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Yardsley (with an effort at brilliance). The kitchen belle doesn't
seem to work.

Dorothy. Ordinarily she does, but she seems to be upset by something
this afternoon. I'm afraid she's in love. If you will excuse me a
moment I will go and prepare the tea myself.

Barlow. Do; good! Then we shall not need the sugar.

Yardsley. You might omit the spoons too, after a remark like that,
Miss Dorothy.

Dorothy. We'll omit Mr. Barlow's spoon. I'll bring some for you and
me. [She goes out.

Yardsley (with a laugh). That's one on you, Barlow. But I say, old
man (taking out his watch and snapping the cover to three or four
times), it's getting very late - after five now. If you want to go
with Billy Wilkins you'd better take up your hat and walk. I'll say
good-bye to Miss Andrews for you.

Barlow. Thanks. Too late now. You said Billie wouldn't wait after
four thirty.

Yardsley. Did I say four thirty? I meant five thirty. Anyhow,
Billie isn't over-prompt. Better go.

Barlow. You seem mighty anxious to get rid of me.

Yardsley. I? Not at all, my dear boy - not at all. I'm very, very
fond of you, but I thought you'd prefer opera to me. Don't you see?
That's where my modesty comes in. You're so fond of a good chat I
thought you'd want to go to-night. Wilkins has a box.

Barlow. You said seats a little while ago.

Yardsley. Of course I did. And why not? There are seats in boxes.
Didn't you know that?

Barlow. Look here, Yardsley, what's up, anyhow? You've been deuced
queer to-day. What are you after?

Yardsley (tragically). Shall I confide in you? Can I, with a sense
of confidence that you will not betray me?

Barlow (eagerly). Yes, Bob. Go on. What is it? I'll never give
you away, and I _may_ be able to give you some good advice.

Yardsley. I am here to - to - to rob the house! Business has been
bad, and one must live. [Barlow looks at him in disgust.

Yardsley (mockingly). You have my secret, John Barlow. Remember
that it was wrung from me in confidence. You must not betray me.
Turn your back while I surreptitiously remove the piano and the gas-
fixtures, won't you?

Barlow (looking at him thoughtfully). Yardsley, I have done you an

Yardsley. Indeed?

Barlow. Yes. Some one claimed, at the club, the other day, that you
were the biggest donkey in existence, and I denied it. I was wrong,
old man, I was wrong, and I apologize. You are.

Yardsley. You are too modest, Jack. You forget - yourself.

Barlow. Well, perhaps I do; but I've nothing to conceal, and you
have. You've been behaving in a most incomprehensible fashion this
afternoon, as if you owned the house.

Yardsley. Well, what of it? Do you own it?

Barlow. No, I don't, but -

Yardsley. But you hope to. Well, I have no such mercenary motive.
I'm not after the house.

Barlow (bristling up). After the house? Mercenary motive? I demand
an explanation of those words. What do you mean?

Yardsley. I mean this, Jack Barlow: I mean that I am here for - for
my own reasons; but you - you have come here for the purpose of -

Dorothy enters wish a tray, upon which are the tea things.

Barlow (about to retort to Yardsley, perceiving Dorothy). Ah! Let
me assist you.

Dorothy. Thank you so much. I really believe I never needed help
more. (She delivers the tray to Barlow, who sets it on the table.
Dorothy, exhausted, drops into a chair.) Fan me - quick - or I shall
faint. I've - I've had an awful time, and I really don't know what to

Barlow and Yardsley (together). Why, what's the matter?

Yardsley. I hope the house isn't on fire?

Barlow. Or that you haven't been robbed?

Dorothy. No, no; nothing like that. It's - it's about Jennie.

Yardsley (nervously). Jennie? Wha - wha - what's the matter with

Dorothy. I only wish I knew. I -

Yardsley (aside). I'm glad you don't.

Barlow. What say?

