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First Plays by A. A. Milne

Part 4 out of 5

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DELIA. Aren't you a poet?

BELINDA. Yes, darling, but that doesn't prevent him eating. He'll
be absolutely lyrical over Betty's sandwiches.

DEVENISH. You won't deny me that inspiration, I hope, Miss
Robinson.

BELINDA. Well, let's go and see what they're like. (DELIA and
DEVENISH begin to move towards the house.) Mr. Baxter, just a
moment.

BAXTER. Yes?

BELINDA (secretly). Not a word to her about Mr. Robinson. It must
be a surprise for her.

BAXTER. Quite so, I understand.

BELINDA. That's right. (Raising her voice.) Oh, Mr. Devenish.

DEVENISH. Yes, Mrs. Tremayne? (He comes back.)

BELINDA (secretly). Not a word to her about Mr. Robinson. It must
be a surprise for her.

DEVENISH. Of course! I shouldn't dream--(Indignantly.) Robinson!
_What_ an unsuitable name!

[BAXTER _and_ DELIA _are just going into the house.]

BELINDA (dismissing DEVENISH). All right, I'll catch you up.

[DEVENISH goes after the other two.]

(Left alone, BELINDA _laughs happily to herself, and then
begins to look rather aimlessly about her. She picks up her
sunshade and opens it. She comes to the hammock, picks out her
handkerchief, says, "Ah, there you are!" and puts it away. She goes
slowly towards the house, turns her head just as she comes to the
door, and comes slowly back again. She stops at the table looking
down the garden.)

BELINDA (to herself). Have you lost yourself, or something?
No; the latch is this side. ... Yes, that's right.

[TREMAYNE comes in. He has been knocking about the world for
eighteen years, and is very much a man, though he has kept his
manners. His hair is greying a little at the sides, and he looks
the forty-odd that he is. Without his moustache and beard he is
very different from the boy BELINDA married.]

TREMAYNE (with his hat in his hand). I'm afraid I'm trespassing.

BELINDA (winningly). But it's such a pretty garden (turns away,
dosing her parasol), isn't it?

TREMAYNE (rather confused). I-I beg your pardon, I-er--
(He is wondering if it can possibly be she. BELINDA thinks his
confusion is due to the fact that he is trespassing, and hastens to
put him at his ease.)

BELINDA. I should have done the same myself, you know.

TREMAYNE (pulling himself together). Oh, but you mustn't think I
just came in because I liked the garden--

BELINDA (clapping her hands). No; but say you do like it, quick.

TREMAYNE. It's lovely and--(He hesitates.)

BELINDA (hopefully). Yes?

TREMAYNE (with conviction). Yes, it's lovely.

BELINDA (with that happy sigh of hers). O-oh! ... Now tell me what
really did happen?

TREMAYNE. I was on my way to Marytown--

BELINDA. To where?

TREMAYNE. Marytown.

BELINDA. Oh, you mean Mariton.

TREMAYNE. Do I?

BELINDA. Yes; we always call it Mariton down here. (Earnestly.)
You don't mind, do you?

TREMAYNE (smiling). Not a bit.

BELINDA. Just say it--to see if you've got it right.

TREMAYNE. Mariton.

BELINDA (shaking her head). Oh no, that's quite wrong. Try it
again (With a rustic accent.) Mariton.

TREMAYNE. Mariton.

BELINDA. Yes, that's much better. ... (As if it were he who had
interrupted.) Well, do go on.

TREMAYNE. I'm afraid it isn't much of an apology really. I saw what
looked like a private road, but what I rather hoped wasn't, and--
well, I thought I'd risk it. I do hope you'll forgive me.

BELINDA. Oh, but I love people seeing my garden. Are you staying in
Mariton?

TREMAYNE. I think so. Oh yes, decidedly.

BELINDA. Well, perhaps the next time the road won't feel so
private.

TREMAYNE. How charming of you! (He feels he must know.) Are you
Mrs. Tremayne by any chance?

BELINDA. Yes.

TREMAYNE (nodding to himself). Yes.

BELINDA. How did you know?

TREMAYNE (hastily inventing). They use you as a sign-post in the
village. Past Mrs. Tremayne's house and then bear to the left--

BELINDA. And you couldn't go past it?

TREMAYNE. I'm afraid I couldn't. Thank you so much for not minding.
Well, I must be getting on, I have trespassed quite enough.

BELINDA (regretfully). And you haven't really seen the garden yet.

TREMAYNE. If you won't mind my going on this way, I shall see some
more on my way out.

BELINDA. Please do. It likes being looked at. (With the faintest
suggestion of demureness) All pretty things do.

TREMAYNE. Thank you very much. Er--(He hesitates.)

BELINDA (helpfully). Yes?

TREMAYNE. I wonder if you'd mind very much if I called one day to
thank you formally for the lesson you gave me in pronunciation?

BELINDA (gravely). Yes. I almost think you ought to. I think it's
the correct thing to do.

TREMAYNE (contentedly). Thank you very much, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA. You'll come in quite formally by the front-door next time,
won't you, because--because that seems the only chance of my
getting to know your name.

TREMAYNE. Oh, I beg your pardon. My name is--er--er--Robinson.

BELINDA (laughing). How very odd!

TREMAYNE (startled). Odd?

BELINDA. Yes; we have someone called Robinson staying in the house.
I wonder if she is any relation?

TREMAYNE (hastily). Oh no, no. No, she couldn't be. I have no
relations called Robinson--not to speak of.

BELINDA (holding out her hand). You must tell me all about your
relations when you come and call, Mr. Robinson.

TREMAYNE. I think we can find something better worth talking about
than that.

BELINDA. Do you think so? (He says "Yes" with his eyes, bows, and
goes off down the garden. BELINDA stays looking after him, then
gives that happy sigh of hers, only even more so) O-oh!

[Enter BETTY.]

BETTY. If you please, ma'am, Miss Delia says, are you coming in to
tea?

BELINDA (looking straight in front of her, and taking no notice
of BETTY, in a happy, dreamy voice). Betty, ... about callers. ...
If Mr. Robinson calls--he's the handsome gentleman who hasn't been
here before--you will say, "Not at home." And he will say, "Oh!"
And you will say, "I beg your pardon, sir, was it Mr. _Robinson_?"
And he will say, "Yes!" And you will say, "Oh, I beg your pardon,
sir--" (Almost as if she were BETTY, she begins to move towards the
house.) "This way--" (she would be smiling an invitation over her
shoulder to MR. ROBINSON, if he were there, and she were BETTY)--
"please!" (And the abandoned woman goes in to tea.)

ACT II

[It is morning in BELINDA'S hall, a low-roofed, oak-beamed place,
comfortably furnished as a sitting-room. There is an inner and an
outer front-door, both of which are open.]

[DEVENISH, who has just rung the bell, is waiting with a bouquet
of violets between the two. Midway on the right is a door leading
to a small room where hats and coats are kept. A door on the left
leads towards the living-rooms.]

BETTY. Good morning, sir.

DEVENISH. Good morning. I am afraid this is an unceremonious hour
for a call, but my sense of beauty urged me hither in defiance of
convention.

BETTY. Yes, sir.

DEVENISH (holding up his bouquet to BETTY). See, the dew is yet
lingering upon them; how could I let them wait until this
afternoon?

BETTY. Yes, sir; but I think the mistress is out.

DEVENISH. They are not for your mistress; they are for Miss Delia.

BETTY. Oh, I beg your pardon, sir. If you will come in, I'll see if
I can find her. (She brings him in and goes away to find DELIA.)

(DEVENISH tries a number of poses about the room for himself and
his bouquet, and finally selects one against the right side of the
door by which he has just come in.)

[Enter DELIA from the door on the left.]

DELIA (shutting the door and going to_ DEVENISH). Oh, good morning,
Mr. Devenish. I'm afraid my--er--aunt is out.

DEVENISH. I know, Miss Delia, I know.

DELIA. She'll be so sorry to have missed you. It is her day for
you, isn't it?

DEVENISH. Her day for me?

DELIA. Yes; Mr. Baxter generally comes to-morrow, doesn't he?

DEVENISH. Miss Delia, if our friendship is to progress at all, it
can only be on the distinct understanding that I take no interest
whatever in Mr. Baxter's movements.

DELIA. Oh, I'm so sorry; I thought you knew. What lovely flowers!
Are they for my aunt?

DEVENISH. To whom does one bring violets? To modest, shrinking,
tender youth.

DELIA. I don't think we have anybody here like that.

DEVENISH (with a bow). Miss Delia, they are for you.

DELIA. Oh, how nice of you! But I'm afraid I oughtn't to take them
from you under false pretences; I don't shrink.

DEVENISH. A fanciful way of putting it, perhaps. They are none the
less for you.

DELIA. Well, it's awfully kind of you. I'm afraid I'm not a very
romantic person. Aunt Belinda does all the romancing in our family.

DEVENISH. Your aunt is a very remarkable woman.

DELIA. She is. Don't you dare to say a word against her.

DEVENISH. My dear Miss Delia, nothing could be further from my
thoughts. Why, am I not indebted to her for that great happiness
which has come to me in these last few days?

DELIA (surprised). Good gracious! and I didn't know anything
about it. But what about poor Mr. Baxter?

DEVENISH (stiffly). I must beg that Mr. Baxter's name be kept out
of our conversation.

DELIA. But I thought Mr. Baxter and you--do tell me what's
happened. I seem to have lost myself.

DEVENISH. What has happened, Miss Delia, is that I have learnt at
last the secret that my heart has been striving to tell me for
weeks past. As soon as I saw that gracious lady, your aunt, I knew
that I was in love. Foolishly I took it for granted that it was she
for whom my heart was thrilling. How mistaken I was! Directly you
came, you opened my eyes, and now--

DELIA. Mr. Devenish, you don't say you're proposing to me?

DEVENISH. I am. I feel sure I am. Delia, I love you.

DELIA. How exciting of you!

DEVENISH (with a modest shrug). It's nothing; I am a poet.

DELIA. You really want to marry me?

DEVENISH. Such is my earnest wish.

DELIA. But what about my aunt?

DEVENISH (simply). She will be my aunt-in-law.

DELIA. She'll be rather surprised.

DEVENISH. Delia, I will be frank with you. I admit that I made Mrs.
Tremayne an offer of marriage.

DELIA (excitedly). You really did? Was it that first afternoon I
came?

DEVENISH. Yes.

DELIA. Oh, I wish I'd been there!

DEVENISH (with dignity). It is not my custom to propose in the
presence of a third party. It is true that on the occasion you
mention a man called Baxter was on the lawn, but I regarded him no
more than the old apple-tree or the flower-beds, or any other of
the fixtures.

DELIA. What did she say?

DEVENISH. She accepted me conditionally.

DELIA. Oh, do tell me!

DEVENISH. It is rather an unhappy story. This man called Baxter in
his vulgar way also made a proposal of marriage. Mrs. Tremayne was
gracious enough to imply that she would marry whichever one of us
fulfilled a certain condition.

DELIA. How sweet of her!

DEVENISH. It is my earnest hope, Miss Delia, that the man called
Baxter will be the victor. As far as is consistent with honour, I
shall endeavour to let Mr. Baxter (banging the table with his hand)
win.

DELIA. What was the condition?

DEVENISH. That I am not at liberty to tell. It is, I understand, to
be a surprise for you.

DELIA. How exciting! ... Mr. Devenish, you have been very frank.
May I be equally so? (DEVENISH bows.) Why do you wear your hair so
long?

DEVENISH (pleased). You have noticed it?

DELIA. Well, yes, I have.

DEVENISH. I wear it so to express my contempt for the conventions
of so-called society.

DELIA. I always thought that people wore it very very short if they
despised the conventions of society.

DEVENISH. I think that the mere fact that my hair annoys Mr. Baxter
is sufficient justification for its length.

DELIA. But if it annoys me too?

DEVENISH (heroically). It shall go.

DELIA (apologetically). I told you I wasn't a very romantic
person, didn't I? (Kindly.) You can always grow it again if you
fall in love with somebody else.

DEVENISH. That is cruel of you, Delia. I shall never fall in love
again.

[Enter BELINDA in a hat.]

BELINDA. Why, it's Mr. Devenish! How nice of you to come so early
in the morning! How is Mr. Baxter?

DEVENISH. I do not know, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA (to DELIA). I got most of the things, Delia. (To DEVENISH.)
"The things," Mr. Devenish, is my rather stuffy way of referring to
all the delightful poems that you are going to eat to-night.

DEVENISH. I am looking forward to it immensely, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA. I do hope I've got all your and Mr. Baxter's favourite
dishes.

DEVENISH. I'm afraid Mr. Baxter and I are not likely to appreciate
the same things.

BELINDA (coyly). Oh, Mr. Devenish! And you were so unanimous a
few days ago.

DELIA. I think Mr. Devenish was referring entirely to things to
eat.

BELINDA. I felt quite sad when I was buying the lamb cutlets. To
think that, only a few days before, they had been frisking about
with their mammas, and having poems written about them by Mr.
Devenish. There! I'm giving away the whole dinner. Delia, take him
away before I tell him any more. We must keep some surprises for
him.

DELIA (to DEVENISH as she picks up the flowers). Come along, Mr.
Devenish.

BELINDA (wickedly). Are those my flowers, Mr. Devenish?

DEVENISH (after a little hesitation, with a bow which might refer
to either of them). They are for the most beautiful lady in the
land.

BELINDA. Oh, how nice of you!

[DEVENISH follows DELIA out through the door on the left.]

BELINDA (unpinning her hat before a mirror). I suppose he means
Delia--bless them! (She gives a few pats to her hair and then walks
about the room singing softly to herself. She does to the front-door
and looks happily out into the garden. Suddenly she sees MR.
BAXTER approaching. She hurries back into a chair and pretends to
be very busy reading.)

BAXTER (rather nervously). Er--may I come in, Mrs. Tremayne?

BELINDA (dropping her book and turning round with a violent start).
Oh, Mr. Baxter, how you surprised me! (She puts her hand to her
heart.)

BAXTER. I must apologize for intruding upon you at this hour, Mrs.
Tremayne.

BELINDA (holding up her hand). Stop!

BAXTER (startled). What?

BELINDA. I cannot let you come in like that.

BAXTER (looking down at himself). Like what?

BELINDA (dropping her eyes). You called me Belinda once.

BAXTER (coming down to her). May I explain my position, Mrs.
Tremayne?

BELINDA. Before you begin--have you been seeing my niece lately?

BAXTER (surprised). No.

BELINDA. Oh! (Sweetly.) Please go on.

BAXTER. Why, is _she_ lost too?

BELINDA. Oh no; I just--Do sit down. Let me put your hat down
somewhere for you.

BAXTER (keeping it firmly in his hand, and sitting down on the
sofa). It will be all right here, thank you.

BELINDA (returning to her chair). I'm dying to hear what you are
going to say.

BAXTER. First as regards the use of your Christian name. I felt
that, as a man of honour, I could not permit myself to use it until
I had established my right over that of Mr. Devenish.

BELINDA. All my friends call me Belinda.

BAXTER. As between myself and Mr. Devenish the case is somewhat
different. Until one of us is successful over the other in the
quest upon which you have sent us, I feel that as far as possible
we should hold aloof from you.

BELINDA (pleadingly). Just say "Belinda" once more, in case you're
a long time.

BAXTER (very formally). Belinda.

BELINDA. How nicely you say it--Harold.

BAXTER (half getting out of his seat). Mrs. Tremayne, I must not
listen to this.

BELINDA (meekly). I won't offend again, Mr. Baxter. Please go on.
Tell me about the quest; are you winning?

BAXTER. I am progressing, Mrs. Tremayne. Indeed, I came here this
morning to acquaint you with the results of my investigations.
Yesterday I located a man called Robinson working upon a farm close
by. I ventured to ask him if he had any marks upon him by which he
could be recognized. He adopted a threatening attitude, and replied
that if I wanted any he could give me some. With the aid of half-a-
crown I managed to placate him. Putting my inquiry in another form,
I asked if he had any moles. A regrettable misunderstanding, which
led to a fruitless journey to another part of the village, was
eventually cleared up, and on my return I satisfied myself that
this man was in no way related to your niece.

BELINDA (admiringly). How splendid of you! Well, now, we know
_he's_ not. (She holds up one finger.)

BAXTER. Yes. In the afternoon I located another Mr. Robinson
following the profession of a carrier. My first inquiries led to a
similar result, with the exception that in this case Mr. Robinson
carried his threatening attitude so far as to take off his coat and
roll up his sleeves. Perceiving at once that he was not the man, I
withdrew.

BELINDA. How brave you are! That makes two. (She holds up another
finger). It still leaves a good many. (Pleadingly.) Just call me
Belinda again.

BAXTER (nervously). You mustn't tempt me, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA (penitently). I won't!

BAXTER. To resume, then, my narrative. This morning I have heard of
a third Mr. Robinson. Whether there is actually any particular
fortune attached to the number three I cannot say for certain. It
is doubtful whether statistics would be found to support the
popular belief. But one likes to flatter oneself that in one's own
case it may be true; and so--

BELINDA. And so the third Mr. Robinson--?

BAXTER. Something for which I cannot altogether account inspires me
with hope. He is, I have discovered, staying at Mariton. This
afternoon I go to look for him.

BELINDA (to herself). Mariton! How funny! I wonder if it's the
same one.

BAXTER. What one?

BELINDA. Oh, just one of the ones. (Gratefully.) Mr. Baxter, you
are doing all this for _me_.

BAXTER. Pray do not mention it. I don't know if it's Devonshire, or
the time of the year, or the sort of atmosphere you create, Mrs.
Tremayne, but I feel an entirely different man. There is something
in the air which--yes, I shall certainly go over to Mariton this
afternoon.

BELINDA (gravely). I have had the same feeling sometimes, Mr.
Baxter. I am not always the staid respectable matron which I appear
to you to be. Sometimes I--(She looks absently at the watch on her
wrist.) Good gracious!

BAXTER (alarmed). What is it!

BELINDA (looking anxiously from the door to him). Mr. Baxter, I'm
going to throw myself on your mercy.

BAXTER. My dear Mrs. Tremayne--

BELINDA (looking at her watch again). A strange man will be here
directly. He must not find you with me.

BAXTER (rising, jealously). A man?

BELINDA (excitedly). Yes, yes, a man! He is pursuing me with his
attentions. If he found you here, there would be a terrible scene.

BAXTER. I will defend you from him.

BELINDA. No, no. He is a big man. He will--he will overpower you.

BAXTER. But you--?

BELINDA. I can defend myself. I will send him away. But he must not
find you here. You must hide before he overpowers you.

BAXTER (with dignity). I will withdraw if you wish it.

BELINDA. No, not withdraw, hide. He might see you withdrawing.
(Leading the way to a door on the right) Quick, in here.

BAXTER (embarrassed at the thought that this sort of thing really
only happens in a bedroom farce). I don't think I quite--

BELINDA (reassuring him). It's perfectly respectable; it's where
we keep the umbrellas. (She takes him by the hand.)

BAXTER (still resisting). I'm not at all sure that I--

BELINDA (earnestly). Oh, but don't you see what _trust_ I'm
putting in you? Some people are so nervous about their umbrellas.

BAXTER. Well, of course, if you--but I don't see why I shouldn't
just slip out of the door before he comes.

BELINDA (reproachfully). Of course, if you grudge me every little
pleasure--Quick! Here he is.

(She bundles him through the door, and with a sigh of happiness
comes back and looks at herself in the mirror. She goes to the
front-door, moves her hand to somebody in the distance, and comes
into the hall again. Seeing MR. BAXTER'S bowler hat on the sofa,
she carries across to his door, knocks, hands it to him, saying,
"Your hat. S'sh!" and returns to her chair. TREMAYNE comes in.)

TREMAYNE (at the door). It's no good your pretending to be
surprised, because you said I could come.

BELINDA (welcoming him). But I can still be surprised that you
wanted to come.

TREMAYNE Oh no, you aren't.

BELINDA (marking it off on her fingers). Just a little bit--that
much.

TREMAYNE. It would be much more surprising if I hadn't come.

BELINDA (sitting down on the sofa). It is a pretty garden, isn't
it?

TREMAYNE (sitting down next to her). You forget that I saw the
garden yesterday.

BELINDA. Oh, but the things have grown so much since then. Let me
see, this is the third day you've been and we only met three days
ago. And then you're coming to dinner again to-night.

TREMAYNE (eagerly). Am I?

BELINDA. Yes. Haven't you been asked?

TREMAYNE. No, not a word.

BELINDA. Yes, that's quite right; I remember now, I only thought of
it this morning, so I couldn't ask you before, could I?

TREMAYNE (earnestly). What made you think of it then?

BELINDA (romantically). It was at the butcher's. There was one
little lamb cutlet left over and sitting out all by itself, and
there was nobody to love it. And I said to myself, suddenly, "I
know, that will do for Mr. Robinson." (Prosaically.) I do hope you
like lamb?

TREMAYNE. I adore it.

BELINDA. Oh, I'm so glad! When I saw it sitting there I thought
you'd love it. I'm afraid I can't tell you any more about the rest
of the dinner, because I wouldn't tell Mr. Devenish, and I want to
be fair.

TREMAYNE. Who's Mr. Devenish?

BELINDA. Oh, haven't you met him? He's always coming here.

TREMAYNE Is he in love with you too?

BELINDA. Too? Oh, you mean Mr. Baxter.

TREMAYNE. Confound it, that's three!

BELINDA (innocently). Three? (She looks up at him and down again.)

TREMAYNE. Who is Mr. Baxter?

BELINDA. Oh, haven't you met him? He's always coming here.

TREMAYNE. Who is Mr. Baxter?

BELINDA. Oh, he's a sort of statistician. Isn't that a horrid word
to say? So stishany.

TREMAYNE. What does he make statistics about?

BELINDA. Oh, umbrellas and things. Don't let's talk about him.

TREMAYNE. All right, then; who is Mr. Devenish?

BELINDA. Oh, he's a poet. (She throws up her eyes and sighs
deeply.) Ah me!

TREMAYNE. What does he write poetry about? (BELINDA looks at him,
and down again, and then at him again, and then down, and gives a
little sigh--all of which means, "Can't you guess?") What does he
write poetry about?

BELINDA (obediently). He wrote "The Lute of Love and other Poems,
by Claude Devenish." The Lute of Love--(To herself.) I haven't been
saying that lately. (With great expression.) The Lute of Love--the
Lute. (She pats her mouth back.)

TREMAYNE. And what is Mr. Devenish--

BELINDA (putting her hand on his sleeve). You'll let me know when
it's my turn, won't you?

TREMAYNE. Your turn?

BELINDA. Yes, to ask questions. I love this game--it's like clumps.
(She crosses her hands on her lap and waits for the next question.)

TREMAYNE. I beg your pardon. I--er--of course have no right to
cross-examine you like this.

BELINDA. Oh, do go on, I love it. (With childish excitement.)
I've got my question ready.

TREMAYNE (smiling). I think perhaps it _is_ your turn.

BELINDA (eagerly). Is it really? (He nods.) Well then--_who_ is Mr.
Robinson?

TREMAYNE (alarmed). What?

BELINDA. I think it's a fair question. I met you three days ago and
you told me you were staying at Mariton. Mariton. You can say it
all right now, can't you?

TREMAYNE. I think so.

BELINDA (coaxingly). Just say it.

TREMAYNE. Mariton.

BELINDA (clapping her hands). Lovely! I don't think any of the
villagers do it as well as that.

TREMAYNE. Well?

BELINDA. Well, that was three days ago. You came the next day to
see the garden, and you came the day after to see the garden, and
you've come this morning--to see the garden; and you're coming to
dinner to-night, and it's so lovely, we shall simply have to go
into the garden afterwards. And all I know about you is that you
_haven't_ any relations called Robinson.

TREMAYNE. What do I know about Mrs. Tremayne but that she _has_ a
relation called Robinson?

BELINDA. And two dear friends called Devenish and Baxter.

TREMAYNE (annoyed). I was forgetting them.

BELINDA (to herself). I mustn't forget Mr. Baxter.

TREMAYNE (getting up). But what does it matter? What would it
matter if I knew nothing about you? I know everything about you--
everything that matters.

BELINDA (closing her eyes contentedly). Tell me some of them.

TREMAYNE (bending over her earnestly). Belinda--

BELINDA (still with her eyes shut). He's going to propose to me.
I can feel it coming.

TREMAYNE. Confound it! how many men _have_ proposed to you?

BELINDA (surprised). Since when?

TREMAYNE. Since your first husband proposed to you.

BELINDA. Oh, I thought you meant this year. (Sitting up.) Well
now, let me see. (Slowly and thoughtfully.) One. (She pushes
up her first finger.) Two. (She pushes up the second.) Three.
(She pushes up the third finger, holds it there for a moment and
then pushes it gently down again.) No, I don't think that one ought
to count really. (She pushes up two more fingers and the thumb.)
Three, four, five--do you want the names or just the total?

TREMAYNE. This is horrible.

BELINDA (innocently). But anybody can propose. Now if you'd asked
how many I'd accepted--Let me see, where was I up to? I shan't
count yours, because I haven't really had it yet. Six, seven--Yes,
Betty, what is it?

[BETTY has just come in from the door on the left.]

BETTY. If you please, ma'am, cook would like to speak to you for a
minute.

BELINDA (getting up). Yes, I'll come. (To TREMAYNE.) You'll forgive
me, won't you? You'll find some cigarettes there. (She starts to
go, but comes back and adds confidentially) It's probably about the
lamb cutlets; I expect your little one refuses to be cooked.

[She goes out after BETTY.]

(Left alone, TREMAYNE stalks moodily about the room, occasionally
kicking things which come in his way. He takes up his hat suddenly
and goes towards the door; stops irresolutely and comes back. He is
standing in the middle of the room with his hands in his pockets
when DEVENISH comes in from the door on the left.)

DEVENISH (surprised). Hullo!

TREMAYNE Hullo! ... Are you Mr. Devenish?

DEVENISH. Yes.

TREMAYNE. Devenish the poet?

DEVENISH (coming up and shaking him warmly by the hand). My dear
fellow, you know my work?

TREMAYNE (grimly). My dear Mr. Devenish, your name is most
familiar to me.

DEVENISH. I congratulate you. I thought your great-grandchildren
would be the first to hear of me.

TREMAYNE. My name's Robinson, by the way.

DEVENISH. Then let me return the compliment, Robinson. Your name is
familiar to _me_.

TREMAYNE (hastily). I don't think I'm related to any Robinsons you
know.

DEVENISH. Well, no, I suppose not. When I was very much younger I
began a collection of Robinsons. Actually it was only three days
ago, but it seems much longer. Many things have happened since
then.

TREMAYNE (uninterested). Really!

DEVENISH. There is a man called Baxter who is still collecting, I
believe. For myself, I am only interested in one of the great
family--Delia.

TREMAYNE (eagerly). You are interested in _her_?

DEVENISH. Devotedly. In fact, I am at this moment waiting for her
to put on her hat.

TREMAYNE (warmly). My dear Devenish, I am delighted to make your
acquaintance. (He seizes his hand and grips it heartily.) How are
you?

DEVENISH (feeling his fingers). Fairly well, thanks.

TREMAYNE. That's right. (They sit on the sofa together.)

DEVENISH (still nursing his hand). You are a very lucky fellow,
Robinson.

TREMAYNE. In what way?

DEVENISH. People you meet must be so very reluctant to say good-bye
to you. Have you ever tried strangling lions or anything like that?

TREMAYNE (with a laugh). Well, as a matter of fact, I have.

DEVENISH. I suppose you won all right?

TREMAYNE. In the end, with the help of my beater.

DEVENISH. Personally I should have backed you alone against any two
ordinary lions.

TREMAYNE. One was quite enough. As it was, he gave me something to
remember him by. (Putting up his left sleeve, he displays a deep
scar.)

DEVENISH (looking at it casually). By Jove, that's a nasty one!
(He suddenly catches sight of the mole and stares at it
fascinated.) Good heavens!

TREMAYNE. What's the matter?

DEVENISH (clasping his head). Wait. Let me think. (After a pause.)
Have you ever met a man called Baxter?

TREMAYNE. No.

DEVENISH. Would you like to?

TREMAYNE (grimly). Very much indeed.

DEVENISH. He's the man I told you about who's interested in
Robinsons. He'll be delighted to meet you. (With a nervous laugh.)
Funny thing, he's rather an authority on lions. You must show him
that scar of yours; it will intrigue him immensely. (Earnestly.)
_Don't_ shake hands with him too heartily just at first; it might
put him off the whole thing.

TREMAYNE. This Mr. Baxter seems to be a curious man.

DIVENISH (absently). Yes, he is rather odd. (Looking at his
watch.) I wonder if I--(To TREMAYNE.) I suppose you won't be--(He
stops suddenly. A slight tapping noise comes from the room where
they keep umbrellas.)

TREMAYNE. What's that!

(The tapping noise is repeated, a little more loudly this time.)

DEVENISH. Come in.

(The door opens and BAXTER comes in nervously, holding his
bowler hat in his hand.)

BAXTER. Oh, I just--(TREMAYNE _stands up)--I just--(He goes back
again.)

DEVENISH (springing across the room). Baxter! (The door opens
nervously again and BAXTER'S head appears round it.) Come in,
Baxter, old man; you're just the very person I wanted. (BAXTER
comes in carefully.) Good man. (To TREMAYNE) This is Mr. Baxter
that I was telling you about.

TREMAYNE (much relieved at the appearance of his rival). Oh, is
this Mr. Baxter? (Holding out his hand with great friendliness)
How are you, Mr. Baxter?

DEVENISH (warningly). Steady! (TREMAYNE shakes BAXTER quite gently
by the hand.) Baxter, this is Mr. Robinson. (Casually.) R-o-b-i-n-
s-o-n. (He looks sideways at BAXTER to see how he takes it. BAXTER
is noticeably impressed.)

BAXTER. Really? I am very glad to meet you, sir.

TREMAYNE. Very good of you to say so.

DEVENISH (to BAXTER). Robinson is a great big-game hunter.

BAXTER. Indeed? I have never done anything in that way myself, but
I'm sure it must be an absorbing pursuit.

TREMAYNE. Oh, well, it's something to do.

DEVENISH (to BAXTER). You must get him to tell you about a wrestle
he had with a lion once. Extraordinary story! (Looking at his watch
suddenly.) Jove! I must be off. See you again, Baxter. Good-bye,
Robinson. No, don't shake hands. I'm in a hurry. [He looks at his
watch again and goes out hurriedly by the door on the left.]

(TREMAYNE sit down together on the sofa.)

TREMAYNE. Unusual man, your friend Devenish. I suppose it comes of
being a poet.

BAXTER. I have no great liking for Mr. Devenish--

TREMAYNE. Oh, he's all right.

BAXTER. But I am sure that if he is impressed by anything outside
himself or his own works, it must be something rather remarkable.
Pray tell me of your adventure with the lion.

TREMAYNE (laughing). Really, you mustn't think that I go about
telling everybody my adventures. It just happened to come up. I'm
afraid I shook his hand rather more warmly than I meant, and he
asked me if I'd ever tried strangling lions. That was all.

BAXTER. And had you?

TREMAYNE. Well, it just happened that I had.

BAXTER. Indeed! You came off scathless, I trust?

TREMAYNE (carelessly indicating his arm). Well, he got me one
across there.

BAXTER (obviously excited). Really, really. One across there. Not
bad, I hope?

TREMAYNE (laughing). Well, it doesn't show unless I do that. (He
pulls up his sleeve carelessly and BAXTER bends eagerly over his
arm.)

BAXTER. Good heavens! I've found it!

TREMAYNE. Found what? (He pulls down his sleeve.)

BAXTER. I must see Mrs. Tremayne. Where's Mrs. Tremayne?

TREMAYNE. She went out just now. What's the matter?

BAXTER. Out! I must find her. This is a matter of life and death.
[He seizes his hat and hurries out by the front door.]

(TREMAYNE stares after him in amazement. Then he pulls up his
sleeve, looks at his scar again and shakes his head. While he is
still puzzling over it, BELINDA comes back.)

BELINDA. Such a to-do in the kitchen! The cook's given notice--at
least she will directly--and your lamb cutlet slipped back to the
shop when nobody was looking, and I've got to go into the village
again, and oh dear, oh dear, I have such a lot of things to do!
(Looking across at MR. BAXTER'S door.) Oh yes, that's another one.
Mr. Robinson, you will have to leave me. Farewell.

TREMAYNE. Belinda--

BELINDA. No, not even Belinda. Wait till this evening.

TREMAYNE. I have a thousand things to say to you; I shall say them
this evening.

BELINDA (giving him her hand). Begin about eight o'clock. Good-bye
till then.

[He takes her hand, looks at her for a moment, then suddenly bends
and kisses it, and out.]

(BELINDA stands looking from her hand to him, gives a little
wondering exclamation and then presses the back of her hand against
her cheek, and goes to the swing doors. She turns back, and
remembers MR. BAXTER again. With a smile she goes to the door and
taps gently.)

BELINDA. Mr. Baxter, Mr. Baxter, you may come in now; he has
withdrawn. I have unhanded him. (She opens the door and finds the
room empty.) Oh!

[BAXTER comes in at the front door.]

BAXTER. Ah, there you are!

BELINDA (turning with a start). Oh, how you frightened me, Mr.
Baxter! I couldn't think what had happened to you. I thought
perhaps you'd been eaten up by one of the umbrellas.

BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, I have some wonderful news for you. I have
found Miss Robinson's father.

BELINDA (hardly understanding). Miss Robinson's father?

BAXTER. Yes. _Mr_. Robinson.

BELINDA. Oh, you mean--Oh yes, he told me his name was Robinson--
Oh, but he's no relation.

BAXTER. Wait! I saw his arm. By a subterfuge I managed to see his
arm.

BELINDA (her eyes opening more and more widely as she begins to
realize). You saw--

BAXTER. I saw the mole.

BELINDA (faintly as she holds out her own arm). Show me.

BAXTER (very decorously indicating). There!

(BELINDA holds the place with her other hand, and still looking
at MR. BAXTER, slowly begins to laugh--half-laughter, half-tears,
wonderingly, happily, contentedly.)

BELINDA. And I didn't know!

BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, I am delighted to have done this service for
your niece--

BELINDA (to herself). Of course, _he_ knew all the time.

BAXTER (to the world). Still more am I delighted to have gained
the victory over Mr. Devenish in this enterprise.

BELINDA. Eighteen years--but I _ought_ to have known.

BAXTER (at large). I shall not be accused of exaggerating when I
say that the odds against such an enterprise were enormous.

BELINDA. Eighteen years--And now I've eight whole _hours_ to
wait!

BAXTER (triumphantly). It will be announced to-night. "Mr.
Devenish," I shall say, "young fellow--" (He arranges his speech in
his mind.)

BELINDA. So I was right, after all! (Slowly and triumphantly.) He
_does_ look better without a beard!

BAXTER (making his speech). "Mr. Devenish, young fellow, when you
matched yourself against a man of my repute, when you matched
yourself against a man"--(BELINDA has slipped out, to enjoy her
happiness alone)--"who has read papers at soirees of the Royal
Statistical Society; when--er--"

[He looks round the room and discovers to his amazement that he is
alone. He claps on his bowler-hat, gives another amazed look round,
says with a shrug, "Unusual!" and goes out.]

ACT III

[It is after dinner in BELINDA'S hall. BELINDA is lying on the
sofa with a coffee-cup in her hand. DELIA, in the chair on the
right, has picked up "The Lute of Love" from a table and is reading
it impatiently.]

DELIA. What rubbish he writes!

BELINDA (coming back from her thoughts). Who, dear?

DELIA. Claude--Mr. Devenish. Of course, he's very young.

BELINDA. So was Keats, darling.

DELIA. I don't think Claude has had Keats' advantages. Keats
started life as an apothecary.

BELINDA. So much nicer than a chemist.

DELIA. Now, Claude started with nothing to do.

BELINDA (mildly). Do you always call him Claude, darling? I hope
you aren't going to grow into a flirt like that horrid Mrs.
Tremayne.

DELIA. Silly mother! (Seriously) I don't think he'll ever be any
good till he really gets work. Did you notice his hair this
evening?

BELINDA (dreamily). Whose, dear?

DELIA. Mummy, look me in the eye and tell me you are not being bad.

BELINDA (innocently). Bad, darling?

DELIA. You've made Mr. Robinson fall in love with you.

BELINDA (happily). Have I?

DELIA. Yes; it's serious this time. He's not like the other two.

BELINDA. However did you know that?

DELIA. Oh, I know.

BELINDA. Darling, I believe you've grown up. It's quite time I
settled down.

DELIA. With Mr. Robinson?

(BELINDA looks thoughtfully at DELIA for a little time and then
sits up.)

BELINDA (mysteriously). Delia, are you prepared for a great
secret to be revealed to you?

DELIA (childishly). Oh, I love secrets.

BELINDA (reproachfully). Darling, you mustn't take it like that.
This is a great, deep, dark secret; you'll probably need your sal
volatile.

DELIA (excitedly). Go on!

BELINDA. Well--(Looking round the room.) Shall we have the lights
down a little?

DELIA. Go _on_, mummy.

BELINDA. Well, Mr. Robinson is--(impressively)--is not quite the
Robinson he appears to be.

DELIA. Yes?

BELINDA. In fact, child, he is--Hadn't you better come and hold
your mother's hand?

DELIA (struggling with some emotion). Go _on_.

BELINDA. Well, Mr. Robinson is a--sort of relation of yours; in
fact--(playing with her rings and looking down coyly)--he is your--
father. (She looks up at DELIA to see how the news is being
received.) Dear one, this is not a matter for mirth.

DELIA (coming over and kissing her). Darling, it is lovely, isn't
it? I am laughing because I am so happy.

BELINDA. Aren't you surprised?

DELIA. No. You see, Claude told me this morning. He found out just
before Mr. Baxter.

BELINDA. Well! Every one seems to have known except me.

DELIA. Didn't you see how friendly father and I got at dinner? I
thought I'd better start breaking the ice--because I suppose he'll
be kissing me directly.

BELINDA. Say you like him.

DELIA. I think he's going to be awfully nice. Does he know you
know? (She goes back to her seat.)

BELINDA. Not yet. Just at present I've rather got Mr. Baxter on my
mind. I suppose, darling, you wouldn't like him as well as Mr.
Devenish! (Pathetically.) You see, they're so used to going about
together.

DELIA. Claude is quite enough.

BELINDA. I think I must see Mr. Baxter and get it over. Do you mind
if I have Mr. Devenish too? I feel more at home with both of them.
I'll give you him back. Oh dear, I feel so happy to-night! (She
jumps up and goes over to DELIA.) And is my little girl going to be
happy too? That's what mothers always say on the stage. I think
it's so sweet.

DELIA (smiling at her). Yes, I think so, mummy. Of course, I'm
not romantic like you. I expect I'm more like father, really.

BELINDA (dreamily). Jack can be romantic now. He was telling me
this morning all about the people he has proposed to. I mean, I was
telling _him_. Anyhow, he wasn't a bit like a father. Of course, he
doesn't know he is a father yet. Darling, I think you might take
him into the garden; only don't let him know who he is. You see, he
ought to propose to me first, oughtn't he? (As the men come in, she
gets up.) Here you all are! I do hope you haven't been throwing
away your cigars, because smoking is allowed all over the house.

TREMAYNE. Oh, we've finished, thank you.

BELINDA. Isn't it a wonderful night?--and so warm for April. Delia,
you must show Mr. Robinson the garden by moonlight--it's the only
light he hasn't seen it by.

DEVENISH (quickly). I don't think I've ever seen it by moonlight,
Miss Delia.

BELINDA. I thought poets were always seeing things by moonlight.

BAXTER. I was hoping, Mrs. Tremayne, that--er--perhaps--

DELIA. Come along, Mr. Robinson.

(TREMAYNE _looks at BELINDA, who gives him a nod.)

TREMAYNE. It's very kind of you, Miss Robinson. I suppose there is
no chance of a nightingale?

BELINDA. There ought to be. I ordered one specially for Mr.
Devenish. (DELIA and TREMAYNE go out together. BELINDA settles
herself comfortably on the sofa.) Now we're together again. Well,
Mr. Devenish?

DEVENISH. Er--I--

BELINDA. No; I think I'll let Mr. Baxter speak first. I know he's
longing to.

BAXTER. Yes. H'r'm! Mrs. Tremayne, I beg formally to claim your
hand.

BELINDA (sweetly). On what grounds, Mr. Baxter?

DEVENISH (spiritedly). Yes, sir, on what grounds?

BAXTER. On the grounds that, as I told you this morning, I had
succeeded in the quest.

DEVENISH (appearing to be greatly surprised). Succeeded?

BAXTER. Yes, Mr. Devenish, young fellow, you have lost. I have
discovered the missing Mr. Robinson.

DEVENISH. Who--where--

BAXTER (dramatically). Miss Robinson has at this moment gone out
with her father.

DEVENISH. Good heavens! It was he!

BELINDA (sympathetically). Poor Mr. Devenish!

DEVENISH (pointing tragically to the table). And to think that I
actually sat on that table--no, that seat--no, not that one,
it was the sofa--that I sat on the sofa with him this morning, and
never guessed! Why, ten minutes ago I was asking him for the nuts!

BAXTER. Aha, Devenish, you're not so clever as you thought you
were.

DEVENISH. Why, I must have given you the clue myself! He told me he
had a scar on his arm, and I never thought any more of it. And then
I went away innocently and left you two talking about it.

BELINDA (alarmed). A scar on his arm?

DEVENISH. Where a lion mauled him.

(BELINDA gives a little shudder.)

BAXTER. It's quite healed up now, Mrs. Tremayne.

BELINDA (looking at him admiringly). A lion! What you two have
adventured for my sake!

BAXTER. I suppose you will admit, Devenish, that I may fairly claim
to have won?

(Looking the picture of despair, DEVENISH droops his head, raises
his arms and lets them fall hopelessly to his sides.)

BELINDA. Mr. Devenish, I have never admired you so much as I do at
this moment.

BAXTER (indignantly to DEVENISH). I say, you know, that's not fair.
It's all very well to take your defeat like a man, but you mustn't
overdo it. Mrs. Tremayne, I claim the reward which I have earned.

BELINDA (after a pause). Mr. Baxter--Mr. Devenish, I have something
to tell you. (Penitently.) I have not been quite frank with you. I
think you both ought to know that--I--I made a mistake. Delia is
not my niece; she is my daughter.

DEVENISH. Your daughter! I say, how ripping!

(BELINDA gives him an understanding look.)

BAXTER. Your daughter!

BELINDA. Yes.

BAXTER. But--but you aren't old enough to have a daughter of that
age.

BELINDA (apologetically). Well, there she is.

BAXTER. But--but she's grown up.

BELINDA. Quite.

BAXTER. Then in that case you must be--(He hesitates, evidently
working it out.)

BELINDA (hastily). I'm afraid so, Mr. Baxter.

BAXTER. But this makes a great difference. I had no idea. Why, when
I'm fifty you would be--

BELINDA (sighing). Yes, I suppose I should.

BAXTER. And when I'm sixty--

BELINDA (pleadingly to DEVENISH). Can't you stop him?

DEVENISH. Look here, Baxter, another word from you and you'll never
_get_ to sixty.

BAXTER. And then there's Miss--er--Delia. In the event of our
marrying, Mrs. Tremayne, she, I take it, would be my step-daughter.

BELINDA. I don't think she would trouble us much, Mr. Baxter. I
have an idea that she will be getting married before long. (She
glances at DEVENISH, who returns her look gratefully.)

BAXTER. None the less, the fact would be disturbing. I have never
yet considered myself seriously as a step-father. I don't think I
am going too far if I say that to some extent I have been deceived
in this matter.

BELINDA (reproachfully). And so have I. I thought you loved me.

DEVENISH (sympathetically). Yes, yes.

BELINDA (turning to him suddenly). _And_ Mr. Devenish too.

BAXTER. Er--

DEVENISH. Er--

(They stand before her guiltily and have nothing to say.)

BELINDA (with a shrug). Well, I shall have to marry somebody
else, that's all.

BAXTER. Who?

BELINDA. I suppose Mr. Robinson. After all, if I am Delia's mother,
and Mr. Baxter says that Mr. Robinson's her father, it's about time
we _were_ married.

DEVENISH (eagerly). Mrs. Tremayne, what fools we are! He _is_ your
husband all the time!

BELINDA. Yes.

BAXTER. You've had a husband all the time?

BELINDA (apologetically). I lost him; it wasn't my fault.

BAXTER. Really, this is very confusing. I don't know where I am. I
gather--I am to gather, it seems, that you are no longer eligible
as a possible wife?

BELINDA. I am afraid not, Mr. Baxter.

BAXTER. But this is very confusing--this is very disturbing to a
man of my age. For weeks past I have been regarding myself as a--a
possible benedict. I have--ah--taken steps. Only this morning, in
writing to my housekeeper, I warned her that she might hear at
any moment a most startling announcement.

DEVENISH (cheerfully). Oh, that's all right. That might only mean
that you were getting a new bowler-hat.

BAXTER (suddenly). Ah, and what about you, sir? How is it that you
take this so lightly? (Triumphantly.) I have it. It all becomes
clear to me. You have transferred your affections to her daughter!

DEVENISH. Oh, I say, Baxter, this is very crude.

BELINDA. And why should he not, Mr. Baxter? (Softly.) He has made
me very happy.

BAXTER. He has made you happy, Mrs. Tremayne!

BELINDA. Very happy.

BAXTER (thoughtfully). Ah! (He takes a turn round the room in,
silence, and then comes back to her.) Mrs. Tremayne, I have taken
a great resolve. (Solemnly.) I also will make you happy. (Thumping
his heart.) I also will woo Miss Delia. (Suddenly seizing
DEVENISH'S arm) Come, we will seek Miss Delia together. It may be
that she will send us upon another quest in which I shall again be
victorious. (Tempestuously) Come, I say! (He marches the resisting
DEVENISH to the swing doors.)

DEVENISH (to BELINDA). Please!

BELINDA (gently). Mr. Baxter... Harold. (BAXTER stops and turns
round.) You are too impetuous. I think that as Delia's mother--

BAXTER. Your pardon, Mrs. Tremayne. In the intoxication of the
moment I am forgetting. (Formally.) I have the honour to ask your
permission to pay my addresses--

BELINDA. No, no, I didn't mean that. But, as Delia's mother, I
ought to warn you that she is hardly fitted to take the place of
your housekeeper. She is not very domesticated.

BAXTER (indignantly). Not domesticated? Why, did I not hear her
tell her father at dinner that she had arranged all the flowers?

BELINDA. There are other things than flowers.

DEVENISH. Bed-socks, for instance, Baxter. It's a very tricky thing
airing bed-socks. I am sure your house-keeper--

BAXTER. Mrs. Tremayne, she will learn. The daughter of such a
mother... I need say no more.

BELINDA. Oh, thank you. But there is something else, Mr. Baxter.
You are not being quite fair to yourself. In starting out upon this
simultaneous wooing, you forget that Mr. Devenish has already had
his turn this morning alone. You should have yours ... alone ...
too.

DEVENISH. Oh, I say!

BAXTER. Yes, yes, you are right. I must introduce myself first as a
suitor. I see that. (to DEVENISH) _You_ stay here; _I_ will go
alone into the garden, and--

BELINDA. It is perhaps a little cold out of doors for people of ...
of _our_ age, Mr. Baxter. Now, in the library--

BAXTER (astonished). Library?

BELINDA. Yes.

BAXTER. You have a library?

BELINDA (to DEVENISH). He doesn't believe I have a library.

DEVENISH. You ought to see the library, Baxter.

BAXTER. But you are continually springing surprises on me this
evening, Mrs. Tremayne. First a daughter, then a husband, and then--
a library! I have been here three weeks, and I never knew you had a
library. Dear me, I wonder how it is that I never saw it?

BELINDA (modestly). I thought you came to see _me_.

BAXTER. Yes, yes, to see you, certainly. But if I had known you had
a library. ...

BELINDA. Oh, I am so glad I mentioned it. Wasn't it lucky, Mr.
Devenish?

BAXTER. My work has been greatly handicapped of late by lack of
certain books to which I wanted to refer. It would be a great help--

BELINDA. My dear Mr. Baxter, my whole library is at your disposal.
(To DEVENISH, as she leads the way to the door, in a confidential
whisper.) I'm just going to show him the "Encyclopedia Britannica."
(She smiles at him, and he opens the door for them both. Then he goes
towards the garden door and looks outside.)

DELIA (from the garden). Hullo, we're just coming in.
(He goes back and waits for them.)

TREMAYNE. Where's Mrs. Tremayne?

DEVENISH. She's gone to the library with Baxter.

TREMAYNE (carelessly). Oh, the library. Where's that?

DEVENISH (promptly going towards the door and opening it). The end
door on the right. Right at the end. You can't mistake it. On the
right.

TREMAYNE. Ah, yes. (He looks round at DELIA.) Yes. (He looks at
DEVENISH.) Yes. [He goes out.]

(DEVENISH hastily shuts the door and comes back to DELIA.)

DEVENISH. I say, your mother is a ripper.

DELIA (enthusiastically). Isn't she! (Remembering.) At least, you
mean my aunt?

DEVENISH (smiling at her). No, I mean your mother. To think that
I once had the cheek to propose to her.

DELIA. Oh! Is it cheek to propose to people!

DEVENISH. To _her_.

DELIA. But not to me?

DEVENISH. Oh I say, Delia!

DELIA (with great dignity). Thank you, my name is Miss Robinson--
I mean, Tremayne.

DEVENISH. Well, if you're not quite sure which it is, it's much
safer to call you Delia.

DELIA (smiling). Well, perhaps it is.

DEVENISH. And if I did propose to you, you haven't answered

DELIA. If you want an answer now, it's no; but if you like to
wait till next April--

DEVENISH (reproachfully). Oh, I say, and I cut my hair for you the
same afternoon. You haven't really told me how you like it yet.

DELIA. Oh, how bad of me! You look lovely.

DEVENISH. And I promised to give up poetry for your sake.

DELIA. Perhaps I oughtn't to have asked you that.

DEVENISH. As far as I'm concerned, Delia, I'll do it gladly, but,
of course, one has to think about posterity.

DELIA. But you needn't be a poet. You could give posterity plenty
to think about if you were a statesman.

DEVENISH. I don't quite see your objection to poetry.

DELIA. You would be about the house so much. I want you to go away
every day and do great things, and then come home in the evening
and tell me all about it.

DEVENISH. Then you _are_ thinking of marrying me!

DELIA. Well, I was just thinking in case I had to.

DEVENISH. It would be rather fun if you did. And look here--I
_will_ be a statesman, if you like, and go up to Downing Street
every day, and come back in the evening and tell you all about it.

DELIA. How nice of you!

DEVENISH (magnificently, holding up his hand to Heaven). Farewell,
Parnassus!

DELIA. What does that mean?

DEVENISH. Well, it means that I've chucked poetry. A statesman's
life is the life for me; behold Mr. Devenish, the new M.P.--no,
look here, that was quite accidental.

DELIA (smiling at him). I believe I shall really like you when I
get to know you.

DEVENISH. I don't know if it's you, or Devonshire, or the fact that
I've had my hair cut, but I feel quite a different being from what
I was three days ago.

DELIA. You _are_ different. Perhaps it's your sense of humour
coming back.

DEVENISH. Perhaps that's it. It's a curious feeling.

DELIA (holding out her hand). Let's go outside; there's a heavenly
moon.

DEVENISH (taking her hand). Moon? Moon? Now where have I heard that
word before?

DELIA. What _do_ you mean?

DEVENISH. I was trying not to be a poet. Well, I'll come with you,
but I shall refuse to look at it. (Putting his left hand behind his
back, he walks slowly out with her, saying to himself) The Prime
Minister then left the House.

[BELINDA and TREMAYNE come from the library.]

BELINDA (as he opens the door). Thank you. I don't think it's
unkind to leave him, do you? He seemed quite happy.

TREMAYNE. I shouldn't have been happy if we'd stayed.

BELINDA (going to the sofa and putting her feet up). Yes, but I was
really thinking of Mr. Baxter.

TREMAYNE. Not of me?

BELINDA. Well, I thought it was Mr. Baxter's turn. Poor man, he's
had a disappointment lately.

TREMAYNE (eagerly). A disappointment?

BELINDA. Yes, he thought I was--younger than I was.

TREMAYNE (smiling to himself). How old are you, Belinda?

BELINDA (dropping her eyes). Twenty-two. (After a pause.) He
thought I was eighteen. Such a disappointment!

TREMAYNE (smiling openly at her). Belinda, how old are you?

BELINDA. Just about the right age, Mr. Robinson.

TREMAYNE. The right age for what?

BELINDA. For this sort of conversation.

TREMAYNE. Shall I tell you how old you are?

BELINDA. Do you mean in figures or--poetically?

TREMAYNE. I meant--

BELINDA. Mr. Devenish said I was as old as the--now, I must get
this the right way round--as old as the--

TREMAYNE. I don't want to talk about Mr. Devenish.

BELINDA (with a sigh). Nobody ever does--except Mr. Devenish. As
old as the stars, and as young as the dawn. (Settling herself
cosily.) I think that's rather a nice age to be, don't you?

TREMAYNE. A very nice age to be.

BELINDA. It's a pity he's thrown me over for Delia; I shall miss
that sort of thing rather. You don't say those sort of things about
your aunt-in-law--not so often.

TREMAYNE (eagerly). He really is in love with Miss Robinson!

BELINDA. Oh yes. I expect he is out in the moonlight with her now,
comparing her to Diana.

TREMAYNE. Well, that accounts for _him. _Now what about Baxter?

BELINDA. I thought I told you. Deeply disappointed to find that I
was four years older than he expected, Mr. Baxter hurried from the
drawing-room and buried himself in a column of the "Encyclopedia
Britannica."

TREMAYNE. Well, that settles Baxter. Are there any more men in the
neighbourhood?

BELINDA (shaking her head). Isn't it awful? I've only had those
two for the last three weeks.

(TREMAYNE sits on the back of the sofa and looks down at her.)

TREMAYNE. Belinda.

BELINDA. Yes, Henry!

TREMAYNE. My name is John.

BELINDA. Well, you never told me. I had to guess. Everybody thinks
they can call me Belinda without giving me the least idea what
their own names are. You were saying, John?

TREMAYNE. My friends call me Jack.

BELINDA. Jack Robinson. That's the man who always goes away so
quickly. I hope you're making more of a stay?

TREMAYNE. Oh, you maddening, maddening woman!

BELINDA. Well, I have to keep the conversation going. You do
nothing but say "Belinda."

TREMAYNE (taking her hand). Have you ever loved anybody seriously,
Belinda?

BELINDA. I don't ever do anything very seriously. The late Mr.
Tremayne, my first husband--Jack--Isn't it funny, _his_ name was
Jack--he used to complain about it too sometimes.

TREMAYNE (with conviction). Silly ass!

BELINDA. Ah, I think you are a little hard on the late Mr.
Tremayne.

TREMAYNE. Has he been dead long?

BELINDA. Dead to me.

TREMAYNE. You quarrelled?

BELINDA. Yes. It was his fault entirely.

TREMAYNE. I'm sure it was.

BELINDA. How sweet of you to say that!

TREMAYNE. Belinda, I want you to marry me and forget about him.

BELINDA (happily to herself). This is the proposal that those lamb
cutlets interrupted this morning.

TREMAYNE. Belinda, I love you--do you understand?

BELINDA. Suppose my first husband turns up suddenly like--like E. A.?

TREMAYNE. Like who?

BELINDA. Well, like anybody.

TREMAYNE. He won't--I know he won't. Don't you love me enough to
risk it, Belinda?

BELINDA. I haven't really said I love you at all yet.

TREMAYNE. Well, say it now. (BELINDA looks at him, and then down
again.) You do! Well, I'm going to have a kiss, anyway, (He comes
round the sofa and kisses her quickly.) There!

BELINDA (rising). O-oh! The late Mr. Tremayne never did that.

TREMAYNE. I have already told you that he was a silly ass. (Sitting
down on the sofa) Belinda--

BELINDA. Yes, Henry--I mean, Jack?

TREMAYNE. Do you know who I am! (He is thoroughly enjoying the
surprise he is about to give her.)

BELINDA (nodding). Yes, Jack.

TREMAYNE. Who?

BELINDA. Jack Tremayne.

TREMAYNE (jumping up). Good heavens, you _know_!

BELINDA (gently). Yes, Jack.

TREMAYNE (angrily). You've known all the time that I was your
husband, and you've been playing with me and leading me on?

BELINDA (mildly). Well, darling, you knew all the time that I was
your wife, and you've been making love to me and leading me on.

TREMAYNE. That's different.

BELINDA. That's _just_ what the late Mr. Tremayne said, and then he
slammed the door and went straight off to the Rocky Mountains and
shot bears; and I didn't see him again for eighteen years.

TREMAYNE (remorsefully). Darling, I was a fool then, and I'm a
fool now.

BELINDA. I was a fool then, but I'm not such a fool now--I'm not
going to let you go. It's quite time I married and settled down.

TREMAYNE. You darling! How did you find out who I was?

BELINDA (awkwardly). Well, it was rather curious, darling.
(After a pause.) It was April, and I felt all sort of Aprily,
and--and--there was the garden all full of daffodils--and--and
there was Mr. Baxter--the one we left in the library--knowing all
about moles. He's probably got the M volume down now. Well, we
were talking about them one day, and I happened to say that the
late Mr. Tremayne--that was you, darling--had rather a peculiar one
on his arm. And then he happened to see it this morning and told me
about it.

TREMAYNE. What an extraordinary story!

BELINDA. Yes, darling; it's really much more extraordinary than
that. I think perhaps I'd better tell you the rest of it another
time. (Coaxingly.) Now show me where the nasty lion scratched you.
(TREMAYNE pulls up his sleeve.) Oh! (She kisses his arm.) You
shouldn't have left Chelsea, darling.

TREMAYNE. I should never have found you if I hadn't.

BELINDA (squeezing his arm). No, Jack, you wouldn't. (After a
pause.) I--I've got another little surprise for you if--if you're
ready for it. (Standing up) Properly speaking, I ought to be
wearing white. I shall certainly stand up while I'm telling you.
(Modestly.) Darling, we have a daughter--our little Delia.

TREMAYNE. Delia? You said her name was Robinson.

BELINDA. Yes, darling, but you said yours was. One always takes
one's father's name. Unless, of course, you were Lord Robinson.

TREMAYNE. But you said her name was Robinson before you--oh, never
mind about that. A daughter? Belinda, how could you let me go and
not tell me?

BELINDA. You forget how you'd slammed the door. It isn't the sort
of thing you shout through the window to a man on his way to
America.

TREMAYNE (taking her in his arms). Oh, Belinda, don't let me ever
go away again.

BELINDA. I'm not going to, Jack. I'm going to settle down into a
staid old married woman.

TREMAYNE. Oh no, you're not. You're going on just as you did
before. And I'm going to propose to you every April, and win you,
over all the other men in love with you.

BELINDA. You darling!

[DELIA and DEVENISH come in from the garden.]

TREMAYNE (quietly to BELINDA). Our daughter.

DELIA (going up to TREMAYNE). You're my father.

TREMAYNE. If you don't mind very much, Delia.

DELIA. You've been away a long time.

TREMAYNE. I'll do my best to make up for it.

BELINDA. Delia, darling, I think you might kiss your poor old
father.

(As the does to, DEVENISH suddenly and hastily kisses BELINDA on
the cheek.)

DEVENISH. Just in case you're going to be my mother-in-law.

TREMAYNE. We seem to be rather a family party.

BELINDA (suddenly). There! We've forgotten Mr. Baxter again.

BAXTER (who has come in quietly with a book in his hand). Oh, don't
mind about me, Mrs. Tremayne. I've enjoyed myself immensely.
(Referring to his book.) I have been collecting some most valuable
information on (looking round at them) lunacy in the--er--county of
_Devonshire_.

THE RED FEATHERS

AN OPERETTA IN ONE ACT

[In the living-room of a country-house, half farm, half manor, a
MOTHER and her DAUGHTER are sitting. It is any year you please--
between, let us say, the day when the fiddle first came to England
and the day when Romance left it. As for the time of the year, let
us call it May. Oh yes, it is certainly May, and about twelve
o'clock, and the DAUGHTER is singing at the spinet, while her
MOTHER is at her needlework. Through the lattice windows the murmur
of a stream can be heard, on whose banks--but we shall come to that
directly. Let us listen now to what the DAUGHTER is singing:]

Life passes by.
I do not know its pleasure or its pain--
The Spring was here, the Spring is here again,
The Spring will die.

Life passes by.
The doors of Pain and Pleasure open wide,
The crowd streams in--and I am left outside. ...
They know; not I.

[You don't like it? Neither did her Mother.]

MOTHER (looking up from her work). Yes, I should call that a
melancholy song, dear.

DAUGHTER. It is sung by a melancholy person, Mother.

MOTHER. Why are you that, child?

DAUGHTER (getting up). I want so much that I shall never have.

MOTHER. Well, so do we all.

DAUGHTER (impatiently). Oh, why does nothing ever happen? We sit
here all day, and we sing or do our embroidery, and we go to bed,
and the next day we get up and do the same things over again, and
so it goes on. Mother, is that all there is in the world?

MOTHER. It's all there is in our world.

DAUGHTER. Are we so very poor?

MOTHER. We have the house--and very little else.

DAUGHTER. Oh, I wish that we were _really_ poor--

MOTHER. You needn't wish, child.

DAUGHTER. Oh, but I mean so that it wouldn't matter what clothes
we wore; so that we could wander over the hills and down into the
valleys, and sleep perhaps in a barn and bathe ourselves in the
brook next morning, and--

MOTHER. I don't think I should like that very much. Perhaps I'm
peculiar.

DAUGHTER. Oh, if only I were a boy to go out and make my own
way in the world. Would you let me go, Mother, if I were a boy?

MOTHER. I don't suppose you'd ask me, dear.

DAUGHTER (sighing). Oh, well! We must make the best of it, I
suppose. Perhaps one day something will happen. (She goes back
to the spinet and sings again.)

_Lads and lasses, what will you sell,
What will you sell?_

Four stout walls and a roof atop,
Warm fires gleaming brightly,
Well-stored cellar and garnered crop,
Money-bags packed tightly;
An ordered task in an ordered day,
And a sure bed nightly;
Years which peacefully pass away,
Until Death comes lightly.

_Lads and lasses, what will you buy?
What will you buy?_

Here is a cap to cover your head,
A cap with one red feather;
Here is a cloak to make your bed
Warm or winter weather;
Here is a satchel to store your ware,
Strongly lined with leather;
And here is a staff to take you there
When you go forth together.

_Lads and lasses, what will you gain,
What will you gain?_

Chatter of rooks on tall elm-trees
New Spring houses taking;
Daffodils in an April breeze
Golden curtsies making;
Shadows of clouds across the weald
From hill to valley breaking,
The first faint stir which the woodlands yield
When the world is waking.

_Lads and lasses, this is your gain,
This is your gain._

(Towards the end of the song the face and shoulders of the TALKER
appear at the open lattice window on the left. He listens with a
bland and happy smile until the song is finished.)

TALKER. Brava! Brava! (They turn round towards the window in
astonishment.) A vastly pleasing song, vastly well sung.
Mademoiselle Nightingale, permit me to felicitate you. (Turning to
the Mother) The Mother of the Nightingale also. Mon Dieu, what is
voice, of a richness, of a purity! To live with it always! Madame,
I felicitate you again.

MOTHER. I must ask you, sir, to explain the meaning of this
intrusion.

TALKER. Intrusion? Oh, fie! Madame, not intrusion. My feet stand
upon the highway. The road, Madame, is common to all. I can quote

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