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Title: Our Boys
Author: Henry James Byron
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Our Boys
Author: Henry James Byron

*

OUR BOYS

A Comedy in Three Acts

By HENRY J. BYRON (1875)

(abbreviated) CHARACTERS

SIR G.  SIR Geoffry Charapneys, a county magnate
TAL.   Talbot Champneys, his son
MID.   Perkyn Middlewick, of Devonshire House, a retired butterman
CHAR.  Charles Middlewick, his son
KEM.   Kempster, SIR Geoffry' s man servant
POD.   Poddles, Middlewick' s butler
VIO.   Violet Melrose, an heiress
MARY.  Mary Melrose, her poor cousin
CLAR.  Clarissa Champneys, SIR Geoffry' s sister
BEL.   Belinda, a lodging house slave

SYNOPSIS

Act I. At the Butterman's. Perkyn Middlewick's country house.

Act II. At the Baronet's. Drawing-room at SIR Geoffry's.

Act III. At Mrs. Patcham's boarding-house after a lapse of seven months.

*

Editors note--stage directions have been placed in brackets. Original
text contains mix of partial and whole word italics. Eg. emphasis on
the "H" in _h_onor, as a way of emphasizing MIDDLEWICK'S working class
pronunciation. The following abbreviations are found throughout.

*

l. left
r. right
c. centre
d. downstage (toward the audience)
u. upstage (toward the sets)
2nd e. second entrance in the same wing
f. frount = same as downstage

*

"Our Boys"

ACT I

Scene.--A handsomely furnished drawing-room at Middlewick's house.
Double doors c. back with French windows on each side; doors R. and
L. A little L. of C., down stage, there is a table with a chair on
each side; up R. a little there is an easy chair, and down R., a
sofa. There are chairs down L., up r., and between the centre door and
windows on both sides. Garden backing seen through windows at back,

(LIGHTS full up. Enter PODDLES l., as curtain rises.)

POD. (after pause, looking at watch). Half-past two, I do declare,
and the young gents not arrived yet; train's late, no doubt. (Goes to
window) No wonder master's anxious; I dare say SIR Geoffry's just as
anxious about his dear son. Bless me, to hear 'em talking about "Our
Boys," as they call 'em, one would think there were no other sons and
heirs in the whole country but these two young gents a-coming home to
their governors this afternoon.

Enter KEMPSTER.

KEMP. Mr. Poddles, any news of the young gents yet? SIR Geoffry has
just driven over, and--

POD. They ought to be here by this time. Mr. Charles wrote mentioning
the time, and

Enter SIR GEOFFRY CHAMPNEYS, c.

SIR GEOFF. What a time you are, Kempster. Why don't you let me know if
Mr.--

KEMP. I beg your parding, SIR Geoffry; I were just inquiring of--

SIR GEOFF. Yes, yes, get back to the carriage. (Exit KEMP, C. to L. To
POD.) Is your master in? (Hands hat and cane to POD.)

POD. I'll see, SIR GeofFry. If you will be seated. SIR Geoffry, I'll--

Exit, L. D.

SIR GEOFF. (Pacing the room impatiently and looking at watch and
fidgetting). Yes, yes. The train's late; but I suppose they won't--Why
hasn't Talbot answered my letter? Why does he keep me on the rack?
He knows how anxious I am. (Goes down R. C.) Haven't set eyes on the
dear boy for three years, and I'm longing to hear his views on men and
things. They'll be the same as mine, I know.

(Enter Miss Clarissa Champneys, the Baronet's sister--an elderly young
lady. She goes to SIR GEOFF.)

CLAR. I couldn't refrain from following you, Geoffry. I am so anxious
about the dear boy.

SIR GEOFF. (tetchily). Of course you're anxious. I'm anxious.

CLAR. (standing by chair). And I've no doubt Mr. Middlewick is just as
anxious about his dear boy.

SIR GEOFF. Clarissa, I'm surprised at you. Because these young men
happen to have met recently in Paris, and are coming home in company,
that is no reason you should link them together in that ridiculous
manner. (CLAR sits at table.) My son comes of an ancient, honored race.
The other young man is the son of a butterman.

CLAR. A retired one, remember.

SIR GEOFF. (sitting at table.). Impossible! A butterman can't retire.
(Poetically) You may break, you may shatter the tub if you will, But
the scent of the butter will hang by it still. (Prosaic once more) Mr.
Middlewick is a most estimable person,--charitable--as he ought to be;
and has considerable influence in the neighborhood.

CLAR. Which accounts for your tolerating him.

SIR GEOFF. I admit it. The dream of my life has been that my boy Talbot
should distinguish himself in Parliament. To that end I mapped out a
complete course of instruction for him to pursue; directed him to
follow the plan laid down implicitly; never to veer to the right or
left, but to do as I bid him, like--like--

CLAR. Like a machine.

SIR GEOFF. Eh? Yes, like a machine. Machines never strike.

CLAR. I hope he'll answer your expectations. Considering his
advantages, his occasional letters haven't been remarkable, have they?
(Rises and goes down R, C; aside.) Except for brevity--which, in his
case, has not been the soul of wit.

SIR G. (rising). Dear! dear! Clarissa, what a woman you are! What
would you have of the boy? His letters have been a little short, but
invariably pithy. I don't want my son to be a literary man. I want him
to shine in politics and--

CLAR. Suppose Mr. Middlewick's views regarding his son are similar.
Supposing he wants him to shine in politics.

SIR GEOFF. (l. c). Clarissa, you seem to take a great interest in Mr.
Middlewick. A man without an H to his back. (CLAR goes up to C.) A man
who--( crossing to R. C.) who eats with his knife, who behaves himself
in society like an amiable golddigger, and who--

CLAR. Who is coming up the path. (Goes down L, C.) So moderate your
voice, Geoffry, or he'll hear you. SIR GEOFF. (R. C). You're a very
irritating woman, Clarissa, and I don't--don't (Mr. Perkyn Middlewick
appears at French windows. He is a sleek, comfortable man of about
fifty,)

MID. (going down R, C to SIR G.). Hah! SIR Geoffry, glad to see you.
(Crosses front of table to CLAR.) Miss Champneys, your 'umble servant.
(Shakes hands; SIR GEOFF shakes hands distantly, CLAR warmly.) Phew!
ain't it 'ot? awful 'ot.

SIR GEOFF. (loftily, R). It is very warm.

MID. (C). Warm! I call it 'ot. (To CLAR.) What do you call it?

CLAR. (L). I call it decidedly "Hot."

MID. That's what I say. I say it's 'ot. Well, SIR Geoffry, any noos?

SIR GEOFF. No news.

MID. No noos! Ain't you heard from your son?

SIR GEOFF. Not a line.

MID. Oh, my boy's written me a letter of about eight pages. He'll be
here soon; I sent the shay. (Takes letter from pocket.)

SIR GEOFF. Sent the what?

MID. The shay--the shay.

SIR GEOFF. Oh, the chaise? (Sits R, on sofa.)

MID. No, only one of 'em. They'll be here directly. What's the good
of Charley writing me a letter with half of it in foreign languages?
(Examines letter. Here's a bit of French here, and a morsel of 'Talian
there, and a slice of Latin, I suppose it is, further on, and then a
something out of one of the poets--leastways, I suppose it is, for it's
awful rubbish--then, lor! regler rigmarole altogether. S'pose he done
it to show as the money wasn't wasted on his eddication.

SIR GEOFF. (with satisfaction). Hah I rather different from my son.
He prefers to reserve the fruits of his years of study until he can
present them in person. Your son, Mr. Middlewick, has followed the
example of the strawberry sellers and dazzled you with the display
of the top. (Rises.) Perhaps when you search below, you may find the
contents of the pottle not so satisfactory. (Goes up.) MID. (down C.,
aside). Mayhap I may. Mayhap the front tubs is butter and the rest
dummies. When I first started in business I'd the finest stock in
Lambeth--to look at. But they was all sham. The tubs was 'oller if
you turned 'em round, and the very yams was 'eartless delooders. Can
Charley's letter be?--No, I won't believe it.

CLAR. (aside to him). Don't, dear Mr. Middlewick, don't. (Goes up L, in
pleasing confusion.)

MID. (aside). That's a very nice, sensible woman. It ain't the first
time she's been civil to me. I'll play the polite to her, if it's only
to rile old poker-back. (Goes up to her, l.)

SIR GEOFF. (coming down R.). I knew "our boys" would drive here first,
Mr. Middlewick, which must be my excuse for this--(NOISE of carriage,
off stage)--intrusion, and--Here they are! here they are!

MID. (going up to window, C). That's them! that's them! (CLAR crosses
to SIR GEOFF, R.)

SIR GEOFF. (R.) I feel actually faint, Clarissa. (Sinks on sofa) The
thought of seeing my dear, handsome, clever boy again is--

CLAR. (aside). Don't exhibit this ridiculous weakness, Geoffry.

SIR GEOFF. Before a tradesman, too. You are right. (Rises.)

MID. (coming down l.). I feel a bit of a--sort of a--kind of a
fluttering myself. (Enter Charles Middlewick, at C. window.)

CHAR. Father! Dad! Dear old governor! (Rushes to his father's arms,
down L.)

MID. My boy! My boy! (Embraces him; they are demonstrative in their
delight. CHAR, is a handsome, gallant young fellow.)

SIR GEOFF. (R.) Yes, but where's my son? Where's Talbot? (Enter Talbot
Champneys. He is a washed-out youth, with yellow-reddish hair parted
down the middle; a faint effort at a fluffy whisker and moustache;
dreadfully overdressed and has a limp look generally; an eye-glass,
and a soft namby-pamby manner. (SIR G. goes up R, C to meet TAL, CLAR.
crosses R.) Talbot, my dear boy, I'm so delighted to--

TAL. Yes, yes; how are you? Bless my life, how gray you've
got--shouldn't have known you. (Goes down R. to CLAR.) And--that's not
Aunt Clarissa? Dear, dear! such an alteration in three years--shouldn't
have known you. (Kisses her; they turn aside conversing--CLAR, TAL, Sir
GEOFF.)

MID. (L.). Well, Charley, old boy, how do I look, eh? Pretty 'earty for
an old 'un.

CHAR. Yes, yes, splendid. (pronouncing the 'H' to him, aside.) Hearty,
dad, Hearty.

MID. Well, I said 'arty. And you, Charley--there! Growed out of all
knowledge.

CHAR. (aside), Growed--hem! (Seems annoyed at his father's ignorance.
Aside to him.) "Grown," governor, "grown."

MID. Ain't got nothing to groan for, (Aside.) Rum notions they pick
up abroad. But, Charley, you ain't introduced me to your friend, Mr.
Talbot. Do the honors, do the honors.

CHAR: Talbot, this is my father.

MID: Proud to know you, sir.

TAL: (through his glass). How do? how do?

MID: 'Arty as a buck, and fresh as a four-year-old, thankee. Hope we
shall see a good deal of you, Mr. Talbot--any friend of my son's

SIR GEOFF: Yes, exactly, Mr. Middlewick. Flattered, I'm sure, but our
boys' lines of life will be widely apart, I expect. (TAL goes up C.)
Your son, I presume, will embark in commerce, whilst mine will, I
trust, shine in a public and, excuse me for adding, a more elevated
sphere.

MID: (aside). Yes, he looks like a shiner.

CLAR: But, Geoffry, probably Mr. Middlewick and his son would like to
be alone a little, so--

MID: Just so. (Aside) She is a sensible woman. (To them.) I shouldn't
mind if you did "get out" for a short time.

Sr GEOFF: Exactly. I want a talk with Talbot too, and as the ponies are
put up (joining TAL), Talbot, we'll have a stroll through the grounds.

TAL: I don't mind. Only I'm jolly hungry, that's all. (Exit with Sir
GEOFF)

MID: (aside to CLAR). Miss Champneys, what's your candid opinion of
your nephew?

CLAR: A Numskull! (Exit)

MID: She is a sensible woman. Charley, not to put too fine a point upon
it, your friend's a fool, I say it deliberately, Charley, he's a hass.

CHAR: (deprecatingly) Oh, dad!

MID: And his father destines him for a public career. Ha! ha! Him ever
take the public--why, he ain't got it in him to take a beer-shop.
(mopping his head.)

CHAR: (aside). Is it that he has grown more vulgar, or that I have
grown more sensitive? Anyhow, it jars terribly. But who am I to
criticize--what should I have been but for his generosity--his Bah!
Ignorant--H-less as he is, I'd sooner have him for a father than twenty
stuck-up SIR Geoffry Champneys.

MID: (sitting). And now, Charley, that we're alone, my dear fellow,
tell your old dad what your impressions of foreign parts were. (CHAR
sits R of table; moves his chair a little forward.) When I was your age
the Continent was a sealed book to them as wasn't wealthy. There was no
Cook's excursions then, Charley; leastaways, they seldom went further
than White Condick Gardens or Beulah Spor, when they in general come
back with their bonnets a one side, and wep' when they was spoke to
'arsh. No, no, you've been born when there was the march o' intellect,
and Atlantic cables and other curious things, and naturally you've
benefited thereby. So of course you're a scholar, and seen a deal.
Paris now--nice place, ain't it?

CHAR: Glorious!

MID: 'Ow about the 'orse flesh?

CHAR: A myth.

MID: Railly though! And I suppose frogs is fallacies. Only to think.

CHAR: Paris is a paradise. But Italy--well, there!

MID: But ain't it a mass of lazeyroneys?

CHAR: A mere libel. A land of romance, beauty, tradition, poetry!
Milan! Venice! Verona! Florence!

MID: Where the ile comes from.

CHAR: Rome! Naples!

MID: That's where Vesoovius is, ain't it?

CHAR: Yes.

MID: Was it "fizzin' " when you was there, Charley?

CHAR: No. There was no eruption when I was there.

MID: That's wrong, you know, that's wrong; I didn't limit you, Charley;
I said "See everything," and I certainly expected as you'd insist upon
an eruption.

CHAR: But, my dear dad, I saw everything else--Pompeii and Herculaneum.

MID: Eh?

CHAR: Pompeii and Herculaneum--they were ruined, you know.

MID: Two unfortnit Italian warehousemen, I suppose.

CHAR: Nonsense! They were buried, you remember.

MID: And why not? It'd be a pretty thing to refuse an unlucky firm as
went broke a decent--

CHAR: You don't understand.

MID: (bluntly). No, I don't.

CHAR: But Germany, dad--the Rhine--"the castle crags of Drachenfels
"--the Castle of Erhenbreitstein

MID: Aaron who? Some swell German Jew, I suppose.

CHAR: And the German women.

MID: Charles, I'm surprised. I'm simply--a What are they like, Charley?
(Gets closer to him, moves chair across front of table.)

CHAR: (sighing). Hah!

MID: Lost your heart, eh?

CHAR: Not to a German girl, oh no--the lady I met who--

SIR GEOFF: (heard without). Well, we may as well join our friends. (MID
and CHAR, rise. MID puts chair back)

CHAR: (aside). Here's Talbot's delightful father. I wouldn't swap
parents with him for all his high breeding. Our heart's blood's a
trifle cloudy, perhaps, but it flows freely--his is so terribly pure it
hardly takes the trouble to trickle. No, Talbot, old fellow, I don't
envy you your father. (joins MID, Enter SIR GEOFF, followed by TAL.)

SIR GEOFF: (coming down r.). But really, Talbot, you must have some
ideas on what you have seen.

TAL: What's the use of having ideas, when you can pick 'em up in the
guide-books?

SIR GEOFF: (pleased). Ah, then you are fond of reading? Good.

TAL: Reading! Ha! ha! I hate it. (Sits, r. of table,)

SIR GEOFF: (sitting on sofa, r. trying to excuse him). Well, well,
perhaps some fathers set too great a value on books. After all, one's
fellow man is the best volume to study. And as one who I hope may ripen
into a statesman--your general appearance strongly reminds me of Pitt,
by-the-bye--perhaps you are right.

MID: (aside, to CHAR.). Finest you ever saw. SIR Geoffry, we shall be
back shortly. (Exit, L., with CHAR.)

SIR GEOFF: And you actually saw nothing in the Rhine.

TAL: Oh, yes, I did.

SIR GEOFF: That's well.

TAL: No end of mud.

SIR GEOFF: But Cologne now?

TAL: Famous for its Cathedral and its smells. Both, I regret to say,
unfinished.

SIR GEOFF: But Germany, generally?

TAL: Detestable. ,

SIR GEOFF: Switzerland. Come, you were a long time there. There you saw
nature in all its grandeur. Your Alpine experiences were-

TAL: Limited. I admired those venturesome beings who risked their
necks, but it was at a distance. I can't say a respectful distance for
I thought them fools

SIR GEOFF: No doubt you were right. (Aside.) Prudence, caution,
forethought--excellent qualities. (To him.) Italy?

TAL: Secondhand sort of country. Things, as a rule, give you a notion
of being unredeemed pledges Everything old and cracked. Didn't care for
it. Jolly glad to get to Paris.

SIR GEOFF: (with a relish). Ha! The Louvre, eh?

TAL: Yes. I preferred "Mabille."

SIR GEOFF: A 'public' building?

TAL: Rather. But even Paris palls on a fellow.

SIR GEOFF: (rising and taking his hand). I see, Talbot, like a true
Champneys you prefer your native land to all these meretricious foreign
places. Well, dear boy, you have a lugubrious career before you, and it
only rests with you to follow it up. I have arranged a marriage.

TAL: (rising) A what!

SIR GEOFF: Not arranged it exactly, but it can be arranged--shall be.
TAL: (quietly). Provided, of course, I approve of the lady. SIR GEOFF:
Eh! You approve! What have you got to do with it? TAL: Quite as much as
she has, and rather more than you, considering I should have to live
with her and you wouldn't.

SIR GEOFF: (annoyed). Talbot, I'm afraid you have picked up some low
Radical opinions during your residence abroad. I expect obedience. I
have done all a father can for a son. You will wed, sir, as I wish; you
will espouse my politics, be returned for Lufton by my influence, and--

TAL: Unless Charley Middlewick chooses to stand!

SIR GEOFF: (in horror), Charley Middlewick chooses to stand?

TAL: In which case I--

SIR GEOFF: Yes?

TAL: Should sit down, (Sits)

SIR GEOFF: Talbot Champneys, you surprise me--you wound me. You have
received every advantage that money could procure--you have come back
after your lengthened foreign experiences, not--I must admit with
pain--not what I quite expected. (Sits) Possibly I looked for too
much, but surely it was not an extravagant hope to indulge in that you
would obey me in the one important step in a man's life--his marriage.
The lady I have selected is wealthy, young, and handsome. She is on a
visit to your aunt, so you will have ample opportunity for ingratiating
yourself. You will not thwart me in this, my dear Talbot? (Takes his
hand,)

TAL: (rising). Well, before promising anything you must trot her out.

SIR GEOFF: Trot her out?

TAL: Yes, yes, put her through her paces--let's judge of her points.
You don't expect a fellow to buy a pig in a poke?

SIR GEOFF: (rising). Hem! (Aside,) Very remarkable language. If anybody
else spoke so, I should say it was vulgar, but my son? It's--ha!
ha!--eccentricity; his great-uncle Joseph was eccentric--he--(Looks
aside at TAL., and sighs deeply.)

TAL: (aside). Married whether I like it or not. Not if I know it. I'm
going to "go it" a bit before I settle down. I have gone it a bit
already, and I'm going to "go it" a bit more. It's the governor's
fault; he shouldn't have mapped out my career with compass and rule.
A man's not an express train, to be driven along a line of rails and
never allowed to shunt on his own account. There's Charley's father
let him have his fling and no questions asked. The governor's had his
hobby--let him pay for it--he can do it. (CLAR. has entered, spoken
briefly aside to SIR GEOFF., sits at table beside TAL.)

CLAR: (sitting). Talbot, it is so delightful to have you back again. I
shall now have such charming evenings with you at chess.

TAL: (sitting on sofa). At what?

CLAR. Chess--the king of games.

TAL: Do you call it a game? Ha! ha! No, thankee; life's too short for
chess.

CLAR: Well, well, we'll say backgammon.

TAL: I don't mind 'saying' backgammon, but you don't catch me 'playing'
backgammon.

CLAR: Well, then, we must even continue our usual cozy evenings. I do
my wool-work whilst your papa reads us the debates. That's our regular
evening's programme.

TAL: (aside). They must have had a rollicking time of it. The debates!
a dozen columns of dullness filtered through your father. Not for
Talbot.

CLAR: But now we have music. Miss Melrose plays charmingly. Do you like
music?

TAL: Ye-e-s. I don't like pieces, you know--five-and-twenty minutes of
fireworks. I like anything with a good chorus.

CLAR: Ah, so does Miss Melrose's cousin.

SIR GEOFF: (coming to stop her). He-hem! He-hem!

CLAR: (rising. to SIR GEOFF, aside), I forgot.

TAL: (seated on sofa; suspiciously, aside). Halloa! why did he make
that elaborate but utterly ineffective attempt to cough down the
cousin? (Looks at SIR G. and CLAR.) I see it all at a glance. The
heiress is to be flung at my head, not the cousin at my heart. Future,
luck, destiny, and all the lot of you, I see my fate. I marry that
cousin.

SIR GEOFF: (aside to CLAR.). Mary Melrose, the cousin, must be sent
away.

CLAR: (aside). But she won't go.

SIR GEOFF: Talbot is a--Talbot is a--

CLAR:. Talbot's a fool.

SIR GEOFF: (wounded, yet proud). Clarissa Champneys, Talbot is my son.

CLAR: Geoffry Champneys, Talbot is my nephew, I only wish I could
exchange him for young Mr. Middlewick.

SIR GEOFF: You irritate me--you incense me--go to the deuce, Clarissa!

CLAR: Ha! ha! (Crosses) Come along, Talbot; let's go and see Mr.
Middlewick's pigs, perhaps they'll interest you.

TAL: (has been taking out a large cigar). You don't mind my smoking?

CLAR: Not a bit.

TAL: D'ye think the pigs'll object? (Rises.) CLAR: (aside). He's an
idiot. (Goes up c) TAL: (aside). She's a nuisance. (to her.) Tell us
all about the cousin, (They go out)

SIR GEOFF: Of course women can never hold their tongues. Mary Melrose
is pretty--penniless though. Mischievous too as a girl can well be. And
no taste--goes to sleep when I read the debates. Wakes up when it's
time to say "good-night," and wants to play billiards. A very dangerous
young woman.

VIO. (heard without) Now, Mary, you must promise to behave yourself, or
you shall not come out with me again.

SIR GEOFF: That's Violet, that's the heiress--and of course her cousin
Mary with her. Confound it! They're as inseparable as--I'll try and
walk off Talbot. He must see and love Miss Melrose. Yes, why not
"love"? My father commanded me to love, and I was too dutiful a son not
to obey him on the instant. I loved madly--to order. (Exit hastily)

VIOLET: (entering) Where can they have got to? (looking for them. Enter
Mary Melrose--the poor cousin--both are dressed in the best taste.)

MARY: What a handsome place. Looks awfully new though, doesn't it?
Seems as if it was painted and decorated yesterday, and furnished
in the middle of the night--in order to be ready for visitors this
morning. I seem to smell the hay and sacking that enveloped the legs of
the chairs and tables. Don't you, Violet?

VIOLET: Certainly not, Mary, don't make remarks. (Sits on sofa.)

MARY: Why not? I like to make remarks. (Looks about.)

VIOLET: Yes, you like to do a great many things you shouldn't do.

MARY: So does every one. If one's always to do what's proper and
correct, life might as well be all rice pudding and toast and water. I
hate them both, they're so dreadfully wholesome.

VIOLET: (rising and crossing to table), I don't know what excuse we
shall make for coming here. It looks as if we were impatient to see the
young men.

MARY: So we are. At least I am. We've seen no one of the male sex at
old Champneys'.

VIOLET: Mary! (Both sit at table.)

MARY: Begging his pardon. SIR Geoffry Champneys--Bart--no one, under
the age of fifty.

VIOLET: Why, Mary, there's Mr. Sedative, he isn't thirty.

MARY: Oh, Sedative's a curate and don't count. Besides, he blushes when
you speak to him, and, altogether, he's a muff. He's awfully good and
devoted to his mother and all that, but--well, there, he isn't my sort.

VIOLET: I don't know who is your sort, Mary.

MARY: Oh, it's all very well for you, you know; you can pick and
choose--if you haven't picked and chosen.

VIOLET: Mary, you--how can you?

MARY: Violet, my dear, don't try to impose upon me, I know the
impression young Morton made upon your susceptible heart. I tried hard
to ensnare him, but you beat me. Oh, you quiet ones, I wouldn't trust
you out of my sight--(rising; aside) or in it for the matter of that.

VIOLET: You're always thinking of love and marriage and all that
nonsense.

MARY: (to back of table). Of course I am. There's nothing else worth
thinking about. It's all very well for you--you're rich, and you have
your tenants, and your pensioners, and your dependents, and I don't
know what, to interest you. I've nothing. (Sighs.) I wish I was rich.

VIOLET: Then marry some one with money.

MARY: Never! (After a slight pause.) Unless he's nice, then I will--oh,
yes, I don't go in for "Love in a cottage." I never could understand
the theory of "bread and cheese and kisses." I hate bread and cheese.

VIOLET: (with admonitory finger). And--

MARY: (sighing). I know nothing about the rest.

VIOLET: (rising). You mercenary girl. Mark me, you'll marry a rich man.

MARY: Certainly--if I like him.

VIOLET: But as for a poor one?

MARY: I'll marry him, if I like him better.

VIOLET: (crossing). I can't make you out; you're simply the most (Enter
CHARLEY, quickly.)

MARY: (aside) Morton!

CHARLEY: Why, Miss Melrose!

VIOLET: Oh, can I be--(Sinks into sofa,)

MARY: If anybody 'd catch me I think I could faint. (Crosses to front
of table,)

CHARLEY: Let me. (Catches her in his arms,) My dear Miss Melrose, I--

VIOLET: (rising; recovering suddenly). Mr. Morton!

CHARLEY: Miss Melrose! (Leaves MARY and goes to VIOLET.) Can I--can I
believe my eyes? What are you doing here?

VIOLET: What are you doing here? (Mary crosses at back to back of sofa,)

CHARLEY: Morton isn't my name. I assumed it at Bonn, like a fool,
because of a scrape I got into with an offensive and warlike student,
which resulted in his being rather severely wounded--an insolent hound.
No, I've come back here to my home, to my father.

VIOLET: (aside, romantically). Come back to his father, to his home!
Mary, is--is this destiny? (Sits on sofa, looking up at Mary.)

MARY: (back of sofa; aside to VIOLET). If it is destiny, dear, don't
you think I'd better go away for a short time? VIOLET: No, no, Mary,
don't go, by any means. Mary. I wouldn't dream of such a thing. (exit)

CHARLEY: Life's made up of surprises. Only to think of meeting you here.

VIOLET: You took no particular trouble to find out where to meet me,
did you?

CHARLEY: You left Vienna so abruptly. You wouldn't have had me
advertise?

VIOLET: Really!

CHARLEY: Lost, stolen, or strayed, a young lady, etc., etc. Any one
restoring her to her disconsolate admirer, Charles--a ( Crosses to
VIOLET )

VIOLET: (rising). Mr. Morton, upon my word, I--

CHARLEY: (ardently). And upon my word this is the happiest moment
of my life; no, it's run hard by the other moment, when under the
shadow of the trees, with the wild river rushing at our feet, you
half--half whispered a word or two that led me to hope. Oh, Violet, I
swear by--by--by those eyes--and what could a man swear by truer--or,
bluer--I've never ceased to think of you, to dream of you

VIOLET: To dream of me? What, not when you've been awake?

CHARLEY: I've never been awake; life, since we parted, has been one
long sweet siesta in which your image was ever foremost. The chief
cause, the only cause of my hastening home was to search you out. I
knew your wandering ways, and meant to track you. You said you intended
staying the summer at Biarritz. But fortune has favored me, as she
never yet favored man and placed the prize in my arms.

VIOLET: (pleased, but trying to be severe). In where?

CHARLEY: (throwing his arm round her). There!

(Slight pause.)

VIOLET: Mr. Morton, I'm ashamed of you.

CHARLEY: Miss Melrose, I'm proud oi you.

VIOLET: Really, I--

CHARLEY: You wouldn't have me think you a flirt--a coquette?

VIOLET: Indeed, no.

CHARLEY: You would be one if when you breathed those half-dozen
delicious words, you only meant to trifle with me. I've lived upon that
sentence ever since--looking ardently forward to the day when I could
present myself in propria persona as I do now. Violet, don't turn away,
for

(SIR GEOFF coughs without.)

VIOLET: (rather agitated). There's somebody coming.

CHARLEY: Confound it! in this life there always is somebody coming.

SIR GEOFF: (entering). I can't find him--he isn't with the pigs. (Comes
To VIOLET) I regret that my son--

VIOLET: Why, SIR Geoffry--you must have intended it as a wicked
surprise. Your son and I are acquainted.

(CHARLEY crosses behind)

SIR GEOFF: . Has he, then, already--

VIOLET: Oh, before!

SIR GEOFF: Good gracious! You must not mind his being a little bashful
and retiring.

VIOLET: Oh, I didn't find him so at all.

SIR G. (aside). The deuce she didn't! (Aloud.) Met before?

VIOLET: At Vienna.

SIR GEOFF: Is it possible? And you don't--don't dislike him?

VIOLET: Oh, who could?

SIR GEOFF: (aside). I can't believe my--The young rascal! All his
opposition was assumed then--a deep, young dog. Ha! ha! Well, he took
me in. Ha! ha! Yes, he took me in.

CHARLEY: I hope, SIR Geoffry, we shall--

SIR GEOFF: Yes, yes, young gentleman, all in good time, but just at
present you see we--

VIOLET: I should like to hear, though, what your son was about to say.

SIR GEOFF: (seeing with horror the mistake). My--my son! This
person--he's no son of mine.

CHARLEY: (half aside). No--thank heaven!

VIOLET: (shrinking from him; bitterly). Twice an impostor!

CHARLEY: Violet, I--(SIR GEOFF goes to VIOLET)

(Enter MID and CLAR and opposite, enter MARY and TAL.)

MID: It's true, mum. Every one on 'em was agin me doing it.
Halloa--who's the gals?

{At hearing the intensely vulgar voice of MID) VIOLET. has shrunk, and,
evidently shocked, assumes a cold look.

(CHARLEY, perceives it, and by his expression shows he resents her
manner, and goes to his father.)

TAL: (coming round table; to Mary). D'ye know I feel as if I'd known
you ever so long!

MARY: And I've quite taken to you--fact

(SIR GEOFF, who has observed this with suppressed rage, takes TAL. by
the arm, with a slight wrench, brings him to VIOLET.)

CHARLEY: (l. c, aside). I could read a volume in her altered look.

SIR GEOFF: This, Violet, is--is my son--

CHARLEY: (crossing, seizing MID.'s hand with a grasp of affection;
proudly). And this, Miss Melrose, is my father!

CURTAIN

(MID, with hand extended, starts across toward VIOLET, who draws
herself up coldly and turns her back on him. MID. stops suddenly,
dismayed, and exclaims, "By George," as drop descends,)



ACT II


Scene--Drawing-room at SIR GEOFF's. Doors right and left, and large
door Centre back, opening upon a conservatory. Statuary between door
and windows at back; fireplace with mirror over it downstage right,
with chair at ^, of it; small divan down c.; armchair down r. c, and
sofa down L.; chairs at L. and up R., near window.)

LIGHTS full up-

(Kemp, discovered.)

KEMP: Well, things are coming to a pretty pass when we have such
visitors to dinner as Mr. Middlewick, senor. Three 'elps to soup, and
his napkin tucked round his neck for all the world like a carver at a
cafe--a common cafe, (Down,) And yet, somehow, I fancy his 'art's in
the right place. I know his 'and is--that's his pocket--a precious deal
oftener than the governor's. I've heard, too, as the servants at his
place are fed on the fat of the land. Hem! Z/^ ain't. There's a deal
too much show here. Three mutton cutlets for four people, who've the
consolation of knowing the dishes is 'all marked, though when a party's
hungry, silver ain't satisfying.

Enter SIR GEOFF and MID., in evening dress. MiD.'s a little
old-fashioned and extravagant--large,double-breasted white waistcoat
and plenty of necktie. He has a large napkin tied around his neck or
sticking in his collar.

SIR GEOFF: Yes, yes, Mr. Middlewick, you are perfectly right. (To
Kemp.) Send our coffee in here.

KEMP: (crossing to door l.; aside). They're a-gettin' thick, they're
a-gettin' uncommon thick.

Exit, L. D.

SIR GEOFF: (r. c). You enjoyed your dinner? (Sits c.)

MID: (sitting on sofa, l.). Fust-rate. Hay one.

SIR GEOFF: Good! And you don't mind leaving your wine for a chat?

MID: Not a bit. Can't abear claret, and port pays me out. I never knew
what gout was when I had my shop.

SIR GEOFF: He-hem!

MID: (aside). He always shies at the shop. Well, I won't tread on his
aristocratic corns; it ain't fair, for after all, they're tender, and
I'm 'eavy.

SIR GEOFF: I'm delighted, Mr. Middlewick, to welcome under my roof
so successful a representative of the commercial spirit of the age.
Champneys Hall, as a rule, has been honored by the visits of people of
birth solely. Your presence here is a pleasing exception.

MID: (rising). SIR Geoffry, you do me _Honor_. Of course money's always
a...

SIR GEOFF: Not wholly. I anticipate your remark. Personal work must
count for something.

MID: (l. c). Fust-rate theory--_phyl_ and _tropic_ and all that--but it
don't wash, SIR Geoffry. Take yourself, for instance. When you stroll
about 'ere, everybody you meet touches his 'at. How many does so when
you walks down Fleet Street?

SIR GEOFF: Everybody touches his hat to you, Mr. Middlewick.

MID: Not a bit of it. See here; that's what they touches their 'ats
to. (Slaps his pocket, which rattles with the sound of money, "Money
makes the mare to go"--the mare--rubbish! It sets the whole stable
a-gallopin'! If I go into a shop shabby the counter-skipper treats me
familiar, pre-aps 'aughty. If I wear new broadcloth he calls me "Sir".
There you 'ave it in a nutshell.

SIR GEOFF: Mr. Middlewick, I admit that money exercises an undue
influence in the world and to an extent with vulgar--I repeat, vulgar
minds--elbows birth, worth, virtue, and--a--all that sort of thing a
little out of the way. That is why so many of us--I say us--live in the
country, where--where

MID: Jes' so. I know. You're somebody 'ere--nobody there. Quite right;
that's why I settled in the country.

SIR GEOFF: Your career has been a remarkable one.

MID: Extry-ordinary. I was lucky from a baby. (Sits L. of SIR GEOFF,
on seat c.) Found a farden when I was two years old, and got a
five-shilling piece for 'olding a 'orse when I was playing truant at
the age of six. When I growed up everything I touched turned up trumps.
(He slaps SIR G. on knee. He does this frequently to emphasize a point
much to SIR G.'s disgust.) I believe if I'd purchased a ship-load of
Dutch cheeses, the man with the van 'ud 'a' delivered me Stiltons. I
believe as the Government went to war a purpose to give me a openin'
for contracks. Bacon! (Slap.) Well, there--bless your 'art, what I made
out of bacon alone was a little independence. I never meet a pig in the
road that I don't feel inclined to take off my 'at to him.

SIR GEOFF: Ha! ha! ha!

MID: Every speculation proved a success. It seemed as if I was in the
secret of life's lucky bag, and had been put up to where I was to pick
out the prizes. Some folks said, " 'Old 'ard, Perkyn, my boy, you'll
run aground." Well, I didn't " 'old 'ard," I " 'eld on," and here I am,
SIR Geoffry, at the age of fifty-three able to buy up any 'arf a dozen
nobs in the county. (Continuous slaps.)

SIR GEOFF: (aside). Nobs! He is a pill for all his gilding.

MID: But if I'm not a gentleman, there's my boy.

SIR GEOFF: Who, I have a sort of suspicion, admires Violet Melrose.

MID: What! The stuck-up rich gal. No! no!

SIR GEOFF: (eagerly). You think _not?_

MID: Certain. My son knows better than to thwart me. Miss Melrose
snubbed me when we fust met--has cold-shouldered me ever since. Do you
suppose my boy Charley would have anything to say to a young woman as
despised his father?

SIR GEOFF: (shaking hands). My dear Middlewick, you delight me. Of
course not. I was foolishly suspicious. I want my son to marry Miss
Melrose. He will do so of course--for he has never disobeyed me; he
has been brought up strictly to acknowledge my authority, and...

MID: And won't, I'll warrant. Your system's a mistake--mine's the
correct one. I've always given my boy his fling--never balked him
from a baby. If he cried for the moon we give him a Cheshire cheese
immediate--that being the nearest substitute 'andy. Now he'd obey my
slightest wish.

SIR GEOFF: Will he! Ha! ha! Let us hope so.

Enter VIOLET from l.

VIOLET: {crossings, c). Interrupting a tete-d-tete I'm afraid.

(MIDDLEWICK rises.)

SIR GEOFF: {rising, crosses and offers chair, r., to VIOLET; she sits,
R.). Not at all, Miss Melrose.

MID: Oh, no, not at all--not at all. (Crosses l. to sofa.) "Taturtate
"--always coming out with her High-talian. Ha, she's not a patch upon
the cousin; she's the gal for my money. (Lies down. Covers face with
napkin.)

SIR GEOFF: (r. c; aside in an undertone to VIOLET). Miss Melrose--may
I say Violet--I trust Talbot's manner, modest as it is, has impressed
you. You must not take him for the foo--I mean you mustn't imagine
he is the less ardent because he doesn't talk poetry like young Mr.
Middlewick, or...

VIOLET (seated R,; with temper). Oh, don't mention him. Sir
Geoffry--that young gentleman seems to ignore my existence.

SIR GEOFF: {aside). Good. Son sees father's snubbed and retaliates. (To
her,) Ha! ha! do you know--pardon my absurdity--at first I actually
imagined there was some trifling tenderness in that quarter. But I see
by your face I was mistaken. You are above being dazzled by good looks.

VIOET: {with a natural burst). And he is good-looking, isn't he?

SIR GEOFF: (R., C. a little haughtily). He--hem! He's long--but
nothing distingue'--Talbot now is not what one would call a striking
figure, but there's a concealed intellectuality--a hidden something or
other--you'll understand what I mean but I'm at a loss for the word
at the moment--that is none the less effective in the long run--(with
pleasant earnestness) a--then, my dear Violet, he's the heir to a
baronetcy. He's an embyro statesman, and he adores you. Didn't you
observe him at dinner? He ate nothing--drank nothing--which--and I say
it at the risk of being considered a too observant host--is more than
can be said of young Middlewick.

(During SIR GEOFF's speech MIDLEWICK. occasionally snores. When
CHARLEY's voice is heard he sits up.)

VIOLET (aside). That's true, for I watched him.

CHARLEY: (heard without , L.). Ha! ha! ha! You play billiards! why, you
know as much of the game as the King of Ashanti knows of...

TALBOT: (heard l.). Ha! ha! Play you any day in the week.

MID: (rising crosses to c, throwing napkin down), I say, SIR Geoffry,
them boys are going it, ain't they?

VIOLET: {aside), " Them boys! "

MID: (crossing to l. , aside), I see her sneer.

SIR G. (aside). Every time he opens his mouth improves Talbot's chance.

(Enter Char, and Tal. followed by CLAR. Char, is a little excited with
wine, but not in the least tipsy--he has been helping himself freely
to drown his annoyafice at VIO.'s hauteur and evident horror of his
father, Talbot's manner is of the same washed-out, flabby nature as
previously shown. MID. goes around sofa up l.)

CHARLEY: (c. by seat). Ha! ha! ha! Here's Talbot Champneys trying to
argue with me about billiards. Why, man, you can't see as far as the
spot ball.

SIR GEOFF: (r. c). The fact of being short-sighted is scarcely a happy
subject for jesting. (Crosses to r. to back of VIO.'s chair,)

VIOLET: (r., with suppressed temper), I quite agree with you, Sir
Geoffry.

CLARISSA {has entered down l. c). It's aristocratic; double
eye-glasses look rather distingue, I think. (Sits on sofa, l.)

CHARLEY: (c, at VIO.). Yes, those who are not aristocratic may
sometimes suffer from the affection. There are short-sighted fools in
the world who are not swells.

VIOLET: (aside). He thinks that severe.

MID: (down l. c). Bless your 'art, yes; we had a carman as was always
driving into everythink; at last he run over a boy in the Boro', and
that got him his quietum.

CHARLEY: (crossing to MID.). Yes, yes, you told us before about him.

MID: (aside). Don't, Charley, don't. If you only brought me out to shut
me up, I might as well be a tellyscoop. (Goes up, l.)

SIR GEOFF: (aside to Vic). Charming papa-in-law he'll make to somebody.

VIOLET: Don't, don't. (Looks at CHAR., who is l. c.) He's looking
daggers at me, and I've done nothing.

TALBOT: {sitting on r. of c. seat). It's rather rich your talking of
beating me at billiards, considering that I've devoted the last three
years to billiards and nothing else.

SIR GEOF: {aside). The deuce he has! That's pleasant for a father to
hear. Oh, an--exaggeration. (Goes up r.)

TALBOT: It's rather amusing your bragging of rivalling me. And when you
talk about my not being able to see the spot ball, all I can say is...

CHARLEY: (l. c). Ha! ha! ha! If you can't, you've a capital eye for the
pocket, (At VIO. VIO. shows she sees the thrust.)

MID: (coming down L. of CHAR.). Ah, well, bagatelle's more in my way.
When me and a few neighbors used to take our glass at the Peterboro'
Arms, we...

CHARLEY: Yes, yes, father {Goes up l.)

MID: (aside). He's bit. That gal's bit him. It'll be an awkward day for
Charley when he shows he's ashamed of his governor.

CLARISSA: (seated l.). I agree with Mr. Middlewick--bagatelle's
charming.

VIOLET: So it is, Miss Champneys.

CLARISSA: So innocent.

SIR GEOFF: (down r. c). Come, who's for a game of billiards then? I
never touch a cue, but I'll play you fifty up, Mr. Middlewick, and my
sister here and your son shall see all fair. Come, you shall see that
there is even a worse player in the world than yourself. (Aside.) There
couldn't be a better opportunity for leaving Talbot and Violet alone.
(_To him_) What say?

MID: (l. c). I'm agreeable--you must teach me though.

CLARISSA: (rising). I will do that, if you will allow me.

MID: (offering his arm to CLAR.) Only too 'appy.

(Goes off, R. D., with CLAR.)

SIR GEOFF: (aside to TALBOT). Now's your time, bring matters to a
crisis.

VIOLET: (rising, takes SIR G.'s arm the other side). SIR Geoffry, I'll
back you.

SIR GEOFF: (aside). Confound it! (to VIOLET, going toward r. door with
her.) You really are most--a--I can't play a bit

(As they exit VIOLET gives a sort of half sneering, half mischievous
laugh at CHARLEY, who can with difficulty restrain his annoyance. When
they are off, he comes down l. and crosses to c, meeting TALBOT, who
has risen on VIOLET's exit and crossed r. taking out pipe and filling
it and then crossing back to c. where he comes face to face with
CHARLEY.)

CHARLEY: (c. l.). Well.

TALBOT: (c. r.). Well.

CHARLEY: What are you going to do?

TALBOT: What are you?

CHARLEY: I don't know.

TALBOT: I do. I'm going to have a smoke in the stable. Also a good
think.

CHARLEY: A good what?

TALBOT: Think. I'm in love.

CHARLEY: You!

TALBOT: Why shouldn't I be? You tall chaps always think you can
monopolize all the love-making in the world. You can love short, just
the same as you can love long. I tell you I'm gone. D'ye hear? Gone.

CHARLEY: (bitterly). I'm happy to hear it. I shall be happier when yon
prove the fact. (Moves away, l.)

TALBOT: I'm off. When you want a weed you know where to find me.

(TALBOT Exits, c. to R. )

CHARLEY: (sitting c). In love, is he? I don't wonder at it--she'd
entice a hermit from his cell--and--and--send him back sold. She can't
have a heart. (Enter MARY from l.) Ah, women are all alike.

MARY: (l. c, back of seat). What a frightful observation! And at the
top of your voice, too.

CHARLEY: I mean it.

MARY: No, you don't.

CHARLEY: If I don't may I be

MARY: (crossing 'r. c, back of seat). Jilted?

CHARLEY: (rising to h. c). Jilted. The foolish phrase for one of the
cruelest crimes--I say it advisedly, crimes--that can disgrace
_female_--I won't say human--nature. (Goes up L.)

MARY: (back of seat ). Dear! dear! dear!

CHARLEY: (Down l. c.; with feeling ). Hearts are not playthings to be
broken like children's drums just to see what's inside them. A man's
feelings are not toys to be trifled with and tossed aside. Love in a
true man means love--love pure and simple and unselfish--the devotion
of his whole mind and being to one in whose weal or woe his very soul's
wrapped up. With women (Sits on sofa, l. )

MARY: (back of seat c). What a pity it is Talbot Champneys can't talk
like you--and going into Parliament, too.

CHARLEY: Talbot Champneys--yes--his relatives are well spoken,
well-born somebodies, and so she favors him.

MARY: She? Who?

CHARLEY: Absurd! there's only one she.

MARY: That's very polite to me, I'm sure.

CHARLEY: Oh, you know what I mean. In my eyes.

MARY: Exactly. But you don't monopolize all the visual organs of the
universe. There are other eyes that may have looked elsewhere.

CHARLEY: Why, what on earth

MARY: (modestly), I don't think Talbot does admire Violet

CHARLEY: Eh?

MARY: Not so much as he does--a--somebody else.

CHARLEY: Why, who is there he could

MARY: Well, upon my word--considering that I--(Pauses awkwardly)

CHARLEY: Why, what a fool I've been! (Rises.)

MARY: And are.

CHARLEY: But--oh, impossible!

MARY: (to front of seat). Thank you.

CHARLEY: No, I don't mean that, because, of course, you are a charming
young lady, and

MARY: Thank you again. (Sits c.)

CHARLEY: (crossing to her), I mean it's impossible on your side. I
really believe Talbot to be not half a bad fellow in the main, but his
manner, his appearance, and

MARY: Oh, handsome men are like the shows at the fairs, you see all the
best outside.

CHARLEY: There's some truth in that, perhaps.

MARY: Talbot Champneys isn't either the fool he looks or affects to be.
He's wonderfully good-hearted, I know, for I watched his manner only
yesterday toward a crippled beggar boy when he thought no one saw him;
and--and he snubs his pompous old father like a--like a

CHARLEY: A young cub. (Moves to l.)

MARY: Well, a young cub's better than an old bear. I don't believe
in surface--I like to know what's inside. You've often noticed
confectioners' tarts, with their proud upper-crust--hollow
mockeries--delusive shams; when the knife dives into their dim
recesses what does it disclose? Fruit, occasionally; syrup, seldom;
flavor, never. Now, Talbot's _not_ a confectioner's tart!

CHARLEY: No, I should say he was more of the cake.

MARY: (rising). Never mind, I like cake. He may be eccentric, but his
heart's in the right place.

CHARLEY: That means _you've_ got it. (Crosses to her)

MARY: He hasn't told me so.

CHARLEY: Until you make him!

MARY: Make him! well, you are-

SIR GEOFF: (heard R.), Don't mention it--a trifle.

MID: (heard r.), 'Pon my word, I'm downright

SIR GEOFF: No, no; not at all.

CHARLEY: (earnestly). You will--you will make him declare himself, Mary
Melrose, and make me the--

(They go up l. and sit at back.)

Enter SIR GEOFF and MID from r., followed by VIOLET, who remains up R.
MID has a billiard cue, MARY and CHARLEY, sit up L.

MID: (down c). I declare I wouldn't have done such a thing for any
money. (Aside.) I knew I should come to grief at them billiards.

SIR GEOFF: (r. c, blandly). My dear Mr. Middlewick, commonest thing
with beginners. Cutting the billiard cloth with the cue is a trifling
accident that might happen with any one. Don't mention it any more.
(Aside.) An awkward brute. Treated the table like his confounded
counter.

MID: (aside). Serves me right, trying to play billiards, and poker-back
pretending he couldn't, and him all the time a regular dab. (Crosses
and stands cue against wall, L.) He's up to these grand games, but one
of these days I'll loore him on to skittles--and astonish him. (Comes
back c.)

SIR GEOFF: (aside to MID.; drawing him to r.; pleased). Middlewick,
look, my dear sir. (Points to Char, and Mary, in conversation up stage,
l.) D'ye see that? Ha! Ha! Seem rather interested in each other's
conversation, eh? (Nudges him.)

MID: Why, anything more like spooning I--

SIR GEOFF: I hope, for your sake, it may be so; that girl is worth a
thousand of her haughty cousin.

MID: (seizing his hand). You're right, SIR Geoffry. And I'm proud to
hear a swell as is a swell give vent to such sentiments--they do you
_honor_. ( Crosses to L. c. )

VIOLET: (up R., aside). He means to wound me--to insult me. Mary
cannot willingly have lent herself to so mean and poor a trick. She is
honest--but he (Enter CLAR. from r.; goes to MID.; after speaking a
moment they sit c.; MID., l. and CLAR., r. SIR G. has gone to r., and
is watching CHAR. and Mary with pleasure.) How taken up with each other
they seem. There isn't an atom of jealousy about my disposition, but
I'd give the world to know what they're talking about. (Char, and Mary
laugh.) Now they're laughing. Perhaps at me. Oh, how I wish Mary wasn't
poor--I'd have such a quarrel with her. (Sits R. at back. After a pause
SIR G. joins her,)

MID: (seated c. l. of CLARISSA; aside; has been talking with CLAR.). A
more sensible woman I never come across.

CLARISSA: (aside). A delightful person if a little eccentric.

MID: (aside). I'll find out what she thinks of my sentiments regarding
Charley's fancy.

CLARISSA: (aside). I hope his evident attentions to me have not been
noticed by my brother.

MID: (seated by her). Miss Clarissa--nice name Clarissa.

CLARISSA: (coquettishly). Think so?

MID: Yes--I wouldn't change it for no other. Your other name I would
though.

CLARISSA: (aside). What can he mean? These successful commercial people
are so blunt and businesslike--can he possibly be about to (Sighs,)
Well, I must say I consider him rather a fine man.

SIR GEOFF: (up r., to VIOLET, who has been and is watching Mary
and CHAR. SIR G. has sat beside her,) Depend upon it, ill-assorted
marriages are a mistake. For instance, we'll say, young Middlewick
there--the poor lad's in a false position.

VIO. (aside, in temper). He is--sitting by her.

SIR G. a husband's relations, too, should not be ignored. Should the
young man marry a lady, imagine her humiliation at the periodical
visits of "Papa."

VIO. (turning to him, a little nettled). And yet you tolerate him
here--make much of him.

SIR G. My dear Violet, in the country one is obliged to swallow one's
feelings occasionally. I take good care no one shall ever meet him for
whom I have the least--a--he-hem! (Aside,) Nearly putting my foot in it
there.

(MID. and CLAR. have been very earnestly conversing on seat c.)

MID. Of course--of course when people get to a certain time of life
they ought to settle.

(CHAR. and Mary stroll off, c. and l.)

CLAR. My sentiments precisely.

MID. And after all high birth's all very well, but if the other party
has the money

CLAR. Certainly--certainly. It may be radical and all that sort of
thing, but give me intellect before mere family. And I am worldly
enough to revere success--such as yours, for instance.

MID. (aside). She certainly is one of the most sensible women I--and
after all they'd make an uncommon handsome couple

CLAR. Eh?

MID. Charley and

SIR G. (coming down r. c, abruptly, and annoyed), Clarissa, my dear,
where on earth has Talbot got to?

CLAR. (risings crosses toward r. door; enraged at discovery of her
mistake in MID.). How should I know where he's got to!

SIR G. (astonished. Why, gracious me! My dear, I

(Aside to her, but aloud?) Remember, Clarissa, if you please, there are
visitors present.

CLAR. (at door R.), Visitors indeed! Such canaille [hound-like]!
(CLARISSA Exit, R.)

Mid, (aside). I heard you, my lady. So the old one's going in for
snubs, too. (Rises.) I've been called almost everything before, but
this is the fust time I've been called a canal. It's the last time me
or Charley sets a foot in this 'ouse. (Goes up l.)

VIO. (who has gone up to conservatory; looking off). How mean I feel,
watching them. I'll--I'll leave this house to-morrow. (Comes down;
sits c.)

SIR G. (near r. door, aside). What on earth's the matter with the
woman? Something's annoyed her, but she mustn't be rude to my guests. I
have one system with my son, my servants, and--yes, and my sister. She
must come back at once and Miss Melrose--Middlewick, excuse me a moment
or two. (SIR GEOFF Exit, R. D.)

MID. (up L.), All alone with Miss High-and-mighty! Hang me if I don't
tackle her! (Comes down L. c.) You'll--you'll excuse me, Miss, but

VIO. (in horror). Oh, pray don't say "Miss."

MID: (softened). Eh? (Aside.) Not "Miss"? (To her.) Well, then, we'll
say "Voylet".

VIO. (rising, disgusted, but unable to restrain her amusement). Mr.
Middlewick, you really are too absurd!

(MiD. goes up L. c. VIO. moves toward r. door and exits; as she does
so CHARLEY, enters, c., from l., crosses r., and is about to follow
her.)

MID. (aside). If ever I set foot again in this house (Catches CHARLEY,
by the arm, and turns him round abruptly toward himself, bringing him
down R. C.)

CHAR. (r. c). Why, dad, I

MID. (c). Charley, where are you a-going of?

Char, (annoyed). Oh! father, I really-

MID. (severely), Charles Middlewick, you're a-going after that young
lady.

CHAR. Well, sir, if I am?

MID. Charley, I don't want you and me to fall out. We never have yet.
All's been smooth and pleasant with me hitherto, but when I do cut up
rough, Charley, I cut up that rough as the road a-being repaired afore
the steam roller tackles it is simply a feather bed compared to your
father.

CHAR. I don't understand you.

MID. (with suppressed passion). Obey me and my nature's olive oil;
go agin me and it's still ile, but it's ile of vitterel. [Editor: Go
against me and it's still oil, but oil of vitriol or spite]

CHAR. If, sir, you're alluding to my feehngs toward Miss Melrose, I--

MID. I am. Think no more of her. Between you and her there's a gulf,
Charles Middlewick, and that gulf's grammar. Perhaps you think I'm too
ignorant to know what pride means. I'm not. If you ever cared for this
stuck-up madam you must forget her. (Determined.) She ain't my sort;
never will be, and she shan't be my daughter-in-law neither.

CHAR. You have always prided yourself on allowing me my own way in
everything--it was your system, as you called it--and _now_ when it
comes to a matter in which my whole future happiness is involved, you
are cruel enough to--

MID. (sharply). Cruel only to be kind, Charley. You wouldn't marry a
woman who despised your father? (CHAR. moves aside to r., ashamed;
pause; MID. to r. c.) If you would, if you do, I'll cut you off with
a shilling. I--I (In a rage.) Why don't you meet me half-way and say
you'll obey me, you shilly-shally numskull!

CHAR. (r., in a passion). You have no right to speak like this to me,
if you are my father.

{Pause; MID. astonished.)

MID. (in softer voice). He's right, he's quite right; calling names
never did no good at any time. (To him.) Least-aways, not a numskull,
Charley, of course; that was a "Lapsy lingo," a slip of the pen, you
know. I'm speaking for your good. You're her equal in everything except
_one_ Charley--I'm rich, but I'm a common, ignorant man. Wait, anyhow,
until--until I--I--ain't here to disgrace you. (MIDDLEWICK Turns aside,
breaks down. Sits c, handkerchief to eyes,)

CHAR. (after slight pause, to R. c). My dear, kind dad, there's nothing
in the world I wouldn't sacrifice to please you

MID. (turning to him, pleased). Ah?

CHAR. But in this instance

MID. (turning back grumpily). Hah!

CHAR. I can never be happy without Violet Melrose.

MID. Then make up your mind to be miserable. (Rises.)

CHAR. The appearance of superciliousness which you imagine you

MID. Imagine--but it ain't for you to bandy any further words with me.
If you disappoint me, disobey me, defy me, take the consequences. Say
good-bye to your father, live on Violet Melrose's money, but don't be
surprised when your grand lady wife taunts you with your mean position
and flings your vulgar father's butter shop in your teeth. (Char,
attempts to speak.) Not a word--I've said my say, and what I have said,
Charles Middlewick's, my ultipomatum. (MIDDLEWICK Exit, L. d.)

Char, (distracted). Every word he said was true, and cut like a knife!
How can I tell him that I know Violet's apparent supercilious manner
is only on the surface? That--But is it? Am I fooling myself all the
while? Does my blind admiration make me--I'll speak to her, learn the
real depth of this seeming pride, and (Is going r.)

Enter Mary, c. Comes down l. c.

Mary (down l. c). Oh, such fun!

Char, (r., disgusted). Fun?

MARY. Yes, I've completely taken in the old gentleman.

CHAR. I believe you're capable of it.

MARY. With half-a-dozen joking remarks in admiration of you. I've
completely put him off the scent. He firmly believes that we're awfully
spoons, and that his son's only to ask Violet to be accepted.

CHAR. So you did that, did you?

MARY. Yes, I did, and SIR Geoffry's simply in raptures at the success
of his system, as he calls it, and Violet the

CHAR. (in rage). You've make matters ten times worse with your meddling
interference. You--you've widened the gulf, and still further estranged
us. But come what may I'll speak out and bring her to the point, if
it's under the baronet's very nose! I--Ugh!

(With an exclamation of intense vexation at Mary, exits, R.)

Mary (afte)--CHAR.'s exit, imitating his "I--Ugh!" after a blank look).
Moral! Mary Melrose, my dear, for the rest of your natural life never
attempt to do anything kind for anybody. I'll become supremely selfish,
and settle down into a narrow-minded and highly acidulated old maid.
(MARY Sits c.)

Enter Tal., c. from r.

TAL. Who's that talking about old maids?

(Comes down R. c.)

MARY. I was.

TAL. Why, you're all alone.

MARY. Yes, I like to be alone.

TAL. That means I'm to

MARY. Oh, no, you're--

TAL. Nobody. Don't count. Thanks.

MARY. I didn't say that.

TAL. No, but you meant it.

MARY. Why?

TAL. Because you didn't say it. (Pause.)

MARY. What do you mean?

TAL. What I say.

MARY. What's that?

TAL. Nothing.

MARY. Then you mean nothing.

TAL. On the contrary, I mean a lot, but I can't say it.

MARY. Then I wouldn't try.

TAL. I won't. (Sits r. of Mary; slight pause.) I say. Miss Melrose, do
you know I'm dreadfully afraid of you.

MARY. Am I so very terrible?

TAL. You're so fearfully sensible, you know--so satirical and cutting,
and "awfully clever", and I'm _Not_, you know.

MARY. Not what, you know?

TAL. None of that, you know. I'm a--a--muff, that's what I am. I
haven't got a second idea. I don't believe I've got a _first_, but I'll
_swear_ I haven't a second.

MARY. Well, at all events, you're not conceited.

TAL. What on earth have I got to be conceited about? What are my
accomplishments? I can play a fair game of billiards, though I'm too
short-sighted for cricket. I can stick on the maddest horse that ever
gladdened a coroner, and I can smoke like--like Sheffield, Not much to
recommend oneself to a woman, eh?

MARY. I don't know. Miss Melrose, for instance, my rich and handsome
cousin, has a great admiration for the Guy Livingstone virtues.

TAL. Don't like her--at least, don't admire her.

MARY. Why not?

TAL. Because I've been commanded to. Private feelings ain't private
soldiers--you can't order them about and drill them like dolls. Human
nature's obstinate as a rule. Do you know how they get the pigs on
board?

MARY. No.

TAL. Put their noses toward the vesseland then try and pull them away,
backward. The result is that they run up the plank into the vessel
immediately. I'm a pig.

MARY. You don't say so?

TAL. And my sentiments _are_ pig-headed, my governor's are
pig-tailed--that's to say, old-fashioned--the old "school" strict
obedience, marry according to orders, you know, eh? (Nudges her.) Ha!
ha! Some of us know a trick worth two of that, eh?

MARY. Ha! ha! ha!

TAL. (Laughing with her). You're a sharp one, you are.

(Nudges her.)

MARY. So are you.

TAL. Am I, though?

MARY. Only in the elbow. Suppose you sit a little further off; you
never crowd up so closely to Violet.

TAL. No, I'm not given to poaching.

MARY. Poaching! Eggs?

TAL. Eggs be--hatched! Haven't you seen Charley Middlewick loves her as
much as--as (Aside.) I'll go it now--I'm wound up to go it, and go it I
will.

MARY. As much as what?

TAL. As I love you.

Mary (rising). Mr. Champneys!

TAL. {rising). No, no, no, I don't mean that.

MARY. No?

TAL. Yes, yes, I do, but in another way. I mean he doesn't love her
half as much as I love you.

MARY. You don't know your own mind.

TAL. Don't want to. I want to know yours.

MARY. You don't mean half you say. (Moves to L.)

TAL. No, I don't. I mean it all.

MARY. Your father'd disown you.

TAL. So he might if I owned you.

Mary (sitting on sofa, l.). You silly boy, what are you talking about?
I haven't a penny in the world.

TAL. Even if you did possess that humble but heavy coin, it could
scarce be considered capital, could it? A start at housekeeping on a
ha'penny apiece would be a trifle rash, not to say risky.

MARY. Housekeeping, indeed! Well, I like your impudence

TAL. I adore yours.

MARY. I never was impertinent in my life.

TAL. Then don't contradict. When I say, "Be mine,"don't say "Shan't."

MARY. I won't.

TAL. Won't what?

MARY. Say "shan't."

TAL. (crossing to her; delighted). Do you mean it?

Mary (rising), Talbot, you've had too much wine.

TAL. I admit it.

MARY. You have admitted it. If your father suspected this he'd cut you
off with a shilling,

TAL. That's fivepence a piece better than your penny. We're getting on.

MARY. You quite take one's breath away--I don't know what to say.

TAL. Let me say it for you.

MARY. No, no, I never was proposed to before.

TAL. How do you like it?

MARY. But I've read about people proposing, and--and (Innocently.)
They've always gone on their knees.

TAL. I'll go on my head if it'll only please you.

MARY. No, no, don't, it might give way.

TAL. Well, as far as a knee goes--here goes. (Spreads his handkerchief
on floor and kneels on it.) There!

MARY. And then the lover always made a beautiful speech.

TAL. I know. Most adorable of your sex, a cruel parent commands me
to love another--I won't--I can't--I adore you--you alone. I despise
heiresses, I despise Parliamentary honors, a public career, and all
that bosh. (SIR G. and MARY, have appeared; SIR G. now staggers and
supports himself on MID.'s arm.) I prefer love in a cottage. I like
love--I like a cottage, where a fellow can smoke where he likes, and--

SIR G. (coming down c; bursting out). You shall have your wish, sir.
You shall have your love and your cottage, and your smoke and--and
(Breaks down, Talbot--Talbot, what does this mean?

TAL. It means that I've made my own bargain--you can't call it an ugly
one, can you?

(Goes up L. c. with Mary and comes down R. SIR G. over-come.)

MID. (down l., almost unable to control his amusement). Never mind,
Champneys, it might have been worse. She's a proper sort, is Mary.

SIR G. Don't "Champneys" me, sir. I'll--I'll turn him out!

MID. Well, he hasn't turned out himself quite as you fancied he would,
eh? Ha! ha! ha! Who was right in his system now, eh? Ha! ha! ha!

(As he is laughing. Char, heard.)

Char, (without r.). My darling, I'll put the whole matter right in a
moment.

(Enter Charley, holding Violet's hand, c. , from r; pause abruptly on
seeing the others.)

MID. (l.). W-w-what's this, Charles Middlewick? Who is this you are

CHAR. (down r. c, with Violet.). This, father, is my wife, or will be,
when I have your consent.

MID. (crossing to c, overcome with rage). Why, you confounded

SIR G. (l. c, taking up same tone). Insolent, presuming young upstart,
why, I

MID. (c, in rage, to SIR G.). Don't bully my son, sir; don't bully my
son--that's my department.

SIR G. Ha! ha! ha! Finely your system has succeeded, eh? Ha! ha! ha!

MID. We're insulted, defied, both of us. (Excitedly.) Turn your
disobedient cub adrift if you've the courage to stick to your
principles.

SIR G. And kick out your cad of a lad if your sentiments are not a
snare and a delusion.

(Char, and Vic, Tal. and Mary, all in a state of suppressed excitement,
have been earnestly talking in an undertone during the blustering row
of the fathers)

(Enter Clarissa)

MID. So I will, sir, so I will. Charles Middlewick, madam, that boy's
no longer any son of mine. If you accept him you blight his prospects.

CLAR. (down l.). Mr. Middlewick, are you aware that Miss Melrose is--

SIR G. (l. c. violently). Don't you dare to interfere, madam.

VIO. I have accepted him, sir, and I will not blight his prospects.

(Char, and VIO. go up to c. Clarissa joins them. MID., overcome with
rage, crosses to l.)

SIR G. (To c, to Tal.). And as for you, you impostor!

TAL. That'll do. I won't trouble you any longer. I'm off.

(Starts up r. c. with Mary.)

SIR G. Off, sir! where?

TAL. That's my business. (Stops r. c.)

Char, (crossing to Tal. and taking his hand). Yes, our business.

(Mary goes to VIO. up c.)

MID. (l.). Oh, yes--you can go with him if you please, and a good
riddance.

SIR G. (l. c). Go--go and starve.

TAL. (r. c). That we can do without your permission, anyhow. You've
kicked us out remember, father, because, being grown men, we've set
our affections where our hearts have guided us--not your heads, (CLAR.
comes down r. to back of easy chair.) And--and--Charley, finish it. I'm
not an orator, and don't want to be.

WARN curtain

CHAR. (To girls). We'll prove ourselves worthy of you by our own
unaided exertions, and will neither of us ask you to redeem your
promise till we've shown ourselves worthy of your esteem. We can get
our living in London, and rely upon it, you'll never hear of our
distress should we suffer it. (Crosses to VIO.)

CLAR. (r., distressed). Talbot, my dear nephew, you--

SIR G. (r. c, violently). Hold your tongue!

VIO. (half crying; to the fathers). You're a couple of hard-hearted
monsters, and I don't know which I hate the most.

MARY. No--nor which is the uglier of the two.

(Crosses to Tal. CHAR., taking farewell., Violet kisses her, up c. Tal.
taking leave of Mary, up r. c.)

SIR G. (l. c, aside; violently shaking Mid's hand). You've acted
nobly, sir--you--you're a downright Roman father.

RING curtain

MID. (l., reciprocating). You're another.

(The two old men shaking each other's hands violently , but evidently
overcome by mingled emotions. Tal. and CHAR. embrace girls and quick
exit, c. to L.; CLAR. falls on to chair, r.; on the movement of the
scene)


ACT DROP


(Second Picture.--CLAR. discovered fainting; VIO. holding scent bottle
to her nose. Mary at back waving handkerchief on terrace off, R.; Sir
G. on seat, c, overcome. MID., with hands thrust deep into his pockets,
standing doggedly, L.)



ACT III


Scene.--The third floor at Mrs. Patcham's. A very shabby sitting-room
in a third-rate lodging-house, A door, l. Second entry E; a door r. c,
in flat, leading to landing; doors R. 1st E. and R. 2nd E.; fireplace
and mantel-shelf , L.; a shabby old arm chair by fireplace; wooden
stool below fireplace; chair down R.; a table, c., On which are re-
mains of breakfast--very common teapot with broken spout, a small stale
remains of a loaf, two egg-cups, with the shells of eggs in them, brown
sugar in a cup, etc,; hat rack up r.; small table up c, with penny
bottle of ink, pens and paper and a few books. A tapping heard at the
door, repeated, and then Belinda, a slatternly lodging-house servant,
puts her head in. She is dirty and ragged; small maid's cap tipped on
right side of head. Walks with a halting, tragic step.

LIGHTS full up.

BEL. Was you ringing? Please, was you a--(Enters, carrying an empty
coal box,) Neither of 'em here. Bother them cinders, if I had my way
with 'em I'd chuck 'em out of winder instead of having to carry 'em
down--stairs as careful as coals. Coals! Precious few of them the young
gents has, and prices a-rising dreadful. For they are gents, if they do
buy only kitchen ones and has 'em in by the yunderd. What a fire! it's
as pinched up as--

(Gets down on knees before fire and is about to give it a vigorous poke
when she is restrained by the entrance of Talbot., R. 1st E. He is
shabby, and a great contrast to his former showy self.)

TAL. {down r. c, sharply'). Now then!

BEL. [turning with the poker in her hand). Eh?

TAL. (crossing l. c). What are you going to do?

BEL. Only going to--

TAL. Of course. Strike a little fire like that, it's cowardly.

(Takes poker from her.)

BEL. Shall I put some more coal on? (Rises.)

TAL. Certainly not.

BEL. You wouldn't let it go out?

TAL. Why not? It's a free country. (Crosses to table.)

BEL. (aside). Sometimes I think they're both a little (Touches her
head,) It's too much study, that's what it is. (Sweeps up the hearth.)

TAL. (aside). Capital girl, this; simple and honest. A downright
daughter of the soil, and carries her parentage in her countenance.
Perhaps you had better put a pinch or two on. Mr. Middlewick will be in
directly. (She goes into room, L. 2nd e.) He'll be cold, poor fellow,
though, of course, he'll swear he isn't. (Crosses to fireplace and
sits.) I'm getting uneasy about Charley. Ever since I was seedy, and he
sat up so much with me I've noticed a change in him; if he--(CRASH
outside)--doesn't improve I shall (Crash of coals heard.) There's a
suspicious, not to say a shallow, sound about those coals.

(Enter BEL. with shovel of coals. Crosses back of table to r. and then
down to c.)

BEL. (c). I tell you what, sir, your coals are dreadful low.

TAL. Low! Blackguardly, I call them!

BEL. I can easily order some more when I go to Loppit's!

TAL. Just so. Whether Loppit would see it in the same light's a
question. There is already a trifling account which

BEL. Oh, Loppit can wait.

TAL. He can--short weight. By the way, I saw some boxes in the hall.

BEL. (crossing to fireplace in front of Tal.). Yes, missus has gone out
of town for a fortnight, and

(Is about to put on the lot of coal.)

TAL. (pushing her back). Gently--a bit at a time. (Takes up a piece
with the tongs,) There--there (Business.) I say, Belinda, if Loppit
were to call his coals "not so dusty" it would be paying them a
compliment, wouldn't it?

BEL. Ha! ha! ha! Well, you are a funny gent, you are.

(As Tal. makes up the fire Charley, enters, d. in f. He too is shabby,
and looks worn. He carries some papers and MSS., and a large, well-worn
gazetteer which he places on table at back.)

Char, (coming down r. c). Hallo! Talbot, old man, what are you doing
now?

TAL. Giving Belinda a lesson in domestic economy--you know a severe
winter always hardens the coal-merchant's heart.

CHAR. Yes, yes.

(Takes off gloves and hat, goes up, places them on table up r. c.)

TAL. And they're simply going up like--like

CHAR. Smoke!

TAL. There! (Has done fire, stands before it, facing CHAR.; BEL. takes
back shovel into room,) I consider I make a first-rate fire.

Char, (up r. c). Yes, you don't make a bad screen.

TAL. I beg your pardon.

(Moves aside. Sits in armchair l., by fireplace.)

CHAR. Don't mention it. The attitude and position are thoroughly
insular and Britannic. It is a remarkable fact that an Englishman who
never turns his back on the fire of an enemy invariably does it with
his friends. (Moves to r.)

TAL. (aside). We've got our ''sarcastic stop" on this morning, eh?
Well, Charley, I suppose you did no good with Gripner?

CHAR. I had a highly interesting interview with that worthy publisher.
(Belinda. enters l. 2nd e., crosses slowly, and exits door in flat.
They both look at her,) I thought YOU thought that the poem I commenced
at Cologne for amusement had some stuff in it! (Sits r. of table.)

TAL. (rising, crossing, sitting l. of table). Stuff! Ha--full-of-it.

CHAR. Exactly. Partial friends have declared I had a real vein of
poetry, but Gripner--ha! ha! He--well, he disguised his sentiments by
assuring me poetry was a mere drug in the market. He'd also thrown his
eye on those social sketches I'd thought were rather smart, but he said
he knew at least fifty people who can roll out such things by the ream.
However, he's given us a dozen pages apiece for his new gazetteer. We
begin in the middle of M--you can start at Mesopotamia, and work your
way on at ten shillings a column. (Rises and hands him papers,) It's
bread and cheese! (Moves to r.)

TAL. (seated l. of table). I should think so. Ten shillings a column.
(Unfolds papers; printed sheets.) By Jove, they are columns though.
Regular Dukes of York. Penny a lining's coining compared to it. I can't
say at the moment I know much about Mesopotamia, but

CHAR. (going up to table at back and getting gazetteer). I remembered
old Mother Patcham had a dilapidated gazetteer down-stairs, so I
borrowed it, and you can copy the actual facts.

(Hands book to Tal.)

TAL. Just so. Put it all in different language.

CHAR. Yes, the more indifferent the better.

TAL. (exanmiing book). Her book's about twenty years old; never
mind--I'll double the population everywhere--that'll do it.

Char, (sitting l. of table). Talking about population, I've had an
interview with the agent for emigration to Buenos Ayres--he rather
pooh-poohed us as emigrants. They don't want gentlemen.

TAL. We don't appear in particular request anywhere. It seems absurd to
be hard-up in the Cattle Show week.

CHAR. Our governors are up in town, I'll swear.

TAL. Mine never missed the show for forty years. I can see him
critically examining the over-fed monsters--punching the pigs and
generally disturbing the last hours of the vaccine victims.

CHAR. Whom I envy. What a glorious condition is theirs--fed on the
daintiest food--watched and waited on like princes--admired by
grazing--I mean gazing crowds, and...

TAL. Eventually eaten, don't forget that. I'll go as far as the sheep
with you, they CAN do what we CAN'T.

CHAR. What's that?

TAL. Get a living out of their PENS.

CHAR. Beginning to joke now. You're a changed being, Talbot.

TAL. Yes. Genuine " hard-upishness " is a fine stimulant to the
imagination. The sensation of four healthy appetites a day, with

CHAR. The power of only partially appeasing two

TAL. Exactly--makes a fellow

CHAR. Thin, Our cash is assuming infinitesimal proportions, Talbot. We
must still further reduce our commissariat. I've been calculating, and
I find that henceforth bacon at breakfast must be conspicuous by its
absence.

TAL. Bacon--the word suggests philosophy, so with many thanks for past
favors, " bye-bye. Bacon" (Kisses his hands,)

CHAR. When we first parted with our convertible property, we had hope
in our hearts and cash in our money box. Now things don't look rosy we
must bow to circumstances. " Tempora mutantur."

TAL. "Et nos mutamur in illis."

CHAR. Which being loosely translated

TAL. Means that we must give up the Times and take in the Telegraph,

CHAR. We've parted with a good many things, Talbot, but we've stuck to
one--our word. We've never appealed to a relation.

TAL. Except, of course, a certain avuncular relative who

CHAR. Shall be nameless. Just so--but our governors must have
discovered by this time that our determination was no empty boast, and
Violet and Mary have never heard a word from either of us. No one can
say we've shown the white feather.

TAL. (rising). One minute--I must clean my boots. (Takes up hoots which
are on mantel at fireplace, and brings blacking-bottle from corner with
a bit of stick in it, and boot brushes.)

CHAR. Why on earth do you always begin to...

TAL. (l., blacking boot). Always begin to clean my boots when you talk
about Violet and Mary? Because I feel it's necessary at the mention of
their names to work off my super abundant and irrepressible emotion. I
feel if I don't have a go in at my boots, I shall do some awful (Begins
to brush violently,) Now go it!

CHAR. Do you know, Talbot, I could almost swear I saw Violet today?

TAL. (crossing quickly to table). You don't say so?

CHAR. And I vow I saw Mary.

TAL. Hah! (To l. c.) brushes with tremendous violence,)

CHAR. I don't think they saw me, but

TAL. (at the boot). What a shine there'll be in a moment!

CHAR. For I dodged behind a cab and

(Enter BEL., d. in f.)

TAL. And got away without

BEL. (down r. c, brusquely). What are you doing of? (Crosses l. c.)
Drop them boots.

TAL. Belinda!

BEL. I clean the lodgers' boots. And it's my place to clean yours--if
you are a third floorer.

(Takes boot and brush from Tal.; crosses l., front of Tal.)

TAL. (l. c, aside), A third floorer!

CHAR. Belinda, don't talk as if you were reporting a prize fight.

(BEL. cleans boots l.; sits on floor,)

TAL. And deal gently with the heels; they won't be trifled with.

Char, (rising, crossing to door, r. 2nd e.). I've got a deuce of
a headache, Talbot, and as I want a good afternoon's dig at the
gazetteer, I'll go and lie down a bit in my den.

TAL. (crossing to CHAR.) Do. I heard you walking up and down the room
half the night; you're getting ill!

CHAR. Not a bit, old man, not a bit. Nerves a little shaky, that's
all--that's all. (Exit, R. 2nd E.)

BEL. (l.). I tell you what--it's my o'pinion you wasn't half as ill as
you'll soon have Mr. Middlesexes!

(BEL. calls him "Middlesexes")

TAL. (down, r. c.). Middle-WICK, Belinda. It's the natural obstinacy of
your nature to call people out of their names. My name being Champneys,
you call me Chimneys--had it been Chimneys you'd have had it Chimbleys,
of course. (Aside.) She's right, though. I'll go and ask Barnard to
come round and see him. (Takes up hat,) I shall be in soon. By the way,
those breakfast things are not an ornament--if, in a lucid interval,
you should feel disposed to take them down-stairs, I shall not feel
offended. (Exit, d. in f.)

BEL. (rising slowly, putting boot down and crossing, while talking,
to back of table). He's a queer young gent, that; so are both of 'em.
But, somehow, We've took to 'em--took to 'em tremendous. I wonder
who they are. I'm sure they're GENTLEmen 'cos they can't do nothing
for a living. Then they don't bully a poor lodging-house slavey.
"Slavey"--that's what they call me, but, somehow, it don't seem rude
like from them. Missis says they're "under a cloud," she thinks, and
she's always in a regler [regular] fluster every Saturday till they've
paid their rent. Ha, well, they knows their own business (the door in
flat opens and SIR G. enters, then MID., BEL. is placing the things on
tray) best, I suppose. Couldn't stand by and see him a-blacking his

SIR G. (r. of BEL.). He-hem!

(BEL. starts.)

MID. (other side of her). He-hem!

BEL. Bless us, who are you?

(Retires up a little and stands frightened watching them. The two old
gentlemen look round the room with a rueful expression of countenance.
SIR G. goes down r. c. MID. down l. c. , and approach each other back
to back, bumping into each other at c.)

MID. (c. l.). Well!

SIR G. (c. r.). Well!

MID. a--here we are.

SIR G. Confound it, sir, don't talk like a clown.

MID. I won't. (Aside, miserably). I don't feel like one. Pantaloon, and
a worse treated one than ornery's more in my way a deal.

SIR G. (looking around; moving to r. c). Why--why it's a mere garret.

MID. Where did you expect to find 'em? At Claridge's Hotel? or the
Langham? Perhaps you hoped to see 'em driving mail feeatons in the
Park, or a-lolling out of a swell club winder in Pall Mall. (Moves to
l. c.) Garret as you call it, I don't see as it's so oncomfortable.

SIR G. (r. c. in broken voice). I'm glad you think so, sir, I'm glad
you think so.

MID. (l. c. aside, in tone of pity). Poor dear boy, to think he should
have come to this!

SIR G. (affecting harshness). Not that I relent in any way. Oh, no, no.

MID. (assuming same tone). Nor I, nor I! As they make their beds so
they must lie.

BEL. (overhearing, coming down c. between them). Bless your 'art, sir,
they never make their own beds.

MID. He--hem! (Aside.) The servant. The very image of the gal as waited
on me when I lived in a attic in Pulteney Street. It's my belief as
nature keeps a mould for lodginghouse servant gals and turns 'em out
'olesale like buttons. She's the identical same gal--same to a smudge.
(To her.) These young men here, are they pretty comfortable and all
that?

BEL. (aside). Pumping! Who are they? (To them.) Pretty well.

MID. Do they--do they dine at home?

BEL. No--they breakfusseses!

(Goes up c. to back of table.)

SIR G. Oh, they breakfusseses. Is that--or rather was that their
breakfast?

BEL. Yes.

MID. (up to l. of table, aside; taking up egg). Shop 'uns. Sixteen a
shilling. I knows 'em. (Puts it down,) To think Charley should have to
(Breaks down.)

SIR G. (up to r. of table; through his glasses). Good Heavens! what
dreadful looking butter!

(BEL. goes r.)

MID. (l. of table, faintly), Dossit--my dear sir--inferior Dossit!
(Aside,) Precious inferior.

SIR G. (r. of table), Dorset, man, Dorset!

MID. (in rage). Come here, I say, you know--you may be at home in
all matters of _h_etiquette, and gene_h_allogy--and such like, but
dammy, do let me know something of butter. I tell you that it's
Dossit--Dossit--that's what it is--and what's more it's a two _h_ounce
pat!

SIR G. (stiffly). On such a minute matter of professional detail I
cannot, of course, attempt to argue. (Goes up r. c.)

MID. (l. c. aside). Now that's all put on. Inside he's a suppressed
_h_earthquake. He's a-longing to throw his arms round his boy; but he
wants me to give in first. (Beckons to BEL., who has got down r. She
sidles across to him and always approaches both him and SIR G. in that
manner. He talks aside to BEL.)

SIR G. (aside, crossitig to r., up.). His rage is only a safety valve
for his pent-up affection; poor fellow, he'd like me to propose a
truce, but it's not for a man in my position to succumb to sentiment.
I've only to wait, and his feelings, which are stronger--I may say
coarser than mine, are sure to melt.

(Continues to examine room up r.)

MID. (l. c. to BEL.). And how's their appetites--pretty 'arty?

BEL. (c). Fine. I often hear 'em telling one another what they've had
for dinner, but when I see the way they devours their tea--do you know,
I sometimes fancy

MID. Yes?

BEL. As they've had no dinner at all.

(SIR G. comes down r.)

MID. (after slight pause, in a low voiced . No--no dinner at all.
(Turns aside, and places his hand at his heart for a moment,
shading his eyes with his other one,) Here--you seem a decent young
woman--here's a half-sovereign--not a word. We're friends of friends
of these young men. Speak out truthfully. Did you ever hear them speak
of--of their relations?

(BEL. backs up a little,)

SIR G. (r.). Yes, yes, friends, belongings--a--speak out!

BEL. Oh, yes, and more than once, by accident--for I ain't got time for
listening--I heard 'em say they'd rather starve than write to 'em.

MID. (overcome). Did ihey--_did_ they? (Sits l. of table.)

SIR G. (r., proudly). That was firmness--pride!

MID. From your point of view. Being a tradesman, I call it obstinacy.

SIR G. Fostered in _your_ case by a system of absurd laxity.

MID. (aside.) And that to the man as he called a Roman father!

BEL. But at one time--when one of 'em was taken ill

(together) SIR G. & MID. (rising) What!

SIR G. (crossing to BEL., grabbing her right hand). Ill! Ill, girl--not
VERY ill?

MID. (grabbing BEL.'s left arm almost fiercely). Which was it?

SIR G. Yes--speak, woman--which--not--not--the shorter one, the one
with the light hair, who

BEL. Yes, him.

(MID. moves l. c.)

SIR G. (overcome; in broken voice). But he--it got better?

BEL. Yes. (Backing a little.) Thanks to the other gent, who waited on
him hand and foot, and never took his clothes oft' for a week, looking
after his friend and attending to him for all the world as if he'd been
his brother.

(SIR G. goes to MID., l. c, grasps his hand, with a sob aside. MID.
silently returns the grasp, each holding head down. BEL. moves r. c.)

MID. (after pause; low voice; crossing down c. in front of SIR G.).
And--and the other--who--who helped his sick friend so--so noble.

BEL. (r. c). Well, it's my opinion he's in a worse way than the other,
though he won't own it.

MID. (very faintly, and ill grief). No--no

(Staggers slightly back. SIR G. supports him.)

SIR G. (gently, aside to MID.). Come--come, old friend, be a man
(giving way), be a man as--as I am--don't give way. I'm firm--firmer
than--than ever.

(Blows his nose to hide his emotion. Goes up a little, then crosses to
r. at back.)

MID. What--what makes you fancy so?

BEL. Well, when he first come he was cheerful and happy, but bit by
bit--as he got shabbier--he grew quieter like--and sometimes I've spoke
to him three or four times afore he seemed to know I was a-speaking, and

MID. (aside). Poor boy! Poor boy!

(Crosses L. and sits on stool.)

SIR G. (coming down r. and sitting; aside). And he helped and nursed
Talbot--I wish I'd come here sooner.

BEL. (backing up c.; aside). Who can they be? I don't like leaving
'em here, and all the lodgers' private papers about. There's a sort of
County Court look about the short one. I've seen bailiffs enough in my
time, and it ain't a bit unlikely as

SIR G. (rising, r.). Middlewick, something must be done. We--we mustn't
forget ourselves and become maudlin, you know.

MID. (rising l., pulling himself together). No, no, certainly not.

SIR G. (r.). After all, we did everything for them, and they showed a
shameful return.

MID. (l., convincing himself ), Yes, yes, so they did, so they did.

SIR G. Defied us.

MID. No mistake about it, and when you turned 'em out

SIR G. You turned them out.

MID. You suggested it first.

SIR G. Well, well, they've eaten the leek.

MID. Ye-es, there ain't much nourishment in leeks, though I admit,
relishy.

SIR G. I see you're giving way. (Sharply.) You're thawing.

MID. Me "thawring!" not me. But you was saying as something must be
done, and I says ditto. Anonymous, of course.

SIR G. (to r. c). Quite so; permit me to arrange it.

(BEL. is at back of table. SIR G., r. c, turns and beckons her to
approach. She appears frightened, looks at him earnestly and then
slowly sidles to wall at extreme R. at back, then down R. wall to front
and stops extreme R. SIR G. beckons her again and she comes toward him
in long side steps, stopping between each one suspiciously. When she
gets close to SIR G. he continues his speech.)

SIR G. Young woman, there's something in your face thoroughly
honest--the frequent contact with cinders, or whatever it may be,
cannot conceal your innate truthfulness; your face is a picture, and I
am old-fashioned enough not to object to a picture in a black frame. I
prefer it.

BEL. (aside). Soft sawder. Something's a-coming.

SIR G. (c). In the first place, you mustn't say anything of our visit,
and when the young men come in you must give them an envelope.

MID. (l. c). Two--two _h_envelopes.

BEL. (standing back). Not if I know it. (Aside,') A summons, of course.
(To them.) I don't know neither of you gentlemen, but I wouldn't do
nothing as would bring any harm to our third floorers for nothing as
you could offer me. (SIR G. stands deep c. with BEL. and MID. d. on
either side.) And, perhaps, you'll be good enough to take back your
'arf crown.

(BEL. crosses quickly in front of SIR G. and slaps the half crown into
MiD.'s hand, and then goes up to take tray from table.)

SIR G. (going r., aside). Remarkable! But I never could understand the
lower classes.

MiD. (to l., aside). If that 'arf sovereign doesn't blossom into a
fi-pun note before the day's out my name ain't Middlewick.

SIR G. But whatever you do don't mention that--What's that? some one
coming up the stairs?

BEL. {going to door in flat). Yes.

SIR G. We mustn't be seen.

MID. Not for the world. What's this?

(Goes to door, l. 2nd e.)

BEL. (up c). That's what the gents calls their _h_omnium
gatherum--where they keeps--

SIR G. (to door, r. 1st e.). Is this Talbot's--I mean, Mr.--

BEL. Chimneys' room? yes, but you mustn't

(SIR G. bolts into door, r. 1st e., as a tap is heard, d. f., and shuts
door. MID. is peeping into room, l,. 2nd e., when a tapping is heard
and a loud "He-hem.")

MID. Get us out of this without the lodgers seeing us and I'll--

(Bolts into room as door in flat slowly opens; he does not see who
it is. Enter CLAR., dressed in walking dress and carrying a reticule
[drawstring hand bag]. Business of CLAR. and BEL. scrutinizing each
other.)

CLAR. (up r. c). Young woman, are the gentlemen who lodge up here both
out?

BEL. (Up c). Yes'm. (Aside,) One is, and t'other's a-lying down and
don't want worrying.

CLAR. Phew! (Sits r. of table; aside). This is the servant, the young
woman Mr. Warrington, the detective, told me was "a good sort"--an odd
phrase, but expressive. (BEL. goes L. and down to fireplace; always
watching CLAR. ) If I hadn't employed him the poor young men might
have done something dreadful, with their pride and their sense of
independence and all that.

BEL. (down l.). Was you wanting to see either of 'em?

CLAR. Well, no, not just now. (BEL. sits on floor and brushes hearth,
etc. CLAR., aside.) Geoffry, after discovering everything by shamefully
intercepting one of Mr. Warrington's letters, thinks to frighten me
with threats of even stopping my allowance and turning me out of his
house if I communicate with Talbot. Bah! he's my own nephew, and he
shan't starve whilst his Aunt Clarissa's got a penny in the world.
His father may act like a brute, and so may Mr. Middlewick, but--ugh!
Cattle Show, indeed. Coming to stare at a collection of adipose sheep,
all sleep and suet; at islands of lean in oceans of obesity, called
by courtesy cows; and a parcel of plethoric and apoplectic pigs, their
own sons all the while wasting away to shadows. (Brings out fowl, ready
trussed, from reticule,) Mrs. Patcham's out of town, isn't she?

BEL. Yes'm.

CLAR. Then there won't be any one in the kitchen?

BEL. Not a soul, 'cept me and the beetles.

CLAR. Very good. Your fire's in, of course? (Rises.)

BEL. Trust me. Missus and the fire ain't never out together. (Brushes
hearth.)

CLAR. Very good--then follow me.

(Exit, d. f., carrying the fowl; leaves bonnet on a chair, r. of
table.)

BEL. (jumping up). Here I say (Goes to d., f.) She don't mean no harm.
She's a relation of one of the gents, she is. (Listens.) She skips down
them kitchen stairs like a--

(KNOCK outside.)

(A distant knock heard at front door. Comes to back of table.) These
breakfast thingsll be here all day. Bother--

(A DOOR slams outside.)

the knocker! (Takes up things on tray; a door slams.) Oh, Mrs.
Radcliffe's opened the front door for me. A nice woman that. Always
ready to save a poor girl's legs. Bless my 'art, I forgot all about
them two parties in ambush. Well, they must wait until I--

(Goes toward door in flat with tray, as enter d. f., VIO. then Mary.,
BEL. backs away to c.)

VIO. (up r. c). This is the third floor, I believe. That very nice old
lady who opened the door said that

(Both girls timid.)

Mary (up r. c, l. of VIO.). Oh, if you please, is Mr. Champneys in?

VIO. Or Mr. Middlewick?

BEL. No, miss. (Backs a little to l. c.)

Both. How are they?

BEL. Well, really--a

VIO. (crossing at back to BEL.). They are not ill--Mr. Middlewick is
not Ill?

BEL. No, miss.

VIO. (aside to Mary). Isn't it a dreadful place?

Mary (crossing l. front of table). Poor dear Talbot!

VIO. (coming down r. c). Oh, Charley! (Turns to BEL.) Are they likely
to be long?

BEL. (up c). Can't say.

Mary (l.). Are the gentlemen out much?

BEL. Yes, miss.

VIO. (r.). Late?

BEL. Don't know. They both has latch keys.

VIO. Mary, we'll wait till they come in and surprise them. (Crosses to
MARY.)

Mary (l.). If it's _proper_. (Speaks to BEL.) I suppose they never have
any visitors?

BEL. Well, as to that, you see--

VIO. (l. c, aside). The girl seems confused. I almost wish I hadn't
come. I always was of a suspicious nature. I--

(LOUD crash off R.)

--can't help it. Mary believes in everybody, but I--

(tremendous crash in room, r. 1st e. BEL. rushes wildly across and
grabs door-knob, standing with her back to door to bar their entrance,)

--What's that?

BEL. (at door, r. 1st e.). N-nothing, miss.--It's a printing machine
next door. When it's at work it throbs like a regler 'edache,

VIO. (To r. c.). Whose room's that? (Points to door, r. 2nd e,)

BEL. Mr. Middlesexes.

MARY. Middle_wick_. I've a very good mind to

(Moves toward door, r. 2nd e. BEL. hastily Jumps before it. VIO. to c.)

BEL. You mustn't go there.

Mary (down r. c, aside to VIO.). Do you see her alarm?

VIO. (to l. c). Am I blind?

MARY. No, but perhaps we both have been, (Goes to back of chair, r. c.
Screams at sight of bonnet on chair; r. of table, in a low voice to
VIO.) Look--look there!

VIO. (crossing and picking up bonnet; in horror), A human bonnet.
Girl! (Seizes BEL. by the arm and drags her down R.) Don't prevaricate.
Speak the truth and I'll give you more money than you ever had in your
life!

(Mary down l. c.)

BEL. (r., half crying), I don't know what's a-coming to everybody this
blessed day--I wish missus would come back.

VIO. Whose is this? (Shakes bonnet at BEL.)

BEL. (r.). a lady's, of course.

VIO. (R. c). You hear, Mary?

Mary (l. c, tearfully). Oh, don't speak to me!

BEL. But she's a nice sort of woman as ever lived and she says she's as
fond of

VIO. Of which?

BEL. Of both of them.

MARY. The wretch!

CRASH off LEFT

VIO. This is no place for us, Mary. ( Crosses and throws bonnet in
chair L. of table. Crash heard, room L. Grabs Mary with a half scream.)
That's not a printing machine.

(BEL. rushes across to door l. 2nd E. Stands with back against it,)

MARY. I will see who--I mean what's in that room. (Up to BEL.) Stand
aside, girl.

BEL. 'Scuse me, that's the gents' private apartment--their _h_lominum
gatherum, and--

VIO. (drawing Mary down l. c). Come, Mary. We've been two fools, dear,
and we

(As they go toward D. F., CHAR., from r. 2nd^., and Tal. from D. F.,
enter; slight pause,)

TAL. (up R. c). Mary!

Char, (down r.). Violet! Can I believe my eyes!

VIO. (c. ). I can. And my ears. So can Mary.

Mary (c. l. of VIO.). Implicitly.

(BEL. anxiously advances to l. c, at back.)

CHAR. But, Violet, this is so unexpected--

VIO. (sarcastically). Evidently.

CHAR. So--so bewildering. So inexplicable, and

TAL. So jolly rum! (Comes down l. c.)

Mary (c. l., coldly). Quite so.

CHAR. (r.). But how--how did you--

TAL. (l.). Did you find us out?

VIO. (c. r.). Never mind. Suffice it to say, Mr. Middlewick, that

MARY. That we have--

VIO. "Found you out."

(The girls curtsey; the men dumbfoundered.)

CHAR. You saw me in the street.

VIO. Probably. We were foolish enough to think you--we thought your
silence proof of your truth--we deceived ourselves

MARY. Don't, Violet! Where's your spirit? Let us leave them to their
own consciences, if they have any. (They go up to door in flat; stop;
point to BEL., who is up l. c.) This is evidently a well-trained
confederate. Henceforth we are strangers.

VIO. Utter strangers.

(They exeunt d. f. After a pause of dismay, Tal. and Char, rush to
BEL., and drag her forward. Tal., l., CHAR., r.)

TAL. What have you been saying to those ladies?

BEL. Nothink. But they called me a corn-fed-rat, and I ain't a-goin'
to bear it. Look here, ladies, I (Goes quickly to door in flat, turns
at door in imitation of Mary, repeats her lines) "Where's your spirit?
Let us leave them to their own consciences if they have any. This is
evidently a well-trained corn-fed-rat. Henceforth we are strangers."
(Bangs door open and exits. All of above burlesque exaggeration of
MARY. CHAR. and Tal. look at each other.)

CHAR. This is some conspiracy. Somebody's been villifying us--they
shan't leave without one word of explanation, though. (Exit, D. F.)

(Tal. goes to fireplace, his back to the door of the room where his
father is.)

TAL. The girls don't mean it--can't mean it. Unless our determined
silence has seemed suspicious, and--slightly altering the
poet--suspicion ever haunts the female mind--always admitting there is
such a thing as a female mind, which I'm beginning to doubt

(Sits in armchair at fireplace and leans head on hand. SIR G. opens
door a little; it hides him from Tal.)

SIR G. (r., to himself). They've all gone. Not one syllable could I
distinguish; but women's voices, and at high words, were only too
evident. This comes of leaving two headstrong lads to the temptations
of town. Oh, Talbot, I knew you were not a genius, but I did hope you
would never forget you were a gentleman!

(Char, re-enters quickly door r. c. in flat; as he does so, SIR G.
steps back, nearly closing the door; the side of the room is set
obliquely so that he is perfectly visible to audience, though unseen by
those on the stage. MID. enters a little way,)

Char, (coming down r. c). Well, upon my life, they're a pretty pair.

MID. (aside). Ah, I was sure I heard two of 'em.

CHAR. (flinging himself into a chair r. of table). A couple of
beauties, I do think.

MID. (aside). So do I. A nice noisy couple whoever they were. Pretty
acquaintances for two young chaps as bragged of their fidelity!

TAL. (rising). Fact is they've got tired of waiting for us. They see
we're poor--and are likely to keep so. What a confounded draft there is
from that--

(Goes to close door of his room, r. h.; SIR G. advances; Tal. back
to c.; Char, rises, comes down l. of Tal.; MID. enters further
simultaneously; both indignant,)

MID. (coming down l.). SIR Geoffry, you heard, of course.

SIR G. (r.). Not a word could I distinguish, for my hearing is utterly
failing me. But you heard women's voices?

MID. Distinctly--even through the row of some confounded machine--a
printer's, I fancy--next door.

SIR G. Though we could not distinguish a word your female friends said,
some of yours reached us, and but too plainly indicated the familiar
terms which--Oh, Talbot, I had hoped there would be still something of
dignity and self-denial to qualify your absurdly Quixotic conduct, but
I was mistaken. From your birth I mapped out your future, and hoped and
prayed it should be a bright one, and now I find my son, my only child,
who should have been my joy and pride, prove himself not only wilful
and wrong-headed--I could have looked over that--but a profligate, and
that, Talbot Champneys, I never will forgive.

CHAR. (c. l.). Don't speak, Talbot; let me. So, sirs, you have been
playing the spy upon your sons.

MID. Don't exasperate me, Charles Middlewick, and no smug-faced
shamming. We've hunted you out, ready to forgive everything,
but--a--there--I knew you were thoughtless, careless, reckless even,
but I never dreamt you had a bit of vice in your whole nature,

Char, (aside). This is too much; the last straw breaks--

TAL. (c. r.). Who knows this is the last straw? After what I've heard
recently I'm prepared for an entire stack.

CHAR. You are not the only people who have misjudged us.

TAL. No; others who were here but recently actually--

SIR G. Pray, sir, spare us the opinions of such persons. Talbot, I--I
blush for you.

MID. There's no shame in you. You're worse than your companions who
were here just now.

TAL. (sharply). What do you mean by that?

MID. Eh?

TAL. Ladies whom you will mention with respect, if you please. If we
have been ill-treated by them it is not for you, no, sir, nor you (to
his father) to speak slightingly of them before us.

SIR G. (aside). Brazening it out. To think that six months in this
abominable city should have obliterated all sense of shame, all sense
of self-respect. Oh, London, London, what a lengthy list of such sad
cases lies at your debasing door!

CHAR. For my part, as regards Miss Melrose

MID. Don't mention her. (Aside.) How dare he speak of that regler lady
and true woman in the very teeth of such--bah!

CHAR. I am sorry to see you still bear a resentment in that quarter.

TAL. And as I should never care for any woman but Mary--

SIR G. (Indignantly). You insult me by mentioning her name at such a
time.

TAL. And as all is over between us

SIR G. Ha! ha! I should think so. Eh, Middlewick?

MID. Depend upon it, the cousins know all.

SIR G. Ay, ay, trust a woman for finding out all she wants, and
sometimes a deuced deal more. This accounts for their suddenly
departing for the Continent last week.

MID. Of course; where no doubt they're endeavoring to dispel their
sorrow.

SIR G. Just so. In the vortex of Parisian society.

MID. Strolling up and down the bully-vards and the Bore de Boolong.
Showing them sailer-faced foreigners what good, 'olesome looking
English gals are.

SIR G. Yes, yes. (Warming.) I can see them.

MID. (working it up). So can I.

SIR G. The dear creatures! That puss, Mary, has quite wound herself
round my heart. An artful, winning little beauty.

MID. And as for the 'aughty one, we've got that friends I wouldn't see
her wronged or insulted for Ugh!

SIR G. Aah!

(With exclamations of disgust, they go up. SIR G. crosses at back to
l. and joins MID. Char, and Tal. gaze blankly at each other, both
stupefied.)

TAL. Charley, does your father drink?

CHAR. No. Is lunacy hereditary in your family?

TAL. Never heard of it. I say, football's a capital game, for the feet.
(SIR G. and MID. come down l.) But the ball has a somewhat invidious
and one-sided sort of place of it, hasn't he? I don't care for any more
abuse.

(Turns to R., standing with his back to CHAR., who, while addressing
the fathers, stands facing them with his back to Tal. At the end of his
speech he pulls Tal. around, who speaks facing the fathers with his
back to CHAR. Thus they stand back to back on each speech.)

CHAR. Nor I. (To the fathers.) As we appear by some unfortunate means
of which we know nothing to have grievously offended everybody,
explanations are, of course, impossible. (With solemnity and decision.)
But as--before such an undertaking as--

TAL. Hear! hear! Such an undertaking as we are about to--in short, to
undertake.

CHAR. Quiet and uninterrupted companionship is desirable in order to
finally settle our plans regarding emigration.

(Both the fathers start. Char, goes up and opens door in flat, and then
down r.)

TAL. Just so. And you, having once turned us out, must not feel
surprised if we--(Shrugs his shoulders. Goes up, gets SIR G.'s hat from
table up R, c, then down c. and hands it formally to SiR G.)

MID. Em--emigration! (Goes up and crosses down r. to CHAR.)

SIR G. (l. c). Are you mad, sir? Do you know the time of the
year--winter?

MID. Why, confound it, Charley--I mean, Charles--you're not going to
leave me--to leave England, I mean? What are you both dreaming of?

(SIR G. to l.)

TAL. Nothing now; we've woke up.

SIR G. And where would you--

CHAR. Queensland, or else, perhaps--

(SIR G. goes up to back of table. Tal. crosses to fireplace)

MID. Charley, I can't bear this; you're a-driving me desprit. If--if
you go you'll--You'll break my heart! Dammy, I can't play the Roman
father no longer! (Sinks into a chair, r. of table.)

SIR G. (aside). He's given in--I knew he would. If he hadn't,
I must have done, and it's best as it is. He-hem! We have
been--a--hasty--perhaps, when we were concealed in those rooms--a
(Breaks down.) Talbot--Talbot (Tal. looks at him--he immediately
becomes frigid.) In my case much is at stake. You are my sole--my heir
(With severity.) I--I command you to give up this mad notion. (He is
standing in a proud and authoritative attitude--a contrast to MID., who
is sitting crushed and tearful.)

MID. (seated r. of table). Charley--I--I--implore you!

(Slight pause on picture, SIR G. and MID. at table, with f. Charley l.
and Talbot r.)

TAL. (l., coldly). I regret my inability to obey you.

Char, (r., same tone). Talbot has replied for both.

SIR G. (almost overcome). And this--this is the result of our much
vaunted systems. Even a rod of iron will--

(VIO. and Mary have entered door in flat.)

VIO. (down R., to CHAR., finishing sentence)--Will rust, SIR Geoffry.

MARY. (down l., to Tal.). And the truest steel may fail you when most
you may rely on it.

VIO. Oh, Charley, forgive me--we know all now. Mary. And we're so
ashamed of ourselves!

{The young couples talk eagerly.)

SIR G. (at back of table; looking amazed; to girls). Why--why aren't
you on the Continent?

MARY. Why aren't you at the Cattle Show?

VIO. (to CHAR.) I never imagined you saw me in the street.

MID. (rising). Here, what's this? (To r. c, to VIO.) Why ain't you
abroad? (To l. c, to Mary.) Yes, abroad. (To SIR G.) I'll be hanged if
we ain't. (Goes up l. c. to SIR G.)

VIO. Fancy the two old gentlemen hiding themselves so absurdly, and our
having such horrible--

MARY. But highly natural

TAL. No, no, un-natural

MARY. Suspicions.

MID. We can't have been, and yet they seem to be Ha! ha!

(Gives a violent start on seeing CLAR.'s bonnet in chair l. of table.)

TAL. Upon my life, Charley, that jolly old firework, your father, ought
to be _put out_.

MID. (picking up bonnet). What's that, eh?

SIR G. (seizing it). Yes! No lady was ever seen in such a monstrosity
as that. Combining as it does the concentrated incongruity of Covent
Garden Market with the accumulated imbecility of the Burlington Arcade.

(The girls look surprised at the young men, who can't explain,)

VIO. It is a bonnet.

MARY. And a hideous one.

MID. The question is, whose is it?

(Enter CLAR., d. f.)

CLAR. Mine, if you please--don't crush it. (Comes down, takes it,)

Girls. (together) Miss Champneys!

TAL. Aunt!

SIR G. (severe again). So, Clarissa--madam, you not only come up to
town against my express commands--but--but in an article of attire
which is simply--

MID. Loud--oh, yes, you're a highly sensible woman, but it is loud.

CLAR. That's your opinion. I paid Mr. Warrington to discover my nephew,
and notwithstanding your threats, Geoffry, I preferred to brave your
anger rather than share your regret, when you had perhaps found
your son--the victim of a severe father's system--(crossing down c.
to Tal.) either in the streets or gone Heaven knows where. My dear
nephew--(crossing to CHAR.) Mr. Middlewick (shaking hands), I've heard
how you behaved to him. But you're two scarecrows. I've got a fowl at
the kitchen fire, and as it's only enough for two, we'll all go round
to luncheon at SIR Geoffry's hotel, whilst _you_ (Goes up toward door
in flat.)

MID. Polish off the poultry. Brayvo!

SIR G. (severely). What, sir?

MID. It's no good, don't look severe, SIR Geoffry. (Goes to him.) It
don't suit you.

SIR G. (chafing). But my own sister--a Champneys, cooking a fowl in a
lodging-house kitchen, and I'm positively certain spoiling it--defying
my authority and--

VIO. (crossing to SIR G., brings him down c.; she has slipped her arm
through his). SIR Geoffry, dear SIR Geoffry, don't you think we've all
been a little wrong?

(CLAR. talks with MID., up c.)

SIR G. (pleased). Eh?

VIO. You, especially?

SirG. (huffed). He-hem!

VIO. And that we all ought to beg each other's pardons?

Mary (crossing to SIR G. on other side). Yes, dear SIR Geoffry, and
promise to forget the past, and never do so any more?

VIO. Eh, SIR Geoffry? (Squeezes his arm.)

MARY. Eh, dear SIR Geff.? (Same business.)

SIR G. (pleased, and unable to deny it). Hal ha! SIR Geff. indeed!
(Looks at each admiringly.) You're a couple of syrens. I feel you would
make me forgive anything--except that bonnet--

CHAR. I must own it staggered me, I knew it couldn't be Belinda's.

Both Girls (dropping SIR G's arm, turning, facing boys). Who's Belinda?

(Mary to Tal., VIO. to CHAR.)

TAL. Ha! ha! A slave.

SIR G. What? (Crosses l., then up,)

TAL. Slave of the ring--comes when you pull the bell, you know. (VIO.
goes r. to CHAR.; Mary goes l. to Tal. Enter BEL.) One of the best
girls in England, and the best nurse in the universe, as I well know.

BEL. (coming down r. c). That fowl's a-frizzling itself to regler
fiddle-strings. Why, everybody seems to know everybody else.

(CLAR. joins SIR G. up stage.)

MID. (coming down l. c, beckoning her to him). Here. Have you--have you
got a young man? A sweetheart, you know?

BEL. (c). a young man! He! he! And me two-and-twenty!

MID. Just so. What is he? I mean, what's his business? How does he get
his living?

BEL. He's a butterman.

MID. Is he though? Tell him to call round to-morrow at that address
(giving card), and I'll buy him the best business in the Boro'. (BEL.
goes up dazed. SIR G. comes down L. c.) SIR Geoffry, they're our own
again--our boys.

SIR G. No, no, somebody else's.

(Points to the young couples spooning, CLAR. is explaining to BEL.,
then CLAR. sits r. of table,)

(WARN CURTAIN)

MID. All in good time. (Laughs,) You and your rod of iron, bless your
'art, it wasn't a bar of soap.

SIR G. (shaking hands). Ha! ha! I'm afraid so, and _you_--you a father
of ancient Rome! Ha I ha! Greece is more in your line.

(They go up l. c.)

VIO. (to CHAR.). Yes, yes, Charley, I know I was blind to my own
shortcomings, and was haughty, headstrong, and capricious, whilst _you_
Mary

MARY. I don't think I've been anything in particular, and if I have I'm
not going to admit it.

TAL. Quite right, Mary, nothing like being thoroughly satisfied with
your self, unless it's being more than satisfied with me.

SIR G. (to l. of table.) Clarissa, I was foolish just now. I beg
your pardon. Talbot, dear boy--(down l., shaking hands, crossing r.)
Charles--(shaking hands) I--I see my error.

MID. (comifig down l., c.). Ha! ha!

SIR G. (r. c. stiffly and abruptly at him). And other people's. (MID.
sits R. of tab/e. Sm G., aside to audience.) I'm so happy I--but
I mustn't admit it--a--yet. ( To them. Goes up back of table.) We
haven't understood each other, borne with each other, we haven't
shown sufficient of the glorious old principle of "Give and take."
Sister, boys and girls, old friend (to MID.), hot tempers, hasty
judgments, extreme crotchets, thick-skinned prejudice, theory and rule
run rampant, ignoring the imperfections of pure human nature--these,
henceforth, we throw overboard and rise to brighter realms, even as the
aspiring aeronaut flings away his heavy ballast and floats serenely
through the cloudless sky.

(RING CURTAIN)

(Positions of characters at end of play.) Back row = BEL. and SIR G.
(Standing either side) centre = CLAR. & MID. (Seated at Table) Frount
row = VIO. (Seated before) CHAR. (standing left) opposite Mary (Seated
before) Tal. (Standing r.)


Melody in Orchestra swells as CURTAIN FALLS ON PICTURE


THE END


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