HotFreeBooks.com
The Great Adventure
by Arnold Bennett
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE GREAT ADVENTURE

A Play of Fancy in Four Acts

by

ARNOLD BENNETT

1913



CHARACTERS

ILAM CARVE An illustrious Painter ALBERT SHAWN Ilam's Valet DR. PASCOE EDWARD HORNING Doctor's Assistant CYRUS CARVE Ilam's Cousin, a City Auctioneer FATHER LOOE A Catholic Priest PETER HORNING A Journalist EBAG A Picture Dealer JOHN SHAWN A Curate JAMES SHAWN His Brother, a Curate LORD LEONARD ALCAR TEXEL An American Millionaire A WAITER A PAGE A SERVANT JANET CANNOT A Widow MRS. ALBERT SHAWN HONORIA LOOE Sister of Father Looe



SCENES

ACT I ROOM IN ILAM CARVE'S HOUSE, 126 REDCLIFFE GARDENS

ACT II PRIVATE ROOM AT THE GRAND BABYLON HOTEL

ACT III JANET'S SITTING-ROOM AT WERTER ROAD, PUTNEY

ACT IV LORD LEONARD ALCAR'S STUDY, GROSVENOR GARDENS

SPECIAL NOTE.—Each Act is divided into two scenes, separated by a passage of time more or less short. The passage of time is indicated by darkening the stage for a few moments. No change of scenery is involved.



NOTE

The play was produced for the first time in London at the Kingsway Theatre, by Granville Barker, on Tuesday, March 25th, 1913.



THE GREAT ADVENTURE

ACT I

SCENE I

Front room on ground floor at 126 Redcliffe Gardens. An apartment furnished richly but in an old-fashioned way. Fine pictures. Large furniture. Sofa near centre. General air of neglect and dustiness. Carpet half-laid. Trunks and bags lying about in corners, some opened. Men's wearing apparel exposed. Mantelpiece, R., in disorder. At back double doors (ajar) leading to another room. Door, L., leading to hall and front door.

TIME.—Evening in August.

ALBERT SHAWN is reclining on the sofa, fully dressed, but obviously ill: an overcoat has been drawn over his legs. A conspicuous object is a magnificent light purple dressing-gown thrown across a chair.

Door bangs off. Enter ILAM CARVE in his shirt sleeves, hurriedly. SHAWN feebly tries to get up.

CARVE. Now, don't move. Remember you're a sick man, and forget you're a servant.

(SHAWN shivers. CARVE, about to put on his dressing-gown, changes his mind, and wraps it round SHAWN as well as he can. CARVE then puts on an oldish coat.)

SHAWN. (Feebly.) You've been very quick, sir.

CARVE. I found a red lamp only three doors off. He'll be along in half a minute.

SHAWN. Did you explain what it was, sir?

CARVE. (Genially.) How could I explain what it was, you fool, when I don't know? I simply asked to see the doctor, and I told him there was a fellow-creature suffering at No. 126, and would he come at once. "126?" he said, "126 has been shut up for years."

SHAWN. (Trying to smile.) What did you say, sir?

CARVE. I said (articulating with clearness) a hundred and twenty-six—and ran off. Then he yelled out after me that he'd come instantly.... I say, Shawn, we're discovered. I could tell that from his sudden change of tone. I bet the entire street knows that the celebrated Me has arrived at last. I feel like a criminal already, dashed if I don't! I wish we'd gone to a hotel now. (Walks about.) I say, did you make up the bed?

SHAWN. I was just doing it, sir.

CARVE. But what about sheets and so on?

SHAWN. I bought some this morning, ready hemmed, sir—with those and the travelling rug——

CARVE. Well, don't you think you could work your passage out to the bed? With my help?

SHAWN. Me in your bed, sir!

CARVE. (Genially bullying.) Keep on in that tone—and I'll give you the sack on the spot. Now then. Try—before the doctor comes. (Bell rings.)

SHAWN. The bell, sir—excuse me.

CARVE. Confound——

(Exit CARVE.)

(SHAWN coughs and puts a handkerchief to his mouth. CARVE returns immediately with DR. PASCOE.)

PASCOE. (Glancing round quickly.) This the patient? (Goes to SHAWN, and looks at him. Then, taking a clinical thermometer from his pocket and wiping it; with marked respect.) Allow me to put this under your tongue for half a minute. (Having done so, he takes SHAWN'S wrist and, looking at his watch, counts the patient's pulse. Then turning to CARVE, in a low curt voiced) When did this begin?

CARVE. Just now. That is, he only began to complain about six o'clock. We arrived in London this morning from Madrid.

PASCOE. (Reading thermometer.) Temperature 104-1/2. Pulse is 140—and weak. I must have some boiling water.

CARVE. (At a loss.) What for?

PASCOE. What for? For a poultice.

CARVE. (Helplessly.) But there isn't any ... we've nothing except this spirit-lamp. (Pointing to lamp on table.)

PASCOE. No women in the house?

CARVE. (With humour that the doctor declines to see.) Not one.

PASCOE. (Controlling his exasperation.) Never mind. I'll run round to the surgery and get my hypodermic. (To SHAWN, reassuringly and deferentially.) I shall be back at once, Mr. Carve. (To CARVE, near door.) Keep your master well covered up—I suppose you can do that?

(Exit.)

CARVE. Shawn, my poor fellow, he takes you for the illustrious Ilam Carve. This is what comes of me rushing out in shirt sleeves. (Gesture of despair.) I can't explain it to him.

SHAWN. But——

CARVE. It's all right. You'll be infinitely better looked after, you know, and I shall be saved from their infernal curiosity.

SHAWN. It's only this, sir. I was half-expecting a young lady to-night, sir (very feebly). At least, I believe she's young.

CARVE. Shawn, I've always suspected you were a bad lot. Now I know. I also know why you were so devilish anxious to put me to bed early. What am I to say to this young lady on your behalf?

(SHAWN worse, too ill to answer. Pause. Re-enter DR. PASCOE, very rapidly, with a large tumbler half-full of hot liquid.)

PASCOE. You may say I've been quick. (As he bends down to SHAWN, addressing CARVE.) Get me a wine glass of clean cold water. (To SHAWN.) Now, please. I want you to drink a little brandy and water. (SHAWN makes no response.) By Jove! (The doctor pours some of the brandy and water down SHAWN'S throat.)

CARVE. (Who has been wandering about vaguely.) I don't think we've got a wine glass. There's a cup, but I suppose that isn't medical enough.

PASCOE. (Taking a syringe from his pocket and unscrewing it.) Pour some water in it. (CARVE obeys.) Now, hold it.

CARVE. (Indicating syringe.) What is this device? PASCOE. This device? I'm going to get some strychnine into him by injection. Steady with that cup, now!

(Pascoe drops a tablet into the syringe and screws it up again, draws a little water up into the syringe and shakes the syringe. Then he goes to SHAWN to make the injection, on the top side of the patient's forearm. CARVE still holds the cup out mechanically.)

PASCOE. I've done with that cup.

CARVE. (Putting the cup down.) Might I ask what's the matter with him?

PASCOE. Pneumonia is the matter.

(Noise of some one in the hall.)

CARVE. (Startled.) Surely that's some one in the hall.

PASCOE. Keep perfectly calm, my man. It's my assistant. I left the door open on purpose for him. He's got the poultice and things. (In a loud voice as he finishes the injection.) Come along, come along there. This way.

(Enter EDWARD HORNING with poultice, lint, bandages, etc.) PASCOE. Found the antiphlogistine?

EDWARD. Yes. (He looks at patient, and exchanges a glance with PASCOE.)

PASCOE. Where's the bedroom?

CARVE. There's one there. (Pointing to double doors.)

PASCOE. (To HORNING.) We'll get him into bed now. (To CARVE.) Bed ready?

CARVE. Yes. I—I think he was just making it up.

PASCOE. (Startled.) Does he make up his own bed?

CARVE. (Perceiving the mistake, but resuming his calm.) Always.

PASCOE. (Controlling his astonishment; looking through double doors and opening them wider. To HORNING.) Yes, this will do. Put those things down here a minute while we lift him.

(PASCOE and HORNING then carry the inanimate form of SHAWN into the room behind, while CARVE hovers about uselessly.)

CARVE. Can I do anything?

PASCOE. (Indicating a chair furthest away from the double doors.) You see that chair?

CARVE. I see it.

PASCOE. Go and sit on it.

(Exeunt PASCOE and HORNING, back, closing double door's.)

(After walking about, CARVE sits down on another chair. A bell rings twice. He pays no attention. Then enter JANET CANNOT, L. CARVE jumps up, but is inarticulate, though very favourably interested.)

JANET. (Smiling sympathetically.) I rang twice.

CARVE. The bell must be out of order.

JANET. I couldn't be sure, but I don't think it's the bell that's out of order.

CARVE. Oh! You think I'm out of order.

JANET. No. I was thinking that you'd only just come into the house—all you famous folk—and you hadn't quite got it straight yet—as it were. (Looking vaguely at room.)

CARVE. All we famous folk?

JANET. Well—I don't know myself about that sort of thing.

CARVE. What sort of thing?

JANET. Picture-painting, isn't it? I mean real pictures done by hand, coloured——CARVE. Ah—yes.

JANET. (After a slight pause.) It struck me all of a sudden, while I was waiting at the door, that it might have been left open on purpose.

CARVE. The front door? On purpose? What for?

JANET. Oh—for some one particular to walk in without any fuss. So in I stepped.

CARVE. You're the young lady that Mr. Shawn's expecting——(Going towards passage.)

JANET. (Stopping him.) It's shut now. You don't want everybody walking in, do you?

CARVE. (Looking at JANET with pleasure.) So you're the young lady—Mrs.—Miss——

JANET. (Ignoring his question.) Was it a message you had for me?

CARVE. No, no. Not a message.... But—the fact is, we're rather upset here for the moment.

JANET. Yes. Illness.

CARVE. Now, if it isn't an indiscreet question, how did you know that there was illness?

JANET. I was standing looking at this house and wondering whether I shouldn't do better to go right back home there and then. But "No," I said, "I've begun, and I'll go through with it."—Well, I was standing there when what should I see but a parlour maid pop up from the area steps next door, and she says to me over the railings, "The doctor's just been." Just like that, excited. So I said, "Thank you, miss." I hope it's nothing serious?

CARVE. Pneumonia.

JANET. Pneumonia. What a mercy!

CARVE. Mercy?

JANET. If you look at it sensibly it's about the best illness anybody could have in hot weather like this. You've got to keep them warm. The weather does it for you. If it was typhoid now, and you'd got to keep them cool—that would be awkward. Not but it passes me how anybody can catch pneumonia in August.

CARVE. Coming over from the Continent.

JANET. Oh! the Continent. It's not Mr. Shawn that's ill?

CARVE. (Hesitating.) Mr. Shawn? Oh no, no! It's Ilam Carve.

JANET. (Half whispering. Awed.) Oh, him! Poor thing. And nobody but men in the house.

CARVE. And who told you that?

JANET. Well! (waves her hand to indicate the state of the room, smiling indulgently) I always feel sorry for gentlemen when they have to manage for themselves, even if they're well and hearty. But when it comes to illness—I can't bear to think about it. Still, everybody has their own notions of comfort. And I've no doubt he'll very soon be better.

CARVE. You think he will?

JANET. (Blandly cheerful.) As a general rule, you may say that people do get better. That's my experience. Of course sometimes they take a longish time. And now and then one dies—else what use would cemeteries be? But as a general rule they're soon over it. Now am I going to see Mr. Shawn, or shall I——

CARVE. Well, if you could call again——

JANET. You say you hadn't a message?

CARVE. Not precisely a message. But if you could call again——

JANET. When?

CARVE. (Rather eagerly.) Any time. Any time. Soon.

JANET. Night after to-morrow?

CARVE. Why not morning?

JANET. Perhaps morning is safer. Thank you. Very well, then. Day after to-morrow.... I suppose Mr. Shawn has a rare fine situation here?

CARVE. (Shrugging his shoulders.) Nothing to complain of, if you ask me.

(JANET offers her hand quite simply. The double doors open, CARVE looks alarmed.)

JANET. Thank you very much. I think I can open the front door myself.

CARVE. I say—you won't forget?

JANET. Well, what do you think?

(Exit, L.)

(Enter DR. PASCOE through double doors.)

PASCOE. (At double doors, to HORNING invisible behind.) Then there's no reason why the nurse at Edith Grove shouldn't come along here.

HORNING. (Off.) Yes. She'll be free in an hour.

PASCOE. All right. I'll look in there.

HORNING. (Nervous.) What am I to do if his respiration——

PASCOE. (Interrupting.) Don't worry. I'm not gone yet. I must just clean up my hypodermic. Shut those doors.

(HORNING obeys.)

CARVE. What's this about a nurse?

PASCOE. (Busy with syringe, water, and syringe-case.) I'm sending one in. (Ironically.) Do you see any objection?

CARVE. On the contrary, I should like him to be treated with every care. He's invaluable to me.

PASCOE. (Staggered.) Invaluable to you! Of course in my line of business I get used to meeting odd people——

CARVE. (Recovering from his mistake.) But you think I carry oddness rather far?

PASCOE. The idea did pass through my mind.

CARVE. Nervousness—nothing but nervousness. I'm very nervous. And then—you know the saying—like master, like man.

PASCOE. (Indicating back room with a gesture; in a slightly more confidential tone as CARVE'S personal attractiveness gains on him.) Mr. Carve odd?

CARVE. Oh, very. Always was. Ever since I've known him. You remember his first picture at the Academy?

PASCOE. No, not exactly.

CARVE. Either you remember it exactly or you don't remember it at all. Life-size picture of a policeman blowing his whistle.

PASCOE. Yes; it must have been odd, that must.

CARVE. Not a bit. The oddness of the fellow——

PASCOE. What 'fellow'—your governor?

CARVE. (Nods.) His oddness came out in this way—although the thing had really a great success, from that day to this he's never painted another life-size picture of a policeman blowing his whistle.

PASCOE. I don't see anything very odd there——

CARVE. Don't you? Well, perhaps you don't go in for art much. If you did, you'd know that the usual and correct thing for a painter who has made a great success with a life-size picture of a policeman blowing his whistle, is to keep on doing life-size pictures of a policeman blowing his whistle for ever and ever, so that the public can always count on getting from him a life-size picture of a policeman blowing his whistle.

PASCOE. I observe you are one of those comic valets. Nervousness again, no doubt.

CARVE. (Smiling and continuing.) Seeing the way he invariably flouted the public, it's always been a mystery to me how he managed to make a name, to say nothing of money.

PASCOE. Money! He must make pots. You say I don't go in for art much, but I always read the big sales at Christie's. Why, wasn't it that policeman picture that Lord Leonard Alcar bought for 2000 guineas last year?

CARVE. No, not Alcar. I think the bobby was last bought by Texel.

PASCOE. Texel? Who's Texel?

CARVE. Collector—United States—one of their kings, I'm told.

PASCOE. Oh, him! Controls all the ink in the United States.

CARVE. Really! That's what I should call influence. No. It was the "Pelicans feeding their Young" that Alcar bought. Four thousand. You're getting mixed up.

PASCOE. Perhaps I am. I know I'm constantly seeing Mr. Carve's name in connection with Lord Leonard Alcar's. It's a nice question which is the best known of the two.

CARVE. Then the—governor really is famous in England? You see we never come to England.

PASCOE. Famous—I should think he was. Aren't they always saying he's the finest colourist since Titian? And look at his prices!

CARVE. Yes. I've looked at his prices. Titian's prices are higher, but Titian isn't what you'd call famous with the general public, is he? What I want to know is—is the governor famous among the general public?

PASCOE. Yes.

CARVE. About how famous should you say he is?

PASCOE. (Hesitating.) Well—(abruptly) that's a silly question.

CARVE. No, it isn't. Is he as famous as—er—Harry Lauder?

PASCOE. (Shakes his head.) You mustn't go to extremes.

CARVE. Is he as famous as Harry Vardon?

PASCOE. Never heard of him.

CARVE. I only see these names in the papers. Is he as famous as Bernard Shaw?

PASCOE. Yes, I should say he was.

CARVE. Oh, well that's not so bad. Better than I thought! It's so difficult to judge where one is—er—personally concerned. Especially if you're never on the spot.

PASCOE. So it's true Mr. Carve never comes to England?

CARVE. Why should he come to England? He isn't a portrait painter. It's true he owns this house, but surely that isn't sufficient excuse for living in a place like England?

PASCOE. Of course, if you look at it like that, there's no particular attractiveness in England that I've ever seen. But that answer wouldn't satisfy Redcliffe Gardens. Redcliffe Gardens is persuaded that there must be a special reason.

CARVE. Well, there is.

PASCOE. (Interested, in spite of himself.) Indeed!

CARVE. (Confidentially.) Have a cigarette? (Offering case.)

PASCOE. (Staggered anew, but accepting.) That's a swagger case.

CARVE. Oh! (Calmly.) He gave it me.

PASCOE. Really?

CARVE. Well, you see we're more like brothers—been together so long. He gives me his best suits too. Look at this waistcoat. (Motions the hypnotised PASCOE to take a chair. They light their cigarettes.)

(Enter HORNING.)

PASCOE. (Somewhat impatient.) He's not worse already?

HORNING. Where's that brandy and water?

PASCOE. Be careful. He's had about enough of that.

HORNING. Seeing I've had no dinner yet—I thought it might suit me. (Exit with tumbler.)

PASCOE. (To Carve with renewed eagerness.) So there is a special reason why you keep out of England.

CARVE. Yes—shyness.

PASCOE. How—shyness?

CARVE. Just simple shyness. Shyness is a disease with the governor, a perfect disease.

PASCOE. But everyone's shy. The more experience I get the more convinced I am that we're all shy. Why, you were shy when you came to fetch me!

CARVE. Did you notice it?

PASCOE. Of course. And I was shy when I came in here. I was thinking to myself, "Now I'm going to see the great Ilam Carve actually in the flesh," and I was shy. You'd think my profession would have cured me of being shy, but not a bit. Nervous disease, of course! Ought to be treated as such. Almost universal. Besides, even if he is shy, your governor—even if he's a hundredfold shy, that's no reason for keeping out of England. Shyness is not one of those diseases you can cure by change of climate.

CARVE. Pardon me. My esteemed employer's shyness is a special shyness. He's only shy when he has to play the celebrity. So long as people take him for no one in particular he's quite all right. For instance, he's never shy with me. But instantly people approach him as the celebrity, instantly he sees in the eye of the beholder any consciousness of being in the presence of a toff—then he gets desperately shy, and his one desire is to be alone at sea or to be buried somewhere deep in the bosom of the earth. (PASCOE laughs.) What are you laughing at? (CARVE also laughs.)

PASCOE. Go on, go on. I'm enjoying it.

CARVE. No, but seriously! It's true what I tell you. It amounts almost to a tragedy in the brilliant career of my esteemed. You see now that England would be impossible for him as a residence. You see, don't you?

PASCOE. Quite.

CARVE. Why, even on the Continent, in the big towns and the big hotels, we often travel incognito for safety. It's only in the country districts that he goes about under his own name.

PASCOE. So that he's really got no friends?

CARVE. None, except a few Italian and Spanish peasants—and me.

PASCOE. Well, well! It's an absolute mania then, this shyness.

CARVE. (Slightly hurt.) Oh, not so bad as that! And then it's only fair to say he has his moments of great daring—you may say rashness.

PASCOE. All timid people are like that.

CARVE. Are they? (Musing.) We're here now owing to one of his moments of rashness.

PASCOE. Indeed!

CARVE. Yes. We met an English lady in a village in Andalusia, and—well, of course, I can't tell you everything—but she flirted with him and he flirted with her.

PASCOE. Under his own name?

CARVE. Yes. And then he proposed to her. I knew all along it was a blunder.

PASCOE. (Ironic.) Did you?

CARVE. Yes. She belonged to the aristocracy, and she was one of those amateur painters that wander about the Continent by themselves—you know.

PASCOE. And did she accept?

CARVE. Oh yes. They got as far as Madrid together, and then all of a sudden my esteemed saw that he had made a mistake.

PASCOE. And what then?

CARVE. We fled the country. We hooked it. The idea of coming to London struck him—just the caprice of a man who's lost his head—and here we are.

PASCOE. (After a pause.) He doesn't seem to me from the look of him to be a man who'd—shall we say?—strictly avoided women.

CARVE. (Startled, with a gesture towards back.) Him?

(PASCOE nods.)

Really! Confound him! Now I've always suspected that; though he manages to keep his goings-on devilish quiet.

PASCOE. (Rising.) It occurs to me, my friend, that I'm listening to too much. But you're so persuasive.

CARVE. It's such a pleasure to talk freely—for once in a way.

PASCOE. Freely—is the word.

CARVE. Oh! He won't mind!

PASCOE. (In a peculiar tone.) It's quite possible!

(Enter HORNING.)

HORNING. (To Carve.) I say, it's just occurred to me, Mr. Carve hasn't been digging or gardening or anything, I suppose, and then taken cold after?

CARVE. Digging? Oh no. He must have got a bad chill on the steamer. Why?

HORNING. Nothing. Only his hands and finger-nails are so rough.

CARVE. (After thinking.) Oh, I see! All artists are like that. Messing about with paints and acids and things. Look at my hands.

PASCOE. But are you an artist too?

CARVE. (Recovering himself, calmly.) No, no.

PASCOE. (To Horning.) How's he going on?

HORNING. (Shrugs his shoulders.) I'm sure the base of both lungs is practically solid.

PASCOE. Well, we can't do more than we have done, my boy.

HORNING. He'll never pull through.

