Infomotions, Inc.The Admirable Crichton / Barrie, J. M. (James Matthew), 1860-1937



Author: Barrie, J. M. (James Matthew), 1860-1937
Title: The Admirable Crichton
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): crichton; lord loam; brocklehurst; tweeny; loam; ernest; lord brocklehurst; lady brocklehurst; treherne; lady mary; agatha; mary; lady; lord
Contributor(s): Plouffe, Simon, 1956- [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 27,000 words (really short) Grade range: 6-8 (grade school) Readability score: 71 (easy)
Identifier: etext3490
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Title: THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON

Author: J. M. Barrie

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THE PLAYS OF J. M. BARRIE


THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON


A COMEDY




ACT I

AT LOAM HOUSE, MAYFAIR


A moment before the curtain rises, the Hon. Ernest Woolley drives up
to the door of Loam House in Mayfair. There is a happy smile on his
pleasant, insignificant face, and this presumably means that he is
thinking of himself. He is too busy over nothing, this man about
town, to be always thinking of himself, but, on the other hand, he
almost never thinks of any other person. Probably Ernest's great
moment is when he wakes of a morning and realises that he really is
Ernest, for we must all wish to be that which is our ideal. We can
conceive him springing out of bed light-heartedly and waiting for
his man to do the rest. He is dressed in excellent taste, with just
the little bit more which shows that he is not without a sense of
humour: the dandiacal are often saved by carrying a smile at the
whole thing in their spats, let us say. Ernest left Cambridge the
other day, a member of The Athenaeum (which he would be sorry to
have you confound with a club in London of the same name). He is a
bachelor, but not of arts, no mean epigrammatist (as you shall see),
and a favourite of the ladies. He is almost a celebrity in
restaurants, where he dines frequently, returning to sup; and during
this last year he has probably paid as much in them for the
privilege of handing his hat to an attendant as the rent of a
working-man's flat. He complains brightly that he is hard up, and
that if somebody or other at Westminster does not look out the
country will go to the dogs. He is no fool. He has the shrewdness to
float with the current because it is a labour-saving process, but he
has sufficient pluck to fight, if fight he must (a brief contest,
for he would soon be toppled over). He has a light nature, which
would enable him to bob up cheerily in new conditions and return
unaltered to the old ones. His selfishness is his most endearing
quality. If he has his way he will spend his life like a cat in
pushing his betters out of the soft places, and until he is old he
will be fondled in the process.

He gives his hat to one footman and his cane to another, and mounts
the great staircase unassisted and undirected. As a nephew of the
house he need show no credentials even to Crichton, who is guarding
a door above.

It would not be good taste to describe Crichton, who is only a
servant; if to the scandal of all good houses he is to stand out as
a figure in the play, he must do it on his own, as they say in the
pantry and the boudoir.

We are not going to help him. We have had misgivings ever since we
found his name in the title, and we shall keep him out of his rights
as long as we can. Even though we softened to him he would not be a
hero in these clothes of servitude; and he loves his clothes. How to
get him out of them? It would require a cataclysm. To be an indoor
servant at all is to Crichton a badge of honour; to be a butler at
thirty is the realisation of his proudest ambitions. He is devotedly
attached to his master, who, in his opinion, has but one fault, he
is not sufficiently contemptuous of his inferiors. We are
immediately to be introduced to this solitary failing of a great
English peer.

This perfect butler, then, opens a door, and ushers Ernest into a
certain room. At the same moment the curtain rises on this room, and
the play begins.

It is one of several reception-rooms in Loam House, not the most
magnificent but quite the softest; and of a warm afternoon all that
those who are anybody crave for is the softest. The larger rooms are
magnificent and bare, carpetless, so that it is an accomplishment to
keep one's feet on them; they are sometimes lent for charitable
purposes; they are also all in use on the night of a dinner-party,
when you may find yourself alone in one, having taken a wrong
turning; or alone, save for two others who are within hailing
distance.

This room, however, is comparatively small and very soft. There are
so many cushions in it that you wonder why, if you are an outsider
and don't know that, it needs six cushions to make one fair head
comfy. The couches themselves are cushions as large as beds, and
there is an art of sinking into them and of waiting to be helped out
of them. There are several famous paintings on the walls, of which
you may say 'Jolly thing that,' without losing caste as knowing too
much; and in cases there are glorious miniatures, but the daughters
of the house cannot tell you of whom; 'there is a catalogue
somewhere.' There are a thousand or so of roses in basins, several
library novels, and a row of weekly illustrated newspapers lying
against each other like fallen soldiers. If any one disturbs this
row Crichton seems to know of it from afar and appears noiselessly
and replaces the wanderer. One thing unexpected in such a room is a
great array of tea things. Ernest spots them with a twinkle, and has
his epigram at once unsheathed. He dallies, however, before
delivering the thrust.

ERNEST. I perceive, from the tea cups, Crichton, that the great
function is to take place here.

CRICHTON (with a respectful sigh). Yes, sir.

ERNEST (chuckling heartlessly). The servants' hall coming up to have
tea in the drawing-room! (With terrible sarcasm.) No wonder you look
happy, Crichton.

CRICHTON (under the knife). No, sir.

ERNEST. Do you know, Crichton, I think that with an effort you might
look even happier. (CRICHTON smiles wanly.) You don't approve of his
lordship's compelling his servants to be his equals--once a month?

CRICHTON. It is not for me, sir, to disapprove of his lordship's
radical views.

ERNEST. Certainly not. And, after all, it is only once a month that
he is affable to you.

CRICHTON. On all other days of the month, sir, his lordship's
treatment of us is everything that could be desired.

ERNEST. (This is the epigram.) Tea cups! Life, Crichton, is like a
cup of tea; the more heartily we drink, the sooner we reach the
dregs.

CRICHTON (obediently). Thank you, sir.

ERNEST (becoming confidential, as we do when we have need of an
ally). Crichton, in case I should be asked to say a few words to
the servants, I have strung together a little speech. (His hand
strays to his pocket.) I was wondering where I should stand.

(He tries various places and postures, and comes to rest leaning
over a high chair, whence, in dumb show, he addresses a gathering.
CRICHTON, with the best intentions, gives him a footstool to stand
on, and departs, happily unconscious that ERNEST in some dudgeon has
kicked the footstool across the room.)

ERNEST (addressing an imaginary audience, and desirous of startling
them at once). Suppose you were all little fishes at the bottom of
the sea--

(He is not quite satisfied with his position, though sure that the
fault must lie with the chair for being too high, not with him for
being too short. CRICHTON'S suggestion was not perhaps a bad one
after all. He lifts the stool, but hastily conceals it behind him on
the entrance of the LADIES CATHERINE and AGATHA, two daughters of
the house. CATHERINE is twenty, and AGATHA two years younger. They
are very fashionable young women indeed, who might wake up for a
dance, but they are very lazy, CATHERINE being two years lazier than
AGATHA.)

ERNEST (uneasily jocular, because he is concealing the footstool).
And how are my little friends to-day?

AGATHA (contriving to reach a settee). Don't be silly, Ernest. If
you want to know how we are, we are dead. Even to think of
entertaining the servants is so exhausting.

CATHERINE (subsiding nearer the door). Besides which, we have had to
decide what frocks to take with us on the yacht, and that is such a
mental strain.

ERNEST. You poor over-worked things. (Evidently AGATHA is his
favourite, for he helps her to put her feet on the settee, while
CATHERINE has to dispose of her own feet.) Rest your weary limbs.

CATHERINE (perhaps in revenge). But why have you a footstool in your
hand?

AGATHA. Yes?

ERNEST. Why? (Brilliantly; but to be sure he has had time to think
it out.) You see, as the servants are to be the guests I must be
butler. I was practising. This is a tray, observe.

(Holding the footstool as a tray, he minces across the room like an
accomplished footman. The gods favour him, for just here LADY MARY
enters, and he holds out the footstool to her.)

Tea, my lady?

(LADY MARY is a beautiful creature of twenty-two, and is of a
natural hauteur which is at once the fury and the envy of her
sisters. If she chooses she can make you seem so insignificant that
you feel you might be swept away with the crumb-brush. She seldom
chooses, because of the trouble of preening herself as she does it;
she is usually content to show that you merely tire her eyes. She
often seems to be about to go to sleep in the middle of a remark:
there is quite a long and anxious pause, and then she continues,
like a clock that hesitates, bored in the middle of its strike.)

LADY MARY (arching her brows). It is only you, Ernest; I thought
there was some one here (and she also bestows herself on cushions).

ERNEST (a little piqued, and deserting the footstool). Had a very
tiring day also, Mary?

LADY MARY (yawning). Dreadfully. Been trying on engagement-rings all
the morning.

ERNEST (who is as fond of gossip as the oldest club member). What's
that? (To AGATHA.) Is it Brocklehurst?

(The energetic AGATHA nods.)

You have given your warm young heart to Brocky?

(LADY MARY is impervious to his humour, but he continues bravely.)

I don't wish to fatigue you, Mary, by insisting on a verbal answer,
but if, without straining yourself, you can signify Yes or No, won't
you make the effort?

(She indolently flashes a ring on her most important finger, and he
starts back melodramatically.)

The ring! Then I am too late, too late! (Fixing LADY MARY sternly,
like a prosecuting counsel.) May I ask, Mary, does Brocky know? Of
course, it was that terrible mother of his who pulled this through.
Mother does everything for Brocky. Still, in the eyes of the law you
will be, not her wife, but his, and, therefore, I hold that Brocky
ought to be informed. Now--

(He discovers that their languorous eyes have closed.)

If you girls are shamming sleep in the expectation that I shall
awaken you in the manner beloved of ladies, abandon all such hopes.

(CATHERINE and AGATHA look up without speaking.)

LADY MARY (speaking without looking up). You impertinent boy.

ERNEST (eagerly plucking another epigram from his quiver). I knew
that was it, though I don't know everything. Agatha, I'm not young
enough to know everything.

(He looks hopefully from one to another, but though they try to
grasp this, his brilliance baffles them.)

AGATHA (his secret admirer). Young enough?

ERNEST (encouragingly). Don't you see? I'm not young enough to know
everything.

AGATHA. I'm sure it's awfully clever, but it's so puzzling.

(Here CRICHTON ushers in an athletic, pleasant-faced young
clergyman, MR. TREHERNE, who greets the company.)

CATHERINE. Ernest, say it to Mr. Treherne.

ERNEST. Look here, Treherne, I'm not young enough to know
everything.

TREHERNE. How do you mean, Ernest?

ERNEST. (a little nettled). I mean what I say.

LADY MARY. Say it again; say it more slowly.

ERNEST. I'm--not--young--enough--to--know--everything.

TREHERNE. I see. What you really mean, my boy, is that you are not
old enough to know everything.

ERNEST. No, I don't.

TREHERNE. I assure you that's it.

LADY MARY. Of course it is.

CATHERINE. Yes, Ernest, that's it.

(ERNEST, in desperation, appeals to CRICHTON.)

ERNEST. I am not young enough, Crichton, to know everything.

(It is an anxious moment, but a smile is at length extorted from
CRICHTON as with a corkscrew.)

CRICHTON. Thank you, sir. (He goes.)

ERNEST (relieved). Ah, if you had that fellow's head, Treherne, you
would find something better to do with it than play cricket. I hear
you bowl with your head.

TREHERNE (with proper humility). I'm afraid cricket is all I'm good
for, Ernest.

CATHERINE (who thinks he has a heavenly nose). Indeed, it isn't. You
are sure to get on, Mr. Treherne.

TREHERNE. Thank you, Lady Catherine.

CATHERINE. But it was the bishop who told me so. He said a clergyman
who breaks both ways is sure to get on in England.

TREHERNE. I'm jolly glad.

(The master of the house comes in, accompanied by LORD BROCKLEHURST.
The EARL OF LOAM is a widower, a philanthropist, and a peer of
advanced ideas. As a widower he is at least able to interfere in the
domestic concerns of his house--to rummage in the drawers, so to
speak, for which he has felt an itching all his blameless life; his
philanthropy has opened quite a number of other drawers to him; and
his advanced ideas have blown out his figure. He takes in all the
weightiest monthly reviews, and prefers those that are uncut,
because he perhaps never looks better than when cutting them; but he
does not read them, and save for the cutting it would suit him as
well merely to take in the covers. He writes letters to the papers,
which are printed in a type to scale with himself, and he is very
jealous of those other correspondents who get his type. Let laws and
learning, art and commerce die, but leave the big type to an
intellectual aristocracy. He is really the reformed House of Lords
which will come some day.

Young LORD BROCKLEHURST is nothing save for his rank. You could pick
him up by the handful any day in Piccadilly or Holborn, buying
socks--or selling them.)

LORD LOAM (expansively). You are here, Ernest. Feeling fit for the
voyage, Treherne?

TREHERNE. Looking forward to it enormously.

LORD LOAM. That's right. (He chases his children about as if they
were chickens.) Now then, Mary, up and doing, up and doing. Time we
had the servants in. They enjoy it so much.

LADY MARY. They hate it.

LORD LOAM. Mary, to your duties. (And he points severely to the tea-
table.)

ERNEST (twinkling). Congratulations, Brocky.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (who detests humour). Thanks.

ERNEST. Mother pleased?

LORD BROCKLEHURST (with dignity). Mother is very pleased.

ERNEST. That's good. Do you go on the yacht with us?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Sorry I can't. And look here, Ernest, I will not
be called Brocky. 

ERNEST. Mother don't like it?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. She does not. (He leaves ERNEST, who forgives him
and begins to think about his speech. CRICHTON enters.)

LORD LOAM (speaking as one man to another). We are quite ready,
Crichton. (CRICHTON is distressed.)

LADY MARY (sarcastically). How Crichton enjoys it!

LORD LOAM (frowning). He is the only one who doesn't; pitiful
creature.

CRICHTON (shuddering under his lord's displeasure). I can't help
being a Conservative, my lord.

LORD LOAM. Be a man, Crichton. You are the same flesh and blood as
myself.

CRICHTON (in pain). Oh, my lord!

LORD LOAM (sharply). Show them in; and, by the way, they were not
all here last time.

CRICHTON. All, my lord, except the merest trifles.

LORD LOAM. It must be every one. (Lowering.) And remember this,
Crichton, for the time being you are my equal. (Testily.) I shall
soon show you whether you are not my equal. Do as you are told.

(CRICHTON departs to obey, and his lordship is now a general. He has
no pity for his daughters, and uses a terrible threat.)

And girls, remember, no condescension. The first who condescends
recites. (This sends them skurrying to their labours.)

By the way, Brocklehurst, can you do anything?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. How do you mean?

LORD LOAM. Can you do anything--with a penny or a handkerchief, make
them disappear, for instance?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Good heavens, no.

LORD LOAM. It's a pity. Every one in our position ought to be able
to do something. Ernest, I shall probably ask you to say a few
words; something bright and sparkling.

ERNEST. But, my dear uncle, I have prepared nothing.

LORD LOAM. Anything impromptu will do.

ERNEST. Oh--well--if anything strikes me on the spur of the moment.

(He unostentatiously gets the footstool into position behind the
chair. CRICHTON reappears to announce the guests, of whom the first
is the housekeeper.)

CRICHTON (reluctantly). Mrs. Perkins.

LORD LOAM (shaking hands). Very delighted, Mrs. Perkins. Mary, our
friend, Mrs. Perkins.

LADY MARY. How do you do, Mrs. Perkins? Won't you sit here?

LORD LOAM (threateningly). Agatha!

AGATHA (hastily). How do you do? Won't you sit down?

LORD LOAM (introducing). Lord Brocklehurst--my valued friend, Mrs.
Perkins.

(LORD BROCKLEHURST bows and escapes. He has to fall back on ERNEST.)

LORD BROCKLEHURST. For heaven's sake, Ernest, don't leave me for a
moment; this sort of thing is utterly opposed to all my principles.

ERNEST (airily). You stick to me, Brocky, and I'll pull you through.

CRICHTON. Monsieur Fleury.

ERNEST. The chef.

LORD LOAM (shaking hands with the chef). Very charmed to see you,
Monsieur Fleury.

FLEURY. Thank you very much.

(FLEURY bows to AGATHA, who is not effusive.)

LORD LOAM (warningly). Agatha--recitation!

(She tosses her head, but immediately finds a seat and tea for M.
FLEURY. TREHERNE and ERNEST move about, making themselves amiable.
LADY MARY is presiding at the tea-tray.)

CRICHTON. Mr. Rolleston.

LORD LOAM (shaking hands with his valet). How do you do, Rolleston?

(CATHERINE looks after the wants of ROLLESTON.)

CRICHTON. Mr. Tompsett.

