH. Then you will marry one of us?

BELINDA. You know I really _oughtn't_ to.

BAXTER. I don't see why not.

BELINDA. Well, there's just a little difficulty in the way.

DEVENISH. What is it? I will remove it. For you I could remove
anything--yes, even Baxter. (He looks at BAXTER, who is sitting more
solidly than ever in his chair.)

BELINDA. And anyhow I should have to choose between you.

DEVENISH (in a whisper). Choose me.

BAXTER (stiffly). Mrs. Tremayne does not require any prompting. A fair
field and let the best man win.

DEVENISH (going across to and slapping the astonished BAXTER on the
back). Aye, let the best man win! Well spoken, Baxter. (To BELINDA) Send
us out into the world upon some knightly quest, lady, and let the victor
be rewarded.

BAXTER. I--er--ought to say that I should be unable to go very far. I
have an engagement to speak at Newcastle on the 21st.

DEVENISH. Baxter, I will take no unfair advantage of you. Let the beard
of the Lord Mayor of Newcastle be the talisman that my lady demands; I
am satisfied.

BAXTER. This sort of thing is entirely contrary to my usual mode of
life, but I will not be outfaced by a mere boy. (Slapping his bowler-hat
on the table) I am prepared.

DEVENISH. Speak, lady.

BELINDA (speaking in a deep, mysterious voice). Gentlemen, ye put wild
thoughts into my head. In sooth, I am minded to send ye forth upon a
quest that is passing strange. Know ye that there is a maid journeyed
hither, hight Robinson--whose--(in her natural voice) what's the old for

BAXTER (hopefully). Mother's sister.

BELINDA. You know, I think I shall have to explain this in ordinary
language. You won't mind very much, will you, Mr. Devenish?

DEVENISH. It is the spirit of this which matters, not the language which
clothes it.

BELINDA. Oh, I'm so glad you think so. Well, now about Miss Robinson.
She's my niece and she's just come to stay with me, and--poor
girl--she's lost her father. Absolutely lost him. He disappeared ever
such a long time ago, and poor Miss Robinson--Delia--naturally wants to
find him. Poor girl! she can't think where he is.

DEVENISH (nobly). I will find him.

BELINDA. Oh, thank you, Mr. Devenish; Miss Robinson would be so much

BAXTER. Yes--er--but what have we to go upon? Beyond the fact that his
name is Robinson--

BELINDA. I shouldn't go on that too much. You see, he may easily have
changed it by now. He was never very much of a Robinson. Nothing to do
with Peter or any of those.

DEVENISH. I will find him.

BAXTER. Well, can you tell us what he's like?

BELINDA. Well, it's such a long time since I saw him. (Looking down
modestly.) Of course, I was quite a girl then. The only thing I know for
certain is that he has a mole on his left arm about here. (She indicates
a spot just below the elbow.)

DEVENISH (folding his arms and looking nobly upwards). I will find him.

BAXTER. I am bound to inform you, Mrs. Tremayne, that even a trained
detective could not give you very much hope in such a case. However, I
will keep a look-out for him, and, of course, if--

DEVENISH. Fear not, lady, I will find him.

BAXTER (annoyed). Yes, you keep on saying that, but what have you got to
go on?

DEVENISH (grandly). Faith! The faith which moves mountains.

BELINDA. Yes, and this is only just one small mole-hill, Mr. Baxter.

BAXTER. Yes, but still--

BELINDA. S'sh! here is Miss Robinson. If Mr. Devenish will hold the
hammock while I alight--we don't want an accident--I can introduce
you. (He helps her to get out.) Thank you. Delia darling, this is Mr.
Baxter,--and Mr. Devenish. My niece, Miss Robinson--

DELIA. How do you do?

BELINDA. Miss Robinson has just come over from France. _Mon Dieu, quel

BAXTER. I hope you had a good crossing, Miss Robinson.

DELIA. Oh, I never mind about the crossing. Aunt Belinda--(She stops and

BELINDA. Yes, dear?

DELIA. I believe tea is almost ready. I want mine, and I'm sure Mr.
Baxter's hungry. Mr. Devenish scorns food, I expect.

DEVENISH (hurt). Why do you say that?

DELIA. Aren't you a poet?

BELINDA. Yes, darling, but that doesn't prevent him eating. He'll be
absolutely lyrical over Betty's sandwiches.

DEVENISH. You won't deny me that inspiration, I hope, Miss Robinson.

BELINDA. Well, let's go and see what they're like. (DELIA and DEVENISH
begin to move towards the house.) Mr. Baxter, just a moment.


BELINDA (secretly). Not a word to her about Mr. Robinson. It must be a
surprise for her.

BAXTER. Quite so, I understand.

BELINDA. That's right. (Raising her voice.) Oh, Mr. Devenish.

DEVENISH. Yes, Mrs. Tremayne? (He comes back.)

BELINDA (secretly). Not a word to her about Mr. Robinson. It must be a
surprise for her.

DEVENISH. Of course! I shouldn't dream--(Indignantly.) Robinson! _What_
an unsuitable name!

[BAXTER _and_ DELIA _are_ just going into the house.]

BELINDA (dismissing DEVENISH). All right, I'll catch you up.

[DEVENISH goes after the other two.]

(Left alone, BELINDA _laughs happily_ to herself, and then begins to look
rather aimlessly about her. She picks up her sunshade and opens it. She
comes to the hammock, picks out her handkerchief, says, "Ah, there you
are!" and puts it away. She goes slowly towards the house, turns her
head just as she comes to the door, and comes slowly back again. She
stops at the table looking down the garden.)

BELINDA (to herself). Have you lost yourself, or something? No; the
latch is this side.... Yes, that's right.

[TREMAYNE comes in. He has been knocking about the world for eighteen
years, and is very much a man, though he has kept his manners. His hair
is greying a little at the sides, and he looks the forty-odd that he
is. Without his moustache and beard he is very different from the boy
BELINDA married.]

TREMAYNE (with his hat in his hand). I'm afraid I'm trespassing.

BELINDA (winningly). But it's such a pretty garden (turns away, dosing
her parasol), isn't it?

TREMAYNE (rather confused). I-I beg your pardon, I-er--(He is wondering
if it can possibly be she. BELINDA thinks his confusion is due to the
fact that he is trespassing, and hastens to put him at his ease.)

BELINDA. I should have done the same myself, you know.

TREMAYNE (pulling himself together). Oh, but you mustn't think I just
came in because I liked the garden--

BELINDA (clapping her hands). No; but say you do like it, quick.

TREMAYNE. It's lovely and--(He hesitates.)

BELINDA (hopefully). Yes?

TREMAYNE (with conviction). Yes, it's lovely.

BELINDA (with that happy sigh of hers). O-oh!... Now tell me what really
did happen?

TREMAYNE. I was on my way to Marytown--

BELINDA. To where?

TREMAYNE. Marytown.

BELINDA. Oh, you mean Mariton.


BELINDA. Yes; we always call it Mariton down here. (Earnestly.) You
don't mind, do you?

TREMAYNE (smiling). Not a bit.

BELINDA. Just say it--to see if you've got it right.

TREMAYNE. Mariton.

BELINDA (shaking her head). Oh no, that's quite wrong. Try it again
(With a rustic accent.) Mariton.

TREMAYNE. Mariton.

BELINDA. Yes, that's much better.... (As if it were he who had
interrupted.) Well, do go on.

TREMAYNE. I'm afraid it isn't much of an apology really. I saw what
looked like a private road, but what I rather hoped wasn't, and--well, I
thought I'd risk it. I do hope you'll forgive me.

BELINDA. Oh, but I love people seeing my garden. Are you staying in

TREMAYNE. I think so. Oh yes, decidedly.

BELINDA. Well, perhaps the next time the road won't feel so private.

TREMAYNE. How charming of you! (He feels he must know.) Are you Mrs.
Tremayne by any chance?


TREMAYNE (nodding to himself). Yes.

BELINDA. How did you know?

TREMAYNE (hastily inventing). They use you as a sign-post in the
village. Past Mrs. Tremayne's house and then bear to the left--

BELINDA. And you couldn't go past it?

TREMAYNE. I'm afraid I couldn't. Thank you so much for not minding.
Well, I must be getting on, I have trespassed quite enough.

BELINDA (regretfully). And you haven't really seen the garden yet.

TREMAYNE. If you won't mind my going on this way, I shall see some more
on my way out.

BELINDA. Please do. It likes being looked at. (With the faintest
suggestion of demureness) All pretty things do.

TREMAYNE. Thank you very much. Er--(He hesitates.)

BELINDA (helpfully). Yes?

TREMAYNE. I wonder if you'd mind very much if I called one day to thank
you formally for the lesson you gave me in pronunciation?

BELINDA (gravely). Yes. I almost think you ought to. I think it's the
correct thing to do.

TREMAYNE (contentedly). Thank you very much, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA. You'll come in quite formally by the front-door next time,
won't you, because--because that seems the only chance of my getting to
know your name.

TREMAYNE. Oh, I beg your pardon. My name is--er--er--Robinson.

BELINDA (laughing). How very odd!

TREMAYNE (startled). Odd?

BELINDA. Yes; we have someone called Robinson staying in the house. I
wonder if she is any relation?

TREMAYNE (hastily). Oh no, no. No, she couldn't be. I have no relations
called Robinson--not to speak of.

BELINDA (holding out her hand). You must tell me all about your
relations when you come and call, Mr. Robinson.

TREMAYNE. I think we can find something better worth talking about than

BELINDA. Do you think so? (He says "Yes" with his eyes, bows, and goes
off down the garden. BELINDA stays looking after him, then gives that
happy sigh of hers, only even more so) O-oh!

[Enter BETTY.]

BETTY. If you please, ma'am, Miss Delia says, are you coming in to tea?

BELINDA (looking straight in front of her, and taking no notice of
BETTY, in a happy, dreamy voice). Betty,... about callers.... If
Mr. Robinson calls--he's the handsome gentleman who hasn't been here
before--you will say, "Not at home." And he will say, "Oh!" And you will
say, "I beg your pardon, sir, was it Mr. _Robinson_?" And he will say,
"Yes!" And you will say, "Oh, I beg your pardon, sir--" (Almost as if
she were BETTY, she begins to move towards the house.) "This way--" (she
would be smiling an invitation over her shoulder to MR. ROBINSON, if he
were there, and she were BETTY)--"please!" (And the abandoned woman goes
in to tea.)


[It is morning in BELINDA'S hall, a low-roofed, oak-beamed place,
comfortably furnished as a sitting-room. There is an inner and an outer
front-door, both of which are open.]

[DEVENISH, who has just rung the bell, is waiting with a bouquet of
violets between the two. Midway on the right is a door leading to a
small room where hats and coats are kept. A door on the left leads
towards the living-rooms.]

BETTY. Good morning, sir.

DEVENISH. Good morning. I am afraid this is an unceremonious hour for a
call, but my sense of beauty urged me hither in defiance of convention.

BETTY. Yes, sir.

DEVENISH (holding up his bouquet to BETTY). See, the dew is yet
lingering upon them; how could I let them wait until this afternoon?

BETTY. Yes, sir; but I think the mistress is out.

DEVENISH. They are not for your mistress; they are for Miss Delia.

BETTY. Oh, I beg your pardon, sir. If you will come in, I'll see if I
can find her. (She brings him in and goes away to find DELIA.)

(DEVENISH tries a number of poses about the room for himself and his
bouquet, and finally selects one against the right side of the door by
which he has just come in.)

[Enter DELIA from the door on the left.]

DELIA (shutting the door and going _to_ DEVENISH). Oh, good morning, Mr.
Devenish. I'm afraid my--er--aunt is out.

DEVENISH. I know, Miss Delia, I know.

DELIA. She'll be so sorry to have missed you. It is her day for you,
isn't it?

DEVENISH. Her day for me?

DELIA. Yes; Mr. Baxter generally comes to-morrow, doesn't he?

DEVENISH. Miss Delia, if our friendship is to progress at all, it can
only be on the distinct understanding that I take no interest whatever
in Mr. Baxter's movements.

DELIA. Oh, I'm so sorry; I thought you knew. What lovely flowers! Are
they for my aunt?

