Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Servant in the House by Charles Rann Kennedy

Part 1 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Al Haines





Volumes now ready:

Volumes now ready:



"There's a lot o' brothers
knockin' abaht as people
don't know on, eh what?
See wot I mean?"

"He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is
in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth
in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in
darkness and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness
hath blinded his eyes. . . . If a man say, I love God, and
hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his
brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath
not seen?"

--I. JOHN, ii. 9-11, iv. 20.

"The hunger for brotherhood is at the bottom of the unrest
of the modern civilized world."














The Lord Bishop of Lancashire


AUNTIE, the Vicar's Wife

MARY, their niece

MR. ROBERT SMITH, a gentleman of necessary occupation,

ROGERS, a page-boy

MANSON, a butler

Time--An early morning in Spring.
Place--An English country vicarage.


The Most Reverend the Lord Bishop of Lancashire

The Vicar

The Vicar's Wife

Their niece

A gentleman of necessary occupation

A page-boy

A butler



The scene, which remains unchanged throughout the play, is a room
in the vicarage. Jacobean in character, its oak-panelling and
beamed-ceiling, together with some fine pieces of antique
furniture, lend it an air of historical interest, whilst in all
other respects it speaks of solid comfort, refinement, and
unostentatious elegance. Evidently the room of a rich man, who
has, however, apparently come to some compromise on the difficult
question of his entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven; for the
panelled walls possess, among other decorations, a richly
ornamented crucifix, a Virgin and Child by an old master, certain
saints in ecstasy, and a really remarkable modern oil-painting of
the Divine Author of our religion.

The main door of the room is at the back of the stage, somewhere
towards the middle; it opens upon a hall, at the further side of
which one may perceive, through the open door of another room, a
goodly collection of well-bound and learned-looking volumes--the
vicar's library. At the present moment these tomes of wisdom are
inaccessible, as the library door is blocked up with unsightly
mounds of earth, sewer-pipes, and certain workmen's implements.
The fact is, the vicarage has been greatly disturbed of late, owing
to a defect in the drainage--an unsavory circumstance which
receives further and regretful explication in the play itself.

Returning, then, to the room, one may see, in addition to the main
door described above, another door, to the right of stage, and near
to the audience. The curious may be glad to learn that this leads
into a drawing-room, and incidentally affords one more means of
communication with the house. Another exit is provided on the
opposite side of the stage [left], where a couple of lofty French
windows lead out into the garden. Above the drawing-room door is a
fine old Jacobean mantel-piece: a fire burns brightly in the grate.
To the left of the main door at the back is a long, low, mullioned
window, through which one may see a blue sky, a thatched top or two
of cottages, and the gray old tower of the church. Through the
French windows are seen a gravel-walk, a lawn, trees, and a

Of the essential furniture of the scene, there may be mentioned;
sideboard to right of main door; table, right-centre of stage, with
chairs; arm-chair by fireplace; settee, left, towards front; and a
long oak stool in the window.

The various properties are described or implied in the text of the



As the curtain ascends, Rogers and Manson are discovered laying the
table for breakfast, the lad being at the upper end of the table,
facing the audience, Manson, with his back to the audience, being
at the lower end. Rogers is an ordinary little cockney boy in
buttons; Manson is dressed in his native Eastern costume. His face
is not seen until the point indicated lower down.

ROGERS [glancing across curiously]. Arskin' your pardon, Mr.
Manson. . . .

MANSON. Yes: what is it, Rogers?

ROGERS. Funny thing--cawn't get it out of my 'ead as I've knowed
you somewhere before. Don't scarcely seem possible, do it, Mr.

MANSON. Many things are possible in this world, Rogers.

ROGERS. That's all right; but 'ow long 'av' you been in England,
Mr. Manson?

MANSON. I landed late last night, if that's what you mean.

ROGERS. Well, I never been in the continong of Asia, where you
come from; and there you are!

MANSON [quietly]. Yes: here I am.

[He goes to the sideboard and busies himself with serviettes, mats,

ROGERS. Perhaps it's this reincarnytion the Daily Mail been
writing about. Ever see the Daily Mail out there, Mr. Manson?

MANSON. No: we had few advantages.

ROGERS. Rum idea, reincarnytion! Think, Mr. Manson, perhaps we
wos lords once in ancient Babylon, you an' me!

MANSON. And now butler and page-boy, eh?

ROGERS [scratching his head]. Does seem a bit of a come-down,
don't it?

MANSON. That's one way of looking at it.

[ROGERS, enticed of Satan, has conveyed a furtive spoonful of jam
towards his mouth.]

[Without turning.] Isn't there jam in the kitchen, Rogers?

ROGERS [scared]. Evings! E've got eyes in 'is boots! S'y, do you
call it stealing, Mr. Manson?

MANSON. Do you? [Persisting.] Do you?

[ROGERS drops the spoon and moves mournfully away from temptation.]

ROGERS. 'Pon my word, Mr. Manson, you give me the fair creeps and
no mistike!

MANSON. You will get over that when you knew me better.

ROGERS. Mr. Manson! Do you mind if I arst you a question?

MANSON. No; what is it?

ROGERS. What d'you wear them togs for? This ain't India.

MANSON. People don't always recognise me in anything else.

[He turns for the first time. His face is one of awful sweetness,
dignity, and strength. There is the calm of a great mastery about
him, suited to his habit as a servant.]

ROGERS. Garn, Mr. Manson, that's a bit orf! Clothes don't make
all that difference, come now! . . .

MANSON. They are the only things the people of this world see.

ROGERS [after a pause]. Excuse me, Mr. Manson, you mek me larf.

MANSON. That's all right, Rogers. I have a sense of humour
myself, or I shouldn't be here.

ROGERS [suddenly sentimental]. Talking about clothes, Mr. Manson,
I often thinks in my 'ead as I'd like to be a church clergyman,
like master. Them strite-up collars are very becoming. Wouldn't
you, Mr. Manson?

MANSON. Wouldn't that be rather presuming, Rogers?

ROGERS. Don't you mek no mistike about it! 'Ere! [He grows
confidential.] _You are_ a butler, ain't you? Ain't you,
now? . . .

MANSON. Something like that.

ROGERS. Well, perhaps master 'asn't allus been as 'igh-- See! O'
course, I don't know, but they _do_ s'y as 'e was once only a . . .
Wot oh! 'Ere 'e is!

[The VICAR'S voice is heard off.]

VICAR. I shall be in to breakfast at a quarter to nine. Don't
wait for me, dearest.

[He enters hurriedly from door, right, watch in hand. He has on
his cassock and biretta.]

So awkward-- Both my curates down with the whooping-cough!
To-day, too! Just when I was expecting . . .

[As he goes up stage, left of table, MANSON comes down, right, with
serviettes. The VICAR wheels round slowly, facing him. Observing
his astonishment, ROGERS steps forward with explanation.]

ROGERS. It's the new butler, sir. Mr. Manson, sir.

VICAR. Surely, I--I've seen you somewhere before.

MANSON [looking at him]. Have you, sir?

VICAR. Hm! No, I can't quite . . .

ROGERS. Beg pardon, sir: getting on for eight.

[He hands him a small silver paten upon which there is a piece of

VICAR [Taking it mechanically]. Hm! These mysteries are not
always helpful . . . Anyway, I'm glad to see you, Manson. When
did you arrive?

