By A. A. Milne
TO MY MOTHER
INTRODUCTION WURZEL-FLUMMERY THE LUCKY ONE THE BOY COMES HOME BELINDA THE RED FEATHERS
These five plays were written, in the order in which they appear now, during the years 1916 and 1917. They would hardly have been written had it not been for the war, although only one of them is concerned with that subject. To his other responsibilities the Kaiser now adds this volume.
For these plays were not the work of a professional writer, but the recreation of a (temporary) professional soldier. Play-writing is a luxury to a journalist, as insidious as golf and much more expensive in time and money. When an article is written, the financial reward (and we may as well live as not) is a matter of certainty. A novelist, too, even if he is not in "the front rank"—but I never heard of one who wasn't—can at least be sure of publication. But when a play is written, there is no certainty of anything save disillusionment.
To write a play, then, while I was a journalist seemed to me a depraved proceeding, almost as bad as going to Lord's in the morning. I thought I could write one (we all think we can), but I could not afford so unpromising a gamble. But once in the Army the case was altered. No duty now urged me to write. My job was soldiering, and my spare time was my own affair. Other subalterns played bridge and golf; that was one way of amusing oneself. Another way was—why not?—to write plays.
So we began with Wurzel-Flummery. I say "we," because another is mixed up in this business even more seriously than the Kaiser. She wrote; I dictated. And if a particularly fine evening drew us out for a walk along the byways—where there was no saluting, and one could smoke a pipe without shocking the Duke of Cambridge—then it was to discuss the last scene and to wonder what would happen in the next. We did not estimate the money or publicity which might come from this new venture; there has never been any serious thought of making money by my bridge-playing, nor desire for publicity when I am trying to play golf. But secretly, of course, we hoped. It was that which made it so much more exciting than any other game.
Our hopes were realized to the following extent:
Wurzel-Flummery was produced by Mr. Dion Boucicault at the New Theatre in April, 1917. It was originally written in three acts, in which form it was shown to one or two managers. At the beginning of 1917 I was offered the chance of production in a triple bill if I cut it down into a two-act play. To cut even a line is painful, but to cut thirty pages of one's first comedy, slaughtering whole characters on the way, has at least a certain morbid fascination. It appeared, therefore, in two acts; and one kindly critic embarrassed us by saying that a lesser artist would have written it in three acts, and most of the other critics annoyed us by saying that a greater artist would have written it in one act. However, I amused myself some months later by slaying another character—the office-boy, no less—thereby getting it down to one act, and was surprised to find that the one-act version was, after all, the best... At least I think it is.... At any rate, that is the version I am printing here; but, as can be imagined, I am rather tired of the whole business by now, and I am beginning to wonder if anyone ever did take the name of Wurzel-Flummery at all. Probably the whole thing is an invention.
The Lucky One was doomed from the start with a name like that. And the girl marries the wrong man. I see no hope of its being produced. But if any critic wishes to endear himself to me (though I don't see why he should) he will agree with me that it is the best play of the five.
The Boy Comes Home was produced by Mr. Owen Nares at the Victoria Palace in September, 1918, introduced afterwards into Hallo, America! at the Palace, and played by Mr. Godfrey Tearle at the Coliseum in the following April.
Belinda was produced by Mr. Dion Boucicault at the New Theatre in April, 1918, with Miss Irene Vanbrugh in the name-part. Miss Ethel Barrymore played it in New York. I hope it will read pleasantly, but I am quite incapable of judging it, for every speech of Belinda's comes to me now in Miss Vanbrugh's voice.
The Red Feathers has not yet been produced, one reason being (perhaps) that it has never been offered to anybody. It is difficult enough to find a manager, but when one has also to get hold of a composer, the business of production becomes terrifying. I suppose there is a way of negotiating these difficulties, but I suspect that most of the fun to be got out of this operetta we have already had in writing it.
In conclusion, I must distress my friend J. M. Barrie (who gave me a first chance) by acknowledging my great debt to him. It would be more polite to leave him out of it, but I cannot let him off. After all, these are only "First Plays." I can always hope that "Last Plays" will be more worthy of that early encouragement.
A. A. MILNE.
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
ROBERT CRAWSHAW, M.P. MARGARET CRAWSHAW (his wife). VIOLA CRAWSHAW (his daughter). RICHARD MERITON, M.P. DENIS CLIFTON.
A Two-Act version of this play was produced by Mr. Dion Boucicault at the New Theatre on April 7, 1917, with the following cast:
Robert Crawshaw—NIGEL PLAYFAIR. Margaret Crawshaw—HELEN HAYE. Viola Crawshaw—PEGGY KURTON. Richard Meriton—MARTIN LEWIS. Denis Clifton—DION BOUCICAULT. Lancelot Dodd—BERTRAM SIEMS.
[SCENE.—ROBERT CRAWSHAW'S town house. Morning.]
[It is a June day before the war in the morning-room of ROBERT CRAWSHAW'S town house. Entering it with our friend the house-agent, our attention would first be called to the delightful club fender round the fireplace. On one side of this a Chesterfield sofa comes out at right angles. In a corner of the sofa MISS VIOLA CRAWSHAW is sitting, deep in "The Times." The house-agent would hesitate to catalogue her, but we notice for ourselves, before he points out the comfortable armchair opposite, that she is young and pretty. In the middle of the room and facing the fireplace is (observe) a solid knee-hole writing-table, covered with papers and books of reference, and supported by a chair at the middle and another at the side. The rest of the furniture, and the books and pictures round the walls, we must leave until another time, for at this moment the door behind the sofa opens and RICHARD MERITON comes in. He looks about thirty-five, has a clean-shaven intelligent face, and is dressed in a dark tweed suit. We withdraw hastily, as he comes behind VIOLA and puts his hands over her eyes.]
RICHARD. Three guesses who it is.
VIOLA (putting her hands over his). The Archbishop of Canterbury.
VIOLA. The Archbishop of York.
RICHARD. Fortunately that exhausts the archbishops. Now, then, your last guess.
VIOLA. Richard Meriton, M.P.
RICHARD. Wonderful! (He kisses the top of her head lightly and goes round to the club fender, where he sits with his back to the fireplace.) How did you know? (He begins to fill a pipe.)
VIOLA (smiling). Well, it couldn't have been father.
RICHARD. N-no, I suppose not. Not just after breakfast anyway. Anything in the paper?
VIOLA. There's a letter from father pointing out that—
RICHARD. I never knew such a man as Robert for pointing out.
VIOLA. Anyhow, it's in big print.
RICHARD. It would be.
VIOLA. You are very cynical this morning, Dick.
RICHARD. The sausages were cold, dear.
VIOLA. Poor Dick! Oh, Dick, I wish you were on the same side as father.
RICHARD. But he's on the wrong side. Surely I've told you that before.... Viola, do you really think it would make a difference?
VIOLA. Well, you know what he said about you at Basingstoke the other day.
RICHARD. No, I don't, really.
VIOLA. He said that your intellectual arrogance was only equalled by your spiritual instability. I don't quite know what it means, but it doesn't sound the sort of thing you want in a son-in-law.
RICHARD. Still, it was friendly of him to go right away to Basingstoke to say it. Anyhow, you don't believe it.
VIOLA. Of course not.
RICHARD. And Robert doesn't really.
VIOLA. Then why does he say it?
RICHARD. Ah, now you're opening up very grave questions. The whole structure of the British Constitution rests upon Robert's right to say things like that at Basingstoke.... But really, darling, we're very good friends. He's always asking my advice about things—he doesn't take it, of course, but still he asks it; and it awfully good of him to insist on my staying here while my flat was being done up. (Seriously) I bless him for that. If it hadn't been for the last week I should never have known you. You were just "Viola"—the girl I'd seen at odd times since she was a child; now—oh, why won't you let me tell your father? I hate it like this.
VIOLA, Because I love you, Dick, and because I know father. He would, as they say in novels, show you the door. (Smiling) And I want you this side of the door for a little bit longer.
RICHARD (firmly). I shall tell him before I go.
VIOLA (pleadingly). But not till then; that gives us two more days. You see, darling, it's going to take me all I know to get round him. You see, apart from politics you're so poor—and father hates poor people.
RICHARD (viciously). Damn money!
VIOLA (thoughtfully). I think that's what father means by spiritual instability.
RICHARD. Viola! (He stands up and holds out his arms to her. She goes to him and—) Oh, Lord, look out!
VIOLA (reaching across to the mantelpiece). Matches?
RICHARD. Thanks very much. (He lights his pipe as ROBERT CRAWSHAW comes in.)
(CRAWSHAW is forty-five, but his closely-trimmed moustache and whiskers, his inclination to stoutness, and the loud old-gentlemanly style in trousers which he affects with his morning-coat, make him look older, and, what is more important, the Pillar of the State which he undoubtedly is.)
CRAWSHAW. Good-morning, Richard. Down at last?
RICHARD. Good morning. I did warn you, didn't I, that I was bad at breakfasts?
CRAWSHAW. Viola, where's your mother?
VIOLA (making for the door). I don't know, father; do you want her?
CRAWSHAW. I wish to speak to her.
VIOLA. All right, I'll tell her. [She goes out.]
(RICHARD Picks up "The Times" and sits down again.)
CRAWSHAW (sitting down in a business-like way at his desk). Richard, why don't you get something to do?
RICHARD. My dear fellow, I've only just finished breakfast.
CRAWSHAW. I mean generally. And apart, of course, from your—ah—work in the House.
RICHARD (a trifle cool). I have something to do.
CRAWSHAW. Oh, reviewing. I mean something serious. You should get a directorship or something in the City.
RICHARD. I hate the City.
CRAWSHAW. Ah! there, my dear Richard, is that intellectual arrogance to which I had to call attention the other day at Basingstoke.
RICHARD (drily). Yes, so Viola was telling me.
CRAWSHAW. You understood, my dear fellow, that I meant nothing personal. (Clearing his throat) It is justly one of the proudest boasts of the Englishman that his political enmities are not allowed to interfere with his private friendships.
RICHARD (carelessly). Oh, I shall go to Basingstoke myself one day.
[Enter MARGARET. MARGARET has been in love with ROBERT CRAWSHAW for twenty-five years, the last twenty four years from habit. She is small, comfortable, and rather foolish; you would certainly call her a dear, but you might sometimes call her a poor dear.]
MARGARET. Good-morning, Mr. Meriton. I do hope your breakfast was all right.
RICHARD. Excellent, thank you.
MARGARET. That's right. Did you want me, Robert?
CRAWSHAW. (obviously uncomfortable). Yes—er—h'rm—Richard—er—what are your—er—plans?
RICHARD. Is he trying to get rid of me, Mrs. Crawshaw?
MARGARET. Of course not. (TO ROBERT) Are you, dear?
CRAWSHAW. Perhaps we had better come into my room, Margaret. We can leave Richard here with the paper.
RICHARD. No, no; I'm going.
CRAWSHAW (going to the door with him). I have some particular business to discuss. If you aren't going out, I should like to consult you in the matter afterwards.
RICHARD. Right! [He goes out.]
