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Title: The Benefit of the Doubt; a Comedy in Three Acts
Author: Pinero, Arthur Wing
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.

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_.

Footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they are
referenced.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please
see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details regarding
the handling of any textual issues encountered during its preparation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                _THE BENEFIT
                                     OF THE DOUBT_

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                    _THE PLAYS OF ARTHUR W. PINERO_
                        WITH INTRODUCTORY NOTES
                         BY MALCOLM C. SALAMAN

           Paper cover, 1_s._ 6_d._; cloth, 2_s._ 6_d._ each
                                In 16mo

              VOL.      I. _THE TIMES_
                ”      II. _THE PROFLIGATE_
                ”     III. _THE CABINET MINISTER_
                ”      IV. _THE HOBBY-HORSE_
                ”       V. _LADY BOUNTIFUL_
                ”      VI. _THE MAGISTRATE_
                ”     VII. _DANDY DICK_
                ”    VIII. _SWEET LAVENDER_
                ”      IX. _THE SCHOOLMISTRESS_
                ”       X. _THE WEAKER SEX_
                ”      XI. _THE AMAZONS_

                                 Also
                            _In small 4to._

                ”     XII. _THE SECOND MRS. TANQUERAY_
                ”    XIII. _THE NOTORIOUS MRS. EBBSMITH_
                ”     XIV. _THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT_



                      _LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN_
                              _MDCCCXCVI_

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             _THE BENEFIT_
                             _OF THE DOUBT_

                                                              _A COMEDY_
                                                         _In Three Acts_

                         _BY ARTHUR W. PINERO_

                      _LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN_
                              _MDCCCXCVI_

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   _Copyright 1895 All rights reserved
                                   Entered at Stationers’ Hall Entered
                                   at the Library of Congress,
                                   Washington, U.S.A._

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   _This Play was produced at the Comedy
                                   Theatre, London, on Wednesday,
                                   October 16th, 1895_

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                        THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY

 MRS. EMPTAGE (_a widow_)
 CLAUDE EMPTAGE (_her son_)
 JUSTINA EMPTAGE } (_her daughters_)
 THEOPHILA FRASER }
 SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD, M.P. (_her brother_)
 MRS. CLOYS (_her sister_)
 RT. REV. ANTHONY CLOYS, D.D., Bishop of St. Olpherts
 ALEXANDER FRASER—“Fraser of Locheen”
 JOHN ALLINGHAM
 OLIVE ALLINGHAM
 DENZIL SHAFTO } (_Allingham’s Friends_)
 PETER ELPHICK }
 MRS. QUINTON TWELVES
 HORTON (_a servant at Mrs. Emptage’s_)
 QUAIFE (_a servant at Mr. Allingham’s_)

_The scenes are placed at Mrs. Emptage’s house, in the neighbourhood of
    Regent’s Park, and at “The Lichens,” Mr. Allingham’s cottage at
    Epsom._

_The events of the First and Second Acts occur on the same day, those of
    the Third Act about fifteen hours afterwards._

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  THE
                          BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT



                             THE FIRST ACT

_The Scene represents a drawing-room in_ MRS. EMPTAGE’S _house near
    Regent’s Park. At the back are double doors, opening on to a further
    drawing-room, and these face a window, over which the blinds are
    drawn, to moderate the glare of the sun, which nevertheless streams
    through them, for it is a fine afternoon in early summer. The rooms
    are furnished and decorated in a costly and tasteful fashion._

MRS. EMPTAGE _is reclining upon the settee, her eyes closed, a bottle of
    smelling-salts in her hand_. JUSTINA _is pacing the room between the
    door and the window_. MRS. EMPTAGE _is a pretty, carefully-preserved
    woman with dyed hair and “touched-up” face: she is old enough to be
    the mother of a daughter of nine-and-twenty_. JUSTINA _is of that
    age, good-looking, “smart,” and already somewhat passé. Both are
    fashionably but sombrely dressed._


                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Tell me the time once more, ’Tina.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Referring to her watch._] A few minutes to four, mother.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Does the judge of the Divorce Court invariably rise at four o’clock?

                                JUSTINA.

He may sit a little later under special circumstances.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

To have done with a case if it’s very near its end?

                                JUSTINA.

So I’m told.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

They must all be here soon, whether that happens or not.

                                JUSTINA.

Yes, yes. Oh, but if the confounded thing should last into another day!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

A third day’s suspense will kill me.

                                JUSTINA.

Ma, I suppose, really, we ought to be reading our Church Services or
something.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

I can’t concentrate my attention in the least; I have been glancing at
“The Yellow Book.”

                                JUSTINA.

Hark! what’s that?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

I don’t hear anything.

                                JUSTINA.

It _is_ somebody!

                                       [HORTON, _a manservant, appears_.

                                HORTON.

                         Mrs. Quinton Twelves.

MRS. EMPTAGE _struggles to her feet as_ MRS. QUINTON TWELVES _enters_.
    HORTON _retires_. KATE TWELVES _is a lively, handsome young woman,
    brightly dressed_.

                       JUSTINA AND MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Throwing themselves upon her._] Kitty!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Kissing them._] Well, well, well, well!

                                JUSTINA.

Is it over?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Not quite; that is, it wasn’t when I came away. It’s all over by now, I
expect.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Hysterically._] Oh, Kitty——!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Sssh, sssh! everything has gone swimmingly, I tell you.

                                JUSTINA.

For Theophila?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Of course, for Theophila.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Sinking back on to the settee._] I felt sure it would.

                                JUSTINA.

But what was happening when you left?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

The dear old judge was just beginning to deliver his decision—his
judgment.

                                JUSTINA.

Oh, how _could_ you come away then?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Certainly, it was a wrench. Only, Theo wrote little notes to Sir
Fletcher Portwood and to Claude and me. [_Taking a screw of paper from
her glove._] Here’s mine. [_Reading._] “I won’t have anybody I am fond
of, except my husband, in Court at the finish. They tell me they are
sure I am cleared, but it frightens me to think you are all _waiting_.
Go to mother’s.”

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Taking the note._] My poor child! [_Reading it._] “... they are sure I
am cleared....” ’Tina, she’s cleared!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Cleared! I wish you could have heard Sir John Clarkson’s opening speech
for Theophila this morning. There was quite a murmur of approval when he
sat down.

                                JUSTINA.

He let that wretch, Mrs. Jack Allingham, have it—eh? He did!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

He said that a morbidly jealous wife is one of the saddest spectacles
the world presents; but that when her jealousy leads her to attempt to
blacken the reputation, the hitherto spotless reputation, of another
woman—in this instance, a young lady more happily married than
herself—then that jealous wife becomes a positive danger to society.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

I ought to have been there, ’Tina. I said it was my duty, if you
remember.

                                JUSTINA.

_I_ might have gone.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Certainly; and yet you have both sat at home, quaking; behaving, for all
the world, as if you have a lurking suspicion that Theophila really
may—really has—really did——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Kate, I will not permit you to say such a thing!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Why these miserable-looking gowns then? You are dressed more funereally
to-day than you were yesterday!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Tearfully._] If you live to see a daughter of yours, however innocent
she may be, dragged through the Divorce Court——!

                                JUSTINA.

We haven’t been quite certain what we ought to put on.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

I considered half-mourning rather a happy thought.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

To my mind, it looks as if you had deliberately prepared for all
emergencies.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Rising, in a flutter._] ’Tina, pin some flowers in your dress at once!
I’ll get Bristow to stick a bit of relief about me somewhere. And I’ll
wear some more rings——

                [_She goes out._ JUSTINA _selects some cut flowers from
                    a vase on the pianoforte_.

                                JUSTINA.

Oh, Kit, we were dreadfully in the dumps. Bless you for bullying us!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Taking a pin from her hat._] Come here.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Going to_ MRS. TWELVES.] By Jove, though! it would have been _too_
rough on us if—if—wouldn’t it?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Attaching the flowers to the bodice of_ JUSTINA’S _dress_.] Pray
complete your sentence.

                                JUSTINA.

Well—if Mrs. Allingham had made out her case against Jack Allingham and
Theo.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

For shame, ’Tina!

                                JUSTINA.

Oh, you’re awfully prudish all of a sudden, Kate. You’ve very soon
forgotten—— Mind that pin!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

What are you saying?

                                JUSTINA.

I mean, it isn’t as if we hadn’t all been just a _leetle_ rapid in our
time, we three girls—Theo, you, and I. You needn’t be quite so
newly-married-womanish with _me_.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Shut up!

                                JUSTINA.

[_Glancing round._] No one’s there.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_In an undertone._] We always knew where to draw the line, I hope.

                                JUSTINA.

Of course we did. Only, when you’re married, as Theo is, to a cold, dry
mummy of a man like Alexander Fraser, the line’s apt to get drawn rather
zigzag.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Finishing with the flowers._] Go away!

                                JUSTINA.

Thanks—they’re jolly. [_Picking up a little mirror from the table, and
making a wry face at herself._] I haven’t had a night’s sound sleep for
weeks.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

I should think not, with such thoughts in your head. Poor Theo! I’ve
been fretting about her too, in a different way.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Adjusting the flowers with the aid of the mirror._] Yes, but it isn’t
only Theo. I’ve been doing a bit of lying-awake on my own account, I can
tell you.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Why?

                                JUSTINA.

[_Moistening her eyelashes as she again surveys her face._] Why, if this
business had gone against my sister, it wouldn’t have bettered _my_
chances—eh?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

No, perhaps it wouldn’t.

                                JUSTINA.

I’m twenty—oh, you know——

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Nine.

                                JUSTINA.

Ugh, dash it, yes! And this beastly scrape of Theophila’s has been no
end of a shocker for me. From to-day I turn over the proverbial new
leaf.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

So glad, dear.

                                JUSTINA.

Just fancy! I’m the only single one out of we three musketeers. Great
Scot, Kate, suppose I got left!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_With a laugh._] ’Tina!

                                JUSTINA.

But I won’t, you mark me! From to-day I’ll alter—I take my oath I will!
No more slang for me, no more swears, no more smokes with the men after
dinner, no more cycling at the club in knickers! I’ve been giving too
much away——!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Listening._] Take care!

                                JUSTINA.

[_Glancing round._] Claude—back.

CLAUDE EMPTAGE, _a plain, stumpy, altogether insignificant young man
    enters—a young man with a pale face, red eyelids and nostrils, a
    dense look, and heavy, depressed manner_.

                                JUSTINA.

What news? Any?

                                CLAUDE.

It’s finished.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Finished!

                                JUSTINA.

Don’t tell me! How?

                                CLAUDE.

It’s all right for Theo. Mrs. Allingham’s petition dismissed.

                                JUSTINA.

Ho, ho! Ha, ha, ha! All right for Theo! [_Clapping her hands, almost
dancing._ MRS. TWELVES _embraces her_.] All right for Theo!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Isn’t it splendid?

                                JUSTINA.

Ha, ha, ha! All right for——! Mother! ma! ma!

                                                        [_She runs out._

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_To_ CLAUDE.] You did wait then, in spite of Theo’s orders?

                                CLAUDE.

No, not in Court. I hung about outside, with Uncle Fletcher, to hear the
result. [_Sitting, with a little groan._] Oh!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

I must say, Claude, the victory hasn’t left you very cheerful.

                                CLAUDE.

Cheerful! Think of the day I’ve spent!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

_You’ve_ spent!

                                CLAUDE.

Theophila’s brother! [_Pointing into space._] The brother of Mrs. Fraser
of Locheen! The brother of the witness in the box! Every eye upon me!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Drily._] I see.

                                CLAUDE.

Oh, Kate, I’ve felt this business in more ways than one. It has been a
terrible lesson to me.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Smiling._] My poor Claudio!

                                CLAUDE.

[_Not looking at her._] No, don’t pity me—despise me. Kitty, how easy it
is for a fellow to imperil a woman’s reputation!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Amused._] Yes, isn’t it?

                                CLAUDE.

We attach ourselves to a pretty married woman; we lounge in her
drawing-room, her boudoir; we make her our toy, our pastime. Do we allow
a single thought of the scandal we may involve her in to check us in our
pursuit of pleasure?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Demurely._] No, I suppose you don’t.

                                CLAUDE.

Never!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Perhaps you had better not come to tea with me quite so frequently in
the future, Claude.

                                CLAUDE.

You are right; you, and others, must see less of me. [_Turning to her._]
And yet, Kate, I am not all bad!

  SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD _enters. He is fifty-one, amiable, pompous,
      egotistical, foolish._

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Why didn’t you wait for me, Claude, my boy?

                                CLAUDE.

Sorry; my brain was reeling.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Meeting_ MRS. TWELVES.] A very proper, a very satisfactory termination
of this affair, Mrs. Twelves.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

It has been awfully reassuring to see you beaming in Court, Sir
Fletcher.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Ha! I daresay my attitude has been remarked. Beaming; why not? I’ve had
no doubt as to the result.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

No doubt of Theo’s innocence—of course not.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Innocent; that goes without saying—my niece. But the result, in any
case, would have been much the same, I venture to think.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Really?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

You see, my own public position, if I may speak of it——

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Oh, yes.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Smiling._] And I happen to know the judge—slightly perhaps; but there
it is.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

But judges are not influenced by considerations of that kind?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Heaven forbid I should say a word against our method of administering
law in this country. The House knows my opinion of the English Judicial
Bench. At the same time, judges are mortal—I have never concealed that
from myself; and Sir William and I have met. [_To_ CLAUDE.] You saw the
judge look at me this morning, Claude?

                                CLAUDE.

No.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

No? Oh, yes, and I half-smiled in return. Yesterday I couldn’t catch his
eye, but today I’ve been half-smiling at him all through the
proceedings.

      JUSTINA _runs in, seats herself at the pianoforte, and thumps out
          the Wedding March_.

                                JUSTINA.

Well, Uncle Fletcher!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Ah! ha!

                                JUSTINA.

What price Mrs. Allingham?

MRS. EMPTAGE _returns. She has relieved the heaviness of her dress by a
    fichu of_ crêpe de soie.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Embracing_ CLAUDE.] My darling! [_Embracing_ SIR FLETCHER.] Oh, my
dear Fletcher! Be quiet, ’Tina!

      [JUSTINA _plays the air of a popular music-hall melody, softly_;
          MRS. TWELVES _comes to her_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I told you so—hey!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

We all said so.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

But I’ve been the most emphatic——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Where are Theo and Alec?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

They went over to Sir John Clarkson’s chambers directly the case
concluded—I fancy, to consult him on some little point that had arisen.
I managed to get one word——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Impulsively kissing_ MRS. TWELVES.] I’m so happy!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I contrived to get just one word with Alec as he was putting Theophila
into the carriage. I wanted to tell him——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Pacing the room, humming the air played by_ JUSTINA.] Tra, la, la! la,
la! tra, la, la!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I wanted to tell him an amusing story I’d heard during the luncheon
interval, but he hadn’t time to—— Ha, ha! It’s a legal anecdote. It
appears that a fellow of the name of Babbitt once brought an action——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Did the judge apologise, Fletcher?

                                               [JUSTINA _stops playing_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Apologise!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

To Theophila?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

A judge never apologises.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

He might do worse, where such undeserved distress is occasioned a young
wife and her husband——

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Hear, hear!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

To say nothing of her mother!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I surmise that the judgment of my friend Sir William was very strongly
worded, and I daresay an expression of regret followed from Mrs.
Allingham’s counsel. But I had quitted the Court, you know——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Oh, yes; Theo wrote you a note——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

But you are losing my anecdote. It appears that a man of the name of
Babbitt—— One thing, Muriel, I will stake my reputation upon.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Peeping out at the side of the window blind._] What’s that?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

That the public applauded the decision roundly.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Pacing the room again._] I can hear them doing it! Bravo, Mrs. Fraser!
Eh, girls?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Plucky Mrs. Fraser!

                                JUSTINA.

How jolly to have been there just then!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

As a matter of fact, I talked with several strangers of a humble rank of
life, and hinted that a few cheers—so regrettable and unseemly in a
court of law as a rule—I hinted that a few cheers would undoubtedly be
justifiable in the present instance, as well as peculiarly agreeable to
me. It seems that Babbitt——

                                           [HORTON _enters with a card_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_After glancing at the card._] Oh——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Eh?

                                JUSTINA.

What’s up?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_To_ HORTON.] Where _is_ Mrs. Cloys?

      [SIR FLETCHER, JUSTINA _and_ CLAUDE _rise precipitately_.

                                HORTON.

In the morning-room, ma’am. She preferred——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Taking the card._] I—I—some one will come to her.

                                                      [HORTON _retires_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Harriet here!

                                JUSTINA.

By Jove!

                                CLAUDE.

[_Making for the door._] No; she is too impossible.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Intercepting him._] Claude, I dare you to leave the house!

          [SIR FLETCHER _also moves towards the door_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Stopping him._] Fletcher, you mustn’t!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Muriel, I distinctly prefer not to meet——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

But I must have every support; I am unequal to it otherwise. Who will
fetch her upstairs? Fletcher, dear!——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

In your establishment! Singularly inappropriate!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Turning to_ JUSTINA.] Justina——

                                JUSTINA.

No thanks, ma.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Brutes, all of you!

                                                     [_She hurries out._

                                JUSTINA.

Confound her!

                                CLAUDE.

I shall submit to none of her airs. What _is_ a bishop?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Why does she select this occasion——?

                                JUSTINA.

It’s nearly ten years since she washed her hands of us.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Exactly eleven years have elapsed since my sister Harriet placed it out
of my power to continue on a footing of brotherly intercourse with her.

                                CLAUDE.

[_To_ MRS. TWELVES, _in a whisper_.] I know the story.

                                JUSTINA.

[_To him._] Sssh!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Her behaviour on that one memorable afternoon proved that her marriage
to a dignitary of the Church was something worse than a fluke—a
sacrilege.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Quietly to_ CLAUDE.] What is it?

                                CLAUDE.

[_Quietly to her._] She called him a Bore.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Going to_ JUSTINA.] Do you think I could steal downstairs and get
away? She used to tell me I was an empty-headed little fool.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Outrageous!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

And predicted I should end badly.

                                JUSTINA.

Well, you haven’t.

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

No, but there’s time, she’d say. [_Going towards the doors._] I’m off.

                                JUSTINA.

Sneak!

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Returning hastily._] They’re coming up!

                                JUSTINA.

Let ’em!

MRS. CLOYS _enters, and stands surveying the room_. MRS. EMPTAGE
    _follows her_. MRS. CLOYS _is about fifty-three, handsome, dignified
    in bearing, richly but soberly dressed, in manner a mixture of
    sweetness and acerbity_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Justina—is it?

                                JUSTINA.

[_Going to her._] How do you do, Aunt Harriet?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Kissing her, then eyeing her keenly._] H’m! _you’re_ not married yet,
I believe?

                                JUSTINA.

No, I haven’t the slightest inclination that way.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Oh, my dear, you still tell fibs, then?

                                JUSTINA.

Indeed, aunt?

      [JUSTINA _retires_; SIR FLETCHER _advances_. MRS. CLOYS _kisses
          him, then looks him up and down_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Well, Fletcher, so they’ve knighted you, have they?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Lord Cranbery was gracious enough to recommend——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

How much did it cost you?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Cost me!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Well, you’ve made money; I suppose you could afford it.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Pray let us——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Don’t puff yourself out at me, Fletcher.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I am doing nothing of the kind, Harriet.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Then don’t.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Er—how is the bishop?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Old.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Old? Let me see—my marvellous head for figures should serve me——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Very old.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Born in——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

We’re all getting old; that’s why you have the pleasure of seeing me
amongst you once more. [_Turning to_ CLAUDE, _who bows stiffly_.] My
nephew? [_Shaking hands with him and looking him in the face
searchingly._] You’re rather old too. [_Sharply._] Who’s that there?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Who has been hidden by the flowers on the piano-forte, advancing, with
a nervous outburst._] Oh, I hope you remember me, dear Mrs. Cloys—Kitty
Twelves. I was Kitty Powis, if you recollect.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I recollect. Weren’t you at school in Paris with Justina and Theophila,
and afterwards——?

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

Yes. Isn’t this interesting? Quinton, my husband, was _confirmed_ by the
Bishop of St. Olpherts! I never discovered it till we’d been married for
ages—I mean, weeks and weeks—[_gradually quailing under_ MRS. CLOYS’S
_gaze_]—and then one day—he—he happened to see me kissing the sweetest
photograph of you—and and—and——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Mrs. Twills, I understood from my sister there was a purely family
gathering here this afternoon——

                         MRS. QUINTON TWELVES.

[_Offering her hand._] I—I have to go on elsewhere——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Detaining her hand._] My dear, _you_ were extremely old when I last
saw you, during your first season, in eighty-something; I pray, now
you’re married, that you are—younger.

            [_They look at each other for a moment longer, then_ MRS.
                TWELVES _withdraws her hand, and, after nodding to the
                others in a scared way, goes out silently_. CLAUDE
                _follows her_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Sitting on the settee._] Muriel. [MRS. EMPTAGE _comes to her_.] We
have been on bad terms for many years; let us have done with it. I
suggest mutual concessions to disposition and temper.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Sitting._] I am sure I have been more than desirous——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

You have brought up your children abominably; that was always our most
serious point of dissension——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I may remind you, Harriet, that Muriel’s cheerful method of training her
children has received my sympathy and sanction. On the death of the late
Mr. Emptage——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

My poor dear Herbert——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

It naturally devolved upon me——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Sssh!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I am not one of those——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Sssh, sssh, sssh!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Your twenty years of married life may have taught you how to manage a
husband, Harriet, but——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Heaven has blessed you with no offspring.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

And the world isn’t all deans, and canons, and bishops and things——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

A department of society you were thrown headlong into——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

By the merest chance, as you well know——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Without, I fear, possessing every qualification for the—ah—the exalted
station which—which——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

And—and—and——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_To_ MRS. EMPTAGE.] There, there! Don’t, I say. Have done with it? At
any rate, we’re grey-haired women now—I _am_, and you ought to be——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Now, Harriet——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

And judgment has overtaken you——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Judgment!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

This terrible calamity that has befallen your girl Theophila. Oh, how is
it going to end?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

My dear Harriet, it has ended.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Has the case——?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Mrs. Allingham’s petition is dismissed—dismissed.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

My daughter has emerged triumphantly——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Thank God! [_Rising._] Muriel——

            [MRS. EMPTAGE _rises_; MRS. CLOYS _kisses her on both
                cheeks, then turns away_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

You will see Theo and her husband in a few minutes. They are staying
with me just now. “Weak, giddy mother,” am I, Harriet? My child flies to
me in her trouble, nevertheless.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Wiping her eyes._] The dear bishop will be so rejoiced. Not a
newspaper has been taken at the Palace this week. [_Resuming her seat._]
It has hit us hard. How did it all come about?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

In this way. I——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Sitting again._] Why, we’ve all known Jack Allingham for years——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Sitting._] A good fellow—little dull, perhaps—little prosy——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Glancing at_ JUSTINA.] At one time we thought he was rather inclined
to pay ’Tina——

                                JUSTINA.

What rot, mother!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Oh!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

However, he married this creature, Olive Harker—daughter of a Major
Harker——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

“Crummy” Harker—stout man——

                                JUSTINA.

Four years ago this month.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Yes, in the summer of the year in which Theo was married to Fraser of
Locheen.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

My extraordinary chronological faculty ought to serve me here. Theophila
and Locheen were married in the March, Jack Allingham and Miss Harker in
the following June; _I_ took the chair that year at no less than three
public dinners——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Of course, when the two couples settled down in London the usual
exchange of visits began. But from the first it was quite evident that
Mrs. Allingham resented her husband’s friendship for Theo.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Why should Mrs. Allingham have resented it?

                                JUSTINA.

Olive was always a jealous cat—person.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

John is some months younger than his wife, I may tell you. No marriage
can turn out happily when the balance of age drops ever so slightly on
the woman’s side. My observation——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Rubbish!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I know my world, Harriet.

                                JUSTINA.

What was it that Olive said about that, ma?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

When the wife is older than the husband every fresh little line in her
face becomes an acute pain to her, just as if it were cut into her
flesh, and renewed daily, with a knife. Those are Mrs. Allingham’s own
words.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Poor wretch!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

In her storms with Jack she used to rave out these things, and Jack
would repeat them to Theo.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

What business had he to do that, pray?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Well, his home had become such a hell that he fell into the way of
rushing round to Lennox Gardens, to Theophila and Alec, to obtain relief
from his worries.

                                JUSTINA.

He gradually became a sort of third in Lennox Gardens, you know, aunt.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

A sort of third?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

The house-friend who is continually running in and out——

                                JUSTINA.

