Read ACT II of Dolly Reforming Herself A Comedy in Four Acts , free online book, by Henry Arthur Jones, on ReadCentral.com.

SCENE: The same, on the same evening, after dinner. The sofa is now brought down below the fireplace, and fronts the audience a little diagonally, its right end being farthest up stage. The small table with the hospital box, and the easy chair are above the sofa, a little to the right of it.

Enter RENIE, much distressed and agitated. DOLLY follows
quickly, closes the door cautiously and mysteriously.

Renie. But I don’t understand. Captain Wentworth and I have been so little together

Dolly. Well, my dear, there it is! My father is the last man to pry into other people’s affairs, but you see it has been forced upon his notice. And from the tone he took

Renie. What tone?

Dolly. He was very severe.

Renie. [Alarmed.] But what did he say he had seen?

Dolly. He wouldn’t go into particulars. He seemed very much upset

Renie. Upset?!

Dolly. Perhaps I ought to say shocked.

Renie. Shocked?!

Dolly. And when my father is shocked it must be something very glaring

Renie. [More and more alarmed.] But there hasn’t been anything glaring

Dolly. Well, dear, of course, you know.

Renie. But I cannot imagine [Suddenly.] It must have been that day at the stile!

Dolly. Perhaps. What happened? No, I don’t wish to hear

Renie. Captain Wentworth assisted me over the stile

Dolly. Well?

Renie. That’s all. He may have taken a little longer about it than was quite necessary, and I may have leaned a little heavier than the circumstances required. But it was all done in perfectly good taste.

Dolly. [Shakes her head.] It can’t have been the stile.

Renie. Then what ? [Cudgels her brains.] The dairy!

Dolly. Very likely. Was that very no, don’t tell me

Renie. There’s nothing to tell. The woman at the farm, Mrs.

Dolly. Biggs

Renie. Biggs, asked me to go over her model dairy.

Dolly. Did she ask Lucas?

Renie. He came. Mrs. Biggs insisted on our tasting her mince pies

Dolly. Mince pies ? Yes?

Renie. While she went to get one

Dolly. Get one

Renie. She wasn’t out of the dairy ten seconds

Dolly. No and then?

Renie. Captain Wentworth a

Dolly. Respected you!

Renie. [Firing up.] He is always most respectful! In the most delicate, exquisitely chivalrous way, he implored me for one first and only kiss, and just as I was refusing him, somebody passed the dairy windows

Dolly. My father often strolls that way

Renie. But I was quite cold and correct [Very anxiously.] Dolly, tell me exactly what Mr. Barron said?

Dolly. At first he was going to speak to you himself, but I said, “No, that’s my duty! I’m her oldest friend; I’ll talk to her!”

Renie. Ye es?

Dolly. So, at last he consented, and said: “Very well. Be very firm with her, because this sort of thing taking place under my very nose and under my daughter’s roof is what I cannot, and will not, tolerate for one moment!”

Renie. He must have passed the dairy windows!

Dolly. Yes.

Renie. And jumped to a wrong conclusion.

Dolly. Yes. And that isn’t the worst

Renie. [Freshly alarmed.] Not the worst?!

Dolly. Now, don’t be alarmed, dear

Renie. About what?

Dolly. Didn’t you notice something strange in your husband’s manner at dinner?

Renie. No. What makes you think ?

Dolly. My dear, if my father noticed it, why not your husband? Suppose all this time the Professor has been quietly, stealthily watching you and Lucas.

Renie. [Alarmed.] Dolly!

Dolly. And waiting his time

Renie. Oh, Dolly!

Dolly. Didn’t you notice how he insisted on your going to the fish-pond?

Renie. Yes, he did!

Dolly. Didn’t it strike you there was something in that?

Renie. No, and he hasn’t said anything

Dolly. Of course not. Naturally he would hide his suspicions from you till the right moment.

Renie. Right moment?

Dolly. Now, dear, you see how serious things are. You mustn’t run any more risks. This must be broken off to-night.

Renie. To-night?!

Dolly. Now, what can I do to help you?

Renie. You might tell Mr. Barron there was nothing in the dairy windows.

Dolly. Of course I’ll tell him, but if he saw

Renie. But there was nothing. Absolutely nothing

Dolly. No, dear. What else can I do?

Renie. Could you find out exactly how much he has seen and heard, and a pump him a little?

Dolly. I don’t like pumping people still What else?

Renie. [Breaking down.] Oh, Dolly, this blow could not have fallen at a more cruel moment.

Dolly. No, dear.

Renie. It came just when I had lost all the illusions of girlhood, when all my woman’s nature began to cry out

Dolly. Yes [Suddenly.] Hark! [Listens.] Hush!

[Creeps up to door, listens, opens it, looks out, closes it
again.

Renie. What was it?

Dolly. Hush! Voices! I thought it might be Lucas and the Professor quarrelling.

Renie. I really don’t think my husband suspects

Dolly. No, I daresay it’s only my imagination.

Renie. And if he did Dolly, is there one man living, except my husband, who would condemn me for being the object of a noble, single-hearted devotion like Captain Wentworth’s?

Dolly. No, dear, perhaps not. But, you see, as husbands they take quite a different view of things from what they do merely as men.

Renie. Tell me candidly, Dolly, you see nothing wrong in it, do you?

Dolly. Well, dear, when you say wrong

Renie. But I assure you there isn’t nothing could be further from my thoughts.

Dolly. No, dear still, people are so full of prejudice now what can I do?

Renie. [Clasping DOLLY’S hand warmly.] Oh, Dolly, you can help me so much.

Dolly. [A little alarmed.] Can I? Tell me

Renie. If Lucas and I are parted [Breaks down.] I can’t bear it! I can’t bear it!

Dolly. Try, dear! Try!

Renie. [Sobbing.] I will. And if at any time I long to hear how he bears our separation, you won’t mind receiving a letter, and sending it on to me?

Dolly. I’m afraid I couldn’t do that, dear. You see, I’m so careless, and if I left the letter about, and Harry found it no, dear

Renie. You won’t help me?

Dolly. Yes, dear, I’ll do anything in my power! [Suddenly.] I’ll tell you what I can do!

Renie. Yes?

Dolly. My father is telling Lucas he must leave to-night. Well, I can spare you all the pain and misery of saying “Good-bye,” and take one last message to him.

Renie. [Curtly.] No, thank you. It’s most unkind of you to send him away like this. I must see him alone before he goes.

Dolly. [Shakes her head.] My father insists, and suppose Lucas feels that he owes it to your reputation to go quietly

Renie. Without seeing me?!

Dolly. And suppose the Professor is really watching you

[RENIE shows great perplexity. DOLLY is watching her.

Dolly. If you don’t see Lucas, what message shall I take him?

Renie. Tell him how proud I am of his noble, unselfish devotion; tell him I shall always look upon it as the one supreme happiness of my life to have known him

The PROFESSOR and MATTHEW enter. The PROFESSOR has diagrams and illustrations in his hand. Following the PROFESSOR and MATT are HARRY and LUCAS. LUCAS, after a little time, comes up to DOLLY and RENIE, who are seated on sofa. The PROFESSOR is speaking to MATT as he enters, and is showing him an illustration.

Prof. [In his hard, metallic voice.] Observe that woman’s facial angle [pointing] the peculiar curve of the lip, and the irregular formation of the nose.

[Describing a little upward curve on the paper with his thumb.

Matt. I have seen sweeter things in ladies’ lips and noses.

[Describing the same little upward curve with his thumb on the
paper.

Prof. Can you be surprised at her history?

Matt. Who was she?

Prof. Jane Sweetman, the notorious trigamist. Looking at that woman’s cranium I maintain it was impossible for her to avoid

Matt. Committing trigamy?

Prof. Well, some species of grave moral delinquency.

[DOLLY clutches RENIE’S wrist significantly. The PROFESSOR
hands the illustration to HARRY, who examines it. MATT moves
away a step and unobtrusively feels his own nose and forehead.

Harry. [Has examined the illustration.] By Jove, yes anybody can see she was bound to come a moral cropper, eh?

[He hands the illustration to DOLLY, who passes it to RENIE, with a very significant glance, pointing out something on the paper. LUCAS leans over the back of the sofa between RENIE and DOLLY to look at the illustration. As he leans on the back of the sofa, DOLLY draws herself up very indignantly, gives him a severe look; moves a little away from him, sits and looks very severely in front of her. He cannot understand her attitude, draws back a little and looks puzzled.

Prof. [Bringing out another illustration, offering it to MATT.] Now look at this.

Matt. [Taking illustration.] Somebody’s brains!

Prof. Tell me if you notice anything peculiar.

[HARRY leans over MATT’S shoulder, and looks at the illustration. LUCAS again leans over the sofa, between DOLLY and RENIE. DOLLY again moves a little further away from him with another indignant look. LUCAS is again puzzled, but bends and looks over the illustration in RENIE’S hands.

Lucas. So that’s Jane Sweetman! Well, if Jane was bound to come a moral cropper, I’m very glad I wasn’t bound to come a moral cropper with Jane, eh, Dolly? [Very pleasantly.

Dolly. [Very severely.] I should scarcely have thought you troubled whom you came a moral cropper with!

[Looks at him severely, goes up to writing-desk, seats herself and writes letter. He feels himself snubbed, and moves a step or two back, stands and looks puzzled. PROFESSOR has been critically regarding MATT and HARRY, who have been looking at the illustration.

Prof. Well, does anything strike you?

Matt. No. [Holding it out.] Looks rather pulpy rather a squashy

Prof. Exactly! Observe the soft, almost watery condition of that gray matter. What is the inevitable consequence?

Matt. I couldn’t quite say whom did that gray matter belong to?

Prof. Harriet Poy.

Matt. I don’t remember Harriet

Prof. The Pyromaniac. At the age of four set fire to her mother’s bed. At twelve was found saturating blankets with petroleum; at sixteen fired three hayricks, for which she was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

Matt. Poor Harriet! But of course if her gray matter went and got watery

Prof. Just so! I maintain that with her gray matter in that condition it was a stupid crime to send her to prison.

Dolly. [Looking round from desk.] But what are we to do with people whose gray matter goes wrong?

Prof. I propose to deal with that question at Edinburgh. [To MATT.] You might, perhaps, care to run down to Edinburgh for my lectures

Matt. I should love it above all things; but the fact is, I’m so thoroughly of your opinion

Prof. Are you?! I’m delighted I’ve convinced you.

Matt. Completely. All my life I’ve been doing things I should never have dreamed of doing if my gray matter had done its duty and not got watery.

Harry. [Begins.] Yes, when you come to think of all the rotten things you find yourself doing, you feel, by Jove

[Suddenly recalls that he has said “by Jove,” and being near the
collection-box, he quietly pulls sixpence out of his pocket and
drops it in.

Matt. Bravo, Harry! [Patting him.

Harry. Oh, I mean it! Professor, isn’t it time for our hundred up?

Prof. [Taking out watch.] In two minutes.

Harry. I’ll go and get the balls out and chalk the cues. [Going up to door.] Doll, [taps the writing-desk] you put it off after tea by-and-by, you know!

Dolly. [She has finished letter, has risen, and closed writing-desk.] By-and-by.

Harry. Before we go to bed don’t forget.

Dolly. Oh, I sha’n’t forget.

[Makes a wry face. Exit HARRY.

Prof. Renie, you were complaining of headache. It would be wise to take a short stroll in the cool air.

Renie. Oh, very well.

Prof. Wrap up thoroughly. Ten minutes, not longer.

[Exit. DOLLY, unseen by RENIE and LUCAS, slips the note she has been writing into MATT’S hands. He takes it down stage, right, and reads it. RENIE and LUCAS have been talking, apart; they move towards the door to get out, but DOLLY is standing in the way of their exit.

Dolly. Oh, Renie! I’ll put on my things, and come with you.

Renie. But Captain Wentworth has offered

Dolly. I’ve a splitting headache I must get a little air. And Dad wants to have a talk with Lucas, don’t you?

Matt. If he can spare five minutes.

Lucas. Won’t by-and-by be just as convenient?

Dolly. [Facing LUCAS, speaking firmly.] No, by-and-by will not be just as convenient. Now, Renie, we’ll leave them together.

