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the home so quickly as silent meals. Of course, breakfast doesn't
matter, because he has his paper then; and after you have said, "Is
there anything in the paper, dear?" and he has said, "No," then he
doesn't expect anything more. I wonder sometimes why they go on
printing the newspapers. I've been married twenty years, and there has
never been anything in the paper yet.

MELISANDE. Oh, Mother, I hate to hear you talking about marriage like
that. Wasn't there ever _any_ kind of romance between you and Father?
Not even when he was wooing you? Wasn't there ever one magic Midsummer
morning when you saw suddenly "a livelier emerald twinkle in the
grass, a purer sapphire melt into the sea"? Wasn't there ever one
passionate ecstatic moment when "once he drew with one long kiss my
whole soul through my lips, as sunlight drinketh dew"? Or did you talk
about bread-sauce _all_ the time?

JANE (eagerly). Tell us about it, Aunt Mary.

MRS. KNOWLE. Well, dear, there isn't very much to tell. I am quite
sure that we never drank dew together, or anything like that, as Sandy
suggests, and it wasn't by the sea at all, it was at Surbiton. He used
to come down from London with his racquet and play tennis with us. And
then he would stay on to supper sometimes, and then after supper we
would go into the garden together - it was quite dark then, but
everything smelt so beautifully, I shall always remember it - and we
talked, oh, I don't know what about, but I knew somehow that I should
marry him one day. I don't think _he_ knew - he wasn't sure - and then
he came to a subscription dance one evening - I think Mother, your
grandmother, guessed that that was to be my great evening, because she
was very particular about my dress, and I remember she sent me
upstairs again before we started, because I hadn't got the right pair
of shoes on - rather a tight pair - however, I put them on. And there
was a hansom outside the hall, and it was our last dance together, and
he said, "Shall we sit it out, Miss Bagot?" Well, of course, I was
only too glad to, and we sat it out in the hansom, driving all round
Surbiton, and what your grandmother would have said I don't know, but,
of course, I never told her. And when we got home after the dance, I
went up to her room - as soon as I'd got my shoes off - and said,
"Mother, I have some wonderful news for you," and she said, "_Not_ Mr.
Knowle - Henry?" and I said, "'M," rather bright-eyed you know, and
wanting to cry. And she said, "Oh, my darling child!" and - Jane,
where's my handkerchief? (It has dropped off the sofa and JANE picks
it up) Thank you, dear. (She dabs her eyes) Well, that's really all,
you know, except that - (she dabs her eyes again) - I'm afraid I'm
feeling rather overcome. I'm sure Dr. Anderson would say it was very
bad for me to feel overcome. Your poor dear grandmother. Jane, dear,
why did you ask me to tell you all this? I must go away and compose
myself before your uncle and Mr. Coote come in. I don't know what I
should do if Mr. Coote saw me like this. (She begins to get up) And
after calling me a Spartan Mother only yesterday, because I said that
if any nice, steady young man came along and took my own dear little
girl away from me, I should bear the terrible wrench in silence rather
than cause either of them a moment's remorse. (She is up now) There!

JANE. Shall I come with you?

MRS. KNOWLE. No, dear, not just now. Let me be by myself for a little.
(She turns back suddenly at the door) Oh! Perhaps later on, when the
men come from the dining-room, dear Jane, you might join me, with your
Uncle Henry - if the opportunity occurs. . . . But only if it occurs, of

[She goes.

JANE (coming back to the sofa). Poor Aunt Mary! It always seems so
queer that one's mother and aunts and people should have had their
romances too.

MELISANDE. Do you call that romance, Jane? Tennis and subscription
dances and wearing tight shoes?

JANE (awkwardly). Well, no, darling, not romance of course, but you
know what I mean.

MELISANDE. Just think of the commonplace little story which mother has
just told us, and compare it with any of the love-stories of history.
Isn't it pitiful, Jane, that people should be satisfied now with so

JANE. Yes, darling, very, very sad, but I don't think Aunt Mary -

MELISANDE. I am not blaming Mother. It is the same almost everywhere
nowadays. There is no romance left.

