The Skin Game by John Galsworthy

This etext was produced by David Widger PLAYS FOURTH SERIES By John Galsworthy PLAYS in the FOURTH SERIES A BIT O’ LOVE THE FOUNDATIONS THE SKIN GAME THE SKIN GAME (A TRAGI-COMEDY) “Who touches pitch shall be defiled” CHARACTERS HILLCRIST ……………A Country Gentleman AMY …………………His Wife JILL ………………..His Daughter DAWKER ………………His Agent HORNBLOWER …………..A Man
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  • 1920
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This etext was produced by David Widger



By John Galsworthy





“Who touches pitch shall be defiled”


HILLCRIST ……………A Country Gentleman AMY …………………His Wife
JILL ………………..His Daughter DAWKER ………………His Agent
HORNBLOWER …………..A Man Newly-Rich CHARLES ……………..His Elder Son
CHLOE ……………….Wife to Charles ROLF ………………..His Younger Son FELLOWS ……………..Hillcrist’s Butler ANNA ………………..Chloe’s Maid
THE JACKMANS …………Man and Wife



SCENE I. A month later. An Auction Room. SCENE II. The same evening. CHLOE’S Boudoir.


SCENE I. The following day. HILLCRIST’S Study. Morning. SCENE II. The Same. Evening.


HILLCRIST’S study. A pleasant room, with books in calf bindings, and signs that the HILLCRIST’S have travelled, such as a large photograph of the Taj Mahal, of Table Mountain, and the Pyramids of Egypt. A large bureau [stage Right], devoted to the business of a country estate. Two foxes’ masks. Flowers in bowls. Deep armchairs. A large French window open [at Back], with a lovely view of a slight rise of fields and trees in August sunlight. A fine stone fireplace [stage Left]. A door [Left]. A door opposite [Right]. General colour effect–stone, and cigar-leaf brown, with spots of bright colour.

[HILLCRIST sits in a swivel chair at the bureau, busy with papers. He has gout, and his left foot is encased accord: He is a thin, dried-up man of about fifty-five, with a rather refined, rather kindly, and rather cranky countenance. Close to him stands his very upstanding nineteen-year-old daughter JILL, with clubbed hair round a pretty, manly face.]

JILL. You know, Dodo, it’s all pretty good rot in these days.

HILLCRIST. Cads are cads, Jill, even in these days.

JILL. What is a cad?

HILLCRIST. A self-assertive fellow, without a sense of other people.

JILL. Well, Old Hornblower I’ll give you.

HILLCRIST. I wouldn’t take him.

JILL. Well, you’ve got him. Now, Charlie–Chearlie–I say–the importance of not being Charlie—-

HILLCRIST. Good heavens! do you know their Christian names?

JILL. My dear father, they’ve been here seven years.

HILLCRIST. In old days we only knew their Christian names from their tombstones.

JILL. Charlie Hornblower isn’t really half a bad sport.

HILLCRIST. About a quarter of a bad sport I’ve always thought out hunting.

JILL. [Pulling his hair] Now, his wife–Chloe—

HILLCRIST. [Whimsical] Gad! your mother’d have a fit if she knew you called her Chloe.

JILL. It’s a ripping name.

HILLCRIST. Chloe! H’m! I had a spaniel once—-

JILL. Dodo, you’re narrow. Buck up, old darling, it won’t do. Chloe has seen life, I’m pretty sure; THAT’S attractive, anyway. No, mother’s not in the room; don’t turn your uneasy eyes.

HILLCRIST. Really, my dear, you are getting—-

JILL. The limit. Now, Rolf—-

HILLCRIST. What’s Rolf? Another dog?

JILL. Rolf Hornblower’s a topper; he really is a nice boy.

HILLCRIST. [With a sharp look] Oh! He’s a nice boy?

JILL. Yes, darling. You know what a nice boy is, don’t you?

HILLCRIST. Not in these days.

JILL. Well, I’ll tell you. In the first place, he’s not amorous.

HILLCRIST. What! Well, that’s some comfort.

JILL. Just a jolly good companion.


JILL. Well, to anyone–me.


JILL. Anywhere. You don’t suppose I confine myself to the home paddocks, do you? I’m naturally rangey, Father.

HILLCRIST. [Ironically] You don’t say so!

JILL. In the second place, he doesn’t like discipline.

HILLCRIST. Jupiter! He does seem attractive.

JILL. In the third place, he bars his father.

HILLCRIST. Is that essential to nice girls too?

JILL. [With a twirl of his hair] Fish not! Fourthly, he’s got ideas.

HILLCRIST. I knew it!

JILL. For instance, he thinks–as I do—-

HILLCRIST. Ah! Good ideas.

JILL. [Pulling gently] Careful! He thinks old people run the show too much. He says they oughtn’t to, because they’re so damtouchy. Are you damtouchy, darling?

HILLCRIST. Well, I’m—-! I don’t know about touchy.

JILL. He says there’ll be no world fit to live in till we get rid of the old. We must make them climb a tall tree, and shake them off it.

HILLCRIST. [Drily] Oh! he says that!

JILL. Otherwise, with the way they stand on each other’s rights, they’ll spoil the garden for the young.

HILLCRIST. Does his father agree?

JILL. Oh! Rolf doesn’t talk to him, his mouth’s too large. Have you ever seen it, Dodo?

HILLCRIST. Of course.

JILL. It’s considerable, isn’t it? Now yours is–reticent, darling. [Rumpling his hair.]

HILLCRIST. It won’t be in a minute. Do you realise that I’ve got gout?

JILL. Poor ducky! How long have we been here, Dodo?

HILLCRIST. Since Elizabeth, anyway.

JILL. [Looking at his foot] It has its drawbacks. D’you think Hornblower had a father? I believe he was spontaneous. But, Dodo, why all this–this attitude to the Hornblowers?

[She purses her lips and makes a gesture as of pushing persons away.]

HILLCRIST. Because they’re pushing.

JILL. That’s only because we are, as mother would say, and they’re not–yet. But why not let them be?

HILLCRIST. You can’t.

JILL. Why?

HILLCRIST. It takes generations to learn to live and let live, Jill. People like that take an ell when you give them an inch.

JILL. But if you gave them the ell, they wouldn’t want the inch. Why should it all be such a skin game?

HILLCRIST. Skin game? Where do you get your lingo?

JILL. Keep to the point, Dodo.

HILLCRIST. Well, Jill, all life’s a struggle between people at different stages of development, in different positions, with different amounts of social influence and property. And the only thing is to have rules of the game and keep them. New people like the Hornblowers haven’t learnt those rules; their only rule is to get all they can.

JILL. Darling, don’t prose. They’re not half as bad as you think.

HILLCRIST. Well, when I sold Hornblower Longmeadow and the cottages, I certainly found him all right. All the same, he’s got the cloven hoof. [Warming up] His influence in Deepwater is thoroughly bad; those potteries of his are demoralising–the whole atmosphere of the place is changing. It was a thousand pities he ever came here and discovered that clay. He’s brought in the modern cutthroat spirit.

JILL. Cut our throat spirit, you mean. What’s your definition of a gentleman, Dodo?

HILLCRIST. [Uneasily] Can’t describe–only feel it.

JILL. Oh! Try!

HILLCRIST. Well–er–I suppose you might say–a man who keeps his form and doesn’t let life scupper him out of his standards.

JILL. But suppose his standards are low?

HILLCRIST. [With some earnestness] I assume, of course, that he’s honest and tolerant, gentle to the weak, and not self-seeking.

JILL. Ah! self-seeking? But aren’t we all, Dodo? I am.

HILLCRIST. [With a smile] You!

JILL. [Scornfully] Oh! yes–too young to know.

HILLCRIST. Nobody knows till they’re under pretty heavy fire, Jill.

JILL. Except, of course, mother.

HILLCRIST. How do you mean–mother?

JILL. Mother reminds me of England according to herself–always right whatever she does.

HILLCRIST. Ye-es. Your mother it perhaps–the perfect woman.

JILL. That’s what I was saying. Now, no one could call you perfect, Dodo. Besides, you’ve got gout.

HILLCRIST. Yes; and I want Fellows. Ring that bell.

JILL. [Crossing to the bell] Shall I tell you my definition of a gentleman? A man who gives the Hornblower his due. [She rings the bell] And I think mother ought to call on them. Rolf says old Hornblower resents it fearfully that she’s never made a sign to Chloe the three years she’s been here.

HILLCRIST. I don’t interfere with your mother in such matters. She may go and call on the devil himself if she likes.

