A Fool's Paradise: An Original Play in Three Acts by Grundy, Sydney

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A FOOL'S PARADISE.

AN ORIGINAL PLAY

IN THREE ACTS.

BY

SYDNEY GRUNDY. ____________________________________________

_Copyright,_ 1898, _by Thomas Henry French._ ____________________________________________

London: | New York: SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD. | T. HENRY FRENCH, PUBLISHERS, | PUBLISHER, 89, STRAND. | 26, WEST 22nd STREET.

A FOOL'S PARADISE

_Produced at the Garrick Theatre on Saturday, January 2nd, 1892._

CHARACTERS.

Lord Normantower MR. F. KERR. Sir Peter Lund, Bart., M.D., F.R.S. MR. JOHN HARE. Philip Selwyn MR. H. B. IRVING. Hon. Tom Verinder MR. GILBERT HARE. Price MR. S. B. BRERETON. Kate Derwent MISS KATE RORKE. Beatrice Selwyn MISS OLGA NETHERSOLE. Mildred Selwyn MISS BEATRICE FERRAR. Johnson MISS MINNA BLAKISTON. ______________________________

ACT I.--THE HALL, AT RAVENHURST, _Philip Selwyn's Country House, near St. Alban's, Herts._

_A Week Elapses._

ACT II.--THE BOUDOIR. _Morning._

ACT III.--THE BOUDOIR _Night._

NECESSARY PROPERTIES.

ACT I.--On R. table: China Bowl, books in case, newspapers, photo views, three letters and newspaper through post. Book on sofa. _Ready:_ Tennis ball to throw on from between C. doors and R.W. Tennis bat for Kate R.U.E. _Hand Properties:_ Basket of cut flowers for Kate. Work bag containing balls of wool and needles, and an apple, for Mildred. Snuff box for Sir Peter.

ACT II.--Water bottle and glass, magazine, and Punch, on L. table. Fire lighted. The hearth should be a solid sheet of slate for glass to break easily. Bell rope on flat, R. of opening R.C., bell pull on flat L., below fire-place. _Ready:_ Medicine bottle and glass, L.D. _Hand Properties:_ Water can (no water) for Kate. Two certificates of marriage, and one of death for Sir Peter. Cigarettes in case for Normantower.

ACT III.--Clear chair from back of table, and water bottle. Lighted lamp on piano. Ditto on pedestal in conservatory L.C. Small ditto on table, L.C. _Ready_ R.U.D.: Six cups of coffee on salver, sugar and milk on small salver. _Ready_ L.D.: Medicine bottle, wine glass and poison phial. Flower pot to smash on stone, R.U.E. Alarm bell to ring R.U.E. Large lock to work, R.U.E. _Hand Properties:_ Book for Sir Peter. Snuff box for Sir Peter.

A FOOL'S PARADISE.

ACT I.

SCENE.--_The Hall of an old-fashioned Country House with staircase. Door C. Entrance, L. Door, R. Windows at back, looking into grounds. Letters on table. Gong._

_TOM and MILDRED discovered together. MILDRED on sofa, L.C., TOM on foot-stool at her feet R. of her. She has some work in her hand, and a ball of wool in a satchel. [Note for TOM.--Before curtain rises, tie wool to button on waistcoat, and see the wool is free to "payout" for business.]_

TOM. Come, Mildred dear, say "Yes."

MIL. But I can't say "Yes."

TOM. You might help a fellow a bit. I never proposed to anybody before, and I daresay I've done it very badly----

MIL. No, Tom, you've done it very well.

TOM. (_rises and sits beside her, arm round her waist_) Say "Yes," then. Of course, I'm not good enough for a girl like you. But I may be some day. My brother Ned's a confirmed bachelor, and it's just on the cards I may be the next Earl of Normantower.

MIL. Yes, Tom, that's just it. I'm not fit to be a Countess.

TOM. Not fit to be a Countess? Why, some of 'em are awful.

MIL. My brother wouldn't hear of it, I'm sure.

TOM. Well, then, you shan't be a Countess. A confirmed bachelor's always the first to get married; and if Ned has a family, I shan't come in for the title. You wouldn't mind being Mrs. Verinder, would you?

MIL. Oh, Tom! I know ought to say I should, but I shouldn't.

TOM. (_half embracing her_) Say "Yes," then.

MIL. Someone's coming! (_TOM runs to opposite side of the stage and sits L. of table. She works; he pretends to read a book on table_)

_Enter KATE DERWENT from grounds, C. from R., with a basket of flowers._

KATE. Well, children! (_comes down, puts basket of flowers on back of table, R.C., and goes down to C._)

TOM. (_aside_) Children!

KATE. Why aren't you out of doors this beautiful morning?

MIL. Oh, I wanted to finish this slipper.

KATE. (_catching sight of the thread of wool, the end of which has got entangled on TOM'S button and which stretches across the stage, connecting the two_) Really? And you, Mr. Verinder?

TOM. I? I was reading Hiawatha.

KATE. You don't say so! (_picking up the thread and drawing them together_) Now, how dare you tell me such stories? (_breaks the thread, throws it to MILDRED, crosses TOM to R. of table and fills a vase with flowers from her basket_)

TOM. It's no use trying to deceive you, Miss Derwent. I've been making love to Mildred.

KATE. Making love at ten o'clock in the morning? I'm ashamed of you. It's almost as bad as playing cards by daylight.

TOM. (C.) I want her to marry me and she won't! She says my family's too good for her--as if anything could be too good for Mildred! I'm sure the Verinders are poor enough. As for me, she forgets my father was cut off with a shilling, and blew'd the lot?

KATE. (R.C.) Blew'd the lot.

MIL. Tom means, his father spent it. (_C.L. of TOM_)

KATE. Spent the shilling?

TOM. Every penny of it. Oh, we're a reckless lot, we Verinders!

_PHILIP SELWYN enters C. from L., he places his stick in stand L. of C. door, hat on small table up R.C., and goes slowly down to fire-place, R._

MIL. And why was he cut off with the shilling?

TOM. Because he married the girl he wanted; instead of a girl he didn't want; and his son's going to do the same. (_placing his arm round her and taking her down to L.C._)

KATE. Ah, Mr. Verinder! Marriage is a serious responsibility. (_goes to C., basket in hand_)

TOM. It's serious when you marry the wrong person, but I'm going to marry the right one.

KATE. Yes, but who is the right one?

PHIL. Surely, the right one is the one we love. (_sits, opening letters, in arm-chair R. of table_)

TOM. (_advances to C._) _You_ think so, Mr. Selwyn? (_turns to MILDRED, who sits on R. arm of sofa, searches in her work bag and finds an apple which he eats_)

KATE. (_sits R.C._) Because you have been fortunate in your choice, but how many have made a mistake! Even love matches are often unfortunate. Love has a habit of being so one-sided. (_filling a bowl on table, with flowers_)

PHIL. I haven't found it so! and mine was a love match, if ever there was one. I met my wife quite casually at Brighton--fell in love, proposed, was accepted and married, all within a month.

KATE. You married in haste.

PHIL. And by all the laws of cynical philosophy, I ought to have repented at leisure. (_BEATRICE SELWYN enters, L. down staircase unobserved, and crosses slowly to back of table R.C._) But I haven't repented. To the confusion of the philosophers, I'm the happiest husband and have the best wife in the world.

TOM. (_turns to KATE, his mouth full of apple_) There, Miss Derwent! What do you say to that? (_turns to MILDRED_)

KATE. That is one side of the picture, but I've seen the other. My mother also married for love.

PHIL. And what was the consequence?

KATE. That her daughter will never marry.

BEA. (_softly_) Don't say that, Miss Derwent. (_all start slightly, KATE rises, and sits again almost immediately, still filling bowl with flowers_) You are always severe on the gentlemen, but don't be so hard on them as that.

PHIL. Good gracious, Mousey, how you startled me! Your footsteps are so fairy-like, one never knows where you are.

BEA. Moral: never tell secrets to Miss Derwent, when you think I'm not listening.

PHIL. My dear, it's no secret that I have the best wife in the world.

TOM. Everybody thinks that, Mrs. Selwyn. (_going up C. towards her_)

BEA. (_goes to TOM, C._) Not everybody. To wit--Sir Peter Lund.

MIL. Oh, what does it matter what that grumpy old bear thinks? (_goes to L. of sofa, and round behind it_)

BEA. (_crosses TOM to sofa, L.C., picks up a book and sits almost reclining, her back to PHIL. and KATE. TOM goes up C. and remains in doorway_) My dear Mildred, Sir Peter Lund is a most able and distinguished man. Having made his fortune as a fashionable physician, he has almost retired from the active pursuit of his profession to devote himself to his innumerable appointments, and to the transactions of all sorts of royal and learned societies, where the clearing of his erudite throat is the signal of the most reverential attention. (_TOM signals to MILDRED who joins him up C._)

KATE. And well it may be.

BEA. Forgive me, I quite forgot he was a friend of yours.

PHIL. And mine as well, my dear. When Sir Peter was an ordinary family practitioner, he brought both Mildred and myself into the world, he attended my father in his last illness, and in spite of the multitude of his engagements, he is good enough to take an interest in us still. What could be kinder than his voluntary proposal to run down here and see me, simply because he had heard casually that I was rather out of sorts?

KATE. Sir Peter is coming here?

PHIL. I expect him this morning.

BEA. I can only wonder that in "the multitude of his engagements" he can find the leisure.

PHIL. Sir Peter is one of those wonderful men, who get through the work of a dozen, yet never seem to have anything to do.

KATE. (_rises_) Who can always find time for an act of kindness, and are never too busy to remember an old friend. (_goes up and puts basket on table at back R.C., and joins TOM and MILDRED._)

BEA. Well, I will make him as comfortable as I can.

PHIL. I know you will, and the more you see of him the more you will like him. (_opening another letter_) Hallo! Tom, a letter from your brother.

TOM. Ned! (_comes down L. of table, MILDRED L. of TOM._)

PHIL. "A thousand thanks, old man, for your kind invitation to stay with you while Normantower is being prepared for the reception of my august person! How glad I shall be to shake hands with you once more! Expect me when you see me. Yours as always, Ned. P.S.--Fancy you putting up my cub of a brother! Surely the stables were good enough for him."

MIL. Well, I declare!

TOM. Ned always talks like that; but he's a very good brother to me, and always down with the dust, when he's any dust to down with. (_takes her up C. rejoining KATE_)

BEA. (_rises, crosses to L. of table, puts book in case on table, and then gets back of table, L. of PHILIP_) You see, Phil, Lord Normantower is quite grateful for your invitation.

PHIL. It was a happy thought of yours to suggest it; but when aren't your thoughts happy? They are always of others. (_BEATRICE kisses him._)

_Enter PRICE, L.D._

PRI. Sir Peter Lund. (_BEATRICE comes down C. KATE down R.C. corner of table, TOM and MILDRED behind arm-chair R._)

_Enter SIR PETER LUND. He comes to L.C._

PHIL. (_rises and crosses to SIR PETER, taking his hand_) Welcome to Ravenhurst! I scarcely expected you so soon. You must have risen early this morning. (_exit PRICE with SIR PETER'S hat and stick L.D._)

SIR P. Always get up at five. (_crosses to BEATRICE_) How are you? (_shakes hands with BEATRICE_) How d'ye do? (_crosses BEATRICE to KATE, and waves his hand to TOM and MILDRED_) How are you, boy?

BEA. Always get up at five? (_L. of SIR PETER_)

PHIL. And never goes to bed before two. It's a marvel to me how you do it! (_front of sofa_)

SIR PETER. (_crosses to PHIL._) It's a marvel to me how you don't do it. That's why you are out of sorts. You eat too much.

PHIL. Sir Peter!

SIR P. Drink too much.

BEA. Sir Peter!

SIR P. Sleep too much.

KATE. Sir Peter!

SIR P. (_turning on the ladies_) So do you!

BEA. (_turning to KATE_) Oh! (_TOM and MILDRED steal off into the grounds, C. to R._)

SIR P. Of course you do. Everybody does. (_watch_) What time's the next up train?

PHIL. You're not thinking of going already?

SIR P. Certainly not. Not going for ten minutes.

BEA. Surely you'll stay to lunch?

SIR P. Lunch, what d'you want with lunch? If you've an appetite for dinner, thank heaven for it, and don't go and spoil it with lunch.

BEA. Do you ever eat?

SIR P. Eat? Like a cormorant.

PHIL. Drink?

SIR P. Like a fish. (_PHILIP reclines on sofa, R. of it_)

KATE. Sleep?

SIR P. Like a humming-top!

BEA. But you say, you oughtn't.

SIR P. Well? Do you never do what you oughtn't! I do. (_turns up to head of sofa and surveys PHILIP through pince-nez_)

BEA. Since Sir Peter is so pressed for time----

SIR P. Pressed for time? Not at all. (_getting behind sofa still looking at PHILIP_)

BEA. I understood you----

SIR P. You misunderstood me.

BEA. At any rate we'd better leave you with your patient. Come, Miss Derwent--(_bows--SIR PETER bows. Exit with KATE into grounds, C. to R._) (_SIR PETER turns up stage and watches them off, then comes down, moves chair R. of sofa towards PHILIP, and sits_)

SIR P. Well, what's the matter with you?

PHIL. Really, Sir Peter! That's what I want you to tell me.

SIR P. You have a high opinion of the medical profession. Do you suppose we can tell you anything, if you don't tell us first?

PHIL. I have always supposed so.

SIR P. Error, sir. You tell us everything we tell you. The only difference is, you tell us in English, and we tell you in Latin. You take a fee out of your pocket; we put one in ours.

PHIL. Well, doctor, I can't tell you what's the matter with me. I should very much like to know.

SIR P. Why! What has it to do with _you?_

PHIL. (_smiling_) A great deal unhappily.

SIR P. Vulgar fallacy. A patient's complaint concerns nobody but his doctor. (_feels pulse--watch in hand_)

PHIL. I have no energy. I don't take my usual interest in what goes on around me. One day I'm restless--another, lethargic. There's nothing particular the matter with me, but I seem to have no pleasure in existence; and instead of getting better, I get worse.

SIR P. (_shuts watch_) Happy at home? (_after feeling his hand_)

PHIL. Perfectly.

SIR P. How has your marriage answered?

PHIL. My wife is simply a treasure.

SIR P. (_dryly_) Oh! Any money difficulties?

PHIL. None. My father left me beyond reach of any trouble of that sort.

SIR P. Any pain? (_feeling his chest_)

PHIL. No.

SIR P. I see, Miss Derwent is still with you.

PHIL. And I hope, will remain. Beatrice wouldn't be without her for the world, and I think Mildred almost worships her. I can't sufficiently thank you for the introduction.

SIR P. How's your appetite?

PHIL. It varies.

SIR P. I thought Miss Derwent would suit you. I picked her up at Guy's. She was a nurse there. Something about her struck me. Has it struck you?

PHIL. What?

SIR P. Her likeness to your father.

PHIL. Well, now you mention it, there is a likeness.

SIR P. Sleep pretty well?

PHIL. Too well. I'm always drowsy.

SIR P. So, altogether, you're quite a happy family?

PHIL. Yes, doctor. With more money than I know what to do with, heir to a name that is honoured wherever it is known, the husband of the dearest wife in the world, I sometimes think I am the happiest man on earth.

SIR P. Humph.

PHIL. You smile.

SIR P. I seem to have dropped into a little paradise.

PHIL. Yes, doctor.

SIR P. Where's the serpent?

PHIL. The serpent?

SIR P. There was a serpent even in paradise.

PHIL. There's none in mine.

SIR P. (_rises_) I'm sorry to hear it. (_crosses to C._) There is only one sort of paradise in which there is no serpent.

