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Title: Chains - A Play, in Four Acts
Author: Baker, Elizabeth
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 "Chains - A Play, in Four Acts" ***

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Toronto Libraries.



CHAINS

A Play,
IN FOUR ACTS

BY
ELIZABETH BAKER

LONDON:
SIDGWICK & JACKSON, LTD.
3 ADAM STREET, ADELPHI.
MCMXI.



CHAINS

ACT I

_SCENE: Sitting-room at 55 Acacia Avenue. The principal articles of
furniture are the centre table, set for dinner for three, and a
sideboard on the right. There are folding doors at the back, leading
to the front room, partly hidden by curtains; on the left a low French
window leading into the garden. On the right is a fire burning; and
above it a door into the kitchen._

_The furniture of the room is a little mixed in style. A wicker
armchair is on one side of the fireplace, a folding carpet-chair on
the other. The other chairs, three at the table and two against the
walls, are of bent wood. The sideboard is mahogany. The carpet-square
over oilcloth is of an indeterminate pattern in subdued colours, dull
crimson predominating. Lace curtains at window. Family photographs, a
wedding group and a cricket group, and a big lithograph copy of a
Marcus Stone picture, are on the walls. There is a brass alarm clock
on the mantelpiece and one or two ornaments. A sewing-machine stands
on a small table near the window; and on the edge of this table and on
the small table on the other side of the window are pots of cuttings.
A couple of bookshelves hang over the machine. A small vase of flowers
stands in the centre of the dinner table._

_LILY WILSON, much worried, is laying the centre table. She is a
pretty, slight woman, obviously young, wearing a light cotton blouse,
dark skirt and big pinafore. The front door is heard to close. CHARLEY
WILSON enters. He is an ordinary specimen of the city clerk, dressed
in correct frock-coat, dark trousers, carefully creased, much cuff and
a high collar._

LILY. Here you are, then. [_She puts up her face and they kiss
hurriedly._] Did I hear Mr. Tennant with you?

CHAR. Met on the step.

LILY. _How_ funny! Well, that's nice. We can have dinner almost
directly.

CHAR. [_putting down his hat carefully on sideboard, and stretching
himself slowly, with evident enjoyment._] Saturday, thank the Lord!

LILY. [_laughing prettily._] Poor thing!

CHAR. [_looking at his silk hat._] I should like to pitch the beastly
thing into the river. [_He shakes his fist at it. Then he stretches
his neck as if to lift it out of the collar and shaking down his cuffs
till he can get a fine view of them, regards them meditatively._] Pah!

LILY. [_anxiously._] What's the matter with them? Are they scorched?

CHAR. Scorched! No, they're white enough. Beastly uniform!

LILY. But you must wear cuffs, dear.

CHAR. A chap came to the office to-day in a red tie. Old Raffles had
him up, and pitched into him. Asked him if he was a Socialist. Chap
said he wasn't, but liked red. "So do I," says the Boss, "but I don't
wear a golf coat in the city!" Thought he was awfully smart, and it
did make Poppy swear.

LILY. Who's Poppy, dear?

CHAR. Popperwell. He almost left there and then. Said he should wear
whatever tie he liked.

LILY. It would have been rather silly of him, wouldn't it? He's so
sure there.

CHAR. That's what _he_ said. He thought better of it and swallowed it.
Well--dinner ready?

LILY. Waiting.

CHAR. [_going out._] I'll be down in a jiffy.

_LILY goes to the fire. TENNANT heard outside whistling a bar of the
song "Off to Philadelphia." He comes in. He is a broad-shouldered
young fellow, a little shy in his manner with women._

TENNANT. Nice day, Mrs. Wilson.

LILY. Beautiful.

TENNANT. I've brought you home the paper, if you'd like it. It's the
"Daily Mirror."

LILY. Oh, thank you. I do like the pictures. Charley is getting so
dreadfully serious now in his reading, and won't buy it. He takes the
"Daily Telegraph." He thinks the gardening notes are so good.

TENNANT. He's luxurious. It's a penny.

LILY. Oh, he shares it with somebody. [_Pause._]

TENNANT. How goes the garden?

LILY. It's rather trying--I should like to give up those peas and
things, and have chickens. They would be so useful.

_LILY goes out. TENNANT takes a map out of his pocket and stands
studying it. CHARLEY and LILY enter together. CHARLEY has made a
wonderful change into a loose, rather creased suit of bright brown,
flannel shirt with soft collar, flowing tie and old slippers. A pipe
is sticking out of one pocket, and a newspaper out of the other. They
sit down, and LILY tries not to look worried as CHARLEY laboriously
cuts the small joint which she has brought in with her and put before
him. He splashes the gravy a little and has to use the sharpener. LILY
serves vegetables._

CHAR. I think I shall get one of Robertson's pups.

LILY. It would be lovely.

CHAR. He's got one he'll let me have cheap.

TENNANT. I saw them last night. They're a good breed. Make fine
house-dogs.

CHAR. That's what you want round here. A quiet neighbourhood like this
is A 1 for burglars.

LILY. You don't think we shall have any, do you?

CHAR. No. 24 had 'em the other night.

TENNANT. What were they after?

LILY. 24? That's the new people. What a shame!

CHAR. Wanted the wedding presents.

LILY. And Mrs. Thompson told me they had real silver at 24.

CHAR. Trust the burglars for knowing that. They won't risk their skins
for electro. So _we_ shan't have 'em.

LILY. Charley! You forget the biscuit barrel and the tray.

TENNANT. Where's the Bobby?

LILY. There's only one about here.

CHAR. They don't have Bobbies for burgles in these sort of places,
only for rows. And we don't have rows. We're too respectable.

LILY. I think it's so mean of burglars to come to people like us.

CHAR. [_with a burst of laughter._] Let 'em go to Portman Square, you
say?

LILY. Well, of course, it's wrong to steal at all; but it doesn't seem
quite so bad. [_She stops, a little confused._]

TENNANT. Of course it isn't.

CHAR. [_lying back comfortably in his chair._] Going away Sunday?

TENNANT. No--the fact is--

LILY. Maggie is coming round this afternoon. Shall we ask the Leslies
for whist to-night?

CHAR. All right. Don't make it too early, though. [_Looking out of the
French windows into the garden._] I've got to get in my peas.

TENNANT. Green peas?

CHAR. Green peas in that patch? My dear chap, don't I wish I could!

LILY. [_to TENNANT._] Have some more?

TENNANT. No, thanks.

CHAR. For one thing, there's the soil! It's rotten. Then there're the
sparrows. . . .

LILY. Some of them are so tame, dear, and they don't seem to care a
bit for the cat next door.

CHAR. [_bitterly._] They don't care for anything. I wish they'd take a
fancy to a few snails.

LILY. They don't eat snails.

CHAR. You spoil 'em. She gives 'em soaked bread all through the
winter, and then expects me to grow things. Lord!

_LILY collects plates. TENNANT goes out. CHARLEY lights pipe. CHARLEY
goes to window, where he stands leaning against the post and smoking._

LILY. The baby across the road is such a darling, Charley.

CHAR. Is it?

LILY. The girl was out with it this morning, and I called her over.

CHAR. What is it?

LILY. It's a boy.

_CHARLEY'S replies are without interest and he continues to gaze out
into garden._

They're going to call him Theodore Clement Freeman. It's rather a lot,
isn't it?

CHAR. What's he got it all for?

LILY. After her father and his father and Freeman is a family name.

CHAR. What did they want to give 'em all to _him_ for? They should
keep some for the next.

LILY. Charley!

CHAR. It's silly. Still, it's their business.

LILY. It might be a girl.

CHAR. Well--there's the others.

LILY. Charley!

CHAR. My dear girl, why not?

LILY. I don't like you to speak like that.

CHAR. I-- [_Stops suddenly, looks at her, and comes over. He takes her
face between his hands._] You silly! [_Kisses her._]

_LILY goes out with a tray of things singing. CHARLEY rolls up his
sleeves and goes into the garden._

_TENNANT comes in and looks round. CHARLEY comes to the window with a
spade._

TENNANT. You--er--busy?

CHAR. [_lighting his pipe._] Um! Want a job? There's a nice little lot
of squirming devils under that flower-pot that want killing. Take your
time over it.

TENNANT. Thanks. My fancy doesn't lie in gardening.

CHAR. Filthy soil, this.

TENNANT. Mrs. Wilson would like to keep chickens.

CHAR. Not if I know it! I'd rather go into a flat. [_Leaning against
the door and smoking thoughtfully._] I could chuck the lot sometimes.
These two-penny-halfpenny back yards make me sick.

_Pause._

I'd give something for a piece of good land. Something to pay you for
your labour. [_Rousing._] Well--going out?

TENNANT. [_uneasily._] Yes--presently.

CHAR. [_turning to look at him._] What's up?

TENNANT. I've--er--got some news for you.

CHAR. Anything wrong?

TENNANT. No--no! The fact is--I'm going to hook it.

CHAR. [_astonished._] Hook it? Where to?

TENNANT. I'm sick of the whole show. I can't stand it any longer.

CHAR. [_trying to realise the situation._] Do you mean you've left
Molesey's?

TENNANT. Yes. I'm going to leave England--and so, you see, I've got to
leave here--your place.

CHAR. Leave England? Got a crib?

TENNANT. No, nothing.

CHAR. What are you going for then?

TENNANT. Because I'm sick of it.

CHAR. So am I, and so are others. Do you mean you are just going out
because you want a change?

TENNANT. That's about it. I've had enough of grind.

CHAR. Well, perhaps you'll get grind somewhere else.

TENNANT. It'll be a change of grind then. That's something.

CHAR. Canada?

TENNANT. No, Australia.

CHAR. Phew! That's a long shot. Got any friends there?

TENNANT. No.

CHAR. It's a bit risky, isn't it?

TENNANT. Of course it's risky. But who wouldn't have a little risk
instead of that beastly hole every day for years? Scratch, scratch,
scratch, and nothing in the end, mind you?

CHAR. [_ironically._] You might become a junior partner.

TENNANT. [_ignoring the remark._] Suppose I stay there. They'll raise
the screw every year till I get what they think is enough for me. Then
you just stick. I suppose I should marry and have a little house
somewhere, and grind on.

CHAR. [_looking round._] Like me.

_LILY heard singing off R._

TENNANT. No offence, old chap. It's all right for some. It suits you.
You're used to it. I want to see things a bit before I settle.

_CHARLEY is silent. His pipe has gone out and he is staring at the
floor._

So I thought I'd go the whole plunge. I've got a little cash, of
course, so I shan't starve at first, anyhow.

_CHARLEY makes no remark. TENNANT becomes apologetic._

I'm--I feel a bit of a beast--but the fact is--I--it was decided in a
hurry--I--er--

_CHARLEY looks up._

I'm going on Monday.

CHAR. On Monday! Why, that's the day after tomorrow.

TENNANT. Yes, I know. It was like this. I heard of a man who's going
Monday--a man I know--and it came over me all at once, why shouldn't I
go too? I went to see him Friday--kept it dark here till I'd seen the
guv'nor, and now it's all fixed. I'm awfully sorry to have played you
like this--

CHAR. Oh, rot! That's nothing. But I say, it's the rummest go I ever
heard of. What did Molesey say?

TENNANT. Slapped me on the back! What d'ye think of that? I thought
he'd call me a fool. He pointed out that I could stay there for ever,
if I liked--which was jolly decent of him--but when I said I'd rather
not, thanks muchly, he banged me on the back, and said he wished he
could do the same and cut the office. He didn't even stop the money
for notice.

CHAR. Did he give you a £5 note?

TENNANT. [_laughing._] You don't want much. The old chap was quite
excited, asked me to write--how's that?

_Pause._

[_Rising._] The thing is--I can't see why I didn't go before. Why did
I ever go into the beastly office? There was nobody to stop me going
to Timbuctoo, if I liked. I say, will you tell Mrs. Wilson?

CHAR. She's only in the kitchen. Lil!--Lil! [_Shouting._]

LILY. [_from outside._] Yes, dear.

CHAR. Come here! Here's news.

_LILY enters, wiping her hands on her pinafore and smiling._

LILY. Yes?

CHAR. [_waving his pipe towards TENNANT._] What d'ye think _he's_
going to do?

LILY. [_studying TENNANT seriously._] Do? How--

TENNANT. [_nervously._] I--I'm going to leave you, Mrs. Wilson.

LILY. To leave us? [_With enlightenment._] You're going to be married!

TENNANT. Good Heavens, no! Not that!

CHAR. Whatever made you think of that?

LILY. What else could he do?

TENNANT. I'm going abroad.

_Going over to garden door._

CHAR. He's going to seek his fortune. Lucky dog!

LILY. Have you got a good appointment, Mr. Tennant?

TENNANT. No, nothing. I'm going on the chance.

LILY. Whatever for? Didn't you like Molesey's?

TENNANT. Oh, they were good enough and all that, but I got sick of the
desk. I'm going farming.

LILY. And throwing up a good situation?

TENNANT. I suppose you'd call it good.

LILY. It was so sure. You'd have been head clerk in time. I'm sure you
would. It does seem such a pity.

TENNANT. Sounds a bit foolish, I expect.

LILY. Of course you must get tired of it sometimes. But to throw it up
altogether! I do hope you won't be sorry for it. Charley gets tired of
it sometimes--don't you, dear?

CHAR. [_from the garden door._] Just a bit--now and then.

LILY. Everybody does I expect. It would be very nice, of course, to
see other places and all that--but you can always travel in your
holidays.

CHAR. How far on the Continong can you go in a fortnight, Lil?

TENNANT. I don't think you quite understand. It isn't so much that I
want to see things--though that'd be jolly--but I want a change of
work.

LILY. [_sympathetically._] It _is_ trying to do the same thing over
and over again. But then the hours are not so very long, are they?

CHAR. Nine to six, with an hour for lunch and tea thrown in. Count
your many blessings, Freddy.

LILY. [_reproachfully, and crossing to him._] You know, Charley, we've
often talked it over, and you've said how regular the hours were.

CHAR. So they are.

_CHARLEY disappears for a moment into garden, but is now and again to
be seen outside the door with a flower-pot or some other thing for the
garden._

LILY. And you have the evenings, and they give you Saturday morning at
Molesey's as you get on, don't they?

TENNANT. Yes, it's all true, Mrs. Wilson--but I can't stand it.
Anybody can have the job.