The man who has dined with you almost before you know it, as it were.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Oh! And is this all?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

All?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

All the justification a jealous woman has for seeking to divorce her
husband?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Not divorce, Harriet; she wasn’t entitled to ask for that. Mrs.
Allingham has been suing for judicial separation.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Well, well——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Accuracy with me is a perfect mania. Oh, yes, that’s all. With the
exception of the—the——[_With a wave of the hand._] However——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Exception?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I was thinking of the bézique part of the case.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Impatiently._] Yes, yes; but that’s of no consequence now.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Bézique?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Allingham and Theophila happen, both of them, to be fond of cards. And
when Fraser was away in Scotland——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Away in Scotland? _Not_ with Theophila?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

No, no; she loathes Locheen.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I see. When Mr. Fraser was in Scotland and his wife was by herself in
London——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Then a little harmless bézique helped to kill the time.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Theophila and Mr. Allingham killed time together?

                  MRS. EMPTAGE, JUSTINA, SIR FLETCHER.

[_In various tones._] Yes—yes—yes.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Where was the time killed?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

In Lennox Gardens.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

At Theophila’s house, in her husband’s absence. Is _that_ all?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Absolutely all.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

All the bézique part of the case. You see, the lawyers separated the
case against Theophila into three divisions.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Three! Number One?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

The House-friend, as aforesaid.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Two?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Bézique—as aforesaid.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Three?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

I repeat, surely all this doesn’t matter now!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Number Three?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Tannhäuser.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

In Heaven’s name, what——!

                                JUSTINA.

That was nothing. Alec Fraser was in Scotland as usual——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

As usual!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

No, no—as he is often obliged to be.

                                JUSTINA.

Alec was in Scotland, and Theo had been to the opera with pals——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

With——!

                                JUSTINA.

Friends, to hear Tannhäuser. She had sent her servants to bed, and let
herself in with her latchkey. As she was closing the front door she
caught sight of Jack Allingham on the other side of the way.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

He had had one of his terrible scenes with his wife; they lived round
the corner, in Pont Street——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

And a most charming house theirs was. I always say, with regard to Pont
Street——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Sternly._] Fletcher!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Jack was in a dreadful state of distress; pacing the streets like a
maniac, in fact——

                                JUSTINA.

He’s a very old friend of all of us——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

More like a brother than a——

                                JUSTINA.

And Theo begged him to come in——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

To calm himself. Simply an impulsive, warm-hearted act on her part.

                                JUSTINA.

And it wouldn’t have mattered in the least if that devil of a wife
hadn’t suspected——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

And planted her maid outside Theo’s house—set of spies!——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Till three in the morning——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

When Theo turned Jack out.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Not _four_ in the morning, as Mrs. Allingham’s blundering counsel tried
to establish. Ha, ha! Sir John Clarkson bowled him over there! Three,
sir—not four!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_To_ SIR FLETCHER.] Be quiet! be silent!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Upon my word, Harriet——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_To_ JUSTINA, _who rises_.] Go away! You can sit by and assist at the
telling of a story of this nature, single woman that you are! [JUSTINA
_walks away_.] What did I prophesy? Years ago, what did I prophesy?
[_To_ MRS. EMPTAGE.] Now, pray, how do you like seeing your children
dabbling their hands in this—this pig-pail?

                                                       [CLAUDE _enters_.

                                CLAUDE.

Fraser and Theo——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Rising._] Ah!

                                CLAUDE.

Just come in.

                    [MRS. CLOYS _walks away_; CLAUDE _joins_ JUSTINA.]

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Repressing her excitement._] Sssh, sssh, sssh! Let nobody make a fuss;
Alec hates a fuss!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

No fuss, but some one ought to play “See the Conquering Hero——!” Theo is
so fond of a little fun—genuine fun!

            [_He seats himself at the piano and fingers out the air
                laboriously._ THEOPHILA _and her husband enter. She is
                an elegantly-dressed, still girlish, woman of
                seven-and-twenty; he a good-looking, undemonstrative man
                of about five-and-thirty. Both are pale, weary-looking,
                and subdued._ FRASER _is gloved and frock-coated_;
                THEOPHILA _is in her bonnet and cape_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Her hands twitching._] Well, pet?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Kissing her mother in a spiritless way._] Well, mother dear?

            [THEOPHILA _goes to_ JUSTINA _and_ CLAUDE _and kisses them,
                silently_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Shaking hands with_ FRASER.] A hundred thousand congratulations, Alec.

                                FRASER.

[_Biting his lip._] Thanks. [_Standing at the further end of the piano,
to_ SIR FLETCHER.] Do you mind _not_ playing?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Rising and singing._] “See the Conquering He—ro co—o—o—o—o—o—um—ms—!”
Not hero—heroes. No, hero and heroine!

            [THEOPHILA _comes to him and kisses him in the same
                impassive fashion_.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Quietly._] Much obliged to you for sticking to me, the last two days,
uncle.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

My dear, as a matter of fact, I’ve enjoyed myself in Court. I am not
exaggerating—enjoyed myself.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Theo, your aunt Harriet——

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Turning._] Aunt——! [_Advancing slowly to meet_ MRS. CLOYS—_a little
dazed_.] I saw a figure; I—I thought it was Kitty. Why, aunt——!

                                                    [_They shake hands._

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Looking into her face, earnestly._] You’re tired—quite done.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_With a nod, sitting on the settee._] Alec——[FRASER _advances_.] My
aunt Harriet, Mrs. Cloys—my husband.

            [FRASER _and_ MRS. CLOYS _incline their heads to each
                other_. FRASER _then turns away and joins_ CLAUDE _and_
                JUSTINA, SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD _following him_.
                THEOPHILA _strips off her gloves_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Let mother take your bonnet, pet.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Her head falling backward, faintly._] Oh, do!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Removing_ THEOPHILA’S _bonnet_.] In your bonnet all day again; your
head must be splitting. _I_ know. Do you remember _my_ head at the
flower-show at Eastbourne?

            [MRS. CLOYS _bends over_ THEOPHILA _and helps her to get rid
                of her cape_.

                               THEOPHILA.

Thanks, awfully.

            [_She takes her bonnet from_ MRS. EMPTAGE, _and fiercely
                begins to roll it in her cape, as if about to crush them
                together_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Uttering a little scream, running round the settee to her._] What are
you doing?

                                         [_There is a general movement._

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Looking round._] It’s all right. [_With an attempt at a laugh._] Those
things are to be destroyed.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Taking the bonnet and cape from_ THEOPHILA.] Destroyed! They were new
for the case!

                               THEOPHILA.

Sniff them, mother.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Doing so._] Perfume.

                               THEOPHILA.

Phew! I intend to burn every thread I’m wearing, and to have a bath
before dinner.

                                FRASER.

[_Constrainedly._] We were rather unfortunate in the case that is to
follow ours.

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes. [_Looking straight before her._] There was a patchouli business
waiting to come on after us.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Holding the things at arm’s length._] Oh, dear!

                               THEOPHILA.

It had been flitting about since the morning. It sat down beside me at
last.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

_It?_

                               THEOPHILA.

It, it, it. And it was wearing a bonnet almost precisely like mine; and
it looked to be about my own age, and could have had my sort of
complexion if it had chosen——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Hush, Theophila——!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Hysterically._] Ho, ho, ho! these last two days!

                                              [_Horton enters with tea._

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Here’s tea! Claude, help Justina with the tea-table. Tea is what Theo
needs.

            [_She hurries out with_ THEOPHILA’S _bonnet and cape_.
                CLAUDE _and_ JUSTINA _carry the tea-table and place it
                before the “cosy-corner.”_ MRS. CLOYS _sits with her
                head bent_. HORTON _places the tray upon the tea-table
                and withdraws_. JUSTINA _sits in the “cosy-corner” and
                pours out tea_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Bustling up to the tea-table._] Tea is what we _all_ need. A most
exciting day! I’ve often observed how welcome one’s tea is on a Derby
Day——

                               THEOPHILA.

[_In a whisper to_ FRASER _across the table_.] Alec, will you tell them
what the judge said of me, or shall I?

                                FRASER.

I suppose it’s necessary.

                               THEOPHILA.

People _heard_ it. Then, the papers——

                                FRASER.

Of course. [_Agitated._] I—I’ll tell them, if you like.

                               THEOPHILA.

Thank you. [_Quickly._] No, no—I’ll tell them. You couldn’t do it—how
_could_ you?

                        MRS. EMPTAGE _returns_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Tea, tea! [_Sitting._] Alec, come and sit by me. [FRASER _sits at a
distance_, _his lips compressed_, _his hands gripped together_.] Oh,
fie! all that way off! You will persist in treating me as an ordinary
mother-in-law! [FRASER _moves his chair a little nearer_.] That’s
better. [_Triumphantly._] Well, Harriet, you see all my children round
me—a happy family!

                                     [CLAUDE _brings tea to_ MRS. CLOYS.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Bringing a cup of tea to_ THEOPHILA.] I make no excuse for devoting
myself to Theo—on this occasion. [THEOPHILA _takes the tea and gulps
it_.] You looked charming in the witness-box—piquant. [_Returning to the
tea-table._] Piquant—just the word—piquant.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Now, Alec dear, tell us. Did Mrs. Allingham’s counsel, Mr.
What’s-his-name, express regret when it was all over?

                                FRASER.

Regret——?

            [SIR FLETCHER _brings tea to_ MRS. EMPTAGE; CLAUDE _brings
                tea to_ FRASER, _then returns to the tea-table_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Regret at finding himself made the—the thingamy—the vehicle—for such a
malicious attack on Theo’s character—the poor child.

                                FRASER.

[_With an effort._] No; no regret was expressed.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Not by the judge either?

                                FRASER.

The judge!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

The judge never said he was sorry to see a nicely bred girl, so recently
married too, subjected to such a—such a—such an unwarrantable ordeal?
[FRASER _is silent_.] Eh—h?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_After a brief pause._] No, mother.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

You were wrong, then, Fletcher, you see.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Holding up his hand._] Wait, wait, please! I don’t think I am _very_
often out in my calculations. [_To_ THEOPHILA.] What sort of
demonstration occurred at the close, may I venture to ask?

                               THEOPHILA.

Demonstration?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Did they cheer you much, darling? That’s what your uncle means.

                               THEOPHILA.

_Cheer_ me, mother——?

            [FRASER _rises abruptly, placing his cup, with a clatter, on
                the piano_.

                                FRASER.

I—I feel as Theophila does. I must dip my face into cold water. The
atmosphere of that place stifles one even now. Do excuse me.

            [_He goes out; all, except_ THEOPHILA, _look after him,
                surprised_.

                               THEOPHILA.

Mother dear—Uncle Fletcher—you seem to have a wrong impression——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Wrong impression?

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, Mrs. Allingham’s petition has been dismissed—yes. But Sir John
Clarkson and Mr. Martyn, my other counsel—all my friends in fact—were a
little too sanguine.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Too sanguine?

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, much too sanguine. The judge was rather rough on me.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

What on earth do you——?

                               THEOPHILA.

Rather down on me—severe. My behaviour—my conduct—has been
careless—indiscreet, he says——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Under her breath._] Indiscreet?

                               THEOPHILA.

Hardly characteristic of a woman who is properly watchful of her own and
her husband’s reputation—honour.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Coming forward a few steps._] Theo!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Disjointedly._] But at the same time, he said, Mrs. Allingham had
scarcely succeeded in establishing conclusively to his mind ... oh!...
and he thought that even the petitioner herself, on further reflection,
would be desirous that I should receive the—the benefit of the doubt ...
and—and something about costs....

                   [_She breaks off; they all remain silent for a time._

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

This—this will appear in the papers! Won’t it? Won’t it? [_No one
replies_; SIR FLETCHER _sinks into a chair, with a blank look_.] Can’t
anybody answer me? Fletcher, will this be in the papers?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Confused._] The papers—! No strong-minded public man ever looks at the
papers. When I have spoken in the House I never——

                                JUSTINA.

[_In a hard voice._] Why, of course, a dozen papers will have it. What a
silly question to ask, ma!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Advancing to_ MRS. CLOYS.] I hope you’re quite satisfied, Harriet. You
came here, after these many years, on purpose to witness this——[MRS.
CLOYS _rises_]—to see disgrace and ruin brought on me and my family.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Muriel, how dare you say it?

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

I’m only a widow! Everybody is entitled to stab at me!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Turning away._] I’ll not listen to you!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Weeping._] Oh, oh, oh! how glad our friends will be! [_Going towards
the door._] Here’s a triumph for our friends!

                                JUSTINA.

[_Following her._] Mother——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Pushing her aside._] Go away! I don’t want you near me!

                                JUSTINA.

Ho!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Bristow shall attend on me. I shall lie down on my bed. I shall have my
corsets taken off——

                                                      [_She disappears._

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Going towards the door._] Muriel——!

                                [_She goes out, following_ MRS. EMPTAGE.

                                JUSTINA.

[_With a grating laugh._] That’s ma all over; she always goes through
this process when there’s a family crisis. [_To_ THEOPHILA.] Do you
remember, Phil?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Stonily._] What?

                                JUSTINA.

Directly the news of poor pa’s death came, ma took off her corsets.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Rising._] I shall go out; people shall see me walking boldly through
the streets: Portland Place—Regent Street—[_in agitation_]—Fletcher
Portwood, with his head up—his head up, they’ll say. [_He paces the
room, and comes upon_ CLAUDE, _who is sitting at the writing-table,
writing a telegram, his eyes bolting and a generally vacuous expression
on his face_.] And you! when are you going to do something in the world
besides idling, and loafing, and living upon your mother——?

                                CLAUDE.

[_Rising, disconcerted._] What’s that to do with it?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Do with it? Why, at eighteen I was earning twenty shillings a week, and
maintaining myself. Now look at the position I have achieved, from sheer
brain-force! [_To_ THEOPHILA.] I shall not turn my back on you, my poor
little girl; don’t be frightened of that. You were always my favourite
niece——

                                JUSTINA.

[_Laughing, a little wildly._] Ha, ha, ha, ha!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I beg your pardon, ’Tina; I’ve no favourites. Can I buy you anything,
either of you, while I’m out? I may look in here again before I go down
to the House. The finest assembly of gentlemen in the world. No
patterns, or new music, wanted—eh?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Feebly._] Oh, no.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I shall dine at the House, and then sup at the club. All London shall
see me. “Look at Portwood!” everybody will say. “Then there can’t be the
slightest foundation for this scandal about his niece——!”

                                                         [_He goes out._

                                CLAUDE.

[_Looking after him._] Transparent old egotist! How do I know whether
I’m in his Will or not? And yet I stand here and allow him to lecture
me! Me! Ha, compare his education with mine! And what real knowledge has
he of Life, of Men and Women——? [_Showing_ JUSTINA _his telegram_.] Is
that the way you spell Bernhart?

                                JUSTINA.

[_Reading the telegram._] No; h-a-r-_d_-t. What’s this?

                                CLAUDE.

[_In an undertone._] The Wartons wanted to take me to see Bernhardt
to-night. Of course, I can’t go _now_. A marked man! every eye upon me!
her brother! [_Going to the door, he meets_ FRASER.] ’Ullo, Fraser!

            [CLAUDE _goes out_; FRASER, _who is carrying his hat and
                gloves, walks across the room, eyeing_ JUSTINA.

                                JUSTINA.

[_To_ FRASER.] Do you want to speak to Theo?

                                FRASER.

Oh—just for one moment——

                              [THEOPHILA _rises_; JUSTINA _goes to her_.

                                JUSTINA.

Never mind, old girl. [_With a little laugh._] Ha! I suppose this has
queered my pitch for a season or two, but—[_kissing her_]—never
mind—[_going to the door_]—these things will happen in the best
regulated——

      [_She disappears. There is a brief silence, during which_
          THEOPHILA _closes the doors_.

                                FRASER.

Have you told your people?

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes.

                                FRASER.

How do they take it?

                               THEOPHILA.

All right—pretty well. Mother is lying down for a bit. She’ll be quite
herself again in a few days.

                                FRASER.

[_Thoughtfully._] A few days—will she? [_Partly to himself._] In a few
days?

                               THEOPHILA.

She’ll have a week at Worthing. She’s always had a week at Worthing when
we’ve been in any trouble. You’ve got your hat, Alec; do you mean to
dine out?

                                FRASER.

To-night!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Weakly._] Oh, don’t be so sharp with me! All the way home from the
Strand you’d hardly speak a word.

                                FRASER.

[_Sitting on the settee._] I was thinking over what we’d been listening
to.

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes, the things sounded much worse in Court than they did out of it,
didn’t they?

                                FRASER.

[_His head bowed._] Awful!

                               THEOPHILA.

How cruel it was of them to buoy us up by telling us the case was going
right for me!

                                FRASER.

Many believed it. Martyn was sure the judge was on our side.

                               THEOPHILA.

When one comes to think of it, her counsel managed to put such a very
queer complexion——

                                FRASER.

Awful.

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, I don’t know what I felt like at some moments! I—I felt like a woman
caught with bare shoulders in daylight.

                                FRASER.

Awful.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Looking at him curiously._] Alec, you seem to be—different to me, now
the trial’s over.

                                FRASER.

[_In a muffled voice._] Do I? I—we’re worn out.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_After some hesitation, going to the back of the settee._]

I say! I want to tell you—I am—truly sorry.

                                FRASER.

[_Raising his head._] Sorry——!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_With an effort._] And I humbly beg your pardon.

                                FRASER.

[_Rising and facing her._] For what?

                               THEOPHILA.

Why, for all the bother I’ve caused.

                                FRASER.

[_Resuming his seat._] Oh——!

    [_She stares at him for a moment, surprised and disappointed, then
          turns away._

                               THEOPHILA.

[_To herself._] Oh——! [_To him._] Alec, I’ve had the idea that the
trouble we’ve lately gone through, both of us, over this horrid
business, might help to bring us together. We haven’t got along
over-well, have we?

                                FRASER.

Not too well, I’m afraid.

                               THEOPHILA.

A good deal my fault, I dare say. Oh, I hated Locheen——!

                                FRASER.

Yes.

                               THEOPHILA.

As heartily as you hate London. I’m a town girl, a thorough little
cockney—you knew it when you married me!—and—Locheen!——

                                FRASER.

Locheen is a beautiful place.

                               THEOPHILA.

London’s a beautiful place.

                                FRASER.

No.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Hotly._] No to you, then. [_Sitting._] I beg pardon again; I didn’t
mean to be rude. I understand how you feel. You were born at Locheen.

                                FRASER.

I was.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Pointing towards the window._] I was born in Chester Terrace. I admit,
Locheen is all very well at a certain time of year. But to be stuck
there when London’s full; when nobody but a poor relation, whose railway
ticket you send with the invitation, will come and look you up! Oh, that
summer you made me spend there just after we were married!

                                FRASER.

I was very happy that summer.

                               THEOPHILA.

You were in love. And then, the pipers! those pipers!

                                FRASER.

Duncan and Hamish were supremely ridiculous to you, I remember.

                               THEOPHILA.

Not ridiculous, as you say it—great fun for a time; but four or five
months of Duncan and Hamish and their pipes! To and fro on the terrace,
for a whole hour in the morning, those pipes! To and fro, up and down,
all round the house, in the afternoon, those pipes! At dinner, from the
trout to the banana, those pipes. And then, the notion of your
persistently dining in a kilt! A Highland costume on the moors—yes; but
in the lamplight—at dinner——!

                                FRASER.

It is my dress; I don’t vary it.

                               THEOPHILA.

Think of it! A man and woman dining _tête-à-tête_, for months and
months; the woman hypped, weary; the novelty of her new clothes
gradually wearing off; she feeling she was getting lean and plain with
it all, salt-cellary about the shoulders, drawn and hideous—[_staring
before her, her eyes dilating_]—and, every blessed night, the man in a
magnificent evening kilt!

                                FRASER.

Surely that, too, was “great fun” for a time?

                               THEOPHILA.

It might have been, if you had the smallest sense of humour, Alec; but
one soon tires of laughing alone. No, there was never any fun in that
kilt. It got on my nerves from the beginning—the solemn, stupid
stateliness of it. Girls are subject to creeps and crawls; I grew at
last to positively dread joining you in the hall of an evening, to be
frightened at giving you my arm to go into dinner—the simple sound of
the rustling of my skirt against that petticoat of yours made the
chairs, everything, dance. At those moments old Duncan and his boy
Hamish seemed to be blowing into the blood-vessels of my head. And
during dinner even the table wouldn’t help me; I was weak, hysterical—I
declare to goodness I could always see through the thickness of the
board—see the two knees! [_With a backward shake of the head_] Ha!

                                FRASER.

Well, Duncan and Hamish—poor fellows—and their pipes, and the
objectionable kilt—those things need never trouble you again; at any
rate, we can decide that.

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, no, Alec, we will go up to Locheen in August——

                                FRASER.

Locheen——!

                               THEOPHILA.

Wait! you haven’t heard. [_She changes her position, sitting beside him;
he not responsive, almost shrinking from her._] Alec—Alec dear—[_leaning
her head against his shoulder_]—I intend to be good in the future, so
very good.

                                FRASER.

What do you mean—good?

                               THEOPHILA.

I intend to get on well with you, wherever we may be—I _will_ get on
well with you. I’ve been babyish and silly all my life; I’m
seven-and-twenty; I’m an old woman; I’ve sown my wild oats now.

                                FRASER.

Wild oats?

                               THEOPHILA.

Forty-four pounds to the bushel. And so, directly we’ve fought our
way—oh my, it will be a fight, too!—directly we’ve fought our way
through the Season in London, we’ll be off to Locheen——

                                FRASER.

The Season—here——!

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes.

                                FRASER.

Theophila, there will be no Season for us in London, and no Locheen even
for me, for two or three years at least. [_Rising_] We’re going abroad——

                               THEOPHILA.

Abroad——!

                                FRASER.

Directly, directly. There will be only to-morrow to settle everything,
to make all arrangements. [_Pacing up and down._] The servants at Lennox
Gardens will be discharged, the house let furnished—perhaps it would be
better to let Marlers sell the furniture, and have done with it.
[_Pausing in his walk._] I am returning to Lennox Gardens now, at once;
will you come back with me, or dine with your people and let me fetch
you later on? [_She sits, staring at him, without speaking._] Theo,
please let me know your wishes.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Quietly._] No, no—you mustn’t do this.

                                FRASER.

Why not?

                               THEOPHILA.

Why, don’t you see? We’ve _got_ to sit tight here in town; we’ve _got_
to do it, to win back my good name. [FRASER _agitatedly resumes his
walk_.] Of course, we shall be asked nowhere, but we must be seen about
together, you and I, wherever it’s possible for us to squeeze ourselves.
[_Rapidly and excitedly._] There’s the Opera; we can subscribe for a box
on the ground tier—the stalls can’t help picking you out there. And
there we must sit, laughing and talking, Alec, and _convince_ people
that we’re a happy couple and that you believe in me implicitly. And
when the Season’s done with, _then_ Locheen; we must have Locheen
crowded with the best we can lay hands on—many that wouldn’t touch me
with the tongs at this moment will be glad of a cheap week or two at
Locheen in the autumn. And we must let ’em all see that I’m a rattling
good indoor, as well as outdoor, wife, and that you’re frightfully
devoted to me, and that what _she_ charged me with—well, simply couldn’t
have been. And afterwards they’ll go back to town and chatter, and in
the end the thing will blow over, and—and——Oh, but to go abroad _now_!
[_Going to him, and slipping her arm through his._] Alec, dear old boy,
how could you dream of cutting and running _now_?

                                               [_He withdraws his arm._]

                                FRASER.

Theophila, I—I am sorry to distress you—if it does distress you, but
I—I’ve quite made up my mind. [_Passionately._] We are going abroad.

                               THEOPHILA.

I’ll not stir!

                                FRASER.

Would you let me go alone?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Recoiling._] Oh——!

                                FRASER.

[_Following her._] You see, you will have to come with me.

                               THEOPHILA.

You’d be a brute to do it, Alec! [_Stamping her foot._] Don’t you hear
me? Can’t you understand me? You’re not a fool! I tell you we’ve got to
try to convince people——

                                FRASER.

People! People shall not see me play-acting——

                               THEOPHILA.

Play-acting——!

                                FRASER.

Yes, before I go among people, to try to convince _them_, I have to try
to convince _myself_.

                               THEOPHILA.

What!

                                FRASER.

[_Sitting._] People! people!

          [_There is silence; she slowly retreats from him._

                               THEOPHILA.

You—you think there’s some—some truth in it then? [_He makes no
answer._] It’s true, you believe?

                                FRASER.