[Gets RENIE off, turns, looks daggers at LUCAS, goes off
after
RENIE, closes door in his face. He opens it, and goes after
her.

Lucas. I say, Doll, what’s up? [Follows her off.] What’s the matter?

Matt. [Reading DOLLY’S note.] “Be very severe with him. Make a great point of the dairy windows. He’ll understand.” Dairy windows?

[Puts the note in his pocket, as LUCAS re-enters, puzzled and
disappointed.

Lucas. I can’t think what’s the matter with Dolly. She has done nothing but snub me all the evening.

Matt. [Looking at him sternly.] So I should imagine!

Lucas. [Startled by his manner.] I say, have I done anything?

Matt. Done anything! I’m a man of the world! nobody can accuse me of being strait-laced, and therefore I suppose you think you can come here and set at defiance all the it’s disgraceful!

Lucas. Would you mind telling me what you’re hinting at?

Matt. I’m not hinting! I’m going to speak out very plainly, and I tell you that I look upon your conduct as something atrocious!

Lucas. I say, Uncle, what’s all this about?

Matt. What’s it about? What’s it about? It’s about the dairy windows!

Lucas. Then it was you phew! so it was you?

Matt. Well, after the dairy windows, can you stand there and tell me you aren’t thoroughly, completely, heartily ashamed of yourself?

Lucas. Well, I suppose I am. But, after all, it wasn’t so very bad

Matt. Not bad?!

Lucas. Well, not so d ee d awful.

Matt. [Regards him for a few moments.] Well, I’m astonished! If you don’t consider your behaviour d ee d awful, will you please find me some word that will describe it?

Lucas. You know you’re putting a much worse construction on this than the necessities of the case demand.

Matt. What?!

Lucas. I’ve nothing to reproach myself with. Mrs. Biggs wasn’t out of the dairy three minutes, and you were hanging about the windows all the time.

Matt. I was hanging about the windows?

Lucas. Yes, and I must say that when you saw two people engaged in an interesting conversation the least you could do was to pass on and take no notice.

Matt. “Interesting conversation"?!

Lucas. Well, what did you call it? If it comes to that, what do you accuse me of?

Matt. Well, here you are, on the first day of the year, after listening to a most eloquent sermon, after making a solemn resolution to give up all your bad habits

Lucas. Excuse me, I expressly stated that I didn’t mean to give up all my bad habits. And I don’t call this a bad habit.

Matt. You don’t call making love to a married woman a bad habit?!

Lucas. Of course in one sense it is a bad habit. But it isn’t a bad habit in the sense that other bad habits are bad habits. Look at all the decent chaps who’ve been led into it!

Matt. That doesn’t excuse you. And if you think that I’m going to countenance your conduct, you are very much mistaken in your estimate of my character.

Lucas. [Very quietly.] May I ask you one simple question?

Matt. Well?

Lucas. When you were my age, if you found yourself alone in a dairy with a good-looking woman, and she was good for a dozen kisses or so, wouldn’t you have taken advantage of it?

Matt. No!

Lucas. Not at my age?

Matt. No no

Lucas. Well, what would you have done?

Matt. I should have summoned all my resolution

Lucas. Oh, that be hanged! Come, Uncle, no humbug! Man to man!

Matt. Well, I don’t say that at your age I might not have been tempted and of course we must all go through a certain amount of experience, or how should we be able to advise you youngsters?

Lucas. I say, no confounded nonsense your uncle Archie

Matt. Dear old chap!

Lucas. What use did you make of his advice?

Matt. Well, I remember his talking to me very seriously I suppose I was about your age did I ever tell you, Lucas, [taking LUCAS’S arm affectionately] about a very remarkable auburn-haired girl, Madge Seaforth?

Lucas. No.

Matt. And my racing her across Salisbury Plain at night?

Lucas. No.

Matt. Forty-eight miles one glorious May night! I let her beat me! God bless her! I let her beat me! And just as the sun rose we caught sight of Salisbury spire.

Lucas. Sounds rather jolly!

Matt. Jolly? And the bacon and eggs we got through for breakfast! Jolly? It was romance! It was poetry! Ah! Lu, my boy, you may say what you like, there’s nothing like it on this side heaven. I told you about Mrs. Satterwaite dressing up as a widow and selling her husband?

Lucas. No?

Matt. Well, I bet the little hussy a fiver. Oh, Satterwaite richly deserved all he got I can see Satterwaite’s face now, and hers, as she stepped out of the cupboard, with the wickedest twinkle in the wickedest black eye! Ho! Ho! Heigho! Sad! Sad!! Sad!!! Sad! Sad!! Sad!!! Come, come, Lucas! This won’t do! This will never do! Now to get back to this business of yours

Lucas. Well

Matt. When I was your guardian I let you have a pretty good fling?

Lucas. You did!

Matt. The pace was rather scorching?

Lucas. Rather!

Matt. I never pulled you up?

Lucas. No, and I’m grateful.

[Shaking hands very cordially.

Matt. That’s all right. Now, old chap, you’ve got to pull up!

Lucas. Pull up?

Matt. Short. This Mrs. Sturgess Dolly says there’s a lot of nonsense going on, gushing letters and so on, damned silly thing writing letters, Lu

Lucas. Yes, I know.

Matt. Well, what do you do it for?

Lucas. I don’t know.

Matt. You’re seeing her every day. If you must carry on this tomfoolery, why not do it by word of mouth? Why write it down, to show what an ass you’ve been?

Lucas. I’m sure I don’t know.

Matt. Do you know why you’re carrying on with her at all?

Lucas. Well, naturally a chap naturally

Matt. You’re either in love with her, or you aren’t?

Lucas. I can’t say I’m exactly in love with her

Matt. Then why are you making love to her?

Lucas. Well, she’s a jolly good-looking woman, and naturally a chap naturally I don’t know that I ain’t a bit in love with her.

Matt. Well, it doesn’t much matter. If you aren’t in love with her you’re a fool to risk a scandal. If you are in love you’ll most likely do some silly jackass thing that will knock your career on the head, eh?

Lucas. Well, when you look at it that way

Matt. Look at it that way! Anyhow, she’s a married woman, and you’re here as a guest it isn’t the right thing to do, is it?

Lucas. No, it isn’t.

Matt. Very well, then, don’t do it. Don’t do it! Cut it! You will?

Lucas. I’ve got to, I suppose.

Matt. Yes, you’ve got to. You can tell Doll I gave it to you hot and strong, and you’re going to clear out, and not see Mrs. Sturgess again

Lucas. Not see her again?

Matt. Isn’t that what you mean to do?

Lucas. Yes, I suppose. I say, what did you see at the dairy windows?

Matt. I didn’t see anything at all!

Lucas. Nothing at all?

Matt. I wasn’t there!

Lucas. Then how ?

Matt. Dolly put me up to it. [Laughs at him.

Lucas. Dolly?

DOLLY enters with a cloak which she throws on sofa.

Matt. Ah, Doll

Dolly. [Looking severely at LUCAS.] Have you spoken to him?

Matt. Yes, very seriously, extra seriously, and he’s going to do the right thing and clear out, aren’t you, Lucas?

Lucas. [A little unwillingly.] Yes.

Matt. [Clapping him on the shoulder.] Good chap! Good chap!

Dolly. [Still a little severe.] I’m pleased to hear it. [To LUCAS.] You’ve behaved in a most scandalous

Matt. He has. I’ve told him all that. [Winks at DOLLY to keep her quiet.] And he sees it quite plainly, don’t you?

[Winks at LUCAS to prompt him.

Dolly. Then it’s quite broken off?

Matt. Quite! Isn’t it, Lu?

Lucas. Yes, I suppose. I should like to say

Dolly. Yes?

Lucas. That nothing has taken place which, if rightly looked at, could reflect discredit either upon the lady, or, I hope, upon myself. And secondly, whatever fault there may have been, is entirely mine.

Matt. That’s satisfactory! It always ought to be the man’s fault. Heaven forbid it should ever be theirs. Good chap! Good chap! [Patting him.] Dolly, he’s behaving splendidly. Now, Lu, good-night.

[DOLLY rings bell.

Lucas. [Surprised.] Good-night?!

Dolly. Good-night, and good-bye! [Holding out her hand.

