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Alice Sit-By-The-Fire by J. M. Barrie

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on from home?'

COLONEL. 'Yes, that's it.' He stretches out his legs. 'Steve, home is
the best club in the world. Such jolly fellows all the members!'

STEVE. 'You haven't come here to talk about your confounded babyagain,
have you?'

COLONEL, apologetically, 'If you don't mind.'

STEVE. 'I do mind.'

COLONEL. 'But if you feel you can stand it.'

STEVE. 'You are my guest, so go ahead.'

COLONEL. 'She fell asleep, Steve, holding my finger.'

STEVE. 'Which finger?'

COLONEL. 'This one. As Alice would say, Soldiering done, baby begun.'

STEVE. 'Poor old chap.'

COLONEL. 'I have been through a good deal in my time, Steve, but that
is the biggest thing I have ever done.'

STEVE. 'Have a cigar?'

COLONEL. 'Brute! Thanks.'

Here Amy, who cannot hear when the door is closed, opens it slightly.
The Colonel is presently aware that Steve is silently smiling to
himself. The Colonel makes a happy guess. 'Thinking of the ladies,
Steve?'

STEVE, blandly, 'To tell the truth, I _was_ thinking of one.'

COLONEL. 'She seems to be a nice girl.'

STEVE. 'She is not exactly a girl.'

COLONEL, twinkling, 'Very fond of you, Steve?'

STEVE. 'I have the best of reasons for knowing that she is.' We may
conceive Amy's feelings though we cannot see her. 'On my soul,
Colonel, I think it is the most romantic affair I ever heard of. I
have waited long for a romance to come into my life, but by Javers, it
has come at last.'

COLONEL. 'Graters, Steve. Does her family like it?'

STEVE, cheerily, 'No, they are furious.'

COLONEL. 'But why?'

STEVE, judiciously, 'A woman's secret, Colonel.'

COLONEL. 'Ah, the plot thickens. Do I know her?'

STEVE. 'Not you.'

COLONEL. 'I mustn't ask her name?'

STEVE, with presence of mind, 'I have a very good reason for not
telling you her name.'

COLONEL. 'So? And she is not exactly young? Twice your age, Steve?'

STEVE, with excusable heat, 'Not at all. But she is of the age when a
woman knows her own mind--which makes the whole affair extra-ordinarily
flattering.' With undoubtedly a shudder of disgust Amy closes the
cupboard door. Steve continues to behave in the most gallant manner.
'You must not quiz me, Colonel, for her circumstances are such that her
partiality for me puts her in a dangerous position, and I would go to
the stake rather than give her away.'

COLONEL. 'Quite so.' He makes obeisance to the beauty of the
sentiment, and then proceeds to an examination of the hearthrug.

STEVE. 'What are you doing?'

COLONEL. 'Trying to find out for myself whether she comes here.'

STEVE. 'How can you find that out by crawling about my carpet?'

COLONEL. 'I am looking for hair-pins--triumphantly holding up a lady's
glove--'and I have found one!'

They have been too engrossed to hear the bell ring, but now voices are
audible.

STEVE. 'There is some one coming up.'

COLONEL. 'Perhaps it is _she_, Steve! No, that is Alice's voice.
Catch, you scoundrel,' and he tosses him the glove. Alice is shown in,
and is warmly acclaimed. She would not feel so much at ease if she
knew who, hand on heart, has recognised her through the pantry key-hole.

STEVE, as he makes Alice comfortable by the fire, 'How did you leave
them at home?'

ALICE, relapsing into gloom, 'All hating me.'

STEVE. 'This man says that home is the most delightful club in the
world.'

ALICE. 'I am not a member; I have been blackballed by my own baby.
Robert, I dined in state with Cosmo, and he was so sulky that he ate
his fish without salt rather than ask me to pass it.'

COLONEL. 'Where was Amy?'

ALICE. 'Amy said she had a headache and went to bed. I spoke to her
through the door before I came out, but she wouldn't answer.'

COLONEL. 'Why didn't you go in, memsahib?'

ALICE. 'I did venture to think of it, but she had locked the door.
Robert, I really am worried about Amy. She seems to me to behave
oddly. There can't be anything wrong?'

COLONEL. 'Of course not, Alice--eh, Steve?'

STEVE. 'Bless you, no.'

ALICE, smiling, 'It's much Steve knows about women.'

STEVE. 'I'm not so unattractive to women, Alice, as you think.'

ALICE. 'Listen to him, Robert!'

COLONEL. 'What he means, my dear, is that you should see him with
elderly ladies.'

ALICE. 'Steve, this to people who know you.' Here something happens to
Amy's skirt. She has opened the door to hear, then in alarm shut it,
leaving a fragment of skirt caught in the door. There, unseen, it
bides its time.

STEVE, darkly, 'Don't be so sure you know me, Alice.'

COLONEL, enjoying himself, 'Let us tell her, Steve! I am dying to tell
her.'

STEVE, grandly, 'No, no.'

COLONEL. 'We mustn't tell you, Alice, because it is a woman's secret--a
poor little fond elderly woman. Our friend is very proud of his
conquest. See how he is ruffling his feathers. I shouldn't wonder you
know, though you and I are in the way to-night.'

But Alice's attention is directed in another direction: to a little
white object struggling in the clutches of a closed door at the back
of the room. Steve turns to see what she is looking at, and at the
same moment the door opens sufficiently to allow a pretty hand to
obtrude, seize the kitten, or whatever it was, and softly reclose the
door. For one second Alice did think it might be a kitten, but she
knows now that it is part of a woman's dress. As for Steve thus
suddenly acquainted with his recent visitor's whereabouts, his mouth
opens wider than the door. He appeals mutely to Alice not to betray
his strange secret to the Colonel.

ALICE, with dancing eyes, 'May I look about me, Steve? I have been
neglecting your room shamefully.'

STEVE, alarmed, for he knows the woman, 'Don't get up, Alice; there is
really nothing to see.' But she is already making the journey of the
room, and drawing nearer to the door.

ALICE, playing with him, 'I like your clock.'

STEVE. 'It is my landlady's. Nearly all the things are hers. Do come
back to the fire.'

ALICE. 'Don't mind me. What does this door lead into?'

STEVE. 'Only a cupboard.'

ALICE. 'What do you keep in it?'

STEVE. 'Merely crockery--that sort of thing.'

ALICE. 'I should like to see your crockery, Steve. Not one little bit
of china? May I peep in?'

COLONEL, who is placidly smoking, with his back to the scene of the
drama, 'Don't mind her, Steve; she never could see a door without
itching to open it.'

Alice opens the door, and sees Amy standing there with her finger to
her lips, just as they stood in all the five plays. Ginevra could not
have posed her better.

