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Title:  The Last of Mrs Cheney
        A play in three acts
Author: Frederick Lonsdale
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1203831.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: October 2012
Date most recently updated: October 2012

Produced by: Hamish Darby

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title:  The Last of Mrs Cheney
        A play in three acts
Author: Frederick Lonsdale

*

Text prepared by Hamish Darby


*

THE LAST OF MRS CHENEY

A PLAY IN THREE ACTS

by

FREDERICK LONSDALE

*

CHARACTERS
----------

CHARLES a butler
WILLIAM a footman
GEORGE a footman
LADY JOAN HOUGHTON
LADY MARY SINDLAY
HON. WILLIE WYNTON
LADY MARIA FRINTON
HON. MRS KITTY WYNTON
LORD ARTHUR DILLING
LORD ELTON
MRS CHEYNEY
MRS SYBIL EBLEY
JIM a chauffeur
ROBERTS Mrs Ebley's butler


* * *


Act I: Drawing-room in Mrs Cheyney's house at Goring. A summer
afternoon.

Act II: Scene 1. A room in Mrs Ebley's country house. Ten days later.

        Scene 2. Mrs Ebley's bedroom. Early next morning.

Act III: Loggia of Mrs Ebley's house. A few hours later.


* * *


===========
* ACT ONE *
===========


A room at MRS CHEYNEY's house at Goring. It is afternoon. French windows
lead to the gardens where an unseen singer has reached the last verse of
'A May Morning'. CHARLES, at the window, listens a second, then rings
the bell.

WILLIAM, a footman, enters carrying two plates of sandwiches; he places
them on the table which is already laid with cakes in dishes and stands,
chocolate eclairs and biscuits and a dish of fruit. A decanter of
'Kirsch' stands by the fruit. GEORGE follows the other footman. He is
carrying a large silver tray containing a decanter of whisky, a decanter
of sherry, jug with lemonade, syphon, four large glasses and four
cocktail glasses. The syphon is lying on its side, and the tray is
generally slovenly arranged.


GEORGE: Where shall I put these?

CHARLES: (Pointing to the table.) I suggest there.

GEORGE: My word, some of those singers out there have got 'orrible
voices.

CHARLES: A charity concert, without 'orrible voices, would not be a
charity concert, George! By the way, it's a small matter, but there is
an 'h' in 'orrible!

GEORGE: Where I come from there ain't!

CHARLES: Quite! And I dare say it does quite well without it!

(WILLIAM exits.)

GEORGE: Anyway, I never believed I would see a garden so full of swells
as I have today. I've called everybody 'my lord' and I ain't been
contradicted once!

CHARLES: The English middle-classes are much too well-bred to argue!

GEORGE: Who was the old bloke who spoke at the beginning?

CHARLES: The old bloke was His Grace the Duke of Bristol!

GEORGE: That's funny! If you didn't know he was, and saw his picture in
a Sunday paper, you'd say, 'There's them Bolshies at it again!'

CHARLES: You would! Nevertheless, we have with us today what may be
known as the social goods! Lady Mary Sindlay, one of our leading
hostesses: rich, charming, and modest. In fact, one might almost
describe her as a lady! Lady Joan Houghton, twenty-three, courageous and
beautiful, a woman who calls a spade a bloody spade and means it!

GEORGE: I like her! She said to me out there just now, 'Willie, and me
a match!'

CHARLES: She was born with a natural desire to please every one! And
then we have Mrs Wynton, the honourable of such, young, attractive, and
a person. She married one of the most stupid of God's creatures; but
rumour has it she has remained faithful to him! She is either a very
good woman, George, or very nervous.

GEORGE: I like the old party they call Maria!

CHARLES: In her way, George, she's a darling! Her business in life has
been to find people; she has a habit of finding them on Tuesday and
serving them up on a gold salver on Wednesday, but should they fail her
by being unamusing, it is she who closes the drain on them as they go
down it on the Thursday! It was she who found your mistress!

GEORGE: The old one with the painted face and the pearls--I don't think
much of her!

CHARLES: She is Mrs Ebley. It is said of her that, seated in her chair
one day looking into her glass, she spied a double chin; at that moment
her last of many lovers called to pay his respects; looking into that
glass and without flinching, she said, 'I am not at home!'

GEORGE: Good for 'er!

CHARLES: With the knowledge that given suitable conditions even a
Bishop's eyesight can be affected, she kept to her pearls, but became
respectable! Her house today is the most exclusive of all our English
homes!

GEORGE: I must say I like 'em when they get away with it! They all
didn't make half a fuss of that tall bloke when he came in.

CHARLES: That tall bloke was Lord Elton--a rich, eligible bachelor, an
intimate friend of royalty, and a man of considerable importance. Dukes
open their doors personally when he calls upon them; the aspirants to
the higher life leave theirs open, in the hope that it might rain and he
might be driven in for shelter.

GEORGE: He sounds great.

CHARLES: To have got him here today. George, is a triumph; he so seldom
goes anywhere!

GEORGE: What do you think brought him here?

CHARLES: You've heard the singing at this charity concert, so the
intelligent assumption is, he finds your mistress a very attractive
young lady.

GEORGE: She's a knock out. The feller who couldn't do the card trick--I
like him--he makes me laugh. Who was he?

CHARLES: He? He's quite of another kind! He is my Lord Dilling. Young,
rich, attractive and clever! Had he been born a poor man, he might have
died a great one! But he has allowed life to spoil him! He has a
reputation with women that is extremely bad, consequently, as hope is a
quality possessed of all women, women ask him everywhere! I would
describe him as a man who has kept more husbands at home than any other
man of modern times.

GEORGE: Do you like him?

CHARLES: Personally. I hate him. Besides, he's too clever, George, for
any man to like very much! And too unscrupulous for any woman not to
love very much!

GEORGE: 'As he got an eye to my mistress?

CHARLES: He has got two eyes to your mistress!

GEORGE: She don't like him?

CHARLES: Not in the way that he would like her to, George. Unless I am
very much mistaken, she is a young lady with two eyes to herself!

(LADY JOAN enters through the windows, with cigarette in long holder)

JOAN: Do something with that for me, Charles, please!

CHARLES: Yes, my Lady! (He takes the cigarette out of the holder and
hands it to GEORGE.)

(GEORGE takes the cigarette from CHARLES and exits, closing the door.)

JOAN: Charles, who the devil told those women out there that they can sing?

CHARLES: Their music teacher, my lady, when she found they had the money
to pay for lessons in advance!

JOAN: I like that. May I use it as my own?

CHARLES: With pleasure, my lady!

JOAN: By the way, are your ears burning?

CHARLES: No, my lady!

JOAN: They should be; we've been talking about you for the last quarter
of an hour; we are intrigued, Charles! Tell me, have you always been a
butler?

CHARLES: I never remember allowing myself the privilege of forgetting it
once, my lady.

JOAN: Oh! Likely to?

CHARLES: I shouldn't know how to, my lady! (He is about to go off,
having opened the door.)

(LADY MARY enters through the windows.)

MARY: Oh! Charles, may I have some tea, please?

CHARLES: It will be here in a moment!

(CHARLES exits, closing the door.)

JOAN: Isn't he divine?

MARY: Who? Oh, Charles! Don't be absurd, Joan.

JOAN: Every time I see that man I realize how dreadfully our family is
in need of a drop of new blood!

MARY: How very attractive Mrs Cheyney has made this house!

JOAN: Terribly! What a darling she is, Mary!

MARY: I like her enormously! By the way, don't you think it's rather
amusing that the pompous Elton, who never goes anywhere, should be
always here?

JOAN: I know! You don't think that sweet Mrs Cheyney would marry that
prig, do you?

MARY: Being Lady Elton would have certain advantages?

JOAN: Heavens! Think of waking up in the morning and finding Elton
alongside of one.

MARY: One wouldn't!

JOAN: That's true!

MARY: Well, it's all very amusing! Elton at a charity concert, and of
all people in the world, Arthur Dilling!

JOAN: I have been watching Mrs Cheyney, and she appears not to be the
least impressed by Arthur!

MARY: I know. It's frightfully good for him; poor darling, he can't
understand it. It's something that has never happened to him before.

JOAN: Well, I can't understand any woman preferring Elton to Arthur.

MARY: If a woman has ideas of marriage, there wouldn't be much reason to
waste time on Arthur.

(WILLIE WYNTON enters through the windows.)

WILLIE: Ah, there you are! The first part of the concert is over, and if
the second part isn't better than the first, the garden will be strewn
with bodies.

MARY: Don't grumble, Willie; it's sweet of Mrs Cheyney to have lent her
garden, and we must help her.

WILLIE: I'm not grumbling; I'm just a poor, disappointed fellow who
hardly ever finds anything right! (Catching sight of himself in the
framed mirror on the piano.) Oh! Lord, how I hate my face!

JOAN: Supposing you had to live with it, like your wife has.

WILLIE: I never thought of that. I'll give her a present.

(WILLIAM enters with teapot on salver. He places the teapot on the
table and exits.)

MARY: Hurrah! (To JOAN) Tea, darling?

(She rises and pours out tea.)

WILLIE: (Finding the whisky and soda and helping himself) I say,
apparently our Mrs Cheyney is a rich woman.

MARY: Obviously!

WILLIE: Who, actually is Mrs Cheyney, Mary?

MARY: Mrs Cheyney is the widow of a rich Australian; meaning to stay in
England only a little, she liked us all so much, she has decided to
settle amongst us!

WILLIE: Settle Elton seems to me to be more accurate.

MARY: Give that to Joan. (She holds out a cup.)

WILLIE: Right-o!

JOAN: You think he is in love with her?

WILLIE: I'm positive! I'll tell you another bloke who isn't far off it,
too!

JOAN: Arthur?

WILLIE: That's right. (Hands cup of tea to JOAN.) But she's heard too
much about him; she's not having any. My word, I wish I had a quarter of
that fellow's brains!

MARY: What would you do with them if you had, Willie?

WILLIE: Well, I wouldn't waste time like he's doing; it's a crime to see
that feller dissipating himself to pieces like he is doing! Thirty
thousand a year and no occupation has done him in all right!

JOAN: He enjoys life.

WILLIE: Not he. He's exhausted nearly everything that there is in this
life for him.

(MARY has poured out a cup of tea for herself)

MARY: Some one said the other day he's drinking, rather. Is that true?

WILLIE: I'm afraid it is! Pity, because with all his faults he's such a
damn good fellow!

JOAN: I adore him!

(LADY MARIA FRINTON and MRS KITTY WYNTON enter through the windows.)

MARIA: Tea! Divine! Enjoying the concert, Willie?

(MRS WYNTON goes and pours out tea.)

WILLIE: Like hell!

MARIA: Darling! And we got it up for you! It's charming. Don't you like
the dear, fat, sweet creature who played the violin?

WILLIE: In the days of my early ancestors they would have thrown stones
at her?

MARIA: And how right they would have been!

The beast, I thought she was never going to stop!

WILLIE: Have some tea, darling?

MARIA: Tea. Yes, please.

MRS WYNTON: The one amusing thing was when Arthur suggested to Elton he
should play his little piece.

JOAN: How pompous Elton looked when he said it!

WILLIE: (Crossing to MARIA with the tea.) That's what I like about
Arthur. We're all such snobs about Elton, and he simply doesn't care a
damn about him.

MRS WYNTON: You're swearing rather a lot today, Willie.

WILLIE: Sorry, darling, but I've been sitting next to Joan all the
afternoon!

MARIA: I wish I knew for certain whether Elton hates Arthur more than
Arthur despises Elton? (LORD ARTHUR DILLING enters through the
windows.) Tea, Arthur?

ARTHUR: A whisky and soda! Give me one, Willie!

WILLIE: I will!

ARTHUR: (Going to MRS WYNTON, lifts her pearls) Imitation of the opulent
Sybil?

MRS WYNTON: What do you mean?

ARTHUR: You have got them all on.

MRS WYNTON: Naturally one wears the pearls given one by one's husband!

MARIA: And Willie likes her to wear them; they advertise you, don't
they, Willie?

WILLIE: In what way? (Giving ARTHUR the whisky and soda.)

MARIA: A trap for other women, darling! If a man is prepared to give the
woman he married such divine pearls, what would he be prepared to give
the woman he loves?

WILLIE: Nothing of the sort! I'm much too mean to be unfaithful!

ARTHUR: (Laughing.) I like that, Willie!

(ARTHUR puts more whisky into his glass from the decanter.)

MARIA: What brings you to a charity concert, Arthur?

ARTHUR: A misjudged 'Kruschen' feeling. (Examines the decanter of
whisky.)

MARY: Is that what brought Elton here?

ARTHUR: Elton, I take it, finds Mrs Cheyney very entertaining.

MARIA: Do you think he means to marry her?

ARTHUR: With the consent of his solicitor and his mother, he may in time
propose to her!

JOAN: Why don't you marry her, Arthur?

ARTHUR: She wouldn't have me!

MARIA: You should ask her!

ARTHUR: As I could never make any woman happy for more than a year, I
wouldn't be so impertinent!

MRS WYNTON: You should try!

ARTHUR: I have! And miserably failed! My maximum so far has been eight
months. The last two of those months I shall never forget! I should hate
any woman again to watch me suffering as that poor creature did!

JOAN: (Laughing.) I heard you described the other evening as a
dishonourable man with thirty thousand a year!

MARIA: No man with thirty thousand a year who can write his name could
ever be dishonourable!

ARTHUR: Quite right, Maria!

(WILLIE laughs.)

MRS WYNTON: (To WILLIE.) What are you making those curious noises for?

WILLIE: I'm laughing! I'm such an ass myself, I love anyone who isn't!

(CHARLES enters. He crosses to the windows.)

ARTHUR: Charles, you might put that down for me, please.

CHARLES: (Taking ARTHUR'S glass.) Yes, m'lord. (He puts the glass on the
table.)

MARIE: Ever tried tea, Arthur?

ARTHUR: Tea, what for? (As CHARLES is going off) Charles! Been able to
remember where we have met before?

CHARLES: Unfortunately I have not, my lord!

ARTHUR: (Smiling.) You might try!

CHARLES. I am, my lord. (CHARLES exits through the windows.)

MARIA: What does that odd conversation mean?

ARTHUR: Where I have seen that feller before? I don't know, but I have
seen him, and I'd give a devil of a lot to know where.

MRS WYNTON: Does it worry you, then?

ARTHUR: It's interesting to know why a gentleman should be a butler,
that's all!

MARIA: Not really! Does anyone know where Elton and Mrs Cheyney are?

ARTHUR: I left Elton patronizing the tea that Mrs Cheyney was giving the
villagers!

JOAN: I do wish he would marry Mrs Cheyney. It would be such fun.

(LORD ELTON enters through the windows and puts his hat on the piano.)

MARIA: My dear! Some tea?

ELTON: Many thanks, but I have had some!

ARTHUR: A whisky and soda, Elton?

ELTON: Thank you, no!

ARTHUR: We were just discussing marriage, Elton!

ELTON: And have you come to any conclusion?

ARTHUR: We have! We have decided you should!

ELTON: Indeed! For you to take such an interest in me is flattering!

ARTHUR: Not at all! Society needs a Lady Elton; the world more strong
men like yourself!

ELTON: Having such strong convictions as regards marriage, I wonder you
remain single!

MARIA: Yes, why do you?

ARTHUR: Ah, that's my affair! Mrs Cheyney is rather an attractive woman,
if I dare say so, Elton?

ELTON: Forgive me, but perhaps it's because I am not modern, but I
prefer the word likeable to attractive.

ARTHUR: Perhaps it's because I am too modern, but I differ! To accuse a
beautiful woman of being liked by one is suggestive that her
underclothes are made of linoleum. (Everyone laughs except ELTON, who
looks displeased and astonished.) But to suggest that she is attractive
betrays a meaning that, with encouragement, you have more and better
things to say to her.

MARIA: Angel! (WILLIE laughs.)

MRS WYNTON: (To WILLIE.) Do stop that silly noise!

ELTON: (Ignores ARTHUR.) The concert seems to be quite a success.

MARY: Terribly good, isn't it?

ELTON: The tall lady who played the violin; is she a professional?

ARTHUR: She is--but not at violin playing.

(MRS CHEYNEY enters through the windows, carrying a parasol, followed by
MRS SYBIL EBLEY)

MRS CHEYNEY: Have you all had tea?

