Infomotions, Inc.Plays : Fourth Series / Galsworthy, John, 1867-1933



Author: Galsworthy, John, 1867-1933
Title: Plays : Fourth Series
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): hillcrist; lemmy; strangway; hornblower; dawker; jill; poulder; chloe; burlacombe; bradmere; aida; rolf; tibby; anne; little aida; sol potter; jim bere; ivy; james; old lydy; miss stokes; lord; lord william; press
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Size: 60,158 words (short) Grade range: 4-6 (grade school) Readability score: 80 (easy)
Identifier: etext5058
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Project Gutenberg's The Fourth Series Plays, Complete, by John Galsworthy

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Title: The Fourth Series Plays, Complete

Author: John Galsworthy

Release Date: October 27, 2006 [EBook #5058]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE FOURTH SERIES PLAYS, COMPLETE ***




Produced by David Widger




PLAYS IN THE FOURTH SERIES

By John Galsworthy



Contents:

     A Bit O' Love
     The Foundations
     The Skin Game




A BIT O' LOVE



PERSONS OF THE PLAY

MICHAEL STRANGWAY
BEATRICE STRANGWAY
MRS. BRADMERE
JIM BERE
JACK CREMER
MRS. BURLACOMBE
BURLACOMBE
TRUSTAFORD
JARLAND
CLYST
FREMAN
GODLEIGH
SOL POTTER
MORSE, AND OTHERS
IVY BURLACOMBE
CONNIE TRUSTAFORD
GLADYS FREMAN
MERCY JARLAND
TIBBY JARLAND
BOBBIE JARLAND




SCENE: A VILLAGE OF THE WEST

The Action passes on Ascension Day.

ACT I.  STRANGWAY'S rooms at BURLACOMBE'S.  Morning.

ACT II.  Evening

     SCENE I.  The Village Inn.
     SCENE II.  The same.
     SCENE III.  Outside the church.

ACT III.  Evening

     SCENE I.  STRANGWAY'S rooms.
     SCENE II.  BURLACOMBE'S barn.



A BIT O' LOVE


ACT I

     It is Ascension Day in a village of the West.  In the low
     panelled hall-sittingroom of the BURLACOMBE'S farmhouse on the
     village green, MICHAEL STRANGWAY, a clerical collar round his
     throat and a dark Norfolk jacket on his back, is playing the
     flute before a very large framed photograph of a woman, which is
     the only picture on the walls.  His age is about thirty-five his
     figure thin and very upright and his clean-shorn face thin,
     upright, narrow, with long and rather pointed ears; his dark
     hair is brushed in a coxcomb off his forehead.  A faint smile
     hovers about his lips that Nature has made rather full and he
     has made thin, as though keeping a hard secret; but his bright
     grey eyes, dark round the rim, look out and upwards almost as if
     he were being crucified.  There is something about the whole of
     him that makes him seen not quite present.  A gentle creature,
     burnt within.

     A low broad window above a window-seat forms the background to
     his figure; and through its lattice panes are seen the outer
     gate and yew-trees of a churchyard and the porch of a church,
     bathed in May sunlight.  The front door at right angles to the
     window-seat, leads to the village green, and a door on the left
     into the house.

     It is the third movement of Veracini's violin sonata that
     STRANGWAY plays.  His back is turned to the door into the house,
     and he does not hear when it is opened, and IVY BURLACOMBE, the
     farmer's daughter, a girl of fourteen, small and quiet as a
     mouse, comes in, a prayer-book in one hand, and in the other a
     gloss of water, with wild orchis and a bit of deep pink
     hawthorn.  She sits down on the window-seat, and having opened
     her book, sniffs at the flowers.  Coming to the end of the
     movement STRANGWAY stops, and looking up at the face on the
     wall, heaves a long sigh.

IVY.  [From the seat] I picked these for yu, Mr. Strangway.

STRANGWAY.  [Turning with a start]  Ah!  Ivy.  Thank you.  [He puts
his flute down on a chair against the far wall]  Where are the
others?

     As he speaks, GLADYS FREMAN, a dark gipsyish girl, and CONNIE
     TRUSTAFORD, a fair, stolid, blue-eyed Saxon, both about sixteen,
     come in through the front door, behind which they have evidently
     been listening.  They too have prayer-books in their hands.
     They sidle past Ivy, and also sit down under the window.

GLADYS.  Mercy's comin', Mr. Strangway.

STRANGWAY.  Good morning, Gladys; good morning, Connie.

     He turns to a book-case on a table against the far wall, and
     taking out a book, finds his place in it.  While he stands thus
     with his back to the girls, MERCY JARLAND comes in from the
     green.  She also is about sixteen, with fair hair and china-blue
     eyes.  She glides in quickly, hiding something behind her, and
     sits down on the seat next the door.  And at once there is a
     whispering.

STRANGWAY.  [Turning to them] Good morning, Mercy.

MERCY.  Good morning, Mr.  Strangway.

STRANGWAY.  Now, yesterday I was telling you what our Lord's coming
meant to the world.  I want you to understand that before He came
there wasn't really love, as we know it.  I don't mean to say that
there weren't many good people; but there wasn't love for the sake of
loving.  D'you think you understand what I mean?

     MERCY fidgets.  GLADYS'S eyes are following a fly.

IVY.  Yes, Mr.  Strangway.

STRANGWAY.  It isn't enough to love people because they're good to
you, or because in some way or other you're going to get something by
it.  We have to love because we love loving.  That's the great thing
--without that we're nothing but Pagans.

GLADYS.  Please, what is Pagans?

STRANGWAY.  That's what the first Christians called the people who
lived in the villages and were not yet Christians, Gladys.

MERCY.  We live in a village, but we're Christians.

STRANGWAY.  [With a smile] Yes, Mercy; and what is a Christian?

     MERCY kicks afoot, sideways against her neighbour, frowns over
     her china-blare eyes, is silent; then, as his question passes
     on, makes a quick little face, wriggles, and looks behind her.

STRANGWAY.  Ivy?

IVY.  'Tis a man--whu--whu----

STRANGWAY.  Yes?--Connie?

CONNIE.  [Who speaks rather thickly, as if she had a permanent slight
cold] Please, Mr.  Strangway, 'tis a man what goes to church.

GLADYS.  He 'as to be baptised--and confirmed; and--and--buried.

IVY.  'Tis a man whu--whu's gude and----

GLADYS.  He don't drink, an' he don't beat his horses, an' he don't
hit back.

MERCY.  [Whispering]  'Tisn't your turn.  [To STRANGWAY]  'Tis a man
like us.

IVY.  I know what Mrs. Strangway said it was, 'cause I asked her
once, before she went away.

STRANGWAY.  [Startled]  Yes?

IVY.  She said it was a man whu forgave everything.

STRANGWAY.  Ah!

     The note of a cuckoo comes travelling.  The girls are gazing at
     STRANGWAY, who seems to have gone of into a dream.  They begin
     to fidget and whisper.

CONNIE.  Please, Mr. Strangway, father says if yu hit a man and he
don't hit yu back, he's no gude at all.

MERCY.  When Tommy Morse wouldn't fight, us pinched him--he did
squeal!  [She giggles]  Made me laugh!

STRANGWAY.  Did I ever tell you about St. Francis of Assisi?

IVY.  [Clasping her hands]  No.

STRANGWAY.  Well, he was the best Christian, I think, that ever
lived--simply full of love and joy.

IVY.  I expect he's dead.

STRANGWAY.  About seven hundred years, Ivy.

IVY.  [Softly]  Oh!

STRANGWAY.  Everything to him was brother or sister--the sun and the
moon, and all that was poor and weak and sad, and animals and birds,
so that they even used to follow him about.

MERCY.  I know!  He had crumbs in his pocket.

STRANGWAY.  No; he had love in his eyes.

IVY.  'Tis like about Orpheus, that yu told us.

STRANGWAY.  Ah!  But St.  Francis was a Christian, and Orpheus was a
Pagan.

IVY.  Oh!

STRANGWAY.  Orpheus drew everything after him with music; St.
Francis by love.

IVY.  Perhaps it was the same, really.

STRANGWAY.  [looking at his flute]  Perhaps it was, Ivy.

GLADYS.  Did 'e 'ave a flute like yu?

IVY.  The flowers smell sweeter when they 'ear music; they du.

     [She holds up the glass of flowers.]

STRANGWAY.  [Touching one of the orchis]  What's the name of this
one?

     [The girls cluster; save MERCY, who is taking a stealthy
     interest in what she has behind her.]

CONNIE.  We call it a cuckoo, Mr. Strangway.

GLADYS.  'Tis awful common down by the streams.  We've got one medder
where 'tis so thick almost as the goldie cups.

STRANGWAY.  Odd!  I've never noticed it.

IVY.  Please, Mr. Strangway, yu don't notice when yu're walkin'; yu
go along like this.

     [She holds up her face as one looking at the sky.]

STRANGWAY.  Bad as that, Ivy?

IVY.  Mrs. Strangway often used to pick it last spring.

STRANGWAY.  Did she?  Did she?

     [He has gone off again into a kind of dream.]

MERCY.  I like being confirmed.

STRANGWAY.  Ah!  Yes.  Now----What's that behind you, Mercy?

MERCY.  [Engagingly producing a cage a little bigger than a
mouse-trap, containing a skylark]  My skylark.

STRANGWAY.  What!

MERCY.  It can fly; but we're goin' to clip its wings.  Bobbie caught
it.

STRANGWAY.  How long ago?

MERCY.  [Conscious of impending disaster]  Yesterday.

STRANGWAY.  [White hot]  Give me the cage!

MERCY.  [Puckering]  I want my skylark.  [As he steps up to her and
takes the cage--thoroughly alarmed]  I gave Bobbie thrippence for it!

STRANGWAY.  [Producing a sixpence]  There!

MERCY.  [Throwing it down-passionately]  I want my skylark!

STRANGWAY.  God made this poor bird for the sky and the grass.  And
you put it in that!  Never cage any wild thing!  Never!

MERCY.  [Faint and sullen]  I want my skylark.

STRANGWAY.  [Taking the cage to the door]  No!  [He holds up the cage
and opens it]  Off you go, poor thing!

     [The bird flies out and away.  The girls watch with round eyes
     the fling up of his arm, and the freed bird flying away.]

IVY.  I'm glad!

     [MERCY kicks her viciously and sobs.  STRANGWAY comes from the
     door, looks at MERCY sobbing, and suddenly clasps his head.  The
     girls watch him with a queer mixture of wonder, alarm, and
     disapproval.]

GLADYS.  [Whispering]  Don't cry, Mercy.  Bobbie'll soon catch yu
another.

     [STRANGWAY has dropped his hands, and is looking again at MERCY.
     IVY sits with hands clasped, gazing at STRANGWAY.  MERCY
     continues her artificial sobbing.]

STRANGWAY.  [Quietly]  The class is over for to-day.

     [He goes up to MERCY, and holds out his hand.  She does not take
     it, and runs out knuckling her eyes.  STRANGWAY turns on his
     heel and goes into the house.]

CONNIE.  'Twasn't his bird.

IVY.  Skylarks belong to the sky.  Mr. Strangway said so.

GLADYS.  Not when they'm caught, they don't.

IVY.  They du.

CONNIE.  'Twas her bird.

IVY.  He gave her sixpence for it.

GLADYS.  She didn't take it.

CONNIE.  There it is on the ground.

IVY.  She might have.

GLADYS.  He'll p'raps take my squirrel, tu.

IVY.  The bird sang--I 'eard it!  Right up in the sky.  It wouldn't
have sanged if it weren't glad.

GLADYS.  Well, Mercy cried.

IVY.  I don't care.

GLADYS.  'Tis a shame!  And I know something.  Mrs. Strangway's at
Durford.

CONNIE.  She's--never!

GLADYS.  I saw her yesterday.  An' if she's there she ought to be
here.  I told mother, an' she said: "Yu mind yer business."  An' when
she goes in to market to-morrow she'm goin' to see.  An' if she's
really there, mother says, 'tis a fine tu-du an' a praaper scandal.
So I know a lot more'n yu du.

     [Ivy stares at her.]

CONNIE.  Mrs. Strangway told mother she was goin' to France for the
winter because her mother was ill.

GLADYS.  'Tisn't, winter now--Ascension Day.  I saw her cumin' out o'
Dr. Desert's house.  I know 'twas her because she had on a blue dress
an' a proud luke.  Mother says the doctor come over here tu often
before Mrs. Strangway went away, just afore Christmas.  They was old
sweethearts before she married Mr. Strangway.  [To Ivy]  'Twas yure
mother told mother that.

     [Ivy gazes at them more and more wide-eyed.]

CONNIE.  Father says if Mrs. Bradmere an' the old Rector knew about
the doctor, they wouldn't 'ave Mr. Strangway 'ere for curate any
longer; because mother says it takes more'n a year for a gude wife to
leave her 'usband, an' 'e so fond of her.  But 'tisn't no business of
ours, father says.

GLADYS.  Mother says so tu.  She's praaper set against gossip.
She'll know all about it to-morrow after market.

IVY.  [Stamping her foot]  I don't want to 'ear nothin' at all; I
don't, an' I won't.

     [A rather shame faced silence falls on the girls.]

GLADYS.  [In a quick whisper]  'Ere's Mrs. Burlacombe.

     [There enters fawn the house a stout motherly woman with a round
     grey eye and very red cheeks.]

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Ivy, take Mr. Strangway his ink, or we'll never
'eve no sermon to-night.  He'm in his thinkin' box, but 'tis not a
bit o' yuse 'im thinkin' without 'is ink.  [She hands her daughter an
inkpot and blotting-pad.  Ivy Takes them and goes out]  What ever's
this?  [She picks up the little bird-cage.]

GLADYS.  'Tis Mercy Jarland's.  Mr. Strangway let her skylark go.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Aw!  Did 'e now?  Serve 'er right, bringin' an
'eathen bird to confirmation class.

CONNIE.  I'll take it to her.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  No.  Yu leave it there, an' let Mr. Strangway du
what 'e likes with it.  Bringin' a bird like that!  Well 'I never!

     [The girls, perceiving that they have lighted on stony soil,
     look at each other and slide towards the door.]

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Yes, yu just be off, an' think on what yu've been
told in class, an' be'ave like Christians, that's gude maids.  An'
don't yu come no more in the 'avenin's dancin' them 'eathen dances in
my barn, naighther, till after yu'm confirmed--'tisn't right.  I've
told Ivy I won't 'ave it.

CONNIE.  Mr. Strangway don't mind--he likes us to; 'twas Mrs.
Strangway began teachin' us.  He's goin' to give a prize.

MRS.  BURLACOMBE.  Yu just du what I tell yu an' never mind Mr.
Strangway--he'm tu kind to everyone.  D'yu think I don't know how
gells oughter be'ave before confirmation?  Yu be'ave like I did!
Now, goo ahn!  Shoo!

     [She hustles them out, rather as she might hustle her chickens,
     and begins tidying the room.  There comes a wandering figure to
     the open window.  It is that of a man of about thirty-five, of
     feeble gait, leaning the weight of all one side of him on a
     stick.  His dark face, with black hair, one lock of which has
     gone white, was evidently once that of an ardent man.  Now it is
     slack, weakly smiling, and the brown eyes are lost, and seem
     always to be asking something to which there is no answer.]

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  [With that forced cheerfulness always assumed in
the face of too great misfortune]  Well, Jim!  better?  [At the faint
brightening of the smile]  That's right!  Yu'm gettin' on bravely.
Want Parson?

JIM.  [Nodding and smiling, and speaking slowly]  I want to tell 'un
about my cat.

     [His face loses its smile.]

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Why!  what's she been duin' then?  Mr. Strangway's
busy.  Won't I du?

JIM.  [Shaking his head]  No.  I want to tell him.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Whatever she been duin'?  Havin' kittens?

JIM.  No.  She'm lost.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Dearie me!  Aw!  she'm not lost.  Cats be like
maids; they must get out a bit.

JIM.  She'm lost.  Maybe he'll know where she'll be.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Well, well.  I'll go an' find 'im.

JIM.  He's a gude man.  He's very gude.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  That's certain zure.

STRANGWAY.  [Entering from the house]  Mrs. Burlacombe, I can't think
where I've put my book on St. Francis--the large, squarish pale-blue
one?

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Aw! there now!  I knu there was somethin' on me
mind.  Miss Willis she came in yesterday afternune when yu was out,
to borrow it.  Oh! yes--I said--I'm zure Mr. Strangway'll lend it
'ee.  Now think o' that!

STRANGWAY.  Of course, Mrs. Burlacombe; very glad she's got it.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Aw!  but that's not all.  When I tuk it up there
come out a whole flutter o' little bits o' paper wi' little rhymes on
'em, same as I see yu writin'.  Aw!  my gudeness!  I says to meself,
Mr. Strangway widn' want no one seein' them.

STRANGWAY.  Dear me!  No; certainly not!

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  An' so I putt 'em in your secretary.

STRANGWAY.  My-ah!  Yes.  Thank you; yes.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  But I'll goo over an' get the buke for yu.
'T won't take me 'alf a minit.

     [She goes out on to the green.  JIM BERE has come in.]

STRANGWAY.  [Gently]  Well, Jim?

JIM.  My cat's lost.

STRANGWAY.  Lost?

JIM.  Day before yesterday.  She'm not come back.  They've shot 'er,
I think; or she'm caught in one o' they rabbit-traps.

STRANGWAY.  Oh!  no; my dear fellow, she'll come back.  I'll speak to
Sir Herbert's keepers.

JIM.  Yes, zurr.  I feel lonesome without 'er.

STRANGWAY.  [With a faint smile--more to himself than to Jim]
Lonesome!  Yes!  That's bad, Jim!  That's bad!

JIM.  I miss 'er when I sits than in the avenin'.

STRANGWAY.  The evenings----They're the worst----and when the
blackbirds sing in the morning.

JIM. She used to lie on my bed, ye know, zurr.

     [STRANGWAY turns his face away, contracted with pain]

She'm like a Christian.

STRANGWAY.  The beasts are.

JIM.  There's plenty folk ain't 'alf as Christian as 'er be.

STRANGWAY.  Well, dear Jim, I'll do my very best.  And any time
you're lonely, come up, and I'll play the flute to you.

JIM.  [Wriggling slightly]  No, zurr.  Thank 'ee, zurr.

STRANGWAY.  What--don't you like music?

JIM.  Ye-es, zurr.  [A figure passes the window.  Seeing it he says
with his slow smile] "'Ere's Mrs. Bradmere, comin' from the Rectory."
[With queer malice]  She don't like cats.  But she'm a cat 'erself, I
think.

STRANGWAY.  [With his smile]  Jim!

JIM.  She'm always tellin' me I'm lukin' better.  I'm not better,
zurr.

STRANGWAY.  That's her kindness.

JIM.  I don't think it is.  'Tis laziness, an' 'avin' 'er own way.
She'm very fond of 'er own way.

     [A knock on the door cuts off his speech.  Following closely on
     the knock, as though no doors were licensed to be closed against
     her, a grey-haired lady enters; a capable, broad-faced woman of
     seventy, whose every tone and movement exhales authority.  With
     a nod and a "good morning" to STRANGWAY she turns at face to JIM
     BERE.]

MRS. BRADMERE  Ah!  Jim; you're looking better.

     [JIM BERE shakes his head.  MRS. BRADMERE.  Oh!  yes, you are.
     Getting on splendidly.  And now, I just want to speak to Mr.
     Strangway.]

     [JIM BERE touches his forelock, and slowly, leaning on his
     stick, goes out.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Waiting for the door to close]  You know how that
came on him?  Caught the girl he was engaged to, one night, with
another man, the rage broke something here.  [She touches her
forehead]  Four years ago.

STRANGWAY.  Poor fellow!

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Looking at him sharply]  Is your wife back?

STRANGWAY.  [Starting]  No.

MRS. BRADMERE.  By the way, poor Mrs. Cremer--is she any better?

STRANGWAY.  No; going fast: Wonderful--so patient.

MRS. BRADMERE.  [With gruff sympathy]  Um!  Yes.  They know how to
die!  [Wide another sharp look at him]  D'you expect your wife soon?

STRANGWAY.  I I--hope so.

MRS. BRADMERE:  So do I.  The sooner the better.

STRANGWAY.  [Shrinking]  I trust the Rector's not suffering so much
this morning?

MRS. BRADMERE.  Thank you!  His foot's very bad.

     [As she speaks Mrs. BURLACOMBE returns with a large pale-blue
     book in her bared.]

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Good day, M'm!  [Taking the book across to
STRANGWAY]  Miss Willie, she says she'm very sorry, zurr.

STRANGWAY.  She was very welcome, Mrs. Burlacombe.  [To MRS.
BURLACOMBE]  Forgive me--my sermon.

     [He goes into the house.  The two women graze after him.  Then,
     at once, as it were, draw into themselves, as if preparing for
     an encounter, and yet seem to expand as if losing the need for
     restraint.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Abruptly] He misses his wife very much, I'm afraid.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Ah!  Don't he?  Poor dear man; he keeps a terrible
tight 'and over 'imself, but 'tis suthin' cruel the way he walks
about at night.  He'm just like a cow when its calf's weaned.  'T'as
gone to me 'eart truly to see 'im these months past.  T'other day
when I went up to du his rume, I yeard a noise like this [she
sniffs]; an' ther' 'e was at the wardrobe, snuffin' at 'er things.  I
did never think a man cud care for a woman so much as that.

MRS. BRADMERE.   H'm!

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  'Tis funny rest an' 'e comin' 'ere for quiet after
that tearin' great London parish! 'E'm terrible absent-minded tu
--don't take no interest in 'is fude.  Yesterday, goin' on for one
o'clock, 'e says to me, "I expect 'tis nearly breakfast-time, Mrs.
Burlacombe!" 'E'd 'ad it twice already!

MRS. BRADMERE.  Twice!  Nonsense!

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Zurely!  I give 'im a nummit afore 'e gets up; an'
'e 'as 'is brekjus reg'lar at nine.  Must feed un up.  He'm on 'is
feet all day, gain' to zee folk that widden want to zee an angel,
they're that busy; an' when 'e comes in 'e'll play 'is flute there.
Hem wastin' away for want of 'is wife.  That's what 'tis.  An' 'im so
sweet-spoken, tu, 'tes a pleasure to year 'im--Never says a word!

MRS. BRADMERE.  Yes, that's the kind of man who gets treated badly.
I'm afraid she's not worthy of him, Mrs. Burlacombe.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  [Plaiting her apron] 'Tesn't for me to zay that.
She'm a very pleasant lady.

MRS. BRADMERE  Too pleasant.  What's this story about her being seen
in Durford?

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Aw!  I du never year no gossip, m'm.

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Drily]  Of course not!  But you see the Rector
wishes to know.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  [Flustered]  Well--folk will talk!  But, as I says
to Burlacombe--"'Tes paltry," I says; and they only married eighteen
months, and Mr. Strangway so devoted-like.  'Tes nothing but love,
with 'im.

MRS. BRADMERE.  Come!

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  There's puzzivantin' folk as'll set an' gossip the
feathers off an angel.  But I du never listen.

MRS. BRADMERE  Now then, Mrs. Burlacombe?

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Well, they du say as how Dr. Desart over to Durford
and Mrs. Strangway was sweethearts afore she wer' married.

MRS. BRADMERE.  I knew that.  Who was it saw her coming out of Dr.
Desart's house yesterday?

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  In a manner of spakin' 'tes Mrs. Freman that says
'er Gladys seen her.

MRS. BRADMERE.  That child's got an eye like a hawk.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  'Tes wonderful how things du spread.  'Tesn't as if
us gossiped.  Du seem to grow-like in the naight.

MRS. BRADMERE  [To herself]  I never lied her.  That Riviera excuse,
Mrs. Burlacombe--Very convenient things, sick mothers.  Mr.
Strangway doesn't know?

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  The Lord forbid!  'Twid send un crazy, I think.
For all he'm so moony an' gentlelike, I think he'm a terrible
passionate man inside.  He've a-got a saint in 'im, for zure; but
'tes only 'alf-baked, in a manner of spakin'.

MRS. BRADMERE.  I shall go and see Mrs. Freman.  There's been too
much of this gossip all the winter.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  'Tes unfortunate-like 'tes the Fremans.  Freman
he'm a gipsy sort of a feller; and he've never forgiven Mr. Strangway
for spakin' to 'im about the way he trates 'is 'orses.

MRS. BRADMERE.  Ah!  I'm afraid Mr. Strangway's not too discreet when
his feelings are touched.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  'E've a-got an 'eart so big as the full mune.  But
'tes no yuse espectin' tu much o' this world.  'Tes a funny place,
after that.

MRS.  BRADMERE.  Yes, Mrs. Burlacombe; and I shall give some of these
good people a rare rap over the knuckles for their want of charity.
For all they look as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, they're
an un-Christian lot.  [Looking very directly at Mrs. BURLACOMBE]
It's lucky we've some hold over the village.  I'm not going to have
scandal.  I shall speak to Sir Herbert, and he and the Rector will
take steps.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  [With covert malice]  Aw!  I du hope 'twon't upset
the Rector, an' 'is fute so poptious!

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Grimly]  His foot'll be sound enough to come down
sharp.  By the way, will you send me a duck up to the Rectory?

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  [Glad to get away]  Zurely, m'm; at once.  I've
some luv'ly fat birds.

     [She goes into the house.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  Old puss-cat!

     [She turns to go, and in the doorway encounters a very little,
     red-cheeked girl in a peacock-blue cap, and pink frock, who
     curtsies stolidly.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  Well, Tibby Jarland, what do you want here?  Always
sucking something, aren't you?

     [Getting no reply from Tibby JARLAND, she passes out.  Tibby
     comes in, looks round, takes a large sweet out of her mouth,
     contemplates it, and puts it back again.  Then, in a perfunctory
     and very stolid fashion, she looks about the floor, as if she
     had been told to find something.  While she is finding nothing
     and sucking her sweet, her sister MERCY comes in furtively,
     still frowning and vindictive.]

MERCY.  What!  Haven't you found it, Tibby?  Get along with 'ee,
then!

     [She accelerates the stolid Tissy's departure with a smack,
     searches under the seat, finds and picks up the deserted
     sixpence.  Then very quickly she goes to the door: But it is
     opened before she reaches it, and, finding herself caught, she
     slips behind the chintz window-curtain.  A woman has entered,
     who is clearly the original of the large photograph.  She is not
     strictly pretty, but there is charm in her pale, resolute face,
     with its mocking lips, flexible brows, and greenish eyes, whose
     lids, square above them, have short, dark lashes.  She is
     dressed in blue, and her fair hair is coiled up under a cap and
     motor-veil.  She comes in swiftly, and closes the door behind
     her; becomes irresolute; then, suddenly deciding, moves towards
     the door into the house.  MERCY slips from behind her curtain to
     make off, but at that moment the door into the house is opened,
     and she has at once to slip back again into covert.  It is Ivy
     who has appeared.]

IVY.  [Amazed]  Oh!  Mrs. Strangway!

     [Evidently disconcerted by this appearance, BEATRICE STRANGWAY
     pulls herself together and confronts the child with a smile.]

BEATRICE.  Well, Ivy--you've grown!  You didn't expect me, did you?

IVY.  No, Mrs. Strangway; but I hoped yu'd be comin' soon.

BEATRICE.  Ah!  Yes.  Is Mr. Strangway in?

IVY.  [Hypnotized by those faintly smiling lips]  Yes--oh, yes!  He's
writin' his sermon in the little room.  He will be glad!

BEATRICE.  [Going a little closer, and never taking her eyes off the
child]   Yes.  Now, Ivy; will you do something for me?

IVY.  [Fluttering]  Oh, yes, Mrs. Strangway.

BEATRICE.  Quite sure?

IVY.  Oh, yes!

BEATRICE.  Are you old enough to keep a secret?

IVY.  [Nodding]  I'm fourteen now.

BEATRICE.  Well, then--, I don't want anybody but Mr. Strangway to
know I've been here; nobody, not even your mother.  D'you understand?

IVY.  [Troubled]  No.  Only, I can keep a secret.

BEATRICE.  Mind, if anybody hears, it will hurt Mr. Strangway.

IVY.  Oh!  I wouldn't--hurt--him.  Must yu go away again?  [Trembling
towards her]  I wish yu wer goin' to stay.  And perhaps some one has
seen yu--They----

BEATRICE.  [Hastily]  No, no one.  I came motoring; like this.  [She
moves her veil to show how it can conceal her face]  And I came
straight down the little lane, and through the barn, across the yard.

IVY.  [Timidly]  People du see a lot.

BEATRICE.  [Still with that hovering smile]  I know, but----Now go
and tell him quickly and quietly.

IVY.  [Stopping at the door]  Mother's pluckin' a duck.  Only,
please, Mrs. Strangway, if she comes in even after yu've gone, she'll
know, because--because yu always have that particular nice scent.

BEATRICE.  Thank you, my child.  I'll see to that.

     [Ivy looks at her as if she would speak again, then turns
     suddenly, and goes out.  BEATRICE'S face darkens; she shivers.
     Taking out a little cigarette case, she lights a cigarette, and
     watches the puff's of smoke wreathe shout her and die away.  The
     frightened MERCY peers out, spying for a chance, to escape.
     Then from the house STRANGWAY comes in.  All his dreaminess is
     gone.]

STRANGWAY.  Thank God!  [He stops at the look on her face]  I don't
understand, though.  I thought you were still out there.

BEATRICE. [Letting her cigarette fall, and putting her foot on it]
No.

STRANGWAY: You're staying?  Oh!  Beatrice; come!  We'll get away from
here at once--as far, as far--anywhere you like.  Oh!  my darling
--only come!  If you knew----

BEATRICE.  It's no good, Michael; I've tried and tried.

STRANGWAY.  Not!  Then, why--?  Beatrice!  You said, when you were
right away--I've waited----

BEATRICE.  I know.  It's cruel--it's horrible.  But I told you not to
hope, Michael.  I've done my best.  All these months at Mentone, I've
been wondering why I ever let you marry me--when that feeling wasn't
dead!

STRANGWAY.  You can't have come back just to leave me again?

BEATRICE.  When you let me go out there with mother I thought--I did
think I would be able; and I had begun--and then--spring came!

STRANGWAY.  Spring came here too!  Never so--aching!  Beatrice, can't
you?

BEATRICE.  I've something to say.

STRANGWAY.  No!  No!  No!

BEATRICE.  You see--I've--fallen.

STRANGWAY.  Ah!  [In a twice sharpened by pain]  Why, in the name of
mercy, come here to tell me that?  Was he out there, then?

BEATRICE.  I came straight back to him.

STRANGWAY.  To Durford?

BEATRICE.  To the Crossway Hotel, miles out--in my own name.  They
don't know me there.  I told you not to hope, Michael.  I've done my
best; I swear it.

STRANGWAY.  My God!

BEATRICE.  It was your God that brought us to live near him!

STRANGWAY.  Why have you come to me like this?

BEATRICE.  To know what you're going to do.  Are you going to divorce
me?  We're in your power.  Don't divorce me--Doctor and patient--you
must know--it ruins him.  He'll lose everything.  He'd be
disqualified, and he hasn't a penny without his work.

STRANGWAY.  Why should I spare him?

BEATRICE.  Michael; I came to beg.  It's hard.

STRANGWAY.  No; don't beg!  I can't stand it.

     [She shakes her head.]

BEATRICE.  [Recovering her pride]  What are you going to do, then?
Keep us apart by the threat of a divorce?  Starve us and prison us?
Cage me up here with you?  I'm not brute enough to ruin him.

STRANGWAY.  Heaven!

BEATRICE.  I never really stopped loving him.  I never--loved you,
Michael.

STRANGWAY.  [Stunned]  Is that true?  [BEATRICE bends her head]
Never loved me?  Not--that night--on the river--not----?

BEATRICE.  [Under her breath]  No.

STRANGWAY.  Were you lying to me, then?  Kissing me, and--hating me?

BEATRICE.  One doesn't hate men like you; but it wasn't love.

STRANGWAY.  Why did you tell me it was?

BEATRICE.  Yes.  That was the worst thing I've ever done.

STRANGWAY.  Do you think I would have married you?  I would have
burned first!  I never dreamed you didn't.  I swear it!

BEATRICE.  [Very low]  Forget it!

STRANGWAY.  Did he try to get you away from me?  [BEATRICE gives him
a swift look]  Tell me the truth!

BEATRICE.  No.  It was--I--alone.  But--he loves me.

STRANGWAY.  One does not easily know love, it seems.

     [But her smile, faint, mysterious, pitying, is enough, and he
     turns away from her.]

BEATRICE.  It was cruel to come, I know.  For me, too.  But I
couldn't write.  I had to know.

STRANGWAY.  Never loved me?  Never loved me?  That night at Tregaron?
[At the look on her face]  You might have told me before you went
away!  Why keep me all these----

BEATRICE.  I meant to forget him again.  I did mean to.  I thought I
could get back to what I was, when I married you; but, you see, what
a girl can do, a woman that's been married--can't.

STRANGWAY.  Then it was I--my kisses that----!  [He laughs]  How did
you stand them?  [His eyes dart at her face]  Imagination helped you,
perhaps!

BEATRICE.  Michael, don't, don't!  And--oh! don't make a public thing
of it!  You needn't be afraid I shall have too good a time!

     [He stays quite still and silent, and that which is writhing in
     him makes his face so strange that BEATRICE stands aghast.  At
     last she goes stumbling on in speech]

If ever you want to marry some one else--then, of course--that's only
fair, ruin or not.  But till then--till then----He's leaving
Durford, going to Brighton.  No one need know.  And you--this isn't
the only parish in the world.

STRANGWAY.  [Quietly]  You ask me to help you live in secret with
another man?

BEATRICE.  I ask for mercy.

STRANGWAY.  [As to himself]  What am I to do?

BEATRICE.  What you feel in the bottom of your heart.

STRANGWAY.  You ask me to help you live in sin?

BEATRICE.  To let me go out of your life.  You've only to do--
nothing.  [He goes, slowly, close to her.]

STRANGWAY.  I want you.  Come back to me!  Beatrice, come back!

BEATRICE.  It would be torture, now.

STRANGWAY.  [Writhing]  Oh!

BEATRICE.  Whatever's in your heart--do!

STRANGWAY.  You'd come back to me sooner than ruin him?  Would you?

BEATRICE.  I can't bring him harm.

STRANGWAY.  [Turning away]  God!--if there be one help me!  [He
stands leaning his forehead against the window.  Suddenly his glance
falls on the little bird cage, still lying on the window-seat]  Never
cage any wild thing!  [He gives a laugh that is half a sob; then,
turning to the door, says in a low voice]  Go!  Go please, quickly!
Do what you will.  I won't hurt you--can't----But--go!  [He opens
the door.]

BEATRICE.  [Greatly moved]  Thank you!

     [She passes him with her head down, and goes out quickly.
     STRANGWAY stands unconsciously tearing at the little bird-cage.
     And while he tears at it he utters a moaning sound.  The
     terrified MERCY, peering from behind the curtain, and watching
     her chance, slips to the still open door; but in her haste and
     fright she knocks against it, and STRANGWAY sees her.  Before he
     can stop her she has fled out on to the green and away.]

     [While he stands there, paralysed, the door from the house is
     opened, and MRS. BURLACOMBE approaches him in a queer, hushed
     way.]

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  [Her eyes mechanically fixed on the twisted
bird-cage in his hands]  'Tis poor Sue Cremer, zurr, I didn't 'ardly
think she'd last thru the mornin'.  An' zure enough she'm passed
away!  [Seeing that he has not taken in her words]  Mr. Strangway--
yu'm feelin' giddy?

STRANGWAY.  No, no!  What was it?  You said----

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  'Tes Jack Cremer.  His wife's gone.  'E'm in a
terrible way.  'Tes only yu, 'e ses, can du 'im any gude.  He'm in
the kitchen.

STRANGWAY.  Cremer?  Yes!  Of course.  Let him----

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  [Still staring at the twisted cage]  Yu ain't
wantin' that--'tes all twizzled.  [She takes it from him]  Sure yu'm
not feelin' yer 'ead?

STRANGWAY.  [With a resolute effort]  No!

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  [Doubtfully]  I'll send 'im in, then. [She goes.
When she is gone, Strangway passes his handkerchief across his
forehead, and his lips move fast.  He is standing motionless when
CREMER, a big man in labourer's clothes, with a thick, broad face,
and tragic, faithful eyes, comes in, and stands a little in from the
closed door, quite dumb.]

STRANGWAY.  [After a moment's silence--going up to him and laying a
hand on his shoulder]  Jack!  Don't give way.  If we give way--we're
done.

CREMER.  Yes, zurr.  [A quiver passes over his face.]

STRANGWAY.  She didn't.  Your wife was a brave woman.  A dear woman.

CREMER.  I never thought to luse 'er.  She never told me 'ow bad she
was, afore she tuk to 'er bed.  'Tis a dreadful thing to luse a wife,
zurr.

STRANGWAY.  [Tightening his lips, that tremble]  Yes.  But don't give
way!  Bear up, Jack!

CREMER.  Seems funny 'er goin' blue-bell time, an' the sun shinin' so
warm.  I picked up an 'orse-shu yesterday.  I can't never 'ave 'er
back, zurr.

     [His face quivers again.]

STRANGWAY.  Some day you'll join her.  Think!  Some lose their wives
for ever.

CREMER.  I don't believe as there's a future life, zurr.  I think we
goo to sleep like the beasts.

STRANGWAY.  We're told otherwise.  But come here!  [Drawing him to
the window]  Look!  Listen!  To sleep in that!  Even if we do, it
won't be so bad, Jack, will it?

CREMER.  She wer' a gude wife to me--no man didn't 'ave no better
wife.

STRANGWAY.  [Putting his hand out]  Take hold--hard--harder!  I want
yours as much as you want mine.  Pray for me, Jack, and I'll pray for
you.  And we won't give way, will we?

CREMER.  [To whom the strangeness of these words has given some
relief]  No, zurr; thank 'ee, zurr.  'Tes no gude, I expect.  Only,
I'll miss 'er.  Thank 'ee, zurr; kindly.

     [He lifts his hand to his head, turns, and uncertainly goes out
     to the kitchen.  And STRANGWAY stays where he is, not knowing
     what to do.  They blindly he takes up his flute, and hatless,
     hurries out into the air.]





ACT II


SCENE I

     About seven o'clock in the taproom of the village inn.  The bar,
     with the appurtenances thereof, stretches across one end, and
     opposite is the porch door on to the green.  The wall between is
     nearly all window, with leaded panes, one wide-open casement
     whereof lets in the last of the sunlight.  A narrow bench runs
     under this broad window.  And this is all the furniture, save
     three spittoons:

     GODLEIGH, the innkeeper, a smallish man with thick ruffled hair,
     a loquacious nose, and apple-red cheeks above a reddish-brown
     moustache; is reading the paper.  To him enters TIBBY JARLAND
     with a shilling in her mouth.

GODLEIGH.  Well, TIBBY JARLAND, what've yu come for, then?  Glass o'
beer?

     [TIBBY takes the shilling from her mouth and smiles stolidly.]

GODLEIGH.  [Twinkling]  I shid zay glass o' 'arf an' 'arf's about
yure form.  [TIBBY smiles more broadly]  Yu'm a praaper masterpiece.
Well!  'Ave sister Mercy borrowed yure tongue?  [TIBBY shakes her
head]  Aw, she 'aven't.  Well, maid?

TIBBY.  Father wants six clay pipes, please.

GODLEIGH.  'E du, du 'ee?  Yu tell yure father 'e can't 'ave more'n
one, not this avenin'.  And 'ere 'tis.  Hand up yure shillin'.

     [TIBBY reaches up her hand, parts with the shilling, and
     receives a long clay pipe and eleven pennies.  In order to
     secure the coins in her pinafore she places the clay pipe in her
     mouth.  While she is still thus engaged, MRS. BRADMERE enters
     the porch and comes in.  TIBBY curtsies stolidly.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  Gracious, child!  What are you doing here?  And what
have you got in your mouth?  Who is it?  Tibby Jarland?  [TIBBY
curtsies again]  Take that thing out.  And tell your father from me
that if I ever see you at the inn again I shall tread on his toes
hard.  Godleigh, you know the law about children?

GODLEIGH.  [Cocking his eye, and not at all abashed]  Surely, m'm.
But she will come.  Go away, my dear.

     [TIBBY, never taking her eyes off MRS. BRADMERE, or the pipe
     from her mouth, has backed stolidly to the door, and vanished.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Eyeing GODLEIGH]  Now, Godleigh, I've come to talk
to you.  Half the scandal that goes about the village begins here.
[She holds up her finger to check expostulation]  No, no--its no
good.  You know the value of scandal to your business far too well.

GODLEIGH.  Wi' all respect, m'm, I knows the vally of it to yourn,
tu.

MRS. BRADMERE.  What do you mean by that?

GODLEIGH.  If there weren't no Rector's lady there widden' be no
notice taken o' scandal; an' if there weren't no notice taken,
twidden be scandal, to my thinkin'.

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Winking out a grim little smile]  Very well!  You've
given me your views.  Now for mine.  There's a piece of scandal going
about that's got to be stopped, Godleigh.  You turn the tap of it off
here, or we'll turn your tap off.  You know me.  See?

GODLEIGH. I shouldn' never presume, m'm, to know a lady.

MRS. BRADMERE.  The Rector's quite determined, so is Sir Herbert.
Ordinary scandal's bad enough, but this touches the Church.  While
Mr. Strangway remains curate here, there must be no talk about him
and his affairs.

GODLEIGH.  [Cocking his eye]  I was just thinkin' how to du it, m'm.
'Twid be a brave notion to putt the men in chokey, and slit the
women's tongues-like, same as they du in outlandish places, as I'm
told.

MRS. BRADMERE.  Don't talk nonsense, Godleigh; and mind what I say,
because I mean it.

GODLEIGH.  Make yure mind aisy, m'm there'll be no scandal-monkeyin'
here wi' my permission.

     [MRS. BRADMERE gives him a keen stare, but seeing him perfectly
     grave, nods her head with approval.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  Good!  You know what's being said, of course?

GODLEIGH.  [With respectful gravity]  Yu'll pardon me, m'm, but ef
an' in case yu was goin' to tell me, there's a rule in this 'ouse:
"No scandal 'ere!"

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Twinkling grimly]  You're too smart by half, my man.

GODLEIGH.  Aw fegs, no, m'm--child in yure 'ands.

MRS. BRADMERE.  I wouldn't trust you a yard.  Once more, Godleigh!
This is a Christian village, and we mean it to remain so.  You look
out for yourself.

     [The door opens to admit the farmers TRUSTAFORD and BURLACOMBE.
     They doff their hats to MRS. BRADMERE, who, after one more sharp
     look at GODLEIGH, moves towards the door.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  Evening, Mr. Trustaford.  [To BURLACOMBE]
Burlacombe, tell your wife that duck she sent up was in hard
training.

     [With one of her grim winks, and a nod, she goes.]

TRUSTAFORD.  [Replacing a hat which is black, hard, and not very new,
on his long head, above a long face, clean-shaved but for little
whiskers]  What's the old grey mare want, then?  [With a horse-laugh]
'Er's lukin' awful wise!

GODLEIGH.  [Enigmatically]  Ah!

TRUSTAFORD.  [Sitting on the bench dose to the bar]  Drop o' whisky,
an' potash.

BURLACOMBE.  [A taciturn, alien, yellowish man, in a worn soft hat]
What's wise, Godleigh?  Drop o' cider.

GODLEIGH.  Nuse?  There's never no nuse in this 'ouse.  Aw, no!  Not
wi' my permission.  [In imitation]  This is a Christian village.

TRUSTAFORD.  Thought the old grey mare seemed mighty busy.  [To
BURLACOMBE]  'Tes rather quare about the curate's wife a-cumin'
motorin' this mornin'.  Passed me wi' her face all smothered up in a
veil, goggles an' all.  Haw, haw!

BURLACOMBE.  Aye!

TRUSTAFORD.  Off again she was in 'alf an hour.  'Er didn't give poor
old curate much of a chance, after six months.

GODLEIGH.  Havin' an engagement elsewhere--No scandal, please,
gentlemen.

BURLACOMBE.  [Acidly]  Never asked to see my missis.  Passed me in
the yard like a stone.

TRUSTAFORD.  'Tes a little bit rumoursome lately about 'er doctor.

GODLEIGH.  Ah!  he's the favourite.  But 'tes a dead secret; Mr.
Trustaford.  Don't yu never repate it--there's not a cat don't know
it already!

BURLACOMBE frowns, and TRUSTAFORD utters his laugh.  The door is
opened and FREMAN, a dark gipsyish man in the dress of a farmer,
comes in.

GODLEIGH.  Don't yu never tell Will Freman what 'e told me!

FREMAN.  Avenin'!

TRUSTAFORD.  Avenin', Will; what's yure glass o' trouble?

FREMAN.  Drop o' eider, clove, an' dash o' gin.  There's blood in the
sky to-night.

BURLACOMBE.  Ah!  We'll 'ave fine weather now, with the full o' the
mune.

FREMAN.  Dust o' wind an' a drop or tu, virst, I reckon.  'Earl t'
nuse about curate an' 'is wife?

GODLEIGH.  No, indeed; an' don't yu tell us.  We'm Christians 'ere in
this village.

FREMAN.  'Tain't no very Christian nuse, neither.  He's sent 'er off
to th' doctor.  "Go an' live with un," 'e says; "my blessin' on ye."
If 'er'd a-been mine, I'd 'a tuk the whip to 'er.  Tam Jarland's
maid, she yeard it all.  Christian, indeed!  That's brave
Christianity!  "Goo an' live with un!" 'e told 'er.

BURLACOMBE.  No, no; that's not sense--a man to say that.  I'll not
'ear that against a man that bides in my 'ouse.

FREMAN.  'Tes sure, I tell 'ee.  The maid was hid-up, scared-like,
behind the curtain.  At it they went, and parson 'e says: "Go," 'e
says, "I won't kape 'ee from 'im," 'e says, "an' I won't divorce 'ee,
as yu don't wish it!"  They was 'is words, same as Jarland's maid
told my maid, an' my maid told my missis.  If that's parson's talk,
'tes funny work goin' to church.

