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 ]

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: Graft - A Comedy in Four Acts
Author: Brighouse, Harold
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 "Graft - A Comedy in Four Acts" ***

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



GRAFT

A Comedy In Four Acts

By Harold Brighouse

London: Samuel French Publisher

1913

GRAFT


[Illustration: 0001]


[Illustration: 0001]



ACT I

_A small room on the first floor, awkwardly overcrowded with the entire
furniture of a cottage, a pile of which is stacked in the left corner
and covered with a sheet; the plain iron bed is right, the window coming
between its foot and the pile of furniture; table centre; three plain
upright chairs and one wicker armchair before the fire; fireplace left;
opposite it right a kitchen dresser well stocked with crockery; pans and
kettle about the fireplace. For all the uncomfortable crowding the
room is bright and well kept. Door right. It is 7 p.m. on a September
evening, and the approach of dusk is noticed gradually._

_Jim Pilling, a gardener, has finished tea and sits in his shirt-sleeves
before the débris of the meal facing spectator lighting a briar pipe.
Jim is thirty, clean looking, dressed in his rough working clothes
without coat or his combined collar and "dicky" and red tie, which hangs
with the coat behind the door. Sally Pilling is transferring the last
of the table utensils to a tray which she puts on the bed; then removing
the white cloth and shaking crumbs into the fire; a red cloth is
underneath. Sally is of the pale complexion usual to a country girl
living in a town; she dresses neatly and has an apron on; Dick, a thin
boy of eight, in a blue sailor suit, gets off his chair at the table._



[Illustration: 0091]



Dick. Can I go out and play now, mother?

(_Jim rises and crosses l. with chair._)

Sally. Yes. (_She crosses to door and takes down from a hook his sailor
hat._) Here's your hat. (_Dick comes to her; she secures it on his head
with an elastic band._) Don't go far from the door, Dick. I'll shout you
when it's bedtime.

Jim. And don't get playing in the road--keep on the footpath.

Dick. Yes, dad. (_He runs out as Sally opens: the door._)

Sally. Don't get run over now.

Jim. The young _'_un misses the country. (_Sits in armchair above
fire._)

Sally (_closing door_). We all do that, Jim.

Jim. Aye. Streets are no sort of playground for a growing child. Did you
get out while he was at school this afternoon?

Sally (_gathering up tea-things_). Oh, yes. There's not the cleaning to
do in a single room to keep me in it all day.

Jim. No; better for you to get out a bit.

Sally (_dully_). It's no pleasure walking in the streets.

Jim. Not when there's shops to look at?

Sally. You can get tired of shops. (_Tea-things on tray._)

Jim. You're no true woman.

Sally. I'm no town's woman. (_Crosses to Jim._) I miss the flowers and
the green. I'm pining for the country, Jim.

Jim. And I'm same way, only I do get the smell of the earth in Mr.
Vining's garden and it's not so bad for me.

Sally (_wistfully standing above his chair_). I'd dearly love to see
that garden, Jim.

Jim. I know you would; but they're that strict about the Polygon. No
getting in unless you've business.

Sally. It does seem hard when there's not a park nor so much as a blade
of grass in the whole blessed town except the Polygon. (_Puts tray on
bed._)

Jim. The old days were the best, Sally, on the estate where we were
born.

Sally. We didn't know it, either, till Sir Charles began to sack his
men.

Jim. No; many a time I've grumbled at the work there and the pay. It's a
judgment on me.

Sally. You weren't sacked for grumbling. (_Shaking cloth in fire._)

Jim (_bitterly_). No. I was sacked because Sir Charles lost so much
money on the turf he couldn't keep six gardeners any longer--and me the
one to go because we'd only our Dick and t'others had more childer.

Sally (_mildly surprised at his tone_). Gentlemen will have their sport,
Jim. It might be worse. You dropped lucky into a job. (_Folds cloth and
puts in dresser drawer._)

Jim. Aye, the job's all right, and Mr. Vining's a good gentleman to work
for--pay's better than the country an' all, though I can't get stuff
to thrive in Mr. Vining's garden as I'd wish. (_Rises._) Town air kills
'em. Yes, we'd do all right, Sally, if (_looking round as if caged_)--if
there was room to live. That's what we want--room to live. We've
our sticks for a proper house eating their heads off in yon corner
(_indicating the pile_), and I've wages enough to pay rent for a house
and no one 'ull take it from me. There's not a house to let in all
Carrington, nor like to be but what there's plenty waiting for it before
our turn come, and we've waited three years now.

Sally (_consoling him_). Never mind, Jim. We've got our privacy. We've a
room to ourselves.

(_She crosses to cupboard, gets work out and puts on table._)

Jim (_hotly_). A room! One room! (_Cooling._) Aye, but you're right.
Let's be thankful for small mercies. (_Sits._) I mind it looked like we
shouldn't even find a room when we came seeking. But it's hard to live
decent in here, and it's harder on Dick than us. Eat and sleep an all in
one room's not a Christian way of life.

(_A knock at the door. Sally opens it. Walter Montgomery stands
without. He is a curate, twenty-eight years old, athletic in build,
clean-shaven, with a bright manner and a strong jaw._)

Walter. May I come in? Good evening, Mrs. Pilling.

Sally. Surely, sir.

(_Enter Walter. Sally closes the door, adroitly taking her apron off as
she does so and hanging it up. Jim makes for his coat._)

Walter. Good evening, Mr. Pilling. (_Seeing his objective._) You're all
right as you are.

Jim. Shirt-sleeves don't seem respectful, sir. Walter (_genially_)..
Rubbish. It's a pity if you can't be cool in your own room.

Jim (_apologetically_). The fire does make it hot in here.

Sally. And we must have a fire to boil the kettle, sir.

(_Walter looks at the closed window, but, having experience, makes no
suggestion. Jim knocks his pipe out on the fire-bar._)

Walter (_seeing him, but too late to stop him_). Oh, don't do
that--here, try a pipe of mine. (_Delving in his coat tails for pouch
and offering it._)

Jim (_shyly_). Well, sir----

Walter. Go on, man. (_Jim accepts and fills his pouch; Sally dusts a
chair with the corner of the table cloth._) Now you know that chair
didn't need dusting, Mrs. Pilling. (_He sits._) Well, how's the garden,
Mr. Pilling?

Jim. Oh, nicely, sir, nicely.

Walter. Yes. So I thought when I had a look at it over the hedge.
(_Turning to Sally._) I live next door to Mr. Vining, you know, Mrs.
Pilling.

Sally. Oh, but he can't get the garden to suit him, sir. (_Sits R. of
table._)

Walter. Oh! How's that?

Jim. Thanks. (_Returning pouch. Walter fills a pipe and lights up._)
This air's ruination to a garden, sir.

Walter. You put up a jolly good fight against it, then. My father's
garden looks pretty mean compared with yours.

Jim (_shyly_). Well, sir, you see, your father will try and look after
his himself.

Walter. Yes. He's awfully attached to his garden.

Jim (_with a touch of patronage_). And he doesn't do it badly--for an
amateur, as you might say, but--well, he makes mistakes.

Sally (_protestingly_). Jim!

Walter. Oh, that's all right, Mrs. Pilling. Dick keeping well?

Sally (_formally_). Oh, yes, thank you, sir.

Walter. I saw him outside as I came in. I fancied the little chap looked
pale.

Jim (_gravely_). He does look pale.

Walter. Anything the matter?

Jim. No, sir, no... only this.

Walter (_vaguely_). This?

Jim. This room--living in one room and nothing but streets to run about
in.

Sally. You can't keep a child inside, sir. 'Tisn't natural. The streets
if it's fine and the stairs when it's wet out.

Walter. None too safe, Mrs. Pilling, either of 'em.

Sally. But what are you to do?

Walter (_hopelessly_). Nothing, I suppose.

Jim. Folks can't thrive cramped up the way we are. If garden stuff won't
go in the air, it can't be good for humans.

(_A knock at the door. Without waiting for Sally, who starts towards
door, Stephen Verity enters. He is fifty, iron grey, with a good deal of
iron in his composition, though just now concerned more with the velvet
glove than the mailed fist. A selfmade man, he is cynical, domineering,
dryly humorous at times, an ugly customer if crossed, with a strong jaw
and tightly closed lips. Dressed in morning coat and grey trousers with
very square toed boots, turned down collar, black tie. His coat is good
solid broadcloth, but the cut is palpably local._)

Stephen (_off_). Are ye in, Pilling? (_He enters and sees Walter.
Sally and Walter rise--grimacing at Walter._) Oh! (_He stops short in
doorway._)

Jim (_with deference nicely regulated some degrees lower than that he
showed Walter_). Come in, Mr. Verity.

Walter (_holding out hand_). How do you do, Mr. Verity?

Ste. (_shaking hands and speaking with laboured politeness_). How do you
do, Mr. Montgomery? (_Dropping his hand--sneeringly._)

[_He appropriates the wicker chair. Walter sits edgeways on the table._

I didn't expect to find you here. What are you doing? Looking after
their souls?

Walter (_pleasantly_). I dropped in for a chat and a smoke, before going
on to keep my appointment at your house. What are you doing? (_Sits l.
of table._)

Ste. I'm looking after their bodies, only some of them won't see it.
Pilling's a tough nut to crack.

Walter. Not gathered him in yet?

Ste. No, but I shall. He's one of your flock. It takes time to get hold
of these fellows who come in from the country, (_spitefully_) where
the squire and the parson spell omnipotence. He'll change his tune yet,
though.

Jim (_shaking his head_). I'm not the changing sort.

Ste. (_confidently_). You will be. A year or two more of this room and
you'll be ripe for anything.

Sally (_lifting the tray_). We're ripe now for a change from this.

Ste. Don't go, Mrs. Pilling.

Sally. I can get my turn at the sink for washing up now.

Ste. That can wait. I want to ask you something.

Sally (_replacing the tray_). Yes, sir? (_Sits r. of table._)

Ste. (_after brief pause_). Well, now, Mrs. Pilling, what would you say
we need most in Carrington?

Sally (_promptly_). Fresh air.

Ste. You've hit the nail on the head. Trust a woman to be sensible when
health's at stake. I've a piece of news for you. There's talk of getting
a recreation ground for Carrington.

Walter (_interested--sincerely_). Indeed! I hadn't heard. It's a most
interesting thing.

Jim. And about time too. (_Sits below fire._)

Ste. (_sentimentalizing_). Yes, you'll be able to take Mrs. Pilling
down for a stroll on a summer's evening or a Sunday afternoon and watch
little Dick play about on the soft grass breathing the fresh air and
fancying yourselves back in the country again. No need to have Dick
running about in the streets then.

Jim (_curtly_). When?

Ste. Well, nothing's settled yet, of course. I'm bringing it up at the
next Council meeting and I've a backing on both sides. Alderman Verity's
a power in Carrington, I don't mind telling you.

Jim. I don't know about your power, sir. What I'm wondering is how it
'ull strike my boss.

Walter. It sounds excellent.

Jim (_suspiciously_). And where might your land be, Mr. Verity?

Ste. Ah, that's a secret yet.

Jim. Um. Recreation ground two mile away's no use to my lad and you'll
not find land nearer.

Ste. It'll not be five minutes from your door.

(_Walter turns interestedly from one to the other._)

Jim. Then you'll have to burrow for it or hang it in the air.

Ste. No, we shan't. The land we have in view's built on at present.

Jim. Lots of good that 'ull do--turning people out of house and home to
make a playing field, when houses are so scarce an' all.

Walter. Yes. To my mind it's more housing accommodation that's most
urgent here, Mr. Verity.

Ste. We'll get neither without we're helped. There'll be a lot of
opposition.

Walter. Surely not.

Ste. Oh, yes, there will. We Progressives can't carry anything in the
Council unless there's a big force of public opinion at our backs.

Walter (_confidently_). You won't lack that if you've a practicable
plan.

Ste. (_hotly_). Practicable! Nothing ever is practicable to some folk
that means spending public money and putting up the rates. They're too
shortsighted to see that a healthy town pays best in the end.

Walter (_reasonably_). Still, such things as rates have to be
considered, I suppose.

Ste. (_hotly_). Oh, yes. Consider the purses of the ratepayers and
consider the health of the people and the danger of little children
playing in the street and ask your religion which consideration weighs
heaviest.

Walter (_a little warmly_). Really, Mr. Verity, I needn't consult my
religion. My common sense is sufficient to put me on your side--if you
really are right in believing there can be two sides to such a question.

Ste. Don't you make any doubt about that. There'll be two sides right
enough.

Walter. Well, can _I_ do anything? Will you accept my help?

Ste. Yes, yours--and yours, Pilling, and every man's who'll say a word
for us.

(_A motor horn heard violently below the window--a few masculine curses
and feminine shrieks--which Sally echoes as she leaps to window and puts
it up._)

Sally. Dick's in the street. (_She flies across from window and out at
door._)

Ste. (_with the air of a conjuror_). There you are! Street accident.

(_Jim follows Sally, but is met at the door by a very irate taxi-cabman
carrying Dick in one hand and by the slack of his trousers, followed by
Sally. The Chauffeur is a Cockney, about thirty, clean shaven, with the
usual oily pallid complexion--dark--with black leather leggings and a
bottle green great-coat with red facings. His number is on an enamelled
plate, which is reversed._)

Jim (_with more threat than anxiety_). Have you hurt him?

Chauffeur. 'Urt? Nah. Aw'm a hexpert droiver, aw am.

(_He puts Dick on his feet. Dick seeks refuge behind his mother s skirts
and pulls at them with one hand, curiously watching the Chauffeur all
the time. Pilling takes jug from washstand r. and exit for water._)

Pulled up in foive yard. Bet it ain't no bloomin' fault of 'is 'es not
'urt.

Sally (_threateningly_). If you'd killed my boy I'd have----

Chauff. (_interrupting_). Cheese it, missus. 'E's only froightened.

Dick. I'm not hurt, mother.

Chauff. No, bet yer would be if yer got what yer bloomin' well arsked
for. Yer came as near to it as bone is to flesh.

(_Sally sits on stool r, with Dick, examining his bruised knee._)

Ste. (_stepping forward pompously_). Now then, my man----

Chauff. Aw'm not yer man. (_To Sally._) Nah aw' give yer warning,
missus, to look after 'im.

(_Jim returns with water, which he puts by Sally r. She washes the
knee._).

Walter (_quietly_). Isn't it your business to look after the safety of
pedestrians?

