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The Great Adventure
by Arnold Bennett
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JANET. You needn't tell me what you are satisfied with. You're satisfied with the very best at one shilling and sixpence a pound.

CARVE. I can place eighty pounds per annum at your absolute disposal. That alone will pay for over a thousand best cuts.

JANET. Yes, and what about your clothes and my clothes, and the rates and taxes, and bus-fares, and holidays, and your cigarettes, and doctor, and errand boys' Christmas-boxes, and gas, and coal, and repairs? Repairs! A hundred and eighty is more like what we want.

CARVE. And yet you have several times taken your Bible oath that my half-share of it all came to less than forty pounds.

JANET. Well—er—I was thinking of food. (She begins to collect the breakfast things.)

CARVE. Jane, you have been a deceitful thing. But never mind. I will draw a veil over this sinful past. Let us assume that beer goes all to pieces, and that you never get another cent out of Cohoon's. Well, as you need a hundred and eighty a year, I will give you a hundred and eighty a year.

JANET. And where shall you get the extra hundred?

CARVE. I shall earn it.

JANET. No, you don't. I won't have you taking any more situations.

CARVE. I shall earn it here.

JANET. How?

CARVE. Painting!

JANET. (Stopping her work and coming towards him, half-caressing and half-chiding.) I don't mind this painting business. Don't think I object to it in the least. There's a strong smell with it now and then, but it does keep you quiet in the attic while I'm cleaning the house, and that's something. And then going out making sketches you get exercise and fresh air. Being with Ilam Carve so long, I expect you picked up the habit as it were, and I'm sure I don't want you to drop it. I love to see you enjoying yourself. But you don't suppose people'll buy these things (pointing vaguely to picture on chair), do you? No; there's far too many amateur artists about for that!

CARVE. If I wanted, I could take a cab and sell that in Bond Street inside sixty minutes at my own price. Only I don't want.

JANET. Now, just listen to me. You remember that picture you did of Putney Bridge with the saloon entrance of the Reindeer Public House showing in the corner? It was one of the first you did here.

CARVE. Yes, I was looking for it the other day, and I couldn't find it.

JANET. I'm not surprised. Because it's sold.

CARVE. Sold? (Excited.) What in the name of——

JANET. (Soothing him.) Now—now! Do you remember you said Ilam Carve would have got L1000 for a thing just like that?

CARVE. So he would. It was absolutely characteristic.

JANET. Well, I said to myself, "He seems mighty sure of himself. Supposing it's me that's wrong?" So one day I quietly took that picture round to Bostock's, the second-hand furniture man, you know,—he was a friend of father's,—and I asked him what he'd give me for it. He wouldn't take it at any price. Not at any price. Then I asked him if he'd keep it in his shop and sell it for me on commission. Well, it stuck in Bostock's shop—in his window and out of his window—for twelve months and more, and then one day the landlord of the Reindeer saw it and he bought it for six shillings, because his public-house was in it. He was half-drunk. Mr. Bostock charged me eighteenpence commission, and I bought you two neckties with the four and six, and I said nothing because I didn't want your feelings to be hurt. And that reminds me, last week but one they took the landlord of the Reindeer off to the lunatic asylum.... So, you see!

CARVE. (Serious, preoccupied.) And where's the picture now?

JANET. I shouldn't be surprised if it's in the private bar of the Reindeer.

CARVE. I must get hold of it.

JANET. Albert, you aren't vexed, are you?

CARVE. (Forcing himself to adopt a light tone.) How could I be vexed with two neckties to the good? But don't do it again, Jane. I shall go round to the Reindeer this morning and have a drink. If that picture ever found its way to a Bond Street expert's, the consequences might be awkward—devilish awkward. Because it's dated, you see.

JANET. No, I don't see. I shouldn't have said a word about it, only I wanted to save you from being disappointed later on.

CARVE. (In a new casual tone.) Just get me my cash-box, will you?

(JANET at once produces the cash-box from a drawer.)

JANET. And what now? I'm not broke yet, you great silly. (Laughs, but is rather intimidated by CARVE'S air.)

CARVE. (Having unlocked box and taken a bag from it.) You see that? (He showers gold out of it.) Well, count it!

JANET. Gracious! Ten—fifteen—eighteen—twenty?—two—four—twenty-six pounds. These your savings?

CARVE. That's what I've earned with painting, just at odd times.

JANET. Really? (CARVE nods.) You could knock me down with a feather!

CARVE. I'll tell you. You know the framemaker's next to Salmon and Gluckstein's. I buy my colours and canvases and things there. They cost money. I owed the chap two pounds once, and one morning, in the shop, when I was opening my box to put some new tubes in, he saw one of my pictures all wet. He offered of his own accord to take it for what I owed him. I wouldn't let him have it. But I was rather hard up, so I said I'd do him another instead, and I did him one in a different style and not half as good, and of course he liked it even better. Since then, I've done him quite a few. It isn't that I've needed the money; but it's a margin, and colours and frames, etc. come to a dickens of a lot in a year.

JANET. (Staggered.) And whatever does he do with them?

CARVE. With the pictures? Don't know. I've never seen one in his window. I haven't been selling him any lately.

JANET. Why?

CARVE. Oh, I didn't feel like it. And the things were getting too good. But, of course, I can start again any time.

JANET. (Still staggered.) Two pounds a piece? (CARVE nods.) Would he give you two pounds for that? (Pointing to portrait.)

CARVE. You bet he would.

JANET. Why! Two pounds would keep us for the best part of a week. How long does it take you to do one?

(Noise of motor car outside.)

CARVE. Oh, three or four hours. I work pretty quickly.

JANET. Well, it's like a fairy tale. Two pounds! I don't know whether I'm standing on my head or my heels!

(Violent ringing at front door bell.)

CARVE. There's one of your tradesmen.

JANET. It isn't. They know better than come to my front door. They know I won't have it.

(Exit, throwing off apron.)

(CARVE examines the portrait of his wife with evident pleasure.)

CARVE. (To himself.) That 'ud make 'em sit up in Bond Street. (Laughs grimly.)

(Voices off. Re-enter JANET, followed by EBAG carrying a picture.)

JANET. Well, it never rains but it pours. Here's a gentleman in a motor car wants to know if you've got any pictures for sale. (She calmly conceals her apron.)

EBAG. (With diplomatic caution and much deference.) Good-morning.

CARVE. (Whose entire demeanour has suddenly changed into hostility.) Good-morning.

EBAG. I've been buying some very delightful little things of yours from a man that calls himself a picture-dealer and frame-maker (ironically) in the High Street here. I persuaded him—not without difficulty—to give me your address. And I've ventured to call just to see if by chance you have anything for sale.

CARVE. By chance I haven't!

EBAG. Nothing at all?

CARVE. Not a square inch.

EBAG. (Catching sight of Janet's portrait.) Pardon me. May I look?

JANET. Oh, do!

EBAG. A brilliant likeness.

JANET. Who of?

EBAG. Why, madam—yourself? The attitude is extraordinarily expressive. And if I may say so (glancing at CARVE) the placing of the high lights—those white sleevelets—what d'you call them?

JANET. Why! Those are my cooking-sleeves!