I want time—I want time——

                               THEOPHILA.

Time?

                                FRASER.

To shake it off.

                               THEOPHILA.

To shake it off?

                                FRASER.

It was awful in Court.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Partly to herself._] Awful.

                                FRASER.

As you say, her counsel twisted and turned everything about so. When he
cross-examined you to-day, and made you say ... and then the judge ...
the benefit of the doubt ... awful....

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Under her breath._] I see.

                                FRASER.

[_Rising._] Yes—that we must go away and be, quietly, together. For the
present, there’s something even more important than regaining the good
opinion of others—there is _ourselves_. Will you come back to Lennox
Gardens now, or shall I return for you by-and-bye?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Mechanically._] By-and-bye.

                                FRASER.

[_Going to the door._] Nine o’clock? or ten?

                               THEOPHILA.

Nine or ten.

                                FRASER.

Which?

                               THEOPHILA.

It doesn’t matter. [_He goes out. For a few moments she remains quite
still; then she rouses herself, and, with a blank look, wanders about,
her arms moving restlessly. Suddenly she presses her hands to her brow
and sinks into a chair, with a low half-cry, half-moan._] Oh! oh!
[_After a short burst of crying she examines her wedding-ring, removes
it from her finger, and giving a little laugh, flings it on to the
settee. Then she rises, and with an air of determination goes to the
writing-table._] Very well! very well!

            [_She sits before the writing-table and writes rapidly. At
                intervals she utters an exclamation; then sings as she
                writes. The doors are opened, and_ HORTON _enters_.

                                HORTON.

[_Collecting the tea-cups._] Beg pardon, ma’am.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Writing._] Mr. Fraser has gone out, hasn’t he?

                                HORTON.

He have, ma’am.

            [HORTON _places the tea-cups on the tea-tray, lifts up the
                tray, and is about to carry it out_.

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, Horton, what became of the bonnet and cape I came in with?

                                HORTON.

[_Looking off._] Mrs. Emptage lay them down in the next room. Here they
are, ma’am.

                               THEOPHILA.

Just give them to me. [HORTON _goes off and immediately returns with the
bonnet, cape, and gloves_.] Thanks.

            [HORTON _arranges the cape over the back of a chair, places
                the bonnet and gloves on the table, and withdraws.
                Having finished her letter and addressed an envelope,
                she rises and searches for her wedding-ring; finding
                this she slips it into the letter, and fastens the
                envelope. Then, keeping the letter in her hand, she puts
                on her bonnet and cape, standing before the mirror._ SIR
                FLETCHER _enters, looking disturbed and dejected_;
                CLAUDE _follows, downcast, silent, and morose, and walks
                about aimlessly, staring at the carpet_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Discovering_ THEOPHILA.] Oh, going out, my dear?

                               THEOPHILA.

I want a little walk—alone.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

To walk it off, eh? [_Ruffling his hair._] I find I can’t walk it off;
I’ve been into the Euston Road; I don’t think I can be well.
Fortunately, I have a box of most remarkable pills at my chambers. They
are prepared by Gilliburton of 88 Piccadilly. Don’t forget the
number—eighty-eight. Two eights. That’s my system of artificial memory.
Eighty-eight—two eights.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Going to him, and kissing him, leaning across the settee._] Good-bye,
uncle.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

We shall meet again by-and-bye, dear. I shall dine here quietly, after
all.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Going to_ CLAUDE, _kissing him_.] Good-bye.

                                CLAUDE.

Oh, you’ll see me at dinner too.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Handing him the letter._] Give that to ’Tina, will you? Claude—take
care of mother.

                                CLAUDE.

[_Mildly surprised._] Take care of mother!

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes, be a good boy, and look after her. Ta, ta!

                                                         _She goes out._

                                CLAUDE.

Boy! _my_ boyhood is long past. [_Pinching the envelope._] There’s a
coin in this—money.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Sitting on the settee, fatigued._] Eh? Don’t forget,
Claude—Gilliburton. Think of Gilly, corruption of Gilbert. Gilbert, a
well-known sculptor—or writer; I forget which. Burton, man I jobbed two
horses from—bays—Burton. There you have Gilly and Burton—Gilliburton. My
own system of mnemonics. _Memoria technica._

                                CLAUDE.

It’s not a coin; it’s a ring.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Irritably._] What are you talking about, my boy? You always appear to
be masticating some commonplace or other.

                                                      [HORTON _appears_.

                                HORTON.

Beg pardon, Sir Fletcher. Mrs. Cloys wants to wish you good-day, Sir
Fletcher. I wasn’t aware where you was, Sir Fletcher.

                                CLAUDE.

[_Giving the letter to_ HORTON.] Miss Justina.

                                                    [HORTON _withdraws_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Rising._] I’d quite forgotten your aunt. Do, please, look unconcerned,
Claude. Let her see that men can display courage and decision at such
moments.

            [_Humming an air, he unbuttons his coat and throws it back,
                sticking his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets. Some
                newspapers fall from the breast of his coat; he is
                hastily picking them up when_ MRS. CLOYS _enters_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Meekly._] You are going, Harriet?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Fletcher, you’ve been out to buy evening papers!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Putting them into his tail pockets._] The malicious utterances of the
judge are not in these editions.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I thought you never——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

It is somebody’s duty to overlook the reports of this case. I see that
one vile placard announces, “Lively cross-examination of Mrs. Fraser.”

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Lively!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Producing a newspaper._] Here’s a rag which dares to give
illustrations—“Sketches in Court.”

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Have you contrived to get among them?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Opening the paper._] I happen to _be_ among them. But the fool of an
artist has completely missed my salient points——

JUSTINA _runs in with_ THEOPHILA’S _letter, opened, and the
                              wedding-ring_.

                                JUSTINA.

Aunt! oh, I say! What do you think? Theo’s gone!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

She’s gone out for a walk. [_To_ MRS. CLOYS.] Here it is. That’s from an
old photograph; I don’t wear that sort of collar _now_.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Advancing between_ MRS. CLOYS _and_ SIR FLETCHER.] What are you
talking about? Look here! [_Reading._] “’Tina, hand enclosed to my
husband when he comes back for me to-night after dinner.” [_Showing the
ring._] It’s her wedding-ring. [_Reading._] “He believes that what that
creature charged me with is true, and wants to take me away and hide me.
All is up with me. Oh, those pipers at Locheen are playing into my brain
again. Good-bye all.—THEO. P.S.—Jack Allingham would not treat a woman
so like dirt.”

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Agitatedly._] I can’t hear you. [_Taking the letter from_ JUSTINA.]
Let me see it.

                                JUSTINA.

What shall we do? We must do something. Uncle!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Confused._] We must certainly do something, at once. Er—it _is_ her
wedding-ring, I suppose?

                                JUSTINA.

[_Impatiently._] Oh——! Aunt!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Encountering_ CLAUDE.] Don’t stand there, Claude, looking precisely
like an owl!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Returning the letter to_ JUSTINA.] Jump into a cab; you must take that
to Mr. Fraser.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Hurrying to the door._] All right. [_Pausing._] What shall I do if I
don’t find him at home?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

If, if, if! Why throw obstacles?

                                JUSTINA.

I’m not throwing them. I merely say, what if he’s out, or hasn’t gone
back to Lennox Gardens at all?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

This is a moment for action!

                                CLAUDE.

[_Sitting at the writing-table._] Ha, ha! what a hideous mockery the
whole world is! Life——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Let us have none of your sickening optimism, sir! and in the presence of
your aunt and sister.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Holding out her hand for the letter._] Show it to me again. [JUSTINA
_brings the letter to_ MRS. CLOYS, _who begins reading_.] “Hand enclosed
to my husband when he comes back for me to-night after dinner.”

                                JUSTINA.

Ten or eleven o’clock. Where, on earth, will she be by ten or eleven
o’clock?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Going to the door._] I’ll tell her mother——!

                                JUSTINA.

[_Intercepting him._] For goodness’ sake, not yet. Mother’s no use.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Reading._] “P.S.—Jack Allingham would not treat a woman so like dirt.”
Jack Allingham——[_Suddenly_] Justina! [JUSTINA _again comes to her_.]
There’s only one very great danger.

                                JUSTINA.

Why, you don’t think Theo would—take poison—or——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

No, I mean a worse danger than that. [_Pointing to a sentence in the
letter._] That one.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Reading._] “Jack Allingham would not treat a woman——” [_Staring at_
MRS. CLOYS.] Oh——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

This Mr. Allingham? Exceedingly kind and gentle to women—is that the
class of man he belongs to?

                                JUSTINA.

Y—yes.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Suppose—suppose this wretched girl lets her mind dwell too much just now
on Mr. Allingham’s—kindness!

                                JUSTINA.

Aunt!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Again returning the letter to_ JUSTINA—_with decision_.] Where does he
live? Where is he likely to be found?

                                JUSTINA.

It’s in the Red Book. [_Pointing to the writing-table._] Claude——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Bring me the Red Book! [CLAUDE _finds the Red Book; he and_ SIR FLETCHER
PORTWOOD _search for the address_.] Allingham—A—A—A—[_finding the
letter_] A!

                                CLAUDE.

You’re looking at “Ashley Gardens”——

            [MRS. CLOYS _and_ JUSTINA _join_ SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD _and_
                CLAUDE _impatiently_.

                                JUSTINA.

I know it’s there. He went into lodgings when he parted from her. And he
has a little cottage in Surrey——

                                CLAUDE.

[_Finding the name._] “Allingham——!”

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Taking the book from him._] “Allingham, John Crawshaw, Esq., 11
Bentham Street, W., and Turf and Garrick Clubs.—The Lichens, Epsom,
Surrey.”

            [MRS. CLOYS _takes the book from_ SIR FLETCHER. _She tears
                out the page and throws the book upon the settee._

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Folding the extracted page, and slipping it into her glove._]
Fletcher, Claude, you had better come with me. I may want you both.
Claude, whistle a four-wheeled cab. You hear me!

                                                     [CLAUDE _goes out_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

But, Harriet, do you seriously, soberly, entertain the notion?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Get your hat! [SIR FLETCHER _goes out_. MRS. CLOYS _turns to_ JUSTINA.]
Telegraph to the Bishop of St. Olpherts, The Palace, St. Olpherts:
“Detained here to-night. Return, D.V., forenoon to-morrow. Get to bed
early. Affectionate messages.—H.”

            [_The sound of a cab-whistle, twice or thrice repeated, is
                heard._

                                JUSTINA.

“Detained here to-night. Return forenoon to-morrow——”

                              MRS. CLOYS.

“D.V.”

                                JUSTINA.

“D.V. Go to bed early——”

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Say, “Be in bed by eleven.”

                                JUSTINA.

Yes. “Love——”

                              MRS. CLOYS.

No, no—“Affectionate messages.”

                                JUSTINA.

“Affectionate messages.—H.”

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Thank you.

                                JUSTINA.

Aunt! When I see Alec Fraser, am I to say anything—about what you are
doing?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

For mercy’s sake, don’t put any idea into his head that isn’t there
already! Not a word to a soul——

             [CLAUDE _appears in the doorway, hat in hand_.

                                CLAUDE.

Cab, aunt.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I’m coming. [CLAUDE _withdraws_.] Not a word, except that we’ve gone
out, blindly, to try and find her.

                                JUSTINA.

Wait! you must tell me; do you suspect that Theophila is—guilty?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Looking at her steadily._] Woman, what do _you_ suspect?

                                JUSTINA.

[_Falteringly._] Then I can’t understand you.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Why not, pray?

                                JUSTINA.

I’ve always taken you for one of those who pick up their skirts and
stalk away as far as possible from this kind of thing.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Ah, you don’t—[_moved_]—oh, my dear!

                                JUSTINA.

What?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

You don’t know what was really at the bottom of all my quarrels with
your mother. I’ve no children. I’d have given the world if Theo had been
mine.

                                JUSTINA.

[_A little bitterly._] Theo! Theo!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Taking her by the shoulder, almost shaking her._] You, too! [_Kissing
her._] Bless you, you’d have been better than nothing!

      [_She goes out._ JUSTINA _stands, her lips parted, staring into
          space_.

                         END OF THE FIRST ACT.



                             THE SECOND ACT


_The Scene represents a room in_ MR. ALLINGHAM’S _cottage at Epsom. On
    the left-hand side is a fireplace, with a fire burning; above this
    is a door giving on to the hall; while below it is a similar door,
    over which hangs a_ portière, _drawn aside, admitting to the
    dining-room. Facing us is a large open French window; and beyond is
    a view of a pretty garden with trees, laurels, etc. On the right,
    also facing us, but nearer, are a few balustered steps leading to an
    arched opening which is about three feet from the ground. The
    opening, across which runs a rod supporting a_ portière, _admits to
    a small room, which, although containing no books that are visible,
    is called the library. All the furniture and accessories are
    characteristic of a well-to-do bachelor’s residence. It is
    twilight._

DENZIL SHAFTO _and_ PETER ELPHICK, _two well-groomed, smart-looking men
    of about five-and-thirty, dressed for dinner, are shown in by_
    QUAIFE, _a manservant_. QUAIFE _is carrying a banjo in a case_.


                                SHAFTO.

What time did Mr. Allingham get down?

                                QUAIFE.

[_Placing the banjo on the table._] Half an hour ago, sir; I’m now
dressing him. [_To_ ELPHICK.] Glad you brought the banjo, Mr. Elphick.

                                ELPHICK.

[_A heavy-looking man with staring eyes, taking the banjo from its case
with great care._] Nearly made me lose the train, Quaife, puzzlin’
whether to bring it or not.

                                QUAIFE.

[_Laying the case aside._] Do Mr. Allingham a load of good, sir—a little
melody after dinner.

                                SHAFTO.

Mr. Allingham rather fatigued?

                                QUAIFE.

Never saw him so played out, sir. [_Closing the windows._] Oh, Mr.
Allingham’s compliments, Mr. Shafto, and he says he forgot to inquire
whether you and Mr. Elphick would sleep at The Lichens to-night.

                                SHAFTO.

Not to-night, thanks. I’ve arranged to take Mr. Elphick on to my
father’s place at Leatherhead.

                                ELPHICK.

We shan’t keep you up here till the last train, Quaife, or anything
like. Dessay Mr. Allingham’ll be glad to turn in early.

                                QUAIFE.

Not much good _him_ turning in, Mr. Elphick.

                                SHAFTO.

Queer nights lately, of sorts?

                                QUAIFE.

Shockin’, Mr. Shafto.

                                                     [QUAIFE _goes out_.

                                SHAFTO.

[_Looking round._] Here we are again, Peter.

                                ELPHICK.

’Pears so.

                                SHAFTO.

[_Wandering about._] This is my first visit to this box since Jack came
back here after his split with his wife.

                                ELPHICK.

And mine; thought he’d sold it.

                                SHAFTO.

He merely let it, when he married—let it to a stockbroker. Peter, Jack
must have had some sort of a premonition——

                                ELPHICK.

Some sort of what?

                                SHAFTO.

Premonition——

                                ELPHICK.

Stoopid ass of a word.

                                SHAFTO.

Some sort of a premonition of his speedy return to single life.
[_Looking out of the window._] Same spotless white gate, I rejoice to
see; same elms; same laurels—[_Ascending the steps._] The library——!
[_Entering the room._] My heart sinks within me. [_From within._] No, by
Jove! Peter! Peter!

            [ELPHICK _goes and looks into the room through the
                balustrade_.

                                ELPHICK.

What’s wrong?

                                SHAFTO.

[_From within._] Nothing. I breathe again. All the essential features of
Jack’s library are undisturbed. [_Coming down the steps._] A luxurious
sofa, Ruff’s Turf Guide, and the Stud Book.

                                ELPHICK.

[_Drearily._] Blessed if there’s anything to make fun of in that.

                                SHAFTO.

[_At a table, examining bottles._] Delightful! Same soda water, same——

                                ELPHICK.

[_Sitting, nursing his banjo_.] No, hang it!

                                SHAFTO.

[_Pouring out a glass of Vermouth._] Vermouth. Peter, I was totting up
things this morning, gently and quietly, in my bath.

                                ELPHICK.

[_Blowing a speck of dust from his banjo._] Not really?

                                SHAFTO.

[_Seriously._] Yes. You weren’t at Jack’s weddin’?

                                ELPHICK.

No, I was up at Mahabaleshwar that spring with Sandington. You stood
best man, didn’t you?

                                SHAFTO.

I did. And look here—Jack Allingham is the seventh I’ve been best man to
in nine years.

                                ELPHICK.

[_Abstractedly._] Good figgers.

                                SHAFTO.

[_Frowning._] And they’ve all managed to get into the Divorce Court
since, one way or another. [_After a pause._] How’s that?

                                ELPHICK.

Good figgers.

JOHN ALLINGHAM _enters, a simple, boyish man, of about thirty, looking
    pale and worn. He is dressed for dinner._

                                 JOHN.

[_Shaking hands with_ SHAFTO.] Halloa, Denzil! [_To_ ELPHICK, _shaking
hands with him_.] Well, Peter! It’s awfully good of you fellows
proposing to see me through this evening.

                                ELPHICK.

Not in the least.

                                SHAFTO.

Speak for yourself, Peter.

                                 JOHN.

I couldn’t have endured my own company to-night, I can tell you. Sorry
you can’t sleep here, though.

                                SHAFTO.

My governor hasn’t seen Peter since he’s been home this leave. It’s an
old promise——

                                 JOHN.

I understand. [_Taking the banjo from_ ELPHICK.] And you’ve actually
brought the banjo.

                                ELPHICK.

Well, when a man’s a bit low, sometimes a little music——

                                 JOHN.

Thanks. [_To both of them._] Warm, yesterday and to-day, in that Law
Court, wasn’t it?

                                ELPHICK.

Agra in June.

                                 JOHN.

Warm in every sense of the word, eh?

                                SHAFTO.

Hell.

                                 JOHN.

[_With his hand to his brow._] Gurrrh!

                                SHAFTO.

[_Sharply._] Now, then?

                                ELPHICK.

It’s done with now.

                                 JOHN.

[_Recovering himself._] True; that cursed nightmare of an approaching
trial isn’t waiting for me upstairs, in that bedroom of mine, any
longer. And to-morrow morning I shall wake with a start to find—what’ll
the feeling be like!—that I’ve no lawyers to interview. Besides, I
haven’t much to complain of. You two fellows have kept close at my elbow
throughout the whole business—hardly ever left me. Well, that’s
friendship—[_shaking hands abruptly, first with_ ELPHICK, _then with_
SHAFTO]—God bless yer!

            [_He walks away and sits on the settee, looking into the
                fire._ ELPHICK _and_ SHAFTO _stand together, eyeing him
                uneasily_.

                                SHAFTO.

[_In a whisper, to_ ELPHICK.] Peter, our bags are here. What d’ye say to
not leaving him to-night, after all?

                                ELPHICK.

[_In a whisper._] Yes, I don’t suppose your guv’nor wants to see me so
desperate bad as all that comes to.

                                SHAFTO.

No, I don’t suppose he does—I mean, we can go over in the morning.

                                 JOHN.

[_Looking up._] Eh?

                                SHAFTO.

Nothing.

                                 JOHN.

[_Passing his fingers over the strings of the banjo._] You don’t
remember, Denzil—nor you, Peter, I suppose; _she_ used to thrum on this
thing—well, hardly this thing—the guitar—much the same. Oh, yes, she
used to play it very nicely.

                                SHAFTO.

[_Puzzled._] Who? Mrs. Fraser?

                                 JOHN.

Mrs. Fraser! No! [_Handling the banjo roughly._] My wife.

                                ELPHICK.

[_Hurrying across to John, taking the banjo from him._] Excuse me, old
feller.

                                 JOHN.

[_Starting up._] I was close to her to-day; we stared each other right
in the eyes. We didn’t mean to—we simply did it. We met in the corridor
during lunch-time; I was getting out of the way of old Portwood; I
turned sharply—and there we were, my wife and I, face to face. It might
have been for ten seconds—it was like an hour.

                                ELPHICK.

Did she look angry?

                                 JOHN.

No. Downright ill and distressed. [_To both of them._] You’ve seen her
in Court?

                                SHAFTO.

Yes.

                                ELPHICK.

Yes.

                                 JOHN.

Yesterday?

                                SHAFTO.

We said “How d’ye do” to her yesterday.

                                ELPHICK.

We told you.

                                 JOHN.

Oh, yes, To-day?

                                SHAFTO.

Not to speak to.

                                ELPHICK.

She nodded to us this morning from the—what do they call it?—not the
sink——

                                SHAFTO.

Well.

                                ELPHICK.

Well of the Court.

                                 JOHN.

Denzil.

                                SHAFTO.

’Ullo?

                                 JOHN.

She was very pretty when I married her, wasn’t she?

                                SHAFTO.

Undoubtedly.

            [JOHN _sits, leaning his head upon his hands_. SHAFTO _walks
                away, quietly, to the window_. ELPHICK _sits on the
                settee, and, turning his face to the fire, strikes up a
                tune on his banjo_.

                                 JOHN.

That’s right! tune up, Peter! If I had a savage breast this evening you
might soothe it with your Tinka-tinka-tinka-tinka-tink, as Kipling says.
But I haven’t—isn’t that odd? Boys, do you know, all the bitterness I’ve
been feeling towards her seems to have died out of me; and she’s been
dragging me pretty thoroughly through the mud lately. Isn’t that odd?

                                SHAFTO.

[_Leaving the window, and coming to the back of settee._] Well, she’s
lost the day, you see.

                                ELPHICK.

[_Ceasing playing._] She’s beaten; got nothin’ for her pains.

                                 JOHN.

I suppose that’s it. Ah, but her face! I hadn’t seen it for months. And
the silence between us was so strange.

                                SHAFTO.

Yes, there wasn’t much of _that_, old chap, between you two when you
were together.

                                 JOHN.

No; _didn’t_ we quarrel! And yet, this morning, during our little
deadly-silent encounter, she seemed to say more to me than she’d ever
said in her life before. By Jove, she _has_ suffered—[_starting up_]—oh,
damn it!

            [_He paces to and fro_; ELPHICK _hurriedly resumes his
                playing_.

                                SHAFTO.

[_Seating himself on the back of the settee, speaking with a drawl._]
Ah, I shouldn’t worry myself too much, if I were you, about that. Other
people have suffered.

                                 JOHN.

[_Pausing in his walk._] Mrs. Fraser——?

                                SHAFTO.

[_Indifferently._] Oh, she amongst ’em.

                                 JOHN.

[_In a low voice._] Poor little Theo Fraser! I’m forgetting her.

                                SHAFTO.

Forget all round, my dear Jack—that’s the ticket; for the future,
cultivate a single-minded devotion to yourself——

                                 JOHN.

And the horses! You’re right, Denzil. By the bye, I had a line from
O’Halligan yesterday—where is it? [_Going to a writing-table and
rummaging among the litter there._] He fancies Kildaowen very strongly.
The mare’s feeding well; that’s always been their difficulty, you know——

                                SHAFTO.

[_Quietly, looking towards the window._] Jack.

                                 JOHN.

Eh?

                                SHAFTO.

Who’s that woman out there?

                                              [ELPHICK _ceases playing_.

                                 JOHN.

Where?

                                SHAFTO.

In your garden.

            [JOHN _looks towards the window_; ELPHICK _rises and makes
                one of the group_.

                                 JOHN.

[_After a pause._] I don’t see anybody.

                                SHAFTO.

She’s behind the laurels now.

                                 JOHN.

[_About to go to the window._] One of the maids——

                                SHAFTO.

[_Laying his hand on_ JOHN’S _arm_.] Wait a bit. [_Goes cautiously to
the window, peeps out, and comes away._] I say, old chap.

                                 JOHN.

What’s the matter?

                                SHAFTO.

I thought so. It’s your wife. [_There is a moment’s pause, then an
excited movement from_ JOHN.] Stop! [_A pause._] What are you going to
do?

                                 JOHN.

[_Dazed._] Do!... do!...

                                SHAFTO.

Not anything stoopid, Jack?

                                 JOHN.

[_Excitedly._] Clear out for a minute, you two fellows.

            [SHAFTO _goes up the steps and into the library, drawing
                the_ portière _across the door as he disappears_.

                                 JOHN.

Get out, Peter!

                                ELPHICK.

[_Going up the steps and pausing at the door._] Jack.

                                 JOHN.

What is it?

                                ELPHICK.

[_With an empty expression of face and voice._] Don’t do anything weak.

                                 JOHN.