PHIL. What sort do you mean?

SIR P. (C.) A fool's. (_takes snuff and goes to hearthrug, R., back to fire-place_)

PHIL. (_rises and crosses to R.C. and sits L. of table_) You are plain spoken, Sir Peter. Now tell me with equal candour what is the matter with me. Perhaps that is the serpent.

SIR P. Shall I tell you the truth?

PHIL. Of course.

SIR P. I don't know.

PHIL. Surely, with your experience----

SIR P. Sir, I have no experience.

PHIL. Well, with your knowledge----

SIR P. Sir, I have no knowledge. Knowledge is the monopoly of extremely young practitioners. I have been doctoring for forty years; and now, I stand here on your hearthrug, sir, a monument of triumphant ignorance.

PHIL. Nonsense, Sir Peter.

SIR P. Sense, sir, sense.

PHIL. Be candid and tell me frankly what is wrong with me.

SIR P. Your liver, probably.

PHIL. Only my liver?

SIR P. (_advances to table_) Don't speak disparagingly of your liver, sir. That eminently respectable organ has been much misunderstood. It is commonly supposed to serve certain functional purposes in the physical economy. Another fallacy! The liver was made, by a beautiful provision of nature, for the benefit of the medical profession. (_sits in arm-chair, R._)

_Re-enter MILDRED and TOM, followed by LORD NORMANTOWER, C. from R._

MIL. Phil, here's Lord Normantower. (_MILDRED runs on to back of table, followed by TOM, who gets R. of sofa, and sits on arm of it. SIR PETER rises and goes down two steps, R._)

PHIL. Ned! (_rises and turns up to meet LORD NORMANTOWER_)

TOM. He's so brown, and he's grown such a beard!

NOR. (_up C._) Well, Phil, old man, how are you?

PHIL. (_they come down stage together, C., PHILIP on R. of LORD NORMANTOWER, MILDRED crosses behind them to back of sofa, L. of TOM_) My dear Ned! I can't tell you how glad I am to see you. Sir Peter Lund--Lord Normantower. How kind of you to come and stop with us! How pleasant it will be to chat over old times! But first of all, let me congratulate you on your new dignity.

NOR. Dignity? My dear Phil, I have no dignity. I am a born Bohemian, and the idea of me dropping in for a peerage strikes me as so ludicrous, I've done nothing but laugh ever since I became a hereditary legislator. (_laughs_)

TOM. Ha, ha, ha!

NOR. (_suddenly serious_) What's the matter with you?

TOM. Fancy Ned a legislator!

NOR. Even Tom sees the joke. (_throws hat to TOM_)

_TOM, suddenly serious, turns up to be consoled by MILDRED; exeunt, C. to R.; TOM hanging LORD NORMANTOWER'S hat on stick in stand._

PHIL. Lord Normantower and I were at Oxford together. We became great friends; and though circumstances have kept us a good deal apart--we've never quite lost sight of one another.

NOR. I haven't the pleasure of knowing Sir Peter myself, but I believe other members of my family have had that privilege.

SIR P. (_crosses to LORD NORMANTOWER, C._) Sir, I had the honour of attending the last three Earls of Normantower. Your uncle--gout; your cousin Richard--lungs; your cousin John--delirium--humph--delirium! (_PHILIP drops down, R.C._)

NOR. (_throws gloves on table, L.C._) That branch of the family disposed of, the peerage devolved on me as the eldest son of my poor father--the only Verinder who never enjoyed the title, and the only one who deserved it.

SIR P. (_shaking him by the hand_) I quite agree with you. (_turns up C._)

PHIL. Let us hope his son will be worthy of him.

NOR. (_sits in chair R. of sofa_) Ah, well, I'll do my best; but ten thousand a year, paid quarterly in advance, would have suited Ned Verinder's book better than an empty honour without a shilling to support it.

PHIL. (_crosses to LORD NORMANTOWER_) Well, there's one consolation. If it's a difficult matter for a peer to make money, it's very easy for him to marry it. (_SIR PETER comes down to fire-place, R._)

NOR. Marry? Not me! No! I was born a bachelor, and am not going to fly in the face of Providence.

PHIL. You don't believe in marriage?

NOR. Of course there are exceptions; and I hope from the bottom of my heart, yours is one of them. I haven't seen your wife yet, you know.

PHIL. I've married a most charming woman, Ned--haven't I, Sir Peter? (_going to L. of table, R.C._)

SIR P. (_picks up Punch from table, R._) Sir--your wife is my hostess, and one's hostess is always charming. (_bows and turns off--sitting R., reading_)

NOR. A charming woman? You arouse painful memories. I once knew a charming woman. To be quite frank, I was engaged to one.

PHIL. (_goes to LORD NORMANTOWER_) You have been engaged to be married! I never heard of it.

NOR. No, I kept it quiet. So did she. (_BEATRICE enters, C., from R., pausing to look in at window, R.C., and comes down behind chair, R.C._) At the time, there was not the remotest likelihood of my ever succeeding to the title, and of course I was hard up. I always was. A gilded calf appeared upon the scene; and the charming woman wrote me a charming letter, protesting eternal fidelity, and announcing her approaching marriage.

PHIL. To the calf?

NOR. To the gilt.

PHIL. You had a lucky escape.

NOR. Luckier than I thought: for I discovered afterwards that the charming creature was a regular adventuress--a garrison hack--a boarding-house belle--the sole support of an aged father--a venerable old gentleman, with the manners of a patriarch and the morals of a welsher! She was a charming woman, for all that.

PHIL. I congratulate you on your escape. But who was the unfortunate calf?

NOR. I never took the trouble to inquire.

BEA. (_advancing--all start slightly as before_) And the charming creature? Pray, who was she? (_C.R. of PHILIP_)

NOR. (_rises_) Miss Challoner!

PHIL. (_proudly--introducing BEATRICE_) My wife. (_NORMANTOWER bows_) You know one another.

BEA. (_with perfect self-possession_) I believe, now that I see Lord Normantower, I once had the pleasure of meeting him. (_crosses to NORMANTOWER_) Let me see--where was it?

NOR. It sounds ungallant to say so, but I really forget for the moment.

BEA. Well, never mind that now. Tell us who was the lady who used you so shamefully. I am dying to know. (_looking him straight in the face_)

NOR. You must excuse me. Though I am ungallant enough to forget where I met Mrs. Selwyn, I am not so unchivalrous as to betray a lady's secret. (_moves away to L.C. in front of sofa_)

BEA. (_goes to PHILIP, R.C._) Phil, dear, your friend is quite a hero of romance. If you have any more such friends, please lose no time in introducing them.

PHIL. My love, don't make me jealous. (_BEATRICE goes to NORMANTOWER. PHILIP turns and speaks to SIR PETER_)

BEA. (_giving her hand frankly to NORMANTOWER_) Thank you, Lord Normantower.

NOR. (_taking her hand, rather disconcerted_) For what, Mrs. Selwyn?

BEA. For your loyalty--to my sex. (_turns off up stage to back of table, calling SIR PETER, who rises and joins her. She shows him a book, which she takes from table_)

PHIL. (_crosses to NORMANTOWER, takes his arm, and draws him back to sofa_) You've had a narrow escape, evidently; but don't make the mistake of letting the unworthiness of one woman blind you to the merits of the rest. Believe me, there is no happiness like that of married love. (_sits on sofa. SIR PETER is looking at book; BEATRICE listening to conversation_)

NOR. (_sits L. of PHILIP_) Love! there is no such thing. We think we are in love, but we aren't. What is called love is an affliction of the brain, not an affection of the heart. Luckily, we soon get over it.

BEA. Men may--but women, never. Do they, Sir Peter?

SIR P. I never offer an opinion on matters I don't understand--(_lifting his forefinger_)--unless, mark, they are strictly medical. Love has no place in the British pharmacopæa. (_goes down R. of table, BEATRICE L. of it. She shows him some photographic views_)

PHIL. Yet it exists. I have even known cases of love at sight.

NOR. Love at sight! Now you're going too far for anything. I can imagine an enthusiast believing even in love, but love at sight! (_rises_) No, my dear Phil, that's too ridicu---- (_a tennis ball comes flying in from the grounds, rolling down to L. corner; NORMANTOWER picks it up and gets L.C._)

_KATE runs in after the ball, C. from R., she has a tennis bat in her hand, and comes down C._

KATE. (_speaking off, as she enters_) Stay where you are! I'll get it for you, children! (_stops_) Has anybody seen---- Oh! there it is! (_seeing it in NORMANTOWER'S hand_)

NOR. Allow me---- (_goes to C. and gives it to KATE_)

KATE. Thank you, very much. (_running out_) Here you are! Catch! (_throwing ball off R. Exit KATE; NORMANTOWER turns up C., and stands gazing after her; pause. PHILIP rises and goes L._)

NOR. (_to PHILIP_) Who is that lady? (_comes down C. to sofa_)

PHIL. (L.) That's Miss Derwent.

NOR. And who is Miss Derwent?

BEA. (R.C.) Only a companion. (_coldly_)

PHIL. You'll be delighted with her, when you know her, as of course you will, if you stay with us for a week or two.

NOR. I'll stop for a month. (_sits on sofa_)

SIR P. (_watch_) Well, my ten minutes are up. (_crosses to C._) Before I go I'd like to see you alone. (_to PHILIP_)

PHIL. (_turns up L. behind sofa_) Come to my room. (_to NORMANTOWER, over back of sofa_) We shan't be very long. Meanwhile, I leave you in good company. (_goes to foot of stairs L., followed by SIR PETER_)

BEA. (_goes up C. to SIR PETER_) Good-bye, Sir Peter--if I don't see you again.

SIR P. You will see me again. I'll stay to lunch after all. (_follows PHILIP_)

PHIL. (_going upstairs_) That's right, doctor. Give yourself a holiday for once. (_exit L._)

BEA. (_following SIR PETER to foot of stairs_) But your patients? What will they do without you? (_smiling sweetly_)

SIR P. (_on stairs_) What will they do? Recover. (_exit L._)

_BEATRICE stands at the foot of the stairs, watching them off. NORMANTOWER is sitting with his back to staircase. He rises and crosses thoughtfully to R.C. corner of table. BEATRICE advances and stands looking at him._

NOR. Are they gone?

BEA. (C.) Yes. Oh, Ned, can you ever forgive me? (_L. of NORMANTOWER_)

NOR. Forgive you? I forgave you long ago. Indeed I am grateful to you for teaching me a lesson which I shall never forget.

BEA. You are cruel; but I suppose I deserve it. (_on a line with NORMANTOWER_)

NOR. My grievance is a thing of the past. I have no wish to injure you or to cause you pain, and I should not have expressed myself so freely just now, had I known that you were present or that I was speaking of the wife of a friend. (_a step down_)

BEA. You have been misinformed. There is not a word of truth in what you have heard about me.

NOR. No doubt. People exaggerate so. (_standing below her_)

BEA. They invent so.

NOR. They invent so.

BEA. And you have believed them! What must you think of me? (_moves away a little_)

NOR. To be perfectly frank, Mrs. Selwyn, I endeavour not to think of you at all. (_goes to fireplace R._)

BEA. (_goes up to L. of table_) You have forgotten me? You have stripped me from your mind?

NOR. I have done my best to forget you. (_leans on mantel, his back to her_)

BEA. (_moving away_) And this is constancy! (_down to L._)

NOR. (_faces round_) Constancy! I am not more punctilious than most men, but surely it is scarcely my duty to be constant to a woman who has become the wife of another. (_advances to R.C._)

BEA. (_goes up to C._) Ah! it is easy to talk of one's duty but it is not always so easy to do it. (_NORMANTOWER looks at her_) Ned--may I call you so? Let me tell you the secret of my life.

NOR. You have a secret? (_comes to her C._)

BEA. Yes--_I_ was always constant. I was forced into this marriage. The letter I wrote breaking off our engagement was dictated to me. I never loved my husband. (_turns away to L.C._)

NOR. (C.) Mrs. Selwyn, you forget, your husband is my friend. If you didn't know it when he asked me here, you know it now.

BEA. (_turns to him_) I always knew it. It was I who suggested the invitation. I could bear my unhappiness no longer. I felt I must see you again. Oh, if you could only look into my heart! Ned! Though I used you badly, you are bitterly avenged! (_drops into sofa L.C., and buries her face in her hands_)

NOR. (_goes up to head of sofa, looking down on her_) I have no wish to be avenged. I loved you--I lost you--and there is an end of it. (_turns up C._)

BEA. (_rising_) Why was I born a woman? (_crosses to R.C. corner of table_) Why was I not a man? To amuse myself just for the moment, and then to be able to forget!

NOR. (_comes down behind chair R.C._) You do us an injustice. We men are not so inconstant as you think. Sometimes we pretend to forget what we are half ashamed to remember. (_BEATRICE listens intently, watching him out of the corner of her eyes_) But the past is past. You are a wife now. (_goes to C._)

BEA. If I were not a wife?

NOR. Then, it would be different.

BEA. (_close to him_) Hush! I have said, I do not love my husband; and if you say that, you will make me hate him. To think that he--and he alone--stands between me and happiness.

NOR. Beatrice! (_recoiling_)

BEA. Don't shrink from me! Is it so wicked to want to be happy? (_touching him_)

NOR. Happy?

BEA. If I were only free! (_goes down to R.C._)

NOR. (C.) You forget, though I have dropped in for a title, I am almost as poor as ever.

BEA. (_goes up to him_) But I am not. (_laying her hand on his arm_) Philip has left me everything if I survive him.

_SIR PETER appears at the top of the staircase; she turns off suddenly, crossing NORMANTOWER, who goes down to R.C._

BEA. (_goes towards foot of stairs_) Well, doctor, how do you find your patient? (_up C._)

SIR P. (_up L.C._) Your husband is more seriously ill than I anticipated. (_she glances at NORMANTOWER_)

NOR. Ill!

BEA. What is the matter with him?

SIR P. (_R. of chair, L.C._) Something occult--that's why I call it serious. There is nothing so serious as the unknown. (_NORMANTOWER turns up R. and looks out at window_)

BEA. Something _you_ can't make out? It must be occult indeed.

SIR P. (_goes to front of sofa L.C._) But something I _hope_ to make out before I go.

BEA. Then you propose to stay here? (_disconcerted_)

SIR P. With your permission--for to-night, at any rate.

BEA. I'll have a room prepared for you at once. (_about to go L.U.E., returns C. and works to R.C._)

SIR P. Don't trouble. The orders are already given. I've taken the liberty of choosing my own quarters. They open on the terrace, so I can take the air in the morning without disturbing the household. (_sits on sofa_)

_Re-enter C. from. R., KATE DERWENT from grounds, TOM and MILDRED running up with her to the doors C. NORMANTOWER goes slowly down to R. corner._

KATE. That'll do, children, I'm quite out of breath. (_comes down C. TOM and MILDRED run off into grounds L._)

BEA. I am afraid the children give you no rest, Miss Derwent. (_R.C., L. of table_)

KATE. Oh, I don't mind. I like it. I was a dreadful tomboy myself, when I was their age. I haven't forgotten how to play leap-frog yet.

BEA. Your memory is really wonderful.

KATE. And I believe I could give as good a back--(_stooping to give a back, NORMANTOWER down R. laughs. Catching sight of NORMANTOWER, puts her hand to her mouth and stops short_)

BEA. (_obliged to introduce them_) Lord Normantower--Miss Derwent. (_he bows_)

KATE. (_nodding_) How d'ye do? (_turns and speaks to SIR PETER_).

