It is four o'clock in the afternoon of New Year's Day. On the raised dais MRS. MEGAN is standing, in her rags; with bare feet and ankles, her dark hair as if blown about, her lips parted, holding out a dishevelled bunch of violets. Before his easel, WELLWYN is painting her. Behind him, at a table between the cupboard and the door to the model's room, TIMSON is washing brushes, with the movements of one employed upon relief works. The samovar is hissing on the table by the stove, the tea things are set out.
WELLWYN. Open your mouth.
[MRS. MEGAN opens her mouth.]
ANN. [In hat and coat, entering from the house.] Daddy!
[WELLWYN goes to her; and, released from restraint, MRS. MEGAN looks round at TIMSON and grimaces.]
WELLWYN. Well, my dear?
[They speak in low voices.]
ANN. [Holding out a note.] This note from Canon Bentley. He's going to bring her husband here this afternoon. [She looks at MRS. MEGAN.]
WELLWYN. Oh! [He also looks at MRS. MEGAN.]
ANN. And I met Sir Thomas Hoxton at church this morning, and spoke to him about Timson.
[They look at TIMSON. Then ANN goes back to the door, and WELLWYN follows her.]
ANN. [Turning.] I'm going round now, Daddy, to ask Professor Calway what we're to do with that Ferrand.
WELLWYN. Oh! One each! I wonder if they'll like it.
ANN. They'll have to lump it.
[She goes out into the house.]
WELLWYN. [Back at his easel.] You can shut your mouth now.
[MRS. MEGAN shuts her mouth, but opens it immediately to smile.]
WELLWYN. [Spasmodically.] Ah! Now that's what I want. [He dabs furiously at the canvas. Then standing back, runs his hands through his hair and turns a painter's glance towards the skylight.] Dash! Light's gone! Off you get, child--don't tempt me!
[MRS. MEGAN descends. Passing towards the door of the model's room she stops, and stealthily looks at the picture.]
TIMSON. Ah! Would yer!
WELLWYN. [Wheeling round.] Want to have a look? Well--come on!
[He takes her by the arm, and they stand before the canvas. After a stolid moment, she giggles.]
WELLWYN. Oh! You think so?
MRS. MEGAN. [Who has lost her hoarseness.] It's not like my picture that I had on the pier.
WELLWYN. No-it wouldn't be.
MRS. MEGAN. [Timidly.] If I had an 'at on, I'd look better.
WELLWYN. With feathers?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes.
WELLWYN. Well, you can't! I don't like hats, and I don't like feathers.
[MRS. MEGAN timidly tugs his sleeve. TIMSON, screened as he thinks by the picture, has drawn from his bulky pocket a bottle and is taking a stealthy swig.]
WELLWYN. [To MRS. MEGAN, affecting not to notice.] How much do I owe you?
MRS. MEGAN. [A little surprised.] You paid me for to-day-all 'cept a penny.
WELLWYN. Well! Here it is. [He gives her a coin.] Go and get your feet on!
MRS. MEGAN. You've give me 'arf a crown.
WELLWYN. Cut away now!
[MRS. MEGAN, smiling at the coin, goes towards the model's room. She looks back at WELLWYN, as if to draw his eyes to her, but he is gazing at the picture; then, catching old TIMSON'S sour glance, she grimaces at him, kicking up her feet with a little squeal. But when WELLWYN turns to the sound, she is demurely passing through the doorway.]
TIMSON. [In his voice of dubious sobriety.] I've finished these yer brushes, sir. It's not a man's work. I've been thinkin' if you'd keep an 'orse, I could give yer satisfaction.
WELLWYN. Would the horse, Timson?
TIMSON. [Looking him up and down.] I knows of one that would just suit yer. Reel 'orse, you'd like 'im.
WELLWYN. [Shaking his head.] Afraid not, Timson! Awfully sorry, though, to have nothing better for you than this, at present.
TIMSON. [Faintly waving the brushes.] Of course, if you can't afford it, I don't press you--it's only that I feel I'm not doing meself justice. [Confidentially.] There's just one thing, sir; I can't bear to see a gen'leman imposed on. That foreigner--'e's not the sort to 'ave about the place. Talk? Oh! ah! But 'e'll never do any good with 'imself. He's a alien.
WELLWYN. Terrible misfortune to a fellow, Timson.
TIMSON. Don't you believe it, sir; it's his fault I says to the young lady yesterday: Miss Ann, your father's a gen'leman [with a sudden accent of hoarse sincerity], and so you are--I don't mind sayin' it--but, I said, he's too easy-goin'.
TIMSON. Well, see that girl now! [He shakes his head.] I never did believe in goin' behind a person's back--I'm an Englishman--but [lowering his voice] she's a bad hat, sir. Why, look at the street she comes from!
