Part 3 out of 5
BOB (furiously). Damn you! I _won't_ be pitied by you.
GERALD (coolly). And you're not going to be. You've talked about
yourself and thought about yourself quite long enough; now I'm
going to talk about _my_self.
BOB. And it won't be the first time either.
GERALD (quickly). It will be the first time to _you_. You say I've
never tried to understand your feelings--have you ever tried to
understand mine? My God, Bob! I've thought a good deal more about
you than you have about me. Have I ever talked about myself to you?
When a boy does well at school he likes talking about it; did I ever
bore _you_ with it? Never! Because I knew how you'd feel about it. I
knew how _I'd_ feel about it, and so I tried to make it easy for
BOB. Very noble of you.
GERALD (angrily). Don't be such a damned fool, Bob. What's the good
of talking like that? If whatever I do is wrong, then you're only
convicting yourself; you're not convicting me. According to you, if
I talk about myself I'm being conceited and superior, and if I don't
talk about myself, I'm being noble and still more superior. In fact,
whatever I do, I can't please you. That doesn't condemn me; it
condemns yourself. (Wearily) What's the good of talking?
BOB. Go on; I like to hear it.
GERALD. Very well. We'll take the definite accusations first. Apart
from the general charge of being successful--whatever that amounts
to--you accuse me of two things. One you didn't mention just now,
but it was more or less obvious the last time I saw you. That was
that I neglected to help you when you were in trouble, and that
through me you went to prison.
BOB. Yes, I forgot that this time. (With an unpleasant laugh) But I
didn't forget it in prison.
GERALD. You had a sense of humour once, Bob. I don't know what's
happened to it lately. Don't you think it's rather funny to hate a
person steadily for fifteen years, judge all his acts as you'd
hardly judge those of your bitterest enemy, and yet, the first time
you are in trouble, to expect him to throw everything on one side
and rush to your help--and then to feel bitterly ill-used if he
BOB (rather taken aback). I--you didn't--I didn't--
GERALD (quietly). That's been rather like you all through, Bob. You
were always the one who had to be helped; you were always the one
who was allowed to have the grievance. Still, that doesn't make it
any better for me if I could have helped you and didn't. However,
I'm quite certain that I _couldn't_ have helped you then. We'll take
the other accusation, that I stole Pamela from you. I've only got
two things to say to that. First, that Pamela was not engaged to
you, and was perfectly free to choose between us. Secondly, that you
never told me, and I hadn't the slightest idea, that you were the
least bit fond of her. Indeed, I don't believe you realized it
yourself at that time.
BOB (rather shamefaced). I've realized it since.
GERALD. Yes, and you've taken Pamela back since. I think if I were
you I would keep her out of it. (BOB looks away and GERALD goes
on) Now we come to the general charge, which seems to be (very
deliberately) that I'm better than you at games, that I've got
better manners than you, that I'm cleverer than you--in fact, that
I'm superior to you in every outward way, and am only inferior to
you in--well, in the moral qualities. (Quietly) Bob, what are these
moral qualities in which I am so deficient and you so endowed?
You judge me by the qualities I am supposed to have shown to you;
now what have you shown to _me_? Have _you_ been generous, have
_you_ been friendly, have _you_ been sympathetic? No; you've just
told me that for fifteen years you've hated me and been jealous of
me. Things have been rotten for you, I admit; have you ever tried to
make the best of them? You've had disadvantages to fight against;
have you ever fought against them? Never! You've turned every
trouble into a grievance, and hoarded it up. I said just now I was
sick of you. I am--utterly. You said just now you didn't want my
pity. You haven't got it; you've only got my contempt. ... (He turns
away, and then suddenly turns back, and, holding out his hand to
BOB, says utterly unexpectedly) And now, damn you! will you shake
BOB (incoherent with surprise). What do you--I--you didn't--
(GERALD'S hand is still held out, and he is smiling.) Oh, Jerry!
(He takes the hand.)
GERALD. That's all right. Good-bye, Bob, and good luck.
BOB (bewildered). Good-bye. (He tuns round and goes towards the
door. Half-way there, he looks over his shoulder and says awkwardly)
Had rather a rotten time in prison. (GERALD nods. At the door BOB
says) Pamela and I--
[With rather a forced smile, GERALD nods again, and BOB goes out.]
(Left alone, GERALD stands looking into the fire and thinking. He
tries sitting down to see if that will make thinking any pleasanter;
then he tries standing up again. He goes to the door in front of the
staircase and opens it to see if there is anybody there; then he
goes to the windows at the back and looks through them. Evidently he
sees somebody, for he beckons and then returns to his old place by
the fire. In a few moments LETTY and TOMMY come in.)
TOMMY (excitedly). I say, has Bob come?
TOMMY. I could have sworn we saw him just now as we were coming in.
At least, Letty swore she did--
LETTY. I _know_ I did.
TOMMY. So I gave him a shout, but he fairly trekked off. Was it Bob?
GERALD. Yes. Now look here, I want you to be two nice people. Don't
say anything to anybody. He came, but he didn't want to see the
whole crowd of us. He's going to Canada. I'll do all the explaining,
if you two just say nothing. Do you see?
LETTY. Of course, Gerald.
TOMMY. Rather, old boy. Besides, it will make it much better for
Letty and me.
LETTY. No rival attraction, Tommy means.
[Enter SIR JAMES and LADY FARRINGDON from the outer hull, having
just returned from their lunch.]
SIR JAMES. Ah! here you all are.
GERALD. Had a good lunch?
SIR JAMES. Lunch was all right, but the people were dull, very dull.
LADY FARRINGDON. There were one or two nice ones, I thought, dear.
They all knew about _you_, Gerald.
TOMMY (proudly). Of course they would.
SIR JAMES. Oh, one or two were all right, but _he_ was--well, I was
discussing shorthorns with him after lunch, and he hardly seemed
interested at all. Dull, very dull. I've got no use for that sort of man.
(During this speech the Butler has come in with a telegram for
GERALD (taking it). Just a moment. (He reads it quickly.) No answer.
(GERALD reads his telegram again more thoughtfully.)
LADY FARRINGDON. From Pamela, dear?
GERALD. From the office. I shall have to go up at once.
LADY FARRINGDON (very disappointed). Oh, Gerald!
SIR JAMES. Something on?
GERALD. Rather an important thing really. I never thought I should
get it, but there was just a chance. (Looking at his watch) Oh, I
can do it comfortably.
SIR JAMES (obviously proud that GERALD is in the thick of things).
What is it? I suppose you mustn't tell us.
GERALD. Something abroad.
SIR JAMES. Diplomatic mission, eh?
LETTY. That does sound so frightfully exciting.
LADY FARRINGDON (proudly). Oh, Gerald! (Thoughtfully). I wish we had
known about it this morning, we could have mentioned it at lunch.
SIR JAMES. That ought to lead to something.
GERALD. Yes. I think it will. It's rather an opportunity:
(They are all round him now, just as they have always been. The
SIR JAMES. Aha! you'll be an ambassador yet. What do you think of
LETTY. Well done, Gerald.
LADY FARRINGDON. How like you, Gerald!
TOMMY. Good old Gerald! I never knew such a chap. You really _are_!
GERALD (softly). I wish I weren't, Tommy! Oh, I wish I weren't!
(They don't hear him; they are still buzzing.)
THE BOY COMES HOME
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
This play was first produced by Mr. Owen Nares at the Victoria
Palace Theatre on September 9,1918, with the following cast:
Uncle James--TOM REYNOLDS.
Aunt Emily--DOROTHY RADFORD.
Mrs. Higgins--RACHEL DE SOLLA.
THE BOY COMES HOME
[SCENE.--A room in UNCLE JAMES'S house in the Cromwell Road.]
[TIME.--The day after the War.]
[Any room in UNCLE JAMES'S house is furnished in heavy mid-Victorian
style; this particular morning-room is perhaps solider and more
respectable even than the others, from the heavy table in the middle
of it to the heavy engravings on the walls. There are two doors to
it. The one at the back opens into the hall, the one at the side
into the dining-room.]
[PHILIP comes from the hall and goes into the dining-room.
Apparently he finds nothing there, for he returns to the
morning-room, looks about him for a moment and then rings the bell.
It is ten o'clock, and he wants his breakfast. He picks up the
paper, and sits in a heavy armchair in front of the fire--a
pleasant-looking well-built person of twenty-three, with an air of
decisiveness about him. MARY, the parlour-maid, comes in.]
MARY. Did you ring, Master Philip?
PHILIP (absently). Yes; I want some breakfast, please, Mary.
MARY (coldly). Breakfast has been cleared away an hour ago.
PHILIP. Exactly. That's why I rang. You can boil me a couple of
eggs or something. And coffee, not tea.
MARY. I'm sure I don't know what Mrs. Higgins will say?
PHILIP (getting up). Who is Mrs. Higgins?
MARY. The cook. And she's not used to being put about like this.
PHILIP. Do you think she'll say something?
MARY. I don't know _what_ she'll say.
PHILIP. You needn't tell me, you know, if you don't want to.
Anyway, I don't suppose it will shock me. One gets used to it in
the Army. (He smiles pleasantly at her.)
MARY. Well, I'll do what I can, sir. But breakfast at eight sharp
is the master's rule, just as it used to be before you went away to
PHILIP. Before I went away to the war I did a lot of silly things.
Don't drag them up now. (More curtly) Two eggs, and if there's a
ham bring that along too. (He turns away.)
MARY (doubtfully, as she prepares to go). Well, I'm sure I don't
know what Mrs. Higgins will say. [Exit MARY.]
(As she goes out she makes way for AUNT EMILY to come in, a
kind-hearted mid-Victorian lady who has never had any desire for
EMILY. There you are, Philip! Good-morning, dear. Did you sleep
PHILIP. Rather; splendidly, thanks, Aunt Emily. How are you? (He
EMILY. And did you have a good breakfast? Naughty boy to be late
for it. I always thought they had to get up so early in the Army.
PHILIP. They do. That's why they're so late when they get out of
EMILY: Dear me! I should have thought a habit of four years would
have stayed with you.
PHILIP. Every morning for four years, as I've shot out of bed, I've
said to myself, "Wait! A time will come." (Smiling) That doesn't
really give a habit a chance.
EMILY. Well, I daresay you wanted your sleep out. I was so afraid
that a really cosy bed would keep you awake after all those years
in the trenches.
PHILIP. Well, one isn't in the trenches all the time. And one gets
leave--if one's an officer.
EMILY.(reproachfully). You didn't spend much of it with _us_,
PHILIP (taking her hands). I know; but you did understand, didn't
EMILY. We're not very gay, and I know you must have wanted gaiety
for the little time you had. But I think your Uncle James felt it.
After all, dear, you've lived with us for some years, and he _is_
PHILIP. I know. _You've_ been a darling to me always, Aunt Emily.
But (awkwardly) Uncle James and I--
EMILY. Of course, he is a _little_ difficult to get on with. I'm
more used to him. But I'm sure he really is very fond of you,
PHILIP. H'm! I always used to be frightened of him. ... I suppose
he's just the same. He seemed just the same last night--and he
still has breakfast at eight o'clock. Been making pots of money, I
EMILY. He never tells me exactly, but he did speak once about the
absurdity of the excess-profits tax. You see, jam is a thing the
PHILIP. It certainly gets it.
EMILY. It was so nice for him, because it made him feel he was
doing his bit, helping the poor men in the trenches.
MARY. Mrs. Higgins wishes to speak to you, ma'am. (She looks at
PHILIP as much as to say, "There you are!")
EMILY (getting up). Yes, I'll come. (To PHILIP) I think I'd better
just see what she wants, Philip.
PHILIP (firmly to MARY). Tell Mrs. Higgins to come here. (MARY
hesitates and looks at her mistress.) At once, please. [Exit MARY.]
EMILY (upset). Philip, dear, I don't know what Mrs. Higgins will
PHILIP. No; nobody seems to. I thought we might really find out for
EMILY (going towards the door). Perhaps I'd better go--
PHILIP (putting his arm round her waist). Oh no, you mustn't. You
see, she really wants to see _me_.
PHILIP. Yes; I ordered breakfast five minutes ago.
EMILY. Philip! My poor boy! Why didn't you tell me? and I daresay I
could have got it for you. Though I don't know what Mrs. Higgins--
(An extremely angry voice is heard outside, and MRS. HIGGINS, stout
and aggressive, comes in.)
MRS. HIGGINS (truculently). You sent for me, ma'am?
EMILY (nervously). Yes--er--I think if you--perhaps--
PHILIP (calmly). _I_ sent for you, Mrs. Higgins. I want some
breakfast. Didn't Mary tell you?
MRS. HIGGINS. Breakfast is at eight o'clock. It always has been as
long as I've been in this house, and always will be until I get
PHILIP. Well, you've just got further orders. Two eggs, and if
there's a ham--
MRS. HIGGINS. Orders. We're talking about orders. From whom in this
house do I take orders, may I ask?
PHILIP. In this case from me.
MRS. HIGGINS (playing her trump-card). In that case, ma'am, I wish
to give a month's notice from to-day. _In_clusive.
PHILIP (quickly, before his aunt can say anything). Certainly. In
fact, you'd probably prefer it if my aunt gave _you_ notice, and
then you could go at once. We can easily arrange that. (TO AUNT
EMILY as he takes out a fountain pen and cheque-book) What do you
EMILY (faintly). Forty-five pounds.
PHILIP (writing on his knee). Twelves into forty-five. ...
(Pleasantly to MRS. HIGGINS, but without looking up) I hope you
don't mind a Cox's cheque. Some people do; but this is quite a good
one. (Tearing it out) Here you are.
MRS. HIGGINS (taken aback). What's this?
PHILIP. Your wages instead of notice. Now you can go at once.
MRS. HIGGINS. Who said anything about going?
PHILIP (surprised). I'm sorry; I thought _you_ did.
MRS. HIGGINS. If it's only a bit of breakfast, I don't say but what
I mightn't get it, if I'm asked decent.
PHILIP (putting back the cheque). Then let me say again, "Two eggs,
ham and coffee." And Mary can bring the ham up at once, and I'll
get going on that. (Turning away) Thanks very much.
MRS. HIGGINS. Well, I--well--well! [Exit speechless.]
PHILIP (surprised). Is that all she ever says? It isn't much to
EMILY. Philip, how could you! I should have been terrified.
PHILIP. Well, you see, I've done your job for two years out there.
EMILY. What job?
PHILIP. Mess President. ... I think I'll go and see about that ham.
(He smiles at her and goes out into the dining-room. AUNT EMILY
wanders round the room, putting a few things tidy as is her habit,
when she is interrupted by the entrance of UNCLE JAMES. JAMES is
not a big man, nor an impressive one in his black morning-coat; and
his thin straggly beard, now going grey, does not hide a chin of
any great power; but he has a severity which passes for strength
with the weak.)
JAMES. Philip down yet?
EMILY. He's just having his breakfast.
JAMES (looking at his watch). Ten o'clock. (Snapping it shut and
putting it back) Ten o'clock. I say ten o'clock, Emily.
EMILY. Yes, dear, I heard you.
JAMES. You don't say anything?
EMILY (vaguely). I expect he's tired after that long war.
JAMES. That's no excuse for not being punctual. I suppose he learnt
punctuality in the Army?
EMILY. I expect he learnt it, James, but I understood him to say
that he'd forgotten it.
JAMES. Then the sooner he learns it again the better. I
particularly stayed away from the office to-day in order to talk
things over with him, and (looking cat his watch) here's ten
o'clock--past ten--and no sign of him. I'm practically throwing
away a day.
EMILY. What are you going to talk to him about?
JAMES. His future, naturally. I have decided that the best thing he
can do is to come into the business at once.
EMILY. Are you really going to talk it over with him, James, or are
you just going to tell him that he _must_ come?
JAMES (surprised). What do you mean? What's the difference?
Naturally we shall talk it over first, and--er--naturally he'll
fall in with my wishes.
EMILY. I suppose he can hardly help himself, poor boy.
JAMES. Not until he's twenty-five, anyhow. When he's twenty-five he
can have his own money and do what he likes with it.
EMILY (timidly). But I think you ought to consult him at little,
dear. After all, he _has_ been fighting for us.
JAMES (with his back to the fire). Now that's the sort of silly
sentiment that there's been much too much of. I object to it
strongly. I don't want to boast, but I think I may claim to have
done my share. I gave up my nephew to my country, and I--er--
suffered from the shortage of potatoes to an extent that you
probably didn't realize. Indeed, if it hadn't been for your
fortunate discovery about that time that you didn't really like
potatoes, I don't know how we should have carried on. And, as I
think I've told you before, the excess-profits tax seemed to me a
singularly stupid piece of legislation--but I paid it. And I don't
go boasting about how much I paid.