Chauff. (_acknowledging the Church by a quieter reply_). What roight 'ad
'e to-be in the middle of the rowd? Ain't the poivement woide enough for
'im to ply 'opscotch? (_He addresses Walter._)

Jim (_r_). Look here, that's my kid, and if you've anything to say you
can say it to me.

Chauff. Aw've this to sy. Yer tell 'im to keep to the poivements. 'E
moight 'ave bin in 'eaven nah if aw wasn't a hexpert droiver. There's
more kids to the square foot in this tahn than any place aw've struck.
People moike a fair 'obby of it.

Ste. (_importantly_). You'd better be careful what you say. You don't
know who you're talking to.

Chauff. (_with infinite scorn_). Fat lot aw care. Yer nothing but a
crowd of dead-aloive provincials. Don't suppose yer ever saw a taxi-keb
till me and my mate come dahn from London. A 'ackney keb is news to yer
in these parts. (_Up to Stephen._)

Ste. (_boiling over_). I'm an alderman of this town and if you don't
talk to me respectfully I'll have your license cancelled. You're not fit
to have one.

Chauff. Ho! Blimey, not fit to 'ave a license, ain't aw? Aw've druv a
dook in my keb. And yer a tahn councillor, are yer? Yus. Yer bloomin'
well look it and aw can't say wuss than that.

Ste. I'll pay you out for this. I'll report you to your employer.

Chauff. (_indignantly_). Employer be blowed. Aw'm my own boss. Bought
my keb, aw did. Thet's enterprise. Don't know what enterprise means dahn
here, do yer?

Ste, What's your number? I'll report you to the police. (_Goes to window
and looks out._)

Chauff. Yus, yer do. Aw'll tell yer where 'e is. On the 'Igh Street with
a stopwatch in his fat hand, trying to cop me exceedin' the limit, and
aw've never druv above ten moile for fear of the kids.

(_Jim goes up to door._)

Ste. I demand to know your number.

Chauff. (_making sure that it is reversed_). Never you moind my number.
My name's Walker. Fair fed up with this tahn, aw am. Aw'm used to
drivin' gentlemen. Aw druv a bally commercial abart all yesterday and
the blighter tipped me tuppence.

(_Jim indicates door._)

Yes. Aw'm going. My keb 'ull carry me to London now (_moves a bit
towards door_), and yer rowds reek of kids. Aw've killed none yet and
aw don't want to. Aw reckon 'oss kebs are good enough for Carrington.
P'raps they train 'em to step loightly on the kids or else they're
funeral 'osses in their spare toime and never learn to go faster.

Ste. (_almost frenzied_). You... insolent... Cockney... cad.

Chauff. (_crossing back to Stephen_). Foine language from a tahn
alderman with the Church lookin' on an' all. Aw am among the nobs. Abart
toime aw cleared when a tahn 'as a bally hobject the loikes of you for
an alderman. Aw wouldn't be seen droiv-ing yer not for a quid a moile
and disinfectin' free.

(_Stephen looks pugnacious. Walter steps between them._)

Walter. If you're going to London, Mr. Walker--I think you said
Walker--hadn't you better go?

Chauff. (_at door_). Yus, and aw'll droive quick for once through
Carrington and charnce it. The kids 'ad better look aloive. (_Looking
back at Stephen._) Aw'll tell 'em when aw droive into the old garage
in the Westminster Rowd abaht meetin' a real loive alderman. They'll be
sending rand from Fleet Street to interview me abaht it.

(_Exit Chauffeur, leaving door open._)

Jim (_closing door--to Walter_). I'm sorry you've been spoken to like
that in my room, sir. Civil tongues don't cost nothing.

Walter (_smiling_). That's a type of modern progress. The new man, Mr.
Pilling.

Jim. Then I'd as lief have the old.

Ste. That's where you're wrong, Jim Pilling. This fellow's up-to-date.
He'd never be content to let his children play in the streets. He'd----

Jim. No. He'd drive over them.

Dick (_who's been clutching Sally's skirts, staring_). Boo hoo!

(_Sally bends down._)

Ste. (_all ostentatious sympathy_). What's to do?

Dick. My knee's hurting. (_Holding it up._) I falled on it.

Sally (_examining it_). It's only bruised.

Jim (_looking at the knee_). Got any plaster?

Sally. I think so. (_Opens drawer in the dresser and searches._) I ought
to have.

Jim (_watches her_). What's that?

Sally. That's no good. Corn plaster. There's Beecher's Pills and Wood's
Sarsaperilla and every mortal thing except the one you want.

Walter (_reprovingly_). Patent medicines, Mrs. Pilling. (_Back to
fire._)

(_Dick on stool, watching Sally._)

Sally (_justifying herself_). They've all got the Government stamp, sir.

Ste. (_who has taken out a pocket hook, eyeing Dick with what he thinks
is benevolence_). I generally have some plaster in my pocket. (_But he
looks in vain._) No, none there. Sorry, Mrs. Pilling.

Sally. I'd better take him to the chemist's. (_She gets a purse from the
dresser._)

Dick. Don't want no chemists. Want my supper.

Sally. You'll have your supper when we get back. Come and see the man
who lives behind the big red bottles.

(_Dick consents to go. Exeunt Sally and Dick._)

Ste. (_triumphantly_). Anybody got anything to say against a recreation
ground _now_.

Walter. Neither of us ever had, I hope.

Ste. You'd a lot to say about the rates.

Jim. And I didn't see the use of pulling houses down to make room where
houses are scarce.

Ste. We shan't pull down many.

Jim. It'll be a small ground then. (_Sits R. of table._)

Ste. (_with quiet triumph_). About ten acres.

Jim. You'll have to pull down streets on streets to find ten acres.

Ste. We shall pull down just five houses. (_Sits L. of table._) No more
and no less.

Jim. Five houses!

Walter (_startled_). Five, Mr. Verity?

Ste. (_with bluster_). Yes. Five houses, I said.

Walter (_puzzled_). Then you must be thinking of--oh, but that's
ridiculous.

Ste. And why is it ridiculous, Mr. Montgomery?

Walter. The Polygon's the only place that applies to.

Ste. Well, why shouldn't I be thinking of the Polygon?

Walter. Are you?

Ste. Yes..

Walter. But the Polygon is----

Ste. (_interrupting_). I'll tell you what the Polygon, is.

Walter (_quietly_). It's my home, Mr. Verity.

Ste. (_with gusto_). Yes, it's the home of the leisured and privileged
class of Carrington. It's five big houses with a kind of a square of
tennis lawn in the middle of them and a great big garden behind each.
It's the only apology for a breathing space we have and it's bang in the
middle of the town. You've got great gates to it marked "private" and a
lodge keeper to watch 'em and see none of the common herd get in to soil
your sacred air by breathing it in their vulgar lungs. It's a shame
and a scandal for the land to be wasted on you and it's not going to be
wasted much longer.

Walter (_without passion_). To the people who live there, it's-----

Ste. (_interrupting_). They're about twenty all told. Who are they
to get in the way of the thousands that live crowded up like rabbits
outside?

Walter. They happen to be able to afford it, Mr. Verity.

Ste. (_sarcastically_). Yes. They're well-to-do, so they've the right to
monopolize the air.

Walter (_mildly_). Yes, yes. But you do put things so violently.

Ste. (_glancing at Jim for approval_). I feel 'em violently.

Walter (_half apologetically_). You must remember this is quite a new
idea to me, and for the moment it seems iconoclastic, if you don't mind
my saying so.

Ste. (_sneering_). Yes. Like all your class, you don't like new ideas.
I'll say nothing about your Church, though that don't like new things
either.

(_Jim rises._)

Walter. If you'll only give me a moment to think, Mr. Verity.... I'm
trying my best to see the matter from your standpoint. Meantime, I don't
know that you'll improve things by fulminating against the Church.

Ste. (_blustering_). I shan't do myself any good by truckling to it,
either. The Church was here before I was. It was here when Carrington
was a little village and it's stood by and let the place grow into one
huge slum. If we waited for the Church to give us a lead, we'd wait for
all eternity.

Walter (_smiling_). But you're not addressing the Church, you know.
You're addressing a young and humble member of it.

Ste. You're all tarred with the same brush.

Walter. Not so black as our cloth, I hope. Some of us younger men try to
be social reformers.

Ste. Yes. It's all very pretty and romantic, but when it comes to
anything that touches you personally like this does you're as bad as the
greediest tithe grabbing pluralist that ever robbed a starving farmer of
his----

Jim (_touching Stephen's arm_). Mr. Verity, I'm a man that's slow to
anger. But I've this to tell you. Mr. Montgomery's a clergyman and
you're saying things to him that aren't proper to be said and that I'll
hot have said in my room. (_Shrewdly._) And you're not going the right
way to get my vote for your recreation ground either. .

Ste. (_alarmed_). I apologize, Pilling. (_Rises._)

Jim (_satisfied_). Ah!

Ste. (_earnestly_). It's the wrongs of your class. I think of others,
Pilling. I see what the motorman saw--streets crowded with little
children, growing up in the gutter, playing in the dust--I can't help
it. My tongue runs away with me when I think of it all.

Walter. Say no more, Mr. Verity. You're probably right about the
Polygon. I dare say we are out of place there, but you couldn't expect
me to take your view the moment it's sprung on me.

Ste. (_nodding_). I've a way of calling a spade a spade.

(_A knock at the door. Jim opens it. A Man advances a foot into the
room. Behind him is dimly seen a woman, both poorly dressed. The Man has
a bundle tied up into a blue quilt on his shoulder; his voice is tired
and hopeless._)

Man. Have you got any floor space to let in this room, mate?

Jim. No. (_Trying to close the door. The Man's foot keeps it open._)

Man. Don't shut the door in our face. I've got the money to pay for it.
I'll give you a week's rent now.

Jim. It's no use. I'm not letting.

Man (_pleading_). I'm in work, mate. Start at Bamford's factory o'
Monday. A corner's all as we want.

Jim. I tell you I've none to let.

Man. Don't be so hard on a fellow. I can't get in nowhere.

Jim. You'll not get in here.

Man (_turning dejectedly_). Lodging-houses full up and getting late an'
all. We've been looking all day.

Jim (_closes the door_). Get three or four of them a week. They find
room somewhere in the end.

Walter. What did he want? Floor space?

(_Stephen crosses l._)

Jim. Aye. Lots of rooms about here with two or three families in 'em.
Some one 'ull take them in if they look long enough.

Walter. I know. It's appalling.

Ste. And ten acres in the Polygon with only five houses on 'em. (_Sits
in armchair._)

Walter. All the more reason to build houses there and not waste it in
playing fields.

Ste. Ah! So it is wasted now?

Walter. Yes. It's wasted now. I'm going to do my best to help you.
(_Back to fire standing._)

Ste. That's good news, any way.

Walter. Don't count on me for much. But what I can do I will. I'm afraid
I must go now. I've a call to make before I'm due at your house.

Ste. Right. See you later.

Walter (_to Jim_). Say good-night to Mrs. Pilling for me. (_Crossing
R._)

(_Jim opens the door as Walter goes out._)

Good-night.

Ste. (_rubbing his hands together_). Ah, glad I came. Good thing to rope
in young Montgomery.

Jim (_sourly_). Good, is it?

Ste. What else do you call it?

Jim (_aggressively_). Look here, Mr. Verity, you've been coming here
calling yourself my friend. I knew well enough it was my vote you were
after. Bless you, I don't mind. I know what even the real gentry 'ull
do to get a man's vote. I've seen Sir Charles himself stand by and watch
his wife kiss our Dick at election time. But I've finished with you now.
You'll come here no more after this. (_Above table l._)

Ste. (_staggered_). But... I don't understand. What have I done?
(_Rises._)

Jim. It's not what you've done. It's what you're wanting to do.

Ste. I'm wanting to provide a recreation ground for Dick to play in.
Anything wrong in that?

Jim. A lot. There's more important things than playing fields.

Ste. Oh, you're thinking of Montgomery's idea for houses.

Jim. No, I'm not thinking of anybody's ideas. Thinking of ideas leads
to mischief. I'm thinking of my bread and butter that you're taking from
me.

Ste. I?

Jim. You know very well where I work.

Ste. You're Mr. Vining's gardener, aren't you?

Jim. Yes, and Mr. Vining lives in the Polygon. It's likely I'd vote for
breaking up the Polygon, isn't it?

Ste. But, my dear friend----

Jim. I tell you I'm not your friend.

Ste. Mr. Vining will have to live somewhere. He won't cease to require a
gardener.

Jim. Ever hear tell as a bird in the hand whacked two in the bush?

Ste. (_scornfully_). If you're afraid of losing your employment.

Jim (_with conviction_). A working man's always afraid of that. I know
what it's like to be out of a job.

Ste. (_ingratiatingly, after a slight pause_). Well, now, I tell you
what.

Jim.. Aye?

Ste. We shall want somebody to look after the grass in the recreation
ground.

Jim. Well?

Ste. The Park Committee will want an experienced gardener--like you.

Jim. Are you offering me the job?

Ste. Yes.

Jim. How do you know you'll be on any Park Committee? You might be fired
out of the Council next November.

Ste. (_with dignity_). I'm an alderman, Pilling. Aldermen stay in, they
don't get fired.

Jim. You're offering me this. Well and good. And what about all the
other folk as find work in the Polygon? House servants and such like.

Ste. The residents won't cease to want servants where they move to.

Jim. And you can flit servants same as furniture, can't you? And
servants haven't votes and I have. So you bribe me and they can go to
the devil.

Ste. (_backing in alarm_). Mr. Pilling!

Jim. Oh, I'm not blind, if I was brought up in the country. They didn't
learn me there to vote against my master, either. I take Mr. Vining's
money and----

Ste. But man alive, how's he to know which way you vote? The ballot's
secret.

Jim (_sceptically_). Oh, aye, we've heard that tale before.

Ste. (_irritated_). But it is secret.

Jim (_unconvinced_). That's what they tell you. And if it is, it's not
secret from me. I'd know how I voted. And I couldn't hold out my hand
for wages from a man when I'd voted opposite to him. I'm not built that
way.

Ste. (_disgustedly_). Jim Pilling, I thought you'd more sense.

Jim. I've a sense of right and wrong.

Ste. Yes, the sense that your employer's always right.

Jim. It makes no matter if he's right or wrong. He's still my employer.
A man can't vote against the gentleman that gives him bread and butter,
and Mr. Vining's a real gentleman, mind you. (_With enthusiastic
admiration_). I never saw him raise his hand to do a thing himself yet.

Ste. You're a fool, Pilling.

Jim. I'm an honest fool, then.

Ste. Look here, if you won't take it from me, will you take it from Mr.
Montgomery?

Jim. I don't know. He's a young 'un. More like a man than a parson.
Coming in here and smoking his pipe like you might do yourself.

Ste. But he is a parson--young Montgomery.

Jim (_grudgingly_). Aye. He's a man I trust.

Ste. Then if he tells you, will you vote for turning the Polygon into a
playing ground?

Jim (_confidently_). He won't.

Ste. But if he does?

Jim. I'll see.

(_Re-enter Sally and Dick._)

Ste. Hullo! Patched the little man up?

Sally. Yes.

(_Dick exhibits a black plaster about his knee._)

Ste. I'll get out of your way, Mrs. Pilling. I've an appointment to keep
at home. Good-night. (_Crosses below table to door._)

Sally,

Jim. Good-night.

Ste. (_turning at door, patting Dick's head_). Goodnight, Dick.

(_Dick doesn't respond. Exit Stephen._)

Sally. Good riddance and all. Now, Dick, you ought to have been in bed
long ago. (_Takes Dick up to bed._)

Dick. Can't I come and watch you wash up?

Sally. No, you can't. (_She begins to undress him._)

Dick. I want my supper.

Sally. You can have it in bed.

Jim. You don't like Verity, lass?

Sally. And never did. What's he want with bothering round week after
week? We're not his class.

Jim. Vote's what he's after, and it's a marvel to me what they will do
for votes.

Sally. You'll do yourself no good with him, Jim.

Jim. I'm thinking so myself. He's a bit too keen on this recreation
ground, Verity is. Been putting himself about something extraordinary.
(_Crosses to fireplace, taking pipe._) I fancy, you know, there's,
something behind all this.

(_The undressing of Dick advances._)


CURTAIN.



ACT II

_Stephen Verity's dining-room the same evening. The room has doors right
and left. Window with drawn blind, r. Large table centre with chairs.
Fireplace left. Solid-looking sideboard back centre. The furniture is
solid, old-fashioned, and the atmosphere of the room is one of heavy
comfort without ostentation. The room is a small one. No books anywhere.
In an armchair before the fire is Stephen Verity. Walter Montgomery
faces him in a highbacked chair. Stephen is smoking a large, well
coloured briar._


[Illustration: 0092]


Stephen (_removing the pipe_). So you think you're good enough to marry
my daughter, do you? Walter. I ventured to think so.

Ste. Why?

Walter. Because I love her, Mr. Verity.

Ste. That the only reason?

Walter. No.

Ste. What are the others?

Walter. She loves me.

Ste. Did she tell you so?

Walter. Yes.

Ste. Um! (_Slight pause; he smokes reflectively._)

That all?

Walter (_rather startled_). All what?

Ste. All your reasons.

Walter. Yes, I think so.

Ste. They're too few.

Walter. But----

Ste. I'll ask _you_ something.

Walter. Yes?

Ste. What do you want to get married for?

Walter. I'm in love.

Ste. That's no reason. You curates, you're all alike--must be with
marrying other folk so much. Infectious, I reckon. Church ought to be
scheduled along with the other dangerous trades.

Walter. You're laughing at me.

Ste. No, I'm not. Marriage isn't a laughing matter, I know.

Walter. Won't you give me your answer, Mr. Verity?

Ste. Yes. (_He rises, knocks at his pipe in the grate, puts it on the
mantelpiece and goes himself to the door left. His deliberate movements
cause Walter an agony, of which Stephen is quite aware. Stephen opens
the door and calls._) Lucy!

Lucy (_off l._). Yes.

Ste. Come in here. (_He leaves the door open and goes below door. Enter
Lucy Verity. She is twenty-one, pretty, dressed in a skirt and blouse,
pointing to a very modest dress allowance. Her hair is plainly dressed.
Obviously her father is her master, but she is not without indications
of a will of her own. Walter rises as she enters._) Here's a friend of
yours. Tells me he wants to marry you.

(_Lucy crosses r. of table._)

Lucy (_anxiously_). Yes, father.

Ste. It's true, then? (_Motions her to sit._)

Lucy. Yes. (_Sits r. of table._)

Ste. Well, listen to me. He's a curate. Curates always marry young
and have enormous families on no income. (_Walter makes an attempt to
protest; Stephen proceeds unmoved._) I advise you not to marry him.
If he wants a wife, he'll not go begging one for long. There's always
crowds of silly girls ready to help a chap to button his collar behind.

Walter. Mr. Verity, this isn't a joke to us.

Ste. I don't know that losing Lucy 'ud be a joke to me.

Walter. I can very well believe that. But it's a thing that's bound to
come to you sooner or later.

Ste. You're making a mistake. It isn't bound to come at all. My
daughter's no need to find a man to keep her. She's a head on her
shoulders and sense enough to know when she's well off. Who's going to
look after my house if Lucy marries? Tell me that, young man.

Walter. I really haven't thought about it, Mr. Verity.

Ste. And I'm not going to.

Walter. There'd be plenty of time to consider that. We're not proposing
to get married to-morrow.

Ste. 'Um. Very good of you. Want a long engagement, eh?

Walter. Moderately.

Ste. And hope I'll be dead and out of your way first? (_Sitting behind
table c._)

Lucy. Father!

Ste. You hold your tongue. I'll get you to talk in a minute. (_To
Walter._) What do you want to wait for?

Walter. I'm hoping to get a living before long.

Ste. So you _have_ proposed on nothing a year. I thought as much.

Walter (_with excessive dignity_). I'm not without money, sir. I could
afford to marry at once.

Ste. Could you now? And what might you call being not without money?

Walter. I've £150 a year.

Ste. You plutocrat! Lucy, do you hear that? He's £150 a year. Nice sort
of marrying income, that is. Oh, but perhaps I'm wronging you. What's
your father going to do for you when you marry?

Walter. I don't know. I haven't asked him.

Ste. Well, give a guess at it.

Walter. Nothing, probably. He gave me an expensive education.

Ste. Then he made a bad investment if it's only worth £150 a year to you
to-day. I had no education and I'm worth--well, never mind. Lucy, tell
him what I've been telling you to-night.

Lucy. What you told me?

Ste. Don't repeat my words like a fool. Go on. You've got your chance of
talking now.

Lucy. But----

Ste. So like a woman to be backward at tongue-wagging, isn't it?

Lucy (_as if repeating a lesson_). You told me that mother left me money
which you've, increased by investment till it's now capable of yielding
£1,000 a year, and since my twenty-first birthday a week ago the money
lies to my credit at the bank.

Ste. That's right. Now, my gallant £3 a weeker, what have you got to say
to that?

Walter. Of course I didn't know.

Ste. No. I'll gamble you didn't. You fancied I lived in a small house
because I couldn't afford a big 'un. That's a regular Polygon notion.
You're used to their way of living up to your income and as much beyond
as you've pluck for. When a man's worked as hard as I have he don't
spend as fast as he earns. He sticks to what he's got.

Walter. I knew you were a successful man, sir.

Ste. I've made my way. I began low and I'm no class now, bar what they
think of me at the bank--and that's a fat lot more than they think of
any fine Polygon gentlemen. Would you like to know where Lucy's bit
comes from?

Walter. Really, I'm----

Ste. Her grandfather kept the _Black Bull_. That's where it was made,
except what I've added to it. Stinks of beer, that money does. Pubs were
a good thing in his time for a landlord that kept off the drink.

Walter. I've no doubt it was honestly made.

Ste. Aye, ye _would_ think that now you fancy your chance of fingering
it. It was made in the way of business same as my own was, and that
means the best man won and he hadn't time to stand still and think about
honesty. Too busy downing the other fellow for that. And now you've got
it. That's me, sir, builder and contractor, and married a publican's
daughter. Feeling as keen set on Lucy as you were?

Walter. I don't believe very much in artificial class distinctions, Mr.
Verity.

Ste. Don't you? Not in your business hours, you mean. Not so long as you
remember you're a parson.

Lucy. Father! (_Rises._)

Ste. Well, what's the matter with you? Do you want to marry him?

Lucy. Yes.

Ste. You're a fool. You've £1,000 a year. You're an heiress. He's a
pauper..

Walter. I'm not a pauper, but I quite agree.

From the worldly point of view----

Ste. It's the only view I care-about. (_To Lucy._) With your money you
can look high.

Lucy. Thanks, father. When I want to buy a husband, I'll let you know.
I'm thinking of marrying one at present.

Ste. (_immensely surprised_). Hullo! Showing spirit, are you? (_Rises._)

Lucy. It's the first time, if I am.

Ste. And it had better be the last, if you don't want to quarrel.
I'm not one of these weak-kneed modern fathers that let themselves
be browbeaten by their own children. Perhaps you think you'll get him
whether I consent or not?

Lucy. I hope you will consent. (_Pause._),

Ste. I'm not fond of curates, Lucy. It's a soft job, and a real man
looks for a fighting chance in life.

Walter. I get plenty of fighting to do, Mr. Verity.

Ste. Who do you fight with?

Walter. Evil, in every shape and form.

Ste. 'Um, the devil's game for a few rounds yet.

Walter. He's an old hand, and if we haven't knocked him out we're
weakening his defence.

Ste. Well, I'll give you a chance of showing it.

Walter. In a good cause, I hope.

Ste. The cause is all right. You're a parson. Got the good of the poor
at heart and all that sort of thing?

Walter. I hope so.

Ste. Yes. (_Briskly._) Well now, about Lucy.

Walter. Is that the fight?

Ste. I'm coming to the fight. You say you love her.

Walter. I do. (_Stephen is between them._)

Ste. (_to Lucy_). You love him?

Lucy. Yes. (_Lucy r., Stephen c., Walter l._)

Ste. (_holding up his hands evenly_). Quits so far. Income on the male
side £150 a year. (_Surveys his right hand._) Income on the female
side £1,000. (_Depressing his left hand as if weighing the incomes in
scales._) Hullo! wo! something wrong there. Doesn't balance.

Walter (_bitterly_). Do you think I don't know it?

Ste. (_dropping his hands_). Yes. You've hooked your fish, my boy. But
you're a long way off landing her yet.

Walter. Tell me what you want me to do.

Ste. (_curtly_). Earn her.

Walter. Yes, but how? (_Steps forward._)

Ste. By fighting. By doing something for the good of the town. There's
this proposal to buy up the Polygon.

Walter (_eagerly_). Yes?

Ste. Well, now you know what you've to do. You know what Polygon people
are and you know what the town needs.

Walter. The town needs space and decent houses.

Ste. That's what you've to rub into your Polygon set, and you'll not
find 'em seeing it so easy.

Walter. You can't blame them if they don't exactly welcome the idea of
turning out and making fresh homes in their old age. It's only natural.

Ste. Oh, I'm not afraid of them. They'll not stop us. All you've to
do is to make them see they're an obstacle to progress in this town.
They're bound to see justice if they are narrow and selfish and too
puffed up with pride to know the townspeople and----

Walter. And they're my father and my friends, Mr. Verity.

Ste. Yes, I knew you only disbelieved in class distinctions during
business hours. Scratch the curate and find the hypocrite.

Walter (_keeping his temper smilingly_). As bad as all that?

Ste. The moment I attack your class you're up in arms to defend 'em.

Walter. No. They take up too much room in the Polygon. I never said they
didn't. But they'll not want to go. And surely the whole thing depends
on Sir Charles' readiness to sell.

Ste. Yes, but a willing Polygon will make a lot of difference, and if
you want Lucy as bad as you say, here's your way to help yourself to
her.

Walter. I don't see what Lucy has to do with it.

Ste. Don't you?

Walter. Well, do you? The town proposes to buy the Polygon for the
people. It's an excellent project and my plain duty is to further it. I
shan't fail in my duty merely because of the unpleasant unheaval in the
lives of a few people who happen to be dear to me.

Ste. Oh! Well, I don't want words, I want deeds. Succeed and I'll think
about calling you son-in-law--if Lucy doesn't change her mind meantime.

Walter. I can't see why you insist on making a kind of bribe of Lucy
when there's only one course open to me in any case.

Ste. (_grimly_). I'm making sure of things.

Lucy. Father, you don't doubt----

Ste. I always doubt an untried man. I doubt if he'll have the pluck to
face old Vining in the Polygon--I doubt lots of things. Put it that I'm
giving him some Dutch courage to stiffen his back.

Walter (_desperately_). I don't want Dutch courage. Is there any way of
convincing you that I mean what I say?

Ste. There's going and doing it.

Walter. Very well, I will. (_Moving as if to go._) Ste. (_stopping
him_). Remember, you're not engaged to Lucy yet.

Walter. I understand. (_Crosses r._)

Ste. That'll do, then. You know what you've to do. Good-night.

Walter. Yes. Good-night, Mr. Verity.

(_Lucy moves towards right door._)

Ste. (_to Lucy_). You stay where you are. Say good-night to him while
I've got my eye on you. He can find the front door without your help.

(_Lucy and Walter shake hands, R._)

Walter. Good-night.

(_Exit Walter, r. A slight pause. Stephen eyes Lucy from head to foot
before speaking. Lucy crosses and sits l. of table._)

Ste. (_before fire, judicially_). It strikes me pretty forcibly I've
brought a fool into the world. (_Sharply._) How long's this been going
on behind my back?

Lucy (_with an air of standing up to him_). Nothing's gone on behind
your back. I told Walter at once he must speak to you.

Ste. Umph! If you'd told me you wanted help to send him about his
business there'd have been some sense in it. But you backed him up.
You showed, fight. You're getting proud, my girl.

Lucy. I've grown up, father.

Ste. Grown up, have you? All right. If you fancy you're too old to come
to me for advice you can do without.

Lucy. You know I want your advice.

Ste. So as you can do opposite, eh?

Lucy. Oh, that's unjust, father. I never disobeyed you in my life.

Ste, And you'd better not begin now, or you and I will fall out. Ha!
So you're grown up, are you? Yes, you've been a legal woman for a week.
Only I've been a legal man for thirty years and you'll allow I know the
world better than you.

Lucy. Of course.

Ste. Oh, you do agree to that, do you?

Lucy. Certainly.

Ste. Well, I tell you you'll be throwing yourself away on young
Montgomery..(_Persuasively._) He's not up to your weight, Lucy. Polygon
type, he is. You know, shove all your goods in the shop window. Live in
a big house for swank and get it dirt cheap because the neighbourhood's
gone down. They're not solid.. Lucy, you and I together could buy up the
whole, crowd of swells to-morrow..

Lucy. I fell in love with Walter before I knew I'd a penny piece in the
world. I don't think my money must make any difference.

Ste. Don't be silly. Money makes all differences. We're all born
without pockets. It's pockets or no pockets that makes us rich or poor.
Yesterday you didn't knew you'd a pocket and the Polygon looked big and
young Montgomery, he looked big. I don't blame you. It looked a good
thing.

Lucy. It looks the same to-day as it did yesterday.

Ste. Women are fools over money. I did think _you'd_ more sense.
(_Dogmatically._) Money should, marry money. (_With rising irritation._)
It's all my eye to talk of throwing away your money on a penniless
curate.

Lucy (_rises_). I'm sorry to disagree. Obedience has its limits. I hope
we shan't quarrel, father, but I'm a free woman now and I warn you--oh,
I'm sorry.

Ste. Sorry, are you? I'm a hard man, Lucy. I'm a masterful man. I know
that. But I'm a soft-hearted fool where you're concerned, or I'd let you
marry the curate and suffer the consequences. But I've got ambitions
for you if you've none for yourself. (_R.d._) When you marry there's two
things for it--money or birth--and you'll not find either in Polygon.
They're a bad imitation of the real thing--about as near as the shoddy
Bamford makes it to honest broadcloth. Not one of them with a handle to
his name. (_Crosses to Lucy._) If you must get married, I'll find you a
husband. Leave it to me. And don't be in such a hurry to leave your old
dad if you are a free woman.

Lucy (_quietly_). I'm marrying Walter Montgomery, father; but we're not
in any hurry.

Ste. Going to be obstinate, are you? All right, We'll see who'll win.

Lucy. You've already given a conditional consent.

Ste. Don't you worry about that. He may help to keep the Polygon set
quiet till I've put the business through.

(_Puts ink on table from sideboard._)

Lucy. You'd use him and then throw him over afterwards. Father, you
don't mean that!

Ste. What do you know about business? I'd use the devil himself if I
thought he'd smooth my way to a bit of money.

Lucy. But this isn't money, is it? It's for the town.

Ste. Oh, yes, of course, it's the town.

Lucy. Then you'd----

(_Janet, the maid, opens the door right to Stephen's obvious relief._)

Janet. Mr. Bamford, Mr. Alcorn.

Ste. Ah, that's what I'm waiting for. Don't go beyond call, Lucy. I'll
be wanting you soon.

(_Exit Lucy l._)

(_Enter r. Bamford and Alcorn._)

(_Samuel Bamford is a wealthy shoddy manufacturer. He is a bachelor of
forty, a bon viveur and a sportsman. His shrewd ruddy face shows above a
white four-in-hand scarf, controlled by a horseshoe gold pin. He is well
covered with flesh, but not yet as gross as he probably will be in a few
years. His clothes are slightly sportsmanlike in cut and he wears spats.
A noticeably heavy gold chain crosses his stomach. Nathaniel Alcorn is
tall, spare and dark. His face is yellowish, with a drooping moustache.
He wears a frock coat, and his prosperity, though evident, is less
ostentatious than Bamford's._)

Ste. Good-evening, gentlemen. (_To Janet._) Send Mr. Smithson up when he
comes. No one else. Janet. Yes, sir. (_Exit Janet._)

Alcorn (_briskly_). Evening, Verity.

(_Bamford nods bluffly at Stephen._)

Ste. Sit down. Any news?

(_Stephen sits c. above table, Bamford r. and Alcorn l. of table._)

Alcorn (_producing letter from his pocket_). Yes, my brother's sent this
on. (_Hands letter to Stephen._) From Sir Charles' agent. He's abroad,
Sir Charles.

Bamford. Yes, confound him. How dare he be abroad when we want him?

(_Stephen reads the letter._)

Ste. (_looking up_). Dodging duns. (_To Bamford._) You've seen this?

Bamford (_gloomily_). Yes.

Alcorn (_equally gloomily_). It's not encouraging.

Ste. (_returning the letter to Alcorn_). What isn't encouraging?

Alcorn. Why, this. (_Reading the letter._) "Speaking for myself alone, I
consider it extremely improbable that Sir Charles will consent to a sale
of the Polygon to your company." (_Leaves letter on the table._)

Ste. There's nothing to be afraid of there.

Alcorn. I don't know so much about that. These land owning fellows know
they're no good at business. They leave it to their agents, and if the
agent writes like that, you can take it he knows.

Ste. He knows all right. Sir Charles isn't a business man, but his
agent is. If there's a chance of selling, that agent wants a top price;
naturally he writes that way to bluff us into raising our offer.

Bamford. You've a head on your shoulders, Verity.

Ste. (_to Bamford_). It all depends on what you told us. If your
information's correct, they'll be only too glad to sell.

Alcorn. Yes. It's you that told us Sir Charles is in low water.

Bamford. He's dropped a pot of money lately. It's a well known fact.
I know one bookie that's taken ten thousand off him in the season, and
he's not the only one.

Alcorn (_sanctimoniously_). Deplorable wastrel.

Ste. Eh? Oh, aye! (_Ironically._) Lamentable prodigality. Shocking
extravagance, isn't it, Alcorn?

But it suits our book. The faster he goes the pace the better for us, so
you might as well be decently grateful instead of getting mealy mouthed
over it.

Bamford. Me and Alcorn were arguing coming along here what's to be done
with the land.

Alcorn. Aye, but as I told him, the first thing is to get possession of
the land.

Ste. Now, don't you worry about that, Alcorn. The land's as good as ours
at our own price. Sir Charles 'ull jump at it.

Bamford. Well, I'm for building on it.

Alcorn. And I'm not so sure.

Bamford. Of course you're on my side, Verity?

Ste. Your side?

Bamford. For building.

Ste. No.

Bamford. What, and you a builder!

Ste. I've finished building now. I'm getting old. I've made my money.

Alcorn. I'm out for making an open space of it.

Bamford. You're a blooming philanthropist.

Ste. No, he's not. It's a pity you missed our last meeting. You don't
grasp the idea yet. We buy the land from Sir Charles.

Bamford. Yes.

Ste. Then we create a demand in the town for a recreation ground.

Alcorn. And you back it up in the Council.

Ste. And Alcorn as borough surveyor approves officially.

Alcorn. We force the town to buy from us.

Ste. And get a quick return of our capital with a clinking profit.

Bamford (_obstinately_), Well, I thought it was houses. Houses are safe,
and you'd easier raise a cry for houses than playing fields.

Ste. Depends how you go about it. Work it proper and you could get them
yelling like kids for a municipal service of flying machines.

(_Enter Smithson, r._)

Smithson. Good evening, gentlemen all.

(_Stephen grunts and rises._)

Alcorn.  } Good evening

Bamford. } Good evening

(_Stephen gives Smithson his chair, and takes the vacant one r. c. of
table._)

Smiths. Sorry I'm late, but I've been employing my time well. Sowing the
seed.

Ste. Been getting at the voters?

(_Smithson sits between Alcorn and Stephen._) Smiths. Yes, one or two.

Ste. You've been wasting time. I've collared a man who'll bring in
voters by the score.

Alcorn. Who might that be, Mr. Verity?

Ste. Young Montgomery. The parson lad. For all their talk, the Church
still has a big hold on the poorer classes. It'll pay to have that boy
on our side. He'll talk to them in the Polygon, too. Bamford. Aye. Good
man, that, Verity.

Ste. (_to Smithson_). There's a letter you'd better read.

(_Smithson reads it._)

Bamford (_sullenly; emerging from a silent sulk_). I thought it was
houses.

Ste. Well, it isn't. It 'ud take too much capital to cover the Polygon
with houses.

Bamford. It was houses. You've altered it. I ought to have been told. No
one told me.

Smiths (_looking up from the letter_). He'll come round.

Ste. Yes.

Bamford (_taking it personally; indignantly_). Who'll come round? I
won't come round. Houses it was and houses it's going to be.

Ste. (_moving Smithson to give Alcorn the letter. Alcorn pockets it.
Dryly._) We spoke of Sir Charles.

Bamford. Oh!

Smiths, (_tentatively_). I fancy, myself, houses would be a safer
battle-cry with the people, Mr. Verity.

Ste. Damn the people. Who cares for the people?

Alcorn (_rising_). I really must protest. Such language! (_He seems
genuinely shocked._)

Ste. (_impatiently_). It's so silly to talk as if the people mattered.
Government by the people! Any fool can lead 'em where he wants.

Alcorn (_sitting_). We must consider their feelings a bit. Think of the
rates.

Ste. Oh, we'll consider their feelings all right. We must make 'em feel
what we want 'em to feel.. Then they'll vote for what we want and
kid themselves we do it for their sake. That's how to consider their
feelings. When I was a lad there was a trout stream ran through
Carrington. It's a sewer now, but there were trout in it then and I've
caught 'em by tickling their bellies. That's the way to catch voters,
Mr. Alcorn. Tickle 'em.

Alcorn. Yes, but the trout died. The voter lives to vote next time.

Ste. Go on tickling. I'm an old hand and I've never known it fail.

Bamford. You're not attending to me. I say houses. Smithson says houses.

Smiths, (_in alarm_). Oh, no, I don't. Indeed I don't. I only say houses
'ull bring votes quicker than playing fields.

Alcorn. I suppose you couldn't shout houses and make it the other thing
afterwards?

Smiths. I'm surprised at you, Mr. Alcorn. (_Very righteously._) I stand
for purity in municipal life.

Bamford. Yes. Always be honest with your electors.

Ste. Alcorn's got none. He's a permanent official with a certain job, or
he'd know better.

Bamford. If I provide a quarter of the capital, I've a right----

Ste. You've every right, Mr. Bamford, and we shall do nothing without
your approval.

Bamford. Then I approve houses. As a ratepayer--

Ste. (_definitely_). Only, if it's houses, I can't go on.
(_Consternation._)

Smiths. (_frightened_). We can't do without your influence.

Bamford (_grudgingly_). No, we can't do without Verity.

Ste. Our share of what 'ull go on the rates is a flea bite. Our profit
'ull cover it a hundred times. I don't deny the town needs houses, needs
'em badly, only I haven't the capital for houses. My money's tied up and
I'm not touching it. The money I'm putting into this isn't my own.

(_Alcorn writes on a scrap of paper and passes it to Smithson, who
reads, nods, and passes it to Stephen._)

Bamford. Who's is it, if it's a fair question? Ste. My daughter's. I'll
want it back quick. Alcorn. Your daughter's got money, then? Bamford
(_very interested_). Your daughter's? Nice looking girl, your daughter.
(_Slight pause._)

Well, I'm using my own money and----(_Irritably._)

What's that you're passing round? Another secret from me?

Ste. (_blandly_). No. (_Passing him the paper._) Bamford (_reading_).
"Make Bamford Mayor next year." (_He looks up at each in turn._) Um.
Well. Bamford's willing.

Alcorn. I think it's very suitable.

Ste. Yes. We'll call it a recreation ground, eh, Mr. Mayor-Elect?

Bamford. I'm not a favourite with the psalmsinging set, you know.

Alcorn. I've got them in my pocket. They'll be squared all right.

Ste. If I say mayor, you'll be mayor. You make a bit on the mayoral
allowance, you know. Needn't spend above half of it.

Bamford. All right. No need to say more. It's a recreation ground and
damn the expense. (_The tension passes._)

Ste. Right. Got those papers with you, Alcorn? Alcorn. Yes. (_Fussily
producing and smoothing the typewritten articles of association._)

Ste. Your signature's wanted, Bamford. Bamford (_examining the paper_).
Land Development Syndicate, Ltd. Sounds well, anyhow. Hullo! What's
this? Registered Offices, London Wall, E.C.

Alcorn. My brother's office in London. Bamford. Why?

Ste. Wouldn't do to have a local address here. Some busybody 'ud smell
it out.

Bamford. I see. (_Suspiciously._) What does his brother get out of it?

Alcorn. Nothing; and he's put down three of his clerks for one share
apiece to make up the statutory seven shareholders. Those are their
signatures above Smithson's and mine.

(_Bamford nods._)

Ste. (_dipping pen_). There's a pen.

(_Bamford signs._)

I'll witness. (_Calling off l._) Lucy!

Bamford. I deliver this as my act and deed.

(_Stephen signs without sitting. Enter Lucy, l. All rise._)

Lucy. Did you call, father?

Alcorn (_advancing and speaking with the respect due to a capitalist_).
Good evening, Miss Verity.

Ste. (_stepping back, and interposing impatiently_). Oh, never mind all
that; sit down, Lucy. (_Pushing her into his vacated chair and pointing
to the papers, handing pen._) Write your name there.

Lucy (_vaguely_). My name?

Ste. Yes. Can't you hear? See what it is? Lucy. No.

(_Bamford's eyes are set on Lucy with the air of a butcher appraising a
sheep._)

Ste. (_impatiently_). Oh, never mind. It 'ud take a week to make you
understand. You've some money lying at the bank. Mine's all tied up. I
want yours for a bit, so just sign your name there. (_Lucy signs._) Say
"I deliver this as my act and deed."

Lucy. I deliver this as my act and deed. (_To Stephen._) It's your deed
really, you know.

Ste. I'll witness. (_Signs._) Right.

Lucy (_reading_). The Land Development Syndicate, Ltd.

(_Stephen takes the paper from under her eyes, folds and hands it to
Alcorn._)

Ste. You'll see to that, now?

Alcorn. Yes. You're our partner, Miss Verity. Lucy (_standing_). But
what's it all about?

Smiths. That's right, Miss Verity. Sign first and ask afterwards.

Bamford. We're buying up the Polygon. Going to make a playing field of
it.

(_Bamford down r._)

Lucy. And presenting it to the town?

(_Stephen alone doesn't look awkward._)

Alcorn. Well----

Ste. (_curtly_). Yes, it 'ull come to the town.

Lucy (_sentimentally_). How noble of you!' Oh, thank you! Thank you so
much for letting me take a share in this----

Ste. (_interrupting_). Yes; now you go and have your supper. It's
getting late.

(_Exit Lucy, l._)

Ste. Well, that concludes the business for tonight, gentlemen. Nothing
more to be done till we hear from Sir Charles. (_Puts chair back up
stage._)

Alcorn. No, that's all.

Ste. (_finally_). Good night, then.

Alcorn. Good night, Verity. (_Crosses r._).

Smiths. Good night. (_Shakes hands and crosses R._) . ..

(_Smithson opens the door r. Alcorn follows him, pausing and looking
back at Bamford._)

Alcorn. Coming, Bamford?

Bamford. No, I want a word with Verity.

Smiths, (_suspiciously_). Business, eh, Mr. Bamford?

Bamford. Not about the Company. (_Glancing involuntarily after Lucy._)
Something else.

(_Exeunt Smithson and Alcorn._)

Ste. Well, Bamford? Have anything? I've a better port downstairs than
the Polygon toffs can run to.

Bamford. No, thanks.

(_Stephen looks relieved, Bamford sits. Their positions reproduce those
of Stephen and Walter at the opening._)

Ste. (_taking his pipe from the mantelpiece_). I'll have a pipe, if you
don't mind. Well, what's up with you?

Bamford (_jerking his thumb towards the left door_). It's about her.

Ste. Aye? Well, I like a man that comes to the point sharp.

Bamford. Perhaps you wouldn't call me a marrying man? (_Sitting below
fire._)

Ste. You've not done it yet that I know of.

Bamford. Never too late to mend. I'm a bit struck with that daughter of
yours, Verity.

Ste. I noticed you were when I mentioned she had money.

Bamford. Well, I'm the last man to deny that money's a very important
thing in life.

Ste. It's a useful thing to have about the house.

Bamford. I was thinking we might come to an arrangement.

Ste. It's not impossible..

Bamford. Eh!

Ste. Only she's a bit young.

Bamford. Meaning to say I'm a bit old, eh? I'm sound and hearty.

Ste. So's t'other fellow, and more her age.

Bamford (_rising_). The other fellow?'

Ste. (_remaining seated_). Aye. You thought you were being smart, didn't
you? Seeing a good thing and dashing at it prompt; but you're the second
man to come to me to-night over Lucy, for all that.

Bamford (_anxiously_). Is she promised?

Ste. No. .

Bamford (_relieved_). Ah!

Ste. The man that weds my daughter takes a tidy bit of money with her.

Bamford. It'll find some more of its own kidney if she brings it to me.

Ste. To tell you the truth, Sam, I'm not struck on the idea of losing
her at all. But she's got a fancy in her head and it's one I don't
cotton to. Best cure might be to put you there instead and be sure of
her not making a fool of herself.

Bamford. Then I'm not too late. (_Sits again._)

Ste. You're the best man up to now.

Bamford. Well----

Ste. See here, Sam. It's like this. That girl can look high. Question
is, are you high enough?

Bamford. Which way?

Ste. Money.

Bamford. Depends what you call high.

Ste. Yes... (_half apologetically._) I've a right to know before I put
it to her.

Bamford (_after slight hesitation_). Well, I'll tell you this: you know
what my father left?

Ste. Yes.

Bamford. There's more to-day. (_They exchange looks._)

Ste. (_rising with resolution_). That 'ull do. (_Opens left door._)
Lucy, come back a minute.

Bamford (_rises in alarm_). I'm not what you call a parlour ladies' man.

Ste. I'll stand by you.

(_Enter Lucy._)

Now then. (_Crosses r._)

Lucy. You want me?

Ste. (_indicating Bamford_). He does.

Bamford (_awkwardly_). Yes, I do, Miss Verity. That's just what I do. I
want you.

(_Lucy is puzzled._)

Ste. (_looking at her_). Well?

Lucy (_turning from one to the other_). You want me. I'm here. What do
you want me for?

Bamford (_l._). For better or for worse. (_Giggling genially._)

Lucy (_freezing_). I don't understand you.

Ste. (_roughly_). Don't play stupid now. You understand him well enough.

Lucy. But---- (_Looking appealingly at Stephen._)

Ste. Here's your chance, my girl. Here's your answer to the other
fellow.

Lucy. I have given him my answer.

Ste. Well, you can give, Mr.. Bamford his and say yes. He's got money.

Bamford (_eagerly_). Yes, I've got money and I spend it. I'll give you
the time of your life.

Lucy. Don't spoil this evening for me, Mr. Bamford. You've made me so
happy, so grateful to you all for letting me help in your charity. I
only knew to-night how rich I am. It frightened me--the thought of so
much money. I was afraid of it... of my unworthiness. Until you showed
me the way to use it well. I was proud that I... and now... father, this
isn't fair of you.

Ste. What isn't fair?

Lucy. Why didn't you tell Mr. Bamford? (_To Bamford._) I'm engaged.

Ste. (_r.c._). Don't lie. You're not.

Lucy (_bravely_). I choose to consider myself engaged.

Ste. He's a pauper. Look here, my girl, you're rebellious to-night. I'm
master here. I'm not the sort of fool to let you twist me round your
little finger. Don't think because you're twenty-one and got a thousand
a year (_the sum moves Bamford visibly_) that you'll ride rough-shod
over me. (_More gently._) You've got to be sensible. (_Smacks table._)
You've got to do what I tell you.

Bamford. You shall have your carriage and dress yourself as much as you
like; and what's more, marry me and you'll be. Mayoress of Carrington in
November.

Ste. Wait a minute, Bamford, not so fast.

Bamford. What's the matter?

Ste. (_crossing l._). Engaged, if you like, but no wedding till the
Polygon deal's complete. The profits on that are mine.

Bamford. Of course they are. I'll hand over your share when we've sold
to the town.

Lucy. Sold! Profit! I thought----

Ste. Never mind what you thought. (_Goes up to Lucy._) That wasn't meant
for your ears. You'd better go back to the other room now. I'll talk to
you after Mr. Bamford's gone. (_Indicating her to exit._)

Lucy. I hope. Mr. Bamford will remember I'm engaged.

Ste. He'll remember you're going to be--to him. (_Crosses down r. above,
table._)

Lucy. Father, I've obeyed you long enough. I'm twenty-one now, and I'm
going to take my own way.

Bamford (_doubtfully_). I don't like the look of this, Verity.

Ste. Look of what?

Bamford. She's a bit of a Tartar, isn't she?

Lucy. That's nothing to what I can do when I'm roused, Mr. Bamford.

Ste. Pssh! It's the first time she's broken out like this. She'll be
tame enough next time you come.

Lucy (_viciously_). Don't make too sure of that.

Ste. I'm not afraid of that. It's a pity if a man can't do as he likes
with his own flesh and blood.

Bamford (_warily_). Best sleep on it before you say more, Verity.

Ste. (_going to Lucy_): Yes. Go to bed, Lucy, and say over to yourself,
I'm going to marry Mr. Bamford. Then you'll get used to the idea.

Lucy. But I'm not.

Ste. Aren't you? We'll see.

Lucy. Yes, we will. (_At exit l._)


CURTAIN.



ACT III

_Archibald Vining's house in the Polygon the following afternoon. The
room is large and lofty with the air of serene mellowness common to old
houses. The door is r., behind the large mantelpiece. Behind is a French
window, beyond which the-garden is seen. The room is panelled; its
incidental trappings suggest occupants hardly able to live up to their
surroundings; the furniture is faded; the carpet worn. Walter sits on
a chair to the r. of the window against the wall. Down l. is his father
Augustus Montgomery at an escritoire. On a large settee placed crosswise
l. sit Mrs. Montgomery and Mrs. Vining. Archibald Vining is posed with
an elbow on the mantelpiece, looking across at Montgomery. The ladies
gaze at him with admiration. Montgomery Senior is sixty, rather bald,
weak-faced, futile, dressed in light grey morning coat and trousers.
Vining is ruddy, irascible, with white moustache and grey hair, in black
morning coat and grey trousers. The women are both rather foolish. Mrs.
Montgomery is stout and Mrs. Vining lean, but there is otherwise not
much to choose between them in age, which is about fifty, or anything
else. Their dress is conventional without being fashionable or
expensive. They live next door and Mrs. Montgomery has come in without
a hat. The light is of a sunny afternoon and there is no fire. Marjorie
Vining, a tall athletic girl, sits by the window c., with a tennis
racket, looking, increasingly bored._


[Illustration: 0093]


Vining (_dictating_). "Your rumoured intention to sell the Polygon"--got
that, Montgomery?

Montgomery. Yes. (_Looking up timidly._) Excuse me, Vining, I can't help
saying it again, but are you quite sure we form a quorum?

Vin. (_assertively_). Of course we do, my dear fellow. Don't distress
yourself.

Mont, (_desperately_). But--but there are five houses in the Polygon and
only two are represented here.

Vin. We know the views of the rest.

Mrs. Vin. Their views are ours.

Vin. Quite so. Allow for unavoidable absentees, and your scruples
vanish. Shall I proceed?

(_Approval from settee. Montgomery bends and writes._)

"Dear Sir,--At an indignation meeting of your tenants in the
Polygon----"

(_Montgomery writes at intervals, when others talk._)

Mrs. V. Archibald, have we any right to be indignant with Sir Charles?

Vin. We _are_ indignant, aren't we?

Mrs. V. Yes. But will Sir Charles quite like us to tell him so?

Mont, (_pathetically_). It's deucedly--beg pardon--it's hard to be
diplomatic. How would "protest meeting" do?

Vin. Too political. Let "indignation" stand. We must show him he's
roused the sleeping lion.

Mont, (_acquiescent_). I'll underline it if you like.

Vin. No! No! Firmness, my dear Monty, firmness, not ostentation.

Mrs. M. (_gushingly to Mrs. Vining_). What a man of affairs Mr. Vining
is!

Vin. (_filling his chest_). I flatter myself I put things through, Mrs.
Montgomery. Now, Monty!

Mont. (_reading_). "At the indignation meeting--um--held on the--um--it
was resolved to respectfully address----"

Mrs. V. Oh!

Vin. (_reprovingly_). Well, Cecilia?

Mont, (_puzzled_). That's in order, I think.

Vin. Quite. Go on.

Mrs. V. But, Archibald, to address a split infinitive to a baronet!

Vin. I stand corrected. Thanks, Cecilia.

Mont. I don't quite see----------

Vin. (_moving him to write_). It was resolved respectfully to
address----

Mont, (_correcting and reading_). To address a letter to you on the
subject of your rumoured intention to sell the Polygon.

Vin. Correct, I think? (_Approval from the settee._)

Mont. (_proceeding_). It is our hope that should this information
be correct, bracket, which we hesitate to believe, bracket, you will
reconsider your decision to give over to the hands of the jerry builder
the only residences in Carrington habitable by persons of refinement.

Vin. Excellent. (_Approval from settee. Vining crosses l. to above
Montgomery and takes letter; patronisingly._) You write a clerkly hand,
Monty. (_Picks up pen._) I'll sign as the oldest resident present.

(_Montgomery swallows a protest, remaining seated, Vining signs, bending
over._)

What a pity Sir Charles is abroad. We shall be kept waiting for his
reply.

Mont. You got his address from Dunkerly?

Vin. (_putting envelope before him_). Yes. _Hotel Métropole_, Monte
Carlo.

(_Montgomery writes and encloses letter. Vining goes to French window
and opens it._)

I'll have this posted at once. (_Calls._) Pilling!

(_He returns. Montgomery crosses r. and sits above fireplace._)

Mont. Ah, well! That's settled..

Vin. (_sitting at desk_). Yes.

Mar. (_rises_). Jolly glad to hear it. I'm fed up. Come out and play
tennis, Walter. (_Puts chair down c._)

Walter. Not this afternoon, Marjorie.

Mar. Oh, be a sport.

Walter. Some other time.

Mar. It's always some other time with you, now. I'm forgetting what you
look like in flannels. You'll lose all your form if you don't practice a
bit.

Walter. I'm afraid I must let it go. (_Rises and crosses l._)

Mar. It's pure slacking. Don't be so beastly serious, if you are in
Orders. Come and be a muscular Christian on the lawn.

Walter. Something more serious to-day, Marjorie. Mar. Oh, rot! What's
the good of having the courts if you don't use 'em?

Mont. They certainly might be used more by you young people.

Walter. They might be used by hundreds of people if----

Mar. Oh, blow, you're getting on your hobby horse again. I'm going to
practice putting if you won't give me a game. You are a rotter.

(_Exit Marjorie c. to l. Pilling appears c. from l. in his
shirt-sleeves._)

Vin. (_closes desk and crosses up l.c._). Oh, Pilling, just post this
letter at once. Are your hands clean?

Pilling (_inspecting his very black hands_). Not very, sir.

Vin. Go and wash them and come back for it.

Pilling. Yes, sir.

(_Pilling vanishes to r. Vining crosses to fire._)

Mrs. M. I can't understand Sir Charles wanting to sell at all.

Mrs. V. No. What would Carrington be without the Polygon?

Walter (_quietly_). I'm not sure that it wouldn't be a good deal better
off, Mrs. Vining.

(_They all stare at him astonished._)

Vin. What an extraordinary thing to say. Why, we _are_ Carrington.

Mrs. V. We've always lived in the Polygon. We've taken root,
Carrington's gone on its way----

Vin. A precious bad way, too.

Mont. Other times, other manners, Vining.

Vin. Carrington has no manners--but the Polygon has stood aloof. Thank
God we leisured people have no connection with the town roughs.

Walter. Then how can you say you _are_ Carrington?

Vin. We are the best people in Carrington, sir. Do you judge a place by
its quality or by the counting of heads?

Walter. I wish I could make you see their point of view, Mr. Vining.

Vin. (_snorting_). Their point of view.

Walter (_quietly_). They have one, you know. Before that letter goes to
Sir Charles, I'd like to try----

Mrs. M. Walter, remember what the Polygon means to all of us.

Walter. It's a survival, mother. It's out of date in the midst of a
modern manufacturing town.

Mont, (_pathetically_). But--but, Walter, it means so tremendously much
to us all. It may be out of date, but I did hope it was going to last
our time.

Vin. It's _got_ to last our time. (_Sincerely._) I'm not a deeply
religious man, but I get reverent when I think of the Polygon.

Mrs. M. That's just it. We all love the Polygon.

Mrs. V. The five houses.

Mont. Chatsworth.

Mrs. V. Apsley House.

Mrs. M. Marlborough Lodge.

Vin. Kenilworth and Abbotsford.

Mont. And our gardens.

Vin. And the tennis ground in the middle.

Walter. Which nobody uses except Marjorie.

Mrs. V. Are we to lose it _all?_

Vin. (_with appropriate chest expansion_). Not if Archibald Vining can
prevent it.

Walter. You make it very hard for me to go on.

Vin. Then don't go on.

Walter. (_crosses c._). I must. Father, Mr. Vining, you--all of you--are
wrapped up in the Polygon. You hardly go out of it except to the
station. |

Mont. There's nothing else in Carrington to go to.

Vin. Thank goodness we've no business to take us into those mean
streets.

Walter. You haven't, Mr. Vining, but I have. I see the other side of the
picture, if you don't.

Vin. Well, my dear boy, every town has its back stairs.

Walter (_sits c._). Carrington's all back stairs, and cramped stairs
they are. There's no breathing space. What right have we to monopolize
the air? We've room to move about--so much room that you need never go
out of the Polygon.

Mont. We pay for the privilege, don't we?

Walter. Yes, you pay for it in money and they pay for the lack of it in
health.

Mont. If there's overcrowding it's a matter for the town authorities to
deal with.

Walter. They want to deal with it. They want the Polygon.

Vin. They can't have it. They must know it 'ud be cutting off their nose
to spite their face. The Polygon's essential to Carrington.

Walter. Why?

Vin. It _is_ Carrington. I tell you this, young man, Carrington's
last state would be worse than its first if you took us away. We--we
circulate money. We give the place a tone.

Walter. It's a tone the place could do without. It could do without
your money. We are not Carrington. The factories are the essential
Carrington. Mr. Vining, (_rising and taking a step to r. c._) let me
show you what it's like--whole families living--no, not living--pigging
in a single room. Rooms cut up amongst two or three families. All in
Carrington, our neighbours in Christian Carrington.

Vin. Thanks. I'm not the sort of man to put my head into a noose. I
prefer to keep out of infection.

Walter (_appealingly_). Don't send that letter to Sir Charles. Don't try
to influence his decision. The workpeople can't move out of the town.
They must live near their work. You can move. Dividends can reach you
anywhere just as easily.

Mrs. V. Move of ourselves! Never!

Mrs. M. Walter, you don't understand what you're asking us to do. You're
young. You can change easily, because you're young and restless. But
when you've lived in a house that's dear to you till it's become part of
your life, you can't leave it in your old age.

(_Walter crosses above settee._)

Mont. I can't leave my garden. You know that. No other garden would mean
the same to me.

Vin. My dear friends, you needn't worry. Carrington would never let
us go. Walter's got hold of the wrong end of the stick. We're an
institution.

Walter. How do you know? Did you ever ask them what they think of us?

Vin. I'll ask Pilling. You'll see. (_Crosses up c._)

Walter. I shouldn't advise you to. I know Pilling's home. He's a wife
and child. They all live in one room.

Vin. Why, I pay the man twenty-two shillings a week. What does he live
like that for?

Walter. He's no choice. Pilling 'ull tell you what Carrington thinks of
the Polygon.

Vin. He's a long time washing his hands. (_Goes up to window and looks
off r._)

Walter. But you're not going to send that letter now.

Vin. Certainly we are. (_Returns r.c._)

Walter. But----

Mont. I think we're all agreed on that?

Vin. Quite. No stone unturned. That fellow who's coming, what's his
name--you know, Walter--that alderman----

Walter. Verity?

Vin. Verity. That's it. We must make sure of the town authorities. A
little affability goes a long way with people of that sort.

Mrs. V. Yes. He's not the type of man you're accustomed to meet in my
drawing-room, Mrs. Montgomery, still----

Mont. It's in a good cause, Mrs. Vining.

Mrs. M. He's an architect, isn't he?

Walter. He's a builder who's his own architect. That's why his houses
fall to pieces.

Mrs. M. That's what I say. An architect. Almost a professional man.

Walter. But you mustn't pin your faith on Verity. He's, the last man----

Vin. Walter, as a Churchman, I am always willing to accept your views on
religious matters. But when it comes to worldly questions, permit me to
have an opinion of my own.

(_Pilling appears and knocks on the window without advancing into the
room._)

Oh, Pilling!

Pilling (_in c.o._). Yes, sir?

Vin. Come in.

(_Pilling advances a foot and stands awkwardly near the window._)

Pilling. Letter ready, sir?

Vin. (_absently_). Yes, yes. (_Montgomery rises gets letter from
mantel; hands it to Vining._) There you are.

(_Up to Pilling, who turns to go._)

One moment, Pilling, I want to ask you something. Can you tell me how
people in the town talk of the Polygon?

Pilling. How they talk, sir?

Vin. Yes. What's the general opinion of us? Pilling. It's not for the
likes of me to talk against the gentry.

Walter. They _do_ talk against us, then?

Pilling (_awkwardly_). Well, sir----- (_He pauses._)

Walter (_helping him out_). Tell them how you live, Pilling.

Pilling. You can tell that as well as me.

Vin. (_impatiently_). Yes, yes, but that's not the point. Doesn't your
class feel what a privilege it is to have us living in your midst?

Pilling (_earnestly_). _I'd_ be badly off without you, sir.

Vin. You'd be sorry to lose us, eh?

Walter. Of course _he_ would. A gardener's no use if there's nothing to
garden. Only Carrington's not a garden city. It's a manufacturing town.

Mont. (_with back to fire, to Pilling_). Supposing now you weren't a
gardener?

Vin. Yes. What's the common view of us?

Pilling. Well, sir, it 'ud seem to me against nature if the town had no
quality in it.

Vin. (_turning triumphantly to Walter_). You see? (_Patronising
Pilling._) You're perfectly right, Pilling. I've noticed it before.
(_Talking at the ladies._) The masses always have this instinctive
clinging to their superiors. They know we're the source of all
prosperity.

Pilling (_shyly_). There's queer talk, sometimes, sir. _I_ know
gentlemen are different from us, but there's men in this town wanting to
tell me we're all born equal--asking your pardon, sir.

Mrs. V. You know better than that, Pilling.

Pilling. Yes, mum.

Vin. You could never get on without us.

Pilling. No, sir.

Walter. Be honest, man. No one's going to hurt you for it. Tell us the
truth, about the overcrowding and the waste of valuable space in the
Polygon.

Mrs. V. Yes. Tell us the truth, Pilling, and say you know how necessary
we are.

Pilling. You're bread and butter to me, mum, and I know it.

Vin. There you are, Walter.

Walter (_impatiently_). But he's an exception. He's

Vin. (_interrupting_). You've got the letter, Pilling.

Pilling. Yes, sir. (_Turning, then courageously._) There's no denying as
the overcrowding's something cruel. I wouldn't say a word of it, not to
you, sir, if I didn't know and see and suffer it.

(_Montgomery sits again below fire._)

Vin. That'll do, Pilling.

Pilling. Yes, sir. (_Turns to go._)

Walter (_to Vining, crossing above sofa c._). You heard that. Won't you
wait? Wait till Verity's been. You'll catch the same post.

Vin. (_pause_). Give me the letter, Pilling, I'll keep it back a little.

Pilling. Yes, sir..

(_Exit Pilling, c._)

Walter. Thank you, Mr. Vining.

(_Maid announces Mr. Verity. Maid withdraws Stephen is dressed as Act
II, and very sure of himself, except at odd moments._)

Vin. (_patronisingly_). Ah, Mr. Verity. Pleased to see you.
(_Advancing._)

Ste. (_up R. c., shaking hands; very formally_). How do you do?

Vin. You know us all, I think?

Ste. (_dryly_). By sight.

Vin. (_hurriedly_). Yes. Sit down, won't you? (_Sits above fire._)

(_Stephen does so, uncomfortably, c. Walter stands R. end of settee._)

Now come to business, Mr. Verity.

Ste. Yes?

Vin. What we want to see you about is this confounded rumour of the
Polygon's being up for sale for building lots. No doubt you've heard it?

Ste. I've heard tell of it.

Vin. Have you thought about it at all?

Ste. I've thought a lot.

Mont. Well, what do you think, Mr. Verity? Could anything be more
absurd?

Ste. (_nodding his head towards Walter_). Ask him. He knows what I
think.

Walter. Mr. Verity's of my opinion, father. Vin. We don't want
your opinion, sir. You're full up with all sorts of idiotic modern
sentimentalism about the poor. It all comes of the Church meddling with
secular matters instead of minding its own business. Mr. Verity's a man
of sense.

Ste. Thank you; but I don't know that I can do anything.

Mrs. M. (_sweetly_). Oh, but I'm sure you can, Mr. Verity. You've such
influence in the town. You're a man of weight.

Ste. If I am, madam, what had the town to do with Sir Charles selling
the Polygon?

Mont. How can the town get on without the Polygon?

Mrs. M. I'm sure you, as an architect, Mr. Verity, must feel the
importance of preserving such fine examples as these are of old Georgian
mansions.

Mrs. V. So many links with the historic past.

Vin. (_impatiently_). It 'ud be a blue ruin for the town.

Mont. Sheer catastrophe. You're a leading personage here, Mr.
Verity--alderman and so on. Of course you have the interest of the town
at heart.

Ste. (_with faint irony_). As much as you have yourselves, I dare say.

Vin. (_recovering first from the slight general embarrassment_). Er,
yes. Now, don't you think a petition from the Town Council to Sir
Charles might do the trick? You see, the Polygon's the backbone of the
place. I can't for the life of me imagine what Sir Charles is thinking
of.

Ste. The price.

Mrs. V. Now, that's ungenerous of you, Mr. Verity. Sir Charles would
never be so selfish.

Ste. (_stolidly_). Think not?

Mrs. V. He wouldn't turn us out for money. (_Vining and Montgomery are
not so sure._)

Ste. It's hard times for the rich.

Mont. (_timidly_). Yes, I suppose it is.

Ste. (_with aggression_). It is. I know. I'm rich.

Vin. (_pompously_). I agree with you. We people of independent means
have been hard hit lately. What with the differential income tax and the
super tax, we----

Ste. We all think we'd like to pay the super tax, don't we?

Vin. Er--yes--we can rely on your sending that petition then?

Ste. Can you?

Mont. I thought you said so.

Ste. I don't remember.

Vin. Dash it, Verity, we men of property must hang together. In a little
matter of this sort I'm sure you'll come in with us.

Ste. Yes? Well, I'm sorry to disoblige you.

Mrs. M. But surely as an architect----

Ste. (_interrupting_). Now it's no use of you talking. I've said my say.

Mont. But you must have some reason. This is really most extraordinary.

Ste. Is it? What's extraordinary in a man getting back a bit of his own?

Vin. Have we offended you, Mr. Verity? I'm very sorry. You speak as if
you had some grudge against us.

Ste. Grudge? I hate the sight of you if that's your meaning.

Mont, (_rising_). This is simply staggering. Why, Mr. Verity, we've
always been good neighbours, I hope.

Ste. (_still sitting_). You've kept yourselves to yourselves, if that's
what you call being good neighbours. Who've you been good neighbours to?
The shopkeepers? You don't deal with them if you can help it. London's
your mark when you've money to spend, and that's not every day of the
week. How often have you got your hand down for a local charity? Folks
get sick and tired of coming to ask. You buttoned up your pockets so
tight.

Vin. Other people, at least, don't share your views, sir.

Ste. Ask 'em. (_Rising._) You silly little set of genteel paupers, who
did you think you were? (_Ladies rise._) We weren't good enough for you.
You lived in the Polygon; we lived in the town, and you held your noses
too high to see us if you met us, which wasn't often, because you stuck
inside your private preserve and didn't have truck with us vulgar folk
outside. We weren't your class. You patronising snobs, do you fancy
I can't see through your getting me here and soaping me to send your
petition from the town for you? The town can go to blazes for all you
care, so long as you're left alone in your nice big gardens.

Vin. (_rises and goes up to door R._) Mr. Verity, I'm sorry to have to
remind you there are ladies present.

Ste. I can see 'em. That's why I'm letting you down so easy. I'd let it
rip if you'd the courage to turn 'em out and meet me man to man.

Mrs. M. (_moving towards door_). We'll go.

Mont, (_r., timidly_). I'd rather you didn't, my dear.

Ste. Yes. He'd rather you stayed, and kept a stopper on my tongue.

(_Vining opens door and signs to ladies to go._)

Walter (_coming to r. of Verity_). No, mother. Mr. Verity, don't let us
lose our tempers about this. It's too important for petty feelings.

Vin. (_indignantly_). Petty feelings, indeed!

(_The ladies stand by door, irresolute._)

Walter (_appealingly_). Oh, don't split hairs over words. The town's
crying for fresh air and health. The town wants to buy the Polygon.

Mont. The town does?

Walter. Yes, didn't you know?

Vin. (_looking at Stephen_). So it's the town?

Walter (_as Stephen doesn't answer_). Yes.

Mrs. M. (_up by door, r., dropping to Montgomery by fire_). Augustus,
don't you think, after all, we ought perhaps to---- (_Hesitating._)

Vin. (_l. c. fiercely_). To what, Mrs. Montgomery?

Mrs. M. Well, I'm sure there's something in what Mr. Verity and Walter
say. (_Sits in armchair above fire._)

Mont. Come, this is weakness, my dear.

Vin. No compromise, Mrs. Montgomery.

Mrs. M. I shall never feel at ease again when I think of the
overcrowding in the town.

Vin. Then don't think of it.

Mrs. M. I can't help thinking of it now.

Mont, (_to Walter_). Oh, dear, I do wish you'd kept your mouth closed.

Walter. And my eyes closed, and my nose closed, and gone about
Carrington without looking at it. No, father, I meant to stir your
conscience, and I'm glad I've done it. (_Sits._)

Vin. Well, I must admit--hang it, Verity, if people are crowded why
don't you build 'em houses? It's your trade.

Ste. No land.

(_About here Pilling appears c. with some garden stuff in his hand, and
Mrs. Vining exit with him for some consultation._)

Vin. There's land enough outside. Why can't the town expand outwards? To
hear you talk about the Polygon the town might have a wall round it.

Mont. Yes, there's lots of moorland about the place.

Ste. Quite so. Lots of moor.

Mont. Well, then!

Ste. Shooting moor. Sir Charles' shooting moor.

Vin. Well, what difference do a few acres more or less make to a
shooting moor? Surely he'd rather sell you some of that.

Ste. Think so?

Mont. I'm certain of it.

Ste. (_sitting on settee_). You're wrong, then. He's holding on for
a rise. He's held on to this till the value went up. Land here in the
centre's' worth more, than land outside. This is ripe. The other isn't.
That's why he'll sell this.

Vin. (_r. c._). Well, if that's really so----

Ste. (_grimly_). It's really so.

Vin. (_with-an air of finality_). All I can say is I shall most
certainly have to revise my opinion of Sir Charles. (_Crosses down L._)

(_Pilling is visible through the window working a mowing machine in the
garden; he passes and repasses at intervals._)

Ste. Did you think your tin pot rents paid Sir Charles to let land like
this lie idle?

Mont. He likes to have us here. We're desirable tenants.

Ste. Pardon me. As a property owner I know. Desirable tenants are paying
tenants.

Vin. Do you insinuate that we don't pay?

Ste. You don't pay a profitable price. He can make a little gold, mine
of the Polygon. Land values in the town have been going up all the time.
He's cute enough to know it, or his agent is. The only question is, will
our price tempt him or is he able to be greedy and wait a bit longer
till the land's worth more.

Mont. And you mean to tell me we've been living on the edge of a volcano
all these years?

Ste. You've been living in Sir Charles' almshouses for decayed
gentlefolk. That's our name for it in the town.

Vin. Sir!

Ste. (_calmly_). It's the truth. What did it matter to him how little
he got out of you meantime? He knew very well it's a fortune waiting for
him whenever he wants it.

Mont. I'd no idea of this. (_Sits below fire._)

Ste. You know now. If you hadn't been so busy with thinking what nice
people you were and what nasty brutes lived outside you'd have found it
out for yourselves. Not one of you's on lease. You can all be turned out
at six months' notice.

Vin. We trusted to Sir Charles' sense of honour.

Ste. I wouldn't trust him with sixpence, and I'm a sound Tory at that.

Vin. I still think you're wrong, sir. You've given us your view. We're
much obliged. (_Sits l._)

Ste. (_sneering_). You'd be more obliged if I'd given you your petition.

Vin. Your view was unexpected.

Ste. Was it? (_Turning to Walter._) I thought he'd told you.

Vin. Unexpectedly strong.

Ste. You've not heard the half of it. You've been the bane of the town.
It's a working town and it does the working man no good to have the
sight of a lot of idle people living well and doing nothing for it.
Breeds discontent. Makes him ask questions. That's what you've been to
us. A public nuisance. Easy game for every agitator to have his shy at.
Do you think we employers loved you? They didn't mind us. They could see
we worked for our living. But you set of do-nothing wastrels----

Walter (_c._). Mr. Verity! (_Vining rises and goes up to back, returns,
then round to R. c._)

Ste. What's to do? You've been saying the same to them yourself, haven't
you?

Walter. I did my best to gild the pill.

Ste. Well, I'm not a parson. I haven't the gift of using big words for
little 'uns and talking sweetly about Hell.

Vin. (_dropping r. of Walter to below him_). Well, now look here, Mr.
Verity, you needn't suppose that I'm influenced in the slightest by your
extremely forcible language, but a possible compromise occurs to me.

Ste. Does it? I thought I heard you say just now "no compromise."

Vin. (_r. c._). This is a compromise of my own suggesting, sir.

Ste. I'm not the compromising sort. Still, go ahead. What's your idea?

Vin. It's this, sir. I grant you we're drones, and I can see there's
something in what you say about the sight of a few idle people taking a
lot of room, though I take exception to the way you put it.

Ste. (_drily_). Aye.

Vin. (_r. c._). Now we've an affection for these houses of ours.

Ste. Of Sir Charles'.

Vin. Yes, of Sir Charles'. We're attached to the bricks and mortar. You
can understand it.

Ste. I never thought you'd shift willing.

Vin. Just so. We're not willing to shift. But my idea is this. We're all
old people, and our families have married off. There's no young blood
in the Polygon, except Walter here and my daughter, to use those tennis
courts and croquet lawns of ours. They're pleasant to walk about in and
it's a real sacrifice to part with them. But I propose writing to Sir
Charles suggesting that if (_crossing to l. c. and back; returns to l.
for end of speech_) he cares to sell you some building land outside the
town we will sacrifice our lawns for a park if he will leave our bricks
and mortar standing till--till we old fogies have done with them. How
does that strike you, Mr. Verity?

Ste. It strikes me your motto will do for me as Well as for you.

Vin. My motto?

Ste. No compromise, Mr. Vining.

Walter. Mr. Verity, surely it's a fair offer. It's generous. It's----

Ste. Indeed! If that's your notion of generosity----

Vin. It's my last word.

Ste. (_rises_). Then I need stay no longer. (_Moves towards door._)

Walter (_rises_). Oh, but----

(_Maid announces, "Miss Verity." Enter Lucy. Exit Maid._)

Ste. You! What are you doing here?

Lucy (_crosses up r. c._). I came to see Walter.

Ste. But--I locked you up.

Lucy. As you see, I've escaped.

Walter. Locked you up!

Lucy. Oh, yes. Father does things like that.

Ste. Come home, girl.

Lucy. Not yet. I'm a rebel to-day. You locked me up because I refused to
marry Mr. Bamford----

Walter. What!

Lucy. And I've escaped to tell the truth about you and----

Ste. Hold your tongue.

Lucy. No. I'm going to tell Walter all I know.

Ste. (_sneering_). He's welcome to all _you_ know.

Lucy. He's welcome to all I know and all I am.

Mrs. M. Walter, what does this mean? (_Rises._)

Vin. I have never heard a more immodest speech.

Walter. Miss Verity and I are engaged.

Ste. You're not. You agreed last night that you weren't.

Lucy. That was before you had thrown me at Bamford's head. I'm engaged
to Walter, and I've things to tell him, things I've discovered about----

Ste. Be quiet, will you.

Lucy. No. This is no time for concealment. We've got beyond all that.

Ste. You've nothing to conceal.

Lucy. Then why do you try to stop my mouth?

Ste. I don't. I'm here on business. I've no time for girls' foolishness.
Vining, can we go somewhere to draft that letter? (_Crosses down to
Vining._)

Vin. Letter? What letter?

Ste. The compromise.

Vin. I thought you said---- (_Crossing slowly._)

Ste. Never mind what I said. Shall we go? Lucy. Yes, go, while I tell
Walter all I know. Ste. Tell him what you like now.

(_Exit Stephen with Vining._)


CURTAIN.



ACT IV.

_Verity's dining-room as Act II a week later. Bamford and Stephen enter
from r. Stephen just pocketing his watch._


[Illustration: 0092]


Stephen. You're a bit early for the meeting, Sam. (_Crosses to c. above
table._)

Bamford. Yes; fact is, I wanted a word with you alone about that other
matter.

Ste. Lucy?

Bam. (_r. c._). Aye. I'm a bit uneasy about it, Verity.

Ste. No need to be.

Bam. Well, I am.

Ste. Natural enough, I dare say. When a young man's fancy turns to
thoughts of love it churns up his inside a bit.

Bam. 'Tisn't that. I'm not a young man. (_Crosses l._)

Ste. You're young enough for all marriageable purposes.

Bam. I'm doubtful if I'm the right man to make that girl happy.

Ste. You're going to be Mayor, aren't you?

Bam. Yes.

Ste. And you promised her a carriage?

Bam. Yes.

Ste. And as much dressing as she's a mind to? Bam. Yes.

Ste. (_sits above table_). Then what's troubling you? What else does any
female woman want?

Bam. (_sits l. of table_). Eh! I dunno! They're a grasping lot, women..

Ste. Damn you, Sam, do you fancy my girl's not been well brought up?
You're as good as telling me she's not good enough for you.

Bam. Nay, I'm not; I'm only thinking I may not be good enough for her.

Ste. I'm best judge of that. The thing's settled. We said it once, you
and I, and we're not weathervanes.

Bam. (_resignedly_). Yes, I suppose it's settled.

Ste. That's all right, then.

(_Maid announces Mr. Smithson. Enter Smithson, Maid exit._)

Ah, good evening, Smithson. (_Rises._)

Smiths. Good evening, Verity. (_Shakes hands._) Evening, Bamford.

Bam. Good evening.

Ste. (_to Smithson_). Seen anything of Alcorn? Smiths. Yes. He's gone
round to the Post Office on his way here to see if a letter's been
forwarded from the London office.

Ste. Well, sit you down.

(_They sit at table. Stephen head, Smithson r. and Bamford l._)

I've a bit of news for you gentlemen.

Smiths. Yes?

Ste. I've been paying a call--afternoon call on some friends of mine in
the Polygon.

Bam. What!

Ste. Take it easy, Sam. (_Chuckles._) Aye, they wanted the Council to
petition Sir Charles not to sell. Tried to get me to do it for 'em.

Smiths. Good, that.

Ste. Well, we'd a little talk, Mr. Vining and I, and we come to a sort
of a compromise.

Smiths. Compromise?

Bam. Compromise! Verity? I don't like that word.

Ste. Finish was, they've written to Sir Charles asking him to sell the
town their grass plat--tennis courts and what-not--if he'll leave their
houses alone.

Bam. Verity, I don't like this. Ask me, it sounds like treachery to the
company.

Ste. Treachery be hanged. I drafted the letter myself.

Bam. That makes it worse.

Ste. Don't be stupid, Sam.

Bam. (_indignantly_). Stupid! I say, Verity----

Ste. Put yourself in Sir Charles' place. He's got an offer, the
company's offer, cash down for the whole Polygon.

Smiths. Aye.

Ste. Well, say he has got a soft spot for his tenants there, old
tenants, doesn't want to turn them out, that sort of thing.

Smiths. Quite likely.

Ste. Then he gets their letter. Sees they're ready to lose their tennis
courts. All right, says he, if they're a slack back set of weaklings to
propose that of themselves, I shan't have any trouble in getting shut
of them altogether. Their rents aren't worth having. But the company's
offer's a sound ready cash affair. He's a bit short of the ready, isn't
he?

Bam. Aye. Above a bit.

Ste. So when he sees they'll shift without trouble, being weak enough
to offer a compromise before they're even asked for one, he'll take a
flying jump at our offer, and there you are. And a good afternoon's work
I call it.

Bam. Verity, I apologize. You're the dandiest schemer I ever saw, and
I've seen some warm members in my time.

Ste. Well, they sent for me. I didn't think this out. I just saw the
chance while I was there.

Smiths. You don't let much pass you, Verity.

Ste. I take my brains along when I go calling of an afternoon on my
swell friends. I'd like to bet that letter Alcorn's fetching says "Yes"
to our offer.

Bam. It's odds on, or I'd take you.

(_Maid announces Mr. Walter Montgomery. Enter Walter. Exit Maid._)

Ste. Hullo! Oh, damn!

Walter (_r. c._). Good evening, Mr. Verity. Good evening. I hope I don't
interrupt business.

Ste. Young man, you appear to have a lot of time on your hands.

Walter. It's an important part of my business to visit my parishioners,
Mr. Verity.

Ste. Humph! Our turn for your parochial attentions soon comes round
again. You were here a week ago.

Walter. On my own business that time, sir.

Ste. What is it this time?

Walter. You're sure I'm not interrupting you?

Ste. I'm sure you are. Go on.

Walter. I've come to put you on your guard. You led me to suppose, and I
in turn told Mr. Vining, that the town authorities were proposing to buy
the Polygon.

Ste. And aren't they?

Walter. As an Alderman you ought to know that better than I do.

Ste. Never mind what I know. The question is, what do you know?

Walter. Oh, we fellows who go into the Church don't know much. You told
me yourself we go there because we're chicken-hearted fools without an
ounce of sense or fight in us.

Bam. Can't you make him cut the cackle, Verity?

Walter. Cackling's a professional failing, Mr. Bamford. We get the
talking habit in the pulpit.

Bam. You're not in the pulpit now.

Walter. No, sir. In the pulpit I'm in good company--my own.

Bam. What the----

Walter. In this room I'm in the company of certain members of a rascally
syndicate who hope to buy the Polygon cheap from Sir Charles and sell
dear to the town when they've carefully engineered a public demand.

Smiths. Who told you?

Ste. Tch, Smithson! Where the devil did you raise this cock and bull
story?

Walter. Oh, I don't think it was the devil. On the _contrary_, in fact,
Mr. Verity.

Ste. Come to facts.

Walter. Facts? Shall I give you names? (_Strolls round back to
fireplace._) I regret the absence of Mr. Alcorn and Miss Verity,
but--well, gentlemen, you're found out.

Ste. (_pause_). And if we are? (_Rises._)

Smiths, (_to Stephen_). And if we are, some one's blabbed.

Bam. (_to Stephen_). And you're the only one who pays afternoon calls in
the Polygon.

Ste. (_bending over table, beneath his breath_). Fools! (_Aloud._) Do
you think I foul my own nest?

Bam. Then if it isn't you, who is it? Tell me that.

(_Stephen looks first at Bamford, then Smithson, then suddenly moves to
door l. and calls._)

Ste. Lucy! Lucy! Come here! (_Returns above table._)

Bam. That's the worst of having a woman in the thing. They will talk.

Ste. How could she talk? She knew nothing.

(_Lucy enters._)

Walter (_l._). Funny how things get about, isn't it?

Lucy (_up l._). _Did_ you call me, father?

Ste. (_to Walter, still ignoring Lucy_). Get about? How many have you
told?

Walter. Oh, I've told nobody. Secrets cease to be valuable when they're
told, and I don't mind telling you this secret's going to be a valuable
lever to me.

Ste. (_to Lucy_). You've been talking to him.

Lucy (_up l._). Yes. I told him all you told me.

Ste. I didn't tell you anything.

Lucy. Oh, yes. You and Mr. Bamford. (_Stephen turns on Bamford._)

Bam. I? I never breathed.

Lucy. You squabbled together about the profits.

Bam. We _did_ say something.

Ste. And you pieced it out from that?

Lucy. Yes.

Bam. Um! smart girl, Verity. Chip of the old block.

Ste. Bit too smart this time. I hope she'll never play _you_ a trick
like that.

Bam. Yes, by Gad. I hadn't thought of that.

Walter. Well, gentlemen?

Ste. Oh, I'll attend to you. Look here, Sam--Smithson, I'll tackle this
chap. Just go into the other room there, will you? (_Pushes Smithson to
go below table._) I've a private word for the parson.

Bam. Can I smoke there?

Ste. (_r. c._). Aye.

(_Exeunt l., Bamford and Smithson. Walter before fireplace, Lucy c,
above table, Stephen r. of table._)

Now, Mr. Montgomery, my lad, what sort of a trick do you call this to
play on your future father-in-law? You've a queer idea of tact, you
have.

Walter. It wasn't my intention to be tactful, sir.

Ste. You're not improving your chances of marrying my daughter, you
know.

Walter. How do you know I want to marry her?

Lucy. Walter!

Ste. Why, you told me so yourself, the other night.

(_Lucy sits in armchair l. above fire._)

Walter. Since then, you see, I've made discoveries. If a man is known by
the company he keeps, the same applies to a woman. The woman I'm going
to marry doesn't, help to form a robbery syndicate along with Messieurs
Alcorn, Smithson and Bamford. So if you thought to buy my silence by
giving me your daughter, you made a bad mistake. No. Bamford's the man
for her. Partners in scoundrelism, partners in life.

(_Enter Bamford l. and crosses r. c._)

Ste. What do you want now?

Bam. (_apologetically, crossing r._). All right. I only want my pipe.
Left it in my overcoat.

Walter. Mr. Bamford, I congratulate you. (_Holding out hand._)

Bam. Eh? On what?

Walter, On being my successful rival for the hand of Miss Verity.

Bam. What's this? Was _he_ the other you spoke of? (_To Stephen._)

Walter (_to Lucy_). Don't be afraid.

Ste. Yes.

Bam. (_to Walter_). Who told you about me?

Walter. Oh, news soon gets round. (_Lightly._)

Bam. (_r. c._). Does it? Well, there's two sorts of news. Correct news
and incorrect news. Both sorts gets round, but incorrect news gets round
most. See what I mean?

Ste. (_sternly_). I don't.

Bam. (_to Stephen_). You will. (_To Walter._) Look here, have you given
her up?

Walter. You wouldn't have me stand in your way, would you?

Bam. So you _have_ given her up. Why?

Walter. Oh, I had my reasons.

Bam. Had you now? I'd like to hear those reasons.

Walter. That's not quite fair to the lady, I think.

Ste. No. He's out of it.

Bam. Is he? I take no man's leavings without I know why he left 'em.

Walter. It's all square, man. She's yours now.

Bam. I beg to differ.

Ste. (_angrily_). What?

Lucy (_rises to go_). The goods needn't be on exhibition while the sale
proceeds.

(_Stephen points her angrily to chair l. She sits._)

Ste. Here, sit down. Now, Sam, what's it all about?

Bam. I'd as lief tell you when you're by yourself.

Walter. I thought so.

Ste. You can speak now. We're all concerned in this.

Walter. I beg your pardon. I've ceased to----

Ste. (_his back to the right door_). Now, Sam?

Walter (_sitting below fire_). Oh, very well.

Bam. (_r. c., awkwardly_). Well, I've been thinking things over. The
married state and--well----

(_Hesitating._)

Ste. (_grimly_). Yes, go on.

Bam. (_desperately_). It means giving up too much.

Ste. (_c._). And a good thing, too, Sam Bamford. How much longer do you
think you'll last at the pace you go? You're cracking up already--not
half the man you were.

Lucy (_icily_). Think how nice it would be to have me for a nurse. I
warm father's carpet slippers beautifully, don't I, and my gruel's a
dream.

Bam. There's many a long day between me and carpet slippers and gruel. I
like roving about, Verity, and that's a fact.

Ste. Didn't you think of that before?

Bam. I spoke hurried.

Ste. It's time you settled down. You won't lose much that a thousand a
year and home comforts don't match.

Bam. I'm rich enough.

Ste. You didn't talk like that on Tuesday.

Bam. (_irritably_). I tell you, I've thought things over. Fact is,
I didn't half like the way she answered you back. A man gets enough
worries in his working day. When he gets home he wants peace and no back
answers.

Ste. She's all right now. It was having him asking (_indicating Walter_)
that made her proud. He's thrown her over--not good enough for him.

Bam. And she's not good enough for me, either. I can be a bit particular
myself. I like 'em quiet.

Ste. She's as quiet as they make 'em.

Lucy. Father, I absolutely and finally decline to marry Mr. Bamford.

Bam. I ask you, does that sound like a quiet life?

Ste. Well, damme, Sam Bamford, you can't get a thousand a year without
paying a tax on it.

Bam. You can pay too much tax if you get a woman thrown in with a razor
instead of a tongue.

Ste. (_disgustedly_). I thought you were a man of your word.

Bam. And I thought you cracked to be a friend of mine.

Ste. I am your friend.

Bam. Perhaps; but as a rule when a man's as anxious as you are to sell
an article I begin to think there's something wrong with the goods.

Ste. Didn't I tell you on Tuesday I didn't want her to marry at all?

Bam. Didn't Sir Charles' agent write me he wouldn't want to sell? And
you know what you said about that.

Ste. But I'm not selling. I'm giving.

Bam. Yes, and nobody ever knew you to give away anything worth having.
What's he given her the chuck for, if it comes to that? He knows
something.

Walter. Yes. I know something, Mr. Bamford.

Ste. (_raps table_). I'm not going to be played about with like this.
I never asked either of you to come after my daughter. You came because
you liked, but you'll not cry off when you like.

Bam. What do you mean now?

Ste. _One_ of you's going to marry her.

Bam. It won't be me, then. I don't want any woman with a temper of her
own.

Ste. I tell you she hasn't got a temper.

Lucy (_rises_). I've got a tongue.

Ste. Be quiet.

Lucy. I won't be quiet while you wrangle over me like----

Ste. (_thundering_). Go to your room. I'll tame you.

(_Lucy deliberately sits down._)

Bam. There you are, Verity. Regular spitfire. Too late to send her away
now. I know what she is.

Walter (_rising_). So do I. She's a monstrous woman with an abnormally
developed bump of business capacity and I absolutely decline to marry
any member of a syndicate of avaricious thieves formed to swindle----

Ste. (_interrupting_). She's no more business capacity than a flea and
I'll take her off the syndicate to-night, if that 'ull please you. Now
then, which of you is it to be?

Bam. I don't wish to quarrel with you, Verity. I've told you I'm taking
none.

Ste. (_briskly_). All right. Then you marry young Montgomery, Lucy.
(_Moves L. above table._)

Lucy. He says he won't have me while I'm in the Syndicate.

Ste. I'll get you out of that.

Bam. You can't do that, Verity. (_Moves to table R._)

Ste. Can't I? I will, though.

Bam. You'll upset the whole thing.

Ste. I'll look after that.

(_Maid announces Mr. Alcorn. Enter Alcorn; exit Maid r._)

Ste. Ah! Got the letter, Alcorn?

Alcorn. Yes. I don't understand it.

Ste. Just a moment. (_Opens door l. and calls._) Smithson!

(_Enter Smithson._)

Walter. I'd better go.

Ste. You've no need. You know so much about it you can stay and listen
to the rest. (_Gets chair._)

(_Stephen sits at head of table. Bamford, Smithson, Alcorn sit as in Act
II. Lucy stands r., Walter sits below fire._)

Alcorn. Well, gentlemen, he won't sell. (_Taking out letter._)

Ste. Refuses to sell? What does this mean?

Smiths, (_to Bamford_). And you assured us he was broke.

Bam. So he was, absolutely broke. I don't understand it at all. .

Al. No more do I. Listen to this. (_Reading letter._) "I regret my
inability to entertain the offer made by your company. I have reason to
believe that owing to overcrowding the land is urgently wanted and
that the town authorities wish to deal with the matter themselves. I
am having the tennis lawns, etc., valued independently and the town may
then purchase at the valuation. I shall, however, not disturb my old
tenants in the Polygon, this letter referring only to the open space now
used as tennis lawns." Now what in thunder do you make of that?

Ste. (_looking at Walter_). You?

Walter. A letter to Monte Carlo only costs tuppence-halfpenny.

Bam. But hang it, Verity, the town isn't buying.

Ste. On the contrary, Sam, the town is. The overcrowding is a scandal.
We must have some fresh air.

Smiths. Oh, don't talk like a blooming philanthropist again.

Ste. I'm talking like a blooming alderman.

Al. This isn't a town's meeting. It's a company meeting. Stick to
company business.

Ste. The company has no further business. The company is wound up.

Bam. Damned if it is. This letter doesn't end all. It's your fault,
Verity. You shouldn't have gone to the Polygon. You over-reached
yourself.

Ste. This would still have happened, Sam, in any case.

Bam. I don't see it. Why?

Ste. Mr. Montgomery can tell you.

Bam. Well, it's not all up. Let's have what he offers.

Ste. He doesn't offer us anything. He offers it to the town.

Al. And the town must buy.

Ste. The town shall buy.

Bam. Yes; well I said houses. Let's make it houses. Model dwellings
as ugly as hell, for the Polygon toffs to look at every time they poke
their noses out of doors.

Ste. Don't be spiteful, Sam. We've had a licking, but don't bear malice.

Walter. Thank you, Mr. Verity.

Ste. Oh, I'd forgotten you were there. Oblige me by going into that room
for two minutes. You can wait in there till we're through.

Walter. But what have I to wait for? (_Rises._)

Ste. Sorry to occupy your valuable, time, but you're going to wait.
You'll find a fire.

(_Exit Walter l._)

That chap's wasted as a curate. (_Sits._) He's beaten me! Me licked by a
bricking curate!

Al. But I don't understand.

Ste. Oh, he got hold of our company idea, told Sir Charles and smashed
our plans. That's all. Nothing very serious. We're out of pocket for a
few expenses that won't hurt any of us, and we've missed a good piece of
plunder. Well, the thing to do now is to turn round and do the handsome
over that recreation ground. _Our_ idea for the benefit of the town!
_My_ negotiations with the Polygon! If we can't get cash by it,
gentlemen, let us get credit.

Smiths.. And what about the rates?

Ste. Well, what about them? More fresh air, less ill health. Less ill
health, less poverty. Less poverty, fewer paupers. That recreation
ground 'ull pay for itself in less than no time. If there's going to be
any barging about the rates we'll raise the money by subscription, and
for two pins I'll head the list myself.

Al. It's a queer finish to our plans.

Ste. It is a finish, Alcorn. We're knocked out, and we've got to take
it with a big, broad smile and nobody will even so much as guess we've
meant anything but the square thing all the time.

Bam. That curate 'ull talk. Curates are always talking.

Ste. No, he won't.

Bam. You can't stop an old woman gossiping. Gab's a parson's
stock-in-trade.

Ste. He's no old woman. He's a wide-awake young man and he's going to
marry my daughter--if she's free. That'll shut his mouth for him.

Smiths. Well, we'll leave that to you, Verity.

Ste. You can, safely.

Al. It's been a lot of trouble all for nothing.

(_Rises; general rise._)

Ste. Well, we're good sportsmen, I hope, and the Carrington recreation
ground 'ull be an everlasting monument to our civic enterprise and
public spirit.

Al. Aye, I'm beginning to feel good already.

Smiths. It's a disappointment, Verity. Ah, well, we can't win every
time.

Ste. No. Better luck next time. Good night, Smithson. (_Takes chair up
stage._)

Smiths. Good night. Good night all.

Al. I'm coming your way.

Smiths. Come along then. (_Crosses r._)

Al. Good night.

(_Exeunt Smithson and Alcorn, r._)

Bam. I'm glad they've gone. Something to put to you, Verity, private.

Ste. About her?

Bam. Her? No. I've said my say about that, and you need her to shut the
curate's mouth.

Ste. I'll shut his mouth without that if you want her. It's a thousand a
year, you know.

Lucy. The auction recommences, Mr. Bamford.

Bam. Don't fret yourself, Miss Verity. I'm not bidding. You've had my
last word, Verity.

Ste. Well, what's this you want to say?

Bam. About me being mayor. That stands, of course?

Ste. No, it doesn't. (_Above table._)

Bam. But----

Ste. That was a contract made by a company that's wound up.

Bam. But, hang it, I'd counted on being mayor. I've mentioned it to one
or two. (_Goes above table R._)

Ste. All right, then. There's your mayoress.

Bam. Is that the price?

Ste. There's your mayoress.

Lucy. I won't be haggled over.

Bam. Miss Verity, it's not you. If I wanted to marry I dunno as I'd
look an inch further. It's--I'm not the marrying sort and that's top and
bottom of it.

Ste. Sam, I'll be mayor myself if it's only for the fun of opening that
recreation ground to the public and making a speech about the anxious
negotiating the Council had to do before they brought off this great
scheme and conferred an inestimable boon on the deserving working
classes.

Bam. Oh, if you're putting up for mayor, I retire. I can't fight a man
of your weight.

Ste. Fight be hanged. We're good friends.

Bam. Aye. You've got your man in there.

Ste. Well! (_Pause._) Yes.

Lucy. It's very sweet of you not to want to marry me, Mr. Bamford.

Bam. Ask me to the wedding.

Ste. Yes, you should be good for a thumping present after this.

Bam. I'll stand my corner. You've to tackle the curate. I'll be off.

Ste. Good night.

Lucy. Good night, and thank you.

Bam. It's _me_ that's thankful. Good night.

(_Exit Bamford. Stephen crosses to left door, opens it and calls._)

Ste. Now, Mr. Montgomery.

(_Enter Walter. Lucy rises, l._)

Walter. Well, sir? (_Crosses to r. below table._)

Ste. (_c. above table_). Are you or are you not going to marry my
daughter?

Walter. That depends.

Ste. I'll tell you something. The syndicate's bust. In fact, there never
was a syndicate.

Walter. You mustn't ask me to believe that, sir. You gave the thing away
yourself.

Ste. (_impressively_). There never was a syndicate. A limited company
isn't a limited company till it's registered. We weren't registered.
You understand? You can't go telling people about a syndicate that never
existed.

Walter (_smiling_). That sounds reasonable. I shan't tell.

Ste. Yes. Well, what about my daughter?

Walter. I thought you objected to me.

Ste. I did. But I begin to think there's more in you than meets the eye.

Walter. Thanks for the compliment.

Ste. I do wish you weren't a curate, though.

(_Crosses to fire._) There's nothing in the Church for a smart man.

Walter. There are plenty of prizes in the Church.

Lucy. And Walter's going to win them, father. (_Up to Walter._)

Walter. Yes.

Ste. He's not won much yet.

Walter. This is all the prize I want, Mr. Verity. (_Takes her hand._)

Ste. She's not a bad start, either. You've got round me, and it takes a
bit of doing. (_Crosses to Walter._) Look here, my lad, I come of a long
lived stock and you'll disappoint me if I don't see you a bishop before
I die. I'll come to the Palace, Lucy, and hang my hat up some day.
(_Going to exit to leave them together._)

CURTAIN.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Graft - A Comedy in Four 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