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    Act II

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    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    Night has fallen, and Amy is probably now in her bedroom, fully arrayed
    for her dreadful mission. She says good-bye to her diary--perhaps for
    aye. She steals from the house--to a very different scene, which (if one
    were sufficiently daring) would represent a Man's Chambers at Midnight.
    There is no really valid excuse for shirking this scene, which is so
    popular that every theatre has it stowed away in readiness; it is
    capable of 'setting' itself should the stage-hands forget to do so.

    It should be a handsome, sombre room in oak and dark red, with
    sinister easy chairs and couches, great curtains discreetly drawn, a
    door to enter by, a door to hide by, a carelessly strewn table on
    which to write a letter reluctantly to dictation, another table
    exquisitely decorated for supper for two, champagne in an ice-bucket,
    many rows of books which on close examination will prove to be painted
    wood (the stage Lotharios not being really reading men). The lamps
    shed a diffused light, and one of them is slightly odd in
    construction, because it is for knocking over presently in order to
    let the lady escape unobserved. Through this room moves occasionally
    the man's Man, sleek, imperturbable, announcing the lady, the lady's
    husband, the woman friend who is to save them; he says little, but is
    responsible for all the arrangements going right; before the curtain
    rises he may be conceived trying the lamp and making sure that the
    lady will not stick in the door.

    That is how it ought to be, that is how Amy has seen it several times
    in the past week; and now that we come to the grapple we wish we could
    give you what you want, for you do want it, you have been used to it,
    and you will feel that you are looking at a strange middle act without
    it. But Steve cannot have such a room as this, he has only two hundred
    and fifty pounds a year, including the legacy from his aunt. Besides,
    though he is to be a Lothario (in so far as we can manage it) he is
    not at present aware of this, and has made none of the necessary
    arrangements; if one of his lamps is knocked over it will certainly
    explode; and there cannot be a secret door without its leading into
    the adjoining house. (Theatres keep special kinds of architects to
    design their rooms.) There is indeed a little cupboard where his
    crockery is kept, and if Amy is careful she might be able to squeeze
    in there. We cannot even make the hour midnight; it is eight-thirty,
    quite late enough for her to be out alone.

    Steve has just finished dinner, in his comfortable lodgings. He is not
    even in evening dress, but he does wear a lounge jacket, which we
    devoutly hope will give him a rakish air to Amy's eyes. He would
    undoubtedly have put on evening dress if he had known she was coming.
    His man, Richardson, is waiting on him. When we wrote that we
    deliberated a long time. It has an air, and with a little low cunning
    we could make you think to the very end that Richardson was a male.
    But if the play is acted and you go to see it, you would be
    disappointed. Steve, the wretched fellow, never had a Man, and
    Richardson is only his landlady's slavey, aged about fifteen, and
    wistful at sight of food. We introduce her gazing at Steve's platter
    as if it were a fairy tale. Steve has often caught her with this rapt
    expression on her face, and sometimes, as now, an engaging game

    RICHARDSON, blinking, 'Are you finished, sir?' To those who know the
    game this means, 'Are you to leave the other chop--the one sitting
    lonely and lovely beneath the dish-cover?'

    STEVE. 'Yes.' In the game this is merely a tantaliser.

    RICHARDSON, almost sure that he is in the right mood and sending out a
    feeler, 'Then am I to clear?'

    STEVE. 'No.' This is intended to puzzle her, but it is a move he has
    made so often that she understands its meaning at once.

    RICHARDSON, in entranced giggles, 'He, he, he!'

    STEVE, vacating his seat, 'Sit down.'

    RICHARDSON. 'Again?'

    STEVE. 'Sit down, and clear the enemy out of that dish.'

    By the enemy he means the other chop: what a name for a chop. Steve
    plays the part of butler. He brings her a plate from the little

    'Dinner is served, madam.'

    RICHARDSON, who will probably be a great duchess some day, 'I don't
    mind if I does have a snack.' She places herself at the table after
    what she conceives to be the manner of the genteelly gluttonous; then
    she quakes a little. 'If Missis was to catch me.' She knows that
    Missis is probably sitting downstairs with her arms folded, hopeful of
    the chop for herself.

    STEVE. 'You tuck in and I'll keep watch.'

    He goes to the door to peer over the banisters; it is all part of the
    game. Richardson promptly tucks in with horrid relish.

    RICHARDSON. 'What makes you so good to me, sir?'

    STEVE. 'A gentleman is always good to a lady.'

    RICHARDSON, preening, 'A lady? Go on.'

    STEVE. 'And when I found that at my dinner hour you were subject to
    growing pains I remembered my own youth. Potatoes, madam?'

    RICHARDSON, neatly, 'If quite convenient.'

    The kindly young man surveys her for some time in silence while she
    has various happy adventures.

    STEVE. 'Can I smoke, Richardson?'

    RICHARDSON. 'Of course you can smoke. I have often seen you smoking.'

    STEVE, little aware of what an evening the sex is to give him, 'But
    have I your permission?'

    RICHARDSON. 'You're at your tricks again.'

    STEVE, severely, 'Have you forgotten already how I told you a true
    lady would answer?'

    RICHARDSON. 'I minds, but it makes me that shy.' She has, however, a
    try at it. 'Do smoke, Mr. Rollo, I loves the smell of it.'

    Steve lights his pipe; no real villain smokes a pipe.

    STEVE. 'Smoking is a blessed companion to a lonely devil like myself.'

    RICHARDSON. 'Yes, sir.' Sharply, 'Would you say devil to a real lady,

    Steve, it may be hoped, is properly confused, but here the little
    idyll of the chop is brought to a close by the tinkle of a bell.
    Richardson springs to attention.

    'That will be the friends you are expecting?'

    STEVE. 'I was only half expecting them, but I daresay you are right.
    Have you finished, Richardson?'

