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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

Title: Fanny and the Servant Problem
Author: Jerome, Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka)
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 "Fanny and the Servant Problem" ***

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



Transcribed from the 1909 Hodder & Stoughton edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                                * * * * *



                               _Fanny and_
                          _the Servant Problem_


                   _A Quite Possible Play in Four Acts_

                                   _By_
                            _Jerome K. Jerome_

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                          _COPYRIGHT_ 1909 _BY_
                          _JEROME KLAPKA JEROME_

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                          _Hodder and Stoughton_
                          _Limited_    _London_

                                * * * * *

Amateurs wishing to perform this play should apply to:

                           SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD.

                                                    26 SOUTHAMPTON STREET,
                                                            STRAND, W.C.2.

                                * * * * *

                   _Made and Printed in Great Britain_.
        _Hazell_, _Watson & Viney_, _Ld._, _London and Aylesbury_.



THE CHARACTERS


_Fanny_

_Her Husband_, _Vernon Wetherell_, _Lord Bantock_

_Her Butler_, _Martin Bennet_

_Her Housekeeper_, _Susannah Bennet_

_Her Maid_, _Jane Bennet_

_Her Second Footman_, _Ernest Bennet_

_Her Still-room Maid_, _Honoria Bennet_

_Her Aunts by marriage_, _the Misses Wetherell_

_Her Local Medical Man_, _Dr. Freemantle_

_Her quondam Companions_, “_Our Empire_”:
   _England_
   _Scotland_
   _Ireland_
   _Wales_
   _Canada_
   _Australia_
   _New Zealand_
   _Africa_
   _India_
   _Newfoundland_
   _Malay Archipelago_
   _Straits Settlements_

_Her former Business Manager_, _George P. Newte_



_ACT I_


                                 _SCENE_

_The Lady Bantock’s boudoir_, _Bantock Hall_, _Rutlandshire_, _a spacious
room handsomely furnished_ (_chiefly in the style of Louis the
Fourteenth_) _and lighted by three high windows_, _facing the
south-west_.  _A door between the fireplace and the windows leads to his
lordship’s apartments_.  _A door the other side of the fireplace is the
general entrance_.  _The door opposite the windows leads through her
ladyship’s dressing-room into her ladyship’s bedroom_.  _Over the great
fireplace hangs a full-length portrait of Constance_, _first Lady
Bantock_, _by Hoppner_.

_The time is sunset of a day in early spring_.  _The youthful Lord
Bantock is expected home with his newly wedded wife this evening_; _and
the two Misses Wetherell_, _his aunts_, _have been busy decorating the
room with flowers_, _and are nearing the end of their labours_.  _The two
Misses Wetherell have grown so much alike it would be difficult for a
stranger to tell one from the other_; _and to add to his confusion they
have fallen into the habit of dressing much alike in a fashion of their
own that went out long ago_, _while the hair of both is white_, _and even
in their voices they have caught each other’s tones_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_she has paused from her work and is looking
out of the windows_].  Such a lovely sunset, dear.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_she leaves her work and joins her sister_.
_The two stand holding each other’s hands_, _looking out_].  Beautiful!
[_A silence_.  _The sun is streaming full into the room_.]  You—you don’t
think, dear, that this room—[_she looks round it_]—may possibly be a
little _too_ sunny to quite suit her?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_not at first understanding_].  How, dear,
_too_ sun—[_She grasps the meaning_.]  You mean—you think that perhaps
she does that sort of thing?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Well, dear, one is always given to
understand that they do, women—ladies of her profession.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It seems to me so wicked: painting God’s work.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We mustn’t judge hardly, dear.  Besides,
dear, we don’t know yet that she does.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Perhaps she’s young, and hasn’t commenced it.
I fancy it’s only the older ones that do it.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  He didn’t mention her age, I remember.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  No, dear, but I feel she’s young.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  I do hope she is.  We may be able to mould
her.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We must be very sympathetic.  One can
accomplish so much with sympathy.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We must get to understand her.  [_A sudden
thought_.]  Perhaps, dear, we may get to like her.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_doubtful_].  We might _try_, dear.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  For Vernon’s sake.  The poor boy seems so
much in love with her.  We must—

_Bennet has entered_.  _He is the butler_.

BENNET.  Doctor Freemantle.  I have shown him into the library.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Thank you, Bennet.  Will you please tell him
that we shall be down in a few minutes?  I must just finish these
flowers.  [_She returns to the table_.]

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Why not ask him to come up here?  We could
consult him—about the room.  He always knows everything.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  A good idea.  Please ask him, Bennet, if he
would mind coming up to us here.  [_Bennet_, _who has been piling up
fresh logs upon the fire_, _turns to go_.]  Oh, Bennet!  You will remind
Charles to put a footwarmer in the carriage!

BENNET.  I will see to it myself.  [_He goes out_.]

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Thank you, Bennet.  [_To her sister_]  One’s
feet are always so cold after a railway journey.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  I’ve been told that, nowadays, they heat the
carriages.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Ah, it is an age of luxury!  I wish I knew
which were her favourite flowers.  It is so nice to be greeted by one’s
favourite flowers.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  I feel sure she loves lilies.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  And they are so appropriate to a bride.  So—

_Announced by Bennet_, _Dr. Freemantle bustles in_.  _He is a dapper
little man_, _clean-shaven_, _with quick brisk ways_.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he shakes hands_].  Well, and how are we this afternoon?
[_He feels the pulse of the Younger Miss Wetherell_]  Steadier.  Much
steadier!  [_of the Elder Miss Wetherell_.]  Nervous tension greatly
relieved.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  She has been sleeping much better.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he pats the hand of the Elder Miss Wetherell_].
Excellent!  Excellent!

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  She ate a good breakfast this morning.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he pats the hand of the Younger Miss Wetherell_].
Couldn’t have a better sign.  [_He smiles from one to the other_.]  Brain
disturbance, caused by futile opposition to the inevitable, evidently
abating.  One page Marcus Aurelius every morning before breakfast.
“Adapt thyself,” says Marcus Aurelius, “to the things with which thy lot
has been cast.  Whatever happens—”

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  You see, doctor, it was all so sudden.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  The unexpected!  It has a way of taking us by
surprise—bowling us over—completely.  Till we pull ourselves together.
Make the best of what can’t be helped—like brave, sweet gentlewomen.
[_He presses their hands_.  _They are both wiping away a tear_.]  When do
you expect them?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  To-night, by the half-past eight train.  We
had a telegram this morning from Dover.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Um! and this is to be her room?  [_He takes it in_.]
The noble and renowned Constance, friend and confidant of the elder Pitt,
maker of history, first Lady Bantock—by Hoppner—always there to keep an
eye on her, remind her of the family traditions.  Brilliant idea,
brilliant!  [_They are both smiling with pleasure_.]

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  And you don’t think—it is what we wanted to
ask you—that there is any fear of her finding it a little trying—the
light?  You see, this is an exceptionally sunny room.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  And these actresses—if all one hears is
true—

_The dying sun is throwing his last beams across the room_.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Which, thank God, it isn’t.  [_He seats himself in a
large easy-chair_.  _The two ladies sit side by side on a settee_.]  I’ll
tell you just exactly what you’ve got to expect.  A lady—a few years
older than the boy himself, but still young.  Exquisite figure;
dressed—perhaps a trifle too regardless of expense.  Hair—maybe just a
shade _too_ golden.  All that can be altered.  Features—piquant, with
expressive eyes, the use of which she probably understands, and an almost
permanent smile, displaying an admirably preserved and remarkably even
set of teeth.  But, above all, clever.  That’s our sheet-anchor.  The
woman’s clever.  She will know how to adapt herself to her new position.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_turning to her sister_].  Yes, she must be
clever to have obtained the position that she has.  [_To the Doctor_]
Vernon says that she was quite the chief attraction all this winter, in
Paris.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  And the French public is so critical.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_drily_].  Um!  I was thinking rather of her cleverness
in “landing” poor Vernon.  The lad’s not a fool.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We must do her justice.  I think she was
really in love with him.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_still more drily_].  Very possibly.  Most café-chantant
singers, I take it, would be—with an English lord.  [_He laughs_.]

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  You see, she didn’t know he was a lord.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Didn’t know—?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  No.  She married him, thinking him to be a
plain Mr. Wetherell, an artist.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Where d’ye get all that from?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  From Vernon himself.  You’ve got his last
letter, dear.  [_She has opened her chatelaine bag_.]  Oh, no, I’ve got
it myself.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  He’s not going to break it to her till they
reach here this evening.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_she reads_].  Yes.  “I shall not break it to
her before we reach home.  We were married quietly at the _Hôtel de
Ville_, and she has no idea I am anything else than plain Vernon James
Wetherell, a fellow-countryman of her own, and a fellow-artist.  The dear
creature has never even inquired whether I am rich or poor.”  I like her
for that.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  You mean to tell me—[_He jumps up_.  _With his hands in
his jacket pockets_, _he walks to and fro_.]  I suppose it’s possible.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  You see, she isn’t the ordinary class of
music-hall singer.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  I should say not.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  She comes of quite a good family.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Her uncle was a bishop.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Bishop?  Of where?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_with the letter_].  He says he can’t spell it.
It’s somewhere in New Zealand.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Do they have bishops over there?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Well, evidently.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Then her cousin is a judge.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  In New Zealand?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_again referring to the letter_].  No—in Ohio.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Seems to have been a somewhat scattered family.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  People go about so much nowadays.

_Mrs. Bennet has entered_.  _She is the housekeeper_.

MRS. BENNET [_she is about to speak to the Misses Wetherell_; _sees the
Doctor_].  Good afternoon, doctor.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Afternoon, Mrs. Bennet.

MRS. BENNET [_she turns to the Misses Wetherell_, _her watch in her
hand_].  I was thinking of having the fire lighted in her ladyship’s
bedroom.  It is half past six.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  You are always so thoughtful.  She may be
tired.

MRS. BENNET.  If so, everything will be quite ready.  [_She goes out_,
_closing door_.]

DR. FREEMANTLE.  What do they think about it all—the Bennets?  You have
told them?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We thought it better.  You see, one hardly
regards them as servants.  They have been in the family so long.  Three
generations of them.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Really, since our poor dear brother’s death,
Bennet has been more like the head of the house than the butler.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Of course, he doesn’t say much.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It is her having been on the stage that they
feel so.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  You see, they have always been a religious
family.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Do you know, I really think they feel it more
than we do.  I found Peggy crying about it yesterday, in the scullery.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he has been listening with a touch of amusement_.]
Peggy Bennet?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Yes.  _Charles_ Bennet’s daughter.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Happen to have a servant about the place who isn’t a
Bennet?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  No, no, I don’t really think we have.  Oh,
yes—that new girl Mrs. Bennet engaged last week for the dairy.  What is
her name?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Arnold.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Ah, yes, Arnold.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Ah!

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  I think she’s a cousin, dear.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Only a second cousin.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Um!  Well I should tell the whole family to buck up.
Seems to me, from what you tell me, that their master is bringing them
home a treasure.  [_He shakes hands briskly with the ladies_.]  May look
in again to-morrow.  Don’t forget—one page Marcus Aurelius before
breakfast—in case of need.  [_He goes out_.]

_The sun has sunk_.  _The light is twilight_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  He always cheers one up.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  He’s so alive.  [_Mrs. Bennet comes in from
the dressing-room_.  _She leaves the door ajar_.  _The sound of a hammer
is heard_.  _It ceases almost immediately_.]  Oh, Mrs. Bennet, we were
going to ask you—who is to be her ladyship’s maid?  Have you decided yet?

MRS. BENNET.  I have come to the conclusion—looking at the thing from
every point of view—that Jane would be the best selection.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Jane!

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  But does she understand the duties?

MRS. BENNET.  A lady’s maid, being so much alone with her mistress, is
bound to have a certain amount of influence.  And Jane has exceptionally
high principles.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  That is true, dear.

MRS. BENNET.  As regards the duties, she is very quick at learning
anything new.  Of course, at first—

_The sound of hammering again comes from the bedroom_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Who is that hammering in her ladyship’s
bedroom?

MRS. BENNET.  It is Bennet, Miss Edith.  We thought it might be helpful:
a few texts, hung where they would always catch her ladyship’s eye.
[_She notices the look of doubt_.]  Nothing offensive.  Mere general
exhortations such as could be read by any lady.  [_The Misses Wetherell
look at one another_, _but do not speak_.]  I take it, dinner will be at
half past seven, as usual?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Yes, Mrs. Bennet, thank you.  They will not be
here till about nine.  They will probably prefer a little supper to
themselves.

_Mrs. Bennet goes out—on her way to the kitchen_.  _The Misses Wetherell
look at one another again_.  _The hammering recommences_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_she hesitates a moment_, _then goes to the
open door and calls_].  Bennet—Bennet!  [_She returns and waits_.
_Bennet comes in_.]  Oh, Bennet, your wife tells us you are putting up a
few texts in her ladyship’s bedroom.

BENNET.  It seemed to me that a silent voice, speaking to her, as it
were, from the wall—

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  It is so good of you—only, you—you will be
careful there is nothing she could regard as a _personal_ allusion.

BENNET.  Many of the most popular I was compelled to reject, purely for
that reason.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We felt sure we could trust to your
discretion.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  You see, coming, as she does, from a good
family—

BENNET.  It is that—I speak merely for myself—that gives me hope of
reclaiming her.

_A silence_.  _The two ladies_, _feeling a little helpless_, _again look
at one another_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We must be very sympathetic.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  And patient, Bennet.

BENNET.  It is what I am preparing myself to be.  Of course, if you think
them inadvisable, I can take them down again.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  No, Bennet, oh no!  I should leave them up.
Very thoughtful of you, indeed.

BENNET.  It seemed to me one ought to leave no stone unturned.  [_He
returns to his labours in the bedroom_.]

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_after a pause_].  I do hope she’ll _like_
the Bennets.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  I think she will—after a time, when she is
used to them.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  I am so anxious it should turn out well.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  I feel sure she’s a good woman.  Vernon would
never have fallen in love with her if she hadn’t been good.  [_They take
each other’s hand_, _and sit side by side_, _as before_, _upon the
settee_.  _The twilight has faded_: _only the faint firelight remains_,
_surrounded by shadows_.]  Do you remember, when he was a little mite,
how he loved to play with your hair?  [_The younger Miss Wetherell
laughs_.]  I always envied you your hair.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  He was so fond of us both.  Do you remember
when he was recovering from the measles, his crying for us to bath him
instead of Mrs. Bennet?  I have always reproached myself that we refused.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  He was such a big boy for his age.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  I think we might have stretched a point in a
case of illness.

_The room has grown very dark_.  _The door has been softly opened_;
_Vernon and Fanny have entered noiselessly_.  _Fanny remains near the
door hidden by a screen_, _Vernon has crept forward_.  _At this point the
two ladies become aware that somebody is in the room_.  _They are
alarmed_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Who’s there?

VERNON.  It’s all right, aunt.  It’s only I.

_The two ladies have risen_.  _They run forward_, _both take him in their
arms_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Vernon!

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  My dear boy!

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  But we didn’t expect you—

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  And your wife, dear?

VERNON.  She’s here!

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Here?

_Fanny_, _from behind the screen_, _laughs_.

VERNON.  We’ll have some light.  [_He whispers to them_.]  Not a
word—haven’t told her yet.  [_Feeling his way to the wall_, _he turns on
the electric light_.]

_Fanny is revealed_, _having slipped out from behind the screen_.  _There
is a pause_.  _Vernon_, _standing near the fire_, _watches admiringly_.

FANNY.  Hope you are going to like me.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  My dear, I am sure we shall.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It is so easy to love the young and pretty.
[_They have drawn close to her_.  _They seem to hesitate_.]

FANNY [_laughs_].  It doesn’t come off, does it, Vernon, dear?  [_Vernon
laughs_.  _The two ladies_, _laughing_, _kiss her_.]  I’m so glad you
think I’m pretty.  As a matter of fact, I’m not.  There’s a certain charm
about me, I admit.  It deceives people.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We were afraid—you know, dear, boys—[_she
looks at Vernon and smiles_] sometimes fall in love with women much older
than themselves—especially women—[_She grows confused_.  _She takes the
girl’s hand_.]  We are so relieved that you—that you are yourself, dear,

FANNY.  You were quite right, dear.  They are sweet.  Which is which?

VERNON [_laughs_].  Upon my word, I never can tell.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Vernon!  And you know I was always your
favourite!

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Dear!

VERNON.  Then this is Aunt Alice.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  No dear, Edith.

[_Vernon throws up his hands in despair_.  _They all laugh_.]

FANNY.  I think I shall dress you differently; put you in blue and you in
pink.  [_She laughs_.]  Is this the drawing-room?

VERNON.  Your room, dear.

FANNY.  I like a room where one can stretch one’s legs.  [_She walks
across it_.]  A little too much desk [_referring to a massive brass-bound
desk_, _facing the three windows_].

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It belonged to the elder Pitt.

FANNY.  Um!  Suppose we must find a corner for it somewhere.  That’s a
good picture.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  It is by Hoppner.

FANNY.  One of your artist friends?

VERNON.  Well—you see, dear, that’s a portrait of my great-grandmother,
painted from life.

FANNY [_she whistles_].  I am awfully ignorant on some topics.  One good
thing, I always was a quick study.  Not a bad-looking woman.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We are very proud of her.  She was the first—

VERNON [_hastily_].  We will have her history some other time.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_who understands_, _signs to her sister_].
Of course.  She’s tired.  We are forgetting everything.  You will have
some tea, won’t you, dear?

FANNY.  No, thanks.  We had tea in the train.  [_With the more or less
helpful assistance of Vernon she divests herself of her outdoor
garments_.]

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_she holds up her hands in astonishment_].  Tea
in the train!

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We were not expecting you so soon.  You said
in your telegram—

VERNON.  Oh, it was raining in London.  We thought we would come straight
on—leave our shopping for another day.

FANNY.  I believe you were glad it was raining.  Saved you such a lot of
money.  Old Stingy!

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Then did you walk from the station, dear?

FANNY.  Didn’t it seem a long way?  [_She laughs up into his face_.]  He
was so bored.  [_Vernon laughs_.]

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  I had better tell—[_She is going towards the
bell_.]

VERNON [_he stops her_].  Oh, let them alone.  Plenty of time for all
that fuss.  [_He puts them both gently side by side on the settee_.]  Sit
down and talk.  Haven’t I been clever?  [_He puts his arm round Fanny_,
_laughing_.]  You thought I had made an ass of myself, didn’t you?  Did
you get all my letters?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  I think so, dear.

FANNY [_she is sitting in an easy-chair_.  _Vernon seats himself on the
arm_].  Do you know I’ve never had a love-letter from you?

VERNON.  You gave me no time.  She met me a month ago, and married me
last week.

FANNY.  It was quick work.  He came—he saw—I conquered!  [_Laughs_.]

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  They say that love at first sight is often the
most lasting.

VERNON [_he puts his arm around her_].  You are sure you will never
regret having given up the stage?  The excitement, the—

FANNY.  The excitement!  Do you know what an actress’s life always seemed
to me like?  Dancing on a tight-rope with everybody throwing stones at
you.  One soon gets tired of that sort of excitement.  Oh, I was never in
love with the stage.  Had to do something for a living.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  It must be a hard life for a woman.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Especially for anyone not brought up to it.

FANNY.  You see, I had a good voice and what I suppose you might call a
natural talent for acting.  It seemed the easiest thing.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  I suppose your family were very much opposed
to it?  [_Vernon rises_.  _He stands with his back to the fire_.]

FANNY.  My family?  Hadn’t any!

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  No family?

_Bennet enters_.  _Vernon and Fanny left the door open_.  _He halts_,
_framed by the doorway_.

FANNY.  No.  You see, I was an only child.  My father and mother both
died before I was fourteen.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  But your uncle?

FANNY.  Oh, him!  It was to get away from him and all that crew that I
went on the stage.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It is so sad when relations don’t get on
together.

FANNY.  Sadder still when they think they’ve got a right to trample on
you, just because you happen to be an orphan and—I don’t want to talk
about my relations.  I want to forget them.  I stood them for nearly six
months.  I don’t want to be reminded of them.  I want to forget that they
ever existed.  I want to forget—

_Bennet has come down very quietly_.  _Fanny_, _from where he stands_,
_is the only one who sees him_.  _He stands looking at her_, _his
features_, _as ever_, _immovable_.  _At sight of him her eyes and mouth
open wider and wider_.  _The words die away from her tongue_.  _Vernon
has turned away to put a log on the fire_, _and so has not seen her
expression—only hears her sudden silence_.  _He looks up and sees
Bennet_.

VERNON.  Ah, Bennet!  [_He advances_, _holding out his hand_.]  You quite
well?

BENNET [_shaking hands with him_].  Quite well.

VERNON.  Good!  And all the family?

BENNET.  Nothing to complain of.  Charles has had a touch of influenza.

VERNON.  Ah, sorry to hear that.

BENNET.  And your lordship?

VERNON.  Fit as a fiddle—your new mistress.

_Fanny has risen_.  _Bennet turns to her_.  _For a moment his back is
towards the other three_.  _Fanny alone sees his face_.

BENNET.  We shall endeavour to do our duty to her ladyship.  [_He turns
to Vernon_.]  I had arranged for a more fitting reception—

VERNON.  To tell the honest truth, Bennet, the very thing we were afraid
of—why we walked from the station, and slipped in by the side door.
[_Laughing_.]  Has the luggage come?

BENNET.  It has just arrived.  It was about that I came to ask.  I could
not understand—

_The Misses Wetherell have also risen_.  _Fanny’s speechless amazement is
attributed by them and Vernon to natural astonishment at discovery of his
rank_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  You will be wanting a quiet talk together.
We shall see you at dinner.

VERNON.  What time is dinner?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Half past seven.  [_To Fanny_]  But don’t
you hurry, dear.  I will tell cook to delay it a little.  [_She kisses
her_.]

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  You will want some time to arrange that pretty
hair of yours.  [_She also kisses the passive_, _speechless Fanny_.
_They go out hand in hand_.]

BENNET.  I will see, while I am here, that your lordship’s room is in
order.

VERNON.  Why, where’s Robert, then?

BENNET.  He has gone into town to do some shopping.  We did not expect
your lordship much before nine.  There may be one or two things to see
to.  [_He goes into his lordship’s apartments_, _closing the door behind
him_.]

FANNY.  Vernon, where am I?

VERNON.  At home, dear.

FANNY.  Yes, but where?

VERNON.  At Bantock Hall, Rutlandshire.  [_Fanny sits down on the
settee—drops down rather_.]  You’re not angry with me?  You know how the
world always talks in these cases.  I wanted to be able to prove to them
all that you married me for myself.  Not because I was Lord Bantock.  Can
you forgive me?

FANNY [_she still seems in a dream_].  Yes—of course.  You didn’t—you
wouldn’t—[_She suddenly springs up_.]  Vernon, you do love me?  [_She
flings her arms round his neck_.]

VERNON.  Dear!

FANNY.  You will never be ashamed of me?

VERNON.  Dearest!

FANNY.  I was only a music-hall singer.  There’s no getting over it, you
know.

VERNON.  I should have loved you had you been a beggar-maid.

FANNY [_she still clings to him_].  With an uncle a costermonger, and an
aunt who sold matches.  It wouldn’t have made any difference to you,
would it?  You didn’t marry me for my family, did you?  You didn’t, did
you?

VERNON.  Darling!  I married you because you are the most fascinating,
the most lovable, the most wonderful little woman in the world.  [_Fanny
gives a sob_.]  As for your family—I’ve got a confession to make to you,
dear.  I made inquiries about your family before I proposed to you.  Not
for my own sake—because I knew I’d have to answer a lot of stupid
questions.  It seemed to me quite a good family.

FANNY.  It is!  Oh, it is!  There never was such a respectable family.
That’s why I never could get on with them.

VERNON [_laughing_].  Well, you haven’t got to—any more.  We needn’t even
let them know—

_Bennet returns_.

BENNET.  Robert I find has returned.  It is ten minutes to seven.

VERNON.  Thanks.  Well, I shall be glad of a bath.  [_He turns to
Fanny_.]  Bennet will send your maid to you.  [_He whispers to her_.]
You’ll soon get used to it all.  As for the confounded family—we will
forget all about them.  [_Fanny answers with another little stifled sob_.
_Bennet is drawing the curtains_, _his back to the room_.  _Vernon_,
_seeing that Bennet is occupied_, _kisses the unresponsive Fanny and goes
out_.]

_At the sound of the closing of the door_, _Fanny looks up_.  _She goes
to the door through which Vernon has just passed_, _listens a moment_,
_then returns_.  _Bennet calmly finishes the drawing of the curtains_.
_Then he_, _too_, _crosses slowly till he and Fanny are facing one
another across the centre of the room_.

FANNY.  Well, what are you going to do?

BENNET.  My duty!

FANNY.  What’s that?  Something unpleasant, I know.  I can bet my bottom
dollar.

BENNET.  That, my girl, will depend upon you.

FANNY.  How upon me?

BENNET.  Whether you prove an easy or a difficult subject.  To fit you
for your position, a certain amount of training will, I fancy, be
necessary.

FANNY.  Training!  I’m to be—[_She draws herself up_.]  Are you aware who
I am?

BENNET.  Oh yes.  _And_ who you were.  His lordship, I take it, would
hardly relish the discovery that he had married his butler’s niece.  He
might consider the situation awkward.

FANNY.  And who’s going to train me?

BENNET.  I am.  With the assistance of your aunt and such other members
of your family as I consider can be trusted.

FANNY [_for a moment she is speechless_, _then she bursts out_].  That
ends it!  I shall tell him!  I shall tell him this very moment.  [_She
sweeps towards the door_.]

BENNET.  At this moment you will most likely find his lordship in his
bath.

FANNY.  I don’t care!  Do you think—do you think for a moment that I’m
going to allow myself—I, Lady Bantock, to be—[_Her hand upon the door_.]
I shall tell him, and you’ll only have yourself to blame.  He loves me.
He loves me for myself.  I shall tell him the whole truth, and ask him to
give you all the sack.

BENNET.  You’re not forgetting that you’ve already told him _once_ who
you were?

[_It stops her_.  _What she really did was to leave the marriage
arrangements in the hands of her business manager_, _George P. Newte_.
_As agent for a music-hall star_, _he is ideal_, _but it is possible that
in answering Lord Bantock’s inquiries concerning Fanny’s antecedents he
may not have kept strictly to the truth_.]

FANNY.  I never did.  I’ve never told him anything about my family.

BENNET.  Curious.  I was given to understand it was rather a classy
affair.

FANNY.  I can’t help what other people may have done.  Because some silly
idiot of a man may possibly—[_She will try a new tack_.  _She leaves the
door and comes to him_.]  Uncle, dear, wouldn’t it be simpler for you all
to go away?  He’s awfully fond of me.  He’ll do anything I ask him.  I
could merely say that I didn’t like you and get him to pension you off.
You and aunt could have a little roadside inn somewhere—with ivy.

BENNET.  Seeing that together with the stables and the garden there are
twenty-three of us—

FANNY.  No, of course, he couldn’t pension you all.  You couldn’t expect—

BENNET.  I think his lordship might prefer to leave things as they are.
Good servants nowadays are not so easily replaced.  And neither your aunt
nor I are at an age when change appeals to one.

FANNY.  You see, it’s almost bound to creep out sooner or later, and
then—

BENNET.  We will make it as late as possible [_He crosses and rings the
bell_], giving you time to prove to his lordship that you are not
incapable of learning.

FANNY [_she drops back on the settee_.  _She is half-crying_.]  Some
people would be pleased that their niece had married well.

BENNET.  I am old-fashioned enough to think also of my duty to those I
serve.  If his lordship has done me the honour to marry my niece, the
least I can is to see to it that she brings no discredit to his name.
[_Mrs. Bennet_, _followed by Jane Bennet_, _a severe-looking woman of
middle age_, _has entered upon the words_ “_the least I can do_.”
_Bennet stays them a moment with his hand while he finishes_.  _Then he
turns to his wife_.]  You will be interested to find, Susannah, that the
new Lady Bantock is not a stranger.

MRS. BENNET.  Not a stranger!  [_She has reached a position from where
she sees the girl_.]  Fanny!  You wicked girl!  Where have you been all
these years?

BENNET [_interposing_].  There will be other opportunities for the
discussion of family differences.  Just now, her ladyship is waiting to
dress for dinner.

MRS. BENNET [_sneering_].  Her ladyship!

JANE [_also sneering_].  I think she might have forewarned us of the
honour in store for us.

MRS. BENNET.  Yes, why didn’t she write?

FANNY.  Because I didn’t know.  Do you think—[_she rises_]—that if I had
I would ever have married him—to be brought back here and put in this
ridiculous position?  Do you think that I am so fond of you all that I
couldn’t keep away from you, at any price?

MRS. BENNET.  But you must have known that Lord Bantock—

FANNY.  I didn’t know he was Lord Bantock.  I only knew him as Mr.
Wetherell, an artist.  He wanted to feel sure that I was marrying him for
himself alone.  He never told me—[_Ernest Bennet_, _a very young
footman_, _has entered in answer to Bennet’s ring of a minute ago_.  _He
has come forward step by step_, _staring all the while open-mouthed at
Fanny_.  _Turning_, _she sees him beside her_.]  Hulloa, Ernie.  How are
the rabbits?  [_She kisses him_.]

BENNET.  Don’t stand there gaping.  I rang for some wood.  Tell your
brother dinner will be at a quarter to eight.

_Ernest_, _never speaking_, _still staring at Fanny_, _gets clumsily out
again_.

FANNY.  Well, I suppose I’d better see about dressing?  Do I dine with
his lordship or in the servants’ hall?

MRS. BENNET [_turns to her husband_].  You see!  Still the old
impertinence.

FANNY.  Only wanted to know.  My only desire is to give satisfaction.

BENNET [_he moves towards the door_].  You will do it by treating the
matter more seriously.  At dinner, by keeping your eye upon me, you will
be able to tell whether you are behaving yourself or not.

MRS. BENNET.  And mind you are punctual.  I have appointed Jane to be
your maid.

FANNY.  Jane!

MRS. BENNET [_in arms_].  Have you any objections?

FANNY.  No, oh no, so long as you’re all satisfied.

MRS. BENNET.  Remember, you are no longer on the music-hall stage.  In
dressing for Bantock Hall you will do well to follow her advice.

_Bennet_, _who has been waiting with the door in his hand_, _goes out_;
_Mrs. Bennet follows_.

JANE [_in the tones of a patient executioner_].  Are you ready?

FANNY.  Quite ready, dear.  Of course—I don’t know what you will think of
them—but I’ve only brought modern costumes with me.

JANE [_not a lady who understands satire_].  We must do the best we can.
[_She marches out—into the dressing-room_.]

_Fanny_, _after following a few steps_, _stops and thinks_.  _Ernest has
entered with the wood_.  _He is piling it in the basket by the fire_.
_His entrance decides her_.  _She glances through the open door of the
dressing-room_, _then flies across to the desk_, _seats herself_, _and
begins feverishly to write a telegram_.

FANNY.  Ernie!  [_He comes across to her_.]  Have you still got your
bicycle?

ERNEST.  Yes.

FANNY.  Could you get this telegram off for me before eight o’clock?  I
don’t want it sent from the village; I want you to take it
_yourself_—into the town.  There’s a sovereign for you if you do it all
right.

ERNEST.  I’ll do it.  Can only get into a row.

FANNY.  Pretty used to them, ain’t you?  [_She has risen_.  _She gives
him the telegram_.  _She has stamped it_.]  Can you read it?

ERNEST.  “George P. Newte.”

FANNY.  Hush!

_They both glance at the open door_.

ERNEST [_he continues in a lower voice_].  “72A, Waterloo Bridge Road,
London.  Must see you at once.  Am at the new shop.”  [_He looks up_.]

FANNY.  That’s all right.

ERNEST.  “Come down.  Q.T.  Fanny.”

FANNY [_nods_].  Get off quietly.  I’ll see you again—

THE VOICE OF JANE [_from the dressing-room_].  Are you going to keep me
waiting all night?

[_They start_.  _Ernest hastily thrusts the telegram into his
breast-pocket_.]

FANNY.  Coming, dear, coming.  [_To Ernest_]  Not a word to anyone!
[_She hurries him out and closes door behind him_.]  Merely been putting
the room a bit tidy.  [_She is flying round collecting her outdoor
garments_.]  Thought it would please you.  So sorry if I’ve kept you
waiting.  [_Jane has appeared at door_.]  After you, dear.

_Jane goes out again_.  _Fanny_, _with her pile of luggage_, _follows_.

                                [CURTAIN]



_ACT II_


                                 _SCENE_

_The same_.

_Time_.—_The next morning_.

_The door opens_.  _Dr. Freemantle enters_, _shown in by Bennet_, _who
follows him_.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_talking as he enters_].  Wonderful!  Wonderful!  I don’t
really think I ever remember so fine a spring.

BENNET [_he is making up the fire_].  I’m afraid we shall have to pay for
it later on.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  I expect so.  Law of the universe, you know, Bennet—law
of the universe.  Everything in this world has got to be paid for.

BENNET.  Except trouble.  [_The doctor laughs_.]  The Times?  [_He hands
it to him_.]

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Thanks.  Thanks.  [_Seats himself_.]  Won’t be long—his
lordship, will he?

BENNET.  I don’t think so.  I told him you would be here about eleven.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Um—what do you think of her?

BENNET.  Of—of her ladyship?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  What’s she like?

BENNET.  [_They have sunk their voices_.]  Well, it might have been
worse.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Ah!  There’s always that consolation, isn’t there?

BENNET.  I think her ladyship—with _management_—may turn out very
satisfactory.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  You like her?

BENNET.  At present, I must say for her, she appears willing to be
taught.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  And you think it will last?

BENNET.  I think her ladyship appreciates the peculiarity of her
position.  I will tell the Miss Wetherells you are here.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Ah, thanks!

BENNET.  I fancy her ladyship will not herself be visible much before
lunch time.  I understand she woke this morning with a headache.  [_He
goes out_.]

_The Doctor reads a moment_.  _Then the door of the dressing-room opens_,
_and Fanny enters_.  _Her dress is a wonderful contrast to her costume of
last evening_.  _It might be that of a poor and demure nursery
governess_.  _Her hair is dressed in keeping_.  _She hardly seems the
same woman_.

FANNY [_seeing the Doctor_, _she pauses_].  Oh!

DR. FREEMANTLE [_rises_].  I beg pardon, have I the pleasure of seeing
Lady Bantock?

FANNY.  Yes.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Delighted.  May I introduce myself—Dr. Freemantle?  I
helped your husband into the world.

FANNY.  Yes.  I’ve heard of you.  You don’t mind my closing this door, do
you?  [_Her very voice and manner are changed_.]

DR. FREEMANTLE [_a little puzzled_].  Not at all.

FANNY [_she closes the door and returns_].  Won’t—won’t you be seated?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Thanks.  [_They both sit_.]  How’s the headache?

FANNY.  Oh, it’s better.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Ah!  [_A silence_.]  Forgive me—I’m an old friend of the
family.  You’re not a bit what I expected.

FANNY.  But you like it?  I mean you think this—[_with a gesture_]—is all
right?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  My dear young lady, it’s charming.  You couldn’t be
anything else.

FANNY.  Thank you.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  I merely meant that—well, I was not expecting anything
so delightfully demure.

FANNY.  That’s the idea—“seemly.”  The Lady Bantocks have always been
“seemly”?  [_She puts it as a question_.]

DR. FREEMANTLE [_more and more puzzled_].  Yes—oh, yes.  They have always
been—[_His eye catches that of Constance_, _first Lady Bantock_, _looking
down at him from above the chimney-piece_.  _His tone changes_.]  Well,
yes, in their way, you know.

FANNY.  You see, I’m in the difficult position of following her _late_
ladyship.  _She_ appears to have been exceptionally “seemly.”  This is
her frock.  I mean it _was_ her frock.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  God bless my soul!  You are not dressing yourself up in
her late ladyship’s clothes?  The dear good woman has been dead and
buried these twenty years.

FANNY [_she looks at her dress_].  Yes, it struck me as being about that
period.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he goes across to her_].  What’s the trouble?  Too much
Bennet?

FANNY [_she looks up_.  _There is a suspicion of a smile_].  One might
say—sufficient?

DR. FREEMANTLE [_laughs_].  Excellent servants.  If they’d only remember
it.  [_He glances round—sinks his voice_.]  Take my advice.  Put your
foot down—before it’s too late.

FANNY.  Sit down, please.  [_She makes room for him on the settee_.]
Because I’m going to be confidential.  You don’t mind, do you?

DR. FREEMANTLE [_seating himself_].  My dear, I take it as the greatest
compliment I have had paid to me for years.

FANNY.  You put everything so nicely.  I’m two persons.  I’m an
angel—perhaps that is too strong a word?

DR. FREEMANTLE [_doubtfully_].  Well—

FANNY.  We’ll say saint.  Or else I’m—the other thing.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Do you know, I think you could be.

FANNY.  It’s not a question about which there is any doubt.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Of course, in this case, a _little_ bit of the devil—

FANNY [_she shakes her head_].  There’s such a lot of mine.  It has
always hampered me, never being able to hit the happy medium.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  It _is_ awkward.

FANNY.  I thought I would go on being an angel—

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Saint.

FANNY.  Saint—till—well, till it became physically impossible to be a
saint any longer.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  And then?

FANNY [_she rises_, _turns to him with a gesture of half-comic_,
_half-tragic despair_].  Well, then I can’t help it, can I?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  I think you’re making a mistake.  An explosion will
undoubtedly have to take place.  That being so, the sooner it takes place
the better.  [_He rises_.]  What are you afraid of?

FANNY [_she changes her tone—the talk becomes serious_].  You’ve known
Vernon all his life?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  No one better.

FANNY.  Tell me.  I’ve known him only as a lover.  What sort of a man is
he?

_A pause_.  _They are looking straight into each other’s eyes_.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  A man it pays to be perfectly frank with.

FANNY.  It’s a very old family, isn’t it?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Old!  Good Lord no!  First Lord Bantock was only
Vernon’s great-grandfather.  That is the woman that did it all.  [_He is
looking at the Hoppner_.]

FANNY.  How do you mean?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Got them their title.  Made the name of Bantock of
importance in the history of the Georges.  Clever woman.

FANNY [_leaning over a chair_, _she is staring into the eyes of the first
Lady Bantock_].  I wonder what she would have done if she had ever got
herself into a really first-class muddle?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  One thing’s certain.  [_Fanny turns to him_.]  She’d
have got out of it.

FANNY [_addresses the portrait_].  I do wish you could talk.

_Vernon bursts into the room_.  _He has been riding_.  _He throws aside
his hat and stick_.

VERNON.  Hulloa!  This is good of you.  [_He shakes hands with the
Doctor_.]  How are you?  [_Without waiting for any reply_, _he goes to
Fanny_, _kisses her_.]  Good morning, dear.  How have you been getting on
together, you two?  Has she been talking to you?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Oh, yes.

VERNON.  Doesn’t she talk well?  I say, what have you been doing to
yourself?

FANNY.  Jane thought this style—[_with a gesture_]—more appropriate to
Lady Bantock.

VERNON.  Um!  Wonder if she’s right?  [_To the Doctor_]  What do you
think?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  I think it a question solely for Lady Bantock.

VERNON.  Of course it is.  [_To Fanny_]  You know, you mustn’t let them
dictate to you.  Dear, good, faithful souls, all of them.  But they must
understand that you are mistress.

FANNY [_she seizes eagerly at the chance_].  You might mention it to
them, dear.  It would come so much better from you.

VERNON.  No, you.  They will take more notice of you.

FANNY.  I’d so much rather you did it.  [_To Dr. Freemantle_]  Don’t you
think it would come better from him?

DR. FREEMANTLE [_laughs_].  I’m afraid you’ll have to do it yourself.

VERNON.  You see, dear, it might hurt them, coming from me.  It would
seem like ingratitude.  Mrs. Bennet—Why, it wasn’t till I began to ask
questions that I grasped the fact that she _wasn’t_ my real mother.  As
for old Bennet, ever since my father died—well, I hardly know how I could
have got on without him.  It was Charles Bennet that taught me to ride; I
learned my letters sitting on Jane’s lap.

FANNY.  Yes.  Perhaps I had better do it myself.

VERNON.  I’m sure it will be more effective.  Of course I shall support
you.

FANNY.  Thank you.  Oh, by the by, dear, I shan’t be able to go with you
to-day.

VERNON.  Why not?

FANNY.  I’ve rather a headache.

VERNON.  Oh, I’m so sorry.  Oh, all right, we’ll stop at home.  I’m not
so very keen about it.

FANNY.  No, I want you to go, dear.  Your aunts are looking forward to
it.  I shall get over it all the sooner with everybody out of the way.

VERNON.  Well, if you really wish it.

_The Misses Wetherell steal in_.  _They are dressed for driving_.  _They
exchange greetings with the Doctor_.

FANNY.  You know you promised to obey.  [_Tickles his nose with a
flower_.]

VERNON [_laughing—to the Doctor_].  You see what it is to be married?

DR. FREEMANTLE [_laughs_].  Very trying.

VERNON [_turning to his aunts_].  Fanny isn’t coming with us.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_to Fanny_].  Oh, my dear!

FANNY.  It’s only a headache.  [_She takes her aside_.]  I’m rather glad
of it.  I want an excuse for a little time to myself.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  I understand, dear.  It’s all been so
sudden.  [_She kisses her—then to the room_]  She’ll be all the better
alone.  We three will go on.  [_She nods and signs to her sister_.]

FANNY [_kissing the Elder Miss Wetherell_].  Don’t you get betting.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Oh no, dear, we never do.  It’s just to see
the dear horses.  [_She joins her sister_.  _They whisper_.]

VERNON [_to the Doctor to whom he has been talking_].  Can we give you a
lift?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Well, you might as far as the Vicarage.  Good-bye, Lady
Bantock.

FANNY [_shaking hands_].  Good-bye, Doctor.

VERNON.  Sure you won’t be lonely?

FANNY [_laughs_].  Think I can’t exist an hour without you?  Mr.
Conceited!

VERNON [_laughs and kisses her_].  Come along.  [_He takes the Doctor and
his younger Aunt towards the door_.]

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_who is following last_].  I like you in that
frock.

FANNY [_laughs_].  So glad.  It’s Ernest who attends to the fires, isn’t
it?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Yes, dear.

FANNY.  I wish you’d send him up.  [_At door—calls after them_]  Hope
you’ll all enjoy yourselves!

VERNON [_from the distance_].  I shall put you on a fiver.

FANNY.  Mind it wins.  [_She listens a moment—closes door_, _comes back
to desk_, _and takes a Bradshaw_.]  Five-six-three—five-six-three.
[_Finds page_.]  St. Pancras, eight o’clock.  Oh, Lord!  Stamford, 10.45.
Leave Stamford—[_Ernest has entered_.]  Is that you, Ernest?

ERNEST.  Yes.

FANNY.  Shut the door.  Sure it went off last night, that telegram?

ERNEST.  Yes.

FANNY.  If he doesn’t catch that eight o’clock, he can’t get here till
nearly four.  That will be awkward.  [_To Ernest_]  What time is it now?

ERNEST [_looks at clock_].  Twenty past eleven.

FANNY.  If he does, he’ll be here about twelve—I believe I’ll go and meet
him.  Could I get out without being seen?

ERNEST.  You’ll have to pass the lodge.

FANNY.  Who’s at the lodge now?

ERNEST.  Mother.

FANNY.  Damn!

_Bennet has entered unnoticed and drawn near_.  _At this point from
behind_, _he boxes Ernest’s ears_.

ERNEST.  Here, steady!

BENNET.  On the occasions when your cousin forgets her position, you will
remember it and remind her of it.  Get out!  [_Ernest_, _clumsily as
ever_, “_gets out_.”]  A sort of person has called who, according to his
own account, “happened to be passing this way,” and would like to see
you.

FANNY [_who has been trying to hide the Bradshaw—with affected
surprise_.]  To see me!

BENNET [_drily_].  Yes.  I thought you would be surprised.  He claims to
be an old friend of yours—Mr. George Newte.

FANNY [_still keeping it up_].  George Newte!  Of course—ah, yes.  Do you
mind showing him up?

BENNET.  I thought I would let you know he had arrived, in case you might
be getting anxious about him.  I propose giving him a glass of beer and
sending him away again.

FANNY [_flares up_].  Look here, uncle, you and I have got to understand
one another.  I may put up with being bullied myself—if I can’t see any
help for it—but I’m not going to stand my friends being insulted.  You
show Mr. Newte up here.

_A silence_.

BENNET.  I shall deem it my duty to inform his lordship of Mr. Newte’s
visit.