MARIA: (Rising.) Of course! I insist on your sitting down and resting;
you'll be worn out!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Putting MARIA into her seat again.) Nonsense. Mrs Ebley
has been an angel; she's helped me to entertain all those dozens of
people in the garden!

MRS EBLEY: Nonsense! I did nothing! This child, Maria, is a perfect
marvel; you don't know how they adore her out there!

MARIA: Thank heaven we have something in common with them in here.

ARTHUR: A sentiment to which I heartily subscribe!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Curtseys.) Thank you, my lord! Have you had some tea?

ARTHUR: I had a whisky and soda.

MRS CHEYNEY: I've got some good news for you; one more item, then Lord
Elton has promised to make a little speech--the collection--and after
that you can all go home!

MARIA: You have been an angel to have taken all this trouble today!

ELTON: Most kind!

MRS CHEYNEY: It's kind of you all to have come; I'm afraid you have
hated it!

MARIA: (Taking MRS CHEYNEY's hand) We adore you, my dear, and that makes
it perfect!

MRS EBLEY: I have made her promise to come to me on Friday week, when
you all come!

MARIA: That's wonderful!

ARTHUR: I'll bring you!

MRS CHEYNEY: Lord Elton has very kindly offered to drive me from London.

ARTHUR: Splendid! Then I'll get Elton to give me a lift in his car.

MARIA: And don't forget, young woman, I am giving a dinner for you on
Tuesday!

ARTHUR: Tuesday? I'll remember.

MRS CHEYNEY: I won't forget! You know, you're all too kind to me. I
don't know why you are; I'm not the least amusing or modern; I don't
drink; I don't smoke, and I don't swear--I'm really terribly dull!

JOAN: You're an angel, and I swear enough for both of us.

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm terribly sorry; but I'm going to push you all back to
that concert--we are being rather rude to the singers.

MARIA: Not nearly as rude as the singers have been to us.

JOAN: If that fat woman plays the violin again I shall hiss her body off
the stage.

(MRS EBLEY, WILLIE and MRS WYNTON exit through the windows.)

MARIA: My dear! She's a joke compared with the woman who sings like the
bath water running away.

MRS CHEYNEY: You must go, my dears!

MARIA: The moment Elton has made his little speech I'll go; so, in case
I don't see you again, goodbye and don't forget you are dining with me
on Tuesday.

MARY: Give me a lift and I'll come with you.

MARIA: Certainly. Can I give you a lift, Elton?

ELTON: Many thanks, I have my own car.

MARIA: Thank God! I hope he always has it.

(MARIA and MARY exit through the windows.)

JOAN: Are you going my way, Arthur?

ARTHUR: Which is your way?

JOAN: Grosvenor Square.

ARTHUR: Sorry; mine's the other way. Besides, I too have a car, and why
not, indeed?

JOAN: (Going up to MRS CHEYNEY and shaking hands.) Goodbye, Mrs
Cheyney--I'm going to face that foul violin-player. (She exits through
the windows.)

ARTHUR: You poor dear, I'll come with you. Well, thank heaven, we have
your speech to look forward to, Elton. (To MRS CHEYNEY.) And, thank
heaven, you have my speech to look forward to, young woman. (He goes out)

ELTON: Can I give you some tea?

MRS CHEYNEY: You don't like Lord Dilling?

ELTON: How did you know that? (Pouring out tea.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Instinct!

ELTON: If you hadn't mentioned it, I should have said nothing, but as
you have, I don't like him! (Handing her a cup of tea.)

MRS CHEYNEY: He's very young.

ELTON: (Going to the table for the plate of cakes.) All women make that
excuse for him!

MRS CHEYNEY: And a good many women who have known him made that excuse
for themselves, I suppose? (ELTON offers cakes.) No, thanks.

ELTON: Yes!

MRS CHEYNEY: Odd creatures, women, aren't they?

ELTON: Frankly, I have to confess I know very little about women.

MRS CHEYNEY: So they tell me!

ELTON: May I ask what they tell you?

MRS CHEYNEY: You don't like women! But I hope I am an exception! I
should hate you not to like me.

ELTON: I do, very much.

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm glad!

ELTON: (Nervously.) And I only hope it is mutual!

MRS CHEYNEY: It is! I like you very much!

ELTON: Thank you, I'm glad. By the way, my mother is writing you today
with the hope that you will be able to come and stay with us for a
little! I'm afraid it will be a little dull, but we would both be very
grateful if you would come!

MRS CHEYNEY: It's most kind of your mother, and I shall write and tell
her so, and how pleased I will be to come!

ELTON: I'm pleased, very pleased!

MRS CHEYNEY: I shall see you again before we meet at Mrs Ebley's?

ELTON: I trust so!

MRS CHEYNEY: I suppose it's a very lovely house.

ELTON: Do you know, I've never been there!

MRS CHEYNEY: You are going that weekend?

ELTON: Yes, if you are going.

MRS CHEYNEY: Don't you like them?

ELTON: (Choosing his words.) Oh, yes, very much--but--er--we live in
rather a different world. Quite frankly, I don't understand these sort
of people, and at my age it would be ridiculous to start and try.

MRS CHEYNEY: A young man of your age should start to try almost
anything.

ELTON: It's very kind of you to say so, but I fear not.

MRS CHEYNEY: Nonsense! I'm an optimist. (CHARLES enters through the
windows.)

CHARLES: Lord Dilling has asked me, my lord, to tell you the audience
are eagerly awaiting your speech, and also, my lord, he is the most
eager of them all!

ELTON: Thank you!

MRS CHEYNEY: Shall we go? (MRS CHEYNEY rises picking up her parasol.)

ELTON: Please! (Takes his hat from piano.)

(MRS CHEYNEY and ELTON exit through the windows. CHARLES smiles. WILLIAM
enters, followed by GEORGE. WILLIAM commences to clear up tea things and
pack them onto the tray. GEORGE is making as if to into the garden.
CHARLES stops him, snapping his fingers.)

GEORGE: Can't I go and hear that bloke speak?

CHARLES: There is so much dullness coming to you in your life that
cannot be avoided, George, that I am not prepared to allow you to add
what can! Clear these things!

GEORGE: Right ho! I must say I'm surprised because I never thought I
would, but I like the toffs!

CHARLES: They have qualities, George!

GEORGE: I always 'eard them talked about as being stupid!

CHARLES: All the climbers in the world who fail in their ambition to
know them, apologize for themselves by describing them as stupid or
decadent.

(WILLIAM has packed his tray.)

GEORGE: Our Member down our way, he says the most terrible things about
them!

CHARLES. And I dare say he is right. But the day one of them invites him
to dinner he'll even have a bath! The snobbishness of the upper classes,
George, is only excelled by the snobbishness of the middle and the
lower!

(GEORGE opens the door for WILLIAM, who exits with tray.)

GEORGE: I wish I could be 'Sir Georgie', I wouldn't 'alf come it over
them down my way. (ARTHUR enters.)

ARTHUR: Give me a whisky and soda, please.

CHARLES: Yes, my lord!

ARTHUR: Here! (He offers some money to GEORGE.)

GEORGE: (Taking the money.) What's this for, my lord?

ARTHUR: For you. (With an inclination of his head towards CHARLES.) I
haven't the courage to give it to him!

GEORGE: Thank you, my lord.

(GEORGE exits, closing the door. CHARLES is holding the whisky and
soda. The two men look at each other.)

ARTHUR: I can't remember! (Smiling.) Can you?

CHARLES: What, my lord?

ARTHUR: Where we have met.

CHARLES. We have never met, my lord!

ARTHUR: I assure you we have! I was educated--I mean, I was at Oxford!

CHARLES: I once passed through Oxford in the train, my lord.

ARTHUR: Your manner suggests to me you might have got out and stayed
there for a few years.

CHARLES: I had no idea Oxford had a school for butlers, my Lord!

ARTHUR: Hadn't you? Tell me, how long have you been with Mrs Cheyney?

CHARLES: Mrs Cheyney engaged me six months ago next Tuesday in a
registry office, in an adjoining street near Brook Street, to be her
butler, my lord!

ARTHUR: Many thanks for the details! So you were not with Mrs Cheyney in
Australia?

CHARLES: Has Mrs Cheyney ever been to Australia, my lord?

ARTHUR: Didn't you know Mrs Cheyney came from Australia?

CHARLES: How should I, my lord? Mrs Cheyney would never think of
discussing her affairs with servants!

ARTHUR: (Smiling) I accept the rebuke! (He takes the glass from
CHARLES.)

CHARLES: There was none meant, my lord! (MRS CHEYNEY enters through the
windows.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Hello! I thought you had gone.

ARTHUR: Why?

MRS CHEYNEY: All the others have!

ARTHUR: I'm waiting for my man with my car.

CHARLES: (Bowing and indicating outside windows.) Your man has been
waiting for some time, my lord!

ARTHUR: Has he? Well, it's a lovely afternoon, tell him to wait a little
longer!

CHARLES: Yes, my lord! (He bows and exits through the windows.)

ARTHUR: I like that fellow.

MRS CHEYNEY: You mean my butler?

ARTHUR: Yes!

MRS CHEYNEY: Why do you like him?

ARTHUR: I like his insolence!

MRS CHEYNEY: He was rude to you?

ARTHUR: The reverse. I have often been told to go to hell, but never so
pleasantly as he told me to, a moment ago!

MRS CHEYNEY: I shall dismiss him for that!

ARTHUR: Please, I ask you not to!

MRS CHEYNEY: I shall! (Smiling.) He should have known you had already
gone!

ARTHUR: But I haven't! Who told you I had?

MRS CHEYNEY: Some of the women who went part of the way with you.

ARTHUR: (Laughing.) I'd go the whole way for a woman who said a thing
like that!

MRS CHEYNEY: What a pity it is, then, that I've chosen the other
direction!

ARTHUR: With Elton as your companion?

MRS CHEYNEY: At all events, he would know the way.

ARTHUR: He would! I want to ask you something. When you were in London
staying at the Ritz last week I rang you up five times, and each time I
was told you were out!

MRS CHEYNEY: What a shame!

ARTHUR: Were you out?

MRS CHEYNEY: No! Each time I was in!

ARTHUR: I thought so!

MRS CHEYNEY: Twice I answered it myself and told you I was out!

ARTHUR: May I ask why?

MRS CHEYNEY: Certainly! I don't care to be alone with you even on the
telephone!

ARTHUR: Why not?

MRS CHEYNEY: It's my only way of paying tribute to your reputation!

ARTHUR: Thank goodness! For a moment, I thought you were going to
embarrass me by saying you were nervous of me!

MRS CHEYNEY: My dear Lord Dilling--if I allow you to call me Fay, may I
call you Arthur?

ARTHUR: I have always wanted you to, Fay!

MRS CHEYNEY: Thank you, Arthur!

ARTHUR: You were saying something?

MRS CHEYNEY: Oh yes! You have the great distinction, Arthur dear, of
being one of the few men in the world I am not nervous of, and I feel I
ought to be.

ARTHUR: Modestly, may I ask why?

MRS CHEYNEY: Well! You're not bad looking, exquisitely indifferent, even
rude to people, a great sense of humour, brilliant--and--

ARTHUR: What else?

MRS CHEYNEY: That's the trouble! Nothing else!

ARTHUR: I am what is commonly termed--one of those who don't attract
you?

MRS CHEYNEY: Isn't it odd?

ARTHUR: It's disappointing!

MRS CHEYNEY: I feel that, too.

ARTHUR: Tell me, did you learn the art of rebuking people so charmingly
from your butler, or did he learn it from you?

MRS CHEYNEY: Neither! I expect Charles feels the same as I do--if there
are to be insults, let us get them in first!

ARTHUR: I wonder if you would tell me what you mean by that?

MRS CHEYNEY: I want to very much! During the short time you have known
me, Arthur dear, you have made me practically every proposal that a man
can make a woman with the exception of one--marriage!

ARTHUR: I am not aware that I have ever made a suggestion to you that
could not be spoken from any pulpit in any church! This is all pure
imagination on your part!

MRS CHEYNEY: How disappointing!

ARTHUR: What do you mean?

MRS CHEYNEY: I mean, I hate you to use the stock remark of all men when
they fail with a woman.

ARTHUR: You're quite wrong, but I see your point, because I suppose if a
woman comes from Australia to England with the deliberate intention of
marrying a--

MRS CHEYNEY: Arthur dear, ring the bell, will you?

ARTHUR: What for?

MRS CHEYNEY: Charles knows where your hat is!

ARTHUR: I didn't intend to be rude, I--

MRS CHEYNEY: You weren't rude, I assure you; you were only just a little
feminine!

ARTHUR: (Embarrassed.) Feminine! Really! Well, I--(He turns to the
table, picks up his glass and drinks.)

MRS CHEYNEY: You don't drink alcohol with your meals, do you?

ARTHUR: I do. Why do you ask?

MRS CHEYNEY: Because you drink so much between them!

ARTHUR: (Angrily.) Do I? (Puts his glass down.)

(MRS CHEYNEY laughs and he faces her.) May I ask what there is to laugh
at?

MRS CHEYNEY: Because I'm enjoying myself so much! It's so amusing to
have put you once in the position of embarrassment that you must have so
often succeeded with women by putting them in!

ARTHUR: If I may say so, you appear to have rather a low opinion of me!

MRS CHEYNEY: It would be more civil of me to put it another way--I
haven't a very high one of you!

ARTHUR: Really?

MRS CHEYNEY: Have you of yourself?

ARTHUR: Not at the moment!

MRS CHEYNEY: Then there's hope.

ARTHUR: Thank you! I suppose you would despise me even more if I were to
finish that? (Indicates the whisky.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Not at all! I should like you more if you didn't, that is
all!

ARTHUR: I should hate you not to like me! Perhaps there is something
else I could do for you?

MRS CHEYNEY: Heaps!

ARTHUR: As, for instance?

MRS CHEYNEY: One, live up to the reputation you have for possessing a
sense of humour!

ARTHUR: Ah! Ah! Anything else?

MRS CHEYNEY: Stop living on the glory of your ancestors!

ARTHUR: What do you mean by that?

MRS CHEYNEY: What I say, Arthur dear!

ARTHUR: I am not aware that I do!

MRS CHEYNEY: Then I'm wrong, and I'm sorry--but you might tell me one
thing you do that proves I am! (He looks at her; there is a pause.)
Don't hurry. I am not dining until half-past eight!

ARTHUR: Why should I tell you?

MRS CHEYNEY: No reason at all! I'm only suggesting you should contradict
what other people tell me!

ARTHUR: And what do you suppose gives you the right to ask me questions
like this?

MRS CHEYNEY: The same right that has entitled you to ask me some of the
questions you have! But as you can't answer, I'll answer for you! You've
done nothing! Your epitaph at this moment is only this: 'He was a good
fellow; metaphorically he lived on the dole; his only success was
women.'

ARTHUR: I resent very much being talked to in this manner!

MRS CHEYNEY: One always hates a thing one is not used to!

ARTHUR: And you have no right to!

MRS CHEYNEY: No, really! I resent equally as much being treated by you
as a--

ARTHUR: What?

MRS CHEYNEY: (Waving her hand) Well, there are various names for that
particular type of woman; when I have never given you the slightest
encouragement which would give you the right to. (A pause.) You must see
my point, Arthur dear.

ARTHUR: If anything I have done suggested that--yes. (A pause.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Will you be an angel and tell me exactly what was in your
mind to say to me when you came back here after the others had gone?

(ARTHUR looks at her.)

Go on, pretend you're in a hunting field, and you have to be a
sportsman!

ARTHUR: (Laughing.) I follow!

MRS CHEYNEY: Go on.

ARTHUR: Very well. I meant to tell you, you were the most attractive
woman I have ever known!

MRS CHEYNEY: We are about to take another fence! Was I?

ARTHUR: I hadn't considered whether you were or not!

MRS CHEYNEY: Splendid! Then?

ARTHUR: If that went well, I proposed to suggest a little dinner in my
flat!

MRS CHEYNEY: And if that went well?

ARTHUR: Then I am experienced enough not to have said another word till
after the dessert!

MRS CHEYNEY: Oh! (She laughs.) What was it your friends--divine! And
now?

ARTHUR: I realize I had no right to, I was wrong. I beg your pardon; and
in future I should never dream of asking you to dine with me without a
couple of bishops. You didn't mean all those things you said to me just
now?

