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Title: Mollentrave on Women; A comedy in three acts - A comedy in three acts
Author: Sutro, Alfred
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         MOLLENTRAVE ON WOMEN

                        A Comedy in Three Acts


                                  BY

                             ALFRED SUTRO

           AUTHOR OF "THE WALLS OF JERICHO," "A MARRIAGE HAS
                BEEN ARRANGED," "A MAKER OF MEN," "THE
                  GUTTER OF TIME," "A GAME OF CHESS,"
                       "MR. STEINMANN'S CORNER,"
                              "CARROTS."

                   COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY SAMUEL FRENCH

                                LONDON
                          SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD.
                        26 SOUTHAMPTON STREET,
                            STRAND, LONDON.

                               NEW YORK
                             SAMUEL FRENCH
                               PUBLISHER
                          24 WEST 22D STREET

_The following is a copy of the original programme_:

                           ST. JAMES THEATRE

                           KING STREET, S.W.

                    _Monday, February 13th, 1905._

                           THIS EVENING AT 9

                             WILL BE ACTED

                         MOLLENTRAVE ON WOMEN

                A New and Original Comedy in Three Acts

                           BY ALFRED SUTRO.

  "I wish it to be distinctly understood that, my scientific
    investigations notwithstanding, I still regard woman as an
    amiable creature."

                                 (MOLLENTRAVE ON WOMEN: _Introduction_.)

  Mr. Mollentrave                 MR. ERIC LEWIS.
  Sir Joseph Balsted, K.C., M.P.  MR. NORMAN MCKINNEL.
  Everard Swenboys                MR. LESLIE FABER.
  Lord Contareen                  MR. ROBERT HORTON.
  Mr. Dexter                      MR. E. VIVIAN REYNOLDS.
  Mr. Noyes                       MR. GERALD JEROME.
  Peters                          MR. E. H. BROOKE.
  Martin                          MR. MURRAY CARRINGTON.
  Lady Claude Derenham            MISS MARION TERRY.
  Margaret Messilent              MISS LETTICE FAIRFAX.
  Miss Treable                    MISS NORA GREENLAW.
  Mrs. Martelli                   MRS. KEMMIS.

  ACT   I.--Study in Sir Joseph Balsted's House.
  ACT  II.--Drawing-room in Mr. Mollentrave's House.
  ACT III.--Garden of Mr. Mollentrave's House at Swanage.

                           TIME--The Present.



ACT I.


Time of Representation, forty minutes.

[Illustration: Scene.

HAND PROPS.

  Book (Mollentrave on Women).
  Bag (for Noyes).
  Flowers (Everard).
  Photographs on Mantelpiece.]

                         MOLLENTRAVE ON WOMEN.

                                 ACT I.

           SIR JOSEPH BALSTED'S _study, in his house in Hans
                                Place_.

  MISS TREABLE, MARGARET'S _companion, a faded lady of uncertain age,
    is fingering the photograph on the mantelpiece_ R. MRS. MARTELLI,
    _the housekeeper, a grim-faced, elderly woman, dressed in stiff
    black silk, opens the door and enters_ L. 3 E. MISS TREABLE,
    _absorbed in a photograph she holds in her hand, does not notice
    her_. MRS. MARTELLI _coughs emphatically_.

MISS TRE. (_coming_ C. _turning_) Oh!... Dear Mrs. Martelli, do you
know who this is?

MRS. MAR. (C. _shortly_) Sir Joseph's sister.

MISS TRE. What an angelic face! The outline so pure. Such heavenly
eyes. (_returns_ R. _and puts frame back_)

MRS. MAR. (C.) She was marked with smallpox, and had a pronounced
squint.

MISS TRE. (_disconcerted_) Ah! I have noticed these photographs before.
I have a passion for photographs. This one--? (_coming_ C.--_she takes
up another_)

MRS. MAR. (_takes photo from_ MISS TRE.) Sir Joseph's mother. The
other ladies are his cousin, his aunt by marriage, and--me. (MISS TRE.
_goes_ R.)

MISS TRE. (_with surprise_) You!

MRS. MAR. (_with dignity_) My late husband, Captain Martelli, of his
Majesty's Indian army, was a friend of Sir Joseph's (C.). I trust you
find nothing remarkable in his widow's photograph reposing on Sir
Joseph's mantelpiece?

MISS TRE. (_comes down_ R. _and sits_ R. C. _chair_) Oh, not at all,
not at all.... My father was Canon Treable--he preached before the
Queen.

MRS. MAR. (_puts photo back_ R. _and comes down_ R. C.) So I have
frequently heard. But I admit it is a theme on which one cannot dwell
too often. None the less I consider it my duty, as Sir Joseph's
housekeeper, to inform Canon Treable's daughter that this room is, as
it were, consecrated to Sir Joseph.

        (MISS TRE. _rises and crosses_ L. _and sits on stool_.)

And that it is his wish, his formally expressed instruction, that none
but myself should enter it.

MISS TRE. Oh!

MRS. MAR. (_to desk_ C.) I allow no housemaid here--I dust it myself.
Sir Joseph, in common with most legal gentlemen, is partial to dust,
but I control his partiality. So you understand--(_down_ C.)

MISS TRE. But the Courts have risen to-day, dear Mrs. Martelli! The
Long Vacation, they call it, do they not? For nigh on three months Sir
Joseph ceases to be the brilliant advocate; Parliament is not sitting,
so the House will not hear his inspired accents--

MRS. MAR. My accents may be less inspired, but they rest on authority;
and I beg you to heed them. This room is private.

MISS TRE. (_sweetly_) I can quite understand that, to the servants, it
is a sanctuary.

MRS. MAR. To the servants, and the upper servants, Miss Treable. You
and I are both upper servants.

MISS TRE. (_rise, indignantly_) Mrs. Martelli! This is intolerable.
I am dear Margaret's companion--(_sit on stool_ L. C.) her trusted
friend--

MRS. MAR. At so much per annum, paid quarterly. Sir Joseph has confided
the government of his household to me.

MISS TRE. (_proudly_) I am not a member of your household, madam!
I take orders from Sir Joseph alone--and then they come in form of
requests!

MRS. MAR. You compel me, therefore, to inform Sir Joseph of your
truculent attitude--and demand your dismissal.

MISS TRE. (_rise_) Dismissal!

MRS. MAR. It would of course be within my province to dismiss you
myself--

MISS TRE. (_up to her_ C.) Insolent!

MRS. MAR. But I shall leave that disagreeable duty to Sir Joseph; and I
have no doubt that it will come, as you say, in the form of a request.
I have the honour to wish you good morning.

                            (EXIT. L. 1 E.)

  (MISS TREABLE _sinks on the sofa_ R. C. _and sobs_. EVERARD _comes
    in from back_ L. 3 E., _a good-looking youngster of 25_.)

EVERARD. (R. C.) Why, Treaby, what's the matter?

MISS TRE. (_stamping her foot_) How dare you call me Treaby!

EVERARD. Oh, I beg your pardon--but Margaret always does.

MISS TRE. Am I to be forever insulted in this house? First by a
wretched servant--then by a mere boy!

EVERARD. A boy--hang it! I shall be a full-fledged doctor soon. But I
apologise--there! And Martelli's a hedgehog. Leave off sobbing (_over
back of settee_) do!

MISS TRE. (_through her tears_) I will tell Sir Joseph he must choose
between her--and me!

EVERARD. She's an awful Tartar--I wonder my uncle puts up with her. But
come now, dear Miss--Evangeline--

MISS TRE. (_coyly_) Mr. Swenboys?

EVERARD. (_eagerly_) Did you give Margaret those verses?

MISS TRE. I did.

EVERARD. (_excited, away_ R. C.) Well? Well?

MISS TRE. She--laughed.

EVERARD. (_aghast_) Laughed!

MISS TRE. But really--why did you steal them from Swinburne?

EVERARD. (_comes_ C.) The devil! She spotted it?

MISS TRE. Naturally. She adores Swinburne.

EVERARD. I altered a word or two--I did, I swear. And of course
poetry's not in my line. But I didn't think girls were allowed to read
Swinburne!

MISS TRE. An old-fashioned prejudice. To-day we throw open the whole
book of life.

EVERARD. I didn't know! (_returning to back of settee_ R. C.) But--Miss
Treable--you're my friend, aren't you? You'll help me?

MISS TRE. I am always on the side of love.

EVERARD. Have I a chance, do you think? A millionth part of a chance?

MISS TRE. You never speak to her!

EVERARD. How can I? She's too--magnificent--she dazzles me! Her eyes
scorch me--I become idiotic! I can talk, as a rule, I've something to
say--but not to her, not to her! Although Martelli thinks--

MISS TRE. Martelli! That hateful name! Oh!

  (_Her sobs begin again._ MARGARET _enters from back_ L. 3 E.: _she
    pauses shyly at seeing_ EVERARD.)

MARGARET. (C.) Oh Everard! Have you got the flowers--the white roses?

EVERARD. Yes, here they are. (_up_ L. C.)

MARGARET. How good of you. (_turning to_ MISS TREABLE, _and throwing
her arms round her_) What, dearest Treaby! Crying!--(_cross_ R. C.)

EVERARD. (_coming_ C.) Martelli has upset her.

MARGARET. Again! Oh, the wretch! How I wish that my guardian would send
her away! (R. C.)

EVERARD. You have only to--to--to ask! Could he--is there a man
who--who could--anything, anything, Margaret! Oh!

             _(He flies, overcome with confusion, and_ EXIT
                            _back_ L. 3 E.)

MARGARET. Poor Everard! (_she gazes pensively after him for a
moment--then turns to_ MISS TREABLE _again_) Do not cry! I will speak
to Sir Joseph; he shall see that this woman makes me unhappy.

MISS TRE. (_drying her eyes_) Dearest Margaret!

MARGARET (_looking around--sitting chair_ C.) Oh, how my heart beats
when I find myself in his room!

MISS TRE. He is the grandest, greatest of men--

MARGARET. In this morning's paper they mention his name three times.
And they've his portrait in the Sketch!

MISS TRE. And so like him!

MARGARET. His speech in that copyright case yesterday! His triumph!

MISS TRE. I felt you quiver as you sat beside me--

MARGARET. He saw us there, I think.... As his eye swept past, I
noticed a tremble in his voice. And, after that, I felt that he was
speaking--for me!

MISS TRE. His peroration was sublime.

MARGARET. (_rise, down_ R. C. _and sit in chair_) It was odious of that
old man's daughter to thank him so effusively. I detest Lady Claude!

MISS TRE. (_rising and_ R. C.) Jealous, my Margaret? They knew each
other, in the long ago. I have an idea that he once--but he has not her
photograph! I came here to see!

MARGARET. It is not on the mantelpiece.

MISS TRE. Nor in his desk. I looked!

MARGARET. Oh! You should not have done that!

MISS TRE. There is no limit to my devotion. It is true Lady Claude is
handsome.

MARGARET. (_indignantly_) Handsome! A widow--and old! Why, she's
thirty-five, at least!

MISS TRE. (_tartly away_ L.) My age, Margaret!

MARGARET. (_rise and across to her_) Ah, dear Treaby, forgive me!
But--when I am here--in his room--and think of--a possible rival! (_up
to desk_ C.) Here, where he sits, and works! Every day I steal in,
and let fall a flower. I love to think of him kissing that flower,
perhaps--who knows, wearing it next his heart! If he only would speak
to me! Little girl, he calls me, then turns his eyes timidly away.
Little girl! Oh never did lover's epithet sound so sweet!

         (_Since having the flowers_ MARGARET _has been undoing
                them and dropping them about the room_.)

MISS TRE. (_sit on settee_ L.) I have seen him, when your name was
mentioned, change colour, and murmur something beneath his breath.

MARGARET. (_sit on stool_ L.) What was it? Oh, what?

MISS TRE. Nay, I could not catch. But Margaret, tell me--Everard has
been imploring--

MARGARET. (_softly_) Ah, poor Everard! It was not till you opened my
eyes, dear Treaby, that I--of course I am fond of Everard--oh, very
fond! But--can I hesitate! Between a boy--and a great man--a leader of
men! Dear Treaby, (_rise and up_ C.) I beseech you--leave me here, for
a moment!

MISS TRE. (_rise and up_ L. C.) I go, dear child, I go--I feel that
my eyes are red--I must wash away these tears. Plead for me with your
guardian, Margaret--rid us of the hateful Martelli!

MARGARET. (_round to_ L. C. _and embracing_ MISS TRE.) I will try--oh,
I will try!

  (MISS TREABLE _kisses her devotedly and goes_ L. 3 E. MARGARET,
    _after a glance round the room, to make sure she is unobserved,
    takes a rose, kisses it, and lays it on_ SIR JOSEPH'S _desk--up_
    C. R. _of desk_.)

Speak for me, rose, and tell him of my love! Lie fondly on his heart,
dear rose!

  (SIR JOSEPH'S _voice is heard outside, talking to_ MRS. MAR.
    MARGARET _starts and retreats to down_ C. SIR JOSEPH _enters
    from_ R. _talking to_ MRS. MARTELLI.)

SIR J. (R. C.) Come, come, Mrs. Martelli, she didn't mean anything! She
couldn't have, you know! (_he sees_ MARGARET) Ah, little girl, you
there? Er--er--Mrs. Martelli and I--

MARGARET. (C.) I go, guardian, I go! But--one word--for poor Miss
Treable. She is the only friend I have in the world!

                        (_She goes out_ L. 3 E.)

SIR J. (C.) There, you hear that? The only friend she has in the world!
Now, can I send her away? (_up to desk and sitting_) I put it to you!

MRS. MAR. (_grimly_) Every companion Miss Messilent has had has been
her only friend. And let the lady stay by all means, Sir Joseph. (R.
C.) Only you will permit me to take my departure.

SIR J. (_very annoyed, sitting at his desk, taking up the rose and
dropping it in the waste-paper basket_) I wish that girl wouldn't let
her confounded flowers trail all over the place! Why does she come in
here? Can't I have one room in the house to myself?

MRS. MAR. (_picking up flowers which_ MARGARET _has dropped_) That was
precisely the cause of my altercation with Miss Treable, Sir Joseph. I
found her inspecting the photographs on the mantelpiece.

SIR J. Confound her impudence! I'll say a word to her. We'd better keep
the door locked in future, eh?

MRS. MAR. (R. C. _adamant_) You will have to choose, Sir Joseph,
between Miss Treable and me.

SIR J. (_wheedling, rise and down_ R. C.) Come, come, Mrs. Martelli,
you and I have been together too long to allow a trifle like this to
part us. Besides, we're all going off in a day or two--Miss Treable may
get married in the Long Vacation--

MRS. M. Married--she! She'll never see forty again!

SIR J. Won't she, though? Well, after all, that's no concern of mine.
_I_ don't want her to see forty again--for the matter of that I don't
want to see _her_ again. But she's the girl's companion--and the girl
must have a companion--and if the Treable woman goes I shall have to
find another companion. That's so, isn't it?

MRS. MAR. (_still adamant_) Sir Joseph--

SIR J. And I want to be off to Scotland to-morrow! Come, come, Mrs.
Martelli--

MRS. MAR. Sir Joseph, that person has made use of certain expressions
to me that render further residence with her under the same roof
impossible. I regret it--for my dear husband's sake, I regret it. But
you will have to choose.

  (_She goes_ R. I. E. _with majesty_. SIR JOSEPH _is exceedingly
    vexed. He pishes and pshaws, seizes his blotting pad, hurls it to
    the other end of the room, then goes and fetches it--then takes
    up paper_ R. _and reads, swearing softly to himself_. PETERS,
    _the butler_, _enters_ L. 3 E.)

PETERS. (_up_ L. C.) Mr. Mollentrave and Lady Claude Derenham have
called, Sir Joseph.

SIR J. (_puts paper down eagerly_, R. C.) Ah, I'll go down. They're in
the drawing-room, I suppose?

PETERS. (_up_ L. C.) No, Sir Joseph--Miss Messilent and Miss Treable
are playing a duet in the drawing-room--

SIR J. (_discontentedly_) Ah--in the library, then?

PETERS. No, Sir Joseph--Mr. Swenboys is smoking a pipe in the library--

SIR J. (_furious_) Not a room in my house! Where in Heaven's name are
they?

PETERS. In the dining-room, Sir Joseph.

SIR J. (_stamping his foot_) The dining-room! Bring them up here,
Peters--quick!

  (PETERS _goes_ L. 3 E. SIR JOSEPH _goes to glass_ R. _and arranges
    tie, etc._ PETERS _returns with_ MR. MOLLENTRAVE _and_ LADY
    CLAUDE. MOLLENTRAVE _is a very old man, with masses of snow-white
    hair; notwithstanding his age, he is alert and agile, with no
    trace of feebleness_. LADY CLAUDE _is a beautiful and fascinating
    woman_. LADY C. _enters, shakes hands with_ SIR J. C., _and gets
    away_ L. C. _as_ MOLLEN. _enters_.)

MOLLEN. (_with outstretched hands_--C.) My dear Balsted! Forgive this
intrusion. But I had to come and congratulate you again on the way you
conducted my case. You were masterly! Masterly.

SIR J. (C.) You are very good, Mr. Mollentrave. Our copyright law is
intricate. (MOL. _crosses behind_ SIR J. _to_ R. _and undoes book_) It
was a very nice point (_he shakes hands with_ LADY CLAUDE) And you,
Lady Claude, are you pleased?

MOLLEN. (R. C.) Need you ask, when my book was in question! Rosamund is
naturally proud of her father's work!

LADY C. (L. C.) And I am especially glad of the opportunity the case
has given me of renewing an ancient friendship.

SIR J. (C.) Yes--we are very old friends, you and I! You have been
abroad a long time?

LADY C. Yes--in Italy--since my husband's death.

SIR J. I trust you have now returned for good?

MOLLEN. (_comes_ C. _a step_) I don't mean to part with her any more,
Balsted! Italian cypresses may set off a widow's weeds--but now, that
two years have passed! (LADY C. _sits on stool. He produces a book_)
Balsted, I have taken the liberty to bring you my book--the _casus
belli_--with an autograph inscription. (C. _he presents it with a
flourish_) Allow me to offer it to you!

SIR J. (_taking it_) I am very much obliged.

MOLLEN. (R. C. _rubbing his hands_) "Mollentrave on Women!" I venture
to say it is in a fair way to become a classic.

LADY C. (_smiling_) He has given away all our secrets!

MOLLEN. I was an observer from boyhood. Like Dante, I fell in love at
the age of nine. Unlike Dante, I made notes. In the interests of my
self-imposed study I married three times. (_by chair_ R.) In short, you
will find, between these covers, a most careful, complete investigation
on scientific principles, of the baffling, perplexing creature known to
us as WOMAN!

LADY C. (_in smiling protest_) Papa!

MOLLEN. (_comes_ C. _a step_) Your pardon, my child! You are, of
course, the topmost blossom of the spreading tree. You have inherited,
if I may say so, my mental energy.

SIR J. (C. _fingering the book_) I am disappointed that Lady Claude's
photograph does not figure as frontispiece.

MOLLEN. Ha, ha, very good! (_away_ R. _and returning_) But--in all
seriousness (_takes book_), Balsted--it is a guide, a hand-book, a
Baedeker! It conducts you personally to the most hidden recesses of
the feminine heart, opens every door, strips every cupboard! (R. C.)
No marriage license should be issued to the man who cannot pass his
examination in Mollentrave! (_Goes_ R. _to table and puts book down_)
As a result there would be cobwebs in the Divorce Court! You practise
there, by the way?

SIR J. Heaven forbid! No--I am on the Chancery side--

MOLLEN. (C.) Ah--that's a pity--I should have valued expert criticism.
I am at present revising the book for its next edition--which will be
the twenty-third!

SIR J. (C. _on his_ L.) The twenty-third? Really!

MOLLEN. My dear sir, the work has been translated into every living
tongue. I am told there are women's clubs where it is the custom
solemnly to execrate me after dinner. In Dover Street "to be
mollentraved" has passed into the language. It means--to be found out!

LADY C. (_rising_) Papa, we must not take up Sir Joseph's time.

SIR J. On the contrary! And my interviews with you have been too brief,
these many years past, for me to desire to curtail them. Besides, I
find myself to-day in a position of some perplexity--and truly, should
value your advice!

LADY C. (_archly_) Mine--or papa's?

SIR J. Both! Please sit down. Will you listen to my tale of woe?

                       (LADY C. _sits settee_ L.)

MOLLEN. Gladly. It is the least we can do for you, after your
magnificent service. (MOL. _gets chair_ R. C. _and sits_)

                             (_They sit._)

SIR J. (_sits up_ C. _front of desk_) Well then, here goes! As you are
aware, I am unmarried. Many years ago (_he looks at_ LADY CLAUDE _who
drops her eyes_) I loved a lady, who, very wisely, preferred another.
(MOLLENTRAVE _points waggishly to the book_) Ah, Mr. Mollentrave, had I
then been able to consult your work!

MOLLEN. I was labouring at it for twenty years before I gave it to the
world.

SIR J. My misfortune to have been born too soon! Well, I settled down
to single blessedness, and worked hard. My existence was tranquil.
An elderly lady, widow of a man I had known, kept house for me, and
left me undisturbed. My life was all work, with an occasional game at
bridge. I had never been a ... lady's man ... the sex did not--let us
say, appreciate me--and I, while admiring them from a distance, have
avoided their closer neighborhood.

MOLLEN. My dear friend, you have denied yourself one of the most
fruitful sources of amusement!

SIR J. That may be, but I am constitutionally shy. And law and
politics, you see, took up all my time--I settled down--contentedly
enough, into old fogeydom. My one care was a nephew, a good lad, who
walked the hospitals and has just passed his final exam. Well, so
far all was untroubled. But now comes the catastrophe. A year ago an
old friend of mine died in Australia--a companion of my boyhood--and
bequeathed me--his daughter!

MOLLEN. (_alert_) Ah!

SIR J. His motherless daughter! I received her letter by the morning's
post--she came in the afternoon! A girl! Imagine it! My austere
dwelling invaded by a bouncing, flouncing girl!

MOLLEN. (_chuckling_) Terrible!

SIR J. It _was_ terrible. Lady Claude will excuse me--

LADY C. (_smiling_) Oh yes!

SIR J. My feelings at that moment could only be expressed in camera.
There was no way out--he had appointed me her guardian--it was a
sacred trust--I could do nothing. (_rise_) She was too old to send
to school--too young to live alone. And here was I, to whom girls
are esoteric, mysterious things, of strange, uncanny ways--I, who
don't know what to say to them, how to feed them or amuse them,
I who go into no society, have no small-talk, don't dance or play
ping-pong--here was I suddenly overwhelmed by this avalanche of laces
and muslins!

MOLLEN. Heaven sent you a full-grown daughter, without the expensive
preliminaries!

SIR J. Let us hope Heaven meant it kindly--but there are occasions,
doubtless, when even Providence nods! Well, after a considerable
struggle with myself, I accepted the inevitable. I moved from my
comfortable bachelor's quarters, took this house, found her a
companion--who at once proceeded to quarrel with the housekeeper. I had
to dismiss her and engage another--the same story! (_sits on settee_
L. _by_ LADY C.) In twelve months I have had five companions. To-day
another disturbance--for the sixth time I am bidden choose between
them--and I had hoped to go to Scotland to-morrow. This may all sound
very trivial--but truly I'm in despair!

LADY C. (_laughing_) Poor Sir Joseph!

MOLLEN. (_rise and go_ L. C. _Earnestly_) My dear child, I can enter
into our friend's feelings--this is no laughing matter!--Tell me now,
Balsted--what is she like, your ward?

SIR J. (_puzzled_) Like? Like all other girls, I imagine. I scarcely
have looked at her. Pretty, I suppose, in a feeble kind of way. I have
said good morning and good evening, taken her to an occasional theatre,
and allowed her to prattle. She is only a child.

MOLLEN. (_quickly_) A mistake! They _never_ are children!--How old is
she?

SIR J. Eighteen, I believe--or nineteen, perhaps--possibly twenty.

MOLLEN. Of the sentimental order?

SIR J. (_laughing_) Truly, I've no idea!

MOLLEN. At least you can tell me her taste in literature?

SIR J. (_searching in his memory_) Literature? She reads a good
deal--though what, I've no notion. Stay, though--I remember, one night
when I couldn't sleep, taking a book of hers upstairs, and having a
superb night's rest. It was Somebody's Love-Letters.

LADY C. The Englishwoman's?

SIR J. Yes. That was it.

MOLLEN. Good. Were passages marked?

SIR J. The pages were peppered with lines and crosses.

MOLLEN. The boards protected with a cover?

SIR J. I rather imagine they were.

MOLLEN. Notes scribbled on the margin?

SIR J. I fancy so--yes, I am sure! Heaps of 'em!

MOLLEN. Clue No. 1. Perfect. (_triumphant_) In her clothing she will
affect the darker shades?

SIR J. (_with an effort at memory_) Er--yes--

MOLLEN. Fond of flowers?

SIR J. She litters the place with them!

MOLLEN. I have her! Devours poetry, of course? Adores Wagner? Appetite
languid, member of the Stage Society, and worships Ibsen?

SIR J. The name's familiar--I've heard her mention it--

MOLLEN. Of course! My dear fellow, I haven't seen the lady--and I
prefer, as a rule, to visit the patient before pronouncing upon
her case. But here all is simple, and there is no further need of
analysis. She belongs to the large class, known as _Invertebrate
Sentimentalists_. (_away_ R. C.)

SIR J. (_rise and go_ C.) The deuce she does!

MOLLEN. Harmless, my dear fellow--quite harmless! Now tell me--your
nephew?

SIR J. Yes?

MOLLEN. Has he been here all the time?

SIR J. The last month only--he studied in Germany.

MOLLEN. Good. A normal, healthy lad?

SIR J. Quite.

MOLLEN. Age?

SIR J. Twenty-four or twenty-five.

MOLLEN. A little melancholy lately?

SIR J. Ah! The fact is. I _have_ noticed--

MOLLEN. With the quickness of the trained advocate you have guessed
my drift! My dear sir, your troubles are at an end. To restore your
tranquillity, all you need do is to--add the ward to the nephew!

SIR J. (_gleefully_) By Jove! I should never have thought of it!

MOLLEN. That is where _I_ come in. You talked of a will--she has money?

SIR J. Ten thousand pounds.

MOLLEN. Admirable. Now listen--

                  (LADY C. _rises and goes up_ L. C.)

MOLLEN. (_sit in chair_ R. C. _down stage_) It will take you exactly
ten minutes. You will send for your nephew--meet him coldly--wave him
to a chair. A set frown on your face. You will tell him severely you
have detected his secret, (SIR J. _sits_ C.) remarked his passion for
your ward. You will upbraid him--remember, his adoration is certain! He
will confess and beat his bosom. Then you melt--and send for the maiden.

SIR J. (_alarmed_) I? I speak to her? Never!

MOLLEN. In the interests of celerity! If you leave it to him he will
bungle it. He will be abject, and she tyrannical. She will say "no"
for certain, to see how he takes it. She will demand time--in short,
there will be delay. You will find all this set down in my fourteenth
chapter, called "The Cat and the Mouse."

SIR J. (_rise and down stage_) I can't do it, Mollentrave. I shouldn't
know what to say!

MOLLEN. (_rise, put chair back_ R.) You, the great orator! Imagine
you're addressing a jury of--girls! Wallow in sentiment--reek of
it! (R. C.) Put the boy's love--draw a pathetic picture--tears in
your voice, and so on! In a minute she'll cry, and accept him! Oh, I
guarantee the complete success of the operation! And see here--Rosy and
I are going to Swanage to-morrow--why not join us there, with the young
couple?

SIR J. (C.) That's exceedingly good of you--I had meant to trot off to
Scotland--

MOLLEN. You can't--at once! Remember--they are engaged! But you can go
in a day or two, and leave them with us. The house is large.

SIR J. Really--that is too kind--

MOLLEN. Copy for me, my dear fellow--They'll be under the microscope,
but they won't know. (LADY C. _comes down_ L. C.) And I'll give the boy
some wrinkles. You'll come?

SIR J. (_turn_ L.) Does Lady Claude join in the invitation?

LADY C. Most cordially.

MOLLEN. So that's all settled. (_He gets up, goes to the back, and
proceeds to wrestle with his overcoat_)

SIR J. (C. _to_ LADY CLAUDE) Though I should ask you to explain a few
points in your father's work?

  (MOLLEN., _seized by a sudden inspiration, takes book, sits on
    settee, and turns down pages_ SIR J. _will have to consult_.)

LADY C. (L. C. _merrily_) It contains an index, an appendix, and a
glossary.

SIR J. I am very dull. If I needed help--

LADY C. The book will tell you how dangerous it is to invite a woman's
assistance.

SIR J. But suppose I seek the danger?

LADY C. There is a chapter on widows.

SIR J. Which I shall not read. There _you_ shall be my author.

LADY C. _My_ book is to be on man.

SIR J. If you need a collaborator!

LADY C. I shall ask your ward to assist--But, Sir Joseph, I thought you
could not talk to women?

SIR J. I cannot--but there is one, all these years, to whom I have said
so much, and so often!

LADY C. I am glad you have made an exception. Well, you know where we
live, at Swanage?

SIR J. I have not forgotten--I have a memory.... There was an elm-tree
there--

LADY C. Which still remains, though it has grown older! (MOLLEN.
_bustles up_) To-morrow then? You will let us know by what train?
Good-bye--and you have my best wishes. (B. _goes up to door_ L. 3 E.)
Papa (_goes up_ L. _and_ EXIT L. 3 E.)

MOLLEN. (_rise, round back_ C. _to_ L. C.) Yes--send us a wire!
Good-bye, my dear fellow. And remember--gallons of sentiment!

            (MOLLENTRAVE _turns to the door; as he goes_ SIR
                        JOSEPH _clutches him_.)

SIR J. (_away_ R. C.) Mollentrave, I can't do it! I can't! At the mere
thought of it I feel a chill down my spine. I can't!

MOLLEN. (_coming_ C.) Balsted!

SIR J. Look here, why not speak to her yourself?

MOLLEN. I?

SIR J. Why not? It's your business, after all, this sort of thing.
(C.) You're an expert, a professional. I won your case for you
yesterday--win mine for me now!

MOLLEN. (L. C.) But it's a delicate subject to bring before a lady one
has never met before--

SIR J. I'll introduce you in proper form--tell her you are my
mouthpiece--Oh, I'll make _that_ all right. And I'll be there, of
course, while you--do it--

MOLLEN. Naturally, if you insist--

SIR J. I do--You will?

MOLLEN. Certainly--though--(_getting away_ L.)

SIR J. (_following him to_ L.) I'm immensely grateful! I'll send for
the boy at once and talk to him. I can manage _that_ part. You'll see
Lady Claude into her carriage, walk to the corner of the street and
come back. Then, if you're right about him--

MOLLEN. _If_ I'm right!

SIR J. (L. C.) You will put the other little matter before her, in your
own inimitable fashion. Eh?

MOLLEN. (L.) I'll be back in ten minutes.

           (MOLLENTRAVE _exits_ L. 3 E. SIR JOSEPH _has rung_
                     R. PETERS _comes in_ L. 3 E.)

SIR J. (R. C.) Tell Mr. Swenboys I want him.

PETERS. Yes, Sir Joseph.

  (PETERS _goes_ L. 3 E. SIR JOSEPH _hums cheerfully, takes up the
    book, and glances at it_. EVERARD _enters_. SIR J. _frowns,
    throws down book and waves him to a chair_.)

EVERARD. (L. C.) You want me, uncle?

SIR J. (R. C.) Yes, sit down, sit down. (EVERARD _sits on stool_ L. C.)
Oh, Everard!

              (SIR J. _sits in chair_ R. C. _down stage_.)

EVERARD. (_wonderingly_) Why, uncle, what is it? Have I done anything?

SIR J. Done anything, unhappy boy! (_He pauses, perplexedly, then
resumes, with melodrama_) I should never have believed it--never!

EVERARD. (_rise and going_ C.) But, uncle, tell me--

SIR J. (_waving him back_) If ever a trust was sacred ... if ever a man
had a right to expect--and you--you!

EVERARD. (C. _in absolute dismay_) Why--what--

SIR J. Isn't the world full of girls whom you could fall in love with?
Don't they--pullulate? Aren't there a hundred thousand more women than
men in London alone? And must you select, out of them all, the very one
whom you--shouldn't?

EVERARD. (_sinking his head_) That wretched Treable woman has told you
about the verses!

SIR J. Verses! You stooped to verses!

EVERARD. (_humbly_) I cribbed them.

SIR J. An attempt to obtain credit--under false pretences! Confess it
then, degenerate boy! You love my ward!

EVERARD. (_drawing himself up_) Uncle, I do! With every drop of my
blood!

SIR J. (_delighted, but simulating great grief_) Ha! It is true then!

EVERARD. I was wrong--there is no doubt I was wrong. But could I help
it--put it that way--how could I?

SIR J. I must decline to put it that way.

EVERARD. (_passionately_) Why did you let me come here, and be in her
presence, day after day? How live in the same house with her, sit
opposite her at meals, and not adore? How look upon that matchless
face, listen to the sound of her voice, its silvery music (_down_ L.)
and not--fall prostrate?

SIR J. (_making a note on his shirt-cuff_) Matchless face--silvery
music--

EVERARD. (_to_ R. C.) I worship her, uncle! She is the--very star and
loadstone of my existence, the--

SIR J. (_rise_) I see. But, tell me--have you said all this--to her?

EVERARD. (C. _mournfully_) To her not a word! My fingers may have
pleaded, as I passed the bread and butter--my eyes may have spoken--but
my lips--never! The verses, the fatal verses, merely compared her to
the (_away_ L. C.) Capitoline Venus--

SIR J. (R. C.) And the Venus, I suppose, wasn't in it?

EVERARD. (_up to him_ R. C.) Ah, uncle, don't make fun of me! I confess
my fault to you frankly--I know it was wrong--I've always known it.
Send me away, sir--I'll do what you bid me. Get me a berth in Africa
where the climate's deadliest (_sit_ C. _front of table_) I'll go
without a word--and you'll soon be rid of me!

SIR J. (_up_ R. C.) But, my dear lad, I don't want to be rid of
you--and I'm not sure that I altogether approve of the deadly climate
scheme. All I say is--

EVERARD. You can say nothing to me that I have not said already
to myself--ah, many times! (_rise_) It was a presumption--a mad
presumption. Don't be too hard on me!

SIR J. (_gravely_) Everard, I've tried to do my duty by you--

EVERARD. You have been more than a father to me. Be merciful, sir!

SIR J. I will, I will.

EVERARD. All I ask is--

SIR J. All _I_ ask is that we now drop heroics and descend to more
commonplace ground. Leave Olympus and return to the London pavement----

EVERARD. (L. C. _bewildered_) I don't understand--

SIR J. (R. C.) Why, after all, when one comes to think of it, there is
no especial crime in a young man falling in love with a young woman--

EVERARD. (_up_ R. C.) A young woman! Margaret!

SIR J. A young goddess, then--but still, it is not unnatural. And, as I
say, I don't see--

EVERARD. (_springing wildly to his feet_) You don't mean that there is
a hope for me!

SIR J. But I do, I do! I have reason to believe that she is not
altogether indifferent.

EVERARD. (_gasping_) Uncle!

SIR J. Has she given you no sign?

EVERARD. (_shyly_) When we played chess last Thursday, she allowed her
hand to rest on mine for the appreciable fraction of a second--

SIR J. (_triumphantly_) You see! Mollentrave on Women--the text-book on
the subject--would, I am sure, interpret that as encouragement.

EVERARD. Uncle! Don't tell me that you think--(_he rushes wildly about
the room_)

SIR J. But I do, I do! What's more, I am convinced! Come, my boy, sit
down. (EVERARD _down_ R. _back to_ C. SIR J. _seizes him and sits him_
R. C.) and don't pace the room like an undischarged bankrupt. (_sits_
C.) Let us discuss the matter.

EVERARD. Margaret to be mine!

SIR J. Again I say, why not? I shall buy you a practice as a
wedding-present, and--as they say in the fairy-stories, you will live
happily ever after. Do you authorize me to--sound the lady?

                     (EVERARD _rises and away_ R.)

              (MOLLENTRAVE _comes bustling into the room_
                               L. 3 E.)

SIR J. (_rise_ C.--_going eagerly to him and whispering into his ear_)
Splendid, Mollentrave, splendid! (_aloud_) Let me introduce my nephew,
Mr. Everard Swenboys. Everard, this is an old friend of mine--whom we
can admit to our fullest confidence. (_down_ C.) Mollentrave--my nephew
has just confessed to me that he loves my ward!

MOLLEN. (L. C.) You don't say so! Remarkable! Really! (_up_ L. C. _puts
hat down table_ C. _and crosses to down_ R.)

SIR J. I have your authority, Everard, to--ask the lady?

EVERARD. (R. C.) Oh, uncle, if you would! One word from you!

SIR J. Very well, then--send her to me! At once!

EVERARD. (_with a look at_ MOLLENTRAVE) Now, uncle? Had we not better--

SIR J. Now! The court of Love is sitting! (EVERARD _crosses to_ L.) Go,
my boy--and tell her to be quick!

EVERARD. (_shakes his uncle violently by the hand, then rushes out of
the room_ L. 3 E. SIR JOSEPH _turns to_ MOLLENTRAVE _down_ R. C. _with
enthusiasm_, C.) You're a wizard, you know! It's marvellous! Look here,
I made a note or two for you--matchless face, silvery music of her
voice--you might bring those in--

MOLLEN. Startingly original, aren't they? You'll find half a dozen
really _new_ superlatives in my book. So it seems I wasn't wrong, eh?
(_goes_ R. _by fireplace_)

SIR J. (C.) Extraordinary! If only you're right about her.

MOLLEN. We shall see. My dear friend, I have other cases on hand
besides this. (_comes_ C.) Have you met Lord Contareen?

SIR J. No--I don't think so.

MOLLEN. I am, shall I say, "steering" _him_. He's in love with my--with
a lady, and the lady loves him--without knowing it. (R. C.) I give you
my word she has refused him, although she adores him--merely _because_
she doesn't know.

SIR J. (C.) Funny! But _you_ know, eh?

MOLLEN. _I_ know, by what I call consequential induction; and by the
same process I'll answer for your ward. By the way what will you do
while I--plead?

SIR J. Just go and sit at my desk, eh? (_sit_ R. _of desk_ C.)

MOLLEN. Yes--that will be best. It won't take long. I hope she'll come
soon! (_down_ R.) though! Ah--

  (MARGARET _has come into the room_ L. 3 E.; _she goes to_ SIR
    JOSEPH _and does not at first notice_ MOLLEN. _who is at back_.)

MARGARET. (L. _of desk_ C.) You wish to speak to me, guardian?

SIR J. (_very embarrassed_) Yes--er--yes.

MARGARET. About Miss Treable? Oh, believe me, she is the o--

SIR J. (_rising down_ C. _very fidgety and awkward_) No, no, it's
not about Miss Treable. Let me introduce you to Mr. Mollentrave.
Mollentrave, this is my ward, Miss Messilent.

                       (MARG. _comes down_ L. C.)

MOLLEN. (R. C. _bowing_) I am exceedingly happy to make Miss
Messilent's acquaintance.

SIR J. (_picking his words with considerable effort and
difficulty_) Margaret, you will possibly--consider it strange--but
the fact is--there is something--that I ought to have--said to
you--myself--before to-day perhaps (C.)--but it's a--delicate
matter--and you know what a rugged old bear I am--and--well, Everard's
not much better--and here's Mr. Mollentrave--a very old friend--and
he--well, you see, I told him of my--of our--dilemma--and he, in the
kindest way in the world--eh, Mollentrave?--well, he'll just tell you,
you see, and I'll finish--what I was doing.

  (_He beats a hasty retreat to his desk and buries himself in his
    papers._ MOLLENTRAVE _advances, smiling and mincing_.)

MOLLEN. (R. C. _very volubly_) My dear Miss Messilent, I find myself in
a rather embarrassing position. Your guardian, who as you are aware,
has, in the most charming manner possible, retained all the shyness of
youth in the presence of your adorable sex, has deputed me to speak for
him, phrase his sentiments, express his pious desires--in a word, act
as his mouthpiece in introducing to your notice a subject that I trust
will enlist all your sympathy. Have I your permission?

MARGARET. (L. C. _her eyes roaming from him to_ SIR JOSEPH) Certainly.

          (MARG. _sits stool_ L. C. MOLLEN. _takes chair from_
                          R. C. _and sits_ C.)

MOLLEN. (_sitting_ C.) My dear young lady, the sixty years that have
passed over my head, furrowing my brow and blanching my hair, give
me at least the privilege to address you with a certain paternal
simplicity, a mild but glowing benevolence. Can you, without too great
a stretch of the imagination, look on me, for a very brief moment, as
though I were actually your guardian?

MARGARET. (_more and more puzzled_) If you wish it.

MOLLEN. Ten thousand thanks. You simplify my task. Because the theme on
which I have to dwell is not one that can be coldly attacked--scarred
veteran as I am, there are still feeble pulsations in my heart when I
breathe the magic word--Love! (_He looks searchingly at her_)

MARGARET. (_startled_) Love! (_she throws a quick glance at_ SIR
JOSEPH, _who dives down deeper behind his desk_)

MOLLEN. (_with much sentiment_) Love! I am fresh from hearing a man
tell of his love--oh, the word is too cold!--of his deep, overpowering
passion! Miss Messilent, I am still under the spell! I have been the
recipient, in my time, of many confidences--but never have I met a
creature so absolutely enslaved by the divine emotion, so eager a
captive in the chains of beauty--as is this lover--of yours! (_Both
rise_)

MARGARET. Of mine! Mine! Me!

MOLLEN. Who but you? Are you not--but forgive me if my advocacy becomes
too ardent! (_puts chair back_ R. _and goes up to_ R. _of_ SIR J.) It
is your guardian who should be saying these things--but I speak for
him, I am the reed into which he has blown! (MARG. _kneels on stool
and is facing_ SIR J.) It is your guardian who wishes to know whether
this man, this lover of yours (_comes_ C.) this man who yearns for
you, who for the last month has been your satellite, shining with your
radiance and dark with your darkness, who has set up a temple in his
soul whereof you are the goddess--whether this man shall be flung by
you into the shadows of hopeless misery, or be made immortal by the
knowledge that you--return--his passion!

MARGARET. (_off stool and sitting_ L. C. _looking glowingly at_ SIR J.)
Yes! Yes! Tell him yes!

MOLLEN. (C. _beaming_) Ha! You can accord him, then, a small fragment
of--your affection?

MARGARET. Can he doubt it! Oh, he is so much above me! I had never
dared to hope!

MOLLEN. (_triumphantly_) Miss Messilent, nor he, I assure you--nor he!
(_away_ R. C.) Ah, lovers, lovers! Then your guardian may tell Mr.
Swenboys--

MARGARET. (_sinking her head_) Ah--poor Everard!

MOLLEN.(C. _smiling_) Poor Everard! I don't think we need pity _him_!
(_She rises_) Miss Messilent, I have fulfilled my mission, and now
I will leave you. I relinquish my paternal role with regret, with
considerable regret--and join the ranks of your other admirers. Miss
Messilent, I kiss your hand!

  (SIR J. _rises and steps forward: he is beaming with joy_.
    MOLLENTRAVE _bows to her and crosses her over to his_ R. _and
    goes to the door_ L. 3 E. SIR JOSEPH _rises, accompanying him_.
    MARGARET _remains standing_ R. C. _as though entranced_.)

MOLLEN. (_up_ L. _at the door, to_ SIR J.) Rather good, eh, don't you
think, for an impromptu?

SIR J. (_up_ L. C.) Good! Magnificent! How can I thank you?

MOLLEN. Tut, tut, I've enjoyed it. Now make her name the day while the
ecstatic mood's still on her! Good-bye! Till to-morrow!

                      (MOLLENTRAVE _goes_ L. 3 E.)

                   (SIR JOSEPH _returns to_ MARGARET)

SIR J. (C. _all his awkwardness returning_) My dear--Margaret, I
am really most glad--most glad. And Everard--well, well, I need say
nothing about Everard. And now that we--know--will you regard me
as--inconsiderate--if I press for an--early--marriage?

MARGARET. (C. _coyly_) Sir Joseph!

SIR J. (_on her_ L.) You will have to--er--drop that title soon, my
dear and address me--er--less formally.

MARGARET. Not yet, not yet! Give me time.

SIR J. (_a little surprised_) Certainly, certainly--but I trust it will
not be too long. And now, one final word. My--er--guardianship will
soon be at an end--but I have tried--to--er--fulfil its duties. And I
trust that--er--er--you will never regret the--er--step--you are taking
to-day!

  (_He goes to her, cordially holding out both his hands._ MARGARET
    _is about to throw herself into his arms when the door opens and_
    MRS. MARTELLI _appears_ R. 1 E. _She pauses, aghast._ MARGARET
    _with a smothered cry, rushes out of the room_ L. 3 E.)

MRS. M. Sir Joseph! (R.)

SIR J. (C. _gleefully_) Well, Mrs. Martelli?

MRS. M. (R. C. _standing grimly on the threshold_) I hope I do not
intrude.

SIR J. (C.) By no means, by no means! We had finished! Ah, Mrs.
Martelli, there will soon be an end to Miss Treable!

MRS. MAR. (_open-mouthed_) Sir Joseph! (_with suppressed indignation_)
I came to tell you that your clerk is still waiting below.

SIR J. Noyes! Ah, I had forgotten about Noyes! Send him up, (_across
to_ R.) please. Oh, it's splendid, Mrs. Martelli--splendid!

                    (MRS. MARTELLI _exits_ R. 1 E.)

           (_The door at back opens and_ EVERARD _appears_.)

EVERARD. Uncle!

SIR J. (C. _rushing to him, and slapping him on the back_) Everard!
It's all right! Go to her, my boy!

EVERARD. (L. C. _gasping_) Uncle!

SIR J. Go to her! She adores you! Unworthy, et-cetera--never dared to
look so high! Oh, you couple of idiots! Give her the classic kiss,
and get her to name the day! She has promised to make it soon. Quick,
now--she's waiting!

EVERARD. Uncle!

            (_He rushes out wildly back_ L. 3 E. SIR JOSEPH
               _returns to_ R. C. NOYES _enters_ R. 1 E.)

SIR J. (R. C.) Ah, Noyes, I forgot about you! Here--a present. Take it
and read it! (_He hands him the book_)

NOYES. (R. _looking at the cover_) "Mollentrave on Women." (_he stares_)

SIR J. (R. C. _takes book away from_ NOYES) Stay though--it's an
autograph copy--you must buy one for yourself! Hurrooh! He knows a
thing or two, that old man. Well, now what news?

NOYES. (R.) I merely called to see whether you were going to Scotland
to-morrow, Sir Joseph.

SIR J. No--not to-morrow--I must alter my plans for a bit. Everard's
going to marry my ward, Noyes. A bit of luck, eh? We must see about
settlements, and so on. And buy the lad a practice. There are agents
for that sort of thing, eh?

NOYES. Certainly, Sir Joseph. And permit me to congratulate you.

SIR J. Thank you, thank you! And enquire about the practice--at once!

NOYES. Have you any preference as regards locality?

SIR J. H'm--a pleasant suburb--not _quite_ too near town, eh? Noyes?
One doesn't want to be _too_ close--to the felicity of the young
couple? Turtle-doves demand solitude. Oh, blessings on Mollentrave!

          (EVERARD _returns_ L. 3 E. _the picture of hopeless
                               despair_.)

SIR J. (C.) Hullo, what's this?

EVERARD. (L. C.) Uncle, she thinks you meant you!

SIR J. (_leaping up_) What!!!

EVERARD. She thinks you meant YOU!! That you were proposing for
yourself! She says she's engaged to--YOU!

SIR J. (_shaking him_) Speak, can't you? What do you mean?

EVERARD. (_brokenly_) She does. I didn't undeceive her. How could I?
_She's happy_--_she loves_ you--she'll _marry_ you! Oh!

SIR J. Oh! Mollentrave!

  (EVER. _buries his head in his hands and sinks into settee_ L. SIR
    JOSEPH _stands_ C. _shouting between his clenched teeth_--"Oh,
    MOLLENTRAVE!")

                                CURTAIN.



ACT II.


Time of Representation, twenty-five minutes.

[Illustration: Scene.]

                                ACT II.

  (_The drawing-room of_ MR. MOLLENTRAVE'S _house in Cadogan Square.
    At back_ L. _door leads to an inner room_. MOLLENTRAVE _is seated
    glancing over proof-sheets. Suddenly he calls_ "MR. DEXTER!"
    DEXTER _enters from the inner room up_ L.)

MOLLEN. (_Is sitting_ R. _of_ C. _table_) I have a few corrections to
make for the new edition. Have you your note-book?

DEXTER (_enters_ L. U. E. _producing it_) Yes, sir.

MOLLEN. Sit down, sit down. (DEXTER _sits_ L. _of_ C. _table_) By the
way, you've written that letter for me to Lord Contareen?

DEXTER. I have it in there for you to sign, sir, with the others.

MOLLEN. What date did I fix for his--reappearance, Dexter?

DEXTER. (_turning up pages_) I can give you the exact sentence,
sir. (_reading_) "You have sown the seed, my dear sir, expect its
germination in about six weeks. Then I shall invite you to examine the
shoots."

MOLLEN. Yes, that will do! that will do. Couldn't be clearer. Now,
Dexter, to return. I don't quite like the sub-title of that new chapter
on Marriage, Dexter. Read it.

DEXTER. "The Marriage-Course. The First Lap."

MOLLEN. Exactly. It's too concrete. And suggests other laps to follow.

DEXTER. (_chuckling_) Yes, sir. Lapses.

MOLLEN. (_glancing severely at him over his spectacles_) Dexter, this
is not the first time you have offended in this fashion. I beg it may
be the last.

DEXTER. (_contritely_) Sir--

MOLLEN. Let me remind you that marriage was not invented merely to give
the comic man a chance. Not a word, not a word--we need say no more.
(_Rise, crosses to bookshelves_ R. _taking out book_) I want a new
sub-title--something symbolic, tasteful, and yet adapted to the gravity
of the situation.

DEXTER. How would "stage" do, sir?

MOLLEN. It savours of the theatre. My work has a large circulation
among Nonconformists.

DEXTER. "Phase," sir?

MOLLEN. (_across to_ L. _back of table_) Invariably associated with the
moon, or Napoleon. I seek a word that shall happily suggest the first
disillusions of the young couple. Stay, I have it! The "Marriage Links"
we will call it--there you have the symbol--and for sub-title:--(_down_
L.) "The First Bunker." (MOLLENTRAVE _rubs his hands, delighted at his
invention_)

            (MARTIN _the butler enters with_ LORD CONTAREEN,
            _a well-groomed, vacuous-looking man of forty_.)

MOLLEN. The First Bunk--(_sees_ CONTAREEN _reproachfully, crossing to
up_ R. C. _front of table_) Contareen! You here! That's wrong!

                 (_They shake hands_, DEXTER _rises_.)

DEXTER. (_rising_) Shall I go now, sir?

MOLLEN. Yes, Dexter. You understand that I take you down with me to
Swanage to-morrow?

DEXTER. Yes, sir--certainly, good-day, sir.

MOLLEN. Good-day to you.

        (DEXTER _goes up_ L. MOLLENTRAVE _turns to_ CONTAREEN.)

(_Up_ R. C.) It's wrong, my dear fellow--it's wrong! To-day's
Friday--she refused you on Wednesday. Too soon!

CONTAREEN. (_eagerly_) Mollentrave--I--(_down_ R. C.)

MOLLEN. (_emphatically, down_ C.) I have promised that you shall marry
my daughter. I have assured you that I have no doubt whatever as to her
affection. Then why this--precipitancy?

CONTAREEN. She refused me very decidedly. (_sits on settee_ R.)

MOLLEN. My poor Rosamund is a widow. (_up_ L. C. _across_ C. _and down_
R. C.) Also she has had the advantage of correcting my proof-sheets.
She has read that passion wins maids, and perseverance widows. She
follows the rule. Do the same!

CONTAREEN. I thought--

MOLLEN. Every siege must be conducted on scientific principles. You
should now be back in your trenches. Digging, sir--digging!

CONTAREEN. (_eagerly_) Look here, Lady Pentruddock has asked me down to
her place in Shropshire.

MOLLEN. Well?

CONTAREEN. Her sister will be there--Muriel, I mean, not Gladys. Muriel
has charm.

MOLLEN. Granted. And then?

CONTAREEN. Your daughter knows Lady Muriel. When she learns that I
shall be under the same roof with that fascinating person--eh?

MOLLEN. (_to_ L. _of table_ C.) I see, I see. Well--(_he ponders_)

CONTAREEN. If I tell Lady Claude that I--er--accept her decision
cheerfully--eh?--and inform her that I--Lady Muriel--don't you think?

MOLLEN. (_judicially_) The idea has merit.

CONTAREEN. (_humbly_) I got it out of the book.

MOLLEN. Of course. That goes without saying. (_sit_ L. _of table_ C.)
Well, no harm can be done. Though a line to me, from Pentruddock Castle
would have been better.

CONTAREEN. Perhaps. But still--I say, you're backing me up?

MOLLEN. I'm supporting you admirably. I have repeatedly expressed my
delight at her having refused you.

CONTAREEN. (_staggered_) I say!

MOLLEN. I dwell with satisfaction on the prospect of not seeing you
again--

CONTAREEN. Look here!

MOLLEN. And have more than once hinted at a past that is probably
strewn with forlorn Nancies and Janes--

CONTAREEN. (_aghast--rise_) By Jove!

MOLLEN. "To kindle the flame of love in the feminine bosom"--I quote
from the fifteenth chapter--(_he presses the bell_) "the third party
should vehemently, and persistently, denounce the person whom he
desires to see enthroned."

CONTAREEN. But still!

MOLLEN. Leave it to me, my dear fellow, leave it to me! I tell you it
works like a charm!

                      (CONT. _re-sits settee_ R.)

                         (MARTIN _comes in_ R.)

MOLLEN. Inform Lady Claude that Lord Contareen is here, and ask her to
be good enough to descend.

MARTIN. Yes, sir. (_he goes_)

MOLLEN. Now see--when Rosamund comes, I shall retire into the back room
there, and write a letter. I shall give you three minutes. Then you
take your leave.

CONTAREEN. Quite so. Three minutes will do!

MOLLEN. And remember--be sprightly! Not a trace of acidity! Persiflage
is good--in moderation--_Bring_ in Lady Pentruddock's sister--but don't
_drag_ her in! You understand?

CONTAREEN. Perfectly, perfectly. Oh yes, I see. Gad, Mollentrave, I've
always done what you told me. But those Nancies and Janes, you know--

MOLLEN. Tut, tut, women like a dash of colour! Now mind--your visit
to-day is merely a p. p. c. card--the whistle that heralds the shunting
of the train--

CONTAREEN. Quite so. (_whistle_) I must remember that.

MOLLEN. (_rise, cross to_ R. C.) Your line is delicacy. You feel it
only due to her, and so forth. Your tone must be soft, mellifluous--a
south wind rustling over orange trees. Orange trees, mark you--_not_
cypresses!

CONTAREEN. (_rise_) Exactly. Orange trees--_not cypresses_. I see.

MOLLEN. (_takes_ CONT. _across_ L. C.) Take no notice of her confusion.
Be bland, respectful. Retire gracefully. (CONT. _crosses to_ L. _front
of_ MOLLEN.) A gentle pressure of the hand. No more.

CONT. (L.) I'll do it. I'll do it! You're wonderful, Mollentrave, but I
say--

MOLLEN. (L. C.) H'sh! (_up_ L. C. _to top of table_)

                 (LADY CLAUDE _enters_ R. _with book_)

LADY C. (_down_ C.) How are you, Lord Contareen?

CONTAREEN. (_down_ C.--_suddenly smitten with confusion_) I'm very
well, thank you, Lady Claude--never was better, never was better!

             (_He looks to_ MOLLENTRAVE _away_ L. _a step_)

MOLLEN. (_up_ C. _top of table--to_ LADY CLAUDE) My dear, you will
excuse me--I have a line to write to--to--oh yes, to Balsted, of
course, about the train to-morrow. We take the 11.20--he may as well
join us. Your pardon, Contareen--I shall not be a moment.

                     (LADY C. _puts book away_ R.)

           (MOLLENTRAVE _goes into the inner room_ L. U. E.
                         _rubbing his hands_.)

CONTAREEN. (_disconcerted_) Balsted! the lawyer fellow!

LADY C. (_smiling_) The great barrister--yes. He is coming to Swanage.

CONTAREEN. The deuce he is! Old friend of yours, isn't he?

LADY C. (_sit_ R. _of_ C. _table, sitting_) I have known him a number
of years.

CONTAREEN. Confound it, ain't he a bachelor? (_To_ L. _of table_ C.
_from_ L.)

LADY C. He was when I last saw him.

CONTAREEN. And how long ago was that?

LADY C. I should think an hour and a half.

CONTAREEN. (_very perturbed_) (_sit_ L. _of_ C. _table_) Eh? Quite so,
quite so. No concern of mine, of course, and all that. Well, what I had
to say--the fact is that I--confound Balsted--he's put me off!

LADY C. (_wondering_) Put you off? Off what, Lord Contareen?

CONTAREEN. You see, I didn't know you were going to have visitors at
Swanage.

LADY C. (_smiling_) Well, that's not unnatural, is it? We've such a
large place there!

CONTAREEN. (_eagerly_) I suppose you wouldn't like me to--

LADY C. After what has occurred, perhaps--

CONTAREEN. (_pleading_) I've only asked you once, you know--

LADY C. (_emphatically_) But I do most earnestly beg you to believe
that my decision is final, and irrevocable.

CONTAREEN. (_humbly, rise_) I don't think I made it quite clear to you
to what extent I ad--

               (MOLLENTRAVE _coughs loudly from the inner
                                room_.)

CONTAREEN. (_quickly_) To what extent I ad--ad--advocate! Funny, isn't
it! (_up stage_ C. _a step_) Besides, we're too old, and that sort of
thing--

LADY C. (_puzzled_) I beg your pardon--

CONTAREEN. (_top of table_ C.) Oh, nothing, nothing--a joke that's
all--mere persiflage! What I wanted to say was--to break it--h'm
delicately--that I was going away too--to Lady Pentruddock's, you know--

LADY C. Indeed? I hope you will have a most pleasant time.

CONTAREEN. Thanks--sure to, sure to! Seems that her sister's
there--Muriel, you know, not Gladys. Fine woman, Muriel.

LADY C. (_indifferently_) Very.

CONTAREEN. (_artfully_) Old friend of mine--and I fancy that
she--she--you see--well, I--and I rather want to--eh, don't you think?

LADY C. (_clapping her hands_) Admirable! Oh, I'm so glad!

CONTAREEN. (_quickly_) Nothing done yet, of course! There still is
time--

LADY C. Time?

CONTAREEN. My visit to-day is merely a kind of--whistle, you know.
'Bout ship, eh? You don't mind?

LADY C. Mind? I! My dear Lord Contareen, I assure you--

CONTAREEN. You've no objection, I mean, to my going down there?

LADY C. Far from it! Indeed, I should most strongly recommend a change
of scene. (_rise and away_ R.)

CONTAREEN. (_cunningly, down_ L. _to_ C.) And of actors, Lady Claude,
eh, of actors? Ha, ha! I'm anxious of course, that you shouldn't think
me--(_he pauses_)

LADY C. (_Impatiently, sit on sofa_ R.) Think you what, Lord Contareen?

CONTAREEN. Not regard it as sudden, eh? Too abrupt and that sort of
thing?

LADY C. On the contrary, I shall be delighted!

CONTAREEN. (R. C. _disconcerted_) Oh! delighted!

LADY C. I assure you! I have the greatest respect for Lady Gladys--

CONTAREEN. Muriel, Muriel--not Gladys--

LADY C. Your pardon--I should have said Lady Muriel. Let me declare to
you, most earnestly and sincerely, that you have my very best wishes
for your success.

CONTAREEN. Of course I've said nothing yet--but once down there--weak
man, charming woman--

LADY C. Let us know as soon as it's settled! And I will congratulate
you, with my whole heart! Believe it, Lord Contareen!

           (MOLLENTRAVE _comes in_, L. U. E. _and goes to top
           of table_ C. _with a discreet preliminary cough_.)

CONTAREEN. (_Looks round to_ L.) Just going, Mollentrave--just going,
Lady Claude--au revoir!

LADY C. Good-bye. And my love to Lady Muriel!

CONTAREEN. (_up_ R. C.) Quite so, quite so. Good-bye, Mollentrave. I'm
afraid I've made an awful hash--

MOLLEN. (_up_ R. C. _on his_ L.) Good-bye, my dear fellow--good-bye.
(_in his ear_) She's piqued--she's piqued! Spade-work--nothing like it!
(_aloud_) Good-bye!

            (CONTAREEN _goes_ R. MOLLENTRAVE _returns to the
                centre of the room, rubbing his hands_.)

LADY C. (_very earnestly_) Papa, don't practise on me!

MOLLEN. (_blandly_) My child?

LADY C. There are so many specimens for you to play with! Look on me as
an exception--a freak, if you like. But _I_, at least, am not a rule of
three sum!

MOLLEN. (_sitting on stool_ C. _patting her hand_) My dear Rosamund!

LADY C. (_rise_) How _could_ you imagine that such an inane, idiotic
creature as that--

MOLLEN. It is certainly strange that he should go to Pentruddock. Your
resentment is justified.

LADY C. (_up_ R. _and across back of table to down_ L. C. _scornfully_)
Resentment!

MOLLEN. I shouldn't be in the least surprised if Lady Muriel secured
him!

LADY C. Oh, she may have him, with all my heart, and all my sympathy
too!

MOLLEN. (_slyly_) Of course, my dear, I'm aware that _you_ don't care
for him. How could you?

LADY C. (_down_ L. _smiling in spite of herself_) You refuse to believe
me? I cannot convince you?

MOLLEN. (_stroking her condescendingly_) My dear--

LADY C. (L. C.) After all that has happened! After what you have seen
of my life! And you really believe that I ever could care for this man!
That I, a creature with a heart and soul, am pigeon-holed in your book,
and bound to conform to its maxims!

MOLLEN. (_fatuously_) On the contrary--I--

LADY C. (_up and down_ L. C.) Is it his title appeals to you--his
houses, his money? Years ago, I was obedient--my husband, too, had a
title--and you know how dearly I paid for it.... Weave no webs round
me! The fly has grown wary--and it has had the advantage, too, of
studying the wiles of the spider!

MOLLEN. I quite admit, my dear, that Contareen's change of attitude is
reprehensible--very. And I have not the least doubt--

LADY C. (_smiling sorrowfully_) You are incorrigible!

MOLLEN. My dear child! Since I tell you--

LADY C. Ah--I see that I shall have to provide you--with material for a
new chapter!

  (_She kisses him--he purrs complacently. The door opens and_ MARTIN
    _ushers in_ SIR JOSEPH, _who is wildly excited_.)

MARTIN. Sir Joseph Balsted.

MOLLEN. (_eagerly_) Balsted! (_rise and across to_ R.)

SIR J. (R. C.) Mollentrave,--awful--the little idiot imagined you were
proposing for me!

MOLLEN. (_sitting_ R.) No! No!

SIR J. She thought you meant _me_!

MOLLEN. Balsted, how could you! Why, when I left the room she had
accepted Everard!

SIR J. And I sent the boy to her--he comes back, pale as a
ghost--and says she's engaged--to ME! (_sit_ R. _of_ C. _table_)

          (LADY CLAUDE _up_ L. _and down_ L. _convulsed with_
                   _laughter. Both men turn to her._)

MOLLEN. (_reproachfully_) My dear Rosamund, your hilarity is misplaced.

LADY C. (_contritely but still choking, sit_ L. _by work table_) I'm
very sorry--

MOLLEN. Our friend has unfortunately entangled himself in a most
serious dilemma--

SIR J. I! That's good! _You_ did the proposing!

MOLLEN. You heard me--you even complimented me!

SIR J. (_rise_) It flashed across me at the time--you never mentioned
his name!

MOLLEN. (_with an indulgent smile_) Not mention his name! I!

SIR J. If she had accepted Everard, would she, one moment after, have
consented to marry me?

MOLLEN. Do not excite yourself, my dear Balsted! What happened, I see
it, was this. I dug the hole, and gave you the tree to put in. You
popped in the wrong one!

LADY C. What happened, Sir Joseph, after you heard the news?

SIR J. (_to_ LADY C.) I rushed on here at once. (_to_ MOLLEN.) You've
got me into this scrape--get me out!

MOLLEN. My dear friend, my services are of course at your disposal.
But, truly, how could you? The affair was so simple!

SIR J. Well, one thing's certain at any rate--she's not in love with
Everard--

MOLLEN. (_shaking his head_) That's not certain at all!

SIR J. (_impatiently_) What! When the little fool's in love with me!

MOLLEN. That's not proved.

SIR J. Not proved! When she wants to marry me!

MOLLEN. Didn't I tell you she was an invertebrate sentimentalist? You
forgot that. Had you left her undisturbed in the belief that you meant
Everard, she'd have gone to the altar with Everard. You persuaded her I
had spoken for you--she switched her love on to you. That's the case in
a nutshell.

SIR J. Preposterous!

MOLLEN. There you may trust my, let us say, wider experience. But tell
me, Everard! He did not undeceive her?

SIR J. No--heroics! She loves you, he says to me--uncle, she loves you!
He seemed to take it for granted I _must_ love her! And he hoped--we'd
be happy! You'll go now--at once?

MOLLEN. I'm willing of course. Only let us first, calmly, review the
situation.

                  (SIR J. _sits_ R. _of_ C. _table_.)

Assume that I tell your ward bluntly of her mistake--well, what's the
result?

SIR J. That I'm free!

MOLLEN. Yes! But at what cost!

SIR J. Cost! What do you mean?

MOLLEN. The situation of which you complained this afternoon will
remain, will it not? And intensified--a million times. Nay, it will
have become--impossible!

SIR J. All this is beyond me! he turns appealingly to Lady Claude! Lady
Claude!

LADY C. It is beyond me too, Sir Joseph--but papa knows--he is
infallible!

MOLLEN. The girl has confessed her love for you. A love, mark you, that
does not exist, but that _my_ explanation will call into being!

SIR J. (_pettishly_) Absurd!

MOLLEN. But it's true! Her feeling for you, at present a mere wayward
infatuation, will at once swell into romantic passion. She'll begin to
wither--

SIR J. Wither?

MOLLEN. Fade on the stalk! Refuse her food--live on poetry and tea!
Be a martyr! Then anæmia acts in. Doctors, nurses, cures--and all the
time, mind you, she's hugging an imaginary grief!

SIR J. (_Impatiently_) But, why, in the name of Heaven--

MOLLEN. Heaven only knows. _I_ didn't make women--I have merely
observed them. If you don't believe me, ask Rosamund.

LADY C. (_demurely_) Sir Joseph knows, I always agree with Papa.

MOLLEN. (_rise and up_ R. C.) And, mark you, more, when I tell her you
meant the nephew, she at once proceeds to hate the nephew.

SIR J. (_feebly_) Hate him!

MOLLEN. Inevitably.

SIR J. Lady Claude!

LADY C. Papa means that her vanity will be piqued.

SIR J. Vanity!

MOLLEN. Complacently the essential ingredient of a young woman's
affections.

LADY C. The book says she will demand an eternity to pass.

MOLLEN. A feminine figure of speech that resolves itself into months!
But think of those months with her sighing, dying, crying! (_down_ R.
C.)

SIR J. (_groaning_) What a catastrophe!

MOLLEN. (_up_ R. _of_ SIR J.) You're sure--quite sure--you won't marry
her?

SIR J. (_angrily_) Mollentrave! (_rising_) If _this_ is all the help
you can give me--

MOLLEN. (_forcing him back in his chair_) Alternatives! I merely
suggest alternatives! You don't marry--that's settled, agreed. But I
see no reason why you should not be--engaged!

SIR J. (_rising_, MOLLEN. _sits him again_) Engaged! You're mad!

MOLLEN. (_round back of_ C. _table_) Secret engagement! You tell
her--paternal again--you give her a month to reflect. Secrecy all
round--except us. You bound--she free.

SIR J. How does that help me?

MOLLEN. Follow me closely. (_to_ L. _of table_ C.) During that month
you become--senile.

SIR J. Senile! Why, hang it, I'm only forty-five!

MOLLEN. And she's nineteen! Strip off your limelight--to her you're
Methuselah! (_sitting_ L. _of_ C. _table_.)

SIR J. (_protesting_) I--

MOLLEN. (_breaking in impetuously_) My dear friend, you don't really
imagine that she loves _you_? Whatever's real in her loves Everard--or
any other good-looking young fellow of his age whom she chances to
meet. What she admires in you is your talent, your position, your
power. Very well, take them off!

SIR J. (_blankly_) How can I?

MOLLEN. I've told you--be senile. Fidgety, crotchety--sensitive to
draughts--dyspeptic--adore your food. Flannel nightcap--false teeth--

SIR J. (_indignantly rising_) I haven't!

MOLLEN. _Imagine_ you have.

                          (SIR J. _re-sits_.)

Speak of them often! Boil your milk! Retire at nine, have your paper
warmed. Tell her you mean to resign the House, give up the Bar,
live in the country, ten miles from a station, and write a book on
Constitutional Law!

SIR J. All that, eh?

MOLLEN. And dictate to her five hours a day! Find fault with her
spelling--be always finding fault!

SIR J. Lively for both of us! But look here--seeing that she has lived
with me for a year, and I _haven't_ been senile--

MOLLEN. (_with a petulant gesture_) Tut, tut, tut! Hitherto, you've
concealed your--little ailments! But, now that you've won her, are sure
of her, you show yourself--as you are! (_rise_) Oh, it's simple enough!
And so much for frontal attack. (_a step_) As for skirmishes, we'll ask
Rosamund to be good enough to flirt with the nephew--

SIR J. (_turning to her_) To flirt--you?

LADY C. (_merrily_) The poor boy will need consolation. And if I can be
of service--

MOLLEN. (_up to_ L. _of table_ C. _with a flourish_) Within two days
she has the boy at her feet! Then your bride becomes jealous. Your
tyranny offends her--she begins to see you are old. Romance drops
off like paper from a damp wall. Everard's coolness piqued her--she
proceeds to discover that she loves Everard. You in dressing gown and
slippers--he young Greek god. And, after a month's steady digging--we
arrive--at--the real girl!

SIR J. A month....

MOLLEN. May be less, may be less! Finally, explanation--you discover
her in tears--you play the noble Roman, release her unconditionally,
Rosamund sends Everard to her--you join their hands. Slow music.
Curtain. See?

SIR J. (_rise and down_ R.) I don't like the idea of an engagement,
even though it be secret. But look here--if I did this--how about
Everard? What should I say to him?

MOLLEN. (_to bottom of_ C. _table_) Let him believe--as he already
believes--that you admire what's-her-name--but mention the month's
probation. Hint darkly at possibility of happy ending. (_to_ R. C. L.
_of_ SIR J.) Bring Everard down to Swanage--I answer for the rest!

SIR J. (_hesitating_) It sounds plausible--though it's a fearful
undertaking! But, before deciding, I should like a word with Lady
Claude. Will you allow me?

MOLLEN. Certainly, certainly. I'll smoke a cigarette down-stairs--my
habit, before dressing. (_cross up_ R.) You'll find habits useful by
the way--I've one or two that I'll tell you. I'll see you before you go!

              (_He retires cheerfully humming a tune_, R.)

SIR J. (_to_ L. C.) Lady Claude, I've asked for this because--I
scarcely know where I am, or what I'm saying! Your father rattles
on--he seems convincing--he may be right--but my instinct tells me
that, in this fearful muddle, _you_ are the surer guide!

LADY C. I?

SIR. J. You! If I spoke rather cynically this afternoon--if I have
grown to think rather hardly of women--remember that there was one whom
I--loved--and she--wouldn't have me!

                    (LADY CLAUDE _makes a gesture_.)

Oh, don't be alarmed--I won't drag up the past. No doubt, then, I was
merely a wild, impetuous youngster, like my poor Everard to-day. But--I
have not forgotten--how deeply I--felt it.... And here I seem, through
my carelessness, to have created sorrow for two young lives.... I'm a
selfish man, of course--I've shown it plainly enough!--but still I've
tried--honestly tried--to do my duty--by both of them.... Now I am
urged to play an odious comedy--for it _is_ odious, is it not?

LADY C. Deception can never be pleasant.... You have all my sympathy.

SIR J. I need it, I need it! Women, after all, are an unknown quantity
to me. Your father has compiled a series of tables, has dissected and
analysed--he may be right, I don't know--but I want _you_ to guide me!
You, and you only!

LADY C. (_gently_) What can I tell you? (_rise and cross_ C. _and
sitting on stool_)

SIR J. (L. C.) In the first place, this. Is it not rather my duty
promptly to undeceive the girl, at any cost? Have I the right to--play
with her affections?

LADY C. (_hesitating_) Sir Joseph--

SIR J. Remember, I loved her father. He entrusted his daughter to me,
his old friend.... To-day, when I think of him!

LADY C. You want my honest opinion?

SIR J. I do.

LADY C. Then what I have to say is said in a very few words. One should
not trifle with the heart of a girl!

SIR J. What am I to do?

LADY C. It is you, and you only, who can decide.

SIR J. Tell me what you think!

LADY C. The poor child has probably long adored you in secret. She will
have read sentiment into your very least words--

SIR J. (_with sudden recollection_) Ha! the flowers on my table, day
after day!

LADY C. Laid there by her each morning, fondly, tenderly--

SIR J. Advise me! I will follow you, blindly!

LADY C. Do what is kindest!

SIR J. If I undeceive her--the picture your father has drawn--and your
father understands women--

LADY C. What he says may be true of ninety-nine out of a hundred--there
is always the hundredth.

SIR J. The hundredth--yes--I don't know--I know her so little! The
disillusioning process _might_ be effective?

LADY C. It might. One cannot tell.

SIR J. (_eagerly_) Then shall I do it? Shall I?

LADY C. You must know best.

SIR J. (_with deep feeling_) Rosamund, I am appealing to you--for your
help!

LADY C. (_very earnestly, rise_) Then, no! I would do the honest,
the straightforward thing!... Go to her yourself, tell her--of the
mistake--but oh, so softly, so gently, (C.) that her poor little heart
shall rest itself upon yours, and not feel--too ashamed! Point out
how unwise it would be! Be so full of pity that the wound ... shall
be scarcely a bruise.... Be so tender, so human, that her poor little
tears shall freshen her heart, and not scald it.... And let there be
tears in your heart too--and no trace of--laughter.... There! That is
my advice. But I may be wrong....

SIR J. No, you are right--I feel it! I go at once. (_round back of
table to up_ R. C.) You will tell your father. (_coming down_ C. _to_
R. _of_ LADY C.) And, my dear friend, my very dear friend, I--thank you!

  (_He takes her hand, which she allows for a moment to rest in his.
    Suddenly_ MOLLENTRAVE'S _voice is heard outside_. SIR JOSEPH
    _falls back_. _The door opens and_ MOLLENTRAVE ENTERS, _perking
    and smiling, followed by_ MARGARET.)

SIR J. (_away_ R. _aghast_) Margaret!

MOLLEN. (_very volubly_ R. C.) My dear fellow, Miss Messilent has had
the charming idea to come here and fetch you. Miss Messilent, let me
introduce you to my daughter, Lady Claude Derenham. An admirer of your
fiancé--like us all!

SIR J. (R. _blankly_) Oh!

MARG. (C. _shyly_) Peters told me where you had gone--I thought--

MOLLEN. (R. C. _beaming_) Sweet of you! Balsted, I've told the young
lady how immensely pleased we all are! And how lucky we think you, at
your time of life, to have secured so lovely a bride!

SIR J. (_clearing his throat_) I--er--I--

MOLLEN. My dear Balsted, I am sure I am not speaking my opinion alone
when I say that never did--November--find so delicious a May! When is
the wedding to be?

SIR J. (_away_ R. _savagely, beneath his breath_) Wedding, wedding--

MARG. (_sitting on stool_ C. LADY C. _sits_ L. _of_ C. _table--coyly_)
He made me promise it would be soon--

MOLLEN. (_chuckling_) Ah, he did, did he? At our age, you see, a man's
in a hurry--eh, Balsted? Well, you're all coming with us to Swanage
to-morrow--

MARG. (_surprised_) Swanage?

MOLLEN. Yes--we've arranged with Sir Joseph. He didn't tell you?
Very remiss, of course--very remiss. He's a trifle dictatorial, I'm
afraid--but you mustn't mind that--you mustn't mind that!

SIR J. (_trying in vain to get hold of_ MOLLENTRAVE) Mollentrave, I
want--

        (SIR J. _goes up_ R. _to_ L. _of_ LADY C., _who rises_)

MOLLEN. (_to_ MARGARET) When you marry a distinguished--and _elderly_
man, my dear, you must of course put up with a few little drawbacks.
May must be content with November's--ivy! Eh?

MARG. (_rising and away_ R. _to sofa and sitting_) Oh, but he's not so
very elderly--

MOLLEN. (_following her to_ R.) Oh no, I married a much older last
week! I'll show you his photograph. (_shows photograph_)

          (_He draws close to_ MARGARET _and whispers merrily
              to her_, SIR JOSEPH _goes to_ LADY CLAUDE.)

SIR J. (L.) He has done it! I can't retreat now! It's impossible!

LADY C. (L. C.) No--I'm afraid.

SIR J. (_Both go up_ L. C.) (_wildly_) Oh, that father of yours! Well,
there it is--we must start--disillusioning! Senile!--ha! and the rest!
There's nothing else for it! You'll help me?

LADY C. Of course I'll do what I can!

MARG. (_rising_) Joseph!

                        (SIR J. _crosses to_ R.)

MARG. (_Up_ R. C. _holding_ SIR J.'S _arm, he is on her_ L. _She turns
to_ LADY CLAUDE) Good-bye, Lady Claude, I need (_up_ R. C.) scarcely
say my husband's friends will be mine.

(MOLLEN. _goes up_ R. _to open double doors_.)

SIR J. (_up_ R. C. _groaning_) Husband!

MARG. Good-bye, Mr. Mollentrave--(_sweetly_) Come, Joseph!

SIR J. Oh!!!

                            (_They_ EXIT R.)

  (_She passes her arm beamingly through his and walks him off._
    MOLLENTRAVE _turns smiling to_ LADY CLAUDE _and rubs his hands_.)

CURTAIN.



ACT III.


Time of Representation, thirty-five minutes.

[Illustration: PROPERTIES USED.

  Neck wrap.
  Basket (containing) sweets, jelly and scarf.
  _Times_ paper.
  Telegram and telegram form.]

                                ACT III.

  _The garden of_ MR. MOLLENTRAVE'S _house in Swanage. A low fence
    runs at back, with a thick hedge; behind is the sea, to which
    a winding path leads, down the rock. There are alleys running
    to right and left._ MISS TREABLE _is seated on the tree_ L. C.
    _with_ DEXTER _standing before her. A week has elapsed since the
    last Act._

DEXTER. (C.) Yes, Miss Treable, he is a great man--a very great man!
His powers of insight are most extraordinary! I trust you do not resent
his--as it were--stripping off the pigment and exposing the unvarnished
canvas?

MISS TRE. (_is sitting_ R. _tree trunk, haughtily_) I have no doubt
that what Mr. Mollentrave says may be true of _some_ women--but
certainly not of ME!

DEXTER. (_bowing_) You are naturally an exception. His remarks must be
taken as applying generally to the sex. (_down_ L. C.)

MISS TRE. Regarded from _that_ point of view--

DEXTER. (_up_ C.) Ah, Miss Treable, in my own humble life I have
derived the greatest benefit from Mr. Mollentrave's teaching! And like
all geniuses--he is so modest! One of his most brilliant aphorisms
was--I say it with pride--inspired by me.

MISS TRE. (_indifferent_) Indeed?

DEXTER. (R. C. _resting on_ L. _tree trunk_) I assure you. You must
know that my wife has a large circle of relations. I will confess
to you that I somewhat resented their constant interference in our
affairs. I mentioned the matter to Mr. Mollentrave. Without a moment's
hesitation that remarkable man dictated the line: "Marital happiness
begins when the wife's relations--leave off!"

MISS TRE. (_sarcastic_) Profound. Very.

DEXTER. (_sit on_ L. _trunk_) He has permitted me to compile a little
volume of extracts, "The Mollentrave Birthday Book"--one coruscation
for every day of the year. A good idea, is it not? (_rising_)

MISS TRE. (_rising_) Admirable! But I doubt whether many women will buy
the book. (_down_ R.)

DEXTER. (_moving off_) If all those who consider themselves exceptions
purchase it, Miss Treable, I shall be perfectly satisfied. (_goes up_
C.)

  (_He goes through the gate._ SIR JOSEPH _comes stealthily along
    looking worried and haggard_ R. 3 E.)

MISS TRE. (R. C. _brightly_) Good morning, Sir Joseph.

SIR J. (C.) Good morning. I had hoped to find Mr. Mollentrave here. Do
you happen to know--

MISS TRE. Would you wish me to tell him?

SIR J. I should be much obliged.

                     (_Miss Treable exits_ R. 3 E.)

  (SIR JOSEPH _throws himself on the grass_ L. _and plucks savagely
  at it, muttering to himself. After a moment_ MARGARET _comes
  running from the house_ R. 3 E., _looks round, and gives a glad cry
  as she sees_ SIR J. _The cry becomes reproachful when she finds he
  is lying on the grass. She carries a small basket in her hand._)

MARG. Oh, Joseph, dear Joseph, how could you! Lying on the grass!
(_puts basket down_ R. C. _and helps_ SIR J. _to rise_.)

SIR J. (L.) (_getting up. Miserably_) H'm I--

MARG. (L. C.) Wicked man! With your rheumatism! And no muffler! I
found it in the hall! Oh, naughty, naughty! (_she produces it from the
basket_) Here it is, sir! Put it on at once! (_puts muffler round him_)
(_taking him to_ R. C.) (_he sits_ R. _trunk of tree_) And it's twelve
o'clock! I've brought your essence--here--and a spoon. (_she produces
them from the basket and feeds him_) What would you do without me?

SIR J. Impossible to conceive!

MARG. (SHE SITS ON HIS L.) Take it, sir! (_he laps it up piteously_)
To think of you all these years, having to look after yourself, and
hide, because he wouldn't let his little girl see how ill he was! Oh,
poor, poor! (_she feeds him a second time and wipes his mouth with the
muffler_) But she'll take care of him now! Only wasn't it wicked of you
to slip off like that? You had only dictated for an hour and a half!

SIR J. I thought you were tired!

MARG. (_with enthusiasm_) Tired! I could go on forever! It's immensely
interesting--fascinating. Oh, how wonderful you are!

SIR J. (_clearing his throat_) H'm--I--

MARG. Constitutional Law, one would think would be a dry subject. To me
it's a fairy tale.

SIR J. Er--

MARG. Perhaps because _you_ are speaking! You! Nouns and adjectives
cease to be parts of speech--they become parts of--you!

SIR J. (_with a great effort_) I have frequently had occasion
to remark to you, Margaret, that I have a great distaste for
sentimentality. I have explained to you--the month of probation--

MARG. One week has expired. Has it been a week? Can the days have flown
so quickly?

SIR J. They have evidently contrived to. Although--

MARG. (_rise, up_ C.) See how the sun is shining--how radiant the water
is--and the sky! The dancing sunlight! Oh, what does it say to you, the
sunlight! (_down_ R. C. _to_ SIR J.)

SIR J. (_impatiently_) It says to me that it's very hot--and that we're
talking nonsense.

MARG. Oh, let us, for once! I've been so good!--Joseph, you coughed!
You must take a lozenge. (_she produces a box from the basket_) You
must! Mr. Mollentrave says that you have the beginnings of asthma.

  (_She opens the box, takes out a lozenge, and forces it between his
    lips. He swallows it, pathetically._)

Miss Treable and I are practising first aid, in case you should fall
down--

SIR J. (_savagely_) And why in the name of goodness should I fall down?

MARG. Mr. Mollentrave told me that your limbs are rather unsteady--

SIR J. (_clenching his fists_) Ah, Mollentrave, Mollentrave!!

MARG. (_kneeling on his_ L. _She puts his arm on her shoulders,
fondly_) But have no fear, dear one! You shall lean on me--I shall
be your crutch, your support! Oh, the thought of us two in our
cottage--just you and I! I dream of it!

SIR J. (_growling, taking arm away_) No dances--no theatres--not even a
visitor--

MARG. Shall I want any of these--when I have--you! You, who have
given up all--for my sake--for me!

SIR J. (_fidgeting_) H'm--but still--I fancy you'll find it dull--

MARGARET. I? Never! You don't know me yet--not altogether, I mean. Oh,
if you would let me speak to you--about myself--

SIR J. (_rise and cross_ C., _throwing lozenge away--fretfully_) That
theme is barred--by consent. Don't you think you had better go back to
the house? Unless you would like to bathe?

MARGARET. (_rise, firmly_) No--you do not bathe--I shall not either. No
pleasure in which _you_ cannot join, can henceforth be a pleasure to me!

SIR J. (_turning up stage--groaning_) Come--we'll go back to Law! (_he
rises_)

MARGARET. Yes, yes--let us! But stay--I have a word to say to you--

SIR J. More words?

MARGARET. Not of myself this time--nor of you--but of--Everard!

SIR J. (_with a gleam of hope_) Everard!

MARGARET. (_reproachfully_) Oh, Joseph, my own Joseph, what a
suspicion! Could you imagine! Oh!

SIR J. (_groaning again_) He is more of your age--I thought--I told you
I should not blame you--

MARGARET. Never dare to hint at such a thing again! I regard him--it
is my duty to regard him--with the serene, but affectionate eyes, of
an--aunt, (_sit_ R. C.)

SIR J. (C.) Aunt!

MARGARET. And--I confess--it grieves me--to see him--so much taken up
with--Lady Claude.

SIR J. (_eagerly_) Ah, you have noticed--

MARGARET. Day after day he is with her--with her all the time. She--ah,
Joseph, you may not have observed it--but women have quick eyes! Lady
Claude was a friend of yours once, I know--but she is a designing woman!

SIR J. (_angrily_) I say! Look here!

MARGARET. Oh, I mean nothing unkind. Women of that age--she is _at
least_ thirty-five--naturally crave to be--admired. And it is perfectly
plain to me that she--is drawing Everard on.

SIR J. (_grimly_) Really!

MARGARET. She flirts with him outrageously! She won't let him out of
her sight! I've been looking forward to finding him a wife--you and I
together--some girl who would make him happy.... But Lady Claude!

SIR J. (_cunningly_) Everard certainly seems to admire her--

MARGARET. Is it not incomprehensible! She's so old.

SIR J. H'm, if it's the disproportion of age that shocks you, think of
us! I--fifty--and you nineteen!

MARGARET. (_rise, and up to him_) My love shall twine round you so
softly that we shall divide my youth--shall share it. And, in the days
to come, we shall ask--which one is old--Joseph--or Margaret?

SIR J. (_sulkily_) Conundrums of that kind will be useful, on winter
evenings, with the wind howling down the chimney, and the rain coming
through the roof--(_turn away_ L.)

MARGARET. (_getting on_ SIR J.'S L.) There can be no wind when you are
near me, and no rain can come through the roof of our love!

SIR J. (_throwing up his hands in despair_) Oh, no more at present,
please!

MARGARET. (_laying a hand on his arm_) You'll speak to Everard?

SIR J. Why on earth should I?

MARGARET. Joseph! Shall we let the poor boy throw himself away on--

SIR J. (R. C. _laughing hysterically_) Ha, ha! Oh, that's very good!
Throw himself away on--Lady Claude!

MARGARET. (C.) (_offended_) You think it's impossible? But I tell you
I've seen--

SIR J. My child, we've talked nonsense enough for one morning. Let's
go. (_takes her hand and is about to lead her away_ R. MOLLENTRAVE
_comes in breezily up_ L. C.) Ah, there's Mollentrave. I must have
a word with him. Run on to the house--I'll follow. (_giving her the
basket_)

MARGARET. (_fondly_ R.) Come soon, dear one--come soon. When my eyes do
not rest on you they grow tired with waiting!

SIR J. (R. C.) Please go, there's a good girl!

  (MARGARET _departs regretfully_ R. 3 E. MOLLENTRAVE _has been
    coming from the other side. He wears his usual air of supreme
    satisfaction_)

MOLLEN. (_up_ L. C.) You want me, Balsted? All going well?

SIR J. (_savagely_ R. C. _takes muffler off_) Oh, wonderfully well. The
way we're progressing is extraordinary--very!

MOLLEN. (_his head on one side_) The trained observer would almost
detect a suspicion of--satire.

SIR J. Satire! Heaven forbid! It's true that the girl grows fonder and
fonder--

MOLLEN. She has only tasted the jam so far--but the powder's working!

SIR J. She Josephs me from morning till night! She'll be calling me
Joey soon. (_down_ R. C.)

MOLLEN. (C.) No, no, Balsted! I should _not_ encourage her in the use
of the diminutive!

SIR J. (_savagely_) Gurrh! Look here, Mollentrave--

MOLLEN. Impatient person! I said a month, did I not? So far but a week
has passed--(MOLLENTRAVE _sits_ L. C.)

SIR J. (_sit_ R. C.) Another week will drive me crazy. I dictate law to
her--the dullest stuff I can find--I tell you she likes it, she never
wants me to stop!

MOLLEN. You will forgive me, my dear Balsted--but have we been
quite--senile--enough?

SIR J. Senile! Have I been senile? Haven't I simulated aches and pains,
and congenital insanity, till I simply detest myself? Man, she loves me
the more for it!

MOLLEN. (_airily_) Merely the first stage, Balsted! Peeling!

SIR J. I can't go on--I tell you I can't! The fact is, Mollentrave,
that you've been hopelessly wrong.

MOLLEN. (_emphatically_) Events are following exactly the path that
I had marked out; they are, with unerring precision, pursuing to a
hairs-breadth the line I had indicated in my mind.

SIR J. (_sarcastic_) Indeed! Then perhaps you'll explain--

MOLLEN. My dear Balsted, believe that I make not the slightest
reflection upon your intelligence when I remark that a general's plans
are rarely comprehensible to his subalterns.

SIR J. (_pettishly_) This is not a case--

MOLLEN. (_rise and go_ C.) Pardon me, but it is. If I may borrow an
analogy from your legal jargon, I am the leader here, and you the
junior. Is that not so?

SIR J. I have made up my mind. I shall tell her the truth.

MOLLEN. Do--and they'll drag up her body on Swanage beach to-morrow.

SIR J. Absurd!

MOLLEN. Let that sentimental girl realize that she has been
fooled--she'll take her life. That's certain. And as her hair's long
she'll choose the sea. (_away_ L. _and up_ L. C.)

SIR J. Unfortunately I've lost my faith in you, Mollentrave.

MOLLEN. (_shrugging his shoulders_) That, of course, is a pity.

SIR J. Am I not justified? See your great scheme about Everard! She
isn't jealous at all.

MOLLEN. Has she spoken about him?

SIR J. Yes--she wants to find him a wife.

MOLLEN. And not a word about Rosamund?

SIR J. She thinks Lady Claude flirts with him, and doesn't seem to like
it. But, beyond that--

MOLLEN. (_triumphantly_) Beyond that! And you complain! Balsted, that's
love! The real girl creeping up, through the cotton wool! My dear
fellow! Couldn't be better! It couldn't indeed!

SIR J. I don't know--she didn't speak like that at all. And the boy has
been odd--he avoids me--he doesn't address one word to Margaret--

MOLLEN. (_with emphasis_) The boy follows the rule! He nurses his
passion. Rosamund consoles him--she always talks about Margaret! What
more do you want? And the girl thinks they flirt! He watches her
hungrily--oh, I've observed it!--he waits for his hour. You'll see.

SIR J. (_with a gleam of hope_) You really think that? You really think
that?

MOLLEN. (_sits on_ JOSEPH'S L.) I give you my word I never believed
matters _could_ be so far advanced.

SIR J. Then perhaps I had better go on?

MOLLEN. (_rise._ SIR J. _rises_) Would you turn back, with the harbour
lights in sight? Look here, I'll knock off a fortnight! I ask for one
week more--just one week! And before that's out you'll have them both
on their knees to you.

          (LADY CLAUDE _comes in_ R. 3 E. _and crosses_ L. C.)

Rosamund, Rosamund! Balsted has been complaining--losing heart! Tell us
about Everard! He's always talking of Margaret?

LADY C. (_up_ C. _sadly_) Always, always! For hours at a time.

MOLLEN. (_up_ R. C. _turning triumphantly to_ SIR J.) Balsted!

LADY C. (_plaintively_) She's a very sweet girl, and I'm fond of
her--but--the subject's beginning to pall!

(MARGARET _off cries_ "_Joseph_")

MOLLEN. She's calling you, Balsted.

SIR J. (_down_ R. _sulkily_) Let her call.

(MARGARET _off louder_ "_Joseph! Joseph!_")

MOLLEN. You must go to her, Balsted! Play the game. One week more--

SIR J. I'd rather spend it in gaol, picking oakum. (MARGARET _off_,
"_Joseph!_ JOSEPH!!") Oh, Mollentrave, if it were not for your
daughter, how I'd wish that I never had met you!

                    (_He goes--miserably_--R. 3 E.)

MOLLEN. (_coming down_ R. _shaking his head_) And that man, Rosamund,
is one of our most eminent lawyers!

LADY C. (_down_ R. C.) Papa, I must tell you--it's strange--though
Everard and I talk of nothing but Margaret every day, from two till
seven--

MOLLEN. Well?

LADY C. (_pathetically_) Think of it! From two till seven--every day!

MOLLEN. Science must have its martyrs! Tell yourself that you're
watching human love wriggle--under the microscope!

LADY C. Though he recounts, with minutest detail, every word she has
spoken to him since they first met--what she said, what he said, how
she looked, what she wore, the gestures she made--still, and for all
that, I have a feeling at times, a kind of idea--

MOLLEN. (_waving his arm_) My child, you know my opinion of feminine
intuition! In my book I class it under the head of popular fallacies.
(_with a change of voice, and sudden energy_) Rosamund, I imagine the
moment to be almost ripe for my grand coup! (_takes_ LADY CLAUDE'S
_hands and sits her_ R. C. _on his_ L.)

LADY C. What will you do?

MOLLEN. (_sitting_ R.) I shall now proceed to work on the clay. I will
provoke Everard to frenzy.

LADY C. How?

MOLLEN. He knows of course of the month of probation--he builds on
that. To-day he shall learn that Balsted proposes, at the earliest
possible moment, to lead Margaret to the altar!

LADY C. (_doubtfully_) You will tell him that?

MOLLEN. I will. And the result? A scene between the two young people
before which the most passionate episodes of Romeo and Juliet pale into
insignificance! For I shall also tell Margaret that _you_ have fallen
desperately in love with Everard!

LADY C. (_protesting_) Papa! You will never say that!

MOLLEN. Discreetly--by nods and jerks--oh, you may trust me! And there
ensues--in chemical parlance--a liberation of two gases--that meet--and
explode!

LADY C. (_rise, up_ C.) Oh, I hope that they'll explode soon! See,
there he is--under the trees! He is waiting.

MOLLEN. (_rise and up_ R.) Let him come--I will leave you. Prepare him,
Rosamund--pave the way--lay down the stones--then I shall come--the
steam roller! I have every confidence in you, my child.

           (_He skips off nimbly_ R. 3 E.--_after an instant_
                      EVERARD _comes in_ L. 3 E.)

LADY C. (C.) Ah, Everard--my father has just left me--we were talking
of Margaret.

EVERARD. (C. _on her_ L.) (_indifferently_) Ah?

LADY C. The sweet girl! How beautiful she looks to-day!

EVERARD. She has a certain prettiness--

LADY C. Oh, Everard, her eyes! I don't think I ever have seen such
eyes! One moment so tender--another so deep and glowing--

EVERARD. As your father says, Lady Claude, those qualities are common
to the optic organs of all mammals. And--let me ask you--_why_ will you
always speak about Margaret?

LADY C. Because I admire her so much! She has youth--ah, youth! (_sit_
R. C.) And besides, dear Everard, it seems to me that Margaret has been
a favourite topic--with us both!

EVERARD. (_sit_ R. C. _on her_ L.) To-day at least I decline to talk of
her--but of you--only of you.

LADY C. There is nothing to say of me, dear Everard. I--was. Among you
young people I seem to move like a--tradition. Margaret says the things
I used to say--she dreams my dead dreams. And I am fond of her--because
I see in her--my old self.

EVERARD. (_eagerly_) That self has not suffered--time only has mellowed
it--wisdom has crowned it--

LADY C. (_cheerfully_) You must not waste those pretty speeches on
me! And tell me, why this affected indifference? Do I not know how
passionately you adore her?

EVERARD. (_rising_) Lady Claude, I will confess to you, frankly and
honestly, there _was_ a time when I believed I loved Margaret--

LADY C. (_staring_) When you believed--!

EVERARD. As your father observes--quoting Tolstoy, I think--I was
attracted by a well-fitting jersey and a pair of Paris shoes.

LADY C. Everard!

EVERARD. But it was, I need scarcely say, the merest infatuation--

LADY C. What!!!

EVERARD. Could it have been other--since now I am conscious--how
wholeheartedly I love--you!

LADY C. (_wildly_) Me! You love me!

EVERARD. You. My feeling for Margaret was immature sex-attraction.
At your feet (_kneeling on her_ L.) I lay the profound and reasoned
devotion--of a man. Rosamund, I love you. I ask you to marry me. Be my
wife!

LADY C. (_aghast and helpless, rise and cross_ L.) You can't mean this?
(_He tries to take her hand, she rises hurriedly and eludes him._ SIR
J. _comes from_ R. 3 E.) (L. C.) There is your uncle. Leave us, leave
us!

EVERARD. (C.) Why? I will tell him--

LADY C. No, no! Go to my father! Let him know! Please!

EVERARD. Since you wish it. (_He goes up_ R., _passing_ SIR J.
_haughtily_) I shall return for my answer. (_he goes_)

LADY C. (L. C.) He has proposed!

SIR J. (R. C.) What!!!

LADY C. Imagine it! He has fallen in love--with me!

SIR J. (_slowly_) Everard has fallen--in love--with you?

LADY C. Yes! Imagine it! A catastrophe!

SIR J. (_dully, down_ R. C. _and sitting_) Very awkward. Very.

LADY C. (C.) How could one conceive it! I've been sympathetic--that's
all! Talked about Margaret! Oh, I assure you, I've done nothing but
talk about Margaret!

SIR J. There's something odd about boys and girls nowadays. But, of
course, it's all Mollentrave--(_he clenches his fist_)

LADY C. What must I do? Tell me--advise me!

SIR J. You haven't accepted him?

LADY C. (_indignantly_) Sir Joseph!

SIR J. You see, things are just a trifle topsy-turvy. My--bride--grows
more and more devoted.

LADY C. I'm completely bewildered! The poor boy seemed terribly in
earnest--

SIR J. So does the poor girl! I'd like to shake them both in a bag!
Well, _you'll_ have a week of it now.

LADY C. How to refuse him without--

SIR J. You'd better accept him--why not? You'll find, we'll both have
to marry them. Then, some day perhaps, they'll elope together--and
Mollentrave on Women will rub his hands and cry "There!"

LADY C. (_very distressed_) What am I to say to Everard? Oh, what?

SIR J. Be senile! Boil your milk!

LADY C. (_indignantly_) Sir Joseph! Is this your sympathy? (_sit_ L.)

SIR J. (_meekly and deprecatingly, rise and to_ L. C.) My dear friend,
I've had seven days of Margaret. I thought my brain was fairly strong
--but it's giving. I tell you I'm growing helpless--turning to pulp--

LADY C. But advise me--advise me!

SIR J. I can't. You know--it sounds absurd--I did have some hopes
of marrying you myself--I did indeed. (_away_ R.) Well, now Everard
claims you--and I shall soon be led by Margaret to the altar, with Miss
Treable propping me up on the other side. We can't do anything--that's
how matters are!

LADY C. Do you think _I_ will marry Everard?

SIR J. (_helplessly sit_ R. C.) I don't know--I don't think at all.
Mollentrave does the thinking--Mollentrave!

              (MOLLENTRAVE _bustles in, beaming_, R. 3 E.)

MOLLEN. (C.) (_looking wonderingly from one to the other_) Dear me, why
this air of depression?

LADY C. (_both rise and up to knoll_) Depression! Papa! Have you seen
Everard?

MOLLEN. (C.) I have, this very moment.

  SIR J. }  (_excitedly_) Well? Well?
  LADY C.}

MOLLEN. (_looking from one to the other_) Rosamund! Balsted! You surely
wouldn't have me believe that you are not pleased?

SIR J. (_amazed_) Pleased!

MOLLEN. (_emphatically_) Yes, sir, I say pleased--at this magnificent
development of my scheme!

LADY C. When Everard wants to marry me!

SIR J. And has ceased to love Margaret!

MOLLEN. (_more in sorrow than in anger_) Amazing! _You_, Balsted,
you--well--you don't surprise me. But Rosamund--my own child--no, I
should not have believed it!

SIR J. Did he, or did he not, inform you that he had proposed to your
daughter?

MOLLEN. He most undoubtedly did.

SIR J. And was _that_ what you wanted?

MOLLEN. Can you ask? What else?

LADY C. (_reproachfully_) Papa! When you said--

MOLLEN. My dear child, I do not admit even you into my closest
confidence. You have done your share, both of you--now leave me to do
mine.

SIR J. Will you condescend to inform us--

MOLLEN. You will continue the treatment as before.

SIR J. (_madly_) I am to go on with Margaret--

MOLLEN. (_calmly_) You are.

LADY C. (_helplessly_) And--I?--

MOLLEN. Will persistently--sympathise--with Everard.

LADY C. But he has proposed! What am I to do?

MOLLEN. Be flattered--in case of need even affectionate.

LADY C. (_horror stricken_) Affectionate! (_away_ L., _and sitting_.)

MOLLEN. Discreetly--remotely--let us say, in a spiritual and
disembodied fashion. You may, if you wish it, hint at Lord Contareen--

SIR J. (_looking up eagerly_) Lord Contareen?

MOLLEN. Ah, didn't you know? He and my daughter--(MARGARET _calls
"Joseph" and comes in with the "Times" in her hand_.) Pardon
me--there's the girl. I'll send her away--I have to give you further
instructions. Wait here--I shan't be a moment.

           (_He goes quickly to_ MARGARET _off_ R. 3 E., _and
                walks her off, talking eagerly to her_.)

SIR J. (_across to_ L. C., _sitting_) (_excitedly._) What is this about
Lord Contareen?

LADY C. A foolish creature, whom Papa wishes me to marry.

SIR J. (_aghast_) Marry! What, what! Marry--you!

LADY C. Yes. And he thinks--

SIR J. Rosamund! Is there a man in the world whom you can marry--but me!

LADY C. Sir Joseph! You said just now--

SIR J. (_kneeling on her_ R.) Rosamund, I love you! I always have loved
you! You know it!

LADY C. (_embarrassed_) I--I--

SIR J. During this diabolic week there has at least been _you_! You'll
marry me, won't you?

LADY C. Oh, Sir Joseph, is this the time--

SIR J. It is, it is! To the devil with all the rest! We'll elope!

LADY C. Elope?

SIR J. Yes--and leave Mollentrave to settle matters! Rosamund, tell me!

LADY C. What can I tell you? What?

SIR J. That you care for me! Will you?

LADY C. But you are not free!

SIR J. (_wildly_) Not free, not free! But when I am--as I shall be, I
swear it! then--?

LADY C. Then--oh, then I shall say "yes" many times!

SIR J. (_rise and raising her_) Rosamund--dearest!

             (_He rushes towards her--she stays him, with a
                               gesture._)

LADY C. Hush! He's coming back!

                      (SIR JOSEPH _gets back_ R.)

            (MOLLENTRAVE _bustles in_ R. 3 E., _holding the
                        "Times" in his hand_.)

MOLLEN. (C.) She was bringing you the "Times"--here it is--she assures
me it has been warmed and all the microbes boiled out of it! You _are_
so fussy, Balsted! Here! (_He hands him the paper._)

               (SIR JOSEPH _takes paper, goes up_ R. C.)

LADY C. (L. C.) Papa! Does Margaret know?

MOLLEN. About Everard? Oh yes. And of course she's indignant. Although
she adores our friend Balsted, she resents the desertion of an ancient
admirer.

SIR J. (_coming down_ C.) I fail to see how this helps us.

MOLLEN. (R. C.) Balsted, Balsted, you surely affect this denseness!
I've told Everard, by the way, that he has my full consent and approval.

LADY C. (L. C.) Papa!

MOLLEN. That the decision rests with my daughter--

LADY C. (_cross to_ C.) With _me_! What am I to say to him?

SIR J. (L. C.) (_whispering to her_) We'll elope!

MOLLEN. In the meantime Balsted will be good enough to overwhelm
Margaret with his elderly devotion--

SIR J. I won't!

MOLLEN. You will! Where you were doddery before, you will now be
paralytic! You will, for the next week, refuse to stir from the house,
or let Margaret do as much as budge from your side!

SIR J. (_ironic_) Really?

MOLLEN. Yes. And Rosamund does more or less the same with Everard.

LADY C. Papa, I can't! I tell you I can't!

MOLLEN. You must! _I_ tell you, you must! (LADY C. _goes up_ C.)

(MARGARET _calls "Joseph" and appears at the
                same place as before_. BALSTED _is_ L.)

(_Down_ L. C.) The girl again! Balsted, we will leave you with her.
Read your paper--she mustn't think we've been plotting. Read it, I
say--at present you're simply glaring!

LADY C. (_up_ R. C. _intercepting_ MARGARET--_speaking very gently_)
Margaret--my dear Margaret!

MARGARET. (_up_ R. _coldly_) I congratulate you, Lady Claude.

LADY C. You congratulate me! You believe--

MOLLEN. (_up_ C.) (_sternly_) Rosamund, I want you! Come!

  (_He marches her off_ L. U. E., MARGARET _looks scornfully after
    her, then sits on the grass, close to_ SIR J. _who holds the
    paper as a shield_.)

                 (SIR JOSEPH _crosses_ R. _and sits_.)

MARGARET. (C., _reproachfully_) Joseph, I warned you! You refused to
take any steps! Now you see!

              (SIR JOSEPH _turns over the paper wildly_.)

MARGARET. It is unpardonable of them both, but he, the poor boy, is
at least to be pitied. There really should be a law against elderly
women marrying mere boys! But it's our duty to do something, isn't it,
Joseph? We really can't stand by and allow him to be so foolish--can we?

                     (EVERARD _comes in_, R. 3 E.)

Ah, Everard, Everard! We have heard the--news. Your uncle has something
to say to you--haven't you, Joseph?

  (_Comes down_ R. C., _taps him on the arm_, SIR JOSEPH _suddenly
    leaps up_ R. C. _with a wild yell_)

                      (EVERARD _comes down_ L. C.)

MARGARET. Oh, what is it? Another attack, Joseph?

SIR J. (_flourishing the paper and pointing to a paragraph_) Here,
here, who has done this? I say, who has done this?

EVERARD. (_amazed at his vehemence_) Why, uncle--

MARGARET. (_rushing up with smelling salts_) Joseph, you know you
should not get excited!

SIR J. (_shaking her off_) Leave me alone! Go away! I want to know how
it got into the papers! (_cross to_ C.) Who said it? Who?

MARGARET. (R. C.) Said what, Joseph dear? What has happened?

SIR J. (C. _fiercely_) There's an announcement here that I mean to
resign the House, and give up the Bar!

MARGARET. Oh! That wretched man must have put it in!

SIR J. (_glaring at her_) Man! What man?

MARGARET. He called to see you yesterday, while you were resting. I
couldn't disturb you, of course--so I--

SIR J. (_choking with rage_) _You_ saw him? You?

MARGARET. And I told him--I was so proud!

SIR J. You told him! But it's not true!

MARGARET. (_staggering_) What!!!

SIR J. (_wild with excitement and fury_) No--it's not true--it's none
of it true! Oh, you--idiot!

EVERARD. (L. C. _advancing, horror-stricken_) Uncle! How dare you!

SIR J. (_ignoring_ EVERARD _and still glaring at_ MARGARET) None of it
true! All sham and humbug, you--wretched little idiot!

  (_He rushes off wildly_ R. 3 E., MARGARET _bursts into a torrent of
    hysterical sobs, and sinks on to the seat_ R. _Everard is deeply
    moved--following_ SIR JOSEPH to R. _and then impetuously to her_.)

EVERARD. (R. C. _deeply pained_) Margaret! Don't cry! Don't!

MARGARET. (_between her sobs_) Go--go--leave me! Go to your Lady
Claude! Who cares about me!

EVERARD. (_humbly_) Margaret!!!

MARGARET. He has deceived me--I see it all now! The cottage in the
country--the beautiful book--(_wringing her hands_) (_rise and cross_
L.) Oh, _can_ men be so wicked!

                     (EVERARD _follows her_ L. C.)

(_Feebly_) It was so sweet--his giving up all--for me! His being so
helpless, and wanting me, so much! And now--oh, wretched girl that I
am! (_her sobs burst forth afresh, go up_ C. _and sit, pushing_ EVERARD
_away_)

EVERARD. (_up_ R. C.) Margaret! Don't! I can't stand it!

MARGARET. The wickedness of it! Oh, the wickedness!

EVERARD. But you loved him! You told me you loved him! When he
proposed--

MARGARET. It was such a surprise--and I was so flattered! But love! How
could I love--an old man!

EVERARD. (_more and more bewildered, sits up_ C. _on her_ R.) Margaret!

MARGARET. An--ugly--old man!

EVERARD. What--what!

MARGARET. And I--I admired him, of course. But I confess that
at first--only then, when Mr. Mollentrave told me of all his
diseases--Everard! His heart isn't weak?

EVERARD. (_rise_) No!

MARGARET. His limbs aren't feeble?

EVERARD. Not in the least!

MARGARET. He's not even asthmatic?

EVERARD. No more than I am!

MARGARET. (_raising her hands pathetically to Heaven_) Oh!!! And yet
how great his love must be, for him to have stooped to this!

EVERARD. (_scornfully_) His love! He has called you an idiot! You!

MARGARET. (_sobbing again_) Yes--a wretched--little--idiot! And what
had I done to deserve it! (EVERARD _sits_ C.) Oh, leave me, leave me!
Go to your Lady Claude!

EVERARD. (_trembling with excitement_) You can't marry him now!

MARGARET. Will he let me escape, do you think? All this week, the
hungry love in his eyes!

EVERARD. But you--if you don't love him?

MARGARET. I loved what I _thought_ was him. And I--I am faithful--_I_
do not change--_I_ don't says things to one woman one week and then
make love to another! Why do you stay here, Everard? Your bride is
waiting!

EVERARD. (_desperately_) Do you think _I_ want to marry Lady Claude?

MARGARET. (_scornfully_) Would you have proposed to her, if you didn't?

EVERARD. I proposed out of pique, because you--

MARGARET. (_excitedly_) What, what!

EVERARD. I read Mr. Mollentrave's wicked book, and believed it! Oh,
Margaret, Margaret, can you think that any other woman in the world--

MARGARET. (_trembling_) Then--then--

EVERARD. I always have loved you--always--always! But when I found that
you--

MARGARET. I see it all! You proposed to Lady Claude--for my sake!

EVERARD. I was so unhappy!

MARGARET. And you _don't_ love her? Then I have ruined your life!

EVERARD. It's not too late!

MARGARET. It is--it is! Can we break both their hearts? Oh, Everard--we
must be noble!

EVERARD. Poor Lady Claude! I'm afraid I've been very cruel!

MARGARET. And your uncle--think of your uncle! Imagine if
he--suspected! The blow to him! No, no, we mustn't, we can't. We must
make the sacrifice, Everard! We must do what is right!

                    (_Leaning against each other._)

EVERARD. But tell me, at least! You _do_ love me?

MARGARET. Oh, Everard, I always have loved you--but I didn't know!

EVERARD. (_desperately_) I don't want to marry Lady Claude!

MARGARET. Nor I your uncle! But we must! They love us, the poor old
things!

  (_They fall into each other's arms._ MOLLENTRAVE _comes in briskly_
    L. U. E. _and stares, in utter amazement_)

MOLLEN. (_triumphantly_) Ah! The liberation of two gases, that meet,
and explode!

          (EVERARD _and_ MARGARET _turn, horror-stricken, and
                                 rise_)

EVERARD. (_up_ R. C. _releasing_ MARGARET) Mr. Mollentrave! Oh!!!

MARGARET. (_down_ R. _shamefaced_) You mustn't think--oh, you mustn't!
We were merely bidding each other good-bye!

MOLLEN. (C.) That of course was evident! But, Everard--for a man who
half-an-hour ago proposed to my daughter--

EVERARD. (_miserably_) Mr. Mollentrave!

MOLLEN. Are there many other young ladies--whom you have to say
good-bye to, Everard?

EVERARD. Be merciful, sir! Oh, Mr. Mollentrave. I love Margaret!
(_going to her_)

MARGARET. (_reproachfully_) Everard!

EVERARD. I do, I do! And she loves me! Oh, Mr. Mollentrave, help us!

                   (_Both kneel_ C. _holding hands_)

MARGARET. Yes, yes, help us!

MOLLEN. What a position for a father! When I think of my Rosamund--the
blow to her! And Balsted--poor, doting Balsted!

MARGARET. (_crawling towards_ MOLLENTRAVE, _humbly_) We've been very
wicked, we know! But we'll do what you tell us!

MOLLEN. (_both rise_) Arise, my children! _I_ will befriend you!

EVERARD. (_up_ R. C.) Oh, Mr. Mollentrave, you are the noblest of men!

MARGARET. (_down_ R. C.) The best, the kindest!

MOLLEN. (C.) (_raising them both_) I will break the dreadful news
to them--ah, very gently--We must not be brutal! Not a word to them
yet--They must hear it from me!

MARGARET. Yes--oh yes!

MOLLEN. Oh, the cruelty of youth! Go now--go--let me consider what had
best be done.

EVERARD. (_seizing his hand and wringing it_) How to thank you!

MARGARET. (_caressing the other hand_) Dear Mr. Mollentrave!

MOLLEN. Whatever it cost me, you have my promise!

  (_They go off, hand-in-hand_ R. 2 E. _Left alone_, MOLLENTRAVE
    _laughs quietly to himself, and expresses his supreme
    satisfaction by a kind of elderly dance_. DEXTER _comes in_ R. 2
    E. _with a telegram, and stares_.)

DEXTER. (R. C.) Mr. Mollentrave!

MOLLEN. (_with dignity_ C.) Dexter, this exhibition of agility may
seem undignified, but it is symbolic of a certain inward feeling of
legitimate pride.

DEXTER. (_puzzled_) Sir?

MOLLEN. Dexter, I have done it--like that! (_he snaps his fingers_) I
waved my wand--and they walked--I piped, and they danced! (_to_ DEXTER
R. C. _speaking with profound conviction_) Dexter there are moments
when my power strikes me as somewhat uncanny....

DEXTER. (R. C.) May I ask, sir--

MOLLEN. No, no, these matters are not for you.--What have you there?

DEXTER. A telegram, sir. The boy is waiting.

                   (DEXTER _hands him the telegram_.)

MOLLEN. (_fumbling for his glasses_) Yes--a little uncanny! (C.)
But--fortunately for mankind, I make a good use of that power! (_He
adjusts his spectacles, opens the telegram, and reads_) What, what!

DEXTER. (R. C.) No bad news, sir, I hope?

MOLLEN. (L. C.) (_fuming_) Contareen! The ass, the triple ass! Engaged
to Lady Gladys. I am d---- (_going up_ C. _and down_ R. C.)

DEXTER. Sir?

MOLLEN. And he gloats! He dares to gloat!

DEXTER. (R. C.) Any answer, sir? I have brought a form.

MOLLEN. Answer--no--no answer! Stay, though--there _shall_ be--yes,
there _shall_! Ah, he gloats, does he, that--moon-calf! Write,
Dexter,--write! Sit here and write!

                         (DEXTER _sits_ R. C.)

"Delighted at news. My daughter and Sir Joseph Balsted, who were
engaged yesterday"--

DEXTER. (_open-mouthed_) Sir???

MOLLEN. (C. _pettishly_) I say, who were engaged yesterday--"join in
congratulations." Have you got it?

DEXTER. Do I understand you to say--

MOLLEN. You do, sir--you do! Is that down?

DEXTER. Yes, sir. "My daughter and Sir Joseph Balsted, who were engaged
yesterday, join in congratulations."

MOLLEN. Good. Now take that telegram, give it to the boy--and mind, not
a word to anyone here! (_down_ L.)

DEXTER. (_going_) Very well, sir. (_is going_ R. 2 E.)

MOLLEN. (R. C.) Stay, I had better make sure. Give me the telegram,
Dexter--I'll hand it to the boy myself. And do you go off, through that
gate, and take the next train back to town.

                        (DEXTER _crosses_ L. C.)

DEXTER. (_up_ L. C.) Sir! Don't you trust my discretion?

MOLLEN. (R. C.) Implicitly, Dexter--but I prefer to know it's in
London. Go at once, please. I shall let you know when to return.

               (DEXTER _goes through the gate_, L. U. E.)

MOLLEN. (C. _and down_ L. C.) (_moving off_) More work for my hands!
But can I let that creature gloat? (_is going up_ R. 3 E.)

             (_As he goes, he meets_ SIR JOSEPH _and_ LADY
                                CLAUDE.)

MOLLEN. (_pushing between them_) Ah, Balsted, Rosamund, wait for me
here. I have news--strange news! I shall be back in a moment! (_he
goes_ R. 3 E.)

SIR J. (_coming down stage on her_ R. _slowly walking down_ R. _and
across_ L. C.) News! Some fresh scheme, no doubt! We have done with
him--done! Rosamund, I'll go now to the post-office, and wire my clerk
to get a special license--

LADY C. No, no, it's impossible! Oh, Joseph, think of our eternal
remorse--if anything happened!

SIR J. Remorse! I tell you, if we stay here, we shall both of us be
caught!

LADY C. We should never have lent ourselves to this deception!

SIR J. It's too late now to moan over things! Your father's responsible
for it all--let him put things right!

LADY C. Think of poor Margaret! Ninety-nine girls out of a hundred, I
said--what if she be the hundredth?

SIR J. I don't care if she be the thousandth! I won't marry her!

LADY C. And Everard! The blow to him! Oh, how can I have been so blind!

SIR J. He and Margaret will console each other!

LADY C. (L.) Oh Joseph, Joseph, they are so young, but youth can know
sorrow! Margaret adores you--and I--oh, what have I done to poor
Everard!

SIR J. (L. C.) I don't care, I don't care! I tell you--

            (EVERARD _and_ MARGARET _come in_ R. 2 E.; _they
                     start at seeing the others_.)

LADY C. Look, look! Here they are!

  (_A panic falls on all four of them; they eye each other furtively,
    and both pairs stand whispering at opposite corners of the
    stage._)

MARGARET. (_down_ R. C. _to_ EVERARD _down_ R.) They've seen us--we
can't go back.

LADY C. (_up_ L. _to_ SIR JOSEPH _up_ L. C.) Ah, Joseph! The poor
little girl!

EVERARD. (_to_ MARGARET) He can't have told them yet!

MARGARET. (_to_ EVERARD) Oh no--impossible! But--how sad they are! As
though they suspected!

LADY C. (_to_ SIR JOSEPH) The poor boy, the poor boy! We must be very
gentle!

EVERARD. (_to_ MARGARET) I've behaved very cruelly to poor Lady Claude!

SIR J. (_to_ LADY CLAUDE) I'm afraid Margaret has been crying--

LADY C. (_to_ SIR JOSEPH) It will break her heart when she knows--

EVERARD. (_to_ MARGARET) Why not tell them? This is a chance--

MARGARET. (_to_ EVERARD) Oh, think of the shock! Your poor uncle! Oh,
my heart fails me!

  (_They fall into whispers._ MOLLENTRAVE _comes in, and chuckles at
    finding them all together. Both couples start guiltily and try
    to go_, MARGARET _and_ EVERARD R. 2 E., SIR JOSEPH _and_ LADY
    CLAUDE L. 2 E.)

MOLLEN. (C.) No, no, don't go--sit down please--I've something to say
to you--all!

  (_They sit all of them in the greatest embarrassment, avoiding each
    other's eyes_, MARGARET _and_ EVERARD R. _and_ R. C., SIR JOSEPH
    _up_ L. C., LADY CLAUDE _down_ L.)

MOLLEN. (C.) (_striking an attitude_) The poets have babbled of love
since the first introduction of rhyme;--but all that we know, or need
know, is that Cupid is--young! (_he turns to_ SIR JOSEPH) Balsted!
The elderly fisherman baits his fat hook and thinks he has landed the
salmon--down below, a barefoot boy wades in, and captures the prize! As
a lover, Balsted, you have every quality--every one in the world that
appeals to a beautiful girl--every one, with the exception of youth!

MARGARET. (R. C.) (_falling on her knees before_ SIR JOSEPH) Forgive me!

SIR J. (_staggered_) Margaret! (_crosses to_ R. C.)

MOLLEN. (_down_ L. C.) You _must_ forgive her! Balsted, it was your
brain, your massive brain, that attracted poor Margaret--but to-day, as
she sat beside Everard, two pair of lips met, quite by chance--and your
brain was forgotten!

                    (LADY CLAUDE _still sitting_ L.)

EVERARD. (_rising_ R.) (_appealingly_) Lady Claude!

MOLLEN. (L. C.) Rosamund, you too will pardon, and grant absolution.
Rosamund, Balsted, rise to superior heights--and, from your loftiness,
smile on our lovers!

SIR J. (C.) Margaret, you are free!

MARG. (R. C.) What! _Can_ you!

SIR J. I release you!

MOLLEN. (_up_ L. C.) Go now, my children--leave me--to pour balm on
their wounds!

             (_He waves them off; they rush out gleefully,
                        hand in hand_, R. 2 E.)

SIR J. (_up_ R. C.) A miracle! But how--

MOLLEN. (C.) The infallible working of an undeviating law!

SIR J. Mollentrave, I love your daughter. And she--

LADY C. (_rising and to_ L. _of_ MOLLEN.) Papa, this will be a
disappointment to you, I know. But I--

MOLLEN. (C.) Disappointment! The dearest wish of my heart!

SIR J. What!!

MOLLEN. My scheme of schemes, at which I have labored since first I
set eyes on our friend! Every single event, all that has happened, was
merely the inlay, the minute fragments that dovetailed--and produced
this!

SIR J. Marvellous! Mollentrave, I have no words--to express my
admiration!

MOLLEN. (_taking_ SIR JOSEPH'S _hand and placing it in_ LADY CLAUDE'S)
After all, my dear fellow, what is it? A little knowledge of human
nature!

                                CURTAIN.

  MOLLENTRAVE.

  SIR JOSEPH.

  LADY CLAUDE.



  TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES


  Silently corrected simple spelling, grammar, and typographical
  errors.

  Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.

  Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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