Act One Scene One The scene is set in November, in Aubrey Tanqueray's chambers in the Albany a richly and tastefully decorated room, elegantly and luxuriously furnished: on the right a large pair of doors opening into another room, on the left, at the further end of the room, a small door leading to a bedchamber. A circular table is laid for a dinner for four persons, which has now reached the stage of dessert and coffee. Everything in the apartment suggests wealth and refinement. The fire is burning brightly. Aubrey Tanqueray, Misquith, and Jayne are seated at the dinner table. Aubrey is forty-two, handsome, winning in manner, his speech and bearing retaining some of the qualities of young manhood. Misquith is about forty seven, genial and portly. Jayne is a year or two Misquith's senior; soft-speaking and precise in appear- ance a type of the prosperous town physician. Morse, Aubrey's servant, places a little cabinet of cigars and the spirit-lamp on the table beside Aubrey, and goes out.
MISQUITH Aubrey, it is a pleasant yet dreadful fact to contemplate, but it's nearly fifteen years since I first dined with you. You lodged in Piccadilly in those days, over a hat-shop. Jayne, I met you at that dinner, and Cayley Drummle.
JAYNE Yes, yes. What a pity it is that Cayley isn't here tonight.
AUBREY Confound the old gossip! His empty chair has been staring us in the face all through dinner. I ought to have told Morse to take it away.
MISQUITH Odd, his sending no excuse.
AUBREY I'll walk round to his lodgings later on and ask after him.
MISQUITH I'll go with you.
JAYNE So will I.
AUBREY (opening the cigar-cabinet) Doctor, it's useless to tempt you, I know. Frank~Misquith and Aubrey smoke) I particularly wished Cayley Drummle to be one of us tonight. You two fellows and Cayley are my closest, my best friends.
MISQUITH My dear Aubrey!
IAYNE I rejoice to hear you say so.
AUBREY And I wanted to see the three of you round this table. You can't guess the reason.
MISQUITH You desired to give us a most excellent dinner.
J A Y N E Obviously .
AUBREY (hesitatingly) WellI Glancing at the clock) Cayley won't turn up now.
J A Y N E Hm, hardly .
AUBREY Then you two shall hear it. Doctor, Frank, this is the last time we are to meet in these rooms.
J A Y N E The last time?
MISQUITH You're going to leave the Albany?
AUBREY Yes. You've heard me speak of a house I built in the country years ago, haven't you?
MISQUITH In Surrey.
AUBREY Well, when my wife died I cleared out of that house and let it. I think of trying the place again.
MISQUITH But you'll go raving mad if ever you find yourself down there alone.
AUBREY Ah, but I shan't be alone, and that's what I wanted to tell you. I'm going to be married.
JAYNE Going to be married?
AUBREY Yes tomorrow.
J A Y N E Tomorrow ?
MISQUITH You take my breath away! My dear fellow, I, I--of course, I congratulate you.
JAYNE And--and so do I--heartily.
AUBREY Thanks thanks. There is a moment or two of embarrassment
MISQUITH Er ah this is an excellent cigar.
JAYNE Ah--um your coffee is remarkable.
AUBREY Look here; I daresay you two old friends think this treat-ment very strange, very unkind. So I want you to understand me. so You know a marriage often cools friendships. What's the usual course of things? A man's engagement is given out, he is congra-tulated, complimented upon his choice; the church is filled with troops of friends, and he goes away happily to a chorus of good wishes. He comes back, sets up house in town or country, and 5, thinks to resume the old associations, the old companionships. My dear Frank, my dear good doctor, it's very seldom that it can be done. Generally, a worm has begun to eat its way into those hearty, unreserved, pre─nuptial friendships; a damnable constraint sets in and acts like a wasting disease; and so, believe me, in nine cases out of ten a man's marriage severs for him more close ties than it forms.
MISQUITH Well, my dear Aubrey, I earnestly hope-
AUBREY I know what you're going to say, Frank. I hope so, too. In the mean time let's face dangers. I've reminded you of the usual course of things, but my marriage isn't even the conventional sort of marriage likely to satisfy society. Now, Cayley's a bachelor, but you two men have wives. By the bye, my love to Mrs Misquith and to Mrs Jayne when you get homc don't forget that. Well, your wives may not like the lady I'm going to marry.
JAYNE Aubrey, forgive me for suggesting that the lady you are going to marry may not like our wives mine at least; I beg your pardon, Frank.
AUBREY Quite so: then I must go the way my wife goes.
MISQUITH Come, come, pray don't let us anticipate that either side will be called upon to make such a sacrifice.
AUBREY Yes, yes, let us anticipate it. And let us make up our minds to have no slow bleeding to death of our friendship. We'll end a pleasant chapter here tonight, and after tonight start afresh. When my wife and I settle down at Willowmere it's possible that we shall all come together. But if this isn't to be, for Heaven's sake let us recognise that it is simply because it can't be, and not wear hypocritical faces and suffer and be wretched. Doctor, Frank, (Holding out his hands, one to Misquith, the other to Jayne) Good luck to all of us!
MISQUITH But but do I understand we are to ask nothing? Not even the lady's name, Aubrey?
AUBREY The lady, my dear Frank, belongs to the next chapter, and in that her name is Mrs Aubrey Tanqueray.
JAYNE (raising his coffee-cup) Then, in an old asnlone way, I propose a toast. Aubrey, Frank, I give you 'The Next Chapter!'
They drink the toast, saying, 'The Next Chapter!'
AUBREY Doctor, find a comfortable chair; Frank, you too. As we're going to turn out by and by, let me scribble a couple of notes now while I think of them.
MISQUITH and JAYNE Certainly yes, yes
. AUBREY It might slip my memory when I get back.
Aubrey sits at a writing table at the other end of the room, and writes.
JAYNE (to Misquith, in a whisper) Frank, (Misquith quietly leaves his chair and sits nearer to Jayne) What is all this? Simply a morbid crank of Aubrey's with regard to ante-nuptial acquaint-ances?
MISQUITH H'm! Did you notice one expression he used?
JAYNE Let me think
MISQUITH 'My marriage is not even the conventional sort of mar-riage likely to satisfy society.'
JAYNE Bless me, yes! What does that suggest?-
MISQUITH That he has a particular rather than a general reason for anticipating estrangement from his friends, I'm afraid.
A horrible mesalliance! A dairymaid who has given him a glass of milk during a day's hunting, or a little anaemic shopgirl! Frank, I'm utterly wretched!
MISQUITH My dear Jayne, speaking in absolute confidence, I have never been more profoundly depressed in my life.
MORSE (announcing) Mr Drummle.
Cayley Drummle enters briskly. Hes a neat little man of about five-and-forty, in manner bright, airy, debonair, but with an undercurrent of seriousness. Morse retires
DRUMMLE I'm in disgrace; nobody realises that more thoroughly than I do. Where's my host?
AUBREY (who has risen) Cayley.
DRUMMLE (shaking hands with him) Don't speak to me till I have tendered my explanation. A harsh word from anybody would unman me.
Misquith and Jayne shake hands with Drummle
AUBREY Have you dined?
DRUMMLE No--unless you call a bit of fish, a cutlet, and a pancake dining.
AUBREY Cayley, this is disgraceful.
JAYNE Fish, a cutlet, and a pancake will require a great deal of explanation.
MISQUITH Forget the pancake. My dear friend, your case looks miserably weak.
DRUMMLE Hear me! hear me!
JAYNE Now then!
DRUMMLE It so happens that tonight I was exceptionally early in dressing for dinner.
MISQUITH For which dinner the fish and cutlet?
DRUMMLE For this dinner, of course--really, Frank! At a quarter to eight, in fact, I found myself trimming my nails, with ten minutes to spare. Just then enter my man with a note would I hasten, as fast as cab could carry me, to old Lady Orreyed in Bruton Street 'sad trouble'. Now, recollect, please, I had ten minutes on my hands, old Lady Orreyed was a very dear friend of my mother's, and was in some distress.
AUBREY Cayley, come to the fish and cutlet?
MISQUITH and JAYNE Yes, yes, and the pancake!
DRUMMLE Upon my word! Well, the scene in Bruton Street beggars description; the women servants looked scared, the men drunk; and there was poor old Lady Orreyed on the floor of her boudoir like Queen Bess among her pillows.
AUBREY What s the matter?
DRUMMLE (to everybody) You know George Orreyed?
JAYNE I've met him.
DRUMMLE Well, he s a thing of the past.
AUBREY Not dead!
DRU.MMLE Certainly, in the worst sense. He's married Mabel Hervey.
DRUMMLE It's true--this morning. The poor mother showed me his letter--a dozen curt words, and some of those ill-spelt.
MISQUITH (walking up to the Jireplace) I'm very sorry.
JAYNE Pardon my ignorance--who was Mabel Hervey?
DRUMMLE You don't--? Oh, of course not. Miss Hervey Lady Orreyed, as she now is was a lady who would have been, perhaps has been, described in the reports of the police or the Divorce Court as an actress. Had she belonged to a lower stratum of our advanced civilisation, she would, in the event of judicial inquiry, have defined her calling with equal justification as that of a dressmaker. To do her justice, she is a type of a class which is immortal. Physically, by the strange caprice of creation, curiously beautiful; mentally, she lacks even the strength of deliberate viciousness. Paint her portrait, it would symbolise a creature perfectly patrician; lance a vein of her superbly modelled arm, you would get the poorest vin ordinaire! Her affections, emotions, impulses, her very existence a burlesque! Flaxen, five-and-twenty, and feebly frolicsome; anybody's, in less gentle society I should say everybody's, property! That, doctor, was Miss Hervey who is the new Lady Orreyed. Dost thou like the picture?
MISQUITH Very good, Cayley! Bravo!
AUBREY (laying his hand on Drummle's shoulder) You'd scarcely believe it, Jayne, but none of us really know anything about this lady, our gay young friend here, I suspect, least of all.
DRUMMLE Aubrey, I applaud your chivalry.
AUBREY And perhaps you'll let me finish a couple of letters which Frank and Jayne have given me leave to write. (Returning to the writing table) Ring for what you want, like a good fellow!
Aubrey resumes his writing
MISQUITH (to Drummle) Still, the fish and cutlet remain unex- plained.
DRUMMLE Oh, the poor old woman was so weak that I insisted upon her taking some food, and felt there was nothing for it but to sit down opposite her. The fool! The blackguard!
MISQUITH Poor Orreyed! Well, he's gone under for a time.
DRUMMLE For a time! My dear Frank, I tell you he has absolutely ceased to be.
Aubrey, who has been writing busily, turns his head towards the speakers and listens. His lips are set, and there is a frown upon his face.
For all practical purposes you may regard him as the late George Orreved. Tomorrow the very characteristics of his speech, as we ; remember them, will have become obsolete.
JAYNE But surely, in the course of years, he and his wife will outlive
DRUMMLE No, no, doctor, don't try to upset one of my settled beliefs. You may dive into many waters, but there is one social Dead Sea.
JAYNE Perhaps you're right.
DRUMMLE Right! Good God! I wish you could prove me otherwise! why, for years I've been sitting, and watching and waiting.
MISQUITH You're in form tonight, Cayley. May we ask where you've been in the habit of squandering your useful leisure?
DRUMMLE Where? On the shore of that same sea.
MISQUITH And, pray, what have you been waiting for?
DRUMMLE For some of my best friends to come up. (Aubrey utters a half stimied exclamation of impatience; then he hurriedly gathers up his papers from the writing table. The three men turn to him) Eh?
AUBREY Oh, I I'll finish my letters in the other room if you'll excuse me for five minutes. Tell Cayley the news.
He goes out
DRUMMLE (hurrying to the door) My dear fellow, my jabbering has disturbed you! I'll never talk again as long as I live!
MISQUITH Close the door, Cayley.
Drummle shuts the door
DRUMMLE (advancing to the dinner table) A smoke, a smoke, or I perish!
Selects a cigar from the little cabinet
JAYNE Cayley, marriages are in the air.
DRUMMLE Are they? Discover the bacillus, doctor, and destroy it.
JAYNE I mean, among our friends.
DRUMMLE Oh, Nugent Warrinder's engagement to Lady Alice Tring. I've heard of that. They're not to be married till the spring.
JAYNE Another marriage that concerns us a little takes place tomor-row.
DRUMMLE Whose marriage?
J AYNE Aubrey's.
DRUMMLE Aub! (Looking towards Misquith) Is it a joke?
DRUMMLE (looking from Misquith to Jayne) To whom?
MISQUITH He doesn t tell us.
JAYNE We three were asked here tonight to receive the an-nouncement. Aubrey has some theory that marriage is likely to alienate a man from his friends, and it seems to me he has taken the precaution to wish us goodbye.
MISQUITH No, no.
J AYNE Practically, surely.
DRUMMLE (thoughtfully) Marriage in general, does he mean, or this marriage?
JAYNE That's the point. Frank says
MISQUITH No, no, no; I feared it suggested...
JAYNE Well, well. (To Drummle) What do you think of it?
DRUMMLE (after a slight pause) Is there a light there? (Lighting his cigar) He wraps the lady in mystery you say?
MISQUITH Most modestly.
DRUMMLE Aubrey's not a very young man.
J A Y N E Forty-three.
DRUM~LE Ah! L age critique!
MISQUITH A dangerous age yes, yes.
DRUMMLE When you two fellows go home, do you mind leaving me behind here?
MISQUITH Not at all.
JAYNE By all means.
DRUMMLE All right. (Anxiously) Deuce take it, the man's second marriage mustn't be another mistake!
With his head bent he walks up to the fireplace
JAYNE You knew him in his short married life, Cayley. Terribly unsatisfactory, wasn't it?
DRUMMLE Well Looking at the door) I quite closed that door?
Settles himself on the sofa; Jayne is seated in an armchair
DRUMMLE (smoking, with his back to the fire) He married a Miss Herriott; that was in the year eighteen--confound dates twenty years ago. She was a lovely creature--by Jove, she was; by religion a Roman Catholic. She was one of your cold sort, you know all marble arms and black velvet. I remember her with painful distinctness as the only woman who ever made me nervous.
M I S Q U I T H [softly] Ha, ha!
DRUMMLE He loved her to distraction, as they say. Jupiter, how fervently that poor devil courted her! But I don't believe she allowed him even to squeeze her fingers. She was an iceberg! As for kissing, the mere contact would have given him chapped lips. However, he married her and took her away, the latter greatly to my relief.
JAYNE Abroad, you mean?
DRUMMLE Eh? Yes. I imagine he gratified her by renting a villa in Lapland, but I don't know. After a while they returned, and then; I saw how woefully Aubrey had miscalculated results.
J A Y N E Miscalculated-
DRUMMLE He had reckoned, poor wretch, that in the early days of marriage she would thaw. But she didn't. I used to picture him closing his doors and making up the fire in the hope of seeing her features relax. Bless her, the thaw never set in! I believe she kept a thermometer in her stays° and always registered ten degrees below zero. However, in time a child came a daughter.
JAYNE Didn't that-
DRUMMLE Not a bit of it; it made matters worse. Frightened at her failure to stir up in him some sympathetic religious belief, she determined upon strong measures with regard to the child. He opposed her for a miserable year or so, but she wore him down, and the insensible little brat was placed in a convent, first in France, then in Ireland. Not long afterwards the mother died, strangely enough, of fever, the only warmth, I believe, that ever came to that woman's body.
MISQUITH Don t, Cayley!
JAYNE The child is living, we know.
DRlJMMLE Yes, if you choose to call it living. Miss Tanqueray--a young woman of nineteen now--is in the Loretto convent at Armagh. She professes to have found her true vocation in a religious life, and within a month or two will take final vows.
MISQUITH He ought to have removed his daughter from the convent when the mother died.
DRUMMLE Yes, yes, but absolutely at the end there was reconcilia-tion between husband and wife, and she won his promise that the child should complete her conventual education. He reaped his reward. When he attempted to gain his girl's confidence and affection he was too late; he found he was dealing with the spirit of the mother. You remember his visit to Ireland last month?
DRUMMLE That was to wish his girl goodbye.
MISQUITH Poor fellow!
DRUMMLE He sent for me when he came back. I think he must have had a lingering hope that the girl would relent--would come to life, as it were at the last moment, for, for an hour or so, in this room, he was terribly shaken. I'm sure he'd clung to that hope from the persistent way in which he kept breaking off in his talk to repeat one dismal word, as if he couldn't realise his position without dinning this damned word into his head.
JAYNE What word was that?
D R U M L E Alone--alone.
AUBREY [advancing to the fire] A thousand apologies!
DRUM~LE (gaily) We are talking about you, my dear Aubrey.
During the telling of the story, Misquith has risen and gone to the fire, and Drummle has thrown himself full-length on the sofa. Aubrey novw joins Misquith and Jayne
AUBREY Well, Cayley, are you surprised?