WELLWYN. Oh! you know it.
TIMSON. Lived there meself larst three years. See the difference a few days' corn's made in her. She's that saucy you can't touch 'er head.
WELLWYN. Is there any necessity, Timson?
TIMSON. Artful too. Full o' vice, I call'er. Where's 'er 'usband?
WELLWYN. [Gravely.] Come, Timson! You wouldn't like her to----
TIMSON. [With dignity, so that the bottle in his pocket is plainly visible.] I'm a man as always beared inspection.
WELLWYN. [With a well-directed smile.] So I see.
TIMSON. [Curving himself round the bottle.] It's not for me to say nothing--but I can tell a gen'leman as quick as ever I can tell an 'orse.
WELLWYN. [Painting.] I find it safest to assume that every man is a gentleman, and every woman a lady. Saves no end of self-contempt. Give me the little brush.
TIMSON. [Handing him the brush--after a considerable introspective pause.] Would yer like me to stay and wash it for yer again? [With great resolution.] I will--I'll do it for you--never grudged workin' for a gen'leman.
WELLWYN. [With sincerity.] Thank you, Timson--very good of you, I'm sure. [He hands him back the brush.] Just lend us a hand with this. [Assisted by TIMSON he pushes back the dais.] Let's see! What do I owe you?
TIMSON. [Reluctantly.] It so 'appens, you advanced me to-day's yesterday.
WELLWYN. Then I suppose you want to-morrow's?
TIMSON. Well, I 'ad to spend it, lookin' for a permanent job. When you've got to do with 'orses, you can't neglect the publics, or you might as well be dead.
WELLWYN. Quite so!
TIMSON. It mounts up in the course o' the year.
WELLWYN. It would. [Passing him a coin.] This is for an exceptional purpose--Timson--see. Not----
TIMSON. [Touching his forehead.] Certainly, sir. I quite understand. I'm not that sort, as I think I've proved to yer, comin' here regular day after day, all the week. There's one thing, I ought to warn you perhaps--I might 'ave to give this job up any day.
[He makes a faint demonstration with the little brush, then puts it, absent-mindedly, into his pocket.]
WELLWYN. [Gravely.] I'd never stand in the way of your bettering yourself, Timson. And, by the way, my daughter spoke to a friend about you to-day. I think something may come of it.
TIMSON. Oh! Oh! She did! Well, it might do me a bit o' good. [He makes for the outer door, but stops.] That foreigner! 'E sticks in my gizzard. It's not as if there wasn't plenty o' pigeons for 'im to pluck in 'is own Gawd-forsaken country. Reg-lar jay, that's what I calls 'im. I could tell yer something----
[He has opened the door, and suddenly sees that FERRAND himself is standing there. Sticking out his lower lip, TIMSON gives a roll of his jaw and lurches forth into the street. Owing to a slight miscalculation, his face and raised arms are plainly visible through the window, as he fortifies himself from his battle against the cold. FERRAND, having closed the door, stands with his thumb acting as pointer towards this spectacle. He is now remarkably dressed in an artist's squashy green hat, a frock coat too small for him, a bright blue tie of knitted silk, the grey trousers that were torn, well-worn brown boots, and a tan waistcoat.]
WELLWYN. What luck to-day?
FERRAND. [With a shrug.] Again I have beaten all London, Monsieur --not one bite. [Contemplating himself.] I think perhaps, that, for the bourgeoisie, there is a little too much colour in my costume.
WELLWYN. [Contemplating him.] Let's see--I believe I've an old top hat somewhere.
FERRAND. Ah! Monsieur, 'merci', but that I could not. It is scarcely in my character.
FERRAND. I have been to merchants of wine, of tabac, to hotels, to Leicester Square. I have been to a Society for spreading Christian knowledge--I thought there I would have a chance perhaps as interpreter. 'Toujours meme chose', we regret, we have no situation for you--same thing everywhere. It seems there is nothing doing in this town.
WELLWYN. I've noticed, there never is.
FERRAND. I was thinking, Monsieur, that in aviation there might be a career for me--but it seems one must be trained.
WELLWYN. Afraid so, Ferrand.
FERRAND. [Approaching the picture.] Ah! You are always working at this. You will have something of very good there, Monsieur. You wish to fix the type of wild savage existing ever amongst our high civilisation. 'C'est tres chic ca'! [WELLWYN manifests the quiet delight of an English artist actually understood.] In the figures of these good citizens, to whom she offers her flower, you would give the idea of all the cage doors open to catch and make tame the wild bird, that will surely die within. 'Tres gentil'! Believe me, Monsieur, you have there the greatest comedy of life! How anxious are the tame birds to do the wild birds good. [His voice changes.] For the wild birds it is not funny. There is in some human souls, Monsieur, what cannot be made tame.