Get out! [ELPHICK _disappears_. JOHN _hurriedly glances round the room
and arranges a displaced chair. Then he discovers that_ ELPHICK _has
left the banjo upon the settee, and he seizes it impatiently_.] Oh——
[_Going to the door of the library and drawing aside the_ portière.]
Here! Peter! catch! [_He throws the banjo into the room, and readjusts
the_ portière. _The instrument is heard to fall with a crash to the
floor. He looks into the library, hastily._] I beg your pardon, old
fellow. [_He descends the steps and goes to the window and opens it,
speaking in a low voice._] Is any one there? [_A pause._] Someone’s
there.

                                 OLIVE.

[_From a little distance._] Yes.

                                 JOHN.

Who is it?

                                 OLIVE.

Olive.

                                 JOHN.

[_Sternly._] Well?

                                 OLIVE.

Are you by yourself?

                                 JOHN.

Yes. [_After a pause._] Come in.

_He draws back to allow her to pass him. After a short delay she enters,
    and, without looking at him, comes right into the room. He closes
    the window, but remains at that end of the room._ OLIVE ALLINGHAM
    _is a fashionably and richly dressed woman of a little over thirty
    years of age—pale, worn red-eyed, but still handsome. In manner she
    is alternately beseeching and gentle, angry and imperious. The
    twilight now gradually deepens into dusk._

                                 OLIVE.

You have some men here?

                                 JOHN.

Shafto and Peter Elphick. I asked them to clear out for a moment.

                                 OLIVE.

What will they think?

                                 JOHN.

[_With a shrug of the shoulder._] They can scarcely know what to think.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Walking to the mantelpiece._] What do you think yourself, of my
humbling myself in this fashion? [_Turning to him._] What do you——? [_As
she has crossed to the left of the room, he, still at a distance, has
moved over to the right. Speaking with a catch in her breath._] Oh,
don’t do that! I’m not poisonous, John. [_He approaches stiffly and
silently. She advances towards him plaintively._] John, I am quite worn
out—[_putting her hand to her bosom_]—burnt out here. This desperate
lawsuit has been my last bolt. I’m finished—spent. I know my regrets
won’t avail us much at this time of day; the future has a most
melancholy look-out for both of us; but I want to tell you I am truly
conscious, at last, of the evil my jealousy has wrought. [_Sitting
weakly._] Yes, John, I—I am quite reasonable at last.

                                                       [QUAIFE _enters_.

                                QUAIFE.

Dinner is s——

                                     [_He breaks off, staring at_ OLIVE.

                                 OLIVE.

Good evening, Quaife.

                                QUAIFE.

[_Aghast._] Good evening, ma’am.

                                 JOHN.

[_To_ QUAIFE.] Tell Mrs. Quaife to delay dinner for—for——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Rising and turning away—in an altered tone._] Oh, five minutes—ten at
the outside.

                                 JOHN.

For a quarter of an hour. [_Sharply._] The lamps.

                                  [QUAIFE _withdraws, as if in a dream_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Bitterly._] I much regret keeping you and your friends from your
dinner. It’s an exceptionably elaborate entertainment to-night, I
suppose?

                                 JOHN.

No, no; it’s of no consequence——

                                 OLIVE.

Dinner! dinner! if every woman in the world was weeping her heart out,
men would be found dining—feeding—feasting! What was I saying when
Quaife blundered in? Where was I?

                                 JOHN.

[_Looking at her steadily._] Quite reasonable at last.

                                 OLIVE.

[_After a brief pause, speaking gently again._] Oh, John——! [_Advancing
a few steps._] It was inconsiderate of me to break out in that way. But
I don’t mean half the brutal things I say; I never did.

                                 JOHN.

You couldn’t have done so.

                                 OLIVE.

Any jealous woman will tell you what a slave she is to her paroxysms.
Oh, they are dreadful, while they last! [_Agitatedly._] The flame behind
one’s eyes, the buzzing in the ears, the dry tongue, the thumping of the
heart——! [_Calming herself, breathlessly._] Thank God, I’m cured!

                                 JOHN.

You’ve said something like this to me on other occasions.

                                 OLIVE.

Never, under such extraordinary circumstances. [_Going to him._] The
fact that I can drag myself to you, in this spirit, after my defeat, for
the sake of a few words with you, must show you what an altered woman I
am. [_Sitting._] John, I felt I couldn’t go back to that lonely flat of
mine to-night without first proving to you how thorough my remorse is.
[_Looking round._] That dismal flat! [_In an altered tone._] You appear
to be extremely comfortable here.

                                 JOHN.

Oh, it’s a little place—very cramped——

                                 OLIVE.

This is where you gave me and papa tea once, when we were engaged to be
married.

                                 JOHN.

I remember.

                                 OLIVE.

And now——[_Excitedly._] Ha, I suppose I’m a fool not to indulge myself
just as luxuriously, just as——! [_She meets his eye and breaks off
shamefacedly. Faltering, with her hand to her brow._] Where was I—again?

                                 JOHN.

You were engaged in demonstrating how thorough your remorse is.

                                 OLIVE.

Oh, yes. [_Weakly._] After the case ended this afternoon I walked about
the streets quite light-headed, till I summoned up resolution to try to
find you. [_With an effort._] John, that—that lady——

                                 JOHN.

What lady?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Agitatedly._] Mrs. Fraser of Locheen.

                                 JOHN.

Yes?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Repressing her agitation._] Of course, the judge fully justified my
action by the very severe way he spoke of her.

                                 JOHN.

His remarks were infamous! I could have taken him by the throat and
thrown him into the body of the Court. No right-thinking person would
have blamed me for doing so.

                                 OLIVE.

However, he gave her the benefit of the doubt——

                                 JOHN.

[_Scornfully._] The benefit of the doubt!

                                 OLIVE.

And paid me the compliment of believing that I would, as one woman to
another, prefer such a course being adopted.

                                 JOHN.

[_Pacing to and fro._] Poor, wretched little Mrs. Fraser!

                                 OLIVE.

Wait! Even _I_ see the injustice of it.

                                 JOHN.

[_Eagerly._] You do?

                                 OLIVE.

Haven’t I told you I am reasonable at last? For whether she be innocent
or guilty is no longer the question.

                                 JOHN.

I’m glad that is no longer the question!

                                 OLIVE.

The point is, this woman is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
[_Rising and walking to and fro._] But how can she ever receive the
benefit of the doubt if those words, which imply the doubt, are always
to hang over her?

                                 JOHN.

That’s it!

                                 OLIVE.

And they will hang over her—for ever.

                                 JOHN.

For ever.

                                 OLIVE.

For ever. [_Turning to him._] Unless I cancel them—remove them.

                                 JOHN.

You!

                                 OLIVE.

I could, John—by my attitude towards her in public—in society.

                                 JOHN.

[_Staring at her._] Why, certainly you could.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Leaning over a chair, and speaking almost into his ear._] Would you
like me to?

                                 JOHN.

Like you to!

                                 OLIVE.

I want to atone to you, if I can, in some measure, for the suffering
I’ve caused you. Would you like me to right Mrs. Fraser?

                                 JOHN.

Oh, Olive!——

                                 OLIVE.

John!

                                 JOHN.

[_With emotion._] If you were always so generous—so good!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Drawing back, suddenly._] Ah!

                                 JOHN.

[_After a brief pause._] I’ve offended you by saying that.

                                 OLIVE.

[_In a hard voice._] You are evidently very keen concerning her.

                                 JOHN.

[_Blankly._] Keen!

                                 OLIVE.

She’s a vulgar, common little thing, I’m afraid.

                                 JOHN.

That’s not true.

                                 OLIVE.

Her people are common—excessively bad tone.

                                 JOHN.

Her people are now her husband’s people. She is married to a gentleman.

                                 OLIVE.

Mr. Fraser has been away from her as much as possible—[_her eyes
flashing_]—_you_ know that better than anybody.

                                 JOHN.

[_Indignantly._] Why do you come here—after all our struggles and
failures, after the injury you’ve endeavoured to do me! Why do you
torture me, and insult me, by trying to repeat the old heart-breaking
scenes?

            [_He throws himself into a chair, distractedly. There is a
                pause; then she slowly goes to a chair, drags it towards
                him, and sits beside him._

                                 OLIVE.

[_Panting._] Torture _you_? Oh! oh, I suffer too! [_Rocking herself to
and fro._] Well, there can be no punishment for jealous women in another
world; we are damned in this.

                                 JOHN.

[_In a muffled voice, with his head on his hands._] And the fire has
burnt out in you, you tell me!

                                 OLIVE.

I suppose the cinders still retain a little heat, dear.

                                 JOHN.

[_Brokenly._] Dear!... dear!...

                                 OLIVE.

Yes. I know my actions are contradictory, but—[_her hand stealing
towards his_]—in my heart, John—always—in my heart—— [_The banjo
suddenly strikes up an air._ JOHN _and_ OLIVE _raise their heads and
stare at each other; then_ OLIVE _slowly backs her chair to its original
position. Speaking in a whisper._] What’s that?

                                 JOHN.

Peter.

                                 OLIVE.

Peter——!

                                 JOHN.

He brought his banjo with him.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Aghast._] Why——!... Oh!

                                 JOHN.

[_Blankly._] Eh?

                                 OLIVE.

If _we_ hear the banjo with such distinctness——

            [_They rise. He hurriedly ascends the steps and disappears
                through the_ portière. _The music of the banjo stops
                abruptly, and the sound of voices comes from the
                library._ QUAIFE _enters, carrying a lamp which he
                deposits on the table; then, always watching_ OLIVE, _he
                lights the standard-lamp and draws the window-curtains_.

                                SHAFTO.

My dear fellow——!

                                ELPHICK.

My dear Jack——!

                                 JOHN.

Sssh!

                                SHAFTO.

You might have remembered——

                                 JOHN.

Sssh! sssh! [_The voices in the library are hushed._

                                 OLIVE.

[_Commanding herself, and crossing to the fireplace._] And how are you,
Quaife?

                                QUAIFE.

Very well indeed, I thank you, ma’am.

                                 OLIVE.

And your wife?

                                QUAIFE.

Exceedingly healthy, ma’am, for a stout person.

                                 OLIVE.

I hope you look after Mr. Allingham thoroughly, all of you.

                                QUAIFE.

[_Dropping his voice, impressively._] We regard him as a trust, ma’am,
if I may make use of the expression.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Sharply._] A what?

                                QUAIFE.

A solemn trust, ma’am.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Turning away._] Stuff and nonsense!

                                QUAIFE.

I beg pardon, ma’am, if I have gone too far.

                                                        [JOHN _returns_.

                                 JOHN.

[_Coming down the steps, a little flustered._] Quaife.

                                QUAIFE.

Sir?

                                 JOHN.

Er—Mr. Shafto and Mr. Elphick don’t dine.

                                QUAIFE.

Not dine, sir!

                                 JOHN.

They have to go on to Leatherhead at once. Is the boy ready to carry
their bags to the station?

                                QUAIFE.

The boy can be worried till he’s ready, sir.

                                 JOHN.

All right.

            [QUAIFE _withdraws_. JOHN _and_ OLIVE _now speak in
                whispers_.

                                 OLIVE.

I don’t wish this.

                                 JOHN.

They offered to go; they’d rather go.

                                 OLIVE.

Have they heard much?

                                 JOHN.

Er—next to nothing; a syllable or two when we were sitting there. That’s
why Peter struck up a tune. [_Laughing a little wildly._] Ha, ha, ha!

                                 OLIVE.

[_In the same way._] Ha, ha, ha! [_Glancing towards the door._] Shall I
slip into the dining-room while they pass out?

                                 JOHN.

Please don’t. They’re old friends of both of us; they understand
perfectly——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Returning to the fireplace._] I’ll face it out, if you wish it.

                                 JOHN.

[_Calling._] Denzil—Peter——

            [SHAFTO _and_ ELPHICK _sedately emerge from the library, and
                descend the steps_. SHAFTO _bows to_ OLIVE.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Advancing, shaking hands with him across the table, graciously._] Oh,
Mr. Shafto, I am so sorry to upset everybody in this way——

                                SHAFTO.

Not at all. I—ah—we—er—my father—at Leatherhead——

            [ELPHICK, _encumbered with his banjo and the banjo-case,
                joins_ SHAFTO. JOHN _goes to the door_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Shaking hands with_ ELPHICK _across the table_.] Why should you lose
your dinner? I have really finished all my—my business with my—with—Mr.
Allingham.

                                ELPHICK.

[_With an effort, earnestly._] No, you haven’t, Mrs. Allingham. Take it
up, when we’ve gone, where you broke off. [_Wringing her hand._] Do
everything you’ve offered to do; try and square things——

            [JOHN _comes to him and draws him away towards the door_.

                                 JOHN.

[_To_ OLIVE.] Excuse me; one moment——

            [_The three men go out, leaving_ OLIVE _staring before her_.
                JOHN, SHAFTO, _and_ ELPHICK _are heard talking together
                in the hall_.

                                 JOHN.

[_Outside._] My dear Denzil! my dear Peter——!

                                SHAFTO.

[_Outside._] My good fellow, we are not, at present, in the least
hungry.

            [OLIVE _runs up the steps and disappears in the library_.

                                 JOHN.

[_Outside._] No conveyance of any kind to get you to the station——!

                                ELPHICK.

[_Outside._] Much prefer walking, I assure you.

                                SHAFTO.

[_Outside._] Good-bye.

                                ELPHICK.

[_Outside._] Enjoyed seeing the cottage again enormously.

            [_The sound of the voices dies away_; _a clock in the
                library strikes nine_; JOHN _returns_.

                                 JOHN.

[_Looking round._] Olive—Olive——

                                                       [_She reappears._

                                 OLIVE.

You didn’t tell me the truth. You can hear the slightest sound in there.

                                 JOHN.

I beg your pardon. Those men went clean out of my head. I was an ass.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Descending the steps._] And that idiot offers me his advice! Take it
up where you broke off!

                                 JOHN.

At least, it’s good advice.

                                 OLIVE.

Where _did_ we break off?

                                 JOHN.

At Mrs. Fraser——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Walking up the stage, beating her hands together._] Mrs. Fraser! the
eternal Mrs. Fraser! Oh!... oh!... [_Throwing herself into the chair
facing the window._] I shall be quite calm in a moment. [_Faintly._]
Those men upset me.

                                 JOHN.

[_Going to her, solicitously._] To-day has been as exhausting for you as
for the rest of us. Of course, there’s a dinner prepared here——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Quickly, half-frightened._] Oh, no, dear; I couldn’t sit down to table
with you; I’m not entitled to do that. Fetch me a glass of wine and a
biscuit—[_appealingly_]—don’t let a servant bring it, John. [_He goes to
the dining-room door, she rises, and calls him._] John!—[_her head
drooping_]—do you think we shall ever sit at the same table again, you
and I?

                                 JOHN.

[_After a pause, sitting, looking away from her._] Oh, Olive, Olive!
remember——!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Fidgeting with the cigarette-box._] Not for many years, of
course—three or four years, at least. Time makes the oddest things
possible.

                                 JOHN.

[_Thoughtfully._] I suppose so.

                                 OLIVE.

It would appear supremely ridiculous to the world, you’re afraid?

                                 JOHN.

Pish! the world don’t matter a damn.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Softly._] Ah, that’s delicious!

                                 JOHN.

What is——?

                                 OLIVE.

I haven’t heard a man swear since I turned you out of Pont Street.
[_Dreamily, almost inaudibly, as she plays with a cigarette._] Damn!
[_He looks round at her; she is lost in thought; suddenly she crushes
the cigarette, and flings it from her fiercely._] Ah! Theo Fraser
smokes!

                                 JOHN.

[_Starting up in a rage._] Hah! hah!

                                             [_He goes out of the room._

                                 OLIVE.

[_Following him a few steps, penitently._] Oh, John!—— [_There is a
knock at the upper door._] Yes?

            [QUAIFE _enters, with some cards on a salver_.]

                                QUAIFE.

[_Looking round._] I beg pardon, ma’am; a lady and two gentlemen would
like to see Mr. Allingham, if it’s not disturbing him.

            [_She goes to the table and examines the cards._

                                 OLIVE.

[_In a hard voice._] Are these people friends of Mr. Allingham’s? Have
they ever called on him before?

                                QUAIFE.

No, ma’am. [_Hesitatingly._] I fancy the eldest of the two gentlemen
came once, if not twice, to Pont Street in—in—in your time, ma’am.

                                 OLIVE.

I’ll give those to Mr. Allingham. [_He lays the cards out on the
table._] You’ll be rung for. [_He goes towards the door._] You haven’t
mentioned that I am here?

                                QUAIFE.

Oh, no, ma’am. I simply said Mr. Allingham was engaged for the moment.

                                 OLIVE.

Quite right; thank you.

            [_He withdraws. She eagerly scrutinises the cards,
                re-arranges them upon the table, then goes to the
                fireplace and stands waiting impatiently._ JOHN
                _re-enters, carrying a decanter of champagne and some
                biscuits in a silver dish, which he places on a
                side-table_.

                                 JOHN.

This is the Moet we had just begun to drink when we—— You rather liked
it, I fancy.

                                 OLIVE.

Some people have called; they’re waiting to see you.

                                 JOHN.

[_Turning._] People—so late?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Pointing to the table._] These are their cards.

                                 JOHN.

[_Picking up the cards._] “Mrs. Cloys,” “Mr. Claude Aylmer Emptage,”
“Sir Fletcher Portwood.” Mrs. Cloys—that’s an aunt.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Stonily._] An aunt——?

                                 JOHN.

An aunt of Mrs. Fraser’s. What can they want with me?

                                 OLIVE.

Isn’t it curious!

                                 JOHN.

I assure you I haven’t the slightest idea. I suppose nothing has
happened to her!

                                 OLIVE.

To Mrs. Fraser?

                                 JOHN.

Yes.

                                 OLIVE.

Oh, no, nothing ever happens to these women with fair hair and heavy
eyelids.

                                 JOHN.

[_Biting his lip._] Really?

                                 OLIVE.

You will see them, I suppose?

                                 JOHN.

I can’t refuse to see them.

                                 OLIVE.

May I—may I wait till they have gone?

                                 JOHN.

Oh, Olive——! [_She walks to the dining-room, he following her._] I won’t
let them detain me very long.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Rapidly, agitatedly, facing him, her hand on the door-handle._] This
is a most extraordinary visitation. These three people—her relatives—to
come down on you like this, at such an hour!

                                 JOHN.

I am sure you will find that their visit admits of a perfectly
reasonable explanation.

                                 OLIVE.

I’ve no doubt!

                                 JOHN.

You shall have the fullest account of what passes between us.

                                 OLIVE.

How shall I know it is a full account?

                                 JOHN.

[_Leaving her._] Oh——!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Advancing quickly._] No, I don’t mean that! [_Her hand to her heart._]
Oh, do make some allowance for me, for my state of mind!

                                 JOHN.

[_Turning abruptly._] Have you the courage to meet these people with me?
If so, you can begin to-night to carry out your promise to serve Mrs.
Fraser; you can tell her relatives now what your intentions are towards
her.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Falteringly._] Certainly, I have the courage to meet them.
[_Advancing, tremblingly, breathlessly._] But do you know where you are
drifting, John?

                                 JOHN.

Where I am drifting——?

                                 OLIVE.

Yes. I mean—what position are you willing to give me before these
people?

                                 JOHN.

Position——?

                                 OLIVE.

I couldn’t submit to be treated as a culprit; and there is only one
other possible position for me.

                                 JOHN.

What is that?

                                 OLIVE.

The—the—the wife.

                                 JOHN.

[_Slowly._] The wife.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Tearfully._] Oh——! oh, I would try!

            [_He leaves her, and walks about agitatedly. She sits on the
                settee, weeping._

                                 JOHN.

[_Rather wildly._] Well, I—I only want to cleanse the slate. My cursed
stupidity has smeared poor little Mrs. Fraser’s character; I want to put
_that_ right. It cuts me to the heart to see how wretched _you_ are,
Olive; I want to put _that_ right. Oh, if we fail again——!

                                 OLIVE.

We c—c—can’t fail again—it’s impossible!

                                 JOHN.

[_Desperately, throwing himself into the chair._] All right! Heaven have
mercy upon us—we’re reconciled! Ring the bell. [_She rises and touches
the bell-press, and with the aid of the mirror over the mantelpiece
attempts to adjust her hair and straighten her bonnet, he watching
her._] By Jove, you have pluck!

                                 OLIVE.

To face these people?

                                 JOHN.

[_With a short laugh._] I call it true courage.

                                 OLIVE.

It’s nothing; I am so happy. Oh, John, you shall never regret this.

                                                       [QUAIFE _enters_.

                                 JOHN.

[_Rising._] Show Mrs. Cloys and the two gentlemen in here.

                                QUAIFE.

Yes, sir.

                                 JOHN.

Tell them that Mr. and _Mrs._ Allingham are now disengaged.

                                QUAIFE.

Yes, sir. [_He withdraws._

                                 OLIVE.

[_Turning sharply._] _Mrs._ Allingham——?

                                 JOHN.

It wouldn’t be quite fair to spring you upon them suddenly——

                                 OLIVE.

You’ve given them warning; they may hurry away, to avoid me!

                                 JOHN.

No, no——

                                 OLIVE.

If they did do such a thing——! [_Agitatedly._] Gurrrh! I can’t get my
bonnet to sit straight. May I take it off, and receive them as if I
were—at home?

                                 JOHN.

If you would rather do so——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Going to the dining-room door._] Is there a mirror in here?

                                 JOHN.

Yes. [_She goes out hurriedly._] Let me hold the lamp for you——

            [_He follows her. After a brief pause_, QUAIFE _re-enters,
                showing in_ MRS. CLOYS, SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD, _and_
                CLAUDE. QUAIFE _withdraws_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_After looking round the room._] The wife.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

The wife!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Who could have anticipated anything so extraordinary.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Walking about uneasily._] Harriet, your theories and suspicions have
involved us in an entanglement of—ah—an unexpected kind.

                                CLAUDE.

[_Moodily._] A reg’lar mess, I call it.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I wish your choice of expressions was a little happier, Claude——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

The boy is right; and we must get out of this as quickly as possible.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Yes, yes; yes, yes.

                                CLAUDE.

But I don’t believe the woman will have the daring effrontery to show
her face to us; to _me_—the brother!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

If she does appear, Fletcher, how on earth are we to explain our visit?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Never explain, Harriet. I once explained in the House——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Devil take the House!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Harriet!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Heaven forgive me!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

You are unhinged—not yourself. No, no, we must simply avail ourselves of
any topic that presents itself.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Mercy on us! there’s only one topic that _can_ present itself.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I am not often nonplussed. You had better watch me closely; follow my
lead—tsch!

       JOHN _enters with_ OLIVE, _who is now without her outdoor
                               apparel_.

                                 JOHN.

[_After bowing to_ MRS. CLOYS.] How do you do, Sir Fletcher? [_Nodding
to_ CLAUDE.] How are you, Emptage?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_With a wave of the hand towards_ MRS. CLOYS.] My sister, Mrs. Cloys.

                                 JOHN.

Mrs. Cloys, Sir Fletcher; there have been some most unhappy differences
between my wife and myself in the past, as you know too well.
Unfortunately, she and I have not been the only sufferers from these
differences; we have dragged others along with us. However, we met this
evening, half an hour ago, and are—reconciled——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_In a murmur._] Very proper—very sensible——

                                 JOHN.

And I have my wife’s authority for saying that her feeling towards Mrs.
Fraser are now considerably—in fact, entirely—— But she will speak for
herself. [_Presenting_ OLIVE, _awkwardly_.] Er—my wife.

                                 OLIVE.

[_To_ SIR FLETCHER _and_ MRS. CLOYS, _graciously_.] Pray sit down. [MRS.
CLOYS _sits again_.] Sir Fletcher, we knew each other years ago——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I am delighted to renew—[_pulling himself up uneasily_]—that is, of
course——

            [OLIVE _sits on the left and_ SIR FLETCHER _on the right of
                the table_.

OLIVE.

[_Addressing_ MRS. CLOYS.] Mrs. Cloys, it is only fair to you that I
should say at once that I don’t expect Mrs. Fraser’s relatives to treat
me at all tenderly over the painful proceedings which terminated to-day.
[MRS. CLOYS _bows stiffly_; SIR FLETCHER _eyes her anxiously_.] So I beg
that you will speak before me entirely without reserve. [_Looking at_
JOHN.] It is my husband’s wish that you should do so.

                                 JOHN.

Certainly.