TRUSTAFORD.  [Brooding]  'Tes wonderful quare, zurely.

FREMAN.  Tam Jarland's fair mad wi' curate for makin' free wi' his
maid's skylark.  Parson or no parson, 'e've no call to meddle wi'
other people's praperty.  He cam' pokin' 'is nose into my affairs.  I
told un I knew a sight more 'bout 'orses than 'e ever would!

TRUSTAFORD.  He'm a bit crazy 'bout bastes an' birds.

     [They have been so absorbed that they bane not noticed the
     entrance of CLYST, a youth with tousled hair, and a bright,
     quick, Celtic eye, who stands listening, with a bit of paper in
     his hand.]

CLYST.  Ah! he'm that zurely, Mr. Trustaford.

     [He chuckles.]

GODLEIGH.  Now, Tim Clyst, if an' in case yu've a-got some scandal on
yer tongue, don't yu never unship it here.  Yu go up to Rectory where
'twill be more relished-like.

CLYST.  [Waving the paper]  Will y' give me a drink for this, Mr.
Godleigh?  'Tes rale funny.  Aw!  'tes somethin' swats.  Butiful
readin'.  Poetry.  Rale spice.  Yu've a luv'ly voice for readin', Mr.
Godleigh.

GODLEIGH.  [All ears and twinkle]  Aw, what is it then?

CLYST.  Ah!  Yu want t'know tu much.

     [Putting the paper in his pocket.]

     [While he is speaking, JIM BERE has entered quietly, with his
     feeble step and smile, and sits down.]

CLYST.  [Kindly]  Hello, Jim!  Cat come 'ome?

JIM BERE.  No.

     [All nod, and speak to him kindly.  And JIM BERE smiles at them,
     and his eyes ask of them the question, to which there is no
     answer.  And after that he sits motionless and silent, and they
     talk as if he were not there.]

GODLEIGH.  What's all this, now--no scandal in my 'ouse!

CLYST.  'Tes awful peculiar--like a drame.  Mr. Burlacombe 'e don't
like to hear tell about drames.  A guess a won't tell 'ee, arter
that.

FREMAN.  Out wi' it, Tim.

CLYST.  'Tes powerful thirsty to-day, Mr. Godleigh.

GODLEIGH.  [Drawing him some cider]  Yu're all wild cat's talk, Tim;
yu've a-got no tale at all.

CLYST.  [Moving for the cider]  Aw, indade!

GODLEIGH.  No tale, no cider!

CLYST.  Did ye ever year tell of Orphus?

TRUSTAFORD.  What?  The old vet. up to Drayleigh?

CLYST.  Fegs, no; Orphus that lived in th' old time, an' drawed the
bastes after un wi' his music, same as curate was tellin' the maids.

FREMAN.  I've 'eard as a gipsy over to Vellacott could du that wi'
'is viddle.

CLYST.  'Twas no gipsy I see'd this arternune; 'twee Orphus, down to
Mr. Burlacombe's long medder; settin' there all dark on a stone among
the dimsy-white flowers an' the cowflops, wi' a bird upon 'is 'ead,
playin' his whistle to the ponies.

FREMAN.  [Excitedly]  Yu did never zee a man wi' a bird on 'is 'ead.

CLYST.  Didn' I?

FREMAN.  What sort o' bird, then?  Yu tell me that.

TRUSTAFORD.  Praaper old barndoor cock.  Haw, haw!

GODLEIGH.  [Soothingly]  'Tes a vairy-tale; us mustn't be tu
partic'lar.

BURLACOMBE:  In my long medder?  Where were yu, then, Tim Clyst?

CLYST.  Passin' down the lane on my bike.  Wonderful sorrowful-fine
music 'e played.  The ponies they did come round 'e--yu cud zee the
tears rennin' down their chakes; 'twas powerful sad.  'E 'adn't no
'at on.

FREMAN.  [Jeering]  No; 'e 'ad a bird on 'is 'ead.

CLYST.  [With a silencing grin]  He went on playin' an' playin'.  The
ponies they never muved.  An' all the dimsy-white flowers they waved
and waved, an' the wind it went over 'em.  Gav' me a funny feelin'.

GODLEIGH.  Clyst, yu take the cherry bun!

CLYST.  Where's that cider, Mr. Godleigh?

GODLEIGH.  [Bending over the cider]  Yu've a-- 'ad tu much already,
Tim.

     [The door is opened, and TAM JARLAND appears.  He walks rather
     unsteadily; a man with a hearty jowl, and sullen, strange;
     epileptic-looking eyes.]

CLYST.  [Pointing to JARLAND]  'Tis Tam Jarland there 'as the cargo
aboard.

JARLAND.  Avenin', all!  [To GODLEIGH]  Pinto' beer.  [To JIM BERE]
Avenin', Jim.

     [JIM BERE looks at him and smiles.]

GODLEIGH.  [Serving him after a moment's hesitation]  'Ere y'are,
Tam.  [To CLYST, who has taken out his paper again]  Where'd yu get
thiccy paper?

CLYST.  [Putting down his cider-mug empty]  Yure tongue du watter,
don't it, Mr. Godleigh?  [Holding out his mug]  No zider, no poetry.
'Tis amazin' sorrowful; Shakespeare over again.  "The boy stude on
the burnin' deck."

FREMAN.  Yu and yer yap!

CLYST.  Ah! Yu wait a bit.  When I come back down t'lane again,
Orphus 'e was vanished away; there was naught in the field but the
ponies, an' a praaper old magpie, a-top o' the hedge.  I zee
somethin' white in the beak o' the fowl, so I giv' a "Whisht," an'
'e drops it smart, an' off 'e go.  I gets over bank an' picks un up,
and here't be.

     [He holds out his mug.]

BURLACOMBE.  [Tartly]  Here, give 'im 'is cider.  Rade it yureself,
ye young teasewings.

     [CLYST, having secured his cider, drinks it o$.  Holding up the
     paper to the light, he makes as if to begin, then slides his
     eye round, tantalizing.]

CLYST.  'Tes a pity I bain't dressed in a white gown, an' flowers in
me 'air.

FREMAN.  Read it, or we'll 'aye yu out o' this.

CLYST.  Aw, don't 'ee shake my nerve, now!

     [He begins reading with mock heroism, in his soft, high, burring
     voice.  Thus, in his rustic accent, go the lines]

          God lighted the zun in 'eaven far.
          Lighted the virefly an' the star.
          My 'eart 'E lighted not!

          God lighted the vields fur lambs to play,
          Lighted the bright strames, 'an the may.
          My 'eart 'E lighted not!

          God lighted the mune, the Arab's way,
          He lights to-morrer, an' to-day.
          My 'eart 'E 'ath vorgot!

     [When he has finished, there is silence.  Then TRUSTAFORD,
     scratching his head, speaks:]

TAUSTAFORD.  'Tes amazin' funny stuff.

FREMAN.  [Looking over CLYST'S shoulder]  Be danged!  'Tes the
curate's 'andwritin'.  'Twas curate wi' the ponies, after that.

CLYST.  Fancy, now!  Aw, Will Freman, an't yu bright!

FREMAN.  But 'e 'adn't no bird on 'is 'ead.

CLYST.  Ya-as, 'e 'ad.

JARLAND.  [In a dull, threatening voice]  'E 'ad my maid's bird, this
arternune.  'Ead or no, and parson or no, I'll gie 'im one for that.

FREMAN.  Ah! And 'e meddled wi' my 'orses.

TRUSTAFORD.  I'm thinkin' 'twas an old cuckoo bird 'e 'ad on 'is
'ead.  Haw, haw!

GODLEIGH.  "His 'eart She 'ath Vorgot!"

FREMAN.  'E's a fine one to be tachin' our maids convirmation.

GODLEIGH.  Would ye 'ave it the old Rector then?  Wi' 'is gouty shoe?
Rackon the maids wid rather 'twas curate; eh, Mr. Burlacombe?

BURLACOMBE.  [Abruptly]  Curate's a gude man.

JARLAND.  [With the comatose ferocity of drink]  I'll be even wi' un.

FREMAN.  [Excitedly]  Tell 'ee one thing--'tes not a proper man o'
God to 'ave about, wi' 'is luse goin's on.  Out vrom 'ere he oughter
go.

BURLACOMBE.  You med go further an' fare worse.

FREMAN.  What's 'e duin', then, lettin' 'is wife runoff?

TRUSTAFORD.  [Scratching his head]  If an' in case 'e can't kape 'er,
'tes a funny way o' duin' things not to divorce 'er, after that.  If
a parson's not to du the Christian thing, whu is, then?

BURLACOMBE.  'Tes a bit immoral-like to pass over a thing like that.
Tes funny if women's gain's on's to be encouraged.

FREMAN.  Act of a coward, I zay.

BURLACOMBE.  The curate ain't no coward.

FREMAN.  He bides in yure house; 'tes natural for yu to stand up for
un; I'll wager Mrs. Burlacombe don't, though.  My missis was fair
shocked.  "Will," she says, "if yu ever make vur to let me go like
that, I widden never stay wi' yu," she says.

TRUSTAFORD.  'Tes settin' a bad example, for zure.

BURLACOMBE.  'Tes all very airy talkin'; what shude 'e du, then?

FREMAN.  [Excitedly]  Go over to Durford and say to that doctor: "Yu
come about my missis, an' zee what I'll du to 'ee."  An' take 'er
'ome an' zee she don't misbe'ave again.

CLYST.  'E can't take 'er ef 'er don' want t' come--I've 'eard
lawyer, that lodged wi' us, say that.

FREMAN.  All right then, 'e ought to 'ave the law of 'er and 'er
doctor; an' zee 'er goin's on don't prosper; 'e'd get damages, tu.
But this way 'tes a nice example he'm settin' folks.  Parson indade!
My missis an' the maids they won't goo near the church to-night, an'
I wager no one else won't, neither.

JARLAND. [Lurching with his pewter up to GODLEIGH]  The beggar!  I'll
be even wi' un.

GODLEIGH.  [Looking at him in doubt]  'Tes the last, then, Tam.

     [Having received his beer, JARLAND stands, leaning against the
     bar, drinking.]

BURLACOMBE.  [Suddenly]  I don' goo with what curate's duin--'tes
tiff soft 'earted; he'm a muney kind o' man altogether, wi' 'is flute
an' 'is poetry; but he've a-lodged in my 'ouse this year an' mare,
and always 'ad an 'elpin' 'and for every one.  I've got a likin' for
him an' there's an end of it.

JARLAND.  The coward!

TRUSTAFORD.  I don' trouble nothin' about that, Tam Jarland.
[Turning to BURLACOMBE]  What gits me is 'e don't seem to 'ave no
zense o' what's his own praperty.

JARLAND.  Take other folk's property fast enough!

     [He saws the air with his empty.  The others have all turned to
     him, drawn by the fascination that a man in liquor has for his
     fellow-men.  The bell for church has begun to rang, the sun is
     down, and it is getting dusk.]

He wants one on his crop, an' one in 'is belly; 'e wants a man to
take an' gie un a gude hidin zame as he oughter give 'is fly-be-night
of a wife.

     [STRANGWAY in his dark clothes has entered, and stands by the
     door, his lips compressed to a colourless line, his thin,
     darkish face grey-white]

Zame as a man wid ha' gi'en the doctor, for takin' what isn't his'n.

     All but JARLAND have seen STRANGWAY.  He steps forward, JARLAND
     sees him now; his jaw drops a little, and he is silent.

STRANGWAY.  I came for a little brandy, Mr. Godleigh--feeling rather
faint.  Afraid I mightn't get through the service.

GODLEIGH.  [With professional composure]  Marteil's Three Star, zurr,
or 'Ennessy's?

STRANGWAY.  [Looking at JARLAND]  Thank you; I believe I can do
without, now. [He turns to go.]

     [In the deadly silence, GODLEIGH touches the arm of JARLAND,
     who, leaning against the bar with the pewter in his hand, is
     staring with his strange lowering eyes straight at STRANGWAY.]

JARLAND.  [Galvanized by the touch into drunken rage]  Lave me be
--I'll talk to un-parson or no.  I'll tache un to meddle wi' my maid's
bird.  I'll tache un to kape 'is thievin' 'ands to 'imself.

     [STRANGWAY turns again.]

CLYST.  Be quiet, Tam.

JARLAND.  [Never loosing STRANGWAY with his eyes--like a bull-dog
who sees red]  That's for one chake; zee un turn t'other, the
white-livered buty!  Whu lets another man 'ave 'is wife, an' never
the sperit to go vor un!

BURLACOMBE.  Shame, Jarland; quiet, man!

     [They are all looking at STRANGWAY, who, under JARLAND'S drunken
     insults is standing rigid, with his eyes closed, and his hands
     hard clenched.  The church bell has stopped slow ringing, and
     begun its five minutes' hurrying note.]

TRUSTAFORD.  [Rising, and trying to hook his arm into JARLAND'S]
Come away, Tam; yu've a-'ad to much, man.

JARLAND.  [Shaking him off]  Zee, 'e darsen't touch me; I might 'it
un in the vase an' 'e darsen't; 'e's afraid--like 'e was o' the
doctor.

     [He raises the pewter as though to fling it, but it is seized by
     GODLEIGH from behind, and falls clattering to the floor.
     STRANGWAY has not moved.]

JARLAND.  [Shaking his fist almost in his face]  Luke at un, Luke at
un!  A man wi' a slut for a wife----

     [As he utters the word "wife" STRANGWAY seizes the outstretched
     fist, and with a jujitsu movement, draws him into his clutch,
     helpless.  And as they sway and struggle in the open window,
     with the false strength of fury he forces JARLAND through.
     There is a crash of broken glass from outside.  At the sound
     STRANGWAY comes to himself.  A look of agony passes over his
     face.  His eyes light on JIM BERE, who has suddenly risen, and
     stands feebly clapping his hands.  STRANGWAY rushes out.]

     [Excitedly gathering at the window, they all speak at once.]

CLYST.  Tam's hatchin' of yure cucumbers, Mr. Godleigh.

TRUSTAFORD.  'E did crash; haw, haw!

FREMAN. 'Twas a brave throw, zurely.  Whu wid a' thought it?

CLYST.  Tam's crawlin' out.  [Leaning through window]  Hello, Tam--
'ow's t' base, old man?

FREMAN.  [Excitedly]  They'm all comin' up from churchyard to zee.

TRUSTAFORD.  Tam du luke wonderful aztonished; haw, haw!  Poor old
Tam!

CLYST.  Can yu zee curate?  Reckon 'e'm gone into church.  Aw, yes;
gettin' a bit dimsy-service time.  [A moment's hush.]

TRUSTAFORD.  Well, I'm jiggered.  In 'alf an hour he'm got to prache.

GODLEIGH.  'Tes a Christian village, boys.

     [Feebly, quietly, JIM BERE laughs.  There is silence; but the
     bell is heard still ranging.]


                              CURTAIN.



SCENE II

     The same-in daylight dying fast.  A lamp is burning on the bar.
     A chair has been placed in the centre of the room, facing the
     bench under the window, on which are seated from right to left,
     GODLEIGH, SOL POTTER the village shopman, TRUSTAFORD,
     BURLACOMBE, FREMAN, JIM BERE, and MORSE the blacksmith.  CLYST
     is squatting on a stool by the bar, and at the other end
     JARLAND, sobered and lowering, leans against the lintel of the
     porch leading to the door, round which are gathered five or six
     sturdy fellows, dumb as fishes.  No one sits in the chair.  In
     the unnatural silence that reigns, the distant sound of the
     wheezy church organ and voices singing can be heard.

TAUSTAFORD.  [After a prolonged clearing of his throat]  What I mean
to zay is that 'tes no yuse, not a bit o' yuse in the world, not
duin' of things properly.  If an' in case we'm to carry a resolution
disapprovin' o' curate, it must all be done so as no one can't, zay
nothin'.

SOL POTTER.  That's what I zay, Mr. Trustaford; ef so be as 'tis to
be a village meetin', then it must be all done proper.

FREMAN.  That's right, Sot Potter.  I purpose Mr. Sot Potter into the
chair.  Whu seconds that?

     [A silence.  Voices from among the dumb-as-fishes: "I du."]

CLYST.  [Excitedly] Yu can't putt that to the meetin'.  Only a
chairman can putt it to the meetin'.  I purpose that Mr. Burlacombe--
bein as how he's chairman o' the Parish Council--take the chair.

FREMAN.  Ef so be as I can't putt it, yu can't putt that neither.

TRUSTAFORD.  'Tes not a bit o' yuse; us can't 'ave no meetin' without
a chairman.

GODLEIGH.  Us can't 'ave no chairman without a meetin' to elect un,
that's zure.  [A silence.]

MORSE.  [Heavily]  To my way o' thinkin', Mr. Godleigh speaks zense;
us must 'ave a meetin' before us can 'ave a chairman.

CLYST.  Then what we got to du's to elect a meetin'.

BURLACOMBE.  [Sourly]  Yu'll not find no procedure far that.

     [Voices from among the dumb-as fishes: "Mr. Burlacombe 'e
     oughter know."]

SOL POTTER.  [Scratching his head--with heavy solemnity]  'Tes my
belief there's no other way to du, but to elect a chairman to call a
meetin'; an' then for that meetin' to elect a chairman.

CLYST.  I purpose Mr. Burlacombe as chairman to call a meetin'.

FREMAN.  I purpose Sol Potter.

GODLEIGH.  Can't 'ave tu propositions together before a meetin';
that's apple-pie zure vur zurtain.

     [Voice from among the dumb-as fishes: "There ain't no meetin'
     yet, Sol Potter zays."]

TRUSTAFORD.  Us must get the rights of it zettled some'ow.  'Tes like
the darned old chicken an' the egg--meetin' or chairman--which come
virst?

SOL POTTER.  [Conciliating]  To my thinkin' there shid be another way
o' duin' it, to get round it like with a circumbendibus.  'T'all
comes from takin' different vuse, in a manner o' spakin'.

FREMAN.  Vu goo an' zet in that chair.

SOL POTTER.  [With a glance at BURLACOMBE modestly]  I shid'n never
like fur to du that, with Mr. Burlacombe zettin' there.

BURLACOMBE.  [Rising]  'Tes all darned fulishness.

     [Amidst an uneasy shufflement of feet he moves to the door, and
     goes out into the darkness.]

CLYST.  [Seeing his candidate thus depart]  Rackon curate's pretty
well thru by now, I'm goin' to zee.  [As he passes JARLAND]  'Ow's to
base, old man?

     [He goes out.  One of the dumb-as-fishes moves from the door and
     fills the apace left on the bench by BURLACOMBE'S departure.]

JARLAND.  Darn all this puzzivantin'!  [To SOL POTTER]  Got an' zet
in that chair.

SOL POTTER.  [Rising and going to the chair; there he stands,
changing from one to the other of his short broad feet and sweating
from modesty and worth]  'Tes my duty now, gentlemen, to call a
meetin' of the parishioners of this parish.  I beg therefore to
declare that this is a meetin' in accordance with my duty as chairman
of this meetin' which elected me chairman to call this meetin'.  And
I purceed to vacate the chair so that this meetin' may now purceed to
elect a chairman.

     [He gets up from the chair, and wiping the sweat from his brow,
     goes back to his seat.]

FREMAN.  Mr. Chairman, I rise on a point of order.

GODLEIGH.  There ain't no chairman.

FREMAN.  I don't give a darn for that.  I rise on a point of order.

GODLEIGH.  'Tes a chairman that decides points of order.  'Tes
certain yu can't rise on no points whatever till there's a chairman.

TRUSTAFORD.  'Tes no yuse yure risin', not the least bit in the
world, till there's some one to set yu down again.  Haw, haw!

     [Voice from the dumb-as-Etches: "Mr. Trustaford 'e's right."]

FREMAN.  What I zay is the chairman ought never to 'ave vacated the
chair till I'd risen on my point of order.  I purpose that he goo and
zet down again.

GODLEIGH.  Yu can't purpose that to this meetin'; yu can only purpose
that to the old meetin' that's not zettin' any longer.

FREMAN.  [Excitedly]  I didn' care what old meetin' 'tis that's
zettin'.  I purpose that Sol Potter goo an' zet in that chair again,
while I rise on my point of order.

TRUSTAFORD.  [Scratching his head]  'Tesn't regular but I guess yu've
got to goo, Sol, or us shan't 'ave no peace.

     [SOL POTTER, still wiping his brow, goes back to the chair.]

MORSE.  [Stolidly-to FREMAN]  Zet down, Will Freman.  [He pulls at
him with a blacksmith's arm.]

FREMAN.  [Remaining erect with an effort]  I'm not a-goin' to zet
down till I've arisen.

JARLAND.  Now then, there 'e is in the chair.  What's yore point of
order?

FREMAN.  [Darting his eyes here and there, and flinging his hand up
to his gipsy-like head]  'Twas--'twas--Darned ef y' 'aven't putt it
clean out o' my 'ead.

JARLAND.  We can't wait for yore points of order.  Come out o' that
chair.  Sol Potter.

     [SOL POTTER rises and is about to vacate the chair.]

FREMAN.  I know!  There ought to 'a been minutes taken.  Yu can't
'ave no meetin' without minutes.  When us comes to electin' a
chairman o' the next meetin', 'e won't 'ave no minutes to read.

SOL POTTER.  'Twas only to putt down that I was elected chairman to
elect a meetin' to elect a chairman to preside over a meetin' to pass
a resolution dalin' wi' the curate.  That's aisy set down, that is.

FREMAN.  [Mollified]  We'll 'ave that zet down, then, while we're
electin' the chairman o' the next meetin'.

     [A silence. ]

TRUSTAFORD.  Well then, seein' this is the praaper old meetin' for
carryin' the resolution about the curate, I purpose Mr. Sol Potter
take the chair.

FREMAN.  I purpose Mr. Trustaford.  I 'aven't a-got nothin' against
Sol Potter, but seein' that he elected the meetin' that's to elect
'im, it might be said that 'e was electin' of himzelf in a manner of
spakin'.  Us don't want that said.

MORSE.  [Amid meditative grunts from the dumb-as-fishes]  There's
some-at in that.  One o' they tu purposals must be putt to the
meetin'.

FREMAN.  Second must be putt virst, fur zure.

TRUSTAFORD.  I dunno as I wants to zet in that chair.  To hiss the
curate, 'tis a ticklish sort of a job after that.  Vurst comes afore
second, Will Freeman.

FREMAN.  Second is amendment to virst.  'Tes the amendments is putt
virst.

TRUSTAFORD.  'Ow's that, Mr. Godleigh?  I'm not particular eggzac'ly
to a dilly zort of a point like that.

SOL POTTER.  [Scratching his, head]  'Tes a very nice point, for
zure.

GODLEIGH.  'Tes undoubtedly for the chairman to decide.

     [Voice from the dumb-as fishes: "But there ain't no chairman
     yet."]

JARLAND.  Sol Potter's chairman.

FREMAN.  No, 'e ain't.

MORSE.  Yes, 'e is--'e's chairman till this second old meetin' gets
on the go.

FREMAN.  I deny that.  What du yu say, Mr. Trustaford?

TRUSTAFORD.  I can't 'ardly tell.  It du zeem a darned long-sufferin'
sort of a business altogether.

     [A silence.]

MORSE.  [Slowly]  Tell 'ee what 'tis, us shan't du no gude like this.

GODLEIGH.  'Tes for Mr. Freman or Mr. Trustaford, one or t'other to
withdraw their motions.

TRUSTAFORD.  [After a pause, with cautious generosity]  I've no
objections to withdrawin' mine, if Will Freman'll withdraw his'n.

FREMAN.  I won't never be be'indhand.  If Mr. Trustaford withdraws, I
withdraws mine.

MORSE.  [With relief]  That's zensible.  Putt the motion to the
meetin'.

SOL POTTER.  There ain't no motion left to putt.

     [Silence of consternation.]

     [In the confusion Jim BERE is seen to stand up.]

GODLEIGH.  Jim Bere to spike.  Silence for Jim!

VOICES.  Aye!  Silence for Jim!

SOL POTTER.  Well, Jim?

JIM.  [Smiling and slow]  Nothin' duin'.

TRUSTAFORD.  Bravo, Jim!  Yu'm right.  Best zense yet!

     [Applause from the dumb-as-fishes.]

     [With his smile brightening, JIM resumes his seat.]

SOL POTTER.  [Wiping his brow]  Du seem to me, gentlemen, seem' as
we'm got into a bit of a tangle in a manner of spakin', 'twid be the
most zimplest and vairest way to begin all over vrom the beginnin',
so's t'ave it all vair an' square for every one.

     [In the uproar Of "Aye" and "No," it is noticed that TIBBY
     JARLAND is standing in front of her father with her finger, for
     want of something better, in her mouth.]

TIBBY.  [In her stolid voice]  Please, sister Mercy says, curate 'ave
got to "Lastly."  [JARLAND picks her up, and there is silence.]  An'
please to come quick.

JARLAND.  Come on, mates; quietly now!

     [He goes out, and all begin to follow him.]

MORSE.  [Slowest, save for SOL POTTER]  'Tes rare lucky us was all
agreed to hiss the curate afore us began the botherin' old meetin',
or us widn' 'ardly 'ave 'ad time to settle what to du.

SOL POTTER.  [Scratching his head]  Aye, 'tes rare lucky; but I dunno
if 'tes altogether reg'lar.


                              CURTAIN.




SCENE III

     The village green before the churchyard and the yew-trees at the
     gate.  Into the pitch dark under the yews, light comes out
     through the half-open church door.  Figures are lurking, or
     moving stealthily--people waiting and listening to the sound of
     a voice speaking in the church words that are inaudible.
     Excited whispering and faint giggles come from the deepest
     yew-tree shade, made ghostly by the white faces and the frocks of
     young girls continually flitting up and back in the blackness. A
     girl's figure comes flying out from the porch, down the path of
     light, and joins the stealthy group.

WHISPERING VOICE of MERCY.  Where's 'e got to now, Gladys?

WHISPERING VOICE OF GLADYS.  'E've just finished.

VOICE OF CONNIE. Whu pushed t'door open?

VOICE OF GLADYS.  Tim Clyst I giv' it a little push, meself.

VOICE OF CONNIE.  Oh!

VOICE of GLADYS.  Tim Clyst's gone in!

ANOTHER VOICE.  O-o-o-h!

VOICE of MERCY.  Whu else is there, tu?

VOICE OF GLADYS.  Ivy's there, an' Old Mrs. Potter, an' tu o' the
maids from th'Hall; that's all as ever.

VOICE of CONNIE.  Not the old grey mare?

VOICE of GLADYS.  No.  She ain't ther'.  'Twill just be th'ymn now,
an' the Blessin'.  Tibby gone for 'em?

VOICE OF MERCY.  Yes.

VOICE of CONNIE.  Mr. Burlacombe's gone in home, I saw 'im pass by
just now--'e don' like it.  Father don't like it neither.

VOICE of MERCY.  Mr. Strangway shoudn' 'ave taken my skylark, an'
thrown father out o' winder.  'Tis goin' to be awful fun!  Oh!

     [She jumps up and dawn in the darkness.  And a voice from far in
     the shadow says: "Hsssh!  Quiet, yu maids!"  The voice has
     ceased speaking in the church.  There is a moment's dead
     silence.  The voice speaks again; then from the wheezy little
     organ come the first faint chords of a hymn.]

GLADYS.  "Nearer, my God, to Thee!"

VOICE of MERCY.  'Twill be funny, with no one 'ardly singin'.

     [The sound of the old hymn sung by just six voices comes out to
     them rather sweet and clear.]

GLADYS.  [Softly]  'Tis pretty, tu.  Why!  They're only singin' one
verse!

     [A moment's silence, and the voice speaks, uplifted, pronouncing
     the Blessing: "The peace of God----" As the last words die away,
     dark figures from the inn approach over the grass, till quite a
     crowd seems standing there without a word spoken.  Then from out
     of the church porch come the congregation.  TIM CLYST first,
     hastily lost among the waiting figures in the dark; old Mrs.
     Potter, a half blind old lady groping her way and perceiving
     nothing out of the ordinary; the two maids from the Hall,
     self-conscious and scared, scuttling along.  Last, IVY BURLACOMBE
     quickly, and starting back at the dim, half-hidden crowd.]

VOICE of GLADYS.  [Whispering]  Ivy!  Here, quick!

     [Ivy sways, darts off towards the voice, and is lost in the
     shadow.]

VOICE OF FREMAN.  [Low]  Wait, boys, till I give signal.

     [Two or three squirks and giggles; Tim CLYST'S voice: "Ya-as!
     Don't 'ee tread on my toe!" A soft, frightened "O-o-h!" from a
     girl.  Some quick, excited whisperings: "Luke!"  "Zee there!"
     "He's comin'!"  And then a perfectly dead silence.  The figure
     of STRANGWAY is seen in his dark clothes, passing from the
     vestry to the church porch.  He stands plainly visible in the
     lighted porch, locking the door, then steps forward.  Just as he
     reaches the edge of the porch, a low hiss breaks the silence.
     It swells very gradually into a long, hissing groan.  STRANGWAY
     stands motionless, his hand over his eyes, staring into the
     darkness.  A girl's figure can be seen to break out of the
     darkness and rush away.  When at last the groaning has died into
     sheer expectancy, STRANGWAY drops his hand.]

STRANGWAY.  [In a loco voice]  Yes!  I'm glad.  Is Jarland there?

FREMAN.  He's 'ere-no thanks to yu!  Hsss!

     [The hiss breaks out again, then dies away.]

JARLAND'S VOICE.  [Threatening]  Try if yu can du it again.

STRANGWAY.  No, Jarland, no!  I ask you to forgive me.  Humbly!

     [A hesitating silence, broken by muttering.]

CLYST'S VOICE.  Bravo!

A VOICE.  That's vair.

A VOICE.  'E's afraid o' the sack--that's what 'tis.

A VOICE.  [Groaning]  'E's a praaper coward.

A VOICE.  Whu funked the doctor?

CLYST'S VOICE.  Shame on 'ee, therr!

STRANGWAY.  You're right--all of you!  I'm not fit!  An uneasy and
excited mustering and whispering dies away into renewed silence.

STRANGWAY.  What I did to Tam Jarland is not the real cause of what
you're doing, is it?  I understand.  But don't be troubled.  It's all
over.  I'm going--you'll get some one better.  Forgive me, Jarland.
I can't see your face--it's very dark.

FREMAN'S Voice.  [Mocking]  Wait for the full mune.

GODLEIGH.  [Very low]  "My 'eart 'E lighted not!"

STRANGWAY.  [starting at the sound of his own words thus mysteriously
given him out of the darkness]  Whoever found that, please tear it
up!  [After a moment's silence]  Many of you have been very kind to
me.  You won't see me again--Good-bye, all!

     [He stands for a second motionless, then moves resolutely down
     into the darkness so peopled with shadows.]

UNCERTAIN VOICES AS HE PASSES.  Good-bye, zurr!
Good luck, zurr!  [He has gone.]

CLYST'S VOICE.  Three cheers for Mr. Strangway!

     [And a queer, strangled cheer, with groans still threading it,
     arises.]


                         CURTAIN.





ACT III


SCENE I

     In the BURLACOMBES' hall-sitting-room the curtains are drawn, a
     lamp burns, and the door stands open.  BURLACOMBE and his wife
     are hovering there, listening to the sound of mingled cheers and
     groaning.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Aw!  my gudeness--what a thing t'appen!  I'd saner
'a lost all me ducks.  [She makes towards the inner door]  I can't
never face 'im.

BURLACOMBE.  'E can't expect nothin' else, if 'e act like that.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  'Tes only duin' as 'e'd be done by.

BURLACOMBE.  Aw!  Yu can't go on forgivin' 'ere, an' forgivin' there.
'Tesn't nat'ral.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  'Tes the mischief 'e'm a parson.  'Tes 'im bein' a
lamb o' God--or 'twidden be so quare for 'im to be forgivin'.

BURLACOMBE.  Yu goo an' make un a gude 'ot drink.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Poor soul!  What'll 'e du now, I wonder?  [Under
her breath]  'E's cumin'!

     [She goes hurriedly.  BURLACOMBE, with a startled look back,
     wavers and makes to follow her, but stops undecided in the inner
     doorway.  STRANGWAY comes in from the darkness.  He turns to the
     window and drops overcoat and hat and the church key on the
     windowseat, looking about him as men do when too hard driven,
     and never fixing his eyes long enough on anything to see it.
     BURLACOMBE, closing the door into the house, advances a step.
     At the sound STRANGWAY faces round.]

BURLACOMBE.  I wanted for yu to know, zurr, that me an' mine 'adn't
nothin' to du wi' that darned fulishness, just now.

STRANGWAY.  [With a ghost of a smile]  Thank you, Burlacombe.  It
doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter a bit.

BURLACOMBE.  I 'ope yu won't take no notice of it.  Like a lot o'
silly bees they get.  [After an uneasy pause]  Yu'll excuse me
spakin' of this mornin', an' what 'appened.  'Tes a brave pity it
cam' on yu so sudden-like before yu 'ad time to think.  'Tes a sort
o' thing a man shude zet an' chew upon.  Certainly 'tes not a bit o'
yuse goin' against human nature.  Ef yu don't stand up for yureself
there's no one else not goin' to.  'Tes yure not 'avin' done that 'as
made 'em so rampageous.  [Stealing another look at STRANGWAY]  Yu'll
excuse me, zurr, spakin' of it, but 'tes amazin' sad to zee a man let
go his own, without a word o' darin'.  'Tea as ef 'e 'ad no passions
like.

STRANGWAY.  Look at me, Burlacombe.

     [BURLACOMBE looks up, trying hard to keep his eyes on
     STRANGWAY'S, that seem to burn in his thin face.]

STRANGWAY.  Do I look like that?  Please, please!  [He touches his
breast]  I've too much here.  Please!

BURLACOMBE.  [With a sort of startled respect]  Well, zurr, 'tes not
for me to zay nothin', certainly.

     [He turns and after a slow look back at STRANGWAY goes out.]

STRANGWAY.  [To himself]  Passions!  No passions!  Ha!

     [The outer door is opened and IVY BURLACOMBE appears, and,
     seeing him, stops.  Then, coming softly towards him, she speaks
     timidly.]

IVY.  Oh!  Mr. Strangway, Mrs. Bradmere's cumin' from the Rectory.  I
ran an' told 'em.  Oh!  'twas awful.

     [STRANGWAY starts, stares at her, and turning on his heel, goes
     into the house.  Ivy's face is all puckered, as if she were on
     the point of tears.  There is a gentle scratching at the door,
     which has not been quite closed.]

VOICE OF GLADYS.  [Whispering]  Ivy!  Come on Ivy.  I won't.

VOICE OF MERCY.  Yu must.  Us can't du without Yu.

Ivy.  [Going to the door]  I don't want to.

VOICE of GLADYS.  "Naughty maid, she won't come out," Ah! du 'ee!

VOICE OF CREMER.  Tim Clyst an' Bobbie's cumin'; us'll only be six
anyway.  Us can't dance "figure of eight" without yu.

Ivy.  [Stamping her foot]  I don't want to dance at all!  I don't.

MERCY.  Aw!  She's temper.  Yu can bang on tambourine, then!

GLADYS.  [Running in]  Quick, Ivy!  Here's the old grey mare cumin'
down the green.  Quick.

     [With whispering and scuffling; gurgling and squeaking, the
     reluctant Ivy's hand is caught and she is jerked away.  In their
     haste they have left the door open behind them.]

VOICE of MRS. BRADMERE.  [Outside]  Who's that?

     [She knocks loudly, and rings a bell; then, without waiting,
     comes in through the open door.]

     [Noting the overcoat and hat on the window-sill she moves across
     to ring the bell.  But as she does so, MRS. BURLACOMBE, followed
     by BURLACOMBE, comes in from the house.]

MRS. BRADMERE  This disgraceful business!  Where's Mr. Strangway?  I
see he's in.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  Yes, m'm, he'm in--but--but Burlacombe du zay he'm
terrible upset.

MRS. BRADMERE.  I should think so.  I must see him--at once.

MRS. BURLACOMBE.  I doubt bed's the best place for 'un, an' gude 'ot
drink.  Burlacombe zays he'm like a man standin' on the edge of a
cliff; and the lasts tipsy o' wind might throw un over.

MRS. BRADMERE.  [To BURLACOMBE]  You've seen him, then?

BURLACOMBE.  Yeas; an' I don't like the luke of un--not a little bit,
I don't.

MRS.  BURLACOMBE.  [Almost to herself]  Poor soul; 'e've a-'ad to
much to try un this yer long time past.  I've a-seen 'tis sperrit
cumin' thru 'is body, as yu might zay.  He's torn to bits, that's
what 'tis.

BURLACOMBE.  'Twas a praaper cowardly thing to hiss a man when he's
down.  But 'twas natural tu, in a manner of spakin'.  But 'tesn't
that troublin' 'im.  'Tes in here [touching his forehead], along of
his wife, to my thinkin'.  They zay 'e've a-known about 'er a-fore
she went away.  Think of what 'e've 'ad to kape in all this time.
'Tes enough to drive a man silly after that.  I've a-locked my gun
up.  I see a man like--like that once before--an' sure enough 'e was
dead in the mornin'!

MRS. BRADMERE.  Nonsense, Burlacombe!  [To MRS. BURLACOMBE]  Go and
tell him I want to see him--must see him.  [MRS.  BURLACOMBE goes
into the house]  And look here, Burlacombe; if we catch any one, man
or woman, talking of this outside the village, it'll be the end of
their tenancy, whoever they may be.  Let them all know that.  I'm
glad he threw that drunken fellow out of the window, though it was a
little----

BURLACOMBE.  Aye!  The nuspapers would be praaper glad of that, for a
tiddy bit o' nuse.

MRS. BRADMERE.  My goodness!  Yes!  The men are all up at the inn.
Go and tell them what I said--it's not to get about.  Go at once,
Burlacombe.

BURLACOMBE.  Must be a turrable job for 'im, every one's knowin'
about 'is wife like this.  He'm a proud man tu, I think.  'Tes a
funny business altogether!

MRS. BRADMERE.  Horrible!  Poor fellow!  Now, come!  Do your best,
Burlacombe!

     [BURLACOMBE touches his forelock and goes.  MRS. BRADMERE stands
     quite still, thinking.  Then going to the photograph, she stares
     up at it.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  You baggage!

     [STRANGWAY has come in noiselessly, and is standing just behind
     her.  She turns, and sees him.  There is something so still, so
     startlingly still in his figure and white face, that she cannot
     for the moment fond her voice.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  [At last]  This is most distressing.  I'm deeply
sorry.  [Then, as he does not answer, she goes a step closer]  I'm an
old woman; and old women must take liberties, you know, or they
couldn't get on at all.  Come now!  Let's try and talk it over calmly
and see if we can't put things right.

STRANGWAY.  You were very good to come; but I would rather not.

MRS. BRADMERE.  I know you're in as grievous trouble as a man can be.

STRANGWAY.  Yes.

MRS. BRADMERE.  [With a little sound of sympathy]  What are you--
thirty-five?  I'm sixty-eight if I'm a day--old enough to be your
mother.  I can feel what you must have been through all these months,
I can indeed.  But you know you've gone the wrong way to work.  We
aren't angels down here below!  And a son of the Church can't act as
if for himself alone.  The eyes of every one are on him.

STRANGWAY.  [Taking the church key from the window.]  Take this,
please.

MRS. BRADMERE.  No, no, no!  Jarland deserved all he got.  You had
great provocation.

STRANGWAY.  It's not Jarland.  [Holding out the key]  Please take it
to the Rector.  I beg his forgiveness.  [Touching his breast]
There's too much I can't speak of--can't make plain.  Take it to him,
please.

MRS. BRADMERE.  Mr. Strangway--I don't accept this.  I am sure my
husband--the Church--will never accept----

STRANGWAY.  Take it!

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Almost unconsciously taking it]  Mind!  We don't
accept it.  You must come and talk to the Rector to-morrow.  You're
overwrought.  You'll see it all in another light, then.

STRANGWAY.  [With a strange smile]  Perhaps.  [Lifting the blind]
Beautiful night!  Couldn't be more beautiful!

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Startled-softly]  Don't turn sway from these who
want to help you!  I'm a grumpy old woman, but I can feel for you.
Don't try and keep it all back, like this!  A woman would cry, and it
would all seem clearer at once.  Now won't you let me----?

STRANGWAY.  No one can help, thank you.

MRS. BRADMERE.  Come!  Things haven't gone beyond mending, really, if
you'll face them.  [Pointing to the photograph]  You know what I
mean.  We dare not foster immorality.

STRANGWAY.  [Quivering as at a jabbed nerve]  Don't speak of that!

MRS. BRADMERE.  But think what you've done, Mr. Strangway!  If you
can't take your wife back, surely you must divorce her.  You can
never help her to go on like this in secret sin.

STRANGWAY.  Torture her--one way or the other?

MRS. BRADMERE.  No, no; I want you to do as the Church--as all
Christian society would wish.  Come!  You can't let this go on.  My
dear man, do your duty at all costs!

STRANGWAY.  Break her heart?

MRS. BRADMERE.  Then you love that woman--more than God!

STRANGWAY.  [His face quivering]  Love!

MRS. BRADMERE.  They told me----Yes, and I can see you're is a bad
way.  Come, pull yourself together!  You can't defend what you're
doing.

STRANGWAY.  I do not try.

MRS. BRADMERE.  I must get you to see!  My father was a clergyman;
I'm married to one; I've two sons in the Church.  I know what I'm
talking about.  It's a priest's business to guide the people's lives.

STRANGWAY.  [Very low]  But not mine!  No more!

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Looking at him shrewdly]  There's something very
queer about you to-night.  You ought to see doctor.

STRANGWAY.  [A smile awning and going on his lips] If I am not better
soon----

MRS. BRADMERE.  I know it must be terrible to feel that everybody----

     [A convulsive shiver passes over STRANGWAY, and he shrinks
     against the door]

But come!  Live it down!

     [With anger growing at his silence]

Live it down, man!  You can't desert your post--and let these
villagers do what they like with us?  Do you realize that you're
letting a woman, who has treated you abominably;--yes, abominably
--go scot-free, to live comfortably with another man? What an
example!

STRANGWAY.  Will you, please, not speak of that!

MRS. BRADMERE.  I must!  This great Church of ours is based on the
rightful condemnation of wrongdoing.  There are times when
forgiveness is a sin, Michael Strangway.  You must keep the whip
hand.  You must fight!

STRANGWAY.  Fight!  [Touching his heart]  My fight is here.  Have you
ever been in hell?  For months and months--burned and longed; hoped
against hope; killed a man in thought day by day?  Never rested, for
love and hate?  I--condemn!  I--judge!  No!  It's rest I have to
find--somewhere--somehow-rest!  And how--how can I find rest?

MRS. BRADMERE.  [Who has listened to his outburst in a soft of coma]
You are a strange man!  One of these days you'll go off your head if
you don't take care.

STRANGWAY.  [Smiling]  One of these days the flowers will grow out of
me; and I shall sleep.

     [MRS. BRADMERE stares at his smiling face a long moment in
     silence, then with a little sound, half sniff, half snort, she
     goes to the door.  There she halts.]

MRS. BRADMERE.  And you mean to let all this go on----Your wife----

STRANGWAY.  Go!  Please go!

MRS. BRADMERE.  Men like you have been buried at cross-roads before
now!  Take care!  God punishes!

STRANGWAY.  Is there a God?

MRS. BRADMERE.  Ah!  [With finality]  You must see a doctor.

     [Seeing that the look on his face does not change, she opens the
     door, and hurries away into the moonlight.]

     [STRANGWAY crosses the room to where his wife's picture hangs,
     and stands before it, his hands grasping the frame.  Then he
     takes it from the wall, and lays it face upwards on the window
     seat.]

STRANGWAY.  [To himself]  Gone!  What is there, now?

     [The sound of an owl's hooting is floating in, and of voices
     from the green outside the inn.]

STRANGWAY.  [To himself]  Gone!  Taken faith--hope--life!

     [JIM BERE comes wandering into the open doorway.]

JIM BERE.  Gude avenin', zurr.

     [At his slow gait, with his feeble smile, he comes in, and
     standing by the window-seat beside the long dark coat that still
     lies there, he looks down at STRANGWAY with his lost eyes.]

JIM.  Yu threw un out of winder.  I cud 'ave, once, I cud.

     [STRANGWAY neither moves nor speaks; and JIM BERE goes on with
     his unimaginably slow speech]

They'm laughin' at yu, zurr.  An' so I come to tell 'ee how to du.
'Twas full mune--when I caught 'em, him an' my girl.  I caught 'em.
[With a strange and awful flash of fire]  I did; an' I tuk un [He
taken up STRANGWAY'S coat and grips it with his trembling hands, as a
man grips another's neck]  like that--I tuk un.  As the coat falls,
like a body out of which the breath has been squeezed, STRANGWAY,
rising, catches it.

STRANGWAY.  [Gripping the coat]  And he fell!

     [He lets the coat fall on the floor, and puts his foot on it.
     Then, staggering back, he leans against the window.]

JIM.   Yu see, I loved 'er--I did.  [The lost look comes back to his
eyes]  Then somethin'--I dunno--and--and----[He lifts his hand and
passes it up and down his side]  Twas like this for ever.

     [They gaze at each other in silence.]

JIM.  [At last]  I come to tell yu.  They'm all laughin' at yu.  But
yu'm strong--yu go over to Durford to that doctor man, an' take un
like I did.  [He tries again to make the sign of squeezing a man's
neck]  They can't laugh at yu no more, then.  Tha's what I come to
tell yu.  Tha's the way for a Christian man to du.  Gude naight,
zurr.  I come to tell yee.

     [STRANGWAY motions to him in silence.  And, very slowly, JIM
     BERE passes out.]

     [The voices of men coming down the green are heard.]

VOICES.  Gude night, Tam.  Glide naight, old Jim!

VOICES.  Gude might, Mr. Trustaford.  'Tes a wonderful fine mune.

