George Bernard Shaw.

You Never Can Tell online

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WAITER (smoothly melodious). Yes, sire. Great flow of spirits, sir. A
vein of pleasantry, as you might say, sir. (Quickly, to Crampton, who
has risen to get the overcoat off.) Beg pardon, sir, but if you'll allow
me (helping him to get the overcoat off and taking it from him). Thank
you, sir. (Crampton sits down again; and the waiter resumes the broken
melody.) The young gentleman's latest is that you're his father, sir.


WAITER. Only his joke, sir, his favourite joke. Yesterday, I was to be
his father. To-day, as soon as he knew you were coming, sir, he tried to
put it up on me that you were his father, his long lost father - not seen
you for eighteen years, he said.

CRAMPTON (startled). Eighteen years!

WAITER. Yes, sir. (With gentle archness.) But I was up to his tricks,
sir. I saw the idea coming into his head as he stood there, thinking
what new joke he'd have with me. Yes, sir: that's the sort he is: very
pleasant, ve - ry off hand and affable indeed, sir. (Again changing his
tempo to say to Valentine, who is putting his stick down against the
corner of the garden seat) If you'll allow me, sir? (Taking Valentine's
stick.) Thank you, sir. (Valentine strolls up to the luncheon table and
looks at the menu. The waiter turns to Crampton and resumes his lay.)
Even the solicitor took up the joke, although he was in a manner of
speaking in my confidence about the young gentleman, sir. Yes, sir, I
assure you, sir. You would never imagine what respectable professional
gentlemen from London will do on an outing, when the sea air takes them,

CRAMPTON. Oh, there's a solicitor with them, is there?

WAITER. The family solicitor, sir - yes, sir. Name of McComas, sir. (He
goes towards hotel entrance with coat and stick, happily unconscious of
the bomblike effect the name has produced on Crampton.)

CRAMPTON (rising in angry alarm). McComas! (Calls to Valentine.)
Valentine! (Again, fiercely.) Valentine!! (Valentine turns.) This is a
plant, a conspiracy. This is my family - my children - my infernal wife.

VALENTINE (coolly). On, indeed! Interesting meeting! (He resumes his
study of the menu.)

CRAMPTON. Meeting! Not for me. Let me out of this. (Calling to the
waiter.) Give me that coat.

WAITER. Yes, sir. (He comes back, puts Valentine's stick carefully down
against the luncheon table; and delicately shakes the coat out and holds
it for Crampton to put on.) I seem to have done the young gentleman an
injustice, sir, haven't I, sir.

CRAMPTON. Rrrh! (He stops on the point of putting his arms into the
sleeves, and turns to Valentine with sudden suspicion.) Valentine: you
are in this. You made this plot. You -

VALENTINE (decisively). Bosh! (He throws the menu down and goes round
the table to look out unconcernedly over the parapet.)

CRAMPTON (angrily). What d'ye - (McComas, followed by Philip and Dolly,
comes out. He vacillates for a moment on seeing Crampton.)

WAITER (softly - interrupting Crampton). Steady, sir. Here they come,
sir. (He takes up the stick and makes for the hotel, throwing the coat
across his arm. McComas turns the corners of his mouth resolutely down
and crosses to Crampton, who draws back and glares, with his hands
behind him. McComas, with his brow opener than ever, confronts him in
the majesty of a spotless conscience.)

WAITER (aside, as he passes Philip on his way out). I've broke it to
him, sir.

PHILIP. Invaluable William! (He passes on to the table.)

DOLLY (aside to the waiter). How did he take it?

WAITER (aside to her). Startled at first, miss; but resigned - very
resigned, indeed, miss. (He takes the stick and coat into the hotel.)

McCOMAS (having stared Crampton out of countenance). So here you are,
Mr. Crampton.

CRAMPTON. Yes, here - caught in a trap - a mean trap. Are those my

PHILIP (with deadly politeness). Is this our father, Mr. McComas?

McCOMAS. Yes - er - (He loses countenance himself and stops.)

DOLLY (conventionally). Pleased to meet you again. (She wanders
idly round the table, exchanging a smile and a word of greeting with
Valentine on the way.)

PHILIP. Allow me to discharge my first duty as host by ordering your
wine. (He takes the wine list from the table. His polite attention, and
Dolly's unconcerned indifference, leave Crampton on the footing of
the casual acquaintance picked up that morning at the dentist's. The
consciousness of it goes through the father with so keen a pang that
he trembles all over; his brow becomes wet; and he stares dumbly at
his son, who, just conscious enough of his own callousness to intensely
enjoy the humor and adroitness of it, proceeds pleasantly.) Finch: some
crusted old port for you, as a respectable family solicitor, eh?

McCOMAS (firmly). Apollinaris only. I prefer to take nothing heating.
(He walks away to the side of the terrace, like a man putting temptation
behind him.)

PHILIP. Valentine - ?

VALENTINE. Would Lager be considered vulgar?

PHILIP. Probably. We'll order some. Dolly takes it. (Turning to Crampton
with cheerful politeness.) And now, Mr. Crampton, what can we do for

CRAMPTON. What d'ye mean, boy?

PHILIP. Boy! (Very solemnly.) Whose fault is it that I am a boy?

(Crampton snatches the wine list rudely from him and irresolutely
pretends to read it. Philip abandons it to him with perfect politeness.)

DOLLY (looking over Crampton's right shoulder). The whisky's on the last
page but one.

CRAMPTON. Let me alone, child.

DOLLY. Child! No, no: you may call me Dolly if you like; but you mustn't
call me child. (She slips her arm through Philip's; and the two stand
looking at Crampton as if he were some eccentric stranger.)

CRAMPTON (mopping his brow in rage and agony, and yet relieved even by
their playing with him). McComas: we are - ha! - going to have a pleasant

McCOMAS (pusillanimously). There is no reason why it should not be
pleasant. (He looks abjectly gloomy.)

PHILIP. Finch's face is a feast in itself. (Mrs. Clandon and Gloria come
from the hotel. Mrs. Clandon advances with courageous self-possession
and marked dignity of manner. She stops at the foot of the steps to
address Valentine, who is in her path. Gloria also stops, looking at
Crampton with a certain repulsion.)

MRS. CLANDON. Glad to see you again, Mr. Valentine. (He smiles. She
passes on and confronts Crampton, intending to address him with perfect
composure; but his aspect shakes her. She stops suddenly and says
anxiously, with a touch of remorse.) Fergus: you are greatly changed.

CRAMPTON (grimly). I daresay. A man does change in eighteen years.

MRS. CLANDON (troubled). I - I did not mean that. I hope your health is

CRAMPTON. Thank you. No: it's not my health. It's my happiness: that's
the change you meant, I think. (Breaking out suddenly.) Look at her,
McComas! Look at her; and look at me! (He utters a half laugh, half

PHILIP. Sh! (Pointing to the hotel entrance, where the waiter has just
appeared.) Order before William!

DOLLY (touching Crampton's arm warningly with her finger). Ahem! (The
waiter goes to the service table and beckons to the kitchen entrance,
whence issue a young waiter with soup plates, and a cook, in white apron
and cap, with the soup tureen. The young waiter remains and serves: the
cook goes out, and reappears from time to time bringing in the courses.
He carves, but does not serve. The waiter comes to the end of the
luncheon table next the steps.)

MRS. CLANDON (as they all assemble about the table). I think you have
all met one another already to-day. Oh, no, excuse me. (Introducing) Mr.
Valentine: Mr. McComas. (She goes to the end of the table nearest the
hotel.) Fergus: will you take the head of the table, please.

CRAMPTON. Ha! (Bitterly.) The head of the table!

WAITER (holding the chair for him with inoffensive encouragement). This
end, sir. (Crampton submits, and takes his seat.) Thank you, sir.

MRS. CLANDON. Mr. Valentine: will you take that side (indicating the
side nearest the parapet) with Gloria? (Valentine and Gloria take their
places, Gloria next Crampton and Valentine next Mrs. Clandon.) Finch:
I must put you on this side, between Dolly and Phil. You must protect
yourself as best you can. (The three take the remaining side of the
table, Dolly next her mother, Phil next his father, and McComas between
them. Soup is served.)

WAITER (to Crampton). Thick or clear, sir?

CRAMPTON (to Mrs. Clandon). Does nobody ask a blessing in this

PHILIP (interposing smartly). Let us first settle what we are about to
receive. William!

WAITER. Yes, sir. (He glides swiftly round the table to Phil's left
elbow. On his way he whispers to the young waiter) Thick.

PHILIP. Two small Lagers for the children as usual, William; and one
large for this gentleman (indicating Valentine). Large Apollinaris for
Mr. McComas.

WAITER. Yes, sir.

DOLLY. Have a six of Irish in it, Finch?

McCOMAS (scandalized). No - no, thank you.

PHILIP. Number 413 for my mother and Miss Gloria as before; and -
(turning enquiringly to Crampton) Eh?

CRAMPTON (scowling and about to reply offensively). I -

WAITER (striking in mellifluously). All right, sir. We know what Mr.
Crampton likes here, sir. (He goes into the hotel.)

PHILIP (looking gravely at his father). You frequent bars. Bad habit!
(The cook, accompanied by a waiter with a supply of hot plates, brings
in the fish from the kitchen to the service table, and begins slicing

CRAMPTON. You have learnt your lesson from your mother, I see.

MRS. CLANDON. Phil: will you please remember that your jokes are apt to
irritate people who are not accustomed to us, and that your father is
our guest to-day.

CRAMPTON (bitterly). Yes, a guest at the head of my own table. (The soup
plates are removed.)

DOLLY (sympathetically). Yes: it's embarrassing, isn't it? It's just as
bad for us, you know.

PHILIP. Sh! Dolly: we are both wanting in tact. (To Crampton.) We mean
well, Mr. Crampton; but we are not yet strong in the filial line.
(The waiter returns from the hotel with the drinks.) William: come and
restore good feeling.

WAITER (cheerfully). Yes, sir. Certainly, sir. Small Lager for you, sir.
(To Crampton.) Seltzer and Irish, sir. (To McComas.) Apollinaris, sir.
(To Dolly.) Small Lager, miss. (To Mrs. Clandon, pouring out wine.) 413,
madam. (To Valentine.) Large Lager for you, sir. (To Gloria.) 413, miss.

DOLLY (drinking). To the family!

PHILIP. (drinking). Hearth and Home! (Fish is served.)

McCOMAS (with an obviously forced attempt at cheerful domesticity). We
are getting on very nicely after all.

DOLLY (critically). After all! After all what, Finch?

CRAMPTON (sarcastically). He means that you are getting on very nicely
in spite of the presence of your father. Do I take your point rightly,
Mr. McComas?

McCOMAS (disconcerted). No, no. I only said "after all" to round off the
sentence. I - er - er - er - -

WAITER (tactfully). Turbot, sir?

McCOMAS (intensely grateful for the interruption). Thank you, waiter:
thank you.

WAITER (sotto voce). Don't mention it, sir. (He returns to the service

CRAMPTON (to Phil). Have you thought of choosing a profession yet?

PHILIP. I am keeping my mind open on that subject. William!

WAITER. Yes, sir.

PHILIP. How long do you think it would take me to learn to be a really
smart waiter?

WAITER. Can't be learnt, sir. It's in the character, sir.
(Confidentially to Valentine, who is looking about for something.) Bread
for the lady, sir? yes, sir. (He serves bread to Gloria, and resumes at
his former pitch.) Very few are born to it, sir.

PHILIP. You don't happen to have such a thing as a son, yourself, have

WAITER. Yes, sir: oh, yes, sir. (To Gloria, again dropping his voice.)
A little more fish, miss? you won't care for the joint in the middle of
the day.

GLORIA. No, thank you. (The fish plates are removed.)

DOLLY. Is your son a waiter, too, William?

WAITER (serving Gloria with fowl). Oh, no, miss, he's too impetuous.
He's at the Bar.

McCOMAS (patronizingly). A potman, eh?

WAITER (with a touch of melancholy, as if recalling a disappointment
softened by time). No, sir: the other bar - your profession, sir. A Q.C.,

McCOMAS (embarrassed). I'm sure I beg your pardon.

WAITER. Not at all, sir. Very natural mistake, I'm sure, sir. I've often
wished he was a potman, sir. Would have been off my hands ever so much
sooner, sir. (Aside to Valentine, who is again in difficulties.) Salt at
your elbow, sir. (Resuming.) Yes, sir: had to support him until he was
thirty-seven, sir. But doing well now, sir: very satisfactory indeed,
sir. Nothing less than fifty guineas, sir.

McCOMAS. Democracy, Crampton! - modern democracy!

WAITER (calmly). No, sir, not democracy: only education, sir.
Scholarships, sir. Cambridge Local, sir. Sidney Sussex College, sir.
(Dolly plucks his sleeve and whispers as he bends down.) Stone ginger,
miss? Right, miss. (To McComas.) Very good thing for him, sir: he never
had any turn for real work, sir. (He goes into the hotel, leaving the
company somewhat overwhelmed by his son's eminence.)

VALENTINE. Which of us dare give that man an order again!

DOLLY. I hope he won't mind my sending him for ginger-beer.

CRAMPTON (doggedly). While he's a waiter it's his business to wait. If
you had treated him as a waiter ought to be treated, he'd have held his

DOLLY. What a loss that would have been! Perhaps he'll give us an
introduction to his son and get us into London society. (The waiter
reappears with the ginger-beer.)

CRAMPTON (growling contemptuously). London society! London society!!
You're not fit for any society, child.

DOLLY (losing her temper). Now look here, Mr. Crampton. If you think -

WAITER (softly, at her elbow). Stone ginger, miss.

DOLLY (taken aback, recovers her good humor after a long breath and says
sweetly). Thank you, dear William. You were just in time. (She drinks.)

McCOMAS (making a fresh effort to lead the conversation into
dispassionate regions). If I may be allowed to change the subject, Miss
Clandon, what is the established religion in Madeira?

GLORIA. I suppose the Portuguese religion. I never inquired.

DOLLY. The servants come in Lent and kneel down before you and confess
all the things they've done: and you have to pretend to forgive them. Do
they do that in England, William?

WAITER. Not usually, miss. They may in some parts: but it has not come
under my notice, miss. (Catching Mrs. Clandon's eye as the young waiter
offers her the salad bowl.) You like it without dressing, ma'am: yes,
ma'am, I have some for you. (To his young colleague, motioning him to
serve Gloria.) This side, Jo. (He takes a special portion of salad from
the service table and puts it beside Mrs. Clandon's plate. In doing so
he observes that Dolly is making a wry face.) Only a bit of watercress,
miss, got in by mistake. (He takes her salad away.) Thank you, miss.
(To the young waiter, admonishing him to serve Dolly afresh.) Jo.
(Resuming.) Mostly members of the Church of England, miss.

DOLLY. Members of the Church of England! What's the subscription?

CRAMPTON (rising violently amid general consternation). You see how my
children have been brought up, McComas. You see it; you hear it. I call
all of you to witness - (He becomes inarticulate, and is about to strike
his fist recklessly on the table when the waiter considerately takes
away his plate.)

MRS. CLANDON (firmly). Sit down, Fergus. There is no occasion at all
for this outburst. You must remember that Dolly is just like a foreigner
here. Pray sit down.

CRAMPTON (subsiding unwillingly). I doubt whether I ought to sit here
and countenance all this. I doubt it.

WAITER. Cheese, sir; or would you like a cold sweet?

CRAMPTON (take aback). What? Oh! - cheese, cheese.

DOLLY. Bring a box of cigarettes, William.

WAITER. All ready, miss. (He takes a box of cigarettes from the service
table and places them before Dolly, who selects one and prepares to
smoke. He then returns to his table for a box of vestas.)

CRAMPTON (staring aghast at Dolly). Does she smoke?

DOLLY (out of patience). Really, Mr. Crampton, I'm afraid I'm spoiling
your lunch. I'll go and have my cigarette on the beach. (She leaves
the table with petulant suddenness and goes down the steps. The waiter
attempts to give her the matches; but she is gone before he can reach

CRAMPTON (furiously). Margaret: call that girl back. Call her back, I

McCOMAS (trying to make peace). Come, Crampton: never mind. She's her
father's daughter: that's all.

MRS. CLANDON (with deep resentment). I hope not, Finch. (She rises: they
all rise a little.) Mr. Valentine: will you excuse me: I am afraid Dolly
is hurt and put out by what has passed. I must go to her.

CRAMPTON. To take her part against me, you mean.

MRS. CLANDON (ignoring him). Gloria: will you take my place whilst I am
away, dear. (She crosses to the steps. Crampton's eyes follow her with
bitter hatred. The rest watch her in embarrassed silence, feeling the
incident to be a very painful one.)

WAITER (intercepting her at the top of the steps and offering her a box
of vestas). Young lady forgot the matches, ma'am. If you would be so
good, ma'am.

MRS. CLANDON (surprised into grateful politeness by the witchery of his
sweet and cheerful tones). Thank you very much. (She takes the matches
and goes down to the beach. The waiter shepherds his assistant along
with him into the hotel by the kitchen entrance, leaving the luncheon
party to themselves.)

CRAMPTON (throwing himself back in his chair). There's a mother for you,
McComas! There's a mother for you!

GLORIA (steadfastly). Yes: a good mother.

CRAMPTON. And a bad father? That's what you mean, eh?

VALENTINE (rising indignantly and addressing Gloria). Miss Clandon: I -

CRAMPTON (turning on him). That girl's name is Crampton, Mr. Valentine,
not Clandon. Do you wish to join them in insulting me?

VALENTINE (ignoring him). I'm overwhelmed, Miss Clandon. It's all my
fault: I brought him here: I'm responsible for him. And I'm ashamed of

CRAMPTON. What d'y' mean?

GLORIA (rising coldly). No harm has been done, Mr. Valentine. We have
all been a little childish, I am afraid. Our party has been a failure:
let us break it up and have done with it. (She puts her chair aside
and turns to the steps, adding, with slighting composure, as she passes
Crampton.) Good-bye, father.

(She descends the steps with cold, disgusted indifference. They all look
after her, and so do not notice the return of the waiter from the hotel,
laden with Crampton's coat, Valentine's stick, a couple of shawls and
parasols, a white canvas umbrella, and some camp stools.)

CRAMPTON (to himself, staring after Gloria with a ghastly expression).
Father! Father!! (He strikes his fist violently on the table.) Now -

WAITER (offering the coat). This is yours, sir, I think, sir. (Crampton
glares at him; then snatches it rudely and comes down the terrace
towards the garden seat, struggling with the coat in his angry efforts
to put it on. McComas rises and goes to his assistance; then takes
his hat and umbrella from the little iron table, and turns towards the
steps. Meanwhile the waiter, after thanking Crampton with unruffled
sweetness for taking the coat, offers some of his burden to Phil.) The
ladies' sunshades, sir. Nasty glare off the sea to-day, sir: very trying
to the complexion, sir. I shall carry down the camp stools myself, sir.

PHILIP. You are old, Father William; but you are the most considerate of
men. No: keep the sunshades and give me the camp stools (taking them).

WAITER (with flattering gratitude). Thank you, sir.

PHILIP. Finch: share with me (giving him a couple). Come along. (They go
down the steps together.)

VALENTINE (to the waiter). Leave me something to bring down - one of
these. (Offering to take a sunshade.)

WAITER (discreetly). That's the younger lady's, sir. (Valentine lets
it go.) Thank you, sir. If you'll allow me, sir, I think you had better
have this. (He puts down the sunshades on Crampton's chair, and
produces from the tail pocket of his dress coat, a book with a lady's
handkerchief between the leaves, marking the page.) The eldest young
lady is reading it at present. (Valentine takes it eagerly.) Thank you,
sir. Schopenhauer, sir, you see. (He takes up the sunshades again.) Very
interesting author, sir: especially on the subject of ladies, sir. (He
goes down the steps. Valentine, about to follow him, recollects Crampton
and changes his mind.)

VALENTINE (coming rather excitedly to Crampton). Now look here,
Crampton: are you at all ashamed of yourself?

CRAMPTON (pugnaciously). Ashamed of myself! What for?

VALENTINE. For behaving like a bear. What will your daughter think of me
for having brought you here?

CRAMPTON. I was not thinking of what my daughter was thinking of you.

VALENTINE. No, you were thinking of yourself. You're a perfect maniac.

CRAMPTON (heartrent). She told you what I am - a father - a father robbed
of his children. What are the hearts of this generation like? Am I to
come here after all these years - to see what my children are for
the first time! to hear their voices! - and carry it all off like a
fashionable visitor; drop in to lunch; be Mr. Crampton - M i s t e
r Crampton! What right have they to talk to me like that? I'm their
father: do they deny that? I'm a man, with the feelings of our common
humanity: have I no rights, no claims? In all these years who have I
had round me? Servants, clerks, business acquaintances. I've had respect
from them - aye, kindness. Would one of them have spoken to me as that
girl spoke? - would one of them have laughed at me as that boy was
laughing at me all the time? (Frantically.) My own children! M i s t e r
Crampton! My -

VALENTINE. Come, come: they're only children. The only one of them
that's worth anything called you father.

CRAMPTON (wildly). Yes: "good-bye, father." Oh, yes: she got at my
feelings - with a stab!

VALENTINE (taking this in very bad part). Now look here, Crampton: you
just let her alone: she's treated you very well. I had a much worse time
of it at lunch than you.


VALENTINE (with growing impetuosity). Yes: I. I sat next to her; and
I never said a single thing to her the whole time - couldn't think of a
blessed word. And not a word did she say to me.


VALENTINE. Well? Well??? (Tackling him very seriously and talking
faster and faster.) Crampton: do you know what's been the matter with me
to-day? You don't suppose, do you, that I'm in the habit of playing such
tricks on my patients as I played on you?

CRAMPTON. I hope not.

VALENTINE. The explanation is that I'm stark mad, or rather that I've
never been in my real senses before. I'm capable of anything: I've grown
up at last: I'm a Man; and it's your daughter that's made a man of me.

CRAMPTON (incredulously). Are you in love with my daughter?

VALENTINE (his words now coming in a perfect torrent). Love! Nonsense:
it's something far above and beyond that. It's life, it's faith, it's
strength, certainty, paradise -

CRAMPTON (interrupting him with acrid contempt). Rubbish, man! What have
you to keep a wife on? You can't marry her.

VALENTINE. Who wants to marry her? I'll kiss her hands; I'll kneel at
her feet; I'll live for her; I'll die for her; and that'll be enough for
me. Look at her book! See! (He kisses the handkerchief.) If you offered
me all your money for this excuse for going down to the beach and
speaking to her again, I'd only laugh at you. (He rushes buoyantly off
to the steps, where he bounces right into the arms of the waiter, who
is coming up form the beach. The two save themselves from falling by
clutching one another tightly round the waist and whirling one another

WAITER (delicately). Steady, sir, steady.

VALENTINE (shocked at his own violence). I beg your pardon.

WAITER. Not at all, sir, not at all. Very natural, sir, I'm sure, sir,
at your age. The lady has sent me for her book, sir. Might I take the
liberty of asking you to let her have it at once, sir?

VALENTINE. With pleasure. And if you will allow me to present you with a
professional man's earnings for six weeks - (offering him Dolly's crown

WAITER (as if the sum were beyond his utmost expectations). Thank you,
sir: much obliged. (Valentine dashes down the steps.) Very high-spirited
young gentleman, sir: very manly and straight set up.

CRAMPTON (in grumbling disparagement). And making his fortune in a

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Online LibraryGeorge Bernard ShawYou Never Can Tell → online text (page 4 of 9)