'Well, have you found anything, memsahib?'

It has been the great shock of Alice's life, and she sways. But she
shuts the door before answering him.

ALICE, with a terrible look at Steve, 'Just a dark little cupboard,'
Steve, not aware that it is her daughter who is in there, wonders why
the lighter aspect of the incident has ceased so suddenly to strike
her. She returns to the fire, but not to her chair. She puts her arms
round the neck of her husband; a great grief for him is welling up in
her breast.

COLONEL, so long used to her dear impulsive ways, 'Hullo! We mustn't
let on that we are fond of each other before company.'

STEVE, meaning well, though he had better have held his tongue, 'I
don't count; I am such an old friend.'

ALICE, slowly, 'Such an old friend!' Her husband sees that she is
struggling with some emotion.

COLONEL. 'Worrying about the children still, Alice?'

ALICE, glad to break down openly, 'Yes, yes, I can't help it, Robert.'
COLONEL, petting her, 'There, there, you foolish woman. Joy will come
in the morning; I never was surer of anything. Would you like me to
take you home now?'

ALICE. 'Home. But, yes, I--let us go home.'

COLONEL. 'Can we have a cab, Steve?'

STEVE. 'I'll go down and whistle one. Alice, I'm awfully sorry that
you--that I--'

ALICE. 'Please, a cab.'

But though she is alone with her husband now she does not know what
she wants to say to him. She has a passionate desire that he should
not learn who is behind that door.

COLONEL, pulling her toward him, 'I think it is about Amy that you
worry most.'

ALICE. 'Why should I, Robert?'

COLONEL. 'Not a jot of reason.'

ALICE. 'Say again, Robert, that everything is sure to come right just
as we planned it would.'

COLONEL. 'Of course it will.'

ALICE. 'Robert, there is something I want to tell you. You know how
dear my children are to me, but Amy is the dearest of all. She is
dearer to me, Robert, than you yourself.'

COLONEL. 'Very well, memsahib.'

ALICE. 'Robert dear, Amy has come to a time in her life when she is
neither quite a girl nor quite a woman. There are dark places before
us at that age through which we have to pick our way without much
help. I can conceive dead mothers haunting those places to watch how
their child is to fare in them. Very frightened ghosts, Robert. I have
thought so long of how I was to be within hail of my girl at this
time, holding her hand--my Amy, my child.'

COLONEL. 'That is just how it is all to turn out, my Alice.'

ALICE, shivering, 'Yes, isn't it, isn't it?'

COLONEL. 'You dear excitable, of course it is.'

ALICE, like one defying him, 'But even though it were not, though I
had come back too late, though my daughter had become a woman without
a mother's guidance, though she were a bad woman--'

COLONEL. 'Alice.'

ALICE. 'Though some cur of a man--Robert, it wouldn't affect my love
for her, I should love her more than ever. If all others turned from
her, if you turned from her, Robert--how I should love her then.'

COLONEL. 'Alice, don't talk of such things.'

But she continues to talk of them, for she sees that the door is ajar,
and what she says now is really to comfort Amy. Every word of it is a
kiss for Amy.

ALICE, smiling through her fears, 'I was only telling you that nothing
could make any difference in my love for Amy. That was all; and, of
course, if she has ever been a little foolish, light-headed--at that
age one often is--why, a mother would soon put all that right; she
would just take her girl in her arms and they would talk it over, and
the poor child's troubles would vanish.' Still for Amy's comfort, 'And
do you think I should repeat any of Amy's confidences to you, Robert?'
Gaily, 'Not a word, sir! She might be sure of that.'

COLONEL. 'A pretty way to treat a father. But you will never persuade
me that there is any serious flaw in Amy.'

ALICE. 'I'll never try, dear.'

COLONEL. 'As for this little tantrum of locking herself into her room,
however, we must have it out with her.'

ALICE. 'The first thing to-morrow.'

COLONEL. 'Not a bit of it. The first thing the moment we get home.'

ALICE, now up against a new danger, 'You forget, dear, that she has
gone to bed.'

COLONEL. 'We'll soon rout her out of bed.' ALICE. 'Robert! You forget
that she has locked the door.'

COLONEL. 'Sulky little darling. I daresay she is crying her eyes out
for you already. But if she doesn't open that door pretty smartly I'll
force it.'

ALICE. 'You wouldn't do that?'

COLONEL. 'Wouldn't I? Oh yes, I would.'

Thus Alice has another problem to meet when Steve returns from his
successful quest for a cab.

'Thank you, Steve, you will excuse us running off, I know. Alice is
all nerves to-night. Come along, dear.'

ALICE, signing to the puzzled Steve that he must somehow get the lady
out of the house at once, 'There is no such dreadful hurry, is there?'
She is suddenly interested in some photographs on the wall. 'Are you
in this group, Steve?'

STEVE. 'Yes, it is an old school eleven.'

ALICE. 'Let us see if we can pick Steve out, Robert.'

COLONEL. 'Here he is, the one with the ball.'

ALICE. 'Oh no, that can't be Steve, surely. Isn't this one more like
him? Come over here under the light.'

Steve has his moment at the door, but it is evident from his face that
the hidden one scorns his blandishments. So he signs to Alice.

COLONEL. 'This is you, isn't it, Steve?'

STEVE. 'Yes, the one with the ball.'

COLONEL. 'I found you at once. Now, Alice, your cloak.'

ALICE. 'I feel so comfy where I am. One does hate to leave a fire,
doesn't one.' She hums gaily a snatch of a song.

COLONEL. 'The woman doesn't know her own mind.'

ALICE. 'You remember we danced to that once on my birthday at Simla.'

She shows him how they danced at Simla.

COLOKEL, to Steve, who is indeed the more bewildered of the two, 'And
a few minutes ago I assure you she was weeping on my shoulder!'

ALICE. 'You were so nice to me that evening, Robert--I gave you a
dance.' She whirls him gaily round.

COLONEL. 'You flibberty jibbet, you make me dizzy.'

ALICE. 'Shall we sit out the rest of the dance?'

COLONEL. 'Not I. Come along, you unreasonable thing.'

ALICE. 'Unreasonable. Robert, I have a reason. I want to see whether
Amy will come.'

COLONEL. 'Come?'

STEVE. 'Come here?' ALICE. 'I didn't tell you before, Robert, because
I had so little hope; but I called to her through the door that I was
coming here to meet you, and I said, "I don't believe you have a
headache, Amy; I believe you have locked yourself in there because you
hate the poor mother who loves you," and I begged her to come with me.
I said, "If you won't come now, come after me and make me happy.'"

COLONEL. 'But what an odd message, Alice; so unlike you.'

ALICE. 'Was it? I don't know. I always find it so hard, Robert, to be
like myself.'

COLONEL. 'But, my dear, a young girl.'

ALICE. 'She could have taken a cab; I gave her the address. Don't be
so hard, Robert, I am teaching you to dance.' She is off with him
again.

COLONEL. 'Steve, the madcap.'

He falls into a chair, but sees the room still going round. It is
Alice's chance; she pounces upon Amy's hand, whirls her out of the
hiding place, and seems to greet her at the other door.

ALICE. 'Amy!'

COLONEL, jumping up, 'Not really? Hallo! I never for a moment--It was
true, then. Amy, you are a good little girl to come.'

AMY, to whom this is a not unexpected step in the game, 'Dear father.'

STEVE, to whom it is a very unexpected step indeed, 'Amy! Is this--your
daughter, Alice?'

ALICE, wondering at the perfidy of the creature, 'I forgot that you
don't know her, Steve.'

STEVE. 'But if--if this is your daughter--you are the mother.'

ALICE. 'The mother?'

COLONEL, jovially, 'Well thought out, Steve. He is a master mind,
Alice.'

STEVE. 'But--but----'

Mercifully Amy has not lost her head. She is here to save them all.

AMY. 'Introduce me, father.'

COLONEL. 'He is astounded at our having such a big girl.'

STEVE, thankfully, 'Yes, that's it.'

COLONEL. 'Amy, my old friend, Steve Rollo--Steve, this is our
rosebud.'

STEVE, blinking, 'How do you do?'

AMY, sternly, 'How do you do?'

COLONEL. 'But, bless me, Amy, you are a swell.'

AMY, flushing, 'It is only evening dress.'

COLONEL. 'I bet she didn't dress for us, Alice; it was all done for
Steve.'

ALICE. 'Yes, for Steve.'

COLONEL. 'But don't hang in me, chicken, hang in your mother. Steve,
why are you staring at Alice?'

We know why he is staring at Alice, but of course he is too gallant a
gentleman to tell. Besides his astonishment has dazed him.

STEVE. 'Was I?'

ALICE, with her arms extended, 'Amy, don't be afraid of me.'

AMY, going into them contemptuously, 'I'm not.'

COLONEL, badgered, 'Then kiss and make it up.'

Amy bestows a cold kiss upon her mother. Alice weeps. 'This is too
much. Just wait till I get you home. Are you both ready?'

It is then that Amy makes her first mistake. The glove that the
Colonel has tossed to Steve is lying on a chair, and she innocently
begins to put it on. Her father stares at her; his wife does not know
why.

ALICE. 'We are ready, Robert. Why don't you come? Robert, what is it?'

COLONEL, darkening, 'Steve knows what it is; Amy doesn't as yet. The
simple soul has given herself away so innocently that it is almost a
shame to take notice of it. But I must, Steve. Come, man, it can't be
difficult to explain.'

In this Steve evidently differs from him. ALICE. 'Robert, you frighten
me.'

COLONEL. 'Still tongue-tied, Steve. Before you came here, Alice, I
found a lady's glove on the floor.'

ALICE, quickly, 'That isn't our affair, Robert.'

COLONEL. 'Yes; I'll tell you why. Amy has just put on that glove.'

ALICE. 'It isn't hers, dear.'

COLONEL. 'Do you deny that it is yours, Amy?' Amy has no answer to
this. 'Is it unreasonable, Steve, to ask you when my daughter, with
whom you profess to be unacquainted, gave you that token of her
esteem?'

STEVE, helpless, 'Alice.'

COLONEL. 'What has Alice to do with it?'

AMY, to the rescue, 'Nothing, nothing, I swear.'

COLONEL. 'Has there been something going on that I don't understand?
Are you in it, Alice, as well as they? Why has Steve been staring at
you so?'

AMY, knowing so well that she alone can put this matter right,
'Mother, don't answer.'

STEVE. 'If I could see Alice alone for a moment, Colonel--'

ALICE. 'Yes.'

COLONEL. 'No. Good heavens, what are you all concealing? Is Amy--my
Amy--your elderly lady, Steve? Was that some tasteful little joke you
were playing on your old friend, her father?'

STEVE. 'Colonel, I--'

AMY, preparing for the great sacrifice, 'I forbid him to speak.'

COLONEL. '_You_ forbid him.'

ALICE. 'Robert, Robert, let me explain. Steve--'

AMY. 'Mother, you must not, you dare not.'

Grandly, 'Let all fall on me. It is not true, father, that Mr. Rollo
and I were strangers when you introduced us.'

ALICE, wailing, 'Amy, Amy.'

AMY, with a touch of the sublime, 'It _is_ my glove, but it had a
right to be here. He is my affianced husband.'

Perhaps, but it is an open question, Steve is the one who is most
surprised to hear this. He seems to want to say something on the
subject, but a look of entreaty from Alice silences him.

COLONEL. 'Alice, did you hear her?'

ALICE. 'Surely you don't mean, Robert, that you are not glad?'

COLONEL, incredulous, 'Is that how _you_ take it?'

ALICE, heart-broken, 'How I take it! I am overjoyed. Don't you see how
splendid it is; our old friend Steve.'

COLONEL, glaring at him, 'Our old friend, Steve.'

As for Amy, that pale-faced lily, for the moment she stands
disregarded. Never mind; Ginevra will yet do her justice.

ALICE. 'Oh, happy day!' Brazenly she takes Steve's two hands, 'Robert,
he is to be our son.'

COLONEL. 'You are very clever, Alice, but do you really think I
believe that this is no shock to you? Oh, woman, why has this
deception not struck you to the ground?'

ALICE. 'Deception? Amy, Steve, I do believe he thinks that this is as
much a surprise to me 'as it is to him! Why, Robert, I have known
about it ever since I saw Amy alone this afternoon. She told me at
once. Then in came Steve, and he--'

COLONEL. 'Is it as bad as that!'

ALICE. 'As what, dear?'

COLONEL. 'That my wife must lie to me.'

ALICE. 'Oh, Robert.'

COLONEL. 'I am groping only, but I can see now that you felt there was
something wrong from the first. How did you find out?'

ALICE, imploringly, 'Robert, they are engaged to be married; it was
foolish of them not to tell you; but, oh, my dear, leave it at that.'

COLONEL. 'Why did you ask Amy to follow us here?'

ALICE. 'So that we could all be together when we broke it to you,
dear.'

COLONEL. 'Another lie! My shoulders are broad; why shouldn't I have it
to bear as well as you?'

ALICE. 'There is nothing to bear but just a little folly.'

COLONEL. 'Folly! And neither of them able to say a word?'

Indeed they are very cold lovers; Amy's lip is curled at Steve. To
make matters worse, the cupboard door, which has so far had the
decency to remain quiet, now presumes to have its say. It opens of
itself a few inches, creaking guiltily. Three people are so startled
that a new suspicion is roused in the fourth.