MRS CHEYNEY: I like you so much, every one!

ARTHUR: Am I really as bad as that?

MRS CHEYNEY: Really!

ARTHUR: Good God! I may be a teetotaller tomorrow, but I feel I shall be
very drunk tonight!

MRS CHEYNEY: But why?

ARTHUR: You've depressed me! I don't feel I'm half the hell of a feller
I thought I was, and it's a bore!

MRS CHEYNEY: You are, a hell of a feller, if you only knew it!

ARTHUR: I don't propose to agree with anything you say I am not!

MRS CHEYNEY: Have a whisky and soda?

ARTHUR: Thank you, I don't drink!

MRS CHEYNEY: Angry with me?

ARTHUR: I'm something with you, but I don't know what it is! My lords, I
rise with certain diffidence not in support of the motion before the
House, but--

MRS CHEYNEY: What are you talking about?

ARTHUR: I feel I ought to be in the House of Lords speaking on behalf of
some one who is down and out, or something or other!

MRS CHEYNEY: May I come and hear you, the day you do?

ARTHUR: I would insist. In my peroration, I will point to you and say,
'There is the good woman that pointed the way!'

MRS CHEYNEY: It almost makes one resolve to be a good woman!

ARTHUR: Resolve? Aren't you a good woman?

MRS CHEYNEY: Not very!

ARTHUR: Well, what the devil do you mean by talking to me as you have
tonight?

MRS CHEYNEY: There is more than one way of not being a good woman,
Arthur dear!

ARTHUR: There is more than--explain that!

MRS CHEYNEY: Don't be so absurdly serious; besides, it would take too
long! Look at the time!

ARTHUR: But--

MRS CHEYNEY: I am dining at half-past eight!

ARTHUR: I insist on knowing whether you are a good woman or not!

MRS CHEYNEY: Why do you want to know?

ARTHUR: Because I should feel such a fool if you weren't!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Putting out her hand) I am!

ARTHUR: Thank God!

(ARTHUR takes her hand, is going to kiss it, changes his mind and takes
the hem of her dress and kisses it.)

There! Could anything be more respectable than that?

MRS CHEYNEY: Nothing!

ARTHUR: And, in addition, it's the one thing in my life I have never
done before.

MRS CHEYNEY: (Laughing.) Mrs Wynton has asked me to lunch with her
tomorrow.

ARTHUR: She hasn't asked me, but I shall be there, nevertheless! (He
exits by the windows. MRS CHEYNEY watches him go, shrugs her shoulders,
picks up a cigarette, lights it, and throws it down.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Damn!

(She takes up ARTHUR's glass; smells the whisky, pulls a face and puts
it down, gazing into space, evidently thinking and her mind distracted,
turns to the piano and commences to play. She plays an excerpt from
Scriabine, Op. No. .9, Nocturne II, for the left hand. WILLIAM enters.
He closes the door and switches on the lights. He then goes up to the
windows, looks out, closes all the windows, fastens them and draws the
curtains. He takes a packet of cigarettes from his trousers pocket and
lights a cigarette from matches he finds in his pocket. He sits and
takes a paper from his pocket and reads. GEORGE enters; he carries the
Evening News,' opened at a crossword puzzle. He sits on the table. JIM
enters. He is a chauffeur and in his uniform, carrying his hat. He looks
round and decides to sit on the settee. CHARLES enters. He closes the
door. He is smoking a cigar and takes a look at them all. He goes up to
windows, looks outside through the curtains and stands behind MRS
CHEYNEY by the piano stool.)

CHARLES: Charming! Charming! Scriabine.

JIM: Scriber--what?

WILLIAM: Bean.

JIM: (To MRS CHEYNEY.) Play us that tune, 'I want to be 'appy!'

(MRS CHEYNEY stops playing and looks at them all.)

MRS CHEYNEY: (Starting to play something else.) What a pretty lot
of pets you look, don't you?

CHARLES: Thank you, darling!

MRS CHEYNEY: Well! (She plays a scale on the piano, rises.) I've got the
invitation.

CHARLES: When?

MRS CHEYNEY: I am asked to stay with Mrs Ebley as an honoured guest on
Friday week!

JIM: Great!

CHARLES' Wonderful! The pearls she was wearing this afternoon struck me
as being worth, say, as a venture' twenty thousand!

JIM: Here! I hope she has got better ones than that at home.

CHARLES: Much.

WILLIAM: Then if we bring this off there isn't any reason why we
shouldn't retire, should we be so inclined!

CHARLES: None! It will put us in the happy position of only doing the
things, and those, we want to!

JIM: Charlie, this was a great idea of yours.

CHARLES: Not too bad' if I may say so, old friend!

WILLIAM: Wonderful! You're a master' Charles!

JIM: It's great, that's what it is!

MRS CHEYNEY: I should have added, I haven't definitely accepted the
invitation.

CHARLES: Why not?

WILLIAM: You ain't thinking of refusing it, are you?

MRS CHEYNEY: I am! (There is a pause. They all look alarmed.)

CHARLES: Jane' my dear, I--

MRS CHEYNEY: I have changed it to Fay!

CHARLES: Fay! Delightful! I prefer it! May I ask why you are in doubt?

MRS CHEYNEY: Certainly! I happen to like all these people very much; and
in consequence, at the moment I am finding it rather distasteful to take
Mrs Ebley's pearls from her!

JIM: Oh, chuck all that!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Pointing at JIM.) Very little of that, Charles dear' will
decide me definitely not to do it!

CHARLES: Quite! I see Jane's--Fay's point perfectly!

MRS CHEYNEY: The idea of persuading perfectly charming people into
inviting you to their house for the purpose of robbing them isn't
pleasing me at all!

JIM: Here! You have had none of these scruples before?

MRS CHEYNEY: No! But during my adopted career I have never before come
in contact with the people I have had to carry on my profession with, as
it were!

CHARLES: No.

JIM: And you ain't going to do it?

MRS CHEYNEY: I am in grave doubt, Jim darling! (Goes up to window and
looks out into the night.)

JIM: (To CHARLES.) Here, can't you do anything?

CHARLES: I? What can I do?

JIM: Can't you tell her to stop behaving like a fool?

CHARLES: I can't, because I know so well how she feels! I remember on
one occasion practically having got a pocket-book containing a large sum
from the pocket of a client, when I heard him say something rather kind
and attractive to the person he was with; it was very wrong of me; but,
do you know' I was so touched, I put it back!

JIM: Oh' for God's sake, let us sing Hymn 225 and have done with it!

WILLIAM: So you've fallen for the swells' have you?

MRS CHEYNEY: I suppose that describes it; they are charming, and I like
them.

WILLIAM: Perhaps you have ideas of being Lady Elton?

MRS CHEYNEY: I have a suspicion I will refuse that!

WILLIAM: Well; the other feller ain't a marrying sort, you know!

MRS CHEYNEY: So he tells me!

CHARLES: (Indifferently.) Do you like him, Fay?

MRS CHEYNEY: Terribly! But don't be alarmed, I'm going to refuse him,
too!

CHARLES: I'm relieved.

WILLIAM: Do you mind telling me what we've been giving you lessons for
every day this week?

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm sorry; but I didn't quite realize, when I adopted this
profession, that the people I would have to take things from would be
quite so nice.

CHARLES: Quite!

WILLIAM: So we've spent months planning this, teaching her all we know'
dressed up as butlers, she pretending to be an Australian widow' and on
the verge of the greatest coup that has ever been made, she turns
sentimental and refuses to do it.

CHARLES: I have rather enjoyed it! I'm not trying to persuade you, my
sweet, but there is this to be remembered: the pearls we want from Mrs
Ebley were taken by that lady, without a scruple, from the wives of the
men who gave them to her!

MRS CHEYNEY: I know that!

CHARLES: And if you got them, there is this to be said, you would be in
a position to say farewell to your profession' should you care to.

MRS CHEYNEY: That I have thought of, too.

CHARLES: Quite! But you feel a little sentimental about it?

MRS CHEYNEY: Yes!

CHARLES: That, I feel, is a little wrong! If that principle were
generally adopted' the world would stop! For instance, supposing a woman
went to a doctor without appendicitis, but with a hundred pounds, and he
became sentimental and told her her appendix was as pure as the driven
snow, how many honourable men would there be in the medical profession,
I ask you? Supposing a man went to a lawyer with a bad case, but the
money to pay for a good one, and that lawyer became sentimental and told
him the truth--he was sure to lose--how many honourable lawyers would
there be in the world' I ask you?

MRS CHEYNEY: I've no idea! I only know I'm sorry I took on this
particular thing!

CHARLES: I feel for you, because I am on the side of all repentant
people, but I have a leaning towards the wise ones who make certain
their repentance is going to be spent in comfort--I would quote Mrs
Ebley as an instance!

MRS CHEYNEY: That's true!

WILLIAM: 'I don't want to do it!' I have never heard such damned
nonsense in my life!

CHARLES: Not at all. (He winks at WILLIAM) I am full of sympathy for
her! (MRS CHEYNEY turns to the piano, sits and plays softly.)

MRS CHEYNEY: And, after all, if she had been sentimental, she would have
never taken the pearls herself, would she?

CHARLES: She certainly would not!

MRS CHEYNEY: That's true! Jim, old dear' what was the name of that tune
you wanted me to play?

JIM: 'I want to be 'appy!'

MRS CHEYNEY: So do I!

(MRS CHEYNEY plays a chorus of 'I want to be happy'. All the gang look
at each other--they realize she has decided to steal the pearls JIM,
WILLIAM and GEORGE do 'thumbs up'--and begin to dance comically.)


END OF ACT ONE.


*


===========
* ACT TWO *
===========


-------
Scene 1
-------


A room in MRS EBLEY's country house. Ten days later. Two doors, French
windows, a fireplace.

After dinner on a warm summer evening. The French windows are open.

MRS EBLEY seated in an arm-chair is doing needlework. MARY is at the
piano left, playing. JOAN is at the back doing jazz movements to the
accompaniment of the piano. ARTHUR, MARIA, WILLIE and MRS WYNTON are
sitting round a card table, playing bridge. A rubber is almost over.
ARTHUR, who is 'dummy; is sitting on a stool below the card table, his
back to the audience. MARIA is at the top of the table facing the
audience. MARIA has a good hand; there are also good cards in the
'dummy'. She has six tricks at her left; WILLIE two. Each player has
five cards.

MARY is playing 'Poor Little Rich Girl' forte. ARTHUR rises; he is
smoking a cigarette, and goes to the table and stands watching the game
between MARIA and WILLIE.

MARIA: Girls, girls, must you make that noise? Please.

(MARY continues to play; JOAN goes over to ARTHUR, they commence to
dance at the back. MARIA leads a card. MRS WYNTON and WILLIE follow.
MARIA collects up the trick)

Arthur! Arthur! (MARYstops playing. ARTHUR and JOAN continue to dance,
singing 'Ta-ra-ra-ra-ra' to the time of the tune.)

Oh, do stop that ta-ra-ra. It's impossible to play. (They stop dancing.
JOAN goes over to MARY and sits against her on the piano stool.)

ARTHUR: Sorry' darling, sorry.

(MARIA pauses a long time before playing her next card; she tries to
have a look at MRS WYNTON's hand; who hides her cards. MARIA then
deliberately drops her handkerchief at her right. WILLIE bends down to
pick it up; as he does so MARIA takes a good look at his cards which he
has in his right hand; he quickly hides his hand over his shoulder.)

WILLIE: (Handing MARIA the handkerchief) Allow me.

MARIA: That's very civil of you, Willie.

WILLIE: Not at all. I just didn't want you to look over my hand.

MRS WYNTON: Willie!

ARTHUR: Bravo, Willie!

MARIA: Am I to assume that you think I would cheat?

ARTHUR: You are to assume that I am sure you would cheat. If you
remember, at the ninth hole this morning' you turned to my caddy and
said, 'Is Lord Dilling looking?' He said, 'No' m'lady'. Whereupon, you
said, 'Well, kick my ball on to the pritty.'

MARIA: The boy's a liar! I told him to kick yours into the rough. (They
play another round.)

(Playing.) Give me that queen; the rest are mine.

WILLIE: Blast!

MARIA: Four honours in one hand, seventy-two.

WILLIE: Four honours in one hand, sixty-four. (MRS WYNTON gathers the
cards.)

MARIA: And score above.

ARTHUR: And the date is September 3rd. 1925, but there is no reason to
count that in.

MARIA: Shut up! I make four hundred and seventy-two at five shillings a
hundred is twenty-five shillings.

WILLIE: At half-a-crown a hundred is twelve and six' and we carry it
forward. (ARTHUR picks up the bridge marker.)

JOAN: (Going up to the windows.) What a divine night! How I would love
to be out in that exquisite garden, being told by someone I was the most
beautiful thing he had ever seen.

MARY: Who would you like to be told that by in particular?

JOAN: Shouldn't care a damn, darling, as long as it was a man and I was
told it! Doing anything for a few minutes' Arthur?

ARTHUR: (Writing on the score card) I am! But Willie isn't.

JOAN: Come and make love to me in the garden, Willie?

WILLIE: I'd rather sit here and smoke!

JOAN: Pig!

MARIA: Any signs of the young lovers?

JOAN: Not a sign--not a sound!

MRS WYNTON: And they have been out there for at least half an hour.

MARIA: I'm so excited I can't bear it; does this mean that Mrs Cheyney
comes back into this room the future Lady Elton? (Bangs table.) Answer,
some one.

ARTHUR: Does it necessarily follow because two people stay out in a
garden alone for half an hour that they should return engaged to be
married?

MARIA: No two people ever stayed alone in a beautiful garden on a
beautiful night like this alone without something happening, and as it
is Elton, I say that it is marriage!

ARTHUR: I disagree! Unless he has very much altered, I suggest he is
describing to her in detail the History of England!

MARIA: If he is, I hope she tells him she is not that sort of woman and
smacks his face!

MRS EBLEY: I should have thought you knew more about the geography of
gardens than Elton' Arthur!

ARTHUR: I suggested that to her myself!

MRS WYNTON: And what did she say?

ARTHUR: She said I knew too much about them!

MARIA: Arthur darling, I'm going to ask you a question.

ARTHUR: Am I in love with Mrs Cheyney.

MARIA: How did you know?

ARTHUR: Because it has been evident that you have been going to, ever
since we arrived in this house two days ago!

MARY: And are you?

ARTHUR: As every one is expected to contribute something to a week-end
party, my contribution is this: I think I am!

JOAN: You think you are! Oh, divine.

MARIA: To what extent?

ARTHUR: That I don't know myself?

MARIA: Stuff and nonsense! What are the symptoms?

ARTHUR: I have suddenly discovered a liking for little children.

MARIA: That sounds like the real thing! (WILLIE laughs.)

MRS WYNTON: If you can't stop that noise' Willie, I will send you to
bed! Go on, Arthur!

ARTHUR: During the time I have known her' I have also discovered that in
the past one has eaten too much; that one only needs a little food!

JOAN: Go on, darling!

ARTHUR: Sleep, I find, is not essential!

MARIA: The man is really in love--but this is marvellous.

MARY: What else, Arthur?

ARTHUR: It's the first time in my life I have been seriously obsessed by
any woman.

JOAN: Do you like it?

ARTHUR: I do' rather! You must admit it's generous of me to tell you all
this, particularly as she may, at any moment, return into the room
affianced to another!

MARIA: It's divine of you' and it's the first thrill I have had since
that horrid man tried to be familiar with me in a railway carriage.
(They all laugh.)

MRS EBLEY: Curious, how you have never been able to forget that!

MARIA: My dear, it was two years ago' and each day I grow older I feel
the only literature I care for is railway time tables. (They all laugh.)

MRS WYNTON: Arthur dear, having admitted all this, I can't understand
why you doubt that you are in love with her?

ARTHUR: She won't have anything to do with me; she prefers to me, what I
have always considered the world's prize ass; it may be that I am
piqued!

MARY: I wonder if she is doing it on purpose?

ARTHUR: What do you mean by that?

MARIA: She may be merely encouraging Elton to encourage you!

ARTHUR: If she is, then she isn't a bit what I think she is!

MARIA: Good lord' the man has got it so badly he thinks her different
from any other woman.

ARTHUR: I do!

