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Title: A Sirius Cove
Author: Lionel Shave
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1600441h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  March 2016
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A Sirius Cove
A Fantastic Comedy in One Act


Lionel Shave

From Five Proven One Act Plays
The Australasian Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd.
Sydney, N.S.W.
First published 1948

* * *

To the memory of "PAKIE" MACDOUGALL
to whose kindly encouragement these plays owe their being.


MRS. PILCARROW-BROWNE, a very superior person.


JOSIAH PILCARROW, a person of the early nineteenth century.

JOHN FORTESCUE, a successful business man


* * *

THE PLACE. A lounge-vestibule in Mrs. Pilcarrow-Browne's Bellevue Hill home.

THE TIME. Approaching 8.30 p.m., any evening in the present.

THE SCENE. The lounge-vestibule in Mrs. Pilcarrow-Browne's Bellevue Hill home is comfortably and tastefully furnished. Double doors [BACK CENTRE] lead to the entrance hall. Another pair of doors [LEFT] leads, presumably, to the bedrooms.

There is a Large fireplace angle wise [BACK RIGHT]. Tahbourets, Depositories for books, bowls of flowers, etc., are arranged according to the ideas of the producer, the action demanding nothing more than an intelligent grouping of the characters.

When the curtain rises, MERCIA is seated in an easy chair with her legs crossed, displaying a goodly amount of bareness. Her 22 years have not yet taught her the importance of being "the best people ", which, indeed, she never will quite appreciate unless it is forced upon her to the effacement of her natural self. Her dinner gown is not quite as smart as her mother's because she is not given an entirely free hand in the selection of her clothes. She does not raise her eyes from the book she is reading, until her mother, who enters [L.] speaks to her.

Mrs. PILCARROW-BROWNE is very well and becomingly dressed in a fashionable dinner gown.

* * *

MRS. P.B. Mercia, my dear, Mr. Fortescue will be here in ten minutes.

MERCIA. In eleven and a half, Mother, if he arrives with his usual devastating punctuality.

MRS. P.B. Then why are you sitting reading instead of getting dressed?

MERCIA. I am dressed—to all outward appearances, at least.

MRS. P.B. But, child, no stockings!

MERCIA [airily]. Oh, that's not the worst.

MRS. P.B. Mercia!

MERCIA. I am naked around the neck, if you'll notice.

MRS. P.B. Don't be so absurd, please. Bare legs are entirely different. Would you expect Mr. Fortescue to propose after seeing you in bare legs?

MERCIA. Rather!

MRS. P.B. I am afraid that your estimate of John Fortescue is entirely wrong. I am sure that he would loathe to see you in bare legs. Especially as he is interested in a hosiery company.

MERCIA. But he would see them after we were married, so why not now?

MRS. P.B. That again is different. In any case, always remember that one inch left to a man's imagination goes further than a square yard left to his gaze. Even after marriage you would be well advised not to display too much—

MERCIA. My God! Would I have to live in tights?

MRS. P.B. Your levity is most unseemly, Mercia. And if blasphemy were not so fashionable, I should scarcely approve of that either. Please put on your stockings at once.

MERCIA. But mother!

MRS. P.B. Don't argue with me, my dear. Allow your mother to know.

MERCIA. But I don't want John Fortescue to propose to me, with or without stockings.

MRS. P.B. Now you are simply being contrary [ingratiatingly]. Of course, you want him to propose to you—and in a nice way!

MERCIA [vehemently] I do not! I don't love him, I don't want him, and I won't have him.

MRS. P.B. Nonsense, child. You don't know your own mind. John Fortescue is the most eligible bachelor, probably, in the whole of Australia. He controls goodness knows how many companies and could, no doubt, be persuaded to buy a few sheep stations. You would have every other girl in your set green with envy.

MERCIA. While I turned scarlet with shame.

MRS. P.B. Not at all. He would be so kind to you and so generous that you would be deeply in love with him before you realised it.

MERCIA. But I'd prefer a little mad infatuation beforehand.

MRS. P.B. And probably lose your sense of perspective—even if you lost nothing else. There is no point whatsoever in being madly infatuated before marriage.

MERCIA. Weren't you crazy about father?

MRS. P.B. I should hardly describe my state of mind as crazy—ever! It so happened that I was in love with him but, of course, he also had social position and family—

MERCIA. One of the Brown family.

MRS. P.B. Browne with an E, you Will remember.

MERCIA. E. and O.E.!

MRS. P.B. O.B.E. my dear! And now you are a Pilcarrow-Browne.

MERCIA. And due to become a Pilcarrow-Browne-Fortescue, wearing stockings to the waist.

MRS. P.B. Not too far, Mercia please, or you will really provoke me. Do go along and complete your dressing at once.

MERCIA. That won't stop me from refusing him.

MRS. P.B. Your own good sense will do that, my child.

[Knock at door.]

MRS. P.B. Yea, what is it?

[MAID enters.]

MAID. A strange gentleman to see you, ma'am.

MRS. P.B. Is it not Mr. Fortescue?

MAID. Oh, no, unless you expect him in fancy costume, ma'am.

MRS. P.B. I do not expect Mr. Fortescue in fancy costume. What kind of costume?

MAID. Like some of the statues in town, ma'am.

MRS. P.B. What on earth do you mean, girl?

MAID. Well, he has long narrow pants drawn into the ankles.

MERCIA. Tights! For Mr. Fortescue's benefit.

MRS. P.B. Be quiet, Mercia.. What next?

MAID. A fancy kind of fish and soup.

MRS. P.B. A fish and soup?

MERCIA. A dress coat, mother.

MRS. P.B. Then why can't you say so, girl?

MAID. It isn't quite the same, ma'am. It's a funny colour like his pants with big lapels.

MERCIA. Lapels on his pants?

MAID. Oh no, miss, only on his coat and his fancy vest.

MRS. P.B. Fancy vest?

MAID. Yes, ma'am, figgered silk and a tie like a chest protector.

MRS. P.B. A tie like a chest protector? The man's mad.

MERCIA. Maybe he's bronchial, darling.

MAID. He's got long aide levers too, ma'am.

MRS. P.B. Well, that makes him sound like a robot.

MERCIA. Side levers, darling, are cheek whiskers, as sported by the gay bloods of the last century.

MAID. That's it, ma'am! He's just like one of the statues, as I said.

MERCIA. Maybe it's Captain Cook.

MRS. P.B. Don't be foolish. I'm certain Captain Cook didn't have side whiskers. Show him in, whoever he is.

MAID. Yes, ma'am.

[Exit B.C.]

MERCIA. Be firm, mother, in case it is Captain Cook. Remember that his ship was called "The Endeavour."

MRS. P.B. You may safely leave him to me. Now, please finish your dressing while I'm interviewing him.

MERCIA. Don't be so mean, mother. Let me see him.

MRS. P.B. Please, Mercia, do as I ask.

MERCIA. Oh, very well.

[MERCIA flounces out L. Knock on door B.C.]

MRS. P.B. Come in!

MAID. This is the gentleman, ma'am.

MRS. P.B. [moderately Astonished]. Goodness gracious me!

[Exit MAID.]

J.P. Good-evening to 'ee.

MRS. P.B. I'm afraid I haven't the pleasure of your acquaintance. Are you advertising something?

J.P. A be Josiah Pilcarrow, at the service. A relation o' thine, o' kinds.

MRS. P.B. Indeed! Far distant, I should hope.

J.P. Aye! The great-great-great-grandfather.

MRS. P.B. How absurd! You couldn't be! Why this outlandish behaviour? Are you going to a fancy dress ball or what? Who are you really?

J.P. A be telling thee, Maggie.

MRS. P.B. How dare you! Even Margaret from you—a perfect stranger—would be unduly familiar.

J.P. Come, come, lass. Maggie has always been a main fine name wi' Pilcarrow women. 'Tis nought to be ashamed on.

MRS. P.B. I still prefer Margaret.

J.P. Begging tha leave Maggie, A'll set me down. [He Sits]. A've come a fairish way back.

MRS. P.B. Yes, do sit down. But you can't stay too long, you know. We are expecting a guest.

J.P. Aye, A know! 'Tis that brings me here. An' A mistake not, tha expects a suitor for the hand o' tha gal.

MRS. P.B. Well, I never! How did you know?

J.P. Maybe A have an all-seeing eye. Leastways, A know about John Fortescue.

MRS. P.B. Oh! You're a private detective in disguise. Please go away.

J.P. Whatever A be, here A stay till he comes.

MRS. P.B. But you can't do that, really. For one thing Mr. Fortescue has an insane hatred of whiskers, being interested in the safety razor business.

J.P. A be a Pilcarrow, Maggie, and tha great-great-great-grandfather. Welcome or not, here A stays, whiskers an' all.

MRS. P.B. I am afraid there must be some mistake. If you were my great-great—How many greats?

J.P. Three be the tally.

MRS. P.B. Great-great-great-grandfather, you would be a hundred and fifty years old at least.

J.P. Wi' tha way o' reckoning, A'd be nigh on a hundred and seventy-five. A came to Australia wi' Captain Arthur Phillip, God bless him, on the hell ship Sirius. A were the first o' the Pilcarrows to land in these parts.

MRS. P.B. It seems too utterly preposterous for words.

J.P. Aye, maybe it does, but then again, maybe it doesn't. There be things like yon glim [pointing to electric light] an' they flying contraptions, that would pass fair for miracles wi' me, were they not so ungodly.

MRS. P.B. They're very clever, no doubt, but not impossible, whereas you are completely.

J.P. Yet here A be.

MRS. P.B. It's most bewildering! You say you came with Captain Phillip. Have you any references? Were you a friend of his?

J.P. Ho, ho, ho! Little tha knows o' the family tree, lass. A were a lag.

MRS. P.B. A lag? I don't understand.

J.P. A convict in more polite speech.

MRS. P.B. Impossible I Not a Pilcarrow.

J.P. 'Tis the truth, and why not?

MRS. P.B. The Pilcarrows have always been the nicest people.

J.P. Aye, they've done well an' become somebodies, but 'twas only the good start A gave them on ticket o' leave.

MRS. P.B. I'd never believe it of a Pilcarrow.

J.P. 'Tis in the records at Newgate. Josiah Pilcarrow, barber of Little Appleton, to be transported for life. God save the King!

MRS. P.B. Did you cut somebody's throat?

J.P. Tha's thinkin' o' Sweeney Todd, Maggie. A high-spirited lad, that...No, A were lagged for the mere matter of picking up a lonesome rabbit in the woods nearby.

MRS. P.B. A rabbit! How common! Couldn't you have found a pheasant?

J.P. Aye, lass. But my grandfather—he would be tha great-great-great...

MRS. P.B. Yes, I Know—five or six "greats." It doesn't matter.

J.P. Not over-much. Anyways, he swung for a pheasant, so we fought shy o' they birds thereafter. In any case they were like most flashy things, nobbut outward show. A couldn't abide them for eating.

MRS. P.B. This is all very dreadful, if it's true. You have not mentioned it to a soul, I hope.

J.P. Not yet!

MRS. P.B. You haven't sold your life story to any of those dreadful newspaper men, have you?

J.P. A have not.

MRS. P.B. Thank goodness for that. Life is so very complex as it is. [Patronizingly] Now, couldn't you run along to wherever you came from and forget all about it?

J.P. [with grim determination]. Here A be and here A stay till A learn that tha girl—[MERCIA enters L. exuberantly.]

MERCIA. "Thus I clothe my naked villainy with-"

MRS. P.B. Mercia! Such obscenity!

MERCIA. Shakespeare, darling.

MRS. P.B. Why...of course! But it only shows how lax the censor really is. The gentleman who—

MERCIA. Oh! How do you do? What a rag!...Where's the party?

MRS. P.B. This extraordinary person claims to be your great-great-great...[To PILCARROW] How many "greats?"

J.P. It be four to the lass.

MRS. P.B. Your great-great-great-great-grandfather, Josiah Pilcarrow.

MERCIA. What a priceless liar!

J.P. Ho, ho, ho! Of all the limbs!

MERCIA. You should have seem them before mother made me—

MRS. P.B. Mercia, behave yourself. We face a serious crisis.

MERCIA. Yes, mother.

MRS. P.B. This person, your person—claims to have come to Australia on the first convict ship...

MERCIA. Not wearing leg-irons?

J.P. Aye, lass.

MERCIA. You've got my sympathy. [Enthusiastically.] But tell us all about it. Did you ever get the cat o' nine tails?

J.P. A did and plenty.

MRS. P.B. I'm sure you deserved it.

MERCIA. And have you still got the weals on your back?

J.P. Aye, that A have.

MERCIA. Oh, do show us.

MRS. P.B. Mercia!

MERCIA. Yes, mother. And what did they give you to eat? Skilley?

J.P. But mighty little else.

MERCIA. Can you make it? I'd love to give a skilley party. It isn't too fattening, is it?

MRS. P.B. We need hardly discuss dietetics now, Mercia. Your great-great—

MERCIA. Call him "granfer" or something for short.

MRS. P.B. A ridiculous idea, but certainly less complicated. Your ancestral grandfather—shall we say—has declared his intention of remaining here until Mr. Fortescue arrives.

MERCIA. Why not? Perhaps he'd make a fourth at bridge. Do you play contract?

J.P. No, my gal, but A were a fair hand at shove 'apenny in my day.

MERCIA. Well, let's try that.

MRS. P.B. Mercia, will you please realise how impossible it is that he should stay here. If Mr. Fortescue ever learnt of this affair?

MERCIA. He'd turn granfer into a limited liability company and exhibit him.

MRS. P.B. He would cut us off his visiting list and your chance would be gone.

J.P. A intend that he shall learn!

MRS. P.B. [to MERCIA]. There! He seems to have the typical perversity of the male Pilcarrows. Your immediate grandfather had the same trait.

J.P. [chuckling]. They've always had rum 'uns to deal wi' in their women folk, who were not wi'out their mite of pigheadedness, either.

MRS. P.B. If you do persist in staying, I shall vow that you are a lunatic.

MERCIA. How splendid, mother. Perhaps Mr. Fortescue will think that's another family trait and back out.

MRS. P.B. Quite possibly he will! I understand lunacy skips every second generation.

MERCIA [counting on her fingers]. That would make it your turn, mother dear.

MRS. P.B. Mercia, please do not be so impudent. You are both intolerable.

[MAID enters.]

MAID. Mr. Fortescue is here, ma'am.

MRS. P.B. For the last time, I ask you to vanish or something. If you prefer to be orthodox, my maid will show you out the back way after giving you some dinner. [Very engagingly] Baked rabbit!

J.P. A've not been able to look a rabbit i' the face these hundred an' fifty years.

MRS. P.B. We do not bake our rabbits with their faces on!

MERCIA [sotto voce]. Sit tight.

J. P. A be staying.

MRS. P.B. [resignedly]. Show Mr. Fortescue in, please.

MAID. Yes, ma'am. [Exit].

MRS. P.B. Oh, why didn't they hang you on the same gibbet as your grandfather!

MERCIA. Then we wouldn't have been here, mother.

MRS. P.B. I wish to goodness I wasn't. This is certain to get into the papers. I may even be asked to resign from the golf club.


MAID. Mr. Fortescue, ma'am. [MAID exits.]

FORTESCUE. Good-evening, I trust I'm not late [he looks quizzically at J.P.].

MERCIA. Forte, you know quite well that you're never late. You're just in time for a big thrill. This is—

MRS. P.B. [quickly]. An eccentric individual suffering from the most extraordinary delusions.

MERCIA. He's nothing of the kind. Mr. Fortescue, meet my [counting on her fingers] great-great-great-great-grandfather.

J.P. Josiah Pilcarrow to thee.

FORTESCUE [puzzled]. Your great-great—

MERCIA. Yes, four times. Exciting, isn't it!

FORTESCUE. What's the joke?

MRS. P.B. A piece of arrant fooling.

J.P. Tha knows better, Maggie.

MERCIA. Yes, mother, if granfer had only proved to be Captain Cook—

MRS. P.B. I should still refuse to believe it.

FORTESCUE. What is it all about?

MERCIA. Simply that a dear and venerable ancestor of ours decided to pay us a visit from the murky past, and here he is.

J.P. Mighty pleased A be that A came.

FORTESCUE. Especially if you think you can capitalise a tale like that.

J.P. Tha manages a few, me hearty, but mine happens to be the straight griffin whilst thine be as crooked as a dog's hind leg.

FORTESCUE. Your language is rather unguarded.

J.P. A speaks as A finds.

MRS. P.B. Ignore him, Mr. Fortescue.

FORTESCUE. I am rather interested in these extraordinary statements. [To PILCARROW.] You're supposed to have lived—

MRS. P.B. A hundred and fifty years ago, or more, Preposterous, isn't it!

MERCIA, He came here with Governor Phillip at His Majesty's pleasure.

MRS. P.B. A captain in the 12th Regiment of Foot, so he says.

MERCIA. Wearing a pair of solid

MRS. P.B. [quickly]. Gold epaulettes.

J.P. Tha spins a good tale too, lass. A laid claims to no such fine feathers. A were but a gaol-bird, as tha knows.

FORTESCUE, That would not surprise me, nor to hear that you were again—

J.P. 'Tis thee that should know the likes o' them.

FORTESCUE. Be that as it may. You've apparently told some fanciful story. Has he been trying to get money on the strength of it?

MRS. P.B. No, but if he wanted a few shillings for a train fare, I would be only too pleased to let him have it.

FORTESCUE. We can't let him get away with that sort of thing.

J.P. Tale-telling for spondulicks is a game tha excels in, lad, so shouldst know all about it.

FORTESCUE. Why not send for the police?

MERCIA. Oh, yes, mother, let's!

MRS. P.B. Well—er—after all...perhaps I could handle the matter with a little more firmness. [To PILCARROW.] I will ask you not to be insulting to my guests. I would have you understand that Mr. Fortescue is highly respected in both commercial and social circles.

J.P. Aye, he might be, but that wouldna count for over-much wi' me.

FORTESCUE. You presume a great deal on your old age.

J.P. A be old enough for a piece o' straight talk, an' young enough for a bout o' fisticuffs, if needs be an' the devil drives. Na tell me lad, tha hast a mind to marrying little Mercia here, A understand.

FORTESCUE. If I had, that would be no affair of yours, whoever you may be.

J.P. 'Tis a Pilcarrow affair and that be my affair. The lass, though she be a descendant o' mine an' all, be far too good for thee, wi' tha slick ways.

MRS. P.B. Take no notice of him Mr. Fortescue, he is either wandering in his mind or intoxicated.

MERCIA. He's nothing of the kind! Are you granfer?

J.P. 'Tis the truth, A'm telling. A were no captain o' the Foot, but a village barber. A were sent out here for poaching.

MERCIA. And he lived on skilley for years. Why not get a testimonial from him for that patent breakfast food you're interested in, Forte?

MRS. P.B. He will do nothing of the kind. Do you imagine I'd want it advertised all over Australia even if it were true?

FORTESCUE. Do you believe this fabrication, Mercia?

MERCIA. Why not? We all had to have ancestors.

MRS. P.B. But not paying unceremonious calls on us in this fashion. Nice ancestors don't do that sort of thing.

MERCIA. Poor dears! Would you keep them in gold frames till the end of time? Why shouldn't they step out?

FORTESCUE. But Mercia, it's against all natural laws, to say nothing of common sense.

MERCIA. So is radio on the face of it.

MRS. P.B. You do press a button when you want the radio, but this person just pops in. It certainly isn't natural.

J.P. And neither is tha desire to be marrying tha wench where she has no heart for it.

MRS. P.B. Please take no notice of him, Mr. Fortescue. And Mercia is not a wench, either.

FORTESCUE. Mercia should know my feelings towards her and I hoped that they were reciprocated. I had intended asking her to be my wife.

MERCIA. I'm much more interested in phenomena at the moment.

FORTESCUE. You seem convinced that it is a natural phenomenon.

MERCIA. Of course!

J.P. An' well thee might be, lass.

FORTESCUE. You may be right, Mercia. But, if so, it's rather a pity a better type didn't materialise.

MRS. P.B. That's the one reason why I can't believe it. I feel the Pilcarrow traditions too strongly in my bones.

MERCIA. That's neuritis, darling. In any case, I'd love to think we had a sporty old lad up the family tree. After all, poaching was sporty, wasn't it?

FORTESCUE. It was still criminal.

J.P. Aye, but not as criminal as tha juggling wi' finance, lad. They'd 'a hung thee i' my day along o' the pickpockets.

FORTESCUE. My transactions are strictly within the law.

J.P. By that token, 'tis queer law.

FORTESCUE. The law it is, nevertheless.

J.P. Running companies nigh into ruin-then buying the assets for a few peppercorns an' lettin' the shareholders sweat—be that honest?

FORTESCUE. It is perfectly legal.

J.P. Clippin' away at prices till every honest competitor is broken an' thee wi' the field to thasel' chargin' what prices tha chooses—be that honest?

FORTESCUE. That also is perfectly legal.

J.P. Aye, an' so were buccaneering one time, but 'tis no excuse for thee having no moral code.

MRS. P.B. Of course he has a moral code. He goes to church every Sunday. Don't you Mr. Fortescue?

J.P. Aye, an' wi' the florin he puts i' the plate he thinks to buy the right to be robbin' all the next week. No, no, lad, there be no room i' the Pilcarrow family for the likes o' thee.

FORTESCUE. I'm not so sure that I want to—

MRS. P.B. There! Just as I thought!

FORTESCUE. As I said before; Mrs. Pilcarrow-Browne, I had looked upon Mercia as—

J.P. A likely lass wi' boodle to be bolstering up tha thievin' schemes.

FORTESCUE. As you will appreciate, the position is rendered rather difficult. Ancestor or not, Mr. Pilcarrow has been grossly insulting, and is obviously ill-bred.

MRS. P.B. Quite! If it were not for that, one could almost overlook the insults.

FORTESCUE. Possibly. But, under the circumstances—

MRS. P.B. I understand only too well. At the same time, Mr. Fortescue, since he is only Mercia's great-great-great...Oh dear, I do lose count.

MERCIA. Mother is trying to suggest that the Pilcarrow-Brownes have lived granfer down. I hope not. I'd love to try a spot of poaching.

J.P. A'll teach thee to set a snare, lass, but for a better catch than the likes o' him.

FORTESCUE. Then perhaps I might be excused.

MERCIA. Oh! We wanted you' to play shove 'apenny, didn't we granfer?

MRS. P.B. Mercia! My dear Mr. Fortescue, if you feel that you cannot possibly stay this evening—

FORTESCUE. I'd rather not.

MRS. P.B. I know I can rely on your absolute discretion, as a gentleman...

[Both exit.]

MERCIA. Granfer, you're a darling!

J.P. A had to save thee from yon rapscallion, lass.

MERCIA. Mother will never forgive you.

J.P. Maybe we might soften the blow a mite.

MERCIA. Do you think you could get her to think kindly of Dickie Frampton?

J.P. Dickie Frampton, I Dost love him, lass!

MERCIA. Um-m-m, watch my dust!

J.P. A'll see what A can do.

[Enter MRS. P.B.]

MRS. P.B. Well, you meddling old humbug, you've managed to have your own way and ruin the best chance Mercia will ever have.

J.P. The lass has no love for yon Fortescue.

MRS. P.B. Fiddlesticks. Such old-fashioned nonsense.

MERCIA. He obviously wasn't very eager, mother. Why, you yourself thought that bare legs would be sufficient to put him off.

MRS. P.B. So they would have been.

MERCIA. And then it was the bare bones in the family closet that finally finished him.

J.P. No lass—the baring of his own mean soul.

MRS. P.B. More fiddlesticks. I presume that you will return whence you came now that you have done all the mischief possible. Or do you propose to go around and tell all my friends?

J.P. If they be friends tha would need have no worry, but if tha hast only acquaintances scrambling up the social ladder, tha need have cause to fear.

They would pull thee down for the chance to take tha place. But mayhap A'll not be telling them, Maggie. Let's talk awhile on the gal here an her happiness.

MRS. P.B. I have no further interest in her.

MERCIA. Goody! Then I may marry Dickie Frampton?

MRS. P.B. That young upstart—I should say not!

J.P. He do be a fine young lad, willing an' all, from what A hear.

MERCIA. And he dances divinely.

MRS. P.B. And works all day in greasy overalls.

J.P. 'Tis a good tradesman he is seemingly.

MRS. P.B. A motor mechanic to marry my daughter—a Pilcarrow-Browne!

MERCIA. He mightn't always be a motor mechanic mother.

MRS. P.B. A man of no family at all.

MERCIA. He's young yet mother, but very enterprising.

MRS. P.B. Mercia! You know perfectly well what I mean.

J.P. He comes from rare good stock, that he do.

MRS. P.B. Impossible.

J.P. His great-great-great—

MRS. P.B. Don't tell me! I couldn't stand it. I know that his forebear was flogged to death or should have been.

J.P. Far from it. He were one of Captain Phillip's right hand men.

MRS. P.B. Oh, indeed!

J.P. Aye, that he were. And a brother to the thirty-first Earl of Bonville, to boot.

MRS. P.B. Really?

J.P. A did hear tell that the first Earl were with William the Conqueror at Hastings.

MRS. P.B. Fancy! I've been there, too. Now if his great-great-great-great-grandfather had only been the Earl—

MERCIA. And granfer hadn't stopped to catch the rabbit, Dickie and I wouldn't have met and we wouldn't have been able to get married.

MRS. P.B. I have not yet approved of your marriage—far from it.

J.P. But tha will, Maggie lass.

MRS. P.B. He certainly comes from a nice family. You're sure of your facts, of course?

J.P. Aye, positive.

MERCIA. Dickie's second name is Bonville, mother.

MRS. P.B. Really? Doesn't it seem a waste?

MERCIA. I'm sure he wouldn't mind about granfer, either. He's not a bit snobbish.

MRS. P.B. Snobbish? Oh, never mind. You must never breathe a word to him about it, child, nevertheless. I'd be mortified.

J.P. An' tha will let the lass wed the lad?

MRS. P.B. I might think about it.

J.P. 'Twould be right pitiful if A should become impatient o' tha dallying an' tell tha friends that A were a—

MRS. P.B. Oh, you wouldn't do that, surely? Think of Mercia...

J.P. 'Tis thee that should' be thinking of her.

MRS. P.B. You are really a very dogged person, aren't you? [To MERCIA.] Do you actually love this Richard of yours, dear?

MERCIA. I adore him.

MRS. P.B. And does he love you?

MERCIA. Madly!

MRS. P.B. And if I were to agree, would you take... live with you?

MERCIA. Rather!

MRS. P.B. [to PILCARROW]. And would you stay with them, or would you come popping in here with some more of your dreadful past?

J.P. A promise thee there'd be no more o' Josiah Pilcarrow.

MRS. P.B. Then I suppose I must agree! [To PILCARROW]: I believe that your real crime was blackmail.

MERCIA. Mother, you are a darling.

MRS. P.B. You had better bring the young man to me at the earliest possible moment. He must tell me all about the Earl, but not in his overalls. I wouldn't believe him.

MERCIA. Meet him now, mother. [She covers JOSIAH'S side whiskers with her hands.] This is Dickie. I said he was a priceless liar! But doesn't he do it beautifully?

MRS. P.B. So you made it all up? Merciful Heavens! I was reconciled to a ticket-of-leave man in the family, and even a motor mechanic, but an amateur actor!



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