JILL. I know you’re ever so much better than she is.

HILLCRIST. That’s respectful.

JILL. You do keep your prejudices out of your phiz. But mother literally looks down her nose. And she never forgives an “h.” They’d get the “hell” from her if they took the “hinch.”

HILLCRIST. Jill-your language!

JILL. Don’t slime out of it, Dodo. I say, mother ought to call on the Hornblowers. [No answer.] Well?

HILLCRIST. My dear, I always let people have the last word. It makes them–feel funny. Ugh! My foot![Enter FELLOWS, Left.] Fellows, send into the village and get another bottle of this stuff.

JILL. I’ll go, darling.

[She blow him a kiss, and goes out at the window.]

HILLCRIST. And tell cook I’ve got to go on slops. This foot’s worse.

FELLOWS. [Sympathetic] Indeed, sir.

HILLCRIST. My third go this year, Fellows.

FELLOWS. Very annoying, sir.

HILLCRIST. Ye-es. Ever had it?

FELLOWS. I fancy I have had a twinge, sir.

HILLCRIST. [Brightening] Have you? Where?

FELLOWS. In my cork wrist, sir.

HILLCRIST. Your what?

FELLOWS. The wrist I draw corks with.

HILLCRIST. [With a cackle] You’d have had more than a twinge if you’d lived with my father. H’m!

FELLOWS. Excuse me, sir–Vichy water corks, in my experience, are worse than any wine.

HILLCRIST. [Ironically] Ah! The country’s not what it was, is it, Fellows?

FELLOWS. Getting very new, sir.

HILLCRIST. [Feelingly] You’re right. Has Dawker come?

FELLOWS. Not yet, sir. The Jackmans would like to see you, sir.

HILLCRIST. What about?

FELLOWS. I don’t know, sir.

HILLCRIST. Well, show them in.

FELLOWS. [Going] Yes, sir.

[HILLCRIST turns his swivel chair round. The JACKMANS come in. He, a big fellow about fifty, in a labourer’s dress, with eyes which have more in then than his tongue can express; she, a little woman with a worn face, a bright, quick glance, and a tongue to match.]

HILLCRIST. Good morning, Mrs. Jackman! Morning, Jackman! Haven’t seen you for a long time. What can I do?

[He draws in foot, and breath, with a sharp hiss.]

HILLCRIST. [In a down-hearted voice] We’ve had notice to quit, sir.

HILLCRIST. [With emphasis] What!

JACKMAN. Got to be out this week.

MRS. J. Yes, sir, indeed.

HILLCRIST. Well, but when I sold Longmeadow and the cottages, it was on the express understanding that there was to be no disturbance of tenancies:

MRS. J. Yes, sir; but we’ve all got to go. Mrs. ‘Arvey, and the Drews, an’ us, and there isn’t another cottage to be had anywhere in Deepwater.

HILLCRIST. I know; I want one for my cowman. This won’t do at all. Where do you get it from?

JACKMAN. Mr. ‘Ornblower, ‘imself, air. Just an hour ago. He come round and said: “I’m sorry; I want the cottages, and you’ve got to clear.”

MRS. J. [Bitterly] He’s no gentleman, sir; he put it so brisk. We been there thirty years, and now we don’t know what to do. So I hope you’ll excuse us coming round, sir.

HILLCRIST. I should think so, indeed! H’m! [He rises and limps across to the fireplace on his stick. To himself] The cloven hoof. By George! this is a breach of faith. I’ll write to him, Jackman. Confound it! I’d certainly never have sold if I’d known he was going to do this.

MRS. J. No, sir, I’m sure, sir. They do say it’s to do with the potteries. He wants the cottages for his workmen.

HILLCRIST. [Sharply] That’s all very well, but he shouldn’t have led me to suppose that he would make no change.

JACKMAN. [Heavily] They talk about his havin’ bought the Centry to gut up more chimneys there, and that’s why he wants the cottages.

HINT. The Centry! Impossible!

[Mrs. J. Yes, air; it’s such a pretty spot-looks beautiful from here. [She looks out through the window] Loveliest spot in all Deepwater, I always say. And your father owned it, and his father before ‘im. It’s a pity they ever sold it, sir, beggin’ your pardon.]

HILLCRIST. The Centry! [He rings the bell.]

Mrs. J. [Who has brightened up] I’m glad you’re goin’ to stop it, sir. It does put us about. We don’t know where to go. I said to Mr. Hornblower, I said, “I’m sure Mr. Hillcrist would never ‘eve turned us out.” An’ ‘e said: “Mr. Hillcrist be—-” beggin’ your pardon, sir. “Make no mistake,” ‘e said, “you must go, missis.” He don’t even know our name; an’ to come it like this over us! He’s a dreadful new man, I think, with his overridin notions. And sich a heavyfooted man, to look at. [With a sort of indulgent contempt] But he’s from the North, they say.

[FELLOWS has entered, Left.]

HILLCRIST. Ask Mrs. Hillcrist if she’ll come.

FELLOWS. Very good, sir.

HILLCRIST. Is Dawker here?

FELLOWS. Not yet, sir.

HILLCRIST. I want to see him at once.

[FELLOWS retires.]

JACKMAN. Mr. Hornblower said he was comin’ on to see you, sir. So we thought we’d step along first.

HILLCRIST. Quite right, Jackman.

MRS. J. I said to Jackman: “Mr. Hillcrist’ll stand up for us, I know. He’s a gentleman,” I said. “This man,” I said, “don’t care for the neighbourhood, or the people; he don’t care for anything so long as he makes his money, and has his importance. You can’t expect it, I suppose,” I said; [Bitterly] “havin’ got rich so sudden.” The gentry don’t do things like that.

HILLCRIST. [Abstracted] Quite, Mrs. Jackman, quite! [To himself] The Centry! No!

[MRS. HILLCRIST enters. A well-dressed woman, with a firm, clear-cut face.]

Oh! Amy! Mr. and Mrs. Jackman turned out of their cottage, and Mrs. Harvey, and the Drews. When I sold to Hornblower, I stipulated that they shouldn’t be.

MRS. J. Our week’s up on Saturday, ma’am, and I’m sure I don’t know where we shall turn, because of course Jackman must be near his work, and I shall lose me washin’ if we have to go far.

HILLCRIST. [With decision] You leave it to me, Mrs. Jackman. Good morning! Morning, Jackman! Sorry I can’t move with this gout.

MRS. J. [For them both] I’m sure we’re very sorry, sir. Good morning, sir. Good morning, ma’am; and thank you kindly. [They go out.]

HILLCRIST. Turning people out that have been there thirty years. I won’t have it. It’s a breach of faith.

MRS. H. Do you suppose this Hornblower will care two straws about that Jack?

HILLCRIST. He must, when it’s put to him, if he’s got any decent feeling.

MRS. H. He hasn’t.

HILLCRIST. [Suddenly] The Jackmans talk of his having bought the Centry to put up more chimneys.

MRS. H. Never! [At the window, looking out] Impossible! It would ruin the place utterly; besides cutting us off from the Duke’s. Oh, no! Miss Mullins would never sell behind our backs.

HILLCRIST. Anyway I must stop his turning these people out.

Mrs. H. [With a little smile, almost contemptuous] You might have known he’d do something of the sort. You will imagine people are like yourself, Jack. You always ought to make Dawker have things in black and white.

HILLCRIST. I said quite distinctly: “Of course you won’t want to disturb the tenancies; there’s a great shortage of cottages.” Hornblower told me as distinctly that he wouldn’t. What more do you want?

Mrs. H. A man like that thinks of nothing but the short cut to his own way. [Looking out of the window towards the rise] If he buys the Centry and puts up chimneys, we simply couldn’t stop here.

HILLCRIST. My father would turn in his grave.

MRS. H. It would have been more useful if he’d not dipped the estate, and sold the Centry. This Hornblower hates us; he thinks we turn up our noses at him.

HILLCRIST. As we do, Amy.

MRS. H. Who wouldn’t? A man without traditions, who believes in nothing but money and push.

HILLCRIST. Suppose he won’t budge, can we do anything for the Jackmans?

MRS. H. There are the two rooms Beaver used to have, over the stables.

FELLOWS. Mr. Dawker, sir.

[DAWKERS is a short, square, rather red-faced terrier of a man, in riding clothes and gaiters.]

HILLCRIST. Ah! Dawker, I’ve got gout again.

DAWKER. Very sorry, sir. How de do, ma’am?

HILLCRIST. Did you meet the Jackmans?


[He hardly ever quite finishes a word, seeming to snap of their tails.]

HILLCRIST. Then you heard?

DAWKER. [Nodding] Smart man, Hornblower; never lets grass grow.


DAWKER. [Grinning] Don’t do to underrate your neighbours.

MRS. H. A cad–I call him.

DAWKER. That’s it, ma’am-got all the advantage.

HILLCRIST. Heard anything about the Centry, Dawker?

DAWKER. Hornblower wants to buy.

HILLCRIST. Miss Mullins would never sell, would she?

DAWKER. She wants to.

HILLCRIST. The deuce she does!

DAWKER. He won’t stick at the price either.

MRS. H. What’s it worth, Dawker?

DAWKER. Depends on what you want it for.

MRS. H. He wants it for spite; we want it for sentiment.

DAWKER. [Grinning] Worth what you like to give, then; but he’s a rich man.

MRS. H. Intolerable!

DAWKER. [To HILLCRIST] Give me your figure, sir. I’ll try the old lady before he gets at her.

HILLCRIST. [Pondering] I don’t want to buy, unless there’s nothing else for it. I should have to raise the money on the estate; it won’t stand much more. I can’t believe the fellow would be such a barbarian. Chimneys within three hundred yards, right in front of this house! It’s a nightmare.

MRS. H. You’d much better let Dawker make sure, Jack.

HILLCRIST. [Uncomfortable] Jackman says Hornblower’s coming round to see me. I shall put it to him.

DAWKER. Make him keener than ever. Better get in first.

HILLCRIST. Ape his methods!–Ugh! Confound this gout! [He gets back to his chair with difficulty] Look here, Dawker, I wanted to see you about gates—-

FELLOWS. [Entering] Mr. Hornblower.

[HORNBLOWER enters-a man of medium, height, thoroughly broadened, blown out, as it were, by success. He has thick, coarse, dark hair, just grizzled, wry bushy eyebrow, a wide mouth. He wears quite ordinary clothes, as if that department were in charge of someone who knew about such, things. He has a small rose in his buttonhole, and carries a Homburg hat, which one suspects will look too small on his head.]

HORNBLOWER. Good morning! good morning! How are ye, Dawker? Fine morning! Lovely weather!

[His voice has a curious blend in its tone of brass and oil, and an accent not quite Scotch nor quite North country.]

Haven’t seen ye for a long time, Hillcrist.

HILLCRIST. [Who has risen] Not since I sold you Longmeadow and those cottages, I believe.

HORNBLOWER. Dear me, now! that’s what I came about.

HILLCRIST. [Subsiding again into his chair] Forgive me! Won’t you sit down?

HORNBLOWER. [Not sitting] Have ye got gout? That’s unfortunate. I never get it. I’ve no disposition that way. Had no ancestors, you see. Just me own drinkin’ to answer for.

HILLCRIST. You’re lucky.

HORNBLOWER. I wonder if Mrs. Hillcrist thinks that! Am I lucky to have no past, ma’am? Just the future?

MRS. H. You’re sure you have the future, Mr. Hornblower?

HORNBLOWER. [With a laugh] That’s your aristocratic rapier thrust. You aristocrats are very hard people underneath your manners. Ye love to lay a body out. But I’ve got the future all right.

HILLCRIST. [Meaningly] I’ve had the Dackmans here, Mr. Hornblower.

HORNBLOWER. Who are they–man with the little spitfire wife?

HILLCRIST. They’re very excellent, good people, and they’ve been in that cottage quietly thirty years.

HORNBLOWER. [Throwing out his forefinger–a favourite gesture] Ah! ye’ve wanted me to stir ye up a bit. Deepwater needs a bit o’ go put into it. There’s generally some go where I am. I daresay you wish there’d been no “come.” [He laughs].

MRS. H. We certainly like people to keep their word, Mr. Hornblower.


HORNBLOWER. Never mind, Hillcrist; takes more than that to upset me.

[MRS. HILLCRIST exchanges a look with DAWKER who slips out unobserved.]

HILLCRIST. You promised me, you know, not to change the tenancies.

HORNBLOWER. Well, I’ve come to tell ye that I have. I wasn’t expecting to have the need when I bought. Thought the Duke would sell me a bit down there; but devil a bit he will; and now I must have those cottages for my workmen. I’ve got important works, ye know.

HILLCRIST. [Getting heated] The Jackmans have their importance too, sir. Their heart’s in that cottage.

HORNBLOWER. Have a sense of proportion, man. My works supply thousands of people, and my, heart’s in them. What’s more, they make my fortune. I’ve got ambitions–I’m a serious man. Suppose I were to consider this and that, and every little potty objection– where should I get to?–nowhere!

HILLCRIST. All the same, this sort of thing isn’t done, you know.

HORNBLOWER. Not by you because ye’ve got no need to do it. Here ye are, quite content on what your fathers made for ye. Ye’ve no ambitions; and ye want other people to have none. How d’ye think your fathers got your land?

HILLCRIST. [Who has risen] Not by breaking their word.

HORNBLOWER. [Throwing out his, finger] Don’t ye believe it. They got it by breaking their word and turnin’ out Jackmans, if that’s their name, all over the place.

MRS. H. That’s an insult, Mr. Hornblower.

HORNBLOWER. No; it’s a repartee. If ye think so much of these Jackmans, build them a cottage yourselves; ye’ve got the space.

HILLCRIST. That’s beside the point. You promised me, and I sold on that understanding.

HORNBLOWER. And I bought on the understandin’ that I’d get some more land from the Duke.

HILLCRIST. That’s nothing to do with me.

HORNBLOWER. Ye’ll find it has; because I’m going to have those cottages.

HILLCRIST. Well, I call it simply—-

[He checks himself.]

HORNBLOWER. Look here, Hillcrist, ye’ve not had occasion to understand men like me. I’ve got the guts, and I’ve got the money; and I don’t sit still on it. I’m going ahead because I believe in meself. I’ve no use for sentiment and that sort of thing. Forty of your Jackmans aren’t worth me little finger.

HILLCRIST. [Angry] Of all the blatant things I ever heard said!

HORNBLOWER. Well, as we’re speaking plainly, I’ve been thinkin’. Ye want the village run your oldfashioned way, and I want it run mine. I fancy there’s not room for the two of us here.

MRS. H. When are you going?

HORNBLOWER. Never fear, I’m not going.

HILLCRIST. Look here, Mr. Hornblower–this infernal gout makes me irritable–puts me at a disadvantage. But I should be glad if you’d kindly explain yourself.

HORNBLOWER. [With a great smile] Ca’ canny; I’m fra’ the North.

HILLCRIST. I’m told you wish to buy the Centry and put more of your chimneys up there, regardless of the fact [He Points through the window] that it would utterly ruin the house we’ve had for generations, and all our pleasure here.

HORNBLOWER. How the man talks! Why! Ye’d think he owned the sky, because his fathers built him a house with a pretty view, where he’s nothing to do but live. It’s sheer want of something to do that gives ye your fine sentiments, Hillcrist.

HILLCRIST. Have the goodness not to charge me with idleness. Dawker–where is he?—-[He shows the bureau] When you do the drudgery of your works as thoroughly as I do that of my estate—- Is it true about the Centry?

HORNBLOWER. Gospel true. If ye want to know, my son Chearlie is buyin’ it this very minute.

MRS. H. [Turning with a start] What do you say?

HORNBLOWER. Ay, he’s with the old lady she wants to sell, an’ she’ll get her price, whatever it is.

HILLCRIST. [With deep anger] If that isn’t a skin game, Mr. Hornblower, I don’t know what is.

HORNBLOWER. Ah! Ye’ve got a very nice expression there. “Skin game!” Well, bad words break no bones, an’ they’re wonderful for hardenin’ the heart. If it wasn’t for a lady’s presence, I could give ye a specimen or two.

MRS. H. Oh! Mr. Hornblower, that need not stop you, I’m sure.

HORNBLOWER. Well, and I don’t know that it need. Ye’re an obstruction–the like of you–ye’re in my path. And anyone in my path doesn’t stay there long; or, if he does, he stays there on my terms. And my terms are chimneys in the Centry where I need ’em. It’ll do ye a power of good, too, to know that ye’re not almighty.

HILLCRIST. And that’s being neighbourly!

