Part 2 out of 3
LADY MARY. Father.
LORD LOAM (a little severely). It settled itself long ago, Crichton,
when I was born a peer, and you, for instance, were born a servant.
CRICHTON (acquiescing). Yes, my lord, that was how it all came about
quite naturally in England. We had nothing to do with it there, and
we shall have as little to do with it here.
TREHERNE (relieved). That's all right.
LADY MARY (determined to clinch the matter). One moment. In short,
Crichton, his lordship will continue to be our natural head.
CRICHTON. I dare say, my lady, I dare say.
CATHERINE. But you must know.
CRICHTON. Asking your pardon, my lady, one can't be sure--on an
(They look at each other uneasily.)
LORD LOAM (warningly). Crichton, I don't like this.
CRICHTON (harassed). The more I think of it, your lordship, the more
uneasy I become myself. When I heard, my lord, that you had left
that hairpin behind--(He is pained.)
LORD LOAM (feebly). One hairpin among so many would only have caused
CRICHTON (very sorry to have to contradict him). Not so, my lord.
From that hairpin we could have made a needle; with that needle we
could, out of skins, have sewn trousers of which your lordship is in
need; indeed, we are all in need of them.
LADY MARY (suddenly self-conscious). All?
CRICHTON. On an island, my lady.
LADY MARY. Father.
CRICHTON (really more distressed by the prospect than she). My lady,
if nature does not think them necessary, you may be sure she will
not ask you to wear them. (Shaking his head.) But among all this
LADY MARY. Now you see this man in his true colours.
LORD LOAM (violently). Crichton, you will either this moment say,
'Down with nature,'
CRICHTON (scandalised). My Lord!
LORD LOAM (loftily). Then this is my last word to you; take a
(If the hut had a door he would now shut it to indicate that the
interview is closed.)
CRICHTON (in great distress). Your lordship, the disgrace--
LORD LOAM (swelling). Not another word: you may go.
LADY MARY (adamant). And don't come to me, Crichton, for a
ERNEST (whose immersion has cleared his brain). Aren't you all
forgetting that this is an island?
(This brings them to earth with a bump. LORD LOAM looks to his
eldest daughter for the fitting response.)
LADY MARY (equal to the occasion). It makes only this difference--
that you may go at once, Crichton, to some other part of the island.
(The faithful servant has been true to his superiors ever since he
was created, and never more true than at this moment; but his
fidelity is founded on trust in nature, and to be untrue to it would
be to be untrue to them. He lets the wood he has been gathering slip
to the ground, and bows his sorrowful head. He turns to obey. Then
affection for these great ones wells up in him.)
CRICHTON. My lady, let me work for you.
LADY MARY. Go.
CRICHTON. You need me so sorely; I can't desert you; I won't.
LADY MARY (in alarm, lest the others may yield). Then, father, there
is but one alternative, we must leave him.
(LORD LOAM is looking yearningly at CRICHTON.)
TREHERNE. It seems a pity.
CATHERINE (forlornly). You will work for us?
TREHERNE. Most willingly. But I must warn you all that, so far,
Crichton has done nine-tenths of the scoring.
LADY MARY. The question is, are we to leave this man?
LORD LOAM (wrapping himself in his dignity). Come, my dears.
CRICHTON. My lord!
LORD LOAM. Treherne--Ernest--get our things.
ERNEST. We don't have any, uncle. They all belong to Crichton.
TREHERNE. Everything we have he brought from the wreck--he went back
to it before it sank. He risked his life.
CRICHTON. My lord, anything you would care to take is yours.
LADY MARY (quickly). Nothing.
ERNEST. Rot! If I could have your socks, Crichton--
LADY MARY. Come, father; we are ready.
(Followed by the others, she and LORD LOAM pick their way up the
rocks. In their indignation they scarcely notice that daylight is
coming to a sudden end.)
CRICHTON. My lord, I implore you--I am not desirous of being head.
Do you have a try at it, my lord.
LORD LOAM (outraged). A try at it!
CRICHTON (eagerly). It may be that you will prove to be the best
LORD LOAM. May be! My children, come.
(They disappear proudly in single file.)
TREHERNE. Crichton, I'm sorry; but of course I must go with them.
CRICHTON. Certainly, sir.
(He calls to TWEENY, and she comes from behind the hut, where she
has been watching breathlessly.)
Will you be so kind, sir, as to take her to the others?
TWEENY. But what do it all mean?
CRICHTON. Does, Tweeny, does. (He passes her up the rocks to
TREHERNE.) We shall meet again soon, Tweeny. Good night, sir.
TREHERNE. Good night. I dare say they are not far away.
CRICHTON (thoughtfully). They went westward, sir, and the wind is
blowing in that direction. That may mean, sir, that nature is
already taking the matter into her own hands. They are all hungry,
sir, and the pot has come a-boil. (He takes off the lid.) The smell
will be borne westward. That pot is full of nature, Mr. Treherne.
Good night, sir.
TREHERNE. Good night.
(He mounts the rocks with TWEENY, and they are heard for a little
time after their figures are swallowed up in the fast growing
darkness. CRICHTON stands motionless, the lid in his hand, though he
has forgotten it, and his reason for taking it off the pot. He is
deeply stirred, but presently is ashamed of his dejection, for it is
as if he doubted his principles. Bravely true to his faith that
nature will decide now as ever before, he proceeds manfully with his
preparations for the night. He lights a ship's lantern, one of
several treasures he has brought ashore, and is filling his pipe
with crumbs of tobacco from various pockets, when the stealthy
movements of some animal in the grass startles him. With the lantern
in one hand and his cutlass in the other, he searches the ground
around the hut. He returns, lights his pipe, and sits down by the
fire, which casts weird moving shadows. There is a red gleam on his
face; in the darkness he is a strong and perhaps rather sinister
figure. In the great stillness that has fallen over the land, the
wash of the surf seems to have increased in volume. The sound is
indescribably mournful. Except where the fire is, desolation has
fallen on the island like a pall.
Once or twice, as nature dictates, CRICHTON leans forward to stir
the pot, and the smell is borne westward. He then resumes his silent
Shadows other than those cast by the fire begin to descend the
rocks. They are the adventurers returning. One by one they steal
nearer to the pot until they are squatted round it, with their hands
out to the blaze. LADY MARY only is absent. Presently she comes
within sight of the others, then stands against a tree with her
teeth clenched. One wonders, perhaps, what nature is to make of
End of Act II.
THE HAPPY HOME
The scene is the hall of their island home two years later. This
sturdy log-house is no mere extension of the hut we have seen in
process of erection, but has been built a mile or less to the west
of it, on higher ground and near a stream. When the master chose
this site, the others thought that all he expected from the stream
was a sufficiency of drinking water. They know better now every time
they go down to the mill or turn on the electric light.
This hall is the living-room of the house, and walls and roof are of
stout logs. Across the joists supporting the roof are laid many
home-made implements, such as spades, saws, fishing-rods, and from
hooks in the joists are suspended cured foods, of which hams are
specially in evidence. Deep recesses half way up the walls contain
various provender in barrels and sacks. There are some skins,
trophies of the chase, on the floor, which is otherwise bare. The
chairs and tables are in some cases hewn out of the solid wood, and
in others the result of rough but efficient carpentering. Various
pieces of wreckage from the yacht have been turned to novel uses:
thus the steering-wheel now hangs from the centre of the roof, with
electric lights attached to it encased in bladders. A lifebuoy has
become the back of a chair. Two barrels have been halved and turn
coyly from each other as a settee.
The farther end of the room is more strictly the kitchen, and is a
great recess, which can be shut off from the hall by folding doors.
There is a large open fire in it. The chimney is half of one of the
boats of the yacht. On the walls of the kitchen proper are many
plate-racks, containing shells; there are rows of these of one size
and shape, which mark them off as dinner plates or bowls; others are
as obviously tureens. They are arranged primly as in a well-
conducted kitchen; indeed, neatness and cleanliness are the note
struck everywhere, yet the effect of the whole is romantic and
The outer door into this hall is a little peculiar on an island. It
is covered with skins and is in four leaves, like the swing doors of
fashionable restaurants, which allow you to enter without allowing
the hot air to escape. During the winter season our castaways have
found the contrivance useful, but Crichton's brain was perhaps a
little lordly when he conceived it. Another door leads by a passage
to the sleeping-rooms of the house, which are all on the ground-
floor, and to Crichton's work-room, where he is at this moment, and
whither we should like to follow him, but in a play we may not, as
it is out of sight. There is a large window space without a window,
which, however, can be shuttered, and through this we have a view
of cattle-sheds, fowl-pens, and a field of grain. It is a fine
Tweeny is sitting there, very busy plucking the feathers off a bird
and dropping them on a sheet placed for that purpose on the floor.