DEVENISH. To whom does one bring violets? To modest, shrinking, tender

DELIA. I don't think we have anybody here like that.

DEVENISH (with a bow). Miss Delia, they are for you.

DELIA. Oh, how nice of you! But I'm afraid I oughtn't to take them from
you under false pretences; I don't shrink.

DEVENISH. A fanciful way of putting it, perhaps. They are none the less
for you.

DELIA. Well, it's awfully kind of you. I'm afraid I'm not a very
romantic person. Aunt Belinda does all the romancing in our family.

DEVENISH. Your aunt is a very remarkable woman.

DELIA. She is. Don't you dare to say a word against her.

DEVENISH. My dear Miss Delia, nothing could be further from my thoughts.
Why, am I not indebted to her for that great happiness which has come to
me in these last few days?

DELIA (surprised). Good gracious! and I didn't know anything about it.
But what about poor Mr. Baxter?

DEVENISH (stiffly). I must beg that Mr. Baxter's name be kept out of our

DELIA. But I thought Mr. Baxter and you--do tell me what's happened. I
seem to have lost myself.

DEVENISH. What has happened, Miss Delia, is that I have learnt at last
the secret that my heart has been striving to tell me for weeks past. As
soon as I saw that gracious lady, your aunt, I knew that I was in love.
Foolishly I took it for granted that it was she for whom my heart was
thrilling. How mistaken I was! Directly you came, you opened my eyes,
and now--

DELIA. Mr. Devenish, you don't say you're proposing to me?

DEVENISH. I am. I feel sure I am. Delia, I love you.

DELIA. How exciting of you!

DEVENISH (with a modest shrug). It's nothing; I am a poet.

DELIA. You really want to marry me?

DEVENISH. Such is my earnest wish.

DELIA. But what about my aunt?

DEVENISH (simply). She will be my aunt-in-law.

DELIA. She'll be rather surprised.

DEVENISH. Delia, I will be frank with you. I admit that I made Mrs.
Tremayne an offer of marriage.

DELIA (excitedly). You really did? Was it that first afternoon I came?


DELIA. Oh, I wish I'd been there!

DEVENISH (with dignity). It is not my custom to propose in the presence
of a third party. It is true that on the occasion you mention a man
called Baxter was on the lawn, but I regarded him no more than the old
apple-tree or the flower-beds, or any other of the fixtures.

DELIA. What did she say?

DEVENISH. She accepted me conditionally.

DELIA. Oh, do tell me!

DEVENISH. It is rather an unhappy story. This man called Baxter in his
vulgar way also made a proposal of marriage. Mrs. Tremayne was gracious
enough to imply that she would marry whichever one of us fulfilled a
certain condition.

DELIA. How sweet of her!

DEVENISH. It is my earnest hope, Miss Delia, that the man called
Baxter will be the victor. As far as is consistent with honour, I shall
endeavour to let Mr. Baxter (banging the table with his hand) win.

DELIA. What was the condition?

DEVENISH. That I am not at liberty to tell. It is, I understand, to be a
surprise for you.

DELIA. How exciting!... Mr. Devenish, you have been very frank. May I be
equally so? (DEVENISH bows.) Why do you wear your hair so long?

DEVENISH (pleased). You have noticed it?

DELIA. Well, yes, I have.

DEVENISH. I wear it so to express my contempt for the conventions of
so-called society.

DELIA. I always thought that people wore it very very short if they
despised the conventions of society.

DEVENISH. I think that the mere fact that my hair annoys Mr. Baxter is
sufficient justification for its length.

DELIA. But if it annoys me too?

DEVENISH (heroically). It shall go.

DELIA (apologetically). I told you I wasn't a very romantic person,
didn't I? (Kindly.) You can always grow it again if you fall in love
with somebody else.

DEVENISH. That is cruel of you, Delia. I shall never fall in love again.

[Enter BELINDA in a hat.]

BELINDA. Why, it's Mr. Devenish! How nice of you to come so early in the
morning! How is Mr. Baxter?

DEVENISH. I do not know, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA (to DELIA). I got most of the things, Delia. (To DEVENISH.) "The
things," Mr. Devenish, is my rather stuffy way of referring to all the
delightful poems that you are going to eat to-night.

DEVENISH. I am looking forward to it immensely, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA. I do hope I've got all your and Mr. Baxter's favourite dishes.

DEVENISH. I'm afraid Mr. Baxter and I are not likely to appreciate the
same things.

BELINDA (coyly). Oh, Mr. Devenish! And you were so unanimous a few days

DELIA. I think Mr. Devenish was referring entirely to things to eat.

BELINDA. I felt quite sad when I was buying the lamb cutlets. To think
that, only a few days before, they had been frisking about with their
mammas, and having poems written about them by Mr. Devenish. There! I'm
giving away the whole dinner. Delia, take him away before I tell him any
more. We must keep some surprises for him.

DELIA (to DEVENISH as she picks up the flowers). Come along, Mr.

BELINDA (wickedly). Are those my flowers, Mr. Devenish?

DEVENISH (after a little hesitation, with a bow which might refer to
either of them). They are for the most beautiful lady in the land.

BELINDA. Oh, how nice of you!

[DEVENISH follows DELIA out through the door on the left.]

BELINDA (unpinning her hat before a mirror). I suppose he means
Delia--bless them! (She gives a few pats to her hair and then walks
about the room singing softly to herself. She does to the front-door
and looks happily out into the garden. Suddenly she sees MR. BAXTER
approaching. She hurries back into a chair and pretends to be very busy

BAXTER (rather nervously). Er--may I come in, Mrs. Tremayne?

BELINDA (dropping her book and turning round with a violent start). Oh,
Mr. Baxter, how you surprised me! (She puts her hand to her heart.)

BAXTER. I must apologize for intruding upon you at this hour, Mrs.

BELINDA (holding up her hand). Stop!

BAXTER (startled). What?

BELINDA. I cannot let you come in like that.

BAXTER (looking down at himself). Like what?

BELINDA (dropping her eyes). You called me Belinda once.

BAXTER (coming down to her). May I explain my position, Mrs. Tremayne?

BELINDA. Before you begin--have you been seeing my niece lately?

BAXTER (surprised). No.

BELINDA. Oh! (Sweetly.) Please go on.

BAXTER. Why, is _she_ lost too?

BELINDA. Oh no; I just--Do sit down. Let me put your hat down somewhere
for you.

BAXTER (keeping it firmly in his hand, and sitting down on the sofa). It
will be all right here, thank you.

BELINDA (returning to her chair). I'm dying to hear what you are going
to say.

BAXTER. First as regards the use of your Christian name. I felt that,
as a man of honour, I could not permit myself to use it until I had
established my right over that of Mr. Devenish.

BELINDA. All my friends call me Belinda.

BAXTER. As between myself and Mr. Devenish the case is somewhat
different. Until one of us is successful over the other in the quest
upon which you have sent us, I feel that as far as possible we should
hold aloof from you.

BELINDA (pleadingly). Just say "Belinda" once more, in case you're a
long time.

BAXTER (very formally). Belinda.

BELINDA. How nicely you say it--Harold.

BAXTER (half getting out of his seat). Mrs. Tremayne, I must not listen
to this.

BELINDA (meekly). I won't offend again, Mr. Baxter. Please go on. Tell
me about the quest; are you winning?

BAXTER. I am progressing, Mrs. Tremayne. Indeed, I came here this
morning to acquaint you with the results of my investigations. Yesterday
I located a man called Robinson working upon a farm close by. I ventured
to ask him if he had any marks upon him by which he could be recognized.
He adopted a threatening attitude, and replied that if I wanted any he
could give me some. With the aid of half-a-crown I managed to placate
him. Putting my inquiry in another form, I asked if he had any moles.
A regrettable misunderstanding, which led to a fruitless journey to
another part of the village, was eventually cleared up, and on my return
I satisfied myself that this man was in no way related to your niece.

BELINDA (admiringly). How splendid of you! Well, now, we know _he's_
not. (She holds up one finger.)

BAXTER. Yes. In the afternoon I located another Mr. Robinson following
the profession of a carrier. My first inquiries led to a similar
result, with the exception that in this case Mr. Robinson carried his
threatening attitude so far as to take off his coat and roll up his
sleeves. Perceiving at once that he was not the man, I withdrew.

BELINDA. How brave you are! That makes two. (She holds up another
finger). It still leaves a good many. (Pleadingly.) Just call me Belinda

BAXTER (nervously). You mustn't tempt me, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA (penitently). I won't!

BAXTER. To resume, then, my narrative. This morning I have heard of a
third Mr. Robinson. Whether there is actually any particular fortune
attached to the number three I cannot say for certain. It is doubtful
whether statistics would be found to support the popular belief. But one
likes to flatter oneself that in one's own case it may be true; and so--

BELINDA. And so the third Mr. Robinson--?

BAXTER. Something for which I cannot altogether account inspires me with
hope. He is, I have discovered, staying at Mariton. This afternoon I go
to look for him.

BELINDA (to herself). Mariton! How funny! I wonder if it's the same one.

BAXTER. What one?

BELINDA. Oh, just one of the ones. (Gratefully.) Mr. Baxter, you are
doing all this for _me_.

BAXTER. Pray do not mention it. I don't know if it's Devonshire, or the
time of the year, or the sort of atmosphere you create, Mrs. Tremayne,
but I feel an entirely different man. There is something in the air
which--yes, I shall certainly go over to Mariton this afternoon.

BELINDA (gravely). I have had the same feeling sometimes, Mr. Baxter. I
am not always the staid respectable matron which I appear to you to
be. Sometimes I--(She looks absently at the watch on her wrist.) Good

BAXTER (alarmed). What is it!

BELINDA (looking anxiously from the door to him). Mr. Baxter, I'm going
to throw myself on your mercy.

BAXTER. My dear Mrs. Tremayne--

BELINDA (looking at her watch again). A strange man will be here
directly. He must not find you with me.

BAXTER (rising, jealously). A man?

BELINDA (excitedly). Yes, yes, a man! He is pursuing me with his
attentions. If he found you here, there would be a terrible scene.

BAXTER. I will defend you from him.

BELINDA. No, no. He is a big man. He will--he will overpower you.

BAXTER. But you--?

BELINDA. I can defend myself. I will send him away. But he must not find
you here. You must hide before he overpowers you.

BAXTER (with dignity). I will withdraw if you wish it.

BELINDA. No, not withdraw, hide. He might see you withdrawing. (Leading
the way to a door on the right) Quick, in here.

BAXTER (embarrassed at the thought that this sort of thing really only
happens in a bedroom farce). I don't think I quite--

BELINDA (reassuring him). It's perfectly respectable; it's where we keep
the umbrellas. (She takes him by the hand.)

BAXTER (still resisting). I'm not at all sure that I--

BELINDA (earnestly). Oh, but don't you see what _trust_ I'm putting in
you? Some people are so nervous about their umbrellas.

BAXTER. Well, of course, if you--but I don't see why I shouldn't just
slip out of the door before he comes.

BELINDA (reproachfully). Of course, if you grudge me every little
pleasure--Quick! Here he is.

(She bundles him through the door, and with a sigh of happiness comes
back and looks at herself in the mirror. She goes to the front-door,
moves her hand to somebody in the distance, and comes into the hall
again. Seeing MR. BAXTER'S bowler hat on the sofa, she carries across to
his door, knocks, hands it to him, saying, "Your hat. S'sh!" and returns
to her chair. TREMAYNE comes in.)

TREMAYNE (at the door). It's no good your pretending to be surprised,
because you said I could come.

BELINDA (welcoming him). But I can still be surprised that you wanted to

TREMAYNE Oh no, you aren't.

BELINDA (marking it off on her fingers). Just a little bit--that much.

TREMAYNE. It would be much more surprising if I hadn't come.

BELINDA (sitting down on the sofa). It is a pretty garden, isn't it?

TREMAYNE (sitting down next to her). You forget that I saw the garden

BELINDA. Oh, but the things have grown so much since then. Let me see,
this is the third day you've been and we only met three days ago. And
then you're coming to dinner again to-night.

TREMAYNE (eagerly). Am I?

BELINDA. Yes. Haven't you been asked?

TREMAYNE. No, not a word.