HORNBLOWER. And how have ye tried bein’ neighbourly to me? If I haven’t a wife, I’ve got a daughter-in-law. Have Ye celled on her, ma’am? I’m new, and ye’re an old family. Ye don’t like me, ye think I’m a pushin’ man. I go to chapel, an’ ye don’t like that. I make things and I sell them, and ye don’t like that. I buy land, and ye don’t like that. It threatens the view from your windies. Well, I don’t lie you, and I’m not goin’ to put up with your attitude. Ye’ve had things your own way too long, and now ye’re not going to have them any longer.

HILLCRIST. Will you hold to your word over those cottages?

HORNBLOWER. I’m goin’ to have the cottages. I need them, and more besides, now I’m to put up me new works.

HILLCRIST. That’s a declaration of war.

HORNBLOWER. Ye never said a truer word. It’s one or the other of us, and I rather think it’s goin’ to be me. I’m the risin’ and you’re the settin’ sun, as the poet says.

HILLCRIST. [Touching the bell] We shall see if you can ride rough- shod like this. We used to have decent ways of going about things here. You want to change all that. Well, we shall do our damnedest to stop you. [To FELLOWS at the door] Are the Jackmans still in the house? Ask them to be good enough to come in.

HORNBLOWER. [With the first sign of uneasiness] I’ve seen these people. I’ve nothing more to say to them. I told ’em I’d give ’em five pounds to cover their moving.

HILLCRIST. It doesn’t occur to you that people, however humble, like to have some say in their own fate?

HORNBLOWER. I never had any say in mine till I had the brass, and nobody ever will. It’s all hypocrisy. You county folk are fair awful hypocrites. Ye talk about good form and all that sort o’ thing. It’s just the comfortable doctrine of the man in the saddle; sentimental varnish. Ye’re every bit as hard as I am, underneath.

MRS. H. [Who had been standing very still all this time] You flatter us.

HORNBLOWER. Not at all. God helps those who ‘elp themselves– that’s at the bottom of all religion. I’m goin’ to help meself, and God’s going to help me.

MRS. H. I admire your knowledge.

HILLCRIST. We are in the right, and God helps—-

HORNBLOWER. Don’t ye believe it; ye ‘aven’t got the energy.

MRS. H. Nor perhaps the conceit.

HORNBLOWER. [Throwing out his forefinger] No, no; ’tisn’t conceit to believe in yourself when ye’ve got reason to. [The JACKMAN’S have entered.]

HILLCRIST. I’m very sorry, Mrs. Jackman, but I just wanted you to realise that I’ve done my best with this gentleman.

MRS. J. [Doubtfully] Yes, sir. I thought if you spoke for us, he’d feel different-like.

HORNBLOWER. One cottage is the same as another, missis. I made ye a fair offer of five pounds for the moving.

JACKMAN. [Slowly] We wouldn’t take fifty to go out of that ‘ouse. We brought up three children there, an’ buried two from it.

MRS. J. [To MRS. HILLCRIST] We’re attached to it like, ma’am.

HILLCRIST. [To HORNBLOWER.] How would you like being turned out of a place you were fond of?

HORNBLOWER. Not a bit. But little considerations have to give way to big ones. Now, missis, I’ll make it ten pounds, and I’ll send a wagon to shift your things. If that isn’t fair–! Ye’d better accept, I shan’t keep it open.

[The JACKMANS look at each other; their faces show deep anger– and the question they ask each other is which will speak.]

MRS. J. We won’t take it; eh, George?

JACKMAN. Not a farden. We come there when we was married.

HORNBLOWER. [Throwing out his finger] Ye’re very improvident folk.

HILLCRIST. Don’t lecture them, Mr. Hornblower; they come out of this miles above you.

HORNBLOWER. [Angry] Well, I was going to give ye another week, but ye’ll go out next Saturday; and take care ye’re not late, or your things’ll be put out in the rain.

MRS. H. [To MRS. JACKMAN] We’ll send down for your things, and you can come to us for the time being.

[MRS. JACKMAN drops a curtsey; her eyes stab HORNBLOWERS.]

JACKMAN. [Heavily, clenching his fists] You’re no gentleman! Don’t put temptation in my way, that’s all,

HILLCRIST. [In a low voice] Jackman!

HORNBLOWER. [Triumphantly] Ye hear that? That’s your protegee! Keep out o’ my way, me man, or I’ll put the police on to ye for utterin’ threats.

HILLCRIST. You’d better go now, Jackman.

[The JACKMANS move to the door.]

MRS. J. [Turning] Maybe you’ll repent it some day, sir.

[They go out, MRS. HILLCRIST following.]

HORNBLOWER. We-ell, I’m sorry they’re such unreasonable folk. I never met people with less notion of which side their bread was buttered.

HILLCRIST. And I never met anyone so pachydermatous.

HORNBLOWER. What’s that, in Heaven’s name? Ye needn’ wrap it up in long words now your good lady’s gone.

HILLCRIST. [With dignity] I’m not going in for a slanging match. I resent your conduct much too deeply.

HORNBLOWER. Look here, Hillcrist, I don’t object to you personally; ye seem to me a poor creature that’s bound to get left with your gout and your dignity; but of course ye can make yourself very disagreeable before ye’re done. Now I want to be the movin’ spirit here. I’m full of plans. I’m goin’ to stand for Parliament; I’m goin’ to make this a prosperous place. I’m a good-matured man if you’ll treat me as such. Now, you take me on as a neighbour and all that, and I’ll manage without chimneys on the Centry. Is it a bargain? [He holds out his hand.]

HILLCRIST. [Ignoring it] I thought you said you didn’t keep your word when it suited you to break it?

HORNBLOWER. Now, don’t get on the high horse. You and me could be very good friends; but I can be a very nasty enemy. The chimneys will not look nice from that windie, ye know.

HILLCRIST. [Deeply angry] Mr. Hornblower, if you think I’ll take your hand after this Jackman business, you’re greatly mistaken. You are proposing that I shall stand in with you while you tyrannise over the neighbourhood. Please realise that unless you leave those tenancies undisturbed as you said you would, we don’t know each other.

HORNBLOWER. Well, that won’t trouble me much. Now, ye’d better think it over; ye’ve got gout and that makes ye hasty. I tell ye again: I’m not the man to make an enemy of. Unless ye’re friendly, sure as I stand here I’ll ruin the look of your place.

[The toot of a car is heard.]

There’s my car. I sent Chearlie and his wife in it to buy the Centry. And make no mistake–he’s got it in his packet. It’s your last chance, Hillcrist. I’m not averse to you as a man; I think ye’re the best of the fossils round here; at least, I think ye can do me the most harm socially. Come now!

[He holds out his hand again.]

HILLCRIST. Not if you’d bought the Centry ten times over. Your ways are not mine, and I’ll have nothing to do with you.

HORNBLOWER. [Very angry] Really! Is that so? Very well. Now ye’re goin’ to learn something, an’ it’s time ye did. D’ye realise that I’m ‘very nearly round ye? [He draws a circle slowly in the air] I’m at Uphill, the works are here, here’s Longmeadow, here’s the Centry that I’ve just bought, there’s only the Common left to give ye touch with the world. Now between you and the Common there’s the high road.

I come out on the high road here to your north, and I shall come out on it there to your west. When I’ve got me new works up on the Centry, I shall be makin’ a trolley track between the works up to the road at both ends, so any goods will be running right round ye. How’ll ye like that for a country place?

[For answer HILLCRIST, who is angry beyond the power of speech, walks, forgetting to use his stick, up to the French window. While he stands there, with his back to HORNBLOWER, the door L. is flung open, and Jim enters, preceding CHARLES, his wife CHLOE, and ROLF. CHARLES is a goodish-looking, moustached young man of about twenty-eight, with a white rim to the collar of his waistcoat, and spats. He has his hand behind CHLOE’S back, as if to prevent her turning tail. She is rather a handsome young woman, with dark eyes, full red lips, and a suspicion of powder, a little under-dressed for the country. ROLF, mho brings up the rear, is about twenty, with an open face and stiffish butter-coloured hair. JILL runs over to her father at the window. She has a bottle.]

JILL. [Sotto voce] Look, Dodo, I’ve brought the lot! Isn’t it a treat, dear Papa? And here’s the stuff. Hallo!

[The exclamation is induced by the apprehension that there has been a row. HILLCRIST gives a stiff little bow, remaining where he is in the window. JILL, stays close to him, staring from one to the other, then blocks him off and engages him in conversation. CHARLES has gone up to his father, who has remained maliciously still, where he delivered his last speech. CHLOE and ROLF stand awkwardly waiting between the fireplace and the door.]

HORNBLOWER. Well, Chearlie?

CHARLES. Not got it.


CHARLES. I’d practically got her to say she’d sell at three thousand five hundred, when that fellow Dawker turned up.

HORNBLOWER. That bull-terrier of a chap! Why, he was here a while ago. Oh–ho! So that’s it!

CHARLES. I heard him gallop up. He came straight for the old lady, and got her away. What he said I don’t know; but she came back looking wiser than an owl; said she’d think it over, thought she had other views.

HORNBLOWER. Did ye tell her she might have her price?

CHARLES. Practically I did.


CHARLES. She thought it would be fairer to put it up to auction. There were other enquiries. Oh! She’s a leery old bird–reminds me of one of those pictures of Fate, don’t you know.

HORNBLOWER. Auction! Well, if it’s not gone we’ll get it yet. That damned little Dawker! I’ve had a row with Hillcrist.

CHARLES. I thought so.

[They are turning cautiously to look at HILLCRIST, when JILL steps forward.]

JILL. [Flushed and determined] That’s not a bit sporting of you, Mr. Hornblower.

[At her words ROLE comes forward too.]

HORNBLOWER. Ye should hear both sides before ye say that, missy.

JILL. There isn’t another side to turning out the Jackmans after you’d promised.

HORNBLOWER. Oh! dear me, yes. They don’t matter a row of gingerbread to the schemes I’ve got for betterin’ this neighbourhood.

JILL. I had been standing up for you; now I won’t.

HOUNBLOWER. Dear, dear! What’ll become of me?

JILL. I won’t say anything about the other thing because I think it’s beneath, dignity to notice it. But to turn poor people out of their cottages is a shame.


ROLF. [Suddenly] You haven’t been doing that, father?

CHARLES. Shut up, Rolf!

HORNBLOWER. [Turning on ROLF] Ha! Here’s a league o’ Youth! My young whipper-snapper, keep your mouth shut and leave it to your elders to know what’s right.

[Under the weight of this rejoinder ROLF stands biting his lips. Then he throws his head up.]

ROLF. I hate it!

HORNBLOWER. [With real venom] Oh! Ye hate it? Ye can get out of my house, then.

JILL. Free speech, Mr. Hornblower; don’t be violent.

HORNBLOWER. Ye’re right, young lady. Ye can stay in my house, Rolf, and learn manners. Come, Chearlie!

JILL. [Quite softly] Mr. Hornblower!

HILLCRIST. [From the window] Jill!

JILL. [Impatiently] Well, what’s the good of it? Life’s too short for rows, and too jolly!

ROLF. Bravo!

HORNBLOWER. [Who has shown a sign of weakening] Now, look here! I will not have revolt in my family. Ye’ll just have to learn that a man who’s worked as I have, who’s risen as I have, and who knows the world, is the proper judge of what’s right and wrong. I’ll answer to God for me actions, and not to you young people.

JILL. Poor God!

HORNBLOWER. [Genuinely shocked] Ye blasphemous young thing! [To ROLF] And ye’re just as bad, ye young freethinker. I won’t have it.

HILLCRIST. [Who has come down, Right] Jill, I wish you would kindly not talk.

JILL. I can’t help it.

CHARLES. [Putting his arm through HORNBLOWER’S] Come along, father! Deeds, not words.


[MRS. HILLCRIST and DAWKERS have entered by the French window.]

MRS. H. Quite right!

[They all turn and look at her.]

HORNBLOWER. Ah! So ye put your dog on to it. [He throws out his finger at DAWKERS] Very smart, that–I give ye credit.

MRS. H. [Pointing to CHLOE, who has stood by herself, forgotten and uncomfortable throughout the scene]
May I ask who this lady is?

[CHLOE turns round startled, and her vanity bag slips down her dress to the floor.]

HORNBLOWER. No, ma’am, ye may not, for ye know perfectly well.

JILL. I brought her in, mother [She moves to CHLOE’s side.]

MRS. H. Will you take her out again, then.

HILLCRIST. Amy, have the goodness to remember—-

MRS. H. That this is my house so far as ladies are concerned.

JILL. Mother!

[She looks astonished at CHLOE, who, about to speak, does not, passing her eyes, with a queer, half-scarred expression, from MRS. HILLCRIST to DAWKER.]

[To CHLOE] I’m awfully sorry. Come on!

[They go out, Left. ROLF hurries after them.]

CHARLES. You’ve insulted my wife. Why? What do you mean by it?

[MRS. HILLCRIST simply smiles.]

HILLCRIST. I apologise. I regret extremely. There is no reason why the ladies of your family or of mine should be involved in our quarrel. For Heaven’s sake, let’s fight like gentlemen.

HORNBLOWER. Catchwords–sneers! No; we’ll play what ye call a skin game, Hillcrist, without gloves on; we won’t spare each other. Ye look out for yourselves, for, begod, after this morning I mean business. And as for you, Dawker, ye sly dog, ye think yourself very clever; but I’ll have the Centry yet. Come, Chearlie!

[They go out, passing JILL, who is coming in again, in the doorway.]

HILLCRIST. Well, Dawker?

DAWKER. [Grinning] Safe for the moment. The old lady’ll put it up to auction. Couldn’t get her to budge from that. Says she don’t want to be unneighbourly to either. But, if you ask me, it’s money she smells!

JILL. [Advancing] Now, mother

MRS. H. Well?

JILL. Why did you insult her?

MRS. H. I think I only asked you to take her out.

JILL. Why? Even if she is Old Combustion’s daughter-in-law?

MRS. H. My dear Jill, allow me to judge the sort of acquaintances I wish to make. [She looks at DAWKER.]

JILL. She’s all right. Lots of women powder and touch up their lips nowadays. I think she’s rather a good sort; she was awfully upset.

MRS. H. Too upset.

JILL. Oh! don’t be so mysterious, mother. If you know something, do spit it out!

MRS. H. Do you wish me to–er–“spit it out,” Jack?

HILLCRIST. Dawker, if you don’t mind—-

[DAWKER, with a nod, passes away out of the French window.]

Jill, be respectful, and don’t talk like a bargee.

JILL. It’s no good, Dodo. It made me ashamed. It’s just as–as caddish to insult people who haven’t said a word, in your own house, as it is to be–old Hornblower.

MRS. H. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

HILLCRIST. What’s the matter with young Mrs. Hornblower?

MRS. H. Excuse me, I shall keep my thoughts to myself at present.

[She looks coldly at JILL, and goes out through the French window.]

HILLCRIST. You’ve thoroughly upset your mother, Jill.

JILL. It’s something Dawker’s told her; I saw them. I don’t like Dawker, father, he’s so common.

HILLCRIST. My dear, we can’t all be uncommon. He’s got lots of go, You must apologise to your mother.

JILL. [Shaking-her clubbed hair] They’ll make you do things you don’t approve of, Dodo, if you don’t look out. Mother’s fearfully bitter when she gets her knife in. If old Hornblower’s disgusting, it’s no reason we should be.

HILLCRIST. So you think I’m capable–that’s nice, Jill!

JILL. No, no, darling! I only want to warn you solemnly that mother’ll tell you you’re fighting fair, no matter what she and Dawker do.

HILLCRIST. [Smiling] Jill, I don’t think I ever saw you so serious.

JILL. No. Because–[She swallows a lump in her throat] Well–I was just beginning to enjoy, myself; and now–everything’s going to be bitter and beastly, with mother in that mood. That horrible old man! Oh, Dodo! Don’t let them make you horrid! You’re such a darling. How’s your gout, ducky?

HILLCRIST. Better; lot better.

JILL. There, you see! That shows! It’s going to be half- interesting for you, but not for–us.

HILLCRIST. Look here, Jill–is there anything between you and young what’s-his-name–Rolf?

JILL. [Biting her lip] No. But–now it’s all spoiled.

HILLCRIST. You can’t expect me to regret that.

JILL. I don’t mean any tosh about love’s young dream; but I do like being friends. I want to enjoy things, Dodo, and you can’t do that when everybody’s on the hate. You’re going to wallow in it, and so shall I–oh! I know I shall!–we shall all wallow, and think of nothing but “one for his nob.”

HILLCRIST. Aren’t you fond of your home?

JILL. Of course. I love it.

HILLCRIST. Well, you won’t be able to live in it unless we stop that ruffian. Chimneys and smoke, the trees cut down, piles of pots. Every kind of abomination. There! [He points] Imagine! [He points through the French window, as if he could see those chimneys rising and marring the beauty of the fields] I was born here, and my father, and his, and his, and his. They loved those fields, and those old trees. And this barbarian, with his “improvement” schemes, forsooth! I learned to ride in the Centry meadows–prettiest spring meadows in the world; I’ve climbed every tree there. Why my father ever sold—-! But who could have imagined this? And come at a bad moment, when money’s scarce.

JILL. [Cuddling his arm] Dodo!

HILLCRIST. Yes. But you don’t love the place as I do, Jill. You youngsters don’t love anything, I sometimes think.

JILL. I do, Dodo, I do!

HILLCRIST. You’ve got it all before you. But you may live your life and never find anything so good and so beautiful as this old home. I’m not going to have it spoiled without a fight.

[Conscious of batting betrayed Sentiment, he walks out at the French window, passing away to the right. JILL following to the window, looks. Then throwing back her head, she clasps her hands behind it.]

JILL. Oh–oh-oh!

[A voice behind her says, “JILL!” She turns and starts back, leaning against the right lintel of the window. ROLF appears outside the window from Left.]

Who goes there?

ROLE. [Buttressed against the Left lintel] Enemy–after Chloe’s bag.

JILL. Pass, enemy! And all’s ill!

[ROLF passes through the window, and retrieves the vanity bag from the floor where CHLOE dropped it, then again takes his stand against the Left lintel of the French window.]

ROLF. It’s not going to make any difference, is it?

JILL. You know it is.

ROLF. Sins of the fathers.

JILL. Unto the third and fourth generations. What sin has my father committed?

ROLF. None, in a way; only, I’ve often told you I don’t see why you should treat us as outsiders. We don’t like it.

JILL. Well, you shouldn’t be, then; I mean, he shouldn’t be.

ROLF. Father’s just as human as your father; he’s wrapped up in us, and all his “getting on” is for us. Would you like to be treated as your mother treated Chloe? Your mother’s set the stroke for the other big-wigs about here; nobody calls on Chloe. And why not? Why not? I think it’s contemptible to bar people just because they’re new, as you call it, and have to make their position instead of having it left them.

JILL. It’s not because they’re new, it’s because–if your father behaved like a gentleman, he’d be treated like one.

ROLF. Would he? I don’t believe it. My father’s a very able man; he thinks he’s entitled to have influence here. Well, everybody tries to keep him down. Oh! yes, they do. That makes him mad and more determined than ever to get his way. You ought to be just, Jill.

JILL. I am just.

ROLF. No, you’re not. Besides, what’s it got to do with Charlie and Chloe? Chloe’s particularly harmless. It’s pretty sickening for her. Father didn’t expect people to call until Charlie married, but since—-

JILL. I think it’s all very petty.

ROLF. It is–a dog-in-the-manger business; I did think you were above it.

JILL. How would you like to have your home spoiled?

ROLE. I’m not going to argue. Only things don’t stand still. Homes aren’t any more proof against change than anything else.

JILL. All right! You come and try and take ours.

ROLF. We don’t want to take your home.

JILL. Like the Jackmans’?

ROLF. All right. I see you’re hopelessly prejudiced.

[He turns to go.]

JILL. [Just as he is vanishing–softly] Enemy?

ROLF. [Turning] Yes, enemy.

JILL. Before the battle–let’s shake hands.

[They move from the lintels and grasp each other’s hands in the centre of the French window.]




A billiard room in a provincial hotel, where things are bought and sold. The scene is set well forward, and is not very broad; it represents the auctioneer’s end of the room, having, rather to stage Left, a narrow table with two chairs facing the audience, where the auctioneer will sit and stand. The table, which is set forward to the footlights, is littered with green- covered particulars of sale. The audience are in effect public and bidders. There is a door on the Left, level with the table. Along the back wall, behind the table, are two raised benches with two steps up to them, such as billiard rooms often have, divided by a door in the middle of a wall, which is panelled in oak. Late September sunlight is coming from a skylight (not visible) on to these seats. The stage is empty when the curtain goes up, but DAWKERS, and MRS. HILLCRIST are just entering through the door at the back.

DAWKER. Be out of their way here, ma’am. See old Hornblower with Chearlie?

[He points down to the audience.]

MRS. H. It begins at three, doesn’t it?

DAWKER. They won’t be over-punctual; there’s only the Centry selling. There’s young Mrs. Hornblower with the other boy– [Pointing] over at the entrance. I’ve got that chap I told you of down from town.

MRS. H. Ah! make sure quite of her, Dawker. Any mistake would be fatal.

DAWKER. [Nodding] That’s right, ma’am. Lot of peopled–always spare time to watch an auction–ever remark that? The Duke’s agent’s here; shouldn’t be surprised if he chipped in.

MRS. H. Where did you leave my husband?

DAWKER. With Miss Jill, in the courtyard. He’s coming to you. In case I miss him; tell him when I reach his limit to blow his nose if he wants me to go on; when he blows it a second time, I’ll stop for good. Hope we shan’t get to that. Old Hornblower doesn’t throw his money away.

MRS. H. What limit did you settle?

DAWKER. Six thousand!

MRS. H. That’s a fearful price. Well, good luck to you, Dawker!

DAWKER. Good luck, ma’am. I’ll go and see to that little matter of Mrs. Chloe. Never fear, we’ll do them is somehow.

[He winks, lays his finger on the side of his nose, and goes out at the door.]

[MRS. HILLCRIST mounts the two steps, sits down Right of the door, and puts up a pair of long-handled glasses. Through the door behind her come CHLOE and ROLF. She makes a sign for him to go, and shuts the door.]

CHLOE. [At the foot of the steps in the gangway–with a slightly common accent] Mrs. Hillcrist!

MRS. H. [Not quite starting] I beg your pardon?

CHLOE. [Again] Mrs. Hillcrist—-

MRS. H. Well?

CHLOE. I never did you any harm.

MRS. H. Did I ever say you did?

CHLOE. No; but you act as if I had.

MRS. H. I’m not aware that I’ve acted at all–as yet. You are nothing to me, except as one of your family.

CHLOE. ‘Tisn’t I that wants to spoil your home.

MRS. H. Stop them then. I see your husband down there with his father.

CHLOE. I–I have tried.

MRS. H. [Looking at her] Oh! I suppose such men don’t pay attention to what women ask them.

CHLOE. [With a flash of spirit] I’m fond of my husband. I—-

MRS. H. [Looking at her steadily] I don’t quite know why you spoke to me.

CHLOE. [With a sort of pathetic sullenness] I only thought perhaps you’d like to treat me as a human being.

MRS. H. Really, if you don’t mind, I should like to be left alone just now.

CHLOE. [Unhappily acquiescent] Certainly! I’ll go to the other end.

[She moves to the Left, mounts the steps and sits down.]

[ROLF, looking in through the door, and seeing where she is, joins her. MRS. HILLCRIST resettles herself a little further in on the Right.]

ROLF. [Bending over to CHLOE, after a glance at MRS. HILLCRIST.] Are you all right?

CHLOE. It’s awfully hot.

[She fans herself wide the particulars of sale.]

ROLF. There’s Dawker. I hate that chap!

CHLOE. Where?

ROLF. Down there; see?

[He points down to stage Right of the room.]

CHLOE. [Drawing back in her seat with a little gasp] Oh!

ROLF. [Not noticing] Who’s that next him, looking up here?

CHLOE. I don’t know.

[She has raised her auction programme suddenly, and sits fanning herself, carefully screening her face.]

ROLE. [Looking at her] Don’t you feel well? Shall I get you some water? [He gets up at her nod.]

[As he reaches the door, HILLCRIST and JILL come in. HILLCRIST passes him abstractedly with a nod, and sits down beside his wife.]

JILL. [To ROLF] Come to see us turned out?

ROLF. [Emphatically] No. I’m looking after Chloe; she’s not well.

JILL. [Glancing at her] Sorry. She needn’t have come, I suppose? [RALF deigns no answer, and goes out.]

[JILL glances at CHLOE, then at her parents talking in low voices, and sits down next her father, who makes room for her.]

MRS. H. Can Dawker see you there, Jack?


What’s the time?

HILLCRIST. Three minutes to three.

JILL. Don’t you feel beastly all down the backs of your legs. Dodo?


JILL. Do you, mother?

MRS. H. No.

JILL. A wagon of old Hornblower’s pots passed while we were in the yard. It’s an omen.

MRS. H. Don’t be foolish, Jill.

JILL. Look at the old brute! Dodo, hold my hand.

MRS. H. Make sure you’ve got a handkerchief, Jack.

HILLCRIST. I can’t go beyond the six thousand; I shall have to raise every penny on mortgage as it is. The estate simply won’t stand more, Amy.

[He feels in his breast pocket, and pulls up the edge of his handkerchief.]

JILL. Oh! Look! There’s Miss Mullins, at the back; just come in. Isn’t she a spidery old chip?

MRS. H. Come to gloat. Really, I think her not accepting your offer is disgusting. Her impartiality is all humbug.

HILLCRIST. Can’t blame her for getting what she can–it’s human nature. Phew! I used to feel like this before a ‘viva voce’. Who’s that next to Dawker?

JILL. What a fish!

MRS. H. [To herself] Ah! yes.

[Her eyes slide round at CHLOE, silting motionless and rather sunk in her seat, slowly fanning herself with they particulars of the sale. Jack, go and offer her my smelling salts.]

HILLCRIST. [Taking the salts] Thank God for a human touch!

MRS. H. [Taken aback] Oh!

JILL. [With a quick look at her mother, snatching the salts] I will. [She goes over to CHLOE with the salts] Have a sniff; you look awfully white.

CHLOE. [Looking up, startled] Oh! no thanks. I’m all right.

JILL. No, do! You must. [CHLOE takes them.]

JILL. D’you mind letting me see that a minute?

[She takes the particulars of the sale and studies it, but CHLOE has buried the lower part of her face in her hand and the smelling salts bottle.]

Beastly hot, isn’t it? You’d better keep that.

CHLOE. [Her dark eyes wandering and uneasy] Rolf’s getting me some water.

JILL. Why do you stay? You didn’t want to come, did you?

[CHLOE shakes her head.]

All right! Here’s your water.

[She hands back the particulars and slides over to her seat, passing ROLF in the gangway, with her chin well up.]

[MRS. HILLCRIST, who has watched CHLOE and JILL and DAWKER, and his friend, makes an enquiring movement with her hand, but gets a disappointing answer.]

JILL. What’s the time, Dodo?

HILLCRIST. [Looking at his watch] Three minutes past.

JILL. [Sighing] Oh, hell!


JILL. Sorry, Dodo. I was only thinking. Look! Here he is! Phew!–isn’t he—-?

MRS. H. ‘Sh!

The AUCTIONEER comes in Left and goes to the table. He is a square, short, brown-faced, common looking man, with clipped grey hair fitting him like a cap, and a clipped grey moustache. His lids come down over his quick eyes, till he can see you very sharply, and you can hardly see that he can see you. He can break into a smile at any moment, which has no connection with him, as it were. By a certain hurt look, however, when bidding is slow, he discloses that he is not merely an auctioneer, but has in him elements of the human being. He can wink with anyone, and is dressed in a snug-brown suit, with a perfectly unbuttoned waistcoat, a low, turned down collar, and small black and white sailor knot tie. While he is settling his papers, the HILLCRISTS settle themselves tensely. CHLOE has drunk her water and leaned back again, with the smelling salts to her nose. ROLF leans forward in the seat beside her, looking sideways at JILL. A SOLICITOR, with a grey beard, has joined the AUCTIONEER, at his table.

AUCTIONEER. [Tapping the table] Sorry to disappoint you, gentlemen, but I’ve only one property to offer you to-day, No. 1, The Centry, Deepwater. The second on the particulars has been withdrawn. The third that’s Bidcot, desirable freehold mansion and farmlands in the Parish of Kenway–we shall have to deal with next week. I shall be happy to sell it you then with out reservation. [He looks again through the particulars in his hand, giving the audience time to readjust themselves to his statements] Now, gen’lemen, as I say, I’ve only the one property to sell. Freehold No. 1–all that very desirable corn and stock-rearing and parklike residential land known as the Centry, Deepwater, unique property an A.1. chance to an A.1. audience. [With his smile] Ought to make the price of the three we thought we had. Now you won’t mind listening to the conditions of sale; Mr. Blinkard’ll read ’em, and they won’t wirry you, they’re very short.

[He sits down and gives two little tape on the table.]

[The SOLICITOR rises and reads the conditions of sale in a voice which no one practically can hear. Just as he begins to read these conditions of sale, CHARLES HORNBLOWER enters at back. He stands a moment, glancing round at the HILLCRIST and twirling his moustache, then moves along to his wife and touches her.]

CHARLES. Chloe, aren’t you well?

[In the start which she gives, her face is fully revealed to the audience.]

CHARLES. Come along, out of the way of these people.

[He jerks his head towards the HILLCRISTS. CHLOE gives a swift look down to the stage Right of the audience.]

CHLOE. No; I’m all right; it’s hotter there.

CHARLES. [To ROLF] Well, look after her–I must go back.

[ROLF node. CHARLES, slides bank to the door, with a glance at the HILLCRISTS, of whom MRS. HILLCRIST has been watching like a lynx. He goes out, just as the SOLICITOR, finishing, sits down.]

AUCTIONEER. [Rising and tapping] Now, gen’lemen, it’s not often a piece of land like this comes into the market. What’s that? [To a friend in front of him] No better land in Deepwater–that’s right, Mr. Spicer. I know the village well, and a charming place it is; perfect locality, to be sure. Now I don’t want to wirry you by singing the praises of this property; there it is–well-watered, nicely timbered–no reservation of the timber, gen’lemen–no tenancy to hold you up; free to do what you like with it to-morrow. You’ve got a jewel of a site there, too; perfect position for a house. It lies between the Duke’s and Squire Hillcrist’s–an emerald isle. [With his smile] No allusion to Ireland, gen’lemen–perfect peace in the Centry. Nothing like it in the county–a gen’leman’s site, and you don’t get that offered you every day. [He looks down towards HORNBLOWER, stage Left] Carries the mineral rights, and as you know, perhaps, there’s the very valuable Deepwater clay there. What am I to start it at? Can I say three thousand? Well, anything you like to give me. I’m sot particular. Come now, you’ve got more time than me, I expect. Two hundred acres of first-rate grazin’ and cornland, with a site for a residence unequalled in the county; and all the possibilities! Well, what shall I say?

[Bid from SPICER.]

Two thousand? [With his smile] That won’t hurt you, Mr. Spicer. Why, it’s worth that to overlook the Duke. For two thousand?

[Bid from HORNBLOWER, stage Left.]

And five. Thank you, sir. Two thousand five hundred bid.

[To a friend just below him.]

Come, Mr. Sandy, don’t scratch your head over it.

[Bid from DAWKER, Stage Right.]

And five. Three thousand bid for this desirable property. Why, you’d think it wasn’t desirable. Come along, gen’lemen. A little spirit.

[A alight pause.]

JILL. Why can’t I see the bids, Dodo?

HILLCRIST. The last was Dawker’s.

AUCTIONEER. For three thousand. [HORNBLOWER] Three thousand five hundred? May I say–four? [A bid from the centre] No, I’m not particular; I’ll take hundreds. Three thousand six hundred bid. [HORNBLOWER] And seven. Three thousand seven hundred, and—-

[He pauses, quartering the audience.]

JILL. Who was that, Dodo?

HILLCRIST. Hornblower. It’s the Duke in the centre.

AUCTIONEER. Come, gen’lemen, don’t keep me all day. Four thousand may I say? [DAWKER] Thank you. We’re beginning. And one? [A bid from the centre] Four thousand one hundred. [HORNBLOWER] Four thousand two hundred. May I have yours, sir? [To DAWKER] And three. Four thousand three hundred bid. No such site in the county, gen’lemen. I’m going to sell this land for what it’s worth. You can’t bid too much for me. [He smiles] [HORNBLOWER] Four thousand five hundred bid. [Bid from the centre] And six. [DAWKER] And seven. [HORNBLOWER] And eight. Nine, may I say? [But the centre has dried up] [DAWKER] And nine. [HORNBLOWER] Five thousand. Five thousand bid. That’s better; there’s some spirit in it. For five thousand.

[He pauses while he speak& to the SOLICITOR]

HILLCRIST. It’s a duel now.

AUCTIONEER. Now, gen’lemen, I’m not going to give this property away. Five thousand bid. [DAWKER] And one. [HORNBLOWER] And two. [DAWKER] And three. Five thousand three hundred bid. And five, did you say, sir? [HORNBLOWER] Five thousand five hundred bid.

[He looks at hip particulars.]

JILL. [Rather agonised] Enemy, Dodo.

AUCTIONEER. This chance may never come again.