WELLWYN. I believe you, Ferrand.
[The face of a young man appears at the window, unseen. Suddenly ANN opens the door leading to the house.]
ANN. Daddy--I want you.
WELLWYN. [To FERRAND.] Excuse me a minute!
[He goes to his daughter, and they pass out. FERRAND remains at the picture. MRS. MEGAN dressed in some of ANN's discarded garments, has come out of the model's room. She steals up behind FERRAND like a cat, reaches an arm up, and curls it round his mouth. He turns, and tries to seize her; she disingenuously slips away. He follows. The chase circles the tea table. He catches her, lifts her up, swings round with her, so that her feet fly out; kisses her bent-back face, and sets her down. She stands there smiling. The face at the window darkens.]
FERRAND. La Valse!
[He takes her with both hands by the waist, she puts her hands against his shoulders to push him of--and suddenly they are whirling. As they whirl, they bob together once or twice, and kiss. Then, with a warning motion towards the door, she wrenches herself free, and stops beside the picture, trying desperately to appear demure. WELLWYN and ANN have entered. The face has vanished.]
FERRAND. [Pointing to the picture.] One does not comprehend all this, Monsieur, without well studying. I was in train to interpret for Ma'moiselle the chiaroscuro.
WELLWYN. [With a queer look.] Don't take it too seriously, Ferrand.
FERRAND. It is a masterpiece.
WELLWYN. My daughter's just spoken to a friend, Professor Calway. He'd like to meet you. Could you come back a little later?
FERRAND. Certainly, Ma'moiselle. That will be an opening for me, I trust. [He goes to the street door.]
ANN. [Paying no attention to him.] Mrs. Megan, will you too come back in half an hour?
FERRAND. 'Tres bien, Ma'moiselle'! I will see that she does. We will take a little promenade together. That will do us good.
[He motions towards the door; MRS. MEGAN, all eyes, follows him out.]
ANN. Oh! Daddy, they are rotters. Couldn't you see they were having the most high jinks?
WELLWYN. [At his picture.] I seemed to have noticed something.
ANN. [Preparing for tea.] They were kissing.
WELLWYN. Tt! Tt!
ANN. They're hopeless, all three--especially her. Wish I hadn't given her my clothes now.
WELLWYN. [Absorbed.] Something of wild-savage.
ANN. Thank goodness it's the Vicar's business to see that married people live together in his parish.
WELLWYN. Oh! [Dubiously.] The Megans are Roman Catholic-Atheists, Ann.
ANN. [With heat.] Then they're all the more bound. [WELLWYN gives a sudden and alarmed whistle.]
ANN. What's the matter?
WELLWYN. Didn't you say you spoke to Sir Thomas, too. Suppose he comes in while the Professor's here. They're cat and dog.
ANN. [Blankly.] Oh! [As WELLWYN strikes a match.] The samovar is lighted. [Taking up the nearly empty decanter of rum and going to the cupboard.] It's all right. He won't.
WELLWYN. We'll hope not.
[He turns back to his picture.]
ANN. [At the cupboard.] Daddy!
ANN. There were three bottles.
ANN. Well! Now there aren't any.
WELLWYN. [Abstracted.] That'll be Timson.
ANN. [With real horror.] But it's awful!
WELLWYN. It is, my dear.
ANN. In seven days. To say nothing of the stealing.
WELLWYN. [Vexed.] I blame myself-very much. Ought to have kept it locked up.
ANN. You ought to keep him locked up!
[There is heard a mild but authoritative knock.]
WELLWYN. Here's the Vicar!
ANN. What are you going to do about the rum?
WELLWYN. [Opening the door to CANON BERTLEY.] Come in, Vicar! Happy New Year!
BERTLEY. Same to you! Ah! Ann! I've got into touch with her young husband--he's coming round.
ANN. [Still a little out of her plate.] Thank Go---Moses!
BERTLEY. [Faintly surprised.] From what I hear he's not really a bad youth. Afraid he bets on horses. The great thing, WELLWYN, with those poor fellows is to put your finger on the weak spot.
ANN. [To herself-gloomily.] That's not difficult. What would you do, Canon Bertley, with a man who's been drinking father's rum?
BERTLEY. Remove the temptation, of course.
WELLWYN. He's done that.
BERTLEY. Ah! Then--[WELLWYN and ANN hang on his words] then I should--er--
ANN. [Abruptly.] Remove him.
BERTLEY. Before I say that, Ann, I must certainly see the individual.
WELLWYN. [Pointing to the window.] There he is!
[In the failing light TIMSON'S face is indeed to be seen pressed against the window pane.]
ANN. Daddy, I do wish you'd have thick glass put in. It's so disgusting to be spied at! [WELLWYN going quickly to the door, has opened it.] What do you want? [TIMSON enters with dignity. He is fuddled.]
TIMSON. [Slowly.] Arskin' yer pardon-thought it me duty to come back-found thish yer little brishel on me. [He produces the little paint brush.]
ANN. [In a deadly voice.] Nothing else?
[TIMSON accords her a glassy stare.]
WELLWYN. [Taking the brush hastily.] That'll do, Timson, thanks!
TIMSON. As I am 'ere, can I do anything for yer?
ANN. Yes, you can sweep out that little room. [She points to the model's room.] There's a broom in there.
TIMSON. [Disagreeably surprised.] Certainly; never make bones about a little extra--never 'ave in all me life. Do it at onsh, I will. [He moves across to the model's room at that peculiar broad gait so perfectly adjusted to his habits.] You quite understand me --couldn't bear to 'ave anything on me that wasn't mine.
[He passes out.]
ANN. Old fraud!
WELLWYN. "In" and "on." Mark my words, he'll restore the--bottles.
BERTLEY. But, my dear WELLWYN, that is stealing.
WELLWYN. We all have our discrepancies, Vicar.
ANN. Daddy! Discrepancies!
WELLWYN. Well, Ann, my theory is that as regards solids Timson's an Individualist, but as regards liquids he's a Socialist . . . or 'vice versa', according to taste.
BERTLEY. No, no, we mustn't joke about it. [Gravely.] I do think he should be spoken to.
WELLWYN. Yes, but not by me.
BERTLEY. Surely you're the proper person.
WELLWYN. [Shaking his head.] It was my rum, Vicar. Look so personal.
[There sound a number of little tat-tat knocks.]
WELLWYN. Isn't that the Professor's knock?
[While Ann sits down to make tea, he goes to the door and opens it. There, dressed in an ulster, stands a thin, clean-shaved man, with a little hollow sucked into either cheek, who, taking off a grey squash hat, discloses a majestically bald forehead, which completely dominates all that comes below it.]
WELLWYN. Come in, Professor! So awfully good of you! You know Canon Bentley, I think?
CALWAY. Ah! How d'you do?
WELLWYN. Your opinion will be invaluable, Professor.
ANN. Tea, Professor Calway?
[They have assembled round the tea table.]
CALWAY. Thank you; no tea; milk.
[He pours rum into CALWAY's milk.]
CALWAY. A little-thanks! [Turning to ANN.] You were going to show me some one you're trying to rescue, or something, I think.
ANN. Oh! Yes. He'll be here directly--simply perfect rotter.
CALWAY. [Smiling.] Really! Ah! I think you said he was a congenital?
WELLWYN. [With great interest.] What!
ANN. [Low.] Daddy! [To CALWAY.] Yes; I--I think that's what you call him.
CALWAY. Not old?
ANN. No; and quite healthy--a vagabond.
CALWAY. [Sipping.] I see! Yes. Is it, do you think chronic unemployment with a vagrant tendency? Or would it be nearer the mark to say: Vagrancy----
WELLWYN. Pure! Oh! pure! Professor. Awfully human.
CALWAY. [With a smile of knowledge.] Quite! And--er----
ANN. [Breaking in.] Before he comes, there's another----
BERTLEY. [Blandly.] Yes, when you came in, we were discussing what should be done with a man who drinks rum--[CALWAY pauses in the act of drinking]--that doesn't belong to him.
CALWAY. Really! Dipsomaniac?
BERTLEY. Well--perhaps you could tell us--drink certainly changing thine to mine. The Professor could see him, WELLWYN?
ANN. [Rising.] Yes, do come and look at him, Professor CALWAY. He's in there.
[She points towards the model's room. CALWAY smiles deprecatingly.]
ANN. No, really; we needn't open the door. You can see him through the glass. He's more than half----
CALWAY. Well, I hardly----
ANN. Oh! Do! Come on, Professor CALWAY! We must know what to do with him. [CALWAY rises.] You can stand on a chair. It's all science.
[She draws CALWAY to the model's room, which is lighted by a glass panel in the top of the high door. CANON BERTLEY also rises and stands watching. WELLWYN hovers, torn between respect for science and dislike of espionage.]
ANN. [Drawing up a chair.] Come on!
CALWAY. Do you seriously wish me to?
ANN. Rather! It's quite safe; he can't see you.
CALWAY. But he might come out.
[ANN puts her back against the door. CALWAY mounts the chair dubiously, and raises his head cautiously, bending it more and more downwards.]
CALWAY. He appears to be---sitting on the floor.
WELLWYN. Yes, that's all right!
[BERTLEY covers his lips.]
CALWAY. [To ANN--descending.] By the look of his face, as far as one can see it, I should say there was a leaning towards mania. I know the treatment.
[There come three loud knocks on the door. WELLWYN and ANN exchange a glance of consternation.]
ANN. Who's that?
WELLWYN. It sounds like Sir Thomas.
CALWAY. Sir Thomas Hoxton?
WELLWYN. [Nodding.] Awfully sorry, Professor. You see, we----
CALWAY. Not at all. Only, I must decline to be involved in argument with him, please.
BERTLEY. He has experience. We might get his opinion, don't you think?
CALWAY. On a point of reform? A J.P.!
BERTLEY. [Deprecating.] My dear Sir--we needn't take it.
[The three knocks resound with extraordinary fury.]
ANN. You'd better open the door, Daddy.
[WELLWYN opens the door. SIR, THOMAS HOXTON is disclosed in a fur overcoat and top hat. His square, well-coloured face is remarkable for a massive jaw, dominating all that comes above it. His Voice is resolute.]
HOXTON. Afraid I didn't make myself heard.
WELLWYN. So good of you to come, Sir Thomas. Canon Bertley! [They greet.] Professor CALWAY you know, I think.
HOXTON. [Ominously.] I do.
[They almost greet. An awkward pause.]
ANN. [Blurting it out.] That old cabman I told you of's been drinking father's rum.
BERTLEY. We were just discussing what's to be done with him, Sir Thomas. One wants to do the very best, of course. The question of reform is always delicate.
CALWAY. I beg your pardon. There is no question here.
HOXTON. [Abruptly.] Oh! Is he in the house?
ANN. In there.
HOXTON. Works for you, eh?
HOXTON. Let's have a look at him!
[An embarrassed pause.]
BERTLEY. Well--the fact is, Sir Thomas----
CALWAY. When last under observation----
ANN. He was sitting on the floor.
WELLWYN. I don't want the old fellow to feel he's being made a show of. Disgusting to be spied at, Ann.
ANN. You can't, Daddy! He's drunk.
HOXTON. Never mind, Miss WELLWYN. Hundreds of these fellows before me in my time. [At CALWAY.] The only thing is a sharp lesson!
CALWAY. I disagree. I've seen the man; what he requires is steady control, and the bobbins treatment.
[WELLWYN approaches them with fearful interest.]
HOXTON. Not a bit of it! He wants one for his knob! Brace 'em up! It's the only thing.
BERTLEY. Personally, I think that if he were spoken to seriously
CALWAY. I cannot walk arm in arm with a crab!
HOXTON. [Approaching CALWAY.] I beg your pardon?
CALWAY. [Moving back a little.] You're moving backwards, Sir Thomas. I've told you before, convinced reactionaryism, in these days----
[There comes a single knock on the street door.]
BERTLEY. [Looking at his watch.] D'you know, I'm rather afraid this may be our young husband, WELLWYN. I told him half-past four.
WELLWYN. Oh! Ah! Yes. [Going towards the two reformers.] Shall we go into the house, Professor, and settle the question quietly while the Vicar sees a young man?
CALWAY. [Pale with uncompleted statement, and gravitating insensibly in the direction indicated.] The merest sense of continuity--a simple instinct for order----
HOXTON. [Following.] The only way to get order, sir, is to bring the disorderly up with a round turn. [CALWAY turns to him in the doorway.] You people without practical experience----
CALWAY. If you'll listen to me a minute.
HOXTON. I can show you in a mo----
[They vanish through the door.]
WELLWYN. I was afraid of it.
BERTLEY. The two points of view. Pleasant to see such keenness. I may want you, WELLWYN. And Ann perhaps had better not be present.
WELLWYN. [Relieved.] Quite so! My dear!
[ANN goes reluctantly. WELLWYN opens the street door. The lamp outside has just been lighted, and, by its gleam, is seen the figure of RORY MEGAN, thin, pale, youthful. ANN turning at the door into the house gives him a long, inquisitive look, then goes.]
WELLWYN. Is that Megan?
WELLWYN. Come in.
[MEGAN comes in. There follows an awkward silence, during which WELLWYN turns up the light, then goes to the tea table and pours out a glass of tea and rum.]
BERTLEY. [Kindly.] Now, my boy, how is it that you and your wife are living apart like this?
MEGAN. I dunno.
BERTLEY. Well, if you don't, none of us are very likely to, are we?
MEGAN. That's what I thought, as I was comin' along.
WELLWYN. [Twinkling.] Have some tea, Megan? [Handing him the glass.] What d'you think of her picture? 'Tisn't quite finished.
MEGAN. [After scrutiny.] I seen her look like it--once.
WELLWYN. Good! When was that?
MEGAN. [Stoically.] When she 'ad the measles.