CHAR. It's the spring, Freddy. That's the matter with you.

LILY. I do hope you won't be sorry for it. It would be so dreadful if
you failed, after giving up such a good situation. Of course we are
very sorry to lose you, Mr. Tennant--you have been so kind.

TENNANT. [_hastily and with much embarrassment._] Oh, please don't.

LILY. And we have always got on so very well together. I'm sure it
will be very difficult to get anyone to suit us so well again. But you
won't forget us and if we have your address, we can write sometimes--

CHAR. And if anything striking occurs, I'll send a cable. The novelty
will be worth it. [_Coming just inside the door with the spade in his
hand._] For the rest, I'll describe one day and you can tick it off
for the whole lot of the others. Rise at 7, breakfast; catch the 8.30,
City--

_The door-bell is heard._

Who on earth--!

_He goes into the garden._

LILY. Maggie, I expect.

_She goes out._

_TENNANT, after making a step towards the garden, turns to the door,
only to meet MAGGIE MASSEY and LILY. MAGGIE is of medium height,
well-proportioned, good-looking without being pretty._

MAGGIE. [_shaking hands with TENNANT._] How do you do?

LILY. What _do_ you think, Maggie? Mr. Tennant is going to leave us.
Guess what for!

MAGGIE. He's going to be married?

CHAR. Good Lord! There's another.

MAGGIE. Hullo, Charles, you there!

LILY. He's going to leave England.

MAGGIE. How nice for him!

LILY. [_emphatically._] Nice! But he's got nothing to do there!

MAGGIE. [_to TENNANT._] Are you going to emigrate?

TENNANT. Yes; I'm going to Australia to try my luck.

CHAR. Isn't he an idiot?

MAGGIE. Do you think so?

CHAR. Throwing up a nice snug little place at Molesey's and rushing
himself on to the already overstocked labour market of the Colonies.

MAGGIE. You are really going on your luck?

TENNANT. Yes.

MAGGIE. How fine!

LILY. Maggie! Think of the risk!

MAGGIE. He's a man. It doesn't matter.

LILY. If he'd been out of work, it would have been so very different.

MAGGIE. That would have spoilt the whole thing. I admire his pluck.

LILY. Well, he's got no one depending on him, so he will suffer alone.

MAGGIE. You're not very encouraging, Lil. I have heard of a married
man doing the same.

CHAR. [_quickly._] Who was that?

LILY. How very foolish!

MAGGIE. Oh, he was already out of work.

LILY. That is different--although even then--

MAGGIE. His wife went to live with her people again and he went out to
the Colonies and made a home for her.

LILY. [_sceptically._] How did he do that?

MAGGIE. I don't know. _You_ are quite free to do as you like, aren't
you, Mr. Tennant? How does that feel?

TENNANT. I have only just started to think about it. Directly the idea
came into my head, off I had to go.

_CHARLEY, who has stood listening, turns slowly and walks away._

MAGGIE. You are lucky to have found it out in time.

TENNANT. In time?

MAGGIE. Before you got too old to do anything.

_Pause._

CHAR. [_near the garden window but outside._] Climb on to the dustbin,
only mind the lid's on tight.

TENNANT. That's Leslie coming over. I'll go. [_goes._]

_Enter from the garden MORTON LESLIE, a big fair man, clean-shaven,
lazy and good-natured. CHARLEY follows._

LESLIE. I nearly smashed your husband, Mrs. Wilson . . . Good day,
Miss Maggie--and I'm sure I've absolutely killed Mr. Wilson's beans.

CHAR. If you don't the birds will--and if they don't the worms
will--and--how can you expect anything to grow in that garden?

LESLIE. I thought it was such an excellent Small Holding! What about
the carrots?

CHAR. Pah! Carrots! Why not peaches? Come on, Leslie! I've got the
papers in the other room.

_CHARLEY lifts the curtain and they go into front room._

LILY. I'm afraid Charley must be tired. He seems quite irritable.

MAGGIE. So am I when I get home from business. [_Throwing out her arms
and smiling at LILY._] No more shop for me in a month or two, Lil.

LILY. [_excitedly._] You're going to marry Mr. Foster?

_MAGGIE nods._

Oh, how lovely! How nice for you, dear! I am so glad. What did mother
say?

MAGGIE. [_with a little laugh._] Mother is charmed.

LILY. Everybody is, of course. He is such a nice man. He will spoil
you, Maggie. You lucky girl!

MAGGIE. Yes, I suppose I am.

LILY. You don't like to show it, of course, dear.

MAGGIE. Don't I? You should have seen me last night! I took off my
shop collar and apron and put them on the floor and danced on
them--till mother came to see what was the matter.

LILY. You _must_ be fond of him, dear.

MAGGIE. No, I'm _not,_ particularly.

LILY. Maggie!

MAGGIE. [_walking up and down._] That's funny now. I didn't mean to
say that. It just came. [_A pause._] How queer! [_A pause._] Well,
it's the truth, anyway. At least, it's not quite true. When I came
here to-day I was awfully happy about it--I am fond of him at
least--I--well--he's very nice--you know. [_Irritably._] What did you
want to start this for, Lil?

LILY. [_aggrieved._] _I_ start it? I did nothing.

MAGGIE. I was so satisfied when I came.

LILY. [_soothingly and taking her sister's hat and coat from her._]
You're a little tired, dear. We'll have an early cup of tea. Have you
got your ring, dear?

_MAGGIE holds out her left hand._

How sweet! Sapphires! He must be rich, Maggie.

_Pause._

MAGGIE. I wish I was a good housekeeper, Lil.

LILY. [_reassuring._] Oh, you'll soon learn, dear; and his other
housekeeper wasn't very good.

MAGGIE. I wasn't thinking of that.

LILY. But you talked of housekeeping, dear.

MAGGIE. Yes, but that's quite different from being married. If I could
cook decently, I would have left the shop before.

LILY. But you _are_ going to leave the shop!

MAGGIE. [_unheeding._] Or if I understood anything about the house
properly, but I couldn't be even a mother's help unless I could wash.

LILY. I don't know what you mean, Maggie. You haven't got to wash. You
know Mr. Foster can afford to send it all out. [_Sighing enviously._]
That must be nice.

MAGGIE. I heard of a girl the other day, Fanny White--you know
her--she's gone to Canada.

LILY. Canada! Who's talking about Canada? What's that to do--?

MAGGIE. I was envious. She used to be with us at the shop.

LILY. [_impatiently._] Yes, I know. Well, you've done better than she,
anyway, Maggie, if she _is_ going to Canada. She'll only be a servant,
after all. What else can she do? And then in the end she'll marry some
farmer man and have to work fearfully hard--I've heard about the women
over there--and wish she had _never_ left England. While here are you,
going to marry a rich man who's _devoted_ to you, with plenty of money
and long holidays, and your own servant to begin with! Really,
Maggie--!

MAGGIE. [_stretching a little and smiling._] Isn't it gorgeous?
[_shaking herself._] Well--it must be Mr. Tennant's fault. He
shouldn't get mad ideas into his head--

LILY. And he really is mad. Throwing up a most _excellent_ situation.
My dear, I call him just stupid!

CHARLEY. [_lifting the curtain and coming forward with LESLIE._]
There's no hurry.

LESLIE. Oh, I'll start on it to-night. My wife's gone away and left me
for the day, and I'm a forsaken grass widower.

LILY. [_laughing._] Poor Mr. Leslie! Won't you come in here to-night?
Don't you think it would be very nice, Charley, as Mr. Tennant is
going so soon--

LESLIE. Tennant? Where's he going?

MAGGIE. _You'll_ never guess.

LESLIE. He's leaving you? He's going to get married?

CHAR. [_impatiently._] You're as bad as a woman!

MAGGIE. I thought you more brilliant, Mr. Leslie.

LESLIE. I thought of the happiest thing that could happen to a man,
Miss Maggie.

LILY. No, it's not marrying. He's going abroad.

LESLIE. Got a fortune?

MAGGIE. He's just going to try his luck. He's emigrating.

LESLIE. What a fool! He's got the sack, I suppose?

MAGGIE. No. He's thrown it up.

LESLIE. Thrown up a safe job? Oh, he's an ass, a stupid ass! You
surely don't ask me to come and wish good luck to an ass?

MAGGIE. You can help with a dirge then.

LESLIE. Much more like it. But, I say, is it really true? He must have
got something to go to?

CHAR. He hasn't. He's got a little cash, of course. He's always been a
careful beast.

LESLIE. And he's going to throw it away! And then I suppose he'll be
out of work over there, and we shall be hearing of the unemployment in
the Colonies! It's just this sort of thing that makes a man a
Conservative. It's what I call getting off the ladder and deliberately
kicking it down.

CHAR. Well, I don't then. I think he's a lucky chap to be able to do
something he likes. He's got some pluck.

LILY. Why, dear, you know you think it's very silly of him!

LESLIE. [_laughing._] You must look after your husband, Mrs. Wilson, I
can see. He'll be running away. Well, so long, old chap! I'll come
back later. Just give me a hitch over the wall. You'll be sorry about
those beans next week. [_Pause._]

_They go out. A crash is heard._

CHAR. Hullo! What's up?

LESLIE. [_in the distance._] Smashed a box of tomato plants. Phew!

_LILY, laughing, goes out with MAGGIE._

_A long whistle--CHARLEY comes back into the room and stands looking
into the fire. Pause._

_Enter TENNANT R._

TENNANT. I'm just going round to Carter's. Anything you want?
[_Pause._] I suppose Leslie had something to say about me?

CHAR. He doesn't want to come _with_ you.

_TENNANT laughs._

You don't seem to know much about it, but I suppose you've fixed on a
town. Sydney?

TENNANT. No, Brisbane. [_Pulling out a map._] The chap I know is
cattle raising. Look!

_He opens the map on the table: they both lean over it, CHARLEY'S
burnt-out pipe still in his hand._

We're going to Brisbane, then this way [_moving his finger_] across
Queensland. He knows something at Merivale--here--see--in the Darling
district. Then we shall push on to Maronoa--that's the county--we're
going to a tiny place--Terramoa--but of course I mayn't get anything--

CHAR. [_who is practically lying over the map._] Not fruit-farming
then? That's more my line.

TENNANT. No. If ever you thought of that--see--this is a good
district--I heard of a man there once--see--this way--Ship to
Sydney--Vineyards and all sorts--suit you.

CHARLEY. U-m! Or one could go this way. [_Pointing with his pipe._]

_LILY'S voice heard calling "Charley"--TENNANT stands upright._

LILY. [_enters--laughing._] Charley! What are you doing?

_CHARLEY jumps up and TENNANT folds up the map._

Looking at the plans?

TENNANT. I'm off.

_Goes out._

LILY. Finished gardening already, dear?

CHARLEY. [_putting on his coat._] Don't feel like it.

LILY. [_holding out a newspaper._] Look here, dear, this will do for
us, I think.

CHARLEY. [_glancing round._] What is it?

LILY. An advertisement. [_Reading._] "Wanted, by Young Man,
board--residence in quiet family within easy reach of city. Western
suburb preferred." I must answer it.

CHARLEY. I say--give Tennant a chance to get out first.

LILY. But he is going, dear, so there's no risk. And it's such a good
chance. Besides, we can ask Mr. Tennant for a reference.

CHARLEY. [_sharply._] No, don't. Surely we can exist a week without
anybody.

LILY. Oh, yes! Only I thought--it's a pity to miss--You don't want Mr.
Tennant to go, do you, dear? He is nice company for you.

CHARLEY. He's a nice chap. But you needn't get lodgers to keep me
company.

LILY. [_laughs._] What an idea! Of course not.

CHARLEY. [_going to her and turning her face towards him._] I say,
Lil, aren't you ever dull here?

LILY. No--well--hardly ever. There's always something to do. What a
question!

CHARLEY. Don't you ever get sick of it? It's jolly hard work
sometimes. [_He takes her hands and looks at them, stroking them as if
unconsciously._] Why they're getting quite rough. [_She pulls them
away._]

LILY. It's the washing, dear. It does roughen your hands.

CHARLEY. [_taking them again and kissing them._] They weren't rough
when we married.

LILY. [_she turns away._] You silly boy, of course they weren't. I
never did washing at home. What do you think, dear? Maggie is going to
be married.

CHARLEY. [_with little interest._] To Foster?

LILY. Yes. Isn't she lucky? He's quite well off.

CHARLEY. So _she_ won't do the washing. I shall never be rich.

LILY. You'll be head clerk one of these days.

CHARLEY. One of these days!

LILY. And then we'll have a servant.

CHARLEY. Perhaps I shall never be head clerk.

LILY. Oh, yes, you will!

CHARLEY. I don't know that I'm excited at the idea--a sort of
policeman over the other chaps. I'd rather be as I am.

LILY. But think of the position--and the money!

_CHARLEY nods gloomily--he walks to garden door._

Where's your ambition, dear?

CHARLEY. Perfectly safe. No fear of that getting lost. The man who
built that road [_pointing out of the window_] ought to be hanged.

LILY. They're not very pretty, those houses. Mrs. Freeman told me this
morning that they're going to raise our rents a little.

CHARLEY. [_turning round sharply._] What? _That's_ because they've
brought the fares down. Just like 'em.

LILY. I was thinking this morning, dear, that perhaps we could take
two boarders. It would help a little. That little room at the back,
over the scullery, would do nicely with a single bed.

CHARLEY. That's where I keep my cuttings and things.

LILY. Yes, dear, but you could have half the coal shed. We never fill
it.

CHARLEY. I don't want the coal shed. I say--must we have two?

LILY. It would make things better, dear.

CHARLEY. But it's beastly, choking up your house with a lot of
fellers. _You_ don't like it, do you?

LILY. No, dear, of course not.

CHARLEY. You don't seem much put out.

LILY. It's no good being cross about it, dear, is it? If it's got to
be done, we may as well make the best of it.

CHARLEY. Oh, make the best of it. [_Fretfully._] You might at least
seem vexed.

LILY. [_patiently._] Of course I don't like it, dear, and of course
I'd much rather be alone with you and have all my house to
myself--though really the boarders don't worry much, you know. They
are always home late and only have meals with us.

CHARLEY. Who wants 'em at meals? I don't, if you do!