            [MRS. CLOYS _and_ SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD _sit staring before
                them in a glassy way_; OLIVE _again glances at_ JOHN,
                _puzzled_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_A little impatiently._] Naturally, Mrs. Cloys, I can’t think that you
have taken this inconvenient journey to-night without some very special,
some very definite object.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Er—so far as I am concerned, the object of my visit is in a great part
attained when I have given Mr. Allingham my assurance that only absolute
proof of his unworthiness will ever induce me to withdraw my friendship
from him. I am nothing if not a just man——

                                 JOHN.

Genuinely obliged to you, Sir Fletcher.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Oh, I am not ashamed of my simple faith in young English manhood and in
the efficacy of a training at one of our most honoured public schools.
True, I was never a public-school boy myself——

                                CLAUDE.

[_Leaning on a chair near the window, with his back to those in the
room._] Ha!

            [_All turn their heads towards_ CLAUDE, _surprised_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Rising, and going to_ CLAUDE.] No, but I am still capable of rejoicing
when I see the traditions of popular British institutions worthily
upheld. The world was my public school——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Changing her position._] Mrs. Cloys——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Eyeing_ OLIVE, _and returning quickly_.] Er—is there a question more
vital, more absorbing, than this great vexed question of Education? Is
there a question which calls more imperatively upon the attention of
thinking men——?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Turning to him with a forced smile._] But, Sir Fletcher, you surely
haven’t brought Mrs. Cloys all the way to Epsom that she may hear you
discuss Education with my husband?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Disconcerted._] No, no. Good! ha, ha! good! Excellent! Er——
[_Suddenly._] Now, this cottage—I wonder whether I may ask how many
rooms?

                                 OLIVE.

How many rooms!

                                 JOHN.

Twelve.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Between her teeth._] Twelve.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

The reason I put the question is this: my dear brother-in-law, the
bishop——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Under her breath._] Eh?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Looking at_ MRS. CLOYS _significantly_.] The bishop often suffers from
the effects of severe intellectual strain, and it has more than once
struck me that for a few weeks in the year this peculiarly invigorating
air—— [_Going to the dining-room door._] The arrangements appear to be
most convenient. May I?

                                 JOHN.

The dining-room.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Opening the door and peeping into the room._] Delightful! I can
picture the bishop sitting there, my sister there, myself, perhaps, over
there—delightful! [_Closing the door and moving away, pointing to the
upper door._] The hall and the little card-room I have seen. [_Rapping
the table._] But the grand question is, Mrs. Allingham—would you let?
That’s the point, Allingham—would you feel inclined to let?

                                 JOHN.

Oh, if his lordship did us the honour of expressing a wish——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

That’s extremely good-natured. [_Trying to catch_ MRS. CLOYS’ _eye_.]
You hear, Harriet?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_With a gulp._] Yes.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Pointing to the steps._] And here?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Struggling to suppress her anger._] The library—the library.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Have I permission?

                                 OLIVE.

Oh, by all means.

            [SIR FLETCHER _bustles up the steps and enters the library_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Out of sight._] Cheerful—very cheerful. A paucity of volumes, but the
bishop would bring his own books.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Quickly._] Sir Fletcher, while you are there, do examine the little
clock on the mantelpiece. The case is modern oriental.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Out of sight._] Ah, yes, yes.

                                 OLIVE.

I gave it to Mr. Allingham some years ago. Count those curious stones
round the dial. [_To_ MRS. CLOYS, _rapidly but forcibly, dropping her
voice_.] Mrs. Cloys, I confess I find it difficult to accept Sir
Fletcher’s suggestion that you are engaged at this time of night in
hunting for fresh air for the bishop. I——

            [_Upon_ SIR FLETCHER’S _disappearance_, CLAUDE _advances and
                stands waiting for an opportunity to speak_.

                                CLAUDE.

[_Breaking in in a hollow voice._] As Mrs. Fraser’s brother——

            [_All turn their heads towards_ CLAUDE _again_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_With clenched hands._] Oh! I am endeavouring to speak to Mrs. Cloys——

                                CLAUDE.

Pardon me. As Mrs. Fraser’s brother, and as, perhaps, the chief sufferer
from the result of to-day’s proceedings——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Appearing suddenly on top of the steps, no longer carrying his hat._]
What’s this? What’s this?

                                CLAUDE.

I refuse to be silenced. As Mrs. Fraser’s brother, I desire to say that
I did not expect to be received to-night by the lady who has done her
best—her utmost——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Sssh! sssh!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Be quiet, Claude, please!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Rising and going to_ JOHN.] John, really——

                                 JOHN.

[_Hotly._] Look here, Emptage, you’re a boy—at any rate, a very young
man——!

                                CLAUDE.

I am a truly unfortunate young man. A blight has been cast upon my name
at the very outset of my career——

                                 JOHN.

[_Bluntly._] What career?

                                CLAUDE.

Well, when I am turning various careers over in my mind——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Enough, Claude——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Coming down the steps._] Why, when I was five years younger than he I
had already applied my lever to the mountain. I first saw light in
’forty-four——

                                 OLIVE.

[_To_ JOHN.] Oh——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

’Forty-four; an easily remembered date—two fours. And what was I doing
at his age?

                                 OLIVE.

Mrs. Cloys——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Go away, Claude!

                                CLAUDE.

[_Retiring._] Ha, at least I have had the courage to speak out——!

            [_He throws himself into a chair at the back, and in course
                of time falls asleep. His head is seen to drop back upon
                his shoulder; an arm hangs over the side of the chair._

                                 OLIVE.

[_Advancing to the table, imperatively._] Mrs. Cloys——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Firmly._] Excuse me, Fletcher; I believe Mrs. Allingham is looking to
me for some further explanation. [_Sitting._] Mrs. Allingham, happening
to become acquainted to-day, for the first time, with several features
of this disagreeable business, I thought—it was a fancy of mine—that I
should like to—to meet Mr. Allingham—to talk over—to——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Sitting._] To talk over——?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

To thresh it all out with John—with Allingham.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Quickly._] It has not been sufficiently threshed out, then, in the
Divorce Court?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Hastily._] Quite sufficiently. [_Eyeing_ SIR FLETCHER _reprovingly_.]
My brother doesn’t interpret me correctly. Er—as I have told you, it is
a fancy of mine—to meet Mr. Allingham.

                                 OLIVE.

Just to make his acquaintance?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Steadily._] Just to make his acquaintance.

                                 JOHN.

[_Uncomfortably._] Very pleased—very gratified——

                                 OLIVE.

[_With a hard smile._] This is rather an odd hour for such a call.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

It would have been earlier but for a little difficulty in discovering
Mr. Allingham’s whereabouts.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Genially._] When ladies have fancies they don’t study the hour before
indulging them.

                                 OLIVE.

I am afraid it _is_ so, in your family, Sir Fletcher.

[MRS. CLOYS _makes a movement, but restrains herself_.

                                 JOHN.

[_In a low voice._] Olive——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Er—the fact is, my sister shares with me the Lavater-like faculty for
judging character at sight.

                                 OLIVE.

Judging character by face, manner?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Yes. I possess it in a remarkable degree. I remember——

                                 OLIVE.

[_To_ MRS. CLOYS.] Oh, I see! You are here to—to form an impression of
Mr. Allingham?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Sir Fletcher a little exaggerates my powers; but I confess I am, like
many people, very sensitive to receiving impressions through such
mediums.

                                 OLIVE.

I hope your impressions of my husband will be to his advantage.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Looking at_ JOHN.] I think I may say at once that they are not
unfavourable.

                                 OLIVE.

Because the necessity you find for estimating my husband’s character
shows—you know what it shows?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Mrs. Allingham——?

                                 OLIVE.

It shows, obviously, that if you are uncertain as to my husband’s
innocence, you must be equally doubtful of the innocence of your niece,
Mrs. Fraser.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Rising._] I—I beg that you will not put such a construction on what I
have said——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Rising._] What other construction——?

                                 JOHN.

Olive, you are not keeping your promise——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Passionately._] I will keep my promise when I am treated openly and
fairly. [_Walking away._] I feel something is going on here that I don’t
understand, that I am not allowed to understand.

                                 JOHN.

[_To_ MRS. CLOYS _and_ SIR FLETCHER.] I am extremely sorry. But my wife
is very fatigued and unstrung to-night——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Quite so, quite so. We are most inconsiderate, Harriet. Come—come;
another time——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Turning._] No, no! Mrs. Cloys——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Facing_ OLIVE _firmly_.] Mrs. Allingham, I think, when we look back
upon this evening, that you and I will be able to congratulate ourselves
upon a considerable exercise of politeness. But there are signs that
neither of us is equal to a prolonged strain.

                                 OLIVE.

I beg your pardon; I will be patient. You need have no misgivings on my
account.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Formidably._] Perhaps not; but I am beginning to be acutely conscious
of my own weakness. [_Looking round._] Fletcher——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Angrily._] Oh, oh!

            [_She paces the room_; JOHN _joins her, and is seen
                expostulating_. MRS. CLOYS _joins_ SIR FLETCHER.

                                 JOHN.

Olive, Olive, be reasonable!

OLIVE.

I will be, when you and your friends are honest with me.

            [_She leaves him, as_ QUAIFE _enters with a note upon a
                salver_.

SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Looking at his watch._] Oh, Allingham, the hotel people were to send a
carriage up for us; perhaps you’ll get your servant——

                                 JOHN.

Certainly. [_To_ QUAIFE.] Quaife—what’s that?

            [_Upon entering_, QUAIFE _has encountered_ MRS. ALLINGHAM;
                _her eyes fall upon the letter on the salver_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Under her breath, staring at the letter._] Ah-h-h!

                                QUAIFE.

Ma’am?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Drawing back and speaking to_ QUAIFE.] Well, give it to Mr. Allingham.

                                QUAIFE.

A boy has brought this, sir—waiting for an answer.

            [JOHN _is about to take the letter; when he sees the writing
                upon the envelope he hesitates for a moment and draws
                his hand back; then he picks up the letter
                deliberately_.

                                 JOHN.

[_To_ QUAIFE, _calmly_.] Wait; I’ll ring.

                                                      [QUAIFE _retires_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Pointing to the letter._] Isn’t that letter from Mrs. Fraser?

                                 JOHN.

[_After opening the letter._] Yes. [_He reads the letter to himself._]
Poor little lady! This is bad news.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Agitatedly._] Really, Mr. Allingham, really?

                                 JOHN.

Don’t you know? She has left her husband.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Er—yes, sir, we do know it—certainly we know it. I was almost the last
person she spoke to before she quitted her mother’s house. She is deeply
attached to me. [_Buttoning his coat._] Where is she? Where is she?

                                 JOHN.

I gather she is waiting not very far from this house——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Breathlessly._] Waiting——!

                                 JOHN.

She—she wishes to see me.

                                 OLIVE.

[_In a low voice._] Oh, yes. [_Sitting, her hands tightly gripped
together._] Oh, yes.

                                 JOHN.

[_Going to her and handing her the letter._] Read it, please, Olive.

                                 OLIVE.

[_After a pause, holding the letter between her finger and thumb,
reading._] “Station Hotel, Epsom. My dear old Jack”—— [_Hastily
returning the letter to_ JOHN, _with a shudder_.] Take it from me!

                                 JOHN.

[_Reading aloud._] “My dear old Jack”—[_looking round, simply_]—we have
known each other many years—[_reading_]—“oh! I have had such a job to
find you. I shall plant myself at some quiet spot near your cottage and
get a messenger to bring this to you. The messenger will show you where
I am, if you will only consent to see me for a few moments on—[_looking
round_]—on a matter of business.”

            [MRS. CLOYS, _concealed from the others by_ SIR FLETCHER,
                _sinks on to the settee_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Ha, a matter of business! Of course, a matter of business.

                                 JOHN.

[_Resuming._] “I have left my husband. He turned against me at the end
and crushed my one hope of being able to whitewash myself.” The cur!
[_Resuming._] “Am off to Paris the first thing in the morning. Very
likely this is the last chance you will ever have of a word with your
poor little friend, Theo.” [_To_ SIR FLETCHER.] Sir Fletcher, I
congratulate you on finding your niece; please tell her that it is
impossible for me to grant her request.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Calmly._] Oh, but wait. [_Rising._] Surely it would be rather uncivil
to refuse what Mrs. Fraser asks.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Rising._] I can be trusted to explain——

                                 OLIVE.

But she is apparently in need of some business service which my husband
can render her.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Now that she is again in the hands of her relatives there can be no
necessity for troubling Mr. Allingham.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Not the slightest; not the slightest.

                                 OLIVE.

Perhaps not. But before such a very curt message is sent to Mrs. Fraser,
will you do me the favour of letting me have two or three minutes’
conversation with my husband alone?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I—I am anxious to go to my niece.

                                 OLIVE.

Two minutes. Please, John.

            [JOHN _goes to the dining-room door and opens it. After a
                moment’s hesitation_, MRS. CLOYS _goes to the door_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Turning._] I beg that I may not be detained longer.

            [_She passes out;_ JOHN _follows her, leaving the door
                open_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Standing over_ CLAUDE, _shaking him_.] Wake up, sir! wake up!

                                CLAUDE.

[_Waking._] What is it? eh? [_Rising._] Hullo, Uncle!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

You’ve been sleeping, sir; your manners are appalling.

                                CLAUDE.

[_Stupidly._] Where’s aunt?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Leading him towards the door._] In the next room. Come, sir! You are
deficient in tact, delicacy——

            [JOHN _re-enters._ SIR FLETCHER _passes him and goes out_.

                                CLAUDE.

[_As he passes_ JOHN.] The dining-room?

                                 JOHN.

[_To_ CLAUDE.] I shan’t keep you more than a minute or two.

                                CLAUDE.

[_In the doorway, turning to_ JOHN.] Allingham, of course you and I can
never again be the same to each other as we have been in the past; but
may I take the liberty of foraging for a piece of cake?

                                 JOHN.

[_Laying a hand on his shoulder._] Certainly.

            [CLAUDE _goes out_; JOHN _closes the door and turns to_
                OLIVE.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Facing him._] Well?

                                 JOHN.

[_Advancing to her._] Well?

OLIVE.

Oh, could anything be clearer? It’s easy enough now to see through the
twaddle these people have been talking! Mrs. Fraser runs away from her
husband, who believes her guilty; her relatives go in pursuit; they look
for her and find her—where?

                                 JOHN.

Her relations chance to be here when Mrs. Fraser sends for me——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Mockingly._] Yes!

                                 JOHN.

[_Referring to the letter._] Desiring to see me “for a few moments, upon
a matter of business.” That is all that can be made of it.

                                 OLIVE.

A matter of business!

                                 JOHN.

This letter is not quite ingenuous, you infer.

                                 OLIVE.

You’ve caught the tone of the lawyers exactly.

                                 JOHN.

[_Hotly._] “A matter of business” is a lie, you mean?

                                 OLIVE.

Her arrival to-night is a remarkable coincidence.

                                 JOHN.

A perfectly natural one.

                                 OLIVE.

Why are you so eager, then, to avoid granting her the interview she asks
for?

                                 JOHN.

Eager——!

                                 OLIVE.

You send word to her that it’s impossible.

                                 JOHN.

Don’t you make it impossible?

                                 OLIVE.

No, I do not; I do not. I want you to meet her to-night; you’ve heard me
say I wish it.

                                 JOHN.

You mean that?

                                 OLIVE.

If ever I meant anything in my life.

                                 JOHN.

[_Referring to the letter._] “I shall plant myself at some quiet spot
near your cottage——”

                                 OLIVE.

Ah, no! never mind the quiet spot near the cottage. Why can’t you have
your business interview here?

                                 JOHN.

Here?

                                 OLIVE.

[_In a low voice, her head drooping._] Where we are now, while
I—[_glancing towards the library_]—while I take my place in there?

            [_There is a pause; he stands looking at her for a moment
                silently._

                                 JOHN.

And this is how you propose to carry out your undertaking to make amends
to Mrs. Fraser?

                                              [_He turns away from her._

                                 OLIVE.

Everything is altered since—since——

                                 JOHN.

Since we were reconciled! reconciled!

                                 OLIVE.

Since I promised to aid Mrs. Fraser. The arrival of these people—that
letter—has undone everything. [_Throwing herself upon the settee
despairingly._] Oh, they knew well enough where their bird would fly to!
[_Burying her face in the pillows._] Oh, John, you’ll kill me!

                                 JOHN.

Ha! and so you would like to try Mrs. Fraser twice in one day! And there
would be no mistake this time, no doubt whatever! Innocent or
Guilty—guilty for choice!

                                 OLIVE.

No, no, innocent. But I want to be satisfied. Only satisfy me?

                                 JOHN.

Satisfy you! My heavens!

                                 OLIVE.

Satisfy me! satisfy me!

                                 JOHN.

And what a model judge of this lady you would make, of any woman you are
jealous of! How scrupulously fair! how impartial! how——

                                 OLIVE.

I would be just, John; I would be!

                                 JOHN.

[_Savagely taking a cigarette from the box on the table and sticking it
between his teeth._] Women of your temperament detect a leer in the
smile of a wax doll.

                                 OLIVE.

I give you my word that I will make every allowance for you both, if you
will let me hear you together. You _are_ old friends—“chums” was her
expression for it in the witness-box to-day—and you are Jack and Theo to
each other, naturally; I am prepared for all that kind of thing. She can
kiss you good-bye when she parts from you—[_beating her brow_]—I can
comprehend even _that_. Only—only let me be satisfied by her general
tone and bearing, by that unmistakable ring in the voice, that she has
never been the arrant little profligate I once thought her.

            [JOHN _now sitting staring at the carpet and chewing the end
                of his cigarette_.

                                 JOHN.

Supposing I—consented, and you were—satisfied——?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Rising and speaking earnestly and rapidly._] We are in June; I would
have her to stay with me. My friends, her own friends, should see that
we were close companions. She should go everywhere with me; my arm
should always be through hers. I would get a crowd together; she should
receive my guests with me. Oh, by Goodwood week her reputation should be
as sound as any woman’s in England! Come! think of the dreadful days and
nights she’s given me, whether she’s good or bad! Come! wouldn’t that be
generous?

                                 JOHN.

[_In a low voice._] Look here! you would swear to me you’d never use
against her anything that might arise during our meeting—I mean anything
that your cursed jealousy could twist into harm?

                                 OLIVE.

Solemnly. If she proclaimed herself openly in this room to be
your—[_with a stamp of the foot he rises_]—she should go scot-free, for
me. If she behaved as an innocent woman, she might walk over me in the
future, trample on me; I’d be a slave to her. Only satisfy me!

            [_He goes to the writing-table, and rapidly scribbles a
                note. She watches him with eager eyes. When he has
                finished writing, he takes an envelope, rises, comes to_
                OLIVE, _and holds the note up before her_.

                                 JOHN.

“Come to the cottage.—J. A.”

            [_She inclines her head. He touches the bell-press. Then he
                encloses the note in the envelope, which he fastens, and
                hands to_ OLIVE.

                                 OLIVE.

Why?

                                 JOHN.

Take it. [_She takes it wonderingly._] I have met your demands so far.
Now, if you wish to do a womanly thing, you’ll throw that on the fire.
[QUAIFE _enters_; OLIVE _stands staring before her. Speaking in measured
tones, keeping his eyes on_ OLIVE.] Quaife, the note which Mrs.
Allingham will give you is for the messenger.

                                QUAIFE.

Yes, sir.

                                 JOHN.

If a lady arrives, ask her to sit down in the card-room; let me know
when she comes. I am alone, should the lady make any inquiries.

                                QUAIFE.

Very good, sir.

                                 JOHN.

Olive, Quaife is waiting for the note. [_There is a pause; then_ OLIVE
_turns suddenly and hands_ QUAIFE _the note. He goes out. There is
another pause._] And after this—after this!—you and I! Upon what terms
do you imagine you and I will be after this?

                                 OLIVE.

Oh, if she comes out of it well, I will be so good to her——

                                 JOHN.

[_Contemptuously._] Ah——!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Clutching his arm._] I will make you forgive me for it; I will make
you! [_He releases himself from her, almost roughly, and moves away,
turning his back upon her._] Of course, you will not mention to Mrs.
Fraser that you and I are in any way—in any way——?

                                 JOHN.

Reconciled! [_Sitting on the settee, laughing wildly._] Ha, ha, ha——!
[_Turning to her._] Why not?

                                 OLIVE.

Naturally, she wouldn’t open her lips to you at all if you did.

                                 JOHN.

[_Waving her away._] Faugh!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Her hand to her brow._] You are—very—polite—[_She walks slowly and
painfully towards the steps, pausing in her walk, and referring to her
watch._] John, when the talk between you and Mrs. Fraser has—gone far
enough, I will strike ten on the bell of the little clock in here. You
understand?

                                 JOHN.

When you are satisfied!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Beginning to ascend the steps, with the aid of the balustrade._] When
I am satisfied.

                                 JOHN.

Olive——! [_She stops._] It’s not too late now for us to think better of
playing this infernally mean trick upon her.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Steadily, in a low hard voice._] Why, nothing can arise, during this
interview, injurious, in the mind of any fair person, to Mrs. Fraser’s
reputation?

                                 JOHN.

[_Starting to his feet._] Nothing! nothing!

                                 OLIVE.

Then I am clearly serving Mrs. Fraser’s interests by what I am doing.

            [_She disappear into the library. After a brief pause_, JOHN
                _hastily goes to the dining-room door, and opens it
                slightly_.

                                 JOHN.

Mrs. Cloys! Mrs. Cloys!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_From the dining-room._] Yes.

                                 JOHN.

Let me speak to you? [MRS. CLOYS _enters; he closes the door sharply,
speaking hurriedly and excitedly_.] I—I have altered my mind about
meeting Mrs. Fraser——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Altered your mind——?

                                 JOHN.

I have sent a note to her by her messenger asking her to see me here.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Mr. Allingham, I protest against this as quite unnecessary.

                                 JOHN.

Pardon me. [_Producing_ THEOPHILA’S _letter, and speaking disjointedly,
uneasily_.] On—on consideration, it seems to me that—that—for
everybody’s sake, I have to satisfy my wife that Mrs. Fraser’s presence
is due solely to the most innocent causes.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Mrs. Allingham has, I take it, arrived at certain conclusions as to the
motive of my visit?

                                 JOHN.

She has.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

And now, Theophila following upon our heels——?

                                 JOHN.

It is a most unfortunate accident——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Eyeing him penetratingly._] Mr. Allingham, you have no doubt whatever
of the absolute genuineness of my niece’s excuse for calling upon you?

                                 JOHN.

Oh, Mrs. Cloys——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Sitting._] Yes, I admit that I came here to-night to ask you to pledge
your word to us that Theo should run no further risk from her—her
acquaintanceship with you; to entreat you, if she should be so base, so
abandoned——

                                 JOHN.

You mean you thought it possible, probable, that this lady had run away
from her husband and friends with the deliberate intention of joining
me—me! [MRS. CLOYS _covers her eyes with her handkerchief_.] Great
Heaven, I suppose there _is_ no living soul who will believe in an
honest friendship between a young man and a young woman!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

There are certain rules for the conduct of friendship, Mr. Allingham——

                                 JOHN.

[_Excitedly._] Rules! The world is getting choked with rules for the
conduct of everything and every body! What’s the matter with the world
that a woman has to lose her character and paint her face before she is
entitled to tell a man her troubles, and hear his in return, across a
dying fire, by lamplight, when the streets are still and a few words of
sympathy and encouragement stir one like a sudden peal of bells——?

            [_He stands by the fire, bowing his head upon the
                mantelpiece._

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Looking at him, and speaking in a low voice._] Ah! a dying fire, the
lamplight, the still streets——! The world is what it is, Mr. Allingham.

                                 JOHN.

Yes, and it’s a damnable world!

                            QUAIFE _enters_.

                                QUAIFE.

The lady has arrived, sir.

                          MRS. CLOYS _rises_.

                                 JOHN.

[_To_ QUAIFE.] When I ring, show her in here.

                          QUAIFE _withdraws_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Agitatedly._] Mr. Allingham, you will not let Theo slip through my
fingers; you won’t let her escape me——? [_Looking at him._] Oh, I will
trust you so far.

                                 JOHN.

You may. I only ask you to allow me to have my interview with Mrs.
Fraser undisturbed.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Ah, if you knew how I hate the idea of this meeting between you two!
[_Turning sharply._] I’ve a feeling that something evil is going to
result from it——!

                                 JOHN.

I can only repeat, you’re wrong in what you think of me—[_turning
away_]—wrong, every one of you.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Coming to him, her manner gradually changing to harshness, almost to
violence._] Well, understand me, Mr. Allingham! I’m inclined to—to
half-believe in you; you’ve an honest face and air—not that those things
count for much; but understand me: if you bring, in any shape or form,
further harm to her——!

                                 JOHN.

[_Indignantly._] What further harm can I bring to her? You find me here
with my wife——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Sir, you had a wife round the corner when you were engaged in destroying
my niece’s reputation in Lennox Gardens! [_Recovering her composure._]
But enough of that. [_Calmly, amiably._] We do understand one another,
do we not?

                                 JOHN.

[_Shortly._] Oh, perfectly.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

That’s right. [_Arranging her bonnet-strings, which have become slightly
disordered._] Excuse me for breaking out in this fashion. [_She goes to
the door, he following her. At the door she turns to him with grave
dignity._] I’m afraid I’ve impressed you as being rather a tigress.

            [_She goes out. He closes the door after her and stands
                staring at the ground for a moment; then he gently turns
                the key in the lock and carefully draws the_ portière
                _across the door. He is about to put his finger upon the
                bell-press when he pauses._

                                 JOHN.

[_In a low voice._] Olive. Olive. I have not yet rung the bell. Do you
stop me? [_A pause._] Won’t you stop me?

            [_He waits; there is no answer; with an angry gesture he
                rings the bell. After a brief pause_ QUAIFE _enters_;
                THEOPHILA _follows. She is dressed as in the previous
                Act, but is now thickly veiled._ QUAIFE _gives a puzzled
                look round the room and withdraws_.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Advancing and speaking in a weak, plaintive voice._] Oh, Jack——!
[_They shake hands, but in a constrained, rather formal way._] Of
course, we could have had our talk very well in the lane; but it’s kind
and considerate of you to ask me in.

                                 JOHN.

Oh, not in the least. [_Confusedly._] I—er—I—Do sit down.

            [_She looks at him, expecting him to find her a chair. In
                the end, after a little uncertainty, she seats herself
                on the right of the table. In the meantime he ascertains
                that the door by which_ THEOPHILA _has entered is
                closed_.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Lifting her veil._] I’m afraid you’re a little angry with me for
hunting you up.

                                 JOHN.

Angry? Why should I be angry?

                               THEOPHILA.

Well, I suppose it _is_ another—what d’ye call it?—injudicious act on my
part. But it seemed to me, if I thought about it at all, that we came so
badly out of it to-day, that nothing matters much now. At any rate, _my_
character’s gone.

                                 JOHN.

[_Advancing a step or two, but avoiding her eye._]

No, no——

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, isn’t it? And yours has gone too, Jack; only a man gets on
comfortably without one. [_Facing him, her elbows on the table._] Well,
what do you think of my news?

                                 JOHN.

[_Looking at her, startled._] By Jove, how dreadfully white you are!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_With a nod and a smile._] The looks have gone with the
character—[_putting her hands over her face_]—both departed finally.

                                 JOHN.

[_Coming a little nearer to her._] Er—when you’ve had a little rest you
will see everything in a brighter light——

                               THEOPHILA.

I should have kept my appearance a good many years, being fair and
small. [_Removing her hands—looking up at him._] You used to tell me I
should last pretty till I’m forty-five. Do you remember? [_His jaw drops
a little, and he stares at her without replying._] Do you remember?

                                 JOHN.

[_Moving away._] Oh—er—yes——

                                                             [THEOPHILA.

Is there anything wrong with you, Jack?

                                 JOHN.

Wrong—with me? No.

            [_She shifts to the other side of the table, to be nearer to
                him. He eyes her askance._

                               THEOPHILA.

Why don’t you tell me what you think of my news?

                                 JOHN.

Your news?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Impatiently._] You’ve read my letter, Jack. I’m a—what am I?—a single
woman again; a sort of widow.

                                 JOHN.

You are acting too hastily; you’re simply carried away by a rush of
indignation. Perhaps matters can be arranged, patched up. You mustn’t be
allowed to——

                               THEOPHILA.

Arranged! patched up! You don’t realise what you’re proposing! You
wouldn’t make such a suggestion if you had been a fly on the wall this
afternoon while Mr. Fraser and I were—having a little talk. [_Struggling
to keep back her tears._] Alec—my husband—he was very much in love with
me at one time! I never doubted that he would stand by me through thick
and thin. He has done so pretty well, up till to-day, up till the trial,
and then, suddenly, he—he——

            [_She produces her handkerchief, rises, then moves away
                abruptly, and stands, with her back to_ JOHN, _crying_.

                                 JOHN.

[_Turning to the fire._] Mr. Fraser was taken aback, flabbergasted, I
expect, by the tone adopted by the judge to-day; there’s that poor
excuse for him. But a little reflection will soon——

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Drying her eyes._] Oh, don’t prose, Jack! [_Turning._] On the whole, I
think it’s better that he and I have at last managed to find out where
we are.

                                 JOHN.

[_Turning to her._] Where you are?

                               THEOPHILA.

You know, there’s always a moment in the lives of a man and woman who
are tied to each other when the man has a chance of making the woman
really, really, his own property. It’s only a moment; if he let’s the
chance slip, it’s gone—it never comes back. I fancy my husband had _his_
chance to-day. If he had just put his hand on my shoulder this afternoon
and said, “You fool, you don’t deserve it, for your stupidity, but I’ll
try to save you——”; if he had said something, anything, of that kind to
me, I think I could have gone down on my knees to him and——[_Coming to_
JOHN _excitedly_.] But he stared at the carpet, and held on to his head,
and moaned out that he must have time, time! Time! Oh, he was my one bit
of rock! [_Throwing herself into a chair on the right._] If he’d only
mercifully stuck to me for a few months—three months—two—for a month——!

                                 JOHN.

[_Going to her slowly and deliberately, and standing by her._] Mrs.
Fraser. [_She looks up at him surprised._] Of course, whatever future is
in store for you, nothing—no luck, no happy times—can ever pay you back
for the distress of mind you’ve gone through.

                               THEOPHILA.

Nothing, Jack—Mr. Allingham. [_Her hand to her brow._] Oh, nobody knows!
Oh, Jack, some nights—some nights—I’ve said my prayers.

                                 JOHN.

I’ve found myself doing that too—in hansoms, or walking along the
street.

                               THEOPHILA.

Praying for _me_?

                                 JOHN.

[_Nervously._] Y-yes.

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, don’t make me cry again! Oh, my head! oh, don’t let me cry any
more——!

                                 JOHN.

Hush, hush, hush! What I want to say is this. You knew young Goodhew?

                               THEOPHILA.

Charley Goodhew—the boy that cheated at baccarat?

                                 JOHN.

He didn’t; he was innocent.

                               THEOPHILA.

I’m sure he was, poor fellow.

                                 JOHN.

Well, he told me, one day in Brussels, that he managed to take all the
sting out of his punishment by continually reminding himself that it was
undeserved, that there wasn’t a shadow of justification for it. I
suppose it would be the same with a woman who—who gets into a scrape; an
innocent woman?

                               THEOPHILA.

It’s good, under such circumstances, if you can feel a bit of a martyr,
you mean?

                                 JOHN.

That’s it. So, in the future, you must never tire of reminding
_yourself_ of the utter harmlessness of those hours we used to spend
together in Lennox Gardens.

                               THEOPHILA.

They were harmless enough, God knows.

                                 JOHN.

[_Earnestly, eagerly._] God knows.

                               THEOPHILA.

And they were awfully jolly, too.

                                 JOHN.

[_Blankly, his voice dropping._] Jolly——?

                               THEOPHILA.

You know—cosy, comforting.

                                 JOHN.

Yes, yes—comforting. It was the one thing that kept me together during
those shocking Pont Street days of mine.

                               THEOPHILA.

Our friendship?

                                 JOHN.

Our friendship. When I was in the deepest misery, the thought would come
to me: “Well, I shall see my little friend to-day or to-morrow.” And
then I’d go through our meeting as I supposed it would be—as it always
was——

                               THEOPHILA.

“’Ullo, Jack! good morning—or good evening. Oh, my dear boy, you’re in
trouble again, I’m afraid!”

                                 JOHN.

“Dreadfully. I shall go mad, I believe—or drink.”

                               THEOPHILA.

“Mad—drink; not you. Sit down and tell me all about it.”

                                 JOHN.

And so on.

                               THEOPHILA.

And so on. I had my miseries too.

                                 JOHN.

Yes, you had your miseries too.

                               THEOPHILA.

And then you invariably came out with that one piece of oracular advice
of yours.

                                 JOHN.

Ah, yes. “Don’t fret; it’ll be all the same a hundred years hence.”

                               THEOPHILA.

Which you couldn’t act upon, yourself. How vexed it used to make me—and
the ponderous way you said it!

                                 JOHN.

Well, it was a good, helpful friendship to me.

                               THEOPHILA.

And to me.

                                 JOHN.

[_Standing a little behind her; speaking calmly, but watching her
eagerly._] Because, all the while, there was never one single thought of
anything but friendship on either side.

                               THEOPHILA.

Why, of course not, Jack.

                                 JOHN.

You’d have detected it in me, if there had been?

                               THEOPHILA.

Trust a woman for that.

                                 JOHN.

And if you had for a moment fancied that I was losing sight of mere
friendship——?

                               THEOPHILA.

You!

                                 JOHN.

What would you have done?

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, one day, the usual headache; not at home the next—the proper thing.
But, Jack dear, I never felt the slightest fear of _you_—and that’s what
makes an end like this so cruel, so intolerably cruel.

                                 JOHN.

Never felt the slightest fear of me——?

                               THEOPHILA.

No, never; oh, of course, a woman can tell. Somehow, I knew—I knew you
_couldn’t_ be a black-guard.

                                 JOHN.

[_About to seize her hand, but restraining himself._] God bless you! God
bless you! [_He walks away and pokes the fire vigorously, hitting the
coal triumphantly._] Ah, ha, ha! [_Turning to_ THEOPHILA.] I beg your
pardon; you’re in the most uncomfortable chair in the room.

                                      [_She rises and crosses the room._

                                 JOHN.

[_Arranging the pillows on the settee._] You must be so weary, too. I’m
confoundedly stupid and forgetful to-night.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Sitting on the settee._] Fancy! a fire in June!

                                 JOHN.

[_Walking about elatedly, dividing his glances between_ THEOPHILA _and
the library_.] I love to see a fire.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Suddenly._] Of course. [_Dropping her voice._] I remember. [_He stops,
staring at her._] Do you recollect? [_Steadily gazing into the fire._]
That night when we were sitting over the fire in that little room in
Lennox Gardens——

                                 JOHN.

[_Hastily._] Oh, yes, yes——

                               THEOPHILA.

“I shall always burn a fire, Theo,” you said, “to bring back these
nights, these soothing, precious talks in the quiet hours. Wherever I
may be, I shall only have to light my fire to hear you and to see you—to
see you sitting facing me——”

                                 JOHN.

Ah, that evening—yes, I was terribly—terribly down that evening [_Wiping
his brow._] By-the-bye, we—we mustn’t neglect the—the—the matter of
business—the little matter of business——

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Rousing herself._] Matter of——?

                                 JOHN.

The matter of business you mention in your letter——

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Rising._] Oh, yes. [_Sitting on the left of the centre table._] Jack,
I—I do hope you won’t hate me for asking you. You see, if I went to any
one else, I should run a chance of having all my arrangements upset. I—I
want to borrow a little money——

                                 JOHN.

Ah, yes, certainly—anything—I shall be most happy——

                               THEOPHILA.

This is exactly how I am placed. Mr. Fraser wanted to hurry me off
abroad—ah! that’s done with. Instead of that, you see, I’ve taken my
travels and my future into my own hands. I’ve telegraphed to Emily
Graveney, who was at Madame MacDonnell’s with us girls in the Rue
D’Audiffret-Pasquier. Emily is teaching in Paris now—I hardly know how
she scrapes along; she’ll be mad with delight to have my companionship.
But till the lawyers settle my position precisely as regards Mr. Fraser,
I’m practically broke, penniless. It’s a little ready-money I want.

                                 JOHN.

[_Who has seated himself at the right of the table while_ THEOPHILA _has
been talking_.] You have only to tell me how much——

                               THEOPHILA.

Well, I think I could tide over with fifty pounds. I’m afraid you
haven’t got it in the house, though. I don’t want a cheque.

                                 JOHN.

[_Taking out his keys and going to a table._] I believe I _can_ just
make it up——[_He opens a drawer in the writing-table, finds some
bank-notes, counts them, then empties his sovereign-purse and screws the
gold up in the notes._] Within a pound——

                               THEOPHILA.

That’s of no consequence. [_Rising._] I’m awfully obliged to you; I knew
you would—I—I——

            [_He returns to her, and finds her clutching the table
                unsteadily._

                                 JOHN.

[_Placing the money on the table._] What’s the matter?

                               THEOPHILA.

Nothing. [_Sinking back into the chair, with closed eyes._] I shall be
all right in a minute.

            [_He brings her a glass of water, and places it to her lips.
                She sips the water for a little while, then gives a
                sigh._

                                 JOHN.

Better?

                               THEOPHILA.

I think so.

                                 JOHN.

When did you last eat? [_She shakes her head feebly. He puts the glass
of water aside and fetches the biscuits._] Get two or three of these
down. Come—try——!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Taking a biscuit._] Thank you.

            [_He places the biscuits on the table by her side, and goes
                back to the other table._

                                 JOHN.

A glass of this champagne would pull you together.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Nibbling the biscuit, her eyes still closed._] Would it? [_He brings
the decanter of champagne and a small tumbler. She, speaking faintly,
and opening her eyes._] Oh, do let me off this, Jack.

                                 JOHN.

[_Pouring out some champagne._] No, no; stick to it—do.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Watching him._] That looks nice. [_She puts the remains of her biscuit
on the table and stretches out her hand for the wine. He gives it to
her; she drinks._] Oh! oh! oh—h—h—h! [_There is a pause; there she
shakes herself, looks up at him, and breaks into a low, childlike little
laugh._] Ha! ha, ha, ha! I’d nearly gone, hadn’t I? [_Emptying her
glass._] Oh! oh!... Fetch yourself a glass, and we’ll drink luck to each
other. Then I really must be off. The porter said the trains run
every—every what was it? [_He brings a glass, which she fills, speaking
animatedly._] A tumbler! oh, fie! [_Filling her own glass._] Oh, mine’s
a tumbler too! [_Nodding to him._] Ourselves! [_Touching his glass with
hers._] Our two poor unfortunate selves! [_They drink._] Ha! I don’t
care! do you?

                                 JOHN.

Care——?

                               THEOPHILA.

A hang. For anything; for what the judge said; for what people think.
Puh. Here’s to our friend, the judge——! [_Drinking, nearly emptying her
glass._] I hope his wife’s a cat who leads him a——! [_Jumping up
suddenly, her eyes dilating, holding her glass high in the air._]
Happiness and prosperity to Mr. Fraser! [_Loudly._] Mr. Fraser!

                                 JOHN.

Sssh! oh, hush!

                               THEOPHILA.

Fraser of Locheen! [_She goes to the fireplace and flings the contents
of her glass into the grate._] Ha! well, that’s throwing good stuff
after poor, isn’t it? [_She places her glass on the table; the cigarette
box is open; she takes a cigarette._] The old sort?

                                 JOHN.

[_Quickly._] No, no——

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Striking a match._] Only a whiff. [_Lighting her cigarette._] Sure I’m
not in the way, Jack, if I rest here a minute or two longer?

                                 JOHN.

[_With a glance at the library._] C—certainly not.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Throwing herself upon the settee in a careless attitude, smoking._]
Oh, thank God for this rest! [_Looking round._] So this is the little
place you used to tell me about——

                                 JOHN.

[_Standing, watching her, apprehensively._] Um——

                               THEOPHILA.

Phew! Your fire’s all right to look at——! [_She removes her cape from
her shoulders and flings it away from her; he picks it up, and places it
over the back of a chair._] Never mind that rag. Are you likely to be in
Paris?

                                 JOHN.

I—I’m not fond of Paris.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Jumping up, and speaking volubly, excitedly, boisterously._] Suppose
that wire don’t find Emily, and she doesn’t meet me at the Nord
to-morrow night. Ugh! cheerful! She may be dead, No, no; not Emily. Poor
old Emily! Be sure you look me up if you _should_ pass through. Rue
Poissonnière, 18. You’re bound to be rambling soon. How lucky a man is!
Does just as he chooses. Good chap, So-and-so—awfully rackety—but the
world would be a dooced deal livelier if there were more like him!
That’s what they all say of a man!... phew!... [_As she rattles on, she
takes off her bonnet and clears her hair from her brow._] But a woman!
Well, look at _me_. Not that anybody _will_ look at me, in Paris or
elsewhere. I used to know several smart people in Paris! Now! Oh, my
stars, won’t they stalk distant objects when they see me coming along!
[_Angrily._] Ah, a gay time I shall have of it, shut up with Emily
Graveney, with her red nose, and her poor, narrow chest, and her
perpetual sniffle! [_She flings away her cigarette. Her hair is
disordered, her breath comes quickly, there is a wild look in her eyes.
Her bonnet falls to the floor. He paces the room distractedly._] By
Jove, I won’t have a dull time though! I shall only hang out with Emily
long enough just to turn round. Then I’ll take a little _appartement_ of
my own. Uncle Fletcher will make me an allowance; I won’t touch a penny
of—puh—_his_ money. I’ll let the world see how happy I am without the
character I’ve been robbed of! Yes, robbed of! [_Laughing noisily._] Ha,
ha, ha! [_Snapping her fingers._] Pish! I shall burst out laughing in
the face of the whole world, Jack—put my tongue out at the world, your
wife, my husband! After the solemn farce we’ve all gone through.
[_Between her teeth._] Y—y—yes, they shall have a pretty picture in
their minds of _me_, t’other side of the Channel, with my finger to my
nose like a cheeky urchin! Oh, my heavens, how I hate ’em—hate ’em—hate
’em!

                                 JOHN.

Mrs. Fraser——! Mrs. Fraser——!

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, the devilish injustice of it! To think that we’re still married,
Jack—you and I! Hah! the mockery! To think that we wander about the
world still with our owner’s marks branded upon us! Ha, ha! I believe
I’ve an “F” branded upon my shoulder—burnt in! [_Running to him._] Oh, I
won’t bear it! I can’t bear it!

                                 JOHN.

Hush, hush!

                               THEOPHILA.

I shall go mad if I can’t pay out that wife of yours! [_Shrilly._] She’s
ruined me! I will be even with her!

                                 JOHN.

Hush——!

                               THEOPHILA.

And with _him_!—that fish!—that cold, flapping fish! [_Clinging to him,
suddenly._] Jack——! I wouldn’t bore you! I wouldn’t bore you, Jack——!

                                 JOHN.

Bore me!

                               THEOPHILA.

Ah-h-h-h! take me away! Let’s you and I go together——!

                                 JOHN.

[_Putting his hand over her mouth._] Ah, for God’s sake——! [_The clock
in the library is heard to strike._] It’s too late! too late!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Drawing back, looking into his face._] Too late——? [_There is a sharp
knocking at the dining-room door._] What’s that? [_The knocking is
repeated._] Who is it?

                                 JOHN.

Mrs. Cloys is here.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Her hand to her brow._] Mrs. Cloys—aunt——!

                                 JOHN.

Mrs. Cloys, Sir Fletcher, and your brother were with me when your note
arrived. They want to see you.

                               THEOPHILA.

See me—See me——

                                 JOHN.

[_Gripping her wrist._] Pull yourself together, Mrs. Fraser——[_The
knocking is again heard._ JOHN _goes to the door_.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_In a whisper._] Jack! [_He pauses; she seems dazed._] They—they
haven’t heard—a word of—oh, of what I’ve said to you?

                                 JOHN.

Heard——! N-no. Are you ready?

            [_He pulls aside the_ portière, _unlocks the door, and opens
                it_. MRS. CLOYS _enters_; SIR FLETCHER _and_ CLAUDE
                _appear in the doorway_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

You have tried my patience long enough, Mr. Allingham. [_She goes to_
THEOPHILA; JOHN _walks away, and stands with his back to those in the
room._] Come! you have had ample time for your _business interview_.
[_Staring at_ THEOPHILA.] What’s wrong with you?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Sinking into a chair._] N-nothing.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Where’s your cape—and your bonnet?

                                      [THEOPHILA _looks round vacantly_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Cape? cape? Here’s a cape.

            [_He hands the cape to_ MRS. CLOYS; _she snatches it from
                him, and puts it round_ THEOPHILA’S _shoulders_. CLAUDE
                _picks up the bonnet, and brings it to_ MRS. CLOYS,
                _then goes to the upper door, and stands there waiting_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Raising_ THEOPHILA.] You are not well; you are ill. Fletcher——! [SIR
FLETCHER _goes up to the steps leading to the library_.] Where are you
going?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

My hat——[_He pushes the_ portière _aside, then draws back_.] Mrs.
Allingham——! [_Hesitatingly._] Er—I believe I have left my hat here,
Mrs. Allingham. May I——? [_He enters the library._

                               THEOPHILA.

Mrs. Allingham! Mrs.—Allingham——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Yes, yes.

[SIR FLETCHER _comes out of the library, carrying his hat_.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_To_ MRS. CLOYS.] Mrs. Allingham! his ... wife!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Mr. and Mrs. Allingham have arranged their differences. [_Looking from_
THEOPHILA _to_ JOHN.] Why, don’t you know?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Coming down the steps._] Haven’t you seen Mrs. Allingham?

                               THEOPHILA.

Seen her——?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

This evening—here——?

                               THEOPHILA.

Here!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Your interview with Mr. Allingham has taken place in this room?

                               THEOPHILA.

In this room? Yes——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Come——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Wait, Harriet, please! Allingham—Mr. Allingham—pardon me for putting
such a question: surely you have not allowed—allowed—been a party to——?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Allowed—what?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Looking towards the library._] Harriet, you can hear most distinctly,
in the library——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Hear——!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Overhear—certainly, overhear——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

No, no! [_Going to_ JOHN.] Preposterous! [_After a pause._] Mr.
Allingham, why should Mrs. Allingham—be there? [JOHN _is silent_.] What
has passed between you and——? Your wife has not been—listening?

                                 JOHN.

[_Desperately._] Mrs. Fraser—has said—nothing to me that a—a just woman
can bring up against her——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

_Listening!_

                                 JOHN.

[_Almost inaudibly._] Yes. [_Passionately._] But you don’t know——!
[_Calling in a loud voice.]_ Olive! Olive——!

            [OLIVE _comes out of the library and stands at the top of
                the steps_. THEOPHILA _regards her for a moment blankly,
                then goes to the balustrade, and stares up at her. After
                a brief pause_ THEOPHILA _joins_ MRS. CLOYS, _but
                seeing_ JOHN, _she comes unsteadily towards him and
                looks him in the face. Then as she turns away to_ MRS.
                CLOYS, _she utters a groan, and tumbles to the floor at_
                JOHN’S _feet_.

END OF THE SECOND ACT.



                             THE THIRD ACT


_The Scene is the same as in the previous Act, but a few articles of
    furniture are differently disposed about the room. There is no fire;
    and flowers decorate the fireplace. The windows are open and the
    light is that of a fine afternoon in summer._

FRASER _is seated upon the settee_. JOHN ALLINGHAM _appears in the
    garden, looks into the room, glares fiercely at_ FRASER, _coughs
    significantly, and walks away. When_ JOHN _has gone_, FRASER,
    _glancing at the window, rises, and, with an angry exclamation,
    crosses the room_. MRS. CLOYS _and_ JUSTINA _enter_; MRS. CLOYS _is
    dressed as in the previous Acts, but without her bonnet and mantle_;
    JUSTINA _is in a bright morning-dress_.


                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_To_ FRASER.] She insists upon rising; she will see you in a few
minutes.

                                FRASER.

Thank you.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

She is excessively weak and shattered; you must remember that.

                                FRASER.

Yes, yes. I can never adequately express my gratitude——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Sitting upon the settee._] Tsch!

                                JUSTINA.

Aunt has been up with her the whole night.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Not alone. Mrs. Allingham——

                                FRASER.

Mrs. Allingham——?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Mrs. Allingham begged to be allowed to keep me company. There was a
little scene between us—but the woman is, to some extent, human, I find.

                                FRASER.

Oh, I’ve no doubt that Mrs. Allingham is ashamed of herself——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I hope we are all ashamed of ourselves. In the end I was far from sorry
to have her companionship. Your poor wife didn’t come out of her swoon
till nearly one o’clock this morning. Then Dr. Erskine went home and
Mrs. Allingham and I took our places by the bedside—[_to_ JUSTINA]—till
you arrived at breakfast-time, Justina.

                                JUSTINA.

[_To_ FRASER.] And I brought old Sarah, who used to maid us girls when
Theo was at home; she’s dressing her now.

                                FRASER.

Mrs. Cloys, pray help me with your advice.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Bridling._] Oh—h—h——!

                                FRASER.

No, no—about Mr. Allingham. Ha! of course if we were Frenchmen we should
fight a duel——

                                JUSTINA.

Certainly, my dear Alec, and he would kill you.

                                FRASER.

Perhaps; that doesn’t follow.

                                JUSTINA.

It doesn’t follow, because it can’t follow. But he _would_ kill you and
everybody would say of you, “Serve him right; another unsatisfactory
husband disposed of!” And you would be buried, and my sister would be
free and would go to Trouville in August in her weeds, and we should all
have a splendid time generally.

                                FRASER.

[_Dryly._] If we were French.

                                JUSTINA.

Yes. [_Going to the window._] Why aren’t we French!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Justina——!

                                FRASER.

[_Advancing to_ MRS. CLOYS, _hesitatingly, uncomfortably—lowering his
voice_.] I can’t deny that I have behaved in a very poor fashion to
Theophila——

                                JUSTINA.

[_Looking into the garden._] Deny it! no!

                                FRASER.

[_Turning to_ JUSTINA.] Please——! [_To_ MRS. CLOYS.] But you, Mrs.
Cloys, have just admitted to me that, up till last night, your feelings
towards her were at least as unjust as my own.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Ah, I hope your contrition, now that the facts are known to us, is as
sincere and as deep as mine, Mr. Fraser.

                                JUSTINA.

Oh, how miserable he looks!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Who?

                                JUSTINA.

Jack Allingham. [_She goes out, and disappears._

                                FRASER.

[_Walking about angrily._] There he is again!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

He has every right to be here.

                                FRASER.

It’s in curious taste.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I don’t see that. He feels called upon to remain here to protect his
wife. He might say, with equal reason——

                                FRASER.

Hardly. He can take _his_ wife away, and protect her elsewhere. But I am
helpless. You tell me it is a question whether Theophila ought to be
moved to-day or not——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Referring to her watch._] Dr. Erskine will decide very shortly.

                                FRASER.

So, for how long, in heaven’s name, am I to endure Mr. Allingham? The
fellow puts himself in my way. If I walk in the garden, he appears,
indoors, at a window, and coughs in a menacing fashion. When I enter the
house the proceedings are but slightly varied—I am inside; Allingham and
his cough outside.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I find him a simple-minded, boyish young man.

                                FRASER.

[_Looking through the balustrade into the library._] Do you?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

After all, the conspiracy he assisted at—for which I can never forgive
him—was carried out, on his part, in perfect good faith to Theophila.

                                FRASER.

His share in it is singularly discreditable.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Rising._] You and I must remember that it is through this
discreditable act that we are able to do justice to your wife. [JUSTINA
_re-enters, at the window_.] Is Mr. Allingham there?

                                JUSTINA.

Yes, aunt.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_To_ FRASER.] I assume you are anxious to avoid any open quarrel with
Mr. Allingham?

                                FRASER.

I simply wish to get my sick wife away as speedily and as peacefully as
possible, and then to forget this gentleman—and his cough. [MRS. CLOYS
_goes out at the window and disappears_.] Justina; surely
you—_you_—resent this new attitude of Mrs. Allingham’s? For months and
months she is your sister’s bitter, determined enemy; then suddenly she
is allowed to sit up all night, nursing her!

                                JUSTINA.

You wouldn’t grudge the woman her little bit of practical repentance? If
ever I go in for repentance, let nobody try to do me out of it!

                                FRASER.

[_Impatiently._] Repentance——!

                                JUSTINA.

[_Sitting on the arm of a chair._] Oh, Olive Allingham didn’t have too
gay a time of it last night, take my word for it. When Theo came-to,
aunt tells me, her poor, overwrought brain wandered for an hour or so;
that wasn’t over-pleasant for Mrs. A. Theo went through the whole
business from beginning to end, breaking off occasionally to say her
prayers—praying that the case might end in her favour, and that the
season’s invitations would flow in as usual. Sometimes she’d stop in the
middle of it, and call out that she couldn’t pray well while that
creature was in the next room listening. Luckily, she fell into a heavy
sleep, at about half-past two, and didn’t wake till just as I turned up
in response to aunt’s telegram. But what a bad hour or two it must have
been for Mrs. A.! Picture it! The half-darkened room; my little sister
tossing about the bed, raving; aunt sitting grimly on one side, with a
handkerchief round her head; and on the other side, hidden behind the
bed-curtains, hardly daring to breathe, that woman, with her white face
and her eyes almost out of their sockets!

            SIR FLETCHER _enters, carrying some slips of paper covered
                with writing_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Allingham has had really a most admirable cold luncheon laid in the
dining-room. [_To_ FRASER.] You haven’t seen the dining-room?

                                FRASER.

[_Shortly._] No.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Really a capital lunch. Evidently it is intended that one should wander
in and eat a wing of a chicken when one feels inclined.

                                JUSTINA.

_You_ have been wandering, uncle, apparently.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

A glass of sherry, merely. No—it is strange and unreasonable that it
should be so, but it _is_ so.

                                JUSTINA.

What is so?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Why, one has rather a feeling of constraint in sitting down to
Allingham’s table—at any rate until matters are in a more settled state.
[_To_ FRASER.] _You_ wouldn’t care to—to make the plunge?

                                FRASER.

Plunge——?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

To break the ice?

                                FRASER.

Eat his lunch!

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Sitting on the settee and arranging his papers._] No, no; I can quite
understand——

                                JUSTINA.

[_Throwing her head back._] Ha!

                                FRASER.

[_To her, angrily._] I believe you would grin by the side of a grave.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Shrugging her shoulders._] _Cela dépend._

                                FRASER.

[_Turning away in disgust._] Ah!

                                JUSTINA.

[_Jumping up._] Oh, I’ve had my bad days lately—plenty of ’em! This
morning the atmosphere’s a bit clearer. [_Gaily._] Tra, la, la!

                                FRASER.

The woman who can laugh under such circumstances——

                                JUSTINA.

[_Turning upon him._] Laugh! My dear Alec, if you had learnt to laugh
when you acquired your other accomplishments, you would have been able
perhaps to keep my sister out of the Divorce Court.

                                                        [_She goes out._

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Fussing with his papers._] Fraser——[FRASER _comes to him_.] When I got
to my hotel here last night I jotted down the—the—the leading points—the
leading features——

                                FRASER.

Leading features——?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Of this awkward affair between you and the Allinghams——

                                FRASER.

[_Impatiently._] There is now no question between me and the
Allinghams——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Rising._] My dear Locheen! A lady deliberately stations herself in
that room, with the cognizance and approval of her husband, to listen
to——

                                FRASER.

I wish to forget all that occurred last night. It is done with.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Pardon me; it cannot be done with: it ought not to be done with, without
the most complete apology—I will not, for reasons you will presently
appreciate, hint from which side. [_Going to_ FRASER, _button-holing
him_.] Do you know what has suggested itself to me, Fraser?

                                FRASER.

[_Releasing himself._] No.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Why, sir, if ever there was a matter for reference, for arbitration,
this is one!

                                FRASER.

[_Between his teeth._] Arbitration——?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Good heavens, when I open my _Times_ in the morning, and glance at the
law reports, how often have I occasion to remark, “_That_ scandal might
have been averted, and _that_, and _that_——” if only the intervention of
some cool, level-headed person had been secured, the intervention of
some one possessing the rarest of all gifts—the judicial faculty!

                                FRASER.

The gift is rare enough upon the bench. People shrink from having their
concerns adjudicated by a meddlesome amateur.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I sent Claude to town for his mother at ten o’clock this morning. When
_they_ arrive, the family will be complete—with the exception Of my
brother, Thomas Osborne Portwood, who is in Australia; a deplorable
case. [_Looking about him._] Arbitration dispenses with legal
paraphernalia. A table, writing materials, a few chairs arranged—[_his
eye falling upon a table_]—a table. [_He moves the table and stands,
disposing, by gesture, of an imaginary audience._] Seated here, I should
command the room. [_Pushing the settee a little further towards the
left._] This thing must be differently placed. Chairs there—and there——
[_To_ FRASER.] Locheen, would this be the better room, I wonder, or the
library?

                                FRASER.

[_Who has lapsed into thought, rousing himself._] Eh, for what?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

For the arbitration? [FRASER _impatiently starts to his feet as_ MRS.
CLOYS _enters at the window with_ JOHN.] Oh, Mr. Allingham, if you will
give me just a moment or two——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Taking_ SIR FLETCHER’S _arm and drawing him aside_.] Not now,
Fletcher.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Annoyed._] Harriet——!

            [SIR FLETCHER _and_ MRS. CLOYS _stand outside the window,
                talking_. JOHN _comes and faces_ FRASER.

                                 JOHN.

[_With an effort._] I am sorry to hear, Mr. Fraser, that you have been
annoyed, while a visitor at my house, by the persistency of my cough.

                                FRASER.

If I could have assured myself, Mr. Allingham, that your cough was a
genuine one, it would not, however violent and grave its attacks, have
occasioned me the smallest concern.

                                 JOHN.

I admit the cough was not genuine. I employed it as a sign that I was at
hand should you wish to have an explanation with me.

                                FRASER.

The invitation might have been more explicitly phrased.

                                 JOHN.

It was clear enough for most men. At any rate, I hope the invitation is
sufficiently plain now.

                                FRASER.

Quite.

                                 JOHN.

You decline it, or accept it?

                                FRASER.

If I hesitate, it is because I hardly know in what language you would
choose for me to reply.

                                 JOHN.

Language——?

                                FRASER.

Words—or a cough?

                                 JOHN.

Oh, whichever you find most procrastinating and evasive.

                                FRASER.

[_Coolly._] I decline your invitation, Mr. Allingham; I have nothing to
say to you.

                                 JOHN.

[_With clenched hands._] Nothing!

                                FRASER.

Nothing.

                                 JOHN.

[_Glances at_ MRS. CLOYS, _then advances closely to_ FRASER _and speaks
to him, in a low voice, beside himself with anger, but betraying nothing
by gesture_.] Fraser, _you_ are actually responsible for the occurrences
of last night. You have never understood your unfortunate wife; but
yesterday your behaviour to her was cruel, brutal. I charge you with
acting towards her like a brute.

                                FRASER.

[_Looking at him immovably._] Well?

                                 JOHN.

Well——!

                                FRASER.

I repeat, I have nothing to say to you, Mr. Allingham.

            [_After a pause_, JOHN _retreats from_ FRASER _and sits upon
                the settee, leaning his head upon his hands and uttering
                a groan_.

                                 JOHN.

Fraser, I promised Mrs. Cloys, out in the garden, just now that I would
make an attempt to soften matters between us, and—and—offer you some
civility—and so on. I began fairly well—[FRASER _bows_]—and then the
conversation took another line. However—[_rising, speaking with an
effort, not looking at_ FRASER]—let me say that my house is quite at
Mrs. Fraser’s disposal—[_with a gulp_]—and at yours, for as long as she
honours me—as you both honour me—by remaining here. [FRASER _again
bows_, JOHN _glares at him_.] As for ourselves, whenever we encounter
each other I will be careful to look in an opposite direction. Perhaps
you will be good enough to follow the same course.

                                FRASER.

It is one that would have suggested itself to me.

                           JUSTINA _enters_.

                                JUSTINA.

Alec, Theo is coming in to see you.

            [JOHN _goes out quickly_; JUSTINA _speaks to_ MRS. CLOYS.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Entering the room and addressing_ FRASER.] Theo is ready.

            [MRS. CLOYS _goes out as_ SIR FLETCHER _enters the room_.

                                JUSTINA.

[_To him, significantly._] _Now_, perhaps a little lunch, uncle
Fletcher——

                                [_She goes out by the dining-room door._

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_To_ FRASER.] Of course, my sister Harriet throws cold water upon my
proposal——

                                FRASER.

Proposal——?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Arbitration. [FRASER _walks away and eyes the upper door anxiously and
expectantly_.] But when did Harriet fail to throw cold water? I shall
sound Allingham and get his views. After all, Harriet is not essential;
Harriet is not——

            [_While speaking he goes to the table, takes up the inkstand
                and blotting-book and carries them to the other table._

                                FRASER.

[_To_ SIR FLETCHER.] Sir Fletcher, Theophila understands that she is to
see me here alone——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Abstractedly._] I am off; I am off. [_Stopping at the door, looking at
the table, and slowly tapping his forehead._] Pens—paper; two p.’s.

            [_He goes out._ FRASER _comes to the dining-room door, and
                carefully draws the_ portière; _then he walks away as_
                MRS. CLOYS _enters by the upper door with_ THEOPHILA
                _leaning upon her arm_. THEOPHILA _is dressed as in the
                preceding Acts, but without bonnet or cape_. MRS. CLOYS
                _places_ THEOPHILA _upon the settee, then goes out at
                the window, and disappears_. FRASER _takes a chair and
                sits_.

                                FRASER.

You—you are very ill, Theophila?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_In a low, level, weary voice, her eyes turned from him._] No; I have
just escaped being ill, they say.

                                FRASER.

I have been out all night, taking steps to find you; your aunt’s
telegram did not reach me till late this morning. I hurried here
directly.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Indifferently, her thoughts elsewhere._] Oh?

                                FRASER.

I hope they told you so.

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes—I think they did. [_Rousing herself slightly._] When did you receive
the news that I’d—I’d——?

                                FRASER.

That you had——?

                               THEOPHILA.

Run away?

                                FRASER.

Justina came to Lennox Gardens last night at about half-past six.

                               THEOPHILA.

It hadn’t struck you as at all likely——?

                                FRASER.

No.

                               THEOPHILA.

Men _don’t_ think on some points, I suppose. They hit; they never expect
to see a bruise.

                                FRASER.

The two days we passed in Court, Theophila, set me quite beside myself.
I am here to express my deep, my unfeigned regret for my treatment of
you. I—I humbly beg your pardon.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Looking at him for the first time, in an expressionless way._] You
know what happened last night?

                                FRASER.

[_With assumed indifference._] Mrs. Cloys—told me—[_with a wave of the
hand_]—oh, yes.

                               THEOPHILA.

I asked her to tell you all. She has told you _all_?

                                FRASER.

[_Nodding agitatedly._] For God’s sake, let us never again refer to the
subject. Forget my share of yesterday and I will forget yours. [_Moving
his chair to the head of the settee, to be nearer to her._] Theophila,
everything you planned that we should do to reinstate you shall be done;
I am prepared to go in with your schemes, heart and soul; all your
suggestions shall be acted upon promptly.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Moving away from him; then, after a brief pause._] No, thank you,
Alec.

                                FRASER.

[_Staring at her._] No——?

                               THEOPHILA.

I’d rather not, now.

                                FRASER.

Why not?

                               THEOPHILA.

Things are different.

                                FRASER.

In what way?

                               THEOPHILA.

_I_ feel very different. When I asked you yesterday afternoon to lend me
a helping hand I was asking for my right. It’s true we haven’t got on
well together; you’ve been in one place, I in another, for more than
half our married life. It’s true I’ve been miserable and lonely, and
have told my tale often enough to him—Mr. Allingham——

                                FRASER.

[_Between his teeth._] Yes, yes.

                               THEOPHILA.

But, throughout everything, I’ve never been disloyal to you; I’ve always
been fair to you when speaking of you behind your back; though I’ve
hated you sometimes, I wouldn’t have let a living soul say a word
against you in my presence. This is truth, Oh, I know I’ve been vilely
brought up! ’Tina and I are vulgar and slangy, and generally bad form;
and we were once what’s called “fast,” I suppose. But our fastness
didn’t amount to much; it was only flirting, and giggling, and dodging
mother, and getting lost in conservatories and gardens. Oh, what fools
girls are! No, till yesterday I’ve been only silly—silly—nothing but
silly—till last night——! till last night——!

                                FRASER.

[_Rising and pacing the room._] You were no more yourself last night
than I was _myself_ yesterday afternoon!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Sitting upright._] Who says I was not myself? It _was_ myself, the
dregs of myself, that came to the top last night!

                                FRASER.

The—the—circumstances—under which you—you behaved as you did——

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Hiding her face in the pillows._] Oh, don’t remind me of it!

                                FRASER.

I mean, you were weak—ill——

                               THEOPHILA.

You mean nothing of the sort ... oh-h-h-h, how horrid I must have
looked...!

                                FRASER.

They were mere words you were speaking——

                               THEOPHILA.

It was _me_—_me_!

                                FRASER.

Surely, if I see no reason why you should not claim my help——?

                               THEOPHILA.

I see a reason—that’s enough. I repeat, what I asked of you yesterday
was my right, my right. But to-day—to-day it would be accepting a favour
from you——

                                FRASER.

Favour!

                               THEOPHILA.

Favour. A poor, tawdry little thing I’ve always been; but I’ve been
proud—yes, very proud—like every woman who is square and honest. But
now——! No, if I could pull myself up again, I’d do it, for mother’s sake
and ’Tina’s; but never, never, never, after last night, could I accept a
favour from my husband!

                                FRASER.

I hear from your aunt that Mrs. Allingham—this man Allingham’s
wife!—generously offers to take you under her wing. Is it so?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Leaning back, her eyes closed._] Aunt brought me a message to that
effect from Mrs. Allingham this morning.

                                FRASER.

What answer did you send?

                               THEOPHILA.

None; I am going to see Mrs. Allingham.

                                FRASER.

I think I understand.

                               THEOPHILA.

Understand?

                                FRASER.

This lady’s proposal is, after all, one worth considering. It would be a
double triumph for you to ride back into the shabby little circle you
regard as “society” in her coach. It would be a triumph over _me_ in the
first place—over _me_!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Opening her eyes and speaking calmly in a subdued voice._] Alec
[_glancing over her shoulder_], is aunt out there? [_He goes to the
window and looks out._

                                FRASER.

Yes.

                               THEOPHILA.

Call her, please.

            [_He disappears. She rises feebly, and, with an effort,
                pushes away the chair_ FRASER _has placed at the head of
                the settee; then she sinks into it_. MRS. CLOYS _enters
                at the window with_ FRASER, _and comes to_ THEOPHILA.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

My dear——?

                               THEOPHILA.

Will you ask Mrs. Allingham to be good enough to come to me?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

You are equal to seeing her?

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes—at once.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Why are you sitting here?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Irritably._] Oh, I am not going to appear quite a wreck before Mrs.
Allingham. Find her, aunt.

            [MRS. CLOYS _goes out._ FRASER _brings a foot-stool to_
                THEOPHILA _and places it under her feet. She nods in
                acknowledgment._

                                FRASER.

[_Sarcastically._] You must not forget to thank Mrs. Allingham for
taking her place by your bedside all last night.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Indignantly._] Ah, it was shameful of aunt to have allowed that! She
hid herself behind the curtains and peeped at me. She saw how ugly I
was! I’ll never forgive aunt for permitting it! Oh——!

                                FRASER.

[_Glancing at the door._] Sssh——!

            [_He walks away as_ OLIVE _enters, followed by_ MRS. CLOYS.
                OLIVE _is dressed as in the previous Act. Upon
                encountering_ FRASER _she slightly inclines her head to
                him, with eyes averted; he bows stiffly. She then comes
                and stands before_ THEOPHILA.

                                 OLIVE.

[_To_ THEOPHILA.] I—I hope you are better, Mrs. Fraser.

                               THEOPHILA.

Thank you, yes. [_Turning her head._] Don’t go yet, aunt—nor you, Alec.
[_To_ OLIVE.] Mrs. Allingham, my husband comes to me to-day asking me to
go back home with him, in order that, after all, we may commence
together to fight the “shabby little circle” to which I have, I dare
say, attached a great deal too much importance. Well, I’ve declined to
go back—declined. But Mr. Fraser has an idea that I’m treating him
spitefully because I’ve found a powerful friend in you.

                                 OLIVE.

Mrs. Fraser, I—I do beg of you not to act hastily, and without good
advice. Of course, you are angry, justifiably angry——

                               THEOPHILA.

Ah——!

                                 OLIVE.

But pray take time to reflect. Oh, I entreat you to try—in a little
while, when you feel less bitter—to try to see your way clear to—to——

                               THEOPHILA.

To do what?

                                 OLIVE.

To accept both Mr. Fraser’s help—and mine.

            [THEOPHILA _partly rises, as if about to make some indignant
                response, but restrains herself_.

                               THEOPHILA.

I—I can only make the same reply to you, Mrs. Allingham, as I have just
made to my husband—thank you, no.

                                 OLIVE.

You cannot right yourself in the eyes of people without Mr. Fraser’s
assistance or mine. And especially mine! You couldn’t accomplish it
thoroughly with _his_ help alone; it would be impossible.

                               THEOPHILA.

Very well then, it’s impossible.

                                 OLIVE.

[_To_ FRASER.] Mr. Fraser——[FRASER _advances a few steps_.] Perhaps,
by-and-bye, you will add your persuasions to mine that your wife will
accept me as your ally?

                                FRASER.

[_Stiffly._] Mrs. Allingham, I regret that what you suggest is, so far
as I am concerned, quite out of the question.

                                 OLIVE.

Mrs. Cloys—[FRASER _retires as_ MRS. CLOYS _approaches_]—I am sure _you_
can understand the value of the services I am able to render your niece.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Oh, perfectly.

                                 OLIVE.

Then you will try to induce her——?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Ah! you must excuse me, Mrs. Allingham——

                                 OLIVE.

You will not?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I may tell you that I anticipated her rejection of your proposal
directly you communicated it to me——

                                 OLIVE.

Indeed?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

And I must say—[_looking at_ THEOPHILA]—that I fully sympathise with
the—ah—the feelings of——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Rigidly._] Of Mrs. Fraser?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Politely._] Of Mrs. Fraser. [QUAIFE _enters, and advances a few steps
towards_ MRS. CLOYS, _who speaks to him quickly_.] Has——?

                        [_She breaks off, looking at him significantly._

                                QUAIFE.

Yes, ma’am.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_To_ FRASER.] Mr. Fraser, may I trouble you to follow me? I have
something to say to you. [QUAIFE _withdraws. To_ THEOPHILA.] I must run
away for a few moments. Shall I send Justina to you?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Quickly._] Oh, Mrs. Fraser, let me speak a few words to you while no
one is present——!

                               THEOPHILA.

Certainly.

            [MRS. CLOYS _passes her hand over_ THEOPHILA’S _head
                caressingly, then hurries to the door_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Mr.Fraser——

            [_She goes out_, FRASER _accompanying her_. OLIVE _looks
                round the room, then sits, slowly and deliberately upon
                the settee_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_After a little pause._] Forgive me.

                               THEOPHILA.

Forgive you——!

                                 OLIVE.

Oh, do make the effort!

                               THEOPHILA.

I can’t understand your asking for my forgiveness, wanting it.

                                 OLIVE.

Endeavour to understand me. I don’t remember that it ever struck me,
when you and I were—friends, that your disposition was a jealous one.

                               THEOPHILA.

No?

                                 OLIVE.

It isn’t, is it?

                               THEOPHILA.

I couldn’t go the lengths you’ve gone, from jealousy, if you mean that.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Sadly._] Ah——!

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, don’t you think that enough has been done in the name of jealousy?
For months and months it has made a hell of my life, your jealousy.
People have seen me walking about looking merry; but what sort of days
and nights does a woman really spend with the Divorce Court looming
before her? “Allingham _versus_ Allingham, Fraser intervening!” that’s
the air you’ve kept me dancing to since—goodness knows when the music
first struck up! And now I’m to forgive you, offhand, because—you happen
to have a jealous disposition!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Falteringly._] You were sustained all the time by the knowledge that
you were an innocent, persecuted woman——

                               THEOPHILA.

Much good did my innocence do me yesterday when they gave me “the
benefit of the doubt,” and sent me out of the Court ruined!

                                 OLIVE.

It does you this much good—that now _I_ am satisfied as to your
innocence I am prepared to serve you humbly and faithfully. Oh, Mrs.
Fraser, I would be a true friend to you this time! [_Rising and standing
before_ THEOPHILA.] Come, forgive me!

                               THEOPHILA.

[_In a low voice._] Well, for the months of awful trouble you gave me,
and for those two days in the Divorce Court—yes, you’re welcome to my
forgiveness for all that. [_Her voice hardening, her hands clenched._]
But not for last night!

                                 OLIVE.

You mustn’t make me wholly responsible for what took place last night.

                               THEOPHILA.

I do hold you responsible. Why—they’ve told me the story—I know that,
when my note to your husband was handed to him, he wanted to send a
message to me excusing himself from meeting me. Did you let the message
go? There was I waiting out in the lane, my people in this room, all in
a fidget to hurry to me and take me away. Did you let them come to me?
No, you huddled them out of the way, and then drew your husband into
your plot, and trapped me in here. I was the poor rat, half dead, who
had been well worried, but who’d a little life still left; so you had me
in, panting, and got another few minutes’ sport out of me——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Her hands to her brows._] Oh, don’t, don’t! Mrs. Fraser, at any rate,
it was through last night that you cleared yourself——

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Rising, and speaking fiercely._] Cleared myself! Yes, and a pretty
price you were the cause of my paying for “clearing myself!” Do you
think I’d have willingly cleared myself at that cost? Ah, no decent
woman could afford it! Cleared myself!

                                 OLIVE.

You were mad when you——. You were mad.

                               THEOPHILA.

You know better! I was sane enough! But mad, or sane, or—or whatever I
was, I shall never think the same of myself again, never feel quite the
same again. And to-day I’m to forgive you for it! No, if you came to me
and told me that you’d just saved the life of some one dear to me, I
couldn’t forgive you for last night. I couldn’t! No woman could!

            [OLIVE _walks away and stands, looking out into the garden_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_After a pause, speaking in a hard voice._] Excuse me for saying so,
Mrs. Fraser—but I think you regard your share in the affair of last
night more as a schoolgirl would regard it, than as a woman; rather
sentimentally, in fact.

                               THEOPHILA.

Thank God, I’m able to do _that_! Sentimentally? Well, ninety-nine women
out of a hundred are kept fresh and sweet by nothing better than mere
sentiment. [_Sitting upon the settee, a little faintly._] Where’s ’Tina?

            [OLIVE _turns and comes to her; she is wiping the tears from
                her eyes_.

                                 OLIVE.

You know, if you wished to have your revenge on me, you have it.

                               THEOPHILA.

Revenge? I?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Turning from_ THEOPHILA, _her hand playing with the arm of the
chair_.] The services I thought you would allow me to render you are the
only means by which I could hope to get my husband to overlook my
behaviour of last night. He won’t speak to me to-day.

                               THEOPHILA.

I’m sorry.

                                 OLIVE.

After what has happened my one hold on him is through the reparation I
could make you. And now—and now—you—— [_Throwing herself into the chair,
crying._] Oh, it’s like begging to you!

                               THEOPHILA.

Notwithstanding—all you’ve done—you’re anxious to make it up with your
husband, aren’t you?

                                 OLIVE.

[_In a whisper._] You needn’t ask; you’ve heard all about it.

                               THEOPHILA.

Do you think that, with your nature, you could ever be happy with him,
and make him happy?

                                 OLIVE.

I—I don’t—think of that.

                               THEOPHILA.

Well, I can’t say anything more than—I’m sorry.

            [OLIVE _rises, and, with faltering steps, comes to her_.

                                 OLIVE.

Excuse me being so persistent. [_Piteously._] You won’t accept my help?
[THEOPHILA, _leaning back with closed eyes, shakes her head._] You won’t
even—try?

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Faintly, almost inaudibly._] It would be of no use; I couldn’t.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Drawing a long breath, her arms falling by her side._] Ah!

                               THEOPHILA.

I’m tired. Tell my sister——

                                 OLIVE.

[_Goes to the upper door, opens it, and looks out._] Oh, Quaife, where
is Miss Emptage?

                                QUAIFE.

[_Out of sight._] In the dining-room, ma’am. Shall I——?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Closing the door._] No, thank you. [_She goes to the dining-room door,
and opens it slightly, without withdrawing the_ portière.] Miss Emptage!

                                JUSTINA.

[_From the dining-room._] Here!

                                 OLIVE.

Your sister wishes to return to her room.

            [OLIVE _walks away and stands outside the window, as_
                JUSTINA _enters and goes to_ THEOPHILA.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Raising_ THEOPHILA.] Where’s aunt? Why have they left you alone?

                               THEOPHILA.

I asked them to.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Lowering her voice._] With _her_?

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes.

                                JUSTINA.

Tell me——!

                               THEOPHILA.

By-and-bye. Take me away. [OLIVE _disappears_.

                                JUSTINA.

[_Walking with_ THEOPHILA _towards the upper door_.] Oh, we’ve had such
a time in there! Uncle Fletcher’s been boring our heads off on the
subject of the blessings of Arbitration; and at last, Jack, who is in a
vile temper, almost jumped down his throat.

            [_They go out, whereupon_ JOHN _is seen to slightly push
                aside the portière and peep into the room. Satisfied
                that the room is empty, he enters quickly, closes the
                door behind him emphatically, and throws himself on to
                the settee with a groan of weariness._ OLIVE _returns;
                she is about to pass the window, but seeing_ JOHN _she
                enters quietly, takes a chair and sits. They remain
                looking at each other for a little while without
                speaking._

                                 OLIVE.

Good morning, John—well, afternoon.

                                 JOHN.

Er—Have you lunched?

                                 OLIVE.

No.

                                 JOHN.

[_Looking towards the dining-room door._] It’s in there.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Drily._] Thanks.

                                 JOHN.

I—I’m sorry I can’t offer to wait on you——

                                 OLIVE.

Oh, pray don’t——!

                                 JOHN.

But Portwood is still eating. I’ve been rude to him.

                                 OLIVE.

Indeed?

                                 JOHN.

[_Rising and walking about._] I believe all these people will drive me
crazy! I don’t know where to get to for them.

                                 OLIVE.

You are in your own house. Need you seek to avoid any of them?

                                 JOHN.

Well, I’m not particularly desirous, for instance, of another encounter
with Mr. Fraser.

                                 OLIVE.

Another. Have you——?

                                 JOHN.

Yes. I’ve been rude to him.

                                 OLIVE.

Oh! Mrs. Cloys——?

                                 JOHN.

She treats me as a schoolmistress would treat a very small boy in
disgrace.

                                 OLIVE.

Miss Emptage——!

                                 JOHN.

Lectures me and patronises me till my blood curdles. Just now I was
almost—well, I hope not——

                                 OLIVE.

Rude to her?

                                 JOHN.

Yes. And then this maddening old man——? I can’t endure it! Even my
servants——

                                 OLIVE.

Servants?

                                 JOHN.

A minute or two ago I was trying to escape from the dining-room by
passing through the kitchen, and I came upon my cook and Mrs. Fraser’s
maid discussing me over a bowl of chicken broth. Mrs. Quaife—my cook——!
I heard her distinctly! “I never thought Mr. Allingham was that sort of
a gentleman,” she said.

                                 OLIVE.

_What_ sort of a gentleman?

                                 JOHN.

I don’t know. I got away.

                                 OLIVE.

H’m, I think I should have been rude to _her_.

                                 JOHN.

And there are two more relatives of Mrs. Fraser’s to arrive yet.
[_Throwing himself into a chair._] The boy has gone to town to fetch the
mother. The mother!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Rising and walking towards the door._] At any rate, I can rid you of
one unwelcome guest. [_He looks up at her._] I am going, John, directly.

                                 JOHN.

Going home?

                                 OLIVE.

Going back to my flat.

                                 JOHN.

[_Rising._] Then there is no longer any necessity for me to stick in
this wretched cottage.

                                 OLIVE.

I’m sorry to have been the cause——

                                 JOHN.

Of course, I could not leave you here among your—your——

                                 OLIVE.

Enemies.

                                 JOHN.

Well, hardly friends. Then Mrs. Fraser is well enough to travel?

                                 OLIVE.

I don’t know, I’m sure.

                                 JOHN.

You’ve relinquished your intention of devoting yourself to her?

                                 OLIVE.

No, I haven’t relinquished it. Mrs. Fraser will have nothing to do with
me.

                                 JOHN.

She has said so?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Sitting upon the settee._] Oh, yes, she has said so.

                                 JOHN.

What reason does she give?

                                 OLIVE.

She will not receive help from the woman who—who brought that
humiliation on her last night. I believe, if she was starving, she
wouldn’t take a crust from my hand.

                                 JOHN.

She returns to her husband, I suppose?

                                 OLIVE.

I think not. She is in the mood to accept nothing from anybody.

                                 JOHN.

[_Sitting with his head bowed._] Wounded—wounded.

                                 OLIVE.

[_With a slight shrug of the shoulders._] She’s a sentimental, romantic
little person, I find. Well——!

                                 JOHN.

Ha, we didn’t calculate for this when we arranged our ingenious little
plan last night! We were to restore Mrs. Fraser’s name and position to
her untarnished; we were to set poor little Humpty-Dumpty up again
by—when was it?—Goodwood week; all in return for your ten minutes’ fun
in there! We were damned generous, you and I—only we reckoned without
Mrs. Fraser! [_Starting up._] And so, you see, after all, we’ve had our
fun, and enjoyed it, and yet pay nothing for it! But, at the same time,
we mustn’t forget that in this world everything has to be paid for by
somebody. By Jove, there’s no doubt as to who stands treat for last
night! Mrs. Fraser pays! that poor little, broken-down woman pays! _She_
pays——!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Rising._] You blame me beyond all reason! I’ll not put up with it! Why
didn’t you call her aunt into the room last night when you saw Mrs.
Fraser becoming wilder and wilder? [_Walking away._] Pah! you appeared
moonstruck! moonstruck!

                                 JOHN.

I thought I might save her from meeting her people while she was so
unlike herself. You know I was helpless——[_She approaches; he seizes her
by the shoulders._] You—you reproach me! Why didn’t you strike that bell
sooner? why didn’t you strike it sooner? [_Leaving her, and throwing
himself into a chair._] Ah, you weren’t capable even of that!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Tearfully, rubbing her shoulders._] Oh, John——!

                                 JOHN.

I beg your pardon.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Going to him slowly, leaning against the balustrade._] John——

                                 JOHN.

Well?

                                 OLIVE.

I will confess it to you—I didn’t strike the bell at all.

                                 JOHN.

You—did not?

                                 OLIVE.

I was under the impression I had stopped the clock before I sat down to
listen, but in my agitation I must have shaken it and started it again.
[_Kneeling beside_ JOHN’S _chair_.] The clock struck of its own accord.

                                 JOHN.

And you sat there, drinking in every word; and when the poor creature
had cleared herself, and _satisfied_ you, still you made no effort——!
[_Rising._] Oh!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Seizing his coat._] John, I _couldn’t_ move from that curtain! I was a
wretch! Pity me! I _couldn’t_ stir! [JOHN _walks away. She rises from
the ground and sits._] Oh, get me a carriage of some sort to take me to
the station.

                                 JOHN.

[_Going towards the bell._] I’ll tell Quaife. [_Pausing, looking at
her._] I don’t know—I can’t imagine—how you are going to get through
your life——

                                 OLIVE.

Oh, please! I’ve been lectured by Mrs. Fraser, Oh, there are heaps of
solitary women in the world; some people envy them. [_He sits upon the
settee._] Now that—now that—the chances of our coming together again
have fallen through, I shall be off out of London at once. Where can one
go to at this time of the year?

                                 JOHN.

[_Abstractedly._] Eh? Er—it’s a bit early for most places.

                                 OLIVE.

I’m going to Aix in August.

                                 JOHN.

[_Looking up._] You are?

                                 OLIVE.

Oh! Why, did _you_ think of——?

                                 JOHN.

Yes. But it doesn’t matter.

                                 OLIVE.

Oh, I don’t want to interfere with your——

                                 JOHN.

Aix is a pretty big place.

                                 OLIVE.

Where will you stay?

                                 JOHN.

I’ve been told, the “Splendide”——

                                 OLIVE.

Oh——!

                                 JOHN.

What?

                                 OLIVE.

I can easily put up elsewhere.

                                 JOHN.

You needn’t. I dare say the “Splendide” is quite large enough for two
people who—who——

                                 OLIVE.

Who want to keep far apart. [_Rising, and going towards the door,
pausing by the head of the settee._] How ridiculous that reconciliation
of ours last night! Why, how many weeks should we have been together?

                                 JOHN.

[_His head resting upon his hands._] Not many—not many, I’m afraid.

                                 OLIVE.

Weeks! Days, I should have said—or hours. “Heaven have mercy upon us!
we’re reconciled!” Do you remember—last night——?

                                 JOHN.

Ha! yes.

                                 OLIVE.

“Heaven have mercy upon us!” Ha, ha!

                                 JOHN.

Heaven have mercy on us!

                                 OLIVE.

[_Wiping the tears from her eyes._] I—I’ll go and put my bonnet on. [_He
rises, and she holds out her hand._] Good-bye, John.

                                 JOHN.

[_Taking her hand, looking away._] Good-bye.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Suddenly drawing back._] Oh——!

                                 JOHN.

What?

                                 OLIVE.

[_Breathlessly._] Oh, yes——!

                                 JOHN.

Olive?

                                 OLIVE.

Ah—h—h—h, you’ll find plenty of pretty women at Aix——!

            QUAIFE _enters, showing in_ MRS. EMPTAGE _and_ CLAUDE.
                QUAIFE _retires_. MRS. EMPTAGE _is in a bright and
                fashionable morning dress_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_To_ OLIVE.] Mrs. Allingham——! [_To_ CLAUDE.] Claude, keep by me. My
legs are all of a tremble. Where is my daughter, Mrs. Fraser? Take me to
her. I am very ill indeed; I fancy this affair has affected my heart——

                                 JOHN.

Pray sit down for a moment.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Sitting down._] We used to be friends, Mr. Allingham—great friends;
now I wonder you can look me in the face. [_Panting._] I have heard
everything from Claude. I am ashamed—I must say it—I am ashamed of you
and your wife.

            [OLIVE _makes a movement, as if to go_; JOHN _detains her_.

                                 JOHN.

[_To_ OLIVE.] No, no; I don’t think we’ll run away and hide any more.
[_Turning to_ MRS. EMPTAGE.] But I hope that Mrs. Emptage will be kind
enough to apply to me, alone, any harsh expressions she may care to make
use of——

                         SIR FLETCHER _enters_.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_Advancing._] Ah, Muriel——!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Rising, throwing her arms round_ SIR FLETCHER’S _neck_.] Oh, Fletcher,
Fletcher! I’ve hardly closed my eyes all night!

                                CLAUDE.

May I ask what has gone on during my absence?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

During _your_ absence——!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Is Alec here?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Yes, the family gathering is complete.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Does Theo return to Lennox Gardens? Has an arrangement of any sort been
come to?

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

None that I know of. I seem to be powerless.

                    MRS. CLOYS _and_ FRASER _enter_.

                                CLAUDE.

[_Meeting them._] ’Ullo, aunt! ’ullo, Fraser!

            [MRS. EMPTAGE _totters to_ MRS. CLOYS. CLAUDE _retires_.
                JOHN _walks away to the fireplace_. OLIVE _is now seated
                upon the settee_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Embracing_ MRS. CLOYS.] Oh, Harriet, I am very poorly; I don’t think I
have had two hours’ rest all night. [_Going to_ FRASER _and kissing
him_.] Alec, you will prove a generous, good fellow—of that I am sure.
Poor Theo has behaved very indiscreetly. I really believe my heart has
been upset by it all——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I have something important to say, Muriel. Pray sit down and be quiet.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_In a flutter._] I know, I know. Unless I can be kept quiet it will be
very serious for me. [_In her agitation, she is about to sit upon the
settee beside_ OLIVE.] Oh, dear, what am I doing! [_Moving away, she
stops, pointing to the library._] Great heavens! was that the room——?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Sssh! [MRS. EMPTAGE _sits again_. FRASER _goes to the window and stands
there, apart, his back turned to those in the room_.] What I have to say
concerns the future Of Theophila——[_There is a movement on the part of_
JOHN _and_ OLIVE.] Please, let nobody go. All who are here are
interested in the future of Mrs. Fraser—[_looking at_ OLIVE]—and I
believe sympathetically interested. [_Sitting._] In fact, I want it to
be known that a very happy arrangement has been arrived at.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_To_ SIR FLETCHER.] Fletcher, you said _no_ arrangement had been
arrived at.

                             SIR FLETCHER.

I have not been consulted, Harriet.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I did not consider it necessary, Fletcher. There was a question whether
the plan I had in view _could_ be carried out.

                             SIR FLETCHER.

Then you—you have constituted yourself a—a sort of—arbitrator——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

As you say, a sort of arbitratrix, I suppose.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

The cloak of pedantry, Harriet, scarcely conceals your want of respect
for your brother.

[_Passing_ MRS. CLOYS, _as if about to quit the room_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Touching his arm._] We’ll all keep our tempers, Fletcher. [_He
remains._] Yes, the thought came to me during the night—a long, anxious
night——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Ah, indeed!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

The thought that I would telegraph to the bishop the very first thing
this morning.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

The bishop!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Asking, him to come to me at once.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Will he do so?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

The bishop is goodness and compliance personified. He left St. Olpherts
at ten o’clock this morning; he is here.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Here!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

I shall be ashamed to meet him; after my sleepless night my face is so
dreadfully lined——!

                              MRS. CLOYS.

The bishop does not notice the lines in women’s faces. Directly he
arrived, I submitted my scheme; in two words, he approved; it will be
carried into execution.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I do not ask _what_ scheme.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Theophila returns to St. Olpherts at once with us. She will rest there
two or three days, by which time I shall have found a suitable house in
town——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

In town——?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

The bishop and I have not had a house in town for some years. Mr. Fraser
kindly sees house agents this afternoon.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

I would willingly have seen house agents, Harriet. A furnished house——?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Assenting._] For the season—sufficiently large for the dear bishop,
myself, and Theophila. Both in London and at St. Olpherts, Theophila
will be my close companion. In our little London gaieties she will
figure prominently. At certain formal gatherings she will share the
responsibilities of the hostess. If any paragraph concerning our doings
should creep into the newspaper, it will concern the Bishop of St.
Olpherts, Mrs. Cloys, _and_ Mrs. Fraser of Locheen. Oh, I don’t think
there will be many to wag evil tongues against Mrs. Fraser a few months
hence!

            [OLIVE _rises, and advances to_ MRS. CLOYS, _who stands as
                she approaches_.

                                 OLIVE.

[_In a low voice, to_ MRS. CLOYS.] I’m glad; I’m very glad.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

That’s right.

                                 OLIVE.

[_Falteringly._] But your—your scheme owes—just a little to my idea,
doesn’t it?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

I admit it. Mrs. Allingham, I am sure you don’t grudge——

                                 OLIVE.

No, no; indeed I don’t. I—I hope you will succeed—to the utmost——

            [_She turns away, and goes out by the dining-room door._

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Rising, fretfully._] It seems to me everything is taken out of one’s
hands——

                             SIR FLETCHER.

In a most unceremonious way——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Glancing at_ FRASER, _who is now out in the garden_.] What about
Alec—Mr. Fraser——?

                             SIR FLETCHER.

Of course, any policy that doesn’t tend to bring my niece and her
husband together——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Ah, I haven’t told you. Mr. Fraser is to be a frequent—a fairly frequent
visitor in London, and at St. Olpherts.

                             SIR FLETCHER.

[_With a sniff._] Visitor——

                              MRS. CLOYS.

And it is further arranged that, in a year’s time, Mr. Fraser comes to
us and formally asks Theophila to return to Lennox Gardens.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

And when he does——?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Then we shall see what we shall see.

                             SIR FLETCHER.

[_Walking away._] I can’t quite explain my feeling—but I am not
sanguine—not at all sanguine.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

At any rate, in less than twelve months, if I know my girl, she will
have grown heartily sick of her solemn surroundings.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Indignantly._] How dare you——! how——! [_Checking herself._] Well,
suppose she _does_ weary of me, good will result even from _that_ if it
sends her back to her husband.

            [_The door opens, and the_ BISHOP OF ST. OLPHERTS _enters
                with_ THEOPHILA _upon his arm_. JUSTINA _follows them,
                carrying a shawl. The bishop is a mild-looking, very old
                man._ THEOPHILA _is dressed in her cape and bonnet, and
                her face is hidden under her thick veil_.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_Coming to_ MRS. EMPTAGE, _and kissing her_.] Mother——

            [MRS. EMPTAGE _kisses her hastily and, bustles over to the_
                BISHOP.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Ah, Bishop, I can hardly hope you’ll recollect me.

                                BISHOP.

[_Vaguely._] Yes, yes, yes.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_With a simper._] Muriel, you know.

                                BISHOP.

[_Taking her hand._] Mrs. Emptage——!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Don’t tell me; I know I’m altered.

                                BISHOP.

Ah, years pass over us.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

It isn’t that—but I had no sleep last night.

            [SIR FLETCHER _advances, and grasps the_ BISHOP’S _hand_.

                             SIR FLETCHER.

I remember years ago, at the opening of the People’s Library at
Stockwell, describing Dr. Cloys as one of the stoutest pillars of our
Church——

                                BISHOP.

[_Uneasily._] The People’s Library at——?

                             SIR FLETCHER.

Stockwell. To-day I have only to add—may that pillar never grow faint
nor weary; may its back remain equal to the burden imposed upon it; may
it continue to plough the stormy seas of scepticism and agnosticism!

                                BISHOP.

[_Helplessly._] Er-r—who is it?

                              MRS. CLOYS.

My brother Fletcher.

                                BISHOP.

Ah, how do you do?

                           QUAIFE _appears_.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Is the fly here?

                                QUAIFE.

Yes, ma’am.

            [QUAIFE _withdraws. The_ BISHOP _moves towards the window_,
                SIR FLETCHER _closely following him_.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_To_ MRS. EMPTAGE.] Good-bye, mother dear.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_Embracing her._] Oh, good-bye, my darling. I won’t reproach you. If
you make a bed you must lie on it. You’ve nearly broken my heart, but
I’m only your mother——

                               THEOPHILA.

Oh, don’t——!

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

[_In a whisper._] Mind you see that we visit you constantly in London
and St Olpherts!

                               THEOPHILA.

Yes, yes. [_As she is walking away, she sees_ JOHN—_who has been
standing silently behind the settee, his back turned to those in the
room—and she says to the others_.] One moment. [_She comes down, looking
at_ JOHN.] Mr. Allingham. [_He approaches her slowly. After a pause she
says in a low voice._] Oh, Jack, how could you? [_He bows his head,
making no reply._] Well—for auld lang-syne——[_She holds out her hand; he
takes it, but releases it quickly. She turns to go, then pauses._]
Where’s your wife? [_He looks towards the dining-room door. She
hesitates for a moment, then, goes out quickly by that door._]

                              MRS. CLOYS.

[_Looking round._] Theophila—Theophila——

                                 JOHN.

[_Watching the door._] She will be here in a moment; she is with my
wife.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

[_His voice rising._] My dear bishop, it is my view of life, and the
observation has some theological bearing, that the devil almost
invariably appears to women in the form of Impulse. In saying this, I am
perhaps on the verge of a truism——

                        BISHOP OF ST. OLPHERTS.

No, no, no.

               THEOPHILA _re-enters; her veil is raised_.

                               THEOPHILA.

[_As she passes_ JOHN, _lowering her veil_.] It’s all right.

            [_There is a hubbub of talk as_ THEOPHILA _and her relatives
                go out at the upper door_.

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

You will need a warm wrap, Theo.

                                JUSTINA.

I have one here, mother.

                              MRS. CLOYS.

Now, Bishop——

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

Is the carriage closed?

                        BISHOP OF ST. OLPHERTS.

I hope not.

                         SIR FLETCHER PORTWOOD.

You shall run no risk, my dear bishop——

                             MRS. EMPTAGE.

Claude, come to the gate. Give me your arm, Alec——

            [_The talk ceases._ JOHN _is alone. After a pause he goes
                out into the garden and stands looking off towards the
                left, as if watching the departing carriage._ OLIVE
                _enters slowly and sadly; she sits upon the settee,
                covering her eyes with her hand_. JOHN _re-enters the
                room. Seeing_ OLIVE, _he remains where he is for a
                moment or two irresolutely; then he comes down to her,
                sits beside her and takes her hand_.

                                THE END.

                 _Printed by_ BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                         _London and Edinburgh_

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                           Transcriber’s Note

Minor inconsistencies in the punctuation of stage directions have been
regularized.

Errors deemed most likely to be the printer’s have been corrected, and
are noted here. The references are to the page and line in the original.
The following issues should be noted, along with the resolutions.

  v.5      on the same day[,]                             Added.

  5.17     _Taking a screw of paper from her glove[.]_    Added.

  25.2     But I must have[ have] every support           Redundant.

  216.19   Allowe[d]—what?                                Added.

  242.17   No, thank you, Alec[.]                         Added.

  243.22   This is truth[!/,] truth!]                     Replaced.

  286.9    grown heartily sick of her solemn              Added.
           surroundings[.]

  288.14   may it[’]s back remain equal to the burden     Removed.





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