VOICE OF TRUSTAFORD.  Ah! 'Tes a brave mune for th' poor old curate!

VOICE.  "My 'eart 'E lighted not!"

     [TRUSTAFORD'S laugh, and the rattling, fainter and fainter, of
     wheels.  A spasm seizes on STRANGWAY'S face, as he stands there
     by the open door, his hand grips his throat; he looks from side
     to side, as if seeking a way of escape.]


                              CURTAIN.



SCENE II

     The BURLACOMBES' high and nearly empty barn.  A lantern is hung
     by a rope that lifts the bales of straw, to a long ladder
     leaning against a rafter.  This gives all the light there is,
     save for a slender track of moonlight, slanting in from the end,
     where the two great doors are not quite closed.  On a rude bench
     in front of a few remaining, stacked, square-cut bundles of last
     year's hay, sits TIBBY JARLAND, a bit of apple in her mouth,
     sleepily beating on a tambourine.  With stockinged feet GLADYS,
     IVY, CONNIE, and MERCY, TIM CLYST, and BOBBIE JARLAND, a boy of
     fifteen, are dancing a truncated "Figure of Eight"; and their
     shadow are dancing alongside on the walls.  Shoes and some
     apples have been thrown down close to the side door through
     which they have come in.  Now and then IVY, the smallest and
     best of the dancers, ejaculates words of direction, and one of
     the youths grunts or breathes loudly out of the confusion of his
     mind.  Save for this and the dumb beat and jingle of the sleepy
     tambourine, there is no sound.  The dance comes to its end, but
     the drowsy TIBBY goes on beating.

MERCY.  That'll du, Tibby; we're finished.  Ate yore apple.  [The
stolid TIBBY eats her apple.]

CLYST.  [In his teasing, excitable voice]  Yu maids don't dance
'elf's well as us du.  Bobbie 'e's a great dancer.  'E dance vine.
I'm a gude dancer, meself.

GLADYS.  A'n't yu conceited just?

CLYST.  Aw!  Ah! Yu'll give me kiss for that.  [He chases, but cannot
catch that slippery white figure]  Can't she glimmer!

MERCY.  Gladys!  Up ladder!

CLYST.  Yu go up ladder; I'll catch 'ee then.  Naw, yu maids, don't
yu give her succour.  That's not vair [Catching hold of MERCY, who
gives a little squeal.]

CONNIE.  Mercy, don't!  Mrs. Burlacombe'll hear.  Ivy, go an' peek.

     [Ivy goes to flee side door and peers through.]

CLYST.  [Abandoning the chase and picking up an apple--they all have
the joyous irresponsibility that attends forbidden doings]  Ya-as,
this is a gude apple.  Luke at Tibby!

     [TIBBY, overcome by drowsiness, has fallen back into the hay,
     asleep.  GLADYS, leaning against the hay breaks into humming:]

    "There cam' three dukes a-ridin', a-ridin', a-ridin',
     There cam' three dukes a ridin'
     With a ransy-tansy tay!"

CLYST.  Us 'as got on vine; us'll get prize for our dancin'.

CONNIE.  There won't be no prize if Mr. Strangway goes away.  'Tes
funny 'twas Mrs. Strangway start us.

IVY.  [From the door]  'Twas wicked to hiss him.

     [A moment's hush.]

CLYST.  Twasn't I.

BOBBIE.  I never did.

GLADYS.  Oh!  Bobbie, yu did!  Yu blew in my ear.

CLYST.  'Twas the praaper old wind in the trees.  Did make a brave
noise, zurely.

MERCY.  'E shuld'n' 'a let my skylark go.

CLYST.  [Out of sheer contradictoriness]  Ya-as, 'e shude, then.
What du yu want with th' birds of the air?  They'm no gude to yu.

IVY.  [Mournfully]  And now he's goin' away.

CLYST.  Ya-as; 'tes a pity.  He's the best man I ever seen since I
was comin' from my mother.  He's a gude man.  He'em got a zad face,
sure enough, though.

IVY.  Gude folk always 'ave zad faces.

CLYST.  I knu a gude man--'e sold pigs--very gude man: 'e 'ad a
budiful bright vase like the mane. [Touching his stomach]  I was sad,
meself, once.  'Twas a funny scrabblin'--like feelin'.

GLADYS.  If 'e go away, whu's goin' to finish us for confirmation?

CONNIE.  The Rector and the old grey mare.

MERCY.  I don' want no more finishin'; I'm confirmed enough.

CLYST.  Ya-as; yu'm a buty.

GLADYS.  Suppose we all went an' asked 'im not to go?

IVY.  'Twouldn't be no gude.

CONNIE.  Where's 'e goin'?

MERCY.  He'll go to London, of course.

IVY.  He's so gentle; I think 'e'll go to an island, where there's
nothin' but birds and beasts and flowers.

CLYST.  Aye!  He'm awful fond o' the dumb things.

IVY.  They're kind and peaceful; that's why.

CLYST.  Aw! Yu see tu praaper old tom cats; they'm not to peaceful,
after that, nor kind naighther.

BOBBIE.  [Surprisingly]  If 'e's sad, per'aps 'e'll go to 'Eaven.

IVY.  Oh!  not yet, Bobbie.  He's tu young.

CLYST.  [Following his own thoughts]  Ya-as.  'Tes a funny place, tu,
nowadays, judgin' from the papers.

GLADYS.  Wonder if there's dancin' in 'Eaven?

IVY.  There's beasts, and flowers, and waters, and 'e told us.

CLYST.  Naw!  There's no dumb things in 'Eaven.  Jim Bere 'e says
there is!  'E thinks 'is old cat's there.

IVY.  Yes.  [Dreamily]  There's stars, an' owls, an' a man playin' on
the flute.  Where 'tes gude, there must be music.

CLYST.  Old brass band, shuldn' wonder, like th' Salvation Army.

IVY.  [Putting up her hands to an imaginary pipe]  No; 'tis a boy
that goes so; an' all the dumb things an' all the people goo after
'im--like this.

     [She marches slowly, playing her imaginary pipe, and one by one
     they all fall in behind her, padding round the barn in their
     stockinged feet.  Passing the big doors, IVY throws them open.]

An' 'tes all like that in 'Eaven.

     [She stands there gazing out, still playing on her imaginary
     pipe.  And they all stand a moment silent, staring into the
     moonlight.]

CLYST.  'Tes a glory-be full mune to-night!

IVY.  A goldie-cup--a big one.  An' millions o' little goldie-cups on
the floor of 'Eaven.

MERCY.  Oh!  Bother 'Eaven!  Let's dance "Clapperclaws"!  Wake up,
Tibby!

GLADYS.  Clapperelaws, clapperclaws!  Come on, Bobbie--make circle!

CLYST.  Clapperclaws!  I dance that one fine.

IVY.  [Taking the tambourine]  See, Tibby; like this.  She hums and
beats gently, then restores the tambourine to the sleepy TIBBY, who,
waking, has placed a piece of apple in her mouth.

CONNIE.  'Tes awful difficult, this one.

IVY.  [Illustrating]  No; yu just jump, an' clap yore 'ands.  Lovely,
lovely!

CLYST.  Like ringin' bells!  Come ahn!

     [TIBBY begins her drowsy beating, IVY hums the tune; they dance,
     and their shadows dance again upon the walls.  When she has
     beaten but a few moments on the tambourine, TIBBY is overcome
     once more by sleep and falls back again into her nest of hay,
     with her little shoed feet just visible over the edge of the
     bench.  Ivy catches up the tambourine, and to her beating and
     humming the dancers dance on.]

     [Suddenly GLADYS stops like a wild animal surprised, and cranes
     her neck towards the aide door.]

CONNIE.  [Whispering]  What is it?

GLADYS.  [Whispering]  I hear--some one comin' across the yard.

     [She leads a noiseless scamper towards the shoes.  BOBBIE
     JARLAND shins up the ladder and seizes the lantern.  Ivy drops
     the tambourine.  They all fly to the big doors, and vanish into
     the moonlight, pulling the door nearly to again after them.]

     [There is the sound of scrabbling at the hitch of the side door,
     and STRANGWAY comes into the nearly dark barn.  Out in the night
     the owl is still hooting.  He closes the door, and that sound is
     lost.  Like a man walking in his sleep, he goes up to the
     ladder, takes the rope in his hand, and makes a noose.  He can
     be heard breathing, and in the darkness the motions of his hands
     are dimly seen, freeing his throat and putting the noose round
     his neck.  He stands swaying to and fro at the foot of the
     ladder; then, with a sigh, sets his foot on it to mount.  One of
     the big doors creaks and opens in the wind, letting in a broad
     path of moonlight.]

     [STRANGWAY stops; freeing his neck from the noose, he walks
     quickly up the track of moonlight, whitened from head to foot,
     to close the doors.]

     [The sound of his boots on the bare floor has awakened TIBBY
     JARLAND.  Struggling out of her hay nest she stands staring at
     his whitened figure, and bursts suddenly into a wail.]

TIBBY.  O-oh!  Mercy!  Where are yu?  I'm frightened!  I'm
frightened!  O-oooo!

STRANGWAY.  [Turning--startled]  Who's that?  Who is it?

TIBBY.  O-oh!  A ghosty!  Oo-ooo!

STRANGWAY.  [Going to her quickly]  It's me, Tibby--Tib only me!

TIBBY.  I seed a ghosty.

STRANGWAY.  [Taking her up]  No, no, my bird, you didn't!  It was
me.

TIBBY.  [Burying her face against him]  I'm frighted.  It was a big
one.  [She gives tongue again]  O-o-oh!

STRANGWAY.  There, there!  It's nothing but me.  Look!

TIBBY.  No. [She peeps out all the same.]

STRANGWAY.  See!  It's the moonlight made me all white.  See!  You're
a brave girl now?

TIBBY.  [Cautiously]  I want my apple.

     [She points towards her nest.  STRANGWAY carries her there,
     picks up an apple, and gives it her.  TIBBY takes a bite.]

TIBBY.  I want any tambourine.

STRANGWAY.  [Giving her the tambourine, and carrying her back into
the' track of moonlight]  Now we're both ghosties!  Isn't it funny?

TABBY. [Doubtfully]  Yes.

STRANGWAY.  See!  The moon's laughing at us!  See?  Laugh then!

     [TABBY, tambourine in one hand and apple in the other, smiles
     stolidly.  He sets her down on the ladder, and stands, holding
     her level With him.]

TABBY.  [Solemnly]  I'se still frightened.

STRANGWAY.  No!  Full moon, Tibby!  Shall we wish for it?

TABBY.  Full mune.

STRANGWAY.  Moon!  We're wishing for you.  Moon, moon!

TIBBY.  Mune, we're wishin' for yu!

STRANGWAY.  What do, you wish it to be?

TIBBY.  Bright new shillin'!

STRANGWAY.  A face.

TIBBY.  Shillin', a shillin'!

STRANGWAY.  [Taking out a shilling and spinning it so that it falls
into her pinafore]  See!  Your wish comes true.

TIBBY.  Oh!  [Putting the shilling in her mouth]  Mune's still there!

STRANGWAY.  Wish for me, Tibby!

TIBBY.  Mune.  I'm wishin' for yu!

STRANGWAY.  Not yet!

TIBBY.  Shall I shake my tambouline?

STRANGWAY.  Yes, shake your tambouline.

TIBBY.  [Shaking her tambourine]  Mune, I'm shaken' at yu.

     [STRANGWAY lays his hand suddenly on the rope, and swings it up
     on to the beam.]

TIBBY.  What d'yu du that for?

STRANGWAY.  To put it out of reach.  It's better----

TIBBY.  Why is it better?  [She stares up at him.]

STRANGWAY.  Come along, Tibby!  [He carries her to the big doors, and
sets her down]  See!  All asleep!  The birds, and the fields, and the
moon!

TIBBY.  Mune, mune, we're wishing for yu!

STRANGWAY.  Send her your love, and say good-night.

TIBBY.  [Blowing a kiss]  Good-night, mune!

     [From the barn roof a little white dove's feather comes floating
     down in the wind.  TIBBY follows it with her hand, catches it,
     and holds it up to him.]

TIBBY.  [Chuckling]  Luke.  The mune's sent a bit o' love!

STRANGWAY.  [Taking the feather]  Thank you, Tibby!  I want that bit
o' love.  [Very faint, comes the sound of music]  Listen!

TIBBY.  It's Miss Willis, playin' on the pianny!

STRANGWAY.  No; it's Love; walking and talking in the world.

TIBBY.  [Dubiously]  Is it?

STRANGWAY.  [Pointing]  See!  Everything coming out to listen!  See
them, Tibby!  All the little things with pointed ears, children, and
birds, and flowers, and bunnies; and the bright rocks, and--men!
Hear their hearts beating!  And the wind listening!

TIBBY.  I can't hear--nor I can't see!

STRANGWAY.  Beyond----[To himself]  They are--they must be; I swear
they are!  [Then, catching sight of TIBBY'S amazed eyes]  And now say
good-bye to me.

TIBBY.  Where yu goin'?

STRANGWAY.  I don't know, Tibby.

VOICE OF MERCY.  [Distant and cautious]  Tibby!  Tibby!  Where are
yu?

STRANGWAY.  Mercy calling; run to her!

     [TIBBY starts off, turns back and lifts her face.  He bends to
     kiss her, and flinging her arms round his neck, she gives him a
     good hug.  Then, knuckling the sleep out of her eyes, she runs.]

     [STRANGWAY stands, uncertain.  There is a sound of heavy
     footsteps; a man clears his throat, close by.]

STRANGWAY.  Who's that?

CREMER.  Jack Cremer.  [The big man's figure appears out of the
shadow of the barn]  That yu, zurr?

STRANGWAY.  Yes, Jack.  How goes it?

CREMER.  'Tes empty, zurr.  But I'll get on some'ow.

STRANGWAY.  You put me to shame.

CREMER.  No, zurr.  I'd be killin' meself, if I didn' feel I must
stick it, like yu zaid.

     [They stand gazing at each other in the moonlight.]

STRANGWAY.  [Very low]  I honour you.

CREMER.  What's that?  [Then, as STRANGWAY does not answer]  I'll
just be walkin'--I won' be gain' 'ome to-night.  'Tes the full mune--
lucky.

STRANGWAY.  [Suddenly]  Wait for me at the crossroads, Jack.  I'll
come with you.  Will you have me, brother?

CREMER.  Sure!

STRANGWAY.  Wait, then.

CREMER.  Aye, zurr.

     [With his heavy tread CREMER passes on.  And STRANGWAY leans
     against the lintel of the door, looking at the moon, that, quite
     full and golden, hangs not far above the straight horizon, where
     the trees stand small, in a row.]

STRANGWAY.  [Lifting his hand in the gesture of prayer]  God, of the
moon and the sun; of joy and beauty, of loneliness and sorrow--give
me strength to go on, till I love every living thing!

     [He moves away, following JACK CREMER.  The full moon shines;
     the owl hoots; and some one is shaking TIBBY'S tambourine.]






THE FOUNDATIONS

(AN EXTRAVAGANT PLAY)



PERSONS OF THE PLAY

LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY, M.P.
LADY WILLIAM DROMONDY
LITTLE ANNE
MISS STOKES
MR. POULDER
JAMES
HENRY
THOMAS
CHARLES
THE PRESS
LEMMY
OLD MRS. LEMMY
LITTLE AIDA
THE DUKE OF EXETER

Some ANTI-SWEATERS; Some SWEATED WORKERS; and a CROWD




SCENES

SCENE I.  The cellar at LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S in Park Lane.

SCENE II.  The room of old MRS. LEMMY in Bethnal Green.

SCENE III.  Ante-room of the hall at LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S



The Action passes continuously between 8 and 10.30 of a
summer evening, some years after the Great War.




ACT I


LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S mansion in Park Lane.  Eight o'clock of the
evening.  LITTLE ANNE DROMONDY and the large footman, JAMES, gaunt
and grin, discovered in the wine cellar, by light of gas.  JAMES, in
plush breeches, is selecting wine.

L. ANNE: James, are you really James?

JAMES.  No, my proper name's John.

L. ANNE.  Oh!  [A pause]  And is Charles's an improper name too?

JAMES.  His proper name's Mark.

L. ANNE.  Then is Thomas Matthew?

JAMES.  Miss Anne, stand clear o' that bin.  You'll put your foot
through one o' those 'ock bottles.

L. ANNE.  No, but James--Henry might be Luke, really?

JAMES.  Now shut it, Miss Anne!

L. ANNE.  Who gave you those names?  Not your godfathers and
godmothers?

JAMES.  Poulder.  Butlers think they're the Almighty.  [Gloomily]
But his name's Bartholomew.

L. ANNE.  Bartholomew Poulder?  It's rather jolly.

JAMES.  It's hidjeous.

L. ANNE.  Which do you like to be called--John or James?

JAMES.  I don't give a darn.

L. ANNE.  What is a darn?

JAMES.  'Tain't in the dictionary.

L. ANNE.  Do you like my name?  Anne Dromondy?  It's old, you know.
But it's funny, isn't it?

JAMES.  [Indifferently]  It'll pass.

L. ANNE.  How many bottles have you got to pick out?

JAMES.  Thirty-four.

L. ANNE.  Are they all for the dinner, or for the people who come in
to the Anti-Sweating Meeting afterwards?

JAMES.  All for the dinner.  They give the Sweated--tea.

L. ANNE.  All for the dinner?  They'll drink too much, won't they?

JAMES.  We've got to be on the safe side.

L. ANNE.  Will it be safer if they drink too much?

     [JAMES pauses in the act of dusting a bottle to look at her, as
     if suspecting irony.]

[Sniffing]  Isn't the smell delicious here-like the taste of cherries
when they've gone bad--[She sniffs again] and mushrooms; and boot
blacking.

JAMES.  That's the escape of gas.

L. ANNE.  Has the plumber's man been?

JAMES.  Yes.

L. ANNE.  Which one?

JAMES.  Little blighter I've never seen before.

L. ANNE.  What is a little blighter?  Can I see?

JAMES.  He's just gone.

L. ANNE.  [Straying]  Oh!  .  .  .  James, are these really the
foundations?

JAMES.  You might 'arf say so.  There's a lot under a woppin' big
house like this; you can't hardly get to the bottom of it.

L. ANNE.  Everything's built on something, isn't it?  And what's THAT
built on?

JAMES.  Ask another.

L. ANNE.  If you wanted to blow it up, though, you'd have to begin
from here, wouldn't you?

JAMES.  Who'd want to blow it up?

L. ANNE.  It would make a mess in Park Lane.

JAMES.  I've seen a lot bigger messes than this'd make, out in the
war.

L. ANNE.  Oh!  but that's years ago!  Was it like this in the
trenches, James?

JAMES.  [Grimly]  Ah!  'Cept that you couldn't lay your 'and on a
bottle o' port when you wanted one.

L. ANNE.  Do you, when you want it, here?

JAMES.  [On guard]  I only suggest it's possible.

L. ANNE.  Perhaps Poulder does.

JAMES.  [Icily]  I say nothin' about that.

L. ANNE.  Oh!  Do say something!

JAMES.  I'm ashamed of you, Miss Anne, pumpin' me!

L. ANNE.  [Reproachfully]  I'm not pumpin'!  I only want to make
Poulder jump when I ask him.

JAMES.  [Grinning]  Try it on your own responsibility, then; don't
bring me in!

L. ANNE.  [Switching off]  James, do you think there's going to be a
bloody revolution?

JAMES.  [Shocked]  I shouldn't use that word, at your age.

L. ANNE.  Why not?  Daddy used it this morning to Mother.
[Imitating]  "The country's in an awful state, darling; there's going
to be a bloody revolution, and we shall all be blown sky-high."  Do
you like Daddy?

JAMES.  [Taken aback]  Like Lord William?  What do you think?  We
chaps would ha' done anything for him out there in the war.

L. ANNE.  He never says that he always says he'd have done anything
for you!

JAMES.  Well--that's the same thing.

L. ANNE.  It isn't--it's the opposite.  What is class hatred, James?

JAMES.  [Wisely]  Ah!  A lot o' people thought when the war was over
there'd be no more o' that.  [He sniggers]  Used to amuse me to read
in the papers about the wonderful unity that was comin'.  I could ha'
told 'em different.

L. ANNE.  Why should people hate?  I like everybody.

JAMES.  You know such a lot o' people, don't you?

L. ANNE.  Well, Daddy likes everybody, and Mother likes everybody,
except the people who don't like Daddy.  I bar Miss Stokes, of
course; but then, who wouldn't?

JAMES.  [With a touch of philosophy]  That's right--we all bars them
that tries to get something out of us.

L. ANNE.  Who do you bar, James?

JAMES.  Well--[Enjoying the luxury of thought]--Speaking generally, I
bar everybody that looks down their noses at me.  Out there in the
trenches, there'd come a shell, and orf'd go some orficer's head, an'
I'd think: That might ha' been me--we're all equal in the sight o'
the stars.  But when I got home again among the torfs, I says to
meself: Out there, ye know, you filled a hole as well as me; but here
you've put it on again, with mufti.

L. ANNE.  James, are your breeches made of mufti?

JAMES.  [Contemplating his legs with a certain contempt]  Ah!
Footmen were to ha' been off; but Lord William was scared we wouldn't
get jobs in the rush.  We're on his conscience, and it's on my
conscience that I've been on his long enough--so, now I've saved a
bit, I'm goin' to take meself orf it.

L. ANNE.  Oh!  Are you going?  Where?

JAMES.  [Assembling the last bottles]  Out o' Blighty!

L. ANNE.  Is a little blighter a little Englishman?

JAMES.  [Embarrassed]  Well-'e can be.

L. ANNE [Mining]  James--we're quite safe down here, aren't we, in a
revolution?  Only, we wouldn't have fun.  Which would you rather--be
safe, or have fun?

JAMES.  [Grimly]  Well, I had my bit o' fun in the war.

L. ANNE.  I like fun that happens when you're not looking.

JAMES.  Do you?  You'd ha' been just suited.

L. ANNE.  James, is there a future life?  Miss Stokes says so.

JAMES.  It's a belief, in the middle classes.

L. ANNE.  What are the middle classes?

JAMES.  Anything from two 'undred a year to supertax.

L. ANNE.  Mother says they're terrible.  Is Miss Stokes middle class?

JAMES.  Yes.

L. ANNE.  Then I expect they are terrible.  She's awfully virtuous,
though, isn't she?

JAMES.  'Tisn't so much the bein' virtuous, as the lookin' it, that's
awful.

L. ANNE.  Are all the middle classes virtuous?  Is Poulder?

JAMES.  [Dubiously]  Well.  Ask him!

L. ANNE.  Yes, I will.  Look!

     [From an empty bin on the ground level she picks up a lighted
     taper,--burnt almost to the end.]

JAMES.  [Contemplating it]  Careless!

L.  Ate.  Oh!  And look!  [She paints to a rounded metal object lying
in the bin, close to where the taper was]  It's a bomb!

She is about to pick it up when JAMES takes her by the waist and puts
her aside.

JAMES.  [Sternly]  You stand back, there!  I don't like the look o'
that!

L. ANNE.  [With intense interest]  Is it really a bomb?  What fun!

JAMES.  Go and fetch Poulder while I keep an eye on it.

L. ANNE.  [On tiptoe of excitement]  If only I can make him jump!
Oh, James!  we needn't put the light out, need we?

JAMES.  No.  Clear off and get him, and don't you come back.

L. ANNE.  Oh! but I must!  I found it!

JAMES.  Cut along.

L. ANNE.  Shall we bring a bucket?

JAMES.  Yes.  [ANNE flies off.]

[Gazing at the object]  Near go!  Thought I'd seen enough o'them
to last my time.  That little gas blighter!  He looked a rum 'un,
too--one o' these 'ere Bolshies.

     [In the presence of this grim object the habits of the past are
     too much for him.  He sits on the ground, leaning against one of
     the bottle baskets, keeping his eyes on the bomb, his large,
     lean, gorgeous body spread, one elbow on his plush knee.  Taking
     out an empty pipe, he places it mechanically, bowl down, between
     his dips.  There enter, behind him, as from a communication
     trench, POULDER, in swallow-tails, with LITTLE ANNE behind him.]

L. ANNE.  [Peering round him--ecstatic]  Hurrah!  Not gone off yet!
It can't--can it--while James is sitting on it?

POULDER.  [Very broad and stout, with square shoulders,--a large
ruddy face, and a small mouth]  No noise, Miss.--James.

JAMES.  Hallo!

POULDER.  What's all this?

JAMES.  Bomb!

POULDER.  Miss Anne, off you go, and don't you----

L. ANNE.  Come back again!  I know!  [She flies.]

JAMES.  [Extending his hand with the pipe in it]  See!

POULDER.  [Severely]  You've been at it again!  Look here, you're not
in the trenches now.  Get up!  What are your breeches goin' to be
like?  You might break a bottle any moment!

JAMES.  [Rising with a jerk to a sort of "Attention!"]  Look here,
you starched antiquity, you and I and that bomb are here in the sight
of the stars.  If you don't look out I'll stamp on it and blow us all
to glory!  Drop your civilian swank!

POULDER.  [Seeing red]  Ho!  Because you had the privilege of
fightin' for your country you still think you can put it on, do you?
Take up your wine! 'Pon my word, you fellers have got no nerve left!

     [JAMES makes a sudden swoop, lifts the bomb and poises it in
     both hands.  POULDER recoils against a bin and gazes, at the
     object.]

JAMES.  Put up your hands!

POULDER.  I defy you to make me ridiculous.

JAMES.  [Fiercely]  Up with 'em!

     [POULDER'S hands go up in an uncontrollable spasm, which he
     subdues almost instantly, pulling them down again.]

JAMES.  Very good. [He lowers the bomb.]

POULDER.  [Surprised] I never lifted 'em.

JAMES.  You'd have made a first-class Boche, Poulder.  Take the bomb
yourself; you're in charge of this section.

POULDER.  [Pouting]  It's no part of my duty to carry menial objects;
if you're afraid of it I'll send 'Enry.

JAMES.  Afraid!  You 'Op o' me thumb!

     [From the "communication trench" appears LITTLE ANNE, followed
     by a thin, sharp, sallow-faced man of thirty-five or so, and
     another FOOTMAN, carrying a wine-cooler.]

L. ANNE.  I've brought the bucket, and the Press.

PRESS.  [In front of POULDER'S round eyes and mouth]  Ah, major domo,
I was just taking the names of the Anti-Sweating dinner.  [He catches
sight of the bomb in JAMES'S hand]  By George!  What A.1. irony!  [He
brings out a note-book and writes]  "Highest class dining to relieve
distress of lowest class-bombed by same!"  Tipping!  [He rubs his
hands].

POULDER.  [Drawing himself up]  Sir?  This is present!  [He indicates
ANNE with the flat of his hand.]

L. ANNE.  I found the bomb.

PRESS.  [Absorbed]  By Jove!  This is a piece of luck!  [He writes.]

POULDER.  [Observing him]  This won't do--it won't do at all!

PRESS.  [Writing-absorbed]  "Beginning of the British Revolution!"

POULDER.  [To JAMES]  Put it in the cooler.  'Enry, 'old up the
cooler.  Gently!  Miss Anne, get be'ind the Press.

JAMES.  [Grimly--holding the bomb above the cooler]  It won't be the
Press that'll stop Miss Anne's goin' to 'Eaven if one o' this sort
goes off.  Look out!  I'm goin' to drop it.

     [ALL recoil.  HENRY puts the cooler down and backs away.]

L. ANNE.  [Dancing forward]  Oh!  Let me see!  I missed all the war,
you know!

     [JAMES lowers the bomb into the cooler.]

POULDER.  [Regaining courage--to THE PRESS, who is scribbling in his
note-book]  If you mention this before the police lay their hands on
it, it'll be contempt o' Court.

PRESS.  [Struck]  I say, major domo, don't call in the police!
That's the last resort.  Let me do the Sherlocking for you.  Who's
been down here?

L. ANNE.  The plumber's man about the gas---a little blighter we'd
never seen before.

JAMES.  Lives close by, in Royal Court Mews--No. 3.  I had a word
with him before he came down.  Lemmy his name is.

PRESS.  "Lemmy!" [Noting the address] Right-o!

L. ANNE.  Oh!  Do let me come with you!

POULDER.  [Barring the way]  I've got to lay it all before Lord
William.

PRESS.  Ah!  What's he like?

POULDER.  [With dignity]  A gentleman, sir.

PRESS.  Then he won't want the police in.

POULDER.  Nor the Press, if I may go so far, as to say so.

PRESS.  One to you!  But I defy you to keep this from the Press,
major domo: This is the most significant thing that has happened in
our time.  Guy Fawkes is nothing to it.  The foundations of Society
reeling!  By George, it's a second Bethlehem!

     [He writes.]

POULDER.  [To JAMES] Take up your wine and follow me.  'Enry, bring
the cooler.  Miss Anne, precede us.  [To THE PRESS]  You defy me?
Very well; I'm goin' to lock you up here.

PRESS.  [Uneasy]  I say this is medieval.

     [He attempts to pass.]

POULDER.  [Barring the way]  Not so!  James, put him up in that empty
'ock bin.  We can't have dinner disturbed in any way.

JAMES.  [Putting his hands on THE PRESS'S shoulders]  Look here--go
quiet!  I've had a grudge against you yellow newspaper boys ever
since the war--frothin' up your daily hate, an' makin' the Huns
desperate.  You nearly took my life five hundred times out there.  If
you squeal, I'm gain' to take yours once--and that'll be enough.

PRESS.  That's awfully unjust.  Im not yellow!

JAMES.  Well, you look it.  Hup.

PRESS. Little Lady-Anne, haven't you any authority with these
fellows?

L. ANNE.  [Resisting Poulard's pressure]  I won't go!  I simply must
see James put him up!

PRESS.  Now, I warn you all plainly--there'll be a leader on this.

     [He tries to bolt but is seized by JAMES.]

JAMES.  [Ironically]  Ho!

PRESS.  My paper has the biggest influence

JAMES.  That's the one!  Git up in that 'ock bin, and mind your feet
among the claret.

PRESS.  This is an outrage on the Press.

JAMES.  Then it'll wipe out one by the Press on the Public--an' leave
just a million over!  Hup!

POULDER.  'Enry, give 'im an 'and.

     [THE PRESS mounts, assisted by JAMES and HENRY.]

L. ANNE.  [Ecstatic]  It's lovely!

POULDER.  [Nervously]  Mind the '87!  Mind!

JAMES.  Mind your feet in Mr. Poulder's favourite wine!

     [A WOMAN'S voice is heard, as from the depths of a cave, calling
     "Anne!  Anne!"]

L. ANNE.  [Aghast]  Miss Stokes--I must hide!

     [She gets behind POULDER.  The three Servants achieve dignified
     positions in front of the bins.  The voice comes nearer.  THE
     PRESS sits dangling his feet, grinning.  MISS STOKES appears.
     She is woman of forty-five and terribly good manners.  Her
     greyish hair is rolled back off her forehead.  She is in a high
     evening dress, and in the dim light radiates a startled
     composure.]

MISS STOKES.  Poulder, where is Miss Anne?

     [ANNE lays hold of the backs of his legs.]

POULDER.  [Wincing]  I am not in a position to inform you, Miss.

MISS S.  They told me she was down here.  And what is all this about
a bomb?

POULDER.  [Lifting his hand in a calming manner]  The crisis is past;
we have it in ice, Miss.  'Enry, show Miss Stokes!  [HENRY indicates
the cooler.]

MISS S.  Good gracious!  Does Lord William know?

POULDER.  Not at present, Miss.

MISS S.  But he ought to, at once.

POULDER.  We 'ave 'ad complications.

MISS S.  [Catching sight of the legs of THE PRESS]  Dear me!  What
are those?

JAMES.  [Gloomily]  The complications.

     [MISS STOKES pins up her glasses and stares at them.]

PRESS.  [Cheerfully]  Miss Stokes, would you kindly tell Lord William
I'm here from the Press, and would like to speak to him?

MISS S.  But--er--why are you up there?

JAMES.  'E got up out o' remorse, Miss.

MISS S.  What do you mean, James?

PRESS.  [Warmly]  Miss Stokes, I appeal to you.  Is it fair to
attribute responsibility to an unsigned journalist--for what he has
to say?

JAMES.  [Sepulchrally]  Yes, when you've got 'im in a nice dark
place.

MISS. S.   James, be more respectful!  We owe the Press a very great
debt.

JAMES.  I'm goin' to pay it, Miss.

MISS S.  [At a loss]  Poulder, this is really most----

POULDER.  I'm bound to keep the Press out of temptation, miss, till
I've laid it all before Lord William.  'Enry, take up the cooler.
James, watch 'im till we get clear, then bring on the rest of the
wine and lock up.  Now, Miss.

MISS S.  But where is Anne?

PRESS.  Miss Stokes, as a lady----!

MISS S.  I shall go and fetch Lord William!

POULDER.  We will all go, Miss.

L. ANNE.  [Rushing out from behind his legs]  No--me!

     [She eludes MISS STOKES and vanishes, followed by that
     distracted but still well-mannered lady.]

POULDER.  [Looking at his watch]  'Enry, leave the cooler, and take
up the wine; tell Thomas to lay it out; get the champagne into ice,
and 'ave Charles 'andy in the 'all in case some literary bounder
comes punctual.

     [HENRY takes up the wine and goes.]

PRESS.  [Above his head]  I say, let me down.  This is a bit
undignified, you know.  My paper's a great organ.

POULDER. [After a moment's hesitation]  Well--take 'im down, James;
he'll do some mischief among the bottles.

JAMES.  'Op off your base, and trust to me.

     [THE PRESS slides off the bin's edge, is received by JAMES, and
     not landed gently.]

POULDER.  [Contemplating him]  The incident's closed; no ill-feeling,
I hope?

PRESS.  No-o.

POULDER.  That's right.  [Clearing his throat]  While we're waitin'
for Lord William--if you're interested in wine--[Philosophically]
you can read the history of the times in this cellar.  Take 'ock: [He
points to a bin]  Not a bottle gone.  German product, of course.
Now, that 'ock is 'sa 'avin' the time of its life--maturin' grandly;
got a wonderful chance.  About the time we're bringin' ourselves to
drink it, we shall be havin' the next great war.  With luck that 'ock
may lie there another quarter of a century, and a sweet pretty wine
it'll be.  I only hope I may be here to drink it.  Ah! [He shakes his
head]--but look at claret!  Times are hard on claret.  We're givin'
it an awful doin'.  Now, there's a Ponty Canny [He points to a bin]--
if we weren't so 'opelessly allied with France, that wine would have
a reasonable future.  As it is--none!  We drink it up and up; not
more than sixty dozen left.  And where's its equal to come from for a
dinner wine--ah!  I ask you?  On the other hand, port is steady; made
in a little country, all but the cobwebs and the old boot flavour;
guaranteed by the British Nary; we may 'ope for the best with port.
Do you drink it?

PRESS.  When I get the chance.

POULDER.  Ah! [Clears his throat]  I've often wanted to ask: What do
they pay you--if it's not indelicate?

[THE PRESS shrugs his shoulders.]

Can you do it at the money?

[THE PRESS shakes his head.]  Still--it's an easy life!  I've
regretted sometimes that I didn't have a shot at it myself;
influencin' other people without disclosin' your identity--something
very attractive about that.  [Lowering his voice]  Between man and
man, now-what do you think of the situation of the country--these
processions of the unemployed--the Red Flag an' the Marsillaisy in
the streets--all this talk about an upheaval?

PRESS.  Well, speaking as a Socialist----

POULDER. [Astounded] Why; I thought your paper was Tory!

PRESS.  So it is.  That's nothing!

POULDER.  [Open-mouthed]  Dear me!  [Pointing to the bomb] Do you
really think there's something in this?

JAMES.  [Sepulchrally]  'Igh explosive.

PRESS.  [Taking out his note-book]  Too much, anyway, to let it drop.

     [A pleasant voice calls "Poulder! Hallo!".]

POULDER.  [Forming a trumpet with his hand]  Me Lord!

     [As LORD WILLIAM appears, JAMES, overcome by reminiscences;
     salutes, and is mechanically answered.  LORD WILLIAM has
     "charm."  His hair and moustache are crisp and just beginning to
     grizzle.  His bearing is free, easy, and only faintly armoured.
     He will go far to meet you any day.  He is in full evening
     dress.]

LORD W.  [Cheerfully]  I say, Poulder, what have you and James been
doing to the Press?  Liberty of the Press--it isn't what it was, but
there is a limit.  Where is he?

     [He turns to Jams between whom and himself there is still the
     freemasonry of the trenches.]

JAMES.  [Pointing to POULDER]  Be'ind the parapet, me Lord.

     [THE PRESS mopes out from where he has involuntarily been.
     screened by POULDER, who looks at JAMES severely.  LORD WILLIAM
     hides a smile.]

PRESS.  Very glad to meet you, Lord William.  My presence down here
is quite involuntary.

LORD W.  [With a charming smile]  I know.  The Press has to put its--
er--to go to the bottom of everything.  Where's this bomb, Poulder?
Ah!

     [He looks into the wine cooler.]

PRESS.  [Taking out his note-book]  Could I have a word with you on
the crisis, before dinner, Lord William?

LORD W.  It's time you and James were up, Poulder.  [Indicating the
cooler]  Look after this; tell Lady William I'll be there in a
minute.

POULDER.  Very good, me Lord.

     [He goes, followed by JAMES carrying the cooler.]

     [As THE PRESS turns to look after them, LORD WILLIAM catches
     sight of his back.]

LORD W.  I must apologise, sir.  Can I brush you?

PRESS.  [Dusting himself]  Thanks; it's only behind.  [He opens his
note-book]  Now, Lord William, if you'd kindly outline your views on
the national situation; after such a narrow escape from death, I feel
they might have a moral effect.  My paper, as you know, is concerned
with--the deeper aspect of things.  By the way, what do you value
your house and collection at?

LORD W.  [Twisting his little mustache]  Really: I can't!  Really!

PRESS.  Might I say a quarter of a million-lifted in two seconds and
a half-hundred thousand to the second.  It brings it home, you know.

LORD W.  No, no; dash it!  No!

PRESS.  [Disappointed]  I see--not draw attention to your property in
the present excited state of public feeling?  Well, suppose we
approach it from the viewpoint of the Anti-Sweating dinner.  I have
the list of guests--very weighty!

LORD W.  Taken some lifting-wouldn't they?

PRESS.  [Seriously]  May I say that you designed the dinner to soften
the tension, at this crisis?  You saw that case, I suppose, this
morning, of the woman dying of starvation in Bethnal Green?

LORD W.  [Desperately]  Yes-yes!  I've been horribly affected.  I
always knew this slump would come after the war, sooner or later.

PRESS.  [Writing]  ".  .  .  had predicted slump."

LORD W.  You see, I've been an Anti-Sweating man for years, and I
thought if only we could come together now .  .  .  .

PRESS.  [Nodding]  I see--I see!  Get Society interested in the
Sweated, through the dinner.  I have the menu here. [He produces it.]

LORD W.  Good God, man--more than that!  I want to show the people
that we stand side by side with them, as we did in the trenches.  The
whole thing's too jolly awful.  I lie awake over it.

     [He walks up and down.]

PRESS.  [Scribbling]  One moment, please.  I'll just get that down--
"Too jolly awful--lies awake over it.  Was wearing a white waistcoat
with pearl buttons."  [At a sign of resentment from his victim.]
I want the human touch, Lord William--it's everything in my paper.
What do you say about this attempt to bomb you?

LORD W.  Well, in a way I think it's d---d natural

PRESS.  [Scribbling]  "Lord William thought it d---d natural."

LORD W.  [Overhearing]  No, no; don't put that down.  What I mean is,
I should like to get hold of those fellows that are singing the
Marseillaise about the streets--fellows that have been in the war--
real sports they are, you know--thorough good chaps at bottom--and
say to them: "Have a feeling heart, boys; put yourself in my
position."  I don't believe a bit they'd want to bomb me then.

     [He walks up and down.]

PRESS.  [Scribbling and muttering] "The idea, of brotherhood--" D'you
mind my saying that?  Word brotherhood--always effective--always----

     [He writes.]

LORD E.  [Bewildered]  "Brotherhood!" Well, it's pure accident that
I'm here and they're there.  All the same, I can't pretend to be
starving.  Can't go out into Hyde Park and stand on a tub, can I?
But if I could only show them what I feel--they're such good chaps--
poor devils.

PRESS.  I quite appreciate!  [He writes]  "Camel and needle's eye."
You were at Eton and Oxford?  Your constituency I know.  Clubs?  But
I can get all that.  Is it your view that Christianity is on the
up-grade, Lord William?

LORD W.  [Dubious]  What d'you mean by Christianity--loving--kindness
and that?  Of course I think that dogma's got the knock.

     [He walks.]

PRESS.  [Writing]  "Lord William thought dogma had got the knock."
I should like you just to develop your definition of Christianity.
"Loving--kindness" strikes rather a new note.

LORD W.  New?  What about the Sermon on the Mount?

PRESS.  [Writing]  "Refers to Sermon on Mount."  I take it you don't
belong to any Church, Lord William?

LORD W.  [Exasperated]  Well, really--I've been baptised and that
sort of thing.  But look here----

PRESS.  Oh!  you can trust me--I shan't say anything that you'll
regret.  Now, do you consider that a religious revival would help to
quiet the country?

LORD W.  Well, I think it would be a deuced, good thing if everybody
were a bit more kind.

PRESS.  Ah!  [Musing]  I feel that your views are strikingly
original, Lord William.  If you could just open out on them a little
more?  How far would you apply kindness in practice?

LORD W.  Can you apply it in theory?

PRESS.  I believe it is done.  But would you allow yourself to be
blown up with impunity?

LORD W.  Well, that's a bit extreme.  But I quite sympathise with
this chap.  Imagine yourself in his shoes.  He sees a huge house, all
these bottles; us swilling them down; perhaps he's got a starving
wife, or consumptive kids.

PRESS.  [Writing and murmuring]  Um-m!  "Kids."

LORD W.  He thinks: "But for the grace of God, there swill I.  Why
should that blighter have everything and I nothing?" and all that.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "And all that."  [Eagerly]  Yes?

LORD W.  And gradually--you see--this contrast--becomes an obsession
with him.  "There's got to be an example made," he thinks; and--er--
he makes it, don't you know?

PRESS.  [Writing]  Ye-es?  And--when you're the example?

LORD W.  Well, you feel a bit blue, of course.  But my point is that
you quite see it.

PRESS.  From the other world.  Do you believe in a future life, Lord
William?  The public took a lot of interest in the question, if you
remember, at the time of the war.  It might revive at any moment, if
there's to be a revolution.

LORD W.  The wish is always father to the thought, isn't it?

PRESS.  Yes!  But--er--doesn't the question of a future life rather
bear on your point about kindness?  If there isn't one--why be kind?

LORD W.  Well, I should say one oughtn't to be kind for any motive--
that's self-interest; but just because one feels it, don't you know.

PRESS.  [Writing vigorously]  That's very new--very new!

LORD W.  [Simply]  You chaps are wonderful.

PRESS.  [Doubtfully]  You mean we're--we're----

LORD W.  No, really.  You have such a d---d hard time.  It must be
perfectly beastly to interview fellows like me.

PRESS.  Oh!  Not at all, Lord William.  Not at all.  I assure you
compared with a literary man, it's--it's almost heavenly.

LORD W.  You must have a wonderful knowledge of things.

PRESS.  [Bridling a little]  Well--I shouldn't say that.

LORD W.  I don't see how you can avoid it.  You turn your hands to
everything.

PRESS.  [Modestly]  Well--yes, Yes.

LORD W.  I say:  Is there really going to be a revolution, or are you
making it up, you Press?

PRESS.  We don't know.  We never know whether we come before the
event, or it comes before us.

LORD W.  That's--very deep--very dip.  D'you mind lending me your
note-book a moment.  I'd like to stick that down.  All right, I'll
use the other end.  [THE PRESS hands it hypnotically.]

LORD W.  [Jotting]  Thanks awfully.  Now what's your real opinion of
the situation?

PRESS.  As a man or a Press man?

LORD W.  Is there any difference?

PRESS.  Is there any connection?

LORD W.  Well, as a man.

PRESS.  As a man, I think it's rotten.

LORD W.  [Jotting]  "Rotten."  And as a pressman?

PRESS.  [Smiling]  Prime.

LORD W.  What!  Like a Stilton cheese.  Ha, ha!

     [He is about to write.]

PRESS.  My stunt, Lord William.  You said that.

     [He jots it on his cuff.]

LORD W.  But look here!  Would you say that a strong press movement
would help to quiet the country?

PRESS.  Well, as you ask me, Lord William, I'll tell you.  No
newspapers for a month would do the trick.

LORD W.  [Jotting]  By Jove!  That's brilliant.

PRESS.  Yes, but I should starve.  [He suddenly looks up, and his
eyes, like gimlets, bore their way into LORD WILLIAM'S pleasant,
troubled face]  Lord William, you could do me a real kindness.
Authorise me to go and interview the fellow who left the bomb here;
I've got his address.  I promise you to do it most discreetly.  Fact
is--well--I'm in low water.  Since the war we simply can't get
sensation enough for the new taste.  Now, if I could have an article
headed: "Bombed and Bomber"--sort of double interview, you know, it'd
very likely set me on my legs again.  [Very earnestly]  Look!
[He holds out his frayed wristbands.]

LORD W.  [Grasping his hand]  My dear chap, certainly.  Go and
interview this blighter, and then bring him round here.  You can do
that for one.  I'd very much like to see him, as a matter of fact.

PRESS.  Thanks awfully; I shall never forget it.  Oh!  might I have
my note-book?

     [LORD WILLIAM hands it back.]

LORD W.  And look here, if there's anything--when a fellow's
fortunate and another's not----

[He puts his hand into his breast pocket.]

PRESS.  Oh, thank you!  But you see, I shall have to write you up a
bit, Lord William.  The old aristocracy--you know what the public
still expects; if you were to lend me money, you might feel----

LORD W.  By Jove!  Never should have dreamt----

PRESS.  No!  But it wouldn't do.  Have you a photograph of yourself.

LORD W.  Not on me.

PRESS.  Pity!  By the way, has it occurred to you that there may be
another bomb on the premises?

LORD W.  Phew!  I'll have a look.

     [He looks at his watch, and begins hurriedly searching the bins,
     bending down and going on his knees.  THE PRESS reverses the
     notebook again and sketches him.]

PRESS.  [To himself]  Ah!  That'll do.  "Lord William examines the
foundations of his house."

     [A voice calls "Bill!" THE PRESS snaps the note-book to, and
     looks up.  There, where the "communication trench" runs in,
     stands a tall and elegant woman in the extreme of evening
     dress.]

     [With presence of mind]  Lady William?  You'll find Lord William
--Oh!  Have you a photograph of him?

LADY W.  Not on me.

PRESS.  [Eyeing her]  Er--no--I suppose not--no.  Excuse me!  [He
sidles past her and is gone.]

LADY W.  [With lifted eyebrows]  Bill!

LORD W.  [Emerging, dusting his knees]  Hallo, Nell!  I was just
making sure there wasn't another bomb.

LADY W.  Yes; that's why I came dawn: Who was that person?

LORD W.  Press.

LADY W.  He looked awfully yellow.  I hope you haven't been giving
yourself away.

LORD W.  [Dubiously]  Well, I don't know.  They're like corkscrews.

LADY W.  What did he ask you?

LORD W.  What didn't he?

LADY W.  Well, what did you tell him?

LORD W.  That I'd been baptised--but he promised not to put it down.

LADY W.  Bill, you are absurd.

     [She gives a light tittle laugh.]

LORD W.  I don't remember anything else, except that it was quite
natural we should be bombed, don't you know.

LADY W.  Why, what harm have we done?

LORD W.  Been born, my dear.  [Suddenly serious]  I say, Nell, how am
I to tell what this fellow felt when he left that bomb here?

LADY W.  Why do you want to?

LORD W.  Out there one used to know what one's men felt.

LADY W.  [Staring]  My dear boy, I really don't think you ought to
see the Press; it always upsets you.

LORD W.  Well!  Why should you and I be going to eat ourselves silly
to improve the condition of the sweated, when----

LADY W.  [Calmly]  When they're going to "improve" ours, if we don't
look out.  We've got to get in first, Bill.

LORD W.  [Gloomily]  I know.  It's all fear.  That's it!  Here we
are, and here we shall stay--as if there'd never been a war.

LADY W.  Well, thank heaven there's no "front" to a revolution.  You
and I can go to glory together this time.  Compact!  Anything that's
on, I'm to abate in.

LORD W.  Well, in reason.

LADY W.  No, in rhyme, too.

LORD W.  I say, your dress!

LADY W.  Yes, Poulder tried to stop me, but I wasn't going to have
you blown up without me.

LORD W.  You duck.  You do look stunning.  Give us a kiss!

LADY W.  [Starting back]  Oh, Bill!  Don't touch me--your hands!

LORD W.  Never mind, my mouth's clean.

They stand about a yard apart, and banding their faces towards each
other, kiss on the lips.

L. ANNE.  [Appearing suddenly from the "communication trench," and
tip-toeing silently between them]  Oh, Mum!  You and Daddy ARE
wasting time!  Dinner's ready, you know!


                              CURTAIN




ACT II

     The single room of old MRS. LEMMY, in a small grey house in
     Bethnal Green, the room of one cumbered by little save age, and
     the crockery debris of the past.  A bed, a cupboard, a coloured
     portrait of Queen Victoria, and--of all things--a fiddle,
     hanging on the wall.  By the side of old MRS. LEMMY in her chair
     is a pile of corduroy trousers, her day's sweated sewing, and a
     small table.  She sits with her back to the window, through
     which, in the last of the light, the opposite side of the little
     grey street is visible under the evening sky, where hangs one
     white cloud shaped like a horned beast.  She is still sewing,
     and her lips move.  Being old, and lonely, she has that habit of
     talking to herself, distressing to those who cannot overhear.
     From the smack of her tongue she was once a West Country cottage
     woman; from the look of her creased, parchmenty face, she was
     once a pretty girl with black eyes, in which there is still much
     vitality.  The door is opened with difficulty and a little girl
     enters, carrying a pile of unfinished corduroy trousers nearly
     as large as herself. She puts them down against the wall, and
     advances.  She is eleven or twelve years old; large-eyed, dark
     haired, and sallow.  Half a woman of this and half of another
     world, except when as now, she is as irresponsible a bit of life
     as a little flowering weed growing out of a wall.  She stands
     looking at MRS. LEMMY with dancing eyes.

L. AIDA.  I've brought yer to-morrer's trahsers.  Y'nt yer finished
wiv to-dy's?  I want to tyke 'em.

MRS. L.  No, me dear.  Drat this last one--me old fengers!

L. AIDA.  I learnt some poytry to-dy--I did.

MRS. L.  Well, I never!

L. AIDA.  [Reciting with unction]

         "Little lamb who myde thee?
          Dost thou know who myde thee,
          Gyve thee life and byde thee feed
          By the stream and oer the mead;
          Gyve the clothing of delight,
          Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
          Gyve thee such a tender voice,
          Myking all the vyles rejoice.
               Little lamb who myde thee?
               Dost thou know who myde thee?"

MRS. L.  'Tes wonderful what things they tache ya nowadays.

L.  AIDA.  When I grow up I'm goin' to 'ave a revolver an' shoot the
people that steals my jools.

MRS. L.  Deary-me, wherever du yu get yore notions?

L. AIDA.  An' I'm goin' to ride on as 'orse be'ind a man; an' I'm
goin' to ryce trynes in my motor car.

MRS. L.  [Dryly]  Ah!--Yu'um gwine to be very busy, that's sartin.
Can you sew?

L. AIDA.  [With a Smile]  Nao.

MRS. L.  Don' they tache Yu that, there?

L. AIDA.  [Blending contempt and a lingering curiosity]  Nao.

MRS. L.  'Tes wonderful genteel.

L. AIDA.  I can sing, though.

MRS. L.  Let's 'ear yu, then.

L. AIDA.  [Shaking her head]  I can ply the pianner.  I can ply a
tune.

MRS. L.  Whose pianner?

L. AIDA.  Mrs. Brahn's when she's gone aht.

MRS. L.  Well, yu are gettin' edjucation!  Du they tache yu to love
yore neighbours?

L. AIDA.  [Ineffably]  Nao.  [Straying to the window]  Mrs. Lemmy,
what's the moon?

MRS. L.  The mune?  Us used to zay 'twas made o' crame cheese.

L. AIDA.  I can see it.

MRS. L.  Ah!  Don' yu never go wishin' for it, me dear.

L. AIDA.  I daon't.

MRS. L.  Folks as wish for the mune never du no gude.

L. AIDA.  [Craning out, brilliant]  I'm goin' dahn in the street.
I'll come back for yer trahsers.

MRS. L.  Well; go yu, then, and get a breath o' fresh air in yore
chakes.  I'll sune 'a feneshed.

L. AIDA.  [Solemnly]  I'm goin' to be a dancer, I am.

She rushes suddenly to the door, pulls it open, and is gone.

MRS. L.  [Looking after her, and talking to herself.]  Ah!  'Er've
a-got all 'er troubles before 'er!  "Little lamb, a made'ee?"
[Cackling]  'Tes a funny world, tu! [She sings to herself.]

         "There is a green 'ill far away
               Without a city wall,
          Where our dear-Lord was crucified,
               'U died to save us all."

     The door is opened, and LEMMY comes in; a little man with a
     stubble of dark moustache and spiky dark hair; large, peculiar
     eyes he has, and a look of laying his ears back, a look of
     doubting, of perversity with laughter up the sleeve, that grows
     on those who have to do with gas and water.  He shuts the door.

MRS. L.  Well, Bob, I 'aven't a-seen yu this tu weeks.

     LEMMY comes up to his mother, and sits down on a stool, sets a
     tool-bag between his knees, and speaks in a cockney voice.

LEMMY.  Well, old lydy o' leisure!  Wot would y' 'ave for supper, if
yer could choose--salmon wivaht the tin, an' tipsy cyke?

MRS. L.  [Shaking her head and smiling blandly]  That's showy.  Toad
in the 'ole I'd 'ave--and a glass o' port wine.

LEMMY.  Providential.  [He opens a tool-bag]  Wot dyer think I've got
yer?

MRS. L.  I 'ope yu've a-got yureself a job, my son!

LEMMY.  [With his peculiar smile]  Yus, or I couldn't 'ave afforded
yer this.  [He takes out a bottle]  Not 'arf!  This'll put the blood
into yer.  Pork wine--once in the cellars of the gryte.  We'll drink
the ryyal family in this.

[He apostrophises the portrait of Queen Victoria.]

MRS. L. Ah!  She was a praaper gude queen.  I see 'er once, when 'er
was bein' burried.

LEMMY.  Ryalties--I got nothin' to sy agynst 'em in this country.
But the STYTE 'as got to 'ave its pipes seen to.  The 'ole show's
goin' up pop.  Yer'll wyke up one o' these dyes, old lydy, and find
yerself on the roof, wiv nuffin' between yer an' the grahnd.

MRS. L.  I can't tell what yu'm talkin' about.

LEMMY.  We're goin' to 'ave a triumpherat in this country Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity; an' if yer arsk me, they won't be in power six
months before they've cut each other's throats.  But I don't care--I
want to see the blood flow!  (Dispassionately) I don' care 'oose
blood it is.  I want to see it flow!

MRS. L.  [Indulgently]  Yu'm a funny boy, that's sartin.

LEMMY. [Carving at the cork with a knife] This 'ere cork is like
Sasiety--rotten; it's old--old an' moulderin'.  [He holds up a bit of
cork on the point of the knife]  Crumblin' under the wax, it is.  In
goes the screw an' out comes the cork.  [With unction]--an' the blood
flows.  [Tipping the bottle, he lets a drop fall into the middle of
his hand, and licks it up.  Gazing with queer and doubting
commiseration at has mother]  Well, old dear, wot shall we 'ave it
aht of--the gold loving-cup, or--what?  'Ave yer supper fust, though,
or it'll go to yer 'ead!  [He goes to the cupboard and taken out a
disk in which a little bread is sopped in a little' milk]  Cold pap!
'Ow can yer?  'Yn't yer got a kipper in the 'ouse?

MRS. L.  [Admiring the bottle]  Port wine!  'Tis a brave treat!  I'll
'ave it out of the "Present from Margitt," Bob.  I tuk 'ee therr by
excursion when yu was six months.  Yu 'ad a shrimp an' it choked yu
praaperly.  Yu was always a squeamy little feller.  I can't never
think 'ow yu managed in the war-time, makin' they shells.

     LEMMY, who has brought to the table two mugs and blown the duet
     out of; them, fills them with port, and hands one to his mother,
     who is eating her bread and milk.

LEMMY.  Ah!  Nothin' worried me, 'cept the want o' soap.

MRS. L.  [Cackling gently]  So it du still, then!  Luke at yore face.
Yu never was a clean boy, like Jim.

     [She puts out a thin finger and touches his cheek, whereon is a
     black smudge.]

LEMMY.  [Scrubbing his cheek with his sleeve.]  All right!  Y'see, I
come stryte 'ere, to get rid o' this.

     [He drinks.]

MRS.  L.  [Eating her bread and milk]  Tes a pity yu'm not got a wife
to see't yu wash yureself.

LEMMY.  [Goggling]  Wife!  Not me--I daon't want ter myke no food for
pahder.  Wot oh!--they said, time o' the war--ye're fightin' for yer
children's 'eritage.  Well; wot's the 'eritage like, now we've got
it?  Empty as a shell before yer put the 'igh explosive in.  Wot's it
like?  [Warming to his theme]  Like a prophecy in the pypers--not a
bit more substantial.

MRS. L.  [Slightly hypnotised]  How 'e du talk!  The gas goes to yore
'ead, I think!

LEMMY.  I did the gas to-dy in the cellars of an 'ouse where the wine
was mountains 'igh.  A regiment couldn't 'a drunk it.  Marble pillars
in the 'all, butler broad as an observytion balloon, an' four
conscientious khaki footmen.  When the guns was roarin' the talk was
all for no more o' them glorious weeds-style an' luxury was orf.  See
wot it is naow.  You've got a bare crust in the cupboard 'ere, I
works from 'and to mouth in a glutted market--an' there they stand
abaht agyne in their britches in the 'oases o' the gryte.  I was
reg'lar overcome by it.  I left a thing in that cellar--I left a
thing .  .  .  .  It'll be a bit ork'ard for me to-mower.  [Drinks
from his mug.]

MRS. L.  [Placidly, feeling the warmth of the little she has drunk]
What thing?

LEMMY.  Wot thing?  Old lydy, ye're like a winkle afore yer opens
'er--I never see anything so peaceful.  'Ow dyer manage it?

MRS. L.  Settin' 'ere and thenkin'.

LEA.  Wot abaht?

MRS. L.  We-el--Money, an' the works o' God.

LEMMY.  Ah! So yer give me a thought sometimes.

MRS. L.  [Lofting her mug]  Yu ought never to ha' spent yore money on
this, Bob!

LEMMY.  I thought that meself.

MRS. L.  Last time I 'ad a glass o' port wine was the day yore
brother Jim went to Ameriky.  [Smacking her lips]  For a teetotal
drink, it du warm 'ee!

LEMMY.  [Raising his mug]  Well, 'ere's to the British revolution!
'Ere's to the conflygrytion in the sky!

MRS. L.  [Comfortably]  So as to kape up therr, 'twon't du no 'arm.

     LEMMY goes to the window and unhooks his fiddle; he stands with
     it halfway to his shoulder.  Suddenly he opens the window and
     leans out.  A confused murmur of voices is heard; and a snatch
     of the Marseillaise, sung by a girl.  Then the shuffling tramp
     of feet, and figures are passing in the street.

LEMMY.  [Turning--excited]  Wot'd I tell yer, old lydy?  There it is
--there it is!

MRS. L.  [Placidly]  What is?

LEMMY.  The revolution.  [He cranes out]  They've got it on a barrer.
Cheerio!

VOICE.  [Answering]  Cheerio!

LEMMY.  [Leaning out]  I sy--you 'yn't tykin' the body, are yer?

VOICE.  Nao.

LEMMY.  Did she die o' starvytion O.K.?

VOICE.  She bloomin' well did; I know 'er brother.

LEMMY.  Ah!  That'll do us a bit o' good!

VOICE.  Cheerio!

LEMMY.  So long!

VOICE.  So long!

     [The girl's voice is heard again in the distance singing the
     Marseillaise.  The door is flung open and LITTLE AIDA comes
     running in again.]

LEMMY.  'Allo, little Aida!

L. AIDA.  'Allo, I been follerin' the corfin.  It's better than an
'orse dahn!

MRS. L.  What coffin?

L. AIDA.  Why, 'er's wot died o' starvytion up the street.  They're
goin' to tyke it to 'Yde Pawk, and 'oller.

MRS. L.  Well, never yu mind wot they'm goin' to du: Yu wait an' take
my trousers like a gude gell.

     [She puts her mug aside and takes up her unfinished pair of
     trousers.  But the wine has entered her fingers, and strength to
     push the needle through is lacking.]

LEMMY. [Tuning his fiddle] Wot'll yer 'ave, little Aida?  "Dead March
in Saul" or "When the fields was white wiv dysies"?

L. AIDA.  [With a hop and a brilliant smile]  Aoh yus!  "When the
fields"----

MRS. L. [With a gesture of despair] Deary me!  I 'aven't a-got the
strength!

LEMMY.  Leave 'em alone, old dear!  No one'll be goin' aht wivaht
trahsers to-night 'cos yer leaves that one undone.  Little Aida, fold
'em up!

     [LITTLE AIDA methodically folds the five finished pairs of
     trousers into a pile.  LEMMY begins playing.  A smile comes on
     the face of MRS. L, who is rubbing her fingers.  LITTLE AIDA,
     trousers over arm, goes and stares at LEMMY playing.]

LEMMY.  [Stopping]  Little Aida, one o' vese dyes yer'll myke an
actress.  I can see it in yer fyce!

     [LITTLE AIDA looks at him wide-eyed.]

MRS. L.  Don't 'ee putt things into 'er 'ead, Bob!

LEMMY.  'Tyn't 'er 'ead, old lydy--it's lower.  She wants feedin'--
feed 'er an' she'll rise.  [He strikes into the "Machichi"]  Look at
'er naow.  I tell yer there's a fortune in 'er.

     [LITTLE AIDA has put out her tongue.]

MRS. L. I'd saner there was a gude 'eart in 'er than any fortune.

L. AIDA. [Hugging her pile of trousers] It's thirteen pence three
farthin's I've got to bring yer, an' a penny aht for me, mykes twelve
three farthin's: [With the same little hop and sudden smile] I'm
goin' to ride back on a bus, I am.

LEMMY. Well, you myke the most of it up there; it's the nearest
you'll ever git to 'eaven.

MRS. L. Don' yu discourage 'er, Bob; she'm a gude little thing, an't
yu, dear?

L. AIDA. [Simply] Yus.

LEMMY. Not 'arf. Wot c'her do wiv yesterdy's penny?

L. AIDA. Movies.

LEMMY. An' the dy before?

L. AIDA. Movies.

LEMMY. Wot'd I tell yer, old lydy--she's got vicious tystes, she'll
finish in the theayter yep Tyke my tip, little Aida; you put every
penny into yer foundytions, yer'll get on the boards quicker that wy.

MRS. L. Don' yu pay no 'eed to his talk.

L. AIDA. I daon't.

Ice. Would yer like a sip aht o' my mug?

L. AIDA. [Brilliant] Yus.

MRS. L. Not at yore age, me dear, though it is teetotal.

     [LITTLE AIDA puts her head on one side, like a dog trying to
     understand.]

LEMMY.  Well, 'ave one o' my gum-drops.

     [Holds out a paper.]

     [LITTLE AIDA brilliant, takes a flat, dark substance from it,
     and puts it in her mouth.]

Give me a kiss, an' I'll give yer a penny.

     [LITTLE AIDA shakes her head, and leans out of window.]

Movver, she daon't know the valyer of money.

MRS. L. Never mind 'im, me dear.

L. AIDA. [Sucking the gum-drop--with difficulty]  There's a taxi-cab
at the corner.

     [LITTLE AIDA runs to the door. A figure stands in the doorway;
     she skids round him and out. THE PRESS comes in.]

LEMMY.  [Dubiously]  Wat-oh!

PRESS.  Mr. Lemmy?

LEMMY.  The syme.

PRESS.  I'm from the Press.

LEMMY.  Blimy.

PRESS.  They told me at your place you wens very likely here.

LEMMY.  Yus I left Downin' Street a bit early to-dy!  [He twangs the
feddle-strings pompously.]

PRESS.  [Taking out his note-book and writing]  "Fiddles while Rome
is burning!"  Mr. Lemmy, it's my business at this very critical time
to find out what the nation's thinking.  Now, as a representative
working man--

LEMMY.  That's me.

PRESS.  You can help me.  What are your views?

LEMMY.  [Putting down fiddle]  Voos?  Sit dahn!

     [THE PRESS sits on the stool which LEMMY has vacated.]

The Press--my Muvver.  Seventy-seven.  She's a wonder; 'yn't yer, old
dear?

PRESS.  Very happy to make your acquaintance, Ma'am.  [He writes]
"Mrs. Lemmy, one of the veterans of industry----" By the way, I've
jest passed a lot of people following a coffin.


LEMMY.  Centre o' the cyclone--cyse o' starvytion; you 'ad 'er in the
pyper this mornin'.

PRESS.  Ah! yes!  Tragic occurrence.  [Looking at the trousers.]  Hub
of the Sweated Industries just here.  I especially want to get at the
heart----

MRS. L.  'Twasn't the 'eart, 'twas the stomach.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "Mrs. Lemmy goes straight to the point."

LEMMY. Mister, is it my voos or Muvver's yer want?

PRESS.  Both.

LEMMY.  'Cos if yer get Muvver's, yer won't 'ave time for mine.  I
tell yer stryte [Confidentially]  she's get a glawss a' port wine in
'er.  Naow, mind yer, I'm not anxious to be intervooed.  On the other
'and, anyfink I might 'eve to sy of valyer----There is a clawss o'
politician that 'as nuffn to sy--Aoh!  an' daon't 'e sy it just!  I
dunno wot pyper yer represent.

PRESS.  [Smiling]  Well, Mr. Lemmy, it has the biggest influ----

LEMMY.  They all 'as that; dylies, weeklies, evenin's, Sundyes; but
it's of no consequence--my voos are open and aboveboard.  Naow, wot
shall we begin abaht?

PRESS.  Yourself, if you please.  And I'd like you to know at once
that my paper wants the human note, the real heart-beat of things.

LEMMY.  I see; sensytion!  Well; 'ere am I--a fustclawss plumber's.
assistant--in a job to-dy an' out tomorrer.  There's a 'eart-beat in
that, I tell yer.  'Oo knows wot the mower 'as for me!

PRESS.  [Writing].  "The great human issue--Mr. Lemmy touches it at
once."

LEMMY.  I sy keep my nyme aht o' this; I don' go in fer
self-advertisement.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "True working-man--modest as usual."

LEMMY.  I daon't want to embarrass the Gover'ment.  They're so
ticklish ever since they got the 'abit, war-time, o' mindin' wot
people said.

PRESS.  Right-o!

LEMMY.  For instance, suppose there's goin' to be a revolution----
[THE PRESS writes with energy.]  'Ow does it touch me?  Like this: I
my go up--I cawn't come dahn; no more can Muvver.

MRS. L. [Surprisingly] Us all goes down into the grave.

PRESS.  "Mrs. Lemmy interjects the deeper note."

LEMMY.  Naow, the gryte--they can come dahn, but they cawn't go up!
See!  Put two an' two together, an' that's 'ow it touches me.  [He
utters a throaty laugh]  'Ave yer got that?

PRESS.  [Quizzical]  Not go up?  What about bombs, Mr. Lemmy?

LEMMY.  [Dubious]  Wot abaht 'em?  I s'pose ye're on the comic
pypers?  'Ave yer noticed wot a weakness they 'ave for the 'orrible?

PRESS.  [Writing]  "A grim humour peeped out here and there through
the earnestness of his talk."

     [He sketches LEMMY'S profile.]

LEMMY.  We 'ad an explosion in my factory time o' the war, that would
just ha' done for you comics. [He meditates]  Lord!  They was after
it too,--they an' the Sundyes; but the Censor did 'em.  Strike me, I
could tell yer things!

PRESS.  That's what I want, Mr. Lemmy; tell me things!

LEMMY.  [Musing]  It's a funny world, 'yn't it?  'Ow we did blow each
other up!  [Getting up to admire] I sy, I shall be syfe there.  That
won't betry me anonymiety.  Why!  I looks like the Prime Minister!

PRESS.  [Rather hurt]  You were going to tell me things.

LEMMY.  Yus, an' they'll be the troof, too.

PRESS.  I hope so; we don't----

LEMMY.  Wot oh!

PRESS.  [A little confused.]  We always try to verify----

LEMMY.  Yer leave it at tryin', daon't yer?  Never, mind, ye're a
gryte institootion.  Blimy, yer do have jokes, wiv it, spinnin' rahnd
on yer own tyles, denyin' to-dy wot ye're goin' to print to-morrer.
Ah, well!  Ye're like all of us below the line o' comfort--live
dyngerously--ever' dy yer last.  That's wy I'm interested in the
future.

PRESS.  Well now--the future.  [Writing]  "He prophesies."

LEMMY.  It's syfer, 'yn't it? [He winks]  No one never looks back on
prophecies.  I remembers an editor spring o' 1916 stykin' his
reputytion the war'd be over in the follerin' October.  Increased 'is
circulytion abaht 'arf a million by it.  1917 an' war still on--'ad
'is readers gone back on 'im?  Nao!  They was increasin' like
rabbits.  Prophesy wot people want to believe, an' ye're syfe.  Naow,
I'll styke my reputation on somethin', you tyke it dahn word for
word.  This country's goin' to the dawgs--Naow, 'ere's the
sensytion--unless we gets a new religion.

PRESS.  Ah! Now for it--yes?

LEMMY.  In one word: "Kindness."  Daon't mistyke me, nao sickly
sentiment and nao patronizin'.  Me as kind to the millionaire as 'im
to me.  [Fills his mug and drinks.]

PRESS.  [Struck]  That's queer!  Kindness!  [Writing]  "Extremes
meet.  Bombed and bomber breathing the same music."

LEMMY.  But 'ere's the interestin' pynt.  Can it be done wivaht
blood?

PRESS.  [Writing]  "He doubts."

LEMMY.  No dabt wotever.  It cawn't!  Blood-and-kindness!  Spill the
blood o' them that aren't kind--an' there ye are!

PRESS.  But pardon me, how are you to tell?

LEMMY.  Blimy, they leaps to the heye!

PRESS.  [Laying down-his note-book]  I say, let me talk to you as man
to man for a moment.

LEMMY.  Orl right.  Give it a rest!

PRESS.  Your sentiments are familiar to me.  I've got a friend on the
Press who's very keen on Christ and kindness; and wants to strangle
the last king with the--hamstrings of the last priest.

LEMMY.  [Greatly intrigued]  Not 'arf!  Does 'e?

PRESS.  Yes.  But have you thought it out?  Because he hasn't.

LEMMY.  The difficulty is--where to stop.

PRESS.  Where to begin.

LEMMY.  Lawd!  I could begin almost anywhere.  Why, every month
abaht, there's a cove turns me aht of a job 'cos I daon't do just wot
'e likes.  They'd 'ave to go.  I tell yer stryte--the Temple wants
cleanin' up.

PRESS.  Ye-es.  If I wrote what I thought, I should get the sack as
quick as you.  D'you say that justifies me in shedding the blood of
my boss?

LEMMY.  The yaller Press 'as got no blood--'as it?  You shed their
ile an' vinegar--that's wot you've got to do.  Stryte--do yer believe
in the noble mission o' the Press?

PRESS.  [Enigmatically]  Mr. Lemmy, I'm a Pressman.

LEMMY.  [Goggling]  I see.  Not much!  [Gently jogging his mother's
elbow]  Wyke up, old lydy!

     [For Mrs. LEMMY who has been sipping placidly at her port, is
     nodding.  The evening has drawn in.  LEMMY strikes a match on
     his trousers and lights a candle.]

Blood an' kindness-that's what's wanted--'specially blood!  The
'istory o' me an' my family'll show yer that.  Tyke my bruver Fred
--crushed by burycrats.  Tyke Muvver 'erself.  Talk o' the wrongs o'
the people!  I tell yer the foundytions is rotten.  [He empties the
bottle into his mother's mug]  Daon't mind the mud at the bottom, old
lydy--it's all strengthenin'!  You tell the Press, Muvver.  She can
talk abaht the pawst.

PRESS.  [Taking up his note-book, and becoming, again his
professional self] Yes, Mrs. Lemmy?  "Age and Youth--Past and
Present--"

MRS. L.  Were yu talkin' about Fred?  [The port has warmed her veins,
the colour in her eyes and cheeks has deepened]  My son Fred was
always a gude boy--never did nothin' before 'e married.  I can see
Fred [She bends forward a little in her chair, looking straight
before her]  acomin' in wi' a pheasant 'e'd found--terrible 'e was at
findin' pheasants.  When father died, an' yu was cumin', Bob, Fred 'e
said to me: "Don't yu never cry, Mother, I'll look after 'ee."  An'
so 'e did, till 'e married that day six months an' take to the drink
in sower.  'E wasn't never 'the same boy again--not Fred.  An' now
'e's in That.  I can see poor Fred----

     [She slowly wipes a tear out of the corner of an eye with the
     back of her finger.]

PRESS.  [Puzzled]  In--That?

LEMMY.  [Sotto voce]  Come orf it!  Prison!  'S wot she calls it.

MRS. L.  [Cheerful]  They say life's a vale o' sorrows.  Well, so
'tes, but don' du to let yureself thenk so.

PRESS.  And so you came to London, Mrs. Lemmy?

MRS. L.  Same year as father died.  With the four o' them--that's my
son Fred, an' my son Jim, an' my son Tom, an' Alice.  Bob there, 'e
was born in London--an' a praaper time I 'ad of et.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "Her heroic struggles with poverty----"

MRS. L.  Worked in a laundry, I ded, at fifteen shellin's a week, an'
brought 'em all up on et till Alice 'ad the gallopin' consumption.  I
can see poor Alice wi' the little red spots is 'er cheeks---an' I not
knowin' wot to du wi' 'her--but I always kept up their buryin' money.
Funerals is very dear; Mr. Lemmy was six pound, ten.

PRESS.  "High price of Mr. Lemmy."

MRS. L.  I've a-got the money for when my time come; never touch et,
no matter 'ow things are.  Better a little goin' short here below,
an' enter the kingdom of 'eaven independent:

PRESS.  [Writing]  "Death before dishonour--heroine of the slums.
Dickens--Betty Higden."

MRS. L.  No, sir.  Mary Lemmy.  I've seen a-many die, I 'ave; an' not
one grievin'.  I often says to meself: [With a little laugh]  "Me
dear, when yu go, yu go 'appy.  Don' yu never fret about that," I
says.  An' so I will; I'll go 'appy.

     [She stays quite still a moment, and behind her LEMMY draws one
     finger across his face.]

[Smiling]  "Yore old fengers'll 'ave a rest.  Think o' that!" I says.
"'Twill be a brave change."  I can see myself lyin' there an' duin'
nothin'.

     [Again a pause, while MRS. LEMMY sees herself doing nothing.]

LEMMY.  Tell abaht Jim; old lydy.

MRS. L.  My son Jim 'ad a family o' seven in six years.  "I don' know
'ow 'tes, Mother," 'e used to say to me; "they just sim to come!"
That was Jim--never knu from day to day what was cumin'.  "Therr's
another of 'em dead," 'e used to say, "'tes funny, tu"  "Well," I
used to say to 'im; "no wonder, poor little things, livin' in they
model dwellin's.  Therr's no air for 'em," I used to say.  "Well," 'e
used to say, "what can I du, Mother?  Can't afford to live in Park
Lane:" An' 'e take an' went to Ameriky.  [Her voice for the first
time is truly doleful]  An' never came back.  Fine feller.  So that's
my four sons--One's dead, an' one's in--That, an' one's in Ameriky,
an' Bob 'ere, poor boy, 'e always was a talker.

     [LEMMY, who has re-seated himself in the window and taken up his
     fiddle, twangs the strings.]

PRESS.  And now a few words about your work, Mrs. Lemmy?

MRS. L.  Well, I sews.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "Sews."  Yes?

MRS. L.  [Holding up her unfinished pair of trousers]  I putt in the
button'oles, I stretches the flies, I lines the crutch, I putt on
this bindin', [She holds up the calico that binds the top]  I sews on
the buttons, I press the seams--Tuppence three farthin's the pair.

PRESS.  Twopence three farthings a pair!  Worse than a penny a line!

MRS. L.  In a gude day I gets thru four pairs, but they'm gettin'
plaguey 'ard for my old fengers.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "A monumental figure, on whose labour is built the
mighty edifice of our industrialism."

LEMMY.  I sy--that's good.  Yer'll keep that, won't yet?

MRS. L.  I finds me own cotton, tuppence three farthin's, and other
expension is a penny three farthin's.

PRESS.  And are you an exception, Mrs. Lemmy?

MRS. L.  What's that?

LEMMY.  Wot price the uvvers, old lydy?  Is there a lot of yer sewin'
yer fingers orf at tuppence 'ypenny the pair?

MRS. L.  I can't tell yu that.  I never sees nothin' in 'ere.  I pays
a penny to that little gell to bring me a dozen pair an' fetch 'em
back.  Poor little thing, she'm 'ardly strong enough to carry 'em.
Feel!  They'm very 'eavy!

PRESS.  On the conscience of Society!

LEMMY.  I sy put that dahn, won't yer?

PRESS.  Have things changed much since the war, Mrs.  Lemmy?

MRS. L.  Cotton's a lot dearer.

PRESS.  All round, I mean.

MRS. L.  Aw!  Yu don' never get no change, not in my profession.
[She oscillates the trousers]  I've a-been in trousers fifteen year;
ever since I got to old for laundry.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "For fifteen years sewn trousers."  What would a
good week be, Mrs. Lemmy?

MRS. L.  'Tes a very gude week, five shellin's.

LEMMY.  [From the window]  Bloomin' millionairess, Muvver.  She's
lookin' forward to 'eaven, where vey don't wear no trahsers.

MRS.  L.  [With spirit] 'Tidn for me to zay whether they du.  An'
'tes on'y when I'm a bit low-sperrity-like as I wants to go therr.
What I am a-lukin' forward to, though, 'tes a day in the country.
I've not a-had one since before the war.  A kind lady brought me in
that bit of 'eather; 'tes wonderful sweet stuff when the 'oney's in
et.  When I was a little gell I used to zet in the 'eather gatherin'
the whorts, an' me little mouth all black wi' eatin' them.  'Twas in
the 'eather I used to zet, Sundays, courtin'.  All flesh is grass--
an' 'tesn't no bad thing--grass.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "The old paganism of the country."  What is your
view of life, Mrs. Lemmy?

LEMMY.  [Suddenly]  Wot is 'er voo of life?  Shall I tell yer mine?
Life's a disease--a blinkin' oak-apple!  Daon't myke no mistyke.  An'
'umen life's a yumourous disease; that's all the difference.  Why--
wot else can it be?  See the bloomin' promise an' the blighted
performance--different as a 'eadline to the noos inside.  But yer
couldn't myke Muvver see vat--not if yer talked to 'er for a wok.
Muvver still believes in fings.  She's a country gell; at a 'undred
and fifty she'll be a country gell, won't yer, old lydy?

MRS. L.  Well, 'tesn't never been 'ome to me in London.  I lived in
the country forty year--I did my lovin' there; I burried father
therr.  Therr bain't nothin' in life, yu know, but a bit o' lovin'--
all said an' done; bit o' lovin', with the wind, an' the stars out.

LEMMY.  [In a loud apologetic whisper]  She 'yn't often like this.  I
told yer she'd got a glawss o' port in 'er.

MRS. L.  'Tes a brave pleasure, is lovin'.  I likes to zee et in
young folk.  I likes to zee 'em kissin'; shows the 'eart in 'em.
'Tes the 'eart makes the world go round; 'tesn't nothin' else, in my
opinion.

PRESS.  [Writing]  "--sings the swan song of the heart."----

MRS. L.  [Overhearing]  No, I never yeard a swan sing--never!  But I
tell 'ee what I 'eve 'eard; the Bells singin' in th' orchard 'angin'
up the clothes to dry, an' the cuckoos callin' back to 'em.
[Smiling]  There's a-many songs in the country-the 'eart is freelike
in th' country!

LEMMY.  [Soto voce]  Gi' me the Strand at ar' past nine.

PRESS. [Writing]  "Town and country----"

MRS. L.  'Tidn't like that in London; one day's jest like another.
Not but what therr's a 'eap o' kind'eartedness 'ere.

LEMMY.  [Gloomily]  Kind-'eartedness!  I daon't fink "Boys an' Gells
come out to play."

     [He plays the old tune on his fiddle.]

MRS. L.  [Singing]  "Boys an' Gells come out to play.  The mune is
shinin' bright as day."  [She laughs]  I used to sing like a lark
when I was a gell.

     [LITTLE AIDA enters.]

L. AIDA.  There's 'undreds follerin' the corfin.  'Yn't you goin',
Mr. Lemmy--it's dahn your wy!

LEMMY.  [Dubiously]  Well yus--I s'pose they'll miss me.

L. AIDA.  Aoh!  Tyke me!

PRESS.  What's this?

LEMMY.  The revolution in 'Yde Pawk.

PRESS.  [Struck]  In Hyde Park?  The very thing.  I'll take you down.
My taxi's waiting.

L. AIDA.  Yus; it's breathin' 'ard, at the corner.

PRESS.  [Looking at his watch]  Ah! and Mrs. Lemmy.  There's an
Anti-Sweating Meeting going on at a house in Park Lane.  We can get
there in twenty minutes if we shove along.  I want you to tell them
about the trouser-making.  You'll be a sensation!

LEMMY.  [To himself]  Sensytion!  'E cawn't keep orf it!

MRS. L.  Anti-Sweat.  Poor fellers!  I 'ad one come to see we before
the war, an' they'm still goin' on?  Wonderful, an't it?

PRESS.  Come, Mrs. Lemmy; drive in a taxi, beautiful moonlit night;
and they'll give you a splendid cup of tea.

MRS. L.  [Unmoved]  Ah! I cudn't never du without my tea.  There's
not an avenin' but I thinks to meself: Now, me dear, yu've a-got one
more to fennish, an' then yu'll 'eve yore cup o' tea.  Thank you for
callin', all the same.

LEMMY.  Better siccumb to the temptytion, old lydy; joyride wiv the
Press; marble floors, pillars o' gold; conscientious footmen; lovely
lydies; scuppers runnin' tea!  An' the revolution goin' on across the
wy.  'Eaven's nuffink to Pawk Lyne.

PRESS.  Come along, Mrs. Lemmy!

MRS. L.  [Seraphically]  Thank yu,--I'm a-feelin' very comfortable.
'Tes wonderful what a drop o' wine'll du for the stomach.

PRESS.  A taxi-ride!

MRS. L.  [Placidly]  Ah! I know'em.  They'm very busy things.

LEMMY.  Muvver shuns notority.  [Sotto voce to THE PRESS]  But you
watch me!  I'll rouse 'er.

     [He takes up his fiddle and sits on the window seat.  Above the
     little houses on the opposite side of the street, the moon has
     risen in the dark blue sky, so that the cloud shaped like a
     beast seems leaping over it.  LEMMY plays the first notes of the
     Marseillaise.  A black cat on the window-sill outside looks in,
     hunching its back.  LITTLE AIDA barks at her.  MRS. LEMMY
     struggles to her feet, sweeping the empty dish and spoon to the
     floor in the effort.]

The dish ran awy wiv the spoon!  That's right, old lydy!  [He stops
playing.]

MRS. L.  [Smiling, and moving her hands]  I like a bit o' music.  It
du that move 'ee.

PRESS.  Bravo, Mrs. Lemmy.  Come on!

LEMMY.  Come on, old dear!  We'll be in time for the revolution yet.

MRS. L.  'Tes 'earin' the Old 'Undred again!

LEMMY.  [To THE PRESS]  She 'yn't been aht these two years.  [To his
mother, who has put up her hands to her head]  Nao, never mind yer
'at.  [To THE PRESS]  She 'yn't got none!  [Aloud]  No West-End lydy
wears anyfink at all in the evenin'!

MRS. L.  'Ow'm I lukin', Bob?

LEMMY.  First-clawss; yer've got a colour fit to toast by.  We'll
show 'em yer've got a kick in yer.  [He takes her arm]  Little Aida,
ketch 'old o' the sensytions.

     [He indicates the trousers THE PRESS takes MRS. LEMMY'S other
     arm.]

MRS. L.  [With an excited little laugh]  Quite like a gell!

And, smiling between her son and THE PRESS, she passes out; LITTLE
AIDA, with a fling of her heels and a wave of the trousers, follows.


                              CURTAIN



ACT III

     An octagon ante-room of the hall at LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S.
     A shining room lighted by gold candelabra, with gold-curtained
     pillars, through which the shining hall and a little of the
     grand stairway are visible.  A small table with a gold-coloured
     cloth occupies the very centre of the room, which has a polished
     parquet floor and high white walls.  Gold-coloured doors on the
     left.  Opposite these doors a window with gold-coloured curtains
     looks out on Park Lane.  LADY WILLIAM standing restlessly
     between the double doors and the arch which leads to the hall.
     JAMES is stationary by the double doors, from behind which come
     sounds of speech and applause.

POULDER.  [Entering from the hall]  His Grace the Duke of Exeter, my
lady.

     [His GRACE enters.  He is old, and youthful, with a high colour
     and a short rough white beard.  LADY WILLIAM advances to meet
     him.  POULDER stands by.]

LADY W.  Oh!  Father, you ARE late.

HIS G.  Awful crowd in the streets, Nell.  They've got a coffin--
couldn't get by.

LADY W.  Coin?  Whose?

HIS G.  The Government's I should think-no flowers, by request.  I
say, have I got to speak?

LADY W.  Oh!  no, dear.

HIS G.  H'm!  That's unlucky.  I've got it here.  [He looks down his
cuff]  Found something I said in 1914--just have done.

LADY W.  Oh! If you've got it--James, ask Lord William to come to me
for a moment.  [JAMES vanishes through the door.  To THE DUKE] Go in,
Grand-dad; they'll be so awfully pleased to see you.  I'll tell Bill.

HIS G.  Where's Anne?

LADY W.  In bed, of course.

HIS G.  I got her this--rather nice?

     [He has taken from his breast-pocket one of those street toy-men
     that jump head over heels on your hand; he puts it through its
     paces.]

LADY W.  [Much interested]  Oh!  no, but how sweet!  She'll simply
love it.

POULDER.  If I might suggest to Your Grace to take it in and operate
it.  It's sweated, Your Grace.  They-er-make them in those places.

HIS G.  By Jove!  D'you know the price, Poulder?

POULDER.  [Interrogatively]  A penny, is it?  Something paltry, Your
Grace!

HIS G.  Where's that woman who knows everything; Miss Munday?

LADY W.  Oh!  She'll be in there, somewhere.

     [His GRACE moves on, and passes through the doors.  The sound of
     applause is heard.]

POULDER.  [Discreetly]  would you care to see the bomb, my lady?

LADY W.  Of course--first quiet moment.

POULDER.  I'll bring it up, and have a watch put on it here, my lady.

     [LORD WILLIAM comes through the double doom followed by JAMES.
     POULDER retires.]

LORD W.  Can't you come, Nell?

LADY W.  Oh!  Bill, your Dad wants to speak.

LORD W.  The deuce he does--that's bad.

LADY W.  Yes, of course, but you must let him; he's found something
he said in 1914.

LORD W.  I knew it.  That's what they'll say.  Standing stock still,
while hell's on the jump around us.

LADY W.  Never mind that; it'll please him; and he's got a lovely
little sweated toy that turns head over heels at one penny.

LORD W.  H'm!  Well, come on.

LADY W.  No, I must wait for stragglers.  There's sure to be an
editor in a hurry.

POULDER.  [Announcing]  Mis-ter Gold-rum!

LADY W. [Sotto voce]  And there he is!  [She advances to meet a thin,
straggling man in eyeglasses, who is smiling absently]  How good of
you!

MR. G.  Thanks awfully.  I just er--and then I'm afraid I must--er--
Things look very----Thanks----Thanks so much.

     [He straggles through the doors, and is enclosed by JAMES.]

POULDER.  Miss Mun-day.

LORD W.  There!  I thought she was in--She really is the most
unexpected woman!  How do you do?  How awfully sweet of you!

MISS M.  [An elderly female schoolboy]  How do you do?  There's a
spiffing crowd.  I believe things are really going Bolshy.  How do
you do, Lord William?  Have you got any of our people to show?  I
told one or two, in case--they do so simply love an outing.

JAMES.  There are three old chips in the lobby, my Lord.

LORD W.  What?  Oh!  I say!  Bring them in at once.  Why--they're the
hub of the whole thing.

JAMES.  [Going]  Very good, my Lord.

LADY W.  I am sorry.  I'd no notion; and they're such dears always.

MISS M.  I must tell you what one of them said to me.  I'd told him
not to use such bad language to his wife.  "Don't you worry, Ma!" he
said, "I expert you can do a bit of that yourself!"

LADY W.  How awfully nice!  It's SO like them.

MISS M.  Yes.  They're wonderful.

LORD W.  I say, why do we always call them they?

LADY W.  [Puzzled]  Well, why not?

LORD W.  THEY!

MISS M.  [Struck]  Quite right, Lord William!  Quite right!  Another
species.  They!  I must remember that.  THEY! [She passes on.]

LADY W.  [About to follow]  Well, I don't see; aren't they?

LORD W.  Never mind, old girl; follow on.  They'll come in with me.

     [MISS MUNDAY and LADY WILLIAM pass through the double doors.]

POULDER.  [Announcing]  Some sweated workers, my Lord.

     [There enter a tall, thin, oldish woman; a short, thin, very
     lame man, her husband; and a stoutish middle-aged woman with a
     rolling eye and gait, all very poorly dressed, with lined and
     heated faces.]

LORD W.  [Shaking hands]  How d'you do!  Delighted to see you all.
It's awfully good of you to have come.

LAME M.  Mr. and Mrs. Tomson.  We 'ad some trouble to find it.  You
see, I've never been in these parts.  We 'ad to come in the oven; and
the bus-bloke put us dahn wrong.  Are you the proprietor?

LORD W.  [Modestly]  Yes, I--er--

LAME M.  You've got a nice plyce.  I says to the missis, I says:
"'E's got a nice plyce 'ere," I says; "there's room to turn rahnd."

LORD W.  Yes--shall we--?

LAME M.  An' Mrs. Annaway she says: "Shouldn't mind livin 'ere
meself," she says; "but it must cost'im a tidy penny," she says.

LORD W.  It does--it does; much too tidy.  Shall we--?

MRS. ANN.  [Rolling her eye]  I'm very pleased to 'ave come.  I've
often said to 'em: "Any time you want me," I've said, "I'd be pleased
to come."

LORD W.  Not so pleased as we are to see you.

MRS. ANN.  I'm sure you're very kind.

JAMES.  [From the double doors, through which he has received a
message]  Wanted for your speech, my Lord.

LORD W.  Oh!  God!  Poulder, bring these ladies and gentleman in, and
put them where everybody can--where they can see everybody, don't you
know.

     [He goes out hurriedly through the double doors.]

LAME M.  Is 'e a lord?

POULDER.  He is.  Follow me.

     [He moves towards the doors, the three workers follow.]

MRS. ANN.  [Stopping before JAMES]  You 'yn't one, I suppose?
[JAMES stirs no muscle.]

POULDER.  Now please.  [He opens the doors.  The Voice of LORD
WILLIAM speaking is heard]  Pass in.