BEA. (_turns to NORMANTOWER, R._) You have not been here lately--Philip has made such improvements! You'll scarcely know the old place again. May I have the pleasure of showing it you?

NOR. I shall be delighted. (_BEATRICE turns up a few steps C., NORMANTOWER crosses to KATE, C._) Perhaps Miss Derwent will come with us. (_BEATRICE bites her lips_)

SIR P. (_rising_) Miss Derwent will stop here. (_BEATRICE smiles maliciously_) I want to speak to her.

KATE. You, doctor? (_SIR PETER goes L. and round behind sofa to C. as BEATRICE and NORMANTOWER exit_)

NOR. (_reluctantly_) Good-bye then, for the present.

KATE. Au revoir! (_goes to L.C., NORMANTOWER is "struck," and suddenly remembering turns. Exeunt LORD NORMANTOWER and BEATRICE into grounds C. to R._)

SIR P. (_SIR PETER after watching them off, comes down R. of sofa and points_) Sit down.

KATE. Don't order me about in that way, doctor. We're not in the hospital now.

SIR P. Sit down. (_KATE sits, in burlesque obedience. He sits_) First let me deliver my messages. The entire medical staff at Guy's send you their kindest regards. (_Both on sofa, KATE L., SIR PETER R._)

KATE. (_facing audience_) That's very nice of them. On your return, doctor, will you be so good as to give my kindest regards to the entire medical staff at Guy's?

SIR P. The house-surgeon, Mr. Kennedy, I regret to say, sends you his love.

KATE. Will you also give my love to Mr. Kennedy?

SIR P. The students send you a kiss apiece.

KATE. Will you please kiss the students all round. (_SIR PETER makes a gesture of objection._)

SIR P. Are you sorry you changed your position?

KATE. No, Sir Peter. I have been very happy here. Mr. Selwyn has always treated me with such consideration that, I am afraid, sometimes I forget that I am not one of the family; Mrs. Selwyn has never been _unkind_ to me, and Mildred I have learnt to love almost as a sister.

SIR P. Good. My object in introducing you here being accomplished, I feel myself at liberty to explain it. The medical profession has its romantic episodes. I am going to tell you one.

KATE. Go on. I love romances. (_faces SIR PETER_)

SIR P. Three years ago, a patient of mine died--nothing remarkable in that--it's a habit my patients have--leaving a grown-up son and a young daughter to inherit his very considerable fortune. He died beloved by his children and respected by all who knew him, but on his deathbed he confided to me a secret. He was a thief and a bigamist. When very young he had married a rich lady. This marriage he had concealed, and under a false name had married again. For some years he had lived a double life and had two families. By his first and lawful wife he had one child--a daughter; and having contrived to possess himself of the whole of this lady's fortune, ultimately he deserted her. The fortune of the first wife he left to his children by the second, who are to this day quite unconscious of their father's crime.

KATE. Sir Peter!

SIR P. In his later years, he had searched privately for his first wife and child, but he could find no trace of them. That search he bequeathed to me, and a pretty legacy it's been! For a long time my inquiries were unavailing, but at last I discovered that the mother was dead.

KATE. And the daughter?

SIR P. Was one of my own nurses at Guy's Hospital.

KATE. At Guy's!

SIR P. I had known her by sight for months, but had not happened to hear her name--Kate Derwent.

KATE. (_rising_) I?

SIR P. Sit down. (_KATE sinks back into seat_) What was I to do? All this man's children were my personal friends. The two, who had legally inherited your mother's fortune, morally were not entitled to a shilling. You, who legally are penniless, morally are entitled to it all. If ever there was a case for an amicable arrangement, this was one; and I thought it would facilitate a settlement, if you were all made acquainted with one another. With that object I introduced you into this house.

KATE. Surely you cannot mean----

SIR P. I can--I do.

KATE. That Mr. Selwyn--(_rising_)

SIR P. Is your brother.

KATE. Mildred----

SIR P. Your sister.

KATE. And their father----

SIR P. Yours. Now comes the question; what is to be done?

KATE. (_with determination_) Nothing.

SIR P. How nothing?

KATE. You say they don't know anything. Not that their father was--(_stops short_)

SIR P. A scoundrel? No.

KATE. Not that their mother----

SIR P. Was his victim? No.

KATE. Not who I am?

SIR P. Not who you are.

KATE. Then, let them never know it. (_crosses to R.C., L. of table_)

SIR P. Nonsense. I must see you properly provided for.

KATE. I am provided for. (_gets C._) I have earned my living for years, and I can earn it to the end. I am not used to wealth, and should not know what to do with it. They are, and could not be happy without it. Let them remain in ignorance of the truth.

SIR P. (_rises and goes towards her, C._) Miss Derwent, you are a most extraordinary person. I tell you, you are entitled to a fortune, and you don't ask how much it is. A woman--and no curiosity.

KATE. I don't care how much it is or how little. I don't want to know. (_turns away to front of table_)

SIR P. This is a matter of no less than two hundred thousand pounds. Well?

KATE. I said nothing.

SIR P. Then will you please say something?

KATE. I have nothing to say.

SIR P. A woman--and nothing to say. You regard two hundred thousand pounds with contempt. Think, how many new frocks it would buy. (_going to her_)

KATE. I do not regard money with contempt; for money can sometimes buy happiness. But we are all perfectly happy as we are. Why do you want to disturb us?

SIR P. (_R. of table_) You think only of the present; but consider the future. Some day, you may have a daughter of your own----

KATE. No, I shall never marry.

SIR P. Never what?

KATE. I am in earnest. (_goes down a few steps, R.C._)

SIR P. A woman--and not want to be married! Hang me, if I believe you're a woman at all! (_goes to L.C._)

KATE. Why? Because I want to be generous?

SIR P. (_above KATE_) Miss Derwent, there is a higher virtue than generosity, and that is justice. It is easy enough to be generous, but it hard indeed to be just--especially to oneself. This is a question of pounds, shillings, and pence.

KATE. (_works up to C._) Pardon me, Sir Peter--this is a question of breaking the hearts of those who were kind to me when I needed kindness, who befriended me when I was alone in the world, whom I have already learned to love almost as what they are--my brother and sister. Their father--my father--is dead, but his memory is dear to them. I know they loved him--and I know they honoured him. How can I imperil that love, and how can I stultify that honour? How can I cloud the sunshine of my sister's life with the shadow of her father's sin? No, Sir Peter! If that is justice, justice is beyond me. I am only equal to generosity. I _am_ a woman, only a woman--and I can't do it. Not for a hundred fortunes! Not for all the world. (_goes to L. of table and sits_)

SIR P. (_goes up to C._) Yes, you are a woman after all--and as self-willed and silly as the rest. To throw away two hundred thousand pounds! Why, I've decimated my fellow creatures for half that. It's wicked--positively wicked. You deserve to die in a ditch.

KATE. (_rises_) I will die where heaven wills it, but I shall at least have the consciousness that I have done something to repair my father's wrong.

SIR P. Rubbish--romantic rubbish.

KATE. Promise me that you will keep this secret--that you will say nothing to my brother--promise me, Sir Peter.

SIR P. I shall promise nothing. I shall use my own discretion, as I always do. (_turns off, L.C._)

KATE. Sir Peter! (_following him_)

SIR P. You are a foolish, obstinate, absurd--(_turns suddenly and takes both her hands_)--good, generous, true-hearted girl, and I am your friend always! Look here! I'm old enough to be your father--(_is about to kiss her. Re-enter PRICE, R.D.; aside_) Damn that man! (_goes L., PRICE sounds gong, R., below fire-place_)

_Music in orchestra till act drop. Re-enter TOM and MILDRED, running in from grounds, followed by BEATRICE and LORD NORMANTOWER leisurely, C. from R._

TOM. (_throwing his hat on R. table_) Lunch, at last! Aren't I ready for it? (_runs off, R.D._)

MIL. (_throwing hers on the table_) Tom! Wait for me. (_runs off R.D._)

_KATE looks from MILDRED to SIR PETER pathetically. Exit PRICE, R.D. PHILIP appears on staircase, slowly coming down._

BEA. (_coming down C._) You must be hungry after your journey. (_R. of LORD NORMANTOWER_)

NOR. (_coming down C._) Yes, thank heaven, my appetite is as redoubtable as ever. Miss Derwent may--(_about to offer arm_)

BEA. (_cutting in_) Sir Peter, will you bring Miss Derwent?

_LORD NORMANTOWER is obliged to offer his arm to BEATRICE. Exit LORD NORMANTOWER and BEATRICE, R. SIR PETER offers his arm to KATE whom he takes R.C._

PHIL. (_on stairs_) Stop, doctor, stop. (_comes down to R. of KATE_) Don't monopolise all the good things. Suppose we go shares. (_offers his arm to KATE_)

KATE. (_between the two_) Don't be scandalised. (_to SIR PETER_) Mr. Selwyn often gives me his arm. Here--(_looking at PHILIP_) I am more like a friend than a dependant.

PHIL. (looking at KATE) More like a sister than a friend. (_exeunt, R.D._)

SWELL MUSIC.

Quick Act Drop.

_Time: Thirty Minutes. Wait: Thirteen Minutes._

ACT II.

SCENE.--_A Boudoir, opening through a conservatory on to a terrace. Doors, R. and L. A water jug and goblet on table. A week has elapsed. Morning. Lights full up. Music for Act Drop._

_BEATRICE enters, L., as curtain rises. KATE discovered watering plants in conservatory, up in opening, R.C._

BEA. Good morning, Miss Derwent.

KATE. Good morning, Mrs. Selwyn.

BEA. At work, as usual. How industrious you are! (_comes down C., to sofa_)

KATE. Yes--I've been saying good-bye to all my favourites. (_pause--BEATRICE takes up a book--KATE goes on watering the plants_) How is Mr. Selwyn this morning?

BEA. He is not so well. (_her back is towards KATE_)

KATE. I'm sorry to hear that. I hope he will be well enough to shake hands with me before I go.

BEA. Then you are determined to leave us?

KATE. (_leaves can up R.C., and comes down C._) I can't tell you how sorry I am, but I mustn't stop here for ever. Mildred learnt all that I can teach her long ago; and if I stay much longer, I shall be the pupil. Since Mr. Verinder's arrival I have had several lessons in the English language as it is spoken at Eton, and I flatter myself I shall soon be able to "cackle" as well as if I wore a remarkably short jacket and remarkably tight inexpressibles.

BEA. You under-rate your accomplishments. _I_ don't think there is _much_ that Mildred could teach you.

KATE. (_grimaces behind her back_) Don't make me blush, my dear.

BEA. You make _me_ blush sometimes.

KATE. Then you ought to be extremely obliged to me, for nothing becomes you better. (_grimaces as before_) Mrs. Selwyn, we are now quite old friends. I cannot leave Ravenhurst without some little memento of our companionship--There are no horrid men about to hear us--Before I go, tell me (_dropping down near BEATRICE into an attitude of mock earnestness_) oh, tell me---- (_behind sofa R. of BEATRICE_)

BEA. Well?

KATE. The secret of your complexion.

BEA. (_smiling_) It's a very simple one--Arsenic.

KATE. (_rises_) Arsenic! But that's a poison.

BEA. Yes, if you take too much of it; but if you take a little, it----

KATE. It what!

BEA. Improves the complexion.

KATE. Does it? Where do you get it?

BEA. From the chemist's, of course.

KATE. But will they sell it you?

BEA. Yes, if you're candid and confide in them. My love, if you want to look better than Nature intended you----

KATE. As, of course, I do----

BEA. Confide in your chemist. Make some ridiculous excuse--say that the family cat is in convulsions--and they will sell you nothing. They know it's absurd. Say that you want to improve your complexion, and they will sell you anything; they know it's the truth.

KATE. My dear Mrs. Selwyn--for this information much thanks. (_moves towards door, R.U.E._)

BEA. Where are you going?

KATE. To the chemist's.

_Enter LORD NORMANTOWER, R.U.D._

NOR. May I come in? (_comes well on stage, R.C._)

KATE. (_up C._) It seems to me you've come. (_between NORMANTOWER and BEATRICE_)

NOR. Yes; when I want to do anything particularly, I do it first and ask permission afterwards. It prevents disappointment, and it's so very easy to apologise.

BEA. In this case no apology is needed.

NOR. (_starting_) Mrs. Selwyn! excuse me for not seeing you. (_crosses down to BEATRICE, standing R. of sofa. KATE turns up and resumes watering plants, R.C._) How is Philip to-day?

BEA. I'm sorry to say my husband is not at all well this morning.

NOR. Old Lund seems to be making him worse instead of better.

BEA. Sir Peter has now been here a week, and Philip has grown worse every day.

NOR. I'm sure _I_ oughtn't to find fault with Lund; he's polished off nearly all my relations for me; but I'm not certain that I quite believe in the old boy. There's too much M.D.F.S.A. about him. I never knew a fool who hadn't half the alphabet at the end of his name. (_turns away a few steps_)

KATE. (_demurely_) At _which_ end my Lord Edward, Arthur, Henry, Earl of Normantower? (_coming down to R. of NORMANTOWER, R.C., can in hand. BEATRICE rises and goes to fire L., taking book with her_)

NOR. Now, that's too bad of you, Miss Derwent. It's not my fault that I've enough names to christen the family of a curate.

KATE. Let this be a lesson to you. Don't throw stones at a friend of mine! (_goes up to opening R.C._)

NOR. Mine was a very little stone; yours was half a brick. (_KATE continues watering the plants_)

PHIL. (_off, L._) Beatrice!

BEA. My husband! I must leave Miss Derwent to console you. She won't have many more opportunities. (_goes up L._)

PHIL. Beatrice!

BEA. Yes, dear! I'm coming! (_exit L.D._)

NOR. Not many more opportunities? What does she mean? (_standing puzzled C.--turning his head to KATE_)

KATE. (_in conservatory_) Mrs. Selwyn means that I am leaving Ravenhurst.

NOR. You're going away! (_goes up to KATE_)

KATE. This afternoon. (R.) } } _of opening, R.C._) NOR. For good? (L.) }

KATE. For Mrs. Selwyn's good.

NOR. You don't mean to say she's given you notice.

KATE. (_comes down R.C., as far as piano_) Mrs. Selwyn is too amiable to give anybody notice; but when she wants to get rid of them, in the most charming manner in the world, she makes them so exceedingly uncomfortable that they give notice themselves.

NOR. (_comes down L. of her_) But she can't possibly want to get rid of _you?_

KATE. Why not?

NOR. We're all in love with _you._

KATE. Are you? Perhaps that's the reason. Do you like plants? (_turns suddenly, can in hand, so that the water is supposed to splash NORMANTOWER_)

NOR. Blow plants! (_drawing back_)

KATE. (_stopping_) _What_ plants? (_in opening R.C._)

NOR. (_goes to fire, L., wiping his coat_) Any plants--all plants--I hate 'em.

KATE. (_crosses in conservatory to L.C._) I love them. I have been watering my pets for the last time.

NOR. (L.) I see. You've been standing them a parting drink.

KATE. My lord! (_in opening L.C._)

NOR. By the way, isn't tobacco very good for plants? (_crossing up to C._)

KATE. Excellent. Why do you ask?

NOR. I was just thinking, while you are watering the plants in the conservatory, it might be doing them a service if I were to smoke a cigarette in the conservatory. (_producing case_)

KATE. (_puts can down, L.C., behind flat, and comes down to NORMANTOWER, C._) Not for the world! Lord Normantower, let me tell you a shocking fact. The very odour of tobacco has such an effect upon me, that if you were to light a cigarette----

NOR. (_putting case back_) It would make you uncomfortable?

KATE. No! I should want to join you.

NOR. No!

