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The Big Drum - A Comedy in Four Acts
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The Big Drum

THE PLAYS OF ARTHUR W. PINERO

Paper cover, 1s. 6d.; cloth, 2s. 6d. each

THE TIMES THE PROFLIGATE THE CABINET MINISTER THE HOBBY-HORSE[1] LADY BOUNTIFUL THE MAGISTRATE DANDY DICK SWEET LAVENDER THE SCHOOLMISTRESS THE WEAKER SEX THE AMAZONS[1] THE SECOND MRS. TANQUERAY[1] THE NOTORIOUS MRS. EBBSMITH THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT[1] THE PRINCESS AND THE BUTTERFLY TRELAWNY OF THE "WELLS" THE GAY LORD QUEX[2] IRIS LETTY A WIFE WITHOUT A SMILE HIS HOUSE IN ORDER[1] THE THUNDERBOLT MID-CHANNEL THE "MIND THE PAINT" GIRL

THE PINERO BIRTHDAY BOOK

SELECTED AND ARRANGED BY MYRA HAMILTON With a Portrait, cloth extra, price 2s. 6d.

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN

[1] This Play can be had in library form, 4to, cloth, with a portrait, 5s.

[2] A Limited Edition of this play on hand-made paper, with a new portrait, 10s, net.



The Big Drum



A COMEDY

In Four Acts



By

ARTHUR PINERO



"The desire of fame betrays an ambitious man into indecencies that lessen his reputation; he is still afraid lest any of his actions should be thrown away in private."

ADDISON



LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN MCMXV

Copyright 1915, by Arthur Pinero

This play was Produced in London, at the St. James's Theatre, on Wednesday, September 1, 1915



PREFACE

The Big Drum is published exactly as it was written, and as it was originally performed. At its first representation, however, the audience was reported to have been saddened by its "unhappy ending." Pressure was forthwith put upon me to reconcile Philip and Ottoline at the finish, and at the third performance of the play the curtain fell upon the picture, violently and crudely brought about, of Ottoline in Philip's arms.

I made the alteration against my principles and against my conscience, and yet not altogether unwillingly. For we live in depressing times; and perhaps in such times it is the first duty of a writer for the stage to make concessions to his audiences and, above everything, to try to afford them a complete, if brief, distraction from the gloom which awaits them outside the theatre.

My excuse for having at the start provided an "unhappy" ending is that I was blind enough not to regard the ultimate break between Philip and Ottoline as really unhappy for either party. On the contrary, I looked upon the separation of these two people as a fortunate occurrence for both; and I conceived it as a piece of ironic comedy which might not prove unentertaining that the falling away of Philip from his high resolves was checked by the woman he had once despised and who had at last grown to know and to despise herself.

But comedy of this order has a knack of cutting rather deeply, of ceasing, in some minds, to be comedy at all; and it may be said that this is what has happened in the present instance. Luckily it is equally true that certain matters are less painful, because less actual, in print than upon the stage. The "wicked publisher," therefore, even when bombs are dropping round him, can afford to be more independent than the theatrical manager; and for this reason I have not hesitated to ask my friend Mr. Heinemann to publish THE BIG DRUM in its original form.

ARTHUR PINERO

LONDON, September 1915



THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY

PHILIP MACKWORTH SIR RANDLE FILSON, KNT. BERTRAM FILSON (his son) SIR TIMOTHY BARRADELL, BART. ROBERT ROOPE COLLINGHAM GREEN LEONARD WESTRIP (Sir Randle's secretary) ALFRED DUNNING (of Sillitoe and Dunning's Private Detective Agency) NOYES (Mr. Roope's servant) UNDERWOOD (servant at Sir Randle's) JOHN (Mr. Mackworth's servant) A WAITER

OTTOLINE DE CHAUMIE, COMTESSE DE CHAUMIE, nee FILSON LADY FILSON HON. MRS. GODFREY ANSLOW MRS. WALTER QUEBEC MISS TRACER (Lady Filson's secretary)

PERIOD—1913



ACT I.

ROBERT ROOPE'S FLAT IN SOUTH AUDLEY STREET. JUNE.

ACT II.

MORNING-ROOM AT SIR RANDLE FILSON'S, ENNISMORE GARDENS. THE NEXT DAY.

ACT III.

MACKWORTH'S CHAMBERS, GRAY'S INN. NOVEMBER.

ACT IV.

THE SAME PLACE. THE FOLLOWING MORNING.

The curtain falls for a moment in the course of the First and Third Acts.



THE BIG DRUM



THE FIRST ACT

The scene is a room, elegantly decorated, in a flat in South Audley Street. On the right, two windows give a view, through muslin curtains, of the opposite houses. In the wall facing the spectator are two doors, one on the right, the other on the left. The left-hand door opens into the room from a dimly-lighted corridor, the door on the right from the dining-room. Between the doors there is a handsome fireplace. No fire is burning and the grate is banked with flowers. When the dining-room door is opened, a sideboard and a side-table are seen in the further room, upon which are dishes of fruit, an array of ice-plates and finger-bowls, liqueurs in decanters, glasses, silver, etc.

The pictures, the ornaments upon the mantelpiece, and the articles of furniture are few but choice. A high-backed settee stands on the right of the fireplace; near the settee is a fauteuil-stool; facing the settee is a Charles II arm-chair. On the left of the room there is a small table with a chair beside it; on the right, not far from the nearer window, are a writing-table and writing-chair. Pieces of bric-a-brac lie upon the tables, where there are also some graceful statuettes in ivory and bronze. Another high-backed settee fills the space between the windows, and in each window there is an arm-chair of the same period as the one at the fireplace.

The street is full of sunlight.

(Note: Throughout, "right" and "left" are the spectators' right and left, not the actor's.)

[ROBERT ROOPE, seated at the writing-table, is sealing a letter. NOYES enters at the door on the left, followed by PHILIP MACKWORTH.

NOYES.

[Announcing PHILIP.] Mr. Mackworth.

ROOPE.

[A simple-looking gentleman of fifty, scrupulously attired—jumping up and shaking hands warmly with PHILIP as the servant withdraws.] My dear Phil!

PHILIP.

[A negligently—almost shabbily—dressed man in his late thirties, with a handsome but worn face.] My dear Robbie!

ROOPE.

A triumph, to have dragged you out! [Looking at his watch.] Luncheon isn't till a quarter-to-two. I asked you for half-past-one because I want to have a quiet little jaw with you beforehand.

PHILIP.

Delightful.

ROOPE.

Er—I'd better tell you at once, old chap, whom you'll meet here to-day.

PHILIP.

Aha! Your tone presages a most distinguished guest. [Seating himself in the chair by the small table.] Is she a grande-duchesse, or is he a crowned head?

ROOPE.

[Smiling rather uneasily.] Wait. I work up to my great effect by degrees. We shall only be six. Collingham Green——

PHILIP.

[In disgust.] Oh, lord!

ROOPE.

Now, Phil, don't be naughty.

PHILIP.

The fellow who does the Society gossip for the Planet!

ROOPE.

And does it remarkably neatly, in my opinion.

PHILIP.

Pouah! [Leaning back in his chair, his legs outstretched, and spouting.] "Mrs. Trevelyan Potter, wearing a gown of yellow charmeuse exquisitely draped with chiffon, gave a dance for her niece Miss Hermione Stubbs at the Ritz Hotel last night." That sort o' stuff!

ROOPE.

[Pained.] Somebody has to supply it.

PHILIP.

"Pretty Mrs. Claud Grymes came on from the opera in her pearls, and Lady Beakly looked younger than her daughter in blue."

ROOPE.

[Ruefully.] You don't grow a bit more reasonable, Phil; not a bit.

PHILIP.

I beg pardon. Go ahead.

ROOPE.

[Sitting on the fauteuil-stool.] Mrs. Godfrey Anslow and Mrs. Wally Quebec. Abuse them.

PHILIP.

Bless their innocent hearts! They'll be glad to meet Mr. Green.

ROOPE.

I trust so.

PHILIP.

[Scowling.] A couple of pushing, advertising women.

ROOPE.

Really——!

PHILIP.

Ha, ha! Sorry. That's five, with you and me.

ROOPE.

That's five, as you justly observe. [Clearing his throat.] H'm! H'm!

PHILIP.

The sixth? I prepare myself for your great effect.

ROOPE.

[With an effort.] Er—Madame de Chaumie is in London, Phil.

PHILIP.

[Sitting upright.] Madame de Chaumie! [Disturbed.] Is she coming?

ROOPE.

Y-y-yes.

PHILIP.

[Rising.] Confound you, Robbie——!

ROOPE.

[Hastily.] She has got rid of her house in Paris and rejoined her people. She's with them in Ennismore Gardens.

PHILIP.

Thank you, I'm aware of it. One reads of Ottoline's movements in every rag one picks up. [Walking over to the right.] She's the biggest chasseuse of the crowd.

ROOPE.

I assure you she appears very much altered.

PHILIP.

What, can the leopard change his spots!

ROOPE.

Her family may still bang the big drum occasionally, and give it an extra whack on her account; but Ottoline herself——

PHILIP.

Faugh! [Returning to ROOPE.] Why the devil have you done this?

ROOPE.

[Feebly.] I confess, in the hope of bringing about a reconciliation.

PHILIP.

You—you good-natured old meddler. [Quickly.] Does she expect to find me here?

ROOPE.

No.

PHILIP.

[Making for the door on the left.] I'll bolt, then.

ROOPE.

[Rising and seizing him.] You shall do nothing of the kind. [Forcing him down upon the fauteuil-stool.] You'll upset my luncheon-table! [Tidying himself.] You're most inconsiderate; you are positively. And you've disarranged my necktie.

PHILIP.

[In a low voice.] How is she looking, Robbie?

ROOPE.

Brilliant. [Putting his necktie in order.] Is that straight? Brilliant.

PHILIP.

[Gazing into space.] Ten years ago, old man!

ROOPE.

Quite.

PHILIP.

It was at her father and mother's, in Paris, that I made your acquaintance. Recollect?

ROOPE.

Perfectly; in the Avenue Montaigne. I had a flat in the Palais-Royal at the time.

PHILIP.

[Scornfully.] You were one of the smart set. It was worth their while to get hold of you.

ROOPE.

My dear Phil, do be moderately fair. You weren't in the smart set.

PHILIP.

No; I was trying my hand at journalism in those days. Dreadful trade! I was Paris correspondent to the Whitehall Gazette. That's why I was favoured. [Abruptly.] Robbie——

ROOPE.

Hey?

PHILIP.

You'll scarcely credit it. One evening, while I was at work, Ottoline turned up with her maid at my lodgings in the Rue Soufflot, sent the maid out of the room, and proposed that I should "mention" her family in my letters to the Whitehall.

ROOPE.

Mention them?

PHILIP.

Drag in allusions to 'em constantly—their entertainments and so forth; boom them, in fact.

ROOPE.

Was that the cause of the—the final——?

PHILIP.

[Nodding.] Yes. The following week her engagement to de Chaumie was announced.

ROOPE.

[After a slight pause.] Well, in spite of all this, I'm convinced she was genuinely attached to you, Phil—as fond of you as you were of her.

PHILIP.

[Resting his head on his hands.] Oh, shut up!

ROOPE.

Anyhow, here's an opportunity of testing it, dear excellent friend. She's been a widow twelve months; you need have no delicacy on that score.

PHILIP.

[Looking up.] Why, do you suggest——?

ROOPE.

Certainly; and without delay. I hear there's a shoal of men after her, including Tim Barradell.

PHILIP.

[With a grim smile.] "Bacon" Barradell?

ROOPE.

[Assentingly.] They say Sir Timothy's in constant attendance.

PHILIP.

And what chance, do you imagine, would a poor literary cove stand against a real live baronet—and the largest bacon-curer in Ireland?

ROOPE.

[Rubbing his chin.] You never know. Women are romantic creatures. She might prefer the author of those absorbing works of fiction whose pages often wrap up Tim Barradell's rashers.

PHILIP.

[Rising.] Ha, ha, ha! [Giving himself a shake.] Even so it can't be done, Robbie; though I'm grateful to you for your amiable little plot. [Walking about.] Heavens above, if Ottoline married me, she'd be puffing my wares on the sly before the honeymoon was half over!

ROOPE.

And a jolly good job too. [Moving to the left, peevishly.] The truth is, my dear Phil, you're a crank—an absolute crank—on the subject of the—ah—the natural desire of some people to keep themselves in the public eye. Mercy on us, if it comes to that, I'm an advertiser!

PHILIP.

If it comes to that, you miserable old sinner, you are.

ROOPE.

I admit it, frankly. I own it gratifies me exceedingly to see my little dinner-parties and tea-parties, here or at my club, chronicled in the press. And it gratifies my friends also. Many of them wouldn't honour me at all if my list of guests wasn't in the fashionable intelligence next morning.

PHILIP.

Oh——!

ROOPE.

Yes, you may roar. I declare I shudder to think of the difference it 'ud make to me socially if I didn't advertise.

PHILIP.

Robbie, I blush for you.

ROOPE.

Tosh! It's an advertising age.

PHILIP.

[Stalking to the fireplace.] It's a beastly vulgar age.

ROOPE.

It's the age I happen to live in, and I accommodate myself to it. [Pacing the room as he warms to his theme.] And if it's necessary for a private individual such as myself to advertise, as I maintain it is, how much more necessary is it for you to do so—a novelist, a poet, a would-be playwright, a man with something to sell! Dash it, they've got to advertise soap, and soap's essential! Why not literature, which isn't? And yet you won't find the name of Mr. Philip Mackworth in the papers from one year's end to another, except in a scrubby criticism now and again.

PHILIP.

[Calmly.] Excuse me, there are the publisher's announcements.

ROOPE.

Publishers' announcements! I'm not speaking of the regular advertising columns. What I want to see are paragraphs concerning you mixed up with the news of the day, information about you and your habits, interviews with you, letters from you on every conceivable topic——

PHILIP.

[Grinning.] Do you!

ROOPE.

[Joining PHILIP.] Oh, my dear Phil, I entreat you, feed the papers! It isn't as if you hadn't talent; you have. Advertising minus talent goes a long way; advertising plus talent is irresistible. Feed the papers. The more you do for them, the more they'll do for you. Quid pro quo. To the advertiser shall advertisement be given. Newspaper men are the nicest chaps in the world. Feed them gratis with bright and amusin' "copy," as you term it, and they'll love and protect you for ever.

PHILIP.

Not for ever, Robbie. Whom the press loves die young.

ROOPE.

It's fickle, you mean—some day it'll turn and rend you? Perhaps. Still, if you make hay while the sun shines——

PHILIP.

The sun! You don't call that the sun! [Disdainfully.] P'ssh!

ROOPE.

[Leaving him.] Oh, I've no patience with you! [Spluttering.] Upon my word, your hatred of publicity is—is—is—is morbid. It's worse than morbid—it's Victorian. [Sitting in the chair by the small table.] There! I can't say anything severer.

PHILIP.

[Advancing.] Yes, but wait a moment, Robbie. Who says I have a hatred of publicity? I haven't said anything so absurd. Don't I write for the public?

ROOPE.

Exactly!

PHILIP.

[Standing near ROOPE.] I have no dislike for publicity—for fame. By George, sir, I covet it, if I can win it honestly and decently!

ROOPE.

[Shrugging his shoulders.] Ah——!

PHILIP.

And I humble myself before the men and women of my craft—and they are many—who succeed in winning it in that fashion, or who are content to remain obscure. But for the rest—the hustlers of the pen, the seekers after mere blatant applause, the pickers-up of cheap popularity—I've a profound contempt for them and their methods.

ROOPE.

You can't deny the ability of some of 'em.

PHILIP.

Deny it! Of course I don't deny it. But no amount of ability, of genius if you will, absolves the follower of any art from the obligation of conducting himself as a modest gentleman——

ROOPE.

Ah, there's where you're so hopelessly Victorian and out o' date!

PHILIP.

Well, that's my creed; and, whether I've talent or not, I'd rather snuff out, when my time comes, neglected and a pauper than go back on it. [Walking away and pacing the room.] Oh, but I'm not discouraged, my dear Robbie—not a scrap! I'm not discouraged, though you do regard me as a dismal failure.

ROOPE.

[Deprecatingly.] No, no!

PHILIP.

I shall collar the great public yet. You mark me, I shall collar 'em yet, and without stooping to the tricks and devices you advocate! [Returning to ROOPE.] Robbie——

ROOPE.

[Rising.] Hey?

PHILIP.

[Laying his hands on ROOPE's shoulders.] If my next book—my autumn book—isn't a mighty go, I—I'll eat my hat.

ROOPE.

[Sadly.] Dear excellent friend, perhaps you'll be obliged to, for nourishment.

PHILIP.

Ha, ha, ha! [Taking ROOPE's arm.] Oddly enough—oddly enough, the story deals with the very subject we've been discussing.

ROOPE.

[Without enthusiasm.] Indeed?

PHILIP.

Yes. You hit on the title a few minutes ago.

ROOPE.

Really?

PHILIP.

When you were talking of Ottoline and her people. [Dropping his voice.] "The Big Drum."

ROOPE.

[Thoughtfully.] C-c-capital!

PHILIP.

Titterton, my new publisher, is tremendously taken with the scheme of the thing—keen as mustard about it.

ROOPE.

Er—pardon me, Phil——

PHILIP.

Eh?

ROOPE.

[Fingering the lapel of PHILIP's coat.] I say, old man, you wouldn't be guilty of the deplorably bad taste of putting me into it, would you?

PHILIP.

[Slapping him on the back.] Ha, ha! My dear Robbie, half the polite world is in it. Don't tell me you wish to be left out in the cold!

ROOPE.

[Thoroughly alarmed.] Dear excellent friend——!

[NOYES enters again at the door on the left, preceding COLLINGHAM GREEN.

NOYES.

[Announcing GREEN, and then retiring.] Mr. Collingham Green.

GREEN.

[A gaily-dressed, genial soul, with a flower in his button-hole, a monocle, a waxed moustache, and a skilful arrangement of a sparse head of hair—shaking hands with ROOPE.] How are you, my deah fellow?

ROOPE.

My dear Colly, delighted to see you.

GREEN.

An awful scramble to get heah. I was afraid I shouldn't be able to manage it.

ROOPE.

You'd have broken our hearts if you hadn't. You know Mackworth?

GREEN.

And his charming works. [Shaking hands with PHILIP.] Haven't met you for evah so long.

PHILIP.

How d'ye do?

GREEN.

Ouf! I must sit down. [Sitting on the fauteuil-stool and taking off a pair of delicately tinted gloves.] The Season is killing me. I'm shaw I sha'n't last till Goodwood, Robbie.

ROOPE.

Yes, it's a shockin' rush, isn't it!

GREEN.

Haw! You only fancy you're rushed. Your life is a rest-cure compared with mine. You've no conception, either of you, what my days are just now.

PHILIP.

[Finding himself addressed.] Exhausting, no doubt.

GREEN.

Take to-day, for example. I was in my bath at half-past-seven——

ROOPE.

Half-past-seven!

GREEN.

Though I wasn't in bed till two this morning. At eight I had a cup of coffee and a piece of dry toast, and skimmed the papers. From eight-thirty till ten I dictated a special article on our modern English hostesses—"The Hostesses of England: Is Hospitality Declining?", a question I answer in the negative——

ROOPE.

[In a murmur.] Quite right.

GREEN.

At ten o'clock, a man from Clapp and Beazley's with some patterns of socks and underwear. Disposed of him, dressed, and by a quarter-to-eleven I was in the Park. Strolled up and down with Lady Ventnor and Sir Hill Birch and saw everybody there was to be seen. I nevah make a single note; my memory's marvellous. Left the Park at twelve and took a taxi to inquire after Lord Harrogate, Charlie Sievewright, and old Lady Dorcas Newnham. I'm not boring you?

ROOPE.

Boring us!

GREEN.

Lady Dorcas caught sight of me from her window and hailed me in. I sat with her for twenty minutes—"Greenie" she always calls me—[mimicking] "Now, Greenie, what's the noos?" Haw, haw, haw! I walked away from Lady Dorcas's, and was in Upper Grosvenor Street punctually at one. [To ROOPE.] There's been a meeting at the Baroness Van der Meer's to-day, you know, over this fete at the Albert Hall.

ROOPE.

Ah, yes; I'm to be in Lady Freddy Hoyle's Plantagenet group. I'm a knight in attendance on King John.

GREEN.

I had a short private chat with the Baroness, and followed her into the drawing-room. They were still at it when I sneaked out at a side door, and heah I am.

ROOPE.

Extraordinary! Hey, Phil?

PHILIP.

[Leaning against the chair by the writing-table, dryly.] Most interesting.

GREEN.

[To PHILIP, rising.] I lunch with Roope—[to ROOPE] you'll have to let me off at three, Robbie—and then my grind begins again.

ROOPE.

[Throwing up his hands in admiration.] Oh!

GREEN.

Horse Show, two musical parties—Lady Godalming's and Mrs. Reggie Mosenstein's; then home and more dictation to my secretary. Dine with Sir Patrick and Lady Logan at the Carlton, and then to the Opera with my spy-glass. From Covent Garden I dash down to Fleet Street, write my late stuff, and my day's done—unless I've strength left for Lady Ronaldshaw's dance and a crush at Mrs. Hume-Cutler's.

ROOPE.

[Repeating his former action.] Oh! Oh!

[NOYES reappears.

NOYES.

Mrs. Walter Quebec.

[MRS. WALTER QUEBEC enters and NOYES withdraws.

ROOPE.

[Taking MRS. QUEBEC's hand.] My dear Mrs. Wally, how are you?

MRS. QUEBEC.

[A bright, energetic, fairly young lady.] How'r you, Robbie? Walter is so grieved; he's lunching at the Auto with Tony Baxter. He did try to wriggle out of it—[Discovering GREEN and going to him with her hand extended.] Oh, I am glad! You're just the man I'm dying to see.

GREEN.

[Kissing her hand.] Haw——!

MRS. QUEBEC.

Lady Skewes and I are getting up a concert in aid of the poor sufferers from the earthquake in—what's the name of the place?—I forget—Lady Skewes knows it—and we want you to say a lot about us in your darling paper. Only distinguished amateurs; that's where the novelty comes in. Lady Skewes is going to play the violin, if she can pull herself together—she hasn't played for centuries—[seeing PHILIP, advancing, and shaking hands with him casually] how d'ye do?—[to GREEN] and I've promised to sing.

GREEN.

Splendid.

ROOPE.

But how captivating!

MRS. QUEBEC.

[To GREEN.] I've sung so seldom since my marriage, and they've had such a difficulty to lure me out of my tiny wee shell. Would you mind dwelling on that a little?

GREEN.

Of course not; anything I can do, deah lady——

MRS. QUEBEC.

That's too utterly sweet of you. You shall have full particulars to-morrow. I wouldn't bother you, but it's charity, isn't it? Oh, and there's something else I want you to be kind over——!

[NOYES returns.

NOYES.

Mrs. Godfrey Anslow.

[The HON. MRS. GODFREY ANSLOW enters and NOYES goes out again.

MRS. ANSLOW.

[A tall, languishing woman with a toneless drawl—to ROOPE.] Am I late?

ROOPE.

[Pressing her hand.] Not a second, my very dear friend.

MRS. ANSLOW.

Can't help it if I am. My car got smashed up last week in Roehampton Lane, and the motor people have lent me the original ark, on wheels. [MRS. QUEBEC comes to her.] Hullo, Esme!

MRS. QUEBEC.

[Shaking hands.] How'r you, Millicent?

MRS. ANSLOW.

[Going to GREEN and giving him her hand.] Oh, and here's that horrid Mr. Green!

GREEN.

My deah Mrs. Anslow!

MRS. QUEBEC.

Horrid! What's he done? [Sitting in the chair by the small table.] I consider him a white-robed angel.

MRS. ANSLOW.

I sent him a long account of my accident at Roehampton and he hasn't condescended to take the slightest notice of it.

MRS. QUEBEC.

Oh, Mr. Green!

MRS. ANSLOW.

[To GREEN.] It's cruel of you.

GREEN.

[To MRS. ANSLOW, twiddling his moustache.] Alack and alas, deah lady, motor collisions are not quite in my line!

MRS. ANSLOW.

You might have passed it on to the accident man. Or you could have said that I'm to be seen riding in the Row evidently none the worse for my recent shock. That's in your line.

GREEN.

Haw! I might have done that, certainly. [Tapping his brow.] Fact is—height of the Season—perfectly distracted——

MRS. ANSLOW.

[With the air of a martyr.] It doesn't matter. I sha'n't trouble you again. I've never been a favourite of yours——

GREEN.

[Appealingly.] Haw! Don't——!

MRS. ANSLOW.

It's true. I was one of the few stall-holders at the Army and Navy Bazaar whose gowns you didn't describe—[Seeing PHILIP and nodding to him hazily.] How d'ye do?

ROOPE.

[Prompting her.] Mr. Mackworth——

[MRS. ANSLOW goes to PHILIP and proffers him a limp hand. GREEN retreats to the fireplace and MRS. QUEBEC rises and pursues him.

MRS. ANSLOW.

[To PHILIP.] I think we met once at my cousins', the Fairfields'.

PHILIP.

[Bowing.] Yes.

MRS. ANSLOW.

You write, don't you?

PHILIP.

[Evasively.] Oh——!

ROOPE.

[Joining them.] My dear Mrs. Anslow, Mr. Mackworth is one of the most gifted authors of the present day.

PHILIP.

[Glaring at ROOPE.] Tsssh!

ROOPE.

[To MRS. ANSLOW.] Get his books from your library instantly. I envy you the treat in store for you——

[NOYES again appears.

NOYES.

Madame de Chaumie.

[OTTOLINE DE CHAUMIE enters—a beautiful, pale, elegant young woman of three-and-thirty, with a slightly foreign air and perfect refinement of manner. NOYES retires. Everybody is manifestly pleased to see OTTOLINE, except PHILIP who picks up a little figure from the writing-table and examines it critically.

ROOPE.

[Hurrying to her and taking her hand.] Ah——!

OTTOLINE.

Robbie dear!

MRS. QUEBEC.

[Going to OTTOLINE.] Oh! [They embrace.] This is lovely!

OTTOLINE.

[To MRS. ANSLOW, who comes to her.] Millicent——! [To GREEN, who bustles forward and kisses her hand.] How do you do?

MRS. QUEBEC.

[To OTTOLINE.] You didn't stay long at the Railtons' last night, Ottoline.

OTTOLINE.

I had a headache—mother was so vexed with me——

MRS. ANSLOW.

Headache or not, you looked divine.

MRS. QUEBEC.

A vision!

GREEN.

[To OTTOLINE.] Haw! I hope you saw the remarks about you in this morning's papah, deah lady.

OTTOLINE.

[To GREEN.] For shame, Mr. Green! Have you been flattering me again?

GREEN.

Haw, haw, haw, haw——!

ROOPE.

[Standing near PHILIP.] Madame de Chaumie——

OTTOLINE.

[Advancing.] Yes?

ROOPE.

Here's an old friend of ours whom you haven't met for years—Mackworth.

[She starts and then waits, rooted, for PHILIP's approach. He replaces the figure carefully and comes to her, and their hands touch. ROOPE leaves them and engages the others in conversation.

OTTOLINE.

[To PHILIP, in a low voice, her eyes sparkling.] I had no idea I was to have this pleasure.

PHILIP.

[Gently, but without exceeding the bounds of mere courtesy.] Robbie excels in surprises; he has been almost equally reserved with me. Are you very well?

OTTOLINE.

Very. And you?

PHILIP.

Very. And Sir Randle and Lady Filson?

OTTOLINE.

Quite well—and my brother Bertram. [Chilled.] Perhaps you've heard that I am making my home with them now in London, permanently—that I've left Paris?

PHILIP.

Robbie—and the newspapers—have told me. It's late in the day to do it—may I offer you my sympathy?

OTTOLINE.

[With a stately inclination of the head.] Thank you. And I my congratulations on your success?

PHILIP.

[Quietly.] Success!

OTTOLINE.

[Comprehending.] Ah? Le public est si bete. I've read every line you've written, I believe. [He bows.] I—I have felt proud to think that we were once—that we were once—not des inconnus.

[He bows again, and there is silence between them. The dining-room door opens and NOYES presents himself. A waiter is seen in the dining-room, standing at the side table.

NOYES.

[To ROOPE.] Lunch is served, sir.

ROOPE.

[To everybody.] Come along! Come along, dear excellent friends! [OTTOLINE smiles graciously at PHILIP and turns from him.] Lead the way, dear Mrs. Anslow. Madame de Chaumie! [MRS. ANSLOW slips her arm through OTTOLINE.] You both sit opposite the fireplace. Dear Mrs. Wally! Come along, my dear Phil! [Putting an arm round GREEN's shoulder.] Colly——!

[They all move into the dining-room, and the curtain falls. It rises again almost immediately. A chair, withdrawn from the further window, is now beside the fauteuil-stool, on its right; and the chair which was close to the small table has been pulled out into the room, and faces the fauteuil-stool at some little distance from it. The doors are closed. MRS. ANSLOW and MRS. QUEBEC are taking their departure. The former is saying good-bye to OTTOLINE, who is standing before the fireplace; the latter is talking to ROOPE near the door on the left. On the right is PHILIP, ready to receive his share of the adieux.

MRS. ANSLOW.

[Shaking hands with OTTOLINE.] Good-bye. You might come on to Olympia; my sister-in-law's box holds six.

OTTOLINE.

Sorry. I really am full up this afternoon. [MRS. QUEBEC comes to OTTOLINE as MRS. ANSLOW goes to PHILIP. ROOPE opens the door on the left and remains there, waiting to escort the ladies to the outer door.] Can I give you a lift anywhere, Esme?

MRS. QUEBEC.

Thanks; Millicent's taking me along with her to the Horse Show.

MRS. ANSLOW.

[Shaking hands with PHILIP.] Very pleased to meet you again. Ever see anything now of the Fairfields?

PHILIP.

Never.

MRS. ANSLOW.

No loss. I believe dear old Eustace is off his head.

PHILIP.

Possibly.

MRS. ANSLOW.

[Tolerantly.] But then, so many people are off their heads, aren't they?

PHILIP.

A great many.

MRS. ANSLOW.

[Bestowing a parting nod upon PHILIP and crossing to the open door.] Sha'n't wait, Esme. It's a month's journey to Hammersmith in the ark.

MRS. QUEBEC.

[Kissing OTTOLINE.] Good-bye.

MRS. ANSLOW.

[To ROOPE.] Charming lunch. Enjoyed myself enormously.

MRS. QUEBEC.

[Shaking hands with PHILIP hastily.] Good-bye, Mr. Mackworth.

PHILIP.

Good-bye.

[ROOPE and MRS. ANSLOW have disappeared; MRS. QUEBEC follows them. OTTOLINE approaches PHILIP slowly.

OTTOLINE.

[Giving him her hand.] Good-bye.

PHILIP.

[Bending over it formally.] Good-bye.

OTTOLINE.

We—we're in Ennismore Gardens, you know. [He acknowledges the information by a stiff bow. She interests herself in her glove-buttons.] You—you've chosen to drop out of my—out of our lives so completely that I hardly like to ask you to come and see us.

PHILIP.

[Constrainedly.] You are very good; but I—I don't go about much in these days, and I'm afraid——

OTTOLINE.

[Quickly.] Oh, I'm sure you're wise. [Drawing herself erect.] A writer shouldn't give up to society what is meant for mankind, should he?

[She passes him distantly, to leave the room, and he suddenly grips her shoulder.

PHILIP.

Ottoline——!

[By a mutual impulse, they glance swiftly at the open door, and then she throws herself into his arms.

OTTOLINE.

Philip——!

[Just as swiftly, they separate; and a moment afterwards ROOPE returns, rubbing his hands cheerily.

ROOPE.

[Advancing, but not shutting the door.] There! Now we're by ourselves! [To OTTOLINE.] You're not running away?

OTTOLINE.

[Confused.] Oh, I—I——

ROOPE.

It's only half-past-three. Why don't you and Mackworth sit down and have a little talk together? [To PHILIP, who has strolled to the further window and is looking into the street.] You're in no hurry, Phil?

PHILIP.

Not in the least.

ROOPE.

[Crossing to the writing-table.] I'll finish answering my letters; I sha'n't have a moment later on. [Gathering up his correspondence.] You won't disturb me; I'll polish 'em off in another room. [To OTTOLINE.] Are you goin' to Lady Paulton's by-and-by, by any chance?

OTTOLINE.

[Again at the fireplace, her back to ROOPE and PHILIP.] And Mrs. Jack Cathcart's—and Mrs. Le Roy's——

ROOPE.

You shall take me to Lowndes Square, if you will. [Recrossing.] Sha'n't be more than ten minutes. [At the door.] Ten minutes, dear excellent friends. A quarter-of-an-hour at the outside.

[He vanishes, closing the door. There is a pause, and then PHILIP and OTTOLINE turn to one another and he goes to her.

OTTOLINE.

[Her hands in his, breathlessly.] You are glad to see me, then! [Laughing shyly.] Ha, ha! You are glad!

PHILIP.

[Tenderly.] Yes.

OTTOLINE.

You brute, Phil, to make me behave in such an undignified way!

PHILIP.

If there's any question of dignity, what on earth has become of mine? I was the first to break down.

OTTOLINE.

To break down! Why should you try to treat me so freezingly? You can't be angry with me still, after all these years! C'est pas possible!

PHILIP.

It was stupid of me to attempt to hide my feelings. [Pressing her hand to his lips.] But, my dear Otto—my dear girl—where's the use of our coming into each other's lives again?

OTTOLINE.

The use—? Why shouldn't we be again as we were in the old Paris days—[embarrassed] well, not quite, perhaps——?

PHILIP.

[Smiling.] Oh, of course, if you command it, I am ready to buy some smart clothes, and fish for opportunities of meeting you occasionally on a crowded staircase or in a hot supper-room. But—as for anything else——

OTTOLINE.

[Slowly withdrawing her hands and putting them behind her.] As for—anything else——?

PHILIP.

I repeat—cui bono? [Regarding her kindly but penetratingly.] What would be the result of your reviving a friendship with an ill-tempered, intolerant person who would be just as capable to-morrow of turning upon you like a savage——?

OTTOLINE.

Ah, you are still angry with me! [With a change of tone.] As you did that evening, for instance, when I came with Nannette to your shabby little den in the Rue Soufflot——

PHILIP.

Precisely.

OTTOLINE.

[Walking away to the front of the fauteuil-stool.] To beg you to proner my father and mother in the journal you were writing for—what was the name of it?——

PHILIP.

[Following her.] The Whitehall Gazette.

OTTOLINE.

And you were polite enough to tell me that my cravings and ideals were low, pitiful, ignoble!

PHILIP.

[Regretfully.] You remember?

OTTOLINE.

[Facing him.] As clearly as you do, my friend. [Laying her hand upon his arm, melting.] Besides, they were true—those words—hideously true—as were many other sharp ones you shot at me in Paris. [Turning from him.] Low—pitiful—ignoble——!

PHILIP.

Otto——!

[She seats herself in the chair by the fauteuil-stool and motions him to sit by her. He does so.

OTTOLINE.

Yes, they were true; but they are true of me no longer. I am greatly changed, Philip.

PHILIP.

[Eyeing her.] You are more beautiful than ever.

OTTOLINE.

H'sh!—changed in my character, disposition, view of things. Life has gone sadly with me since we parted.

PHILIP.

Indeed? I—I'm grieved.

OTTOLINE.

My marriage was an utter failure. You heard?

PHILIP.

[Shaking his head.] No.

OTTOLINE.

No? [Smiling faintly.] I thought everybody hears when a marriage is a failure. [Mournfully.] The fact remains; it was a terrible mistake. Poor Lucien! I don't blame him for my nine years of unhappiness. I engaged myself to him in a hurry—out of pique——

PHILIP.

Pique?

OTTOLINE.

Within a few hours of that fatal visit of mine to your lodgings. [Looking at him significantly.] It was that that drove me to it.

PHILIP.

[Staring at her.] That——!

OTTOLINE.

[Simply.] Yes, Phil.

PHILIP.

Otto!

OTTOLINE.

[Plucking at the arm of her chair.] You see—you see, notwithstanding the vulgarity of my mind, I had a deep respect for you. Even then there were wholesome signs in me! [Shrugging her shoulders plaintively.] Whether I should have ended by obeying my better instincts, and accepting you, I can't say. I believe I should. I—I believe I should. At any rate, I had already begun to chafe under the consciousness that, while you loved me, you had no esteem for me.

PHILIP.

[Remorsefully.] My dear!

OTTOLINE.

[Raising her head.] That scene between us in the Rue Soufflot set my blood on fire. To have a request refused me was sufficiently mortifying; but to be whipped, scourged, scarified, into the bargain—! I flew down your stairs after I left you, and drove home, scorching with indignation; and next morning I sent for Lucien—a blind adorer!—and promised to be his wife. [Leaning back.] Comprenez-vous, maintenant? Solely to hurt you; to hurt you, the one man among my acquaintances whom I—admired!

[She searches for her handkerchief. He rises and goes to the mantelpiece and stares at the flowers in the grate.

PHILIP.

[Almost inaudibly.] Oh, Otto!

OTTOLINE.

[Wiping a tear from her cheek.] Heigh, dear me! Whenever I go over the past, and that's not seldom, I can't help thinking you might have been a little gentler with me—a girl of three-and-twenty—and have made allowances. [Blowing her nose.] What was Dad before he went out to Buenos Aires with his wife and children; only a junior partner in a small concern in the City! Wasn't it natural that, when he came back to Europe, prosperous but a nobody, he should be eager to elbow himself into a respectable social position, and that his belongings should have caught the fever?

PHILIP.

[Wretchedly.] Yes—yes——

OTTOLINE.

[Rising and wandering to the writing-table.] First we descended upon Paris—you know; but Paris didn't respond very satisfactorily. Plenty of smart men flocked round us—la belle Mademoiselle Filson drew them to the Avenue Montaigne!——

PHILIP.

[Under his breath, turning.] T'scht!

OTTOLINE.

But the women were either hopelessly bourgeoises or slightly declassee. [Inspecting some of the pieces of bric-a-brac upon the table.] Which decided us to attack London—and induced me to pay my call on you in the Rue Soufflot——

PHILIP.

I understand.

OTTOLINE.

To coax you to herald us in your weekly causeries. [Wincing.] Horrible of me, that was; horrible, horrible, horrible! [Replacing an object upon the table and moving to the other side of the room.] However, I wasn't destined to share the earliest of the London triumphs. [Bitterly.] Mine awaited me in Paris, and at Vaudemont-Baudricourt, as the Comtesse de Chaumie! [Shivering.] Ugh-h-h-h——!

[She is about to sit in the chair on the left when he comes to her impulsively and restrains her.

PHILIP.

My poor girl——!

OTTOLINE.

[With abandon.] Ah——!

PHILIP.

My poor dear girl!

OTTOLINE.

It's a relief to me to open my heart to you, Philip. [He leads her to the fauteuil-stool.] Robbie won't interrupt us yet awhile, will he?

PHILIP.

We'll kick him out if he does. [They sit, close together, upon the fauteuil-stool.] Oh, but he won't! This is a deep-laid plot of the old chap's——

OTTOLINE.

Plot?

PHILIP.

To invite us here to-day, you and me, to—to——

OTTOLINE.

Amener un rapprochement?

PHILIP.

Exactly.

OTTOLINE.

[Softly.] Ha, ha! Dear old Robbie! [He laughs with her.] Dear, dear old Robbie! [Her laughter dies out, leaving her with a serious, appealing face.] Phil——

PHILIP.

Eh?

OTTOLINE.

Your sneer—your sneer about me and the papers——

PHILIP.

Sneer?

OTTOLINE.

I detected it. Almost the first thing you said to me when I arrived was that you'd been gathering news of me lately from the papers!

PHILIP.

[Gently.] Forgive me.

OTTOLINE.

It's been none of my doing; I've finished with le snobbisme entirely. [Pleadingly.] You don't doubt me?

PHILIP.

[Patting her hand.] No—no.

OTTOLINE.

Nowadays I detest coming across my name in print. But my people—[with a little moue] they will persist in——!

PHILIP.

Beating the big drum?

OTTOLINE.

Ha! [Brushing her hair from her brow fretfully.] Oh! Oh, Phil, it was blindness on my part to return to them—sheer blindness!

PHILIP.

Blindness?

OTTOLINE.

They've been urging me to do it ever since my husband's death; so I had ample time to consider the step. But I didn't realize, till I'd settled down in Ennismore Gardens, how thoroughly I——

PHILIP.

[Finding she doesn't continue.] How thoroughly——?

OTTOLINE.

How thoroughly I've grown away from them—ceased to be one of them. [Stamping her foot.] Oh, I know I'm ungrateful; and that they're proud of me, and pet and spoil me; [contracting her shoulder-blades] but they make my flesh feel quite raw—mother, Dad, and my brother Bertram! Their intense satisfaction with themselves, and everything appertaining to them, irritates me to such a pitch that I'm often obliged to rush out of the room to stop myself from being rude. [Impetuously.] And then to have to watch Dad and mother still pushing, scheming, intriguing; always with the affectation of despising reclame, yet doing nothing—not the most simple act—without a careful eye to it! Years ago, as I've said, there was an intelligible motive for our paltry ambitions; but now, when they have force les portes and can afford to be sincere and independent——! [Checking herself.] But I oughtn't to speak of my folks like this, ought I, even to you whom I can trust! [Penitently.] It's awfully wrong of me. I—I beg your pardon.

PHILIP.

[After a short silence.] What do you intend to do, then, Otto, ultimately—re-establish yourself in Paris?

OTTOLINE.

[Drearily.] Paris! Is Paris so full of cheerful memories for me, do you suppose, that I should cling to it!

PHILIP.

[Soothingly.] Oh, come——!

OTTOLINE.

I travelled about for some months after I became a widow, and when I saw Paris again—! [Starting up as if to rid herself of disagreeable sensations.] No, my one great desire is to escape from it all, Phil—[moving to the chair on the left] to escape——!

PHILIP.

[Rising.] Escape?

OTTOLINE.

To alter the whole current of my life, if it's possible, [sinking into the chair] and to breathe some fresh air! [Fanning herself with her hand.] Phew-w-w-w!

PHILIP.

H'm! [Approaching her and looking down upon her.] According to report, Ottoline, you'd have very little difficulty in—escaping.

OTTOLINE.

[Glancing up at him.] Report?

PHILIP.

Rumour has it that there are at least a dozen ardent admirers at your feet, each with a wedding-ring in his waistcoat-pocket.

OTTOLINE.

[Reproachfully, her eyes meeting his.] Why, have you been listening to tittle-tattle as well as studying newspaper paragraphs! [He bows, good-humouredly.] My dear Philip, allowing for exaggeration, granting that my soupirants number half-a-dozen, which of them would enable me to fill my lungs with fresh air? Who are they, these enterprising men——?

PHILIP.

[Leaving her abruptly and going to the mantelpiece.] Oh, pray don't ask me! I don't know who the fellows are—except—they say—Sir Timothy Barradell——

OTTOLINE.

[Lightly but softly.] Sir Timothy! Sir Timothy has only just succeeded in fighting his way into the world I'm sick and tired of! [Shaking her head.] Poor Sir Tim! [Pityingly.] Ha, ha, ha, ha!

PHILIP.

[His back towards her.] Otto——

OTTOLINE.

Yes?

PHILIP.

What sort of world would you be willing to exchange for your present one, my dear?

OTTOLINE.

What sort——?

PHILIP.

What sort—spiritual and material?

OTTOLINE.

[Resting her elbow upon the arm of her chair and her chin upon her hand, musingly.] Oh, I believe any world would content me that's totally different from the world I've lived in so long; any world that isn't flat and stale and stifling; that isn't made up of shams, and petty aims and appetites; any world that—well, such a world as you used to picture, Phil, when you preached your gospel to a selfish, common girl under the chestnuts in the Allee de Longchamp and the Champs-Elysees! [Half laughing, half sighing.] Ha, la, la, la!

[Again there is a pause, and then he walks to the further window and gazes into the street once more.

PHILIP.

[In a low voice.] Ten years ago, Otto!

OTTOLINE.

Ten years ago!

PHILIP.

[Partly in jest, partly seriously.] Do the buds still sprout on those trees in the Allee de Longchamp and the Champs-Elysees, can you tell me?

OTTOLINE.

[Falling in with his humour.] Ha, ha! Every spring, cher ami, regularly.

PHILIP.

And the milk at the Cafe d'Armenonville and the Pre-Catelan—is it still rich and delectable?

OTTOLINE.

To the young, I assume; scarcely to the aged widow——!

PHILIP.

Or the grey-haired scribbler! Ha, ha, ha, ha!

OTTOLINE.

Ha, ha, ha, ha——!

[He turns and advances to her slowly, looking at her fixedly and earnestly.

PHILIP.

Ottoline—I wonder whether you'd care to walk under those trees with me again, for sentiment's sake, some fine day in the future——!

OTTOLINE.

[Staring at him.] C-care——?

PHILIP.

And if you would, whether I ought to tempt you to risk it!

OTTOLINE.

[Rising, smiling but discomposed.] To—to risk finding that le lait n'est pas cremeux, do you mean?

PHILIP.

[Tenderly.] To risk even that. [Drawing nearer to her.] Otto——!

OTTOLINE.

I—I should be delighted—if—if ever——

PHILIP.

No, no; not as friends, Otto—save in the best sense——

OTTOLINE.

[Faintly.] I—I don't——

PHILIP.

As husband and wife. [She stands quite still.] Husband and wife! Some day when I've achieved a solid success; when I've captured the great public, and can come to you, not as a poor, struggling writer, but holding my prizes in both hands!

OTTOLINE.

[Putting her hand to her forehead.] It—it's not too late, is it?

PHILIP.

[Recoiling.] Too late—for me—to be successful?

OTTOLINE.

[Passionately.] Oh, my God, don't say that to me—[going to him, and clinging to him] too late for me to recover a little of what I've lost!

PHILIP.

[Pressing her to him.] Ah! Too late for neither of us. It's a bargain?

OTTOLINE.

Yes—yes; but——

PHILIP.

But——?

OTTOLINE.

[Her head drooping.] Must it be—some day? [Piteously.] Some day!

PHILIP.

There are signs in the sky; the day isn't far distant!

OTTOLINE.

I—I've money, Philip——

PHILIP.

H'sssh! [Frowning.] Ottoline!

OTTOLINE.

Ah, je vois que votre orgueil est plus fort que votre amour!

PHILIP.

Ha, ha! Peut-etre; je ne m'en defends pas. You consent?

OTTOLINE.

[Pouting.] I may let my people know of the arrangement, may I not? You'll see them?

PHILIP.

My dear, what would be gained by that now?

OTTOLINE.

It would enable you to come often to Ennismore Gardens, and have cosy teas with me in my room. We couldn't be—what we are—on the sly indefinitely; it's impracticable. There'll be a storm at first, but it will soon blow over. [Making a wry face.] Still, if you'd rather——

PHILIP.

No, no; I'll see them, if you wish me to. [Nodding.] We'll be open and above-board from the start.

OTTOLINE.

Ha, ha! [Sighing happily.] Ah-h-h-h!

PHILIP.

[His tone changing to one of misgiving.] Ah, Otto, I begin to be afraid that I oughtn't—that I oughtn't to have spoken to you——

OTTOLINE.

Why?

PHILIP.

[Gravely.] You will never be patient—you'll never be content to wait, if need be!

OTTOLINE.

Content, no. But patient! [In a whisper.] Shall I tell you a secret?

PHILIP.

Well?

OTTOLINE.

I've been waiting—waiting for you—in my dreams—for ten years!

PHILIP.

[Ardently.] Otto——!

OTTOLINE.

Isn't that patience?

[Their lips meet in a lingering kiss. The handle of the door on the left is heard to rattle. Looking at the door, they draw back from one another. The handle rattles again.

PHILIP.

It's that idiot Robbie.

OTTOLINE.

Ha, ha, ha, ha——!

[The door opens, and ROOPE appears, with an air of unconcern.

ROOPE.

[Humming.] Tra, lal, lal, la——! That's done, dear excellent friends! [Closing the door, and coming forward.] Upon my word, letters are the curse of one's existence——!

OTTOLINE.

Ha, ha——! [Seizing him.] Robbie——!

ROOPE.

[Startled.] Hey?

OTTOLINE.

I can't take you to Lady Paulton's—or anywhere else. Philip and I are going to spend the rest of the afternoon here, if you'll let us—and talk—and talk——! [Suddenly embracing him, and kissing him upon the cheek.] Ah! Que vous etes gentil! Merci—merci—merci——! [Sitting in the chair on the left and unpinning her hat.] Ha, ha, ha, ha——!

ROOPE.

[Turning to PHILIP, his eyes bolting.] Phil——!

PHILIP.

[Nodding.] Yes. [Wringing ROOPE's hand.] Much obliged, Robbie.

END OF THE FIRST ACT



THE SECOND ACT

The scene is a morning-room, richly furnished and decorated, in a house in Ennismore Gardens. The walls are of panelled wood for two-thirds of their height, the rest being covered with silk. In the wall at the back, between the centre and the left-hand corner, there is a handsome double-door opening upon another door, covered in thick cloth, which is supposed to give admittance to the library. On the right, in a piece of wall running obliquely towards the spectator from the back wall to the right-hand wall, is a companion double-door to that on the left, with the difference that the panels of the upper part of this door are glazed. A silk curtain obscures the glazed panels to the height of about seven feet from the floor, and above the curtain there is a view of a spacious hall. When the glazed door is opened, it is seen that the hall is appropriately furnished. A window is at the further end of it, letting in light from the street, and on the right of the window there is a lofty screen arranged in such a manner as to suggest that it conceals the front door of the house.

The fireplace, where a bank of flowers hides the grate, is in the left-hand wall of the room. On the further side of the fireplace there is an armchair, and before the fireplace a settee. Behind the settee, also facing the fireplace, are a writing-table and chair; close to the further side of the writing-table is a smaller chair; and at the nearer end of the settee, but at some distance from it, stands a low-backed arm-chair which is turned in the direction of the door on the right.

On the other side of the room, facing the spectator and following the line of the oblique wall, is a second settee. On the left of this settee is an arm-chair, on the right a round table and another chair. Books and periodicals are strewn upon the table. Against the wall at the back, between the doors, are an oblong table and a chair; and other articles of furniture and embellishment—cabinets of various kinds, jardinieres, mirrors, lamps, etc., etc.—occupy spaces not provided for in this description.

Among other objects upon the oblong table are some framed photographs, conspicuously displayed, of members of the Royal Family, and a book-rack containing books of reference.

It is daylight.

[MISS TRACER, a red-haired, sprightly young lady, is seated upon the settee on the right, turning the leaves of a picture-paper. A note-book, with a pencil stuck in it, lies by her side. There is a knock at the door on the left.

MISS TRACER.

[Calling out.] Eh?

[The door opens and LEONARD WESTRIP appears. He carries a pile of press-cuttings.

WESTRIP.

[A fresh-coloured, boyish young man.] I beg your pardon——[seeing that MISS TRACER is alone] oh, good morning.

MISS TRACER.

Good morning.

WESTRIP.

[Entering and closing the door.] Lady Filson isn't down yet?

MISS TRACER.

No. [Tossing the picture-paper onto the round table.] She didn't get to bed till pretty late last night, I suspect.

WESTRIP.

[Advancing.] I thought she'd like to look through these. [Showing MISS TRACER the press-cuttings.] From the press-cutting agency.

MISS TRACER.

[Picking up her note-book and rising.] You bet she would!

WESTRIP.

[Handing her the press-cuttings.] Let me have them back again, please. Sir Randle hardly had time to glance at them before he went out.

MISS TRACER.

[Inquisitively, elevating her eyebrows.] He's out very early?

WESTRIP.

Yes; he's gone to a memorial service.

MISS TRACER.

Another! [With a twinkle.] That's the third this month.

WESTRIP.

So it is. I'm awfully sorry for him.

MISS TRACER.

[Laughing slyly.] He, he, he! Ho, ho!

WESTRIP.

[Surprised.] What is there to laugh at, Miss Tracer?

MISS TRACER.

You don't believe he has ever really known half the people he mourns, do you?

WESTRIP.

Not known them!

MISS TRACER.

[Crossing to the writing-table and laying the press-cuttings upon it.] Guileless youth! Wait till you've breathed the air of this establishment a little longer.

WESTRIP.

[Puzzled.] But if he hasn't known them, why should he——?

MISS TRACER.

For the sake of figuring among a lot of prominent personages, of course.

WESTRIP.

[Incredulously.] Oh, Miss Tracer!

MISS TRACER.

Gospel. [Taking up the press-cuttings and looking through them.] Many are the sympathetic souls who are grief-stricken in these days for the same reason. Here we are! [Reading from a cutting.] Late Viscount Petersfield ... memorial service ... St. Margaret's, Westminster ... among those present ... h'm, h'm, h'm ... Sir Randle Filson ... wreaths were sent by ... h'm, h'm, h'm, h'm ... Sir Randle and Lady Filson! [Replacing the press-cuttings upon the table.] Ha, ha, ha, ha—! [Checking herself and turning to WESTRIP.] Our conversation is strictly private, Mr. Westrip?

WESTRIP.

[Somewhat disturbed.] Strictly.

MISS TRACER.

[Smiling at him winningly and moving to the settee before the fireplace.] You're a nice boy; I'm sure you wouldn't make mischief. [Sinking on to the settee with a yawn.] Oh! Oh, I'm so weary!

WESTRIP.

Weary? Before you've begun your morning's work!

MISS TRACER.

Before I've begun it! I had a parade downstairs in the servants' hall at a quarter-to-ten.

WESTRIP.

Parade?

MISS TRACER.

We've two new women in the house who are perfect idiots. They can't remember to say "yes, my lady" and "no, my lady" and "very good, my lady" whenever Lady Filson speaks to them. One of them actually addressed her yesterday as "ma'am." I wonder the roof didn't fall in.

WESTRIP.

[Meditatively.] I've noticed that Sir Randle and Lady Filson have a great relish for being Sir'd and Lady'd.

MISS TRACER.

Ha, ha! Rather! [Over her shoulder.] You take a friendly hint. If your predecessor had Sir Randle'd and Lady Filson'd them more frequently, you wouldn't be standing in his shoes at this moment.

WESTRIP.

[In the middle of the room, his hands in his pockets.] Why was Sir Randle knighted, do you know?

MISS TRACER.

Built a large drill-hall for the Territorials near his country place at Bramsfold.

WESTRIP.

[Innocently.] Oh, is he interested in the Territorials?

MISS TRACER.

[Partly raising herself.] Interested in the Territorials! How simple you are! He cares as much for the Territorials as I care for snakes. [Kneeling upon the settee and resting her arms on the back of it, talkatively.] The drill-hall was her notion; she engineered the whole affair.

WESTRIP.

[Opening his eyes wider and wider.] Lady Filson?

MISS TRACER.

[Nodding.] Her maid's my informant. A few years ago he was growing frightfully down-in-the-mouth. He fancied he'd got stuck, as it were—that everybody was getting an honour but himself. So the blessed shanty was run up in a devil of a hurry—excuse my Greek; and as soon as it was dry, Mrs. Filson, as she then was, wrote to some big-wig or other—without her husband's knowledge, she explained—and called attention to the service he'd rendered to the cause of patriotism. Lambert saw the draft of the letter on her mistress's dressing-table. [Shaking with laughter.] Ho, ho, ho! And what d'ye think?

WESTRIP.

W-well?

MISS TRACER.

The corrections were in his handwriting!

WESTRIP.

[Shocked.] In Sir Randle's——!

MISS TRACER.

[Jumping up.] Phiou! I'm fearfully indiscreet. [Going to WESTRIP and touching his coat-sleeve.] Between ourselves, Mr. Westrip!

WESTRIP.

[Moving to the round table.] Quite—quite.

MISS TRACER.

[Following him.] Oh, they're not a bad sort, by any means, if you just humour them a bit. We all have our little weaknesses, haven't we? I've mine, I confess.

WESTRIP.

They've both been excessively kind to me. [Turning to her.] And as for Madame de Chaumie——

MISS TRACER.

Oh, she's a dear—a regular dear!

WESTRIP.

[Fervently.] By Jove, isn't she!

MISS TRACER.

But then, my theory is that she was changed at her birth. She's not a genuine Filson, I'll swear. [Suddenly walking away from him.] H'sh!

[LADY FILSON, a handsome, complacent woman of about fifty-seven, enters from the hall.

LADY FILSON.

[Who carries a hand-bag crammed with letters, cards of invitation, etc.] Good morning.

MISS TRACER and WESTRIP.

Good morning, Lady Filson.

LADY FILSON.

[Closing the door and advancing.] Oh, Mr. Westrip, I wish you'd try to find the last number of the Trifler. It must have been taken out of my bedroom by one of the servants.

WESTRIP.

[Searching among the periodicals on the round table.] Certainly, Lady Filson.

MISS TRACER.

Oh, Lady Filson, don't keep that horrid snapshot of you and Sir Randle! It's too unflattering.

LADY FILSON.

[At the writing-table.] As if that mattered! So are the portraits of Lord and Lady Sturminster on the same page. [Sitting at the table and emptying her bag.] These absurd things give Sir Randle and me a hearty laugh; that's why I preserve them.

WESTRIP.

It isn't here. [Going to the glazed door.] I'll hunt for it downstairs.

LADY FILSON.

Thank you. [Discovering the pile of press-cuttings.] What's this? [Affecting annoyance.] Not more press-cuttings! [Beginning to devour the cuttings.] Tcht, tcht, tcht!

[As WESTRIP reaches the door, BERTRAM FILSON enters. He is wearing riding-dress.

BERTRAM.

[A conceited, pompous young man of thirty.] Good morning, Mr. Westrip.

WESTRIP.

Good morning, Mr. Filson.

[WESTRIP goes out, closing the door.

BERTRAM.

[To MISS TRACER.] Good morning, Miss Tracer.

MISS TRACER.

[Who has seated herself in the chair at the further side of the writing-table—meekly.] Good morning.

LADY FILSON.

[Half turning to BERTRAM, the press-cuttings in her hand.] Ah, my darling! Was that you I saw speaking to Underwood as I came through the hall?

BERTRAM.

Yes, mother dear. [Bending over her and kissing her.] How are you?

LADY FILSON.

[Dotingly.] Enjoyed your ride, my pet?

BERTRAM.

Fairly, mother.

LADY FILSON.

Only fairly?

BERTRAM.

[Shutting his eyes.] Such an appalling crowd of ordinary people in the Row, I mean t'say.

LADY FILSON.

How dreadful for you! [Giving him the press-cuttings.] Sit down, if you're not too warm, and look at this rubbish while I talk to Miss Tracer.

BERTRAM.

Press-cuttings?

LADY FILSON.

Isn't it strange, the way the papers follow all our doings!

BERTRAM.

Not in the least, mother. [Sitting upon the settee on the right and reading the press-cuttings.] I mean t'say, I consider it perfectly right and proper.

LADY FILSON.

[Sorting her letters and cards—to MISS TRACER.] There's not much this morning, Miss Tracer. [Handing some letters to MISS TRACER.] You can deal with these.

MISS TRACER.

Thank you, Lady Filson.

LADY FILSON.

[Reading a letter.] Lady Skewes and Mrs. Walter Quebec ... arranging a concert in aid of ... [sighing] tickets, of course!... what tiring women!... [turning the sheet] oh!... may they include me in their list of patronesses?... Princess Cagliari-Tamponi, the Countess of Harrogate, the Viscountess Chepmell, Lady Kathleen Tring ... [laying the letter aside] delighted. [Heaping together the cards and the rest of the letters.] I must answer those myself. [To MISS TRACER.] That's all. [MISS TRACER rises.] Get on with the invitations for July the eighth as quickly as you can.

MISS TRACER.

[Going to the glazed door.] Yes, Lady Filson.

LADY FILSON.

[Turning.] Miss Tracer——

MISS TRACER.

[Halting.] Yes, Lady Filson?

LADY FILSON.

I think Madame de Chaumie wants you to do some little commissions for her. Kindly see her before you go to your room.

BERTRAM.

[To MISS TRACER, looking up.] No, no; don't.

LADY FILSON.

[To BERTRAM.] Not?

BERTRAM.

My sister is engaged, mother.

LADY FILSON.

Engaged?

BERTRAM.

With Sir Timothy Barradell.

LADY FILSON.

Oh—? [To MISS TRACER.] By-and-by, then.

MISS TRACER.

Yes, Lady Filson.

[MISS TRACER departs, closing the door.

LADY FILSON.

[To BERTRAM, eagerly.] Sir Timothy——!

BERTRAM.

He called half-an-hour ago, mother, Underwood tells me, with a note for Ottoline.

LADY FILSON.

From himself?

BERTRAM.

Presumably; and Dilworth came down and took him up to her boudoir.

LADY FILSON.

[Rising.] An unusual time of day for a call! [Approaching BERTRAM and speaking under her breath.] Are matters coming to a head between them, my dear boy?

BERTRAM.

Don't ask me, mother. [Rising.] You are as capable of forming an opinion as I am, I mean t'say.

LADY FILSON.

I've a feeling that something is in the air. He positively shadowed her last night at the Gorhams'!

BERTRAM.

[Knitting his brows.] I admit I should prefer, if my sister contemplates marrying again, that her choice fell on one of the others.

LADY FILSON.

Mr. Trefusis—or George Delacour——?

BERTRAM.

Even Trevor Wilson. [Wincing.] The idea of a merchant brother-in-law doesn't appeal to me very strongly, I mean t'say.

LADY FILSON.

Still, a baronet——!

BERTRAM.

And I suppose——?

LADY FILSON.

Oh, enormously!

BERTRAM.

[Magnanimously.] Anyhow, my dear mother, if Ottoline is fond of the man, I promise you that not a murmur from me shall mar their happiness.

LADY FILSON.

[Tenderly, pinching his chin.] My darling!

BERTRAM.

[With a shiver.] I'm afraid I am getting a little chilled; [giving her the press-cuttings] I'll go and change.

LADY FILSON.

Oh, my pet, run away at once!

[She moves to the settee on the right. He pauses to gaze at her.

BERTRAM.

You look exceedingly handsome this morning, mother.

LADY FILSON.

[Gratified.] Do I, Bertram? [Seating herself upon the settee, and again applying herself to the press-cuttings, as BERTRAM goes to the glazed door.] In spite of my late hours!

BERTRAM.

[Opening the door.] Here's my father——

[SIR RANDLE FILSON enters, dressed in mourning. He is a man of sixty-three, of commanding presence, with a head resembling that of Alexandre Dumas Fils in the portrait by Meissonier, and a bland, florid manner. He seems to derive much satisfaction from listening to the rich modulations of his voice.

SIR RANDLE.

Bertram, my boy! [Kissing him upon the cheek.] Been riding, eh?

BERTRAM.

Yes. I'm just going to change, father.

SIR RANDLE.

That's right; don't risk catching cold, whatever you do. [Seeing LADY FILSON and coming forward.] Ah, your dear mother is down!

[BERTRAM goes out, closing the door.

LADY FILSON.

[Beaming upon SIR RANDLE.] You haven't been long, Randle.

SIR RANDLE.

[A cloud overshadowing his face.] I didn't remain for the Dead March, Winnie. [Taking off his black gloves.] I need hardly have troubled to go at all, as it turned out.

LADY FILSON.

Why, dear?

SIR RANDLE.

The sad business was most abominably mismanaged. No reporters.

LADY FILSON.

No reporters!

SIR RANDLE.

Not a single pressman in the porch. [Blowing into a glove.] Pfhh! Poor old Macfarlane! [Pulling at his second glove.] The public will never learn the names of those who assembled, at serious inconvenience to themselves, to pay respect to his memory.

LADY FILSON.

Shocking!

SIR RANDLE.

[Blowing.] Pfhh! [Folding the gloves neatly.] I am almost glad, in the circumstances, that I didn't regard it as an event which laid me under an obligation to send flowers.

LADY FILSON.

[With a change of tone.] Er—Randle——

SIR RANDLE.

[Putting his gloves into his tail-pocket.] Yes, dear.

LADY FILSON.

[Significantly.] Sir Timothy is upstairs.

SIR RANDLE.

Sir Timothy Barradell?

LADY FILSON.

[Nodding.] With Ottoline, in her sitting-room.

SIR RANDLE.

Indeed?

LADY FILSON.

He brought a note for her half-an-hour ago, evidently asking her to receive him.

SIR RANDLE.

[Going to LADY FILSON.] An early call!

LADY FILSON.

Extremely.

SIR RANDLE.

[Sitting near her, in the arm-chair on the left of the settee, and pursing his lips.] It may mean nothing.

LADY FILSON.

Oh, nothing.

SIR RANDLE.

[Examining his nails.] A nice, amiable fellow.

LADY FILSON.

Full of fine qualities, if I'm any judge of character.

SIR RANDLE.

None the worse for being self-made, Winnie.

LADY FILSON.

Not in my estimation.

SIR RANDLE.

H'm, h'm, h'm, h'm——!

LADY FILSON.

[Softly.] It wouldn't sound bad, Randle.

SIR RANDLE.

[Leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes.] "Lady Barradell."

LADY FILSON.

[In the same way.] "Lady Barradell."

SIR RANDLE.

[In a murmur, but with great gusto.] "A marriage is arranged and will shortly take place between Sir Timothy Barradell, Bart., of 16, The Albany, and Bryanstown Park, County Wicklow, and Ottoline, widow of the late Comte de Chaumie, only daughter of Sir Randle and Lady Filson, of 71, Ennismore Gardens, and Pickhurst, Bramsfold, Sussex."

LADY FILSON.

[After a short pause, in a low voice.] Darling Ottoline! What a wedding she shall have!

[Again there is a pause, and then SIR RANDLE leaves his chair and seats himself beside LADY FILSON.

SIR RANDLE.

[Putting his arm round her, fondly.] Mother!

[They look at one another, and he draws her to him and kisses her. As he does so, the glazed door opens and WESTRIP returns, carrying an illustrated-weekly. LADY FILSON rises hastily and goes to the writing-table.

WESTRIP.

[Handing her the paper.] It was in the servants' hall, Lady Filson.

LADY FILSON.

[Laying the paper and the press-cuttings upon the writing-table, and sitting at the table and busying herself with her letters.] Thank you so much.

WESTRIP.

[To SIR RANDLE.] Are you ready for me now, Sir Randle?

SIR RANDLE.

[Abstractedly.] Er—is there anything of grave importance to-day, Mr. Westrip? I forget.

WESTRIP.

[Coming to him.] Boxfield and Henderson, the photographers, are anxious to photograph you and Lady Filson for their series of "Notable People," Sir Randle.

SIR RANDLE.

[Rolling his head from side to side.] Oh! Oh, dear; oh, dear!

LADY FILSON.

[Wearily.] Oh, dear!

SIR RANDLE.

How we are pestered, Lady Filson and I!

LADY FILSON.

Terrible!

SIR RANDLE.

No peace! No peace!

LADY FILSON.

Or privacy.

WESTRIP.

[Producing a note-book from his pocket.] They will attend here any morning convenient to you and Lady Filson, Sir Randle. It won't take ten minutes.

SIR RANDLE.

[To LADY FILSON, resignedly.] Winnie——?

LADY FILSON.

[Entering the appointment on a tablet.] Tuesday at eleven.

SIR RANDLE.

[To WESTRIP.] Remind me.

WESTRIP.

[Writing in his note-book.] Yes, Sir Randle.

SIR RANDLE.

And advise Madame de Chaumie and Mr. Bertram, with my love, of the appointment. Her ladyship and I will be photographed with our children grouped round us.

WESTRIP.

[To SIR RANDLE.] Then there's the telegram from the Daily Monitor, Sir Randle——

SIR RANDLE.

[Puffing himself out.] Ah, yes! The editor solicits my views upon—what is the subject of the discussion which is being carried on in his admirable journal, Mr. Westrip?——

WESTRIP.

"Should Women Marry under Thirty?"

SIR RANDLE.

H'm! [Musingly.] Should Women Marry under Thirty? [To WESTRIP.] Reply paid?

WESTRIP.

Forty-eight words.

SIR RANDLE.

[Rising and strolling across to LADY FILSON, as if seeking for inspiration.] Should Women Marry under Thirty? [Humming.] H'm, h'm, h'm—! [To LADY FILSON.] Winnie——?

LADY FILSON.

[Looking up at him.] I was considerably under thirty when we married, Randle.

SIR RANDLE.

[Triumphantly.] Ha! [Chuckling.] Ho, ho, ho! Capital! Ho, ho, ho! [Patting LADY FILSON's shoulder.] Clever! Clever! [To WESTRIP, grandly.] There we have my response to the inquiry, Mr. Westrip. [Closing his eyes again.] Sir Randle Filson's views are best expressed by the statement that Lady Filson was considerably under thirty when she did him the honour of—er—becoming his wife.

WESTRIP.

Excellent, sir.

SIR RANDLE.

[Opening his eyes.] Pray amplify that in graceful language, Mr. Westrip—restricting yourself to forty-eight words—[He breaks off, interrupted by the appearance of OTTOLINE at the glazed door.] Ah, my darling!

OTTOLINE.

Good morning, Dad. [To WESTRIP.] Good morning.

WESTRIP.

[Shyly.] Good morning.

OTTOLINE.

[To SIR RANDLE—advancing a few steps, but leaving the door open.] Are you and mother busy?

SIR RANDLE.

Not at all.

LADY FILSON.

[Who has turned in her chair at OTTOLINE's entrance.] Not at all, Otto.

SIR RANDLE.

[To WESTRIP.] I will join you in the library, Mr. Westrip. [WESTRIP withdraws at the door on the left, and SIR RANDLE goes to OTTOLINE and embraces her.] My dear child!

OTTOLINE.

[In rather a strained voice.] Sir Timothy Barradell is here, Dad.

SIR RANDLE.

I heard he had called.

LADY FILSON.

So sweet of him to treat us informally!

OTTOLINE.

[To LADY FILSON.] He would like to see you and Dad for a minute or two, mother——

LADY FILSON.

Charmed!

SIR RANDLE.

Delighted!

OTTOLINE.

Just to—just to bid you good-bye.

LADY FILSON.

Good-bye?

SIR RANDLE.

Good-bye?

OTTOLINE.

Yes; he's going away—abroad—for some months. [With a motion of her head towards the hall.] He's in the hall. May I——?

LADY FILSON.

[Rising.] Er—do.

SIR RANDLE.

Do.

OTTOLINE.

[Returning to the door and calling.] Sir Timothy——!

[There is a brief pause, during which SIR RANDLE and LADY FILSON interrogate each other silently, and then SIR TIMOTHY BARRADELL enters. He is a well-knit, pleasant-looking Irishman of about forty, speaking with a slight brogue.

LADY FILSON.

[Advancing to greet him.] My dear Sir Timothy!

SIR TIMOTHY.

[As they shake hands.] And how's my lady this morning? Are you well?

OTTOLINE.

[At the door.] I'll leave you——

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Turning to her hastily.] Ah—! [Taking her hand.] I'm not to see you again?

OTTOLINE.

[Shaking her head.] No. [Smiling.] We've said good-bye upstairs. [Withdrawing her hand.] Que Dieu vous protege! Good luck to you!

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Ruefully.] Luck! [In an undertone.] I've never had anything else till now; and now it's out entirely.

OTTOLINE.

[Gently.] Shsssh——!

[She goes into the hall and he stands watching her till she disappears. Then he closes the door and faces LADY FILSON and SIR RANDLE.

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Mournfully but good-humouredly.] Ha! That's over.

LADY FILSON.

Over?

SIR RANDLE.

Over?

SIR TIMOTHY.

Over. [Passing LADY FILSON and shaking hands with SIR RANDLE.] It might be that it 'ud be more decent and appropriate for me to write you a letter, Sir Randle; but I'm not much of a hand at letter-writing, and I've your daughter's permission to tell you by word of mouth that—that she—[to LADY FILSON] but perhaps you can guess, both of you——?

LADY FILSON.

Guess——?

SIR RANDLE.

Guess——?

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Rumpling his hair.] The fact is, it isn't exactly easy or agreeable to describe what's occurred in plain terms.

SIR RANDLE.

[Encouragingly.] Can't you—can't you give us a hint——?

LADY FILSON.

The merest hint——

SIR TIMOTHY.

Hint, is it! Ah, I can manage that. [With a bold effort.] You're not to have me for your son-in-law. Is that hint enough?

LADY FILSON.

[Under her breath.] Oh!

SIR RANDLE.

God bless me! Frankly, I had no conception——

LADY FILSON.

Nor I—the faintest.

SIR TIMOTHY.

And as I've received a great deal of kindness and hospitality in this house, I thought that, in common gratitude, I ought to explain the cause of my abrupt disappearance from your circle.

SIR RANDLE.

[In a tone of deep commiseration.] I—I understand. You—you intend to——?

SIR TIMOTHY.

To take a trip round the world, to endeavour to recover some of the wind that's been knocked out of me.

SIR RANDLE.

[Closing his eyes.] Distressing! Distressing!

LADY FILSON.

Most. [Coming to SIR TIMOTHY, feelingly.] Oh—oh, Sir Timothy——!

SIR TIMOTHY.

[With sudden bitterness.] Ah, Sir Timothy, Sir Timothy, Sir Timothy! And what's the use of my baronetcy now, will you inform me—the baronetcy I bought and paid for, in hard cash, to better my footing in society? The mockery of it! Now that I've lost her, the one woman I shall ever love, I don't care a rap for my footing in society; [walking away] and anybody may have my baronetcy for tuppence!

SIR RANDLE.

[Reprovingly.] My good friend——!

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Turning to SIR RANDLE and LADY FILSON.] And why not! The only advantage of my baronetcy, it strikes me, is that I'm charged double prices at every hotel I lay my head in, and am expected to shower gold on the waiters. [Sitting on the settee on the right and leaning his head on his hand.] Oh, the mockery of it; the mockery of it!

SIR RANDLE.

[Going to him.] If my profound sympathy—and Lady Filson's—[to LADY FILSON] I may speak for you, Winnie——?

LADY FILSON.

Certainly.

SIR RANDLE.

[To SIR TIMOTHY.] If our profound sympathy is the smallest consolation to you——

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Emphatically, raising his head.] It is not. [With a despairing gesture.] I'm broken-hearted, Sir Randle. That's what I am; I'm broken-hearted.

LADY FILSON.

[Sitting in the low-backed arm-chair on the left.] Oh, dear!

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Sighing.] If I'd had the pluck to declare myself sooner, it might have been different. [Staring before him.] From the moment I first set eyes on her, at the dinner-party you gave to welcome her on her arrival in London—from that moment I was captured completely, body and soul. The sight of her as she stood in the drawing-room beside her mother, with her pretty, white face and her elegant figure, and a gown clinging to her that looked as though she'd been born in it—'twill never fade from me if I live to be as old as a dozen Methuselahs!

SIR RANDLE.

[Pryingly.] Er—has Ottoline—I have no desire to probe an open wound—has she assigned any—reason——?

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Rousing himself.] For rejecting me?

SIR RANDLE.

[With a wave of the hand.] For——

LADY FILSON.

For not seeing her way clear——

SIR RANDLE.

To—er—in short—accept you?

SIR TIMOTHY.

She has.

LADY FILSON.

Has she!

SIR TIMOTHY.

The best—and, for me, the worst—of reasons. There's another man in the case.

SIR RANDLE.

Another——?

LADY FILSON.

Another——!

SIR RANDLE.

[To LADY FILSON.] Extraordinary!

LADY FILSON.

Bewildering.

SIR RANDLE.

We have been blind, Winnie.

LADY FILSON.

Absolutely.

SIR TIMOTHY.

And, whoever he may be, I trust he'll worship her as devoutly as I do, and treat her with half the gentleness I'd have treated her with, had she selected me for her Number Two.

SIR RANDLE.

[Piously.] Amen! [To LADY FILSON.] Winifred——?

LADY FILSON.

[Rather fretfully.] Amen.

SIR TIMOTHY.

[Rising.] And with that sentiment on my lips, and in every fibre of my body, I'll relieve you of my depressing company. [Going to LADY FILSON, who rises at his approach, and taking her hand.] My dear lady——

LADY FILSON.

[Genuinely.] My dear Sir Timothy!

SIR RANDLE.

[Moving to the glazed door.] Painful! Painful!

[As SIR TIMOTHY turns from LADY FILSON, BERTRAM reappears, in morning-dress, entering from the hall.

BERTRAM.

[Drawing back on seeing SIR TIMOTHY.] Oh! [To SIR RANDLE.] Am I intruding?

SIR RANDLE.

Come in, my boy. You're just in time to give a parting grasp of the hand to our friend here.

BERTRAM.

[Advancing to SIR TIMOTHY, surprised.] Parting——?

LADY FILSON.

[To BERTRAM.] Sir Timothy is going abroad, Bertram.

BERTRAM.

Really? [To SIR TIMOTHY.] Er—on business?

SIR TIMOTHY.

Well, not precisely on pleasure. [Shaking hands with BERTRAM.] Good-bye to you.

BERTRAM.

[Puzzled.] Good-bye. [SIR TIMOTHY makes a final bow to LADY FILSON and departs, followed by SIR RANDLE, who leaves the door open. BERTRAM turns to LADY FILSON inquiringly.] What——?

LADY FILSON.

[Pointing to the open door.] H'sh!

[BERTRAM shuts the door and LADY FILSON seats herself upon the settee on the right.

BERTRAM.

[Coming to her.] What has happened, mother?

LADY FILSON.

What I conjectured. I was certain of it.

BERTRAM.

He has proposed to my sister?

LADY FILSON.

Yes.

BERTRAM.

[Struck by his mother's manner.] She has refused him?

LADY FILSON.

[Nodding.] She's eprise with another man.

BERTRAM.

Who is it?

LADY FILSON.

She didn't——

BERTRAM.

Is it Trefusis?

LADY FILSON.

I believe it's Delacour.

BERTRAM.

[Walking about.] Possibly! Possibly!

LADY FILSON.

[Anxiously.] I do hope she realizes what she's doing, Bertram. Sir Timothy could buy them both up, with something to spare.

BERTRAM.

I agree, my dear mother; but it would have been horribly offensive to us, I mean t'say, to see the name of Ottoline's husband branded upon sides of bacon in the windows of the provision-shops.

LADY FILSON.

Oh, disgusting! [Brightening.] How sensibly you look at things, darling!

BERTRAM.

[Taking up a position before the fireplace.] Whereas George Delacour and Edward Trefusis are undeniably gentlemen—gentlemen by birth and breeding, I mean t'say.

LADY FILSON.

Trefusis is connected, through his brother, with the Northcrofts!

BERTRAM.

Quite so. If Ottoline married Edward, she would be Lady Juliet's sister-in-law.

LADY FILSON.

Upon my word, Bertie, I don't know which of the two I'd rather it turned out to be!

[SIR RANDLE returns, with a solemn countenance. He closes the door and comes forward.

SIR RANDLE.

[To LADY FILSON.] A melancholy morning, Winnie.

LADY FILSON.

[Sighing.] Ahhh!

SIR RANDLE.

[Producing a black-edged pocket-handkerchief and unfolding it.] Poor Macfarlane—and then this! [Blowing his nose.] Upsetting! Upsetting! [Glancing at BERTRAM.] Does Bertram——?

LADY FILSON.

I've told him.

BERTRAM.

My dear father, I cannot—I cannot profess to regret my sister's decision. I mean to say——!

SIR RANDLE.

[Suddenly.] Nor I. [In an outburst, pacing the room.] Nor I. I must be candid. It's my nature to be candid. A damned tradesman!

BERTRAM.

Exactly. It shows my sister's delicacy and refinement, I mean t'say.

SIR RANDLE.

[To LADY FILSON, halting.] Who, in your opinion, Winnie——?

LADY FILSON.

I'm inclined to think it's Mr. Delacour.

SIR RANDLE.

[Resuming his walk.] So be it. [Raising his arms.] If I am to lose my child a second time—so be it.

BERTRAM.

I venture to suggest it may be Edward Trefusis.

SIR RANDLE.

[To BERTRAM, halting again.] My dear boy, in a matter of this kind, I fancy we can rely on your mother's wonderful powers of penetration.

BERTRAM.

[Bowing.] Pardon, father.

LADY FILSON.

[Closing her eyes.] "Mrs. George Delacour."

SIR RANDLE.

[Partly closing his eyes and again resuming his walk.] "A marriage is arranged and will shortly take place between George Holmby Delacour, of—of—of——"

BERTRAM.

[Closing his eyes.] "90, St. James's Street——"

SIR RANDLE.

[Halting and opening his eyes.] One thing I heartily deplore, Winifred——

LADY FILSON.

[Opening her eyes.] What is that, Randle?

SIR RANDLE.

Ottoline being a widow, there can be no bridesmaids; which deprives us of the happiness of paying a pretty compliment to the daughters of several families of distinction whom we have the privilege of numbering among our acquaintances.

LADY FILSON.

There can be no bridesmaids, strictly speaking; but a widow may be accompanied to the altar by a bevy of Maids of Honour.

SIR RANDLE.

Ah, yes! An equally good opportunity for an imposing—[closing his eyes] and reverential display! [To LADY FILSON.] Lady Maundrell's girl Sybil, eh, Winnie?

LADY FILSON.

Decidedly. And Lady Eva Sherringham.

BERTRAM.

Lady Lilian and Lady Constance Foxe——

SIR RANDLE.

Lady Irene Pallant——

[LADY FILSON rises and almost runs to the writing-table, where she sits and snatches at a sheet of paper. SIR RANDLE follows her and stands beside her.

BERTRAM.

[Reclining upon the settee on the left.] Lady Blanche Finnis——

LADY FILSON.

[Seizing her pen.] Wait; don't be so quick! [Writing.] "Hon. Sybil Maundrell——"

[The glazed door is opened softly and OTTOLINE enters. She pauses, looking at the group at the writing-table.

SIR RANDLE.

[To LADY FILSON, as she writes.] Lady Eva Sherringham——

BERTRAM.

Ladies Lilian and Constance Foxe——

LADY FILSON.

[Writing.] "Lady Eva Sherringham—Ladies Lilian and Constance Foxe——"

BERTRAM.

Lady Irene Pallant——

SIR RANDLE.

I pray there may be no captious opposition from Ottoline.

LADY FILSON.

Surely she doesn't want to be married like a middle-class widow from Putney! [Writing.] "Lady Blanche Finnis——"

BERTRAM.

If pages are permissible—to carry my sister's train, I mean t'say——

SIR RANDLE.

Pages—yes, yes——

BERTRAM.

There are the two Galbraith boys—little Lord Wensleydale and his brother Herbert.

LADY FILSON.

[Writing.] Such picturesque children!

SIR RANDLE.

I doubt whether the bare civilities which have passed between ourselves and Lord and Lady Galbraith——

LADY FILSON.

They are country neighbours.

BERTRAM.

No harm in approaching them, my dear father. I mean to say——!

[OTTOLINE shuts the door with a click. SIR RANDLE and LADY FILSON turn, startled, and LADY FILSON slips the list into a drawer.

SIR RANDLE.

[Benignly.] Otto?

OTTOLINE.

[In a steady voice.] Sorry to disturb you all over your elaborate preparations, Dad. I see Sir Timothy has saved me the trouble of breaking the news.

SIR RANDLE.

Y-you——?

OTTOLINE.

[Nodding.] You were too absorbed. I couldn't help listening.

SIR RANDLE.

Ahem! Sir Timothy didn't volunteer the information, Ottoline——

OTTOLINE.

Peu m'importe! [Advancing, smiling on one side of her mouth.] What a grand wedding you are planning for me! Quel projets mirifiques!

SIR RANDLE.

[Embarrassed.] Your dear mother was—er—merely jotting down——

OTTOLINE.

[Passing her hands over her face and walking to the settee on the right.] Ha, ha, ha, ha——!

LADY FILSON.

[Rising and moving to the fireplace, complainingly.] Really, Ottoline——!

OTTOLINE.

[Sitting upon the settee.] Ha, ha, ha——!

LADY FILSON.

[To BERTRAM, who is slowly getting to his feet.] Go away, Bertie darling.

OTTOLINE.

Mais pourquoi? Bertie knows everything, obviously.

LADY FILSON.

Why shouldn't he, Otto? Your brother is as interested as we are——

OTTOLINE.

But of course! Naturellement! [With a shrug.] C'est une affaire de famille. [To BERTRAM, who is now at the door on the left, his hand on the door-handle.] Come back, Bertie. [Repeating her wry smile.] I shall be glad to receive your congratulations with mother's and Dad's. [To SIR RANDLE and LADY FILSON.] Sit down, Dad; sit down, mother. [SIR RANDLE sits in the chair on the left of the settee on the right, LADY FILSON in the low-backed arm-chair, and BERTRAM at the oblong table.] Are you very much surprised, dear people?

SIR RANDLE.

Surprised? Hardly.

LADY FILSON.

Poor Sir Timothy! No, we are hardly surprised, Ottoline.

OTTOLINE.

Ah, but I don't mean surprised at my—having made Sir Timothy unhappy; I mean surprised at hearing there is—someone else——

SIR RANDLE.

My dear child, that surprises us even less.

LADY FILSON.

Your dear father and I, Ottoline, are not unaware of the many eligible men who are—how shall I put it?—pursuing you with their attentions.

SIR RANDLE.

Parents are notoriously short-sighted; but they are not necessarily—er—what are the things?—tssh!—the creatures that flutter——

BERTRAM.

Bats, father.

SIR RANDLE.

[To BERTRAM.] Thank you, my boy.

OTTOLINE.

[In a rigid attitude.] It's cowardly of me perhaps, but I almost wish I had told Sir Timothy—a little more——

LADY FILSON.

Cowardly?

OTTOLINE.

So that he might have taken the edge off the announcement I'm going to make—and spared me——

SIR RANDLE.

The edge——?

LADY FILSON.

Spared you—? [Staring at OTTOLINE.] Ottoline, what on earth——!

OTTOLINE.

[Relaxing.] Oh, I know I'm behaving as if I were a girl instead of a woman who has been married—a widow—free—independent—[to SIR RANDLE] thanks to your liberality, Dad! But, being at home, I seem to have lost, in a measure, my sense of personal liberty——

SIR RANDLE.

[Blandly but uneasily.] My child!

OTTOLINE.

That's it! Child! Now that I've returned to you, I'm still a child—still an object for you to fix your hopes and expectations upon. The situation has slipped back, in your minds, pretty much to what it was in the old days in the Avenue Montaigne. You may protest that it isn't so, but it is. [Attempting a laugh.] That's why my knees are shaking at this moment, and my spine's all of a jelly! [She rises and goes to the chair at the writing-table and grips the chair-rail. The others follow her apprehensively with their eyes.] I—I'm afraid I'm about to disappoint you.

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