PASCOE. (Calmly.) I should certainly be surprised if he did.

CARVE. (Astounded.) But—but——

PASCOE. But what?

CARVE. You don't mean to say—Why, he's a strong healthy man!

PASCOE. Precisely. Not very unusual for your strong healthy man to die of pneumonia in twenty-four hours. You ought to know, at your age, that it's a highly dangerous thing to be strong and healthy. (Turning away.) I'll have another look at him before I go.

CARVE. (Extremely perturbed.) But this is ridiculous. I simply don't know what I shall do without that man.

The stage is darkened for a few moments to indicate passage of time.



SCENE 2

TIME.—The next morning but one. Slightly less disorder in the room.

CARVE and PASCOE are together, the latter ready to leave.

CARVE. Will there have to be an inquest?

PASCOE. Inquest? Of course not.

CARVE. It's some relief to know that. I couldn't have faced a coroner.

PASCOE. (Staring at him.) Perfectly ordinary case.

CARVE. That's what you call perfectly ordinary, is it? A man is quite well on Tuesday afternoon, and dead at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning. (Looking at his watch.) My watch has stopped.

PASCOE. (With fierce sarcasm.) One of those cheap German watches, I suppose, that stop when you don't wind them up! It's a singular thing that when people stay up all night they take it for granted their watches are just as excited as they are. Look here, you'll be collapsing soon. When did you have anything to eat last?

CARVE. Almost half an hour ago. Two sausages that were sent in yesterday for the nurse.

PASCOE. She's gone?

CARVE. Oh yes.

PASCOE. Well, take my advice. Try to get some sleep now. You've had no reply from the relatives—the auctioneer cousin—what's his Christian name—Cyrus?

CARVE. No, I—I didn't telegraph—I forgot——

PASCOE. Well, upon my soul! I specially reminded you yesterday afternoon.

CARVE. I didn't know the address.

PASCOE. Ever heard of the London Directory? You'd better run out and wire instantly. You don't seem to realize that the death of a man like Ilam Carve will make something of a stir in the world. And you may depend on it that whether they'd quarrelled or not, Cyrus Carve will want to know why he wasn't informed of the illness at once. You've let yourself in for a fine row, and well you deserve it.

CARVE. (After a few paces.) See here, doctor. I'm afraid there's been some mistake. (Facing him nervously.)

PASCOE. What?

CARVE. I—I——

(Bell rings.)

PASCOE. (Firmly.) Listen to me, my man. There's been no sort of mistake. Everything has been done that could be done. Don't you get ideas into your head. Lie down and rest. You're done up, and if you aren't careful you'll be ill. I'll communicate with Cyrus Carve. I can telephone, and while I'm about it I'll ring up the registrar too—he'll probably send a clerk round.

CARVE. Registrar?

PASCOE. Registrar of deaths. There'll be all kinds of things to attend to. (Moving to go out.)

(Bell rings again.)

CARVE. (As if dazed.) Is that the front door bell?

PASCOE. (Drily.) Quite possibly! I'll open it.

(Exit.)

(CARVE, alone, makes a gesture of despair. Re-enter PASCOE with CYRUS CARVE.)

PASCOE. (As they enter.) Yes, very sudden, very sudden. There were three of us—a nurse, my assistant, and myself. This is Mr. Shawn, the deceased's valet.

CYRUS. Morning. (Looks round at disorder of room contemptuously.) Pigstye!... My name is Cyrus Carve. I'm your late master's cousin and his only relative. You've possibly never heard of me.

CARVE. (Curtly.) Oh yes, I have! You got up a great quarrel when you were aged twelve, you and he.

CYRUS. Your manner isn't very respectful, my friend. However you may have treated my cousin, be good enough to remember you're not my valet.

CARVE. How did you get to know about it?

CYRUS. I suppose he forbade you to send for me, eh? (Pause.) Eh?

CARVE. (Jumping at this suggestion.) Yes.

PASCOE. So that was it.

CYRUS. (Ignoring PASCOE.) Ha! Well, since you're so curious, I saw it a quarter of an hour ago in a special edition of a halfpenny rag; I was on my way to the office. (Showing paper.) Here you are! The Evening Courier. Quite a full account of the illness. You couldn't send for me, but you could chatter to some journalist.

CARVE. I've never spoken to a journalist in my life.

CYRUS. Then how——?

PASCOE. It's probably my assistant. His brother is something rather important on the Courier, and he may have telephoned to him. It's a big item of news, you know, Mr. Carve.

CYRUS. (Drily.) I imagine so. Where is the body?

PASCOE. Upstairs. (Moving towards door.)

CYRUS. Thanks. I will go alone.

PASCOE. Large room at back—first floor.

(Exit CYRUS, L.)

I think I'd prefer to leave you to yourselves now. Of course, Mr. Carve will do all that's necessary. You might give him my card, and tell him I'm at his service as regards signing the death certificate and so on. (Handing card.)

CARVE. (Taking card perfunctorily.) Very well. Then you're going? PASCOE. Yes. (Moves away and then suddenly puts out his hand, which CARVE takes.) Want a word of advice?

CARVE. I—I ought——

PASCOE. If I were you I should try to get something better than valeting. It's not your line. You may have suited Ilam Carve, but you'd never suit an ordinary employer. You aren't a fool—not by any means.

(CARVE shrugs his shoulders.)

(Exit PASCOE, L. Door shuts off.)

(Re-enter CYRUS immediately after the door shuts.)

CARVE. (To himself.) Now for it! (To CYRUS). Well?

CYRUS. Well what?

CARVE. Recognize your cousin?

CYRUS. Of course a man of forty-five isn't like a boy of twelve, but I think I may say I should have recognized him anywhere.

CARVE. (Taken aback.) Should you indeed. (A pause.) And so you're Cyrus, the little boy that kicked and tried to bite in that historic affray of thirty years ago.

CYRUS. Look here, I fancy you and I had better come to an understanding at once. What salary did my cousin pay you for your remarkable services?

CARVE. What salary?

CYRUS. What salary?

CARVE. Eighty pounds a year.

CYRUS. When were you last paid?

CARVE. I—I——

CYRUS. When were you last paid?

CARVE. The day before yesterday.

CYRUS. (Taking a note and gold from his pocket-book and pocket.) Here's seven pounds—a month's wages in lieu of notice. It's rather more than a month's wages, but I can't do sums in my head just now. (Holding out money.)

CARVE. But listen——

CYRUS. (Commandingly.) Take it.

(CARVE obeys.)

Pack up and be out of this house within an hour.

CARVE. I——

CYRUS. I shall not argue.... Did your master keep his private papers and so on in England or somewhere on the Continent—what bank?

CARVE. What bank? He didn't keep them in any bank.

CYRUS. Where did he keep them then?

CARVE. He kept them himself.

CYRUS. What—travelling?

CARVE. Yes. Why not?

CYRUS. (With a "tut-tut" noise to indicate the business man's mild scorn of the artist's method's.) Whose is this luggage?

CARVE. Mine.

CYRUS. All of it?

CARVE. That is——

CYRUS. Come now, is it his or is it yours? Now be careful.

CARVE. His. (Angrily, as CYRUS roughly handles a box.) Now then, mind what you're about! Those are etching things.

CYRUS. I shall mind what I'm about. And what's this?

CARVE. That's a typewriter.

CYRUS. I always thought artists couldn't stand typewriting machines.

CARVE. That was—his servant's.

CYRUS. Yours, you mean?

CARVE. Yes, I mean mine.

CYRUS. Then why don't you say so? What do you want a typewriter for?

CARVE. (Savagely.) What the devil has that got to do with you?

CYRUS. (Looking up calmly from the examination of a dispatch box.) If you can't keep a civil tongue in your head I'll pitch you down the front-door steps and your things after you.

CARVE. I've got something to tell you——

CYRUS. Silence, and answer my questions! Are his papers in this dispatch box?

CARVE. Yes.

CYRUS. Where are his keys?

CARVE. (Slowly drawing bunch of keys from his pocket.) Here.

CYRUS. (Taking them.) So you keep his keys?

CARVE. Yes.

CYRUS. (Opening dispatch box.) Wear his clothes too, I should say!

(CARVE sits down negligently and smiles.)

CYRUS. (As he is examining papers in box.) What are you laughing at?

CARVE. I'm not laughing. I'm smiling. (Rising and looking curiously at box.) There's nothing there except lists of securities and pictures and a few oddments—passports and so on.

CYRUS. There appears to be some money. I'm glad you've left that. Quite a lot, in fact. (Showing notes.)

CARVE. Here, steady! There's twelve thousand francs there besides some English notes. That's mine.

CYRUS. Yours, eh? He was taking care of it for you, no doubt?

CARVE. (Hesitating.) Yes.

CYRUS. When you can furnish me with his receipt for the deposit, my man, it shall be handed to you. Till then it forms part of the estate. (Looking at a packet of letters.) "Alice Rowfant."

CARVE. And those letters are mine too.

CYRUS. (Reading.) "My dearest boy"—Were you Lady Alice Rowfant's dearest boy? Anyhow, we'll burn them.

CARVE. So long as you burn them I don't mind.

CYRUS. Indeed! (Continues to examine papers, cheque foils, etc. Then opens a document.)

CARVE. Oh! Is that still there? I thought it was destroyed.

CYRUS. Do you know what it is?

CARVE. Yes. It's a will that was made in Venice I don't know how long ago—just after your aunt died and you had that appalling and final shindy by correspondence about the lease of this house. Everything is left for the establishment of an International Gallery of Painting and Sculpture in London, and you're the sole executor, and you get a legacy of five pounds for your trouble.

CYRUS. Yes.... So I see. No doubt my cousin imagined it would annoy me.

CARVE. He did.

CYRUS. He told you so?

CARVE. He said it would be one in the eye for you—and he wondered whether you'd decline the executorship.

CYRUS. Well, my man, I may tell you at once that I shall not renounce probate. I never expected a penny from my cousin. I always assumed he'd do something silly with his money, and I'm relieved to find it's no worse. In fact, the idea of a great public institution in London being associated with my family is rather pleasant.

CARVE. But he meant to destroy that will long since.

CYRUS. (As he cons the will.) How do you know? Has he made a later will?

CARVE. No.

CYRUS. Well, then! Besides, I fail to see why you should be so anxious to have it destroyed. You come into eighty pounds a year under it.

CARVE. I was forgetting that.

CYRUS. (Reading.) "I bequeath to my servant, Albert Shawn, who I am convinced is a thorough rascal, but who is an unrivalled valet, courier, and factotum, the sum of eighty pounds a year for life, payable quarterly in advance, provided he is in my service at the time of my death."

(CARVE laughs shortly.)

You don't want to lose that, do you? Of course, if the term "thorough rascal" is offensive to you, you can always decline the money. (Folds up will and puts it in his pocket—CARVE walks about.) Now where's the doctor?

CARVE. He's left his card. There it is.

CYRUS. He might have waited.