KATE. There! you're shocked. (_goes down to sofa_)

NOR. Not a bit of it. I like you, Miss Derwent, because you say what you mean.

KATE. Sometimes I say a great deal more than I mean. (_sits on sofa_)

NOR. And sometimes I mean a great deal more than I can say. Miss Derwent---- (_behind sofa, R. of KATE_)

KATE. (_sitting_) Lord Normantower?

NOR. What a strange thing it is that you have grown this old---- (_KATE looks at him_) I mean, this young, without being married.

KATE. I shall never marry.

NOR. That's exactly my case. I've had one disappointment, and I don't mean to have another. Once bit, twice shy, they say.

KATE. _You_ have been bitten?

NOR. (_goes to R.C._) Badly. But it's all for the best. It's made me distrustful of women and a confirmed bachelor. (_returns to back of sofa_) Why do people want to get married?

KATE. I've often wondered.

NOR. (_about to take her hand_) Miss Derwent, I've been so awfully glad I'm a confirmed bachelor, ever since I met _you._

KATE. (_removing her hand, which his hand follows_) What difference can that make?

NOR. Well, you see, if I wasn't a confirmed bachelor, I might have been married.

KATE. Well?

NOR. (_hand business repeated_) And if I was married, I couldn't marry again.

KATE. Of course not.

NOR. And if I couldn't marry again, I couldn't marry----

KATE. Go on. Finish your sentence.

NOR. (_seizing her hand_) You!

_Enter SIR PETER, through conservatory, suddenly, R.U.E. They take opposite sides of the stage; KATE, L.C., NORMANTOWER, R._

SIR P. Ah! I saw you! (_comes down C._)

KATE. Sir Peter, I believe you have eyes in the small of your back.

SIR P. Yes--and ears too. I heard you.

NOR. Then, why did you interrupt us?

SIR P. I thought it was time. You forget, that I am in the next room--that the rooms communicate through the terrace--and that you had not taken the precaution of shutting the outer door of the conservatory. (_KATE and NORMANTOWER look at one another_)

_Re-enter BEATRICE L.D., she goes down L. to KATE._

BEA. Ah, doctor! Philip was asking for you. He has just got up. What time's your train, Miss Derwent?

KATE. Half-past two. I must be getting ready. (_NORMANTOWER turns up and opens R.U.D., standing above it_)

SIR P. Then, it's decided, you are going?

KATE. Quite. But I shall see you again. (_crosses in front of SIR PETER up to R.U.D._)

BEA. (_comes to front of sofa_) The brougham is quite at your service. (_KATE bows and exit R.U.D. NORMANTOWER speaks through open door to her for a few moments_)

SIR P. (C.) So Miss Derwent is leaving you?

BEA. She wished to go. She has always been allowed to do as she pleased here, and she has availed herself of the privilege.

SIR P. (_looking at BEATRICE_) I see. (_enter PHILIP L.D._)

BEA. Ah, here is Philip! (_goes to him, affectionately_)

PHIL. Good morning, doctor. (_coming down with his arm round BEATRICE_) Morning, Normantower. (_goes to sofa and sits. BEATRICE goes to back of table L.C. and sits_)

NOR. Sorry to hear you're not so well this morning. (_comes down R. and sits at piano, facing PHILIP_)

PHIL. I ought to get better, if the best of doctors and the most devoted of nurses are of any use; but somehow I don't.

SIR P. You get worse. (_R. of sofa_)

PHIL. I shouldn't mind so much, if I didn't find my temper giving way--just now, I spoke quite crossly to poor little Mousey here (_takes her hand_)--and she was only carrying out your instructions. (_to SIR PETER_)

BEA. The fact is, doctor, he's a very naughty boy, and won't take his medicine, though I always give it him with my own hands. He hasn't taken any to-day.

SIR P. Oh, you won't take your medicine?

PHIL. It's such horrid stuff; and somehow, I always feel worse after taking it.

SIR P. So much the better. Shows it's doing you good.

NOR. (_smiling_) That's all my eye, doctor. (_BEATRICE rises and goes towards R.U.D._)

SIR P. No, sir, it's all his liver. Oblige me by not interrupting.

BEA. (_up R.C._) Come, Lord Normantower. (_NORMANTOWER rises, turns up and opens R.U.D. for BEATRICE, who crosses in front of him. PHILIP rises and goes to L._) Sir Peter would like to be alone with Philip. (_exit BEATRICE R.U.D._)

NOR. (_following--aside_) And I'd like to be alone with Miss Derwent. (_exit NORMANTOWER_)

PHIL. Now I am at your service. (_arranges easy chair and sits_)

SIR P. (_goes to R. of table, L.C._) Have you made your will?

PHIL. (_starts_) Well, you're a lively doctor!

SIR P. Have you made your will? (_with emphasis_)

PHIL. Am I so ill as that? (_aghast_)

SIR P. Yes, sir--you are.

PHIL. But if it's only my liver.

SIR P. It is _not_ your liver.

PHIL. Is it my heart? Is anything wrong there?

SIR P. Nothing of any consequence. It's rather too large, and rather too soft--that's all that's wrong with your heart.

PHIL. What is it then?

SIR P. (_sits on sofa_) I can account for your condition, only on one hypothesis, and that one is out of the question.

PHIL. Mayn't I know what it is?

SIR P. Since it's out of the question, it's no use discussing it. You haven't answered me. Have you made your will?

PHIL. Yes--long ago. It was a very simple matter. Mildred is provided for; so I have left everything to my wife, absolutely. (_SIR PETER rises and rings the bell, below fire, crossing in front_)

PHIL. Do you want anything?

SIR P. Yes. The name and address of your solicitor.

PHIL. Old Merivale, of High Street! why? (_enter JOHNSON, R.U.D., she comes on to R.C._)

SIR P. (_crosses to C._) Mr. Selwyn's compliments to Mr. Merivale, Solicitor, High Street, and will he kindly come here at once? (_exit JOHNSON R.U.D. SIR PETER returns to R. of table_)

PHIL. What for?

SIR P. To draw your will.

PHIL. But I tell you, I've made it.

SIR P. You must make another. (_sits, produces documents, and puts on pince-nez_)

PHIL. Sir Peter, you are incomprehensible!

SIR P. Let me make myself clear. Your father, Philip Selwyn, was married to your mother, Mildred Kent, in July, 1865. I need not show you the certificate.

PHIL. Of course not.

SIR P. Two years before, in March, 1863, one Philip Derwent was married to one Kate Graham.

PHIL. Derwent? Kate? Miss Derwent's father, I presume?

SIR P. Yes. There is the certificate.

PHIL. I don't want to see it.

SIR P. But I want you to see it. (_gives it to PHILIP_)

PHIL. (_glances at it and returns it_) How does it concern me?

SIR P. It concerns _her_, doesn't it?

PHIL. Of course.

SIR P. And she being your half-sister, it concerns _you_.

PHIL. Miss Derwent, my half-sister! What do you mean?

SIR P. That Philip Selwyn and Philip Derwent were one and the same person.

PHIL. Sir Peter!

SIR P. Of that I have no proof, except your father's word.

PHIL. My father's word?

SIR P. Given to me on his death-bed. Do you _doubt_ his word? Do you doubt mine?

PHIL. No--but I cannot grasp it! Am I awake, or am I dreaming? I have such strange dreams.

SIR P. You are awake--and for the first time in your life. Till to-day, you have been living in a dream.

PHIL. My father was a widower, when he married my mother? Why did he not say so? Why did he change his name?

SIR P. Because he was _not_ a widower.

PHIL. Not a widower!

SIR P. Because his first wife was alive----

PHIL. Alive! (_leaning well forward_)

SIR P. There is the certificate of her death--twenty years later.

(_PHILIP takes it, looks at it blankly, drops back into seat._)

PHIL. (_after a short pause_) Incredible!

SIR P. I haven't half done yet.

PHIL. Go on--go on. (_leaning forward again to table and placing certificate on it_)

SIR P. You inherited from your father everything you possess?

PHIL. Everything!

SIR P. He bequeathed to you, and your sister Mildred, all his fortune?

PHIL. All.

SIR P. Where did he get that fortune?

PHIL. Well?

SIR P. From his first wife.

PHIL. (_springing up_) It's false! it _must_ be false!

SIR P. (_rises_) I have his word for it, and it can be proved. He left her penniless; and left his child to struggle with the world as best they could--and nobly they did it. Yes, sir, it is too true. The father you have loved and honoured _was_----

PHIL. (_extending his arms, as if to stop SIR PETER_) My father! (_SIR PETER stands for a moment, nonplussed_)

SIR P. Was your father--just so. (_turns off. SIR PETER picks up certificate from table and goes to R.C. down stage, folding papers which he returns to his pocket, PHILIP leans on mantel-piece--aside, looking at PHILIP_) Takes it very well.

PHIL. (_goes to L.C., helping himself by table_) I want to ask you one question. Dare I? (_they stand looking at one another for an instant_)

SIR P. You mean, your mother.

PHIL. Yes.

SIR P. She knew nothing of this.

PHIL. Thank heaven for that--thank heaven! (_falls heavily into sofa, and sobs upon the table_)

_Re-enter BEATRICE, followed by KATE, in travelling dress, R.U.D. SIR PETER down R. PHILIP sits up._

BEA. (_up C._) Philip dear, Miss Derwent has come to say good-bye to you. She is going. (_crosses behind and goes down L. of table_)

PHIL. (_rising_) She is _not_ going. (_SIR PETER turns up to piano_)

KATE. (_crosses down to PHILIP_) The brougham is at the door, Mr. Selwyn, and I have left myself barely time to catch the train; but I could not go without shaking hands with you, and thanking you for all your kindness. I came here a stranger, and I have found almost a brother. (_offers her two hands_)

PHIL. (_taking and holding them_) Yes, you _have_ found a brother; and _I_ have found a sister.

KATE. Mr. Selwyn!

PHIL. Whom I have wronged without knowing it--of whose very existence I was unaware till this moment; but whom I know at last, and to whom I will make restitution.

BEA. Philip? (_advances a step; PHILIP turns to BEATRICE_)

KATE. (_turning to SIR PETER_) You have broken your promise!

SIR P. I made no promise. (_sits R. by piano, interested in scene_)

PHIL. Yes, Beatrice, this is my sister----

KATE. (_C., breaking out_) But you need not acknowledge me. I ask for nothing but to go away. Let the past be forgotten. Of what use is it to revive a sorrow that is dead, and to publish a sin that is unknown? (_to SIR PETER_) It cannot be right to make three beings unhappy, to do justice to one, when all that one asks is to go away.

PHIL. You know, then?

KATE. Everything!

PHIL. And you have said nothing!

KATE. (_to R. of sofa_) Because you have taught me to love you! (_PHILIP sinks on sofa_) I want you to be happy--I want to be happy myself--and if I wreck your happiness, I shall destroy my own. All I ask is to go--let me go! let me go! (_goes to SIR PETER who rises and checks her, and then sits again_)

PHIL. It is for me to go. This place belongs to you.

BEA. (L.C.) To her? (_front of table_)

PHIL. Yes, all I have is hers. (_turning to BEATRICE_) Beatrice, my father was not married to my mother legally--he was married before--Kate is his lawful child--the money he left me was her mother's--and to her it must be restored, to the last shilling.

SIR P. (_rises_) Nonsense! this is quixotic!

PHIL. (_peremptorily_) I know what my duty is, and it shall be done. (_to BEATRICE_) Am I not right?

BEA. (_humbly_) Yes, Philip.

PHIL. (_goes to KATE, C., takes her hand and puts arm round her; to KATE_) You have battled with the world long enough. Now it is _my_ turn. Till to-day I have been living in a fool's paradise, but now I have awaken from my dream. I am not afraid, because I am not alone. (_goes slowly to BEATRICE and takes her hand_) Many things have been taken from me. My fortune, my good name, my father's memory--all these are gone! but you are left to me. I have a wife to work for, whose love will sustain me; who will share my trials as she has shared my prosperity. (_goes towards KATE_) Don't fear for me. I will fight and I will conquer. (_dropping exhausted_) Ah, if I were only stronger! (_on sofa; BEATRICE goes to fire, L._)

SIR P. (_goes to KATE who is R. of sofa; to KATE who is about to speak_) You have said enough. Remember, your brother is an invalid. (_goes to R.C._)

PHIL. But I _won't_ be an invalid--I'll make my will to-day.

BEA. _Another_ will? (_at fire_)

PHIL. Leaving Kate everything.

KATE. (_to back of sofa, R. of PHILIP_) Philip! I _must_ speak, for our sister's sake. If you have no thought for yourself, have some for her.

PHIL. Mildred is provided for already. I cannot deal with _her_ money; but I can with my own.

KATE. It is not a question of money. Remember, if this secret is made known----

PHIL. Ah!

KATE. What will be said of her?

PHIL. That never crossed my thoughts.

KATE. (_goes down a few steps, C._) Think of it now. It is not too late.

PHIL. Oh! (_pressing his hands to his temples_) What am I to do?

KATE. (_to R. of sofa, below it and kneels_) Do what is best for everyone. Accept a favour from a sister who asks you--on her knees! Keep our secret! Remain here--the master of Ravenhurst. Philip! For Mildred's sake.

PHIL. (_opening his arms_) Kate! may God bless you!

KATE. Brother! (_falling into his arms. BEATRICE stands with her head bowed submissively_)

SIR P. (_comes to KATE who rises, he takes her away R.C. a few steps_) There, that's settled. Now, let my patient have a little rest.

PHIL. (_to KATE, who moves away_) You won't go far? You won't leave Ravenhurst?

SIR P. (_prompting KATE_) No.

KATE. No.

PHIL. You will stay here--under this roof?

SIR P. (_prompting_) Yes.

KATE. If I am welcome--for the present--yes.

PHIL. And for the future?

BEA. (_crosses to C._) Yes. Your sister will be always welcome here. (_takes KATE'S hand. KATE bows to her and exit R.I.D. BEATRICE turns to PHILIP caressingly_)

SIR P. (_following--aside_) Damn'd good actress, that woman! (_exit R._)

PHIL. How can I thank you, Beatrice? How can I tell you bow proud I am of you, and how I love you? (_holding both her hands, draws her down by his side_) Oh, my darling wife, how can I soften this blow which has fallen upon you? (_embracing her_)

BEA. Philip, don't think of _me._

PHIL. (_R. arm round her_) But I _must_ think of you, who never think of yourself. If I were to die? (_L. hand holding hers_)

BEA. Dearest, don't talk of death. (_withdraws hand_)

PHIL. (_takes his arm from her, and leans forward_) I am more ill than I seem--more ill than anybody knows. I can't help thinking of death, for every day it seems to draw nearer and nearer. I can feel it coming--slowly, mysteriously, weirdly--gathering about me--wrapping me round and round. (_almost to himself_)

BEA. (_rises_) Hush, Philip, hush! You are tired. (_goes away two steps to C._) Shall I leave you for a while?

PHIL. No, no! Don't go away. (_holding out his hands as she moves up to back of sofa, R. of him_) You are all I have left, mousey. I am not tired; but oh, I feel so drowsy! I seem to get worse every day.

BEA. And why, my dear? Because you won't take your medicine. Come. Let me bring it you now. (_goes towards L.D._)

PHIL. That beastly medicine! Perhaps I'd better take it; but I shall have no head to talk to old Merivale, when he comes.

BEA. You've sent for him? (_behind chair back of table_)

PHIL. I expect him every minute.

BEA. Then, there's no time to be lost. I'll bring it you at once. (_goes L._)

PHIL. I'm doing right, aren't I, mousey? (_R. end of sofa facing her_)

BEA. In what way? (_at door L._)

PHIL. In making this new will.

BEA. You always do right, Philip.

PHIL. I have your acquiescence?

BEA. Certainly.

PHIL. Then, I will lose no time. It shall be made to-day.

_Exit BEATRICE, L.D._

PHIL. (_knock at door, R._) Who is it?

_Enter TOM R.U.D., followed closely by MILDRED, arm in arm._

TOM. (_up R.C._) Only me, Mr. Selwyn.

MIL. (_up R.C._) Only _I,_ Tom.

TOM. Oh, bother grammar! (_releases her arm, they come down to C._)

PHIL. Well, children? How are _you_ to-day?

TOM. (_L. of MILDRED_) Oh, we're all right; but, I say, Mr. Selwyn, I wish everybody wouldn't call us "children." I don't like it.

MIL. And it's not true.

TOM. I'm turned sixteen.

MIL. And I'm fifteen next birthday!

PHIL. Well, then, my man and woman, what do you want?

TOM. You tell him, Mildred! } } (_half whispered_) MIL. No--_you_ tell him, Tom! }

TOM. Are you quite well enough to stand a shock?

PHIL. What, are you studying electricity? Or is it some toy?

TOM. Electricity! (_with contempt--turns up C., and down again_)

MIL. A toy!

TOM. Mr. Selwyn, you make it jolly hard for a fellow to say what he wants to say--just when he wants a leg up.

MIL. Tom! "A leg up?"

TOM. Oh, bother style! Let me say what I mean.

PHIL. And what do you mean, my lad? (_smiling_)

TOM. If you please--we want to get married. (_rather frightened, taking MILDRED'S hand, and retreating with her up to R.C., facing PHILIP_)

PHIL. (_suddenly serious_) Want to get married?

MIL. That's the shock!

TOM. (_aside to her_) Now for it. (_holding her tight_) Don't run away--_I_ won't!

PHIL. You are both too young to think about such things!

TOM. (_sturdily_) I'm sure we're not too young--(_down to C._)

MIL. To _think_ about such things.

PHIL. Well, to talk about them.

MIL. (_crosses TOM to PHILIP, back of sofa. Imploringly_) Philip!

TOM. Mildred, this is no place for you. (_hands her across to R.U.D._) Leave me alone with Mr. Selwyn.

MIL. (_aside to TOM_) Tom! You won't come to blows? (_at R.U.D._)

TOM. (_L. of her, aside to her_) I will control myself. I will not forget the respect that is due to the brother of my affianced wife.

MIL. That's right, Tom.

TOM. Wait for me--on the mat. (_exit MILDRED, R.U.D. TOM comes boldly down to C._) Now, Mr. Selwyn, we are alone. We can discuss this matter as men of the world.

PHIL. My dear Tom-- (_TOM draws himself up_) Mr. Verinder--Such a thing as marriage at your early age is, of course, preposterous; but I wish you distinctly to understand that the remotest idea of an engagement between you and Mildred is equally out of the question.

TOM. May I ask why, sir?

PHIL. You belong to a very proud family; and there are reasons which you would scarcely understand----

TOM. Mr. Selwyn!

PHIL. Which, at any rate, I can't enter into--that make it impossible you should ever marry my sister.

TOM. That is your ultimatum? (_a step towards PHILIP_)

PHIL. Yes. (_sighing_)

TOM. Good day, sir. (_walks to the door, R., with importance, suddenly breaks down--exit blubbering, R.U.D._)

PHIL. (_rises_) Poor Tom! He's only a boy, but he's a gentleman! (_goes to fire, L., and leans on mantle_)

_Re-enter BEATRICE, L.D., pouring medicine out of a medicine bottle into a medicine glass, in which she has already put the poison. She comes down C. to R. of table._

BEA. Here it is, Philip. (_hands glass to him_)

PHIL. Oh dear me, how tired I am of the horrid stuff! (_takes glass, and sits wearily L. of table_) Surely you have given me too much?

BEA. No--just the right measure. See! (_between table and sofa, holding up bottle_)

PHIL. How many doses are there left?

BEA. (_with bottle_) Only three more. (_puts bottle on R. of table, and goes round behind to back of PHILIP_) Now, drink it up without thinking about it; and if, like a good boy, you don't leave a drop, you shall have a kiss afterwards, to take the taste away.

PHIL. Well, I suppose I must. (_raises glass to his lips--about to drink, BEATRICE watches him eagerly_)

_Enter JOHNSON, R.U.D., quickly._

JOHN. (_up R.C._) Oh, if you please'm! (_pants_)

(_PHILIP puts glass down on L. side of table_)

BEA. (_annoyed_) What's the matter, Johnson? (_moves a little towards JOHNSON_)

JOHN. Miss Mildred---- (_out of breath_)

PHIL. What of Miss Mildred?

JOHN. She is in hysterics.

PHIL. Mildred ill! (_rises and goes quickly across R. Exeunt JOHNSON and PHILIP R.U.D._)

BEA. (_follows across to R.C. up stage_) Never mind Mildred! Philip dear! (_stamps her foot_) Only another second and---- (_moves down C. looking at glass_)

PHIL. (_off_) Beatrice!

_Re-enter TOM breathless, R._

TOM. Oh, Mrs. Selwyn, please do come to Mildred! She's in a fit, or something. (_R. of BEATRICE_)

BEA. Nonsense!

TOM. Do come, please! (_passes behind to L. of her_) The shock has been too much for her.

_Re-enter PHILIP quickly._

PHIL. Beatrice! Quick! (_TOM has her L. hand, PHILIP her right; they force her to the door between them; as BEATRICE exits she looks back at glass on table_)

BEA. In a moment! (_glancing at glass_)

TOM. Come along!

PHIL. Beatrice! do come! (_exeunt R. upper door. The door shuts with a bang. Music in orchestra_)

_SIR PETER appears in the conservatory, and enters from R._

SIR P. Nobody here. Perhaps he's lying down. (_taps at door, L._) Nobody there. They've gone downstairs. (_comes down to C. passing behind sofa_) He must be better, then. (_music stops, pause, lost in thought_) Peter, my boy, if anyone had told you, you could study a case as you have studied this, for a week, and not be able to make head or tail of it, you would have kicked--pulled his nose for him. (_goes to R. of table._) What _is_ the matter with this man? Of course it _might_ be--but that's out of the question. (_sits on sofa_) Ah, there's his medicine. What did he say? He always felt worse after taking it. I don't know why he should. Only a tonic, with a nasty flavour. People like nasty medicine. Think it does 'em good. (_rises, tastes it_) Well--_it is_ nasty. (_starts slightly as he tastes it on his tongue--lifts glass to light, examines it, then smells it, smells it again, tastes again cautiously by his finger, sets the glass down, and stands looking at it_) Nothing's out of the question! I ought to have known it. (_pours dose into the goblet, smells and tastes the bottle_) That's all right. (_music in orchestra. Pours out another dose into the glass, which he replaces exactly where he found it, recorks the bottle and exit slowly with goblet through conservatory, R., pausing in C. a moment to examine medicine._)

_Re-enter BEATRICE, R., quickly, sees the medicine, stops short and resumes her wonted manner; down C. Re-enter PHILIP, R.; music stops._

PHIL. She's better now; but I was rather alarmed. (_down to C._)

BEA. Poor child! (_goes to fire L._)

PHIL. She'll soon get over it. Only a girlish fancy. Where did I put that medicine? (_looking about_)

BEA. Here it is, dear. (_gives him the glass--advancing to him_)

PHIL. (_grimacing_) You can't think how I hate it.

BEA. Don't be so absurd. I declare, you're as great a baby as _she_ is. (_backs up stage, watching him_)

PHIL. One--two--three! (_drinks it off. BEATRICE gives a sigh of satisfaction_) Ugh! Give me some water. (_goes to piano and puts glass down_)

BEA. (_passes behind table down to L. of it_) Why, the tumbler is gone! Who can have taken it? (_looking about_)

PHIL. Johnson, I daresay. (_sits R. by piano_) All right; I'm better now. That's one dose less to take. (_Re-enter SIR PETER through conservatory, with the goblet empty_) Three more, I think you said.

BEA. (_holds up bottle_) But there are only _two!_ (_alarmed_) Someone's been here!

SIR P. Yes, _I_ have. (_comes down C. to R. of sofa_)

BEA. (_terrified_) _You!_

SIR P. Your husband complained of his medicine. I thought I'd test it; so I took a dose.

BEA. (_dismayed_) _You_ took it? (_puts bottle on table_)

SIR P. Yes. (_looking at her_)

PHIL. A doctor take a dose of his own medicine!

SIR P. Only to my room. (_advances to R. of table_) Allow me to return you the glass. (_gives goblet to BEATRICE_)

PHIL. And you have tested it?

SIR P. Yes.

BEA. (_prepared for the worst_) With what result?

SIR P. With none. As I expected, just what I prescribed. (_sits on sofa. BEATRICE, intensely relieved, turns aside to hide her emotion, as if to put goblet on mantel-piece, L._)

PHIL. And what did you prescribe, Sir Peter? What is this stuff you're giving me?

SIR P. A very common medicine. (_crossing his legs_)

PHIL. But what is it?

SIR P. (_With his eyes fixed on BEATRICE_) Arsenic. (_PHILIP'S face falls. BEATRICE turns quickly, dropping the goblet, which is shivered to fragments_)

Quick Act Drop.

_Time: Thirty minutes. Wait: Eleven minutes._

ACT III.

SCENE.--_Same as Act II. It is after dinner, the room is lighted. Evening dress. KATE is discovered at piano, finishing a song; NORMANTOWER standing beside her. TOM, L., and MILDRED, R., are seated on the centre seat, taking no notice of anybody, and looking the pictures of woe. BEATRICE'S fan on piano. Lights full up in front. Blue limes in conservatory._

NOR. Thanks, awfully! (_R. of KATE, above her_)

KATE. That's Mr. Selwyn's favourite--(_rising_)--the music's pretty, but such stupid words. (_crosses down to C., NORMANTOWER follows her_)

NOR. Yes, but you sing them with such an expression.

KATE. Such an appropriate expression?

_Enter SERVANTS, R.U.D., with coffee, etc., which they hand to KATE. PRICE enters first, followed by SERVANT. The former carries large salver with cups of coffee; the latter, sugar and milk on small salver. They go down to back of sofa._

NOR. Yes, that's what I meant. Such an appropriate expression!

KATE. (_laughing_) Of stupidity? (_goes to sofa_)

NOR. No, no! That isn't what I meant. Oh dear, I never _can_ say what I want to say, to you.

KATE. Shall I assist you?

NOR. If you only would! (_C.R. of sofa_)

KATE. I mean to sugar.

NOR. _I_ meant to sugar.

KATE. Cream?

NOR. Thanks awfully. (_KATE hands cup to NORMANTOWER, and takes another herself, and sits on sofa, L. of it_)

NOR. (_aside_) I _didn't_ mean sugar, but I _must_ agree with her.

_SERVANTS offer coffee to TOM and then to MILDRED; they simply reverse their attitudes, without taking further notice. Exeunt SERVANTS R.U.D._

KATE. (_cup in hand_) Is that as you like it?

NOR. (_seating himself by her_) This is just as I like it. So, it's quite settled, you're going to stay here? (_on sofa_)

KATE. Yes, I find I can't tear myself away from Ravenhurst--I'm a fixture.

NOR. I say! are you a landlord's or a tenant's fixture?

KATE. Oh, I'm attached to the freehold--very much attached to it.

NOR. That's a pity. I thought perhaps you were removable.

KATE. What if I were?

NOR. I should like to remove you, that's all.

KATE. I thought you were a confirmed bachelor?

NOR. That's just it. That's what makes it so jolly, I being a confirmed bachelor, and you being a confirmed old maid----

KATE. _Old_ maid?

NOR. I mean, you _will_ be an old maid--in time.

KATE. You didn't say so.

NOR. But I _meant,_ in time. So there's no danger. We can do what we like.

KATE. Of course, we can do what we like.

NOR. We can talk together.

KATE. We can walk together.

NOR. We can sing together!

KATE. Do you mean, in time?

NOR. Miss Derwent, it was _you_ who were out of time yesterday. That was a crotchet.

KATE. Nay, it was a quaver.

NOR. A crotchet. } (_rising, crossing to R. and putting } _ad lib._ down cup on piano_) KATE. A quaver. } (_rising and putting down cup on table L. and then cross to R.C._)

NOR. Here is the music--see. (_takes it from piano and comes to her R.C._)

_Enter BEATRICE, L.D., and sits unobserved, on sofa._

KATE. (_pointing to note_) What did I tell you?

NOR. You said a quaver.

KATE. No, I said a crotchet.

NOR. Oh!

KATE. Certainly, a crotchet. This is how it goes. (_takes the music, crosses him, and sits at piano and sings one verse of a song_)

NOR. (_enraptured_) Thanks--oh thanks, awfully. (_standing on her R._)

BEA. Rather high for you, isn't it, my dear? (_both turn_)

NOR. Mrs. Selwyn! (_turns and advances C._)

KATE. (_rises_) I beg your pardon?

BEA. Your voice is so charming, it is a pity to strain it.

KATE. (_goes down R.C._) I wasn't aware I had an audience. I was simply endeavouring to convince Lord Normantower that a crotchet is not a quaver. I was not attempting to sing.

BEA. My love, you are too modest. I never heard you sing better. (_KATE grimaces aside_)

NOR. (_aside_) I think, I'd better turn the conversation. (_Goes to R. of sofa_) How is Philip, this evening?

KATE. Yes, how is Mr. Selwyn?

BEA. I'm glad to say, much stronger.

NOR. That's good news. I was afraid, as Sir Peter did not dine with us, your husband was worse.

BEA. Sir Peter has been with him all the afternoon, and has announced his intention of remaining till he has solved the mystery of Philip's illness. It is really very kind of Sir Peter.

KATE. Sir Peter is kindness itself. (_returns to piano, and sits_)

BEA. You can imagine what a satisfaction it is to me, to know that my husband is in such excellent care.

NOR. But has he formed no opinion as to what is the matter with Philip?

BEA. He seems to think, it is nothing worse than an aggravated case of dyspepsia, and he attaches the greatest importance to diet. He has forbidden poor Philip almost everything. Sir Peter is a little crotchety, but he is paying the greatest attention to the case. And he's so clever! I am charmed with him. (_NORMANTOWER crosses to piano, and stands R. of KATE who plays softly. TOM rises, crosses to MILDRED and takes her hand. She rises, and they advance down a step R.C._)

TOM. (_aside to MILDRED_) Could you die, Mildred?

MIL. I want to, Tom.

TOM. Then let's die together!

MIL. Yes--but how?

TOM. I don't know. That's the worst of me. I'm so beastly ignorant.

MIL. There's a pond at the bottom of the garden.

TOM. Is there?

MIL. Six feet deep.

TOM. Let's go at once.

MIL. And throw ourselves in?

TOM. We'll have a look at it first. (_exit with MILDRED R.C. to R._)

(_PHILIP heard off L. KATE stops playing._)

KATE. Surely that's Mr. Selwyn! (_BEATRICE rises and goes across up to opening R.C., following TOM and MILDRED_)

(_SIR PETER heard off L._)

NOR. Here they are, both of them.

_Enter PHILIP, followed by SIR PETER, L.D. SIR PETER goes down L., puts snuff-box on mantel, and stands with back to fire; PHILIP comes to C. up stage, KATE rises and meets him._

KATE. You, Mr. Selwyn. Then you're better!

PHIL. Yes--feeling another man. I've even been attending to business, with my solicitor. (_KATE turns away up to R.C._) I must admit, Sir Peter's treatment is justified by the result, but I can't say I altogether relish it. (_to NORMANTOWER_) What do you think he's giving me? (_down, front of sofa_)

NOR. What? (_advances to C._)

PHIL. Arsenic. (_sitting on sofa_)

NOR. Gracious me! (_BEATRICE comes down, and sits R. by piano_)

KATE. (_comes down, L. of BEATRICE_) Arsenic! That's nothing! Many ladies take it.

NOR. Ladies take arsenic! (_turning to KATE_)

KATE. Don't they, Mrs. Selwyn?

BEA. I should hope not, Miss Derwent.

KATE. _You_ never heard of such a thing, of course?

NOR. What do they take it for?

SIR P. My dear young gentleman, have you lived six and twenty years without discovering that the female complexion is usually an artificial product?

NOR. Well, I know a powder-puff when I see one, but arsenic! (_turns up a little C. with KATE_)

SIR P. Pooh! a common drug!

BEA. Miss Derwent, so sorry to trouble you--but the night dews are falling, and Mildred has gone out without a shawl.

KATE. I'll get one at once. (_exit, R., upper door_)

NOR. Yes--we'll get one at once. (_exit, R.U.D._)

(_Directly NORMANTOWER is off, PRICE and SERVANT re-enter, R.U.D., with coffee, which they offer to BEATRICE, who is sitting R. by piano._)

PHIL. I must say, I agree with Normantower. When you told me what you were giving me, it was rather a shock even to me, and it nearly frightened poor Beatrice out of her life.

BEA. Philip, don't speak of it. (_takes coffee_) Don't you remember what happened?

PHIL. You broke a glass.

BEA. And breaking glass is so unlucky.

(_SERVANTS cross and offer coffee to PHILIP, who takes a cup without milk and sugar, SIR PETER not noticing. They then pass behind to SIR PETER, who takes coffee. PRICE clears KATE'S cup from the table, then crosses, followed by SERVANT and exeunt R.U.D._)

PHIL. Mousey, you'll make Sir Peter laugh at you. (_NORMANTOWER talks to KATE_)

SIR P. Why should I?

PHIL. Surely _you_ don't believe in luck? (_takes coffee_)

SIR P. Everybody believes in luck, except fools, who attribute their successes to their merits. My experience teaches me differently. I know, one may study a case for a week, and master it only by accident--as I have mastered yours. (_exeunt SERVANTS_)

BEA. (_rises_) You've mastered Philip's? (_goes to C._)

SIR P. Yes. As I suspected. Liver.

BEA. Ah! Then, after all, it is only dyspepsia?

SIR P. (L.) _Only_ dyspepsia, madam! What's the word suffering from?--vice--crime--drink--poverty? What are they all? Indigestion.

PHIL. My wife means, nothing dangerous--one can hardly die of dyspepsia.

SIR P. Sir, one can die of anything. If you only knew the number of things one can die of, you'd wonder any of us are alive. (_PHILIP laughs and lifts his cup to drink_) What have you there? (_going up to back of table_)

PHIL. Only some coffee.

SIR P. Put it down, sir, instantly. (_hand on table_)

BEA. Mayn't he have coffee, doctor?

SIR P. (_crosses behind sofa to C._) Coffee! Most indigestible! Have I not given my orders? He is to taste nothing more to-day, except one dose of medicine before going to bed. (_BEATRICE goes to piano, puts her cup down and picks up her fan_)

PHIL. Another dose, to-night?

SIR P. One more; it's most important. (_rises_)

BEA. Is Mr. Merivale still here? (_at piano_)

PHIL. Oh no, he went some time ago.

BEA. (_quickly_) Then have you made the will?

PHIL. Not yet. (_SIR PETER watches BEATRICE closely_) Merivale insists on making his own inquiries before taking any other steps in the matter. If Sir Peter's information is confirmed, he will accept my instructions. I am to see him again at twelve o'clock to-morrow.

BEA. Twelve o'clock?

SIR P. Now you must rest. You've had a trying day (_hand on PHILIP's shoulder_) (_PHILIP rises and stands back to audience_)

BEA. (_BEATRICE advances to SIR PETER_) You needn't trouble, doctor. _I_ will go with Philip.

SIR P. Thank you--it is no trouble. Come, my boy. (_PHILIP takes his R. arm, and they go up_)

PHIL. (_up L.C._) How can I repay you for all your attention?

SIR P. By obeying me to the letter. Diet's the great thing; and the less the better. Eat nothing--drink nothing.

PHIL. But one dose of medicine.

SIR P. Just one more. (_exit with PHILIP, L.U.D., music in orchestra_)

BEA. (_behind sofa, R. of it_) One more! My last chance--and I dare not take it. At twelve o'clock to-morrow, all I have worked for, all I have schemed for, all I have married for, slips through my fingers. (_gets front of sofa_) And I can do nothing! No, it is too dangerous; and if I stop now, I am safe enough. But what is safety worth? Tied to my husband for his life, and at his death, a pauper! Whilst she--_she_ will be the Countess of Normantower! Unless--unless--(_sits on sofa smiling to herself_). He doesn't know that she is Philip's sister. It is arranged it shall be kept a secret. Then, why is Philip leaving her his fortune? If I could make him think there was another reason. He is in love, and love is always jealous. If I could only sow a doubt between them. Countess of Normantower! What I have thrown away! (_music stops_)

_Re-enter NORMANTOWER, R.U.D._

NOR. (_goes to C._) It's all right. We've found the shawl.

BEA. Did it take two to find it?

NOR. It took two to look for it. Miss Derwent looked everywhere for the shawl, and I looked everywhere for Miss Derwent.

BEA. You are great friends.

NOR. Oh, yes; we get along splendidly. I like Miss Derwent! she is just my sort.

BEA. I thought you hated all women.

NOR. On the contrary, I am never so happy as in the society of ladies.

BEA. You, who are always raving against marriage.

NOR. That's the reason. To marry is to devote oneself to an individual; whilst a bachelor can devote himself to the sex. Besides, I have to study economy--and it comes cheaper on taking a quantity.

BEA. Perhaps, you are right. Marriage is a terrible lottery.

NOR. You should be thankful you have drawn a prize.

BEA. Don't mock me.

NOR. I'm sure you couldn't have a better husband than Philip. He's one of the best fellows in the world.

BEA. Ah! there's only one prize--to a woman.

NOR. (_aside_) She means me. (_two steps away_)

BEA. All the rest are blanks. And sometimes worse than blanks.

NOR. (_aside_) This is damn'd awkward! (_a further movement R.C._)

BEA. (_rises_) Lord Normantower, I owe you an explanation which I have had no opportunity of giving you. Your time is so much occupied, and we are so seldom alone.

NOR. (_aside, R.C._) I wish somebody'd come!

BEA. (C.) When you first came to Ravenhurst, I made what must have seemed a very strange avowal.

NOR. Mrs. Selwyn, I have tried to forget it, and I hope you will assist me. And the best way to forget it, is not to say anything about it.

BEA. I have tried to be silent--but in justice to myself, I must speak. You know my marriage was not my own wish; but having married, do me the justice to believe I would have been a true and loyal wife, if Philip had been all you think he is.

NOR. Philip?

BEA. I have accepted my lot without a murmur. Even now, my only wish is that you should not think too harshly of my indiscretion; but at the sight of you, the old times came back so vividly, that words sprang to my lips which I should not have spoken, even under such provocation as mine.

NOR. I have known Philip nearly all my life, and this is the first breath I ever heard against him. I can't help thinking you must be mistaken.

BEA. Think so--by all means think so! I do not ask for pity or for sympathy. I only said so much in self-defence. Now I have done. (_goes to L._)

NOR. (_aside_) Thank goodness!

BEA. But you are quite right to remain a bachelor. Marriage is a mistake. (_sitting in easy chair L._)

NOR. (_goes to L.C._) There are two ways of looking at it; and, after all, one ought to see both sides. I've looked at one for so long, I'm seriously thinking of taking a turn at the other. (_sits on sofa_)

BEA. You contemplate being married?

NOR. Well, I have had some thoughts of it. (_toying with BEATRICE'S fan which she has left on sofa_)

BEA. Whom shall I have the pleasure of congratulating?

NOR. Oh, I don't know. I haven't asked her yet--at least, not properly. I'm sort of--feeling my way.

BEA. I don't think you need fear.

NOR. D'you think she'll have me--really!

BEA. Of course, I don't know who the lady is.

NOR. Oh, yes you do, Miss Derwent.

BEA. (_rises suddenly_) Miss Derwent?

NOR. Yes, of course. You must have seen I'm awfully gone on her.

BEA. And you propose to marry her.

NOR. Well I should like to.

BEA. (_drops back into seat_) What am I to say?

NOR. What do you mean?

BEA. Nothing. I only meant--rather a mésalliance, isn't it?

NOR. I don't see that at all. I'm no great catch. I'm as poor as a church mouse.

BEA. A coronet is something.

NOR. Pooh! What's a coronet? A thing they stick about on hansom cabs. Sixpence a mile.

BEA. And don't you owe a duty to your family?

NOR. My family owe a great deal more to me, but there's precious little chance of their stumping up.

BEA. (_rises_) Let me see. How long have you known Miss Derwent? (_front of table_)

NOR. About a week. (_R. end of sofa, facing her_)

BEA. And don't you think it's dangerous, to marry on so short an acquaintance?

NOR. To marry anybody else, it would be. Not to marry _her._

BEA. Have you told Philip?

NOR. No--what's _he_ to do with it?

BEA. (_crosses to R.C._) Nothing, of course! No, nothing. Why should I tell you! (_hand on chair L. of piano_) Why should I publish my own humiliation? And yet, we are such old friends, how can I stand by, and see your whole life ruined? No! Lord Normantower, this marriage is impossible. (_goes towards LORD NORMANTOWER_)

NOR. (_rises_) I don't see that at all.

BEA. You are in love, and blind! Has it never struck you? Why is Miss Derwent here?

NOR. Isn't she Mildred's governess?

BEA. Mildred requires no governess.

NOR. Well, her companion--yours.

BEA. Mine! _My_ companion! Yes, you are right there. Yes, my companion--in my husband's heart. (_goes down to R.C._)

NOR. Surely, you cannot mean--(_follows a step_)

BEA. My rival! Yes! I mean, that Philip is her lover.

NOR. Mrs. Selwyn!

BEA. Now I have told you my secret, and I leave it to your honour to respect it.

NOR. You accuse Miss Derwent--you accuse your husband----

BEA. Yes, I accuse them both. You know what happened this morning; Miss Derwent was going away, and my husband insisted on her remaining; but you don't know what happened this afternoon. So mad is Philip's infatuation that he is even making a new will, bequeathing her every shilling he possesses, leaving me an outcast and a beggar.

_SIR PETER appears, L.D.--he observes them talking and goes into conservatory, L.C._

NOR. Surely you are mistaken. (_backing a step_)

BEA. I am _not_ mistaken! Sir Peter knows of this will. He will tell you what I say is the truth. But not a word about my secret? I leave that to your honour. (_crosses and goes up C. to L.C._)

NOR. (_aside_) I wish she wouldn't leave my honour legacies. (_turns up to opening, R.C._)

_SIR PETER comes out from conservatory, L.C., intercepting BEATRICE as she goes to door, L._

SIR P. Where are you going?

BEA. Only to sit with Philip. (_going L._)

SIR P. (_blocking the way_) He is lying down, and must on no account be disturbed.

BEA. Surely a wife----

SIR P. Is the most likely person to disturb her husband.

BEA. (_pushing past, viciously_) Sir Peter, I _will_ see him! (_exit, L.D._)

SIR P. (_aside, looking after her_) But you can't. (_produces key, looks at it and replaces it in his pocket, then goes down L., and leans on mantel, on the opposite side of stage to LORD NORMAN- TOWER--both lost in thought_)

NOR. (_aside, leaning against column, R.C._) How can I ask Sir Peter? How can I say, has Selwyn made a will, leaving his wife a beggar? I know what his answer would be. "Sir, what the devil has that to do with you?" And yet it has a lot to do with me. I regard Miss Derwent's reputation as my own, and I'm not going to have aspersions cast on it. If I could clear things up, I might be able to convince Mrs. Selwyn of her mistake. But how can I broach the subject? It's a teazer. (_sits up, R.C., in alcove_)

SIR P. (_sits L., aside_) Now, what am I to do? Give her a chance, or nail her to the counter? If I gave her a chance, would she take it? Not she! She would appeal to her husband--he would believe her implicitly and kick me out of the house--there would be an end of _me_--and there would be an end of _him._ I must convict her--there's no alternative. But how? If she plays any tricks to-night, I have her. But if she doesn't? (_blows his nose_) She has _me!_ Well, the first thing to be done is, to make things safe for the night.

NOR. (_aside, rises and comes down a little_) I have it! Sir Peter knows I'm poor--I'll tell him I have thoughts of marrying, but I must marry money. I will inquire about Miss Derwent's circumstances--say, I've heard a rumour. Then I shall find out all about this will. Sir Peter will think I'm an awful cad, but what does it matter what Sir Peter thinks? Upon my word, statesmanship _is_ hereditary, after all. I feel a regular Machiavelli! (_crosses to SIR PETER, aloud_) Sir Peter! May I have a word with you? (_R. of table_)

SIR P. (_watch_) How long are you likely to be?

NOR. Only a second.

SIR P. That means half-an-hour. I limit my consultations to ten minutes.

NOR. Ten minutes, then.

SIR P. Go on.

_Re-enter KATE, R.C. from R., unobserved, stops short on seeing them._

NOR. (_sits on sofa_) It is about Miss Derwent.

SIR P. Oh, Miss Derwent! (_SIR PETER rises, takes snuff-box on mantel--and sits again L._)

KATE. (_aside, smiling_) He's talking about me. I should like to know what he thinks of me. It's a mean thing to do--but I'll do it--just for fun. (_retires into conservatory, and crosses, going off L.U.E._)

SIR P. Well, sir.

NOR. You know Miss Derwent very well, I think?

SIR P. Very well indeed--go on! (_leaning back_)

NOR. She's all right, isn't she?

SIR P. All right? (_starting forward_)

NOR. I mean, there isn't a screw loose anywhere?

SIR P. Screw loose?

NOR. You know, I have some thoughts of marrying.

SIR P. Her!

NOR. Well, yes, of marrying _her._

SIR P. (_rises_) Then marry her, and don't bother me about it.

NOR. But I'm as poor as a rat, and I can't afford----

SIR P. Then, _don't_ marry her. (_crosses R.C._)

NOR. (_rises and follows SIR PETER_) But it has reached my ears, that Selwyn's going to leave her everything. (_SIR PETER pricks up his ears_) If that is really so, it would suit my book to a T; and I thought you might know something about it.

SIR P. Well, sir?

NOR. And tell me.

SIR P. In what capacity? As a physician?

NOR. No--as a friend.

SIR P. As Mr. Selwyn's friend--betray his confidence?

NOR. No--as _my_ friend.

SIR P. But I am _not_ your friend.

NOR. Well, as between two men of the world. Miss Derwent's an awfully nice girl, but you know, one must look after the dibs.

SIR P. Sir, I may be a man of the world, or I may not, but I do not hold consultations in that capacity. Good evening. (_going R._)

NOR. Sir Peter! One moment! (_following. Exit SIR PETER, followed by NORMANTOWER, R.I.D. KATE staggers from conservatory, L.C., and drops into sofa, the picture of desolation._)

_Re-enter LORD NORMANTOWER, R.I.D. Stops short on seeing KATE._

NOR. (R.C.) There she is. (_stands looking at KATE_)

KATE. (_giving her eyes a final wipe and rising, aside_) I don't care. (_pockets handkerchief_)

NOR. (_goes to her_) Miss Derwent, you've been crying. Something's the matter.

KATE. Don't trouble about _me._ _I'm_ "all right."

NOR. "All right?" (_aside_) Do sit down!

KATE. Thanks, I prefer to stand.

NOR. But I don't like you to stand.

KATE. I'm sorry if my attitude is not sufficiently elegant to satisfy your lordship's fastidious taste.

NOR. Miss Derwent!

KATE. But I was not born graceful. I don't think I was properly finished off. Nature has left "a screw loose" somewhere. (_crosses R._)

NOR. (C.) "A screw loose?" (_nonplussed_)

KATE. What perplexes your lordship? (_sits R. by piano_)

NOR. (_goes to her_) Miss Derwent, tell me--why did you ever want to leave Ravenhurst? Don't think me impertinent. I have a reason for asking.

KATE. And I had a reason for leaving.

NOR. Were you uncomfortable?

KATE. Oh dear, no! Mr. Selwyn has always insisted on my being treated with every consideration.

NOR. Ah! Philip thinks a lot of _you,_ doesn't he?

KATE. I think, he likes me. I don't know about "a lot."

NOR. Perhaps you felt yourself in rather a false position?

KATE. (_rises_) What do you mean?

NOR. Nothing--I only meant--I don't know what I meant.

KATE. Perhaps I thought, that I might _better_ my position.

NOR. But if you were so comfortable----

KATE. Comfort isn't everything. Ravenhurst's an awfully nice place: but--(_facing him_) "You know, one must look after the dibs."

NOR. (_stands dumbfounded--pause_) Then, you heard my conversation with Sir Peter?

KATE. Every word of it.

NOR. Well, it serves me right. (_goes down to C._)

KATE. (_advances towards him_) And me as well--for listening--but I'm glad I did. Now, I know what you are, and what you want. You are for sale! Heart, soul, mind, body and estate--without reserve, and open to all bidders. I am only a governess--I have no money to buy you, and I don't _want_ to buy you! Knock yourself down to anyone you please! What do _I_ care? (_a step or two away_)

NOR. Hear me, one moment. I have been misled. (_follows_)

KATE. (_turns sharply on him_) And so have I. I thought, at last, that I had met a _man!_--A man whom I could love----

NOR. Miss Derwent! (_enraptured_)

KATE. Whom I could honour--whom I could even obey!

NOR. Kate! (_holds out his hands_)

KATE. (_smacks his hands down and draws back up stage, R.C., a step; during speech, she backs towards R.U.D._) Don't call me "Kate." It wasn't _you._ It was another man altogether--a creature of my fancy--whom I had met in dreams--but whom I loved--with such a love as never entered into your sordid soul--for whom I would have died--for whom I would have worked, toiled, slaved, from morning until night--who possessed the whole heart of a woman who has never loved before, but who has cast it from him and has broken it! (_at door; exit, R.U.D._)

NOR. My last appearance as Machiavelli! (_goes to L._)

_Re-enter TOM moodily, R.C. from R._

TOM. (_comes down C._) I don't like the look of the pond.

NOR. What pond? What are you talking about?

TOM. Oh, by the bye, I haven't told you what we're going to do.

NOR. Who's going to do?

TOM. Why, me and Mildred. Drown ourselves. At least we _were_ going to drown ourselves, until we saw the pond. Now, we are going to think of something else.

NOR. (_goes to TOM_) Look here, Tom! it's quite time little boys were in bed. You'll have plenty of time to-morrow.

TOM. Ah! You don't know what it is, to love--and get the key of the street!

NOR. Don't I? I've got it.

TOM. _You've_ got it, Ned?

NOR. Miss Derwent has just given it me.

TOM. I say, let's drown one another! You go first! (_puts NORMANTOWER across up towards R.U.D._)

NOR. No, thank you, Tom. I'll go and make things up. (_exit, R.U.D._)

_Re-enter SIR PETER, R.I.D., lost in thought, he goes up a little, R.C._

TOM. (_down C., turning--seeing SIR PETER_) Sir Peter--the very man--I say, Sir Peter! (_turns up to SIR PETER_)

SIR P. Mr. Verinder?

TOM. Aren't you a doctor?

SIR P. I had the honour to belong to the medical profession before you were born.

TOM. A lot of things seem to have happened before I was born--and everybody takes care to let me know it.

SIR P. It is impossible to know too much.

TOM. Then, tell me. What's the pleasantest way of committing suicide?

SIR P. Hem! The question is scarcely usual. I regret to say, the etiquette of my profession precludes me from replying. (_mock bow. Goes up C._)

TOM. Pompous old ass! I don't believe he knows. (_goes to L.C._)

_Re-enter MILDRED, R.U.D., with an open book in her hand._

MIL. Tom, Tom! (_comes down R.C._)

TOM. What's that you've got?

MIL. "Kennedy on Poisons." (_reading from book. SIR PETER listens_) I found it in Miss Derwent's dressing-room.

TOM. Just what we wanted--let me have a look.

SIR P. (_advancing_) Give me that book. (_between them. MILDRED draws book away_)

TOM. But it's not hers--it's----

SIR P. (_peremptorily_) Give that book to me. (_MILDRED gives it him_) How dare you take this from Miss Derwent's dressing-room?

MIL. (_begins to cry_) I didn't know that I was doing wrong. Mousey is always at Miss Derwent's bookcase.

TOM. How dare _you_ take that from Miss Selwyn! Is it yours? (_facing him boldly_)

SIR P. By force of arms.

TOM. Force is not argument.

SIR P. (_in a voice of thunder_) Go away, boy, go! (_points R. TOM collapses, crosses to MILDRED, and exit with MILDRED R.I.D. quickly_)

SIR P. (sits on sofa) "Kennedy--Poisons"--(_opens fly-leaf_) "Kate Derwent--from her friend, the Author--Guy's Hospital, 17th April, 1888." Kennedy's pet lamb! Gives it right and left, and not got through the first edition yet. Nothing remarkable in that. But why does it open at arsenic? "Mousey is always at Miss Derwent's book-case."

_Re-enter PRICE, R.I.D._

PRI. Mr. Learoyd, the chemist, is here, sir.

SIR P. (_rises_) I'll see him at once. (_PRICE is going. SIR PETER goes to him_) Stop--give this key to your mistress, with my compliments. (_gives PRICE the key_) You'll find her in her room. (_crosses and exit R.I.D._)

_PRICE crosses and knocks at door L. and withdraws to L.C. up stage. Re-enter BEATRICE, L. after a pause, she has medicine bottle and wine-glass in her hand._

BEA. What is it?

PRI. Sir Peter told me to give you this, madam, with his compliments. (_gives key and goes R. towards upper door_)

BEA. (_aside_) The key! (_goes down L. Aloud_) Price! I am going to bed. I shall not want Johnson. Put all the lights out, lock the outer door of the conservatory, and make up the house.

PRI. Yes, madam, but Sir Peter----

BEA. Do as I tell you.

_Music in orchestra. BEATRICE has put medicine and glass on table, and stands in front of table, deep in thought. PRICE puts out lamp on piano, then the one in conservatory, lower lights, then disappears R.U.E. A lock is heard to turn. Re-enter PRICE, R.C., he goes to R.U.D._

PRI. Good-night, madam.

BEA. Good-night. (_exit PRICE. BEATRICE crosses and locks R.U.D. Up R.C., looking at key_) Then, he does not suspect me! When I found Philip's door locked, I was half afraid. Why am I such a coward?--Is he with Philip? (_exit L., music swells. Re-enter L._) No! Philip is fast asleep. Can he be watching? (_goes down to R.I.D._) No! (_opens door R., looks out, then shuts and locks it_) Good night, Sir Peter! pleasant dreams to you! (_stands looking at the key_) He suspects nothing. (_goes to L.C., R. of table. Produces medicine bottle and glass and pours out a dose_) It is a great temptation! (_produces phial from bosom_) Strange! how this fascinates me! With my life at stake, I scarcely can resist it. It possesses me! But, I suppose, I dare not. (_music dies away, knock at door R._) Who can that be? (_second knock, aloud_) Who's there?

SIR P. (_off_) It's I--Sir Peter Lund! (_she puts away the phial_)

BEA. What an escape! (_unlocks the door and smiles sweetly_) Come in, Sir Peter. (_enter SIR PETER, R.I.D., leaving door ajar and holding the book behind his back_) I was just getting Philip's medicine. (_goes to L., crossing behind sofa and table_)

SIR P. (R.C.) So I see. (_aside_) It's all right. I'm in time--(_puts book down on piano_)

BEA. I scarcely expected to see you again to-night. Do you want Philip? (_on knees, mending fire_)

SIR P. No, Mrs. Selwyn, it is you I want. (_goes to C._)

BEA. Me?

SIR P. I have something of the greatest importance to tell you. First, let me make sure that my patient cannot overhear us. (_goes towards L.D., back of sofa_)

BEA. (_rises_) He was asleep just now. (_goes up L. to door_)

SIR P. But he may have awakened.

BEA. Shall I see?

SIR P. Thank you. (_she goes L. and exits. SIR PETER watches her off, then goes to back of table and tastes the medicine in the glass, he puts it down, turns quickly, back to door L. signals towards door R., which he has left ajar; enter KATE, R.I.D._) Into there! (_pointing to conservatory_) Quick! (_off R.C._)

KATE. But what am I to do? Why have you brought me here? (_going up R.C., SIR PETER L. of her_)

SIR P. Keep your ears open, and you'll understand. (_exit KATE into conservatory, R., KATE in conservatory upsets a pot_) That's her confounded train.

_Re-enter BEATRICE, L.D., comes down L. to L.C._

BEA. What was that noise?

SIR P. (_at door of conservatory_) Ten thousand pardons: I've upset a flowerpot. (_comes down to C._)

BEA. You've been in the conservatory?

SIR P. Yes--to make sure that nobody was listening. In a case like this, one cannot be too careful.

BEA. Sir Peter, you alarm me. What dreadful secret are you going to tell me? (_goes to sofa_)

SIR P. (_R. of her_) Mrs. Selwyn, you are a woman of strong nerves, and you can bear a shock.

BEA. I think so.

SIR P. Well, I'm going to give you one--I've found it!

BEA. What?

SIR P. The serpent.

BEA. The serpent?

SIR P. Which Mr. Selwyn said did not exist, but the existence of which I suspected from the first.

BEA. A serpent in Ravenhurst?

SIR P. And a remarkably fine specimen, it turns out to be. Your husband is being poisoned. (_BEATRICE taken off her guard, reels, and sinks on sofa_) I can quite understand your emotion.

BEA. Poisoned?

SIR P. By arsenic, administered in his medicine.

BEA. But you put it there yourself. You told him, you were giving him arsenic.

SIR P. I was not. (_BEATRICE gazes at him as if fascinated_) I did not prescribe arsenic.

BEA. Might not the chemist--by mistake----

SIR P. I've seen him, and he assures me there was no mistake. Besides, though there was arsenic in the glass, there was _none in the bottle._ While you were all having your dinner, I took the liberty of analysing _that._ Mr. Selwyn is now in such a condition that the next dose may be fatal. The first thing to be done is, to protect his life. I have not left him since morning; but at the precise moment when the criminal, whoever it is, will probably administer the poison, I shall not be there to prevent it, because that moment will be when he takes the final dose of physic which I have ordered him, just before going to bed.

BEA. And knowing this, you have ordered it?

SIR P. With the object of detecting the culprit. Here I want your assistance. We must lay our plans carefully; for whoever is doing this, she is a very clever woman.

BEA. (_rises_) Woman! Then, you suspect--(_bell ready_)

SIR P. (_business_) Miss Derwent. (_BEATRICE starts_) What was that? (_no noise heard_)

BEA. (_astonished_) Miss _Derwent!_

SIR P. I thought I heard a noise in the conservatory.

BEA. No one is there. The doors have been locked.

SIR P. Someone may have opened them. Let us make sure. (_goes into the conservatory R.C., disappears R., re-enters in a moment and comes down to C._)

BEA. Miss Derwent! (_down stage front of sofa_)

SIR P. (_returning_) Only the flower pot--caught in a plant, which must have given way. (_gets R. of sofa_)

BEA. Well? You were saying----

SIR P. I suspect Miss Derwent--She has, as humanity goes, a powerful incentive to this crime. On Mr. Selwyn's death, she expects to come into a large fortune.

BEA. Not until he has made a will in her favour.

SIR P. He said he would make it to-day. She heard him say so, and she knows that he has seen his solicitor.

BEA. (_sits on sofa_) Yes, but my husband has been ill some weeks. Miss Derwent had nothing to gain by his death until this will was made.

SIR P. (_sitting R. of her_) Therefore, she has not killed him. The process has been admirably timed. She began to compass his death when she had nothing to gain by it, and therefore was not open to suspicion; and on the point of its consummation, adroitly threw herself upon his generosity. You must admit the ingenuity of the scheme.

BEA. But the evidence?

SIR P. That is where you must help me. It is incomplete. But it is obvious enough, the criminal, whoever it is, is familiar with the properties of arsenic, which are not so simple as is commonly supposed. A bungler would have killed him long ago; but Miss Derwent is half a doctor. She was at Guy's for years. She is a particular friend of Dr. Kennedy's--and, strongest evidence of all, his book on toxicology is here--(_rises, crosses to piano, takes book, and recrosses to back of sofa, R. of it_) inscribed with her name--and has evidently been considerably studied. (_gives book to BEATRICE_) Especially, one chapter.

BEA. Which is that?

SIR P. Open it.

BEA. "Arsenic"!

SIR P. Look at the title page.

BEA. "Kate Derwent--from her friend, the Author."

SIR P. (_takes book again_) I submit that the case against her is one of the gravest suspicion (_crosses to back of table, L. of it_)

BEA. Then you accuse your friend and protégée.

SIR P. Science has no friendships. _Someone_ is poisoning your husband. I suspect Miss Derwent. (_KATE appears momentarily R.C._) Accept my theory or reject it--(_raises his voice, to make sure KATE can hear him_) _Watch that glass!_ If anybody touches it----

BEA. Who can, but me! When you have gone, and I have locked the door, no one can get into this room to-night. Where is this poison coming from?

SIR P. Wherever it comes from, I know where it goes; into that glass. Therefore, please, _watch the glass!_ If anybody tampers with it, ring this bell. (_indicates bell pull, going towards it up R._)

BEA. (_rises_) What, the alarm-bell? (_goes to C._)

SIR P. It will rouse the house. A miscreant will be brought to justice, and your husband's life will be saved. (_comes down R.C._)

BEA. If no one touches it?

SIR P. He is safe for to-night, at any rate. Madam, I have the honour to wish you a very good evening. (_exit, R.I.D._)

_Music in orchestra._

BEA. (_locks door after him, and breaks into a low, hollow laugh_) Thank you, Sir Peter! thank you very much! (_goes to C._) The case you have begun, I will complete. Now, I can not only save myself, but triumph! If I convict Miss Derwent of this crime, the will must be abandoned. (_gets R. of table, KATE appears R.C., watching her_) It is worth some risk! I can but fail: and if I do--(_produces phial, and pours the contents into the medicine, laughing_) I'll make this strong enough. There! Now to bring Miss Derwent. I will say Philip's dying, and has asked to see her. Then I will rouse the house, and she shall be found here--alone with this! (_goes to R.C._) Sir Peter will corroborate me, Philip will be convinced, and my Lord Normantower--ha, ha!--can marry her! Thank you, Sir Peter, thank you! (_unlocks door, and exit, R.I.D._)

KATE. Oh! (_in opening, R.C._)

PHIL. (_off L._) Beatrice!

KATE. My brother's voice--if I were found here now!

PHIL. (_nearer_) Beatrice!

(_KATE retreats out of sight, R._)

_Enter PHILIP, L.D._ (_PHILIP goes down L. to L.C._)

PHIL. Not here? Where can she be? (_watch_) Good gracious, I've been asleep for nearly three hours. (_yawning_) Well, I suppose she won't be very long; (_KATE appears again, watching PHILIP, who sits on sofa_) Ah, there's the medicine! That last dose, which old Lund said was so particular. I'd forgotten all about it. But Mousey hadn't. She forgets nothing--nothing! (_rises_) Well, the sooner I take it, the sooner it's over. (_about to drink_)

KATE. (_rushing forward_) Philip! Stop! (_music stops_)

PHIL. Kate? (_sets down the glass_)

KATE. It's poison! (_R. of sofa_)

PHIL. Poison?

_Re-enter BEATRICE, R.I.D._

KATE. Yes! (_hysterically_) She is killing you!

PHIL. (_confounded_) Who?

KATE. Beatrice! (_PHILIP drops into sofa_) Your wife! (_sobs at his feet. PHILIP sits as if stunned. BEATRICE stands, surveying them. Pause. BEATRICE rings the alarm bell--KATE springs to her feet. Re-enter SIR PETER, R.I.D. KATE goes up to C., PHILIP rises and goes L. Lights worked up imperceptibly_)

SIR P. Who rang the bell? (_crosses to R. of table_)

_Re-enter LORD NORMANTOWER, R.I.D._

BEA. _I_ rang!

NOR. (R.C.) What is the matter?

BEA. Sir Peter, you were right. This girl is poisoning my husband. (_comes down to C._)

PHIL. Beatrice! (_goes to fire, and leans on mantel_)

KATE. Oh!

SIR P. Let Mrs. Selwyn speak. (_calmly tests the medicine by finger and gets to back to table, placing glass down there_)

BEA. You asked me to watch, and I have watched. I found her hidden here. My husband was about to drink this stuff----

PHIL. When she prevented me----

BEA. Because, of course, she heard my conversation with Sir Peter. Knowing she was suspected, she has sought to cast this horrible suspicion upon _me!_

KATE. Philip--I saw her!

BEA. Since I poured out that draught, I have not touched it.

KATE. Oh! (_retreating up L.C._)

BEA. If it is poisoned--_she_ has poisoned it.

SIR P. But when? Besides, you would have seen her--you were watching. This was not poisoned, when I left the room.

BEA. It _must_ have been!

SIR P. I think not--and I tested it. (_advances to C., behind sofa_)

BEA. I didn't see you.

SIR P. No--I took care you shouldn't. (_pause_)

BEA. You suspected _me!_

SIR P. From the beginning.

BEA. This is a plot to ruin me! (_BEATRICE crosses to PHILIP who disregards her. SIR PETER goes to R.C., L. of LORD NORMANTOWER_) Philip, _you_ don't believe this hideous charge? (_PHILIP makes no movement--she draws back, up L. to back of table, and stands at bay_) What was Miss Derwent doing in the room? If she is innocent, why was she _hiding_ here?

SIR P. Perhaps I can throw some light upon that matter. (_BEATRICE confronts SIR PETER_) _I_ brought Miss Derwent here. (_going up to C., KATE comes to him_)

BEA. _You_ brought her--when?

SIR P. When _you_ were in the other room, naturally. I took the liberty of putting her into the conservatory, where, you will remember, she had the misfortune to upset a flower-pot.

BEA. I understand. You laid a trap for me?

SIR P. I took that liberty.

BEA. And you say, this is poisoned?

SIR P. I should think, fatally.

BEA. If I am guilty, why do I not get rid of it? You have given me plenty of opportunity.

SIR P. For a very excellent reason. Because you are quite clever enough to know, that to do so would be an admission of your crime.

BEA. I am not guilty, and this (_takes up glass_) is not poison.

SIR P. Sorry I am to contradict you----

BEA. See! I will prove it! (_drinks the poison and throws glass down behind her, it smashes. Movement from SIR PETER, NORMANTOWER and PHILIP_)

SIR P. Mrs. Selwyn!

BEA. You are too late, Sir Peter. (_goes up_) Now--good night to all of you. (_curtseying. Exit L., followed by SIR PETER_)

NOR. (_to PHILIP_) What was the object? (_crosses to C. As NORMANTOWER crosses he holds out his hand to KATE, which she accepts, KATE being L. of him, R. of sofa_)

PHIL. Normantower, Kate is my sister. The fortune which I have enjoyed for years is hers, and I was anxious to restore it. The object was, to prevent me. (_music in orchestra_) Oh, Kate, my heart is broken! (_KATE goes to R. of PHILIP and kneels_)

KATE. But time will heal it, Philip; for your heart is good; goodness and happiness are not strangers long.

_Re-enter SIR PETER, L.D._

PHIL. Only to think, this woman is my wife!

SIR P. (_gently laying his hand on PHILIP'S shoulder_) But not for long. And she is better dead!

MUSIC FORTE.

Moderate Curtain.

_Time_ (_Act_) _forty-two minutes. Time for whole, including waits, two hours, six minutes._

Transcriber's Note

This transcription is based on scanned images posted by Google from a copy in the Harvard Library:

nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.FIG:002663452

Note that the Google scans are included in a set of four Sydney Grundy plays published by Samuel French posted under the title, _A Fool's Paradise._ Based on how the Harvard Library catalogs the individual copies, I assume Google combined the different scans into a single document. _A Fool's Paradise_ is the first play in the set.

French's Acting Editions from the nineteenth century tend to have minor editorial inconsistencies and errors such as missing and inverted letters, missing and incorrect punctuation marks, and spelling errors. In addition, errors were introduced in the printing process, depending on the condition and inking of the plates. Thus, for example, it is at times difficult to determine whether a certain letter is an "c," "e," or "o" or whether a certain punctuation mark is a period or a comma. Where context made the choice obvious, the obvious reading was given the benefit of the doubt without comment.

The following changes were noted:

- Throughout the text, all abbreviations in the stage directions for stage position, entrances, and exits (e.g.,"R.I.D.") have been made consistent so that there is no space between the letters.

- Throughout the text, the convention of long dashes at the end of lines has been made consistent.

- p. 3: Tennis bat for KATE R.U.E.--For consistency, changed "KATE" to "Kate".

- p. 5: You wouldn't mind being Mrs. Verinder, would you.--Changed period to a question mark.

- p. 6: KATE Why aren't...--Added period after "KATE".

- p. 7: Even love matches are often unfortumate.--Changed "unfortumate" to "unfortunate".

- p. 7: Love has a habit of being so one-sided--Added period to end of sentence.

- p. 7: ...a most able and distinguished man--Added period to end of sentence.

- p. 9: ..._and waves his hand to TOM and MIL_)--Changed "MIL" to "MILDRED" in stage direction.

- p. 9: SIR. P. Drink too much.--Deleted period after "SIR".

- p. 9: KATE. SIR Peter!--Changed "SIR" from small caps to initial cap.

- p. 9: SIRP. Of course you do.--Inserted space between "SIR" and "P".

- p. 10: SIR P Any pain?--Inserted period after "SIR P".

- p. 11: SIR P. So, altogether. you're quite a happy family?--Changed what looked like a period after "altogether" to a comma.

- p. 11: With more money than I know what to do wi h...--Changed "wi h" to "with".

- p. 11: The liv r was made, by a beautiful provision...--Changed "liv r" to "liver".

- p. 12: _Re-enter MILDRED and TOM, followed by LORD NORMANTOWER, C. from R._)--Deleted unmatched closing parenthesis.

- p. 12: (_they come down stage tonether..._--Changed "_tonether_" to "_together_".

- p. 12: ...and though circum tances have kept us a good deal apart--we've never quite ost...--Changed "circum tances" to "circumstances" and "ost" to "lost".

- p. 12: SIR P. (_crosses to LORD NORMANTOWER. C._)--Changed period after "NORMANTOWER" to comma.

- p. 13: SIR P. (_picks up bunch from table, R._)--Changed "_bunch_" to "_Punch_" based on the "Necessary Properties" list and on the stage direction following the next line of dialogue which has Sir Peter sitting and reading.

- p. 15: ..._she has a tennis bat in her hand, and comes down C._)-- Deleted unmatched closing parenthesis.

- p. 18: (_stoop- to give a back, NORMANTOWER down R. laughs...._--Changed "_stoop-_" to "_stooping_".

- p. 18: KATE (_nodding_) How d'ye do?--Added period after "KATE".

- p. 20: Nonsense I must see you...--Added period after "Nonsense".

- p. 21: ...but consider the future Some day...--Added a period after "future".

- p. 21: No, I shall never marry--Added a period at end of line.

- p. 22: You are a foolish, obstinate, absurd--(_turns suddenly and takes both her hands_) Good, generous...--Inserted dash after closing parenthesis, and changed "Good" to lower case.

- p. 23: ACT II--Inserted a period at end of heading for consistency.

- p. 23: ...remarkably tight inexpressibles--Added a period at end of line.

- p. 23: You under-rate your accomplishments. don't think...--Inserted the word "_I_" before "don't". Use of italics was based on spacing between words.

- p. 24: _Kate turns up and resumes watering plants, R.C._--For consistency in stage directions, changed "Kate" to small caps in html version and all caps in text version.

- p. 29: No--but I cannot grasp it?--Changed question mark to an exclamation mark.

- p. 31: ...bnt now I have awaken...--Changed "bnt" to "but".

- p. 33: I'm doing right, aren't I, mousey--Added question mark to end of sentence.

- p. 33: I have your acquiesence?--Changed "acquiesence" to "acquiescence".

- p. 34: TOM. Are quite well enough to stand a shock?--Inserted "you" after "Are".

- p. 34: Yon won't come to blows?--Changed "Yon" to "You".

- p. 35: _Exeunt JOHNSON and PHILIP R.U.D._--Added closing parenthesis.

- p. 36: _TOM has her L. hand., PHILIP her right..._--Deleted period after "hand".

- p. 36: SIR. P. Nobody here.--Deleted period after "SIR".

- p. 36: ..._then smells it, smell it again, tastes again cautiously by his finger..._--Changed "_smell_" to "_smells_".

- p. 38: _BEATRICE'S fan on piano_--Added period after "_piano_".

- p. 39: "_ad. lib._"--Deleted period after "_ad_".

- p. 40: I am charmed with him--Added period at end of sentence.

- p. 41: _PHILIP comes to C. up stage, KATE rises and meets him_)--Changed closing parenthesis to a period.

- p. 41: SIR P My dear young...--Added a period after "P".

- p. 43: You've had a trying day--Added a period at end of sentence.

- p. 43: _PHILIP takes his R. arm, and they go up_)--Inserted a left parenthesis before "PHILIP".

- p. 43: SIR. P. By obeying me...--Deleted period after "SIR".

- p. 43: SIR P Just one more.--Added a period after "P".

- p. 43: (_behind sofa R. of it_)--Added a comma after "sofa".

- p. 43: Oh, yes; we get along splendidly. like Miss Derwent! she is just my sort.--Added "I" before "like".

- p. 43: ...a bachelor can devote himself to the sex,--Changed comma to a period.

- p. 44: Don't mock me--Added a period at end of sentence.

- p. 44: Lord Normantower, I owe you an explanation' which...--Deleted single quote mark after "explanation".

- p. 44: You contemplate being married--Added a question mark to end of sentence.

- p. 47: SIR. P. Oh, Miss Derwent!--Deleted period after "SIR".

- p. 47: ..._snuff--box_...--Changed dash to a hyphen.

- p. 48: As Mr. Selwyn's friend--betray his confidence--Added a question mark to end of sentence.

- p. 48: ..._drops into sofa, the picture of desolation._--Added a closing parenthesis after "desolation."

- p. 48: I'm "all right.'--Changed single closing quotation mark to double closing quotation mark.

- p. 49: Whom I could honor--whom I could even obey--Added an exclamation mark to end of sentence.

- p. 49: ...from morning nntil night...--Changed "nntil" to "until".

- p. 50: Don t I? I've got it.--Added an apostrophe between "Don" and "t".

- p. 50: I'll go and make things up. _exit. R.U.D._)--Added left parenthesis before "_exit_"; changed period after "_exit_" to a comma.

- p. 50: (_turns up to_ Sir PETER)--Changed "Sir" from initial cap to small caps in html and all caps in text version.

- p. 51: TOM. How dare _you_ take that from Miss Selwyn?--Changed question mark to exclamation mark.

- p. 51: _Re-enter BEATRICE, L. after a pause, she has medicine bottle and wine-glass in her hand_)--Changed closing parenthesis to a period.

- p. 52: (_enter SIR PETER, R.I.D , leaving door ajar..._--Changed space after "D" to a period.

- p. 52: (_goes towards L D., back of sofa_)--Changed space after "L" to a period.

- p. 53: (_BEATRICE gazes at him as if fascinated_--Added closing parenthesis after "_fascinated_".

- p. 53: I thought I heard a noise in the conservatory--Added a period at end of sentence.

- p. 53: (_goes into the conservatory R.C., disappears R. re-enters..._--Inserted a comma after "R.".

- p. 54: ...and on the point of it's consummation...--Changed "it's" to "its".

- p. 54: (_takes book gaain_)--Changed "gaain" to "again".

- p. 54: I suspect Miss Derwent--Added a period at end of sentence.

- p. 55: (_indicates bell pull, going owards it up R._)--Changed "_owards_" to "_towards_".

- p. 55: _comes down R.C._)--Added a left parenthesis before "_comes_".

- p. 55: ...KATE appears R.C ,...--Changed space after "C" to a period.

- p. 55: (_PHIL goes down L. to L.C._)--Changed "PHIL" to "PHILIP".

- p. 55: (_sets down the glass_--Added closing parenthesis after "_glass_".

- p. 56: _Re-enter LORD NORMANTOWE, R.I.D._--Changed "NORMANTOWE" to "NORMANTOWER".

- p. 56: BEA. _I_ rang?--Changed question mark to an exclamation mark.

- p. 56: (_come down to C._)--Changed "_come_" to "_comes_".

- p. 56: (_retreating up L C._)--Changed space after "L" to a period.

- p. 56: _PHILIP makes no movement..._--Added a left parenthesis before "PHILIP".

- p. 57: If she is innocent, why was she hiding here--Added a question mark at end of sentence.

- p. 57: Perhaps I can throw some light upon that matter--Added a period at end of sentence.

- p. 57: (_going up to C , KATE comes to him_)--Changed space after "C" to a period.

- p. 57: SIR P I should think, fatally.--Added a period after "P".

- p. 57: SIR P For a very excellent reason.--Added a period after "P".

- p. 57: ...that to do so would be an admisson of...--Changed "admisson" to "admission".

The html version of this etext attempts to reproduce the layout of the printed text. However, some concessions have been made. For example, on pages 25, 34, and 39 of the printed text a single curly bracket around two or more lines is used to indicate simultaneous action or dialogue. It is possible to reproduce this in html using tables, but html tables may not transfer well to the Project Gutenberg files generated from the html file. Thus, the use of html tables was avoided.

This play was inspired by the 1889 trial of Florence Maybrick, who was convicted of poisoning her husband with arsenic. A brief description can be found in William R. Cullen, _Is Arsenic an Aphrodisiac? The Sociochemistry of an Element_ (Cambridge, U.K.: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2008), pp. 179-180, 183-185. A preview of this book is available through Google Scholar. See also Edgar Lustgarten, _Verdict in Dispute_ (London: Allan Wingate, 1949), which is posted by the Internet Archive at:

archive.org/details/verdictindispute00lustuoft