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The Married Man


[clock] 53-MINUTE READ ISSUE:  Autumn 1940

Characters in the Play

  • Dr. George Grainger
  • William Brentnall
  • Mrs. Plum
  • Jack Magneer
  • Annie Calladine
  • Ada Calladine Sisters
  • Emily Calladine
  • Sally Magneer, Jack’s sister
  • Mr. Magneer, Father of Jack And Sally
  • Elsa Smith, Brentnall’s Fiancee
  • Gladys
  • Tom, husband of Gladys
  • Ethel, Grainger’s wife

ACT I

SCENE: A bedroom shared by orainger and Brentnall in the cottage of Mrs. Plum. Both men are dressing, Grainger goes to the door and calls to Mrs. Plum.

Grainger
Bring me some collars up.
Brentnall
And what are you going to do?
Grainger
God knows.
Brentnall
How much money have you got?
Grainger
Four damn quid.
Brentnall
Hm! — You’re well off, considering. But what do you think of doing?
Grainger
I don’t know.
Brentnall
Where do you think of going Saturday?
Grainger
Hell.
Brentnall
Too expensive, my boy— four quid won’t carry you there.
Grainger
Oh chuck it, Billy.
Brentnall
What the Hanover’s the good of chucking it? You’re not a blooming cock robin, to take no thought for the morrow.

Enter Mrs. Plum with the collars.

Mrs. Plum
Gee, I’m sorry I forgot ‘em, Dr. Grainger. I’m ever so sorry.
Grainger
Don’t fret yourself about that, Mrs. Plum. You’re all right, you are.
Mrs. Plum
Gee, but I can’t get it out of my head, that there what you’ve just told me.
Grainger
You want to sneeze hard, Mrs. Plum. That’ll shift it.
Mrs. Plum
(laughing)Hee-Hee—hark you there now. And have you got rid of it off your mind, Dr. Grainger?
Grainger
My head’s as clear as a bell o’ brass, Mrs. Plum. Nothing ails me.
Mrs. Plum
My word, it doesn’t. My word, but you’re looking well, you’re a sight better than when you come. Isn’t he, Mr. Brentnall?
Brentnall
He’s too healthy for anything, Mrs. Plum—lie’s so healthy, he’d walk slap into a brick wall, and never know he’d hurt himself.
Mrs. Plum
Gee—I don’t know. But that there as you told me, Dr. Grainger—
Grainger
Here, you go and see if that’s Jack Magneer, and if it is, let him come up.
Mrs. Plum
You’re a caution, you are that, Dr. Grainger. (Exit.)
Brentnall
The girl is gone on you, the kid is yours. You are a married man, and you mean to abide by your family?
Grainger
What the devil else is there to do?
Brentnall
Very well. Have you bothered about another job?
Grainger
No – I did when I was in Wolverhampton. Look what a fiendish business it is, offering yourself and being refused like a dog.
Brentnall
So you’ve taken no steps.
Grainger
No.
Brentnall
And you’ve absolutely no idea what you’re going to do on Saturday, when you’ve finished here?
Grainger
No.
Brentnall
And yet you mean to stick by your wife and kid?
Grainger
What else can I do?
Brentnall
Well, you’re a beauty! You’re just skulking, like a frightened rabbit.
Grainger
Am I, begad?
Brentnall
Are you fond of the kid?
Grainger
I shouldn’t like anything to happen to it.
Brentnall
Neither should I. But the feelings of your breast towards it—?
Grainger
Well, I’m a lot fonder of that youngster at my digs in Wolverhampton—you know—
Brentnall
Then you feel no paternal emotion?
Grainger
No. Don’t talk rot.
Brentnall
How often have you been over to see your wife?
Grainger
Once.
Brentnall
Once since you were married?
Grainger
Yes.
Brentnall
And that when the baby was first born?
Grainger
Yes.
Brentnall
And you’re living—which, a recluse, or a gay bachelor?
Grainger
You can imagine me a recluse.
Brentnall
You’re a blossom, Georgie, you’re a jewel of a muddler.
Grainger
How could I help it! I was careful enough with the girl—I never thought, to tell you the truth, that—here’s Jack!
Brentnall
That what?
Grainger
Shut up. Jack’s a fine fellow.
Brentnall
Needs to be, to match you.
Grainger
Now Bill Brentnall, none of your sark.
Jack’s voice
How long are you going to be?
Grainger
How-do Jack! Shan’t be a sec. Come up. Enter Jack Magneer — aged 83— very big, a farmer, something of a gentleman, wears leggings and breeches, and a black bow tie.
Jack
Seem to be donning yourselves up—how are you?
Grainger
Mr. Magneer—Mr. Brentnall: Jack—Billy.
Jack
Yis, quite so. How are you, Billy?
Brentnall
I’m very well. You’re Miss Magneer’s brother?
Grainger
Sally’s.
Jack
Yis, I am, and what of it?
Brentnall
Oh—only you are lucky.

Grainger whistles gaily.

Jack
What you whistling for, George lad? Aren’t I lucky?
Grainger
I wish Sally was my sister, Jack.
Jack
Yis, you do, an’ so do I, George lad—then me an’ you’d be brothers.— Oh, my good God, are you going to be all night tittivating yourselves up?
Grainger
Jack’s in a hurry.
Jack
No I’m not, but damn it all—
Grainger
All right Jacko, all right. I know she’s a very nice girl—
Brentnall
Where are you taking me?
Grainger
To see some real fine girls.
Jack
Not so much fine girls, Billy— some damn nice girls, nice girls, mind you.
Grainger
Quite right, Jacko. (Seriously.) No, but they are, Billy, real nice girls. Three sisters, orphans.
Jack
An’ the oldest of them will happen to be Mrs. Grainger—eh, what?
Grainger
Liar!
Jack
You sec Billy, it’s like this. I’m glad you’ve come, because it levels us up. I believe you’re a nice chap. Don’t you take me wrong. I mean you’re not one of these damn sods as can see nowt in a girl but—you know.
Brentnall
Yes.
Grainger
Yes, Billy knows. Most moral young man.
Jack
Fooling apart, George, aren’t they nice girls?
Grainger
Really nice girls, they are.
Jack
But you see, there’s three of ‘em—an’ we’ve never been but two of us—d’you twig?
Brentnall
I twig.
Jack
But no fooling, mind you.
Brentnall
Thanks for your caution, Mr. Magneer.
Jack
Oh no, no. Nothing of the sort: only they are nice girls—you see what I mean—oh no, Billy—
Grainger
And three of ‘em.
Brentnall
And the odd one falls to me. Thanks, I was horn to oblige.
Jack
Now Billy, no. I want you t’have a good time. You see what I mean. I’m willing to step aside. You’re here only for a bit—I’m always here. So I want you—
Grainger
“I want all of you t’have a good time.”
Jack
Yis, I do. I do that, George.
Grainger
That’s always Jacko’s cry— “I want you t’have it your own road. I’m willing any road. I want you t’have a good time.” Self-effacing chap is Jack.
Brentnall
Do I put on a dinner Jacket?
Grainger
Good God no—have you brought one?
Brentnall
Well—I might have to dine at some people’s down towards Ashbourne.

CURTAIN

ACT II

SCENE: A long, low dining room —table laid for supper—bowls of crimson and white flowers, a large lamp—an old-fashioned room, furnished with taste.

The oldest miss Calladine—aged 82, tall, slim, pale, dressed in black, wearing Parma violets, looks ladylike, but rather yearning. She walks about restlessly.

Enter Dr. Grainger.

Annie
Aren’t you late?
Grainger
A little—waiting for my friend. He’s gone round to “The George” with Jack—some arrangement about farm stock. (He takes both her hands, which she offers him yearningly, and, after glancing round, kisses her hastily, as if unwillingly.) Where’s Emily?
Annie
Emily and Ada are both entertaining Mrs. Wesson in the drawing room. I hope they’ll get rid of her before Jack comes. I’m afraid we are being talked about. I’m afraid I’m not doing my duty by the girls.
Grainger
What do you mean?
Annie
You are here so often.
Grainger
I’m going away directly, so you’ll be safe after Saturday.
Annie
Really going away on Saturday—really—really. (Puts her hands on his shoulders.)
Grainger
That’s right.
Annie
Then people will talk more than ever. I shall be considered loose: and what’s to become of the girls—
Grainger
You considered loose—oh Caesar!
Annie
Where are you going?
Grainger
Don’t know.
Annie
Why won’t you tell me?
Grainger
Because I don’t know. I am waiting for a letter—it will come tomorrow. Either I shall be going to Scotland, or down to London—one or the other, hut I don’t know which.
Annie
Scotland or London!
Grainger
I hope it’s London.
Annie
Why do you?
Grainger
Well—more life, for one thing.
Annie
And is it “life” you want? That sort of life?
Grainger
Not that sort, exactly—but —oh, by the way, I told you I was bringing my friend—
Annie
Mr. Brentnall—yes.
Grainger
Well, don’t be surprised if I seem rather different tonight, will you? Billy’s very circumspect, very circumspect—nice, mind you, but good.
Annie
I see.
Grainger
You’ll like him though.
Annie
(bitingly) In spite of his goodness.
Grainger
Yes, I know you like “life” better than “goodness”—don’t you now? (He puts his hand under her chin.)
Annie
(drawing away) You seem to know a great deal about me.
Grainger
I know what you want.
Annie
What?
Grainger
(glancing round to see if he is safe—taking her in his arms, pressing her close, kissing her. She submits because she can scarcely help herself—there is a sound of feet and voices—he hastily releases her) That!
Annie
(struggling with herself) Indeed no, Dr. Grainger.
Grainger
That’s the ticket—keep it up, Annie. Enter Emily and ada Calladine— Emily, aged 27, quiet, self-possessed, dressed all in black—ada, aged 23— rather plump, handsome, charmingly young and wicked-looking—dressed in black and purple, with a crimson flower,
Annie
Has Mrs. Wesson gone?
Ada
Not before she heard a man’s voice—I told her you were engaged.
Grainger
You what?
Ada
(bursting with laughter) I told her Annie was engaged.
Annie
(severely) With a caller, you mean, Ada?
Grainger
Oh, I see.
Ada
Yes—oil yes—oh how funny!
Grainger
Not funny at all—Jack’s doing some business round at “The George,” Emily.
Emily
Is he?
Grainger
(discomfited) I think I’ll go and hurry them up.
Ada
Do!
Annie
You think it is quite safe to bring your good friend here?
Grainger
Oh, quite safe, Annie—don’t be alarmed. Ta-ta! (Exit. He is heard running down the stairs.)
Annie
I don’t think Dr. Grainger improves on acquaintance.
Ada
We’ve never got any further with him, so we can’t say.
Emily
Why do you think so, Annie?
Annie
(rather haughtily) You would not guess what he said to me.
Ada
I think you’ve given him rather a long rope.
Annie
(with dignity) If I have, he’s hit me across the face with it.
Emily
What did he say, Annie?
Annie
He is bringing a friend—a school and college friend—in a bank in London now—rather genteel, I believe. Well, Dr. Grainger said to me this evening: “You know my friend is very circumspect, very circumspect, so you won’t be surprised if my behavior is rather different this evening.”
Ada
Oh indeed!
Emily
You should have kept him more in his place, Annie.
Annie
I should, but I thought he was a gentleman. I don’t know how we’re going to receive them this evening.
Emily
We need simply take no notice of him, and be just polite.
Annie
But we don’t know what he may have told his friend about us.
Emily
I never cared for him.
Ada
Oh, what ripping fun!
Annie
Ada, be careful what you do and say.
Ada
It’s not I who’ve put my foot in it. It is you if anyone.
Annie
I have been too free, perhaps; but you cannot say I have put my foot in it. I wish I had never admitted Dr. Grainger at all—but he came with Jack—
Emily
We shall go through all right with it. Simply despise Dr. Grainger.
Annie
He is despicable.
Ada
He is here.
Annie
Emily, will you go downstairs and receive them? Ada, you stay here.

Exit Emily—voices downstairs.

Ada
They are all three here—I must go also. (Exit.)

Annie Calladine straightens her hair before the mirror, rubs out her wrinkles, puts her flowers nicely, and seats herself with much composure. Enter Grainger and Brentnall, followed by Ada Calladine.

Grainger
(stiffly) Miss Annie Calladine—Mr. Brentnall.
Brentnall
What a nice smell of flowers.
Annie
It is the mezereon that Mr. Magneer brought.
Brentnall
Did Mr. Magneer bring flowers? I shouldn’t have thought the idea could occur to him.
Annie
He always brings flowers from the garden. It would never occur to him to buy them for us.
Brentnall
I see—how nice of him.
Grainger
All country fellows cart handfuls of flowers that they’ve got out of their own gardens, to their girls.
Annie
Nevertheless, Mr. Magneer does it nicely.

Enter Magneer and Emily.

Jack
Now we seem as if we’re going to be all right. What do you say, George?
Grainger
I say the same.
Annie
Do take a scat, all of you. Jack, you love the couch—
Jack
It’s a very nice couch, this is. (Sits down.)
Brentnall
I should think it would be the easiest thing in life to write a poem about a couch. I wonder if the woman was giving Cowper a gentle hint—
Ada
(shrieking with laughter) Yes-yes—yes!
Brentnall
I never sec a couch but my heart moves to poetry. The very buttons must be full of echoes—
Jack
(bending his ear) Can’t hear ‘em, Billy.
Brentnall
Will none of you tune his ear?
Ada
Yes—yes!
Emily
(seating herself quietly beside Jack) What is it you are listening for, Jack?
Jack
(awkwardly) I’ve no idea.
Annie
Where will you sit, Mr. Brentnall? Do choose a comfortable chair! Brentnall (seating himself beside her); Thanks very much.
Jack
Nay—nay—nay, Billy.
Brentnall
(rising suddenly) Er— there’s a broken spring in that chair, Miss Calladine. (He crosses the hearth.)
Annie
I’m so sorry—have a cushion —do!
Brentnall
Will you allow me to sit here?
Ada
Let me give you some supper.
Grainger
Shall I administer the drinks?

Grainger gives the women burgundy, the men whisky and soda, Ada Calladine hands round food, Grainger seats himself reluctantly beside Annie Calladine. Ada Calladine takes a low chair next to Brentnall.

Jack
Now we are all right—at least I hope so.
Brentnall
(to Ada) You are quite all right?
Ada
(laughing) As far as I know.
Brentnall
(to Emily) I can see you are perfectly at home, (Emily bows quietly, with a smile.) And you, Miss Calladine?
Annie
Thank you!
Brentnall
Gentlemen—the ladies!
Grainger
(ironically) God bless ‘em.
Jack
Amen! (They drink.)
Ada
Ladies—the gentlemen!
Annie
God help them.
Emily
Amen! (They drink.)
Brentnall
Wherein must the Lord help us, Miss Calladine?
Annie
To run away, Mr. Brentnall.
Emily
Annie!
Ada
To come to the scratch, you mean. Brentnall: Ha! Gentlemen—to marriage !
Jack
I don’t think!
Annie
What is your comment, Dr. Grainger?
Grainger
Mine!
Brentnall
Dr. Grainger is a confirmed misogynist.
Grainger
Shut up, you fool.
Annie
Oh—we’ve not heard so before.
Jack
D’you mean George doesn’t believe in marriage? Nay, you’re wrong there. When th’ time comes—
Annie
When does the time come for a man to marry, Jack?
Jack
When he can’t help it, I s’d think. (Silence.)
Brentnall
You’re very quiet, George.
Grainger
Don’t you be a fool.
Annie
Your humor is not very complimentary this evening, Dr. Grainger.
Jack
There’s perhaps too many of us in th’ room, eh?
Annie
Not too many for me, Jack.
Ada
(bursting into laughter) Do be complimentary, somebody, if only to cheer us up.
Jack
(putting his arm round Emily’s waist) Yis, I will.
Brentnall
(putting his arm round Ada’s neck) May I kiss you, Ada?
Ada
(laughing) How (laughs)—how awfully nice (laughs heartily) of you. (Brentnall kisses her.)
Jack
Oh my God, now we’re coming on. (He kisses Emily furtively.)
Brentnall
Mind your own business. (Seizes a newspaper, and screens it before him and Ada—they put their heads together.)
Jack
I call that comin’ on—eh what? Brentnall (to ada—behind the newspaper): Well I’ll be damned!
Annie
(loudly and sarcastically) Do you like the flavor, Mr. Brentnall?
Brentnall
(from behind the paper) Excellent! (Sotto voce.) You are awfully jolly.
Jack
(bouncing with surprise) Well strike me lucky!
Brentnall
(throwing him another newspaper) Here you are then!
Jack
Good God! (He spreads the paper before him and Emily.)
Grainger
You damn fool, Billy Brentnall.
Brentnall
Dog in the manger. (Softly to Ada.) Do you think I’m a fool? No, you like me.
Jack
(from behind his paper) How’re you going on, Billy?
Brentnall
Fine. How’re you going on, George?

The four peep over their newspapers at Grainger and Annie.

Brentnall
Temperature down at freezing point over there?
Grainger
I’ll have it out of you for this, William.
Annie
Why, what has Mr. Brentnall done amiss, Dr. Grainger?
Brentnall
(from behind his paper) Oh, it’s not I. It’s George’s sins finding him out. Be sure your sins will find you out.
Ada
(softly) You’re not a bit what I thought you would be.
Brentnall
(softly) Worse or better?
Ada
(laughing) Oh—better.
Brentnall
What did you think I should be?
Ada
Circumspect.

Grainger sends a cushion smashing through their paper.