LILY. [_pathetically._] You are very unkind. I never said I wanted
them. I'm only doing my best to make things smooth. You might help me,
Charley. [_She turns away._]

CHARLEY. [_crossing to LILY and patting her on her hand._] I'll be all
right later. But I say it is a bit thick. An Englishman's home is his
castle. I like that! Why, the only place where you can be alone is the
bedroom. We'll be letting that next. [_He laughs sarcastically._]

LILY. [_shocked._] Charley! What are you saying?

CHARLEY. Ha, ha, what a joke! The--well, never mind. The day we let
the bathroom, Lil--I'm off to the Colonies. [_He stops, suddenly
struck with a thought._]

LILY. You silly boy.

CHARLEY. Supposing I did, eh?

LILY. We're not going to let the bathroom, so you needn't suppose
anything.

CHARLEY. [_abstractedly--sitting on a corner of the table._] Why not?

LILY. Did you speak, dear?

CHARLEY. [_starting._] Eh?--No, no!--nothing.

_LILY goes, closing door._

CURTAIN



ACT II

_SCENE: Sitting-room at 55 Acacia Avenue. The folding doors between
front and back parlour are opened, with red curtains looped up. The
front parlour, a glimpse of which is visible between curtains, is in
full light and a corner of the piano can be seen. The furniture in
this room is of the imitation Sheraton variety. There is an ornamental
overmantel with photographs and vases, and a marble clock in the
middle of the mantelpiece._

_Someone is playing the piano, and LILY, standing beside it, is
singing in a sweet but rather weak voice, "Sing me to sleep." No one
is in the back parlour, but through the curtains can be seen MORTON
LESLIE, lolling on mantelpiece; SYBIL FROST, a pretty fair-haired
girl, much given to laughing at everything; PERCY MASSEY, a
good-looking, somewhat weak youth of perhaps twenty-one or twenty-two,
sitting very close to SYBIL, and TENNANT, standing in the bay window._

_CHARLEY comes in quietly through the side door into the back parlour
during the singing. When LILY comes to the refrain of the song,
everyone except CHARLEY joins in. He stays in the back parlour and
sitting down in the shadow, lights a cigarette. LILY sits down amid a
good deal of clapping and words of admiration._

SYBIL. I do love that song.

PERCY. Now you sing something.

SYBIL. [_with a giggle._] I couldn't really--you know I couldn't.

PERCY. Oh, yes, you can--that nice little coon thing you sang at the
Richards.

SYBIL. I've got a cold.

MAGGIE. [_crossing from piano._] Of course you have.

SYBIL. [_laughing._] But it's quite true. Really. And I couldn't
really sing after Mrs. Wilson.

LILY. Sybil! Do sing, _please._

LESLIE. We're all waiting, Miss Frost.

SYBIL. Oh, please--I can't. Let someone else sing first.

_MAGGIE comes to the doorway and catches sight of CHARLEY. She comes
in. In the front parlour SYBIL can be seen still resisting, while
LILY, LESLIE, and PERCY MASSEY beseech her._

MAGGIE. You here--all alone?

CHARLEY. 'Um.

MAGGIE. What's the matter?

CHARLEY. Nothing.

MAGGIE. Why didn't you come into the front room?

CHARLEY. I can hear quite as well here.

MAGGIE. Got the hump?

CHARLEY. What for? Head's a bit nasty, so I'm smoking it off.

MAGGIE. It isn't that--it's all this about Tennant.

CHARLEY. [_irritably._] I'm not grieving over him, if that's what you
mean.

MAGGIE. As if I did! and as if you'd confess if you were. Are you sick
of everything?

CHARLEY. Sick! I'd cut the whole beastly show tomorrow if-- [_He stops
suddenly._]

_LILY'S voice can be heard distinctly from the front room._

LILY. Well, we'll ask Mr. Tennant to sing first.

SYBIL. Oh, I can't sing, really--

CHARLEY. Why doesn't the girl sing when she's asked?

MAGGIE. She says she has a cold. [_She laughs a little._]

CHARLEY. Rot! Affectation, I call it.

MAGGIE. Percy's awfully smitten, isn't he?

CHARLEY. [_surprised._] With her?

MAGGIE. Of course. But you haven't noticed that. Lily's been arranging
it.

CHARLEY. But he's such a kid.

MAGGIE. He's twenty-two.

CHARLEY. What's that?

MAGGIE. Lots of men marry at twenty-two.

CHARLEY. More fools they! Getting tied up before they've seen
anything.

MAGGIE. [_thoughtfully._] I can never understand why a man gets
married. He's got so many chances to see the world and do things--and
then he goes and marries and settles down and is a family man before
he's twenty-four.

CHARLEY. It's a habit.

MAGGIE. If I were a man I wouldn't stay in England another week. I
wouldn't be a quill-driver all my life.

_CHARLEY gets up and walks restlessly up and down the room._

If I were a man--

CHARLEY. Men can't do everything.

MAGGIE. I say, don't you think it's fine of Mr. Tennant to throw up
everything and take the risk?

CHARLEY. I'd do the same if . . .

LILY. [_coming forward a little._] Where's Charley? Oh, never mind, I
daresay he's got a lantern and is looking for worms or something. Are
you ready, Mr. Tennant?

MAGGIE. I wonder what Lil would say if you did!

_CHARLEY stops dead and looks at MAGGIE._

CHARLEY. If I _did?_ What are you talking about?

MAGGIE. Why shouldn't you?

CHARLEY. Why shouldn't I? Aren't there a thousand reasons?

MAGGIE. There's Lily, certainly--but . . .

CHARLEY. She wouldn't understand. She'd think I was deserting her.

_A pause._

But that's not all. I might manage her--I don't know--but--you see,
I've got a berth I can stay in all my life . . .

_TENNANT starts singing the first verse of "Off to Philadelphia."_

It's like throwing up a dead cert. And then. . . .

MAGGIE. It _would_ be a splash.

CHARLEY. Yes--and think of all your people? What'd they say? They'd
say I was running away from Lil--of course, it would seem like
it. . . .

_Another pause._

It's impossible. I might never get anything to do--and then--

_His voice is suddenly drowned as the front room party sing the chorus
"With my Knapsack," etc. Knock at front door._

I--

MAGGIE. I believe I heard a knock.

_She goes out in corridor as TENNANT commences the second verse._

_CHARLEY sits on the edge of the table watching and listening. The
door opens and MAGGIE enters, followed by FENWICK. FENWICK is a man of
middle age, short and slight, with a quiet, rather crushed manner._

MAGGIE. Mr. Fenwick didn't want to come in when he heard all the
singing. He thought we had a party.

_She goes through curtains._

CHARLEY. Oh, it's nothing--a sort of family sing-song.

FENWICK. Miss Massey would have me come in--but really I'd rather come
some other--

CHARLEY. Stuff! Sit down. I'll pull the curtains if it's anything
special you've come about. I thought it was perhaps over those
geranium cuttings. Afterwards, if you feel like it, we'll go and join
them. [_Draws curtains and turns up light._] Freddy Tennant--you know
him, don't you--he's going to seek his fortune in the Colonies.

FEN. Is he?

CHARLEY. Yes, and we'll drink his health. What's up?

FEN. I didn't see you at the train to-day.

CHARLEY. No, you were late. I came on with Malcolm.

FEN. The chief sent for me.

CHARLEY. Wasn't a rise, I suppose?

FEN. Do I look like it? It's the other thing.

CHARLEY. Docking?

FEN. [_nodding first and then speaking slowly._] He said he'd sent for
me as senior of my department. The company has had a bad year and they
can't give the usual rises.

CHARLEY. None?

FEN. None. Haven't you had a letter?

CHARLEY. No. I say, have I got the sack?

FEN. No, you haven't. But they're offering you the same alternative
they offered me--stay on at less--or go.

CHARLEY. [_walking up and down._] What are you going to do?

FEN. What can I do? Stay, of course--what else is there?

CHARLEY. Sit down under it?

FEN. What else?

_Postman's knock._

CHARLEY. There's the postman. Wait a bit.

_He goes out R. and the voices in the other room can be distinctly
heard laughing, while someone is playing a waltz tune very
brilliantly._

_CHARLEY comes back with a letter in his hand, closes door and music
dies down._

CHARLEY. Here it is. [_He opens and reads it, then throws it on the
table._]

FENWICK. A bit of a blow, isn't it?

CHARLEY. I didn't expect it. Did you?

FENWICK. Not until last week when Morgan started making enquiries as
to salaries, et cetera. Then I guessed.

CHARLEY. We can't do anything.

FENWICK. Of course not.

CHARLEY. But I say, you know, it's all rot about a bad year. Don't
expect we've been exactly piling it up, but it's nothing to grumble
about.

FENWICK. That doesn't affect us, anyway. We've got to do as we're
told. I fancy old Morgan is hit, too. He was sugary, but of course he
had to obey the instructions of the directors and so on.

CHARLEY. It's no good swearing at him.

FENWICK. It's no good swearing at anybody. What's a Board? Where is
it?

_The curtains part and LILY appears in the opening._

LILY. Charley--are you there? Are you never coming back? Oh, Mr.
Fenwick!

_FENWICK rises; shake hands._

FENWICK. Good evening. I'm afraid I'm an awful nuisance, but I just
called to see your husband about a little business.

LILY. You'll stay to supper, won't you? You and Charley can sit and
talk business the whole time. I'm afraid Charley doesn't like music
very much--do you, dear?

CHARLEY. Oh, sometimes.

LILY. [_big laugh from behind curtains._] You should hear Mr. Leslie.
He's so funny, he's been giving Mr. Tennant advice what to do when
he's a lonely bachelor in Australia. He made us _roar_ with laughter.

_Goes back laughing._

CHARLEY. Silly ass!

FENWICK. [_startled._] What?

CHARLEY. That chap Leslie! It'd do him good to go to Australia for a
bit. He'd stick to his berth if they docked his screw to ten bob. He's
got no pride in him.

FENWICK. Well, we--at least, I--can't say much--I'm going to stay on.
You, too, I suppose.

CHARLEY. [_with a sort of defiance._] Why should I? What's to hinder
me leaving? Why shouldn't I go to Morgan and say, "Look here--just
tell those directors that I won't stand it! I'm not going to be put up
or down--take this or that--at their will and pleasure."

_There is a burst of laughter from the inner room._

FENWICK. That's all very well--and if you've got something else--

CHARLEY. [_fiercely._] I haven't--not an idea of one--but why should
that hinder? Look at Tennant, he's chucked his job and no one wanted
to take off anything.

FENWICK. [_quite undisturbed._] Tennant? Oh, he's going to the
Colonies? Very risky. I nearly went there myself once.

CHARLEY. Why didn't you quite?

FENWICK. Various things. All my people were against it. Oh, well, what
was the good of going? It was only a passing fancy, I daresay. Once
you leave a place the chances are you won't get another. There are so
many of us. . . .

CHARLEY. Of course, it's safe and it's wise and it's sensible and all
that--but it's _damnable._

FENWICK. It's come suddenly to you--I've almost got used to the idea.
[_With a little laugh._] You do, you know, after a little. You're
young. . . . [_With sigh._] Well, there it is. [_A pause._] But I'd
looked for that rise. It'll make a difference. [_Pulling himself
together._] However, it can't be helped. We've got something left and
I'm safe, and that's more than a good many people can say. I'm sorry I
came tonight, Wilson.

_LESLIE'S voice can be heard, shouting out a comic song._

[_Smiling._] Life doesn't seem to worry him.

CHARLEY. Won't you stay and have supper?

FENWICK. Thanks, no. I don't feel exactly sociable.

CHARLEY. [_with a short laugh._] Neither do I, old chap. Fact is, I
was feeling a bit off when you came.

FENWICK. You're a little restless, but it'll work off. Look at me. I
felt like that once.

_They go out._

_The curtains are pulled wide and LESLIE and PERCY MASSEY enter.
TENNANT can be seen in the front parlour._

LESLIE. May we interrupt? [_Looking around._] Empty was the cradle.

_Re-enter CHARLEY._

Where's the business?

CHARLEY. Fenwick's been, but he's just gone.

LESLIE. Fenwick? Wasn't cheerful company, was he?

CHARLEY. [_crossly._] What's the matter with him?

LESLIE. He never is, that's all.

CHARLEY. He isn't exactly boisterous. He nearly emigrated once, he
tells me.

TENNANT. [_coming forward._] Why didn't he quite?

LESLIE. Not enough devil in him. Hundreds of 'em almost go.

CHARLEY. Did you?

LESLIE. [_with energy._] I'm comfortable enough where I am. I've been
telling this chap here he's a fool, but he won't believe me. He says
he'd rather be a fool in the Colonies than a wise man here. Don't know
what he means quite, but it sounds rather smart. [_Waving his pipe
oracularly as he faces the three men._] I've known lots of chaps
who've wanted to go. The guv'nor is unpleasant or there's too much
overtime or they get jealous of their girl or something of that sort
and off they must go. I've known a few who went--and sorry they were,
too. You can't do anything out there. Read the emigration books, read
your papers. Failure all along the line. Market overcrowded. Only
capitalists need apply--the Colonies don't want you--

CHARLEY. Neither does England--

LESLIE. Of course not but [_waving his arm impressively_] but you're
here and got something. That's the whole point. My advice is--stick
where you are. Tennant's a stupid ass to give up a decent berth; he
deserves to fail. Of course, we should all like to see the world. _I_
should--

TENNANT. It's more than that.

CHARLEY. Yes, yes, you don't understand. It isn't the idea of
travelling--it's because you want to feel--oh! [_He stretches out his
arms._] I don't suppose you ever feel so--

LESLIE. Can't say I did.

TENNANT. Aren't you ever sick of the thing, Leslie?

CHARLEY. And don't you ever want to pitch all the ledgers into the
dustbin and burn the stools?

LESLIE. Never--though I've met many that have. I tell you, it's a good
thing to have a safe berth nowadays. Many fellows would only be too
glad to pick up Tennant's berth--or yours, Wilson. Think of the crowds
that will answer the advertisement at Molesey's-- Last week our firm
wanted a man to do overtime work, and they don't pay too high a
rate--I can tell you. They had five hundred and fifteen
applications--five hundred and fifteen! Think of that! And that's what
would happen to you if you went, Wilson, and that'll be the end of
Tennant. Sorry to be unpleasant--but truth--

TENNANT. But there's room on the land--

LESLIE. Land! What on earth can a bally clerk do with a spade? He'd be
trying to stick it behind his ear--

_Shout of laughter from PERCY MASSEY._

He's got no muscle--he's got a back that would break if he
stooped--he'd always have a cold in his nose--

CHARLEY. Shut it, Leslie. You can't call Tennant exactly anæmic. And
look at this. [_He strips off his coat and turns back his shirt
sleeves to display his arms._] How's that?

_TENNANT looks on with interest. LESLIE comes near and pinches
CHARLEY'S arm, while PERCY MASSEY looks on smilingly._

LESLIE. All right for a back garden. I suppose you think you're an
authority on the land question 'cause you grow sweet peas?

CHARLEY. [_digging his hands into the pockets without turning down his
sleeves again._] I don't think anything of the kind. What I do know is
that if I had a chance I could farm land with anybody. _Do_ you think
I chose this beastly business of quill-driving because it's the best
work I know. Do you?

LESLIE. I don't suppose you chose it at all. Your father chose it for
you.

PERCY. [_to CHARLEY._] Well, I say, what's the matter with it?

CHARLEY. You wait till you're a few years older.

LESLIE. Wilson's caught the land fever. Take up an allotment--that'll
cure you. Your garden isn't big enough. Have you got that map,
Tennant?

TENNANT. It's in my room. Shall we go up?

LESLIE. Is there a fire?

TENNANT. No.

LESLIE. Bring it down, there's a good chap. I like to take things
comfortable. I'll wait down here.

_TENNANT goes out R._

_LESLIE rises; goes back to the front room._

PERCY. I say, Charley--

CHARLEY. Well?

PERCY. I've got a rise.

CHARLEY. Congratulations--wish I had.

PERCY. Foster's given me Beckett's job.

CHARLEY. And Beckett?

PERCY. Well, he's got the sack, you know. It's a bit rough on him, but
I couldn't help it, could I?

CHARLEY. I suppose you're doing it cheaper?

PERCY. That's about the line. I'm awfully sorry for Beckett. He's not
young, and it's awfully hard to get anything when you're middle-aged.

CHARLEY. So I believe. Well, anyhow, you're in luck--aren't you?

PERCY. Yes, it's sooner than I thought.

_They sit in silence._

_TENNANT re-enters, and goes into inner room._

I say, Charley, what did you start on?

CHARLEY. Eh? What d'ye mean?

PERCY. You--and--and Lily--you know.

_CHARLEY looks at him steadily._

CHARLEY. Oh, that's it, is it?

PERCY. You didn't begin with a house, of course.

CHARLEY. You know as well as I do that we had three rooms--and jolly
small ones.

PERCY. Still you were comfortable.

CHARLEY. It was warm--winter and summer.

PERCY. It wasn't very expensive?

CHARLEY. You have to choose your housekeeper carefully.

PERCY. If you're going to chaff--

CHARLEY. Don't be an idiot. You've now got ninety, I suppose. You can
manage on that.

PERCY. You really think so?

CHARLEY. I know from experience.

PERCY. You don't ask who the lady is?

CHARLEY. Sybil is a pretty little girl.

PERCY. Well, I suppose you did guess a bit.

CHARLEY. Not me! Maggie and Lil did it between them.

PERCY. Did it?

CHARLEY. Made the match--Maggie told me.

PERCY. [_indignantly._] They did nothing of the kind. I met Sybil here
and . . .

CHARLEY. 'Um--um!

PERCY. We just came together--it was bound to be.

_There is a sound of laughter outside and LILY and SYBIL are seen
carrying in cakes and lemonade._

CHARLEY. She _is_ pretty--

PERCY. Yes, in rather an unusual--

CHARLEY. But so are others.

PERCY. I say, old man.

CHARLEY. Well, aren't they? I suppose you won't listen to advice.

PERCY. What about?

CHARLEY. You're too young to marry.

PERCY. I'm twenty-three. So were you when you married.

CHARLEY. I was too young.

PERCY. Do you mean. . . .

CHARLEY. [_impatiently._] Oh, don't look so scandalised. No, I'm not
tired of Lily. It's not that at all--but, are you satisfied to be a
clerk all your life?

PERCY. I say, Tennant's upset you. Of course I'm satisfied to be a
clerk.

CHARLEY. But _are_ you?

PERCY. [_impatiently._] Don't I say so?

CHARLEY. Have you ever felt a desire to kick your hat into the fire?
Have you?

PERCY. No! Not yet!

CHARLEY. Not yet. There you are--but you will. Don't you ever want to
see anything more of the world--did you ever have that feeling?

PERCY. [_a little thoughtfully._] Well, I did once. I wanted to go out
with Robinson. But the dad wouldn't consent. It was a bit risky, you
know, and this job came along--and so I wouldn't go.

CHARLEY. Did Robinson come back?

PERCY. No, he's got a decent little place out there.

CHARLEY. They don't all fail, then?

PERCY. Of course not--but lots do. I might be one of those.

CHARLEY. Well, the thing is if you ever thought of doing anything
now's your time. You can't do it afterwards. Take my tip and don't get
engaged yet. You're too young to decide such an important question.

PERCY. No younger than you were--and I must say. . . .

CHARLEY. Don't be so touchy--can't you see I'm talking to you for your
good?

PERCY. I think you're crazed.

CHARLEY. [_sharply._] Why am I crazed, as you call it? Isn't it
because I know a little what your life is going to be? Haven't I gone
backwards and forwards to the city every day of my life since I was
sixteen and am I crazed because I suggest it's a bit monotonous?
[_Going close to PERCY and putting his hand on his shoulder
solemnly._] I'm not saying she isn't the right girl for you--I'm only
suggesting that perhaps she isn't! She's pretty and she's handy. . . .

PERCY. I say! I won't have that.

CHARLEY. Don't. Pass it over. It's just this--think--and don't marry
the first pretty girl and live in three rooms because your
brother-in-law did it.

PERCY. She wasn't--the first pretty girl. . . .

SYBIL. [_appearing at opening and smiling demurely._] Mrs. Wilson
says--Oh, Mr. Wilson, have you been fighting?

CHARLEY. [_suddenly remembering that he has his coat off._] I beg your
pardon. [_He pulls it on hastily._] [_To PERCY._] Remember!

PERCY. [_with his eyes on SYBIL._] Rot! [_Goes back with SYBIL._]

LILY. [_coming towards him._] Who said anything about fighting? Now I
suppose you've been arguing with everybody and shouted at them. You do
get so cross when you argue--don't you, dear? Supper is quite ready. I
sent Sybil to tell you. . . .

CHARLEY. Sybil's feeding Percy. She's got all her work cut out.

LILY. How rude you are! Do you know, I'm quite angry with you. You've
hardly been in the whole evening.

CHARLEY. Fenwick. . . .

LILY. Yes, I saw him. He looks so lifeless, don't you think?

CHARLEY. He says I shall grow like him.

LILY. What an idea! Why, how could you?

_The COMPANY move about the two rooms, the MEN handing refreshments to
the WOMEN--they ALL come more forward._

LESLIE. What do you think--? I lost the 8.15 this morning!

CHARLEY. Should have thought it would have waited for you.

LESLIE. I left the house at the usual time and there was a confounded
woman at the station with about five trunks and a paper parcel, who
took up the whole doorway.

_Much laughing from SYBIL and an encouraging smile from LILY._

By the time I got over the train was gone. Never did such a thing in
my life before.

LILY. _You_ haven't sung to us, Charley, dear.

MAGGIE. He's tired.

LILY. Not too tired for that, are you?

SYBIL. Oh, do, Mr. Wilson, I know you sing splendidly. Per-- Mr.
Massey told me so.

PERCY. S'sh! don't give me away--he's my brother-in-law.

CHARLEY. Not to-night, Lil--I--I'm a little hoarse.

LILY. That's being out in the garden at all hours.

LESLIE. Don't say that, Mrs. Wilson. Your husband wants to go as a
farmer in the Colonies--and you'll discourage him.

LILY. You silly man, Mr. Leslie. [_To CHARLEY._] You must have
something hot when you go to bed, dear.

LESLIE. I love being a little ill. My wife's an awfully good nurse.

SYBIL. I believe you put it on sometimes, Mr. Leslie.

LESLIE. Well, do you know--I believe I do. Ladies won't put their
pretty fingers round your neck for nothing. But if you have a little
hoarseness--not too much to be really unpleasant--or a headache is a
very good thing--it is delightful--I always say to myself:

     "O woman--in our hours of ease--
      Uncertain, coy and hard to please,
      When pain and anguish wring the brow,
      A ministering angel thou."

LILY. We ought to have "Auld Lang Syne"--

TENNANT. Please don't.

LILY. It would be so nice for you to remember. [_Going up L._] Yes, we
must. Come. [_She puts out her hands and makes them ALL form a ring,
with hands crossed and all round table._]

_TENNANT and CHARLEY join most reluctantly and are not seen to sing a
note._

There! That's better.

SYBIL. Now I must go, Mrs. Wilson.

LILY. Must you really? Come and get your things.

_They go out._

_A tapping is heard at the window in the near room--MAGGIE runs and
opens it._

VOICE. Is my husband there, Mrs. Wilson?

LESLIE. Y--es. I'm here. Coming, darling.

_SYBIL and LILY re-enter R._

LESLIE. My wife has sent for me home, Mrs. Wilson.

MAGGIE. Are you going over the wall?

SYBIL. Oh, do, Mr. Leslie--I should love to see you.

LESLIE. If it will give you any pleasure it shall be done, though I am
not at my best on the fence.

_They all crowd round--he shakes hands, smiling profusely, and
disappears through the window._

VOICE. Mind the flower-pot. No--not there--that's the dustbin. Not the
steps.

_There is a great shout to announce his safe arrival._

LESLIE. Safe!

SYBIL. I do think he is so funny!

LILY. Yes, isn't he? Are you going by 'bus?

PERCY. _I'm_ going Miss Frost's way.

SYBIL. [_much surprised._] Are you really?

MAGGIE. How extraordinary!

_Much kissing between SYBIL, LILY and MAGGIE. SYBIL and PERCY go out._

LILY. She's so sweet, isn't she? And Percy's so awfully gone.

MAGGIE. [_as they start clearing away the dishes._] Very. So he was
over Daisy Mallock and Ruby Denis--and who's the other girl with the
hair?

LILY. The hair? What do you mean?

MAGGIE. The one with the hair all over her eyes--nice hair, too.

LILY. Gladys Vancouver? Poor Percy--I'm afraid he is a little bit of a
flirt.

MAGGIE. He's got nothing else to do with his evenings.

LILY. And then people like Mr. Tennant think it's a dull life.

MAGGIE. Well, good night all. No, don't come out, Mr. Tennant--I'm
quite a capable person.

TENNANT. Oh, but I shall--if you'll allow me.

MAGGIE. I'd rather you didn't--still, if you will. [_They go out with
LILY._]

_CHARLEY looks round and sighs with relief--he walks round, looks out
of the window, then at the garden--he takes up the paper, but after
trying in vain to settle to it, throws it on the floor--he re-fills
his pipe and lights it. Re-enter TENNANT._

TENNANT. Well. [_He pauses, but CHARLEY does not stir._] I say,
Wilson, I never thought you'd take it like this.

_CHARLEY does not answer, but only shifts restlessly._

I thought you'd think I was a fool too. In fact I was half ashamed to
say anything about it. It wouldn't do for most people, you know. I'm
in an exceptional position, and even in spite of that they call me an
ass. I've got a little cash, too.

CHARLEY. [_quickly._] So have I.

TENNANT. Yes, but the cases are different. I can rough it.

CHARLEY. Let me have the chance to rough it.

TENNANT. You're married.

_CHARLEY does not reply._

You're settled. Your friends are here. I've got nothing and nobody to
worry about.

_They both smoke in silence._

I say, don't sit up and think. Go to bed.

CHARLEY. I'm going soon. Don't stay up, old chap.

TENNANT. You'll get over it.

_He goes out._

_Enter LILY--she pulls down blind and fastens catch of window._

LILY. I'm going up now. Don't be long. You look so tired.

CHARLEY. [_irritably._] Oh, don't fret about me. I'm a little worried,
that's all.

LILY. [_timidly._] Did Mr. Fenwick bring bad news? He looked miserable
enough.

CHARLEY. [_looking at her steadily._] Yes, I'm not going to have that
rise.

LILY. Oh, dear--what a shame! Why?

CHARLEY. Lots of reasons--but that's all.

LILY. Of course, you're worried. Still--it might have been worse. You
might have been sent away.

CHARLEY. Yes.

LILY. It's very disheartening--after all we'd planned to do with it.
You won't be able to have the greenhouse, now, will you, dear?

CHARLEY. [_with a short laugh._] What's the good of a greenhouse in
that yard. It isn't that.

LILY. [_a little timidly._] But we can manage very well, dear. We--you
remember what I said this morning--about the other lodger.

CHARLEY. Oh, don't, for heaven's sake. It isn't losing the cash I
mind; it's having to give in like this. I want to go to them and tell
them to do their worst and get somebody else.

LILY. But dear, you might lose your place.

CHARLEY. I should.

LILY. But that--we couldn't afford that, could we? Why, we can manage
quite well as we are. I can be very careful still--

CHARLEY. I'm tired of going on as we've been going.

LILY. What do you want to do?

CHARLEY. I--I want to go away. [_Pause._]

LILY. And leave me?

CHARLEY. [_suddenly remembering._] Oh--er--

LILY. It's just that horrid Mr. Tennant--

CHARLEY. It's nothing to do with him--at least. . . .

LILY. I said it was. He wants you to go with him--and you want to
go--you're tired of me--

CHARLEY. [_going up to her and trying to speak gently but being very
irritated--his voice is sharp._] Oh, don't cry . . . you don't
understand. Look, Lil, supposing I went and you came out afterwards.

LILY. You want to go without me.

CHARLEY. I couldn't take you, dear, but I would soon send for you; it
wouldn't be long.

LILY. You want to go without me. You're tired of me.

CHARLEY. Oh, don't cry, Lil. I didn't say I was going. Of course I
don't want to leave you, dear. You mustn't take any notice.
[_Attempting to take her in his arms._]

LILY. [_turning away from him, sobs._] But you do. . . .

CHARLEY. I don't want to go because I want to leave you. . . .

LILY. But you said. . . .

CHARLEY. Never mind what I said. [_He kisses her and pets her like a
child._] Come, go to bed. It's the news--and the excitement about
Tennant--and all that. Come, go back to bed and I'll be up in a few
minutes.

_CHARLEY leads her to the door and coaxes her outside and stands at
the door a few seconds, then he comes back into the room, stands
still, looking round. He goes to the front parlour and hunts over the
chairs and the piano as if in search of something. Finally he picks up
a paper off the floor and brings to table--it is the map of Australia.
He opens it on the table and leans over it, his pipe unnoticed burning
out in his left hand._

CURTAIN



ACT III

_SCENE: The sitting-room at "Sunnybank," Hammersmith. There is no
centre table, but there are various small ones against the wall and in
the window. There is a piano, a tall palm in the window, and one or
two wicker chairs that creak. The rest of the furniture is upholstered
in saddlebags with antimacassars over the sofa head and armchairs.
Gramophone in the corner. Big mirror over mantelpiece. Gilt clock in
glass case and lustres._

_MRS. MASSEY is sleeping in one armchair. MR. MASSEY is asleep on
sofa, pulled across centre. MAGGIE sits reading at small table. MAGGIE
softly rises and goes to fire. She pokes it and a piece of coal falls
out. MRS. M. turns her head._

MAGGIE. I'm so sorry, Mother, I tried to poke it gently.

MRS. M. I was hardly asleep, my dear.

MAGGIE. Mother!--you've been sleeping for half an hour!

MRS. M. It didn't seem like it, dear. Why, your father's asleep.

MAGGIE. Isn't that extraordinary!

MRS. M. [_admiringly._] How soundly he sleeps! What's the time?

MAGGIE. Four o'clock.

MRS. M. I should have thought they'd have been here now.

MAGGIE. Not Percy and Sybil, I hope. You don't expect _them,_ until
the last minute, do you?

MRS. M. No, dear--of course not.

MAGGIE. I wouldn't walk the streets this afternoon for any man.

MRS. M. I don't suppose they find it cold.

MAGGIE. Oh, I daresay they're sitting in the Park.

MRS. M. I hope they won't be late for tea. I shall want mine soon.

MAGGIE. I'll put on the kettle now and when Lil and Charley come, we
will have tea and not wait for the others. We'll have it cosily in
here. [_She goes out, returning with kettle, which she puts on fire.
Sits close to MRS. MASSEY._]

MAGGIE. Mother!

MRS. M. Yes.

MAGGIE. Mother, did you love father when you married him--very much, I
mean, very, very much!

MRS. M. [_much astonished._] What a question! Of course.

MAGGIE. More than any other man you'd ever seen?

MRS. M. Of course!

MAGGIE. More than everything and everybody?

MRS. M. _Of course!_

MAGGIE. Well, there's something wrong with me, then--or else with
Walter. I don't feel a bit like that. There's no "of course" with me.
I wouldn't go and sit in the Park with him this afternoon for
anything.

MRS. M. I suppose you've quarrelled?

MAGGIE. No, we haven't. I wish we had.

MRS. M. Maggie! Don't talk like that.

MAGGIE. But I do. He wants me to marry him next month.

MRS. M. And a very good thing too.

MAGGIE. He says he's found a house, and wants me to go and look at it.
_I_ don't want to see it.

MRS. M. What's come over you lately? You used to be satisfied. Walter
is very nice and attentive--in fact, quite devoted.

MAGGIE. Yes, I know. Just like he was to his first wife, I expect.

MRS. M. You've such an absurd prejudice against widowers, Maggie.
You're jealous.

MAGGIE. I'm not. Not a bit. But I do wish he would do something, and
not worry about getting married.

MRS. M. The poor man is doing something, I should think, running after
you every spare minute, and house hunting.

MAGGIE. I would much rather he went to Australia--or somewhere.

MRS. M. That's that absurd Tennant man again. You're not in love with
_him,_ I hope?

MAGGIE. [_promptly._] Not a scrap! I find him rather dull.

MRS. M. Then what is it?

MAGGIE. I should like Walter to go out and seek his fortune instead of
getting it in a coal merchant's office.

MRS. M. He mightn't come back.

MAGGIE. [_thoughtfully._] Perhaps he wouldn't.

_Click of gate._

MRS. M. There's the gate, Maggie.

_MAGGIE goes out R. She comes back in a moment, followed by LILY. LILY
goes to her mother and kisses her. She looks at her father._

LILY. Father asleep?

MAGGIE. What a question. Shall I take your hat and coat?

_LILY takes them off and hands them to MAGGIE._

You're shivering! Sit close to the fire. Aren't you well?

LILY. [_in a pathetic voice._] Yes, I'm well, thank you.

MRS. M. Are you alone?

LILY. Charley is coming on. He's gone to the station with Mr. Tennant.

MRS. M. To see him off?

LILY. No--Mr. Tennant goes to-morrow.

_MAGGIE goes out with hat and coat. She brings back with her a tray,
with cloth, etc., and prepares for tea on a small table._

MRS. M. Have you got another lodger?

LILY. No. We--we've got to have two.

MRS. M. Two? What for?

_MAGGIE stops to listen._

LILY. They've reduced Charley's salary.

MRS. M. [_sitting up energetically._] Reduced it? What for?

LILY. I don't know--I . . . oh, I'm so miserable. [_She suddenly
covers her face with her hands and sobs._]

MAGGIE. [_stooping over her._] Lil, dear, you're not crying over
_that,_ are you?

LILY. [_sobbing._] Oh, no, no! It doesn't matter. We can make room for
two lodgers quite well. I don't mind the work.

MAGGIE. Then what is it?

MRS. M. I suppose you and Charley have quarrelled?

MAGGIE. Tell us, dear.

LILY. Charley--wants--to go away--and leave me.

MRS. M. What? What's this?

LILY. [_looking apprehensively round at the sleeping figure._] Hush!
don't wake father!

MAGGIE. He won't wake till the tea-cups rattle. Charley wants to leave
YOU!

MRS. M. I _knew_ they'd quarrelled.

LILY. We haven't--not exactly--but he's been so _funny_ ever since Mr.
Tennant said he was going to Australia. He wants to go too.

MRS. M. What next? Charley ought to be ashamed of himself. Go to
Australia indeed! He forgets he is married.

LILY. I don't want him to stay just because he's married, if he wants
to leave me.

MAGGIE. You are quite _wrong,_ I'm sure, Lil. He doesn't want to leave
you at all. He wants to leave his work.

MRS. M. Perhaps he does. So do other people very often. Suppose we all
stopped work when we didn't like it? A pretty muddle the world would
be in. Charley is forgetting there is such a thing as duty.

LILY. He's very unhappy--and I--I can't make him happy.

MRS. M. So he ought to be miserable with such ideas in his head. I
never heard of such a thing! The sooner Mr. Tennant goes the better.
He's been putting Charley up to this, I suppose?

MAGGIE. You don't know Mr. Tennant, mother. He's not that sort.

MRS. M. Then what made Charley think of it at all?

MAGGIE. It's just a feeling you get sometimes, mother. You can't help
it. Office work is awf'lly monotonous.

MRS. M. Of course it is. So is all work. Do you expect work to be
pleasant? Does anybody ever like work? The idea is absurd. Anyone
would think work was to be pleasant. You don't come into the world to
have pleasure. We've got to do our duty, and the more cheerfully we
can do it, the better for ourselves and everybody else.

LILY. I--I didn't mean to tell you.

MRS. M. He ought to be talked to.

LILY. Don't say anything, please--not yet. Perhaps after tea we can
all talk about it, and it may do him good.

_MAGGIE goes out. LILY starts to arrange the tea-cups. MR. MASSEY
rouses. Re-enter MAGGIE with tea-pot._

MASSEY. Tea?

MAGGIE. Yes, Daddy.

MASSEY. In here? There's no room.

MAGGIE. It's cosey. I'll bring yours to the sofa.

MASSEY. Where am I to put it?--on the floor?

MAGGIE. I'll bring up a table for you if you must have one. You
wouldn't do for a Society gentleman. Can't you balance a cup on your
knee?

MASSEY. I don't mean to try. Hope you haven't got out those finnicky
little cups. I want my own.

MAGGIE. I've got your own--here. [_She holds up a very big breakfast
cup, plain white with gilt band._]

MASSEY. I didn't hear you come in, Lil. Where's Charley?

LILY. Coming on.

MASSEY. What've you done with Foster, Mag?

MAGGIE. He's not coming.

_MAGGIE takes tea round._

MASSEY. Gone away for the week end?

MAGGIE. [_taking a cup for herself and sitting down beside LILY._] Oh,
no! He's not coming. That's all. Lily and I are grass widows. It's a
very nice feeling.

MASSEY. It's all right about you, but Lil looks a bit off. You've got
a cold. Your eyes are red.

LILY. Yes, father.

MRS. M. You've dropped some bread and butter on the carpet, Alfred.

MASSEY. [_irritably._] Of course I have! I knew I should.

MAGGIE. [_running to pick it up._] Percy hasn't come back with Sybil
yet, Dad. We expect they're sitting in the Park.

MASSEY. [_his attention taken from his grievance._] What, in this
weather?

MAGGIE. The seats will be dry and they sit close together, you know.
I've often seen them do it.

MASSEY. [_chuckling._] You have, have you? And what about yourself?
What about yourself? You! Lord! what a nest of turtle doves it
is--nothing but billing and cooing!

MAGGIE. Especially Percy.

MASSEY. P'raps so. He's young at it. Well, he'll be the next, I
suppose. And you, too, Mag?

MAGGIE. I'm in no hurry.

MRS. M. [_a little impatiently to MAGGIE._] Don't talk like that, my
dear.

MASSEY. Of course she says she isn't. She's a modest young woman--I
never heard _you_ say you were in a hurry, my dear.

MRS. M. Of course I shouldn't--to you.

MASSEY. Ha, ha! You put on the shy business then. Lord! these women.
[_MAGGIE moves towards table._] Come, now, Mag, confess! You think of
it sometimes.

MAGGIE. I think of it a lot.

MASSEY. There you are! There you are! What did I say?

MAGGIE. And what do you think I think about it?

MASSEY. How should I know. Wedding, I suppose. I bet you never think
of anything else after the wedding day.

MAGGIE. [_slowly._] I think of the wedding dress, and the bridesmaids,
and the pages. Shall I have pages, Mum?

MRS. M. Maggie!

MAGGIE. I suppose I shan't. I think of the house I'm going to have,
Daddy--and the furniture, and I'm going to have a cat and a dog--

MASSEY. [_slyly._] Nothing else, of course. Just a cat and a dog. Ha,
ha!

MRS. M. Alfred, don't suggest. It isn't nice.

MASSEY. A cat and dog--ha, ha, ha!

MAGGIE. Don't laugh, Daddy. I'm telling you the solemn truth--I think
most of all that I shall never, never, never have to go into a shop
again.

MASSEY. I wish old Foster could hear you.

MAGGIE. Why?

MASSEY. He'd say--"And where do I come in?"

MAGGIE. Well, of course he'll be there. I wish--

MRS. M. Maggie, my dear--I should like a little more tea! Have you got
some more hot water?

MAGGIE. I'll get some. [_Goes out._]

MASSEY. It's all very well for her to chaff, but she ain't quite
natural about this affair of hers. She ought to be more
pleased--excited like.

MRS. M. I think they've had a little quarrel. People often do. She's a
little bit down about it. We've had a talk about it.

MASSEY. Well, she can't have any quarrel about him himself. _He's_ all
right, and got a jolly soft job, too. He'll make her a good husband.
He's insured for £500.

MRS. M. Is he? That's very nice. If anything happened to him she'd be
all right.

MASSEY. He's a thoughtful sort of chap. Of course he's not exactly
young, but he's steady.

MRS. M. The poor child is jealous of his first wife.

MASSEY. You don't say so? Jealous, is she? That's all right--that's a
healthy feeling. I'm glad she's jealous, but she'll get over it once
she's married. Jealous! Lord! Fancy, Mag too--I wouldn't have thought
it. He'll be head clerk, one of these days--he can stay at Whitakers
all his life. He told me.

LILY. Do you think he'll ever get tired of it?

MRS. M. What an idea!

MASSEY. [_roaring._] Tired! Tired of what? A good job? Why ever should
he be? He couldn't have anything better--Ten to half-past five every
day of his life, except Saturdays, and then it's _one_--and three
weeks' holiday. Think of that?

LILY. But, I--

_Enter MAGGIE with hot water. The door-bell is heard._

MRS. M. Let them in, Lily, my dear--it's Percy and Syb.

_LILY goes out R._

_Re-enter LILY a moment after, followed by PERCY and SYBIL._

_SYBIL kisses MRS. MASSEY and MAGGIE._

SYBIL. Aren't we dreadfully late, Mrs. Massey? I'm _so_ sorry!

PERCY. Awfully sorry, but my watch is--

MAGGIE. Don't blame the poor thing--it's all right.

MASSEY. The watch, was it? Come here, my girl!

_SYBIL goes to him with giggling shyness. He takes her face between
his hands._

_Was_ it the watch? Not a bit of it! It was this--[_He pats her
cheek_] these roses. Lucky young dog! Percy! [_He kisses her._]

MAGGIE. Rather cold in the Park, isn't it?

PERCY. Not very.

MAGGIE. There's a northeast wind. Still, you can find a sheltered
seat.

PERCY. Just beyond the glass house thing.

MAGGIE. What did I tell you? [_Looking triumphantly round._]

SYBIL. [_covering her cheeks._] What a tease you are, Maggie!

MASSEY. Don't listen to her!

PERCY. You're only giving yourself away, Mag. What do you know about
sheltered seats and glass houses?

MAGGIE. It wasn't exactly guess work. [_Click of gate._]

MRS. M. There's Walter.

MAGGIE. What?

MASSEY. Isn't she surprised? Now isn't she surprised? Fancy! Walter!

MAGGIE. He said he wasn't coming. [_She looks out of the window._]
Charley is with him.

LILY. Will you open the door, Maggie?

MAGGIE. [_almost at the same moment._] Go to the door, Percy.

PERCY. Well, you're two dutifully loving young women, I must say.

MAGGIE. You forget--we're used to it. [_PERCY goes out._] Come, Sybil,
and take off your things.

_Exeunt SYBIL and MAGGIE._

_Enter WALTER FOSTER, a man of about 35, prosperous looking, rather
stout of build, and fair. CHARLEY also enters, and PERCY._

FOSTER. [_looking round for MAGGIE._] Good afternoon. [_Shakes hands
with MRS. M. and MASSEY._]

MRS. M. She's gone up with Sybil, Walter.

FOSTER. Oh! I was afraid she was out, perhaps.

MASSEY. Well, Charles, you're not looking spry.

CHARLEY. I'm a bit seedy--nothing much.

MASSEY. And when's that madman lodger of yours going, eh?

CHARLEY. To-morrow.

MASSEY. Of all the fools he's the biggest I know.

_The door opens, and SYBIL and MAGGIE come back._

MAGGIE. I was just telling Sybil, Percy, that tea is laid in the
sitting-room. We didn't know when you'd be in.

_She crosses up to FOSTER and lifts her face to be kissed._

SYBIL. Isn't she dreadful?

MASSEY. Well, you won't be alone, don't you worry. Charley here wants
some tea, and Lil will have to see he gets it, won't you, Lil?

LILY. Yes, Dad.

MAGGIE. [_to FOSTER._] Have you had tea?

FOSTER. Yes, thanks.

_Exeunt all, except MASSEY, MAGGIE and FOSTER._

MASSEY. [_finally he looks at the TWO, then at the clock; poking the
fire, then humming a little._] Have you seen the "Argus," Mag?

MAGGIE. In the kitchen. I'll get it. [_Makes a move to the door._]

MASSEY. No, no, I'm going out.

_Goes._

MAGGIE. Father calls that tact.

FOSTER. [_coming over to her._] What?

MAGGIE. Didn't you notice? He doesn't want the "Argus," really.

FOSTER. [_just understanding._] You mean he's left us together?

MAGGIE. Yes.

FOSTER. Awfully kind of him! I say, Maggie, you don't mind my coming,
do you? I really had to. We--hadn't made arrangements about Tuesday.

_MAGGIE laughing a little sadly._

MAGGIE. And you couldn't write them? You are very good to me, Walter.

FOSTER. Don't talk like that.

_A pause._

Maggie, I--you haven't kissed me yet.

MAGGIE. I did--when you came in.

FOSTER. No--I kissed _you._

MAGGIE. I'm sorry--I--I don't care for kissing in front of people.

FOSTER. [_getting bolder._] There's no one here now.

_MAGGIE rises, turns, and looking at him very straight, then lifts her
face--pause--and going to him, kisses him on the lips. He keeps her
close to him till she gently moves herself away._

I've got something here--you said the other day you wanted--you would
like one of those Dutch brooches.

_He puts his hand in his coat pocket and brings out a little parcel._

Here it is!

MAGGIE. [_unfastens it._] It _is_ good of you! You are so thoughtful!

_She looks at him._

I suppose-- [_She kisses him again._]

_Delighted, he keeps hold of her hand. She looks at him and then at
her hand imprisoned in his, and then away at the fire._

FOSTER. What's the matter, dear?

MAGGIE. [_impatiently drawing her hand away._] It's still the mood. I
can't help it. I don't feel like love-making.

FOSTER. All right, dear--I won't bother you.

MAGGIE. Perhaps if you did bother--no, never mind. You know I asked
you not to come to-day.

FOSTER. Yes.

MAGGIE. Well, I had no reason, except that I didn't feel like it. But
I ought to feel like you always, didn't I?

FOSTER. You're different from me. I always feel like you.

MAGGIE. Walter, I don't want to settle down. I want to go and--and do
things.

FOSTER. What things, dear?

MAGGIE. Oh, I don't know. [_A pause._] Did you ever go abroad?

FOSTER. Yes, to Paris, once at Easter.

MAGGIE. Oh! just for a holiday. Wouldn't you just love to go out and
try your luck? Have a change?--Do something with your hands? Aren't
you ever tired of what you are doing?

FOSTER. I can't say I am, really. Why should I? The work is not too
hard. But you like change. I have a good salary, you know, dear. When
we are married you can go about a lot, you'll be quite free.

MAGGIE. No, I shan't.

FOSTER. But you can have a servant and all that, you know.

MAGGIE. Oh, yes--yes--I understand.

FOSTER. If I went abroad--suppose it, for instance--I shouldn't have
you, should I?

MAGGIE. No, and a good thing for you. You deserve something better.
You know--you _know,_ Walter, that I don't love you half or a quarter
as you love me.

FOSTER. Yes, I know that. But you don't love anybody else.

MAGGIE. No. Have you ever thought that I'm really marrying you to get
out of the shop?

FOSTER. Of course not. Of course you are glad to leave the shop
because you don't like it. You are so tied.

MAGGIE. I should love to be absolutely independent, quite--altogether
free for a whole year. Oh!

FOSTER. [_a little hurt._] You will be free when you are married to
me, Maggie. You can do anything you like.

MAGGIE. [_looking at him despairingly for a moment, then suddenly
going up to him._] You are a dear!--you are, really! Marry me quick,
Walter!

_He takes her in his arms delightedly._

Quick--or--or--

FOSTER. Or what? [_Very tenderly._]

MAGGIE. Or I shall run away.

FOSTER. And where would you run to?

MAGGIE. Perhaps if I'd known where to run to--I should have gone
before.

FOSTER. Dearest, don't talk like that!

MAGGIE. [_turning away a little._] But I don't! I'm safe!

_MASSEY is heard outside the door, coughing and making a noise.
Enters._

I'm afraid you've caught a cold in the kitchen, Daddy. I thought you
went for the "Argus"?

MASSEY. So I did. [_He looks down at it._]

MAGGIE. And you've brought the "Family Herald." [_She takes it from
him._]

_Enter MRS. MASSEY, CHARLEY, LILY, PERCY and SYBIL._

MRS. M. Play something, Lily.

_LILY goes to piano and picks out some music. SYBIL and PERCY occupy
one big chair between them. CHARLEY stands idly at window, turning
over an album._

PERCY. Going to church, mother?

MRS. M. No, dear, it's a very nasty night. Such a cold wind.

PERCY. Last Sunday it was the rain--and the week before it was foggy,
and the week before--

SYBIL. Don't be such a very rude boy!

_She puts her hand over his mouth and he takes it and holds it._

MRS. M. [_complacently._] You're a bad boy to make fun of your old
mother. I went to church this morning.

PERCY. You're getting a oncer, mother.

MRS. M. Well, I should only go to sleep if I went.

PERCY. Think of the example you set if you put in an appearance.

MRS. M. Yes, dear; I have thought of that, but it wouldn't do for them
to see me asleep.

FOSTER. [_who always has the effect of trying to smooth things over._]
I'm sure it is better for you to rest, Mrs. Massey, than walk such a
distance twice a day!

MRS. M. Yes, it is rather a long way. It's quite a quarter of an
hour's walk, and I don't care to ride on Sundays.

_LILY plays, choosing the mournful hymn, "Abide with me." CHARLEY
fidgets, goes to the piano and then back again to the window._

MASSEY. Can't you find a seat, Charles? You look uncomfortable.

CHARLEY. Plenty, thanks. Sybil only has half a one.

SYBIL. Oh, Mr. Wilson. [_She fidgets away from PERCY, who pulls her
back again._]

_LILY has played the tune through. She stops._

MRS. M. That's such a nice tune, don't you think, Walter?

FOSTER. Very!--rather plaintive, but soothing.

_LILY starts another--this time "Sun of my Soul."_

CHARLEY. For heaven's sake, Lil, play something cheerful.

_LILY stops, turns undecidedly on the stool, looks round imploringly
at CHARLEY, turns a few pages and then rises and goes out of the room
hurriedly._

SYBIL. She's crying!

MASSEY. What?

MRS. M. You've hurt her, Charley, speaking like that. There was
nothing to get cross about. She came this afternoon crying.

CHARLEY. I've done nothing! I--

_Exit MRS. MASSEY in much indignation._

MASSEY. Had a tiff?

CHARLEY. A tiff--we don't tiff.

MASSEY. Well, then, don't shout at her like that. [_To SYBIL._]
Here--are you sure she was crying?

SYBIL. Yes, quite.

MASSEY. That's queer. She didn't use to.

CHARLEY. She's been worrying, I expect. Women worry so quick.

MASSEY. What's she got to worry about? A bit hysterical, perhaps.

_Re-enter MRS. MASSEY._

MASSEY. Is she better?

MRS. M. She's got a headache, she says. But it isn't that; I know
what's the matter. When she came to-day she could hardly speak--

CHARLEY. [_interrupting._] Is she worrying over me?

MASSEY. What's she got to worry over you about?

CHARLEY. I happened to say--I got the hump, I think. . . . I feel a
bit restless. . . .

MRS. M. [_hotly._] You know what it is well enough. You want to go
away with that Tennant man and leave your wife--

MASSEY. [_shouting._] What!

_SYBIL looks shocked, PERCY astonished, while FOSTER tries to pretend
he didn't hear._

MRS. M. The poor child's breaking her heart because she says he wants
to leave her.

CHARLEY. I never said anything of the kind--I never thought of such a
thing, I--

MRS. M. _Do_ you want to go away with that man?

MASSEY. I should think you're mad, both of you, to talk about it. Go
with who? What for? What're you talking about?

MRS. M. Sybil told me distinctly this afternoon that Charley wanted to
go to Australia. She nearly cried her eyes out. Of course that means
he wants to leave her. What else could it mean? She said he'd been
funny and she was miserable. I said Charley ought to be ashamed of
himself to want to go away like that, and so I think so.

MASSEY. [_sitting up very straight and looking angry._] What's all
this, Charley? What . . .

_FOSTER on tip toe slowly goes to door._

CHARLEY. Don't go, Foster. Let's have all the family in. You're going
to be part of it some day.

FOSTER. [_sitting down again._] I'm quite ready to go.

CHARLEY. No, don't. Let's have it out. You may as well know, all of
you.

MRS. M. [_with a resignation of despair._] Then you do want--to go and
leave her? It's disgraceful!

CHARLEY. [_Angrily._] What stuff you all talk! I--

MRS. M. Do you or do you not want to go?

CHARLEY. Yes, I do!

_General consternation._

MRS. M. There! I said so.

_Enter MAGGIE._

How's the poor dear?

MAGGIE. She says her head is better and she will come down in a
minute. What's the matter?

MRS. M. Charley wants to go to Australia and leave his wife. He's
_told_ us so.

CHARLEY. Well, suppose it was true, wouldn't it be better than going
without telling you? But it isn't true.

MASSEY. Do you want to take Lil with you?

CHARLEY. How could I?

_Enter LILY--all mutter words of encouragement. General movement
towards her. Everybody offers chairs in sympathy. She sits by her
father._

CHARLEY. Look here now, just listen! It's quite true I want to go. I
want to do as Tennant's done, chuck everything and try my luck in the
Colonies. As soon as I had a fair start Lil would come out.

MASSEY. [_interrupting._] Yes, and suppose you failed? You should have
thought of that before you married. You can't run off when you like
when you've a wife.

CHARLEY. [_excitedly._] But why not?

MRS. M. [_interrupting._] Why not?--just hear him.

CHARLEY. It's that I'm just sick of the office and the grind every
week and no change!--nothing new, nothing happening. Why, I haven't
seen anything of the world. I just settled down to it--why?--just
because other chaps do, because it's the right thing. I only live for
Saturday--

PERCY. So do I!--so does everybody!

CHARLEY. But they shouldn't--

PERCY. You don't mean to suggest, I hope, that we ought to _like_ our
work, do you?

MASSEY. Do you suppose I like plumbing? Do you think I ever did? No,
but I stuck to it, and now look at me, got a nice little bit in the
bank and bought my own house. [_looks proudly round._] Of course, I
hated it, just as you do.

MAGGIE. Then why didn't you try something else, Daddy?

MASSEY. I like that! What could I do? I was taught plumbing. We don't
have choice. Your grandfather put me to it, and of course I stuck to
it.

MAGGIE. But why didn't you ask for a choice?

MASSEY. Me! Why should I do such a thing? Father was a plumber, and if
it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. Suppose I had
thrown it up and gone to Canada for a lark? A _nice_ thing for my
family. [_To MAGGIE._] You wouldn't have had the education you've had,
my girl. We've got to live somehow, and if you get a good job stick to
it, say I--none of your highty flighty notions. Live 'em down!

FOSTER. [_gently._] We all have moments of discontent, I fancy, but we
get over them.

MAGGIE. [_turns to FOSTER._] Did you ever have any?

FOSTER. A long time ago, but I'm quite safe now, dear.

_MAGGIE shrugs her shoulders and turns half away impatiently._

CHARLEY. I never said you couldn't live them down. I never said, did
I, that I was going away? I only said I should like to. Did I ever say
more, Lil?

LILY. [_meekly._] No, dear.

MRS. M. But you shouldn't want to. It's ridiculous.

CHARLEY. It wasn't till Tennant started about his going--

MRS. M. I knew it was that man Tennant--

CHARLEY. . . . that I thought of it. But if he threw up his job, I
thought, why shouldn't I?

MASSEY. Because he's a fool, you needn't be another.

MAGGIE. He's not a fool, and I wish Charley could go, too.

LILY. Maggie, how can you?

MAGGIE. [_crossing to fireplace._] Why should a young man be bound
down to one trade all his life? I wish I were a man--I'd--

MRS. M. Well, you're not, so it doesn't matter.

CHARLEY. Of course it must make a difference my being married.

MASSEY. Remember your wife's here and don't talk as if you were sorry
about it.

CHARLEY. [_turning on them fiercely._] For heaven's sake, can't you
listen fair? My wife needn't go to her father for protection from me?
I'm not a scoundrel just because I've got an idea, am I?

_A pause--nobody answers._

But I'll tell you what, marriage shouldn't tie a man up as if he was a
slave. I don't want to desert Lily--she's my wife and I'm proud of
it--but because I married, am I never to strike out in anything?
People like us are just cowards. We seize on the first soft job--and
there we stick, like whipped dogs. We're afraid to ask for anything,
afraid to ask for a rise even--we wait till it comes. And when the
boss says he won't give you one--do we up and say, "Then I'll go
somewhere where I can get more." Not a bit of it! What's the good of
sticking on here all our lives? Why shouldn't somebody risk something
sometimes? We're all so jolly frightened--we've got no spunk--that's
where the others get the hold over us--we slog on day after day and
when they cut our wages down we take it as meek as Moses. We're not
men, we're machines. Next week I've got my choice--either to take less
money to keep my job or to chuck it and try something else. You
say--everybody says--keep the job. I expect I shall--I'm a coward like
all of you--but what I want to know is, why can't a man have a fit of
restlessness and all that, without being thought a villain?

FOSTER. But after all, we undertake responsibilities when we marry,
Mr. Wilson. We can't overlook them.

CHARLEY. I don't want to. But I don't think we ought to talk as if
when a man gets married he must always bring in just the same money.

FOSTER. If you have the misfortune to have your salary reduced, nobody
would blame you.

CHARLEY. I don't know. I felt a bit of a beast when I had to tell Lil
about that.

MAGGIE. [_suddenly._] If you went away, Lily could come and live with
us.

MRS. M. [_scandalised._] How could she? Everybody would think she was
divorced or something.

FOSTER. Live with _us,_ dear?

MAGGIE. [_impatiently._] No, here, I meant.

CHARLEY. I've got a little cash put by that she could live on. _Don't_
cry, Lil, for heaven's sake! Can't any of you see my point--or won't
you?

MASSEY. I suppose you're a Socialist.

CHARLEY. Doesn't anybody but a Socialist ever have an idea?

MASSEY. They're mostly mad, if that's what you mean. And they're
always talking about the wickedness of the boss and the sweetness of
the working man.

CHARLEY. I never said anything about either, and I'm not a Socialist.

PERCY. You'll be better when Tennant's gone.

CHARLEY. [_viciously._] Just you wait till you're two years older, my
boy.

FOSTER. You see it isn't as if you had any prospects in the Colonies.
Has Mr. Tennant?

CHARLEY. He's got an introduction to a firm.

MASSEY. What's the good of that?

LILY. [_tearfully._] Perhaps I could go with Charlie. I'm quite
willing to--rough it a little.

MAGGIE. You'd help him more by staying here.

MRS. M. He doesn't want her. He said so.

LILY. [_still tearfully._] If Charley really means it--I think--I--

MRS. M. My dear, don't think anything about it. It's worrying you and
making you ill--you want nursing, not frightening. [_This with a glare
of indignation at CHARLEY._]

LILY. I'm all right.

CHARLEY. [_suddenly dropping his defiance._] Oh, let's go home, Lil.
You're tired.

MRS. M. Have you just noticed that?

MAGGIE. Mother!

MRS. M. She's my child, and if her husband won't think of her, I must.

LILY. Mother, dear, Charley means all right. I'm sure he does. Yes,
dear--I'm quite ready to go.

_LILY and MRS. MASSEY go out._ [Transcriber's note: stage direction
missing from source.]

FOSTER. [_with the air of pouring oil on troubled waters._] Well, at
any rate, it needn't be settled tonight. Perhaps after a night's
rest--

MAGGIE. [_vehemently._] I like impulse.

MASSEY. I expect you do. You don't know what's good for you.

MAGGIE. Well, at any rate, Daddy, you can't say I have much. There's
not much chance at Jones & Freeman's.

PERCY. So you've caught it, too, Mag.

SYBIL. Don't tease.

_Enter LILY, dressed for going out, also MRS. MASSEY. LILY goes round,
kissing and shaking hands, with a watery smile and a forced tearful
cheerfulness._

CHARLEY. [_without going all round and calling from the door._] Good
night, all!

_Exeunt LILY and CHARLEY._

MRS. M. Well, I must say--

PERCY. Oh, let's drop it, Mother. Play something, Maggie.

MAGGIE. I don't want to.

MRS. M. Walter would like to hear something, wouldn't you, Walter?

FOSTER. If Maggie feels like it.

MAGGIE. She doesn't feel like it.

MASSEY. Be as pleasant as you can, my girl--Charley's enough for one
evening.

_MAGGIE goes to the piano and sitting down plays noisily with both
pedals on, the chorus, "Off to Philadelphia."_

MRS. M. Maggie, it's Sunday!

MAGGIE. I forgot!

MRS. M. You shouldn't forget such things--Sybil, my dear--

SYBIL. I don't play.

MASSEY. Rubbish! Come on!

_SYBIL goes to the piano and PERCY follows her._

PERCY. [_very near to SYBIL and helping to find the music._] Charley
is a rotter! What d'ye think he was telling me the other day?

SYBIL. I don't know.

PERCY. Told me to be sure I'd got the right girl.

SYBIL. Brute!

PERCY. What do you think I said? Darling!

_Kisses her behind music._

MASSEY. [_looking round._] Take a bigger sheet.

_SYBIL sits at piano quickly and plays the chorus to "Count your many
Blessings."_

_To which they all sing--_

     Count your blessings, count them one by one,
     Count your blessings, see what God has done.
     Count your blessings, count them one by one,
     And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

CURTAIN



ACT IV

_SCENE:--Sitting-room at 55 Acacia Avenue. Early morning._

_LILY discovered, cutting sandwiches. Ring at door. LILY admits
MAGGIE, who is dressed for the shop._

LILY. [_rather nervously._] You, Maggie! How early. What is it?

MAGGIE. I've come to help Mr. Tennant off, Lil. Where's Charley? Is he
up?

LILY. Oh, yes. [_MAGGIE goes to the garden door and stands looking
out._] He's been up a long while.

MAGGIE. So the great day has come. [_Turning._] Is Charley going, or
isn't he, Lil?

LILY. [_nervously and avoiding MAGGIE'S eyes._] No, of course not.

MAGGIE. Why not?

LILY. Because--why, how can he? [_Tearfully._] Don't speak in that
tone, Maggie.

MAGGIE. He would have decided to go, if you had encouraged him.

LILY. I _did_ encourage him. You heard me last night. I told him--and
I told him again after we got home--"If you want to go, I'll never
stand in your way."

MAGGIE. Yes, I heard. Is that how you told him last night?

LILY. It doesn't matter how I said it. He'll get over it. Everybody
says he will--except you. And how could he go? It's just an idea he's
got over Mr. Tennant.

MAGGIE. [_angrily._] Of course it's Mr. Tennant. Everybody speaks as
if Mr. Tennant was a wicked person going round tempting poor husbands
to desert their wives. "It's all that Mr. Tennant." "What a blessing
when that man goes," etc., etc., as if he had a bad character. The
truth is, that he's done a jolly good thing. He's stirred us all up.
He's made us dissatisfied.

LILY. What's the good of that? Nobody can make things different if
they wanted to.

MAGGIE. Don't talk nonsense. Hasn't he made things different himself?
[_Getting a little heroic._] Heaps of fellows in London go on doing
the same old thing, in the same old way, only too glad if it's safe.
Look how everybody runs for the Civil Service. Why? Because it's safe,
of course, and because they'll get a pension. Look at the post office
clerks and Somerset House and lawyer's clerks and bank clerks--

LILY. Bank clerks don't get pensions--

MAGGIE. I know they don't, but once in a bank, always in a bank. Is
there anything to look forward to--and aren't they all just--exactly
_alike?_ I once went past a lot of offices in the city--I don't know
what sort of offices they were. But the windows had dingy drab blinds,
and inside there were rows and _rows_ of clerks, sitting on high
stools, bending over great books on desks. And over each there was an
electric light under a green shade. There they were scribbling
away--and outside there was a most beautiful sunset. I shall never,
never, forget those men.

LILY. They don't have long hours.

MAGGIE [_promptly._] Nine to six.

LILY. I always thought it was ten to four.

MAGGIE. Don't you believe it. That's what I thought once. You're
thinking of the bank clerks, of course. My dear, the doors close at
half-past three or four--but the clerks--why, they never see the
daylight.

LILY. In the summer they do.

MAGGIE. [_impressively._] I don't care what you say, or what anybody
says, it's not right. And if the men have got used to it, it's all the
worse. They want stirring up--and it's the women who've got to do the
stirring.

LILY. Whatever can _they_ do?

MAGGIE. Lots. It's the women who make the men afraid. In the old days
the women used to help the men on with their armour and give them
favours to wear, and send them forth to fight. That's the spirit we
want now. Instead of that we say to the men:--"I shouldn't trouble, my
dear, if I were you. You're safe here. Do be careful."

LILY. You're very unjust. Look at the Boer War, and how brave the
women were then.

MAGGIE. That isn't the only kind of war. Is a soldier to be the only
kind of man, that a woman's going to encourage? Can't she help the man
who wants to make a better thing of life? Oh, what a lovely chance you
had and didn't take it, Lil!

LILY. How can you talk like that! What a fuss you're making over a
little thing.

MAGGIE. It wasn't a little thing. Here is Charley, with all sorts of
"go" in him and fire and energy. Why couldn't you go to him and say,
"I'm proud of you. Throw up the horrid business and go and seek your
fortune." It was all he wanted, I do believe. Instead of which, he's
got every blessed person against him--wife, mother-in-law,
father-in-law, and all his friends and relations, and everything he
can have. Everybody thinks him mad.

LILY. _You_ ought to have married him, I should think!

MAGGIE. Don't get spiteful, Lil!

LILY. Wait till you're married yourself to Walter--

MAGGIE. I'm not going to marry Walter.

LILY. [_struck with astonishment._] You're not going to marry Walter?
Maggie!

MAGGIE. I've broken it off. I did it last night.

LILY. Whatever for? Did you quarrel? You were a little touchy last
night, I thought--but Walter is so good tempered.

MAGGIE. I'm sure it's very good of him, but I don't wish to be
forgiven and taken back. It was all through Mr. Tennant.

LILY. [_anxiously._] You don't love _him?_

MAGGIE. [_exasperated._] No, I'm not in love with _anybody;_ but all
last week I was thinking and thinking, and it wasn't till last night
that I found I was just marrying--to get away from the shop!

LILY. But he was _devoted_ to you and so kind.

MAGGIE. I don't want kindness. My shopwalker is very kind where I am,
and I don't see any need to change.

LILY. How extraordinary you talk!

MAGGIE. Well, when I heard Charley talking last night, I thought what
a fool I was to throw up one sort of--cage--for another.

LILY. But you _are_ free when you're married--

MAGGIE. Nobody is--more especially the woman. But the thing is, I
shouldn't want to be, if I loved the man. But I don't love Walter,
only his house. Now, I can leave the shop any day, when I've saved
enough--and run away. But I couldn't run away from Walter.

LILY. [_horrified._] Run away--

MAGGIE. [_suddenly beginning to laugh._] Can you see me? Running away
from Walter? _Walter!_ Oh! [_She laughs, but LILY looks very grave._]

LILY. You don't take the matter seriously.

MAGGIE. It shows how seriously I do take it. Have you ever heard of
any girl, throwing up a good match, who wasn't dead serious?

_TENNANT enters._

TENNANT. Good morning. Oh, good morning, Miss Massey.

LILY. You're ready for breakfast, aren't you?

_Goes out._

MAGGIE. Aren't you surprised to see me here? I wanted to give you a
send off.

TENNANT. Awfully good of you.

MAGGIE. You're quite a hero in my eyes, you know, and I feel I must
cheer or do something extra. [_LILY comes in with porridge._]

LILY. You'll have some, won't you, Maggie?

MAGGIE. Thanks. Here, I'll pour out the tea.

_LILY goes out._

[_To TENNANT._] Aren't you just frightfully excited?

TENNANT. Can't say I am.

MAGGIE. [_sighing and looking admiringly at him._] I should be _wild,_
absolutely wild, if I were going.

TENNANT. I'm going to chance it, you know. There's no fortune waiting
for me.

MAGGIE. That's the point of it. You know it's awfully unsettling, all
this talk about Australia. You've made me so dissatisfied. I don't
feel I can go back to the shop.

TENNANT. [_easily._] You'll get over that.

MAGGIE. Oh, I suppose so.

_LILY enters with toast and puts it down beside him._

TENNANT. [_turning._] Please don't bring anything else, Mrs. Wilson. I
can't eat it.

LILY. But it's such a journey to the boat.

TENNANT. Oh, that's nothing--besides, I've got these sandwiches.
[_Laying his hand on the package near him._]

LILY. Are you sure there are enough? I can soon cut some more.

TENNANT. Heaps, thanks. [_Earnestly._] Really, I shan't know what to
do with them.

LILY. I'll put you an apple or two in.

TENNANT. No, don't--

LILY. Oh, but they won't take up much room.

TENNANT. [_resignedly._] Thanks very much.

_CHARLEY enters._

LILY. Oh, there you are. You'll have breakfast now, dear, won't you?

CHARLEY. I'll have it later. You here, Mag?

MAGGIE. Of course. Do you think this great event could go off without
me?

_LILY and MAGGIE go out._

TENNANT. [_smilingly._] Miss Massey seems to think it's a sort of
picnic.

CHARLEY. [_absently._] Does she?

TENNANT. She'd marry well out there, I daresay.

CHARLEY. Would she?

TENNANT. She looks strong and healthy. Her sort get snapped up in no
time.

CHARLEY. You're catching the 10.15, aren't you?

TENNANT. [_surprised._] Yes. Why? Coming to the station?

CHARLEY. There's another just after twelve--

_TENNANT, who has been swinging his chair backwards, comes to a pause
as CHARLEY comes up to him._

TENNANT. Is there? I don't know. But what--

CHARLEY. [_lowering his voice._] Look here, old chap, suppose I come
too?

TENNANT. What!

CHARLEY. [_who keeps his voice rather low the whole time, though
visibly excited._] Don't shout! I haven't told anybody--but I mean it.
I want you to look out for me at Plymouth.

TENNANT. But, Wilson--I say--you--

CHARLEY. Don't! It's all settled. There's no use arguing. I've made up
my mind. I'm going to leave here as usual and coming on by the second
train and pick you up at Plymouth. Don't stare like that--I've thought
it all out--

TENNANT. But your wife--your people here--you can't do it. When I've
gone, you'll get over it.

CHARLEY. Get over it? I'm not going to get over anything. I've been a
coward, see?--and now I'm going to cut and run. It's no good telling
_Lil_--she wouldn't understand--but when I'm out there and get
something and making a tidy little place for her, she'll be all right.
She's nervous--the women are like that, you know--they can't help
it--and her people, too--well, they're old, and when you're old,
you're afraid.

TENNANT. [_interrupting._] You mean to go! to-day?

CHARLEY. Why not? Why not? If I put it off, I'll never go. It wants a
bit of doing, and if you don't do these things at the time, well, you
give in. I've packed a bag with some things--I did it this morning.

TENNANT. That's why you were up so early--

CHARLEY. I have written a note to Lil. [_Argumentatively._] It's the
only thing to do--there's no other way--I say, Freddy, you'll stand by
me? It's easy for chaps like you--

_LESLIE MORTON crosses behind sitting-room window._

TENNANT. [_uneasily._] Well--you know best--

CHARLEY. Of course--it's the only thing--

_The door opens and voices can be heard outside, laughing._

Who's this coming? It's that ass. . . .

_He rises as MAGGIE, LILY and MORTON LESLIE enter._

LESLIE. [_a little short of breath._] Where's that fool? Thought I'd
come and give you a good-bye kiss, old fellow. I would cry, but I've
only brought one handkerchief.

MAGGIE. Lily will lend you one of Charley's. But won't you miss the
8.15? Do be careful.

LESLIE. Miss Maggie, I'll tell you a great, an awful secret. [_He goes
to her and says in a loud whisper._] I mean to miss it.

MAGGIE. I don't believe it--you couldn't do such a thing.

LESLIE. [_to CHARLEY._] Well, Wilson, how is it? You look--

CHARLEY. [_curtly._] I'm all right. You don't expect me to laugh all
the time, do you?

LESLIE. Certainly not. I'm afraid you're still pining for the flesh
pots--or is it cocoanuts--

CHARLEY. No, it's gourds--

TENNANT. Tin mugs, you mean.

LESLIE. Take my word for it, before a week's out, you'll be thankful
you're sitting opposite your own best tea service, on a Sunday
afternoon.

CHARLEY. I say, it's about time you were off, Freddy.

TENNANT. [_looking at his watch._] So it is.

LILY. You're sure you've got everything. [_To TENNANT._]

LESLIE. _Don't_ forget to write, please--and _do_ let us know what
boat you're coming back by.

TENNANT. [_laughing._] Shut up! Where did I put my cap?

_They ALL make a rush for the cap, and MAGGIE brings it from the
hall._

CHARLEY. [_picking up a paper off the table._] Here, is this yours?

TENNANT. Another map--it doesn't matter. Burn it.

CHARLEY. Australia!

TENNANT. [_looking at CHARLEY._] Put it in the fire.

CHARLEY. [_defiantly._] It might be useful. [_He opens it and fixes it
with a pin against the wall._]

LILY. Now we shall be able to follow your travels, shan't we?

LESLIE. The time has come! Well, good-bye--old man. Allow me to
prophesy you'll soon be back--remember what I said--

MAGGIE. [_from the door._] It's a most glorious morning! The sun is
shining for you, Mr. Tennant--and there's not a cloud in the sky.

LESLIE. I hope you won't lose _all_ your money--

MAGGIE. The sea will be all beautiful with the dearest little ripples.

LESLIE. And if by any wonderful stroke of luck you do make anything,
let us know. Good-bye.

MAGGIE. All the men are running off to the city--but _you're_ going to
Australia.

_TENNANT is rushed out._

_LILY and CHARLEY follow him._

_MAGGIE runs in quickly and opens the sitting-room window, through
which TENNANT can be seen shaking hands again and again with CHARLEY
and LILY._

MAGGIE. Good luck!

LESLIE. [_shouting through window._] Give my love to What's-his-name,
the Prime Minister!

MAGGIE. [_singing._] "For I've lately got a notion for to cross the
briny ocean."

LESLIE. [_joining._] "And I'm off to Philadelphia in the morning."

_LESLIE drawls out the last word, bursts out laughing and turns away._

MAGGIE. Anybody would think you were excited.

LESLIE. If a man _will_ be a fool, Miss Maggie, he may as well go away
a happy fool. A cheer costs nothing. So much for _him._ Now it's me.

MAGGIE. How many trains _have_ you missed?

LESLIE. [_seriously._] Quite two, I should think. But I promise you it
shan't happen again.

_Goes out._

_CHARLEY and LILY enter._

LILY. [_wiping her eyes._] So he's gone. Poor man, I do hope he'll get
on all right.

CHARLEY. [_easily and in a brighter tone._] He'll be all right. He can
stand a little roughing.

LILY. It was such a pity you couldn't get the time to go and see him
off, dear.

CHARLEY. Oh, that's nothing.

LILY. I'll have breakfast ready for you soon.

_Goes out._

CHARLEY. There's no hurry.

_MAGGIE is looking at the map._

MAGGIE. It's a big place.

CHARLEY. Um. A chance to get some fresh air there.

MAGGIE. [_turning._] So you're not going after all?

CHARLEY. Oh--er--how can I, Mag?

MAGGIE. It means such a lot, of course.

CHARLEY. Courage or cheek--I don't know which. Of course, it's quite a
mad idea--any fool can see that.

MAGGIE. You're not a fool. It's the others who're fools. If only you
could hold out a little longer. Lil would be all right. She might fret
a little at first--but she's the clinging sort--

CHARLEY. But think what everybody would say!

MAGGIE. You're getting over it already!

CHARLEY. What else can I do? I--I--shall settle down.

MAGGIE. Settle down! Charley--why should you? _I've_ refused to settle
down. Why can't you?

CHARLEY. What do you mean? What's it got to do with you?

MAGGIE. [_triumphantly._] I've refused to marry Walter.

CHARLEY. [_surprised, but not particularly interested._] What on earth
for?

MAGGIE. It was all through Mr. Tennant--

CHARLEY. Tennant? You're--

MAGGIE. [_impatiently._] Oh, dear, NO. I'm not pining for him. But I
found out, when there was all this talk about Mr. Tennant, that I was
marrying Walter, because I wanted to be safe and was afraid of risk.
Then I made up my mind I wouldn't do that. I tell you because--if a
girl can risk things--surely a man--

CHARLEY. There wasn't any risk for you with Walter. I can't see it.

MAGGIE. A woman isn't tested in the same way as a man. It's the only
way I have--

CHARLEY. Well, you know best, and if you don't like him--but everybody
thought you did. I must say you've been rather hard on Foster. You led
him on. I should have thought it was rather a good thing for you.
Still. . . .

MAGGIE. [_sighing._] So it's no good, then, saying anything?

CHARLEY. [_uneasily._] No--er-- [_Turning to her._] Mag! What would
you really think of me if I did?

MAGGIE. What? [_Looks at him for a second._] Charley--will you--after
all?

CHARLEY. Supposing I don't give in--supposing I did go--

MAGGIE. Do you mean it?

CHARLEY. Are you sure about Lil--I'm ready to throw up everything--

MAGGIE. I would look after her--she would be all right in a week--I
would do anything--

CHARLEY. But if I go it must be at once--at once, you understand.

MAGGIE. Yes, yes. . . .

CHARLEY. And if Lil thinks me a brute beast for leaving her like
this--in this way--you'll explain--you'll stick up for me--

MAGGIE. This way? I don't--

CHARLEY. I'm going to-day, Mag. I've arranged everything. I couldn't
stand it. I had to go. I've written to Lil. She'll be all right for
money--I've thought of that and I shall soon send for her. I know I
shall, and then she'll be glad I did it. I look a brute, but, Mag,
it's got to be. [_Postman's knock on front door._] Hush! Here comes
Lil--don't breathe a word--

MAGGIE. To-day!

_LILY enters with letters._

LILY. Here's the post. Two for you, dear. [_Gives letters to CHARLEY,
who, however, doesn't look at them, but goes up to map._]

MAGGIE. [_quickly._] I'll call back for you, to go to the station.

CHARLEY. All right.

_MAGGIE goes out hurriedly._

LILY. I'm sure you're ready for breakfast now, dear--and you won't
have very much time.

CHARLEY. I'm not very hungry.

LILY. It was so nice of Mr. Leslie to come in like that, wasn't it?

CHARLEY. Yes. He means all right.

LILY. [_as he eats._] They're very nice neighbours. I think we're very
lucky to have them.

CHARLEY. Um. You were up very early. You'll be tired to-night.

LILY. These things don't often happen, do they, and I can keep better
hours in future. We generally go along so regularly, don't we?

CHARLEY. [_suddenly turning from his breakfast._] Yes.

LILY. I've been thinking, dear, that we shall feel a little dull
to-night without Mr. Tennant. Shall we go to the theatre?--something
light--

CHARLEY. Oh--no--I don't think so--

LILY. Shall we ask the Leslies for whist?

CHARLEY. [_rising._] No--not them--it doesn't matter, Lil--unless
you'd rather.

LILY. Oh, I shall be quite happy at home, by ourselves. I am so glad
you would prefer that, dear. [_She goes up to him._]

CHARLEY. I haven't been up to much in the company line lately, have I?

LILY. You'll be better now, dear. What time shall you be home?

CHARLEY. OK--er--you know my usual--

LILY. Yes, dear. Don't be late. I've got something to tell you--which
will please you, I think.

CHARLEY. Have you?

LILY. Would you like to hear it now?

CHARLEY. Is it important?

LILY. _Is_ it important? You'll have to be such a good man soon,
dear--you'll have to set a good example.

CHARLEY. [_uneasily._] What do you mean?

LILY. Can't you guess? How dull you are! Bend down and let me tell
you. [_She pulls down his face and whispers._]

CHARLEY. [_pulling himself away._] What! God! [_Taking her by the
arms._]

CHARLEY. [_turning away a second, and then turning back._] Is that
true?

LILY. Yes, dear.

CHARLEY. Lil--I. . . .

LILY. You _are_ pleased! But of course you are.

CHARLEY. Of course, dear.

LILY. Isn't it lovely to think of! And can't you imagine mother as
grandmamma! Won't she be a fuss! Why, you're quite overcome. There! Go
away and get ready. You didn't open your letters. There's the door. I
suppose it's Maggie back.

_LILY goes out, and re-enters a moment after with MAGGIE._

_They meet CHARLEY going out, and MAGGIE, looking at him almost stops
him._

MAGGIE. What have you been saying to Charley, Lil?

LILY. Why?

MAGGIE. I thought he looked a little--upset. . . .

LILY. He is rather. He's quite overcome, in fact. But then he would
be, of course.

_MAGGIE closes door, still looking at LILY._

MAGGIE. What about?

LILY. What could I tell him, that would make him more pleased than
anything else?

MAGGIE. I'm sure I don't know.

LILY. What generally happens when people are married?

MAGGIE. That! [_Pause._] Lily!

LILY. Charley is delighted.

MAGGIE. [_unconsciously speaking her thought._] So you've _got_ him
after all.

LILY. [_indignant._] Maggie!!

MAGGIE. Why did you tell him _now?_

_LILY goes out, a little indignant._

_CHARLEY enters from kitchen, dressed for the office._

MAGGIE. Charley!

CHARLEY. What's up? Don't rot, Mag!

MAGGIE. And now--

CHARLEY. Oh, let's drop it. I was a fool all along--a bit of a beast,
too--it's done with. . . .

MAGGIE. But--

CHARLEY. What's the good of talking? Don't make me out more of a brute
than I am! No, the thing was meant to be! I was mad. After all, a man
can't do just what he likes! It's better as it is. If this hadn't
happened I should have done it--and a pretty mess, I daresay, I'd have
been in--and dragged her in, too--

MAGGIE. If--

_LILY enters._

. . . I don't think I can wait for you, after all, Charley.

CHARLEY. Don't trouble.

MAGGIE. Good-bye.

_She goes._

LILY. You didn't open your letters, dear.

CHARLEY. What are they?

LILY. [_tearing one open._] About the new lodger--very quick
replies. . . .

CHARLEY. [_hastily._] Oh, leave them over.

LILY. Ready?

CHARLEY. [_moving his neck uneasily in the high collar._] Yes--this
beastly collar.

LILY. It's a pity they make you wear such things.

CHARLEY. I've got a short neck. I suppose you shouldn't be a clerk, if
you've got a short neck. It doesn't fit the collars.

LILY. What an idea!

_CHARLEY stands looking at the map a moment. Suddenly he tears it down
and throws it into the fire._

CHARLEY. Good-bye, Lil. [_He kisses her._]

LILY. Good-bye, dear.

_He picks up his silk hat and gloves and puts the hat on as he reaches
the door._

_LILY runs to the door._

Good-bye.

CHARLEY. Good-bye. [_From outside._]

_There is a sound of the front door slamming._

_LILY starts chorus of hymn:_

     Count your blessings, count them one by one.
     Count your blessings, see what God has done, etc.

CURTAIN



Transcriber's Note

This transcription is based on scanned images posted by the Internet
Archive from a copy in the University of Toronto Libraries:

     archive.org/details/chainsplayinfour00bakeuoft

The following changes were made:

- p. 2: LILY. Who's Poppy, dear.--Changed period to a question mark.

- p. 7: I've er--got some news for you.--Inserted dash after "I've".

- p. 12: You are quite free to do as you like, aren't' you, Mr.
Tennant?--Deleted apostrophe after "aren't".

- p. 15: [_lifting the curtain and coming forward with
Leslie._]--Changed "_Leslie_" to unitalicized all caps.

- p. 31: CHARLEY. (_digging his hands into the pockets. . ._--Changed
opening parenthesis to opening bracket for consistency.

- p. 36: [_To Charley._] You must have something hot. . .--Changed
"_Charley_" to unitalicized all caps.

- p. 45: _She brings back with her a tray, with cloth, etc.. and
prepares for tea on a small table._--Changed second period after
"_etc_" to a comma.

- p. 48: MRS. M. [_a little impatiently to Maggie._]--Changed
"_Maggie_" to unitalicized all caps.

- p. 54: The work is not too hard, But you like change.--Changed comma
after "hard" to a period.

- p. 63: Added stage direction: "_LILY and MRS. MASSEY go out._"--A
few lines after Lily says "I'm quite ready to go", there is a stage
direction for Lily and Mrs. Massey to re-enter, but the source text
has no direction indicating their exit. A stage direction indicating
their exit was added right after Lily's line.

- p. 78: _LIL goes out, and re-enters a moment after with
MAGGIE._--Changed "LIL" to "LILY".

- p. 80: _LILY runs to the door._ Good-bye.--Placed line of dialogue
("Good-bye.") on a separate line from the preceding stage direction.

Some inconsistencies in the source text have been noted but allowed to
stand as-is. For example, Lily's husband's name is spelled both
"Charley" and "Charlie." On p. 58, Mrs. Massey says, "Sybil told me
distinctly this afternoon that Charley wanted to go to Australia." She
is clearly referring to Lily, but the line has been left as printed.

The html version of this etext attempts to reproduce the layout of the
printed text. However, some concessions have been made. For example,
all stage directions were indented the same amount from the left
margin and coded as hanging paragraphs.





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