[He begins to break the bread into fragments whilst talking.]

MANSON. Early this morning, sir. I should have come sooner; but I
had a little trouble down at the Customs.

VICAR. Indeed! How was that?

MANSON. They said something about the new Alien Act, sir.

VICAR. Of course, of course. Er . . . You speak English
remarkably well.

MANSON. I have seen a good deal of the English, one time and

VICAR. That's good: it will save a lot of explanation. By-the-bye
. . .

My old friend in Brindisi, who recommended you, writes that you
bore a very excellent character with your late employer in India;
but there was one matter he didn't mention-- No doubt you will
recognise its importance in a clergyman's family-- He never
mentioned your religion.

MANSON. I can soon remedy that, sir. My religion is very simple.
I love God and all my brothers.

VICAR [after a pause]. God and your brothers . . .

MANSON. Yes, sir: _all_ of them.

[The VICAR stands thoughtful for a moment. He places the paten on
the table, beside him.]

VICAR [slowly]. That is not always so easy, Manson; but it is my
creed, too.

MANSON. Then-- Brother!

[Rapt in thought, the VICAR takes his profferred hand mechanically.]

[MARY enters. She is a slim young girl in her teens, the picture
of rosy sweetness and health.]

MARY. Good-morning, Uncle William! Oh! . . . I suppose you're
Manson? I must say you look simply ripping! How do you do? My
name's Mary. [She offers her hand.]

MANSON [kissing it]. A very dear name, too!

MARY [embarrassed, blurting]. We were wondering last night about
your religion. I said . . .

VICAR. Mary, my child . . .

MARY. You don't _look_ like a cannibal. After all, even the devil
isn't as black as he's . . . Oh, I beg your pardon: perhaps I'm

VICAR. Yes, indeed you are. Don't take any notice of our little
feather-brain, Manson.

MARY. I say, has uncle told you who's coming to-day?


MARY. Not about Uncle Josh?

VICAR. T-t-t! You mustn't call your uncle Joshua that! It is
irreverent. He may resent it.

MARY. You know, _you'll_ make me positively dislike him! Just
fancy, Manson, meeting an uncle whom you've never so much as set
eyes on before! I don't even know what he looks like.

[She is looking MANSON in the face. He returns her gaze curiously.]

MANSON. Then--you have a surprise in store.

MARY. _You_ ought to be awfully interested! You will, when you
hear where he comes from!

MANSON. I _am_--interested.

MARY. Then guess who he is!

MANSON. Guess--when I know already?

MARY. Oh, Uncle Joshua isn't his only name--don't you think that!
He's a very important person, I can tell you! His name's on
everybody's lips!

MANSON [dryly]. Really!

MARY. Can't you guess? . . . Think of the very biggest person you
ever heard of in this world!

MANSON. In _this_ world: that sounds rather like . . . Does he
give free libraries?

MARY. I can't say I ever heard of that; but he does things quite
as wonderful! Listen! What do you think of the BISHOP OF BENARES!!

MANSON [unimpressed]. Oh, it's the--Bishop of Benares, is it?

MARY. I must say, you don't seem very surprised! Surely you've
heard of him? He _comes_ from India.

MANSON [quietly]. I happen to know him.

VICAR. No, really: this is most interesting!

MANSON. As a man might know _his own soul_, sir--As they say in
India. His work has been mine, so to speak.

VICAR. Bless me, you will know him better than I do. I have never
seen him since I was quite a little lad.

MARY [with prodigious solemnity]. Just you think, Manson! He's my
uncle--my own father's brother!

[MANSON is now up stage between the two.]

MANSON. _Your_ brother, sir?

VICAR [fervently]. I am grateful to God for it, Manson: he is.

[MANSON regards him calmly for a moment: then he turns inquiringly
towards Mary.]

MANSON. Then--Miss Mary? . . .

VICAR [quickly]. Oh, my niece is the daughter of--of my other

MANSON. I see: _two_ brothers?

VICAR [shortly]. Yes, yes, I have: I--I had.

MANSON [resuming his work at the table]. Thank you, sir: it's
always helpful, coming to a new place, to know who are--and who are
not--the family connections.

VICAR. Come, Rogers! My poor brethren in the church are waiting.
I must see to their necessities at once. [He starts for the door.]

MANSON. Pardon me, sir.

[He hands him the bread which, among those necessities, he has
forgotten. The VICAR looks at him a moment in troubled thought,
and then goes out, followed by ROGERS.]

ROGERS [at door]. I'll be back to 'elp you in with the breakfast,
Mr. Manson. [Exit.]

MARY. Now, Manson: let's talk! You've got nothing more to do? . . .

MANSON. Not till breakfast.

MARY. Then come over here, and make ourselves comfy.

[They go over to the settee: she plumps herself down, gathering her
legs up into a little bunch. He seats himself beside her.]

Now! Tell me everything you know about the Bishop of Benares!

MANSON. What--Uncle Josh?

MARY. Ssh--ssh--ssh! That's naughty, you know! You heard what
Uncle William said! . . . Do you think he'd very much mind if I
called him Uncle Josh?

MANSON. You may take it from _me_, that you may call him whatever
you like.

MARY. That's all very well; but you're not Uncle Joshua!

MANSON. No? . . .

MARY [hotly]. No, you're not!

MANSON. Well, since you're so certain . . .

MARY [with conviction]. I'm perfectly certain he'll never stand a
kid like me cheeking him and calling him names! Uncle William's
quite right! . . . And that's why I've made up my mind that I
sha'n't like him, after all!

MANSON. Indeed, I hope you will!

MARY. Do you believe in liking people simply because they're

MANSON. Perhaps I'm a prejudiced person.

MARY. I know exactly what he'll be--goody-goody, isn't he? You
know--religious, and all that!

MANSON. God forbid!

MARY [fearfully]. Oh, perhaps he's the other sort--like auntie's
brother! He's a bishop--the Bishop of Lancashire. You see, I've
heard a lot about bishops in my time, and they're not always quite
nice men.

MANSON. And what sort is the Bishop of Lancashire?

MARY. Well, I don't think I ought to tell you; but I once heard
_Uncle William_ call him a devil!--And he's a clergyman!

MANSON. Your Uncle Joshua's reputation is exactly opposite.

MARY. There is that; everybody speaks awfully well of him.

MANSON. I don't think I would go so far as that: some people
blackguard him abominably.

MARY. No!--Who?

MANSON. His clergy, chiefly.

MARY. His clergy! They must be dreadfully wicked men!

MANSON. No--only blind: perhaps, also, a little deaf. But between
the two they manage to make his work very difficult.

MARY. Why? What do they do?

MANSON. It's partly what they do _not_ do.

MARY. Oh, I see--lazy.

MANSON. Not precisely--they work: they are not idle; but they
serve other masters.

MARY. Such as whom?

MANSON. The Bishop of Lancashire.

MARY [after a pause], I always thought he was such a great success
out there. The papers have been full of it--of the millions of
people who follow him about: they say they almost worship him in
some places. What kind of people are they?

MANSON. Just common people.

MARY. And then, all that talk of die great churches he built out
there! . . .

MANSON. Churches?

MARY. Yes; didn't he?

MANSON. He built one.

MARY. What's it like?

MANSON. Those who have seen it say there is nothing like it on

MARY [eagerly]. Have you seen it?