ALICE, who can read his face so well, 'She wasn't there, Robert, she
wasn't.'

COLONEL. 'My God! I understand now; she didn't follow us; she hid
there when I came.'

ALICE. 'No, Robert, no.'

He goes into the cupboard and returns with something in his hand,
which he gives to Amy.

COLONEL. 'Your other glove, Amy.'

ALICE. 'I can't keep it from you any longer, Robert; I have done my
best.' She goes to Amy to protect her. 'But Amy is still my child.'

'What a deceiver' Amy is thinking.

COLONEL. 'Well, sir, still waiting for that interview with my wife
before you can say anything?'

STEVE, a desperate fellow, 'Yes.'

ALICE. 'You will have every opportunity of explaining, Steve, many
opportunities; but in the meantime--just now, please go, leave us
alone.' Stamping her foot: 'Go, please.'

Steve has had such an evening of it that he clings dizzily to the one
amazing explanation, that Alice loves him not wisely but too well.
Never will he betray her, never.

STEVE, with a meaning that is lost on her but is very evident to the
other lady present,

'Anything _you_ ask me to do, Alice, anything. I shall go upstairs only,
so that if you want me--'

ALICE. 'Oh, go.' He goes, wondering whether he is a villain or a hero,
which is perhaps a pleasurable state of mind.

COLONEL. 'You are wondrous lenient to him; I shall have more to say.
As for this girl--look at her standing there, she seems rather proud
of herself.'

ALICE. 'It isn't really hardness, Robert. It is because she thinks
that you are hard. Robert, dear, I want you to go away too, and leave
Amy to me. Go home, Robert; we shall follow soon.'

COLONEL, after a long pause, 'If you wish it.'

ALICE. 'Leave her to her mother.'

When he has gone Amy leans across the top of a chair, sobbing her
little heart away. Alice tries to take her--the whole of her--in her
arms, but is rebuffed with a shudder.

AMY. 'I wonder you can touch me.'

ALICE. 'The more you ask of your mother the more she has to give. It
is my love you need, Amy; and you can draw upon it, and draw upon it.'

AMY. 'Pray excuse me.'

ALICE. 'How can you be so hard! My child, I am not saying one harsh
word to you. I am asking you only to hide your head upon your mother's
breast.'

AMY. 'I decline.'

ALICE. 'Take care, Amy, or I shall begin to believe that your father
was right. What do you think would happen if I were to leave you to
him!'

AMY. 'Poor father.'

ALICE. 'Poor indeed with such a daughter.'

AMY. 'He has gone, mother; so do you really think you need keep up
this pretence before me?'

ALICE. 'Amy, what you need is a whipping.'

AMY, 'You ought to know what I need.'

The agonised mother again tries to envelop her unnatural child.

ALICE. 'Amy, Amy, it was all Steve's fault.'

AMY, struggling as with a boa constrictor, 'You needn't expect me to
believe that.'

ALICE. 'No doubt you thought at the beginning that he was a gallant
gentleman.'

AMY. 'Not at all; I knew he was depraved from the moment I set eyes on
him.'

ALICE. 'My Amy! Then how--how--'

AMY. 'Ginevra knew too.'

ALICE. 'She knew!'

AMY. 'We planned it together--to treat him in the same way as Sir
Harry Paskill and Ralph Devereux.'

ALICE. 'Amy, you are not in your senses. You don't mean that there
were others?'

AMY. 'There was Major--Major--I forget his name, but he was another.'

ALICE, shaking her, 'Wretched girl.'

AMY. 'Leave go.'

ALICE. 'How did you get to know them?'

AMY. 'To know them? They are characters in plays.'

ALICE, bereft, 'Characters in plays? Plays!'

AMY. 'We went to five last week.'

Wild hopes spring up in Alice's breast.

ALICE. 'Amy, tell me quickly, when did you see Steve for the first
time?'

AMY. 'When you were saying good-bye to him this afternoon.'

ALICE. 'Can it be true!'

AMY. 'Perhaps we shouldn't have listened; but they always listen when
there is a screen.'

ALICE. 'Listened? What did you hear?'

AMY. 'Everything, mother! We saw him kiss you and heard you make an
assignation to meet him here.'

ALICE. 'I shall whip you directly, but go on, darling.'

AMY, childishly, 'You shan't whip me.' Then once more heroic, 'As in a
flash Ginevra and I saw that there was only one way to save you. I
must go to his chambers, and force him to return the letters.'

ALICE, inspired, 'My letters?'

AMY. 'Of course. He behaved at first as they all do--pretended that he
did not know what I was talking about. At that moment, a visitor; I
knew at once that it must be the husband; it always is, it was; I hid.
Again a visitor. I knew it must be you, it was; oh, the agony to me in
there. I was wondering when he would begin to suspect, for I knew the
time would come, and I stood ready to emerge and sacrifice myself to
save you.'

ALICE. 'As you have done, Amy?'

AMY. 'As I have done.'

Once more the arms go round her.

'I want none of that.'

ALICE. 'Forgive me.' A thought comes to Alice that enthralls her.
'Steve! Does he know what you think--about me?'

AMY. 'I had to be open with him.'

ALICE. 'And Steve believes it? He thinks that I--I--Alice Grey--oh,
ecstasy!'

AMY. 'You need not pretend.'

ALICE. 'What is to be done?'

AMY. 'Though I abhor him I must marry him for aye. Ginevra is to be my
only bridesmaid. We are both to wear black.'

ALICE, sharply, 'You are sure you don't rather like him, Amy?'

AMY. 'Mother!'

ALICE. 'Amy, weren't you terrified to come alone to the rooms of a man
you didn't even know? Some men--'

AMY. 'I was not afraid. I am a soldier's daughter; and Ginevra gave me
this.'

She produces a tiny dagger. This is altogether too much for Alice.

ALICE. 'My darling!'

She does have the babe in her arms at last, and now Amy clings to her.
This is very sweet to Alice; but she knows that if she tells Amy the
truth at once its first effect will be to make the dear one feel
ridiculous. How can Alice hurt her Amy so, Amy who has such pride in
having saved her? 'You do love me a little, Amy, don't you?'

AMY. 'Yes, yes.'

ALICE. 'You don't think I have been really bad, dear?'

AMY. 'Oh, no, only foolish.'

ALICE. 'Thank you, Amy.'

AMY, nestling still closer, 'What are we to do now, dear dear mother?'

Alice has a happy idea; but that, as the novelists say, deserves a
chapter to itself.

