Harley Granville-Barker.

Three short plays. Rococo: Vote by ballot: Farewell to the theatre; online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryHarley Granville-BarkerThree short plays. Rococo: Vote by ballot: Farewell to the theatre; → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

'■']']■ i j 1 i i • ' ■ ; ' ■ j ! ! i i ■






: J







Mr**! ncpi

L ■ M-Vvv* ^>C




Do not remove from 214 Dec. Arts










THREE SHORT PLAYS: rococo: vote

In Collaboration with Laurence Housman




oaWVAD • Q3S






Copyright, 1917,
By Granville Barker.

All rights reserved
Published, November, 191 7


protected by copyright and must not be performed either by
amateurs or professionals without written permission. For such
permission, and for the " acting version " with full stage direc-
tions, apply to The Paget Dramatic Agency, 25 West 4$tk
Street, New York City*

-."..». :,p V


Rococo I

Vote by Ballot 31

Farewell to the Theatre 61


■ 1








Do you know how ugly the drawing-room of an English vicar-
age can be? Yes, I am aware of all that there should be
about it; the old-world grace and charm of Jane-
Austenism. One should sit upon Chippendale and
glimpse the grey Norman church-tower through the
casement. But what of the pious foundations of a
more industrial age, churches built in mid-nineteenth
century and rather scamped in the building, dedicated
to the Glory of God and the soul's health of some sweating
and sweated urban district? The Bishop would have
a vicarage added grumbled the church-donor. Well,
then, consider his comfort a little, but to the glory of
the Vicar nothing need be done. And nothing was.
The architect {this an added labour of but little love to
him) would give an ecclesiastical touch to the front porch,
a pointed top to the front door, add some stained glass
to the staircase window. But a mean house, a stuffy
house, and the Vicar must indeed have fresh air in
his soul if mean and stuffy doctrine was not to be gener-
ated there.

The drawing-room would be the best room, and not a bad room
in its way, if it weren't that its proportions were vile,
as though it felt it wanted to be larger than it was,
and if the window and the fireplace and the door didn't
seem to be quarrelling as to which should be the most
conspicuous. The fireplace wins.

This particular one in this particular drawing-room is of yellow
wood, stained and grained. It reaches not quite to the
ceiling. It has a West Front air, if looking-glass may



stand for windows; it is fretted, moreover, here and there,
with little trefoil holes. It bears a full assault of the
Vicar's wife's ideas of how to make the place "look
nice." There is the clock, of course, which won't keep
time; there are the vases which won't hold water; framed
photographs, as many as can be crowded on the shelves;
in every other crevice knickknacks. Then, if you
stand, as the Vicar often stands, at this point of van-
tage you are conscious of the wall-paper of amber and
blue with a frieze above it measuring off yard by yard
a sort of desert scene, a mountain, a lake, three palm
trees, two camels; and again; and again; until by the
corner a camel and a palm tree are cut out. On the
walls there are pictures, of course. Two of them convey
to you in a vague and water-coloury sort of way that an
English countryside is pretty. There is "Christ among
the Doctors," with a presentation brass plate on its
frame; there is "Simply to Thy Cross I Cling." And
there is an illuminated testimonial to the Vicar, a mark
of affection and esteem from the flock he ministered to as
senior curate.

The furniture is either very heavy, stuffed, sprung, and tapestry-
covered, or very light. There are quite a number of
small tables (occasional-tables they are called), which
should have four legs but have only three. There are
several chairs, too, on which it would be unwise to sit

In the centre of the room, beneath the hanging, pink-shaded,
electric chandelier, is a mahogany monument, a large
round table of the "pedestal" variety, and on it tower
to a climax the vicarage symbols of gentility and
culture. In the centre of this table, beneath a glass
shade, an elaborate reproduction of some sixteenth-
century Pieta (a little High Church, it is thought; but
Art, for some reason, runs that way). It stands on a
Chinese silk mat, sent home by some exiled uncle. It


is symmetrically surrounded by gift books, a photograph
.album, a tray of painted Indian figures (very jolly!
another gift from the exiled uncle), and a whale's tooth.
The whole affair is draped with a red embroidered
The window of the room, with so many sorts of curtains and
blinds to it that one would think the Vicar hatched
conspiracies here by night, admits but a blurring light,
which the carpet (Brussels) reflects, toned to an ugly

You really would not expect such a thing to be happening in
such a place, but this carpet is at the moment the base
of an apparently mortal struggle. The Vicar is under-
most, his baldish head, when he tries to raise it, falls
back and bumps. Kneeling on him, throttling his
collar, is a hefty young man conscientiously out of temper,
with scarlet face glowing against carrotty hair. His
name is Reginald and he is (one regrets to add) the
Vicar's nephew, though it be only by marriage. The
Vicar's wife, fragile and fifty, is making pathetic
attempts to pull him off.