CARVE. Yes. But he didn't. His house is only three doors off.

CYRUS. (Looking at his watch.) I'll go in and see him about the certificate. Now you haven't begun to put your things together, and you've only got a bit over half an hour. In less than that time I shall be back. I shall want to look through your luggage before you leave.

CARVE. (Lightly.) Shall you?

CYRUS. By the way, you have a latchkey? (CARVE nods.) Give it me, please.

(CARVE surrenders latchkey.)

(CYRUS turns to go—As he is disappearing through the door, L., CARVE starts forward.)

CARVE. I say.

CYRUS. What now?

CARVE. (Subsiding weakly.) Nothing.

(Exit CYRUS. Sound of front door opening and of voices in hall.)

(Then re-enter CYRUS with JANET CANNOT.)

CYRUS. This is Mr. Albert Shawn. Shawn, a friend of yours.

(Exit L.)

CARVE. (Pleased.) Oh! You!

JANET. Good-morning. D'you know, I had a suspicion the other night that you must be Mr. Shawn?

CARVE. Had you? Well, will you sit down—er—I say (with a humorous mysterious air). What do you think of that chap? (Pointing in direction of hall.)

JANET. Who is it?

CARVE. It's Mr. Cyrus Carve. The great West End auctioneer.

(Sound of front-door shutting rather too vigorously.)

JANET. Well, I see no reason why he should look at me as if I'd insulted him.

CARVE. Did he?

JANET. "Good-morning," I said to him. "Excuse me, but are you Mr. Albert Shawn?" Because I wasn't sure, you know. And he looked.

CARVE. (After laughing.) The man is an ass.

JANET. Is he?

CARVE. Not content with being an ass merely, he is a pompous and a stupid ass. (Laughs again to himself.) Now there is something very important that he ought to know, and he wouldn't let me tell him. JANET. Really?

CARVE. Yes, very important. But no. He wouldn't let me tell him. And perhaps if I'd told him he wouldn't have believed me.

JANET. What did he do to stop you from telling him?

CARVE. (At a loss, vaguely.) I don't know—Wouldn't let me.

JANET. If you ask me, I should say the truth is, you didn't want to tell him.

CARVE. (Impressed.) Now I wonder if you're right.

JANET. Well, I don't quite see how anybody can stop anybody from talking. But even if he did, he can't stop you from writing to him.

CARVE. No, I'm hanged if I write to him!

JANET. Oh, well, that's a proof you didn't want to tell him.

CARVE. Perhaps it is. (After a burst of quiet laughter.) Pardon me. (Reflective.) I was only thinking what a terrific lark it will be.

JANET. If he never does get to know?

CARVE. If he never does get to know. If nobody ever gets to know. (Resolved.) No. I'll keep my mouth shut.

JANET. As a general rule, it's the best thing to do.

CARVE. You advise me to keep my mouth shut?

JANET. Not at all. I simply say, as a general rule it's the best thing to do. But this is no business of mine, and I'm sure I'm not inquisitive.

CARVE. (Solemnly.) He shall go his own way. (Pause.) And I'll—go—mine.

JANET. (Calmly indifferent.) That's settled, then.

CARVE. (Laughs again to himself, then controls his features.) And that being settled, the first thing I have to do is to apologize for my behaviour on Tuesday night.

JANET. Oh, not at all. Seeing how upset you were! And then I'm not sure whether I shouldn't have done the same thing myself in your place.

CARVE. Done the same yourself?

JANET. Well, I may be wrong, but it occurred to me your idea was that you'd like to have a look at me before giving yourself away, as it were. Of course, I sent you my photographs, but photographs aren't much better than gravestones—for being reliable, and some folks are prejudiced against matrimonial agencies, even when they make use of them. It's natural. Now I've got no such prejudice. If you want to get married you want to get married, and there you are. It's no use pretending you don't. And there's as much chance of being happy through a matrimonial agency as any other way. At least—that's what I think.

CARVE. (Collecting his wits.) Just so.

JANET. You may tell me that people who go to a matrimonial agency stand a chance of getting let in. Well, people who don't go to a matrimonial agency stand a chance of getting let in, too. Besides, I shouldn't give a baby a razor for a birthday present, and I shouldn't advise a young girl to go to a matrimonial agency. But I'm not a young girl. If it's a question of the male sex, I may say that I've been there before. You understand me?

CARVE. Quite.

JANET. Well, I think I told you pretty nearly everything important in my letter. Didn't I?

CARVE. Let me see now——

JANET. I mean the one I sent to the office of the Matrimonial News.

CARVE. (Mechanically feeling in his pockets, pulling out papers and putting them back.) Where did I put it? Oh, perhaps it's in the pocket of another coat. (Goes to a coat of SHAWN'S hanging on inner knob of double doors, and empties all the pockets, bringing the contents, including a newspaper, to the table.)

JANET. (Picking up an envelope.) Yes, that's it—I can feel the photograph. You seem to keep things in the pockets of all your coats.

CARVE. If you knew what I've been through this last day or two——

JANET. (Soothingly.) Yes, yes.

CARVE. I haven't had a quiet moment. Now——(Reading letter.) "Dear Sir, in reply to your advertisement, I write to you with particulars of my case. I am a widow, aged thirty-two years——"

JANET. And anybody that likes can see my birth certificate. That's what I call talking.

CARVE. My dear lady! (Continuing to read.) "Thirty-two years. My father was a jobbing builder, well known in Putney and Wandsworth. My husband was a rent collector and estate agent. He died four years ago of appendicitis (hesitating) caught——"

JANET. Caused.

CARVE. I beg pardon, "—caused by accidentally swallowing a bristle out of his tooth-brush, the same being discovered at the operation. I am an orphan, a widow, and have no children. In consequence I feel very lonely, and my first experience not being distasteful, indeed the reverse, I am anxious to try again, provided I can meet with a sincere helpmeet of good family. I am the owner of the above house, rated at forty-five pounds a year, in one of the nicest streets in Putney, and I have private means of some three pounds a week, from brewery shares bringing in fifteen per cent. I will say nothing about my appearance, but enclose latest carte-de-visite photograph."

JANET. I had it taken on purpose.

CARVE. "As to my tastes, I will only say that as a general rule they are quiet. If the above seems in your line, I shall be obliged if you will write and send me particulars of yourself, with photographs.—Yours truly, JANET CANNOT." Well, Mrs. Cannot, your letter is an absolute model.

JANET. I suppose you did get dozens?

CARVE. Well——By the way, what's this type-written thing in the envelope?

JANET. (Looking at it.) It looks like a copy of your answer.

CARVE. Oh!

JANET. If it isn't a rude question, Mr. Shawn, why do you typewrite your letters? It seems so—what shall I say?—public.

CARVE. (Half to himself.) So thats the explanation of the typewriter.

JANET. (Puzzled.) I suppose it's because you're a private secretary.

CARVE. (Equally puzzled.) Private secretary! I—shall we just glance through my reply? (Reads.) "My dear Mrs. Cannot, your letter inspires me with more confidence than any of the dozens of others I have received." (They look at each other, smiling.) "As regards myself, I should state at once that I am and have been for many years private secretary, indeed I may say almost companion, to the celebrated painter. Mr. Ilam Carve, whose magnificent pictures you are doubtless familiar with."

JANET. No, I'm not.

CARVE. Really. "We have been knocking about England together for longer than I care to remember, and I personally am anxious for a change. Our present existence is very expensive. I feel the need of a home and the companionship of just such a woman as yourself. Although a bachelor, I think I am not unfitted for the domestic hearth. My age is forty." That's a mistake of the typewriter.

JANET. Oh!

CARVE. Forty-five it ought to be.

JANET. Well, honestly, I shouldn't have thought it.

CARVE. "My age is forty-five. By a strange coincidence Mr. Carve has suggested to me that we set out for England to-morrow. At Dover I will telegraph you with a rendezvous. In great haste. Till then, my dear Mrs. Cannot, believe me," etc.

JANET. You didn't send a photograph.

CARVE. Perhaps I was afraid of prejudicing you in advance.

JANET. (Laughs.) Eh, Mr. Shawn! There's thousands of young gentlemen alive and kicking in London this minute that would give a great deal to be only half as good looking as you are. And so you're a bachelor?

CARVE. Oh, quite.

JANET. Two bachelors, as you say, knocking about Europe together. (CARVE laughs quietly but heartily to himself.) By the way, how is Mr. Carve? I hope he's better.

CARVE. Mr. Carve?...(Suddenly stops laughing.) Oh! (Lamely, casually.) He's dead!

JANET. (Stocked.) Dead? When?

CARVE. Early this morning.

JANET. (Rising.) And us chattering away like this. Why didn't you tell me at once, Mr. Shawn?

CARVE. I forgot for the moment. I wasn't thinking——

JANET. Forgot?

CARVE. (Simply and sincerely, but very upset.) Now, Mrs. Cannot, I assure you I feel that man's death. I admit I had very little affection for him—certainly not much respect—but we'd been together a long time, and his death is a shock to me. Yes, really. But I've had to think so much about my own case—and then a scene, a regular scene with Cyrus Carve. And then you coming. The fact is——

JANET. (Sympathetically.) The fact is, you scarcely know what you're doing, my poor Mr. Shawn. You're on wires, that's what's the matter with you—hysteria. I know what it is as well as anybody. You'll excuse me saying so, but you're no ordinary man. You're one of these highly-strung people and you ought to take care of yourself. Well, I'll go now, and if it's mutually agreeable we might perhaps meet again in a month's time—say.

CARVE. A month? But what am I to do with myself for a month? Do you know you're absolutely the only friend I've got in London—in England. We're never here. I'm an utter stranger. You can't leave me like that—for a month—four weeks—four Sundays. I haven't the least idea what's going to happen to me.

JANET. The very best thing that can happen to you is bed. You go to bed and stop there for a couple of days. There's nothing like it.

CARVE. Yes, but where?

JANET. Why, here of course.

CARVE. I've got to be out of this place in half an hour, less. The fact is, Cyrus Carve has been extremely—er—pert. He's paid me a month's salary and I'm off at once. In under thirty minutes I shall be on the streets.

JANET. I never liked that man. Well, then, you must go to some nice respectable boarding-house.

CARVE. But I don't know any nice respectable boarding-house.

JANET. Oh! There are thousands and thousands in London. Look in the Telegraph.

CARVE. I haven't had a paper to-day.

JANET. Any day will do. They're in all the papers every day. What's this? (Taking up folded dirty newspaper and opening it.) Now, let's see. Well, what about this? "A beautiful private hotel of the highest class. Luxuriously furnished. Visitors' comfort studied. Finest position in London. Cuisine a speciality. Suitable for persons of superior rank. Bathroom. Electric light. Separate tables. No irritating extras. Single rooms from two and a half guineas. 250 Queen's Gate." Quite close by! (CARVE says nothing.) Perhaps that's a bit dear. Here's another. "Not a boarding-house. A magnificent mansion. Forty bedrooms by Waring. Superb public saloons by Maple. Parisian chef. Separate tables. Four bathrooms. Card-rooms. Billiard room. Vast lounge. Special sanitation. Young, cheerful, musical society. Bridge (small). Finest position in London. No irritating extras. Single rooms from two guineas." What about that?

CARVE. (Shakes his head.) I don't think I should fancy it.

JANET. I won't say but what two guineas a week is a lot.

CARVE. And I was thinking how cheap it was.

JANET. (Staring.) Well, of course, if you've got money to fling about.

CARVE. Upon my soul I don't know what money I have got.

JANET. It'll be just as well to find out before you get into the street.

CARVE. Let's see. Well, there's seven pounds (showing it.) and this (pulling silver and gold from another pocket). Not much is it? Sixteen shillings and sixpence. It's true I've an annuity of eighty pounds. I was forgetting that.

JANET. (Pleased.) Have you indeed?

CARVE. Yes. But an annuity isn't ready cash, is it?

JANET. (Picking up Shawn's pocket-book.) And this? This seems rather thick.

CARVE. I was forgetting that too. (Opens it and takes out many notes.)

JANET. My word! And you'd forgotten that! You ought to see a doctor.

CARVE. (Counting.) Twenty-one fives, and ten tens. That makes two hundred and five pounds. (Half to himself.) I always knew I was a bad lot—but where did I collar all that from? (To Janet.) I know what I shall do! I shall go to the Grand Babylon.

JANET. The Grand Babylon Hotel? But it's the dearest hotel in London.

CARVE. In the big towns we always went to the best hotel. It's cheapest in the end.

JANET. You're very persuasive, but you'll never make me believe you'll save money by staying at the Grand Babylon.

CARVE. (Rising and beginning to collect things—tries to fold up a pair of trousers.) Now, Mrs. Cannot, will you do me a favour?

JANET. You'll spoil these trousers.

CARVE. Will you come and lunch with me at the Grand Babylon to-morrow?

JANET. But I've never been in such a place in my life.

CARVE. Remember. You're my only friend. Will you come and lunch with me at the Grand Babylon to-morrow?

JANET. (Timidly.) I should like to. (Suddenly.) Here, give me those trousers, do! (She takes hold of one leg, CARVE retaining the other.)

(Enter CYRUS CARVE.)

CYRUS. Oh!

CURTAIN.



ACT II

SCENE I

Private sitting-room at the Grand Babylon Hotel, Strand. Luxurious in the hotel manner. Telephone. Door, L., leading to corridor. Door, R. (up stage), leading to bedroom. Another door (not used) leading by a passage to bathroom.

TIME.—About noon on the following day. ILAM CARVE and JANET are talking together.

CARVE. I'm really delighted to see you.

JANET. (Examining his features.) But surely you're not feeling very well?

CARVE. I'm not. Perhaps it's these sleepless nights I've had.

JANET. You're shivering.

CARVE. I was wearing my dressing-gown. I nearly always do when I'm alone. Do you think you'd mind if I put it on again.

JANET. Do you mean to say you took it off because of me? (Seizing dressing-gown firmly.) Mr. Shawn, will you oblige me by getting-into this at once? (She helps him on with dressing-gown.) What a beauty!

CARVE. Yes. Cousin Cyrus thought so too. He didn't want me to bring it away. Still, I beat him on that point. (JANET arranges the collar.) Do you know, you do me good.

JANET. I should think so. I suppose when gentlemen live alone they're pretty nearly always unwell, as it were. If it isn't a cold, it's stomach, I expect. And truly, I'm not surprised, the way they go on! Now, will you sit down in that chair and keep your legs covered—August or no August! If you ask me, it's influenza you're sickening for. (Sound of distant orchestral.) Music?

CARVE. (Nodding and sitting down in easy chair.) Well, and what's the news from outside? I haven't stirred since yesterday noon.

JANET. Seems to me there's no news except your Mr. Carve's death.

CARVE. Really! Is it so much talked about as all that?

JANET. It's on all the posters—very big. All along Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square and the Strand the newspaper boys, and the newspaper old men too, are wearing it like aprons, as it were. I read the Telegraph myself. There was nearly a page of it in the Telegraph.

CARVE. (Staggered.) Nearly a page of it in the Telegraph!

JANET. Yes, besides a leading article. Haven't you——

CARVE. I never read obituaries of artists in the papers.

JANET. Neither do I. But I should have thought you would.

CARVE. Well, they make me angry. Obituaries of archbishops aren't so bad. Newspapers seem to understand archbishops. But when they begin about artists—you cannot imagine the astounding nonsense they talk.

JANET. (Protesting against his heat.) Now! You're still all on wires. Why should that make you angry?

CARVE. What did the Telegraph say? Did you look at it?

JANET. Oh yes. It appears Mr. Carve was a very eccentric person—avoiding society and so on.

CARVE. (Resentful.) Eccentric! There you are! He wasn't eccentric in the least. The only society he avoided was the society of gaping fools.

JANET. Well, I'm just telling you what it said. Then, let me see—what else did it say? Oh! It said the sole question was whether Mr. Carve was the greatest painter since Velasquez—is that how you pronounce it?—or whether he was the greatest painter that ever lived.

CARVE. (Interested.) Really! It said that?

JANET. (Nodding.) You ought to read it.

CARVE. Upon my soul I think I must. (Attempts to rise.)

JANET. Now, please, don't move. What is it you want?

CARVE. I was only going to telephone and have the daily papers sent up.

JANET. Where is the telephone?

CARVE. (Pointing.) There.

JANET. So they've put a telephone in your room?

CARVE. Telephone in every room.

JANET. (Going to telephone.) Can I telephone for you? I never have telephoned, and I should like to. How do you do it?

CARVE. Just take that thing off the hook and talk into it. (JANET gingerly obeys.) It won't explode.

JANET. What am I to say?

CARVE. Tell them to send me up the daily papers at once.

JANET. All?

CARVE. Yes.

JANET. But will they?

CARVE. Certainly.

JANET. (Into telephone.) Please will you send up all the daily papers at once.

CARVE. Thanks very much. Now you can hang it up again.

JANET. So this is the Grand Babylon Hotel? Well it's a queer place. (Her eyes rove round the room.)

CARVE. What are you looking for?

JANET. To speak plainly, I was looking for the bed. I must say I was rather surprised when the young man at the desk said I was to go up to your room.... But really, every thing's so nicely arranged.... I suppose it's one of those folding beds that turn into bookcases and things?

CARVE. (Laughs.) No. This is my sitting-room.

JANET. Your sitting-room? (Pointing to door, R.) Then that's the bedroom?

CARVE. Yes.

JANET. (Pointing to another door.) And what's that?

CARVE. That's one way to my bathroom. In a big hotel I always take a suite, you know. It's so much more comfortable.

JANET. Isn't it rather expensive?

CARVE. To tell you the truth, I didn't ask the price.

(Knock at door.)

JANET. (Charmingly tart.) I suppose it's what you call "cheapest in the end." CARVE. Come in.

(Enter PAGE with a pile of papers.)

CARVE. Thanks! Give them to me.

(Exit PAGE.)

JANET. Well, I never! It's like magic.

CARVE. Now let's just glance at these chaps. (Unfolding a paper.)

JANET. Shall I help you?

CARVE. Why? Here's black borders and a heading across two columns! "Death of England's greatest painter," "Irreparable loss to the world's art," "Our readers will be shocked——" Are they all like that? (More and more astonished; takes another paper.) "Sad death of a great genius."

JANET. (Handing him still another paper.) And this.

CARVE. "London's grief." "The news will come as a personal blow to every lover of great painting." But—but—I'd no notion of this. (Half to himself.) It's terrible.

JANET. Well, perhaps always living with him you wouldn't realize how important he was, would you? (Distant music begins again, a waltz tune.)

CARVE. (Reading.) "Although possibly something of a poseur in his choice of subjects...." The fellow's a fool. Poseur indeed!

JANET. Look at this. "Europe in mourning."

CARVE. Well—well.

JANET. What is that music?

CARVE. London's grief. It's the luncheon orchestra downstairs.

(Telephone bell rings.)

CARVE. Never mind it. Let 'em ring. I understand now why journalists and so on have been trying all day to see me. Honestly I'm—I'm staggered.

(Telephone bell continues to ring.)

JANET. It's a funny notion of comfort having a telephone in every room. How long will it keep on like that?

CARVE. I'll stop it. (Rising.)

JANET. No, no. (Going to telephone and taking receiver.) Yes? What's the matter? (Listens. To CARVE.) Oh, what do you think? Father Looe and his sister, Miss Honoria Looe, want to see you.

CARVE. Father Looe? Never heard of him.

JANET. Oh, but you must have heard of him. He's the celebrated Roman Catholic preacher. He's a beautiful man. I heard him preach once on the Sins of Society.

CARVE. Would you mind saying I'm not at home?

JANET. (Obviously disappointed.) Then won't you see him?

CARVE. Did you want to see him?

JANET. I should like just to have had a look at him close to, as it were.

CARVE. (Gallantly.) Then you shall. Tell them to send him up, will you?

JANET. And am I to stay here?

CARVE. Of course.

JANET. Well, if anybody had told me this time last week——(Into telephone.) Please ask them to come up.

CARVE. Perhaps with your being here I shan't be quite so shy.

JANET. Shy! Are you shy? It said in the Telegraph that Mr. Carve was painfully shy.

CARVE. (Protesting.) Painfully! Who told them that, I should like to know?

JANET. Now shyness is a thing I simply can't understand. I'm never shy. And you don't strike me as shy—far from it.

CARVE. It's very curious. I haven't felt a bit shy with you.

JANET. Nobody ever is shy with me.... (Ironically.) I must say I'd give something to see you shy.

(Enter FATHER LOOE and HONORIA LOOE, announced by PAGE.) LOOE. (Stopping near door, at a loss.) Pardon me—Mr. Shawn—Mr. Albert Shawn?

CARVE. (Rising, perturbed.) Yes.

LOOE. This is your room?

CARVE. Yes.

LOOE. I'm afraid there's some mistake. I was given to understand that you were the—er—valet of the late Mr. Ilam Carve.

HONORIA. Yes. Mr. Cyrus Carve told us——

JANET. (Coming to CARVE'S rescue as he remains speechless, very calmly.) Now there's another trick of Mr. Cyrus Carve's! Valet indeed! Mr. Shawn was Mr. Carve's secretary—and almost companion.

LOOE. Ten thousand apologies. Ten thousand apologies. I felt sure——

CARVE. Please sit down. (With special gallantry towards HONORIA.)

JANET. And will you sit down too, Mr. Shawn? (To the LOOES.) He's not at all well. That's why he's wearing his dressing-gown.

CARVE. (Introducing.) My friend, Mrs. Janet Cannot.

LOOE. Now, Mr. Shawn, if you knew anything about me, if you have heard me preach, if you have read any of my books, you are probably aware that I am a man who goes straight to the point, hating subtleties. In connection with your late employer's death a great responsibility is laid upon me, and I have come to you for information—information which I have failed to obtain either from Mr. Cyrus Carve, or the doctor, or the nurse.... Was Mr. Carve a Catholic?

CARVE. A Catholic?

LOOE. He came of a Catholic family did he not?

CARVE. Yes—I believe so.

LOOE. The cousin, Mr. Cyrus Carve, I regret to say, denies the faith of his childhood—denies it, I also regret to say, with a vivacity that amounts almost to bad manners. In fact, he was extremely rude to me when I tried to give him some idea of the tremendous revival of Catholicism which is the outstanding feature of intellectual life in England to-day.

CARVE. Ilam Carve was not a Catholic.

LOOE. Mind, I do not ask if he died in the consolations of the faith. I know that he did not. I have learnt that it occurred to neither you nor the doctor nor the nurse to send for a priest. Strange omission. But not the fault of the dying man.

CARVE. Ilam Carve was not a Catholic.

LOOE. Then what was he?

CARVE. Nothing in particular.

LOOE. Then I claim him. Then I claim him.... Honoria!

CARVE. (In a new tone..) Look here—what's all this about?

LOOE. (Rising.) I will tell you at once what it is about, Mr. Shawn. There is a question of Ilam Carve being buried in Westminster Abbey.

CARVE. (Thunderstruck.) Buried in Westminster Abbey?

LOOK. Lady Leonard Alcar has consulted me about the matter. I may say that I have the honour to be her spiritual director. Probably you know that Lord Leonard Alcar owns the finest collection of Ilam Carve's pictures in Europe.

JANET. I've often wondered who it is that settles whether people shall be buried in the Abbey or not. So it's Lady Leonard Alcar!

LOOE. Not exactly! Not exactly! But Lady Leonard Alcar is a great lady. She has vast influence. The most influential convert to Catholicism of the last thirty years. She is aunt to no less than four dukes, and Lord Leonard is uncle to two others.

CARVE. (Ironically.) I quite see.

LOOE. (Eagerly.) You see—don't you? Her advice on these matters carries enormous weight. A suggestion from her amounts to—to—

CARVE. A decree absolute.

JANET. (Simply.) Is she what they call the ruling classes?

LOOE. (Bows.) Lady Leonard and I have talked the matter over, and I pointed out to her that if this great genius was a member of the Church of England and if the sorrowing nation at large deems him worthy of the supreme honour of a national funeral, then by all means let him be buried in the Abbey. But if he was a Catholic, then I claim him for Westminster Cathedral, that magnificent fane which we have raised as a symbol of our renewed vitality. Now, was he a member of the Church of England?

CARVE. (Loudly.) Decidedly not.

LOOE. Good! Then I claim him. I detest casuistry and I claim him. I have only one other question. You knew him well—intimately—for many years. On your conscience, Mr. Shawn, what interment in your opinion would he himself have preferred?

JANET. (After a pause.) It wouldn't make much difference to him either way, would it?

CARVE. (With an outburst.) The whole thing is preposterous.

LOOE. (Ignoring the outburst.) My course seems quite clear. I shall advise Lady Leonard—

CARVE. Don't you think you're rather young to be in sole charge of this country?

LOOE. (Smoothly.) My dear sir, I am nothing but a humble priest who gives counsel when counsel is sought. And I may say that in this affair of the interment of our great national painter, there are other influences than mine. For instance, my sister, Honoria, who happens also to be president of the Ladies' Water Colour Society—(gesture of alarm from CARVE)—my sister has a great responsibility. She is the favourite niece of—(Whispers in CARVE'S ear.) Consequently—(Makes an impressive pause.)

HONORIA. You see my uncle is a bachelor and I keep house for him. Anselm used to live with us too, until he left the Church.

LOOE. Until I joined the Church, Honoria. Now Honoria wishes to be perfectly fair; she entirely realizes her responsibility; and that is why she has come with me to see you.

JANET. (Benignantly.) So that's how these things are decided! I see I'd got quite a wrong notion of politics and so on.

HONORIA. Oh, Mr. Shawn— } and } (Together.) JANET. My idea was— }

JANET. I beg your pardon.

HONORIA. I beg yours.

JANET. Granted.

HONORIA. There's one question I should so like to ask you, Mr. Shawn. In watercolours did Mr. Carve use Chinese white freely or did he stick to transparent colour, like the old English school? I wonder if you understand me?

CARVE. (Interested.) He used Chinese white like anything.

HONORIA. Oh! I'm so glad. You remember that charming water-colour of the Venetian gondolier in the Luxembourg. We had a great argument after we got home last Easter as to whether the oar was put in with Chinese white—or just 'left out,' you know!

CARVE. Chinese white, of course. My notion is that it doesn't matter a fig how you get effects so long as you do get them.

HONORIA. And that was his notion too? (Telephone bell rings, JANET answers it.)

CARVE. His? Rather. You bet it was.

HONORIA. I'm so glad. I'm so glad. I knew I was right about Chinese white. Oh, Anselm, do let him be buried in the Abbey! Do let me suggest to uncle——

LOOE. My dear girl, ask your conscience. Enthusiasm for art I can comprehend; I can even sympathize with it. But if this grave national question is to be decided by considerations of Chinese white——

(CARVE turns to JANET as if for succour.)

JANET. (Calmly.) The doctor is just coming up.

CARVE. The doctor? What doctor?

JANET. A Dr. Horning. He says he's Dr. Pascoe's assistant and he attended Mr. Carve, and he wants to see you.

CARVE. But I don't want to see him.

JANET. You'll have to see a doctor.

CARVE. Why?

JANET. Because you're ill. So you may just as well see this one as another. They're all pretty much of a muchness.

(Enter PETER HORNING boisterously. A PAGE BOY opens the door but does not announce him.)

PETER. (Perceiving LOOE first.) Ah, Father! You here? How d'ye do? What did you think of my special on last Sunday's sermon? (Shakes hands with LOOE and bows to MISS LOOE as to an acquaintance.)

LOOE. Very good. Very good.

PETER. (Advancing to CARVE.) Mr. Shawn, I presume?

CARVE. (Glancing helplessly at JANET.) But this isn't the doctor?

PETER. (Volubly.) Admitted! Admitted! I'm only his brother—a journalist. I'm on the Courier and the Mercury and several other Worgan papers. One of our chaps failed to get into this room this morning, so I came along to try what I could do. You see what I've done.

JANET. Well, I never came across such a set of people in my life.

PETER. (Aside to LOOE.) Is he in service here, or what?

LOOE. Mr. Shawn was Mr. Carve's secretary and companion, not his valet.

PETER. (Puzzled, but accepting the situation.) Ah! So much the better. Now, Mr. Shawn, can you tell me authoritatively whether shortly before his death Mr. Carve was engaged to be married under romantic circumstances to a lady of high rank?

HONORIA. Indeed!

CARVE. Who told you that?

PETER. Then he was!

CARVE. I've nothing to say.

PETER. You won't tell me her name?

CARVE. I've nothing to say.

PETER. Secondly, I'm instructed to offer something considerable for your signature to an account of Ilam Carve's eccentric life on the Continent.

CARVE. Eccentric life on the Continent!

PETER. I shouldn't keep you half an hour—three quarters at most. A hundred pounds. Cash down, you know. Bank notes. All you have to do is to sign.

CARVE. (To Janet, exhausted, but disdainful.) I wouldn't mind signing an order for the fellow's execution.

PETER. A hundred and fifty!

CARVE. Or burning at the stake.

PETER. (To LOOE.) What does he say?

LOOE. Mr. Shawn is indisposed. We've just been discussing the question of the burial in the Abbey. I think I may say, if it interests you as an item of news, that Ilam Carve will not be buried in the Abbey.

PETER. (Lightly.) Oh yes he will, Father. There was a little doubt about it until we got particulars of his will this morning. But his will settled it.

LOOE. His will?

PETER. Yes. Didn't you know? No, you wouldn't. Well, his estate will come out at about a couple of hundred thousand, and he's left it practically all for an International Gallery of Modern Art in London. Very ingenious plan. None of your Chantrey Bequest business. Three pictures and one piece of sculpture are to be bought each year in London. Fixed price L400 each, large or small. Trustees are to be business men—bank directors. But they can't choose the works. The works are to be chosen by the students at South Kensington and the Academy Schools. Works by R.A.'s and A.R.A.'s are absolutely barred. Works by students themselves absolutely barred, too. Cute that, eh? That's the arrangement for England. Similar arrangement for France, Italy, and Germany. He gives the thing a start by making it a present of his own collection—stored somewhere in Paris. I don't mean his own paintings—he bars those. Unusually modest, eh?

HONORIA. How perfectly splendid! We shall have a real live gallery at last. Surely Anselm, after that—

LOOE. Quite beside the point. I shall certainly oppose.

PETER. Oppose what?

LOOE. The burial in the Abbey. I shall advise Lady Leonard Alcar—

PETER. No use, Father. Take my word. The governor's made up his mind. He's been fearfully keen on art lately. I don't know why. We were in front of everybody else with the news of Ilam Carve's death, and the governor's making a regular pet of him. He says it's quite time we buried an artist in Westminster Abbey, and he's given instructions to the whole team. Didn't you see the Mercury this morning? Anybody who opposes a national funeral for Ilam Carve will be up against the governor. Of course, I tell you that as a friend—confidentially.

LOOE. (Shaken.) Well, I shall see what Lady Leonard says.

CARVE. (Rising in an angry, scornful outburst.) You'd bury him in Westminster Abbey because he's a philanthropist, not because he's an artist. That's England all over.... Well, I'm hanged if I'll have it.

LOOE. But, my dear sir——

CARVE. And I tell you another thing—he's not dead.

PETER. Not dead—what next?

CARVE. I am Ilam Carve.

HONORIA. (Soothingly.) Poor dear! He's not himself.

CARVE. That's just what I am. (Sinks back exhausted.)

PETER. (Aside to LOOE.) Is he mad, Father? Nothing but a clerk after all. And yet he takes a private room at the Grand Babylon, and then he refuses a hundred and fifty of the best and goes on like this. And now, blessed if he isn't Ilam Carve! (Laughs.)

LOOE. I really think we ought to leave.

HONORIA. (To JANET.) He's a little unhinged! But how charming he is.

JANET. (Prudently resenting HONORIA'S interest in CARVE.) Yes, he's a little unhinged. And who wouldn't be?

PETER. Got 'em—if you ask me! (Moving to leave.)

LOOE. (Moving to leave.) Honoria.

JANET. (Very soothingly and humouringly to CARVE.) So this is what you call being shy!

CARVE. (To JANET, who is now bending over him.) It must be stopped.

JANET. (As the others go out; humouring him.) Yes, yes! (Absently in reply to bows and adieux of LOOE, HONORIA, and PETER HORNING.) Good morning! (When they are gone, with a sigh of relief.) Well, it is a mighty queer place! My word, how cold your hands are! (Going quickly to telephone and speaking into telephone.) Please send up two hot-water bottles at once. Yes, hot-water bottles. Never heard of a hot-water bottle before?

The Stage is darkened for a few moments to indicate the passage of time.



SCENE 2

TIME.—Afternoon, four days later.

JANET is dozing in an easy-chair. Enter CARVE in his dressing-gown.

JANET. (Starting up.) Mr. Shawn, what are you doing out of bed? After such a dose of flu as you've had!

CARVE. I'm doing nothing out of bed. (Twiddles his thumbs.)

JANET. But you've no right to be out of bed at all.

CARVE. I was afraid I hadn't. But I called and called, and there was no answer. So then I began to argue the point. Why not get up? I'd had a tremendous long sleep. I felt singularly powerful. And I thought you'd gone home.

JANET. Nay—that you never did!

CARVE. I did, honestly.

JANET. Do you mean to say you thought for a single moment I should go home and leave you like that?

CARVE. Yes. But of course I thought you might be coming back sooner or later.

JANET. Well I never!

CARVE. You've scarcely left me for three days and three nights, Mrs. Cannot, so far as I remember. Surely it was natural for me to suppose that you'd gone home to your own affairs.

JANET. (Sarcastically.) It didn't occur to you I might have dropped off to sleep?

CARVE. Now, don't be angry. I'm only convalescent.

JANET. Will you kindly march right back to bed this instant?

CARVE. No, I'm dashed if I do!

JANET. I beg pardon.

CARVE. I say, I'm dashed if I do! I won't stir until I've thanked you. I've been ill I don't know how many times; but this is the first time in my life I've ever enjoyed being ill. D'you know (with an ingenuous smile.) I'd really no idea what nursing was.

JANET. (Drily.) Hadn't you? Well, if you call that nursing, I don't. But it was the best I could do in this barracks, with the kitchen a mile and a half off, and a pack of men that can't understand English gaping at you all day in evening-dress. I dare say this is a very good hotel for reading newspapers in. But if you want anything that isn't on the menu, it's as bad as drawing money out of the post office savings bank. You should see me nurse in my own house.

CARVE. I should like to. Even in this barracks (imitating her.) you've quite altered my views of life.

JANET. Yes, and they wanted altering. When I think of you and that other poor fellow wandering about all alone on that Continent—without the slightest notion of what comfort is.... Well, I'll say this—it's a pleasure to nurse you. Now, will you go back to bed?

CARVE. I suppose coffee's on the menu?

JANET. Coffee?

CARVE. I think I should like some cafe au lait, and a roll.

JANET. (Rising.) You can have hot milk if you like.

CARVE. All right. And then when I've had it I'll go to bed.

JANET. (At telephone.) Are you there?

CARVE. (Picking up a sheet of paper from table.) Hello! What's this? Hotel bill-receipted?

JANET. I should think so indeed! They sent it up the second day. (Into telephone.) Hot milk, please, and let it be hot! (Hanging up telephone. To CARVE.) I expect they were afraid for their money.

CARVE. And you paid it?

JANET. I took the money out of your pockets and I just paid it. I never said a word. But if you hadn't been ill I should have said something. Of all the swindles, of all the barefaced swindles!... Do you see what it's costing you to live here—a day?

CARVE. Oh, not much above four pounds, I hope.

JANET. (Speechless at first.) Any woman that knew her business could keep you for a month—a month—for less than you spend here in a day—and better. And better! Look here: "Biscuits, 1s. 6d.!"

CARVE. Well?

JANET. Well (confidentially earnest.), will you believe me when I tell you there wasn't a pennyworth of biscuits on that plate? Do you think I don't know what biscuits are a pound?

CARVE. Really!

JANET. (Ironically.) "Cheapest in the end"—but I should say the end's a long way off.

CARVE. (Who has picked up another paper, on mantelpiece.) What? "Admit Mr. Albert Shawn to Westminster Abbey, cloisters entrance.... Funeral.... Tuesday."... That's to-day, isn't it?

JANET. Yes.

CARVE. (Moved.) But you told me he wasn't going to be buried in Westminster Abbey.

JANET. I know.

CARVE. You told me Cyrus Carve had insisted on cremation.

JANET. (With vivacity.) And what did you expect me to tell you? I had to soothe you somehow; you were just about delirious. I was afraid if I told you the truth you'd be doing something silly—seeing the state you were in. Then it struck me a nice plain cremation at Woking was the very thing to keep you quiet.

CARVE. (Still more moved.) Then he's.... Westminster Abbey!

JANET. Yes, I should say all is over by this time. There were thousands of people for the lying-in-state, it seems.

CARVE. But it's awful. Absolutely awful.

JANET. Why is it awful?

CARVE. I told you—I explained the whole thing to you.

JANET. (Humouring, remonstrating.) Mr. Shawn, surely you've got rid of that idea! You aren't delirious now. You said you were convalescent, you know.

CARVE. There'll be a perfect Hades of a row. I must write to the Dean at once. I must——

JANET. (Soothingly.) I shouldn't if I were you. Why not let things be? No one would believe that tale——

CARVE. Do you believe it?

JANET. (Perfunctorily.) Oh yes.

CARVE. No, you don't. Honestly, do you now?

JANET. Well——(Knock at door.) Come in. (Enter WAITER with hot milk.) Here's your hot milk.

WAITER. Miss Looe has called.

CARVE. I must see her.

JANET. But——

CARVE. I must see her.

JANET. Oh, very well. (Exit WAITER.) She's telephoned each day to inquire how you were. She asked if you wanted a seat for the funeral. I told her you couldn't possibly go, but I was sure you'd like to be invited—whether it was the Abbey or not. Please don't forget your milk.

(Enter HONORIA LOOE in mourning, introduced by WAITER.)

HONORIA. (Coming in quickly, bowing to JANET and shaking hands with CARVE.) Good afternoon. Please don't rise. I've heard how ill you've been. I've only called because I simply had to.

CARVE. It's very kind of you.

HONORIA. Oh, Mr. Shawn, I know you didn't want him to be buried in the Abbey. I'm all for quiet funerals, too; but really this was an exceptional case, and I think if you'd seen it you'd have been glad they did decide on the Abbey. Oh, you've no idea how impressive it was! The Abbey is always so fine, isn't it? And it was crammed. You never saw such a multitude of distinguished people. I mean really distinguished—all in black, except, of course, the uniforms. Royalties, ambassadors, representatives from all the academies all over Europe. Rodin was there!! The whole of artistic London came. I don't mean only painters, but poets, novelists, sculptors, and musicians. The art students had a corner to themselves. And you should have seen the crowds outside. All traffic was stopped up as far as Trafalgar Square. I've had some difficulty in getting here. The sun was shining through the stained glass. And the music was magnificent. And then when the coffin was carried down the nave—well, there was only one wreath on the pall—just one—a white crown. All the other wreaths were piled near the screen—scores and scores of them—the effect was tremendous. I nearly cried. A lot of people did cry. (Genuinely moved.) There was that great genius lying there. He'd never done anything except put paint on canvas, and yet—and yet.... Well, it made you feel somehow that England does care for art after all.

CARVE. (After a pause.) And whom have we to thank for this beautiful national manifestation of sympathy with art?

HONORIA. How do you mean?

CARVE. (With an attempt at cold irony, but yet in a voice imperfectly controlled.) Did your brother relent and graciously permit Lady Leonard Alcar to encourage a national funeral? Or was it due solely to the influence of the newspapers written by people of refined culture like the man who gave his opinion the other day that I had got 'em? Or perhaps you yourself settled it with your esteemed uncle over a cup of tea?

HONORIA. Of course, Mr. Shawn, any one can see that you're artistic yourself, and artists are generally very sarcastic about the British public. I know I am.... Now, don't you paint?

CARVE. (Shrugging his shoulders.) I used to—a little.

HONORIA. I was sure of it. Well, you can be as sarcastic as you like, but do you know what I was thinking during the service? I was thinking if only he could have seen it—if only Ilam Carve could have seen it—instead of lying cold in that coffin under that wreath, he'd—(Hesitating.)

CARVE. (Interrupting her, in a different, resolved tone.) Miss Looe, I suppose you're on very confidential terms with your uncle.

HONORIA. Naturally. Why?

CARVE. Will you give him a message from me. He'll do perhaps better than anybody.

HONORIA. With pleasure.

CARVE. (Moved.) It is something important—very important indeed. In fact—

(JANET goes into bedroom, but keeping near the doorway does not actually disappear.)

HONORIA. (Soothingly, and a little frightened.) Now, please, Mr. Shawn! Please don't frighten us as you did the other day. Please do try and keep calm!

CARVE. I—(He suddenly stands up and then falls back again into chair.)

(JANET returns quickly to the room)

HONORIA. (Alarmed, to JANET.) I'm afraid he isn't quite well yet.

CARVE. No, I can't tell you. At least, not now. Thanks very much for calling. (Rises brusquely and walks towards the bedroom door.)

JANET. (To HONORIA.) He's not really strong enough to see visitors.

HONORIA. (Going to door and trying to be confidential.) What is it?

JANET. (With tranquillity.) Oh, influenza. Sometimes it takes 'em in the head and sometimes in the stomach. It's taken him in the head.

HONORIA. Charming man! I don't suppose there's the least likelihood of it—he's evidently very well off—but if he should be wanting a situation similar to his last, I'm sure my uncle——

JANET. (Positively and curtly.) I don't think so.

HONORIA. Of course you know him very well?

JANET. Well, it's like this. I'm his cousin. We aren't exactly engaged to be married——

HONORIA. (In a changed tone.) Oh, I see! Good afternoon.

JANET. Good afternoon.

(Exit HONORIA.)

CARVE. (Who has hesitatingly wandered back towards centre; in a quite different tone now that he is alone again with JANET.) What's this about being engaged to be married?

JANET. (Smiling.) I was telling her we weren't engaged to be married. That's true, I suppose?

CARVE. But are we cousins?

JANET. Yes. I've got my reputation to think about. I don't want to coddle it, but there's no harm in just keeping an eye on it.

CARVE. I see. (Sits down.)

JANET. If nothing comes of all this—

CARVE. All what?

JANET. All this illness and nursing and sitting up at nights,—then I'm just your cousin, and no harm done.

CARVE. But do you mean to say you'd—

JANET. (Stopping-him.) Not so fast! (Pause. She continues reflectively.) Do you know what struck me while her ladyship was telling you about all the grand doings at the funeral—What good has it ever done him to be celebrated and make a big splash in the world? Was he any happier for it? From all I can hear he was always trying to hide just as if the police were after him. He never had the slightest notion of comfort, and so you needn't tell me! And there's another thing—you needn't tell me he wasn't always worrying about some girl or other, because I know he was. A bachelor at his age never thinks about anything else—morning, noon, and night. It stands to reason—and they can say what they like—I know. And now he's dead—probably because he'd no notion of looking after himself, and it's been in all the papers how wonderful he was, and florists' girls have very likely sat up half the night making wreaths, and Westminster Abbey was crowded out with fashionable folk—and do you know what all those fashionable folk are thinking about just now—tea! And if it isn't tea, it's whisky and soda.

CARVE. But you mustn't forget that he was really very successful indeed.... Just look at the money he made, for instance.

JANET. Well, if sovereigns had been any use to him he'd never have left two hundred thousand of them behind him—him with no family. No, he was no better than a fool with money. Couldn't even spend it.

CARVE. He had the supreme satisfaction of doing what he enjoyed doing better than anybody else could do it.

JANET. And what was that?

CARVE. Painting.

JANET. (Casually.) Oh! and couldn't he have had that without running about all over Europe? He might just as well have been a commercial traveller. Take my word for it, Mr. Shawn, there's nothing like a comfortable home and a quiet life—and the less you're in the newspapers the better.

CARVE. (Thoughtfully.) Do you know—a good deal of what you say applies to me.

JANET. And you now! As we're on the subject—before we go any further—you're a bachelor of forty-five, same as him. What have you been doing with yourself lately?

CARVE. Doing with myself?

JANET. Well, I think I ought to ask because when I was stealing (with a little nervous laugh) the money out of your pocket to pay that hotel bill, I came across a lady's photograph. I couldn't help coming across it. Seeing how things are, I think I ought to ask.

CARVE. Oh, that! It must be a photograph of the lady he was engaged to. He broke it off, you know. That was why we came to London in such a hurry.

JANET. Then it is true—what the newspaper reporter said? (CARVE nods.) One of the aristocracy—(CARVE nods.) Who was she?

CARVE. Lady Alice Rowfant.

JANET. What was it doing in your pocket?

CARVE. I don't know. Everything got mixed up. Clothes, papers, everything.

JANET. Sure?

CARVE. Of course! Look here, do you suppose Lady Alice Rowfant is anything to me?

JANET. She isn't?

CARVE. No.

JANET. Honestly? (Looking at him closely.)

CARVE. Honestly.

JANET. (With obvious relief.) Well, that's all right then! Now will you drink this milk, please.

CARVE. I just wanted to tell you——

JANET. Will you drink this milk? (Pours out a glassful for him.)

(CARVE addresses himself to the milk.)

(JANET begins to put on her things.)

CARVE. But I say, what are you doing?

JANET. I'm going home.

CARVE. What? Now?

JANET. At once.

CARVE. But you can't leave me like this. I'm very ill.

JANET. Oh no, you aren't. You're very much better. Anyone can see that. All you've got to do is to return to bed and stick to slops.

CARVE. And when shall you come back?

JANET. You might come down to see me one day at Putney.

CARVE. I shall be delighted to. But before that, won't you come here?

JANET. (After a pause.) I'll try and come the day after to-morrow.

CARVE. Why not to-morrow?

JANET. Well, a couple of days without me'll do you no harm. It's a mistake to be in a hurry when you've got all your life in front of you.

CARVE. (After a pause.) Listen—have some tea before you go.

JANET. No. (Holds out her hand, smiling.) Good afternoon. Now do go to bed.

CARVE. I haven't begun to thank you.

JANET. No—and I hope you won't begin.

CARVE. You're so sudden.

JANET. It's sudden or nothing.

CARVE. (Holding her hand.) I say—what can you see in me?

JANET. Well, if it comes to that—what can you see in me? (Withdrawing her hand.)

CARVE. I—I don't know what it is.... Something.... (Lightly.) I dunno! Everything!

JANET. That's too much. Good-bye! I'll come about this time the day after to-morrow.

CARVE. Supposing I have a relapse?

JANET. (At door.) You won't if you do as I tell you.

CARVE. But supposing I do?

JANET. Well, you can always telegraph, can't you?

(Exit.)

(CARVE, after finishing milk, suddenly gets up and searches on writing table: he then goes to the telephone.)

CARVE. (Into telephone.) Please send me up a telegraph form.

CURTAIN.



ACT III

SCENE I

Parlour in Janet's house in Putney. A perfectly ordinary suburban interior of a small house; but comfortable. Table in centre. Door, R., up stage, leading to hall. Door, L., down stage, hading to kitchen and back premises.

TIME.—Morning in early autumn. Rather more than two years have elapsed.

Discovered—CARVE reading newspaper at breakfast-table. JANET in an apron is hovering busily near him.

JANET. (Putting cigarettes and matches down beside CARVE.) Want anything else, dear? (No answer from CARVE.) Because I must set about my morning's work. (CARVE continues to read.) Albert, are you sure you don't want anything else?

(As he still gives her no sign of attention, she snatches the paper away from him, and throws it on the floor.)

CARVE. (Not having moved his eyes.) The pattern of this jug is really not so bad.... Yes, my soul?

JANET. I've asked you I don't know how many times whether you want anything else, because I must set about my morning's work.

CARVE. Is there any more coffee?

JANET. Yes, plenty.

CARVE. Hot?

JANET. Yes.

CARVE. Then I don't want any. Got any bacon?

JANET. No, but I can cook a slice in a minute.

CARVE. (With an affectation of martyrdom.) Doesn't matter.

JANET. Oh yes, I will. (Moving away.)

CARVE. (Drawing her to him by her apron.) Can't you see he's teasing you?

JANET. She's got no time in the morning for being teased.

(She takes a cigarette, lights it and immediately puts it in his mouth.)

CARVE. And now you're going to leave me?

JANET. Sure you're all right? (He nods.) Quite sure you're happy?

CARVE. Jane—

JANET. I wish you wouldn't call me Jane.

CARVE. But I will call you Jane. Jane, why do you ask me if I'm sure I'm happy? When a man has first-class food and first-class love, together with a genuine French bed, really waterproof boots, a constant supply of hot water in the bathroom, enough money to buy cigarettes and sixpenny editions, the freedom to do what he likes all day and every day—and—let me see, what else—a complete absence of domestic servants—then either that man is happy or he is a silly cuckoo!

JANET. You aren't getting tired—

CARVE. My sweet child, what's the matter with you?

JANET. Nothing, nothing. Only to-day's the second anniversary of our wedding—and you've—you've said nothing about it.

CARVE. (After a shocked paused.) And I forgot it last year, didn't I? I shall be forgetting my dinner next.

JANET. Oh no, you won't!

CARVE. And yet all last week I was thinking about this most important day, and telling myself I must remember it.

JANET. Very easy to say that. But how can you prove it?

CARVE. Well, it does just happen that the proof is behind the sideboard.

JANET. A present?

CARVE. A present. It was all ready and waiting five days ago.

JANET. (Drawing a framed picture from behind the sideboard, and trying to hide her disappointment, but not quite succeeding.) Oh! A picture! Who is it? (Examines it with her nose close to it.)

CARVE. No, no. You can't take a picture like snuff! Get away from it. (He jumps up, snatches the picture from her, and exposes it on a chair at the other side of the room.) Now! (He sits down again.)

JANET. Yes, it doesn't look quite so queer like that. Those are my cooking sleeves, and that seems a bit like my kitchen—that's my best copper pan! Is the young woman meant to be me?

CARVE. Well, not to beat about the bush, yes.

JANET. I don't consider it very flattering.

CARVE. How many times have you told me you hate flattery?

JANET. (Running to him.) Now he's hurt. Oh, he's hurt. (Kissing him.) It's a beautiful picture, and the frame's lovely! And she's so glad he didn't forget.

CARVE. It is pretty good. In fact it's devilish good. It's one of the best things I ever did in my life. Old Carve would have got eight hundred for that like a shot.

JANET. (Sceptically.) Would he? It's wonderful how wonderful people are when they're dead.

CARVE. And now will she let him finish reading his paper?

JANET. (Handing him the paper, then putting her head close to his and looking at the paper.) What was it he was reading that made him so deaf he couldn't hear his wife when she spoke to him?

CARVE. This.

JANET. (Reading.) "Ilam Carve's princely bequest. The International Gallery of Art. Foundation stone laying. Eloquent speech by Lord Rosebery." Oh! So they've begun it at last?

CARVE. Yes, they've begun it at last.

JANET. Well, if you ask me, I should have thought he could have found something better to do with his money.

CARVE. As for example?

JANET. Well, I should have thought there were more than enough picture galleries as it is. Who wants 'em? Even when they're free, people won't go into them unless it's a wet day. I've never been in a free picture gallery yet that wasn't as empty as a church. Stands to reason! It isn't even a cinematograph. When I see rows of people in Trafalgar Square waiting to get into the National Gallery, then I shall begin to think it's about time we had some more galleries. If I'd been Ilam Carve——

CARVE. Well, what should you have done, witch?

JANET. I should have left a bit more to you, for one thing.

CARVE. I don't want more. If he'd left me eight hundred a year instead of eighty, I shouldn't be any happier. That's just what I've learnt since I took lodgings in your delightful wigwam, Jane—money and fame have no connection whatever with happiness.

JANET. Money has, when you haven't got enough.

CARVE. But I have. You won't hear of me paying more than half the household expenses, and you say they're never more than thirty shillings a week. Half thirty—fifteen. Look at the balance it leaves me.

JANET. And supposing I had to ask you to pay more?

CARVE. (In a serious sympathetic tone, startled.) Anything wrong?

JANET. Well, there's nothing wrong, as it were—yet——

CARVE. Jane, I do believe you've been hiding something from me.

JANET. (With difficulty pulls a letter from her pocket.) No—

CARVE. I've felt it for several days.

JANET. You just haven't then. Because I only got it this morning. Here, you may as well read it. (Handing him the letter.) It's about the brewery.

CARVE. (Reading.) "Mrs. Albert Shawn. Sir or Madam."—Why are shareholders never supposed to have any particular sex?—"Sir or Madam. Cohoon's Brewery, Ltd.,—I am directed by the shareholders' provisional committee of investigation to request your attendance at an informal meeting of shareholders to be held in room 2009 Winchester House on Friday the 20th inst. at noon. If you cannot be present, will you kindly write stating whether or not you will be prepared to support the committee of investigation at the annual meeting. In view of the probability that the directors' report will be unfavourable, and the ordinary dividend either passed or much reduced, the committee wishes to be thoroughly prepared and armed. Believe me, Sir or Madam." Oh! So that's it, is it?

JANET. Yes. My father said to me before he died, "Keep the money in beer, Janet"; he said, "Beer'll never fail in this country." And there you are!

(She goes to fireplace, opens coal scuttle, takes out a piece of paper ready placed within, and sticks it on the handle so as to keep her hands from being soiled as she replenishes the fire.)

CARVE. (Lightly.) Oh, well! We must wait and see what happens.

JANET. Supposing the dividend doesn't happen?

CARVE. I never worry about money.

JANET. But we shall want to eat once or twice pretty nearly every day, I suppose?

CARVE. Personally, I am quite satisfied with a plain but perfect table.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse