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_Copyright,_ 1898, _by Thomas Henry French._

London: | New York:

_Strand Theatre, _Comedy,
London, London,
May 19, 1885._ June 20, 1885._













SCENE. - _A hall; passages, R. and L.; a double window of stained
glass, on swivel hinges, opens upon a lawn, with view of grounds;
large portrait on the wall; landscape, and mirror; a staircase, L. TOM
POTTER discovered working at an easel placed near the open window; NED
CHETWYND seated at a table, opening and destroying letters leisurely.
LUCY PRESTON watching him; MRS. DOZEY asleep in an armchair, with a
book of sermons lying open in her lap; footstool; fireplace, R.; large
armchair side of fireplace._

LUCY. You've a great many letters?

NED. A few friends inquiring after me.

LUCY. More creditors?

NED. A regular assortment. I have 'em of all sizes - big and little; of
all styles - polite to peremptory; of all nations - Jew and Gentile.
(_opens another letter_) Another lawyer's letter! (_LUCY goes up to
TOM_) "Unless the amount, together with our charges, five and
sixpence, be at once remitted - - " Just so - common form. (_opens
another letter_)

LUCY. Getting on, Mr. Potter?

TOM. Famously.

LUCY. I can begin to make out what it's going to be.

TOM. Don't say that, please.

LUCY. Why not?

TOM. I shall be told I am a servile copyist without a soul.

LUCY. Soul? What is "soul"?

TOM. The gift of representing things as they don't exist.

LUCY. Surely that isn't a gift. Isn't it art to show things as they

TOM. Not in the least. That's realism.

LUCY. Then what's art?

TOM. That's art. (_points to portrait, L._)

LUCY. Sir Humphrey's portrait.

TOM. (_crosses to portrait, L._) I beg your pardon - whose?

LUCY. Sir Humphrey's. Can't you see the likeness?

TOM. Has anybody seen it?

LUCY. Of course! a score of people.

TOM. It'd take a score. (_crosses to easel_)

LUCY. (_turns to TOM_) It is by Sir Clarence Gibbs, the Royal
Academician, and it cost five hundred guineas.

TOM. Ah! If I could only paint like that. (_looks at portrait_)

LUCY. (_looking at picture_) Perhaps you will in time.

TOM. Never. I may deteriorate, but I shall never be as bad as that.
(_looking at picture_) Now, look at this aggravating thing. After all
my trouble you can positively tell what it's meant for. (_NED rises
and joins them_)

LUCY. Yes, two knights, on horseback, fighting.

NED. What are you going to call it?

TOM. The Silver Shield.

LUCY. Silver Shield? (_crosses to back of easel; NED leans on back of

TOM. Haven't you heard the fable? Two knights, riding in opposite
directions, passed a shield, hung on a tree to mark a boundary, and
meeting some time afterwards, one of them happened to make some remark
about the Silver Shield they had both ridden past. "Silver," exclaimed
the other, "it was gold." Then they disputed, and words came to blows.
They fought, and killed each other. When they were both dead, it
occurred to somebody to examine the shield, when it turned out that it
was gold on one side, and silver on the other.

NED. What jackasses those two knights must have been.

TOM. So remarked everybody.

LUCY. Well, they _were_ rather silly. (_crosses to MRS. DOZEY, R._)

TOM. No sillier than we are, who see a fool in the looking-glass, and
don't recognise him.

MRS. D. (_waking with a start_) Bless me! I've been asleep.

LUCY. For two hours, Mrs. Dozey.

MRS. D. I beg everybody's pardon. The fact is, I thought I was in
church, and Dionysius was preaching.

NED. That sent you off to sleep. (_sitting on edge of chair_)

MRS. D. Oh, no, that woke me up. I wouldn't miss one of his discourses
for the world. This is a splendid one I'm reading now - the 22nd, in
the 17th volume.

LUCY. You have got so far?

MRS. D. Yes, my dear; I've read sixteen volumes of the twenty. The set
were given to me by my husband on our honeymoon. Imagine my delight.
I've been reading at them steadily for five and twenty years, and my
only fear is that I shan't live to finish them.