"Have you had enough? " asks Reginald and grips the Vicar hard.

"Oh, Reginald . . . be good," is all the Vicar's wife's appeal.

Not two yards off a minor battle rages. Mrs. Reginald, coming
tip to reinforce, was intercepted by Miss Underwood,
the Vicar's sister, on the same errand. The elder
lady now has the younger pinned by the elbows and
she emphasises this very handsome control of the situa-
tion by teeth-rattling shakes.

"Cat . . . cat . . . cat!" gasps Mrs. Reginald, who is plump
and flaxen and easily disarranged.

Miss Unde>~wood only shakes her again. "I'll leach you
manners, miss."

"Oh, Reginald . . . do drop him," moans poor Mrs. Under-
wood. For this is really very bad for the Vicar.


"Stick a pin into him, Mary," advises her sister-in-law.
Whereat Mrs. Reginald yelps in her iron grasp,

"Don't you dare . . . it's poisonous," and then, "Oh . . .
if you weren't an old woman I'd have boxed your

Three violent shakes. "Would you? Would you? Would you? "

"I haven't got a pin, Carinthia," says Mrs. Underwood.
She has conscientiously searched.

"Pull his hair, then," commands Carinthia.

At intervals, like a signal gun, Reginald repeats his query:
"Have you had enough?" And the Vicar, though it is
evident that he has, still, with some unsurrendering
school-days' echo answering in his mind, will only gasp,
"Most undignified . . . clergyman of the Chunk of
England . . . your host, sir ... ashamed of you . . .
let me up at once."

Mrs. Underwood has failed at the hair; she flaps her hands in
despair. "It's too short, Carinthia," she moans.

Mrs. Reginald begins to sob pitifully. It is very painful to
be tightly held by the elbows from behind. So Miss
Underwood, with the neatest of twists and pushes,
lodges her in a chair, and thus released herself, folds
her arms and surveys the situation. "Box my ears,
would you?" is her postscript.
MRS. Reginald. Well . . . you boxed father's.
miss underwood. Where is your wretched father-in-law?
Her hawklike eye surveys the room for this unknown
in vain.
Reginald. \The proper interval having apparently elapsed."]

Have you had enough?

Dignified he cannot look, thus outstretched. The Vicar,
therefore, assumes a mixed expression of saintliness and
obstinacy, his next best resource. His poor wife moans
again. . . .
mrs. underwood. Oh, pi e a se , Reginald . . . the floor's

so hard for him!


Reginald. [A little anxious to have done with it himself^]
Have you had enough?

the Vicar. [Quite supine.] Do you consider this conduct
becoming a gentleman?

mrs. underwood. And . . . Simon! . . . if the servants
have heard . . . they must have heard. What will they

No, even this heart-breaking appeal falls flat.
Reginald. Say you've had enough and I'll let you up.
the vicar. [Reduced to casuistry.'] It's not at all the
sort of thing I ought to say.

mrs. underwood. [So helpless.] Oh ... I think you
might say it, Simon, just for once.

miss underwood. '[Grim with the pride of her own victory.]
Say nothing of the sort, Simon!

The Vicar has a burst of exasperation; for, after all, he
is on the floor and being knelt on.
the vicar. Confound it all, then, Carinthia, why don't
you do something?

Carinthia casts a tactical eye over Reginald. The
Vicar adds in parenthesis ... a human touch! . . .
the vicar. Don't kneel there, you young fool, you'll
break my watch!

miss underwood. Wait till I get my breath.

But this prospect raises in Mrs. Underwood a perfect

dithyramb of despair.

mrs. underwood. Oh, please, Carinthia . . . No . . .

don't start again . Such a scandal! I wonder everything's

not broken. [So coaxingly to Reginald.] Shall I say it

for him?

mrs. Reginald. [Fat little bantam, as she smooths her
feathers in the armchair.] You make him say it, Reggie.
But now the servants are on poor Mrs. Under-
wood's brain. Almost down to her knees she goes.
mrs. underwood. They'll be coming up to see what the
noise is. Oh . . . Simon!


It does strike the Vicar that this would occasion con-
siderable scandal in the parish. There are so few good
excuses for being found lying on the carpet, your
nephew kneeling threateningly on the top of you. So
he makes up his mind to it and enunciates with musical
charm; it might be a benediction. . . .
the vicar. I have had enough.
Reginald. [In some relief.^} That's all right.

He rises from the prostrate church militant; he even

helps it rise. This pleasant family party then look at

each other, and, truth to tell, they are all a little ashamed.

MRS. underwood. [Walking round the re-erected pillar

of righteousness .] Oh, how dusty you are!

miss underwood. Yes! [The normal self uprising. - }
Room's not been swept this morning.

The Vicar, dusted, feels that a reign of moral law can
now be resumed. He draws himself up to fully five
foot six.
the vicar. Now, sir, you will please apologise.
Reginald. [Looking very muscularJ} I shall not.

The Vicar drops the subject. Mrs. Reginald mutters
and crows from the armchair.
mrs. Reginald. Ha . . . who began it? Black and blue
I am! Miss Underwood can apologise . . . your precious
sister can apologise.

miss underwood. [Crushing if inconsequent.^ You're
running to fat, Gladys. Where's my embroidery?

MRS. underwood. I put it safe, Carinthia. [She dis-
closes it and then begins to pat and smooth the dishevelled
room7\ Among relations too! One expects to quarrel
sometimes ... it can't be helped. But not fighting! Oh,
I never did ... I feel so ashamed!

miss underwood. [Britannia-like !l Nonsense, Mary.
mrs. Reginald. Nobody touched you, Aunt Mary.
the vicar. [After his eyes have wandered vaguely round.li
Where's your father, Reginald?


Reginald. \_Quite uninterested. He is straightening his
own tie and collar.] I don't know.

In the little silence that follows there comes a voice from
under the mahogany monument. It is a voice at once
dignified and pained, and the property of Reginald's
father, whose name is Mortimer Uglow. And it says . . .

the voice. I am here.

mrs. underwood. [Who may be forgiven nerves.] Oh,
how uncanny!

Reginald. [Still at his tie.] Well, you can come out,
father, it's quite safe.

the voice. ^Most unexpectedly .] I shall not. [And then
more unexpectedly still.'] You can all leave the room.

the vicar. \_Who is generally resentful^] Leave the
room! whose room is it, mine or yours? Come out, Mor-
timer, and don't be a fool.

But there is only silence. Why will not Mr. Uglow
come out? Must he be ratted for? Then Mrs. Under-
wood sees why. She points to an object on the floor.

mrs. underwood. Simon!

the vicar. What is it?

A gam, and this time as if to indicate some mystery,
Mrs. Underwood points. The Vicar picks up the
object, some disjection of the fight he thinks, and waves
it mildly.

the vicar. Well, where does it go? I wonder every-
thing in the room's not been upset!

mrs. underwood. No, Simon, it's not a mat, it's his . . .
She concludes with an undeniable gesture, even a smile.
The Vicar, sniffing a little, hands over the trophy.

Reginald. [As he views it.] Oh, of course.

mrs. Reginald. Reggie, am I tidy at the back?

He tidies her at the back — a meticulous matter of hooks
and eyes and oh, his fingers are so big. Mrs. Under-
wood has taken a little hand-painted mirror from the
mantelpiece, and this and the thing in question she


places just without the screen of the jailing tablecloth

much as a devotee might place an offering at a shrine.

But in Miss Underwood dwells no respect jor persons.

miss underwood. Now, sir, for Heaven's sake put on

your wig and come out.

There emerges a hand that trembles with wrath; it re-
trieves the offerings; there follow bumpings into the
tablecloth as of a head and elbows.
the vicar. I must go and brush myself.
mrs. underwood. Simon, d'you think you could tell
the maids that something fell over . . . they are such
tattlers. It wouldn't be untrue. £lt wouldn'tQ

the vicar. I should scorn to do so, Mary. If they ask
me, I must make the best explanation I can.

The Vicar swims out. Mr. Mortimer Uglow, his
wig assumed and hardly awry at all, emerges from be-
neath the table. He is a vindictive-looking little man.
mrs. underwood. You're not hurt, Mortimer, are you?
Mr. Uglow's only wound is in the dignity. That he
cures by taking the situation oratorically in hand.
MR. uglow. If we are to continue this family discussion
and if Miss Underwood, whom it does not in the least con-
cern, has not the decency to leave the room and if you, Mary,
cannot request your sister-in-law to leave it, I must at least
demand that she does not speak to m e again.

Whoever else might be impressed, Miss Underwood
is not. She does not even glance up from her em-
miss underwood. A good thing for you I hadn't my
thimble on when I did it.

mrs. underwood. Carinthia, I don't think you should
have boxed Mortimer's ears . . . you know him so slightly.
miss underwood. He called me a Futile Female. I
considered it a suitable reply.

The echo of that epigram brings compensation to Mr.
Uglow. He puffs his chest.


mr. uglow. Your wife rallied to me, Reginald. I am
much obliged to her . . . which is more than can be said
of you.

Reginald. Well, you can't hit a woman.

mr. uglow. [Bitingly7\ And she knows it.


The sound conveys that she would tackle a regiment of
men with her umbrella: and she would.
Reginald. [Apoplectic, but he has worked down to the
waist7\ There's a hook gone.

MRS. Reginald. I thought so! Lace torn?
Reginald. It doesn't show much. But I tackled Uncle
Simon the minute he touched Gladys . . . that got my
blood up all right. Don't you worry. We won.

This callously sporting summary is too much for Mrs.
Underwood: she dissolves.
MRS. underwood. Oh, that such a thing should ever have
happened in our house! . . . in my drawing-room! ! . . . real
blows! ! ! . . .

MRS. Reginald. Don't cry, Aunt Mary ... it wasn't
your fault.

The Vicar returns, his hair and his countenance
smoother. He adds his patting consolations to his
poor wife's comfort.
MRS. underwood. And I was kicked on the shin.
MRS. Reginald. Say you're sorry, Reggie.
the vicar. My dear Mary . . . don't cry.
mrs. underwood. [Clasping her beloved's arm^\ Simon
did it . . . Reggie was throttling him black ... he
couldn't help it.

the vicar. I suggest that we show a more or less Chris-
tian spirit in letting bygones be bygones and endeavour to
resume the discussion at the point where it ceased to be an
amicable one. £His wife, her clasp on his coat, through her
drying tears has found more trouble.^ Yes, there is a slight
rent . . . never mind.


The family party now settles itself into what may have
been more or less the situations from which they were
roused to physical combat. Mr. Uglow secures a
central place.
MR. uglow. My sister-in-law Jane had no right to be-
queath the Vase ... it was not hers to bequeath.

That is the gage of battle. A legacy! What English

family has not at some time shattered its mutual regard

upon this iron rock. One notices now that all these

good folk are in deepest mourning, on which the dust of

combat stands up the more distinctly, as indeed it


mrs. underwood. Oh, Mortimer, think if you'd been

able to come to the funeral and this had all happened then

... it might have done!

miss underwood. But it didn't, Mary . . . control

mr. uglow. My brother George wrote to me on his
death-bed . . . ^_And then fiercely to the Vicar, as if this
concerned his calling.] . . . on his death-bed, sir. I have
the letter here. . . .

the vicar. Yes, we've heard it.
Reginald. And you sent them a copy.

Mr. U glow's hand always seems to tremble; this time
it is with excitement as he ,has pulled the letter from his
mr. uglow. Quiet, Reginald! Hear it again and pay
attention. \They settle to a strained boredom!] "The
Rococo Vase presented to me by the Emperor of Ger-
many" . . . Now there he's wrong. \_The sound of his own
reading has uplifted him: he condescends to them!} They're
German Emperors, not Emperors of Germany. But George
was an inaccurate fellow. Reggie has the same trick . . .
it's in the family. I haven't it.

He is returning to the letter. But the Vicar interposes,
lamblike, ominous though.


the vicar. I have not suggested on Mary's behalf . . .
I wish you would remember, Mortimer, that the position
I take up in this matter I take up purely on my wife's be-
half. What have I to gain?

Reginald. [Clodhopping.} Well, you're her husband,
aren't you? She'll leave things to you. And she's older
than you are.

the vicar. Reginald, you are most indelicate. [And
then, really thinking it is true . . . } I have forborne to
demand an apology from you. . . .

Reginald. Because you wouldn't get it.

MRS. underwood. [Genuinely and generously accommodat-
ing^} Oh, I don't want the vase ... I don't want any-

the vicar. [Me is gradually mounting the pulpit.}
Don't think of the vase, Mary. Think of the principle

mrs. underwood. And you may die first, Simon.
You're not strong, though you look it ... all the colds
you get . . . and nothing's ever the matter with me.

mr. uglow. [Ignored . . . ignored!} Mary, how much
longer am I to wait to read this letter?

the vicar. [Ominously, ironically lamblike now.} Quite
so. Your brother is waiting patiently . . . and politely.
Come, come; a Christian and a businesslike spirit!

Mr. Uglow's very breath has been taken to resume the
reading of the letter when on him . . . worse, on that
tender lop-knot of his . . . he finds Miss Uruierwood's
hawklike eye. Its look passes through him, piercing
Infinity as she says . . .

miss underwood. Why not a skull-cap ... a sanitary

mr. uglow. [With a minatory though fearful gasp.}
What's that?

the vicar. Nothing, Mortimer.

Reginald. Some people look for trouble!


miss underwood. [Addressing the Infinite still.'} And
those that it fits can wear it.

the vicar. [A little fearful himself. He is terrified of
his sister, that's the truth. And well he may be.} Let's have
the letter, Mortimer.

miss underwood. Or at least a little gum ... a little
glue ... a little stickphast for decency's sake.

She swings it to a beautiful rhythm. No, on the whole,
Mr. Uglow will not join issue.

MR. uglow. I trust that my dignity requires no vindica-
tion. Never mind ... I say nothing. [And with a for-
giving air he returns at last to the letter.} "The Rococo Vase
presented to me by the Emperor of Germany" ... or
German Emperor.

the vicar. Agreed. Don't cry, Mary. Well, here's a
clean one. [Benevolently he hands her a handkerchief.}

mr. uglow. "On the occasion of my accompanying the

miss underwood. Mission!
The word has touched a spot.

the vicar. Not a real mission, Carinthia.

mr. uglow. A perfectly real mission. A mission from
the Chamber of Commerce at . . . Don't go on as if the
world were made up of low church parsons and . . . and . . .
their sisters!

As a convinced secularist behold him a perfect fighting

Reginald. [Bored, but oh, so bored!} Do get ahead,

mr. uglow. [With a flourish.} "Mission et cetera."
Here we are. " My dear wife must have the enjoyment " . . .
[Again he condescends to them.} Why he called her his dear
wife I don't know. They hated each other like poison.
But that was George all over . . . soft . . . never would
face the truth. It's a family trait. You show signs of it,


the vicar. ICS0// and low.] He was on his death-bed.

Reginald. Get on . . . father.

mr. uglow. "My wife" . . . She wasn't his dear wife.
What's the good of pretending it? . . . "must have the en-
joyment of it while she lives. At her death I desire it to
be an heirloom for the family." \An& he makes the last sen-
tence tell, every word.] There you are!

the vicar. ^Lamblike, ominous, ironic, persistent.] You
sit looking at Mary. His sister and yours. Is she a member
of the family or not?

mr. uglow. ^Cocksure.] Boys before girls . . . men
before women. Don't argue that . . . it's the law. Titles
and heirlooms ... all the same thing.

mrs. underwood. %}V ' orm-w 'omanlike, turning ever so
little.] Mortimer, it isn't as if we weren't giving you all
the family things . . . the miniature and the bust of John
Bright and grandmother's china and the big Shake-
speare . . .

mr. uglow. Giving them, Mary, giving them?

the vicar. Surrendering them willingly, Mortimer.
They have ornamented our house for years.

mrs. Reginald. It isn't as if you hadn't done pretty well
out of Aunt Jane while she was alive!

the vicar. Oh, delicacy, Gladys! And some regard for
the truth!

mrs. Reginald. l_No nonsense about her.] No, if we're
talking business let's talk business. Her fifty pounds a year
more than paid you for keeping her, didn't it? Did it or
didn't it?

Reginald. [Gloomily.] She never eat anything that I
could see.

the vicar. She had a delicate appetite. It needed
teasing ... I mean coaxing. Oh, dear, this is most un-

Reginald. Fifty pound a year is nearly a pound a week,
you know.


the vicar. What about her clothes . . . what about
her little holidays . . . what about the doctor . . . what
about her temper to the last? [He summons the classics
to clear this sordid air7\ Oh: De mortuis nil nisi bonum!

mrs. underwood. She was a great trouble with her
meals, Reginald.

mr. uglow. [Letting rip-2 She was a horrible woman.
I disliked her more than any woman I've ever met. She
brought George to bankruptcy. When he was trying to
arrange with his creditors and she came into the room, her
face would sour them ... I tell you, sour them.

mrs. Reginald. [She sums it upr\ Well, Uncle Simon's
a clergyman and can put up with unpleasant people. It
suited them well enough to have her. You had the room,
Aunt Mary, you can't deny that. And anyway she's dead
now . . . poor Aunt Jane! [She throws this conventional
verbal bone to Cerbenis7\ And what with the things she has
left you . . . ! What's to be done with her clothes?

Gladys and Mrs. Underwood suddenly face each other
like two ladylike ghouls.

mrs. underwood. Well, you remember the mauve -
silk . . .

the vicar. Mary, pray allow me. [Somehow his delicacy
is shocked.^ The Poor.

mrs. Reginald. [In violent protest.^ Not the mauve
silk! Nor her black lace shawl!

miss underwood. [Shooting it out.J They will make soup.

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryHarley Granville-BarkerThree short plays. Rococo: Vote by ballot: Farewell to the theatre; → online text (page 1 of 6)