MANSON. I was there when he built it.

MARY. From the very beginning?

MANSON [solemnly]. From the beginning.

[MARY pauses before speaking: then she says, slowly.]

MARY. I hope I _shall_ like him. Is he--is he anything like you?

[MANSON regards her silently for a moment.]

MANSON. How is it that you know so little about him?

MARY. Well, you see, I only heard yesterday.

MANSON. I thought you said his name was on everybody's _lips_.

MARY. You don't understand. I mean, I never knew that he had
anything to do with _me_--that he was my father's brother.

MANSON. Didn't _he_ know?

MARY. Who--father? Oh, you see, I. . . _I don't know my father_
. . . . . . Uncle William didn't know anything about it until

MANSON. Hm! That is strange, too!

MARY. There's a bit of a mystery about it altogether. Would you
like to hear? It is rather like a fairy-tale.

MANSON. It must be. Yes, do go on.

MARY. It was all through Uncle William's Restoration Fund. You
see, our old church is in a perfectly rotten state of decay, and
naturally it would take a lot to repair it: so uncle thought of
starting a Fund--Yes! Wasn't it clever of him?--I addressed all
the envelopes.

Would you believe it, we couldn't get a single halfpenny! Isn't it
a shame?--Such a nice old church, too!

MANSON. How was that?

MARY. That's the question! People have been most rude! Oh, the
letters we have had! The funny thing is, for all their
fault-finding, they none of them agree with each other!--Some say
the foundations are all wrong: some don't like the stained-glass
windows; but if you ask me . . .

MANSON. Yes, what do you think?

MARY. Well, uncle won't hear of it; but I can't help thinking old
Bletchley is right . . .

MANSON. Who's he?

MARY. Oh, he's a dreadfully wicked man, I know that-- He's the
quack doctor in the village: he's--he's _an atheist_! . . .

MANSON. Well, what does he think is the matter?

MARY. He says it's the DRAIN!

MANSON. The--the drain? . . .

MARY. Um! You know, in spite of what uncle says, there is a
smell: I had it in my nose all last Sunday morning. Up in the
choir it's bad enough, and round by the pulpit-- Ugh! I can't
think how uncle stands it!

That's why the people won't come to church-- They _say_ so: they
stand in the market-place listening to old Bletchley, instead of
listening to uncle and trying to be good.

The odd thing Is, it must be that very same drain that's causing
the trouble in uncle's study-- That's his study out there, where
they've been digging: it's where he writes his sermons. You know,
_I've_ noticed the smell for some time, but uncle got so cross
whenever I mentioned it, that I learned to hold my tongue. At
last, auntie smelt it, too, and that soon brought the men in! Ugh!
Perhaps you've . . .

MANSON. I have! But what has all this to do with . . .

MARY. Don't get impatient: it's all part of the story. . . .
Well, we thought we should have poor dear Uncle William perfectly
ill . . .

MANSON. Because of the drain? . . .

MARY. No, because of the Fund. He tried everything: all his rich
friends, bazaars, jumble-sales, special intercessions--everything!
And nothing seemed to come of it!

Then at last, yesterday morning, he was reading the newspaper, and
there was a long piece about the Bishop of Benares. Uncle read it
aloud to us. Suddenly, in the middle, he broke off and said: _Look
at the power this chap seems to have at the back of him! I wish to
God I had some of it_!

He had scarcely said it, when there was a rat-tat at the door: it
was the postman; and what do you think? IT WAS A LETTER FROM THE

MANSON [anticipating the critics]. What a coincidence!

MARY. Isn't that wonderful? _Isn't_ it just like a fairy-tale?
Wait a bit. There's more yet . . . Here's the letter: uncle gave
it me for my autographs . . .

[She fishes it out from her pocket. MANSON reads it aloud, slowly
and clearly.]

MANSON. "_I shall be with you during to-morrow morning. If any
one will help me, I will restore your church. Your brother,

MARY [pointing]. And there, do you see, underneath, in brackets:
_The Bishop of Benares_.

MANSON. Dear me, dear me, just those few words!

MARY. Wasn't it like an answer to prayer? Auntie saw that at once!

And the odd part about it is, that Uncle William did have a brother
Joshua who went away and got lost in India years and years ago!
And to think that he was who he was all the time! To think of him
never writing until yesterday! To think that before the day is out
he will be sitting down here, perhaps in this very place, just
like . . .

[She breaks off suddenly, gazing at him; for his eyes have taken a
strange fire.]

MANSON. Just like I am now . . .

MARY [falteringly]. Yes . . .

MANSON. Talking to you . . .

MARY. Oh! . . . [She rises, afraid.]

MANSON [softly], Mary . . .

MARY [in a whisper]. Who are you? . . .

MANSON. I am . . .

[He is interrupted by the great bell of the church, which tolls the
Sanctus. After the third stroke, he continues.]

I am the servant in this house. I have my work to do. Would you
like to help me?

MARY. What shall I do?

MANSON. Help to spin she fairy-tale. Will you?

MARY. I will.

MANSON. Then keep the secret--Remember! And wish hard.

MARY. Do you believe in wishing?

MANSON. Everything comes true, if you wish hard enough.

MARY. What shall I wish for?

MANSON. What have you needed most? What have you not had? Think
it out.

[Enter AUNTIE in a negligee morning gown. She has a preoccupied
air. She carries her husband's coat over her arm.]

AUNTIE. Oh, I heard you had arrived. I hope they gave you
something to eat when you came in.

MANSON. Thank you, ma'am: it will do later.

AUNTIE. Mary . . . Dearest . . .

MARY. Oh, I beg your pardon, auntie dear, I . . .

AUNTIE. Dreaming again! [Putting her arm round her.] Come, I
want you to put your uncle's coat by the fire. He will be cold,
coming out of that draughty church.

MARY [hugging her]. You darling! I believe you think of nobody
but uncle in the world!

AUNTIE. And you, sweetheart: you come next--a very near next!
Now, run along.

[MARY takes the coat to the fire.]

[Surveying the table]. That's very nice, Manson, very nice indeed!
Perhaps, just a little further this way. . . . [Removes flowers.]
My husband is so fond of them. Ye-es; and I _wanted_ things
_particularly_ nice this morning . . .

MARY [at the fire, looking up]. I thought you said you--you didn't
expect him till twelve-thirty! . . .

AUNTIE [absorbed]. Whom?

MARY [chuckling]. The--the Bishop of Benares.

AUNTIE. The--the . . . Oh, it's your _uncle_ I am . . . [To
Manson]. By-the-bye, has the postman been yet?

MANSON [at the window]. I can see him coming up the lane. He's
stopped at the next house.

AUNTIE. Oh, then, Mary: will you very much mind if you don't have
breakfast with us this morning? I want to have a private talk with
your uncle.

MARY. Oh, auntie, dear! . . .

AUNTIE. Don't think of yourself, dear-- Remember, there are other
people in the world besides you. Go down into the village, and
have breakfast with poor old Grannie Durden. Take her some nice
new-laid eggs and a pat of butter-- Poor soul, it would be a

MARY. Oh, auntie, she's as deaf as a post!

AUNTIE. Dearest!--Remember what your uncle said last Sunday about
_Pure religion and undefiled_! He mentioned Mrs. Durden only a
week ago; but I forgot. Now, run along.

