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Title: The Dear Departed
Author: Stanley Houghton
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1303331.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: June 2013
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Dear Departed
Author: Stanley Houghton

*

THE DEAR DEPARTED
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
By
STANLEY HOUGHTON

*

1910

*

CHARACTERS

Mrs. Slater
Mrs. Jordan (Mrs Slater and Jordan are Sisters)
Henry Slater
Ben Jordan (Mr Slater & Jordan are their husbands)
Victoria Slater (A girl of ten)
Abel Merryweather.

*

The action, takes place in a provincial town on a Saturday afternoon.

*

(Note.--The terms "Left" and "Right" in the stage directions refer
to the spectator's left and right, not the actor's.)

*

The scene is the sitting-room of a small house in a lower middle-class
district of a provincial town. On the spectator's left is the window,
with the blinds down. A sofa is in front of it. On his right is a
fireplace with an armchair by it. In the middle of the wall facing
the spectator is the door into the passage. To the left of the door a
cheap, shabby chest of drawers, to the right a sideboard. In the middle
of the room is the table, with chairs round it. Ornaments and a cheap
American clock are on the mantel-piece, in the hearth a kettle. By
the sideboard a pair of gaudy new carpet slippers. The table is partly
laid for tea, and the necessaries for the meal are on the sideboard, as
also are copies of an evening paper and of "Tit-Bits" and "Pearson's
Weekly." Turning to the left through the door takes you to the front
door; to the right, upstairs. In the passage a hat stand is visible.

When the curtain rises Mrs. Slater is seen laying the table. She is
a vigorous, plump, red-faced vulgar woman, prepared to do any amount
of straight talking to get her own way. She is in black, but not in
complete mourning. She listens a moment and then goes to the window,
opens it and calls into the street.

Mrs. Slater (sharply). Victoria, Victoria! D'ye hear? Come in, will you?

(Mrs. Slater closes window and puts the blind straight and then returns
to her ivork at the table. Victoria, a precocious girl of ten, dressed
in colours, enters.)

Mrs. S. I'm amazed at you, Victoria; I really am. How you can be
gallivanting about in the street with your grandfather lying dead and
cold upstairs I don't know. Be off now, and change your dress before
your Aunt Elizabeth and your Uncle Ben come. It would never do for them
to find you in colours.

Victoria. What are they coming for? They haven't been here for ages.

Mrs. S. They're coming to talk over poor grandpa's affairs. Your father
sent them a telegram as soon as we found he was dead. (A noise is
heard.) Good gracious, that's never them. (Mrs. Slater hurries to the
door and opens it.) No, thank goodness! it's only your father.

(Henry Slater, a stooping, heavy man with a drooping moustache, enters.
He is wearing a black tail coat, grey trousers, a black tie and a
bowler hat. He carries a little paper parcel.)

Henry. Not come yet, eh?

Mrs. S. You can see they haven't, can't you. Now, Victoria, be off
upstairs and that quick. Put your white frock on with a black sash.
(Victoria goes out.)

Mrs. S. (to Henry). I'm not satisfied, but it's the best we can do till
our new black's ready, and Ben and Ehzabeth will never have thought
about mourning yet, so we'll outshine them there. (Henry sits in the
armchair by the fire.) Get your boots off, Henry; Elizabeth's that
prying she notices the least speck of dirt.

Henry. I'm wondering if they'll come at all.

When you and Elizabeth quarrelled she said she'd never set foot in your
house again.

Mrs. S. She'll come fast enough after her share of what grandfather's
left. You know how hard she can be when she hkes. Where she gets it
from I can't tell.

(Mrs. Slater unwraps the parcel Henry has brought. It contains sliced
tongue, which she puts on a dish on the table.)

Henry. I suppose it's in the family.

Mrs. S. What do you mean by that, Henry Slater?

Henry. I was referring to your father, not to you. Where are my
slippers?

Mrs. S. In the kitchen; but you want a new pair, those old ones are
nearly worn out. (Nearly breaking down.) You don't seem to realize
what it's costing me to bear up like I am doing. My heart's fit to
break when I see the little trifles that belonged to grandfather lying
around, and think he'll never use them again. (Briskly.) Here! you'd
better wear these slippers of grandfather's now. It's lucky he'd just
got a new pair.

Henry. They'll be very small for me, my dear,

Mrs. S. They'll stretch, won't they? I'm not going to have them wasted.
(She has finished laying the table.) Henry, I've been thinking about
that bureau of grandfather's that's in his bedroom. You know I always
wanted to have it after he died.

Henry. You must arrange with Elizabeth when you're dividing things up.

Mrs. S. Ehzabeth's that sharp she'll see I'm after it, and she'll drive
a hard bargain over it. Eh, what it is to have a low money-grubbing
spirit!

Henry. Perhaps she's got her eye on the bureau as well.

Mrs. S. She's never been here since grandfather bought it. If it was
only down here instead of in his room, she'd never guess it wasn't our
own.

Henry (startled). Amelia! (He rises.)

Mrs. S. Henry, why shouldn't we bring that bureau down here now. We
could do it before they come.

Henry (stupefied). I wouldn't care to.

Mrs. S. Don't look so daft. Why not?

Henry. It doesn't seem delicate, somehow.

Mrs. H. We could put that shabby old chest of drawers upstairs where
the bureau is now. Elizabeth could have that and welcome. I've always
wanted to get rid of it. (She points to the drawers.)

Henry. Suppose they come when we're doing it.

Mrs. S. I'll fasten the front door. Get your coat off, Henry; we'll
change it. (Mrs. Slater goes out to fasten the front door. Henry takes
his coat off. Mrs. Slater reappears.)

Mrs. S. I'll run up and move the chairs out of the way.

(Victoria appears, dressed according to her mother's instructions.)

Vic. Will you fasten my frock up the back, mother?

Mrs. S. I'm busy; get your father to do it.

(Mrs. Slater hurries upstairs, and Henry fastens the frock.)

Vic. What have you got your coat off for, father?

Henry. Mother and me is going to bring grandfather's bureau down here.

Vic. (after a moment's thought.) Are we pinching it before Aunt
Elizabeth comes?

Henry (shocked.) No, my child. Grandpa gave it your mother before he
died.

Vic. This morning?

Henry. Yes.

Vic. Ah! He was drunk this morning.

Henry. Hush; you mustn't ever say he was drunk, now.

(Henry has fastened the frock, and Mrs. Slater appears carrying a
handsome clock under her arm.)

Mrs. S. I thought I'd fetch this down as well. (She puts it on the
mantelpiece.) Our clock's worth nothing and this always appealed to me.

Vic. That's grandpa's clock.

Mrs. S. Chut! Be quiet! It's ours now. Come, Henry, lift your end.
Victoria, don't breathe a word to your aunt about the clock and the
bureau.

(They carry the chest of drainers through the doorway.)

Vic. (to herself.) I thought we'd pinched them.

(After a short pause there is a sharp knock at the front door.)

Mrs. S. (from upstairs). Victoria, if that's your aunt and uncle you're
not to open the door.

(Victoria peeps through the window.)

Vic. Mother, it's them!

Mrs. S. You're not to open the door till I come down. (Knocking
repeated.) Let them knock away.

(There is a heavy humping noise.) Mind the wall,

Henry.

(Henry and Mrs. Slater, very hot and flushed, stagger in with a pretty
old-fashioned bureau containing a locked desk. They put it where the
chest of drawers was, and straighten the ornaments, etc. The knocking
is repeated.)

Mrs. S. That was a near thing. Open the door, Victoria. Now, Henry, get
your coat on. (She helps him.)

Henry. Did we knock much plaster off the wall?

Mrs. S. Never mind the plaster. Do I look all right? (Straightening her
hair at the glass.) Just watch Ehzabeth's face when she sees we're all
in half mourning. (Throwing him "Tit-Bits.") Take this and sit down.
Try and look as if we'd been waiting for them.

(Henry sits in the armchair and Mrs. Slater left of table. They read
ostentatiously. Victoria ushers in Ben and Mrs. Jordan. The latter is
a stout, complacent woman with an impassive face and an irritating air
of being always right. She is wearing a complete and deadly outfit of
new mourning crowned by a great black hat with plumes. Ben is also in
complete new mourning, with black gloves and a band round his hat. He
is rather a jolly little man, accustomed to be humorous, but at present
trying to adapt himself to the regrettable occasion. He has a bright,
chirpy little voice. Mrs. Jordan sails into the room and solemnly goes
straight to Mrs. Slater and kisses her. The men shake hands. Mrs.
Jordan kisses Henry. Ben kisses Mrs. Slater. Not a word is spoken. Mrs.
Slater furtively inspects the new mourning.)

Mrs. Jordan. Well, Amelia, and so he's "gone" at last.

Mrs. S. Yes, he's gone. He was seventy-two a fortnight last Sunday.

(She sniffs back a tear, Mrs. Jordan sits on the left of the table.
Mrs. Slater on the right. Henry in the armchair. Ben on the sofa with
Victoria near him.)

Ben (chirpily). Now, Amelia, you mustn't give way. We've all got to die
some time or other. It might have been worse.

Mrs. S. I don't see how.

Ben. It might have been one of us.

Henry. It's taken you a long time to get here, Elizabeth.

Mrs. J. Oh, I couldn't do it. I really couldn't do it.

Mrs. S. (suspiciously). Couldn't do what?

Mrs. J. I couldn't start without getting the mourning. (Glancing at her
sister.)

Mrs. S. We've ordered ours, you may be sure. (Acidly.) I never could
fancy buying ready-made things.

Mrs. J. No? For myself it's such a relief to get into the black. And
now perhaps you'll tell us all about it. What did the doctor say?

Mrs. S. Oh, he's not been near yet.

Mrs. J. Not been near?

Ben (in the same breath). Didn't you send for him at once?

Mrs. S. Of course I did. Do you take me for a fool? I sent Henry at
once for Dr. Pringle, but he was out.

Ben. You should have gone for another. Eh, Eliza?

Mrs. J. Oh, yes. It's a fatal mistake.

Mrs. S. Pringle attended him when he was alive and Pringle shall attend
him when he's dead. That's professional etiquette.

Ben. Well, you know your own business best, but--

Mrs. J. Yes--it's a fatal mistake.

Mrs. S. Don't talk so silly, Elizabeth. What good could a doctor have
done?

Mrs. J. Look at the many cases of persons being restored to life hours
after they were thought to be "gone."

Henry. That's when they've been drowned. Your father wasn't drowned,
Elizabeth.

Ben (humorously). There wasn't much fear of that. If there was one
thing he couldn't bear it was water.

(He laughs, but no one else does.)

Mrs. J. (pained). Ben! (Ben is crushed at once.)

Mrs. S. (piqued). I'm sure he washed regular enough.

Mrs. J. If he did take a drop too much at times, we'll not dwell on
that, now.

Mrs. S. Father had been "merry" this morning. He went out soon after
breakfast to pay his insurance.

Ben. My word, it's a good thing he did.

Mrs. J. He always was thoughtful in that way. He was too honourable to
have "gone" without paying his premium.

Mrs. S. Well, he must have gone round to the Ring-o'-Bells afterwards,
for he came in as merry as a sandboy. I says, "We're only waiting
Henry to start dinner." "Dinner," he says, "I don't want no dinner, I'm
going to bed!"

Ben (shaking his head). Ah! Dear, dear.

Henry. And when I came in I found him undressed sure enough and snug in
bed. (He rises and stands on the hearthrug.)

Mrs. J. (definitely). Yes, he'd had a "warning." I'm sure of that. Did
he know you?

Henry. Yes. He spoke to me.

Mrs. J. Did he say he'd had a "warning?"

Henry. No. He said, "Henry, would you mind taking my boots off; I
forgot before I got into bed."

Mrs. J. He must have been wandering.

Henry. No, he'd got 'em on all right.

Mrs. S. And when we'd finished dinner I thought I'd take up a bit of
something on a tray. He was lying there for all the world as if he was
asleep, so I put the tray down on the bureau--(correcting herself) on
the chest of drawers--and went to waken him. (A pause.) He was quite
cold.

Henry. Then I heard Amelia calling for me, and I ran upstairs.

Mrs. S. Of course we could do nothing.

Mrs. J. He was "gone?"

Henry. There wasn't any doubt.

Mrs. J. I always knew he'd go sudden in the end.

(A pause, they wipe their eyes and sniff back tears.)

Mrs. S. (rising briskly at length; in a businesslike tone). Well, will
you go up and look at him now, or shall we have tea?

Mrs. J. What do you say, Ben?

Ben. I'm not particular.

Mrs. J. (surveying the table). Well then, if the kettle's nearly ready
we may as well have tea first.

(Mrs. Slater puts the kettle on the fire and gets tea ready.)

Henry. One thing we may as well decide now; the announcement in the
papers.

Mrs. J. I was thinking of that. What would you put?

Mrs. S. At the residence of his daughter, 235, Upper Cornbank Street,
etc.

Henry. You wouldn't care for a bit of poetry?

Mrs. J. I like "Never Forgotten." It's refined.

Henry. Yes, but it's rather soon for that.

Ben. You couldn't very well have forgot him the day after.

Mrs. S. I always fancy "A loving husband, a kind father, and a
faithful friend."

Ben (doubtfully). Do you think that's right?

Henry. I don't think it matters whether it's right or not.

Mrs. J. No, it's more for the look of the thing.

Henry. I saw a verse in The Evening News yesterday. Proper poetry it
was. It rhymed. (He gets the paper and reads) "Despised and forgotten
by some you may be But the spot that contains you is sacred to we."

Mrs. J. That'll never do. You don't say "Sacred to we."

Henry. It's in the paper.

Mrs. S. You wouldn't say it if you were speaking properly, but it's
different in poetry.

Henry. Poetic license, you know.

Mrs. J. No, that'll never do. We want a verse that says how much we
loved him and refers to all his good qualities and says what a heavy
loss we've had.

Mrs. S. You want a whole poem. That'll cost a good lot.

Mrs. J. Well, we'll think about it after tea, and then we'll look
through his bits of things and make a list of them. There's all the
furniture in his room.

Henry. There's no jewellery or valuables of that sort.

Mrs. J. Except his gold watch. He promised that to our Jimmy.

Mrs. S. Promised your Jimmy! I never heard of that.

Mrs. J. Oh, but he did, Amelia, when he was living with us. He was very
fond of Jimmy.

Mrs. S. Well. (Amazed.) I don't know!

Ben. Anyhow, there's his insurance money. Have you got the receipt for
the premium he paid this morning?

Mrs. S. I've not seen it.

(Victoria jumps up fvom the sofa and comes behind the table.)

Vic. Mother, I don't think grandpa went to pay his insurance this
morning.

Mrs. S. He went--out.

Vic. Yes, but he didn't go into the town. He met old Mr. Tattersall
down the street, and they went off past St. Philips's Church.

Mrs. S. To the Ring-o'-Bells, I'll be bound.

Ben. The Ring-o'-Bells?

Mrs. S. That public-house that John Shorrock's widow keeps. He is
always hanging about there. Oh, if he hasn't paid it--

Ben. Do you think he hasn't paid it? Was it overdue?

Mrs. S. I should think it was overdue.

Mrs. J. Something tells me he's not paid it. I've a "warning," I know
it; he's not paid it.

Ben. The drunken old beggar.

Mrs. J. He's done it on purpose, just to annoy us.

Mrs. S. After all I've done for him, having to put up with him in the
house these three years. It's nothing short of swindling.

Mrs. J. I had to put up with him for five years.

Mrs. S. And you were trying to turn him over to us all the time.

Henry. But we don't know for certain that he's not paid the premium.

Mrs. J. I do. It's come over me all at once that he hasn't.

Mrs. S. Victoria, run upstairs and fetch that bunch of kevs that's on
your grandpa's dressing table.

Vic. (timidly.) In grandpa's room?

Mrs. S. Yes.

Vic. I--I don't like to.

Mrs. S. Don't talk so silly. There's no one can hurt you. (Victoria
goes out reluctantly .) We'll see if he's locked the receipt up in the
bureau.

Ben. In where? In this thing? (He rises and examines it.)

Mrs. J. (also rising). Where did you pick that up, Amelia? It's new
since last I was here. (They examine it closely.)

Mrs. S. Oh--Henry picked it up one day.

Mrs. J. I like it. It's artistic. Did you buy it at an auction?

Henry. Eh? Where did I buy it, Amelia?

Mrs. J. Yes, at an auction.

Ben (disparagingly). Oh, second-hand.

Mrs. J. Don't show your ignorance, Ben. All artistic things are
second-hand. Look at those old masters.

(Victoria returns, very scared. She closes the door after her.)

Vic. Mother! Mother!

Mrs. S. What is it, child?

Vic. Grandpa's getting up.

Ben. What?

Mrs. S. What do you say?

Vic. Grandpa's getting up.

Mrs. J. The child's crazy.

Mrs. S. Don't talk so silly. Don't you know your grandpa's dead?

Vic. No, no; he's getting up. I saw him.

(They are transfixed with amazement; Ben and Mrs. Jordan left of table;
Victoria clings to Mrs. Slater, right of table; Henry near fireplace.)

Mrs. J. You'd better go up and see for yourself, Amelia.

Mrs. S. Here--come with me, Henry. (Henry draws back terrified.)

Ben (suddenly). Hist! Listen.

(They look at the door. A slight chuckling is heard outside. The door
opens, revealing an old man clad in a faded but gay dressing-gown.
He is in his stockinged feet. Although over seventy he is vigorous
and well coloured; his bright, malicious eyes twinkle under his
heavy, reddish-grey eyebrows. He is obviously either grandfather Abel
Merryweather or else his ghost.)

Abel. What's the matter with little Vicky? (He sees Ben and Mrs.
Jordan.) Hello! What brings you here? How's yourself, Ben?

(Abel thrusts his hand at Ben, who skips back smartly and retreats with
Mrs. Jordan to a safe distance behind the sofa.)

Mrs. S. (approaching Abel gingerly). Grandfather, is that you? (She
pokes him with her hand to see if he is solid.)

Abel. Of course it's me. Don't do that, 'Melia, What the devil do you
mean by this tomfoolery?

Mrs. S. (to the others). He's not dead.

Ben. Doesn't seem like it.

Abel (irritated by the whispering). You've kept away long enough,
Lizzie; and now you've come you don't seem over-pleased to see me.

Mrs. J. You took us by surprise, father. Are you keeping quite well?

Abel (trying to catch the words). Eh? What?

Mrs. J. Are you quite well?

Abel. Ay, I'm right enough but for a bit of a headache. I wouldn't
mind betting that I'm not the first in this house to be carried to the
cemetery. I always think Henry there looks none too healthy.

Mrs. J. Well I never! (Abel crosses to the armchair and Henry gets out
of his way to the front of the table.)

Abel. 'Melia, what the dickens did I do with my new slippers?

Mrs. S. (confused). Aren't they by the hearth, grandfather?

Abel. I don't see them. (Observing Henry trying to remove the
slippers.) Why, you've got 'em on, Henry.

Mrs. S. (promptly). I told him to put them on to stretch them, they
were that new and hard. Now, Henry.

(Mrs. Slater snatches the slippers from Henry and gives them to Abel,
who puts them on and sits in armchair.)

Mrs. J. (to Ben). Well, I don't call that delicate, stepping into a
dead man's shoes in such haste.

(Henry goes up to the window and pulls up the blind.)

(Victoria runs across to Abel and sits on the floor at his feet.)

Vic. Oh, grandpa, I'm so glad you're not dead--

Mrs. S. (in a vindictive whisper.) Hold your tongue, Victoria.

Abel. Eh? What's that? Who's gone dead?

Mrs. S. (loudly.) Victoria says she's sorry about your head.

Abel. Ah, thank you, Vicky, but I'm feeling better.

Mrs. S. (to Mrs. J.) He's so fond of Victoria.

Mrs J. (to Mrs. S.). Yes; he's fond of our Jimmy, too.

Mrs. S. You'd better ask him if he promised your Jimmy his gold watch.

Mrs. J. (disconcerted). I couldn't just now. I don't feel equal to it.

Abel. Why, Ben, you're in mourning! And Lizzie too. And 'Melia, and
Henry and little Vicky! Who's gone dead? It's some one in the family.
(He chuckles.)

Mrs. S. No one you know, father. A relation of Ben's.

Abel. And what relation of Ben's?

Mrs. S, His brother.

Ben (to Mrs. S.) Dang it, I never had one.

Abel. Dear, dear. And what was his name, Ben?

Ben (at a loss). Er--er. (He crosses to front of table.)

Mrs. S. (r. of table) (prompting). Frederick.

Mrs. J. (l. of table) (prompting). Albert.

Ben. Er--Fred--Alb--Isaac.

Abel. Isaac? And where did your brother Isaac die?

Ben. In--er--in Australia.

Abel. Dear, dear. He'd be older than you, eh?

Ben. Yes, five year.

Abel. Ay, ay. Are you going to the funeral?

Ben. Oh, yes.

Mrs. S. and Mrs. J. No, no.

Ben. No, of course not. (He retires to the left.)

Abel (rising). Well, I suppose you've only been waiting for me to begin
tea. I'm feeling hungry.

Mrs. S. (taking up the kettle). I'll make tea.

Abel. Come along, now; sit you down and let's be jolly.

(Abel sits at the head of the table, facing spectator. Ben and Mrs.
Jordan on the left. Victoria brings a chair and sits by Abel. Mrs.
Slater and Henry sit on the right. Both the women are next to Abel.)

Mrs. S. Henry, give grandpa some tongue.

Abel. Thank you. I'll make a start. (He helps himself to bread and
butter.)

(Henry serves the tongue and Mrs. Slater pours out tea. Only Abel eats
with any heartiness.)

Ben. Glad to see you've got an appetite, Mr. Merryweather, although
you've not been so well.

Abel. Nothing serious. I've been lying down for a bit.

Mrs. S. Been to sleep, grandfather?

Abel. No, I've not been to sleep.

Mrs. S. and Henry. Oh!

Abel (eating and drinking). I can't exactly call everything to mind,
but I remember I was a bit dazed, like. I couldn't move an inch, hand
or foot.

Ben. And could you see and hear, Mr. Merryweather?

Abel. Yes, but I don't remember seeing anything particular. Mustard,
Ben. (Ben passes the mustard.)

Mrs. S. Of course not, grandfather. It was all your fancy. You must
have been asleep.

Abel (snappishly). I tell you I wasn't asleep, 'Melia. Damn it, I ought
to know.

Mrs. J. Didn't you see Henry or Amelia come into the room?

Abel (scratching his head). Now let me think

Mrs. S. I wouldn't press him, Elizabeth. Don't press him.

Henry. No. I wouldn't worry him.

Abel (suddenly recollecting). Ay, begad! 'Melia and Henry, what the
devil did you mean by shifting my bureau out of my bedroom?

(Henry and Mrs. Slater are speechless.)

D'you hear me? Henry! 'Melia!

Mrs. J. What bureau was that, father?

Abel. Why, my bureau, the one I bought--

Mrs. J. (pointing to the bureau). Was it that one, father?

Abel. Ah, that's it. What's it doing here? Eh?

(A pause. The clock on the mantelpiece strikes six. Every one looks at
it.)

Drat me if that isn't my clock, too. What the devil's been going on in
this house?

(A slight pause.)

Ben. Well, I'h be hanged.

Mrs. J. (rising). I'll tell you what's been going on in this house,
father. Nothing short of robbery.

Mrs. S. Be quiet, Elizabeth.

Mrs. J. I'll not be quiet. Oh, I call it doublefaced.

Henry. Now, now, Elizabeth.

Mrs. J. And you, too. Are you such a poor creature that you must do
every dirty thing she tells you?

Mrs. S. (rising). Remember where you are, Elizabeth.

Henry (rising). Come, come. No quarrelling.

Ben (rising). My wife's every right to speak her own mind.

Mrs. S. Then she can speak it outside, not here.

Abel. (rising.) (Thumping the table.) Damn it all, will some one tell
me what's been going on.

Mrs. J. Yes, I will. I'll not see you robbed.

Abel. Who's been robbing me?

Mrs. J. Amelia and Henry. They've stolen your clock and bureau.
(Working herself up.) They sneaked into your room like a thief in the
night and stole them after you were dead.

Henry and Mrs. S. Hush! Quiet, Elizabeth!

Mrs. J. I'll not be stopped. After you were dead, I say.

Abel. After who was dead?

Mrs. J. You.

Abel. But I'm not dead.

Mrs. J. No, but they thought you were.

(A pause. Abel gazes round at them.)

Abel. Oho! So that's why you're all in black to-day. You thought I was
dead. (He chuckles.) That was a big mistake. (He sits and resumes his
tea.)

Mrs. S. (sobbing.) Grandfather.

Abel. It didn't take you long to start dividing my things between you.

Mrs. J. No, father; you mustn't think that.

Amelia was simply getting hold of them on her own account.

Abel. You always were a keen one, Amelia. I suppose you thought the
will wasn't fair.

Henry. Did you make a will?

Abel. Yes, it was locked up in the bureau.

Mrs. J. And what was in it, father?

Abel. That doesn't matter now. I'm thinking of destroying it and making
another.

Mrs. S. (sobbing). Grandfather, you'll not be hard on me.

Abel. I'll trouble you for another cup of tea, 'Melia; two lumps and
plenty of milk.

Mrs. S. With pleasure, grandfather. (She pours out the tea.)

Abel. I don't want to be hard on any one. I'll tell you what I'm going
to do. Since your mother died, I've lived part of the time with you,
'Melia, and part with you, Lizzie. Well, I shall make a new will,
leaving all my bits of things to whoever I'm living with when I die.
How does that strike you?

Henry. It's a bit of a lottery, like.

Mrs. J. And who do you intend to live with from now?

Abel (drinking his tea). I'm just coming to that.

Mrs. J. You know, father, it's quite time you came to live with us
again. We'd make you very comfortable.

Mrs. S. No, he's not been with us as long as he was with you.

Mrs. J. I may be wrong, but I don't think father will fancy living on
with you after what's happened to-day.

Abel. So you'd like to have me again, Lizzie?

Mrs. J. You know we're ready for you to make your home with us for as
long as you please.

Abel. What do you say to that, 'Melia?

Mrs. S. All I can say is that Elizabeth's changed her mind in the last
two years. (Rising.) Grandfather, do you know what the quarrel between
us was about?

Mrs. J. Amelia, don't be a fool; sit down.

Mrs. S. No, if I'm not to have him, you shan't either. We quarrelled
because Elizabeth said she wouldn't take you off our hands at any
price. She said she'd had enough of you to last a life-time, and we'd
got to keep you.

Abel. It seems to me that neither of you has any cause to feel proud
about the way you've treated me.

Mrs. S. If I've done anything wrong, I'm sure I'm sorry for it.

Mrs. J. And I can't say more than that, too.

Abel. It's a bit late to say it, now. You neither of you cared to put
up with me.

Mrs. S. and Mrs. J. No, no, grandfather.

Abel, Why, you both say that because of what I've told you about
leaving my money. Well, since you don't want me I'll go to some one
that does.

Ben. Come, Mr. Merryweather, you've got to live with one of your
daughters.

Abel. I'll tell you what I've got to do. On Monday next I've got to do
three things. I've got to go to the lawyer's and alter my will; and
I've got to go to the insurance office and pay my premium; and I've got
to go to St. Philips's Church and get married.

Ben and Henry. What!

Mrs. J. Get married!

Mrs. S. He's out of his senses.

(General consternation.)

Abel. I say I'm going to get married.

Mrs. S. Who to?

Abel. To Mrs. John Shorrocks who keeps the Ring-o'-Bells. We've had it
fixed up a good while now, but I was keeping it for a pleasant surprise
(He rises.) I felt I was a bit of a burden to you, so I found some
one who'd think it a pleasure to look after me. We shall be very glad
to see you at the ceremony. (He gets to the door.) Till Monday, then.
Twelve o'clock at St. Philips's Church. (Opening the door.) It's a good
thing you brought that bureau downstairs, 'Melia. It'll be handier to
carry across to the Ring-o'-Bells on Monday. (He goes out.)



(The Curtain falls.)


THE END



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