Lucas. You aren’t going to turn me out to-night!

Dolly. You said it was quite broken off.

Lucas. Yes, but [turns to MATT with appealing gesture.] Uncle, you didn’t mean to pack me off like this

Matt. Yes, my boy! Remember the occasion. First day of the New Year. Take time by the forelock. Off you go!

[Taking him by the shoulder and trying to get him off.

Lucas. [Resisting.] Oh no! I don’t see it in that light at all.

[Sinks comfortably into arm-chair.

CRIDDLE appears at door.

Dolly. Criddle, please have Captain Wentworth’s portmanteau taken to the billiard-room.

Criddle. Yes, ma’am.

Dolly. He wishes to change there, and please send to the Red Lion and ask them to have Captain Wentworth’s horse saddled.

Criddle. Yes, ma’am. [Going.

Lucas. Criddle, what’s the weather like?

Criddle. It’s a bit colder, sir. Looks as if we were going to have another heavy fall of snow.

Lucas. I don’t think I’ll go to-night, Criddle. If I want the gee saddled, I’ll go and tell them myself.

Criddle. Yes, sir. [Exit.

Lucas. [In arm-chair.] I say, Dolly, you don’t really expect me to go careering over that heath at this ungodly hour?

Dolly. You can’t stay here. Renie is very much upset; she has had hysterics. So I’ve put her in the spare room.

Lucas. Well, you can give me a shake-down somewhere in the billiard-room.

Dolly. [Shakes her head.] I can’t ask the servants to make up impossible beds in impossible places at this ungodly hour.

Lucas. I call this beastly unfair of you, Doll.

Dolly. Unfair?

Lucas. Just as I’d summoned up all my resolution to do the right thing, and avoid ructions for your sake, you pounce down on me, and order me off the premises, and

Dolly. [Getting angry.] If you don’t behave yourself and go off quietly, I shall have to order you off the premises.

[Makes an appeal by gesture to MATT to get him off.

Matt. Now, my hero! [Lifting him out of the arm-chair.] Buckle on your armor! Sally forth! Once more unto the breach!

[With some difficulty he raises LUCAS out of the chair.

Lucas. Well, I’ll go and have a look at the weather. [Goes sulkily up to door.] Mind you, if you turn me out I won’t be responsible if there’s a flare up

Dolly. Very well, so long as we don’t have a flare-up here. Oh!

[Rings the bell again.

Lucas. [Goes off, sulky, muttering.] Of all the turning me out beastly infernal nuisance!

[Exit grumbling, leaving door open.

Dolly. It would serve them both right if there was to be a flare-up only I’m sure she’d drag me into it somehow. [CRIDDLE appears at door.] Please send and ask them at the Red Lion to saddle Captain Wentworth’s horse and send it here at once.

Criddle. Yes, ma’am. [Exit.

Dolly. Lucas is going to behave as badly over this as he did over the governess. Dad !

Matt. Well?

Dolly. Of course, Lucas is in the army, but surely he he isn’t a fair sample?

Matt. Oh no, oh no! Lucas is very exceptional quite exceptional.

Dolly. I thought so! They can’t all be

Matt. Oh no! I’m glad to say

Dolly. I’m determined he shall go to-night.

LUCAS re-enters.

Lucas. I say, Dolly, I wish you’d come and look at the weather.

Dolly. What for?

Lucas. There’s a great black cloud it’s going to come down!

Dolly. [Enraged.] I don’t care if the heavens come down! You’re going back to Aldershot to-night.

Lucas. But I tell you [Appeals to MATT.] It’s simply impossible for me to ride across that heath

Matt. But you rode across it last night in a howling snowstorm

Lucas. Yes, I did! Last night! And never again, thank you! No! I don’t mind shaking down anywhere to oblige

[He is about to drop again into the arm-chair, but MATT gently
pushes him aside and drops into the chair himself.

Lucas. [Going to sofa.] Anywhere to oblige!

[Drops comfortably on to sofa.

Dolly. [Comes up to him finally.] Lucas, this is abominable! I suppose you think because we treated you so leniently over that wretched governess

Lucas. Well, I thought you were pretty deuced hard down on us

Dolly. What?! Oh! [Appeals to MATT.