CRAWSHAW. Sit down, Margaret. I have some extraordinary news for you.
MARGARET (sitting down). Yes, Robert?
CRAWSHAW. This letter has just come by hand. (He reads it) "199, Lincoln's Inn Fields. Dear Sir, I have pleasure to inform you that under the will of the late Mr. Antony Clifton you are a beneficiary to the extent of L50,000."
CRAWSHAW. Wait! "A trifling condition is attached—namely, that you should take the name of—Wurzel-Flummery."
CRAWSHAW. "I have the honour to be, your obedient servant, Denis Clifton." (He folds the letter up and puts it away.)
MARGARET. Robert, whoever is he? I mean the one who's left you the money?—
CRAWSHAW (calmly). I have not the slightest idea, Margaret. Doubtless we shall find out before long. I have asked Mr. Denis Clifton to come and see me.
MARGARET. Leaving you fifty thousand pounds! Just fancy!
MARGARET. We can have the second car now, dear, can't we? And what about moving? You know you always said you ought to be in a more central part. Mr. Robert Crawshaw, M.P., of Curzon Street sounds so much more—more Cabinety.
CRAWSHAW. Mr. Robert Wurzel-Flummery, M.P., of Curzon Street—I don't know what that sounds like.
MARGARET. I expect that's only a legal way of putting it, dear. They can't really expect us to change our name to—Wurzley-Fothergill.
MARGARET. Yes, dear, didn't I say that? I am sure you could talk the solicitor round—this Mr. Denis Clifton. After all, it doesn't matter to him what we call ourselves. Write him one of your letters, dear.
CRAWSHAW. You don't seem to apprehend the situation, Margaret.
MARGARET. Yes, I do, dear. This Mr.—Mr.—
CRAWSHAW. Antony Clifton.
MARGARET. Yes, he's left you fifty thousand pounds, together with the name of Wurzley-Fothergill—
CRAWSHAW. Wurzel—oh, well, never mind.
MARGARET. Yes, well, you tell the solicitor that you will take the fifty thousand pounds, but you don't want the name. It's too absurd, when everybody knows of Robert Crawshaw, M.P., to expect you to call yourself Wurzley-Fothergill.
CRAWSHAW (impatiently). Yes, yes. The point is that this Mr. Clifton has left me the money on condition that I change my name. If I don't take the name, I don't take the money.
MARGARET. But is that legal?
CRAWSHAW. Perfectly. It is often done. People change their names on succeeding to some property.
MARGARET. I thought it was only when your name was Moses and you changed it to Talbot.
CRAWSHAW (to himself). Wurzel-Flummery!
MARGARET. I wonder why he left you the money at all. Of course it was very nice of him, but if you didn't know him—Why do you think he did, dear?
CRAWSHAW. I know no more than this letter. I suppose he had—ah—followed my career, and was—ah—interested in it, and being a man with no relations, felt that he could—ah—safely leave this money to me. No doubt Wurzel-Flummery was his mother's maiden name, or the name of some other friend even dearer to him; he wished the name—ah—perpetuated, perhaps even recorded not unworthily in the history of our country, and—ah—made this will accordingly. In a way it is a kind of—ah—sacred trust.
MARGARET. Then, of course, you'll accept it, dear?
CRAWSHAW. It requires some consideration. I have my career to think about, my duty to my country.
MARGARET. Of course, dear. Money is a great help in politics, isn't it?
CRAWSHAW. Money wisely spent is a help in any profession. The view of riches which socialists and suchlike people profess to take is entirely ill-considered. A rich man, who spends his money thoughtfully, is serving his country as nobly as anybody.
MARGARET. Yes, dear. Then you think we could have that second car and the house in Curzon Street?
CRAWSHAW. We must not be led away. Fifty thousand pounds, properly invested, is only two thousand a year. When you have deducted the income-tax—and the tax on unearned income is extremely high just now—
MARGARET. Oh, but surely if we have to call ourselves Wurzel-Flummery it would count as earned income.
CRAWSHAW. I fear not. Strictly speaking, all money is earned. Even if it is left to you by another, it is presumably left to you in recognition of certain outstanding qualities which you possess. But Parliament takes a different view. I do not for a moment say that fifty thousand pounds would not be welcome. Fifty pounds is certainly not to be sneezed at—
MARGARET. I should think not, indeed!
CRAWSHAW (unconsciously rising from his chair). And without this preposterous condition attached I should be pleased to accept this trust, and I would endeavour, Mr. Speaker—(He sits down again suddenly.) I would, Margaret, to, carry it out to the best of my poor ability. But—Wurtzel-Flummery!
MARGARET. You would soon get used to it, dear. I had to get used to the name of Crawshaw after I had been Debenham for twenty-five years. It is surprising how quickly it comes to you. I think I only signed my name Margaret Debenham once after I was married.
CRAWSHAW (kindly). The cases are rather different, Margaret. Naturally a woman, who from her cradle looks forward to the day when she will change her name, cannot have this feeling for the—ah—honour of his name, which every man—ah—feels. Such a feeling is naturally more present in my own case since I have been privileged to make the name of Crawshaw in some degree—ah—well-known, I might almost say famous.
MARGARET (wistfully). I used to be called "the beautiful Miss Debenham of Leamington." Everybody in Leamington knew of me. Of course, I am very proud to be Mrs. Robert Crawshaw.
CRAWSHAW (getting up and walking over to the fireplace). In a way it would mean beginning all over again. It is half the battle in politics to get your name before the public. "Whoever is this man Wurzel-Flummery?" people will say.
MARGARET. Anyhow, dear, let us look on the bright side. Fifty thousand pounds is fifty thousand pounds.
CRAWSHAW. It is, Margaret. And no doubt it is my duty to accept it. But—well, all I say is that a gentleman would have left it without any conditions. Or at least he would merely have expressed his wish that I should take the name, without going so far as to enforce it. Then I could have looked at the matter all round in an impartial spirit.
MARGARET (pursuing her thoughts). The linen is marked R. M. C. now. Of course, we should have to have that altered. Do you think R. M. F. would do, or would it have to be R. M. W. hyphen F.?
CRAWSHAW. What? Oh—yes, there will be a good deal of that to attend to. (Going up to her) I think, Margaret, I had better talk to Richard about this. Of course, it would be absurd to refuse the money, but—well, I should like to have his opinion.
MARGARET (getting up). Do you think he would be very sympathetic, dear? He makes jokes about serious things—like bishops and hunting just as if they weren't at all serious.
CRAWSHAW. I wish to talk to him just to obtain a new—ah—point of view. I do not hold myself in the least bound to act on anything he says. I regard him as a constituent, Margaret.
MARGARET. Then I will send him to you.
CRAWSHAW (putting his hands on her shoulders). Margaret, what do you really feel about it?
MARGARET. Just whatever you feel, Robert.
CRAWSHAW (kissing her). Thank you, Margaret; you are a good wife to me. [She goes out]
(CRAWSHAW goes to his desk and selects a "Who's Who" from a little pile of reference-books on it. He walks round to his chair, sits down in it and begins to turn the pages, murmuring names beginning with "C" to himself as he gets near the place. When he finds it, he murmurs "Clifton—that's funny," and closes the book. Evidently the publishers have failed him.)
RICHARD. Well, what's the news? (He goes to his old seat on the fender.) Been left a fortune?
CRAWSHAW (simply). Yes.... By a Mr. Antony Clifton. I never met him and I know nothing about him.
RICHARD (surprised). Not really? Well, I congratulate you. (He sighs.) To them that hath—But what on earth do you want my advice about?
CRAWSHAW. There is a slight condition attached.
CRAWSHAW. The condition is that with this money—fifty thousand pounds—I take the name of—ah—Wurzel-Flummery.
RICHARD (jumping up). What!
CRAWSHAW (sulkily). I said it quite distinctly—Wurzel-Flummery.
(RICHARD in an awed silence walks over to the desk and stands looking down at the unhappy CRAWSHAW. He throws out his left hand as if introducing him.)
RICHARD (reverently). Mr. Robert Wurzel-Flummery, M. P., one of the most prominent of our younger Parliamentarians. Oh, you...oh!... oh, how too heavenly! (He goes back to his seat, looks up and catches CRAWSHAW'S eye, and breaks down altogether.)
CRAWSHAW (rising with dignity). Shall we discuss it seriously, or shall we leave it?
RICHARD. How can we discuss a name like Wurzel-Flummery seriously? "Mr. Wurzel-Flummery in a few well-chosen words seconded the motion."... "'Sir,' went on Mr. Wurzel-Flummery"—Oh, poor Robert!
CRAWSHAW (sitting down sulkily). You seem quite certain that I shall take the money.
RICHARD. I am quite certain.
CRAWSHAW. Would you take it?
RICHARD (hesitating). Well—I wonder.
CRAWSHAW. After all, as William Shakespeare says, "What's in a name?"
RICHARD. I can tell you something else that Shakespeare—William Shakespeare—said. (Dramatically rising) Who steals my purse with fifty thousand in it—steals trash. (In his natural voice) Trash, Robert: (Dramatically again) But he who filches from me my good name of Crawshaw (lightly) and substitutes the rotten one of Wurzel—
CRAWSHAW (annoyed). As a matter of fact, Wurzel-Flummery is a very good old name. I seem to remember some—ah—Hampshire Wurzel-Flummeries. It is a very laudable spirit on the part of a dying man to wish to—ah—perpetuate these old English names. It all seems to me quite natural and straightforward. If I take this money I shall have nothing to be ashamed of.
RICHARD. I see.... Look here, may I ask you a few questions? I should like to know just how you feel about the whole business?
CRAWSHAW (complacently folding his hands). Go ahead.
RICHARD. Suppose a stranger came up in the street to you and said, "My poor man, here's five pounds for you," what would you do? Tell him to go to the devil, I suppose, wouldn't you?
CRAWSHAW (humorously). In more parliamentary language, perhaps, Richard. I should tell him I never took money from strangers.
RICHARD. Quite so; but that if it were ten thousand pounds, you would take it?
CRAWSHAW. I most certainly shouldn't.
RICHARD. But if he died and left it to you, then you would?
CRAWSHAW (blandly). Ah, I thought you were leading up to that. That, of course, is entirely different.
CRAWSHAW. Well—ah—wouldn't you take ten thousand pounds if it were left to you by a stranger?
RICHARD. I daresay I should. But I should like to know why it would seem different.
CRAWSHAW (professionally). Ha-hum! Well—in the first place, when a man is dead he wants his money no longer. You can therefore be certain that you are not taking anything from him which he cannot spare. And in the neat place, it is the man's dying wish that you should have the money. To refuse would be to refuse the dead. To accept becomes almost a sacred duty.
RICHARD. It really comes to this, doesn't it? You won't take it from him when he's alive, because if you did, you couldn't decently refuse him a little gratitude; but you know that it doesn't matter a damn to him what happens to his money after he's dead, and therefore you can take it without feeling any gratitude at all.
CRAWSHAW. No, I shouldn't put it like that.
RICHARD (smiling). I'm sure you wouldn't, Robert.
CRAWSHAW No doubt you can twist it about so that—
RICHARD. All right, we'll leave that and go on to the next point. Suppose a perfect stranger offered you five pounds to part your hair down the middle, shave off your moustache, and wear only one whisker—if he met you suddenly in the street, seemed to dislike your appearance, took out a fiver and begged you to hurry off and alter yourself—of course you'd pocket the money and go straight to your barber's?
CRAWSHAW. Now you are merely being offensive.
RICHARD. I beg your pardon. I should have said that if he had left you five pounds in his will?—well, then twenty pounds? a hundred pounds?—a thousand pounds?—fifty thousand pounds?—(Jumping up excitedly) It's only a question of price—fifty thousand pounds, Robert—a pink tie with purple spots, hair across the back, trousers with a patch in the fall myself Wurzel-Flummery—any old thing you like, you can't insult me—anything you like, gentlemen, for fifty thousand pounds. (Lowering his voice) Only you must leave it in your will, and then I can feel that it is a sacred duty—a sacred duty, my lords and gentlemen. (He sinks back into the sofa and relights his pipe.)
CRAWSHAW. (rising with dignity). It is evidently useless to prolong this conversation.
RICHARD (waving him dorm again). No, no, Robert; I've finished. I just took the other side—and I got carried away. I ought to have been at the Bar.
CRAWSHAW. You take such extraordinary views of things. You must look facts in the face, Richard. This is a modern world, and we are modern people living in it. Take the matter-of-fact view. You may like or dislike the name of—ah—Wurzel-Flummery, but you can't get away from the fact that fifty thousand pounds is not to be sneezed at.
RICHARD (wistfully). I don't know why people shouldn't sneeze at money sometimes. I should like to start a society for sneezing at fifty thousand pounds. We'd have to begin in a small way, of course; we'd begin by sneezing at five pounds—and work up. The trouble is that we're all inoculated in our cradles against that kind of cold.
CRAWSHAW (pleasantly). You will have your little joke. But you know as well as I do that it is only a joke. There can be no serious reason why I should not take this money. And I—ah—gather that you don't think it will affect my career?
RICHARD (carelessly). Not a bit. It'll help it. It'll get you into all the comic papers.
[MARGARET comes in at this moment, to the relief of CRAWSHAW, who is not quite certain if he is being flattered or insulted again.]
MARGARET. Well, have you told him?
RICHARD (making way for her on the sofa). I have heard the news, Mrs. Crawshaw. And I have told Robert my opinion that he should have no difficulty in making the name of Wurzel-Flummery as famous as he has already made that of Crawshaw. At any rate I hope he will.
MARGARET. How nice of you! CRAWSHAW. Well, it's settled, then. (Looking at his watch) This solicitor fellow should be here soon. Perhaps, after all, we can manage something about—Ah, Viola, did you want your mother?
VIOLA. Sorry, do I interrupt a family meeting? There's Richard, so it can't be very serious.
RICHARD. What a reputation!
CRAWSHAW. Well, it's over now.
MARGARET. Viola had better know, hadn't she?
CRAWSHAW. She'll have to know some time, of course.
VIOLA (sitting done firmly on the sofa). Of course she will. So you'd better tell her now. I knew there was something exciting going on this morning.
CRAWSHAW (embarrassed). Hum—ha—(To MARGARET) Perhaps you'd better tell her, dear.
MARGARET (simply and naturally). Father has come into some property, Viola. It means changing our name unfortunately. But your father doesn't think it will matter.
VIOLA. How thrilling! What is the name, mother?
MARGARET. Your father says it is—dear me, I shall never remember it.
CRAWSHAW (mumbling). Wurzel-Flummery.
VIOLA (after a pause). Dick, you tell me, if nobody else will.
RICHARD. Robert said it just now.
VIOLA. That wasn't a name, was it? I thought it was just a—do say it again, father.
CRAWSHAW (sulkily but plainly). Wurzel-Flummery.
VIOLA (surprised). Do you spell it like that? I mean like a wurzel and like flummery?
RICHARD. Exactly, I believe.
VIOLA (to herself). Miss Viola Wurzel-Flummery—I mean they'd have to look at you, wouldn't they? (Bubbling over) Oh, Dick, what a heavenly name! Who had it first?
RICHARD. They are an old Hampshire family—that is so, isn't it, Robert?
CRAWSHAW (annoyed). I said I thought that I remembered—Margaret, can you find Burke there?
(She finds it, and he buries himself in the families of the great.)
MARGARET. Well, Viola, you haven't told us how you like being Miss Wurzel-Flummery.
VIOLA. I haven't realized myself yet, mummy. I shall have to stand in front of my glass and tell myself who I am.
RICHARD. It's all right for you. You know you'll change your name one day, and then it won't matter what you've been called before.
VIOLA (secretly). H'sh! (She smiles lovingly at him, and then says aloud) Oh, won't it? It's got to appear in the papers, "A marriage has been arranged between Miss Viola Wurzel-Flummery..." and everybody will say, "And about time too, poor girl."
MARGARET (to CRAWSHAW). Have you found it, dear?
CRAWSHAW (resentfully). This is the 1912 edition.
MARGARET. Still, dear, if it's a very old family, it ought to be in by then.
VIOLA. I don't mind how old it is; I think it's lovely. Oh, Dick, what fun it will be being announced! Just think of the footman throwing open the door and saying—
MAID (announcing). Mr. Denis Clifton.
(There is a little natural confusion as CLIFTON enters jauntily in his summer suiting with a bundle of papers under his arm. CRAWSHAW goes towards him and shakes hands.)
CRAWSHAW. How do you do, Mr. Clifton? Very good of you to come. (Looking doubtfully at his clothes) Er—it is Mr. Denis Clifton, the solicitor?
CLIFTON (cheerfully). It is. I must apologize for not looking the part more, but my clothes did not arrive from Clarkson's in time. Very careless of them when they had promised. And my clerk dissuaded me from the side-whiskers which I keep by me for these occasions.
CRAWSHAW (bewildered). Ah yes, quite so. But you have—ah—full legal authority to act in this matter?
CLIFTON.. Oh, decidedly. Oh, there's no question of that.
CRAWSHAW (introducing). My wife—and daughter. (CLIFTON bows gracefully.) My friend, Mr. Richard Meriton.
CLIFTON (happily).Dear me! Mr. Meriton too! This is quite a situation, as we say in the profession.
RICHARD (amused by him). In the legal profession?
CLIFTON. In the theatrical profession.(Turning to MARGARET) I am a writer of plays, Mrs. Crawshaw. I am not giving away a professional secret when I tell you that most of the managers in London have thanked me for submitting my work to them.
CRAWSHAW (firmly).I understood, Mr. Clifton, that you were the solicitor employed to wind up the affairs of the late Mr. Antony Clifton.
CLIFTON. Oh, certainly. Oh, there's no doubt about my being a solicitor. My clerk, a man of the utmost integrity, not to say probity, would give me a reference. I am in the books; I belong to the Law Society. But my heart turns elsewhere. Officially I have embraced the profession of a solicitor—(Frankly, to MRS. CRAWSHAW) But you know what these official embraces are.
MARGARET. I'm afraid—(She turns to her husband for assistance.)
CLIFTON (to RICHARD). Unofficially, Mr. Meriton, I am wedded to the Muses.
VIOLA. Dick, isn't he lovely?
CRAWSHAW. Quite so. But just for the moment, Mr. Clifton, I take it that we are concerned with legal business. Should I ever wish to produce a play, the case would be different.
CLIFTON. Admirably put. Pray regard me entirely as the solicitor for as long as you wish. (He puts his hat down on a chair with the papers in it, and taking off his gloves, goes on dreamily) Mr. Denis Clifton was superb as a solicitor. In spite of an indifferent make-up, his manner of taking off his gloves and dropping them into his hat—(He does so.)
MARGARET (to CRAWSHAW). I think, perhaps, Viola and I—
RICHARD (making a move too). We'll leave you to your business, Robert.
CLIFTON (holding up his hand). Just one moment if I may. I have a letter for you, Mr. Meriton.
RICHARD (surprised). For me?
CLIFTON. Yes. My clerk, a man of the utmost integrity—oh, but I said that before—he took it round to your rooms this morning, but found only painters and decorators there. (He is feeling in his pockets and now brings the letter out.) I brought it along, hoping that Mr. Crawshaw—but of course I never expected anything so delightful as this. (He hands over the letter with a bow.)
RICHARD. Thanks. (He puts it in his pocket.)
CLIFTON. Oh, but do read it now, won't you? (To MR. CRAWSHAW) One so rarely has an opportunity of being present when one's own letters are read. I think the habit they have on the stage of reading letters aloud to other is such a very delightful one.
(RICHARD, with a smile and a shrug, has opened his letter while CLIFTON is talking.)
RICHARD. Good Lord!
VIOLA. Dick, what is it?
RICHARD (reading). "199, Lincoln's Inn Fields. Dear Sir, I have the pleasure to inform you that under the will of the late Mr. Antony Clifton you are a beneficiary to the extent of L50,000."
RICHARD. "A trifling condition is attached—namely, that you should take the name of—Wurzel-Flummery." (CLIFTON, with his hand on his heart, bows gracefully from one to the other of them.)
CRAWSHAW (annoyed). Impossible! Why should he leave any money to you?
VIOLA. Dick! How wonderful!
MARGARET (mildly). I don't remember ever having had a morning quite like this.
RICHARD (angrily). Is this a joke, Mr. Clifton?
CLIFTON. Oh, the money is there all right. My clerk, a man of the utmost—
RICHARD. Then I refuse it. I'll have nothing to do with it. I won't even argue about it. (Tearing the letter into bits) That's what I think of your money. [He stalks indignantly from the room.]
VIOLA. Dick! Oh, but, mother, he mustn't. Oh, I must tell him—[She hurries after him.]
MARGARET (with dignity). Really, Mr. Clifton, I'm surprised at you. [She goes out too.]
CLIFTON (looking round the room). And now, Mr. Crawshaw, we are alone.
CRAWSHAW. Yes. Well, I think, Mr. Clifton, you have a good deal to explain—
CLIFTON. My dear sir, I'm longing to begin. I have been looking forward to this day for weeks. I spent over an hour this morning dressing for it. (He takes papers from his hat and moves to the sofa.) Perhaps I had better begin from the beginning.
CRAWSHAW (interested, indicating the papers). The documents in the case?
CLIFTON. Oh dear, no just something to carry in the hand. It makes one look more like a solicitor. (Reading the title) "Watherston v. Towser—in re Great Missenden Canal Company." My clerk invents the titles; it keeps him busy. He is very fond of Towser; Towser is always coming in. (Frankly) You see, Mr. Crawshaw, this is my first real case, and I only got it because Antony Clifton is my uncle. My efforts to introduce a little picturesqueness into the dull formalities of the law do not meet with that response that one would have expected.
CRAWSHAW (looking at his watch). Yes. Well, I'm a busy man, and if you could tell me as shortly as possible why your uncle left this money to me, and apparently to Mr. Meriton too, under these extraordinary conditions, I shall be obliged to you.