JANE. No, darling. Of course, I am not romantic like you, but I do
agree with you. It is very sad. Somehow there is no - (she searches for
the right word) - no _romance_ left.

MELISANDE. Just think of the average marriage. It makes one shudder.

JANE (doing her best). Positively shudder!

MELISANDE. He meets Her at - (she shudders) - a subscription dance, or a
tennis party - (she shudders again) or - at _golf_. He calls upon her
mother - perhaps in a top hat - perhaps (tragically) even in a bowler

JANE. A bowler hat! One shudders.

MELISANDE. Her mother makes tactful inquiries about his
income - discovers that he is a nice, steady young man - and decides
that he shall marry her daughter. He is asked to come again, he is
invited to parties; it is understood that he is falling in love with
the daughter. The rest of the family are encouraged to leave them
alone together - if the opportunity occurs, Jane. (Contemptuously) But,
of course, only if it occurs.

JANE (awkwardly). Yes, dear.

MELISANDE. One day he proposes to her.

JANE (to herself ecstatically). Oh!

MELISANDE. He stutters out a few unbeautiful words which she takes to
be a proposal. She goes and tells Mother. He goes and tells Father.
They are engaged. They talk about each other as "my fiancé." Perhaps
they are engaged for months and months -

JANE. Years and years sometimes, Melisande.

MELISANDE. For years and years - and wherever they go, people make
silly little jokes about them, and cough very loudly if they go into a
room where the two of them are. And then they get married at last, and
everybody comes and watches them get married, and makes more silly
jokes, and they go away for what they call a honeymoon, and they tell
everybody - they shout it out in the newspapers - _where_ they are going
for their honeymoon; and then they come back and start talking about
bread-sauce. Oh, Jane, it's horrible.

JANE. Horrible, darling. (With a French air) But what would you?

MELISANDE (in a low thrilling voice). What would I? Ah, what would I,

JANE. Because you see, Sandy - I mean Melisande - you see, darling, this
_is_ the twentieth century, and -

MELISANDE. Sometimes I see him clothed in mail, riding beneath my
lattice window.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewelled shone the saddle leather,
The helmet and the helmet feather
Burned like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.

And from his blazoned baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung
As he rode down to Camelot.

JANE. I know, dear. But of course they _don't_ nowadays.

MELISANDE. And as he rides beneath my room, singing to himself, I wave
one lily hand to him from my lattice, and toss him down a gage, a gage
for him to wear in his helm, a rose - perhaps just a rose.

JANE (awed). No, Melisande, would you really? Wave a lily hand to him?
(She waves one) I mean, wouldn't it be rather - _you_ know. Rather


JANE (upset). Well, I mean - Well, of course, I suppose it was
different in those days.

MELISANDE. How else could he know that I loved him? How else could he
wear my gage in his helm when he rode to battle?

JANE. Well, of course, there _is_ that.

MELISANDE. And then when he has slain his enemies in battle, he comes
back to me. I knot my sheets together so as to form a rope - for I have
been immured in my room - and I let myself down to him. He places me on
the saddle in front of him, and we ride forth together into the
world - together for always!

JANE (a little uncomfortably). You do get _married_, I suppose,
darling, or do you - er -

MELISANDE. We stop at a little hermitage on the way, and a good priest
marries us.

JANE (relieved.) Ah, yes.

MELISANDE. And sometimes he is not in armour. He is a prince from
Fairyland. My father is king of a neighbouring country, a country
which is sorely troubled by a dragon.

JANE. By a what, dear?

MELISANDE. A dragon.

JANE. Oh, yes, of course.

MELISANDE. The king, my father, offers my hand and half his kingdom to
anybody who will slay the monster. A prince who happens to be passing
through the country essays the adventure. Alas, the dragon devours

JANE. Oh, Melisande, that isn't _the_ one?

MELISANDE. My eyes have barely rested upon him. He has aroused no
emotion in my heart.