(TOMPSETT, the coachman, is received with honours, from which he
shrinks.)

CRICHTON. Miss Fisher.

(This superb creature is no less than LADY MARY'S maid, and even
LORD LOAM is a little nervous.)

LORD LOAM. This is a pleasure, Miss Fisher.

ERNEST (unabashed). If I might venture, Miss Fisher (and he takes
her unto himself). 

CRICHTON. Miss Simmons.

LORD LOAM (to CATHERINE'S maid). You are always welcome, Miss
Simmons.

ERNEST (perhaps to kindle jealousy in Miss FISHER). At last we meet.
Won't you sit down?

CRICHTON. Mademoiselle Jeanne.

LORD LOAM. Charmed to see you, Mademoiselle Jeanne.

(A place is found for AGATHA'S maid, and the scene is now an
animated one; but still our host thinks his girls are not
sufficiently sociable. He frowns on LADY MARY.)

LADY MARY (in alarm). Mr. Treherne, this is Fisher, my maid.

LORD LOAM (sharply). Your what, Mary?

LADY MARY. My friend.

CRICHTON. Thomas.

LORD LOAM. How do you do, Thomas?

(The first footman gives him a reluctant hand.)

CRICHTON. John.

LORD LOAM. How do you do, John?

(ERNEST signs to LORD BROCKLEHURST, who hastens to him.)

ERNEST (introducing). Brocklehurst, this is John. I think you have
already met on the door-step.

CRICHTON. Jane.

(She comes, wrapping her hands miserably in her apron.)

LORD LOAM (doggedly). Give me your hand, Jane.

CRICHTON. Gladys.

ERNEST. How do you do, Gladys. You know my uncle?

LORD LOAM. Your hand, Gladys.

(He bestows her on AGATHA.)

CRICHTON. Tweeny.

(She is a very humble and frightened kitchenmaid, of whom we are to
see more.)

LORD LOAM. So happy to see you.

FISHER. John, I saw you talking to Lord Brocklehurst just now;
introduce me.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (at the same moment to ERNEST). That's an uncommon
pretty girl; if I must feed one of them, Ernest, that's the one.

(But ERNEST tries to part him and FISHER as they are about to shake
hands.)

ERNEST. No you don't, it won't do, Brocky. (To Miss FISHER.) You are
too pretty, my dear. Mother wouldn't like it. (Discovering TWEENY.)
Here's something safer. Charming girl, Brocky, dying to know you;
let me introduce you. Tweeny, Lord Brocklehurst--Lord Brocklehurst,
Tweeny.

(BROCKLEHURST accepts his fate; but he still has an eye for FISHER,
and something may come of this.)

LORD LOAM (severely). They are not all here, Crichton.

CRICHTON (with a sigh). Odds and ends.

(A STABLE-BOY and a PAGE are shown in, and for a moment no daughter
of the house advances to them.)

LORD LOAM (with a roving eye on his children). Which is to recite?

(The last of the company are, so to say, embraced.)

LORD LOAM (to TOMPSETT, as they partake of tea together). And how
are all at home?

TOMPSETT. Fairish, my lord, if 'tis the horses you are inquiring
for?

LORD LOAM. No, no, the family. How's the baby?

TOMPSETT. Blooming, your lordship.

LORD LOAM. A very fine boy. I remember saying so when I saw him;
nice little fellow.

TOMPSETT (not quite knowing whether to let it pass). Beg pardon, my
lord, it's a girl.

LORD LOAM. A girl? Aha! ha! ha! exactly what I said. I distinctly
remember saying, If it's spared it will be a girl.

(CRICHTON now comes down.)

LORD LOAM. Very delighted to see you, Crichton.

(CRICHTON has to shake hands.)

Mary, you know Mr. Crichton?

(He wanders off in search of other prey.)

LADY MARY. Milk and sugar, Crichton?

CRICHTON. I'm ashamed to be seen talking to you, my lady.

LADY MARY. To such a perfect servant as you all this must be most
distasteful. (CRICHTON is too respectful to answer.) Oh, please do
speak, or I shall have to recite. You do hate it, don't you?

CRICHTON. It pains me, your ladyship. It disturbs the etiquette of
the servants' hall. After last month's meeting the pageboy, in a
burst of equality, called me Crichton. He was dismissed.

LADY MARY. I wonder--I really do--how you can remain with us.

CRICHTON. I should have felt compelled to give notice, my lady, if
the master had not had a seat in the Upper House. I cling to that.

LADY MARY. Do go on speaking. Tell me, what did Mr. Ernest mean by
saying he was not young enough to know everything?

CRICHTON. I have no idea, my lady.

LADY MARY. But you laughed.

CRICHTON. My lady, he is the second son of a peer.

LADY MARY. Very proper sentiments. You are a good soul, Crichton.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (desperately to TWEENY). And now tell me, have you
been to the Opera? What sort of weather have you been having in the
kitchen? (TWEENY gurgles.) For Heaven's sake, woman, be articulate.

CRICHTON (still talking to LADY MARY). No, my lady; his lordship may
compel us to be equal upstairs, but there will never be equality in
the servants' hall.

LORD LOAM (overhearing this). What's that? No equality? Can't you
see, Crichton, that our divisions into classes are artificial, that
if we were to return to nature, which is the aspiration of my life,
all would be equal?

CRICHTON. If I may make so bold as to contradict your lordship--

LORD LOAM (with an effort). Go on.

CRICHTON. The divisions into classes, my lord, are not artificial.
They are the natural outcome of a civilised society. (To LADY MARY.)
There must always be a master and servants in all civilised
communities, my lady, for it is natural, and whatever is natural is
right.

LORD LOAM (wincing). It is very unnatural for me to stand here and
allow you to talk such nonsense.

CRICHTON (eagerly). Yes, my lord, it is. That is what I have been
striving to point out to your lordship.

AGATHA (to CATHERINE). What is the matter with Fisher? She is
looking daggers.

CATHERINE. The tedious creature; some question of etiquette, I
suppose.

(She sails across to FISHER.)

How are you, Fisher?

FISHER (with a toss of her head). I am nothing, my lady, I am
nothing at all.

AGATHA. Oh dear, who says so?

FISHER (affronted). His lordship has asked that kitchen wench to
have a second cup of tea.

CATHERINE. But why not?

FISHER. If it pleases his lordship to offer it to her before
offering it to me--

AGATHA. So that is it. Do you want another cup of tea, Fisher?

FISHER. No, my lady--but my position--I should have been asked
first.

AGATHA. Oh dear.

(All this has taken some time, and by now the feeble appetites of
the uncomfortable guests have been satiated. But they know there is
still another ordeal to face--his lordship's monthly speech. Every
one awaits it with misgiving--the servants lest they should applaud,
as last time, in the wrong place, and the daughters because he may
be personal about them, as the time before. ERNEST is annoyed that
there should be this speech at all when there is such a much better
one coming, and BROCKLEHURST foresees the degradation of the
peerage. All are thinking of themselves alone save CRICHTON, who
knows his master's weakness, and fears he may stick in the middle.
LORD LOAM, however, advances cheerfully to his doom. He sees
ERNEST'S stool, and artfully stands on it, to his nephew's natural
indignation. The three ladies knit their lips, the servants look
down their noses, and the address begins.)

LORD LOAM. My friends, I am glad to see you all looking so happy. It
used to be predicted by the scoffer that these meetings would prove
distasteful to you. Are they distasteful? I hear you laughing at the
question.

(He has not heard them, but he hears them now, the watchful CRICHTON
giving them a lead.)

No harm in saying that among us to-day is one who was formerly
hostile to the movement, but who to-day has been won over. I refer
to Lord Brocklehurst, who, I am sure, will presently say to me that
if the charming lady now by his side has derived as much pleasure
from his company as he has derived from hers, he will be more than
satisfied.

(All look at TWEENY, who trembles.)

For the time being the artificial and unnatural--I say unnatural
(glaring at CRICHTON, who bows slightly)--barriers of society are
swept away. Would that they could be swept away for ever.

(The PAGEBOY cheers, and has the one moment of prominence in his
life. He grows up, marries and has children, but is never really
heard of again.)

But that is entirely and utterly out of the question. And now for a
few months we are to be separated. As you know, my daughters and Mr.
Ernest and Mr. Treherne are to accompany me on my yacht, on a voyage
to distant parts of the earth. In less than forty-eight hours we
shall be under weigh.

(But for CRICHTON'S eye the reckless PAGEBOY would repeat his
success.)

Do not think our life on the yacht is to be one long idle holiday.
My views on the excessive luxury of the day are well known, and what
I preach I am resolved to practise. I have therefore decided that my
daughters, instead of having one maid each as at present, shall on
this voyage have but one maid between them.

(Three maids rise; also three mistresses.)

CRICHTON. My lord!

LORD LOAM. My mind is made up.

ERNEST. I cordially agree.

LORD LOAM. And now, my friends, I should like to think that there is
some piece of advice I might give you, some thought, some noble
saying over which you might ponder in my absence. In this connection
I remember a proverb, which has had a great effect on my own life. I
first heard it many years ago. I have never forgotten it. It
constantly cheers and guides me. That proverb is--that proverb was--
the proverb I speak of--

(He grows pale and taps his forehead.)

LADY MARY. Oh dear, I believe he has forgotten it.

LORD LOAM (desperately). The proverb--that proverb to which I refer--

(Alas, it has gone. The distress is general. He has not even the
sense to sit down. He gropes for the proverb in the air. They try
applause, but it is no help.)

I have it now--(not he).

LADY MARY (with confidence). Crichton.

(He does not fail her. As quietly as if he were in goloshes, mind as
well as feet, he dismisses the domestics; they go according to
precedence as they entered, yet, in a moment, they are gone. Then he
signs to MR. TREHERNE, and they conduct LORD LOAM with dignity from
the room. His hands are still catching flies; he still mutters, 'The
proverb--that proverb'; but he continues, owing to CRICHTON'S
skilful treatment, to look every inch a peer. The ladies have now an
opportunity to air their indignation.)

LADY MARY. One maid among three grown women!

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mary, I think I had better go. That dreadful
kitchenmaid--

LADY MARY. I can't blame you, George.

(He salutes her.)

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Your father's views are shocking to me, and I am
glad I am not to be one of the party on the yacht. My respect for
myself, Mary, my natural anxiety as to what mother will say. I shall
see you, darling, before you sail.

(He bows to the others and goes.)

ERNEST. Selfish brute, only thinking of himself. What about my
speech?

LADY MARY. One maid among three of us. What's to be done?

ERNEST. Pooh! You must do for yourselves, that's all.

LADY MARY. Do for ourselves. How can we know where our things are
kept?

AGATHA. Are you aware that dresses button up the back?

CATHERINE. How are we to get into our shoes and be prepared for the
carriage?

LADY MARY. Who is to put us to bed, and who is to get us up, and how
shall we ever know it's morning if there is no one to pull up the
blinds?

(CRICHTON crosses on his way out.)

ERNEST. How is his lordship now?

CRICHTON. A little easier, sir.

LADY MARY. Crichton, send Fisher to me.

(He goes.)

ERNEST. I have no pity for you girls, I--

LADY MARY. Ernest, go away, and don't insult the broken-hearted.

ERNEST. And uncommon glad I am to go. Ta-ta, all of you. He asked me
to say a few words. I came here to say a few words, and I'm not at
all sure that I couldn't bring an action against him.

(He departs, feeling that he has left a dart behind him. The girls
are alone with their tragic thoughts.)

LADY MARY (becomes a mother to the younger ones at last). My poor
sisters, come here. (They go to her doubtfully.) We must make this
draw us closer together. I shall do my best to help you in every
way. Just now I cannot think of myself at all.

AGATHA. But how unlike you, Mary.

LADY MARY. It is my duty to protect my sisters.

CATHERINE. I never knew her so sweet before, Agatha. (Cautiously.)
What do you propose to do, Mary?

LADY MARY. I propose when we are on the yacht to lend Fisher to you
when I don't need her myself.

AGATHA. Fisher?

LADY MARY (who has the most character of the three). Of course, as
the eldest, I have decided that it is my maid we shall take with us.

CATHERINE (speaking also for AGATHA). Mary, you toad.

AGATHA. Nothing on earth would induce Fisher to lift her hand for
either me or Catherine.

LADY MARY. I was afraid of it, Agatha. That is why I am so sorry for
you.

(The further exchange of pleasantries is interrupted by the arrival
of FISHER.)

LADY MARY. Fisher, you heard what his lordship said?

FISHER. Yes, my lady.

LADY MARY (coldly, though the others would have tried blandishment).
You have given me some satisfaction of late, Fisher, and to mark my
approval I have decided that you shall be the maid who accompanies
us.

FISHER (acidly). I thank you, my lady.

LADY MARY. That is all; you may go.

FISHER (rapping it out). If you please, my lady, I wish to give
notice.

(CATHERINE and AGATHA gleam, but LADY MARY is of sterner stuff.)

LADY MARY (taking up a book). Oh, certainly--you may go.

CATHERINE. But why, Fisher?

FISHER. I could not undertake, my lady, to wait upon three. We don't
do it. (In an indignant outburst to LADY MARY.) Oh, my lady, to
think that this affront--

LADY MARY (looking up). I thought I told you to go, Fisher.

(FISHER stands for a moment irresolute; then goes. As soon as she
has gone LADY MARY puts down her book and weeps. She is a pretty
woman, but this is the only pretty thing we have seen her do yet.)

AGATHA (succinctly). Serves you right.

(CRICHTON comes.)

CATHERINE. It will be Simmons after all. Send Simmons to me.

CRICHTON (after hesitating). My lady, might I venture to speak?

CATHERINE. What is it?

CRICHTON. I happen to know, your ladyship, that Simmons desires to
give notice for the same reason as Fisher.

CATHERINE. Oh!

AGATHA (triumphant). Then, Catherine, we take Jeanne.

CRICHTON. And Jeanne also, my lady.

(LADY MARY is reading, indifferent though the heavens fall, but her
sisters are not ashamed to show their despair to CRICHTON.)

AGATHA. We can't blame them. Could any maid who respected herself be
got to wait upon three?

LADY MARY (with languid interest). I suppose there are such persons,
Crichton?

CRICHTON (guardedly). I have heard, my lady, that there are such.

LADY MARY (a little desperate). Crichton, what's to be done? We sail
in two days; could one be discovered in the time?

AGATHA (frankly a supplicant). Surely you can think of some one?

CRICHTON (after hesitating). There is in this establishment, your
ladyship, a young woman--

LADY MARY. Yes?

CRICHTON. A young woman, on whom I have for some time cast an eye.

CATHERINE (eagerly). Do you mean as a possible lady's-maid?

CRICHTON. I had thought of her, my lady, in another connection.

LADY MARY. Ah!

CRICHTON. But I believe she is quite the young person you require.
Perhaps if you could see her, my lady--

LADY MARY. I shall certainly see her. Bring her to me. (He goes.)
You two needn't wait.

CATHERINE. Needn't we? We see your little game, Mary.

AGATHA. We shall certainly remain and have our two-thirds of her.

(They sit there doggedly until CRICHTON returns with TWEENY, who
looks scared.)

CRICHTON. This, my lady, is the young person.

CATHERINE (frankly). Oh dear!

(It is evident that all three consider her quite unsuitable.)

LADY MARY. Come here, girl. Don't be afraid.

(TWEENY looks imploringly at her idol.)

CRICHTON. Her appearance, my lady, is homely, and her manners, as
you may have observed, deplorable, but she has a heart of gold.

LADY MARY. What is your position downstairs?

TWEENY (bobbing). I'm a tweeny, your ladyship.

CATHERINE. A what?

CRICHTON. A tweeny; that is to say, my lady, she is not at present,
strictly speaking, anything; a between maid; she helps the vegetable
maid. It is she, my lady, who conveys the dishes from the one end of
the kitchen table, where they are placed by the cook, to the other
end, where they enter into the charge of Thomas and John.

LADY MARY. I see. And you and Crichton are--ah--keeping company?

(CRICHTON draws himself up.)

TWEENY (aghast). A butler don't keep company, my lady.

LADY MARY (indifferently). Does he not?

CRICHTON. No, your ladyship, we butlers may--(he makes a gesture
with his arms)--but we do not keep company.

AGATHA. I know what it is; you are engaged?

(TWEENY looks longingly at CRICHTON.)

CRICHTON. Certainly not, my lady. The utmost I can say at present is
that I have cast a favourable eye.

(Even this is much to TWEENY.)

LADY MARY. As you choose. But I am afraid, Crichton, she will not
suit us.

CRICHTON. My lady, beneath this simple exterior are concealed a very
sweet nature and rare womanly gifts.

AGATHA. Unfortunately, that is not what we want.

