A billiard room in a provincial hotel, where things are bought and sold. The scene is set well forward, and is not very broad; it represents the auctioneer's end of the room, having, rather to stage Left, a narrow table with two chairs facing the audience, where the auctioneer will sit and stand. The table, which is set forward to the footlights, is littered with green-covered particulars of sale. The audience are in effect public and bidders. There is a door on the Left, level with the table. Along the back wall, behind the table, are two raised benches with two steps up to them, such as billiard rooms often have, divided by a door in the middle of a wall, which is panelled in oak. Late September sunlight is coming from a skylight (not visible) on to these seats. The stage is empty when the curtain goes up, but DAWKERS, and MRS. HILLCRIST are just entering through the door at the back.
DAWKER. Be out of their way here, ma'am. See old Hornblower with Chearlie?
[He points down to the audience.]
MRS. H. It begins at three, doesn't it?
DAWKER. They won't be over-punctual; there's only the Centry selling. There's young Mrs. Hornblower with the other boy-- [Pointing] over at the entrance. I've got that chap I told you of down from town.
MRS. H. Ah! make sure quite of her, Dawker. Any mistake would be fatal.
DAWKER. [Nodding] That's right, ma'am. Lot of peopled--always spare time to watch an auction--ever remark that? The Duke's agent's here; shouldn't be surprised if he chipped in.
MRS. H. Where did you leave my husband?
DAWKER. With Miss Jill, in the courtyard. He's coming to you. In case I miss him; tell him when I reach his limit to blow his nose if he wants me to go on; when he blows it a second time, I'll stop for good. Hope we shan't get to that. Old Hornblower doesn't throw his money away.
MRS. H. What limit did you settle?
DAWKER. Six thousand!
MRS. H. That's a fearful price. Well, good luck to you, Dawker!
DAWKER. Good luck, ma'am. I'll go and see to that little matter of Mrs. Chloe. Never fear, we'll do them is somehow.
[He winks, lays his finger on the side of his nose, and goes out at the door.]
[MRS. HILLCRIST mounts the two steps, sits down Right of the door, and puts up a pair of long-handled glasses. Through the door behind her come CHLOE and ROLF. She makes a sign for him to go, and shuts the door.]
CHLOE. [At the foot of the steps in the gangway--with a slightly common accent] Mrs. Hillcrist!
MRS. H. [Not quite starting] I beg your pardon?
CHLOE. [Again] Mrs. Hillcrist----
MRS. H. Well?
CHLOE. I never did you any harm.
MRS. H. Did I ever say you did?
CHLOE. No; but you act as if I had.
MRS. H. I'm not aware that I've acted at all--as yet. You are nothing to me, except as one of your family.
CHLOE. 'Tisn't I that wants to spoil your home.
MRS. H. Stop them then. I see your husband down there with his father.
CHLOE. I--I have tried.
MRS. H. [Looking at her] Oh! I suppose such men don't pay attention to what women ask them.
CHLOE. [With a flash of spirit] I'm fond of my husband. I----
MRS. H. [Looking at her steadily] I don't quite know why you spoke to me.
CHLOE. [With a sort of pathetic sullenness] I only thought perhaps you'd like to treat me as a human being.
MRS. H. Really, if you don't mind, I should like to be left alone just now.
CHLOE. [Unhappily acquiescent] Certainly! I'll go to the other end.
[She moves to the Left, mounts the steps and sits down.]
[ROLF, looking in through the door, and seeing where she is, joins her. MRS. HILLCRIST resettles herself a little further in on the Right.]
ROLF. [Bending over to CHLOE, after a glance at MRS. HILLCRIST.] Are you all right?
CHLOE. It's awfully hot.
[She fans herself wide the particulars of sale.]
ROLF. There's Dawker. I hate that chap!
ROLF. Down there; see?
[He points down to stage Right of the room.]
CHLOE. [Drawing back in her seat with a little gasp] Oh!
ROLF. [Not noticing] Who's that next him, looking up here?
CHLOE. I don't know.
[She has raised her auction programme suddenly, and sits fanning herself, carefully screening her face.]
ROLE. [Looking at her] Don't you feel well? Shall I get you some water? [He gets up at her nod.]
[As he reaches the door, HILLCRIST and JILL come in. HILLCRIST passes him abstractedly with a nod, and sits down beside his wife.]
JILL. [To ROLF] Come to see us turned out?
ROLF. [Emphatically] No. I'm looking after Chloe; she's not well.
JILL. [Glancing at her] Sorry. She needn't have come, I suppose? [RALF deigns no answer, and goes out.]
[JILL glances at CHLOE, then at her parents talking in low voices, and sits down next her father, who makes room for her.]
MRS. H. Can Dawker see you there, Jack?
What's the time?
HILLCRIST. Three minutes to three.
JILL. Don't you feel beastly all down the backs of your legs. Dodo?
JILL. Do you, mother?
MRS. H. No.
JILL. A wagon of old Hornblower's pots passed while we were in the yard. It's an omen.
MRS. H. Don't be foolish, Jill.
JILL. Look at the old brute! Dodo, hold my hand.
MRS. H. Make sure you've got a handkerchief, Jack.
HILLCRIST. I can't go beyond the six thousand; I shall have to raise every penny on mortgage as it is. The estate simply won't stand more, Amy.
[He feels in his breast pocket, and pulls up the edge of his handkerchief.]
JILL. Oh! Look! There's Miss Mullins, at the back; just come in. Isn't she a spidery old chip?
MRS. H. Come to gloat. Really, I think her not accepting your offer is disgusting. Her impartiality is all humbug.
HILLCRIST. Can't blame her for getting what she can--it's human nature. Phew! I used to feel like this before a 'viva voce'. Who's that next to Dawker?
JILL. What a fish!
MRS. H. [To herself] Ah! yes.
[Her eyes slide round at CHLOE, silting motionless and rather sunk in her seat, slowly fanning herself with they particulars of the sale. Jack, go and offer her my smelling salts.]
HILLCRIST. [Taking the salts] Thank God for a human touch!
MRS. H. [Taken aback] Oh!
JILL. [With a quick look at her mother, snatching the salts] I will. [She goes over to CHLOE with the salts] Have a sniff; you look awfully white.
CHLOE. [Looking up, startled] Oh! no thanks. I'm all right.
JILL. No, do! You must. [CHLOE takes them.]
JILL. D'you mind letting me see that a minute?
[She takes the particulars of the sale and studies it, but CHLOE has buried the lower part of her face in her hand and the smelling salts bottle.]
Beastly hot, isn't it? You'd better keep that.
CHLOE. [Her dark eyes wandering and uneasy] Rolf's getting me some water.
JILL. Why do you stay? You didn't want to come, did you?
[CHLOE shakes her head.]
All right! Here's your water.
[She hands back the particulars and slides over to her seat, passing ROLF in the gangway, with her chin well up.]
[MRS. HILLCRIST, who has watched CHLOE and JILL and DAWKER, and his friend, makes an enquiring movement with her hand, but gets a disappointing answer.]
JILL. What's the time, Dodo?
HILLCRIST. [Looking at his watch] Three minutes past.
JILL. [Sighing] Oh, hell!
JILL. Sorry, Dodo. I was only thinking. Look! Here he is! Phew!--isn't he----?
MRS. H. 'Sh!
The AUCTIONEER comes in Left and goes to the table. He is a square, short, brown-faced, common looking man, with clipped grey hair fitting him like a cap, and a clipped grey moustache. His lids come down over his quick eyes, till he can see you very sharply, and you can hardly see that he can see you. He can break into a smile at any moment, which has no connection with him, as it were. By a certain hurt look, however, when bidding is slow, he discloses that he is not merely an auctioneer, but has in him elements of the human being. He can wink with anyone, and is dressed in a snug-brown suit, with a perfectly unbuttoned waistcoat, a low, turned down collar, and small black and white sailor knot tie. While he is settling his papers, the HILLCRISTS settle themselves tensely. CHLOE has drunk her water and leaned back again, with the smelling salts to her nose. ROLF leans forward in the seat beside her, looking sideways at JILL. A SOLICITOR, with a grey beard, has joined the AUCTIONEER, at his table.
AUCTIONEER. [Tapping the table] Sorry to disappoint you, gentlemen, but I've only one property to offer you to-day, No. 1, The Centry, Deepwater. The second on the particulars has been withdrawn. The third that's Bidcot, desirable freehold mansion and farmlands in the Parish of Kenway--we shall have to deal with next week. I shall be happy to sell it you then with out reservation. [He looks again through the particulars in his hand, giving the audience time to readjust themselves to his statements] Now, gen'lemen, as I say, I've only the one property to sell. Freehold No. 1--all that very desirable corn and stock-rearing and parklike residential land known as the Centry, Deepwater, unique property an A.1. chance to an A.1. audience. [With his smile] Ought to make the price of the three we thought we had. Now you won't mind listening to the conditions of sale; Mr. Blinkard'll read 'em, and they won't wirry you, they're very short.
[He sits down and gives two little tape on the table.]
[The SOLICITOR rises and reads the conditions of sale in a voice which no one practically can hear. Just as he begins to read these conditions of sale, CHARLES HORNBLOWER enters at back. He stands a moment, glancing round at the HILLCRIST and twirling his moustache, then moves along to his wife and touches her.]
CHARLES. Chloe, aren't you well?
[In the start which she gives, her face is fully revealed to the audience.]
CHARLES. Come along, out of the way of these people.
[He jerks his head towards the HILLCRISTS. CHLOE gives a swift look down to the stage Right of the audience.]
CHLOE. No; I'm all right; it's hotter there.
CHARLES. [To ROLF] Well, look after her--I must go back.
[ROLF node. CHARLES, slides bank to the door, with a glance at the HILLCRISTS, of whom MRS. HILLCRIST has been watching like a lynx. He goes out, just as the SOLICITOR, finishing, sits down.]
AUCTIONEER. [Rising and tapping] Now, gen'lemen, it's not often a piece of land like this comes into the market. What's that? [To a friend in front of him] No better land in Deepwater--that's right, Mr. Spicer. I know the village well, and a charming place it is; perfect locality, to be sure. Now I don't want to wirry you by singing the praises of this property; there it is--well-watered, nicely timbered--no reservation of the timber, gen'lemen--no tenancy to hold you up; free to do what you like with it to-morrow. You've got a jewel of a site there, too; perfect position for a house. It lies between the Duke's and Squire Hillcrist's--an emerald isle. [With his smile] No allusion to Ireland, gen'lemen--perfect peace in the Centry. Nothing like it in the county--a gen'leman's site, and you don't get that offered you every day. [He looks down towards HORNBLOWER, stage Left] Carries the mineral rights, and as you know, perhaps, there's the very valuable Deepwater clay there. What am I to start it at? Can I say three thousand? Well, anything you like to give me. I'm sot particular. Come now, you've got more time than me, I expect. Two hundred acres of first-rate grazin' and cornland, with a site for a residence unequalled in the county; and all the possibilities! Well, what shall I say?
[Bid from SPICER.]
Two thousand? [With his smile] That won't hurt you, Mr. Spicer. Why, it's worth that to overlook the Duke. For two thousand?
[Bid from HORNBLOWER, stage Left.]
And five. Thank you, sir. Two thousand five hundred bid.
[To a friend just below him.]
Come, Mr. Sandy, don't scratch your head over it.
[Bid from DAWKER, Stage Right.]
And five. Three thousand bid for this desirable property. Why, you'd think it wasn't desirable. Come along, gen'lemen. A little spirit.
[A alight pause.]
JILL. Why can't I see the bids, Dodo?
HILLCRIST. The last was Dawker's.
AUCTIONEER. For three thousand. [HORNBLOWER] Three thousand five hundred? May I say--four? [A bid from the centre] No, I'm not particular; I'll take hundreds. Three thousand six hundred bid. [HORNBLOWER] And seven. Three thousand seven hundred, and----
[He pauses, quartering the audience.]
JILL. Who was that, Dodo?
HILLCRIST. Hornblower. It's the Duke in the centre.
AUCTIONEER. Come, gen'lemen, don't keep me all day. Four thousand may I say? [DAWKER] Thank you. We're beginning. And one? [A bid from the centre] Four thousand one hundred. [HORNBLOWER] Four thousand two hundred. May I have yours, sir? [To DAWKER] And three. Four thousand three hundred bid. No such site in the county, gen'lemen. I'm going to sell this land for what it's worth. You can't bid too much for me. [He smiles] [HORNBLOWER] Four thousand five hundred bid. [Bid from the centre] And six. [DAWKER] And seven. [HORNBLOWER] And eight. Nine, may I say? [But the centre has dried up] [DAWKER] And nine. [HORNBLOWER] Five thousand. Five thousand bid. That's better; there's some spirit in it. For five thousand.
[He pauses while he speak& to the SOLICITOR]
HILLCRIST. It's a duel now.
AUCTIONEER. Now, gen'lemen, I'm not going to give this property away. Five thousand bid. [DAWKER] And one. [HORNBLOWER] And two. [DAWKER] And three. Five thousand three hundred bid. And five, did you say, sir? [HORNBLOWER] Five thousand five hundred bid.
[He looks at hip particulars.]
JILL. [Rather agonised] Enemy, Dodo.
AUCTIONEER. This chance may never come again.
"How you'll regret it If you don't get it,"
as the poet says. May I say five thousand six hundred, sir? [DAWKER] Five thousand six hundred bid. [HORNBLOWER] And seven. [DAWKER] And eight. For five thousand eight hundred pounds. We're gettin' on, but we haven't got the value yet.
[A slight pause, while he wipes his brow at the success of his own efforts.]
JILL. Us, Dodo?
[HILLCRIST nods. JILL looks over at ROLF, whose face is grimly set. CHLOE has never moved. MRS. HILLCRIST whispers to her husband.]
AUCTIONEER. Five thousand eight hundred bid. For five thousand eight hundred. Come along, gen'lemen, come along. We're not beaten. Thank you, sir. [HORNBLOWER] Five thousand nine hundred. And--? [DAWKER] Six thousand. Six thousand bid. Six thousand bid. For six thousand! The Centry--most desirable spot in the county--going for the low price of six thousand.
HILLCRIST. [Muttering] Low! Heavens!
AUCTIONEER. Any advance on six thousand? Come, gen'lemen, we haven't dried up? A little spirit. Six thousand? For six thousand? For six thousand pounds? Very well, I'm selling. For six thousand once--[He taps] For six thousand twice--[He taps].
JILL. [Low] Oh! we've got it!
AUCTIONEER. And one, sir? [HORNBLOWER] Six thousand one hundred bid.
[The SOLICITOR touches his arm and says something, to which the AUCTIONEER responds with a nod.]
MRS. H. Blow your nose, Jack.
[HILLCRIST blows his nose.]
AUCTIONEER. For six thousand one hundred. [DAWKER] And two. Thank you. [HORNBLOWER] And three. For six thousand three hundred. [DAWKER] And four. For six thousand four hundred pounds. This coveted property. For six thousand four hundred pounds. Why, it's giving it away, gen'lemen. [A pause.]
MRS. H. Giving!
AUCTIONEER. Six thousand four hundred bid. [HORNBLOWER] And five. [DAWKER] And six. [HORNBLOWER] And seven. [DAWKER] And eight.
[A pause, during which, through the door Left, someone beckons to the SOLICITOR, who rises and confers.]
HILLCRIST. [Muttering] I've done if that doesn't get it.
AUCTIONEER. For six thousand eight hundred. For six thousand eight hundred-once--[He taps] twice--[He tape] For the last time. This dominating site. [HORNBLOWER] And nine. Thank you. For six thousand nine hundred.
[HILLCRIST has taken out his handkerchief.]
JILL. Oh! Dodo!
MRS. H. [Quivering] Don't give in!
AUCTIONEER. Seven thousand may I say? [DAWKER] Seven thousand.
MRS. H. [Whispers] Keep it down; don't show him.
AUCTIONEER. For seven-thousand--going for seven thousand--once-- [Taps] twice [Taps] [HORNBLOWER] And one. Thank you, sir.
[HILLCRIST blows his nose. JILL, with a choke, leans back in her seat and folds her arms tightly on her chest. MRS. HILLCRIST passes her handkerchief over her lips, sitting perfectly still. HILLCRIST, too, is motionless.]
[The AUCTIONEER, has paused, and is talking to the SOLICITOR, who has returned to his seat.]
MRS. H. Oh! Jack.
JILL. Stick it, Dodo; stick it!
AUCTIONEER. Now, gen'lemen, I have a bid of seven thousand one hundred for the Centry. And I'm instructed to sell if I can't get more. It's a fair price, but not a big price. [To his friend MR. SPICER] A thumpin' price? [With his smile] Well, you're a judge of thumpin', I admit. Now, who'll give me seven thousand two hundred? What, no one? Well, I can't make you, gen'lemen. For seven thousand one hundred. Once--[Taps] Twice--[Taps].
[JILL utters a little groan.]
HILLCRIST. [Suddenly, in a queer voice] Two.
AUCTIONEER. [Turning with surprise and looking up to receive HILLCRIST'S nod] Thank you, sir. And two. Seven thousand two hundred. [He screws himself round so as to command both HILLCRIST and HORNBLOWER] May I have yours, sir? [HORNBLOWER] And three. [HILLCRIST] And four. Seven thousand four hundred. For seven thousand four hundred. [HORNBLOWER] Five. [HILLCRIST] Six. For seven thousand six hundred. [A pause] Well, gen'lemen, this is. better, but a record property shid fetch a record price. The possibilities are enormous. [HORNBLOWER] Eight thousand did you say, sir? Eight thousand. Going for eight thousand pounds. [HILLCRIST] And one. [HORNBLOWER] And two. [HILLCRIST] And three. [HORNBLOWER] And four. [HILLCRIST] And five. For eight thousand five hundred. A wonderful property for eight thousand five hundred.
[He wipes his brow.]
JILL. [Whispering] Oh, Dodo!
MRS. H. That's enough, Jack, we must stop some time.
AUCTIONEER. For eight thousand five hundred. Once--[Taps]--twice-- [Taps] [HORNBLOWER] Six hundred. [HILLCRIST] Seven. May I have yours, sir? [HORNBLOWER] Eight.
HILLCRIST. Nine thousand.
[MRS. HILLCRIST looks at him, biting her lips, but he is quite absorbed.]
AUCTIONEER. Nine thousand for this astounding property. Why, the Duke would pay that if he realised he'd be overlooked. Now, Sir? [To HORNBLOWER. No response]. Just a little raise on that. [No response.] For nine thousand. The Centry, Deepwater, for nine thousand. Once--[Taps] Twice----[Taps].
JILL. [Under her breath] Ours!
A VOICE. [From far back in the centre] And five hundred.
AUCTIONEER. [Surprised and throwing out his arms towards the voice] And five hundred. For nine thousand five hundred. May I have yours, sir? [He looks at HORNBLOWER. No response.]
[The SOLICITOR speaks to him. MRS. H. [Whispering] It must be the Duke again.]
HILLCRIST. [Passing his hand over his brow] That's stopped him, anyway.
AUCTIONEER. [Looking at HILLCRIST] For nine thousand five hundred? [HILLCRIST shakes his head.] Once more. The Centry, Deepwater, for nine thousand five hundred. Once--[Taps] Twice--[Taps] [He pauses and looks again at HORNBLOWER and HILLCRIST] For the last time--at nine thousand five hundred. [Taps] [With a look towards the bidder] Mr. Smalley. Well! [With great satisfaction] That's that! No more to-day, gen'lemen.
[The AUCTIONEER and SOLICITOR busy themselves. The room begins to empty.]
MRS. H. Smalley? Smalley? Is that the Duke's agent? Jack!
HILLCRIST. [Coming out of a sort of coma, after the excitement he has been going through] What! What!
JILL. Oh, Dodo! How splendidly you stuck it!
HILLCRIST. Phew! What a squeak! I was clean out of my depth. A mercy the Duke chipped in again.
MRS. H. [Looking at ROLF and CHLOE, who are standing up as if about to go] Take care; they can hear you. Find DAWKER, Jack.
[Below, the AUCTIONEER and SOLICITOR take up their papers, and move out Left.]
[HILLCRIST stretches himself, standing up, as if to throw off the strain. The door behind is opened, and HORNBLOWER appears.]
HORNBLOWER. Ye ran me up a pretty price. Ye bid very pluckily, Hillcrist. But ye didn't quite get my measure.
HILLCRIST. Oh! It was my nine thousand the Duke capped. Thank God, the Centry's gone to a gentleman!
HORNBLOWER. The Duke? [He laughs] No, the Gentry's not gone to a gentleman, nor to a fool. It's gone to me.
HOUNBLOWER. I'm sorry for ye; ye're not fit to manage these things. Well, it's a monstrous price, and I've had to pay it because of your obstinacy. I shan't forget that when I come to build.
HILLCRIST. D'you mean to say that bid was for you?
HORNBLOWER. Of course I do. I told ye I was a bad man to be up against. Perhaps ye'll believe me now.
HILLCRIST. A dastardly trick!
HORNBLOWER. [With venom] What did ye call it--a skin game? Remember we're playin' a skin game, Hillcrist.
HILLCRIST. [Clenching his fists] If we were younger men----
HORNBLOWER. Ay! 'Twouldn't Look pretty for us to be at fisticuffs. We'll leave the fightin' to the young ones. [He glances at ROLF and JILL; suddenly throwing out his finger at ROLF] No makin' up to that young woman! I've watched ye. And as for you, missy, you leave my boy alone.
JILL. [With suppressed passion] Dodo, may I spit in his eye or something?
HILLCRIST. Sit down.
[JILL sits down. He stands between her and HORNBLOWER.]
[Yu've won this round, sir, by a foul blow. We shall see whether you can take any advantage of it. I believe the law can stop you ruining my property.]
HORNBLOWER. Make your mind easy; it can't. I've got ye in a noose, and I'm goin' to hang ye.
MRS. H. [Suddenly] Mr. Hornblower, as you fight foul--so shall we.
MRS. H. [Paying no attention] And it will not be foul play towards you and yours. You are outside the pale.
HORNBLOWER. That's just where I am, outside your pale all round ye. Ye're not long for Deepwater, ma'am. Make your dispositions to go; ye'll be out in six months, I prophesy. And good riddance to the neighbourhood. [They are all down on the level now.]
CHLOE. [Suddenly coming closer to MRS. HILLCRIST] Here are your salts, thank you. Father, can't you----?
HORNBLOWER. [Surprised] Can't I what?
CHLOE. Can't you come to an arrangement?
MRS. H. Just so, Mr. Hornblower. Can't you?
HORNBLOWER. [Looking from one to the other] As we're speakin' out, ma'am, it's your behaviour to my daughter-in-law--who's as good as you--and better, to my thinking--that's more than half the reason why I've bought this property. Ye've fair got my dander up. Now it's no use to bandy words. It's very forgivin' of ye, Chloe, but come along!
MRS. H. Quite seriously, Mr. Hornblower, you had better come to an arrangement.
HORNBLOWER. Mrs. Hillcrist, ladies should keep to their own business.
MRS. H. I will.
HILLCRIST. Amy, do leave it to us men. You young man [He speaks to ROLF] do you support your father's trick this afternoon?
[JILL looks round at ROLF, who tries to speak, when HORNBLOWER breaks in.]
HORNBLOWER. My trick? And what dye call it, to try and put me own son against me?
JILL. [To ROLF] Well?
ROLF. I don't, but----
HORNBLOWER. Trick? Ye young cub, be quiet. Mr. Hillcrist had an agent bid for him--I had an agent bid for me. Only his agent bid at the beginnin', an' mine bid at the end. What's the trick in that?
HILLCRIST. Hopeless; we're in different worlds.
HORNBLOWER. I wish to God we were! Come you, Chloe. And you, Rolf, you follow. In six months I'll have those chimneys up, and me lorries runnin' round ye.
MRS. H. Mr. Hornblower, if you build----
HORNBLOWER. [Looking at MRS. HILLCRIST] Ye know--it's laughable. Ye make me pay nine thousand five hundred for a bit o' land not worth four, and ye think I'm not to get back on ye. I'm goin' on with as little consideration as if ye were a family of blackbeetles. Good afternoon!
JILL. Oh, Dodo! He's obscene.
HILLCRIST. Mr. Hornblower, my compliments.
[HORNBLOWER with a stare at HILLCRIST'S half-smiling face, takes CHLOE'S arm, and half drags her towards the door on the Left. But there, in the opened doorway, are standing DAWKER and a STRANGER. They move just out of the way of the exit, looking at CHLOE, who sways and very nearly falls.]
HORNBLOWER. Why! Chloe! What's the matter?
CHLOE. I don't know; I'm not well to-day.
[She pulls herself together with a great, effort.]
MRS. H. [Who has exchanged a nod with DAWKER and the STRANGER] Mr. Hornblower, you build at your peril. I warn you.
HORNBLOWER. [Turning round to speak] Ye think yourself very cool and very smart. But I doubt this is the first time ye've been up against realities. Now, I've been up against them all my life. Don't talk to me, ma'am, about peril and that sort of nonsense; it makes no impression. Your husband called me pachydermatous. I don't know Greek, and Latin, and all that, but I've looked it out in the dictionary, and I find it means thick-skinned. And I'm none the worse for that when I have to deal with folk like you. Good afternoon.
[He draws CHLOE forward, and they pass through the door, followed quickly by ROLF.]
MRS. H. Thank you; Dawker.
[She moves up to DAWKER and the STRANGER, Left, and they talk.]
JILL. Dodo! It's awful!
HILLCRIST. Well, there's nothing for it now but to smile and pay up. Poor old home! It shall be his wash-pot. Over the Centry will he cast his shoe. By Gad, Jill, I could cry!
JILL. [Pointing] Look! Chloe's sitting down. She nearly fainted just now. It's something to do with Dawker, Dodo, and that man with him. Look at mother! Ask them!
[DAWKER comes to him, followed by MRS. HILLCRIST.]
What's the mystery about young Mrs. Hornblower?
DAWKER. No mystery.
HILLCRIST. Well, what is it?
MRS. H. You'd better not ask.
HILLCRIST. I wish to know.
MRS. H. Jill, go out and wait for us.
JILL. Nonsense, mother!
MRS. H. It's not for a girl to hear.
JILL. Bosh! I read the papers every day.
DAWKER. It's nothin' worse than you get there, anyway.
MRS. H. Do you wish your daughter----
JILL. It's ridiculous, Dodo; you'd think I was mother at my age.
MRS. H. I was not so proud of my knowledge.
JILL. No, but you had it, dear.
HILLCRIST. What is it----what is it? Come over here, Dawker.
[DAWKER goes to him, Right, and speaks in a low voice.]
What! [Again DAWKER speaks in, a low voice.]
MRS. H. Exactly!
JILL. Poor thing--whatever it is!
MRS. H. Poor thing?
JILL. What went before, mother?
MRS. H. It's what's coming after that matters; luckily.
HILLCRIST. How do you know this?
DAWKER. My friend here [He points to the STRANGER] was one of the agents.
HILLCRIST. It's shocking. I'm sorry I heard it.
MRS. H. I told you not to.
HILLCRIST. Ask your friend to come here.
[DAWKER beckons, and the STRANGER joins the group.]
Are you sure of what you've said, sir?
STRANGER. Perfectly. I remember her quite well; her name then was----
HILLCRIST. I don't want to know, thank you. I'm truly sorry. I wouldn't wish the knowledge of that about his womenfolk to my worst enemy. This mustn't be spoken of. [JILL hugs his arm.]
MRS. H. It will not be if Mr. Hornblower is wise. If he is not wise, it must be spoken of.
HILLCRIST. I say no, Amy. I won't have it. It's a dirty weapon. Who touches pitch shall be defiled.
MRS. H. Well, what weapons does he use against us? Don't be quixotic. For all we can tell, they know it quite well already, and if they don't they ought to. Anyway, to know this is our salvation, and we must use it.
JILL: [Sotto voce] Pitch! Dodo! Pitch!
DAWKER. The threat's enough! J.P.--Chapel--Future member for the constituency----.
HILLCRIST. [A little more doubtfully] To use a piece of knowledge about a woman--it's repugnant. I--I won't do it.
[Mrs. H. If you had a son tricked into marrying such a woman, would you wish to remain ignorant of it?]
HILLCRIST. [Struck] I don't know--I don't know.
MRS. H. At least, you'd like to be in a position to help him, if you thought it necessary?
HILLCRIST. Well--that perhaps.
MRS. H. Then you agree that Mr. Hornblower at least should be told. What he does with the knowledge is not our affair.
HILLCRIST. [Half to the STRANGER and half to DAWKER] Do you realise that an imputation of that kind may be ground for a criminal libel action?
STRANGER. Quite. But there's no shadow of doubt; not the faintest. You saw her just now?
HILLCRIST. I did. [Revolting again] No; I don't like it.
[DAWKER has drawn the STRANGER a step or two away, and they talk together.]
MRS. H. [In a low voice] And the ruin of our home? You're betraying your fathers, Jack.
HILLCRIST. I can't bear bringing a woman into it.
MRS. H. We don't. If anyone brings her in; it will be Hornblower himself.
HILLCRIST. We use her secret as a lever.
MRS. H. I tell you quite plainly: I will only consent to holding my tongue about her, if you agree to Hornblower being told. It's a scandal to have a woman like that in the neighbourhood.
JILL. Mother means that, father.
HILLCRIST. Jill, keep quiet. This is a very bitter position. I can't tell what to do.
MRS. H. You must use this knowledge. You owe it to me--to us all. You'll see that when you've thought it over.
JILL. [Softly] Pitch, Dodo, pitch!
MRS. H. [Furiously] Jill, be quiet!
HILLCRIST. I was brought up never to hurt a woman. I can't do it, Amy--I can't do it. I should never feel like a gentleman again.
MRS. H. [Coldly] Oh! Very well.
HILLCRIST. What d'you mean by that?
MRS. H. I shall use the knowledge in my own way.
HILLCRIST. [Staring at her] You would--against my wishes?
MRS. H. I consider it my duty.
HILLCRIST. If I agree to Hornblower being told----
MRS. H. That's all I want.
HILLCRIST. It's the utmost I'll consent to, Amy; and don't let's have any humbug about its being, morally necessary. We do it to save our skins.
MRS. H. I don't know what you mean by humbug?
JILL. He means humbug; mother.
HILLCRIST. It must stop at old Hornblower. Do you quite understand?
MRS. H. Quite.
JILL. Will it stop?
MRS. H. Jill, if you can't keep your impertinence to yourself----
HILLCRIST. Jill, come with me.
[He turns towards door, Back.]
JILL. I'm sorry, mother. Only it is a skin game, isn't it?
MRS. H. You pride yourself on plain speech, Jill. I pride myself on plain thought. You will thank me afterwards that I can see realities. I know we are better people than these Hornblowers. Here we are going to stay, and they--are not.
JILL. [Looking at her with a sort of unwilling admiration] Mother, you're wonderful!
JILL. Coming, Dodo.
[She turns and runs to the door. They go out.]
[MRS. HILLCRIST, with a long sigh, draws herself up, fine and proud.]
MRS. H. Dawker! [He comes to her.]
[I shall send him a note to-night, and word it so that he will be bound to come and see us to-marrow morning. Will you be in the study just before eleven o'clock, with this gentleman?]
DAWKER. [Nodding] We're going to wire for his partner. I'll bring him too. Can't make too sure.
[She goes firmly up the steps and out.]
DAWKER. [To the STRANGER, with a wink] The Squire's squeamish--too much of a gentleman. But he don't count. The grey mare's all right. You wire to Henry. I'm off to our solicitors. We'll make that old rhinoceros sell us back the Centry at a decent price. These Hornblowers--[Laying his finger on his nose] We've got 'em!
CHLOE's boudoir at half-past seven the same evening. A pretty room. No pictures on the walls, but two mirrors. A screen and a luxurious couch an the fireplace side, stage Left. A door rather Right of Centre Back; opening inwards. A French window, Right forward: A writing table, Right Back. Electric light burning.
CHLOE, in a tea-gown, is standing by the forward end of the sofa, very still, and very pale. Her lips are parted, and her large eyes stare straight before them as if seeing ghosts: The door is opened noiselessly and a WOMAN'S face is seen. It peers at CHLOE, vanishes, and the door is closed. CHLOE raises her hands, covers her eyes with them, drops them with a quick gesture, and looks round her. A knock. With a swift movement she slides on to the sofa, and lies prostrate, with eyes closed.
CHLOE. [Feebly] Come in!
[Her Maid enters; a trim, contained figure of uncertain years, in a black dress, with the face which was peering in.]
ANNA. Aren't you going in to dinner, ma'am?
CHLOE. [With closed eyes] No.
ANNA. Will you take anything here, ma'am?
CHLOE. I'd like a biscuit and a glass of champagne.
[The MAID, who is standing between sofa and door, smiles. CHLOE, with a swift look, catches the smile.]
Why do you smile?
ANNA. Was I, ma'am?
CHLOE. You know you were. [Fiercely] Are you paid to smile at me?
ANNA. [Immovable] No, ma'am, Would you like some eau de Cologne on your forehead?
CHLOE. Yes.--No.--What's the good? [Clasping her forehead] My headache won't go.
ANNA. To keep lying down's the best thing for it.
CHLOE. I have been--hours.
ANNA. [With the smile] Yes, ma'am.
CHLOE. [Gathering herself up on the sofa] Anna! Why do you do it?
ANNA. Do what, ma'am?
CHLOE. Spy on me.
ANNA. I--never! I----!
CHLOE. To spy! You're a fool, too. What is there to spy on?
ANNA. Nothing, ma'am. Of course, if you're not satisfied with me, I must give notice. Only--if I were spying, I should expect to have notice given me. I've been accustomed to ladies who wouldn't stand such a thing for a minute.
CHLOE: [Intently] Well, you'll take a month's wages and go tomorrow. And that's all, now.
[ANNA inclines her head and goes out.]
[CHLOE, with a sort of moan, turns over and buries her face in the cushion.]
CHLOE. [Sitting up] If I could see that man--if only--or Dawker---
[She springs up and goes to the door, but hesitates, and comes back to the head of the sofa, as ROLF comes in. During this scene the door is again opened stealthily, an inch or too.]
ROLF. How's the head?
CHLOE. Beastly, thanks. I'm not going into dinner.
ROLF. Is there anything I can do for you?
CHLOE. No, dear boy. [Suddenly looking at him] You don't want this quarrel with the Hillcrists to go on, do you, Rolf?
ROLF. No; I hate it.
CHLOE. Well, I think I might be able to stop it. Will you slip round to Dawker's--it's not five minutes--and ask him to come and see me.
ROLF. Father and Charlie wouldn't----
CHLOE. I know. But if he comes to the window here while you're at dinner, I'll let him in, and out, and nobody'd know.
ROLF. [Astonished] Yes, but what I mean how----
CHLOE. Don't ask me. It's worth the shot that's all. [Looking at her wrist-watch] To this window at eight o'clock exactly. First long window on the terrace, tell him.
ROLF. It's nothing Charlie would mind?
CHLOE. No; only I can't tell him--he and father are so mad about it all.
ROLF. If there's a real chance----
CHLOE. [Going to the window and opening it] This way, Rolf. If you don't come back I shall know he's coming. Put your watch by mine. [Looking at his watch] It's a minute fast, see!
ROLF. Look here, Chloe
CHLOE. Don't wait; go on.
[She almost pushes him out through the window, closes it after him, draws the curtains again, stands a minute, thinking hard; goes to the bell and rings it; then, crossing to the writing table, Right Back, she takes out a chemist's prescription.]
[ANNA comes in.]
CHLOE. I don't want that champagne. Take this to the chemist and get him to make up some of these cachets quick, and bring them back yourself.
ANNA. Yes, ma'am; but you have some.
CHLOE. They're too old; I've taken two--the strength's out of them. Quick, please; I can't stand this head.
ANNA. [Taking the prescription--with her smile] Yes, ma'am. It'll take some time--you don't want me?
CHLOE. No; I want the cachets.
[ANNA goes out.]
[CHLOE looks at her wrist-watch, goes to the writing-table, which is old-fashioned, with a secret drawer, looks round her, dives at the secret drawer, takes out a roll of notes and a tissue paper parcel. She counts the notes: "Three hundred." Slips them into her breast and unwraps the little parcel. It contains pears. She slips them, too, into her dress, looks round startled, replaces the drawer, and regains her place on the sofa, lying prostrate as the door opens, and HORNBLOWER comes in. She does not open her ages, and he stands looking at her a moment before speaking.]
HORNBLOWER. [Almost softly] How are ye feelin'. Chloe?
CHLOE. Awful head!
HORNBLOWER: Can ye attend a moment? I've had a note from that woman.
[CHLOE sits up.]
HORNBLOWER. [Reading] "I have something of the utmost importance to tell you in regard to your daughter-in-law. I shall be waiting to see you at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning. The matter is so utterly vital to the happiness of all your family, that I cannot imagine you will fail to come." Now, what's the meaning of it? Is it sheer impudence, or lunacy, or what?
CHLOE. I don't know.
HORNBLOWER. [Not unkindly] Chloe, if there's anything--ye'd better tell me. Forewarned's forearmed.
CHLOE. There's nothing; unless it's--[With a quick took at him,]-- Unless it's that my father was a--a bankrupt.
HORNBLOWER. Hech! Many a man's been that. Ye've never told us much about your family.
CHLOE. I wasn't very proud of him.
HORNBLOWER. Well, ye're not responsible for your father. If that's all, it's a relief. The bitter snobs! I'll remember it in the account I've got with them.
CHLOE. Father, don't say anything to Charlie; it'll only worry him for nothing.
HORNBLOWER. No, no, I'll not. If I went bankrupt, it'd upset Chearlie, I've not a doubt. [He laugh. Looking at her shrewdly] There's nothing else, before I answer her?
[CHLOE shakes her head.]
CHLOE. [With an efort] She may invent things, of course.
HORNBLOWER. [Lost in his feud feeling] Ah! but there's such a thing as the laws o' slander. If they play pranks, I'll have them up for it.
CHLOE. [Timidly] Couldn't you stop this quarrel; father? You said it was on my account. But I don't want to know them. And they do love their old home. I like the girl. You don't really need to build just there, do you? Couldn't you stop it? Do!
HORNBLOWER. Stop it? Now I've bought? Na, no! The snobs defied me, and I'm going to show them. I hate the lot of them, and I hate that little Dawker worst of all.
CHLOE. He's only their agent.
HORNBLOWER. He's a part of the whole dog-in-the-manger system that stands in my way. Ye're a woman, and ye don't understand these things. Ye wouldn't believe the struggle I've had to make my money and get my position. These county folk talk soft sawder, but to get anything from them's like gettin' butter out of a dog's mouth. If they could drive me out of here by fair means or foul, would they hesitate a moment? Not they! See what they've made me pay; and look at this letter. Selfish, mean lot o' hypocrites!
CHLOE. But they didn't begin the quarrel.
HORNBLOWER. Not openly; but underneath they did--that's their way. They began it by thwartin' me here and there and everywhere, just because I've come into me own a bit later than they did. I gave 'em their chance, and they wouldn't take it. Well, I'll show 'em what a man like me can do when he sets his mind to it. I'll not leave much skin on them.
[In the intensity of his feeling he has lost sight of her face, alive with a sort of agony of doubt, whether to plead with him further, or what to do. Then, with a swift glance at her wristwatch, she falls back on the sofa and closes her eyes.]
It'll give me a power of enjoyment seein' me chimneys go up in front of their windies. That was a bonnie thought--that last bid o' mine. He'd got that roused up, I believe, he, never would a' stopped. [Looking at her] I forgot your head. Well, well, ye'll be best tryin' quiet. [The gong sounds.] Shall we send ye something in from dinner?
CHLOE. No; I'll try to sleep. Please tell them I don't want to be disturbed.
HORNBLOWER. All right. I'll just answer this note.
[He sits down at her writing-table.]
[CHLOE starts up from the sofa feverishly, looking at her watch, at the window, at her watch; then softly crosses to the window and opens it.]
HORNBLOWER. [Finishing] Listen! [He turns round towards the sofa] Hallo! Where are ye?
CHLOE. [At the window] It's so hot.
HORNBLOWER. Here's what I've said:
"MADAM,--You can tell me nothing of my daughter-in-law which can affect the happiness of my family. I regard your note as an impertinence, and I shall not be with you at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning.
CHLOE. [With a suffering movement of her head] Oh!--Well!--[The gong is touched a second time.]
HORNBLOWER. [Crossing to the door] Lie ye down, and get a sleep. I'll tell them not to disturb ye; and I hope ye'll be all right to-morrow. Good-night, Chloe.
CHLOE. Good-night. [He goes out.]
[After a feverish turn or two, CHLOE returns to the open window and waits there, half screened by the curtains. The door is opened inch by inch, and ANNA'S head peers round. Seeing where CHLOE is, she slips in and passes behind the screen, Left. Suddenly CHLOE backs in from the window.]
CHLOE. [In a low voice] Come in.
[She darts to the door and locks it.]
[DAWKER has come in through the window and stands regarding her with a half smile.]
DAWKER. Well, young woman, what do you want of me?
[In the presence of this man of her own class, there comes a distinct change in CHLOE'S voice and manner; a sort of frank commonness, adapted to the man she is dealing with, but she keeps her voice low.]
CHLOE. You're making a mistake, you know.
DAWKER. [With a broad grin] No. I've got a memory for faces.
CHLOE. I say you are.
DAWKER. [Turning to go] If that's all, you needn't have troubled me to come.
CHLOE. No. Don't go! [With a faint smile] You are playing a game with me. Aren't you ashamed? What harm have I done you? Do you call this cricket?
DAWKER. No, my girl--business.
CHLOE. [Bitterly] What have I to do with this quarrel? I couldn't help their falling out.
DAWKER. That's your misfortune.
CHLOE. [Clasping her hands] You're a cruel fellow if you can spoil a woman's life who never did you an ounce of harm.
DAWKER. So they don't know about you. That's all right. Now, look here, I serve my employer. But I'm flesh and blood, too, and I always give as good as I get. I hate this family of yours. There's no name too bad for 'em to call me this last month, and no looks too black to give me. I tell you frankly, I hate.
CHLOE. There's good in them same as in you.
DAWKER. [With a grin] There's no good Hornblower but a dead Hornblower.
CHLOE. But--but Im not one.
DAWKER. You'll be the mother of some, I shouldn't wonder.
CHLOE. [Stretching out her hand-pathetically] Oh! leave me alone, do! I'm happy here. Be a sport! Be a sport!
DAWKER. [Disconcerted for a second] You can't get at me, so don't try it on.
CHLOE. I had such a bad time in old days.
[DAWKER shakes his head; his grin has disappeared and his face is like wood.]
CHLOE. [Panting] Ah! do! You might! You've been fond of some woman, I suppose. Think of her!
DAWKER. [Decisively] It won't do, Mrs. Chloe. You're a pawn in the game, and I'm going to use you.
CHLOE. [Despairingly] What is it to you? [With a sudden touch of the tigress] Look here! Don't you make an enemy, of me. I haven't dragged through hell for nothing. Women like me can bite, I tell you.
DAWKER. That's better. I'd rather have a woman threaten than whine, any day. Threaten away! You'll let 'em know that you met me in the Promenade one night. Of course you'll let 'em know that, won't you?--or that----
CHLOE. Be quiet! Oh! Be quiet! [Taking from her bosom the notes and the pearls] Look! There's my savings--there's all I've got! The pearls'll fetch nearly a thousand. [Holding it out to him] Take it, and drop me out--won't you? Won't you?
DAWKER. [Passing his tongue over his lips with a hard little laugh] You mistake your man, missis. I'm a plain dog, if you like, but I'm faithful, and I hold fast. Don't try those games on me.
CHLOE. [Losing control] You're a beast!--a beast! a cruel, cowardly beast! And how dare you bribe that woman here to spy on me? Oh! yes, you do; you know you do. If you drove me mad, you wouldn't care. You beast!
DAWKER. Now, don't carry on! That won't help you.
CHLOE. What d'you call it--to dog a woman down like this, just because you happen to have a quarrel with a man?
DAWKER. Who made the quarrel? Not me, missis. You ought to know that in a row it's the weak and helpless--we won't say the innocent --that get it in the neck. That can't be helped.
CHLOE. [Regarding him intently] I hope your mother or your sister, if you've got any, may go through what I'm going through ever since you got on my track. I hope they'll know what fear means. I hope they'll love and find out that it's hanging on a thread, and--and-- Oh! you coward, you persecuting coward! Call yourself a man!
DAWKER. [With his grin] Ah! You look quite pretty like that. By George! you're a handsome woman when you're roused.
[CHLOE'S passion fades out as quickly as it blazed up. She sinks down on the sofa, shudders, looks here and there, and then for a moment up at him.]
CHLOE. Is there anything you'll take, not to spoil my life? [Clasping her hands on her breast; under her breath] Me?
DAWKER. [Wiping his brow] By God! That's an offer. [He recoils towards the window] You--you touched me there. Look here! I've got to use you and I'm going to use you, but I'll do my best to let you down as easy as I can. No, I don't want anything you can give me--that is--[He wipes his brow again] I'd like it--but I won't take it.
[CHLOE buries her face in her hands.]
There! Keep your pecker up; don't cry. Good-night! [He goes through the window.]
CHLOE. [Springing up] Ugh! Rat in a trap! Rat----!
[She stands listening; flies to the door, unlocks it, and, going back to the sofa, lies down and doses her eyes. CHARLES comes in very quietly and stands over her, looking to see if she is asleep. She opens her eyes.]
CHARLES. Well, Clo! Had a sleep, old girl?
CHARLES. [Sitting on the arm of the sofa and caressing her] Feel better, dear?
CHLOE. Yes, better, Charlie.
CHARLES. That's right. Would you like some soup?
CHLOE. [With a shudder] No.
CHARLES. I say-what gives you these heads? You've been very on and off all this last month.
CHLOE. I don't know. Except that--except that I am going to have a child, Charlie.
CHARLES. After all! By Jove! Sure?
CHLOE. [Nodding] Are you glad?
CHARLES. Well--I suppose I am. The guv'nor will be mighty pleased, anyway.
CHLOE. Don't tell him--yet.
CHARLES. All right! [Bending over and drawing her to him] My poor girl, I'm so sorry you're seedy. Give us a kiss.
[CHLOE puts up her face and kisses him passionately.]
I say, you're like fire. You're not feverish?
CHLOE. [With a laugh] It's a wonder if I'm not. Charlie, are you happy with me?
CHARLES. What do you think?
CHLOE. [Leaning against him] You wouldn't easily believe things against me, would you?
CHARLES. What! Thinking of those Hillcrists? What the hell that woman means by her attitude towards you--When I saw her there to-day, I had all my work cut out not to go up and give her a bit of my mind.
CHLOE. [Watching him stealthily] It's not good for me, now I'm like this. It's upsetting me, Charlie.
CHARLES. Yes; and we won't forget. We'll make 'em pay for it.
CHLOE. It's wretched in a little place like this. I say, must you go on spoiling their home?
CHARLES. The woman cuts you and insults you. That's enough for me.
CHLOE. [Timidly] Let her. I don't care; I can't bear feeling enemies about, Charlie, I--get nervous--I----
CHARLES. My dear girl! What is it?
[He looks at her intently.]
CHLOE. I suppose it's--being like this. [Suddenly] But, Charlie, do stop it for my sake. Do, do!
CHARLES. [Patting her arm] Come, come; I say, Chloe! You're making mountains. See things in proportion. Father's paid nine thousand five hundred to get the better of those people, and you want him to chuck it away to save a woman who's insulted you. That's not sense, and it's not business. Have some pride.
CHLOE. [Breathless] I've got no pride, Charlie. I want to be quiet--that's all.
CHARLES. Well, if the row gets on your nerves, I can take you to the sea. But you ought to enjoy a fight with people like that.
CHLOE. [With calculated bitterness] No, it's nothing, of course-- what I want.
CHARLES. Hello! Hello! You are on the jump!
CHLOE. If you want me to be a good wife to you, make father stop it.
CHARLES. [Standing up] Now, look here, Chloe, what's behind this?
CHLOE. [Faintly] Behind?
CHARLES. You're carrying on as if--as if you were really scared! We've got these people: We'll have them out of Deepwater in six months. It's absolute ruination to their beastly old house; we'll put the chimneys on the very edge, not three hundred yards off, and our smoke'll be drifting over them half the time. You won't have this confounded stuck-up woman here much longer. And then we can really go ahead and take our proper place. So long as she's here, we shall never do that. We've only to drive on now as fast as we can.
CHLOE. [With a gesture] I see.
CHARLES. [Again looking at her] If you go on like this, you know, I shall begin to think there's something you----
CHLOE [softly] Charlie! [He comes to her.] Love me!
CHARLES. [Embracing her] There, old girl! I know women are funny at these times. You want a good night, that's all.
CHLOE. You haven't finished dinner, have you? Go back, and I'll go to bed quite soon. Charlie, don't stop loving me.
CHARLES. Stop? Not much.
[While he is again embracing her, ANNA steals from behind the screen to the door, opens it noiselessly, and passes through, but it clicks as she shuts it.]
CHLOE. [Starting violently] Oh-h!
[He comes to her.]
CHARLES. What is it? What is it? You are nervy, my dear.
CHLOE. [Looking round with a little laugh] I don't know. Go on, Charlie. I'll be all right when this head's gone.
CHARLES. [Stroking her forehead and, looking at her doubtfully] You go to bed; I won't be late coming up.
[He turn, and goes, blowing a kiss from the doorway. When he is gone, CHLOE gets up and stands in precisely the attitude in which she stood at the beginning of the Act, thinking, and thinking. And the door is opened, and the face of the MAID peers round at her.]