GEORGE. Oh, _you_ saw him, did you? Yes, that reminds me, there _was_
a letter - (he brings it out and reads it).
DINAH. He had to send a telegram. He's coming back.
OLIVIA. Pass me those scissors, Brian.
BRIAN. These? (He picks them up and comes close to her.)
OLIVIA. Thank you. (She indicates GEORGE'S back. "Now?" says BRIAN
with his eyebrows. She nods.)
GEORGE (reading). Ah well, a friend of Brymer's. Glad to oblige him.
Yes, I know the man he wants. Coming back, you say, Dinah? Then I'll
be going back. Send him down to the farm, Olivia, when he comes. (to
BRIAN) Hallo, what happened to _you_?
OLIVIA. Don't go, George, there's something we want to talk about.
GEORGE. Hallo, what's this?
BRIAN (to OLIVIA). Shall I - - ?
BRIAN (stepping out). I've been wanting to tell you all this morning,
sir, only I didn't seem to have an opportunity of getting it out.
GEORGE. Well, what is it?
BRIAN. I want to marry Dinah, sir.
GEORGE. You want to marry Dinah? God bless my soul!
DINAH (rushing to him and putting her cheek against his coat). Oh, do
say you like the idea, Uncle George.
GEORGE. Like the idea! Have you heard of this nonsense, Olivia?
OLIVIA. They've just this moment told me, George. I think they would
be happy together.
GEORGE (to BRIAN). And what do you propose to be happy together _on_?
BRIAN. Well, of course, it doesn't amount to much at present, but we
DINAH. Brian got fifty pounds for a picture last March!
GEORGE (a little upset by this). Oh! (Recovering gamely) And how many
pictures have you sold since?
BRIAN. Well, none, but -
GEORGE. None! And I don't wonder. Who the devil is going to buy
pictures with triangular clouds and square sheep? And they call that
Art nowadays! Good God, man, (waving him to the windows) go outside
and _look_ at the clouds!
OLIVIA. If he draws round clouds in future, George, will you let him
GEORGE. What - what? Yes, of course, you _would_ be on his side - all
this Futuristic nonsense. I'm just taking these clouds as an example.
I suppose I can see as well as any man in the county, and I say that
clouds _aren't_ triangular.
BRIAN. After all, sir, at my age one is naturally experimenting, and
trying to find one's (with a laugh) - well, it sounds priggish, but
one's medium of expression. I shall find out what I want to do
directly, but I think I shall always be able to earn enough to live
on. Well, I have for the last three years.
GEORGE. I see, and now you want to experiment with a wife, and you
propose to start experimenting with _my_ niece?
BRIAN (with a shrug). Well, of course, if you -
OLIVIA. You could help the experiment, darling, by giving Dinah a good
allowance until she's twenty-one.
GEORGE. Help the experiment! I don't _want_ to help the experiment.
OLIVIA (apologetically). Oh, I thought you did.
GEORGE. You will talk as if I was made of money. What with taxes
always going up and rents always going down, it's as much as we can do
to rub along as we are, without making allowances to everybody who
thinks she wants to get married. (to BRIAN) And that's thanks to you,
BRIAN (surprised) To me?
OLIVIA. You never told me, darling. What's Brian been doing?
DINAH (indignantly). He hasn't been doing anything.
GEORGE. He's one of your Socialists who go turning the country upside
OLIVIA. But even Socialists must get married sometimes.
GEORGE. I don't see any necessity.
OLIVIA. But you'd have nobody to damn after dinner, darling, if they
all died out.
BRIAN. Really, sir, I don't see what my politics and my art have got
to do with it. I'm perfectly ready not to talk about either when I'm
in your house, and as Dinah doesn't seem to object to them -
DINAH. I should think she doesn't.
GEORGE. Oh, you can get round the women, I daresay.
BRIAN. Well, it's Dinah I want to marry and live with. So what it
really comes to is that you don't think I can support a wife.
GEORGE. Well, if you're going to do it by selling pictures, I don't
think you can.
BRIAN. All right, tell me how much you want me to earn in a year, and
I'll earn it.
GEORGE (hedging). It isn't merely a question of money. I just mention
that as one thing - one of the important things. In addition to that, I
think you are both too young to marry. I don't think you know your own
minds, and I am not at all persuaded that, with what I venture to call
your outrageous tastes, you and my niece will live happily together.
Just because she thinks she loves you, Dinah may persuade herself now
that she agrees with all you say and do, but she has been properly
brought up in an honest English country household, and - er - she - well,
in short, I cannot at all approve of any engagement between you.
(Getting up) Olivia, if this Mr. - er - Pim comes, I shall be down at
the farm. You might send him along to me.
(He walks towards the windows.)
BRIAN (indignantly). Is there any reason why I shouldn't marry a girl
who has been properly brought up?
GEORGE. I think you know my views, Strange.
OLIVIA. George, wait a moment, dear. We can't quite leave it like
GEORGE. I have said all I want to say on the subject.
OLIVIA. Yes, darling, but I haven't begun to say all that _I_ want to
say on the subject.
GEORGE. Of course, if you have anything to say, Olivia, I will listen
to it; but I don't know that this is quite the time, or that you have
chosen - (looking darkly at the curtains) - quite the occupation likely
to - er - endear your views to me.
DINAH (mutinously). I may as well tell you, Uncle George, that _I_
have got a good deal to say, too.
OLIVIA. I can guess what you are going to say, Dinah, and I think you
had better keep it for the moment.
DINAH (meekly). Yes, Aunt Olivia.
OLIVIA. Brian, you might take her outside for a walk. I expect you
have plenty to talk about.
GEORGE. Now mind, Strange, no love-making. I put you on your honour
BRIAN. I'll do my best to avoid it, sir.
DINAH (cheekily). May I take his arm if we go up a hill?
OLIVIA. I'm sure you'll know how to behave - both of you.
BRIAN. Come on, then, Dinah.
GEORGE (as they go). And if you do see any clouds, Strange, take a
good look at them. (He chuckles to himself) Triangular clouds - I never
heard of such nonsense. (He goes back to his chair at the
writing-table) Futuristic rubbish. . . . Well, Olivia?
OLIVIA. Well, George?
GEORGE. What are you doing?
OLIVIA. Making curtains, George. Won't they be rather sweet? Oh, but I
forgot - you don't like them.
GEORGE. I don't like them, and what is more, I don't mean to have them
in my house. As I told you yesterday, this is the house of a simple
country gentleman, and I don't want any of these new-fangled ideas in
OLIVIA. Is marrying for love a new-fangled idea?
GEORGE. We'll come to that directly. None of you women can keep to the
point. What I am saying now is that the house of my fathers and
forefathers is good enough for me.
OLIVIA. Do you know, George, I can hear one of your ancestors saying
that to his wife in their smelly old cave, when the new-fangled idea
of building houses was first suggested. "The Cave of my Fathers is - "
GEORGE. That's ridiculous. Naturally we must have progress. But that's
just the point. (Indicating the curtains) I don't call this sort of
thing progress. It's - ah - retrogression.
OLIVIA. Well, anyhow, it's pretty.
GEORGE. There I disagree with you. And I must say once more that I
will not have them hanging in my house.
OLIVIA. Very well, George. (But she goes on working.)
GEORGE. That being so, I don't see the necessity of going on with
OLIVIA. Well, I must do something with them now I've got the material.
I thought perhaps I could sell them when they're finished - as we're so
GEORGE. What do you mean - so poor?
OLIVIA. Well, you said just now that you couldn't give Dinah an
allowance because rents had gone down.
GEORGE (annoyed). Confound it, Olivia! Keep to the point! We'll talk
about Dinah's affairs directly. We're discussing our own affairs at
OLIVIA. But what is there to discuss?
GEORGE. Those ridiculous things.
OLIVIA. But we've finished that. You've said you wouldn't have them
hanging in your house, and I've said, "Very well, George." Now we can
go on to Dinah and Brian.
GEORGE (shouting). But put these beastly things away.
OLIVIA (rising and gathering up the curtains). Very well, George. (She
puts them away, slowly, gracefully. There is an uncomfortable silence.
Evidently somebody ought to apologise.)
GEORGE (realising that he is the one). Er - look here, Olivia, old
girl, you've been a jolly good wife to me, and we don't often have
rows, and if I've been rude to you about this - lost my temper a bit
perhaps, what? - I'll say I'm sorry. May I have a kiss?
OLIVIA (holding up her face). George, darling! (He kisses her.) Do you
GEORGE. You know I do, old girl.
OLIVIA. As much as Brian loves Dinah?
GEORGE (stiffly). I've said all I want to say about that. (He goes
away from her.)
OLIVIA. Oh, but there must be lots you want to say - and perhaps don't
like to. Do tell me, darling.
GEORGE. What it comes to is this. I consider that Dinah is too young
to choose a husband for herself, and that Strange isn't the husband I
should choose for her.
OLIVIA. You were calling him Brian yesterday.
GEORGE. Yesterday I regarded him as a boy, now he wants me to look
upon him as a man.
OLIVIA. He's twenty-four.
GEORGE. And Dinah's nineteen. Ridiculous!
OLIVIA. If he'd been a Conservative, and thought that clouds were
round, I suppose he'd have seemed older, somehow.
GEORGE. That's a different point altogether. That has nothing to do
with his age.
OLIVIA (innocently). Oh, I thought it had.
GEORGE. What I am objecting to is these ridiculously early marriages
before either party knows its own mind, much less the mind of the
other party. Such marriages invariably lead to unhappiness.
OLIVIA. Of course, _my_ first marriage wasn't a happy one.
GEORGE. As you know, Olivia, I dislike speaking about your first
marriage at all, and I had no intention of bringing it up now, but
since you mention it - well, that is a case in point.
OLIVIA (looking back at it). When I was eighteen, I was in love. Or
perhaps I only thought I was, and I don't know if I should have been
happy or not if I had married him. But my father made me marry a man
called Jacob Telworthy; and when things were too hot for him in
England - "too hot for him" - I think that was the expression we used in
those days - then we went to Australia, and I left him there, and the
only happy moment I had in all my married life was on the morning when
I saw in the papers that he was dead.
GEORGE (very uncomfortable). Yes, yes, my dear, I know. You must have
had a terrible time. I can hardly bear to think about it. My only hope
is that I have made up to you for it in some degree. But I don't see
what bearing it has upon Dinah's case.
OLIVIA. Oh, none, except that _my_ father _liked_ Jacob's political
opinions and his views on art. I expect that that was why he chose him
GEORGE. You seem to think that I wish to choose a husband for Dinah. I
don't at all. Let her choose whom she likes as long as he can support
her and there's a chance of their being happy together. Now, with
regard to this fellow -
OLIVIA. You mean Brian?
GEORGE. He's got no money, and he's been brought up in quite a
different way from Dinah. Dinah may be prepared to believe
that - er - all cows are blue, and that - er - waves are square, but she
won't go on believing it for ever.
OLIVIA. Neither will Brian.
GEORGE. Well, that's what I keep telling him, only he won't see it.
Just as I keep telling you about those ridiculous curtains. It seems
to me that I am the only person in the house with any eyesight left.
OLIVIA. Perhaps you are, darling; but you must let us find out our own
mistakes for ourselves. At any rate, Brian is a gentleman; he loves
Dinah, Dinah loves him; he's earning enough to support himself, and
you are earning enough to support Dinah. I think it's worth risking,
GEORGE (stiffly). I can only say the whole question demands much more
anxious thought than you seem to have given it. You say that he is a
gentleman. He knows how to behave, I admit; but if his morals are as
topsy-turvy as his tastes and - er - politics, as I've no doubt they
are, then - er - In short, I do _not_ approve of Brian Strange as a
husband for my niece and ward.
OLIVIA (looking at him thoughtfully). You _are_ a curious mixture,
George. You were so very unconventional when you married me, and
you're so very conventional when Brian wants to marry Dinah. . . . George
Marden to marry the widow of a convict!
GEORGE. Convict! What do you mean?
OLIVIA. Jacob Telworthy, convict - I forget his number - surely I told
you all this, dear, when we got engaged?
OLIVIA. I told you how he carelessly put the wrong signature to a
cheque for a thousand pounds in England; how he made a little mistake
about two or three companies he'd promoted in Australia; and how -
GEORGE. Yes, yes, but you never told me he was _convicted_!
OLIVIA. What difference does it make?
GEORGE. My dear Olivia, if you can't see that - a convict!
OLIVIA. So, you see, we needn't be too particular about our niece,
GEORGE. I think we had better leave your first husband out of the
conversation altogether. I never wished to refer to him; I never wish
to hear about him again. I certainly had not realised that he was
actually - er - _convicted_ for his - er -
GEORGE. Well, we needn't go into that. As for this other matter, I
don't for a moment take it seriously. Dinah is an exceptionally pretty
girl, and young Strange is a good-looking boy. If they are attracted
to each other, it is a mere outward attraction which I am convinced
will not lead to any lasting happiness. That must be regarded as my
last word in the matter, Olivia. If this Mr. - er - what was his name,
comes, I shall be down at the farm.
[He goes out by the door.
(Left alone, OLIVIA brings out her curtains again, and gets calmly to
work upon them.)
(DINAH and BRIAN come in by the windows.)
OLIVIA. Oh no, I've got all these rings to put on.
DINAH. I meant talking to George.
BRIAN. We walked about outside -
DINAH. Until we heard him _not_ talking to you any more -
BRIAN. And we didn't kiss each other once.
DINAH. Brian was very George-like. He wouldn't even let me tickle the
back of his neck. (She goes up suddenly to OLIVIA and kneels by her
and kisses her) Darling, being George-like is a very nice thing to
be - I mean a nice thing for other people to be - I mean - oh, you know
what I mean. But say that he's going to be decent about it.
OLIVIA. Of course he is, Dinah.
BRIAN. You mean he'll let me come here as - as -
DINAH. As my young man?
OLIVIA. Oh, I think so.
DINAH. Olivia, you're a wonder. Have you really talked him round?
OLIVIA. I haven't said anything yet. But I daresay I shall think of
DINAH (disappointedly). Oh!
BRIAN (making the best of it). After all, Dinah, I'm going back to
London to-morrow -
OLIVIA. You can be good for one more day, Dinah, and then when Brian
isn't here, we'll see what we can do.
DINAH. Yes, but I didn't want him to go back to-morrow.
BRIAN (sternly). Must. Hard work before me. Earn thousands a year.
Paint the Mayor and Corporation of Pudsey, life-size, including chains
of office; paint slice of haddock on plate. Copy Landseer for old
gentleman in Bayswater. Design antimacassar for middle-aged sofa in
Streatham. Earn a living for you, Dinah.
DINAH (giggling). Oh, Brian, you're heavenly. What fun we shall have
when we're married.
BRIAN (stiffly). Sir Brian Strange, R.A., if you please, Miss Marden.
Sir Brian Strange, R.A., writes: "Your Sanogene has proved a most
excellent tonic. After completing the third acre of my Academy picture
'The Mayor and Corporation of Pudsey' I was completely exhausted, but
one bottle of Sanogene revived me, and I finished the remaining seven
acres at a single sitting."
OLIVIA (looking about her). Brian, find my scissors for me.
BRIAN. Scissors. (Looking for them) Sir Brian Strange, R.A., looks for
scissors. (Finding them) Aha! Once more we must record an unqualified
success for the eminent Academician. Your scissors.
OLIVIA. Thank you so much.
DINAH. Come on, Brian, let's go out. I feel open-airy.
OLIVIA. Don't be late for lunch, there's good people. Lady Marden is
DINAH. Aunt Juli-ah! Help! (She faints in BRIAN'S arms) That means a
clean pinafore. Brian, you'll jolly well have to brush your hair.
BRIAN (feeling it). I suppose there's no time now to go up to London
and get it cut?
[Enter ANNE, followed by PIM.
ANNE. Mr. Pim!
DINAH (delighted). Hullo, Mr. Pim! Here we are again! You can't get
rid of us so easily, you see.
PIM. I - er - dear Miss Marden -
OLIVIA. How do you do, Mr. Pim? I can't get up, but do come and sit
down. My husband will be here in a minute. Anne, send somebody down to
the farm -
ANNE. I think I heard the Master in the library, madam.
OLIVIA. Oh, will you tell him then?
ANNE. Yes, madam.
[ANNE goes out.
OLIVIA. You'll stay to lunch, of course, Mr. Pim?
DINAH. Oh, do!
PIM. It's very kind of you, Mrs. Marden, but -
DINAH. Oh, you simply must, Mr. Pim. You haven't told us half enough
about yourself yet. I want to hear all about your early life.
PIM. Oh, we are almost, I might say, old friends, Mrs. Marden.
DINAH. Of course we are. He knows Brian, too. There's more in Mr. Pim
than you think. You _will_ stay to lunch, won't you?
PIM. It's very kind of you to ask me, Mrs. Marden, but I am lunching
with the Trevors.
OLIVIA. Oh, well, you must come to lunch another day.
DINAH. The reason why we like Mr. Pim so much is that he was the first
person to congratulate us. We feel that he is going to have a great
influence on our lives.
PIM (to OLIVIA). I, so to speak, stumbled on the engagement this
morning and - er -
OLIVIA. I see. Children, you must go and tidy yourselves up. Run
BRIAN. Sir Brian and Lady Strange never run; they walk. (Offering his
DINAH (taking it). Au revoir, Mr. Pim. (Dramatically)
We - shall - meet - _again_!
PIM (chuckling). Good morning, Miss Dinah.
BRIAN. Good morning.
[He and DINAH go out.
OLIVIA. You must forgive them, Mr. Pim. They're such children. And
naturally they're rather excited just now.
PIM. Oh, not at all, Mrs. Marden.
OLIVIA. Of course you won't say anything about their engagement. We
only heard about it five minutes ago, and nothing has been settled
PIM. Of course, of course!
GEORGE. Ah, Mr. Pim, we meet at last. Sorry to have kept you waiting
PIM. The apology should come from me, Mr. Marden for having - er -
GEORGE. Not at all. Very glad to meet you now. Any friend of Brymer's.
You want a letter to this man Fanshawe?
OLIVIA. Shall I be in your way at all?
PIM. Oh, no, no, please don't.
GEORGE. It's only just a question of a letter. (Going to his desk)
Fanshawe will put you in the way of seeing all that you want to see.
He's a very old friend of mine. (Taking a sheet of notepaper) You'll
stay to lunch, of course?
PIM. I'm afraid I am lunching with the Trevors -
GEORGE. Oh, well, they'll look after you all right. Good chap, Trevor.
PIM (to OLIVIA). You see, Mrs. Marden, I have only recently arrived
from Australia after travelling about the world for some years, and
I'm rather out of touch with my - er - fellow-workers in London.
OLIVIA. Oh yes. You've been in Australia, Mr. Pim?
GEORGE (disliking Australia). I shan't be a moment, Mr. Pim. (He
frowns at OLIVIA.)
PIM. Oh, that's all right, thank you. (to OLIVIA) Oh yes, I have been
in Australia more than once in the last few years.
OLIVIA. Really? I used to live at Sydney many years ago. Do you know
Sydney at all?
GEORGE (detesting Sydney). H'r'm! Perhaps I'd better mention that you
are a friend of the Trevors?
PIM. Thank you, thank you. (to OLIVIA) Indeed yes, I spent several
months in Sydney.
OLIVIA. How curious. I wonder if we have any friends in common there.
GEORGE (hastily). Extremely unlikely, I should think. Sydney is a very
PIM. True, but the world is a very small place, Mr. Marden. I had a
remarkable instance of that, coming over on the boat this last time.
GEORGE. Ah! (Feeling that the conversation is now safe, he resumes his
PIM. Yes. There was a man I used to employ in Sydney some years ago, a
bad fellow, I'm afraid, Mrs. Marden, who had been in prison for some
kind of fraudulent company-promoting and had taken to drink and - and
OLIVIA. Yes, yes, I understand.
PIM. Drinking himself to death I should have said. I gave him at the
most another year to live. Yet to my amazement the first person I saw
as I stepped on board the boat that brought me to England last week
was this fellow. There was no mistaking him. I spoke to him, in fact;
we recognised each other.
PIM. He was travelling steerage; we didn't meet again on board, and as
it happened at Marseilles, this poor fellow - er - now what _was_ his
name? A very unusual one. Began with a - a T, I think.
OLIVIA (with suppressed feeling). Yes, Mr. Pim, yes? (She puts out a
hand to GEORGE.)
GEORGE (in an undertone). Nonsense, dear!
PIM (triumphantly). I've got it! Telworthy!
GEORGE. Good God!
PIM (a little surprised at the success of his story). An unusual name,
is it not? Not a name you could forget when once you had heard it.
OLIVIA (with feeling). No, it is not a name you could forget when once
you had heard it.
GEORGE (hastily coming over to PIM). Quite so, Mr. Pim, a most
remarkable name, a most odd story altogether. Well, well, here's your
letter, and if you're sure you won't stay to lunch -
PIM. I'm afraid not, thank you. You see, I -
GEORGE. The Trevors, yes. I'll just see you on your way - (to OLIVIA)
Er - my dear -
OLIVIA (holding out her hand, but not looking at him). Good-bye, Mr.
PIM. Good-bye, good-bye!
GEORGE (leading the way through the windows). This way, this way.
Quicker for you.
PIM. Thank you, thank you.
[GEORGE hurries MR. PIM out.
(OLIVIA sits there and looks into the past. Now and then she
[GEORGE comes back.
GEORGE. Good God! Telworthy! Is it possible? (Before OLIVIA can
answer, LADY MARDEN is announced. They pull themselves together and
(Lunch is over and coffee has been served on the terrace. Conversation
drags on, to the satisfaction of LADY MARDEN, but of nobody else.
GEORGE and OLIVIA want to be alone; so do BRIAN and DINAH. At last
BRIAN murmurs something about a cigarette-case; and, catching DINAH'S
eye, comes into the house. He leans against the sofa and waits for
DINAH (loudly as she comes in). Have you found it?
BRIAN. Found what?
DINAH (in her ordinary voice). That was just for _their_ benefit. I
said I'd help you find it. It _is_ your cigarette-case we're looking
for, isn't it?
BRIAN (taking it out). Yes. Have one?
DINAH. No, thank you, darling. Aunt Juli-ah still thinks it's
unladylike. . . . Have you ever seen her beagling?
BRIAN. No. Is that very ladylike?
DINAH. Very. . . . I say, what has happened, do you think?
BRIAN. Everything. I love you, and you love me.
DINAH. Silly! I meant between George and Olivia. Didn't you notice
them at lunch?
BRIAN. I noticed that you seemed to be doing most of the talking. But
then I've noticed that before sometimes. Do you think Olivia and your
uncle have quarrelled because of _us_?
DINAH. Of course not. George may _think_ he has quarrelled, but I'm
quite sure Olivia hasn't. No, I believe Mr. Pim's at the bottom of it.
He's brought some terribly sad news about George's investments. The
old home will have to be sold up.
BRIAN. Good. Then your uncle won't mind your marrying me.
DINAH. Yes, darling, but you must be more dramatic about it than that.
"George," you must say, with tears in your eyes, "I cannot pay off the
whole of the mortgage for you. I have only two and ninepence; but at
least let me take your niece off your hands." Then George will thump
you on the back and say gruffly, "You're a good fellow, Brian, a damn