III

We are back in the room of the diary. The diary itself is not
visible; it is tucked away in the drawer, taking a nap while it may,
for it has much to chronicle before cockcrow. Cosmo also is asleep, on
an ingenious arrangement of chairs. Ginevra is sitting bolt upright, a
book on her knee, but she is not reading it. She is seeing visions in
which Amy plays a desperate part. The hour is late; every one ought to
be in bed.

Cosmo is perhaps dreaming that he is back at Osborne, for he calls
out, as if in answer to a summons, that he is up and nearly dressed.
He then raises his head and surveys Ginevra.

COSMO. 'Hullo, you've been asleep.'

GINEVEA. 'How like a man.'

COSMO. 'I say, I thought you were the one who had stretched herself
out, and that I was sitting here very quiet, so as not to waken you.'

GINEVRA. 'Let us leave it at that.'

COSMO. 'Huffy, aren't you! Have they not come back yet?'

GINEVRA. 'Not they. And half-past eleven has struck. I oughtn't to
stay any longer; as it is, I don't know what my landlady will say.'

She means that she does know.

COSMO. 'I'll see you to your place whenever you like. My uniform will
make it all right for you.'

GINEVRA. 'You child. But I simply can't go till I know what has
happened. Where, oh where, can they be?'

COSMO. 'That's all right. Father told you he had a message from mother
saying that they had gone to the theatre.'

GINEVRA. 'But why?'

COSMO. 'Yes, it seemed to bother him, too.'

GINEVRA. 'The theatre. That is what she _said_.'

Here Cosmo takes up a commanding position on the hearthrug; it could
not be bettered unless with a cigar in the mouth.

COSMO. 'Look here, Miss Dunbar, it may be that I have a little crow to
pick with mother when she comes back, but I cannot allow anyone else
to say a word against her. _Comprenez?_'

Ginevra's reply is lost to the world because at this moment Amy's
sparkling eyes show round the door. How softly she must have crossed
the little hall!

GINEVRA. 'Amy, at last!'

AMY. 'Sh!' She speaks to some one unseen, 'There are only Ginevra and
Cosmo here.'

Thus encouraged Alice enters. Despite her demeanour they would see, if
they knew her better, that she has been having a good time, and is in
hopes that it is not ended yet. She comes in, as it were, under Amy's
guidance. Ginevra is introduced, and Alice then looks to Amy for
instructions what to do next.

AMY, encouragingly, 'Sit down, mother.'

ALICE. 'Where shall I sit, dear?' Amy gives her the nicest chair in
the room. 'Thank you, Amy.' She is emboldened to address her son.
'Where is your father, Cosmo?'

Cosmo remembers his slap, and that he has sworn to converse with her
no more. He indicates, however, that his father is in the room
overhead. Alice meekly accepts the rebuff. 'Shall I go to him, Amy?'

AMY, considerately, 'If you think you feel strong enough, mother.'

ALICE. 'You have given me strength.'

AMY. 'I am so glad.' She strokes her mother soothingly. '_What_ will you
tell him?'

ALICE. 'All, Amy--all, all.'

AMY. 'Brave mother.'

ALICE. 'Who could not be brave with such a daughter.' On reflection,
'And with such a son.'

Helped by encouraging words from Amy she departs on her perilous
enterprise. The two conspirators would now give a handsome competence
to Cosmo to get him out of the room. He knows it, and sits down.

COSMO, 'I say, what is she going to tell father?'

AMY, with a despairing glance at Ginevra, 'Oh, nothing.'

GINEVRA, with a clever glance at Amy, 'Cosmo, you promised to see me
home.'

COSMO, the polite, 'Right O.'

GINEVEA. 'But you haven't got your boots on.'

COSMO. 'I won't be a minute.' He pauses at the door. 'I say I believe
you're trying to get rid of me. Look here, I won't budge till you tell
me what mother is speaking about to father.'

AMY. 'It is about the drawing-room curtains.'

COSMO. 'Good lord!' As soon as he has gone they rush at each other;
they don't embrace; they stop when their noses are an inch apart, and
then talk. This is the stage way for lovers. It is difficult to
accomplish without rubbing noses, but they have both been practising.

GINEVRA. 'Quick, Amy, did you get the letters?'

AMY. 'There are no letters.'

Ginevra is so taken aback that her nose bobs. Otherwise the two are
absolutely motionless. She cleverly recovers herself.

GINEVRA. 'No letters; how unlike life. You are quite sure?'

AMY. 'I have my mother's word for it.'

GINEVRA. 'Is that enough?'

AMY. 'And you now have mine.'

GINEVEA. 'Then it hadn't gone far?'

AMY. 'No, merely a painful indiscretion. But if father had known it--you
know what husbands are.'

GINEVRA. 'Yes, indeed. Did he follow her?'

Amy nods. 'Did you hide?' Amy nods again.

AMY. 'Worse than that, Ginevra. To deceive him I had to pretend that I
was the woman. And now--Ginevra, can you guess?--' Here they have to
leave off doing noses. On the stage it can be done for ever so much
longer, but only by those who are paid accordingly.

GINEVRA. 'You don't mean--?'

AMY. 'I think I do, but what do you mean?'

GINEVRA. 'I mean--the great thing.'

AMY. 'Then it is, yes. Ginevra, I am affianced to the man, Steve!'
Ginevra could here quickly drink a glass of water if there was one in
the room.

GINEVRA, wandering round her old friend, 'You seem the same, Amy, yet
somehow different.'

AMY, rather complacently, 'That is just how I feel. But I must not
think of myself. They are overhead, Ginevra. There is an awful scene
taking place--up there. She is telling father all.'

GINEVRA. 'Confessing?'

AMY. 'Everything--in a noble attempt to save me from a widowed
marriage.'

GINEVRA. 'But I thought she was such a hard woman.'

AMY. 'Not really. To the world perhaps; but I have softened her. All
she needed, Ginevra, to bring out her finer qualities was a strong
nature to lean upon; and she says that she has found it in me. At the
theatre and all the way home--'

GINEVRA. 'Then you did go to the theatre. Why?'

AMY, feeling that Ginevra is very young, 'Need you ask? Oh, Ginevra,
to see if we could find a happy ending. It was mother's idea.'

GINEVKA. 'Which theatre?'

AMY. 'I don't know, but the erring wife confessed all--in one of those
mousselines de soie that are so fashionable this year; and mother and
I sat--clasping each other's hands, praying it might end happily,
though we didn't see how it could.'

GINEVRA. 'How awful for you. What did the husband do?'

AMY. 'He was very calm and white. He went out of the room for a
moment, and came back so white. Then he sat down by the fire, and
nodded his head three times.'

GINEVRA. 'I think I know now which theatre it was.'

AMY. 'He asked her coldly--but always the perfect gentleman----'

GINEVRA. 'Oh, that theatre.'

AMY. 'He asked her whether _he_ was to go or she.'

GINEVRA. 'They must part?'

AMY. 'Yes. She went on her knees to him, and said "Are we never to
meet again?" and he replied huskily "Never." Then she turned and went
slowly towards the door.'

GINEVBA, clutching her, 'Amy, was that the end?'

AMY. 'The audience sat still as death, listening for the awful _click_
that brings the curtain down.'

GINEVEA, shivering, 'I seem to hear it.'

AMY. 'At that moment--'

GINEVRA. 'Yes, yes?'

AMY. 'The door opened, and, Ginevra, their little child--came in--in
her night-gown.'

GINEVRA. 'Quick.'

AMY. 'She came toddling down the stairs--she was barefooted--she took
in the whole situation at a glance--and, running to her father, she
said, "Daddy, if mother goes away what is to become of me?"' Amy gulps
and continues: 'And then she took a hand of each and drew them
together till they fell on each other's breasts, and then--Oh,
Ginevra, then--Click!--and the curtain fell.'

GINEVEA, when they are more composed, 'How old was the child?'

AMY. 'Five. She looked more.'

GINEVRA, her brows knitted, 'Molly is under two, isn't she?'

AMY. 'She is not quite twenty months.'

GINEVRA. 'She couldn't possibly do it.'

AMY. 'No; I thought of that. But she couldn't, you know, even though
she was held up. Mother couldn't help thinking the scene was a good
omen, though.' They both look at the ceiling again. 'How still they
are.'

GINEVRA. 'Perhaps she hasn't had the courage to tell.'

AMY. 'If so, I must go on with it.'

GINEVRA, feeling rather small beside Amy, 'Marry him?'

AMY. 'Yes. I must dree my weird. Is it dree your weird, or weird your
dree?'

GINEVRA. 'I think they both do.' She does not really care; nobler
thoughts are surging within her. 'Amy, why can't I make some sacrifice
as well as you?'

Amy seems about to make a somewhat grudging reply, but the unexpected
arrival of the man who has so strangely won her seals her lips.

AMY. 'You!' with a depth of meaning, 'Oh, sir.'

STEVE, the most nervous of the company, 'I felt I must come. Miss
Grey, I am in the greatest distress, as the unhappy cause of all this
trouble.'

AMY, coldly, 'You should have thought of that before.'

STEVE. 'It was dense of me not to understand sooner--very dense.' He
looks at her with wistful eyes. 'Must I marry you, Miss Grey?'

AMY, curling her lip, 'Ah, that is what you are sorry for!'

STEVE. 'Yes--horribly sorry.' Hastily, 'Not for myself. To tell you
the truth, I'd be--precious glad to risk it--I think.'

AMY, with a glance at Ginevra, 'You would?'

STEVE. 'But very sorry for you. It seems such a shame to you--so young
and attractive--and the little you know of me so--unfortunate.'

AMY. 'You mean you could never love me?'

STEVE. 'I don't mean that at all.'

AMY. 'Ginevra!'

Indeed Ginevra feels that she has been obliterated quite long enough.

GINEVEA, with a touch of testiness in her tone, 'Amy--introduce me.'

AMY. 'Mr. Stephen Rollo-Miss Dunbar. Miss Dunbar knows all.'

Ginevra makes a movement that the cynical might describe as brushing
Amy aside.

GINEVEA. 'May I ask, Mr. Rollo, what are your views about woman?'

STEVE. 'Really I--'

GINEVRA. 'Is she, in your opinion, her husband's equal, or is she his
chattel?'

STEVE. 'Honestly, I am so beside myself--'

GINEVRA. 'You evade the question.'

AMY. 'He means chattel, Ginevra.'

GINEVRA. 'Mr. Rollo, I am the friend till death of Amy Grey. Let that
poor child go, sir, and I am prepared to take her place beside you--Yes,
at the altar's mouth.'

AMY. 'Ginevra.'

GINEVRA, making that movement again, 'Understand I can neither love
nor honour you--at least at first--but I will obey you.'

AMY. 'Ginevra, you take too much upon yourself.'

GINEVRA. 'I _will_ make a sacrifice--I will.'

AMY. 'You shall not.'

GINEVRA. 'I feel that I understand this gentleman as no other woman
can. It is my mission, Amy--' The return of Alice is what prevents
Steve's seizing his hat and flying. It might not have had this effect
had he seen the lady's face just before she opened the door.

ALICE, putting her hand to her poor heart, 'You have come here, Steve?
Oh no, it is not possible.'

STEVE, looking things unutterable, 'How could I help coming?'

AMY, to the rescue, 'Mother, have you--did you?'

ALICE, meekly, 'I have told him all.'

STEVE. 'The Colonel?'

Alice bows her bruised head.

AMY, conducting her to a seat, 'Brave, brave. What has he decided?'

ALICE. 'He hasn't decided yet. He is thinking out what it will be best
to do.'

STEVE. 'He knows? Then I am no longer--' His unfinished sentence seems
to refer to Amy.

AMY, proudly, 'Yes, sir, as he knows, you are, as far as I am
concerned, now free.'

GINEVRA, in a murmur, 'It's almost a pity.' She turns to her Amy. 'At
least, Amy, this makes you and me friends again.' We have never quite
been able to understand what this meant, but Amy knows, for she puts
Ginevra's hand to her sweet lips.

ALICE, who somehow could do without Ginevra to-night, 'Cosmo is
waiting for you, Miss Dunbar, to see you home.'

GINEVBA, with a disquieting vision of her landlady, 'I must go.' She
gives her hand in the coldest way to Mrs. Grey. Then, with a curtsey
to Steve that he can surely never forget, 'Mr. Rollo, I am sure there
is much good in you. Darling Amy, I shall be round first thing in the
morning.'

STEVE. 'Now that she has gone, can we--have a talk?'

ALICE, looking down, 'Yes, Steve.'

AMY, gently, 'Mother, what was that you called him?'

ALICE. 'Dear Amy, I forgot. Yes, Mr. Rollo.'

STEVE. 'Then, Alice--'

AMY. 'This lady's name, if I am not greatly mistaken, is Mrs. Grey. Is
it not so, mother?'

ALICE. 'Yes, Amy.'

STEVE. 'As you will; but it is most important that I say certain
things to her at once.'

ALICE. 'Oh, Mr. Rollo. What do you think, dear?'

AMY, reflecting, 'If it be clearly understood that this is good-bye, I
consent. Please be as brief as possible.'

Somehow they think that she is moving to the door, but she crosses
only to the other side of the room and sits down with a book. One of
them likes this very much.

STEVE, who is not the one, 'But I want to see her alone.'

AMY, the dearest of little gaolers, 'That, I am afraid, I cannot
permit. It is not that I have not perfect confidence in you, mother,
but you must see I am acting wisely.'

ALICE. 'Yes, Amy.'

STEVE, to his Alice, 'What has come over you? You don't seem to be the
same woman.'

AMY. 'That is just it; she is not.'

ALICE. 'I see now only through Amy's eyes.'

AMY. 'They will not fail you, mother. Proceed, sir.'

Steve has to make the best of it.

STEVE. 'You told him, then, about your feelings for me?'

ALICE, studying the carpet, 'He knows now exactly what are my feelings
for you.'

STEVE, huskily, 'How did he take it?'

ALICE. 'Need you ask?'

STEVE. 'Poor old boy. I suppose he wishes me to stay away from your
house now.'

ALICE. 'Is it unreasonable?'

STEVE. 'No, of course not, but--'

ALICE. 'Will it be terribly hard to you, St--Mr. Rollo?'

STEVE. 'It isn't that. You see I'm fond of the Colonel, I really am,
and it hurts me to think he thinks that I--It wasn't my fault, was
it?'

AMY. 'Ungenerous.'

ALICE. 'He quite understands that it was I who lost my head.'

Steve is much moved by the generosity of this. He lowers his voice.

STEVE. 'Of course I blame myself now; but I assure you honestly I had
no idea of it until to-night. I had thought you were only my friend.
It dazed me; but as I ransacked my mind many little things came back
to me. I remembered what I hadn't noticed at the time--'

AMY. 'Louder, please.'

STEVE. 'I remembered--'

AMY. 'Is this necessary?'

ALICE. 'Please, Amy, let me know what he remembered.'

STEVE. 'I remembered that your voice was softer to me than when you
were addressing other men.'

ALICE. 'Let me look long at you, Mr. Rollo.' She looks long at him.

AMY. 'Mother, enough.'

ALICE. 'What more do you remember?'

STEVE. 'It is strange to me now that I didn't understand your true
meaning to-day when you said I was the only man you couldn't flirt
with; you meant that I aroused deeper feelings.'

ALICE. 'How you know me.'

AMY. 'Not the best of you, mother.'

ALICE. 'No, not the best, Amy.'

STEVE. 'I can say that I never thought of myself as possessing
dangerous qualities. I thought I was utterly unattractive to women.'

ALICE. 'You _must_ have known about your eyes.'

STEVE, eagerly, 'My eyes? On my soul I didn't.'

Amy wonders if this can be true. Alice rises. She feels that she
cannot control herself much longer.

ALICE. 'Steve, if you don't go away at once I shall scream.'

STEVE, really unhappy, 'Is it as bad as that?'

AMY, rising, 'You heard what Mrs. Grey said. This is very painful to
her. Will you please say good-bye.'

In the novel circumstances he does not quite know how this should be
carried out.

ALICE, also shy, 'How shall we do it, Amy? On the brow?'

AMY. 'No, mother--with the hand.'

They do it with the hand, and it is thus that the Colonel finds them.
He would be unable to keep his countenance were it not for a warning
look from Alice. COLONEL, one of the men who have a genius for saying
the right thing, 'Ha.'

STEVE. 'I am going, Colonel. I am very sorry that you----At the same
time I wish you to understand that the fault is entirely mine.'

COLONEL, guardedly, 'Ha.'

AMY, putting an arm round her mother, who hugs it, 'Father, he came
only to say goodbye. He is not a bad man, and mother has behaved
magnificently.'

COLONEL, cleverly, 'Ha.'

AMY. 'You must not, you shall not, be cruel to her.'

ALICE. 'Darling Amy.'

COLONEL, truculently, 'Oh, mustn't I. We shall see about that.'

STEVE. 'Come, come, Colonel.'

COLONEL, doing better than might have been expected, 'Hold your
tongue, sir.'

AMY. 'I know mother as no other person can know her. I begin to think
that you have no proper appreciation of her, father.'

ALICE, basely, 'Dear, dear Amy.'

AMY. 'I daresay she has often suffered in the past--'

ALICE. 'Oh, Amy, oh.'

AMY. 'By your--your callousness--your want of sympathy--your neglect.'

ALICE. 'My beloved child.'

COLONEL, uneasily, 'Alice, tell her it isn't so.'

ALICE. 'You hear what he says, my pet.'

AMY. 'But you don't deny it.'

COLONEL. 'Deny it, woman.'

ALICE. 'Robert, Robert.'

AMY. 'And please not to call my mother "woman" in my presence.'

COLONEL. 'I--I--I----' He looks for help from Alice, but she gives him
only a twinkle of triumph. He barks, 'Child, go to your room.'

AMY, her worst fears returning, 'But what are you going to do?'

COLONEL. 'That is not your affair.'
STEVE. 'I must say I don't see that.'

AMY, gratefully, 'Thank you, Mr. Rollo.' COLONEL. 'Go to your room.'

She has to go, but not till she has given her mother a kiss that is a
challenge to the world. Then to the bewilderment of Steve two human
frames are rocked with laughter.

ALICE. 'Oh, Robert, look at him. He thinks I worship him.'

COLONEL. 'Steve, you colossal puppy.'

STEVE. 'Eh--what--why?'

ALICE. 'Steve, tell Robert about my voice being softer to you than to
other men; tell him, Steve, about your eyes.'

The unhappy youth gropes mentally and physically.

STEVE. 'Good heavens, was there nothing in it?'

COLONEL. 'My boy, I'll never let you hear the end of this.'

STEVE. 'But if there's nothing in it, how could your daughter have
thought--'

COLONEL. 'She saw you kiss Alice here this afternoon, you scoundrel,
and, as she thought, make an _assignation_ with you. There, it
all came out of that. She is a sentimental lady, is our Amy, and she
has been too often to the theatre.'

STEVE. 'Let me think.'

COLONEL. 'Here is a chair for the very purpose. Now, think hard.'

STEVE. 'But--but--then why did you pretend before her, Alice?'

ALICE. 'Because she thinks that she has saved me, and it makes her so
happy. Amy has a passionate desire to be of some use in this world she
knows so well, and she already sees her sphere, Steve, it is to look
after me. I am not to be her chaperone, it is she who is to be mine. I
have submitted, you see.'

COLONEL, fidgeting, 'She seems to have quite given me up for you.'

ALICE, blandly, 'Oh yes, Robert, quite.'

STEVE, gloomily, 'You will excuse my thinking only of myself. What an
ass I've been.'

ALICE. 'Is it a blow, Steve?'

STEVE. 'It's a come down. Ass, ass, ass! But I say, Alice, I'm awfully
glad it's I who have been the ass and not you. I really am, Colonel.
You see the tragedy of my life is I'm such an extraordinarily ordinary
sort of fellow that, though every man I know says some lady has loved
him, there never in all my unromantic life was a woman who cared a
Christmas card for me. It often makes me lonely; and so when I thought
such a glorious woman as you, Alice--I lost touch of earth altogether;
but now I've fallen back on it with a whack. But I'm glad--yes, I'm
glad. You two kindest people Steve Rollo has ever known.--Oh, I say
good-night. I suppose you can't overlook it, Alice.'

ALICE. 'Oh, yes, you goose, I can. We are both fond of you--Mr.
Rollo.'

COLONEL. 'Come in, my boy, and make love to _me_ as often as you feel
lonely.'

STEVE. 'I may still come to see you? I say, I'm awfully taken with
your Amy.'

COLONEL. 'None of that, Steve.'

ALICE, '_We,_ can drop in on you on the sly, Steve, to admire
your orbs; but you mustn't come here--until Amy thinks it is safe for
me.' When he has gone she adds, 'Until _I_ think it is safe for Amy.'

COLONEL. 'When will that be?'

ALICE. 'Not for some time.'

COLONEL. 'He isn't a bad sort, Steve.'

ALICE. 'Oh, no--she might even do worse some day. But she is to be my
little girl for a long time first.'

COLONEL. 'This will give him a sort of glamour to her, you know.'

ALICE. 'You are not really thinking, Robert, that my Amy is to fall
asleep to-night before she hears the whole true story. Could I sleep
until she knows everything!'

COLONEL. 'Stupid of me. I am a little like Steve in one way, though; I
don't understand why you have kept it up so long.'

ALICE. 'It isn't the first time you have thought me a harum-scarum.'

COLONEL. 'It isn't.'

ALICE. 'The sheer fun of it, Robert, went to my head, I suppose. And
then, you see, the more Amy felt herself to be my protectress the more
she seemed to love me. I am afraid I have a weakness for the short
cuts to being loved.'

COLONEL. 'I'm afraid you have. The one thing you didn't think of is
that the more she loves you the less love she seems to have for me.'

ALICE. 'How selfish of you, Robert.'

COLONEL, suspiciously, 'Or was that all part of the plan?'
ALICE. 'There was no plan; there wasn't time for one. But you were
certainly rather horrid, Robert, in the way you gloated over me when
you saw them take to you. I have been gloating a little perhaps in
taking them from you.'

COLONEL. 'Them? You are going a little too fast, my dear. I have still
got Cosmo and Molly.'

ALICE. Tor the moment.'

COLONEL. 'Woman.'

ALICE. 'Remember, Amy said you must not call me that.'

He laughs as he takes her by the shoulders.

'Yes, shake me; I deserve it.'

COLONEL. 'You do, indeed,' and he shakes her with a ferocity that
would have startled any sudden visitor. No wonder, then, that it is a
shock to Cosmo, who comes blundering in. Alice is the first to see
him, and she turns the advantage to unprincipled account.

ALICE. 'Robert, don't hurt me. Oh, if Cosmo were to see you!'

COSMO. 'Cosmo does see him.' He says it in a terrible voice. Probably
Cosmo has been to a theatre or two himself.

ALICE. 'You here, Cosmo!'

She starts back from her assailant.

COLONEL, feeling a little foolish, 'I didn't hear you come in.'

COSMO, grimly, 'No, I'm sure you didn't.'

COLONEL, testily, 'No heroics, my boy.'

COSMO. 'Take care, father.' He stands between them, which makes his
father suddenly grin. 'Laugh on, sir. I don't know what this row's
about, but'--here his arm encircles an undeserving lady--'this lady is
my mother, and I won't have her bullied. What's a father compared to a
mother.'

ALICE. 'Cosmo, darling Cosmo.'

COLONEL, becoming alarmed, 'My boy, it was only a jest. Alice, tell
him it was only a jest.'

ALICE. 'He says it was only a jest, Cosmo.'

COSMO. 'You are a trump to shield him, mother.' He kisses her openly,
conscious that he is a bit of a trump himself, in which view Alice
most obviously concurs.

COLONEL, to his better half, 'You serpent.'

COSMO. 'Sir, this language won't do.'

COLONEL, exasperated, 'You go to bed, too.'

ALICE. 'He has sent Amy to bed already. Try to love your father,
Cosmo,' placing many kisses on the spot where he had been slapped.
_Try for my sake_, and try to get Amy and Molly to do it, too.'
Sweetly to her husband, 'They will love you in time, Robert; at
present they can think only of me. Darling, I'll come and see you in
bed.'

COSMO. 'I don't like to leave you with him--'

ALICE. 'Go, my own; I promise to call out if I need you.'

On these terms Cosmo departs. The long-suffering husband, arms folded,
surveys his unworthy spouse.

COLONEL. 'You _are_ a hussy.'

ALICE, meekly, 'I suppose I am.'

COLONEL. 'Mind you, I am not going to stand Cosmo's thinking this of
me.'

ALICE. 'As if I would allow it for another hour! You won't see much of
me to-night, Robert. If I sleep at all it will be in Amy's room.'
COLONEL, lugubriously, 'You will be taking Molly from me to-morrow.'

ALICE. 'I feel hopeful that Molly, too, will soon be taking care of
me.' She goes to him in her cajoling way: 'With so many chaperones,
Robert, I ought to do well. Oh, my dear, don't think that I have
learnt no lesson to-night.'

COLONEL, smiling, 'Going to reform at last?'

ALICE, the most serious of women, 'Yes, Robert. The Alice you have
known is come to an end. To-morrow--'

COLONEL. 'If she is different to-morrow I'll disown her.'

ALICE. 'It's summer done, autumn begun. Farewell, summer, we don't
know you any more. My girl and I are like the little figures in the
weather-house; when Amy comes out, Alice goes in. Alice Sit-by-the-fire
henceforth. The moon is full to-night, Robert, but it isn't looking for
me any more. Taxis farewell--advance four-wheelers. I had a beautiful
husband once, black as the raven was his hair--'

COLONEL. 'Stop it.'

ALICE. 'Pretty Robert, farewell. Farewell, Alice that was; it's allover,
my dear. I always had a weakness for you; but now you must
really go; make way there for the old lady.'

COLONEL. 'Woman, you'll make me cry. Go to your Amy.'

ALICE. 'Robert--'

COLONEL. 'Go. Go. Go.'

As he roars it Amy peeps in anxiously. She is in her nightgown, and
her hair is down and her feet are bare, and she does not look so very
much more than five. Alice is unable to resist the temptation.

ALICE, wailing, 'Must I go, Robert?'

AMY. 'Going away? Mother! Father, if mother goes away, what is to
become of me?'

She draws them together until their hands clasp. There is now a
beatific smile on her face. The curtain sees that its time has come;
it clicks, and falls.

THE END

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