Hubert Henry Davies.

The plays of Hubert Henry Davies (Volume 2) online

. (page 16 of 22)
Online LibraryHubert Henry DaviesThe plays of Hubert Henry Davies (Volume 2) → online text (page 16 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and upon the other is a sideboard, with whisky and
brandy decanters, several syphons of soda water, and
some tumblers, also a plate of sandwiches, and a dish
of fruit. A table, with writing materials and a disorder
of papers upon it, is in the centre of the room. An
ordinary chair stands behind this table, and armchairs
are near it. On the far side of the room from the fire-
place is a sofa ; there is also other furniture, including
a window-seat. This is the sitting-room of the small
flat which Geoffrey sherwood rents furnished.
The furniture is good enough, but ordinary. The
room has an air of comfort owing to the presence of
Geoffrey's own belongings. It is late at night,
almost midnight. The electric light is turned off, and
the curtains are dravon over the lower half of the
window. The room is empty, and is very faintly
lighted by the flre in the grate and the lights in the
street below.

VOL. II 209 P


The electric hell at the entrance rings.

Enter taylor.

TAYLOR is the valet to Geoffrey and also to the other men
who occupy the other flats in the bnilding. He is a
middle-aged man, and a good creature with a well-
trained servant's manner. He enters from the bedroom
stealthily, treading carefully so as not to make a noise.
He closes the door after him noiselessly, then crosses
to the entrance, turns on the electric light, and opens the
front door.

Enter hugh brown.

HUGH is a young barrister about thirty — about Geoffrey's
age. He wears his day clothes — his high hat and his
black coat.

HUGH. Good-evening, Taylor.

TAYLOR. Good-evening, sir.

HUGH {coming down towards the table). Is Mr. Sherwood

TAYLOR {closes the outer door and conies towards hugh
before he answers). Mr. Sherwood is asleep, sir.

HUGH {a little surprised). Gone to bed — has he ?

TAYLOR. No, sir, not yet — not properly. He's lying
on his bed half-dressed. He's been there for the last
four hours.

HUGH. All evening ?

TAYLOR. Yes, sir. It was soon after seven that he
dropped off.

HUGH {laying down his hat and umbrella). I'm glad to
hear that he could drop off. I was afraid that to-night
he'd be feeling like anything else but that. I suppose
you know what's been happening to-day ?

TAYLOR. Yes, sir — not from anything that Mr.
Sherwood told me, but I saw in the evening papers that
Miss Valentine Guest had been getting married.

HUGH. Yes. I thought Mr. Sheru^ood might be feeling
depressed. That's why I came round so late.

TAYLOR. I see, sir.

HUGH. I rang him up several times during the evening,
but they told me they could get no answer.

TAYLOR. That was because the last time I came up
to have a look at Mr. Sherwood — hearing the telephone
bell ringing — and being afraid it might wake him up,


I took the receiver off the hook and laid it on the

HUGH. He must have been sleeping soundly if he
didn't hear the telephone.

TAYLOR {looks Steadily and gravely at hugh as he
replies). Oh, sir ! It isn't real sleep. It's drugs. {Takes
a small box of cachets from his pocket and shows it to
HUGH as he comes towards him.) I found this box in his
room — cachets, I think they call them.

HUGH {takes the box from taylor and looks at it before
he says). I've urged him over and over again not to take
these things,

{Lays the box of cachets on the table.)

TAYLOR {picking the box up as he speaks). I know you
have, sir — so have I. But if he won't listen to you, it's
not much use me talking. I do what I can. Whenever
I find the nasty things I take them downstairs and pitch
'em behind the kitchen fire. If he asks me for them I
say I don't know anything about them — haven't seen
them. {Puts the box in his pocket again as he continues.)
That may be very wrong, sir, but I don't know what else
to do. I haven't the time to look after Mr. Sherwood
as I'd like to. It's not as if I was only his servant.
There's the other gentlemen in the other flats to attend
to. It would take a man all his time to keep Mr. Sher-
wood away from the drugs and the drink. It's a sad
pity, sir, to see a nice gentleman like him going this

HUGH. He's only begun it since — well, the last few
weeks ?