Jack
What the devil’s up, George?
Annie
Oh, it annoys him to see other people enjoying themselves when he can’t.
Brentnall
(spreading the paper for screen) The nail on the head, Miss— may I say Annie?
Annie
Yes, Mr. Brentnall.
Brentnall
I wish I were two men, Annie.

Grainger sends the cushion again smashing through the newspaper.

Jack
God help thee George, do settle down.
Brentnall
(spreading the paper again) It’s high time he did—settle down, Georgie—it’s good advice.
Ada
(softly) What makes him so cross tonight?
Brentnall
(softly) Don’t know—unless he’s shy.
Ada
(bursting with laughter) Shy!
Brentnall
Why, isn’t he?
Ada
You should sec the way he carries on—
Brentnall
With you?
Ada
Annie.

The cushion crashes through the paper.

Jack
Damn thee George, take Annie downstairs a minute, if tha can’t hide still.
Grainger
That fool there—!
Brentnall
(restoring the fragments of paper—softly—to ada) You know there’s a secret about Dr. Grainger.
Ada
Oh! (Laughs.) Do tell me.
Grainger
Billy Brentnall!
Brentnall
I bear you calling me.
Ada
Do tell me the secret.
Brentnall
Kiss me then. (They hiss —she laughs.) You are awfully jolly. (Kisses her under the ear.)
Ada
(shaking with laughter) Don’t, don’t, oh don’t!
Brentnall
Does my mustache tickle you? Sorry.
Jack
Nation seize me, did ever you hear?
Grainger
Such a fool? I’ll bet you never did.
Ada
Tell me that secret.
Brentnall
George has got another girl.
Ada
Who? Where?
Grainger
Oh, cheese it, Billy.
Brentnall
Sally Magneer.
Grainger
Damn you.
Ada
No!
Brentnall
Fact! She told me herself.
Jack
What’s that, George?
Grainger
(to Brentnall) Liar!
Brentnall
It’s the truth—mine’s pistols.
Jack
You’re a devil, George, you’re a devil.
Grainger
(bitterly) I am that!
Emily
And what is Mr. Brentnall?
Jack
(shaking his head) Nay, I’m not going to say. (He rises heavily, draws Emily after him, and goes out of the room.)
Brentnall
(rising) Well, this newspaper’s no more good.
Ada
There’s a fire in the drawing room—and real screens there.
Brentnall
And Jack docs occupy himself. Right you are.
Grainger
Chuck it, Billy.
Brentnall
What?
Grainger
None o’ that.
Brentnall
Well, I’ll go to—
Grainger
I’ve no doubt.
Annie
Dr. Grainger is afraid of being left alone: he must have someone to protect him.
Brentnall
What from?
Annie
Presumably from me. (To Grainger.) Will you go down with Ada to the drawing room? Ada, do you mind?
Ada
Not at all. (Exit.)
Grainger
(bitterly) Very nice of you, Annie, very nice of you. (Exit.)

Brentnall and Annie seat themselves.

Annie
What do you think of all this, Mr. Brentnall?
Brentnall
Why, it’s a mere lark. Jack is really courting Emily, and Ada is sheer mischief, and I’m quite decent, really.
Annie
Are you really?
Brentnall
Judge from your own instinct.
Annie
I think you are—and is Dr. Grainger?
Brentnall
What do you think?
Annie
There is something not nice about him.
Brentnall
Has he been courting you?
Annie
(drawing herself up) Well—!
Brentnall
You sec, it’s a pity—
Annie
What is a pity?
Brentnall
Why—shall I say just what I think—?
Annie
I want you to.
Brentnall
Well then—it’s a pity that girls like you—you are over thirty?
Annie
Yes.
Brentnall
It’s a pity that so many of the best women let their youth slip by, because they don’t find a man good enough—and then, when dissatisfaction becomes a torture—later on—you are dissatisfied with life, you do lack something big.
Annie
Yes.
Brentnall
When it comes to that stage, the want of a man is a torture to you. And since the common men make the advances—
Annie
Yes!
Brentnall
(putting his arm round her and kissing her) You are either driven to a kind of degradation, or you go nearly, slightly mad from want—
Annie
Yes!
Brentnall
(kissing her) If you want love from men like Grainger, take it for what it’s worth—because we’re made so that either we must have love, or starve and go slightly mad.
Annie
But I don’t want that kind of love.
Brentnall
But do be honest with yourself. Don’t cause a split between your conscious self and your unconscious—that is insanity. You do want love, almost any sort. Make up your mind what you’ll accept, or what you won’t, but keep your ideal intact. Whatever men you take, keep the idea of man intact: let your soul wait whether your body does or not. But don’t drag the first down to the second. Do you understand?
Annie
I could love you.
Brentnall
But I am going away in a day or two, and most probably shall not be here again—and I am engaged. You see, so many women are too good for the men, that for every decent man, there are thirty decent women. And you decent women go and waste and wither away. Do think it out square, and make the best of it. Virginity and all that is no good to you.
Annie
And what would you advise?
Brentnall
Know men, and have men, if you must. But keep your soul virgin, wait and believe in the good man you may never have.
Annie
It is not very—what made Dr. Grainger so queer tonight?
Brentnall
Because he’s married.
Annie
I felt it—to whom?
Brentnall
A girl in Wolverhampton —married last January, a son in March, now it’s June.
Annie
Oh, the liar!—And what sort of girl?
Brentnall
Decent, I believe.
Annie
Does she love him?
Brentnall
Yes.
Annie
The brute—the—
Brentnall
He doesn’t love her, you see—
Annie
It makes it no better—and she doesn’t know how he’s—
Brentnall
Of course not.
Annie
I wonder if I know her—what’s her name?
Brentnall
Marson—her people are tailors in Broad Street.
Annie
No, I don’t know her!—But to think—
Brentnall
Don’t be too ready to blame.
Annie
You men are all alike.
Brentnall
Not true—who is coming?
Annie
I don’t know.

Enter Sally Magneer—a very big, strapping farmer’s daughter, evidently moderately well off.

Sally
Good evening—Jack here?
Annie
Good evening. Yes, I believe he’s in the drawing room with Dr. Grainger.
Sally
That’s how you arrange it, is it? (To Brentnall.) Nice, isn’t it?
Brentnall
Very nice.
Sally
Who else is in the drawing room?
Annie
My sisters. I believe they’re having some music.
Sally
They don’t make much noise over it, anyway. Can I go and see?
Annie
Certainly.

Brentnall opens the door for her, and whistles quickly a private call —repeats it. Grainger’s whistle is heard in answer.

Sally
All right, I won’t drop in on you too sudden. (Exit.)
Annie
What impertinence!
Brentnall
(laughing) She’s made a dead set at Grainger. If he weren’t married, she’d get him.
Annie
How disgusting!
Brentnall
Maybe—but a woman who determines soon enough to get married, succeeds. Delay is fatal—and marriage is beastly, on most occasions.
Annie
I will go to the drawing room. Will you excuse me? (Exit, Brentnall pours himself a drink. Enter Grainger.)
Grainger
What the hell have you been up to?
Brentnall
What the hell have you been up to?
Grainger
What have you been stuffing into Annie?
Brentnall
What have you been stuffing into Ada?
Grainger
Nothing, you devil.
Brentnall
Nothing, you devil.
Grainger
What’s Sally after?
Brentnall
You.
Grainger
She ought to be shot.
Brentnall
So ought you.

Enter Jack.

Jack
What the hell’s up tonight?
Brentnall
My tail, and George’s dander, and your—but what’s Miss Magneer after?
Jack
That’s what I want to know. You know George here, he’s a devil. He’s been on wi’ some little game with our Sally.
Grainger
You sweet liar, Jack.
Jack
Now George, what is it?
Grainger
Nothing, Jack. Sally’s taken a fancy to me, an’ gives me no chance. Can’t you see for yourself?
Jack
I can, George—an’ tha shanner be pestered.
Grainger
There’s Charlie Greenhalgh won’t speak to me now—thinks I’m running him off. I‘ve no desire to run Charlie off.
Jack
Sally’s as good as you, George.
Grainger
Maybe, and a thousand times better. But that doesn’t say as I want to marry her.
Jack
No, George, no, that is so, lad.

Enter Sally and the other ladies.

Sally
How would you arrange six folks in three chairs—?
Grainger
Couldn’t do it.
Sally
I don’t think! What’s your opinion, Ada?
Ada
Why am I asked for my opinion? I’ve never sat in a chair with Dr. Grainger.
Sally
Where have you sat then?
Ada
I may have sat on his knee while he sat in the chair.
Sally
Here, young man, explain yourself.
Grainger
Well, I’ll be damned!
Brentnall
Sooner or later.
Jack
Now look here, our Sally, we’re havin’ none o’ this. Charlie Green-halgh is your man; you stick to him, and leave other young fellows alone.
Sally
Oh you are good, Jack! And what about the girl you took to Blackpool?
Jack
Say no more, Sally, now say no more,
Sally
No, I won’t. Do you want me to drive you up to Selson, because th’ cart’s at the door?
Jack
No, we’ll walk up.
Grainger
I dunno, Jack. It’s getting late, and I believe Billy’s tired. He’s a convalescent, you know.
Jack
Never thought of it, lad. Sorry—sorry.

They bid good night. Exeunt Sally and Grainger, Emily, Jack, and Ada.

Annie
Isn’t he a thing!
Brentnall
He’s not bad—do be honest.
Annie
Oh but!
Brentnall
Remember what I say— don’t starve yourself, and don’t degrade the idea of men.
Annie
And shall I never see you again?
Brentnall
If I can, I will come again.
Annie
Goodbye. He kisses her rather sorrowfully, and departs. Annie Calladine closes the door—drinks the last drain from his glass — weeps — dries her eyes as the girls come upstairs. There is a calling of goodbye from outside.
Ada
What’s amiss?
Annie
Plenty.
Emily
What?
Annie
Dr. Grainger is only married and got a child.
Ada and Emily
No—where—is his wife living?
Annie
His wife is at her home, in Wolverhampton—Broad Street.
Ada
I’ll write to her—I will—I will.
Annie
No, Ada—no.
Ada
I will — I will — I will: “Dear Mrs. George Grainger, come and look after your husband. He is running the rig out here, and if you don’t come quick—”

She has flung her writing case onto the table, and sits down to write. Vain cries of “Ada,” “Ada,” from Annie Calladine.

CURTAIN

ACT III

SCENE: The kitchen at Magneer’s farm, Sally Magneer, Emily Calladine, Ada Calladine. Mr. Magneer, farmer, not fat, but well looking: grey hair, black moustache; at present rather maudlin, Jack Magneer, still in riding breeches and leggins. Grainger and Brentnall, both in tennis flannels, Jack and Emily sit together on a large old couch, Grainger next to them, Sally is in a chair, looking as if any moment she would take wing, Brentnall is flirting with Ada Calladine.

Mr. Magneer
An’ so you really goin’ ter leave us, Dr. Grainger.
Grainger
That is so, Mr. Magneer.
Mr. Magneer
An’ when might you be goin’?
Grainger
Saturday.
Mr. Magneer
Tomorrow! My word, that’s sharp. Well, I know one as’ll be sorry you goin’.
Sally
Shut up, father. (She giggles, and twists her handkerchief to Grainger.) We s’ll be seeing you again, though?
Grainger
Well, I really can’t say—I’m going to London.
Sally
London! Whatever are you going there for?
Brentnall
Set up a wife and family.
Sally
What, all at once?—Give us a chance.
Brentnall
Not a ghost of a chance, Sally.

Ada Calladine laughs uncontrollably.

Grainger
Got a joke over there?
Ada
(laughing) Yes—yes—yes!
Sally
(jumping up) Just look at your glass! (Takes Grainger’s tumbler and proceeds to mix him rum.) Why ever didn’t you speak?
Mr. Magneer
Yes, you must shout up when you’re emp’y.
Sally
(to Grainger) Like it sweet?
Grainger
(ironically) Not too much.
Sally
(taking the glass and standing in front of him) How’s this for you?
Grainger
(sipping) Quite all right, thank you, Sally.
Mr. Magneer
(laughing) “Quite all right,” hark ye! It’s “quite all right.” (He gives a great wink at Brentnall. Sally begins to giggle.)
Grainger
(lugubriously) Sally’s got ‘em again.
Jack
Sit you down, Sally, an’ don’t look so long o’ th’ leg.

Sally giggles half hysterically, and sinks beside Grainger, who edges away. She leans towards him— laughs uncontrollably.

Mr. Magneer
Now we’re comin’ on. What yer doin’ at ‘er, Doctor?
Grainger
Begad, I’m doing nothing, Mr. Magneer. I dunno what’s got her.
Mr. Magneer
(laughs) He dunno, doesn’t know what’s got her. (To Brentnall.) We don’t, do we?
Brentnall
Not a bit.
Grainger
I’ll have a drop more water. (Rises and goes to table.)
Mr. Magneer
Come Sally, my lass, come.

Sally dries her eyes, still giggles, rises, Grainger hastily takes an odd chair at the table. She stands beside him.

Jack
Are ter goin’ tor sit thysen down, Sally?
Sally
Am I hurtin’ you by standin’?
Jack
Yis, you are.
Brentnall
Fill me up, Sally, there’s a dear, (Sally takes his glass.)
Mr. Magneer
Sally Magneer, there’s a dear.
Grainger
Isn’t Charlie coming?
Sally
No, did you want him?
Grainger
No—but I thought you did.
Sally
(beginning to giggle) Did you? You happen thought wrong.
Brentnall
Poor Charlie.
Sally
What do you know about him?
Brentnall
Now Sally! It’s best to be on with the new love before you’re off with the old.
Sally
(giggling) I don’t know what you mean.
Jack
Art thou going to sit down?
Sally
Yes. (Retires discomfited to the couch.)
Brentnall
(rising) I’ll get a light.
Grainger
Matches?
Brentnall
(going to fire) Never mind. (Lights his cigarette with a spill.)
Ada
(laughing) Goodbye, Billy.
Brentnall
(blowing her kisses) Farewell, farewell. (Sinks on the couch beside Sally.)
Sally
What have you come for?
Brentnall
Won’t you have me, Sally?
Sally
I don’t know.
Grainger
(shuffling the cards) A hand of crib, Mr. Magneer?
Miss Magneer
I don’t mind if I do. Fill up.
Brentnall
(taking Sally’s hand) Hurt your finger?
Sally
My thumb.
Brentnall
Shame! What did you do?
Sally
Chopped it.
Brentnall
How rotten. Is it getting better?
Mr. Magneer
There’s a bit o’ proud flesh in it.
Grainger
Your crib, Mr. Magneer.
Sally
(unwinding the bandage) Yes, it’s going on all right now.
Brentnall
(examining it closely) Yes, that’s healing right enough, but a nasty gash! What did Charlie say to it?
Sally
Charlie!
Brentnall
Yes, Charlie. He’s your fellow, isn’t he?
Sally
I don’t know so much about that.
Brentnall
I heard you were as good as engaged.
Sally
Oh, did you—who’s been telling you?
Brentnall
Mrs. Plum.
Sally
She knows so much, you see.
Brentnall
Let me wrap it up for you. (Bandages her thumb.) But isn’t it right?
Sally
Not as I know of.
Brentnall
Oh, I’m sorry.
Sally
Who arc you sorry for?
Brentnall
Charlie, of course, poor devil.
Sally
You needn’t be sorry for him. Take your sorrow where your love lies.
Brentnall
Then I s’ll have to be sorry for you, Sally.
Sally
I don’t think.
Brentnall
(putting his arm round her waist) I’m sorry you’ve got a bad finger, Sally.
Sally
(beginning to giggle) Are you?
Brentnall
You don’t mind that I’m not Dr. Grainger, do you, Sally?
Sally
What do you mean?
Brentnall
You’d as leave have me as Dr. Grainger?
Sally
Yes, if you like.
Brentnall
(Kissing her) That’s right. (She giggles.)
Mr. Magneer
Whey! Whey — up! Sally, thou scawdrag!
Sally
(giggling hysterically) What am I a scawdrag for?
Mr. Magneer
Hark ye, hark ye! Jack, art takin’ notice over there?
Jack
Billy’s all right, Dad.
Mr. Magneer
Billy? By gosh! Billy!
Grainger
Turn, Mr. Magneer.
Ada
(pegging) Two for his knobs.
Brentnall
You’d as leave have me as Dr. Grainger? (Kisses her under the ear.)
Sally
(with suppressed shrieks) Oh, oh, don’t tickle!
Grainger
(turning around—with contempt) She’ll never stop, Billy, she’s got gigglemania.
Mr. Magneer
Giggolo—what? That’s a good ‘un!
Brentnall
Yes, she will stop—take me seriously, Sally, do! (Squeezes her—Sally giggles wildly. Her head rolls.)
Mr. Magneer
Hark at that—take him seriously!
Sally
(exhausted) Don’t! Don’t! Oh don’t!
Brentnall
Sally, my dear, you are too discouraging for anything. Sit with me nicely.
Sally
Oh! (Lays her head on his shoulder.)
Brentnall
Now we’re coming on. (Kisses her.) You’ve not chipped with Charlie, have you?
Sally
What d’you want to know for?
Brentnall
Sally, my darling.
Mr. Magneer
Gosh, it’s come to “darling”—”darling Sally”!
Brentnall
You haven’t, have you?
Sally
No.
Brentnall
Why hasn’t he come tonight?
Sally
Because he wasn’t asked.
Brentnall
Has he cooled off lately?
Sally
I don’t care whether he has or not.
Brentnall
Neither do I. (Kisses her under the ear. She squeals.)
Jack
God love you, Sally!
Ada
Don’t play cribbage any more, Mr. Magneer. Do play the comb-band.
Mr. Magneer
(throwing away his cards) No, I won’t play any more. Fill up an’ let’s have a dance.
Ada
Yes, yes, yes!

The men drink—Sally and Grainger push aside the table.

Grainger
Comb-band, Mr. Magneer?
Mr. Magneer
(wrapping the comb in tissue paper) That’s the very item. (He staggers slightly—all the men are affected by drink.)
Sally
(to Grainger) You’re going to have one with me?
Grainger
(awkwardly) Er — I’d promised Ada.
Ada
That doesn’t matter. Mr. Brentnall will dance with me. Mr. Magneer (sounding the comb) Now then, are you ready? Sally’s the belle of the ball, and you, Doctor, it’s your party—so lead off.
Grainger
Polka—plain polka.
Brentnall
We shan’t have breath to speak a word.
Sally
Oh my goodness!

The comb-band buzzes away—they start to dance in a prancing fashion.

Sally
You’re not going to leave me?
Grainger
I s’ll have to.
Sally
But you can’t.
Grainger
Why not?
Sally
You can’t leave me now.
Grainger
But I’ve got to go to London—
Jack
Do you reckon you’re really fond of me?
Emily
I know I am—I don’t reckon.
Jack
Not so very good—
Emily
Why not?
Jack
Do you reckon you’ve been nice to me all this while?
Emily
All what while?
Jack
While I’ve been coining to see you.
Emily
And have you been very nice to me, Jack?
Jack
Well, haven’t I?
Emily
No, Jack, you haven’t.
Jack
What do you mean?
Ada
I posted her the letter yesterday.
Brentnall
Why, did you know the address?
Ada
Yes, you told Annie.
Brentnall
Did I? Oh Lord, you little imp.
Ada
It’s our turn now.
Brentnall
Whose turn?
Ada
The women’s.
Brentnall
Don’t be a vixen—
Grainger
Well, you won’t say anything, will you? You see how I’m fixed.
Sally
I don’t know.
Grainger
I’ll see you tomorrow—keep it back till then.
Sally
You’ll see me tomorrow?
Grainger
Yes—
Jack
You think I ought to get engaged to you?
Emily
Or else you ought never to have come as you have—you had the option.
Jack
I dunna want to get married, somehow, Emily.
Emily
Is that final, Jack?
Jack
What do you say?
Emily
You leave me nothing to say.
Jack
Good God, Emily, I’m not a brute.
Emily
I’ve heard you say so often, Jack. But you don’t think it’s been very happy for me—our—our friendship?
Jack
Good God, Emily — have I I been—?
Emily
Afraid of me, Jack. It’s rather humiliating.
Jack
You can have me if you like— I’m not good enough—
Emily
You know I consider you good enough.
Jack
Yis—I know you do.
Emily
Men lack honor nowadays.
Jack
Good God! They dance—Sally suddenly drops exhausted on a couch—Grainger moves to the other side of the room. Jack Magneer flings off his coat.
Jack
By the Lord, it’s hot work! Take your coat off, George.

Grainger and Brentnall take off their coats.

Mr. Magneer
My word, you went well. Have a drink.
Sally
Is th’ door open? Set the back door open, Jack. (He goes out and returns.)
Brentnall
Have the next with me, Sally.
Sally
I will if you like.
Ada
What shall it be?
Brentnall
Waltz Valeta.
Grainger
Try a tune, Mr. Magneer. Mr. Magneer, having repapered his comb, tries a tune, Grainger instructs him. They start off, Sally with Brentnall, Grainger with Ada Calladine.
Brentnall
Why would you rather dance with Dr. Grainger?
Sally
I wouldn’t.
Brentnall
Yes, you would. Don’t forget the two shuffle steps—one—two!
Sally
I’ve never done that before.
Brentnall
Something I’ve taught you then. But why would you rather dance with Grainger?
Sally
I wouldn’t.
Brentnall
You would.
Sally
I wouldn’t.
Brentnall
You would. You’re in love with him.
Sally
Me! That I never am!
Brentnall
You are!
Sally
Well, I never did!
Brentnall
And you’re a fool to be in love with him.
Sally
Why?
Brentnall
For the best of all reasons.
Sally
What’s that?
Brentnall
Because he’s married.
Sally
He’s not!
Brentnall
He is—and has got a son.
Sally
Where?
Brentnall
In Wolverhampton, where he came from.
Sally
Oh, let’s sit down.
Brentnall
No, you must dance with me. Don’t you like to dance with me? It’s too bad, Sally.
Sally
I’m getting dizzy.
Brentnall
You can’t, not in Valeta. Besides, we’ll walk the waltz steps. (He puts his am around her.)
Sally
It’s not right about Dr. Grainger, is it?

A lady in motor cloak and wrap appears in the doorway. The men, slightly tipsy, bend talking to their partners, who arc engrossed. No one notices the newcomer.

Brentnall
It is, on my honor. You believe me, Sally? (She looks him earnestly in the face, as they dance the forward step. When they come together for the waits, he kisses her.) You believe me? Sally (almost in tears): Yes.
Brentnall
It is true. Poor Sally. (Kisses her again. They begin to laugh.)
Jack
All right, I nivcr looked at it in that light.
Emily
I know you didn’t.
Jack
We’ll count as we’re engaged from now, then?
Emily
What will your father say?
Jack
He’ll be just fussy.
Emily
I want him to know—I am so fond of him.
Ada
Oh!
Grainger
What?

They break apart, Jack and Brentnall keep on dancing, the latter kissing Sally, Grainger goes unsteadily to the doorway.

The Lady
I called to see Mr. Brentnall—but don’t disturb him, he looks so happy.
Grainger
Does—does he know you?
The Lady
A little. (She laughs.)
Grainger
Billy! Billy! Brentnall (looking up) What now? (Sees the lady.) No! (Leaves Sally —she sways, he catches her again, takes her to a seat, draws his fingers across her cheek caressingly, and goes to the doorway, reeling slightly.) Quite giddy, don’t you know! Space is so small.
the lady
Not much room for you to spread out, was there?
Brentnall
Was I hugging Sally?
The Lady
Sally! How lovely, how perfectly lovely!
Brentnall
Did I kiss her?
The Lady
“Did I kiss her?” No, no, you poor dear, you didn’t kiss her.
Brentnall
You mean I am drunk.
The Lady
Are you drunk? No!
Brentnall
I am slightly tipsy, more with dancing than drink. Shall I come away?
The Lady
Shall he come away—oh, you dear! Why should I decide for you?
Brentnall
Are you cross?
The Lady
Not in the least. Go and kiss Sally if you will.
Brentnall
Poor Sally—I don’t want to kiss her now.
The Lady
How perfectly lovely! Do introduce me.
Brentnall
Mr. Magneer, Sally Magneer, Emily Calladine, Ada Calladine, Jack Magneer, Dr. Grainger—all of you, Elsa Smith.
Elsa
How awfully nice! Can I come in?
Mr. Magneer
(springing up and boxo-ing tipsily) Make yourself at ‘ome, you’re very welcome, Miss, you’re very welcome.
Elsa
Thank you so much! I should love to dance. I’ve got two friends in the motor car. May I fetch them?
Mr. Magneer
Anybody you like, they’re all welcome here, and there’s plenty to drink for all.
Elsa
So nice! (Exit.)
Grainger
Who the devil—
Brentnall
My betrothed, my fiancee, my girl.
Chorus of Women
You don’t mean it!
Sally
Well! Men—!
Ada
Men?
Emily
Men!
Mr. Magneer
Ooh—you’re done this time, Billy!
Grainger
Well, you devil, Billy Brentnall!
Jack
It’s a corker, Billy, it’s a winder.
Emily
Are you any better, Jack? Jack (fiercely) Look here, Dad. I’m engaged to Emily here, fair and square.
Mr. Magneer
Come here, Em’ler my ducky, come hither, (Emily goes very reluctantly. He kisses her.) I like thee, Em’ler, I like thee. (Kisses her again.)
Jack
Cheese it, Dad.
Mr. Magneer
It’s a winder, it is an’ all.—An’ aren’t you goin’ to be engaged an’ all, Dr. Grainger?
Grainger
Not this time.
Mr. Magneer
Hm! ‘Appen you are engaged!
Grainger
No, I’m not.
Mr. Magneer
Come then, come then, come then.

Re-enter Elsa Smith, with a lady and gentleman.

Elsa
All of you—Gladys and Tom. Gladys—That’s Will—
Mr. Magneer
Ay, ay, Billy! Billy! (It amuses him highly.)
Brentnall
(bowing) I was to come to dinner tonight, I clean forgot. Don’t be angry.
Tom
Check, if no more.
Elsa
Oh, you don’t know Will, you don’t.
Mr. Magneer
An’ you don’t know Billy, Miss, it strikes me. (Laughter.)
Brentnall
Leave me alone—I say, Elsa, Jack (pointing) has just got engaged to Emily.
Elsa
How perfectly charming. I love it all so much.
Brentnall
What?
Elsa
You—this.
Brentnall
Take your cloak off. (Helps her. She is a handsome woman, large, blonde, about 30—dressed for dinner. Tom and Gladys disrobe —they are in dinner dress also.) tom (cynically): I suppose these are adventures.
Gladys
Don’t be a fool, Tom.
Elsa
This is fun.
Brentnall
Will you dance with me, Elsa?
Elsa
No, I won’t.
Brentnall
Angry with me?
Elsa
No. I can dance with you any day.
Grainger
May I have the pleasure?
Elsa
No—forgive me (very kindly)—but I do want to dance with Jack. (To Emily.) May I?
Emily
Certainly, (Jack pulls a face.)
Elsa
He doesn’t want me—but I won’t let him off—no.
Jack
I’m shy, as a matter of fact.
Elsa
How lovely!
Mr. Magneer (to Gladys)
Now Miss, you choose.
Gladys
Will, you must dance with me.
Brentnall
(going to her side) You are shy.
Mr. Magneer
Now Ada, your turn to pick.

Ada looks wickedly at Tom—he bows.

Tom
Thank you.
Ada
Are you shy? (She laughs wick-edly.)
Mr. Magneer
Now for Dr. Grainger. (He hold his fists to Emily.) Which of ‘em? (Emily touches the right fist.) Wrong! (Showing a coin in his left.) Sally gets him.
Sally
Sally doesn’t.
Grainger
Come on, Sally.
Mr. Magneer
Now then, what is it?
Brentnall
Waltz.

The comb begins to buzz—the partners set off dancing—Mr. Magneer breaks the time—they laugh—he beckons Emily, holds the comb in one hand, her with the other, and dances prancingly, buzzing breathlessly.

CURTAIN

ACT IV

SCENE: The bedroom in the cottage, same as Act I. It is nine o’clock in the morning, Grainger and Brentnall are in bed.

Grainger
Billy! (No answer.) You mean to say you’re at it yet? (No answer.) Well, I’ll be damned; you’re a better sleeper even than a liar. (No answer.) Oh strike! (Shies a pillow at Brentnall.)
Brentnall
What the—!
Grainger
I should say so.
Brentnall
Dog in the manger! Go to sleep. I loathe the small hours. Oh-h! (Yawns.)
Grainger
Small hours, begad! It’s past nine o’clock.
Brentnall
(half asleep) Early, frostily early.
Grainger
You mean to say—! (He shies the bolster, viciously.)
Brentnall
Don’t, George! (Sleeps.)
Grainger
Devil! (Shies slippers, one after the other.)
Brentnall
(sitting up suddenly—furious) : Go to blazes! (Lies down again.)
Grainger
If you go to sleep again, Billy B., I’ll empty the water bottle over you—I will.
Brentnall
I’m not asleep.
Grainger
Billy!
Brentnall
What?
Grainger
Did you square Sally?
Brentnall
Eh?
Grainger
No, look here, Billy— Brentnall (stretching his arms) Georgie, you ought to be dead.
Grainger
I’ve no doubt. Billy Brentnall!
Brentnall
What?
Grainger
Did you square Sally?
Brentnall
Sally—Sally—Sally—
Grainger
Chuck it, fool.
Brentnall
I don’t know.
Grainger
What d’you mean?
Brentnall
I told her you were a married man with a family, and begad, you look it—
Grainger
That’s not the point.
Brentnall
I apologize. I say to Sally, “He’s a married man.” Sally says to me: “He’s not.” I say: “He is.” Sally says: “I’m dizzy.” I say: “You might well be.”
Grainger
Chuck it, do chuck it.
Brentnall
It’s the solemn fact. And our confab ended there.
Grainger
It did!
Brentnall
It did.
Grainger
Hm!
Brentnall
You’re going to London to my rooms, aren’t you?
Grainger
You say so.
Brentnall
Very well then—there’s an end of Sally.
Grainger
I’m not so sure.
Brentnall
Why?
Grainger
She said she was coming round here.
Brentnall
When?
Grainger
This morning.
Brentnall
Then don’t get up till this afternoon, and then belt for the station.
Grainger
‘I’ve not settled up at the Surgery.
Brentnall
Thou bungler—has Sally really got a case against you?
Grainger
She’s got a case against some man or other, and she’d prefer it to be me.
Brentnall
But she must see you’re quite a cold egg. And has Charlie Greenhalgh really cried off?
Grainger
No — at least — poor old Charlie’s in a bit of a mess.
Brentnall
How?
Grainger
He was secretary to the football club—and he falsified the balance sheet, and failed to produce about fifteen quid.
Brentnall
He’s not in a very rosy condition for marriage. However, old Magneer’s not short of money?
Grainger
He isn’t, begad!
Brentnall
All right—let him work the oracle. Sally’s no fool—and she’ll be just as well, married to Charlie. You say his farm is going to the dogs. All right, she’ll shoo the dogs off.
Grainger
Very nice.
Brentnall
I think so.
Grainger
Who’s that?
Brentnall
Dunno—get under the bedclothes.

Sound of footsteps—enter Jack Magneer.

Jack
Letting the day get well aired?
Brentnall
I don’t believe in running risks through the chill, damp air of early morning.
Jack
I s’d think you don’t.
Brentnall
Take a sent.
Jack
So you’re going today, George?
Grainger
I am, Jack—and sorry to leave you.
Jack
What’s this our Sally’s been telling me?
Grainger
Couldn’t say, Jack.
Jack
As you’re married—
Brentnall
And got a kid, quite right.
Jack
Is it, George?
Grainger
I believe so.
Jack
Hm! (A pause.)
Brentnall
Well, Jack, say he has your sympathy.
Jack
Yis—yis—he has. But I’m not so sure—
Brentnall
Eh Jack, it’s a hole we might any of us slip into.
Jack
Seemingly. But why didn’t you tell me, George?
Brentnall
Don’t, Jack. Don’t you see, I could give the whole of that recitation. “We’ve been good friends, George, and you’d no need to keep me in the dark like that. It’s a false position for me, as well as for you, etc., etc.” That’s what you want to say?
Jack
Yes—and besides—
Brentnall
Well, look here, Jack, you might have done it yourself. George was let in down at Wolverhampton— kicked out of the town because he owned up and married the girl—hadn’t cither a penny or a job—girl has a good home. Would you have wanted to tell the whole story to these prating fools round here?
Jack
No, I can’t say as I should. But then—
Brentnall
Then what?
Jack
There’s our Sally, and there’s Annie—
Brentnall
What about ‘em?
Jack
He’s courted ‘em both—they’re both up to the eyes in love with him—
Brentnall
Not Annie. On the quiet, she’s rather gone on me. I showed George up in his true light to her.
Grainger
Hotter—rotter!
Brentnall
And I stepped into the limelight, and the trick was done.
Jack
You’re a devil, Billy.—But look here, George, our Sally—
Grainger
Yes—
Jack
She’s—she’s gone a long way— Brentnall (quietly): How do you mean, Jack?
Jack
Well, she’s given up Charlie Greenhalgh—
Brentnall
Not quite. And you know, Jack, she really loves Charlie, at the bottom. There’s something fascinating about George.
Grainger
Damn your eyes, shut up, Billy.
Brentnall
There’s something fascinating about George. He can’t help it. The women melt like wax before him. They’re all over him. It’s not his beauty, it’s bis manliness. He can’t help it.
Grainger
I s’ll smash you, Billy Brentnall, if you don’t shut up.
Jack
Yis, there’s something in it, George.
Brentnall
There is, Jack. Well, he can’t help himself, so you’ve got to help him. It’s no good hitting him when he’s down.
Jack
I’m not hitting him.
Brentnall
And what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to get Charlie Greenhalgh and your Sally together again.
Jack
Me!—It’s nowt to do with me.
Brentnall
Yes, it has. Charlie’s not been up to your place lately, has he?
Jack
No.
Brentnall
And do you know why?
Jack
Yis.
Brentnall
It’s not so much because of George. Have you heard what low water he’s getting into up at New-manley? It appears he’s fifteen quid out with the football club.
Jack
I’ve heard a whisper.
Brentnall
Well, you help him, Jack, for Sally’s sake. She loves him, Jack, she does. And if she married him quick, she’ll pull him through, for she seems to have a business head on her, and a farming head.
Jack
She has that.
Brentnall
Well, you’ll do what you can for poor old Charlie, won’t you?
Jack
I will, Billy. And what time are you going?
Brentnall
2:50 train.
Jack
Well—me and you’s been good pals, George. I must say I’d ha’ done anything for you—
Grainger
I know you would, Jack.
Jack
Yis, an’ I would—an’ I would.
Brentnall
I’m going up to Blythe Hall against Ashbourne for a day or two, Jack. Shall you come up for tennis?
Jack
I hardly think so—we s’ll be busy just now.
Brentnall
Sunday afternoon — yes you will.
Jack
Goodbye, Billy.
Brentnall
Au revoir, Jack.
Jack
Well — goodbye, George — lad. We’ve not done amiss while you’ve been here. I s’ll miss thee.
Grainger
You’ve been all right to me, Jack.
Jack
Yis—I try to do what I can for folks. (Exit.)
Brentnall
The atmosphere clears, George.
Grainger
Oh damn you, shut up.
Brentnall
“Oh, what a sin is base ingratitude!”
Grainger
What did you tell Annie about me?
Brentnall
I said you were quite manly, and couldn’t help yourself; all the virtues of good nature and so on, but a bit of a libidinous goat.
Grainger
Thank you—very nice of you.
Brentnall
Add to this that you won’t face a situation, but always funk it, and you understand why Annie suddenly transferred her affections to me. For I showed myself, by contrast, a paragon of all virtues.
Grainger
You would.
Brentnall
I did.
Grainger
I shan’t go to London to your rooms.
Brentnall
Now George, my dear chap—
Grainger
I shall not, Billy.
Brentnall
Then where will you go?
Grainger
Hell!
Brentnall
My dear, dear fellow, you’ve neither the cash nor the ability.
Grainger
Well, you’re a—
Brentnall
Shall we get up?
Grainger
I will, whether you will or not. (Sits on the side of the bed whis-tling “On the Banks of Allan Water.” Footsteps on the stairs—enter Grainger’s wife, Ethel—rather thin, with a light costume.)
Ethel
George! (She goes forward and kisses him, not noticing Brentnall.) George! (Sinks her head on his shoulder.) George!
Grainger
Ethel—well I’m blessed! (Kisses her.)
Ethel
(drawing away) I had to come.
Grainger
Yes.
Ethel
Are you angry?
Grainger
Me angry! What should I be angry for?
Ethel
I thought you might be.
Grainger
What made you come?
Ethel
I heard you were going away—and your letters seemed so constrained. Are you—?
Grainger
What?
Ethel
Going away?
Grainger
I s’ll have to—this job’s done.
Ethel
You never told me.
Grainger
What was the good?
Ethel
Where are you going?
Grainger
Dunno—I don’t know in the least.
Ethel
Oh George, you must come home. Mother says you must.
Grainger
Hm!
Ethel
Won’t you?
Grainger
I’d rather not.
Ethel
What will you do, then?
Grainger
I may—I shall probably get a job in London.
Ethel
Ob George, don’t, don’t go to London.
Grainger
What else can I do?
Ethel
Come home to Mother with inc.
Grainger
I’ll be damned if I will.
Ethel
No, you never will do anything I ask you.
Grainger
I shan’t do that.
Ethel
Don’t you want to be with me?
Grainger
If I want ever so badly, I can’t, with no money.
Ethel
Then how are you going to live alone, with no money?
Grainger
I can manage for myself.
Ethel
I know what you want, you want to run away. It is mean, mean of you.
Grainger
What’s the good of my coming to your place, there, where they kicked me out?
Ethel
And what if you’ve nowhere else to go? And what are you going to do in London?
Grainger
Look for a job.
Ethel
And what when you’ve got one?
Grainger
Save up to get some things together.
Ethel
How much have you saved here?
Grainger
Not a fat lot—but I have saved.
Ethel
How much?
Grainger
Some—at any rate.
Ethel
Have you been miserable? I know you like plenty of life. Has it made you miserable to be tied up?
Grainger
Not miserable—but it’s been a bit of a devil.
Ethel
We ought to live together.
Grainger
On what?
Ethel
On what we can get.
Grainger
No, thank you.
Ethel
We might as well not be married. I believe you hate me for having married you. Do you—do you?
Grainger
Now Ethel, drop it. Don’t get excited. You know I don’t feel anything of the sort.
Ethel
(weeping) But you don’t love me.
Grainger
(tenderly) Why, I do, Ethel, I do.
Ethel
I love you, George, I love you.
Grainger
Poor old Ethel—and I love you, And whoever says I don’t, is a liar.
Ethel
You’ve been true to me, George?
Grainger
What do you mean?
Ethel
Have you been true to me?
Brentnall
No, he hasn’t. Grainger (fiercely) Now Billy!
Brentnall
I am your husband’s old friend, Brentnall, and your friend, Mrs. Grainger. (Gets out of bed, shakes hands with ethel.)
Ethel
I didn’t know you were there.
Brentnall
Never mind. (Puts on a dressing gown.)
Ethel
Do you say George hasn’t been true to me?
Brentnall
I do. Do you really love him?
Ethel
He is my husbnnd.
Brentnall
You do love him, I can see. Then, look here, keep him. You can do it, I should think. Keep him. And you, George, be decent.
Grainger
Be decent yourself.
Brentnall
I am. (Lights a cigarette,) You don’t mind if I smoke?
Ethel
No. George, oh George! It’s not true what he says, is it?
Grainger
No!
Ethel
(weeping) I couldn’t bear it. (Embracing him.) I couldn’t bear it.
Brentnall
(aside) That’s the ticket.
Grainger
Never mind, little girl— never mind.
Ethel
You won’t leave me again?
Brentnall
(aside) Good shot!
Grainger
What can I do?
Ethel
I’ve got seventy pounds, George, I’ve got seventy pounds.
Grainger
I don’t want your money, Ethel.
Ethel
You don’t mind making a fool of me, and neglecting me, but you won’t have my money.
Grainger
Now Ethel—
Ethel
(flashing) Isn’t it so?
Grainger
No, Ethel.
Ethel
Then we’ll live together on seventy pounds, till you get a job?
Grainger
But you see—
Ethel
(turning, flashing, to Brentnall) Has he been living straight— do they know here he’s married?
Brentnall
I’ve told a few of them. Ethel (turning slowly to Grainger) Now then—
Grainger
You can do what the hell you like.
Ethel
Then I shall live with you, from this minute onwards.
Brentnall
Knocked out, George!
Grainger
Curse you, Brentnall.
Brentnall
You are a rotter, my dear fellow.
Ethel
(weeping) There’s baby crying. (Exit, weeping. Brentnall smokes a cigarette—Grainger fumes.)
Brentnall
(throwing him a dressing gown) You’d better clothe yourself —you’ll feel stronger. Grainger (getting into the dressing gown) What d’you reckon you’re up to?
Brentnall
Don’t be a fool, George, don’t be a swine. If you’re going to clear out, stand up and say so honorably! Say you’ll not abide by your marriage. You can do that, with decency.
Grainger
How the devil can I?
Brentnall
Will you?
Grainger
No, damn it, how can I? I’m not a—
Brentnall
Very well then, you won’t clear out, you won’t renounce your marriage. Very well then, go and live with the girl, and be decent. Have a cigarette! (Grainger takes a cigarette.)
ohainoer
It’s a cursed rotten hole—
Brentnall
Then for the Lord’s sake, make it as comfortable as possible, if you’re going to stop in it.
Grainger
Hark!
Brentnall
Sally!
ohainoer
It is, begad! (etiiel appears.)
etiiel
There’s a woman enquiring for you.
Grainger
What for—what does she want?
Ethel
She wants you.
Grainger
Hm! Is it Sally? She’s been running after me ever since I’ve been here, bless her.
Brentnall
Let’s have her up. (Calling.) Do come upstairs, Miss Magneer. It’s quite decent.
Grainger
It’s a bit thick, Billy.

(Enter Sally.)

Brentnall
(to Sally) Excuse our appearance, won’t you? How do you do? (Shakes hands.)
Sally
How do you do?
Brentnall
Have you been introduced to Mrs. Grainger? Mrs. Doctor Grainger—Miss Magneer.
Sally
I’ve been given to understand this is Mrs. Doctor Grainger—and that the baby downstairs—
Brentnall
Is Master Jimmy Grainger. Quite so.
Sally
I think it is quite so. It’s hap-pen quite so, but it’s not quite the thing.
Brentnall
Don’t let us quarrel, Sally. Don’t be quarreling with us the last half hour we shall be here.
Sally
Perhaps not. But what was he masquerading round as not married for, if he had a wife and a child?
Ethel
You see, Miss Magneer, the fact that Dr. Grainger chose to keep his marriage a secret wouldn’t have hurt you, unless you’d rushed in to be hurt.
Sally
Yes—moaning to say as I ran after him. (To Grainger.) Eh?
Grainger
Well—what else can you call it, Sally?
Sally
And who wanted me to walk down the fields with him, the first time he saw me?
Grainger
I must say I think you wanted me quite as much, if not more, than I wanted you, Sally.
Sally
Oh, did I?
Ethel
I have no doubt of it.
Sally
And did every single girl you met want you then, Dr. Grainger?
Grainger
I never said so nor meant so.
Sally
The one downstairs, for instance.
Grainger
Who d’you mean?
Sally
Annie Calladine.
Grainger
What’s she doing here?
Ethel
She met me at the station. I left her holding baby.
Sally
Let her come up, and say her share. No, you daren’t and you know it.
Grainger
Daren’t I? I say, Annie— Annie!
Annie’s voice
Yes!
Grainger
Would you mind coming upstairs a minute?
Sally
Now you s’ll hear her side, as well.

Enter Annie.

Brentnall
You will excuse us—we were not expecting callers.
Annie
How do you do?
Grainger
Annie, Sally wants you to say everything you can against me, in Ethel’s hearing.
Annie
I don’t wish to say everything I can against you, Dr. Grainger. But I do wish to say this, that you arc a danger to every unmarried girl, when you go about as you have gone, here. And Mrs. Grainger had better look after you very closely, if she means to keep you.
Grainger
Thank you, Annie, very nice.
Annie
Almost as nice as you have been to me.
Grainger
I’m not aware that I’ve done you much damage.
Annie
If you haven’t, it’s not your fault.
Ethel
flings herself suddenly on the bed, weeping wildly.
Sally
I’m thankful I’m not his wife.
Annie
And I am more than thankful.
Brentnall
Don’t cry, Mrs. Grainger. George is all right, really. Annie (fiercely): He is not, Mr. Brentnall.
Sally
Neither is he.
Brentnall
Nay, don’t cry, Mrs. Grainger.
Elsa Smith’s voice, calling in a jolly singsong
“Knabe, Knabe, wo bist du?”
Brentnall
Gott sei dank, du bist gekommen. Komm hinauf.
Elsa Smith’s voice
Ja! (Runs upstairs—enter, chattering in German.) Oh!
Brentnall
(Shaking hands) Frightful muddle! Miss Annie Calladine— Mrs. Grainger’s awfully cut up because George has been flirting round.
Elsa
With you, Miss Magneer—and Miss Calladine?
Sally
Not to mention the rest.
Elsa
Oh—oh! I’m sorry. But don’t cry, Mrs. Grainger, please. He’s not a villain if he makes love to the other girls, surely. Perhaps it’s not nice. But it was under trying circumstances.
Brentnall
That’s what I say.
Elsa
Yes, yes. You’re just as bad yourself. I know you.
Brentnall
Nay Elsa, I’m not the same.
Elsa
Oh, oh—now don’t try to duck your head in the whitewash pail with me, no. I won’t have it. Don’t cry, Mrs. Grainger, don’t cry. He loves you, I’m sure he does, even if be makes love to the others. (To Grainger.) Don’t you? (No reply.) Now you are sulking just like a great baby. And then that’s your little baby downstairs? Ah, the dear! (Sobbing from ethel.) Never mind, never mind, cry out your cry, then let me talk to you.
Brentnall
Come by motor car?
Elsa
Yes, Will Hobson drove me.
Brentnall
Ha!
Elsa
I like him, so you needn’t say “Ha!”
Brentnall
Ha!
Elsa
(laughing—putting her hand on his shoulder) Not had breakfast, and smoking, and talking to ladies. Aren’t you ashamed, sir?
Brentnall
I’ve nothing to be ashamed of.
Elsa
(laughing) No, no; hear him. (Kisses him.) You are a dear, but a dreadful liar.
Brentnall
Nay, I’ll be damned—I beg your pardon.
Elsa
No, you never use bad language, do you?
Brentnall
Not in the presence of ladies.
Elsa
Well, now listen, I prefer to have you as you are with men. If you swear when you are with men, I prefer you to swear when you arc with me. Will you promise me you will?
Brentnall
It wouldn’t be a hard promise to keep.
Elsa
Promise me you won’t have one philosophy when you are with men, in your smoke room, and another when you are with me, in the drawing room. Promise me you will be faithful to your philosophy that you have with other men, even before me, always.
Brentnall
Ha! Not so easy.
Elsa
Promise me. I want the real you, not your fiction.
Brentnall
I promise to do my best.
Elsa
Yes, and I trust you, you are so decent.
Brentnall
Nay, Elsa— Elsa: Yes you are. Oh I see your faults, I do. But you are decent. (To ethel, who has stopped crying, but who still lies on the bed.) Don’t be too cross with Dr. Grainger, will you, Mrs. Grainger? It’s not very dreadful. Perhaps Miss Magneer loved him a little—
Sally
That I never did—
Elsa
(laughing) Yes, you did. And (to Annie) you were inclined to love him?
Annie
That is the worst part of it.
Elsa
Well, I, who am a woman, when I see other women who are sweet or handsome or charming, I look at them and think, “Well, how can a man help loving them, to some extent? Even if he loves me, if I am not there, how can he help loving them?”
Annie
But not a married man.
Elsa
I think a man ought to be fair. He ought to offer his love for just what it is—the love of a man married to another woman—and so on. And, if there is any strain, he ought to tell his wife—”I love this other woman.”
Sally
It’s worse than Mormons.
Brentnall
But better than subterfuge, bestiality, or starvation and sterility.
Elsa
Yes, yes. If only men were decent enough.
Brentnall
And women.
Elsa
Yes. Don’t fret, Mrs. Grainger. By loving these two women, Dr. Grainger has not lost any of his love for you. I would stay with him.
Sally
He certainly never loved me— except for what he could get.
Elsa
Ha-ha! (Very quaint and very earnest.) That is rather dreadful. But yes, he must have loved you—something in you.
Sally
It was something.
Elsa
Yes, I see what you mean—but I don’t think you’re quite right. No, it’s not quite so brutal.
Brentnall
Shall I walk across to you after lunch?
Elsa
Yes, do that.
Annie
I think I will go. Goodbye, Dr. Grainger. (Shakes hands.) Goodbye, Sally. Goodbye, Mr. Brentnall.
Brentnall
Goodbye, Annie. Remember what I told you, and decide for the best. Don’t be afraid. (Kisses her.)
Elsa
Yes. I think, with a little love, we can help each other so much.
Annie
(to Elsa) Goodbye. (Crossing and putting her arms round ethel.) He isn’t bad, dear. You must bring out the best in him. The baby is a dear. And you’ll write to me. (Exit.)
Sally
Well, goodbye all. And if I were your wife, Dr. Grainger, I’d keep the bit between your teeth. Elsa: No, no. No one should be driven like a horse between the shafts. Each should live his own life; you are there to help your husband, not to drive him. Sally: And to watch he doesn’t help himself too often. Well, goodbye. Shall we be seeing you again, Mr. Brentnall?
Brentnall
Next week.
Sally
Right—do come. Goodbye. (Exit.)
Elsa
(crossing to Ethel) Goodbye. Don’t make sorrow and trouble in the world; try to make happiness. I think Satan is in hard judgment, even more than is sin. Try to exonerate. ethel: It’s such a shock. Elsa (hissing her) Ah yes, it is cruel. But don’t let your own suffering blind you, try not to. Goodbye. (Kisses her.) Goodbye, Dr. Grainger. (Shakes hands.)
Brentnall
I will see you downstairs —by the way, Grainger and Mrs. Grainger arc going to stay in my rooms.
Elsa
How perfectly delightful! Then I shall see you in London. How lovely! Goodbye.
Brentnall
I suppose I’m respectable enough to see you downstairs. (Exeunt Elsa and Brentnall. orainoer and his wife sit silent a while. They are afraid of each other.)
Grainger
Will you go to London to Billy’s rooms?
Ethel
Does he want us to?
Grainger
I suppose so. (Silence.)
Grainger
Will you?
Ethel
Do you want me to?
Grainger
You please yourself. I’m not coming to Wolverhampton. Ethel(trying not to cry) Well, we’ll go to London.
Grainger
It’s a damned mess. Ethel(crying) You’d better do just as you like, then, and I’ll go home. Grainger: I didn’t mean that. Ethel(crying) I’ll go home. Grainger: Don’t begin again, Ethel. ethel: You hate the thought of being married to me. So you can be free of me.
Grainger
And what about the baby? Don’t talk rot, Ethel. (Puts his arm round her.)
Ethel
You don’t care for that, either.
Grainger
Don’t I—you don’t know. They all make me look as black as I can—
Ethel
Well, I don’t know.
Grainger
Yes they do—and they always have done. I never have had anybody to stick up for me. (Weeps a few tears.) I’ve had a rotten time, a rotten time.
Ethel
And so have I.
Grainger
You don’t know what it is to be a man.
Ethel
I know what it is to be your wife.
Grainger
Are you going to sling it in my teeth forever?
Ethel
No, I’m not. But what did you marry me for? (Cries.)
Grainger
(embracing her) You’re the only girl I could have married, Ethel. I’ve been a rotter to you, I have.
Ethel
Never mind, we shall get on together, we shall. Mind, somebody is coming. (A knock—enter Mrs. Plum with the baby.)
Mrs. Plum
He wants you, the precious little lad, he does. Oh Dr. Grainger, let me see you hold him! (Gives the baby to Grainger. Enter Brentnall.)
Brentnall
That’s the way, George. Grainger: Shut up, fool.

CURTAIN

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