CRICHTON. And it is she, my lady, who dresses the hair of the
ladies'-maids for our evening meals.

(The ladies are interested at last.)

LADY MARY. She dresses Fisher's hair?

TWEENY. Yes, my lady, and I does them up when they goes to parties.

CRICHTON (pained, but not scolding). Does!

TWEENY. Doos. And it's me what alters your gowns to fit them.

CRICHTON. What alters!

TWEENY. Which alters.

AGATHA. Mary?

LADY MARY. I shall certainly have her.

CATHERINE. We shall certainly have her. Tweeny, we have decided to
make a lady's-maid of you.

TWEENY. Oh lawks!

AGATHA. We are doing this for you so that your position socially may
be more nearly akin to that of Crichton.

CRICHTON (gravely). It will undoubtedly increase the young person's
chances.

LADY MARY. Then if I get a good character for you from Mrs. Perkins,
she will make the necessary arrangements.

(She resumes reading.)

TWEENY (elated). My lady!

LADY MARY. By the way, I hope you are a good sailor.

TWEENY (startled). You don't mean, my lady, I'm to go on the ship?

LADY MARY. Certainly.

TWEENY. But--(To CRICHTON.) You ain't going, sir?

CRICHTON. No.

TWEENY (firm at last). Then neither ain't I.

AGATHA. YOU must.

TWEENY. Leave him! Not me.

LADY MARY. Girl, don't be silly. Crichton will be--considered in
your wages.

TWEENY. I ain't going.

CRICHTON. I feared this, my lady.

TWEENY. Nothing'll budge me.

LADY MARY. Leave the room.

(CRICHTON shows TWEENY out with marked politeness.)

AGATHA. Crichton, I think you might have shown more displeasure with
her.

CRICHTON (contrite). I was touched, my lady. I see, my lady, that to
part from her would be a wrench to me, though I could not well say
so in her presence, not having yet decided how far I shall go with
her.

(He is about to go when LORD LOAM returns, fuming.)

LORD LOAM. The ingrate! The smug! The fop!

CATHERINE. What is it now, father?

LORD LOAM. That man of mine, Rolleston, refuses to accompany us
because you are to have but one maid.

AGATHA. Hurrah!

LADY MARY (in better taste). Darling father, rather than you should
lose Rolleston, we will consent to take all the three of them.

LORD LOAM. Pooh, nonsense! Crichton, find me a valet who can do
without three maids.

CRICHTON. Yes, my lord. (Troubled.) In the time--the more suitable
the party, my lord, the less willing will he be to come without the--
the usual perquisites.

LORD LOAM. Any one will do.

CRICHTON (shocked). My lord!

LORD LOAM. The ingrate! The puppy!

(AGATHA has an idea, and whispers to LADY MARY.)

LADY MARY. I ask a favour of a servant?--never!

AGATHA. Then I will. Crichton, would it not be very distressing to
you to let his lordship go, attended by a valet who might prove
unworthy? It is only for three months; don't you think that you--you
yourself--you--

(As CRICHTON sees what she wants he pulls himself up with noble,
offended dignity, and she is appalled.)

I beg your pardon.

(He bows stiffly.)

CATHERINE (to CRICHTON). But think of the joy to Tweeny.

(CRICHTON is moved, but he shakes his head.)

LADY MARY (so much the cleverest). Crichton, do you think it safe to
let the master you love go so far away without you while he has
these dangerous views about equality?

(CRICHTON is profoundly stirred. After a struggle he goes to his
master, who has been pacing the room.)

CRICHTON. My lord, I have found a man.

LORD LOAM. Already? Who is he?

(CRICHTON presents himself with a gesture.)

Yourself?

CATHERINE. Father, how good of him.

LORD LOAM (pleased, but thinking it a small thing). Uncommon good.
Thank you, Crichton. This helps me nicely out of a hole; and how it
will annoy Rolleston! Come with me, and we shall tell him. Not that
I think you have lowered yourself in any way. Come along.

(He goes, and CRICHTON is to follow him, but is stopped by AGATHA
impulsively offering him her hand.)

CRICHTON (who is much shaken). My lady--a valet's hand!

AGATHA. I had no idea you would feel it so deeply; why did you do
it?

(CRICHTON is too respectful to reply.)

LADY MARY (regarding him). Crichton, I am curious. I insist upon an
answer.

CRICHTON. My lady, I am the son of a butler and a lady's-maid--
perhaps the happiest of all combinations, and to me the most
beautiful thing in the world is a haughty, aristocratic English
house, with every one kept in his place. Though I were equal to your
ladyship, where would be the pleasure to me? It would be
counterbalanced by the pain of feeling that Thomas and John were
equal to me.

CATHERINE. But father says if we were to return to nature--

CRICHTON. If we did, my lady, the first thing we should do would be
to elect a head. Circumstances might alter cases; the same person
might not be master; the same persons might not be servants. I can't
say as to that, nor should we have the deciding of it. Nature would
decide for us.

LADY MARY. You seem to have thought it all out carefully, Crichton.

CRICHTON. Yes, my lady.

CATHERINE. And you have done this for us, Crichton, because you
thought that--that father needed to be kept in his place?

CRICHTON. I should prefer you to say, my lady, that I have done it
for the house.

AGATHA. Thank you, Crichton. Mary, be nicer to him. (But LADY MARY
has begun to read again.) If there was any way in which we could
show our gratitude.

CRICHTON. If I might venture, my lady, would you kindly show it by
becoming more like Lady Mary. That disdain is what we like from our
superiors. Even so do we, the upper servants, disdain the lower
servants, while they take it out of the odds and ends.

(He goes, and they bury themselves in cushions.)

AGATHA. Oh dear, what a tiring day.

CATHERINE. I feel dead. Tuck in your feet, you selfish thing.

(LADY MARY is lying reading on another couch.)

LADY MARY. I wonder what he meant by circumstances might alter
cases.

AGATHA (yawning). Don't talk, Mary, I was nearly asleep.

LADY MARY. I wonder what he meant by the same person might not be
master, and the same persons might not be servants.

CATHERINE. Do be quiet, Mary, and leave it to nature; he said nature
would decide.

LADY MARY. I wonder--

(But she does not wonder very much. She would wonder more if she
knew what was coming. Her book slips unregarded to the floor. The
ladies are at rest until it is time to dress.)

End of Act I.




ACT II

THE ISLAND


Two months have elapsed, and the scene is a desert island in the
Pacific, on which our adventurers have been wrecked.

The curtain rises on a sea of bamboo, which shuts out all view save
the foliage of palm trees and some gaunt rocks. Occasionally
Crichton and Treherne come momentarily into sight, hacking and
hewing the bamboo, through which they are making a clearing between
the ladies and the shore; and by and by, owing to their efforts, we
shall have an unrestricted outlook on to a sullen sea that is at
present hidden. Then we shall also be able to note a mast standing
out of the water--all that is left, saving floating wreckage, of the
ill-fated yacht the Bluebell. The beginnings of a hut will also be
seen, with Crichton driving its walls into the ground or astride its
roof of saplings, for at present he is doing more than one thing at
a time. In a red shirt, with the ends of his sailor's breeches
thrust into wading-boots, he looks a man for the moment; we suddenly
remember some one's saying--perhaps it was ourselves--that a
cataclysm would be needed to get him out of his servant's clothes,
and apparently it has been forthcoming. It is no longer beneath our
dignity to cast an inquiring eye on his appearance. His features are
not distinguished, but he has a strong jaw and green eyes, in which
a yellow light burns that we have not seen before. His dark hair,
hitherto so decorously sleek, has been ruffled this way and that by
wind and weather, as if they were part of the cataclysm and wanted
to help his chance. His muscles must be soft and flabby still, but
though they shriek aloud to him to desist, he rains lusty blows with
his axe, like one who has come upon the open for the first time in
his life, and likes it. He is as yet far from being an expert
woodsman--mark the blood on his hands at places where he has hit
them instead of the tree; but note also that he does not waste time
in bandaging them--he rubs them in the earth and goes on. His face
is still of the discreet pallor that befits a butler, and he carries
the smaller logs as if they were a salver; not in a day or a month
will he shake off the badge of servitude, but without knowing it he
has begun.

But for the hatchets at work, and an occasional something horrible
falling from a tree into the ladies' laps, they hear nothing save
the mournful surf breaking on a coral shore.

They sit or recline huddled together against a rock, and they are
farther from home, in every sense of the word, than ever before.
Thirty-six hours ago, they were given three minutes in which to
dress, without a maid, and reach the boats, and they have not made
the best of that valuable time. None of them has boots, and had they
known this prickly island they would have thought first of boots.
They have a sufficiency of garments, but some of them were gifts
dropped into the boat--Lady Mary's tarpaulin coat and hat, for
instance, and Catherine's blue jersey and red cap, which certify
that the two ladies were lately before the mast. Agatha is too gay
in Ernest's dressing-gown, and clutches it to her person with both
hands as if afraid that it may be claimed by its rightful owner.
There are two pairs of bath slippers between the three of them, and
their hair cries aloud and in vain for hairpins.

By their side, on an inverted bucket, sits Ernest, clothed neatly in
the garments of day and night, but, alas, bare-footed. He is the
only cheerful member of this company of four, but his brightness is
due less to a manly desire to succour the helpless than to his
having been lately in the throes of composition, and to his modest
satisfaction with the result. He reads to the ladies, and they
listen, each with one scared eye to the things that fall from trees.

ERNEST (who has written on the fly-leaf of the only book saved from
the wreck). This is what I have written. 'Wrecked, wrecked, wrecked!
on an island in the Tropics, the following: the Hon. Ernest Woolley,
the Rev. John Treherne, the Ladies Mary, Catherine, and Agatha
Lasenby, with two servants. We are the sole survivors of Lord Loam's
steam yacht Bluebell, which encountered a fearful gale in these
seas, and soon became a total wreck. The crew behaved gallantly,
putting us all into the first boat. What became of them I cannot
tell, but we, after dreadful sufferings, and insufficiently clad, in
whatever garments we could lay hold of in the dark'--

LADY MARY. Please don't describe our garments.

ERNEST. --'succeeded in reaching this island, with the loss of only
one of our party, namely, Lord Loam, who flung away his life in a
gallant attempt to save a servant who had fallen overboard.' (The
ladies have wept long and sore for their father, but there is
something in this last utterance that makes them look up.)

AGATHA. But, Ernest, it was Crichton who jumped overboard trying to
save father.

ERNEST (with the candour that is one of his most engaging
qualities). Well, you know, it was rather silly of uncle to fling
away his life by trying to get into the boat first; and as this
document may be printed in the English papers, it struck me, an
English peer, you know--

LADY MARY (every inch an English peer's daughter). Ernest, that is
very thoughtful of you.

ERNEST (continuing, well pleased). --'By night the cries of wild
cats and the hissing of snakes terrify us extremely'--(this does not
satisfy him so well, and he makes a correction)--'terrify the ladies
extremely. Against these we have no weapons except one cutlass and a
hatchet. A bucket washed ashore is at present our only comfortable
seat'--

LADY MARY (with some spirit). And Ernest is sitting on it.

ERNEST. H'sh! Oh, do be quiet.--'To add to our horrors, night falls
suddenly in these parts, and it is then that savage animals begin to
prowl and roar.'

LADY MARY. Have you said that vampire bats suck the blood from our
toes as we sleep?

ERNEST. No, that's all. I end up, 'Rescue us or we perish. Rich
reward. Signed Ernest Woolley, in command of our little party.' This
is written on a leaf taken out of a book of poems that Crichton
found in his pocket. Fancy Crichton being a reader of poetry. Now I
shall put it into the bottle and fling it into the sea.

(He pushes the precious document into a soda-water bottle, and rams
the cork home. At the same moment, and without effort, he gives
birth to one of his most characteristic epigrams.)

The tide is going out, we mustn't miss the post.

(They are so unhappy that they fail to grasp it, and a little
petulantly he calls for CRICHTON, ever his stand-by in the hour of
epigram. CRICHTON breaks through the undergrowth quickly, thinking
the ladies are in danger.)

CRICHTON. Anything wrong, sir?

ERNEST (with fine confidence). The tide, Crichton, is a postman who
calls at our island twice a day for letters.

CRICHTON (after a pause). Thank you, sir.

(He returns to his labours, however, without giving the smile which
is the epigrammatist's right, and ERNEST is a little disappointed in
him.)

ERNEST. Poor Crichton! I sometimes think he is losing his sense of
humour. Come along, Agatha.

(He helps his favourite up the rocks, and they disappear gingerly
from view.)

CATHERINE. How horribly still it is.

LADY MARY (remembering some recent sounds). It is best when it is
still.

CATHERINE (drawing closer to her). Mary, I have heard that they are
always very still just before they jump.

LADY MARY. Don't. (A distinct chapping is heard, and they are
startled.)

LADY MARY (controlling herself). It is only Crichton knocking down
trees.

CATHERINE (almost imploringly). Mary, let us go and stand beside
him.

LADY MARY (coldly). Let a servant see that I am afraid!

CATHERINE. Don't, then; but remember this, dear, they often drop on
one from above.

(She moves away, nearer to the friendly sound of the axe, and LADY
MARY is left alone. She is the most courageous of them as well as
the haughtiest, but when something she had thought to be a stick
glides toward her, she forgets her dignity and screams.)

LADY MARY (calling). Crichton, Crichton!

(It must have been TREHERNE who was tree-felling, for CRICHTON comes
to her from the hut, drawing his cutlass.)

CRICHTON (anxious). Did you call, my lady?

LADY MARY (herself again, now that he is there). I! Why should I?

CRICHTON. I made a mistake, your ladyship. (Hesitating.) If you are
afraid of being alone, my lady--

LADY MARY. Afraid! Certainly not. (Doggedly.) You may go.

(But she does not complain when he remains within eyesight cutting
the bamboo. It is heavy work, and she watches him silently.)

LADY MARY. I wish, Crichton, you could work without getting so hot.

CRICHTON (mopping his face). I wish I could, my lady.

(He continues his labours.)

LADY MARY (taking off her oilskins). It makes me hot to look at you.

CRICHTON. It almost makes me cool to look at your ladyship.

LADY MARY (who perhaps thinks he is presuming). Anything I can do
for you in that way, Crichton, I shall do with pleasure.

CRICHTON (quite humbly). Thank you, my lady.

(By this time most of the bamboo has been cut, and the shore and sea
are visible, except where they are hidden by the half completed hut.
The mast rising solitary from the water adds to the desolation of
the scene, and at last tears run down LADY MARY'S face.)

CRICHTON. Don't give way, my lady, things might be worse.

LADY MARY. My poor father.

CRICHTON. If I could have given my life for his.

LADY MARY. You did all a man could do. Indeed I thank you, Crichton.
(With some admiration and more wonder.) You are a man.

CRICHTON. Thank you, my lady.

LADY MARY. But it is all so awful. Crichton, is there any hope of a
ship coming?

CRICHTON (after hesitation). Of course there is, my lady.

LADY MARY (facing him bravely). Don't treat me as a child. I have
got to know the worst, and to face it. Crichton, the truth.

CRICHTON (reluctantly). We were driven out of our course, my lady; I
fear far from the track of commerce.

LADY MARY. Thank you; I understand.

(For a moment, however, she breaks down. Then she clenches her hands
and stands erect.)

CRICHTON (watching her, and forgetting perhaps for the moment that
they are not just a man and woman). You're a good pluckt 'un, my
lady.

LADY MARY (falling into the same error). I shall try to be.
(Extricating herself.) Crichton, how dare you?

CRICHTON. I beg your ladyship's pardon; but you are.

(She smiles, as if it were a comfort to be told this even by
CRICHTON.)

And until a ship comes we are three men who are going to do our best
for you ladies.

LADY MARY (with a curl of the lip). Mr. Ernest does no work.

CRICHTON (cheerily). But he will, my lady.

LADY MARY. I doubt it.

CRICHTON (confidently, but perhaps thoughtlessly). No work--no
dinner--will make a great change in Mr. Ernest.

LADY MARY. No work--no dinner. When did you invent that rule,
Crichton?

CRICHTON (loaded with bamboo). I didn't invent it, my lady. I seem
to see it growing all over the island.

LADY MARY (disquieted). Crichton, your manner strikes me as curious.

CRICHTON (pained). I hope not, your ladyship.

LADY MARY (determined to have it out with him). You are not implying
anything so unnatural, I presume, as that if I and my sisters don't
work there will be no dinner for us?

CRICHTON (brightly). If it is unnatural, my lady, that is the end of
it.

LADY MARY. If? Now I understand. The perfect servant at home holds
that we are all equal now. I see.

CRICHTON (wounded to the quick). My lady, can you think me so
inconsistent?

LADY MARY. That is it.

CRICHTON (earnestly). My lady, I disbelieved in equality at home
because it was against nature, and for that same reason I as utterly
disbelieve in it on an island.

LADY MARY (relieved by his obvious sincerity). I apologise.

CRICHTON (continuing unfortunately). There must always, my lady, be
one to command and others to obey.

LADY MARY (satisfied). One to command, others to obey. Yes. (Then
suddenly she realises that there may be a dire meaning in his
confident words.) Crichton!

CRICHTON (who has intended no dire meaning). What is it, my lady?

(But she only stares into his face and then hurries from him. Left
alone he is puzzled, but being a practical man he busies himself
gathering firewood, until TWEENY appears excitedly carrying cocoa-
nuts in her skirt. She has made better use than the ladies of her
three minutes' grace for dressing.)

TWEENY (who can be happy even on an island if CRICHTON is with her).
Look what I found.

CRICHTON. Cocoa-nuts. Bravo!

TWEENY. They grows on trees.

CRICHTON. Where did you think they grew?

TWEENY. I thought as how they grew in rows on top of little sticks.

CRICHTON (wrinkling his brows). Oh Tweeny, Tweeny!

TWEENY (anxiously). Have I offended of your feelings again, sir?

CRICHTON. A little.

TWEENY (in a despairing outburst). I'm full o' vulgar words and
ways; and though I may keep them in their holes when you are by, as
soon as I'm by myself out they comes in a rush like beetles when the
house is dark. I says them gloating-like, in my head--'Blooming' I
says, and 'All my eye,' and 'Ginger,' and 'Nothink'; and all the
time we was being wrecked I was praying to myself, 'Please the Lord
it may be an island as it's natural to be vulgar on.'

(A shudder passes through CRICHTON, and she is abject.)

That's the kind I am, sir. I'm 'opeless. You'd better give me up.

(She is a pathetic, forlorn creature, and his manhood is stirred.)

CRICHTON (wondering a little at himself for saying it). I won't give
you up. It is strange that one so common should attract one so
fastidious; but so it is. (Thoughtfully.) There is something about
you, Tweeny, there is a je ne sais quoi about you.

TWEENY (knowing only that he has found something in her to commend).
Is there, is there? Oh, I am glad.

CRICHTON (putting his hand on her shoulder like a protector). We
shall fight your vulgarity together. (All this time he has been
arranging sticks for his fire.) Now get some dry grass. (She brings
him grass, and he puts it under the sticks. He produces an odd lens
from his pocket, and tries to focus the sun's rays.)

TWEENY. Why, what's that?

CRICHTON (the ingenious creature). That's the glass from my watch
and one from Mr. Treherne's, with a little water between them. I'm
hoping to kindle a fire with it.

TWEENY (properly impressed). Oh sir!

(After one failure the grass takes fire, and they are blowing on it
when excited cries near by bring them sharply to their feet. AGATHA
runs to them, white of face, followed by ERNEST.)

ERNEST. Danger! Crichton, a tiger-cat!

CRICHTON (getting his cutlass). Where?

AGATHA. It is at our heels.

ERNEST. Look out, Crichton.

CRICHTON. H'sh!

(TREHERNE comes to his assistance, while LADY MARY and CATHERINE
join AGATHA in the hut.) ERNEST. It will be on us in a moment. (He
seizes the hatchet and guards the hut. It is pleasing to see that
ERNEST is no coward.)

TREHERNE. Listen!

ERNEST. The grass is moving. It's coming.

(It comes. But it is no tiger-cat; it is LORD LOAM crawling on his
hands and knees, a very exhausted and dishevelled peer, wondrously
attired in rags. The girls see him, and with glad cries rush into
his arms.)

LADY MARY. Father.

LORD LOAM. Mary--Catherine--Agatha. Oh dear, my dears, my dears, oh
dear!

LADY MARY. Darling.

AGATHA. Sweetest.

CATHERINE. Love.

TREHERNE. Glad to see you, sir.

ERNEST. Uncle, uncle, dear old uncle.

(For a time such happy cries fill the air, but presently TREHERNE is
thoughtless.)

TREHERNE. Ernest thought you were a tiger-cat.

LORD LOAM (stung somehow to the quick). Oh, did you? I knew you at
once, Ernest; I knew you by the way you ran.

(ERNEST smiles forgivingly.)

CRICHTON (venturing forward at last). My lord, I am glad.

ERNEST (with upraised finger). But you are also idling, Crichton.
(Making himself comfortable on the ground.) We mustn't waste time.
To work, to work.

CRICHTON (after contemplating him without rancour). Yes, sir.

(He gets a pot from the hut and hangs it on a tripod over the fire,
which is now burning brightly.)

TREHERNE. Ernest, you be a little more civil. Crichton, let me help.

(He is soon busy helping CRICHTON to add to the strength of the
hut.)

LORD LOAM (gazing at the pot as ladies are said to gaze on precious
stones). Is that--but I suppose I'm dreaming again. (Timidly.) It
isn't by any chance a pot on top of a fire, is it?

LADY MARY. Indeed, it is, dearest. It is our supper.

LORD LOAM. I have been dreaming of a pot on a fire for two days.
(Quivering.) There 's nothing in it, is there?

ERNEST. Sniff, uncle. (LORD LOAM sniffs.)

LORD LOAM (reverently). It smells of onions!

(There is a sudden diversion.)

CATHERINE. Father, you have boots!

LADY MARY. So he has.

LORD LOAM. Of course I have.

ERNEST (with greedy cunning). You are actually wearing boots, uncle.
It's very unsafe, you know, in this climate.

LORD LOAM. Is it?

ERNEST. We have all abandoned them, you observe. The blood, the
arteries, you know.

LORD LOAM. I hadn't a notion.

(He holds out his feet, and ERNEST kneels.)

ERNEST. O Lord, yes.

(In another moment those boots will be his.)

LADY MARY (quickly). Father, he is trying to get your boots from
you. There is nothing in the world we wouldn't give for boots.

ERNEST (rising haughtily, a proud spirit misunderstood). I only
wanted the loan of them.

AGATHA (running her fingers along them lovingly). If you lend them
to any one, it will be to us, won't it, father.

LORD LOAM. Certainly, my child.

ERNEST. Oh, very well. (He is leaving these selfish ones.) I don't
want your old boots. (He gives his uncle a last chance.) You don't
think you could spare me one boot?

LORD LOAM (tartly). I do not.

ERNEST. Quite so. Well, all I can say is I'm sorry for you.

(He departs to recline elsewhere.)

LADY MARY. Father, we thought we should never see you again.

LORD LOAM. I was washed ashore, my dear, clinging to a hencoop. How
awful that first night was.

LADY MARY. Poor father.

LORD LOAM. When I woke, I wept. Then I began to feel extremely
hungry. There was a large turtle on the beach. I remembered from the
Swiss Family Robinson that if you turn a turtle over he is helpless.
My dears, I crawled towards him, I flung myself upon him--(here he
pauses to rub his leg)--the nasty, spiteful brute.

LADY MARY. You didn't turn him over?

LORD LOAM (vindictively, though he is a kindly man). Mary, the
senseless thing wouldn't wait; I found that none of them would wait.

CATHERINE. We should have been as badly off if Crichton hadn't--

LADY MARY (quickly). Don't praise Crichton.

LORD LOAM. And then those beastly monkeys, I always understood that
if you flung stones at them they would retaliate by flinging cocoa-
nuts at you. Would you believe it, I flung a hundred stones, and not
one monkey had sufficient intelligence to grasp my meaning. How I
longed for Crichton.

LADY MARY (wincing). For us also, father?

LORD LOAM. For you also. I tried for hours to make a fire. The
authors say that when wrecked on an island you can obtain a light by
rubbing two pieces of stick together. (With feeling.) The liars!

LADY MARY. And all this time you thought there was no one on the
island but yourself?

LORD LOAM. I thought so until this morning. I was searching the
pools for little fishes, which I caught in my hat, when suddenly I
saw before me--on the sand--

CATHERINE. What?

LORD LOAM. A hairpin.

LADY MARY. A hairpin! It must be one of ours. Give it me, father.

AGATHA. No, it's mine.

LORD LOAM. I didn't keep it.

LADY MARY (speaking for all three). Didn't keep it? Found a hairpin
on an island, and didn't keep it?

LORD LOAM (humbly). My dears.

AGATHA (scarcely to be placated). Oh father, we have returned to
nature more than you bargained for.

LADY MARY. For shame, Agatha. (She has something on her mind.)
Father, there is something I want you to do at once--I mean to
assert your position as the chief person on the island.

(They are all surprised.)

LORD LOAM. But who would presume to question it?

CATHERINE. She must mean Ernest.

LADY MARY. Must I?

AGATHA. It's cruel to say anything against Ernest.

LORD LOAM (firmly). If any one presumes to challenge my position, I
shall make short work of him.

AGATHA. Here comes Ernest; now see if you can say these horrid
things to his face.

LORD LOAM. I shall teach him his place at once.

LADY MARY (anxiously). But how?

LORD LOAM (chuckling). I have just thought of an extremely amusing
way of doing it. (As ERNEST approaches.) Ernest.

ERNEST (loftily). Excuse me, uncle, I'm thinking. I'm planning out
the building of this hut.

LORD LOAM. I also have been thinking.

ERNEST. That don't matter.

LORD LOAM. Eh?

ERNEST. Please, please, this is important.

LORD LOAM. I have been thinking that I ought to give you my boots.

ERNEST. What!

LADY MARY. Father.

LORD LOAM (genially). Take them, my boy. (With a rapidity we had not
thought him capable of, ERNEST becomes the wearer of the boots.) And
now I dare say you want to know why I give them to you, Ernest?

ERNEST (moving up and down in them deliciously). Not at all. The
great thing is, 'I've got 'em, I've got 'em.'

LORD LOAM (majestically, but with a knowing look at his daughters).
My reason is that, as head of our little party, you, Ernest, shall
be our hunter, you shall clear the forests of those savage beasts
that make them so dangerous. (Pleasantly.) And now you know, my dear
nephew, why I have given you my boots.

ERNEST. This is my answer.

(He kicks off the boots.)

LADY MARY (still anxious). Father, assert yourself.

LORD LOAM. I shall now assert myself. (But how to do it? He has a
happy thought.) Call Crichton.

LADY MARY. Oh father.

(CRICHTON comes in answer to a summons, and is followed by
TREHERNE.)

ERNEST (wondering a little at LADY MARY'S grave face). Crichton,
look here.

LORD LOAM (sturdily). Silence! Crichton, I want your advice as to
what I ought to do with Mr. Ernest. He has defied me.

ERNEST. Pooh!

CRICHTON (after considering). May I speak openly, my lord?

LADY MARY (keeping her eyes fixed on him). That is what we desire.

CRICHTON (quite humbly). Then I may say, your lordship, that I have
been considering Mr. Ernest's case at odd moments ever since we were
wrecked.

ERNEST. My case?

LORD LOAM (sternly). Hush.

CRICHTON. Since we landed on the island, my lord, it seems to me
that Mr. Ernest's epigrams have been particularly brilliant.

ERNEST (gratified). Thank you, Crichton.

CRICHTON. But I find--I seem to find it growing wild, my lord, in
the woods, that sayings which would be justly admired in England are
not much use on an island. I would therefore most respectfully
propose that henceforth every time Mr. Ernest favours us with an
epigram his head should be immersed in a bucket of cold spring
water.

(There is a terrible silence.)

LORD LOAM (uneasily). Serve him right.

ERNEST. I should like to see you try to do it, uncle.

CRICHTON (ever ready to come to the succour of his lordship). My
feeling, my lord, is that at the next offence I should convey him to
a retired spot, where I shall carry out the undertaking in as
respectful a manner as is consistent with a thorough immersion.

(Though his manner is most respectful, he is firm; he evidently
means what he says.)

LADY MARY (a ramrod). Father, you must not permit this; Ernest is
your nephew.

LORD LOAM (with his hand to his brow). After all, he is my nephew,
Crichton; and, as I am sure, he now sees that I am a strong man--

ERNEST (foolishly in the circumstances). A strong man. You mean a
stout man. You are one of mind to two of matter. (He looks round in
the old way for approval. No one has smiled, and to his
consternation he sees that CRICHTON is quietly turning up his
sleeves. ERNEST makes an appealing gesture to his uncle; then he
turns defiantly to CRICHTON.)

CRICHTON. Is it to be before the ladies, Mr. Ernest, or in the
privacy of the wood? (He fixes ERNEST with his eye. ERNEST is
cowed.) Come.

ERNEST (affecting bravado). Oh, all right.

CRICHTON (succinctly). Bring the bucket.

(ERNEST hesitates. He then lifts the bucket and follows CRICHTON to
the nearest spring.)

LORD LOAM (rather white). I'm sorry for him, but I had to be firm.

LADY MARY. Oh father, it wasn't you who was firm. Crichton did it
himself.

LORD LOAM. Bless me, so he did.

LADY MARY. Father, be strong.

LORD LOAM (bewildered). You can't mean that my faithful Crichton--

LADY MARY. Yes, I do.

TREHERNE. Lady Mary, I stake my word that Crichton is incapable of
acting dishonourably.

LADY MARY. I know that; I know it as well as you. Don't you see that
that is what makes him so dangerous?

TREHERNE. By Jove, I--I believe I catch your meaning.

CATHERINE. He is coming back.

LORD LOAM (who has always known himself to be a man of ideas). Let
us all go into the hut, just to show him at once that it is our hut.

LADY MARY (as they go). Father, I implore you, assert yourself now
and for ever.

LORD LOAM. I will.

LADY MARY. And, please, don't ask him how you are to do it.

(CRICHTON returns with sticks to mend the fire.)

LORD LOAM (loftily, from the door of the hut). Have you carried out
my instructions, Crichton?

CRICHTON (deferentially). Yes, my lord.

(ERNEST appears, mopping his hair, which has become very wet since
we last saw him. He is not bearing malice, he is too busy drying,
but AGATHA is specially his champion.)

AGATHA. It's infamous, infamous.

LORD LOAM: (strongly). My orders, Agatha.

LADY MARY. Now, father, please.

LORD LOAM (striking an attitude). Before I give you any further
orders, Crichton--

CRICHTON. Yes, my lord.

LORD LOAM. (delighted) Pooh! It's all right.

LADY MARY. No. Please go on.

LORD LOAM. Well, well. This question of the leadership; what do you
think now, Crichton?

CRICHTON. My lord, I feel it is a matter with which I have nothing
to do.

LORD LOAM. Excellent. Ha, Mary? That settles it, I think.

LADY MARY. It seems to, but--I'm not sure.

CRICHTON. It will settle itself naturally, my lord, without any
interference from us.

(The reference to nature gives general dissatisfaction.)

LADY MARY. Father.

LORD LOAM (a little severely). It settled itself long ago, Crichton,
when I was born a peer, and you, for instance, were born a servant.

CRICHTON (acquiescing). Yes, my lord, that was how it all came about
quite naturally in England. We had nothing to do with it there, and
we shall have as little to do with it here.

TREHERNE (relieved). That's all right.

LADY MARY (determined to clinch the matter). One moment. In short,
Crichton, his lordship will continue to be our natural head.

CRICHTON. I dare say, my lady, I dare say.

CATHERINE. But you must know.

CRICHTON. Asking your pardon, my lady, one can't be sure--on an
island.

(They look at each other uneasily.)

LORD LOAM (warningly). Crichton, I don't like this.

CRICHTON (harassed). The more I think of it, your lordship, the more
uneasy I become myself. When I heard, my lord, that you had left
that hairpin behind--(He is pained.)

LORD LOAM (feebly). One hairpin among so many would only have caused
dissension.

CRICHTON (very sorry to have to contradict him). Not so, my lord.
From that hairpin we could have made a needle; with that needle we
could, out of skins, have sewn trousers of which your lordship is in
need; indeed, we are all in need of them.

LADY MARY (suddenly self-conscious). All?

CRICHTON. On an island, my lady.

LADY MARY. Father.

CRICHTON (really more distressed by the prospect than she). My lady,
if nature does not think them necessary, you may be sure she will
not ask you to wear them. (Shaking his head.) But among all this
undergrowth--

LADY MARY. Now you see this man in his true colours.

LORD LOAM (violently). Crichton, you will either this moment say,
'Down with nature,'

CRICHTON (scandalised). My Lord!

LORD LOAM (loftily). Then this is my last word to you; take a
month's notice.

(If the hut had a door he would now shut it to indicate that the
interview is closed.)

CRICHTON (in great distress). Your lordship, the disgrace--

LORD LOAM (swelling). Not another word: you may go.