    RICHARDSON. 'Thereabouts. Would a real lady lick the bone--in company
    I mean?'

    STEVE. 'You know, I hardly think so.'

    RICHARDSON. 'Then I'm finished.'

    STEVE, disappearing, 'Say I'll be back in a jiffy. I need brushing,

    Richardson, no longer in company, is about to hold a last friendly
    communion with the bone when there is a knock at the door, followed by
    the entrance of a mysterious lady. You could never guess who the lady
    is, so we may admit at once that it is Miss Amy Grey. Amy is in
    evening dress--her only evening dress--and over it is the cloak, which
    she is presently to fling back with staggering effect. Just now her
    pale face is hiding behind the collar of it, for she is quaking
    inwardly though strung up to a terrible ordeal. The room is not as she
    expected, but she knows that men are cunning.

    AMY, frowning, 'Are these Mr. Rollo's chambers? The woman told me to
    knock at this door.'

    She remembers with a certain satisfaction that the woman had looked at
    her suspiciously.

    RICHARDSON, the tray in her hand to give her confidence, 'Yes, ma'am.
    He will be down in a minute, ma'am. He is expecting you, ma'am.'

    Expecting her, is he! Amy smiles the bitter smile of knowledge.

    AMY. 'We shall see.' She looks about her. Sharply, 'Where is his man?'

    RICHARDSON, with the guilt of the chop on her conscience, 'What man?'

    AMY, brushing this subterfuge aside, 'His man. They always have a

    RICHARDSON, with spirit, 'He is a man himself.'

    AMY. 'Come, girl; who waits on him?'


    AMY, rather daunted, 'No man? Very strange.' Fortunately she sees the
    two plates. 'Stop.' Her eyes glisten. 'Two persons have been dining
    here!' Richardson begins to tremble. 'Why do you look so scared? Was
    the other a gentleman?'

    RICHARDSON. 'Oh, ma'am.'

    AMY, triumphantly, 'It was not!' But her triumph gives way to
    bewilderment, for she knows that when she left the house her mother
    was still in it. Then who can the visitor have been? 'Why are you
    trying to hide that plate? Was it a lady? Girl, tell me was it a

    RICHARDSON, at bay, 'He--he calls her a lady.'

    AMY, the omniscient, 'But you know better!'

    RICHARDSON. 'Of course I know she ain't a real lady.'

    AMY. 'Another woman. And not even a lady.' She has no mercy on the
    witness. 'Tell me, is this the first time she has dined here?'

    RICHARDSON, fixed by Amy's eye, 'No, ma'am--I meant no harm, ma'am.'

    AMY. 'I am not blaming _you_. Can you remember how often she has
    dined here?'

    RICHARDSON. 'Well can I remember. Three times last week.'

    AMY. 'Three times in one week, monstrous.'

    RICHARDSON, with her gown to her eyes, 'Yes, ma'am; I see it now.'

    AMY, considering and pouncing, 'Do you think she is an adventuress?'

    RICHARDSON. 'What's that?'

    AMY. 'Does she smoke cigarettes?'

    RICHARDSON, rather spiritedly, 'No, she don't.'

    AMY, taken aback, 'Not an adventuress.'

    She wishes Ginevra were here to help her. She draws upon her stock of
    knowledge. 'Can she be secretly married to him? A wife of the past
    turned up to blackmail him? That's very common.'

    RICHARDSON. 'Oh, ma'am, you are terrifying me.'

    AMY. 'I wasn't talking to you. You may go. Stop. How long had she been
    here before I came?'

    RICHARDSON. 'She--Her what you are speaking about--'

    AMY. 'Come, I must know.' The terrible admission refuses to pass
    Richardson's lips, and of a sudden Amy has a dark suspicion. 'Has she
    gone! Is she here now?'

    RICHARDSON. 'It was just a chop. What makes you so grudging of a

    AMY. 'I don't care what they ate. Has she gone?'

    RICHARDSON. 'Oh, ma'am.'

    The little maid, bearing the dishes, backs to the door, opens it with
    her foot, and escapes from this terrible visitor. The drawn curtains
    attract Amy's eagle eye, and she looks behind them. There is no one
    there. She pulls open the door of the cupboard and says firmly, 'Come
    out.' No one comes. She peeps into the cupboard and finds it empty. A
    cupboard and no one in it. How strange. She sits down almost in tears,
    wishing very much for the counsel of Ginevra. Thus Steve finds her
    when he returns.

    STEVE. 'I'm awfully glad, Alice, that you--'

    He stops abruptly at sight of a strange lady. As for Amy, the word
    'Alice' brings her to her feet.

    AMY. 'Sir.' A short remark but withering.

    STEVE. 'I beg your pardon. I thought--the fact is that I expected--You
    see you are a stranger to me--my name is Rollo--you are not calling on
    me, are you?' Amy inclines her head in a way that Ginevra and she have
    practised. Then she flings back her cloak as suddenly as an expert may
    open an umbrella. Having done this she awaits results. Steve, however,
    has no knowledge of how to play his part; he probably favours musical
    comedy. He says lamely: 'I still think there must be some mistake.'

    AMY, in italics, 'There is no mistake.'

    STEVE. 'Then is there anything I can do for you?'

    AMY, ardently, 'You can do so much.'

    STEVE. 'Perhaps if you will sit down--'

    Amy decides to humour him so far. She would like to sit in the lovely
    stage way, when they know so precisely where the chair is that they
    can sit without a glance at it. But she dare not, though Ginevra would
    have risked it. Steve is emboldened to say: 'By the way, you have not
    told me _your_ name.'

    AMY, nervously, 'If you please, do you mind my not telling it?'

    STEVE. 'Oh, very well.' First he thinks there is something innocent
    about her request, and then he wonders if 'innocent' is the right
    word. 'Well, your business, please?' he demands, like the man of the
    world he hopes some day to be.

    AMY. 'Why are you not in evening dress?'

    STEVE, taken aback, 'Does that matter?'

    AMY, though it still worries her, 'I suppose not.'

    STEVE, with growing stiffness, 'Your business, if you will be so

    Amy advances upon him. She has been seated in any case as long as they
    ever do sit on the stage on the same chair.

    AMY. 'Stephen Rollo, the game is up.'

    She likes this; she will be able to go on now.

    STEVE, recoiling guiltily or so she will describe it to Ginevra, 'What
    on earth--'

    AMY, suffering from a determination from the mouth of phrases she has
    collected in five theatres, 'A chance discovery, Mr. Stephen Rollo,
    has betrayed your secret to me.'

    STEVE, awed, 'My secret? What is it?' He rushes rapidly through a
    well-spent youth.

    AMY, risking a good deal, 'It is this: that woman is your wife.'

    STEVE. 'What woman?'

    AMY. 'The woman who dined with you here this evening.'

    STEVE. 'With me?'

    AMY, icily, 'This is useless; as I have already said, the game is up.'

    STEVE, glancing in a mirror to make sure he is still the same person,
    'You _look_ a nice girl but dash it all. Whom can you be taking
    me for? Tell me some more about myself.'

    AMY. Please desist. I know everything, and in a way I am sorry for
    you. All these years you have kept the marriage a secret, for she is a
    horrid sort of woman, and now she has come back to blackmail you.
    That, however, is not my affair.'

    STEVE, with unexpected power of irony, 'Oh, I wouldn't say that.'

    AMY. 'I do say it, Mr. Stephen Rollo. I shall keep your secret--'

    STEVE. 'Ought you?'

    AMY. '--on one condition, and on one condition only, that you return
    me the letters.'

    STEVE. 'The letters?'

    AMY. 'The letters.'

    Steve walks the length of his room, regarding her sideways.

    STEVE. 'Look here, honestly I don't know what you are talking about.
    You know, I could be angry with you, but I feel sure you are sincere.'

    AMY. 'Indeed I am.'

    STEVE. 'Well, then, I assure you on my word of honour that no lady was
    dining with me this evening, and that I have no wife.'

    AMY, blankly, 'No wife! You are sure? Oh, think.'

    STEVE. 'I swear it.'

    AMY. 'I am very sorry.' She sinks dispiritedly into a chair.

    STEVE. 'Sorry I have no wife?' She nods through her tears. 'Don't cry.
    How could my having a wife be a boon to you?'

    AMY, plaintively, 'It would have put you in the hollow of my hands.'

    STEVE, idiotically, 'And they are nice hands, too.'

    AMY, with a consciousness that he might once upon a time have been
    saved by a good woman, 'I suppose that is how you got round her.'

    STEVE, stamping his foot, 'Haven't I told you that she doesn't exist?'

    AMY. 'I don't mean her--I mean her--'

    He decides that she is a little crazy.

    STEVE, soothingly, 'Come now, we won't go into that again. It was just
    a mistake; and now that it is all settled and done with, I'll tell you
    what we shall do. You will let me get you a cab--' She shakes her
    head. 'I promise not to listen to the address; and after you have had
    a good night you--you will see things differently.'

    AMY, ashamed of her momentary weakness, and deciding not to enter it
    in the diary, 'You are very clever, Mr. Stephen Rollo, but I don't
    leave this house without the letters.'

    STEVE, groaning, 'Are they your letters?'

    AMY. 'How dare you! They are the letters written to you, as you well
    know, by--'

    STEVE, eagerly, 'Yes?'

    AMY. '--by a certain lady. Spare me the pain, if you are a gentleman,
    of having to mention her name.'

    STEVE, sulkily, 'Oh, all right.'

    AMY. 'She is to pass out of your life to-night. To-morrow you go
    abroad for a long time.'

    STEVE, with excusable warmth, 'Oh, do I! Where am I going?'

    AMY. 'We thought--'

    STEVE. 'We?'

    AMY. 'A friend and I who have been talking it over. We thought of
    Africa--to shoot big game.'

    STEVE, humouring her, 'You must be very fond of this lady.'

    AMY. 'I would die for her.'

    STEVE, feeling that he ought really to stick up a little for himself,
    'After all, am I so dreadful? Why shouldn't she love me?'

    AMY. 'A married woman!'

    STEVE, gratified, 'Married?'

    AMY. 'How can you play with me so, sir? She is my mother.'

    STEVE. 'Your mother? Fond of me!'

    AMY. 'How dare you look pleased.'

    STEVE. 'I'm not--I didn't mean to. I say, I wish you would tell me who
    you are.'

    AMY. 'As if you didn't know.'

    STEVE, in a dream, 'Fond of me! I can't believe it.' Rather wistfully:
    'How could she be?'

    AMY. 'It was all your fault. Such men as you--pitiless men--you made
    her love you.'

    STEVE, still elated, 'Do you think I am that kind of man?'

    AMY. 'Oh, sir, let her go. You are strong and she is weak. Think of
    her poor husband, and give me back the letters.'

    STEVE. 'On my word of honour--' Here arrives Richardson, so anxious to
    come that she is propelled into the room like a ball. 'What is it?'

    RICHARDSON. 'A gentleman downstairs, sir, wanting to see you.'

    AMY, saying the right thing at once, 'He must not find me here. My

    STEVE. 'I can guess who it is. Let me think.' He is really glad of the
    interruption. 'See here, I'll keep him downstairs for a moment.
    Richardson, take this lady to the upper landing until I have brought
    him in. Then show her out.'

    RICHARDSON. 'Oh, lor'.'

    AMY, rooting herself to the floor, 'The letters!'

    STEVE, as he goes, 'Write to me, write to me. I must know more of

    RICHARDSON. 'Come quick, Miss.'

    AMY, fixing her, 'You are not deceiving me? You are sure it isn't a

    RICHARDSON. 'Yes, Miss--he said his name was Colonel Grey.'

    Ginevra would have known that it must be the husband, but for the
    moment Amy is appalled.

    AMY, quivering, 'Can he suspect!'

    RICHARDSON, who has her own troubles, 'About the chop?'

    AMY. 'If she should come while he is here!'

    RICHARDSON. 'Come along, Miss. What's the matter?'

    AMY. 'I can't go away. I am not going.'

    She darts into the cupboard. It is as if she had heard Ginevra cry,
    'Amy, the cupboard.'

    RICHARDSON, tugging at the closed door, 'Come out of that. I promised
    to put you on the upper landing. You can't go hiding in there, lady.'

    AMY, peeping out, 'I can and I will. Let go the door. I came here
    expecting to have to hide.'

    She closes the door as her father enters with Steve. The Colonel is
    chatting, but his host sees that Richardson is in distress.

    STEVE, who thinks that the lady has been got rid of, 'What is it?'

    RICHARDSON. 'Would you speak with me a minute, sir?'

    STEVE, pointedly, 'Go away. You have some work to do on the stair. Go
    and do it. I'm sorry, Colonel, that you didn't bring Alice with you.'

    COLONEL. 'She is coming on later.'

    STEVE. 'Good.'

    COLONEL. 'I have come from Pall Mall. Wanted to look in at the club
    once more, so I had a chop there.'

    RICHARDSON, with the old sinking, 'A chop!' She departs with her worst
    suspicions confirmed.

    STEVE, as they pull their chairs nearer to the fire, 'Is Alice coming
    on from home?'

    COLONEL. 'Yes, that's it.' He stretches out his legs. 'Steve, home is
    the best club in the world. Such jolly fellows all the members!'

    STEVE. 'You haven't come here to talk about your confounded baby again,
    have you?'

    COLONEL, apologetically, 'If you don't mind.'

    STEVE. 'I do mind.'

    COLONEL. 'But if you feel you can stand it.'

    STEVE. 'You are my guest, so go ahead.'

    COLONEL. 'She fell asleep, Steve, holding my finger.'

    STEVE. 'Which finger?'

    COLONEL. 'This one. As Alice would say, Soldiering done, baby begun.'

    STEVE. 'Poor old chap.'

    COLONEL. 'I have been through a good deal in my time, Steve, but that
    is the biggest thing I have ever done.'

    STEVE. 'Have a cigar?'

    COLONEL. 'Brute! Thanks.'

    Here Amy, who cannot hear when the door is closed, opens it slightly.
    The Colonel is presently aware that Steve is silently smiling to
    himself. The Colonel makes a happy guess. 'Thinking of the ladies,

    STEVE, blandly, 'To tell the truth, I _was_ thinking of one.'

    COLONEL. 'She seems to be a nice girl.'

    STEVE. 'She is not exactly a girl.'

    COLONEL, twinkling, 'Very fond of you, Steve?'

    STEVE. 'I have the best of reasons for knowing that she is.' We may
    conceive Amy's feelings though we cannot see her. 'On my soul,
    Colonel, I think it is the most romantic affair I ever heard of. I
    have waited long for a romance to come into my life, but by Javers, it
    has come at last.'

    COLONEL. 'Graters, Steve. Does her family like it?'

    STEVE, cheerily, 'No, they are furious.'

    COLONEL. 'But why?'

    STEVE, judiciously, 'A woman's secret, Colonel.'

    COLONEL. 'Ah, the plot thickens. Do I know her?'

    STEVE. 'Not you.'

    COLONEL. 'I mustn't ask her name?'

    STEVE, with presence of mind, 'I have a very good reason for not
    telling you her name.'

    COLONEL. 'So? And she is not exactly young? Twice your age, Steve?'

    STEVE, with excusable heat, 'Not at all. But she is of the age when a
    woman knows her own mind--which makes the whole affair extraordinarily
    flattering.' With undoubtedly a shudder of disgust Amy closes the
    cupboard door. Steve continues to behave in the most gallant manner.
    'You must not quiz me, Colonel, for her circumstances are such that her
    partiality for me puts her in a dangerous position, and I would go to
    the stake rather than give her away.'

    COLONEL. 'Quite so.' He makes obeisance to the beauty of the
    sentiment, and then proceeds to an examination of the hearthrug.

    STEVE. 'What are you doing?'

    COLONEL. 'Trying to find out for myself whether she comes here.'

    STEVE. 'How can you find that out by crawling about my carpet?'

    COLONEL. 'I am looking for hair-pins--triumphantly holding up a lady's
    glove--'and I have found one!'

    They have been too engrossed to hear the bell ring, but now voices are

    STEVE. 'There is some one coming up.'

    COLONEL. 'Perhaps it is _she_, Steve! No, that is Alice's voice.
    Catch, you scoundrel,' and he tosses him the glove. Alice is shown in,
    and is warmly acclaimed. She would not feel so much at ease if she
    knew who, hand on heart, has recognised her through the pantry key-hole.

    STEVE, as he makes Alice comfortable by the fire, 'How did you leave
    them at home?'

    ALICE, relapsing into gloom, 'All hating me.'

    STEVE. 'This man says that home is the most delightful club in the

    ALICE. 'I am not a member; I have been blackballed by my own baby.
    Robert, I dined in state with Cosmo, and he was so sulky that he ate
    his fish without salt rather than ask me to pass it.'

    COLONEL. 'Where was Amy?'

    ALICE. 'Amy said she had a headache and went to bed. I spoke to her
    through the door before I came out, but she wouldn't answer.'

    COLONEL. 'Why didn't you go in, memsahib?'

    ALICE. 'I did venture to think of it, but she had locked the door.
    Robert, I really am worried about Amy. She seems to me to behave
    oddly. There can't be anything wrong?'

    COLONEL. 'Of course not, Alice--eh, Steve?'

    STEVE. 'Bless you, no.'

    ALICE, smiling, 'It's much Steve knows about women.'

    STEVE. 'I'm not so unattractive to women, Alice, as you think.'

    ALICE. 'Listen to him, Robert!'

    COLONEL. 'What he means, my dear, is that you should see him with
    elderly ladies.'

    ALICE. 'Steve, this to people who know you.' Here something happens to
    Amy's skirt. She has opened the door to hear, then in alarm shut it,
    leaving a fragment of skirt caught in the door. There, unseen, it
    bides its time.

    STEVE, darkly, 'Don't be so sure you know me, Alice.'

    COLONEL, enjoying himself, 'Let us tell her, Steve! I am dying to tell

    STEVE, grandly, 'No, no.'

    COLONEL. 'We mustn't tell you, Alice, because it is a woman's secret--a
    poor little fond elderly woman. Our friend is very proud of his
    conquest. See how he is ruffling his feathers. I shouldn't wonder you
    know, though you and I are in the way to-night.'

    But Alice's attention is directed in another direction: to a little
    white object struggling in the clutches of a closed door at the back
    of the room. Steve turns to see what she is looking at, and at the
    same moment the door opens sufficiently to allow a pretty hand to
    obtrude, seize the kitten, or whatever it was, and softly reclose the
    door. For one second Alice did think it might be a kitten, but she
    knows now that it is part of a woman's dress. As for Steve thus
    suddenly acquainted with his recent visitor's whereabouts, his mouth
    opens wider than the door. He appeals mutely to Alice not to betray
    his strange secret to the Colonel.

    ALICE, with dancing eyes, 'May I look about me, Steve? I have been
    neglecting your room shamefully.'

    STEVE, alarmed, for he knows the woman, 'Don't get up, Alice; there is
    really nothing to see.' But she is already making the journey of the
    room, and drawing nearer to the door.

    ALICE, playing with him, 'I like your clock.'

    STEVE. 'It is my landlady's. Nearly all the things are hers. Do come
    back to the fire.'

    ALICE. 'Don't mind me. What does this door lead into?'

    STEVE. 'Only a cupboard.'

    ALICE. 'What do you keep in it?'

    STEVE. 'Merely crockery--that sort of thing.'

    ALICE. 'I should like to see your crockery, Steve. Not one little bit
    of china? May I peep in?'

    COLONEL, who is placidly smoking, with his back to the scene of the
    drama, 'Don't mind her, Steve; she never could see a door without
    itching to open it.'

    Alice opens the door, and sees Amy standing there with her finger to
    her lips, just as they stood in all the five plays. Ginevra could not
    have posed her better.

    'Well, have you found anything, memsahib?'

    It has been the great shock of Alice's life, and she sways. But she
    shuts the door before answering him.

    ALICE, with a terrible look at Steve, 'Just a dark little cupboard.'

    Steve, not aware that it is her daughter who is in there, wonders why
    the lighter aspect of the incident has ceased so suddenly to strike
    her. She returns to the fire, but not to her chair. She puts her arms
    round the neck of her husband; a great grief for him is welling up in
    her breast.

    COLONEL, so long used to her dear impulsive ways, 'Hullo! We mustn't
    let on that we are fond of each other before company.'

    STEVE, meaning well, though he had better have held his tongue, 'I
    don't count; I am such an old friend.'

    ALICE, slowly, 'Such an old friend!' Her husband sees that she is
    struggling with some emotion.

    COLONEL. 'Worrying about the children still, Alice?'

    ALICE, glad to break down openly, 'Yes, yes, I can't help it, Robert.'

    COLONEL, petting her, 'There, there, you foolish woman. Joy will come
    in the morning; I never was surer of anything. Would you like me to
    take you home now?'

    ALICE. 'Home. But, yes, I--let us go home.'

    COLONEL. 'Can we have a cab, Steve?'

    STEVE. 'I'll go down and whistle one. Alice, I'm awfully sorry that
    you--that I--'

    ALICE. 'Please, a cab.'

    But though she is alone with her husband now she does not know what
    she wants to say to him. She has a passionate desire that he should
    not learn who is behind that door.

    COLONEL, pulling her toward him, 'I think it is about Amy that you
    worry most.'

    ALICE. 'Why should I, Robert?'

    COLONEL. 'Not a jot of reason.'

    ALICE. 'Say again, Robert, that everything is sure to come right just
    as we planned it would.'

    COLONEL. 'Of course it will.'

    ALICE. 'Robert, there is something I want to tell you. You know how
    dear my children are to me, but Amy is the dearest of all. She is
    dearer to me, Robert, than you yourself.'

    COLONEL. 'Very well, memsahib.'

    ALICE. 'Robert dear, Amy has come to a time in her life when she is
    neither quite a girl nor quite a woman. There are dark places before
    us at that age through which we have to pick our way without much
    help. I can conceive dead mothers haunting those places to watch how
    their child is to fare in them. Very frightened ghosts, Robert. I have
    thought so long of how I was to be within hail of my girl at this
    time, holding her hand--my Amy, my child.'

    COLONEL. 'That is just how it is all to turn out, my Alice.'

    ALICE, shivering, 'Yes, isn't it, isn't it?'

    COLONEL. 'You dear excitable, of course it is.'

    ALICE, like one defying him, 'But even though it were not, though I
    had come back too late, though my daughter had become a woman without
    a mother's guidance, though she were a bad woman--'

    COLONEL. 'Alice.'

    ALICE. 'Though some cur of a man--Robert, it wouldn't affect my love
    for her, I should love her more than ever. If all others turned from
    her, if you turned from her, Robert--how I should love her then.'

    COLONEL. 'Alice, don't talk of such things.'

    But she continues to talk of them, for she sees that the door is ajar,
    and what she says now is really to comfort Amy. Every word of it is a
    kiss for Amy.

    ALICE, smiling through her fears, 'I was only telling you that nothing
    could make any difference in my love for Amy. That was all; and, of
    course, if she has ever been a little foolish, light-headed--at that
    age one often is--why, a mother would soon put all that right; she
    would just take her girl in her arms and they would talk it over, and
    the poor child's troubles would vanish.' Still for Amy's comfort, 'And
    do you think I should repeat any of Amy's confidences to you, Robert?'
    Gaily, 'Not a word, sir! She might be sure of that.'

    COLONEL. 'A pretty way to treat a father. But you will never persuade
    me that there is any serious flaw in Amy.'

    ALICE. 'I'll never try, dear.'

    COLONEL. 'As for this little tantrum of locking herself into her room,
    however, we must have it out with her.'

    ALICE. 'The first thing to-morrow.'

    COLONEL. 'Not a bit of it. The first thing the moment we get home.'

    ALICE, now up against a new danger, 'You forget, dear, that she has
    gone to bed.'

    COLONEL. 'We'll soon rout her out of bed.'

    ALICE. 'Robert! You forget that she has locked the door.'

    COLONEL. 'Sulky little darling. I daresay she is crying her eyes out
    for you already. But if she doesn't open that door pretty smartly I'll
    force it.'

    ALICE. 'You wouldn't do that?'

    COLONEL. 'Wouldn't I? Oh yes, I would.'

    Thus Alice has another problem to meet when Steve returns from his
    successful quest for a cab.

    'Thank you, Steve, you will excuse us running off, I know. Alice is
    all nerves to-night. Come along, dear.'

    ALICE, signing to the puzzled Steve that he must somehow get the lady
    out of the house at once, 'There is no such dreadful hurry, is there?'
    She is suddenly interested in some photographs on the wall. 'Are you
    in this group, Steve?'

    STEVE. 'Yes, it is an old school eleven.'

    ALICE. 'Let us see if we can pick Steve out, Robert.'

    COLONEL. 'Here he is, the one with the ball.'

    ALICE. 'Oh no, that can't be Steve, surely. Isn't this one more like
    him? Come over here under the light.'

    Steve has his moment at the door, but it is evident from his face that
    the hidden one scorns his blandishments. So he signs to Alice.

    COLONEL. 'This is you, isn't it, Steve?'

    STEVE. 'Yes, the one with the ball.'

    COLONEL. 'I found you at once. Now, Alice, your cloak.'

    ALICE. 'I feel so comfy where I am. One does hate to leave a fire,
    doesn't one.' She hums gaily a snatch of a song.

    COLONEL. 'The woman doesn't know her own mind.'

    ALICE. 'You remember we danced to that once on my birthday at Simla.'

    She shows him how they danced at Simla.

    COLONEL, to Steve, who is indeed the more bewildered of the two, 'And
    a few minutes ago I assure you she was weeping on my shoulder!'

    ALICE. 'You were so nice to me that evening, Robert--I gave you a
    dance.' She whirls him gaily round.

    COLONEL. 'You flibberty jibbet, you make me dizzy.'

    ALICE. 'Shall we sit out the rest of the dance?'

    COLONEL. 'Not I. Come along, you unreasonable thing.'

    ALICE. 'Unreasonable. Robert, I have a reason. I want to see whether
    Amy will come.'

    COLONEL. 'Come?'

    STEVE. 'Come here?'

    ALICE. 'I didn't tell you before, Robert, because I had so little
    hope; but I called to her through the door that I was coming here
    to meet you, and I said, "I don't believe you have a headache,
    Amy; I believe you have locked yourself in there because you hate
    the poor mother who loves you," and I begged her to come with me.
    I said, "If you won't come now, come after me and make me happy."'

    COLONEL. 'But what an odd message, Alice; so unlike you.'

    ALICE. 'Was it? I don't know. I always find it so hard, Robert, to be
    like myself.'

    COLONEL. 'But, my dear, a young girl.'

    ALICE. 'She could have taken a cab; I gave her the address. Don't be
    so hard, Robert, I am teaching you to dance.' She is off with him

    COLONEL. 'Steve, the madcap.'

    He falls into a chair, but sees the room still going round. It is
    Alice's chance; she pounces upon Amy's hand, whirls her out of the
    hiding place, and seems to greet her at the other door.

    ALICE. 'Amy!'

    COLONEL, jumping up, 'Not really? Hallo! I never for a moment--It was
    true, then. Amy, you are a good little girl to come.'

    AMY, to whom this is a not unexpected step in the game, 'Dear father.'

    STEVE, to whom it is a very unexpected step indeed, 'Amy! Is this--your
    daughter, Alice?'

    ALICE, wondering at the perfidy of the creature, 'I forgot that you
    don't know her, Steve.'

    STEVE. 'But if--if this is your daughter--you are the mother.'

    ALICE. 'The mother?'

    COLONEL, jovially, 'Well thought out, Steve. He is a master mind,

    STEVE. 'But--but----'

    Mercifully Amy has not lost her head. She is here to save them all.

    AMY. 'Introduce me, father.'

    COLONEL. 'He is astounded at our having such a big girl.'

    STEVE, thankfully, 'Yes, that's it.'

    COLONEL. 'Amy, my old friend, Steve Rollo--Steve, this is our

    STEVE, blinking, 'How do you do?'

    AMY, sternly, 'How do you do?'

    COLONEL. 'But, bless me, Amy, you are a swell.'

    AMY, flushing, 'It is only evening dress.'

    COLONEL. 'I bet she didn't dress for us, Alice; it was all done for

    ALICE. 'Yes, for Steve.'

    COLONEL. 'But don't hang in me, chicken, hang in your mother. Steve,
    why are you staring at Alice?'

    We know why he is staring at Alice, but of course he is too gallant a
    gentleman to tell. Besides his astonishment has dazed him.

    STEVE. 'Was I?'

    ALICE, with her arms extended, 'Amy, don't be afraid of me.'

    AMY, going into them contemptuously, 'I'm not.'

    COLONEL, badgered, 'Then kiss and make it up.'

    Amy bestows a cold kiss upon her mother. Alice weeps. 'This is too
    much. Just wait till I get you home. Are you both ready?'

    It is then that Amy makes her first mistake. The glove that the
    Colonel has tossed to Steve is lying on a chair, and she innocently
    begins to put it on. Her father stares at her; his wife does not know

    ALICE. 'We are ready, Robert. Why don't you come? Robert, what is it?'

    COLONEL, darkening, 'Steve knows what it is; Amy doesn't as yet. The
    simple soul has given herself away so innocently that it is almost a
    shame to take notice of it. But I must, Steve. Come, man, it can't be
    difficult to explain.'

    In this Steve evidently differs from him.

    ALICE. 'Robert, you frighten me.'

    COLONEL. 'Still tongue-tied, Steve. Before you came here, Alice, I
    found a lady's glove on the floor.'

    ALICE, quickly, 'That isn't our affair, Robert.'

    COLONEL. 'Yes; I'll tell you why. Amy has just put on that glove.'

    ALICE. 'It isn't hers, dear.'

    COLONEL. 'Do you deny that it is yours, Amy?' Amy has no answer to
    this. 'Is it unreasonable, Steve, to ask you when my daughter, with
    whom you profess to be unacquainted, gave you that token of her

    STEVE, helpless, 'Alice.'

    COLONEL. 'What has Alice to do with it?'

    AMY, to the rescue, 'Nothing, nothing, I swear.'

    COLONEL. 'Has there been something going on that I don't understand?
    Are you in it, Alice, as well as they? Why has Steve been staring at
    you so?'

    AMY, knowing so well that she alone can put this matter right,
    'Mother, don't answer.'

    STEVE. 'If I could see Alice alone for a moment, Colonel--'

    ALICE. 'Yes.'

    COLONEL. 'No. Good heavens, what are you all concealing? Is Amy--my
    Amy--your elderly lady, Steve? Was that some tasteful little joke you
    were playing on your old friend, her father?'

    STEVE. 'Colonel, I--'

    AMY, preparing for the great sacrifice, 'I forbid him to speak.'

    COLONEL. '_You_ forbid him.'

    ALICE. 'Robert, Robert, let me explain. Steve--'

    AMY. 'Mother, you must not, you dare not.'

    Grandly, 'Let all fall on me. It is not true, father, that Mr. Rollo
    and I were strangers when you introduced us.'

    ALICE, wailing, 'Amy, Amy.'

    AMY, with a touch of the sublime, 'It _is_ my glove, but it had a
    right to be here. He is my affianced husband.'

    Perhaps, but it is an open question, Steve is the one who is most
    surprised to hear this. He seems to want to say something on the
    subject, but a look of entreaty from Alice silences him.

    COLONEL. 'Alice, did you hear her?'

    ALICE. 'Surely you don't mean, Robert, that you are not glad?'

    COLONEL, incredulous, 'Is that how _you_ take it?'

    ALICE, heart-broken, 'How I take it! I am overjoyed. Don't you see how
    splendid it is; our old friend Steve.'

    COLONEL, glaring at him, 'Our old friend, Steve.'

    As for Amy, that pale-faced lily, for the moment she stands
    disregarded. Never mind; Ginevra will yet do her justice.

    ALICE. 'Oh, happy day!' Brazenly she takes Steve's two hands, 'Robert,
    he is to be our son.'

    COLONEL. 'You are very clever, Alice, but do you really think I
    believe that this is no shock to you? Oh, woman, why has this
    deception not struck you to the ground?'

    ALICE. 'Deception? Amy, Steve, I do believe he thinks that this is as
    much a surprise to me as it is to him! Why, Robert, I have known
    about it ever since I saw Amy alone this afternoon. She told me at
    once. Then in came Steve, and he--'

    COLONEL. 'Is it as bad as that!'

    ALICE. 'As what, dear?'

    COLONEL. 'That my wife must lie to me.'

    ALICE. 'Oh, Robert.'

    COLONEL. 'I am groping only, but I can see now that you felt there was
    something wrong from the first. How did you find out?'

    ALICE, imploringly, 'Robert, they are engaged to be married; it was
    foolish of them not to tell you; but, oh, my dear, leave it at that.'

    COLONEL. 'Why did you ask Amy to follow us here?'

    ALICE. 'So that we could all be together when we broke it to you,

    COLONEL. 'Another lie! My shoulders are broad; why shouldn't I have it
    to bear as well as you?'

    ALICE. 'There is nothing to bear but just a little folly.'

    COLONEL. 'Folly! And neither of them able to say a word?'

    Indeed they are very cold lovers; Amy's lip is curled at Steve. To
    make matters worse, the cupboard door, which has so far had the
    decency to remain quiet, now presumes to have its say. It opens of
    itself a few inches, creaking guiltily. Three people are so startled
    that a new suspicion is roused in the fourth.

    ALICE, who can read his face so well, 'She wasn't there, Robert, she

    COLONEL. 'My God! I understand now; she didn't follow us; she hid
    there when I came.'

    ALICE. 'No, Robert, no.'

    He goes into the cupboard and returns with something in his hand,
    which he gives to Amy.

    COLONEL. 'Your other glove, Amy.'

    ALICE. 'I can't keep it from you any longer, Robert; I have done my
    best.' She goes to Amy to protect her. 'But Amy is still my child.'

    'What a deceiver' Amy is thinking.

    COLONEL. 'Well, sir, still waiting for that interview with my wife
    before you can say anything?'

    STEVE, a desperate fellow, 'Yes.'

    ALICE. 'You will have every opportunity of explaining, Steve, many
    opportunities; but in the meantime--just now, please go, leave us
    alone.' Stamping her foot: 'Go, please.'

    Steve has had such an evening of it that he clings dizzily to the one
    amazing explanation, that Alice loves him not wisely but too well.
    Never will he betray her, never.

    STEVE, with a meaning that is lost on her but is very evident to the
    other lady present,

    'Anything _you_ ask me to do, Alice, anything. I shall go upstairs only,
    so that if you want me--'

    ALICE. 'Oh, go.' He goes, wondering whether he is a villain or a hero,
    which is perhaps a pleasurable state of mind.

    COLONEL. 'You are wondrous lenient to him; I shall have more to say.
    As for this girl--look at her standing there, she seems rather proud
    of herself.'

    ALICE. 'It isn't really hardness, Robert. It is because she thinks
    that you are hard. Robert, dear, I want you to go away too, and leave
    Amy to me. Go home, Robert; we shall follow soon.'

    COLONEL, after a long pause, 'If you wish it.'

    ALICE. 'Leave her to her mother.'

    When he has gone Amy leans across the top of a chair, sobbing her
    little heart away. Alice tries to take her--the whole of her--in her
    arms, but is rebuffed with a shudder.

    AMY. 'I wonder you can touch me.'

    ALICE. 'The more you ask of your mother the more she has to give. It
    is my love you need, Amy; and you can draw upon it, and draw upon it.'

    AMY. 'Pray excuse me.'

    ALICE. 'How can you be so hard! My child, I am not saying one harsh
    word to you. I am asking you only to hide your head upon your mother's

    AMY. 'I decline.'

    ALICE. 'Take care, Amy, or I shall begin to believe that your father
    was right. What do you think would happen if I were to leave you to

    AMY. 'Poor father.'

    ALICE. 'Poor indeed with such a daughter.'

    AMY. 'He has gone, mother; so do you really think you need keep up
    this pretence before me?'

    ALICE. 'Amy, what you need is a whipping.'

    AMY. 'You ought to know what I need.'

    The agonised mother again tries to envelop her unnatural child.

    ALICE. 'Amy, Amy, it was all Steve's fault.'

    AMY, struggling as with a boa constrictor, 'You needn't expect me to
    believe that.'

    ALICE. 'No doubt you thought at the beginning that he was a gallant

    AMY. 'Not at all; I knew he was depraved from the moment I set eyes on

    ALICE. 'My Amy! Then how--how--'

    AMY. 'Ginevra knew too.'

    ALICE. 'She knew!'

    AMY. 'We planned it together--to treat him in the same way as Sir
    Harry Paskill and Ralph Devereux.'

    ALICE. 'Amy, you are not in your senses. You don't mean that there
    were others?'

    AMY. 'There was Major--Major--I forget his name, but he was another.'

    ALICE, shaking her, 'Wretched girl.'

    AMY. 'Leave go.'

    ALICE. 'How did you get to know them?'

    AMY. 'To know them? They are characters in plays.'

    ALICE, bereft, 'Characters in plays? Plays!'

    AMY. 'We went to five last week.'

    Wild hopes spring up in Alice's breast.

    ALICE. 'Amy, tell me quickly, when did you see Steve for the first

    AMY. 'When you were saying good-bye to him this afternoon.'

    ALICE. 'Can it be true!'

    AMY. 'Perhaps we shouldn't have listened; but they always listen when
    there is a screen.'

    ALICE. 'Listened? What did you hear?'

    AMY. 'Everything, mother! We saw him kiss you and heard you make an
    assignation to meet him here.'

    ALICE. 'I shall whip you directly, but go on, darling.'

    AMY, childishly, 'You shan't whip me.' Then once more heroic, 'As in a
    flash Ginevra and I saw that there was only one way to save you. I
    must go to his chambers, and force him to return the letters.'

    ALICE, inspired, 'My letters?'

    AMY. 'Of course. He behaved at first as they all do--pretended that he
    did not know what I was talking about. At that moment, a visitor; I
    knew at once that it must be the husband; it always is, it was; I hid.
    Again a visitor. I knew it must be you, it was; oh, the agony to me in
    there. I was wondering when he would begin to suspect, for I knew the
    time would come, and I stood ready to emerge and sacrifice myself to
    save you.'

    ALICE. 'As you have done, Amy?'

    AMY. 'As I have done.'

    Once more the arms go round her.

    'I want none of that.'

    ALICE. 'Forgive me.' A thought comes to Alice that enthralls her.
    'Steve! Does he know what you think--about me?'

    AMY. 'I had to be open with him.'

    ALICE. 'And Steve believes it? He thinks that I--I--Alice Grey--oh,

    AMY. 'You need not pretend.'

    ALICE. 'What is to be done?'

    AMY. 'Though I abhor him I must marry him for aye. Ginevra is to be my
    only bridesmaid. We are both to wear black.'

    ALICE, sharply, 'You are sure you don't rather like him, Amy?'

    AMY. 'Mother!'

    ALICE. 'Amy, weren't you terrified to come alone to the rooms of a man
    you didn't even know? Some men--'

    AMY. 'I was not afraid. I am a soldier's daughter; and Ginevra gave me

    She produces a tiny dagger. This is altogether too much for Alice.

    ALICE. 'My darling!'

    She does have the babe in her arms at last, and now Amy clings to her.
    This is very sweet to Alice; but she knows that if she tells Amy the
    truth at once its first effect will be to make the dear one feel
    ridiculous. How can Alice hurt her Amy so, Amy who has such pride in
    having saved her? 'You do love me a little, Amy, don't you?'

    AMY. 'Yes, yes.'

    ALICE. 'You don't think I have been really bad, dear?'

    AMY. 'Oh, no, only foolish.'

    ALICE. 'Thank you, Amy.'

    AMY, nestling still closer, 'What are we to do now, dear dear mother?'

    Alice has a happy idea; but that, as the novelists say, deserves a
    chapter to itself.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 2
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