Lucas. I didn’t mind your slanging me, but you might have had a little consideration for her feelings, because, after all, she was one of your own sex!

Dolly. My own sex! The minx!

Lucas. And an orphan!

Dolly. Orphan! [To MATT.] Go and speak to him! Go and speak to him!

[MATT rises and goes to LUCAS. DOLLY sits down in despair.

Matt. Come, Lu. You’re not playing the game! You promised to take yourself off.

Lucas. [Comfortably seated.] Well, I will take myself off, only let me take myself off in my own way.

Dolly. It’s useless your staying! Renie won’t see you again.

Lucas. Won’t she?

Dolly. No. She gave me a last message for you

Lucas. Did she? Why didn’t you give it to me?

Dolly. If I tell you, will you take yourself off?

Lucas. Yes, of course. What was her last message?

Dolly. She said “She should always value your noble devotion, and be proud that she had known you; but you must see how hopeless it was, and that she trusted you would go away at once and leave her to respect you, as you had always respected her!”

Matt. A very pretty, touching little adieu! Does her great credit. Now, Lu! Cut it! Come, my boy!

[Lifts him up off sofa. LUCAS gets up very reluctantly.

Lucas. Well, if I must go good-night!

Matt. Good-night. [Shaking hands.] I may see you to-morrow afternoon.

Lucas. Where?

Matt. I’m driving over to Aldershot to see Sir John. I shall look you up

Lucas. I may not be there in the afternoon

Dolly. Lucas, you’re coming over here

Lucas. No no; I’m not. You shouldn’t suspect me.

Dolly. It won’t be the least use your coming

Lucas. I know that. Well, good-bye, Doll

Dolly. Good-bye. [Shaking hands.

Lucas. [Is going up to door slowly and reluctantly, turns.] I suppose if I were to give you my solemn promise I wouldn’t see her, I couldn’t shake down on that sofa.

Dolly. [Sternly and decisively.] No!

Lucas. [Goes a few more steps towards door, turns.] I suppose I couldn’t see Mrs. Sturgess? [DOLLY looks indignant.] Only to say good-bye.

Dolly. No! She was nearly undressed when I left her. She’s asleep by now!

Enter RENIE fully dressed, looking very interesting and tearful.
Throughout the scene she preserves the air of a martyr.

Dolly. [Indignantly.] Renie, you promised me you wouldn’t come downstairs again!

Renie. Yes, dear, but I felt I couldn’t rest under your father’s unjust suspicion. [Goes up to MATT, seizes his hand sympathetically.] Dolly tells me you have been watching the friendship that all unconsciously has sprung up between Captain Wentworth and myself

Matt. [Uncomfortable.] Not exactly watching

Renie. I feel you may have seen, or guessed something, that has given you a wrong impression.

Matt. No, no! I assure you

Renie. If you have, I beg you to speak out and give us a chance of defending ourselves. Tell us exactly what you have seen, and what you suspect

Matt. My dear Mrs. Sturgess, I haven’t seen anything, and I don’t suspect anything.

Renie. You really mean that?

Matt. Yes yes

Renie. [Clasping his hand eagerly.] Thank you so much. Friendship between a man and a woman is so misunderstood.

Matt. It is.

Dolly. Yes, Lucas had a friendship with a governess here which we all misunderstood till afterwards.

Lucas. I say, Dolly, don’t you

Renie. Now that there is no chance of your misjudging our friendship, I don’t mind saying [Shows signs of breaking down.] You won’t misunderstand me? [Clinging to his hand.

Matt. No, no!

Renie. My life has not been altogether a happy one.

Matt. I’m sure it hasn’t!

Renie. Under other circumstances let that pass! [Wrings MATT’S hands.] Thank you, thank you! [Goes to LUCAS.] Captain Wentworth, I shall always be proud to have known you.

Dolly. I’ve told him all that!

[MATT hushes DOLLY with a gesture.

Renie. I shall always cherish the memory of our friendship, but it might be misunderstood, and so [breaking down, but bearing up with an effort], you will behave like the gallant gentleman I know you to be, and say good-bye to me for ever!

Matt. Nobly spoken! Very nobly spoken indeed!