She is trilling to herself in the lightness of her heart. We may
remember that Tweeny, alone among the women, had dressed wisely for
an island when they fled the yacht, and her going-away gown still
adheres to her, though in fragments. A score of pieces have been
added here and there as necessity compelled, and these have been
patched and repatched in incongruous colours; but, when all is said
and done, it can still be maintained that Tweeny wears a skirt. She
is deservedly proud of her skirt, and sometimes lends it on
important occasions when approached in the proper spirit.
Some one outside has been whistling to Tweeny; the guarded whistle
which, on a less savage island, is sometimes assumed to be an
indication to cook that the constable is willing, if the coast be
clear. Tweeny, however, is engrossed, or perhaps she is not in the
mood for a follower, so he climbs in at the window undaunted, to
take her willy nilly. He is a jolly-looking labouring man, who
answers to the name of Daddy, and--But though that may be his island
name, we recognise him at once. He is Lord Loam, settled down to the
new conditions, and enjoying life heartily as handy-man about the
happy home. He is comfortably attired in skins. He is still stout,
but all the flabbiness has dropped from him; gone too is his
pomposity; his eye is clear, brown his skin; he could leap a gate.
In his hands he carries an island-made concertina, and such is the
exuberance of his spirits that, as he lights on the floor, he bursts
into music and song, something about his being a chickety chickety
chick chick, and will Tweeny please to tell him whose chickety chick
is she. Retribution follows sharp. We hear a whir, as if from
insufficiently oiled machinery, and over the passage door appears a
placard showing the one word 'Silence.' His lordship stops, and
steals to Tweeny on his tiptoes.
LORD LOAM. I thought the Gov. was out.
TWEENY. Well, you see he ain't. And if he were to catch you here
(LORD LOAM pales. He lays aside his musical instrument and hurriedly
dons an apron. TWEENY gives him the bird to pluck, and busies
herself laying the table for dinner.)
LORD LOAM (softly). What is he doing now?
TWEENY. I think he's working out that plan for laying on hot and
LORD LOAM (proud of his master). And he'll manage it too. The man
who could build a blacksmith's forge without tools--
TWEENY (not less proud). He made the tools.
LORD LOAM. Out of half a dozen rusty nails. The saw-mill, Tweeny;
the speaking-tube; the electric lighting; and look at the use he has
made of the bits of the yacht that were washed ashore. And all in
two years. He's a master I'm proud to pluck for.
(He chirps happily at his work, and she regards him curiously.)
TWEENY. Daddy, you're of little use, but you're a bright, cheerful
creature to have about the house. (He beams at this commendation.)
Do you ever think of old times now? We was a bit different.
LORD LOAM (pausing). Circumstances alter cases. (He resumes his
TWEENY. But, Daddy, if the chance was to come of getting back?
LORD LOAM. I have given up bothering about it.
TWEENY. You bothered that day long ago when we saw a ship passing
the island. How we all ran like crazy folk into the water, Daddy,
and screamed and held out our arms. (They are both a little
agitated.) But it sailed away, and we've never seen another.
LORD LOAM. If we had had the electrical contrivance we have now we
could have attracted that ship's notice. (Their eyes rest on a
mysterious apparatus that fills a corner of the hall.) A touch on
that lever, Tweeny, and in a few moments bonfires would be blazing
all round the shore.
TWEENY (backing from the lever as if it might spring at her). It's
the most wonderful thing he has done.
LORD LOAM (in a reverie). And then--England--home!
TWEENY (also seeing visions). London of a Saturday night!
LORD LOAM. My lords, in rising once more to address this historic
TWEENY. There was a little ham and beef shop off the Edgware Road--
(The visions fade; they return to the practical.)
LORD LOAM. Tweeny, do you think I could have an egg to my tea? (At
this moment a wiry, athletic figure in skins darkens the window. He
is carrying two pails, which are suspended from a pole on his
shoulder, and he is ERNEST. We should say that he is ERNEST
completely changed if we were of those who hold that people change.
As he enters by the window he has heard LORD LOAM's appeal, and is
perhaps justifiably indignant.)
ERNEST. What is that about an egg? Why should you have an egg?
LORD LOAM (with hauteur). That is my affair, sir. (With a Parthian
shot as he withdraws stiffly from the room.) The Gov. has never put
my head in a bucket.
ERNEST (coming to rest on one of his buckets, and speaking with
excusable pride. To TWEENY). Nor mine for nearly three months. It
was only last week, Tweeny, that he said to me, 'Ernest, the water
cure has worked marvels in you, and I question whether I shall
require to dip you any more.' (Complacently.) Of course that sort of
thing encourages a fellow.
TWEENY (who has now arranged the dinner table to her satisfaction).
I will say, Erny, I never seen a young chap more improved.
ERNEST (gratified). Thank you, Tweeny, that's very precious to me.
(She retires to the fire to work the great bellows with her foot,
and ERNEST turns to TREHERNE, who has come in looking more like a
cow-boy than a clergyman. He has a small box in his hand which he
tries to conceal.) What have you got there, John?
TREHERNE. Don't tell anybody. It is a little present for the Gov.; a
set of razors. One for each day in the week.
ERNEST (opening the box and examining its contents.) Shells! He'll
like that. He likes sets of things.
TREHERNE (in a guarded voice). Have you noticed that?
TREHERNE. He's becoming a bit magnificent in his ideas.
ERNEST (huskily). John, it sometimes gives me the creeps.
TREHERNE (making sure that TWEENY is out of hearing). What do you
think of that brilliant robe he got the girls to make for him.
ERNEST (uncomfortably). I think he looks too regal in it.
TREHERNE. Regal! I sometimes fancy that that's why he's so fond of
wearing it. (Practically.) Well, I must take these down to the
grindstone and put an edge on them.
ERNEST (button-holing him). I say, John, I want a word with you.
ERNEST (become suddenly diffident). Dash it all, you know, you're a
TREHERNE. One of the best things the Gov. has done is to insist that
none of you forget it.
ERNEST (taking his courage in his hands). Then--would you, John?
ERNEST (wistfully). Officiate at a marriage ceremony, John?
TREHERNE (slowly). Now, that's really odd.
ERNEST. Odd? Seems to me it's natural. And whatever is natural,
John, is right.
TREHERNE. I mean that same question has been put to me today
ERNEST (eagerly). By one of the women?
TREHERNE. Oh no; they all put it to me long ago. This was by the
ERNEST. By Jove! (Admiringly.) I say, John, what an observant beggar
TREHERNE. Ah! You fancy he was thinking of you?
ERNEST. I do not hesitate to affirm, John, that he has seen the
love-light in my eyes. You answered--
TREHERNE. I said Yes, I thought it would be my duty to officiate if
ERNEST. You're a brick.
TREHERNE (still pondering). But I wonder whether he was thinking of
ERNEST. Make your mind easy about that.
TREHERNE. Well, my best wishes. Agatha is a very fine girl.
ERNEST. Agatha? What made you think it was Agatha?
TREHERNE. Man alive, you told me all about it soon after we were
ERNEST. Pooh! Agatha's all very well in her way, John, but I'm
flying at bigger game.
TREHERNE. Ernest, which is it?
ERNEST. Tweeny, of course.
TREHERNE. Tweeny? (Reprovingly.) Ernest, I hope her cooking has
nothing to do with this.
ERNEST (with dignity). Her cooking has very little to do with it.
TREHERNE. But does she return your affection.
ERNEST (simply). Yes, John, I believe I may say so. I am unworthy of
her, but I think I have touched her heart.
TREHERNE (with a sigh). Some people seem to have all the luck. As
you know, Catherine won't look at me.
ERNEST. I'm sorry, John.
TREHERNE. It's my deserts; I'm a second eleven sort of chap. Well,
my heartiest good wishes, Ernest.
ERNEST. Thank you, John. How's the little black pig to-day?
TREHERNE (departing). He has begun to eat again.
(After a moment's reflection ERNEST calls to TWEENY.)
ERNEST. Are you very busy, Tweeny?
TWEENY (coming to him good-naturedly). There's always work to do;
but if you want me, Ernest--
ERNEST. There's something I should like to say to you if you could
spare me a moment.
TWEENY. Willingly. What is it?
ERNEST. What an ass I used to be, Tweeny.
TWEENY (tolerantly). Oh, let bygones be bygones.
ERNEST (sincerely, and at his very best). I'm no great shakes even
now. But listen to this, Tweeny; I have known many women, but until
I knew you I never knew any woman.
TWEENY (to whose uneducated ears this sounds dangerously like an
epigram). Take care--the bucket.
ERNEST (hurriedly). I didn't mean it in that way. (He goes
chivalrously on his knees.) Ah, Tweeny, I don't undervalue the
bucket, but what I want to say now is that the sweet refinement of a
dear girl has done more for me than any bucket could do.
TWEENY (with large eyes). Are you offering to walk out with me,
ERNEST (passionately). More than that. I want to build a little
house for you--in the sunny glade down by Porcupine Creek. I want to
make chairs for you and tables; and knives and forks, and a
sideboard for you.
TWEENY (who is fond of language). I like to hear you. (Eyeing him.)
Would there be any one in the house except myself, Ernest?
ERNEST (humbly). Not often; but just occasionally there would be
your adoring husband.
TWEENY (decisively). It won't do, Ernest.
ERNEST (pleading). It isn't as if I should be much there.
TWEENY. I know, I know; but I don't love you, Ernest. I'm that
ERNEST (putting his case cleverly). Twice a week I should be away
altogether--at the dam. On the other days you would never see me
from breakfast time to supper. (With the self-abnegation of the true
lover.) If you like I'll even go fishing on Sundays.
TWEENY. It's no use, Erny.
ERNEST (rising manfully). Thank you, Tweeny; it can't be helped.
(Then he remembers.) Tweeny, we shall be disappointing the Gov.
TWEENY (with a sinking). What's that?
ERNEST. He wanted us to marry.
TWEENY (blankly). You and me? the Gov.! (Her head droops woefully.
From without is heard the whistling of a happier spirit, and TWEENY
draws herself up fiercely.) That's her; that's the thing what has
stole his heart from me. (A stalwart youth appears at the window, so
handsome and tingling with vitality that, glad to depose CRICHTON,
we cry thankfully, 'The Hero at last.' But it is not the hero; it is
the heroine. This splendid boy, clad in skins, is what nature has
done for LADY MARY. She carries bow and arrows and a blow-pipe, and
over her shoulder is a fat buck, which she drops with a cry of
triumph. Forgetting to enter demurely, she leaps through the
window.) (Sourly.) Drat you, Polly, why don't you wipe your feet?
LADY MARY (good-naturedly). Come, Tweeny, be nice to me. It's a
splendid buck. (But TWEENY shakes her off, and retires to the
ERNEST. Where did you get it?
LADY MARY (gaily). I sighted a herd near Penguin's Creek, but had to
creep round Silver Lake to get to windward of them. However, they
spotted me and then the fun began. There was nothing for it but to
try and run them down, so I singled out a fat buck and away we went
down the shore of the lake, up the valley of rolling stones; he
doubled into Brawling River and took to the water, but I swam after
him; the river is only half a mile broad there, but it runs strong.
He went spinning down the rapids, down I went in pursuit; he
clambered ashore, I clambered ashore; away we tore helter-skelter up
the hill and down again. I lost him in the marshes, got on his track
again near Bread Fruit Wood, and brought him down with an arrow in
TWEENY (staring at her). Aren't you tired?
LADY MARY. Tired! It was gorgeous. (She runs up a ladder and
deposits her weapons on the joists. She is whistling again.)
TWEENY (snapping). I can't abide a woman whistling.
LADY MARY (indifferently). I like it.
TWEENY (stamping her foot). Drop it, Polly, I tell you.
LADY MARY (stung). I won't. I'm as good as you are. (They are facing
each other defiantly.)
ERNEST (shocked). Is this necessary? Think how it would pain him.
(LADY MARY's eyes take a new expression. We see them soft for the
LADY MARY (contritely). Tweeny, I beg your pardon. If my whistling
annoys you, I shall try to cure myself of it. (Instead of calming
TWEENY, this floods her face in tears.) Why, how can that hurt you,
TWEENY. Because I can't make you lose your temper.
LADY MARY (divinely). Indeed, I often do. Would that I were nicer to
TWEENY. There you are again. (Wistfully.) What makes you want to be
so nice, Polly?
LADY MARY (with fervour). Only thankfulness, Tweeny. (She exults.)
It is such fun to be alive. (So also seem to think CATHERINE and
AGATHA, who bounce in with fishing-rods and creel. They, too, are in
CATHERINE. We've got some ripping fish for the Gov.'s dinner. Are we
in time? We ran all the way.
TWEENY (tartly). You'll please to cook them yourself, Kitty, and
look sharp about it. (She retires to her hearth, where AGATHA
AGATHA (yearning). Has the Gov. decided who is to wait upon him to-day?
CATHERINE (who is cleaning her fish). It's my turn.
AGATHA (hotly). I don't see that.
TWEENY (with bitterness). It's to be neither of you, Aggy; he wants
(LADY MARY is unable to resist a joyous whistle.)
AGATHA (jealously). Polly, you toad. (But they cannot make LADY MARY
TWEENY (storming). How dare you look so happy?
LADY MARY (willing to embrace her). I wish, Tweeny, there was
anything I could do to make you happy also.
TWEENY. Me! Oh, I'm happy. (She remembers ERNEST, whom it is easy to
forget on an island.) I've just had a proposal, I tell you.
(LADY MARY is shaken at last, and her sisters with her.)
AGATHA. A proposal?
CATHERINE (going white). Not--not--(She dare not say his name.)
ERNEST (with singular modesty). You needn't be alarmed; it's only
LADY MARY (relieved). Oh, you!
AGATHA (happy again). Ernest, you dear, I got such a shock.
CATHERINE. It was only Ernest. (Showing him her fish in
thankfulness.) They are beautifully fresh; come and help me to cook
ERNEST (with simple dignity). Do you mind if I don't cook fish to-
night? (She does not mind in the least. They have all forgotten him.
A lark is singing in three hearts.) I think you might all be a
little sorry for a chap. (But they are not even sorry, and he
addresses AGATHA in these winged words:) I'm particularly
disappointed in you, Aggy; seeing that I was half engaged to you, I
think you might have had the good feeling to be a little more hurt.
AGATHA. Oh, bother.
ERNEST (summing up the situation in so far as it affects himself). I
shall now go and lie down for a bit. (He retires coldly but
unregretted. LADY MARY approaches TWEENY with her most insinuating
LADY MARY. Tweeny, as the Gov. has chosen me to wait on him, please
may I have the loan of it again? (The reference made with such
charming delicacy is evidently to TWEENY's skirt.)
TWEENY (doggedly). No, you mayn't.
AGATHA (supporting TWEENY). Don't you give it to her.
LADY MARY (still trying sweet persuasion). You know quite well that
he prefers to be waited on in a skirt.
TWEENY. I don't care. Get one for yourself.
LADY MARY. It is the only one on the island.
TWEENY. And it's mine.
LADY MARY (an aristocrat after all). Tweeny, give me that skirt
TWEENY. I won't.
LADY MARY (clearing for action). I shall make you.
TWEENY. I should like to see you try.
(An unseemly fracas appears to be inevitable, but something happens.
The whir is again heard, and the notice is displayed 'Dogs delight
to bark and bite.' Its effect is instantaneous and cheering. The
ladies look at each other guiltily and immediately proceed on tiptoe
to their duties. These are all concerned with the master's dinner.
CATHERINE attends to his fish. AGATHA fills a quaint toast-rack and
brings the menu, which is written on a shell. LADY MARY twists a
wreath of green leaves around her head, and places a flower beside
the master's plate. TWEENY signs that all is ready, and she and the
younger sisters retire into the kitchen, drawing the screen that
separates it from the rest of the room. LADY MARY beats a tom-tom,
which is the dinner bell. She then gently works a punkah, which we
have not hitherto observed, and stands at attention. No doubt she is
in hopes that the Gov. will enter into conversation with her, but
she is too good a parlour-maid to let her hopes appear in her face.
We may watch her manner with complete approval. There is not one of
us who would not give her £26 a year.
The master comes in quietly, a book in his hand, still the only book
on the island, for he has not thought it worth while to build a
printing-press. His dress is not noticeably different from that of
the others, the skins are similar, but perhaps these are a trifle
more carefully cut or he carries them better. One sees somehow that
he has changed for his evening meal. There is an odd suggestion of a
dinner jacket about his doeskin coat. It is, perhaps, too grave a
face for a man of thirty-two, as if he were over much immersed in
affairs, yet there is a sunny smile left to lighten it at times and
bring back its youth; perhaps too intellectual a face to pass as
strictly handsome, not sufficiently suggestive of oats. His tall
figure is very straight, slight rather than thick-set, but nobly
muscular. His big hands, firm and hard with labour though they be,
are finely shaped--note the fingers so much more tapered, the nails
better tended than those of his domestics; they are one of many
indications that he is of a superior breed. Such signs, as has often
been pointed out, are infallible. A romantic figure, too. One can
easily see why the women-folks of this strong man's house both adore
and fear him.
He does not seem to notice who is waiting on him to-night, but
inclines his head slightly to whoever it is, as she takes her place
at the back of his chair. LADY MARY respectfully places the menu-
shell before him, and he glances at it.)
CRICHTON. Clear, please.
(LADY MARY knocks on the screen, and a serving hutch in it opens,
through which TWEENY offers two soup plates. LADY MARY selects the
clear, and the aperture is closed. She works the punkah while the
master partakes of the soup.)
CRICHTON (who always gives praise where it is due). An excellent
soup, Polly, but still a trifle too rich.
LADY MARY. Thank you.
(The next course is the fish, and while it is being passed through
the hutch we have a glimpse of three jealous women.
LADY MARY'S movements are so deft and noiseless that any observant
spectator can see that she was born to wait at table.)
CRICHTON (unbending as he eats). Polly, you are a very smart girl.
LADY MARY (bridling, but naturally gratified). La!
CRICHTON (smiling). And I'm not the first you've heard it from, I'll
LADY MARY (wriggling). Oh God!
CRICHTON. Got any followers on the island, Polly?
LADY MARY (tossing her head). Certainly not.
CRICHTON. I thought that perhaps John or Ernest--
LADY MARY (tilting her nose). I don't say that it's for want of
CRICHTON (emphatically). I'm sure it isn't. (Perhaps he thinks he
has gone too far.) You may clear.
(Flushed with pleasure, she puts before him a bird and vegetables,
sees that his beaker is fitted with wine, and returns to the punkah.
She would love to continue their conversation, but it is for him to
decide. For a time he seems to have forgotten her.)
CRICHTON. Did you lose any arrows to-day?
LADY MARY. Only one in Firefly Grove.
CRICHTON. You were as far as that? How did you get across the Black
LADY MARY. I went across on the rope.
CRICHTON. Hand over hand?
LADY MARY (swelling at the implied praise). I wasn't in the least
CRICHTON (moved). You brave girl! (He sits back in his chair a
little agitated.) But never do that again.
LADY MARY (pouting). It is such fun, Gov.
CRICHTON (decisively). I forbid it.
LADY MARY (the little rebel). I shall.
CRICHTON (surprised). Polly! (He signs to her sharply to step
forward, but for a moment she holds back petulantly, and even when
she does come it is less obediently than like a naughty, sulky
child. Nevertheless, with the forbearance that is characteristic of
the man, he addresses her with grave gentleness rather than
severely.) You must do as I tell you, you know.
LADY MARY (strangely passionate). I shan't.
CRICHTON (smiling at her fury). We shall see. Frown at me, Polly;
there, you do it at once. Clench your little fists, stamp your feet,
bite your ribbons--(A student of women, or at least of this woman,
he knows that she is about to do those things, and thus she seems to
do them to order. LADY MARY screws up her face like a baby and
cries. He is immediately kind.) You child of nature; was it cruel of
me to wish to save you from harm?
LADY MARY (drying her eyes). I'm an ungracious wretch. Oh God, I
don't try half hard enough to please you. I'm even wearing--(she
looks down sadly)--when I know you prefer it.
CRICHTON (thoughtfully). I admit I do prefer it. Perhaps I am a
little old-fashioned in these matters. (Her tears again threaten.)
Ah, don't, Polly; that's nothing.
LADY MARY. If I could only please you, Gov.
CRICHTON (slowly). You do please me, child, very much--(he half
rises)--very much indeed. (If he meant to say more he checks
himself. He looks at his plate.) No more, thank you. (The simple
island meal is ended, save for the walnuts and the wine, and
CRICHTON is too busy a man to linger long over them. But he is a
stickler for etiquette, end the table is cleared charmingly, though
with dispatch, before they are placed before him. LADY MARY is an
artist with the crumb-brush, and there are few arts more delightful
to watch. Dusk has come sharply, and she turns on the electric
light. It awakens CRICHTON from a reverie in which he has been
CRICHTON. Polly, there is only one thing about you that I don't quite
like. (She looks up, making a moue, if that can be said of one who so
well knows her place. He explains.) That action of the hands.
LADY MARY. What do I do?
CRICHTON. So--like one washing them. I have noticed that the others
tend to do it also. It seems odd.
LADY MARY (archly). Oh Gov., have you forgotten?
LADY MARY. That once upon a time a certain other person did that.
CRICHTON (groping). You mean myself? (She nods, and he shudders.)
LADY MARY (afraid she has hurt him). You haven't for a very long
time. Perhaps it is natural to servants.
CRICHTON. That must be it. (He rises.) Polly! (She looks up
expectantly, but he only sighs and turns away.)
LADY MARY (gently). You sighed, Gov.
CRICHTON. Did I? I was thinking. (He paces the room and then turns
to her agitatedly, yet with control over his agitation. There is
some mournfulness in his voice.) I have always tried to do the right
thing on this island. Above all, Polly, I want to do the right thing
LADY MARY (with shining eyes). How we all trust you. That is your
CRICHTON (who is having a fight with himself). And now I want a
greater reward. Is it fair to you? Am I playing the game? Bill
Crichton would like always to play the game. If we were in England--
(He pauses so long that she breaks in softly.)
LADY MARY. We know now that we shall never see England again.
CRICHTON. I am thinking of two people whom neither of us has seen
for a long time--Lady Mary Lasenby, and one Crichton, a butler. (He
says the last word bravely, a word he once loved, though it is the
most horrible of all words to him now.)
LADY MARY. That cold, haughty, insolent girl. Gov., look around you
and forget them both.
CRICHTON. I had nigh forgotten them. He has had a chance, Polly--
that butler--in these two years of becoming a man, and he has tried
to take it. There have been many failures, but there has been some
success, and with it I have let the past drop off me, and turned my
back on it. That butler seems a far-away figure to me now, and not
myself. I hail him, but we scarce know each other. If I am to bring
him back it can only be done by force, for in my soul he is now
abhorrent to me. But if I thought it best for you I'd haul him back;
I swear as an honest man, I would bring him back with all his
obsequious ways and deferential airs, and let you see the man you
call your Gov. melt for ever into him who was your servant.
LADY MARY (shivering). You hurt me. You say these things, but you
say them like a king. To me it is the past that was not real.
CRICHTON (too grandly). A king! I sometimes feel--(For a moment the
yellow light gleams in his green eyes. We remember suddenly what
TREHERNE and ERNEST said about his regal look. He checks himself.) I
say it harshly, it is so hard to say, and all the time there is
another voice within me crying--(He stops.)
LADY MARY (trembling but not afraid). If it is the voice of nature--
CRICHTON (strongly). I know it to be the voice of nature.
LADY MARY (in a whisper). Then, if you want to say it very much,
Gov., please say it to Polly Lasenby.
CRICHTON (again in the grip of an idea). A king! Polly, some people
hold that the soul but leaves one human tenement for another, and so
lives on through all the ages. I have occasionally thought of late
that, in some past existence, I may have been a king. It has all
come to me so naturally, not as if I had had to work it out, but-as-
if-I-remembered. 'Or ever the knightly years were gone, With the old
world to the grave, I was a king in Babylon, And you were a
Christian slave.' It may have been; you hear me, it may have been.
LADY MARY (who is as one fascinated). It may have been.
CRICHTON. I am lord over all. They are but hewers of wood and
drawers of water for me. These shores are mine. Why should I
hesitate; I have no longer any doubt. I do believe I am doing the
right thing. Dear Polly, I have grown to love you; are you afraid to
mate with me? (She rocks her arms; no words will come from her.) 'I
was a king in Babylon, And you were a Christian slave.'
LADY MARY (bewitched). You are the most wonderful man I have ever
known, and I am not afraid. (He takes her to him reverently.
Presently he is seated, and she is at his feet looking up adoringly
in his face. As the tension relaxes she speaks with a smile.) I want
you to tell me--every woman likes to know--when was the first time
you thought me nicer than the others?
CRICHTON (who, like all big men, is simple). I think a year ago. We
were chasing goats on the Big Slopes, and you out-distanced us all;
you were the first of our party to run a goat down; I was proud of
you that day.
LADY MARY (blushing with pleasure). Oh Gov., I only did it to please
you. Everything I have done has been out of the desire to please
you. (Suddenly anxious.) If I thought that in taking a wife from
among us you were imperilling your dignity--
CRICHTON (perhaps a little masterful). Have no fear of that, dear. I
have thought it all out. The wife, Polly, always takes the same
position as the husband.
LADY MARY. But I am so unworthy. It was sufficient to me that I
should be allowed to wait on you at that table.
CRICHTON. You shall wait on me no longer. At whatever table I sit,
Polly, you shall soon sit there also. (Boyishly.) Come, let us try
what it will be like.
LADY MARY. As your servant at your feet.
CRICHTON. No, as my consort by my side.
(They are sitting thus when the hatch is again opened and coffee
offered. But LADY MARY is no longer there to receive it. Her sisters
peep through in consternation. In vain they rattle the cup and
saucer. AGATHA brings the coffee to CRICHTON.)
CRICHTON (forgetting for the moment that it is not a month hence).
Help your mistress first, girl. (Three women are bereft of speech,
but he does not notice it. He addresses CATHERINE vaguely.) Are you
a good girl, Kitty?
CATHERINE (when she finds her tongue). I try to be, Gov.
CRICHTON (still more vaguely). That's right. (He takes command of
himself again, and signs to them to sit down. ERNEST comes in
cheerily, but finding CRICHTON here is suddenly weak. He subsides on
a chair, wondering what has happened.)
CRICHTON (surveying him). Ernest. (ERNEST rises.) You are becoming a
little slovenly in your dress, Ernest; I don't like it.
ERNEST (respectfully). Thank you. (ERNEST sits again. DADDY and
CRICHTON. Daddy, I want you.
LORD LOAM (with a sinking). Is it because I forgot to clean out the
CRICHTON (encouragingly). No, no. (He pours some wine into a
goblet.) A glass of wine with you, Daddy.
LORD LOAM (hastily). Your health, Gov. (He is about to drink, but
the master checks him.)
CRICHTON. And hers. Daddy, this lady has done me the honour to
promise to be my wife.
LORD LOAM (astounded). Polly!
CRICHTON (a little perturbed). I ought first to have asked your
consent. I deeply regret--but nature; may I hope I have your
LORD LOAM. May you, Gov.? (Delighted.) Rather! Polly! (He puts his
proud arms round her.)
TREHERNE. We all congratulate you, Gov., most heartily.
ERNEST. Long life to you both, sir.
(There is much shaking of hands, all of which is sincere.)
TREHERNE. When will it be, Gov.?
CRICHTON (after turning to LADY MARY, who whispers to him). As soon
as the bridal skirt can be prepared. (His manner has been most
indulgent, and without the slightest suggestion of patronage. But he
knows it is best for all that he should keep his place, and that his
presence hampers them.) My friends, I thank you for your good
wishes, I thank you all. And now, perhaps you would like me to leave
you to yourselves. Be joyous. Let there be song and dance to-night.
Polly, I shall take my coffee in the parlour--you understand.
(He retires with pleasant dignity. Immediately there is a rush of
two girls at LADY MARY.)
LADY MARY. Oh, oh! Father, they are pinching me.
LORD LOAM (taking her under his protection). Agatha, Catherine,
never presume to pinch your sister again. On the other hand, she may
pinch you henceforth as much as ever she chooses.
(In the meantime TWEENY is weeping softly, and the two are not above
using her as a weapon.)
CATHERINE. Poor Tweeny, it's a shame.
AGATHA. After he had almost promised you.
TWEENY (loyally turning on them). No, he never did. He was always
honourable as could be. 'Twas me as was too vulgar. Don't you dare
say a word agin that man.
ERNEST (to LORD LOAM). You'll get a lot of tit-bits out of this,
LORD LOAM. That's what I was thinking.
ERNEST (plunged in thought). I dare say I shall have to clean out
the dam now.
LORD LOAM (heartlessly). I dare say. (His gay old heart makes him
again proclaim that he is a chickety chick. He seizes the
TREHERNE (eagerly). That's the proper spirit. (He puts his arm round
CATHERINE, and in another moment they are all dancing to Daddy's
music. Never were people happier on an island. A moment's pause is
presently created by the return of CRICHTON, wearing the wonderful
robe of which we have already had dark mention. Never has he looked
more regal, never perhaps felt so regal. We need not grudge him the
one foible of his rule, for it is all coming to an end.)
CRICHTON (graciously, seeing them hesitate). No, no; I am delighted
to see you all so happy. Go on.
TREHERNE. We don't like to before you, Gov.
CRICHTON (his last order). It is my wish.
(The merrymaking is resumed, and soon CRICHTON himself joins in the
dance. It is when the fun is at its fastest and most furious that
all stop abruptly as if turned to stone. They have heard the boom of
a gun. Presently they are alive again. ERNEST leaps to the window.)
TREHERNE (huskily). It was a ship's gun. (They turn to CRICHTON for
confirmation; even in that hour they turn to CRICHTON.) Gov.?
(In another moment LADY MARY and LORD LOAM are alone.)
LADY MARY (seeing that her father is unconcerned). Father, you
LORD LOAM (placidly). Yes, my child.
LADY MARY (alarmed by his unnatural calmness). But it was a gun,
LORD LOAM (looking an old man now, and shuddering a little). Yes--a
gun--I have often heard it. It's only a dream, you know; why don't
we go on dancing?
(She takes his hands, which have gone cold.)
LADY MARY. Father. Don't you see, they have all rushed down to the
LORD LOAM. Rushed down to the beach; yes, always that--I often dream
LADY MARY. Come, father, come.
LORD LOAM. Only a dream, my poor girl.
(CRICHTON returns. He is pale but firm.)
CRICHTON. We can see lights within a mile of the shore--a great
LORD LOAM. A ship--always a ship.
LADY MARY. Father, this is no dream.
LORD LOAM (looking timidly at CRICHTON). It's a dream, isn't it?
There's no ship?
CRICHTON (soothing him with a touch). You are awake, Daddy, and
there is a ship.
LORD LOAM (clutching him). You are not deceiving me?
CRICHTON. It is the truth.
LORD LOAM (reeling). True?--a ship--at last!
(He goes after the others pitifully.)
CRICHTON (quietly). There is a small boat between it and the island;
they must have sent it ashore for water.
LADY MART. Coming in?
CRICHTON. No. That gun must have been a signal to recall it. It is
going back. They can't hear our cries.
LADY MARY (pressing her temples). Going away. So near--so near.
(Almost to herself.) I think I'm glad.
CRICHTON (cheerily). Have no fear. I shall bring them back.
(He goes towards the table on which is the electrical apparatus.)
LADY MARY (standing on guard as it were between him and the table).
What are you going to do?
CRICHTON. To fire the beacons.
LADY MARY. Stop! (She faces him.) Don't you see what it means?
CRICHTON (firmly). It means that our life on the island has come to
a natural end.
LADY MARY (husky). Gov., let the ship go--
CRICHTON. The old man--you saw what it means to him.
LADY MARY. But I am afraid.
CRICHTON (adoringly). Dear Polly.
LADY MARY. Gov., let the ship go.
CRICHTON (she clings to him, but though it is his death sentence he
loosens her hold). Bill Crichton has got to play the game. (He pulls
the levers. Soon through the window one of the beacons is seen
flaring red. There is a long pause. Shouting is heard. ERNEST is the
first to arrive.)
ERNEST. Polly, Gov., the boat has turned back. They are English
sailors; they have landed! We are rescued, I tell you, rescued!
LADY MARY (wanly). Is it anything to make so great a to-do about?
ERNEST (staring). Eh?
LADY MARY. Have we not been happy here?
ERNEST. Happy? Lord, yes.
LADY MARY (catching hold of his sleeve). Ernest, we must never
forget all that the Gov. has done for us.
ERNEST (stoutly). Forget it? The man who could forget it would be a
selfish wretch and a--But I say, this makes a difference!
LADY MARY (quickly). No, it doesn't.
ERNEST (his mind tottering). A mighty difference!
(The others come running in, some weeping with joy, others
boisterous. We see blue-jackets gazing through the window at the
curious scene. LORD LOAM comes accompanied by a naval officer, whom
he is continually shaking by the hand.)
LORD LOAM. And here, sir, is our little home. Let me thank you in
the name of us all, again and again and again.
OFFICER. Very proud, my lord. It is indeed an honour to have been
able to assist so distinguished a gentleman as Lord Loam.
LORD LOAM. A glorious, glorious day. I shall show you our other
room. Come, my pets. Come, Crichton.
(He has not meant to be cruel. He does not know he has said it. It
is the old life that has come back to him. They all go. All leave
CRICHTON except LADY MARY.)
LADY MARY (stretching out her arms to him). Dear Gov., I will never
give you up.
(There is a salt smile on his face as he shakes his head to her. He
lets the cloak slip to the ground. She will not take this for an
answer; again her arms go out to him. Then comes the great
renunciation. By an effort of will he ceases to be an erect figure;
he has the humble bearing of a servant. His hands come together as
if he were washing them.)
CRICHTON (it is the speech of his life). My lady.
(She goes away. There is none to salute him now, unless we do it.)
End of Act III.
THE OTHER ISLAND
Some months have elapsed, and we have again the honour of waiting
upon Lord Loam in his London home. It is the room of the first act,
but with a new scheme of decoration, for on the walls are exhibited
many interesting trophies from the island, such as skins, stuffed
birds, and weapons of the chase, labelled 'Shot by Lord Loam,' 'Hon.
Ernest Woolley's Blowpipe' etc. There are also two large glass cases
containing other odds and ends, including, curiously enough, the
bucket in which Ernest was first dipped, but there is no label
calling attention to the incident. It is not yet time to dress for
dinner, and his lordship is on a couch, hastily yet furtively
cutting the pages of a new book. With him are his two younger
daughters and his nephew, and they also are engaged in literary
pursuits; that is to say, the ladies are eagerly but furtively
reading the evening papers, of which Ernest is sitting complacently
but furtively on an endless number, and doling them out as called
for. Note the frequent use of the word 'furtive.' It implies that
they do not wish to be discovered by their butler, say, at their
otherwise delightful task.
AGATHA (reading aloud, with emphasis on the wrong words'). 'In
conclusion, we most heartily congratulate the Hon. Ernest Woolley.
This book of his, regarding the adventures of himself and his brave
companions on a desert isle, stirs the heart like a trumpet.'
(Evidently the book referred to is the one in LORD LOAM'S hands.)
ERNEST (handing her a pink paper). Here is another.
CATHERINE (reading). 'From the first to the last of Mr. Woolley's
engrossing pages it is evident that he was an ideal man to be
wrecked with, and a true hero.' (Large-eyed.) Ernest!
ERNEST (calmly). That's how it strikes them, you know. Here's
AGATHA (reading). 'There are many kindly references to the two
servants who were wrecked with the family, and Mr. Woolley pays the
butler a glowing tribute in a footnote.'
(Some one coughs uncomfortably.)
LORD LOAM (who has been searching the index for the letter L).
Excellent, excellent. At the same time I must say, Ernest, that the
whole book is about yourself.
ERNEST (genially). As the author--
LORD LOAM. Certainly, certainly. Still, you know, as a peer of the
realm--(with dignity)--I think, Ernest, you might have given me one
of your adventures.
ERNEST. I say it was you who taught us how to obtain a fire by
rubbing two pieces of stick together.
LORD LOAM (beaming). Do you, do you? I call that very handsome. What
(Here the door opens, and the well-bred CRICHTON enters with the
evening papers as subscribed for by the house. Those we have already
seen have perhaps been introduced by ERNEST up his waistcoat. Every
one except the intruder is immediately self-conscious, and when he
withdraws there is a general sigh of relief. They pounce on the new
papers. ERNEST evidently gets a shock from one, which he casts
contemptuously on the floor.)
AGATHA (more fortunate). Father, see page 81. 'It was a tiger-cat,'
says Mr. Woolley, 'of the largest size. Death stared Lord Loam in
the face, but he never flinched.'
LORD LOAM (searching his book eagerly). Page 81.
AGATHA. 'With presence of mind only equalled by his courage, he
fixed an arrow in his bow.'
LORD LOAM. Thank you, Ernest; thank you, my boy.
AGATHA. 'Unfortunately he missed.'
LORD LOAM. Eh?
AGATHA. 'But by great good luck I heard his cries'--
LORD LOAM. My cries?
AGATHA.--'and rushing forward with drawn knife, I stabbed the
monster to the heart.'
(LORD LOAM shuts his book with a pettish slam. There might be a
scene here were it not that CRICHTON reappears and goes to one of
the glass cases. All are at once on the alert and his lordship is
LORD LOAM. Anything in the papers, Catherine?
CATHERINE. No, father, nothing--nothing at all.
ERNEST (it pops out as of yore). The papers! The papers are guides
that tell us what we ought to do, and then we don't do it.
(CRICHTON having opened the glass case has taken out the bucket, and
ERNEST, looking round for applause, sees him carrying it off and is
undone. For a moment of time he forgets that he is no longer on the
island, and with a sigh he is about to follow CRICHTON and the
bucket to a retired spot. The door closes, and ERNEST comes to
LORD LOAM (uncomfortably). I told him to take it away.
ERNEST. I thought--(he wipes his brow)--I shall go and dress. (He
CATHERINE. Father, it's awful having Crichton here. It's like living
LORD LOAM (gloomily). While he is here we are sitting on a volcano.
AGATHA. How mean of you! I am sure he has only stayed on with us to
--to help us through. It would have looked so suspicious if he had
gone at once.
CATHERINE (revelling in the worst) But suppose Lady Brocklehurst
were to get at him and pump him. She's the most terrifying,
suspicious old creature in England; and Crichton simply can't
tell a lie.
LORD LOAM. My dear, that is the volcano to which I was referring.
(He has evidently something to communicate.) It's all Mary's fault.
She said to me yesterday that she would break her engagement with
Brocklehurst unless I told him about--you know what.
(All conjure up the vision of CRICHTON.)
AGATHA. Is she mad?
LORD LOAM. She calls it common honesty.
CATHERINE. Father, have you told him?
LORD LOAM (heavily). She thinks I have, but I couldn't. She's sure
to find out to-night.
(Unconsciously he leans on the island concertina, which he has
perhaps been lately showing to an interviewer as something he made
for TWEENY. It squeaks, and they all jump.)
CATHERINE. It's like a bird of ill-omen.
LORD LOAM (vindictively). I must have it taken away; it has done
(LADY MARY comes in. She is in evening dress. Undoubtedly she meant
to sail in, but she forgets, and despite her garments it is a manly
entrance. She is properly ashamed of herself. She tries again, and
has an encouraging success. She indicates to her sisters that she
wishes to be alone with papa.)
AGATHA. All right, but we know what it's about. Come along, Kit.
(They go. LADY MARY thoughtlessly sits like a boy, and again
corrects herself. She addresses her father, but he is in a brown
study, and she seeks to draw his attention by whistling. This
troubles them both.)
LADY MARY. How horrid of me!
LORD LOAM (depressed). If you would try to remember--
LADY MARY (sighing). I do; but there are so many things to remember.
LORD LOAM (sympathetically). There are--(in a whisper). Do you know,
Mary, I constantly find myself secreting hairpins.
LADY MARY. I find it so difficult to go up steps one at a time.
LORD LOAM. I was dining with half a dozen members of our party last
Thursday, Mary, and they were so eloquent that I couldn't help
wondering all the time how many of their heads he would have put in
LADY MARY. I use so many of his phrases. And my appetite is so
scandalous. Father, I usually have a chop before we sit down to
LORD LOAM. As for my clothes--(wriggling). My dear, you can't think
how irksome collars are to me nowadays.
LADY MARY. They can't be half such an annoyance, father, as--(She
looks dolefully at her skirt.)
LORD LOAM (hurriedly). Quite so--quite so. You have dressed early
LADY MARY. That reminds me; I had a note from Brocklehurst saying
that he would come a few minutes before his mother as--as he wanted
to have a talk with me. He didn't say what about, but of course we
know. (His lordship fidgets.) (With feeling.) It was good of you to
tell him, father. Oh, it is horrible to me--(covering her face). It
seemed so natural at the time.
LORD LOAM (petulantly). Never again make use of that word in this
LADY MARY (with an effort). Father, Brocklehurst has been so loyal
to me for these two years that I should despise myself were I to
keep my--my extraordinary lapse from him. Had Brocklehurst been a
little less good, then you need not have told him my strange little
LORD LOAM (weakly). Polly--I mean Mary--it was all Crichton's fault,
LADY MARY (with decision). No, father, no; not a word against him
though. I haven't the pluck to go on with it; I can't even
understand how it ever was. Father, do you not still hear the surf?
Do you see the curve of the beach?
LORD LOAM. I have begun to forget--(in a low voice). But they were
happy days; there was something magical about them.
LADY MARY. It was glamour. Father, I have lived Arabian nights. I
have sat out a dance with the evening star. But it was all in a past
existence, in the days of Babylon, and I am myself again. But he has
been chivalrous always. If the slothful, indolent creature I used to
be has improved in any way, I owe it all to him. I am slipping back
in many ways, but I am determined not to slip back altogether--in
memory of him and his island. That is why I insisted on your telling
Brocklehurst. He can break our engagement if he chooses. (Proudly.)
Mary Lasenby is going to play the game.
LORD LOAM. But my dear--
(LORD BROCKLEHURST is announced.)
LADY MARY (meaningly). Father, dear, oughtn't you to be dressing?
LORD LOAM (very unhappy). The fact is--before I go--I want to say--
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Loam, if you don't mind, I wish very specially to
have a word with Mary before dinner.
LORD LOAM. But--
LADY MARY. Yes, father. (She induces him to go, and thus
courageously faces LORD BROCKLEHURST to hear her fate.) I am ready,
LORD BROCKLEHURST (who is so agitated that she ought to see he is
thinking not of her but of himself). It is a painful matter--I wish
I could have spared you this, Mary.
LADY MARY. Please go on.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. In common fairness, of course, this should be
remembered, that two years had elapsed. You and I had no reason to
believe that we should ever meet again.
(This is more considerate than she had expected.)
LADY MARY (softening). I was so lost to the world, George.
LORD BROCKLEHURST (with a groan). At the same time, the thing is
utterly and absolutely inexcusable--
LADY MARY (recovering her hauteur). Oh!
LORD BROCKLEHURST. And so I have already said to mother.
LADY MARY (disdaining him). You have told her?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Certainly, Mary, certainly; I tell mother
LADY MARY (curling her lip). And what did she say?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. To tell the truth, mother rather pooh-poohed the
LADY MARY (incredulous). Lady Brocklehurst pooh-poohed the whole
LORD BROCKLEHURST. She said, 'Mary and I will have a good laugh over
LADY MARY (outraged). George, your mother is a hateful, depraved old
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mary!
LADY MARY (turning away). Laugh indeed, when it will always be such
a pain to me.
LORD BROCKLEHURST (with strange humility). If only you would let me
bear all the pain, Mary.
LADY MARY (who is taken aback). George, I think you are the noblest
(She is touched, and gives him both her hands. Unfortunately he
LORD BROCKLEHURST. She was a pretty little thing. (She stares, but
he marches to his doom.) Ah, not beautiful like you. I assure you it
was the merest flirtation; there were a few letters, but we have got
them back. It was all owing to the boat being so late at Calais. You
see she had such large, helpless eyes.
LADY MARY (fixing him). George, when you lunched with father to-day
at the club--
LORD BROCKLEHURST. I didn't. He wired me that he couldn't come.
LADY MARY (with a tremor). But he wrote you?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. No.
LADY MARY (a bird singing in her breast). You haven't seen him
LORD BROCKLEHURST. No.
(She is saved. Is he to be let off also? Not at all. She bears down
on him like a ship of war.)
LADY MARY. George, who and what is this woman?
LORD BROCKLEHURST (cowering). She was--she is--the shame of it--a
LADY MARY (properly horrified). A what?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. A lady's-maid. A mere servant, Mary. (LADY MARY
whirls round so that he shall not see her face.) I first met her at
this house when you were entertaining the servants; so you see it
was largely your father's fault.
LADY MARY (looking him up and down). A lady's-maid?
LORD BROCKLEHURST (degraded). Her name was Fisher.
LADY MARY. My maid!
LORD BROCKLEHURST (with open hands). Can you forgive me, Mary?
LADY MARY. Oh George, George!
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mother urged me not to tell you anything about
LADY MARY (from her heart). I am so glad you told me.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. You see there was nothing wrong in it.
LADY MARY (thinking perhaps of another incident). No, indeed.
LORD BROCKLEHURST (inclined to simper again). And she behaved
awfully well. She quite saw that it was because the boat was late. I
suppose the glamour to a girl in service of a man in high position--
LADY MARY. Glamour!--yes, yes, that was it.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mother says that a girl in such circumstances is
to be excused if she loses her head.
LADY MARY (impulsively). George, I am so sorry if I said anything
against your mother. I am sure she is the dearest old thing.
LORD BROCKLEHURST (in calm waters at last). Of course for women of
our class she has a very different standard.
LADY MARY (grown tiny). Of course.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. You see, knowing how good a woman she is herself,
she was naturally anxious that I should marry some one like her.
That is what has made her watch your conduct so jealously, Mary.
LADY MARY (hurriedly thinking things out). I know. I--I think,
George, that before your mother comes I should like to say a word to
LORD BROCKLEHURST (nervously). About this?
LADY MARY. Oh no; I shan't tell him of this. About something else.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. And you do forgive me, Mary?
LADY MARY (smiling on him). Yes, yes. I--I am sure the boat was very
LORD BROCKLEHURST (earnestly). It really was.
LADY MARY. I am even relieved to know that you are not quite
perfect, dear. (She rests her hands on his shoulders. She has a
moment of contrition.) George, when we are married, we shall try to
be not an entirely frivolous couple, won't we? We must endeavour to
be of some little use, dear.
LORD BROCKLEHURST (the ass). Noblesse oblige.
LADY MARY (haunted by the phrases of a better man). Mary Lasenby is
determined to play the game, George.
(Perhaps she adds to herself, 'Except just this once.' A kiss closes
this episode of the two lovers; and soon after the departure of LADY
MARY the COUNTESS OF BROCKLEHURST is announced. She is a very
formidable old lady.)
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Alone, George?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Mother, I told her all; she has behaved
LADY BROCKLEHURST (who has not shared his fears). Silly boy. (She
casts a supercilious eye on the island trophies.) So these are the
wonders they brought back with them. Gone away to dry her eyes, I
LORD BROCKLEHURST (proud of his mate). She didn't cry, mother.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. No? (She reflects.) You're quite right. I
wouldn't have cried. Cold, icy. Yes, that was it.
LORD BROCKLEHURST (who has not often contradicted her). I assure
you, mother, that wasn't it at all. She forgave me at once.
LADY BROCKLEHURST (opening her eyes sharply to the full). Oh!
LORD BROCKLEHURST. She was awfully nice about the boat being late;
she even said she was relieved to find that I wasn't quite perfect.
LADY BROCKLEHURST (pouncing). She said that?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. She really did.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. I mean I wouldn't. Now if I had said that, what
would have made me say it? (Suspiciously.) George, is Mary all we
LORD BROCKLEHURST (with unexpected spirit). If she wasn't, mother,
you would know it.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Hold your tongue, boy. We don't really know what
happened on that island.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. You were reading the book all the morning.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. How can I be sure that the book is true?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. They all talk of it as true.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. How do I know that they are not lying?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Why should they lie?
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Why shouldn't they? (She reflects again.) If I
had been wrecked on an island, I think it highly probable that I
should have lied when I came back. Weren't some servants with them?
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Crichton, the butler. (He is surprised to see her
ring the bell.) Why, mother, you are not going to--
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Yes, I am. (Pointedly.) George, watch whether
Crichton begins any of his answers to my questions with 'The fact
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Why?
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Because that is usually the beginning of a lie.
LORD BROCKLEHURST (as CRICHTON opens the door). Mother, you can't do
these things in other people's houses.
LADY BROCKLEHURST (coolly, to CRICHTON). It was I who rang.
(Surveying him through her eyeglass.) So you were one of the
CRICHTON. Yes, my lady.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Delightful book Mr. Woolley has written about
your adventures. (CRICHTON bows.) Don't you think so?
CRICHTON. I have not read it, my lady.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Odd that they should not have presented you with
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Presumably Crichton is no reader.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. By the way, Crichton, were there any books on the
CRICHTON. I had one, my lady--Henley's poems.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Never heard of him.
(CRICHTON again bows.)
LADY BROCKLEHURST (who has not heard of him either). I think you
were not the only servant wrecked?
CRICHTON. There was a young woman, my lady.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. I want to see her. (CRICHTON bows, but remains.)
Fetch her up. (He goes.)
LORD BROCKLEHURST (almost standing up to his mother). This is
LADY BROCKLEHURST (defining her position). I am a mother.
(CATHERINE and AGATHA enter in dazzling confections, and quake in
secret to find themselves practically alone with LADY BROCKLEHURST.)
(Even as she greets them.) How d'you do, Catherine--Agatha? You
didn't dress like this on the island, I expect! By the way, how did
(They have thought themselves prepared, but--)
AGATHA. Not--not so well, of course, but quite the same idea.
(They are relieved by the arrival of TREHERNE, who is in clerical
LADY BROCKLEHURST. How do you do, Mr. Treherne? There is not so much
of you in the book as I had hoped.
TREHERNE (modestly). There wasn't very much of me on the island,
LADY BROCKLEHURST. How d'ye mean? (He shrugs his honest shoulders.)
LORD BROCKLEHURST. I hear you have got a living, Treherne.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. Is it a good one?
TREHERNE. So--so. They are rather weak in bowling, but it's a good
bit of turf. (Confidence is restored by the entrance of ERNEST, who
takes in the situation promptly, and, of course, knows he is a match
for any old lady.)
ERNEST (with ease). How do you do, Lady Brocklehurst.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Our brilliant author!
ERNEST (impervious to satire). Oh, I don't know.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. It is as engrossing, Mr. Woolley, as if it were a
work of fiction.
ERNEST (suddenly uncomfortable). Thanks, awfully. (Recovering.) The
fact is--(He is puzzled by seeing the Brocklehurst family exchange
CATHERINE (to the rescue). Lady Brocklehurst, Mr. Treherne and I--we
AGATHA. And Ernest and I.
LADY BROCKLEHURST (grimly). I see, my dears; thought it wise to keep
the island in the family.
(An awkward moment this for the entrance of LORD LOAM and LADY MARY,
who, after a private talk upstairs, are feeling happy and secure.)
LORD LOAM (with two hands for his distinguished guest). Aha! ha, ha!
younger than any of them, Emily.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Flatterer. (To LADY MARY.) You seem in high
LADY MARY (gaily). I am.
LADY BROCKLEHURST (with a significant glance at LORD BROCKLEHURST).
LADY MARY. I--I mean. The fact is--
(Again that disconcerting glance between the Countess and her son.)
LORD LOAM (humorously). She hears wedding bells, Emily, ha, ha!
LADY BROCKLEHURST (coldly). Do you, Mary? Can't say I do; but I'm
hard of hearing.
LADY MARY (instantly her match). If you don't, Lady Brocklehurst,
I'm sure I don't.
LORD LOAM (nervously). Tut, tut. Seen our curios from the island,
Emily; I should like you to examine them.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Thank you, Henry. I am glad you say that, for I
have just taken the liberty of asking two of them to step upstairs.
(There is an uncomfortable silence, which the entrance of CRICHTON
with TWEENY does not seem to dissipate. CRICHTON is impenetrable,
but TWEENY hangs back in fear.)
LORD BROCKLEHURST (stoutly). Loam, I have no hand in this.
LADY BROCKLEHURST (undisturbed). Pooh, what have I done? You always
begged me to speak to the servants, Henry, and I merely wanted to
discover whether the views you used to hold about equality were
adopted on the island; it seemed a splendid opportunity, but Mr.
Woolley has not a word on the subject.
(All eyes turn to ERNEST.)
ERNEST (with confidence). The fact is--
(The fatal words again.)
LORD LOAM (not quite certain what he is to assure her of). I assure
LADY MARY (as cold as steel). Father, nothing whatever happened on
the island of which I, for one, am ashamed, and I hope Crichton will
be allowed to answer Lady Brocklehurst's questions.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. To be sure. There's nothing to make a fuss about,
and we're a family party. (To CRICHTON.) Now, truthfully, my man.
CRICHTON (calmly). I promise that, my lady.
(Some hearts sink, the hearts that could never understand a
LADY BROCKLEHURST (sharply). Well, were you all equal on the island?
CRICHTON. No, my lady. I think I may say there was as little
equality there as elsewhere.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Ah the social distinctions were preserved?
CRICHTON. As at home, my lady.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. The servants?
CRICHTON. They had to keep their place.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Wonderful. How was it managed? (With an
inspiration.) You, girl, tell me that?
(Can there be a more critical moment?)
TWEENY (in agony). If you please, my lady, it was all the Gov.'s
(They give themselves up for lost. LORD LOAM tries to sink out of
CRICHTON. In the regrettable slang of the servants' hall, my lady,
the master is usually referred to as the Gov.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. I see. (She turns to LORD LOAM.) You--
LORD LOAM (reappearing). Yes, I understand that is what they call
LADY BROCKLEHURST (to CRICHTON). You didn't even take your meals
with the family?
CRICHTON. No, my lady, I dined apart.
(Is all safe?)
LADY BROCKLEHURST (alas). You, girl, also? Did you dine with
TWEENY (scared). No, your ladyship.
LADY BROCKLEHURST (fastening on her). With whom?
TWEENY. I took my bit of supper with--with Daddy and Polly and the
ERNEST (leaping into the breach). Dear old Daddy--he was our monkey.
You remember our monkey, Agatha?
AGATHA. Rather! What a funny old darling he was.
CATHERINE (thus encouraged). And don't you think Polly was the
sweetest little parrot, Mary?
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Ah! I understand; animals you had domesticated?
LORD LOAM (heavily). Quite so--quite so.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. The servants' teas that used to take place here
once a month--
CRICHTON. They did not seem natural on the island, my lady, and were
discontinued by the Gov.'s orders.
LORD BROCKLEHURST. A clear proof, Loam, that they were a mistake
LORD LOAM (seeing the opportunity for a diversion). I admit it
frankly. I abandon them. Emily, as the result of our experiences on
the island, I think of going over to the Tories.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. I am delighted to hear it.
LORD LOAM (expanding). Thank you, Crichton, thank you; that is all.
(He motions to them to go, but the time is not yet.)
LADY BROCKLEHURST. One moment. (There is a universal but stifled
groan.) Young people, Crichton, will be young people, even on an
island; now, I suppose there was a certain amount of--shall we say
sentimentalising, going on?
CRICHTON. Yes, my lady, there was.
LORD BROCKLEHURST (ashamed). Mother!
LADY BROCKLEHURST (disregarding him). Which gentleman? (To TWEENY)
You, girl, tell me.
TWEENY (confused). If you please, my lady--
ERNEST (hurriedly). The fact is--(He is checked as before, and
probably says 'D--n' to himself, but he has saved the situation.)
TWEENY (gasping). It was him--Mr. Ernest, your ladyship.
LADY BROCKLEHURST (counsel for the prosecution). With which lady?
AGATHA. I have already told you, Lady Brocklehurst, that Ernest and
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Yes, now; but you were two years on the island.
(Looking at LADY MARY). Was it this lady?
TWEENY. No, your ladyship.
LADY BROCKLEHURST. Then I don't care which of the others it was.