MARY [reluctantly]. Very well, auntie.

[She goes out by the main door.]

AUNTIE [laughing]. Inconsiderate little monkey!

I am glad you have not thought of changing your pretty, native
costume, Manson. It is very picturesque; and, besides, to-day
there is a special reason why it may be considered complimentary.

[A double knock is heard at the outer door.]

Ah! Quick, Manson! The postman!

[MANSON goes out. AUNTIE takes a look at the coat: rearranges the
flowers, humming, meanwhile, "The Church's One Foundation"; and
then stands impatiently awaiting MANSON'S reappearance. Presently
he returns with a letter on server.]

MANSON. A letter for you, ma'am.

AUNTIE. Ah! What I expected!

[She breaks open the letter and reads it eagerly.]

Excellent! [More dubiously]. Excellent . . .

Manson, we shall have to be very busy to-day. There will be quite
a Church Congress to lunch--two bishops!

MANSON. Oh, not as bad as that, ma'am!

AUNTIE. Manson!

MANSON. Beg pardon, ma'am; but master mentioned only one--his
brother, the Bishop of Benares.

AUNTIE. _My_ brother will join us also--the Bishop of Lancashire.
This is his letter.

And now let's have breakfast, at once. The vicar is sure to be
earlier than he said; and I'm hungry.

[MANSON goes to the door. As he opens it, the VICAR and ROGERS

MANSON. Here is master. I'll hurry up the breakfast, ma'am.

VICAR [entering]. Do, Manson. Let's get it over.

[MANSON goes out.]

Excuse me, my dear.

[ROGERS helps him off with the cassock.]

So tiresome! Not a place in the house to do anything! Confound
the drains! Just run up-stairs for my coat, Rogers.

AUNTIE. It's here, dear. I have it warming for you.

VICAR [more graciously]. Oh, thank you, Martha. That will do,
then, Rogers. Tell Manson to hurry up.

[ROGERS helps him on and goes out. The cassock is left lying on
the long stool by the window.]

[The VICAR crosses moodily to the fireplace. AUNTIE stands
undecided, watching him, the letter in her hand.]

AUNTIE. You're back early, dear.

VICAR. What can you expect? Not a soul there, of course!

AUNTIE. My poor William! I'm glad I thought to hurry up the

VICAR. Thanks, dear. You are always thoughtful.

AUNTIE. William . . .

[He looks up.]

I--I want to have a little talk with you.

VICAR. What is it? Any more--worry?

AUNTIE. You needn't make it so.


AUNTIE [moving over to him and stroking his hair]. My dearest is
not well.

VICAR. I think you are right, Martha. I am not well.

AUNTIE [alarmed]. Not the trouble with your heart again?

VICAR. No; I fancy it goes deeper than that!

AUNTIE. William! What do you mean?

VICAR [suddenly facing her]. Martha! Do you know the sort of man
you have been living with all these years? Do you see through me?
Do you know me?--No: don't speak: I see your answer already--Your
own love blinds you! Ha! I am a good man!--I don't drink, I don't
swear, I am respectable, I don't blaspheme like Bletchley! Oh yes,
and I am a scholar: I can cackle in Greek: I can wrangle about
God's name: I know Latin and Hebrew and all the cursed little
pedantries of my trade! But do you know what I am? Do you know
what your husband is in the sight of God? He is a LIAR!

AUNTIE. William!

VICAR. A liar! I heard it in my ears as I stood up before Christ's
altar in the church this morning, reciting my miserable creed! I
heard it in my prayers! I heard it whilst I tasted . . . whilst I
drank . . . whilst I . . .

[He sinks into a chair, and buries his face in his hands.]

AUNTIE. Oh, you are ill!

VICAR [breaking down]. O wretched man that I am! Who shall
deliver me out of the body of this death?

[She stands above him, hesitating. After a moment, she says,

AUNTIE. I know: it's this money trouble. It's what Joshua said in
his letter about your having to get somebody to help him. Well,
that's just what I wanted to speak to you about. I have a way out
of the difficulty.

VICAR. It's not the church. I could wish every Stone of it were
crumbled into dust!

AUNTIE. William, how wicked of you! . . .

Is it--is it anything to do with your brother Joshua? Why don't
you answer?

VICAR. _It has to do with my brother--Robert_.

AUNTIE. Mary's fa . . .

William, did you send him that telegram yesterday?

VICAR. Yes: that was a lie, too!

AUNTIE. Nonsense! Don't be absurd!

VICAR. It was a lie!

AUNTIE. You told him we couldn't do with him because the house was
upset: that's true! You told him that the drains were up in the
study: that's true!

VICAR. Was that the real reason why we refused to have him here?
Was it?

AUNTIE. I can't think what possessed him to write and say he'd
come. We've not heard from him for fifteen years!

VICAR. Whose fault is that?

AUNTIE. Why, his own, of course! He can't expect to be treated
decently! [She walks up and down with anger.] It's perfectly
absurd, it really is, dear, making all this fuss and trouble about
a wretched--

Have you told Mary?

VICAR. No: the _silent_ lie was comparatively easy!

AUNTIE. My dear, do try and be reasonable. Think of what he is!

VICAR. Isn't he my brother?

AUNTIE. No, he's not your brother--at least, nothing that a
brother ought to be! Ridicules everything that you hold sacred!
Hates everything you love! Loves everything you hate! . . .

VICAR. _That's_ true!

AUNTIE. A scoffer, an atheist, a miserable drunkard!

VICAR. That was fifteen years ago, remember, after Mary's mother
died! . . .

AUNTIE. A man like that never changes! What would have become of
that poor child if we hadn't stepped in? Have you ever dared to
tell her what her father's like? Of course not! To-day, too, of
all days! It's utterly preposterous!

VICAR. That is all the more reason why . . .

AUNTIE. My dear, think of his _occupation_!

VICAR. I think the child ought to be told.

AUNTIE. Of his _occupation_?

VICAR. That, and everything.

AUNTIE. My dear, have you gone perfectly mad? Do you know who's
coming? Do you want to advertise his _occupation_ to all the world?

VICAR. Do you think his brother Joshua would mind that?

AUNTIE. It isn't only your brother Joshua! You think of nobody
but your brother Joshua! Some one else is coming.


AUNTIE. _My brother James_! [She throws down the letter.] Now
you've heard it all!

[There is a long silence. Then the VICAR speaks in a low, intense
voice of bitter contempt.]

VICAR. Your brother James is coming here today? You have brought
him here to help my brother Joshua! _Him_!

AUNTIE. Why not? He's rich! He can do it!

VICAR. So, he can recognise me at last!

AUNTIE. It was as much your fault as his, that you have never met!
He naturally resented our marriage.

VICAR [ironically]. But, of course, now that I'm related to the
great and _wealthy_ Bishop of Benares ...

AUNTIE [warmly]. He's as much a bishop as your brother is!

VICAR. He! That gaitered snob!

AUNTIE. William, how dare you!

VICAR. Yes, he's a bishop! A bishop of stocks and shares! A
bishop of the counting-house! A bishop of Mammon!

AUNTIE. William!

VICAR. The devil's own bishop!

AUNTIE. _At least, he isn't a WORKING-MAN_!

VICAR [as though stung]. Ah! . . .

[They stand below the table, one on either side, tense with
passion. They remain so.]

