Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
THE SILVER BOX
By John Galsworthy
A PLAY ON THE LETTER "I"
IN THREE ACTS
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
COLONEL HOPE, R.A., retired
MRS. HOPE, his wife
MISS BEECH, their old governess
LETTY, their daughter
ERNEST BLUNT, her husband
MRS. GWYN, their niece
JOY, her daughter
DICK MERTON, their young friend
HON. MAURICE LEVER, their guest
ROSE, their parlour-maid
TIME: The present. The action passes throughout midsummer day on the
lawn of Colonel Hope's house, near the Thames above Oxford.
The time is morning, and the scene a level lawn, beyond which
the river is running amongst fields. A huge old beech tree
overshadows everything, in the darkness of whose hollow many
things are hidden. A rustic seat encircles it. A low wall
clothed in creepers, with two openings, divides this lawn from
the flowery approaches to the house. Close to the wall there is
a swing. The sky is clear and sunny. COLONEL HOPE is seated in
a garden-chair, reading a newspaper through pince-nez. He is
fifty-five and bald, with drooping grey moustaches and a
weather-darkened face. He wears a flannel suit and a hat from
Panama; a tennis racquet leans against his chair. MRS. HOPE
comes quickly through the opening of the wall, with roses in her
hands. She is going grey; she wears tan gauntlets, and no hat.
Her manner is decided, her voice emphatic, as though aware that
there is no nonsense in its owner's composition. Screened from
sight, MISS BEECH is seated behind the hollow tree; and JOY is
perched on a lower branch hidden by foliage.
MRS. HOPE. I told Molly in my letter that she'd have to walk up,
COLONEL. Walk up in this heat? My dear, why didn't you order
MRS. HOPE. Expense for nothing! Bob can bring up her things in the
barrow. I've told Joy I won't have her going down to meet the train.
She's so excited about her mother's coming there's no doing anything
COLONEL. No wonder, after two months.
MRS. HOPE. Well, she's going home to-morrow; she must just keep
herself fresh for the dancing tonight. I'm not going to get people
in to dance, and have Joy worn out before they begin.
COLONEL. [Dropping his paper.] I don't like Molly's walking up.
MRS. HOPE. A great strong woman like Molly Gwyn! It isn't half a
COLONEL. I don't like it, Nell; it's not hospitable.
MRS. HOPE. Rubbish! If you want to throw away money, you must just
find some better investment than those wretched 3 per cents. of
yours. The greenflies are in my roses already! Did you ever see
anything so disgusting? [They bend over the roses they have grown,
and lose all sense of everything.] Where's the syringe? I saw you
mooning about with it last night, Tom.
COLONEL. [Uneasily.] Mooning!
[He retires behind his paper. MRS. HOPE enters the hollow of
There's an account of that West Australian swindle. Set of ruffians!
Listen to this, Nell! "It is understood that amongst the share-
holders are large numbers of women, clergymen, and Army officers."
How people can be such fools!
[Becoming aware that his absorption is unobserved, he drops his
glasses, and reverses his chair towards the tree.]
MRS. HOPE. [Reappearing with a garden syringe. I simply won't have
Dick keep his fishing things in the tree; there's a whole potful of
disgusting worms. I can't touch them. You must go and take 'em out,
[In his turn the COLONEL enters the hollow of the tree.]
MRS. HOPE. [Personally.] What on earth's the pleasure of it? I
can't see! He never catches anything worth eating.
[The COLONEL reappears with a paint pot full of worms; he holds
them out abstractedly.]
MRS. HOPE. [Jumping.] Don't put them near me!
MISS BEECH. [From behind the tree.] Don't hurt the poor creatures.
COLONEL. [Turning.] Hallo, Peachey? What are you doing round
[He puts the worms down on the seat.]
MRS. HOPE. Tom, take the worms off that seat at once!
COLONEL. [Somewhat flurried.] Good gad! I don't know what to do
with the beastly worms!
MRS. HOPE. It's not my business to look after Dick's worms. Don't
put them on the ground. I won't have them anywhere where they can
crawl about. [She flicks some greenflies off her roses.]
COLONEL. [Looking into the pot as though the worms could tell him
where to put them.] Dash!
MISS BEECH. Give them to me.
MRS. HOPE. [Relieved.] Yes, give them to Peachey.
[There comes from round the tree Miss BEECH, old-fashioned,
barrel-shaped, balloony in the skirts. She takes the paint pot,
and sits beside it on the rustic seat.]
MISS BEECH. Poor creatures!
MRS. HOPE. Well, it's beyond me how you can make pets of worms-
wriggling, crawling, horrible things!
[ROSE, who is young and comely, in a pale print frock, comes
from the house and places letters before her on a silver
[Taking the letters.]
What about Miss joy's frock, Rose?
ROSE. Please, 'm, I can't get on with the back without Miss Joy.
MRS. HOPE. Well, then you must just find her. I don't know where
ROSE. [In a slow, sidelong manner.] If you please, Mum, I think
Miss Joy's up in the----
[She stops, seeing Miss BEECH signing to her with both hands.]
MRS. HOPE. [Sharply.] What is it, Peachey?
MISS BEECH. [Selecting a finger.] Pricked meself!
MRS. HOPE. Let's look!
[She bends to look, but Miss BEECH places the finger in her
ROSE. [Glancing askance at the COLONEL.] If you please, Mum, it's
below the waist; I think I can manage with the dummy.
MRS. HOPE. Well, you can try. [Opening her letter as ROSE retires.]
Here's Molly about her train.
MISS BEECH. Is there a letter for me?
MRS. HOPE. No, Peachey.
MISS BEECH. There never is.
COLONEL. What's that? You got four by the first post.
MISS BEECH. Exceptions!
COLONEL. [Looking over his glasses.] Why! You know, you get 'em
MRS. HOPE. Molly says she'll be down by the eleven thirty. [In an
injured voice.] She'll be here in half an hour! [Reading with
disapproval from the letter.] "MAURICE LEVER is coming down by the
same train to see Mr. Henty about the Tocopala Gold Mine. Could you
give him a bed for the night?"
[Silence, slight but ominous.]
COLONEL. [Calling into his aid his sacred hospitality.] Of course
we must give him a bed!
MRS. HOPE. Just like a man! What room I should like to know!
MRS. HOPE. As if Molly wouldn't have the pink!
COLONEL. [Ruefully.] I thought she'd have the blue!
MRS. HOPE. You know perfectly well it's full of earwigs, Tom. I
killed ten there yesterday morning.
MISS BEECH. Poor creatures!
MRS. HOPE. I don't know that I approve of this Mr. Lever's dancing
attendance. Molly's only thirty-six.
COLONEL. [In a high voice.] You can't refuse him a bed; I never
heard of such a thing.
MRS. HOPE. [Reading from the letter.] "This gold mine seems to be a
splendid chance. [She glances at the COLONEL.] I've put all my
spare cash into it. They're issuing some Preference shares now; if
Uncle Tom wants an investment"--[She pauses, then in a changed,
decided voice ]--Well, I suppose I shall have to screw him in
COLONEL. What's that about gold mines? Gambling nonsense! Molly
ought to know my views.
MRS. HOPE. [Folding the letter away out of her consciousness.] Oh!
your views! This may be a specially good chance.
MISS BEECH. Ahem! Special case!
MRS. HOPE. [Paying no attention.] I 'm sick of these 3 per cent.
dividends. When you've only got so little money, to put it all into
that India Stock, when it might be earning 6 per cent. at least,
quite safely! There are ever so many things I want.
COLONEL. There you go!
MRS. HOPE. As to Molly, I think it's high time her husband came home
to look after her, instead of sticking out there in that hot place.
[Miss BEECH looks up at the tree and exhibits cerebral
I don't know what Geoff's about; why doesn't he find something in
England, where they could live together.
COLONEL. Don't say anything against Molly, Nell!
MRS. HOPE. Well, I don't believe in husband and wife being
separated. That's not my idea of married life.
[The COLONEL whistles quizzically.]
Ah, yes, she's your niece, not mime! Molly's very----
MISS BEECH. Ouch! [She sucks her finger.]
MRS. HOPE. Well, if I couldn't sew at your age, Peachey, without
pricking my fingers! Tom, if I have Mr. Lever here, you'll just
attend to what I say and look into that mine!
COLONEL. Look into your grandmother! I have n't made a study of
geology for nothing. For every ounce you take out of a gold mine,
you put an ounce and a half in. Any fool knows that, eh, Peachey?
MISS BEECH. I hate your horrid mines, with all the poor creatures
MRS. HOPE. Nonsense, Peachey! As if they'd go there if they did n't
COLONEL. Why don't you read your paper, then you'd see what a lot of
wild-cat things there are about.
MRS. HOPE. [Abstractedly.] I can't put Ernest and Letty in the blue
room, there's only the single bed. Suppose I put Mr. Lever there,
and say nothing about the earwigs. I daresay he'll never notice.
COLONEL. Treat a guest like that!
MRS. HOPE. Then where am I to put him for goodness sake?
COLONEL. Put him in my dressing-room, I'll turn out.
MRS. HOPE. Rubbish, Tom, I won't have you turned out, that's flat.
He can have Joy's room, and she can sleep with the earwigs.
JOY. [From her hiding-place upon a lower branch of the hollow tree.]
[MRS. HOPE and the COLONEL jump.]
COLONEL. God bless my soul!
MRS. HOPE. You wretched girl! I told you never to climb that tree
again. Did you know, Peachey? [Miss BEECH smiles.] She's always up
there, spoiling all her frocks. Come down now, Joy; there's a good
JOY. I don't want to sleep with earwigs, Aunt Nell.
MISS BEECH. I'll sleep with the poor creatures.
MRS. HOPE, [After a pause.] Well, it would be a mercy if you would
for once, Peachey.
COLONEL. Nonsense, I won't have Peachey----
MRS. HOPE. Well, who is to sleep there then?
JOY. [Coaxingly.] Let me sleep with Mother, Aunt Nell, do!
MRS. HOPE. Litter her up with a great girl like you, as if we'd only
one spare room! Tom, see that she comes down--I can't stay here, I
must manage something. [She goes away towards the house.]
COLONEL. [Moving to the tree, and looking up.] You heard what your
JOY. [Softly.] Oh, Uncle Tom!
COLONEL. I shall have to come up after you.
JOY. Oh, do, and Peachey too!
COLONEL. [Trying to restrain a smile.] Peachey, you talk to her.
[Without waiting for MISS BEECH, however, he proceeds.] What'll your
aunt say to me if I don't get you down?
MISS BEECH. Poor creature!
JOY. I don't want to be worried about my frock.
COLONEL. [Scratching his bald head.] Well, I shall catch it.
JOY. Oh, Uncle Tom, your head is so beautiful from here! [Leaning
over, she fans it with a leafy twig.]
MISS BEECH. Disrespectful little toad!
COLONEL. [Quickly putting on his hat.] You'll fall out, and a
pretty mess that'll make on--[he looks uneasily at the ground]--my
[A voice is heard calling "Colonel! Colonel!]"
JOY. There's Dick calling you, Uncle Tom.
DICK. [Appearing in the opening of the wall.] Ernie's waiting to
play you that single, Colonel!
JOY. Quick, Uncle Tom! Oh! do go, before he finds I 'm up here.
MISS. BEECH. Secret little creature!
[The COLONEL picks up his racquet, shakes his fist, and goes
JOY. [Calmly.] I'm coming down now, Peachey.
Look out! I'm dropping on your head.
MISS BEECH. [Unmoved.] Don't hurt yourself!
[Joy drops on the rustic seat and rubs her shin. Told you so!]
[She hunts in a little bag for plaster.]
JOY. [Seeing the worms.] Ugh!
MISS BEECH. What's the matter with the poor creatures?
JOY. They're so wriggly!
[She backs away and sits down in the swing. She is just
seventeen, light and slim, brown-haired, fresh-coloured, and
grey-eyed; her white frock reaches to her ankles, she wears a
sunbonnet.] Peachey, how long were you Mother's governess.
MISS BEECH. Five years.
JOY. Was she as bad to teach as me?
MISS BEECH. Worse!
[Joy claps her hands.]
She was the worst girl I ever taught.
JOY. Then you weren't fond of her?
MISS BEECH. Oh! yes, I was.
JOY. Fonder than of me?
MISS BEECH. Don't you ask such a lot of questions.
JOY. Peachey, duckie, what was Mother's worst fault?
MISS BEECH. Doing what she knew she oughtn't.
JOY. Was she ever sorry?
MISS BEECH. Yes, but she always went on doin' it.
JOY. I think being sorry 's stupid!
MISS BEECH. Oh, do you?
JOY. It isn't any good. Was Mother revengeful, like me?
MISS BEECH. Ah! Wasn't she?
JOY. And jealous?
MISS BEECH. The most jealous girl I ever saw.
JOY. [Nodding.] I like to be like her.
MISS BEECH. [Regarding her intently.] Yes! you've got all your
troubles before you.
JOY. Mother was married at eighteen, wasn't she, Peachey? Was she--
was she much in love with Father then?
MISS BEECH. [With a sniff.] About as much as usual. [She takes the
paint pot, and walking round begins to release the worms.]
JOY. [Indifferently.] They don't get on now, you know.
MISS BEECH. What d'you mean by that, disrespectful little creature?
JOY. [In a hard voice.] They haven't ever since I've known them.
MISS BEECH. [Looks at her, and turns away again.] Don't talk about
JOY. I suppose you don't know Mr. Lever? [Bitterly.] He's such a
cool beast. He never loses his temper.
MISS BEECH. Is that why you don't like him?
JOY. [Frowning.] No--yes--I don't know.
MISS BEECH. Oh! perhaps you do like him?
JOY. I don't; I hate him.
MISS BEECH. [Standing still.] Fie! Naughty Temper!
JOY. Well, so would you! He takes up all Mother's time.
MISS BEECH. [In a peculiar voice.] Oh! does he?
JOY. When he comes I might just as well go to bed. [Passionately.]
And now he's chosen to-day to come down here, when I haven't seen her
for two months! Why couldn't he come when Mother and I'd gone home.
It's simply brutal!
MISS BEECH. But your mother likes him?
JOY. [Sullenly.] I don't want her to like him.
MISS BEECH. [With a long look at Joy.] I see!
JOY. What are you doing, Peachey?
MISS BEECH. [Releasing a worm.] Letting the poor creatures go.
JOY. If I tell Dick he'll never forgive you.
MISS BEECH. [Sidling behind the swing and plucking off Joy's
sunbonnet. With devilry.] Ah-h-h! You've done your hair up; so
that's why you wouldn't come down!
JOY. [Springing up, anal pouting.] I didn't want any one to see
before Mother. You are a pig, Peachey!
MISS BEECH. I thought there was something!
JOY. [Twisting round.] How does it look?
MISS BEECH. I've seen better.
JOY. You tell any one before Mother comes, and see what I do!
MISS BEECH. Well, don't you tell about my worms, then!
JOY. Give me my hat! [Backing hastily towards the tree, and putting
her finger to her lips.] Look out! Dick!
MISS BEECH. Oh! dear!
[She sits down on the swing, concealing the paint pot with her
feet and skirts.]
JOY. [On the rustic seat, and in a violent whisper.] I hope the
worms will crawl up your legs!
[DICK, in flannels and a hard straw hat comes in. He is a quiet
and cheerful boy of twenty. His eyes are always fixed on joy.]
DICK. [Grimacing.] The Colonel's getting licked. Hallo! Peachey,
in the swing?
JOY. [Chuckling.] Swing her, Dick!
MISS BEECH. [Quivering with emotion.] Little creature!
JOY. Swing her!
[DICK takes the ropes.]
MISS BEECH. [Quietly.] It makes me sick, young man.
DICK. [Patting her gently on the back.] All right, Peachey.
MISS BEECH. [Maliciously.] Could you get me my sewing from the
seat? Just behind Joy.
JOY. [Leaning her head against the tree.] If you do, I won't dance
with you to-night.
[DICK stands paralysed. Miss BEECH gets off the swing, picks up
the paint pot, and stands concealing it behind her.]
JOY. Look what she's got behind her, sly old thing!
MISS BEECH. Oh! dear!
JOY. Dance with her, Dick!
MISS BEECH. If he dare!
JOY. Dance with her, or I won't dance with you to-night.
[She whistles a waltz.]
DICK. [Desperately.] Come on then, Peachey. We must.
JOY. Dance, dance!
[DICK seizes Miss BEECH by the waist. She drops the paint pot.
They revolve.] [Convulsed.]
Oh, Peachey, Oh!
[Miss BEECH is dropped upon the rustic seat. DICK seizes joy's
hands and drags her up.]
No, no! I won't!
MISS BEECH. [Panting.] Dance, dance with the poor young man! [She
moves her hands.] La la-la-la la-la la la!
[DICK and JOY dance.]
DICK. By Jove, Joy! You've done your hair up. I say, how jolly!
You do look----
JOY. [Throwing her hands up to her hair.] I did n't mean you to
DICK. [In a hurt voice.] Oh! didn't you? I'm awfully sorry!
JOY. [Flashing round.] Oh, you old Peachey!
[She looks at the ground, and then again at DICK.]
MISS BEECH. [Sidling round the tree.] Oh! dear!
JOY. [Whispering.] She's been letting out your worms.
[Miss BEECH disappears from view.]
DICK. [Quickly.] Hang the worms! Joy, promise me the second and
fourth and sixth and eighth and tenth and supper, to-night. Promise!
[Joy shakes her head.]
It's not much to ask.
JOY. I won't promise anything.
DICK. Why not?
JOY. Because Mother's coming. I won't make any arrangements.
DICK. [Tragically.] It's our last night.
JOY. [Scornfully.] You don't understand! [Dancing and clasping her
hands.] Mother's coming, Mother's coming!
DICK. [Violently.] I wish----Promise, Joy!
JOY. [Looking over her shoulder.] Sly old thing! If you'll pay
Peachey out, I'll promise you supper!
MISS BEECH. [From behind the tree.] I hear you.
JOY. [Whispering.] Pay her out, pay her out! She's let out all
DICK. [Looking moodily at the paint pot.] I say, is it true that
Maurice Lever's coming with your mother? I've met him playing
cricket, he's rather a good sort.
JOY. [Flashing out.] I hate him.
DICK. [Troubled.] Do you? Why? I thought--I didn't know--if I'd
known of course, I'd have----
[He is going to say "hated him too!" But the voices of ERNEST
BLUNT and the COLONEL are heard approaching, in dispute.]
JOY. Oh! Dick, hide me, I don't want my hair seen till Mother
[She springs into the hollow tree. The COLONEL and ERNEST
appear in the opening of the wall.]
ERNEST. The ball was out, Colonel.
COLONEL. Nothing of the sort.
ERNEST. A good foot out.
COLONEL. It was not, sir. I saw the chalk fly.
[ERNEST is twenty-eight, with a little moustache, and the
positive cool voice of a young man who knows that he knows
everything. He is perfectly calm.]
ERNEST. I was nearer to it than you.
COLONEL. [In a high, hot voice.] I don't care where you were, I
hate a fellow who can't keep cool.
MISS BEECH. [From behind the hollow tree.] Fie! Fie!
ERNEST. We're two to one, Letty says the ball was out.
COLONEL. Letty's your wife, she'd say anything.
ERNEST. Well, look here, Colonel, I'll show you the very place it
COLONEL. Gammon! You've lost your temper, you don't know what
you're talking about.
ERNEST. [coolly.] I suppose you'll admit the rule that one umpires
one's own court.
COLONEL. [Hotly.] Certainly not, in this case!
MISS BEECH. [From behind the hollow tree.] Special case!
ERNEST. [Moving chin in collar--very coolly.] Well, of course if
you won't play the game!
COLONEL. [In a towering passion.] If you lose your temper like
this, I 'll never play with you again.
[To LETTY, a pretty soul in a linen suit, approaching through
Do you mean to say that ball was out, Letty?
LETTY. Of course it was, Father.
COLONEL. You say that because he's your husband. [He sits on the
rustic seat.] If your mother'd been there she'd have backed me up!
LETTY. Mother wants Joy, Dick, about her frock.
DICK. I--I don't know where she is.
MISS BEECH. [From behind the hollow tree.] Ahem!
LETTY. What's the matter, Peachey?
MISS BEECH. Swallowed a fly. Poor creature!
ERNEST. [Returning to his point.] Why I know the ball was out,
Colonel, was because it pitched in a line with that arbutus tree.
COLONEL. [Rising.] Arbutus tree! [To his daughter.] Where's your
LETTY. In the blue room, Father.
ERNEST. The ball was a good foot out; at the height it was coming
when it passed me.
COLONEL. [Staring at him.] You're a--you're aa theorist! From
where you were you could n't see the ball at all. [To LETTY.]
Where's your mother?
LETTY. [Emphatically.] In the blue room, Father!
[The COLONEL glares confusedly, and goes away towards the blue
ERNEST. [In the swing, and with a smile.] Your old Dad'll never be
LETTY. [Indignantly.] I wish you wouldn't call Father old, Ernie!
What time's Molly coming, Peachey?
[ROSE has come from the house, and stands waiting for a chance
ERNEST. [Breaking in.] Your old Dad's only got one fault: he can't
take an impersonal view of things.
MISS BEECH. Can you find me any one who can?
ERNEST. [With a smile.] Well, Peachey!
MISS BEECH. [Ironically.] Oh! of course, there's you!
ERNEST. I don't know about that! But----
ROSE. [To LETTY,] Please, Miss, the Missis says will you and Mr.
Ernest please to move your things into Miss Peachey's room.
ERNEST. [Vexed.] Deuce of a nuisance havin' to turn out for this
fellow Lever. What did Molly want to bring him for?
MISS BEECH. Course you've no personal feeling in the matter!
ROSE. [Speaking to Miss BEECH.] The Missis says you're to please
move your things into the blue room, please Miss.
LETTY. Aha, Peachey! That settles you! Come on, Ernie!
[She goes towards the house. ERNEST, rising from the swing,
turns to Miss BEECH, who follows.]
ERNEST. [Smiling, faintly superior.] Personal, not a bit! I only
think while Molly 's out at grass, she oughtn't to----
MISS BEECH. [Sharply.] Oh! do you?
[She hustles ERNEST out through the wall, but his voice is heard
faintly from the distance: "I think it's jolly thin."]
ROSE. [To DICK.] The Missis says you're to take all your worms and
things, Sir, and put them where they won't be seen.
DICK. [Shortly.] Have n't got any!
ROSE. The Missis says she'll be very angry if you don't put your
worms away; and would you come and help kill earwigs in the blue----?
DICK. Hang! [He goes, and ROSE is left alone.]
ROSE. [Looking straight before her.] Please, Miss Joy, the Missis
says will you go to her about your frock.
[There is a little pause, then from the hollow tree joy's voice
ROSE. If you did n't come, I was to tell you she was going to put
you in the blue.
[Joy looks out of the tree.]
[Immovable, but smiling.]
Oh, Miss joy, you've done your hair up! [Joy retires into the tree.]
Please, Miss, what shall I tell the Missis?
JOY. [Joy's voice is heard.] Anything you like.
ROSE. [Over her shoulder.] I shall be drove to tell her a story,
JOY. All right! Tell it.
[ROSE goes away, and JOY comes out. She sits on the rustic seat
and waits. DICK, coming softly from the house, approaches her.]
DICK. [Looking at her intently.] Joy! I wanted to say something
[Joy does not look at him, but twists her fingers.]
I shan't see you again you know after to-morrow till I come up for
the 'Varsity match.
JOY. [Smiling.] But that's next week.
DICK. Must you go home to-morrow?
[Joy nods three times.]
I shall miss you so awfully. You don't know how I----
[Joy shakes her head.]
Do look at me! [JOY steals a look.] Oh! Joy!
[Again joy shakes her head.]
JOY. [Suddenly.] Don't!
DICK. [Seizing her hand.] Oh, Joy! Can't you----
JOY. [Drawing the hand away.] Oh! don't.
DICK. [Bending his head.] It's--it's--so----
JOY. [Quietly.] Don't, Dick!
DICK. But I can't help it! It's too much for me, Joy, I must tell
[MRS. GWYN is seen approaching towards the house.]
JOY. [Spinning round.] It's Mother--oh, Mother!
[She rushes at her.]
[MRS. GWYN is a handsome creature of thirty-six, dressed in a
muslin frock. She twists her daughter round, and kisses her.]
MRS. GWYN. How sweet you look with your hair up, Joy! Who 's this?
[Glancing with a smile at DICK.]
JOY. Dick Merton--in my letters you know.
[She looks at DICK as though she wished him gone.]
MRS. GWYN. How do you do?
DICK. [Shaking hands.] How d 'you do? I think if you'll excuse me
--I'll go in.
[He goes uncertainly.
MRS. GWYN. What's the matter with him?
JOY. Oh, nothing! [Hugging her.] Mother! You do look such a duck.
Why did you come by the towing-path, was n't it cooking?
MRS. GWYN. [Avoiding her eyes.] Mr. Lever wanted to go into Mr.
[Her manner is rather artificially composed.]
JOY. [Dully.] Oh! Is he-is he really coming here, Mother?
MRS. GWYN. [Whose voice has hardened just a little.] If Aunt Nell's
got a room for him--of course--why not?
JOY. [Digging her chin into her mother's shoulder.]
[Why couldn't he choose some day when we'd gone? I wanted you
all to myself.]
MRS. GWYN. You are a quaint child--when I was your age----
JOY. [Suddenly looking up.] Oh! Mother, you must have been a
MRS. GWYN. Well, I was about twice as old as you, I know that.
JOY. Had you any--any other offers before you were married, Mother?
MRS. GWYN. [Smilingly.] Heaps!
JOY. [Reflectively.] Oh!
MRS. GWYN. Why? Have you been having any?
JOY. [Glancing at MRS. GWYN, and then down.] N-o, of course not!
MRS. GWYN. Where are they all? Where's Peachey?
JOY. Fussing about somewhere; don't let's hurry! Oh! you duckie--
duckie! Aren't there any letters from Dad?
MRS. GWYN. [In a harder voice.] Yes, one or two.
JOY. [Hesitating.] Can't I see?
MRS. GWYN. I didn't bring them. [Changing the subject obviously.]
Help me to tidy--I'm so hot I don't know what to do.
[She takes out a powder-puff bag, with a tiny looking-glass.]
JOY. How lovely it'll be to-morrow-going home!
MRS. GWYN. [With an uneasy look.] London's dreadfully stuffy, Joy.
You 'll only get knocked up again.
JOY. [With consternation.] Oh! but Mother, I must come.
MRS. GWYN. (Forcing a smile.) Oh, well, if you must, you must!
[Joy makes a dash at her.]
Don't rumple me again. Here's Uncle Tom.
JOY. [Quickly.] Mother, we're going to dance tonight; promise to
dance with me--there are three more girls than men, at least--and
don't dance too much with--with--you know--because I'm--[dropping her
voice and very still]--jealous.
MRS. GWYN. [Forcing a laugh.] You are funny!
JOY. [Very quickly.] I haven't made any engagements because of you.
[The COLONEL approaches through the wall.]
MRS. GWYN. Well, Uncle Tom?
COLONEL. [Genially.] Why, Molly! [He kisses her.] What made you
come by the towing-path?
JOY. Because it's so much cooler, of course.
COLONEL. Hallo! What's the matter with you? Phew! you've got your
hair up! Go and tell your aunt your mother's on the lawn. Cut
[Joy goes, blowing a kiss.]
Cracked about you, Molly! Simply cracked! We shall miss her when
you take her off to-morrow. [He places a chair for her.] Sit down,
sit down, you must be tired in this heat. I 've sent Bob for your
things with the wheelbarrow; what have you got?--only a bag, I
MRS. GWYN. [Sitting, with a smile.] That's all, Uncle Tom, except--
my trunk and hat-box.
COLONEL. Phew! And what's-his-name brought a bag, I suppose?
MRS. GWYN. They're all together. I hope it's not too much, Uncle
COLONEL. [Dubiously.] Oh! Bob'll manage! I suppose you see a good
deal of--of--Lever. That's his brother in the Guards, isn't it?
MRS. GWYN. Yes.
COLONEL. Now what does this chap do?
MRS. GWYN. What should he do, Uncle Tom? He's a Director.
COLONEL. Guinea-pig! [Dubiously.] Your bringing him down was a
[MRS. GWYN, looking at him sidelong, bites her lips.]
I should like to have a look at him. But, I say, you know, Molly--
mines, mines! There are a lot of these chaps about, whose business
is to cook their own dinners. Your aunt thinks----
MRS. GWYN. Oh! Uncle Tom, don't tell me what Aunt Nell thinks!
COLONEL. Well-well! Look here, old girl! It's my experience never
to--what I mean is--never to trust too much to a man who has to do
with mining. I've always refused to have anything to do with mines.
If your husband were in England, of course, I'd say nothing.
MRS. GWYN. [Very still.] We'd better keep him out of the question,
had n't we?
COLONEL. Of course, if you wish it, my dear.
MRS. GWYN. Unfortunately, I do.
COLONEL. [Nervously.] Ah! yes, I know; but look here, Molly, your
aunt thinks you're in a very delicate position-in fact, she thinks
you see too much of young Lever.
MRS. GWYN. [Stretching herself like an angry cat.] Does she? And
what do you think?
COLONEL. I? I make a point of not thinking. I only know that here
he is, and I don't want you to go burning your fingers, eh?
[MRS. GWYN sits with a vindictive smile.]
A gold mine's a gold mine. I don't mean he deliberately--but they
take in women and parsons, and--and all sorts of fools. [Looking
down.] And then, you know, I can't tell your feelings, my dear, and
I don't want to; but a man about town 'll compromise a woman as soon
as he'll look at her, and [softly shaking his head] I don't like
that, Molly! It 's not the thing!
[MRS. GWYN sits unmoved, smiling the same smile, and the COLONEL
gives her a nervous look.]
If--if you were any other woman I should n't care--and if--if you
were a plain woman, damme, you might do what you liked! I know you
and Geoff don't get on; but here's this child of yours, devoted to
you, and--and don't you see, old girl? Eh?
MRS. GWYN. [With a little hard laugh.] Thanks! Perfectly! I
suppose as you don't think, Uncle Tom, it never occurred to you that
I have rather a lonely time of it.
COLONEL. [With compunction.] Oh! my dear, yes, of course I know it
must be beastly.
MRS. GWYN. [Stonily.] It is.
COLONEL. Yes, yes! [Speaking in a surprised voice.] I don't know
what I 'm talking like this for! It's your aunt! She goes on at me
till she gets on my nerves. What d' you think she wants me to do
now? Put money into this gold mine! Did you ever hear such folly?
MRS. GWYN. [Breaking into laughter.] Oh! Uncle Tom!
COLONEL. All very well for you to laugh, Molly!
MRS. GWYN. [Calmly.] And how much are you going to put in?
COLONEL. Not a farthing! Why, I've got nothing but my pension and
three thousand India stock!
MRS. GWYN. Only ninety pounds a year, besides your pension! D' you
mean to say that's all you've got, Uncle Tom? I never knew that
before. What a shame!
COLONEL. [Feelingly.] It is a, d--d shame! I don't suppose there's
another case in the army of a man being treated as I've been.
MRS. GWYN. But how on earth do you manage here on so little?
COLONEL. [Brooding.] Your aunt's very funny. She's a born manager.
She 'd manage the hind leg off a donkey; but if I want five shillings
for a charity or what not, I have to whistle for it. And then all of
a sudden, Molly, she'll take it into her head to spend goodness knows
what on some trumpery or other and come to me for the money. If I
have n't got it to give her, out she flies about 3 per cent., and
worries me to invest in some wild-cat or other, like your friend's
thing, the Jaco what is it? I don't pay the slightest attention to
MRS. HOPE. [From the direction of the house.] Tom!
COLONEL. [Rising.] Yes, dear! [Then dropping his voice.] I say,
Molly, don't you mind what I said about young Lever. I don't want
you to imagine that I think harm of people--you know I don't--but so
many women come to grief, and--[hotly]--I can't stand men about town;
not that he of course----
MRS. HOPE, [Peremptorily.] Tom!
COLONEL. [In hasty confidence.] I find it best to let your aunt run
on. If she says anything----
MRS. HOPE. To-om!
COLONEL. Yes, dear!
[He goes hastily. MRS. GWYN sits drawing circles on the ground
with her charming parasol. Suddenly she springs to her feet,
and stands waiting like an animal at bay. The COLONEL and MRS.
HOPE approach her talking.]
MRS. HOPE. Well, how was I to know?
COLONEL. Did n't Joy come and tell you?
MRS. HOPE. I don't know what's the matter with that child? Well,
Molly, so here you are. You're before your time--that train's always
MRS. GWYN. [With faint irony.] I'm sorry, Aunt Nell!
[They bob, seem to take fright, and kiss each other gingerly.]
MRS. HOPE. What have you done with Mr. Lever? I shall have to put
him in Peachey's room. Tom's got no champagne.
COLONEL. They've a very decent brand down at the George, Molly, I'll
send Bob over----
MRS. HOPE. Rubbish, Tom! He'll just have to put up with what he can
MRS. GWYN. Of course! He's not a snob! For goodness sake, Aunt
Nell, don't put yourself out! I'm sorry I suggested his coming.
COLONEL. My dear, we ought to have champagne in the house--in case
MRS. GWYN. [Shaking him gently by the coat.] No, please, Uncle
MRS. HOPE. [Suddenly.] Now, I've told your uncle, Molly, that he's
not to go in for this gold mine without making certain it's a good
thing. Mind, I think you've been very rash. I'm going to give you a
good talking to; and that's not all--you ought n't to go about like
this with a young man; he's not at all bad looking. I remember him
perfectly well at the Fleming's dance.
[On MRS. GWYN's lips there comes a little mocking smile.]
COLONEL. [Pulling his wife's sleeve.] Nell!
MRS. HOPE. No, Tom, I'm going to talk to Molly; she's old enough to
MRS. GWYN. Yes?
MRS. HOPE. Yes, and you'll get yourself into a mess; I don't approve
of it, and when I see a thing I don't approve of----
COLONEL. [Walking about, and pulling his moustache.] Nell, I won't
have it, I simply won't have it.
MRS. HOPE. What rate of interest are these Preference shares to pay?
MRS. GWYN. [Still smiling.] Ten per cent.
MRS. HOPE. What did I tell you, Tom? And are they safe?
MRS. GWYN. You'd better ask Maurice.
MRS. HOPE. There, you see, you call him Maurice! Now supposing your
uncle went in for some of them----
COLONEL. [Taking off his hat-in a high, hot voice] I'm not going in
for anything of the sort.
MRS. HOPE. Don't swing your hat by the brim! Go and look if you can
see him coming!
[The COLONEL goes.]
[In a lower voice.] Your uncle's getting very bald. I 've only
shoulder of lamb for lunch, and a salad. It's lucky it's too hot to
[MISS BEECH has appeared while she is speaking.]
Here she is, Peachey!
MISS BEECH. I see her. [She kisses MRS. GWYN, and looks at her
MRS. GWYN. [Shrugging her shoulders.] Well, Peachey! What d 'you
make of me?
COLONEL. [Returning from his search.] There's a white hat crossing
the second stile. Is that your friend, Molly?
[MRS. GWYN nods.]
MRS. HOPE. Oh! before I forget, Peachey--Letty and Ernest can move
their things back again. I'm going to put Mr. Lever in your room.
[Catching sight o f the paint pot on the ground.] There's that
disgusting paint pot! Take it up at once, Tom, and put it in the
[The COLONEL picks up the pot and bears it to the hollow tree
followed by MRS. HOPE; he enters.]
MRS. HOPE. [Speaking into the tree.] Not there!
COLONEL. [From within.] Well, where then?
MRS. HOPE. Why--up--oh! gracious!
[MRS. GWYN, standing alone, is smiling. LEVER approaches from
the towing-path. He is a man like a fencer's wrist, supple and
steely. A man whose age is difficult to tell, with a quick,
good-looking face, and a line between his brows; his darkish
hair is flecked with grey. He gives the feeling that he has
always had to spurt to keep pace with his own life.]
MRS. HOPE. [Also entering the hollow tree.] No-oh!
COLONEL. [From the depths, in a high voice.] Well, dash it then!
What do you want?
MRS. GWYN. Peachey, may I introduce Mr. Lever to you? Miss Beech,
my old governess.
[They shake each other by the hand.]
LEVER. How do you do? [His voice is pleasant, his manner easy.]
MISS BEECH. Pleased to meet you.
[Her manner is that of one who is not pleased. She watches.]
MRS. GWYN. [Pointing to the tree-maliciously.] This is my uncle and
my aunt. They're taking exercise, I think.
[The COLONEL and MRS. HOPE emerge convulsively. They are very
hot. LEVER and MRS. GWYN are very cool.]
MRS. HOPE. [Shaking hands with him.] So you 've got here! Are n't
you very hot?--Tom!
COLONEL. Brought a splendid day with you! Splendid!
[As he speaks, Joy comes running with a bunch of roses; seeing
LEVER, she stops and stands quite rigid.]
MISS BEECH. [Sitting in the swing.] Thunder!
COLONEL. Thunder? Nonsense, Peachey, you're always imagining
something. Look at the sky!
MISS BEECH. Thunder!
[MRS. GWYN's smile has faded. ]
MRS. HOPE. [Turning.] Joy, don't you see Mr. Lever?
[Joy, turning to her mother, gives her the roses. With a forced
smile, LEVER advances, holding out his hand.]
LEVER. How are you, Joy? Have n't seen you for an age!
JOY. [Without expression.] I am very well, thank you.
[She raises her hand, and just touches his. MRS. GWYN'S eyes
are fixed on her daughter. Miss BEECH is watching them
intently. MRS. HOPE is buttoning the COLONEL'S coat.]
The curtain falls.
It is afternoon, and at a garden-table placed beneath the hollow
tree, the COLONEL is poring over plans. Astride of a garden-
chair, LEVER is smoking cigarettes. DICK is hanging Chinese
lanterns to the hollow tree.
LEVER. Of course, if this level [pointing with his cigarette]
peters out to the West we shall be in a tightish place; you know what
a mine is at this stage, Colonel Hope.
COLONEL. [Absently.] Yes, yes. [Tracing a line.] What is there to
prevent its running out here to the East?
LEVER. Well, nothing, except that as a matter of fact it doesn't.
COLONEL. [With some excitement.] I'm very glad you showed me these
papers, very glad! I say that it's a most astonishing thing if the
ore suddenly stops there. [A gleam of humour visits LEVER'S face.]
I'm not an expert, but you ought to prove that ground to the East
LEVER. [Quizzically.] Of course, sir, if you advise that----
COLONEL. If it were mine, I'd no more sit down under the belief that
the ore stopped there than I 'd---There's a harmony in these things.
NEVER. I can only tell you what our experts say.
COLONEL. Ah! Experts! No faith in them--never had! Miners,
lawyers, theologians, cowardly lot--pays them to be cowardly. When
they have n't their own axes to grind, they've got their theories; a
theory's a dangerous thing. [He loses himself in contemplation of
the papers.] Now my theory is, you 're in strata here of what we
call the Triassic Age.
LEVER. [Smiling faintly.] Ah!
COLONEL. You've struck a fault, that's what's happened. The ore may
be as much as thirty or forty yards out; but it 's there, depend on
LEVER. Would you back that opinion, sir?
COLONEL. [With dignity.] I never give an opinion that I'm not
prepared to back. I want to get to the bottom of this. What's to
prevent the gold going down indefinitely?
LEVER. Nothing, so far as I know.
COLONEL. [With suspicion.] Eh!
LEVER. All I can tell you is: This is as far as we've got, and we
want more money before we can get any farther.
COLONEL. [Absently.] Yes, yes; that's very usual.
LEVER. If you ask my personal opinion I think it's very doubtful
that the gold does go down.
COLONEL. [Smiling.] Oh! a personal opinion a matter of this sort!
LEVER. [As though about to take the papers.] Perhaps we'd better
close the sitting, sir; sorry to have bored you.
COLONEL. Now, now! Don't be so touchy! If I'm to put money in, I'm
bound to look at it all round.
LEVER. [With lifted brows.] Please don't imagine that I want you to
put money in.
COLONEL. Confound it, sir! D 'you suppose I take you for a Company
LEVER. Thank you!
COLONEL. [Looking at him doubtfully.] You've got Irish blood in
you--um? You're so hasty!
LEVER. If you 're really thinking of taking shares--my advice to you
COLONEL. [Regretfully.] If this were an ordinary gold mine, I
wouldn't dream of looking at it, I want you to understand that.
Nobody has a greater objection to gold mines than I.
LEVER. [Looks down at his host with half-closed eyes.] But it is a
gold mine, Colonel Hope.
COLONEL. I know, I know; but I 've been into it for myself; I've
formed my opinion personally. Now, what 's the reason you don't want
me to invest?
LEVER. Well, if it doesn't turn out as you expect, you'll say it's
my doing. I know what investors are.
COLONEL. [Dubiously.] If it were a Westralian or a Kaffir I would
n't touch it with a pair of tongs! It 's not as if I were going to
put much in! [He suddenly bends above the papers as though
magnetically attracted.] I like these Triassic formations!
[DICK, who has hung the last lantern, moodily departs.]
LEVER. [Looking after him.] That young man seems depressed.
COLONEL. [As though remembering his principles.] I don't like
mines, never have! [Suddenly absorbed again.] I tell you what,
Lever--this thing's got tremendous possibilities. You don't seem to
believe in it enough. No mine's any good without faith; until I see
for myself, however, I shan't commit myself beyond a thousand.
LEVER. Are you serious, sir?
COLONEL. Certainly! I've been thinking it over ever since you told
me Henty had fought shy. I 've a poor opinion of Henty. He's one of
those fellows that says one thing and does another. An opportunist!
LEVER. [Slowly.] I'm afraid we're all that, more or less. [He sits
beneath the hollow tree.]
COLONEL. A man never knows what he is himself. There 's my wife.
She thinks she 's----By the way, don't say anything to her about
this, please. And, Lever [nervously], I don't think, you know, this
is quite the sort of thing for my niece.
LEVER. [Quietly.] I agree. I mean to get her out of it.
COLONEL. [A little taken aback.] Ah! You know, she--she's in a
very delicate position, living by herself in London. [LEVER looks at
him ironically.] You [very nervously] see a good deal of her? If
it had n't been for Joy growing so fast, we shouldn't have had the
child down here. Her mother ought to have her with her. Eh! Don't
you think so?
LEVER. [Forcing a smile.] Mrs. Gwyn always seems to me to get on
COLONEL. [As though making a discovery.] You know, I've found that
when a woman's living alone and unprotected, the very least thing
will set a lot of hags and jackanapes talking. [Hotly.] The more
unprotected and helpless a woman is, the more they revel in it. If
there's anything I hate in this world, it's those wretched creatures
who babble about their neighbours' affairs.
LEVER. I agree with you.
COLONEL. One ought to be very careful not to give them--that is----
[checks himself confused; then hurrying on]--I suppose you and Joy
get on all right?
LEVER. [Coolly.] Pretty well, thanks. I'm not exactly in Joy's
line; have n't seen very much of her, in fact.
[Miss BEECH and JOY have been approaching from the house. But
seeing LEVER, JOY turns abruptly, hesitates a moment, and with
an angry gesture goes away.]
COLONEL [Unconscious.] Wonderfully affectionate little thing! Well,
she'll be going home to-morrow!
MISS BEECH. [Who has been gazing after JOY.] Talkin' business, poor
LEVER. Oh, no! If you'll excuse me, I'll wash my hands before tea.
[He glances at the COLONEL poring over papers, and, shrugging
his shoulders, strolls away.]
MISS BEECH. [Sitting in the swing.] I see your horrid papers.
COLONEL. Be quiet, Peachey!
MISS BEECH. On a beautiful summer's day, too.
COLONEL. That'll do now.
MISS BEECH. [Unmoved.] For every ounce you take out of a gold mine
you put two in.
COLONEL. Who told you that rubbish?
MISS BEECH. [With devilry.] You did!
COLONEL. This is n't an ordinary gold mine.
MISS BEECH. Oh! quite a special thing.
[COLONEL stares at her, but subsiding at hey impassivity, he
pores again over the papers.]
[Rosy has approached with a tea cloth.]
ROSE. If you please, sir, the Missis told me to lay the tea.
COLONEL. Go away! Ten fives fifty. Ten 5 16ths, Peachey?
MISS BEECH. I hate your nasty sums!
[ROSE goes away. The COLONEL Writes. MRS. HOPE'S voice is
heard, "Now then, bring those chairs, you two. Not that one,
Ernest." ERNEST arid LETTY appear through the openings of the
wall, each with a chair.]
COLONEL. [With dull exasperation.] What do you want?
LETTY. Tea, Father.
[She places her chair arid goes away.]
ERNEST. That Johnny-bird Lever is too cocksure for me, Colonel.
Those South American things are no good at all. I know all about
them from young Scrotton. There's not one that's worth a red cent.
If you want a flutter----
COLONEL. [Explosively.] Flutter! I'm not a gambler, sir!
ERNEST. Well, Colonel [with a smile], I only don't want you to chuck
your money away on a stiff 'un. If you want anything good you should
go to Mexico.
COLONEL. [Jumping up and holding out the map.] Go to [He stops in
time.] What d'you call that, eh? M-E-X----
ERNEST. [Not to be embarrassed.] It all depend on what part.
COLONEL. You think you know everything--you think nothing's right
unless it's your own idea! Be good enough to keep your advice to
ERNEST. [Moving with his chair, and stopping with a smile.] If you
ask me, I should say it wasn't playing the game to put Molly into a
thing like that.
COLONEL. What do you mean, sir?
ERNEST. Any Juggins can see that she's a bit gone on our friend.
COLONEL. [Freezingly.] Indeed!
ERNEST. He's not at all the sort of Johnny that appeals to me.
ERNEST. [Unmoved.] If I were you, Colonel, I should tip her the
wink. He was hanging about her at Ascot all the time. It 's a bit
[MRS. HOPE followed by ROSE appears from the house.]
COLONEL. [Stammering with passion.] Jackanapes!
MRS. HOPE. Don't stand there, Tom; clear those papers, and let Rose
lay the table. Now, Ernest, go and get another chair.
[The COLONEL looks wildly round and sits beneath the hollow
tree, with his head held in his hands. ROSE lays the cloth.]
MRS. BEECH. [Sitting beside the COLONEL.] Poor creature!
ERNEST. [Carrying his chair about with him.] Ask any Johnny in the
City, he 'll tell you Mexico's a very tricky country--the people are
MRS. HOPE. Put that chair down, Ernest.
[ERNEST looks at the chair, puts it down, opens his mouth, and
goes away. ROSE follows him.]
What's he been talking about? You oughtn't to get so excited, Tom;
is your head bad, old man? Here, take these papers! [She hands the
papers to the COLONEL.] Peachey, go in and tell them tea 'll be
ready in a minute, there 's a good soul? Oh! and on my dressing
table you'll find a bottle of Eau de Cologne.
MRS. BEECH. Don't let him get in a temper again. That 's three
[She goes towards the house. ]
COLONEL. Never met such a fellow in my life, the most opinionated,
narrow-minded--thinks he knows everything. Whatever Letty could see
in him I can't think. Pragmatical beggar!
MRS. HOPE. Now Tom! What have you been up to, to get into a state
COLONEL. [Avoiding her eyes.] I shall lose my temper with him one
of these days. He's got that confounded habit of thinking nobody can
be right but himself.
MRS. HOPE. That's enough! I want to talk to you seriously! Dick's
in love. I'm perfectly certain of it.
COLONEL. Love! Who's he in love with--Peachey?
MRS. HOPE. You can see it all over him. If I saw any signs of Joy's
breaking out, I'd send them both away. I simply won't have it.
COLONEL. Why, she's a child!
MRS. HOPE. [Pursuing her own thoughts.] But she isn't--not yet.
I've been watching her very carefully. She's more in love with her
Mother than any one, follows her about like a dog! She's been quite
rude to Mr. Lever.
COLONEL. [Pursuing his own thoughts.] I don't believe a word of it.
[He rises and walks about]
MRS. HOPE. Don't believe a word of what?
[The COLONEL is Silent.]
[Pursuing his thoughts with her own.]
If I thought there was anything between Molly and Mr. Lever, d 'you
suppose I'd have him in the house?
[The COLONEL stops, and gives a sort of grunt.]
He's a very nice fellow; and I want you to pump him well, Tom, and
see what there is in this mine.
COLONEL. [Uneasily.] Pump!
MRS. HOPE. [Looking at him curiously.] Yes, you 've been up to
something! Now what is it?
COLONEL. Pump my own guest! I never heard of such a thing!
MRS. HOPE. There you are on your high horse! I do wish you had a
little common-sense, Tom!
COLONEL. I'd as soon you asked me to sneak about eavesdropping!
MRS. HOPE. Well, what were you looking at these papers for? It does
drive me so wild the way you throw away all the chances you have of
making a little money. I've got you this opportunity, and you do
nothing but rave up and down, and talk nonsense!
COLONEL. [In a high voice] Much you know about it! I 've taken a
thousand shares in this mine
[He stops dead. There is a silence. ]
MRS. HOPE. You 've--WHAT? Without consulting me? Well, then,
you 'll just go and take them out again!
COLONEL. You want me to----?
MRS. HOPE. The idea! As if you could trust your judgment in a thing
like that! You 'll just go at once and say there was a mistake; then
we 'll talk it over calmly.
COLONEL. [Drawing himself up.] Go back on what I 've said? Not if I
lose every penny! First you worry me to take the shares, and then
you worry me not--I won't have it, Nell, I won't have it!
MRS. HOPE. Well, if I'd thought you'd have forgotten what you said
this morning and turned about like this, d'you suppose I'd have
spoken to you at all? Now, do you?
COLONEL. Rubbish! If you can't see that this is a special
[He walks away followed by MRS. HOPE, who endeavors to make him
see her point of view. ERNEST and LETTY are now returning from
the house armed with a third chair.]
LETTY. What's the matter with everybody? Is it the heat?
ERNEST. [Preoccupied and sitting in the swing.] That sportsman,
Lever, you know, ought to be warned off.
LETTY. [Signing t0 ERNEST.] Where's Miss Joy, Rose?
ROSE. Don't know, Miss.
[Putting down the tray, she goes.]
[ROSE, has followed with the tea tray.]
LETTY. Ernie, be careful, you never know where Joy is.
ERNEST. [Preoccupied with his reflections.] Your old Dad 's as mad
as a hatter with me.
ERNEST. Well, I merely said what I thought, that Molly ought to look
out what's she's doing, and he dropped on me like a cartload of
LETTY. The Dad's very fond of Molly.
ERNEST. But look here, d'you mean to tell me that she and Lever
LETTY. Don't! Suppose they are! If joy were to hear it'd be simply
awful. I like Molly. I 'm not going to believe anything against
her. I don't see the use of it. If it is, it is, and if it is n't,
it is n't.
ERNEST. Well, all I know is that when I told her the mine was
probably a frost she went for me like steam.
LETTY. Well, so should I. She was only sticking up for her friends.
ERNEST. Ask the old Peachey-bird. She knows a thing or two. Look
here, I don't mind a man's being a bit of a sportsman, but I think
Molly's bringin' him down here is too thick. Your old Dad's got one
of his notions that because this Josser's his guest, he must keep him
in a glass case, and take shares in his mine, and all the rest of it.
LETTY. I do think people are horrible, always thinking things. It's
not as if Molly were a stranger. She's my own cousin. I 'm not
going to believe anything about my own cousin. I simply won't.
ERNEST. [Reluctantly realising the difference that this makes.] I
suppose it does make a difference, her bein' your cousin.
LETTY. Of course it does! I only hope to goodness no one will make
[She stops and buts her finger to her lips, for JOY is coming
towards them, as the tea-bell sounds. She is followed by DICK
and MISS BEECH with the Eau de Cologne. The COLONEL and MRS.
HOPE are also coming back, discussing still each other's point
JOY. Where 's Mother? Isn't she here?
MRS. HOPE. Now Joy, come and sit down; your mother's been told tea's
ready; if she lets it get cold it's her lookout.
DICK. [Producing a rug, and spreading it beneath the tree.] Plenty
of room, Joy.
JOY. I don't believe Mother knows, Aunt Nell.
[MRS. GWYN and LEVER appear in the opening of the wall.]
LETTY. [Touching ERNEST's arm.] Look, Ernie! Four couples and
ERNEST. [Preoccupied.] What couples?
JOY. Oh! Mums, here you are!
[Seizing her, she turns her back on LEVER. They sit in various
seats, and MRS. HOPE pours out the tea.]
MRS. HOPE. Hand the sandwiches to Mr. Lever, Peachey. It's our own
jam, Mr. Lever.
LEVER. Thanks. [He takes a bite.] It's splendid!
MRS. GWYN. [With forced gaiety.] It's the first time I've ever seen
you eat jam.
LEVER. [Smiling a forced smile.] Really! But I love it.
MRS. GWYN. [With a little bow.] You always refuse mine.
JOY. [Who has been staring at her enemy, suddenly.] I'm all burnt
up! Are n't you simply boiled, Mother?
[She touches her Mother's forehead.]
MRS. GWYN. Ugh! You're quite clammy, Joy.
JOY. It's enough to make any one clammy.
[Her eyes go back to LEVER'S face as though to stab him.]
ERNEST. [From the swing.] I say, you know, the glass is going down.
LEVER. [Suavely.] The glass in the hall's steady enough.
ERNEST. Oh, I never go by that; that's a rotten old glass.
COLONEL. Oh! is it?
ERNEST. [Paying no attention.] I've got a little ripper--never puts
you in the cart. Bet you what you like we have thunder before
MISS BEECH. [Removing her gaze from JOY to LEVER.] You don't think
we shall have it before to-night, do you?
LEVER. [Suavely.] I beg your pardon; did you speak to me?
MISS BEECH. I said, you don't think we shall have the thunder before
to-night, do you?
[She resumes her watch on joy.]
LEVER. [Blandly.] Really, I don't see any signs of it.
[Joy, crossing to the rug, flings herself down. And DICK sits
cross-legged, with his eyes fast fixed on her.]
MISS BEECH. [Eating.] People don't often see what they don't want
to, do they?
[LEVER only lifts his brows.]
MRS. GWYN. [Quickly breaking ivy.] What are you talking about? The
MISS BEECH. Isn't it?
MRS. HOPE. You'd better make a good tea, Peachey; nobody'll get
anything till eight, and then only cold shoulder. You must just put
up with no hot dinner, Mr. Lever.
LEVER. [Bowing.] Whatever is good enough for Miss Beech is good
enough for me.
MISS BEECH. [Sardonically-taking another sandwich.] So you think!
MRS. GWYN. [With forced gaiety.] Don't be so absurd, Peachey.
[MISS BEECH, grunts slightly.]
COLONEL. [Once more busy with his papers.] I see the name of your
engineer is Rodriguez--Italian, eh?
COLONEL. Don't like that!
LEVER. I believe he was born in England.
COLONEL. [Reassured.] Oh, was he? Ah!
ERNEST. Awful rotters, those Portuguese!
COLONEL. There you go!
LETTY. Well, Father, Ernie only said what you said.
MRS. HOPE. Now I want to ask you, Mr. Lever, is this gold mine safe?
If it isn't--I simply won't allow Tom to take these shares; he can't
LEVER. It rather depends on what you call safe, Mrs. Hope.
MRS. HOPE. I don't want anything extravagant, of course; if they're
going to pay their 10 per cent, regularly, and Tom can have his money
out at any time--[There is a faint whistle from the swing.] I only
want to know that it's a thoroughly genuine thing.
MRS. GWYN. [Indignantly.] As if Maurice would be a Director if it
MRS. HOPE. Now Molly, I'm simply asking----
MRS. GWYN. Yes, you are!
COLONEL. [Rising.] I'll take two thousand of those shares, Lever.
To have my wife talk like that--I 'm quite ashamed.
LEVER. Oh, come, sir, Mrs. Hope only meant----
[MRS. GWYN looks eagerly at LEVER.]
DICK. [Quietly.] Let's go on the river, Joy.
[JOY rises, and goes to her Mother's chair.]
MRS. HOPE. Of course! What rubbish, Tom! As if any one ever
invested money without making sure!
LEVER. [Ironically.] It seems a little difficult to make sure in
this case. There isn't the smallest necessity for Colonel Hope to
take any shares, and it looks to me as if he'd better not.
[He lights a cigarette.]
MRS. HOPE. Now, Mr. Lever, don't be offended! I'm very anxious for
Tom to take the shares if you say the thing's so good.
LEVER. I 'm afraid I must ask to be left out, please.
JOY. [Whispering.] Mother, if you've finished, do come, I want to
show you my room.
MRS. HOPE. I would n't say a word, only Tom's so easily taken in.
MRS. GWYN. [Fiercely.] Aunt Nell, how can't you? [Joy gives a
little savage laugh.]
LETTY. [Hastily.] Ernie, will you play Dick and me? Come on, Dick!
[All three go out towards the lawn.]
MRS. HOPE. You ought to know your Uncle by this time, Molly. He's
just like a child. He'd be a pauper to-morrow if I did n't see to
COLONEL. Understand once for all that I shall take two thousand
shares in this mine. I 'm--I 'm humiliated. [He turns and goes
towards the house.]
MRS. HOPE. Well, what on earth have I said?
[She hurries after him. ]
MRS. GWYN. [In a low voice as she passes.] You need n't insult my
[LEVER, shrugging his shoulders, has strolled aside. JOY, with
a passionate movement seen only by Miss BEECH, goes off towards
the house. MISS BEECH and MRS. GWYN aye left alone beside the
remnants of the feast.]
MISS BEECH. Molly!
[MRS. GWYN looks up startled.]
Take care, Molly, take care! The child! Can't you see?
[Apostrophising LEVER.] Take care, Molly, take care!
LEVER. [Coming back.] Awfully hot, is n't it?
MISS BEECH. Ah! and it'll be hotter if we don't mind.
LEVER. [Suavely.] Do we control these things?
[MISS BEECH looking from face to face, nods her head repeatedly;
then gathering her skirts she walks towards the house. MRS.
GWYN sits motionless, staying before her.]
Extraordinary old lady! [He pitches away his cigarette.] What's the
matter with her, Molly?
MRS. GWYN, [With an effort.] Oh! Peachey's a character!
LEVER. [Frowning.] So I see! [There is a silence.]
MRS. GWYN. Maurice!
MRS. GWYN. Aunt Nell's hopeless, you mustn't mind her.
LEVER. [In a dubious and ironic voice.] My dear girl, I 've too
much to bother me to mind trifles like that.
MRS. GWYN. [Going to him suddenly.] Tell me, won't you?
[LEVER shrugs his shoulders.]
A month ago you'd have told me soon enough!
LEVER. Now, Molly!
MRS. GWYN. Ah! [With a bitter smile.] The Spring's soon over.
LEVER. It 's always Spring between us.
MRS. GWYN. Is it?
LEVER. You did n't tell me what you were thinking about just now
when you sat there like stone.
MRS. GWYN. It does n't do for a woman to say too much.
LEVER. Have I been so bad to you that you need feel like that,
MRS. GWYN. [With a little warm squeeze of his arm.] Oh! my dear,
it's only that I'm so---
LEVER. [Gently]. So what?
MRS. GWYN. [In a low voice.] It's hateful here.
LEVER. I didn't want to come. I don't understand why you suggested
it. [MRS. GWYN is silent.] It's been a mistake.
MRS. GWYN. [Her eyes fixed on the ground.] Joy comes home to-
morrow. I thought if I brought you here--I should know----
LEVER. [Vexedly.] Um!
MRS. GWYN. [Losing her control.] Can't you SEE? It haunts me? How
are we to go on? I must know--I must know!
LEVER. I don't see that my coming----
MRS. GWYN. I thought I should have more confidence; I thought I
should be able to face it better in London, if you came down here
openly--and now--I feel I must n't speak or look at you.
LEVER. You don't think your Aunt----
MRS. GWYN. [Scornfully.] She! It's only Joy I care about.
LEVER. [Frowning.] We must be more careful, that's all. We mustn't
give ourselves away again, as we were doing just now.
MRS. GWYN. When any one says anything horrid to you, I can't help
[She puts her hand on the label of his coat.]
LEVER. My dear child, take care!
[MRS. GWYN drops her hand. She throws her head back, and her
throat is seen to work as though she were gulping down a bitter
draught. She moves away.]
[Following hastily.] Don't dear, don't! I only meant--Come, Molly,
let's be sensible. I want to tell you something about the mine.
MRS. GWYN. [With a quavering smile.] Yes-let 's talk sensibly, and
walk properly in this sensible, proper place.
[LEVER is seen trying to soothe her, and yet to walk properly.
As they disappear, they are viewed by JOY, who, like the shadow
parted from its figure, has come to join it again. She stands
now, foiled, a carnation in her hand; then flings herself on a