BELINDA. Yes, that's quite right; I remember now, I only thought of it
this morning, so I couldn't ask you before, could I?

TREMAYNE (earnestly). What made you think of it then?

BELINDA (romantically). It was at the butcher's. There was one little
lamb cutlet left over and sitting out all by itself, and there was
nobody to love it. And I said to myself, suddenly, "I know, that will do
for Mr. Robinson." (Prosaically.) I do hope you like lamb?

TREMAYNE. I adore it.

BELINDA. Oh, I'm so glad! When I saw it sitting there I thought you'd
love it. I'm afraid I can't tell you any more about the rest of the
dinner, because I wouldn't tell Mr. Devenish, and I want to be fair.

TREMAYNE. Who's Mr. Devenish?

BELINDA. Oh, haven't you met him? He's always coming here.

TREMAYNE Is he in love with you too?

BELINDA. Too? Oh, you mean Mr. Baxter.

TREMAYNE. Confound it, that's three!

BELINDA (innocently). Three? (She looks up at him and down again.)

TREMAYNE. Who is Mr. Baxter?

BELINDA. Oh, haven't you met him? He's always coming here.

TREMAYNE. Who is Mr. Baxter?

BELINDA. Oh, he's a sort of statistician. Isn't that a horrid word to
say? So stishany.

TREMAYNE. What does he make statistics about?

BELINDA. Oh, umbrellas and things. Don't let's talk about him.

TREMAYNE. All right, then; who is Mr. Devenish?

BELINDA. Oh, he's a poet. (She throws up her eyes and sighs deeply.) Ah

TREMAYNE. What does he write poetry about? (BELINDA looks at him, and
down again, and then at him again, and then down, and gives a little
sigh--all of which means, "Can't you guess?") What does he write poetry

BELINDA (obediently). He wrote "The Lute of Love and other Poems, by
Claude Devenish." The Lute of Love--(To herself.) I haven't been saying
that lately. (With great expression.) The Lute of Love--the Lute. (She
pats her mouth back.)

TREMAYNE. And what is Mr. Devenish--

BELINDA (putting her hand on his sleeve). You'll let me know when it's
my turn, won't you?

TREMAYNE. Your turn?

BELINDA. Yes, to ask questions. I love this game--it's like clumps. (She
crosses her hands on her lap and waits for the next question.)

TREMAYNE. I beg your pardon. I--er--of course have no right to
cross-examine you like this.

BELINDA. Oh, do go on, I love it. (With childish excitement.) I've got
my question ready.

TREMAYNE (smiling). I think perhaps it _is_ your turn.

BELINDA (eagerly). Is it really? (He nods.) Well then--_who_ is Mr.

TREMAYNE (alarmed). What?

BELINDA. I think it's a fair question. I met you three days ago and you
told me you were staying at Mariton. Mariton. You can say it all right
now, can't you?

TREMAYNE. I think so.

BELINDA (coaxingly). Just say it.

TREMAYNE. Mariton.

BELINDA (clapping her hands). Lovely! I don't think any of the villagers
do it as well as that.


BELINDA. Well, that was three days ago. You came the next day to see the
garden, and you came the day after to see the garden, and you've come
this morning--to see the garden; and you're coming to dinner to-night,
and it's so lovely, we shall simply have to go into the garden
afterwards. And all I know about you is that you _haven't_ any relations
called Robinson.

TREMAYNE. What do I know about Mrs. Tremayne but that she _has_ a
relation called Robinson?

BELINDA. And two dear friends called Devenish and Baxter.

TREMAYNE (annoyed). I was forgetting them.

BELINDA (to herself). I mustn't forget Mr. Baxter.

TREMAYNE (getting up). But what does it matter? What would it matter if
I knew nothing about you? I know everything about you--everything that

BELINDA (closing her eyes contentedly). Tell me some of them.

TREMAYNE (bending over her earnestly). Belinda--

BELINDA (still with her eyes shut). He's going to propose to me. I can
feel it coming.

TREMAYNE. Confound it! how many men _have_ proposed to you?

BELINDA (surprised). Since when?

TREMAYNE. Since your first husband proposed to you.

BELINDA. Oh, I thought you meant this year. (Sitting up.) Well now,
let me see. (Slowly and thoughtfully.) One. (She pushes up her first
finger.) Two. (She pushes up the second.) Three. (She pushes up the
third finger, holds it there for a moment and then pushes it gently down
again.) No, I don't think that one ought to count really. (She pushes
up two more fingers and the thumb.) Three, four, five--do you want the
names or just the total?

TREMAYNE. This is horrible.

BELINDA (innocently). But anybody can propose. Now if you'd asked how
many I'd accepted--Let me see, where was I up to? I shan't count yours,
because I haven't really had it yet. Six, seven--Yes, Betty, what is it?

[BETTY has just come in from the door on the left.]

BETTY. If you please, ma'am, cook would like to speak to you for a

BELINDA (getting up). Yes, I'll come. (To TREMAYNE.) You'll forgive me,
won't you? You'll find some cigarettes there. (She starts to go,
but comes back and adds confidentially) It's probably about the lamb
cutlets; I expect your little one refuses to be cooked.

[She goes out after BETTY.]

(Left alone, TREMAYNE stalks moodily about the room, occasionally
kicking things which come in his way. He takes up his hat suddenly and
goes towards the door; stops irresolutely and comes back. He is standing
in the middle of the room with his hands in his pockets when DEVENISH
comes in from the door on the left.)

DEVENISH (surprised). Hullo!

TREMAYNE Hullo!... Are you Mr. Devenish?


TREMAYNE. Devenish the poet?

DEVENISH (coming up and shaking him warmly by the hand). My dear fellow,
you know my work?

TREMAYNE (grimly). My dear Mr. Devenish, your name is most familiar to

DEVENISH. I congratulate you. I thought your great-grandchildren would
be the first to hear of me.

TREMAYNE. My name's Robinson, by the way.

DEVENISH. Then let me return the compliment, Robinson. Your name is
familiar to _me_.

TREMAYNE (hastily). I don't think I'm related to any Robinsons you know.

DEVENISH. Well, no, I suppose not. When I was very much younger I began
a collection of Robinsons. Actually it was only three days ago, but it
seems much longer. Many things have happened since then.

TREMAYNE (uninterested). Really!

DEVENISH. There is a man called Baxter who is still collecting,
I believe. For myself, I am only interested in one of the great

TREMAYNE (eagerly). You are interested in _her_?

DEVENISH. Devotedly. In fact, I am at this moment waiting for her to put
on her hat.

TREMAYNE (warmly). My dear Devenish, I am delighted to make your
acquaintance. (He seizes his hand and grips it heartily.) How are you?

DEVENISH (feeling his fingers). Fairly well, thanks.

TREMAYNE. That's right. (They sit on the sofa together.)

DEVENISH (still nursing his hand). You are a very lucky fellow,

TREMAYNE. In what way?

DEVENISH. People you meet must be so very reluctant to say good-bye to
you. Have you ever tried strangling lions or anything like that?

TREMAYNE (with a laugh). Well, as a matter of fact, I have.

DEVENISH. I suppose you won all right?

TREMAYNE. In the end, with the help of my beater.

DEVENISH. Personally I should have backed you alone against any two
ordinary lions.

TREMAYNE. One was quite enough. As it was, he gave me something to
remember him by. (Putting up his left sleeve, he displays a deep scar.)

DEVENISH (looking at it casually). By Jove, that's a nasty one! (He
suddenly catches sight of the mole and stares at it fascinated.) Good

TREMAYNE. What's the matter?

DEVENISH (clasping his head). Wait. Let me think. (After a pause.) Have
you ever met a man called Baxter?


DEVENISH. Would you like to?

TREMAYNE (grimly). Very much indeed.

DEVENISH. He's the man I told you about who's interested in Robinsons.
He'll be delighted to meet you. (With a nervous laugh.) Funny thing,
he's rather an authority on lions. You must show him that scar of yours;
it will intrigue him immensely. (Earnestly.) _Don't_ shake hands with
him too heartily just at first; it might put him off the whole thing.

TREMAYNE. This Mr. Baxter seems to be a curious man.

DIVENISH (absently). Yes, he is rather odd. (Looking at his watch.) I
wonder if I--(To TREMAYNE.) I suppose you won't be--(He stops suddenly.
A slight tapping noise comes from the room where they keep umbrellas.)

TREMAYNE. What's that!

(The tapping noise is repeated, a little more loudly this time.)

DEVENISH. Come in.

(The door opens and BAXTER comes in nervously, holding his bowler hat in
his hand.)

BAXTER. Oh, I just--(TREMAYNE _stands up_)--I just--(He goes back again.)

DEVENISH (springing across the room). Baxter! (The door opens nervously
again and BAXTER'S head appears round it.) Come in, Baxter, old man;
you're just the very person I wanted. (BAXTER comes in carefully.) Good
man. (To TREMAYNE) This is Mr. Baxter that I was telling you about.

TREMAYNE (much relieved at the appearance of his rival). Oh, is this Mr.
Baxter? (Holding out his hand with great friendliness) How are you, Mr.

DEVENISH (warningly). Steady! (TREMAYNE shakes BAXTER quite gently by
the hand.) Baxter, this is Mr. Robinson. (Casually.) R-o-b-i-n-s-o-n.
(He looks sideways at BAXTER to see how he takes it. BAXTER is
noticeably impressed.)

BAXTER. Really? I am very glad to meet you, sir.

TREMAYNE. Very good of you to say so.

DEVENISH (to BAXTER). Robinson is a great big-game hunter.

BAXTER. Indeed? I have never done anything in that way myself, but I'm
sure it must be an absorbing pursuit.

TREMAYNE. Oh, well, it's something to do.

DEVENISH (to BAXTER). You must get him to tell you about a wrestle
he had with a lion once. Extraordinary story! (Looking at his watch
suddenly.) Jove! I must be off. See you again, Baxter. Good-bye,
Robinson. No, don't shake hands. I'm in a hurry. [He looks at his watch
again and goes out hurriedly by the door on the left.]

(TREMAYNE sit down together on the sofa.)

TREMAYNE. Unusual man, your friend Devenish. I suppose it comes of being
a poet.

BAXTER. I have no great liking for Mr. Devenish--

TREMAYNE. Oh, he's all right.

BAXTER. But I am sure that if he is impressed by anything outside
himself or his own works, it must be something rather remarkable. Pray
tell me of your adventure with the lion.

TREMAYNE (laughing). Really, you mustn't think that I go about telling
everybody my adventures. It just happened to come up. I'm afraid I shook
his hand rather more warmly than I meant, and he asked me if I'd ever
tried strangling lions. That was all.

BAXTER. And had you?

TREMAYNE. Well, it just happened that I had.

BAXTER. Indeed! You came off scathless, I trust?

TREMAYNE (carelessly indicating his arm). Well, he got me one across

BAXTER (obviously excited). Really, really. One across there. Not bad, I

TREMAYNE (laughing). Well, it doesn't show unless I do that. (He pulls
up his sleeve carelessly and BAXTER bends eagerly over his arm.)

BAXTER. Good heavens! I've found it!

TREMAYNE. Found what? (He pulls down his sleeve.)

BAXTER. I must see Mrs. Tremayne. Where's Mrs. Tremayne?

TREMAYNE. She went out just now. What's the matter?

BAXTER. Out! I must find her. This is a matter of life and death. [He
seizes his hat and hurries out by the front door.]

(TREMAYNE stares after him in amazement. Then he pulls up his sleeve,
looks at his scar again and shakes his head. While he is still puzzling
over it, BELINDA comes back.)

BELINDA. Such a to-do in the kitchen! The cook's given notice--at least
she will directly--and your lamb cutlet slipped back to the shop when
nobody was looking, and I've got to go into the village again, and oh
dear, oh dear, I have such a lot of things to do! (Looking across at MR.
BAXTER'S door.) Oh yes, that's another one. Mr. Robinson, you will have
to leave me. Farewell.

TREMAYNE. Belinda--

BELINDA. No, not even Belinda. Wait till this evening.

TREMAYNE. I have a thousand things to say to you; I shall say them this

BELINDA (giving him her hand). Begin about eight o'clock. Good-bye till

[He takes her hand, looks at her for a moment, then suddenly bends and
kisses it, and out.]