Lucas. Well, if you insist

Renie. I do! Good-bye for ever!

Lucas. Good-bye. [They have a long hand-shake.

Renie. Good-bye.

[Tears herself away from him and tragically throws herself on
sofa.
LUCAS follows her up.

Lucas. I say, Mrs. Sturgess

Renie. [Face buried in hands, moans out.] Go, go! In pity’s name don’t make it harder for me!

Matt. In pity’s name don’t make it harder for her.

Dolly. [Looking off at door.] They’ll be coming out of the billiard-room directly.

Matt. Now, Lucas

CRIDDLE appears at door.

Criddle. Your horse is waiting for you, sir.

Lucas. My horse?!

Criddle. Yes, sir, just outside.

Lucas. What on earth do they mean? A valuable horse like that just clipped standing about on a night like this who told them?

Dolly. I did. The horse is waiting to take you back to Aldershot.

Lucas. I can’t go back to Aldershot in this kit. [Pointing to his dress-clothes.] Tell them to take it back to the Red Lion!

Dolly. And Criddle, give the man Captain Wentworth’s portmanteau to take to the Red Lion at the same time.

Criddle. Yes, ma’am. [Exit.

Lucas. [Grumbling.] Well, of all Good-bye, Mrs. Sturgess.

Dolly. You’ve said good-bye

Renie. [Still tragic on sofa.] Farewell for ever!

Lucas. Good-night, Dolly!

Dolly. Farewell for a good long time. [Shaking hands.

Lucas. Good-night, Uncle.

Matt. Good-night, Lucas. [Shaking hands.

Lucas. [Turns at door.] Happen to have your cigar-case handy?

[MATT takes out cigar-case, offers it.

Lucas. Could you spare two?

Matt. Certainly!

Lucas. I’ve got a jolly long ride, I’ll take three if you don’t mind.

Matt. Do!

Lucas. Thank’ee. Well, good-night, everybody.

[MATT gets LUCAS off, closes door after him.

Renie. [Rouses herself from sofa.] Has he gone? Is it all over?

Dolly. I hope so. [Goes and rings bell twice.

Renie. [Goes to MATT impulsively and seizes his hand.] At least this bitter experience has gained me one true friend.

Matt. [Embarrassed.] Yes

Renie. [Wrings his hand in gratitude.] Thank you so much

[He gets away from her and shows relief; takes out cigar and
prepares to light it.

Renie. [Standing in the middle of the room, pitying herself.] That’s where we get the worst of it, we women who have hearts! We must feel, we must show our feelings, and then we get trampled down in the fight. Oh, Dolly, how I envy you your nature!

Dolly. [Very chilly.] Are you going into the spare room, dear?

Renie. Anywhere! Anywhere! Yes, the spare room!

PETERS, DOLLY’S maid, appears at door.

Dolly. Peters, will you bank up the fire in the spare room and make everything comfortable for Mrs. Sturgess?

Peters. Yes, ma’am. [Exit.

Renie. [Still in the middle of the room, pitying herself.] So my poor little tragedy is ended! [To MATT.

Matt. Yes. Well, let’s be thankful no bones are broken!

Renie. No bones, but how about hearts? Well, I must bear it. [With a weary smile.] Mustn’t I?

Matt. I’m afraid you must.

Renie. Good-night! [Wrings his hand with gratitude.] Good-night!

Matt. Good-night.

[Gets away from her, and busies himself with his cigar, lights
it.

Renie. Good-night, Dolly!

Dolly. I’ll come up with you, and stay till you’re quite comfortable.

Renie. Shall I ever be comfortable again? Will things ever be the same? I wonder!

[Goes off mournfully and tragically at back with a prolonged
sigh.
MATT has seated himself on sofa and taken up paper.

Dolly. [Calls his attention to RENIE’S exit and makes a furious gesture after her.] I know she’ll be here next Christmas! [Marches down enraged to MATT and repeats in an angry, aggrieved way, emphasizing each word.] I know that woman will be here next Christmas!

Matt. [Seated comfortably with his cigar and paper] I daresay she will

[DOLLY marches indignantly and decisively to door and exit.

CURTAIN.

(Half an hour passes between Acts II and III.)