[MANSON and ROGERS come in with the breakfast. ROGERS goes out

MANSON. Sorry to have delayed, sir; but you said a quarter to
nine, didn't you, sir?


MANSON. Breakfasts served, ma'am. It's served, sir.

[They move to the table, absently, first one, then the other, as he
goes to each separately.]

[MANSON serves them in silence for a few moments.]

Beg pardon, sir: what time did you expect the Bishop of Benares?

VICAR. Oh!--_During the morning_, he said. That will mean the
twelve-thirty, I suppose. It's the only convenient service.

MANSON. And the Bishop of Lancashire, ma'am?

AUNTIE. He didn't say; but I think we may expect him by the same
train. He would scarcely think of catching the . . .

[There is heard a loud Ringing of the Bell--a bishop at the very
least. All three heads turn automatically.]

Good gracious! Already!

MANSON. It doesn't sound like the Bishop of Benares, ma'am. He
generally comes very quietly.

AUNTIE. Quick!

MANSON. Yes, ma'am.

[He goes out by the main door.]

AUNTIE [rapidly], William, I'm sorry! Really, I didn't mean you: I
never thought of you; I was only thinking of Robert. I only think
of you as a great scholar and a saint--yes, you are one!--and as
the man I love! I would sacrifice everything to your happiness.
Robert's nothing to me; that's why I . . . Think of what it might
mean to Mary--we must think of others, William!--our own little
child, as we try to imagine . . .

[The VICAR makes a gesture of anguish.]

As for James, God knows I did it for the best. I love you, my
dear, I love you: I wouldn't have vexed you for the world! After
all, he is my brother, William! . . . . I thought of patching up
the enmity between you: I thought of all your hopes of rebuilding
the church, and James was the only rich man I thought might be
induced--under the circumstances . . .

VICAR. I am in the darkness. I don't know what to do. God has
left me stranded.

[MANSON re-enters. They look at him inquiringly.]

MANSON. It isn't the Bishop of Benares, ma'am.

AUNTIE. Well, who is it?

MANSON. I didn't ask his name, ma'am.

AUNTIE. T-t-t! How is he dressed?

MANSON. Rather oddly, ma'am: I noticed that his legs . . .

AUNTIE. William, it's James! I can't be seen like this. Shew him
in. I can slip out this way.

[MANSON goes out.]

William, try and treat him like . . .

VICAR. How? Like a brother?

AUNTIE. I was going to say, like a Priest and a Christian, William.

VICAR. Like a Christian, then.

AUNTIE. My dear!

[She goes out by the door to the right, as MANSON begins to turn
the handle of the other door.]

MANSON [outside]. This way, if you please.

[The VICAR, braces himself up and turns towards the door with an
effort at cordiality.]

VICAR. Just in time for breakfast, my lord.

[Enter ROBERT SMITH and MANSON. ROBERT'S costume is a navvy's, the
knees tied With string.]

ROBERT [grimly]. Thanks, Bill Awlmighty, don't mind if I do. My
belly's fair aching.

VICAR. Robert!

ROBERT. Yus, it's me, my 'oly brother!

VICAR. Didn't you--didn't you get my wire?

ROBERT. Yus, I gorit-: _Drains wrong_, eh? Thought I'd like to
'av' a look at 'em--my job, yer know, _drains_! So you'll excuse
the togs: remind you of old days, eh what?

VICAR. Robert, what have you come here for?

ROBERT. You arsk me that?

VICAR. Yes, I do. Bob . . .

ROBERT. Why, to see my little gel, o' course--Gawd curse you! . . .

Now go an tell your ole woman.

[The VICAR stands as though stricken.]

Did you 'ear me speak? Tell 'er!

[The VICAR wavers a moment, and then staggers out silently through
the door, right. ROBERT watches him off with a look of iron. He
pays no heed to MANSON, who stands quite close to him, on the left.]

See that blighter? That's the bloke as was born with no bowels!
'E might a-made a man o' me once, if 'e'd tried; but 'e didn't--'im
and 'is like. Hm! Dam foolish, I call it, don't you?

MANSON. Yes, both: foolish and--damned!

[ROBERT turns and looks into his face for the first time as the
curtain slowly falls on the First Act.]


As the curtain rises, the scene and situation remain unchanged.
Presently, Robert, having completed his inspection of the other's
face and costume, moves away with a characteristic interjection.

ROBERT. Oh, Jeeroosalem! . . .

'Ere, 'elp us orf, comride: I'm wet through. Rainin' cats an'
dorgs dahn at the Junction! 'Ere, I cawn't . . . Wot oh! The
very identical! . . .

[MANSON has helped him off with his coat, and now hands him the

[Getting into it.] Don't know oo you are, ole pal, but you're a
bit of orl right! . . . Don't I look a corf-drop? 'Ere, where ye
teking it to? . . .

[He watches MANSON suspiciously as he places his coat before the
fire to dry.]

Bit 'andy, ain't yer? . . .

So this is where 'e lives! A bloomin' palace, as never I did
see! . . .

[MANSON prepares a place for him at the table, and pours out a cup
of tea, etc.]

Right you are, ole comride! 'E said breakfast, an' breakfast it
shall be, I don't fink! Blimey! Sossingers! Ain't 'ad the taste
of sossingers in my gizzard for I don't know 'ow long!

[He sits and devours whilst MANSON breaks and hands him bread,
waiting upon him.]

[Between bites.] Wouldn't think as I was 'is brother, would
yer--not to look at me? But strooth, _I am_; an' wot's more, 'e
cawn't deny it! . . . [He labours with a little joke.] There's a
lot o' brothers knockin' abaht as people don't know on, eh what?
See wot I mean? [Suddenly serious.] Not as I'm one o' them sort,
mind yer: my father married my mother honest, same as I married my
little . . .

[After a moment's reflection, he makes fresh onslaught upon the
sausages. Presently he looks up.]

'Ere, ain't you goin' ter 'av' none? . . . Cawn't yer speak?


ROBERT. Well, why cawn't yer arnser a bloke when 'e arsks yer

MANSON. You didn't make it dear that you wanted to eat with me.

ROBERT. Want a bit of 'eart in it, eh?

MANSON. Yes, that's all.

ROBERT [largely]. Sit dahn, ole pal! Mek yourself at 'ome!

[MANSON obeys.]

See, wot was I tawkin' abaht. Just afore you turned narsty?

MANSON. You were going to say something about--your little girl's

[ROBERT'S cutlery bristles up like bayonets.]

ROBERT. Look 'ere, mate, don't you come tryin' it on with me! I
don't care _oo_ you are!

MANSON. I know that.

ROBERT. Then let me be, I tell yer! You tek all the taste out o'
my sossingers.

MANSON. I should like to hear about her, comrade.

ROBERT. _You_ cawn't bring 'er back. She's dead.

MANSON. What was her name?

ROBERT. Mary--same as the little gel's.

MANSON. I wonder whether they are anything alike.

ROBERT. That's wot I come to see! . . .

She 'ad 'er mother's nose when she was a biby--_and_ 'er eyes!
Gorstrike, she was the very spit--far as a biby could be! . . .

Swelp me Moses, if I find 'er anything like Bill's ole geezer, I'll
cut 'er throat!

MANSON. And if she's like her mother? What then?

ROBERT. Why, then . . . there's allus my own. I nearly did it

MANSON [after a pause]. How did you come to lose her?