(BELINDA stands looking from her hand to him, gives a little wondering
exclamation and then presses the back of her hand against her cheek, and
goes to the swing doors. She turns back, and remembers MR. BAXTER again.
With a smile she goes to the door and taps gently.)

BELINDA. Mr. Baxter, Mr. Baxter, you may come in now; he has withdrawn.
I have unhanded him. (She opens the door and finds the room empty.) Oh!

[BAXTER comes in at the front door.]

BAXTER. Ah, there you are!

BELINDA (turning with a start). Oh, how you frightened me, Mr. Baxter!
I couldn't think what had happened to you. I thought perhaps you'd been
eaten up by one of the umbrellas.

BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, I have some wonderful news for you. I have found
Miss Robinson's father.

BELINDA (hardly understanding). Miss Robinson's father?

BAXTER. Yes. _Mr_. Robinson.

BELINDA. Oh, you mean--Oh yes, he told me his name was Robinson--Oh, but
he's no relation.

BAXTER. Wait! I saw his arm. By a subterfuge I managed to see his arm.

BELINDA (her eyes opening more and more widely as she begins to
realize). You saw--

BAXTER. I saw the mole.

BELINDA (faintly as she holds out her own arm). Show me.

BAXTER (very decorously indicating). There!

(BELINDA holds the place with her other hand, and still looking at MR.
BAXTER, slowly begins to laugh--half-laughter, half-tears, wonderingly,
happily, contentedly.)

BELINDA. And I didn't know!

BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, I am delighted to have done this service for your

BELINDA (to herself). Of course, _he_ knew all the time.

BAXTER (to the world). Still more am I delighted to have gained the
victory over Mr. Devenish in this enterprise.

BELINDA. Eighteen years--but I _ought_ to have known.

BAXTER (at large). I shall not be accused of exaggerating when I say
that the odds against such an enterprise were enormous.

BELINDA. Eighteen years--And now I've eight whole _hours_ to wait!

BAXTER (triumphantly). It will be announced to-night. "Mr. Devenish," I
shall say, "young fellow--" (He arranges his speech in his mind.)

BELINDA. So I was right, after all! (Slowly and triumphantly.) He _does_
look better without a beard!

BAXTER (making his speech). "Mr. Devenish, young fellow, when you
matched yourself against a man of my repute, when you matched yourself
against a man"--(BELINDA has slipped out, to enjoy her happiness
alone)--"who has read papers at soirées of the Royal Statistical
Society; when--er--"

[He looks round the room and discovers to his amazement that he is
alone. He claps on his bowler-hat, gives another amazed look round, says
with a shrug, "Unusual!" and goes out.]


[It is after dinner in BELINDA'S hall. BELINDA is lying on the sofa with
a coffee-cup in her hand. DELIA, in the chair on the right, has picked
up "The Lute of Love" from a table and is reading it impatiently.]

DELIA. What rubbish he writes!

BELINDA (coming back from her thoughts). Who, dear?

DELIA. Claude--Mr. Devenish. Of course, he's very young.

BELINDA. So was Keats, darling.

DELIA. I don't think Claude has had Keats' advantages. Keats started
life as an apothecary.

BELINDA. So much nicer than a chemist.

DELIA. Now, Claude started with nothing to do.

BELINDA (mildly). Do you always call him Claude, darling? I hope you
aren't going to grow into a flirt like that horrid Mrs. Tremayne.

DELIA. Silly mother! (Seriously) I don't think he'll ever be any good
till he really gets work. Did you notice his hair this evening?

BELINDA (dreamily). Whose, dear?

DELIA. Mummy, look me in the eye and tell me you are not being bad.

BELINDA (innocently). Bad, darling?

DELIA. You've made Mr. Robinson fall in love with you.

BELINDA (happily). Have I?

DELIA. Yes; it's serious this time. He's not like the other two.

BELINDA. However did you know that?

DELIA. Oh, I know.

BELINDA. Darling, I believe you've grown up. It's quite time I settled

DELIA. With Mr. Robinson?

(BELINDA looks thoughtfully at DELIA for a little time and then sits

BELINDA (mysteriously). Delia, are you prepared for a great secret to be
revealed to you?

DELIA (childishly). Oh, I love secrets.

BELINDA (reproachfully). Darling, you mustn't take it like that. This is
a great, deep, dark secret; you'll probably need your sal volatile.

DELIA (excitedly). Go on!

BELINDA. Well--(Looking round the room.) Shall we have the lights down a

DELIA. Go _on_, mummy.

BELINDA. Well, Mr. Robinson is--(impressively)--is not quite the
Robinson he appears to be.


BELINDA. In fact, child, he is--Hadn't you better come and hold your
mother's hand?

DELIA (struggling with some emotion). Go _on_.

BELINDA. Well, Mr. Robinson is a--sort of relation of yours;
in fact--(playing with her rings and looking down coyly)--he is
your--father. (She looks up at DELIA to see how the news is being
received.) Dear one, this is not a matter for mirth.

DELIA (coming over and kissing her). Darling, it is lovely, isn't it? I
am laughing because I am so happy.

BELINDA. Aren't you surprised?

DELIA. No. You see, Claude told me this morning. He found out just
before Mr. Baxter.

BELINDA. Well! Every one seems to have known except me.

DELIA. Didn't you see how friendly father and I got at dinner? I thought
I'd better start breaking the ice--because I suppose he'll be kissing me

BELINDA. Say you like him.

DELIA. I think he's going to be awfully nice. Does he know you know?
(She goes back to her seat.)

BELINDA. Not yet. Just at present I've rather got Mr. Baxter on my
mind. I suppose, darling, you wouldn't like him as well as Mr. Devenish!
(Pathetically.) You see, they're so used to going about together.

DELIA. Claude is quite enough.

BELINDA. I think I must see Mr. Baxter and get it over. Do you mind if I
have Mr. Devenish too? I feel more at home with both of them. I'll give
you him back. Oh dear, I feel so happy to-night! (She jumps up and goes
over to DELIA.) And is my little girl going to be happy too? That's what
mothers always say on the stage. I think it's so sweet.

DELIA (smiling at her). Yes, I think so, mummy. Of course, I'm not
romantic like you. I expect I'm more like father, really.

BELINDA (dreamily). Jack can be romantic now. He was telling me this
morning all about the people he has proposed to. I mean, I was telling
_him_. Anyhow, he wasn't a bit like a father. Of course, he doesn't know
he is a father yet. Darling, I think you might take him into the garden;
only don't let him know who he is. You see, he ought to propose to me
first, oughtn't he? (As the men come in, she gets up.) Here you all are!
I do hope you haven't been throwing away your cigars, because smoking is
allowed all over the house.

TREMAYNE. Oh, we've finished, thank you.

BELINDA. Isn't it a wonderful night?--and so warm for April. Delia, you
must show Mr. Robinson the garden by moonlight--it's the only light he
hasn't seen it by.

DEVENISH (quickly). I don't think I've ever seen it by moonlight, Miss

BELINDA. I thought poets were always seeing things by moonlight.

BAXTER. I was hoping, Mrs. Tremayne, that--er--perhaps--

DELIA. Come along, Mr. Robinson.

(TREMAYNE _looks at_ BELINDA, who gives him a nod.)

TREMAYNE. It's very kind of you, Miss Robinson. I suppose there is no
chance of a nightingale?

BELINDA. There ought to be. I ordered one specially for Mr. Devenish.
(DELIA and TREMAYNE go out together. BELINDA settles herself comfortably
on the sofa.) Now we're together again. Well, Mr. Devenish?


BELINDA. No; I think I'll let Mr. Baxter speak first. I know he's
longing to.

BAXTER. Yes. H'r'm! Mrs. Tremayne, I beg formally to claim your hand.

BELINDA (sweetly). On what grounds, Mr. Baxter?

DEVENISH (spiritedly). Yes, sir, on what grounds?

BAXTER. On the grounds that, as I told you this morning, I had succeeded
in the quest.

DEVENISH (appearing to be greatly surprised). Succeeded?

BAXTER. Yes, Mr. Devenish, young fellow, you have lost. I have
discovered the missing Mr. Robinson.

DEVENISH. Who--where--

BAXTER (dramatically). Miss Robinson has at this moment gone out with
her father.

DEVENISH. Good heavens! It was he!

BELINDA (sympathetically). Poor Mr. Devenish!

DEVENISH (pointing tragically to the table). And to think that I
actually sat on that table--no, that seat--no, not that one, it was the
sofa--that I sat on the sofa with him this morning, and never guessed!
Why, ten minutes ago I was asking him for the nuts!

BAXTER. Aha, Devenish, you're not so clever as you thought you were.

DEVENISH. Why, I must have given you the clue myself! He told me he had
a scar on his arm, and I never thought any more of it. And then I went
away innocently and left you two talking about it.

BELINDA (alarmed). A scar on his arm?

DEVENISH. Where a lion mauled him.

(BELINDA gives a little shudder.)

BAXTER. It's quite healed up now, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA (looking at him admiringly). A lion! What you two have
adventured for my sake!

BAXTER. I suppose you will admit, Devenish, that I may fairly claim to
have won?

(Looking the picture of despair, DEVENISH droops his head, raises his
arms and lets them fall hopelessly to his sides.)

BELINDA. Mr. Devenish, I have never admired you so much as I do at this

BAXTER (indignantly to DEVENISH). I say, you know, that's not fair. It's
all very well to take your defeat like a man, but you mustn't overdo it.
Mrs. Tremayne, I claim the reward which I have earned.

BELINDA (after a pause). Mr. Baxter--Mr. Devenish, I have something to
tell you. (Penitently.) I have not been quite frank with you. I think
you both ought to know that--I--I made a mistake. Delia is not my niece;
she is my daughter.

DEVENISH. Your daughter! I say, how ripping!

(BELINDA gives him an understanding look.)

BAXTER. Your daughter!


BAXTER. But--but you aren't old enough to have a daughter of that age.

BELINDA (apologetically). Well, there she is.

BAXTER. But--but she's grown up.


BAXTER. Then in that case you must be--(He hesitates, evidently working
it out.)

BELINDA (hastily). I'm afraid so, Mr. Baxter.

BAXTER. But this makes a great difference. I had no idea. Why, when I'm
fifty you would be--

BELINDA (sighing). Yes, I suppose I should.

BAXTER. And when I'm sixty--

BELINDA (pleadingly to DEVENISH). Can't you stop him?

DEVENISH. Look here, Baxter, another word from you and you'll never
_get_ to sixty.

BAXTER. And then there's Miss--er--Delia. In the event of our marrying,
Mrs. Tremayne, she, I take it, would be my step-daughter.

BELINDA. I don't think she would trouble us much, Mr. Baxter. I have
an idea that she will be getting married before long. (She glances at
DEVENISH, who returns her look gratefully.)

BAXTER. None the less, the fact would be disturbing. I have never yet
considered myself seriously as a step-father. I don't think I am going
too far if I say that to some extent I have been deceived in this

BELINDA (reproachfully). And so have I. I thought you loved me.

DEVENISH (sympathetically). Yes, yes.

BELINDA (turning to him suddenly). _And_ Mr. Devenish too.



(They stand before her guiltily and have nothing to say.)

BELINDA (with a shrug). Well, I shall have to marry somebody else,
that's all.


BELINDA. I suppose Mr. Robinson. After all, if I am Delia's mother,
and Mr. Baxter says that Mr. Robinson's her father, it's about time we
_were_ married.

DEVENISH (eagerly). Mrs. Tremayne, what fools we are! He _is_ your
husband all the time!


BAXTER. You've had a husband all the time?

BELINDA (apologetically). I lost him; it wasn't my fault.

BAXTER. Really, this is very confusing. I don't know where I am. I
gather--I am to gather, it seems, that you are no longer eligible as a
possible wife?

BELINDA. I am afraid not, Mr. Baxter.

BAXTER. But this is very confusing--this is very disturbing to a man
of my age. For weeks past I have been regarding myself as a--a possible
benedict. I have--ah--taken steps. Only this morning, in writing to
my housekeeper, I warned her that she might hear at any moment a most
startling announcement.

DEVENISH (cheerfully). Oh, that's all right. That might only mean that
you were getting a new bowler-hat.

BAXTER (suddenly). Ah, and what about you, sir? How is it that you take
this so lightly? (Triumphantly.) I have it. It all becomes clear to me.
You have transferred your affections to her daughter!

DEVENISH. Oh, I say, Baxter, this is very crude.

BELINDA. And why should he not, Mr. Baxter? (Softly.) He has made me
very happy.

BAXTER. He has made you happy, Mrs. Tremayne!

BELINDA. Very happy.

BAXTER (thoughtfully). Ah! (He takes a turn round the room in, silence,
and then comes back to her.) Mrs. Tremayne, I have taken a great
resolve. (Solemnly.) I also will make you happy. (Thumping his heart.)
I also will woo Miss Delia. (Suddenly seizing DEVENISH'S arm) Come,
we will seek Miss Delia together. It may be that she will send us upon
another quest in which I shall again be victorious. (Tempestuously)
Come, I say! (He marches the resisting DEVENISH to the swing doors.)


BELINDA (gently). Mr. Baxter... Harold. (BAXTER stops and turns round.)
You are too impetuous. I think that as Delia's mother--

BAXTER. Your pardon, Mrs. Tremayne. In the intoxication of the moment I
am forgetting. (Formally.) I have the honour to ask your permission to
pay my addresses--

BELINDA. No, no, I didn't mean that. But, as Delia's mother, I ought
to warn you that she is hardly fitted to take the place of your
housekeeper. She is not very domesticated.

BAXTER (indignantly). Not domesticated? Why, did I not hear her tell her
father at dinner that she had arranged all the flowers?

BELINDA. There are other things than flowers.

DEVENISH. Bed-socks, for instance, Baxter. It's a very tricky thing
airing bed-socks. I am sure your house-keeper--

BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, she will learn. The daughter of such a mother...
I need say no more.

BELINDA. Oh, thank you. But there is something else, Mr. Baxter. You are
not being quite fair to yourself. In starting out upon this simultaneous
wooing, you forget that Mr. Devenish has already had his turn this
morning alone. You should have yours... alone... too.

DEVENISH. Oh, I say!

BAXTER. Yes, yes, you are right. I must introduce myself first as a
suitor. I see that. (To DEVENISH) _You_ stay here; _I_ will go alone
into the garden, and--

BELINDA. It is perhaps a little cold out of doors for people of... of
_our_ age, Mr. Baxter. Now, in the library--

BAXTER (astonished). Library?


BAXTER. You have a library?

BELINDA (to DEVENISH). He doesn't believe I have a library.

DEVENISH. You ought to see the library, Baxter.

BAXTER. But you are continually springing surprises on me this evening,
Mrs. Tremayne. First a daughter, then a husband, and then--a library! I
have been here three weeks, and I never knew you had a library. Dear me,
I wonder how it is that I never saw it?

BELINDA (modestly). I thought you came to see _me_.

BAXTER. Yes, yes, to see you, certainly. But if I had known you had a

BELINDA. Oh, I am so glad I mentioned it. Wasn't it lucky, Mr. Devenish?

BAXTER. My work has been greatly handicapped of late by lack of certain
books to which I wanted to refer. It would be a great help--

BELINDA. My dear Mr. Baxter, my whole library is at your disposal. (To
DEVENISH, as she leads the way to the door, in a confidential whisper.)
I'm just going to show him the "Encyclopedia Britannica." (She smiles
at him, and he opens the door for them both. Then he goes towards the
garden door and looks outside.)

DELIA (from the garden). Hullo, we're just coming in. (He goes back and
waits for them.)

TREMAYNE. Where's Mrs. Tremayne?

DEVENISH. She's gone to the library with Baxter.

TREMAYNE (carelessly). Oh, the library. Where's that?

DEVENISH (promptly going towards the door and opening it). The end door
on the right. Right at the end. You can't mistake it. On the right.

TREMAYNE. Ah, yes. (He looks round at DELIA.) Yes. (He looks at
DEVENISH.) Yes. [He goes out.]

(DEVENISH hastily shuts the door and comes back to DELIA.)

DEVENISH. I say, your mother is a ripper.

DELIA (enthusiastically). Isn't she! (Remembering.) At least, you mean
my aunt?

DEVENISH (smiling at her). No, I mean your mother. To think that I once
had the cheek to propose to her.

DELIA. Oh! Is it cheek to propose to people!

DEVENISH. To _her_.

DELIA. But not to me?

DEVENISH. Oh I say, Delia!

DELIA (with great dignity). Thank you, my name is Miss Robinson--I mean,

DEVENISH. Well, if you're not quite sure which it is, it's much safer to
call you Delia.

DELIA (smiling). Well, perhaps it is.

DEVENISH. And if I did propose to you, you haven't answered

DELIA. If you want an answer now, it's no; but if you like to wait till
next April--

DEVENISH (reproachfully). Oh, I say, and I cut my hair for you the same
afternoon. You haven't really told me how you like it yet.

DELIA. Oh, how bad of me! You look lovely.

DEVENISH. And I promised to give up poetry for your sake.

DELIA. Perhaps I oughtn't to have asked you that.

DEVENISH. As far as I'm concerned, Delia, I'll do it gladly, but, of
course, one has to think about posterity.

DELIA. But you needn't be a poet. You could give posterity plenty to
think about if you were a statesman.

DEVENISH. I don't quite see your objection to poetry.

DELIA. You would be about the house so much. I want you to go away every
day and do great things, and then come home in the evening and tell me
all about it.

DEVENISH. Then you _are_ thinking of marrying me!

DELIA. Well, I was just thinking in case I had to.

DEVENISH. It would be rather fun if you did. And look here--I _will_
be a statesman, if you like, and go up to Downing Street every day, and
come back in the evening and tell you all about it.

DELIA. How nice of you!

DEVENISH (magnificently, holding up his hand to Heaven). Farewell,

DELIA. What does that mean?

DEVENISH. Well, it means that I've chucked poetry. A statesman's life is
the life for me; behold Mr. Devenish, the new M.P.--no, look here, that
was quite accidental.

DELIA (smiling at him). I believe I shall really like you when I get to
know you.

DEVENISH. I don't know if it's you, or Devonshire, or the fact that
I've had my hair cut, but I feel quite a different being from what I was
three days ago.

DELIA. You _are_ different. Perhaps it's your sense of humour coming

DEVENISH. Perhaps that's it. It's a curious feeling.

DELIA (holding out her hand). Let's go outside; there's a heavenly moon.

DEVENISH (taking her hand). Moon? Moon? Now where have I heard that word

DELIA. What _do_ you mean?

DEVENISH. I was trying not to be a poet. Well, I'll come with you, but
I shall refuse to look at it. (Putting his left hand behind his back,
he walks slowly out with her, saying to himself) The Prime Minister then
left the House.

[BELINDA and TREMAYNE come from the library.]

BELINDA (as he opens the door). Thank you. I don't think it's unkind to
leave him, do you? He seemed quite happy.

TREMAYNE. I shouldn't have been happy if we'd stayed.

BELINDA (going to the sofa and putting her feet up). Yes, but I was
really thinking of Mr. Baxter.

TREMAYNE. Not of me?

BELINDA. Well, I thought it was Mr. Baxter's turn. Poor man, he's had a
disappointment lately.

TREMAYNE (eagerly). A disappointment?

BELINDA. Yes, he thought I was--younger than I was.

TREMAYNE (smiling to himself). How old are you, Belinda?

BELINDA (dropping her eyes). Twenty-two. (After a pause.) He thought I
was eighteen. Such a disappointment!

TREMAYNE (smiling openly at her). Belinda, how old are you?

BELINDA. Just about the right age, Mr. Robinson.

TREMAYNE. The right age for what?

BELINDA. For this sort of conversation.

TREMAYNE. Shall I tell you how old you are?

BELINDA. Do you mean in figures or--poetically?

TREMAYNE. I meant--

BELINDA. Mr. Devenish said I was as old as the--now, I must get this the
right way round--as old as the--

TREMAYNE. I don't want to talk about Mr. Devenish.

BELINDA (with a sigh). Nobody ever does--except Mr. Devenish. As old as
the stars, and as young as the dawn. (Settling herself cosily.) I think
that's rather a nice age to be, don't you?

TREMAYNE. A very nice age to be.

BELINDA. It's a pity he's thrown me over for Delia; I shall miss that
sort of thing rather. You don't say those sort of things about your
aunt-in-law--not so often.

TREMAYNE (eagerly). He really is in love with Miss Robinson!

BELINDA. Oh yes. I expect he is out in the moonlight with her now,
comparing her to Diana.

TREMAYNE. Well, that accounts for _him. _Now what about Baxter?

BELINDA. I thought I told you. Deeply disappointed to find that I
was four years older than he expected, Mr. Baxter hurried from the
drawing-room and buried himself in a column of the "Encyclopedia

TREMAYNE. Well, that settles Baxter. Are there any more men in the

BELINDA (shaking her head). Isn't it awful? I've only had those two for
the last three weeks.

(TREMAYNE sits on the back of the sofa and looks down at her.)

TREMAYNE. Belinda.

BELINDA. Yes, Henry!

TREMAYNE. My name is John.

BELINDA. Well, you never told me. I had to guess. Everybody thinks they
can call me Belinda without giving me the least idea what their own
names are. You were saying, John?

TREMAYNE. My friends call me Jack.

BELINDA. Jack Robinson. That's the man who always goes away so quickly.
I hope you're making more of a stay?

TREMAYNE. Oh, you maddening, maddening woman!

BELINDA. Well, I have to keep the conversation going. You do nothing but
say "Belinda."

TREMAYNE (taking her hand). Have you ever loved anybody seriously,

BELINDA. I don't ever do anything very seriously. The late Mr. Tremayne,
my first husband--Jack--Isn't it funny, _his_ name was Jack--he used to
complain about it too sometimes.

TREMAYNE (with conviction). Silly ass!

BELINDA. Ah, I think you are a little hard on the late Mr. Tremayne.

TREMAYNE. Has he been dead long?

BELINDA. Dead to me.

TREMAYNE. You quarrelled?

BELINDA. Yes. It was his fault entirely.

TREMAYNE. I'm sure it was.

BELINDA. How sweet of you to say that!

TREMAYNE. Belinda, I want you to marry me and forget about him.

BELINDA (happily to herself). This is the proposal that those lamb
cutlets interrupted this morning.

TREMAYNE. Belinda, I love you--do you understand?

BELINDA. Suppose my first husband turns up suddenly like--like E. A.?

TREMAYNE. Like who?

BELINDA. Well, like anybody.

TREMAYNE. He won't--I know he won't. Don't you love me enough to risk
it, Belinda?

BELINDA. I haven't really said I love you at all yet.

TREMAYNE. Well, say it now. (BELINDA looks at him, and then down again.)
You do! Well, I'm going to have a kiss, anyway, (He comes round the sofa
and kisses her quickly.) There!

BELINDA (rising). O-oh! The late Mr. Tremayne never did that.

TREMAYNE. I have already told you that he was a silly ass. (Sitting down
on the sofa) Belinda--

BELINDA. Yes, Henry--I mean, Jack?

TREMAYNE. Do you know who I am! (He is thoroughly enjoying the surprise
he is about to give her.)

BELINDA (nodding). Yes, Jack.


BELINDA. Jack Tremayne.

TREMAYNE (jumping up). Good heavens, you _know_!

BELINDA (gently). Yes, Jack.

TREMAYNE (angrily). You've known all the time that I was your husband,
and you've been playing with me and leading me on?

BELINDA (mildly). Well, darling, you knew all the time that I was your
wife, and you've been making love to me and leading me on.

TREMAYNE. That's different.

BELINDA. That's _just_ what the late Mr. Tremayne said, and then he
slammed the door and went straight off to the Rocky Mountains and shot
bears; and I didn't see him again for eighteen years.

TREMAYNE (remorsefully). Darling, I was a fool then, and I'm a fool now.

BELINDA. I was a fool then, but I'm not such a fool now--I'm not going
to let you go. It's quite time I married and settled down.

TREMAYNE. You darling! How did you find out who I was?

BELINDA (awkwardly). Well, it was rather curious, darling. (After a
pause.) It was April, and I felt all sort of Aprily, and--and--there was
the garden all full of daffodils--and--and there was Mr. Baxter--the one
we left in the library--knowing all about moles. He's probably got the
M volume down now. Well, we were talking about them one day, and I
happened to say that the late Mr. Tremayne--that was you, darling--had
rather a peculiar one on his arm. And then he happened to see it this
morning and told me about it.

TREMAYNE. What an extraordinary story!

BELINDA. Yes, darling; it's really much more extraordinary than that.
I think perhaps I'd better tell you the rest of it another time.
(Coaxingly.) Now show me where the nasty lion scratched you. (TREMAYNE
pulls up his sleeve.) Oh! (She kisses his arm.) You shouldn't have left
Chelsea, darling.

TREMAYNE. I should never have found you if I hadn't.

BELINDA (squeezing his arm). No, Jack, you wouldn't. (After a pause.)
I--I've got another little surprise for you if--if you're ready for it.
(Standing up) Properly speaking, I ought to be wearing white. I shall
certainly stand up while I'm telling you. (Modestly.) Darling, we have a
daughter--our little Delia.

TREMAYNE. Delia? You said her name was Robinson.

BELINDA. Yes, darling, but you said yours was. One always takes one's
father's name. Unless, of course, you were Lord Robinson.

TREMAYNE. But you said her name was Robinson before you--oh, never mind
about that. A daughter? Belinda, how could you let me go and not tell

BELINDA. You forget how you'd slammed the door. It isn't the sort of
thing you shout through the window to a man on his way to America.

TREMAYNE (taking her in his arms). Oh, Belinda, don't let me ever go
away again.

BELINDA. I'm not going to, Jack. I'm going to settle down into a staid
old married woman.

TREMAYNE. Oh no, you're not. You're going on just as you did before. And
I'm going to propose to you every April, and win you, over all the other
men in love with you.

BELINDA. You darling!

[DELIA and DEVENISH come in from the garden.]

TREMAYNE (quietly to BELINDA). Our daughter.

DELIA (going up to TREMAYNE). You're my father.

TREMAYNE. If you don't mind very much, Delia.

DELIA. You've been away a long time.

TREMAYNE. I'll do my best to make up for it.

BELINDA. Delia, darling, I think you might kiss your poor old father.

(As the does to, DEVENISH suddenly and hastily kisses BELINDA on the

DEVENISH. Just in case you're going to be my mother-in-law.

TREMAYNE. We seem to be rather a family party.

BELINDA (suddenly). There! We've forgotten Mr. Baxter again.

BAXTER (who has come in quietly with a book in his hand). Oh, don't mind
about me, Mrs. Tremayne. I've enjoyed myself immensely. (Referring to
his book.) I have been collecting some most valuable information on
(looking round at them) lunacy in the--er--county of _Devonshire_.



[In the living-room of a country-house, half farm, half manor, a MOTHER
and her DAUGHTER are sitting. It is any year you please--between, let
us say, the day when the fiddle first came to England and the day when
Romance left it. As for the time of the year, let us call it May. Oh
yes, it is certainly May, and about twelve o'clock, and the DAUGHTER is
singing at the spinet, while her MOTHER is at her needlework. Through
the lattice windows the murmur of a stream can be heard, on whose
banks--but we shall come to that directly. Let us listen now to what the
DAUGHTER is singing:]

              Life passes by.
     I do not know its pleasure or its pain--
     The Spring was here, the Spring is here again,
              The Spring will die.

              Life passes by.
     The doors of Pain and Pleasure open wide,
     The crowd streams in--and I am left outside....
              They know; not I.

[You don't like it? Neither did her Mother.]

MOTHER (looking up from her work). Yes, I should call that a melancholy
song, dear.

DAUGHTER. It is sung by a melancholy person, Mother.

MOTHER. Why are you that, child?

DAUGHTER (getting up). I want so much that I shall never have.

MOTHER. Well, so do we all.

DAUGHTER (impatiently). Oh, why does nothing ever happen? We sit here
all day, and we sing or do our embroidery, and we go to bed, and the
next day we get up and do the same things over again, and so it goes on.
Mother, is that all there is in the world?

MOTHER. It's all there is in our world.

DAUGHTER. Are we so very poor?

MOTHER. We have the house--and very little else.

DAUGHTER. Oh, I wish that we were _really_ poor--

MOTHER. You needn't wish, child.

DAUGHTER. Oh, but I mean so that it wouldn't matter what clothes we
wore; so that we could wander over the hills and down into the valleys,
and sleep perhaps in a barn and bathe ourselves in the brook next
morning, and--

MOTHER. I don't think I should like that very much. Perhaps I'm

DAUGHTER. Oh, if only I were a boy to go out and make my own way in the
world. Would you let me go, Mother, if I were a boy?

MOTHER. I don't suppose you'd ask me, dear.

DAUGHTER (sighing). Oh, well! We must make the best of it, I suppose.
Perhaps one day something will happen. (She goes back to the spinet and
sings again.)

      _Lads and lasses, what will you sell,
            What will you sell?_

       Four stout walls and a roof atop,
            Warm fires gleaming brightly,
       Well-stored cellar and garnered crop,
            Money-bags packed tightly;
       An ordered task in an ordered day,
            And a sure bed nightly;
       Years which peacefully pass away,
            Until Death comes lightly.

      _Lads and lasses, what will you buy?
            What will you buy?_

       Here is a cap to cover your head,
             A cap with one red feather;
       Here is a cloak to make your bed
             Warm or winter weather;
       Here is a satchel to store your ware,
             Strongly lined with leather;
       And here is a staff to take you there
             When you go forth together.

      _Lads and lasses, what will you gain,
             What will you gain?_

       Chatter of rooks on tall elm-trees
             New Spring houses taking;
       Daffodils in an April breeze
             Golden curtsies making;
       Shadows of clouds across the weald
             From hill to valley breaking,
       The first faint stir which the woodlands yield
             When the world is waking.

      _Lads and lasses, this is your gain,
             This is your gain._

(Towards the end of the song the face and shoulders of the TALKER appear
at the open lattice window on the left. He listens with a bland and
happy smile until the song is finished.)

TALKER. Brava! Brava! (They turn round towards the window in
astonishment.) A vastly pleasing song, vastly well sung. Mademoiselle
Nightingale, permit me to felicitate you. (Turning to the Mother) The
Mother of the Nightingale also. Mon Dieu, what is voice, of a richness,
of a purity! To live with it always! Madame, I felicitate you again.

MOTHER. I must ask you, sir, to explain the meaning of this intrusion.

TALKER. Intrusion? Oh, fie! Madame, not intrusion. My feet stand
upon the highway. The road, Madame, is common to all. I can quote you
Rex--What does Rex, cap. 27, para. 198, say? _Via_, says Rex, meaning
the road; _communis_ is common; _omnibus_ to all, meaning thereby--but
perchance I weary you?

DAUGHTER. Mother, who is he?

TALKER. Ah, Mademoiselle Nightingale, you may indeed ask. Who is he? Is
he the Pope of Rome? Nay, he is not the Pope of Rome. Is he the Cham of
Tartary? Nay, he is not the Cham of Tartary, for an he were the Cham of

MOTHER. I beg you, sir, to tell us as shortly as you can who you are and
what you want.

TALKER. Madam, by nature I am a taciturn man; Silent John I am named by
my friends. I am a glum body, a reserved creature. These things you will
have already noticed. But now I will commit to you it secret, known only
to my dearest friends. Uncommunicative as I am by nature (he disappears
and reappears at the middle window), I am still more so when compelled
to hold converse with two such ornaments of their sex (he disappears
and reappears at the right-hand window) through a lattice window. Am I
getting any nearer the door?

MOTHER (resigned). Pray, sir, come in and tell us all about it. I see
that we must have your tale.

TALKER. To be exact, Madame, I have two tails who follow me about
everywhere. One is of my own poor sex, a man, a thing of whiskers; the
other has the honour to belong to that sex which--have I said it?--you
and Mademoiselle so adorn. Have I your ladyship's permission?

DAUGHTER (eagerly). Oh, Mother, let them come.

MOTHER. Well, I suppose I must have you all.

TALKER (with a bow). Madame, I shall never forget this. Though I live
to be ninety-three, this will always be engraved upon my memory. My
grandchildren climbing upon my knee will wonder sometimes of what
the old man is thinking. Little will they know--But I will attend you
further within. [He bows and disappears.]

DAUGHTER. Mother, something _is_ going to happen at last.

MOTHER. Oh, child, were you as weary as that?

[The TALKER comes in at the door, followed by the SINGER and the
FIDDLER. The SINGER is a pleasant-looking man of middle height, the
FIDDLER a tall, silent girl. The TALKER himself is short and round, with
a twinkling eye. Each wears a cap with a red feather in it.]

TALKER. Madame, your humble and most devoted servants. I have the
honour to present to you her Royal Sweetness the Princess Carissima, His
Flutiness the Duke of Bogota, and myself a mere Marquis.

DAUGHTER. Oh, Mother, they're wandering minstrels.

MOTHER. I bid you all welcome, sir.

TALKER. Permit me to expound further. The Princess--a courtesy title
bestowed by myself last Michaelmas Day--plays upon the fiddle with an
unerring beauty which makes strong men weep. You shall hear her. I pray
you have your handkerchers ready. His Flutiness the Duke--the title was
granted last Candlemas--has a voice of a rare richness. He is cursed
with a melancholy disposition most pleasing. He suffers from a surfeit
of rejected love. A most waggish companion withal.

DAUGHTER. Oh, what a shame!

SINGER. You must not believe all that Johannes says, ladies.

MOTHER. I had already learnt that much, sir.

TALKER. For myself, I play upon the pipe. You shall hear. (He plays
"cuckoo" with an air.)

SINGER. The only notes he knows, ladies.

TALKER (indignantly). Oh, fie, Sir, fie! I protest, Madame, he maligns
me. Have I not a G of surpassing splendour, of a fruitiness rarely
encountered in this vale of tears? Madame, you must hear my G. Now,
where is it? (He arranges his fingers with great care on the pipe.)
I have it. (He blows a G, and bows deeply first to MOTHER and then to

SINGER. Marvellous!

MOTHER (to TALKER). I thank you, Sir.

DAUGHTER. Oh, Mother, isn't he splendid?

TALKER (to MOTHER). Would you like my G again, Madame?

MOTHER. Not just now, I thank you, sir. Doubtless we shall feel more in
need of it a little later on. But tell me, Sir, have you no other talent
to match the singing and playing of your friends?

FIDDLER. He talks.

MOTHER. I had noticed it.

TALKER. This gift of talking with which her Royal Sweetness is good
enough to credit me, irksome though it is to a man of silent habit like
myself, a creature, as you will have noticed, of taciturn disposition;
this--I--(Frankly) Madame, I have lost that sentence. Have I your
gracious permission to begin again?

MOTHER. I think it would be better, Sir.

TALKER. Then, to put it shortly, Madame--

MOTHER. If you could, sir.

TALKER. To be completely frank in this matter, Madame, I--er--go round
with the hat. It is a sordid but necessary business.

DAUGHTER (eagerly). Oh, I hope they give you plenty of money.

TALKER. Enough to support life, Mademoiselle. The hungry look which you
observe upon His Flutiness is, as I have explained, due to melancholy.

DAUGHTER. You are going to perform, aren't you?

TALKER. Of a surety, Mademoiselle. Perhaps I should add that for myself
I am resting just now, and that my part of the performance will be
limited to nothing more than a note or two upon the pipe.

MOTHER (with a friendly smile). Sir, you are generous. We shall be glad
to hear your friends.

(The TALKER bows and turns to his company.)

TALKER. A song, good Master Duke, a song which her Royal Sweetness will
accompany upon the fiddle. Let it end, I pray you, with a G, so that I
may bring the thing to a climax upon the last note.

FIDDLER (to SINGER). Morland Hill.

SINGER. You like that? (She nods.) Very well. (He sings.)

    Oh, when the wind is in the North,
    I take my staff and sally forth;
    And when it whistles from the East
    I do not mind it in the least;
    The warm wind murmurs through the trees
    Its messages from Southern seas;
    But after all perhaps the best
    Is that which whispers from the West.