Yardsley. I didn't say anything. Why should I say anything? I
haven't anything to say. If people who had nothing to say would not
insist upon talking, you'd be -

Dorothy. I heard the poor girl weeping down-stairs, and when I went
to the dumbwaiter to ask her what was the matter, I heard - I heard a
man's voice.

Yardsley. Man's voice?

Barlow. Man's voice is what Miss Andrews said.

Dorothy. Yes; it was Hicks, our coachman, and he was dreadfully
angry about something.

Yardsley (sinking into chair). Good Lord! Hicks! Angry! At -

Dorothy. He was threatening to kill somebody.

Yardsley. This grows worse and worse! Threatening to kill somebody!
D-did-did you o-over-overhear huh-huh-whom he was going to kuk-kill?

Barlow. What's the matter with you, Yardsley? Are you going to die
of fright, or have you suddenly caught a chill?

Dorothy. Oh, I hope not! Don't die here, anyhow, Mr. Yardsley. If
you must die, please go home and die. I couldn't stand another shock
to-day. Why, really, I was nearly frightened to death. I don't know
now but what I ought to send for the police, Hicks was so violent.

Barlow. Perhaps she and Hicks have had a lovers' quarrel.

Yardsley. Very likely; very likely indeed. I think that is no doubt
the explanation of the whole trouble. Lovers will quarrel. They
were engaged, you know.

Dorothy (surprised). No, I didn't know it. Were they? Who told

Yardsley (discovering his mistake). Why - er - wasn't it you said so,
Miss Dorothy? Or you, Barlow?

Barlow. I have not the honor of the young woman's confidence, and so
could not have given you the information.

Dorothy. I didn't know it, so how could I have told you?

Yardsley (desperately). Then I must have dreamed it. I do have the
queerest dreams sometimes, but there's nothing strange about this
one, anyhow. Parlor-maids frequently do - er - become engaged to
coachmen and butlers and that sort of thing. It isn't a rare
occurrence at all. If I'd said she was engaged to Billie Wilkins, or
to - to Barlow here -

Barlow. Or to yourself.

Yardsley. Sir? What do you mean to insinuate? That I am engaged to

Barlow. I never said so.

Dorothy. Oh dear, let us have the tea. You quarrelsome men are just
wearing me out. Mr. Barlow, do you want cream in yours?

Barlow. If you please; and one lump of sugar. (Dorothy pours is
out.) Thanks.

Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley?

Yardsley. Just a little, Miss Andrews. No cream, and no sugar.

[Dorothy prepares a cup for Yardsley. He is about to take it when -

Dorothy. Well, I declare! It's nothing but hot water! I forgot the
tea entirely!

Barlow (with a laugh). Oh, never mind. Hot water is good for

[With a significant look at Yardsley.

Yardsley. It depends on how you get it, Mr. Barlow. I've known men
who've got dyspepsia from living in hot water too much.

[As Yardsley speaks the portiere is violently clutched from without,
and Jennie's head is thrust into the room. No one observes her.

Barlow. Well, my cup is very satisfactory to me, Miss Dorothy. Fact
is, I've always been fond of cambric tea, and this is just right.

Yardsley (patronizingly). It _is_ good for children.

Jennie (trying to attract Yardsley's attention). Pst!

Yardsley. My mamma lets me have it Sunday nights.

Dorothy. Ha, ha, ha!

Barlow. Another joke? Good. Let me enjoy it too. Hee, Hee!

Jennie. Pst!

[Barlow looks around; Jennie hastily withdraws her head.

Barlow. I didn't know you had steam heat in this house.

Dorothy. We haven't. What put such an idea as that into your head?

Barlow. Why, I thought I heard the hissing of steam, the click of a
radiator, or something of that sort back by the door.

Yardsley. Maybe the house is haunted.

Dorothy. I fancy it was your imagination: or perhaps it was the
wind blowing through the hall. The pantry window is open.

Barlow. I guess maybe that's it. How fine it must be in the country

[Jennie pokes her head in through the portieres again, and follows it
with her arm and hand, in which is a feather duster, which she waves
wildly in an endeavor to attract Yardsley's attention.