WELLWYN. [Ruminating.] I see--yes. I quite see feverish!
BERTLEY. My dear WELLWYN, let me--[To, MEGAN.] Now, I hope you're willing to come together again, and to maintain her?
MEGAN. If she'll maintain me.
BERTLEY. Oh! but--I see, you mean you're in the same line of business?
BERTLEY. And lean on each other. Quite so!
MEGAN. I leans on 'er mostly--with 'er looks.
BERTLEY. Indeed! Very interesting--that!
MEGAN. Yus. Sometimes she'll take 'arf a crown off of a toff. [He looks at WELLWYN.]
WELLWYN. [Twinkling.] I apologise to you, Megan.
MEGAN. [With a faint smile.] I could do with a bit more of it.
BERTLEY. [Dubiously.] Yes! Yes! Now, my boy, I've heard you bet on horses.
MEGAN. No, I don't.
BERTLEY. Play cards, then? Come! Don't be afraid to acknowledge it.
MEGAN. When I'm 'ard up--yus.
BERTLEY. But don't you know that's ruination?
MEGAN. Depends. Sometimes I wins a lot.
BERTLEY. You know that's not at all what I mean. Come, promise me to give it up.
MEGAN. I dunno abaht that.
BERTLEY. Now, there's a good fellow. Make a big effort and throw the habit off!
MEGAN. Comes over me--same as it might over you.
BERTLEY. Over me! How do you mean, my boy?
MEGAN. [With a look up.] To tork!
[WELLWYN, turning to the picture, makes a funny little noise.]
BERTLEY. [Maintaining his good humour.] A hit! But you forget, you know, to talk's my business. It's not yours to gamble.
MEGAN. You try sellin' flowers. If that ain't a--gamble
BERTLEY. I'm afraid we're wandering a little from the point. Husband and wife should be together. You were brought up to that. Your father and mother----
MEGAN. Never was.
WELLWYN. [Turning from the picture.] The question is, Megan: Will you take your wife home? She's a good little soul.
MEGAN. She never let me know it.
[There is a feeble knock on the door.]
WELLWYN. Well, now come. Here she is!
[He points to the door, and stands regarding MEGAN with his friendly smile.]
MEGAN. [With a gleam of responsiveness.] I might, perhaps, to please you, sir.
BERTLEY. [Appropriating the gesture.] Capital, I thought we should get on in time.
[WELLWYN opens the door. MRS. MEGAN and FERRAND are revealed. They are about to enter, but catching sight of MEGAN, hesitate.]
BERTLEY. Come in! Come in!
[MRS. MEGAN enters stolidly. FERRAND, following, stands apart with an air of extreme detachment. MEGAN, after a quick glance at them both, remains unmoved. No one has noticed that the door of the model's room has been opened, and that the unsteady figure of old TIMSON is standing there.]
BERTLEY. [A little awkward in the presence of FERRAND--to the MEGANS.] This begins a new chapter. We won't improve the occasion. No need.
[MEGAN, turning towards his wife, makes her a gesture as if to say: "Here! let's get out of this!"]
BENTLEY. Yes, yes, you'll like to get home at once--I know. [He holds up his hand mechanically.]
TIMSON. I forbids the banns.
BERTLEY, [Startled.] Gracious!
TIMSON. [Extremely unsteady.] Just cause and impejiment. There 'e stands. [He points to FERRAND.] The crimson foreigner! The mockin' jay!
TIMSON. You're a gen'leman--I'm aweer o' that but I must speak the truth--[he waves his hand] an' shame the devil!
BERTLEY. Is this the rum--?
TIMSON. [Struck by the word.] I'm a teetotaler.
WELLWYN. Timson, Timson!
TIMSON. Seein' as there's ladies present, I won't be conspicuous. [Moving away, and making for the door, he strikes against the dais, and mounts upon it.] But what I do say, is: He's no better than 'er and she's worse.
BERTLEY. This is distressing.
FERRAND. [Calmly.] On my honour, Monsieur!
WELLWYN. Now, now, Timson!
TIMSON. That's all right. You're a gen'leman, an' I'm a gen'leman, but he ain't an' she ain't.
WELLWYN. We shall not believe you.
BERTLEY. No, no; we shall not believe you.
TIMSON. [Heavily.] Very well, you doubts my word. Will it make any difference, Guv'nor, if I speaks the truth?
BERTLEY. No, certainly not--that is--of course, it will.
TIMSON. Well, then, I see 'em plainer than I see [pointing at BERTLEY] the two of you.
WELLWYN. Be quiet, Timson!
BERTLEY. Not even her husband believes you.
MEGAN. [Suddenly.] Don't I!
WELLWYN. Come, Megan, you can see the old fellow's in Paradise.
BERTLEY. Do you credit such a--such an object?
[He points at TIMSON, who seems falling asleep.]
[Unseen by anybody, ANN has returned.]
BERTLEY. Well, then, my boy?
MEGAN. I seen 'em meself.
BERTLEY. Gracious! But just now you were will----
MEGAN. [Sardonically.] There wasn't nothing against me honour, then. Now you've took it away between you, cumin' aht with it like this. I don't want no more of 'er, and I'll want a good deal more of 'im; as 'e'll soon find.
[He jerks his chin at FERRAND, turns slowly on his heel, and goes out into the street.]
[There follows a profound silence.]
ANN. What did I say, Daddy? Utter! All three.
[Suddenly alive to her presence, they all turn.]
TIMSON. [Waking up and looking round him.] Well, p'raps I'd better go.
[Assisted by WELLWYN he lurches gingerly off the dais towards the door, which WELLWYN holds open for him.]
TIMSON. [Mechanically.] Where to, sir?
[Receiving no answer he passes out, touching his hat; and the door is closed.]
[ANN goes back whence she came.]
[BERTLEY, steadily regarding MRS. MEGAN, who has put her arm up in front of her face, beckons to FERRAND, and the young man comes gravely forward.]
BERTLEY. Young people, this is very dreadful. [MRS. MEGAN lowers her arm a little, and looks at him over it.] Very sad!
MRS. MEGAN. [Dropping her arm.] Megan's no better than what I am.
BERTLEY. Come, come! Here's your home broken up! [MRS. MEGAN Smiles. Shaking his head gravely.] Surely-surely-you mustn't smile. [MRS. MEGAN becomes tragic.] That's better. Now, what is to be done?
FERRAND. Believe me, Monsieur, I greatly regret.
BERTLEY. I'm glad to hear it.
FERRAND. If I had foreseen this disaster.
BERTLEY. Is that your only reason for regret?
FERRAND. [With a little bow.] Any reason that you wish, Monsieur. I will do my possible.
MRS. MEGAN. I could get an unfurnished room if [she slides her eyes round at WELLWYN] I 'ad the money to furnish it.
BERTLEY. But suppose I can induce your husband to forgive you, and take you back?
MRS. MEGAN. [Shaking her head.] 'E'd 'it me.
BERTLEY. I said to forgive.
MRS. MEGAN. That wouldn't make no difference. [With a flash at BERTLEY.] An' I ain't forgiven him!
BERTLEY. That is sinful.
MRS. MEGAN. I'm a Catholic.
BERTLEY. My good child, what difference does that make?
FERRAND. Monsieur, if I might interpret for her.
[BERTLEY silences him with a gesture.]
MRS. MEGAN. [Sliding her eyes towards WELLWYN.] If I 'ad the money to buy some fresh stock.
BERTLEY. Yes; yes; never mind the money. What I want to find in you both, is repentance.
MRS. MEGAN. [With a flash up at him.] I can't get me livin' off of repentin'.
BERTLEY. Now, now! Never say what you know to be wrong.
FERRAND. Monsieur, her soul is very simple.
BERTLEY. [Severely.] I do not know, sir, that we shall get any great assistance from your views. In fact, one thing is clear to me, she must discontinue your acquaintanceship at once.
FERRAND. Certainly, Monsieur. We have no serious intentions.
BERTLEY. All the more shame to you, then!
FERRAND. Monsieur, I see perfectly your point of view. It is very natural. [He bows and is silent.]
MRS. MEGAN. I don't want'im hurt'cos o' me. Megan'll get his mates to belt him--bein' foreign like he is.
BERTLEY. Yes, never mind that. It's you I'm thinking of.
MRS. MEGAN. I'd sooner they'd hit me.
WELLWYN. [Suddenly.] Well said, my child!
MRS. MEGAN. 'Twasn't his fault.
FERRAND. [Without irony--to WELLWYN.] I cannot accept that Monsieur. The blame--it is all mine.
ANN. [Entering suddenly from the house.] Daddy, they're having an awful----!
[The voices of PROFESSOR CALWAY and SIR THOMAS HOXTON are distinctly heard.]
CALWAY. The question is a much wider one, Sir Thomas.
HOXTON. As wide as you like, you'll never----
[WELLWYN pushes ANN back into the house and closes the door behind her. The voices are still faintly heard arguing on the threshold.]
BERTLEY. Let me go in here a minute, Wellyn. I must finish speaking to her. [He motions MRS. MEGAN towards the model's room.] We can't leave the matter thus.
FERRAND. [Suavely.] Do you desire my company, Monsieur?
[BERTLEY, with a prohibitive gesture of his hand, shepherds the reluctant MRS. MEGAN into the model's room.]
WELLWYN. [Sorrowfully.] You shouldn't have done this, Ferrand. It wasn't the square thing.