JANE. Oh, I'm so glad.

MELISANDE. Another prince steps forward. Impetuously he rushes upon
the fiery monster. Alas, he likewise is consumed.

JANE (sympathetically.) Poor fellow

MELISANDE. And then one evening a beautiful and modest youth in blue
and gold appears at my father's court, and begs that he too be allowed
to try his fortune with the dragon. Passing through the great hall on
my way to my bed-chamber, I see him suddenly. Our eyes meet. . . . Oh,

JANE. Darling! . . . You ought to have lived in those days, Melisande.
They would have suited you so well.

MELISANDE. Will they never come back again?

JANE. Well, I don't quite see how they can. People don't dress in blue
and gold nowadays. I mean men.

MELISANDE. No. (She sighs) Well, I suppose I shall never marry.

JANE. Of course, I'm not romantic like you, darling, and I don't have
time to read all the wonderful books you read, and though I quite
agree with everything you say, and of course it must have been
thrilling to have lived in those wonderful old days, still here we
are, and (with a wave of the hand) - and what I mean is - here we are.

MELISANDE. You are content to put romance out of your life, and to
make the ordinary commonplace marriage?

JANE. What I mean is, that it wouldn't be commonplace if it was the
right man. Some nice, clean-looking Englishman - I don't say
beautiful - pleasant, and good at games, dependable, not very clever
perhaps, but making enough money - -

MELISANDE (carelessly). It sounds rather like Bobby.

JANE (confused). It isn't like Bobby, or any one else particularly.
It's just anybody. It wasn't any particular person. I was just
describing the sort of man without thinking of any one in - -

MELISANDE. All right, dear, all right.

JANE. Besides, we all know Bobby's devoted to _you_.

MELISANDE (firmly). Now, look here, Jane, I warn you solemnly that if
you think you are going to leave me and Bobby alone together this
evening - - (Voices are heard outside.) Well, I warn you.

JANE (in a whisper). Of course not, darling. (With perfect tact) And,
as I was saying, Melisande, it was quite the most - - Ah, here you are
at last! We wondered what had happened to you!

(Enter BOBBY and MR. KNOWLE. JANE has already described BOBBY for us.
MR. KNOWLE is a pleasant, middle-aged man with a sense of humour,
which he cultivates for his own amusement entirely.)

BOBBY. Were you very miserable without us? (He goes towards them.)

JANE (laughing). Very.

(MELISANDE gets up as BOBBY comes, and moves away.)

MR. KNOWLE. Where's your Mother, Sandy?

MELISANDE. In the dining-room, I think, Father.

MR. KNOWLE. Ah! Resting, no doubt. By the way, you won't forget what I
said about the bread-sauce, will you?

MELISANDE. You don't want it remembered, Father, do you? What you

MR. KNOWLE. Not the actual words. All I want, my dear, is that you
should endeavour to explain to the cook the difference between
bread-sauce and a bread-poultice. Make it clear to her that there is
no need to provide a bread-poultice with an obviously healthy chicken,
such as we had to-night, but that a properly made bread-sauce is a
necessity, if the full flavour of the bird is to be obtained.

MELISANDE. "Full flavour of the bird is to be obtained." Yes, Father.

MR. KNOWLE. That's right, my dear. Bring it home to her. A little
quiet talk will do wonders. Well, and so it's Midsummer Night. Why
aren't you two out in the garden looking for fairies?

BOBBY. I say, it's a topping night, you know. We ought to be out.
D'you feel like a stroll, Sandy?

MELISANDE. No, thank you, Bobby, I don't think I'll go out.

BOBBY. Oh, I say, it's awfully warm.

MR. KNOWLE. Well, Jane, I shall take _you_ out. If we meet any of
Sandy's fairy friends, you can introduce me.

MELISANDE (looking across warningly at her). Jane - -

JANE (awkwardly). I'm afraid, Uncle Henry, that Melisande and I - I
promised Sandy - we - -

MR. KNOWLE (putting her arm firmly through his). Nonsense. I'm not
going to have my niece taken away from me, when she is only staying
with us for such a short time. Besides I insist upon being introduced
to Titania. I want to complain about the rings on the tennis-lawn.
They must dance somewhere else.

JANE (looking anxiously at MELISANDE). You see, Uncle Henry, I'm not
feeling very - -

MELISANDE (resigned) All right, Jane.

JANE (brightly). All right, Uncle Henry.

MR. KNOWLE (very brightly). It's all right, Bobby.

JANE. Come along! (They go to the open windows together.)

MR. KNOWLE (as they go). Any message for Oberon, if we meet him?

MELISANDE (gravely). No, thank you, Father.

MR. KNOWLE. It's his turn to write, I suppose.

(JANE laughs as they go out together.)

(Left alone, MELISANDE takes up a book and goes to the sofa with it,
while BOBBY walks about the room unhappily, whistling to himself. He
keeps looking across at her, and at last their eyes meet.)

MELISANDE (putting down her book). Well, Bobby?

BOBBY (awkwardly). Well, Sandy?

MELISANDE (angrily). Don't call me that; you know how I hate it.

BOBBY. Sorry. Melisande. But it's such a dashed mouthful. And your
father was calling you Sandy just now, and you didn't say anything.

MELISANDE. One cannot always control one's parents. There comes a time
when it is almost useless to say things to them.

BOBBY (eagerly). I never mind your saying things to _me_, Sandy - I
mean, Melisande. I never shall mind, really I shan't. Of course, I
know I'm not worthy of you, and all that, but - I say, Melisande, isn't
there _any_ hope?

MELISANDE. Bobby, I asked you not to talk to me like that again.

BOBBY (coming to her). I know you did, but I must. I can't believe
that you -

MELISANDE. I told you that, if you promised not to talk like that
again, then I wouldn't tell anybody anything about it, so that it
shouldn't be awkward for you. And I haven't told anybody, not even
Jane, to whom I tell all my secrets. Most men, when they propose to a
girl, and she refuses them, have to go right out of the country and
shoot lions; it's the only thing left for them to do. But I did try
and make it easy for _you_, Bobby. (Sadly) And now you're beginning
all over again.

BOBBY (awkwardly). I though perhaps you might have changed your mind.
Lots of girls do.

MELISANDE (contemptuously). Lots of girls! Is that how you think of

BOBBY. Well, your mother said - (He breaks off hurriedly.)

MELISANDE (coldly). Have you been discussing me with my mother?

BOBBY. I say, Sandy, don't be angry. Sorry; I mean Melisande.

MELISANDE. Don't apologise. Go on.

BOBBY. Well, I didn't _discuss_ you with your mother. She just
happened to say that girls never knew their own minds, and that they
always said "No" the first time, and that I needn't be downhearted,
because -

MELISANDE. That _you_ needn't? You mean you _told_ her?

BOBBY. Well, it sort of came out.

MELISANDE. After I had promised that I wouldn't say anything, you went
and _told_ her! And then I suppose you went and told the cook, and
_she_ said that her brother's young woman was just the same, and then
you told the butcher, and _he_ said, "You stick to it, sir. All women
are alike. My missis said 'No' to me the first time." And then you
went and told the gardeners - I suppose you had all the gardeners
together in the potting-shed, and gave them a lecture about it - and
when you had told them, you said, "Excuse me a moment, I must now go
and tell the postman," and then -

BOBBY. I say, steady; you know that isn't fair.

MELISANDE. Oh, what a world!

BOBBY. I say, you know that isn't fair.

MELISANDE (picking up her book). Father and Jane are outside, Bobby,
if you have anything you wish to tell them. But I suppose they know
already. (She pretends to read.)

BOBBY. I say, you know - (He doesn't quite know what to say. There is
an awkward silence. Then he says humbly) I'm awfully sorry, Melisande.
Please forgive me.

MELISANDE (looking at him gravely). That's nice of you, Bobby. Please
forgive _me_. I wasn't fair.

BOBBY. I swear I never said anything to anybody else, only your
mother. And it sort of came out with _her_. She began talking about
you -

MELISANDE. _I_ know.

BOBBY. But I never told anybody else.

MELISANDE. It wouldn't be necessary if you told Mother.

BOBBY. I'm awfully sorry, but I really don't see why you should mind
so much. I mean, I know I'm not anybody very much, but I can't help
falling in love with you, and - well, it _is_ a sort of a compliment to
you, isn't it? - even if it's only me.

MELISANDE. Of course it is, Bobby, and I do thank you for the
compliment. But mixing Mother up in it makes it all so - so unromantic.
(After a pause) Sometimes I think I shall never marry.

BOBBY. Oh, rot! . . . I say, you do _like_ me, don't you?

MELISANDE. Oh yes. You are a nice, clean-looking Englishman - I don't
say beautiful -

BOBBY. I should hope not!

MELISANDE. Pleasant, good at games, dependable - not very clever,
perhaps, but making enough money -

BOBBY. Well, I mean, that's not so bad.

MELISANDE. Oh, but I want so much more!

BOBBY. What sort of things?

MELISANDE. Oh, Bobby, you're so - so ordinary!

BOBBY. Well, dash it all, you didn't want me to be a freak, did you?

MELISANDE. So - commonplace. So - unromantic.

BOBBY. I say, steady on! I don't say I'm always reading poetry and all
that, if that's what you mean by romantic, but - commonplace! I'm
blessed if I see how you make out that.

MELISANDE. Bobby, I don't want to hurt your feelings -

BOBBY. Go on, never mind my feelings.

MELISANDE. Well then, look at yourself in the glass!

(BOBBY goes anxiously to the glass, and then pulls at his clothes.)

BOBBY (looking back at her). Well?


BOBBY. I don't see what's wrong.

MELISANDE. Oh, Bobby, everything's wrong. The man to whom I give
myself must be not only my lover, but my true knight, my hero, my
prince. He must perform deeds of derring-do to win my love. Oh, how
can you perform deeds of derring-do in a stupid little suit like that!

BOBBY (looking at it). What's the matter with it? It's what every
other fellow wears.

MELISANDE (contemptuously). What every other fellow wears! And you
think what every other fellow thinks, and talk what every other fellow
talks, and eat what every other - I suppose _you_ didn't like the
bread-sauce this evening?

BOBBY (guardedly). Well, not as bread-sauce.

MELISANDE (nodding her head). I thought so, I thought so.

BOBBY (struck by an idea). I say, you didn't make it, did you?

MELISANDE. Do I look as if I made it?

BOBBY. I thought perhaps - You know, I really don't know what you _do_
want, Sandy. Sorry; I mean -

MELISANDE. Go on calling me Sandy, I'd rather you did.

BOBBY. Well, when you marry this prince of yours, is _he_ going to do
the cooking? I don't understand you, Sandy, really I don't.

MELISANDE (shaking her head gently at him). No, I'm sure you don't,

BOBBY (still trying, however). I suppose it's because he's doing the
cooking that he won't be able to dress for dinner. He sounds a funny
sort of chap; I should like to see him.

MELISANDE. You wouldn't understand him if you did see him.

BOBBY (jealously). Have you seen him?

MELISANDE. Only in my dreams.

BOBBY (relieved). Oh, well.

MELISANDE (dreamily to herself). Perhaps I shall never see him in this
world - and then I shall never marry. But if he ever comes for me, he
will come not like other men; and because he is so different from
everybody else, then I shall know him when he comes for me. He won't
talk about bread-sauce - billiards - and the money market. He won't wear
a little black suit, with a little black tie - all sideways. (BOBBY
hastily pulls his tie straight.) I don't know how he will be dressed,
but I know this, that when I see him, that when my eyes have looked
into his, when his eyes have looked into mine -

BOBBY. I say, steady!

MELISANDE (waking from her dream). Yes? (She gives a little laugh)
Poor Bobby!

BOBBY (appealingly). I say, Sandy! (He goes up to her.)

(MRS. KNOWLE has seized this moment to come back for her handkerchief.
She sees them together, and begins to walk out on tiptoe.)

(They hear her and turn round suddenly.)

MRS. KNOWLE (in a whisper). Don't take any notice of me. I only just
came for my handkerchief. (She continues to walk on tiptoe towards the
opposite door.)

MELISANDE (getting up). We were just wondering where you were, Mother.
Here's your handkerchief. (She picks it up from the sofa.)

MRS. KNOWLE (still in the voice in which you speak to an invalid).
Thank you, dear. Don't let me interrupt you - I was just going -

MELISANDE. But I am just going into the garden. Stay and talk to
Bobby, won't you?

MRS. KNOWLE (with a happy smile, hoping for the best). Yes, my

MELISANDE (going to the windows). That's right. (She stops at the
windows and holds out her hands to the night) -

The moon shines bright: In such a night as this
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees
And they did make no noise, in such a night
Troilus methinks mounted the Troyan walls,
And sighed his soul towards the Grecian tents,
Where Cressid lay that night. In such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand,
Upon the wild sea banks, and waft her love
To come again to Carthage.

(She stays there a moment, and then says in a thrilling voice) In such
a night! Ah!

[She goes to it.

MRS. KNOWLE (in a different voice). Ah! . . . Well, Mr. Coote?

BOBBY (turning back to her with a start). Oh - er - yes?

MRS. KNOWLE. No, I think I must call you Bobby. I may call you Bobby,
mayn't I?

BOBBY. Oh, please do, Mrs. Knowle.

MRS. KNOWLE (archly). Not Mrs. Knowle! Can't you think of a better

BOBBY (wondering if he ought to call her MARY). Er - I'm - I'm afraid I
don't quite -

MRS. KNOWLE. Mother.

BOBBY. Oh, but I say -

MRS. KNOWLE (giving him her hand). And now come and sit on the sofa
with me, and tell me all about it.

(They go to the sofa together.)

BOBBY. But I say, Mrs. Knowle -

MRS. KNOWLE (shaking a finger playfully at him). Not Mrs. Knowle,

BOBBY. But I say, you mustn't think - I mean Sandy and I - we aren't -

MRS. KNOWLE. You don't mean to tell me, Mr. Coote, that she has
refused you again.

BOBBY. Yes. I say, I'd much rather not talk about it.

MRS. KNOWLE. Well, it just shows you that what I said the other day
was true. Girls don't know their own minds.

BOBBY (ruefully). I think Sandy knows hers - about me, anyhow.

MRS. KNOWLE. Mr. Coote, you are forgetting what the poet
said - Shakespeare, or was it the other man? - "Faint heart never won
fair lady." If Mr. Knowle had had a faint heart, he would never have
won me. Seven times I refused him, and seven times he came again - like
Jacob. The eighth time he drew out a revolver, and threatened to shoot
himself. I was shaking like an aspen leaf. Suddenly I realised that I
loved him. "Henry," I said, "I am yours." He took me in his
arms - putting down the revolver first, of course. I have never
regretted my surrender, Mr. Coote. (With a sigh) Ah, me! We women are
strange creatures.

BOBBY. I don't believe Sandy would mind if I did shoot myself.

MRS. KNOWLE. Oh, don't say that, Mr. Coote. She is very warm-hearted.
I'm sure it would upset her a good deal. Oh no, you are taking too
gloomy a view of the situation, I am sure of it.

BOBBY. Well, I shan't shoot myself, but I shan't propose to her again.
I know when I'm not wanted.

MRS. KNOWLE. But we do want you, Mr. Coote. Both my husband and I -

BOBBY. I say, I'd much rather not talk about it, if you don't mind. I
practically promised her that I wouldn't say anything to you this

MRS. KNOWLE. What, not say anything to her only mother? But how should
I know if I were to call you "Bobby," or not?

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