     [THE THREE WORKERS pass in, POULDER and JAMES follow them.  The
     doors are not closed, and through this aperture comes the voice
     of LORD WILLIAM, punctuated and supported by decorous applause.]

     [LITTLE ANNE runs in, and listens at the window to the confused
     and distant murmurs of a crowd.]

VOICE OF LORD W.  We propose to move for a further advance in the
chain-making and--er--er--match-box industries.  [Applause.]

     [LITTLE ANNE runs across to the door, to listen.]

[On rising voice]  I would conclude with some general remarks.
Ladies and gentlemen, the great natural, but--er--artificial
expansion which trade experienced the first years after the war has--
er--collapsed.  These are hard times.  We who are fortunate feel more
than ever--er--responsible--[He stammers, loses the thread of his
thoughts.]--[Applause]--er--responsible--[The thread still eludes
him]--er----

L. ANNE.  [Poignantly]  Oh, Daddy!

LORD W.  [Desperately]  In fact--er--you know how--er--responsible we
feel.

L. ANNE.  Hooray!  [Applause.]

     [There float in through the windows the hoarse and distant
     sounds of the Marseillaise, as sung by London voices.]

LORD W.  There is a feeling in the air--that I for one should say
deliberately was--er--a feeling in the air--er--a feeling in the
air----

L. ANNE.  [Agonised]  Oh, Daddy!  Stop!

     [Jane enters, and closes the door behind him.  JAMES.  Look
     here!  'Ave I got to report you to Miss Stokes?]

L. ANNE.  No-o-o!

JAMES.  Well, I'm goin' to.

L. ANNE.  Oh, James, be a friend to me!  I've seen nothing yet.

JAMES.  No; but you've eaten a good bit, on the stairs.  What price
that Peach Melba?

L. ANNE.  I can't go to bed till I've digested it can I?  There's
such a lovely crowd in the street!

JAMES.  Lovely?  Ho!

L. ANNE.  [Wheedling]  James, you couldn't tell Miss Stokes!  It
isn't in you, is it?

JAMES.  [Grinning]  That's right.

L. ANNE.  So-I'll just get under here.  [She gets under the table]
Do I show?

JAMES.  [Stooping]  Not 'arf!

     [POULDER enters from the hall.]

POULDER.  What are you doin' there?

JAMES. [Between him and the table--raising himself]  Thinkin'.

     [POULDER purses his mouth to repress his feedings.]

POULDER.  My orders are to fetch the bomb up here for Lady William to
inspect.  Take care no more writers stray in.

JAMES.  How shall I know 'em?

POULDER.  Well--either very bald or very hairy.

JAMES.  Right-o!  [He goes.]

     [POULDER, with his back to the table, busies himself with the
     set of his collar.]

POULDER. [Addressing an imaginary audience--in a low but important
voice]  The--ah--situation is seerious.  It is up to us of the--ah--
leisured classes----

     [The face of LITTLE ANNE is poked out close to his legs, and
     tilts upwards in wonder towards the bow of his waistcoat.]

to--ah--keep the people down.  The olla polloi are clamourin'----

     [Miss STOKES appears from the hall, between the pillars.]

Miss S. Poulder!

POULDER.  [Making a volte face towards the table] Miss?

MISS S.  Where is Anne?

POULDER.  [Vexed at the disturbance of his speech]  Excuse me, Miss--
to keep track of Miss Anne is fortunately no part of my dooties.

     [Miss S.  She really is naughty.]

POULDER.  She is.  If she was mine, I'd spank her.

     [The smiling face of LITTLE ANNE becomes visible again close to
     his legs.]

MISS S.  Not a nice word.

POULDER.  No; but a pleasant haction.  Miss Anne's the limit.  In
fact, Lord and Lady William are much too kind 'earted all round.
Take these sweated workers; that class o' people are quite 'opeless.
Treatin' them as your equals, shakin 'ands with 'em, givin 'em tea--
it only puffs 'em out.  Leave it to the Church, I say.

MISS S.  The Church is too busy, Poulder.

POULDER.  Ah!  That "Purity an' Future o' the Race Campaign."  I'll
tell you what I thinks the danger o' that, Miss.  So much purity that
there won't be a future race.  [Expanding]  Purity of 'eart's an
excellent thing, no doubt, but there's a want of nature about it.
Same with this Anti-Sweating.  Unless you're anxious to come down,
you must not put the lower classes up.

MISS S.  I don't agree with you at all, Poulder.

POULDER.  Ah!  You want it both ways, Miss.  I should imagine you're
a Liberal.

MISS S.  [Horrified]  Oh, no!  I certainly am not.

POULDER.  Well, I judged from your takin' cocoa.  Funny thing that,
about cocoa-how it still runs through the Liberal Party!  It's
virtuous, I suppose.  Wine, beer, tea, coffee-all of 'em vices.  But
cocoa you might drink a gallon a day and annoy no one but yourself!
There's a lot o' deep things in life, Miss!

Miss S.  Quite so.  But I must find Anne.

     [She recedes. ]

POULDER.  [Suavely]  Well, I wish you every success; and I hope
you'll spank her.  This modern education--there's no fruitiness in
it.

L. ANNE.  [From under the table]  Poulder, are you virtuous?

POULDER.  [Jumping]  Good Ged!

L. ANNE.  D'you mind my asking?  I promised James I would.

POULDER.  Miss Anne, come out!

     [The four footmen appear in the hall, HENRY carrying the wine
     cooler.]

JAMES.  Form fours-by your right-quick march!

     [They enter, marching down right of table.]

Right incline--Mark time!  Left turn!  'Alt!  'Enry, set the bomb!
Stand easy!

     [HENRY places the wine cooler on the table and covers it with a
     blue embroidered Chinese mat, which has occupied the centre of
     the tablecloth.]

POULDER.  Ah!  You will 'ave your game!  Thomas, take the door there!
James, the 'all!  Admit titles an' bishops.  No literary or Labour
people.  Charles and 'Enry, 'op it and 'ang about!

     [CHARLES and HENRY go out, the other too move to their
     stations.]

     [POULDER, stands by the table looking at the covered bomb.  The
     hoarse and distant sounds of the Marseillaise float in again
     from Park Lane.]

[Moved by some deep feeling]  And this house an 'orspital in the war!
I ask you--what was the good of all our sacrifices for the country?
No town 'ouse for four seasons--rustygettin' in the shires, not a
soul but two boys under me.  Lord William at the front, Lady William
at the back.  And all for this!  [He points sadly at the cooler]  It
comes of meddlin' on the Continent.  I had my prognostications at the
time.  [To JAMES]  You remember my sayin' to you just before you
joined up: "Mark my words--we shall see eight per cent. for our money
before this is over!"

JAMES.  [Sepulchrally]  I see the eight per cent., but not the money.

POULDER.  Hark at that!

     [The sounds of the Marseillaise grow louder.  He shakes his
     head.]

I'd read the Riot Act.  They'll be lootin' this house next!

JAMES.  We'll put up a fight over your body: "Bartholomew Poulder,
faithful unto death!"  Have you insured your life?

POULDER.  Against a revolution?

JAMES.  Act o' God!  Why not?

POULDER.  It's not an act o' God.

JAMES.  It is; and I sympathise with it.

POULDER.  You--what?

JAMES.  I do--only--hands off the gov'nor.

POULDER.  Oh!  Really!  Well, that's something.  I'm glad to see you
stand behind him, at all events.

JAMES.  I stand in front of 'im when the scrap begins!

POULDER.  Do you insinuate that my heart's not in the right place?

JAMES.  Well, look at it!  It's been creepin' down ever since I knew
you.  Talk of your sacrifices in the war--they put you on your
honour, and you got stout on it.  Rations--not 'arf.

POULDER.  [Staring at him]  For independence, I've never seen your
equal, James.  You might be an Australian.

JAMES.  [Suavely]  Keep a civil tongue, or I'll throw you to the
crowd!  [He comes forward to the table]  Shall I tell you why I
favour the gov'nor?  Because, with all his pomp, he's a gentleman, as
much as I am.  Never asks you to do what he wouldn't do himself.
What's more, he never comes it over you.  If you get drunk, or--well,
you understand me, Poulder--he'll just say: "Yes, yes; I know,
James!" till he makes you feel he's done it himself.  [Sinking his
voice mysteriously] I've had experience with him, in the war and out.
Why he didn't even hate the Huns, not as he ought.  I tell you he's
no Christian.

POULDER.  Well, for irreverence----!

JAMES.  [Obstinately]  And he'll never be.  He's got too soft a
heart.

L. ANNE.  [Beneath the table-shrilly] Hurrah!

POULDER.  [Jumping]  Come out, Miss Anne!

JAMES.  Let 'er alone!

POULDER.  In there, under the bomb?

JAMES.  [Contemptuously]  Silly ass!  You should take 'em lying down!

POULDER.  Look here, James!  I can't go on in this revolutionary
spirit; either you or I resign.

JAMES.  Crisis in the Cabinet!

POULDER.  I give you your marchin' orders.

JAMES.  [Ineffably] What's that you give me?

POULDER.  Thomas, remove James!

     [THOMAS grins.]

L. ANNE.  [Who, with open mouth, has crept out to see the fun]  Oh!
Do remove James, Thomas!

POULDER.  Go on, Thomas.

     [THOMAS takes one step towards JAMES, who lays a hand on the
     Chinese mat covering the bomb.]

JAMES.  [Grimly]  If I lose control of meself.

L. ANNE.  [Clapping her hands]  Oh!  James!  Do lose control!  Then I
shall see it go off!

JAMES.  [To POULDER]  Well, I'll merely empty the pail over you!

POULDER.  This is not becomin'!

     [He walks out into the hall.]

JAMES.  Another strategic victory!  What a Boche he'd have made.  As
you were, Tommy!

     [THOMAS returns to the door.  The sound of prolonged applause
     cornea from within.]

That's a bishop.

L. ANNE.  Why?

JAMES.  By the way he's drawin'.  It's the fine fightin' spirit in
'em.  They were the backbone o' the war.  I see there's a bit o' the
old stuff left in you, Tommy.

L. ANNE.  [Scrutinizing the widely--grinning THOM]  Where?  Is it in
his mouth?

JAMES.  You've still got a sense of your superiors.  Didn't you
notice how you moved to Poulder's orders, me boy; an' when he was
gone, to mine?

L. ANNE.  [To THOMAS]  March!

     [The grinning THOMAS remains immovable.]

He doesn't, James!

JAMES.  Look here, Miss Anne--your lights ought to be out before ten.
Close in, Tommy!

     [He and THOMAS move towards her.]

L. ANNE.  [Dodging]  Oh, no!  Oh, no!  Look!

     [The footmen stop and turn.  There between the pillars, stands
     LITTLE AIDA with the trousers, her face brilliant With
     surprise.]

JAMES.  Good Lord!  What's this?

     [Seeing L. ANNE, LITTLE AIDA approaches, fascinated, and the two
     children sniff at each other as it were like two little dogs
     walking round and round.]

L. ANNE.  [Suddenly]  My name's Anne; what's yours?

L. AIDA.  Aida.

L. ANNE.  Are you lost?

L. AIDA.  Nao.

L. ANNE.  Are those trousers?

L. AIDA.  Yus.

L. Arms.  Whose?

L. AIDA.  Mrs. Lemmy's.

L. ANNE.  Does she wear them?

     [LITTLE AIDA smiles brilliantly.]

L. AIDA.  Nao.  She sews 'em.

L. ANNE.  [Touching the trousers]  They are hard.  James's are much
softer; aren't they, James?  [JAMES deigns no reply]  What shall we
do?  Would you like to see my bedroom?

L. AIDA.  [With a hop]  Aoh, yus!

JAMES.  No.

L. ANNE.  Why not?

JAMES.  Have some sense of what's fittin'.

L. ANNE.  Why isn't it fittin'?  [To LITTLE AIDA]  Do you like me?

L. AIDA.  Yus-s.

L. ANNE.  So do I.  Come on!

     [She takes LITTLE AIDA'S hand.]

JAMES.  [Between the pillars]  Tommy, ketch 'em!

     [THOMAS retains them by the skirts.]

L. ANNE.  [Feigning indifference]  All right, then!  [To LITTLE AIDA]
Have you ever seen a bomb?

L. AIDA.  Nao.

L. ANNE.  [Going to the table and lifting a corner of the cover]
Look!

L. AIDA.  [Looking]  What's it for?

L. ANNE.  To blow up this house.

L. AIDA.  I daon't fink!

L. ANNE.  Why not?

L. AIDA.  It's a beautiful big 'Ouse.

L. ANNE.  That's why.  Isn't it, James?

L. AIDA.  You give the fing to me; I'll blow up our 'ouse--it's an
ugly little 'ouse.

L. ANNE  [Struck]  Let's all blow up our own; then we can start fair.
Daddy would like that.

L. AIDA.  Yus.  [Suddenly brilliant]  I've 'ad a ride in a taxi, an'
we're goin' 'ome in it agyne!

L. ANNE.  Were you sick?

LITTLE AIDA.  [Brilliant]  Nao.

L. ANNE I was; when I first went in one, but I was quite young then.
James, could you get her a Peche Melba?  There was one.

JAMES.  No.

L. ANNE.  Have you seen the revolution?

L. AIDA.  Wot's that?

L. ANNE.  It's made of people.

L. AIDA.  I've seen the corfin, it's myde o' wood.

L. ANNE.  Do you hate the rich?

L. AIDA.  [Ineffably]  Nao.  I hates the poor.

L. ANNE.  Why?

L. AIDA.  'Cos they 'yn't got nuffin'.

L. ANNE.  I love the poor.  They're such dears.

L. AIDA.  [Shaking her head with a broad smile]  Nao.

L. ANNE.  Why not?

L. AIDA.  I'd tyke and lose the lot, I would.

L. ANNE.  Where?

L. AIDA.  In the water.

L. ANNE.  Like puppies?

L. AIDA.  Yus.

L. ANNE.  Why?

L. AIDA.  Then I'd be shut of 'em.

L. ANNE.  [Puzzled]  Oh!

     [The voice of THE PRESS is heard in the hall.  "Where's the
     little girl?"]

JAMES.  That's you.  Come 'ere!

     [He puts a hand behind LITTLE AIDA'S back and propels her
     towards the hall.  THE PRESS enters with old MRS. LEMMY.]

PRESS.  Oh!  Here she is, major domo.  I'm going to take this old
lady to the meeting; they want her on the platform.  Look after our
friend, Mr. Lemmy here; Lord William wants to see him presently.

L. ANNE.  [In an awed whisper]  James, it's the little blighter!

     [She dives again under the table.  LEMMY enters.]

LEMMY.  'Ere!  'Arf a mo'!  Yer said yer'd drop me at my plyce.
Well, I tell yer candid--this 'yn't my plyce.

PRESS.  That's all right, Mr. Lemmy.  [He grins]  They'll make you
wonderfully comfortable, won't you, major domo?

     [He passes on through the room, to the door, ushering old MRS.
     LEMMY and LITTLE AIDA.]

     [POULDER blocks LEMMY'S way, with CHARLES and HENRY behind him.]

POULDER.  James, watch it; I'll report.

     [He moves away, following THE PRESS through the door.  JAMES
     between table and window.  THOMAS has gone to the door.  HENRY
     and CHARLES remain at the entrances to the hall.  LEMMY looks
     dubiously around, his cockney assurrance gradually returns.]

LEMMY.  I think I knows the gas 'ere.  This is where I came to-dy,
'yn't it?  Excuse my hesitytion--these little 'ouses IS so much the
syme.

JAMES.  [Gloomily]  They are!

LEMMY.  [Looking at the four immovable footmen, till he concentrates
on JAMES]  Ah! I 'ad a word wiv you, 'adn't I?  You're the four
conscientious ones wot's wyin' on your gov'nor's chest.  'Twas you I
spoke to, wasn't it?  [His eyes travel over them again]  Ye're so
monotonous.  Well, ye're busy now, I see.  I won't wyste yer time.

     [He turns towards the hall, but CHARLES and HENRY bar the way in
     silence.]

     [Skidding a little, and regarding the four immovables once more]

I never see such pytient men?  Compared wiv yer, mountains is
restless.

     [He goes to the table.  JAMES watches him.  ANNE barks from
     underneath.]

[Skidding again]  Why!  There's a dawg under there.  [Noting the grin
on THOMAS'S face]  Glad it amooses yer.  Yer want it, daon't yer, wiv
a fyce like that?  Is this a ply wivaht words?  'Ave I got into the
movies by mistyke?  Turn aht, an' let's 'ave six penn'orth o'
darkness.

L. ANNE.  [From beneath the cable]  No, no!  Not dark!

LEMMY.  [Musingly]  The dawg talks anywy.  Come aht, Fido!

     [LITTLE ANNE emerges, and regards him with burning curiosity.]

I sy: Is this the lytest fashion o' receivin' guests?

L. ANNE.  Mother always wants people to feel at home.  What shall we
do?  Would you like to hear the speeches?  Thomas, open the door a
little, do!

JAMES.  'Umour 'er a couple o' inches, Tommy!

     [THOMAS draws the door back stealthily an inch or so.]

L. ANNE.  [After applying her eye-in a loud whisper]  There's the old
lady.  Daddy's looking at her trousers.  Listen!

     [For MRS. LEMMY'S voice is floating faintly through: "I putt in
     the buttonholes, I stretches the flies; I 'ems the bottoms; I
     lines the crutch; I putt on this bindin'; I sews on the buttons;
     I presses the seams--Tuppence three farthin's the pair."]

LEMMY.  [In a hoarse whisper]  That's it, old lydy: give it 'em!

L. ANNE.  Listen!

VOICE OF LORD W.  We are indebted to our friends the Press for giving
us the pleasure--er--pleasure of hearing from her own lips--the
pleasure----

L. ANNE.  Oh!  Daddy!

     [THOMAS abruptly closes the doors.]

LEMMY.  [To ANNE]  Now yer've done it.  See wot comes o' bein'
impytient.  We was just gettin' to the marrer.

L. ANNE.  What can we do for you now?

LEMMY.  [Pointing to ANNE, and addressing JAMES]  Wot is this one,
anywy?

JAMES.  [Sepulchrally]  Daughter o' the house.

LEMMY.  Is she insured agynst 'er own curiosity?

L. ANNE.  Why?

LEMMY.  As I daon't believe in a life beyond the gryve, I might be
tempted to send yer there.

L. ANNE.  What is the gryve?

LEMMY.  Where little gells goes to.

L. ANNE.  Oh, when?

LEMMY.  [Pretending to look at a match, which is not there]  Well, I
dunno if I've got time to finish yer this minute.  Sy to-mower at.
'arf past.

L. ANNE.  Half past what?

LEMMY.  [Despairingly]  'Arf past wot!

     [The sound of applause is heard.]

JAMES.  That's 'is Grace.  'E's gettin' wickets, too.

     [POULDER entering from the door.]

POULDER.  Lord William is slippin' in.

     [He makes a cabalistic sign with his head.  Jeers crosses to the
     door.  LEMMY looks dubiously at POULDER.]

LEMMY.  [Suddenly--as to himself]  Wot oh!  I am the portly one!

POULDER.  [Severely]  Any such allusion aggeravates your offence.

LEMMY.  Oh, ah!  Look 'ere, it was a corked bottle.  Now, tyke care,
tyke care, 'aughty!  Daon't curl yer lip!  I shall myke a clean
breast o' my betryal when the time comes!

     [There is a alight movement of the door.  ANNE makes a dive
     towards the table but is arrested by POULDER grasping her
     waistband.  LORD WILLIAM slips in, followed by THE PRESS, on
     whom JAMES and THOMAS close the door too soon.]

HALF OF THE PRESS.  [Indignantly]  Look out!

JAMES.  Do you want him in or out, me Lord?

LEMMY.  I sy, you've divided the Press; 'e was unanimous.

     [The FOOTMEN let THE PRESS through.]

LORD W.  [To THE PRESS]  I'm so sorry.

LEMMY.  Would yer like me to see to 'is gas?

LORD W.  So you're my friend of the cellars?

LEMMY.  [Uneasy]  I daon't deny it.

     [POULDER begins removing LITTLE ANNE.]

L. ANNE.  Let me stay, Daddy; I haven't seen anything yet!  If I go,
I shall only have to come down again when they loot the house.
Listen!

     [The hoarse strains of the Marseillaise are again heard from the
     distance.]

LORD W.  [Blandly]  Take her up, Poulder!

L. ANNE.  Well, I'm coming down again--and next time I shan't have
any clothes on, you know.

     [They vanish between the pillars.  LORD WILLIAM makes a sign of
     dismissal.  The FOOTMAN file out.]

LEMMY.  [Admiringly]  Luv'ly pyces!

LORD W.  [Pleasantly]  Now then; let's have our talk, Mr.----

LEMMY.  Lemmy.

PRESS.  [Who has slipped his note-book out]  "Bombed and Bomber face
to face----"

LEMMY. [Uneasy]  I didn't come 'ere agyne on me own, yer know.  The
Press betryed me.

LORD W.  Is that old lady your mother?

LEMMY.  The syme.  I tell yer stryte, it was for 'er I took that old
bottle o' port.  It was orful old.

LORD W.  Ah!  Port?  Probably the '83.  Hope you both enjoyed it.

LEMMY. So far-yus.  Muvver'll suffer a bit tomower, I expect.

LORD W.  I should like to do something for your mother, if you'll
allow me.

LEMMY.  Oh!  I'll allow yer.  But I dunno wot she'll sy.

LORD W.  I can see she's a fine independent old lady!  But suppose
you were to pay her ten bob a week, and keep my name out of it?

LEMMY.  Well, that's one wy o' YOU doin' somefink, 'yn't it?

LORD W.  I giving you the money, of course.

PRESS.  [Writing] "Lord William, with kingly generosity----"

LEMMY.  [Drawing attention to THE PRESS with his thumb] I sy--
I daon't mind, meself--if you daon't----

LORD W.  He won't write anything to annoy me.

PRESS.  This is the big thing, Lord William; it'll get the public
bang in the throat.

LEMMY.  [Confidentially]  Bit dyngerous, 'yn't it? trustin' the
Press?  Their right 'ands never knows wot their left 'ands is
writin'.  [To THE PRESS]  'Yn't that true, speakin' as a man?

PRESS.  Mr. Lemmy, even the Press is capable of gratitude.

LEMMY.  Is it?  I should ha' thought it was too important for a
little thing like that.  [To LORD WILLIAM]  But ye're quite right; we
couldn't do wivaht the Press--there wouldn't be no distress, no
coffin, no revolution--'cos nobody'd know nuffin' abaht it.  Why!
There wouldn't be no life at all on Earf in these dyes, wivaht the
Press!  It's them wot says: "Let there be Light--an' there is Light."

LORD W.  Umm!  That's rather a new thought to me.  [Writes on his
cuff.]

LEMMY.  But abaht Muvver, I'll tell yer 'ow we can arrynge.  You send
'er the ten bob a week wivaht syin' anyfink, an' she'll fink it comes
from Gawd or the Gover'ment yer cawn't tell one from t'other in
Befnal Green.

LORD W.  All right; we'll' do that.

LEMMY.  Will yer reely?  I'd like to shyke yer 'and.

     [LORD WILLIAM puts out his hand, which LEMMY grasps.]

PRESS.  [Writing]  "The heartbeat of humanity was in that grasp
between the son of toil and the son of leisure."

LEMMY.  [Already ashamed of his emotion]  'Ere, 'arf a mo'!  Which is
which?  Daon't forget I'm aht o' wori; Lord William, if that's 'is
nyme, is workin 'ard at 'is Anti-Sweats!  Wish I could get a job like
vat--jist suit me!

LORD W.  That hits hard, Mr. Lemmy.

LEMMY.  Daon't worry!  Yer cawn't 'elp bein' born in the purple!

LORD W.  Ah!  Tell me, what would you do in my place?

LEMMY.  Why--as the nobleman said in 'is well-known wy: "Sit in me
Club winder an' watch it ryne on the dam people!"  That's if I was a
average nobleman!  If I was a bit more noble, I might be tempted to
come the kind'earted on twenty thou' a year.  Some prefers yachts, or
ryce 'orses.  But philanthropy on the 'ole is syfer, in these dyes.

LORD W.  So you think one takes to it as a sort of insurance, Mr.
Lemmy?  Is that quite fair?

LEMMY.  Well, we've all got a weakness towards bein' kind, somewhere
abaht us.  But the moment wealf comes in, we 'yn't wot I call
single-'earted.  If yer went into the foundytions of your wealf--would
yer feel like 'avin' any?  It all comes from uvver people's 'ard,
unpleasant lybour--it's all built on Muvver as yer might sy.  An' if
yer daon't get rid o' some of it in bein' kind--yer daon't feel syfe
nor comfy.

LORD W.  [Twisting his moustache] Your philosophy is very pessimistic.

LEMMY.  Well, I calls meself an optimist; I sees the worst of
everyfink.  Never disappynted, can afford to 'ave me smile under the
blackest sky.  When deaf is squeezin' of me windpipe, I shall 'ave a
laugh in it!  Fact is, if yer've 'ad to do wiv gas an' water pipes,
yer can fyce anyfing.  [The distant Marseillaise blares up] 'Ark at
the revolution!

LORD W.  [Rather desperately]  I know--hunger and all the rest of it!
And here am I, a rich man, and don't know what the deuce to do.

LEMMY.  Well, I'll tell yer.  Throw yer cellars open, an' while the
populyce is gettin' drunk, sell all yer 'ave an' go an' live in
Ireland; they've got the millennium chronic over there.

     [LORD WILLIAM utters a short, vexed laugh, and begins to walk
     about.]

That's speakin' as a practical man.  Speakin' as a synt "Bruvvers,
all I 'ave is yours.  To-morrer I'm goin' dahn to the Lybour Exchynge
to git put on the wytin' list, syme as you!"

LORD W.  But, d---it, man, there we should be, all together!  Would
that help?

LEMMY.  Nao; but it'd syve a lot o' blood.

     [LORD WILLIAM stops abruptly, and looks first at LEMMY, then at
     the cooler, still cohered with the Chinese mat.]

Yer thought the Englishman could be taught to shed blood wiv syfety.
Not 'im!  Once yer git 'im into an 'abit, yer cawn't git 'im out of
it agyne.  'E'll go on sheddin' blood mechanical--Conservative by
nyture.  An' 'e won't myke nuffin' o' yours.  Not even the Press wiv
'is 'oneyed words'll sty 'is 'and.

LORD W.  And what do you suggest we could have done, to avoid
trouble?

LEMMY.  [Warming to his theme]  I'll tell yer.  If all you wealfy
nobs wiv kepitel 'ad come it kind from the start after the war yer'd
never 'a been 'earin' the Marseillaisy naow.  Lord!  'Ow you did talk
abaht Unity and a noo spirit in the Country.  Noo spirit!  Why, soon
as ever there was no dynger from outside, yer stawted to myke it
inside, wiv an iron'and.  Naow, you've been in the war an' it's given
yer a feelin' 'eart; but most of the nobs wiv kepitel was too old or
too important to fight.  They weren't born agyne.  So naow that bad
times is come, we're 'owlin' for their blood.

LORD W.  I quite agree; I quite agree.  I've often said much the same
thing.

LEMMY.  Voice cryin' in the wilderness--I daon't sy we was yngels--
there was faults on bofe sides.  [He looks at THE PRESS]  The Press
could ha' helped yer a lot.  Shall I tell yer wot the Press did?
"It's vital," said the Press, "that the country should be united, or
it will never recover."  Nao strikes, nao 'omen nature, nao nuffink.
Kepitel an' Lybour like the Siamese twins.  And, fust dispute that
come along, the Press orfs wiv its coat an' goes at it bald'eaded.
An' wot abaht since?  Sich a riot o' nymes called, in Press--and
Pawlyement.  Unpatriotic an' outrygeous demands o' lybour.
Blood-suckin' tyranny o' Kepitel; thieves an' dawgs an 'owlin
Jackybines--gents throwin' books at each other; all the resources of
edjucytion exhausted!  If I'd bin Prime Minister I'd 'ave 'ad the
Press's gas cut 'orf at the meter.  Puffect liberty, of course, nao
Censorship; just sy wot yer like--an' never be 'eard of no more.

     [Turning suddenly to THE PRESS, who has been scribbling in pace
     with this harangue, and now has developed a touch of writer's
     cramp.]

Why!  'Is 'end's out o' breath!  Fink o' vet!

LORD W.  Great tribute to your eloquence, Mr. Lemmy!

     [A sudden stir of applause and scraping of chairs is heard; the
     meeting is evidently breaking up.  LADY WILLIAM comes in,
     followed by MRS. LEMMY with her trousers, and LITTLE AIDA.
     LEMMY stares fixedly at this sudden, radiant apparition.  His
     gaze becomes as that of a rabbit regarding a snake.  And
     suddenly he puts up his hand and wipes his brow.]

     [LADY WILLIAM, going to the table, lifts one end of the Chinese
     mat, and looks at LEMMY.  Then she turns to LORD WILLIAM.]

LADY W.  Bill!

LEMMY.  [To his mother--in a hoarse whisper]  She calls 'im Bill.
'Ow!  'Yn't she IT?

LADY W.  [Apart]  Have you--spoken to him?

     [LORD WILLIAM shakes his head.]

Not?  What have you been saying, then?

LORD W.  Nothing, he's talked all the time.

LADY W.  [Very low]  What a little caution!

LORD W.  Steady, old girl!  He's got his eye on you!

     [LADY WILLIAM looks at LEMMY, whose eyes are still fixed on
     her.]

LADY W.  [With resolution]  Well, I'm going to tackle him.

     [She moves towards LEMMY, who again wipes his brow, and wrings
     out his hand.]

MRS. LEMMY.  Don't 'ee du that, Bob.  Yu must forgive'im, Ma'am; it's
'is admiration.  'E was always one for the ladies, and he'm not used
to seein' so much of 'em.

LADY W.  Don't you think you owe us an explanation?

MRS. LEMMY.  Speak up, Bob.

     [But LEMMY only shifts his feet.]

My gudeness!  'E've a-lost 'is tongue.  I never knu that 'appen to 'e
before.

LORD W.  [Trying to break the embarrassment]  No ill-feeling, you
know, Lemmy.

     [But LEMMY still only rolls his eyes.]

LADY W.  Don't you think it was rather--inconsiderate of you?

LEMMY.  Muvver, tyke me aht, I'm feelin' fynte!

     [Spurts of the Marseillaise and the mutter of the crowd have
     been coming nearer; and suddenly a knocking is heard.  POULDER
     and JAMES appear between the pillars.]

POULDER.  The populace, me Lord!

LADY W.  What!

LORD W.  Where've you put 'em, Poulder?

POULDER.  They've put theirselves in the portico, me Lord.

LORD W.  [Suddenly wiping his brow]  Phew!  I say, this is awful,
Nell!  Two speeches in one evening.  Nothing else for it, I suppose.
Open the window, Poulder!

POULDER.  [Crossing to the window]  We are prepared for any
sacrifice, me Lord.

     [He opens the window.]

PRESS.  [Writing furiously]  "Lady William stood like a statue at
bay."

LORD W.  Got one of those lozenges on you, Nell?

     [But LADY WILLIAM has almost nothing on her.]

LEMMY.  [Producing a paper from his pocket]  'Ave one o' my gum
drops?

     [He passes it to LORD WILLIAM.]

LORD W.  [Unable to refuse, takes a large, flat gum drop from the
paper, and looks at it in embarrassment.]  Ah! thanks!  Thanks
awfully!

     [LEMMY turns to LITTLE AIDA, and puts a gum drop in her mouth.
     A burst of murmurs from the crowd.]

JAMES. [Towering above the wine cooler]  If they get saucy, me Lord,
I can always give 'em their own back.

LORD W.  Steady, James; steady!

     [He puts the gum drop absently in his mouth, and turns up to the
     open window.]

VOICE.  [Outside]  'Ere they are--the bally plutocrats.

     [Voices in chorus: "Bread!  Bread!"]

LORD W.  Poulder, go and tell the chef to send out anything there is
in the house--nicely, as if it came from nowhere in particular.

POULDER.  Very good, me Lord.  [Sotto voce]  Any wine?  If I might
suggest--German--'ock?

LORD W.  What you like.

POULDER.  Very good, me Lord. [He goes.]

LORD W.  I say, dash it, Nell, my teeth are stuck!  [He works his
finger in his mouth.]

LADY W.  Take it out, darling.

LORD W.  [Taking out the gum drop and looking at it]  What the deuce
did I put it in for?

PRESS.  ['Writing]  "With inimitable coolness Lord William prepared
to address the crowd."

     [Voices in chorea: "Bread!  Bread!"]

LORD W.  Stand by to prompt, old girl.  Now for it.  This ghastly gum
drop!

     [LORD WILLIAM takes it from his agitated hand, and flips it
     through the window.]

VOICE.  Dahn with the aristo----[Chokes.]

LADY W.  Oh!  Bill----oh!  It's gone into a mouth!

LORD W.  Good God!

VOICE.  Wet's this?  Throwin' things?  Mind aht, or we'll smash yer
winders!

     [As the voices in chorus chant: "Bread! Bread!" LITTLE ANNE,
     night-gowned, darts in from the hall.  She is followed by MISS
     STOKES.  They stand listening.]

LORD W.  [To the Crowd]  My friends, you've come to the wrong shop.
There's nobody in London more sympathetic with you.  [The crowd
laughs hoarsely.]  [Whispering]  Look out, old girl; they can see your
shoulders.  [LORD WILLIAM moves back a step.]  If I were a speaker, I
could make you feel----

VOICE.  Look at his white weskit!  Blood-suckers--fattened on the
people!

     [JAMES dives his hand at the wine cooler.]

LORD W.  I've always said the Government ought to take immediate
steps----

VOICE.  To shoot us dahn.

LORD W.  Not a bit.  To relieve the--er----

LADY W.  [Prompting]  Distress.

LADY W.  Distress, and ensure--er--ensure

LADY W.  [Prompting] Quiet.

LORD W. [To her] No, no.  To ensure--ensure----

L. ANNE.  [Agonized]  Oh, Daddy!

VOICE.  'E wants to syve 'is dirty great 'ouse.

LORD W.  [Roused]  D----if I do!

     [Rude and hoarse laughter from the crowd.]

JAMES.  [With fury]  Me Lord, let me blow 'em to glory!

     [He raises the cooler and advances towards the window.]

LORD W.  [Turning sharply on him]  Drop it, James; drop it!

PRESS.  [Jumping]  No, no; don't drop it!

     [JAMES retires crestfallen to the table, where he replaces the
     cooler.]

LORD W.  [Catching hold of his bit]  Look here, I must have fought
alongside some of you fellows in the war.  Weren't we jolly well like
brothers?

A VOICE.  Not so much bloomin' "Kamerad"; hand over yer 'Ouse.

LORD W.  I was born with this beastly great house, and money, and
goodness knows what other entanglements--a wife and family----

VOICE.  Born with a wife and family!

     [Jeers and laughter.]

LORD W.  I feel we're all in the same boat, and I want to pull my
weight.  If you can show me the way, I'll take it fast enough.

A DEEP VOICE.  Step dahn then, an' we'll step up.

ANOTHER VOICE.  'Ear, 'Ear!

     [A fierce little cheer.]

LORD W.  [To LADY WILLIAM--in despair]  By George!  I can't get in
anywhere!

LADY W.  [Calmly]  Then shut the window, Bill.

LEMMY. [Who has been moving towards them slowly]  Lemme sy a word to
'em.

     [All stare at him.  LEMMY approaches the window, followed by
     LITTLE AIDA.  POULDER re-enters with the three other footmen.]

[At the window]  Cheerio!  Cockies!

     [The silence of surprise falls on the crowd.]

I'm one of yer.  Gas an' water I am.  Got more grievances an' out of
employment than any of yer.  I want to see their blood flow, syme as
you.

PRESS.  [writing]  "Born orator--ready cockney wit--saves situation."

LEMMY.  Wot I sy is: Dahn wiv the country, dahn wiv everyfing.  Begin
agyne from the foundytions.  [Nodding his head back at the room]  But
we've got to keep one or two o' these 'ere under glawss, to show our
future generytions.  An' this one is 'armless.  His pipes is sahnd,
'is 'eart is good; 'is 'ead is not strong.  Is 'ouse will myke a
charmin' palace o' varieties where our children can come an' see 'ow
they did it in the good old dyes.  Yer never see rich waxworks as 'is
butler and 'is four conscientious khaki footmen.  Why--wot dyer think
'e 'as 'em for--fear they might be out o'-works like you an' me.
Nao!  Keep this one; 'e's a Flower.  'Arf a mo'!  I'll show yer my
Muvver.  Come 'ere, old lydy; and bring yer trahsers. [MRS. LEMMY
comes forward to the window]  Tell abaht yer speech to the meetin'.

MRS. LEMMY.  [Bridling]  Oh dear!  Well, I cam' in with me trousers,
an' they putt me up on the pedestory at once, so I tole 'em.
[Holding up the trousers]  "I putt in the button'oles, I stretches
the flies; I lines the crutch; I putt on this bindin', I presses the
seams--Tuppence three farthin's a pair."

     [A groan from tote crowd, ]

LEMMY. [Showing her off]  Seventy-seven!  Wot's 'er income?  Twelve
bob a week; seven from the Gover'ment an' five from the sweat of 'er
brow.  Look at 'er!  'Yn't she a tight old dear to keep it goin'!  No
workus for 'er, nao fear!  The gryve rather!

     [Murmurs from the crowd, at Whom MRS. LEMMY is blandly smiling.]

You cawn't git below 'er--impossible!  She's the foundytions of the
country--an' rocky 'yn't the word for 'em.  Worked 'ard all 'er life,
brought up a family and buried 'em on it.  Twelve bob a week, an'
given when 'er fingers goes, which is very near.  Well, naow, this
torf 'ere comes to me an' says: "I'd like to do somefin' for yer
muvver.  'Ow's ten bob a week?" 'e says.  Naobody arst 'im--quite on
'is own.  That's the sort 'e is.  [Sinking his voice confidentially]
Sorft.  You bring yer muvvers 'ere, 'e'll do the syme for them.  I
giv yer the 'int.

VOICE.  [From the crowd]  What's 'is nyme?

LEMMY.  They calls 'im Bill.

VOICE.  Bill What?

L. ANNE.  Dromondy.

LADY W.  Anne!

LEMMY.  Dromedary 'is nyme is.

VOICE.  [From the crowd]  Three cheers for Bill Dromedary.

LEMMY.  I sy, there's veal an' 'am, an' pork wine at the back for
them as wants it; I 'eard the word passed.  An' look 'ere, if yer
want a flag for the revolution, tyke muvver's trahsers an' tie 'em to
the corfin.  Yer cawn't 'ave no more inspirin' banner.  Ketch!  [He
throws the trousers out]  Give Bill a double-barrel fast, to show
there's no ill-feelin'.  Ip, 'ip!

     [The crowd cheers, then slowly passes away, singing at a hoarse
     version of the Marseillaise, till all that is heard is a faint
     murmuring and a distant barrel-organ playing the same tune.]

PRESS.  [Writing]  "And far up in the clear summer air the larks were
singing."

LORD W.  [Passing his heard over his hair, and blinking his eyes]
James!  Ready?

JAMES.  Me Lord!

L. ANNE.  Daddy!

LADY W.  [Taking his arm]  Bill!  It's all right, old man--all right!

LORD W.  [Blinking]  Those infernal larks!  Thought we were on the
Somme again!  Ah!  Mr. Lemmy, [Still rather dreamy]  no end obliged
to you; you're so decent.  Now, why did you want to blow us up before
dinner?

LEMMY.  Blow yer up?  [Passing his hand over his hair in travesty]
"Is it a dream?  Then wykin' would be pyne."

MRS. LEMMY.  Bo-ob!  Not so saucy, my boy!

LEMMY.  Blow yet up?  Wot abaht it?

LADY W.  [Indicating the bomb]  This, Mr. Lemmy!

     [LEMMY looks at it, and his eyes roll and goggle.]

LORD W.  Come, all's forgiven!  But why did you?

LEMMY.  Orl right!  I'm goin' to tyke it awy; it'd a-been a bit
ork'ard for me.  I'll want it to-mower.

LORD W.  What!  To leave somewhere else?

LEMMY.  'Yus, of course!

LORD W.  No, no; dash it!  Tell us what's it filled with?

LEMMY.  Filled wiv?  Nuffin'.  Wot did yet expect?  Toof-pahder?
It's got a bit o' my lead soldered on to it.  That's why it's 'eavy!

LORD W.  But what is it?

LEMMY.  Wot is it?  [His eyes are fearfully fixed on LADY WILLIAM]  I
fought everybody knew 'em.

LADY W.  Mr. Lemmy, you must clear this up, please.

LEMMY.  [TO LORD WILLIAM, With his eyes still held On LADY WILLIAM--
mysteriously]  Wiv lydies present?  'Adn't I better tell the Press?

LORD W.  All right; tell someone--anyone!

     [LEMMY goes down to THE PRESS, who is reading over his last
     note.  Everyone watches and listens with the utmost discretion,
     while he whispers into the ear of THE PRESS; who shakes his head
     violently.]

PRESS.  No, no; it's too horrible.  It destroys my whole----

LEMMY.  Well, I tell yer it is.

     [Whispers again violently.]

PRESS.  No, no; I can't have it.  All my article!  All my article!
It can't be--no----

LEMMY.  I never see sick an obstinate thick-head!  Yer 'yn't worvy of
yet tryde.

     [He whispers still more violently and makes cabalistic signs.]

     [LADY WILLIAM lifts the bomb from the cooler into the sight of
     all.  LORD WILLIAM, seeing it for the first time in full light,
     bends double in silent laughter, and whispers to his wife.  LADY
     WILLIAM drops the bomb and gives way too.  Hearing the sound,
     LEMMY turns, and his goggling eyes pan them all in review.  LORD
     and LADY WILLIAM in fits of laughter, LITTLE ANNE stamping her
     feet, for MISS STOKES, red, but composed, has her hands placed
     firmly over her pupil's eyes and ears; LITTLE AIDA smiling
     brilliantly, MRS. LEMMY blandly in sympathy, neither knowing
     why; the FOUR FOOTMAN in a row, smothering little explosions.
     POULDER, extremely grave and red, THE PRESS perfectly haggard,
     gnawing at his nails.]

LEMMY.  [Turning to THE PRESS]  Blimy!  It amooses 'em, all but the
genteel ones.  Cheer oh!  Press!  Yer can always myke somefin' out o'
nufun'?  It's not the fust thing as 'as existed in yer imaginytion
only.

PRESS.  No, d---it; I'll keep it a bomb!

LEMMY.  [Soothingly]  Ah!  Keep the sensytion.  Wot's the troof
compared wiv that?  Come on, Muvver! Come on, Little Aida!  Time we
was goin' dahn to 'Earf.

     [He goes up to the table, and still skidding a little at LADY
     WILLIAM, takes the late bomb from the cooler, placing it under
     his arm.]

MRS. LEMMY.  Gude naight, sir; gude naight, ma'am; thank yu for my
cup o' tea, an' all yore kindness.

     [She shakes hands with LORD and LADY WILLIAM, drops the curtsey
     of her youth before Mr. POULDER, and goes out followed by LITTLE
     AIDA, who is looking back at LITTLE ANNE.]

LEMMY.  [Turning suddenly]  Aoh!  An' jist one frog!  Next time yer
build an 'ouse, daon't forget--it's the foundytions as bears the
wyte.

     [With a wink that gives way, to a last fascinated look at LADY
     WILLIAM, he passes out.  All gaze after them, except THE PRESS,
     who is tragically consulting his spiflicated notes.]

L. ANNE.  [Breaking away from Miss STOKES and rushing forward]  Oh!
Mum!  what was it?


CURTAIN






THE SKIN GAME

(A TRAGI-COMEDY)

"Who touches pitch shall be defiled"



CHARACTERS

HILLCRIST ...............A Country Gentleman
AMY .....................His Wife
JILL ....................His Daughter
DAWKER ..................His Agent
HORNBLOWER ..............A Man Newly-Rich
CHARLES .................His Elder Son
CHLOE ...................Wife to Charles
ROLF ....................His Younger Son
FELLOWS .................Hillcrist's Butler
ANNA ....................Chloe's Maid
THE JACKMANS ............Man and Wife

AN AUCTIONEER
A SOLICITOR
TWO STRANGERS



ACT I.  HILLCRIST'S Study

ACT II.
     SCENE I.   A month later.  An Auction Room.
     SCENE II.  The same evening.  CHLOE'S Boudoir.

ACT III

     SCENE I.   The following day.  HILLCRIST'S Study.  Morning.
     SCENE II.  The Same.  Evening.




ACT I

     HILLCRIST'S study.  A pleasant room, with books in calf
     bindings, and signs that the HILLCRIST'S have travelled, such
     as a large photograph of the Taj Mahal, of Table Mountain, and
     the Pyramids of Egypt.  A large bureau [stage Right], devoted
     to the business of a country estate.  Two foxes' masks.
     Flowers in bowls.  Deep armchairs.  A large French window open
     [at Back], with a lovely view of a slight rise of fields and
     trees in August sunlight.  A fine stone fireplace [stage Left].
     A door [Left].  A door opposite [Right].  General colour
     effect--stone, and cigar-leaf brown, with spots of bright
     colour.

     [HILLCRIST sits in a swivel chair at the bureau, busy with
     papers.  He has gout, and his left foot is encased accord: He
     is a thin, dried-up man of about fifty-five, with a rather
     refined, rather kindly, and rather cranky countenance.  Close
     to him stands his very upstanding nineteen-year-old daughter
     JILL, with clubbed hair round a pretty, manly face.]

JILL.  You know, Dodo, it's all pretty good rot in these days.

HILLCRIST.  Cads are cads, Jill, even in these days.

JILL.  What is a cad?

HILLCRIST.  A self-assertive fellow, without a sense of other
people.

JILL.  Well, Old Hornblower I'll give you.

HILLCRIST.  I wouldn't take him.

JILL.  Well, you've got him.  Now, Charlie--Chearlie--I say--the
importance of not being Charlie----

HILLCRIST.  Good heavens!  do you know their Christian names?

JILL. My dear father, they've been here seven years.

HILLCRIST.  In old days we only knew their Christian names from
their tombstones.

JILL.  Charlie Hornblower isn't really half a bad sport.

HILLCRIST.  About a quarter of a bad sport I've always thought out
hunting.

JILL.  [Pulling his hair]  Now, his wife--Chloe---

HILLCRIST.  [Whimsical]  Gad! your mother'd have a fit if she knew
you called her Chloe.

JILL.  It's a ripping name.

HILLCRIST.  Chloe!  H'm!  I had a spaniel once----

JILL.  Dodo, you're narrow.  Buck up, old darling, it won't do.
Chloe has seen life, I'm pretty sure; THAT'S attractive, anyway.
No, mother's not in the room; don't turn your uneasy eyes.

HILLCRIST.  Really, my dear, you are getting----

JILL.  The limit.  Now, Rolf----

HILLCRIST.  What's Rolf?  Another dog?

JILL.  Rolf Hornblower's a topper; he really is a nice boy.

HILLCRIST.  [With a sharp look]  Oh!  He's a nice boy?

JILL.  Yes, darling.  You know what a nice boy is, don't you?

HILLCRIST.  Not in these days.

JILL.  Well, I'll tell you.  In the first place, he's not amorous.

HILLCRIST.  What!  Well, that's some comfort.

JILL.  Just a jolly good companion.

HILLCRIST.  To whom?

JILL.  Well, to anyone--me.

HILLCRIST.  Where?

JILL.  Anywhere.  You don't suppose I confine myself to the home
paddocks, do you?  I'm naturally rangey, Father.

HILLCRIST.  [Ironically]  You don't say so!

JILL.  In the second place, he doesn't like discipline.

HILLCRIST.  Jupiter!  He does seem attractive.

JILL.  In the third place, he bars his father.

HILLCRIST.  Is that essential to nice girls too?

JILL.  [With a twirl of his hair]  Fish not!  Fourthly, he's got
ideas.

HILLCRIST.  I knew it!

JILL.  For instance, he thinks--as I do----

HILLCRIST.  Ah!  Good ideas.

JILL.  [Pulling gently]  Careful!  He thinks old people run the show
too much.  He says they oughtn't to, because they're so damtouchy.
Are you damtouchy, darling?

HILLCRIST.  Well, I'm----!  I don't know about touchy.

JILL.  He says there'll be no world fit to live in till we get rid
of the old.  We must make them climb a tall tree, and shake them off
it.

HILLCRIST.  [Drily]  Oh!  he says that!

JILL.  Otherwise, with the way they stand on each other's rights,
they'll spoil the garden for the young.

HILLCRIST.  Does his father agree?

JILL.  Oh!  Rolf doesn't talk to him, his mouth's too large.  Have
you ever seen it, Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  Of course.

JILL.  It's considerable, isn't it?  Now yours is--reticent,
darling.  [Rumpling his hair.]

HILLCRIST.  It won't be in a minute.  Do you realise that I've got
gout?

JILL.  Poor ducky!  How long have we been here, Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  Since Elizabeth, anyway.

JILL.  [Looking at his foot]  It has its drawbacks.  D'you think
Hornblower had a father?  I believe he was spontaneous.  But, Dodo,
why all this--this attitude to the Hornblowers?

     [She purses her lips and makes a gesture as of pushing persons
     away.]

HILLCRIST.  Because they're pushing.

JILL.  That's only because we are, as mother would say, and they're
not--yet.  But why not let them be?

HILLCRIST.  You can't.

JILL.  Why?

HILLCRIST.  It takes generations to learn to live and let live,
Jill.  People like that take an ell when you give them an inch.

JILL.  But if you gave them the ell, they wouldn't want the inch.
Why should it all be such a skin game?

HILLCRIST.  Skin game?  Where do you get your lingo?

JILL.  Keep to the point, Dodo.

HILLCRIST.  Well, Jill, all life's a struggle between people at
different stages of development, in different positions, with
different amounts of social influence and property.  And the only
thing is to have rules of the game and keep them.  New people like
the Hornblowers haven't learnt those rules; their only rule is to
get all they can.

JILL.  Darling, don't prose.  They're not half as bad as you think.

HILLCRIST.  Well, when I sold Hornblower Longmeadow and the
cottages, I certainly found him all right.  All the same, he's got
the cloven hoof.  [Warming up]  His influence in Deepwater is
thoroughly bad; those potteries of his are demoralising--the whole
atmosphere of the place is changing.  It was a thousand pities he
ever came here and discovered that clay.  He's brought in the modern
cutthroat spirit.

JILL.  Cut our throat spirit, you mean.  What's your definition of a
gentleman, Dodo?

HILLCRIST. [Uneasily]  Can't describe--only feel it.

JILL.  Oh!  Try!

HILLCRIST.  Well--er--I suppose you might say--a man who keeps his
form and doesn't let life scupper him out of his standards.

JILL.  But suppose his standards are low?

HILLCRIST.  [With some earnestness]  I assume, of course, that he's
honest and tolerant, gentle to the weak, and not self-seeking.

JILL.  Ah! self-seeking?  But aren't we all, Dodo?  I am.

HILLCRIST.  [With a smile]  You!

JILL.  [Scornfully]  Oh! yes--too young to know.

HILLCRIST.  Nobody knows till they're under pretty heavy fire, Jill.

JILL.  Except, of course, mother.

HILLCRIST.  How do you mean--mother?

JILL.  Mother reminds me of England according to herself--always
right whatever she does.

HILLCRIST.  Ye-es.  Your mother it perhaps--the perfect woman.

JILL.  That's what I was saying.  Now, no one could call you
perfect, Dodo.  Besides, you've got gout.

HILLCRIST.  Yes; and I want Fellows.  Ring that bell.

JILL.  [Crossing to the bell]  Shall I tell you my definition of a
gentleman?  A man who gives the Hornblower his due.  [She rings the
bell]  And I think mother ought to call on them.  Rolf says old
Hornblower resents it fearfully that she's never made a sign to
Chloe the three years she's been here.

HILLCRIST.  I don't interfere with your mother in such matters.  She
may go and call on the devil himself if she likes.

JILL.  I know you're ever so much better than she is.

HILLCRIST.  That's respectful.

JILL.  You do keep your prejudices out of your phiz.  But mother
literally looks down her nose.  And she never forgives an "h."
They'd get the "hell" from her if they took the "hinch."

HILLCRIST.  Jill-your language!

JILL.  Don't slime out of it, Dodo.  I say, mother ought to call on
the Hornblowers.  [No answer.]  Well?

HILLCRIST.  My dear, I always let people have the last word.  It
makes them--feel funny.  Ugh!  My foot![Enter FELLOWS, Left.]
Fellows, send into the village and get another bottle of this stuff.

JILL.  I'll go, darling.

     [She blow him a kiss, and goes out at the window.]

HILLCRIST.  And tell cook I've got to go on slops.  This foot's
worse.

FELLOWS.  [Sympathetic]  Indeed, sir.

HILLCRIST.  My third go this year, Fellows.

FELLOWS.  Very annoying, sir.

HILLCRIST.  Ye-es.  Ever had it?

FELLOWS.  I fancy I have had a twinge, sir.

HILLCRIST.  [Brightening]  Have you?  Where?

FELLOWS.  In my cork wrist, sir.

HILLCRIST.  Your what?

FELLOWS.  The wrist I draw corks with.

HILLCRIST.  [With a cackle]  You'd have had more than a twinge if
you'd lived with my father.  H'm!

FELLOWS.  Excuse me, sir--Vichy water corks, in my experience, are
worse than any wine.

HILLCRIST.  [Ironically]  Ah!  The country's not what it was, is it,
Fellows?

FELLOWS.  Getting very new, sir.

HILLCRIST. [Feelingly]  You're right.  Has Dawker come?

FELLOWS.  Not yet, sir.  The Jackmans would like to see you, sir.

HILLCRIST.  What about?

FELLOWS.  I don't know, sir.

HILLCRIST.  Well, show them in.

FELLOWS.  [Going]  Yes, sir.

     [HILLCRIST turns his swivel chair round.  The JACKMANS come in.
     He, a big fellow about fifty, in a labourer's dress, with eyes
     which have more in then than his tongue can express; she, a
     little woman with a worn face, a bright, quick glance, and a
     tongue to match.]

HILLCRIST.  Good morning, Mrs. Jackman!  Morning, Jackman!  Haven't
seen you for a long time.  What can I do?

     [He draws in foot, and breath, with a sharp hiss.]

HILLCRIST.  [In a down-hearted voice]  We've had notice to quit,
sir.

HILLCRIST.  [With emphasis]  What!

JACKMAN.  Got to be out this week.

MRS. J.  Yes, sir, indeed.

HILLCRIST.  Well, but when I sold Longmeadow and the cottages, it
was on the express understanding that there was to be no disturbance
of tenancies:

MRS. J.  Yes, sir; but we've all got to go.  Mrs. 'Arvey, and the
Drews, an' us, and there isn't another cottage to be had anywhere in
Deepwater.

HILLCRIST.  I know; I want one for my cowman.  This won't do at all.
Where do you get it from?

JACKMAN.  Mr. 'Ornblower, 'imself, air.  Just an hour ago.  He come
round and said: "I'm sorry; I want the cottages, and you've got to
clear."

MRS. J.  [Bitterly]  He's no gentleman, sir; he put it so brisk.  We
been there thirty years, and now we don't know what to do.  So I
hope you'll excuse us coming round, sir.

HILLCRIST.  I should think so, indeed!  H'm!  [He rises and limps
across to the fireplace on his stick.  To himself]  The cloven hoof.
By George!  this is a breach of faith.  I'll write to him, Jackman.
Confound it!  I'd certainly never have sold if I'd known he was
going to do this.

MRS. J.  No, sir, I'm sure, sir.  They do say it's to do with the
potteries.  He wants the cottages for his workmen.

HILLCRIST.  [Sharply]  That's all very well, but he shouldn't have
led me to suppose that he would make no change.

JACKMAN. [Heavily]  They talk about his havin' bought the Centry to
gut up more chimneys there, and that's why he wants the cottages.

HINT.  The Centry!  Impossible!

     [Mrs. J.  Yes, air; it's such a pretty spot-looks beautiful
     from here.  [She looks out through the window]  Loveliest spot
     in all Deepwater, I always say.  And your father owned it, and
     his father before 'im.  It's a pity they ever sold it, sir,
     beggin' your pardon.]

HILLCRIST.  The Centry!  [He rings the bell.]

Mrs. J.  [Who has brightened up]  I'm glad you're goin' to stop it,
sir.  It does put us about.  We don't know where to go.  I said to
Mr. Hornblower, I said, "I'm sure Mr. Hillcrist would never 'eve
turned us out."  An' 'e said: "Mr. Hillcrist be----" beggin' your
pardon, sir.  "Make no mistake," 'e said, "you must go, missis."  He
don't even know our name; an' to come it like this over us!  He's a
dreadful new man, I think, with his overridin notions.  And sich a
heavyfooted man, to look at.  [With a sort of indulgent contempt]
But he's from the North, they say.

     [FELLOWS has entered, Left.]

HILLCRIST.  Ask Mrs. Hillcrist if she'll come.

FELLOWS.  Very good, sir.

HILLCRIST.  Is Dawker here?

FELLOWS.  Not yet, sir.

HILLCRIST.  I want to see him at once.

     [FELLOWS retires.]

JACKMAN.  Mr. Hornblower said he was comin' on to see you, sir.  So
we thought we'd step along first.

HILLCRIST.  Quite right, Jackman.

MRS. J.  I said to Jackman: "Mr. Hillcrist'll stand up for us, I
know.  He's a gentleman," I said.  "This man," I said, "don't care
for the neighbourhood, or the people; he don't care for anything so
long as he makes his money, and has his importance.  You can't
expect it, I suppose," I said; [Bitterly]  "havin' got rich so
sudden."  The gentry don't do things like that.

HILLCRIST.  [Abstracted]  Quite, Mrs. Jackman, quite!
[To himself]  The Centry!  No!

     [MRS. HILLCRIST enters.  A well-dressed woman, with a firm,
     clear-cut face.]

Oh!  Amy!  Mr. and Mrs. Jackman turned out of their cottage, and
Mrs. Harvey, and the Drews.  When I sold to Hornblower, I stipulated
that they shouldn't be.

MRS. J.  Our week's up on Saturday, ma'am, and I'm sure I don't know
where we shall turn, because of course Jackman must be near his
work, and I shall lose me washin' if we have to go far.

HILLCRIST.  [With decision]  You leave it to me, Mrs. Jackman.  Good
morning!  Morning, Jackman!  Sorry I can't move with this gout.

MRS. J.  [For them both]  I'm sure we're very sorry, sir.  Good
morning, sir.  Good morning, ma'am; and thank you kindly.  [They go
out.]

HILLCRIST.  Turning people out that have been there thirty years.  I
won't have it.  It's a breach of faith.

MRS. H.  Do you suppose this Hornblower will care two straws about
that Jack?

HILLCRIST.  He must, when it's put to him, if he's got any decent
feeling.

MRS. H.  He hasn't.

HILLCRIST.  [Suddenly]  The Jackmans talk of his having bought the
Centry to put up more chimneys.

MRS. H.  Never!  [At the window, looking out]  Impossible!  It would
ruin the place utterly; besides cutting us off from the Duke's.  Oh,
no!  Miss Mullins would never sell behind our backs.

HILLCRIST.  Anyway I must stop his turning these people out.

Mrs. H.  [With a little smile, almost contemptuous]  You might have
known he'd do something of the sort.  You will imagine people are
like yourself, Jack.  You always ought to make Dawker have things in
black and white.

HILLCRIST.  I said quite distinctly: "Of course you won't want to
disturb the tenancies; there's a great shortage of cottages."
Hornblower told me as distinctly that he wouldn't.  What more do you
want?

Mrs. H.  A man like that thinks of nothing but the short cut to his
own way.  [Looking out of the window towards the rise]  If he buys
the Centry and puts up chimneys, we simply couldn't stop here.

HILLCRIST.  My father would turn in his grave.

MRS. H.  It would have been more useful if he'd not dipped the
estate, and sold the Centry.  This Hornblower hates us; he thinks we
turn up our noses at him.

HILLCRIST.  As we do, Amy.

MRS. H.  Who wouldn't?  A man without traditions, who believes in
nothing but money and push.

HILLCRIST.  Suppose he won't budge, can we do anything for the
Jackmans?

MRS. H.  There are the two rooms Beaver used to have, over the
stables.

FELLOWS.  Mr. Dawker, sir.

     [DAWKERS is a short, square, rather red-faced terrier of a man,
     in riding clothes and gaiters.]

HILLCRIST.  Ah! Dawker, I've got gout again.

DAWKER.  Very sorry, sir.  How de do, ma'am?

HILLCRIST.  Did you meet the Jackmans?

DAWKERS.  Yeh.

     [He hardly ever quite finishes a word, seeming to snap of their
     tails.]

HILLCRIST.  Then you heard?

DAWKER.  [Nodding]  Smart man, Hornblower; never lets grass grow.

HILLCRIST.  Smart?

DAWKER.  [Grinning]  Don't do to underrate your neighbours.

MRS. H.  A cad--I call him.

DAWKER.  That's it, ma'am-got all the advantage.

HILLCRIST.  Heard anything about the Centry, Dawker?

DAWKER.  Hornblower wants to buy.

HILLCRIST.  Miss Mullins would never sell, would she?

DAWKER.  She wants to.

HILLCRIST.  The deuce she does!

DAWKER.  He won't stick at the price either.

MRS. H.  What's it worth, Dawker?

DAWKER.  Depends on what you want it for.

MRS. H.  He wants it for spite; we want it for sentiment.

DAWKER.  [Grinning]  Worth what you like to give, then; but he's a
rich man.

MRS. H.  Intolerable!

DAWKER.  [To HILLCRIST]  Give me your figure, sir.  I'll try the old
lady before he gets at her.

HILLCRIST.  [Pondering]  I don't want to buy, unless there's nothing
else for it.  I should have to raise the money on the estate; it
won't stand much more.  I can't believe the fellow would be such a
barbarian.  Chimneys within three hundred yards, right in front of
this house!  It's a nightmare.

MRS. H.  You'd much better let Dawker make sure, Jack.

HILLCRIST.  [Uncomfortable]  Jackman says Hornblower's coming round
to see me.  I shall put it to him.

DAWKER.  Make him keener than ever.  Better get in first.

HILLCRIST.  Ape his methods!--Ugh!  Confound this gout!  [He gets
back to his chair with difficulty]  Look here, Dawker, I wanted to
see you about gates----

FELLOWS.  [Entering]  Mr. Hornblower.

     [HORNBLOWER enters-a man of medium, height, thoroughly
     broadened, blown out, as it were, by success.  He has thick,
     coarse, dark hair, just grizzled, wry bushy eyebrow, a wide
     mouth.  He wears quite ordinary clothes, as if that department
     were in charge of someone who knew about such, things.  He has
     a small rose in his buttonhole, and carries a Homburg hat,
     which one suspects will look too small on his head.]

HORNBLOWER.  Good morning!  good morning!  How are ye, Dawker?  Fine
morning!  Lovely weather!

     [His voice has a curious blend in its tone of brass and oil,
     and an accent not quite Scotch nor quite North country.]

Haven't seen ye for a long time, Hillcrist.

HILLCRIST.  [Who has risen]  Not since I sold you Longmeadow and
those cottages, I believe.

HORNBLOWER.  Dear me, now!  that's what I came about.

HILLCRIST.  [Subsiding again into his chair]  Forgive me!  Won't you
sit down?

HORNBLOWER.  [Not sitting]  Have ye got gout?  That's unfortunate.
I never get it.  I've no disposition that way.  Had no ancestors,
you see.  Just me own drinkin' to answer for.

HILLCRIST.  You're lucky.

HORNBLOWER.  I wonder if Mrs. Hillcrist thinks that!  Am I lucky to
have no past, ma'am?  Just the future?

MRS. H.  You're sure you have the future, Mr. Hornblower?

HORNBLOWER.  [With a laugh]  That's your aristocratic rapier thrust.
You aristocrats are very hard people underneath your manners.  Ye
love to lay a body out.  But I've got the future all right.

HILLCRIST.  [Meaningly] I've had the Dackmans here, Mr. Hornblower.

HORNBLOWER.  Who are they--man with the little spitfire wife?

HILLCRIST.  They're very excellent, good people, and they've been in
that cottage quietly thirty years.

HORNBLOWER.  [Throwing out his forefinger--a favourite gesture]  Ah!
ye've wanted me to stir ye up a bit.  Deepwater needs a bit o' go
put into it.  There's generally some go where I am.  I daresay you
wish there'd been no "come."  [He laughs].

MRS. H.  We certainly like people to keep their word, Mr.
Hornblower.

HILLCRIST.  Amy!

HORNBLOWER.  Never mind, Hillcrist; takes more than that to upset
me.

     [MRS. HILLCRIST exchanges a look with DAWKER who slips out
     unobserved.]

HILLCRIST.  You promised me, you know, not to change the tenancies.

HORNBLOWER.  Well, I've come to tell ye that I have.  I wasn't
expecting to have the need when I bought.  Thought the Duke would
sell me a bit down there; but devil a bit he will; and now I must
have those cottages for my workmen.  I've got important works, ye
know.

HILLCRIST.  [Getting heated]  The Jackmans have their importance
too, sir.  Their heart's in that cottage.

HORNBLOWER.  Have a sense of proportion, man.  My works supply
thousands of people, and my heart's in them.  What's more, they
make my fortune.  I've got ambitions--I'm a serious man.  Suppose I
were to consider this and that, and every little potty objection--
where should I get to?--nowhere!

HILLCRIST.  All the same, this sort of thing isn't done, you know.

HORNBLOWER.  Not by you because ye've got no need to do it.  Here ye
are, quite content on what your fathers made for ye.  Ye've no
ambitions; and ye want other people to have none.  How d'ye think
your fathers got your land?

HILLCRIST.  [Who has risen]  Not by breaking their word.

HORNBLOWER.  [Throwing out his, finger]  Don't ye believe it.  They
got it by breaking their word and turnin' out Jackmans, if that's
their name, all over the place.

MRS. H.  That's an insult, Mr. Hornblower.

HORNBLOWER.  No; it's a repartee.  If ye think so much of these
Jackmans, build them a cottage yourselves; ye've got the space.

HILLCRIST.  That's beside the point.  You promised me, and I sold on
that understanding.

HORNBLOWER.  And I bought on the understandin' that I'd get some
more land from the Duke.

HILLCRIST.  That's nothing to do with me.

HORNBLOWER.  Ye'll find it has; because I'm going to have those
cottages.

HILLCRIST.  Well, I call it simply----

     [He checks himself.]

HORNBLOWER.  Look here, Hillcrist, ye've not had occasion to
understand men like me.  I've got the guts, and I've got the money;
and I don't sit still on it.  I'm going ahead because I believe in
meself.  I've no use for sentiment and that sort of thing.  Forty of
your Jackmans aren't worth me little finger.

HILLCRIST.  [Angry]  Of all the blatant things I ever heard said!

HORNBLOWER.  Well, as we're speaking plainly, I've been thinkin'.
Ye want the village run your oldfashioned way, and I want it run
mine.  I fancy there's not room for the two of us here.

MRS. H.  When are you going?

HORNBLOWER.  Never fear, I'm not going.

HILLCRIST.  Look here, Mr. Hornblower--this infernal gout makes me
irritable--puts me at a disadvantage.  But I should be glad if you'd
kindly explain yourself.

HORNBLOWER.  [With a great smile]  Ca' canny; I'm fra' the North.

HILLCRIST.  I'm told you wish to buy the Centry and put more of your
chimneys up there, regardless of the fact [He Points through the
window]  that it would utterly ruin the house we've had for
generations, and all our pleasure here.

HORNBLOWER.  How the man talks!  Why!  Ye'd think he owned the sky,
because his fathers built him a house with a pretty view, where he's
nothing to do but live.  It's sheer want of something to do that
gives ye your fine sentiments, Hillcrist.


HILLCRIST.  Have the goodness not to charge me with idleness.
Dawker--where is he?----[He shows the bureau]  When you do the
drudgery of your works as thoroughly as I do that of my estate----
Is it true about the Centry?

HORNBLOWER.  Gospel true.  If ye want to know, my son Chearlie is
buyin' it this very minute.

MRS. H.  [Turning with a start]  What do you say?

HORNBLOWER.  Ay, he's with the old lady she wants to sell, an'
she'll get her price, whatever it is.

HILLCRIST.  [With deep anger]  If that isn't a skin game, Mr.
Hornblower, I don't know what is.

HORNBLOWER.  Ah! Ye've got a very nice expression there.  "Skin
game!"  Well, bad words break no bones, an' they're wonderful for
hardenin' the heart.  If it wasn't for a lady's presence, I could
give ye a specimen or two.

MRS. H.  Oh!  Mr. Hornblower, that need not stop you, I'm sure.

HORNBLOWER.  Well, and I don't know that it need.  Ye're an
obstruction--the like of you--ye're in my path.  And anyone in my
path doesn't stay there long; or, if he does, he stays there on my
terms.  And my terms are chimneys in the Centry where I need 'em.
It'll do ye a power of good, too, to know that ye're not almighty.

HILLCRIST.  And that's being neighbourly!

HORNBLOWER.  And how have ye tried bein' neighbourly to me?  If I
haven't a wife, I've got a daughter-in-law.  Have Ye celled on her,
ma'am?  I'm new, and ye're an old family.  Ye don't like me, ye
think I'm a pushin' man.  I go to chapel, an' ye don't like that.
I make things and I sell them, and ye don't like that.  I buy land,
and ye don't like that.  It threatens the view from your windies.
Well, I don't lie you, and I'm not goin' to put up with your
attitude.  Ye've had things your own way too long, and now ye're not
going to have them any longer.

HILLCRIST.  Will you hold to your word over those cottages?

HORNBLOWER.  I'm goin' to have the cottages.  I need them, and more
besides, now I'm to put up me new works.

HILLCRIST.  That's a declaration of war.

HORNBLOWER.  Ye never said a truer word.  It's one or the other of
us, and I rather think it's goin' to be me.  I'm the risin' and
you're the settin' sun, as the poet says.

HILLCRIST.  [Touching the bell]  We shall see if you can ride
rough-shod like this.  We used to have decent ways of going about
things here.  You want to change all that.  Well, we shall do our
damnedest to stop you.  [To FELLOWS at the door]  Are the Jackmans
still in the house?  Ask them to be good enough to come in.

HORNBLOWER.  [With the first sign of uneasiness]  I've seen these
people.  I've nothing more to say to them.  I told 'em I'd give 'em
five pounds to cover their moving.

HILLCRIST.  It doesn't occur to you that people, however humble,
like to have some say in their own fate?

HORNBLOWER.  I never had any say in mine till I had the brass, and
nobody ever will.  It's all hypocrisy.  You county folk are fair
awful hypocrites.  Ye talk about good form and all that sort o'
thing.  It's just the comfortable doctrine of the man in the saddle;
sentimental varnish.  Ye're every bit as hard as I am, underneath.

MRS. H.  [Who had been standing very still all this time]  You
flatter us.

HORNBLOWER.  Not at all.  God helps those who 'elp themselves--
that's at the bottom of all religion.  I'm goin' to help meself, and
God's going to help me.

MRS. H.  I admire your knowledge.

HILLCRIST.  We are in the right, and God helps----

HORNBLOWER.  Don't ye believe it; ye 'aven't got the energy.

MRS. H.  Nor perhaps the conceit.

HORNBLOWER.  [Throwing out his forefinger]  No, no; 'tisn't conceit
to believe in yourself when ye've got reason to.  [The JACKMAN'S
have entered.]

HILLCRIST.  I'm very sorry, Mrs. Jackman, but I just wanted you to
realise that I've done my best with this gentleman.

MRS. J.  [Doubtfully]  Yes, sir.  I thought if you spoke for us,
he'd feel different-like.

HORNBLOWER.  One cottage is the same as another, missis.  I made ye
a fair offer of five pounds for the moving.

JACKMAN.  [Slowly]  We wouldn't take fifty to go out of that 'ouse.
We brought up three children there, an' buried two from it.

MRS. J.  [To MRS. HILLCRIST]  We're attached to it like, ma'am.

HILLCRIST.  [To HORNBLOWER.]  How would you like being turned out of
a place you were fond of?

HORNBLOWER.  Not a bit.  But little considerations have to give way
to big ones.  Now, missis, I'll make it ten pounds, and I'll send a
wagon to shift your things.  If that isn't fair--!  Ye'd better
accept, I shan't keep it open.

     [The JACKMANS look at each other; their faces show deep anger--
     and the question they ask each other is which will speak.]

MRS. J.  We won't take it; eh, George?

JACKMAN.  Not a farden.  We come there when we was married.

HORNBLOWER.  [Throwing out his finger]  Ye're very improvident folk.

HILLCRIST.  Don't lecture them, Mr. Hornblower; they come out of
this miles above you.

HORNBLOWER. [Angry]  Well, I was going to give ye another week, but
ye'll go out next Saturday; and take care ye're not late, or your
things'll be put out in the rain.

MRS. H.  [To MRS. JACKMAN]  We'll send down for your things, and you
can come to us for the time being.

     [MRS. JACKMAN drops a curtsey; her eyes stab HORNBLOWERS.]

JACKMAN.  [Heavily, clenching his fists]  You're no gentleman!
Don't put temptation in my way, that's all,

HILLCRIST.  [In a low voice]  Jackman!

HORNBLOWER.  [Triumphantly]  Ye hear that?  That's your protegee!
Keep out o' my way, me man, or I'll put the police on to ye for
utterin' threats.

HILLCRIST.  You'd better go now, Jackman.

     [The JACKMANS move to the door.]

MRS. J.  [Turning]  Maybe you'll repent it some day, sir.

     [They go out, MRS. HILLCRIST following.]

HORNBLOWER.  We-ell, I'm sorry they're such unreasonable folk.  I
never met people with less notion of which side their bread was
buttered.

HILLCRIST.  And I never met anyone so pachydermatous.

HORNBLOWER.  What's that, in Heaven's name?  Ye needn' wrap it up in
long words now your good lady's gone.

HILLCRIST.  [With dignity]  I'm not going in for a slanging match.
I resent your conduct much too deeply.

HORNBLOWER. Look here, Hillcrist, I don't object to you personally;
ye seem to me a poor creature that's bound to get left with your
gout and your dignity; but of course ye can make yourself very
disagreeable before ye're done.  Now I want to be the movin' spirit
here.  I'm full of plans.  I'm goin' to stand for Parliament; I'm
goin' to make this a prosperous place.  I'm a good-matured man if
you'll treat me as such.  Now, you take me on as a neighbour and all
that, and I'll manage without chimneys on the Centry.  Is it a
bargain?  [He holds out his hand.]

HILLCRIST.  [Ignoring it]  I thought you said you didn't keep your
word when it suited you to break it?

HORNBLOWER.  Now, don't get on the high horse.  You and me could be
very good friends; but I can be a very nasty enemy.  The chimneys
will not look nice from that windie, ye know.

HILLCRIST.  [Deeply angry]  Mr. Hornblower, if you think I'll take
your hand after this Jackman business, you're greatly mistaken.  You
are proposing that I shall stand in with you while you tyrannise
over the neighbourhood.  Please realise that unless you leave those
tenancies undisturbed as you said you would, we don't know each
other.

HORNBLOWER.  Well, that won't trouble me much.  Now, ye'd better
think it over; ye've got gout and that makes ye hasty.  I tell ye
again: I'm not the man to make an enemy of.  Unless ye're friendly,
sure as I stand here I'll ruin the look of your place.

     [The toot of a car is heard.]

There's my car.  I sent Chearlie and his wife in it to buy the
Centry.  And make no mistake--he's got it in his packet.  It's your
last chance, Hillcrist.  I'm not averse to you as a man; I think
ye're the best of the fossils round here; at least, I think ye can
do me the most harm socially.  Come now!

     [He holds out his hand again.]

HILLCRIST.  Not if you'd bought the Centry ten times over.  Your
ways are not mine, and I'll have nothing to do with you.

HORNBLOWER.  [Very angry]  Really!  Is that so?  Very well.  Now
ye're goin' to learn something, an' it's time ye did.  D'ye realise
that I'm 'very nearly round ye?  [He draws a circle slowly in the
air]  I'm at Uphill, the works are here, here's Longmeadow, here's
the Centry that I've just bought, there's only the Common left to
give ye touch with the world.  Now between you and the Common
there's the high road.

I come out on the high road here to your north, and I shall come out
on it there to your west.  When I've got me new works up on the
Centry, I shall be makin' a trolley track between the works up to
the road at both ends, so any goods will be running right round ye.
How'll ye like that for a country place?

     [For answer HILLCRIST, who is angry beyond the power of speech,
     walks, forgetting to use his stick, up to the French window.
     While he stands there, with his back to HORNBLOWER, the door L.
     is flung open, and Jim enters, preceding CHARLES, his wife
     CHLOE, and ROLF.  CHARLES is a goodish-looking, moustached
     young man of about twenty-eight, with a white rim to the collar
     of his waistcoat, and spats.  He has his hand behind CHLOE'S
     back, as if to prevent her turning tail.  She is rather a
     handsome young woman, with dark eyes, full red lips, and a
     suspicion of powder, a little under-dressed for the country.
     ROLF, mho brings up the rear, is about twenty, with an open
     face and stiffish butter-coloured hair.  JILL runs over to her
     father at the window.  She has a bottle.]

JILL.  [Sotto voce]  Look, Dodo, I've brought the lot!  Isn't it a
treat, dear Papa?  And here's the stuff.  Hallo!

     [The exclamation is induced by the apprehension that there has
     been a row.  HILLCRIST gives a stiff little bow, remaining
     where he is in the window.  JILL, stays close to him, staring
     from one to the other, then blocks him off and engages him in
     conversation.  CHARLES has gone up to his father, who has
     remained maliciously still, where he delivered his last speech.
     CHLOE and ROLF stand awkwardly waiting between the fireplace
     and the door.]

HORNBLOWER.  Well, Chearlie?

CHARLES.  Not got it.

HORNBLOWER.  Not!

CHARLES.  I'd practically got her to say she'd sell at three
thousand five hundred, when that fellow Dawker turned up.

HORNBLOWER.  That bull-terrier of a chap!  Why, he was here a while
ago.  Oh--ho!  So that's it!

CHARLES.  I heard him gallop up.  He came straight for the old lady,
and got her away.  What he said I don't know; but she came back
looking wiser than an owl; said she'd think it over, thought she had
other views.

HORNBLOWER.  Did ye tell her she might have her price?

CHARLES.  Practically I did.

HORNBLOWER.  Well?

CHARLES.  She thought it would be fairer to put it up to auction.
There were other enquiries.  Oh!  She's a leery old bird--reminds me
of one of those pictures of Fate, don't you know.

HORNBLOWER.  Auction!  Well, if it's not gone we'll get it yet.
That damned little Dawker!  I've had a row with Hillcrist.

CHARLES.  I thought so.

     [They are turning cautiously to look at HILLCRIST, when JILL
     steps forward.]

JILL.  [Flushed and determined]  That's not a bit sporting of you,
Mr. Hornblower.

     [At her words ROLE comes forward too.]

HORNBLOWER.  Ye should hear both sides before ye say that, missy.

JILL.  There isn't another side to turning out the Jackmans after
you'd promised.

HORNBLOWER.  Oh!  dear me, yes.  They don't matter a row of
gingerbread to the schemes I've got for betterin' this neighbourhood.

JILL.  I had been standing up for you; now I won't.

HOUNBLOWER.  Dear, dear!  What'll become of me?

JILL.  I won't say anything about the other thing because I think
it's beneath, dignity to notice it.  But to turn poor people out of
their cottages is a shame.

HORNBLOWER.  Hoity me!

ROLF. [Suddenly]  You haven't been doing that, father?

CHARLES.  Shut up, Rolf!

HORNBLOWER.  [Turning on ROLF]  Ha!  Here's a league o' Youth!  My
young whipper-snapper, keep your mouth shut and leave it to your
elders to know what's right.

     [Under the weight of this rejoinder ROLF stands biting his
     lips.  Then he throws his head up.]

ROLF.  I hate it!

HORNBLOWER.  [With real venom]  Oh!  Ye hate it?  Ye can get out of
my house, then.

JILL.  Free speech, Mr. Hornblower; don't be violent.

HORNBLOWER.  Ye're right, young lady.  Ye can stay in my house,
Rolf, and learn manners.  Come, Chearlie!

JILL.  [Quite softly]  Mr. Hornblower!

HILLCRIST.  [From the window]  Jill!

JILL.  [Impatiently]  Well, what's the good of it?  Life's too short
for rows, and too jolly!

ROLF.  Bravo!

HORNBLOWER.  [Who has shown a sign of weakening]  Now, look here!
I will not have revolt in my family.  Ye'll just have to learn that
a man who's worked as I have, who's risen as I have, and who knows
the world, is the proper judge of what's right and wrong.  I'll
answer to God for me actions, and not to you young people.

JILL.  Poor God!

HORNBLOWER.  [Genuinely shocked]  Ye blasphemous young thing!  [To
ROLF]  And ye're just as bad, ye young freethinker.  I won't have
it.

HILLCRIST.  [Who has come down, Right]  Jill, I wish you would
kindly not talk.

JILL.  I can't help it.

CHARLES.  [Putting his arm through HORNBLOWER'S]  Come along,
father!  Deeds, not words.

HORNBLOWER.  Ay! Deeds!

     [MRS. HILLCRIST and DAWKERS have entered by the French window.]

MRS. H.  Quite right!

     [They all turn and look at her.]

HORNBLOWER.  Ah!  So ye put your dog on to it.  [He throws out his
finger at DAWKERS]  Very smart, that--I give ye credit.

MRS. H.  [Pointing to CHLOE, who has stood by herself, forgotten and
uncomfortable throughout the scene]
May I ask who this lady is?

     [CHLOE turns round startled, and her vanity bag slips down her
     dress to the floor.]

HORNBLOWER.  No, ma'am, ye may not, for ye know perfectly well.

JILL.  I brought her in, mother [She moves to CHLOE's side.]

MRS. H.  Will you take her out again, then.

HILLCRIST.  Amy, have the goodness to remember----

MRS. H.  That this is my house so far as ladies are concerned.

JILL.  Mother!

     [She looks astonished at CHLOE, who, about to speak, does not,
     passing her eyes, with a queer, half-scarred expression, from
     MRS. HILLCRIST to DAWKER.]

     [To CHLOE]  I'm awfully sorry.  Come on!

     [They go out, Left.  ROLF hurries after them.]

CHARLES.  You've insulted my wife.  Why?  What do you mean by it?

     [MRS. HILLCRIST simply smiles.]

HILLCRIST.  I apologise.  I regret extremely.  There is no reason
why the ladies of your family or of mine should be involved in our
quarrel.  For Heaven's sake, let's fight like gentlemen.

HORNBLOWER.  Catchwords--sneers!  No; we'll play what ye call a skin
game, Hillcrist, without gloves on; we won't spare each other.  Ye
look out for yourselves, for, begod, after this morning I mean
business.  And as for you, Dawker, ye sly dog, ye think yourself
very clever; but I'll have the Centry yet.  Come, Chearlie!

     [They go out, passing JILL, who is coming in again, in the
     doorway.]

HILLCRIST.  Well, Dawker?

DAWKER.  [Grinning]  Safe for the moment.  The old lady'll put it up
to auction.  Couldn't get her to budge from that.  Says she don't
want to be unneighbourly to either.  But, if you ask me, it's money
she smells!

JILL.  [Advancing]  Now, mother

MRS. H.  Well?

JILL.  Why did you insult her?

MRS. H.  I think I only asked you to take her out.

JILL.  Why?  Even if she is Old Combustion's daughter-in-law?

MRS. H.  My dear Jill, allow me to judge the sort of acquaintances I
wish to make.  [She looks at DAWKER.]

JILL.  She's all right.  Lots of women powder and touch up their
lips nowadays.  I think she's rather a good sort; she was awfully
upset.

MRS. H.  Too upset.

JILL.  Oh!  don't be so mysterious, mother.  If you know something,
do spit it out!

MRS. H.  Do you wish me to--er--"spit it out," Jack?

HILLCRIST.  Dawker,  if you don't mind----

     [DAWKER, with a nod, passes away out of the French window.]

Jill, be respectful, and don't talk like a bargee.

JILL.  It's no good, Dodo.  It made me ashamed.  It's just as--as
caddish to insult people who haven't said a word, in your own house,
as it is to be--old Hornblower.

MRS. H.  You don't know what you're talking about.

HILLCRIST.  What's the matter with young Mrs. Hornblower?

MRS. H.  Excuse me, I shall keep my thoughts to myself at present.

     [She looks coldly at JILL, and goes out through the French
     window.]

HILLCRIST.  You've thoroughly upset your mother, Jill.

JILL.  It's something Dawker's told her; I saw them.  I don't like
Dawker, father, he's so common.

HILLCRIST.  My dear, we can't all be uncommon.  He's got lots of go,
You must apologise to your mother.

JILL.  [Shaking-her clubbed hair]  They'll make you do things you
don't approve of, Dodo, if you don't look out.  Mother's fearfully
bitter when she gets her knife in.  If old Hornblower's disgusting,
it's no reason we should be.

HILLCRIST.  So you think I'm capable--that's nice, Jill!

JILL.  No, no, darling!  I only want to warn you solemnly that
mother'll tell you you're fighting fair, no matter what she and
Dawker do.

HILLCRIST.  [Smiling]  Jill, I don't think I ever saw you so
serious.

JILL.  No.  Because--[She swallows a lump in her throat]  Well--I
was just beginning to enjoy, myself; and now--everything's going to
be bitter and beastly, with mother in that mood.  That horrible old
man!  Oh, Dodo!  Don't let them make you horrid!  You're such a
darling.  How's your gout, ducky?

HILLCRIST.  Better; lot better.

JILL.  There, you see!  That shows!  It's going to be half-interesting
for you, but not for--us.

HILLCRIST.  Look here, Jill--is there anything between you and young
what's-his-name--Rolf?

JILL.  [Biting her lip]  No.  But--now it's all spoiled.

HILLCRIST.  You can't expect me to regret that.

JILL.  I don't mean any tosh about love's young dream; but I do like
being friends.  I want to enjoy things, Dodo, and you can't do that
when everybody's on the hate.  You're going to wallow in it, and so
shall I--oh!  I know I shall!--we shall all wallow, and think of
nothing but "one for his nob."

HILLCRIST.  Aren't you fond of your home?

JILL.  Of course.  I love it.

HILLCRIST.  Well, you won't be able to live in it unless we stop
that ruffian.  Chimneys and smoke, the trees cut down, piles of
pots.  Every kind of abomination.  There!  [He points]  Imagine!
[He points through the French window, as if he could see those
chimneys rising and marring the beauty of the fields]  I was born
here, and my father, and his, and his, and his.  They loved those
fields, and those old trees.  And this barbarian, with his
"improvement" schemes, forsooth!  I learned to ride in the Centry
meadows--prettiest spring meadows in the world; I've climbed every
tree there.  Why my father ever sold----!  But who could have
imagined this?  And come at a bad moment, when money's scarce.

JILL.  [Cuddling his arm]  Dodo!

HILLCRIST.  Yes.  But you don't love the place as I do, Jill.  You
youngsters don't love anything, I sometimes think.

JILL.  I do, Dodo, I do!

HILLCRIST.  You've got it all before you.  But you may live your
life and never find anything so good and so beautiful as this old
home.  I'm not going to have it spoiled without a fight.

     [Conscious of batting betrayed Sentiment, he walks out at the
     French window, passing away to the right.  JILL following to
     the window, looks.  Then throwing back her head, she clasps her
     hands behind it.]

JILL.  Oh--oh-oh!

     [A voice behind her says, "JILL!"  She turns and starts back,
     leaning against the right lintel of the window.  ROLF appears
     outside the window from Left.]

Who goes there?

ROLE.  [Buttressed against the Left lintel]  Enemy--after Chloe's
bag.

JILL.  Pass, enemy!  And all's ill!

     [ROLF passes through the window, and retrieves the vanity bag
     from the floor where CHLOE dropped it, then again takes his
     stand against the Left lintel of the French window.]

ROLF.  It's not going to make any difference, is it?

JILL.  You know it is.

ROLF.  Sins of the fathers.

JILL.  Unto the third and fourth generations.  What sin has my
father committed?

ROLF.  None, in a way; only, I've often told you I don't see why you
should treat us as outsiders.  We don't like it.

JILL.  Well, you shouldn't be, then; I mean, he shouldn't be.

ROLF.  Father's just as human as your father; he's wrapped up in us,
and all his "getting on" is for us.  Would you like to be treated as
your mother treated Chloe?  Your mother's set the stroke for the
other big-wigs about here; nobody calls on Chloe.  And why not?  Why
not?  I think it's contemptible to bar people just because they're
new, as you call it, and have to make their position instead of
having it left them.

JILL.  It's not because they're new, it's because--if your father
behaved like a gentleman, he'd be treated like one.

ROLF.  Would he?  I don't believe it.  My father's a very able man;
he thinks he's entitled to have influence here.  Well, everybody
tries to keep him down.  Oh!  yes, they do.  That makes him mad and
more determined than ever to get his way.  You ought to be just,
Jill.

JILL.  I am just.

ROLF.  No, you're not.  Besides, what's it got to do with Charlie
and Chloe?  Chloe's particularly harmless.  It's pretty sickening
for her.  Father didn't expect people to call until Charlie married,
but since----

JILL.  I think it's all very petty.

ROLF.  It is--a dog-in-the-manger business; I did think you were
above it.

JILL.  How would you like to have your home spoiled?

ROLE.  I'm not going to argue.  Only things don't stand still.
Homes aren't any more proof against change than anything else.

JILL.  All right!  You come and try and take ours.

ROLF.  We don't want to take your home.

JILL.  Like the Jackmans'?

ROLF.  All right.  I see you're hopelessly prejudiced.

     [He turns to go.]

JILL.  [Just as he is vanishing--softly]  Enemy?

ROLF.  [Turning]  Yes, enemy.

JILL.  Before the battle--let's shake hands.

     [They move from the lintels and grasp each other's hands in the
     centre of the French window.]


                              CURTAIN




ACT II


SCENE I

     A billiard room in a provincial hotel, where things are bought
     and sold.  The scene is set well forward, and is not very
     broad; it represents the auctioneer's end of the room, having,
     rather to stage Left, a narrow table with two chairs facing the
     audience, where the auctioneer will sit and stand.  The table,
     which is set forward to the footlights, is littered with
     green-covered particulars of sale.  The audience are in effect
     public and bidders.  There is a door on the Left, level with the
     table.  Along the back wall, behind the table, are two raised
     benches with two steps up to them, such as billiard rooms often
     have, divided by a door in the middle of a wall, which is
     panelled in oak.  Late September sunlight is coming from a
     skylight (not visible) on to these seats.  The stage is empty
     when the curtain goes up, but DAWKERS, and MRS. HILLCRIST are
     just entering through the door at the back.

DAWKER.  Be out of their way here, ma'am.  See old Hornblower with
Chearlie?

     [He points down to the audience.]

MRS. H.  It begins at three, doesn't it?

DAWKER.  They won't be over-punctual; there's only the Centry
selling.  There's young Mrs. Hornblower with the other boy--
[Pointing]  over at the entrance.  I've got that chap I told you of
down from town.

MRS. H.  Ah! make sure quite of her, Dawker.  Any mistake would be
fatal.

DAWKER.  [Nodding]  That's right, ma'am.  Lot of peopled--always
spare time to watch an auction--ever remark that?  The Duke's
agent's here; shouldn't be surprised if he chipped in.

MRS. H.  Where did you leave my husband?