FERRAND. [With dignity.] Monsieur, I feel that I am in the wrong. It was stronger than me.
[As he speaks, SIR THOMAS HOXTON and PROFESSOR CALWAY enter from the house. In the dim light, and the full cry of argument, they do not notice the figures at the fire. SIR THOMAS HOXTON leads towards the street door.]
HOXTON. No, Sir, I repeat, if the country once commits itself to your views of reform, it's as good as doomed.
CALWAY. I seem to have heard that before, Sir Thomas. And let me say at once that your hitty-missy cart-load of bricks regime----
HOXTON. Is a deuced sight better, sir, than your grand-motherly methods. What the old fellow wants is a shock! With all this socialistic molly-coddling, you're losing sight of the individual.
CALWAY. [Swiftly.] You, sir, with your "devil take the hindmost," have never even seen him.
[SIR THOMAS HOXTON, throwing back a gesture of disgust, steps out into the night, and falls heavily PROFESSOR CALWAY, hastening to his rescue, falls more heavily still.]
[TIMSON, momentarily roused from slumber on the doorstep, sits up.]
HOXTON. [Struggling to his knees.] Damnation!
CALWAY. [Sitting.] How simultaneous!
[WELLWYN and FERRAND approach hastily.]
FERRAND. [Pointing to TIMSON.] Monsieur, it was true, it seems. They had lost sight of the individual.
[A Policeman has appeared under the street lamp. He picks up HOXTON'S hat.]
CONSTABLE. Anything wrong, sir?
HOXTON. [Recovering his feet.] Wrong? Great Scott! Constable! Why do you let things lie about in the street like this? Look here, Wellyn!
[They all scrutinize TIMSON.]
WELLWYN. It's only the old fellow whose reform you were discussing.
HOXTON. How did he come here?
CONSTABLE. Drunk, sir. [Ascertaining TIMSON to be in the street.] Just off the premises, by good luck. Come along, father.
TIMSON. [Assisted to his feet-drowsily.] Cert'nly, by no means; take my arm.
[They move from the doorway. HOXTON and CALWAY re-enter, and go towards the fire.]
ANN. [Entering from the house.] What's happened?
CALWAY. Might we have a brush?
HOXTON. [Testily.] Let it dry!
[He moves to the fire and stands before it. PROFESSOR CALWAY following stands a little behind him. ANN returning begins to brush the PROFESSOR's sleeve.]
WELLWYN. [Turning from the door, where he has stood looking after the receding TIMSON.] Poor old Timson!
FERRAND. [Softly.] Must be philosopher, Monsieur! They will but run him in a little.
[From the model's room MRS. MEGAN has come out, shepherded by CANON BERTLEY.]
BERTLEY. Let's see, your Christian name is----.
MRS. MEGAN. Guinevere.
BERTLEY. Oh! Ah! Ah! Ann, take Gui--take our little friend into the study a minute: I am going to put her into service. We shall make a new woman of her, yet.
ANN. [Handing CANON BERTLEY the brush, and turning to MRS. MEGAN.] Come on!
[She leads into the house, and MRS. MEGAN follows Stolidly.]
BERTLEY. [Brushing CALWAY'S back.] Have you fallen?
BERTLEY. Dear me! How was that?
HOXTON. That old ruffian drunk on the doorstep. Hope they'll give him a sharp dose! These rag-tags!
[He looks round, and his angry eyes light by chance on FERRAND.]
FERRAND. [With his eyes on HOXTON--softly.] Monsieur, something tells me it is time I took the road again.
WELLWYN. [Fumbling out a sovereign.] Take this, then!
FERRAND. [Refusing the coin.] Non, Monsieur. To abuse 'ospitality is not in my character.
BERTLEY. We must not despair of anyone.
HOXTON. Who talked of despairing? Treat him, as I say, and you'll see!
CALWAY. The interest of the State----
HOXTON. The interest of the individual citizen sir----
BERTLEY. Come! A little of both, a little of both!
[They resume their brushing.]
FERRAND. You are now debarrassed of us three, Monsieur. I leave you instead--these sirs. [He points.] 'Au revoir, Monsieur'! [Motioning towards the fire.] 'Appy New Year!
[He slips quietly out. WELLWYN, turning, contemplates the three reformers. They are all now brushing away, scratching each other's backs, and gravely hissing. As he approaches them, they speak with a certain unanimity.]
HOXTON. My theory----!
CALWAY. My theory----!
BERTLEY. My theory----!
[They stop surprised. WELLWYN makes a gesture of discomfort, as they speak again with still more unanimity.]
HOXTON. My----! CALWAY. My----! BERTLEY. My----!
[They stop in greater surprise. The stage is blotted dark.]