ROBERT [roughly]. Never you mind!

MANSON. How did you come to lose her?

ROBERT [sullenly]. Typhoid fever.

[MANSON notes the evasion with a glance. He helps ROBERT to more
tea, and waits for him to speak. ROBERT wriggles under his gaze,
and at last he says, reluctantly.]

Oh, it was my own fault, as I lost the kid!

MANSON. That was a sore loss, comrade.

ROBERT. _I_ know it! Needn't rub it in! . . . Look, 'ere,
comride, I 'adn't a bad nature to begin with. Didn't me an' my
brother Joshua pinch an' slave the skin orf our bones to send that
spotted swine to school? Didn't we 'elp 'im out with 'is books an'
'is mortar-boards an' 'is bits of clothes to try an' mek 'im look
respectable? That's wot we did, till 'e got 'is lousy scholyships,
an' run away to get spliced with that she-male pup of a
blood-'ound! Cos why? Cos we was proud of the little
perisher!--proud of 'is 'ead-piece! We 'adn't gone none
ourselves--leastways, _I_ 'adn't: Joshua was different to me; and
now . . .

MANSON. And your brother Joshua: what of him? Where is _he_ now?

ROBERT. _I_ don't know--gone to pot, like me! P'r'aps eatin' is
bleedin' 'eart out, same as I am, at the base ingratitood of the

MANSON. Perhaps so!

ROBERT. Where was I? You mek me lose my air, shoving in with your

MANSON. You were saying that you hadn't a bad nature to begin with.

ROBERT [truculently]. No more I 'adn't! . . .

O' course, when she took an'--an' died, things was different: I
couldn't 'old up the same-- Somehow, I don't know, I lost my 'eart,
and . . .

MANSON. Yes? . . .

ROBERT. That's 'ow I come to lose my kid, my little kid . . .
Mind you, that was fifteen years ago: I was a rotter then, same as
you might be. I wasn't 'arf the man I am now . . .

_You_ can larf! A man can change a lot in fifteen years!

MANSON. _I_ didn't laugh.

ROBERT. Do you want to know wot's come over me since then? I
_work_--and work well: that's more than some of 'em can say-- And
I don't get much money for it, either! That ought to mek 'em feel
ashamed! I'm not the drunkard I was--not by 'arf! If I'm bitter,
oo's made me bitter? You cawn't be very sweet and perlite on
eighteen bob a week--_when yer get it_! I'll tell yer summat else:
I've eddicated myself since then--I'm not the gory fool I was--
_And_ they know it! They can't come playin' the 'anky with us,
same as they used to! It's _Nice Mister Working-man This and Nice
Mister Working-man That, will yer be so 'ighly hobliging as to 'and
over your dear little voting-paper_--you poor, sweet, muddy-nosed
old Idiot, as can't spot your natural enemy when yer see 'im! That
orter mek some on 'em sit up!

Fifteen years ago me an' my like 'adn't got a religion! By Gawd,
we 'av' one now! Like to 'ear wot it is?


ROBERT. SOCIALISM! Funny, ain't it?

MANSON. _I_ don't think so. It's mine, too.

ROBERT. I believe in fighting with my clarss!

MANSON. Oh, against whom?

ROBERT. Why, agin all the other clarsses--curse 'em!

MANSON. Isn't that a bit of the old Robert left, comrade?

ROBERT. Oh, leave me alone. I cawn't be allus pickin' an'
choosin' my words! I ain't no scholar--thank Gawd!

MANSON. All the same, I'm right, eh, comrade? Comrade . . .

ROBERT [grudgingly]. Well, yus! [Savagely.] Yus, I tell yer!
Cawn't a bloke speak 'otter than 'e means without _you_ scrapin' at
'is innards?

[Exploding again.] Wait till I set eyes on that bleedin' brother
of mine again, that's all!

MANSON. Which bleeding brother?

ROBERT [with a thumb-jerk]. Why, '_im_, o' course! [Sneering.]
The Reverend William! 'Im as you said was damned! . . . Allus did
'ate parsons! I 'ates the sight of their 'arf-baked, silly mugs!

[There is a very loud Ringing of the Bell.]

'Ello! 'Ello! Did I mek a row like that?

MANSON. You tried, didn't you?

ROBERT. So I did, not 'arf! Thought if I kicked up an 'ell of a
shindy they'd think some big bug was comin'; and then when they'd
be all smiles an' bowin' an' scrapin', in pops me, real low!

[ROGERS enters. On seeing them at the table, he is apparently
troubled with his inside.]

ROGERS. Oh, my 'oly Evings!

MANSON. Who is it, Rogers?

ROGERS [awed]. It's the Bishop of Lancashire!

MANSON [imperturbably]. Shew him in, Rogers.

ROGERS. Beg pardon, Mr. Manson . . .

MANSON. I said, shew him in.

Quick, Rogers. Keep a bishop waiting!

ROGERS. Well, I'm jiggered!

[He is; and goes out.]

ROBERT. 'Ere! Did 'e say _bishop_?


ROBERT. Comin' 'ere? Now?

[MANSON nods his head to each inquiry.]

Well, I ain't agoin' ter leave my sossingers, not if 'e was a
bloomin' archangel, see!

[ROGERS, still jiggered, ushers in JAMES PONSONBY MAKESHYFTE, D.D.,
the Most Reverend the Lord Bishop of Lancashire. He looks his
name, his goggles and ear-trumpet lending a beautiful perfection to
the resemblance.]

[MANSON has risen: ROBERT, imperturbable, discusses sossingers:
ROGERS, with a last excruciation of his ailment, vanishes.]

[The Most Reverend Father in God stands blinking for recognition.
Pained at the non-fulfilment of this worthy expectation, he
moves--a little blindly--towards the table. Here he encounters the
oppugnant back of the voracious ROBERT, who grows quite annoyed.
Indeed, be as good as says so.]

'Ere, where ye comin' to?

BISHOP [peering closely into his face, the other edging away]. Ah!
Mr. Smythe, or I am mistaken.

ROBERT. Smith's my name! Don't you call me Smythe!

BISHOP. My dear sir, don't mention it: my sister has explained
everything. I bear you no grudge--none whatever!

ROBERT. What's the silly ole josser jawin' abaht now?

BISHOP. But I perceive that I have--er--[sniffing] disturbed you
at your morning meal . . .

ROBERT [with conviction]. You 'av' that!

BISHOP. Eh? . . .

ROBERT [louder]. I say, you 'av'!

BISHOP [fixing his ear-trumpet]. Just once more . . .

ROB ERT. Oh, Moses! [Roaring, and indicating his breakfast.] You
'av' blarst you!

BISHOP [mistaking the gesticulation]. Thank you, you are very
kind. I think I will. I could get nothing on the journey but a
cup of coffee and a bun.

[He sits at the table without ever having perceived MANSON, who has
nevertheless been serving him.]

ROBERT. Yus, you look as if you fed on buns!

[Throughout the play the audience will understand where the BISHOP
does, and where he does not, hear by his use or non-use of the
ear-trumpet. Perhaps the reader will be good enough to imagine
these occasions for himself, as he may have observed a reluctance
on the part of the author to encumber the text with stage

BISHOP [eating, and at the same time addressing the becassocked
ROBERT]. And you must not think, on account of the little coolness
between us, that I have not followed your career with great
interest--very great interest! Your scholastic achievements have
been most praiseworthy--especially under the unfortunate
circumstances. . . . Although, by-the-way, I cannot at all agree
with your gloss on Romans fourteen, twenty-three; _Katakekritai_
either means _damned_ or nothing at all.

ROBERT [gesticulating]. It was _'im_ as said _damned_!

BISHOP. No, no, sir: it is perfectly indefensible!

ROBERT. I'll use what langwidge I like!

BISHOP [warming]. You said _katakekritai_ . . .

ROBERT. I never did, _I_ tek my oath!

BISHOP. My dear sir, I learned my Greek at Shrewsbury, before you
were born! Don't argue, sir!

ROBERT. Oo is argufying? . . . Talking to me about yer

BISHOP. We had better drop the subject! . . . Boeotian! After
all, it is not precisely the matter which has brought us together.
And that reminds me . . . [Trumpet.] Has he come yet?


BISHOP. Your brother, of course.

ROBERT. My brother! Oh, you'll see _'im_ soon enough!

BISHOP. I gather from your remark that he has not arrived yet.
Good! The fact is, I should like a preliminary discussion with
yourself before meeting your illustrious brother.

ROBERT. Then you'd better look slippy!

BISHOP. I beg your pardon? . . .

ROBERT [with a flap at the trumpet]. Go on: you 'eard.

BISHOP. Of course, the _financial_ undertaking is considerable:
it's not like an _investment_, where there is some reasonable hope
of a return: it's merely a matter of charity! The money's--gone,
so to speak.

ROBERT. Yus, I've noticed that about money, myself.

BISHOP. At the same time, I should like my _name_ to be associated
with your brother's, in so worthy an enterprise . . .

ROBERT [mildly sarcastic]. You don't say!

BISHOP. And then again, I _trust_--I say I _trust_--I am not
impervious to the more sacred obligations involved; but . . .

[He gropes blindly for bread.]

ROBERT. I allus notice that sort of 'igh talk ends with a
"but" . . .

BISHOP. Naturally, I should like to learn a little, beforehand, of
your brother's _views_. From what I gather, they are not
altogether likely to coincide with my own. Of course, he is an
idealist, a dreamer. Now, under these circumstances, perhaps . . .

Eh, what-- Oh! Bless my soul!

[MANSON has been offering him bread for some time. He has just
tumbled to the fact of his presence. He rises.]

My--my Brother from Benares, I presume?

ROBERT. What, _my_ pal, _'is_ brother! Oh, Je'oshaphat!

BISHOP. Ten thousand pardons! Really, my eyesight is deplorable!
Delighted to meet you! . . .

I was just observing to our charming host that--er-- Humph! . . .

Bless me! Now what _was_ I . . .

MANSON. Something about your sacred obligations, I believe.

BISHOP. May I trouble you again?

[MANSON gravely fixes the ear-trumpet in his ear.]

ROBERT. That's right: stick the damned thing in 'is ear-'ole,

MANSON [through the trumpet]. Your sacred obligations.

BISHOP. Precisely, precisely! Er-- Shall we sit?

[They do so. The BISHOP looks to MANSON to begin. MANSON, failing
him, the spirit begins to work within himself.]

Well--er---speaking of that, of course, my dearly-beloved brother,
I feel very seriously on the matter, very seriously--as I am sure
you do. The restoration of a church is a tremendous, an
overwhelming responsibility. To begin with, it--it costs quite a
lot. Doesn't it?

MANSON. It does: quite a lot.

BISHOP. Hm, yes--yes! . . . You mentioned _Sacred obligations_
just now, and I think that on the whole I am inclined to agree with
you. It is an admirable way of putting it. We must awaken people
to a sense of their _sacred obligations_. This is a work in which
everybody can do something: the rich man can give of the abundance
with which it has pleased Providence specially to favour him: the
poor man with his slender savings need have no fear for the poverty
of his gift-- Let him give all: it will be accepted. Those of us
who, like yourself, my dear brother--and I say it in all modesty,
perhaps _my_self--are in possession of the endowments of learning,
of influence, of authority--we can lend our _names_ to the good
work. As you say so very beautifully: _sacred obligations_.

By-the-way, I don't think I quite caught your views as to the
probable cost. Eh, what do you think?

MANSON. I think that should depend upon the obligations; and then,
of course, the sacredness might count for something.

BISHOP. Yes, yes, we've discussed all that. But bringing it down
to a _practical_ basis: how much could we manage with?

MANSON. What do you say to--everything you have?

BISHOP. My dear sir, I'm not talking about myself!

MANSON. Well--everything the others have?

BISHOP. My dear sir, they're not fools! Do discuss the matter
like a man of the world!

MANSON. _God's not watching: let's give as little, and grab as
much as we can_!

BISHOP. Ssh! My dear brother! Remember who's present! [He
glances toward Robert.] However . . . [Coughs.] We will return to
this later. I begin to understand you.

ROBERT. Yus: you think you do!

BISHOP. At the same time, I do think we ought to come to some
general understanding; we must count the cost. Now, from all
accounts, you have had some experience of church-building out in
India--not that I think the extravagance for which you are credited
would be either possible or desirable in this country--oh, no!
Thank God, we know how to worship in spirit and in truth, without
the aid of expensive buildings! However, I should like to hear
your views. How did you manage it?

MANSON. Sacrifice.

BISHOP. Of course, of course; but _practically_. They say it's an
enormous concern!

MANSON. So it is.

BISHOP. Well, what would such an establishment as that represent?
In round numbers, now?

MANSON [calmly]. Numberless millions.

BISHOP. Numberless mil . . . ! [He drops his fork.] My dear sir,
absurd! . . . Why, the place must be a palace--fit for a king!

MANSON. It is!

BISHOP. Do you mean to tell me that one man alone, on his own
naked credit, could obtain numberless millions for such an object
as that? How could you possibly get them together?

MANSON. They came freely from every quarter of the world.

BISHOP. On the security of your own name alone?

MANSON. No other, I assure you.

BISHOP. For Heaven's sake, tell me all about it! What sort of a
place is it?

MANSON [seriously]. Are you quite sure you can hear?

BISHOP. Perhaps your voice is _not_ quite so clear as it was.
However . . .

[He wipes the inside of the ear-trumpet, and fixes it afresh.]

Now! Tell me about your church.

[During the following speech the BISHOP is occupied with his own
thoughts: after the first few words he makes no attempt at
listening: indeed, the trumpet goes down to the table again in no
time. On the other hand, ROBERT, at first apathetic, gradually
awakens to the keenest interest in what MANSON says.]

MANSON [very simply]. I am afraid you may not consider it an
altogether substantial concern. It has to be seen in a certain
way, under certain conditions. Some people never _see_ it at all.
You must understand, this is no dead pile of stones and unmeaning
timber. _It is a living thing_.

BISHOP [in a hoarse whisper, self-engrossed]. Numberless millions!

MANSON. When you enter it you hear a sound--a sound as of some
mighty poem chanted. Listen long enough, and you will learn that
it is made up of the beating of human hearts, of the nameless music
of men's souls--that is, if you have ears. If you have eyes, you
will presently see the church itself--a looming mystery of many
shapes and shadows, leaping sheer from floor to dome. The work of
no ordinary builder!

BISHOP [trumpet down]. On the security of one man's name!

MANSON. The pillars of it go up like the brawny trunks of heroes:
the sweet human flesh of men and women is moulded about its
bulwarks, strong, impregnable: the faces of little children laugh
out from every corner-stone: the terrible spans and arches of it
are the joined hands of comrades; and up in the heights and spaces
there are inscribed the numberless musings of all the dreamers of
the world. It is yet building--building and built upon. Sometimes
the work goes forward in deep darkness: sometimes in blinding
light: now beneath the burden of unutterable anguish: now to the
tune of a great laughter and heroic shoutings like the cry of
thunder. [Softer.] Sometimes, in the silence of the night-time,
one may hear the tiny hammerings of the comrades at work up in the
dome--the comrades that have climbed ahead.

[There is a short silence, broken only by the champing jaws of the
BISHOP, who has resumed his sausages. ROBERT speaks first.]

ROBERT [slowly]. I think I begin to understand you, comride:
especially that bit abaht . . . [his eyes stray upwards] . . .
the 'ammerins' an' the--the harches--an' . . . Humph! I'm only an
'og! . . .

S'pose there's no drain 'ands wanted in that there church o' yours?

MANSON. Drains are a very important question there at present.

ROBERT. Why, I'd be cussin' over every stinkin' pipe I laid.

MANSON. I should make that a condition, comrade.

ROBERT [rising, he pulls off the cassock; goes to fire for his
coat: returns: drags it on]. I don't know! Things 'av' got in a
bit of a muck with me! I'm rather like a drain-pipe myself.

[With sudden inspiration]. There's one thing I _can_ do!

MANSON. What's that?

ROBERT. Renahnce ole Beelzebub an' all 'is bloomin' wirks! 'And
us that brarss-band!

[He alludes to the ear-trumpet. MANSON obeying, ROBERT jabs it
into the ear of the BISHOP, who seems quite surprised.]

'Ere! 'Av' you ever 'eard of 'ell?

BISHOP. Of what?

ROBERT. 'Ell. [Spelling.] H, E, double L, 'ell.

BISHOP. Well, my dear sir, I think I ought to!

ROBERT. Then, go there! Aymen . . .

Now I'll go an' 'av' a look at our Bill's drains, damn 'is eyes!

[He goes out through the main door, repentant.]

BISHOP. The scoundrel! Did you hear what he said? I shall
certainly report him to his bishop!

MANSON. I don't think I should. _His_ bishop doesn't mind a
little plain speech now and again.

BISHOP. A little plain speech! Do you think it's right for a
clergyman to--to direct me to perdition?

MANSON. I think you are making a mistake: the man who gave you
your--direction is not a clergyman. He's a scavenger.

BISHOP. A scavenger!

MANSON. Yes--looks after drains.

BISHOP. Do you mean to tell me that I've been sitting down to
breakfast with a common working-man?

MANSON. Yes; have you never done that before?

BISHOP. My dear sir, whatever do you take me for?

MANSON. A bishop of God's church.

BISHOP. Precisely! Is it _your_ custom to breakfast with

MANSON. Every morning. You see, I'm prejudiced: I was one myself,

BISHOP. You? . . .

MANSON. Yes--a long time ago, though: people have forgotten.

BISHOP. But, my dear brother, I am perfectly sure you never told
people to go to . . .

MANSON. Oh yes, quite frequently: it would shock you to learn the
language I really did use. Perhaps, under the circumstances, it
might be advisable to drop the subject at this point.

BISHOP [emphatically]. I most certainly agree with you there!
After all, it is a digression from the purpose for which we are
here! . . . Let me see, then: where were we? . . . Oh yes, I
remember-- Although, by the way, it was very ill-advised of you to
speak your mind so openly in that man's presence! However . . .

To resume our--how shall I call it ?--our--little understanding, eh?

MANSON. That describes it most accurately.

BISHOP. Now, you said, _Let's give as little, and grab as much as
we can_. Of course, that is a playful way of putting it; but
between ourselves, it expresses my sentiments exactly.

MANSON. I knew that when I said it.

BISHOP [delighted]. My dear brother, your comprehension makes my
heart warm. I trust our relations may always remain as warm.

MANSON. Oh, warmer, warmer!

BISHOP. Very well then, to business! I tell you, candidly, I
agree with you, that there is no necessity for sinking anything of
our own in the concern: nothing ever comes of that sort of reckless
generosity! If people want a church, let them make some sacrifice
for it! Why should _we_ do anything?

I am sure you will appreciate my candour?

MANSON. At its full value. Go on.

BISHOP. At the same time, there is no reason why we should throw
cold water upon the project. On the contrary, we might promote it,
encourage it, even lend it the influence of our patronage and our
names. _But on one understanding_!

MANSON. And that?

BISHOP. That it is extended--imperialised, so to speak: that it is
made the vehicle of a much vaster, of a much more momentous project
behind it!

MANSON. You interest me intensely. Explain.

BISHOP. I will.

[He looks around to assure himself that they are alone.]

There is in existence a society, a very influential society, in
which I happen to have an interest--very great interest. Hm! I am
one of the directors.

I may say that it is already very well established, financially;
but it is always open to consider the--extension of its influence
in that way.

MANSON. And the name of the society?

BISHOP. Rather long, but I trust explicit. It is called "_The
Society for the Promotion and Preservation of Emoluments for the
Higher Clergy_."

MANSON. I do not seem to have heard it _named_ before.

BISHOP. Well, no: its movements have always been characterised by
a certain modesty. It is an invisible society, so to speak; but I
can assure you its principles are very clearly understood--among
the parties most concerned.

MANSON. And your project?

BISHOP. Affiliate the subsidiary question of the building of the
Church, with the larger interests of the Society.

MANSON. Yes, but since people have already refused to subscribe to
the more trivial project . . .

BISHOP. They have not been properly approached. My dear sir, in
order to awaken public generosity, It is necessary to act like men
of the world: _we must have names_. People will subscribe to any
amount, if you can only get the right names.

That Is where _you_ come in.

MANSON. I! Do you propose to place my name at the head of

BISHOP. My dear sir, invaluable! Didn't you say yourself that you
brought in numberless millions, on your own credit, out there in
India? Why shouldn't you do the same in England? Think of your
reputation, your achievements, your name for sanctity-- Not a
word, sir: I _mean_ it! . . . Why, there's no end to the amount it
would bring in: it would mean billions!

Well, what do you say?

MAMSON [slowly]. Let us clearly understand one another. I am to
lend you my name--just my name--and you are to do all the rest.

BISHOP [quickly]. Oh yes: I'd _rather_ you kept out of the
business negotiations!

MANSON. It is rather a dangerous name to play with!

BISHOP, I take that responsibility entirely upon myself!

MANSON. And when all's over and done with, what are we going to
gain out of the transaction?

BISHOP. We shall have to come to some private settlement between


BISHOP. Oh, hereafter.

MANSON. Hereafter, then.

[Enter AUNTIE and VICAR by door to right.]

AUNTIE [off]. Leave him to me, William! I'll soon settle the
matter! [Entering.] The man must be possessed of some evil
spirit! . . .

Why--it's my brother James! . . .

[MANSON has risen, and is now the butler once more. He speaks into
the ear-trumpet.]

MANSON. Your sister and the vicar, my lord.

Book of the day: