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Title: Still Waters
Author: George S Beeby
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Language: English
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Still Waters
A Comedy Farce in Three Acts

by

George S Beeby


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

*

First published 1923


ACT I
SCENE I. The dining-room of PAUL CONWAY's home at Roseville.
SCENE II. The same.

ACT II
SCENE I. 'The Cave' a San Francisco cafe.
ScENE II. A room in a private hospital in San Francisco.

ACT III
SCENE I. The same as Act I
SCENE II. The same.


PERSONS OF THE PLAY

PAUL CONWAY       a solicitor's accountant
ESTHER CONWAY     his wife
CORNELIUS CONWAY  his son (a medical student) 
JULIA CONWAY      His daughter
LETITIA CONWAY    His daughter
DR. CAMMIDGE      a suburban physician.
MARY              a housemaid
JANE JONES        of San Francisco.
DR. AYLWARD       an English physician.

Habitués of 'The Cave Cafe in San Francisco
     CONNIE BRIGHT
     LOU ADAMS
     PETROVSKI
     ARISTO
     CLAUDIA
     AND OTHERS

NURSE COLLINS     of San Francisco 
MAY ASHLEY        of the Roseville Literary Circle
PAUL DIBLEY       of the Roseville Literary Circle
NORMAN THWAITE    of the Roseville Literary Circle
Waiter, Police Officers, etc

ACT I.

SCENE I.

Period — the present time about 3 a.m. on Sunday. The dining room of PAUL CONWAY's suburban home, with the customary furnishings. There are several books,a leather satchel, and scattered manuscript, on the table. PAUL CONWAY, a rather good-looking, grey haired man, of comfortable outline, is seated at the end of the table writing laboriously. He is dressed in pyjamas and looks dishevelled a slipper on one foot and a bed sock on the other. His hair is tousled, and he has the appearance of one whose sleep is being unnaturally broken.

PAUL CONWAY (opening a book and reading). "True drama can deal with the most ordinary incidents of human life as well as with its tragedies. This is the nearest approach to tragedy in my little life—sitting here at three in the morning writing a play. (Reads to himself for a moment) and then continues monologue). If it wasn't for those two giggling girls of mine and that patronising son, I'd do it openly

(Pauses on hearing a slight noise in the hallway, tiptoes to door and peers into the hall, as JULIA CONWAY appears at the opposite door in pyjamas. PAUL CONWAY steps into the hall, JULIA enters silently, looks swiftly for a hiding place, lies on floor and rolls under the couch. PAUL returns and closes and locks the door, walks across and looks the opposite door, crosses back to the table and, pickinq up a newspaper clipping, walks to the rnantelpieoe, and after gazing at himself in the mirror, turns and reads the clippng).

"Two hundred guineas for the best Australian play."

PAUL. Why not? Thirty years juggling with figures and drawing bills of costs. Fifty years old and nothing to show for my life but three children and some prize dahlias.

(JULIA's head slowly emerges from under the couch as PAUL contemplates his reflection in the mirror).

PAUL (chuckling). By Jove! It would be funny if I could spring a surprise on everybody. I can hear the boys in the morning train—old Conny, they call me now—"fancy old Conny writing a play." And then the astonishment of the family—and the office—and perhaps the whisper behind me in the street—"There goes Paul Conway, the dramatist."

JULIA (solemnly). The father of the notorious Julia Conway!

PAUL (swinging round and gazing down on JULIA). Good Heavens! How did you get there?

JULIA. I often sleep here on summer nights—it's cooler.

PAUL. Have you been listening?

JULIA. I scorn the accusation. I had a troubled dream. A wicked Baronet called Sir Roger was encompassing the ruin of a beautiful maid answering to the name of Elfreda. I thought it was time to intervene.

PAUL. You must have been listening outside.

JULIA. I couldn't help hearing some of it.

PAUL. Come out of that. This is a most undignified situation.

JULIA (crawls out and pirouettes round the room). What a lark! Dad! I'm in the great secret. We'll write it together, and I'll play Elfreda when it's staged.

PAUL. You'll go straight back to bed.

JULIA. Not I. I'm in a position to dictate terms; let me in as a partner, or...

PAUL. Or what? Blackmail?

JULIA. What fun, when I tell everybody!

PAUL. Don't you dare say a word to anyone.

JULIA. Partners, or—exposure.

PAUL. Very well, I'll tear the damned thing up. This ends it. (Sits down and begins tearing up papers).

JULIA. Daddie, you mustn't. I was outside and heard what you read. It's splendid. Let us carry on together. I'll never breathe a word to anyone. I'll do all your copying—and I'll think out situations. Don't you know that some of the greatest plays have resulted from the collaboration of a man and a woman? (Sits on his knee and acoaxes). I'm not a "giggling girl."

PAUL (weakening). You'll give the show away.

JULIA. No, I won't. Honor bright. (Picks up manuscript). How far have you gone?

PAUL. You put those papers down.

JULIA (coaxingly). Go on, dad. Let me help you. I'm the smartest one of the family.

PAUL. You're a precocious minx.

JULIA. I can't help having so much brains. Daddie, you'll never regret it. Go on, dad, how many acts have you finished?

PAUL. I've only got a rough outline finished. The real work is in filling up the gaps and polishing up the dialogue.

JULIA. Two copies! Let me take one and we'll read from where you stopped. You be Sir Roger...I'll be Elfreda.

PAUL. You're making a joke of it already.

JULlA. I'm not! Really and truly I want to see how far you've gone, and then we'll settle down to work. Come on. Stand up. (Pulls him from chair and places manuscript in his hand). You stay there.

There's the place. (Takes his place near the couch and reading, declaims): "I have no words befitting your perfect villainy. You are the most evil thing ever spawned in Hell"—

I wish Mother could have heard that. Now, go on "Sir Roger, lighting a cigarette."

Where is your cigarette? (Places pipe in his mouth).

PAUL (sheepishly; reads):

"I am what I am—a creature of destiny. My nature is to crash through every obstacle to the achievement of my purpose! (warming up to the part)

"Call it villainy if you will. 'Tis but an assertion of the ego within me, for I am a disciple of Nietsche. Beneath this twentieth century exterior smoulders the soul of a superman."

Was it Nietsche or Goethe who wrote all that stuff about the superman? I must look that up. (Makes a note in memorandum book, pours out whisky and water, and drinks).

JULIA (reading). "Superman! Super fiend! you mean. You lured me to this flat by lying, by perfidious treachery."

PAUL. Now I think of it; Bernard Shaw started the superman idea...I must read Shaw. (Makes another entry in memo book, and reading again, declaims)

"Of course I lied! You are worth the telling of any lie. Of course I was treacherous. Were not the greatest, as well as the bloodiest deeds of history tainted with woman-inspired treachery. I glory in tearing up the last shreds of every...

JULIA. (Reads): moral code to gain possession of you the most wonderful of women."

That's good, strong, human sentiment.

"You forget that I have one road of escape, one way of forever avoiding your odious presence. I can at least die..."

PAUL: Now will we bring the maid in here or not?

(A timid knock is heard at the door leading from the hall. JULIA again looks round for a hiding place and rolls under the couch. PAUL unlocks and opens the door. MRS. CONWAY appears in the doorway in negligee, looking scared and anxious. PAUL goes back to the table and thrusts the marnucript into his satchel as MRS. CONWAY slowly enters).

MRS CONWAY. You know the maid is not about at this unearthly hour. Whatever is the matter with you Paul?

PAUL. Nothing, dear, nothing.

MRS CONWAY. What do you want the maid for?

PAUL. I don't want the maid. I don't want anybody!

MRS. CONWAY. Why are you out of bed at this hour? I thought I heard a woman's voice.

PAUL. A woman's voice? Imagination, my dear. I'm just passing time repeating some phrases from the Herald serial story.

MRS. CONWAY. Paul, are you ill?

PAUL. No. No. No. I'm all right—a touch of insomnia. Can't sleep.

MRS. CONWAY. But you have always prided yourself in not reading the serials.

PAUL. I suppose that's why the present one made such an impression on me. I was just quoting some passages, and thinking what awful rot they were.

MRS. CONWAY. Why, you've only got one slipper on. And you've been drinking whisky. At three o'clock in the morning! What is the matter with you?

PAUL. I tell you there's nothing wrong. Just you run back to bed.

MRS. CONWAY. Will I get you a cup of coffee, tea?

PAUL (angrily). I don't want anything, I tell you—except to be left alone. I simply don't want to sleep.

MRS. CONWAY. Paul, there is something wrong. Is it some office trouble?

PAUL. Good Lord, no! (Embraces her). Just you go back to bed, dear. I was never better or happier. Only occasionally I get these touches of insomnia. You mustn't worry if you hear me about like this.

MRS. CONWAY. What are the papers in that satechel you wanted to hide from me?

PAUL. Hide from you? My dear, they are the usual office files. I was reading them through. Nothing like a bill of costs to induce sleep—except to the man who gets the bill. Now you go back to bed and don't worry about me. I'll probably get sleepy again directly.

MRS CONWAY (moving towards the door). I'll come back in an hour, and, if you're still about, I'll call Cornehlius. (From the hall). Put the lights out when you come up, and don't scatter tobacco ashes all over the carpet.

PAUL (re-opening the satchel). All right, dear. You get to sleep again. (Deliberately empties pipe on floor and re-fills it). Tobacco ashes!

JULIA (emerging from her hiding place). I say dad, you have the artistic temperament. Where did you learn it?

PAUL. Learn what?

JULIA How to fib.

PAUL (pouring out another whisky). It's a defensive habit all men acquire. (Drinks whisky as the clock strikes three).

JULIA (in subdued tones). Come on, the coast'll be clear now. (Takes out manuscript). Where were we? Ah, here it is. "The maid comes from behind the screen with pointed revolver." I'll be the maid. (points a pipe at PAUL, and continues).

"Hands up, you cockney scoundrel! You can't get away with any of this superman talk in Australia. We're all equal here."

I don't like that bit much...

PAUL. I thought it would fetch an Australian audience.

JULIA. We'll revise it later. Now you go on. Don't forget I have a revolver. Now put up one hand and imagine the other is up. Come slowly towards me—that's it.

(With one hand held up and manuscript in the other PAUL slowly approaching JULIA reads):—

"Equal? Pah! Prove your equality. If I had that gun, I would shoot without qualm or compunction. Show that you are my equal by pressing the trigger. Fire! I say, fire!"

(A knock is heard at the opposite door and JULIA again dives under the couch. PAUL opens the door disclosing CORNELIUS armed with a revolver, and LETTY, with a golf club).

LETTY. Don't fire, Con, it's father!

PAUL. What the--Here, put that gun down, you young fool! It might go off.

LETTY. What are you doing, father? I thought I heard burglars, and called Con.

PAUL. Burglars! Can't a man come down to his own dining-room for an hour, without all this hubbub?

LETTY. But I've heard all kinds of noises, for the last hour. Why, you've only got one slipper on!

PAUL. Well, haven't I got a bedsock on the other foot? If I like that style, why not? (Takes another whisky).

CORNELIUS. I say, guv'nor, whisky at three o'clock in the morning at your age!

PAUL. At my age! What's wrong with my age? Your mother has been down and passed a few remarks about my slipper, and the whisky, and my age. Can't you find anything original to say?

LETTY. I thought I heard a woman's voice.

PAUL. So you did. Your mother was here a few moments ago.

LETTY. Are you ill, daddie?

PAUL. I've been asked that question several times during the last few minutes. No. I'm not ill. I'm well. Never felt better (finishes whisky). I happen to prefer being here, in the dining-room of the house

I pay the rent of—at three o'clock in the morning drinking whisky—with one slipper on...Any objections?

LETTY (nervously). But you were talking to yourself, quite wildly, as we came downstairs; You're nervous and upset.

PAUL. My nerves are made of steel. I'm not upset. Can't I talk to myself if I want to? Am I likely to find anyone else to talk to at this hour? Go to bed, both of you, and I'll go back when I feel sleepy again.

CORNELIUS. Come up now, Guv'nor. I'll stay with you till you're asleep again.

LETTY. Would you like me to get you a cup of tea?

PAUL (with a slight thickening of articulation). I don't want tea. I don't want anyone to put me to bed. My sole requirement is solitude. Go back to your beds, and I'll return to mine, when I think it necessary and advisable.

LETTY. But, we can't leave you here, talking to yourself. Why, what are these papers for?

PAUL (hastily gathering up papers). Leave things alone, and go back to bed.

CORNELIUS. Office worries, guv'nor?

PAUL. I've been asked that question already. No. Office worries no greater than usual. Will you both go to bed?

(LETTY and CORNELIUS move to the door).

LETTY. I'll come back in an hour, and, if you are still about, I'll stay till daylight. (Exit with, CORNELIUS).

(PAUL takes manusaript from satchel, while JULIA again emerges).

JULIA. Daddie, I'll love you forever for bringing me into this. Will I get you a cup of tea, dear, and find your other slipper? You really mustn't take any more whisky. (Removes decanter to the sideboard).

PAUL. We'd better give it rest, and go to bed.

JULIA. Not yet. Not yet. Where were we? Here it is. After you reach the maid, saying, "Fire, I say fire," she falters and you disarm her, and Elfreda, rushing to the maid, embraces her. I embrace myself, and continue. (Reads):

PAUL."You have saved me! Again you have saved me. Now will you unlock that door?"

"I have been balked for a day. What is a day in the endless procession of years to come? Elfreda, I have willed that you be mine. You cannot escape the decree of fate"

JULIA. "Will you unlock that door?"

PAUL. "I will not! Let the wench open it."

(JULIA moves towards the door) when another knock is heard. As JULIA hides again, PAUL opens the door, and MARY appears in night garb).

MARY. Is there anything you want, sir? Are you ill, sir?

PAUL. Good God! This is the limit—the outside limit. No, I don't want anything! (Closes the door).

JULIA (emerging again). This is rather strenuous Father.

PAuUL (gathers papers and puts them in the satchel ). I'm through. What chance have I got in this warren of sleepless women? You get back to bed.

JULIA. Why, it's only 3.30. There's two hours left before daybreak.

PAUL. The neighbours will begin to drop in directly.

JULIA. Leave this copy with me.

PAUL. I will not. (Takes copy from JULIA and places it in the satchel. A tapping is heard at the window. Both listen intently as the tapping increases. PAUL tiptoes to window and peers out) and JULIA, unseen, takes copy out of satchel and hides it. A voice is heard outside).

CONSTABLE RILEY. Anyone about there?

PAUL. (opening window and peeping out). Who's there?

CONSTABLE RILEY. Police Officer Riley I saw a light and shadows on the blind.

PAUL. Have you never seen such things before?

CONSTABLE RILEY. There have been several burglaries round here lately.

PAUL. If there had been a real burglary on you would have been ten miles away. (Slams and locks window).

JULIA. You might have asked him in for a drink. Think of the poor man out in the cold, keeping watch, while we provide for the entertainment of future generations.

PAUL. I'm going to bed. (Moves to hall door with satchel under his arm). You go and finish your sleep.

(Exit PAUL).

JULIA (laughing). Sleep, who wants sleep? (Recovers manuscript and moves towards the opposite door) What a lovely month in front of me! (Unlocks door, and, turning, declaims):

"Sleep? I have heard a voice cry, 'Sleep no more.' This play hath murdered sleep!".

CURTAIN.


SCENE II.

A few hours later. The same as Scene I. MRS. CONWAY, LETTY, CORNELIUS, and JULIA are having breakfast. The seat at the head of the table is vacant. The maid is serving.

MARY. I think I ought to tell you that the master must be ill. Last night I heard a noise and went into the dining-room. He was acting strange and talking to nobody.

(ALL look significantly at each other).

MRS. CONWAY. Thank you for telling us, Mary. Mr. Conway is not sleeping well. There's nothing to be alarmed about. (Exit maid) What a terrible night! I feel quite ill!

CORNELIUS. Where is he now?

MRS. CONWAY. Sleeping as peacefully as a child.

CORNELIUS. Did you hear him go up?

MRS. CONWAY. I peeped into his room five minutes after, and he was sound asleep.

CORNELIUS. That was the whisky. Alcohol, at certain stages of nervous reaction, operates as a soporific.

LETTY. Do you think it was a drinking bout?

MRS. CONWAY. Letty! you are discussing your father. For thirty years he has never used spirits, except medicinally.

LETTY. I don't know, mother. Men often change suddenly when they're about fifty.

JULIA. What do you know about men? You only meet University students, like Con—they're not men.

CORNELIUS. Mother, do you think Julia should be present while we are talking this matter over?

JULIA. Don't be silly. I know more about daddy than all of you put together.

LETTY. You forget your mother is here.

JULIA. Oh, mother knows what I mean. I bet that if you all go out this morning, I'll wheedle it all from the old dear before you come back. I do know how to handle men.

MRS. CONWAY. My dear child, there is nothing to wheedle. Your father is suffering from a nervous breakdown. We must get him away on a holiday trip.

JULIA. I can't see it. I never knew him to be so jolly.

LETTY (solemnly). You did not see, or hear, what we did last night.

JULIA. What's all the mystery about? What happened?

MRS. CONWAY. We heard him in the dining-room talking to himself.

CORNELIUS. In his pyjamas.

MRS. CONWAY. With only one slipper on.

LETTY. And one bed sock.

MRS. CONWAY. I heard him say, "I can at 'least die."

LETTY. And I heard him say "shoot, wench, shoot!"

CORNELIUS. And Mary heard him say, "I have been balked for a day!"

MRS. CONWAY. He must have deliberately emptied his pipe on the carpet.

LETTY. And he must have used a lot of whisky. The place reeked of it when I came down.

CORNELIUS. It all points to acute cerebral neuritis.

JULIA. It strikes me father was having a little spree all on his own. I know I'd have one occasionally, if I'd been going to the same office every day for thirty years.

MRS. CONWAY. Julia, don't be frivolous.

LETTY. I felt certain I heard a woman's voice in the dining-room.

JULIA. A woman's voice?

MRS. CONWAY. I thought I heard it.

JULIA. I wonder if he has formed a liason!

MRS. CONWAY. A what?

JULIA. An episode—an affaire de coeur.

CORNELIUS. Really, Julia, you should be punished.

LETTY. How dare you make such a suggestion.

JULIA. Oh, I don't mean a real entanglement—just a cobwebby little thing.

CORNELIUS. What do you know about such things?

JULIA. Don't we all go to the revues and musical comedies?

MRS. CONWAY. Don't let me ever again hear such an expression from your lips.

JULIA. I'm only trying to elucidate the horrible mystery of it all. It's terrible. He hasn't worked in the garden for a whole week and has missed his usual train three times in five days. He can't sleep. He's given to strange oaths and much verbal rumbling. Cornelius, surely yon can account for it all.

LETTY. I wonder if we could persuade him to take a holiday?

MRS. CONWAY. I think I'll take him to Katoomba for a month.

CORNELIUS. It might be better for me to accompany him. I don't like this sudden tendency to alcoholic excess. I intend to specialise in mental disorders when I'm through, and could keep him under observation.

LETTY. Have you noticed that he is always reading books about the drama lately?

MRS. CONWAY. I'm more frightened about his talking to himself. He seemed very excited.

CORNELIUs. Ah! There might be a connection between the reading, and the monologues—some mental aberration—obsessed with one idea—paranoic. I don't like the look of it, mater.

JULIA. Con, you've located a terrible disease in every member of the family since you got through your fourth year. Now you're making a loony of dad.

MRS. CONWAY. Here he comes. Look as though nothing had happened.

PAUL (at the door). Wherever is that other slipper of mine? (Enters, in dressing gown, unshaven and unwashed—yawns). Good morning, everybody. Sorry I'm late for breakfast. Had a restless night.

(MRS. CONWAY produces slipper from under a chair, puts it on, and kisses him).

MRS. CONWAY. You look tired, dear.

(LETTY also kisses him, and CON. solemnly shakes hands).

PAUL (taking the vacant scat at the table). What about your kiss, Julia? The family doesn't often break out like this at breakfast.

JULIA. I hate processions. (Throws a kiss).

MRS. CONWAY (reproachfully). Paul, you shouldn't say that. You can't complain of any lack of family affection.

PAUL (patting her hand). I didn't mean you, dear. It was Con's hand-shake and professional gaze. He looked as though he had me on the dissecting table.

CORNELIUS. I couldn't help feeling concerned about last night's happenings.

PAUL. Last night? Good Lord! No need to worry about last night.

(The maid serves PAUL, watching him apprehensively).

PAUL. Hallo, Mary! Did I give you a scare last night? Sorry I was so abrupt.

CORNELIUS. How is it this morning, guv'nor?

PAUL (yawning). Oh, fairly good. I'm devilish sleepy. Whatever came over you all last night? None of you seemed able to sleep.

CORNELIUS. You must admit that your actions were unusual and eccentric.

(MRS. CONWAY makes a signal to CORNELIUS to desist).

JULIA. Daddy, you and I are to have a serious talk after breakfast.

PAUL. What about?

JULIA Your breaking the order and decorum of a perfectly respectable suburban domicile, at three o'clock on a Sunday morning.

MRS. CONWAY. Julia! attend to your breakfast.

PAUL (with fork suspended, scrutinizing the family). Look here—all you kind and attentive people; you can overdo this filial business. If I feel inclined to spend a few hours in my own dining-room, instead of in my bed, I don t expect the whole family to take it in turns to come down and examine my slippers and count how many whiskies I drink, and offer me cups of tea. When a man gets over fifty he doesn't want so much sleep. To that extent he increases his leisure time and the disposal of leisure time is a matter of personal right. In future, leave me alone when I'm movmg about at night.

MRS. CONWAY. Paul, do you know what you are eating?

PAUL. I didn't notice.

MRS. CONWAY. Hot buttered toast! That means another attack of indigestion.

PAUL. It's extra good this morning. I might as well be hung for a loaf as a slice. (Takes another slice).

CORNELIUS. I say, guv'nor. You really shouldn't you know...indigestion induces cerebral excitation:

PAUL. Has it ever been known to act as an inspiration?

JULIA. Inspiration? Is that required in drawing bills of costs?

PAUL. Of course it is, child. A bill of costs brings all the imaginative faculties into play.

LETTY. Father, we have all been talking about your holiday. You ought to take one this year.

PAUL (taking more toast). I have been feeling queer lately—make mistakes in my work. Restless absent-minded...noises in the head.

CoRNELIUS. Sibilant or explosive?

PAUL. Both.

MRS. CONWAY (taking toast from his hand). And no wonder. Pass the dry toast, Julia.

PAUL. This can't be responsible for last night's insomnia. Indigestion doesn't work backwards, does it, Con?

CORNELIUS. Really, father, you must be serious. I have been perturbed about your health for the last fortnight. At first I thought there were symptoms of nephritis, but now I feel certain it is only arachnoidal inflammation.

PAUL. And what might that be?

CORNELIUS. Brain fag.

LETTY. We're all very serious about it, father. Why not have a quiet month with mother at Leura?

CORNELIUS. If you like, dad, I'll spend my vacation with you at Kosciusko. While studying, I can keep an eye on you.

PAUL How cheerful! What about you, Letty, couldn't you come along, too? And Julia? And Mary? And Aunt Clara? I thought you were discussmg a holiday.

JULIA. If I were you, dad, I'd take that little bit of money out of the bank—book a passage to Honolulu, or San Francisco-and clear out for a good old razzle. You want it badly.

PAUL. Out of the mouths of babes! San Francisco! Experience! Incident! Local colour! Adventure.

MRS. CONWAY. You will not go to one of those wicked American cities. Julia, I must insist on your keeping out of discussions that do not concern you.

PAUL. Don't let me create dissension, my dear. We'll talk it over (yawns) after I've had a sleep. What are you all doing to-day?

JULIA. Tennis for Letty and Con. Church for mother. Sleep for you, while I act as guardian of the family treasures.

MRS. CONWAY. I don't think I ought to leave you this morning, dear.

PAUL. Now you just run off to church, but don't sleep as soundly as I intend to.

MARY. I found this writing under the table this morning, sir.

PAUL (snatches sheet of paper and hastily thrusts it in his pocket). Thank you, Mary.

MRS. CONWAY (suspiciously). What was that, Paul?

PAUL (hastily) Just a loose sheet from a bill of costs in that Martin will case. I was on it last night. I'm going to have my bath. (Exit).

LETTY. There's something very seriously wrong, mother. That sheet of paper was not a bill of costs. It was in lead-pencil, on unruled paper.

MRS. CONWAY. I think, as I go to church, I'll get Dr. Cammidge to drop in on a friendly visit.

CORNELIUS. Perhaps I should wait and have a consultation with him.

JULIA. You all go out and leave him to me. I'll find out what's wrong.

(The family rises and the maid clears the table).

MRS. CONWAY. Mary, don't make any noise this morning, and if Mr. Conway is awake at twelve, take him a cup of tea.

(Exeunt LETTY, JULIA and CORNELIUS).

MARY. Yes, ma'am, anything with it?

MRS. CONWAY. Nothing with it. (Locks whisky decanter in the sideboard cupboard and leaves the room. The opposite door opens slowly. PAUL, in pyjamas and dressing-gown, enters with satchel, and setttes down in an armchair).

PAUL. That was an inspiration of Julia's. A return trip with a week at Frisco. It can be done in eight weeks. Four weeks in a boat with no-one to pester me. It's worth considering.

(MARY enters).

MARY. May I finish this room now, sir?

PAUL. Later on, Mary. I want the room to myself for a time.

(As MARYY leaves, MRS. CONWAY's voice is heard in the hall. PAUL hastily hides the satchel by sitting on it, and is ostentatiously turning over the leaves of a book as she enters).

MRS. CONWAY. I thought you were having your bath?

PAUL. Too soon after breakfast, my dear.

MRS. CONWAY—What are you reading?

PAUL. Something suitable to the day—sermons by Bishop Collier.

(MRS. CONWAY looks over his shoulder).

MRS CONWAY. I thought it was one of those drama books you're always reading. You be sure and rest this morning.

PAUL. I will, my dear. In half an hour I'll be in dreamland.

MRS. CONWAY. I won't call you for lunch, if you are still sleeping.

PAUL. All right, dear. Don't be late for church. Close that door, if you don't mind. There's a draught.

(Exit MRS. CONWAY. PAUL goes over to the mirror and looks at himself intently).

PAUL. What does that boy mean—"Perturbed about my symptoms." There's no sign of anything wrong. (Unhooks satchel and takes out manuscript ). I wonder if I can get a clear two hours now. (Begins arranging loose sheets). What a muddle! (Producing the loose sheet from his pocket ). Wonder if Mary read this. (Peruses it). Where the devil does it fit in? Ah, here's its proper place.

(The door opens and JULIA enters slowly, unobserved).

JULIA (in sepulchral tones). At last we are alone.

PAUL (startled). I wish you wouldn't creep on me like that.

JULIA. We must both move stealthily.

PAUL. Why don't you get out in the sunshine, and let me have one hour of peace?

JULIA. My duty calls me to this dark room of gloomy mystery. I wangled the rest of the family off the pPremises that we might have two hours of secret toil.

PAUL. I don't want your help, just now.

JULIA (in a stage whisper). That sheet of paper Mary found—Letty saw bloodstained finger prints on it. What have you done with it?

PAUL (playing up to her). Hush, we might be heard! I swallowed it!

JULIA. On top of hot buttered toast? Your hours are numbered!

MARY (entering). I forgot to tell you, sir, Constable Riley told me that he is specially watching this street, and that there's no need for you to lose any sleep by burglar scares.

PAUL. Very good of him. Now don't disturb me again.

(Exit MARY).

JULIA: Let's to work, dad. (Producing copy of the manuscript). How do you propose to finish the second act?

PAUL. Where did you get that?

JULIA. It must have fallen from your satchel as you left the room last night.

PAUL. It's all a study of feminine psychology. In the first act, she scorns him. In the second. act, she admires him. And, in the third, she cannot live without him.

JULIA. Let us run through the finish to the second act. (JULIA arranges the setting). Go on, from there.

(Hands manuscript and points to place)

PAUL (reading):

"There is nothing left on this earth for me. France is calling for volunteers to fly round and round the world, and map out its future air routes. Henceforth I will spend my days in the clouds."

JULIA. "Go with my blessing. I do not, I cannot love you, but you have at last won my respect."

PAUL. "That is naught. It is less than naught."

JuLIA. "It is something. For when you are soaring in the empyrean, my thoughts will be with you. Day by day my prayers for your safety will ascend like incense to the waiting heavens."

DR. CAMMIDGE (in the hall). Don't worry about announcing me. (Enters). Ah, Conway, working on Sundays is against the rules.

PAUL (thrusting papers in the satchel). The gods are in league against me.

DR. CAMMIDGE (coming forward). What's that swearing on the Sabbath?

PAUL. What brings you here at this time? No patients to help across into the next world?

DR. CAMMIDGE. I happened to be passing and dropped in for a yarn. You look very seedy. What's wrong?

PAUL. Every mortal I've met during the last twenty-four hours has asked me that question; and now, you. I believe you've been sent here to ask it.

DR. CAMMIDGE. Not at all. Not at all. You run away, Miss Julia. I want a private talk with your father.

JULIA. It's no go, dad. I'm off for a game of tennis. (Exit).

PAUL. Look here, doc, have you ever heard of the last straw!

DR. CAMMIDGE. I have.

PAUL. Well, you're it. Get to blazes out of here. I've got a bit of work to do, and this is my only two hours of freedom from family solicitude.