MARIA: It's an extraordinary thing, but when an old man or a bad man
falls in love' God help them! (ELTON with MRS CHEYNEY on his hand, enter
from the garden.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Playing bridge on a divine night like this! Shame.

ARTHUR: To have gone out would have been sacrilege to your divine night!

MRS CHEYNEY: Why?

ARTHUR: We all know each other too well.

MRS CHEYNEY: (Laughing) Really?

ELTON: (To MRS EBLEY.) Mrs Cheyney has a very bad headache.

ARTHUR: Who shall blame her? (All the others snigger and suppress
ill-mannered laughter.)

ELTON: I have been trying to persuade her to take something for it!

MRS EBLEY: (Rising and going to the bell below the fireplace, putting
her work in work-bag.) But, of course' there's some aspirin in my room.

MRS CHEYNEY: Please don't, it may pass off?

MRS EBLEY: But, my dear, I--

MRS CHEYNEY: Please! I get them so often that I'm trying to get rid of
them without taking anything; but if it gets worse I'll come in to you
for them' may I? (ELTON takes up a paper and reads it.)

MRS EBLEY: I insist that you do!

MRS CHEYNEY: Thank you so much! (MRS EBLEY catches ARTHUR's eye. He
makes a sign to her to get the others out of the room.)

MRS EBLEY: Well, I suggest an early bed--perhaps just another rubber.

(ARTHUR signs 'No more. Get them all into another room.') (To MARIA
quietly.) Say 'It's hot.'

MARIA: What?

MRS EBLEY: Hot.

ARTHUR: H--O--T

MARIA: What's hot?

MRS EBLEY: The room.

MARIA: But it isn't--it's beautifully cool.

MRS EBLEY: Maria, be bright. (MRS EBLEY nudges MARIA, who sees ARTHUR
signing to her--she at last understands and rises.).

MARIA: Oh yes, of course. This room is insufferably hot. Can't we go and
play in the er--bathroom--er I mean, the next room?

MRS EBLEY: (To MRS CHEYNEY.) You would rather not play, my dear?

MRS CHEYNEY: I won't, if you don't mind.

MARIA: You'll play, Arthur?

ARTHUR: I've got a headache, too.

MRS EBLEY: Well, come along! Come along, everybody--come along, Willie.

(MRS EBLEY exits, followed by WILLIE. JOAN begins to play Patience.)

MARIA: Mary--Mary dear, we shall want you.

MARY: Oh, sorry. (She exits.)

MARIA: We've got six already' but it can't be helped. Kitty, Kitty dear.

(MRS WYNTON crosses to MARIA who whispers in her ear, indicating MRS
CHEYNEY and ELTON. MRS CHEYNEY is standing warming her feet at the fire.
ELTON is absorbed in an evening paper.)

What do you think?

MRS WYNTON: Not a notion.

MARIA: I'm doubtful. Arthur' do come and play. (MRS WYNTON exits.)

ARTHUR: I'm sorry--I can't--I'm in terrible pain.

MARIA: Elton' will you kindly make us up?

ELTON: Certainly, if you want me to. (ELTON puts down the paper, and
crosses to door.)

MRS CHEYNEY: (Turning to ELTON as he is crossing to the door.) If you
leave the door open, and you would like me to, I'll play to you!

ELTON: Thank you very much--that would be delightful!

(ELTON exits. MARIA pulls a face at ARTHUR and exits, following ELTON.
MRS CHEYNEY sits at the piano. JOAN remains at the table, playing
Patience; she doesn't notice the others go. ARTHUR coughs; she takes no
notice; he rises.)

ARTHUR: (To JOAN.) You are wanted on the telephone!

(MRS CHEYNEY begins to play.)

JOAN: (Eagerly.) I am! Who wants? (ARTHUR puts his cigarette out on the
ash-tray on the card table.) Oh, damn funny, aren't you? (She exits.)

ARTHUR: Engaged?

MRS CHEYNEY: (Sweetly.) Talking to me?

ARTHUR: I don't see anybody else!

MRS CHEYNEY: Sorry! I didn't quite catch what you said.

ARTHUR: I asked if you were engaged? (She stops playing.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Tell me all that you have been doing since dinner? (She
resumes playing the same piece.)

ARTHUR: Explaining my symptoms.

MRS CHEYNEY: Aren't you well?

ARTHUR: No! Are you sorry?

MRS CHEYNEY: Terribly! What's the matter with you?

ARTHUR: Loss of appetite--loss of sleep!

MRS CHEYNEY: You should take something for it.

ARTHUR: I agree; but you give me no encouragement.

MRS CHEYNEY: Any particular thing you would like me to play you?

ARTHUR: No! (ARTHUR walks up to the window.)

MRS CHEYNEY: You have no idea what a perfect night it is out there!

ARTHUR: Let us go out and see if you exaggerate.

MRS CHEYNEY: I have such a headache!

ARTHUR: Isn't piano playing rather bad for it!

MRS CHEYNEY: The reverse; it soothes it!

ARTHUR: And Elton?

MRS CHEYNEY: What do you mean by that?

ARTHUR: If you are playing the piano' it's obvious to him that you are
doing nothing else!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Smiling.) That's clever of you.

ARTHUR: I'm terribly well up in all these things!

MRS CHEYNEY: Amuse me by telling me some of your past!

ARTHUR: Each of my pasts only convinced me that there might be a
wonderful future!

MRS CHEYNEY: Too deep.

ARTHUR: I realize how marvellous it would all be if I had loved them!

MRS CHEYNEY: But you told them you did!

ARTHUR: I have some regard for good manners!

MRS CHEYNEY: Quite!

(ARTHUR bends over the piano and pushes her hands off keys.)

ARTHUR: Did you accept Elton?

MRS CHEYNEY: What makes you think I had the opportunity to?

ARTHUR: Did you refuse him?

MRS CHEYNEY: I did not.

ARTHUR: You asked for time to think it over?

MRS CHEYNEY: You know so much, tell me a little more.

ARTHUR: In the end you will refuse him!

MRS CHEYNEY: Why?

ARTHUR: That man's wealth and position can never compensate you for all
his stupidity and blab--(He makes a grimace in imitation of ELTON..)

MRS CHEYNEY: I disagree! Assuming all this is correct, the love of a
good man stands for something.

ARTHUR: Not at all! That is proved by the fact that it is always a bad
man who is the co-respondent.

MRS CHEYNEY: (Laughing.) Tell me why you are so interested in my
marrying Lord Elton?

ARTHUR: Obvious! I am in love with you myself!

MRS CHEYNEY: From anyone else that would suggest a proposal of marriage.

ARTHUR: If you like!

MRS CHEYNEY: Don't look like that, Arthur' otherwise I'll believe you.

ARTHUR: You can!

MRS CHEYNEY: You seriously mean to tell me you want to marry me?

ARTHUR: I wouldn't say that!

MRS CHEYNEY: Ho! (They both laugh.)

ARTHUR: Don't misunderstand! To me, the idea of marriage has always been
the death and burial of all romance in one's life! And God knows I have
done all I can to persuade you that that is so, but you don't agree!
Very well, as I like you so much--

MRS CHEYNEY: (Correcting.) As I attract you so much!

ARTHUR: If you like! I am prepared to be at any church you like to name
at eleven o'clock tomorrow morning!

MRS CHEYNEY: I must attract you very much, Arthur!

ARTHUR: More than I care to acknowledge, even to myself! For the first
time, I don't understand myself; I'm unhappy when I'm not with you; I'm
unhappy when I am! I can see nothing but you when you are present, and
nothing but you when you are not; your voice is the only one I ever
hear; in fact, let us face it, I've got it worse than any of God's
creatures have ever had it before!

MRS CHEYNEY: There are three reasons why I should like to marry you,
Arthur!

ARTHUR: Being?

MRS CHEYNEY: One, I like you terribly!

ARTHUR: Are the other two important?

MRS CHEYNEY: Two! It would be such fun to go to tea with all the women
you haven't married!

ARTHUR: Oh, shut up! And the third?

MRS CHEYNEY: I should be some sort of widow again within a year!

ARTHUR: There's always a chance of that, but I think it is worth it!
(MRS CHEYNEY shakes her head.) You don't agree. Why?

MRS CHEYNEY: I know too much about you, and you know too little about
me.

ARTHUR: Is there anything more to know about you than I do?

MRS CHEYNEY: Three volumes closely printed!

ARTHUR: I'd give a great deal to understand what there is I don't
understand about you, Fay.

MRS CHEYNEY: It might amuse you.

ARTHUR: Might it?

MRS CHEYNEY: I hope so.

ARTHUR: I see! I take it, my first and only offer of marriage is
rejected?

(She nods her head.)

Have you been laughing at me' by any chance?

MRS CHEYNEY: What makes you think so?

ARTHUR: I don't know; you look so strange! By God,

I should be angry if you were! Are you laughing at me?

MRS CHEYNEY: The reverse; it's the first time in my life I remember not
laughing at myself.

ARTHUR: What do you mean by that?

MRS CHEYNEY: Just that.

ARTHUR: You're an odd creature!

MRS CHEYNEY: I wish I weren't!

ARTHUR: There's some reason why you can't marry me?

MRS CHEYNEY: No!

ARTHUR: You just don't like me?

MRS CHEYNEY: I like being single!

ARTHUR: Can I ask you one other question?

MRS CHEYNEY: Yes.

ARTHUR: Are you all that I think of you, as a woman?

MRS CHEYNEY: In what way do you think of me as a woman?

ARTHUR: All the things that a man demands from a woman he is going to
marry.

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm every one of the things you mean.

ARTHUR: I know you are! You're an angel.

MRS CHEYNEY: (Rising.) I really have got a headache!

ARTHUR: I'm sorry! Why go into the garden in such thin shoes?
Let me get you some aspirin!

MRS CHEYNEY: No' thanks! I think I'll go to bed!

ARTHUR: Fay, may I be allowed a platitude?

MRS CHEYNEY: Yes?

ARTHUR: (Humorously.) Perhaps in time?

MRS CHEYNEY: (Shaking her head.) No!

ARTHUR: Just friends?

MRS CHEYNEY: That's right!

ARTHUR: I understand! (He turns away and picks up a newspaper.) I think
Centaur will win the big race on Tuesday!

MRS CHEYNEY: Inglesby!

ARTHUR: Know anything?

MRS CHEYNEY: Just an instinct!

ARTHUR: I'll back it! I believe in you! The only woman I ever have!
(JOAN enters shrieking with laughter.) The woman's in wine. (MARIA
enters.)

MARIA: Shut up, Joan! My advice to any man, woman or child who likes
bridge is, not to marry Elton!

MRS CHEYNEY: What has he done?

MARIA: Done? He's done every conceivable thing that doesn't appear in
the book of rules. I'm afraid I was very rude to him. Oh dear! I'm
always putting my foot in it!

JOAN: He's pompous even when he revokes. What a colossal ass he is!

MRS CHEYNEY: I like him!

ARTHUR: Oh dear' oh dear!

JOAN: Sorry, darling! (She puts out her hand to MRS CHEYNEY.)

ARTHUR: This young woman has a bad headache!

MRS CHEYNEY: I have, rather! I'm going to bed!

MARIA: So am I, my dear! It's the only place I'm sure of not getting
into trouble!

ARTHUR: Oh, come' come!

MARIA: I'll come with you!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Looking at ARTHUR) Good night!

ARTHUR: Good night, Fay dear! I'm going to back Inglesby!

MRS CHEYNEY: It's a risk! Good night, Lady Joan!

JOAN: Good night, darling, hope you will be all right in the morning!

(MRS CHEYNEY exits.)

MARIA: Good night, Arthur! Good night, Joan!

JOAN: Good night, darling; sleep well! (MARIA exits, closing the door.)
Sorry she has a headache!

ARTHUR: Yes. (He puts down his paper on the piano with a sigh.) Joan!
Now, think before you speak. Supposing, only supposing, I asked you to
be my wife, what would you say?

JOAN: I'll be ready in five minutes!

ARTHUR: What!

JOAN: Well, four.

ARTHUR: Good! Why?

JOAN: Heaps of reasons!

ARTHUR: I give it up! (He starts to walk away towards the door.)

JOAN: Don't leave me; you're being so interesting; where are you going?

ARTHUR: I'm about to resume my ordinary life! The whisky, I take it, is
kept in the other room? Tell me something I can say that will annoy
Elton!

JOAN: Tell him--tell him--I know' ask him which room Mrs Cheyney is
sleeping in?

ARTHUR: Excellent! (He is about to go.)

JOAN: Hi! Come back and tell me how he died!

ARTHUR: I will! And I'll bring my whisky and soda and drink it here--(He
kisses her on the head.) you are more amusing! (He exits.)

(JOAN takes lipstick and powder from her little bag. ROBERTS enters. He
sees only JOAN. He goes to the windows to look into the garden.)

JOAN: What is it, Roberts?

ROBERTS: Do you know where Mrs Cheyney is, my lady?

JOAN: Gone to bed. Who wants her?

ROBERTS: A cable came for her this evening, and Charles, her butler,
thinking it might be important, has brought it over, my lady!

JOAN: Is Charles out there?

ROBERTS: Yes, my lady!

JOAN: Show him in.

ROBERTS: Yes, my lady!

(ROBERTS exits through the windows. JOAN quickly applies lipstick and
powder. ROBERTS shows CHARLES in, and goes out again closing the door.)

CHARLES: Good evening' my lady!

JOAN: Charles, I'm delighted!

CHARLES: You are, my lady?

JOAN: Ever since I have known you, I have always said to myself: Ah! but
what does he look like in ordinary clothes?'

CHARLES: And, my lady?

JOAN: I had no right to doubt you!

CHARLES: My late master, who left us some time ago, and of whose
destination I am only suspicious, I am sure would be glad to hear how
much you approve of the clothes that he left me, my lady, before he left
us!

JOAN: I suppose clothes do make the man, Charles?

CHARLES: Many a bride has been disappointed when they have taken them
off, my lady!

JOAN: (Laughing.) I never meet you, Charles, without something to say at
dinner the next evening!

CHARLES: My mistress' I understand, has gone to bed, my lady?

(ARTHUR appears in the garden with a glass of whisky. He is about to
pass when, through the window, he sees CHARLES and stops; quietly he
stands back watching him the whole time.)

JOAN: Yes! Do you want her particularly?

CHARLES: No, my lady! A cable came for her, and as I heard her say she
expected an important one, I thought I had better bring it over; I have
also enclosed some letters that have come for her, in the parcel, my
lady!

JOAN: I'll give it to her!

CHARLES. (Giving the parcel to JOAN.) If you would be so kind, my lady!
Good night, my lady! (He walks away towards door.)

(ARTHUR, drawing back, shows that he has recognized and remembered
CHARLES.)

JOAN: (Speaking after CHARLES has got to the door.) Good night, Charles!

CHARLES: (Giving her a look) Good night, my lady! (He exits, closing the
door.)

(Pause. JOAN laughs. ARTHUR enters from the garden.)

ARTHUR: Well' I've come back to talk to you!

JOAN: Who do you think has been here since you left?

ARTHUR: Not a-notion.

JOAN: My divine Charles!

ARTHUR: Charles? Charles who?

JOAN: Mrs Cheyney's butler!

ARTHUR: No! Really? What did he want?

JOAN: Brought her some cables or something!

ARTHUR: I see!

JOAN: Arthur' I'm going to ask you a question; do clothes make the man?
Because I've a splendid answer!

ARTHUR: I don't know. Clothes can alter a man.

JOAN: How?

ARTHUR: I'll tell you. Some years ago, quite a number, there was a crook
fellow living at the same hotel in Monte Carlo that I was; no one knew
he was a crook, and we all liked him because he was rather amusing; one
day he was, as it were, caught in the act; everybody started to chase
him, and as I could run faster than the rest, it amused me to run in the
opposite direction to my crook friend, with the result they all followed
me and he got away!

JOAN: What has that got to do with clothes?

ARTHUR: Nothing; only, years later, he was dressed differently and I
didn't recognize him!

JOAN: Which I call a damn dull story!

ARTHUR: Quite!

JOAN: I'm going to bed; I'll take that up to Mrs Cheyney on my way! (She
is about to take the parcel when ARTHUR puts his hand on it across the
table.)

ARTHUR: No, go and talk to her for a minute, and I'll bring it up, which
will give me a chance to say good night to her!

JOAN: You haven't half got it, dearie. (She kisses ARTHUR) But I'm a
sport; but don't be too long!

ARTHUR: I won't! (JOAN exits. ARTHUR looks at the parcel, examines it,
appears very serious. He shakes it, turns it over in his hand, looks
round to see if anyone is about and opens the parcel, which contains an
empty 100 cigarette box. Turning it about to see what is inside, he sees
written on the lid 'Courage, my sweet!' He reads it aloud) 'Courage, my
sweet!'

(He shakes his head and repeats it then puts the box back in the parcel
and closes it up. He whistles a tune. MRS EBLEY and ELTON enter from the
garden.)

ELTON: Many thanks for a very pleasant evening! Good night! (Shaking
hands.)

MRS EBLEY: Wouldn't you like something before you go to bed?

ELTON: No, many thanks! Good night! (MARY enters from the garden.) Good
night, Dilling.

ARTHUR: Good night Elton' and again good night! (ELTON exits.)

MARY: (Sighing.) Ho! what a dull man. (MRS ETON enters from the garden.)

MRS WYNTON: (Speaking behind her as she enters.) Willie, get me a glass
of barley water! Arthur, were you really serious tonight when you told
us you were really in love?

ARTHUR: My dear! It was my odd way of being amusing!

MRS EBLEY: I do wish you would marry, Arthur!

ARTHUR: I wanted to once!

MARY: Why didn't you?

ARTHUR: One; she refused me! Two; I have an idea she was everything I
thought she wasn't!

MRS WYNTON: (Laughing) How tragic!

MARY: Tell us about her!

ARTHUR: I have told you all that I know.

(WILLIE enters by the door with a glass of barley water; he gives it to
MRS WYNTON and then goes to MARY; they talk at the fireplace.)

MRS WYNTON: I am going to bed! (She kisses MRS EBLEY.)

MRS EBLEY: Don't forget. Breakfast at ten.

MRS WYNTON: (Turning on her way to the door.) Oh! Can't I have mine in
my bedroom?

MRS EBLEY: Lazy girl--of course you may.

MRS WYNTON: Well, good night, darling, and ever so many thanks for a
perfect week-end!

MRS EBLEY: So glad you have liked it, darling!

MRS WYNTON: I have.

ARTHUR: Oh, Kitty! Give this to Mrs Cheyney, would you, on your way up?
Her butler brought it--you might tell her that. (He has taken up the
parcel and turns to MRS WYNTON.)

MRS WYNTON: (As she takes the parcel and opens the door she sees WILLIE
talking to MARY.) Willie!

WILLIE: Going to bed, Arthur?

ARTHUR: I? Not for years! (MRS WYNTON goes out.)

WILLIE: (Turning to ARTHUR.) I'll come back and have a cigarette with
you, (In ARTHUR's ear.) as soon as I can get away! (WILLIE follows MRS
WYNTON out.)

ARTHUR: (To MARY.) Say good night to the pretty lady and hop it!

MARY: Are you talking to me?

ARTHUR: Yes, lovely!

MARY: (To MRS EBLEY.) Do you mind being left alone with him?

MRS EBLEY: I'll take the risk.

MARY: Very well; good night, darling; and, by the way' you have got me
until after lunch.

MRS EBLEY: Splendid!

MARY: (Taking a book from table and going to the door.) Good night,
Arthur!

ARTHUR: Good night. (MARY exits. There is a pause)

MRS EBLEY: What's the matter, Arthur? You look so worried!

ARTHUR: I? I'm not a bit; a little tired!

MRS EBLEY: So am I!

ARTHUR: It's been a particularly happy weekend!

MRS EBLEY: I have loved having you all.

ARTHUR: If I may say so, our little friend, Mrs Cheyney, has
considerably contributed to the pleasure of it.

MRS EBLEY: I simply adore her; that is a sweet woman, Arthur.

ARTHUR: Very! By the way, where did Maria find her, do you know?

MRS EBLEY: She met her first, I believe' at the tables at Cannes.

ARTHUR: Ha!

MRS EBLEY: Then, by some accident, on the way home, they found they were
staying at the same hotel in Paris, and Maria, with that love she has of
finding new people, took her up, and showed her the sights, as it were!

ARTHUR: I envy her! That's a job I would have enjoyed!

MRS EBLEY: I'm sure you would!

ARTHUR: By the way' was her butler, the immaculate Charles, with her at
the time?

MRS EBLEY: Fortunately he was, because Maria lost some valuable things
and Charles was instrumental in getting some of the things she valued
most returned to her.

ARTHUR: Did he, by George? That was decent of him. (He goes over to the
window.)

MRS EBLEY: Mighty useful for Maria.

ARTHUR: What a divine night. (He turns to MRS EBLEY. )

MRS EBLEY: Yes, isn't it?

ARTHUR: (Looking at MRS EBLEY's pearls, which he takes in his hands.)
Those are pretty good, if I may say so, Sybil.

MRS EBLEY: They are more than pretty good, if I may say so' Arthur.

ARTHUR: Insured?

MRS EBLEY: To be vulgar, for fifty thousand.

ARTHUR: Where do you keep them at night?

MRS EBLEY: Oh, I don't know. Alongside my bed.

ARTHUR: I'd like to sleep with fifty thousand pounds alongside my bed.

MRS EBLEY: Don't be ridiculous.

ARTHUR: (Putting his hands to his head.) Oh dear, oh dear!

MRS EBLEY: What's the matter, Arthur? You look terribly tired.

ARTHUR: So would you if you hadn't slept for three nights.

MRS EBLEY: Not slept for three nights--why?

ARTHUR: Sybil, may I be a perfect pig?

MRS EBLEY: Well!

ARTHUR: I hate that infernal room you've given me.

MRS EBLEY: Why' what's the matter with it, Arthur?

ARTHUR: Well, the walls are covered with ivy and it's full of
sparrows--I can't sleep a wink.

MRS EBLEY: Arthur, why didn't you tell me this before?

ARTHUR: Because I have a beautiful and unselfish nature.

MRS EBLEY: Rubbish!

ARTHUR: Why did you give Elton my room?

MRS EBLEY: Well' he's never stayed here before, and it seemed only civil
to give him that room.

ARTHUR: It seems a pity I should lose my life on account of Elton.

MRS EBLEY: Oh, Arthur!

ARTHUR: Can't Roberts make me up a room somewhere else?

MRS EBLEY: I'm afraid it's impossible. The house is full. Now, what can
I do?

ARTHUR: Don't worry; it doesn't matter.

MRS EBLEY: My dear' I shouldn't sleep a wink, knowing you weren't
comfortable. I'm miserable. What can I do?

ARTHUR: Nothing.

MRS EBLEY: Arthur, would you like my room?

ARTHUR: Good heavens, no!

MRS EBLEY: Why not? It doesn't make the slightest difference where I
sleep--I certainly shouldn't sleep a wink if I thought you weren't
comfortable.

ARTHUR: I wouldn't dream of such a thing.

MRS EBLEY: Don't be ridiculous' Arthur! (With a friendly little shake of
his shoulder.) Besides, I've spoilt you ever since you were born;
there's not much reason in my not going on with it.

ARTHUR: On your oath, you swear you don't mind?

MRS EBLEY: Of course not. What difference does it make? I've often slept
in that room. I'll get my maid to move your things then you'll get a
decent night's rest. (She turns to the door.)

ARTHUR: The difference between you and me is, that I'm a selfish swine
and you're an angel.

MRS EBLEY: Nonsense! You're nothing of the sort.

ARTHUR: Oh! and, Sybil, you might do something else for me.

MRS EBLEY: What?

ARTHUR: If you see any of the others, don't mention it to them; they'd
think me such a fool.

MRS EBLEY: Of course not. And Arthur, as you're not sleeping, I'll have
some hot milk sent up to your room.

ARTHUR: No--I don't think I'll risk that--but you might get Roberts to
send me up some sandwiches and a pint of champagne.

MRS EBLEY: Why, is champagne good for not sleeping?

ARTHUR: My dear, champagne is good for everything.

MRS EBLEY: Oh, all right!

ARTHUR: Oh! and' Sybil--(He advances and takes hold of the pearls.)
look! Just for a lark, let me--er--er--no, don't bother; (He drops the
pearls and turns from her a little.) it doesn't matter; I'll come and
kiss you good night on the way up.

MRS EBLEY: Well, don't be long--I shall be asleep in two winks--I don't
mind the sparrows and the ivy. (She exits and closes the door and
immediately is heard speaking outside.) Yes! I've loved having you'
Willie. (WILLIE enters.)

WILLIE: (As he closes the door.) Good! Glad you are here! Can I pour you
out a whisky and soda?

ARTHUR: You can! A large one. (WILLIE crosses to get whisky and soda.
ARTHUR quickly turns upstage and looks round outside the windows; he
returns.)

WILLIE: Been a devilish amusing week-end Arthur!

ARTHUR: Devilish!

WILLIE: I've enjoyed it! (Giving ARTHUR his drink) Great fun! Sorry it's
over! What a darling that little Cheyney woman is!

ARTHUR: You like her?

WILLIE: Enormously! She has all the qualities men like in a woman.

ARTHUR: Quite! I often wonder what a feller does when, by accident, he
finds out that a woman he admires hasn't any of the qualities he thought
she had!

WILLIE: I don't know. I suppose he'd be a little disappointed' wouldn't
he?

ARTHUR: Are you asking me?

WILLIE: Yes!

ARTHUR: Speaking for myself, I should be damned angry!


-------
Scene 2
-------


MRS EBLEY's Bedroom. ARTHUR is sitting by the day-bed, leaning back
reading a book. He is wearing a dressing jacket. The fire is lighted.
After a moment the clock over the mantel strikes three. He continues
reading for a few seconds, then puts down his book, rises, stretches
himself turning round opens the door a little and stands listening, then
closes it again. He crosses over to the dressing-table and looks in the
mirror. He examines his face rather critically, pulling down his lower
eyelids and moving his head from side to side as he endeavours to get a
good light on his eyes. He stands back a little to get a more general
survey of his face. He takes off his wrist watch and puts it on the
table. Turning to the bed he takes his pyjamas which are on the pillows
and lays them out on the bed--turns the bed down, arranges the pillows,
looks at and fingers the lace trimming. He is just about to take off his
dressing jacket when he hears a sound. He stands motionless for a moment
looking over to the door. Then, quickly, he re-buttons his jacket and
crosses on tiptoe to the door. Putting his ear to it, he listens. He
goes up to the door of the dressing-room and looks in, shuts the door
again and is moving to the bedroom door when he appears certain that he
hears someone coming--he steps back quickly and switches off the lights.
The flicker of the fire is just sufficient to show MRS CHEYNEY opening
the bedroom door. She does so very quietly and comes into the room. She
whispers Mrs Ebley! Mrs Ebley!' She crosses to the bed. She pauses there
a moment and then goes slowly to the dressing-table. As she approaches
it ARTHUR switches on the lights, locks the bedroom door and puts the
key in his pocket.



ARTHUR: (Smiling at her.) Do you know, I had a feeling that you would
come.

MRS CHEYNEY: What do you mean?

ARTHUR: Champagne! (He points to the bottle on the table.) And
sandwiches! Could anyone, I ask you, be more thoughtful?

MRS CHEYNEY: I--I--I--thought this was Mrs Ebley's room, and I came to
ask her for some aspirin for my head.

ARTHUR: As a host, I'm superb, really I am. I even thought to borrow
that, too, here they are! (Takes pearls out of his pocket, holds them up
to her.)

MRS CHEYNEY: I--I--don't know what you mean! Why are you in this room?

ARTHUR: As I have said, I had an idea you were coming in to it, and as I
like you so much, I tricked Sybil into changing rooms with me.

MRS CHEYNEY: (Quickly crossing to the door.) Let me out of this room, do
you hear?

ARTHUR: I will let you out when the penalty of coming into it has been
paid.

MRS CHEYNEY: What do you mean?

ARTHUR: What I say!

MRS CHEYNEY: Unlock this door. (ARTHUR smiles at her.) Do you hear?
Unlock this door, or I will break it down.

ARTHUR: Well, why don't you? (She stares at him.) But if you want them
to know who you really are, and, believe me, when they do, they will
have considerably less sympathy for you than I have, there is a night
bell (With a jerk of his head he indicates the bell-push by the
bed-head) ring-it, and rouse the butler. (Pause. They look at each
other.) I do hope you will believe me when I tell you I sympathize with
you very much!

MRS CHEYNEY: You mean, at being locked in a room with you alone?

ARTHUR: On that, my inclinations are to congratulate you. I mean, you
nearly made such fools of us all, it seems a pity not to have allowed
you to complete it! (Shows her the pearls; coming to the table he places
the pearls upon it.)

MRS CHEYNEY: (Looking at them.) Beautiful, aren't they? (She takes a
cigarette from the box on the table.)

ARTHUR: Want a light, darling? Please! (Lights a match for her.)

MRS CHEYNEY: (Lighting her cigarette at the match ARTHUR is holding.)
Thank you! (Looking at him.) I--

ARTHUR: You were going to say something?

MRS CHEYNEY: (Looking at his dressing jacket) Why the fancy dress?

ARTHUR: (Looking at her coloured pyjama costume.) Well, I didn't want to
feel out of it. (She picks up the pearls, hands them to ARTHUR, and
sits.)

MRS CHEYNEY: How did you find out, Arthur?

ARTHUR: I recognized your--what is Charles to you by the way?

MRS CHEYNEY: My butler!

ARTHUR: Yes! I meant in his spare time?

MRS CHEYNEY: My butler! How did you recognize him?

ARTHUR: I saved him from gaol once before!

MRS CHEYNEY: You couldn't see your way to making a habit of it?

ARTHUR: I have always had a horror of doing the same thing twice.

MRS CHEYNEY: I sympathize!

ARTHUR: By the way, where is Charles at the moment?

MRS CHEYNEY: Underneath that window with a very bad headache' waiting
for the aspirin! (Indicating the pearls in ARTHUR's hand)

ARTHUR: (Smiling.) Forgive me being inquisitive, but are you married to
him?

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm nothing to him--except that we are in business
together! (Blows smoke to ceiling.) What terribly nice cigarettes!

ARTHUR: I'll send you some!

MRS CHEYNEY: That's sweet of you! I'll give you my address
tomorrow--when I know it!

ARTHUR: Why? Are you thinking of changing your present one?

MRS CHEYNEY: I have an idea that you may make it difficult for me to
keep it!

ARTHUR: Ah! one always expects to pay a little more for a thing one
wants enough!

MRS CHEYNEY: Quite! But I don't think I want it enough to pay your
price!

ARTHUR: (Putting the pearls in his left-hand pocket) But I have never
mentioned it!

MRS CHEYNEY: Haven't you?

ARTHUR: I confess I have been wanting to spend an evening with you like
this ever since I knew you! I even offered you marriage.

MRS CHEYNEY: But I refused!

ARTHUR: (Kneeling.) You did! (He puts his hand on her knee; she pushes
it away.) But surely the assumption is, you have changed your mind?

MRS CHEYNEY: How clever of you! So, if I understand you rightly, if I
agree to stay, you say nothing!

ARTHUR: Nothing! Of course, I shan't!

MRS CHEYNEY: And if I don't?

ARTHUR: Oh' come' come, you wouldn't be so ungenial. What's the matter,
Fay? (He rises.)

MRS CHEYNEY: (Laughing.) That's an original way of punishing a crook!
And only another crook could have thought of it!

ARTHUR: Yes! It amuses you?

MRS CHEYNEY: Immensely, but of course I know it shouldn't! In fact, I
realize if I were really a nice woman I should hate you, but I don't; I
feel rather flattered! There's something rather attractive in being
locked in a room with a man, alone, even if it's against your will!

ARTHUR: I hate you to say that! Because the only reason I have locked
the door is to prevent anyone coming into it, thereby saving you from
explaining why you ever came into it!

MRS CHEYNEY: Quite! As crooks go, do you know the difference between
Charles and you?

ARTHUR: No?

MRS CHEYNEY: Well, Charles robs with a charm of manner, and you rob with
violence!

ARTHUR: That's not fair. I feel I am behaving more generously! (Pause.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Would you mind my sending a message to Charles?

ARTHUR: How do you propose to do that?