CLIFTON. Say no more, Mr. Crawshaw; I look forward to being entirely frank with you. It will be a pleasure.
CRAWSHAW. You understand, of course, my position. I think I may say that I am not without reputation in the country; and proud as I am to accept this sacred trust, this money which the late Mr. Antony Clifton has seen fit—(modestly) one cannot say why—to bequeath to me, yet the use of the name Wurzel-Flummery would be excessively awkward.
CLIFTON (cheerfully). Excessively.
CRAWSHAW. My object in seeing you was to inquire if it was absolutely essential that the name should go with the money.
CLIFTON. Well (thoughtfully), you may have the name without the money if you like. But you must have the name.
CRAWSHAW (disappointed). Ah! (Bravely) Of course, I have nothing against the name, a good old Hampshire name—
CLIFTON (shocked). My dear Mr. Crawshaw, you didn't think—you didn't really think that anybody had been called Wurzel-Flummery before? Oh no, no. You and Mr. Meriton were to be the first, the founders of the clan, the designers of the Wurzel-Flummery sporran—
CRAWSHAW. What do you mean, sir? Are you telling me that it is not a real name at all?
CLIFTON. Oh, it's a name all right. I know it is because—er—I made it up.
CRAWSHAW (outraged). And you have the impudence to propose, sir, that I should take a made-up name?
CLIFTON (soothingly). Well, all names are made up some time or other. Somebody had to think of—Adam.
CRAWSHAW. I warn you, Mr. Clifton, that I do not allow this trifling with serious subjects.
CLIFTON. It's all so simple, really.... You see, my Uncle Antony was a rather unusual man. He despised money. He was not afraid to put it in its proper place. The place he put it in was—er—a little below golf and a little above classical concerts. If a man said to him, "Would you like to make fifty thousand this afternoon?" he would say—well, it would depend what he was doing. If he were going to have a round at Walton Heath—
CRAWSHAW. It's perfectly scandalous to talk of money in this way.
CLIFTON. Well, that's how he talked about it. But he didn't find many to agree with him. In fact, he used to say that there was nothing, however contemptible, that a man would not do for money. One day I suggested that if he left a legacy with a sufficiently foolish name attached to it, somebody might be found to refuse it. He laughed at the idea. That put me on my mettle. "Two people," I said; "leave the same silly name to two people, two well-known people, rival politicians, say, men whose own names are already public property. Surely they wouldn't both take it." That touched him. "Denis, my boy, you've got it," he said. "Upon what vile bodies shall we experiment?" We decided on you and Mr. Meriton. The next thing was to choose the name. I started on the wrong lines. I began by suggesting names like Porker, Tosh, Bugge, Spiffkins—the obvious sort. My uncle—
CRAWSHAW (boiling with indignation). How dare you discuss me with your uncle, Sir! How dare you decide in this cold-blooded way whether I am to be called—ah—Tosh—or—ah—Porker!
CLIFTON. My uncle wouldn't bear of Tosh or Porker. He wanted a humorous name—a name he could roll lovingly round his tongue—a name expressing a sort of humorous contempt—Wurzel-Flummery! I can see now the happy ruminating smile which came so often on my Uncle Antony's face in those latter months. He was thinking of his two Wurzel-Flummerys. I remember him saying once—it was at the Zoo—what a pity it was he hadn't enough to divide among the whole Cabinet. A whole bunch of Wurzel-Flummerys; it would have been rather jolly.
CRAWSHAW. You force me to say, sir, that if that was the way you and your uncle used to talk together at his death can only be described as a merciful intervention of Providence.
CLIFTON. Oh, but I think he must be enjoying all this somewhere, you know. I hope he is. He would have loved this morning. It was his one regret that from the necessities of the case he could not live to enjoy his own joke; but he had hopes that echoes of it would reach him wherever he might be. It was with some such idea, I fancy, that toward the end he became interested in spiritualism.
CRAWSHAW (rising solemnly). Mr. Clifton, I have no interest in the present whereabouts of your uncle, nor in what means he has of overhearing a private conversation between you and myself. But if, as you irreverently suggest, he is listening to us, I should like him to hear this. That, in my opinion, you are not a qualified solicitor at all, that you never had an uncle, and that the whole story of the will and the ridiculous condition attached to it is just the tomfool joke of a man who, by his own admission, wastes most of his time writing unsuccessful farces. And I propose—
CLIFTON. Pardon my interrupting. But you said farces. Not farces, comedies—of a whimsical nature.
CRAWSHAW. Whatever they were, sir, I propose to report the whole matter to the Law Society. And you know your way out, sir.
CLIFTON. Then I am to understand that you refuse the legacy, Mr. Crawshaw?
CRAWSHAW (startled). What's that?
CLIFTON. I am to understand that you refuse the fifty thousand pounds?
CRAWSHAW. If the money is really there, I most certainly do not refuse it.
CLIFTON. Oh, the money is most certainly there—and the name. Both waiting for you.
CRAWSHAW (thumping the table). Then, Sir, I accept them. I feel it my duty to accept them, as a public expression of confidence in the late Mr. Clifton's motives. I repudiate entirely the motives that you have suggested to him, and I consider it a sacred duty to show what I think of your story by accepting the trust which he has bequeathed to me. You will arrange further matters with my solicitor. Good morning, Sir.
CLIFTON (to himself as he rises). Mr. Crawshaw here drank a glass of water. (To CRAWSHAW) Mr. Wurzel-Flummery, farewell. May I express the parting wish that your future career will add fresh lustre to—my name. (To himself as he goes out) Exit Mr. Denis Clifton with dignity. (But he has left his papers behind him.)
(CRAWSHAW, walking indignantly back to the sofa, sees the papers and picks them up.)
CRAWSHAW (contemptuously). "Watherston v. Towser—in re Great Missenden Canal Company" Bah! (He tears them up and throws them into the fare. He goes back to his writing-table and is seated there as VIOLA, followed by MERITON, comes in.)
VIOLA. Father, Dick doesn't want to take the money, but I have told him that of course he must. He must, mustn't he?
RICHARD. We needn't drag Robert into it, Viola.
CRAWSHAW. If Richard has the very natural feeling that it would be awkward for me if there were two Wurzel-Flummerys in the House of Commons, I should be the last to interfere with his decision. In any case, I don't see what concern it is of yours, Viola.
VIOLA (surprised). But how can we get married if he doesn't take the money?
CRAWSHAW (hardly understanding). Married? What does this mean, Richard?
RICHARD. I'm sorry it has come out like this. We ought to have told you before, but anyhow we were going to have told you in a day or two. Viola and I want to get married.
CRAWSHAW. And what did you want to get married on?
RICHARD (with a smile). Not very much, I'm afraid.
VIOLA. We're all right now, father, because we shall have fifty thousand pounds.
RICHARD (sadly). Oh, Viola, Viola!
CRAWSHAW. But naturally this puts a very different complexion on matters.
VIOLA. So of course he must take it, mustn't he, father?
CRAWSHAW. I can hardly suppose, Richard, that you expect me to entrust my daughter to a man who is so little provident for himself that he throws away fifty thousand pounds because of some fanciful objection to the name which goes with it.
RICHARD (in despair). You don't understand, Robert.
CRAWSHAW. I understand this, Richard. That if the name is good enough for me, it should be good enough for you. You don't mind asking Viola to take your name, but you consider it an insult if you are asked to take my name.
RICHARD (miserably to VIOLA). Do you want to be Mrs. Wurzel-Flummery?
VIOLA. Well, I'm going to be Miss Wurzel-Flummery anyhow, darling.
RICHARD (beaten). Heaven help me! you'll make me take it. But you'll never understand.
CRAWSHAW (stopping to administer comfort to him on his way out). Come, come, Richard. (Patting him on the shoulder) I understand perfectly. All that you were saying about money a little while ago—it's all perfectly true, it's all just what I feel myself. But in practice we have to make allowances sometimes. We have to sacrifice our ideals for—ah—others. I shall be very proud to have you for a son-in-law, and to feel that there will be the two of us in Parliament together upholding the honour of the—ah—name. And perhaps now that we are to be so closely related, you may come to feel some day that your views could be—ah—more adequately put forward from my side of the House.
RICHARD. Go on, Robert; I deserve it.
CRAWSHAW. Well, well! Margaret will be interested in our news. And you must send that solicitor a line—or perhaps a telephone message would be better. (He goes to the door and turns round just as he is going out.) Yes, I think the telephone, Richard; it would be safer. [Exit.]
RICHARD (holding out his hands to VIOLA). Come here, Mrs. Wurzel-Flummery.
VIOLA. Not Mrs. Wurzel-Flummery; Mrs. Dick. And soon, please, darling. (She comes to him.)
RICHARD (shaking his head sadly at her). I don't know what I've done, Viola. (Suddenly) But you're worth it. (He kisses her, and then says in a low voice) And God help me if I ever stop thinking so!
[Enter MR. DENIS CLIFTON. He sees them, and walks about very tactfully with his back towards them, humming to himself.]
CLIFTON (to himself). Now where did I put those papers? (He hums to himself again.) Now where—oh, I beg your pardon! I left some papers behind.
VIOLA. Dick, you'll tell him. (As she goes out, she says to CLIFTON) Good-bye, Mr. Clifton, and thank you for writing such nice letters.
CLIFTON. Good-bye, Miss Crawshaw.
VIOLA. Just say it to see how it sounds.
CLIFTON. Good-bye, Miss Wurzel-Flummery.
VIOLA. (smiling happily). No, not Miss, Mrs.
[She goes out.]
CLIFTON. (looking in surprise from her to him). You don't mean—
RICHARD. Yes; and I'm taking the money after all, Mr. Clifton.
CLIFTON. Dear me, what a situation! (Thoughtfully to himself) I wonder how a rough scenario would strike the managers.
RICHARD. Poor Mr. Clifton!
CLIFTON. Why poor?
RICHARD. You missed all the best part. You didn't hear what I said to Crawshaw about money before you came.
CLIFTON (thoughtfully). Oh I was it very—(Brightening up) But I expect Uncle Antony heard. (After a pause) Well, I must be getting on. I wonder if you've noticed any important papers lying about, in connection with the Great Missenden Canal Company—a most intricate case, in which my clerk and I—(He has murmured himself across to the fireplace, and the fragments of his important case suddenly catch his eye. He picks up one of the fragments.) Ah, yes. Well, I shall tell my clerk that we lost the case. He will be sorry. He had got quite fond of that canal. (He turns to go, but first says to MERITON) So you're taking the money, Mr. Meriton?
CLIFTON. And Mr. Crawshaw too?
CLIFTON (to himself as he goes out). They are both taking it. (He stops and looks up to UNCLE ANTONY with a smile.) Good old Uncle Antony—he knew—he knew! (MERITON stands watching him as he goes.)
THE LUCKY ONE
A PLAY IN THREE ACTS
GERALD FARRINGDON. BOB FARRINGDON (his elder brother). SIR JAMES FARRINGDON (his father). LADY FARRINGDON (his mother). MISS FARRINGDON (his great-aunt). PAMELA CAREY (his betrothed). HENRY WENTWORTH (his friend). THOMAS TODD (his friend). LETTY HERBERT (his friend). MASON (his old nurse).
ACT I. At SIR JAMES FARRINGDON'S in the country.
ACT II. A private hotel in Dover Street. Two months later.
ACT III. At SIR JAMES FARRINGDON'S again. Three months later.
[SCENE.—The hall of SIR JAMES FARRINGDON'S house in the country.]
[It is a large and pleasantly unofficial sort of room, used as a meeting-place rather than a resting place. To be in it pledges you to nothing; whereas in the billiard-room you are presumably pledged to billiards. The French windows at the back open on to lawns; the door on the right at the back will take you into the outer hall; the door on the left leads to the servants' quarters; the door on the right in front will disclose other inhabited rooms to you. An oak gallery runs round two sides of the hall and descends in broad and gentle stairs down the right side of it. Four stairs from the bottom it turns round at right angles and deposits you fairly in the hall. Entering in this way, you will see immediately opposite to you the large open fireplace occupied by a pile of unlit logs—for it is summer. There is a chair on each side of the fireplace, but turned now away from it. In the left centre of the hall there is a gate-legged table to which trays with drinks on them, have a habit of finding their way; it is supported on each side by a coffin-stool. A sofa, which will take two strangers comfortably and three friends less comfortably, comes out at right angles to the staircase, but leaves plenty of space between itself and the stool on its side of the table. Beneath the window on the left of the French windows is a small table on which letters and papers are put; beneath the window on the other side is a writing-table. The walls are decorated impartially with heads of wild animals and of Farringdons.]
[At the present moment the inhabitants of the hall are three. HENRY WENTWORTH, a barrister between forty, and fifty, dressed in rather a serious tweed suit, for a summer day, is on the sofa. THOMAS TODD, an immaculate young gentleman of twenty-five, is half-sitting on the gate-legged table with one foot on the ground and the other swinging. He is dressed in a brown flannel coat and white trousers, shoes and socks, and he has a putter in his hand indicative of his usual line of thought. The third occupant is the Butler, who, in answer to TOMMY'S ring, has appeared with the drinks.]
[The time is about four o'clock on a June afternoon.]
TOMMY (to the Butler). Thanks, James; just leave it here. [Exit Butler.] Whisky or lemonade, Wentworth?
WENTWORTH. Neither, thanks, Tommy.
TOMMY. Well, I will. (He pours himself out some lemonade and takes a long drink.) I should have thought you would have been thirsty, driving down from London a day like this. (He finishes his drink.) Let's see, where was I up to? The sixth, wasn't it?
WENTWORTH. The sixth, Tommy. (With resignation) Only twelve more.
TOMMY. Yes, that's right. Well, at the seventh I got an absolutely topping drive, but my approach was sliced a bit. However, I chipped on within about six feet, and was down in four. Gerald took it in three, but I had a stroke, so I halved. Then the eighth I told you about.
WENTWORTH. Was that where you fell into the pond?
TOMMY. No, no; you're thinking of the fifth, where I topped my drive into the pond.
WENTWORTH. I knew the pond came into it somewhere. I hoped—I mean I thought you fell in.
TOMMY. Look here, you must remember the eighth, old chap; that was the one I did in one. Awful bit of luck.
WENTWORTH. Bit of luck for me too, Tommy.
WENTWORTH. Because now you can hurry on to the ninth.
TOMMY. I say, Wentworth, I thought you were keen on golf.
WENTWORTH. Only on my own.
TOMMY. You're a fraud. Here I've been absolutely wasting my precious time on you and—I suppose it wouldn't even interest you to hear that Gerald went round in seventy-two—five under bogey?
WENTWORTH. It would interest me much more to hear something about this girl he's engaged to.
TOMMY. Pamela Carey? Oh, she's an absolute ripper.
WENTWORTH. Yes, but you've said that of every girl you've met.
TOMMY. Well, dash it! you don't expect me to describe what she looks like, do you?
WENTWORTH. Well, no. I shall see that for myself directly. One gets introduced, you know, Tommy. It isn't as though I were meeting her at Charing Cross Station for the first time. But who is she?
TOMMY. Well, she was poor old Bob's friend originally. He brought her down here, but, of course, as soon as she saw Gerald—
WENTWORTH (quickly). Why, poor old Bob?
TOMMY. I don't know; everybody seems to call him that. After all, he isn't quite like Gerald, is he?
WENTWORTH. Paderewski isn't quite like Tommy Todd, but I don't say "poor old Paderewski"—nor "poor old Tommy," if it comes to that.
TOMMY. Well, hang it, old man, there's a bit of a difference. Paderewski and I—well, I mean we don't compete.
WENTWORTH. Oh, I don't know. I daresay he's as rotten at golf as you, if the truth were really known.
TOMMY. No, but seriously, it's a bit different when you get two brothers like Gerald and Bob; and whatever the elder one does, the younger one does a jolly sight better. Now Paderewski and I—
WENTWORTH. Good heavens! I wish I hadn't started you on that. Get back to Bob. I thought Bob was on the Stock Exchange and Gerald in the Foreign Office. There can't be very much competition between them there.
TOMMY. Well, but there you are! Why isn't Bob in the Foreign Office and Gerald on the Stock Exchange? Why, because Gerald's the clever one, Gerald's the popular one, the good-looking one, the lucky one, the county cricketer, the plus three at golf—
WENTWORTH. Oh Lord! I thought you'd get golf into it. I suppose you were working up to your climax. Poor old Bob is about eighteen at golf, eh?
TOMMY. As a matter of fact, he's a very decent five. And there you are again. In any other family, Bob would be thought rather a nut. As it is—
WENTWORTH. As it is, Tommy, there are about thirty-five million people in England who've never played golf and who would recognize Bob, if they met him, for the decent English gentleman that he is.
TOMMY. I think you exaggerate, old chap. Golf's been getting awfully popular lately.
WENTWORTH. Personally I am very fond of Bob.
TOMMY. Oh, so am I. He's an absolute ripper. Still, Gerald, you know—I mean it's jolly bad luck on poor old Bob. Now Paderewski and I—
[Enter GERALD from the garden, a charming figure in a golfing coat and white flannels. Perhaps he is a little conscious of his charm; if so, it is hardly his fault, for hero-worship has been his lot from boyhood. He is now about twenty-six; everything that he has ever tried to do he has done well; and, if he is rather more unembarrassed than most of us when praised, his unself-consciousness is to a stranger as charming as the rest of him. With it all he is intensely reserved, with the result that those who refuse to succumb to his charm sometimes make the mistake of thinking that there is nothing behind it.]
GERALD. Hallo, Wentworth, how are you? All right?
WENTWORTH (getting up and shaking hands). Yes, thanks. How are you?
GERALD. Simply bursting. Have you seen your room and all that sort of thing?
WENTWORTH. Yes, thanks.
GERALD. Good. And Tommy's been entertaining you. (To TOMMY) Tommy, I interrupted your story about Paderewski. I don't think I know it. (To WENTWORTH) You must listen to this; it may be fairly new.
TOMMY. Don't be an ass. As a matter of fact, we were discussing something quite serious.
GERALD (to WENTWORTH). How long have you been here?
WENTWORTH. About ten minutes.
GERALD. And Tommy hasn't told you that he did the eighth in one this morning?
WENTWORTH. He hasn't really told me yet. He's only mentioned it once or twice in passing.
TOMMY (modestly). Well, I mean it's bound to appear in the papers, so naturally one—
GERALD. Oh, it's a great business. Champagne will flow like water to-night. There will also be speeches.
WENTWORTH. Which reminds me, Gerald, I have to congratulate you.
GERALD. Thank you very much. When you've seen her you'll want to do it again.
TOMMY (looking through the window). Hallo, there's Letty.
GERALD. If you want to tell her about it, run along, Tommy.
TOMMY (moving off). I thought I'd just take her on at putting. [He goes out.]
GERALD (sitting down). You'll stay till—well, how long can you? Tuesday, anyhow.
WENTWORTH. I think I can manage till Tuesday. Thanks very much. Miss Carey is here, of course?
GERALD. Yes, she'll be in directly. She's gone to the station to meet Bob.
WENTWORTH (smiling). And Gerald didn't go with her?
GERALD (smiling). At least six people suggested that Gerald should go with her. They suggested it very loudly and archly—
WENTWORTH. So Gerald didn't?
GERALD. So Gerald didn't. (After a pause) I can't stand that sort of thing.
WENTWORTH. What sort of thing?
GERALD (after a pause). Poor old boy! you've never been in love—barring the nine or ten times you're just going to tell me about. I mean never really in love.
WENTWORTH. Don't drag me into it. What is it you can't stand?
GERALD. People being tactful about Pamela and me.... Aunt Tabitha asked me yesterday if she might have Pamela for half an hour to do something or other—as if she were an umbrella, with my initials on it.... And somebody else said, "I've quite fallen in love with your Pamela; I hope you don't mind." Mind? I tell you, Wentworth, my boy, if you aren't in love with Pamela by Tuesday, there'll be the very deuce of a row. Your electro-plated butter-dish, or whatever it's going to be, will be simply flung back at you.
WENTWORTH. Well, as long as Miss Pamela understands—
GERALD. Of course she understands. We understand each other.
WENTWORTH (preening himself ). Then I'll do my best. Mind, if she does happen to reciprocate my feelings, I wash my hands of all responsibility. (Going towards the staircase) Good-afternoon, Miss Farringdon.
[MISS FARRINGDON is coming slowly down the stairs.]
MISS FARRINGDON. Good-afternoon, Mr. Wentworth. Welcome.
(She must be well over eighty. She was pretty once, and sharp-tongued; so much you could swear to now. For the rest she is very, very wise, and intensely interested in life.)
GERALD (going over and kissing her). Good-morning, Aunt Tabitha. Your chair is waiting for you. (He conducts her to it.)
MISS FARRINGDON. I'm a nasty cross old thing before lunch, Mr. Wentworth, so I don't come down till afterwards nowadays. Is Gerald being as charming as usual?
WENTWORTH (smiling). Oh, pretty well.
GERALD (looking at her lovingly and then turning to WENTWORTH). It's having a very bad effect on her, this morning seclusion. She's supposed to be resting, but she spends her time trying to think of nasty things to say about me. The trouble with a mind like Aunt Tabitha's is that it can't think of anything really nasty.
MISS FARRINGDON. The trouble with Gerald, Mr. Wentworth, is that he goes about expecting everybody to love him. The result is that they nearly all do. However, he can't get round me.
GERALD. It isn't true, Wentworth; she adores me.
MISS FARRINGDON. He wouldn't be happy if he didn't think so.
WENTWORTH (gracefully). I can sympathize with him there.
GERALD. The slight coolness which you perceive to have arisen between my Aunt Tabitha and myself is due to the fact that I discovered her guilty secret a few days ago. For years she has pretended that her real name was Harriet. I have recently found out that she was christened Tabitha—or, anyhow, would have been, if the clergyman had known his job.
MISS FARRINGDON. My great-nephew, Gerald, Mr. Wentworth—
GERALD. Nephew, Wentworth. I agreed to waive the "great" a long time ago.
WENTWORTH. You'll excuse my asking, but do you never talk to each other except through the medium of a third person?
MISS FARRINGDON (to GERALD). That's how they prefer to do it in the Foreign Office. Isn't it, dear?
GERALD. Always, Aunt Tabitha. But really, you know, we both ought to be talking to Wentworth and flaking after his mother and his liver—and things like that.
MISS FARRINGDON. Yes, I'm afraid we're rather rude, Mr. Wentworth. The Farringdons' great fault.
WENTWORTH (protesting). Oh no!
MISS FARRINGDON. How is Mrs. Wentworth?
WENTWORTH. Wonderfully well, thank you, considering her age.
MISS FARRINGDON. Dear me, we met first in 1850.
GERALD. All frills and lavender.
MISS FARRINGDON. And now here's Gerald engaged. Have you seen Pamela yet?
WENTWORTH. Not yet. I have been hearing about her from Tommy. He classes her with the absolute rippers.
GERALD. Good old Tommy!
MISS FARRINGDON. Yes, she's much too good for Gerald.
GERALD. Of course she is, Aunt Tabitha. But if women only married men who were good enough for them, where should we be? As lots of young men said to you, in vain—on those afternoons when they read Tennyson aloud to you.
MISS FARRINGDON. She ought to have married Bob.
WENTWORTH (surprised and amused). Bob? Is Bob good enough for her?
MISS FARRINGDON. She would have made a good wife for Bob.
[Enter suddenly LETTY HERBERT and TOMMY from the garden. LETTY is an entirely delightful irresponsible girl of the type which might have shocked Queen Victoria. However, she seems to suit TOMMY. They are not engaged yet, but she has already that air of proprietorship.]
LETTY. I say, Tommy did the eighth in one. Why, there's Aunt Harriet. (Going over and kissing her) How are you, darling? Tommy's done the eighth in one. I know it doesn't mean much to you, but do say hooray, because he's so bucked about it.
GERALD (to WENTWORTH). Do you know Miss Herbert? Letty, come and be introduced. Mr. Wentworth—Miss Herbert.
LETTY (shaking hands eagerly). How do you do? I say, Tommy did the eighth in one. Do you know Tommy—or the eighth?
WENTWORTH. Both, Miss Herbert.
GERALD. To a man who knows both, the performance seems truly astonishing.
MISS FARRINGDON. I don't know anything about golf, Mr. Todd. But doing anything in one sounds rather clever. So I say hooray, too.
TOMMY. I wish you'd let me teach you, Miss Farringdon. Lots of people begin when they're frightfully old.
LETTY (to WENTWORTH). This is one of Tommy's polite days.
GERALD. Mr. Todd's famous old-world courtesy is the talk of many a salon.
MISS FARRINGDON (to TOMMY). Don't you mind them. I am frightfully old. I am very proud of it. I hope you'll all live to be as old as I am.
GERALD. I only hope we shall be half as nice.
MISS FARRINGDON. Gerald being charming as usual.
GERALD (firmly). I will also add that I hope we shall be kinder to our great-nephews than some.
LETTY (putting her arm in his). Diddums!
GERALD. Yes, I did. I am very much hurt.
TOMMY. I say, you know, Miss Farringdon, I never meant—
LETTY. I love Tommy when he apologizes.
[Enter SIR JAMES and LADY FARRINGDON from the door to front of the staircase. SIR JAMES, in a country check-suit, is a man of no particular brain and no ideas, but he has an unconquerable belief in himself, and a very genuine pride in, and admiration of, GERALD. His grey hair is bald on the top, and he is clean-shaven except for a hint of whisker. He might pass for a retired Captain R. N., and he has something of the quarter-deck manner, so that even a remark on the weather is listened to with attention. Neither of his sons loves him, but GERALD is no longer afraid of him. LADY FARRINGDON is outwardly rather intimidating, but she never feels so. She worships GERALD; and would love a good many other people if they were not a little overawed by her.]
LADY FARRINGDON. Ah, you're here, Mr. Wentworth. How do you do?
WENTWORTH (coming forward). How do you do, Lady Farringdon? How do you do, Sir James?
SIR JAMES. How are you, Wentworth? Come to see Gerald play for the county?
GERALD. He's come to see Pamela. Haven't you, Wentworth?
WENTWORTH. I rather hope to see both.
SIR JAMES. Ah, Aunt Harriet, I didn't see you. How are you to-day?
MISS FARRINGDON. Very well, thank you, James. (He goes over to her.)
LADY FARRINGDON. I hope they've shown you your room, Mr. Wentworth, and made you comfortable? Gerald, darling, you saw that Mr. Wentworth was all right?
WENTWORTH. Oh yes, that's quite all right, thank you, Lady Farringdon.
LADY FARRINGDON. Let me see, you're in the Blue Room, I think.
LETTY. It's much the nicest room to be in, Mr. Wentworth. There's a straight way down the water-pipe in case of fire.
GERALD. And a straight way up in case of burglars.
LADY FARRINGDON (fondly). Gerald, dear, don't be so foolish.
SIR JAMES. Gerald, is it true you went round in seventy-two?
GERALD. Yes. Tommy did the eighth in one.
TOMMY (modestly). Awful fluke.
SIR JAMES (casually). Ah—well done. (To GERALD) Seventy-two—that's pretty good. That's five under bogey, Mr. Wentworth.
LADY FARRINGDON (to WENTWORTH). Gerald has always been so good at everything. Even as a baby.
TOMMY. He did the ninth in three, Letty. How's that for hot?
SIR JAMES (to WENTWORTH). You must stay till Thursday, if you can, and see the whole of the Surrey match. It isn't often Gerald gets a chance of playing for the county now. It's difficult for him to get away from the Foreign Office. Lord Edward was telling me at the club the other day—
LETTY (TO LADY FARRINGDON). Gerald dived off the Monk's Rock this morning. I'm glad I didn't see him. I should have been horribly frightened.
TOMMY (proudly). I saw him.
LETTY. Tommy, of course, slithered down over the limpets in the ordinary way.
LADY FARRINGDON (fondly). Oh, Gerald, how could you?
SIR JAMES (still talking to WENTWORTH). He tells me that Gerald is a marked man in the Service now.
TOMMY (to LETTY). Do you remember when Gerald—
MISS FARRINGDON (incisively). Let's all talk about Gerald.
(GERALD, who has been listening to all this with more amusement than embarrassment, gives a sudden shout of laughter.)
GERALD. Oh, Aunt Tabitha, you're too lovely! (He blows her a kiss and she shakes her stick at him.)
[Enter PAMELA from the door In front of the staircase, tall, beautiful and serene, a born mother. GERALD carried her off her feet a month ago, but it is a question if he really touched her heart—a heart moved more readily by pity than by love.]
PAMELA. Gerald, dear, I'd know your laugh anywhere. Am I too late for the joke?
GERALD. Hullo, Pamela. Brought Bob with you?
PAMELA. He's just washing London off himself.
LADY FARRINGDON. Pamela, dear, do you know Mr. Wentworth?
PAMELA (shaking hands). How do you do?
LADY FARRINGDON (to WENTWORTH). Miss Carey—Gerald's Pamela.
PAMELA. I've heard so much about you, Mr. Wentworth.
WENTWORTH. And I've heard so much about you, Miss Carey.
PAMELA. That's nice. Then we can start straight off as friends.
LETTY. I suppose you know Tommy did the eighth in one?
PAMELA. Rather. It's splendid!
LETTY. Do say you haven't told Bob.
GERALD. Why shouldn't Bob know?
PAMELA. No, I haven't told him, Letty.
LETTY. Good, then Tommy can tell him.
TOMMY. They do pull my leg, don't they, Miss Farringdon?
[Enter BOB from the outer hall in a blue flannel suit. He has spoilt any chance he had of being considered handsome by a sullen expression now habitual. Two years older than Gerald, he is not so tall, but bigger, and altogether less graceful. He has got in the way of talking in rather a surly voice, as if he suspected that any interest taken in him was merely a polite one.]
GERALD. Hullo, Bob; good man.
BOB. Hullo. (He goes up to LADY FARRINGDON and kisses her.) How are you, mother?
LADY FARRINGDON. It's so nice that you could get away, dear.
BOB. How are you, father? All right?
SIR JAMES. Ah, Bob! Come down to see your brother play for the county?
PAMELA (quickly). He's come down to see me, haven't you, Bob?
BOB. Hullo, Wentworth. Hullo, Letty. I say, I can't shake hands with you all. (He smacks TOMMY on the back and goes over to Miss FARRINGDON.) How are you, dear?
MISS FARRINGDON. Very glad to see my elder great-nephew. I was getting tired of Gerald.
LADY FARRINGDON (protesting). Aunt Harriet, dear.
GERALD (smiling). It's all right, mother. We quite understand each other.
MISS FARRINGDON. I quite understand Gerald.
BOB. I say, aren't we going to have any tea?
LADY FARRINGDON. It's early yet, dear. Gerald, you'd like to have it outside, wouldn't you?
GERALD. Oh, rather. What do you say, Wentworth?
WENTWORTH. I never want to be indoors in the country if I can help it.
SIR JAMES. Quite right, Wentworth—quite right. Gerald, you'll just have time to take Wentworth round the stables before tea.
GERALD. You'll have to see them officially after church to-morrow. I don't know if you'd care about a private view now.
SIR JAMES. He must see your new mare. I should like to have his opinion of her.
WENTWORTH (getting up). I never know what to say to a mare, but I should like to come.
LETTY. She answers to "Hi!" or to any loud cry.
PAMELA. I'm sure you'll be all right, Mr. Wentworth.
GERALD. There's a way of putting one's head on one side and saying, "Ah!" Anybody who's seen Tommy at the Royal Academy will know exactly what I mean.
(GERALD, PAMELA and WENTWORTH move towards the door.)
WENTWORTH (to PAMELA). Ought I to have a straw in my mouth?
GERALD. It's all right, we'll go and see the spaniels first.
WENTWORTH (cheerfully). Oh, I'm all right with dogs.
LETTY (to TOMMY). Come on, Tommy. [They go out behind the others.]
LADY FARRINGDON. Would you like to have tea outside, Aunt Harriet?
MISS FARRINGDON. I'm not too old for that, Mary. Bob will bring me out. I want to have a word with him while I can. Everybody talks at once in this house.
SIR JAMES (picking up his hat). How's the City—hey?
BOB. Just as usual.
SIR JAMES. Coming round to the stables?
ROB. Later on, perhaps.
LADY FARRINGDON. Bob is bringing Aunt Harriet along, dear.
SIR JAMES. Ah, yes. [They go out together.]
MISS FARRINGDON. Smoke, Bob, and tell me how horrible the City is.
BOB (lighting a pipe and sitting down). It's damnable, Aunt Harriet.
MISS FARRINGDON. More damnable than usual?
MISS FARRINGDON. Any particular reason why?
BOB (after a long pause). No.
(MISS FARRINGDON nods to herself and then speaks very casually.)
MISS FARRINGDON. My bankers sent in my pass-book the other day. I seem to have a deal of money lying idle, as they call it. If anybody wanted it, I should really be in no hurry to get it back again.
BOB (awkwardly). Thanks very much. It isn't that. (After a pause) Not altogether.
MISS FARRINGDON. It was a great pity you ever went into the City, Bob.
BOB (fiercely). I could have told anybody that.
MISS FARRINGDON (after waiting for him to say something more). Well, suppose we go into the garden with the others. (She begins to get up and he goes to help her,) There's nothing you want to tell me, Bob?
BOB (looking away). What would there be?
MISS FARRINGDON. I'm a wise old woman, they say, and I don't talk.
BOB. I don't think you can help me. Er—thanks very much.
MISS FARRINGDON (quite naturally, as she turns towards the door). If you don't mind giving me your arm.
(As they get to the door they are met by GERALD and PAMELA coming in.)
GERALD. Hullo, Bob, we were just coming back for you.
MISS FARRINGDON. Thoughtful Gerald.
GERALD. Pamela's idea. She thought that the elder members of the family could discuss life more freely unhampered by the younger generation.
PAMELA. What I really said was, "Where's Bob?"
GERALD. Well, it's the same thing.
MISS FARRINGDON. Bob is looking after me, thank you very much. [They go out together.]
GERALD (after watching them go, to PAMELA). Stay here a bit. There are too many people and dogs and things outside. Come and sit on the sofa and I'll tell you all the news. (He takes her hand and they go to the sofa together.) What ages you've been away!
PAMELA. An hour and a half. And it need not have been that if you'd come with me.
GERALD (taking her hand). If I had come with you, I would have held your hand all the way.
PAMELA. I shouldn't have minded.
GERALD. But just think what would have happened: You would have had to have driven with one hand down all the hills; we should have had a smash-up before we got halfway; a well-known society beauty and a promising young gentleman in the Foreign Office would have been maimed for life; and Bob would have to have walked here carrying his portmanteau. Besides, I love you going away from me when you come back. You've only got to come into the room, and the sun seems to shine.
PAMELA. The sun always shines on Gerald.
GERALD. Does it? That's a different sort of sunshine. Not the gentle caressing September afternoon sunshine which you wear all round you. (She is looking at him lovingly and happily as he says this, but she withdraws into herself quickly as he pulls himself up and says with a sudden change of tone) Dear me, I'm getting quite poetical, and two minutes ago I was talking to Wentworth about fetlocks.
PAMELA (getting up). Oh, Gerald, Gerald!
GERALD (getting up and smiling at her). Oh, Pamela, Pamela!
PAMELA. I wonder how much you really want me.
GERALD. I'll show you when we're married. I don't think I could even begin to tell you now.
PAMELA (wistfully). Couldn't you try?
(GERALD catches hold of her suddenly, and holding her tightly to him, kisses her again and again.)
PAMELA (releasing herself). Oh, Gerald, my darling, you frighten me sometimes.
GERALD. Did I frighten you then?
PAMELA (happily). Oh, no, no, no, no! (Earnestly) Always want me very much, Gerald. Always be in need of me. Don't be too successful without me. However much the sun shines on you, let me make it gentler and more caressing for you.
GERALD. It is so, darling. Didn't I say so?
PAMELA. Ah, but I want such a lot of telling.
GERALD (laughing happily as he goes over to the table by the fireplace and takes a cigarette). Who was the fellow who threw something into the sea because he was frightened by his own luck? What shall I throw? (Looking at a presentation clock on the mantelpiece) That's rather asking for it. In a way it would be killing two birds with one stone. Oh, Lord, I am lucky!
PAMELA (coming to him and taking his arm). As long as you don't throw me.
GERALD. Pamela, you're talking rubbish. I talk a good deal myself, but I do keep within the bounds. Let's go and chatter to Bob about contangos. I don't know what they are, but they sound extraordinarily sober.
PAMELA (gently). Poor old Bob!
GERALD (quickly). Why poor old Bob?
PAMELA. He's worried about something. I tried to get him to tell me as we came from the station, but he wouldn't.
GERALD. Poor old Bob! I suppose things are going up—or down, or something. Brokerage one-eighth—that's what's worrying him, I expect.
PAMELA. I think he wants to talk to you about it. Be nice to him, darling, won't you?
GERALD (surprised). Nice to him?
PAMELA. You know what I mean—sympathetic. I know it's a difficult relationship—brothers.
GERALD. All relationships are difficult. But after you, he's the person I love best in the world. (With a laugh) But I don't propose to fall on his neck and tell him so.
PAMELA (smiling). I know you will help him if you can.
GERALD. Of course I will, though I don't quite see how. (Hopefully) Perhaps he's only slicing his drives again.
PAMELA. Oh, I love you, Gerald. (Wonderingly) Do I love you, or am I only just charmed by you?
GERALD. You said you loved me once. You can't go back on that.
PAMELA. Then I love you. And make a century for me on Monday.
GERALD. Well, I'll try. Of course the bowler may be in love too. But even if I get out first ball, I can say, "Well, anyhow, Pamela loves me."
PAMELA. Oh, I think I hope you get out first ball.
GERALD. Baby Pamela.
PAMELA. And on Thursday we shall be alone together here, and you've promised to take me out in the boat for the day.
GERALD. You mean you've promised to let me.
PAMELA. What happy days there are in the world!
[Enter BOB from the garden.]
GERALD. Hullo, Bob. Tea? (He moves towards the door.)
BOB. Cigarettes. (He goes over to the fireplace and fills his cigarette case.)
GERALD. Still, I expect tea's nearly ready.
PAMELA (going towards door R. at the back). I'll join you; I'm not going out without a sunshade again. [Exit.]
(There is an awkward silence.)
BOB (to GERALD). I say!
GERALD (turning round). Hullo!
BOB. Just wait a moment.
(GERALD comes back slowly.)
GERALD. I warn you those are rotten cigarettes. (Holds out his own case)
BOB (taking one). Thanks. (Awkwardly) You're so confoundedly difficult to get hold of nowadays. Never less than half-a-dozen all round you.
GERALD (laughing). Good old Bob!
BOB (after lighting a cigarette). I want to talk to you about something.
GERALD. Well, of course.
BOB (after a pause). You've heard of Marcus, my partner?
GERALD (with the idea of putting himself and BOB more at their ease). Good old Marcus and Farringdon! It's the most perfect name for a firm. They sound so exactly as though they could sell you anything from a share to a shaving-brush. Marcus and Farringdon's pure badger, two shillings—gilt-edged badger half-a-crown.
BOB (fiercely). I suppose everything is just a pleasant joke to you.
GERALD (utterly surprised). Bob! Bob, old boy, what's the matter? (Putting his hand on BOB'S shoulder) I say, Bob, I haven't hurt you, have I?
BOB (hopelessly). Oh, Jerry, I believe I'm in the devil of a hole.
GERALD. You haven't called me "Jerry" since we were at school.
BOB. You got me out of holes then—damn you! and you were my younger brother. Oh, Jerry, get me out of this one.
GERALD. But, of course. (Firmly, as if a little nervous of a scene from BOB) My dear Bob, you're as right as anything. You've got nothing on earth to worry about. At the worst it's only a question of money, and we can always put that right somehow.
BOB. I'm not sure that it is only a question of money.
GERALD (frightened). What do you mean? (Turning away with a laugh) You're talking nonsense.
BOB. Gerald, Marcus is a wrong un. (Fiercely) An out-and-out wrong un.
GERALD. The only time I saw him he looked like it.
BOB. God knows what he's let me in for.
GERALD. You mean money?
BOB. More than that, perhaps.
GERALD. You mean you're just going bankrupt?
BOB. No. (After a pause) Prosecution.
GERALD. Well, let them prosecute. That ends Marcus. You're well rid of him.
BOB (miserably). Perhaps it isn't only Marcus.
GERALD (sharply, after this has sunk in). What can they prosecute you for?
BOB (speaking rapidly). What the devil did they ever send me to the City for? I didn't want to go. I was never any good at figures. I loathe the whole thing. What the devil did they want to send me there for—and shove me on to a wrong un like Marcus? That's his life, messing about with money in the City. How can I stand out against a man like that? I never wanted to go into it at all.
GERALD (holding out his cigarette-case). Have another cigarette? (They each light one, and GERALD sits down in the chair opposite to him.) Let's look at it calmly. You've done nothing dishonourable, I know that. That's obvious.
BOB. You see, Jerry, I'm so hopeless at that sort of business. Naturally I got in the way of leaving things to Marcus. But that's all. (Resentfully) Of course, that's all.
GERALD. Good. Well, then, you're making much too much fuss about it. My dear boy, innocent people don't get put into prison nowadays. You've been reading detective stories. "The Stain on the Bath Mat," or "The Crimson Sponge." Good Lord! I shall be coming to you next and saying that I'm going to be put in prison for selling secret documents to a foreign country. These things don't happen; they don't really, old boy.
BOB (cheered, but not convinced). I don't know; it looks devilish bad, what I can make of it.
GERALD. Well, let's see what I can make of it.
BOB (trying not to show his eagerness). I was wondering if you would. Come up on Monday and we'll have a go at it together. Marcus has gone, of course. Probably halfway to South America by now. (Bitterly) Or wherever you go to.
GERALD. Right-o! At least, I can't come on Monday, of course, but we'll have a go at it on Thursday.
BOB. Why can't you come on Monday?
GERALD. Well, the Surrey match.
BOB (bitterly). I suppose as long as you beat Surrey, it doesn't matter if I go to prison.
GERALD (annoyed). Oh, shut up about going to prison! There's not the slightest chance of your going to prison. You know perfectly well, if there were, that I'd walk on my hands and knees to London to-night to try and stop it. As it is, I have promised to play for the county; it's a particularly important match, and I don't think it's fair to let them down. Anyway, if I did, the whole family would want to know why, and I don't suppose you want to tell them that yet.
BOB (mumbling). You could say the Foreign Office had rung you up.
GERALD (earnestly). Really, Bob old boy, I'm sure you're making too much of it. Dammit! you've done nothing wrong; what is there to worry about? And if it's only a question of money, we'll manage it on our heads, somehow. I'll come up directly the match is over. It may be Tuesday night, with luck.
BOB (grumbling). If the weather's like this, it's bound to last three days.
GERALD. Then at the worst, I'll come first train Thursday morning. That I promise. Anyway, why don't you consult Wentworth? He's a good chap and he knows all about the law. He could probably help you much more than I could.
BOB. I suppose you think I like talking about it to everybody.
GERALD (getting up and touching BOB gently on the shoulder as he goes past him). Poor old Bob! But you're as right as anything. I'll come up by the first train on Thursday and we'll—good Lord!
BOB. What's the matter now?
GERALD. I am a damned fool! Why, of course, we arranged—
BOB (sneeringly). And now you can't come on Thursday, I suppose.
GERALD. Why, you see, I arranged—
BOB. You must keep your promise to the county, but you needn't keep your promise to me.
GERALD. Yes, but the trouble is I promised Pamela—oh, well, that will have to go; she'll understand. All right, Bob, that holds. Directly the match is over I come. And for the Lord's sake, keep smiling till then.
BOB. It's all very well for you.... I wish you could have—well, anyhow, I suppose Thursday's better than nothing. You'll see just how it is then. (Getting up) You won't say anything about it to the others?
GERALD. Of course not. What about Pamela? Does she know anything?
BOB. She knows that I'm worried about something, but of course she doesn't know what I've told you.
GERALD. All right, then I won't tell her anything. At least, I'll just say that bananas remain firm at 127, and that I've got to go and see my broker about it. (Smiling) Something like that.
(BOB goes towards the garden, while GERALD stops to wait for PAMELA. At the door he turns round.)
BOB (awkwardly). Er—thanks. [Exit.]
(GERALD throws him a nod, as much as to say, "That's all right." He stands looking after him, gives a little sigh, laughs and says to himself, "Poor old Bob!" He is half-sitting on, half-leaning against the table, thinking it all over, when PAMELA comes in again.)
PAMELA. I waited for him to go; I knew he wanted to talk to you about something. Gerald, he is all right, isn't he?
GERALD (taking her hands). Who? Bob? Oh yes, he's all right. So is Pamela.
GERALD. Oh yes, he's all right.
PAMELA. I take rather a motherly interest in Bob, you know. What was worrying him?
GERALD (smiling). His arithmetic again; compound interest. His masters are very pleased with his progress in English. And he wants more pocket-money. He says that fourpence a week doesn't give him enough scope.
PAMELA (smiling). But he really is all right?
GERALD. Well, I've got to go up on Thursday to see his House Master—I mean I've got to go up to town on Thursday.
PAMELA (drawing back). Thursday? That was our day, Gerald.
GERALD. Yes, I know; it's a confounded nuisance.
PAMELA (slowly). Yes, it is rather a—nuisance.
GERALD. I'm awfully sorry, darling. I hate it just as much as you do.
PAMELA. I wonder if you do.
GERALD (shaking his head at her). Oh, woman, woman! And you asked me to be kind to Bob.
PAMELA. It is for Bob? He really does want you?
GERALD. He thinks I can help him if I go up on Thursday. (Smiling) We aren't going to quarrel about that.
PAMELA (holding out her hand to him). Come along. Of course we aren't going to quarrel—I don't think I could quarrel with you for more than five minutes. Only—you make me wonder sometimes.
GERALD (getting up and taking her arm). What do you wonder about?
[They go out into the garden together.]
[It is a quiet old-fashioned hotel which SIR JAMES and LADY FARRINGDON patronize in Dover Street on their occasional visits to London. Their private sitting-room is furnished in heavy early Victorian style. A couple of gloomy palms help to decorate the room, on whose walls are engravings of Landseer's masterpieces.]
[MASON, a faithful kindly body, once nurse, now familiar servant, is at the table arranging flowers, in a gallant attempt to make the room more cheerful. As she fills each vase she takes it to its place, steps back to consider the effect, and returns to fill the next one. GERALD, in London clothes as attractive as ever, but looking none rather serious, discovers her at work.]
GERALD. Hullo, Nanny, when did you come?
MASON. This morning, sir. Her ladyship telegraphed for me.
GERALD (smiling affectionately at her). Whenever there's any trouble about, we send for Nanny. I wonder she ever came to London without you.
MASON. I told her I'd better come, but she wouldn't listen to me. Dear, dear! there is trouble about now Master Gerald.
MASON. I thought a few flowers would cheer us up. I said to Mr. Underhill before I started, "Give me some flowers to take with me," I said, "so that I can make the place look more homey and comfortable for her ladyship."
GERALD. And you have. No one like Nanny for that.
MASON (timidly). Is there any news of Master Bob this morning? Of course, we've all been reading about it in the papers. They're not going to send him to prison?
GERALD. I'm afraid they are.
MASON. Dear, dear! (She goes on arranging the flowers.) He's not in prison now?
GERALD. No; he's on bail for the moment. Perhaps he'll be round here for lunch. But I'm afraid that to-night—
MASON. Even as a baby he was never quite like you, Master Gerald. Never was there such a little lamb as you. How long will they send him to prison for?
GERALD. We don't know yet; I expect we shall know this evening. But there's no doubt which way the case is going.
MASON. Two of the men were making their bets about it over the supper-table last night. I didn't wait long before giving them a piece of my mind, I can promise you.
GERALD (turning round sharply). Who were they? Out they go to-morrow.
MASON. That wouldn't be quite fair, would it, sir? They're young and thoughtless like.
GERALD (to himself rather than to her). After all, it's only what everybody else has been doing.
MASON. It wouldn't be anything very bad that Master Bob has done?
GERALD (emphatically). No, Nanny. No. Nothing bad; only—stupid.
MASON. I didn't know they put you in prison for being stupid. Some of us have been lucky.
GERALD. They can put you in prison for everything Nanny—being stupid or being wise, being bad or being good, being poor or—yes, or being rich.
MASON (putting her last touches to the flowers). There! Now it looks much more like what her ladyship's used to. If you aren't sent to prison for being bad, it doesn't seem to matter so much.
GERALD. Well—it isn't nice, you know.
MASON. There's lots of things that aren't nice in the world. They haven't come your way yet, and I only hope they never will.
GERALD. I wish they hadn't come Bob's way.
MASON. Ah, Master Bob was born to meet them. Well, I'll go up to her ladyship now.
GERALD. Oh, are they back?
MASON. Sir James and her ladyship came back from the police-station—
GERALD. The Old Bailey, Nanny.
MASON. They came back about ten minutes ago, Master Gerald. And went up to their rooms.
GERALD. Tell mother I'm here, will you?
MASON. Yes, Sir.
(She goes out and comes back almost at once with PAMELA.)
MASON. Here's Miss Pamela. (To PAMELA) I was just saying that her ladyship will be down directly.
GERALD (smiling). Not too directly now, Nanny.
MASON. No, Master Gerald. [Exit.]
GERALD. Pamela! Have you just come up?
PAMELA. Mother and I are staying with Aunt Judith. Oh, Gerald! Poor, poor Bob!
GERALD. Have you seen him?
PAMELA. He came down to us last week, and he has been writing the most heart-rending letters.
GERALD. You're a dear to be so good to him.
PAMELA. How can one help it? Oh, Gerald, he has been stupid! How he could have gone on as he did, hating it all, understanding nothing, but feeling all the time that things were wrong, and yet too proud or too obstinate to ask for help—hadn't you any idea, any of you?
GERALD (awkwardly). You never could get him to talk about the City at all. If you asked him, he changed the subject.
PAMELA (reproachfully). Ah! but how did you ask him? Lightly? Jokingly? "Hullo, Rothschild, how's the City getting on?" That sort of way. You didn't really mind.
GERALD (smiling). Well, if it comes to that, he didn't much mind how I was getting on at the Foreign Office. He never even said, "Hullo, Grey, how are Balkans?"
PAMELA. You had plenty of people to say that; Bob was different. I think I was the first person he really talked to about himself. That was before I met you. I begged him then to get out of it—little knowing. I wonder if it would have made any difference if you had gone up with him on—Oh, well, it doesn't matter now.
GERALD (defensively). What were you going to say?
PAMELA. Nothing. (Looking at him thoughtfully) Poor Gerald! it's been bad for you too.
GERALD. You're not making it better by suggesting that I've let Bob down in some way—I don't quite know how.
PAMELA (in distress). Oh, Gerald, don't be angry with me—I don't want to hurt you. But I can only think of Bob now. You're so—you want so little; Bob wants so much. Why doesn't he come? I sent a note round to his rooms to say that I'd be here. Doesn't he have lunch here? Oh, Gerald, suppose the case is over, and they've taken him to prison, and I've never said good-bye to him. He said it wouldn't be over till this evening, but how would he know? Oh, I can't bear it if they've taken him away, and his only friend never said good-bye to him.
GERALD. Pamela, Pamela, don't be so silly. It's all right, dear; of course I'm not angry with you. And of course Bob will be here. I rang up Wentworth an hour ago, and he said the case can't end till this evening.
PAMELA (recovering). Sorry, Gerald, I'm being rather a fool.
GERALD (taking her hands). You're being—(There is a knock at the door, and he turns round impatiently) Oh, what is it?
MASON (handing note). There's a telephone message been waiting for you, sir. And her ladyship will be down directly.
GERALD. Thank you, Nanny. [Exit MASON.] (To PAMELA) May I? (He reads it) Oh, I say, this is rather—this is from Wentworth. He's taken Bob round to lunch with him.
PAMELA (going towards the door). I must go, Gerald. Mr. Wentworth won't mind.
GERALD (stopping her). Look here, dear, it's going to be quite all right. Wentworth rang up from his rooms; they're probably halfway through lunch by now, and they'll be round in ten minutes.
PAMELA. Supposing he doesn't come? Supposing he didn't get my note? It may be waiting for him in his rooms now.
GERALD. All right, then, darling, I'll ring him up.
PAMELA (determined). No. I'll do it. Yes, Gerald, I know how to manage him. It isn't only that I must see him myself, but if—(bravely) if the case is to be over this evening, and if what we fear is going to happen, he must—oh, he must say good-bye to his mother too.
GERALD. Well, if that's all, I'll tell him.
PAMELA. He mightn't come for you. He will for me; No, Gerald; I mean it. None of you understand him. I do.
GERALD. But supposing he's already started and you miss him?
PAMELA. I'll telephone to him at his rooms. Oh, don't stand there talking—
GERALD (opening the door for her). Oh, well! But I think you're—[She has gone.]
(He walks up and down the room absently, picking up papers and putting them down. MASON comes in and arranges the sofa R.)
MASON. Miss Pamela gone, Master Gerald?
GERALD. She's coming back.
[Enter LADY FARRINGDON.]
LADY FARRINGDON. Oh, Gerald, I hoped you'd be here.
GERALD (kissing her). I've only just got away. I couldn't get round to the court. (Seeing her to the sofa) You're all right, dear? [Exit MASON.]
LADY FARRINGDON. Now you're here, Gerald. I telegraphed for Mason. She's such a comfort. How nicely she's done the flowers! (She sits down on the sofa.)
GERALD. I'm so glad you sent for her.
LADY FARRINGDON. I don't think your father—
[Enter SIR JAMES.]
SIR JAMES. Ah, Gerald, I had to take your mother out. She was—ah—overcome. They have adjourned, I suppose?
GERALD. Yes. The judge is summing up directly after lunch. Bob will be round here when he's had something to eat.
SIR JAMES (looking at his watch). Well, I suppose we ought to try and eat something.
LADY FARRINGDON. I couldn't touch anything.
GERALD (going over to her). Poor mother!
LADY FARRINGDON. Oh, Gerald, couldn't you do anything? I'm sure if you'd gone into the witness-box, or told the judge—Oh, why didn't you go to the Bar, and then you could have defended him. You would have been so much better than that stupid man.