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Title: Clarion Call
Author: Josephine Tey (writing as Gordon Daviot)
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1600371h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  March 2016
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Clarion Call

by

Gordon Daviot

Cover Image

A Play in One Act

First Published in Leith Sands and Other Short Plays, Duckworth, 1946

This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2016




                              CHARACTERS

                         In order of appearance

                       POLLY ANLISS.
                       MRS. WEBB.
                       MRS. ANLISS.
                       SAMMY WOOD.
                       TOMMY ANLISS.

The scene is the living-room of a lower middle-class family in a
provincial town. At the back, left, is a window, and right of it the
door opening on to the street. Left is the fireplace, decorated with
overmantel. Down, left, the open door to the kitchen. The room is very
neat and clean, and the furnishings what one would expect. By the right
wall is a sofa; two easy-chairs by the fire, one basket and one, the
veteran of more than one auction sale, of leather. In the middle is a
table set for tea. There are flowers, and the china and the cloth are
obviously the best; one is aware that this is an occasion.

When the curtain goes up a girl of eighteen or so is putting the
finishing touches to the table, not with any air of anticipation, but
with a gloomy suggestion of doing her duty. A middle-aged woman, MRS.
ANLISS, the girl's mother, is preening herself at the mirror over the
fireplace, and her friend, MRS. WEBB, who has obviously "run in", is
standing on the opposite side of the table from the fire, admiring the
spread. On the sofa sits SAMMY WOOD, a reporter; young, untidy, bored
by the job. He is still wearing his overcoat, unbuttoned and spread
voluminously round him, and is playing with his soft hat.

In sheer exuberance MRS. WEBB leans over and tweaks a flower into
place in the vase. POLLY stops her own tweakings at once.

  POLLY.: [Coldly] Does it not please you, Mrs. Webb?

  MRS. WEBB.: Oh, now, dearie, no offence meant. My mind wasn't thinking
what my hand was doing. I'm that excited.

  MRS. ANLISS.: A quarter past already. Oh, my, but my heart hasn't
beaten like this since I had indigestion in the spring. Do I look all
right?

  WOOD.: You look like a bride, Mrs. Anliss.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Well, let me tell you, Mr. Wood, I'm a deal more excited
this minute than I was on my wedding day. Cool as a cucumber, I was, and
everyone said so. It was John who was all of a dither. Always was
excitable, John was. That's why I've been a widow this fifteen years,
Mr. Wood. Just wore himself out dashing from one thing to another. The
boy who's coming home now was just like him. Always wanted something but
the thing he had.

  WOOD.: [With a hint of prompting] But he was a nice boy, Mrs. Anliss.
You were very fond of him.

  MRS. ANLISS.: [Matter of fact] Of course I was fond of him. Wasn't he
my only son?

  MRS. WEBB.: Ah, he was a nice boy, Tommy. [To WOOD] High-spirited,
you know, but always with a cheery word for everyone. I mind once he
gave our Willy his Saturday penny because Will had fallen and hurt
himself over at Roberts' fence.

  WOOD.: [Pulling out his notebook] A very fine spirit, Mrs. Anliss.

  MRS. ANLISS.: I don't remember that. I wonder what made him do it?

  POLLY.: He saw Mr. Roberts watching, and Mr. Roberts gave him sixpence.
He bought striped balls, and ate them all himself, and he was sick all
over the clean sheets on Saturday night.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Oh, yes, I remember the sheets.

  WOOD.: Oh, come, Miss Anliss! you mustn't remember your brother's
childish escapades against him.

  POLLY.: I'm not remembering anything. It was Mrs. Webb who brought that
up.

  WOOD.: Well, now, Miss Polly—Polly Anliss. Anyone ever call you
polyanthus?

  POLLY.: Oh, yes. They called me that my first day in the infants.

  WOOD.: [Hastily] What do you remember most distinctly about the
brother you haven't seen for seven years?

  POLLY.: That he always took the only sugar cookie on the plate.

  WOOD.: Dear me; I hope you have provided well to-day.

  MRS. ANLISS.: I'm thinking with that fine ham the Clarion sent us we
won't get the length of cookies. I really don't know why the Clarion
should bother about folks like us.

  WOOD.: But it is folks like you who are the backbone of this nation,
Mrs. Anliss. You brought up a fine son, and we have had the pleasure of
restoring him to you; and we are naturally interested in his homecoming,
and anxious to share in the rejoicings. Wouldn't you—er—wouldn't you
like a few more of your neighbours in to share your happiness with you?

  MRS. ANLISS.: Mrs. Webb here is the only neighbour we care to have,
thank you. If it comes to that, the neighbours weren't all that fond of
Tommy.

  WOOD.: [With a glance out of the window] Judging by all the people at
the doors and windows, they seem to be taking a great interest in his
home-coming.

  MRS. ANLISS.: It doesn't take much to interest them. Do you think he'll
be by the train or the bus?

  WOOD.: If I knew that, Mrs. Anliss, I shouldn't be here waiting. I
should have met him and brought him to you personally on behalf of my
paper.

  MRS. WEBB.: It's a fine paper the Clarion. My man says you can't
sprain your finger nowadays without the Clarion gives you
compensation. He says they've made breaking a leg a positive pleasure.

  WOOD.: [Repeating a lesson] We like to feel that our public is our
responsibility. We believe that a colossal organisation like ours should
be used in the service of our readers. Since we began our Lost Friends
department we have been the means of uniting no less than four hundred
and fifty-seven couples who had lost sight of each other in the rush of
life. Mothers and sons [he bows a little to MRS. ANLISS to
acknowledge her part in the great achievement], husbands and wives, old
friends who had gone different ways. The Clarion called them together.
It is a pleasant experience, Mrs. Anliss, to share in human joy. We
newspaper men see so much of the tragic side of life.

  MRS. WEBB.: Yes, you must see some awful things. When young Mrs. Apfel
committed suicide there was a reporter there before the police. Had a
camera and all. Her husband threw him out of the window before he could
get anything, though. A nice young man, he seemed. I was sorry for him.
Quite worried over the camera being broken, he was. They cost quite a
bit, it seems.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Are you going to take our photos?

  WOOD.: I am.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Dear me, fancy me being in the paper!

  WOOD.: Of course, I can't guarantee that it will appear. That depends
on one of the editors. He decides what goes in, and it may be that in a
pressure of news he chooses something else.

  POLLY.: The little boy who stuck his head through the railings and
couldn't get it back; or the parrot and the kitten that eat together.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Polly Anliss, I don't know what is wrong with you. It ill
becomes any member of this house—

   The door is burst open by an excited woman, and a crowd of women and
      girls can be seen behind her.

  [Chorus]. He's coming, Mrs. Anliss! He's coming! Here he is, coming
up the street!

   WOOD darts out of the room, through the crowd at the door, and is
      seen passing the window. A moment later he reappears escorting a
      young man. The crowd at the door, who have turned to watch his
      advent, give back with little cries of "Well, well, here he is!
      Welcome back, Tommy!" WOOD leads in a youth of twenty-two whose
      hearing is a mixture of swagger and embarrassment.

  WOOD.: Mrs. Anliss, I have great pleasure on behalf of the Daily
Clarion in restoring your son to you.

   There is a feeble cheer from the women who have crowded round the
      door again.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Well, Tommy.

  TOMMY.: Hullo, Ma.

  WOOD.: Aren't you going to kiss your mother, my boy?

                                              TOMMY kisses his mother.

  WOOD.: And your sister. You haven't forgotten your sister in seven
years, have you?

  TOMMY.: Is that Polly? Help! You were a kid last time I saw you. I
suppose you don't remember me at all?

  POLLY.: Oh, I remember you all right.

  MRS. ANLISS.: And you remember Mrs. Webb?

  TOMMY.: Willy Webb's mother? Oh, yes. How are you? [He shakes hands.]

  WOOD.: Well, Mrs. Anliss, now for the photograph. Just here, I think.
[He manoeuvres MRS. ANLISS and her son into the corner by the door so
that the crowd make a background, several having been pushed forward so
far in the excitement that they are now definitely in the room. POLLY
slips out by the door, left, to the kitchen and thence outside.] Come
along, Mrs. Webb.

  MRS. WEBB.: Oh, but I'm not a relation, you know. I'm only a neighbour.

  WOOD.: You may not be a relation, but you are a registered reader. Just
here, Mrs. Webb. That's right. [To TOMMY and his mother] I think it
would be more appropriate if you embraced each other, don't you?

  TOMMY.: [Doubtfully] Well, we were never much on hugging.

  WOOD.: Put your arm round her, then. [He assists TOMMY to put a limp
left arm on MRS. ANLISS'S SHOULDER.] Now, Mrs. Anliss, you hold his
hand so [puts MRS. ANLISS'S right hand into the dangling right hand
of her son, and bending both at the elbow, as if they were dolls]. Now,
Miss Polly. Why, where is Miss Polly? [MRS. ANLISS moves as if to go in
search of her.] No, don't move, Mrs. Anliss! Keep just where you are.
[He goes to the door, left, which POLLY has shut behind her, opens
it, and calls] Miss Polly! Miss Polly, we're taking the photograph!
Miss Polly!

  TOMMY.: Oh, never mind Polly. Let's get it over with.

  WOOD.: [Coming back] Well, all ready? Don't jump when the light
flares. Look happy everyone. This is a joyful occasion. [The three
principals stand in strained attitudes, while the intruding neighbours
crane grinning behind. He takes the photograph.]

  MRS. WEBB.: Oh! I never could bear these things. Worse than the Fifth
of November.

  WOOD.: There we are! [Bundling up] Well, that's that! [The relief in
his voice is more apparent than he knows, but no one is interested in
him.] Now I must leave you to your celebration.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Oh, but you're going to stay and have some of the ham
with us, and a cup of tea, aren't you?

  WOOD.: That's very nice of you, Mrs. Anliss, very nice. If my time were
my own I should be delighted to. But I am merely the slave of the
Clarion, you know. [Hastily] A happy slave, of course; a Mercury.
But a mere servant. My paper will be waiting to hear all about your
son's arrival, and beyond the paper is the public. I must go, Mrs.
Anliss. It has given me great pleasure to be present at your reunion. On
behalf of the paper I congratulate you both, and hope that you will have
long-continued happiness together. [He shakes hands with MRS.
ANLISS, TOMMY, and as an afterthought, with MRS. WEBB.]

  MRS. ANLISS.: [As she shakes hands] I'm sure we're all very grateful.

  WOOD.: [To the neighbours] Now, good people, since both you and the
Daily Clarion have seen Tommy safely home, I suggest that we all leave
him in the arms of his family for a little quiet chat over old times.
[He shepherds the crowd expertly out of the doorway, and waves his hat
to the family.] Goodbye everyone.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Goodbye, Mr. Wood. Pleased to see you any time you're by.
Just drop in.

  WOOD.: That's the idea, Mrs. Anliss. We're all friends on the paper.

                   [Exit, and shuts door. Enter POLLY from the left.

  MRS. ANLISS.: I don't know what all these people wanted to push in for.
It would suit Mrs. Bell better to wash her front room curtains.
[Turning and seeing POLLY] Where did you get to, Polly Anliss? You
must have heard Mr. Wood shouting for you!

  POLLY.: I heard him all right.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Then why couldn't you be polite enough to answer. I don't
know what he must have thought.

  TOMMY.: Oh, never mind Polly. When are we going to have tea?

  MRS. ANLISS.: Yes, yes. I'm forgetting. You must be hungry after that
long journey. You know, I can hardly believe that you're Tommy. You've
grown a lot since fifteen.

  MRS. WEBB.: A fine man he's grown into.

  TOMMY.: You haven't changed, Ma. You don't look a day older.

  MRS. ANLISS.: [Pleased] Are you starting telling fibs the minute
you're inside the house? Polly, is the kettle boiling?

  POLLY.: Just about.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Well, make the tea, girl; don't stand there. [Exit
POLLY.] Sit down, Tommy, sit down. [She indicates one of the
easy-chairs, but TOMMY pulls out a chair from the table and sits in
it.]

  TOMMY.: And how's Willy, Mrs. Webb? Still hanging round the old town?

  MRS. WEBB.: [Stung but controlled] I don't know so much about hanging
round. He has a good job with Parker's garridge. Three fifteen a week,
and he's engaged to a fine girl and putting by every week for the
wedding. No need for him to leave town. [In spite of herself she cannot
keep the emphasis off the pronoun.]

  MRS. ANLISS.: Of course not. Willy's a good son to his mother, and
he'll make a good husband to his girl. A son to be proud of.

  TOMMY.: [Rising to the implication] Meaning that I'm not.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Well, I don't exactly boast about you yet.

  TOMMY.: [Smugly] But you thought enough of me to advertise for me to
come.

  MRS. ANLISS.: I couldn't help wondering where you'd got to.

  TOMMY.: Oh. Just curiosity.

  MRS. ANLISS.: I don't know about curiosity. The thought of you was
always dig-digging at me when I had nothing else to do. I couldn't put
my feet up for a minute but you'd come into my mind and spoil my rest.
It was like having a tap dripping somewhere when you're warm in bed at
nights. So when the Clarion started finding lost friends and that, I
thought I'd just as well to give them your name. They don't charge
anything.

  TOMMY.: And I suppose if they'd charged something you wouldn't have
done it!

  MRS. ANLISS.: Well, they mightn't have found you. How was I to know? If
I'd been sure they'd find you, I would have paid up quite willing, for
the peace of mind it gives me. It's nice to know you're not in prison or
anything.

  TOMMY.: In prison! Well, I like that!

  MRS. ANLISS.: Well, how was I to know? It's just as likely as making a
fortune. [Enter POLLY with tea and hot water.] Here's tea. Draw in
your chair, Mrs. Webb.

   MRS. ANLISS sits with her back to the fire, POLLY opposite her,
      TOMMY facing the audience, and MRS. WEBB with her back to it.
      MRS. ANLISS pours tea.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Polly, carve the ham. [POLLY begins to carve.] Your
hair's grown a lot darker, Tommy. Two lumps, Mrs. Webb. [She sugars
MRS. WEBB'S tea.] How many do you take now, Tommy? Funny not knowing
my own son's tastes, isn't it?

  TOMMY.: Three lumps, and another for luck. [To POLLY] No fat for me.

  POLLY.: It's all fat.

  TOMMY.: Well, cut till you find some lean for me. What did you buy a
ham that was all fat for?

  MRS. ANLISS.: We didn't buy it. The Daily Clarion sent us it as a
present.

  TOMMY.: Oh, then of course it's all fat!

  MRS. ANLISS.: I don't think you need speak like that about the
Clarion. It's thanks to the Clarion you're here. We should all be
grateful to them.

  MRS. WEBB.: It was a nice thought, I think, sending the ham.

  TOMMY.: Thought! You don't imagine they thought about it, do you? They
bought hams wholesale from the docks at tuppence the pound, so they
could sling one out to everyone they united.

  MRS. WEBB.: Why should they do a thing like that?

  TOMMY.: Why should they pay my fare home? Just advertisement! It's a
wonder they haven't Daily Clarion printed on the ham.

   POLLY unconsciously tilts the ham a little so that she can look
      underneath.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Pay your fare! Did they do that?

  TOMMY.: Of course they did; I'm here, aren't I? They stalled about it
at first, but I said no fare nothing doing, so they forked out. It looks
well in the account, see? "Mr. Anliss, not being in affluent circs.,
etc., etc., the Daily Clarion came to the rescue, etc., etc."

  MRS. ANLISS.: And you're pleased to have that published about you! That
you hadn't the money to come to see your folks after seven years.

  TOMMY.: They can say anything they like about me as long as they give
me three quid for nothing. They tried to palm me off with a railway
ticket, but I said I couldn't go home in the clothes I was wearing. So
they forked out.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Tommy Anliss, I'm ashamed of you, downright ashamed.
Haven't you an atom of self-respect in your composition?

  TOMMY.: Oh, don't start jawing the minute I'm in the house. Here I come
from the other end of the country to see you and all you do is jaw.

  MRS. ANLISS.: You wouldn't have come at all, I don't wonder, if you
didn't get your fare paid.

  TOMMY.: Well, you didn't spend anything on advertising for me, did you?
So we're quits.

  MRS. WEBB.: Did you find it hard to get leave off from your business I
Most bosses are terrible mean with holidays.

  TOMMY.: [Airily] Oh, no. I'm very much my own master. I take my
holidays when I think I will.

  POLLY.: What exactly is your business?

  TOMMY.: I'm an agent.

  MRS. ANLISS.: For what?

  TOMMY.: Anything that has an agency.

  MRS. ANLISS.: You're not a bookie, are you?

  POLLY.: He'd have had the money to come home if he'd been a bookie.

  TOMMY.: Who said I hadn't the money to come home! All I said was that
I'd be a fool to spend money if the Clarion would spend it for me.

  MRS. WEBB.: [Kindly] There's nothing wrong with that, Tommy.

  TOMMY.: [To his mother] Talking of money, I suppose you wouldn't like
to put a little into my business?

  MRS. ANLISS.: [Simply] I wouldn't.

  TOMMY.: Not even if I showed you a record of the commissions I made
last year?

  MRS. ANLISS.: Not even, if you took me in person to a gold mine and
pulled chunks out of the ground to show me.

  TOMMY.: I was afraid you wouldn't. This family never had any
enterprise. Always afraid to take a chance.

  MRS. ANLISS.: And when did you ever show any enterprise?

  POLLY.: Well, he did take Father's watch with him when he left.

  TOMMY.: Of course I did. Sons have first right to their fathers'
watches. And what good was it doing wrapped up in cotton wool in a
drawer?

  MRS. ANLISS.: If I didn't know that it was the only thing between you
and certain starvation, I would have been much angrier about that watch
than I was. Did you pawn it, or did you sell it?

  TOMMY.: Neither.

  MRS. ANLISS.: You didn't part with it! Why, Tommy—

  TOMMY.: I auctioned it.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Auctioned!

  TOMMY.: You can get far more out of two men wanting the same watch than
out of one man that has to be persuaded he wants one at all.

  MRS. WEBB.: [Genuine] You're that cute, Tommy, it's a wonder to me
you're not a millionaire.

  TOMMY.: I wonder myself sometimes.

  POLLY.: You have to work to be a millionaire.

  TOMMY.: What do you do, Polly? Just "put the kettle on"?

  MRS. ANLISS.: Polly has a very good job with the bus company. In the
office. She's in charge of her own department now.

  TOMMY.: And what do they give you for that?

  POLLY.: They don't give it to me. I earn it. And it keeps me and Mother
very comfortably, thank you.

  MRS. WEBB.: Ay, they're a good firm, the buses. And getting bigger
every day. They've made a big difference to this town, even if they are
a mixed blessing.

  TOMMY.: Mixed? What's wrong with buses?

  MRS. WEBB.: [Going on with her explanation even before he has asked]
In the old days I didn't have to see that sister-in-law of mine more
than twice a year. We went to her when the gooseberries were ripe, and
she came to us at Christmas. But now she's in and out of town as free as
a wasp. I suppose you came by train, Tommy.

  TOMMY.: No, I came by road.

  MRS. ANLISS.: One of Gaffney's buses, was it?

  TOMMY.: No, a lorry. A chap I know was coming north with a load. He
gave me a lift.

  POLLY.: [Into the pause] Did you buy the postcard yourself?

  TOMMY.: Card?

  POLLY.: The postcard that said: Expect me Tuesday afternoon.

  TOMMY.: Smarty! You'll never get a husband if you chip a fellow like
that.

  POLLY.: What makes you think I want one?

  TOMMY.: I don't think. Every girl wants a husband.

  POLLY.: That's just a male superstition. For your information [that is
an echo of "the Office"] no girl ever wants a husband.

  TOMMY.: No? Then why does she work so hard to get one!

  POLLY.: Because some other girl's got one. It would be the same if it
was some kind of hat. It's the fashion, that's all. But it's not nearly
so fashionable as it used to be.

  MRS. ANLISS.: [Indulgently] Polly, you talk an awful lot of nonsense.

  POLLY.: The first girl that found a whole week's wages in her hand on
Friday night instead of what was left over after the pub and the "dogs"
and the "pools", she started a new fashion. A hundred years from now
it'll be a disgrace to have a husband. They'll have to be hidden in back
rooms out of sight; like keeping pet rabbits in a tenement.

  TOMMY.: You know, if you're not careful you'll find yourself preaching
off a soap-box at a street corner.

  POLLY.: What would I waste my time preaching to men about?

  TOMMY.: Why men?

  POLLY.: You don't find women standing round street corners. They're
busy washing up, and mending the socks the men have stood through.

  MRS. WEBB.: [Once more kindly bridging a social gulf] I suppose
you're not married, are you, Tommy?

  TOMMY.: Not me! I'll look them over a while longer before I pick one.

  POLLY.: I hope you provide shelter for the queue.

  TOMMY.: [To MRS. WEBB] How's Liz?

  MRS. WEBB.: Oh, Liz is fine, thank you, fine. She—

  TOMMY.: [Patronising], I'll maybe have time to drop round and see her
after tea.

  POLLY.: I shouldn't, if I were you.

  TOMMY.: No? And why not, may I ask? Afraid the wicked prodigal will
upset the little stay-at-home?

  POLLY.: Not exactly; but she's expecting her third any day now.

  TOMMY.: [Flatly] Oh? Married, is she?

  MRS. ANLISS.: Things haven't stood still since you left town, you know,
Tommy.

  TOMMY.: [Recovering] I should say not! Three's going it a bit, isn't
it?

  MRS. ANLISS.: They can afford it. Liz did well for herself. A car, and
a maid, and stalls every Saturday at the Palladium.

  MRS. WEBB.: There's good money in the motor business these days.
[Tentatively] You wouldn't be interested in that, would you, Tommy?
Jim was saying there was a vacancy in the west garage. Good prospects,
he said, if the—

  TOMMY.: What! Me settle down in this town?

  MRS. ANLISS.: What's wrong with the town? One town's very like another
when you're settled. A Boots, an International, a Woolworths, and some
baker or other; who's to tell whether they are in Plymouth or Paisley?

  TOMMY.: The football teams are different. Oh, I suppose the town's all
right for a chap that's content with a weekly wage and a ten-shilling
bonus at Christmas. But there's no scope in it.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Scope for what, may I ask?

  TOMMY.: For a fellow with ideas.

  MRS. WEBB.: [Genuine] Have you got ideas, Tommy?

  TOMMY.: Bursting with them. Take it from me, if you want to get
anywhere you've got to have ideas.

  POLLY.: You haven't got an idea you're Napoleon, have you? That gets
you into an asylum.

  TOMMY.: No; and when I'm living in Park Lane, young Polly, I won't ask
you to stay.

  POLLY.: No one lives in Park Lane any more. They live in Belgrave
Square.

  TOMMY.: [Stung] How do you know?

  POLLY.: Even a burglar knows that.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Well, I only hope that your ideas won't get you into
trouble. It seems to me that half the police court cases in the
Clarion start with someone getting notions. And a lot of good ideas go
bad on folks. Like people inventing gunpowder and forgetting to get out
of the way. And there's the law, you know.

  TOMMY.: I'm not proposing to be a criminal!

  MRS. ANLISS.: Perhaps not, but that's the catch. I read in the
Clarion that there's practically nothing you can do but there's a law
says you can't. They've just forgotten to reverse them. If they don't
happen to like what you're doing, they look back to see what they can
find, and sure enough you find yourself in jail. There's a law says you
can be put to death for wearing red on Sunday, or something like that.
So don't let them catch you with any ideas that they mightn't like.

  TOMMY.: Don't you worry, no one's catching me with anything.

  MRS. WEBB.: Perhaps when Tommy's had time to look round he'll like the
old place so much he'll forget Park Lane. And I wouldn't wonder
but—[There is a whistle outside] Someone whistling. [As they pause
to listen for its repetition] Some of your old pals come to look you
up, Tommy.

                                              The whistle is repeated.

  TOMMY.: It's Harry! [He begins to eat the last few mouthfuls of his
meal in haste.]

  MRS. ANLISS.: Who's Harry?

  TOMMY.: I didn't think he'd be so soon.

  MRS. ANLISS.: If he's a friend, you'd better bring him in for some tea.

  TOMMY.: He's not exactly a friend . . . [At the window, peering
sideways down the street] Yes, it's Harry. [With a wave of his arm to
indicate acquiescence] Coming! He's the chap that gave me the lift. He
just dropped some goods here, and then he's going east to Marbury before
he goes south to-morrow. We'll spend the night in Marbury. [He is
reaching for his coat and hat which are hanging on the back of the
door.]

  MRS. ANLISS.: [Staggered] You mean you're going away with him? Now?

  TOMMY.: That's the idea.

  MRS. ANLISS.: But you've only just come home! What will Mr. Wood think!

  TOMMY.: [Bending over to gulp the remains of his tea] Who's Mr. Wood?

  MRS. ANLISS.: The gentleman from the Clarion.

  TOMMY.: Oh, him! You don't imagine you'll ever see him again, do you?
By this time he doesn't even remember what part of town you live in.
Cheer up, Ma. It's been a good party, and maybe we'll have our photos in
the paper to-morrow. Who knows? For once I'll have to buy a Clarion.

  MRS. ANLISS.: [Still speaking out of her daze] Don't you buy it
regular?

  TOMMY.: Me? I don't buy anything but Midday Specials.

  MRS. ANLISS.: Then how did you . . .

  TOMMY.: Oh, the ad. I saw the paper in a tea shop one day. What about a
couple of quid to help me on the way, Ma?

  MRS. ANLISS.: A couple of . . .! You've got a nerve! With three pounds
from the Clarion lying in your pocket this minute.

  TOMMY.: [Cheerfully] Make it ten bob, then. For old sake's sake.
Think how nice—

  MRS. ANLISS.: Not one penny will you get from me, you impudent
good-for-nothing. [This is said matter-of-factly, and without any great
feeling.]

  TOMMY.: O.K., Ma, O.K. If you change your mind the Ritz will always
find me. [He pockets a couple of scones from the table, pats his mother
on the back] Let me know when Polly gets married so that I can come
home and say I told you so! So long, Mrs. Webb. Say hullo to Willy for
me!

                He goes. The three women stare in silence at the door.

  POLLY.: Well! I can sleep in my own bed after all.

  MRS. WEBB.: [Whose soft heart is afraid that MRS. ANLISS may be
hurt] He's just thoughtless, Mrs. Anliss. He's young yet.

  MRS. ANLISS.: [Still staring at the door] And that's what I changed
my wash day for!

  MRS. WEBB.: [Preparing to go] Well, it's time I popped back and put
Bill's meat on the stove.

  MRS. ANLISS.: You'll do nothing of the sort. It's not near that time
yet, and you know it. You just wait till I get out of these corsets, and
we'll have some fresh tea in peace and comfort. Polly, see to the
kettle, and put away that lump of lard [she is referring to the
Clarion ham]. And give the fire a bit stick. It's near out with all
the excitement. You'll find yesterday's Clarion under the cushion.

                                        [She makes for the door, left.

               POLLY picks the Clarion from under the chair cushion.

  MRS. WEBB.: [Anxious to express her goodwill] Would you like me just
to give these cups a swill?

  POLLY.: [All sweetness and light] Thank you, Mrs. Webb. That would be
very kind of you. [As MRS. WEBB begins to gather the cups together;
pausing in the act of tearing the page, and reading] "Miss Margaret
Rains and her only brother, who, having been parted for twenty years,
were united yesterday by the kind offices of the Clarion." I wonder if
they found any lean in their ham?

                      She tears with a will as the curtain comes down.

                                CURTAIN


THE END

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