“How you’ll regret it
If you don’t get it,”

as the poet says. May I say five thousand six hundred, sir? [DAWKER] Five thousand six hundred bid. [HORNBLOWER] And seven. [DAWKER] And eight. For five thousand eight hundred pounds. We’re gettin’ on, but we haven’t got the value yet.

[A slight pause, while he wipes his brow at the success of his own efforts.]

JILL. Us, Dodo?

[HILLCRIST nods. JILL looks over at ROLF, whose face is grimly set. CHLOE has never moved. MRS. HILLCRIST whispers to her husband.]

AUCTIONEER. Five thousand eight hundred bid. For five thousand eight hundred. Come along, gen’lemen, come along. We’re not beaten. Thank you, sir. [HORNBLOWER] Five thousand nine hundred. And–? [DAWKER] Six thousand. Six thousand bid. Six thousand bid. For six thousand! The Centry–most desirable spot in the county–going for the low price of six thousand.

HILLCRIST. [Muttering] Low! Heavens!

AUCTIONEER. Any advance on six thousand? Come, gen’lemen, we haven’t dried up? A little spirit. Six thousand? For six thousand? For six thousand pounds? Very well, I’m selling. For six thousand once–[He taps] For six thousand twice–[He taps].

JILL. [Low] Oh! we’ve got it!

AUCTIONEER. And one, sir? [HORNBLOWER] Six thousand one hundred bid.

[The SOLICITOR touches his arm and says something, to which the AUCTIONEER responds with a nod.]

MRS. H. Blow your nose, Jack.

[HILLCRIST blows his nose.]

AUCTIONEER. For six thousand one hundred. [DAWKER] And two. Thank you. [HORNBLOWER] And three. For six thousand three hundred. [DAWKER] And four. For six thousand four hundred pounds. This coveted property. For six thousand four hundred pounds. Why, it’s giving it away, gen’lemen. [A pause.]

MRS. H. Giving!

AUCTIONEER. Six thousand four hundred bid. [HORNBLOWER] And five. [DAWKER] And six. [HORNBLOWER] And seven. [DAWKER] And eight.

[A pause, during which, through the door Left, someone beckons to the SOLICITOR, who rises and confers.]

HILLCRIST. [Muttering] I’ve done if that doesn’t get it.

AUCTIONEER. For six thousand eight hundred. For six thousand eight hundred-once–[He taps] twice–[He tape] For the last time. This dominating site. [HORNBLOWER] And nine. Thank you. For six thousand nine hundred.

[HILLCRIST has taken out his handkerchief.]

JILL. Oh! Dodo!

MRS. H. [Quivering] Don’t give in!

AUCTIONEER. Seven thousand may I say? [DAWKER] Seven thousand.

MRS. H. [Whispers] Keep it down; don’t show him.

AUCTIONEER. For seven-thousand–going for seven thousand–once– [Taps] twice [Taps] [HORNBLOWER] And one. Thank you, sir.

[HILLCRIST blows his nose. JILL, with a choke, leans back in her seat and folds her arms tightly on her chest. MRS. HILLCRIST passes her handkerchief over her lips, sitting perfectly still. HILLCRIST, too, is motionless.]

[The AUCTIONEER, has paused, and is talking to the SOLICITOR, who has returned to his seat.]

MRS. H. Oh! Jack.

JILL. Stick it, Dodo; stick it!

AUCTIONEER. Now, gen’lemen, I have a bid of seven thousand one hundred for the Centry. And I’m instructed to sell if I can’t get more. It’s a fair price, but not a big price. [To his friend MR. SPICER] A thumpin’ price? [With his smile] Well, you’re a judge of thumpin’, I admit. Now, who’ll give me seven thousand two hundred? What, no one? Well, I can’t make you, gen’lemen. For seven thousand one hundred. Once–[Taps] Twice–[Taps].

[JILL utters a little groan.]

HILLCRIST. [Suddenly, in a queer voice] Two.

AUCTIONEER. [Turning with surprise and looking up to receive HILLCRIST’S nod] Thank you, sir. And two. Seven thousand two hundred. [He screws himself round so as to command both HILLCRIST and HORNBLOWER] May I have yours, sir? [HORNBLOWER] And three. [HILLCRIST] And four. Seven thousand four hundred. For seven thousand four hundred. [HORNBLOWER] Five. [HILLCRIST] Six. For seven thousand six hundred. [A pause] Well, gen’lemen, this is. better, but a record property shid fetch a record price. The possibilities are enormous. [HORNBLOWER] Eight thousand did you say, sir? Eight thousand. Going for eight thousand pounds. [HILLCRIST] And one. [HORNBLOWER] And two. [HILLCRIST] And three. [HORNBLOWER] And four. [HILLCRIST] And five. For eight thousand five hundred. A wonderful property for eight thousand five hundred.

[He wipes his brow.]

JILL. [Whispering] Oh, Dodo!

MRS. H. That’s enough, Jack, we must stop some time.

AUCTIONEER. For eight thousand five hundred. Once–[Taps]–twice– [Taps] [HORNBLOWER] Six hundred. [HILLCRIST] Seven. May I have yours, sir? [HORNBLOWER] Eight.

HILLCRIST. Nine thousand.

[MRS. HILLCRIST looks at him, biting her lips, but he is quite absorbed.]

AUCTIONEER. Nine thousand for this astounding property. Why, the Duke would pay that if he realised he’d be overlooked. Now, Sir? [To HORNBLOWER. No response]. Just a little raise on that. [No response.] For nine thousand. The Centry, Deepwater, for nine thousand. Once–[Taps] Twice—-[Taps].

JILL. [Under her breath] Ours!

A VOICE. [From far back in the centre] And five hundred.

AUCTIONEER. [Surprised and throwing out his arms towards the voice] And five hundred. For nine thousand five hundred. May I have yours, sir? [He looks at HORNBLOWER. No response.]

[The SOLICITOR speaks to him. MRS. H. [Whispering] It must be the Duke again.]

HILLCRIST. [Passing his hand over his brow] That’s stopped him, anyway.

AUCTIONEER. [Looking at HILLCRIST] For nine thousand five hundred? [HILLCRIST shakes his head.] Once more. The Centry, Deepwater, for nine thousand five hundred. Once–[Taps] Twice–[Taps] [He pauses and looks again at HORNBLOWER and HILLCRIST] For the last time–at nine thousand five hundred. [Taps] [With a look towards the bidder] Mr. Smalley. Well! [With great satisfaction] That’s that! No more to-day, gen’lemen.

[The AUCTIONEER and SOLICITOR busy themselves. The room begins to empty.]

MRS. H. Smalley? Smalley? Is that the Duke’s agent? Jack!

HILLCRIST. [Coming out of a sort of coma, after the excitement he has been going through] What! What!

JILL. Oh, Dodo! How splendidly you stuck it!

HILLCRIST. Phew! What a squeak! I was clean out of my depth. A mercy the Duke chipped in again.

MRS. H. [Looking at ROLF and CHLOE, who are standing up as if about to go] Take care; they can hear you. Find DAWKER, Jack.

[Below, the AUCTIONEER and SOLICITOR take up their papers, and move out Left.]

[HILLCRIST stretches himself, standing up, as if to throw off the strain. The door behind is opened, and HORNBLOWER appears.]

HORNBLOWER. Ye ran me up a pretty price. Ye bid very pluckily, Hillcrist. But ye didn’t quite get my measure.

HILLCRIST. Oh! It was my nine thousand the Duke capped. Thank God, the Centry’s gone to a gentleman!

HORNBLOWER. The Duke? [He laughs] No, the Gentry’s not gone to a gentleman, nor to a fool. It’s gone to me.


HOUNBLOWER. I’m sorry for ye; ye’re not fit to manage these things. Well, it’s a monstrous price, and I’ve had to pay it because of your obstinacy. I shan’t forget that when I come to build.

HILLCRIST. D’you mean to say that bid was for you?

HORNBLOWER. Of course I do. I told ye I was a bad man to be up against. Perhaps ye’ll believe me now.

HILLCRIST. A dastardly trick!

HORNBLOWER. [With venom] What did ye call it–a skin game? Remember we’re playin’ a skin game, Hillcrist.

HILLCRIST. [Clenching his fists] If we were younger men—-

HORNBLOWER. Ay! ‘Twouldn’t Look pretty for us to be at fisticuffs. We’ll leave the fightin’ to the young ones. [He glances at ROLF and JILL; suddenly throwing out his finger at ROLF] No makin’ up to that young woman! I’ve watched ye. And as for you, missy, you leave my boy alone.