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Title: Four Short Plays
Author: Olliffe, (AKA Lady Bell) Florence Eveleen Eleanore
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 "Four Short Plays" ***

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



FOUR SHORT PLAYS

  BY
  LADY BELL


  1. THE STORY OF RACHEL.
  2. KIRSTIN.
  3. THE PARACHUTE.
  4. A SECOND-CLASS DUKE.


  LONDON
  ARTHUR L. HUMPHREYS
  187 PICCADILLY, W.
  1922


  _All Rights Reserved_

  PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY
  THE DUNEDIN PRESS LIMITED, EDINBURGH



  _To
  SYBIL THORNDIKE._



CONTENTS


                                              PAGE

  THE STORY OF RACHEL, play in one act          11

  KIRSTIN, dramatic sketch in three scenes      29

  THE PARACHUTE, comedy in one act              59

  A SECOND-CLASS DUKE, comedy in one act        81



THE STORY OF RACHEL.

A Play in One Act.



_Characters_:


CAPTAIN WILLIAM CARTERET, R.N. (about 48).

RACHEL (his wife, 28).

_A maid--not a speaking part--who only brings in a letter._

      RACHEL _and_ CARTERET _sitting in their comfortable drawing
      room_, RACHEL _in armchair R.C. near a table, cutting a book
      with a paper-knife_. CARTERET _on small sofa, L.C., with a
      little table near him on which is an ash-tray. He is smoking,
      and reading the "Pall Mall Gazette"._


RACHEL [_continuing conversation as the curtain goes up_]. Don't you
agree with what I'm saying? I'm sure men are like that. Will, do you
mean to say you don't agree?

CARTERET [_absently, looking up and down columns of paper_]. Yes, I
daresay.

RACHEL. I know quite well what it means when a man says in that way
[_imitating his tone_]--'Yes, I daresay,' and goes on reading. It means
you're not thinking of what I'm saying--you're thinking of nothing but
the paper.

CARTERET [_still looking up and down the columns_]. Well, there are very
interesting things in the paper.

RACHEL. Of course there are. And it's still more interesting trying to
guess which of them are true. But still it is rather boring that you
should be reading the newspaper while I'm talking.

CARTERET. Oh? I thought you were talking while I was reading the
newspaper.

RACHEL. That _is_ a one-sided view, I must say.

      [CARTERET _smiles, shakes the ash off his cigarette, and goes on
      reading without speaking_].

RACHEL. It is a pity you don't enjoy my society, isn't it?

CARTERET [_smiling_]. A great pity.

RACHEL. Will, I suppose that you like me as I am?

CARTERET. Absolutely and entirely. Even when you talk unceasingly when
I'm having a quiet read and smoke before dressing for dinner.

RACHEL. Anyhow, you'd have to be interrupted soon, because you must go
up when the clock strikes, and see Mary in bed.

CARTERET [_laughing happily_]. Yes, the little monkey. I should never
hear the end of it if I didn't. She's a tremendous tyrant, isn't she.

RACHEL. Yes. I wonder what she'll be like when she grows up.

CARTERET [_smiling_]. Like her mother, I daresay. Apt to talk when her
husband's reading.

RACHEL. To-night I want to talk. Do listen, Will--just this once!

      [CARTERET _smiles and puts his paper down on his knee_].

CARTERET. Just this once, if you're sure it won't happen again.

RACHEL. I was thinking about what men are like, and what women are like.

CARTERET. You see, men don't want to be taking their souls to pieces
perpetually as women do, to see what they're made of.

RACHEL. But it is _so_ interesting to do it, even if one's afraid of
what one finds there.

CARTERET. Afraid!

RACHEL. Oh, yes. There are times when I'm thinking of things, when I'm
all over the place. I can't help it.

CARTERET. All over the place! Yes, that's quite true. You are.

RACHEL. Well, as I said, I've been thinking--and I see that in heaps of
ways men and women are so different.

CARTERET. That's a very profound remark. Don't get beyond my depth,
Rachel, pray.

RACHEL. Will, you horrid old thing! But I don't care for your laughing
at me. I'll go on. Men are so simple----

CARTERET. And women so complicated?...

RACHEL. Sometimes. Men take things and people for granted so much more
than women do--sailors I do believe especially, are made like that. You
take things for granted; you like everybody; you believe in everybody.

CARTERET. Well, my experience has shewn me that you come fewer croppers
in life if you believe in people, than if you're suspicious of them. It
may be an illusion, but that's my experience.

RACHEL. I wonder?... And there is another great difference. Women--so
many women--are cowards; afraid, always afraid.

CARTERET. Afraid of what, you foolish creature?

RACHEL. Of all sorts of things. I was full of terrors when I was a
child. Not only of robbers and ghosts, of absurd things that never
happened, but of people, who were cross or unkind ... of everything.
And then I was left by myself, and I was poor, and had to earn my own
living. It was dreadful.

CARTERET. Well, that's all over. You needn't think of it any more. I'll
take care of you, never fear. Nothing and nobody shall frighten you now.

RACHEL. Oh, I know. I've always felt what a rock of defence you were
ever since that first evening, when we had broken down in the motor and
you stopped yours beside us in the dark.

CARTERET. And found you, the pretty little governess, by the side of
the road with the son of the house! having broken your employer's motor.
By George, you looked frightened then. I don't think I ever saw a more
woebegone little object than you were, standing there huddled together,
looking as if you were trying to escape from the lights of the motor.

RACHEL [_shuddering_]. Yes, those horrible lights that would keep
blazing away all round us, and oh, I did so want to hide, to sink under
the earth, never to be found again!

CARTERET. Come, come, it wasn't as bad as that: though I must admit it
was pretty awful when we had to go back and face your infuriated
employer.

      [RACHEL _shudders at the thought_].

CARTERET. I think she had a case, mind you! Going out for a joy ride
with her son at that time of night in her car!

RACHEL. Oh, the rapture of that moment when you stood up for me, and
then, when you found out you had known my dad!

CARTERET. Rather a good moment, that--a trump card, wasn't it?

RACHEL. I can hear you saying it now, 'Tom Farrar, my old shipmate.' Oh,
the relief of it! the relief!

CARTERET [_smiling_]. Poor little girl!

RACHEL [_recovering herself_]. But we needn't think about it; and you
were there, and you brought me back with you, and then, as they say in
the fairy tales, we married and lived happily ever after.

CARTERET. Except that I had to go off to the Cape directly afterwards.
Good Lord! How I used to laugh at the other men on board, when they were
wanting to go ashore to see their wives and babies, or to come back home
when they were aboard. I used to think what fools they were; but they
weren't. I was the fool all right. And now I know better--I have done
just the same. And after getting that splendid ship I was so proud of,
and after always saying that I would not take a shore-going job for the
world, I jumped at this job at the Admiralty just to be near you and
Mary, and, oh, I am so glad I did.

RACHEL [_caressingly_]. We are awfully happy, aren't we?

CARTERET. Awfully.

RACHEL [_musingly_]. Mary--Mary--[_she says the name twice_]. How I
love that child! I love her absurdly, fiercely. If I tried to love her
more I couldn't. I have sometimes a wild sense of the joy of having her
that makes me afraid of fate.... [_She speaks on in a more ordinary
tone_]. Men aren't like that, I daresay.

CARTERET [_smiling_]. No, I don't believe they are. They just love and
love their child, that's all.

RACHEL. Yes, that's all. And that's everything.

CARTERET [_smiling_]. And that's everything.

      [RACHEL _sitting looking before her_--CARTERET _leaning back in
      his chair looking up at ceiling; not at her_].

CARTERET. That night, at Simonstown, that I got your telegram saying
the child was born, that you had a daughter--it was so wonderful, so
impossible to understand. That night I remember, after I knew, I went
for a blow on the quarter deck quite late, before turning in--in the
sort of dark it is out there when the sky is deep purple and the huge
stars are blazing in it like holes opening into glory--and I kept saying
to myself, A child! I have a child--my child! I really believe for a
while I was almost mad. It seemed to me that the plash of the sea, the
choppy little waves beating against the gangway ladder were answering
me, were saying the same thing, too--my child! Life had changed in that
hour. And I wondered if I could go on waiting, waiting for the moment
when I should be with you both. I didn't tell any of them about it out
there. I didn't trust myself. I didn't know what I should say if I began
to speak of it.

RACHEL [_smiling_]. _You'd_ have been all over the place.

CARTERET [_trying to hide his emotion_]. I believe I should, for once.
Good old Tom! I was with him when he died in the East. He would have
been glad to know I had got his little girl out of a scrape.

RACHEL. And that you had married her.

CARTERET. Well ... he would have thought me a bit old for you, perhaps.

RACHEL. You're not to say that! You're just the right age.

CARTERET. You really think so?

RACHEL. Of course I do.

CARTERET [_still smiling_]. Now, Rachel, were you in love with that
young Thornton?

RACHEL. No, I don't think I was. It was a boy and girl sort of thing.

CARTERET [_smiling, but sighing too_]. Yes, boy and girl. I suppose when
there are young people together that sort of thing happens.

RACHEL. Oh, don't say it in that tone. You don't mean to say you're
jealous of him--because he was young?

CARTERET [_more seriously_]. Jealous? Of you? Of my wife? No.

RACHEL. Well, some people are. They always are in books.

CARTERET. I'm not in a book, and that sort of thing isn't good enough
for me. [_Goes on in an ordinary tone_]. I wonder what became of
Thornton. Have you ever heard anything of him?

RACHEL [_with an impulse_]. Will, how different you are from other
people!

CARTERET [_surprised_]. Why?

RACHEL. You find me on the road in the dark with a young man. How do you
know I was not running away with him?

CARTERET [_smiling_]. Well, if you were, you weren't doing it very
successfully. To tell the truth, there were so many things to think
of that night after fettling up the motor and taking you back, that I
hadn't time to wonder what you were after. [_A pause_].

RACHEL. As a matter of fact, I have heard something about Jack
Thornton--he's dead.

CARTERET [_interested but not suspicious_]. Dead! How do you know?

RACHEL. I saw it in an evening paper six weeks ago. It was a night you
were away inspecting at Portsmouth or something. I meant to tell you. It
was a horrible story. He was in East Africa--he went there to farm--he
was one of a party who had a skirmish with some natives--they had
quarrelled about something and he and another Englishman were killed.

CARTERET [_sympathetically_]. Oh, a bad business. Yes. I am sorry.

RACHEL [_impulsively_]. I was not, very--I couldn't bear to think of all
that time he had been mixed up in. No, when I heard that he was dead,
it was a relief. I don't want to be reminded of him--to be reminded of
all that time. Oh, Will, if you knew what the sense of security and
happiness is of being married to you. I do love you.

CARTERET. I'm very glad to hear it. Look here; confess you weren't in
love with me when we married.

RACHEL. We married so very soon, you see. I hadn't time.

CARTERET. You didn't fall in love at first sight as I did.

RACHEL. But I was as quick as I could. Before we had been married a
month I adored you.

CARTERET. Did you really, Rachel?

RACHEL. You know I did.

CARTERET. Yes, I know it too, but I like hearing you say it.

RACHEL. You ought to believe it by this time without having to be told.

CARTERET. Of course I do. Oh, Rachel--I wonder if you know the absolute
trust I have in you. How I love and reverence you more than I can put
into words, and how I wonder every day at the great gifts that have come
to me from you and the child. My life is overflowing with happiness--and
when I think of those lonely days when I was going ahead thinking I had
got all I wanted, and I had nothing!--darling, I must try to be worthy
of it all.

      [_He stands up by her. She holds out her hand to him. He takes
      it in both his, then they part as the maid comes in with a
      letter._ CARTERET _takes it, looks at it, and throws it down on
      the table_].

RACHEL [_speaking very lightly as the maid goes out_]. Nothing for me;
how dull the evening post always is.

CARTERET. You shall have half of mine; it looks fearfully dull, too.

RACHEL. Yes, a letter of that shape always is. It's about business, I
suppose.

      [_She leans back in her chair and goes on cutting the book with
      a paper-knife_].

CARTERET [_trying to open the letter_]. And then the brutes stick it
down so that you can't get it open.

RACHEL [_laughing_]. No great loss, I daresay. Here!

      [_She throws him the paper-knife and leans back idly,
      comfortable in her chair._ CARTERET _takes the knife and cuts it
      open_].

CARTERET [_excited_]. Oh! Rachel!

RACHEL [_interested but not anxious_]. What is it? Who's it from?

CARTERET [_reading the name at the top of the paper_]. It's from
Threlfold and Bixley, solicitors. They're--[_then he looks at_ RACHEL
_as though hesitating to speak the name suddenly_]--Jack Thornton's
solicitors.

      [RACHEL _aghast stands up transfixed_--CARTERET _is so full of
      the letter that he doesn't look at her_].

CARTERET. Listen! 'Dear Sir--We have to inform you that we have received
from East Africa the will of our late client, Mr John Thornton,
deceased, in which he instructs us that a third of the fortune he
acquired there, is to be assigned, on her twenty-first birthday, to Mary
Carteret, his [_he is going to turn over the page when_ RACHEL _rushes
forward with a shriek_].

RACHEL [_beside herself_]. Wait, wait! don't turn over! wait--stop--I
want to tell you something--first--say you won't look--

CARTERET [_amazed_]. Rachel! [_Getting up_]. What is it? You are not
well! Is it hearing about this so suddenly? [_He makes a movement. She
thinks he is going to turn the page_].

RACHEL. Don't, don't! you promised, you promised you wouldn't. I want to
tell you what is on the next page before you read it--I know how it goes
on--'Mary Carteret his--child!'

CARTERET [_alarmed_]. Rachel! what has happened to you?

RACHEL [_compelling herself to speak less wildly; with concentrated
utterance_]. Mary Carteret is his child--Jack Thornton's child. Yes!
Mary--is--Jack Thornton's child.

      [_A silence_--CARTERET _stands looking at her_].

CARTERET [_seizing her wrists_]. It isn't true! [_She stands silent_].
Is it true?--is it?

RACHEL. Oh! you hurt me.

CARTERET. Is it true?

RACHEL [_looking straight at him_]. Yes. Read it. Turn over the page
now.

      [CARTERET _has the letter in his hand still. He looks at the
      bottom of the page he has read and turns it over with shaking
      hands, and reads what is on the next_].

RACHEL [_almost beside herself_]. Now you know it's true. You see
yourself what it says.

      [CARTERET _waits a moment, gazing at the page, then looks up at
      her_].

CARTERET. It doesn't say so.

RACHEL [_petrified, looks at him, her lips forming the words, almost in
a whisper_]. Doesn't say so!

CARTERET. No! [_reading_]--'to Mary Carteret--his [_pause_] god-child!'

RACHEL [_gives a smothered cry_]. Oh! It's not in the letter--and _I_
told you--I myself....

CARTERET [_with a sudden impulse of hope_]. Rachel, I still don't
believe it. You don't know what you are saying.

RACHEL. Yes, yes, I tell you, it's true--and I've told you--_I_ did--if
I hadn't, you wouldn't have known.

CARTERET. What--it _is_ true then! and _that_ is all you can think
of--that you needn't have told me--that if you had not, you could have
gone on pretending....

RACHEL. We should have gone on being happy--and--now it's gone.

CARTERET. Happy--you could have lived with that lie in your heart and
have been happy?

RACHEL. The lie was buried--he was dead--I was safe [_wringing her
hands_]. We were happy, we should always have been happy now he is dead.

CARTERET. But the truth! Do you care so little about the truth?

RACHEL. The truth can be so terrible.

CARTERET. Is _that_ what women are like?

RACHEL. Oh, women are afraid. All these years I have been so
terrified--so haunted by terror--till I knew he was dead. Then--then--I
thought I was safe. I used to think--suppose--suppose, you ever came to
know it! I tried to tell you, at first, I did, indeed, but my heart died
at the thought.... And then when I fell in love with you and saw how
desperately you cared for Mary--

CARTERET [_he shrinks_]. Don't--

RACHEL. I couldn't--and then, I thought it was in the letter--and you'd
see it, and so I told you--I told you.

CARTERET [_looking at the letter and reading_]. 'His god-child'--is that
true?

      [RACHEL _shakes her head_].

CARTERET. A lie, too, like all the rest? Oh, my God! [_He sits down and
buries his face in his hands_]. And if the letter hadn't come I should
have gone on being fooled to the end. You had better have told me,
Rachel, before we married. I should have done exactly what I did--I
should have married you all the same.

      [RACHEL _moves with an irresistible impulse of love and
      gratitude towards him_].

CARTERET [_stopping her_]. No, you needn't go on with that now. I
shouldn't have had those illusions--I shouldn't have had that dream of
love and pride in--in the child, but I should not have had this ghastly
awakening. Good God! that night that I told you about just now--the
night I first heard--I've never told another human being about that
night of revelation, of knowing what it meant to have a child--and it
was all a lie. It was none of it true. She's not mine--I have no
child--she's a child without a name.

RACHEL [_fiercely, in an agony of apprehension_]. No, no! I won't have
you say that! She has your name, your splendid name--Will, you're not
going to take it from her? You're not going to make her suffer for
something she had no part in?

CARTERET. Am I likely to make a child suffer? Do you understand me as
little as that--it is not the child who will have to endure--

      [_The clock strikes the hour--they look at each other_].

RACHEL. Are you going up to her?

CARTERET [_without looking at her_]. No.

RACHEL [_hesitatingly_]. I'll go instead. She'll be wondering.

CARTERET. No. You shall not go from here. I must have the truth--all
you've kept back--the whole of this damnable story.

RACHEL. I can't, I can't--you terrify me when you look like that....

CARTERET [_regardless_]. I must have it. I must know.

      [RACHEL _is silent_.

CARTERET [_quietly_]. Do you understand? I must have the truth.

      [RACHEL _tries to make up her mind to speak_.

CARTERET. Go on.

RACHEL. They were all so unkind to me there--when I was the governess.
[_She stops._]

CARTERET. Go on; that's not what I want to hear.

RACHEL. Jack--[_She stops_]. Oh, I can't!

CARTERET. Do you understand that you are not going from here till you
have told me?

RACHEL [_looking wildly round her_]. Oh, when you look like that I feel
I have no one!

      [_She buries her face in her hands._

CARTERET. Go on. Let me hear.

      [RACHEL _waits. He takes down her hands. She looks up at him,
      then makes up her mind and begins again._

RACHEL. He was the only one who was kind--and--and--

CARTERET [_sternly_]. And--what?

RACHEL. He made love to me.

CARTERET. You let him ... make love to you?

RACHEL [_hardly audibly_]. Yes.

CARTERET. The scoundrel!

RACHEL. Now then, you know it all.

CARTERET. No, not all. Were you going away with him that night?

RACHEL. Yes--he said we must be married. I knew we must--

CARTERET [_bitterly_]. Yes, you had to marry someone.... [RACHEL _looks
at him imploringly_]. Go on to the end.

RACHEL [_with an effort_]. He was going to East Africa. He was to sail
next day, and I was going with him. We were going up by the late train
to be married in the morning, and we meant to leave the car at the
station with a letter to his parents--and then the car broke down by the
roadside--and you came, and the next day he sailed.... Now you know it
all.

CARTERET. Yes, that sounds like the truth at last. I know that I have
dragged the truth from you bit by bit. My God! I was far enough from it
that night when I thought I was protecting an innocent little girl who
was being bullied by her employer. You called me simple just now--I was
simple indeed.

RACHEL. Yes, you were simple and trusting and wonderful--you say you
would have married me all the same if I had dared to tell you. I
know you would. It would have been like you--like your greatness and
goodness. But, oh, how could I tell you--how could I! Oh, Will, you
say you could have forgiven me then--can't you forgive me now?

CARTERET. Forgiveness! What does forgiveness matter, if there's no
belief when trust has gone? Rachel, I believed in you as I believe in my
Redeemer. You knew I did. What was in your thoughts, this very evening
was it, or was it another lifetime? when I told you how I trusted and
reverenced you? Did you feel nothing but mockery at the success of your
deceit?

RACHEL. No, no. I thought when you were telling me, what a great pure
heart you had, how I would try to be worthy of you.

CARTERET [_with a bitter laugh_]. Worthy of me! by letting me believe
every day of our lives something that was false, false; something that
had never been. Oh, I can't bear it.

RACHEL [_suddenly with a wild impulse_]. Oh, don't let Mary know!

CARTERET. Don't speak her name. I can't endure it yet.

RACHEL. Don't let her suffer! Oh, don't let suffering come to her, let
me have it all.

CARTERET. _You_ have it all? Is that what you think? Suffering is round
us all everywhere like the darkness.

      [_He sits on sofa, covering his face with his hands._]

RACHEL [_looking round her as if terrified_]. The darkness! Will, I'm
so frightened--you have been my shelter, my rock, my love. Help me now!
Help me! I cannot do without you!

      [_She stands looking at him, waiting for him to speak._]

CARTERET [_without looking at her_]. You need not be so frightened. I
will always shelter you--you--and your child....

      [RACHEL _stands for a moment as if transfixed, then speaks_].

RACHEL. I am going up to say good-night to her--she will be lying awake.

CARTERET [_as she slowly turns away, puts out his hand, the other still
covering his face_]. Poor little Rachel!

      [_She takes his hand, timidly--they clasp hands, and loose them
      again. It is not a lovers' embrace: it is a compact between
      them._]

      CURTAIN _comes down as_ RACHEL _goes out_.

      CARTERET _still sitting with his face hid in his hands, broken
      with emotion_.

       *       *       *       *       *



KIRSTIN.

A Dramatic Sketch in Three Scenes.


SCENE 1.

_Characters in the order of their appearance_:

  HENRY MERTON (_a young Englishman_).
  PETER THWAITE (_a Sheep Farmer in Australia_).
  KIRSTIN (THWAITE'S _Daughter_).
  MRS PLANT (_Housekeeper to_ MERTON).
  LADY GAIRLOCH.
  LADY BETTY CRAIGIE (_her Daughter_).
  JANE (_a maid_).

THE ACTION _takes place_:--

_In_ SCENE 1, _at a remote sheep farm in Queensland at the end of the
19th Century_.

SCENE 2, _at_ DR MERTON'S _House in Devonshire Street_.

SCENE 3, _the same_.

  _Between_ SCENES 1 _and_ 2, _fifteen years elapse_.
  _Between_ SCENES 2 _and_ 3, _a night_.


      SCENE I.: _Outside_ THWAITE'S _sheep farm in Australia. A
      double wooden railing at back runs the whole length of stage,
      supposed to be continued behind house_--L. _part of the house
      is seen--wooden house with veranda_. THWAITE _leaning against
      railing smoking a pipe_ C. MERTON R.C. _on wooden seat, wooden
      table beside him_ C. _He is arranging, strapping, etc., a wallet
      or satchel._

MERTON. There now, I think everything's ready. There's one strap more
somewhere [_looking round_]. I must have left it in the house. And then
I shall have to say good-bye. How can I thank you, Mr Thwaite, for all
you have done for me! [THWAITE, _unsmiling, smokes on in silence_]. The
way you took me in when you found me dying and let me stay under your
roof all these weeks--

THWAITE [_gruffly_]. That's all right.

MERTON. You have been endlessly good to me. I shall never forget it,
never.

THWAITE. Never's a long time.

MERTON. But I mean it, I assure you.

THWAITE. Oh, yes, I daresay, you mean it--yes.

MERTON. Good Lord! What an escape! I can't think how it was I didn't
die, when my horse pitched me off on to my head and left me senseless. I
should have died if you hadn't found me, and no one would have been the
wiser.

THWAITE. There's plenty dies over here and no one the wiser.

MERTON. I daresay.

THWAITE. There's plenty of others that's alive.

MERTON. I wonder you troubled to keep another in the world then, Mr
Thwaite.

THWAITE. It was the gal. She would have it we ought to pick you up, but
I was in a hurry with some sheep in the cart going to Banooga.

MERTON. And they mattered more, of course.

THWAITE. Well, they was alive, you see.

MERTON. To be sure--yes.

THWAITE. And you didn't seem to be. But the gal, she thought you were.
So I said, 'Well, if there's room for him and the sheep too, I'll take
him along--But what'll we do with him next?' 'Well,' she says, 'I'll
look after him.' And I says, 'You've your work to do, remember.' You can
understand, Mr Merton, that if a man has a sheep farm in this country,
that's his job. His sheep must come first. You don't want no dead men
along.

MERTON. Oh, I quite see that. And no live ones either if they are in the
way.

THWAITE. That's about it.

MERTON. I must have been most awfully inconvenient.

THWAITE. Well, it was just the lambing time, and Kirstin had to look
after the ewes. Lucky it were a healthy season.

MERTON [_smiling_]. And she managed to look after me as well as the
ewes.

THWAITE. She knows she's got to get her work done.

MERTON. She seems able to do it.

THWAITE. She knows her job. I've kept her at it since she was a little
wench.

MERTON. It's wonderful, all she can do.

THWAITE [_scornfully_]. Wonderful? What's there wonderful in it, a
strong, healthy gal like that? I'd be ashamed if she didn't know what a
farmer's daughter's got to know--about dipping the sheep, washing 'em,
and shearing, and breaking a horse, and riding him bareback round the
boundary. She'd need to be ashamed if she couldn't. And she can use her
eyes and her ears. There's nothing she can't see or hear, that gal. Oh,
any woman can learn to work if you just make her.

MERTON. Any woman?... that kind of work? [_smiling and shaking his
head._]

THWAITE. I daresay women isn't much use where you come from.

MERTON. I come from London.

THWAITE [_with a pitying smile_]. London ... ah!

MERTON. I shall think of your life out here, Mr Thwaite, when I'm back
in London.

THWAITE. No, no, you won't, young man. Nothing of the kind. You won't
be thinking of us, no more than we shall be thinking of you. I shall
be thinking of my sheep, and you--well, whatever folks do think of in
London.

MERTON. A good many things.

THWAITE [_indifferently and rather incredulously_]. Do they?

MERTON. I shall have to think a great deal about my job. I'm going to be
a doctor, and it's uphill work at first. But my uncle is a successful
doctor, and that will be a help.

THWAITE. Ah, you mean he's done the work for you.

MERTON [_smiling_]. Some of it perhaps.

THWAITE. I've not much use for doctors. Never had one inside my door.

MERTON. They seem to be needed in London, luckily for me.

THWAITE. Never been there.

MERTON. But you are an Englishman, aren't you?

THWAITE [_sombrely_]. Yes, I'm an Englishman. My father was a Yorkshire
farmer; my mother was a Scotch woman. I quarrelled with him and ran away
from home and I went to Liverpool. And the captain of a steamer going
to Sydney took me on as cabin boy, and on board there was an Australian
sheep farmer. And he brought me to his sheep run--and afterwards I
married his daughter, and he died, and I went on with the sheep farming.
That's my tale.

MERTON. And you never saw your parents again?

THWAITE. I never went back. I never knew my mother. She died when I was
born. Kirstin, she never knew her mother neither.

MERTON. That's a bad loss.

THWAITE [_smokes reflectively_]. Mebbe, mebbe. But she's no need of a
mother. I've learned her what she'd need to know, and though I says it,
she's been brought up by an honest man to earn an honest living in
honest ways. And that's enough for anyone.

MERTON. It's a great deal. But is it enough for her? Doesn't she want
any more?

THWAITE. I don't know--but if she did, want 'd be her master. [_Passes
his hand along the railing_]. There's that fence going again. I believe
the wood's rotting. Kirstin! [KIRSTIN _comes out of the house with a
strap in her hand_]. Look at this place in the fence--it's rotting.
That's bad.

KIRSTIN [_looking at it_]. Yes, I know. There's some more going the same
way, further up.

THWAITE. Well, you'd better go round and see where the places are; it'll
have to be looked to.

KIRSTIN. Yes, father; I'll see to it.

      [THWAITE _goes on looking at the fence and passing his hand
      along it_. KIRSTIN _gives the strap to_ MERTON.]

KIRSTIN. Here's a strap you left in the house, Mr Merton.

MERTON. Oh, thank you so much. [_Tries to put strap round bag_]. I'm
afraid it's about time for me to be off.

KIRSTIN. Yes, I suppose it is. I've saddled your mare for you; she's
ready.

MERTON. Have you done that besides everything else? I'm not going to try
to thank you for it all--

THWAITE. No, I wouldn't. If the mare is saddled, you'd best be mounting,
you've got a long way to go.

KIRSTIN [_looking at him struggling with the strap_]. You want another
hole there. Here, let me. [_Taking the strap and pulling out a knife_].

THWAITE [_looking impatiently at_ KIRSTIN]. Well, I'll be stepping, Mr
Merton. I'm rather busy to-day.

MERTON [_smiling_]. I'm so sorry, Mr Thwaite--this is the last time I
shall interrupt the farm work.

KIRSTIN [_repeats half to herself_]. The last time--yes.

THWAITE. I'll be going on. Kirstin, you follow me down there away--when
you're ready [_rather sarcastically_].

KIRSTIN. Yes, father. [_Still doing strap_].

MERTON [_shaking hands with_ THWAITE]. Good-bye, then, Mr Thwaite.
And----

THWAITE [_interrupting him_]. Now don't start thanking me again!
Good-bye, and don't break your neck this time.

      [THWAITE _goes out_]. [KIRSTIN _finishes the strap and hands it
      to_ MERTON].

MERTON. You must let me thank you, Kirstin.

KIRSTIN [_looking up at him and smiling_]. Must I?

MERTON. And then I shall have to say good-bye to you, too.

KIRSTIN [_forcing herself to be calm_]. Yes, it's good-byes, to-day.

MERTON. It's no use saying it over and over again, but I do want you to
believe how grateful I am to you for saving my life.

KIRSTIN. You needn't to thank me. I was glad I did.

MERTON [_half to himself, looking round_]. It's so queer when you're
leaving a place. It looks different, somehow.

KIRSTIN. Does it?

MERTON. Don't you know what I mean?

KIRSTIN. No, I've never left a place. I've always been here.

MERTON. Isn't it extraordinary!

KIRSTIN. What?

MERTON. Why, to find you and your father here miles away from anyone,
leading this life.

KIRSTIN. Why is it extraordinary? We've always done it.

MERTON. That's just it. You've never done anything else.

KIRSTIN. Of course not.

MERTON. And you do the same thing day after day.

KIRSTIN. The same thing? No. There's the feeding to look after in the
winter, and the lambing in the spring, and the shearing in the summer--

MERTON. Yes, the summer in January.