Dorothy. Divine. I should so love to be out of town still. It
seems to me people always make a great mistake returning to the city
so early in the fall. The country is really at its best at this time
of year.

[Yardsley turns half around, and is about to speak, when he catches
sight of the now almost hysterical Jennie and her feather duster.

Barlow. Yes; I think so too. I was at Lenox last week, and the
foliage was gorgeous.

Yardsley (feeling that he must say something). Yes. I suppose all
the feathers on the maple-trees are turning red by this time.

Dorothy. Feathers, Mr. Yardsley?

Barlow. Feathers?

Yardsley (with a furtive glance at Jennie). Ha, ha! What an absurd
slip! Did I say feathers? I meant - I meant leaves, of course. All
the leaves on the dusters are turning.

Barlow. I don't believe you know what you do mean. Who ever heard
of leaves on dusters? What are dusters? Do you know, Miss Dorothy?

[As he turns to Miss Andrews, Yardsley tries to wave Jennie away.
She beckons with her arms more wildly than ever, and Yardsley
silently speaks the words, "Go away."

Dorothy. I'm sure I don't know of any tree by that name, but then
I'm not a - not a what?

Yardsley (with a forced laugh). Treeologist

Dorothy. What are dusters, Mr. Yardsley?

Barlow. Yes, old man, tell us. I'm anxious to find out myself.

Yardsley (aside). So am I. What the deuce are dusters, for this
occasion only? (Aloud) What? Never heard of dusters? Ho! Why,
dear me, where have you been all your lives? (Aside.) Must gain
time to think up what dusters are. (Aloud.) Why, they're as old as
the hills.

Barlow. That may be, but I can't say I think your description is at
all definite.

Dorothy. Do they look like maples?

Yardsley (with an angry wave of his arms towards Jennie). Something -
in fact, very much. They're exactly like them. You can hardly tell
them from oaks.

Barlow. Oaks?

Yardsley. I said oaks. Oaks! O-A-K-S!

Barlow. But oaks aren't like maples.

Yardsley. Well, who said they were? We were talking about oaks -
and - er - and dusters. We - er - we used to have a row of them in front
of our old house at - (Aside.) Now where the deuce did we have the
old house? Never had one, but we must for the sake of the present
situation. (Aloud.) Up at - at - Bryn-Mawr - or at - Troy, or some such
place, and - at - they kept the - the dust of the highway from getting
into the house. (With a sigh of relief.) And so, you see, they were
called dusters. Thought every one knew that.

[As Yardsley finishes, Jennie loses her balance and falls headlong
into the room.

Dorothy (starting up hastily). Why, Jennie!

Yardsley (staggering into chair). That settles it. It's all up with
me. [Jennie sobs, and, rising, rushes to Yardsley's side.

Jennie. Save yourself; he's going to kill you!

Dorothy. Jennie! What is the meaning of this? Mr. Yardsley - can -
can you shed any light on this mystery?

Yardsley (pulling himself together with a great effort). I? I
assure you I can't, Miss Andrews. How could I? All I know is that
somebody is - is going to kill me, though for what I haven't the
slightest idea.

Jennie (indignantly). Eh? What! Why, Mr. Yardsley - Bob!

Barlow. Bob?

Dorothy. Jennie! Bob?

Yardsley. Don't you call me Bob.

Jennie. It's Hicks. [Bursts out crying.

Barlow. Hicks?

Dorothy. Jennie, Hicks isn't Bob. His name - is George.

Yardsley (in a despairing rage). Hicks be -

Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley!

Yardsley (pulling himself together again). Bobbed. Hicks be Bobbed.
That's what I was going to say.

Dorothy. What on earth does this all mean? I must have an
explanation, Jennie. What have you to say for yourself?

Jennie. Why, I -

Yardsley. I tell you it isn't true. She's made it up out of whole

Barlow. What isn't true? She hasn't said anything yet.