EMILY (unconvinced). Well, I think that Philip's four years out
there have made him more of a man; he doesn't seem somehow like a
boy who can be told what to do. I'm sure they've taught him
JAMES. I've no doubt that they've taught him something about--er--
bombs and--er--which end a revolver goes off, and how to form
fours. But I don't see that that sort of thing helps him to decide
upon the most suitable career for a young man in after-war
EMILY. Well, I can only say you'll find him different.
JAMES. I didn't notice any particular difference last night.
EMILY. I think you'll find him rather more--I can't quite think of
the word, but Mrs. Higgins could tell you what I mean.
JAMES. Of course, if he likes to earn his living any other way, he
may; but I don t see how he proposes to do it so long as I hold
the purse-strings. (Looking at his watch) Perhaps you'd better tell
him that I cannot wait any longer.
(EMILY opens the door leading into the dining-room and talks
through it to PHILIP.)
EMILY. Philip, your uncle is waiting to see you before he goes to
the office. Will you be long, dear?
PHILIP (from the dining-room). Is he in a hurry?
JAMES (shortly). Yes.
EMILY. He says he is rather, dear.
PHILIP. Couldn't he come and talk in here? It wouldn't interfere
with my breakfast.
EMILY. He says he'd rather you came to _him_, darling.
PHILIP (resigned). Oh, well.
EMILY (to JAMES). He'll be here directly, dear. Just sit down in
front of the fire and make yourself comfortable with the paper. He
won't keep you long. (She arranges him.)
JAMES (taking the paper). The morning is not the time to make
oneself comfortable. It's a most dangerous habit. I nearly found
myself dropping off in front of the fire just now. I don't like
this hanging about, wasting the day. (He opens the paper.)
EMILY. You should have had a nice sleep, dear, while you could.
We were up so late last night listening to Philip's stories.
JAMES. Yes, yes. (He begins a yawn and stifles it hurriedly.) You
mustn't neglect your duties, Emily. I've no doubt you have plenty
EMILY. All right, James, then I'll leave you. But don't be hard on
JAMES (sleepily). I shall be just, Emily; you can rely upon that.
EMILY (going to the door). I don't think that's quite what I meant.
[She goes out.]
(JAMES, who is now quite comfortable, begins to nod. He wakes up
with a start, turns over the paper, and nods again. Soon he is
breathing deeply with closed eyes.)
PHILIP (coming in). Sorry to have kept you waiting, but I was a bit
late for breakfast. (He takes out his pipe.) Are we going to talk
business or what?
JAMES (taking out his match). A _bit_ late! I make it just two
PHILIP (pleasantly). All right, Uncle James. Call it two hours
late. Or twenty-two hours early for tomorrow's breakfast, if you
like. (He sits down in a chair on the opposite side of the table
from his uncle, and lights his pipe.)
JAMES. You smoke now?
PHILIP (staggered). I what?
JAMES (nodding at his pipe). You smoke?
PHILIP. Good heavens! what did yolk think we did in France?
JAMES. Before you start smoking all over the house, I should have
thought you would have asked your aunt's permission.
(PHILIP looks at him in amazement, and then goes to the door.)
PHILIP (calling). Aunt Emily! ... Aunt Emily! ... Do you mind my
smoking in here?
AUNT EMILY (from upstairs). Of course not, darling.
PHILIP (to JAMES, as he returns to his chair). Of course not,
darling. (He puts back his pipe in his mouth.)
JAMES. Now, understand once and for all, Philip, while you remain
in my house I expect not only punctuality, but also civility and
respect. I will _not_ have impertinence.
PHILIP (unimpressed). Well, that's what I want to talk to you
about, Uncle James. About staying in your house, I mean.
JAMES. I don't know what you do mean.
PHILIP. Well, we don't get on too well together, and I thought
perhaps I'd better take rooms somewhere. You could give me an
allowance until I came into my money. Or I suppose you could give
me the money now if you really liked. I don't quite know how father
left it to me.
JAMES (coldly). You come into your money when you are twenty-five.
Your father very wisely felt that to trust a large sum to a mere
boy of twenty-one was simply putting temptation in his way. Whether
I have the power or not to alter his dispositions, I certainly
don't propose to do so.
PHILIP. If it comes to that, I am twenty-five.
JAMES. Indeed? I had an impression that that event took place in
about two years' time. When did you become twenty-five, may I ask?
PHILIP (quietly). It was on the Somme. We were attacking the next
day and my company was in support. We were in a so-called trench on
the edge of a wood--a damned rotten place to be, and we got hell.
The company commander sent back to ask if we could move. The C.O.
said, "Certainly not; hang on." We hung on; doing nothing, you
know--just hanging on and waiting for the next day. Of course, the
Boche knew all about that. He had it on us nicely. ... (Sadly) Dear
old Billy! he was one of the best--our company commander, you know.
They got him, poor devil! That left _me_ in command of the company.
I sent a runner back to ask if I could move. Well, I'd had a bit of
a scout on my own and found a sort of trench five hundred yards to
the right. Not what you'd call a trench, of course, but compared to
that wood--well, it was absolutely Hyde Park. I described the
position and asked if I could go there. My man never came back. I
waited an hour and sent another man. He went west too. Well, I
wasn't going to send a third. It was murder. So I had to decide.
We'd lost about half the company by this time, you see. Well, there
were three things I could do--hang on, move to this other trench,
against orders, or go back myself and explain the situation. ... I
moved. ... And then I went back to the C.O. and told him I'd moved. ...
And then I went back to the company again. ... (Quietly) That was
when I became twenty-five. ... or thirty-five. ... or forty-five.
JAMES (recovering himself with an effort). Ah yes, yes. (He coughs
awkwardly.) No doubt points like that frequently crop up in the
trenches. I am glad that you did well out there, and I'm sure your
Colonel would speak kindly of you; but when it comes to choosing a
career for you now that you have left the Army, my advice is not
altogether to be despised. Your father evidently thought so, or he
would not have entrusted you to my care.
PHILIP. My father didn't foresee this war.
JAMES. Yes, yes, but you make too much of this war. All you young
boys seem to think you've come back from France to teach us our
business. You'll find that it is you who'll have to learn, not we.
PHILIP. I'm quite prepared to learn; in fact, I want to.
JAMES. Excellent. Then we can consider that settled.
PHILIP. Well, we haven't settled yet what business I'm going to
JAMES. I don't think that's very difficult. I propose to take you
into my business. You'll start at the bottom of course, but it will
be a splendid opening for you.
PHILIP (thoughtfully). I see. So you've decided it for me? The jam
JAMES (sharply). Is there anything to be ashamed of in that?
PHILIP. Oh no, nothing at all. Only it doesn't happen to appeal to
JAMES. If you knew which side your bread was buttered, it would
appeal to you very considerably.
PHILIP. I'm afraid I can't see the butter for the jam.
JAMES. I don't want any silly jokes of that sort. You were glad
enough to get it out there, I've no doubt.
PHILIP. Oh yes. Perhaps that's why I'm so sick of it now. ... No,
it's no good, Uncle James; you must think of something else.
JAMES (with a sneer). Perhaps _you've_ thought of something else?
PHILIP. Well, I had some idea of being an architect--
JAMES. You propose to start learning to be an architect at twenty-three?
PHILIP (smiling). Well, I couldn't start before, could I?
JAMES. Exactly. And now you'll find it's too late.
PHILIP. Is it? Aren't there going to be any more architects, or
doctors, or solicitors, or barristers? Because we've all lost four
years of our lives, are all the professions going to die out?
JAMES. And how old do you suppose you'll be before you're earning
money as an architect?
PHILIP. The usual time, whatever that may be. If I'm four years
behind, so is everybody else.
JAMES. Well, I think it's high time you began to earn a living at
PHILIP. Look here, Uncle James, do you really think that you can
treat me like a boy who's just left school? Do you think four years
at the front have made no difference at all?
JAMES. If there had been any difference, I should have expected it
to take the form of an increased readiness in obey orders and
PHILIP (regretfully). You are evidently determined to have a row.