KIRSTIN. January--when else should it be?

MERTON. Our summer's in July.

KIRSTIN [_interested_]. Is it? I didn't know that.

MERTON. Didn't you, Kirstin? And our spring is in March and April.

KIRSTIN. March and April? Those are our beautiful autumn months. Oh, how
odd. When do your lambs come, then?

MERTON. In February and March.

KIRSTIN. Oh, how strange!

MERTON. Kirstin, did you never go to school?

KIRSTIN. To school? No, how could I? Father couldn't have spared me.

MERTON. Not even when you were little?

KIRSTIN. I don't believe anyhow there was a school near enough.
Father learned me to read, and I write a bit too, but not very well.
[_Smiling_]. I've always worked with the sheep ever since I can
remember. When I was little I used to drive them in and see if any were
missing.

MERTON. Could you count them?

KIRSTIN [_surprised_]. Oh, no; but I knew them all one from another and
could tell which was gone.

MERTON. Could you? Can you do that now?

KIRSTIN. Well, of course. Anyone could.

MERTON. Anyone? Do you really believe that?

KIRSTIN. Yes, anyone living out here, like us.

MERTON. Ah, you know things we don't know in London.

KIRSTIN. Do I? But then [_quite simply as though asking the question_]
perhaps you know things in London that we don't know out here?

MERTON [_smiling_]. Perhaps we do.... I shall think of you when I'm back
in my London home.

      [_All through this scene_ MERTON _is not in the least
      sentimental--he is obviously not sorry to be turning his face
      homewards_].

KIRSTIN. Shall you? I'm glad of that.

MERTON. And wonder what you're doing.

KIRSTIN. You needn't to wonder that--I've told you what we'll be doing
all the year round.

MERTON. And is it enough for you, Kirstin?

KIRSTIN. Enough! It fills up all the time, I can tell you.

MERTON. Are you content?

KIRSTIN. Content? I've never thought about it. Oh, yes, I suppose I am.
I've always been content up to now.

MERTON [_cheerfully_]. Then there's no reason why you should leave off.

KIRSTIN. Daresay not.

MERTON. But when you read stories about other kinds of lives, doesn't
it make you want to see something else?

KIRSTIN. I'm not much of a reader. Father has some books put away but I
don't care about it.

MERTON. Doesn't he ever read a newspaper even?

KIRSTIN. There's none comes here.

MERTON [_laughing_]. Well, I didn't think such people existed. This
place will seem a dream to me when I get back.

KIRSTIN. A dream, will it?

MERTON. Yes, you and your life here, and looking out and seeing wide
pastures, and the palm trees, and the eucalyptus instead of seeing plane
trees dropping their leaves on the London pavements. Oh! to see a wet
plane leaf shining in the lights of London! There's no place like it
after all. And now I'm going back to it.

KIRSTIN. You like London best then?

MERTON. Well, all Londoners do. I'm a Londoner, you see--I was born and
bred there, just as you were born and bred here.

KIRSTIN. Of course, yes. Mr Merton, you said you'd think of us when you
was away. I'd like to think of you too, and what you was doing in
London, if you could tell me what it's like.

MERTON [_smiling_]. Well, it's rather difficult to tell you--it's all so
very different. For one thing, when I look out of my window in London, I
see the wall of somebody else's house, instead of a wide expanse like
this.

KIRSTIN. Oh, is there a house as near as that?

MERTON. A house? Dozens.

KIRSTIN. Dozens of houses close to yours?

MERTON. Scores! Hundreds! Thousands! of houses wherever you go, wherever
you look.

KIRSTIN. Oh, is that really true?

MERTON. Of course it is.

KIRSTIN. But how do you know them apart?

MERTON. They have numbers on them--a number painted on every house.

KIRSTIN. Oh! painted on every house--like a brand! It must be very
difficult to count up to so many thousands.

MERTON. Oh, no; they begin at _one_ again in each street.

KIRSTIN. How many houses are there in a street?

MERTON. That depends. Sometimes there are fifty, sometimes two hundred
and more. My house is 147.

KIRSTIN. 147. I shall remember that.

MERTON. But the number won't be enough. You must remember the street
too. The street I live in is called Devonshire Street--so that if you
want to know where to find me, it's 147 Devonshire Street.

KIRSTIN. 147 Devonshire Street--I shall remember that.

MERTON. I'll write it down for you [_takes out his pocket-book, tears
out a sheet and writes on it_].

KIRSTIN. Write it very clear, won't you, so as I can read it.

MERTON. Yes, I'll write it very clear. There now, you can't mistake
it--Henry Merton, 147 Devonshire Street, London. So when you come to
London, Kirstin, don't forget. Look, I shall write that down too--to
remind you! [_writing_] _Come to London, Kirstin, don't forget._

KIRSTIN [_looking at it_]. Yes, that's very clear. I can read that.
[_Reads_] 'Henry Merton, 147 Devonshire Street. Come to London, Kirstin,
don't forget.' I shan't forget, but I shan't come to London.

MERTON. Who knows? Perhaps by the time you come, I shall have got on in
the world.

KIRSTIN. What does that mean?

MERTON. Oh, Kirstin, you are too delightful! It means ... well ... it
means--it's rather difficult to explain.

KIRSTIN. Does it mean being better than other people?

MERTON. Um--not altogether! Something of the kind perhaps. It means
getting on in the thing you're doing. I'm going to try to be a
successful doctor.

KIRSTIN. Does a successful doctor cure everybody?

MERTON. Not always. But a great many people come to him to be cured and
give him money whether he cures them or not.

KIRSTIN. Do they? Then you'll have a great deal of money.

MERTON. I hope so--I want it most dreadfully.

KIRSTIN [_surprised_]. Do you?

MERTON. I have hardly any--that's one of my difficulties.

KIRSTIN. What a pity.

MERTON. Oh, well, it'll come all right, I daresay, when I'm back in
London and can start work.

KIRSTIN [_looking at paper_]. When you're back at 147 Devonshire
Street--

      [_Enter_ THWAITE. KIRSTIN _puts the paper back in her pocket_].

THWAITE. Kirstin, the black ewe's missing.

KIRSTIN [_quietly_]. What, again? I'll go and seek her.

THWAITE. You had better. Well, Mr Merton, I suppose you'll just be about
starting? [_Evidently waiting for_ MERTON _to leave_].

MERTON [_laughing_]. So sorry I'm still here, Mr Thwaite. I'm really
going now. I've been telling Kirstin what London is like.

THWAITE. She won't find that very useful, I expect. The boy's got your
mare at the door. I'll come and see you off.

MERTON. Thank you very much.

THWAITE [_exasperated_]. Ah!

MERTON [_turning back to_ KIRSTIN]. Good-bye, Kirstin. Once more, thank
you. [KIRSTIN _looks up at him with a little smile_].

KIRSTIN [_in a low voice_]. Oh, that's all right.

      MERTON _goes out, followed by_ THWAITE. KIRSTIN _remains alone_.
      _She stands quite still for a moment, her left hand on the
      fence, looking in the direction they have gone in. She leans
      forward and gives a little wave of her hand, then turns round
      facing the audience, and leaning with her back to the railing,
      her two hands on it behind her._ THWAITE _comes back_.

THWAITE. Well, now we shall get some work done. What are you standing
gaping there for? Where's that ewe?

KIRSTIN. I'll go and find her.

      CURTAIN _comes down slowly as she goes out_ R.

      THWAITE _looking at railing and feeling it to see where it is
      giving_.


SCENE II.

_Fifteen years have elapsed._

      SCENE: DR MERTON'S _rooms in Devonshire Street--a room with a
      deep bay window at back. Room empty as curtain goes up. Enter_
      MERTON, _with hat on. He takes it off and throws it down,
      flings himself into a chair by table._

MERTON. Oh, dear, I'm tired! [_Sees a letter lying on table, opens it,
smiles_] 'Next week'.... [_sits reflecting a moment, evidently with
pleasure, hands behind his head, then takes up letter again and reads
it. Begins writing as though answering the letter to which he refers,
then rings handbell on table._]

[_Enter_ MRS PLANT]. [_She stands waiting_].

MERTON. Oh, Mrs Plant. I want to speak to you about one or two things.

MRS PLANT. Yes, sir? [_she waits_]. It wasn't about the soup being cold,
sir? For it was, there's no denying it. But then you _did_ keep your
dinner waiting to-night.

MERTON. Yes, the soup was cold as a matter of fact--and I did keep
dinner waiting--but that's not what I have to say.

MRS PLANT. It does seem too much really for you to come in so late, sir,
and then have to go out again after dinner. Your uncle, Dr. John, he
never liked doing that.

MERTON. I don't like it either. But that's what a doctor's life is
like--to be sent for at all sorts of hours. It would be worse, you know,
if I were never sent for at all.

MRS PLANT. Yes, sir; but it would be less trouble for you, sir.

MERTON. And less money. I could hardly keep up this house if I had no
patients.

MRS PLANT. No, sir. Oh, I quite see that you have to put up with them.

MERTON. I rang for you to say first that I shall be going into Surrey
to-morrow for the day probably.

MRS PLANT. Yes, sir.

MERTON [_evidently hesitating_]. And next week I'm going to Scotland.

MRS PLANT. Are you, sir? You don't often go away so early in the year.

MERTON. I am going to stay at Castle Gairloch.

MRS PLANT [_impressed_]. Indeed, sir--with the Countess? Oh! _indeed_.
You would see a letter that the Countess sent round by hand just after
you went out.

MERTON. Yes, I've seen it. It's about the journey. It's rather a
difficult place to get to, it seems.

MRS PLANT. Indeed, sir.

MERTON. And I also wanted to say to you that I am thinking of making a
change in my arrangements--[_he hesitates_].

MRS PLANT. A change, sir?

MERTON [_hesitates_]. I was going to tell you--the fact is I am thinking
of marrying.

MRS PLANT. Marrying, sir?

MERTON. Why not?

MRS PLANT. No reason at all, sir--on the contrary--but I thought perhaps
you was too comfortable to marry, so to speak. Of course, Dr John, he
always said he thought it better for doctors to marry, though he didn't
carry it out himself, as it were.

MERTON [_rather impatiently_]. Well, it's my marrying I'm talking
about--and I'll tell you when I come back from Scotland who it is.

MRS PLANT. Thank you, sir. The Countess's daughter is a very nice young
lady, isn't she--Lady Betty?

MERTON [_looking at her with a smile_]. Very.

MRS PLANT. Of course, sir, her ladyship--I mean the lady you are going
to marry--will want to make changes in the household?

MERTON. Of course. But we needn't discuss that now.

MRS PLANT. No, sir. To tell the truth, sir, I shouldn't be sorry to have
another maid instead of Jane. Jane's so excitable at times--she's quite
a trouble.

MERTON. Pray, Mrs Plant [_stopping her_] I cannot discuss that now.

MRS PLANT. Just as you like, sir. Dr John, he always liked to look
forward, as it were.

      [_A knock heard at outside door_].

MERTON. Was that a knock?

     [_They listen_].

MRS PLANT. I hope it's not one of those poor people patients--they're
the worst. At nearly ten o'clock at night, it's really a shame.

     [_Knock heard again_].

MRS PLANT. Am I to let anyone in, sir?

MERTON [_hesitating_]. I'd rather not, unless it's someone who is really
ill. Go and see who it is.

      [MRS PLANT _goes out_ R. _to answer door_. MERTON _goes on
      writing his letter at the writing table. After a moment_ MRS
      PLANT _comes in and closes door_].

MRS PLANT. It's a person, sir. She wants to see you very particular.

MERTON. Is she ill?

MRS PLANT. No, sir, she says she isn't--but she looks very strange.

MERTON. Strange?

MRS PLANT. She says you know her, sir.

MERTON. She's some sort of impostor, I suppose. You shouldn't have let
her in. Bring her in, then, and I'll send her away.

      [_Enter_ KIRSTIN, _a knapsack or satchel slung round her. A
      smaller packet, a roll with oilskin round it, hangs by her
      side_].

MERTON. Now, my good woman, what do you want? It's rather late, you
know, to consult a doctor.

     [_She looks at him_].

KIRSTIN. I've not come to consult you, Mr Merton. [_He looks at her
bewildered_]. Don't you know me again? [_She smiles_]. [_He looks at her
trying to remember_]. Don't you remember me in Australia?

MERTON. Australia! You are Kirstin--Kirstin Thwaite!

KIRSTIN. Yes, I'm Kirstin.

MERTON. Kirstin!... [_he holds out his hand_] I'm--I'm--very glad to see
you.

KIRSTIN. Do you remember you said 'Come to London, Kirstin.' You wrote
it down, and where you lived.

MERTON. Yes--I did.

KIRSTIN. And I never thought I'd come. But now I have. I can hardly
believe it.

MERTON. It is unbelievable.

KIRSTIN. My father died five years ago, and I was left alone and I've
run the farm ever since. Then I thought I'd come.

MERTON. But how did you get here?

KIRSTIN. It _was_ a business. I rode sixty miles from Banooga to the
railroad, and then I got into the train and went to Brisbane and then on
to a ship to London. Oh, we was such a long time on the sea. And then
after I got off the ship in the river I asked the way here and I walked.

MERTON. Walked!

KIRSTIN. Yes, it took me a good bit of time. I believe I've been
wandering round and round. There's so many people and things everywhere
that I was sort of mazed. At home I'd know my way by the stars [_she
smiles_] but here they don't seem no use to me.

MERTON. And you had those things to carry.

KIRSTIN. Oh, that's nothing. I'm strong, you know.

MERTON. Well, now you must sit down. You must be very tired. [_She is
going to sit on a small chair_]. No. [_He motions her to an armchair_].
That's more comfortable. [_He draws forward the armchair_].

KIRSTIN. Oh, I don't mind for that--I'm used to a wooden settle at home,
you remember.

MERTON. Yes, I remember. [_With a sudden thought_]. When did you have
anything to eat?

KIRSTIN. Just before I left the ship, about two o'clock.

MERTON. Good heavens, you must be starving. [_Puts out his hand to the
bell, then pauses_].

KIRSTIN [_smiling_]. Not as bad as that. I'm used to being out for long
stretches.

MERTON. You shall have something at once.

KIRSTIN. Thank you. I won't say no. Oh, I'm so glad I've got here! I
thought I never should.

      [MERTON _puts out his hand to the bell again--then hesitates_].

MERTON. Kirstin, where are you ... [_stops_--_hesitates_]. What are you
going to do next?

KIRSTIN [_surprised_]. To do next?

MERTON [_nervously_]. I mean--What were you thinking of doing?

KIRSTIN. I thought I'd live here with you.

MERTON. Oh--yes....

KIRSTIN. You see, I have no one to please but myself now that father's
gone. He died five years ago, and I worked hard ever since and made
money, and saved up. I sold my sheep, and when you was with us you told
me you weren't rich, and wanted more money, so I thought I'd come to
London and bring you some.

MERTON [_staggered_]. Bring _me_--some?

KIRSTIN. Yes, I've brought you £10,000.

MERTON. £10,000!

KIRSTIN. Yes, it's in here [_lifting bundle from round her neck and
putting it on table_]--all in £10 notes. I tied them up in bundles
myself. And I've never left it off me till this minute, night or day. A
rough fellow nearly got it away from me on the road to the railway, but
I soon sent him about his business. [_Taps her pocket and shows end of
revolver_].

MERTON [_gasps_--_tries to recover himself_]. It's very good of you,
Kirstin, to bring it to me, but--but--I can't take that money, you know.
I really can't.

KIRSTIN. You can't take it! But you must--it's for you--that's why I
worked for it all the time--for you to have it and be rich. I've got
plenty for myself. _I_ don't want it--I've got a lot sewn into my belt.

MERTON. But it's impossible! Don't you understand?

KIRSTIN. Impossible? Why?

MERTON. Things are different here.

KIRSTIN. But people like having money, don't they?

MERTON. Of course they do--but I can't take _that_. But I'll explain it
to you in the morning. Now [_passing his hand over his forehead_]
I'm--you're--too tired. I'll tell my housekeeper to take you up to a
bedroom and give you something to eat. [_Rings_].

KIRSTIN [_after he has rung_]. Can't you explain now? I'm not tired
really. I'm never tired, and nothing matters now that I've got here. Oh,
I was so afraid I shouldn't!

     [_Enter_ MRS PLANT].

MERTON [_nervously_]. Mrs Plant, will you get the spare room ready,
please.

MRS PLANT. The spare room, sir? to-night?

MERTON. Yes, for Miss Thwaite, whom I knew in Australia. She ... has
come to visit me.

MRS PLANT. The spare room's ready, all but the sheets. [_Coldly_].

MERTON. And bring her something to eat.

MRS PLANT. To eat? What would you like brought, sir?

KIRSTIN. Oh, I don't mind what it is.

MRS PLANT [_still addressing_ MERTON]. I could bring some tea and bread
and butter, if that would do.

MERTON [_to_ KIRSTIN]. Wouldn't you like something more solid?

KIRSTIN. Oh, no, thank you. That will do quite well.

     [_A pause_].

MERTON. Perhaps, Kirstin, you'd like to go now with Mrs Plant, and she
will show you your room and take you some tea there.

KIRSTIN [_surprised and embarrassed_]. Yes--if you'd like me to go now.
[_She stretches out her hand towards the bundle_].

MERTON. It's rather a risk to leave that about. Hadn't Mrs Plant better
lock it up in the safe? [_He is about to hand it to_ MRS PLANT].

KIRSTIN [_snatching it hastily_]. No, no--I'll keep it for the night,
thank you.

MRS PLANT [_stiffly_]. Just as you like.

KIRSTIN [_to_ MERTON]. I shall see you in the morning, shan't I?

MERTON. Yes, of course. [MRS PLANT _is standing at the door, waiting
for_ KIRSTIN _to go out_]. Good-night then, dear Kirstin. Mrs Plant will
see that you have everything that you want.

KIRSTIN. Thank you. [MRS PLANT _is entirely unresponsive_]. [_Then to_
MERTON _as she goes out_] I can't hardly believe that I'm here.

MERTON [_trying to be cordial_]. It _is_ wonderful, isn't it?

KIRSTIN. Good-night.

MRS PLANT [_coldly_]. This way, please.

      [_She goes out, followed by_ KIRSTIN. MERTON _alone walks up and
      down_].

MERTON. Good God!

      [_He sits down in the chair, covers his face with his hands. He
      takes up_ LADY GAIRLOCH'S _letter and looks at it--then takes up
      his pen to go on with his letter--throws it down_].


CURTAIN.


SCENE III.

SCENE: _The same, next morning._

[MERTON _looking worried and anxious comes hastily into the room and
takes up his letters that are lying in a pile, evidently having come
by the morning post. He looks through them as he stands. Enter_ MRS
PLANT].

MRS PLANT [_stands silent for a moment; he looks up, then goes on with
his letters_]. Might I speak to you for a moment, sir?

MERTON [_irritably_]. I'm sorry, Mrs Plant--not now--I haven't a
moment.

MRS PLANT. It's only that I don't know what to do for the best. [MERTON
_has sat down and is cutting open his letters, throwing things into
waste-paper basket, etc_]. If it were only for one night it wouldn't
matter so much.

MERTON. One night! What do you mean?

MRS PLANT. It's about the spare room, sir. At least--at least--Jane's in
such a state.

MERTON. I can't discuss Jane now.

MRS PLANT. She's been so dreadfully frightened because she went into the
room and that--person--pointed a revolver at her. [MERTON _looks up
quickly, perturbed_]. And now she is shrieking and carrying on so that I
am afraid people will hear her in the street.

MERTON [_dashing his letters down_]. Shrieking? What hysterical fools
women are. Where is she?

MRS PLANT. In the basement, sir.

      [MERTON _goes out hastily and angrily_. MRS PLANT _alone,
      listens. Shakes her head. A ring at the door._ MRS PLANT _goes
      out to open, leaving door open. Then comes in again._]

[MRS PLANT _shows in_ LADY GAIRLOCH _and her daughter_].

LADY GAIRLOCH [_smiling, to_ MRS PLANT]. We've come very early, I fear.
Will you tell Dr Merton that we are leaving for Scotland to-day instead
of to-morrow, and we have come in on our way to King's Cross as I wanted
to explain something to him about his journey when he comes to us next
week? Is he very busy? I won't keep him a moment.

MRS PLANT. He will be here directly, my lady. He's just speaking to
someone.

LADY GAIRLOCH. Oh, don't disturb him. We have a few minutes to spare. We
are a little earlier than I thought.

MRS PLANT. Thank you, my lady. [_She goes out_].

LADY GAIRLOCH. Betty!... I'm rather agitated--I can't help it.

BETTY [_smiling_]. About our coming so early?

LADY GAIRLOCH. About the whole thing.

BETTY. Dear mother, you needn't be.

LADY GAIRLOCH. I wonder if we know him well enough.

BETTY. Surely we saw enough of him during Mary's illness to know him
very well indeed, and after all, since he saved my sister's life I ought
to be grateful to him, and perhaps something more. [_Smiling_].

LADY GAIRLOCH. Yes, I suppose he did save her life--at any rate she got
well when he was attending her.

BETTY. Oh, mother, of course he saved it. And how delightful he was all
through that anxious time.

LADY GAIRLOCH. Are you quite sure of yourself?

BETTY. Absolutely.

LADY GAIRLOCH. Because I do feel that by asking him to stay at Gairloch
we are giving him an answer.

BETTY [_smiling happily_]. Yes, before he has definitely asked the
question!

LADY GAIRLOCH. I think he has been afraid of what the answer would be.

BETTY [_smiling_]. He need have no fear.

LADY GAIRLOCH [_with a smile and a sigh_]. Well, no one will be able to
say it's a brilliant marriage, or a worldly marriage.

BETTY. I'm not a worldly person. Nor is he, I am sure. There is nothing
small or mean about him.

LADY GAIRLOCH. I wonder what your father would have said to it.

BETTY. I believe my dear father would have wanted me to be happy
whatever kind of marriage it was. Come, darling mother, don't have any
more misgivings. I feel as certain of myself as--that the sun is shining
in at that window!

      [LADY GAIRLOCH _smiles and kisses her. They go towards the
      window at the back, into which the sun is shining_].

BETTY. Even the view from Devonshire Street looks passable on such a
morning as this!

      [_As they are standing at the back window looking out, so that
      the door in front room is hidden from them_, MERTON _bursts in,
      followed by_ JANE].

JANE [_violently_]. I've always been used to be respectable, sir, and I
won't stay, not another hour, in the house with that female as you
brought in to sleep last night. And then her trying to shoot me dead
when I went into the room! I leave your service to-night, sir, and I
won't stay where there are such goings on.

MERTON [_furious_]. Look here, if you want to go, go to the devil! and
be damned! Not another word will I hear. [_He pushes her out and shuts
the door, turns back into the room_]. Damn it all! What shall I do?

      [LADY GAIRLOCH _and her daughter look at one another,
      horrified. They come forward._ MERTON _starts on seeing them,
      and stands rooted to the ground. He recovers himself and
      speaks in his usual tones_].

MERTON. Lady Gairloch! I didn't know you were here. I ought to have been
told. I am so sorry to have kept you waiting. [_He shakes hands with
her, and then with_ BETTY]. Won't you sit down?

LADY GAIRLOCH. Oh, thank you, we really have hardly a moment [_they
remain standing, embarrassed_]. We came in on our way to King's
Cross to tell you about the cross-country journey to Gairloch. Your
housekeeper said you were speaking to somebody and that you would be
here directly. So I told her not to disturb you. [_A pause_].

MERTON. I'm afraid you must have heard that very unpleasant scene I had
with one of my maids.

LADY GAIRLOCH [_not quite knowing what to say_]. We couldn't help
hearing.

MERTON. She's a hysterical sort of girl.

LADY GAIRLOCH. Oh, is she?

MERTON [_attempting to speak lightly_]. It's rather difficult sometimes
for a bachelor to deal with his household.

      [_Looks smiling at_ LADY GAIRLOCH, _who also smiles, but looks
      uncomfortable. He is standing with his back to the door. It
      opens slowly while he is speaking and_ KIRSTIN _stands in the
      doorway_. DR MERTON _sees_ LADY GAIRLOCH _looking at the door_.
      _He turns round and sees_ KIRSTIN. _She comes forward a step and
      looks at_ MERTON _with an appealing smile_].

MERTON. Oh, Kirstin--[_then he turns to_ LADY GAIRLOCH]--This is Miss
Thwaite who came last night. Kirstin, I am sorry, I'm very much engaged
just now, would you mind going to your room again till I call you?
[_Goes and opens the door._ KIRSTIN _goes out silently, looking at him
as she goes. He comes back into the room--an embarrassed silence_]

LADY GAIRLOCH. Miss Thwaite, did you say?

MERTON [_hesitating_]. Yes, I knew her in Australia. She arrived in
England yesterday, and she came here for the night.

LADY GAIRLOCH [_coldly_]. I see.

BETTY [_to help him out_]. From Australia? A long way.

MERTON. Very--she comes from the wilds, you know. [_Talking as though
to cover his embarrassment_]. She's quite uncivilised, really.

BETTY. Is she quite in her right mind? She looked so strange.

MERTON [_catching at suggestion_]. No, I don't think she is quite
right--that's the difficulty.

LADY GAIRLOCH. It must be a grave responsibility for you.

MERTON. It really is. To tell the truth I was utterly taken aback when
she appeared--I was rather horrified, in fact. [_Making up his mind_].
It's rather a long story--[_Enter_ KIRSTIN].

MERTON. Kirstin.... [_she stops him_].

KIRSTIN. You needn't to send me away again. I'm going off myself. But
first I want to tell you that I've heard what you was saying. I didn't
know where to go as your housekeeper was upstairs--and so I just waited
in the passage and I couldn't help hearing what you said. I have
terrible good ears, as you know, and I heard you tell these two ladies
that I'm not in my right mind. I suppose that means I'm mad. [_To_ LADY
GAIRLOCH]. I want to tell you that I'm not mad.

      [LADY BETTY, _evidently alarmed, draws nearer to her mother_.
      LADY GAIRLOCH _not quite sure_].

LADY GAIRLOCH. I am afraid, Dr Merton, we must not wait any longer.

KIRSTIN. Will you wait for one moment while I tell you the truth,
instead of what you've been told? I _am_ in my right mind, and it's a
lie to say I am not--even if you do think I look so. I want to tell you
why I came here. I came because he asked me.

      [LADY GAIRLOCH _starts, and looks at_ MERTON _for
      corroboration_].

Fifteen years ago he was nearly killed in Australia. My father and I
found him lying by the roadside and picked him up for dead. We took him
home and kept him and looked after him. When we had made him well and he
went away back to England, he told me I was to come and see him in
London, at his house. I am a rough woman and know nothing of fine folks'
ways, and I didn't know but they spoke the truth like us. So I came.

      [BETTY _draws near to her mother and looks at her as much as to
      say, 'Can this be true?'_]

KIRSTIN [_answering_ BETTY'S _gesture_]. It's all true. Here is the
paper he wrote out for me with his name on it, and the street he lived
in, and the number of his house and all for me to come. It's got very
rubbed out--it was written fifteen years ago, you see. [_Reads aloud
from paper_] 'Henry Merton, 147 Devonshire Street, London. Come to
London, Kirstin. Don't forget.'

      [_She hands the paper to_ LADY GAIRLOCH, _who reads it to
      herself_, BETTY _looking over her shoulder_].

LADY GAIRLOCH [_returning paper to_ KIRSTIN]. Yes, I see. [_A pause_].

KIRSTIN. I didn't forget. He did.

LADY GAIRLOCH [_looks at watch_]. Come, Betty, it is more than time for
us to go. [_They go towards door_].

MERTON. Lady Gairloch, I should like to explain--

LADY GAIRLOCH. I'm afraid we really mustn't stay now, or we shall miss
our train.

MERTON [_at door with them_]. Then ... you kindly said you would tell me
about the cross-country journey?

LADY GAIRLOCH [_after hesitating_]. I will write to you.

MERTON [_in a quick whisper to_ BETTY _as she goes out_]. May I tell
you the whole story when I come to Scotland?

BETTY [_with a shade of constraint in her manner_]. I want you to tell
me.

KIRSTIN [_who has overheard_]. Oh! [_She looks after them as much as to
say, He is going to tell her about me_].

     [MERTON _re-enters room, agitated_].

KIRSTIN. Oh, those things you said about me! they're too dreadful to
think of.

MERTON. I'm sorry I said them, and I'm sorry you heard them. But what of
the things you said about me, before that girl--the girl I want to
marry?

KIRSTIN [_half to herself_]. To marry?

MERTON. Yes, to marry. Why should it surprise you?

KIRSTIN. I never thought of that.

MERTON. You have made her believe all sorts of things about me--that I'm
an ungrateful cad, and that I had forgotten all you did for me.

KIRSTIN [_simply_]. But you had forgotten.

MERTON. I had forgotten till last night that I had written that paper, I
must admit--but, after all, it was a sort of joke [_she looks at him_].
I never for a moment imagined you would come, and you said you
wouldn't....

KIRSTIN. Oh, if I hadn't! But I thought you were so different. I thought
you'd remember--and be like you were in Australia. Oh, I didn't know
you'd be like this and that you would be--oh! _horrified_ when I came!
Oh, if I could forget _that_! I almost can't believe it now. It's so
dreadful--because I had believed something so different--when you was
over there with us. I thought there could be no one else like you. I'd
never seen such a fine gentleman before, and I thought there was no one
else so clever or so good or so handsome. Though father he was always
saying you was just like other folk, neither better nor worse. Oh, all
those years that I've lived for you and thought you'd be glad when I
came. When my father died and I was left, the first thing I thought was
'At last! Now I can go. Some day I'll go to him.' And you had told me
you were poor and hadn't enough money and wanted more--and I made up
my mind I'd bring you some. And I worked day after day--I worked that
hard, to make money for you--and I made it, and I saved it, and when
I had sold my sheep and got enough, I brought it to you and every day
and every hour of that fearful long journey I've thought of when I
should get here, and how strange it would be--and I should be rather
frightened. But then I thought you'd be so glad to see me, and so glad I
had brought you so much money. And then I got here ... and you weren't
so very glad. I knew that last night. But I didn't know you were
horrified. And you wouldn't take the money I had worked so hard to get.
And you say I've spoilt everything--and it's all been for nothing, all
these years--worse than nothing.

MERTON. Kirstin! What can I say.... I know it looks as if I had been
such a rotten beast--but--

KIRSTIN [_stopping him_]. You needn't to say no more. I'm going
away--I'm going back again. I'd best be in the wilds like you said. I
can't understand what people are like here.

MERTON. No, no--you can't go away like that--I must know what you are
going to do--I must see what we can arrange. [KIRSTIN _shakes her head_.
MERTON _perturbed, looks at his watch_]. I was going out of London this
morning--I ought to be leaving now. [_Hesitates, then makes up his
mind_]. I'll telephone and say I'm prevented. I shan't be five minutes.
Wait here for me. [_Goes out hastily_].

      [KIRSTIN _alone, looks at the paper again, reads aloud '147
      Devonshire Street, London'--looks round her as if taking a last
      look at the house, puts away the paper, takes from her neck the
      bale of notes which was still slung round her, and puts it on
      the table, opens door with precaution, listens, then goes
      swiftly out. Street door heard shutting_].

SLOW CURTAIN.

THE END.



THE PARACHUTE.

A Comedy in One Act.


_Characters in the order of their appearance_:

  MRS MAITLAND.
  MARY (_her daughter_).
  TOM WELBURN.
  CANON HARTLEY (_the Rector of the Parish_).
  MRS WELBURN.

SCENE: MRS MAITLAND'S _little house, looking on to a village green_. MRS
MAITLAND _knitting at a small table_ R., _a book open beside her_. MARY
_doing nothing, sitting on chair down stage from window_ L.


MRS MAITLAND. My dear child, what is the matter? You never seem able to
settle to anything now.

MARY. The truth is, mamma, I'm bored.

MRS MAITLAND. Bored, when after our long separation during the war
you've come home to live with your mother?

MARY. That's just it.

MRS MAITLAND. What's just it?

MARY. I've come home to live with my mother.

MRS MAITLAND. Mary! Do you mean to say you don't like it?

MARY. Not at all.

MRS MAITLAND. Oh, how dreadful this is! Oh, the girls of the present
age!

MARY. That's what you're always saying, mamma, but I can't help being
of the present day, can I? I'd cheerfully be of another time if I could.
[_Going to window_]. Nothing ever happens here--nothing exciting, and I,
who have been a V.A.D. in France during the war, and have conveyed
wounded officers by myself to hospitals at midnight [MRS MAITLAND _holds
up her hands in horror_] look out of the window for months and see
nothing at all. [_Goes aimlessly to window--gives a cry_].

MRS MAITLAND. What is it?

MARY. Something is happening at last! Look, look, something is coming
down from the sky. Oh, what can it be? Yes, it's a parachute and a man
hanging to it. He'll come down in the garden; I must render first aid
quick.

      [_Rushes out_].

MRS MAITLAND [_agitated, goes to window, looks out, starts_]. Yes. He
has fallen! Oh, dear! Oh, I can't bear that kind of sight. He must be
knocked to pieces. [_Covers her face with her hands_]. Mary has picked
him up; she is wonderful.

      [_Goes to door_ L. MARY _appears at door_ L, _supporting_
      WELBURN].

MRS MAITLAND. Oh, Mary, is he dead?

WELBURN [_speaking very feebly_]. No, no, I think not--thank you very
much.

MARY. He is suffering from shock. [_In a business-like tone_]. Lie down,
warmth, and quiet--cover extremities.

WELBURN [_feebly_]. Yes, quite right--keep me warm and quiet and cover
my extremities.

MARY. Now you are not to talk.

WELBURN. Very well, I won't. But I must tell you in case you should ask
me--I remember nothing before it happened.

MARY. Of course, that's very customary with an accident.

WELBURN [_emphatically_]. It's more than that--I'm so anxious there
should be no mistake about it--I've quite lost my memory. I've forgotten
who I am--clean forgotten--it's no use your asking me, it would only
excite me.

MRS MAITLAND. No, we won't, of course, my dear young man.

WELBURN. I like being called young man. It's a compliment when one's
turned forty.

MARY [_alert_]. Oh, you do know that?

WELBURN [_alarmed_]. No, I don't. What did I say?

MARY. You said you were turned forty.

WELBURN. No, no, I couldn't have said that if I don't know who I am. I
have no idea.

MRS MAITLAND. It's too sad, really. The poor fellow! He may have a wife
and family, and we can't tell them he is here.

WELBURN. No, no, you can't. I should be sure to remember my wife if I
had one. Don't tell me about it--it will excite me.

MARY. Mother, he really must be kept quiet.

MRS MAITLAND. Oh, dear, it's all so mysterious and disquieting, Mary. I
shall go round to the Rectory and tell the Canon about it. He is so
wise.

MARY [_anxious to get her away_]. Yes, do, mamma. I'm sure that will be
the best thing.

MRS MAITLAND [_going out_]. I shall be back in a minute. I shan't put on
my hat. I'll just take my parasol to look respectable.

WELBURN. Where is she going?

MARY. To the Rectory. It is just across the green.

WELBURN. That sounds very soothing--a Rectory across the green.

MARY. Yes. Now don't talk any more; try to be quite quiet. Are you
comfortable?

WELBURN. Immensely.

MARY. Now close your eyes and I daresay you will go to sleep.

WELBURN. Yes, that's what I always do when I go to sleep--I close my
eyes first.

MARY [_humouring him_]. Of course; then do it now.

WELBURN [_jumping up with a shriek_]. Ah, ha! you there! You standing
there!

MARY. What is it? Why are you speaking so loud?

WELBURN. You don't think I'm mad? Don't you mind being left alone with
someone who has dropped from the sky and has lost his memory?

MARY. Not in the least. I dealt with many worse things during the war.

WELBURN. Admirable one! Have you a good head, a ready brain, a
resourceful mind?

MARY. Yes, I have all those.

WELBURN. I'll tell you what I want--I need a confederate.

MARY. What?

WELBURN. Oh, this time you think I'm mad, don't you?

MARY. Well, something like it.

WELBURN. Not in the least. I'm as sane as you are. Listen, I must have a
confederate to get me out of this hole.

MARY. What hole?

WELBURN. Why, my disappearing from my home, jumping from an aeroplane,
and tumbling into your garden.

MARY. Your home! But I thought you had forgotten it!

WELBURN. Nothing of the kind.

MARY. Not lost your memory?

WELBURN. Of course not. That was only to put you off the scent.

MARY. Off the scent?

WELBURN. Yes, yes, yes. Now look here, my dear young lady--can I trust
you?

MARY [_speaking very calmly_]. Certainly.

WELBURN. Very well then--this is my sad story. I'm tired of life--I'm
tired of the world and of all the things that are happening in it.

MARY. And you wish to commit suicide? Yes, that is a very common
symptom.

WELBURN. Not at all! On the contrary. I don't mean to take my own
life--that is, I want to take it for my own and nobody else's. And my
wife will insist on my sharing hers. It's a perfect mania with her, and
I can't bear it any longer and I mean to disappear. She has opinions
about everything in creation, and I have none!

MARY. None? That must be very dull.

WELBURN. Dull? If I were left to myself I shouldn't be dull for a
moment. I have two cherished pursuits--golf and music. I play golf and I
play the 'cello. And that would be enough for me. I don't want to know
about the things they talk about in the papers. My wife does. She went
to College, and a woman always comes away from the 'Varsity with her
head chock full of ideas--I never knew one who didn't--it's something
awful. And my wife has views about every blessed thing that's mentioned
in the papers, and she will talk to me about them all. I can't stand it
any longer. I don't want to hear about Politics or Commerce or New Art
or Advanced Science, or the rates or the taxes or the Axes or
inflammation of the lung or inflation of the currency or the Moplahs or
the blacks or the whites or the browns, or the East and the West, and
the Tigris, and the Thames, and Ireland, and Mesopotamia, and the Dublin
Parliament whose name I can't pronounce, and the London Parliament whose
doings I can't follow, and Bridge, and the film, and the censors, and
the traffic, and the Czecho-Slovaks, and the Japanese, and the
Murmanskis, and Bolsheviskis, and the Colonies, and the bank rate, and
deferred shares, and preferred shares, and committees, and conferences,
and Coalitions, or France, or Belgium, or Italy, or America, and the
Colonies, and the Dominion, and Australia, and housing questions, and
the servant problem, and the League of Nations, and amalgamations, or
reparations, or war babies, or adoption, or the Church, or the stage, or
the Cubists, or the psycho-analysts, or the unemployed, and the doles,
and the Poles, the South Pole, or the North Pole, or the Polish Poles,
or the telephone, or the penny postage, and the trams, and the strikes,
and the weather, and prize-fighting, and the football matches. She has
views on 'em all! And she tries to make me share them by suggestion. Can
you wonder that I fly?

MARY. Oh, is that why you came by aeroplane?

WELBURN. No, no, you mistake. I use the word fly in a metaphorical
sense. I mean, can you wonder that I keep trying to escape?

MARY. Oh, you have done it before?

WELBURN. I have tried four times. The first time by train, the next by
steamer, the third by car, the fourth on foot, and every time that too
devoted woman has got me back. The moment I disappear she circulates a
description of me and I'm found at once. It's up in all the police
offices. 'A man of good appearance, looking between 35 and 40, of
middle height, pleasant and genial countenance. Probably suffering from
loss of memory; answers to the name of Tom.' You see that's enough to
identify me at once.

MARY. Then do you suffer from loss of memory?

WELBURN. Of course I don't. But when I'm found I have to say something,
so I pretend I don't know who I am.

MARY. And what happens next?

WELBURN [_groaning_]. Well, then she tries bringing my memory back by
suggestion! And when I can't bear that any longer, I pretend I've got it
back. And now this last--the fifth--time I've tried a new way. I've come
by aeroplane and jumped out.

MARY. That ought to cover up your tracks.

WELBURN. Yes, I'll tell you what I did. I have a pal who is mad on
flying and who was going to do a stunt in Norfolk, somewhere near King's
Lynn, so I went to Paddington and took a ticket for a small station due
west of London to put them off the scent--a place I saw in Bradshaw
called Camperton.

MARY. Camperton! Oh, yes.

WELBURN. Never heard of it before. We went off north-east--at least I
hope we did, but I believe the fellow lost his way or something went
wrong. He was turning round and round and his confounded things made
such a row I couldn't make him hear, so I thought I'd chance it and I
jumped out. I have practised jumping with his parachute several times
before. And now I haven't an idea where I am, but a good bit north-east
of London, I hope.

MARY. Wretched man, you are five miles from Camperton.

WELBURN. Good heavens! Then I'm undone! She'll come down in the car and
find me as sure as I'm alive. Oh, my dear girl, what am I to do? You'll
help me, won't you?

MARY. Of course I will. She'll never think of looking for you here.

WELBURN. Won't she!

MARY [_looking from window_]. Oh, there's my mother! and the Rector
coming. Quick, quick, lie down again.

      [WELBURN _lies down and is covered_].

WELBURN. Who is the Rector?

MARY. Canon Hartley.

WELBURN. Hartley--not Bob Hartley?

MARY. Yes, his name is Robert.

WELBURN. Good Lord! He was with me at Oxford. We used to make music
together, and he used to pretend I played out of tune. Good gracious,
what are we to do?

MARY. You be quiet, and remember you have lost your memory, and I'll
play up. I'm a great authority on shocks and accidents.

      [_Enter the_ RECTOR _and_ MRS MAITLAND].

RECTOR [_heartily, but speaking with a little precaution_]. Well, Miss
Mary, at work again! at work again!

MARY. Take care, Rector, I think he's dozing.

RECTOR. He's lost his memory, Mrs Maitland tells me.

MARY. Entirely.

RECTOR. These cases are most distressing. Have you no clue at all to
where he came from or who he is?

MARY [_firmly_]. None whatever. The only thing we can do is to let him
lie still for the present.

      [WELBURN _groans_].

RECTOR. He seems to be suffering, but it is uncertain. He may be quite
unconscious that he is groaning. I have seen a good many of these cases
and have indeed had a good deal of success in dealing with them. I
should like to see this man, that I may judge for myself of his
condition.

MARY. No, no, Rector--really if he is disturbed I will not answer for
the consequences.

RECTOR [_stiffly_]. Really, my dear young lady, may I say that you take
a little too much on yourself. It is most important to do everything we
possibly can to prove this poor fellow's identity. As Rector of this
parish I feel it to be my duty to investigate this case. [_Goes toward_
WELBURN, _and lifts up the cover_. WELBURN _rolls over with his face
away from him and groans_].

RECTOR [_soothingly_]. Now, now, my poor friend, I won't disturb you.
[WELBURN _groans again_]. I only want to help.

WELBURN. Keep off! Get out! Go away! [_rolls over_].

RECTOR. Do you know, I believe I know that voice!

MARY. You are exciting him dreadfully.

RECTOR. All the same, I think I know this man, and I must see his face.
[_He bends over_ WELBURN _and succeeds in seeing his face_]. Yes, I do!
Isn't that amazing!

MARY and MRS MAITLAND. You know him?

RECTOR. Yes, unless I'm strangely mistaken, we were at Oxford together;
his name is Welburn.

MRS MAITLAND. How providential!

MARY. But are you sure you are not strangely mistaken?

RECTOR. My dear young lady, older people are right sometimes.

MARY. Everyone is mistaken at times.

MRS MAITLAND. Not the Rector.

RECTOR. It is my duty to do what we can to help my poor friend back to
his normal condition. I shall interrogate him quite quietly--nothing to
excite him. Welburn! Welburn! [WELBURN _looks at him vaguely_].

WELBURN. What does that mean?

RECTOR. Isn't that your name? Welburn, I said.

WELBURN. I can't remember what my name is. I don't know. I can't
imagine.

RECTOR [_to the others_]. There isn't a doubt that it's Welburn. [_To_
WELBURN]. Look here, old boy, don't you remember the good old times we
had at Oxford when we used to make music together?

WELBURN. Music? No.

RECTOR. Don't you remember the Beethoven Sonata in A and that place in
the last movement where you always got that E on the A string out of
tune--

WELBURN [_loudly_]. Out of tune!

RECTOR [_excited_]. There, you see he remembers! Yes, yes; you remember
that E.

WELBURN [_catching himself up_]. What E?

RECTOR. The E on the A string.

WELBURN. What's an A string? Why is there an E on it?

RECTOR. You know that surely: you used to be such a good 'cello player.

WELBURN. Good what?

RECTOR. 'Cello player--this sort of thing, you know. [_Pretending to
play on a 'cello._ WELBURN _looks at him vaguely, then tries to imitate
him_].

WELBURN. Oh, is that what it is? Like that? No, I don't remember. Why
should I have done like that?

MARY. I'm sure this must be doing him harm.

RECTOR. My dear girl, it is not. Leave him to me. He had a glimmer just
now of recollection. It may gradually come back to him.--Come now, you
remember the pretty girls at Somerville?

      [WELBURN _shakes his head and groans again_].

RECTOR. Come now, nothing to groan at in that. Do you remember that
charmer in pink? Who got a First, by Jove!

WELBURN. A First! [_Groans_].

RECTOR. Remember that?

WELBURN. Remember what?

RECTOR. The girl at Somerville.

WELBURN [_blankly_]. I don't know. The girl where?

RECTOR. At Somerville, dear friend, at Somerville. [_To the others_]. It
needs an infinite patience and kindness to deal with these sad cases. At
Somerville, the ladies' college, you know.

WELBURN. I don't know.

RECTOR. And yet at that time you seemed interested in her.

WELBURN. I tell you I don't remember. I remember nothing! I've lost my
memory and I've lost my senses, and I don't know who I am or how I came
here or anything. And I don't know who you are and why you're going on
talking.

RECTOR. Quite so, quite so, don't excite yourself, pray.

WELBURN. It's you who are exciting me with all this chattering and
wanting me to remember this and remember that. You're doing me a great
deal of harm, and I tell you what, if I don't know anything that
happened in the past I do know what's going to happen in the future, and
that is that I shall punch your head in a minute if you ask me any more
questions--so now! [_Behaves as if he were mad_].

      [_He jumps up_].

RECTOR [_retreating_]. Oh, pray, dear sir, keep calm. [_Trying to
smile_]. No need for you to punch my head or any one else's.

WELBURN. I'm not so sure.

RECTOR [_to the others_]. What a sad condition to find him in. But there
isn't a doubt that he's Welburn.

WELBURN. What's that you're saying--that I'm Welburn? What's that? Don't
call me names. You take care not to say it again.

RECTOR. My dear sir, I won't say it if you don't like it. I'll leave you
to rest a little longer, and I will call again.

WELBURN. No, don't you call again, please.

RECTOR. Dear sir, don't be agitated.

MARY. Now you lie down again, and you shall not be disturbed.

WELBURN. Thank you very much. [_Lies down_--MARY _covers him and he
draws the things over his head and groans_].

MRS MAITLAND. Oh, Rector, what do you think about it? I do depend on
your advice.

RECTOR. My dear lady, you are positively trembling. These harrowing
scenes are not good for you. Come out into the air for a few minutes.
Walk across the green with me to the Rectory; the air will do you good.

MRS MAITLAND [_faintly_]. Yes, I think I will. [_To_ MARY]. We are
within call if you want us.

MARY [_ironically_]. Thank you, mamma. [MARY _watches them out of
window_]. They're gone.

      [WELBURN _sits up_].

WELBURN. The old fool badgering me about Oxford! That was an
inspiration, wasn't it, pretending to be mad. How was it? Was that all
right?

MARY. Splendid.

WELBURN. Upon my word, I feel almost mad in reality when I think of his
saying that I played out of tune, and raking up the Somerville girls,
and all that.

MARY. Had you really forgotten the charmer in pink?

WELBURN. Forgotten her! [_Groans_]. How could I? I married her.

MARY. What! Was she--

WELBURN. My wife? Of course she was--of course she _is_--that's the
point I mind most.

MARY. She must be very clever if she took a First.

WELBURN. That's just it. She is--that's the awful part. Now I'm not
clever, you know. I didn't take a First. She knows that, so she thinks
she has a better head than I have, and upon my soul, I don't know what
to do about it.

MARY. About your head?

WELBURN. No, hers--I mean about hers and mine together. That's the
mistake--

MARY. But you're trying to remedy it, by separating then?

WELBURN. Yes, but I have never succeeded. That's where the brains come
in, you see. Each time I try to get away and hide from her, she gets me
back again. Oh! if only I can pull it off this time.

      [WELBURN _gets up, pulls his coat down, etc., and begins
      strolling up and down, his hands in his pockets while he thinks
      it out_].

MARY. Take care you're not seen from outside. It's all right--they're
still talking at the Rectory gate. They're both wondering evidently what
to do next.

WELBURN. I say, it's really awfully funny, isn't it?

      [_They both laugh_].

MARY. I must say it is. But it'll take some doing, you know. What is
your plan?

WELBURN. A very simple one. I shall be left some time with you to look
after me, and when that happens you will avert your eyes for a moment,
and I shall open the door and walk out. That's always the best thing to
do when you're shut up anywhere if it can be managed.

MARY. If! Yes! But I'm game to do anything.

WELBURN. Look here, you really are one of the best. How can I ever thank
you!

MARY. Well, really, I'm awfully grateful to you for having brought
excitement into our lives.

WELBURN. Oh, they are coming back this way. Then I must subside again.
[_Jumps on to couch._ MARY _covers him_].

MARY [_looking from window_]. Oh! this really is a wonderful day.
Something else is happening. There's a car driving through the village--

WELBURN [_anxiously_]. A car?

MARY. It's going very slowly--it's going to stop.

WELBURN. It's detectives! I'm sure! I'm lost.

MARY. No, it's being driven by a lady--she's alone.

WELBURN. A lady! [_Gets under the rug_].

MARY. She is looking at a map. Now she is speaking to my mother. She
must be asking the way--

WELBURN. Your mother will bring her in here, and I'm a dead man.

MARY. Yes--my mother is bringing her in.

      [_Enter_ MRS MAITLAND _and the_ RECTOR, _with_ MRS WELBURN].

MRS MAITLAND. Mary, I want the large scale map. This lady is asking the
way to Camperton.

MRS WELBURN. Thank you very much. [_She is tall and masculine looking,
and speaks in a deep voice_].

MRS WELBURN [_looking at_ WELBURN]. You have an invalid here?

MRS MAITLAND. Yes, this poor gentleman fell from an aeroplane into our
garden--at least he jumped from a parachute. He might have been killed.

MRS WELBURN. How much is he hurt?

MRS MAITLAND. I don't think he is very much hurt, but he is suffering
from shock and loss of memory, and ought to be kept absolutely quiet.

MRS WELBURN. Loss of memory, indeed? I have a good deal of experience
in dealing with loss of memory, as a near relation of mine frequently
suffers from it. But I find that it always yields to suggestion. Have
you tried that?

MARY. We have not. From the patient's condition it was evidently most
essential that he should be kept quiet.

MRS WELBURN. Suggestion would do him no harm. You can suggest to a
patient that he should be calm, and he becomes calm--and then after that
it is very rare that loss of memory does not yield to further
treatment--at least that is my experience.

RECTOR. I believe it would be a good thing to try suggestion in this
case.

MRS WELBURN. Ah! You believe in it too? I am glad to hear this from one
of your cloth.

RECTOR. I don't know that I do in every case. But this one has special
interest for me, and I am anxious to try everything, as I know this
man, although he has not so far recognised me.

MARY. He doesn't remember who he is himself.

MRS WELBURN. Quite a common symptom. But it is an extremely important
factor in the case that you recognise him. Are you quite certain?

RECTOR. Absolutely. We were at Oxford together--his name is Welburn.

MRS WELBURN [_slowly_]. His name is Welburn? So is mine!

ALL. Yours!

MRS WELBURN [_advancing to couch and uncovering_ WELBURN]. Of course,
yes, that's my husband. He is always doing it. Thomas!

      [WELBURN _groans without moving_].

MRS WELBURN. Yes, that's the way he groans in his sleep when he has one
of these attacks. He has had four of them--and he wanders away from home
unconscious of his actions.

MRS MAITLAND. Oh, how sad!

MRS WELBURN. But he always recovers. Thomas! [_Shakes him_].

MARY. Oh, I'm afraid you will do him harm.

MRS WELBURN. Young lady, I am much obliged to you for your kind care of
my husband, but now you had better leave him to me.

RECTOR. Quite so. [_He and_ MRS MAITLAND _nod at one another
approvingly_].

      [MRS WELBURN _pulls_ WELBURN _up--he sits up and looks blankly
      at her without recognition_].

MRS WELBURN. Thomas! Do you know me?

WELBURN. I don't. Who are you?

MRS WELBURN. I am your wife.

WELBURN. My wife? I don't think I've got one. At least I can't remember.
[_As though trying to collect his thoughts_].

MRS WELBURN. Oh, you will remember presently. You'll get your memory
back all right. Now look at me. Look straight into my eyes.

WELBURN. I don't like looking at you.

MRS WELBURN. He has these delusions at times, but they pass off. I will
take him away with me in the car, at once, back to his home. Come,
Thomas.

WELBURN. Where do you want me to go? [_To_ MARY, _with a forlorn hope_].
Can't you help me? I don't like going away with this stranger.

MARY [_to_ MRS WELBURN]. Do you mind my saying that we have no proof
that this is your husband?

MRS MAITLAND. Oh, my dear Mary, it is so evident!

MRS WELBURN. No--now that was a sensible remark for a girl. Girls are
generally foolish. You shall have proof. I can tell you what the motto
and crest are on that signet ring he wears: the motto is _Semper Volans_
and the crest is a swallow. Though a goose would have been more
appropriate. [_Takes his hand_]. There you may see for yourself.

RECTOR. So it is. Oh, my dear madam, we have every confidence in you,
and we have only to congratulate you and your husband on being brought
together by such a wonderful chance.

MRS WELBURN. Thank you very much. Come then, dear, we must go.
[_Helping_ WELBURN _up_]. Lean on my arm--I daresay you still feel
shaky.

      [WELBURN _looks round him desperately, then thrusts his arm
      through hers. They go towards the door_].

MRS MAITLAND. Poor fellow!

MARY. Poor fellow, indeed!

RECTOR. I do hope he will soon recover his memory.

MRS WELBURN. I am quite sure he will. It always yields to suggestion.

      [WELBURN _gives a loud groan, with one more look at_ MARY. _They
      go out_].

CURTAIN _as they pass out_.



A SECOND-CLASS DUKE.


The plot of this piece was suggested to the writer by the late Charles
Brookfield. Under the title of _An Underground Journey_, it was
successfully produced at a benefit matinée at the Comedy Theatre in
February, 1893, with the following cast:

  THE DUKE OF PECKHAM RYE       CYRIL MAUDE.
  A RAILWAY GUARD              WILLIAM WYES.
  MRS JENNINGS                 FANNY BROUGH.

It has now been re-written and brought up to date.

  F. B.

  1922.



A SECOND-CLASS DUKE.


_Characters._

  THE DUKE OF PECKHAM RYE.
  TOM (_his friend_).
  MRS JENNINGS.
  A TICKET COLLECTOR.
  A RAILWAY GUARD.

SCENE: _A second-class railway carriage on the S.E. Railway._

_At Victoria Station, S.E. Line. A railway carriage seen endways; a
passenger_ (TOM) _in it reading a paper_.


GUARD [_opening door_]. Here you are, sir; this train for Penge.

      [DUKE _jumps into carriage breathless_; GUARD _whistles, train
      goes off. Tom in corner of carriage, reading paper, looks
      up_].

TOM [_before seeing who it is_]. Ran it fine that time! [_Sees_ DUKE]
Hallo, it's you, Pecky!

DUKE. You, Tom! What an age since we've met.

TOM. Yes, it's a long time since the old Oxford days.

DUKE. Do you live in London?

TOM. Well--I live in Brixton.

DUKE. Brixton, do you?

TOM. Yes, we call it London.

DUKE. Oh, do you? It's quite a nice name for it.

TOM. Yes, it sounds well. And which of your palaces are you living in at
this moment?

DUKE. Only in Grosvenor Square. I'm going to sell Castle Peckham.

TOM. Are you?

DUKE. Of course.

TOM. What a pity.

DUKE. That's not the worst misfortune--I haven't a cook.

TOM. Has anybody?

DUKE. Very few, I believe--what _I_ call a cook.

TOM. Are you flying from London, then?

DUKE. I'm going to look for one.

TOM. Well done! At Brixton?

DUKE. No, further away--she's at Penge.

TOM. Funny place to look for a cook.

DUKE. Why?

TOM. You'll know when you get there.

DUKE. The person I'm really looking for is her employer. She has a
little country retreat outside Penge, made of five workmen's cottages
knocked into one.

TOM [_disapprovingly_]. Five!

DUKE. Yes, I suppose there were no more to be had.

TOM. Very probable. Who is the employer?

DUKE. The Princess Blakowska.

TOM. A Princess! That promises well for the cook.

DUKE. Yes, I've been up to London, to try to find her in Berkeley
Square. She was out. Now I'm going to see if she's at Penge. We've
exchanged letters already--we've had a wonderful correspondence, even
though it began on what is generally considered an unromantic subject.
She came across my life at a time when it was overshadowed by
misfortune; my French chef had just left me to go to America.

TOM. To be sure--he would.

DUKE. But she brought light into the gloom. I took up the _Times_ one
morning in despair.

TOM. Yes, lots of people feel that way when they take up the _Times_.

DUKE. But that day I found comfort in it. I scanned the advertisements;
then I read, "A Russian Princess strongly recommends her admirable
cook." Imagine! I wrote to the Princess in words of burning anxiety. She
answered. I wrote again. She replied by a letter breathing sympathy and
comprehension in every line. Listen. [_He draws out letter and reads
it_]. "The Princess Blakowska presents her compliments to the Duke of
Peckham Rye. She deeply sympathises with the unfortunate predicament in
which he finds himself, and will indeed be glad to hear that he has
secured the services of an artist like Susan Jennings." What feeling!
What tenderness! How she understands! Don't you see her? Can you not
evoke her?

TOM. Well, I never had your imagination, you know, Pecky, especially as
regards the ladies.

      [_Train stops. Voice outside_: Brixton!]

Good-bye, old boy; good luck to you.

      [_Gets out, shuts door after him and remains a moment leaning on
      it._]

DUKE. Do you like living here?

TOM. Very much. I have a wife and three children--and a cook!

DUKE. Wonderful family life!

TOM. Well, you buck up and get a family life, too. You are beginning at
the right end, by the cook. Good-bye. Why do you travel second-class?

DUKE. Is it second? I meant to come third, like everyone else. I didn't
know there were still seconds on this line.

      [_Whistle sounds_].

TOM. Well, I'll leave you to your second-class solitude, unmolested by
the millionaire or the pauper. [_Goes off_]. Ta, ta.

VOICE [_outside_]. Stop, stop! [_Enter_ MRS JENNINGS _hurriedly_].

GUARD. Stop! We can't stop. Come along, ma'am, or you'll be left behind.
[_Opens door_].

MRS JENNINGS [_on platform looking at carriage_]. Is it empty?

GUARD [_impatiently_]. This end's empty.

MRS JENNINGS [_looking in_]. But the other isn't. There's a man. Some
careless woman's forgotten her husband in the carriage.

GUARD. Are you going to get in, ma'am? If you're not, the platform's
empty. You can have that to yourself if you like.

      [MRS JENNINGS _gets in unwillingly: Guard bangs door, whistles,
      train goes_].

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, what a dust! [_sneezes violently_].

DUKE [_waking with a start_]. Oh! I beg your pardon!

MRS JENNINGS [_leaning back and panting in her corner_]. What for?

DUKE. For--for--seeing you so suddenly.

MRS JENNINGS. Well, I could hardly come in gradually, could I?

DUKE. No, madam, no--certainly not.

      [MRS JENNINGS _pants_].

DUKE [_sympathetically_]. You seem a little out of breath!

MRS JENNINGS [_sharply_]. Yes, I'm quite out of it for the moment. I
hope to have another supply in shortly, if you would only let me be
quiet.

DUKE. Certainly, certainly, madam. In fact I shall not be sorry to gasp
a little more myself, too.

      [_They both lean back_].

MRS JENNINGS [_after a pause, fanning herself_]. And the fellow putting
me into a second-class carriage, too. I knew what would happen if I came
second-class.

DUKE [_sympathetically_]. That you would pant?

MRS JENNINGS. Pant! No! I mean that in a second-class it's impossible to
keep one's self _to_ one's self as one would wish.

DUKE. Oh! You find it easier to be exclusive going third?

MRS JENNINGS. Third! I wasn't going third; I was going first, but I
arrived in such a hurry, that I got into the carriage without stopping
to look.

DUKE. That is exactly what happened to me, except that I meant to go
third.

MRS JENNINGS. Oh! What! Am I travelling alone with a third-class
passenger!

DUKE. You need not be alarmed, madam, I am the most harmless of men.

MRS JENNINGS. I will say you don't look much to be afraid of.

DUKE [_mortified_]. Oh, indeed! Thank you--thank you.

      [_Leans back with his eyes shut_].

MRS JENNINGS [_aside, looking at him_]. He does look an inoffensive
creature certainly.

DUKE [_opening his eyes, turning his collar up_]. There is a great
draught in this carriage, don't you think so?

MRS JENNINGS. Yes, it's rather like a breezy common.

DUKE. I think the wind is coming in at that side.

MRS JENNINGS. I have no doubt whatever about it. I can tell by my hat.
[_Pulling her hat straight_].

DUKE. Suppose you were to sit in this corner opposite me? I think you
would feel it less.

MRS JENNINGS. Thank you. Perhaps I should. [_Moves over_].

      [DUKE _goes to other end and shuts window_].

MRS JENNINGS [_aside--looking at him_]. Friendly little man--a
commercial traveller, of course. [_Aloud_]. Do you travel?

DUKE. Invariably, when I'm in the train.

MRS JENNINGS. Ah, but I mean in ribbons and laces and that sort of
thing.

DUKE [_surprised_]. No, madam; I generally travel in tweed unless I am
in London, when I wear a black coat, and generally a black face and
hands as well, especially in the train.

MRS JENNINGS. It is true that the smuts are very disagreeable. I really
have a hard struggle sometimes to be fit to be seen. [_Looking
complacently at her clothes_].

DUKE. I must congratulate you, madam, on your success in the struggle.

MRS JENNINGS. In my position it is so very essential that I should be
well dressed.

DUKE [_amused_]. In your position?

MRS JENNINGS [_firmly_]. Yes, in my position. Now I'm not going to tell
you what it is, so you needn't think it.

DUKE. My dear madam, I never dreamt of being so indiscreet. I only meant
that it is evident that you must shine in society.

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, I shine all right, no doubt about that.

DUKE [_gallantly_]. I can well imagine it. Have you been out much in
London this season?

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, I've hardly had a moment to myself the whole of the
summer.

DUKE. Indeed! Dinners, balls, parties, I suppose, every night?

MRS JENNINGS. Every night, yes!

DUKE. And which do you consider the most tiring form of entertainment?

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, dinners, certainly--especially those very long ones.

DUKE. Ah, I see that like the rest of your sex, you don't seem to care
much about the noble art of dining.

MRS JENNINGS. I assure you, you are very much mistaken. I flatter myself
that if anyone in Europe understands that art, I do.

DUKE. Oh, then, how much we have in common!

MRS JENNINGS [_scornfully_]. You and me?

DUKE. Yes, don't you feel it yourself?

MRS JENNINGS. No, I can't say that I do. I don't like having much in
common with people I meet in the train.

DUKE. Why not?

MRS JENNINGS. One never knows who they are.

DUKE. That is the beauty of it. I think that going about unknown is
rather enjoyable.

MRS JENNINGS. It's a cheap enjoyment at any rate. [_Whistle heard_]. Oh,
there's a horrid tunnel. Now we shall be smothered.

      [_The stage becomes dark_].

DUKE [_loud_]. What a horrid noise!

MRS JENNINGS. What!

DUKE. What a horrid noise!

MRS JENNINGS. I can't hear.

DUKE. What?

MRS JENNINGS. I can't hear.

DUKE. I don't know what you say!

MRS JENNINGS. Hold your tongue--do!

DUKE [_shouting_]. What!

      [_She makes him violent signs. The stage grows light again_].

MRS JENNINGS. What do you chatter for?

DUKE. Chatter, my dear madam? I thought you made a remark which I didn't
quite catch.

MRS JENNINGS. You needn't have run after it in the tunnel.

DUKE. I really must apologise--it was my natural anxiety not to lose
what you said.

MRS JENNINGS. Come, come, my good man, none of your cheap compliments.
I'd keep those for third-class passengers if I were you.

DUKE [_dignified_]. Cheap, madam?

      [_Voice outside_: Herne Hill!].

TICKET COLLECTOR [_opens door_]. Tickets, please.

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, I'm in the wrong class!

TICKET COLLECTOR. You must pay the difference, please, m'm.

MRS JENNINGS. Why?

TICKET COLLECTOR. Because it's the Company's rules. Come, be quick,
please, m'm. A third-class passenger has no business in a second-class
carriage.

MRS JENNINGS [_indignantly_]. Third-class! Now do I look like a
third-class passenger?

TICKET COLLECTOR. Dear me, yes! Thirds is often smarter than firsts
nowadays.

MRS JENNINGS. Well, I've got a first-class ticket. Now, perhaps you will
tell me what the difference is and pay me.

TICKET COLLECTOR. No, I'm not going to pay you anything, m'm. It's no
look-out of the Company's if parties choose to worsen themselves; but if
you've got a first-class ticket, m'm, you may stay where you are, free
of charge.

MRS JENNINGS [_sarcastically_]. Very kind, I'm sure.

DUKE. There'll be something to pay on my ticket. I think mine is a
third-class.

TICKET COLLECTOR. Something to pay? I should rather think there is. Why
can't you gents and ladies sort yourselves properly before you start,
instead of mixing the Company's accounts in this way? It's sixteen and
two-thirds per cent. since just before the Bank Holiday, added to 50 per
cent. in January, 1918. [_Does a rapid sum_]. That comes to 4½d. from
Victoria to Penge.

      [DUKE _is also busy with a pencil and paper_].

DUKE. I can't check these figures in such a hurry. How is it worked?

TICKET COLLECTOR. By your paying me 4½d., now, if you please. The
train's late as it is.

DUKE. The railway company must make a good deal of money in these days,
I should think.

TICKET COLLECTOR [_pocketing money_]. Well, sir, if time is money as
people say, the Company must have lost a good deal of it at this
station, through you keeping me here talking. Why, all the windows of
the train is black with heads sticking out of them to know what we're
waiting here for.

      [_Waves flag, whistles and disappears_].

MRS JENNINGS. If I had thought of it, I might have got into a
first-class at Herne Hill, and have avoided all this bother.

DUKE. That would have been cruel of you.

MRS JENNINGS. Cruel? Why?

DUKE. Because you would have left me alone.

MRS JENNINGS. Now look here, my good friend, just stick to your
travelling and don't make any more pretty speeches to me; that's the
worst of third-class people, you never know what they will say next.

DUKE. But my dear madam, I trust I have not said anything very
startling--as yet.

MRS JENNINGS. No, not as yet, but I daresay you will in a minute.

DUKE. Well--I might be able to think of something--

MRS JENNINGS. Now, you take care what you're about. I know what
travellers are.

DUKE. I should have thought that travelling made people pleasanter.

MRS JENNINGS. Ah! I see you don't understand--Never mind, I might have
expected it, for you don't look very bright. I wonder where I put my
newspaper. Oh, there it is.

DUKE [_handing it to her_]. Allow me.

MRS JENNINGS [_opens it out; reads_]. Thank you.

DUKE. Do you consider the _Ladies' Pictorial_ an agreeable paper?

MRS JENNINGS [_behind paper_]. Particularly agreeable--when I can enjoy
it in peace. [_Holding up paper between them_].

DUKE [_half to himself_]. I, on the contrary, dread being left alone
with my own thoughts! For I am haunted, possessed by one idea--the
thought of that beautiful unknown--that lovely Russian I am seeking.
[_Looking cautiously at his companion_]. Don't go on reading too long,
madam; do talk to me again. Your fresh unconventionality takes me out of
myself.

MRS JENNINGS [_moves her paper to one side, and looks angrily at him_].
My fresh what?

DUKE. Unconventionality.

MRS JENNINGS [_returning to her paper_]. I'll thank you not to use that
language to me.

DUKE. I beg your pardon, I'm sure.

MRS JENNINGS. Granted. Now do be quiet and let me read my paper in
peace.

DUKE [_with a sigh_]. Very well. [_He sits silent_].

      [MRS JENNINGS _returns to paper and reads. Then she gives a
      shriek._ DUKE, _startled, looks up_].

DUKE. Dear lady, what is it?

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, such a thing I've found in this paper.

DUKE. What is it? Has the Government gone out again?

MRS JENNINGS. Not it! Something much more important! Here's a recipe for
tomatoes with cream, which I've been looking for all my life.

DUKE [_much excited_]. Tomatoes! Oh, how immensely interesting! I am
passionately fond of tomatoes!

MRS JENNINGS. So am I!

DUKE. I've been longing to find a new way of cooking them.

MRS JENNINGS. So have I! And now I shall know it!

DUKE. So shall I!

MRS JENNINGS. Listen! "Cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds without
breaking the outer skin--put them into a large stew pan--"

DUKE [_listening intently_]. The seeds?

MRS JENNINGS [_impatiently_]. No, no, man! The tomatoes! "Put them in a
stew pan with a gill of oil"--that's the secret of frying, mind you.
Oil, not butter! Frying oil, the very best oil!

DUKE. Oh, an intelligent woman!

MRS JENNINGS. "Chop up some button mushrooms, some parsley, some endive,
some celery, some olives, some oysters, some minced ham, and some fat
bacon; fry all together for five minutes, add the yolks of two eggs and
a tablespoonful of the thickest cream; fill some patties with the
mixture, bake for ten minutes and serve. This makes a delicious dish."
I'm sure it must be! A dish fit for a Duke!

DUKE. For a Duke--it must, indeed!

MRS JENNINGS. And to think I should have taken up the paper accidentally
and come upon it all at once!

DUKE [_with feeling_]. Yes, indeed! It was a rare piece of good fortune.
I am glad to see, madam, that you are interested in cookery.

MRS JENNINGS. I am, indeed! More than in anything else.

DUKE. Oh, how I admire you for it! Now that is my ideal of what a
woman's interest in life should be. I love to picture her graceful
feminine intelligence playing round such things as--as--

MRS JENNINGS. Tomatoes--

DUKE. Exactly. Tomatoes, or some other fragrant product of the soil.
There is to me something repulsive in the idea of a woman's mind
endeavouring to grapple with magisterial problems or political research.
No! Let her rather spend hours of patient investigation amongst her
saucepans, endeavouring to wring from them their secrets.

MRS JENNINGS. It doesn't take me as long as that, I can tell you, to
find out if a saucepan is clean or dirty.

DUKE. I was thinking of the finer problems of the saucepan, the delicate
combinations which reveal the true artist. Tell me, dear lady, do you
ever go into your kitchen, and play the part of tutelary genius of your
establishment?

MRS JENNINGS. Into my kitchen!!! I should think so! I'm hardly ever out
of it.

DUKE. I was sure of it. I picture you flitting to and fro, presiding
over the culinary labours of the day, surrounded by a bevy of deft and
noiseless maidens--

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, as to that, the less we say about them, the better.
Kitchen-maids are a set of careless, chattering hussies. They break the
plates and burn the vegetables, and then they say their mothers are ill
and they must go away.

DUKE [_puzzled_]. Oh! Are they such good daughters?

MRS JENNINGS [_contemptuously_]. Good fiddle-de-dees!

      [_Voice outside_: Dulwich!]

MRS JENNINGS [_in excitement_]. Oh, look!

DUKE [_springing up and looking out_]. What is it?

MRS JENNINGS. Can't you see for yourself?

DUKE [_craning_]. I see nothing particular.

MRS JENNINGS. Nothing particular? [_Pointing_].

DUKE. Except the Crystal Palace. Is _that_ what you mean?

MRS JENNINGS. Well, isn't that enough for you?

DUKE. Oh, quite enough, I assure you.

MRS JENNINGS. Of course it's the Crystal Palace; there it is, shining
away like anything.

DUKE. Do you consider it beautiful?

MRS JENNINGS. Beautiful? Never thought about that, but it's a most
wonderful place.

DUKE. Oh, yes. The concerts you mean, and the fireworks.

MRS JENNINGS. I don't hold much with concerts, or fireworks either. It's
the restaurant I am thinking of--the most wonderful restaurant with a
chef in it who's the best in Europe, they say.

DUKE. Ah, that is wonderful, indeed.

MRS JENNINGS. I believe you. They say the Crystal Palace will soon get
up again in the world if he stays there.

      [_She is looking out of the window all this time. Whistle
      outside. Train goes on. She continues to read her paper_].

MRS JENNINGS [_reading her paper_]. Ah, here is something in your
line--autumn fashions and materials.

DUKE. In my line?

MRS JENNINGS. Isn't that the line you take in your travelling?

DUKE [_gallantly_]. Sometimes, madam, when I am travelling my attention
is forcibly called to these things--when I have such exquisite specimens
of the art under my eyes.

MRS JENNINGS. There you are again with your pretty speeches--but I must
say I think I do look rather nice to-day. I've a particular reason.

DUKE [_looking at her admiringly_]. It must be a very particular reason
that would justify such a hat as that.

MRS JENNINGS. Yes, the hat I must admit is rather a triumph. You'd
hardly believe that it's a last year's hat, would you?

DUKE. Last year's! Never!

MRS JENNINGS. It is though; it's a hat warmed up again, so to speak.

DUKE [_politely_]. But not hashed!

MRS JENNINGS. No, not hashed, I flatter myself. All my friends tell me
it looks like a hat from Paris.

DUKE. So it does!

MRS JENNINGS. The fact is that last year, when I was in Paris, I saw one
just like it and copied it.

DUKE. Ah, that explains everything. Do you know Paris well?

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, yes. I've been a good deal in Paris. I studied
there--[_catching herself up_]

DUKE. Studied! What?

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, never you mind what; things a woman ought to know.

DUKE. I didn't know such things could be learnt in Paris.

MRS JENNINGS. Ah, that's because you're a John Bull, my good friend, and
haven't seen enough of the world. You should try to get leave, and
travel on the Continent for a month or so. It opens one's mind
considerably.

DUKE. Have you been much abroad? Your mind seems to be particularly
open.

MRS JENNINGS. Yes. I don't think there is much of the oyster about me.

DUKE. Where else have you been?

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, pretty much all over--to Germany, to Italy, and to all
sorts of foreign watering places.

DUKE [_starting_]. Foreign watering places? Have you ever met any
Russian Princesses?

MRS JENNINGS. Russian Princesses! I should think so, all over the place.
They're as common as blackberries!

DUKE [_disconcerted_]. As common as blackberries!

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, dear, yes! Russian Princesses of all kinds, good, bad,
and indifferent.

DUKE. I wonder to which of those kinds a Princess belongs that I am
interested in?

MRS JENNINGS. What's her name?

DUKE. Princess Blakowska--

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, I know her quite well.

DUKE [_thrilled_]. You know her?

MRS JENNINGS. Intimately. [DUKE _is thrilled with excitement_]. I
should call her one of the indifferent ones--indifferent to what people
say about them, I mean.

DUKE. Princess Blakowska! But I imagine her to be a most delightful
charming woman.

MRS JENNINGS. So she is, most beguiling--most fascinating, but, after
all, that is not the way to prevent people talking about you. A good
many people seem to talk about Princess Blakowska.

DUKE. Do they indeed? [_Saddened_].

MRS JENNINGS [_nodding her head_]. Lots.

DUKE. Oh, do tell me what sort of a woman she is.

MRS JENNINGS. Very good looking--

DUKE. I was sure of it--

MRS JENNINGS. Very elegant looking; she is about my height and figure.
We can quite well wear each other's clothes. She's got rather a temper.

DUKE. A temper!

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, yes! And it's that--and other things that made it
rather difficult--[_she checks herself_]. But in one respect she would
be a woman after your own heart.

DUKE. I've no doubt she would!

MRS JENNINGS. She has a passion for cookery.

DUKE. I knew it!

MRS JENNINGS. She understands more about dining than any other woman I
ever met.

DUKE. Oh, what a delightful friend to have!

MRS JENNINGS. Yes, she is! She has been a very good friend to me, I must
say, until--until we parted company. But why are you so interested in
her? Do you know her?

DUKE. No, I don't know her exactly--but--from what I have heard and
imagine of her, I should like to.

MRS JENNINGS. I daresay you would. Lots of people feel the same.

DUKE. To tell you the truth, I have been making an attempt to see her
to-day, but without success. I went to her house in Berkeley Square, but
now I am trying elsewhere.

MRS JENNINGS. But I thought you didn't know her.

DUKE [_embarrassed_]. No more I do, but we've been exchanging letters.

MRS JENNINGS. Exchanging letters?

DUKE [_with a face of rapture_]. Yes, yes; I've had two letters from
her.

MRS JENNINGS [_looking at him with a sudden thought_]. I wonder if you
are looking for something, too?

DUKE. Something?

MRS JENNINGS [_archly_]. Something connected with a situation--for
someone....

DUKE. I am, indeed.

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, I see; that explains everything.

DUKE [_puzzled_]. Explains everything?

MRS JENNINGS. Your interest in tomatoes....

      [_Voice outside_: Sydenham Hill! _Train stops_].

MRS JENNINGS [_jumping up_]. Oh, look! look!

DUKE. What is it this time?

MRS JENNINGS [_pointing_]. Don't you see?

DUKE. I see the Crystal Palace again. Is it still that?

MRS JENNINGS. Of course. And here you get another view of it. You see
that bulge in the roof?

DUKE. Oh, yes; you mean the dome--

MRS JENNINGS. Well, whatever it's called, there's where the restaurant
is. Oh, it does shine, doesn't it? Oh, what a place, isn't it? I do love
seeing it.

      [_Loud whistle: train moves_].

There now we don't see it again till we get to Beckenham.

DUKE. What a pity! I get out at Penge.

MRS JENNINGS. Look here, my good friend, I'll give you a word of advice.
It isn't my business, I daresay, but if I were you, I don't think I'd
try for the Princess Blakowska.

DUKE [_embarrassed_]. Try--for her?

MRS JENNINGS. I don't think it's a situation you'd like.

DUKE. A situation I should like!

MRS JENNINGS. At least, I know it's a situation other people haven't
liked.

DUKE. Other people!

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, dear me, yes! She's always changing!

DUKE. Always changing!

MRS JENNINGS. Always. You know your own business best, of course, but
there's a word to the wise for you, if you choose to take it. After all,
these things are always a gamble, one never knows how they will turn
out.

DUKE [_bewildered_]. A gamble?

MRS JENNINGS. I'm embarked on the same sort of adventure myself--I'm
going for the Duke of Peckham Rye.

DUKE [_bounding from his seat_]. What, madam?

MRS JENNINGS. I daresay it won't be an altogether easy job. They say
he's a queer customer sometimes.

DUKE. Queer customer!

MRS JENNINGS. Yes, very.

DUKE. I wonder what else they say about him!

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, they say he's rather a fogey, of course.

DUKE. A fogey!

MRS JENNINGS. And very fond of the ladies.

DUKE [_pleased_]. Oh, is he?

MRS JENNINGS. And that he can't be five minutes with one without making
himself agreeable to her.

DUKE. Well, I don't call that a fault.

MRS JENNINGS. No, I daresay not, but I know nothing about that, of
course, as my relations with him have been entirely on a business
footing.

DUKE. Your relations with him?

MRS JENNINGS. Yes, we have been exchanging letters for the last week.

DUKE. Exchanging letters for the last week! [_With a sudden
idea--aside_]. Ha! can it be that--no--it is not possible!

MRS JENNINGS. You'd never guess what subject he's been corresponding
with me about--not quite the sort of thing you'd expect from a Duke.

DUKE [_aside_]. I really believe it is! [_Aloud_] Can it be the subject
we were speaking about just now? Is it--

MRS JENNINGS. Cooking? Yes, it is! Now what do you think of that for the
Duke of Peckham Rye?

DUKE. Madam, [_with emotion_] your words almost convince me that what I
have been expecting is a certainty--yes, I have guessed your secret!

MRS JENNINGS [_amazed_]. My secret. [_With an idea_]. Oh, you have
guessed that what you are trying for, I am very near to?

DUKE [_bewildered_]. What I am trying for?

MRS JENNINGS. Well, then, to speak plainly--Princess Blakowska.

DUKE [_excited_]. Ah! You admit how nearly the mention of that name has
touched you.

MRS JENNINGS. What's the use of denying it?

DUKE. No good! It would be useless, for my heart tells me too surely
that I am right.

MRS JENNINGS. Your heart! What's that got to do with it?

DUKE. From the moment you spoke, I was interested in you. It began to
dawn on me who you were--you spoke of being abroad in foreign watering
places--interested in cookery. A wild thought darted into my mind, but I
hardly dared to hope. [MRS JENNINGS _alarmed_]. Then you told me of your
correspondence with the Duke, and my heart filled with delight.

MRS JENNINGS [_alarmed, aside_]. The man is mad, I do believe!

DUKE. Now I know that you are she whom I have been seeking! Oh, what
unlooked for happiness! You are the Princess Blakowska!

MRS JENNINGS. I, the Princess Blakowska!

DUKE. Yes, I have discovered your secret--don't try to conceal it any
more.

MRS JENNINGS [_terrified, looks at him_]. Oh!

DUKE. You are, aren't you? Oh, say I am right!

MRS JENNINGS [_humouring--heartily_]. Of course, yes, of course! I am
the Princess Blakowska.

DUKE. Oh, what unlooked for good fortune! That after thinking of you,
dreaming of you, going across London to seek you in vain, Providence
should bring us together!

MRS JENNINGS [_aside_]. This is horrible! He is quite out of his mind!
Oh, what shall I do? Where is the cord of communication with the guard!
Outside that window probably! [_Aloud_]. I feel a little faint--I should
like to have some air. [_Goes to window_].

DUKE. Oh, pray let me!

MRS JENNINGS. No, thank you! I would rather do it myself!

      [_Goes to window_, DUKE _standing too_].

DUKE. Do let me!

MRS JENNINGS. No, no, I tell you. [_Puts her hand out, gropes wildly
about_]. Nothing! [_Tries to shut window_].

DUKE. Now, really, you must let me do that for you.

MRS JENNINGS [_returning quickly to her seat, aside_]. They're so
fearfully strong at times!

DUKE [_struggling_]. This is certainly a stiff window.

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, where can that cord be? [_Sees a printed notice--reads
it_]. No, the story of a man who was fined forty shillings for
travelling in the wrong class. I shall have to pay £2 for travelling
with a madman!

DUKE. At last!

      [_Comes back and sits beside_ MRS JENNINGS. _She jumps into_
      DUKE'S _seat opposite_].

DUKE [_smiling tenderly_]. And now, dear Princess, that I know your
name, will you not try and guess mine?

MRS JENNINGS [_aside_]. This is positively awful! It's like a fairy
tale. He'll eat me if I don't guess right.

DUKE. Can't you guess?

MRS JENNINGS. Well, I'm not sure!

DUKE. It is a name which is not unknown.

MRS JENNINGS [_pretending to have an idea_]. I have it; you are a
dethroned king!

DUKE [_disappointed_]. No--you are laughing at me--I am not a king.

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, well--you are a Duke, then!

DUKE. A Duke, yes!

MRS JENNINGS [_aside_]. Lucky shot!

DUKE. Is it possible you can still doubt who I am, after the letters we
have exchanged? [MRS JENNINGS _bewildered_]. I am the Duke of Peckham
Rye!

MRS JENNINGS [_humouring him_]. Oh, indeed, yes! The Duke of Peckham
Rye! Very nice, indeed!

DUKE [_aside_]. How curiously she takes it! She doesn't seem a bit
interested. [_Aloud_]. I hoped, madam, after what had passed between us,
that you would, perhaps, not be sorry that we should meet.

MRS JENNINGS. Of course, yes--I am delighted to make your acquaintance.

DUKE. Shall I confess to you with what a subtle mysterious charm my
fancy had already, and rightly, invested you? The very paper on which
your letters were written, the perfume which clung to them was dear to
me.

MRS JENNINGS [_trying to conceal her uneasiness_]. Oh, yes, indeed, yes!
Most kind of you, I'm sure!

DUKE. I have them next my heart--see, here they are!

      [_Brings out packet of letters, shows her the cover of one_].

MRS JENNINGS [_starts and shrieks_]. What--what do I see! Princess
Blakowska's hand-writing!

DUKE. Your own writing--yes, of course.

MRS JENNINGS [_agitated_]. But tell me--tell me quickly--how did you get
that letter?

DUKE [_surprised_]. In the simplest way in the world, since it was
addressed to me--my name's on the envelope!

MRS JENNINGS [_gasping_]. What--the Duke of Peckham Rye! It is not
possible that you are really! Oh!

DUKE [_alarmed_]. What can be the matter, my dear Princess?

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, Princess! Was there ever such a situation as this? It
is awful!

DUKE [_aside_]. Upon my word, I believe she is not quite right!

      [MRS JENNINGS _suddenly bursts into fits of laughter_. DUKE
      _looks excessively alarmed_. MRS JENNINGS _hides her face in her
      hands, rocks backwards and forwards_].

DUKE [_looking at her terrified_]. That is the way a maniac laughs for
nothing. I wonder if there is a cord. Perhaps, madam, you would like a
little air? [_Goes to window, lets it down, and feels furtively about
outside_]. [_Sadly_]. No, there is nothing.

MRS JENNINGS [_going into fresh fits of laughter_]. It's no use--I've
already looked!

DUKE [_more and more mystified_]. You--have--already--looked?

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, I must laugh! I do beg your pardon, your Grace, but
the whole thing is too extraordinarily absurd. You would never guess for
whom I took you!

DUKE. For whom did you take me?

MRS JENNINGS. First for a commercial traveller--

DUKE. A commercial traveller!

MRS JENNINGS. And then--and then--oh, it is too dreadful!--for a cook!

DUKE. A cook! Me!

MRS JENNINGS. Yes, you, your Grace! Did you ever hear anything like it;
but, after all, you took me for a Princess.

DUKE. But who are you, then? You told me you were the Princess
Blakowska.

MRS JENNINGS. Yes, but I'm not--I told you that to humour you.

DUKE. Upon my word! To humour me?

MRS JENNINGS. Yes! Because I thought you were mad.

DUKE. And I thought _you_ were mad. One of us is, certainly!

MRS JENNINGS. It isn't me!

DUKE. Then why were you laughing in that insane way?

MRS JENNINGS [_laughing again_]. I was laughing to think how surprised
you would be if you knew who I was.

DUKE. And who are you then? [_Impatiently_].

MRS JENNINGS [_hesitating_]. Oh, your Grace! you will never forgive me!

DUKE. Well, what is it?

MRS JENNINGS. Look inside your letter again, your Grace, the one
Princess Blakowska wrote to you.

DUKE. What is all this mystery about? [_Opens letter and reads_]. "She
will be glad to hear that he has secured the services of an artist like
Susan Jennings." Well?

MRS JENNINGS. Now, can't you guess who I am? I am not the Princess
Blakowska, your Grace, I am not, indeed; and yet--that letter concerns
me.

DUKE [_gasping, looks at her transfixed_]. What! Is it possible that you
are--

MRS JENNINGS. Susan Jennings! Yes! Oh, pray forgive me, it is not my
fault that you thought I was the Princess.

DUKE. And you're the cook! [MRS JENNINGS _bows her head silently_]. What
a precious fool I've been making of myself. But then why did you pretend
you were somebody else? You said you were a first-class passenger.

MRS JENNINGS [_with dignity_]. Excuse me, your Grace! I didn't pretend.
I had to come first because I'm on my way to call on your Grace. I'm
still with the Princess at Penge till the end of the week. I went to
your house at Grosvenor Gardens, and you were out, and now I am going
back. I thought it was more suitable, everything considered, that I
shouldn't run the risk of travelling with servants or people of inferior
position.

DUKE. But my dear Princess--I mean, my dear madam--tut-tut--I mean, my
good woman, what do you call yourself?

MRS JENNINGS. An artist.

DUKE. An artist! Yes, that was what the Princess said.

MRS JENNINGS. And, oh, your Grace, I _should_ like to try those tomatoes
for you.

DUKE. Those tomatoes! Well, Mrs Jennings, if you are sure you can be
discreet and silent, and will reveal to no one what has passed between
us to-day--

MRS JENNINGS. Oh, the grave is chatty, I do assure you, compared to me.

      [_Voice outside_: Penge! GUARD _puts his head inside window
      unseen by them_].

DUKE. Very well, then, you may consider yourself engaged.

MRS JENNINGS [_enraptured_]. Engaged! Oh!!

GUARD [_loud_]. Penge! [DUKE _and_ MRS JENNINGS _start and pick up
papers, etc._]. Well, this is a business-like betrothal as ever I see!
[_Aloud_]. This is your station, sir. Better come out and have the rest
of the ceremony on the platform.

DUKE [_getting out_]. Look here, my man--none of your insolence!

      [DUKE _gets out loftily_].

MRS JENNINGS [_speaking to_ GUARD _at window_]. You mustn't speak to him
like that; he's the Duke of Peckham Rye.

GUARD. Ah, yes, likely! And you're a Member of Parliament, I suppose.
_All_ right!

      [_He walks a little further away_].

DUKE [_coming to window--says hesitatingly_]. One thing I should like to
ask, Mrs Jennings--I believe it is customary--why did you leave Princess
Blakowska?

MRS JENNINGS [_sarcastically_]. Why? Well, of course, I left her--with
her goings on!

DUKE [_startled_]. What!

      [CURTAIN _comes down quickly as the_ GUARD'S whistle is heard].

       *       *       *       *       *



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE


Occasional missing punctuation has been silently added. In a very few
instances, "you" was substituted for "your" and vice versa, as required
by the context. A missing final "s" was added on a couple of occasions.
In one instance, where the same word appeared at the end of one line and
the beginning of the next, one of the two was removed.

The following substantive changes were made:

In KIRSTIN, scene III, "past" was changed to "post" in

     [MERTON] (...) takes up his letters that are lying in a pile,
     evidently having come by the morning post

In the same scene, "It if" was changed to "If it" in Mrs Plant's speech:

     If it were only for one night it wouldn't matter so much.

In THE PARACHUTE, near the beginning, the ending "ing" was added to the
word "support" in:

     [_Goes to door_ L. MARY _appears at door_ L, _supporting_
     WELBURN].





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