      Oh let the wind, the wind be what it will,
      So long as I may walk on Morland Hill!

    The staff which helps to carry me,
    I cut it from the Hazel-tree;
    But once I had a cudgel torn
    Most circumspectly from the Thorn;
    I know a fellow, far from rash,
    Who swears entirely by the Ash;
    And all good travellers invoke
    A blessing on the mighty Oak.

      Oh let the wood, the wood be what it will,
      So long as I may walk on Morland Hill!

    Some years ago I gave my heart
    To Prue until we had to part;
    Then, seeing Susan's pretty face,
    I left it with her for a space;
    And Susan had my heart until
    I wanted it for Mistress Jill;
    I think, although I am not clear,
    That Chloe's had it this last year.

      Oh let the wench, the wench be whom you will,
      So long as I may walk on Morland Hill!

(The TALKER comes in proudly on the last note and takes most of the

DAUGHTER. I'm not sure that I like that last verse.

TALKER. Oh, you mustn't believe all he sings. A cursed melancholy fellow
by nature. But waggish--waggish withal.

SINGER (to DAUGHTER). We have to sing what the poets write for us,
Mademoiselle. Had I written a song myself, it had been about one woman

TALKER. And there would have been a hundred and twenty-five verses to

MOTHER. Your song was well sung, sir; I thank you for it. (To the
FIDDLER) Will you not play us something now?

FIDDLER. If you wish it.

TALKER. You would wish me to accompany her, of course.

MOTHER (with a smile). It is kind of you, sir, but I think perhaps my

DAUGHTER (eagerly). Yes, of course, I will if I can. (She goes to the

FIDDLER (playing a few notes). Do you know this?

DAUGHTER. Yes, I think so. (She plays. At the end of it the TALKER finds
himself bowing to the applause.)

TALKER. And now, Madame, you have had a sample of all our poor talents,
save and except that paltry talent of mine which in other company
concludes such a performance. I pray you tell me what you think of the

MOTHER. I have enjoyed it immensely, good Master Johannes. And if you
did wish to exercise that talent of yours, of which so far we have only

TALKER. Nay, nay, Madame, I beg you.

MOTHER. Then, Sir, I offer you my grateful thanks for your

DAUGHTER. And I too.

TALKER. Ladies, you are too kind--er--(he hesitates)--er--


TALKER, The fact is, Madame, that now we approach or, so to speak,
draw nigh or adjacent--in other words, Madame, we are perilously

FIDDLER. Tell her straight out.

MOTHER. Tell her what?

FIDDLER. What we've come for.

SINGER. Master Johannes, Madam, is so accustomed when he goes round with
the hat to disguise under it flow of words the fact that money is as
necessary to an artist as applause, that he has lost the habit of saying
anything in less than ten sentences.

TALKER (mournfully). And yet I am a taciturn man.

MOWER. Well, will somebody tell me, for I confess I have been wondering
what is behind it all.

FIDDLER. Tell her, Johannes.

TALKER. If you will allow me, Madame. But tell me first, did you notice
anything lacking in our performance?

MOTHER (surprised). No; I don't think so.

TALKER (to DAUGHTER). Perhaps you, Mademoiselle?

DAUGHTER (shyly). It seemed to lack a woman's voice, sir.

TALKER (admiringly). What intelligence! What profundity! (To MOTHER)
Madam, I felicitate you again on your daughter. Unerringly she has laid
her finger on the weak joint in our armour. We have no woman's voice.

MOTHER. Well, Sir, I don't see how I can help you.

TALKER. Madame, you have a nightingale. It has lived in a cage all its
life. It looks through the bars sometimes, and sees the great world
outside, and sighs and turns back to its business of singing. Madame, it
would sing better outside in the open air, with the other birds.

MOTHER. I don't understand you, sir. Are you referring to my daughter?

TALKER (looking towards the window). There is a stream which runs beyond
the road, with a green bank to it. We were seated on that bank, I and
my two companions, eating our bread and cheese, and washing it down with
draughts from that good stream. We were tired, for we had come from over
the hills that morning, and it was good to lie on our backs there and
watch the little clouds taking shape after shape in the blue, and so
to dream our dreams. In a little while the road would take us westward,
here through a wood banked with primroses, there across a common or
between high spring hedges with the little stream babbling ever at the
side of us. And in the evening we would come to an inn, where there
would be good company, and we would sing and play to them, and they
would reward us. (With a shrug) It is a pleasant life.

DAUGHTER (eagerly). Oh, go on!

MOTHER. Yes, go on, Sir.

TALKER. We were lying on our backs thus, Madame, when we heard the
nightingale. "Duke," says I, "it is early yet for the nightingale." His
Flutiness removes his cap from his face, takes a squint at the sun, and
says "Monstrous early, good Master Johannes," and claps his cap
back again. "What says you, Fiddler," says I, "in this matter of
nightingales? Is it possible," says I; "the sun being where it is, and
nightingales being what they are--to wit, nightingales?" "It's not a
nightingale," says Fiddler dreamily, "it's a girl." "Then," says I,
jumping up, "it is a girl we want. She must put the red feather in
her cap, and come her ways with us." (With a bow) Madame, your humble

DAUGHTER. Oh, Mother, you will let me go, won't you? I must, I must! He
is quite right. I'm caged here. Oh, you will let me see something of the
world before I grow old!

FIDDLER (suddenly). Yes, let her come. If she feels like that, she ought
to come.

SINGER (with a very winning smile). We will take great care of her,
Madame, as if she were our own sister.

MOTHER (surprisingly to JOHANNES). What do you think of cider as a
drink, Master Johannes?

TALKER (who had not expected it, but is always ready). Cider--ah,
there's a drink! Oh, I can talk to you about cider, glum body as I am by
nature, having been as it were taciturn from birth. Yet of cider I could
talk you--

MOTHER. Ours is considered very good cider. (To her daughter) Take them,
child, and give them such refreshment as they want. They have deserved
it for their entertainment.

DAUGHTER. Why, of course, Mother. Come this way please.

[She leads the way, and the others follow, the TALKER coming last and
murmuring "Cider" to himself.]

MOTHER. Master Johannes. (He turns round.) A word with you, if you
please, sir.

TALKER. But certainly, Madame. The cider will be all the better for the

MOTHER. Sit down, please. (He does so.) Master Johannes, who are you,
all of you?

TALKER. I thought I had explained, Madame. Her Royal Sweetness Princess
Carissima, His Flutiness the Duke of Bogota, and myself a humble
Marquis. We may be referred to collectively as the Red Feathers. For
myself I am sometimes called Silent John, being of a close disposition.

MOTHER. Whatever you are called, you are, I think, a man of the world,
and you will understand that if I am to trust my daughter to you, for
however little a time, I must know something more about you.

TALKER. Madame, I will make a confession to you, a confession I have
never yet made to man, woman, or child. I am forty-six years of age; it
is, in fact, my birthday. Were I to begin to tell you something
about myself, starting from that day, forty-six years ago, when I was
born--were I to begin--well, Madame, I am only too ready to begin. It is
a subject I find vastly pleasant. But, (looking at her comically) shall
I begin?

MOTHER (with a smile). Would you make it so long a story, sir?

TALKER (with a sigh). The tongue is an unruly member, and to one who has
but three notes on the pipe, and yet desires to express himself, talking
is a great comfort.

MOTHER. I said you were a man of the world, sir. May I say now that I
think you must be a man of _our_ world?

TALKER. I am a man of many worlds. But if it would comfort your mother's
heart to know that your daughter will be in good company, I think I can
give you that comfort.

MOTHER. Is that all you can give me?

(The TALKER gets up and walks about, frowning to himself. Suddenly he
takes out his pipe, plays "cuckoo" to himself very solemnly, and is
immensely relieved thereby. He comes back to the MOTHER with a beaming

TALKER. Madame, I will tell you a story. (Holding up his hand to stop
any expostulation) No, quite a short one. Once on a time there was
a certain noble gentleman, a baron of estates and family. Conceiving
himself to be in love, he dared to put it to the touch to win or lose
it all. I regret to say that he lost it all. In a fit of melancholy
he abjured society, cursed all women and took to the road. A pleasant
melancholy gentleman. I made him a duke.

MOTHER (eagerly, indicating the door out of which the duke has just
gone). You mean he really is--

TALKER. We will name no names, madame. I doubt not I have no right to
speak of him to another. It is just a story. (Putting his pipe to his
lips) Cuck-oo!

MOTHER. Poor child, she is not happy here. We live so quietly; we have
no neighbours. I have wondered what to do--it seemed that I could do so
little. If only I could be sure--(Suddenly) Master Johannes, do you like
the look of this house with its little stream opposite, and the green
bank running down, on which one may lie on one's back and look up at the

TALKER. Did we not single it out above all others by having our bread
and cheese outside it?

MOTHER. Will you all stay with me for a little? I think I can find room
for you. Before I can lend my daughter to you, I feel that I must know
something of you. I think that is the best way, is it not? (With a very
friendly smile) The cider is good, you know.

TALKER (rising and boning). Madame, we need say no more.

[The other three come in. The DAUGHTER has found from somewhere a cap
with a red feather in it. They stand in a row opposite the MOTHER, and
to the FIDDLER'S accompaniment sing a merry song.]

  TOGETHER.  The cuckoo comes in April,
               Sings his song in May,
             Changes his tune in the middle of June,
               And then he flies away.

  HE.        The cuckoo comes when April's here--
             He is not very good, I fear.
             He goes and takes another nest--
             Perhaps he does it for the best.
                Cuckoo! Cuckoo!...

  SHE.       When April's over he begins
             Repenting of his former sins;
             From tree to tree he takes his way,
             But this is all he finds to say:
                Cuckoo! Cuckoo!...

  HE.        By June he gets a trifle flat,
             Which is not to be wondered at,
             And critical observers note
             A huskiness about the throat.
                (Huskily) Cuckoo! Cuckoo!...

  SHE.       Alas! he does not stay for long,
             But other birds take up the song
             Of summer gently following
             The wild and happy days of Spring.

(The TALKER conducts with his pipe in his hand, and hums "La, la, la!"
to himself. He pipes the chorus with them. At the conclusion they all
bow or curtsey deeply to the MOTHER.)

MOTHER (half laughing, half crying). Oh!

TALKER (suddenly and dramatically, holding up his hand). Listen!


TALKER. Didn't I hear somebody say "cider"?


(It is eight days later when we see them again. The DAUGHTER is at the
spinet, playing an accompaniment to the song which she and the SINGER
are sharing for the moment.)

   SHE.      He does not know I love him,
                He does not care;
             The sky is blue above him,
                The road is there
                For those who dare--
                Alas! why should he care?

   HE.       She does not know I love her,
                 She does not know;
             The sky is blue above her,
                The soft winds blow
                Where violets grow--
                Alas! how should she know?

   TOGETHER. Yet those who sing
             About the Spring
             All say it should bring
                Two lovers together!
             Oh where, oh where
             Will you find a pair
                So matched as you and I, love?
             Come rain or shine,
             Come wet or fine,
             If you are mine
                What matter the weather?
             Oh take my hand
             And kiss me and
                Confess that you are my love.

   HE.       She does not know I love her--
                Ah yes, she knows;
             The sky is blue above her,
                The buds disclose
                The first wild rose--
             Ah yes, she knows, she knows!

   SHE.      He cares not that I love him--
                Ah yes, he cares;
             The sky is blue above him,
                A thrush declares
                The world is theirs--
             Ah yes, how much he cares!

TOGETHER. For those who sing, etc.

DAUGHTER (looking up at him). It is a pretty song.

SINGER. The words, I thought, were good. I liked the words.

DAUGHTER. Who thinks of the words of a song if the tune be pretty?

SINGER. But if the heart of the singer be in the words?

DAUGHTER (suddenly, as, she gets up). Tell me about Chloe.

SINGER (surprised). Chloe?

DAUGHTER. Or whatever her name was.

SINGER (hurt). I am not sure that I understand this conversation.

DAUGHTER. I mean the first one.

SINGER. I am not sure that I like this conversation.

DAUGHTER. She was the first, wasn't she--the one who made you renounce
the world and take to the road?

SINGER (stiffly). Her name was not Chloe.

DAUGHTER (coaxingly). What was it?

SINGER (annoyed). Why rake up the dead ashes of the past? I was but a
boy. It was five months ago. Besides, her name was Penelope.

DAUGHTER. You still remember it, though it was so long ago?

SINGER. I could have pretended to have forgotten, if it would have
pleased you better.

DAUGHTER (coldly). I? Oh, I am not interested.

SINGER. Well, _I_ didn't start the subject. Perhaps, as neither of us is
interested, I had better withdraw. Since we are to start this afternoon,
I have much to see about. (Bowing) With your permission.

DAUGHTER (stopping him). Don't go. I am sorry. I have been unkind.

SINGER (smiling). Shall we practise that other song? Our voices agree,
if our--our hearts do not.

DAUGHTER (distressed). Oh, don't say that. We must be friends.

SINGER. Only friends?

DAUGHTER (gently). Tell me about her.

SINGER. There is not much to tell, dear. I thought she loved me. Perhaps
that was why I thought I loved her. When I told her, she pretended to
be surprised. I don't think she was surprised. She was very pretty. (He

DAUGHTER. And hard?

SINGER. It is not for me to say anything against her. It is through her
that I came here.

DAUGHTER. When you came here the other day, had you forgotten her?

SINGER (singing). "Oh, let the wench, the wench be whom she will, so
long as I can walk on Morland Hill." Didn't I say so on that first day?

DAUGHTER. Of course, I know very little of the world, but I do wonder
sometimes if people who sing about the joys of wandering are really
enjoying it all the time.

SINGER (looking round at the window). Is Johannes about?

DAUGHTER (surprised). No.

SINGER. Then I will be frank with you. Just lately _I_ have been
wondering too.


SINGER (rapidly). I have a house; you would like my house. I have a
park; you would like the park. Horses to ride and jewels to wear. I go
to London sometimes and see the King; you would like London.

DAUGHTER (tragically). I have never been to London.

SINGER (letting himself go suddenly). Sweetheart, all that I have--(In
an ordinary whisper) Be careful, Fiddler just went past the window.
(Keeping his arm round her, he breaks into the last line or two of his
song. She joins in, as if they were rehearsing.)

[Enter the FIDDLER.]

SINGER (to DAUGHTER). Yes, I think we have it pretty well now. 'Tis a
good song. (Turning round suddenly and seeing the FIDDLER). Ah, Fiddler,
are you there? What do you think of it?

FIDDLER. Isn't it time to start?

SINGER. To start? Ah yes, we start this afternoon. Well, we have had a
pleasant holiday and must get to work again.

DAUGHTER (eagerly). And I am coming with you.

FIDDLER. It is settled?

DAUGHTER. Oh yes, I think so.

FIDDLER. It is the best life. (TO DAUGHTER) Play something.

[As the DAUGHTER goes to the spinet, the SINGER goes out.]

(They play. When it is over, the DAUGHTER turns round and looks at the
FIDDLER, and sighs.)

DAUGHTER. That is all you want? Just you and your fiddle and the open

FIDDLER. It is the best life.

[The TALKER appears at the window.]

TALKER. Aha! what did I hear? Did I hear our loquacious Fiddler
perorating upon Life? "Life," quoth she, with much argument and
circumstantial matter; "Life," she continued, making her points singly
and one by one, thus keeping the business in its true perspective; "Life
is--" (Lamely) Well, what is life?

FIDDLER. When do we start, Johannes?

[The DAUGHTER goes out.]

TALKER. Are you so eager to be gone?

FIDDLER. We have been here eight days.

TALKER. Eight days! And Troy was besieged for eleven years! Eight days!
Why, I could talk for eight days without taking breath, and I am by
nature a glum, silent man. Nay, nay, say not to me "Eight days." Eight
days will not make a man grow old or a woman lose her beauty. (The
MOTHER comes into the room.) Or a woman lose her beauty--Madame, I kiss
your hands. Were I of less girth I would flit through the window and
fall upon my knees at your feet. (The FIDDLER with a shrug goes out.)
As it is, I shall enter by the door in the usual way. I have your

MOTHER (smiling). You asked my permission a week ago. You do not need to
ask it now.

TALKER (still at the window). It has been a happy week. The week has
liked me well.

MOTHER. You take the road again this afternoon. Your plan still holds?

TALKER (with a sigh). They say so, lady.

MOTHER. Who say so? Is not Master Johannes the master of his company?
Who say so?

TALKER. The birds. I held converse with a cuckoo-bird this morning.
"Cuckoo," he said--in this manner (he imitates it on his pipe)--meaning,
as I gathered, "O fool!" I bowed low to him, and "Pardon, bird," said
I,--"but I would have you tell me why I am a fool." He answered thus in

MOTHER. And what did _that_ mean?

TALKER (sighing). It meant, "There's no fool like an old fool."

(She looks away. He waits a little, then sighs again and leaves the
window, entering a moment later by the door.)

MOTHER (looking up). Well, Sir?

TALKER. Madame, I am a man of good family, although--although I
quarrelled with my good family. I left them many years ago and took to
the road. I have seen something of the world since then, but I think I
must always have had at the back of my mind some dim picture of what a
home was--some ancient memory, perhaps. That memory has been very strong
within me these last days.

MOTHER. You have liked my home, Master Johannes?

TALKER. I have liked it well. (He takes out his pipe and plays a
melancholy "Cuckoo.") Well, well--we start this afternoon.

MOTHER. You want my daughter?

TALKER (sadly). Not your daughter, Madame.

MOTHER. What is it you want? Are you so backward in asking? It is not
like the Master Johannes who came to my house eight days ago.

TALKER (taking his courage in his hands). Madame, though I have wandered
about the world, I have saved some pennies in my time. A few trifling
coins--enough for middle-age. Since I have had the great honour of
knowing you--(He breaks of as the voice of the SINGER to full song
is heard approaching.) Oh, God bless that poor young fool! Madame, I
entreat you--

MOTHER (rising and moving hastily away). Another time, dear
Johannes--(she smiles very fondly at him as she goes out)--another time
you must tell me--all.

(The TALKER stares after her, hardly believing. Then, with an air
of solemn happiness, he takes out his pipe and dances carefully but
cheerfully round the room, piping to himself. The SINGER comes in
singing merrily, He joins the TALKER at the end of the room, turns round
with hint and trips up and down the room with him, one singing and the
other piping.)

TALKER. Friend, we are gay.

SINGER. Very, very gay, Master Johannes. (They turn round and go up and
down the room as before.)

TALKER. Something is stirring our middle-aged blood. I feel years

SINGER. I have only just been born.

TALKER (with a wave of the hand): Shall we take another turn?

SINGER. At your pleasure. (They go up and down as before.)

TALKER (looking at the other anxiously out of the corners of his eyes).
What do you think has happened to us?

SINGER (with a similar look). I--I wonder.

TALKER (nervously). I suppose the fact that we are going off this
afternoon--the joy of returning to our old gay life is--is affecting us?

SINGER. I--I suppose so. (Without enthusiasm) Yes, that must be it.

TALKER. This cauliflower existence, this settled life which even the
least enterprising cabbage would find monotonous, we have had more than
enough of it, my friend.

SINGER. Yes. (He sighs deeply.) I sigh to think how we have wasted these
eight days.

TALKER. Ah! (He sighs still more deeply.) However, Heaven be praised, we
are for the road this afternoon.

SINGER (gloomily). Heaven be praised! It is a grand life.

TALKER (carelessly). Of course, if you came to me and said, "Johannes,"
you said, "I left my home in a fit of melancholy five months agone; the
melancholy is cured, I will return home again"--why, I would say, "God
bless you, Master Duke; go your way." Well, I can understand such a
thing happening to a man of your age, not born to the wandering as I am.

SINGER. Bless you, Johannes, you are a true gentleman.

TALKER (airily). Say no more, say no more.

SINGER. But I cannot accept this sacrifice. I pledged myself to serve
you for a year, and I'll keep my pledge.

TALKER (considerably upset by this). Wait a moment, Master Duke; I have
myself thought of retiring these many months past. Indeed, it was only
for your sake--

SINGER. No, no, I cannot allow it. It is only for my sake that you are
saying this. We will take the road this afternoon. (Heroically) Indeed,
I would infinitely prefer it. I am enamoured of the wandering life.

TALKER. It is a great life. It means everything to me.

(They stand side by side looking gloomily in front of them. Gradually
they begin to glance towards each other; they catch each other's
eyes--and understand each other thoroughly.)

TALKER (clapping the SINGER heartily on the back). I knew it, I knew it!
You and the wandering life!

SINGER (delightedly). You, too, Johannes! You've had enough of it!

(They suddenly turn round and go up and down the room together, piping
and singing. A genteel cough is heard outside the window, and the MOTHER
is seen for a moment. The TALKER turns round with his pipe to his lips.
They go up the room together again, and at the top the TALKER, with a
wave of the hand, leaves his companion and goes out. He is seen passing
the window.)

[The DAUGHTER comes in.]

SINGER. Sweetheart!

DAUGHTER (going to him). Is it all right?

SINGER. Everything is all right, beloved.

DAUGHTER. You have told him?

SINGER (nodding). It couldn't have fallen out better. He, too, was tired
of wandering and wanted to settle down.

DAUGHTER. I told mother. She seemed glad. You know, I think she seems
younger about something.

[Enter FIDDLER.]

FIDDLER. Are we starting this afternoon?

DAUGHTER. Oh, Fiddler dear, do you mind very much? (She holds out her
hand, and the SINGER takes it.) We aren't coming at all. We--we--

SINGER. We are getting married.

FIDDLER (nodding to herself). I thought so.

DAUGHTER. But you will come and stay with us sometimes. Oh, say you

SINGER (smiling at FIDDLER with great friendliness). Of course she will.

(The TALKER and the MOTHER are seen coming least the windows.)

FIDDLER. There's Johannes. I expect we shall be starting this afternoon.

[The TALKER and the MOTHER come in arm-in-arm. He bows to her and takes
the floor.]

TALKER. Ladies and gentlemen, companions-in-arms, knights and ladies of
the road, comrades all,--I have the honour to make an announcement to
you. The wandering company of the Red Feathers is determined from this
date, likewise disbanded, or, as others would say, dissolved. "What
means this, Master Johannes?" I hear you say. "Who has done this thing?"
Ladies and gentles all, I answer you that young Cupid has done this
thing. With unerring aim he has loosed his arrows. With the same happy
arrow (taking the MOTHER'S hand) he has pierced the hearts of this
gracious lady and myself, while yonder gallant gentleman I name no
names, but the perspicacious will perceive whom I mean--is about to link
his life with the charming maiden who stands so modestly by his side.
There is one other noble lady present to whom I have not yet referred--

FIDDLER (holding out her hand to the MOTHER). I think I must go.
Good-bye, and thank you.

MOTHER (taking her hand and patting it). Wait a moment, dear.

TALKER (continuing his speech)--noble lady to whom I have not yet
referred. I will not hide from you the fact that she plays upon the
fiddle with an elegance rarely to be heard. It is the earnest wish of
(swelling his chest) my future wife and myself that she should take up
her abode with us.

FIDDLER. It's very kind of you, but I don't think--

DAUGHTER (coming across). Mother, she's going to stay with us; she

MOTHER. It's sweet of you to ask her, dear, but I think it would be much
more suitable that she should live with _us_.

SINGER. We should love to have her, and she could come and see you
whenever she liked.

MOTHER. I was going to suggest that she should live with us and come and
see _you_ sometimes.

TALKER (who has been thinking deeply). I have it! What say you to this?
For six months, making in all twenty-six weeks of the year, she shall
live, reside, dwell, or, as one might say, take up her habitation with
us; whereas for the other six months--(They have been so busy discussing
the future of the FIDDLER that they have not noticed that she is no
longer there. Suddenly the sound of the fiddle is heard.) What's that?

[The FIDDLER comes in, wearing her cap now with the red feather in it.
She is playing a wild song, a song of the road. She is content again.
She goes up the room, and as she passes them she gives them a little
bend of the head and the beginnings of a grave smile. She goes out
of the door, still playing; she is still playing as she goes past the
windows. They follow her with their eyes. When she is gone they still
listen until the music dies in the distance.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "First Plays" ***

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