A.A. Milne.

Second Plays online

. (page 12 of 16)
Online LibraryA.A. MilneSecond Plays → online text (page 12 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

BOBBY. Well, of course - I mean I haven't really said anything, have I?
Nothing she'd really mind. She's so funny about things.

MRS. KNOWLE. She is indeed, Mr. Coote. I don't know where she gets it
from. Neither Henry nor I are in the least funny. It was all the
result of being christened in that irreligious way - I quite thought he
said Millicent - and reading all those books, instead of visiting the
sick as I used to do. I was quite a little Red Riding Hood until Henry
sprang at me so fiercely. (MR. KNOWLE and JANE come in by the window,
and she turns round towards them.) Ah, there you both are. I was
wondering where you had got to. Mr. Coote has been telling me all
about his prospects in the city. So comforting. Jane, you didn't get
your feet wet, I hope.

JANE. It's quite dry, Aunt Mary.

MR. KNOWLE. It's a most beautiful night, my dear. We've been talking
to the fairies - haven't we, Jane?

MRS. KNOWLE. Well, as long as you didn't get cold. Did you see Sandy?

MR. KNOWLE. We didn't see any one but Titania - and Peters. He had an
appointment, apparently - but not with Titania.

JANE. He is walking out with Alice, I think.

MRS. KNOWLE. Well, Melisande will have to talk to Alice in the
morning. I always warned you, Henry, about the danger of having an
unmarried chauffeur on the premises. I always felt it was a mistake.

MR. KNOWLE. Apparently, my dear, Peters feels as strongly about it as
you. He is doing his best to remedy the error.

MRS. KNOWLE (getting up). Well, I must be going to bed. I have been
through a good deal to-night; more than any of you know about.

MR. KNOWLE (cheerfully). What's the matter, my love? Indigestion?

MRS. KNOWLE. Beyond saying that it is not indigestion, Henry, my lips
are sealed. I shall suffer my cross - my mental cross - in silence.

JANE. Shall I come with you, Aunt Mary?

MRS. KNOWLE. In five minutes, dear. (To Heaven) My only daughter has
left me, and gone into the night. Fortunately my niece has offered to
help me out of my - to help me. (Holding out her hand) Good-night, Mr.

BOBBY. Good-night, Mrs. Knowle.

MRS. KNOWLE. Good-night! And remember (in a loud whisper) what
Shakespeare said. (She presses his hand and holds it) Good-night!
Good-night! . . . Good-night!

MR. KNOWLE. Shakespeare said so many things. Among others, he said,
"Good-night, good-night, parting is such sweet sorrow, that I could
say good-night till it be morrow." (MRS. KNOWLE looks at him severely,
and then, without saying anything, goes over to him and holds up her
cheek.) Good-night, my dear. Sleep well.

MRS. KNOWLE. In five minutes, Jane.

JANE. Yes, Aunt Mary.

(MRS. KNOWLE goes to the door, BOBBY hurrying in front to open it for

MRS. KNOWLE (at the door). I shall _not_ sleep well. I shall lie awake
all night. Dr. Anderson will be very much distressed. "Dr. Anderson,"
I shall say, "it is not your fault. I lay awake all night, thinking of
my loved ones." In five minutes, Jane.

[She goes out.

MR. KNOWLE. An exacting programme. Well, I shall be in the library, if
anybody wants to think of me - or say good-night to me - or anything
like that.

JANE. Then I'd better say good-night to you now, Uncle Henry. (She
goes up to him.)

MR. KNOWLE (kissing her). Good-night, dear.

JANE. Good-night.

MR. KNOWLE. If there's anybody else who wants to kiss me - what about
you, Bobby? Or will you come into the library and have a smoke first?

BOBBY. Oh, I shall be going to bed directly, I think. Rather tired
to-day, somehow.

MR. KNOWLE. Then good-night to you also. Dear me, what a business this
is. Sandy has left us for ever, I understand. If she should come back,
Jane, and wishes to kiss the top of my head, she will find it in the
library - just above the back of the armchair nearest the door. [He
goes out.

JANE. Did Sandy go out into the garden?