LADY MARY (adamant). And don't come to me, Crichton, for a
character.

ERNEST (whose immersion has cleared his brain). Aren't you all
forgetting that this is an island?

(This brings them to earth with a bump. LORD LOAM looks to his
eldest daughter for the fitting response.)

LADY MARY (equal to the occasion). It makes only this difference--
that you may go at once, Crichton, to some other part of the island.

(The faithful servant has been true to his superiors ever since he
was created, and never more true than at this moment; but his
fidelity is founded on trust in nature, and to be untrue to it would
be to be untrue to them. He lets the wood he has been gathering slip
to the ground, and bows his sorrowful head. He turns to obey. Then
affection for these great ones wells up in him.)

CRICHTON. My lady, let me work for you.

LADY MARY. Go.

CRICHTON. You need me so sorely; I can't desert you; I won't.

LADY MARY (in alarm, lest the others may yield). Then, father, there
is but one alternative, we must leave him.

(LORD LOAM is looking yearningly at CRICHTON.)

TREHERNE. It seems a pity.

CATHERINE (forlornly). You will work for us?

TREHERNE. Most willingly. But I must warn you all that, so far,
Crichton has done nine-tenths of the scoring.

LADY MARY. The question is, are we to leave this man?

LORD LOAM (wrapping himself in his dignity). Come, my dears.

CRICHTON. My lord!

LORD LOAM. Treherne--Ernest--get our things.

ERNEST. We don't have any, uncle. They all belong to Crichton.

TREHERNE. Everything we have he brought from the wreck--he went back
to it before it sank. He risked his life.

CRICHTON. My lord, anything you would care to take is yours.

LADY MARY (quickly). Nothing.

ERNEST. Rot! If I could have your socks, Crichton--

LADY MARY. Come, father; we are ready.

(Followed by the others, she and LORD LOAM pick their way up the
rocks. In their indignation they scarcely notice that daylight is
coming to a sudden end.)

CRICHTON. My lord, I implore you--I am not desirous of being head.
Do you have a try at it, my lord.

LORD LOAM (outraged). A try at it!

CRICHTON (eagerly). It may be that you will prove to be the best
man.

LORD LOAM. May be! My children, come.

(They disappear proudly in single file.)

TREHERNE. Crichton, I'm sorry; but of course I must go with them.

CRICHTON. Certainly, sir.

(He calls to TWEENY, and she comes from behind the hut, where she
has been watching breathlessly.)

Will you be so kind, sir, as to take her to the others?

TREHERNE. Assuredly.

TWEENY. But what do it all mean?

CRICHTON. Does, Tweeny, does. (He passes her up the rocks to
TREHERNE.) We shall meet again soon, Tweeny. Good night, sir.

TREHERNE. Good night. I dare say they are not far away.

CRICHTON (thoughtfully). They went westward, sir, and the wind is
blowing in that direction. That may mean, sir, that nature is
already taking the matter into her own hands. They are all hungry,
sir, and the pot has come a-boil. (He takes off the lid.) The smell
will be borne westward. That pot is full of nature, Mr. Treherne.
Good night, sir.

TREHERNE. Good night.

(He mounts the rocks with TWEENY, and they are heard for a little
time after their figures are swallowed up in the fast growing
darkness. CRICHTON stands motionless, the lid in his hand, though he
has forgotten it, and his reason for taking it off the pot. He is
deeply stirred, but presently is ashamed of his dejection, for it is
as if he doubted his principles. Bravely true to his faith that
nature will decide now as ever before, he proceeds manfully with his
preparations for the night. He lights a ship's lantern, one of
several treasures he has brought ashore, and is filling his pipe
with crumbs of tobacco from various pockets, when the stealthy
movements of some animal in the grass startles him. With the lantern
in one hand and his cutlass in the other, he searches the ground
around the hut. He returns, lights his pipe, and sits down by the
fire, which casts weird moving shadows. There is a red gleam on his
face; in the darkness he is a strong and perhaps rather sinister
figure. In the great stillness that has fallen over the land, the
wash of the surf seems to have increased in volume. The sound is
indescribably mournful. Except where the fire is, desolation has
fallen on the island like a pall.

Once or twice, as nature dictates, CRICHTON leans forward to stir
the pot, and the smell is borne westward. He then resumes his silent
vigil.

Shadows other than those cast by the fire begin to descend the
rocks. They are the adventurers returning. One by one they steal
nearer to the pot until they are squatted round it, with their hands
out to the blaze. LADY MARY only is absent. Presently she comes
within sight of the others, then stands against a tree with her
teeth clenched. One wonders, perhaps, what nature is to make of
her.)


End of Act II.




ACT III

THE HAPPY HOME


The scene is the hall of their island home two years later. This
sturdy log-house is no mere extension of the hut we have seen in
process of erection, but has been built a mile or less to the west
of it, on higher ground and near a stream. When the master chose
this site, the others thought that all he expected from the stream
was a sufficiency of drinking water. They know better now every time
they go down to the mill or turn on the electric light.

This hall is the living-room of the house, and walls and roof are of
stout logs. Across the joists supporting the roof are laid many
home-made implements, such as spades, saws, fishing-rods, and from
hooks in the joists are suspended cured foods, of which hams are
specially in evidence. Deep recesses half way up the walls contain
various provender in barrels and sacks. There are some skins,
trophies of the chase, on the floor, which is otherwise bare. The
chairs and tables are in some cases hewn out of the solid wood, and
in others the result of rough but efficient carpentering. Various
pieces of wreckage from the yacht have been turned to novel uses:
thus the steering-wheel now hangs from the centre of the roof, with
electric lights attached to it encased in bladders. A lifebuoy has
become the back of a chair. Two barrels have been halved and turn
coyly from each other as a settee.

The farther end of the room is more strictly the kitchen, and is a
great recess, which can be shut off from the hall by folding doors.
There is a large open fire in it. The chimney is half of one of the
boats of the yacht. On the walls of the kitchen proper are many
plate-racks, containing shells; there are rows of these of one size
and shape, which mark them off as dinner plates or bowls; others are
as obviously tureens. They are arranged primly as in a well-
conducted kitchen; indeed, neatness and cleanliness are the note
struck everywhere, yet the effect of the whole is romantic and
barbaric.

The outer door into this hall is a little peculiar on an island. It
is covered with skins and is in four leaves, like the swing doors of
fashionable restaurants, which allow you to enter without allowing
the hot air to escape. During the winter season our castaways have
found the contrivance useful, but Crichton's brain was perhaps a
little lordly when he conceived it. Another door leads by a passage
to the sleeping-rooms of the house, which are all on the ground-
floor, and to Crichton's work-room, where he is at this moment, and
whither we should like to follow him, but in a play we may not, as
it is out of sight. There is a large window space without a window,
which, however, can be shuttered, and through this we have a view
of cattle-sheds, fowl-pens, and a field of grain. It is a fine
summer evening.

Tweeny is sitting there, very busy plucking the feathers off a bird
and dropping them on a sheet placed for that purpose on the floor.
She is trilling to herself in the lightness of her heart. We may
remember that Tweeny, alone among the women, had dressed wisely for
an island when they fled the yacht, and her going-away gown still
adheres to her, though in fragments. A score of pieces have been
added here and there as necessity compelled, and these have been
patched and repatched in incongruous colours; but, when all is said
and done, it can still be maintained that Tweeny wears a skirt. She
is deservedly proud of her skirt, and sometimes lends it on
important occasions when approached in the proper spirit.

Some one outside has been whistling to Tweeny; the guarded whistle
which, on a less savage island, is sometimes assumed to be an
indication to cook that the constable is willing, if the coast be
clear. Tweeny, however, is engrossed, or perhaps she is not in the
mood for a follower, so he climbs in at the window undaunted, to
take her willy nilly. He is a jolly-looking labouring man, who
answers to the name of Daddy, and--But though that may be his island
name, we recognise him at once. He is Lord Loam, settled down to the
new conditions, and enjoying life heartily as handy-man about the
happy home. He is comfortably attired in skins. He is still stout,
but all the flabbiness has dropped from him; gone too is his
pomposity; his eye is clear, brown his skin; he could leap a gate.

In his hands he carries an island-made concertina, and such is the
exuberance of his spirits that, as he lights on the floor, he bursts
into music and song, something about his being a chickety chickety
chick chick, and will Tweeny please to tell him whose chickety chick
is she. Retribution follows sharp. We hear a whir, as if from
insufficiently oiled machinery, and over the passage door appears a
placard showing the one word 'Silence.' His lordship stops, and
steals to Tweeny on his tiptoes.

LORD LOAM. I thought the Gov. was out.

TWEENY. Well, you see he ain't. And if he were to catch you here
idling--

(LORD LOAM pales. He lays aside his musical instrument and hurriedly
dons an apron. TWEENY gives him the bird to pluck, and busies
herself laying the table for dinner.)

LORD LOAM (softly). What is he doing now?

TWEENY. I think he's working out that plan for laying on hot and
cold.

LORD LOAM (proud of his master). And he'll manage it too. The man
who could build a blacksmith's forge without tools--

TWEENY (not less proud). He made the tools.

LORD LOAM. Out of half a dozen rusty nails. The saw-mill, Tweeny;
the speaking-tube; the electric lighting; and look at the use he has
made of the bits of the yacht that were washed ashore. And all in
two years. He's a master I'm proud to pluck for.

(He chirps happily at his work, and she regards him curiously.)

TWEENY. Daddy, you're of little use, but you're a bright, cheerful
creature to have about the house. (He beams at this commendation.)
Do you ever think of old times now? We was a bit different.

LORD LOAM (pausing). Circumstances alter cases. (He resumes his
plucking contentedly.)

TWEENY. But, Daddy, if the chance was to come of getting back?

LORD LOAM. I have given up bothering about it.

TWEENY. You bothered that day long ago when we saw a ship passing
the island. How we all ran like crazy folk into the water, Daddy,
and screamed and held out our arms. (They are both a little
agitated.) But it sailed away, and we've never seen another.

LORD LOAM. If we had had the electrical contrivance we have now we
could have attracted that ship's notice. (Their eyes rest on a
mysterious apparatus that fills a corner of the hall.) A touch on
that lever, Tweeny, and in a few moments bonfires would be blazing
all round the shore.

TWEENY (backing from the lever as if it might spring at her). It's
the most wonderful thing he has done.

LORD LOAM (in a reverie). And then--England--home!

TWEENY (also seeing visions). London of a Saturday night!

LORD LOAM. My lords, in rising once more to address this historic
chamber--

TWEENY. There was a little ham and beef shop off the Edgware Road--
(The visions fade; they return to the practical.)

LORD LOAM. Tweeny, do you think I could have an egg to my tea? (At
this moment a wiry, athletic figure in skins darkens the window. He
is carrying two pails, which are suspended from a pole on his
shoulder, and he is ERNEST. We should say that he is ERNEST
completely changed if we were of those who hold that people change.
As he enters by the window he has heard LORD LOAM's appeal, and is
perhaps justifiably indignant.)

ERNEST. What is that about an egg? Why should you have an egg?

LORD LOAM (with hauteur). That is my affair, sir. (With a Parthian
shot as he withdraws stiffly from the room.) The Gov. has never put
my head in a bucket.

ERNEST (coming to rest on one of his buckets, and speaking with
excusable pride. To TWEENY). Nor mine for nearly three months. It
was only last week, Tweeny, that he said to me, 'Ernest, the water
cure has worked marvels in you, and I question whether I shall
require to dip you any more.' (Complacently.) Of course that sort of
thing encourages a fellow.

TWEENY (who has now arranged the dinner table to her satisfaction).
I will say, Erny, I never seen a young chap more improved.

ERNEST (gratified). Thank you, Tweeny, that's very precious to me.

(She retires to the fire to work the great bellows with her foot,
and ERNEST turns to TREHERNE, who has come in looking more like a
cow-boy than a clergyman. He has a small box in his hand which he
tries to conceal.) What have you got there, John?

TREHERNE. Don't tell anybody. It is a little present for the Gov.; a
set of razors. One for each day in the week.

ERNEST (opening the box and examining its contents.) Shells! He'll
like that. He likes sets of things.

TREHERNE (in a guarded voice). Have you noticed that?

ERNEST. Rather.

TREHERNE. He's becoming a bit magnificent in his ideas.

ERNEST (huskily). John, it sometimes gives me the creeps.

TREHERNE (making sure that TWEENY is out of hearing). What do you
think of that brilliant robe he got the girls to make for him.

ERNEST (uncomfortably). I think he looks too regal in it.

TREHERNE. Regal! I sometimes fancy that that's why he's so fond of
wearing it. (Practically.) Well, I must take these down to the
grindstone and put an edge on them.

ERNEST (button-holing him). I say, John, I want a word with you.

TREHERNE. Well?

ERNEST (become suddenly diffident). Dash it all, you know, you're a
clergyman.

TREHERNE. One of the best things the Gov. has done is to insist that
none of you forget it.

ERNEST (taking his courage in his hands). Then--would you, John?

TREHERNE. What?

ERNEST (wistfully). Officiate at a marriage ceremony, John?

TREHERNE (slowly). Now, that's really odd.

ERNEST. Odd? Seems to me it's natural. And whatever is natural,
John, is right.

TREHERNE. I mean that same question has been put to me today
already.

ERNEST (eagerly). By one of the women?

TREHERNE. Oh no; they all put it to me long ago. This was by the
Gov. himself.

ERNEST. By Jove! (Admiringly.) I say, John, what an observant beggar
he is.

TREHERNE. Ah! You fancy he was thinking of you?

ERNEST. I do not hesitate to affirm, John, that he has seen the
love-light in my eyes. You answered--

TREHERNE. I said Yes, I thought it would be my duty to officiate if
called upon.

ERNEST. You're a brick.

TREHERNE (still pondering). But I wonder whether he was thinking of
you?

ERNEST. Make your mind easy about that.

TREHERNE. Well, my best wishes. Agatha is a very fine girl.

ERNEST. Agatha? What made you think it was Agatha?

TREHERNE. Man alive, you told me all about it soon after we were
wrecked.

ERNEST. Pooh! Agatha's all very well in her way, John, but I'm
flying at bigger game.

TREHERNE. Ernest, which is it?

ERNEST. Tweeny, of course.

TREHERNE. Tweeny? (Reprovingly.) Ernest, I hope her cooking has
nothing to do with this.

ERNEST (with dignity). Her cooking has very little to do with it.

TREHERNE. But does she return your affection.

ERNEST (simply). Yes, John, I believe I may say so. I am unworthy of
her, but I think I have touched her heart.

TREHERNE (with a sigh). Some people seem to have all the luck. As
you know, Catherine won't look at me.

ERNEST. I'm sorry, John.

TREHERNE. It's my deserts; I'm a second eleven sort of chap. Well,
my heartiest good wishes, Ernest.

ERNEST. Thank you, John. How's the little black pig to-day?

TREHERNE (departing). He has begun to eat again.

(After a moment's reflection ERNEST calls to TWEENY.)

ERNEST. Are you very busy, Tweeny?

TWEENY (coming to him good-naturedly). There's always work to do;
but if you want me, Ernest--

ERNEST. There's something I should like to say to you if you could
spare me a moment.

TWEENY. Willingly. What is it?

ERNEST. What an ass I used to be, Tweeny.

TWEENY (tolerantly). Oh, let bygones be bygones.

ERNEST (sincerely, and at his very best). I'm no great shakes even
now. But listen to this, Tweeny; I have known many women, but until
I knew you I never knew any woman.

TWEENY (to whose uneducated ears this sounds dangerously like an
epigram). Take care--the bucket.

ERNEST (hurriedly). I didn't mean it in that way. (He goes
chivalrously on his knees.) Ah, Tweeny, I don't undervalue the
bucket, but what I want to say now is that the sweet refinement of a
dear girl has done more for me than any bucket could do.

TWEENY (with large eyes). Are you offering to walk out with me,
Erny?

ERNEST (passionately). More than that. I want to build a little
house for you--in the sunny glade down by Porcupine Creek. I want to
make chairs for you and tables; and knives and forks, and a
sideboard for you.

TWEENY (who is fond of language). I like to hear you. (Eyeing him.)
Would there be any one in the house except myself, Ernest?

ERNEST (humbly). Not often; but just occasionally there would be
your adoring husband.

TWEENY (decisively). It won't do, Ernest.

ERNEST (pleading). It isn't as if I should be much there.

TWEENY. I know, I know; but I don't love you, Ernest. I'm that
sorry.

ERNEST (putting his case cleverly). Twice a week I should be away
altogether--at the dam. On the other days you would never see me
from breakfast time to supper. (With the self-abnegation of the true
lover.) If you like I'll even go fishing on Sundays.