DR. CAMMIDGE. Really, Conway, your welcome is not very cordial.

PAUL. It is not intended to be...You're not welcome. You've been sent here by that idiot son of mine, and you can look to him for your half guinea. I won't pay it.

DR. CAMMIDGE. I don't think there's much wrong with you, unless it's something on your conscience.

PAUL (engineering him to the door). You've guessed right. It's only my conscience. But my conscience hasn't a tongue to look at, or a pulse to feel, or a cavity to receive your medicines. Get back to your dispensary, or whatever you call it, and leave me alone.

DR. CAMMIDGE (As he reaches the door). My dear man, your, conduct is extraordinary.

PAUL. Extraordinary fiddle-sticks! Get out of this and leave me alone. There's nothing wrong with me. Do you understand? Nothing. Nothing. (Pushes him through the door and slams it. Feverishly opens case and gets out manuscript. Sits in the armchair with a cushion on his knee and writing-pad on the cushion). There's the whole blithering thing mixed up again. (Rearranging sheets). I've got a good start and a ripping finish; Here goes to fill in the gaps.

(The door opens and DR. CAMMIDGE re-enters).

DR. CAMMIDGE. I say, Conway, I can't leave matters this way. I'll own up to everything.

PAUL (again packing and locking the satchel). That will be an unusual experience, for you.

DR. CAMMIDGE. Your wife and son did call on me, and their reports were most alarming. Why don't you take that long-talked-of holiday?

PAUL. I have told you there is nothing wrong with me, and I don't want a holiday.

DR. CAMMIDGE. You're a fool, Conway. Here you have a whole family urging you to take a trip, with a definite suggestion of San Francisco. I wish I had your luck. My little lot insist on keeping me under observation within a ten-mile radius. Pack up your bag, man, and catch the next boat. Go, while the going's good.

PAUL (thoughtfully). I believe a change would do me good.

DR. CAMMIDGE (patting his shouder). That's more sensible.

PAUL. I'll think it over and decide to-day. Post me a good, strong certiftcate for use at the office.

DR. CAMMIDGE. I'll make it strong enough to frighten anyone. (Exit).

PAUL (after a reftective pause). Might as well try to write poetry in a cold bath as a play in this house.

Five weeks' undisturbed writing in a ship's cabin. I'll do it! I 'll do it!

CURTAIN.


ACT II.

SCENE I.

San Francisco. "The Cave" an underground French cafe, with vaulted rooms. The room in view is divided into semi-private section by partitions about six feet high, each section containing table and dining appointments for four persons. One section, facing the audience, is vacant. In the other, PAUL CONWAY is sitting, smoking. a cigarette, and studying a menu card. A waiter is moving about in the passage-way dividing the two rows of cubicles. As the curtain rises a party of four enters and ocoupies the section on the opposite side of the pasgage-way. A string band in an adjoining vault is playing the "Missouri Waltz." The waiter takes the order of the party of four. "JANE JONES" enters, looks round hurriedly, and goes into PAUL CONWAY'S section, seats herself, and throws her cloak on a vacant chair.

JANE JONES. I say, man, a bull followed me here. If I am interfered with, say you arranged to meet me for dinner.

PAUL. A bull? In the main streets?

JANE. Yes. A cop. A John.

PAUL. You mean a policeman?

JANE. Are you an Englishman?

PAUL . Australian. I'm afraid you've erred in your selection. I'm not looking for amorous adventure.

ALPHONSE. Madam, the gendarme at the door says you follow this gentleman here. We do not permit women, unattach. I request you to leave.

JANE. What right has he to interfere with me?

PAUL. This lady meets me here by appointment. (Hands a card). The Pacific Club will find me. Tell the policeman to come here, if he is not satisfied.

THE WAITER (bowing). I am sure a mistake was made.

(JANE reaches out for the card. PAUL takes it back and slowly tears it up).

PAUL (to JANE). I'm sorry to curb your curiosity. My name is "John Smith." and yours?

JANE. I see you know your way about. Mine is Jane Jones. Thanks for standing for me.

PAUL. But why have I been selected for this honor?

JANE. I thought you looked a good sort, when I started trailing you from the Pacific.

PAUL. A good sort? You mean an easy mark?

JANE. Not at all. We know the easy marks by other signs. A good sort is one who treats us like ladies. Makes us feel respectable for a few hours.

PAUL. I treat every woman as a lady till she proves herself otherwise.

JANE. You're one of the solemn sort. I thought from the back view that you were younger.

PAUL. Don't waste time discussing me. What will you have to eat?

JANE. I'm full of hunger. (Looks at menu). No finicky things. (To the waiter). A grill, with plenty of beans and fried potatoes.

PAUL. I can recommend an omelette to follow.

JANE. All right, a small one. Finished your dinner?

PAUL. I'm down to the coffee.

(Two showily-dressed women enter and enter the section immediately in the rear).

PAUL. What about wine? Still or sparkling?

JANE. Not for me, thank you.

PAUL. What, nothing?

JANE. A coffee later on. I'm one of the wise ones. A woman can keep fresh till she's forty-five without liquor. With it, she's done at thirty.

PAUL. I'm glad to hear you don't drink.

JANE. Don't you touch the cheerio stuff?

PAUL. Only when I'm at home.

JANE. That's a new one on me. I just saw a movie, "Why men leave home." The answer was, "To find the fizzy juice."

WAITER. (serving dinner to JANE). Can I tempt you with a savoury, sir?

PAUL. Thanks, and some cigarettes.

CONNIE (at the next table, to Waiter). It's all right, Frenchy. Our boys will be along presently. Bring the eats, and hold the wine till they blow in.

WAITER. But my orders! Ladies by themselves pay in advance.

CONNIE (coming into PAUL'S cubicle). Hear that, Buddie? Will you stand stand guarantor? It's a fair go about our boys.

JANE. Go on, John, be a sport.

PAUL. (laughing). Local colour—incident. All right waiter, If the boys are not here when I leave, put it all on the one bill.

CONNIE (to JANE). Thanks kid for puttin' a word in. Say, you're new on this beat, aren't you?

JANE. The Pacific is my corner.

CONNIE. A dangerous spot. The bulls are very active there.

PAUL. I'm playing host on condition that you keep to your own table.

CONNIE. Don't get uppish. Two pins, and I'll tell you to keep your dinner.

JANE (angrily). Get back to your own table. Trying to queer my Pitch?

CONNIE. All right, dearie, no offence. (Going back to her Cubicle, in loud tones) Stuck up English Johnnie. Thinks he can use me for a door-mat for the price of a two dollar feed.

PAUL. I seem to have struck rather a hectic cafe.

JANE. Ever been here before?

PAUL. My first night in America.

JANE. You soon found the bright spots.

PAUL. I haven't seen any dark ones, here.

JANE. You'll find them soon enough. We Americans are a fine people, but not all angels.

PAUL. They're all in Australia. Honestly I wasn't looking for, well...this sort of thing.

JANE. Oh, you all say that, studying human nature. Finding things out for yourselves.

PAUL. That's it. Incident, Adventure, Local Colour, New experiences.

JANE. You're not a parson in disguise, are you?

PAUL. Nothing like that. I write books and plays. Must get material.

(A voice from the rear cubicle, invisible to the audience).

LUDO. Don't monkey with that stuff here!

PETROSKI. It's as safe as milk.

LUDO. But it might go off!

PETROSKI. It can't explode in liquid form; only as a powder. See, I pour a drop on this plate. I apply a light...So...(A flash of Light illumines the cubicle, followed by a slight explosion. Smoke arises above the partition, as LUDO leaps from behind it and hurries to one of the exits. All the diners peer from their cubicles, except CONNIE, who looks over the top of the partition).

CONNIE. There's a bunch of Bolshies way back there!

(Police officers, with drawn revolvers, appear at each exit).

CONNIE (to her companion). Come on, Loo, dynamite and chickens don't mix.

FIRST OFFICER. No one move. Keep to your tables.

SECOND OFFICER (holding LUDO). Come out of that, Petrovski! We've got you, with the goods. Come out in three seconds, or you'll never move again.

(PETROVSKI comes from behind the partition with his hands up).

A VOICE. His bag is still there! (from the opposite cubicle).

SECOND OFFICER. Tote that bag out. (PETROVSKI goes into cubicle and returns with bag). Put it down. (Throws handcuffs to LUDO). Put these on and link up with Petrovski. (LUDO obeys).

FIRST OFFICER. Keep them covered. Everybody here must account for his movements. (Crosses to the party of four). I know this little kindergarten (at CONNIE'S section). And this one (moves to PAUL's section). Who, and what are you?

PAUL (hands card ). Traveller from Australia.

FIRST OFFICER. From where?

PAUL. Australia—where the kangaroos and emus come from.

SECOND OFFICER. It's all right, Bill. Australia's a little Island down near the South Pole.

FIRsT OFFICER. What are you doing in this joyriders' caboose?

PAUL. Isn't this a public cafe?

FIRST OFFICER. Don't back answer or you'll join the little party at headquarters.

PAUL. Is it illegal to have dinner in a public cafe in this country?

FIRST OFFICER. Who's the chicken? One of the emus?

(JANE opens bag and presents card).

FIRST 0FFICER (perusing card with a surprised look). Don't you two know that this is one of the worst joints on the Pacific slopes?

PAUL. All I know is that I have had an excellent dinner. (Casually reaches out for the card. JANE does the same and secures it).

FIRST OFFICER (to the prisoners ). Come along, Bolshies. Keep in front, and step straight, and lively. There s a reception committee with a nice new patrol waggon waiting outside.

(The officers retire with their prisoners, and the diners settle down, in their sections)

JANE. (slowly tearing up card). Sorry to quench your curiosity, but, you have my name. The address will come later on.

CONNIE (looking over the partition at PAUL). Say, Buddie, dinner without a throat wash after a bomb explosion is fair hell. Will it go as far as one bottle?

PAUL. What about it, Jane? You're in charge of this party.

JANE. I'm not. You heard what I said about the booze.

PAUL. But this isn't the time or place for a lecture on temperance. Refusal may mean further annoyance.

CONNIE. That's a lot of palaver over a bottle of fizz.

WAITER (to CONNIE). I must ask you to keep to your own table.

PAUL. Give the ladies a bottle of wine, waiter, and charge it to me.

WAITER. Large or small, sir?

CONNIE. Large, you silly old frog-eater. (To PAUL). Much obliged. May you never be thusty.

JANE. The sooner we get out of this place the better.

PAUL. Not at all. I haven't had so much excitement in one day since—since—I got a raise in my salary, twenty years ago, without asking for It,

JANE. And now you write plays?

PAUL (hurriedly). Oh, yes. But only as a side line. Stop talking about me. What are you doing in this place?

JANE. There's the old stock question. I have three answers. I was a poor struggling shop girl tempted by a designing villain who refused to marry me. (PAUL takes out memo. book and makes notes). I came froma country village to seek a career in this great city, and was driven on to the streets by starvation. I plunged into a life of vice, to revenge myself on a man who scorned my love. I can tell any one of those stories with harrowing details. Which one would you prefer?

PAUL. None of them would fit you.

JANE. All right. I'll make up a fresh one when we get home.

PAUL. When we get where?

JANE. Round to my apartment. It's only twenty minutes by taxi.

PAUL. My acting as a "bull" screen doesn't necessarily include a visit to your flat.

JANE. Oh, but everything is quite private and respectable.

PAUL. Isn't it usual to discuss this matter over the coffee?

JANE. All right, when you like. But somebody must come to my place before the theatre crowds all get away.

PAUL. Whatever happens I'll see that you don't lose.

JANE. None of that! I don't collect charity.

(Noisy laughter is heard in the next compartment).

PAUL. I'm afraid that bottle of wine was a bad investment.

JANE. Cheer up, John. When in Rome—you know the old maxim. This is life spelt with a large L.

(ARISTO —a long-haired shabilly dressed, musician enters with violin case under his arm, enters, with his wiife, CLAUDIA. Both occupy the cubicle directly opposite).

PAUL. Life! This vault smells of corruption.

JANE (laughing). I really believe you are a spring blossom. Nothing like this in Australia?

PAUL. I suppose there is—if you look for it.

JANE. Give me a cigarette.

(PAUL strikes match and holds it while JANE lights slowly).

JANE...Married?

PAUL. I also have three stories for the entertainment of curious strangers. Will I offer you a choice?

JANE. You needn't trouble. I know them all by heart.

(The waiter serves coffee).

ARISTO. I played divinely to-day, but it was wasted.

CLAUDIA (re-arranging his tie). I was in the cafe.

ARISTO. My precious! You went to hear me.

CLAUDIA. I went to be sure that you were there and I saw you drinking whisky, at three o'clock.

(PAUL, startled, looks across at the opposite cubicle).

ARISTO. One, my angel. Only one.

CLAUDIA. And a nice mess you left about your room this morning. Tobacco ashes, and cigarette stubs, in every corner.

JANE (as PAUL half rises). What's wrong? Have you seen a ghost?

PAUL. No. The stirring of memory by familiar phrases.

CLAUDIA. Look at that coat of yours, only yesterday—I cleaned and pressed it. I sent you out this morning quite respectable and then discovered you had put your boots on over your bed socks.

(PAUL starts again).

JANE. What is wrong with you?

PAUL. Nothing. Nothing. There's a remarkable echo in this vault.

CLAUDIA. With all my care you look as grubby as a street cleaner.

ARISTO. I wil not listen further to your torrent of trivialities. (Seizes violin and stalks over to PAUL'S cubicle. As he enters). I trust I am not intruding.

PAUL. Not at all.

ARISTO. I seek but respite from domestic solicitude.

PAUL. You have my sympathy.

ARISTO. May I sit here till our dinner arrives?

PAUL. I am accustomed to interruptions. In fact I came to America to avoid them.

ARISTO (taking violin from Case). I will play you something for your gracious granting of refuge. (Begins playing "Humouresque").

CLAUDIA (crossing to PAUL'S cubicle). I beg pardon for my husband's effrontery.

ARISTO. I have made the apologies and received a welcome.

PAUL. I assure you, madam, the intrusion is not resented.

CLAUDIA. But my husband's time is limited. He has another engagement to-night.

ARISTO. The unexpected pleasure of meeting a real gentleman (bowing to PAUL), and a real lady (bowing to JANE) encourages me to.

CONNIE. If you're looking for real ladies, Caruso, bring your fiddle in here.

CLAUDIA (sharply). Your steak is served, Aristo.

(Leads him to their cubicle, ARISTO bowing profoundly as he leaves).

JANE. Wonder how they drifted into "The Cave"?

PAUL. I am still wondering what you are doing here. You may be soiled, but you're not...not, out of things yet.

JANE (fiercely). What do you know about me? What do any of you men about town know of those who cater to your midnight pleasures? You come into the market-place and hear women crying, "We sell, we sell." You answer, "We buy, we buy." Then buy, without talking so much.

PAUL. I haven't bought yet.

JANE. You might as well conclude the bargain.

PAUL. I'll go this far. If it isn't you, it will not be anyone else.

(Two men enter and recognise the girls in the next cubicle. They greet them noisily).

THE MEN. Sorry, girlies. But we were held up with a bad puncture.

(Inaudible conversation ensues and one of the men comes to PAUL'S cubicle).

THE MAN. Much obliged for standing to the girls, but no need for further responsibility. (Eyeing JANE appraisingly). Why not join up and make a sextette of it? Got a Buick outside capable of carrying the lot.

JANE. I hate crowds. I don't join in mixed joy rides.

THE MAN. One of the sly fussy ones, eh? A single worker.

PAUL. Is there any need to continue the conversation?

THE MAN. We're very 'aughty aren't we? What are you doing in the cave? Think you're in Pussy-Foot Parlour?

PAUL (rising aggressively) Are you going?

THE MAN. (backing away) All right sport. No offense meant. My mistake.

ARISTO. What care I for external apperances, as long as I play as well as I did this afternoon?

CLAUDIA. You will lose your engagement at the Rialto presently.

ARISTO. Even so, there are others, my dear. There are others.

THE MAN. Waiter, tell the band to turn on K-K-Katie. (hands waiter a tip)

CLAUDIA. If you lose the Rialto, I will leave you forever.

THE MAN (aggressively). I'd like to have a tilt with the old Johnnie next door.

CONNIE. I'm not in love with his girl, either.

JANE. Don't let us get mixed up in a row.

PAUL (angrily). I'll take on a row if necessary.

JANE Why this sudden anger?

PAUL. I've had enough local colour. There's only one colour in you painted things of the pavement.

JANE. Look again.

PAUL. (scrutinising her closely). By Jove, you're not painted. You're as much out of place here as I am.

JANE. I can act a bit, can't I? It comes in useful in my profession.

PAUL. Your profession?

JANE. Cut out the soft talk. I know why you're getting angry.

PAUL. Well, why?

JANE. You've decided to come to the flat with me. You're squaring your conscience before admitting it.

PAUL. I believe you're only masquerading.

JANE. Give me another cigarette. (Afterr lighting it). You can kill that belief by arranging with a taxi to take us to this address. (Hands him a slip of paper).

PAUL. Get a taxi to the door, waiter.

WAITER. Yes, sir. It will be here almost immediate.

(Exit).

PAUL. What kind of a—er—house...of entertainment is this?

JANE. It's not a house of entertainment. My own apartment in a quiet block.

PAUL. I won't stay.

JANE. Oh, yes, you will. You don't know what preparations I have made for a visitor.

PAUL. I'll see yon home and get back to my hotel.

JANE. All right, if you must. But come in for coffee and a cigarette. I can make real black coffee.

PAUL. Do you really want me to come?

JANE. What did I give you that address for?

WAITER. Your taxi, sir. (Presents bill).

PAUL (paying bill). Keep the change.

CONNIE (looking over the partition) Good Night, Milord. I am always here on Tuesday nights.

(PAUL and JANE move toward exit as the band plays K-K-Katie)

CURTAIN.


SCENE II

A room in a private hospital —simply furnished. As the curtain rises PAUL CONWAY is disclosed lying in bed, asleep with head well raised on pillows. A nurse is standing beside the bed holding a watch in one hand and PAUL's wrist with the other.

NURSE. Nothing much wrong with this one.

PAUL. (drowsily) What's the time?

NURSE. You've come round have you?

PAUL. Must get a study fixed up. Every man ought to have his own private den. (looks at the nurse and sits up).

NURSE. (pushing him back on the pillows). You just be still. My orders are, perfect quiet, and no movement until the doctor comes.

PAUL. Don't let tat son of mine in with the dotor. I want to see Cammidge alone.

NURSE. You be quiet till he comes.

PAUL. What happened?

NURSE. I know nothing about you. I'm here to carry out orders, and my orders are to keep you still, and not to talk. Here's the doctor now.

(enter DR. AYLWARD, an old man of rather forbidding aspect with sparse grey hair and unusually firece eye-brows. He speaks aggressively with a slight Scotch accent. He approaches the bed in a brisk professional manner and stands looking down at PAUL).

DR. AYLWARD. You can go now, nurse. I'll ring when you will be wanted again.

NURSE. Very well, sir. Temperature all right, but pulse rather low. (Hands him a chart and retires).

DR. AYLWARD. You're all right. Nothing to be frightened about now.

PAUL. I don't remember having met you before. I feel very weak and sleepy.

DR. AYLWARD. You will be shaky for about five days, but if you follow orders we'll turn you out as sound as a bell before your boat leaves.

PAUL. My boat? (After a pause). What do you know about my boat?

DR. AYLWARD. We had to look through your pocketbook to locate you.

PAUL. What happened to me?

DR. AYLWARD. I'll tell you later. You tell me exactly what you remember.

PAUL. I was in a cafe having dinner, alone. A girl joined me.

DR. AYLWARD. At your age!

PAUL. I've heard that remark somewhere before. I went with the girl in a taxi—to her flat.

DR. AYLWARD. Yes, and what then?

PAUL. It ends there. Something happened. I can't remember anything more.

DR. AYLWARD. I can take up the story now and bring it to the present moment. Will I go on?

PAUL. If you don't mind. Naturally, I am interested.

DR. AYLWARD.. There is an eminent English scientist in this City, in very bad health. He is accompanied by a well known London physician who is his close personal friend.

PAUL. What have they to do with it? I'm only a casual visitor myself.

DR. AYLWARD. You must be patient. This scientist is on the verge of a great discovery, which, if ever completed, may be of immense value to humanity.

PAUL. I thought I was on the verge of a great event, too. But please get to the point.

DR. AYLWARD. He was dying of insufficiency of blood.

PAUL. This would interest my fool son. He is trying to become a doctor.

DR. AYLWARD. You were decoyed to this hospital to save his life.

PAUL. Me? A life saver?

DR. AYLWARD. You were chloroformed and a pint and a half of your blood transferred to the Professor's veins.

PAUL (sitting up). Holy smoke!

DR. AYLWARD (pressing him back on the pillow). You run a risk of heart failure by moving suddenly. Keep in one po1ution as much as possible, and always turn over slowly.

PAUL. A pint and a half!

DR. AYLWARD. You had it to spare, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you have rendered a great service to humanity.

PAUL. How do you know my life was not of greater value?

DR. AYLWARD. That is inconceivable.

PAUL. Why? Supposing I am a great dramatist travelling under an assumed name?

DR. AYLWARD. The world can spare a hundred dramatists for one scientist.

PAUL. Not in my country. They are very scarce in the South Pacific.

DR. AYLWARD. Perhaps if those who are responsible for your dilemma knew as much as they do now, they would have selected some other man.

PAUL. Who is responsible? I suppose there is some remedy for personal outrage even in this country.

DR. AYLWARD. I will disclose all the names when you are better.

PAUL. Extraordinary climax to a harmless holiday excursion.

DR. AYLWARD. The way of the transgressor is hard.

PAUL. Transgression leads to transfusion. I say, doc, I really wasn't transgressing.

DR. AYLWARD. The weight of evidence is against you.

PAUL. I was just—er—well, looking over the edge...

DR. AYLWARD. A dangerous pastime for a man of fifty or over.

PAUL. Is a man to regard himself as dead at fifty?

DR. AYLWARD. Not at all. But he must stay in his own garden. He shouldn't start sowing a new patch of wild oats.

PAUL (excitedly). You seem to know a great deal about this affair, and about me.

DR. AYLWARD. It is fortunate for you I do. If you had not been rescued from that cafe...

PAUL (sitting up again). Rescued?

DR. AYLWARD. There you are again. Will you remember that excitement is your greatest danger? If you keep calm and closely follow my directions, you will be able to hear all details in four or five days and then decide on your course of action.

PAUL. Five days out of my week in bed. Good-bye, bright spots.

DR. AYLWARD. You must make the best of it.

PAUL. What's wrong with my left leg? It's all bandaged.

DR. AYLWARD. A vein was opened for the purposes of transfusion.

PAUL. Seeing I am here for being such a pliant fool, why didn't you open one in my head?

DR. AYLWARD. Now, now, you gain nothing by being peevish...Cheer up —The rest will do you good, and it will keep you out of cafes till your boat leaves. I must be going. Anything you want?

PAUL. Ask the nurse to bring me a small leather satchel from my things and the bunch of keys from my hip pocket.

DR. AYLWARD. All right. Don't write too much. And mind, no excitement, no worry. You are in good hands. (Exit).

PAUL. What next? Local colour...I'm a rainbow...two days after landing...If Julia could see me now!...Whoever started that play competition ought to be poisoned--

(NURSE enters and places satchel and keys on beside table).

PAUL. I say, nurse, who is that old sawbones?

NURSE. My instructions are not to talk to you.

PAUL. But do you always follow insltructions?

NURSE. Always —but even without them I never talk to patients.

PAUL. Extra charge for vocal consolation?

NURSE. The chief characteristic of our country is efficiency. Talking is not conducive to it. What can I get you for supper? You can have anything you fancy. A little chicken?

PAUL. Yes, with plenty of hot buttered toast.

(Exit NURSE).

(Curtain for two minutes to indicate the lapse of five days).

The curtain rises on the same scene. PAUL CONWAY is sitting in an easy chair, in pyjamas and dressing gown, with the satchel, open, on the floor. Scattered papers are on an adjacent table.

PAUL (looking through and arranging. papers). This Elfreda stuff seems very tame after a night in Frisco.

NURSE (entering). A lady to see you, sir.

PAUL (in consternation). A lady? No, thank you, no, thank you, no thank you, as Cyrano used to say. I'm not at home to ladies.

NURSE. My orders were to admit any callers.

PAUL. And my orders are, you must not leave me alone with any lady.

NURSE (at the door). Ring the bell if you want me.

(Enter JANE JONES).

PAUL (moving over to the bell-button, and placing a finger on it). You! You!

JANE. Yes, I had to see you once before the Sonoma left for Australia. Please sit down.

PAUL. (coming back to his easy chair). I had no desire to meet you again.

JANE. But you must hear my explanation—my apology.

PAUL. I have no escape—only don't make this interview longer than is absolutely necessary.

JANE. (seatitig herself). Dr. Aylward has told you the truth.

PAUL. Some ancient Scotchman, calling himself a doctor, has told me part of it. To-day he is to give me the names of those responsible for the outrage.

JANE. I was the worst offender.

PAUL. Were you acting then, or are you acting now?

JANE. I am the only daughter of the scientist whose life you saved.

PAUL. Then I am satisfied his life wasn't worth saving.

JANE. I deserve that.

PAUL. You will never get what you really deserve.

JANE. You must let me finish without interruption. This interview is very painful.

PAUL. It is. Get it over.

JANE. The doctor told me to decoy a healthy young man to the hospital.

PAUL. Which doctor?.

JANE. Why, Dr. Aylward, of course.

PAUL. The scoundrel. But why did you select me?

JANE. You seemed to just fit in with his instructions.

PAUL. You flatter me.

JANE. But I made one seriious mistake.

PAUL. Not you. Your knowledge of the language and arts of the pavement ladies was most convincing.

JANE. I learned all that in my profession.

PAUL. So I judged.

JANE. (icily). I am a doctor by profession, and my practice is largely amongst London's unfortunate women.

PAUL. You were not a hired—er—courtezan?

JANE. Did you ever really think I was?

PAUL. No, I did not. But that does not make me any the less an old fool.

JANE. When I started to follow you I thought you were a much younger man. You were so erect and you walked so jauntily.

PAUL. But my grey hairs, and my general air of respectability. Did I look very dissolute?

JANE. I had no real chance of seeing you until I entered the cafe. Then it was too late to desist. The police had been watching me and I was afraid to start out again.

PAUL. And you went through with it after discovering I was a man of—er—well, of somewhat advanced years?

JANE. What of that? It did you no harm.

PAUL. What? A pint and a half of blood at my age?

JANE. (puzzled). But you didn't lose any blood. Hasn't Dr. Aylward explained?

PAUL (springing excitedly from his chair). The ferocious old butcher told me he took a pint and a half!

JANE. I can't understand him. He promised me he would tell you everything.

PAUL. You say I haven't lost any blood?

JANE. Not enough to fill a thimble.

PAUL. But that wound on my thigh?

JANE. A superficial cut—to keep up the deception.

PAUL. But my weakness and low pulse?

JANE. Bromides, and other harmless drugs.

PAUL. In the name of heaven, what does it all mean?

JANE. It was an experiment in psychology.

PAUL. Am I awake or dreaming? You say that nothing has really been wrong with me since I came into this procurator's den?

JANE. Nothing. Don't you know that a transfusion is impossible when the—the transferror is under an anaesthetic?

PAUL. Go on. All I know is that I 'm the two ends and the middle of a blithering idiot.

JANE. You see, it was this way. My father was suffering from brain-fag-overwork, with serious mental depression. Some doctor told him it was deficiency of blood, and his mind became affected. He really was, by suggestion, dying of a disease which had not assailed him.

PAUL. I can see that son of mine giving that kind of advice.

JANE. So we told him you had given him a pint and a half of your blood—and he's already recovering. You were asleep under morphia, in an adjoining bed.

PAUL. And honestly there's been nothing wrong with me?

JANE. Nothing at all.

PAUL (cramming papers into his satchel and starting to throw clothes into a suit case). And you were acting under that old fraud's instructions? He was your fatherrs friend?

DR. AYLWARD. (entering). Ah! ah! Quite right again?

PAUL (aggressively). So you were the old ruffian who framed this joke on me?

DR. AYLWARD. It was no joke. I have saved my friend and strengthened my conclusions on a branch of medical science which is just being properly appreciated.

PAUL. And which aims at proving that men generally become damned idiots after reaching fifty?

DR. AYLWARD. Not at all. The theory that, by mental suggestion men can suffer from diseases, and by the same process, can be cured of them.

PAUL. Here, don't you put me in any medical treatise. And don't think you are going to get away with this crime without punishment.

DR. AYLWARD. Sit down, man, and let the nurse pack those goods. There's one point to clear up yet.

PAUL. Well, what is it? Going to tell me that you took one of my organs out and gave it to the professor in mistake for the pint and a half?

DR. AYLWARD: Here is the name and address of everyone who knowingly participated in this interesting experiment. You are free to seek any appropriate redress.

PAUL. Redress be damned. My boat leaves the day after to-morrow. All I want is to get out of this country.

DR. AYLWARD. We thought you might look at it that way, that's why we...

PAUL. Why you what? More villainy?

DR. AYLWARD. Why we made you miss the first twenty four hours, by keeping you asleep under morphia, and why we kept you here all the week.

PAUL. Missed the first twenty four hours? Isn't this Thursday?

DR. AYLWARD. No. Friday.

PAuL. Then my boat goes to-morrow!

DR. AYLWARD. at 7 a.m. Eight hours for a nice sleep, and then a restful sea trip.

PAUL. Was that nurse in the scheme?

DR. AYLWARD. To some extent she was in our confidence.

PAUL. Efficiency! She was a fine liar of the silent variety.

DR. AYLWARD. She is one of the best and most expensive nurses in this country.

PAUL. Clear out of this before I run amok! (Starts packmg again).

DR. AYLWARD. Be reasonable, man. You can't change into a hotel at this time of night. Stay here and my car will take you to the boat in the morning, your cabin is booked; everything arranged and here is the balance of your letter of credit.

PAUL. Efficiency! Have you sent a cable to the family?

JANE. I thought of that. I sent it to-day. "Leaving by Sonoma. All well. Love."

PAUL. Officious efficiency!

JANE (rising). Mr. Conway—

PAUL. Mr Smith to you.

JANE. Mr. Smith, I'm very sorry about it all but you will stay here to-night and let us do what we can to make your departure comfortable? I'll come round in the car. (Moves towards the door with DR. AYLWARD).

PAUL. The chauffeur's company will be ample, thank you.

JANE (at the door). Very well. Good-bye, I'm glad to have met you.

PAUL. The pleasure has been all mine, Miss Jones. (Exit JANE and DR. AYLWARD). I might as Well make the best of it. (Stands in front of mirror). I don't look a fool. (Takes off dressing gown, gets into bed, and continues monologue). Most extraordinary mix-up. (Yawns). Can't think it out to-night. (Places satchel under pillow). Never thought I would spend my one week in 'Frisco in bed in a private hospital—on a frame-up...Ah, well, there's the boat trip left...Three whole weeks and nothing to do but write...Extraordinary girl that...charming, too...But I'd like to throttle that villainous old doctor. A pint and a half of blood. (Sleepily). Four pints one quart, two quarts one...Now you have it, now you don't...Now it's here, now it's there. (Reaches to table and switches off light). Thank the Lord I can sleep through anything...(A pause in total darkness. A slight noise is heard at the window and the gleam of an electric torch is seen. Somebody climbs through the window).

FIRST BURGLAR (in a loud whisper). Come on, Bill. This is the room. (Another torch is seen and the second burglar appears).

SECOND BURGLAR. Are you sure?

FIRST BURGLAR. S—sh, no noise. People don't sleep sound in 'orsvitals.

(They move round room flashing their torches).

PAUL. Who's there? Who's there?

FIRST BURGLAR. Another word and you're a dead man.

PAUL (in a whisper). What do you want?

FIRST BURGLAR. Switch on your light, quick.

(The light is switched on) disclosing PAUL sitting up in bed embracing his satchel).

PAUL. W-what do you want?

FIRST BURGLAR. We want the case you're 'uggin' there.

PAUL. B-but it's of no value to you.

SECOND BuRGLAR. Sure this is the right guy Bill? I thought professors was all very old birds with long 'air.

(A noise outside).

FIRST BURGLAR (pointing revolver at PAUL). S-sh.

PAUL. What do you want it for?

FIRST BURGLAR. We've been offered 1,000 bucks for the papers of your secret process. Hand that case over and we won't hurt you. (Another noise outside. The burglar springs to the bedside with revolver pointed and switches off light). Not a sound! Give me that bag.

PAUL. I won't.

SECOND BURGLAR. Squeeze his gullet, Bill. There's someone comin'...

PAUL. I won't give it up. I—I—

(A choking sound is heard then silence).

SECOND BURGLAR. Got it, Bill?

FIRST BURGLAR. Yes, nearly had to break his arm, prising it away, even after he was outed.

SECOND BURGLAR. Come quick. There's someone about.

(They disappear out the window with the satchel. After a few moments in absolute darkness the light is swttched on disclosing the nurse at PAUL's bedside. PAUL is sitting up, dazed and dishevelled with his pyjama coat badly torn).

NURSE. What's all this noise about?

PAUL (hoarsely). It's gone! I'll have to start all over again!

CURTAIN.


ACT III.

SCENE I.

The first Sunday after the closing of entries from the "Best Play" competition. The dining-room of PAUL CONWAY's home. As the curtain rises, PAUL CONWAY, fully dressed, and looking particularly well and cheerful, is sitting, alone, at the head of the breakfast table. MARY is placing some dishes on the table.

PAUL. Where's everybody?

MARY. They're all late this morning, sir. Mr. Cornelius only just left the bathroom.

PAUL. Everything will be cold. Touch the gong again.

(MARY. takes gong to the door and strikes it vigorously. Mrs. CONWAY, in a kimino, enters listlessly and takes her seat at the opposite end of the table).

PAUL. Morning, dear. Not feeling too good?

MRS. CONWAY. Not too well, dear. The anxiety while you were away, and the excitement of your return, have completely worn me out.

(LETTY and JULIA enter, from opposite doors; both in kiminos).

PAUL. I thought t his was a welcome home breakfast. Not a Japanese festival.

LETTY. I was completely prostrated after waiting for five hours on that wharf yesterday.

JULIA. I thought you would appreciate an oriental touch after coming from the East.

PAUL (serving breakfast). You know how I dislike breakfast in deshabille—particularly on Sundays.

(CORNELIUS enters in pyjamas and dressing gown).

PAUL. You, too? Nothing to wear?

CORNELIUS (yawning). Sorry, guv'nor; I missed the dressing bell. Haven't slept too well lately.

LETTY (acidly). Another member of the family has been known to breakfast without even a shave or a bath.

(All proceed to eat in silence).

JULIA. You look particularly, well this morning, dad. Got a meet on already?

PAUL. I've had an hour's weeding in the garden. You'd all be much better for some exercise in the ornings.

MRS. CONWAY. The garden is over-run with some new weed. It's all down the street.

JULIA. The man next door says it's a new species of "wild oats."

PAUL (startled, and looking suspiciously at JULIA).

A lot he knows about gardening. I've battled with exactly the same growth for over twenty years.

(The breakfast proceeds again in silence).

JULIA. Why, dad, I thought you would have been bursting with narrative this morning.

PAUL. I mustn't tell you everything at one sitting.

LETTY. So far you have told us nothing.

MRS CONWAY. Were you seasick, dear?

PAUL. Never missed a meal.

JULIA. Did you meet any interesting people?

PAUL. I don't think there are any interesting people in the whole country.

JULIA. Not in the cabarets?

LETTY. Father wouldn't go to those places, Julia.

PAUL. Of course I wouldn't.

JULIA. But what did you do in 'Frisco? You had a whole week there.

PAUL. Mostly research work...visiting libraries and houses of Parliament...and...and the Universities.

JULIA. What a dull week. No adventures? No hair breadth escapes from opium dens?

LETTY. Julia, you have a most evil mind. Where do you get such Ideas?

CORNELIUS. Did you meet any medical men?

PAUL. I did. You can't escape them over there.

CORNELIUS. The profession overstocked?

PAUL. I met a few who wouldn't be missed.

CORNELIUS. Did you consult any specialists about your symptoms?

PAUL. One—that was quite sufficient.

CORNELIUS. Did you tell him of my diagnosis?

PAUL. I never got a chance to tell him anything. He did all the talking.

MRS. CONWAY. What did he say was wrong with you?

PAUL. He confirmed my own diagnosis that there was nothing wrong.

JULIA. What a shame! While you have been away Con has found about six new Latin names for your affliction.

CORNELIUs. I can easily diagnose your complaint.

JULIA. Give it a French name, Con. I hate Latin.

MRS. CONWAY. Julia, I wish you would not lay yourself out to irritate your brother.

CORNELIUS. Children will prattle.

LETTY. If ever I have a daughter...

JULIA. First find a husband.

LETTY. If ever I have a daughter, I'll, l'll—

PAUL. Don't try to finish it, Letty. Sarcasm is not effective at a kimino breakfast.

LETTY. Really, father, you should place some check on Julia.

PAUL. Don't let us be quarrelsome to-day. What's the news, Con?

CORNELIUS (who is reading the Sunday newspaper).

Extraordinary incident in 'Frisco last week—you just got out in time.

PAUL. The murder of a few doctors?

CORNELIUs. A bomb explosion in a cafe, people killed. Three.

JULIA. Just your luck, dad. All the real excitement after you left.

MRS. CONWAY. With all our troubles, I believe this is the safest country to live in.

PAUL. I agree with you, my dear. Any other important news, Con.?

CORNELIUS. Yesterday was the closing day for the entries in the "Best Play" competition.

PAUL. When is the day of judgment?

JULIA (excitedly). How many entries?

CORNELIUS. Seven hundred and twenty.

PAUL. Poor devils!

JULIA. Yes, the odds against the winner are 7l9 to 1.

PAUL. I referred to the judges—not the competitors. Fancy having to go through over seven hundred manuscripts.

JULIA. I know a lot of people who had a try for the prize.

LETTY. It's a pity they hadn't something better to do.

CORNELIUS. I don't know. Two hundred guineas is a lot of money. Only for the term exam. I'd have had a try.

JULIA. What have we missed? "The Knife that slippped," a surgical drama in seven acts, by Cornelius Conway.

LETTY. Or "Julia's Jeopardy," the fate of an impertinent flapper.

JULIA. Or a tragedy, "The Shadow of the Shelf", by an old maid.

PAUL. I think it's time we changed the subject again. This breakfast is fast developing into a family riot.

LETTY. You should make Julia keep her place. She's becoming intolerable. (Rises and leaves the room).

PAUL (lighting a cigarette). How often have I asked Mary to put an ash-tray on the table at every meal?

MRS. CONWAY (placing ash-tray beside him). You are quite yourself again, Paul?

PAUL. Quite. Can't say the same for the rest of the family. I'll ask Dr. Cammidge to call this morning and have a look round.

CORNELIUS (rising). Well! I'm due for a game of tennis. Back for lunch, mater.

MRS. CONWAY (rising as MARY enters). You can clear away now, Mary. (To PAUL). If I'm not down by one o'clock, dear, go on with lunch.

(PAUL and JULIA are left alone, PAUL standing with his back to the mantelpiece, filling his pipe, JULIA curled up on the couch).

JULIA. I say, dad, it's more comfortable on top of this couch than underneath. (Crosses to the window and looks out). Is the manuscript safely lodged?

PAUL. I handed it in personally, two hours after landing.

JULIA. Did you get any new ideas in San Franccisco?

PAUL. A few—just a few.

JULIA. I don't like our chances—over seven hundred entries!

PAUL. Our chances?

JULIA. Don't you regard me as a joint author?

PAUL. Isn't there a distinction between collaboration and joint authorship? Besides I wrote it all over again on the way back.

JULIA. Didn't I lighten the chains of connubial serfdom during that month of mental travail? And didn't I fix that trip for you?

PAUL. You did, my dear, you did.

JULIA. Didn't I inspire and encourage your constantly flagging genius?

PAUL. You did, verily you did.

JULIA. Didn't I invent that idea of hiding Elfreda in the tonneau of the aeroplane?

PAUL. I agree that our chances are not too rosy.

JULIA. I wish I could get into the office of the judging committee and burn a few hundred manuscripts.

PAUL. If you do, be careful in your selection. Mine, I mean ours, is on blue paper, bound with red tape.

MARY (at the door). A telephone call for you, sir. Dr. Cammidge wants to know if you'll go round the links with him?

PAUL. Tell him I'll call for him in half an hour.

JULIA. Fancy wasting a whole morning hitting a rubber ball about, with the world still waiting for plays. When are we to start another, dad?

PAUL (moving towards tho door): Never. Never again.

JULIA. He poured his whole soul into one masterpiece, and ever afterwards played golf.

PAUL (at the door). I say, Julia, if we fail, never a word.

JULIA (declaiming) My silence will be complete and eternal. I swear it, comrade. Each for both, and both for each.

CURTAIN.


SCENE II.

Some weeks later—the same room. The table has been pushed back. LETTY, JULIA, MAY ASHLEY, CORNELIUS, ADOLPHUS DIBLEY, and NORMAN THWAITE are jazzing to a gramaphone accompaniment. The dance finishes, JULIA turns off the gramaphone, and all seat themselves.

MAY ASHLEY. (an oddly dressecl young woman of arhstic temperament, with an affected drawl). These modern dances possess the charm of the unexpected. At any given moment you cannot anticipate the next evolution of your partner.

JULIA. Like Mr. Dibley's "Cubist" play. When you reach the end of a page you've no idea what the next one may bring forth.

LETTY. That was the charm of it. The meaning is not obvious.

DIBLEY (a journalist, fond of reading his own plays whenever he can get an audience). You've just expressed it, Letty. If writing conveys an obvious meaning it is not art, but journalism. The modern school seeks individual expression—not reproduction of popular conceptions.

MAY ASHLEY. That's so, dear boy. Each brain receives different impressions, from the sensory nerves. Art consists in conveying those impressions, however odd they may be, to others; not in producing pictorially, or by word-spinning, what you think the majority will approve of.

JULIA. I see. If I think Con looks like an owl I should draw him as an owl, in a sac suit.

MAY ASHLEY. My dear child, you are too literal.

JULIA. But is art to be only a means of expressing odd sensations. I'm so fond of usual things.

MAY ASHLEY. Usual things are not worth expressing. True art deals only with the unusual in the inanimate world—the abnormal in human affairs.

JULIA. Supposing I had an abnormal sense of taste which made castor oil more palatable to me than ice-cream sundaes? Should I write a sonnet on castor oil?

MAY ASHLEY. You are a most disconcerting child.

JULIA. I'm a woman of great experience—given to profound reflection.

(Enter MRS. CONWAY, followed by MARY with coffee service and light refreshments).

MRS. CONWAY. We won't wait any longer for father.

LETTY. Mother, don't you think Julia should be in bed? It's past eight o'clock.

JULIA. I'll put you all to the test. Can anyone here tell me what Mr. Dibley's play means? Speak now, or be for ever silent.

DIBLEY. It means nothing.

JULIA. That's obvious.

DIBLEY. Let me finish, please. It means nothing to those whose minds do not vibrate in the same ether as mine.

JULIA. And if there be no such fortunate individual?

DIBLEY. Then it conveys a meaning to me, and me only.

JULIA. And you entered it for the competition?

DIBLEY. Not with any expectation of winning.

JULIA. Just to tease the judges?

DIBLEY. In the hope that it will reach some mortal whose soul is attuned to mine.

JULIA. I can see the three judges tuning up their soul strings for each of the seven hundred manuscripts!

MAY ASHLEY. My child, you don't understand the rudiments of modernism; the revolutionary change which is purging art of the commonplace. In music, melody is expiring before tone pictures.

JULIA. You mean composers are too lazy to write real music.

NORMAN THWAITE (a minor poet). In poetry, metre, rhyme, and even rhythm, are giving way to rugged and robust carving of word pictures.

DIBLEY. In the dramatic world, plot, stage, technique, and set rules of construction retire before the onward march of ideas expressed as actually conceived in the brains of their authors.

JULIA. Which means that poets and dramatists are too tired to turn out finished work.

THWAITE. Perhaps you'll understand it better by a study of modern pictures. Now take the masterpiece of a cubist; or of an ultra-impressionist. On the first glance you pass it by with a tolerant smile. Then you stop and look. Some fleeting idea reaches your mind. You look again. You begin to study its lines. Out of the obscurity a synthesis develops. Suddenly with a blinding flash you comprehend—your mind is in tune with that of the author, and you say—

JULIA. Why do men waste good material before learning the first principles of drawing?

MAY ASHLEY. Really, you are quite hopeless.

JULIA. Hopeless? I am a real optimist. I know that all this silly modernism, as you call it, is like the new weeds father dug out of the garden this morning. The world is still sound and healthy, and the day of good old healthy things is coming back.

CORNELIUS. Where did you read that?

(MARY enters).

MARY. Mr. Conway wants Miss Julia on the telephone.

(Exit JULIA).

LETTY. (as she serves coffee). I don't know what's come over that girl lately.

CORNELIUS. The glib way she intrudes into every conversation is most disconcerting.

MRS. CONWAY. I've noticed a great difference in her during the last few weeks.

DIBLEY. It is strange how the under-development of some minds is exaggerated by precocious egotism.

MAY ASHLEY. I suppose, Mrs. Conway, she inherits that strain of irresponsibility from her father?

JULIIA. (with hat on, at the door, excitedly). I'm running across the road to get the evening paper. Father says there's something of great interest in it and he's on the road home. (Exit).

CORNELIUS. I wonder what it can be?

LETTY. Wasn't the result of the play competition to be announced to-night?

DIBLEY. Does Mr. Conway know I'm here to-night?

MRS. CONWAY. I think he does.

DIBLEY. Then that's what he means! (Walking about excitedly). I wonder if I've succeeded. (All gather round him).

LETTY. Won't it be splendid?

CORNELIUS. And won't we able to tease Julia?

MAY ASHLEY. What a triumph it would be for the new school!

DIBLEY. It would be an acceptable reward for many nights of unremitting toil.

LETTY. But I thought your play was the result of an inspiration. Something dashed off in an hour or mental ecstasy.

DIBLEY. Only the central idea. The building of the superstructure was—laborious...excessively laborious.

LETTY. I wish that child would hurry. Will I ring up the newspaper office?

(JULIA enters slowly, reading with a puzzled expression.ALL turn eagerly to her).

LETTY. What is it? Who won?

JULIA. I can't understand it. Sit down and I'll read the announcement. (Reads slowly)

The Drama Competition. The judges regret that the successful play deals with a very sordid subject...The author, an entirely unknown man, evidently possessing intimate knowledge of the seamy side of life...wins, only because of skilful dramatic construction. The first prize has been awarded to (turning over the sheet)...a modern drama, entitled, "Five Nights in 'Frisco"...by Paul Conway!

(A dead silence, during which PAUL CONWAY appears in the doorway).

PAUL. That's me! (ALL stare at him silently). I mean, that is I!

JULIA (going to meet PAUI as he slowly enters). That's not the play we wrote!

MRS. CONWAY. Paul, is it true?

PAUL. It is, my dear. For once a newspaper speaks truthfully.

DIBLEY. Fancy! Old Conny!

MAY ASHLEY. Still waters run deep.

LETTY. Now I understand recent happenings.

CORNELIUS. I was wrong in my diagnosis.

MRS. CONWAY. But what do you know of the seamy side of life?

PAUL. Only what I learn from the newspapers and from Julia.

DIBLEY. I suppose it's the same old story. Art overwhelmed by commonplace sensationalism.

MAY ASHLEY. While genius waits for recognition by a future generation.

JULIA. "Five Nights in 'Frisco" What did you do with Elfreda?

PAUL. She fell out of the aeroplane and was killed.

MRS. CONWAY. But the theme of the play, dear did you see what the judges said?

PAUL (in oracular tone). Dramatic works are more often tbe products of imagination than of experience. Newspapers think they possess a monopoly of imagination. They do not. I recently discovered that I have imaginative faculties of no mean order. This letter is not imagination. (Reads letter) "Amalgamated Theatres Limited have pleasure in offering you £500 for the Australian playing rights of your drama."

(All stare at hm in silent amazement).

LETTY. Five hundred pounds! And the two-hundred-guinea prize!

JULIA. "I have no words befitting such base betrayal. You are the most treacherous thing ever spawned in hell!"

MRS. CONWAY. Julia! Julia!

(All stare at JULIA in silence).

CORNELIUS. The excitement has been too great. Emotional hysteria!

PAUL. "I am what I am—a creature of destiny."

JULIA. "You know I do not, I cannot love you but you have at least won my respect."

JULIA (laughing and holding aloft a coffee cup). Charge your glasses and drink to Paul Conway, the famous dramatist!

PAUL. And to his notorious collaborator, Julia!

CURTAIN.


THE END

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