DRUMMLE Surp ! I haven't been surprised for twenty years.
AUBREY And you're not angry with me?
DRUMMLE Angry! (Rising) Because you considerately withhold the name of a lady with whom it is now the object of my life to become acquainted? My dear fellow, you pique my curiosity, you give zest to my existence! And as for a wedding, who on earth wants to attend that familiar and probably draughty function? Ugh! My cigar's out.
AUBREY Let's talk about something else.
MISQUITH (looking at his watch) Not tonight, Aubrey.
AUBREY My dear Frank!
MISQUITH I go up to Scotland tomorrow, and there are some little matters--
JAYNE I am off too.
AUBREY No, no.
JAYNE I must: I have to give a look to a case in Clifford Street on my way home.
AUBREY (going to the door) Well! Misquith and Jayne exchange looks with Drummle (Opening the door and calling) Morse, hats and coats! I shall write to you all next week from Genoa or Florence. Now, doctor, Frank, remember, my love to Mrs Misquith and to Mrs Jayne!
Morse enters with hats and coats
lMISQUITH and JAYNE Yes, yes yes, yes.
AUBREY And your young people! As Misquith and Jayne put on their coats, there is the clatter of careless talk
JAYNE Cayley, I meet you at dinner on Sunday.
DRUMMLE At the Stratfields'. That's very pleasant.
MISQUITH (putting on his coat with Aubrey's aid) Ah--h!
AUBREY What s wrong?
MISQUITH A twinge. Why didn't I go to Aix in August?
JAYNE (shaking hands with Drummle) Good-night, Cayley.
D R U MM L E Good-night, my dear doctor!
MISQUITH (shaking hands with Drummle) Cayley, are you in town for long?
DRUMMLE Dear friend, I'm nowhere for long. Good-night.
Aubrey, Jayne, and Misquith go out, followed by Morse; the hum of talk is continued outside
A U B R E Y A cigar, Frank?
MISQUITH No, thank you.
AUBREY Going to walk, doctor?
JAYNE If Frank will.
MISQUITH By all means.
AUBR E Y It s a cold night.
The door is closed. Drummle remains standing with his coat on his arm and his hat in his hand
DRUMMLE (to himself; thoughtfully) Now then! What the devil...
AUBREY (eyeing Drummle a little awkwardly) Well, Cayley?
DRUMMLE Well, Aubrey?
Aubrey walks up to the fire and stands looking into it
AUBREY You re not going, old chap?
[Drummle deliberately puts his hat and coat on the sofa and sits]
AUBREY (after a slight pause, with a forced laugh) Hah! Cayley, I never thought I should feel shy with you.
DRUMMLE Why do you?
AUBREY Never mind.
DRUMMLE Now, I can quite understand a man wishing to be married in the dark, as it were.
AUBREY You can?
DRUMMLE In your place I should very likely adopt the same course.
AUBREY You think so?
DRUMMLE And if I intended marrying a lady not prominently in Society, as I presume you do--as I presume you do--
DRUMMLE As I presume you do, I'm not sure that I should tender to her for preliminary dissection at afternoon tea tables.
DRUMMLE In fact, there is probably only one person--were I in your position tonight with whom I should care to chat the matter over.
AUBREY Who s that?
DRUMMLE Yourself, of course. (Going to Aubrey and standing beside him) Of course, yourself, old friend.
AUBREY (after a pause) I must seem a brute to you, Cayley. But there are some acts which are hard to explain, hard to defend.
DRUMMLE To defend--?
AUBREY Some acts which one must trust to time to put right.
Drummle watches him for a moment, then takes up his hat and coat
DRUMMLE Well, Il1 be moving.
AUBREY Cayley! Confound you and your old friendship! Do you think I forget it? Put your coat down! Why did you stay behind here? Cayley, the lady I am going to marry is the lady who is known as--Mrs Jarman.
There is a pause
DRUMMLE (in a low voice) Mrs Jarman! Are you serious?
He walks up to the fireplace, where he leans upon the mantel-piece uttering something like a groan
AUBREY As you've got this out of me I give you leave to say all you care to say. Come, we'll be plain with each other. You know Mrs Jarman?
DRUMMLE I first met her at what does it matter?
AUBREY Yes, yes, everything! Come!
DRUMMLE I met her at Homburg, two--three seasons ago.
AUBREY Not as Mrs Jarman?
AUBREY She was then--?
D R U M M L E Mrs Dartry
. AUBREY Yes. She has also seen you in London, she says.
D R U M M L E Certainly .
AUBREY In Aldford Street. Go on.
AUBREY I insist.
DRUMMLE (with a slight shrug of the shoulders) Sometime last year I was asked by a man to sup at his house, one night after the theatre.
AUBREY Mr Selwyn Ethurst--a bachelor.
AUBREY You were surprised therefore to find Mr Ethurst aided in his cursed hospitality by a lady.
D R U M M L E I was unprepared .
AUBREY The lady you had known as Mrs Dartry? (Drummle inclines his head silently) There is something of a yachting cruise in the Mediterranean too, is there not?
DRUMMLE I joined Peter Jarman's yacht at Marseilles, in the spring, a month before he died.
AUBREY Mrs Jarman was on board?
DRUMMLE She was a kind hostess.
AUBREY And an old acquaintance?
AUBREY You have told your story.
D R U M M L E With your assistance .
AUBREY I have put you to the pain of telling it to show you that this is not the case of a blind man entrapped by an artful woman. Let me add that Mrs Jarman has no legal right to that name, that she is simply Miss Ray. Miss Paula Ray.
DRUMMLE (after a pause) I should like to express my regret, Aubrey, for the way in which I spoke of George Orreyed's marriage.
AUBREY You mean you compare Lady Orreyed with Miss Ray?
(Drummle is silent)
Oh, of course! To you, Cayley, all women who have been roughly treated, and who dare to survive by borrowing a little of our philosophy, are alike. You see in the crowd of the ill-used only one pattern; you can't detect the shades of goodness, intelligence, even nobility there. Well, how should you? The crowd is dimly lighted! And, besides, yours is the way of the world.
DRUMMLE My dear Aubrey, I live in the world.
AUBREY The name we give our little parish of St James's.
DRUMMLE (laying a hand on Aubrey's shoulder) And you are quite prepared, my friend, to forfeit the esteem of your little parish?
AUBREY I avoid mortification by shifting from one parish to another. I give up Pall l~lall for the Surrey hills; leave off varnishing my boots and double the thickness of the soles.
DRUMMLE And your skin--do you double the thickness of that also?
AUBREY I know you think me a fool, Cayley you needn't infer that I'm a coward into the bargain. No! I know what I'm doing, and I do it deliberately, defiantly. I'm alone; I injure no living soul by the step I'm going to take; and so you can't urge the one argument which might restrain me. Of course, I don't expect you to think compassionately, fairly even, of the woman whom I whom I am drawn to--
DRUMMLE My dear Aubrey, I assure you I consider Mrs Miss Jarman--Mrs Ray Miss Ray--delightful. But I confess there is a form of chivalry which I gravely distrust, especially in a man of--our age.
AUBREY Thanks. I've heard you say that from forty till fifty a man is at heart either a stoic or a satyr.
DRUMMLE (protestingly) Ah! Now
AUBREY I am neither. I have a temperate, honourable affection for Mrs Jarman. She has never met a man who has treated her well intend to treat her well. That's all. And in a few years, Cayley, if you've not quite forsaken me, I'll prove to you that it's possible to rear a life of happiness, of good repute, on a--miserable foundation.
DRUMMLE (offering his hand ) Do prove it!
AI~BREY (taking his hand) We have spoken too freely of--of Mrs Jarman. I was excited angry. Please forget it!
DRUMMLE My dear Aubrey~ when we next meet I shall remember nothing but my respect for the lady who bears your name.
Morse enters, closing the door behind him carefully
A U B R E Y What is it?
MORSE (hesitatingly) May I speak to you, sir? (In an undertone) Mrs Jarman, sir.
AUBREY (softly to Morse) Mrs Jarman! Do you mean she is at the lodge in her carriage?
MORSE No, sir--here. (Aubrey looks towards Drummle, perplexed) There's a nice fire in your in that room, sir. (Glancing in the direction of the door leading to the bedroom)
AUBREY (between his teeth, angrily) Very well.
DRUMMLE (looking at his watch) A quarter to eleven--horrible! (Taking up his hat and coat) Must get to bed up late every night this week. (Aubrey assists Drummle with his coat) Thank you. Well, good-night, Aubrey. I feel I've been dooced serious, quite out of keeping with myself; pray overlook it.
AUBREY (kindly) Ah, Cayley!
DRUMMLE (putting on a neck handkerchief) And remember that, after all, I'm merely a spectator in life; nothing more than a man at a play, in fact; only, like the old─fashioned playgoer, I love to see certain characters happy and comfortable at the finish. You understand?
AUBREY I think I do.
DRU.MMLE Then, for as long as you can, old friend, will you--keep a stall for me?
AUBREY Yes, Cayley.
DRUMMLE (gaily) Ah, ha! Good-night! (Bustling to the door) Don't soo bother! I'll let myself out! Good-night! God bless yer!
He goes out; Aubrey follows him. Morse enters by the other door, carrying some unopened letters which, after a little con-sideration, he places on the mantelpiece against the clock. Aubrey returns
.MORSE You hadn't seen your letters that came by the nine o'clock post, sir; I've put 'em where they'll catch your eye by and by.
A U B R E Y Thank you .
MORSE (hesitatingly) Gunter's cook and waiters have gone, sir. Would you prefer me to go to bed?
AUBREY (frowning) Certainly not.
MORSE Very well, sir.
He goes out
AUBREY (opening the upper door) Paula! Paula!
Paula enters and throws her arms round his neck. She is a young woman of about twenty-seven: beautiful, fresh, innocent-looking. She is in superb evening dress
P A U L A Dearest!
AUREY Wy have you come here?
AUBREY Yes--no. But it's eleven o'clock.
P A UL A (laughing) I know .
AUBREY What on earth will Morse think?
PAULA Do you trouble yourself about what servants think?
A U B R E Y Of course.
PAULA Goose! They're only machines made to wait upon people-- and to glve evidence in the Divorce Court. (Looking round ) oh, indeed! A snug little dinner!
A U BR E Y Three men.
P AUL A (suspiciously) Men?
P.AUL.A (penitently) Ah! (Sitting at the table) I'm so hungry.
AUBREY Let me get you some game pie, or some
PAULA No, no, hungry for this. What beautiful fruit! I love fruit when it's expensive.
He clears a space on the table, places a plate before her, and helps her to fruit
I haven't dined, Aubrey dear.
AUBREY My poor girl! Why?
PAULA In the first place, I forgot to order any dinner, and my cook, who has always loathed me, thought he'd pay me out before he departed.
AUBREY The beast!
PAULA That's precisely what I
AUBREY No, Paula!
PAULA What I told my maid to call him. What next will you think of me?
AUBREY Forgive me. you must be starved.
PAULA (eating fruit) I didn't care. As there was nothing to eat, I sat in my best frock, with my toes on the dining-room fender, and dreamt, oh, such a lovely dinner party.
AUBREY Dear, lonely, little woman!
PAULA It was perfect. I saw you at the end of a very long table, opposite me, and we exchanged sly glances now and again over the flowers. We were host and hostess, Aubrey, and had been married about five years.
AUBREY (kissing her hand) Five years.
PAULA And on each side of us was the nicest set imaginable--you know, dearest, the sort of men and women that can't be imitated.
AUBREY Yes, yes. Eat some more fruit.
PAULA But I haven't told you the best part of my dream.
AUBREY Tell me.
PAULA Well, although we had been married only such a few years, I seemed to know by the look on their faces that none of our guests had ever heard anything anything anything peculiar about the fascinating hostess.
AUBREY That's just how it will be, Paula. The world moves so quickly. That's just how it will be.
PAULA (with a little gimace) I wonder! (Glancing at the fire) Ugh! Do throw another log on.
AUBREY (mending the fire) There. But you mustn't be here long.
─ PAULA Hospitable wretch! I've something important to tell you. No, stay where you are. ( Turning from him, her face averted ) Look here, that was my dream, Aubrey; but the fire went out while I was dozing, and I woke up with a regular fit of the shivers. And the result of it all was that I ran upstairs and scribbled you a letter.
AUBREY Dear baby!
PAULA Remain where you are. (Taking a letter from her pocket) This is it. I've given you an account of myself, furnished you with a list of my adventures since I--you know. (Weighing the letter in her hand) I wonder if it would go for a penny. Most of it you're acquainted with; I've told you a good deal, haven't I?
AUBREY Oh, Paula!
PAULA What I haven't told you, I daresay you've heard from others. But in case they've omitted anything the dears it's all here.
AUBREY In Heaven's name, why must you talk like this tonight?
PAULA It may save discussion by and by, don't you think? (Holding out the letter) There you are.
A U B R E Y No, dear, no .
PAULA Take it. (He takes the letter) Read it through after I've gone, and then read it again, and turn the matter over in your mind finally. And if, even at the very last moment, you feel you oughtn't to go to church with me, send a messenger to Pont Street,at any time before eleven tomorrow, telling me that you're afraid, and I I'll take the blow. AUBREY Why, what--what do you think I am?
PAULA That's it. It's because I know you're such a dear good fellow that I want to save you the chance of ever feeling sorry you married me. I really love you so much, Aubrey, that to save you that I'd ;go rather you treated me as as the others have done.
AUBREY (turning from her with a cry) Oh!
PAULA (after a slight pause) I suppose I've shocked you. I can't help it if I have.
She sits, with assumed languor and indi~erence. He turns to her, advances, and kneels by her
AUBREY My dearest, you don't understand me. I I can't bear to hear you always talking about--what's done with. I tell you I'll never remember it; Paula, can't you dismiss it? Try. Darling, if we promise each other to forget, to forget, we're bound to be happy. After all, it's a mechanical matter; the moment a wretched thought enters your head, you quickly think of something bright it depends on one's will. Shall I burn this, dear? (Referring to the letter he holds in his hand) Let me, let me!
PAULA (with a shrug of the shoulders) I don't suppose there's much that's new to you in it just as you like.
He goes to the fire and burns the letter
AUBREY There's an end of it. (Returning to her) What's the matter?
PAULA (rising, coldly) Oh, nothing! I'll go and put my cloak on.
AUBREY (detaining her) What is the matter?
PAULA Well, I think you might have said, 'You're very generous, Paula', or at least, Thank you, dear', when I offered to set you free.
AUBREY (catching her in his arms) Ah!
PAULA Ah! Ah! Ha, ha! It's all very well, but you don't know what it cost me to make such an offer. I do so want to be married.
AUBREY But you never imagined-
PAULA Perhaps not. And yet I did think of what I'd do at the end of our acquaintance if you had preferred to behave like the rest.
She takes a flower from her bodice
PAULA Oh, I forgot!
AUBREY What would you have done when we parted?
PAIrLA Why, killed myself.
AUBREY Paula, dear!
PAULA It's true. (Putting theflower in his buttonhole) Do you know, I feel certain I should make away with myself if anything serious happened to me.
AUBREY Anything serious! What, has nothing ever been serious to you, Paula?
PAULA Not lately; not since a long while ago. I made up my mind then to have done with taking things seriously. If I hadn't, I--However, we won't talk about that.
AUBREY But now, now, life will be different to you, won't it be quite different? Eh, dear?
PAULA Oh yes, now. Only, Aubrey, mind you keep me always happy. -
AUBREY I will try to.
PAULA I know I couldn't swallow a second big dose of misery. Iknow that if ever I felt wretched trlllv wrPtrh~ I should take a leaf out of Connie Tirlemont's book. You remember? They found her (With a look of horror)
AUBREY For God's sake don't let vour thoughts run on such things
PAULA (laughing) Ha, ha, how scared you look! There, think of the time! Dearest, what will my coachman say! My cloak!
She runs out gaily, by the upper door. Aubrey looks after her for a moment, then he walks up to the.fire and stands warming his feet at the bars. As he does so he raises his head and observes the letters upon the mantelpiece. He takes one down quickly
AUBREY Ah! Ellean! (Opening the letter and reading) 'My dear father, A great change has come over me. I believe my mother in Heaven has spoken to me, and counselled me to turn to you in your loneliness. At any rate, your words have reached my heart, and I no longer feel fitted for this solemn life. I am ready to take my place by you. Dear father, will you receive me? Ellean
Paula re-enters, dressed in a handsome cloak. He stares at her as if he hardly realised her presence
PAULA What are you staring at? Don't you admire my cloak?
PAULA Couldn't you wait till I'd gone before reading your letters?
AUBREY (putting the letter away) I beg your pardon.
PAULA Take me downstairs to the carriage. (Slipping her arm through his) How I tease you! Tomorrow! I'm so happy! (They go out)