Yardsley (desperately). I refer to what she's going to say. I'm a -
a - I'm a mind-reader, and I see it all as plain as day.

Dorothy. I can best judge of the truth of Jennie's words when she
has spoken them, Mr. Yardsley. Jennie, you may explain, if you can.
What do you mean by Hicks killing Mr. Yardsley, and why do you
presume to call Mr. Yardsley by his first name?

Yardsley (aside). Heigho! My goose is cooked.

Barlow. I fancy you wish you had taken that walk I suggested now.

Yardsley. You always were a good deal of a fancier.

Jennie. I hardly knows how to begin, Miss Dorothy. I - I'm so
flabbergasted by all that's happened this afternoon, mum, that I
can't get my thoughts straight, mum.

Dorothy. Never mind getting your thoughts straight, Jennie. I do
not want fiction. I want the truth.

Jennie. Well, mum, when a fine gentleman like Mr. Yardsley asks -

Yardsley. I tell you it isn't so.

Jennie. Indeed he did, mum.

Dorothy (impatiently). Did what?

Jennie. Axed me to marry him, mum.

Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley - asked - you - to - to marry him? [Barlow

Jennie (bursting into tears again). Yes, mum, he did, mum, right
here in this room. He got down on his knees to me on that Proossian
rug before the sofa, mum. I was standin' behind the sofa, havin'
just come in to tell him as how you'd be down shortly. He was
standin' before the lookin'-glass lookin' at himself, an' when I come
in he turns around and goes down on his knees and says such an
importunity may not occur again, mum; I've loved you very long; and
then he recited some pottery, mum, and said would I be his wife.

Yardsley (desperately). Let me explain.

Dorothy. Wait, Mr. Yardsley; your turn will come in a moment.

Barlow. Yes, it'll be here, my boy; don't fret about that. Take all
the time you need to make it a good one. Gad, if this doesn't strain
your imagination, nothing will.

Dorothy. Go on, Jennie. Then what happened?

Yardsley (with an injured expression). Do you expect me to stand
here, Miss Andrews, and hear this girl's horrible story?

Barlow. Then you know the story, do you, Yardsley? It's horrible,
and you are innocent. My! you are a mind-reader with a vengeance.

Dorothy. Don't mind what these gentlemen say, Jennie, but go on.

[Yardsley sinks into the arm-chair. Barlow chuckles; Miss Andrews
glances indignantly at him.

Dorothy. Pardon me, Mr. Barlow. If there is any humor in the
situation, I fail to see it.

Barlow (seeing his error). Nor, indeed, do I. I was not - ah -
laughing from mirth. That chuckle was hysterics, Miss Dorothy, I
assure you. There are some laughs that can hardly be differentiated
from sobs.

Jennie. I was all took in a heap, mum, to think of a fine gentleman
like Mr. Yardsley proposing to me, mum, and I says the same. Says I,
"Oh, Mr. Yardsley, this is so suddent like," whereat he looks up with
a countenance so full o' pain that I hadn't the heart to refuse him;
so, fergettin' Hicks for the moment, I says, kind of soft like,
certingly, sir. It ain't for the likes o' me to say no to the likes
o' him.

Yardsley. Then you said you were engaged to Hicks. You know you
did, Jennie.

Barlow. Ah! Then you admit the proposal?

Yardsley. Oh Lord! Worse and worse! I -

Dorothy. Jennie has not finished her story.

Jennie. I did say as how I was engaged to Hicks, but I thought he
would let me off; and Mr. Yardsley looked glad when I said that, and
said he'd make it all right with Hicks.

Yardsley. What? I? Jennie O'Brien, or whatever your horrible name
is, do you mean to say that I said I'd make it all right with Hicks?

Jennie. Not in them words, Mr. Yardsley; but you did say as how
you'd see him yourself and give him a present. You did indeed, Mr.
Yardsley, as you was a-standin' on that there Proossian rug.

Dorothy. Did you, Mr. Yardsley?

[Yardsley buries his face in his hands and groans.

