SCENE III. Ante-room of the hall at LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S
An octagon ante-room of the hall at LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S. A shining room lighted by gold candelabra, with gold-curtained pillars, through which the shining hall and a little of the grand stairway are visible. A small table with a gold-coloured cloth occupies the very centre of the room, which has a polished parquet floor and high white walls. Gold-coloured doors on the left. Opposite these doors a window with gold-coloured curtains looks out on Park Lane. LADY WILLIAM standing restlessly between the double doors and the arch which leads to the hall. JAMES is stationary by the double doors, from behind which come sounds of speech and applause.
POULDER. [Entering from the hall] His Grace the Duke of Exeter, my lady.
[His GRACE enters. He is old, and youthful, with a high colour and a short rough white beard. LADY WILLIAM advances to meet him. POULDER stands by.]
LADY W. Oh! Father, you ARE late.
HIS G. Awful crowd in the streets, Nell. They've got a coffin-- couldn't get by.
LADY W. Coin? Whose?
HIS G. The Government's I should think-no flowers, by request. I say, have I got to speak?
LADY W. Oh! no, dear.
HIS G. H'm! That's unlucky. I've got it here. [He looks down his cuff] Found something I said in 1914--just have done.
LADY W. Oh! If you've got it--James, ask Lord William to come to me for a moment. [JAMES vanishes through the door. To THE DUKE] Go in, Grand-dad; they'll be so awfully pleased to see you. I'll tell Bill.
HIS G. Where's Anne?
LADY W. In bed, of course.
HIS G. I got her this--rather nice?
[He has taken from his breast-pocket one of those street toy-men that jump head over heels on your hand; he puts it through its paces.]
LADY W. [Much interested] Oh! no, but how sweet! She'll simply love it.
POULDER. If I might suggest to Your Grace to take it in and operate it. It's sweated, Your Grace. They-er-make them in those places.
HIS G. By Jove! D'you know the price, Poulder?
POULDER. [Interrogatively] A penny, is it? Something paltry, Your Grace!
HIS G. Where's that woman who knows everything; Miss Munday?
LADY W. Oh! She'll be in there, somewhere.
[His GRACE moves on, and passes through the doors. The sound of applause is heard.]
POULDER. [Discreetly] would you care to see the bomb, my lady?
LADY W. Of course--first quiet moment.
POULDER. I'll bring it up, and have a watch put on it here, my lady.
[LORD WILLIAM comes through the double doom followed by JAMES. POULDER retires.]
LORD W. Can't you come, Nell?
LADY W. Oh! Bill, your Dad wants to speak.
LORD W. The deuce he does--that's bad.
LADY W. Yes, of course, but you must let him; he's found something he said in 1914.
LORD W. I knew it. That's what they'll say. Standing stock still, while hell's on the jump around us.
LADY W. Never mind that; it'll please him; and he's got a lovely little sweated toy that turns head over heels at one penny.
LORD W. H'm! Well, come on.
LADY W. No, I must wait for stragglers. There's sure to be an editor in a hurry.
POULDER. [Announcing] Mis-ter Gold-rum!
LADY W. [Sotto voce] And there he is! [She advances to meet a thin, straggling man in eyeglasses, who is smiling absently] How good of you!
MR. G. Thanks awfully. I just er--and then I'm afraid I must--er-- Things look very----Thanks----Thanks so much.
[He straggles through the doors, and is enclosed by JAMES.]
POULDER. Miss Mun-day.
LORD W. There! I thought she was in--She really is the most unexpected woman! How do you do? How awfully sweet of you!
MISS M. [An elderly female schoolboy] How do you do? There's a spiffing crowd. I believe things are really going Bolshy. How do you do, Lord William? Have you got any of our people to show? I told one or two, in case--they do so simply love an outing.
JAMES. There are three old chips in the lobby, my Lord.
LORD W. What? Oh! I say! Bring them in at once. Why--they're the hub of the whole thing.
JAMES. [Going] Very good, my Lord.
LADY W. I am sorry. I'd no notion; and they're such dears always.
MISS M. I must tell you what one of them said to me. I'd told him not to use such bad language to his wife. "Don't you worry, Ma!" he said, "I expert you can do a bit of that yourself!"
LADY W. How awfully nice! It's SO like them.
MISS M. Yes. They're wonderful.
LORD W. I say, why do we always call them they?
LADY W. [Puzzled] Well, why not?
LORD W. THEY!
MISS M. [Struck] Quite right, Lord William! Quite right! Another species. They! I must remember that. THEY! [She passes on.]
LADY W. [About to follow] Well, I don't see; aren't they?
LORD W. Never mind, old girl; follow on. They'll come in with me.
[MISS MUNDAY and LADY WILLIAM pass through the double doors.]
POULDER. [Announcing] Some sweated workers, my Lord.
[There enter a tall, thin, oldish woman; a short, thin, very lame man, her husband; and a stoutish middle-aged woman with a rolling eye and gait, all very poorly dressed, with lined and heated faces.]
LORD W. [Shaking hands] How d'you do! Delighted to see you all. It's awfully good of you to have come.
LAME M. Mr. and Mrs. Tomson. We 'ad some trouble to find it. You see, I've never been in these parts. We 'ad to come in the oven; and the bus-bloke put us dahn wrong. Are you the proprietor?
LORD W. [Modestly] Yes, I--er--
LAME M. You've got a nice plyce. I says to the missis, I says: "'E's got a nice plyce 'ere," I says; "there's room to turn rahnd."
LORD W. Yes--shall we--?
LAME M. An' Mrs. Annaway she says: "Shouldn't mind livin 'ere meself," she says; "but it must cost'im a tidy penny," she says.
LORD W. It does--it does; much too tidy. Shall we--?
MRS. ANN. [Rolling her eye] I'm very pleased to 'ave come. I've often said to 'em: "Any time you want me," I've said, "I'd be pleased to come."
LORD W. Not so pleased as we are to see you.
MRS. ANN. I'm sure you're very kind.
JAMES. [From the double doors, through which he has received a message] Wanted for your speech, my Lord.
LORD W. Oh! God! Poulder, bring these ladies and gentleman in, and put them where everybody can--where they can see everybody, don't you know.
[He goes out hurriedly through the double doors.]
LAME M. Is 'e a lord?
POULDER. He is. Follow me.
[He moves towards the doors, the three workers follow.]
MRS. ANN. [Stopping before JAMES] You 'yn't one, I suppose? [JAMES stirs no muscle.]
POULDER. Now please. [He opens the doors. The Voice of LORD WILLIAM speaking is heard] Pass in.
[THE THREE WORKERS pass in, POULDER and JAMES follow them. The doors are not closed, and through this aperture comes the voice of LORD WILLIAM, punctuated and supported by decorous applause.]
[LITTLE ANNE runs in, and listens at the window to the confused and distant murmurs of a crowd.]
VOICE OF LORD W. We propose to move for a further advance in the chain-making and--er--er--match-box industries. [Applause.]
[LITTLE ANNE runs across to the door, to listen.]
[On rising voice] I would conclude with some general remarks. Ladies and gentlemen, the great natural, but--er--artificial expansion which trade experienced the first years after the war has-- er--collapsed. These are hard times. We who are fortunate feel more than ever--er--responsible--[He stammers, loses the thread of his thoughts.]--[Applause]--er--responsible--[The thread still eludes him]--er----
L. ANNE. [Poignantly] Oh, Daddy!
LORD W. [Desperately] In fact--er--you know how--er--responsible we feel.
L. ANNE. Hooray! [Applause.]
[There float in through the windows the hoarse and distant sounds of the Marseillaise, as sung by London voices.]
LORD W. There is a feeling in the air--that I for one should say deliberately was--er--a feeling in the air--er--a feeling in the air----
L. ANNE. [Agonised] Oh, Daddy! Stop!
[Jane enters, and closes the door behind him. JAMES. Look here! 'Ave I got to report you to Miss Stokes?]
L. ANNE. No-o-o!
JAMES. Well, I'm goin' to.
L. ANNE. Oh, James, be a friend to me! I've seen nothing yet.
JAMES. No; but you've eaten a good bit, on the stairs. What price that Peach Melba?
L. ANNE. I can't go to bed till I've digested it can I? There's such a lovely crowd in the street!
JAMES. Lovely? Ho!
L. ANNE. [Wheedling] James, you couldn't tell Miss Stokes! It isn't in you, is it?
JAMES. [Grinning] That's right.
L. ANNE. So-I'll just get under here. [She gets under the table] Do I show?
JAMES. [Stooping] Not 'arf!
[POULDER enters from the hall.]
POULDER. What are you doin' there?
JAMES. [Between him and the table--raising himself] Thinkin'.
[POULDER purses his mouth to repress his feedings.]
POULDER. My orders are to fetch the bomb up here for Lady William to inspect. Take care no more writers stray in.
JAMES. How shall I know 'em?
POULDER. Well--either very bald or very hairy.
JAMES. Right-o! [He goes.]
[POULDER, with his back to the table, busies himself with the set of his collar.]
POULDER. [Addressing an imaginary audience--in a low but important voice] The--ah--situation is seerious. It is up to us of the--ah-- leisured classes----
[The face of LITTLE ANNE is poked out close to his legs, and tilts upwards in wonder towards the bow of his waistcoat.]
to--ah--keep the people down. The olla polloi are clamourin'----
[Miss STOKES appears from the hall, between the pillars.]
Miss S. Poulder!
POULDER. [Making a volte face towards the table] Miss?
MISS S. Where is Anne?
POULDER. [Vexed at the disturbance of his speech] Excuse me, Miss-- to keep track of Miss Anne is fortunately no part of my dooties.
[Miss S. She really is naughty.]
POULDER. She is. If she was mine, I'd spank her.
[The smiling face of LITTLE ANNE becomes visible again close to his legs.]
MISS S. Not a nice word.
POULDER. No; but a pleasant haction. Miss Anne's the limit. In fact, Lord and Lady William are much too kind 'earted all round. Take these sweated workers; that class o' people are quite 'opeless. Treatin' them as your equals, shakin 'ands with 'em, givin 'em tea-- it only puffs 'em out. Leave it to the Church, I say.
MISS S. The Church is too busy, Poulder.
POULDER. Ah! That "Purity an' Future o' the Race Campaign." I'll tell you what I thinks the danger o' that, Miss. So much purity that there won't be a future race. [Expanding] Purity of 'eart's an excellent thing, no doubt, but there's a want of nature about it. Same with this Anti-Sweating. Unless you're anxious to come down, you must not put the lower classes up.
MISS S. I don't agree with you at all, Poulder.
POULDER. Ah! You want it both ways, Miss. I should imagine you're a Liberal.
MISS S. [Horrified] Oh, no! I certainly am not.
POULDER. Well, I judged from your takin' cocoa. Funny thing that, about cocoa-how it still runs through the Liberal Party! It's virtuous, I suppose. Wine, beer, tea, coffee-all of 'em vices. But cocoa you might drink a gallon a day and annoy no one but yourself! There's a lot o' deep things in life, Miss!
Miss S. Quite so. But I must find Anne.
[She recedes. ]
POULDER. [Suavely] Well, I wish you every success; and I hope you'll spank her. This modern education--there's no fruitiness in it.
L. ANNE. [From under the table] Poulder, are you virtuous?
POULDER. [Jumping] Good Ged!
L. ANNE. D'you mind my asking? I promised James I would.
POULDER. Miss Anne, come out!
[The four footmen appear in the hall, HENRY carrying the wine cooler.]
JAMES. Form fours-by your right-quick march!
[They enter, marching down right of table.]
Right incline--Mark time! Left turn! 'Alt! 'Enry, set the bomb! Stand easy!
[HENRY places the wine cooler on the table and covers it with a blue embroidered Chinese mat, which has occupied the centre of the tablecloth.]
POULDER. Ah! You will 'ave your game! Thomas, take the door there! James, the 'all! Admit titles an' bishops. No literary or Labour people. Charles and 'Enry, 'op it and 'ang about!
[CHARLES and HENRY go out, the other too move to their stations.]
[POULDER, stands by the table looking at the covered bomb. The hoarse and distant sounds of the Marseillaise float in again from Park Lane.]
[Moved by some deep feeling] And this house an 'orspital in the war! I ask you--what was the good of all our sacrifices for the country? No town 'ouse for four seasons--rustygettin' in the shires, not a soul but two boys under me. Lord William at the front, Lady William at the back. And all for this! [He points sadly at the cooler] It comes of meddlin' on the Continent. I had my prognostications at the time. [To JAMES] You remember my sayin' to you just before you joined up: "Mark my words--we shall see eight per cent. for our money before this is over!"
JAMES. [Sepulchrally] I see the eight per cent., but not the money.
POULDER. Hark at that!
[The sounds of the Marseillaise grow louder. He shakes his head.]
I'd read the Riot Act. They'll be lootin' this house next!
JAMES. We'll put up a fight over your body: "Bartholomew Poulder, faithful unto death!" Have you insured your life?
POULDER. Against a revolution?
JAMES. Act o' God! Why not?
POULDER. It's not an act o' God.
JAMES. It is; and I sympathise with it.
JAMES. I do--only--hands off the gov'nor.
POULDER. Oh! Really! Well, that's something. I'm glad to see you stand behind him, at all events.
JAMES. I stand in front of 'im when the scrap begins!
POULDER. Do you insinuate that my heart's not in the right place?
JAMES. Well, look at it! It's been creepin' down ever since I knew you. Talk of your sacrifices in the war--they put you on your honour, and you got stout on it. Rations--not 'arf.
POULDER. [Staring at him] For independence, I've never seen your equal, James. You might be an Australian.
JAMES. [Suavely] Keep a civil tongue, or I'll throw you to the crowd! [He comes forward to the table] Shall I tell you why I favour the gov'nor? Because, with all his pomp, he's a gentleman, as much as I am. Never asks you to do what he wouldn't do himself. What's more, he never comes it over you. If you get drunk, or--well, you understand me, Poulder--he'll just say: "Yes, yes; I know, James!" till he makes you feel he's done it himself. [Sinking his voice mysteriously] I've had experience with him, in the war and out. Why he didn't even hate the Huns, not as he ought. I tell you he's no Christian.
POULDER. Well, for irreverence----!
JAMES. [Obstinately] And he'll never be. He's got too soft a heart.
L. ANNE. [Beneath the table-shrilly] Hurrah!
POULDER. [Jumping] Come out, Miss Anne!
JAMES. Let 'er alone!
POULDER. In there, under the bomb?
JAMES. [Contemptuously] Silly ass! You should take 'em lying down!
POULDER. Look here, James! I can't go on in this revolutionary spirit; either you or I resign.
JAMES. Crisis in the Cabinet!
POULDER. I give you your marchin' orders.
JAMES. [Ineffably] What's that you give me?
POULDER. Thomas, remove James!
L. ANNE. [Who, with open mouth, has crept out to see the fun] Oh! Do remove James, Thomas!
POULDER. Go on, Thomas.
[THOMAS takes one step towards JAMES, who lays a hand on the Chinese mat covering the bomb.]
JAMES. [Grimly] If I lose control of meself.
L. ANNE. [Clapping her hands] Oh! James! Do lose control! Then I shall see it go off!
JAMES. [To POULDER] Well, I'll merely empty the pail over you!
POULDER. This is not becomin'!
[He walks out into the hall.]
JAMES. Another strategic victory! What a Boche he'd have made. As you were, Tommy!
[THOMAS returns to the door. The sound of prolonged applause cornea from within.]
That's a bishop.
L. ANNE. Why?
JAMES. By the way he's drawin'. It's the fine fightin' spirit in 'em. They were the backbone o' the war. I see there's a bit o' the old stuff left in you, Tommy.
L. ANNE. [Scrutinizing the widely--grinning THOM] Where? Is it in his mouth?
JAMES. You've still got a sense of your superiors. Didn't you notice how you moved to Poulder's orders, me boy; an' when he was gone, to mine?
L. ANNE. [To THOMAS] March!
[The grinning THOMAS remains immovable.]
He doesn't, James!
JAMES. Look here, Miss Anne--your lights ought to be out before ten. Close in, Tommy!
[He and THOMAS move towards her.]
L. ANNE. [Dodging] Oh, no! Oh, no! Look!
[The footmen stop and turn. There between the pillars, stands LITTLE AIDA with the trousers, her face brilliant With surprise.]
JAMES. Good Lord! What's this?
[Seeing L. ANNE, LITTLE AIDA approaches, fascinated, and the two children sniff at each other as it were like two little dogs walking round and round.]
L. ANNE. [Suddenly] My name's Anne; what's yours?
L. AIDA. Aida.
L. ANNE. Are you lost?
L. AIDA. Nao.
L. ANNE. Are those trousers?
L. AIDA. Yus.
L. Arms. Whose?
L. AIDA. Mrs. Lemmy's.
L. ANNE. Does she wear them?
[LITTLE AIDA smiles brilliantly.]
L. AIDA. Nao. She sews 'em.
L. ANNE. [Touching the trousers] They are hard. James's are much softer; aren't they, James? [JAMES deigns no reply] What shall we do? Would you like to see my bedroom?
L. AIDA. [With a hop] Aoh, yus!
L. ANNE. Why not?
JAMES. Have some sense of what's fittin'.
L. ANNE. Why isn't it fittin'? [To LITTLE AIDA] Do you like me?
L. AIDA. Yus-s.
L. ANNE. So do I. Come on!
[She takes LITTLE AIDA'S hand.]
JAMES. [Between the pillars] Tommy, ketch 'em!
[THOMAS retains them by the skirts.]
L. ANNE. [Feigning indifference] All right, then! [To LITTLE AIDA] Have you ever seen a bomb?
L. AIDA. Nao.
L. ANNE. [Going to the table and lifting a corner of the cover] Look!
L. AIDA. [Looking] What's it for?
L. ANNE. To blow up this house.
L. AIDA. I daon't fink!
L. ANNE. Why not?
L. AIDA. It's a beautiful big 'Ouse.
L. ANNE. That's why. Isn't it, James?
L. AIDA. You give the fing to me; I'll blow up our 'ouse--it's an ugly little 'ouse.
L. ANNE [Struck] Let's all blow up our own; then we can start fair. Daddy would like that.
L. AIDA. Yus. [Suddenly brilliant] I've 'ad a ride in a taxi, an' we're goin' 'ome in it agyne!
L. ANNE. Were you sick?
LITTLE AIDA. [Brilliant] Nao.
L. ANNE I was; when I first went in one, but I was quite young then. James, could you get her a Peche Melba? There was one.
L. ANNE. Have you seen the revolution?
L. AIDA. Wot's that?
L. ANNE. It's made of people.
L. AIDA. I've seen the corfin, it's myde o' wood.
L. ANNE. Do you hate the rich?
L. AIDA. [Ineffably] Nao. I hates the poor.
L. ANNE. Why?
L. AIDA. 'Cos they 'yn't got nuffin'.
L. ANNE. I love the poor. They're such dears.
L. AIDA. [Shaking her head with a broad smile] Nao.
L. ANNE. Why not?
L. AIDA. I'd tyke and lose the lot, I would.
L. ANNE. Where?
L. AIDA. In the water.
L. ANNE. Like puppies?
L. AIDA. Yus.
L. ANNE. Why?
L. AIDA. Then I'd be shut of 'em.
L. ANNE. [Puzzled] Oh!
[The voice of THE PRESS is heard in the hall. "Where's the little girl?"]
JAMES. That's you. Come 'ere!
[He puts a hand behind LITTLE AIDA'S back and propels her towards the hall. THE PRESS enters with old MRS. LEMMY.]
PRESS. Oh! Here she is, major domo. I'm going to take this old lady to the meeting; they want her on the platform. Look after our friend, Mr. Lemmy here; Lord William wants to see him presently.
L. ANNE. [In an awed whisper] James, it's the little blighter!
[She dives again under the table. LEMMY enters.]
LEMMY. 'Ere! 'Arf a mo'! Yer said yer'd drop me at my plyce. Well, I tell yer candid--this 'yn't my plyce.
PRESS. That's all right, Mr. Lemmy. [He grins] They'll make you wonderfully comfortable, won't you, major domo?
[He passes on through the room, to the door, ushering old MRS. LEMMY and LITTLE AIDA.]
[POULDER blocks LEMMY'S way, with CHARLES and HENRY behind him.]
POULDER. James, watch it; I'll report.
[He moves away, following THE PRESS through the door. JAMES between table and window. THOMAS has gone to the door. HENRY and CHARLES remain at the entrances to the hall. LEMMY looks dubiously around, his cockney assurrance gradually returns.]
LEMMY. I think I knows the gas 'ere. This is where I came to-dy, 'yn't it? Excuse my hesitytion--these little 'ouses IS so much the syme.
JAMES. [Gloomily] They are!
LEMMY. [Looking at the four immovable footmen, till he concentrates on JAMES] Ah! I 'ad a word wiv you, 'adn't I? You're the four conscientious ones wot's wyin' on your gov'nor's chest. 'Twas you I spoke to, wasn't it? [His eyes travel over them again] Ye're so monotonous. Well, ye're busy now, I see. I won't wyste yer time.
[He turns towards the hall, but CHARLES and HENRY bar the way in silence.]
[Skidding a little, and regarding the four immovables once more]
I never see such pytient men? Compared wiv yer, mountains is restless.
[He goes to the table. JAMES watches him. ANNE barks from underneath.]
[Skidding again] Why! There's a dawg under there. [Noting the grin on THOMAS'S face] Glad it amooses yer. Yer want it, daon't yer, wiv a fyce like that? Is this a ply wivaht words? 'Ave I got into the movies by mistyke? Turn aht, an' let's 'ave six penn'orth o' darkness.
L. ANNE. [From beneath the cable] No, no! Not dark!
LEMMY. [Musingly] The dawg talks anywy. Come aht, Fido!
[LITTLE ANNE emerges, and regards him with burning curiosity.]
I sy: Is this the lytest fashion o' receivin' guests?
L. ANNE. Mother always wants people to feel at home. What shall we do? Would you like to hear the speeches? Thomas, open the door a little, do!
JAMES. 'Umour 'er a couple o' inches, Tommy!
[THOMAS draws the door back stealthily an inch or so.]
L. ANNE. [After applying her eye-in a loud whisper] There's the old lady. Daddy's looking at her trousers. Listen!
[For MRS. LEMMY'S voice is floating faintly through: "I putt in the buttonholes, I stretches the flies; I 'ems the bottoms; I lines the crutch; I putt on this bindin'; I sews on the buttons; I presses the seams--Tuppence three farthin's the pair."]
LEMMY. [In a hoarse whisper] That's it, old lydy: give it 'em!
L. ANNE. Listen!
VOICE OF LORD W. We are indebted to our friends the Press for giving us the pleasure--er--pleasure of hearing from her own lips--the pleasure----
L. ANNE. Oh! Daddy!
[THOMAS abruptly closes the doors.]
LEMMY. [To ANNE] Now yer've done it. See wot comes o' bein' impytient. We was just gettin' to the marrer.
L. ANNE. What can we do for you now?
LEMMY. [Pointing to ANNE, and addressing JAMES] Wot is this one, anywy?
JAMES. [Sepulchrally] Daughter o' the house.
LEMMY. Is she insured agynst 'er own curiosity?
L. ANNE. Why?
LEMMY. As I daon't believe in a life beyond the gryve, I might be tempted to send yer there.
L. ANNE. What is the gryve?
LEMMY. Where little gells goes to.
L. ANNE. Oh, when?
LEMMY. [Pretending to look at a match, which is not there] Well, I dunno if I've got time to finish yer this minute. Sy to-mower at. 'arf past.
L. ANNE. Half past what?
LEMMY. [Despairingly] 'Arf past wot!
[The sound of applause is heard.]
JAMES. That's 'is Grace. 'E's gettin' wickets, too.
[POULDER entering from the door.]
POULDER. Lord William is slippin' in.
[He makes a cabalistic sign with his head. Jeers crosses to the door. LEMMY looks dubiously at POULDER.]
LEMMY. [Suddenly--as to himself] Wot oh! I am the portly one!
POULDER. [Severely] Any such allusion aggeravates your offence.
LEMMY. Oh, ah! Look 'ere, it was a corked bottle. Now, tyke care, tyke care, 'aughty! Daon't curl yer lip! I shall myke a clean breast o' my betryal when the time comes!
[There is a alight movement of the door. ANNE makes a dive towards the table but is arrested by POULDER grasping her waistband. LORD WILLIAM slips in, followed by THE PRESS, on whom JAMES and THOMAS close the door too soon.]
HALF OF THE PRESS. [Indignantly] Look out!
JAMES. Do you want him in or out, me Lord?
LEMMY. I sy, you've divided the Press; 'e was unanimous.
[The FOOTMEN let THE PRESS through.]
LORD W. [To THE PRESS] I'm so sorry.
LEMMY. Would yer like me to see to 'is gas?
LORD W. So you're my friend of the cellars?
LEMMY. [Uneasy] I daon't deny it.
[POULDER begins removing LITTLE ANNE.]
L. ANNE. Let me stay, Daddy; I haven't seen anything yet! If I go, I shall only have to come down again when they loot the house. Listen!
[The hoarse strains of the Marseillaise are again heard from the distance.]
LORD W. [Blandly] Take her up, Poulder!
L. ANNE. Well, I'm coming down again--and next time I shan't have any clothes on, you know.
[They vanish between the pillars. LORD WILLIAM makes a sign of dismissal. The FOOTMAN file out.]
LEMMY. [Admiringly] Luv'ly pyces!
LORD W. [Pleasantly] Now then; let's have our talk, Mr.----
PRESS. [Who has slipped his note-book out] "Bombed and Bomber face to face----"
LEMMY. [Uneasy] I didn't come 'ere agyne on me own, yer know. The Press betryed me.
LORD W. Is that old lady your mother?
LEMMY. The syme. I tell yer stryte, it was for 'er I took that old bottle o' port. It was orful old.
LORD W. Ah! Port? Probably the '83. Hope you both enjoyed it.
LEMMY. So far-yus. Muvver'll suffer a bit tomower, I expect.
LORD W. I should like to do something for your mother, if you'll allow me.
LEMMY. Oh! I'll allow yer. But I dunno wot she'll sy.
LORD W. I can see she's a fine independent old lady! But suppose you were to pay her ten bob a week, and keep my name out of it?
LEMMY. Well, that's one wy o' YOU doin' somefink, 'yn't it?
LORD W. I giving you the money, of course.
PRESS. [Writing] "Lord William, with kingly generosity----"
LEMMY. [Drawing attention to THE PRESS with his thumb] I sy-- I daon't mind, meself--if you daon't----
LORD W. He won't write anything to annoy me.
PRESS. This is the big thing, Lord William; it'll get the public bang in the throat.
LEMMY. [Confidentially] Bit dyngerous, 'yn't it? trustin' the Press? Their right 'ands never knows wot their left 'ands is writin'. [To THE PRESS] 'Yn't that true, speakin' as a man?
PRESS. Mr. Lemmy, even the Press is capable of gratitude.
LEMMY. Is it? I should ha' thought it was too important for a little thing like that. [To LORD WILLIAM] But ye're quite right; we couldn't do wivaht the Press--there wouldn't be no distress, no coffin, no revolution--'cos nobody'd know nuffin' abaht it. Why! There wouldn't be no life at all on Earf in these dyes, wivaht the Press! It's them wot says: "Let there be Light--an' there is Light."
LORD W. Umm! That's rather a new thought to me. [Writes on his cuff.]
LEMMY. But abaht Muvver, I'll tell yer 'ow we can arrynge. You send 'er the ten bob a week wivaht syin' anyfink, an' she'll fink it comes from Gawd or the Gover'ment yer cawn't tell one from t'other in Befnal Green.
LORD W. All right; we'll' do that.
LEMMY. Will yer reely? I'd like to shyke yer 'and.
[LORD WILLIAM puts out his hand, which LEMMY grasps.]
PRESS. [Writing] "The heartbeat of humanity was in that grasp between the son of toil and the son of leisure."
LEMMY. [Already ashamed of his emotion] 'Ere, 'arf a mo'! Which is which? Daon't forget I'm aht o' wori; Lord William, if that's 'is nyme, is workin 'ard at 'is Anti-Sweats! Wish I could get a job like vat--jist suit me!
LORD W. That hits hard, Mr. Lemmy.
LEMMY. Daon't worry! Yer cawn't 'elp bein' born in the purple!
LORD W. Ah! Tell me, what would you do in my place?
LEMMY. Why--as the nobleman said in 'is well-known wy: "Sit in me Club winder an' watch it ryne on the dam people!" That's if I was a average nobleman! If I was a bit more noble, I might be tempted to come the kind'earted on twenty thou' a year. Some prefers yachts, or ryce 'orses. But philanthropy on the 'ole is syfer, in these dyes.
LORD W. So you think one takes to it as a sort of insurance, Mr. Lemmy? Is that quite fair?
LEMMY. Well, we've all got a weakness towards bein' kind, somewhere abaht us. But the moment wealf comes in, we 'yn't wot I call single-'earted. If yer went into the foundytions of your wealf--would yer feel like 'avin' any? It all comes from uvver people's 'ard, unpleasant lybour--it's all built on Muvver as yer might sy. An' if yer daon't get rid o' some of it in bein' kind--yer daon't feel syfe nor comfy.
LORD W. [Twisting his moustache] Your philosophy is very pessimistic.
LEMMY. Well, I calls meself an optimist; I sees the worst of everyfink. Never disappynted, can afford to 'ave me smile under the blackest sky. When deaf is squeezin' of me windpipe, I shall 'ave a laugh in it! Fact is, if yer've 'ad to do wiv gas an' water pipes, yer can fyce anyfing. [The distant Marseillaise blares up] 'Ark at the revolution!
LORD W. [Rather desperately] I know--hunger and all the rest of it! And here am I, a rich man, and don't know what the deuce to do.
LEMMY. Well, I'll tell yer. Throw yer cellars open, an' while the populyce is gettin' drunk, sell all yer 'ave an' go an' live in Ireland; they've got the millennium chronic over there.
[LORD WILLIAM utters a short, vexed laugh, and begins to walk about.]
That's speakin' as a practical man. Speakin' as a synt "Bruvvers, all I 'ave is yours. To-morrer I'm goin' dahn to the Lybour Exchynge to git put on the wytin' list, syme as you!"
LORD W. But, d---it, man, there we should be, all together! Would that help?
LEMMY. Nao; but it'd syve a lot o' blood.
[LORD WILLIAM stops abruptly, and looks first at LEMMY, then at the cooler, still cohered with the Chinese mat.]
Yer thought the Englishman could be taught to shed blood wiv syfety. Not 'im! Once yer git 'im into an 'abit, yer cawn't git 'im out of it agyne. 'E'll go on sheddin' blood mechanical--Conservative by nyture. An' 'e won't myke nuffin' o' yours. Not even the Press wiv 'is 'oneyed words'll sty 'is 'and.
LORD W. And what do you suggest we could have done, to avoid trouble?
LEMMY. [Warming to his theme] I'll tell yer. If all you wealfy nobs wiv kepitel 'ad come it kind from the start after the war yer'd never 'a been 'earin' the Marseillaisy naow. Lord! 'Ow you did talk abaht Unity and a noo spirit in the Country. Noo spirit! Why, soon as ever there was no dynger from outside, yer stawted to myke it inside, wiv an iron'and. Naow, you've been in the war an' it's given yer a feelin' 'eart; but most of the nobs wiv kepitel was too old or too important to fight. They weren't born agyne. So naow that bad times is come, we're 'owlin' for their blood.
LORD W. I quite agree; I quite agree. I've often said much the same thing.
LEMMY. Voice cryin' in the wilderness--I daon't sy we was yngels-- there was faults on bofe sides. [He looks at THE PRESS] The Press could ha' helped yer a lot. Shall I tell yer wot the Press did? "It's vital," said the Press, "that the country should be united, or it will never recover." Nao strikes, nao 'omen nature, nao nuffink. Kepitel an' Lybour like the Siamese twins. And, fust dispute that come along, the Press orfs wiv its coat an' goes at it bald'eaded. An' wot abaht since? Sich a riot o' nymes called, in Press--and Pawlyement. Unpatriotic an' outrygeous demands o' lybour. Blood-suckin' tyranny o' Kepitel; thieves an' dawgs an 'owlin Jackybines--gents throwin' books at each other; all the resources of edjucytion exhausted! If I'd bin Prime Minister I'd 'ave 'ad the Press's gas cut 'orf at the meter. Puffect liberty, of course, nao Censorship; just sy wot yer like--an' never be 'eard of no more.
[Turning suddenly to THE PRESS, who has been scribbling in pace with this harangue, and now has developed a touch of writer's cramp.]
Why! 'Is 'end's out o' breath! Fink o' vet!
LORD W. Great tribute to your eloquence, Mr. Lemmy!
[A sudden stir of applause and scraping of chairs is heard; the meeting is evidently breaking up. LADY WILLIAM comes in, followed by MRS. LEMMY with her trousers, and LITTLE AIDA. LEMMY stares fixedly at this sudden, radiant apparition. His gaze becomes as that of a rabbit regarding a snake. And suddenly he puts up his hand and wipes his brow.]
[LADY WILLIAM, going to the table, lifts one end of the Chinese mat, and looks at LEMMY. Then she turns to LORD WILLIAM.]
LADY W. Bill!
LEMMY. [To his mother--in a hoarse whisper] She calls 'im Bill. 'Ow! 'Yn't she IT?
LADY W. [Apart] Have you--spoken to him?
[LORD WILLIAM shakes his head.]
Not? What have you been saying, then?
LORD W. Nothing, he's talked all the time.
LADY W. [Very low] What a little caution!
LORD W. Steady, old girl! He's got his eye on you!
[LADY WILLIAM looks at LEMMY, whose eyes are still fixed on her.]
LADY W. [With resolution] Well, I'm going to tackle him.
[She moves towards LEMMY, who again wipes his brow, and wrings out his hand.]
MRS. LEMMY. Don't 'ee du that, Bob. Yu must forgive'im, Ma'am; it's 'is admiration. 'E was always one for the ladies, and he'm not used to seein' so much of 'em.
LADY W. Don't you think you owe us an explanation?
MRS. LEMMY. Speak up, Bob.
[But LEMMY only shifts his feet.]
My gudeness! 'E've a-lost 'is tongue. I never knu that 'appen to 'e before.
LORD W. [Trying to break the embarrassment] No ill-feeling, you know, Lemmy.
[But LEMMY still only rolls his eyes.]
LADY W. Don't you think it was rather--inconsiderate of you?
LEMMY. Muvver, tyke me aht, I'm feelin' fynte!
[Spurts of the Marseillaise and the mutter of the crowd have been coming nearer; and suddenly a knocking is heard. POULDER and JAMES appear between the pillars.]
POULDER. The populace, me Lord!
LADY W. What!
LORD W. Where've you put 'em, Poulder?
POULDER. They've put theirselves in the portico, me Lord.
LORD W. [Suddenly wiping his brow] Phew! I say, this is awful, Nell! Two speeches in one evening. Nothing else for it, I suppose. Open the window, Poulder!
POULDER. [Crossing to the window] We are prepared for any sacrifice, me Lord.
[He opens the window.]
PRESS. [Writing furiously] "Lady William stood like a statue at bay."
LORD W. Got one of those lozenges on you, Nell?
[But LADY WILLIAM has almost nothing on her.]
LEMMY. [Producing a paper from his pocket] 'Ave one o' my gum drops?
[He passes it to LORD WILLIAM.]
LORD W. [Unable to refuse, takes a large, flat gum drop from the paper, and looks at it in embarrassment.] Ah! thanks! Thanks awfully!
[LEMMY turns to LITTLE AIDA, and puts a gum drop in her mouth. A burst of murmurs from the crowd.]
JAMES. [Towering above the wine cooler] If they get saucy, me Lord, I can always give 'em their own back.
LORD W. Steady, James; steady!
[He puts the gum drop absently in his mouth, and turns up to the open window.]
VOICE. [Outside] 'Ere they are--the bally plutocrats.
[Voices in chorus: "Bread! Bread!"]
LORD W. Poulder, go and tell the chef to send out anything there is in the house--nicely, as if it came from nowhere in particular.
POULDER. Very good, me Lord. [Sotto voce] Any wine? If I might suggest--German--'ock?
LORD W. What you like.
POULDER. Very good, me Lord. [He goes.]
LORD W. I say, dash it, Nell, my teeth are stuck! [He works his finger in his mouth.]
LADY W. Take it out, darling.
LORD W. [Taking out the gum drop and looking at it] What the deuce did I put it in for?
PRESS. ['Writing] "With inimitable coolness Lord William prepared to address the crowd."
[Voices in chorea: "Bread! Bread!"]
LORD W. Stand by to prompt, old girl. Now for it. This ghastly gum drop!
[LORD WILLIAM takes it from his agitated hand, and flips it through the window.]
VOICE. Dahn with the aristo----[Chokes.]
LADY W. Oh! Bill----oh! It's gone into a mouth!
LORD W. Good God!
VOICE. Wet's this? Throwin' things? Mind aht, or we'll smash yer winders!
[As the voices in chorus chant: "Bread! Bread!" LITTLE ANNE, night-gowned, darts in from the hall. She is followed by MISS STOKES. They stand listening.]
LORD W. [To the Crowd] My friends, you've come to the wrong shop. There's nobody in London more sympathetic with you. [The crowd laughs hoarsely.] [Whispering] Look out, old girl; they can see your shoulders. [LORD WILLIAM moves back a step.] If I were a speaker, I could make you feel----
VOICE. Look at his white weskit! Blood-suckers--fattened on the people!
[JAMES dives his hand at the wine cooler.]
LORD W. I've always said the Government ought to take immediate steps----
VOICE. To shoot us dahn.
LORD W. Not a bit. To relieve the--er----
LADY W. [Prompting] Distress.
LADY W. Distress, and ensure--er--ensure
LADY W. [Prompting] Quiet.
LORD W. [To her] No, no. To ensure--ensure----
L. ANNE. [Agonized] Oh, Daddy!
VOICE. 'E wants to syve 'is dirty great 'ouse.
LORD W. [Roused] D----if I do!
[Rude and hoarse laughter from the crowd.]
JAMES. [With fury] Me Lord, let me blow 'em to glory!
[He raises the cooler and advances towards the window.]
LORD W. [Turning sharply on him] Drop it, James; drop it!
PRESS. [Jumping] No, no; don't drop it!
[JAMES retires crestfallen to the table, where he replaces the cooler.]
LORD W. [Catching hold of his bit] Look here, I must have fought alongside some of you fellows in the war. Weren't we jolly well like brothers?
A VOICE. Not so much bloomin' "Kamerad"; hand over yer 'Ouse.
LORD W. I was born with this beastly great house, and money, and goodness knows what other entanglements--a wife and family----
VOICE. Born with a wife and family!
[Jeers and laughter.]
LORD W. I feel we're all in the same boat, and I want to pull my weight. If you can show me the way, I'll take it fast enough.
A DEEP VOICE. Step dahn then, an' we'll step up.
ANOTHER VOICE. 'Ear, 'Ear!
[A fierce little cheer.]
LORD W. [To LADY WILLIAM--in despair] By George! I can't get in anywhere!
LADY W. [Calmly] Then shut the window, Bill.
LEMMY. [Who has been moving towards them slowly] Lemme sy a word to 'em.
[All stare at him. LEMMY approaches the window, followed by LITTLE AIDA. POULDER re-enters with the three other footmen.]
[At the window] Cheerio! Cockies!
[The silence of surprise falls on the crowd.]
I'm one of yer. Gas an' water I am. Got more grievances an' out of employment than any of yer. I want to see their blood flow, syme as you.
PRESS. [writing] "Born orator--ready cockney wit--saves situation."
LEMMY. Wot I sy is: Dahn wiv the country, dahn wiv everyfing. Begin agyne from the foundytions. [Nodding his head back at the room] But we've got to keep one or two o' these 'ere under glawss, to show our future generytions. An' this one is 'armless. His pipes is sahnd, 'is 'eart is good; 'is 'ead is not strong. Is 'ouse will myke a charmin' palace o' varieties where our children can come an' see 'ow they did it in the good old dyes. Yer never see rich waxworks as 'is butler and 'is four conscientious khaki footmen. Why--wot dyer think 'e 'as 'em for--fear they might be out o'-works like you an' me. Nao! Keep this one; 'e's a Flower. 'Arf a mo'! I'll show yer my Muvver. Come 'ere, old lydy; and bring yer trahsers. [MRS. LEMMY comes forward to the window] Tell abaht yer speech to the meetin'.
MRS. LEMMY. [Bridling] Oh dear! Well, I cam' in with me trousers, an' they putt me up on the pedestory at once, so I tole 'em. [Holding up the trousers] "I putt in the button'oles, I stretches the flies; I lines the crutch; I putt on this bindin', I presses the seams--Tuppence three farthin's a pair."
[A groan from tote crowd, ]
LEMMY. [Showing her off] Seventy-seven! Wot's 'er income? Twelve bob a week; seven from the Gover'ment an' five from the sweat of 'er brow. Look at 'er! 'Yn't she a tight old dear to keep it goin'! No workus for 'er, nao fear! The gryve rather!
[Murmurs from the crowd, at Whom MRS. LEMMY is blandly smiling.]
You cawn't git below 'er--impossible! She's the foundytions of the country--an' rocky 'yn't the word for 'em. Worked 'ard all 'er life, brought up a family and buried 'em on it. Twelve bob a week, an' given when 'er fingers goes, which is very near. Well, naow, this torf 'ere comes to me an' says: "I'd like to do somefin' for yer muvver. 'Ow's ten bob a week?" 'e says. Naobody arst 'im--quite on 'is own. That's the sort 'e is. [Sinking his voice confidentially] Sorft. You bring yer muvvers 'ere, 'e'll do the syme for them. I giv yer the 'int.
VOICE. [From the crowd] What's 'is nyme?
LEMMY. They calls 'im Bill.
VOICE. Bill What?
L. ANNE. Dromondy.
LADY W. Anne!
LEMMY. Dromedary 'is nyme is.
VOICE. [From the crowd] Three cheers for Bill Dromedary.
LEMMY. I sy, there's veal an' 'am, an' pork wine at the back for them as wants it; I 'eard the word passed. An' look 'ere, if yer want a flag for the revolution, tyke muvver's trahsers an' tie 'em to the corfin. Yer cawn't 'ave no more inspirin' banner. Ketch! [He throws the trousers out] Give Bill a double-barrel fast, to show there's no ill-feelin'. Ip, 'ip!
[The crowd cheers, then slowly passes away, singing at a hoarse version of the Marseillaise, till all that is heard is a faint murmuring and a distant barrel-organ playing the same tune.]
PRESS. [Writing] "And far up in the clear summer air the larks were singing."
LORD W. [Passing his heard over his hair, and blinking his eyes] James! Ready?
JAMES. Me Lord!
L. ANNE. Daddy!
LADY W. [Taking his arm] Bill! It's all right, old man--all right!
LORD W. [Blinking] Those infernal larks! Thought we were on the Somme again! Ah! Mr. Lemmy, [Still rather dreamy] no end obliged to you; you're so decent. Now, why did you want to blow us up before dinner?
LEMMY. Blow yer up? [Passing his hand over his hair in travesty] "Is it a dream? Then wykin' would be pyne."
MRS. LEMMY. Bo-ob! Not so saucy, my boy!
LEMMY. Blow yet up? Wot abaht it?
LADY W. [Indicating the bomb] This, Mr. Lemmy!
[LEMMY looks at it, and his eyes roll and goggle.]
LORD W. Come, all's forgiven! But why did you?
LEMMY. Orl right! I'm goin' to tyke it awy; it'd a-been a bit ork'ard for me. I'll want it to-mower.
LORD W. What! To leave somewhere else?
LEMMY. 'Yus, of course!
LORD W. No, no; dash it! Tell us what's it filled with?
LEMMY. Filled wiv? Nuffin'. Wot did yet expect? Toof-pahder? It's got a bit o' my lead soldered on to it. That's why it's 'eavy!
LORD W. But what is it?
LEMMY. Wot is it? [His eyes are fearfully fixed on LADY WILLIAM] I fought everybody knew 'em.
LADY W. Mr. Lemmy, you must clear this up, please.
LEMMY. [TO LORD WILLIAM, With his eyes still held On LADY WILLIAM-- mysteriously] Wiv lydies present? 'Adn't I better tell the Press?
LORD W. All right; tell someone--anyone!
[LEMMY goes down to THE PRESS, who is reading over his last note. Everyone watches and listens with the utmost discretion, while he whispers into the ear of THE PRESS; who shakes his head violently.]
PRESS. No, no; it's too horrible. It destroys my whole----
LEMMY. Well, I tell yer it is.
[Whispers again violently.]
PRESS. No, no; I can't have it. All my article! All my article! It can't be--no----
LEMMY. I never see sick an obstinate thick-head! Yer 'yn't worvy of yet tryde.
[He whispers still more violently and makes cabalistic signs.]
[LADY WILLIAM lifts the bomb from the cooler into the sight of all. LORD WILLIAM, seeing it for the first time in full light, bends double in silent laughter, and whispers to his wife. LADY WILLIAM drops the bomb and gives way too. Hearing the sound, LEMMY turns, and his goggling eyes pan them all in review. LORD and LADY WILLIAM in fits of laughter, LITTLE ANNE stamping her feet, for MISS STOKES, red, but composed, has her hands placed firmly over her pupil's eyes and ears; LITTLE AIDA smiling brilliantly, MRS. LEMMY blandly in sympathy, neither knowing why; the FOUR FOOTMAN in a row, smothering little explosions. POULDER, extremely grave and red, THE PRESS perfectly haggard, gnawing at his nails.]
LEMMY. [Turning to THE PRESS] Blimy! It amooses 'em, all but the genteel ones. Cheer oh! Press! Yer can always myke somefin' out o' nufun'? It's not the fust thing as 'as existed in yer imaginytion only.
PRESS. No, d---it; I'll keep it a bomb!
LEMMY. [Soothingly] Ah! Keep the sensytion. Wot's the troof compared wiv that? Come on, Muvver! Come on, Little Aida! Time we was goin' dahn to 'Earf.
[He goes up to the table, and still skidding a little at LADY WILLIAM, takes the late bomb from the cooler, placing it under his arm.]
MRS. LEMMY. Gude naight, sir; gude naight, ma'am; thank yu for my cup o' tea, an' all yore kindness.
[She shakes hands with LORD and LADY WILLIAM, drops the curtsey of her youth before Mr. POULDER, and goes out followed by LITTLE AIDA, who is looking back at LITTLE ANNE.]
LEMMY. [Turning suddenly] Aoh! An' jist one frog! Next time yer build an 'ouse, daon't forget--it's the foundytions as bears the wyte.
[With a wink that gives way, to a last fascinated look at LADY WILLIAM, he passes out. All gaze after them, except THE PRESS, who is tragically consulting his spiflicated notes.]
L. ANNE. [Breaking away from Miss STOKES and rushing forward] Oh! Mum! what was it?
* * * * * * * * * * * *