SUSAN. And why, you ask, am I merry?
GERVASE. Well, I didn't, but I was just going to. Why are you merry?
SUSAN. Can you not guess? What does the great Ralph say?
GERVASE (trying hard). The great Ralph. . . . No, you've got me there.
I'm sure I don't know him. Well, what does he say?
SUSAN. Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of Empires
GERVASE. Emerson, of course. Silly of me.
SUSAN. So you see, sir - I am well, the day is well, all is well.
GERVASE. Sir, I congratulate you. In the words of the great Percy - (to
himself) that's got him.
SUSAN (at a loss). The - er - great Percy?
GERVASE. Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
SUSAN (eagerly). I take you, I take you! Shelley! Ah, there's a poet,
Mr. - er - I don't think I quite caught your name.
GERVASE. Oh! My name's Gervase Mallory - to be referred to by
posterity, I hope, as the great Gervase.
SUSAN. Not a poet, too?
GERVASE. Well, no, not professionally.
SUSAN. But one with the poets in spirit - like myself. I am very glad
to meet you, Mr. Mallory. It is most good-natured of you to converse
with me. My name is Susan, (GERVASE bows.) Generally called Master
Susan in these parts, or sometimes Gentleman Susan. I am a travelling
Peddler by profession.
GERVASE. A delightful profession, I am sure.
SUSAN. The most delightful of all professions. (He begins to undo his
pack,) Speaking professionally for the moment, if I may so far
venture, you are not in any need of boot-laces, buttons, or
GERVASE (smiling). Well, no, not at this actual moment. On almost any
other day perhaps - but no, not this morning.
SUSAN. I only just mentioned it in passing - _en passant_, as the
French say. (He brings out a paper bag from his pack.) Would the fact
of my eating my breakfast in this pleasant resting place detract at
all from your appreciation of the beautiful day which Heaven has sent
GERVASE. Eating your _what_?
SUSAN. My simple breakfast.
GERVASE (shaking his head). I'm very sorry, but I really don't think I
could bear it. Only five minutes ago Ernest - I don't know if you know
SUSAN. The great Ernest?
GERVASE (indicating with his hand). No, the very small one - Well,
_he_ was telling me all about the breakfast he'd just had, and now
_you're_ showing me the breakfast you're just going to have - no, I
can't bear it.
SUSAN. My dear sir, you don't mean to tell me that you would do me the
honour of joining me at my simple repast?
GERVASE (jumping up excitedly). The honour of joining you! - the
_honour_! My dear Mr. Susan! Now I know why they call you Gentleman
Susan. (Shaking his head sadly) But no. It wouldn't be fair to you. I
should eat too much. Besides, Ernest may come back. No, I will wait.
It wouldn't be fair.
SUSAN (unpacking his breakfast). Bacon or cheese?
GERVASE. Cheese - I mean bacon - I mean - I say, you aren't serious?
SUSAN (handing him bread and cheese). I trust you will find it up to
GERVASE (taking it). I say, you really - (Solemnly) Master Susan, with
all the passion and emotion of which I am capable before breakfast, I
say "Thank you." (He takes a bite) Thank you.
SUSAN (eating also). Please do not mention it. I am more than repaid
by your company.
GERVASE. It is charming of you to say so, and I am very proud to be
your guest, but I beg you to allow me to pay for this delightful
SUSAN. No, no. I couldn't hear of it.
GERVASE. I warn you that if you will not allow me to pay for this
delightful cheese, I shall insist on buying all your boot-laces. Nay,
more, I shall buy all your studs, and all your buttons. Your
profession would then be gone.
SUSAN. Well, well, shall we say tuppence?
GERVASE. Tuppence for a banquet like this? My dear friend, nothing
less than half-a-crown will satisfy me.
SUSAN. Sixpence. Not a penny more.