MRS CHEYNEY: The lights have told him Mrs Ebley is awake. All that he is
waiting to know now is if I'm all right, or if I am discovered. The
manner in which I pull those curtains is the signal.

ARTHUR: Which of the messages do you propose to send him?

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm going to send him a message that I'm quite all right!
(She goes to the window and pulls the curtains slightly.) There! Now the
poor darling can go home quite happy! Open the bottle, Arthur dear! Let
us all be happy!

ARTHUR: A good idea! (He reaches for the bottle and stars to open it.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Don't let it pop, for heaven's sake! Elton loves me so much
he's not sleeping well, and he might think it a revolver shot and rush
to my room to rescue me.

ARTHUR: Do you love Elton?

MRS CHEYNEY: With only that bell to ring, would I be here with you if I
did?

ARTHUR: True! (The bottle opens quietly.) Could anything be more quiet
than that?

MRS CHEYNEY: Nothing, but I expected it! You do everything marvellously,
Arthur!

ARTHUR: Thank you, Fay.

MRS CHEYNEY: Ever so little for me.

ARTHUR: (Filling the glass.) Even with the knowledge of who you are, I
still adore you!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Taking up the glass.) Is that an offer of marriage, or are
you just being broadminded?

ARTHUR: You know how often I have told you how I hate marriage!

MRS CHEYNEY: True; and I must be content that you still adore me?

ARTHUR: Yes.

MRS CHEYNEY: I should like to think, though, that you are a little
disappointed in me!

ARTHUR: (Shrugging his shoulders.) Your life is your own.

MRS CHEYNEY: But how indifferent! If I refused to stay here tonight,
what would you do?

ARTHUR: I shan't let you go!

MRS CHEYNEY: Now isn't that flattering. As you paid me the great
compliment of asking me to be your wife, I wonder if it would interest
you to know that as a woman who has done nearly everything there is to
do in this world--this is one of the things I have never done. (He
laughs.) Why do you laugh?

ARTHUR: I thought we had done with posing!

MRS CHEYNEY: You don't believe me?

ARTHUR: What a fool you would think me if I did!

MRS CHEYNEY: But it happens to be true! (He laughs.) Why should I say so
if it weren't?

ARTHUR: Merely a trick to make me sentimental and open that door, that
you may make a fool of me again! I'm sorry, Fay.

MRS CHEYNEY: To refuse to be your wife surely wasn't making a fool of
you!

ARTHUR: You couldn't very well accept that!

MRS CHEYNEY: I suppose not! You won't believe me when I tell you I have
never done a thing of this sort before?

ARTHUR: Fay, my dear, why this stupidity?

MRS CHEYNEY: I can quite understand your not believing me. But I wish I
could make you, though. I wonder how I can prove it to you?

ARTHUR: You couldn't, it's too difficult!

MRS CHEYNEY: I suppose it is! (Looking into her glass.) Look' isn't that
lucky, I haven't drunk it all!

ARTHUR: Why lucky?

MRS CHEYNEY: Because--(She throws the wine into his face. She retreats,
frightened. He follows her threateningly.)

ARTHUR: (Angrily but controlling himself ) And what does that mean?

MRS CHEYNEY: That means, if you don't believe that I have never done
this before, you will at all events believe I am not going to do it now!

ARTHUR: (Angrily.) Just as you like!

MRS CHEYNEY: Ring that bell and tell Mrs Ebley who I am, or unlock that
door and let me go!

ARTHUR: I shall do neither!

MRS CHEYNEY: You can't keep me here against my will!

ARTHUR: I intend to.

MRS CHEYNEY: Do you? Well, I prefer a million times that they should
know what is true about me than you should believe what isn't! Open that
door! (She crosses to the door.) Open this door!

ARTHUR: Nothing in the world would induce me to! (MRS CHEYNEY runs to
the bed.) What are you going to do? Are you trying to persuade me you
are going to ring the bell?

MRS CHEYNEY: Unless you open the door!

ARTHUR: Why the bluff, Fay dear? It doesn't impress me in the slightest!
(He sits on the bed and laughs at her.) You're much too sensible to take
the risk of being the guest at Holloway, probably for five years.

MRS CHEYNEY: You're wrong. Five years in Holloway wouldn't be nearly as
long as one night with you! Give me that key! (She reaches out to him.)

(He laughs, takes hold of her hand and tries to pull her to him. She
struggles and releases herself) Very well then. (She rings the bell at
top of bed, which is heard ringing loudly outside the room.)

ARTHUR: (Amazed, but without raising his voice and remaining seated) My
God! Do you realize what you have done?

MRS CHEYNEY: Perfectly!

ARTHUR: Don't you understand, in a minute from now they will all come
rushing into this room?

MRS CHEYNEY: I do! (She stops ringing the bell)

ARTHUR: What did you do it for?

MRS CHEYNEY: To give you an opportunity to tell them only the truth
about me.

ARTHUR: You fool!

MRS CHEYNEY: Evidently I had to be, in some form or other--I prefer this
one.

(There is a knock at the door.)

ROBERTS: (Outside.) It's Roberts, ma'am.

ARTHUR: (Rising and pointing to the dressing-room door.) Go in there
quickly--I'll get rid of him.

MRS EBLEY: (Heard off) What is the matter, Roberts?

ROBERTS: (Off) My bell rang, madam.

MRS EBLEY: (Knocking on the door.) Arthur, Arthur, open the door at
once.

ARTHUR: (Going nearer to the door.) It's all right my dear. Go back to
your room; I'll come to you in a minute.

MRS EBLEY: (Speaking off.) I insist on your opening that door at once.
Oh! Lord Elton.

ELTON: (Off) What's the matter?

MRS EBLEY: (Of) Arthur's sleeping in my room. The bell rang--I can't
think what's the matter.

MRS CHEYNEY: (Calling.) Mrs Ebley!

MRS EBLEY: (Off) Mrs Cheyney?

MRS CHEYNEY: (Calling.) Lord Elton!

(ARTHUR turns and looks at her.)

ELTON: (Outside.) Open this door at once, Dining. (ARTHUR moves to MRS
CHEYNEY and looks at her.)

ARTHUR: This is for remembrance! (He gives her a slap on the face. Then
he unlocks the door and opens it. MRS CHEYNEY goes to the
dressing-table, crying. ELTON and MRS EBLEY enter.)

MRS EBLEY: (Pausing a second at the door with a rapid glance at ARTHUR,
she looks across and sees MRS CHEYNEY.) What is the explanation of all
this?

ELTON: (Looking from MRS CHEYNEY to ARTHUR) My God!

MRS CHEYNEY: Lord Dilling has something to tell you, Mrs Ebley.

MRS EBLEY: What is it, Arthur?

(ARTHUR does not answer.)

ELTON: What is it, do you hear?

MRS CHEYNEY: (Looking at ARTHUR) Would you prefer that I tell them?

MRS EBLEY: Arthur, do you understand? I insist!

ARTHUR: I'll tell you. I--I--persuaded Mrs Cheyney to come into this
room by false pretences. In the presence of you both, I humbly tell her
I have behaved like a cad.

ELTON: Cad? You're the lowest thing I have ever known.

MRS EBLEY: (Terribly shocked.) I don't know what to say to you, Arthur.
I had no idea you could ever do a foul thing like this.

ELTON: I was perfectly aware of it. (To MRS CHEYNEY.) You will remember,
in the letter I wrote to you, I told you the type of man he was.

MRS EBLEY: (Putting her arm round MRS CHEYNEY.) So, pretending you
couldn't sleep and accepting my offer to change rooms, was merely a
trick to get Mrs Cheyney into it?

ARTHUR: Yes.

ELTON: Dilling, I for one will, and I hope every decent person in this
world will, cut you.

MRS CHEYNEY: Everybody should--except the Insurance Company. They should
love him.

MRS EBLEY: What do you mean? (MRS CHEYNEY crosses to ARTHUR, takes the
pearls from his dressing jacket pocket and before he realizes what she
is going to do returns with them to MRS EBLEY.) My pearls! What is the
meaning of this?

MRS CHEYNEY: (Handing MRS EBLEY the pearls.) It means--I came
here--to--I like them as much as you do. (A pause. MRS EBLEY and ELTON
look at her.)

ELTON: My God! You mean you--were going to--? (MRS CHEYNEY nods her
head.) But there must be some mistake.

MRS CHEYNEY: (Shakes her head) None.

MRS EBLEY: I don't know what to say to you--I am bewildered, horrified!
I prefer to deal with you in the morning. Please go.

(MRS CHEYNEY hesitates, she tries to say something. She turns and walks
slowly across to ARTHUR. They face each other. He shakes his head, goes
up and opens the door--she exits. ARTHUR closes the door.)

(To ELTON.) I simply cannot believe it.

ELTON: (To ARTHUR) She--there is no mistake? (ARTHUR shakes his head.)

MRS EBLEY: It's too awful, too terrible, too horrible Arthur! Did you
take these, knowing that she--? (ARTHUR takes MRS EBLEY by the arm and
leads her towards the door.)

ARTHUR: Let me advise you to go back to your room. It is so much wiser
to discuss all this in the morning. Please; I'm sure I'm right. (He
opens the door for her.)

MRS EBLEY: (Turning in the doorway.) Yes, I suppose so. Good night to
you, or good morning, or whatever it is. (MRS EBLEY exits. ARTHUR closes
the door.)

ARTHUR: You liked her, Elton?

ELTON: Liked her? Good heavens, man! I asked her to be my wife!

ARTHUR: With what result?

ELTON: I don't know yet.

ARTHUR: I sympathize. Sorry I can't offer you a drink' old feller. Oh,
yes, I can. (He pours out champagne.) Have a drop of our fiancée's.


END OF ACT TWO.


*


=============
* ACT THREE *
=============


The loggia, at MRS EBLEY's house, The next morning. A long refectory
table is laid for breakfast, on the veranda of the loggia. MRS EBLEY and
MARIA are seated. ELTON is walking up and down. ROBERTS is standing by
the serving table.


MRS EBLEY: I give it up--I simply give it up. Elton, what do you think?
(ELTON signs to her to send ROBERTS away.) All right, Roberts' you
needn't wait. (ROBERTS exits through the windows.) Elton' what do you
think?

ELTON: I don't know! I have no idea! I am defeated!

MARIA: We all are! But wouldn't you be wise to sit down? You'll tire
yourself out!

ELTON: When I think of her--the most modest--the most
simple--the--the--the innocence of any knowledge of the world--n--no--I
can't believe it!

MARIA: Nevertheless, the one woman of all the women in the world that
you and Dilling have chosen to be your wife is a crook!

ELTON: I know! I know!

MRS EBLEY: Do you love her very much?

ELTON: Yes! Yes! No! No! How can one love a woman of that description
very much?

MARIA: I agree! And the way she trapped me into taking her up! What a
fool I am going to look! Not only have I made the most ridiculous fuss
of her' but with pride I have introduced her to every one I know!

ELTON: The way she has cheated us is too terrible! (He bangs the table.)
What are we going to do with her, I ask?

MARIA: Please don't make that noise. Elton! My nerves are in a dreadful
condition already!

ELTON: I'm sorry!

MRS EBLEY: I have been thinking for hours what to do with her! Her
confederate, the man Charles, we will have no trouble with: he expects
no sympathy. He arrived here early this morning and gave himself up!
It's this woman! Our duty, of course, is to send her to gaol as well!

ELTON: No, no, that is impossible! (He goes to the serving table and
helps himself to food)

MARIA: My view is, the man should go to gaol and she be given the
alternative of either going with him, or leaving for Australia by the
next steamer! Obviously, she will accept the chance of going to
Australia with alacrity, and that way we get rid of her for ever.

(ELTON comes back to his chair with a plate of food and sits.)

MRS EBLEY: I am so angry I can only think of gaol for her.

(MRS EBLEY pours coffee for ELTON, which MARIA passes to him.)

ELTON: Such a thing is out of the question. Think of my position in this
matter! President of a hospital, President of the Lifeboat Institution,
Chairman of various societies for the protection of unhappy
women--director of a bank! Do you realize that is only a few of the
public appointments I hold?

MRS EBLEY: I do! I do!

ELTON: A man who has regularly contributed to The Times on all questions
of social reform, even subjects of religion! If it became known that I
asked this woman to be my wife, will you tell me what subjects I will be
able to write to The Times about?

MARIA: The Lifeboat!

ELTON: Quite!

MRS EBLEY: But, after all, it's only her word against yours, you could
deny having asked her to be your wife!

ELTON: The revolting thing of it all is, I cannot.

MARIA: Why? (Pause.)

ELTON: Being inexperienced and unacquainted with the manner one makes a
proposal of marriage to a lady, I wrote it!

MRS EBLEY: My dear, how terrible for you! (MRS EBLEY and MARIA exchange
glances. They are very amused)

MARIA: Poor lamb, I see it's going to be very difficult for you, and,
who knows, perhaps expensive!

ELTON: It was a letter teeming with affection and sentiment--it took me
days to write it! Dilling says the cinema rights of it alone are worth
ten thousand pounds!

MARIA: How dreadful! I am sorry for you!

MRS EBLEY: A great pity, a great pity! (Smothering her laughter.)

ELTON: And that is not all! It pains me as much to tell you this as it
will pain you to hear it; but it is my duty to tell you--(Pause.) In
that letter I wrote my personal opinion of you all!

(They look at him.)

MARIA: You wrote your--

MRS EBLEY: Do I understand that you have put on paper anything which
might sound in the least disparaging about me?

MARIA: Or me?

ELTON: As I intended to marry her, she being an Australian, I thought it
my duty to point out to her the people I should like her to know or not,
as the case might be.

(MRS EBLEY is about to make a remark, but MARIA anticipates her.)

MARIA: Am I to understand we are among the 'hots'?

ELTON: Yes!

MRS EBLEY: How dare you!

MARIA: What are you doing in this house now?

ELTON: Unhappily, the answer to that is in the letter, too! I
explained--(He passes his cup for more coffee to MRS EBLEY.)--to her
that I had never visited Mrs Ebley before, and the only reason I was
doing so now was because she was going to be there! No, no sugar,
please.

MRS EBLEY: I am to sit here and be insulted like this! Can I do nothing?
(She absent-mindedly puts in piece after piece of sugar.)

ELTON: No--no sugar, please. I do feel for you very much! You don't
suppose, had I known this was going to develop, I should have written
that letter, do you?

MRS EBLEY: I imagine you capable of anything!

MARIA: You shouldn't be president of a hospital, you should be in one!

ELTON: I agree!

MRS EBLEY: How did Arthur Dilling see this letter?

ELTON: We were up late talking last night--fortunately, being a business
man, I kept a copy of the letter. (He takes it out of his pocket.) It
will pain you, but you had better read it!

(He passes it to MARIA. MARIA offers it to MRS EBLEY. )

MRS EBLEY: I don't want to read it! (Takes the letter.)

ELTON: I insist! It will convince you of the very difficult position we
are all in with this woman.

MRS EBLEY: (After reading, rises.) How dare you! How dare you write a
letter of this sort?

ELTON: Because I had no idea she was a woman of that sort!

MRS EBLEY: (Standing waving the letter.) You--you--do you realize, if
this woman shows this letter written by you, my position in society is
ridiculous and at an end?

ELTON: Perfectly! Dilling says if it were his letter, and he were
her--he were she--he wouldn't sell it for twenty-five thousand pounds!
We are in an extremely awkward position!

MRS EBLEY: This is too terrible!

MARIA: (Taking the letter from MRS EBLEY.) How do I appear in this
letter?

ELTON: Not well, I fear! (Pointing to the place in the letter.) There is
the unhappy paragraph I wrote of you!

MARIA: (Reading and starting up.) My God! I'm a fallen woman.

ELTON: No, no, you exaggerate! I only say--

MARIA: That I am in every way an undesirable person for her to know!
That I--ho! if this is ever seen, I'm ruined! (Sinks into her chair
again.)

ELTON: Precisely why I have shown it to you!

MRS EBLEY: You must get the original of this letter back, do you
understand?

MARIA: At once!

ELTON: She refuses to give it back!

MRS EBLEY: She refuses?

MARIA: Naturally. Would you in her place? It's worth thousands! (She
continues to read on)

ELTON: I went to see her personally, and told her if she returned it to
me, I would forgive her everything!

MARIA: What did she say?

ELTON: She said she was keeping it until the rest of you had forgiven
her, and her confederate Charles--whom she appears to be very concerned
about!

MARIA: Would you tell me the object of telling us this at all? If you
possessed the slightest decency you would have bought it back at any
price to save our feelings!

ELTON: I would have, but when I explained to Dilling the delicate
position I was in, that you were threatening to hand her over, his view
was that it would be better for you to read it in your own drawing-room,
than have it read to you in a police court!

MARIA: A police court! Understand, Elton, I cannot openly quarrel with
you at this moment, but the moment this is settled I will never speak to
you again!

MRS EBLEY: Neither shall I! (She goes through the windows into the
house.)

ELTON: That is perfectly fair!

MARIA: And, for God's sake, stop being pompous!

ELTON: Pompous! I forgive you, because you are unstrung!

MARIA: Unstrung! I could brain you!

ELTON: Dilling prepared me for this! He said this would happen! (Walks
up and down.)

MARIA: I have always believed, and I was right, that had I been your
mother, I would have had you certified on the day of your birth!

(MRS EBLEY comes through the windows.)

MRS EBLEY: It seems to me, instead of putting this woman in gaol, where
she ought to be, we'll all of us have to go on our knees with thousands
of pounds begging her to keep out of it!

(WILLIE enters through the windows.)

WILLIE: (Trying to control himself) Elton! What is it Arthur Dilling
tells me you've written to Mrs Cheyney about my wife?

ELTON: I'm sorry, Wynton, very sorry! But I must tell you the truth. I
said that it was evident to me that she preferred always to be with some
other man than her husband, and though I could understand it, I could
not condone it--that is all I said!

WILLIE: (To MARIA, unable to control himself.) He says that is all he
said! And it's a lie! Kitty would rather be with me than any man.

ELTON: I'm sure she would; all I mentioned was, she never was.

WILLIE: I want to tell you this: it's a lucky thing for you it's a
lady's honour that is concerned, otherwise I would take you outside and
give you a damn good thrashing!

MARIA: I wish you would!

(JOAN enters through the windows.)

JOAN: (To MRS EBLEY.) Darling, I can't open my mouth without
swearing--I'm the foulest-tongued woman in England; Mrs Cheyney would be
well advised not to know me; I belong to a small set of people who are
making themselves ridiculous all over London! And lots more, darling!

MARIA: That's nothing to the things he has said about others of us!

(MARY enters through the windows.)

MARY: 'Morning, every one! (She kisses MRS EBLEY) 'Morning' Elton dear!

ELTON: 'Morning, Mary!

MARIA: Are you in the letter?

MARY: I am!

MARIA: What are you?

MARY: I'm a nice woman--aren't I, Elton darling?

ELTON: That's what I said!

MARY: And quite right, I am.

ELTON: I would like to be believed when I say that had I had the
remotest idea there was the least chance of this letter ever being read
or seen by anyone but Mrs Cheyney, I would never have written it!

WILLIE: Oh, go to hell!

JOAN: Why be so mild about it? (To MRS EBLEY who is carrying coffee to
MARY) Can I tell this bottle of Mellin's Food in my own way how and
where he ought to go?

MRS EBLEY: Certainly not!

MARIA: Whether you believed it would be seen or not, are those things
you have written in that letter your opinion of us?

WILLIE: Yes! Are you prepared to withdraw the suggestions you have made
against us?

ELTON: They are not suggestions; they are facts. What possible comfort
could you derive from my withdrawing something all of you know to be
true?

MARIA: Help! I'm starting a stroke! (ARTHUR enters.)

ARTHUR: 'Morning!

MARIA: What are you?

ARTHUR: (Very amused.) I? I have the distinction of being one of the
most unmitigated blackguards walking about this earth!

MRS EBLEY: Arthur, this is a dreadful position to be put in by this man!

ARTHUR: As an optimist, I take the gravest view of it!

MARIA: What are we going to do with this woman?

ARTHUR: Let us be accurate! What is this woman going to do with us?

MARIA: How true! How true! (She picks up a newspaper and throws it at
ELTON..) You beast! It's all through you.

ARTHUR: Steady! Steady!

(ROBERTS enters.)

ROBERTS: Can I speak to you a moment, Mr Wynton?

WILLIE: Yes, what is it?

ROBERTS: Your wife's maid wishes me to tell you, sir, nothing she can do
will make your wife stop laughing!

ARTHUR: Who wants to stop her? We envy her!

WILLIE: Don't be funny about my wife having hysterics, Dulling! (To
ROBERTS) Tell her to try ice!

ROBERTS: Very good, sir!

(ROBERTS exits.)

ARTHUR: Let us all try ice!

MRS EBLEY: Can you offer no suggestion, Arthur?

ARTHUR: Certainly I can! There are two alternatives facing us. One, let
us be English men and women, and hand her and Charles over to
justice--in which case that letter may be read at the Old Bailey!

MRS EBLEY: (Together.) No! No!

MARIA: (Together.) Out of the question!

ELTON: (Together.) Certainly not!

ARTHUR: Carried unanimously! The other: let us throw ourselves upon her
mercy, and buy the letter back!

WILLIE: And Elton pays for it!

ARTHUR: All those in favour?

ALL: Yes!

ARTHUR: Carried unanimously! Shall I settle the figure, or will you,
Elton?

ELTON: I am not a rich man, Dilling!

ARTHUR: You can't afford to be a poor one, Elton!

MARIA: I say, not one penny should be paid her until she is on the boat
that will take her to Australia!

ARTHUR: Why?

MARIA: Because as long as she remains in England, we are always at her
mercy.

ARTHUR: True! True!

ELTON: May I offer a suggestion?

ARTHUR: The man who pays certainly should!

ELTON: Then my view is this: we should not for a moment let her think
that letter important. We should offer her her passage back to
Australia, and in consideration of her returning the letter the matter
is at an end!

MARIA: Don't keep on being an idiot! Do you think she will accept that?

ELTON: She will--if we tell her the other alternative is we will have
her arrested!

ARTHUR: In other words, we put up a bluff that we don't care whether she
has the letter or not, that it is unimportant.

ELTON: And, if necessary, I will say I never meant a word of it!

ARTHUR: (To them all.) What do you think?

MARIA: There is something in what he says!

MRS EBLEY: And it does save our dignity a little!

MARY: Thank Heaven I'm a nice woman.

MARIA: Don't be vulgar, Mary; the only nice women in the world are the
ones who have had no opportunities!

MARY: You assume too much because I am able to keep my mouth shut!

MARIA: Be quiet, and eat your breakfast.

ARTHUR: Business, please! The attitude you suggest we should take is, we
are a lot of light-hearted boys and girls who don't care a damn; she
either, as it were, coughs up the letter, consents to return to
Australia, or we hand her over to justice!

MARIA: That sounds right to me!

MRS EBLEY: It seems to me if we convince her we are determined people,
it will have some considerable effect on her attitude!

WILLIE: I say, I've got an idea! Supposing we send for one of those
detective--ah!--inspector--er--a--policeman fellers--they can see him
and he needn't know why he is here!

MARIA: That's a good idea!

MRS EBLEY: That is an extraordinarily good idea; what do you think'
Arthur?

ARTHUR: Yes!

ELTON: I know that's a good idea! It will prove that we are people who
are not going to be trifled with!

ARTHUR: All those in favour of the policeman! (They all put their hands
up.) Carried unanimously! Willie' telephone for a policeman!

WILLIE: Right! What shall I say we want him for?

ELTON: Anything but the facts, of course!

WILLIE: You needn't think because you are a damn fool every one else is!

JOAN: Hear! Hear!

ARTHUR: Willie, tell him we don't like the look and are very suspicious
of next year's asparagus!

MARIA: Arthur, be serious! (Irritably.) Willie--oh, tell him we are
suspicious of one of the servants--(To MRS EBLEY.) Roberts won't mind!

WILLIE: Right! (He exits.)

ARTHUR: What's the next move?

MRS EBLEY: I suppose the next move is to send for these horrid people!

ELTON: Yes!

ARTHUR: Is it your pleasure that I put this proposition to Mrs Cheyney,
or would you prefer that Elton should?

JOAN: Good heavens, hasn't he made sufficient mess of it already?

MARIA: I should think so, indeed!

MARY: Joan' dear--Joan! (JOAN rises.)

ARTHUR: Do you approve that I should, Elton?

ELTON: Please!

ARTHUR: Sybil, kindly ring the bell! (To JOAN and MARY) I would ask you
two to keep as quiet as possible; and if you would, Elton, I would ask
you not for a moment to cease looking an English gentleman! (MRS EBLEY
rings the bell. WILLIE re-enters.)

WILLIE: It's all right. The chief inspector is coming himself.

ARTHUR: Good! (ROBERTS enters.) Roberts, would you kindly ask Mrs
Cheyney if she would be good enough to join us here?

ROBERTS: Yes' my lord!

MARIA: (Whispering to ARTHUR) What about the man--Charles--the man?

ARTHUR: Oh yes! Roberts! By the way, you might also tell Charles, who I
believe is waiting downstairs, that I would like to speak to him for a
moment!

ROBERTS: Yes, my lord! I believe Mrs Cheyney and Charles are in the
library, my lord!

MARIA: (To MRS EBLEY.) Ah! (ROBERTS exits.)

ARTHUR: That, if I may say so, was rather delicately done! Let us pray!

MARIA: Oh, Arthur! Arthur!

ELTON: You will be firm, Dilling?

ARTHUR: Stand by me--be grateful that I am an unmitigated blackguard!

MRS EBLEY: To me it's too terrible to think that instead of merely
handing these people over to the police, we have to be clever with them
to save ourselves!

ARTHUR: Ssh!

(MRS CHEYNEY enters by the windows. She is closely followed by CHARLES.
She stands as if in a court of justice, and looks round at them all.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Guilty!

MARIA: Ah! you admit it!

ARTHUR: Silence! Won't you take a chair? (ELTON rises, gives MRS CHEYNEY
his chair and stands behind it.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Thank you! (She sits down.) As Charles was born a
gentleman, mayn't he sit down as well?

ARTHUR: Of course! Take a seat, Charles.

CHARLES: No, thank you, Dilling!

MRS CHEYNEY: I naturally expected it, but you sent for me?

ARTHUR: Quite! I will be brief, Mrs Cheyney; the position is as follows:
you have acknowledged frankly that in accepting Mrs Ebley's invitation
to stay here, it was for the purpose of taking Mrs Ebley's pearls!

MRS CHEYNEY: Or anything else that happened to be lying handy about.

ARTHUR: That is very frank! The penalty for such things is considerable!

MARIA: Very considerable!

MRS CHEYNEY: Charles and I think with a charm of manner we may get off
with three years.

ARTHUR: That, of course, we don't want to happen to you. Lord Elton
feels very strongly that if you have once asked a woman to be your wife,
it would be ungenerous to treat her so drastically!

MRS CHEYNEY: Thank you, Lord Elton!

ELTON: Er--er--not at all!

ARTHUR: So this is what we have decided! If you will accept your ticket
and a small sum--you did mention the amount--Elton?

ELTON: A hundred pounds!

ARTHUR: Paid to you on the steamer, in return for the letter he wrote
you, we are prepared to consider the matter closed.

MRS CHEYNEY: Is it my turn now?

MRS EBLEY: But, Arthur--I should like--

ARTHUR: Please, Sybil! (He puts his hand up and stops her.)

MRS CHEYNEY: I am very sorry that I cannot accept Lord Elton's kind
offer, but Charles and I have decided we must go to gaol.

CHARLES: We have.

ARTHUR: After all, you did not succeed in getting the pearls!

MRS CHEYNEY: Precisely. We failed, and that is why we should go to gaol.
If we had got them we would have succeeded--a crime for which no one
ever goes to gaol.

CHARLES: You put it charmingly, Fay dear!

MRS CHEYNEY: Thank you' my sweet!

ARTHUR: You didn't understand me. We don't want you to go to gaol!

MRS CHEYNEY: Then, equally you don't understand us--we do!

ARTHUR: Quite! (There is a pause--they all look at each other.)

MARIA: My good woman, you can't be serious when you say you want to go
to gaol?

MRS CHEYNEY: Isn't it sad, Charles, they don't understand us!

CHARLES: Tragic! It makes me blush for them!

MRS CHEYNEY: Charles and I in our humble way have tried to live up to
the highest tradition of our profession--a profession in some form or
other we are all members of--and that tradition is, never be found
out--but if you are, I say if you are, be prepared to pay the price!

ARTHUR: I've got you! (ROBERTS enters.)

ROBERTS: Inspector Wilkinson has arrived, madam, who says you want to
speak to him!

MRS EBLEY: Ask him to wait.

ROBERTS: Yes, madam. (He exits.)

MRS EBLEY: You see, Mrs Cheyney, we are terribly serious!

MRS CHEYNEY: It's your duty to be, Mrs Ebley!

MARIA: It seems to me you are a very stupid young woman not to accept
such a good offer instead of being taken away by that horrid policeman!

MRS CHEYNEY: Not at all--he may be charming! (She rises.) Are you ready,
Charles?

CHARLES: Yes, my sweet!

MRS CHEYNEY: Your arm, Charles. (CHARLES offers MRS CHEYNEY his arm,
which she takes and they move into the window.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Before we go. I would like you to know how pained Charles
and I are at having, through our stupidity, put you to all this trouble.
We feel it almost as much as the loss of your pearls, Mrs Ebley.

CHARLES: And they are beautiful pearls, if I dare say so!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Looking round at every one.) And as I shall never see any
of you again, I would like you to know how much I have enjoyed knowing
you all, and how sorry I am to lose such nice friends. Goodbye, Lord
Elton. It was sweet of you to ask me to be your wife. (Suggesting they
shall go.) Charles? (Turning to MRS EBLEY, who makes a movement.) Please
don't bother to come down--we'll find the policeman. Goodbye!

ELTON: Mrs Cheyney!

MRS CHEYNEY: Yes?

ELTON: I--er--have something to say to you.

MRS CHEYNEY: Yes, Lord Elton?

MARIA: Come and sit down.

MRS EBLEY: Yes, sit down.

MRS CHEYNEY: But the policeman you sent for?

MARIA: Oh, damn the policeman!

MRS CHEYNEY: But isn't it rather bad manners to even keep a policeman
waiting?

ELTON: I--er--I wanted to say this--

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I can't listen to anything you
have to say, with a policeman waiting.

ELTON: Send that infernal fellow away!

MRS EBLEY: What shall we tell him?

ARTHUR: (To JOAN.) Tell the policeman there has been a mistake, and we
don't want him.

JOAN: Here, I don't want to miss any of this. Curse it! (She exits.)

ARTHUR: Obviously, the bluff is over.

MRS CHEYNEY: (Sweetly.) Bluff? Have you been bluffing, Arthur? (She
sits.)

MARIA: You know perfectly well he has.

MRS CHEYNEY: But why?

MARIA: Oh, do stop trying to be so innocent!

MRS CHEYNEY: Do you know what they mean, Charles?

CHARLES: I'm so young in crime I must be forgiven! I don't!

ARTHUR: Mrs Cheyney, in a moment of impulse' prompted by affection for
you, Lord Elton wrote a letter to you asking you to be his wife.

MRS CHEYNEY: A letter which I will always treasure very much.

MARIA: We know that!

ARTHUR: I am authorized by Lord Elton to ask you your charge for the
return of that letter.

MRS CHEYNEY: My charge? Please forgive me, but I don't know what you
mean!

ARTHUR: The suggestion is, we give you five hundred pounds--(ELTON looks
horrified. ARTHUR dismisses him with a ware of the hand) and your
passage to Australia.

MARIA: Which I call very generous.

MRS CHEYNEY: Five hundred? Australia? I don't know that I would like
Australia.

ELTON: But you came from Australia.

MRS CHEYNEY: Clapham! (JOAN re-enters.)

JOAN: What's happened?

ARTHUR: Ssh! Ssh!

MARIA: Come' come! What will you take?

MRS CHEYNEY: I prize the letter so much that I don't think I would part
with it for any money you could offer me.

MARIA: A thousand?

MRS CHEYNEY: But this is amazing!

MARIA: Come, come, young woman! What is your usual charge for the return
of letters?

MRS CHEYNEY: Speaking as one fallen woman to another, there never have
been any letters; but if there had been, my charge would have depended
entirely on the position and the manners of the people mentioned in it.
(She rises.) And as I don't propose to sit here and be insulted I will,
with your permission, say goodbye!

CHARLES. You are perfectly right, Fay darling, and if I had known that
they were the type of people they are, I should never have allowed you
to come and stay with them!

ELTON: Please, please! I agree; Lady Frinton was very hasty, and I'm
sorry. Please sit down.

MRS CHEYNEY: When she has apologized, I will.

CHARLES: Hear! Hear!

MARIA: I'll do nothing of the sort!

MRS CHEYNEY: Very well. (She starts to go off)

MRS EBLEY: Stop, please! (To MARIA.) Will you at once say you are sorry?

MARIA: I won't!

ELTON: I insist! You understand!

MARIA: My God! (To MRS CHEYNEY, swallowing hard.) I'm sorry!

MRS CHEYNEY: (Sitting down again.) Granted.

CHARLES: We'd reached the point where a thousand pounds was bid for the
letter.

ARTHUR: Which was refused!

ELTON: Mrs Cheyney, what will you take for it?

CHARLES: I offer five thousand.

ELTON: Be quiet!

CHARLES: I'll do nothing of the sort! My money is as good as yours.

ELTON: Will you please answer my question?

MRS CHEYNEY: If I sell the letter, I will do so not in the sense of
blackmail, but more in the spirit of breach of promise, for ten thousand
pounds!

CHARLES: It's giving it away!

ELTON: Ten--no, no, I refuse!

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm glad, because I would so much rather have the letter!
(She rises.)

MRS EBLEY: No, no! Elton, you have no alternative but to pay!

MARIA: And I have no sympathy for you!

ELTON: But, Mrs Cheyney' surely--

MRS CHEYNEY: Ten thousand, Lord Elton!

ELTON: (Looking at them all) It's terrible' terrible!

CHARLES: Terrible be damned! I'll give eleven for it! (ELTON hurriedly
takes a cheque book out of his pocket, and goes into the house.)

JOAN: Ten thousand! Phew! (To CHARLES.) How much would you charge for a
course of twelve lessons?

CHARLES: I never charge, m'lady; I'm a man who just loves his work.

MARIA: I hope you enjoy spending it, young woman.

MRS CHEYNEY: Thank you, I'll do my best. (To ARTHUR.) What is your
contribution to this, Lord Dilling?

ARTHUR: (Very depressed.) I wish to be associated in Lord Elton's cheque
for ten thousand pounds. (ELTON re-enters with the cheque and goes to
MRS CHEYNEY)

ELTON: (Giving her the cheque.) The letter, please?

MRS CHEYNEY: (Looking at the cheque, turns to them all.) We have
something in common, after all!

MARIA: Very little, thank heaven!

MRS CHEYNEY: Then why pay this money to keep it a secret what we have?

MRS EBLEY: Kindly give Lord Elton the letter!

MRS CHEYNEY: Oh, yes! (She tears the cheque into small pieces, and puts
the pieces on the table.)

CHARLES: Fay!

MRS EBLEY: What are you doing?

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm doing what I did with the letter! I had no idea it had
any money value until you suggested to me yourself this morning that it
had! (She gives an envelope to ELTON.) I hope you will find all the
pieces there, Lord Elton!

ELTON: (Taking if from her.) You--

CHARLES: (Wiping his eyes with his handkerchief) Forgive me! Ten
thousand pounds gone down the drain; it's more than I can bear! And I
have tried so hard to make her a crook.

ELTON: You've torn the letter up?

MRS CHEYNEY: Wasn't it stupid of me?

ELTON: I think it was very generous--

MARIA: Nonsense. She wouldn't have torn it up if she had known she would
have been offered that sum for it!

MRS CHEYNEY: You're never right about anything. I tore it up after
Charles told me it was worth twice that sum!

CHARLES: As I watched her tearing it up' I cried for the first time for
fifteen years!

MRS CHEYNEY: Poor sweet (She puts her hand out; CHARLES takes it) it was
a cruel thing to do!

ARTHUR: Why did you tear it up?

MRS CHEYNEY: I'll tell you. Courage, I was born with plenty; decency,
they gave me too much!

MRS EBLEY: Decency, indeed! If Lord Dilling hadn't rung that bell last
night, decency wouldn't have prevented you taking my pearls!

ARTHUR: Lord Dilling didn't ring the bell; Mrs Cheyney did!

ELTON: Mrs Cheyney did? What do you mean?

ARTHUR: (To MRS CHEYNEY.) Go on, tell them.

MRS CHEYNEY: It will embarrass you!

ARTHUR: An unmitigated scoundrel is never embarrassed!

MRS CHEYNEY: Very well! If it hadn't been for decency I might be wearing
your pearls--or others--at this moment, provided by Lord Dilling!

ARTHUR: Charmingly expressed; most touching.

MARIA: You mean to tell me you took the risk of being clapped into gaol,
and rang that bell!

ARTHUR: She did!

MARIA: Nonsense, Arthur; it's sweet of you' but not fair to us to defend
her like this!

ARTHUR: I give you my word of--

MRS CHEYNEY: It's all right. I can understand her not believing it; I
gathered from that letter, she didn't ring the bell--(General
movement.)--and there was no risk of gaol!

MARIA: How dare you!

CHARLES: You're a grand woman, Fay, a grand woman.

MARIA: Be quiet' you horrid man!

CHARLES: Wrong again! I'm just a simple, tolerant, ordinary sort of
feller, who only takes material things that can be replaced. How many of
you can say that?

MARIA: Be quiet!

ELTON: There is one question I would like to ask--why are you a crook.

CHARLES: She isn't! But God knows I tried to make her one! I've taught
her to take watches--the tie-pins she can remove like--(Putting his hand
to his tie he discovers his pin is not there.)

MRS CHEYNEY: (Taking the pin from the lapel of her dress and handing it
to CHARLES.) I took it as we came in.

CHARLES: (Taking the pin.) Isn't she divine? She's the greatest expert I
have ever known--but there is always a catch in the good things of
life--she won't take them from the people she ought to!

MRS CHEYNEY: You mustn't be angry with me, Charles; it's that decency
that I'm cursed with that prevents me!

CHARLES: (Putting his hand on her shoulder.) I couldn't be angry with
you, my sweet! (She pats his hand. CHARLES puts the pin in his tie.)

ELTON: What made you start this life, then?

MRS CHEYNEY: You'll despise me, but I'll tell you! I wanted to improve
my social position.

MRS EBLEY: A curious way of doing it!

MRS CHEYNEY: Not nearly so curious or so difficult as it would be by
remaining a shop girl!

MARY: You were a shop girl?

CHARLES: In the stocking department!

MRS CHEYNEY: Where he found me.

JOAN: You don't look like one!

MRS CHEYNEY: There's a greater tragedy than that--darlings as they are,
I don't think like one! So Charles was good enough to say that I was
meant for better things--secretly in my heart I believed I was--but as a
shop girl I realized there were no better things; loving beauty, nice
people and everything that was attractive, I took the risk--I became a
pupil of Charles.

CHARLES: The best I ever had!

MRS CHEYNEY: And evidently I have made even a greater failure of it than
I did as the shop girl!

ELTON: If I may say so, you have been very generous, and
in--er--er--appreciation of your generosity I should be very happy to
start you, if you would allow me to, in some--er--er--shop of your own.

MRS CHEYNEY: You would, Lord Elton?

ELTON: Very!

JOAN: That's divine of you! (To MRS CHEYNEY.) I'll be a customer!

MARY: I certainly will!

MRS CHEYNEY: (To MARIA.) I would like to think I would have your
patronage!

MARIA: You know you've got to have it!

MRS CHEYNEY: (To ARTHUR) I hope you will persuade some of your many lady
friends to buy from me?

ARTHUR: I will do more than that! From the moment the shop opens, Elton
and I give you our word of honour we will never wear anything but
women's underclothes! And quite frankly, I always believed Elton did! I
apologize, Elton.

ELTON: (Smiling a little.) Mrs Cheyney, you know my address. As soon as
you decide please let me know. I shall be very happy to be of any
service to you!

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm very grateful, Lord Elton! (Offers her hand.)

ELTON: Please! (Taking her hand) And if I'm not being too modern, I
should like to say goodbye. (He exits.)

MARIA: If you are going, Elton, you can give me a lift. (Puts out her
hand to MRS CHEYNEY.) You don't deserve it, but I'll give you a luncheon
party and ask everyone the day the shop opens.

MRS CHEYNEY: You're an angel!

MARIA: (Turns to CHARLES.) Occasionally I give little dinners to
lawyers, politicians and Members of Parliament. We have a little bridge
afterwards--perhaps we might arrange to cut as partners. (She offers her
hand to CHARLES. They shake hands. MARIA exits.)

MARY: I'll be at the luncheon party.

WILLIE: Whenever my wife and I have a row and I have to give her a
present, I'll come to your shop for it.

MRS CHEYNEY: I like you so much, I'm glad I'm going to be seeing you
every day.

WILLIE: (Mentally slow.) Oh--yes---ah, ah! I see. (MARY and WILLIE
exit.)

JOAN: I adore crepe-de-chine! Get quantities; the world is full of young
men who want to buy me something.

MRS CHEYNEY: You're a terribly nice girl.

JOAN: Say 'Joan', and I'll believe you.

MRS CHEYNEY: Joan. (They shake hands.)

JOAN: (Turning to CHARLES.) If ever you want a pupil, Charles' you'll
find my number in the telephone book.

CHARLES: I shall never want a pupil, m'lady--but I'm glad I shall find
your number in the telephone book. (She laughs. They shake hands.)

JOAN: So long. (She exits.)

MRS EBLEY: Well--I must go and see those people off. Arthur--perhaps you
had better keep your eye on the spoons. (They all laugh. MRS EBLEY
exits.)

MRS CHEYNEY: Oh! (To CHARLES, taking off her hat which she puts on the
table.) Nice people, aren't they, Charles?

CHARLES: Most of us are, Fay darling!

ARTHUR: What made you take up this job, Charles? With your brains, it
seems a pity you haven't used them to better purposes.

CHARLES: One of His Majesty's judges may use those exact words one of
these days. I found out, at an early age, what most men find out in an
old one--life is very dull, my lord!

ARTHUR: I agree.

CHARLES: (To ARTHUR.) But I have an excuse. When I was thirteen years of
age a trustee sent me to Eton, where I remained for five years wondering
why I hadn't been sent to Harrow! From there, for another three years I
was sent to Oxford, where I remained wondering why I hadn't been sent to
Cambridge! With the result that, at the early age of one-and-twenty, I
found that life and I were two dull things. So I decided to take it into
my two hands: I began it as a blackmailer! But that was too easy--the
world is so full of honest people that whenever you said "I know all",
they parted with such alacrity that this became even more dull than the
world and myself! So I went for higher and greater things! I hate
parting with it, my lord, because being the first I ever took, I
treasure it; but there is your gold watch I took from you on Derby Day
five years ago! (He takes a watch from his pocket.)

ARTHUR: My dear Charles, I've always wanted to meet the man who took it,
and I hope you will do me a favour--keep it!

CHARLES: May I?

ARTHUR: I'd like you to!

CHARLES: That is very nice of you--I will! So long, Dilling!

ARTHUR: So long, Charles!

CHARLES: Goodbye, my sweet!

MRS CHEYNEY: What do you mean by goodbye?

CHARLES: What it means is, I have decided to take a little trip round
the world!

MRS CHEYNEY: You're not going to leave me, do you understand!

CHARLES: I am, and now.

MRS CHEYNEY: But I don't want you to!

CHARLES: I must!

MRS CHEYNEY: Why?

CHARLES: Whenever you come into a person's life, come into it
instantaneously; when you go out of it, go out of it even quicker!
Goodbye, my love!

MRS CHEYNEY: Charles, I'm going to cry!

CHARLES: Don't do that! my sweet; but I would be terribly sorry if you
didn't want to!

MRS CHEYNEY: Please don't go--come and be my manager.

CHARLES: No use I'd have to be honest, and it would bore me.

ARTHUR: Are you going round the world for pleasure, Charles?

CHARLES: (Imitating dealing cards.) Mixed with business, my lord! (He
looks at MRS CHEYNEY, blows her a kiss, then exits.)

ARTHUR: Next to going round the world with the woman one loves, I can
think of nothing more attractive than going round it with Charles.

MRS CHEYNEY: You would enjoy it--you have so much in common.

ARTHUR: I agree. You liked him?

MRS CHEYNEY: I adored him.

ARTHUR: How much is that?

MRS CHEYNEY: As much as a woman can like a man she is not in love with.

ARTHUR: Like to go with him?

MRS CHEYNEY: I'd hate to.

ARTHUR: I'm going to ask you a question; you needn't answer if you don't
want to.

MRS CHEYNEY: I'll answer it with pleasure--if Mrs Ebley had been in the
room last night and not you, I should have taken them.

ARTHUR: You mean that?

MRS CHEYNEY: Yes! But of all the women you have ever known, none has
ever been so glad to see you in a bedroom as I was last night.

ARTHUR: Thank you, Fay.

MRS CHEYNEY: Not at all--you made an honest woman of me.

ARTHUR: I've always believed that most of the good things done in this
life were unintentional.

MRS CHEYNEY: I wonder.

ARTHUR: Fay!

MRS CHEYNEY: Yes, Arthur.

ARTHUR: It's an extraordinary thing, but the most difficult question in
the world to ask a woman is a nice one.

MRS CHEYNEY: What sort of question were you going to ask me?

ARTHUR: I was about to describe my hopeful contribution to your future.

MRS CHEYNEY: Please do; I'm interested.

ARTHUR: Well, after you left me last night I couldn't sleep, so very
early this morning I dressed myself, got out my car and went to see a
friend of mine, who is a bishop, with whom I had breakfast at eight
o'clock this morning.

MRS CHEYNEY: How surprised he must have been to see you.

ARTHUR: I described to him in detail a little trouble I was in--he
listened so sympathetically--when I had finished, he looked at me and
said, "If you'll give me a cheque for fifty pounds and bring her with
you and be here at eleven o'clock this morning, I'll fix it for you."

MRS CHEYNEY: What was he to fix for you?

ARTHUR: That I could have breakfast with you at eight o'clock tomorrow
morning.

MRS CHEYNEY: I never eat any.

ARTHUR: I told him there was a possibility of that.

MRS CHEYNEY: Tell him anything else?

ARTHUR: I loved you.

MRS CHEYNEY: Did he believe you?

ARTHUR: He covered his eyes with tears.

MRS CHEYNEY: He was right to--tell him anything else?

ARTHUR: I told him that when I thought over my past life--the weakness,
the dishonesty of it all--I wondered if any really nice woman could ever
take tea with me.

MRS CHEYNEY: He agreed?

ARTHUR: Mildly.

MRS CHEYNEY: Did you tell him about me?

ARTHUR: Everything.

MRS CHEYNEY: What did he say?

ARTHUR: He said, "Get her; you'll never get another like her!"

MRS CHEYNEY: I don't believe even a bishop said that.

ARTHUR: I'll swear.

MRS CHEYNEY: Still, I don't believe you. I've a good mind to come with
you and ask him, myself.

ARTHUR: I said we would be there at five minutes to eleven.

MRS CHEYNEY: Oh! Does he think I'll come?

ARTHUR: He's more certain of it than I am.

MRS CHEYNEY: Why?

ARTHUR: He says you love me.

MRS CHEYNEY: Really? I wonder what makes him think that?

ARTHUR: I don't know. He's an idea that you would never have rung the
bell last night if you hadn't.

MRS CHEYNEY: What a darling he sounds--I'd rather like to meet him.

ARTHUR: He asked us to be punctual.

MRS CHEYNEY: Do you think he'll like me?

ARTHUR: A bishop is never allowed to leave his wife--my dear, he'll
adore you.

MRS CHEYNEY: Do you?

ARTHUR: Terribly! What is more important, do you?

MRS CHEYNEY: Much more terribly--I wish, though, that--

ARTHUR: Ssh! (He kisses her on the eyes.)

MRS CHEYNEY: What's that?

ARTHUR: That is the last of Mrs Cheyney.

MRS CHEYNEY: I'm so glad. (He embraces her and kisses her on the lips.)
What's that?

ARTHUR: That's the beginning of Lady Dilling.

MRS CHEYNEY: Beast! You're never happy unless you make me cry.



THE END.


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