FANNY.  There will be no need to.  Mr. Newte, if his arrangements permit,
will be staying to dinner.

BENNET.  That, we shall see about.  [_He goes out_.]

FANNY [_following him to door_].  And tell them I shall want the best
bedroom got ready in case Mr. Newte is able to stay the night.  I’ve done
it.  [_She goes to piano_, _dashes into the_ “_Merry Widow Waltz_,” _or
some other equally inappropriate but well-known melody_, _and then there
enters Newte_, _shown in by Bennet_.  _Newte is a cheerful person_,
_attractively dressed in clothes suggestive of a successful bookmaker_.
_He carries a white pot hat and tasselled cane_.  _His gloves are large
and bright_.  _He is smoking an enormous cigar_.]

BENNET.  Mr. Newte.

FANNY [_she springs up and greets him_.  _They are evidently good
friends_].  Hulloa, George!

NEWTE.  Hulloa, Fan—I beg your pardon, Lady Bantock.  [_Laughs_.]  Was
just passing this way—

FANNY [_cutting him short_].  Yes.  So nice of you to call.

NEWTE.  I said to myself—[_His eye catches Bennet_; _he stops_.]  Ah,
thanks.  [_He gives Bennet his hat and stick_, _but Bennet does not seem
satisfied_.  _He has taken from the table a small china tray_.  _This he
is holding out to Newte_, _evidently for Newte to put something in it_.
_But what_?  _Newte is puzzled_, _he glances at Fanny_.  _The idea
strikes him that perhaps it is a tip Bennet is waiting for_.  _It seems
odd_, _but if it be the custom—he puts his hand to his trousers pocket_.]

BENNET.  The smoking-room is on the ground-floor.

NEWTE.  Ah, my cigar.  I beg your pardon.  I couldn’t understand.  [_He
puts it on the tray—breaks into a laugh_.]

BENNET.  Thank you.  Her ladyship is suffering from a headache.  If I
might suggest—a little less boisterousness.  [_He goes out_.]

NEWTE [_he watches him out_].  I say, your Lord Chamberlain’s a bit of a
freezer!

FANNY.  Yes.  Wants hanging out in the sun.  How did you manage to get
here so early?  [_She sits_.]

NEWTE.  Well, your telegram rather upset me.  I thought—correct etiquette
for me to sit down here, do you think?

FANNY.  Don’t ask me.  Got enough new tricks of my own to learn.
[_Laughs_.]  Should chance it, if I were you.

NEWTE.  Such a long time since I was at Court.  [_He sits_.]  Yes, I was
up at five o’clock this morning.

FANNY [_laughs_].  Oh, you poor fellow!

NEWTE.  Caught the first train to Melton, and came on by cart.  What’s
the trouble?

FANNY.  A good deal.  Why didn’t you tell me what I was marrying?

NEWTE.  I did.  I told you that he was a gentleman; that he—

FANNY.  Why didn’t you tell me that he was Lord Bantock?  You knew,
didn’t you?

NEWTE [_begins to see worries ahead_].  Can’t object to my putting a
cigar in my mouth if I don’t light it—can he?

FANNY.  Oh, light it—anything you like that will help you to get along.

NEWTE [_bites the end off the cigar and puts it between his teeth_.
_This helps him_].  No, I didn’t know—not officially.

FANNY.  What do you mean—“not officially”?

NEWTE.  He never told me.

FANNY.  He never told you _anything_—for the matter of that.  I
understood you had found out everything for yourself.

NEWTE.  Yes; and one of the things I found out was that he didn’t _want_
you to know.  I could see his little game.  Wanted to play the Lord
Burleigh fake.  Well, what was the harm?  Didn’t make any difference to
you!

FANNY.  Didn’t make any difference to me!  [_Jumps up_.]  Do you know
what I’ve done?  Married into a family that keeps twenty-three servants,
every blessed one of whom is a near relation of my own.  [_He sits
paralysed_.  _She goes on_.]  That bald-headed old owl—[_with a wave
towards the door_]—that wanted to send you off with a glass of beer and a
flea in your ear—that’s my uncle.  The woman that opened the lodge gate
for you is my Aunt Amelia.  The carroty-headed young man that answered
the door to you is my cousin Simeon.  He always used to insist on kissing
me.  I’m expecting him to begin again.  My “lady’s” maid is my cousin
Jane.  That’s why I’m dressed like this!  My own clothes have been packed
off to the local dressmaker to be made “decent.”  Meanwhile, they’ve dug
up the family vault to find something for me to go on with.  [_He has
been fumbling in all his pockets for matches_.  _She snatches a box from
somewhere and flings it to him_.]  For Heaven’s sake light it!  Then,
perhaps, you’ll be able to do something else than stare.  I have claret
and water—mixed—with my dinner.  Uncle pours it out for me.  They’ve
locked up my cigarettes.  Aunt Susannah is coming in to-morrow morning to
hear me say my prayers.  Doesn’t trust me by myself.  Thinks I’ll skip
them.  She’s the housekeeper here.  I’ve got to know them by heart before
I go to bed to-night, and now I’ve mislaid them.  [_She goes to the
desk—hunts for them_.]

NEWTE [_having lighted his eternal cigar_, _he can begin to think_].  But
why should _they_—

FANNY [_still at desk_].  Because they’re that sort.  They honestly think
they are doing the right and proper thing—that Providence has put it into
their hands to turn me out a passable substitute for all a Lady Bantock
should be; which, so far as I can understand, is something between the
late lamented Queen Victoria and Goody-Two-Shoes.  They are the people
that I ran away from, the people I’ve told you about, the people I’ve
always said I’d rather starve than ever go back to.  And here I am,
plumped down in the midst of them again—for life!  [_Honoria Bennet_,
_the_ “_still-room_” _maid_, _has entered_.  _She is a pert young minx of
about Fanny’s own age_.]  What is is?  What is it?

HONORIA.  Merely passing through.  Sorry to have excited your ladyship.
[_Goes into dressing-room_.]

FANNY.  My cousin Honoria.  They’ve sent her up to keep an eye upon me.
Little cat!  [_She takes her handkerchief_, _drapes it over the keyhole
of the dressing-room door_.]

NEWTE [_at sight of Honoria he has jumped up and hastily hidden his cigar
behind him_].  What are you going to do?

FANNY [_she seats herself and suggests to him the writing-chair_].  Hear
from you—first of all—exactly what you told Vernon.

NEWTE [_sitting_].  About you?

FANNY [_nods_].  About me—and my family.

NEWTE.  Well—couldn’t tell him much, of course.  Wasn’t much to tell.

FANNY.  I want what you did tell.

NEWTE.  I told him that your late father was a musician.

FANNY.  Yes.

NEWTE.  Had been unfortunate.  Didn’t go into particulars.  Didn’t seem
to be any need for it.  That your mother had died when you were still
only a girl and that you had gone to live with relatives.  [_He looks for
approval_.]

FANNY.  Yes.

NEWTE.  That you hadn’t got on well with them—artistic temperament, all
that sort of thing—that, in consequence, you had appealed to your
father’s old theatrical friends; and that they—that they, having regard
to your talent—and beauty—

FANNY.  Thank you.

NEWTE.  Had decided that the best thing you could do was to go upon the
stage.  [_He finishes_, _tolerably well pleased with himself_.]

FANNY.  That’s all right.  Very good indeed.  What else?

NEWTE [_after an uncomfortable pause_].  Well, that’s about all I knew.

FANNY.  Yes, but what did you _tell_ him?

NEWTE.  Well, of course, I had to tell him something.  A man doesn’t
marry without knowing just a little about his wife’s connections.
Wouldn’t be reasonable to expect him.  You’d never told me anything—never
would; except that you’d liked to have boiled the lot.  What was I to do?
[_He is playing with a quill pen he has picked up_.]

FANNY [_she takes it from him_].  What _did_ you do?

NEWTE [_with fine frankness_].  I did the best I could for you, old girl,
and he was very nice about it.  Said it was better than he’d expected,
and that I’d made him very happy—very happy indeed.

FANNY [_she leans across_, _puts her hand on his_].  You’re a dear, good
fellow, George—always have been.  I wouldn’t plague you only it is
absolutely necessary I should know—exactly what you did tell him.

NEWTE [_a little sulkily_].  I told him that your uncle was a bishop.

FANNY [_sits back—staring at him_].  A what?

NEWTE.  A bishop.  Bishop of Waiapu, New Zealand.

FANNY.  Why New Zealand?

NEWTE.  Why not?  Had to be somewhere.  Didn’t want him Archbishop of
Canterbury, did you?

FANNY.  Did he believe it?

NEWTE.  Shouldn’t have told him had there been any fear that he wouldn’t.

FANNY.  I see.  Any other swell relations of mine knocking about?

NEWTE.  One—a judge of the Supreme Court in Ohio.  Same name, anyhow,
O’Gorman.  Thought I’d make him a cousin of yours.  I’ve always
remembered him.  Met him when I was over there in ninety-eight—damn him!

_A silence_.

FANNY [_she rises_].  Well, nothing else for it!  Got to tell him it was
all a pack of lies.  Not blaming you, old boy—my fault.  Didn’t know he
was going to ask any questions, or I’d have told him myself.  Bit of bad
luck, that’s all.

NEWTE.  Why must you tell him?  Only upset him.

FANNY.  It’s either my telling him or leaving it for them to do.  You
know me, George.  How long do you see me being bossed and bullied by my
own servants?  Besides, it’s bound to come out in any case.

NEWTE [_he rises_.  _Kindly but firmly he puts her back into her chair_.
_Then pacing to and fro with his hands mostly in his trousers pockets_,
_he talks_].  Now, you listen to me, old girl.  I’ve been your business
manager ever since you started in.  I’ve never made a mistake before—[_he
turns and faces her_]—and I haven’t made one this time.

FANNY.  I don’t really see the smartness, George, stuffing him up with a
lot of lies he can find out for himself.

NEWTE.  _If he wants to_.  A couple of telegrams, one to His Grace the
Bishop of Waiapu, the other to Judge Denis O’Gorman, Columbus, Ohio,
would have brought him back the information that neither gentlemen had
ever heard of you.  _If he hadn’t been careful not to send them_.  He
wasn’t marrying you with the idea of strengthening his family
connections.  He was marrying you because he was just gone on you.
Couldn’t help himself.

FANNY.  In that case, you might just as well have told him the truth.

NEWTE.  _Which he would then have had to pass on to everyone entitled to
ask questions_.  Can’t you understand?  Somebody, in the interest of
everybody, had to tell a lie.  Well, what’s a business manager for?

FANNY.  But I can’t do it, George.  You don’t know them.  The longer I
give in to them the worse they’ll get.

NEWTE.  Can’t you square them?

FANNY.  No, that’s the trouble.  They _are_ honest.  They’re the
“faithful retainers” out of a melodrama.  They are working eighteen hours
a day on me not for any advantage to themselves, but because they think
it their “duty” to the family.  They don’t seem to have any use for
themselves at all.

NEWTE.  Well, what about the boy?  Can’t _he_ talk to them?

FANNY.  Vernon!  They’ve brought him up from a baby—spanked him all
round, I expect.  Might as well ask a boy to talk to his old
schoolmaster.  Besides, if he did talk, then it would all come out.  As I
tell you, it’s bound to come out—and the sooner the better.

NEWTE.  It must _not_ come out!  It’s too late.  If we had told him at
the beginning that he was proposing to marry into his own butler’s
family—well, it’s an awkward situation—he might have decided to risk it.
Or he might have cried off.

FANNY.  And a good job if he had.

NEWTE.  Now talk sense.  You wanted him—you took a fancy to him from the
beginning.  He’s a nice boy, and there’s something owing to him.  [_It is
his trump card_, _and he knows it_.]  Don’t forget that.  He’s been busy,
explaining to all his friends and relations why they should receive you
with open arms: really nice girl, born gentlewoman, good old Church of
England family—no objection possible.  For you to spring the truth upon
him _now_—well, it doesn’t seem to me quite fair to _him_.

FANNY.  Then am I to live all my life dressed as a charity girl?

NEWTE.  You keep your head and things will gradually right themselves.
This family of yours—they’ve got _some_ sense, I suppose?

FANNY.  Never noticed any sign of it myself.

NEWTE.  Maybe you’re not a judge.  [_Laughs_.]  They’ll listen to reason.
You let _me_ have a talk to them, one of these days; see if I can’t show
them—first one and then the other—the advantage of leaving to “better”
themselves—_with the help of a little ready money_.  Later on—choosing
your proper time—you can break it to him that you have discovered they’re
distant connections of yours, a younger branch of the family that you’d
forgotten.  Give the show time to settle down into a run.  Then you can
begin to make changes.

FANNY.  You’ve a wonderful way with you, George.  It always sounds right
as you put it—even when one jolly well knows that it isn’t.

NEWTE.  Well, it’s always been right for you, old girl, ain’t it?

FANNY.  Yes.  You’ve been a rattling good friend.  [_She takes his
hands_.]  Almost wish I’d married you instead.  We’d have been more
suited to one another.

NEWTE [_shakes his head_].  Nothing like having your fancy.  You’d never
have been happy without him.  [_He releases her_.]  ’Twas a good
engagement, or I’d never have sanctioned it.

FANNY.  I suppose it will be the last one you will ever get me.  [_She
has dropped for a moment into a brown study_.]

NEWTE [_he turns_].  I hope so.

FANNY [_she throws off her momentary mood with a laugh_].  Poor fellow!
You never even got your commission.

NEWTE.  I’ll take ten per cent. of all your happiness, old girl.  So make
it as much as you can for my benefit.  Good-bye.  [_He holds out hand_.]

FANNY.  You’re not going?  You’ll stop to lunch?

NEWTE.  Not to-day.

FANNY.  Do.  If you don’t, they’ll think it’s because I was frightened to
ask you.

NEWTE.  All the better.  The more the other party thinks he’s having his
way, the easier always to get your own.  Your trouble is, you know, that
you never had any tact.

FANNY.  I hate tact.  [_Newte laughs_.]  We could have had such a jolly
little lunch together.  I’m all alone till the evening.  There were ever
so many things I wanted to talk to you about.

NEWTE.  What?

FANNY.  Ah, how can one talk to a man with his watch in his hand?  [_He
puts it away and stands waiting_, _but she is cross_.]  I think you’re
very disagreeable.

NEWTE.  I must really get back to town.  I oughtn’t to be away now, only
your telegram—

FANNY.  I know.  I’m an ungrateful little beast!  [_She crosses and rings
bell_.]  You’ll have a glass of champagne before you go?

NEWTE.  Well, I won’t say no to that.

FANNY.  How are all the girls?

NEWTE.  Oh, chirpy.  I’m bringing them over to London.  We open at the
Palace next week.

FANNY.  What did they think of my marriage?  Gerty was a bit jealous,
wasn’t she?

NEWTE.  Well, would have been, if she’d known who he was.  [_Laughs_.]

FANNY.  Tell her.  Tell her [_she draws herself up_] I’m Lady Bantock, of
Bantock Hall, Rutlandshire.  It will make her so mad.  [_Laughs_.]

NEWTE [_laughs_].  I will.

FANNY.  Give them all my love.  [_Ernest appears in answer to her bell_.]
Oh, Ernest, tell Bennet—[_the eyes and mouth of Ernest open_]—to see that
Mr. Newte has some refreshment before he leaves.  A glass of champagne
and—and some caviare.  Don’t forget.  [_Ernest goes out_.]  Good-bye.
You’ll come again?

NEWTE.  Whenever you want me—and remember—the watchword is “Tact”!

FANNY.  Yes, I’ve got the _word_ all right.  [_Laughs_.]  Don’t forget to
give my love to the girls.

NEWTE.  I won’t.  So long!  [_He goes out_.]

_Fanny closes the door_.  _Honoria has re-entered from the
dressing-room_.  _She looks from the handkerchief still hanging over the
keyhole to Fanny_.

HONORIA.  Your ladyship’s handkerchief?

FANNY.  Yes.  Such a draught through that keyhole.

HONORIA [_takes the handkerchief_, _hands it to Fanny_].  I will tell the
housekeeper.

FANNY.  Thanks.  Maybe you will also mention it to the butler.  Possibly
also to the—[_She suddenly changes_.]  Honoria.  Suppose it had been
you—you know, you’re awfully pretty—who had married Lord Bantock, and he
had brought you back here, among them all—uncle, aunt, all the lot of
them—what would you have done?

HONORIA [_she draws herself up_].  I should have made it quite plain from
the first, that I was mistress, and that they were my servants.

FANNY.  You would, you think—

HONORIA [_checking her outburst_].  But then, dear—you will excuse my
speaking plainly—there is a slight difference between the two cases.
[_She seats herself on the settee_.  _Fanny is standing near the desk_.]
You see, what we all feel about you, dear, is—that you are—well, hardly a
fit wife for his lordship.  [_Fanny’s hands are itching to box the girl’s
ears_.  _To save herself_, _she grinds out through her teeth the word_
“_Tack_!”]  Of course, dear, it isn’t altogether your fault.

FANNY.  Thanks.

HONORIA.  Your mother’s marriage was most unfortunate.

FANNY [_her efforts to suppress her feelings are just—but only
just—successful_.]  Need we discuss that?

HONORIA.  Well, he was an Irishman, dear, there’s no denying it.  [_Fanny
takes a cushion from a chair—with her back to Honoria_, _she strangles
it_.  _Jane has entered and is listening_.]  Still, perhaps it is a
painful subject.  And we hope—all of us—that, with time and patience, we
may succeed in eradicating the natural results of your bringing-up.

JANE.  Some families, finding themselves in our position, would seek to
turn it to their own advantage.  _We_ think only of your good.

FANNY.  Yes, that’s what I feel—that you are worrying yourselves too much
about me.  You’re too conscientious, all of you.  You, in particular,
Jane, because you know you’re not strong.  _You’ll_ end up with a nervous
breakdown.  [_Mrs. Bennet has entered_.  _Honoria slips out_.  _Fanny
turns to her aunt_.]  I was just saying how anxious I’m getting about
Jane.  I don’t like the look of her at all.  What she wants is a holiday.
Don’t you agree with me?

MRS. BENNET.  There will be no holiday, I fear, for any of us, for many a
long day.

FANNY.  But you must.  You must think more of yourselves, you know.
_You’re_ not looking well, aunt, at all.  What you both want is a
month—at the seaside.

MRS. BENNET.  Your object is too painfully apparent for the subject to
need discussion.  True solicitude for us would express itself better in
greater watchfulness upon your own behaviour.

FANNY.  Why, what have I done?

_Bennet enters_, _followed_, _unwillingly_, _by Ernest_.

MRS. BENNET.  Your uncle will explain.

BENNET.  Shut that door.  [_Ernest does so_.  _They group round
Bennet—Ernest a little behind_.  _Fanny remains near the desk_.]  Sit
down.  [_Fanny_, _bewildered_, _speechless_, _sits_.]  Carry your mind
back, please, to the moment when, with the Bradshaw in front of you, you
were considering, with the help of your cousin Ernest, the possibility of
your slipping out unobserved, to meet and commune with a person you had
surreptitiously summoned to visit you during your husband’s absence.

FANNY.  While I think of it, did he have anything to eat before he went?
I told Ernest to—ask you to see that he had a glass of champagne and a—

BENNET [_waves her back into silence_].  Mr. Newte was given refreshment
suitable to his station.  [_She goes to interrupt_.  _Again he waves her
back_.]  We are speaking of more important matters.  Your cousin reminded
you that you would have to pass the lodge, occupied by your Aunt Amelia.
I state the case correctly?

FANNY.  Beautifully!

BENNET.  I said nothing at the time, doubting the evidence of my own
ears.  The boy, however—where is the boy?—[_Ernest is pushed
forward_]—has admitted—reluctantly—that he also heard it.  [_A pause_.
_The solemnity deepens_.]  You made use of an expression—

FANNY.  Oh, cut it short.  I said “damn.”  [_A shudder passes_.]  I’m
sorry to have frightened you, but if you knew a little more of really
good society, you would know that ladies—quite slap-up ladies—when
they’re excited, do—.

MRS. BENNET [_interrupting with almost a scream_].  She defends it!

BENNET.  You will allow _me_ to be the judge of what a _lady_ says, even
when she is excited.  As for this man, Newte—

FANNY.  The best friend you ever had.  [_She is_ “_up_” _again_.]  You
thank your stars, all of you, and tell the others, too, the whole blessed
twenty-three of you—you thank your stars that I did “surreptitiously” beg
and pray him to run down by the first train and have a talk with me; and
that Providence was kind enough to _you_ to enable him to come.  It’s a
very different tune you’d have been singing at this moment—all of you—if
he hadn’t.  I can tell you that.

MRS. BENNET.  And pray, what tune _should_ we have been singing if
Providence hadn’t been so thoughtful of us?

FANNY [_she is about to answer_, _then checks herself_, _and sits
again_].  You take care you don’t find out.  There’s time yet.

MRS. BENNET.  We had better leave her.

BENNET.  Threats, my good girl, will not help you.

MRS. BENNET [_with a laugh_].  She’s in too tight a corner for that.

BENNET.  A contrite heart is what your aunt and I desire to see.  [_He
takes from his pocket a small book_, _places it open on the desk_.]  I
have marked one or two passages, on pages 93–7.  We will discuss them
together—later in the day.

_They troop out in silence_, _the key turns in the lock_.

FANNY [_takes up the book—turns to the cover_, _reads_].  “The Sinner’s
Manual.”  [_She turns to page_ 93.]

                                [CURTAIN]



_ACT III_


                                 _SCENE_

_The same_.

_Time_.—_A few days later_.

_A table is laid for tea_.  _Ernest enters with the tea-urn_.  _He leaves
the door open_; _through it comes the sound of an harmonium_,
_accompanying the singing of a hymn_.  _Fanny comes from her
dressing-room_.  _She is dressed more cheerfully than when we last saw
her_, _but still_ “_seemly_.”  _She has a book in her hand_.  _She
pauses_, _hearing the music_, _goes nearer to the open door_, _and
listens_; _then crosses and takes her place at the table_.  _The music
ceases_.

FANNY.  Another prayer meeting?  [_Ernest nods_.]  I do keep ’em busy.

ERNEST.  D’ye know what they call you downstairs?

FANNY.  What?

ERNEST.  The family cross.

FANNY.  I’m afraid it’s about right.

ERNEST.  What have you been doing _this_ time?  Swearing again?

FANNY.  Worse.  I’ve been lying.  [_Ernest gives vent to a low whistle_.]
Said I didn’t know what had become of that yellow poplin with the black
lace flounces, that they’ve had altered for me.  Found out that I’d given
it to old Mother Potts for the rummage sale at the Vicarage.  Jane was
down there.  Bought it in for half a crown.

ERNEST.  You are risky.  Why, you might have known—

_Vernon comes in_.  _He is in golfing get-up_.  _He throws his cap on to
the settee_.

VERNON.  Hello, got a cup of tea there?

_Ernest goes out_.

FANNY.  Yes.  Thought you were playing golf?

VERNON.  Just had a telegram handed to me in the village—from your friend
Newte.  Wants me to meet him at Melton Station at five o’clock.  [_Looks
at his watch_.]  Know what he wants?

FANNY.  Haven’t the faintest idea.  [_She hands him his cup_.]  Is he
coming _here_?  Or merely on his way somewhere?

VERNON.  I don’t know; he doesn’t say.

FANNY.  Don’t let him mix you up in any of his “ventures.”  Dear old
George, he’s as honest as the day, but if he gets hold of an “idea”
there’s always thousands in it for everybody.

VERNON.  I’ll be careful.  [_Ernest has left the door open_.  _The
harmonium breaks forth again_, _together with vocal accompaniment as
before_.]  What’s on downstairs, then—a party?

FANNY.  Bennet is holding a prayer meeting.

VERNON.  A prayer meeting?

FANNY.  One of the younger members of the family has been detected
“telling a deliberate lie.”  [_Vernon is near the door listening_, _with
his back towards her_, _or he would see that she is smiling_.]  Black
sheep, I suppose, to be found in every flock.  [_Music ceases_, _Ernest
having arrived with the news of his lordship’s return_.]

VERNON [_returning to the table_, _having closed the door_].  Good old
man, you know, Bennet.  All of them!  So high-principled!  Don’t often
get servants like that, nowadays.

FANNY.  Seems almost selfish, keeping the whole collection to ourselves.

VERNON [_laughs_].  ’Pon my word it does.  But what can we do?  They’ll
never leave us—not one of them.

FANNY.  No, I don’t believe they ever will.

VERNON.  Do you know, I sometimes think that you don’t like them.
[_Fanny makes a movement_.]  Of course, they are a bit bossy, I admit.
But all that comes from their devotion, their—

FANNY.  The wonder to me is that, brought up among them, admiring them as
you do, you never thought of marrying one of them.

VERNON [_staggered_.]  Marrying them?

FANNY.  I didn’t say “them.”  I said “_one_ of them.”  There’s Honoria.
She’s pretty enough, anyhow.  So’s Alice, Charles Bennet’s daughter, and
Bertha and Grace—all of them beautiful.  And what’s even better
still—good.  [_She says it viciously_.]  Didn’t you ever think of them?

VERNON.  Well [_laughs_]—well, one hardly marries into one’s own kitchen.

FANNY.  Isn’t that rather snobbish?  You say they’re more like friends
than servants.  They’ve lived with your people, side by side, for three
generations, doing their duty, honourably.  There’s never been a slur
upon their name.  They’re “high-principled.”  You know it.  They’ve
better manners than nine-tenths of your smart society, and they’re
healthy.  What’s wrong with them—even from a lord’s point of view?

VERNON [_recovering himself_].  Well, don’t pitch into me about it.  It’s
your fault if I didn’t marry them—I mean one of them.  [_He laughs_,
_puts his empty cup back on the table_.]  Maybe I’d have thought about
it—if I hadn’t met you.

FANNY [_takes his hand in hers_].  I wish you hadn’t asked Newte any
questions about me.  It would have been so nice to feel that you had
married me—just because you couldn’t help it—just because I was I and
nothing else mattered.

VERNON.  Let’s forget I ever did.  [_He kneels beside her_.]  I didn’t do
it for my own sake, as you know.  A _man_ in my position has to think of
other people.  His wife has to take her place in society.  People insist
upon knowing something about her.  It’s not enough for the stupid
“County” that she’s the cleverest, most bewilderingly beautiful,
bewitching lady in the land.

FANNY.  And how long will you think all that?

VERNON.  For ever, and ever, and ever.

FANNY.  Oh, you dear boy.  [_She kisses him_.]  You don’t know how a
woman loves the man she loves to love her.  [_Laughs_.]  Isn’t that
complicated?

VERNON.  Not at all.  We’re just the same.  We love to love the woman we
love.

FANNY.  Provided the “County” will let us.  And the County has said: A
man may not marry his butler’s niece.

VERNON [_laughing_].  You’ve got butlers on the brain.  If ever I do run
away with my own cook or under-housemaid, it will be your doing.

FANNY.  You haven’t the pluck!  The “County” would laugh at you.  You men
are so frightened of being laughed at.

VERNON [_he rises_].  Well, if it saves us from making asses of
ourselves—

FANNY.  Wasn’t there a niece of old Bennet’s, a girl who had been brought
up abroad, and who _wasn’t_ a domestic servant—never had been—who stayed
with them here, at the gardener’s cottage, for a short time, some few
years ago?

VERNON.  You mean poor Rose Bennet’s daughter—the one who ran away and
married an organ-grinder.

FANNY.  An organ-grinder?

VERNON.  Something of that sort—yes.  They had her over; did all they
could.  A crazy sort of girl; used to sing French ballads on the village
green to all the farm labourers she could collect.  Shortened poor
Bennet’s life by about ten years.  [_Laughs_.]  But why?  Not going to
bully me for not having fallen in love with her, are you?  Because that
really _wasn’t_ my fault.  I never even saw her.  ’Twas the winter we
spent in Rome.  She bolted before we got back.  Never gave me a chance.

FANNY.  I accept the excuse.  [_Laughs_.]  No, I was merely wondering
what the “County” would have done if by any chance you had married _her_.
Couldn’t have said you were marrying into your own kitchen in her case,
because she was never _in_ your kitchen—absolutely refused to enter it,
I’m told.

VERNON [_laughs_].  It would have been a “nice point,” as they say in
legal circles.  If people had liked her, they’d have tried to forget that
her cousins had ever been scullery-maids.  If not, they’d have taken good
care that nobody did.

_Bennet enters_.  _He brings some cut flowers_, _with the_ “_placing_”
_of which he occupies himself_.

BENNET.  I did not know your lordship had returned.

VERNON.  Found a telegram waiting for me in the village.  What’s become
of that niece of yours, Bennet—your sister Rose’s daughter, who was here
for a short time and ran away again?  Ever hear anything about her?

BENNET [_very quietly he turns_, _lets his eyes for a moment meet
Fanny’s_.  _Then answers as he crosses to the windows_].  The last I
heard about her was that she was married.

VERNON.  Satisfactorily?

BENNET.  Looking at it from her point of view—most satisfactorily.

VERNON [_laughs_].  But looking at it from his—more doubtful?

BENNET.  She was not without her attractions.  Her chief faults, I am
inclined to think, were those arising from want of discipline in youth.
I have hopes that it is not even yet too late to root out from her nature
the weeds of indiscretion.

VERNON.  And you think he is the man to do it?

BENNET.  Perhaps not.  But fortunately there are those about her fully
alive to the duty devolving upon them.

VERNON.  Um.  Sounds a little bit like penal servitude for the poor girl,
the way you put it, Bennet.

BENNET.  Even penal servitude may be a blessing, if it serves to correct
a stubborn spirit.

VERNON.  We’ll have to make you a J.P., Bennet.  Must be jolly careful I
don’t ever get tried before you.  [_Laughs_.]  Is that the cart?

BENNET [_he looks out through the window_].  Yes, your lordship.

VERNON [_he takes up his cap_].  I may be bringing someone back with me.
[_To Fanny_, _who throughout has remained seated_.]  Why not put on your
hat—come with me?

FANNY [_she jumps up_, _delighted_].  Shall I?

BENNET.  Your ladyship is not forgetting that to-day is Wednesday?

FANNY.  What’s the odds.  There’s nobody to call.  Everybody is still in
town.

BENNET.  It has always been the custom of the Lady Bantocks, when in
residence, to be at home on Wednesdays.

VERNON.  Perhaps better not.  It may cause talk; if, by chance, anybody
does come.  I was forgetting it was Wednesday.  [_Fanny sits again_.]  I
shan’t do anything without consulting you.  Good-bye.

FANNY.  Good-bye.

_Vernon goes out_.

BENNET.  You think it wise, discussing with his lordship the secret
history of the Bennet family?

FANNY.  What do you mean by telling him my father was an organ-grinder?
If the British public knew the difference between music and a
hurdy-gurdy, he would have kept a butler of his own.

BENNET.  I am not aware of having mentioned to his lordship that you ever
to my knowledge even had a father.  It is not my plan—for the present at
all events—to inform his lordship anything about your family.  Take care
I am not forced to.

FANNY.  Because my father, a composer who had his work performed at the
Lamoureux Concerts—as I can prove, because I’ve got the programme—had the
misfortune to marry into a family of lackeys—I’m not talking about my
mother: she was never really one of you.  _She_ had the soul of an
artist.

BENNET [_white with suppressed fury_; _he is in front of her_; _his very
look is enough to silence her_].  Now you listen to me, my girl, once and
for all.  I told you the night of your arrival that whether this business
was going to prove a pleasant or an unpleasant one depended upon you.
You make it an easy one—for your own sake.  With one word I can bring
your house of cards about your ears.  I’ve only to tell him the truth for
him to know you as a cheat and liar.  [_She goes to speak_; _again he
silences her_.]  You listen to me.  You’ve seen fit to use strong
language; now I’m using strong language.  This _boy_, who has married you
in a moment of impulse, what does _he_ know about the sort of wife a man
in his position needs?  What do _you_? made to sing for your living on
the Paris boulevards—whose only acquaintance with the upper classes has
been at shady restaurants.

FANNY.  He didn’t _want_ a woman of his own class.  He told me so.  It
was because I wasn’t a colourless, conventional puppet with a book of
etiquette in place of a soul that he was first drawn towards me.

BENNET.  Yes.  At twenty-two, boys like unconventionality.  Men don’t:
they’ve learnt its true name, vulgarity.  Do you think I’ve stood behind
English society for forty years without learning anything about it!  What
you call a colourless puppet is what _we_ call an English lady.  And that
you’ve got to learn to be.  You talk of “lackeys.”  If your mother, my
poor sister Rose, came from a family of “lackeys” there would be no hope
for you.  With her blood in your veins the thing can be done.  We
Bennets—[_he draws himself up_]—we serve.  We are not lackeys.

FANNY.  All right.  Don’t you call my father an organ-grinder, and I
won’t call you lackeys.  Unfortunately that doesn’t end the trouble.

BENNET.  The trouble can easily be ended.

FANNY.  Yes.  By my submitting to be ruled in all things for the
remainder of my life by my own servants.

BENNET.  Say “relations,” and it need not sound so unpleasant.

FANNY.  Yes, it would.  It would sound worse.  One can get rid of one’s
servants.  [_She has crossed towards the desk_.  _Her cheque-book lies
there half hidden under other papers_.  _It catches her eye_.  _Her hand
steals unconsciously towards it_.  _She taps it idly with her fingers_.
_It is all the work of a moment_.  _Nothing comes of it_.  _Just the idea
passes through her brain—not for the first time_.  _She does nothing
noticeable—merely stands listless while one might count half a dozen—then
turns to him again_.]  Don’t you think you’re going it a bit too strong,
all of you?  I’m not a fool.  I’ve got a lot to learn, I know.  I’d be
grateful for help.  What you’re trying to do is to turn me into a new
woman entirely.

BENNET.  Because that is the only _way_ to help you.  Men do not put new
wine into old bottles.

FANNY.  Oh, don’t begin quoting Scripture.  I want to discuss the thing
sensibly.  Don’t you see it can’t be done?  I can’t be anybody else than
myself.  I don’t want to.

BENNET.  My girl, you’ve _got_ to be.  Root and branch, inside and
outside, before you’re fit to be Lady Bantock, mother of the Lord
Bantocks that are to be, you’ve got to be a changed woman.

_A pause_.

FANNY.  And it’s going to be your job, from beginning to end—yours and
the rest of you.  What I wear and how I look is Jane’s affair.  My
prayers will be for what Aunt Susannah thinks I stand in need of.  What I
eat and drink and say and do _you_ will arrange for me.  And when you
die, Cousin Simeon, I suppose, will take your place.  And when Aunt
Susannah dies, it will merely be a change to Aunt Amelia.  And if Jane
ever dies, Honoria will have the dressing and the lecturing of me.  And
so on and so on, world without end, for ever and ever, Amen.

BENNET.  Before that time, you will, I shall hope, have learnt sufficient
sense to be grateful to us.  [_He goes out_.]

FANNY [_she turns—walks slowly back towards the tea-table_.  _Halfway she
pauses_, _and leaning over the back of a chair regards in silence for a
while the portrait of the first Lady Bantock_].  I do wish I could tell
what you were saying.

_The door opens_.  _The Misses Wetherell come in_.  _They wear the same
frocks that they wore in the first act_.  _They pause_.  _Fanny is still
gazing at the portrait_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Don’t you notice it, dear?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Yes.  There really is.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It struck me the first day.  [_To Fanny_, _who
has turned_]  Your likeness, dear, to Lady Constance.  It’s really quite
remarkable.

FANNY.  You think so?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  It’s your expression—when you are serious.

FANNY [_laughs_].  I must try to be more serious.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It will come, dear.

_They take their places side by side on the settee_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_to her sister_, _with a pat of the hand_].
In good time.  It’s so nice to have her young.  I wonder if anybody’ll
come this afternoon.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_to Fanny_].  You see, dear, most of the county
people are still in town.

FANNY [_who is pouring out tea_].  I’m not grumbling.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Oh, you’ll like them, dear.  The
Cracklethorpes especially.  [_To her sister for confirmation_]  Bella
Cracklethorpe is so clever.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  And the Engells.  She’ll like the Engells.
All the Engell girls are so pretty.  [_Fanny brings over two cups of
tea_.]  Thank you, dear.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_as she takes her cup—patting Fanny’s hand_].
And they’ll like you, dear, _all_ of them.

FANNY [_returning to table_].  I hope so.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It’s wonderful, dear—you won’t mind my saying
it?—how you’ve improved.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Of course it was such a change for you.  And
at first [_turns to her sister_] we were a little anxious about her,
weren’t we?

_Fanny has returned to them with the cake-basket_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_as she takes a piece_].  Bennet [_she lingers
on the name as that of an authority_] was saying only yesterday that he
had great hopes of you.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_Fanny is handing the basket to her_].  Thank
you, dear.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  I told Vernon.  He was _so_ pleased.

FANNY.  _Vernon_ was?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  He attaches so much importance to Bennet’s
opinion.

FANNY.  Um.  I’m glad I appear to be giving satisfaction.  [_She has
returned to her seat at the table_.]  I suppose when you go to town, you
take the Bennets with you?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_surprised at the question_].  Of course, dear.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Vernon didn’t wish to go this year.  He
thought you would prefer—

FANNY.  I was merely thinking of when he did.  Do you ever go abroad for
the winter?  So many people do, nowadays.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We tried it once.  But there was nothing for
dear Vernon to do.  You see, he’s so fond of hunting.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_to her sister_].  And then there will be his
Parliamentary duties that he will have to take up now.

_Fanny rises_, _abruptly_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  You’re not ill, dear?

FANNY.  No.  Merely felt I wanted some air.  You don’t mind, do you?
[_She flings a casement open_.]

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Not at all, dear.  [_To her sister_]  It
_is_ a bit close.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  One could really do without fires.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  If it wasn’t for the evenings.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  And then, of course, the cold weather might
come again.  One can never feel safe until—

_The door opens_.  _Dr. Freemantle enters_, _announced by Bennet_.  _The
old ladies go to rise_.  _He stops them_.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Don’t get up.  [_He shakes hands with them_.]  How are
we this afternoon?  [_He shakes his head and clicks his tongue_.]
Really, I think I shall have to bring an action for damages against Lady
Bantock.  Ever since she—

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Hush!  [_She points to the window_.]  Fanny.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Here’s Doctor Freemantle.

_Fanny comes from the window_.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he meets her and takes her hand_].  Was just saying, I
really think I shall have to claim damages against you, Lady Bantock.
You’ve practically deprived me of two of my best paying patients.  Used
to be sending for me every other day before you came.  Now look at them!
[_The two ladies laugh_.]  She’s not as bad as we expected.  [_He pats
her hand_.]  Do you remember my description of what I thought she was
going to be like?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  She’s a dear girl.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Bennet—

FANNY [_she has crossed to table—is pouring out the Doctor’s tea_].  Oh,
mightn’t we have a holiday from Bennet?

DR. FREEMANTLE [_laughs_].  Seems to be having a holiday himself to-day.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  A holiday?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Didn’t you know?  Oh, there’s an awfully swagger party
on downstairs.  They were all trooping in as I came.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  I’d no idea he was giving a party.  [_To
Fanny_]  Did you, dear?

FANNY [_she hands the Doctor his tea_].  Yes.  It’s a prayer meeting.
The whole family, I expect, has been summoned.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  A prayer meeting!  Didn’t look like it.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  But why should he be holding a prayer meeting?

FANNY.  Oh, one of the family—

DR. FREEMANTLE.  And why twelve girls in a van?

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  In a van?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  One of Hutton’s from the Station Hotel—with a big poster
pinned on the door: “Our Empire.”

_Fanny has risen_.  _She crosses and rings the bell_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  What’s the matter, dear?

FANNY.  I’m not quite sure yet.  [_Her whole manner is changed_.  _A look
has come into her eyes that has not been there before_.  _She speaks in
quiet_, _determined tones_.  _She rings again_.  _Then returning to
table_, _hands the cake-basket to the Doctor_.]  Won’t you take one,
Doctor?  They’re not as indigestible as they look.  [_Laughs_.]

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he also is bewildered at the changed atmosphere_].
Thank you.  I hope I—

FANNY [_she turns to Ernest_, _who has entered_.  _Her tone_, _for the
first time_, _is that of a mistress speaking to her servants_].  Have any
visitors called for me this afternoon?

ERNEST.  Vi-visitors—?

FANNY.  Some ladies.

ERNEST [_he is in a slough of doubt and terror_].  L—ladies?

FANNY.  Yes.  Please try to understand the English language.  Has a party
of ladies called here this afternoon?

ERNEST.  There have been some ladies.  They—we—

FANNY.  Where are they?

ERNEST.  They—I—

FANNY.  Send Bennet up to me.  Instantly, please.

_Ernest_, _only too glad to be off_, _stumbles out_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  My dear—

FANNY.  You’ll take some more tea, won’t you?  Do you mind, Doctor,
passing Miss Wetherell’s cup?  And the other one.  Thank you.  And will
you pass them the biscuits?  You see, I am doing all I can on your
behalf.  [_She is talking and laughing—a little hysterically—for the
purpose of filling time_.]  Tea and hot cake—could anything be worse for
them?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Well, tea, you know—

FANNY.  I know.  [_Laughs_.]  You doctors are all alike.  You all
denounce it, but you all drink it.  [_She hands him the two cups_.]  That
one is for Aunt Wetherell of the beautiful hair; and the other is for
Aunt Wetherell of the beautiful eyes.  [_Laughs_.]  It’s the only way I
can distinguish them.

_Bennet enters_.

Oh, Bennet!

BENNET.  You sent for me?

FANNY.  Yes.  I understand some ladies have called.

BENNET.  I think your ladyship must have been misinformed.  I most
certainly have seen none.

FANNY.  I have to assume, Bennet, that either Dr. Freemantle or you are
telling lies.

_A silence_.

BENNET.  A party of over-dressed young women, claiming to be acquainted
with your ladyship, have arrived in a van.  I am giving them tea in the
servants’ hall, and will see to it that they are sent back to the station
in ample time to catch their train back to town.

FANNY.  Please show them up.  They will have their tea here.

BENNET [_her very quietness is beginning to alarm him_.  _It shakes him
from his customary perfection of manners_].  The Lady Bantocks do not as
a rule receive circus girls in their boudoir.

FANNY [_still with her alarming quietness_].  Neither do they argue with
their servants.  Please show these ladies in.

BENNET.  I warn you—

FANNY.  You heard my orders.  [_Her tone has the right ring_.  _The force
of habit is too strong upon him_.  _He yields—savagely—and goes out_.
_She turns to the Doctor_.]  So sorry I had to drag you into it.  I
didn’t see how else I was going to floor him.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Splendid!  [_He grips her hand_.]

FANNY [_she goes to the old ladies who sit bewildered terrified_.]  They
won’t be here for more than a few minutes—they can’t be.  I want you to
be nice to them—both of you.  They are friends of mine.  [_She turns to
the Doctor_.]  They’re the girls I used to act with.  We went all over
Europe—twelve of us—representing the British Empire.  They are playing in
London now.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  To-night?  [_He looks at his watch_.]

FANNY [_she is busy at the tea-table_].  Yes.  They are on the stage at
half past nine.  You might look out their train for them.  [_She points
to the Bradshaw on the desk_.]  I don’t suppose they’ve ever thought
about how they’re going to get back.  It’s Judy’s inspiration, this, the
whole thing; I’d bet upon it.  [_With a laugh_.]  She always was as mad
as a March hare.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_busy with the Bradshaw_].  They were nice-looking girls.

FANNY.  Yes.  I think we did the old man credit.  [_With a laugh_.]  John
Bull’s daughters, they called us in Paris.

_Bennet appears in doorway_.

BENNET [_announces_].  “Our Empire.”

_Headed by_ “_England_,” _the twelve girls_, _laughing_, _crowding_,
_jostling one another_, _talking all together_, _swoop in_.

ENGLAND [_a lady with a decided Cockney accent_].  Oh, my dear, talk
about an afternoon!  We ’ave ’ad a treat getting ’ere.

_Fanny kisses her_.

SCOTLAND [_they also kiss_].  Your boss told us you’d gone out.

FANNY.  It was a slight—misunderstanding.  Bennet, take away these
things, please.  And let me have half a dozen bottles of champagne.

STRAITS SETTLEMENTS [_a small girl at the back of the crowd—with a shrill
voice_].  Hooray!

BENNET [_he is controlling himself with the supremest difficulty_.
_Within he is a furnace_].  I’m afraid I have mislaid the key of the
cellar.

FANNY [_she looks at him_].  You will please find it—quickly.  [_Bennet_,
_again from habit_, _yields_.  _But his control almost fails him_.  _He
takes up the tray of unneeded tea-things from the table_.]  I shall want
some more of all these [_cakes_, _fruit_, _sandwiches_, _etc._].  And
some people to wait.  Tell Jane she must come and help.

_Bennet goes out_.  _During this passage of arms between mistress and man
a momentary lull has taken place in the hubbub_.  _As he goes out_, _it
begins to grow again_.

ENGLAND.  ’E does tease yer, don’t ’e?  Wanted us to ’ave tea in the
kitchen.

FANNY.  Yes.  These old family servants—

AFRICA [_she prides herself on being_ “_quite the lady_”].  Don’t talk
about ’em, dear.  We had just such another.  [_She turns to a girl near
her_.]  Oh, they’ll run the whole show for you if you let ’em.

ENGLAND.  It was Judy’s idea, our giving you this little treat.  Don’t
you blime me for it.

WALES [_a small_, _sprightly girl with a childish_, _laughing voice_].
Well, we were all together with nothing better to do.  They’d called a
rehearsal and then found they didn’t want us—silly fools.  I told ’em
you’d just be tickled to death.

FANNY [_laughing—kisses her_].  So I am.  It was a brilliant idea.  [_By
this time she has kissed or shaken hands with the whole dozen_.]  I can’t
introduce you all singly; it would take too long.  [_She makes a
wholesale affair of it_.]  My aunts, the Misses Wetherell—Dr. Freemantle.

_The Misses Wetherell_, _suggesting two mice being introduced to a party
of friendly kittens_, _standing_, _clinging to one another_, _murmur
something inaudible_.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_who is with them to comfort them—he has got rid of the
time-table_, _discreetly—smiles_].  Delighted.

ENGLAND.  Charmed.  [_The others join in_, _turning it into a chorus_.
_To Fanny_]  Glad we didn’t strike one of your busy days.  I say, you’re
not as dressy as you used to be.  ’Ow are they doing you?—all right?

FANNY.  Yes.  Oh, yes.

CANADA [“_Gerty_,” _a big_, _handsome girl_, _with a loud_, _commanding
voice_].  George gave me your message.

FANNY [_puzzled at first_].  My message?  [_Remembering—laughs_.]  Oh.
That I was Lady Bantock of Bantock Hall.  Yes.  I thought you’d be
pleased.

CANADA.  Was delighted, dear.

FANNY.  So glad.

CANADA.  I’d always had the idea that you were going to make a mess of
your marriage.

FANNY.  What a funny idea!  [_But the laugh that accompanies it is not a
merry one_.]

CANADA.  Wasn’t it?  So glad I was wrong.

WALES.  We’re all of us looking out for lords in disguise, now.  Can’t
you give us a tip, dear, how to tell ’em?

SCOTLAND.  Sukey has broken it off with her boy.  Found he was mixed up
in trade.

STRAITS SETTLEMENTS [_as before_, _unseen at back of crowd_].  No.  I
didn’t.  ’Twas his moral character.

_Then enter Honoria with glasses on a tray_; _Ernest with champagne_;
_Jane with eatables_; _Bennet with a napkin_.  _It is a grim procession_.
_The girls are scattered_, _laughing_, _talking_: _Africa to the Misses
Wetherell_; _a couple to Dr. Freemantle_.  _England_, _Scotland_,
_Wales_, _and Canada are with Fanny_.  _The hubbub_, _with the advent of
the refreshments_, _increases_.  _There is a general movement towards the
refreshments_.

FANNY.  Thanks, Bennet.  You can clear away a corner of the desk.

ENGLAND [_aside to her_].  Go easy with it, dear.  [_Fanny_, _smiling_,
_nods_.  _She directs operations in a low tone to the Bennets_, _who take
her orders in grim silence and with lips tight shut_.]  Don’t forget,
girls, that we’ve got to get back to-night.  [_Aside to the Doctor_, _who
has come forward to help_.]  Some of ’em, you know, ain’t used to it.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_nods_].  Glasses not _too_ full.  [_He whispers to
Fanny_.]

IRELAND [_a decided young woman_].  How much time have we got?

ENGLAND.  Don’t ask me.  It’s Judy’s show.

WALES [_mimicking Newte_].  The return train, ladies, leaves Oakham
station.  [_Stops—she is facing the clock_.  _She begins to laugh_.]

ENGLAND.  What’s the matter?

WALES [_still laughing_].  We’ve got just quarter of an hour to catch it.

_There is a wild rush for the refreshments_.  _Jane is swept off her
feet_.  _Bennet’s tray is upset_.

ENGLAND.  Quarter—!  Oh, my Gawd!  Here, tuck up your skirts, girls.
We’ll have to—

DR. FREEMANTLE.  It’s all right.  You’ve got plenty of time, ladies.
There’s a train from Norton on the branch line at 5.33.  Gets you into
London at a quarter to nine.

ENGLAND.  You’re _sure_?

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he has his watch in his hand_].  Quite sure.  The
station is only half a mile away.

ENGLAND.  Don’t let’s miss it.  Keep your watch in your ’and, there’s a
dear.

FANNY [_her business is—and has been—to move quietly through the throng_,
_making the girls welcome_, _talking_, _laughing with them_, _directing
the servants—all in a lady’s way_.  _On the whole she does it remarkably
well_.  _She is offering a plate of fruit to Judy_].  You’re a nice
acting manager, you are.  [_Judy laughs_.  _Fanny finds herself in front
of Ireland_.  _She turns to England_.]  Won’t you introduce us?

ENGLAND.  I beg your pardon, dear.  Of course, you don’t know each other.
Miss Tetsworth, our new Ireland, Lady Bantock.  It is “Bantock,” isn’t
it, dear?

FANNY.  Quite right.  It’s a good little part, isn’t it?

IRELAND.  Well, depends upon what you’ve been used to.

ENGLAND.  She’s got talent, as I tell ’er.  But she ain’t you, dear.
It’s no good saying she is.

FANNY [_hastening to smooth it over_].  People always speak so well of us
after we’re gone.  [_Laughs_.]  You’ll take another glass of champagne.

IRELAND.  Thank you—you made a great success, they tell me, in the part.

FANNY.  Oh, there’s a deal of fluke about these things.  You see, I had
the advantage—

DR. FREEMANTLE [_with watch still in his hand_].  I _think_, ladies—

ENGLAND.  Come on, girls.

_A general movement_.

FANNY.  You must all come again—spend a whole day—some Sunday.

CANADA.  Remember me to Vernon.

FANNY.  He’ll be so sorry to have—

ENGLAND [_cutting in_].  ’Ope we ’aven’t upset you, dear.  [_She is
bustling them all up_.]

FANNY.  Not at all.  [_She is kissing the girls_.]  It’s been so good to
see you all again.

ENGLAND.  ’Urry up, girls, there’s dears.  [_To Fanny_]  Good-bye, dear.
[_Kissing her_.]  We _do_ miss yer.

FANNY.  I’m glad you do.

ENGLAND.  Oh, it ain’t the same show.  [_The others are crowding out of
the door_.  _She and Fanny are quite apart_.]  No chance of your coming
back to it, I suppose?  [_A moment_.]  Well, there, you never know, do
yer?  Good-bye, dear.  [_Kisses her again_.]

FANNY.  Good-bye!  [_She stands watching them out_.  _Bennet goes down
with them_.  _Ernest is busy collecting debris_.  _Jane and Honoria stand
one each side of the table_, _rigid_, _with set faces_.  _After a moment
Fanny goes to the open window_.  _The voices of the girls below_,
_crowding into the van_, _come up into the room_.  _She calls down to
them_.]  Good-bye.  You’ve plenty of time.  What?  Yes, of course.
[_Laughs_.]  All right.  Good-bye.  [_She turns_, _comes slowly back_.
_She looks at Jane and Honoria_, _where they stand rigid_.  _Honoria
makes a movement with her shoulders—takes a step towards the door_.]
Honoria!  [_Honoria stops—slowly turns_.]  You can take away these
glasses.  Jane will help you.

_Bennet has reappeared_.

HONORIA.  It’s not my place—

FANNY.  Your place is to obey my orders.

BENNET [_his coolness seems to have deserted him_.  _His voice is
trembling_].  Obey her ladyship’s orders, both of you.  Leave the rest to
me.  [_Honoria and Jane busy themselves_, _with Ernest setting the room
to rights_.]  May I speak with your ladyship?

FANNY.  Certainly.

BENNET.  Alone, I mean.

FANNY.  I see no need.

BENNET [_her firmness takes him aback_.  _He expected to find her
defiance disappear with the cause of it_.  _But pig-headed_, _as all
Bennets_, _her opposition only drives him on_].  Your ladyship is not
forgetting the alternative?

_The Misses Wetherell have been watching the argument much as the babes
in the wood might have watched the discussion between the two robbers_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_in terror_].  Bennet! you’re not going to give
notice!

BENNET.  What my duty may be, I shall be able to decide after I have
spoken with her ladyship—alone.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Dear!  You will see him?

FANNY.  I am sorry.  I have not the time.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  No.  Of course.  [_Appealing to Bennet for
mercy_]  Her ladyship is tired.  To-morrow—

FANNY [_interrupting_].  Neither to-morrow—nor any other day.  [_Vernon
enters_, _followed by Newte_.  _She advances to meet them_.]  You’ve just
missed some old friends of yours.  [_She shakes hands with Newte_.]

VERNON.  So it seems.  We were hoping to have been in time.  [_To Newte_]
The mare came along pretty slick, didn’t she?

BENNET [_he has remained with his look fixed all the time on Fanny_].
May I speak with your lordship a moment—in private?

VERNON.  Now?

BENNET.  It is a matter that needs to be settled now.  [_It is the tone
of respectful authority he has always used towards the lad_.]

VERNON.  Well, if it’s as pressing as all that I suppose you must.  [_He
makes a movement towards the door_.  _To Newte_]  Shan’t be long.

FANNY.  One moment.  [_Vernon stops_.]  I may be able to render the
interview needless.  Who is mistress of this house?

VERNON.  Who is mistress?

FANNY.  Who is mistress of your house?

VERNON.  Why, you are, of course.

FANNY.  Thank you.  [_She turns to Bennet_]  Please tell Mrs. Bennet I
want her.

BENNET.  I think if your lordship—

FANNY.  At once.  [_She is looking at him_.  _He struggles—looks at
Vernon_.  _But Vernon is evidently inclined to support Fanny_.  _Bennet
goes out_.  _She crosses and seats herself at the desk_.  _She takes from
a drawer some neatly folded papers_.  _She busies herself with figures_.]

VERNON [_he crosses to his Aunts_].  Whatever’s the matter?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  She is excited.  She has had a very trying
time.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Bennet didn’t like the idea of her receiving
them.

NEWTE.  It was that minx Judy’s doing.  They’ll have the rough side of my
tongue when I get back—all of them.

VERNON.  What does she want with Mrs. Bennet?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  I can’t think.

_The atmosphere is somewhat that of a sheepfold before a thunderstorm_.
_The Misses Wetherell are still clinging to one another_.  _Vernon and
Dr. Freemantle are both watching Fanny_.  _Jane_, _Honoria_, _and Ernest
are still busy about the room_.

_Suddenly_, _to Newte—who is standing apart—the whole thing comes with a
rush_.  _But it is too late for him to interfere_.

_Mrs. Bennet_, _followed by Bennet_, _are entering the room_.  _He shrugs
his shoulders and turns away_.

MRS. BENNET.  Your ladyship sent for me?

FANNY.  Yes.  [_She half turns—holds out a paper_.]  This wages sheet is
quite correct, I take it?  It is your own.

MRS. BENNET [_she takes it_].  Quite correct.

FANNY [_she tears out a cheque she has written—hands it to Mrs. Bennet_].
You will find there two months’ wages for the entire family.  I have made
it out in a lump sum payable to your husband.  The other month is in lieu
of notice.  [_A silence_.  _The thing strikes them all dumb_.  _She puts
the cheque-book back and closes the drawer_.  _She rises_.]  I’m sorry.
There’s been a misunderstanding.  It’s time that it ended.  It has been
my own fault.  [_To Vernon_]  I deceived you about my family—

NEWTE.  If there’s been any deceit—

FANNY.  My scene, please, George.  [_Newte_, _knowing her_, _returns to
silence_.]  I have no relations outside this country that I know of.  My
uncle is Martin Bennet, your butler.  Mrs. Bennet is my aunt.  I’m not
ashamed of them.  If they’d had as much respect for me as I have for
them, this trouble would not have arisen.  We don’t get on together,
that’s all.  And this seems to me the only way out.  As I said before,
I’m sorry.

VERNON [_recovering speech_].  But why did you—?

FANNY [_her control gives way_.  _She breaks out_].  Oh, because I’ve
been a fool.  It’s the explanation of most people’s muddles, I expect, if
they only knew it.  Don’t talk to me, anybody.  I’ve got nothing more to
say.  [_To Bennet_]  I’m sorry.  You wouldn’t give me a chance.  I’d have
met you half way.  [_To Mrs. Bennet_]  I’m sorry.  Don’t be too hard on
me.  It won’t mean much trouble to you.  Good servants don’t go begging.
You can depend upon me for a character.  [_To Jane_]  You’ll do much
better for yourselves elsewhere.  [_To Honoria_]  Don’t let that pretty
face of yours ever get you into trouble.  [_To Ernest_]  Good-bye,
Ernest.  We were always pals, weren’t we?  Good-bye.  [_She kisses him_.
_It has all been the work of a moment_.  _She comes down again_.]  Don’t
think me rude, but I’d like to be alone.  We can talk calmly about it all
to-morrow morning.  [_To the Misses Wetherell_]  I’m so awfully sorry.  I
wish I could have seen any other way out.  [_The tears are streaming from
her eyes_.  _To Vernon_]  Take them all away, won’t you, dear?  We’ll
talk about it all to-morrow.  I’ll feel gooder.  [_She kisses him_.  _To
Dr. Freemantle_]  Take them all away.  Tell him it wasn’t all my fault.
[_To Newte_]  You’ll have to stop the night.  There are no more trains.
I’ll see you in the morning.  Good night.

_Bennet has collected his troop_.  _Leads them away_.  _Dr. Freemantle_,
_kindly and helpful_, _takes off Vernon and the two ladies_.

NEWTE [_he grips her hand_, _and speaks in his short_, _growling way_].
Good night, old girl.  [_He follows the others out_.]

FANNY [_crosses towards the windows_.  _Her chief business is dabbing her
eyes_.  _The door closes with a click_.  _She turns_.  _She puts her
handkerchief away_.  _She looks at the portrait of Constance_, _first
Lady Bantock_].  I believe it’s what you’ve been telling me to do, all
the time.

                                [CURTAIN]



_ACT IV_


                                 _SCENE_

_The same_.  _The blinds are down_.  _Ashes fill the grate_.

_Time_.—_Early the next morning_.

_The door opens softly_.  _Newte steals in_.  _He fumbles his way across
to the windows_, _draws the blinds_.  _The morning sun streams in_.  _He
listens—no one seems to be stirring_.  _He goes out_, _returns
immediately with a butler’s tray_, _containing all things necessary for a
breakfast and the lighting of a fire_.  _He places the tray on table_,
_throws his coat over a chair_, _and is on his knees busy lighting the
fire_, _when enter the Misses Wetherell_, _clad in dressing-gowns and
caps_: _yet still they continue to look sweet_.  _They also creep in_,
_hand in hand_.  _The crouching Newte is hidden by a hanging
fire-screen_.  _They creep forward till the coat hanging over the chair
catches their eye_.  _They are staring at it as Robinson Crusoe might at
the footprint_, _when Newte rises suddenly and turns_.  _The Misses
Wetherell give a suppressed scream_, _and are preparing for flight_.

NEWTE [_he stays them_].  No call to run away, ladies.  When a man’s
travelled—as I have—across America, in a sleeping-car, with a comic-opera
troop, there’s not much left for him to know.  You want your breakfast!
[_He wheedles them to the table_.]  We’ll be able to talk cosily—before
anybody else comes.

_They yield themselves_.  _He has a way with him_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We haven’t slept all night.

_Newte answers with a sympathetic gesture_.  _He is busy getting ready
the breakfast_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  There’s something we want to tell dear
Vernon—before he says anything to Fanny.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  It’s something very important.

NEWTE.  We’ll have a cup of tea first—to steady our nerves.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  It’s so important that we should tell him
before he sees Fanny.

NEWTE.  We’ll see to it.  [_He makes the tea_.]  I fancy they’re both
asleep at present.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Poor boy!

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  If she only hadn’t—

_Dr. Freemantle has entered_.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  I thought I heard somebody stirring—

NEWTE.  Hush!  [_He indicates doors_, _the one leading to her ladyship’s
apartments_, _the other to his lordship’s_.]

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_turning and greeting him_].  It was so kind
of you not to leave us last night.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We were so upset.

_Dr. Freemantle pats their hands_.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We hope you slept all right.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Excellently.  Shall be glad of a shave, that’s all.
[_Laughs_.  _Both he and Newte suggest the want of one_.]

NEWTE [_who has been officiating_].  Help yourself to milk and sugar.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_who has seated himself_].  Have the Bennets gone?

NEWTE.  Well, they had their notice all right.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_they have begun to cry_].  It has been so
wrong and foolish of us.  We have never learnt to do anything for
ourselves.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We don’t even know where our things are.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  They can’t all have gone—the whole twenty-three of them,
at a couple of hours’ notice.  [_To Newte_]  Haven’t seen any of them,
have you?

NEWTE.  No sign of any of them downstairs.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Oh, they must be still here.  Not up, I suppose.  It
isn’t seven o’clock yet.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  But they have all been discharged.  We can’t
ask them to do anything.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_to her sister_].  And the Grimstones are
coming to lunch with the new curate.  Vernon asked them on Sunday.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  Perhaps there’s something cold.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Vernon so dislikes a cold lunch.

DR. FREEMANTLE [_to Newte_].  Were you able to get hold of Vernon last
night?

NEWTE.  Waited up till he came in about two o’clock.  Merely answered
that he wasn’t in a talkative mood—brushed past me and locked himself in.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  He wouldn’t say anything to me either.  Rather a bad
sign when he won’t talk.

NEWTE.  What’s he likely to do?

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Don’t know.  Of course it will be all over the county.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  And dear Vernon is so sensitive.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  It had to come—the misfortune _is_—

NEWTE.  The misfortune _is_ that people won’t keep to their own line of
business.  Why did he want to come fooling around her?  She was doing
well for herself.  She could have married a man who would have thought
more of her than all the damn fools in the county put together.  Why
couldn’t he have left her alone?

DR. FREEMANTLE [_he is sitting at the head of the table_, _between Newte
on his right and the Misses Wetherell on his left_.  _He lays his hand on
Newte’s sleeve—with a smile_].  I’m sure you can forgive a man—with eyes
and ears in his head—for having fallen in love with her.

NEWTE.  Then why doesn’t he stand by her?  What if her uncle is a butler?
If he wasn’t a fool, he’d be thanking his stars that ’twas anything half
as respectable.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  I’m not defending him—we’re not sure yet that he needs
any defence.  He has married a clever, charming girl of—as you say—a
better family than he’d any right to expect.  The misfortune is, that—by
a curious bit of ill-luck—it happens to be his own butler.

NEWTE.  If she takes my advice, she’ll return to the stage.  No sense
stopping where you’re not wanted.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  But how can she?

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  You see, they’re married!

DR. FREEMANTLE [_to change the subject_].  You’ll take an egg?

_Newte has been boiling some_.  _He has just served them_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL [_rejecting it_].  Thank you.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We’re not feeling hungry.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  He was so fond of her.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  She was so pretty.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  And so thoughtful.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  One would never have known she was an
actress.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  If only she hadn’t—

_Bennet has entered_.  _Newte is at fireplace_.  _The old ladies have
their backs to the door_.  _Dr. Freemantle_, _who is pouring out tea_,
_is the first to see him_.  _He puts down the teapot_, _staring_.  _The
old ladies look round_.  _A silence_.  _Newte turns_.  _Bennet is again
the perfect butler_.  _Yesterday would seem to have been wiped out of his
memory_.

BENNET.  Good morning, Miss Wetherell.  Good morning, Miss Edith.  [_To
the two men_]  Good morning.  I was not aware that breakfast was required
to be any earlier than usual, or I should have had it ready.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We are sure you would, Bennet.  But you see,
under the circumstances, we—we hardly liked to trouble you.

BENNET [_he goes about the room_, _putting things to rights_.  _He has
rung the bell_.  _Some dead flowers he packs on to Newte’s tray_, _the
water he pours into Newte’s slop-basin_].  My duty, Miss Edith, I have
never felt to be a trouble to me.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  We know, Bennet.  You have always been so
conscientious.  But, of course, after what’s happened—[_They are on the
verge of tears again_.]

BENNET [_he is piling up the breakfast things_].  Keziah requested me to
apologise to you for not having heard your bell this morning.  She will
be ready to wait upon you in a very few minutes.  [_To the Doctor_]  You
will find shaving materials, doctor, on your dressing-table.

DR. FREEMANTLE.  Oh, thank you.

_Ernest has entered_, _with some wood_; _he is going towards the fire_.

BENNET [_to Ernest_].  Leave the fire for the present.  Take away this
tray.  [_Ernest takes up the tray_, _and goes out_.  _Bennet speaks over
the heads of the Misses Wetherell to Newte_]  Breakfast will be ready in
the morning-room, in a quarter of an hour.

NEWTE [_at first puzzled_, _then indignant_, _now breaks out_].  What’s
the little game on here—eh?  Yesterday afternoon you were given the
sack—by your mistress, Lady Bantock, with a month’s wages in lieu of
notice—not an hour before you deserved it.  What do you mean, going on
like this, as if nothing had happened?  Is Lady Bantock to be ignored in
this house as if she didn’t exist—or is she not?  [_He brings his fist
down on the table_.  _He has been shouting rather than speaking_.]  I
want this thing settled!

BENNET.  Your bath, Mr. Newte, is quite ready.

NEWTE [_as soon as he can recover speech_].  Never you mind my bath, I
want—

_Vernon has entered_.  _He is pale_, _heavy-eyed_, _short in his manner_,
_listless_.

VERNON.  Good morning—everybody.  Can I have some breakfast, Bennet?

BENNET.  In about ten minutes; I will bring it up here.  [_He collects
the kettle from the fire as he passes_, _and goes out_.]

VERNON.  Thank you.  [_He responds mechanically to the kisses of his two
aunts_, _who have risen and come to him_.]

NEWTE.  Can I have a word with you?

VERNON.  A little later on, if you don’t mind, Mr. Newte.  [_He passes
him_.]

NEWTE [_he is about to speak_, _changes his mind_].  All right, go your
own way.  [_Goes out_.]

DR. FREEMANTLE.  “Remember”, says Marcus Aurelius—

VERNON.  Yes—good old sort, Marcus Aurelius.  [_He drops listlessly into
a chair_.]

_Dr. Freemantle smiles resignedly_, _looks at the Misses Wetherell_,
_shrugs his shoulders_, _and goes out_, _closing the door after him_.

_The Misses Wetherell whisper together—look round cautiously_, _steal up
behind him_, _encouraging one another_.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  She’s so young.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  And so adaptable.

VERNON [_he is sitting_, _bowed down_, _with his face in his hands_].
Ah, it was the deception.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL [_she puts her old thin hand on his
shoulder_].  What would you have done, dear, if she had told you—at
first?

VERNON [_he takes her hand in his—answers a little brokenly_].  I don’t
know.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  There’s something we wanted to tell you.  [_He
looks at her_.  _They look across at each other_.]  The first Lady
Bantock, your great-grandmamma—

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  She danced with George III.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  She was a butcher’s daughter.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  He was quite a little butcher.

THE ELDER MISS WETHERELL.  Of course, as a rule, dear, we never mention
it.

THE YOUNGER MISS WETHERELL.  We felt you ought to know.  [_They take each
other’s hands_; _on tip-toe they steal out_.  _They close the door softly
behind them_.]

_Vernon rises_.  _He looks at the portrait—draws nearer to it_.  _With
his hands in his pockets_, _stops dead in front of it_, _and contemplates
it in silence_.  _The door of the dressing-room opens_.  _Fanny enters_.
_She is dressed for going out_.  _She stands for a moment_, _the door in
her hand_.  _Vernon turns_.  _She closes the door and comes forward_.

VERNON.  Good morning.

FANNY.  Good morning.  George stayed the night, didn’t he?

VERNON.  Yes.  He’s downstairs now.

FANNY.  He won’t be going for a little while?

VERNON.  Can’t till the ten o’clock train.  Have you had breakfast?

FANNY.  I—I’ve had something to eat.  I’m sorry for what I did last
night—although they did deserve it.  [_Laughs_.]  I suppose it’s a matter
than can easily be put right again.

VERNON.  You have no objection to their staying?

FANNY.  Why should I?

VERNON.  What do you mean?

FANNY.  There’s only one hope of righting a mistake.  And that is going
back to the point from where one went wrong—and that was our marriage.

[_A moment_.]

VERNON.  We haven’t given it a very long trial.

FANNY [_with an odd smile_].  It went to pieces at the first.  I was in
trouble all last night; you must have known it.  You left me alone.

VERNON.  Jane told me you had locked yourself in.

FANNY.  You never tried the door for yourself, dear.  [_She pretends to
rearrange something on the mantelpiece—any excuse to turn away her face
for a moment_.  _She turns to him again_, _smiling_.]  It was a mistake,
the whole thing.  You were partly to blame.  You were such a nice boy.  I
“fancied” you—to use George’s words.  [_She laughs_.]  And when a woman
wants a thing, she is apt to be a bit unscrupulous about how she gets it.
[_She moves about the room_, _touching the flowers_, _rearranging a
cushion_, _a vase_.]  I didn’t invent the bishop; that was George’s
embroidery.  [_Another laugh_.]  But, of course, I ought to have told you
everything myself.  I ought not to have wanted a man to whom it would
have made one atom of difference whether my cousins were scullery-maids
or not.  Somehow, I felt that to you it might.  [_Vernon winces_.]  It’s
natural enough.  You have a big position to maintain.  I didn’t know you
were a lord—that was your doing.  George did find it out, but he never
told me; least of all, that you were Lord Bantock—or you may be pretty
sure I should have come out with the truth, if only for my own sake.  It
hasn’t been any joke for me, coming back here.

VERNON.  Yes.  I can see they’ve been making things pretty hard for you.

FANNY.  Oh, they thought they were doing their duty.  [_He is seated_.
_She comes up behind him_, _puts her hands on his shoulders_.]  I want
you to take them all back again.  I want to feel I have made as little
commotion in your life as possible.  It was just a little mistake.  And
everybody will say how fortunate it was that she took herself off so soon
with that—[_She was about to say_ “_that theatrical Johnny_,” _thinking
of Newte_.  _She checks herself_.]  And you will marry somebody belonging
to your own class.  And those are the only sensible marriages there are.

VERNON.  Have you done talking?

FANNY.  Yes!  Yes, I think that’s all.

VERNON.  Then perhaps you’ll let me get in a word.  You think me a snob?
[_Fanny makes a movement_.]  As a matter of fact, I am.

FANNY.  No, that’s not fair.  You wouldn’t have married a girl off the
music-hall stage.

VERNON.  Niece of a bishop, cousin to a judge.  Whether I believed it or
not, doesn’t matter.  The sham that isn’t likely to be found out is as
good as the truth, to a snob.  If he had told me your uncle was a butler,
I should have hesitated.  That’s where the mistake began.  We’ll go back
to that.  Won’t you sit down?  [_Fanny sits_.]  I want you to stop.
There’ll be no mistake this time.  I’m asking my butler’s niece to do me
the honour to be my wife.

FANNY.  That’s kind of you.

VERNON.  Oh, I’m not thinking of you.  I’m thinking of myself.  I want
you.  I fell in love with you because you were pretty and charming.
There’s something else a man wants in his wife besides that.  I’ve found
it.  [_He jumps up_, _goes over to her_, _brushing aside things in his
way_.]  I’m not claiming it as a right; you can go if you like.  You can
earn your own living, I know.  But you shan’t have anybody else.  You’ll
be Lady Bantock and nobody else—as long as I live.  [_He has grown quite
savage_.]

FANNY [_she bites her lip to keep back the smile that wants to come_].
That cuts both ways, you know.

VERNON.  I don’t want anybody else.

FANNY [_she stretches out her hand and lays it on his_].  Won’t it be too
hard for you?  You’ll have to tell them all—your friends—everybody.

VERNON.  They’ve got to be told in any case.  If you are here, for them
to see, they’ll be able to understand—those that have got any sense.

_Bennet comes in with breakfast_, _for two_, _on a tray_.  _He places it
on a table_.

FANNY [_she has risen_, _she goes over to him_].  Good morning, uncle.
[_She puts up her face_.  _He stares_, _but she persists_.  _Bennet
kisses her_.]  Lord Bantock—[_she looks at Vernon_]—has a request to make
to you.  He wishes me to remain here as his wife.  I am willing to do so,
provided you give your consent.

VERNON.  Quite right, Bennet.  I ought to have asked for it before.  I
apologise.  Will you give your consent to my marriage with your niece?

FANNY.  One minute.  You understand what it means?  From the moment you
give it—if you do give it—I shall be Lady Bantock, your mistress.

BENNET.  My dear Fanny!  My dear Vernon!  I speak, for the first and last
time, as your uncle.  I am an old-fashioned person, and my ideas, I have
been told, are those of my class.  But observation has impressed it upon
me that success in any scheme depends upon each person being fit for
their place.  Yesterday, in the interests of you both, I should have
refused my consent.  To-day, I give it with pleasure, feeling sure I am
handing over to Lord Bantock a wife in every way fit for her position.
[_Kissing her_, _he gives her to Vernon_, _who grips his hand_.  _He
returns to the table_.]  Breakfast, your ladyship, is quite ready.

_They take their places at the table_.  _Fanny takes off her hat_,
_Bennet takes off the covers_.

                                [CURTAIN]





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fanny and the Servant Problem" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home