EBAG. (Quietly.) Yes—well—it's genius—mere genius.

JANET. (Looking at picture afresh) It is rather pretty when you come to look at it.

EBAG. It is a masterpiece, madam. (To CARVE.) Then I may not make an offer for it?

CARVE. No.

JANET. Excuse me, Albert. Why shouldn't the gentleman make an offer for it?

EBAG. (Quickly seizing an opportunity) If you cared to consider, say, five hundred pounds.

JANET. Five hundred p——

EBAG. I came down quite prepared to spend—and to pay cash. (Fingers his pocket-book.)

JANET. (Sitting down.) And if it isn't a rude question—do you generally go about with five hundred pounds in your pocket, as it were?

EBAG. (Raising his hands.) In my business, madam—

CARVE. It's not for sale. (Turns it round.)

JANET. (Vivaciously.) Oh yes, it is. Somebody in this house must think about the future. (Cajolingly.) If this gentleman can show me five hundred pounds it's for sale. After all, it's my picture. And you can do me another one. I'd much sooner be done without the cooking-sleeves. (Entreating.) Albert!

CARVE. (Shy, nervous, and tongue-tied.) Well!

JANET. (Endearingly.) That's right! That's all right!

EBAG. (Putting down notes.) If you will kindly count these—

JANET. (Taking the notes.) Nay, I'm too dizzy to count them. (As if giving up any attempt to realize the situation.) It fairly beats me! I never did understand this art business, and I never shall....(To EBAG.) Why are you so interested in my portrait? You've never seen me before.

EBAG. Madam, your portrait happens to be one of the very finest modern paintings I ever saw. (To CARVE.) I have a picture here as to which I should like to ask your opinion. (Exposing picture.) I bought it ten years ago.

CARVE. (After seeing picture.) Janet, would you mind leaving us a minute.

JANET. (Triumphant with her money.) Not a bit.

(Exit, L.)

EBAG. (Bowing to JANET. Then to CARVE.) It's signed "Ilam Carve." Should you say it's a genuine Carve?

CARVE. (More and more disturbed.) Yes.

EBAG. Where was it painted?

CARVE. Why do you ask me?

EBAG. (Quietly dramatic.) Because you painted it. (Pause. He approaches CARVE.) Master——

CARVE. What's that?

EBAG. Master!

(Pause.)

CARVE. (Impulsively.) Look here! I never could stick being called "master"! It's worse even than "maitre." Have a cigarette? How did you find out who I was?

EBAG. (Pointing to Janet's portrait.) Isn't that proof enough?

CARVE. Yes, but you knew before you saw that.

EBAG. (After lighting-cigarette.) I did. I knew from the very first picture I bought from our friend the "picture-dealer and frame-maker" in the early part of last year.

CARVE. But I'd completely altered my style. I altered it on purpose.

EBAG. (Shaking his head.) My dear sir, there was once a well-known man who stood six feet ten inches high. He shaved off his beard and dyed his hair, and invented a very ingenious costume, and went to a Fancy Dress Ball as Tom Thumb. Strange to say, his disguise was penetrated immediately.

CARVE. Who are you?

EBAG. My name is Ebag—New Bond Street.

CARVE. What! You're my old dealer!

EBAG. And I'm delighted at last to make your acquaintance, sir. It wasn't until I'd bought several of those small canvases from the Putney man that I began to inquire closely into their origin. As a general rule it's a mistake for a dealer to be too curious. But my curiosity got the better of me. And when I found out that the pictures were being produced week by week, fresh, then I knew I was on the edge of some mystery.

CARVE. (Awkwardly.) The fact is, perhaps, I ought to explain.

EBAG. Pardon me. I ask nothing. It isn't my affair. I felt certain, solely from the evidence of what I was buying, that the great painter who was supposed to be buried in Westminster Abbey, and whose somewhat premature funeral I attended, must be alive and painting vigorously. I wanted the assurance from your lips. I have it. The rest does not concern me—at any rate, for the moment.

CARVE. I'll say this—you know a picture when you see it.

EBAG. (Proudly.) I am an expert, nothing else.

CARVE. All right! Well, I'll only ask you to persevere in your discretion. As you say, it isn't your affair. Thank goodness, I didn't put a date on any of these things. I won't sell any more. I'd take an oath never to paint again, only I know I should go and break it next week. I shall rely on this famous discretion of yours to say nothing—nothing whatever.

EBAG. I'm afraid it's too late.

CARVE. How too late?

EBAG. I'm afraid I shall have to ask you to state publicly that you are Ilam Carve, and that there must have been—er—some misapprehension, somewhere, over that funeral.

CARVE. (Aghast.) Publicly? Why?

EBAG. It's like this, I've been selling those pictures to Texel in New York. You remember, he's always been one of your principal collectors. He's getting old, and he's half-blind, but he still buys. Now, I rely on my judgment, and I guaranteed those pictures to be genuine Carves. Well, somebody over there must have had suspicions.

CARVE. What does that matter? There isn't a date on any of them.

EBAG. Just so. But in one of those pictures there's most distinctly a taxi-cab. It isn't a private motor car. It's a taxi.

CARVE. And if there is? No law against painting a taxi, I hope!

EBAG. (Again quietly dramatic.) No. But at the date of your funeral there wasn't a single taxi on the streets of London.

CARVE. The devil!

EBAG. Exactly. Texel is bringing an action against me for misrepresentation. I shall have to ask you to give evidence and say who you are.

CARVE. (Angrily.) But I won't give evidence! You've brought this on yourself. How much did you sell those little pictures for?

EBAG. Oh, an average of between four and five hundred.

CARVE. And what did you pay for them? I ask you, what did you pay for them?

EBAG. (Smoothly.) Four pounds a piece. The fact is—I did rather well out of them.

CARVE. Damned Jew!

EBAG. (Smoothly.) Damned—possibly. Jew—most decidedly. But in this particular instance I behaved just like a Christian. I paid a little less than I was asked, and sold for the highest I could get. I am perfectly innocent, and my reputation is at stake.

CARVE. I don't care.

EBAG. But I do. It's the reputation of the greatest expert in Europe. And I shall have to insist on you going into the witness-box.

CARVE. (Horrified.) Me in the witness-box! Me cross-examined! No. That's always been my nightmare!

EBAG. Nevertheless—

CARVE. Please go. (Commandingly.) Please go.

(EBAG, intimidated by CARVE'S demeanour, picks up his pictures to depart.)

EBAG. (At door.) Your wife will perhaps be good enough to post me a receipt for that trifle. (Very respectfully.) Good-morning.

(Exit, R.)

(CARVE goes to door, L., and opens it. JANET is standing behind it.)

(Enter JANET.)

CARVE. You've been listening?

JANET. (Counting her banknotes.) Well, naturally! (Putting notes in her purse.)

CARVE. Here's a perfect Hades of a mess.

JANET. And it all comes of this painting. Art as it's called. (She finds her apron and puts it on.)

CARVE. (With an air of discovery.) Your faculty for keeping calm really is most singular.

JANET. Somebody has to keep calm.

(Voice off: "Butcher.")

CARVE. Anybody would say you didn't care a cent whether I'm Ilam Carve or whether I'm somebody else.

JANET. What does it matter to me who you are, so long as you're you? Men are so unpractical. You can be the Shah of Persia if you like—I don't mind.

CARVE. But aren't you convinced now?

(Voice off: "Butcher.")

JANET. (With an enigmatic smile at CARVE.) Coming! Coming!

(Exit.)

(The stage is darkened to indicate the passage of several months.)



SCENE 2

TIME.—Before daylight on a morning in February. Fire burning in grate. Also a speck of gas. Otherwise it is dark.

CARVE is discovered reposing-in an easy-chair. Enter JANET with a candle.

JANET. (Stiffly.) So you've not been to sleep either?

CARVE. (Stiffly.) Oh yes; had an excellent night in this chair.

JANET. (Going to fire.) Now, you're only boasting. If you've had such an excellent night (imitating him), who's kept up such an excellent fire?

CARVE. (Lamely.) Well, of course I looked after it now and then. I didn't want to perish in my solitude.

JANET. Then why didn't you come to bed, great baby?

CARVE. (Sitting up with solemnity.) Janet, we are a pair of great babies to have quarrelled like that,—especially at bedtime.

JANET. (Simply.) Quarrelled?

CARVE. Well, didn't we?

JANET. I didn't. I agreed with everything you said.

CARVE. What did you agree with? I should like to know.

JANET. You said I didn't really believe after all that you are Ilam Carve, and I assured you in the most soothing manner that I did believe you are Ilam Carve!

CARVE. And do you call that agreeing with me? I know perfectly well from your tone that in spite of all my explanations and reiterations during the last three months you don't believe I'm Ilam Carve. You only say you do in order to soothe me. I hate being soothed. You're as convinced as ever that Ebag is a rascal, and that I've got a bee in my bonnet.

JANET. But what does it matter?

CARVE. (Cold and hard.) Well, I like that!

JANET. (Weeping.) It's not my fault if I don't believe you're Ilam Carve. I would if I could, but I can't! You're very cruel.

CARVE. (Jumping up and embracing her.) Hush, hush! There! (Cajolingly.) Who's being an infant now?

JANET. I don't pretend to understand this art.

CARVE. I hope you never will. One of the chief charms of existence in your wigwam, my child, is that I never hear any confounded chatter about art. Now—are we pals?

JANET. (Smiling reconciliation.) Darling, do turn the gas up.

CARVE. (Obeying, struck by her attire.) Why—what are you dressed like that for?

JANET. I was thinking of going away.

(Exit, L.)

(She re-enters immediately with kettle and puts it on fire.)

CARVE. Going away?

JANET. (Smiling.) Now do listen, darling. Let's go away. We can't stop here. This Ebag case is getting more and more on your nerves, and on mine too. I'm sure that's what's the matter with us. What it'll be next week when the trial comes on, I don't know—upon my soul I don't. It's all very well for you to refuse to see callers and never go out. But I can tell you one thing—we shall have those newspaper people on the roof in a day or two, and looking down the chimney to see how I lay the fire. Lawyers are nothing to them. Do you know—no you don't, because I didn't want you to be upset—last night's milk was brought by a journalist—with a camera. They're beginning to bribe the tradesmen. I tremble to think what will be in this morning's papers.

CARVE. (Trying to make light of it.) Oh, nothing will upset me now. But you might let me know at once if the editor of the Spectator calls round with the bread.

JANET. And I'll tell you another thing. That Mr. Horning—you know the breathless man on the Evening Courier that came to the Grand Babylon—he's taken lodgings opposite—arrived last night.

CARVE. Oh, for a machine gun—one simple little machine gun!

(Exit JANET, L.)

She immediately returns with a tray containing bread, etc., and a toasting-fork.

JANET. So I thought if we just vanished—

CARVE. It's too late—I've had the subpoena. If I hooked it, everybody would say I was an adventurer.

JANET. We could come back for the trial.

CARVE. We should be followed.

JANET. Not if we start now.

CARVE. Now?

JANET. Yes, now! The back door. Before it gets light.

CARVE. Creep away in the dark! No! I'll go through with the thing.

JANET. Well, I shall travel alone, then. Here's my bunch of keys. I'll just explain to you where everything is. I daresay Mrs. Simpson will come in and clean up. She's not bad, as charwomen go.

CARVE. Jane!

JANET. Well!

CARVE. You're taking an unfair advantage of me.

JANET. (Putting tea leaves in teapot.) What if I am?

CARVE. You're only a woman after all.... And I'd thought so highly of you!

JANET. (Sweetly.) Then you'll come. Better brush yourself up first.

CARVE. What time is it?

JANET. (Looking at clock.) Seven o'clock.

CARVE. Where do you mean to drag me to?

JANET. Well, what about this Continent of yours that I've heard so much of?

CARVE. There's a train from Victoria at 8.30.

JANET. Very well then. We'll have another breakfast at Victoria.

CARVE. And the cab?

JANET. There isn't going to be any cab—nor luggage—rousing the whole street! (CARVE goes to window.) For goodness' sake don't draw those curtains—with the gas flaring up!

CARVE. Why not?

JANET. (Conspiratorial.) Supposing there's some journalist on the watch outside!

CARVE. I wanted to look at the weather.

JANET. Well, go to the front door, and mind you open it quietly.

(Exit CARVE, R.)

(JANET pours water on tea.)

(Exit, L.)

(Re-enter CARVE quickly.)

CARVE. I say, here's a curate pushed himself in at the front door!

(Re-enter JANET, L.)

JANET. No, he's come in at the back.

CARVE. But I tell you he's here!

(Enter JAMES SHAWN, L. Then enter JOHN SHAWN, R. Pause.)

JAMES. Now let me entreat everybody to remain perfectly calm.

JANET. Oh, don't worry about that. Nothing startles us now. A few curates more or less....

CARVE. (Sinking into chair.) I suppose this is the very newest journalism. Would you mind me asking a question?

JAMES. What is it?

(JANET makes the tea.)

CARVE. Why did you wait till the door was opened? Seems a pity to stand on ceremony. Why not have broken a window or so and climbed right in?

JAMES. John, is mother there?

JOHN. (At door, R.) Mother, how often shall I have to ask you to keep close to me?

(Enter MRS. SHAWN, R.)

MRS. S. I'm all of a tremble.

JOHN. (Firmly.) Come now, you mustn't give way. This is he (pointing to CARVE). Do you recognise him as our father? (JANET, who is cutting a slice of bread, stops and looks from one to the other.)

MRS. S. (To CARVE.) Albert, don't you know me? To think that next Tuesday it'll be six and twenty years since you walked out o' the house casual like and—and—(Stops from emotion.)

CARVE. Go on. Go on.... To think that I was once shy!

JANET. (To MRS. SHAWN.) Here, you'd better come and sit a bit nearer the fire. (Very kindly.) Come along now!

MRS. S. (Obeying.) Thank you, m'm.

JANET. (To JOHN.) And which of you boys was it that had the idea of keeping a middle-aged woman perishing on a doorstep before daylight in February?

JOHN. How else could we—

JAMES. (Interrupting him.) Excuse me, John.

JOHN. (Subsiding.) I beg your pardon, James.

JAMES. (To JANET.) All questions should be addressed to me. My brother John is here solely to take charge of our mother. We have done our best, by careful forethought, to ensure that this painful interview shall be as brief and as dignified as possible.

JANET. And couldn't you think of anything cleverer than to give your poor mother her death of cold for a start?

JAMES. How else could we have arranged it? I myself rang at your door for a quarter of an hour yesterday afternoon.

JANET. We never heard you.

JAMES. Strange!

JANET. No, it isn't. We took the bell off three days ago.

JAMES. I was told that it was impossible to effect an entrance in the ordinary way. Hence, we had to use craft. I argued that food must come into the house, and that it probably came in early.

JANET. Well, it's a good thing for you I happened to hear the cat mewing, or you might have had another couple of hours in my back yard. You're the eldest, I suppose.

JAMES. We are twins.

JANET. Really!

CARVE. As you say—really!

JAMES. I am the older, but the difference between us is not considerable.

JOHN. Now, mother, please don't cry.

JANET. (Having poured out a cup of tea, holds it before MRS. SHAWN.) Sugar? (MRS. SHAWN signifies an affirmative—JANET drops sugar into cup, which MRS. SHAWN takes.) You'll drink it easier if you lift your veil.

JAMES. Now, mother—you are sure you recognise this gentleman?

MRS. S. (Not very positively.) Yes—yes. It's a rare long while....

JAMES. He is your husband and our father?

MRS. S. (More positively.) Yes. And sorry I am to say it. (JANET eyes her carefully.)

JAMES. I think that suffices. (To JANET.) Madam, you are in a most unfortunate position. You supposed yourself to be a married woman, whereas you are nothing of the kind. I needn't say that as the victim of a heartless bigamist you have our deepest....

JANET. (Handing him a slice of bread on toasting-fork.) Just toast this for your mother, will you, and mind the bars. I'll get another cup or two. (Goes to sideboard and gets crockery.)

CARVE. And so these are my two sons! They show little emotion in beholding the author of their being for the first time. As for me, I hardly recognise them.

MRS. S. And is it likely, seeing they were born six months after you deserted me, Albert?

CARVE. I see. If it isn't indiscreet, am I a grandfather?

JAMES. (Toasting.) No, sir.

CARVE. I only wanted to know the worst. Silly joke about the fertility of curates—you've met with it, no doubt!

JAMES. Your tone is simply lamentable, sir.

JANET. (To JAMES.) Mind! You can do the other side. Now, take care; the fire's very hot. (In the same mild tone to MRS. SHAWN.) Twenty-six years, you say?

MRS. S. Yes. Albert was twenty-two then, weren't you, Albert?

CARVE. Undoubtedly.

JANET. And how did you come to find us out at last?

MRS. S. It was through an advertisement put in the paper by that Mr. Texel—him that's in this law case—offering a reward for information about a Mr. Albert Shawn who'd been valet to that artist man that died.

JANET. Oh! So Mr. Texel has been advertising, has he? (Giving a cup of tea to JOHN SHAWN.)

MRS. S. Yes, for anybody that knew Albert Shawn when he was young. "Albert Shawn," I says, "that's my husband's name." I'd been told he'd gone off in service with a painter or something of that kind. I married him as a valet.

JANET. (Pouring out tea.) A valet?

MRS. S. A valet, ma'am.... And the struggle I've had to bring up my children. (Whimpering.)

JAMES. Now, mother!

JANET. (Stopping JAMES.) That will do now! Give it me. (Taking toast and fork.) Here's some tea. Now don't pretend you've never seen a cup of tea before—you a curate!

(JAMES accepts tea.)

MRS. S. Yes, they would go into the church, both of them! I don't know how we've managed it, but managed it we have, surplices and all. And very happy they were, I'm sure. And now there's this dreadful scandal. Oh, Albert, you might at least have changed your name! I—I—— (Partially breaks down.)

JOHN. Mother, I beg——(MRS. SHAWN breaks down entirely.) Mother, I absolutely insist. You know you promised not to speak at all except in answer to questions.

JAMES. I think, mother, you really might try——

JOHN. Leave her to me! Now, mother!

(Loud double knock off.)

JANET. (To JOHN SHAWN.) There's the post! Just go and bring me the letters in, will you? (JOHN hesitates?) You'll find them scattered about the floor in the hall. Don't miss any.

(Exit JOHN SHAWN, R.)

(MRS. SHAWN recovers.)

JAMES. And what do you propose to do, madam?

JANET. (Who has been soothing MRS. SHAWN.) Me? What about?

JAMES. About this—this bigamy.

JANET. Oh, nothing. What are you thinking of doing?

(Re-enter JOHN SHAWN with post, which CARVE takes and begins to read.)

JAMES. Well, I suppose you're aware that bigamy is a criminal offence?

JANET. There's a police-station in the Upper Richmond Road. Better call there. It'll be so nice for you two, when you're flourishing about in the pulpit, to think of your father in prison—won't it now?

JAMES. We, of course, should not prosecute. If you are prepared to go on living with this gentleman as though nothing had happened—

JANET. Oh, I don't mind.

JAMES. Well, then, I doubt if we should interfere. But Mr. Texel's lawyers are already in communication with the police.

JANET. (Stiffly.) I see. (An awkward pause during which everybody except CARVE, who is reading his post, looks at everybody else.) Well, then, I think that's about all, isn't it? (A shorter pause.) Good-morning. (She bows to the curates, and shakes hands with MRS. SHAWN.) (To MRS. SHAWN.) Now do take care of yourself.

MRS. S. (Weakly.) Thank you.

JOHN. Good-morning. Mother, take my arm, please.

JAMES. Good-morning.

JANET. Albert, they're going.

CARVE. (Looking up absently and only half rising, perfunctorily and quickly) Good-morning. Good-morning. (Sits down.)

JANET. (To JAMES SHAWN, who is hovering near door L, uncertain of his way out.) This way, this time!

(Exeunt the SHAWNS followed by JANET.)

(CARVE rises and draws curtains of window apart)

(Re-enter JANET.)

JANET. (Cheerfully) Oh, it's quite light! (Turns out gas.)

CARVE. (Gazing at her.) Incomparable woman!

JANET. So it's true after all!

CARVE. What?

JANET. All that rigmarole about you being Ilam Carve?

CARVE. You're beginning to come round at last?

JANET. Well, I think they were quite honest people—those three. There's no doubt the poor creature once had a husband who did run off. And it seems fairly clear his name was Albert Shawn, and he went away as valet to an artist. But then, on the other hand, if there is one thing certain in this world, it is that you were never married before you married me. That I will swear to.

CARVE. And yet she identified me. She was positive.

JANET. Positive? That's just what she wasn't! And didn't you notice the queer way she looked at you as they went out? As much as to say, "I wonder now whether it is him—after all?"

CARVE. Then you really think she could be mistaken on such a point?

JANET. Pooh! After twenty-six years. Besides, all men of forty-seven look more or less alike.... And so I'm the wife of Ilam Carve that's supposed to be buried in Westminster Abbey and royalty went to his funeral! We'll have some tea ourselves. I say, why did you do it? (Pours out tea.)

CARVE. (Casually.) I don't know. It was to save worry to begin with, and then it went on by itself and somehow I couldn't stop it.... I don't know!

JANET. (Endearingly.) Well, I've always told you frankly you've got a bee in your bonnet. (Drinking tea and turning over the post.) More letters from these newspaper people! What's this lovely crest on this envelope?

CARVE. It's from Lord Leonard Alcar. He says if we'll go up and see him to-morrow afternoon he'll be very much obliged indeed, and he may be able to be of assistance to us.

JANET. (Deeply impressed.) Lord Leonard Al ... Where's the letter? (Searches for it hurriedly. As she reads it.) Well I never! (Reading) "And Mrs. Shawn." I've got nothing to go in.

CARVE. Oh, I shan't go!

JANET. Why not?

CARVE. Well, what about this trip to the Continent?

JANET. Continent fiddlesticks. I've never been asked to go and see a Lord before....

CARVE. Now listen, Jane. What earthly good can it do? I shan't go.

JANET. I shall. So there! Six Dukes in the family! I wouldn't miss it for anything.

CURTAIN.



ACT IV

SCENE I

LORD LEONARD ALCAR'S study, Grosvenor Gardens. Door, back centre. Door, L. JANET'S portrait is conspicuous on a wall.

TIME.—The next afternoon.

LORD LEONARD ALCAR and MR. TEXEL are coming into the room from door at back.

ALCAR. You still go on collecting, Mr. Texel?

TEXEL. (Uncertain of his steps.) Well, yes. I've been amusing myself with pictures for pretty nigh forty years. Why should I deprive myself of this pleasure merely because my eyesight's gone?

ALCAR. Why, indeed! You have the true collecting spirit. Permit me (directs Texel's hand to chair).

TEXEL. Thanks, I'm on to it (Sitting down.) My sight's going steadily worse, but there are still a few things that I can make out pretty clearly, Lord Leonard. Motor omnibuses, cathedrals, English easy-chairs....

ALCAR. Well, I'm charmed to find you in such good spirits, and really I feel very grateful to you for accepting my invitation.

TEXEL. Delighted to make your acquaintance, sir. Two old collectors like us—rivals at Christie's. I wonder how many times I've cabled over instructions to my agent to smash you at any cost. Delighted to meet you, Lord Leonard.

ALCAR. We ought to have met earlier, Mr. Texel. Now I've got you here, I must tell you I've ventured to invite one or two—er—kindred spirits to meet you.

(Enter SERVANT.)

SERVANT. Mr. Ebag.

(Enter EBAG.)

(Exit SERVANT).

ALCAR. How d'you do, Ebag?

EBAG. My lord.

ALCAR. Let me introduce you to Mr. Texel. Mr. Texel, this is Mr. Ebag.

TEXEL. (Surprised—aside to LORD LEONARD ALCAR.) This one of your kindred spirits?

EBAG. (Also surprised?) Mr. Texel!

TEXEL. (Holding out his hand towards EBAG, who takes it.) Well, Mr. Ebag, I've made a special journey to Europe to get a verdict from an English court that you've done me up for about thirty thousand dollars, and if I get it I'll do my level best afterwards to see you safe into prison; but in the meantime I'm very glad to meet you. I feel sure you're one of the right sort, whatever you are.

EBAG. You flatter me, Mr. Texel. The gladness is mutual.

(Enter SERVANT.)

SERVANT. Mr. Cyrus Carve. Mr. and Mrs. X.

(Enter JANET. She hesitates in doorway. LORD LEONARD ALCAR goes to meet her.)

JANET. You Lord Alcar?

ALCAR. I am Lord Leonard Alcar?

JANET. My mistake! (They shake hands.) But why does this young man call me Mrs. X. I told him Carve, plain enough.

ALCAR. Did he? A slip—a slip! You've brought your husband?

JANET. Yes, but not so easily as all that. I'm afraid he's quarrelling out there with Mr. Cyrus Carve. They get across one another on the stairs.

ALCAR. Tut-tut. Excuse me one moment.

(Exit hurriedly.)

(Exit SERVANT.)

JANET. Mr. Ebag! So you're here too! Why, it's a family party.

EBAG. (Astounded.) How do you do, Mrs. Shawn? I beg pardon, Mrs. Carve.

JANET. It seems I'm Mrs. X now—didn't you hear?

EBAG. I expect the servant had received instructions. His lordship has a great reputation for wit, you know.

JANET. (Looking round.) And what's this room supposed to be?

EBAG. Oh, the study, probably.

JANET. Really! Not what you'd call 'homely,' is it? Rather like being on the stage.

(Enter LORD LEONARD ALCAR, leading CARVE on his right and CYRUS on his left. Servant closes door from without.)

ALCAR. Now we're all safely here, and I fancy there will be enough easy-chairs to go round. Mr. Texel, you already know Mr. Cyrus Carve, and you will be pleased to meet the talented artist who painted the pictures which you have been buying from Mr. Ebag. He has most kindly consented to be called Mr. X for the moment. This is Mrs. X, Mr. Texel.

(They bow—CYRUS shakes hands with TEXEL.)

EBAG. (To CYRUS.) How d'you do?

CYRUS. How d'you do?

CARVE. How d'you do?

ALCAR. (Observing that these three are already acquainted.) Good! Excellent! Now, Mrs.—er—X, will you have this chair near the fire? (Fixes chair for her.)

TEXEL. (Indicating JANET, aside to EBAG.) Good looking?

EBAG. (Aside to TEXEL.) Very agreeable little thing!

TEXEL. Excellent! Excellent!

ALCAR. (Interrupting a gesture from CARVE.) You have all done me a signal favour by coming here. In thanking you, I wonder if I may ask another favour. May I?

TEXEL. Certainly. Among kindred spirits.

EBAG. Assuredly, my lord.

ALCAR. I would merely request you to control so far as possible any expression of your astonishment at meeting one another here. That is to say, any violent expression.

CARVE. (Gaily and carelessly.) Oh, very well! Very well!

(LORD LEONARD ALCAR waves the rest of the company into chairs, tactfully separating CYRUS and CARVE as much as possible. He remains standing himself.)

JANET. I suppose what you really want is to stop this funny trial from coming on.

ALCAR. (Slightly taken aback.) Mrs. X, I congratulate myself on your presence here. Yes, my ambition is to be peacemaker. Of course a peacemaker always runs the risk of a broken head, but I shall entrust my head to your good nature. As a proof that I really mean business, I need only point out that I haven't invited a single lawyer.

EBAG. (After slight pause.) This is exceedingly good of your lordship.

TEXEL. For myself I'm rather looking forward to next week. I've spared no expense to get up a first-class show. Half the papers in New York and Chicago are sending over special correspondents. I've even secured your champion humorous judge; and altogether I reckon this trial will be about the greatest judicial proposition the British public's seen in years. Still, I'm always ready to oblige—and I'll shake hands right now, on terms—my terms.

ALCAR. We are making progress.

TEXEL. But what I don't understand is—where you come in, Lord Leonard.

ALCAR. Where I come in?

TEXEL. Well, I don't want to be personal, but is this Hague Conference merely your hobby, or are you standing in with somebody?

ALCAR. I quite appreciate your delicacy. Let me assure you that, though it gives me the greatest pleasure to see you all, I have not selected you as the victims of a hobby. Nor have I anything whatever to gain by stopping the trial. The reverse. At the trial I should probably have a seat on the bench next to a delightful actress, and I should enjoy the case very much indeed. I have no doubt that even now the learned judge is strenuously preparing his inimitable flashes of humour, and that, like the rest of the world, I should allow myself to be convulsed by them. I like to think of four K.C.'s toiling hard for a miserable hundred guineas a day each. I like to think of the solicitors, good, honest fellows, striving their best to keep the costs as low as possible. I even like to think of the jury with their powerful intellects who, when we are dead and gone, Mr. Texel, will tell their grandchildren proudly how they decided the famous case of Texel v. Ebag. Above all, I like to think of the witnesses revelling in their cross-examination. Nobody will be more sorry than I to miss this grand spectacle of the greatest possible number of the greatest possible brains employed for the greatest possible length of time in settling a question that an average grocer's assistant could settle in five minutes. I am human. But, I have been approached—I have been flattered by the suggestion—that I might persuade you two gentlemen to abandon the trial, and I may whisper to you that the abandonment of the trial would afford satisfaction in—er—influential quarters.

TEXEL. Then are we up against the British Government? Well, go ahead.

ALCAR. (Protesting with a very courteous air of extreme astonishment.) My dear Mr. Texel, how can I have been so clumsy as to convey such an idea? The Government? Not in the least—not in the least. On behalf of nobody whatever. (Confidentially.) I am merely in a position to inform you positively that an amicable settlement of the case would be viewed with satisfaction in influential quarters.

JANET. Well, I can tell you it would be viewed with satisfaction in a certain street in Putney. But influential quarters—what's it got to do with them?

ALCAR. I shall be quite frank with you. The dignity of Westminster Abbey is involved in this case, and nothing in all England is more sacred to us than Westminster Abbey. One has only to pronounce the word "the Abbey"—to realize that. We know what a modern trial is; we know what the modern press is; and, unhappily, we know what the modern bench is. It is impossible to contemplate with equanimity the prospect of Westminster Abbey and its solemnities being given up to the tender mercy of the evening papers and a joking judge surrounded by millinery. Such an exhibition would be unseemly. It would soil our national existence. In a word, it would have a bad effect.

CARVE. (Meditatively—bland.) How English! (He gets up and walks unobtrusively about the room, examining the pictures.)

ALCAR. Undoubtedly. But this is England. It is perhaps a disadvantage that we are not in Russia nor in Prussia. But we must make the best of our miserable country. (In a new tone, showing the orator skilled in changes of voice.) Can't we discuss our little affair in a friendly way entirely without prejudice? We are together here, among gentlemen—

JANET. I'm afraid you're forgetting me.

ALCAR. (Recovering himself.) Madam, I am convinced that none of us can be more gentlemanly than yourself.... Can we not find a way of settlement? (With luxurious enjoyment of the idea.) Imagine the fury of all those lawyers and journalists when they learn that we—er—if I may so express it—have done them in the eye!

TEXEL. If I wasn't going to come out on top, I could understand you worrying about your old Abbey. But I'm taking the part of your Abbey. When I win it wins, and I'm certain to win.

ALCAR. I do not doubt——

EBAG. (With suave assurance.) But I do.

ALCAR. (Continuing.) I do not doubt your conviction, Mr. Texel. It merely proves that you have never seen a British Jury exercising itself upon a question relating to the fine arts. If you had you would not be certain, for you would know that twelve tradesmen so occupied are capable of accomplishing the most incredible marvels. Supposing you don't win—supposing Mr. Ebag wins——

EBAG. As I assuredly shall.

ALCAR. Then we should have the whole world saying, "Well, they haven't given a national funeral to a really great artist for about a century, and when at last they do try they only succeed in burying a valet."

CARVE. (Looking round casually.) England all over!

ALCAR. The effect would be lamentable—utterly lamentable. You will realize that in influential quarters——

TEXEL. But do you reckon this policy of hushing up things ever does any good?

ALCAR. My dear sir, it is the corner-stone of England's greatness. It is the policy that has made her what she is!

CARVE. (Looking round again.) True! What she is!

ALCAR. (Turning sharply to CARVE behind him.) Mr. X, your interest in my picture flatters me immensely——

CARVE. (Interrupting him.) I see you've bought my latest portrait of my wife.

ALCAR. Yes.

JANET. (Starting up.) What's that? (She goes to inspect picture.)

CARVE. I suppose it would be abusing your hospitality to inquire how much you paid our excellent dealer for it?

ALCAR. Not in the least. But the fact is we haven't yet settled the price. The exact price is to depend on the result of our gathering.

JANET. Well, if anybody had told me I should find my own portrait—cooking-sleeves and all——

(Inarticulate—she returns to her chair.)

ALCAR. And now that we have got so far, Mr. X, I should like to centralize the attention of this quite friendly gathering on yourself.

CARVE. (Approaching airily.) Really! (He sits.)

ALCAR. There are several questions we might discuss. For example, we might argue the artistic value of the pictures admittedly the work of Mr. X. That would probably occupy us for about ten years. Or we might ask ourselves how it happened that that exceedingly astute dealer, Mr. Ebag, came to sell as a genuine Ilam Carve, without offering any explanation, a picture which, on the face of it, was painted some time after that great painter had received a national funeral in Westminster Abbey.

EBAG. Sheer carelessness, my lord.

ALCAR. Or we might ask ourselves why a valet should try to pass himself off as a world-renowned artist. Or, on the other hand, why a world-renowned artist should pass himself off as a valet.

CARVE. Sheer carelessness, my lord.

ALCAR. But these details of psychology are beside the main point. And the main point is (to CARVE)—Are you Ilam Carve or are you Albert Shawn? (To the others.) Surely with a little goodwill and unembarrassed by the assistance of experts, lawyers, and wigs generally, we can settle that! And once it is settled the need for a trial ceases. (CARVE assumes an elaborately uninterested air.) The main point does not seem to interest you, Mr. X.

CARVE. (Seeming to start.) I beg your pardon. No, not profoundly. Why should it?

ALCAR. Yet you claim——

CARVE. Excuse me. I claim nothing except to be let alone. Certainly I do not ask to be accepted as Ilam Carve. I was leading a placid and agreeable existence in a place called Putney, an ideal existence with a pearl among women, when my tranquillity was disturbed and my life transformed into a perfect nightmare by a quarrel between a retail trades-man (indicating EBAG) and a wholesale ink-dealer (indicating TEXEL) about one of my pictures. It does not concern me. My role is and will be passive. If I am forced into the witness-box I shall answer questions to the worst of my ability, and I shall do no more. I am not cross. I am not sulking; but I consider that I have a grievance. If I am here, it is solely because my wife does what she likes with me.

TEXEL. Bravo! This is as good as the trial.

ALCAR. (Good-humouredly.) Will you answer questions here?

CARVE. (Good-humouredly.) It depends.

ALCAR. Do you assert that you are Ilam Carve?

CARVE. I assert nothing.

ALCAR. Are you Ilam Carve?

CARVE. Yes, but I don't want to be.

ALCAR. Might I inquire why you allowed your servant to be buried in your name?

CARVE. Well, he always did everything for me—a most useful man.... But I didn't 'allow' him to be buried in my name. On the contrary, I told various people that I was not dead—but strange to say, nobody would believe me. My handsome, fascinating cousin here wouldn't even let me begin to tell him. Even my wife wouldn't believe me, so I gave it up.

(TEXEL does not conceal his enjoyment of the scene.)

CYRUS. (Grimly.) Which wife?

(CARVE twiddles his thumbs.)

ALCAR. But do you mean——

TEXEL. May I interrupt, Lord Leonard? I could listen for hours to this absolutely stupendous gentleman. A circus is nothing to it. But aren't we jumping the track? I've got two witnesses. Mr. Cyrus Carve will swear that your Mr. X is not his cousin. And the original Mrs. Albert Shawn will swear that he is her husband. That's my case. How is my esteemed opponent going to answer it?

EBAG. In the first place, have you cross-examined this very original Mrs. Albert Shawn?

TEXEL. Come. You don't mean to argue that a woman could mistake another man for her own husband—even after twenty-five years or so?

EBAG. (Smiling apologetically for his freedom.) According to the divorce reports, they're constantly doing it after one year, to say nothing of twenty-five.

TEXEL. (Appreciative.) Good! That's good! Well, I may tell you right here that I had an interview with this gentleman's (indicating CARVE) ecclesiastical twins only yesterday afternoon, and they assure me that their mother is positive on the point.

JANET. (Meditatively.) Simpletons!

ALCAR. I beg pardon.

JANET. I daresay they preach very nicely, but out of the pulpit they don't what I should call shine, poor boys! Anybody could see she wasn't positive. Why, it wasn't until the old lady dropped in to have a cup of tea with us that I felt sure my husband's name really was Carve.

ALCAR. Then you hadn't credited his story before?

JANET. Well, it wanted some crediting, didn't it?

CYRUS. (With intention.) You only began to credit it after Mr. Ebag had called and paid you the sum of L500 in cash.

JANET. (After a slight pause, calmly.) Oh! So you know about that, do you?

CARVE. (To CYRUS, genially.) Cousin, if you continue in that strain I shall have to take you out on to the doormat and assault you.

EBAG. I should like to say——

CYRUS. (Interrupting grimly.) Lord Leonard, isn't it time that this ceased?

TEXEL. (Heartily amused.) But why? I'm enjoying every minute of it.

ALCAR. I should be sorry to interfere with Mr. Texel's amusement, but I think the moment has now come for me to make a disclosure. When I was approached as to this affair I consulted Mr. Cyrus Carve first, he being the sole surviving relative of his cousin. That seemed to me to be the natural and proper course to adopt. Mr. Cyrus Carve gave me a very important piece of information, and it is solely on the strength of that information that I have invited you all to come here this afternoon. (He looks at CYRUS.)

CYRUS. (Clearing his throat, to EBAG and CARVE.) Of course, you'll argue that after thirty-five years absence it's a wise man that can recognize his own cousin. I'm absolutely convinced in my own mind that you (scorn-fully to CARVE) are not my cousin. But then, you'll tell me that men have been hung before now on the strength of sworn identification that proved afterwards to be mistaken. I admit it. I admit that in theory I may be wrong. (With increased grim sarcasm.) I admit that in theory the original Mrs. Shawn may be wrong. Everything's possible, especially with a bully of a K.C. cross-examining you, and a judge turning you into 'copy' for Punch. But I've got something up my sleeve that will settle the whole affair instantly, to the absolute satisfaction of both plaintiff and defendant.

CARVE. My dear fellow, why not have told us this exciting news earlier?

CYRUS. Why not? (Glowering at CARVE.) Because I wanted you to commit yourself completely beyond any withdrawing. I decided what sort of man you were the moment I first set eyes on you, and when I heard of this law case, I said to myself that I'd come forward as a witness, but I shouldn't give any evidence away in advance. I said to myself I'd show you up once and for all in full court. However, his lordship prevailed on me.

CARVE. Well?

CYRUS. When my cousin and I were boys I've seen him with his shirt off.

CARVE. True. And he's seen you with yours off.

CYRUS. Now just here (pointing to left front neck below collar), just below his collar, my cousin Ilam Carve had two moles close together—one was hairy and the other wasn't. My cousin was very proud of them.

CARVE. Oh!

CYRUS. (Ferociously sarcastic.) I suppose you'll say you've had them removed?

CARVE. (Casually.) No. Not precisely.

CYRUS. Can you show them?

CARVE. (Very casually.) Of course.

TEXEL. (Slapping his knee.) Great! Great!

CYRUS. (Staggered but obstinate.) Well, let's have a look at them.

ALCAR. (To JANET.) Then doubtless you are familiar with this double phenomenon, Mrs. X?

JANET. Yes. But he isn't so proud of his moles now as he used to be when he was a boy.

ALCAR. Now, gentlemen, you see how beautifully clear the situation is. By one simple act we shall arrive at a definite and final result, and we shall have avoided all the noise and scandal of a public trial. Mr. X, will you oblige us very much by taking your collar off?

JANET. (Jumping up.) Please, there's just one little thing. (To CARVE.) Wait a moment, dear. (To EBAG.) Mr. Ebag, how many of those pictures did you sell to Mr. Texel?

EBAG. Fifteen.

JANET. And you made a profit of over four hundred pounds on each?

TEXEL. (Boisterously—laughing to EBAG.) You did?

JANET. Fifteen times four hundred—that makes—how much does it make?

TEXEL. Six thousand, madam. Thirty thousand dollars. Great!

JANET. (To EBAG.) Don't you think we deserve some of that, as it were?

EBAG. Madam, I shall be delighted to pay you five thousand four hundred pounds. That will be equivalent to charging you a nominal commission of ten per cent.

JANET. Thank you.

CARVE. I won't touch a penny of their wretched money.

JANET. (Sweetly.) I wouldn't dream of asking you to, dearest. I shall touch it. Goodness knows what street we shall be in after this affair—and with my brewery shares gone simply all to pieces! Now, dearest, you can take it off. (She resumes her seat.)

CARVE. (Lightly.) I'm hanged if I do!

ALCAR. But, my dear Mr. X!

CARVE. (Lightly.) I'm dashed if I take my collar off.

CYRUS. (Triumphant.) Ha! I knew it.

CARVE. Why should I offer my skin to the inspection of two individuals in whom I haven't the slightest interest? They've quarrelled about me, but is that a reason why I should undress myself? Let me say again, I've no desire whatever to prove that I am Ilam Carve.

ALCAR. But surely to oblige us immensely, Mr. X, you will consent to give just one extra performance of an operation which, in fact, you accomplish three hundred and sixty-five times every year without any disastrous results.

CARVE. I don't look at it like that. Already my fellow-citizens, expressing their conviction that I was a great artist, have buried me in Westminster Abbey—not because I was a great artist, but because I left a couple of hundred thousand pounds for a public object. And now my fellow-citizens, here assembled, want me to convince them that I am a great artist by taking my collar off. I won't do it. I simply will not do it. It's too English. If any person wishes to be convinced that I'm an artist and not a mountebank, let him look at my work (pointing vaguely to a picture), because that's all the proof that I mean to offer. If he is blind or shortsighted I regret it, but my neck isn't going to help him.

TEXEL. Brilliant! Then we shall have the trial after all.

CYRUS. Yes, but your brilliant friend will be on his way to South America before then.

JANET. (Sweetly to CYRUS.) I assure you it's quite true about those moles. That's why he wears those collars.

CYRUS. (Grimly.) No doubt.... (Repeating.) Nevertheless he'll be on his way to South America.

CARVE. (Gaily.) Or Timbuctoo.

CYRUS. (Significantly.) Unless you're stopped.

CARVE. And who's going to stop me? All the laws of this country added together can't make me take my collar off if I don't want to.

CYRUS. What about arresting you for bigamy? What about Holloway? I fancy at Holloway they have a short method with people who won't take their collars off.

CARVE. Well, that will only be another proof that the name of this island is England. It will be telegraphed to the Continent that in order to prove to herself that she possessed a great artist, England had to arrest him for bigamy and shove him into prison.... Characteristic! Characteristic!

ALCAR. (Who has moved across to JANET.) Mrs. X, can you—

JANET. (Rising to CARVE, winningly.) Now—Ilam. You're only laying up trouble for yourself, and for me too. Do please think of the trial. You know how shy you are, and how you tremble at the mere thought of a witness-box.

CYRUS. I can believe it.

CARVE. (Smiling at JANET.) I've got past shyness. I think it was the visit of my fine stalwart sons yesterday that cured me of shyness. I doubt if I shall ever be shy any more.

JANET. (Appealingly.) Dearest, to please me!

CARVE. (Curt now for the first time, with a flash of resentment.) No.

JANET. (After a slight pause; hurt and startled; with absolute conviction, to LORD LEONARD ALCAR.) It's no use. He's made up his mind.

EBAG. I have an idea that I can persuade—

JANET. (Hotly.) Excuse me. You can't.

EBAG. I have an idea I can. But (hesitates) the fact is, not in the presence of ladies.

JANET. Oh. If that's all—(walks away in a huff.)

EBAG. (To JANET.) My deepest apologies.

(LORD LEONARD ALCAR shows JANET out)

TEXEL. Well, well! What now?

EBAG. (To CARVE.) You remember Lady Alice Rowfant?

CARVE. (Taken aback.) That doesn't concern you.

EBAG. (Ignoring this answer.) Pardon me if I speak plainly. You were once engaged to marry Lady Alice Rowfant. But a few days before your valet died you changed your mind and left her in the lurch in Spain. Lady Alice Rowfant is now in England. She has been served with a subpoena to give evidence at the trial. And if the trial comes on she will have to identify you and tell her story in court. (Pause.) Are you going to put her to this humiliation?

(CARVE walks about. Then he gives a gesture of surrender.)

CARVE. The artist is always beaten! (With an abrupt movement he pulls undone the bow of his necktie.)

(The stage is darkened to indicate the passage of a few minutes.)



SCENE 2

(CARVE is attempting to re-tie his necktie. LORD LEONARD ALCAR is coming away from door back. JANET enters from door, L.)

JANET. (Under emotion, to CARVE.) Then you've done it! (CARVE ignores her.)

ALCAR. Yes, and I feel like a dentist.

JANET. You've sent them all away.

ALCAR. I thought you'd like me to. Mr. Ebag took charge of Mr. Texel. Your cousin Cyrus was extremely upset.

JANET. What did she say?

ALCAR. Who say?

JANET. Lady Alice Rowfant, of course. Oh! You needn't pretend! As soon as Mr. Ebag asked me to go out I knew he'd got her up his sleeve. (Weeps slightly.)

ALCAR. (Very sympathetically.) My dear young lady, what is the matter?

JANET. (Her utterance disturbed by sobs—indicating CARVE.) He'd do it for her, but he wouldn't do it for me!

ALCAR. I assure you, Lady Alice Rowfant has not been here.

JANET. Honest?

ALCAR. No. The mere mention of her name was sufficient.

JANET. That's even worse! (Rushing across to CARVE and pettishly seizing his necktie. CARVE submits.) Here! Let me do it—for goodness sake! Great clumsy! (Still tearful—to LORD LEONARD ALCAR as she ties the necktie.) Somehow I don't mind crying in front of you, because you're so nice and fatherly.

ALCAR. Well, if I'm so fatherly, may I venture on a little advice to you two? (To CARVE.) You said you didn't want to be Ilam Carve. Don't be Ilam Carve. Let Ilam Carve continue his theoretical repose in the Abbey and you continue to be somebody else. It will save a vast amount of trouble, and nobody will be a penny the worse. Leave England—unobtrusively. If you feel homesick, arrange to come back during a general election, and you will be absolutely unnoticed. You have money. If you need more, I can dispose of as many new pictures as you like to send.

JANET. I don't want him to paint any more pictures.

ALCAR. But he will.

JANET. I suppose he will. Why is it? As if we hadn't had enough bother already through this art business!

ALCAR. Yes. But artists are like that, you know.

JANET. (Affectionately reproachful to CARVE.) Child! Look how nicely I've tied it for you. (Shakes him.) Whatever are you dreaming about?

CARVE. (After glancing in mirror reflectively.) There's only one question. Last time they buried me in the Abbey,—what will they do with me next time?



CURTAIN.



WORKS BY ARNOLD BENNETT

NOVELS

A MAN FROM THE NORTH ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS LEONORA A GREAT MAN SACRED AND PROFANE LOVE WHOM GOD HATH JOINED BURIED ALIVE THE OLD WIVES' TALE THE GLIMPSE HELEN WITH THE HIGH HAND CLAYHANGER THE CARD HILDA LESSWAYS

FANTASIAS

THE GRAND BABYLON HOTEL THE GATES OF WRATH TERESA OF WATLING STREET THE LOOT OF CITIES HUGO THE GHOST THE CITY OF PLEASURE

SHORT STORIES

TALES OF THE FIVE TOWNS THE GRIM SMILE OF THE FIVE TOWNS THE MATADOR OF THE FIVE TOWNS

BELLES-LETTRES

JOURNALISM FOR WOMEN FAME AND FICTION HOW TO BECOME AN AUTHOR THE TRUTH ABOUT AN AUTHOR THE REASONABLE LIFE HOW TO LIVE ON TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY THE HUMAN MACHINE LITERARY TASTE THE FEAST OF ST. FRIEND THOSE UNITED STATES

DRAMA

POLITE FARCES CUPID AND COMMON SENSE WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS THE HONEYMOON

MILESTONES (In collaboration with EDWARD KNOBLAUCH)

* * * * *

(In collaboration with EDEN PHILLPOTTS)

THE SINEWS OF WAR: A ROMANCE THE STATUE: A ROMANCE

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