TWEENY. It's no use, Erny.

ERNEST (rising manfully). Thank you, Tweeny; it can't be helped.
(Then he remembers.) Tweeny, we shall be disappointing the Gov.

TWEENY (with a sinking). What's that?

ERNEST. He wanted us to marry.

TWEENY (blankly). You and me? the Gov.! (Her head droops woefully.
From without is heard the whistling of a happier spirit, and TWEENY
draws herself up fiercely.) That's her; that's the thing what has
stole his heart from me. (A stalwart youth appears at the window, so
handsome and tingling with vitality that, glad to depose CRICHTON,
we cry thankfully, 'The Hero at last.' But it is not the hero; it is
the heroine. This splendid boy, clad in skins, is what nature has
done for LADY MARY. She carries bow and arrows and a blow-pipe, and
over her shoulder is a fat buck, which she drops with a cry of
triumph. Forgetting to enter demurely, she leaps through the
window.) (Sourly.) Drat you, Polly, why don't you wipe your feet?

LADY MARY (good-naturedly). Come, Tweeny, be nice to me. It's a
splendid buck. (But TWEENY shakes her off, and retires to the
kitchen fire.)

ERNEST. Where did you get it?

LADY MARY (gaily). I sighted a herd near Penguin's Creek, but had to
creep round Silver Lake to get to windward of them. However, they
spotted me and then the fun began. There was nothing for it but to
try and run them down, so I singled out a fat buck and away we went
down the shore of the lake, up the valley of rolling stones; he
doubled into Brawling River and took to the water, but I swam after
him; the river is only half a mile broad there, but it runs strong.
He went spinning down the rapids, down I went in pursuit; he
clambered ashore, I clambered ashore; away we tore helter-skelter up
the hill and down again. I lost him in the marshes, got on his track
again near Bread Fruit Wood, and brought him down with an arrow in
Firefly Grove.

TWEENY (staring at her). Aren't you tired?

LADY MARY. Tired! It was gorgeous. (She runs up a ladder and
deposits her weapons on the joists. She is whistling again.)

TWEENY (snapping). I can't abide a woman whistling.

LADY MARY (indifferently). I like it. 

TWEENY (stamping her foot). Drop it, Polly, I tell you.

LADY MARY (stung). I won't. I'm as good as you are. (They are facing
each other defiantly.)

ERNEST (shocked). Is this necessary? Think how it would pain him.
(LADY MARY's eyes take a new expression. We see them soft for the
first time.)

LADY MARY (contritely). Tweeny, I beg your pardon. If my whistling
annoys you, I shall try to cure myself of it. (Instead of calming
TWEENY, this floods her face in tears.) Why, how can that hurt you,
Tweeny dear?

TWEENY. Because I can't make you lose your temper.

LADY MARY (divinely). Indeed, I often do. Would that I were nicer to
everybody.

TWEENY. There you are again. (Wistfully.) What makes you want to be
so nice, Polly?

LADY MARY (with fervour). Only thankfulness, Tweeny. (She exults.)
It is such fun to be alive. (So also seem to think CATHERINE and
AGATHA, who bounce in with fishing-rods and creel. They, too, are in
manly attire.)

CATHERINE. We've got some ripping fish for the Gov.'s dinner. Are we
in time? We ran all the way.

TWEENY (tartly). You'll please to cook them yourself, Kitty, and
look sharp about it. (She retires to her hearth, where AGATHA
follows her.)

AGATHA (yearning). Has the Gov. decided who is to wait upon him to-day?

CATHERINE (who is cleaning her fish). It's my turn.

AGATHA (hotly). I don't see that.

TWEENY (with bitterness). It's to be neither of you, Aggy; he wants
Polly again.

(LADY MARY is unable to resist a joyous whistle.)

AGATHA (jealously). Polly, you toad. (But they cannot make LADY MARY
angry.)

TWEENY (storming). How dare you look so happy?

LADY MARY (willing to embrace her). I wish, Tweeny, there was
anything I could do to make you happy also.

TWEENY. Me! Oh, I'm happy. (She remembers ERNEST, whom it is easy to
forget on an island.) I've just had a proposal, I tell you.

(LADY MARY is shaken at last, and her sisters with her.)

AGATHA. A proposal?

CATHERINE (going white). Not--not--(She dare not say his name.)

ERNEST (with singular modesty). You needn't be alarmed; it's only
me.

LADY MARY (relieved). Oh, you!

AGATHA (happy again). Ernest, you dear, I got such a shock.

CATHERINE. It was only Ernest. (Showing him her fish in
thankfulness.) They are beautifully fresh; come and help me to cook
them.

ERNEST (with simple dignity). Do you mind if I don't cook fish to-
night? (She does not mind in the least. They have all forgotten him.
A lark is singing in three hearts.) I think you might all be a
little sorry for a chap. (But they are not even sorry, and he
addresses AGATHA in these winged words:) I'm particularly
disappointed in you, Aggy; seeing that I was half engaged to you, I
think you might have had the good feeling to be a little more hurt.

AGATHA. Oh, bother.

ERNEST (summing up the situation in so far as it affects himself). I
shall now go and lie down for a bit. (He retires coldly but
unregretted. LADY MARY approaches TWEENY with her most insinuating
smile.)

LADY MARY. Tweeny, as the Gov. has chosen me to wait on him, please
may I have the loan of it again? (The reference made with such
charming delicacy is evidently to TWEENY's skirt.)

TWEENY (doggedly). No, you mayn't.

AGATHA (supporting TWEENY). Don't you give it to her.

LADY MARY (still trying sweet persuasion). You know quite well that
he prefers to be waited on in a skirt.

TWEENY. I don't care. Get one for yourself.

LADY MARY. It is the only one on the island.

TWEENY. And it's mine.

LADY MARY (an aristocrat after all). Tweeny, give me that skirt
directly.

CATHERINE. Don't.

TWEENY. I won't.

LADY MARY (clearing for action). I shall make you.

TWEENY. I should like to see you try.

(An unseemly fracas appears to be inevitable, but something happens.
The whir is again heard, and the notice is displayed 'Dogs delight
to bark and bite.' Its effect is instantaneous and cheering. The
ladies look at each other guiltily and immediately proceed on tiptoe
to their duties. These are all concerned with the master's dinner.
CATHERINE attends to his fish. AGATHA fills a quaint toast-rack and
brings the menu, which is written on a shell. LADY MARY twists a
wreath of green leaves around her head, and places a flower beside
the master's plate. TWEENY signs that all is ready, and she and the
younger sisters retire into the kitchen, drawing the screen that
separates it from the rest of the room. LADY MARY beats a tom-tom,
which is the dinner bell. She then gently works a punkah, which we
have not hitherto observed, and stands at attention. No doubt she is
in hopes that the Gov. will enter into conversation with her, but
she is too good a parlour-maid to let her hopes appear in her face.
We may watch her manner with complete approval. There is not one of
us who would not give her 26 a year.

The master comes in quietly, a book in his hand, still the only book
on the island, for he has not thought it worth while to build a
printing-press. His dress is not noticeably different from that of
the others, the skins are similar, but perhaps these are a trifle
more carefully cut or he carries them better. One sees somehow that
he has changed for his evening meal. There is an odd suggestion of a
dinner jacket about his doeskin coat. It is, perhaps, too grave a
face for a man of thirty-two, as if he were over much immersed in
affairs, yet there is a sunny smile left to lighten it at times and
bring back its youth; perhaps too intellectual a face to pass as
strictly handsome, not sufficiently suggestive of oats. His tall
figure is very straight, slight rather than thick-set, but nobly
muscular. His big hands, firm and hard with labour though they be,
are finely shaped--note the fingers so much more tapered, the nails
better tended than those of his domestics; they are one of many
indications that he is of a superior breed. Such signs, as has often
been pointed out, are infallible. A romantic figure, too. One can
easily see why the women-folks of this strong man's house both adore
and fear him.

He does not seem to notice who is waiting on him to-night, but
inclines his head slightly to whoever it is, as she takes her place
at the back of his chair. LADY MARY respectfully places the menu-
shell before him, and he glances at it.)

CRICHTON. Clear, please.

(LADY MARY knocks on the screen, and a serving hutch in it opens,
through which TWEENY offers two soup plates. LADY MARY selects the
clear, and the aperture is closed. She works the punkah while the
master partakes of the soup.)

CRICHTON (who always gives praise where it is due). An excellent
soup, Polly, but still a trifle too rich.

LADY MARY. Thank you.

(The next course is the fish, and while it is being passed through
the hutch we have a glimpse of three jealous women.

LADY MARY'S movements are so deft and noiseless that any observant
spectator can see that she was born to wait at table.)

CRICHTON (unbending as he eats). Polly, you are a very smart girl.

LADY MARY (bridling, but naturally gratified). La!

CRICHTON (smiling). And I'm not the first you've heard it from, I'll
swear.

LADY MARY (wriggling). Oh God!

CRICHTON. Got any followers on the island, Polly?

LADY MARY (tossing her head). Certainly not.

CRICHTON. I thought that perhaps John or Ernest--

LADY MARY (tilting her nose). I don't say that it's for want of
asking.

CRICHTON (emphatically). I'm sure it isn't. (Perhaps he thinks he
has gone too far.) You may clear.

(Flushed with pleasure, she puts before him a bird and vegetables,
sees that his beaker is fitted with wine, and returns to the punkah.
She would love to continue their conversation, but it is for him to
decide. For a time he seems to have forgotten her.)

CRICHTON. Did you lose any arrows to-day?

LADY MARY. Only one in Firefly Grove.

CRICHTON. You were as far as that? How did you get across the Black
Gorge?

LADY MARY. I went across on the rope.

CRICHTON. Hand over hand?

LADY MARY (swelling at the implied praise). I wasn't in the least
dizzy.

CRICHTON (moved). You brave girl! (He sits back in his chair a
little agitated.) But never do that again.

LADY MARY (pouting). It is such fun, Gov.

CRICHTON (decisively). I forbid it.

LADY MARY (the little rebel). I shall.

CRICHTON (surprised). Polly! (He signs to her sharply to step
forward, but for a moment she holds back petulantly, and even when
she does come it is less obediently than like a naughty, sulky
child. Nevertheless, with the forbearance that is characteristic of
the man, he addresses her with grave gentleness rather than
severely.) You must do as I tell you, you know.

LADY MARY (strangely passionate). I shan't.

CRICHTON (smiling at her fury). We shall see. Frown at me, Polly;
there, you do it at once. Clench your little fists, stamp your feet,
bite your ribbons--(A student of women, or at least of this woman,
he knows that she is about to do those things, and thus she seems to
do them to order. LADY MARY screws up her face like a baby and
cries. He is immediately kind.) You child of nature; was it cruel of
me to wish to save you from harm?

LADY MARY (drying her eyes). I'm an ungracious wretch. Oh God, I
don't try half hard enough to please you. I'm even wearing--(she
looks down sadly)--when I know you prefer it.

CRICHTON (thoughtfully). I admit I do prefer it. Perhaps I am a
little old-fashioned in these matters. (Her tears again threaten.)
Ah, don't, Polly; that's nothing.

LADY MARY. If I could only please you, Gov.

CRICHTON (slowly). You do please me, child, very much--(he half
rises)--very much indeed. (If he meant to say more he checks
himself. He looks at his plate.) No more, thank you. (The simple
island meal is ended, save for the walnuts and the wine, and
CRICHTON is too busy a man to linger long over them. But he is a
stickler for etiquette, end the table is cleared charmingly, though
with dispatch, before they are placed before him. LADY MARY is an
artist with the crumb-brush, and there are few arts more delightful
to watch. Dusk has come sharply, and she turns on the electric
light. It awakens CRICHTON from a reverie in which he has been
regarding her.) 

CRICHTON. Polly, there is only one thing about you that I don't quite
like. (She looks up, making a moue, if that can be said of one who so
well knows her place. He explains.) That action of the hands.

LADY MARY. What do I do?

CRICHTON. So--like one washing them. I have noticed that the others
tend to do it also. It seems odd.

LADY MARY (archly). Oh Gov., have you forgotten?

CRICHTON. What?

LADY MARY. That once upon a time a certain other person did that.

CRICHTON (groping). You mean myself? (She nods, and he shudders.)
Horrible!

LADY MARY (afraid she has hurt him). You haven't for a very long
time. Perhaps it is natural to servants.

CRICHTON. That must be it. (He rises.) Polly! (She looks up
expectantly, but he only sighs and turns away.)

LADY MARY (gently). You sighed, Gov.

CRICHTON. Did I? I was thinking. (He paces the room and then turns
to her agitatedly, yet with control over his agitation. There is
some mournfulness in his voice.) I have always tried to do the right
thing on this island. Above all, Polly, I want to do the right thing
by you.

LADY MARY (with shining eyes). How we all trust you. That is your
reward, Gov.

CRICHTON (who is having a fight with himself). And now I want a
greater reward. Is it fair to you? Am I playing the game? Bill
Crichton would like always to play the game. If we were in England--
(He pauses so long that she breaks in softly.)

LADY MARY. We know now that we shall never see England again.

CRICHTON. I am thinking of two people whom neither of us has seen
for a long time--Lady Mary Lasenby, and one Crichton, a butler. (He
says the last word bravely, a word he once loved, though it is the
most horrible of all words to him now.)

LADY MARY. That cold, haughty, insolent girl. Gov., look around you
and forget them both.

CRICHTON. I had nigh forgotten them. He has had a chance, Polly--
that butler--in these two years of becoming a man, and he has tried
to take it. There have been many failures, but there has been some
success, and with it I have let the past drop off me, and turned my
back on it. That butler seems a far-away figure to me now, and not
myself. I hail him, but we scarce know each other. If I am to bring
him back it can only be done by force, for in my soul he is now
abhorrent to me. But if I thought it best for you I'd haul him back;
I swear as an honest man, I would bring him back with all his
obsequious ways and deferential airs, and let you see the man you
call your Gov. melt for ever into him who was your servant.

LADY MARY (shivering). You hurt me. You say these things, but you
say them like a king. To me it is the past that was not real.

CRICHTON (too grandly). A king! I sometimes feel--(For a moment the
yellow light gleams in his green eyes. We remember suddenly what
TREHERNE and ERNEST said about his regal look. He checks himself.) I
say it harshly, it is so hard to say, and all the time there is
another voice within me crying--(He stops.)

LADY MARY (trembling but not afraid). If it is the voice of nature--

CRICHTON (strongly). I know it to be the voice of nature.

LADY MARY (in a whisper). Then, if you want to say it very much,
Gov., please say it to Polly Lasenby.

CRICHTON (again in the grip of an idea). A king! Polly, some people
hold that the soul but leaves one human tenement for another, and so
lives on through all the ages. I have occasionally thought of late
that, in some past existence, I may have been a king. It has all
come to me so naturally, not as if I had had to work it out, but-as-
if-I-remembered. 'Or ever the knightly years were gone, With the old
world to the grave, I was a king in Babylon, And you were a
Christian slave.' It may have been; you hear me, it may have been.

LADY MARY (who is as one fascinated). It may have been.

CRICHTON. I am lord over all. They are but hewers of wood and
drawers of water for me. These shores are mine. Why should I
hesitate; I have no longer any doubt. I do believe I am doing the
right thing. Dear Polly, I have grown to love you; are you afraid to
mate with me? (She rocks her arms; no words will come from her.) 'I
was a king in Babylon, And you were a Christian slave.'

LADY MARY (bewitched). You are the most wonderful man I have ever
known, and I am not afraid. (He takes her to him reverently.
Presently he is seated, and she is at his feet looking up adoringly
in his face. As the tension relaxes she speaks with a smile.) I want
you to tell me--every woman likes to know--when was the first time
you thought me nicer than the others?

CRICHTON (who, like all big men, is simple). I think a year ago. We
were chasing goats on the Big Slopes, and you out-distanced us all;
you were the first of our party to run a goat down; I was proud of
you that day.

LADY MARY (blushing with pleasure). Oh Gov., I only did it to please
you. Everything I have done has been out of the desire to please
you. (Suddenly anxious.) If I thought that in taking a wife from
among us you were imperilling your dignity--

CRICHTON (perhaps a little masterful). Have no fear of that, dear. I
have thought it all out. The wife, Polly, always takes the same
position as the husband.

LADY MARY. But I am so unworthy. It was sufficient to me that I
should be allowed to wait on you at that table.

CRICHTON. You shall wait on me no longer. At whatever table I sit,
Polly, you shall soon sit there also. (Boyishly.) Come, let us try
what it will be like.

LADY MARY. As your servant at your feet.

CRICHTON. No, as my consort by my side.

(They are sitting thus when the hatch is again opened and coffee
offered. But LADY MARY is no longer there to receive it. Her sisters
peep through in consternation. In vain they rattle the cup and
saucer. AGATHA brings the coffee to CRICHTON.)

CRICHTON (forgetting for the moment that it is not a month hence).
Help your mistress first, girl. (Three women are bereft of speech,
but he does not notice it. He addresses CATHERINE vaguely.) Are you
a good girl, Kitty?

CATHERINE (when she finds her tongue). I try to be, Gov.

CRICHTON (still more vaguely). That's right. (He takes command of
himself again, and signs to them to sit down. ERNEST comes in
cheerily, but finding CRICHTON here is suddenly weak. He subsides on
a chair, wondering what has happened.)

CRICHTON (surveying him). Ernest. (ERNEST rises.) You are becoming a
little slovenly in your dress, Ernest; I don't like it.

ERNEST (respectfully). Thank you. (ERNEST sits again. DADDY and
TREHERNE arrive.)

CRICHTON. Daddy, I want you.

LORD LOAM (with a sinking). Is it because I forgot to clean out the
dam?

CRICHTON (encouragingly). No, no. (He pours some wine into a
goblet.) A glass of wine with you, Daddy.

LORD LOAM (hastily). Your health, Gov. (He is about to drink, but
the master checks him.)

CRICHTON. And hers. Daddy, this lady has done me the honour to
promise to be my wife.

LORD LOAM (astounded). Polly!

CRICHTON (a little perturbed). I ought first to have asked your
consent. I deeply regret--but nature; may I hope I have your
approval?

LORD LOAM. May you, Gov.? (Delighted.) Rather! Polly! (He puts his
proud arms round her.)

TREHERNE. We all congratulate you, Gov., most heartily.

ERNEST. Long life to you both, sir.

(There is much shaking of hands, all of which is sincere.)

TREHERNE. When will it be, Gov.?

CRICHTON (after turning to LADY MARY, who whispers to him). As soon
as the bridal skirt can be prepared. (His manner has been most
indulgent, and without the slightest suggestion of patronage. But he
knows it is best for all that he should keep his place, and that his
presence hampers them.) My friends, I thank you for your good
wishes, I thank you all. And now, perhaps you would like me to leave
you to yourselves. Be joyous. Let there be song and dance to-night.
Polly, I shall take my coffee in the parlour--you understand.

(He retires with pleasant dignity. Immediately there is a rush of
two girls at LADY MARY.)

LADY MARY. Oh, oh! Father, they are pinching me.

LORD LOAM (taking her under his protection). Agatha, Catherine,
never presume to pinch your sister again. On the other hand, she may
pinch you henceforth as much as ever she chooses.

(In the meantime TWEENY is weeping softly, and the two are not above
using her as a weapon.)

CATHERINE. Poor Tweeny, it's a shame.

AGATHA. After he had almost promised you.

TWEENY (loyally turning on them). No, he never did. He was always
honourable as could be. 'Twas me as was too vulgar. Don't you dare
say a word agin that man.

ERNEST (to LORD LOAM). You'll get a lot of tit-bits out of this,
Daddy.

LORD LOAM. That's what I was thinking.

ERNEST (plunged in thought). I dare say I shall have to clean out
the dam now.

LORD LOAM (heartlessly). I dare say. (His gay old heart makes him
again proclaim that he is a chickety chick. He seizes the
concertina.)

TREHERNE (eagerly). That's the proper spirit. (He puts his arm round
CATHERINE, and in another moment they are all dancing to Daddy's
music. Never were people happier on an island. A moment's pause is
presently created by the return of CRICHTON, wearing the wonderful
robe of which we have already had dark mention. Never has he looked
more regal, never perhaps felt so regal. We need not grudge him the
one foible of his rule, for it is all coming to an end.)

CRICHTON (graciously, seeing them hesitate). No, no; I am delighted
to see you all so happy. Go on.

TREHERNE. We don't like to before you, Gov.

CRICHTON (his last order). It is my wish.

(The merrymaking is resumed, and soon CRICHTON himself joins in the
dance. It is when the fun is at its fastest and most furious that
all stop abruptly as if turned to stone. They have heard the boom of
a gun. Presently they are alive again. ERNEST leaps to the window.)

TREHERNE (huskily). It was a ship's gun. (They turn to CRICHTON for
confirmation; even in that hour they turn to CRICHTON.) Gov.?

CRICHTON. Yes.

(In another moment LADY MARY and LORD LOAM are alone.)

LADY MARY (seeing that her father is unconcerned). Father, you
heard.

LORD LOAM (placidly). Yes, my child.

LADY MARY (alarmed by his unnatural calmness). But it was a gun,
father.

LORD LOAM (looking an old man now, and shuddering a little). Yes--a
gun--I have often heard it. It's only a dream, you know; why don't
we go on dancing?

(She takes his hands, which have gone cold.)

LADY MARY. Father. Don't you see, they have all rushed down to the
beach? Come.

LORD LOAM. Rushed down to the beach; yes, always that--I often dream
it.

LADY MARY. Come, father, come.

LORD LOAM. Only a dream, my poor girl.

(CRICHTON returns. He is pale but firm.)

CRICHTON. We can see lights within a mile of the shore--a great
ship.

LORD LOAM. A ship--always a ship.

LADY MARY. Father, this is no dream.

LORD LOAM (looking timidly at CRICHTON). It's a dream, isn't it?
There's no ship?

CRICHTON (soothing him with a touch). You are awake, Daddy, and
there is a ship.

LORD LOAM (clutching him). You are not deceiving me?

CRICHTON. It is the truth.

LORD LOAM (reeling). True?--a ship--at last!

(He goes after the others pitifully.)

CRICHTON (quietly). There is a small boat between it and the island;
they must have sent it ashore for water.

LADY MART. Coming in?

CRICHTON. No. That gun must have been a signal to recall it. It is
going back. They can't hear our cries.

LADY MARY (pressing her temples). Going away. So near--so near.
(Almost to herself.) I think I'm glad.

CRICHTON (cheerily). Have no fear. I shall bring them back.

(He goes towards the table on which is the electrical apparatus.)

LADY MARY (standing on guard as it were between him and the table).
What are you going to do?

CRICHTON. To fire the beacons.

LADY MARY. Stop! (She faces him.) Don't you see what it means?

CRICHTON (firmly). It means that our life on the island has come to
a natural end.

LADY MARY (husky). Gov., let the ship go--

CRICHTON. The old man--you saw what it means to him.

LADY MARY. But I am afraid.

CRICHTON (adoringly). Dear Polly.

LADY MARY. Gov., let the ship go.

CRICHTON (she clings to him, but though it is his death sentence he
loosens her hold). Bill Crichton has got to play the game. (He pulls
the levers. Soon through the window one of the beacons is seen
flaring red. There is a long pause. Shouting is heard. ERNEST is the
first to arrive.)

ERNEST. Polly, Gov., the boat has turned back. They are English
sailors; they have landed! We are rescued, I tell you, rescued!

LADY MARY (wanly). Is it anything to make so great a to-do about?

ERNEST (staring). Eh?

LADY MARY. Have we not been happy here?

ERNEST. Happy? Lord, yes.

LADY MARY (catching hold of his sleeve). Ernest, we must never
forget all that the Gov. has done for us.

ERNEST (stoutly). Forget it? The man who could forget it would be a
selfish wretch and a--But I say, this makes a difference!

LADY MARY (quickly). No, it doesn't.

ERNEST (his mind tottering). A mighty difference!

(The others come running in, some weeping with joy, others
boisterous. We see blue-jackets gazing through the window at the
curious scene. LORD LOAM comes accompanied by a naval officer, whom
he is continually shaking by the hand.)

LORD LOAM. And here, sir, is our little home. Let me thank you in
the name of us all, again and again and again.

OFFICER. Very proud, my lord. It is indeed an honour to have been
able to assist so distinguished a gentleman as Lord Loam.

LORD LOAM. A glorious, glorious day. I shall show you our other
room. Come, my pets. Come, Crichton.

(He has not meant to be cruel. He does not know he has said it. It
is the old life that has come back to him. They all go. All leave
CRICHTON except LADY MARY.)

LADY MARY (stretching out her arms to him). Dear Gov., I will never
give you up.

(There is a salt smile on his face as he shakes his head to her. He
lets the cloak slip to the ground. She will not take this for an
answer; again her arms go out to him. Then comes the great
renunciation. By an effort of will he ceases to be an erect figure;
he has the humble bearing of a servant. His hands come together as
if he were washing them.)

CRICHTON (it is the speech of his life). My lady.

(She goes away. There is none to salute him now, unless we do it.)


End of Act III.




ACT IV

THE OTHER ISLAND


Some months have elapsed, and we have again the honour of waiting
upon Lord Loam in his London home. It is the room of the first act,
but with a new scheme of decoration, for on the walls are exhibited
many interesting trophies from the island, such as skins, stuffed
birds, and weapons of the chase, labelled 'Shot by Lord Loam,' 'Hon.
Ernest Woolley's Blowpipe' etc. There are also two large glass cases
containing other odds and ends, including, curiously enough, the
bucket in which Ernest was first dipped, but there is no label
calling attention to the incident. It is not yet time to dress for
dinner, and his lordship is on a couch, hastily yet furtively
cutting the pages of a new book. With him are his two younger
daughters and his nephew, and they also are engaged in literary
pursuits; that is to say, the ladies are eagerly but furtively
reading the evening papers, of which Ernest is sitting complacently
but furtively on an endless number, and doling them out as called
for. Note the frequent use of the word 'furtive.' It implies that
they do not wish to be discovered by their butler, say, at their
otherwise delightful task.

AGATHA (reading aloud, with emphasis on the wrong words'). 'In
conclusion, we most heartily congratulate the Hon. Ernest Woolley.
This book of his, regarding the adventures of himself and his brave
companions on a desert isle, stirs the heart like a trumpet.'

(Evidently the book referred to is the one in LORD LOAM'S hands.)

ERNEST (handing her a pink paper). Here is another.

CATHERINE (reading). 'From the first to the last of Mr. Woolley's
engrossing pages it is evident that he was an ideal man to be
wrecked with, and a true hero.' (Large-eyed.) Ernest!

ERNEST (calmly). That's how it strikes them, you know. Here's
another one.

AGATHA (reading). 'There are many kindly references to the two
servants who were wrecked with the family, and Mr. Woolley pays the
butler a glowing tribute in a footnote.'

(Some one coughs uncomfortably.)

LORD LOAM (who has been searching the index for the letter L).
Excellent, excellent. At the same time I must say, Ernest, that the
whole book is about yourself.

ERNEST (genially). As the author--

LORD LOAM. Certainly, certainly. Still, you know, as a peer of the
realm--(with dignity)--I think, Ernest, you might have given me one
of your adventures.

ERNEST. I say it was you who taught us how to obtain a fire by
rubbing two pieces of stick together.

LORD LOAM (beaming). Do you, do you? I call that very handsome. What
page?

(Here the door opens, and the well-bred CRICHTON enters with the
evening papers as subscribed for by the house. Those we have already
seen have perhaps been introduced by ERNEST up his waistcoat. Every
one except the intruder is immediately self-conscious, and when he
withdraws there is a general sigh of relief. They pounce on the new
papers. ERNEST evidently gets a shock from one, which he casts
contemptuously on the floor.)

AGATHA (more fortunate). Father, see page 81. 'It was a tiger-cat,'
says Mr. Woolley, 'of the largest size. Death stared Lord Loam in
the face, but he never flinched.'

LORD LOAM (searching his book eagerly). Page 81.

AGATHA. 'With presence of mind only equalled by his courage, he
fixed an arrow in his bow.'

LORD LOAM. Thank you, Ernest; thank you, my boy.

AGATHA. 'Unfortunately he missed.'

LORD LOAM. Eh?

AGATHA. 'But by great good luck I heard his cries'--

LORD LOAM. My cries?

AGATHA.--'and rushing forward with drawn knife, I stabbed the
monster to the heart.'

(LORD LOAM shuts his book with a pettish slam. There might be a
scene here were it not that CRICHTON reappears and goes to one of
the glass cases. All are at once on the alert and his lordship is
particularly sly.)

LORD LOAM. Anything in the papers, Catherine?

CATHERINE. No, father, nothing--nothing at all.

ERNEST (it pops out as of yore). The papers! The papers are guides
that tell us what we ought to do, and then we don't do it.

(CRICHTON having opened the glass case has taken out the bucket, and
ERNEST, looking round for applause, sees him carrying it off and is
undone. For a moment of time he forgets that he is no longer on the
island, and with a sigh he is about to follow CRICHTON and the
bucket to a retired spot. The door closes, and ERNEST comes to
himself.)

LORD LOAM (uncomfortably). I told him to take it away.

ERNEST. I thought--(he wipes his brow)--I shall go and dress. (He
goes.)

CATHERINE. Father, it's awful having Crichton here. It's like living
on tiptoe.

LORD LOAM (gloomily). While he is here we are sitting on a volcano.

AGATHA. How mean of you! I am sure he has only stayed on with us to
--to help us through. It would have looked so suspicious if he had
gone at once.

CATHERINE (revelling in the worst) But suppose Lady Brocklehurst
were to get at him and pump him. She's the most terrifying,
suspicious old creature in England; and Crichton simply can't 
tell a lie.

LORD LOAM. My dear, that is the volcano to which I was referring.
(He has evidently something to communicate.) It's all Mary's fault.
She said to me yesterday that she would break her engagement with
Brocklehurst unless I told him about--you know what.

(All conjure up the vision of CRICHTON.)

AGATHA. Is she mad?

LORD LOAM. She calls it common honesty.

CATHERINE. Father, have you told him?

LORD LOAM (heavily). She thinks I have, but I couldn't. She's sure
to find out to-night.

(Unconsciously he leans on the island concertina, which he has
perhaps been lately showing to an interviewer as something he made
for TWEENY. It squeaks, and they all jump.)

CATHERINE. It's like a bird of ill-omen.

LORD LOAM (vindictively). I must have it taken away; it has done
that twice.

(LADY MARY comes in. She is in evening dress. Undoubtedly she meant
to sail in, but she forgets, and despite her garments it is a manly
entrance. She is properly ashamed of herself. She tries again, and
has an encouraging success. She indicates to her sisters that she
wishes to be alone with papa.)

AGATHA. All right, but we know what it's about. Come along, Kit.

(They go. LADY MARY thoughtlessly sits like a boy, and again
corrects herself. She addresses her father, but he is in a brown
study, and she seeks to draw his attention by whistling. This
troubles them both.)

LADY MARY. How horrid of me!

LORD LOAM (depressed). If you would try to remember--

LADY MARY (sighing). I do; but there are so many things to remember.

LORD LOAM (sympathetically). There are--(in a whisper). Do you know,
Mary, I constantly find myself secreting hairpins.

LADY MARY. I find it so difficult to go up steps one at a time.

LORD LOAM. I was dining with half a dozen members of our party last
Thursday, Mary, and they were so eloquent that I couldn't help
wondering all the time how many of their heads he would have put in
the bucket.

LADY MARY. I use so many of his phrases. And my appetite is so
scandalous. Father, I usually have a chop before we sit down to
dinner.

LORD LOAM. As for my clothes--(wriggling). My dear, you can't think
how irksome collars are to me nowadays.

LADY MARY. They can't be half such an annoyance, father, as--(She
looks dolefully at her skirt.)

LORD LOAM (hurriedly). Quite so--quite so. You have dressed early
to-night, Mary.

LADY MARY. That reminds me; I had a note from Brocklehurst saying
that he would come a few minutes before his mother as--as he wanted
to have a talk with me. He didn't say what about, but of course we
know. (His lordship fidgets.) (With feeling.) It was good of you to
tell him, father. Oh, it is horrible to me--(covering her face). It
seemed so natural at the time.

LORD LOAM (petulantly). Never again make use of that word in this
house, Mary.

LADY MARY (with an effort). Father, Brocklehurst has been so loyal
to me for these two years that I should despise myself were I to
keep my--my extraordinary lapse from him. Had Brocklehurst been a
little less good, then you need not have told him my strange little
secret.

LORD LOAM (weakly). Polly--I mean Mary--it was all Crichton's fault,
he--

LADY MARY (with decision). No, father, no; not a word against him
though. I haven't the pluck to go on with it; I can't even
understand how it ever was. Father, do you not still hear the surf?
Do you see the curve of the beach?

LORD LOAM. I have begun to forget--(in a low voice). But they were
happy days; there was something magical about them.

LADY MARY. It was glamour. Father, I have lived Arabian nights. I
have sat out a dance with the evening star. But it was all in a past
existence, in the days of Babylon, and I am myself again. But he has
been chivalrous always. If the slothful, indolent creature I used to
be has improved in any way, I owe it all to him. I am slipping back
in many ways, but I am determined not to slip back altogether--in
memory of him and his island. That is why I insisted on your telling
Brocklehurst. He can break our engagement if he chooses. (Proudly.)
Mary Lasenby is going to play the game.

LORD LOAM. But my dear--

(LORD BROCKLEHURST is announced.)

LADY MARY (meaningly). Father, dear, oughtn't you to be dressing?

LORD LOAM (very unhappy). The fact is--before I go--I want to say--

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Loam, if you don't mind, I wish very specially to
have a word with Mary before dinner.

LORD LOAM. But--

LADY MARY. Yes, father. (She induces him to go, and thus
courageously faces LORD BROCKLEHURST to hear her fate.) I am ready,
George.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (who is so agitated that she ought to see he is
thinking not of her but of himself). It is a painful matter--I wish
I could have spared you this, Mary.

LADY MARY. Please go on.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. In common fairness, of course, this should be
remembered, that two years had elapsed. You and I had no reason to
believe that we should ever meet again.

(This is more considerate than she had expected.)

LADY MARY (softening). I was so lost to the world, George.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (with a groan). At the same time, the thing is
utterly and absolutely inexcusable--

LADY MARY (recovering her hauteur). Oh!

LORD BROCKLEHURST. And so I have already said to mother.

LADY MARY (disdaining him). You have told her?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Certainly, Mary, certainly; I tell mother
everything.

LADY MARY (curling her lip). And what did she say?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. To tell the truth, mother rather pooh-poohed the
whole affair.

LADY MARY (incredulous). Lady Brocklehurst pooh-poohed the whole
affair!

LORD BROCKLEHURST. She said, 'Mary and I will have a good laugh over
this.'

LADY MARY (outraged). George, your mother is a hateful, depraved old
woman.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mary!

LADY MARY (turning away). Laugh indeed, when it will always be such
a pain to me.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (with strange humility). If only you would let me
bear all the pain, Mary.

LADY MARY (who is taken aback). George, I think you are the noblest
man--

(She is touched, and gives him both her hands. Unfortunately he
simpers.)

LORD BROCKLEHURST. She was a pretty little thing. (She stares, but
he marches to his doom.) Ah, not beautiful like you. I assure you it
was the merest flirtation; there were a few letters, but we have got
them back. It was all owing to the boat being so late at Calais. You
see she had such large, helpless eyes.

LADY MARY (fixing him). George, when you lunched with father to-day
at the club--

LORD BROCKLEHURST. I didn't. He wired me that he couldn't come.

LADY MARY (with a tremor). But he wrote you?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. No.

LADY MARY (a bird singing in her breast). You haven't seen him
since?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. No.

(She is saved. Is he to be let off also? Not at all. She bears down
on him like a ship of war.)

LADY MARY. George, who and what is this woman?

LORD BROCKLEHURST (cowering). She was--she is--the shame of it--a
lady's-maid.

LADY MARY (properly horrified). A what?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. A lady's-maid. A mere servant, Mary. (LADY MARY
whirls round so that he shall not see her face.) I first met her at
this house when you were entertaining the servants; so you see it
was largely your father's fault.

LADY MARY (looking him up and down). A lady's-maid?

LORD BROCKLEHURST (degraded). Her name was Fisher.

LADY MARY. My maid!

LORD BROCKLEHURST (with open hands). Can you forgive me, Mary?

LADY MARY. Oh George, George!

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mother urged me not to tell you anything about
it; but--

LADY MARY (from her heart). I am so glad you told me.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. You see there was nothing wrong in it.

LADY MARY (thinking perhaps of another incident). No, indeed.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (inclined to simper again). And she behaved
awfully well. She quite saw that it was because the boat was late. I
suppose the glamour to a girl in service of a man in high position--

LADY MARY. Glamour!--yes, yes, that was it.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mother says that a girl in such circumstances is
to be excused if she loses her head.

LADY MARY (impulsively). George, I am so sorry if I said anything
against your mother. I am sure she is the dearest old thing.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (in calm waters at last). Of course for women of
our class she has a very different standard.

LADY MARY (grown tiny). Of course.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. You see, knowing how good a woman she is herself,
she was naturally anxious that I should marry some one like her.
That is what has made her watch your conduct so jealously, Mary.

LADY MARY (hurriedly thinking things out). I know. I--I think,
George, that before your mother comes I should like to say a word to
father.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (nervously). About this?

LADY MARY. Oh no; I shan't tell him of this. About something else.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. And you do forgive me, Mary?

LADY MARY (smiling on him). Yes, yes. I--I am sure the boat was very
late, George.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (earnestly). It really was.

LADY MARY. I am even relieved to know that you are not quite
perfect, dear. (She rests her hands on his shoulders. She has a
moment of contrition.) George, when we are married, we shall try to
be not an entirely frivolous couple, won't we? We must endeavour to
be of some little use, dear.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (the ass). Noblesse oblige.

LADY MARY (haunted by the phrases of a better man). Mary Lasenby is
determined to play the game, George.

(Perhaps she adds to herself, 'Except just this once.' A kiss closes
this episode of the two lovers; and soon after the departure of LADY
MARY the COUNTESS OF BROCKLEHURST is announced. She is a very
formidable old lady.)

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Alone, George?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mother, I told her all; she has behaved
magnificently.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (who has not shared his fears). Silly boy. (She
casts a supercilious eye on the island trophies.) So these are the
wonders they brought back with them. Gone away to dry her eyes, I
suppose?

LORD BROCKLEHURST (proud of his mate). She didn't cry, mother.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. No? (She reflects.) You're quite right. I
wouldn't have cried. Cold, icy. Yes, that was it.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (who has not often contradicted her). I assure
you, mother, that wasn't it at all. She forgave me at once.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (opening her eyes sharply to the full). Oh!

LORD BROCKLEHURST. She was awfully nice about the boat being late;
she even said she was relieved to find that I wasn't quite perfect.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (pouncing). She said that?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. She really did.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. I mean I wouldn't. Now if I had said that, what
would have made me say it? (Suspiciously.) George, is Mary all we
think her?

LORD BROCKLEHURST (with unexpected spirit). If she wasn't, mother,
you would know it.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Hold your tongue, boy. We don't really know what
happened on that island.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. You were reading the book all the morning.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. How can I be sure that the book is true?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. They all talk of it as true.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. How do I know that they are not lying?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Why should they lie?

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Why shouldn't they? (She reflects again.) If I
had been wrecked on an island, I think it highly probable that I
should have lied when I came back. Weren't some servants with them?

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Crichton, the butler. (He is surprised to see her
ring the bell.) Why, mother, you are not going to--

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Yes, I am. (Pointedly.) George, watch whether
Crichton begins any of his answers to my questions with 'The fact
is.'

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Why?

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Because that is usually the beginning of a lie.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (as CRICHTON opens the door). Mother, you can't do
these things in other people's houses.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (coolly, to CRICHTON). It was I who rang.
(Surveying him through her eyeglass.) So you were one of the
castaways, Crichton?

CRICHTON. Yes, my lady.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Delightful book Mr. Woolley has written about
your adventures. (CRICHTON bows.) Don't you think so?

CRICHTON. I have not read it, my lady.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Odd that they should not have presented you with
a copy.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Presumably Crichton is no reader.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. By the way, Crichton, were there any books on the
island?

CRICHTON. I had one, my lady--Henley's poems.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Never heard of him.

(CRICHTON again bows.)

LADY BROCKLEHURST (who has not heard of him either). I think you
were not the only servant wrecked?

CRICHTON. There was a young woman, my lady.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. I want to see her. (CRICHTON bows, but remains.)
Fetch her up. (He goes.)

LORD BROCKLEHURST (almost standing up to his mother). This is
scandalous.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (defining her position). I am a mother.

(CATHERINE and AGATHA enter in dazzling confections, and quake in
secret to find themselves practically alone with LADY BROCKLEHURST.)

(Even as she greets them.) How d'you do, Catherine--Agatha? You
didn't dress like this on the island, I expect! By the way, how did
you dress?

(They have thought themselves prepared, but--)

AGATHA. Not--not so well, of course, but quite the same idea.

(They are relieved by the arrival of TREHERNE, who is in clerical
dress.)

LADY BROCKLEHURST. How do you do, Mr. Treherne? There is not so much
of you in the book as I had hoped.

TREHERNE (modestly). There wasn't very much of me on the island,
Lady Brocklehurst.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. How d'ye mean? (He shrugs his honest shoulders.)

LORD BROCKLEHURST. I hear you have got a living, Treherne.
Congratulations.

TREHERNE. Thanks.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Is it a good one?

TREHERNE. So--so. They are rather weak in bowling, but it's a good
bit of turf. (Confidence is restored by the entrance of ERNEST, who
takes in the situation promptly, and, of course, knows he is a match
for any old lady.)

ERNEST (with ease). How do you do, Lady Brocklehurst.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Our brilliant author!

ERNEST (impervious to satire). Oh, I don't know.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. It is as engrossing, Mr. Woolley, as if it were a
work of fiction.

ERNEST (suddenly uncomfortable). Thanks, awfully. (Recovering.) The
fact is--(He is puzzled by seeing the Brocklehurst family exchange
meaning looks.)

CATHERINE (to the rescue). Lady Brocklehurst, Mr. Treherne and I--we
are engaged.

AGATHA. And Ernest and I.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (grimly). I see, my dears; thought it wise to keep
the island in the family.

(An awkward moment this for the entrance of LORD LOAM and LADY MARY,
who, after a private talk upstairs, are feeling happy and secure.)

LORD LOAM (with two hands for his distinguished guest). Aha! ha, ha!
younger than any of them, Emily.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Flatterer. (To LADY MARY.) You seem in high
spirits, Mary.

LADY MARY (gaily). I am.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (with a significant glance at LORD BROCKLEHURST).
After--

LADY MARY. I--I mean. The fact is--

(Again that disconcerting glance between the Countess and her son.)

LORD LOAM (humorously). She hears wedding bells, Emily, ha, ha!

LADY BROCKLEHURST (coldly). Do you, Mary? Can't say I do; but I'm
hard of hearing.

LADY MARY (instantly her match). If you don't, Lady Brocklehurst,
I'm sure I don't.

LORD LOAM (nervously). Tut, tut. Seen our curios from the island,
Emily; I should like you to examine them.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Thank you, Henry. I am glad you say that, for I
have just taken the liberty of asking two of them to step upstairs.
(There is an uncomfortable silence, which the entrance of CRICHTON
with TWEENY does not seem to dissipate. CRICHTON is impenetrable,
but TWEENY hangs back in fear.)

LORD BROCKLEHURST (stoutly). Loam, I have no hand in this.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (undisturbed). Pooh, what have I done? You always
begged me to speak to the servants, Henry, and I merely wanted to
discover whether the views you used to hold about equality were
adopted on the island; it seemed a splendid opportunity, but Mr.
Woolley has not a word on the subject.

(All eyes turn to ERNEST.)

ERNEST (with confidence). The fact is--

(The fatal words again.)

LORD LOAM (not quite certain what he is to assure her of). I assure
you, Emily--

LADY MARY (as cold as steel). Father, nothing whatever happened on
the island of which I, for one, am ashamed, and I hope Crichton will
be allowed to answer Lady Brocklehurst's questions.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. To be sure. There's nothing to make a fuss about,
and we're a family party. (To CRICHTON.) Now, truthfully, my man.

CRICHTON (calmly). I promise that, my lady.

(Some hearts sink, the hearts that could never understand a
Crichton.)

LADY BROCKLEHURST (sharply). Well, were you all equal on the island?

CRICHTON. No, my lady. I think I may say there was as little
equality there as elsewhere.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Ah the social distinctions were preserved?

CRICHTON. As at home, my lady.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. The servants?

CRICHTON. They had to keep their place.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Wonderful. How was it managed? (With an
inspiration.) You, girl, tell me that?

(Can there be a more critical moment?)

TWEENY (in agony). If you please, my lady, it was all the Gov.'s
doing.

(They give themselves up for lost. LORD LOAM tries to sink out of
sight.)

CRICHTON. In the regrettable slang of the servants' hall, my lady,
the master is usually referred to as the Gov.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. I see. (She turns to LORD LOAM.) You--

LORD LOAM (reappearing). Yes, I understand that is what they call
me.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (to CRICHTON). You didn't even take your meals
with the family?

CRICHTON. No, my lady, I dined apart.

(Is all safe?)

LADY BROCKLEHURST (alas). You, girl, also? Did you dine with
Crichton?

TWEENY (scared). No, your ladyship.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (fastening on her). With whom?

TWEENY. I took my bit of supper with--with Daddy and Polly and the
rest.

(Vae victis.)

ERNEST (leaping into the breach). Dear old Daddy--he was our monkey.
You remember our monkey, Agatha?

AGATHA. Rather! What a funny old darling he was.

CATHERINE (thus encouraged). And don't you think Polly was the
sweetest little parrot, Mary?

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Ah! I understand; animals you had domesticated?

LORD LOAM (heavily). Quite so--quite so.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. The servants' teas that used to take place here
once a month--

CRICHTON. They did not seem natural on the island, my lady, and were
discontinued by the Gov.'s orders.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. A clear proof, Loam, that they were a mistake
here.

LORD LOAM (seeing the opportunity for a diversion). I admit it
frankly. I abandon them. Emily, as the result of our experiences on
the island, I think of going over to the Tories.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. I am delighted to hear it.

LORD LOAM (expanding). Thank you, Crichton, thank you; that is all.

(He motions to them to go, but the time is not yet.)

LADY BROCKLEHURST. One moment. (There is a universal but stifled
groan.) Young people, Crichton, will be young people, even on an
island; now, I suppose there was a certain amount of--shall we say
sentimentalising, going on?

CRICHTON. Yes, my lady, there was.

LORD BROCKLEHURST (ashamed). Mother!

LADY BROCKLEHURST (disregarding him). Which gentleman? (To TWEENY)
You, girl, tell me.

TWEENY (confused). If you please, my lady--

ERNEST (hurriedly). The fact is--(He is checked as before, and
probably says 'D--n' to himself, but he has saved the situation.)

TWEENY (gasping). It was him--Mr. Ernest, your ladyship.

LADY BROCKLEHURST (counsel for the prosecution). With which lady?

AGATHA. I have already told you, Lady Brocklehurst, that Ernest and
I--

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Yes, now; but you were two years on the island.
(Looking at LADY MARY). Was it this lady?

TWEENY. No, your ladyship.

LADY BROCKLEHURST. Then I don't care which of the others it was.
(TWEENY gurgles.) Well, I suppose that will do.

LORD BROCKLEHURST. Do! I hope you are ashamed of yourself, mother.
(To CRICHTON, who is going). You are an excellent fellow, Crichton;
and if, after we are married, you ever wish to change your place,
come to us.

LADY MARY (losing her head for the only time). Oh no, impossible--

LADY BROCKLEHURST (at once suspicious). Why impossible? (LADY MARY
cannot answer, or perhaps she is too proud.) Do you see why it
should be impossible, my man?

(He can make or mar his unworthy MARY now. Have you any doubt of
him?)

CRICHTON. Yes, my lady. I had not told you, my lord, but as soon as
your lordship is suited I wish to leave service. (They are all
immensely relieved, except poor TWEENY.)

TREHERNE (the only curious one). What will you do, Crichton?
(CRICHTON shrugs his shoulders; 'God knows', it may mean.)

CRICHTON. Shall I withdraw, my lord? (He withdraws without a tremor,
TWEENY accompanying him. They can all breathe again; the
thunderstorm is over.)

LADY BROCKLEHURST (thankful to have made herself unpleasant). Horrid
of me, wasn't it? But if one wasn't disagreeable now and again, it
would be horribly tedious to be an old woman. He will soon be yours,
Mary, and then--think of the opportunities you will have of being
disagreeable to me. On that understanding, my dear, don't you think
we might--? (Their cold lips meet.)

LORD LOAM (vaguely). Quite so--quite so. (CRICHTON announces dinner,
and they file out. LADY MARY stays behind a moment and impulsively
holds out her hand.)

LADY MARY. To wish you every dear happiness.

CRICHTON (an enigma to the last.) The same to you, my lady.

LADY MARY. Do you despise me, Crichton? (The man who could never
tell a lie makes no answer.) You are the best man among us.

CRICHTON. On an island, my lady, perhaps; but in England, no.

LADY MARY. Then there's something wrong with England.

CRICHTON. My lady, not even from you can I listen to a word against
England.

LADY MARY. Tell me one thing: you have not lost your courage?

CRICHTON. No, my lady.

(She goes. He turns out the lights.)





End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Admirable Crichton by J. M. Barrie


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