Barlow. Not so ready with your explanations now, eh?

Dorothy. Mr. Barlow, really I must ask you not to interfere. Did
you say that, Mr. Yardsley?

Yardsley. I did, but -

Dorothy (frigidly). Go on, Jennie.

Jennie. Just then the front-door bell rings and Mr. Barlow comes,
and there wasn't no more importunity for me to speak; but when I got
down-stairs into the kitchen, mum, Mr. Hicks he comes in, an' (sobs) -
an' I breaks with him.

Yardsley. You've broken with Hicks for me?

Jennie. Yes, I have - but I wouldn't never have done it if I'd known -
boo-hoo - as how you'd behave this way an' deny ever havin' said a
word. I - I - I 1-lo-love Mr. Hicks, an' - I - I hate you - and I wish
I'd let him come up and kill you, as he said he would.

Dorothy. Jennie! Jennie! be calm! Where is Hicks now?

Yardsley. That's so. Where is Hicks? I want to see him.

Jennie. Never fear for that. You'll see him. He's layin' for you
outside. An' that, Miss Dorothy, is why - I was a-wavin' at him an'
sayin' "pst" to him. I wanted to warn him, mum, of his danger, mum,
because Hicks is very vi'lent, and he told me in so many words as how
he was a-goin' to _do - him - up_.

Barlow. You'd better inform Mr. Hicks, Jennie, that Mr. Yardsley is
already done up.

Yardsley. Do me up, eh? Well, I like that. I'm not afraid of any
coachman in creation as long as he's off the box. I'll go see him at

Dorothy. No - no - no. Don't, Mr. Yardsley; don't, I beg of you. I
don't want to have any scene between you.

Yardsley (heroically). What if he succeeds? I don't care. As
Barlow says, I'm done up as it is. I don't want to live after this.
What's the use. Everything's lost.

Barlow (dryly). Jennie hasn't thrown you over yet.

Jennie (sniffing airily). Yes, she has, too. I wouldn't marry him
now for all the world - an' - and I've lost - lost Hicks. (Weeps.) Him
as was so brave, an' looks so fine in livery!

Yardsley. If you'd only give me a chance to say something -

Barlow. Appears to me you've said too much already.

Dorothy (coldly). I - I don't agree with Mr. Barlow. You - you
haven't said enough, Mr. Yardsley. If you have any explanation to
make, I'll listen.

Yardsley (looks up gratefully. Suddenly his face brightens. Aside).
Gad! The very thing! I'll tell the exact truth, and if Dorothy has
half the sense I think she has, I'll get in my proposal right under
Barlow's very nose. (Aloud.) My - my explanation, Miss Andrews, is
very simple. I - ah - I cannot deny having spoken every word that
Jennie has charged to my account. I did get down on my knees on the
rug. I did say "divine creature." I did not put it strong enough.
I should have said "divinest of _all_ creatures."

Dorothy (in remonstrance). Mr. Yardsley!

Barlow (aside). Magnificent bluff! But why? (Rubs his forehead in
a puzzled way.) What the deuce is he driving at?

Yardsley. Kindly let me finish. I did say "I love you." I should
have said "I adore you; I worship you." I did say "Will you be my
wife?" and I was going to add, "for if you will not, then is light
turned into darkness for me, and life, which your 'yes' will render
radiantly beautiful, will become dull, colorless, and not worth the
living." That is what I was going to say, Miss Andrews - Miss
Dorothy - when - when Jennie interrupted me and spoke the word I most
wish to hear - spoke the word "yes"; but it was not her yes that I
wished. My words of love were not for her.

Barlow (perceiving his drift). Ho! Absurd! Nonsense! Most
unreasonable! You were calling the sofa the divinest of all
creatures, I suppose, or perhaps asking the - the piano to put on its
shoes and - elope with you. Preposterous!

Dorothy (softly). Go on, Mr. Yardsley.

Yardsley. I - I spoke a little while ago about sand - courage - when it
comes to one's asking the woman he loves the greatest of all
questions. I was boastful. I pretended that I had that courage;
but - well, I am not as brave as I seem. I had come, Miss Dorothy, to
say to you the words that fell on Jennie's ears, and - and I began to
get nervous - stage-fright, I suppose it was - and I was foolish enough
to rehearse what I had to say - to you, and to you alone.

Barlow. Let me speak, Miss Andrews. I -

Yardsley. You haven't anything to do with the subject in hand, my
dear Barlow, not a thing.

Dorothy. Jennie - what - what have you to say?

Jennie. Me? Oh, mum, I hardly knows what to say! This is suddenter
than the other; but, Miss Dorothy, I'd believe him, I would, because -
I - I think he's tellin' the truth, after all, for the reason that -
oh dear - for -

Dorothy. Don't be frightened, Jennie. For what reason?

Jennie. Well, mum, for the reason that when I said "yes," mum, he
didn't act like all the other gentlemen I've said yes to, and - and k -
kuk - kiss me.

Yardsley. That's it! that's it! Do you suppose that if I'd been
after Jennie's yes, and got it, I'd have let a door-bell and a sofa
stand between me and - the sealing of the proposal?

Barlow (aside). Oh, what nonsense this all is! I've got to get
ahead of this fellow in some way. (Aloud.) Well, where do I come
in? I came here, Miss Andrews, to - tell you -

Yardsley (interposing). You come in where you came in before - just a
little late - after the proposal, as it were.

Dorothy (her face clearing and wreathing with smiles). What a comedy
of errors it has all been! I - I believe you, Mr. Yardsley.

Yardsley. Thank Heaven! And - ah - you aren't going to say anything
more, D - Dorothy?

Dorothy. I'm afraid -

Yardsley. Are you going to make me go through that proposal all over
again, now that I've got myself into so much trouble saying it the
first time - Dorothy?

Dorothy. No, no. You needn't - you needn't speak of it again.

Barlow (aside). Good! That's his conge.

Yardsley. And - then if I - if I needn't say it again? What then?
Can't I have - my answer now? Oh, Miss Andrews -

Dorothy (with downcast eyes, softly). What did Jennie say?

Yardsley (in ecstasy). Do you mean it?

Barlow. I fancy - I fancy I'd better go now, Miss - er - Miss Andrews.
I - I - have an appointment with Mr. Wilkins, and - er - I observe that
it is getting rather late.

Yardsley. Don't go yet, Jack. I'm not so anxious to be rid of you

Barlow. I must go - really.

Yardsley. But I want you to make me one promise before you go.

Dorothy. He'll make it, I'm sure, if I ask him. Mr. Yardsley and I
want you - want you to be our best man.

Yardsley. That's it, precisely. Eh, Jack?

Barlow. Well, yes. I'll be - second-best man, The events of the
afternoon have shown my capacity for that.

Yardsley. Ah!

Barlow. And I'll show my sincerity by wearing Bob's hat and coat
into the street now and letting the fury of Hicks fall upon me.

Jennie. If you please, Miss Dorothy - I - I think I can attend to Mr.

Dorothy. Very well. I think that would be better. You may go,

[Jennie departs.

Barlow. Well, good-day. I - I've had a very pleasant afternoon,
Miss - Andrews. Thanks for the - the cambric tea.

Dorothy. Good-bye, and don't forget.

Barlow. I'm afraid - I won't. Good-bye, Bob. I congratulate you
from my heart. I was in hopes that I should have the pleasure of
having you for a best man at my wedding, but - er - there's many a
slip, you know, and I wish you joy.

[Yardsley shakes him by the hand, and Barlow goes out. As he
disappears through the portieres Yardsley follows, and, holding the
curtain aside, looks after him until the front door is heard closing.
Then he turns about. Dorothy looks demurely around at him, and as he
starts to go to her side the curtain falls.


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Online LibraryJohn Kendrick BangsThe Bicyclers and Three Other Farces → online text (page 6 of 6)