DAWKER.  With Miss Jill, in the courtyard.  He's coming to you.  In
case I miss him; tell him when I reach his limit to blow his nose if
he wants me to go on; when he blows it a second time, I'll stop for
good.  Hope we shan't get to that.  Old Hornblower doesn't throw his
money away.

MRS. H.  What limit did you settle?

DAWKER.  Six thousand!

MRS. H.  That's a fearful price.  Well, good luck to you, Dawker!

DAWKER.  Good luck, ma'am.  I'll go and see to that little matter of
Mrs. Chloe.  Never fear, we'll do them is somehow.

     [He winks, lays his finger on the side of his nose, and goes
     out at the door.]

     [MRS. HILLCRIST mounts the two steps, sits down Right of the
     door, and puts up a pair of long-handled glasses.  Through the
     door behind her come CHLOE and ROLF.  She makes a sign for him
     to go, and shuts the door.]

CHLOE.  [At the foot of the steps in the gangway--with a slightly
common accent]  Mrs. Hillcrist!

MRS. H.  [Not quite starting]  I beg your pardon?

CHLOE.  [Again]  Mrs. Hillcrist----

MRS. H.  Well?

CHLOE.  I never did you any harm.

MRS. H.  Did I ever say you did?

CHLOE.  No; but you act as if I had.

MRS. H.  I'm not aware that I've acted at all--as yet.  You are
nothing to me, except as one of your family.

CHLOE.  'Tisn't I that wants to spoil your home.

MRS. H.  Stop them then.  I see your husband down there with his
father.

CHLOE.  I--I have tried.

MRS. H.  [Looking at her]  Oh!  I suppose such men don't pay
attention to what women ask them.

CHLOE.  [With a flash of spirit]  I'm fond of my husband.  I----

MRS. H.  [Looking at her steadily]  I don't quite know why you spoke
to me.

CHLOE.  [With a sort of pathetic sullenness]  I only thought perhaps
you'd like to treat me as a human being.

MRS. H.  Really, if you don't mind, I should like to be left alone
just now.

CHLOE.  [Unhappily acquiescent]  Certainly!  I'll go to the other
end.

     [She moves to the Left, mounts the steps and sits down.]

     [ROLF, looking in through the door, and seeing where she is,
     joins her.  MRS. HILLCRIST resettles herself a little further
     in on the Right.]

ROLF.  [Bending over to CHLOE, after a glance at MRS. HILLCRIST.]
Are you all right?

CHLOE.  It's awfully hot.

     [She fans herself wide the particulars of sale.]

ROLF.  There's Dawker.  I hate that chap!

CHLOE.  Where?

ROLF.  Down there; see?

     [He points down to stage Right of the room.]

CHLOE.  [Drawing back in her seat with a little gasp]  Oh!

ROLF.  [Not noticing]  Who's that next him, looking up here?

CHLOE.  I don't know.

     [She has raised her auction programme suddenly, and sits
     fanning herself, carefully screening her face.]

ROLE.  [Looking at her]  Don't you feel well?  Shall I get you some
water?  [He gets up at her nod.]

     [As he reaches the door, HILLCRIST and JILL come in.  HILLCRIST
     passes him abstractedly with a nod, and sits down beside his
     wife.]

JILL.  [To ROLF]  Come to see us turned out?

ROLF.  [Emphatically]  No.  I'm looking after Chloe; she's not well.

JILL.  [Glancing at her]  Sorry.  She needn't have come, I suppose?
     [RALF deigns no answer, and goes out.]

     [JILL glances at CHLOE, then at her parents talking in low
     voices, and sits down next her father, who makes room for her.]

MRS. H.  Can Dawker see you there, Jack?

     [HILLCRIST nods.]

What's the time?

HILLCRIST.  Three minutes to three.

JILL.  Don't you feel beastly all down the backs of your legs.
Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  Yes.

JILL.  Do you, mother?

MRS. H.  No.

JILL.  A wagon of old Hornblower's pots passed while we were in the
yard.  It's an omen.

MRS. H.  Don't be foolish, Jill.

JILL.  Look at the old brute!  Dodo, hold my hand.

MRS. H.  Make sure you've got a handkerchief, Jack.

HILLCRIST.  I can't go beyond the six thousand; I shall have to
raise every penny on mortgage as it is.  The estate simply won't
stand more, Amy.

     [He feels in his breast pocket, and pulls up the edge of his
     handkerchief.]

JILL.  Oh! Look!  There's Miss Mullins, at the back; just come in.
Isn't she a spidery old chip?

MRS. H.  Come to gloat.  Really, I think her not accepting your
offer is disgusting.  Her impartiality is all humbug.

HILLCRIST.  Can't blame her for getting what she can--it's human
nature.  Phew!  I used to feel like this before a 'viva voce'.
Who's that next to Dawker?

JILL.  What a fish!

MRS. H.  [To herself]  Ah!  yes.

     [Her eyes slide round at CHLOE, silting motionless and rather
     sunk in her seat, slowly fanning herself with they particulars
     of the sale.  Jack, go and offer her my smelling salts.]

HILLCRIST.  [Taking the salts]  Thank God for a human touch!

MRS. H.  [Taken aback]  Oh!

JILL.  [With a quick look at her mother, snatching the salts]  I
will.  [She goes over to CHLOE with the salts]  Have a sniff; you
look awfully white.

CHLOE.  [Looking up, startled]  Oh!  no thanks.  I'm all right.

JILL.  No, do!  You must.  [CHLOE takes them.]

JILL.  D'you mind letting me see that a minute?

     [She takes the particulars of the sale and studies it, but
     CHLOE has buried the lower part of her face in her hand and the
     smelling salts bottle.]

Beastly hot, isn't it?  You'd better keep that.

CHLOE.  [Her dark eyes wandering and uneasy]  Rolf's getting me some
water.

JILL.  Why do you stay?  You didn't want to come, did you?

     [CHLOE shakes her head.]

All right!  Here's your water.

     [She hands back the particulars and slides over to her seat,
     passing ROLF in the gangway, with her chin well up.]

     [MRS. HILLCRIST, who has watched CHLOE and JILL and DAWKER, and
     his friend, makes an enquiring movement with her hand, but gets
     a disappointing answer.]

JILL.  What's the time, Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  [Looking at his watch]  Three minutes past.

JILL.  [Sighing]  Oh, hell!

HILLCRIST.  Jill!

JILL.  Sorry, Dodo.  I was only thinking.  Look!  Here he is!
Phew!--isn't he----?

MRS. H.  'Sh!

     The AUCTIONEER comes in Left and goes to the table.  He is a
     square, short, brown-faced, common looking man, with clipped
     grey hair fitting him like a cap, and a clipped grey moustache.
     His lids come down over his quick eyes, till he can see you
     very sharply, and you can hardly see that he can see you. He
     can break into a smile at any moment, which has no connection
     with him, as it were.  By a certain hurt look, however, when
     bidding is slow, he discloses that he is not merely an
     auctioneer, but has in him elements of the human being.  He can
     wink with anyone, and is dressed in a snug-brown suit, with a
     perfectly unbuttoned waistcoat, a low, turned down collar, and
     small black and white sailor knot tie.  While he is settling
     his papers, the HILLCRISTS settle themselves tensely.  CHLOE
     has drunk her water and leaned back again, with the smelling
     salts to her nose.  ROLF leans forward in the seat beside her,
     looking sideways at JILL.  A SOLICITOR, with a grey beard, has
     joined the AUCTIONEER, at his table.

AUCTIONEER.  [Tapping the table]  Sorry to disappoint you,
gentlemen, but I've only one property to offer you to-day, No. 1,
The Centry, Deepwater.  The second on the particulars has been
withdrawn.  The third that's Bidcot, desirable freehold mansion and
farmlands in the Parish of Kenway--we shall have to deal with next
week.  I shall be happy to sell it you then with out reservation.
[He looks again through the particulars in his hand, giving the
audience time to readjust themselves to his statements]  Now,
gen'lemen, as I say, I've only the one property to sell.  Freehold
No. 1--all that very desirable corn and stock-rearing and parklike
residential land known as the Centry, Deepwater, unique property an
A.1.  chance to an A.1.  audience. [With his smile]  Ought to make
the price of the three we thought we had.  Now you won't mind
listening to the conditions of sale; Mr. Blinkard'll read 'em, and
they won't wirry you, they're very short.

     [He sits down and gives two little tape on the table.]

     [The SOLICITOR rises and reads the conditions of sale in a
     voice which no one practically can hear.  Just as he begins to
     read these conditions of sale, CHARLES HORNBLOWER enters at
     back.  He stands a moment, glancing round at the HILLCRIST and
     twirling his moustache, then moves along to his wife and
     touches her.]

CHARLES.  Chloe, aren't you well?

     [In the start which she gives, her face is fully revealed to
     the audience.]

CHARLES.  Come along, out of the way of these people.

     [He jerks his head towards the HILLCRISTS.  CHLOE gives a swift
     look down to the stage Right of the audience.]

CHLOE.  No; I'm all right; it's hotter there.

CHARLES.  [To ROLF]  Well, look after her--I must go back.

     [ROLF node.  CHARLES, slides bank to the door, with a glance at
     the HILLCRISTS, of whom MRS. HILLCRIST has been watching like a
     lynx.  He goes out, just as the SOLICITOR, finishing, sits
     down.]

AUCTIONEER.  [Rising and tapping]  Now, gen'lemen, it's not often a
piece of land like this comes into the market.  What's that?  [To a
friend in front of him]  No better land in Deepwater--that's right,
Mr. Spicer.  I know the village well, and a charming place it is;
perfect locality, to be sure.  Now I don't want to wirry you by
singing the praises of this property; there it is--well-watered,
nicely timbered--no reservation of the timber, gen'lemen--no tenancy
to hold you up; free to do what you like with it to-morrow.  You've
got a jewel of a site there, too; perfect position for a house.  It
lies between the Duke's and Squire Hillcrist's--an emerald isle.
[With his smile]  No allusion to Ireland, gen'lemen--perfect peace
in the Centry.  Nothing like it in the county--a gen'leman's site,
and you don't get that offered you every day.  [He looks down
towards HORNBLOWER, stage Left]  Carries the mineral rights, and as
you know, perhaps, there's the very valuable Deepwater clay there.
What am I to start it at?  Can I say three thousand?  Well, anything
you like to give me.  I'm sot particular.  Come now, you've got more
time than me, I expect.  Two hundred acres of first-rate grazin' and
cornland, with a site for a residence unequalled in the county; and
all the possibilities!  Well, what shall I say?

     [Bid from SPICER.]

Two thousand? [With his smile]  That won't hurt you, Mr. Spicer.
Why, it's worth that to overlook the Duke.  For two thousand?

     [Bid from HORNBLOWER, stage Left.]

And five. Thank you, sir. Two thousand five hundred bid.

     [To a friend just below him.]

Come, Mr. Sandy, don't scratch your head over it.

     [Bid from DAWKER, Stage Right.]

And five.  Three thousand bid for this desirable property.  Why,
you'd think it wasn't desirable.  Come along, gen'lemen.  A little
spirit.

     [A alight pause.]

JILL. Why can't I see the bids, Dodo?

HILLCRIST. The last was Dawker's.

AUCTIONEER.  For three thousand. [HORNBLOWER]  Three thousand five
hundred?  May I say--four? [A bid from the centre] No, I'm not
particular; I'll take hundreds. Three thousand six hundred bid.
[HORNBLOWER] And seven.  Three thousand seven hundred, and----

     [He pauses, quartering the audience.]

JILL. Who was that, Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  Hornblower.  It's the Duke in the centre.

AUCTIONEER.  Come, gen'lemen, don't keep me all day.  Four thousand
may I say? [DAWKER]  Thank you.  We're beginning.  And one? [A bid
from the centre]  Four thousand one hundred. [HORNBLOWER]  Four
thousand two hundred.  May I have yours, sir? [To DAWKER]  And
three.  Four thousand three hundred bid.  No such site in the
county, gen'lemen. I'm going to sell this land for what it's worth.
You can't bid too much for me.  [He smiles] [HORNBLOWER]  Four
thousand five hundred bid.  [Bid from the centre] And six. [DAWKER]
And seven. [HORNBLOWER]  And eight.  Nine, may I say?  [But the
centre has dried up]  [DAWKER]  And nine. [HORNBLOWER]  Five
thousand.  Five thousand bid. That's better; there's some spirit in
it.  For five thousand.

     [He pauses while he speak& to the SOLICITOR]

HILLCRIST.  It's a duel now.

AUCTIONEER.  Now, gen'lemen, I'm not going to give this property
away. Five thousand bid. [DAWKER]  And one. [HORNBLOWER]  And two.
[DAWKER]  And three.  Five thousand three hundred bid.  And five,
did you say, sir?  [HORNBLOWER]  Five thousand five hundred bid.

     [He looks at hip particulars.]

JILL. [Rather agonised] Enemy, Dodo.

AUCTIONEER. This chance may never come again.

     "How you'll regret it
     If you don't get it,"

as the poet says. May I say five thousand six hundred, sir?
[DAWKER]  Five thousand six hundred bid. [HORNBLOWER]  And seven.
[DAWKER]  And eight.  For five thousand eight hundred pounds.  We're
gettin' on, but we haven't got the value yet.

[A slight pause, while he wipes his brow at the success of his own
efforts.]

JILL.  Us, Dodo?

     [HILLCRIST nods.   JILL looks over at ROLF, whose face is
     grimly set.  CHLOE has never moved. MRS. HILLCRIST whispers to
     her husband.]

AUCTIONEER.  Five thousand eight hundred bid.  For five thousand
eight hundred.  Come along, gen'lemen, come along.  We're not
beaten.  Thank you, sir.  [HORNBLOWER]  Five thousand nine hundred.
And--?  [DAWKER]  Six thousand.  Six thousand bid.  Six thousand
bid.  For six thousand!  The Centry--most desirable spot in the
county--going for the low price of six thousand.

HILLCRIST.  [Muttering]  Low!  Heavens!

AUCTIONEER.  Any advance on six thousand?  Come, gen'lemen, we
haven't dried up?  A little spirit.  Six thousand?  For six
thousand?  For six thousand pounds?  Very well, I'm selling.  For
six thousand once--[He taps]  For six thousand twice--[He taps].

JILL.  [Low]  Oh!  we've got it!

AUCTIONEER.  And one, sir? [HORNBLOWER]  Six thousand one hundred
bid.

     [The SOLICITOR touches his arm and says something, to which the
     AUCTIONEER responds with a nod.]

MRS. H.  Blow your nose, Jack.

     [HILLCRIST blows his nose.]

AUCTIONEER.  For six thousand one hundred.  [DAWKER]  And two.
Thank you.  [HORNBLOWER]  And three.  For six thousand three
hundred.  [DAWKER]  And four.  For six thousand four hundred pounds.
This coveted property.  For six thousand four hundred pounds. Why,
it's giving it away, gen'lemen.  [A pause.]

MRS. H.  Giving!

AUCTIONEER.  Six thousand four hundred bid.  [HORNBLOWER]  And five.
[DAWKER]  And six.  [HORNBLOWER]  And seven.  [DAWKER]  And eight.

     [A pause, during which, through the door Left, someone beckons
     to the SOLICITOR, who rises and confers.]

HILLCRIST.  [Muttering]  I've done if that doesn't get it.

AUCTIONEER.  For six thousand eight hundred.  For six thousand eight
hundred-once--[He taps]  twice--[He tape]  For the last time.  This
dominating site.  [HORNBLOWER]  And nine.  Thank you.  For six
thousand nine hundred.

     [HILLCRIST  has taken out his handkerchief.]

JILL.  Oh! Dodo!

MRS. H.  [Quivering]  Don't give in!

AUCTIONEER.  Seven thousand may I say?  [DAWKER]  Seven thousand.

MRS. H.  [Whispers] Keep it down; don't show him.

AUCTIONEER.  For seven-thousand--going for seven thousand--once--
[Taps] twice [Taps] [HORNBLOWER]  And one.  Thank you, sir.

     [HILLCRIST blows his nose.  JILL, with a choke, leans back in
     her seat and folds her arms tightly on her chest.  MRS.
     HILLCRIST passes her handkerchief over her lips, sitting
     perfectly still.  HILLCRIST, too, is motionless.]

     [The AUCTIONEER, has paused, and is talking to the SOLICITOR,
     who has returned to his seat.]

MRS. H.  Oh!  Jack.

JILL.  Stick it, Dodo; stick it!

AUCTIONEER.  Now, gen'lemen, I have a bid of seven thousand one
hundred for the Centry.  And I'm instructed to sell if I can't get
more.  It's a fair price, but not a big price.  [To his friend MR.
SPICER]  A thumpin' price?  [With his smile]  Well, you're a judge
of thumpin', I admit.  Now, who'll give me seven thousand two
hundred?  What, no one?  Well, I can't make you, gen'lemen.  For
seven thousand one hundred.  Once--[Taps] Twice--[Taps].

     [JILL utters a little groan.]

HILLCRIST.  [Suddenly, in a queer voice] Two.

AUCTIONEER.  [Turning with surprise and looking up to receive
HILLCRIST'S nod]  Thank you, sir.  And two.  Seven thousand two
hundred. [He screws himself round so as to command both HILLCRIST
and HORNBLOWER]  May I have yours, sir?  [HORNBLOWER] And three.
[HILLCRIST]  And four.  Seven thousand four hundred.  For seven
thousand four hundred.  [HORNBLOWER] Five.  [HILLCRIST] Six.  For
seven thousand six hundred. [A pause]  Well, gen'lemen, this is.
better, but a record property shid fetch a record price.  The
possibilities are enormous.  [HORNBLOWER]  Eight thousand did you
say, sir?  Eight thousand.  Going for eight thousand pounds.
[HILLCRIST]  And one.  [HORNBLOWER] And two.  [HILLCRIST]  And
three.  [HORNBLOWER]  And four.  [HILLCRIST]  And five.  For eight
thousand five hundred.  A wonderful property for eight thousand five
hundred.

[He wipes his brow.]

JILL.  [Whispering] Oh, Dodo!

MRS. H.  That's enough, Jack, we must stop some time.

AUCTIONEER.  For eight thousand five hundred.  Once--[Taps]--twice--
[Taps]  [HORNBLOWER]  Six hundred.  [HILLCRIST]  Seven.  May I have
yours, sir?  [HORNBLOWER]  Eight.

HILLCRIST.  Nine thousand.

     [MRS. HILLCRIST looks at him, biting her lips, but he is quite
     absorbed.]

AUCTIONEER.  Nine thousand for this astounding property.  Why, the
Duke would pay that if he realised he'd be overlooked.  Now, Sir?
[To HORNBLOWER.  No response].  Just a little raise on that.  [No
response.]  For nine thousand.  The Centry, Deepwater, for nine
thousand.  Once--[Taps] Twice----[Taps].

JILL.  [Under her breath] Ours!

A VOICE.  [From far back in the centre]  And five hundred.

AUCTIONEER.  [Surprised and throwing out his arms towards the voice]
And five hundred.  For nine thousand five hundred.  May I have
yours, sir?  [He looks at HORNBLOWER.  No response.]

     [The SOLICITOR speaks to him.  MRS. H.  [Whispering]  It must
     be the Duke again.]

HILLCRIST. [Passing his hand over his brow]  That's stopped him,
anyway.

AUCTIONEER.  [Looking at HILLCRIST]  For nine thousand five hundred?
[HILLCRIST shakes his head.]  Once more.  The Centry, Deepwater, for
nine thousand five hundred.  Once--[Taps]  Twice--[Taps]  [He pauses
and looks again at HORNBLOWER and HILLCRIST]  For the last time--at
nine thousand five hundred.  [Taps]  [With a look towards the
bidder]  Mr. Smalley.  Well!  [With great satisfaction]  That's
that!  No more to-day, gen'lemen.

     [The AUCTIONEER and SOLICITOR busy themselves.  The room begins
     to empty.]

MRS. H.  Smalley?  Smalley?  Is that the Duke's agent?  Jack!

HILLCRIST.  [Coming out of a sort of coma, after the excitement he
has been going through]  What!  What!

JILL.  Oh, Dodo!  How splendidly you stuck it!

HILLCRIST.  Phew!  What a squeak!  I was clean out of my depth.  A
mercy the Duke chipped in again.

MRS. H.  [Looking at ROLF and CHLOE, who are standing up as if about
to go]  Take care; they can hear you.  Find DAWKER, Jack.

     [Below, the AUCTIONEER and SOLICITOR take up their papers, and
     move out Left.]

     [HILLCRIST stretches himself, standing up, as if to throw off
     the strain.  The door behind is opened, and HORNBLOWER
     appears.]

HORNBLOWER.  Ye ran me up a pretty price.  Ye bid very pluckily,
Hillcrist.  But ye didn't quite get my measure.

HILLCRIST.  Oh!  It was my nine thousand the Duke capped.  Thank
God, the Centry's gone to a gentleman!

HORNBLOWER.  The Duke?  [He laughs]  No, the Gentry's not gone to a
gentleman, nor to a fool.  It's gone to me.

HILLCRIST.  What!

HOUNBLOWER.  I'm sorry for ye; ye're not fit to manage these things.
Well, it's a monstrous price, and I've had to pay it because of your
obstinacy.  I shan't forget that when I come to build.

HILLCRIST.  D'you mean to say that bid was for you?

HORNBLOWER.  Of course I do.  I told ye I was a bad man to be up
against.  Perhaps ye'll believe me now.

HILLCRIST.  A dastardly trick!

HORNBLOWER.  [With venom]  What did ye call it--a skin game?
Remember we're playin' a skin game, Hillcrist.

HILLCRIST.  [Clenching his fists]  If we were younger men----

HORNBLOWER.  Ay!  'Twouldn't Look pretty for us to be at fisticuffs.
We'll leave the fightin' to the young ones.  [He glances at ROLF and
JILL; suddenly throwing out his finger at ROLF]  No makin' up to
that young woman!  I've watched ye.  And as for you, missy, you
leave my boy alone.

JILL.  [With suppressed passion]  Dodo, may I spit in his eye or
something?

HILLCRIST.  Sit down.

     [JILL sits down.  He stands between her and HORNBLOWER.]

     [Yu've won this round, sir, by a foul blow.  We shall see
     whether you can take any advantage of it.  I believe the law
     can stop you ruining my property.]

HORNBLOWER.  Make your mind easy; it can't.  I've got ye in a noose,
and I'm goin' to hang ye.

MRS. H.  [Suddenly]  Mr. Hornblower, as you fight foul--so shall we.

HILLCRIST.  Amy!

MRS. H.  [Paying no attention]  And it will not be foul play towards
you and yours.  You are outside the pale.

HORNBLOWER.  That's just where I am, outside your pale all round ye.
Ye're not long for Deepwater, ma'am.  Make your dispositions to go;
ye'll be out in six months, I prophesy.  And good riddance to the
neighbourhood.  [They are all down on the level now.]

CHLOE.  [Suddenly coming closer to MRS. HILLCRIST]  Here are your
salts, thank you.  Father, can't you----?

HORNBLOWER.  [Surprised]  Can't I what?

CHLOE.  Can't you come to an arrangement?

MRS. H.  Just so, Mr. Hornblower.  Can't you?

HORNBLOWER.  [Looking from one to the other]  As we're speakin' out,
ma'am, it's your behaviour to my daughter-in-law--who's as good as
you--and better, to my thinking--that's more than half the reason
why I've bought this property.  Ye've fair got my dander up.  Now
it's no use to bandy words.  It's very forgivin' of ye, Chloe, but
come along!

MRS. H.  Quite seriously, Mr. Hornblower, you had better come to an
arrangement.

HORNBLOWER.  Mrs. Hillcrist, ladies should keep to their own
business.

MRS. H.  I will.

HILLCRIST.  Amy, do leave it to us men.  You young man [He speaks to
ROLF]  do you support your father's trick this afternoon?

     [JILL looks round at ROLF, who tries to speak, when HORNBLOWER
     breaks in.]

HORNBLOWER.  My trick?  And what dye call it, to try and put me own
son against me?

JILL.  [To ROLF]  Well?

ROLF.  I don't, but----

HORNBLOWER.  Trick?  Ye young cub, be quiet.  Mr. Hillcrist had an
agent bid for him--I had an agent bid for me.  Only his agent bid at
the beginnin', an' mine bid at the end.  What's the trick in that?

[He laughs.]

HILLCRIST.  Hopeless; we're in different worlds.

HORNBLOWER.  I wish to God we were!  Come you, Chloe.  And you,
Rolf, you follow.  In six months I'll have those chimneys up, and me
lorries runnin' round ye.

MRS. H.  Mr. Hornblower, if you build----

HORNBLOWER.  [Looking at MRS. HILLCRIST]  Ye know--it's laughable.
Ye make me pay nine thousand five hundred for a bit o' land not
worth four, and ye think I'm not to get back on ye.  I'm goin' on
with as little consideration as if ye were a family of blackbeetles.
Good afternoon!

ROLF.  Father!

JILL.  Oh, Dodo!  He's obscene.

HILLCRIST.  Mr. Hornblower, my compliments.

     [HORNBLOWER with a stare at HILLCRIST'S half-smiling face,
     takes CHLOE'S arm, and half drags her towards the door on the
     Left.  But there, in the opened doorway, are standing DAWKER
     and a STRANGER.  They move just out of the way of the exit,
     looking at CHLOE, who sways and very nearly falls.]

HORNBLOWER.  Why!  Chloe!  What's the matter?

CHLOE.  I don't know; I'm not well to-day.

     [She pulls herself together with a great, effort.]

MRS. H.  [Who has exchanged a nod with DAWKER and the STRANGER]  Mr.
Hornblower, you build at your peril.  I warn you.

HORNBLOWER.  [Turning round to speak]  Ye think yourself very cool
and very smart.  But I doubt this is the first time ye've been up
against realities.  Now, I've been up against them all my life.
Don't talk to me, ma'am, about peril and that sort of nonsense; it
makes no impression.  Your husband called me pachydermatous.  I
don't know Greek, and Latin, and all that, but I've looked it out in
the dictionary, and I find it means thick-skinned.  And I'm none
the worse for that when I have to deal with folk like you.  Good
afternoon.

     [He draws CHLOE forward, and they pass through the door,
     followed quickly by ROLF.]

MRS. H.  Thank you; Dawker.

     [She moves up to DAWKER  and the STRANGER, Left, and they
     talk.]

JILL.  Dodo!  It's awful!

HILLCRIST.  Well, there's nothing for it now but to smile and pay
up.  Poor old home!  It shall be his wash-pot.  Over the Centry will
he cast his shoe.  By Gad, Jill, I could cry!

JILL.  [Pointing]  Look!  Chloe's sitting down.  She nearly fainted
just now.  It's something to do with Dawker, Dodo, and that man with
him.  Look at mother!  Ask them!

HILLCRIST.  Dawker!

     [DAWKER comes to him, followed by MRS. HILLCRIST.]

What's the mystery about young Mrs. Hornblower?

DAWKER.  No mystery.

HILLCRIST.  Well, what is it?

MRS. H.  You'd better not ask.

HILLCRIST.  I wish to know.

MRS. H.  Jill, go out and wait for us.

JILL.  Nonsense, mother!

MRS. H.  It's not for a girl to hear.

JILL.  Bosh!  I read the papers every day.

DAWKER.  It's nothin' worse than you get there, anyway.

MRS. H.  Do you wish your daughter----

JILL.  It's ridiculous, Dodo; you'd think I was mother at my age.

MRS. H.  I was not so proud of my knowledge.

JILL.  No, but you had it, dear.

HILLCRIST.  What is it----what is it?  Come over here, Dawker.

     [DAWKER goes to him, Right, and speaks in a low voice.]

What!  [Again DAWKER speaks in, a low voice.]

Good God!

MRS. H.  Exactly!

JILL.  Poor thing--whatever it is!

MRS. H.  Poor thing?

JILL.  What went before, mother?

MRS. H.  It's what's coming after that matters; luckily.

HILLCRIST.  How do you know this?

DAWKER.  My friend here [He points to the STRANGER]  was one of the
agents.

HILLCRIST.  It's shocking.  I'm sorry I heard it.

MRS. H.  I told you not to.

HILLCRIST.  Ask your friend to come here.

     [DAWKER beckons, and the STRANGER joins the group.]

Are you sure of what you've said, sir?

STRANGER.  Perfectly.  I remember her quite well; her name then
was----

HILLCRIST.  I don't want to know, thank you.  I'm truly sorry.  I
wouldn't wish the knowledge of that about his womenfolk to my worst
enemy.  This mustn't be spoken of.  [JILL hugs his arm.]

MRS. H.  It will not be if Mr. Hornblower is wise.  If he is not
wise, it must be spoken of.

HILLCRIST.  I say no, Amy.  I won't have it.  It's a dirty weapon.
Who touches pitch shall be defiled.

MRS. H.  Well, what weapons does he use against us?  Don't be
quixotic.  For all we can tell, they know it quite well already, and
if they don't they ought to.  Anyway, to know this is our salvation,
and we must use it.

JILL: [Sotto voce]  Pitch!  Dodo!  Pitch!

DAWKER.  The threat's enough!  J.P.--Chapel--Future member for the
constituency----.

HILLCRIST.  [A little more doubtfully]  To use a piece of knowledge
about a woman--it's repugnant.  I--I won't do it.

     [Mrs. H.  If you had a son tricked into marrying such a woman,
     would you wish to remain ignorant of it?]

HILLCRIST.  [Struck]  I don't know--I don't know.

MRS. H.  At least, you'd like to be in a position to help him, if
you thought it necessary?

HILLCRIST.  Well--that perhaps.

MRS. H.  Then you agree that Mr. Hornblower at least should be told.
What he does with the knowledge is not our affair.

HILLCRIST. [Half to the STRANGER and half to DAWKER] Do you realise
that an imputation of that kind may be ground for a criminal libel
action?

STRANGER.  Quite.  But there's no shadow of doubt; not the faintest.
You saw her just now?

HILLCRIST.  I did.  [Revolting again]  No; I don't like it.

     [DAWKER has drawn the STRANGER a step or two away, and they
     talk together.]

MRS. H.  [In a low voice]  And the ruin of our home?  You're
betraying your fathers, Jack.

HILLCRIST.  I can't bear bringing a woman into it.

MRS. H.  We don't.  If anyone brings her in; it will be Hornblower
himself.

HILLCRIST.  We use her secret as a lever.

MRS. H.  I tell you quite plainly: I will only consent to holding my
tongue about her, if you agree to Hornblower being told.  It's a
scandal to have a woman like that in the neighbourhood.

JILL.  Mother means that, father.

HILLCRIST.  Jill, keep quiet.  This is a very bitter position.  I
can't tell what to do.

MRS. H.  You must use this knowledge.  You owe it to me--to us all.
You'll see that when you've thought it over.

JILL.  [Softly]  Pitch, Dodo, pitch!

MRS. H.  [Furiously]  Jill, be quiet!

HILLCRIST.  I was brought up never to hurt a woman.  I can't do it,
Amy--I can't do it.  I should never feel like a gentleman again.

MRS. H.  [Coldly]  Oh!  Very well.

HILLCRIST.  What d'you mean by that?

MRS. H.  I shall use the knowledge in my own way.

HILLCRIST.  [Staring at her]  You would--against my wishes?

MRS. H.  I consider it my duty.

HILLCRIST.  If I agree to Hornblower being told----

MRS. H.  That's all I want.

HILLCRIST.  It's the utmost I'll consent to, Amy; and don't let's
have any humbug about its being, morally necessary.  We do it to
save our skins.

MRS. H.  I don't know what you mean by humbug?

JILL.  He means humbug; mother.

HILLCRIST.  It must stop at old Hornblower.  Do you quite
understand?

MRS. H.  Quite.

JILL.  Will it stop?

MRS. H.  Jill, if you can't keep your impertinence to yourself----

HILLCRIST.  Jill, come with me.

     [He turns towards door, Back.]

JILL.  I'm sorry, mother.  Only it is a skin game, isn't it?

MRS. H.  You pride yourself on plain speech, Jill.  I pride myself
on plain thought.  You will thank me afterwards that I can see
realities.  I know we are better people than these Hornblowers.
Here we are going to stay, and they--are not.

JILL.  [Looking at her with a sort of unwilling admiration]  Mother,
you're wonderful!

HILLCRIST.  Jill!

JILL.  Coming, Dodo.

     [She turns and runs to the door.  They go out.]

     [MRS. HILLCRIST, with a long sigh, draws herself up, fine and
     proud.]

MRS. H.  Dawker!   [He comes to her.]

     [I shall send him a note to-night, and word it so that
     he will be bound to come and see us to-marrow morning.  Will
     you be in the study just before eleven o'clock, with this
     gentleman?]

DAWKER.  [Nodding]  We're going to wire for his partner.  I'll bring
him too.  Can't make too sure.

     [She goes firmly up the steps and out.]

DAWKER.  [To the STRANGER, with a wink]  The Squire's squeamish--too
much of a gentleman.  But he don't count.  The grey mare's all
right.  You wire to Henry.  I'm off to our solicitors.  We'll make
that old rhinoceros sell us back the Centry at a decent price.
These Hornblowers--[Laying his finger on his nose]  We've got 'em!


                         CURTAIN





SCENE II

     CHLOE's boudoir at half-past seven the same evening.  A pretty
     room.  No pictures on the walls, but two mirrors.  A screen and
     a luxurious couch an the fireplace side, stage Left.  A door
     rather Right of Centre Back; opening inwards.  A French window,
     Right forward: A writing table, Right Back.  Electric light
     burning.

     CHLOE, in a tea-gown, is standing by the forward end of the
     sofa, very still, and very pale.  Her lips are parted, and her
     large eyes stare straight before them as if seeing ghosts: The
     door is opened noiselessly and a WOMAN'S face is seen.  It
     peers at CHLOE, vanishes, and the door is closed.  CHLOE raises
     her hands, covers her eyes with them, drops them with a quick
     gesture, and looks round her.  A knock.  With a swift movement
     she slides on to the sofa, and lies prostrate, with eyes
     closed.

CHLOE.  [Feebly]  Come in!

     [Her Maid enters; a trim, contained figure of uncertain years,
     in a black dress, with the face which was peering in.]

Yes, Anna?

ANNA.  Aren't you going in to dinner, ma'am?

CHLOE.  [With closed eyes]  No.

ANNA.  Will you take anything here, ma'am?

CHLOE.  I'd like a biscuit and a glass of champagne.

     [The MAID, who is standing between sofa and door, smiles.
     CHLOE, with a swift look, catches the smile.]

Why do you smile?

ANNA.  Was I, ma'am?

CHLOE.  You know you were.  [Fiercely]  Are you paid to smile at me?

ANNA.  [Immovable]  No, ma'am, Would you like some eau de Cologne on
your forehead?

CHLOE.  Yes.--No.--What's the good?  [Clasping her forehead]  My
headache won't go.

ANNA.  To keep lying down's the best thing for it.

CHLOE.  I have been--hours.

ANNA.  [With the smile]  Yes, ma'am.

CHLOE.  [Gathering herself up on the sofa]  Anna!  Why do you do it?

ANNA.  Do what, ma'am?

CHLOE.  Spy on me.

ANNA.  I--never!  I----!

CHLOE.  To spy!  You're a fool, too.  What is there to spy on?

ANNA.  Nothing, ma'am.  Of course, if you're not satisfied with me,
I must give notice.  Only--if I were spying, I should expect to have
notice given me.  I've been accustomed to ladies who wouldn't stand
such a thing for a minute.

CHLOE: [Intently]  Well, you'll take a month's wages and go
tomorrow.  And that's all, now.

     [ANNA inclines her head and goes out.]

     [CHLOE, with a sort of moan, turns over and buries her face in
     the cushion.]

CHLOE.  [Sitting up]  If I could see that man--if only--or Dawker---

     [She springs up and goes to the door, but hesitates, and comes
     back to the head of the sofa, as ROLF comes in.  During this
     scene the door is again opened stealthily, an inch or too.]

ROLF.  How's the head?

CHLOE.  Beastly, thanks.  I'm not going into dinner.

ROLF.  Is there anything I can do for you?

CHLOE.  No, dear boy.  [Suddenly looking at him]  You don't want
this quarrel with the Hillcrists to go on, do you, Rolf?

ROLF.  No; I hate it.

CHLOE.  Well, I think I might be able to stop it.  Will you slip
round to Dawker's--it's not five minutes--and ask him to come and
see me.

ROLF.  Father and Charlie wouldn't----

CHLOE.  I know.  But if he comes to the window here while you're at
dinner, I'll let him in, and out, and nobody'd know.

ROLF.  [Astonished]  Yes, but what I mean how----

CHLOE.  Don't ask me.  It's worth the shot that's all.  [Looking at
her wrist-watch]  To this window at eight o'clock exactly.  First
long window on the terrace, tell him.

ROLF.  It's nothing Charlie would mind?

CHLOE.  No; only I can't tell him--he and father are so mad about it
all.

ROLF.  If there's a real chance----

CHLOE.  [Going to the window and opening it]  This way, Rolf.  If
you don't come back I shall know he's coming.  Put your watch by
mine.  [Looking at his watch]  It's a minute fast, see!

ROLF.  Look here, Chloe

CHLOE.  Don't wait; go on.

     [She almost pushes him out through the window, closes it after
     him, draws the curtains again, stands a minute, thinking hard;
     goes to the bell and rings it; then, crossing to the writing
     table, Right Back, she takes out a chemist's prescription.]

     [ANNA comes in.]

CHLOE.  I don't want that champagne.  Take this to the chemist and
get him to make up some of these cachets quick, and bring them back
yourself.

ANNA.  Yes, ma'am; but you have some.

CHLOE.  They're too old; I've taken two--the strength's out of them.
Quick, please; I can't stand this head.

ANNA.  [Taking the prescription--with her smile]  Yes, ma'am.  It'll
take some time--you don't want me?

CHLOE.  No; I want the cachets.

     [ANNA goes out.]

     [CHLOE looks at her wrist-watch, goes to the writing-table,
     which is old-fashioned, with a secret drawer, looks round her,
     dives at the secret drawer, takes out a roll of notes and a
     tissue paper parcel.  She counts the notes: "Three hundred."
     Slips them into her breast and unwraps the little parcel.  It
     contains pears.  She slips them, too, into her dress, looks
     round startled, replaces the drawer, and regains her place on
     the sofa, lying prostrate as the door opens, and HORNBLOWER
     comes in.  She does not open her ages, and he stands looking at
     her a moment before speaking.]

HORNBLOWER.  [Almost softly]  How are ye feelin'.  Chloe?

CHLOE.  Awful head!

HORNBLOWER: Can ye attend a moment?  I've had a note from that
woman.

     [CHLOE sits up.]

HORNBLOWER.  [Reading]  "I have something of the utmost importance
to tell you in regard to your daughter-in-law.  I shall be waiting
to see you at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning.  The matter is so
utterly vital to the happiness of all your family, that I cannot
imagine you will fail to come."  Now, what's the meaning of it?  Is
it sheer impudence, or lunacy, or what?

CHLOE.  I don't know.

HORNBLOWER.  [Not unkindly]  Chloe, if there's anything--ye'd better
tell me.  Forewarned's forearmed.

CHLOE.  There's nothing; unless it's--[With a quick took at him,]--
Unless it's that my father was a--a bankrupt.

HORNBLOWER.  Hech!  Many a man's been that.  Ye've never told us
much about your family.

CHLOE.  I wasn't very proud of him.

HORNBLOWER.  Well, ye're not responsible for your father.  If that's
all, it's a relief.  The bitter snobs!  I'll remember it in the
account I've got with them.

CHLOE.  Father, don't say anything to Charlie; it'll only worry him
for nothing.

HORNBLOWER.  No, no, I'll not.  If I went bankrupt, it'd upset
Chearlie, I've not a doubt.  [He laugh.  Looking at her shrewdly]
There's nothing else, before I answer her?

     [CHLOE shakes her head.]

Ye're sure?

CHLOE.  [With an efort]  She may invent things, of course.

HORNBLOWER.  [Lost in his feud feeling]  Ah!  but there's such a
thing as the laws o' slander.  If they play pranks, I'll have them
up for it.

CHLOE.  [Timidly]  Couldn't you stop this quarrel; father?  You said
it was on my account.  But I don't want to know them.  And they do
love their old home.  I like the girl.  You don't really need to
build just there, do you?  Couldn't you stop it?  Do!

HORNBLOWER.  Stop it?  Now I've bought?  Na, no!  The snobs defied
me, and I'm going to show them.  I hate the lot of them, and I hate
that little Dawker worst of all.

CHLOE.  He's only their agent.

HORNBLOWER.  He's a part of the whole dog-in-the-manger system that
stands in my way.  Ye're a woman, and ye don't understand these
things.  Ye wouldn't believe the struggle I've had to make my money
and get my position.  These county folk talk soft sawder, but to get
anything from them's like gettin' butter out of a dog's mouth.  If
they could drive me out of here by fair means or foul, would they
hesitate a moment?  Not they!  See what they've made me pay; and
look at this letter.  Selfish, mean lot o' hypocrites!

CHLOE.  But they didn't begin the quarrel.

HORNBLOWER.  Not openly; but underneath they did--that's their way.
They began it by thwartin' me here and there and everywhere, just
because I've come into me own a bit later than they did.  I gave 'em
their chance, and they wouldn't take it.  Well, I'll show 'em what a
man like me can do when he sets his mind to it.  I'll not leave much
skin on them.

     [In the intensity of his feeling he has lost sight of her face,
     alive with a sort of agony of doubt, whether to plead with him
     further, or what to do.  Then, with a swift glance at her
     wristwatch, she falls back on the sofa and closes her eyes.]

It'll give me a power of enjoyment seein' me chimneys go up in front
of their windies.  That was a bonnie thought--that last bid o' mine.
He'd got that roused up, I believe, he, never would a' stopped.
[Looking at her]  I forgot your head.  Well, well, ye'll be best
tryin' quiet.  [The gong sounds.]  Shall we send ye something in
from dinner?

CHLOE.  No; I'll try to sleep.  Please tell them I don't want to be
disturbed.

HORNBLOWER.  All right.  I'll just answer this note.

     [He sits down at her writing-table.]

     [CHLOE starts up from the sofa feverishly, looking at her
     watch, at the window, at her watch; then softly crosses to the
     window and opens it.]

HORNBLOWER.  [Finishing]  Listen!  [He turns round towards the sofa]
Hallo!  Where are ye?

CHLOE.  [At the window]  It's so hot.

HORNBLOWER.  Here's what I've said:

     "MADAM,--You can tell me nothing of my daughter-in-law which
     can affect the happiness of my family.  I regard your note as
     an impertinence, and I shall not be with you at eleven o'clock
     to-morrow morning.

     "Yours truly----"

CHLOE.  [With a suffering movement of her head]  Oh!--Well!--[The
gong is touched a second time.]

HORNBLOWER.  [Crossing to the door]  Lie ye down, and get a sleep.
I'll tell them not to disturb ye; and I hope ye'll be all right
to-morrow.  Good-night, Chloe.

CHLOE.  Good-night.  [He goes out.]

     [After a feverish turn or two, CHLOE returns to the open window
     and waits there, half screened by the curtains.  The door is
     opened inch by inch, and ANNA'S head peers round.  Seeing where
     CHLOE is, she slips in and passes behind the screen, Left.
     Suddenly CHLOE backs in from the window.]

CHLOE.  [In a low voice]  Come in.

     [She darts to the door and locks it.]

     [DAWKER has come in through the window and stands regarding her
     with a half smile.]

DAWKER.  Well, young woman, what do you want of me?

     [In the presence of this man of her own class, there comes a
     distinct change in CHLOE'S voice and manner; a sort of frank
     commonness, adapted to the man she is dealing with, but she
     keeps her voice low.]

CHLOE.  You're making a mistake, you know.

DAWKER.  [With a broad grin]  No.  I've got a memory for faces.

CHLOE.  I say you are.

DAWKER.  [Turning to go]  If that's all, you needn't have troubled
me to come.

CHLOE.  No.  Don't go!  [With a faint smile]  You are playing a game
with me.  Aren't you ashamed?  What harm have I done you?  Do you
call this cricket?

DAWKER.  No, my girl--business.

CHLOE.  [Bitterly]  What have I to do with this quarrel?  I couldn't
help their falling out.

DAWKER.  That's your misfortune.

CHLOE.  [Clasping her hands]  You're a cruel fellow if you can spoil
a woman's life who never did you an ounce of harm.

DAWKER.  So they don't know about you.  That's all right.  Now, look
here, I serve my employer.  But I'm flesh and blood, too, and I
always give as good as I get.  I hate this family of yours.  There's
no name too bad for 'em to call me this last month, and no looks too
black to give me.  I tell you frankly, I hate.

CHLOE.  There's good in them same as in you.

DAWKER.  [With a grin]  There's no good Hornblower but a dead
Hornblower.

CHLOE.  But--but Im not one.

DAWKER.  You'll be the mother of some, I shouldn't wonder.

CHLOE.  [Stretching out her hand-pathetically]  Oh!  leave me alone,
do!  I'm happy here.  Be a sport!  Be a sport!

DAWKER.  [Disconcerted for a second]  You can't get at me, so don't
try it on.

CHLOE.  I had such a bad time in old days.

     [DAWKER shakes his head; his grin has disappeared and his face
     is like wood.]

CHLOE.  [Panting]  Ah! do!  You might!  You've been fond of some
woman, I suppose.  Think of her!

DAWKER.  [Decisively]  It won't do, Mrs. Chloe.  You're a pawn in
the game, and I'm going to use you.

CHLOE.  [Despairingly]  What is it to you?  [With a sudden touch of
the tigress]  Look here!  Don't you make an enemy, of me.  I haven't
dragged through hell for nothing.  Women like me can bite, I tell
you.

DAWKER.  That's better.  I'd rather have a woman threaten than
whine, any day.  Threaten away!  You'll let 'em know that you met me
in the Promenade one night.  Of course you'll let 'em know that,
won't you?--or that----

CHLOE.  Be quiet!  Oh!  Be quiet!  [Taking from her bosom the notes
and the pearls]  Look!  There's my savings--there's all I've got!
The pearls'll fetch nearly a thousand.  [Holding it out to him]
Take it, and drop me out--won't you?  Won't you?