Perhaps I had better tell you once and for all that I refuse to go
into the turnip and vegetable narrow business.
JAMES (thumping the table angrily). And perhaps I'd better tell
_you_, sir, once and for all, that I don't propose to allow rude
rudeness from an impertinent young puppy.
PHILIP (reminiscently). I remember annoying our Brigadier once. He
was covered with red, had a very red face, about twenty medals, and
a cold blue eye. He told me how angry he was for about five minutes
while I stood to attention. I'm afraid you aren't nearly
impressive, Uncle James.
JAMES (rather upset). Oh! (Recovering himself) Fortunately I have
other means of impressing you. The power of the purse goes a long
way in this world. I propose to use it.
PHILIP. I see. ... Yes ... that's rather awkward, isn't it?
JAMES (pleasantly). I think you'll find it very awkward.
PHILIP (thoughtfully). Yes.
(With an amused laugh JAMES settles down to his paper as if the
interview were over.)
PHILIP (to himself). I suppose I shall have to think of another
argument. (He takes out a revolver from him pocket and fondles it
JAMES (looking up suddenly as he is doing this--amazed). What on
earth are you doing?
PHILIP. Souvenir from France. Do you know, Uncle. James, that this
revolver has killed about twenty Germans?
JAMES (shortly). Oh! Well, don't go playing about with it here, or
you'll be killing Englishmen before you know where you are.
PHILIP. Well, you never know. (He raises it leisurely and points it
at his uncle.) It's a nice little weapon.
JAMES (angrily). Put it down, sir. You ought to have grown out of
monkey tricks like that in the Army. You ought to know better than
to point an unloaded revolver at anybody. That's the way accidents
PHILIP. Not when you've been on a revolver course and know all
about it. Besides, it _is_ loaded.
JAMES (very angry because he is frightened suddenly). Put it down
at once, sir. (PHILIP turns it away from him and examines it
carelessly.) What's the matter with you? Have you gone mad
PHILIP (mildly). I thought you'd be interested in it. It's shot
such a lot of Germans.
JAMES. Well, it won't want to shoot any more, and the sooner you
get rid of it the better.
PHILIP. I wonder. Does it ever occur to you, Uncle James, that
there are about a hundred thousand people in England who own
revolvers, who are quite accustomed to them and--who have nobody to
practise on now?
JAMES. No, sir, it certainly doesn't.
PHILIP (thoughtfully). I wonder if it will make any difference. You
know, one gets so used to potting at people. It's rather difficult
to realize suddenly that one oughtn't to.
JAMES (getting up). I don't know what the object of this tomfoolery
is, if it has one. But you understand that I expect you to come to
the office with me to-morrow at nine o'clock. Kindly see that
you're punctual. (He turns to go away.)
PHILIP (softly). Uncle James.
JAMES (over his shoulder). I have no more--
PHILIP (in his parade voice). Damn it, sir! stand to attention when
you talk to an officer! (JAMES instinctively turns round and
stiffens himself.) That's better; you can sit down if you like. (He
motions JAMES to his chair with the revolver.)
JAMES (going nervously to his chair). What does this bluff mean?
PHILIP. It isn't bluff, it's quite serious. (Pointing the revolver
at his uncle) Do sit down.
JAMES (sitting donor). Threats, eh?
JAMES. At the point of the revolver? You settle your arguments by
force? Good heavens, sir! this is just the very thing that we were
fighting to put down.
PHILIP. _We_ were fighting! _We_! _We_! Uncle, you're humorist.
JAMES, Well, "you," if you prefer it. Although those of us who
stayed at home--
PHILIP. Yes, never mind about the excess profits now. I can tell
you quite well what we fought for. We used force to put down force.
That's what I'm doing now. You were going to use force--the force
of money--to make me do what you wanted. Now I'm using force to
stop it. (He levels the revolver again.)
JAMES. You're--you're going to shoot your old uncle?
PHILIP. Why not? I've shot lots of old uncles--Landsturmers.
JAMES. But those were Germans! It's different shooting Germans.
You're in England now. You couldn't have a crime on your conscience
PHILIP. Ah, but you mustn't think that after four years of war one
has quite the same ideas about the sanctity of human life. How
JAMES. You'll find that juries have kept pretty much the same
ideas, I fancy.
PHILIP. Yes, but revolvers often go off accidentally. You said so
yourself. This is going to be the purest accident. Can't you see it
in the papers? "The deceased's nephew, who was obviously upset--"
JAMES. I suppose you think it's brave to come back from the front
and threaten a defenceless man with a revolver? Is that the sort of
fair play they teach you in the Army?
PHILIP. Good heavens! of course it is. You don't think that you
wait until the other side has got just as many guns as you before
you attack? You're really rather lucky. Strictly speaking, I ought
to have thrown half a dozen bombs at you first. (Taking one out of
his pocket) As it happens, I've only got one.
JAMES (thoroughly alarmed). Put that back at once.
PHILIP (putting down the revolver and taking it in his hands). You
hold it in the right hand--so--taking care to keep the lever down.
Then you take the pin in the finger--so, and--but perhaps this
doesn't interest you?
JAMES (edging his chair away). Put it down at once, sir. Good
heavens! anything might happen.
PHILIP (putting it down and taking up the revolver again). Does it
ever occur to you, Uncle James, that there are about three million
people in England who know all about bombs, and how to throw them,
JAMES. It certainly does not occur to me. I should never dream of
letting these things occur to me.
PHILIP (looking at the bomb regretfully). It's rather against my
principles as a soldier, but just to make things a bit more fair--
(generously) you shall have it. (He holds it out to him suddenly.)
JAMES (shrinking back again). Certainly not, sir. It might go off
at any moment.
PHILIP (putting it back in his pocket). Oh no; it's quite useless;
there's no detonator. ... (Sternly) Now, then, let's talk business.
JAMES. What do you want me to do?
PHILIP. Strictly speaking, you should be holding your hands over
your head and saying "Kamerad!" However, I'll let you off that. All
I ask from you is that you should be reasonable.
JAMES. And if I refuse, you'll shoot me?
PHILIP. Well, I don't quite know, Uncle James. I expect we should
go through this little scene again to-morrow. You haven't enjoyed
it, have you? Well, there's lots more of it to come. We'll rehearse
it every day. One day, if you go on being unreasonable, the thing
will go off. Of course, you think that I shouldn't have the pluck
to fire. But you can't be quite certain. It's a hundred to one that
I shan't--only I might. Fear--it's a horrible thing. Elderly men
die of it sometimes.
JAMES. Pooh! I'm not to be bluffed like that.
PHILIP (suddenly). You're quite right; you're not that sort. I made
a mistake. (Aiming carefully) I shall have to do it straight off,
after all. One--two--
JAMES (on his knees, with uplifted hands, in an agony of terror).
Philip! Mercy! What are your terms?
PHILIP (picking him up by the scruff, and helping him into the
chair). Good man, that's the way to talk. I'll get them for you.
Make yourself comfortable in front of the fire till I come back.
Here's the paper. (He gives his uncle the paper, and goes out into
(JAMES opens his eyes with a start and looks round him in a
bewildered way. He rubs his heart, takes out his match and looks at
it, and then stares round the room again. The door from the dining-room
opens, and PHILIP comes in with a piece of toast in his hand.)
PHILIP (his mouth full). You wanted to see me, Uncle James?
JAMES (still bewildered). That's all right, my boy, that's all
right. What have you been doing?
PHILIP (surprised). Breakfast. (Putting the last piece in his
mouth) Rather late, I'm afraid.
JAMES. That's all right. (He laughs awkwardly.)
PHILIP. Anything the matter? You don't look your usual bright self.
JAMES. I--er--seem to have dropped asleep in front of the fire.
Most unusual thing for me to have done. Most unusual.
PHILIP. Let that be a lesson to you not to get up so early. Of
course, if you're in the Army you can't help yourself. Thank Heaven
I'm out of it, and my own master again.
JAMES. Ah, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Sit down,
Philip. (He indicates the chair by the fire.)
PHILIP (taking a chair by the table). You have that, uncle; I shall
be all right here.
JAMES (hastily). No, no; you come here. (He gives PHILIP the
armchair and sits by the table himself.) I should be dropping off
again. (He laughs awkwardly.)
PHILIP. Righto. (He puts his hand to his pocket. UNCLE JAMES
shivers and looks at him to horror. PHILIP brings out his pipe, and
a sickly grin of relief comes into JAMES'S face.)
JAMES. I suppose you smoked a lot in France?
PHILIP. Rather! Nothing else to do. It's allowed in here?
JAMES (hastily). Yes, yes, of course. (PHILIP lights his pipe.)
Well now, Philip, what are you going to do, now you've left the
PHILIP (promptly). Burn my uniform and sell my revolver.
JAMES (starting at the word "revolver"). Sell your revolver, eh?
PHILIP (surprised). Well, I don't want it now, do I?
JAMES. No. ... Oh no. ... Oh, most certainly not, I should say. Oh,
I can't see why you should want it at all. (With an uneasy laugh)
You're in England now. No need for revolvers here--eh?
PHILIP (staring at him). Well, no, I hope not.
JAMES (hastily). Quite so. Well now, Philip, what next? We must
find a profession for you.
PHILIP (yawning). I suppose so. I haven't really thought about it
JAMES. You never wanted to be an architect?
PHILIP (surprised). Architect? (JAMES rubs his head and wonders
what made him think of architect.)
JAMES. Or anything like that.
PHILIP. It's a bit late, isn't it?
JAMES. Well, if you're four years behind, so is everybody else. (He
feels vaguely that he has heard this argument before.)
PHILIP (smiling): To tell the truth, I don't feel I mind much
anyway. Anything you like--except a commissionaire. I absolutely
refuse to wear uniform again.
JAMES. How would you like to come into the business?
PHILIP. The jam business? Well, I don't know. You wouldn't want
me to salute you in the mornings?
JAMES. My dear boy, no!
PHILIP. All right, I'll try it if you like. I don't know if I shall
be any good--what do you do?
JAMES. It's your experience in managing and--er--handling men which
I hope will be of value.
PHILIP. Oh, I can do that all right. (Stretching himself
luxuriously) Uncle James, do you realize that I'm never going to
salute again, or wear a uniform, or get wet--really wet, I mean--or
examine men's feet, or stand to attention when I'm spoken to, or--
oh, lots more things. And best of all, I'm never going to be
frightened again. Have you ever known what it is to be afraid--
JAMES (embarrassed). I--er--well--(He coughs.)
PHILIP. No, you couldn't--not really afraid of death, I mean. Well,
that's over now. Good lord! I could spend the rest of my life in
the British Museum and be happy. ...
JAMES (getting up). All right, we'll try you in the office. I
expect you want a holiday first, though.
PHILIP (getting up). My dear uncle, this is holiday. Being in
London is holiday. Buying an evening paper--wearing a waistcoat
again--running after a bus--anything--it's all holiday.
JAMES. All right, then, come along with me now, and I'll introduce
you to Mr. Bamford.
PHILIP. Right. Who's he?
JAMES. Our manager. A little stiff, but a very good fellow. He'll
be delighted to hear that you are coming into the firm.
PHILIP (smiling). Perhaps I'd better bring my revolver, in case he
JAMES (laughing with forced heartiness as they go together to the
door). Ha, ha! A good joke that! Ha, ha, ha! A good joke--but only
a joke, of course. Ha, ha! He, he, he!
[PHILIP goes out. JAMES, following him, turns at the door, and
looks round the room in a bewildered way. Was it a dream, or wasn't
it? He will never be quite certain.]
An April Folly in Three Acts
DELIA (her daughter).
The action takes place in Belinda's country-house in Devonshire at
the end of April.
This play was first produced by Mr. Dion Boucicault at the New
Theatre, London, on April 8, 1918, with the following cast:
Belinda Tremayne--IRENE VANBRUGH.
Harold Baxter--DION BOUCICAULT.
Claude Devenish--DENNIS NEILSON-TERRY.
John Tremayne--BEN WEBSTER.
[It is a lovely April afternoon--a foretaste of summer--in
[BETTY, a middle-aged servant, is fastening a hammock--its first
appearance this year--between two trees at the back. In front of
these there is a solid oak garden-table, with a comfortable chair
on the right of it and a straight-backed one on the left. There are
books, papers, and magazines on the table. BELINDA, of whom we
shall know more presently, is on the other side of the open windows
which look on to the garden, talking to BETTY.]
BELINDA (from inside the house). Are you sure you're tying it up
tightly enough, Betty?
BETTY (coming to front of hammock). Yes, ma'am; I think it's
BELINDA. Because I'm not the fairy I used to be.
BETTY (trying the knots at the other end of the hammock). Yes,
ma'am; it's quite firm this end too.
BELINDA. It's not the ends I'm frightened of; it's the middle where
the weight's coming. (She comes into the garden.) It looks very
BETTY. Yes, ma'am.
BELINDA (trying the middle of it with her hand). I asked them at
the Stores if they were quite _sure_ it would bear me, and they
said it would take anything up to--I forget how many tons. I know I
thought it was rather rude of them. (Looking at it anxiously) How
does one get in? So trying to be a sailor!
BETTY. I think you sit in it, ma'am, and then (explaining with her
hands) throw your legs over.
BELINDA. I see. (She sits gingerly in the hammock, and then, with a
sudden flutter of white, does what BETTY suggests.) Yes.
(Regretfully.) I'm afraid that was rather wasted on you, Betty.
We must have some spectators next time.
BETTY. Yes, ma'am.
BELINDA. Cushions. (She arranges them at her back with BETTY'S
help. With a sigh of comfort) There! Now then, Betty, about
BETTY. Yes, ma'am.
BELINDA. If Mr. Baxter calls--he is the rather prim gentleman--
BETTY. Yes, ma'am; the one who's been here several times before.
BELINDA (giving BETTY a quick look). Yes. Well, if he calls, you'll
say, "Not at home."
BETTY. Yes, ma'am.
BELINDA. He will say, "Oh--er--oh--er--really." Then you'll smile
very sweetly and say, "I beg your pardon, was it Mr. _Baxter_?" And
he'll say, "Yes!" and you'll say, "Oh, I beg your pardon, sir;
_this_ way, please."
BETTY. Yes, ma'am.
BELINDA. That's right, Betty. Well now, if Mr. Devenish calls--he
is the rather poetical gentleman--
BETTY. Yes, ma'am; the one who's always coming here.
BELINDA (with a pleased smile). Yes. Well, if he calls you'll
say, "Not at home."
BETTY. Yes, ma'am.
BELINDA. He'll immediately throw down his bunch of flowers and dive
despairingly into the moat. You'll stop him, just as he is going
in, and say, "I beg your pardon, sir, was it Mr. _Devenish_?" And
he will say, "Yes!" and you will say, "Oh, I beg your pardon, sir;
_this_ way, please."
BETTY. Yes, ma'am. And suppose they both call together?
BELINDA. We won't suppose anything so exciting, Betty.
BETTY. No, ma'am. And suppose any other gentleman calls?
BELINDA (with a sigh). There aren't any other gentlemen.
BETTY. It might be a clergyman, come to ask for a subscription like.
BELINDA. If it's a clergyman, Betty, I shall--I shall want your
assistance out of the hammock first.
BETTY. Yes, ma'am.
BELINDA. That's all. To anybody else I'm not at home. (Trying to
secure book on table and nearly falling out of the hammock.) Oh,
just give me that little green book. (Pointing to books on the
table.) The one at the bottom there--that's the one. (BETTY gives
it to her.) Thank you. (Reading the title.) "The Lute of Love," by
Claude Devenish. (To herself as she turns the pages.) It doesn't
seem much for half-a-crown when you think of the _Daily Telegraph_.
... Lute ... Lute. ... I should have quite a pretty mouth if I kept
on saying that. (With a great deal of expression.) Lute! (She pats
her mouth back.)
BETTY. Is that all, ma'am?
BELINDA. That's all. (BETTY prepares to go.) Oh, what am I
thinking of! (Waving to the table.) I want that review; I think
it's the blue one. (As BETTY begins to look.) It has an
article by Mr. Baxter on the "Rise of Lunacy in the Eastern
Counties"--yes, that's the one. I'd better have that too; I'm just
at the most exciting place. You shall have it after _me, _Betty.
BETTY. Is that all, ma'am?
BELINDA. Yes, that really is all.
[BETTY goes into the house.]
BELINDA (reading to herself). "It is a matter of grave concern to
all serious students of social problems--" (Putting the review down
in hammock and shaking her head gently.) But not in April. (Lazily
opening the book and reading.) "Tell me where is love"--well,
that's the question, isn't it? (She puts the book down, gives a
sigh of happiness, and lazily closes her eyes. DELIA comes into the
garden, from Paris. She is decidedly a modern girl, pretty and
self-possessed. Her hair is half-way up; waiting for her birthday,
perhaps. She sees her mother suddenly, stops, and then goes on
tiptoe to the head of the hammock. She smiles and kisses her mother
on the forehead. BELINDA, looking supremely unconscious, goes on
sleeping. DELIA kisses her lightly again. BELINDA wakes up with
an extraordinarily natural start, and is just about to say, "Oh,
Mr. Devenish--you mustn't!"--when she sees DELIA.) Delia!
DELIA. Well, mummy, aren't you glad to see me?
BELINDA. My darling child! (They kiss each other frantically.)
DELIA. Say you're glad.
BELINDA (sitting up). My darling, I'm absolutely--Hold the hammock
while I get out, dear; we don't want an accident. (Getting out with
DELIA'S help) They're all right when you're there, and they'll bear
two tons, but they're horrid getting in and out of. (Kissing her
again) Darling, it really _is_ you?
DELIA. Oh, it is jolly seeing you again. I believe you were asleep.
BELINDA (with dignity). Certainly not, child. I was reading
"The Nineteenth Century"--(with an air)--and after. (Earnestly)
Darling, wasn't it next Thursday you were coming back?
DELIA. No, this Thursday, silly.
BELINDA (penitently). Oh, my darling, and I was going over to
Paris to bring you home.
DELIA. I half expected you.
BELINDA. So confusing their both being called Thursday. And you
were leaving school for the very last time. If you don't forgive
me, Delia, I shall cry.
DELIA (stroking her hand fondly). Silly mother!
(BELINDA sits down in a basket chair and DELIA sits on a table next
BELINDA. Isn't it a lovely day for April, darling! I've wanted to
say that to somebody all day, and you're the first person who's
given me the chance. Oh, I said it to Betty, but she only said,
DELIA. Poor mother!
BELINDA (jumping up suddenly and kissing DELIA again). I simply
must have another one. And to think that you're never going back to
school any more. (Looking at her fondly) Darling, you _are_ looking
DELIA. Am I?
BELINDA. Lovely. (Going back to her seat) And now you're going to
stay with me for just as long as you want a mother. (Anxiously)
Darling, you didn't mind being sent away to school, did you? It
_is_ the usual thing, you know.
DELIA. Silly mother! of course it is.
BELINDA (relieved). I'm so glad you think so too.
DELIA. Have you been very lonely without me?
DELIA (holding up a finger). The truth, mummy!
BELINDA. I've missed you horribly, Delia. (Primly.) The absence
of female companionship of the requisite--
DELIA. Are you really all alone?
BELINDA (smiling mysteriously). Well, not always, of course.
DELIA (excitedly, at she slips off the table). Mummy, I believe
you're being bad again.
BELINDA. Really, darling, you forget that I'm old enough to be--in
fact, am--your mother.
DELIA (nodding her head). You are being bad.
BELINDA (rising with dignity and drawing herself up to her full
height). My child, that is not the way to--Oh, I say, what a lot
taller I am than you!
DELIA. And prettier.
BELINDA (fluttering her eyelids). Oh, do you think so? (Firmly)
Don't be silly, child.
DELIA (holding up a finger). Now tell me all that's been
happening here at once.
BELINDA (with a sigh). And I was just going to ask you how you
were getting on with your French.
DELIA. Bother French! You've been having a much more interesting
time than I have, so you've got to tell.
BELINDA (with a happy sigh). O-oh! (She sinks back into her
DELIA. Is it like the Count at Scarborough?
BELINDA (surprised and pained). My darling, what _do_ you mean?
DELIA. Don't you remember the Count who kept proposing to you at
Scarborough? I do.
BELINDA (reproachfully). Dear one, you were the merest child,
paddling about on the beach and digging castles.
DELIA (smiling to herself). I was old enough to notice the Count.
BELINDA (sadly). And I'd bought her a perfectly new spade! How
one deceives oneself!
DELIA. And then there was the M.P. who proposed at Windermere.
BELINDA. Yes, dear, but it wasn't seconded--I mean he never got
very far with it.
DELIA. And the artist in Wales.
BELINDA. Darling child, what a memory you have. No wonder your
teachers are pleased with you.
DELIA (settling herself comfortably). Now tell me all about this
BELINDA (meekly). Which one?
DELIA (excitedly). Oh, are there lots?
BELINDA (severely). Only two.
DELIA. Two! You abandoned woman!
BELINDA. It's something in the air, darling. I've never been in
Devonshire in April before.
DELIA. Is it really serious this time?
BELINDA (pained). I wish you wouldn't say _this_ time, Delia. It
sounds so unromantic. If you'd only put it into French--_cette
fois_--it sounds so much better. _Cette fois_. (Parentally.)
When one's daughter has just returned from an expensive schooling
in Paris, one likes to feel--
DELIA. What I meant, dear, was, am I to have a stepfather at last?
BELINDA. Now you're being _too_ French, darling.
DELIA. Why, do you still think father may be alive?
BELINDA. Why not? It's only eighteen years since he left us, and he
was quite a young man then.
DELIA. Yes, but surely you'd have heard from him in all those
years, if he'd been alive?
BELINDA. Well, he hasn't heard from _me, _and I'm still alive.
DELIA (looking earnestly at her mother). I shall never understand
BELINDA. Understand what?
DELIA. Were you as heavenly when you were young as you are now?
BELINDA (rapturously). Oh, I was sweet!
DELIA. And yet he left you after only six months.
BELINDA (rather crossly). I wish you wouldn't keep on saying he
left me. I left him too.
BELINDA (smiling to herself). Well, you see, he was quite certain
he knew how to manage women, and I was quite certain I knew how to
manage men. (Thoughtfully.) If only one of us had been certain,
it would have been all right.
DELIA (seriously). What really happened, mummy? I'm grown up now,
so I think you ought to tell me.
BELINDA (thoughtfully). That was about all, you know ... except
for his beard.
DELIA. Had he a beard? How funny!
BELINDA. Yes, dear, it was; but he never would see it. He took it
DELIA. And did you say dramatically, "If you really loved me, you'd
take it off"?
BELINDA (apologetically). I'm afraid I did, darling.
DELIA. And what did _he_ say?
BELINDA. He said--_very_ rudely--that, if I loved _him_, I'd
do my hair in a different way.
DELIA. How ridiculous!
BELINDA (touching her hair). Of course, I didn't do it like this
then. (With a sigh.) I suppose we never ought to have married,
DELIA. Why did you?
BELINDA. Mother rather wanted it. (Solemnly.) Delia, never get
married because your mother--Oh, I forgot; _I'm_ your mother.
DELIA. And I don't want a better one. ... And so you left each
DELIA. But, darling, didn't you tell him there was going to be a Me?
BELINDA. Oh no!
DELIA. I wonder why not?
BELINDA. Well, you see, if I had, he might have wanted to stay.
BELINDA (hurt). If he didn't want to stay for _me_, I didn't
want him to stay for _you_. (Penitently.) Forgive me, darling,
but I didn't know you very well then. (DELIA jumps off the table
and hugs her mother impetuously.) We've been very happy together,
DELIA (going back to her seat). I should think we have.
BELINDA. I don't want to deny you anything, and, of course, if
you'd like a stepfather (looking down modestly) or two--
DELIA. Oh, you _have_ been enjoying yourself.
BELINDA. Only you see how awkward it would be if Jack turned up in
the middle of the wedding, like--like Eugene Aram.
DELIA. Enoch Arden, darling.
BELINDA. It's very confusing their having the same initials.
Perhaps I'd better call them both E. A. in future and then I shall
be safe. Well, anyhow it would be awkward, darling, wouldn't it?
Not that I should know him from Adam after all these years--except
for a mole on his left arm.
DELIA. Perhaps Adam had a mole.
BELINDA. No, darling; you're thinking of Noah. He had two.
DELIA (thoughtfully). I wonder what would happen if you met
somebody whom you really did fall in love with?
BELINDA (reproachfully). Now you're being serious, and it's
DELIA. Aren't these two--the present two--serious?
BELINDA. Oh no! They think they are, but they aren't a bit, really.
Besides, I'm doing them such a lot of good. I'm sure they'd hate to
marry me, but they love to think they're in love with me, and--_I_
love it, and--and _they_ love it, and--and we _all_ love it.
DELIA. You really are the biggest, darlingest baby who ever lived.
(Kisses her.) Do say I shan't spoil your lovely times.
BELINDA (surprised). Spoil them? Why, you'll make them more lovely
DELIA. Well, but do they know you have a grown-up daughter?
BELINDA (suddenly realizing). Oh!
DELIA. It doesn't really matter, because you don't look a day more
BELINDA (absently). No. (Hurriedly.) I mean, how sweet of you--
BELINDA (playing with her rings). Well, one of them, Mr. Baxter--
Harold--(she looks quickly up at DELIA and down again in pretty
affectation, but she is really laughing at herself all the
time) he writes statistical articles for the Reviews--percentages
and all those things. He's just the sort of man, if he knew that I
was your mother, to work it out that I was more than thirty. The
other one, Mr. Devenish--Claude--(she looks up and down as before)
he's rather, rather poetical. He thinks I came straight from
DELIA (jumping up). I think _I'd_ better go straight back to Paris.
BELINDA (jumping up and catching her firmly by the arms). You will
do nothing of the sort. You will take off that hat--(she lets go of
the arm and begins to take out the pin) which is a perfect duck,
and I don't know why I didn't say so before--(she puts the hat down
on the table) and let me take a good look at you (she does so), and
kiss you (she does so), and then we'll go to your room and unpack
and have a lovely talk about clothes. And then we'll have tea.
[BETTY comes in.]
BELINDA. And now here's Betty coming in to upset all our delightful
plans, just when we've made them.
DELIA. How are you, Betty? I've left school.
BETTY. Very nicely, thank you, miss. You've grown.
BELINDA (patting the top of DELIA'S head). I'm much taller than she
is. ... Well, Betty, what is it?
BETTY. The two gentlemen, Mr. Baxter and Mr. Devenish, have both
called together, ma'am.
BELINDA (excited). Oh! How--how very simultaneous of them!
DELIA (eagerly). Oh, do let me see them!
BELINDA. Darling, you'll see plenty of them before you've finished.
(To BETTY) What have you done with them?
BETTY. They're waiting in the hall, ma'am, while I said I would see
if you were at home.
BELINDA. All right, Betty. Give me two minutes and then show them
BETTY. Yes, ma'am. [Exit.]
BELINDA. They can't do much harm to each other in two minutes.
DELIA (taking her hat). Well, I'll go and unpack. You really won't
mind my coming down afterwards?
BELINDA. Of course not. (A little awkwardly) Darling one, I wonder
if you'd mind--just at first--being introduced as my niece. You
see, I expect they're in a bad temper already, having come here
together, and we don't want to spoil their day entirely.
DELIA (smiling). I'll be your mother if you like.
BELINDA. Oh no, that wouldn't do, because then Mr. Baxter would
feel that he ought to ask your permission before paying his
attentions to me. He's just that sort of man. A niece is so safe--
however good you are at statistics, you can't really prove
DELIA. All right, mummy.
BELINDA (enjoying herself). You'd like to be called by a different
name, wouldn't you? There's something so thrilling about taking a
false name. Such a lot of adventures begin like that. How would
you like to be Miss Robinson, darling? It's a nice easy one to
remember. (Persuasively.) And you shall put your hair up so as to
feel more disguised. What fun we're going to have!
DELIA. You baby! All right, then, I'm Miss Robinson, your favourite
niece. (She moves towards the house.)
BELINDA. How sweet of you! Oh, I'm coming with you to do your hair.
You don't think you're going to be allowed to do it yourself, when
so much depends on it, and husbands leave you because of it, and--
[They do in together.]
[BETTY comes from the other side of the house into the garden,
followed by MR. BAXTER and MR. DEVENISH. MR. BAXTER is forty-five,
prim and erect, with close-trimmed moustache and side-whiskers. His
clothes are dark and he wears a bowler-hat. MR. DEVENISH is a
long-haired, good-looking boy in a neglige costume; perhaps
twenty-two years old, and very scornful of the world.]
BETTY (looking about her surprised). The mistress was here a
moment ago. I expect she'll be back directly, if you'll just wait.
[She goes back into the house.]
(MR. BAXTER puts his bowler-hat firmly on his head and sits down
very stiffly and upright in a chair on the left-hand side of the
table. DEVENISH throws his felt hat on to the table and walks about
inquisitively. He sees the review in the hammock and picks it up.)
DEVENISH. Good heavens, Baxter, she's been reading your article!
BAXTER. I dare say she's not the only one.
DEVENISH. That's only guesswork (going to back of table); you
don't know of anyone else.
BAXTER. How many people, may I ask, have bought your poems?
DEVENISH (loftily). I don't write for the mob.
BAXTER. I think I may say that of my own work.
DEVENISH. Baxter, I don't want to disappoint you, but I have
reluctantly come to the conclusion that you _are_ one of the mob.
(Annoyed.) Dash it! what are you doing in the country at all in a
BAXTER. If I wanted to be personal, I could say, "Why don't you get
your hair cut?" Only that form of schoolboy humour doesn't appeal
DEVENISH. This is not a personal matter; I am protesting on behalf
of nature. What do the birds and the flowers and the beautiful
trees think of your hat?
BAXTER. If one began to ask oneself what the birds thought of
DEVENISH. Well, and why shouldn't one ask oneself? It is better
than asking oneself what the Stock Exchange thinks of things.
BAXTER. Well (looking up at DEVENISH'S extravagant hair), it's the
nesting season. Your hair! (Suddenly.) Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!
DEVENISH (hastily smoothing it down). Really, Baxter, you're
vulgar. (He turns away and resumes his promenading. Suddenly he
sees his book on the grass beneath the hammock and makes a dash for
it.) Ha, my book! (Gloating over it) Baxter, she reads my book.
BAXTER. I suppose you gave her a copy.
DEVENISH (exultingly). Yes, I gave her a copy. My next book will be
hers and hers alone.
BAXTER. Then let me say that, in my opinion, you took a very great
DEVENISH. Liberty! And this from a man who is continually forcing
his unwelcome statistics upon her.
BAXTER. At any rate, I flatter myself that there is no suggestion
of impropriety in anything that _I_ write.
DEVENISH. I'm not so sure about that, Baxter.
BAXTER. What do you mean, sir?
DEVENISH. Did you read _The Times_ this month on the new reviews!
DEVENISH. Oh, nothing. It just said, "Mr. Baxter's statistics are
extremely suggestive." I haven't read them, so of course I don't
know what you've been up to.
BAXTER (turning away in disgust). Pah!
DEVENISH. Poor old Baxter! (He wanders about the garden again, and,
having picked a flower, comes to rest against one of the trees
from which the hammock is swung. He leans against this and regards
the flower thoughtfully.) Baxter--
BAXTER (crossly). I wish you wouldn't keep calling me "Baxter."
BAXTER. It is only by accident--an accident which we both deplore--
that we have met at all, and in any case I am a considerably older
man than yourself.
DEVENISH. Mr. Baxter--father--I have a proposal to make. We will
leave it to this beautiful flower to decide which of us the lady
BAXTER (turning round). Eh?
DEVENISH (pulling off the petals). She loves me, she loves Mr.
Baxter, she loves me, she loves Mr. Baxter--Heaven help her!--she
BELINDA (at the garden door.). What _are_ you doing, Mr. Devenish!
DEVENISH (throwing away the flower and bowing very low). My lady.
BAXTER (removing his bowler-hat stiffly). Good afternoon, Mrs.
(She gives her left hand to DEVENISH, who kisses it, and her
right to BAXTER, who shakes it.)
BELINDA. How nice of you both to come!
BAXTER. Mr. Devenish and I are inseparable--apparently.
BELINDA. You haven't told me what you were doing, Mr. Devenish. Was
it "This year, next year?" or "Silk, satin--"
DEVENISH. My lady, it was even more romantic than that. I have the
honour to announce to your ladyship that Mr. Baxter is to be a
BELINDA (to BAXTER). Doesn't he talk nonsense?
BAXTER. He'll grow out of it. I did.
BELINDA. Oh, I hope not. I love talking nonsense, and I'm ever so
old. (As they both start forward to protest) Now which one of
you will say it first?
DEVENISH. You are as old as the stars and as young as the dawn.
BAXTER. You are ten years younger than I am.
BELINDA. What sweet things to say! I don't know which I like best.
DEVENISH. Where will my lady sit?
BELINDA. I will recline in the hammock, an it please thee, my lord--
only it's rather awkward getting in, Mr. Baxter. Perhaps you'd both
better look at the tulips for a moment.
BAXTER. Oh--ah--yes. (He puts his hat on and turns his back to the
DEVENISH (leaning over her). If only--
BELINDA. You'd better not say anything, Mr. Devenish. Keep it for
your next volume. (He turns away.) One, two, three--that was better
than last time. (They turn round to see her safely in the hammock.
DEVENISH leans against the tree at her feet, and BAXTER draws the
chair from the right side of the table and turns it round towards
her. He presses his hat more firmly on and sits down.) I wonder if
either of you can guess what I've been reading this afternoon!
DEVENISH (looking at her lovingly). I know.
BELINDA (giving him a fleeting look). How did you know? (to
BAXTER). Yes, Mr. Baxter, it was your article I was reading. If
you'd come five minutes earlier you'd have found me wrestling--I
mean revelling in it.
BAXTER. I am very greatly honoured, Mrs. Tremayne. Ah--it seemed to
me a very interesting curve showing the rise and fall of--
BELINDA. I hadn't got up to the curves. They _are_ interesting,
aren't they? They are really more in Mr. Devenish's line. (To
DEVENISH.) Mr. Devenish, it was a great disappointment to me that
all the poems in your book seemed to be written to somebody else.
DEVENISH. It was before I met you, lady. They were addressed to the
goddess of my imagination. It is only in these last few weeks that
I have discovered her.
BELINDA. And discovered she was dark and not fair.
DEVENISH. She will be dark in my next volume.
BELINDA. Oh, how nice of her!
BAXTER (kindly). You should write a real poem to Mrs. Tremayne.
BELINDA (excitedly). Oh do! "To Belinda." I don't know what rhymes,
except cinder. You could say your heart was like a cinder--all
DEVENISH (pained). Oh, my lady, I'm afraid that is a cockney rhyme.
BELINDA. How thrilling! I've never been to Hampstead Heath.
DEVENISH. "Belinda." It is far too beautiful to rhyme with anything
BELINDA. Fancy! But what about Tremayne? (Singing.) Oh, I am Mrs.
Tremayne, and I don't want to marry again.
DEVENISH (protesting). My lady!
BAXTER (protesting). Belinda!
BELINDA (pointing excitedly to BAXTER). There, that's the first
time he's called me Belinda!
DEVENISH. Are you serious?
BELINDA. Not as a rule.
DEVENISH. You're not going to marry again?
BELINDA. Well, who could I marry?
DEVENISH and BAXTER (together). Me!
BELINDA (dropping her eyes modestly). But this is England.
BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, I claim the right of age--of my greater
years--to speak first.
DEVENISH. Mrs. Tremayne, I--
BELINDA (kindly to DEVENISH). You can speak afterwards, Mr.
Devenish. It's so awkward when you both speak together.
BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, I am a man of substantial position, and
perhaps I may say of some repute in serious circles. All that I
have, whether of material or mental endowment, I lay at your feet,
together with an admiration which I cannot readily put into words.
As my wife I think you would be happy, and I feel that with you by
my side I could achieve even greater things.
BELINDA. How sweet of you! But I ought to tell you that I'm no good
DEVENISH (protesting). My lady--
BELINDA. I don't mean what you mean, Mr. Devenish. You wait till
it's your turn. (To BAXTER.) Yes?
BAXTER. I ask you to marry me, Belinda.
BELINDA (settling herself happily and closing her eyes). O-oh! ...
Now it's _your_ turn, Mr. Devenish.
DEVENISH (excitedly). Money--thank Heaven, I have no money.
Reputation--thank Heaven, I have no reputation. What can I offer
you? Dreams--nothing but dreams. Come with me and I will show you
the world through my dreams. What can I give you? Youth, freedom,
BELINDA (still with her eyes shut). You mustn't interrupt, Mr.
DEVENISH. Belinda, marry me and I will open your eyes to the beauty
of the world. Come to me!
BELINDA (happily). O-oh! You've got such different ways of putting
things. How can I choose between you?
DEVENISH. Then you will marry one of us?
BELINDA. You know I really _oughtn't_ to.
BAXTER. I don't see why not.
BELINDA. Well, there's just a little difficulty in the way.
DEVENISH. What is it? I will remove it. For you I could remove
anything--yes, even Baxter. (He looks at BAXTER, who is sitting
more solidly than ever in his chair.)
BELINDA. And anyhow I should have to choose between you.
DEVENISH (in a whisper). Choose me.
BAXTER (stiffly). Mrs. Tremayne does not require any prompting. A
fair field and let the best man win.
DEVENISH (going across to and slapping the astonished BAXTER
on the back). Aye, let the best man win! Well spoken, Baxter.
(To BELINDA) Send us out into the world upon some knightly quest,
lady, and let the victor be rewarded.
BAXTER. I--er--ought to say that I should be unable to go very far.
I have an engagement to speak at Newcastle on the 2lst.
DEVENISH. Baxter, I will take no unfair advantage of you. Let the
beard of the Lord Mayor of Newcastle be the talisman that my lady
demands; I am satisfied.
BAXTER. This sort of thing is entirely contrary to my usual mode of
life, but I will not be outfaced by a mere boy. (Slapping his
bowler-hat on the table) I am prepared.
DEVENISH. Speak, lady.
BELINDA (speaking in a deep, mysterious voice). Gentlemen, ye put
wild thoughts into my head. In sooth, I am minded to send ye
forth upon a quest that is passing strange. Know ye that there is a
maid journeyed hither, hight Robinson--whose--(in her natural
voice) what's the old for aunt?
BAXTER (hopefully). Mother's sister.
BELINDA. You know, I think I shall have to explain this in ordinary
language. You won't mind very much, will you, Mr. Devenish?
DEVENISH. It is the spirit of this which matters, not the language
which clothes it.
BELINDA. Oh, I'm so glad you think so. Well, now about Miss
Robinson. She's my niece and she's just come to stay with me, and--
poor girl--she's lost her father. Absolutely lost him. He
disappeared ever such a long time ago, and poor Miss Robinson--
Delia--naturally wants to find him. Poor girl! she can't think
where he is.
DEVENISH (nobly). I will find him.
BELINDA. Oh, thank you, Mr. Devenish; Miss Robinson would be so
BAXTER. Yes--er--but what have we to go upon? Beyond the fact that
his name is Robinson--
BELINDA. I shouldn't go on that too much. You see, he may easily
have changed it by now. He was never very much of a Robinson.
Nothing to do with Peter or any of those.
DEVENISH. I will find him.
BAXTER. Well, can you tell us what he's like?
BELINDA. Well, it's such a long time since I saw him. (Looking down
modestly.) Of course, I was quite a girl then. The only thing I
know for certain is that he has a mole on his left arm about here.
(She indicates a spot just below the elbow.)
DEVENISH (folding his arms and looking nobly upwards). I will find
BAXTER. I am bound to inform you, Mrs. Tremayne, that even a
trained detective could not give you very much hope in such a case.
However, I will keep a look-out for him, and, of course, if--
DEVENISH. Fear not, lady, I will find him.
BAXTER (annoyed). Yes, you keep on saying that, but what have you
got to go on?
DEVENISH (grandly). Faith! The faith which moves mountains.
BELINDA. Yes, and this is only just one small mole-hill, Mr.
BAXTER. Yes, but still--
BELINDA. S'sh! here is Miss Robinson. If Mr. Devenish will hold the
hammock while I alight--we don't want an accident--I can introduce
you. (He helps her to get out.) Thank you. Delia darling, this
is Mr. Baxter,--and Mr. Devenish. My niece, Miss Robinson--
DELIA. How do you do?
BELINDA. Miss Robinson has just come over from France. _Mon Dieu,
BAXTER. I hope you had a good crossing, Miss Robinson.
DELIA. Oh, I never mind about the crossing. Aunt Belinda--(She
stops and smiles.)
BELINDA. Yes, dear?
DELIA. I believe tea is almost ready. I want mine, and I'm sure Mr.
Baxter's hungry. Mr. Devenish scorns food, I expect.
DEVENISH (hurt). Why do you say that?