TAYLOR. I never knew him to so much as look at a
drug before, nor to take a drop too much of anything
on any occasion. It's only since — lately.

HUGH. Since his engagement was broken off ?

TAYLOR {discreetly making a pretence of arranging some
of the things on the table as he replies). I can't say, sir. I
don't know exactly when that was, Mr. Sherwood didn't
tell me.

HUGH, Oh, I thought you'd be sure to know.

TAYLOR. I guessed what had happened. I couldn't
help noticing when the letters and telephone messages
stopped coming and going. And also — Miss Valentine
used to come here to tea sometimes, with her mother


or some other lady. She hasn't been since Christmas,
and one day, it was somewhere about the end of January,
all her photos, which he used to have stuck about his
rooms, disappeared. That was the way I guessed —
from things like that and from the change in Mr. Sher-
wood. He never chaffs me now when I call him in the

HUGH. But it wasn't all at once — I mean — it wasn't
immediately after his engagement was broken off that
he began taking drugs ?

TAYLOR. No, sir. He kept up bravely for a time —
and then — I suppose he found that he couldn't sleep.
And it's only in the last three weeks that he's always
at the whisky, I suppose that's to stop him thinking.

HUGH. He attends to his business. He goes to the
City every day — doesn't he ?

TAYLOR. Mostly every day. This afternoon he was
working at home — studying his financial reports and
writing letters at this table here — from two o'clock on.

HUGH {more to himself than to taylor). While Valen-
tine was getting married !

TAYLOR. He finished at about six. Then he had a
bit of something to eat. He'd had no lunch. When
I came up to clear away he was lying down on his bed
asleep, where he is still.

HUGH. Aren't you wanting to go to bed ? Isn't it
getting rather late ?

TAYLOR. It's past my usual time, sir — and if you
were thinking of staying

HUGH. Yes — all right — I'll stay. I'll be here when
he wakes up.

TAYLOR. Thank you, sir. I should feel easier in my
mind if I knew that one of his friends was with him.

{The entrance hell rings, and immediately after-
wards there is a violent knocking on the door and
a young mans voice shouting.)

TONY {without). Geoffrey ! Geoffrey !

HUGH {hurriedly to taylor). That's Mr. Hewlett.
Go and open the door at once and tell him not to make
such a noise.

(taylor opens the door.)

{Enter tony hewxett. tony is a cheerful, nice-
looking hoy of twenty-three. He is smartly


dressed in his evening clothes. He wears an
overcoat and an opera hat set rakishly on his
(TAYLOR makes signs to tony to come in quietly,
but TONY does not notice these, and comes gaily
towards hugh, exclaiming.)
TONY. Hullo, Hugh ! Where's Geoffrey ?
HUGH. Don't make such a row, you fool. Geoffrey's

TONY. Oh, is he ? I'm awfully sorry.
HUGH. You should come in more quietly.
TONY. How was I to know he was asleep ? This is
no time to be in bed — midnight.

HUGH. He's not in bed. He's lying down. He's
been taking a sleeping draught.

TONY. Poor old thing. {Taking off his overcoat and
hat, and laying them down near hugh's hat and umbrella
as he speaks.) He must have been having a devil of a

TAYLOR. If you two gentlemen are staying I'll bid
you both good-night.

HUGH. Good-night, Taylor.

TONY. Good-night, Taylor. Pleasant dreams.

TAYLOR. Thank you, sir.

(TAYLOR goes out, shutting the inner and outer doors
after him.)
TONY. I'm awfully sorry for poor old Geoffrey. I
wonder where he keeps his cigarettes ?

{Hunts about for cigarettes.)
HUGH {taking his cigarette case from his pocket). I've
got some here.

TONY. All right, thanks. I've found them.

{Helps himself to a cigarette from a box which he
finds on the sideboard, lights it, and then sits
(HUGH watches him, but does not speak until tony
is seated.)
HUGH. Are you going to stay ?

TONY. Yes, of course. I'm going to stay till Geoffrey
wakes up. Aren't you ?

HUGH. Yes, but I wonder if you'd better.

TONY. Why shouldn't I if you do ?

HUGH. Well, because you're a very nice child, Tony,


and we're all very fond of you, but you do sometimes
get on our nerves, and if I were in Geoffrey's situation
I doubt if I could stand you.

TONY. Geoffrey wants livening up. I'm better at
that than you are. You are all ver}^ well in your way,
Hugh. You are one of the knobs on the backbone of
England, and I'm more the life and soul of the party.
Will you have a drink ?

{Goes to the sideboard and proceeds to pour out two
whiskies and sodas.)

HUGH. Yes, please. A little one.

TONY. It was seeing the light twinkling in this window
that brought me up here : that and my thirst, and feeling
so sorry for poor old Geoffrey. I couldn't help thinking
about him all the time at the wedding.

HUGH. Were you at the wedding ?

TONY {bringing the two tumblers of whisky and soda
to the table). Yes. I thought I should have seen you there.

HUGH. You thought I'd have gone to Valentine's
wedding ! Good heavens ! I should think not, indeed.

TONY. Weren't you asked ?

HUGH. They asked every one they knew, I think, but
/ wasn't going to be seen there — after the way she's
treated Geoffrey.

TONY. It wasn't very nice I must admit, but, after
all, if Valentine chooses to break off her engagement it's
none of my business. And then, you see, her family
and mine are very old friends. I've known Valentine
much longer than I've known Geoffrey, and I'm very
fond of her. I think she's a dear.

HUGH. Do you ? I think she's hateful.

TONY. You only say that out of loyalty to Geoffrey.
Everybody else thinks she's charming.

HUGH. Charming ! Oh, yes. She is pretty and
attractive, she knows how to please — {getting more and
more incensed as he continues his speech) but a girl who
could be engaged for over a year to a good fellow like
Geoffrey and then throw him over for no other reason
than because he's poor and she gets a chance to marry
a rich baronet !

TONY. He's not such a bad sort of fellow — Sir John

HUGH. He's a bore.


TONY. He's a good sportsman, and he's done his
share of pubHc service — been a magistrate and the High
Sheriff of his county and something or other in the

HUGH. Don't make excuses for her, Tony.

TONY. I'm not making excuses. I don't want to take
sides one way or the other, but you must see that she's
only done what people do. I don't say she's right to
throw over Geoffrey in order to make a good marriage,
but, after all — there's a good deal of difference between
being Lady Morland or the wife of an obscure business

HUGH. Geoffrey's clever and young. He'd have got
on if she'd given him time. I'm told by people who
ought to know that he shows quite unusual ability in
finance, and is likely to do extremely well — was likely
to do well.

TONY. I shouldn't wonder if old mother Guest has
a good deal to do with breaking off Valentine's engage-

HUGH. Girls marry whom they like nowadays and
not whom their mothers tell them. I can't make any
allowances for her when I think of Geoffrey. When I
think of what he was and what he is — going to the devil
as fast as he can with drink and drugs. That's Valen-
tine's work. We have to thank her for that.

TONY. Does he talk to you much about it ?

HUGH. No. Never a word. When she broke it off
he wrote and told me, and asked me never to mention it
to him. When we meet it's understood between us,
taken for granted, that's all. I can see he doesn't want
me to condole with him.

TONY. Fancy loving a girl as much as that I

HUGH. And fancy that girl not caring !

TONY. I'm rather sorry I went to her wedding now.
I think I ought to have taken a stand like you.

HUGH. I shouldn't let Geoffrey know you were there
if I were you.

TONY {consciously putting on airs). My dear fellow,
how can I hide the fact ? It is published in half the
evening papers. " Among those present were Lady
Crowborough, General Ames, Sir Charles Trotter, and
Mr. Anthony Hewlett."


HUGH. Look out, Tony. I think I hear him moving
about in the next room.

{They both pause and listen, looking towards the

{Enter Geoffrey shervnood. geoffrey is a
young man of about thirty, and the traces of his
recent way of living are clearly visible in his
face and demeanour. He is pale and hollow-
eyed. His movements are slow and uncertain,
and he hardly seems to attend to what is said.
He wears a smoking-suit and bedroom slippers
and a silk handkerchief round his neck, and he
hasnt brushed his hair. He tries to appear at
ease before the others, but he cannot smile. He
looks at them before he speaks, and they both
appear rather anxious and nervous though
determined to appear normal.)
GEOFFREY. Hullo. {He closes the door, and then goes
towards hugh as he says.) It's very good of you to
come and look me up. Have you got what you want
to drink ?

HUGH. Yes, thanks.

TONY. We helped ourselves.

GEOFFREY, Don't you want some cigarettes ?

TONY. Thanks.

HUGH. Thanks.

(GEOFFREY Carries the cigarette-box to the table and
sets it down between them, standing between
them behind the table.)
GEOFFREY. What havc you been doing all day,
Hugh ?

HUGH. I was in court most of the time.

GEOFFREY. Were you briefed ?

HUGH. Yes. We had rather an amusing case.

(HUGH tells the following story with exaggerated
animation, not because he thinks it is a particu-
larly good story, but in his attempt to appear
(tony plays up to him with smiles and nods and

occasional laughs and interjections.)
(GEOFFREY Standing between them appears to be
attending, but he hardly hears. He looks from
one to the other when they speak, but the ex-


pression of his face makes no response to what
is said. Part way through the narrative he
goes slowly to the sideboard, pours out a whisky
and soda, then turns to them, leaning against
the sideboard with his glass in his hand as the
narrative finishes.)

HUGH. It was an action brought by a firm of uphol-
sterers against a man called Thompson for some work
they had done in his house, which he said they hadn't
done properly, and so he refused to pay. It wasn't a
large amount, sixty pounds — nothing to Thompson.
He's rich and a good business man, but, like most of us,
he prides himself most on being what he isn't. He
wanted to shine as a wit. When the case was being
prepared he made a joke. This morning in court I was
leading him and he wouldn't be led. I couldn't think
what he was up to. He was leading up to his silly joke.
I'd forgotten all about it till— apropos of nothing- — out
it came. The judge was furious, pounced upon him
and rebuked him severely for levity. Poor Thompson
spat and spluttered and went purple in the face, and
gave his evidence so badly the jury thought he was lying
and he lost his case which he ought to have won.

TONY. I wish I'd been there to see him make an ass
of himself.

GEOFFREY {to tony). You wcrc at the wedding.

TONY {taken by surprise is a little disconcerted and
echoes weakly). The wedding !

GEOFFREY. Valentine's wedding. I read in the paper
that among those present was Mr. Anthony Hewlett.

TONY. Oh, yes. I looked in for a minute.

GEOFFREY. Did you go to the church ?

TONY. Yes. I looked in there too.

GEOFFREY. Did Valentine look nice ?

TONY. Very — very nice indeed.

GEOFFREY. Radiant, happy — smiling ?

TONY. I didn't notice that she smiled much.

GEOFFREY. She had a fine day.

TONY. A lovely day.

GEOFFREY. The sun shone on her. Why are you
looking so glum, Hugh ?

HUGH {smiles). Was I looking glum ? I didn't know


GEOFFREY {addressing both of them). You thought
you'd find me sunk in the depths of despair on Valen-
tine's wedding night. Oh, no — that's all over. I was
in despair three months ago — naturally. It's not nice
to be chucked. It's damned disagreeable. But I hope
I've got more pride than to break my heart over losing
a girl who cares no more about me than she does. I
should be a mean-spirited devil if I were still crying my
eyes out because my girl went off with another fellow.
Besides — you don't love a girl the way I loved Valentine
— if you can't respect her. I don't respect her. How
can I ? Neither she nor any of the women of her class
who do what she's done — sell themselves for a title and
three houses. I see no difference between them and
those poor wretches down below there walking the pave-
ments of Piccadilly. {The passion goes out of him. He
becomes listless again as he says.) Have another drink,

HUGH. No thanks, old boy.


(HUGH, unseen by geoffrey, shakes his head at


TONY. No thanks.

GEOFFREY. Then I must drink by myself. {Goes to
the sideboard and fills up his glass again as he says.)
That's how I feel about Valentine. {Sits on the end of
the sofa with his glass in his hand as he continues.) So
don't waste your sympathy on me, you fellows. I know
why you came here to-night, to sit with me, to cheer me
up, to pity me. It was very nice of you. I appreciate
it, but it's not necessary. I'm all right. {Drinks.)

TONY {pleasantly). Would you rather we got out —
Hugh and I ?

GEOFFREY. No, no. Stay here — stay just as long as
you like. I'm not going to bed for hours yet. I've had
my sleep. {Drinks again.)

HUGH. Would you like a game of anything ?

GEOFFREY {cchocs). A game ?

TONY. Auction ?

GEOFFREY. We're only three.

HUGH. We could ring up Basil and see if he's there.

TONY. Yes. Bright idea, Hugh. Basil's a late one.
He's sure not to be in bed yet.


GEOFFREY. He won't be at home.

HUGH {making a move to rise as he says). I'll find out —
shall I ?

GEOFFREY. No — never mind. I don't think I want
to play cards. My head's queer. I was working rather
hard this afternoon. {Drains his glass again, then says
after a pause.) I'm sorry I'm not better company. It
must be damned dull for you here.

TONY. No — it isn't.

HUGH. We're quite happy.

GEOFFREY. I wish you'd drink up. Tony !

TONY. No, thank you.


HUGH. I don't want any more, thanks, (geoffrey
rises, turns to the sideboard and begins to refill his glass.
HUGH watches him rather anxiously.) I say, old fellow,
don't have any more.


HUGH. Don't you think you've had about enough ?
GEOFFREY. I Want it. I'm thirsty.
HUGH {rises and goes towards geoffrey as he speaks).
It's so bad for you — taking one drink after another.
You've got a headache already. You'll only make
yourself ill. It's senseless.

(GEOFFREY, Setting Ms glass down, turns angrily on

HUGH. He moves about during his speech to

give vent to his feelings. When once he gets

started he is so nervous and wrought up he seems

as if he couldn't stop, keeps coming to a full

stop as if he had finished and then returning

again to the attack, hugh, near the sideboard,

bears it all patiently.)

(tony leans his head on his hands and looks down

at the table-cloth, embarrassed.)

GEOFFREY. Shut up, Hugh ! You'rc always at it,

telling me what I ought to do. . . . Last week I was to

go out of London — see fresh scenes and new faces. A

lot of good that would do me. . . . How can I get away ?

I'm not a millionaire, I've got to stay here and work. I

can't afford to go away. You know that perfectly well

. . . and there's no need for me to get out of London.

. . . Now I'm not to have a drink ! Good heavens !

Haven't I lived by myself and looked after myself for


ten years ? I can take care of myself all right without
any interference from you or from any one, I don't want
telling. {At his loudest and angriest.) Leave me alone,
Hugh — d'you hear ? Leave me alone ! {The rest is an
angry mumble as he goes to the window, opens it, and
sits on the window seat looking out.) I'm sick of being
told what I ought to do and advised and interfered

{There is a long pause after this outbreak before
TONY speaks. During the pause hugh sits on
the end of the sofa nearest tony.)
TONY. Suppose we all go out ? What d'you say,
Geoffrey ?

GEOFFREY {whose anger is now spent, says drearily).
Whatever you like. I'll go out with you or stay here —
it's all the same to me.

HUGH. What's the good of going out now ? Every
place is shut.

TONY. We could prowl about the streets.
GEOFFREY {grimly). Yes — and insult people. Why
not ? I should rather like to insult some one.
TONY. Come on then. Get some clothes on.

(GEOFFREY IS leaning out of the window, so he does

not respond to this.)
(HUGH rises to detain tony, speaking aside to him.)
HUGH. Don't let us take him out.
TONY. Why ?
HUGH. He'll only get us all locked up.

(HUGH and TONY separate when geoffrey
GEOFFREY. It's raining.

TONY. Is it ?

GEOFFREY. Let's Stay where we are.
TONY. All right.

{Kneels on the window seat looking out.)
GEOFFREY. Givc me a drink, Hugh. {Sits watching
HUGH, taking a savage pleasure in making hugh bring
him a drink, hugh obediently but reluctantly fills up
Geoffrey's glass and gives it to him.) Give yourself

(hugh pours out a drink for himself, then sits down
again by the table. After a moment's silence,
during which geoffrey and hugh sip their


drinks, tony turns suddenly to them and ex-
TONY. I think I could pot that pohceman.

{Hurries to the sideboard, seizes a syphon, returns
to the window with it, takes aim, and squirts at
somebody down in the street.)
(HUGH is amused by this little diversion and watches
what TONY does, hut Geoffrey sits gloomily
holding his glass.)
{When TONY has squirted the syphon through the
windoti) he peers cautiously out, then draws
back, suddenly horrified as he exclaims to the
Oh, I say ! I hit a woman. I squirted 't right on her
hat. {Peers out of the window again and calls down.)
Sorry !

HUGH. What does she say ?

TONY. Nothing. She's just standing there looking

GEOFFREY. What's she like ?
TONY. Not bad.

GEOFFREY. Tell her to come up here.
TONY {turns to Geoffrey). D'you mean it ?
GEOFFREY. Ycs. She might be amusing. It's some
one to talk to anyway.

TONY {calls through the window). Come up !
GEOFFREY. You'll havc to go dowu and let her in,
the front door's closed.

TONY {calls through the window). Wait a minute.

(tony hurries to the sideboard, deposits the syphon,
then goes out, leaving both doors open.)
GEOFFREY. I'm sorry I lost my temper with you,

HUGH. That doesn't matter. I've forgotten all about

GEOFFREY. I kuow you think I drink to drown my
sorrows. That was what made me angry — because I
don't — it's not for that. That may have been the reason
once — but not now. I don't care now ; I don't feel any-
thing. I'm like a man who has had his arm or his leg
amputated. He recovers ; he doesn't feel pain ; but
he's not the same man that he was before : he's marked ;
he's maimed for life. Something vital has gone out of


me — and left me so bored. If I could only think of
an^-thing to do that would be the least bit interesting.
{lie drinks slowly, iiugii watches him, then drinks to keep
him company. Then Geoffrey says in a matter-of-fact
tone.) I wonder what Tony's up to.

HUGH. I'll just see if I can see him. {Goes to the
windaw and looks out.)

TONY {heard outside). Come along, here we are. This
is it. Come in. {Enter tony, grinning. He says to
GEOFFREY). I think she's a bit suspicious.

GEOFFREY {calls out). Comc in. It's all right.

{Enter miriam. She is a young woman, tawdrily
dressed in cheap and ostentatious finery, but
with an eye for effect. She carries a small
metal bag. In spite of the vulgarity of her dress
she looks interesting. Her face is sensitive and
intelligent though too flagrantly " made up.''''
She enters very slowly and is reserved and sus-
picious and rather hostile at first. She does not
advance very far, but remains standing near the
door as she looks at the room and at her three
unknown companions.)
GEOFFREY. Good-cvening.

(miriam looks at geoffrey, and gives a half nod
in answer to his salutation, but without smiling.)
HUGH. Good-evening.

(miriam looks at hugh and repeats the same
business. )
MIRIAM {suspiciously). What is it ? What d'you
want ?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryHubert Henry DaviesThe plays of Hubert Henry Davies (Volume 2) → online text (page 16 of 22)