DAWKER.  [Passing his tongue over his lips with a hard little laugh]
You mistake your man, missis.  I'm a plain dog, if you like, but I'm
faithful, and I hold fast.  Don't try those games on me.

CHLOE.  [Losing control]  You're a beast!--a beast!  a cruel,
cowardly beast!  And how dare you bribe that woman here to spy on
me?  Oh!  yes, you do; you know you do.  If you drove me mad, you
wouldn't care.  You beast!

DAWKER.  Now, don't carry on!  That won't help you.

CHLOE.  What d'you call it--to dog a woman down like this, just
because you happen to have a quarrel with a man?

DAWKER.  Who made the quarrel?  Not me, missis.  You ought to know
that in a row it's the weak and helpless--we won't say the innocent
--that get it in the neck.  That can't be helped.

CHLOE.  [Regarding him intently]  I hope your mother or your sister,
if you've got any, may go through what I'm going through ever since
you got on my track.  I hope they'll know what fear means.  I hope
they'll love and find out that it's hanging on a thread, and--and--
Oh! you coward, you persecuting coward!  Call yourself a man!

DAWKER.  [With his grin]  Ah!  You look quite pretty like that.  By
George! you're a handsome woman when you're roused.

     [CHLOE'S passion fades out as quickly as it blazed up.  She
     sinks down on the sofa, shudders, looks here and there, and
     then for a moment up at him.]

CHLOE.  Is there anything you'll take, not to spoil my life?
[Clasping her hands on her breast; under her breath]  Me?

DAWKER.  [Wiping his brow]  By God!  That's an offer.  [He recoils
towards the window]  You--you touched me there.  Look here!  I've
got to use you and I'm going to use you, but I'll do my best to let
you down as easy as I can.  No, I don't want anything you can give
me--that is--[He wipes his brow again]  I'd like it--but I won't
take it.

     [CHLOE buries her face in her hands.]

There!  Keep your pecker up; don't cry.  Good-night!  [He goes
through the window.]

CHLOE.  [Springing up]  Ugh!  Rat in a trap!  Rat----!

     [She stands listening; flies to the door, unlocks it, and,
     going back to the sofa, lies down and doses her eyes.  CHARLES
     comes in very quietly and stands over her, looking to see if
     she is asleep.  She opens her eyes.]

CHARLES.  Well, Clo!  Had a sleep, old girl?

CHLOE.  Ye-es.

CHARLES.  [Sitting on the arm of the sofa and caressing her]  Feel
better, dear?

CHLOE.  Yes, better, Charlie.

CHARLES.  That's right.  Would you like some soup?

CHLOE.  [With a shudder]  No.

CHARLES.  I say-what gives you these heads?  You've been very on and
off all this last month.

CHLOE.  I don't know.  Except that--except that I am going to have a
child, Charlie.

CHARLES.  After all!  By Jove!  Sure?

CHLOE.  [Nodding]  Are you glad?

CHARLES.  Well--I suppose I am.  The guv'nor will be mighty pleased,
anyway.

CHLOE.  Don't tell him--yet.

CHARLES.  All right!  [Bending over and drawing her to him]  My poor
girl, I'm so sorry you're seedy.  Give us a kiss.

     [CHLOE puts up her face and kisses him passionately.]

I say, you're like fire.  You're not feverish?


CHLOE.  [With a laugh]  It's a wonder if I'm not.  Charlie, are you
happy with me?

CHARLES.  What do you think?

CHLOE.  [Leaning against him]  You wouldn't easily believe things
against me, would you?

CHARLES.  What!  Thinking of those Hillcrists?  What the hell that
woman means by her attitude towards you--When I saw her there
to-day, I had all my work cut out not to go up and give her a bit
of my mind.

CHLOE.  [Watching him stealthily]  It's not good for me, now I'm
like this.  It's upsetting me, Charlie.

CHARLES.  Yes; and we won't forget.  We'll make 'em pay for it.

CHLOE.  It's wretched in a little place like this.  I say, must you
go on spoiling their home?

CHARLES.  The woman cuts you and insults you.  That's enough for me.

CHLOE.  [Timidly]  Let her.  I don't care; I can't bear feeling
enemies about, Charlie, I--get nervous--I----

CHARLES.  My dear girl!  What is it?

     [He looks at her intently.]

CHLOE.  I suppose it's--being like this.  [Suddenly] But, Charlie,
do stop it for my sake.  Do, do!

CHARLES.  [Patting her arm]  Come, come; I say, Chloe!  You're
making mountains.  See things in proportion.  Father's paid nine
thousand five hundred to get the better of those people, and you
want him to chuck it away to save a woman who's insulted you.
That's not sense, and it's not business.  Have some pride.

CHLOE.  [Breathless]  I've got no pride, Charlie.  I want to be
quiet--that's all.

CHARLES.  Well, if the row gets on your nerves, I can take you to
the sea.  But you ought to enjoy a fight with people like that.

CHLOE.  [With calculated bitterness]  No, it's nothing, of course--
what I want.

CHARLES.  Hello!  Hello!  You are on the jump!

CHLOE.  If you want me to be a good wife to you, make father stop
it.

CHARLES.  [Standing up]  Now, look here, Chloe, what's behind this?

CHLOE.  [Faintly]  Behind?

CHARLES.  You're carrying on as if--as if you were really scared!
We've got these people: We'll have them out of Deepwater in six
months.  It's absolute ruination to their beastly old house; we'll
put the chimneys on the very edge, not three hundred yards off, and
our smoke'll be drifting over them half the time.  You won't have
this confounded stuck-up woman here much longer.  And then we can
really go ahead and take our proper place.  So long as she's here,
we shall never do that.  We've only to drive on now as fast as we
can.

CHLOE.  [With a gesture]  I see.

CHARLES.  [Again looking at her]  If you go on like this, you know,
I shall begin to think there's something you----

CHLOE [softly]  Charlie! [He comes to her.]  Love me!

CHARLES.  [Embracing her]  There, old girl!  I know women are funny
at these times.  You want a good night, that's all.

CHLOE.  You haven't finished dinner, have you?  Go back, and I'll go
to bed quite soon.  Charlie, don't stop loving me.

CHARLES.  Stop?  Not much.

     [While he is again embracing her, ANNA steals from behind the
     screen to the door, opens it noiselessly, and passes through,
     but it clicks as she shuts it.]

CHLOE.  [Starting violently]  Oh-h!

     [He comes to her.]

CHARLES.  What is it?  What is it?  You are nervy, my dear.

CHLOE.  [Looking round with a little laugh]  I don't know.  Go on,
Charlie.  I'll be all right when this head's gone.

CHARLES.  [Stroking her forehead and, looking at her doubtfully]
You go to bed; I won't be late coming up.

     [He turn, and goes, blowing a kiss from the doorway.  When he
     is gone, CHLOE gets up and stands in precisely the attitude in
     which she stood at the beginning of the Act, thinking, and
     thinking.  And the door is opened, and the face of the MAID
     peers round at her.]


                              CURTAIN




ACT III


SCENE I

     HILLCRIST'S study next morning.

     JILL coming from Left, looks in at the open French window.

JILL.  [Speaking to ROLF, invisible]  Come in here.  There's no one.

     [She goes in.  ROLF joins her, coming from the garden.]

ROLF.  Jill, I just wanted to say--Need we?

     [JILL.  nodes.]

Seeing you yesterday--it did seem rotten.

JILL.  We didn't begin it.

ROLF.  No; but you don't understand.  If you'd made yourself, as
father has----

JILL.  I hope I should be sorry.

ROLF.  [Reproachfully]  That isn't like you.  Really he can't help
thinking he's a public benefactor.

JILL.  And we can't help thinking he's a pig.  Sorry!

ROLF.  If the survival of the fittest is right----

JILL.  He may be fitter, but he's not going to survive.

ROLF.  [Distracted]  It looks like it, though.

JILL.  Is that all you came to say?

ROLF.  Suppose we joined, couldn't we stop it?

JILL.  I don't feel like joining.

ROLF.  We did shake hands.

JILL.  One can't fight and not grow bitter.

ROLF.  I don't feel bitter.

JILL.  Wait; you'll feel it soon enough.

ROLF.  Why?  [Attentively]  About Chloe?  I do think your mother's
manner to her is----

JILL.  Well?

ROLF.  Snobbish.  [JILL laughs.]
She may not be your class; and that's just why it's
snobbish.

JILL.  I think you'd better shut up.

ROLF.  What my father said was true; your mother's rudeness to her
that day she came here, has made both him and Charlie ever so much
more bitter.

     [JILL whistles the Habanera from "Carmen."]

     [Staring at her, rather angrily]

Is it a whistling matter?

JILL.  No.

ROLF.  I suppose you want me to go?

JILL.  Yes.

ROLF.  All right.  Aren't we ever going to be friends again?

JILL.  [Looking steadily at him]  I don't expect so.

ROLF.  That's very-horrible.

JILL.  Lots of horrible things in the world.

ROLF.  It's our business to make them fewer, Jill.

JILL.  [Fiercely]  Don't be moral.

ROLF.  [Hurt]  That's the last thing I want to be.--I only want to
be friendly.

JILL.  Better be real first.

ROLF.  From the big point of view----

JILL.  There isn't any.  We're all out, for our own.  And why not?

ROLF.  By jove, you have got----

JILL.  Cynical?  Your father's motto--"Every man for himself."
That's the winner--hands down.  Goodbye!

ROLF.  Jill!  Jill!

JILL.  [Putting her hands behind her back, hums]--
          "If auld acquaintance be forgot
           And days of auld lang syne"----

ROLF.  Don't!

     [With a pained gesture he goes out towards Left, through the
     French window.]

     [JILL, who has broken off the song, stands with her hands
     clenched and her lips quivering.]

     [FELLOWS enters Left.]

FELLOWS.  Mr. Dawker, Miss, and two gentlemen.

JILL.  Let the three gentlemen in, and me out.

     [She passes him and goes out Left.  And immediately.  DAWKER
     and the two STRANGERS come in.]

FELLOWS.  I'll inform Mrs. Hillcrist, sir.  The Squire is on his
rounds.   [He goes out Left.]

     [The THREE MEN gather in a discreet knot at the big bureau,
     having glanced at the two doors and the open French window.]

DAWKER.  Now this may come into Court, you know.  If there's a screw
loose anywhere, better mention it.  [To SECOND STRANGE]  You knew
her personally?

SECOND S.  What do you think?  I don't, take girls on trust for that
sort of job.  She came to us highly recommended, too; and did her
work very well.  It was a double stunt--to make sure--wasn't it,
George?

FIRST S.  Yes; we paid her for the two visits.

SECOND S.  I should know her in a minute; striking looking girl; had
something in her face.  Daresay she'd seen hard times.

FIRST S.  We don't want publicity.

DAWKER.  Not Likely.  The threat'll do it; but the stakes are heavy
--and the man's a slugger; we must be able to push it home.  If you
can both swear to her, it'll do the trick.

SECOND S.  And about--I mean, we're losing time, you know, coming
down here.

DAWKER.  [With a nod at FIRST STRANGER]  George here knows me.
That'll be all right.  I'll guarantee it well worth your while.

SECOND S.  I don't want to do the girl harm, if she's married.

DAWKER.  No, no; nobody wants to hurt her.  We just want a cinch on
this fellow till he squeals.

     [They separate a little as MRS. HILLCRIST enters from Right.]

DAWKER.  Good morning, ma'am.  My friend's partner.  Hornblower
coming?

MRS. H.  At eleven.  I had to send up a second note, Dawker.

DAWKER.  Squire not in?

MRS. H.  I haven't told him.

DAWKER.  [Nodding]  Our friends might go in here [Pointing Right]
and we can use 'em as the want 'em.

MRS. H.  [To the STRANGERS]  Will you make yourselves comfortable?

     [She holds the door open, and they pass her into the room,
     Right.]

DAWKER.  [Showing document] I've had this drawn and engrossed.
Pretty sharp work.  Conveys the Centry, and Longmeadow; to the
Squire at four thousand five hundred: Now, ma'am, suppose Hornblower
puts his hand to that, hell have been done in the eye, and six
thousand all told out o' pocket.--You'll have a very nasty neighbour
here.

MRS. H.  But we shall still have the power to disclose that secret
at any time.

DAWKER.  Yeh!  But things might happen here you could never bring
home to him.  You can't trust a man like that.  He isn't goin' to
forgive me, I know.

MRS. H.  [Regarding him keenly] But if he signs, we couldn't
honourably----

DAWKER.  No, ma'am, you couldn't; and I'm sure I don't want to do
that girl a hurt.  I just mention it because, of course, you can't
guarantee that it doesn't get out.

MRS. H.  Not absolutely, I suppose.

     [A look passes between them, which neither of them has quite
     sanctioned.]

     [There's his car.  It always seems to make more noise than any
     other.]

DAWKER.   He'll kick and flounder--but you leave him to ask what you
want, ma'am; don't mention this [He puts the deed back into his
pocket].  The Centry's no mortal good to him if he's not going to
put up works; I should say he'd be glad to save what he can.

     [MRS. HILLCRIST inclines her head.  FELLOWS enters Left.]

FELLOWS.  [Apologetically]  Mr. Hornblower, ma'am; by appointment,
he says.

MRS. H.  Quite right, Fellows.

     [HORNBLOWER comes in, and FELLOWS goes out.]

HORNBLOWER.  [Without salutation]  I've come to ask ye point bleak
what ye mean by writing me these letters.  [He takes out two
letters.]  And we'll discus it in the presence of nobody, if ye,
please.

MRS. H.  Mr. Dawker knows all that I know, and more.

HORNBLOWER.  Does he?  Very well!  Your second note says that my
daughter-in-law has lied to me.  Well, I've brought her, and what
ye've got to say--if it's not just a trick to see me again--ye'll
say to her face.  [He takes a step towards the window.]

MRS. H.  Mr. Hornblower, you had better, decide that after hearing
what it is--we shall be quite ready to repeat it in her presence;
but we want to do as little harm as possible.

HORNBLOWER.  [Stopping]  Oh!  ye do!  Well, what lies have ye been
hearin'?  Or what have ye made up?  You and Mr. Dawker?  Of course
ye know there's a law of libel and slander.  I'm, not the man to
stop at that.

MRS. H.  [Calmly]  Are you familiar with the law of divorce, Mr.
Hornblower?

HORNBLOWER.  [Taken aback]  No, I'm not.  That is-----.

MRS. H.  Well, you know that misconduct is required.  And I suppose
you've heard that cases are arranged.

HORNBLOWER.  I know it's all very shocking--what about it?

MRS. H.  When cases are arranged, Mr. Hornblower, the man who is to
be divorced often visits an hotel with a strange woman.  I am
extremely sorry to say that your daughter-in-law, before her
marriage, was in the habit of being employed as such a woman.

HORNBLOWER.  Ye dreadful creature!

DAWKER.  [Quickly]  All proved, up to the hilt!

HORNBLOWER.  I don't believe a word of it.  Ye're lyin' to save your
skins.  How dare ye tell me such monstrosities?  Dawker, I'll have
ye in a criminal court.

DAWKER.  Rats!  You saw a gent with me yesterday?  Well, he's
employed her.

HORNBLOWER.  A put-up job!  Conspiracy!

MRS. H.  Go and get your daughter-in-law.

HORNBLOWER.  [With the first sensation of being in a net]  It's a
foul shame--a lying slander!

MRS. H.  If so, it's easily disproved.  Go and fetch her.

HORNBLOWER.  [Seeing them unmoved]  I will.  I don't believe a word
of it.

MRS. H.  I hope you are right.

     [HORNBLOWER goes out by the French window, DAWKER slips to the
     door Right, opens it, and speaks to those within.  MRS.
     HILLCRIST stands moistening her lips, and passim her
     handkerchief over them.  HORNBLOWER returns, preceding CHLOE,
     strung up to hardness and defiance.]

HORNBLOWER.  Now then, let's have this impudent story torn to rags.

CHLOE.  What story?

HORNBLOWER.  That you, my dear, were a woman--it's too shockin--I
don't know how to tell ye----

CHLOE.  Go on!

HORNBLOWER.  Were a woman that went with men, to get them their
divorce.

CHLOE.  Who says that?

HORNBLOWER.  That lady [Sneering]  there, and her bull-terrier here.

CHLOE.  [Facing MRS.  HILLCRIST]  That's a charitable thing to say,
isn't it?

MRS. H.  Is it true?

CHLOE.  No.

HORNBLOWER.  [Furiously]  There!  I'll have ye both on your knees to
her!

DAWKER.  [Opening the door, Right]  Come in.

     [The FIRST STRANGER comes in.  CHLOE, with a visible effort,
     turns to face him.]

FIRST S.  How do you do, Mrs. Vane?

CHLOE.  I don't know you.

FIRST S.  Your memory is bad, ma'am: You knew me yesterday well
enough.  One day is not a long time, nor are three years.

CHLOE.  Who are you?

FIRST S.  Come, ma'am, come!  The Caster case.

CHLOE.  I don't know you, I say.  [To MRS.  HILLCRIST]  How can you
be so vile?

FIRST S.  Let me refresh your memory, ma'am.  [Producing a notebook]
Just on three years ago; "Oct.3.  To fee and expenses Mrs. Vane with
Mr. C----, Hotel Beaulieu, Twenty pounds.  Oct. 10, Do., Twenty
pounds."  [To HORNBLOWER]  Would you like to glance at this book,
sir?  You'll see they're genuine entries.

     [HORNBLOWER makes a motion to do so, but checks himself and
     looks at CHLOE.]

CHLOE.  [Hysterically]  It's all lies--lies!

FIRST S.  Come, ma'am, we wish you no harm.

CHLOE.  Take me away.  I won't be treated like this.

MRS. H.  [In a low voice] Confess.

CHLOE.  Lies!

HORNBLOWER.  Were ye ever called Vane?

CHLOE.  No, never.

     [She makes a movement towards the window, but DAWKER is in the
     way, and she halts.  FIRST S.  [Opening the door, Right]
     Henry.]

     [The SECOND STRANGER comes in quickly.  At sight of him CHLOE
     throws up her hands, gasps, breaks down, stage Left, and stands
     covering her face with her hands.  It is so complete a
     confession that HORNBLOWER stands staggered; and, taking out a
     coloured handkerchief, wipes his brow.]

DAWKER.  Are you convinced?

HORNBLOWER.  Take those men away.

DAWKER.  If you're not satisfied, we can get other evidence; plenty.

HORNBLOWER.  [Looking at CHLOE]  That's enough.  Take them out.
Leave me alone with her.

     [DAWKER takes them out Right.  MRS. HILLCRIST passes HORNBLOWER
     and goes out at the window.  HORNBLOWER moves down a step or
     two towards CHLOE.]

HORNBLOWER.  My God!

CHLOE.  [With an outburst]  Don't tell Charlie!  Don't tell Charlie!

HORNBLOWER.  Chearlie!  So, that was your manner of life.

     [CHLOE utters a moaning sound.]

So that's what ye got out of by marryin' into my family!  Shame on
ye, ye Godless thing!

CHLOE.  Don't tell Charlie!

HORNBLOWER.  And that's all ye can say for the wreck ye've wrought.
My family, my works, my future!  How dared ye!

CHLOE.  If you'd been me!----

HORNBLOWER.  An' these Hillcrists.  The skin game of it!

CHLOE.  [Breathless]  Father!

HORNBLOWER.  Don't call me that, woman!

CHLOE.  [Desperate]  I'm going to have a child.

HORNBLOWER.  God!  Ye are!

CHLOE.  Your grandchild.  For the sake of it, do what these people
want; and don't tell anyone--DON'T TELL CHARLIE!

HORNBLOWER.  [Again wiping his forehead]  A secret between us.  I
don't know that I can keep it.  It's horrible.  Poor Chearlie!

CHLOE.  [Suddenly fierce]  You must keep it, you shall!  I won't
have him told.  Don't make me desperate!  I can be--I didn't live
that life for nothing.

HORNBLOWER.  [Staring at her resealed in a new light]  Ay; ye look a
strange, wild woman, as I see ye.  And we thought the world of ye!

CHLOE.  I love Charlie; I'm faithful to him.  I can't live without
him.  You'll never forgive me, I know; but Charlie----!  [Stretching
out her hands.]

     [HORNBLOWER makes a bewildered gesture with his large hands.]

HORNBLOWER.  I'm all at sea here.  Go out to the car and wait for
me.

     [CHLOE passes him and goes out, Left.]

[Muttering to himself] So I'm down!  Me enemies put their heels upon
me head!  Ah! but we'll see yet!

     [He goes up to the window and beckons towards the Right.]

     [MRS. HILLCRIST comes in.]

What d'ye want for this secret?

MRS. H.  Nothing.

HORNBLOWER.  Indeed!  Wonderful!--the trouble ye've taken for--
nothing.

MRS. H.  If you harm us we shall harm you.  Any use whatever of the
Centry.

HORNBLOWER.  For which ye made me pay nine thousand five hundred
pounds.

MRS. H.  We will buy it from you.

HORNBLOWER.  At what price?

MRS. H.  The Centry at the price Miss Muffins would have taken at
first, and Longmeadow at the price you--gave us--four thousand five
hundred altogether.

HORNBLOWER.  A fine price, and me six thousand out of pocket.  Na,
no!  I'll keep it and hold it over ye.  Ye daren't tell this secret
so long as I've got it.

MRS. H.  No, Mr. Hornblower.  On second thoughts, you must sell.
You broke your word over the Jackmans.  We can't trust you.  We
would rather have our place here ruined at once, than leave you the
power to ruin it as and when you like.  You will sell us the Centry
and Longmeadow now, or you know what will happen.

HORNBLOWER.  [Writhing]  I'll not.  It's blackmail.

MRS. H.  Very well then!  Go your own way and we'll go ours.  There
is no witness to this conversation.

HORNBLOWER.  [Venomously]  By heaven, ye're a clever woman.  Will ye
swear by Almighty God that you and your family, and that agent of
yours, won't breathe a word of this shockin' thing to mortal soul.

MRS. H.  Yes, if you sell.

HORNBLOWER.  Where's Dawker?

MRS. H.  [Going to the door, Right]  Mr. Dawker

     [DAWKER comes in.]

HORNBLOWER.  I suppose ye've got your iniquity ready.

     [DAWKER grins and produces the document.]

It's mighty near conspiracy, this.  Have ye got a Testament?

MRS. H.  My word will be enough, Mr. Hornblower.

HORNBLOWER.  Ye'll pardon me--I can't make it solemn enough for you.

MRS. H.  Very well; here is a Bible.

     [She takes a small Bible from the bookshelf.]

DAWKER.  [Spreading document on bureau]  This is a short conveyance
of the Centry and Longmeadow--recites sale to you by Miss Mulling,
of the first, John Hillcrist of the second, and whereas you have
agreed for the sale to said John Hillcrist, for the sum of four
thousand five hundred pounds, in consideration of the said sum,
receipt whereof, you hereby acknowledge you do convey all that, etc.
Sign here.  I'll witness.

HORNBLOWER [To MRS. HILLCRIST]  Take that Book in your hand, and
swear first.  I swear by Almighty God never to breathe a word of
what I know concerning Chloe Hornblower to any living soul.

MRS. H.  No, Mr. Hornblower; you will please sign first.  We are not
in the habit of breaking our word.

     [HORNBLOWER after a furious look at them, seizes a pen, runs
     his eye again over the deed, and signs, DAWKER witnessing.]

To that oath, Mr. Hornblower, we shall add the words, "So long as
the Hornblower family do us no harm."

HORNBLOWER.  [With a snarl]  Take it in your hands, both of ye, and
together swear.

MRS. H.  [Taking the Book]  I swear that I will breathe no word of
what I know concerning Chloe Hornblower to any living soul, so long
as the Hornblower family do us no harm.

DAWKER.  I swear that too.

MRS. H.  I engage for my husband.

HORNBLOWER.  Where are those two fellows?

DAWKER.  Gone.  It's no business of theirs.

HORNBLOWER.  It's no business of any of ye what has happened to a
woman in the past.  Ye know that.  Good-day!

     [He gives them a deadly look, and goes out, left, followed by
     DAWKER.]

MRS. H.  [With her hand on the Deed]  Safe!

     [HILLCRIST enters at the French window, followed by JILL.]

[Holding up the Deed]  Look!  He's just gone!  I told you it was
only necessary to use the threat.  He caved in and signed this; we
are sworn to say nothing.  We've beaten him.

     [HILLCRIST studies the Deed.]

JILL.  [Awed]  We saw Chloe in the car.  How did she take it,
mother?

MRS. H.  Denied, then broke down when she saw our witnesses.  I'm
glad you were not here, Jack.

JILL.  [Suddenly]  I shall go and see her.

MRS. H.  Jill, you will not; you don't know what she's done.

JILL.  I shall.  She must be in an awful state.

HILLCRIST.  My dear, you can do her no good.

JILL.  I think I can, Dodo.

MRS. H.  You don't understand human nature.  We're enemies for life
with those people.  You're a little donkey if you think anything
else.

JILL.  I'm going, all the same.

MRS. H.  Jack, forbid her.

HILLCRIST.  [Lifting an eyebrow]  Jill, be reasonable.

JILL.  Suppose I'd taken a knock like that, Dodo, I'd be glad of
friendliness from someone.

MRS. H.  You never could take a knock like that.

JILL.  You don't know what you can do till you try, mother.

HILLCRIST.  Let her go, Amy.  Im sorry for that young woman.

MRS. H.  You'd be sorry for a man who picked your pocket, I believe.

HILLCRIST.  I certainly should!  Deuced little he'd get out of it,
when I've paid for the Centry.

MRS. H.  [Bitterly]  Much gratitude I get for saving you both our
home!

JILL.  [Disarmed]  Oh!  Mother, we are grateful.  Dodo, show your
gratitude.

HILLCRIST.  Well, my dear, it's an intense relief.  I'm not good at
showing my feelings, as you know.  What d'you want me to do?  Stand
on one leg and crow?

JILL.  Yes, Dodo, yes!  Mother, hold him while I [Suddenly she
stops, and all the fun goes out of her]  No!  I can't--I can't help
thinking of her.


               CURTAIN falls for a minute.



SCENE II


     When it rises again, the room is empty and dark, same for
     moonlight coming in through the French window, which is open.

     The figure of CHLOE, in a black cloak, appears outside in the
     moonlight; she peers in, moves past, comes bank, hesitatingly
     enters.  The cloak, fallen back, reveals a white evening dress;
     and that magpie figure stands poised watchfully in the dim
     light, then flaps unhappily Left and Right, as if she could not
     keep still.  Suddenly she stands listening.

ROLF'S VOICE.  [Outside]  Chloe!  Chloe!

     [He appears]

CHLOE.  [Going to the window]  What are you doing here?

ROLF.  What are you?  I only followed you.

CHLOE.  Go away.

ROLF.  What's the matter?  Tell me!

CHLOE.  Go away, and don't say anything.  Oh!  The roses!  [She has
put her nose into some roses in a bowl on a big stand close to the
window]  Don't they smell lovely?

ROLF.  What did Jill want this afternoon?

CHLOE.  I'll tell you nothing.  Go away!

ROLF.  I don't like leaving you here in this state.

CHLOE.  What state?  I'm all right.  Wait for me down in the drive,
if you want to.

     [ROLF starts to go, stops, looks at her, and does go.  CHLOE,
     with a little moaning sound, flutters again, magpie-like, up
     and down, then stands by the window listening.  Voices are
     heard, Left.  She darts out of the window and away to the
     Right, as HILLCRIST and JILL come in.  They have turned up the
     electric light, and come down in frond of the fireplace, where
     HILLCRIST sits in an armchair, and JILL on the arm of it.  They
     are in undress evening attire.]

HILLCRIST.  Now, tell me.

JILL.  There isn't much, Dodo.  I was in an awful funk for fear I
should meet any of the others, and of course I did meet Rolf, but I
told him some lie, and he took me to her room-boudoir, they call it
--isn't boudoir a "dug-out" word?

HILLCRIST.  [Meditatively]  The sulking room.  Well?

JILL.  She was sitting like this.  [She buries her chin in her
hands, wide her elbows on her knees]  And she said in a sort of
fierce way: "What do you want?"  And I said: "I'm awfully sorry, but
I thought you might like it."

HILLCRIST.  Well?

JILL.  She looked at me hard, and said: "I suppose you know all
about it."  And I Said: "Only vaguely," because of course I don't.
And she said: "Well, it was decent of you to come."  Dodo, she looks
like a lost soul.  What has she done?

HILLCRIST.  She committed her real crime when she married young
Hornblower without telling him.  She came out of a certain world to
do it.

JILL.  Oh!  [Staring in front of her] Is it very awful in that
world, Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  [Uneasy]  I don't know, Jill.  Some can stand it, I
suppose; some can't.  I don't know which sort she is.

JILL.  One thing I'm sure of: she's awfully fond of Chearlie.

HILLCRIST.  That's bad; that's very bad.

JILL.  And she's frightened, horribly.  I think she's desperate.

HILLCRIST.  Women like that are pretty tough, Jill; don't judge her
too much by your own feelings.

JILL.  No; only----Oh!  it was beastly; and of course I dried up.

HILLCRIST.  [Feelingly]  H'm!  One always does.  But perhaps it was
as well; you'd have been blundering in a dark passage.

JILL.  I just said: "Father and I feel awfully sorry; if there's
anything we can do----"

HILLCRIST.  That was risky, Jill.

JILL.  (Disconsolately) I had to say something.  I'm glad I went,
anyway.  I feel more human.

HILLCRIST.  We had to fight for our home.  I should have felt like a
traitor if I hadn't.

JILL.  I'm not enjoying home tonight, Dodo.

HILLCRIST.  I never could hate proper; it's a confounded nuisance.

JILL.  Mother's fearfully' bucked, and Dawker's simply oozing
triumph.  I don't trust him.  Dodo; he's too--not pugilistic--the
other one with a pug-naceous.

HILLCRIST.  He is rather.

JILL.  I'm sure he wouldn't care tuppence if Chloe committed
suicide.

HILLCRIST.  [Rising uneasily] Nonsense!  Nonsense!

JILL.  I wonder if mother would.

HILLCRIST. [Turning his face towards the window]  What's that?  I
thought I heard--[Louder]--Is these anybody out there?

     [No answer.  JILL, springs up and runs to the window.]

JILL.  You!

     [She dives through to the Right, and returns, holding CHLOE'S
     hand and drawing her forward]

Come in!  It's only us!  [To HILLCRIST]  Dodo!

HILLCRIST.  [Flustered, but making a show of courtesy]  Good
evening!  Won't you sit down?

JILL.  Sit down; you're all shaky.

     [She makes CHLOE sit down in the armchair, out of which they
     have risen, then locks the door, and closing the windows, draws
     the curtains hastily over them.]

HILLCRIST.  [Awkward and expectant]  Can I do anything for you?

CHLOE.  I couldn't bear it he's coming to ask you----

HILLCRIST.  Who?

CHLOE.  My husband.  [She draws in her breath with a long shudder,
then seem to seize her courage in her hands]  I've got to be quick.
He keeps on asking--he knows there's something.

HILLCRIST.  Make your mind easy.  We shan't tell him.

CHLOE.  [Appealing]  Oh!  that's not enough.  Can't you tell him
something to put him back to thinking it's all right?  I've done him
such a wrong.  I didn't realise till after--I thought meeting him
was just a piece of wonderful good luck, after what I'd been
through.  I'm not such a bad lot--not really.

     [She stops from the over-quivering of her lips.  JILL, standing
     beside the chair, strokes her shoulder.  HILLCRIST stands very
     still, painfully biting at a finger.]

You see, my father went bankrupt, and I was in a shop----

HILLCRIST.  [Soothingly, and to prevent disclosures] Yes, yes; Yes,
yes!

CHLOE.  I never gave a man away or did anything I was ashamed of--at
least--I mean, I had to make my living in all sorts of ways, and
then I met Charlie.

     [Again she stopped from the quivering of her lips.]

JILL.  It's all right.

CHLOE.  He thought I was respectable, and that was such a relief,
you can't think, so--so I let him.

JILL.  Dodo!  It's awful

HILLCRIST.  It is!

CHLOE.  And after I married him, you see, I fell in love.  If I had
before, perhaps I wouldn't have dared only, I don't know--you never
know, do you?  When there's a straw going, you catch at it.

JILL.  Of course you do.

CHLOE.  And now, you see, I'm going to have a child.

JILL.  [Aghast]  Oh!  Are you?

HILLCRIST.  Good God!

CHLOE.  [Dully]  I've been on hot bricks all this month, ever since
that day here.  I knew it was in the wind.  What gets in the wind
never gets out.  [She rises and throws out her arms]  Never!  It
just blows here and there  [Desolately]  and then--blows home.  [Her
voice changes to resentment]  But I've paid for being a fool--
'tisn't fun, that sort of life, I can tell you.  I'm not ashamed and
repentant, and all that.  If it wasn't for him!  I'm afraid he'll
never forgive me; it's such a disgrace for him--and then, to have
his child!  Being fond of him, I feel it much worse than anything I
ever felt, and that's saying a good bit.  It is.

JILL.  [Energetically]  Look here!  He simply mustn't find out.

CHLOE.  That's it; but it's started, and he's bound to keep on
because he knows there's something.  A man isn't going to be
satisfied when there's something he suspects about his wife, Charlie
wouldn't never.  He's clever, and he's jealous; and he's coming
here.

     [She stops, and looks round wildly, listening.]

JILL.  Dodo, what can we say to put him clean off the scent?

HILLCRIST.  Anything--in reason.

CHLOE.  [Catching at this straw]  You will!  You see, I don't know
what I'll do.  I've got soft, being looked after--he does love me.
And if he throws me off, I'll go under--that's all.

HILLCRIST.  Have you any suggestion?

CHLOE.  [Eagerly]  The only thing is to tell him something positive,
something he'll believe, that's not too bad--like my having been a
lady clerk with those people who came here, and having been
dismissed on suspicion of taking money.  I could get him to believe
that wasn't true.

JILL.  Yes; and it isn't--that's splendid!  You'd be able to put
such conviction into it.  Don't you think so, Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  Anything I can.  I'm deeply sorry.

CHLOE.  Thank you.  And don't say I've been here, will you?  He's
very suspicious.  You see, he knows that his father has re-sold that
land to you; that's what he can't make out--that, and my coming here
this morning; he knows something's being kept from him; and he
noticed that man with Dawker yesterday.  And my maid's been spying
on me.  It's in the air.  He puts two and two together.  But I've
told him there's nothing he need worry about; nothing that's true.

HILLCRIST.  What a coil!

CHLOE.  I'm very honest and careful about money.  So he won't
believe that about me, and the old man wants to keep it from
Charlie, I know.

HILLCRIST.  That does seem the best way out.

CHLOE.  [With a touch of defiance]  I'm a true wife to him.

CHLOE.  Of course we know that.

HILLCRIST.  It's all unspeakably sad.  Deception's horribly against
the grain--but----

CHLOE.  [Eagerly]  When I deceived him, I'd have deceived God
Himself--I was so desperate.  You've never been right down in the
mud.  You can't understand what I've been through.

HILLCRIST.  Yes, Yes.  I daresay I'd have done the same.  I should
be the last to judge.

     [CHLOE covers her eyes with her hands.]

There, there!  Cheer up!  [He puts his hand on her arm.]

CHLOE.  [To herself]  Darling Dodo!

CHLOE.  [Starting]  There's somebody at the door.  I must go; I must
go.

     [She runs to the window and slips through the curtains.]

     [The handle of the door is again turned.]

JILL.  [Dismayed]  Oh!  It's locked--I forgot.

     [She spring to the door, unlocks and opens it, while HILLCRIST
     goes to the bureau and sits down.]

It's all right, Fellows; I was only saying something rather
important.

FELLOWS.  [Coming in a step or two and closing the door behind him]
Certainly, Miss.  Mr. Charles 'Ornblower is in the hall.  Wants to
see you, sir, or Mrs. Hillcrist.

JILL.  What a bore!  Can you see him, Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  Er--yes.  I suppose so.  Show him in here, Fellows.

     [As FELLOWS goes out, JILL runs to the window, but has no time
     to do more than adjust the curtains and spring over to stand by
     her father, before CHARLES comes in.  Though in evening
     clothes, he is white and disheveled for so spruce a young
     mean.]

CHARLES.  Is my wife here?

HILLCRIST.  No, sir.

CHARLES.  Has she been?

HILLCRIST.  This morning, I believe, Jill?

JILL.  Yes, she came this morning.

CHARLES.  [staring at her]  I know that--now, I mean?

JILL.  No.

     [HILLCRIST shakes has head.]

CHARLES.  Tell me what was said this morning.

HILLCRIST.  I was not here this morning.

CHARLES.  Don't try to put me off.  I know too much.  [To JILL]
You.

JILL.  Shall I, Dodo?

HILLCRIST.  No; I will.  Won't you sit down?

CHARLES.  No.  Go on.

HILLCRIST.  [Moistening his lips]  It appears, Mr. Hornblower, that
my agent, Mr. Dawker--

     [CHARLES, who is breathing hard, utters a sound of anger.]

--that my agent happens to know a firm, who in old days employed
your wife.  I should greatly prefer not to say any more, especially
as we don't believe the story.

JILL.  No; we don't.

CHARLES.  Go on!

HILLCRIST.  [Getting up]  Come!  If I were you, I should refuse to
listen to anything against my wife.

CHARLES.  Go on, I tell you.

HILLCRIST.  You insist?  Well, they say there was some question
about the accounts, and your wife left them under a cloud.  As I
told you, we don't believe it.

CHARLES. [Passionately]  Liars!

     [He makes a rush for the door.]

HILLCRIST.  [Starting]  What did you say?

JILL.  [Catching his arm]  Dodo!  [Sotto voce]  We are, you know.

CHARLES.  [Turning back to them]  Why do you tell me that lie?  When
I've just had the truth out of that little scoundrel!  My wife's
been here; she put you up to it.

     [The face of CHLOE is seen transfixed between the curtains,
     parted by her hands.]

She--she put you up to it.  Liar that she is--a living lie.  For
three years a living lie!

     [HILLCRIST  whose face alone is turned towards the curtains,
     sees that listening face.  His hand goes up from uncontrollable
     emotion.]

And hasn't now the pluck to tell me.  I've done with her.  I won't
own a child by such a woman.

     [With a little sighing sound CHLOE drops the curtain and
     vanishes.]

HILLCRIST.  For God's sake, man, think of what you're saying.  She's
in great distress.

CHARLES.  And what am I?

JILL.  She loves you, you know.

CHARLES.  Pretty love!  That scoundrel Dawker told me--told me--
Horrible!  Horrible!

HILLCRIST.  I deeply regret that our quarrel should have brought
this about.

CHARLES.  [With intense bitterness]  Yes, you've smashed my life.

     [Unseen by them, MRS. HILLCRIST has entered and stands by the
     door, Left.]

MRS.  H.  Would you have wished to live on in ignorance?  [They all
turn to look at her.]

CHARLES.  [With a writhing movement]  I don't know.  But--you--you
did it.

MRS. H.  You shouldn't have attacked us.

CHARLES.  What did we do to you--compared with this?

MRS. H.  All you could.

HILLCRIST.  Enough, enough!  What can we do to help you?

CHARLES.  Tell me where my wife is.

     [JILL draws the curtains apart--the window is open--JILL looks
     out.  They wait in silence.]

JILL.  We don't know.

CHARLES.  Then she was here?

HILLCRIST.  Yes, sir; and she heard you.

CHARLES.  All the better if she did.  She knows how I feel.

HILLCRIST.  Brace up; be gentle with her.

CHARLES. Gentle?  A woman who--who----

HILLCRIST.  A most unhappy creature.  Come!

CHARLES.  Damn your sympathy!

     [He goes out into the moonlight, passing away.]

JILL.  Dodo, we ought to look for her; I'm awfully afraid.

HILLCRIST.  I saw her there--listening.  With child!  Who knows
where things end when they and begin?  To the gravel pit, Jill; I'll
go to the pond.  No, we'll go together.  [They go out.]

     [MRS.  HILLCRIST comes down to the fireplace, rings the bell
     and stands there, thinking.  FELLOWS enters.]

MRS. H.  I want someone to go down to Mr. Dawker's.

FELLOWS.  Mr. Dawker is here, ma'am, waitin' to see you.

MRS.  H.  Ask him to come in.  Oh!  and Fellows, you can tell the
Jackmans that they can go back to their cottage.

FELLOWS.  Very good, ma'am.  [He goes out.]

     [MRS. HILLCRIST searches at the bureau, finds and takes out the
     deed.  DAWKERS comes in; he has the appearance of a man whose
     temper has been badly ruffled.]

MRS. H.  Charles Hornblower--how did it happen?

DAWKER.  He came to me.  I said I knew nothing.  He wouldn't take
it; went for me, abused me up hill and down dale; said he knew
everything, and then he began to threaten me.  Well, I lost my
temper, and I told him.

MRS. H.  That's very serious, Dawker, after our promise.  My husband
is most upset.

DAWKER.  [Sullenly]  It's not my fault, ma'am; he shouldn't have
threatened and goaded me on.  Besides, it's got out that there's a
scandal; common talk in the village--not the facts, but quite enough
to cook their goose here.  They'll have to go.  Better have done
with it, anyway, than have enemies at your door.

MRS. H.  Perhaps; but--Oh!  Dawker, take charge of this.  [She hands
him the deed]  These people are desperate--and--I'm sot sure of my
husband when his feelings are worked on.

     [The sound of a car stopping.]

DAWKER.  [At the window, looking to the Left]  Hornblower's, I
think.  Yes, he's getting out.

MRS. H.  [Bracing herself]  You'd better wait, then.

DAWKER.  He mustn't give me any of his sauce; I've had enough.

     [The door is opened and HORNBLOWER enters, pressing so on the
     heels of FELLOWS that the announcement of his name is lost.]

HORNBLOWER.  Give me that deed!  Ye got it out of me by false
pretences and treachery.  Ye swore that nothing should be heard of
this.  Why!  me own servants know.

MRS. H.  That has nothing to do with us.  Your son came and wrenched
the knowledge out of Mr. DAWKER by abuse and threats; that is all.
You will kindly behave yourself here, or I shall ask that you be
shown out.

HORNBLOWER.  Give me that deed, I say!  [He suddenly turns on
DAWKER]  Ye little ruffian, I see it in your pocket.

     [The end indeed is projecting from DAWKER'S breast pocket.]

DAWKER.  [Seeing red]  Now, look 'ere, 'Ornblower, I stood a deal
from your son, and I'll stand no more.

HORNBLOWER.  [To MRS. HILLCRIST]  I'll ruin your place yet!  [To
DAWKER]  Ye give me that deed, or I'll throttle ye.

     [He closes on DAWKER, and makes a snatch at the deed.  DAWKER,
     springs at him, and the two stand swaying, trying for a grip at
     each other's throats.  MRS. HILLCRIST tries to cross and reach
     the bell, but is shut off by their swaying struggle.]

     [Suddenly ROLF appears in the window, looks wildly at the
     struggle, and seizes DAWKER'S hands, which have reached
     HORNBLOWER'S throat.  JILL, who is following, rushes up to him
     and clutches his arm.]

JILL.  Rolf!  All of you!  Stop!  Look!

     [DAWKER'S hand relaxes, and he is swung round.  HORNBLOWER
     staggers and recovers himself, gasping for breath.  All turn to
     the window, outside which in the moonlight HILLCRIST and
     CHARLES HORNBLOWER have CHLOE'S motionless body in their arms.]

In the gravel pit.  She's just breathing; that's all.

MRS. H.  Bring her in.  The brandy, Jill!

HORNBLOWER.  No.  Take her to the car.  Stand back, young woman!  I
want no help from any of ye.  Rolf--Chearlie--take her up.

     [They lift and bear her away, Left.  JILL follows.]

Hillcrist, ye've got me beaten and disgraced hereabouts, ye've
destroyed my son's married life, and ye've killed my grandchild.
I'm not staying in this cursed spot, but if ever I can do you or
yours a hurt, I will.

DAWKER.  [Muttering]  That's right.  Squeal and threaten.  You began
it.

HILLCRIST.  Dawker, have the goodness!  Hornblower, in the presence
of what may be death, with all my heart I'm sorry.

HORNBLOWER.  Ye hypocrite!

     [He passes them with a certain dignity, and goes out at the
     window, following to his car.]

     [HILLCRIST who has stood for a moment stock-still, goes slowly
     forward and sits in his swivel chair.]

MRS. H.  Dawker, please tell Fellows to telephone to Dr. Robinson to
go round to the Hornblowers at once.

     [DAWKER, fingering the deed, and with a noise that sounds like
     "The cur!" goes out, Left.]

     [At the fireplace]

Jack!  Do you blame me?

HILLCRIST.  [Motionless]  No.

MRS. H.  Or Dawker?  He's done his best.

HILLCRIST.  No.

MRS. H.  [Approaching]  What is it?

HILLCRIST.  Hypocrite!

     [JILL comes running in at the window.]

JILL.  Dodo, she's moved; she's spoken.  It may not be so bad.

HILLCRIST.  Thank God for that!

     [FELLOWS enters, Left.]

FELLOWS.  The Jackmans, ma'am.

HILLCRIST.  Who?  What's this?

     [The JACKMANS have entered, standing close to the door.]

MRS. J.  We're so glad we can go back, sir--ma'am, we just wanted to
thank you.

     [There is a silence.  They see that they are not welcome.]

Thank you kindly, sir.  Good night, ma'am.

     [They shuffle out. ]

HILLCRIST.  I'd forgotten their existence.  [He gets up]  What is it
that gets loose when you begin a fight, and makes you what you think
you're not?  What blinding evil!  Begin as you may, it ends in this
--skin game!  Skin game!

JILL.  [Rushing to him]  It's not you, Dodo; it's not you, beloved
Dodo.

HILLCRIST.  It is me.  For I am, or should be, master in this house!

MRS. H.  I don't understand.

HILLCRIST.  When we began this fight, we had clean hands--are they
clean' now?  What's gentility worth if it can't stand fire?


CURTAIN





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