BOBBY (gloomily). Yes - about five minutes ago.

JANE (timidly). I'm so sorry, Bobby.

BOBBY. Thanks, it's awfully decent of you. (After a pause) Don't let's
talk about it.

JANE. Of course I won't if it hurts you, Bobby. But I felt I _had_ to
say something, I felt so sorry. You didn't mind, did you?

BOBBY. It's awfully decent of you to mind.

JANE (gently). I mind very much when my friends are unhappy.

BOBBY. Thanks awfully. (He stands up, buttons his coat, and looks at
himself) I say, do _you_ see anything wrong with it?

JANE. Wrong with what?

BOBBY. My clothes. (He revolves slowly.)

JANE. Of course not. They fit beautifully.

BOBBY. Sandy's so funny about things. I don't know what she means half
the time.

JANE. Of course, I'm very fond of Melisande, but I do see what you
mean. She's so (searching for the right word) - so _romantic_.

BOBBY (eagerly). Yes, that's just it. It takes a bit of living up to.
I say, have a cigarette, won't you?

JANE. No, thank you. Of course, I'm very fond of Melisande, but I do
feel sometimes that I don't altogether envy the man who marries her.

BOBBY. I say, do you really feel that?

JANE. Yes. She's too (getting the right word at last) - too _romantic_.

BOBBY. You're about right, you know. I mean she talks about doing
deeds of derring-do. Well, I mean that's all very well, but when one
marries and settles down - you know what I mean?

JANE. Exactly. That's just how I feel about it. As I said to Melisande
only this evening, this is the twentieth century. Well, I happen to
like the twentieth century. That's all.

BOBBY. I see what you mean.

JANE. It may be very unromantic of me, but I like men to be keen on
games, and to wear the clothes that everybody else wears - as long as
they fit well, of course - and to talk about the ordinary things that
everybody talks about. Of course, Melisande would say that that was
very stupid and unromantic of me - -

BOBBY. I don't think it is at all.

JANE. How awfully nice of you to say that, Bobby. You do understand so

BOBBY (with a laugh). I say, that's rather funny. I was just thinking
the same about you.

JANE. I say, were you really? I'm so glad. I like to feel that we are
really friends, and that we understand each other. I don't know
whether I'm different from other girls, but I don't make friends very

BOBBY. Do you mean men or women friends?

JANE. Both. In fact, but for Melisande and you, I can hardly think of
any - not what you call real friends.

BOBBY. Melisande is a great friend, isn't she? You tell each other all
your secrets, and that sort of thing, don't you?

JANE. Yes, we're great friends, but there are some things that I could
never tell even her. (Impressively) I could never show her my inmost

BOBBY. I don't believe about your not having any men friends. I bet
there are hundreds of them, as keen on you as anything.

JANE. I wonder. It would be rather nice to think there were. That
sounds horrid, doesn't it, but a girl can't help wanting to be liked.

BOBBY. Of course she can't; nobody can. I don't think it's a bit

JANE. How nice of you. (She gets up) Well, I must be going, I suppose.

BOBBY. What's the hurry?

JANE. Aunt Mary. She said five minutes.

BOBBY. And how long will you be with her? You'll come down again,
won't you?

JANE. No, I don't think so. I'm rather tired this evening. (Holding
out her hand) Good-night, Bobby.

BOBBY (taking it). Oh, but look here, I'll come and light your candle
for you.

JANE. How nice of you!

(She manages to get her hand back, and they walk to the door

BOBBY. I suppose I may as well go to bed myself.

JANE (at the door). Well, if you are, we'd better put the lights out.

BOBBY. Righto. (He puts them out.) I say, what a night! (The moonlight
streams through the windows on them.) You'll hardly want a candle.

[They go out together.

(The hall is empty. Suddenly the front door bell is heard to ring.
After a little interval, ALICE comes in, turns on the light, and looks
round the hall. She is walking across the hall to the drawing-room
when MR. KNOWLE comes in from behind her, and she turns round.)

MR. KNOWLE. Were you looking for me, Alice?

ALICE. Yes, sir. There's a gentleman at the front door, sir.

MR. KNOWLE. Rather late for a call, isn't it?

ALICE. He's in a motor car, sir, and it's broken down, and he wondered
if you'd lend him a little petrol. He told me to say how very sorry he
was to trouble you - -

MR. KNOWLE. But he's not troubling me at all - particularly if Peters
is about. I daresay you could find Peters, Alice, and if it's not
troubling Peters too much, perhaps he would see to it. And ask the
gentleman to come in. We can't keep him standing on the door-mat.

ALICE. Yes, sir. I did ask him before, sir.

MR. KNOWLE. Well, ask him this time in the voice of one who is about
to bring in the whiskey.

ALICE. Yes, sir.

MR. KNOWLE. And then - bring in the whiskey.

ALICE. Yes, sir. (She goes out, and returns a moment later) He says,
thank you very much, sir, but he really won't come in, and he's very
sorry indeed to trouble you about the petrol.

MR. KNOWLE. Ah! I'm afraid we were too allusive for him.

ALICE (hopefully). Yes, sir.

MR. KNOWLE. Well, we won't be quite so subtle this time. Present Mr.
Knowle's compliments, and say that I shall be very much honoured if he
will drink a glass of whiskey with me before proceeding on his

ALICE. Yes, sir.

MR. KNOWLE. And then - bring in the whiskey.

ALICE. Yes, sir. (She goes out. In a little while she comes back
followed by the stranger, who is dressed from head to foot in a long
cloak.) Mr. Gervase Mallory.

[She goes out.

MR. KNOWLE. How do you do, Mr. Mallory? I'm very glad to see you.
(They shake hands.)

GERVASE. It's very kind of you. I really must apologise for bothering
you like this. I'm afraid I'm being an awful nuisance.

MR. KNOWLE. Not at all. Are you going far?

GERVASE. Collingham. I live at Little Malling, about twenty miles
away. Do you know it?

MR. KNOWLE. Yes. I've been through it. I didn't know it was as far
away as that.

GERVASE (with a laugh). Well, perhaps only by the way I came. The fact
is I've lost myself rather.

MR. KNOWLE. I'm afraid you have. Collingham. You oughtn't to have come
within five miles of us.

GERVASE. I suppose I oughtn't.

MR. KNOWLE. Well, all the more reason for having a drink now that you
_are_ here.

GERVASE. It's awfully kind of you.

(ALICE comes in.)

MR. KNOWLE. Ah, here we are. (ALICE puts down the whiskey.) You've
told Peters?

ALICE. Yes, sir. He's looking after it now.

MR. KNOWLE. That's right, (ALICE goes out.) You'll have some whiskey,
won't you?

GERVASE. Thanks very much.

(He comes to the table.)

MR. KNOWLE. And do take your coat off, won't you, and make yourself

GERVASE. Er - thanks. I don't think - - (He smiles to himself and keeps
his cloak on.)

MR. KNOWLE (busy with the drinks). Say when.

GERVASE. Thank you.

MR. KNOWLE. And soda?

GERVASE. Please. . . . Thanks!

(He takes the glass.)

MR. KNOWLE (giving himself one). I'm so glad you came, because I have
a horror of drinking alone. Even when my wife gives me cough-mixture,
I insist on somebody else in the house having cough-mixture too. A
glass of cough-mixture with an old friend just before going to bed - -
(He looks up) But do take your coat off, won't you, and sit down and
be comfortable?

GERVASE. Er - thanks very much, but I don't think - - (With a shrug and
a smile) Oh, well! (He puts down his glass and begins to take it off.
He is in fancy dress - the wonderful young Prince in blue and gold of

(MR. KNOWLE turns round to him again just as he has put his cloak
down. He looks at GERVASE in amazement.)

MR. KNOWLE (pointing to his whiskey glass). But I haven't even begun
it yet. . . . Perhaps it's the port.

GERVASE (laughing). I'm awfully sorry. You must wonder what on earth
I'm doing.

MR. KNOWLE. No, no; I wondered what on earth _I'd_ been doing.

GERVASE. You see, I'm going to a fancy dress dance at Collingham.

MR. KNOWLE. You relieve my mind considerably.

GERVASE. That's why I didn't want to come in - or take my cloak off.

MR. KNOWLE (inspecting him). It becomes you extraordinarily well, if I
may say so.

GERVASE. Oh, thanks very much. But one feels rather absurd in it when
other people are in ordinary clothes.

MR. KNOWLE. On the contrary, you make other people feel absurd. I
don't know that that particular style would have suited me, but
(looking at himself) I am sure that I could have found something more
expressive of my emotions than this.

GERVASE. You're quite right. "Dress does make a difference, Davy."

MR. KNOWLE. It does indeed.

GERVASE. I feel it's almost wicked of me to be drinking a whiskey and

MR. KNOWLE. Very wicked. (Taking out his case) Have a cigarette, too?

GERVASE. May I have one of my own?


GERVASE (feeling for it). If I can find it. They were very careless
about pockets in the old days. I had a special one put in somewhere,
only it's rather difficult to get at. . . . Ah, here it is. (He takes a
cigarette from his case, and after trying to put the case back in his
pocket again, places it on the table.)

MR. KNOWLE. Match?

GERVASE. Thanks. (Picking up his whiskey) Well, here's luck, and - my
most grateful thanks.

MR. KNOWLE (raising his glass). May you slay all your dragons.

GERVASE. Thank you. (They drink.)

MR. KNOWLE. Well, now about Collingham. I don't know if you saw a map
outside in the hall.

GERVASE. I saw it, but I am afraid I didn't look at it. I was too much
interested in your prints.

MR. KNOWLE (eagerly). You don't say that you are interested in prints?

GERVASE. Very much - as an entire amateur.

MR. KNOWLE. Most of the young men who come here think that the art
began and ended with Kirchner. If you are really interested, I have
something in the library - but of course I mustn't take up your time
now. If you could bear to come over another day - after all, we are
neighbours - -

GERVASE. It's awfully nice of you; I should love it.

MR. KNOWLE. Hedgling is the name of the village. I mention it because
you seem to have lost your way so completely - -

GERVASE. Oh, by Jove, now I know where I am. It's so different in the
moonlight. I'm lunching this way to-morrow. Might I come on
afterwards? And then I can return your petrol, thank you for your
hospitality, and expose my complete ignorance of old prints, all in
one afternoon.

MR. KNOWLE. Well, but you must come anyhow. Come to tea.

GERVASE. That will be ripping. (Getting up) Well, I suppose I ought to
be getting on. (He picks up his cloak.)

MR. KNOWLE. We might just have a look at that map on the way.

GERVASE. Oh yes, do let's.

(They go to the door together, and stand for a moment looking at the
casement windows.)

MR. KNOWLE. It really is a wonderful night. (He switches off the
lights, and the moon streams through the windows) Just look.

GERVASE (with a deep sigh). Wonderful!

[They go out together.

(The hall is empty for a moment. Then GERVASE reappears. He has
forgotten his cigarette-case. He finds it, and on his way out again
stops for a moment in the moonlight, looking through the casement

(MELISANDE comes in by the French windows. He hears her, and at the
same moment she sees him. She gives a little wondering cry. It is He!
The knight of her dreams. They stand gazing at each other. . . . Silently
he makes obeisance to her; silently she acknowledges it. . . . Then he is


(It is seven o'clock on a beautiful midsummer morning. The scene is a
glade in a wood a little way above the village of Hedgling.)

GERVASE MALLORY, still in his fancy dress, but with his cloak on,
comes in. He looks round him and says, "By Jove, how jolly!" He takes
off his cloak, throws it down, stretches himself, turns round, and,
seeing the view behind him, goes to look at it. While he is looking he
hears an unmelodious whistling. He turns round with a start; the
whistling goes on; he says "Good Lord!" and tries to get to his cloak.
It is too late. ERN, a very small boy, comes through the trees into
the glade. GERVASE gives a sigh of resignation and stands there. ERN
stops in the middle of his tune and gazes at him.

ERN. Oo - er! Oo! (He circles slowly round GERVASE.)

GERVASE. I quite agree with you.

ERN. Oo! Look!

GERVASE. Yes, it is a bit dressy, isn't it? Come round to the
back - take a good look at it while you can. That's right. . . . Been all
round? Good!

ERN. Oo!

GERVASE. You keep saying "Oo." It makes conversation very difficult.
Do you mind if I sit down?

ERN. Oo!

GERVASE (sitting down on a log). I gather that I have your consent. I
thank you.

ERN. Oo! Look! (He points at GERVASE'S legs.)

GERVASE. What is it now? My legs? Oh, but surely you've noticed those

ERN (sitting down in front of GERVASE). Oo!

GERVASE. Really, I don't understand you. I came up here for a walk in
a perfectly ordinary blue suit, and you do nothing but say "Oo." What
does your father wear when he's ploughing? I suppose you don't walk
all round _him_ and say "Oo!" What does your Uncle George wear when
he's reaping? I suppose you don't - By the way, I wish you'd tell me
your name. (ERN gazes at him dumbly.) Oh, come! They must have told
you your name when you got up this moving.

ERN (smiling sheepishly). Ern.

GERVASE (bowing). How do you do? I am very glad to meet you, Mr.
Hearne. My name is Mallory. (ERN grins) Thank you.

ERN (tapping himself). I'm Ern.

GERVASE. Yes, I'm Mallory.

ERN. Ern.

GERVASE. Mallory. We can't keep on saying this to each other, you
know, because then we never get any farther. Once an introduction is
over, Mr. Hearne, we are -

ERN. Ern.

GERVASE. Yes, I know. I was very glad to hear it. But now - Oh, I see
what you mean. Ern - short for Ernest?

ERN (nodding). They calls me Ern.

GERVASE. That's very friendly of them. Being more of a stranger I
shall call you Ernest. Well, Ernest - (getting up) Just excuse me a
moment, will you? Very penetrating bark this tree has. It must be a
Pomeranian. (He folds his cloak upon it and sits down again) That's
better. Now we can talk comfortably together. I don't know if there's
anything you particularly want to discuss - nothing? - well, then, I
will suggest the subject of breakfast.

ERN (grinning). 'Ad my breakfast.

GERVASE. You've _had_ yours? You selfish brute! . . . Of course, you're
wondering why I haven't had mine.

ERN. Bacon fat. (He makes reminiscent noises.)

GERVASE. Don't keep on going through all the courses. Well, what
happened was this. My car broke down. I suppose you never had a motor
car of your own.

ERN. Don't like moty cars.

GERVASE. Well, really, after last night I'm inclined to agree with
you. Well, no, I oughtn't to say that, because, if I hadn't broken
down, I should never have seen Her. Ernest, I don't know if you're
married or anything of that sort, but I think even your rough stern
heart would have been moved by that vision of loveliness which I saw
last night. (He is silent for a little, thinking of her.) Well, then,
I lost my way. There I was - ten miles from anywhere - in the middle of
what was supposed to be a short cut - late at night - Midsummer
Night - what would _you_ have done, Ernest?

ERN. Gone 'ome.

GERVASE. Don't be silly. How could I go home when I didn't know where
home was, and it was a hundred miles away, and I'd just seen the
Princess? No, I did what your father or your Uncle George or any wise
man would have done, I sat in the car and thought of Her.

ERN. Oo!

GERVASE. You are surprised? Ah, but if you'd seen her. . . . Have you
ever been alone in the moonlight on Midsummer Night - I don't mean just
for a minute or two, but all through the night until the dawn came?
You aren't really alone, you know. All round you there are little
whisperings going on, little breathings, little rustlings. Somebody is
out hunting; somebody stirs in his sleep as he dreams again the hunt
of yesterday; somebody up in the tree-tops pipes suddenly to the dawn,
and then, finding that the dawn has not come, puts his silly little
head back under his wing and goes to sleep again. . . . And the fairies
are out. Do you believe in fairies, Ernest? You would have believed in
them last night. I heard them whispering.

ERN. Oo!

GERVASE (coming out of his thoughts with a laugh). Well, of course, I
can't expect you to believe me. But don't go about thinking that
there's nothing in the world but bacon fat and bull's-eyes. Well,
then, I suppose I went to sleep, for I woke up suddenly and it was
morning, the most wonderful sparkling magical morning - but, of course,
_you_ were just settling down to business then.

ERN. Oo! (He makes more reminiscent noises.)

GERVASE. Yes, that's just what I said. I said to myself, breakfast.

ERN. 'Ad my breakfast.

GERVASE. Yes, but I 'adn't. I said to myself, "Surely my old friend,
Ernest, whom I used to shoot bison with in the Himalayas, has got an
estate somewhere in these parts. I will go and share his simple meal
with him." So I got out of the car, and I did what you didn't do,
young man, I had a bathe in the river, and then a dry on a
pocket-handkerchief - one of my sister's, unfortunately - and then I
came out to look for breakfast. And suddenly, whom should I meet but
my old friend, Ernest, the same hearty fellow, the same inveterate
talker as when we shot dragon-flies together in the swamps of Malay.
(Shaking his hand) Ernest, old boy, pleased to meet you. What about

ERN. 'Ad my -

GERVASE. S'sh. (He gets up) Now then - to business. Do you mind looking
the other way while I try to find my purse. (Feeling for it.) Every
morning when you get up, you should say, "Thank God, I'm getting a big
boy now and I've got pockets in my trousers." And you should feel very
sorry for the poor people who lived in fairy books and had no trousers
to put pockets in. Ah, here we are. Now then, Ernest, attend very
carefully. Where do you live?

ERN. 'Ome.

GERVASE. You mean, you haven't got a flat of your own yet? Well, how
far away is your home? (ERN grins and says nothing) A mile? (ERN
continues to grin) Half a mile? (ERN grins) Six inches?

ERN (pointing). Down there.

GERVASE. Good. Now then, I want you to take this - (giving him
half-a-crown) -

ERN. Oo!

GERVASE. Yes, I thought that would move you - and I want you to ask
your mother if you can bring me some breakfast up here. Now, listen
very carefully, because we are coming to the important part.
Hard-boiled eggs, bread, butter, and a bottle of milk - and anything
else she likes. Tell her that it's most important, because your old
friend Mallory whom you shot white mice with in Egypt is starving by
the roadside. And if you come back here with a basket quickly, I'll
give you as many bull's-eyes as you can eat in a week. (Very
earnestly) Now, Ernest, with all the passion and emotion of which I am
capable before breakfast, I ask you: have you got that?

ERN (nodding). Going 'ome. (He looks at the half-crown again.)

GERVASE. Going 'ome. Yes. But - returning with breakfast. Starving
man - lost in forest - return with basket - save life. (To himself) I
believe I could explain it better to a Chinaman. (to ERN) Now then,
off you go.

ERN (as he goes off). 'Ad my breakfast.

GERVASE. Yes, and I wonder if I shall get mine.

(GERVASE walks slowly after him and stands looking at him as he goes
down the hill. Then, turning round, he sees another stranger in the

GERVASE. Hullo, here's another of them. (He walks towards the log)
Horribly crowded the country's getting nowadays. (He puts on his

(A moment later a travelling Peddler, name of SUSAN, comes in singing.
He sees GERVASE sitting on the log.)

SUSAN (with a bow). Good morning, sir.

GERVASE. (looking round). Good morning.

SUSAN. I had thought to be alone. I trust my singing did not
discommode you.

GERVASE. Not at all. I like it. Do go on.

SUSAN. Alas, the song ends there.

GERVASE. Oh, well, couldn't we have it again?

SUSAN. Perhaps later, sir, if you insist. (Taking off his hat) Would
it inconvenience you if I rested here for a few minutes?

GERVASE. Not a bit. It's a jolly place to rest at, isn't it? Have you
come far this morning?

SUSAN. Three or four miles - a mere nothing on a morning like this.
Besides, what does the great William say?

GERVASE. I don't think I know him. What does he say?

SUSAN. A merry heart goes all the way.

GERVASE. Oh, Shakespeare, yes.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16

Online LibraryA.A. MilneSecond Plays → online text (page 12 of 16)