GERVASE (with a sigh). Very well, then. (He begins to feel in his
pocket, and in so doing reveals part of his dress. SUSAN opens his
eyes at it, and then goes on eating. GERVASE finds his purse and
produces sixpence, which he gives to SUSAN.) Sir, I thank you. (He
resumes his breakfast.)
SUSAN. You are too generous. . . . Forgive me for asking, but you are not
by chance a fellow-traveller upon the road?
GERVASE. Do you mean professionally?
SUSAN. Yes. There is a young fellow, a contortionist and
sword-swallower, known locally in these parts as Humphrey the Human
Hiatus, who travels from village to village. Just for a moment I
(He glances at GERVASE's legs, which are uncovered. GERVASE hastily
wraps his coat round them.)
GERVASE. I am not Humphrey. No. Gervase the Cheese Swallower. . . .
Er - my costume -
SUSAN. Please say nothing more. It was ill-mannered of me to have
inquired. Let a man wear what he likes. It is a free world.
GERVASE. Well, the fact is, I have been having a bathe.
SUSAN (with a bow). I congratulate you on your bathing costume.
GERVASE. Not at all.
SUSAN. You live near here then?
GERVASE. Little Malling. I came over in a car.
SUSAN. Little Malling? That's about twenty miles away.
GERVASE. Oh, much more than that surely.
SUSAN. No. There's Hedgling down there.
GERVASE (surprised). Hedgling? Heavens, how I must have lost my
way. . . . Then I have been within a mile of her all night. And I never
SUSAN. You are married, Mr. Mallory?
GERVASE. No. Not yet.
SUSAN. Get married.
SUSAN. Take my advice and get married.
GERVASE. You recommend it?
SUSAN. I do. . . . There is no companion like a wife, if you marry the
SUSAN. I have been married thirty years. Thirty years of happiness.
GERVASE. But in your profession you must go away from your wife a good
SUSAN (smiling). But then I come back to her a good deal.
GERVASE (thoughtfully). Yes, that must be rather jolly.
SUSAN. Why do you think I welcomed your company so much when I came
upon you here this morning?
GERVASE (modestly). Oh, well - -
SUSAN. It was something to tell my wife when I got back to her. When
you are married, every adventure becomes two adventures. You have your
adventure, and then you go back to your wife and have your adventure
again. Perhaps it is a better adventure that second time. You can say
the things which you didn't quite say the first time, and do the
things which you didn't quite do. When my week's travels are ever, and
I go back to my wife, I shall have a whole week's happenings to tell
her. They won't lose in the telling, Mr. Mallory. Our little breakfast
here this morning - she will love to hear about that. I can see her
happy excited face as I tell her all that I said to you, and - if I
can remember it - all that you said to me.
GERVASE (eagerly). I say, how jolly! (Thoughtfully) You won't forget
what I said about the Great Percy? I thought that was rather good.
SUSAN. I hope it wasn't too good, Mr. Mallory. If it was, I shall find
myself telling it to her as one of my own remarks. That's why I say
"Get married." Then you can make things fair for yourself. You can
tell her all the good things of mine which _you_ said.
GERVASE. But there must be more in marriage than that.
SUSAN. There are a million things in marriage, but companionship is at
the bottom of it all. . . . Do you know what companionship means?
GERVASE. How do you mean? Literally?
SUSAN. The derivation of it in the dictionary. It means the art of
having meals with a person. Cynics talk of the impossibility of
sitting opposite the same woman every day at breakfast. Impossible to
_them_, perhaps, poor shallow-hearted creatures, but not impossible to
two people who have found what love is.
GERVASE. It doesn't sound very romantic.
SUSAN (solemnly). It is the most romantic thing in the whole world. . . .
Some more cheese?
GERVASE (taking it). Thank you. . . . (Thoughtfully) Do you believe in
love at first sight, Master Susan?
SUSAN. Why not? If it's the woman you love at first sight, not only
GERVASE. I see. (After a pause) It's rather hard to tell, you know. I
suppose the proper thing to do is to ask her to have breakfast with
you, and see how you get on.
SUSAN. Well, you might do worse.
GERVASE (laughing). And propose to her after breakfast?
SUSAN. If you will. It is better than proposing to her at a ball as
some young people do, carried away suddenly by a snatched kiss in the
GERVASE (shaking his head). Nothing like that happened last night.
SUSAN. What does the Great Alfred say of the kiss?
GERVASE. I never read the _Daily Mail_.
SUSAN. Tennyson, Mr. Mallory, Tennyson.
GERVASE. Oh, I beg your pardon.
SUSAN. "The kiss," says the Great Alfred, "the woven arms, seem but to
be weak symbols of the settled bliss, the comfort, I have found in
thee." The same idea, Mr. Mallory. Companionship, or the art of having
breakfast with a person. (Getting up) Well, I must be moving on. _We_
have been companions for a short time; I thank you for it. I wish you
GERVASE (getting up). I say, I've been awfully glad to meet you. And I
shall never forget the breakfast you gave me.
SUSAN. It is friendly of you to say so.
GERVASE (hesitatingly). You won't mind my having another one when
Ernest comes back - I mean, if Ernest comes back? You won't think I'm
slighting yours in any way? But after an outdoor bathe, you know, one
does - -
SUSAN. Please! I am happy to think you have such an appetite.
GERVASE (holding out his hand). Well, good-bye, Mr. Susan, (SUSAN
looks at his hand doubtfully, and GERVASE says with a laugh) Oh, come
SUSAN (shaking it). Good-bye, Mr. Mallory.
GERVASE. And I shan't forget what you said.
SUSAN (smiling). I expect you will, Mr. Mallory. Good-bye.
[He goes off.
GERVASE (calling after him). Because it wasn't the moonlight, it
wasn't really. It was just _Her_. (To himself) It was just _Her_. . . . I
suppose the great Whatsisname would say, "It was just She," but then,
that isn't what I mean.
(GERVASE watches him going down the hill. Then he turns to the other
side, says, "Hallo!" suddenly in great astonishment, and withdraws a
GERVASE. It can't be! (He goes cautiously forward and looks again) It
(He comes back, and walks gently off through the trees.)
(MELISANDE comes in. She has no hat; her hair is in two plaits to her
waist; she is wearing a dress which might belong to any century. She
stands in the middle of the glade, looks round it, holds out her hands
to it for a moment, and then clasps them with a sigh of happiness. . . .)
(GERVASE, his cloak thrown away, comes in behind her. For a moment he
is half-hidden by the trees.)
GERVASE (very softly). Princess!
(She hears but thinks she is still dreaming. She smiles a little.)
GERVASE (a little more loudly). Princess!
(She listens and nods to herself, GERVASE steps out into the open.)
(She turns round.)
MELISANDE (looking at him wonderingly). You!
GERVASE. At your service, Princess.
MELISANDE. It was you who came last night.
GERVASE. I was at your father's court last night. I saw you. You
looked at me.
MELISANDE. I thought it was only a dream when I looked at you. I
thought it was a dream when you called me just now. Is it still a
GERVASE. If it is a dream, let us go on dreaming.
MELISANDE. Where do you come from? Fairyland?
GERVASE. This is Fairyland. We are in the enchanted forest.
MELISANDE (with a sigh of happiness). Ah!
GERVASE. You have been looking for it?
MELISANDE. For so long. (She is silent for a little, and then says
with a smile) May one sit down in an enchanted forest?
GERVASE. Your throne awaits you. (He spreads his cloak over the log.)
MELISANDE. Thank you. . . . Won't you sit, too?
GERVASE (shaking his head). I haven't finished looking at you yet. . . .
You are very lovely, Princess.
MELISANDE. Am I?
GERVASE. Haven't they told you?
MELISANDE. Perhaps I wondered sometimes.
GERVASE. Very lovely. . . . Have you a name which goes with it?
MELISANDE. My name is Melisande.
GERVASE (his whole heart in it). Melisande!
MELISANDE (content at last). Ah!
GERVASE (solemnly). Now the Princess Melisande was very beautiful. (He
lies down on the grass near her, looks up at her and is silent for a
MELISANDE (smiling shyly). May we talk about _you_, now?
GERVASE. It is for the Princess to say what we shall talk about. If
your Royal Highness commands, then I will even talk about myself.
MELISANDE. You see, I don't know your name yet.
GERVASE. I am called Gervase.
MELISANDE. Gervase. It is a pretty name.
GERVASE. I have been keeping it for this morning.
MELISANDE. It will be Prince Gervase, will it not, if this is
GERVASE. Alas, no. For I am only a humble woodcutter's son. One of
MELISANDE. Of seven? I thought that humble woodcutters always had
three sons, and that it was the youngest who went into the world to
seek his fortune.
GERVASE. Three - that's right. I said "one of several." Now that I
count them up, three. (Counting on his fingers) Er - Bowshanks,
er - Mulberry-face and myself. Three. I am the youngest.
MELISANDE. And the fairies came to your christening?
GERVASE. Now for the first time I think that they did.
MELISANDE (nodding). They always come to the christening of the third
and youngest son, and they make him the tallest and the bravest and
the most handsome.
GERVASE (modestly). Oh, well.
MELISANDE. You _are_ the tallest and the bravest and the most
handsome, aren't you?
GERVASE (with a modest smile). Well, of course, Mulberry-face is
hardly a starter, and then Bowshanks - (he indicates the curve of his
legs) - I mean, there's not much competition.
MELISANDE. I have no sisters.
GERVASE. The Princess never has sisters. She has suitors.
MELISANDE (with a sigh). Yes, she has suitors.
GERVASE (taking out his dagger). Tell me their names that I may remove
them for you.
MELISANDE. There is one dressed in black and white who seeks to win my
GERVASE (feeling the point). He bites the dust to-morrow.
GERVASE. Unless it rains in the night. Perhaps it would be safer if we
arranged for him to bite it this afternoon.
MELISANDE. How brave you are!
GERVASE. Say no more. It will be a pleasure.
MELISANDE. Ah, but I cannot ask you to make this sacrifice for me.
GERVASE. The sacrifice will be his.
MELISANDE. But are you so certain that _you_ will kill him? Suppose he
were to kill _you_?
GERVASE (getting up). Madam, when the third son of a humble woodcutter
engages in mortal combat with one upon whom the beautiful Princess has
frowned, there can be but one end to the struggle. To doubt this would
be to let Romance go.
MELISANDE. You are right. I should never have doubted.
GERVASE. At the same time, it would perhaps be as well to ask the help
of my Uncle Otto.
MELISANDE. But is it fair to seek the assistance of an uncle in order
to kill one small black and white suitor?
GERVASE. Ah, but he is a wizard. One is always allowed to ask the help
of a wizard. My idea was that he should cast a spell upon the
presumptuous youth who seeks to woo you, so that to those who gazed
upon him he should have the outward semblance of a rabbit. He would
then realise the hopelessness of his suit and . . . go away.
MELISANDE (with dignity). I should certainly never marry a small black
and white rabbit.
GERVASE. No, you couldn't, could you?
MELISANDE (gravely). No. (Then their eyes meet. There is a twinkle in
his; hers respond; and suddenly they are laughing together.) What
nonsense you talk!
GERVASE. Well, it's such an absurdly fine morning, isn't it? There's a
sort of sparkle in the air. I'm really trying to be quite sensible.
MELISANDE (making room for him at her feet). Go on talking nonsense.
(He sits down on the ground and leans against the log at her side.)
Tell me about yourself. You have told me nothing yet, but that (she
smiles at him) your father is a woodcutter.
GERVASE. Yes. He - er - cuts wood.
MELISANDE. And you resolved to go out into the world and seek your
GERVASE. Yes. You see if you are a third son of a humble woodcutter,
nobody thinks very much of you at home, and they never take you out
with them; and when you are cutting wood, they always put you where
the sawdust gets into your mouth. Because, you see, they have never
read history, and so they don't know that the third and youngest son
is always the nicest of the family.
MELISANDE. And the tallest and the bravest and the most handsome.
GERVASE. _And_ all the other things you mention.
MELISANDE. So you ran away?
GERVASE. So I ran away - to seek my fortune.
MELISANDE. But your uncle the wizard, or your godmother or somebody,
gave you a magic ring to take with you on your travels? (Nodding) They
always do, you know.
GERVASE (showing the ring on his finger). Yes, my fairy godmother gave
me a magic ring. Here it is.
MELISANDE (looking at it). What does it do?
GERVASE. You turn it round once and think very hard of anybody you
want, and suddenly the person you are thinking of appears before you.
MELISANDE. How wonderful! Have you tried it yet?
GERVASE. Once. . . . That's why you are here.
MELISANDE. Oh! (Softly) Have you been thinking of me?
GERVASE. All night.
MELISANDE. I dreamed of you all night.
GERVASE (happily). Did you, Melisande? How dear of you to dream of me!
(Anxiously) Was I - was I all right?
MELISANDE. Oh, yes!
GERVASE (pleased). Ah! (He spreads himself a little and removes a
speck of dust from his sleeve)
MELISANDE (thinking of it still). You were so brave.
GERVASE. Yes, I expect I'm pretty brave in other people's dreams - I'm
so cowardly in my own. Did I kill anybody?
MELISANDE. You were engaged in a terrible fight with a dragon when I
GERVASE. Leaving me and the dragon still asleep - I mean, still
fighting? Oh, Melisande, how could you leave us until you knew who had
MELISANDE. I tried so hard to get back to you.
GERVASE. I expect I was winning, you know. I wish you could have got
back for the finish. . . . Melisande, let me come into your dreams again
MELISANDE. You never asked me last night. You just came.
GERVASE. Thank you for letting me come.
MELISANDE. And then when I woke up early this morning, the world was
so young, so beautiful, so fresh that I had to be with it. It called
to me so clearly - to come out and find its secret. So I came up here,
to this enchanted place, and all the way it whispered to me - wonderful
GERVASE. What did it whisper, Melisande?
MELISANDE. The secret of happiness.
GERVASE. Ah, what is it, Melisande? (She smiles and shakes her
head). . . . I met a magician in the woods this morning.
MELISANDE. Did he speak to you?
GERVASE. _He_ told _me_ the secret of happiness.
MELISANDE. What did he tell you?
GERVASE. He said it was marriage.
MELISANDE. Ah, but he didn't mean by marriage what so many people
GERVASE. He seemed a very potent magician.
MELISANDE. Marriage to many people means just food. Housekeeping. _He_
didn't mean that.
GERVASE. A very wise and reverend magician.
MELISANDE. Love is romance. Is there anything romantic in
breakfast - or lunch?
GERVASE. Well, not so much in lunch, of course, but - -
MELISANDE. How well you understand! Why do the others not understand?
GERVASE (smiling at her). Perhaps because they have not seen
MELISANDE. Oh no, no, that isn't it. All the others - -
GERVASE. Do you mean your suitors?
MELISANDE. Yes. They are so unromantic, so material. The clothes they
wear; the things they talk about. But you are so different. Why is it?
GERVASE. I don't know. Perhaps because I am the third son of a
woodcutter. Perhaps because they don't know that you are the Princess.
Perhaps because they have never been in the enchanted forest.
MELISANDE. What would the forest tell them?
GERVASE. All the birds in the forest are singing "Melisande"; the
little brook runs through the forest murmuring "Melisande"; the tall
trees bend their heads and whisper to each other "Melisande." All the
flowers have put on their gay dresses for her. Oh, Melisande!
MELISANDE (awed). Is it true? (They are silent for a little, happy to
be together. . . . He looks back at her and gives a sudden little laugh.)
What is it?
GERVASE. Just you and I - together - on the top of the world like this.
MELISANDE. Yes, that's what I feel, too. (After a pause) Go on
MELISANDE. That the world is very young.
GERVASE. _We_ are very young, Melisande.
MELISANDE (timidly). It is only a dream, isn't it?
GERVASE. Who knows what a dream is? Perhaps we fell asleep in
Fairyland a thousand years ago, and all that we thought real was a
dream, until now at last we are awake again.
MELISANDE. How wonderful that would be.
GERVASE. Perhaps we are dreaming now. But is it your dream or my
MELISANDE (after thinking it out). I think I would rather it were your
dream, Gervase. For then I should be in it, and that would mean that
you had been thinking of me.
GERVASE. Then it shall be _my_ dream, Melisande.
MELISANDE. Let it be a long one, my dear.
GERVASE. For ever and for ever.
MELISANDE (dreamily). Oh, I know that it is only a dream, and that
presently we shall wake up; or else that you will go away and I will
go away, too, and we shall never meet again; for in the real world,
what could I be to you, or you to me? So go on pretending.
(He stands up and faces her.)
GERVASE. Melisande, if this were Fairyland, or if we were knights and
ladies in some old romance, would you trust yourself to me?
MELISANDE. So very proudly.
GERVASE. You would let me come to your father's court and claim you
over all your other suitors, and fight for you, and take you away with
MELISANDE. If this were Fairyland, yes.
GERVASE. You would trust me?
MELISANDE. I would trust my lord.
GERVASE (smiling at her). Then I will come for the Princess this
afternoon. (With sudden feeling) Ah, how can I keep away now that I
have seen the Princess?
MELISANDE (shyly - happily). When you saw me last night, did you know
that you would see me again?
GERVASE. I have been waiting for you here.
MELISANDE. How did you know that I would come?
GERVASE. On such a morning - in such a place - how could the loved one
not be here?
MELISANDE (looking away). The loved one?
GERVASE. I saw you last night.
MELISANDE (softly). Was that enough?
GERVASE. Enough, yes. Enough? Oh no, no, no!
MELISANDE (nodding). I will wait for you this afternoon.
GERVASE. And you will come away with me? Out into the world with me?
Over the hills and far away with me?
MELISANDE (softly). Over the hills and far away.
GERVASE (going to her). Princess!
MELISANDE. Not Princess.
MELISANDE (holding out her hand to him). Ah!
GERVASE. May I kiss your hands, Melisande?
MELISANDE. They are my lord's to kiss.
GERVASE (kissing them). Dear hands.
MELISANDE. Now I shall love them, too.
GERVASE. May I kiss your lips, Melisande?
MELISANDE (proudly). Who shall, if not my lord?
GERVASE. Melisande! (He touches her lips with his.)
MELISANDE (breaking away from him). Oh!
GERVASE (triumphantly). I love you, Melisande! I love you!
MELISANDE (wonderingly). Why didn't I wake up when you kissed me? We
are still here. The dream goes on.
GERVASE. It is no dream, Melisande. Or if it is a dream, then in my
dream I love you, and if we are awake, then awake I love you. I love
you if this is Fairyland, and if there is no Fairyland, then my love
will make a faery land of the world for you. For I love you,
MELISANDE (timidly). Are we pretending still?
GERVASE. No, no, no!
(She looks at him gravely for a moment and then nods her head.)
MELISANDE (pointing). I live down there. You will come for me?
GERVASE. I will come.
MELISANDE. I am my lord's servant. I will wait for him. (She moves
away from him. Then she curtsies and says) This afternoon, my lord.
(She goes down the hill.)
(He stands looking after her. While he is standing there, ERN comes
through the trees with breakfast.)
(It is about four o'clock in the afternoon of the same day. JANE is
sitting on the sofa in the hall, glancing at a paper, but evidently
rather bored with it, and hoping that somebody - BOBBY, did you