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

SCENE: The same. Discover MATT in the same seat and attitude, with paper and cigar. DOLLY enters.

Matt. Well??

Dolly. I’ve had an awful time with her

Matt. How?

Dolly. [Seated.] First she had another fit of hysterics then she longed to go out into the night air to cool her fevered brow then she moaned out something about her noble Lucas

Matt. And now?

Dolly. I’ve persuaded her to let Peters undress her. I’ve got her off my hands at last.

Matt. That’s a comfort.

Dolly. Dad!

Matt. Yes.

Dolly. I won’t have her here next Christmas.

Matt. No, I wouldn’t.

Dolly. [Repeats in a slow, aggrieved, enraged way, emphasizing each syllable.] Whatever happens, I will not have that woman in my house next Christmas. You hear that?

Matt. Yes. You won’t have her here next Christmas!

Dolly. I mean it, this time. And I won’t have Lucas here again for a very long time.

Matt. I wouldn’t.

Dolly. [Seated beside him.] Dad, please put away that paper. You’re going over to Aldershot to-morrow to try to get Lucas exchanged?

Matt. I’ll try.

Dolly. Where can you get him sent?

Matt. Gibraltar India South Africa according as an appointment happens to be vacant.

Dolly. The further the better, and the longer.

PETERS appears at door.

Dolly. Well, Peters, have you made Mrs. Sturgess comfortable?

Peters. I’m trying to, ma’am.

Dolly. Is she in bed yet?

Peters. No, ma’am.

Dolly. Not in bed!

Peters. No, ma’am, but she seems rather quieter.

Dolly. She let you undress her, I suppose?

Peters. I’m just going to, ma’am. She says her brain is still throbbing.

Dolly. Throbbing!

Peters. And could you lend her your hop-pillow?

Dolly. You’ll find it in my wardrobe.

Peters. Yes, ma’am.

Dolly. Peters, pat up the hop-pillow for her, and insist on undressing her

Peters. Yes, ma’am. [Going.

Dolly. Don’t leave her till you’ve seen her comfortably in bed.

Peters. No, ma’am.

[Exit. A gust of wind and a little rattle of hail on the
conservatory window.

Matt. Whew! The New Year means business!

Dolly. And so do I, as Lucas will find out.

Matt. He is finding it out, on that heath!

Dolly. Yes! [With a little laugh.] Ha! ha! [A louder gust and rattle of hail.] Listen! Listen! Ha! And he might have been here playing a comfortable rubber by the fire if he’d simply behaved himself!

Matt. If he’d “simply behaved” himself! What we all miss through not “simply behaving” ourselves.

[Another gust.

Dolly. [Laughs.] Ah! He’s catching it! I shall insist on Renie driving out with me to-morrow afternoon.

Matt. Yes.

Dolly. Then she can’t meet Lucas. That will be another sell for him [Another furious gust and rattle.] Listen! Ha! ha! I wonder how far Lucas has got!

[A noise of something being knocked over in the conservatory,
which is lighted.

Matt. [Goes to the conservatory door, looks in; is startled.] Hillo! hillo! What?!

LUCAS enters from the upper conservatory door in riding-clothes of
first Act.

Dolly. [Enraged.] Lucas! [More enraged.] Lucas! How dare you?!

Lucas. It’s all right don’t make a fuss!

Dolly. [Furious.] Why aren’t you on the way to Aldershot?

Lucas. I didn’t like the look of the weather! I didn’t like the look of it at all! So I got them to give me a shake-down at the Red Lion

Dolly. [Indignantly.] Shake-down at the Red Lion!

Lucas. Yes, on their sofa! You needn’t look so black! I asked you first, to let me have a shake-down here on that sofa

Dolly. But why have you come back here?

Lucas. Well, I must have dropped those cigars uncle Matt gave me. I put them carefully in my side pocket, and when I got down to the Red Lion, lo and behold, they weren’t there!

Dolly. You could have got a cigar at the Red Lion

Lucas. [Turns to MATT for sympathy.] I could have got a cigar at the Red Lion! [To DOLLY.] No, thank you! So I thought I’d just stroll up here in the hope

Dolly. In the hope of seeing Mrs. Sturgess! But she’s safely in bed this time, and there’s no possible chance of your seeing her.

Lucas. In the hope of getting Harry to give me a decent smoke. Well, I came into the Hall and not wishing to rile you by my hated presence I slipped into the conservatory

Enter HARRY.

Harry. [Surprised at the riding-clothes.] Hillo, Lu, going back to Aldershot to-night?

Lucas. No, not unless the weather takes a turn. No, Dolly said that as the spare room was occupied, would I mind getting a shake-down at the Red Lion. So I did, and as I’ve got nothing to smoke, may I cadge a cigar?

Harry. Yes, old fellow. [Taking out cigar-case.

Dolly. [Intercepting.] You said I should take charge of your cigars, in case you should be tempted to smoke more than two a day

Harry. By Jove, I forgot all about two per diem I’ve been smoking all day. Here, Lu! [About to throw cigar-case to LUCAS.] You’d better take the lot and keep me out of temptation!

Dolly. No! I’ll take charge of that, please.

[Takes the cigar-case, looks angrily at LUCAS, goes to
writing-desk, puts it in.

PETERS appears at door.

Peters. I beg pardon, ma’am, Mrs. Sturgess

Dolly. What about her?

Peters. When I got back with the hop-pillow she wasn’t there. I’ve looked all over the house, and I can’t find her anywhere. [Glancing off into the conservatory.] Oh, there she is!

RENIE enters, fully dressed from conservatory, very languidly,
with handkerchief and smelling-salts.
PETERS goes off.

Dolly. Renie!

[Looks at MATT, who is inclined to laugh, checks it, shrugs his
shoulders and goes over to fire.

Renie. My head was racking, I had to rush out I’ve been pacing up and down under the veranda, up and down, up and down, up and down [DOLLY makes a little grimace of angry incredulity] it’s a little easier now, so I’ll take advantage of the lull, and try to get some sleep.

Dolly. Yes, I would.

Renie. Good-night, dear.

Dolly. [Severely.] Good-night once more.

Renie. Good-night, Mr. Telfer. [Offering hand.

Harry. Good-night, I’m awfully sorry

Renie. [With her weary smile.] Oh, it’s only a headache. I can bear it. Thank you for your sympathy. [Wringing his hand in fervent gratitude.] Good-night, Mr. Barron.

Matt. Good-night. I hope we sha’n’t have any more little tragedies, eh?

Renie. [Very fervently.] I hope not, oh, I hope not! [To LUCAS very casually and distantly.] Good-night, Captain Wentworth.

Lucas. [Same tone.] Good-night, Mrs. Sturgess.

[Exit RENIE. PETERS is seen to join her in the hall. A little
pause.

Lucas. Well, I’ll be toddling back to the Red Lion. Good-night, Dolly. [DOLLY looks at him, furious, turns away. HARRY looks a little surprised.] Good-night, Harry.

Harry. Good-night, Lu. Seems a pity for you to turn out on a night like this. Dolly, can’t we give him a shake-down ?

Dolly. No!

[HARRY shows surprise at her tone. A little pause of
embarrassment.

Lucas. Good-night, Uncle Matt.

Matt. [Comes up to him, in a low voice.] Cut it, my dear lad. Cut it! That’s understood?

Lucas. Yes, of course. Well, good-night, Dolly, once more. [She doesn’t reply.] Oh well, if you’re going on the rampage [Goes off muttering.] Infernal nuisance night like this [Exit.

Harry. Is anything the matter?

Dolly. Lucas has offended me very much. I don’t wish to speak of it.

The PROFESSOR enters at back.

Matt. Well, who was the victor?

Harry. The Professor won all four games.

Prof. I ascribe the increased accuracy of my stroke at billiards to my increased nerve force, now I have made Pableine my staple article of diet in place of meat.

Matt. Flies to the gray matter, eh?

Prof. Instantaneously.

Matt. Good stuff!

Prof. I hope you’ll try it. Shall I send a tin to your room?

Matt. Will you? That will be kind!

CRIDDLE appears at door.

Criddle. I’ve put the spirits in the hall, sir.

Harry. You can take them away, Criddle. In the future we shall not require spirits at night, only soda water and tea.

Criddle. Yes, sir. [Exit.

Dolly. [Who has been sitting wearily on sofa, rises.] Well, I’m going to bed.

Harry. You forget, dear.

Dolly. What? [HARRY taps the writing-desk.] Oh, my dear Harry, we won’t go into them to-night.

Harry. Yes, my dear, if you please. [Very firmly. DOLLY makes an impatient gesture and pouts.] Please don’t look like that. If I’m to help you in paying off these bills, it must be to-night, or not at all.

Dolly. Oh, very well, but [Sits down wearily.

Prof. [Taking out watch.] Five minutes past my usual hour.

Dolly. Renie has one of her bad headaches, so I’ve put her in the spare room.

Prof. Thank you. I’m afraid she’s a little wilful. I can never get her to see that life can yield us no real satisfaction unless we regulate all our actions to the most minute point. Good-night.

Dolly. Good-night. [Shaking hands.

Prof. Good-night, Telfer.

Harry. Good-night. [Shaking hands.

Matt. Good-night, Harry.

Harry. Good-night, Dad. [Shaking hands.

Matt. [To DOLLY.] Night-night, dear.

Dolly. Night-night, Dad. [Kissing him.

Prof. [Has been waiting at door.] I might perhaps show you the precise way of mixing the Pableine.

Matt. That would be kind! What’s the dose?

Prof. Two teaspoonfuls. On certain occasions I have taken as much as four tablespoonfuls.

Matt. Wasn’t that rather going it?

Prof. No. It’s quite tasteless, except for a very slight beany flavor.

Matt. Sounds just the thing for a New Year’s drink, to brace up good resolutions. Come along! I’ll have a regular night-cap of it.

[Exeunt MATT and PROFESSOR.

Harry. Now we can have our cosy half hour.

Dolly. Ye-es. I’ve had an awful evening with Lucas. Don’t you think ?

Harry. No, my darling. You put it off after tea

Dolly. But our heads will be so much clearer in the morning

Harry. [Very solemnly and severely.] My darling, remember what Pilcher said about procrastination. And remember our resolutions last night. If we break them on the first night of the year, where shall we be on the thirty-first of December?

Dolly. I’m horribly fagged.

Harry. Conquer it! Think how delightful it will be to put your head on the pillow to-night, without a single anxiety, without a single thought

Dolly. Except my gratitude to you!

Harry. Come, dear, no time like the present!

Dolly. [Jumps up very briskly.] No time like the present! [Looking at him with great admiration.] Oh, Harry, what a dear, kind, good husband you’ve always been to me!

Harry. Have I, my darling? [Modestly.] I’ve done my best

Dolly. How I must have tried you!

Harry. No, dear at least a little sometimes.

Dolly. When I think what patience you’ve had with me, and never reproached me

Harry. Well, not often. We’ve had our little tiffs That day at Goodwood eh?

Dolly. Don’t speak of it! I was to blame

Harry. No, dear, I can’t let you accuse yourself. I was quite in the wrong.

Dolly. No, dear, it was my fault entirely!

Harry. Well, we won’t quarrel about that. Now these bills

Dolly. And what good pals we’ve been!

Harry. And always shall be. [Kissing her.

Dolly. [Hugging him.] Oh, you dear!

Harry. Now, business, business!

Dolly. [Going up to writing-desk.] What a lucky woman I am!

Harry. [Seated at table.] Bring them all.

Dolly. [Has opened desk and taken up some bills she looks round dubiously at HARRY.] What a splendid thing it must be to be a husband and have it in your power to make your wife adore you, by simply paying a few bills.

Harry. Yes bring them all. [She comes down with a bundle of about fifteen, hands them to him.] Is this all?

Dolly. All, of any importance.

Harry. I want to see them all.

Dolly. So you shall, but we’ll go through these first, because [lamely] if you want to ask any questions we can settle them on the spot, can’t we?

Harry. [Reading from the bill.] Maison Recamier, Court and artistic millinery. By Jove! [Looks up.

Dolly. What!

Harry. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine nine hats!

Dolly. Different kinds of hats.

Harry. Yedda straw hat, four guineas, ostrich feather ruffle, twelve pounds ten

Dolly. That was the one you remember when I came into the room you said, “Stay there! Just as you are! I must kiss you!”

Harry. Yes, but twelve pounds ten Moss green chip hat, four, fourteen, six. Heliotrope velvet toque

Dolly. That’s the dear little toque you admire so much!

Harry. Do I? Six guineas! Dear little toque! Hat in white Tegal with plumes of Nattier Bleu fifteen guineas Fifteen guineas?!

Dolly. With plumes! Of Nattier Bleu!

Harry. But fifteen guineas!

Dolly. Oh, the woman’s a fearful swindler! But what are you to do with such people?

Harry. [With bill.] Total, sixty-four, seven, six. And I get my one silk topper a year, at a guinea, and three and six for doing it up. Total for me, one, four, six. Total for you

Dolly. My dear Harry, don’t make absurd comparisons!

Harry. [Takes another bill.] John Spearman, artistic gown maker, ball gowns, reception gowns, race gowns Good heavens!

Dolly. What’s the matter?

Harry. Total, five hundred and fifty-six pounds that can’t be right!

Dolly. [Frightened.] No, it can’t be! Add it up!

Harry. [Reading.] Tea gown of chiffon taffeta

Dolly. The one I took to Folkestone, you remember?

[With a little attempt at a kiss.

Harry. [Gently repulsing her.] No, I don’t. [She puts her arms round his neck; he gently pushes her aside.] Business first, please. [Reads.] Gown of white cloth with Postillion coat of Rose du Barri silk, motifs of silver, forty-five guineas

Dolly. You won’t grumble at that, for when I first put it on, you stood and looked at me and said, “I want to know how it is, Doll, that the moment a dress gets on to your shoulders, it seems to brisk up, and be as cocky and proud of itself ”

[Again attempting to embrace him.

Harry. [Again repulsing her.] Yes, well now I do know! Jolly proud and cocky your dresses ought to feel at this price! [Reads.] “Evening cloak of strawberry satin charmeuse, trimmed silk passementerie, motifs and fringed stoles of dull gold embroidery, thirty-five guineas.” What’s a motif?

Dolly. It’s a trimming a lot of little touches a sort of a a a [making a little descriptive gesture] a suggestion a motif

Harry. And Mr. John Spearman’s motif is that I should pay him five hundred and fifty-six pounds. Well, I don’t like Mr. John Spearman’s motifs, and I’m not going to fall in with them. [Puts the bill on the table rather angrily, takes up another, reads.] “Artistic lingerie!” I wonder why all these people call themselves artists! “Underwear of daintiness and distinction.”

Dolly. Well, you’ve always praised

Harry. Yes. In future, I’m going to be very careful what articles of your dress I praise. “Three pairs of blue silk garters, forty-five shillings.” [She has settled herself in the armchair, looking a little sulky and obstinate, leaning back and pettishly swinging one leg over the other.] What have you got to say to that?

Dolly. Garters are necessary.

Harry. Yes, but why three? And why blue silk? Why don’t you speak?

Dolly. The garters can speak for themselves!

Harry. Very well. Garters that can speak for themselves can pay for themselves! [Dashes the bill on the table, takes up another. Reading.] Three bottles coeur de Janette three bottles Souffle de Marguerite fifteen pounds for scent and I have to smoke sixpenny cigars! And sometimes only fourpenny!

Dolly. Well, if you will smoke those horrid strong things you can’t wonder I have to disinfect the house for you.

Harry. Disinfect the house for me! You’ll very soon disinfect the house of me! [Glances through the remaining bills, groans, puts them on the table, and walks about in despair. DOLLY rises and is going off.] Where are you going?

Dolly. To bed.

Harry. [Stopping her.] No! Now we’ve begun, we’ll go through to the bitter end, if you please. I want you to explain

Dolly. My dear Harry, it will be quite useless for me to try to explain in your present state

Harry. [Getting furious.] In my present state

Dolly. Dancing about the room and shouting!

Harry. I’m not shouting!

Dolly. You’re not shouting?!

Harry. No, and if I am, isn’t it enough to make a man shout when his wife

MATT appears at the door in his dressing-gown and slippers.

Matt. Excuse my interrupting. But you know my room is just above this, and if you could manage to pitch your voices in rather a softer key

Harry. By Jove, I’d forgotten! We were getting a little noisy. I’m awfully sorry.

Matt. Don’t mention it! The Professor gave me rather a stiff go of his Pableine, and I fancy it hasn’t agreed with me [tapping his chest] for I can’t get a wink of sleep. Is there a spoonful of whiskey about?

Harry. On the sideboard in the dining-room.

Matt. Thankee. [Tapping his chest.] Harry, when you get over fifty, don’t change your nightcap, or any of your other bad habits.

Harry. I won’t. Now, Dolly

Matt. [Anxiously.] You won’t perhaps be very long now?

Dolly. No, we’d nearly finished

Matt. Nothing serious, I hope?

Dolly. Harry doesn’t approve of my using scent.

Harry. Not in pailfuls. Certainly not.

Dolly. I had three small bottles

Matt. Montaigne says that the sweetest perfume a woman can have, is to have none at all. [Exit.

Harry. Now, my darling, we shall best arrive at an understanding if we avoid all temper, and discuss it in a calm, business-like way.

Dolly. [A little frightened.] Ye-es

Harry. Very well then, bring up your chair, and let us go into it, figure by figure, item by item, and see how we stand.

Dolly. Ye-es. [Bringing a chair a little way.] Harry, you aren’t going to be as business-like as all that?

Harry. As all what?

Dolly. I can’t discuss it while you keep me at a distance! [Suddenly rushes at him, seats herself on his knee, puts his arm round her waist, kisses him.] There! now I feel I can discuss it thoroughly.

Harry. Very well [kisses her], so long as we do discuss it thoroughly.

Dolly. I began to get quite frightened of you, Mr. Jobling.

Harry. Jobling?

Dolly. The man Mr. Pilcher had to get a money-box for, because he swore at his wife!

Harry. Oh, yes.

Dolly. You got so angry and shouted

Harry. Well, there was no reason for that, especially as getting out of temper is the one thing I’m quite resolved to conquer this New Year

Dolly. [Kissing him.] Don’t forget that!

Harry. [Kisses her.] Now, business, business! [Takes up a bill.] What have we here? Carchet, gantier et bonnetier, artiste Hillo, here’s another artist! In stockings this time. [Suddenly.] I say!

Dolly. [Frightened.] Eh?

Harry. [Points to an item in bill.] Come now, Dolly this is really too bad this really is too bad!

Dolly. [Frightened.] What?!

[Getting off his knee.

Harry. One dozen pairs best silk hose, with clocks

Dolly. Yes how much does that come to?

Harry. Eleven pounds two

Dolly. It does seem rather a high price, but

[Drawing up her dress and showing an inch or two of silk
stocking.

Harry. You’re wearing them about the house?

Dolly. I can’t go about the house without stockings. And I put them on for your especial benefit. [He utters a contemptuous exclamation.] They’re a lovely quality

[Drawing up her dress an inch or two higher.

Harry. I daresay. [Turning away.] I’m not going to admire your stockings, or your ostrich ruffles, or your blue silk garters, or your motifs, or anything that is yours! It’s too expensive!

Dolly. [Dress an inch higher, looking down at her stockings.] It’s the clocks you have to pay for

Harry. I beg your pardon, it’s the clocks I haven’t got to pay for! And don’t mean to if I can help it. Idiotic thing to go and put clocks on stockings [muttering] damned silly idiotic

Dolly. Ah! [Goes to table, brings the hospital box and puts it in front of him.] Double fine this time.

Harry. What for?

Dolly. Naughty swear word, and getting out of temper.

Harry. Oh well [fumbling in his pocket] I did say d , but I didn’t get out of temper!

Dolly. You didn’t get out of temper?!?

Harry. Not at all. I’m quite calm. [Sulkily puts a shilling in the box.] There! [Seats himself at table.] Now we’ll go quietly and methodically through the remainder [Taking up a bill, looks at it, exclaims.] Good heavens!

Dolly. Good heavens what?

Harry. [In a low exhausted tone with groans.] Good heavens! Good heavens! It’s absolutely useless Good heavens!

Dolly. But what is it? [Coming up, looking over.

Harry. [Points to bill.] Four more hats! Nine on the other bill four more here. Thirteen hats.

Dolly. No, one was a toque.

Harry. But can you explain?

Dolly. Yes. You said yourself that Madame Recamier was horribly expensive, so I left her and went to Jacquelin’s just to save your pocket

Harry. Never save my pocket again, please.

Dolly. Very well, I won’t.

Harry. No, I daresay you won’t, but I shall! I shall draw the strings very tightly in future. Save my pocket! [He is walking about distractedly.] Save my pocket. [Groans.

Dolly. Now, Harry, it’s useless to take it in this way you knew when you married me I hadn’t got the money sense

Harry. [Groans.] I hadn’t got any sense at all!

Dolly. Very likely not. But try and have a little now. What have I done? Run a little into debt, solely to please you.

Harry. Yes; well, now run out of it, and I shall be better pleased still.

Dolly. After all, running into debt is a positive virtue beside the things that some wives do!

Harry. Oh, it’s a positive virtue, is it?

Dolly. A husband is very lucky when his wife spends most of her time running up a few bills. It keeps her out of mischief. I’m sure you ought to feel very glad that I’m a little extravagant!

Harry. Oh, I am! I am! I’m delighted!

[He sits at table, takes out a pencil, hurriedly puts down the
amounts of the various bills she creeps up behind him.

Dolly. What are you doing?

Harry. I’m totting up to see how lucky I am! Forty-one, one, six [Groans.] Ninety-four [Groans.

Dolly. [Has crept up behind him, puts her arms round his neck.] Now, Harry, will you take my advice ?

Harry. No.

Dolly. It’s past eleven.

[Trying to take the pencil out of his hand.

Harry. [Disengaging her arms, speaking very sternly.] Will you have the goodness to let me have all your bills, so that I may know what help I shall need from my banker?

Dolly. Harry, you don’t mean that? Oh, that’s absurd with our income!

Harry. Will you have the goodness to do as I say, and at once, please? [He is dotting down figures. She stands still in the middle of the room.] Did you hear me?

[She bursts into tears. He turns round and shows symptoms of
relenting towards her, but steels himself and turns to the bills.
She bursts into renewed tears. He goes on figuring.

Dolly. [Piteously.] Harry! Harry! [Goes up to him and plucks his sleeve.] Harry!

Harry. Well?

[He turns and looks at her, is about to yield, but resists, turns
away from her, settles resolutely to his figures.

Dolly. And on the first night of the New Year, too! Just as we were going to be so happy! Harry! [Holds out her arms appealingly.] Harry! [HARRY suddenly turns round and clasps her.] How could you be so unkind to me?

Harry. Was I? I didn’t mean to be. Now! Dry your tears, and help me reckon this up

Dolly. Ye-es.

Harry. But first of all let me have the remainder of the bills

Dolly. Yes.

Harry. At once, my darling it’s getting late.

Dolly. Yes. [Goes up to desk.] You won’t reproach me?

Harry. Of course I won’t.

Dolly. I can bear anything except your reproaches. Promise you won’t reproach me.

Harry. I won’t, unless

Dolly. Unless what?

Harry. It’s something too awful.

Dolly. Oh, it isn’t. Not at all. Not at all. [Goes up to the desk, brings down about ten more bills with great affected cheerfulness.] There! You see, it’s nothing.

Harry. [Hastily looking at the totals.] Nothing? You call these nothing!!?

Dolly. Nothing to speak about nothing awful!

Harry. Good heavens! How any woman with the least care for her husband, or her home [looking at one total after another] how any woman with the least self-respect [DOLLY goes to him, puts her arms round him, tries to embrace he repulses her.] No, please. I’ve had enough of that old dodge.

Dolly. Dodge!

Harry. I remember that last two hundred pounds and how you sweedled me out of it!

Dolly. Sweedled?

Harry. Yes! Sweedled!

Dolly. There’s no such word!

Harry. No, but there’s the thing! As most husbands know. [Referring to one bill after another, picking out items.] Lace coat, hand-made! En-tout-cas, studded cabochons of lapis lazuli studded cabochons studded cabochons!

Dolly. [Has quietly seated herself, and is looking at the ceiling.] Couldn’t you manage to pitch your voice in rather a softer key?

Harry. [Comes angrily down to her, bills in hand, speaks in a whisper, very rapidly and fiercely.] Yes! And I say that a woman who goes and runs up bills like these, [dashing the back of one hand against the bills in the other] while her husband is smoking threepenny cigars, will very soon bring herself and him to one of those new palatial workhouses where, thank heaven, the cuisine and appointments are now organized with a view of providing persons of your tastes with every luxury at the ratepayers’ expense. [Returns angrily to the bills, turns them over.] Irish lace bolero! [Turns to another.] Fur motor coat, fifty-five guineas

Dolly. [Calmly gazing at the ceiling.] You told me to look as smart as Mrs. Colefield.

Harry. Not at that price! If I’d known what that motor tour would cost by Jove! I’d

Dolly. You’re getting noisy again. You’ll wake my father.

Harry. He ought to be waked! He ought to know what his daughter is saddling me with.

Dolly. Very well, if you don’t care how shabby I look

Harry. Shabby! [Referring to bills.] Lace demi-toilette! Point de Venise lace Directoire coat! Shabby?

Dolly. My dear Harry, do you suppose we shall ever agree as to what constitutes shabbiness?

Harry. No, I’m hanged if we ever shall!

Dolly. Then suppose we drop the subject. For the future I shall endeavor to please you entirely.

Harry. Oh, you will?

Dolly. By dressing so that you’ll be ashamed to be seen in the same street with me. I shall make myself a perfect fright a perfect dowdy a perfect draggletail!

Harry. Then I shall not be seen in the same street with you.

Dolly. You won’t?

Harry. No, my dear. Make no mistake about that!

Dolly. You’ll be seen with somebody else, perhaps?

Harry. Very likely.

Dolly. Have you met Miss Smithson again?

Harry. Not since the last time.

Dolly. Have you seen her since we were at Folkestone?

Harry. What’s that to do with your bills?

Dolly. A great deal. That night at dinner she told you her dress allowance was a hundred and twenty a year, and you said you wished she’d give me a few lessons in economy.

Harry. I did not.

Dolly. Pardon me, you did!

Harry. Pardon me, I did not. I said she might give some women a lesson in economy.

Dolly. You did not! I heard every word of your conversation, and you distinctly asked her to give me, your wife, a few lessons in economy.

Harry. I’ll swear I didn’t!

Dolly. Ask my father! He was there.

Harry. Very well! I’ll ask him the first thing in the morning.

Dolly. No, to-night! You’ve accused me of deliberately saying what isn’t true, and I

Harry. I have not!

Dolly. Yes, you have. And I insist on having it cleared up to-night! I don’t suppose he’s asleep! Fetch him down!

Harry. Very well! I will fetch him down! [Exit.

Dolly. [Paces furiously up and down.] Me! Lessons in economy! Lessons in economy! Me! Lessons in economy!

Re-enter HARRY.

Harry. He’ll be down in a minute! Meantime, [very angry] I want to know what any woman in this world wants with two dozen cache corsets?

[Banging his free hand on the bills.

Dolly. We’ll clear up Miss Smithson first

Harry. No, we will not clear up Miss Smithson

Dolly. Because you can’t clear up Miss Smithson

Harry. I can clear up Miss Smithson

Dolly. You cannot clear up Miss Smithson

MATT appears at door in dressing-gown, rubbing his eyes and
looking very sleepy.

Dad, you remember Miss Smithson

Matt. [Coming in, very sleepy.] Smithson?

Dolly. The girl at the hotel at Folkestone, that Harry paid so much attention to.

Harry. I paid no more attention to Miss Smithson than was absolutely necessary. Did I, Mr. Barron?

Dolly. Oh! Oh! Dad, you remember

Matt. Not for the moment

Dolly. Not the disgraceful way Harry there’s no other word carried on!

Harry. I did not carry on Mr. Barron, I appeal to you.

Dolly. Dad!

Matt. My dear, I certainly did not notice

Dolly. No, he was far too careful to let anyone notice it, except his own wife!

Harry. You lay your life when I do carry on my wife will be the last person I shall allow to notice it!

Dolly. I daresay! Dad, did you hear that?

Matt. Yes. [Rousing himself a little.] Now, Harry, what about this Miss Smithson?

Harry. That’s what I want to know!

Matt. Who is Miss Smithson?

Dolly. Surely you remember that lanky girl

Harry. Miss Smithson is not lanky

Dolly. Not lanky? Not lanky?! You can’t have any eyes !

Harry. That’s what I’ve often thought

Dolly. [Explodes.] Oh! Oh! Dad!

Matt. Come, Harry, let’s clear this up. [Suddenly.] Smithson? Oh yes! The girl who sat on your left at your dinner party

Dolly. That’s the one!

Matt. I should call her a trifle lanky, Harry.

Dolly. A trifle? Well, never mind! You remember that dinner party

Matt. [Cautiously.] Ye-es.

Dolly. You remember how she waited for a lull in the talk, and then she said with that silly, simpering, appealing look

Harry. Miss Smithson’s look is not silly or simpering.

Dolly. Well, it’s appealing, isn’t it?

Harry. [With a little chuckle.] Oh, yes, it’s appealing.

Dolly. [Enraged.] Oh! Dad!

Matt. [Quiets her.] Shush! What did she say?

Dolly. She said with a very marked glance at me, “My dress allowance is a hundred and twenty a year, and I don’t understand how any reasonable woman can wish for more!” What do you think of that?

Matt. Well, if she did say that, and if she glanced at you, it

Dolly. Yes?

Matt. It wasn’t very nice of her.

Dolly. Nice? It was an insult! A direct, intentional, abominable insult, wasn’t it?

Matt. Yes, yes, decidedly, under the circumstances

Dolly. And Harry ought to have resented it?

Matt. At his own dinner table he couldn’t, could he?

Dolly. Yes! At least, if he couldn’t resent it, he ought to have shown that he resented it. Instead of that, he actually asked her to give me a few lessons in economy!

Harry. I did not!

Dolly. Pardon me, you did! Me! his wife! Lessons in economy!

Harry. And a thundering good thing if she had given you a few before you ran up these bills!

[Dashes his hand on to the bills.

Dolly. There! You hear?!

Matt. Come, Harry, you oughtn’t to have asked another woman to give your wife lessons in economy.

Harry. I didn’t!

Dolly. Dad! You were there

Matt. Yes, but I don’t quite remember

Dolly. You don’t remember?! Surely you can remember a simple thing like that when your own daughter tells you it was so!

Matt. Now, Harry, what did you really say to Miss Smithson?

Harry. I said she might give some women a lesson in economy.

Matt. Not meaning Dolly?

[Giving him a wink to say “No."

Harry. No-o.

Dolly. Then whom did he mean? Lessons in economy? Whom could he mean if he didn’t mean me?

Harry. Just so!

Dolly. Ah! There! You see, he owns it!

Matt. No, no, I’m sure he doesn’t mean it! Did you, Harry?

[Winking at HARRY.

Dolly. Then will he please say what he really does mean?

Matt. Now, Harry, what do you really mean?

Harry. Well, you remember that night of the dinner party at Folkestone.

Matt. [Cautiously.] Ye-es.

Harry. After they’d all gone you and I went into the smoking-room, didn’t we?

Matt. [Cautiously.] Ye-es.

Harry. And you said, “Doll’s in one of her high gales again!”

Dolly. High gales?! [Indignant.] Father! You didn’t say that?

Matt. No, no, my dear

Harry. Excuse me, those were your exact words. High gales!

Matt. I don’t remember.

Dolly. No, you don’t remember anything.

Harry. You said, “What on earth was up between her and Miss Smithson at dinner?”

Dolly. You see! That proves exactly what I said!

Harry. No, by Jove, it proves that your father noticed what a confounded, cussed

Dolly. Go on! Go on! Say it!

Matt. Shush! Shush! Well, Harry, what did you say?

Harry. Well, not wishing to give Dolly away

Dolly. Ha! ha! Not wishing to give me away!

Harry. Not then! But, by Jove, if any decent chap were to come along now

Dolly. [Exploding.] There! There! [To MATT.] And you sit there and hear my own husband insult me in my own house!

Matt. No! No!

Dolly. But there you sit! There you sit!

Matt. [Jumps up fiercely.] