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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

Title: Jack Straw - A Farce in Three Acts
Author: Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jack Straw - A Farce in Three Acts" ***

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



produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



                             _JACK STRAW_



                             _JACK STRAW_

                               _A FARCE_

                            _In Three Acts_

                          _BY W. S. MAUGHAM_

                      _LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN_

                               _MCMXII_

              _Copyright, London William Heinemann, 1912_

This play was produced at the Vaudeville Theatre on March 26, 1908, with
the following cast:


              JACK STRAW                   CHARLES HAWTREY
              COUNT VON BREMER                H. R. HIGNETT
              MARQUESS OF SERLO             LOUIS GOODRICH
              REV. LEWIS ABBOTT             CHARLES TROODE
              AMBROSE HOLLAND               EDMUND MAURICE
              MR. PARKER-JENNINGS          ROBERT WHITE, JUNR
              VINCENT PARKER-JENNINGS      PERCY R. GOODYER
              HEAD WAITER                     VINCENT ERNE
              SERVANT                      NORMAN WRIGHTON
              LADY WANLEY                VANE FEATHERSTONE
              ETHEL PARKER-JENNINGS           DAGMAR WIEHE
              ROSIE ABBOTT                   MONA HARRISON
              MRS. WITHERS                     JOY CHATWYN
              MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS        LOTTIE VENNE



                             _JACK STRAW_



                             _CHARACTERS_


                        JACK STRAW
                        Mr. PARKER-JENNINGS
                        Mrs. PARKER-JENNINGS
                        VINCENT
                        ETHEL
                        AMBROSE HOLLAND
                        LADY WANLEY
                        LORD SERLO
                        COUNT ADRIAN VON BREMER
                        HORTON WITHERS
                        Mrs. WITHERS
                        The Rev. LEWIS ABBOTT
                        ROSIE ABBOTT

Waiters at the Grand Babylon Hotel and Footmen at Taverner, the
Parker-Jennings’ place in Cheshire


TIME: _The Present Day_


ACT I--_The Lounge of the Grand Babylon Hotel_

ACTS II and III--_The Parker-Jennings’ place in Cheshire_

     _The Performing Rights of this play are fully protected, and
     permission to perform it, whether by Amateurs or Professionals,
     must be obtained in advance from the author’s Sole Agent, R.
     Golding Bright, 20 Green Street, Leicester Square, London, W.C.,
     from whom all particulars can be obtained._



JACK STRAW



THE FIRST ACT


     SCENE: _The lounge and winter garden of the Grand Babylon Hotel.
     There are palms and flowers in profusion, and numbers of little
     tables, surrounded each by two or three chairs. Several people are
     seated, drinking coffee and liqueurs. At the back a flight of steps
     leads to the restaurant, separated from the winter garden by a
     leaded glass partition and swinging doors. In the restaurant a band
     is playing._

     _Two or three waiters in uniform are standing about or serving
     customers._

     AMBROSE HOLLAND _and_ LADY WANLEY _come out from the restaurant. He
     is a well-dressed, elegant man of five and thirty. She is a
     handsome widow of uncertain age._

LADY WANLEY.

[_Pausing at the foot of the steps._] Where shall we sit?

HOLLAND.

Let us choose a retired corner where we can gossip in peace.

LADY WANLEY.

Nonsense! I didn’t come to the Grand Babylon in order to blush unseen. I
caught sight of a number of people during luncheon, who I’m quite
determined shall catch sight of me now.

HOLLAND.

I was sufficiently gallant to have eyes for you only.

LADY WANLEY.

[_Pointing to a table._] Shall we sit there?

HOLLAND.

D’you mind sitting on the other side? The waiter’s rather a pal of mine.

LADY WANLEY.

[_Sitting down._] What queer friends you have.

HOLLAND.

Waiter.

A WAITER.

[_Coming forward._] Your waiter will be here in one minute, sir.

HOLLAND.

[_To_ LADY WANLEY.] You see, I’ve knocked about in so many places that I
have friends in every city in the world and every rank in life.

LADY WANLEY.

I suppose you saw the Parker-Jennings? They were sitting three tables
from us.

HOLLAND.

I did.

LADY WANLEY.

Do you know that she cut me dead when I came in?

HOLLAND.

I’ve long told you that Mrs. Parker-Jennings is growing exclusive.

LADY WANLEY.

But, my dear Ambrose, that she should have the impudence to cut me....

HOLLAND.

[_Smiling._] I respect her for it.

LADY WANLEY.

I’m much obliged to you.

HOLLAND.

I don’t think it does much credit to her heart, but it certainly does to
her understanding. She has discovered that a title nowadays is not
nearly such a good passport to the world of fashion as she thought it
was. She knows you’re as poor as a church mouse, and she’s realised that
in Society the poor are quite rightly hated and despised by all who know
them.

LADY WANLEY.

Yes, but remember the circumstances. Five years ago the Parker-Jennings
didn’t know a soul in the world. They’d lived in Brixton all their
lives.

HOLLAND.

It has been whispered to me that in those days they were known as Mr.
and Mrs. Bob Jennings--not nearly so smart, is it?

LADY WANLEY.

He used to go to the City every morning with a black bag in one hand and
an umbrella in the other.

HOLLAND.

I wish that confounded waiter would come.

LADY WANLEY.

One day an uncle in the North, from whom they vaguely had expectations,
died suddenly and left them nearly two millions.

HOLLAND.

Some people are so lucky in the way they choose their uncles.

LADY WANLEY.

He was a hardware manufacturer, and no one dreamt that he had a tenth
part of that fortune. I came across them in Switzerland and found they
were looking for a house.

HOLLAND.

So, with a burst of hospitality, you asked them down to Taverner, and
they took it for twenty-one years.

LADY WANLEY.

I introduced them to every one in the county. I gave little parties so
that they might meet people. And now, if you please, the woman cuts me.

HOLLAND.

[_Dryly._] You have left out an essential detail in the account of your
relations with these good folk.

LADY WANLEY.

Have I?

HOLLAND.

[_Smiling._] You have omitted to mention that when they took Taverner
they agreed to pay an exorbitant rent.

LADY WANLEY.

They could well afford it. Besides, it was a historic place. It was
worth whatever I could get for it.

HOLLAND.

Parker-Jennings may be very vulgar, but he’s as shrewd a man as you’d
find anywhere between Park Lane and Jerusalem.

LADY WANLEY.

I haven’t the least idea what you’re talking about.

HOLLAND.

Haven’t you? Well, then, I venture to suggest that if Mr.
Parker-Jennings gave you such an enormous rent for Taverner, it was on a
certain understanding. He was wise enough to find out that people can
live in Cheshire all their lives and never know a soul. I don’t suppose
he put it in the agreement between you, but unless I am very much
mistaken he took your place only on the condition that you should get
every one to call.

LADY WANLEY.

[_After a brief pause._] I was crippled with mortgages, and I had to
send my boys to Eton.

HOLLAND.

Good heavens, I’m not blaming you. I only wish to point out that if you
introduced Mrs. Jennings to your friends, it was a matter of business
rather than of sentiment.

LADY WANLEY.

[_With a little laugh._] I suppose you think it’s very natural that she
should wish to kick away the ladder by which she climbed.

     [_A_ WAITER _comes up to_ HOLLAND.

WAITER (JACK STRAW).

Yes, sir.

HOLLAND.

Two coffees and two Benedictines. But you’re not my usual waiter.
Where’s Pierre?

WAITER.

[_Blandly._] He’s attending the funeral of an elderly female relative,
sir.

     [HOLLAND _looks up quickly, and then stares in a puzzled way_.

HOLLAND.

I seem to know your face. Have I seen you anywhere?

WAITER.

[_With a smile._] Mr. Ambrose Holland, I think.

HOLLAND.

Jack Straw! What on earth are you doing here?

JACK STRAW.

My dear fellow, it is possible to be no less of a philosopher in the
uniform of a waiter at the Grand Babylon Hotel than in the gown of a
professor at the University of Oxford.

     [_He goes out._

LADY WANLEY.

[_Laughing._] It’s really very odd that waiters should address you as my
dear fellow.

HOLLAND.

What an extraordinary encounter!

LADY WANLEY.

Please tell me who your friend is.

HOLLAND.

I haven’t the ghost of an idea.

LADY WANLEY.

My dear Ambrose.

HOLLAND.

I first met him in the States. I was in considerable financial
difficulties in those days--it’s three or four years ago now--and I got
a small part in a travelling company. Jack Straw was a member of it, and
we became great friends.

LADY WANLEY.

Is that his name?

HOLLAND.

So he assures me.

LADY WANLEY.

It’s very improbable, isn’t it?

HOLLAND.

Very. I believe Jack Straw was a highwayman, or something like that, and
he’s given his name to a public-house in Hampstead.

LADY WANLEY.

He must be an extraordinary man.

HOLLAND.

He is. I don’t know whether I admire most his self-assurance or his
resourcefulness. I spent with him the last two years before my ship
came home. We had some pretty rough times together, but he was a pillar
of strength. Difficulties seemed to arise only that he might surmount
them.

LADY WANLEY.

He sounds quite splendid.

HOLLAND.

The worst of living with him was that you had no breathing-time. He’s a
man with an uncontrollable love of adventure. Prosperity bores him to
death, and time after time, when we’d managed to get out of rough water
into smooth, he’d throw up everything for some wild goose chase.

LADY WANLEY.

But who are his people?

HOLLAND.

Heaven only knows. I know he isn’t English, though he speaks it
wonderfully.

LADY WANLEY.

Is he by way of being a gentleman?

HOLLAND.

I can only tell you that he’s thoroughly at home in whatever society he
finds himself.

LADY WANLEY.

I daresay that’s not a bad definition of a gentleman.

HOLLAND.

He’s sailed before the mast, been a bar-tender in New York, and an
engine-driver on the Canadian Pacific. He’s been a miner up in the
Klondyke, and he’s worked on a ranch in Texas. And if he’s a waiter now,
I daresay he’ll be an organ-grinder next week, and a company-promoter
the week after. I’ve seen half a dozen fortunes within his grasp, and
he’s let them all slip through his fingers from sheer indifference to
money.

LADY WANLEY.

Here he is with the coffee.

     [JACK STRAW _comes in with coffee and liqueurs_.

HOLLAND.

I should be overwhelmed with confusion at allowing you to wait on me, if
I did not feel certain that it appeals enormously to your sense of
humour.

JACK STRAW.

It has occurred to me that you will feel a natural hesitation about
giving me a tip. I may as well tell you at once that I shall feel none
about taking it.

HOLLAND.

It’s thoughtful of you to warn me. How much do I owe you?

JACK STRAW.

Two shillings the coffee and three shillings the liqueur. The prices
seem exorbitant to me, but I suppose people must expect to pay for the
privilege of letting their friends see them at the best hotel in Europe.

HOLLAND.

[_Putting down a coin._] Don’t bother about the change.

JACK STRAW.

Half a sovereign. My dear fellow, when you offer me a tip of five
shillings you are presuming unwarrantably on our former acquaintance.

HOLLAND.

[_Helplessly._] I’m sure I beg your pardon.

JACK STRAW.

I will keep one shilling as an adequate remuneration for my services and
return you four.

HOLLAND.

I am overpowered by your condescension.

JACK STRAW.

[_To_ LADY WANLEY, _who has put a cigarette in her mouth_.] Light,
madam?

HOLLAND.

I should like to ask you to sit down.

JACK STRAW.

It would be eminently improper. Besides, I have other tables to attend
to. But I shall be delighted to dine with you to-night if you have no
other engagement.

HOLLAND.

It’s very kind of you. But will not your duties here detain you?... Mr.
Straw--Lady Wanley.

JACK STRAW.

[_Bowing._] How do you do. I’m only engaged here for the afternoon. Your
ladyship is aware that the lower orders make a speciality in the decease
of elderly female relatives.

LADY WANLEY.

I have often been impressed by the piety with which they bury their
maternal grandmothers.

JACK STRAW.

It appears that Pierre, an old acquaintance of mine, wished to attend
the funeral of a widowed aunt, the relic of an egg importer in Soho, and
a highly respectable person.

LADY WANLEY.

I can well imagine that nothing could be more respectable than to import
eggs to Soho.

JACK STRAW.

The head-waiter, who is an excellent fellow, with female relatives of
his own, promised to overlook his absence if he could find a substitute.
Pierre, like myself, is a person of somewhat striking physique and could
find no one able to wear his clothes. He confided his distress to me,
and I, knowing that his uniform would fit me like a glove offered, at
once to step into the--breach.

HOLLAND.

I am relieved to hear that your appearance in this capacity is not due
to embarrassed circumstances.

JACK STRAW.

I deplore the hastiness of your reasoning. My circumstances are
excessively embarrassed. Excuse me, I see some people who are proposing
to sit at one of my tables.

     [_Meanwhile people have been coming down from the restaurant and
     sitting at the various tables. Waiters have been handing them
     coffee._ HORTON WITHERS _and_ MRS. WITHERS _come down, accompanied
     by the_ REV. LEWIS ABBOTT _and_ MRS. ABBOTT (ROSIE). JACK STRAW
     _leaves_ HOLLAND _and_ LADY WANLEY _to attend to some people_.

LADY WANLEY.

There are the Withers. Why, they’ve got Rosie with them and her husband.

     [_She gets up and goes towards the_ WITHERS, _who are honest,
     simple people, not distinguished, but good-natured and kindly_.
     LEWIS ABBOTT _is a nice-looking, frank young parson_. ROSIE _is
     very pretty and fragile. She is simply dressed._

LADY WANLEY.

[_Smiling to_ ROSIE.] My dear, what are you doing in this sink of
iniquity? I am surprised to see you. And Lewis!

     [_She shakes hands, evidently delighted to see them._

WITHERS.

We’ve brought them up to London for a little jaunt.

HOLLAND.

Won’t you all sit at our table? There’s plenty of room.

WITHERS.

That’s very kind of you. [_To his wife._] Fanny, you know Mr. Holland.

MRS. WITHERS.

Yes, of course I do. How do you do, Lady Wanley.

LADY WANLEY.

How do you do? Now you two young things must sit one on each side of me,
and you must tell me all about Taverner.

ROSIE.

Oh, we’re so happy there, and everything’s beautiful, and we just love
the house.

LADY WANLEY.

I don’t believe you know Mr. Holland. Ambrose, this is Rosie, Jasper
Neville’s daughter. You knew him well, didn’t you?

HOLLAND.

Of course I did.

LADY WANLEY.

And this is Rosie’s husband and my new Vicar at Taverner.

ABBOTT.

It makes me feel awfully grand.

LADY WANLEY.

I adore them both, so you must like them. These dear things were waiting
to be married. Lewis was a curate in some dreadfully shabby suburb, and
he’s a saint.

ABBOTT.

I wish you wouldn’t say such absurd things about me.

LADY WANLEY.

Nonsense. He’s a saint, but quite a modern nice sort of saint, who plays
cricket and doesn’t wear a hair shirt. And of course he couldn’t marry
Rosie, who hadn’t a penny to bless herself with, but Providence came to
the rescue and carried off our old Vicar with influenza.

ROSIE.

What dreadful things you say, Lady Wanley!

LADY WANLEY.

And the living’s in my gift, so I gave it to them, and there they are.

ROSIE.

You have been nice to us.

LADY WANLEY.

My dears, you’re the only really good people I’ve ever known in my life.
I used to think my boys were till they went to Eton, and now I know
they’re devils.

WITHERS.

We’re all under a debt of gratitude to you, Lady Wanley. Every one
worships them in the parish.

ABBOTT.

Every one’s been very jolly, and they all try to make things easy for
us.

MRS. WITHERS.

You know, they will work so hard, we could hardly persuade them to come
up to London for two or three days.

WITHERS.

I daresay you’ve heard that we’ve taken a little place near Taverner.

HOLLAND.

Lady Wanley was telling me at luncheon.

LADY WANLEY.

[_To_ ROSIE.] And are you enjoying yourself in London, darling?

ROSIE.

[_Enthusiastically._] Oh, it’s simply splendid. You don’t know what a
treat it is to us to come to the Grand Babylon. It makes us feel so
smart. And to-night we’re going to the Gaiety.

LADY WANLEY.

[_To_ WITHERS.] It’s very nice of you to be so good to these young
people.

MRS. WITHERS.

It’s a pleasure to us to see how they enjoy everything.

ROSIE.

D’you know the Parker-Jennings are here? Isn’t it nice? They will be
surprised when they see us, won’t they, Lewis?

MRS. WITHERS.

[_With a little sniff._] I see Maria Jennings has got a lord with her.

HOLLAND.

Serlo, isn’t it? I thought I saw him.

WITHERS.

I suppose you know they’re trying to hook him for Ethel?

LADY WANLEY.

Good heavens!

MRS. WITHERS.

[_With a shrug of the shoulders._] As long as he’s a Marquess, and he’s
that all right, Maria Jennings don’t mind the rest.

LADY WANLEY.

I hope Ethel will refuse to have anything to do with him.

ROSIE.

She’s a dear, isn’t she? I’m so fond of her, and she’s simply devoted to
Lewis.

LADY WANLEY.

My dear, do you never say anything against any one?

ROSIE.

[_With a laugh._] Seldom. Everybody’s so nice.

LADY WANLEY.

It must make conversation very difficult. But Ethel is a charming girl,
and I shouldn’t like her to fall into the hands of that disgraceful
young rip.

MRS. WITHERS.

She’s the only one of the family who hasn’t had her head turned by all
the money.

LADY WANLEY.

Of course you knew Mrs. Jennings before she was the exalted person she
is now.

MRS. WITHERS.

Bless you, I’ve known her all my life. We went to the Brixton High
School together, and I was a bridesmaid at her wedding. Why, we used to
be popping in and out of one another’s houses all day long.

WITHERS.

And now, if you please, she’ll hardly look at us.

ABBOTT.

I’m afraid people don’t much like her at Taverner, but she’s done
everything she could for us, and they’re awfully generous.

ROSIE.

I don’t care what anybody says about her, she’s been perfectly sweet to
me. She told me that I might come to the Hall whenever I wanted to, and
I’m always dropping in to lunch there.

LADY WANLEY.

Oh well, if they’re nice to you, I forgive them. Mrs. Jennings can cut
me till she’s blue in the face.

ROSIE.

Oh look, there’s the Count.

     [_A distinguished-looking old man comes out of the restaurant and
     walks slowly down the steps._

LADY WANLEY.

It’s Adrian von Bremer. How on earth d’you know him?

ROSIE.

I don’t, but he’s rented a place in Cheshire, and he came to church
once.

LADY WANLEY.

It’s the Pomeranian Ambassador, you know.

MRS. WITHERS.

I know him well by sight.

LADY WANLEY.

I wish he’d come and talk to us. I should like to introduce Lewis to
him.

HOLLAND.

He’s as blind as a bat. I don’t suppose he’ll see us.

     [_Meanwhile_ VON BREMER _has reflectively put an eyeglass in his
     eye, and looks round as he walks out. He catches sight of_ LADY
     WANLEY, _and smiling, comes up to her_.

VON BREMER.

How do you do.

HOLLAND.

You look as if you were just going.

VON BREMER.

I am. I had my coffee in the restaurant.

LADY WANLEY.

What is the news in Pomerania?

VON BREMER.

None except that our Emperor is growing old. All these domestic troubles
of his are breaking him down.

LADY WANLEY.

Poor old thing.

HOLLAND.

I suppose nothing has been heard of the Archduke Sebastian?

VON BREMER.

Nothing. We’ve given up the search.

HOLLAND.

[_To_ LADY WANLEY.] You remember that affair, don’t you? There was some
quarrel in the domestic circle, and the Archduke Sebastian suddenly
disappeared--four years ago, now, isn’t it?--and hasn’t been heard of
since. He simply vanished into thin air.

LADY WANLEY.

But how do you know he’s alive?

VON BREMER.

Every Christmas the Emperor receives a letter from him, sent from
different parts of the world, saying he’s well and happy.

LADY WANLEY.

It’s really very romantic. I wonder what on earth he’s doing.

VON BREMER.

Heaven only knows.

LADY WANLEY.

Tell me, how is that nice young _attaché_ of yours that I met at
luncheon the other day.

VON BREMER.

The nice young _attaché_ has come to a bad end. I’ve had to send him
back to Pomerania.

LADY WANLEY.

Really?

VON BREMER.

The story is rather entertaining. There’s an American woman here who has
a passion for titles, and it occurred to my _attaché_ one day to
introduce his valet to her as Count So-and-So. Of course she was full of
attentions and immediately asked the valet to dinner. Presently the
story came to my ears. I really couldn’t have my _attachés_ playing
practical jokes of that sort, and so I sent him home.

LADY WANLEY.

Poor boy, he was so nice.

VON BREMER.

Good-bye.

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, may I introduce Mr. Abbott to you. He’s your new Vicar at Taverner.
And this is Mrs. Abbott. You must be very nice to her.

VON BREMER.

I’m delighted to meet you. I’ve heard wonderful stories of your good
works in the parish.

ABBOTT.

It’s very kind of you to say so.

VON BREMER.

[_To_ ROSIE.] If you will allow me I should like to call on you when I
come down to Cheshire.

ROSIE.

I shall be so pleased to see you.

VON BREMER.

Good-bye.

     [_He bows and goes out._

ROSIE.

Wasn’t it nice of him to say he’d call? You know, he never goes
anywhere.

WITHERS.

I can see Mrs. Jennings’ face when she hears that the Count has been to
see you, my dear.

HOLLAND.

Why do you say that?

MRS. WITHERS.

The Count lives next door to them in the country, and they’ve moved
heaven and earth to know him, but he simply won’t look at them. Maria
would give her eyes if he’d call on her.

ROSIE.

How can you say such horrid things about her!

     [_During the last two or three speeches_ MR. _and_ MRS.
     PARKER-JENNINGS _come down the steps, followed by_ ETHEL, VINCENT
     _and_ SERLO. SERLO _goes over to talk to a flashily dressed girl at
     another table_. PARKER-JENNINGS _is a little stoutish man, very
     common and self-assertive_. _His wife is of a determined
     appearance, vulgar, and magnificently dressed._ VINCENT _is showy
     and aggressive_. ETHEL _is very charming and very pretty_. SERLO
     _is quite insignificant_. MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS _comes down the
     centre of the stage, with her party, elaborately ignoring_ LADY
     WANLEY’S _table_. ROSIE _gets up and goes to her impulsively_. MRS.
     WITHERS _and her husband rise_.

ROSIE.

Mrs. Jennings, I am so glad to see you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Frigidly putting up her glasses._] Mrs. Abbott.

WITHERS.

Hullo, Bob, old man, how are the chicks?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

We’re all in the best of ’ealth, thank you.

ETHEL.

[_Shaking hands with_ MRS. WITHERS.] I was hoping we should have a
chance of speaking to you.

MRS. WITHERS.

What a picture you look, my dear! What’s the matter with Vincent? Why
are you trying to look as if you’d never seen me before?

VINCENT.

You’ll never allow me to forget you, Mrs. Withers.

MRS. WITHERS.

No, I won’t. And many’s the time I’ve bathed you, my lad, in that little
back room in St. John’s Road, Brixton, and don’t you forget that either.

ROSIE.

[_Enthusiastically to_ MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.] Aren’t you surprised to
see us here? Mr. and Mrs. Withers are giving us such a treat.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I shouldn’t ’ave thought this quite the place for a clergyman’s wife to
come to. I confess I’m surprised you should find time to leave your work
at Taverner in order to gad about in London.

     [ROSIE _is taken aback by the snub, and her face falls_.

ROSIE.

But we’re only here for a day or two. We shall be home on Thursday. I
was wondering if I might come up to luncheon as Lewis has got to go out.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’m expecting Lord Serlo’s mother and Lady Eleanor King to stay with me,
so perhaps you’d better not come up to the ’all for a few days. I’m sure
you understand, don’t you. I don’t want to ’urt your feelings, but I
don’t think you’re quite the sort of person they’d like to meet.

     [ROSIE _gives a little gasp_.

ETHEL.

[_Indignantly._] Mother.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’ll let you know when it’s convenient for you to call. I’m afraid
you’re a little inclined to be pushing, my dear. You don’t mind my
telling you, do you? It’s not quite the correct thing in a clergyman’s
wife.

     [_She turns her back on_ ROSIE, _who is left gasping. She tries to
     choke her sobs, but tears of mortification roll down her cheeks._

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, the cad, the cad.

     [_She makes_ ROSIE _sit down and comforts her_.

ETHEL.

Mother, how could you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Hold your tongue, Ethel. I’ve been wanting to give those people a lesson
for some time. Where’s our table, Robert?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

There are some people sitting there, my dear. We shall ’ave to take this
one.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Didn’t you tell the waiter to reserve it? Waiter!

JACK STRAW.

Yes, madam.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You must tell those people that that table’s taken.

JACK STRAW.

I’m very sorry, madam. Will this one not do instead?

ETHEL.

Yes, mother. Let’s sit here.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’m not going to let people push me into any ’ole and corner they like.

VINCENT.

Cheek, I call it.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Come on, sit down, mother.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Unwillingly taking her seat at a vacant table._] How often ’ave I told
you not to call me mother? My name’s Marion; I’m sure you ought to know
it by now.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Is it? I always thought it was Maria.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_To_ JACK STRAW.] What are you waiting there for?

JACK STRAW.

I thought the gentleman wished to give an order, madam.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Why didn’t you keep that table, eh?

JACK STRAW.

I’m very sorry, madam, I daresay I misunderstood you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Don’t you know English?

JACK STRAW.

Perfectly, madam.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I don’t know what they want to engage these dirty foreigners for, they
make me sick.

ETHEL.

Mother, he can hear every word you say.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Two coffees, and bring all the liqueurs you’ve got.

JACK STRAW.

Very well, sir, cigars or cigarettes?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Bring some cigars, and none of your twopenny stinkers. Bring the most
expensive cigars you’ve got. I’ll soon show them who I am.

JACK STRAW.

Very well, sir.

     [_Exit._

ETHEL.

Mother, how could you be so brutal to poor Rosie. What has she done to
you?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I wish you wouldn’t call me mother, Ethel. It sounds so common. Why
don’t you call me mamma?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Who’s ’is lordship talking to?

VINCENT.

Oh, that’s little Flossie Squaretoes. I’ll go and give her a look up in
a minute.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I wish you were a little more like your brother, Ethel. He knows ’ow to
live up to ’is position.

VINCENT.

Aitches, mater, aitches.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, you always say I drop my aitches, Vincent. Well, if I do I can
afford it.

VINCENT.

You’re wrong, mater, only the aristocracy can afford to drop their
aitches.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, well, p’raps we shall be aristocracy one of these days, eh, Robert?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

You leave it to me, my dear. If money can do it.... I say, ’is lordship
lapped up that ’ock of mine at luncheon, didn’t he?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I wish you could get out of that ’abit of yours of always looking at
what people eat and drink. And what if he did lap it up. You didn’t put
it there for people to look at, did you?

VINCENT.

I say, Ethel, you needn’t have turned your back on him all the time.

ETHEL.

I thought he drank too much.

VINCENT.

Your ideas are so beastly middle-class. You mustn’t expect a man like
Serlo to do things like--like the people we used to know at....

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

That’ll do, Vincent. We all know quite well where we used to live before
your father’s poor uncle was taken, and you needn’t refer to it. [ETHEL
_shrugs her shoulders impatiently_.] It seems to me that Vincent and I
are the only ones of the family who know ’ow to live up to our position.
[JACK STRAW _comes up with the coffee and liqueurs. Another waiter hands
round the cigars._ SERLO _rejoins them_.] [_Very affably._] Come and sit
by me, Lord Serlo. Now what liqueurs will you ’ave? If there’s anything
you fancy, you just ask for it.

     [ROSIE _gives a little sob_.

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, my dear, don’t, don’t. You mustn’t mind.

ROSIE.

I feel so frightfully humiliated. She asked me to go to the hall
whenever I felt inclined, and I thought she really meant it. I never
knew that I wasn’t wanted. It’s so awful to know that they only thought
me horribly pushing.

ABBOTT.

By Jove, I wish it had been one of the men. I should have liked to knock
him down and stamp on him.

LADY WANLEY.

My dear Lewis, how nice and unchristian of you! I always said you were
just the right sort of saint for me.

MRS. WITHERS.

Wouldn’t you like to come away now, my dear?

ROSIE.

Oh yes, I feel I want to hide myself.

LADY WANLEY.

Good-bye darling, don’t take it too much to heart. [_The_ WITHERS,
ABBOTT, _and_ ROSIE _shake hands with_ HOLLAND _and_ LADY WANLEY, _and
go out_.] Did you ever hear anything so fiendish? Oh, if I could only
make that woman suffer as she’s made poor little Rosie suffer.
[_Suddenly_ LADY WANLEY _gets an idea. She leans forward._] Ambrose.

HOLLAND.

What’s the matter?

LADY WANLEY.

I’ve got it.

HOLLAND.

What d’you mean?

LADY WANLEY.

One of these days Mrs. Jennings will give her eyes not to have insulted
that poor child. I’m going to give her a lesson that she’ll never
forget.

HOLLAND.

She deserves pretty well anything that your feminine spite can suggest.

LADY WANLEY.

I can do nothing without you, Ambrose.

HOLLAND.

Don’t ask me to do anything very disreputable.

LADY WANLEY.

I’ve got her in the hollow of my hand, Ambrose.

HOLLAND.

Well?

LADY WANLEY.

Don’t you remember that story Adrian von Bremer told us about the
_attaché_? Let’s try it on Mrs. Jennings.

HOLLAND.

But....

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, don’t make any objections. You _must_ remember. He introduced his
valet to a woman as a foreign nobleman of sorts.

HOLLAND.

I’m bound to say I thought it a very silly trick.

LADY WANLEY.

I have no patience with you. Think how exactly the punishment fits the
crime. What a triumph it would be if we got Mrs. Parker-Jennings to
take to her bosom....

HOLLAND.

Who?

LADY WANLEY.

Your friend the waiter. I’m sure he’ll do it if you ask him. He’ll look
upon it as an adventure.

HOLLAND.

I don’t think he’d do it. He’s an odd fellow.

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, but ask him. There can be no harm in that.

HOLLAND.

It’s all very well. But one has to consider the possible complications.

LADY WANLEY.

There can’t be any complications. We only want to punish an insolent
snob who’s wantonly insulted a woman who never hurt a fly in her life.

     [JACK STRAW _comes up to their table_.

JACK STRAW.

Have you done with the Benedictine, sir?

LADY WANLEY.

Mr. Straw, will you do something for me?

JACK STRAW.

Anything in the world, madam.

LADY WANLEY.

Mr. Holland tells me you’re a man of spirit.

JACK STRAW.

Pray tell Mr. Holland he’s a man of discernment.

LADY WANLEY.

Are you ready still for any adventure that comes your way?

JACK STRAW.

So long as I can do it with clean hands.

LADY WANLEY.

Dear me.

JACK STRAW.

I daresay your ladyship thinks it odd that a waiter should have
susceptibilities.

HOLLAND.

Let me tell you at once that I highly disapprove of Lady Wanley’s idea.

JACK STRAW.

Then pray let me hear it. You always disapprove of everything that is
not hopelessly commonplace.

LADY WANLEY.

You told us just now that you were only temporarily engaged here.

JACK STRAW.

Quite right, madam.

LADY WANLEY.

You see those people over there--two women and three men?

JACK STRAW.

The elder lady was so amiable as to call me a dirty foreigner.

LADY WANLEY.

They’re the worst sort of _parvenus_. I think they’re the greatest snobs
in London. I have a little grudge against them.

JACK STRAW.

Yes?

LADY WANLEY.

[_Slightly embarrassed._] I want to introduce you to them--as a foreign
nobleman.

JACK STRAW.

[_Giving her a searching look._] Why?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Loudly._] Waiter.

LADY WANLEY.

It would amuse me to see them fawn upon you.

     [_A pause._

JACK STRAW.

No, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

LADY WANLEY.

[_Frigidly._] Then we’ll say no more about it.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Loudly._] Waiter.

JACK STRAW.

[_Going to him._] Yes, sir.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Why the devil don’t you hurry up. I’ve called three times.

JACK STRAW.

[_Blandly._] I’m very sorry, sir. I was engaged at another table.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

You seem to think you can keep me waiting all day. I suppose that’s why
you’re called a waiter.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Robert, don’t make jokes with menials.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’ve got a good mind to report you to the management.

ETHEL.

Papa, he came as quickly as he could.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

This coffee’s disgusting. I don’t know what you make it out of. It
tastes like ditchwater.

JACK STRAW.

I’m very sorry, sir. Let me get you some more.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

And look sharp about it, or you’ll find yourself decorated with an order
you don’t know in your country.

JACK STRAW.

I beg your pardon, sir?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

The order of the boot.

VINCENT.

I can’t think why they don’t have English waiters in a smart hotel like
this instead of these damned foreigners.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Now then, look slippy.

     [JACK STRAW _has fixed his eyes on_ ETHEL. _She has been looking
     down. She gives him a glance. He takes the coffee things and gives
     them to another waiter._

ETHEL.

[_Her voice trembling with indignation._] How can you talk like that to
a man who can’t defend himself! It’s so cowardly to insult a servant who
daren’t answer.

VINCENT.

I should think not indeed. I should like to see any servant answer me.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You never ’ave learnt ’ow to treat servants, Ethel. You always talk to
them as if they was one of ourselves. I wish you could take a leaf out
of Vincent’s book. Treat ’em like dirt, and they’ll respect you.

     [JACK STRAW, _having given instructions to the waiter, goes to_
     HOLLAND _and_ LADY WANLEY.

JACK STRAW.

I’m willing to do what you asked me to.

HOLLAND.

Why have you changed your mind?

JACK STRAW.

To tell you the truth I’m perfectly indifferent to the rudeness and the
vulgarity of your friends, but I think I should like to know that young
lady.

HOLLAND.

Would you, by Jove!

JACK STRAW.

When her father insulted me, the most ravishing colour came into her
pale cheeks, and she looked at me with the most beautiful eyes in the
world. And they were veiled with tears.

LADY WANLEY.

And is that enough to make you change your mind?

HOLLAND.

Fortunately Mr. Straw is not in the habit of falling in love, or I
should refuse to hear anything more of this cracked-brained scheme.

LADY WANLEY.

When will you be ready?

JACK STRAW.

I’m ready now. It’s three o’clock, and Pierre is waiting in the basement
to put on this uniform.

LADY WANLEY.

We couldn’t find a better place than this to effect an introduction.

JACK STRAW.

Give me two minutes to change my clothes, and I am at your service.

LADY WANLEY.

You have indeed an adventurous spirit.

JACK STRAW.

But I must make one condition--two, in fact.

LADY WANLEY.

What are they?

JACK STRAW.

Well, although you have glided over the point with singular discretion,
it is plain that you do not want me to assume a certain character merely
in order to enjoy a private snigger at the expense of these amiable
people.

LADY WANLEY.

I don’t think I know what you mean?

JACK STRAW.

Madam, it is always dangerous to count too much on the stupidity of
one’s fellows. We shall arrange this matter much better if you realise
that I’m a person of some shrewdness.

HOLLAND.

Go on.

JACK STRAW.

It is evident that you wish these good folk to take me to their bosom in
order that you may have the opportunity of telling them one day that I’m
merely an impostor.

LADY WANLEY.

I really hadn’t thought about that.

JACK STRAW.

I venture to suspect that you rate your intelligence too low.

LADY WANLEY.

Well, what is your condition?

JACK STRAW.

The position will be very humiliating to me. For all I know it may bring
me into uncomfortable relations with the police.

HOLLAND.

I think the whole plan had better be dropped. It will lead to endless
bother.

JACK STRAW.

I have no wish to drop it. You want to revenge yourself on some people
who have insulted you. I, for reasons of my own, am willing to help. But
I make the condition that you do not disclose the truth till I give you
leave. I promise not to withhold it unreasonably.

LADY WANLEY.

I accept that. And the second condition?

JACK STRAW.

Is very easy. I insist that you should behave towards me, whether we’re
alone or in public, as you naturally would if I were really the
individual I propose to personate.

LADY WANLEY.

That’s only fair. Now who can we suggest that you should be?

HOLLAND.

You’d better try and invent some character who you’re quite sure doesn’t
exist.

LADY WANLEY.

We want something very extravagant and high-sounding.

JACK STRAW.

Pray do not put yourselves to the trouble of thinking. You will
introduce me to your friends as the Archduke Sebastian of Pomerania.

HOLLAND.

What!

LADY WANLEY.

But that’s a real person!

JACK STRAW.

To invent an imaginary one would be ridiculous. Your friends would only
need to look in the Almanack de Gotha to discover the fraud.

LADY WANLEY.

But Count von Bremer was talking to us about him just now. The Archduke
Sebastian is the man who mysteriously disappeared.

JACK STRAW.

It’s because his whereabouts are unknown that he’s the safest person to
choose.

HOLLAND.

You would never be able to pass yourself off for an Archduke.

JACK STRAW.

Strange as it may seem to you, a royal prince eats, drinks, breathes,
and behaves generally very much like men of baser clay.

LADY WANLEY.

You’d be found out in a week.

JACK STRAW.

But how do you know I’m not the Archduke Sebastian?

HOLLAND.

[_With a scornful laugh._] You look it.

LADY WANLEY.

But you’d want a suite and all sorts of things.

JACK STRAW.

The man is notoriously eccentric. I think it very likely that the
company of a stuffy old Colonel of Dragoons would bore him to death.

HOLLAND.

It’s preposterous.

JACK STRAW.

You may either take it or leave it. I will be the Archduke Sebastian or
nobody.

LADY WANLEY.

After all, Mrs. Jennings will probably never have heard of this trumpery
Archduke.

JACK STRAW.

And if she has, what more probable than that, having had enough of
retirement, he should enter once more upon the position which is his by
rights?

LADY WANLEY.

[_Looking at_ HOLLAND.] It makes the joke infinitely better.

JACK STRAW.

You must make up your minds at once.

LADY WANLEY.

Ambrose, let’s toss. Heads it is, and tails it isn’t.

HOLLAND.

All right. [_He tosses a coin._] Tails.

LADY WANLEY.

I said, tails it is, didn’t I?... I’m willing to risk it.

JACK STRAW.

Give me two minutes.

     [_He goes out._

HOLLAND.

Heaven only knows what will be the end of it.

     [LORD SERLO _comes up to them_.

SERLO.

Hello, Ambrose. How’s life? How d’ye do?

LADY WANLEY.

What have you been doing?

SERLO.

I’ve been lettin’ Jennings’ Patent Hardware stand me a lunch. My word,
that old woman’s so vulgar she just about takes the roof of your head
off.

HOLLAND.

Why do you lunch with people you thoroughly despise?

SERLO.

Despise ’em! I don’t despise people who’ve got eighty thousand a year.
They’re trying to hook me for their girl.

HOLLAND.

And are you proposing to--throw yourself away?

SERLO.

She’s a very neat-steppin’ little filly--swallowed a poker in her
childhood--regrettable accident in the nursery, don’t you know, but
sound in wind and limb and all that sort of thing.

LADY WANLEY.

I admire your romantic air.

SERLO.

Whoever talked of romance? There’s half a million down on one side and
an old-established marquisate on the other.

HOLLAND.

When is the happy event to take place?

SERLO.

Well, as soon as we can get over a triflin’ impediment.

LADY WANLEY.

What’s that?

SERLO.

Well, the filly’s kicking. Have to put a red ribbon on her tail, don’t
you know.

LADY WANLEY.

She’s refusing the coronet you lay at her feet?

SERLO.

Won’t touch it with the fag end of a barge pole. I was sittin’ next to
her at lunch, and she simply turned her back on me--no mistakin’ it,
don’t you know. Wouldn’t let me get a word in edgeways. Mother’s all
over me, father’s all over me, son’s all over me. What’s the good of
that? Can’t marry them. Rotten, I call it. Came over here to have a bit
of a rest.

LADY WANLEY.

[_Laughing._] And how d’you like Vincent?

SERLO.

Rotten bounder. Can’t stick him at any price, knows too many lords for
me. When he’s my brother-in-law--hoof him out, don’t you know--double
quick march. Pretty Polly’s all very well but I’m not takin’ her family.
Can’t do it for half a million, don’t you know. Must be practical.

     [VINCENT _comes up to them_.

VINCENT.

How d’you do, Lady Wanley? I saw you driving with Lady Mary Ware
yesterday. Such a nice girl, isn’t she? I suppose you know her brother
Tregury, don’t you? Great pal of mine at Oxford.

LADY WANLEY.

He’s my second cousin, Mr. Jennings, and he pronounces his name
Tregary.

VINCENT.

Oh yes, of course. I always used to call him Tregury for fun.

LADY WANLEY.

Did you?

HOLLAND.

You have a very keen sense of humour.

VINCENT.

I was just having an argument with the mater as to what relation he was
to the Duke of Sherwin.

LADY WANLEY.

I’m afraid I haven’t your intimate knowledge of the peerage, but I
should think the only relation they’ve had in common for the last two
centuries is that lamented monarch, Charles II.

VINCENT.

[_To_ SERLO.] Nice chap, Sherwin.

SERLO.

Dunno him.

VINCENT.

Don’t you? Not know Sherwin? I must introduce you to him. I’m sure he’d
like to know you. Thorough sportsman.

SERLO.

Is he?

VINCENT.

Yes, rather. I saw him looking on at a cricket match the other day.
Great pal of my governor’s, you know. Thorough English gentleman.

SERLO.

They’d get on well together.

LADY WANLEY.

[_To_ HOLLAND.] Here is our friend.

     JACK STRAW _comes in, hat and cane in hand. He wears a very smart
     suit, tail coat, grey trousers, &c._

JACK STRAW.

I’m so sorry I couldn’t come to lunch with you.

     [_He shakes_ LADY WANLEY’S _hand, she slightly curtsies to him_.
     MRS. JENNINGS _nudges her husband, and they both stare with all
     their eyes_.

LADY WANLEY.

It’s very good of you to have come now, sir.

JACK STRAW.

Ah, my dear Holland, you are looking the picture of health.

HOLLAND.

It’s very kind of you, sir.

LADY WANLEY.

May I introduce Lord Serlo to you?

JACK STRAW.

[_Shaking hands with him._] How d’you do. I think your father was
ambassador in Pomerania for some time.

SERLO.

Yes, he was.

HOLLAND.

[_Surprised._] How did you know that--sir?

JACK STRAW.

I remember him quite well. He used to play with me when I was a little
boy. I was so sorry to hear of his death.

SERLO.

He wasn’t a bad old buffer. Kept me dooced short of money, though.

JACK STRAW.

[_Gaily._] But unless you introduce me to Lord Serlo he won’t know who
on earth I am.

LADY WANLEY.

I thought every one knew, at least by sight, the--Archduke Sebastian of
Pomerania.

JACK STRAW.

You talk of me as if I were a notorious character. [_Meanwhile_ VINCENT
_has been making frantic signs to be introduced, coughing and shuffling
on his feet_. JACK STRAW _looks at him through his eyeglass_.] Won’t you
introduce your friend to me?

LADY WANLEY.

Mr. Vincent Parker-Jennings.

VINCENT.

I’m very proud and honoured to make your Royal Highness’s acquaintance.

JACK STRAW.

It’s very polite of you to say so.

VINCENT.

I’ve always had a great sympathy for Pomerania. Most wonderful country
in Europe, that’s what I always say.

JACK STRAW.

I will tell my grandfather you think so. He will be pleased and
flattered.

VINCENT.

I haven’t ever been there, you know, sir. But I know all about it
through Adrian von Bremer.

HOLLAND.

[_Hastily._] Your ambassador lives quite near Mr. Jennings.

JACK STRAW.

Oh yes.

VINCENT.

His place marches with ours, don’t you know. He’s a great pal of my
people’s. Jolly old thing, isn’t he, sir? Thorough sportsman. That’s
what I call a gentleman.

JACK STRAW.

I seem to know your name so well.

LADY WANLEY.

Mr. Parker-Jennings is the great philanthropist. He’s provided books to
put in all Mr. Carnegie’s free libraries.

JACK STRAW.

What a noble act. I should very much like to make his acquaintance.

VINCENT.

He’s sitting over there with my mother and sister. Shall I go and fetch
him, sir?

JACK STRAW.

It’s very kind of you to take so much trouble.

HOLLAND.

[_To_ JACK STRAW _in an undertone_.] For goodness sake be careful.

JACK STRAW.

[_Putting up his eyeglass._] I beg your pardon, I did not catch what you
said.... Pray repeat it.

HOLLAND.

[_Embarrassed._] It was of no consequence, sir.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_To_ VINCENT.] Who is he, Vincent? I saw ’er curtsey to him.

VINCENT.

Come along, pater. He wants to be introduced to you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’m coming too, Vincent.

VINCENT.

Awfully jolly chap. Archduke Sebastian. What ho!

PARKER-JENNINGS.

But look here, Vincent, I don’t know how to talk to Royalty. How shall I
address him?

VINCENT.

Oh, that’s all right. Say _Sir_ wherever you can slip it in and when you
can’t say _Royal Highness_.

     [JACK STRAW _comes forward a little with_ LADY WANLEY.

LADY WANLEY.

This is Mrs. Parker-Jennings.

JACK STRAW.

[_Shaking hands with her._] I’m delighted to make your acquaintance.
[_Turning to_ PARKER-JENNINGS.] I have often heard of you, Mr.... Mr....

LADY WANLEY.

[_Prompting._] Parker-Jennings.

JACK STRAW.

[_With a relieved smile._] Mr. Parker-Jennings. I’m sure I wish we had
in my country more men of your public spirit and disinterestedness.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Very nervously._] I try to do my little best, you know, sir, your
Royal Highness.

JACK STRAW.

Won’t you introduce me to your daughter?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’m sure, sir, your Royal Highness is very affable. Ethel!

     [ETHEL _slowly comes forward, and curtsies_. _He looks at her
     steadily, takes her hand and kisses it._

VINCENT.

[_In an undertone._] What ho!


END OF THE FIRST ACT.



THE SECOND ACT


     _The drawing-room at Taverner, the_ PARKER-JENNINGS’ _place in
     Cheshire_. _Large French windows lead out on to the garden._ MRS.
     PARKER-JENNINGS, _magnificently dressed, is standing in the middle
     of the room_. PARKER-JENNINGS _comes in, rubbing his hands_.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

The band has come, my dear, and they’re ready to start playing the
moment any one turns up.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

’Ave you told ’em about the Pomeranian anthem?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

What do you think, my dear?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I wish you wouldn’t answer me like that. Why don’t you say yes or no? I
can’t abide these city ways of yours.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

I was only being facetious, my dear.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I should ’ave thought you’d learned by now that it’s vulgar to be funny.
You’ve never ’eard a duchess make a joke, ’ave you?

VINCENT _comes in_.

VINCENT.

I’ve just been round the refreshment tents. There’s one thing, people
can’t say we haven’t spread ourselves out.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Rubbing his hands._] I ’aven’t spared a single expense. The band’s
down from London, and the refreshments are from Gunter’s. There’s not a
cigar on the place that cost less than one and six--and that’s the
wholesale price.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, we’ve done it well, there’s no denying that. I’ve asked the Withers,
Robert. Florrie Withers will be mad with jealousy. I shouldn’t wonder if
she didn’t choke with envy when she swallowed a caviar sandwich.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

It was a rare stroke of business when we got the Archduke to come and
stay.

VINCENT.

That’s through me, pater. You’d never have known him if I hadn’t been on
the spot.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And I’ve asked Lady Wanley. I just want her to see that I can get on
without her. All the county’s coming. I sent ’em all cards, whether I
knew ’em or not, and they’ve all accepted.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Don’t you remember, Marion, how bucked we were in the old days when Mrs.
Bromsgrove came to dine with us, because her husband was on the L.C.C.?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I wish she could see me now. D’you remember ’ow she used to patronise
me? I wish all that stuck-up lot on Brixton ’ill was here to see us
’ob-nob with the aristocracy.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

It’s the Archduke that done it, my dear.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

What’s Serlo now? Marquis of Serlo--pooh. He isn’t going to get any more
opportunities from me--and if he says anything I’ll just send him off
with a flea in his ear.

VINCENT.

Draw it mild, mater.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Your mother’s a great woman, Vincent. This is the day of her life.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I wish I ’adn’t been such a fool as to ask Serlo to stay here. And it’s
just like that aggravating girl. When I wanted Ethel to marry him, she
wouldn’t so much as look at him, and now that she can have some one else
for the asking, she’s with ’im all day.

VINCENT.

Well, I’m for the bird in the hand, mater. The Archduke don’t look much
like a marrying man to me.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Don’t you worry about that, my dear. Every man’s a marrying man when
he’s got a chance of a pretty girl with ’alf a million of money.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Here she is.

ETHEL _comes in with_ LORD SERLO.

ETHEL.

The Withers have just motored over, mother.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

They would be first, wouldn’t they? I expect Florrie Withers was waiting
on the doorstep till the clock struck four. Where’s his Royal Highness?

ETHEL.

I don’t know at all.

SERLO.

He’s asleep in the garden; he’s sittin’ in the most comfortable
arm-chair in the place, with another for each of his legs, and he’s
clasping in his hands what looks suspiciously like a very long gin and
soda to me.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, somebody must go and wake him up. I’ve asked ’alf the county to
meet him, and he can’t go on sleeping.

JACK STRAW _comes in_.

JACK STRAW.

I say, what have you got a beastly band playing the Pomeranian anthem
for? Woke me up. I was having such a jolly sleep too.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Very affably._] The people are just coming, sir.

JACK STRAW.

What people?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

All the very best people in Cheshire, sir--no outsiders to-day. What ho!

JACK STRAW.

Good lord, are you giving a party?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Don’t you remember, sir? I asked if I might invite a few friends to meet
you.

JACK STRAW.

Oh, yes--Lady Wanley and Holland. I thought we might have a jolly little
game of bridge in the garden. What have you got the village band in for?

VINCENT.

That’s not the village band, sir. That’s the Royal Blue Orchestra.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Cost me £150 to have them down. Special train from London, and I don’t
know what all.

VINCENT.

Shut up, pater. You needn’t tell every one how much you paid for things.

JACK STRAW.

How many do you expect?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh--only my most intimate friends--about....

JACK STRAW.

Yes?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, about three hundred and fifty.

JACK STRAW.

By George, that’s cheerful. D’you want me to shake hands with them all?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

They’re the very best people in the county, sir. _Crème de la crème._

    _A servant enters to announce_ MR. _and_ MRS. WITHERS.
    _They come in._

SERVANT.

Mr. and Mrs. Withers.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

How d’you do? It’s so nice of you to come before any one else.

MRS. WITHERS.

We know you’re not used to these grand affairs, Maria, and we thought
you might want a couple of old friends to do something for you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, thank you. But there are plenty of servants. May I introduce Mr. and
Mrs. Withers to your Royal ’Ighness.

JACK STRAW.

How d’you do.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

We were just going into the garden. I daresay people will begin to come
presently.

     [_They all go out except_ ETHEL _and_ LORD SERLO.

SERLO.

I say, I’m going to hook it to-morrow.

ETHEL.

Are you? I’m very sorry.

SERLO.

I wish I thought that.

ETHEL.

Why are you going so soon?

SERLO.

Your respected mother has given your humble notice to quit.

ETHEL.

What do you mean?

SERLO.

Look here, let’s be frank with one another, shall we?

ETHEL.

Aren’t we always?

SERLO.

Well, if you ask me point blank, anythin’ but.

ETHEL.

Then let us be frank at once.

SERLO.

Well, ten days ago your people were all over me. I suppose you know why
as well as I do.

ETHEL.

D’you think we need talk of that?

SERLO.

Frankness is rather tryin’, ain’t it?

ETHEL.

No. Please go on.

SERLO.

It was dear Lord Serlo all day long; they couldn’t have enough of me.
Rippin’ good chap, Serlo. Just the sort of cove one would like to have
for a son-in-law.

ETHEL.

Lord Serlo!

SERLO.

Half a mo. I ain’t done yet. Eminently suitable match, and all that sort
of thing, only the young lady couldn’t stick me at any price.

ETHEL.

I don’t know why you should say this.

SERLO.

Better have it out, you know; rotten, keepin’ things on your chest.
Don’t blame the young lady. Don’t know that I should much fancy myself
if I was a blushing damsel. Not everybody’s money. Got a bit damaged in
transit, eh, what? Been mixed up in one or two scandals. Not the right
thing for an old-established marquess. Bit inclined to drink. No harm in
him, you know, but not the sort of man you’d like to spend the rest of
your life with. Young woman got a mind of her own. Lets the noble lord
see she wouldn’t take him if he was given away with a pound of tea. All
right, says noble lord, bet’s off. Not much, says mother of young woman.
Half a million goin’ beggin’. Give her time to get used to you.
Fascinating cove really. More she knows you more she’ll like you. Come
down and stay in the country.

ETHEL.

[_With a laugh._] How can you talk such nonsense!

SERLO.

All right, says noble lord, I’m on. Jolly nice girl, and all that sort
of thing. Noble lord rather smit. Thinks if she’ll have him he’ll turn
over a new leaf--give up everythin’ rotten and try and make her a good
husband. Rather taken with the idea of double harness. He may look a
fool, but noble lord knows a good thing when he sees it, and the young
lady’s about the best thing he’s ever set eyes on.

ETHEL.

Are you talking seriously by any chance?

SERLO.

Now don’t interrupt me. I’ve just got into a good steady canter, and
I’ll get it all off my chest at once.

ETHEL.

I’m so sorry.

SERLO.

Well, when eligible marquess gets down in the country, what d’you think
he finds? Blessed if there ain’t a foreign prince on the scene. My word,
that’s enough to put the noble lord’s aristocratic nose right out of
joint, ain’t it? Look here, old boy, you keep your weather eye open, and
all that sort of thing, says the noble lord to himself. May be an ass,
don’t you know, but when there’s a bloomin’ hurricane comin’ along he
can see which way the wind is blowin’. Brother rather chilly, father
rather chilly, mother regular iceberg. All right, says noble lord to
himself, but what about Pretty Polly?

ETHEL.

Is that me by any chance?

SERLO.

For the last month Pretty Polly had been simply turnin’ her back on
noble lord, snubbin’ him right and left, and all of a sudden she becomes
extraordinary affable. Hulloa, what’s this, says noble lord, and his
little heart goes pit-a-pat. He may be a fool, but he ain’t a damned
fool, and in a day or two he tumbles to it. So, like a wise man, he
packs his bag and hooks it.

ETHEL.

I don’t know what on earth you mean?

SERLO.

Don’t you? Well, will you have it straight from the shoulder?

ETHEL.

We agreed to be quite frank.

SERLO.

All right. No spoof. My dear, I just saw that you were fairly knocked
silly by the Archduke, and there wasn’t a ghost of a chance for little
Ned Serlo.

ETHEL.

It’s not true.

SERLO.

Oh, yes, it is. You see, I’m a bit knocked silly myself, and that makes
you precious far-sighted.

ETHEL.

You!

SERLO.

All right, you needn’t get up on your hind legs. I’m not goin’ to
propose to you now. I know it would be no precious good. At first I
didn’t care twopence; it was just a business arrangement--half a
million down on one side and an old-established marquisate on the other.
But now.... Well, you know I’m rather an ass at saying what I mean--when
I really mean it.

ETHEL.

I’m very sorry. I’m afraid I’ve been unkind to you.

SERLO.

Oh, no, you haven’t. I do seem a rotten little bounder, don’t I?

ETHEL.

No, I think you might be an awfully good friend.

SERLO.

It’s jolly of you to say so. You know, I can’t stick your family. Can
you?

ETHEL.

[_Smiling._] You see, I knew them before they were rich. When you’ve
lived all your life in a sordid narrow way, it’s very hard to have such
enormous wealth as ours.

SERLO.

You make allowances for them, but you never did for me.

ETHEL.

It would have been very impertinent of me.

SERLO.

It never struck you that it’s devilish hard to be a marquess with no
means of livelihood but your title. And the worst of a title is that
it’ll get you plenty of credit, but dooced little hard cash.

ETHEL.

I never thought of that.

SERLO.

Well, look here, what I wanted to say is this: it’s no business of mine
about the Archduke. You know, I don’t know much about royalty, but I
don’t think a foreign prince is likely to marry the daughter of nobody
in particular just because she’s got nice eyes and a pot of money.
[ETHEL _is about to speak_.] No, let me go on. You may be going to have
a rotten time, and I just want you to know that if at any time you want
me--well, you know what I mean, don’t you. Let’s forget that you’re an
heiress, and I’m an old-established marquess. You’re an awfully ripping
sort, and I’m just Ned Serlo. I’m not a bad sort either, and perhaps we
might be happy together.

ETHEL.

[_Touched._] It’s very charming of you. I’m so glad that I know you
better now. Whatever happens I know I can count on you.

SERLO.

That’s all right then. Meanwhile noble lord’s goin’ to hook it--leave
the coast clear, and bear it like a man, don’t you know.

_Enter_ JACK STRAW.

JACK STRAW.

Well, how are the weather and the crops?

SERLO.

[_Rather surprised._] Blessed if I know, sir.

JACK STRAW.

I merely asked because you looked as if you’d been discussing them.

     [_He gives_ SERLO _a glance_. SERLO _shows no sign of moving_.

JACK STRAW.

I’m not driving you away, am I?

SERLO.

[_Getting up._] Not at all, sir. I thought I’d go and have a look at the
party.

JACK STRAW.

Do go and pretend you’re me, there’s a good fellow, and shake hands with
some of those confounded people. You’ll see where I ought to stand,
because there’s a little piece of red carpet on the lawn.

SERLO.

I’m afraid they’re not takin’ any of me, sir.

     [_Exit._

JACK STRAW.

The only advantage I’ve ever been able to find in being a royal
personage is that when anybody’s in your way you just tell him to go,
and he goes.

ETHEL.

Why did you want Lord Serlo to go, sir?

JACK STRAW.

Because I wanted to be alone with you. Ask me another, quickly.

ETHEL.

Oughtn’t I to help mother to receive people?

JACK STRAW.

I’m sure you ought. But, you see, that’s another advantage of being a
royal personage, that you can’t go till I give you your dismissal. I
say, don’t you hate parties?

ETHEL.

Dreadfully.

JACK STRAW.

So do I. Let’s pretend there isn’t one, shall we? I say, why don’t you
sit down and make yourself comfy?

ETHEL.

I should like to have a little talk with you, sir.

JACK STRAW.

That’s jolly. I wish we had a regiment of soldiers there to turn all
those people out.

ETHEL.

May I say anything I like to you, sir?

JACK STRAW.

Good heavens, why not?

ETHEL.

Until I was sixteen the most exalted person I’d ever met in my life was
a London County Councillor. I’m not quite sure if I know how to behave
with royal personages.

JACK STRAW.

Why on earth don’t you buy a book on etiquette? I always carry one about
with me.

ETHEL.

Mother bought several when you said you’d come down.

JACK STRAW.

I wonder if she’s got the same as mine. You know I never can remember to
call a serviette a napkin.

ETHEL.

Mamma’s very particular about that.

JACK STRAW.

And look here, d’you know that you ought never to call a chicken a fowl?
It’s awfully bad form. I wonder if that’s in your mother’s books. I say,
what charming eyes you have.

ETHEL.

That’s another of the advantages of being a royal personage, that you
can make pretty speeches, and no one takes them seriously.

JACK STRAW.

But you know, I’m a very insignificant royal personage. You mustn’t
think I’m anything very grand really.

ETHEL.

It’s very nice of you to say so.

JACK STRAW.

You see, there are seventy-nine archdukes and duchesses in Pomerania. My
grandfather had seventeen children, and they all married. How many
children would each have had to make seventy-nine of us?

ETHEL.

It sounds very difficult.

JACK STRAW.

But you see I can’t be very important, can I? And of course I’ve got
practically no money to speak of.

ETHEL.

It’s very good of you to put me at my ease. Then you wont mind if I say
exactly what I want to?

JACK STRAW.

You won’t give me good advice, will you? I’ve got seventy-nine
relations, and they all do that.

ETHEL.

I wouldn’t venture.

JACK STRAW.

I’ll bear whatever else you say with fortitude. We’ll pretend that
you’re just Miss So-and-So.

ETHEL.

As in point of fact, I am.

JACK STRAW.

And that I’m--Jack Straw.

ETHEL.

[_Surprised._] Why on earth Jack Straw?

JACK STRAW.

[_Indifferently._] It’s the name of a public-house in Hampstead. Pray go
on.

ETHEL.

I wondered if you’d do me a great favour.

JACK STRAW.

Ask me for the moon, and it shall be left at your front door by Carter
Paterson to-morrow morning.

ETHEL.

It’s something much simpler than that.

JACK STRAW.

Put me out of suspense quickly.

ETHEL.

I should be very much obliged if--if you’d go away.

JACK STRAW.

[_Much surprised._] I? Now?

ETHEL.

I didn’t mean actually this minute. But if it suited your arrangements
to go to-morrow....

JACK STRAW.

You don’t mean to say you want me to go away altogether?

ETHEL.

That is precisely what I did mean.

JACK STRAW.

Couldn’t you ask me something easier than that? Ask me for a lawyer who
never told a lie, and I’ll deliver him to you, bound hand and foot.

ETHEL.

I don’t happen to want one just at this moment, thank you.

JACK STRAW.

But I’m having a very jolly time down here.

ETHEL.

[_With a change of tone._] Don’t you see that you’re exposing me every
day to the most cruel humiliation?

JACK STRAW.

I thought I was making myself so pleasant.

ETHEL.

Oh, don’t pretend you don’t understand. I’ve seen the twinkle in your
eyes when my mother set a little trap for you to fall in.

JACK STRAW.

I always fall in very neatly.

ETHEL.

But what do you think I felt when I knew how clearly you saw that she
was throwing me at your head?

JACK STRAW.

It’s a distinctly pleasing sensation to have a pretty girl thrown at
your head.

ETHEL.

It was only a joke to you; you don’t know how ashamed I was.

JACK STRAW.

But why do you suppose I came down to Taverner--to see your father and
mother?

ETHEL.

I don’t know why you came--unless it was to make me desperately
wretched.

JACK STRAW.

What would you say if I told you that I came because I loved you at
first sight?

ETHEL.

I should say that your Royal Highness was very polite.

JACK STRAW.

Now, look here, don’t you think I’m rather nice, really?

ETHEL.

It would surely be very impertinent of me to have any opinion on the
subject.

JACK STRAW.

Our friend Serlo would describe that as one in the eye.

ETHEL.

Would you allow me to go back to my mother’s guests, sir?

JACK STRAW.

[_Imperturbably._] Do you think you’d like me any better if I weren’t an
Archduke?

ETHEL.

I haven’t thought about it.

JACK STRAW.

Then please give the matter your immediate attention.

ETHEL.

I should certainly like you no less.

JACK STRAW.

I have no doubt that if I were just a penniless adventurer you’d simply
dote upon me.

ETHEL.

I don’t know if I’d put it quite so strongly as that.

JACK STRAW.

You know, I’m afraid you’re hopelessly romantic. You’ve confessed your
attachment to me, and just because I happen incautiously to have chosen
an Emperor for my grandfather, you want me to go away. It’s so
unreasonable.

ETHEL.

But I haven’t confessed anything of the sort.

JACK STRAW.

I look upon your request that I should go away as equivalent to an
avowal of undying passion.

ETHEL.

Shall I tell you what I would say to you if you weren’t an Archduke?

JACK STRAW.

Yes.

ETHEL.

I’d say you were the most audacious, impudent, and impertinent man I’d
ever seen in my life.

     [_She gives a rapid, ironical curtsey, and goes out. He is about to
     follow her when_ LADY WANLEY _and_ HOLLAND _come in_. JACK STRAW
     _stops and shakes hands with them_.

JACK STRAW.

Ah, I was hoping to have the pleasure of seeing you. You wrote me a
little note, Mr. Holland.

HOLLAND.

[_Ironically._] I ventured to ask if I might have a few minutes’ private
conversation with you.

JACK STRAW.

Perhaps you wouldn’t mind waiting here. I will rejoin you immediately.

     [_He goes out._

HOLLAND.

You know, he positively freezes me.

LADY WANLEY.

I think it’s wonderful. One couldn’t suspect for a moment that he’s
only....

HOLLAND.

Take care.

     [_He looks round._

LADY WANLEY.

No one will come here. We can talk quite safely.

HOLLAND.

I wish to goodness we hadn’t ever thought of this fool trick. I knew it
would lead to all sorts of bother.

LADY WANLEY.

It’s no good saying that now. We must keep our heads and get out of it
as best we can.

HOLLAND.

What are you going to do?

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, that’s just like a man. You’re trying to put the whole blame on me.
What are _you_ going to do?

HOLLAND.

Well, we must finish with it as quickly as we can.

LADY WANLEY.

Whatever happens, there must be no scene. I couldn’t bear to see him
publicly humiliated.

HOLLAND.

Why on earth should you think of him?

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, I’m such a fool, Ambrose.

HOLLAND.

My dear, what _do_ you mean?

LADY WANLEY.

After all, I’m not a girl--I’m the mother of two healthy boys with
enormous appetites. I think the man has bewitched me.

HOLLAND.

Good Lord!

LADY WANLEY.

It’s no good saying that. Of course he’s the most fascinating creature
I’ve ever seen in my life.

HOLLAND.

You don’t mean to say you’re seriously in love with him?

LADY WANLEY.

A widow with a sense of humour is never seriously in love with anybody.

HOLLAND.

Well?

LADY WANLEY.

But I think it’s much better the young man should disappear as
mysteriously as he came.

HOLLAND.

There we’re quite agreed. And we’ll tell him so with considerable
frankness.

_Enter_ JACK STRAW.

JACK STRAW.

Now, my dear people, I am at your service.

     [HOLLAND _and_ LADY WANLEY _are sitting down_. JACK STRAW _looks
     at_ HOLLAND_, who rises uneasily_.

HOLLAND.

Oh, don’t be such an ass, Jack.

JACK STRAW.

[_Frigidly._] I beg your pardon. [_Pause._] Perhaps you’d be good enough
to put down my hat.

     [HOLLAND _takes it and flings it crossly on a chair_.

JACK STRAW.

I don’t think you’re in a very good humour this afternoon, Mr. Holland.
I venture to think your manners leave something to be desired.

HOLLAND.

Look here, we’ve had enough of this tomfoolery.

JACK STRAW.

Pray sit down. It distresses me to see you standing.

HOLLAND.

I believe the man’s out of his senses.

LADY WANLEY.

[_Very amiably._] Have you forgotten the waiter’s uniform which fitted
you so wonderfully, Mr. Straw?

JACK STRAW.

[_Calmly._] Quite. I only remember the condition your ladyship was good
enough to agree to, when I accepted your humorous suggestion.

HOLLAND.

But, look here, we must talk the matter out.

JACK STRAW.

I am quite willing to listen to you, my dear Holland. Your conversation
is often interesting and sometimes epigrammatic. I stipulate only that
you should use those forms of politeness which are usual between a
person of your position and a person of mine.

HOLLAND.

I should never have consented to this folly if I’d known to what it was
going to lead. In a moment of uncontrollable irritation, because Mrs.
Jennings had behaved with the greatest insolence to a defenceless girl,
we made up our minds to punish her. There was no great harm in it. We
thought perhaps she’d ask you to dinner, and there would be an end of
it. It never dawned on us that you’d come and stay here indefinitely.

JACK STRAW.

My dear fellow, why should you blame me for your own lack of
intelligence?

HOLLAND.

[_Impatiently._] Ugh!

     [JACK STRAW _goes over and sits beside_ LADY WANLEY.

JACK STRAW.

Our friend is quite incoherent, isn’t he?

LADY WANLEY.

We want you to go away, sir.

JACK STRAW.

Do you? I say, what a jolly frock. Where did you get it?

LADY WANLEY.

[_With a little laugh, disarmed by his impudence._] You’re perfectly
irresistible.

JACK STRAW.

You’ve taken the words out of my mouth, that’s just what I was going to
say to you.

LADY WANLEY.

Are you ever serious?

JACK STRAW.

Always when I’m talking to a pretty woman.

LADY WANLEY.

I wish I could understand you.

JACK STRAW.

My dear lady, I’ve been trying to understand myself for the last thirty
odd years. By the way, how old am I, Holland?

HOLLAND.

How the deuce should I know?

JACK STRAW.

Well, my dear fellow, I think it’s very careless of you. You might have
looked it out. Supposing some one had asked me my age?

LADY WANLEY.

I wish you really were a royal personage.

JACK STRAW.

It does seem hard that a waiter should have such a way with him, doesn’t
it?

LADY WANLEY.

[_Confidentially._] Who are you really?

JACK STRAW.

Your devoted servant, madam. Who could be anything else after knowing
you for ten minutes?

LADY WANLEY.

It’s charming of you to say so.

JACK STRAW.

I am very nice, aren’t I?

LADY WANLEY.

Much too nice. That is why I beseech your Royal Highness graciously to
take his departure.

JACK STRAW.

You know, you haven’t yet told me where you got that frock.

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, I bought it in Paris. Do you like it?

JACK STRAW.

It’s ripping. And it suits you admirably.

HOLLAND.

Isabel, Isabel, we came here to be sensible.

LADY WANLEY.

My dear Ambrose, let me be sensible in my own way.

JACK STRAW.

Oh, my dear Holland, I wonder if you’d very much mind going to see if my
red carpet is still in its place.

HOLLAND.

I’m not going to be made a fool of by you, my friend.

JACK STRAW.

Why not? You’re doing it very well.

LADY WANLEY.

Don’t be piggy, Ambrose.

HOLLAND.

What on earth do you want me to do?

LADY WANLEY.

I’m simply dying of thirst. I wish you’d get me a glass of lemonade.

HOLLAND.

I have no intention whatever of stirring from this spot.

JACK STRAW.

I’ve been wondering for the last week what I should do if I signified
his dismissal to any one, and he flatly refused to go. Very awkward,
isn’t it?

LADY WANLEY.

Mahomet and the mountain isn’t in it.

JACK STRAW.

Of course a hundred years ago I’d have cast him into a dungeon. But,
between ourselves, I don’t happen to have a dungeon handy.

HOLLAND.

Now look here, we’ve had enough of this nonsense. The joke has gone far
enough. Are you going or not?

JACK STRAW.

Well, if you ask me point blank, I’m not.

HOLLAND.

But don’t you know that I have only to say two words for you to be
kicked out of the house by the servants?

JACK STRAW.

You forget that you’d be undoubtedly kicked out with me.

HOLLAND.

Now look here, Jack, we’ve been old pals, and we’ve gone through a deuce
of a lot together. I don’t want to say beastly things to you. I know
I’ve made a fool of myself, but you’re a decent chap. You must see that
it’s necessary for you to go at once.

JACK STRAW.

I cannot for the life of me see anything of the sort. I have no other
engagements, and the country is charming at this time of year.

HOLLAND.

You’re behaving like a common impostor.

JACK STRAW.

What language to use to a royal personage! I assure you we’re not used
to such frankness.

HOLLAND.

Do you deliberately refuse to go?

JACK STRAW.

Deliberately.

HOLLAND.

And shall I tell you why?

JACK STRAW.

I happen to know, thank you.

HOLLAND.

You’re going to commit the most disgraceful action of your life. Do you
think any one can’t see that you’re madly in love with Ethel Jennings?

LADY WANLEY.

[_Springing to her feet._] Is that true?

JACK STRAW.

Quite.

LADY WANLEY.

Then why have you been flirting with me so disgracefully?

JACK STRAW.

I assure you I had no intention of doing so. It must be my unfortunate
manner.

LADY WANLEY.

It’s an unfortunate manner that’s quite likely to get you into trouble
with widow ladies.

JACK STRAW.

In that case you can only applaud my determination to marry as quickly
as possible.

HOLLAND.

Not Ethel Jennings?

LADY WANLEY.

You must be joking?

JACK STRAW.

My dear madam, when I make a joke I always laugh quickly, so that there
should be no doubt about it.

HOLLAND.

It’s preposterous. I shall allow you to do nothing of the sort.

JACK STRAW.

My dear fellow, what is the use of getting violently excited about it?
More especially as I haven’t yet proposed to the young lady.

HOLLAND.

I think you must be stark staring mad. You don’t suppose for a moment
that we shall allow you to carry out such an odious deception. I can’t
imagine how you can even think of anything so heartless and cruel.

LADY WANLEY.

It’s going too far. You must understand that it’s impossible. I beseech
you to leave Taverner immediately.

JACK STRAW.

It drives me to distraction that I should have to refuse your smallest
whim, but in this matter [_with a dramatic flourish_] I am adamant.

HOLLAND.

Now, look here, we’ve talked about it enough. Either you leave this
place immediately or I shall tell Mrs. Jennings the whole story.

JACK STRAW.

It is only fair to give you that satisfaction. That was part of our
arrangement.

HOLLAND.

You realise the consequences?

JACK STRAW.

[_Very amiably._] I did that before I entered into your scheme.

HOLLAND.

You leave me no alternative.

JACK STRAW.

My dear Holland, I really believe you’re rather nervous about the
disclosure which it is evidently your duty to make.

HOLLAND.

For your own sake I ask you once more: will you give me your word of
honour to leave the house and under no circumstances communicate with
any member of the family?

JACK STRAW.

It’s charming of you to give me one more chance. I can only repeat that
I am deeply in love with Ethel, and I have every intention of marrying
her.

HOLLAND.

Your blood be upon your own head.

JACK STRAW.

If I perish, I perish.

     [HOLLAND _goes to the door_.

LADY WANLEY.

No, Ambrose, I beseech you not to.

HOLLAND.

Good heavens, the whole thing was done so that you might have an
opportunity to crow over Mrs. Jennings. Now you’re going to have it.

LADY WANLEY.

But I don’t want it any more. It was a foolish thing. Let him go
quietly.

HOLLAND.

But, you see, he won’t go.

_Enter_ MR. _and_ MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, your Royal ’Ighness, we’ve been looking for you everywhere. We
couldn’t make out what ’ad become of you.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

All the county is there. _Crème de la crème._

VINCENT _comes in hurriedly_.

VINCENT.

I say, mater, what on earth are you doing? Hurry up, the duchess has
just driven up.... Oh, I beg your pardon, sir. I didn’t know you were
there.

HOLLAND.

Vincent, go and fetch your sister. I have something important to say
that it is necessary for her to hear.

VINCENT.

But look here, the duchess has just....

HOLLAND.

Oh, hang the duchess. Where’s Ethel?

VINCENT.

She’s sitting just outside, talking to Serlo.

HOLLAND.

Then call her.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Looking round with astonishment._] ’As anythin ’appened?

     [VINCENT _goes out and in a moment returns with_ ETHEL _and_ SERLO.

LADY WANLEY.

[_To_ HOLLAND.] Ambrose, be gentle.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Your Royal Highness isn’t put out about anything?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Quickly._] Oh, I ’ope we ’aven’t made any _faux pas_.

JACK STRAW.

Nothing has happened to displease me. I’m in the best possible humour,
thank you.

HOLLAND.

[_Seeing_ ETHEL.] Oh, there you are. [_Addressing himself to the company
in general._] I have something very painful to say, and I don’t know how
I’m going to make it clear to you.

SERLO.

I say, is this any business of mine? Shall I hook it?

JACK STRAW.

Oh no, pray stay by all means.

LADY WANLEY.

[_To_ JACK STRAW.] Haven’t you changed your mind, sir?

JACK STRAW.

I’m like a historical character whose name I can’t remember at the
moment: I never change my mind.

HOLLAND.

Mrs. Jennings, I’m afraid there’s no use in my trying to excuse myself.
I had better just tell you everything as shortly as I can.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Mr. Holland, don’t you think it can wait till later? The duchess ’as
just come, and it’ll look so funny if I’m not there to receive her.

JACK STRAW.

Mr. Holland has a communication to make which cannot fail to interest
you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, of course, if it’s your Royal ’Ighness’s wish.

HOLLAND.

I daresay you remember that a fortnight ago we all met at the Grand
Babylon Hotel.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

How could I forget, when that was the auspicious occasion of my
introduction to his Royal ’Ighness.

LADY WANLEY.

Ambrose.

HOLLAND.

You may remember, also, that Mr. and Mrs. Abbott were sitting with us in
the lounge.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I ’ave other things to do than to remember where Mr. and Mrs. Abbott
were sitting.

HOLLAND.

I daresay you’ve forgotten that you behaved very cruelly to her. We were
all very indignant. We thought it necessary to punish you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Really, Mr. Holland, I don’t know who you think you’re talking to.

HOLLAND.

I find it very difficult to say what I have to--I realise now that the
whole business has been preposterously silly--I can manage far better if
you don’t interrupt.

JACK STRAW.

Please let him go on, Mrs. Jennings.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Of, of course, if your Royal ’Ighness wishes it I ’ave no more to say.

HOLLAND.

It struck me that it would be amusing to pass off a nobody as a person
of great consequence. I had just recognised one of the waiters as an old
friend of mine. I introduced him to you as the Archduke Sebastian of
Pomerania.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

What! Then ...?

     [_She is at a loss for words._ SERLO _goes into a shout of
     laughter_.

    SERLO.                         }
                                   }
    What a sell! By George, what   }
    a sell!                        }
                                   }
    MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.          }
                                   } _These four_
    [_Going up to_ JACK STRAW.] Do } _speeches are said_
    you mean to say you’re not.... } _very quickly,_
                                   } _almost_
    VINCENT.                       } _simultaneously._
                                   }
    I thought I knew his face the  }
    moment I saw him.              }
                                   }
    MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.          }
                                   }
    Speak, man, speak.             }

JACK STRAW.

[_With the greatest urbanity._] Madam, I stepped out of the uniform of a
waiter at the Grand Babylon Hotel into the sober garb of the person you
now see before you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Then you’re nothing short of an impostor. Oh! Oh! Now, then, Jennings,
you’re a man. Do something.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

And he’s been lappin’ up my best champagne lunch and dinner for a week.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, damn your champagne.

VINCENT.

Mater!

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, you fool, you fool! You’ve ’ad the education. You’ve been to Oxford,
and we gave you four thousand a year. Didn’t you learn enough to tell
the difference between an archduke and a waiter?

VINCENT.

Serlo didn’t spot him.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Who’s Serlo? Fine marquess he is--spends all his time with stable boys
and barmaids. How do I know he is a marquess?

SERLO.

Don’t mind me, will you?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Is there no one who can do something? And that man stands there as if he
didn’t care a ball of worsted. Don’t you be too sure, my young friend.
It’s your Royal ’Ighness this, and your Royal ’Ighness that. And we had
to call you sir. Waiter, ’alf a pint of bitter, and look sharp about it.

ETHEL.

Mother!

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, don’t talk to me. [_To_ JACK STRAW.] Well, what have you got to say?

JACK STRAW.

My dear lady, you’re so voluble, it would be difficult for me to get a
word in edgeways.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, I’m listening.

JACK STRAW.

Ah, there you have me, for in point of fact I can think of no
appropriate observation.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And you’ve been laughing at me all the time, ’ave you? Well, you’re
going to laugh on the other side of your face now, young feller-my-lad.

JACK STRAW.

I shall be interested to see how one performs that very curious
operation.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, shall I tell you who’ll show you?

JACK STRAW.

Yes, do.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

The police, my lad, the police.

JACK STRAW.

I wouldn’t send for them if I were you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Wouldn’t you?

JACK STRAW.

I wouldn’t really.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, I would.

JACK STRAW.

Don’t you think it’ll be a little awkward with all these people here?

VINCENT.

We can’t have a scene now, mater.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

D’you mean to say I’ve got to sit still and lump it?

JACK STRAW.

If you ask my advice, that is what I should recommend.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

All the county’s here, Maria. _Crème de la crème._

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, I wish they were all dead. I know why they come here. D’you think I
don’t know that they call me a vulgar old woman behind my back? But they
come all the same because I’ve got two millions of money. I’m so rich
that they can’t ’elp coming.

JACK STRAW.

You know, I don’t want to seem stuck up, but in point of fact they’ve
come to-day to meet me. Don’t you think I’d better go and make myself
amiable to them?

HOLLAND.

You don’t mean to say you’re going back to them?

JACK STRAW.

Why not?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

’Ave I got to introduce you to the duchess?

JACK STRAW.

I’m afraid she’ll make a point of it. Even duchesses have a weakness for
royal personages.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

If she ever finds out!

JACK STRAW.

The situation is not without an element of humour.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, upon my soul, you ’ave got a cheek!

JACK STRAW.

The motto on my coat of arms is audacity. Only we put it in Latin
because it sounds better.

VINCENT.

Your coat of arms, I like that.

JACK STRAW.

My dear fellow, I have no doubt it is as authentic as yours.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And do you mean to say I’ve got to pretend I don’t know anything?

JACK STRAW.

I think it’s the only thing to do.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I can never do it. I shall never ’old up my ’ead again.

JACK STRAW.

Come. I am convinced that the duchess is growing restive. I will murmur
a few soft nothings in her ear.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, well, I suppose the only thing is to risk it. But you just wait,
young man, you wait.

JACK STRAW.

I think I can promise you that no one here will--blow the gaff.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Upon my soul, you talk as if I was the criminal.

     [_She starts and stops suddenly with a cry._

HOLLAND.

What’s the matter?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, it give me such a turn. What’s to be done now? The Count.

HOLLAND.

How d’you mean?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’d forgotten all about him. Count von Bremer coming.

JACK STRAW.

Who the deuce is he?

HOLLAND.

He’s your ambassador.

JACK STRAW.

Of course, how stupid of me!

LADY WANLEY.

[_With a little scornful smile._] But he won’t come.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Don’t you make too sure about that. He’s coming right enough. The
British aristocracy was quite willing to ’ob-nob with the
Parker-Jennings, but this duty foreigner wouldn’t be seen in the same
street with us. And you all sniggered up your sleeves, because you
thought you was getting a bit of your own back. But I’ve got ’im to-day,
and I was going to fling him in your faces. I wrote ’im a personal
letter--as if I’d known him all my life--and said....

JACK STRAW.

Well?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And said ’is Royal ’Ighness particularly wished him to come. I sent the
letter by one of the footmen this morning.

JACK STRAW.

By Jove!

HOLLAND.

Well, they mustn’t meet. You must say that the Archduke has been seized
with sudden indisposition.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Every one knows he was quite well half an hour ago.

LADY WANLEY.

Besides, Count von Bremer would probably insist on seeing him. It must
have come as a great surprise that the Archduke Sebastian had turned
up.

JACK STRAW.

My dear people, don’t put yourselves out. If Count von Bremer has come
here to see me, it would be manifestly most discourteous to rob him of
that pleasure.

HOLLAND.

I think you’re quite mad, Jack.

JACK STRAW.

Unless I’m greatly mistaken, Count von Bremer has excessively bad sight.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You don’t mean to say you’re going to meet ’im face to face?

JACK STRAW.

Remember that there are eighty-one Archdukes in Pomerania.

ETHEL.

You told me seventy-nine a little while ago.

JACK STRAW.

I have since seen in the paper that the Archduchess Anastasia has had
twins, which makes eighty-one. What more probable than that the
Ambassador has never seen the Archduke Sebastian?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, but what a risk to take. It’s enough to turn my false ’air grey.

JACK STRAW.

In any case, he can’t have set eyes on him for four years, because
nobody has.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I suppose it ’asn’t struck you that he may talk to you in Pomeranian.

JACK STRAW.

Have you ever met a waiter who couldn’t discourse fluently in seven
languages at least?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Does that mean you can talk the Count’s beastly language?

JACK STRAW.

Like a beastly native, madam. But I may suggest to you that there will
be no need, since if I address the Count in English it would be the
height of discourtesy for him to answer in any other tongue.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, of all the cheek I’ve ever come across in my life, you just about
take the cake.

HOLLAND.

But look here, I remember seeing the Archduke described as a very
handsome man.

JACK STRAW.

Spare my blushes, dear friend. We are as like as two peas.

MRS. WITHERS _comes in_.

MRS. WITHERS.

Maria, the Count is looking for you everywhere. [_Seeing_ JACK STRAW.]
Oh, I beg your pardon, sir.

JACK STRAW.

Not at all.

MRS. WITHERS.

He’s just coming along with Mr. Withers.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_In an aside to_ JACK STRAW.] Try and behave like a gentleman.

_Enter_ COUNT ADRIAN VON BREMER _and_ WITHERS.

JACK STRAW.

My dear Count!

COUNT.

This is a welcome surprise, sir.

JACK STRAW.

You know my hostess?

COUNT.

[_Shaking hands with_ MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.] How do you do?

JACK STRAW.

It is many years since we met.

COUNT.

I should have never recognised you, sir.

JACK STRAW.

I expect I had a moustache when you last saw me.

COUNT.

That changes a face so much. And then I am so blind nowadays.

JACK STRAW.

I daresay you have later news of the Emperor than I.

COUNT.

It will be a great pleasure to His Majesty to know that you are in
England, sir. I have ventured to telegraph to him.

JACK STRAW.

Have you, by Jove!

COUNT.

It was my duty to do so.

JACK STRAW.

I daresay you have several things you want to talk to me about?

COUNT.

I was hoping you would give me a few minutes conversation.

JACK STRAW.

[_To_ MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.] Will you forgive us if we take a little
stroll in the rose garden?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Grimly._] I am much honoured, sir, that your Royal Highness should
condescend to walk in my rose garden.

JACK STRAW.

Come. [_He takes the_ COUNT’S _arm_. _At the door the COUNT hesitates_.]
[_Motioning to him to go first._] No, I pray you. I am at home here--the
most comfortable, hospitable home I have known for many a long day.

COUNT.

Do you propose to stay in these parts much longer, sir?

JACK STRAW.

I shall stay till Mrs. Parker-Jennings turns me out.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You do us a great honour, sir. [_The_ COUNT _goes out. Just as he is
going_ JACK STRAW _turns round and gives_ MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS _an
elaborate wink_.] [_Furiously._] You, you, you, you, damned waiter!


END OF THE SECOND ACT.



THE THIRD ACT


_The_ =Scene= _is the same as in the preceding_ ACT.

_Next morning._

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS _and_ VINCENT _are discovered_.

VINCENT.

Where’s the governor?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

He’s ’aving an interview with the waiter.

VINCENT.

I hope he’ll give him what for.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You trust your father for that. Oh, I thought I should never get through
last night. Eighteen people to dinner, and me on pins and needles the
whole time.

VINCENT.

There’s a ripping long account of the Garden Party in the _Cheshire
Times_.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Do you think I’ve not seen it?

VINCENT.

It went off beautifully; no one can deny that. There wasn’t a hitch.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_With a little cry of rage._] Oh!

_Enter_ MR. PARKER-JENNINGS.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Apologetically._] My dear.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Indignantly._] You’ve been and gone and made another old fool of
yourself, Jennings.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_With a deprecating laugh._] I’m afraid it’s the same old fool as
usual, Maria.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Don’t make jokes at me, Robert. Keep them for your City friends.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

He’s had breakfast.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

’As he indeed. At ’alf-past eleven. He’s not putting himself out, is he?

VINCENT.

When’s he going, father?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

It isn’t a question of when he’s going. Your father went to him and said
he was to clear out before twelve o’clock or we’d send for the police,
come what might. That’s what you told him, Robert, isn’t it?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, my dear....

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You always were a fool, Jennings. What have you done now?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, my dear, he insisted on having one of the footmen in the room. He
said he didn’t like this English habit of ours of having no servants at
the breakfast-table.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You don’t mean to say you let him order my servants about?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

My dear, what could I do? There was one of them in the room at the
time.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And you sat by while he ate his breakfast?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

He has a very healthy appetite, Maria.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Don’t talk to me. You must ’ave ’ad some opportunity to give him a piece
of your mind.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, my dear, we were left alone for a minute.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Helplessly._] He was so affable that....

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Affable! Oh, you blithering fool. Wait till I get a word with him.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, my dear, why didn’t you get rid of him last night?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

How could I get rid of ’im last night, with eighteen people come to
dinner to meet ’im?

VINCENT.

What about Lady Wanley?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, I never want to set eyes on her again. I know she was at the bottom
of this.

VINCENT.

But I thought you’d sent for her.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

So I ’ave, and for Holland too. They got us into the mess, and they must
get us out of it. It’s just as bad for them as for us now. That’s one
comfort.

     JACK STRAW _comes in, in flannels, looking very cool and
     comfortable_.

JACK STRAW.

Hulloa, there you are! I was just hunting around for some one to give me
a cigarette.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Ironically._] I ’ope you ’ad a comfortable breakfast.

JACK STRAW.

A 1, thanks. Give me a cigarette, old man?

     [VINCENT _is helping himself to one, and_ JACK STRAW _takes the
     case out of his hand, helps himself, and returns it_.

VINCENT.

Don’t mind me, will you?

JACK STRAW.

Not at all.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Aggressively._] Well?

JACK STRAW.

Jolly party you gave yesterday, Mrs. Jennings. It was a great success,
wasn’t it? [_Turning to_ PARKER-JENNINGS.] By the way, what was that
port we drank last night?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

No, you don’t, my friend. You may be able to bluff Jennings, but you
don’t bluff me.

JACK STRAW.

Bluff? Bluff? I flatter myself on my knowledge of English, but I don’t
think I’ve ever come across that word.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Haven’t you? Perhaps you ’aven’t come across the word skilly either?
But, unless you look out, you’ll know what it is before you want to.

JACK STRAW.

You talk in riddles, dear lady. I always think it a fatiguing habit.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, I’ll make myself clear. Don’t you ’ave any fear about that.

JACK STRAW.

[_Sitting down lazily._] I can’t help feeling the interval between
breakfast and luncheon in a country house is one of the most agreeable
moments of the day.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

See that there’s no one about, Vincent.

VINCENT.

It’s all right, mater.

JACK STRAW.

[_Looking at him blandly._] You have all the airs of a conspirator in a
romantic play, my friend. You only want a false beard and some blue
spectacles to make the picture perfect.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Now then, you listen to me, young man.

JACK STRAW.

You flatter me, madam.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

We’ve talked it over, my ’usband and me, and we’re no fools, whatever
you may think. You richly deserve to be ’anded over to the police.

JACK STRAW.

One moment. To which character are you now addressing yourself, to the
Archduke Sebastian or the waiter from the Grand Babylon Hotel?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, if you don’t take care, I’ll give you such a box on the ears.

JACK STRAW.

You certainly wouldn’t do that to a royal personage, would you? You must
be concerned for the moment with Jack Straw.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

It may surprise you, but I ’ave been for the last ’alf hour.

JACK STRAW.

I thought your manner had been a little abrupt.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I was saying that you richly deserved to be ’anded over to the police.

JACK STRAW.

There may be two opinions on that question, but we will let it pass.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

But we don’t want a scandal.

JACK STRAW.

One has to be so careful in the smart set, doesn’t one?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And we’re willing to let you go. Your luggage shall be packed, the motor
shall take you to the station.

VINCENT.

Mother, we shall all have to see him off, or it’ll look so fishy.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, we’ll see him off. Anything to get rid of ’im safely. There’s a
train in an hour from now. And I ’ave only one piece of advice to you,
and that is, take the chance while you’ve got it.

JACK STRAW.

It’s very kind of you, but I’m extremely comfortable here.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You make me laugh.

JACK STRAW.

I always think it hard that it should be so difficult to make people do
that when you’re trying to be funny, and so easy when you’re trying to
be serious.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You don’t want me to tell my footman to take you by the scruff of the
neck, and....

JACK STRAW.

My dear lady, let us keep perfectly calm. It would become neither of us
to lose our tempers.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Do you mean to say you won’t go?

JACK STRAW.

You put it in such a brutal way. Let us say rather, that I cannot tear
myself away from your hospitable roof.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Ha, and how long do you propose to give us the honour of your company?

JACK STRAW.

Well, I really haven’t quite made up my mind. I’m proposing to await
developments.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Send for the police, Robert. I won’t put up with it.

VINCENT.

You know, mother....

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Hold your tongue, Vincent.... [_To_ JACK STRAW.] Oh, my friend, I’m
sorry for you. Those nice white ’ands of yours will look pretty after
they’ve been picking oakum for six months.

JACK STRAW.

I had an idea that had been abolished in England.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh no, I think not.

JACK STRAW.

Ah, perhaps it was the treadmill I was thinking of.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, Vincent, ’ow much longer are you going to stand there like a
stuffed owl?

JACK STRAW.

Do my eyes deceive me, or is that a local paper that I see? [_He takes
it up._] Ah, I surmised that it would have an account of your garden
party. Two columns of it, by Jove! You must wish you hadn’t asked so
many people. [_Reading._] The Duchess of St. Erth, the Marchioness of
Mereston, the Marquess of Mereston, Lord and Lady Hollington, Viscount
Parnaby--dear me, how smart--Lady Wanley, Mr. and Mrs. Lamberville, the
Bishop of Sheffield, and the Honourable Mrs. Spratte.... I say, won’t
your humbler friends grind their teeth with envy. But doesn’t it say
anything about me? Here it is. [_Reading._] “The Archduke Sebastian
looked every inch a prince.” I said so. [_Reading to himself._] Oh,
spare my blushes. [_Aloud._] “His Royal Highness enchanted every one by
the grace of his bearing and the charm of his Imperial personality.”
Blood will tell.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_To_ PARKER-JENNINGS.] Are you going to stand there and let this man
insult me, Robert?

JACK STRAW.

[_Blandly._] And what do you imagine all these noble and distinguished
persons will think when they read in the next number of the local paper
that the royal personage whose hand they were so pleased to shake--I did
my duty like a hero, didn’t I?--was serving coffee and liqueurs a
fortnight ago in the Grand Babylon Hotel?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, be quiet, you....

JACK STRAW.

I can hear a titter rising softly in the village, with the doctor and
the parson and the solicitor, whom you didn’t ask to your party, and I
can hear it increase to a ripple of laughter as the story spreads
through Cheshire. I can hear a Homeric peal as it travels from county to
county. It’s a great guffaw in Manchester and Liverpool and the cities
of the North, and already I hear the deep laughter of Bristol and
Portsmouth and the West. And when it reaches London--you know how things
go in London, it’s so large that it takes it a little time really to get
hold of anything, but when at last it comes, can’t you see the huge city
holding its aching sides and bellowing with laughter. But I’ll tell you
who won’t see the joke--[_taking up the paper and reading_]--oh, they’ll
laugh very much on the wrong side of their mouths; the Duchess of St.
Erth, the Marchioness of Mereston, and my Lady Hollington and my Lord
Parnaby, and the Bishop of Sheffield and the Honourable Mrs. Spratte.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, you devil!

JACK STRAW.

I can see you flying before the laughter like three tremulous leaves
before the wind, and the laughter will pursue you to Paris, where
they’ll make little songs about you on the boulevards, and the Riviera,
where they’ll sell your photographs on picture postcards. I can see you
fleeing across the Atlantic to hide your heads in the immensity of
America, and there the Yellow Press, pea-green with frenzy, will pile
column of ridicule upon column of invective. Oh, my dear lady, do you
think it isn’t worth while to endure six months hard labour to amuse the
world so profoundly?

     [_There is a silence._ PARKER-JENNINGS _takes out his handkerchief,
     makes it into a ball and mops his forehead_. VINCENT, _noticing
     him, does the same_. MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS _gives the two a glance,
     sees what they are doing, takes out her handkerchief, rolls it up
     into a ball, and slowly mops her forehead_.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

It’s no good, Maria; we can’t give him in charge.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Tell me something I don’t know. We’re in the man’s hands, and he knows
it.

JACK STRAW.

[_With an amiable smile._] I thought you would come to see the situation
from my point of view.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Beaten._] What are you going to do?

JACK STRAW.

At the present moment, with your permission, I am going to have a small
brandy and soda. Ring the bell, Vincent.

VINCENT.

Shall I, ma?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_With angry resignation._] Oh, yes, ring it.

JACK STRAW.

For your own sake, I warn you to behave with the utmost decorum before
the servant.

     [_A_ FOOTMAN _appears_.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Bring his Royal Highness a brandy and soda, James.

SERVANT.

Very good, sir.

     [_Exit._

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, I wish it would choke you.

JACK STRAW.

I’m afraid I can hold out no hope of that.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Now, look here, I’m no fool, Mr. ---- I don’t know what to call you....

JACK STRAW.

You’ll find it’ll be more convenient to address me as you have always
done.

VINCENT.

The cheek of it! I can see myself saying sir to a damned waiter.

JACK STRAW.

You were assuring me that you were no fool madam.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You know just as well as we do that the last thing we want is a scandal,
and you’ve got us on toast.

JACK STRAW.

Well browned on both sides.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

If you’ll go quietly and at once we’ll give you a couple of hundred
pounds. There!

JACK STRAW.

Oh, this is a blow. To think that any one should be willing to give two
hundred pounds to get rid of me! And I’ve always flattered myself that
I was such an agreeable guest in a country house.

VINCENT.

They have funny tastes in the servants’ hall, I daresay.

JACK STRAW.

You have quite a knack of saying clever things, haven’t you?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well?

JACK STRAW.

Madam, nothing will induce me to leave you till I have eradicated the
unfortunate impression which I appear to have made on you.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Do you mean to say....

PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Interrupting._] Take care, mother. There’s James.

     _The_ FOOTMAN _enters with brandy and soda and glasses_.

JACK STRAW.

Be a good fellow, Vincent, and mix it for me, will you?

VINCENT.

Certainly, sir.

JACK STRAW.

Where do you get your brandy, Mr. Jennings? I like it very much.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

It’s very good of your Royal Highness to say so.

     [_Exit_ FOOTMAN.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, it’s insufferable.

_Enter the_ FOOTMAN _to announce_.

FOOTMAN.

Lady Wanley. Mr. Holland.

     [_They enter. Exit_ FOOTMAN.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

There you are at last! This is a pretty kettle of fish.

VINCENT.

Mother, for heaven’s sake don’t be vulgar.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, I can’t be refined now. If I’m vulgar, I can’t ’elp it.

HOLLAND.

But what is the matter?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Good heavens, he’s the matter. He won’t go.

LADY WANLEY.

What!

JACK STRAW.

You know, it makes me feel very uncomfortable to hear you discussing me
like this. Wouldn’t you like me to retire?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

We’ve threatened him with the police.

HOLLAND.

Well?

PARKER-JENNINGS.

He just laughs at us.

VINCENT.

We’ve even demeaned ourselves by offering him money.

HOLLAND.

Of course he doesn’t want your money.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well, ’adn’t you better suggest what he does want?

HOLLAND.

Look here, Jack, you’ve made fools of the whole lot of us. Won’t you be
a brick and clear out? We really are in a deuce of a scrape.

JACK STRAW.

I am always touched by an appeal to my better nature, but in this case I
propose to steel myself against your entreaties.

HOLLAND.

Damn you!

JACK STRAW.

Don’t lose your temper. You’ll only say something foolish, and I shall
score off you.

HOLLAND.

There’s only one thing to do, and that is to turn you out by main force.

JACK STRAW.

That, strange as it may seem to you, has already been suggested, but I
have explained to dear Mrs. Jennings the inconvenience of that course.

_Enter the_ FOOTMAN.

FOOTMAN.

Mrs. Withers is in her motor, madam, and wishes to know if you can see
her for a moment.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, I can see nobody.

JACK STRAW.

I hope you’re not refusing to see her on my account, dear Mrs.
Jennings.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Very affably, before the servant._] Oh no, sir.

JACK STRAW.

I wonder if you’d very much mind her coming in. I thought her such a
nice woman, I should like to see her again.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, of course, if your Royal Highness wishes it....

JACK STRAW.

Thanks so much.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Show ’er in, James.

FOOTMAN.

Very good, madam.

     [_Exit_ FOOTMAN.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

My own ’ouse isn’t my own now. I’m forced to see every one I don’t want
to. If there’s any one I can’t bear it’s Fanny Withers. I only asked her
yesterday because I thought she’d eat her ’eart out with jealousy. She’s
a snob if you like. I don’t know what she wants to come here for at this
hour. [_To_ JACK STRAW.] Impostor! Impostor!

JACK STRAW.

You know, upon my word you’re all very ungrateful. I lent an _éclat_ to
your party which has found lasting fame in the columns of the local
paper. I chatted cordially with the Duchess of St. Erth, I allowed the
Bishop of Sheffield to tell me harrowing stories about the immorality of
the very best people, and when Count what’s his name....

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Adrian von Bremer--you might trouble to remember the name of your own
Ambassador.

JACK STRAW.

And when Count von Bremer came on the scene, and you were all at your
wits’ end, I carried the whole thing off in a way which only my native
modesty prevents me from describing as superb.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

How he didn’t find you out I don’t know. I was on pins and needles all
the time he was here.

_Enter the_ FOOTMAN, _followed by_ MRS. WITHERS.

FOOTMAN.

Mrs. Horton Withers.

     [_Exit._

MRS. WITHERS.

Oh, my dear, I had to pop in just to tell you how beautifully everything
went off yesterday.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’m glad our party had your approval.

JACK STRAW.

How do you do, Mrs. Withers?

MRS. WITHERS.

It’s very good of your Royal Highness to remember me.

JACK STRAW.

It’s one of the specialities of my profession, you know.

MRS. WITHERS.

Are you going to favour us much longer with your presence in the
neighbourhood, sir?

JACK STRAW.

If Mrs. Jennings will keep me I don’t propose to make an immediate move.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

My house is at your disposal, sir, as long as you choose to honour it.

JACK STRAW.

Mrs. Jennings is the most amiable hostess. Don’t you think it would be
nice if we took a turn in the garden, Mrs. Jennings? I’m sure Lady
Wanley would like you to show her your roses.

LADY WANLEY.

Mrs. Jennings was good enough to show them to us yesterday.

JACK STRAW.

We have it on good authority that a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.
Mr. Jennings will show them to you again to-day.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

I shall be very proud and ’appy to carry out your Royal Highness’s
wishes.

     [JACK STRAW _stands at the door for_ LADY WANLEY _and_
     PARKER-JENNINGS _to go out_.

JACK STRAW.

[_To_ VINCENT.] Won’t you come?

VINCENT.

Certainly, sir.

     [MRS. WITHERS _and_ VINCENT _go out_.

JACK STRAW.

I will join you in one moment. By the way, where is your daughter?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

She’s gone for a walk with Lord Serlo.

JACK STRAW.

Be so good as to tell her the moment she comes in that I should be very
grateful if I could see her.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

What about?

JACK STRAW.

She’ll doubtless be able to tell you that herself after our interview.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’m not going to do anything of the kind.

JACK STRAW.

You will be so good as to do what I ask, Mrs. Jennings.

     [_Exit._

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

There, you see he actually orders me about now. I’m beginning to think
we shall never get rid of him. I feel that he’ll stay on here always. I
can see him growing old under this roof, eating my food and drinking my
wine, and sending in his tailor’s bills for Jennings to pay. And it’s
all your doing.

HOLLAND.

I’m very sorry. I promise you that.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

What’s the good of being sorry? The only thing you can do is to ’elp us
to get rid of ’im. And it’s ruined Ethel’s chances with Serlo. He won’t
look at her now.

HOLLAND.

Well, I daresay that’s not much loss.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’m only thankful she wouldn’t ’ave anything to do with that man when we
thought ’e was an Archduke.

HOLLAND.

Do you know, if I were you I’d let her see him. I have an idea that when
he’s had a talk with her he’ll be quite willing to go.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

What do you mean by that?

_Enter_ ETHEL _and_ LORD SERLO.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Very affably._] Has Ethel been taking you for a walk, dear Lord Serlo?

SERLO.

Yes, we’ve been for a little stroll, don’t you know.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I do ’ope she ’asn’t tired you. She’s such a walker, ain’t you, my dear?

SERLO.

My idea of goin’ for a walk is sitting on a gate, don’t you know.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And a very good idea too. That’s just what I like myself.

SERLO.

[_Drily._] Change in the wind to-day, isn’t there?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Innocently._] Is there? I didn’t notice it.

     [PARKER-JENNINGS _comes in frantically_.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Maria, he’s cutting all our prize roses for the show and giving them to
Fannie Withers.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh!

     [_She is just going to bolt out when_ JACK STRAW _appears with a
     handful of magnificent roses_.

JACK STRAW.

I say, you haven’t got a basket, have you?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

You--you--you perfect fool!

JACK STRAW.

What have I done now?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

We were going to show those next week at the Crystal Palace.

JACK STRAW.

I thought they were very nice. That’s why it struck me Mrs. Withers
might like them.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Snatching them from him._] Oh!

     [_She flounces out, followed by_ PARKER-JENNINGS.

JACK STRAW.

[_Coming into the room calmly._] I’m afraid I haven’t done the right
thing.

SERLO.

You’ve put your foot right in it this time, old man.

JACK STRAW.

I wish I had that little book of etiquette on me. I wonder if it says
anything about prize roses. [_To Ethel._] I haven’t had the pleasure of
saying good-morning to you yet.

SERLO.

You know, old man, I don’t want to seem disagreeable, but when Miss
Jennings and I went for a walk we had some sort of idea that by the time
we came back you’d have hooked it, don’t you know.

JACK STRAW.

My dear Holland, I wonder if you’d do me the service of telling Mrs.
Withers that dear Mrs. Jennings is putting the roses into a basket for
her.

HOLLAND.

[_Laughing against his will._] It’s not the least use being angry with
you, Jack. I’ll go by all means.

     [_Exit._

JACK STRAW.

There goes a man of tact. If I were a Sultan I’d make him my Grand
Vizier.

     [_He looks reflectively, but very pointedly, at_ SERLO.

SERLO.

What are you starin’ at me for?

JACK STRAW.

I was wondering how I could suggest to you with proper delicacy that you
might conveniently follow his example.

ETHEL.

I should much prefer Lord Serlo to stay here.

JACK STRAW.

I have matters of some importance to discuss with you.

ETHEL.

I am sure that you have nothing to say that Lord Serlo cannot hear.

JACK STRAW.

Very well, I will make an effort to overcome my customary modesty.

SERLO.

I don’t know where that comes in. You’ve got about the biggest cheek
that I’ve ever come across.

JACK STRAW.

To tell you the truth, it has been my only means of livelihood for the
last four years.

ETHEL.

What have you to say to me?

JACK STRAW.

Couldn’t you give me a slight smile just to encourage me a little?

ETHEL.

You force me to say what I would rather have left unsaid. I’m horrified
that you should be so hatefully cruel. I think it’s infamous that you
should lend yourself to a stupid practical joke.

JACK STRAW.

My dear Serlo, won’t you--hook it?

ETHEL.

I want him to stay.

JACK STRAW.

It makes him feel very uncomfortable. He’s full of tact too--I’ll make
him a grand vizier--and he’s feeling awfully _de trop_.

SERLO.

You needn’t bother about my feelings so much as all that, you know.

JACK STRAW.

[_To Ethel._] Won’t you hear what I’ve got to say for myself? You don’t
think I care twopence about their practical joke? I came here because it
was my only chance of seeing you.

ETHEL.

What you’ve done fills me with horror and disgust.

JACK STRAW.

Didn’t you see from the first minute that I was desperately in love with
you?

SERLO.

I say, this really is very awkward for me.

JACK STRAW.

You told me not to bother about your feelings.

ETHEL.

[_Unable to prevent a laugh._] You know, you’re too absurd. I know I
ought to be very angry with you, but I can’t.

JACK STRAW.

Do you remember what you said to me yesterday?

ETHEL.

No.

JACK STRAW.

Then I’ll remind you. You asked me to go away--because I was a royal
personage. Do you still want me to go if I’m only a waiter?

ETHEL.

I might have known that you were laughing at me all the time.

JACK STRAW.

You know, if I had been a royal personage and disguised myself as a
waiter in order to be by your side you’d have thought it very romantic.
Why should it shock you when it is a waiter who for the same reason
assumes the royal personage?

ETHEL.

If you can’t see the difference it’s useless for me to tell you.

JACK STRAW.

Won’t you marry me, Ethel?

SERLO.

I say, I’ve got a good mind to kick you out of the house.

JACK STRAW.

Have you? In that case I can only congratulate myself that I’m the
champion amateur boxer in Pomerania.

SERLO.

That complicates matters a bit, don’t it?

JACK STRAW.

Upon my soul, I’ve never made a proposal of marriage under such
embarrassing circumstances. [_To_ ETHEL.] Now, my dear, don’t be
unreasonable. You practically refused me yesterday because I was an
Archduke. You’re not going to refuse me now because I’m nobody in
particular?

ETHEL.

[_Frigidly._] And can you give me any reason why I should accept you?

JACK STRAW.

Well, it may have escaped your notice, but there’s the very good reason
that you’re just as much in love with me as I am with you.

ETHEL.

I?

JACK STRAW.

Can you honestly deny it? But if you do I shall venture to disbelieve
you.

ETHEL.

It’s very easy to convince you. Lord Serlo, you were good enough to tell
me yesterday that....

     [_She stops with a little tremor of hesitation._

SERLO.

By Jove, d’you mean it?

ETHEL.

[_Smiling._] I mean anything you like.

SERLO.

[_With a low bow._] Mr. Straw, I beg to announce to you my engagement
with Miss Ethel Parker-Jennings.

JACK STRAW.

I’m still unconvinced. I’m afraid you’re incorrigibly romantic, my dear,
and I’m certain your mamma will be very much annoyed.

ETHEL.

Oh, you are too exasperating. I wish I could make you really angry.

     HOLLAND _runs in_.

HOLLAND.

I say, Jack, look out.

JACK STRAW.

What’s the matter?

     _Enter_ MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS, _much agitated, and_ PARKER-JENNINGS.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

The game’s up. It’s too late now to do anything.

HOLLAND.

Von Bremer has come again.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

And he’s got some one with him in his motor, who looks suspiciously like
a policeman in plain clothes.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

What’s to be done? For ’eaven’s sake, don’t stand there grinning like a
Cheshire cat.

ETHEL.

[_Quickly._] You won’t be arrested?

HOLLAND.

Look here, there’s still time for you to get out.

     _Enter_ VINCENT.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Well?

VINCENT.

Lady Wanley’s talking to him. She’ll detain him as long as she can.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Blessings on her! I’ll forgive ’er everything.

ETHEL.

Oh, please go while you have a chance. I couldn’t bear to see you
arrested.

JACK STRAW.

Why should you care?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Now, look here. You’ve played a nasty trick on me, but you’ve got the
cheek of the devil. I don’t want you to get into trouble. I don’t know
what there is about you, but I can’t ’elp liking you.

JACK STRAW.

Madam, only the importunate presence of your lord and master prevents me
from hurling myself at your feet.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, don’t talk stuff. I want to ’elp you to get away.

JACK STRAW.

[_With a dramatic gesture._] Madam, my mother’s only son has never fled
before a foe. I will stay and face the music.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I’m not thinking of myself now. If there is a scandal I’m rich enough to
make people forget it.

SERLO.

I say, old man, you’d better hook it. England’s no place for you just
now.

ETHEL.

[_In an undertone._] If you care for me at all, don’t run this horrible
risk.

JACK STRAW.

If you were only pressing me to stay this unanimity would be extremely
flattering.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

The man’s mad. The man’s as mad as a March ’are. He ought to be shut up
in a lunatic asylum.

JACK STRAW.

I forget if Napoleon was one of my ancestors, but I feel just like him
at this moment. “J’y suis, j’y reste.”

SERLO.

In point of fact it was MacMahon who said that.

JACK STRAW.

[_With a noble flourish._] I prefer to think it was Napoleon.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

They’re just strolling along.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Then it’s too late. And it’s all got to come out before Florrie Withers.

VINCENT.

[_From the window._] I say, Lady Wanley is making him look at the roses.

HOLLAND.

She is a brick; she’s gaining every moment she can.

JACK STRAW.

By the way, talking about roses, have you had that bunch put in a basket
that I cut for Mrs. Withers?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, I should like to take you by the neck and strangle you.

PARKER-JENNINGS.

Look out.

     [_They all stop for a moment in a state of breathless expectation._
     LADY WANLEY _comes in with_ MRS. WITHERS. _She gasps as she sees_
     JACK STRAW.

LADY WANLEY.

Oh, I thought you’d gone.

     [_She is immediately followed by_ ADRIAN VON BREMER. JACK STRAW
     _goes up to him very cordially_.

JACK STRAW.

Ah, my dear friend, I’ve been expecting you all the morning.

     [_They all start. As the scene proceeds there is in every one
     increasing astonishment and perplexity._

VON BREMER.

I couldn’t come before. I have only just received the answer to my
telegram.

JACK STRAW.

Have you good news for me?

VON BREMER.

The best. The Emperor agrees to all your wishes.

JACK STRAW.

Bless his old head.

VON BREMER.

His Majesty is all eagerness to see you again. He is expecting a letter
from you by every post. [_He goes up to_ ETHEL.] Madam, I am commanded
by my august master to offer you his most cordial greeting.

ETHEL.

Me?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I don’t know if I’m standing on my ’ead or my ’eels.

JACK STRAW.

Then nothing remains but for me to make my declaration in due form. Mrs.
Jennings, I have my grandfather’s permission to ask you for your
daughter’s hand in marriage.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_Breaking out._] But the man’s an impostor. He’s no more the Archduke
Sebastian than I am.

MRS. WITHERS.

What do you mean?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Oh, well, if you like you can ’ave it. You were there when it all
started. I suppose I got out the wrong side of bed that morning, and
when Mrs. Thing-a-magig, the Vicar’s wife, come up to me at the Grand
Babylon Hotel, I snubbed her. I’ve been very sorry for it since, and
I’ve been punished for it. They knew I was an old snob--like you,
Florrie--they thought they’d pay me out. They got one of the waiters
from the ’otel to dress up like a gentleman, and they introduced him as
the Archduke Sebastian.

MRS. WITHERS.

[_Pointing to_ JACK STRAW.] That?

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Yes, that! He’s a waiter, that’s what he is. And for the last week I’ve
been making a perfect fool of myself over ’im.

VON BREMER.

[_Much mystified._] But--I don’t understand. I’ve known the Archduke
Sebastian since he was born.

HOLLAND.

You’re mistaken. This person and I were in America together. I lived
with him for two years. I don’t know his real name, but he passes under
that of Jack Straw.

VON BREMER.

But what you say is absurd. I know him as well as my own son.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

D’you mean to say he really is an Archduke?

VON BREMER.

Of course he is. The only mystery is how he turned up here when we’ve
been hunting the whole world for the last four years to find him.

HOLLAND.

But are you the Jack Straw who was with me in the States?

JACK STRAW.

Yes.

LADY WANLEY.

And are you the waiter of the Grand Babylon Hotel?

JACK STRAW.

Yes.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And are you the Archduke Sebastian of Pomerania?

JACK STRAW.

Yes.

SERLO.

Well, I’m jiggered.

JACK STRAW.

Perhaps you will allow me to explain. Four years ago I fell desperately
in love with a lady whose speciality it was to kick higher than any one
else in the world. She could kick a man’s tall hat off his head with
such grace that I asked her to marry me. My grandfather refused to
consent, and the lady was hurried over the frontier. [_With a glance at_
ETHEL.] I was a romantic dog myself in those days, and I followed her,
only to find that she had already three more or less lawful husbands.
The sight of them, and the conviction that her peculiar talent would not
greatly add to the felicity of domestic life, cured me of my passion.
But the world did seem a bit hollow and empty, and I thought I’d see
how it looked from the point of view of a man who had nothing but his
wits to live on. After trying it, I tell you frankly that I much prefer
living on the revenues which rise from the strength of arm of my
ancestors. When you saw me at the Grand Babylon Hotel I was preparing to
return to the bosom of my family, but I saw this young lady, and the
chance offering, decided to come down here. It was not unnatural that
when I was asked to assume a grandiloquent name I should assume my own.
Yesterday, when I met Count von Bremer, I begged him to wire to the
Emperor, asking for his consent to my marriage with Miss Ethel Jennings.

VON BREMER.

I have only to add that the Emperor, delighted with the prospect of
seeing once more his favourite grandson, has gladly given his consent.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

And when I think of all the things I’ve called you these last few
hours....

JACK STRAW.

They went in at the ear of a waiter, Madam, and slipped out at that of
an Archduke.

     [_He goes up to_ ETHEL.

JACK STRAW.

And now it only rests with you to give peace to an aged Emperor,
satisfaction to eighty-one Archdukes, and happiness to your unworthy
servant.

ETHEL.

I am engaged to be married to Lord Serlo.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

What! I know nothing about this.

JACK STRAW.

I knew our mamma wouldn’t be pleased.

ETHEL.

The fact remains.

JACK STRAW.

[_Going to_ SERLO.] Now, my dear friend, you’ve got the chance of a
lifetime. It’s quite clear to me that there’s only one course open to
you. Take the centre of the stage and renounce the lady with all the
moving expressions you can think of.

SERLO.

Look here, old man, I don’t think I quite like the way you keep on
pulling my leg.

JACK STRAW.

Put a little dignity into it, man.

SERLO.

I may be a blithering ass, but I can see without your tellin’ me that
Ethel wouldn’t have had me at any price if she hadn’t wanted to score
off you.

JACK STRAW.

Oh, how some men throw away their chances! Strike the pathetic note, old
man, or you’re done. When you’ve finished there oughtn’t to be a dry eye
in the place.

SERLO.

Well, the fact is--it had entirely slipped my memory at the moment, but
I had a letter this morning from the lady’s solicitor to remind me--I
happen to be engaged to a young woman who can kick a man’s topper off
too.

JACK STRAW.

By Jove, I wonder if it’s the same one.

ETHEL.

Why didn’t you tell me?

SERLO.

Well, you know, it was a bit awk when you--er....

JACK STRAW.

Threw yourself at his head.

ETHEL.

[_To Jack Straw with a smile._] I ought to be very angry with you.
You’ve laughed at me all the time. I don’t believe you’ll ever take me
seriously. If I really were the romantic creature you say I am, I’d be
very dignified and refuse to have anything to do with you at all.

JACK STRAW.

But like all women you’re very sensible at heart, and you’ll do nothing
of the kind.

ETHEL.

It’s not because I’m sensible, but because I suppose you were quite
right in what you said just now.

JACK STRAW.

Bless you! I’d throw myself down on the floor and implore you to walk on
me only I’m convinced you’d take me at my word.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

[_With enormous satisfaction._] I knew he was an Archduke all the time.
You can’t deceive a mother.

JACK STRAW.

[_With a start._] There’s one thing I must break to you at once.
Pomerania is in some ways still a barbarous country. We have a dreadful
law that when a member of the royal family marries a foreigner not of
royal blood, his wife’s relations are prohibited from entering it.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

I should like to see any one prohibit me from going to see my own
daughter.

JACK STRAW.

My dear lady, it grieves me infinitely to say it, but no sooner had you
crossed our frontier than you would be instantly beheaded.

MRS. PARKER-JENNINGS.

Truly, sir, a barbarous country.

THE END.


Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

I’m so glad that I know you better know=> I’m so glad that I know you
better now {pg 70}

takes out her handkerchief, rolls it up ball=> takes out her
handkerchief, rolls it up into a ball {pg 124}





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jack Straw - A Farce in Three Acts" ***

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

We also ask that you:

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

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

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

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



Home