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Title: The Banner
Author: George S Beeby
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Language: English
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The Banner
A Comedy in Three Acts

by

George S Beeby


From: Concerning Ordinary People: Six Plays
Gordon and Gotch Ltd.

*

First published 1923


PERSONS OF THE PLAY.

MICHAEL RICE, Mayor of Boondi.
JOHN PENNY, Proprietor of the "Boondi Banner."
MARGARET PENNY (known as PEG), his daughter.
JAMES PENNY (aged 16), his son.
ALFRED MARTIN (known as MARTY), a compositor.
PHINEAS BOOTY, M.P.
REV. A. CORNFORD, a Methodist clergyman.
ANDREW DUNCAN, president of the Boondi Shire Council.
KENNETH SMITH, a farmer and a Shire Councillor.
PERCIVAL WHITCOMB (known as "GOLLY"), a Jackeroo employed on Crossland's station.
GEORGE CROSSLAND, a sheep station owner.
Miss CROSSLAND, his daughter.
LADY BEAMISH, an aunt of Golly's.
DIANA WHITCOMB, her niece.


THE SCENE.

ACT 1. The Publishing Office of the "Boondi Banner."

ACT II.

SCENE I. (A week later). The drawing-room of Crossland's Homestead.

SCENE II. (Two nights later). The same.

ACT III. (Five days later).

SCENE I. A parlor of the Commercial Hotel, Boondi.

SCENE II. The same as Act I.


ACT I.

The Publishing Office of the BOONDI BANNER.

Boondi is a town of about 1500 inhabitants, situated at the edge of the Blacksoil Plains somewhere in Australia. The town is the centre of an old pastoral district which is gradually coming into closer settlement. Some large sheep stations still remain in the district, but a good deal of the country is held in small settlement leases suitable for mixed farming. The BANNER, with a primitive and inadequate plant, lives precariously, owing to the incapacity of the proprietor, JOHN PENNY. PENNY is a hopeless alcoholic, never really drunk, but always fuddled, The business is run by his daughter, MARGARET (known as PEG) who also manages the household, looks after a younger brother and keeps some check on her father's convivial habits.

The other member of the staff is GEORGE MARTIN (known as MARTY), an expert compositor when sober, given to the constant singing of mournful verses to improvised tunes. Most of the 'copy' is provided by PEG and a Jackaroo known as GOLLY, of the Reedy Creek Station, who delights in reporting local events and writing occasional leaders on district affairs. THE BANNER Office fronts the main street. A swing door opens from the street (left stage) towards a shop counter extending half-way across the office. There is also a back stage enttrance through the machinery room.

Immediately behind the counter is the Editor's cubicle. Its table is littered with old newspapers, paste pots and scissors. The Proprietor is at the table clipping extracts from other newspapers. Behind the Editor's cubicle are the usual fittings of a newspaper office before the day of the linotype in country offices—cases of type and stools, an old hand-press, an inking table with rollers, a making-up stone, and a small foot-treadle job-printing machine. The office is untidy and littered with paper. On the walls are specimens of Poster and card printing.

PEG, MARTY and JIMMY are sitting on stools setting type.

(As the Curtain rises MARTY is singing to himself in doleful tones).

JOHN PENNY. Don't sing that song, Marty! It makes me thirsty.

PEG. Father Penny, you're slipping. It's a long way off eleven o'clock. (Leaving her stool and going to the printing press) Come here, Jimmy and ink these galleys. We'll never get these proofs out in time.

(JIMMY inks the galleys and PEG manipulates hand press singing softly).

Take thy Banner!
Let it wave!
O'er the faithful,
And the Brave.

(Takes proofs to JOHN PENNY). Get these corrected father...We're all behind time as usual, and don't worry If you see small "L's" used for capital "I's".

JOHN PENNY. Type getting low again?

PEG. Not more than usual, but the member's speech Jimmy is setting up will take all the "I's".

JIMMIE. Over thirty of them already! And I'm only half through.

PEG. (Going back to her stool). Jimmie, I've a feeling that this will be a busy day Something's going to happen.

JOHN PENNY. (Putting on his coat and hat). I'll do these proofs later on. Old Booty is to receive five deputations at the Commercial at eleven and I must get particulars of everything before the start.

MARTY. (Moves towards back door ). Five deputations at the Commercial and the member there! I'll he back later on. (Leaves >by door back stage).

PEG. (As Penny reaches the door ). That means five drinks. Come here a minute, father.

(As JOHN P. comes back to his cubicle PEG produces a printed card from under a type case)

This is a morning for the Litany. Stand to attention Jimmie.

(JIMMIE stands to attention.)

(To PENNY). Take off your hat and repeat the words after me. (Reading from the card)—Whereas my daughter...

JOHN PENNY. (Hurriedly recites). Whereas my daughter Margaret, commonly known as Peg—

PEG. Not commonly!

JOHN PENNY. Whereas my daughter, generally known as Peg, brought up my motherless children, including herself, from infancy, and whereas on reaching years of discretion my said daughter became Editor and Business Manager of the Boondi Banner; and whereas my said daughter struck work and and—

PEG. And only-

JOHN PENNY. And only resumed her onerous duties on my agreeing when called on to repeat the following solemn undertaking—

PEG. I promise.

JOHN PENNY. I promise that now and for ever hereafter I will only have one at eleven, and one at four, on six days of the week, with one extra on Sundays!

JIMMIE. S'elp!

JOHN PENNY. So help me, God! (Makes for the door hurriedly)

PEG. Send some copy over as soon as possible, and tell Marty to come back and finish setting that report of the Good Templars' concert.

JIMMIE. Do you think he keeps that promise, Peg?

PEG. As far as any man can keep a promise.

JIMMIE. I wonder.

PEG. Anyhow it keeps him within bounds. He's never been speechless since Golly wrote out the Litany.

JIMMIE. Eh, Peg! How's it all going to end? Marty's getting nasty about his back wages, and paper's getting very low.

PEG. Jimmie, my boy, never look too far ahead. I can see the next two issues coming out...if we get the printing for the annual show, two more will be safe.

(A pause—both go on setting type.

"MICK" RICE an Irish-Australian, with a slight brogue, Proprietor of the Commercial Hotel and Mayor of Boondi enters and leans on the counter).

RICE. Any of these ball tickets ready yet, Peg?

PEG. You'll get them this afternoon.

RICE. And the programmes?

PEG. They've been sent round to the Committee.

RICE. It will be a great ball this year, Peg. Comin'?

PEG. No...it's on quarter night...must. get the accounts out. By the bye, what about the ball account? Any chance of getting the cash?

RICE...Oh, that'll be all right. There'll be enough and a bit over to square up everything, the day after the hop.

PEG. Quite sure?

RICE. As sure, as that you'll be the prettiest girl on the floor, if you come.

PEG. In the same frock as last year?

RICE. In any frock. Come in anything, or nothing—come as you are, girl...sure, with such as you, the frocking does not matter at all.

PEG. Blarney! But I can see through you. I tell you, Micky Rice, that the ball account will not be paid in kind this year. I don't mind the farmers occasionally paying their subscriptions in eggs, or butter, or potatoes. But there's a limit We've got euough potatoes in the house to open a greengrocer's store. I can't string them together, like beads, and make clothes of them.

RICE. I've been told that they do it in the South Sea Islands.

PEG. Just you look at that new notice. (Points to a print on the walls, and reads): "All accounts must be paid in cash."

RICE. Yes. That's a lovely bit o' printin'. And what name would you be giving to the type that makes such a beautiful letterin'?

PEG. Michael Rice, it's cash we will have this year. Last year you paid father in a case o' gin and the cleaning of his score off your slate. This year It will be cash—

RICE. But, Peggie, you always got good value. A case of gin, taken in small quantities, with a slice o' lemon and a little sugar, has brought happiness to many a suffering soul!

PEG. Mr. Rice, why can't you help me a bit? Keeping the house going, and guiding Jimmie, and looking after the Banner, are more than enough for any man, let alone a girl. But, when the job of keeping your father reasonably sober is added to it! Some of these days I'll invite the Band of Hope to come with me and wreck the Commercial!

RICE (nervously). How much is that account?

PEG. Five pounds, sixteen shillings.

RICE. I might as well give you a cheque and collect from the Committee later on. Lend me a pen.

(As he writes out cheque JOHN PENNY and MARTY return).

JOHN PENNY. All deputations off till twelve. The coach is late. (Resumes his scissor clipping, and MARTY his type-setting).

PEG (to JOHN PENNY). Mr. Rice says the money for the ball has come in so well he can pay the account in advance! (Handing a receipt in exchange for the cheque). Mr. Rice, if the good God had ordained that you should do honest work, instead of juggling beer, you would be a fine man.

RICE. John Penny, if the good God had given me a daughter with such a power of separating sinners from their silver, it's me that would be rolling down the streets of Boondi in a four-in-hand with two outriders and a coachman, in green uniform.

(Enter REV. A. CORNFORD).

REV. CORNFORD (looking resentfully at RICE). I'd better drop in later on.

PEG. It's all right, Mr. Cornford, I've just flnished my business with Mr. Rice.

REV. CORNFORD. I'm afraid the business I am concerned with cannot be discussed in the same atmosphere as Mr. Rice's.

JOHN PENNY. Now, Mr. Cornford, we can't discriminate in business. All printing and advertising are grist to our mill.

PEG (intervening). Father, I wish you'd get those proofs done. I want to run over the programmes of the Methodist annual meeting with Mr. Cornford.

RICE. I say, Cornford, there's no need to keep up this game with me. I'm a man of peace—live and let live is my motto. Whatever we think of each other privately, there's no reason why we shouldn't meet friendly, as citizens.

REV. CORNFORD. Our vocations, Mr. Rice, make it impossible for us to have any intercourse.

RICE. But there isn't any real difference between our vocations...we both serve out dope...only mine makes men happy till they want some more...your people never really want a second dose. They keep on taking it so as they can tell their neighbours that they are nice and miserable, thank God.

PEG (hurriedly). Mr. Rice, the member for the district left word that he would be down at your place at ten-thirty. He'll be waiting for you.

(Enter PHINEAS BOOTY, M.P., who hesitates when he sees the mixed company).

PEG. Why, here he is now...come right in Mr. Booty.

(BOOTY shakes hands with REV CORNFORD, MICK RICE, JOHN PENNY and PEGGY, in that order).

BOOTY. And how are the leading citizens of Boondi?

RICE (in an audible whisper). You didn't shake hands with Marty...he's driftin' over to the labour man.

MARTY. No one knows where I'm driftin' or who I vote for.

BOOTY, That's right, Mr. Martin...all I say to every elector is, don't miss your vote, vote for the best man, and preserve the sacred secrecy of the ballot-box! I never ask for personal pledges. I announce my principles, and leave it to the pulsing heart of democracy to say whether or not they are acceptable.

JIMMIE. Eh, Peg! How many "r's" are there in Barstard.

PEG. Jimmie!

JIMM1E. Well, it's here in the member's speech I am setting up. "The barstard land policy of the Labour Party must be resisted with all our power."

BOOTY. A mere figure of speech, my boy. Perhaps you had better strike the word out and substitute, er—'atrocious'.

REV. CORNFORD. There you see the danger of over emphasis. Extravagance of language is as reprehensible as intemperance in other things.

RICE. That's why in your last sermon you referred to the Licensed Victuallers' Ball as "The annual licentious orgy which dims the reputation of this town." Wasn't that over emphasis?

BOOTY. Really I think I had better drop in again later on. I have a great deal to do in town.

RICE. But you'll come along to the "licentious orgy?"

REV CORNFORD. Mr. Booty is expected to preside at the Methodies anniversary.

BOOTY. Do they come on the same night again?

RICE. Of course they do. The Methodists always wait until we fix our date and then run their tea-meeting as a rival show.

MARTY (sings dolefully):

My Mother told me when I came
To cross roads wide and bleak,
Choose that which does not lead to shame,
The quiet bye roads seek.

RICE (laughing). Go ahead, Marty, sing the whole song as you do at the Commercial, just before closing time!

BOOTY (glad to change the subject). I didn't know Mr. Martin possessed such accomplishments.

PEG. That song of his, "My Mother told me," has forty verses in it. Sometimes, when we want cheering up here, he sings it right through.

RICE. There's a chance, Mr. Cornford, to spin out your tea-meeting till it is too late for any of your people to come to the ball. Why not put Marty on between courses...say between the buns and the jam roll?

REV. CORNFORD. I won't stay here to be insulted any longer.

RICE. Oh, don't go yet. Mr. Booty hasn't decided which show he'll attend.

REV. CORNFORD. There should be no hesitation in choosing between the two events. (To Peggy). I Will call on my way back, Miss Peggy, and arrange those programmes.

(Exit MR. CORNFORD.)

PEGGY, Phew! Isn't it hot? Mr. Booty how are you going to fit the tea-meeting in with the ball?

RICE. Why, he'll preside at the Methody meeting, then hop into his evening clothes and come round to the ball, as cheerful as though he'd never looked a tea cake in the face!

BOOTY. I must be all things to all men.

RICE. Good luck to you, Booty...My heart bleeds for the politician who has to keep one eye on the Methodies and one on the Anglicans, one on the hotels, and the other on the Recbabites, one on the Masons and one on the Hibernians, one on the small farmers and one on the big landholders, and both the others on the newspapers...It's a hell of a game...I'm off to my bar...there's nothing complicated in my job. (Exit).

PEGGY. Fancy you, and that old Pagan, and poor Mr Cornford fixing the same time to come in here and entertain the staff; you must find it very difficult to keep in with everybody.

BOOTY (wiping his brow). You won't tell anybody if I let you into a secret?

PEG. I won't—honestly—

BOOTY. It's the meanest, dirtiest game a man can play.

PEG. Why, when I report your speeches I think how wonderfully thrilling it must be.

BOOTY. Not one in a hundred knows or cares about the real things Parliaments are supposed to deal with.

PEG. But isn't that what we put you in for? To tell us what we want...or ought to want...and then get it for us?

BOOTY. There you are. Illustrating what I say. What do you think is the greatest need of this country?

PEG. Why, more advertising, of course. The papers are not used enough.

BOOTY. Don't you think of anything but your little newspaper?

PEG. I don't. Why should I? What would become of Boondi...and of me...and Dad and Jimmie; if the Banner ceased publication?

BOOTY. And you blame us for being content to just find out how low the standard of public sentiment is, and play down to it.

PEG. Oh, no! I think you ought to lift the standard and play up to it.

BOOTY. The man who does that is branded a crank and gets left behind. Fools do the lifting and we wise ones tail behind and reap the results.

PEG. I think if I was a politician I'd get in front and lead the procession.

BOOTY. Have you ever been stuck for an answer to any question put to you?

PEG. Only once...When Joe Dennis proposed to me.

BOOTY. Now you're changing the subject.

PEG. Isn't knowing when to do that a sign of wisdom?...When is the election?

BOOTY. Probably in about three months.

PEG. Are you running the same ticket as last time?

BOOTY. Not quite...practically the same...some slight changes to meet the—er—inevitable fluctuations in public opinion.

PEG. You're not too strong in these parts. I want to have a good talk about things before you go.

BOOTY. Any time you like, Miss Peggy. Why not now?

(PEG makes a signal to JOHN PENNY to leave.)

JOHN PENNY. I'll see you later at the Commercial, Mr. Booty. (Leaves by front office door.)

PEG (taking JOHN PENNY's chair and inviting BOOTY to sit down).

Your position is really weak here, Mr. Booty.

BOOTY. What makes you think so?

PEG. Well, the labour man's getting a bigger hold, and the Farmers' Association is working quietly to bring out a new man at the last minute.

BOOTY. Everybody seems cordial enough.

PEG. Oh, yes, on the surface things look all right, but there are the undercurrents which can only be met by the circulation of printed addresses, and circulars, and copies of reported speeches.

BOOTY. I haven't much faith in printed stuff. It's the personal canvass which tells...meeting people...talking to them...sympathising with them in all their little troubles.

PEG. Yes, but your printed speeches and circulars make a wonderful appeal to reason, only not enough people read them. Now a column or two in your best style, in our paper, from now to the day of the election, and some reprints, will be worth hundreds of votes.

BOOTY. Not if it appears side by side with stuff like that infamous article in your last issue.

PEG. What article?

BOOTY (producing a clipping from his pocket). This one...accusing all politicians of being time-servers.

PEG. Oh, that! But none of our staff wrote that. The Early Bird Alarm Clock Co. sent it along with a quarterly advertisement.

BOOTY. A paper which allows itself to be used that way...

PEG (interrupting). Such an article will never appear again...I will not, in future, allow anything which has not been carefully read by me to be printed...

BOOTY. But that scurrilous attack has, through your columns, been read by three or four hundred electors.

PEG. Three or four hundred? Do you know, Mr. Booty, that everything in our paper is read by three thousand electors! We have a thousand subscribers. Every issue is read by an average of three adults!!!

Three times one...is three.

BOOTY (looking round the office). A thousand subscribers! That's a fine circulation for such a—er—miniature plant.

PEG (hastily). You cannot judge a newspaper's influence by the size of its printing press.

BOOTY. Quite so. I was only thinking how you must work to get a thousand issues out every week.

PEG. The Banner can be relied on to support its supporters. On the eve of every election our first duty is to decide which candidate can best represent ourr great district.

BOOTY. Or which has the most money to spend?

PEG. I admit that I prefer a candidate who realises that the press is as potent as the platform.

BOOTY. I couldn't have said it better myself—well, for the present, we'll make it two columns in the next four issues, and 5,000 reprints of my opening speech. (Rising). I must get along now for the deputations.

PEG. We allow ten per cent off, for cash in advance.

BOOTY. Why are you wasting your time in Boondi? There's scope for you in Sydney, managing a Mont de Piete (fills in cheque). Credit me with that.

PEG. Oh, thank you, I'll send a receipt over to your hotel, with quotations for the other printing you will be sure to want.

BOOTY (turns to leave, and at the door collides with KENNETH SMITH, with whom he shakes hands effusively). Good day, Mr.—er—er—

SMITH. Smith, Kenneth Smith.

BOOTY. Oh, yes, of course—from Cum-by-chance Crossing. It's remarkable—how one forgets names and remembers faces. And how's the old Dad and the family?

SMITH. Just the same as they were yesterday when you asked me.

BOOTY (in confusion). Of course, of course. Now I remember. My regards to all the folk at the crossing. I'll look you all up on the way through. Good bye. (Exit BOOTY).

SMITH. (standing at counter and watching Peggy working the jobbing machines). I say, Miss Peggy—

MARTY. Where the member is I will be this day—

PEG. Don't slip us up this week, Marty; half your back wages are in sight.

MARTY. I'll have all or nothing...and till I get my rights I'll go when I like, and come when I like. (leaves by back door).

SMITH. Miss Peggy!

PEG. Hallo, Mr. Smith, I thought you went out with the member. What's wrong? Want to get your name in the paper?

SMITH (grinning sheepishly). Only if it was side by side with yours.

PEG (goes on machining). Anything else, Mr. Smith?

SMITH. I mean that you can put our names in the paper, if you like, and write under yours the future Mrs. Kenneth Smith.

PEG. I'll think it over. Too busy to-day.

SMITH. Mrs. Dennis asked me to tell you that Joe has finished shearing up North, and will be back in three weeks.

PEG. Is that all?

SMITH. Not quite. He also said in his letter: Tell Peg Penny I've made a big cheque, and she can be ready for the wedding on Christmas Day.

PEG. Very honorable of you to deliver the message but you shouldn't crowd me. Two proposals in five minutes! I told you, Jimmie, this would be a busy day!

SMITH. I say, Peggy...I mean, mine...whenever you're ready—

PEG. I'll give you my answer this day month.

SMITH. I'll be back to the day. (Exit Smith).

JIMMIE. Why are you jokin' him, Peggy? He's a good sort.

PEG. How am I joking him?

JIMMIE. Bringing him back to play tag again, in a month.

PEG. In a month there may be no Banner. There may be nothing for it but the Cum-by-chance Crossing, or Joe Dennis' homestead selection.

(Enter REV. CORNFORD. PEG leaves the machine and goes to the counter).

PEG. Now we can have a talk, Mr. Cornford. This programme contains twenty-six items, and will go into a second page. That increases the price.

(MARTY re-enters and resumes type-setting).

REV. CoRNFORD. It does seem absurdly long, doesn't it. Coming after the tea-meeting, it will take till nearly midnight to get through every item.

PEG. Why not cut out a few of them?

REV. CORNFORD. My dear Miss Peggy, if you knew the struggle I had to cut it down to twenty-six.

PEG. Well, look at Miss Crossland's contributions; three recitations—surely one would be enough.

REV. CORNFORD, Miss Crossland knows three pieces, and she insists on reciting them all, or remaining off the programme.

PEG. Well, why not?

REV. CORNFORD. Why not what?

PEG. Why not off? We all know that "Curfew will not ring to-night," and. "How they brought the good news from Ghent," and how far it is "Over the hills to the Poor House."

REV. CORNFORD. The Crosslands are the Church's most liberal supporters. That programme must stand. And while we're on the concert, Miss Peggy, one unfortunate incident of last year's celebrations really must not be repeated.

PEG. Anything we were responsible for?

REV. CORNFORD. Yes. But, no doubt, unintentionally. You gave us a column report, while the Licensed Victuallers' Ball got a column and a half. Descriptions of some of the frocks of the dancers got into our report, while my daughter was said to have recited "The Drunkard's Dream" at the ball.

PEG. Yes, I remember. Marty got the copy of the two reports mixed up. If you only knew what a lot of things I have to keep my eye on, and how hard it is to fit everything into our limited space.

REV. CORNFORD. I hope you will be able to find a corner for those poems my daughter sent in.

PEG. Oh, I'd love to...Poetry does so brighten up the paper, and Miss Cornford's verses are so inspiring, but I don't know where we can put it.

REV. C0RNFORD. It might well take the place of some of the things you do find space for.

PEG. Yes, I know. I'd like, most, to fill up the space occupied by Wolfe's Schnapps, only that advertisement is worth 3 a quarter.

REV. CORNFORD. I would not suggest any interference with paying advertisements, but where poetry of such high order is offering, you should not let it go to waste.

PEG. I'll do the best I can. I am thinking of dropping some very low-priced advertisements in favour of a "contributors'" column. But, like all changes, it depends on funds. Now, if your Church account, in funding printing for the annual celebration, was paid I really believe I could at once start what I would call the "open column." (Turns over aoccunt book).

REV. CORNFORD. How much is required to pay everything?

PEG (making some calculations). Nine pounds, sixteen.

REV. CORNFORD. Oh, well. lt might just as well be paid now as next week. Lend me a pen. (Produces cheque-book and fills in Cheque).

MARTY (sings):

My Mother said take what you can,

But don't forget to give.

PEG. For heaven's sake, stop that singing, Marty.

MARTY (still singing):

By give and take alone does man
In Peace with others live!

REV. CORNFORD (handing over cheque). My daughter will be sure to contribute regularly to that open column. You'll send those programmes round as soon as possible. (Exit).

PEG. My hat! Three cheques this morning—two in advance. Two proposals of marriage! What more can be crowded into one day?

JIMMIE. More type to set. If you start trying to wedge poetry in we'll never get this issue out.

PEG (taking copy off a file). There's no limit to what we can do, Jim. When you start setting up this poetry you'll stay all night to finish it. Listen to the opening lines:—

I dream of the coming of Spring
With love again on the wing.
I dream of my love,
With wings of a dove
O'er hill and dale he is fleeting.

JIM. You ought to read that to Golly when he Comes in...

PEG. I haven't seen Golly this week, what's become of him I wonder?

JIM. There's great doings out at Crossland homestead. Some swells from England are staying there, some relations of Golly's.

PEG. Who told you?

JIM. Ken Smith—he heard that Golly's come into a fortune and is going back to England.

PEG. I don't believe it.

JIM. All right. Don't snap my head off. He's in town to-day and you can ask him for yourself.

PEG. Pity he's only half-size, isn't it?

(GOLLY, an undersized, excitable young man of about thirty, attired, in ordinary riding costume enters—unseen and unheard—through the back door).

GOLLY. I'm just a shade over half-size—nearly a three-quarter.

PEG (in consternation, swinging round on her stool). Oh, I 'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't hear you come in.

GOLLY (seating himself on the make-up stone). It's all right, Peg—no harm done.

PEG. It's not all right—I wouldn't hurt you like that for worlds.

GOLLY. Bless you, that didn't hurt! don't grudge anyone a smile about my size.

PEG. I wasn't smiling.

GOLLY. Where I came from Peg I was very sensitive about that sort of thing—but it's different out here.

PEG (to JIMMIE). Take those tickets round to the rectory Jimmie.

(Exit JIMMIE and MARTY).

(PEG turns back to her type-case, and cries softly).

GOLLY (taking her by the shoulders and turning her round). Oh, I say, Peg! I didn't know you could cry! (Wipes her eyes with his handkerchief). I thought I only made people laugh.

PEG. You've been such a good pal, Golly. The Banner would have gone under long ago only for your help and yet you catch me saying horrid things behind your back.

GOLLY. Not behind my back—I was behind yours and they weren't horrid. Why I said to Miss Crossland only yesterday—behind your back—that you had the funniest little nose south of the equator.

PEG (feeling her nose and leaving a smudge on it).

Oh, did you? What's wrong with it?

GOLLY. It's different from any nose that was ever made and its all smudgy on the left side. (Wipes the smudge).

PEG. Then you really believe that those words just slipped out?

GOLLY. Peg, I know you far better than you know yourself. You're incapable of an unkind thought...you're the kindest girl on God's earth.

PEG. You've been taking lessons in blarney from Mickey Rice.

GOLLY. No, no, be serious, Peg...what I say, to you, is always serious—

PEG (laughing). You look terribly serious now.

GOLLY. Not now you're laughing again! Do you know, Peg, it was that laugh of yours that made me stay in Australia? You can see the funny side of everything, from Methodist tea-meetings to funerals...from members of Parliament to Jackeroos, from old reprobates like Mick Rice to, to—

PEG. To their victims, like poor old Dad and Marty. Golly, I'm afraid that, with all your help, the old Banner will be like the Prince we read about in history—drowned in a keg of beer.

GOLLY. Things pretty bad again?

PEG. I'm getting tired, Golly. It's been a great fight since I took charge...there's been lots of fun...especially since you started writmg up the copy...but I'm on the edge—

GOLLY (touching her arm). Peg, dear—

PEG (with forced gaiety). Here, we're getting sentimental. It's not allowed in this office (points to a printed card on the wall, and reads): "We never mix sentiment with business—subscriptions must be paid during the first week in each quarter."

GOLLY. Peg, if I go back to England—

PEG. If you go back?

GOLLY. I may have to...soon.

PEG. We've never thought of that possibility. We've always taken you as a remittance man...Oh, what's wrong with my tongue to-day? I didn't mean that.

GOLLY. One of those undesirable Johnnies, sent out for experience, with prayers that he will never come back?

PEG. No! no! not that. We've just taken it for granted that you were a—a—Jackeroo.

GOLLY. Well, I am, in a way-only I wasn't sent out. I came of my own accord.

PEG. You've never told me anything about yourself before. Why did you come up here?

GOLLY. Well, it was this way. I was only half a man to begin with—

PEG. Oh, don't, don't.

GOLLY. I wasn't thinking of anything you said, Peg...don't be so touchy when I'm telling you the sad story of my life. It was in those days I was sensitive about my size...I also had rotten health—nerves...and my people put the lid on things by calling me Percy...Percival Plantaganet Whitcombe...I was a nasty little beast.

PEG, You weren't...you couldn't be.

GOLLY. Oh, yes, I was. A kind of hobgoblin, You see, Peg, I lived amongst people who didn't know how to laugh...while I was always stirring up the county, looking for the funny side of everything and everybody. And then the Governor decided I ought to marry, and picked out a girl for me just because she was half an inch shorter. So I started courting the biggest girl I could find...five feet eleven...and built in proportion...I really had a few people smiling...when the Governor exploded. There was a lovely bally row...I bolted, and just drifted up here. The Governor died about a year ago.

PEG. Why didn't you go back then?

GOLLY. Oh, I don't know exactly...I knew I must face it some day...but I liked this life and the people...and I got interested in the Banner

PEG. And now you will go back?

GOLLY. I don't know yet...it depends a great deal on you, Peg...I don't think I can—

PEG (interrupting, and pointing to another speicmen print card on the wall). There's another Banner motto, Golly, "Think twice before speaking once. You'll go back to where you belong...I'll always remember what you did for me...and you'll have many a laugh with your friends over the struggle to keep the Banner flying.

GOLLY. And you, Peg? What will become of you?

PEG. I haven't decided yet whether it will be Ken Smith and Cum-by-Chance Crossing, or Joe Dennis and his Homestead Lease. Either will mean a corner for Dad and Jimmie—

GOLLY. Peg, it can't end that way...I won't...

PEG. I'll call you Percival directly! Golly, you are a Duke or a Baron or something. You'll make your arrangements to go home and come and say good-bye to me in a week or two. I suppose I shall be calling you 'Milord'.

GOLLY. It's nothing as bad as that.

(A voice is heard outside singing).

GOLLY. By Jove, that's what I came in for, Peg. I heard Andy Duncan holding forth at the Commercial, as I came past. There's a cyclone coming down the street! Here it is!

"(ANDREW DUNCAN enters and violently slams the door. GOLLY moves over to the printing press).

DUNCAN. Where's Penny?

PEG. Good morning, Mr. Duncan. Father's out somewhere getting particulars of the deputations waiting on the Member. Aren't you introducing any of them?

DUNCAN (flourishing a copy of the 'Banner'). Who's responsible for this scandalous libel? I'll have a writ for damages out before sunset.

PEG. Libel? Libel in the 'Banner'! You must be mistaken.

DUNCAN. Yes, libel—this report of the Reedy Flat Farmer's Association concert.

PEG. I haven't read it yet. Marty set it up from copy sent by a local contributor.

DUNCAN. So you let stuff go into your rag without reading it?

GOLLY. Really, Mr. Duncan, you shouldn't call the Banner a rag. That's libellous.

DUNCAN. I wasn't addressing you.

GOLLY. Oh, but I say, we must be respectful to the Press—mightier than the sword—and all that, you know.

DUNCAN (coming behind the counter). Rag! I said, Rag! Had you anything to do with this report? If I thought you had I'd—I'd—

GOLLY. What's wrong with the bally old report, anyhow?

DUNCAN. What's wrong with it? Listen to this! (Reads) "How true it is that beneath the most rugged of exteriors the soul of an artist may be struggling for expression. Mr. Duncan appeared in full evening dress (early Victorian cut) and with stage deportment of exquisite ease and assurance sang five songs, four of them encores, freely bestowed on the audience without request"...That's a damned lie! I was encored every time!

PEG. I must get that little bit corrected—I am sure you were encored.

DUNCAN. You needn't worry—I'm not looking for corrections—I'm looking for justice.

GOLLY. Those, who demand justice for others, generally need mercy themselves.

DUNCAN. There's about as much sense in that remark as in the rest of this report...Listen to this, "Our Shire President, in rich and resonant tones, sang that fine ballad, 'Poleski's Banner.'" Poleski's Banner! That shows your contributor knows nothing about music...Poleski's Banner!

GOLLY (coughing explosively). What should it have been?

DUNCAN. "Pulaski's Banner!" Any schoolboy should know that—

PEG, I'm really sorry, Mr. Duncan.

DUNCAN. I haven't finished yet...this is the crowning insult...if this isn't libellous then nothing is (reads again ): "His method of emphasis is unique, and worthy of literal reproduction—

Take thy Ba'hanner,
Let it wive,
O'er the fa-haithful,
And the bra-have.

The use of the aspirate in sustaining notes was further employed in— Out in the sno-ho
Facing the fo-ho
Onward we go-ho!

PEG. But that's only the new way of reporting! What they call phonetic notation...All the Sydney papers do it that way!

GOLLY. Priceless Peggy!

DUNCAN. You keep your grinning little monkey face out of this. (To PEG). Will you tell me who wrote this?

PEG. We never disclose the names of our corresponding contributors.

DUNCAN. You will this time—the courts will make you.

GOLLY (standing by the inking table with an ink roller in his hand). I say, Duncan, be a sport—don't take it out on a girl—I wrote that bally thing—now what about it?

(A passing voice outside, sings):

"Out in the sno-ho!"

DUNCAN. Oh, you wrote it, did you? And what have I done to make you hold me up to riidicule. The whole town's laughing at me!

GOLLY. Well, join in the laugh! No man's soul can be saved until he learns to laugh at himself. You only laugh at other people. That's why I wrote it!

DUNCAN. You'll get a chance to laugh, when I drag you into the courts!

PEG. Don't rush it into Court, Mr. Duncan.

DUNCAN. I'll have my rights, and you can tell your father I've done with the Banner. You'll get no more mine reports. I cancel that standing order for the shareholders sixty copies of the contemptible rag!

(To GOLLY). Rag! I said! And, in future, no friend of mine will keep up his subscription...(Exit DUNCAN, banging the door).

GOLLY (laughing). I never thought you'd let that report go in. I only wrote it for a lark...Phonetic notation of music. The way they do it in Sydney! Peg, your'e the brightest jewel of the Blackson Plains.

PEG (solemnly). The actual paid circulation of the Banner is 180 copies, 60 of which go to the shareholders of the Gold Mine—60 from 180 leaves 120.

Old Duncan can pull off another 20—20 from 120. leaves 100. And Duncan can block our getting the Show printing, our last chance. Golly the Bannner's bursted! It was funny though...if the old pepperpot could only have joined in the laugh.

GOLLY. Are things really as bad as that, Peg?

PEG. Yes...losing the mine support is the last straw.

GOLLY. I'm sorry I riled the silly old blighter.

PEG. It will only make a difference of a week or two...We owe 60 for paper and further supplies are cut off until we pay up...Marty is beginning a spree, on the ten weeks wages owing to him...the jobbing trade is falling away to nothing.

GOLLY (who has been nervously moving about the office). I say, Peg! I'm pretty well off now. Let me give the show a fresh start.

PEG (fiercely). If you say another word like that I'll never speak to you again. (Going over to GOLLY). Don't you dare spoil the one memory which may just make life endurable, when you've gone.

GOLLY. I'm sorry, Peg. I seem to be making a mess of everything today...But, damn it all, why shouldn't I? You can pay me back some day with interest.

PEG. Golly, you're spoiling the best friendship that ever existed. (Cries again).

GOLLY. No, I'm not. I—I wouldn't advance you five shillings now, if you begged it.

PEG (springing up and going to the hand-press) What's come over me? Two cries in one day, and a feeling that I could do a few more. Come here and help me print off these supplements.

GOLLY (working the press while PEG inks). There's nothing like honest work to restore a disturbed equillbrium.

PEG. What a pretty name for a shower of tears.

GOLLY. I say, Peg, if the Banner is about to...are you on for a lark?

PEG. I'm on for anything; now that nothing matters.

GOLLY. How many issues can you manage?

PEG. This day, two weeks, will positively see our last appearance.

GOLLY. Supposing we have a special last issue? Write up the funny side of every man and woman of any importance in the district. Let the old Banner have an oriental funeral...baked meats, and fireworks, and much laughter and rejoicing.

PEG. It sounds good...

GOLLY. Will you do it? I'll square Marty...I'll write most of the copy. Will you shake on it, Peg?

PEG. I'll do it.

(They shake hands across the press. GOLLY retains his hold of her hand).

PEG (snatching her hand away). Golly, you're a bit over-excited to-day. In a fortnight's time you will come here to see the last issue out. You'll say goodbye and we'll part—just what we have been for nigh on two years.

GOLLY. What's that?

PEG. Two odd people who can get a laugh, even out of life's little tragedies.

(They go on printing).

GOLLY. All right, old dear. Leave it at that. This day two weeks you will be here...just as I first met you...and I'll come along to print off the last issue and...to say good-bye. (Leaves by the back door).

PEG. To say good-bye...The dear little big man!

(Goes back to her stool and resumes type-setting. JOHN PENNY enters with MARTY. MARTY resumes his work, and PENNY his scissoring of extracts).

MARTY again breaks out into doleful song.

CURTAIN.


ACT II.

SCENE I.

The drawing room of CROSSLAND's homestead, comfortably furnished in old-fashioned style, with piano, two sofas, and the usual stiff-backed suite. The CROSSLANDS have been giving a little party in honor of LADY BEAMISH, an aunt of GOLLY, and DIANA WHITCOMBE, her niece—the purpose of whose visit to Australia is to induce GOLLY to return to his English home. Dinner is over and some of the guests have gone. Amongst those remaining are PHINEAS BOOTY, M.P., REV. A. CORNFORD, MICHAEL RICE, ANDREW DUNCAN and KENNETH SMITH.

GOLLY, MR. CROSSLAND and MISS CROSSLAND are also present. LADY BEAMISH is sitting on a sofa in company with MR. BOOTY. The REV. CORNFORD and MR. CROSSLAND are in conversation on adjoining chairs, and GOLLY and Miss CROSSLAND on the other sofa. MR RICE is on a chair near the piano—Miss DIANA is at the piano. MR. DUNCAN has just finished a song to Miss DIANA's accompaniment and is looking fixedly at GOLLY. MR. RICE is clapping vigorously.

LADY BEAMISH. That's a fine old song, I don't remember hearing it before. What is the title again, Mr Duncan?

DUNCAN (with syllabic emphasis). Pul-as-ki's Banner.

LADY BEAMISH. Do you know it all, Percy?

GOLLY. I heard it once before. But I like Mr. Duncan's new rendering. That staccato effect he gets into Ban-ner is unique.

DIANA (looking round in astonishment). Is musical criticism one of your new attainments?

GOLLY. Oh, no. Just a little side hobby.

RICE. I like his old way of singing it best.

DIANA. Do you sing, Mr. Rice?

RICE. Me! Lord, no. One of my greatest troubles is to stop other people singing.

LADY BEAMISH. Why stop anybody?

RICE. Some of my customers always pick the wrong time and place for pouring out their hearts in song. It's awkward when they break out a few minutes after closing time.

LADY BEAMISH (puzzled). A few minutes after closing time? I really don't understand.

REV. CoRNFORD. The theme is hardly worth pursuing, your Ladyship. Our Mayor runs one of the local hotels.

RICE (truculently). And a good hotel, too, notwithstanding—

BOOTY. That is one of the great features of our free democracy, my Lady. A man's occupation is no bar to any public position. So long as any citizen has the ability and the energy to climb, the highest post in the land is open to him. Before I got into Parliament I was a working coachsmith...It's the same principle which puts a brewer into your House of Lords.

LADY BEAMISH. Just so. And do you sing, Mr. Booty?

BOOTY. I am sorry to say I am not gifted in that direction. I had an inclination that way in my younger days, but the study of elocution prevented my pursuing it.

Miss CROSSLAND. Elocution takes a lot of time, doesn't it? Before I could really recite, I spent hours a day in diaphragmatic exercises.

REV. CORNFORD (hurriedly). I don't think recitations can be done effectively in a small room, do you, Mr. Whitcombe?

GOLLY. I am sure they cannot. You want the stage; the audience some distance from the reciter; and a drop scene, and all that. Still, if Miss Crossland...

LADY BEAMISH (hastily). It's not fair to ask Miss Crossland...She has had a tiring day.

Miss CROSSLAND. Oh, I'm always willing to oblige. But, perhaps, Miss Whitcombe will sing.

DIANA (to avoid the recitation—promptly plays and sings a simple melody. As she finishes, an awkward pause ensues).

Miss CROSSLAND. What about some parlor games?

BOOTY (to LADY BEAMISH). Have you ever played tabloid orations, your Ladyship?

REV. CORNFORD. That's a good proposal. (To LADY BEAMISH) You put the names of all present in one hat, and each of us writes out a subject and puts it in another. Then you draw from both hats, and the person named makes a two minute speech on the subject drawn.

GOLLY. That's a ripping idea. Let me get the hats.

(Leaves and returns with two hats. All present drop a slip in each hat. While these preparations are being made)—

RICE. I'll be time-keeper—two minutes, and no more, for each spruik!

BOOTY. Two minutes doesn't permit of any sustained oratorical effort, does it?

LADY BEAMISH, A lot of good, or a lot of harm, can be done in two minutes. I often think, that, if speech was only possible for two consecutive minutes, with hourly breaks of silence, there would be more work done in the world.

GOLLY. Precious Aunt! We'll patent that idea! (Draws a slip from each hat). Mr. Mayor Rice, subject, "The Drink Curse." (General laughter).

RICE. I withdraw! Golly stacked the cards!

GOLLY (drawing again). Lady Beamish, subject "The Culture of the Arid West." Go to it, Aunt!

LADY BEAMISH. You could not have chosen me a better subject. This great, wide, country is charming, and its people are kindness itself. We came out here to get my nephew to take up certain responsibilities in England which he must face—sooner or later. We find that, between you all, you have given him what he came in search of...better health and greater stamina...When he gets down to his work, at home, he will never forget, we will never let him forget, what he owes to Mr. and Miss Crossland and all you good, kind people.

GOLLY (drawing from the hat again). Mr. Booty, subject—"Should Payment of Members be Abolished."

BOOTY (rising). There are two sides to every question.

RICE. Three! always three, in these days!

GOLLY. Order! No interruptions are permitted.

RICE. But Booty lives on interruptions. His speeches are as flat and heavy as half-cooked dampers, without them!

GOLLY. Order, order!

BOOTY. Payment of members has been instrumental in bringing many of our greatest men into public life.

RICE. Hear! hear! It gave us our Booty.

BOOTY. On the other hand, it has introduced a dangerous professional element into politics.

RICE. It has. It has. Bad luck to the professionals who oppose our amateur!

BOOTY. It has, however, added a stability to our system of party politics. Parliaments can now be generally relied on to run their full term.

RICE. They can, indeed.

BOOTY. Looking at the matter historically, we find, that, in the old days, when Parliamentary Government was completely in the hands of the privileged classes...

RICE. Now you're getting tedious. Time!

GOLLY. Fifteen seconds to go.

BOOTY. The present agitation to revert to the old system must be respectfully and carefully considered. There is much to be said in favor of it.

MR. CROSSLAND. Hear, hear.

BOOTY. There is much to be said against it.

KENNETH SMITH. Hear, hear.

RICE. Time!

GOLLY (drawing again). Mr. Duncan, subject "The Art of Singing."

DUNCAN (glaring at GOLLY). I'm no good at speaking, or playing the fool. I withdraw!

GOLLY (drawing again). Mr Cornford, subject "Which is the greater influence for good, the Church or the Stage?"

LADY BEAMISH. Percival, have you been learning sleight of hand tricks? Your drawings from the hats excite suspicion.

GOLLY. All square, Aunt—there is a Providence which shapes—and all that...Mr. Cornford.

REV. CORNFORD. My actual contact with the stage has been very limited. I did, on one occasion, visit a theatre with a brother clergyman to witness a production of a Biblical play, "Joseph and his Brethren." Up to a point it was extremely interesting, but the attempt to portray the—er—recorded altercation between Joseph and Potiphar's wife finally convinced me that the stage is a source of grave danger to society; a device of the evil one for the enslavement of souls. It was my protest against the play which started a great press controversy. Unfortunately, however, my references to the—er—objectionable scene excited public interest, and the play received a new lease of life. The manager of the theatre wrote thanking me for what he called "turning a busted flush into a royal sequence." I never quite knew what he meant, and he sent ten guineas to the Church funds.

RICE. Which you returned next day?

REV. CoRNFORD (ignoring the interruption). The Church cannot compromise with the stage. The Church's function is to conceal from the young the evil things they may be forced to come into contact with later on, while the stage flaunts them, in the face of both young and old.

RICE. Time!

KENNETH SMITH. The subject I put in hasn't been drawn yet.

Miss. CROSSLAND. Nor mine!

ALL OTHERS. Nor mine!

GOLLY. It's very difficult to read handwriting in an artificial light.

LADY BEAMISH. You fraud!

Miss CROSSLAND (noting DIANA's effort to suppress a yawn). It is very late, and Miss Whitcombe looks tired.

LADY BEAMISH. We are a little tired. The heat of the day leaves us cold country people exhausted at night time. Besides that, I have some business to transact with my nephew before we retire.

GOLLY. Oh, that can keep, Aunt. Miss Crossland hasn't recited yet.

MISS CROSSLAND, No. Not to-night, really.

LADY BEAMISH. (rising). You have got my nephew into one bad habit. He puts serious things off to the last mrnute, but he cannot escape me to-night.

(The guests rise and, forming a queue, file past LADY BEAMISH and DIANA and shake hands).

RICE. Well, good-night, my Lady. I'm sorry you can't stay over the Licensed Victuallers' ball, and see the massed beauty of the arid West.

LADY BEAMISH. I'm really distressed at missing such an interesting function, but I must leave in a few days. It is possible to impose on Mr. Crossland's hospitality.

CROSSLAND. You are welcome to stay as long as you like, both you and Miss Whitcombe.

DIANA. That's kind of you, but I have some city engagements which must be kept.

RICE (shaking hands effusively). I am glad to have met one of the aristocracy. There isn't really much difference between us after all, is there, your Ladyship?

LADY BEAMISH. Not really, Mr. Rice; we are all fashioned of the same material.

RICE. I'm glad to hear you say that. So long as we heads of different classes really understand each other, there's no danger of these new ideas of equality coming to anything. I'm a radical; but no socialism for me.

LADY BEAMISH. That's it, Mr. Rice. It's understanding each other that really counts. Good-night. Thank you for coming out to meet us.

BOOTY. It would have been a great pleasure to me, and a great honor to Boondi, if you could have attended the opening meeting of my campaign.

LADY BEAMISH. That's another interesting experience we must deprive ourselves of. But you will send us a full report of your speech?

BOOTY. I can do that now. I always have them printed in anticipation; kept under lock and key until the meeting is over. On such an occasion as this I must break the rule. (Hands printed copies of speech, shakes hands, and retires).

DUNCAN (comes forward, clearing his throat).

LADY BEAMISH. And the special concert of your Association, Mr. Duncan? I regret missing that as much as anything.

GOLLY. I'll see that you get a full report of that, Auntie. The Banner's strong point is reporting—concerts.

DUNCAN. Ha Ha, Mr Whitcombe will have his joke. Good-bye, your Ladyship and Miss Whitcombe (shakes hands). Glad to have met you both.

K. SMITH (comes forward awkwardly). Good Night ladies. If you can spare an hour or two to see those stud rams of mine?

LADY BEAMISH. I may be able to Mr. Smith, but I can't promise. Thank you for all the information you gave me about wool. I assure you, until tonight I always thought sheep were born with those short tails.

(SMITH shakes hands and leaves).

REV. CORNFORD (evidently waiting until the other guests have gone and groping underneath the sofa, produces a sheath of manuscript). Before you go Lady Beamish, I seek a slight favour of you.

LADY BEAMISH. Anything I can do, Mr. Cornford, I would only be too happy.

REV. CORNFORD. My daughter, who unfortunately could not come out to-night due to a severe cold, has written a great deal of poetry.

LADY BEAMISH (hastily). That's really not in my line. I'm a very practical person. Prose and prose only, is my medium of expression.

REV CORNFORD. I had only hoped to get you sufficiently interested to publish a small collection of them. They are worthy of it, I assure you.

LADY BEAMISH. I have no doubt of that , Mr Cornford, but I have no influence in that direction. I was only consulting my publisher just before leaving England about a little volume of prose—some memoirs. He told me that enormous quantities of poetry are sent to his firm every year, very little of which is ever printed.

GOLLY. Was that the Johnny who said that if all the unpublished poetry of the last ten years was written in one line, it would reach from here to the sun, go twice round it, and come back again?

LADY BEAMISH. That was the one.

GOLLY. I wonder if he made any allowance for deflections caused by comets?

LADY BEAMISH (laughing, while Mr. CORNFORD looks on with astonishment). Mr. Whitcombe will assail us with his incomprehensible jokes. But, seriously, Mr. Cornford, I would not advise you to seek publication in England.

REV. CORNFORD. But just listen to this. It is selected haphazard from her longest work, "Emancipation"

Our souls are locked within a cage,
Built by proud men of every age,
We beat our wings, with frantic rage,
Against the cruel barn.
For, Freedom's thirst, none can assuage,
'Gainst man-made laws long war we wage,
To tyrants all we throw the gage,
Our beauty though it roars!

LADY BEAMISH. Yes, that shows great merit, but...

REV. CORNFORD. It isn't the sentiment only; there's...the originality of the metre.

LADY BEAMISH. Yes, l was really struck with the the rhythm—but...

REV. CORNFORD. Here's another—in lighter vein.

Let me read you a few lines.

LADY BEAMISH. Mr Cornford, I would love to hear them all read; however I feel certain that English publishers will not print poetry...especially Australian poetry.

GOLLY. That is one of the reasons for the tariff reform movement, support for local industry and all that.

REV CORNFORD. Still I feel...

GOLLY. So do I. Mr Cornford why not leave them with my Aunt. She is here for a few days. I will personally make sure that they are read by her and returned.

LADY BEAMISH (to GOLLY). You little wretch!

GOLLY (tosses manuscript on the sofa and dances LADY BEAMISH around the room). Oh my Aunt, my precious Aunt, you have got it. You had it all the time!

LADY BEAMISH. Got it? Got What?

GOLLY. The saving grace. That was one of my mistakes in England. I didn't realize you had it all the time.

LADY BEAMISH. That is not the only mistake you made. You didn't realize that some of us are truly attached to you, with all your whimsical faults.

DIANA. While you two are recovering, I shall cross that long promised talk with Miss Crossland off my list. I shall return shortly. (exit DIANA).

LADY BEAMISH. You can't escape a serious talk now, my lad. Your ingenuity in avoiding it has been fiendish. You are cornered at last. When can you make arrangements to come back with us?

GOLLY. I haven't decided to come back yet!

LADY BEAMISH. You mean you won't admit you have already decided to come back?

GOLLY. No, honestly, Aunt, I really haven't decided what I will do.

LADY BEAMISH. Nonsense. You can't fool me. Who's this girl Peggy we hear so much about to-night?

GOLLY. Peggy? Why, she's—she's—Peggy—

LADY BEAMISH. A terse, answer...but not very illummating.

GOLLY. I've never tried to put her into words.

LADY BEAMISH. Your conversational powers have increased markedly since you ran away from us. Please extend them now a little, boy and tell us who and what, is Peggy?

GOLLY. Peggy? She's the editor of the local newspaper.

LADY BEAMISH Young or old?

GOLLY. A chit of a girl carrying the responsibilities of a regiment.

LADY BEAMISH. I can't concieve of heavy responsibilities in this outpost of civilization.

GoLLY. My priceless Aunt. Why didn't you call it that at the dinner table, and give Phineas Booty a chance to recite his speech on the culture of the Western plains?

LADY BEAMISH. I don't use the phrase offensively.

GOLLY. Boondi has five hotels, a newspaper, three blacksmithies, three churches, two general stores, a dancing academy, a philharmonic society, a Band of Hope, and five poker schools. What more can civilisation offer?

LADY BEAMISH. That's a very clever changing of the subject, Percy.

GOLLY. I pray you; Aunt, call me not P-Percy.

LADY BEAMISH. To get back to Peggy, what do you mean by responsibilities?

GOLLY. Aunt, do you know, I have made some great discoveries in Australia.

LADY BEAMISH. Peggy one of them?

GOLLY. I have learned that the world is made up of millions of little worlds. In the most unexpected places you find people running little planets of their own—providing the impetus that keeps things going, centripital and centrifugal forces, gravitation, and all that.

LADY BEAMISH. Gravitation; I suppose, is this Peggy's great point—the attraction of weaker bodies to the stronger?

GOLLY. I wish you could understand.

LADY BEAMISH. I might, if you stopped talking nonsense. I want to hear more about this girl, and you offer me a dissertation on elementary physics. Just tell me what I want to know, in plain narrative.

GOLLY...It's not very heroic, according to our standards, and in one particular, to you, it may be sordid. She edits the paper; sets up a good deal of the type; reports meetings; manages the business; keeps house for her father and brother, and helps to hold her father from alcoholic annihilation—and she smiles through it all...

LADY BEAMISH. Pretty?

GOLLY. Why, I've never noticed...Now you mention it...I think she would look rather ripping, with her hair properly arranged, and in an evening frock. I've only seen her in a kind of working overall...generally with a little smudge of ink near the left eye.

LADY BEAMISH. She wasn't asked to this party to-night

GOLLY. My dear Aunt! We have our social grades here. The daughter of a struggling printer, and incidentally of Boondi's most persistent bon vivant, moves in a different social circle to our leading citizens.

LADY BEAMISH. "A pure democracy," said Mr. Booty, "knows no social strata."

GOLLY. Except in the drawing-room of the wealthiest district homestead. Besides, Aunt, Peggy has no time to frivol at parties. She is a very serious young lady.

LADY BEAMISH. You spend a good deal of your time at this printing office?

GOLLY. I write a lot of the copy, and sometimes take a hand pulling the press.

LADY BEAMISH. In love with her, Percival?

GOLLY. Do you think I ran away from one affinity selected for me by the poor, old Governor, to look for another here?

LADY BEAMISH. No answer to my question. Are you in love with her?

GOLLY (after a long pause). I don't know. I do know she's not in love with me....She's too complete to mate with a midget.

LADY BEAMISH. Women don't use a tape measure when selecting their "mates," as you call them...What a horrible expression!

GOLLY. Aunt there are such things as friendships. This funny little soul is the best friend I ever had.

LADY BEAMISH I'm glad it's only friendship.

GoLLY (heatedly). Why she's better than any of the women who would marry me if I went back.

LADY BEAMISH. Better than Diana?

GOLLY. That's not like you, Aunt..that's not fair...to Diana!

LADY BEAMISH (impulsively). I know it was not. Forgive me, boy. I just want to see you back in your place with the right kind of wife...you will come back Percy?

GOLLY. I expect so. But I won't say finally for a few days.

LADY BEAMISH. Boy, I'm very fond of you. Don't make any foolish mistake. Don't let that foolish mind of yours come into play in settling this question.

(Enter DIANA)

DIANA. Well Aunt, have you got anything definite from the deserter?

LADY BEAMISH. He is beginning to see where duty lies, but it's tiring work, Diana, re-converting an outlaw. I'm leaving him in your hands and going to bed.

GOLLY. (nervously). Don't go yet, Aunt. We haven't got beyond the fringe of things.

LADY BEAMISH. You can devote all tomorrow to me. Good night.

(Exit LADY BEAMISH)

DIANA. First chance we have had for a real talk since I arrived. You've changed a lot, Percival.

GOLLY. (wincing under the name). I have Di...much older...a lot of varnish knocked off.

DIANA. Let us go back to the beginning. Why did you make that sudden bolt from Whitcombe?

GOLLY. Is it worth going over, Di? You would never understand.

DIANA. But I want to understand...I must...You were always over-sensitive about your build!

GOLLY. It wasn't the build only—I was loaded with a set of nerves two sizes larger than my general framework—it was the double handicap which made such a pest of me.

DIANA. You were never a pest—you were eccentric and always up to mischief; but you left a big hole in the lives of many people, when you left us.

GOLLY. Perhaps so. But I 'm not sorry I cleared out. My nervous system has been reduced to the same size as the rest of the gear.

DIANA. I'm glad, Percival. You'll fit into things when you come back. How did you get that ugly scar?

GOLLY. Oh, that? That's my badge of courage. I'm more proud of it than a full-sided soldier is of his V.C.

DIANA. This country does indulge in strange decorations, but what I asked is—how did you get it?

GOLLY. I got hurt, arguing the right of way with a steam roller.

DIANA. Please translate that into English—I haven't acquired the local vernacular.

GOLLY. I had a deuced awkward experience...thoughtlessly hit a man much larger and stronger than myself. After the tenth round the remnants of me were tied up with strips of a borrowed shirt, and sent home in the bally ambulance.

DIANA. And you left all that Whitcombe Abbey meant, for such experiences?

GOLLY. I wasn't looking for that experience; but I would not have missed it for a dozen Abbeys.

DIANA. You are still a bundle of riddles.

GOLLY. Di, you have no idea how the souls of some undersized nervy mean are tortured with fear—not the fear that ends with panic or funk, but which makes you ill when facing unpleasant things. Well my scar is a sign that I am free of the curse of the undersized. Since Paddy Hogan operated on me, I have never failed to stand up to anything the fates have sent along.

DIANA (looking at him intently). You have changed a lot. Why, you've nearly cured that stammer!

GOLLY. Yes. I only trip over the "b's" and "d's" now. B-but I'll b-beat them yet.

DIANA. And you say things that make me start thinking back—finding new explanations of things that puzzled us all before you left.

GOLLY. Here! I say, Di! Don't get too serious—psycho-analysis, and all that.

DIANA. But I want to be very serious just now. Whtcombe Abbey is practically deserted. You can't let it drift any longer. You must come back at once...you must!

GOLLY. Why must I?

DIANA. You dare not neglect your duty any longer.

GOLLY. My duty! My duty is to live the life that best suits my temperament. I'm not sure that I can ever settle down in the Whitcombe ruts...start doing things day afer day, forever and a day, just because my ancestors did them, or because other people in their ruts expect them to be done.

DIANA. Whitcombe is one of the last citadels of the country gentleman left in our county. You cannot 1et it pass into the hands of some one who is buying his way int gentility.

GOLLY. Supposing I sell Whitcombe and start farming on a large scale here?

DIANA. You can't...you're an English gentleman.

GOLLY. Will I be any the less a gentlenlan out here?

DIANA. Yes...you will...you'll become as rough and uncouth as—as the people I have met here.

GOLLY. Is that all that birth and breeding mean? Contact with the realities of a pioneering country will rub them off?

DIANA. Oh. You put me in the wrong, unfairly. What I mean is that English decadence is measured by the falling away of its country families. You mustn't join the deserters.

GOLLY. In which place can I really do the most good? out here where people work and laugh, or over there where they hug delusions, and only smile when the book says it is good form?

DIANA. Look at it my way tor a moment. The country life of England is like a rich old tapestry the pulling out of a thread dims the pattern...Percy, it's getting more threadbare every year, and you are helping in its final destruction.

GOLLY. Why, Di, we are each discovering new qualites in each other to-day. You are not just existing over there. Yon have, what Mr. Booty calls, a "definite objective." There are planks in your platform.

DIANA. I fashion my life to one end—the keeping up of our old country families.

GOLLY. Sometimes I think we could do more good by shifting our old families here, where there is room to stretch.

DIANA. That's pure nonsense. You'll forget this place, directly you get back. The old life will make an irresistable appeal. Now that you are matured and in good health. Just think of it, Percy. The rambling old house with it's historical associations, it's heirlooms, its memories left by the people of past centuries...its library...the musty little corners...and then outside, the woods, the compact little farms, so different from these vast scattered wastes of untidy wastes of uncultivated lands...And there will be the occasional little house parties...The morning cross-country rides...the flitting to London during the season, and the people...our people...the quiet people who just jog along with the countries routine.

GOLLY. It sounds good, Di. You bring it all back to me. But it's the people...if only they were alive.

DIANA. The novelty of your life here will wear off some day. Come back while you are able to pick the threads...before you are a stranger to all your old associates.

GOLLY. If I come, I will make great changes.

DIANA. We will tolerate any changes, so long as they are made by a Whitcombe.

GOLLY. I will still make mischief amongst all the solemn people over there.

DIANA. I'm not afraid of that...you were a fretful boy when you saw them last...You've grown up since then, Percy.

GOLLY. For heaven's sake, Di, don't call me that name.

DIANA. I'll never use the name they've given you here. (long pause) I'm going to ask you one more intimate personal question...are there any...any entanglements which keep you here?

(Peggy enters quietly, strikingly altered in appearance by a simple but old-fashioned light coloured frock and simply dressed hair. GOLLY, seeing her first, rises).

GOLLY. Hello, Peg.

(DIANA looks round and rises)

PEG. Hello, Golly.

GOLLY. What have you been d-doing to yourself? You look ripping?

PEG. I didn't mean to intrude. I did not know there was company here tonight. I just took a run out to have a final try for the show printing. Mr Crossland can help me. Mr Rice met me on the verandah and said he was in here. I must find him. Good nght. (turns to leave)

GOLLY. Peg—just a moment (PEG hesitates) This is my cousin, Diana. Diana, this is Miss Margaret Penny. (DIANA bows frigidly)

PEG. I must be going. Good night.

GOLLY. I'll send a lot of that copy in tomorrow, Peg (stares at door through which PEG has disappeared).

DIANA. That was a very effective answer to my last question.

GOLLY. Your last question? What was that?

DIANA. Are there any entanglements? Didn't you hear it? (No answer) I'm tired. Good night!

GOLLY. (Still Gazing at the doorway). Good night, Di.

CURTAIN


ACT II

SCENE II

The same as scene I. Diana and Golly are seated. Diana is resplendent in evening dress. Golly is in a dinner jacket.

DIANA. It's nice to see you in a dinner-jacket again.

GOLLY. That frock of yours is a dream, Di. You paralysed poor Miss Crossland to-night.

DIANA. I was very rude to you last night. Am I forgiven?

GOLLY. There was nothing to forgive—we were both taken on the hop. I only regret one remark of yours all the evening.

DIANA. Before or after the entrance of Miss Penny?

GoLLY. You said the peoplele around here are rough, and uncouth, and I didn't put in a word for the defence.

DIANA. But you must admit that they are, well not quite as as we would wish to be.

GoLLY. They have been my friends for two years, from that dear old humbug, Phineas Booty, down to the simple-souled Councillor Kenneth Smith, and I won't let "rough and uncouth" go unchallenged.

DIANA. Well, I withdraw and apologise.

GOLLY. It's been great...these two years here...I hate the idea of leaving it all...They're fine, Di. I've seen men here, after a good season, spend every shilling on buying more land or a race horse, or having a good time in other ways...Then a dry spell comes. They grouch, and curse Nature, and everybody and everything but their own improvidence. And then, when there's only a bag of flour and half a bag of sugar between them and foreclosure, they'll hitch up the team and start all over again. From early morn till late at night they'll work, and if the new season fails, they'll do it all over again.

DIANA. I can't see much virtue in those methods.

GOLLY. Neither can I, except in the dogged way they keep on starting from scratch. If a few of our best country gentlemen could lift themselves into these surroundings, they might teach these people the value of making provision for Nature's vagaries.

DIANA. Still harping on that question. Surely your mind is made up by this time.

(Enter MiSS CROSSLAND).

Miss CROSSLAND. Oh, I'm sorry. I thought I left my work-basket in here.

GOLLY. Don't go, Miss Crossland. I'm just trying to convince Miss Whitcombe that there isn't really much difference between a country house in England and a homestead like this. Just give her some idea of your responsibilities.

MISS CROSSLAND (rapidly and monotonously). I know I really oughtn't to stay. I don't suppose I can tell Miss Whitcombe anything new—you see our great trouble is the servants—they do come and go so—they never settle down—we generally advertise for married couples without children—but they are hard to get. Married couples in this country will have children, you know—and you have to take their word for it that they are married. I've never seen any of their marriage lilies yet, but I'm not saying that they are all bad, poor souls—and sometimes they quarrel simply awful—you can't keep them any time. Our longest was for four months, and then only because they were getting five shillings more wages than usual. If they don't happen to be really married things get awfully complicated. I remember on one occasion—

DIANA (intetrupting). It must be a great trial.

MISS CROSSLAND. It really is; but I suppose you have it all in England. Human nature's the same from Tasmania to Kamschatka, as our clergymen used to say. I remember him telling us once...

DIANA. Tell me some other time, Miss Crossland. Mr Whitcombe and I have a lot to talk about yet.

MISS CROSSLAND. Oh—I am sorry I intruded—you will pardon me.

GOLLY. Not at all Miss Crossland—no intrusion.

MSS CROSSLAND. Oh, I woudn't think of staying. I should not have been so thoughtless as to come in. I know, Mr Golly, there are times—there are times! (exit)

DIANA. That name does grate on me.

GOLLY. Phineas Booty is back again. I wonder if I could get hime to come and talk to us about the "Arid West". His stories of central Australia are gorgeous.

DIANA. You are very anxious for mixed company tonight. Are you afraid of me?

GOLLY. I am a bit, Di. You look very regal and rather overpowering.

DIANA. That's the last impression I wished to make.

GOLLY. I don't mean that you are not perfectly stunning.

DIANA. Rather masterful?

GOLLY. Oh, cut it, Di. Old friends don't exchange phrases...like people in plays.

DIANA. Is our friendship strong enough to stand the test of intimate heart searching?

GOLLY. I can't quite follow you.

DIANA. I supose you guessed this little talk tonight was carefully staged.

GOLLY. I only know that you and I are here...that you look charming...and that I admire my cousin now, more than I ever did in England.

DIANA. Let's be honest...This is what the novelist would describe as the last appeal. "Put him in the setting in which he grew up" said the wise aunt "and then make your final effort".

GOLLY (miserably) I b-beg of you, Di, do not go any further.

DIANA. Oh, I must finish now. You see I set out to make you propose to me tonight. I'm not a very succesful huntress, am I?

GOLLY. Don't, Di. Don't make a cad of me.

DIANA. I'm not blaming you for anything. Two years ago, when you weren't worth it, I coud have easily prevailed on you not to run away. Now that you are worth while, I fail in a greater undertaking.

GOLLY. I say, old girl, this is awful.

(enter LADY BEAMISH in evening dress)

LADY BEAMISH. Well you impudent mannikin! I've just sent those poems back to Miss Cornford with a sympathetic little note. (Looks at two of them critically and goes over to Diana). Obstinate and self-willed, as well as impudent (putting her arm around DIANA). And as brutal as most men. For the last time of asking: Are you coming back to Englnd?

GOLLY. Yes, I'll come back...but I make no other promise.

CURTAIN


ACT III

SCENE I

A parlor in the Commercial Hotel. A meeting of the Executive Council of Mr. BOOTY 's election committee is just termmating. Those present include Mr. DUNCAN, MR. CROSSLAND, and MR. KENNETH SMITH. Mr. BOOTY is at the Head of the table. As the curtain rises MICHAEL RICE is entering with a tray of drinks.

MARTY (at the door, to RICE). I want to come to this meeting.

RICE. You can't come in, boy. This is a secret meeting of the Inner Council of the Ancient Order of Booteyites.

MARTY. I want to see Booty. I have some questions to ask him. I demand my right, as an elector, to be where our member is.

RICE. Marty, you're overdoing it. You've snared six drinks off him since noon.

CROSSLAND. (going to the door and blocking MARTY's entrance, while RICE enters and places a glass before each committee member.) You can't come in, this is a private meeting.

MARTY. There are no private meetings at election time.I must see the member. It's a metter of life and death. I've some questions to ask.

CROSSLAND. Ask them at the meeting.

BOOTY. Don't tell hime to do that!

RICE (going back to the door). Will I let him in to sing to you, Booty?

BOOTY. Mr Rice, do let us get the business finished.

RICE. Marty, you shall not sing tonight (hustles MARTY away and closes door).

DUNCAN. Well here's to a successful meeting.

RICE. Here's to the grand old smodger of the arid west.

BOOTY. This is not time for hilarity.

RICE. No offense meant, Booty...it's like that other word the shearers are fond of...just a term of endearment. I'm proud of you and your way of launching a ship at the beginning of an election...with every conflictin' interest represented.

BOOTY. (who has bee reserving his greatest difficulty until the drinks are bought in). As to the—er—chairman for the meeting...will you preside, Mr Duncan?

RICE. I'm damned if he will! I'm mayor of Boondi.

BOOTY. That's true Mr. Rice, but Mr. Duncan is president of the shire, and I have purposively made this a district and not a town meeting. People are driving in from al the surrounding centres.

RICE. I don't care if they are coming from hell or heaven. This meeting is to be held in Boondi...and in Boondi's town hall...as the first magistrate of the town, I'll preside, or the lights will be turned out when you start with your (mimics); "Friends, electors, citizens of Boondi, pioneers of the great Western plains, and last, but not leat, women of this wide electorate."

SMITH. That's a good idea, Mr Booty—an election with the lights out.

RICE. And I'll load Marty up to his plimsoll mark. I'll go and get him now (moves away towards door).

BOOTY. Mr Rice, please look at it my way. It's an election, my meeting. Don't disturb the harmony which I have bought about by the expenditure of so much nervous and physical—

RICE. And monetary—

BOOTY. So much nervous and physical energy.

RICE. But Andy Duncan couldn't keep the infants' class of a Sunday school in order. He'll be wanting to sing to the crowd all the time.

DUNCAN. I've presided over the shire Council for three years, and, even if you were a member, I could keep it in order.

BOOTY. Do let us be reasonable. Mr Rice, I had a much more important duty which I proposed to ask you to undertake.

RICE. And what might that be? Start the clapping when you put your right hand in your left pocket, and call for three cheers for Booty every time he stops to take a drink of water...same as you asked me to do when I was fool enough to go on your committee ten years back or more? You can get the methody parson to do that.

BOOTY. No, no, Mr Rice. A great deal depends on who moves and seconds the vote of confidence at the end of the meeting.

RICE (much mollified) Oh, I don't mind moving the vote...and saying a few words.

BOOTY. I thought of doing it in an unusual and in a more dramatic way...when the vote has been moved, I want you, without being called on, to jump in, as though you couldn't restrain yourself and—er—in a way—er—demand the right of publicly supporting me.

RICE (with dangerous calmness). Oh did you. When you go to heaven, Booty—and I'm not saying you haven't a chance of getting there, for the lord loveth a thoroughness, even in the wiles of politicians—you will have your own passport written out with a beautiful description of your virtues, and you'll just put it down in front of Peter for a signature, and walk in without waiting for him to find his pen. I'm not to be chairman...I'm not to move the vote of confidence...I'm not to be asked to second it...I'm just to hop in like a Jack-in-the-box when you touch the spring...I can see Boondi having a new member.

CROSSLAND. Who's moving the vote, Mr. Booty?

BOOTY. The Rev. Mr. Cornford has especially asked to be permitted to do so.

RICE (staring at BOOTY in amazement). The parson!...(laughing). Booty, my boy, you're the greatest artist that ever was—that ever is—or that ever can be. I see it now...You will get me speaking for you...and then you will be able to tell the Methodys later on that (mimics): "It was a regrettable incident, but at a public meeting some citizen generally spoiled the pre-arranged plans of the committee." (Solemnly shakes hands with BOOTY). God bless you for being a great man. From now till polling day I'll do what you ask—short of murder—without a question. Only don't be surprised if I have a fit of coughing when the parson starts. The sight of him makes all my drinking machinery hot and dry.

BOOTY. I'm afraid my motives will always be misunderstood. But it's very good of you, Mr. Rice, to give way so kindly. (To the others) Is there anything else to arrange? I have placed some questions with diffeent supporters, but there are a few more I would like asked.

CROSSLAND. Your trouble will be with the questions other people intend to ask.

BOOTY. Have you heard of any?

CROSSLAND. I know they intend to worry you a bit.

BOOTY. It helps a lot if I know what's coming.

CROSSLAND. The Prohibitionists will be sure to bombard you.

SMITH. That would be a good time for the Mayor to put the lights out.

RICE. Why, Smithy! You'll be a candidate yet. What say you, Booty?

SMITH. If the Band of Hope turns on the water, I'll turn off the gas.

CROSSLAND. I'll not be a party to any evasion of questions.

RICE. I've known the lighting plant to go wrong; this may be one of its bad nights.

BOOTY. Mr. Rice is only joking. I assure you, Mr Crossland, I will meet every question fairly and answer it to the best of of my ability.

RICE. Well, if your ability carries you to a declaration in favor of no license, I get off at the next station.

BOOTY. I don't think any Prohibition declaration will be necessary, either way it is a people's question and should be settled by a referendum.

SMITH. I heard today that you will be asked to say straight out which way you will vote, if a referendum is taken.

BOOTY. That would be the moment to get these other questions put. Perhaps you could help me, Mr. Smith. If I am asked how I will vote on the referendum, these three questions might be put to me, one after the other—and then I'll answer the four of them.

RICE. You jewel...you'll shuffle the questions...I'll bet I'll be able to pick the one at the bottom of the pack...You'll answer three, and trust to Providence to create a diversion before the fourth. I'll see that you get the diversion.

CROSSLAND. Mr. Booty, I'm supporting you because I think you're the only candidate likely to defeat the Labor man. But there's a limit. I'm a strong temperance man, and if you deliberately evade questions on such an issue I must re-consider my position.

BOOTY. Now, Mr. Crossland, it's not a matter of evasion. The Labor man gets his support from all sources, and to beat him I must do the same. There are always questions on which a candidate dare not express very strong opinions, one way or the other.

RICE. Unless he is sure that one side is much stronger than the other...then he becomes a whole hogger...

BOOTY. Mr. Rice puts it rather crudely. But— (Enter GOLLY). Why, here's Mr. Whitcombe...I'm delighted to see you in to-night. (Shakes hands). We have just completed all the preliminary arrangements for the meeting—

RICE. All but who is to ask the questions. What about you, Golly?

GOLLY. I know what Mr. Booty's answer will be to any conundrum.

RICE. Do you now? I thought I was the only elector who really understood his great mind. Supposing he is asked "Are you in favour of cutting up Mr. Crossland's Estate for closer settlement," how will he answer?

GOLLY. That's an easy one. He will say that he is in favour of subdividing all large estates into small holdings, provided that the owners are amply compensated for their land and for their great service in pioneering this continent in its early days.

CROSSLANDS. And a very proper answer, too.

BOOTY. Time is flying. You must suppress your facetiousness, Mr Rice and let us get over to the hall.

RICE. Suppress my what?

BOOTY (soothingly) Your tendency to joke about very serious things.I think we can safely leave those questions in Mr Smith's hands.

RICE. I'm laying odds he gets them mixed up.

GOLLY. What are the prospects for the meeting Mr. Booty?

BOOTY. Very satisfactory. We expect a big crowd. Will you honour us by coming to the platform?

GOLLY. I'll be over for a while, but I'm not on the platform...It's the Banner's publishing night and I'm taking a hand.

BOOTY. (looking at his watch) It's time to go. Come along gentlemen.

GOLLY. Before you go, I want to know if you can all come to the Banner office after the meeting...on a matter of great importance.

GOLLY (as RICE reaches the door). One minute, Mr. Rice. (RICE returns). Could you fix up a little bit of a spread in the best dining-room, at ten-thirty? Any champagne you have, and things to eat with it?

RICE. What's the game?

GOLLY. Not a word to anybody?

RICE. God he1pin' me.

GOLLY. It's to be a little wedding breakfast.

RICIII. You and Peg?

GOLLY. Perhaps.

RICE (grasping his hand). I always knew you were the right stuff. Golly, I'm glad, real glad. (Explosively). But why in the name of all holy things did you choose this moment to tell me! How the hell am I going to sit, for two hours, listening to Booty's bleatings, with me heart singing all the time because Peg Penny's reaping the reward for all that she deserves?

(Enter LADY BEAMISH shown in by a servant).

LADY BEAMISH. Good evening, Mr. Mayor.

RICE. Good-night, your Ladyship.

LADY BEAMISH. I'm very anxious to see my nephew for a few moments before the meeting—a cable from England—important business.

RICE (as he leaves). All right, Golly. It'll be the best Boondi can do, on such short notice. (Exit RICE).

LADY BEAMISH (seating herself on the sofa). Come here and sit down. (GOLLY sits on the table). Percival Plantaganet Whitcombe, I'm a peaceful woman accustomed to a placid life. I've travelled some thousands of miles and endured much discomfort, passed through mny adventures, and marooned myself in this outlandish corner of a lost continent, to try and restore reason to the most irresponsible idiot that ever left a parental roof.

GOLLY. I plead guilty, Aunt—the idiot is irreclaimable...return to your pleasant pastures with his blessing.

LADY BEAMISH. Just let me finish. The mental strain has been just as great as the physical. This morning I found it neccesary to play Sherlock Holmes...Miss Crossland has been all excitement and emotion since you left last night. She shed tears, after she saw Diana off on the train...in a few minutes I worked the whole secret out of her...is it true that you propose to marry this girl Peggy, tonight?

GOLLY. I don't know, but I hope so.

LADY BEAMISH. Don't know?

GOLLY. I haven't asked her yet (looking at his watch). I intend to in a few moments.

LADY BEAMISH. Why didn't you trust me more, boy? I am really hurt. If it is inevitable, I would have helped.

GOLLY. I know that, dear Aunt, but I intended to bring her back to the homestead, and ask you to look after her until you thought I was in a fit state to take possession.

LADY BEAMISH. You shoud have trusted me more than that.

GOLLY. I couldn't face any more appeals to reason...reason has nothing to do with this...I'll marry Peg Penny, and I'll bring her back with me to England, or...I'll never leave Australia.

LADY BEAMISH. I've never met her. You can't expect me to enthuse.

GOLLY. You dear old thing...I'm sure that it is all right...that you will do as much for her as you've tried to do for me.

LADY BEAMISH. I...don't knonw...I'm afraid that chivalry may be landing you in a frightful muddle.

GOLLY. I saw a little diamond mine out here once...the diamonds are buried in ordinary clay...just an odd one here and there...I've had what they call a chum's luck. Peggy in her clayey surroundings, is real...I know you can tell real gems at a glance. You'll never reproach me about this venture.

LADY BEAMISH. Am I invited to the wedding?

GOLLY. Auntie, if you come I'll...I'll...All my children will have Beamish for a second name.

(enter MICK RICE)

RICE. Excuse me one minute, I must rush over to the meeting. Golly, I've arranged everything. But the champagne, mind you, is not goin' on the bill—that's my quota. See you at ten.

LADY BEAMISH. Mr. Rice, Do you think you could take me to the meeting? Just escort me to a quiet corner from which I can slip away later on?

RICE. Will I escort you? Would I escort a lost angel back to the gates of paradise? My Lady, such honour has never fallen to Boondi since the day of it's incorporation (offers LADY BEAMISH his arm, escorts her to the door). And I praise the good God for arranging thisngs, so that my being mayor, and your coming here,should occur in the same year.

CURTAIN


ACT III

SCENE II.

The office of the BANNER—the type for the last issue has been set up and one frame is on the press others are resting against the make-up stone. Peggy is sitting on the stone swinging her legs mournfully singing "The Blood Red Banner."

GOLLY (entering by back stage). B-be careful, Peg—over emphasis of that first adjective might ruin your reputation.

PEG (listlessly). Hallo, Golly.

GOLLY. Everything ready for the last issue?

PEG. The machine has developed acute rheumatism...it's a case of printing every copy on the press...Marty is in full song at the Commercial, and father tore up the Litany this afternoon.

GOLLY. Then to the Press! To the Press! We will not be beaten. You ink and I'll pull. (Takes his coat off and seizes the press handle. PEG inks the type and the first page is pulled. GOLLY comes round to the ink table and seizes PEG's arm). Peg, you haven't played fair.

PEG (breaking away). Don't, Golly!—don't touch me.

GOLLY (pursuing her round the table and locking her arms behind). You promised to be just as you were when I first met you.

PEG. So I am...I've got the same smock on.

GOLLY. You're not.—You haven't got that little ink smudge near your left eyebrow. (Dips his finger in the ink and carefully marks her face with a faint smudge and places his arm around her). You must stay here till it dries.

(MARTY enters by the back door and PEG escapes. MARTY, who is very drunk, goes to the press and arms himself with a mallet).

MARTY (ferociously). I want my back wages...Where is John Penny...where does he hoard hls gold?

GOLLY. Steady, Marty. Sing it.

MARTY (threatening GOLLY with the mallet). After tonight, I will sing no more...I will have my rights...money, or the life of John Penny.

PEG. Marty, behave yourself.

MARTY (approaching PEG). I do not fight with women, I seek the full red blood of the Spoiler (knocks the type out of one of the frames).

PEG (hysterically). There's a whole page gone.

MARTY (smashes another frame). And there's page 2 and page 3.

PEG. That ends it. The poor old Banner will never have a last issue.

MARTY. Every worm has its day. Too long have I slaved that others may live in lazy luxury. (Throws type at GOLLY).

GOLLY. Here, what are you doing, smashing my property?

MARTY. Your property? Ha! hal Come and save your property. (Upsets a font of type).

GOLLY. Yes, my property, you bally ass! I bought the Banner to-day, including its liabilities. Here take this on account, and come to me for the balance when you're sober.

MARTY (with bank notes in his hand sits down in drunken astonishment, counting and re-counting them).

PEG. What do you mean? How did you buy it?

GOLLY. I mean what I said. This is my property...I bought the Banner today...All of it. I'm going to run it in England as the Whitcombe Banner, in the little town a few miles from the Abbey.

MARTY(recovering from his astonishment). I go to seek John Penny, and share my wealth with him (exit MARTY).

PEG. You couldn't buy it! It's all mortgaged.

GOLLY (laughing) Is it? Your father didn't mention that when he signed the contract.

PEG. You've got some contract from him without my knowing it?

GOLLY. Yes, I have, and I'm gong to have my rights. I've bought everything including the editress and her apprentice brother.

PEG. Golly! Golly! Do be serious tonight.

GOLLY. I was never more serious, dear heart. D-did you think I woud leave you here? I didn't understand myself until the last few days. P-Peg, dear, you made me what I am; I won't live ten thousand mies from my creator.

PEG (crying). Golly-boy—why didn't you just slip away...you're making the future very hard for me.

GOLLY. The future! B-beloved, there's a wonderful future opening for you and me...you're coming with me...I'm to be your sub-editor until the last page is printed.

PEG. No, no! It's only a generous impulse...It can't be! It mustn't be!

GOLLY. Why not?

PEG. I'm a common—I mean an ordinary little thing.

GOLLY. You're of the finest material ever woven into human form.

PEG. I'm ignorant—uneducated.

GOLLY. You have more wisdom than any woman born.

PEG. I will drag you down—you will lose your friends through me.

GOLLY. All my real friends will envy me, and covet the greatest of my possessions.

PEG Golly! I can't, I'm afraid.

GOLLY. Peg, it isn't the only reason which should make you say that? It isn't that you d-don't love me?

PEG. No, no. It isn't fair to you.

GOLLY. Here, don't start crying again. (wipes her eyes). I mustn't touch that little smudge—they'll all be here directly.

PEG (breaking away). Who'll be here?

GOLLY. Oh, Just a few people I've asked to the wedding.

PEG (bewildered). Wedding?

GOLLY. Yes. Here. To-night.

PEG. Golly you're mad. (Hearing voices outside). I can't be married like this...I haven't tidied my hair since breakfast...I'm all over ink...I can't...I won't...

GOLLY. Oh, I say, Peg, I had set my heart on it.

PEG. You don't understand...I won't be married in a printing office with an inky face!...I mean, with my face inky.

(GOLLY embraces her again).

PEG. It's impossible. I won't be married in a cotton overall.

(Enter LADY BEAMISH, Miss CROSSLAND, and JIMMIE by the back door).

LADY BEAMISH (to JIMMIE). Thank you for showing me the way in. (Goes straight over and, looking intently at PEG, puts her arms protectingly around her). Of course you won't, dear. Only a lunatic would dream of such a thing. (To GOLLY, fiercely). You ought to be ashamed of yourself...Golly.

GOLLY (waltzing with JIMMIE). Oh, perfect day. She called me Golly! (kissing LADY BEAMISH). And you'll stand by me, Aunt?

LADY BEAMISH. No, I won't...but I'll stand by this girl. If you must be married in this impulsive way, and in these extraordinary surroundings, that's your affair. But it's our affair to see that proper respect is paid to the bride. Come on, dear—come on, Miss Crossland—we'll take Miss Peggy upstairs.

GOLLY. B-but I want to marry Peg with that overall on—it's p-part of her.

LADY BEAMISH. You'll marry Peg as we present her to you. From this day on you will be kept within bounds. (Leads PEG to back stage door, Miss CROSSLAND following).

GOLLY (following and holding PEG). B-but you'll come back?

LADY BEAMISH. Of course we'll come back, when we think proper—you will just wait till we're ready.

JIMMIE. What's it all mean, Golly?

GOLLY. It means that I've always had a stunning aunt, without knowing it. It means that very soon you'll have to call me Brother P-Percy. It means that I'm the happiest beggar in the arid west. It means...(The front door opens and RICE, DUNCAN, MR CROSSLAND and KENNETH SMITH and others enter. PHINEAS BOOTY enters hastily a moment afterwards).

BOOTY. I was afraid I would be late. A most succesful meeting, Mr Whitcombe...quite stimulating...but I thought the questions put to me after my speech would never end. This little gathering of my committee...this tribute to the press...is a most befitting epilogue to my opening effort in a great political campaign.

RICE. You're a great man, Booty. It's only you can find a connecting a link between a politicians doin' a Blondinn act before five hundred people, and the wedding of Peg Penny.

BOOTY. A wedding? This is very extraordinary! I thought it was some business about the election.

RICE The election! Put the election in your coat pocket and bring out your best smile. Peg Penny's getting married, and Golly's the lucky winner.

KEN SMITH. I'll come back later on (Leaves quietly by the front door).

BOOTY. My congratulations, Mr. Whitcombe. It is our loss, but your gain. I thought something had upset some of my committee...they seemed very restless...very pre-occupied, while I was speakmg.

RICE. Where is the dear girl?

GOLLY (nervously watching the door). She'll be here directly. It's very good of you all to come and, to have kept it a secret.

BOOTY. The people seemed to be friendly: in fact, quite cordial. I wonder who it was caused that disturbance at the back of the hall?

RICE. For the love o' Mike, forget about the pulsing heart o' Democracy, and think of the fluttering heart o' Peg Penny.

(Enter REV. CORNFORD).

CORNFORD. Good evening, all. I hope I have not kept anybody waiting. This is rather an unusual time for an unexpected event.

RICE. Unexpected? Why, I saw it coming months ago.

BOOTY, Now I look back—yes, of course—we had reason to expect some such climax to a very romantic attachment. (A voice in the street is heard declaring, "We want Booty...We want Booty"). There seem to be a good many people outside. Do you think I might say a few words, from the doorway, while we're waiting?

RICE (planting himself at the door). I'll murder the first man who opens this door, or in any other way disturbs the harmony of this wedding. Phineas Booty, just now, not one of us cares a farthing for you or twopence for your politics. The Pluckiest girl in the West is just about to be made the happiest girl in the world. Hist! Here she comes.

(Enter PEG in her one light frock, hatless and transformed, by deft hair dressing, carrying an extemporised bouquet of wattle blossom, and attended by LADY BEAMISH and MISS CROSSLAND. The REV. CORNFORD goes forward to meet them and the company arranges itself for the ceremony).

CORNFORD. In the beginning God ordained that man should not be alone—and—

CURTAIN.


THE END

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