NED. Take warning, Lucy, and begin them young.

MRS. D. Shall I lend you the first volume?

LUCY. Thanks; I can get it from the library.

MRS. D. I'm sure you'd like it, Mr. Potter.

TOM. Unfortunately, I am going home to-day, and shouldn't have time to
do it justice. (_meanwhile DR. DOZEY has entered absently, his eyes
cast down, his hands behind his back_)

DR. (_raising his eyes_) Going home?

MRS. D. Ah, here's the doctor! (_dozes off again_)

DR. Home! sweet home! The very phrase is fraught with poetry. One
seems to stand before the glowing fire, to hear the purring cat, the
hissing urn, whilst from without a quaint but welcome cry heralds the
advent of the evening milk on its accustomed round. If you are wishful
to pursue the subject - -

LUCY. (_crosses in front to staircase_) Excuse me, I must look after
Sir Humphrey. (_Exit, L._)

DR. (_turning to NED_) I would refer you to - -

NED. Thank you very much, but I've some letters to answer. (_Exit,

DR. (_turning to TOM_) To the tenth discourse - -

TOM. The light's so bad here, I must go outside. (_Exit through
window, C._)

DR. (_turning to MRS. DOZEY_) In my fifth volume.

SIR H. (_top of stairs, L._) See to it at once.

DR. Home I divide into three sections. First - - (_MRS. DOZEY snores,
DR. DOZEY stops and wakes her._)

LUCY. (_with SIR HUMPHREY, top of stairs, L._) Will you take my arm?

SIR H. Thanks, I need no assistance. (_stumbles and is obliged to take
LUCY'S arm_) Dear me, how bad my rheumatism is to-day.

DR. (_turns to MRS. DOZEY, smiling grimly_) Poor Humphrey!

MRS. D. (_rises_) He gets very feeble.

SIR H. (_to LUCY_) Mrs. Blake's train is very nearly due. See if the
brougham has been sent to meet her.

MRS. D. Mrs. Blake? (_Exit LUCY, through window, C. and L._)

SIR H. A visitor whom we expect today. (_puts cap on table_)

DR. A lady visitor?

SIR H. Yes, a young widow, from Australia, whom we met on the
Continent this summer, and whose society proved so agreeable (_DR. and
MRS. DOZEY exchange glances_) to my ward, Miss Preston, that I invited
her to visit us, when she returned to England.

MRS. D. A widow. (_crosses in front to L._)

DR. An Australian widow. (_gets R._)

MRS. D. It's a long way off.

SIR H. Don't you like widows, doctor?

DR. Far be it from me, whose tenement is glass, to cut a stone; but of
all types of widow, the most perilous is the Colonial.

MRS. D. However, it's our duty to be charitable.

DR. Until we know the worst we will think the best.

SIR H. Wait till you've met Mrs. Blake; you'll be charmed with her.
(_meanwhile TOM has re-entered through window and down R. of easel_)
You mustn't go till you have seen her, Mr. Potter. (_turns_)

TOM. Till I've seen whom?

MRS. D. A widow. (_moves towards door, L._)

DR. A Colonial widow. (_moves towards door, R._)

MRS. D. Sir Humphrey picked up on the Continent.

DR. And found charming. (_both sigh and exeunt, wagging their heads;

TOM. Queer couple - a duet personified.

SIR H. The doctor will have his joke.

TOM. That's fortunate, for no one else would take it.

SIR H. Very old friends of mine, and one must make allowances for age
and infirmity. (_sitting with difficulty, R. of table_)

TOM. Can I assist you? (_crosses to SIR HUMPHREY_)

SIR H. Not at all. It's only a little stiffness in the joints. I never
felt it till the last few years.

TOM. Ah, we're all older than we used to be. (_goes to easel_)

SIR H. Not at all, Mr. Potter, not at all. I'm younger than I look. I
have had trouble.

TOM. You, Sir Humphrey!

SIR H. My son gives me a great deal of anxiety. His heart's in the
right place, I know, but he's young, reckless, and extravagant. He's
taken to writing lately. A bad sign, Mr. Potter, a bad sign. I never
knew a young man who took to writing come to any good. I've paid his
debts more than once, and he won't settle down. I found a charming
wife for him, and he wouldn't look at her. He has views of his
own - very bad things to have. Why can't men be content with the views
of their forefathers? The opinions which are good enough for me ought
to be good enough for a stripling like him.

TOM. Our forefathers believed the sun went round the earth.

SIR H. And what better are we for believing the earth goes round the
sun? I've no patience with these revolutionary ideas. They unsettle
men's minds. Of course you don't agree with me. You are another man
with views, and that's the reason why you don't get on.

TOM. (_comes down C._) You don't like me, Sir Humphrey. You are very
kind and hospitable; but I know it's only as a distant relative that
you put up with me. I don't wonder at it. You represent society; I
represent Bohemia. This makes it difficult to say what I must say
before I go.

SIR H. What is that, Mr. Potter?

TOM. I want to ask your ward, Miss Preston, if she'll be my wife.
You're astonished at my presumption - naturally.

SIR H. Not quite that. What are Miss Preston's feelings in the matter?

TOM. I don't know. I didn't feel justified in speaking to her first.

SIR H. She is of full age, and can please herself.

TOM. Yes, but there's something else. You know, I took my present name
when I went in for art, to your disgust, on my return from abroad
about five years ago; but of my previous history you know very little,
and I must tell you part of it. I suppose you think I'm a bachelor?

SIR H. Of course.

TOM. I am a widower.

SIR H. You astound me.

TOM. Yes, I once had a wife; but we weren't happy - in fact, we

SIR H. How long has she been dead?

TOM. A few months after my return to England I saw her death announced
in the newspapers.

SIR H. The newspapers!

TOM. There is no irony like that of destiny, no cynic half as cynical
as life. Two beings live together in one home, are bound together in
one interest, are animated by one hope. Fate separates them. They go
different ways, and after many days (_crosses to R._) they read about
each other in the newspaper.

SIR H. She died abroad? Then you were never reconciled?

TOM. Reconciliation was impossible. I should prefer to say no more
about it, (_crosses to SIR HUMPHREY, L._) but I am bound to satisfy
you I was not to blame. Those were the last words my wife wrote to me.
(_gives a letter to SIR HUMPHREY_)

SIR H. (_reads_) "Tom, - I love another more than I love you. Isn't it
best that we should say good-bye? I have no right to tell you I will
never see you, for the fault is mine; but if I do, it will be only
painful, and I leave it to your magnanimity to go away from me for
ever." (_returns letter to TOM_) Enough, Mr. Potter. (_rises_) There
was a time when I disapproved of second marriages. They struck me as a
species of inconstancy. But as one grows in years, these sentimental
notions lose their force. One begins to realise the loneliness of
life. You understand me?

TOM. Perfectly. The need of a companion.

SIR H. More than a companion - the need of a - of a - I want a word.

TOM. Nurse is the word you want.

SIR H. No, sir! It is the very word I do _not_ want.

TOM. I beg your pardon, I misunderstood you.

SIR H. Strange as it may sound, what you've just told me makes my task
a little easier. Miss Preston also has a history. Her mother died when
she was quite a child. Her father was my very oldest friend, whom I
respected beyond everything, and it was only on his death, when I felt
I could not repudiate the guardianship I'd undertaken, that I made a
discovery which shocked me inexpressibly. I tell it you in confidence;
I have told no one but my son, whom it was my duty to put upon his
guard. Of course it puts an end to the proposal you have made, but, as
a man of honour, I am bound to tell you.

TOM. Well, sir?

SIR H. The girl is illegitimate. (_turning, L._)

TOM. What's that?

SIR H. (_turns and stares at him_) Mr. Potter, you call yourself a
Bohemian, but you are a distant - very distant - relative of my own, and
you must have at least the instincts of a gentleman.

TOM. I hope so.

SIR H. Having those instincts, you will think no more of her.

TOM. Having those instincts, I think all the more of her.

SIR H. You'd marry her, after what I've told you? Then you have no
respect for marriage.

TOM. If I had no respect for marriage I shouldn't marry her.

SIR H. We will not argue, sir. Go your own way.

TOM. I've your permission?

SIR H. But don't hold me responsible, whatever happens.

_Re-enter DR. DOZEY, through window, and down, C._

DR. The widow has arrived.

SIR H. Mrs. Blake?

DR. I was sedately pacing up and down the drive, reflecting on the
vanity of life, when I was nearly upset by her equipage.

SIR H. I must go and welcome her. Excuse me, Mr. Potter; the doctor
will entertain you. (_Exit through window_)

TOM. Thanks, but I'll find Miss Preston. (_Exit, R._)

_Re-enter MRS. DOZEY, down the stairs, in a flutter of excitement._

MRS. D. Dionysius?

DR. Diana?

MRS. D. I've seen Mrs. Blake. I happened to be looking out as she
drove up. There's no doubt about her respectability. You should see
her lace. Oh, Dionysius, real Valenciennes! (_crosses, R._)

DR. I am afraid, my love, that notwithstanding five and twenty years
of my companionship, you have still a yearning after the pomps and
vanities. And yet it is not the plaiting of hair or the putting on of
real Valenciennes that constitutes respectability.


ALMA. Oh, what a charming place.

SIR H. My own taste, plain but comfortable. Permit me to present to
you my old friends, Dr. and Mrs. Dozey.

ALMA. I am delighted to meet Dr. Dozey.

MRS. D. (_crosses to ALMA_) With whose sermons no doubt you are

ALMA. I don't read sermons, as a rule.

MRS. D. You don't read sermons?

ALMA. It may be very wicked, but I don't. (_crosses, L._)

DR. (_aside to MRS. DOZEY_) A worldly-minded woman.

MRS. D. I'm afraid so.

ALMA. What a delightful, quaint, old-fashioned place this is! I must
congratulate you on your taste, Sir Humphrey.

SIR H. Plain, but comfortable.

ALMA. Whose portrait's this? Isn't he a dear old dignified soul? Quite
one of the last century.

SIR H. It is considered much too old for me.

ALMA. For _you!_ Oh, fifty years! I thought it was your grandfather.

DR. Makes herself quite at home. (_aside to MRS. DOZEY_)

MRS. D. Ignores me altogether. (_sits, R._)

ALMA. What's this? A mirror, I declare! (_arranges herself before the

SIR H. My taste again.

ALMA. The looking-glass?

SIR H. The image it enshrines. (_bowing_)

ALMA. I understand you. Plain, but comfortable. (_laughs and passes
on; gradually gets round, and down, R._)

DR. (_aside to MRS. DOZEY_) Frivolous creature. (_goes up, R., and
down, R.C._)

MRS. D. Lovely diamonds!

ALMA. (_at easel_) That's a good picture. Who's the artist?

SIR H. (_following ALMA_) Nobody particular. A sort of second or third
cousin of mine.

ALMA. Whoever he is, he's clever.

SIR H. Started life under the best auspices, but he has made no way.

ALMA. How's that, Sir Humphrey? (_both come down, C._)

SIR H. It's the old story. First he got amongst a set of loose
companions, - Bohemians, they called themselves - and then he took
to - -

ALMA. Drink?

SIR H. Not drink exactly - art. (_sits R. of table_)

ALMA. Oh dear! how very sad!

SIR H. The doctor knows the circumstances.

DR. (_down, R.C._) They were most distressing.

ALMA. But after all, some artists are successful, and a man must begin
at the beginning. There's nothing wicked about art, is there, doctor?

DR. A perilous pursuit, and it is not the part of a wise man to play
with fire. (_ALMA pulls a long face, and is caught by MRS. DOZEY_)

SIR H. I've no objection to a real artist, an Academician, such as Sir
Clarence Gibbs, who painted my own portrait. A very gentlemanly man,
indeed - received in the best families.

ALMA. But _he_ must have learnt his business before he became an
Academician. (_looking at portrait_)

SIR H. I doubt it.

ALMA. So do I. (_turning to easel_) Now there is talent in that
picture. The man who did that shouldn't have gone wrong.

MRS. D. But he became a scene painter!

DR. He got connected with a theatre. (_both groan_)

SIR H. (_uncomfortable_) Hem! Hem! (_tries to attract DR. DOZEY'S

ALMA. You don't approve of theatres?

DR. My views on the subject of the drama you will find fully expounded
in the 13th sermon of my 20th volume. For the present I will content
myself with saying that those views are damnatory. (_crosses, L._)

SIR H. Pardon me, doctor, but I should have told you, Mrs. Blake is
herself connected with the stage.

DR. (_dropping glasses_) An actress! (_MRS. DOZEY rises and drops

ALMA. You've dropped the sermons. (_stoops to pick up book_) Heavy, I
dare say.

MRS. D. (_stopping her with a gesture, picks it up herself_) Thank
you. (_goes up to armchair at back_)

DR. And so this is an actress. Bless my soul! (_Exit, L._)

MRS. D. Somehow or other one can always tell them. (_sits, opens,
book, and dozes off_)

SIR H. (_rises_) You must excuse my friends.

ALMA. With pleasure. It's rather a relief than otherwise. They seem to
have a nice opinion of actresses.

SIR H. The truth is, they have had no opportunity of forming one.

ALMA. But have formed a very strong one, for all that.

SIR H. Now that they have the opportunity - -

ALMA. Let's hope it'll alter the opinion.

_Enter SUSAN, R._

SUSAN. If you please, miss - -

ALMA. Susan, don't call me miss. This is my maid, Sir Humphrey. I'm
always called "miss" at the theatre, when I'm called anything at all.
What is it, Susan?

SUSAN. Mr. Dick is here - wants to see you particularly.

ALMA. Tell him I'm engaged. What business has he bothering me here?

SUSAN. But he's come down from town express.

ALMA. Well, he can go back express.

SIR H. One moment, Mrs. Blake. Who is this gentleman?

ALMA. My manager. I don't know what he wants.

SIR H. See him, by all means. Perhaps he'll stay to dinner if I ask

ALMA. Ah, you don't know Dick. He'll probably stay to dinner whether
you ask him or not. He's one of the old school of managers; they're
almost extinct now. Dick's the sole survivor.

SIR H. I'm one of the old school myself, and shall be glad to meet

SUSAN. Here he is, with Mr. Chetwynd.

_Re-enter NED, with MR. DODSON DICK, R._

NED. This way, Mr. Dick. (_goes up to easel_)

DICK. (_crosses to ALMA_) Ah, there she is. (_Exit SUSAN, R._) Didn't
expect to see _me,_ did you? Here's a nice how d'you-do. Within four
weeks of opening, and Sparkle not delivered his first act. Thought I'd
run down and tell you. What are we to do?

ALMA. This is Sir Humphrey Chetwynd - Mr. Dick.

DICK. (_crosses to SIR HUMPHREY_) Pleased to make your acquaintance.
Nice sort of place you have down here. (_looking round_)

SIR H. Quiet, Mr. Dick, and yet accessible.

DICK. Out of the way, I call it - out of my way, at any rate. Make a
good set, eh, wouldn't it? That window's fine, opens out the scene,
and shows that landscape backing. Daren't use that sky. Scrubbs is the
man for skies.

SIR H. Is he indeed?

DICK. There's an originality about his skies - you never saw such
skies. The critics go in for originality. Scrubbs gives it 'em.

ALMA. And don't they give it Scrubbs?

DICK. Ha! ha! I'll make a note of that. Give it to Sparkle - do for his
next comedy. Poor Sparkle! Clever man, but sadly overworked. No wonder
he's behindhand with our piece.

ALMA. It's your own fault. Give someone else a chance.

DICK. No! no! Sparkle's recognised.

NED. (_coming down, R._) His jokes are.

DICK. That doesn't matter. It's his name I want. The public judges
only by the brand. One play's just as good as another.

SIR H. That's your experience?

DICK. Yes. On the whole, I think a bad play's better than a good one,
but we none of us know anything about it.

ALMA. If you would only try him, here is an author to your hand.

DICK. (_alarmed_) You - an author? (_puts hat on_)

NED. Only last week I wrote to you about a play I'd sent you.

DICK. (_crosses to SIR HUMPHREY; pulls out watch_) How are your
trains, Sir Humphrey? I've an appointment at four sharp, in town.

SIR H. I see you are a man of business.

DICK. Yes, I'm a cheesemonger.

SIR H. A cheesemonger. I thought you were a theatrical manager?

DICK. Same thing. A theatre's only a shop, and ought to be worked on
the same principles.

NED. Or want of principles?

DICK. Same thing. If my customers want a bad article, I give it 'em.
It's not my fault, it's theirs.

SIR H. A philosopher as well as a cheesemonger!

DICK. My dear sir, all cheesemongers are philosophers.

SIR H. And all philosophers are fond of a good dinner. I hope you will
join our party, Mr. Dick. (_crosses, R._)

DICK. With pleasure. (_puts hat down on table_)

ALMA. But your appointment at four sharp.

DICK. I'll keep that to-morrow.

SIR H. Meanwhile, a biscuit.

DICK. (_aside_) A biscuit.

SIR H. And a glass of Heidseck.

DICK. (_following SIR HUMPHREY off, R._) Heidseck, certainly. (_takes

SIR H. Come with me, Mrs. Blake?

ALMA. Thank you, I'll stop with Ned.

DICK. (_turns_) Capital set. First-rate. Can't say I like that sky.
Scrubbs is the man for skies. (_Exit with SIR HUMPHREY, R._)

ALMA. (_crosses to L._) Now, Mr. Chetwynd. (_sits L. of table_) You
never told me about this comedy. What's it all about? What's my part

NED. Why it's _all_ you! I thought of no one else, and called the
heroine "Alma" after you. (_sits R. of table_)

ALMA. You dear old goose! If I were a manager, I should accept your
pieces without reading them.

NED. Excuse me. If you were a manager, you would reject them without
reading them.

ALMA. Not yours. You are my oldest admirer.

NED. What nonsense! I never met you till last year.

ALMA. Well, what of that? I've had a score since then, but they've all
disappeared, and there you are still.

NED. Faithful to the last.

ALMA. The last's a long way off yet, Mr. Chetwynd. He's trundling a
hoop somewhere at this moment. But he'll turn up. Each season brings
its crop. They're mostly annuals, my loves.

NED. I am an amaranth.

ALMA. That locket on your chain? Isn't it the one you put my portrait
in? (_rises to examine it_)

NED. Yes.

ALMA. And he wears it still! You are an amaranth, indeed. (_about to
open locket_)

NED. You'd better not.

ALMA. Do let me see. I've quite forgotten what I looked like then.
(_opens it; kneels_)

NED. Just as you like.

ALMA. How I have altered!

NED. You look younger there.

ALMA. And my hair's different.

NED. The fashion's changed.

ALMA. Yes, and the colour too. There! Shut it up. (_rises_)

NED. Twelve months make a difference.

ALMA. Don't they? My amaranth has faded like the rest! (_pause_) And
pray, why do you wear Miss Preston's photograph?

NED. (_after making sure that MRS. DOZEY is asleep; rises_) Can you
keep a secret?

ALMA. I've kept one for six years.

NED. Miss Preston is my wife.

ALMA. Your wife!

NED. You are so quick, I knew you'd find it out, or I should have said
nothing. We don't want anyone to know - at least, _I_ don't - just yet.

ALMA. Doesn't Sir Humphrey?

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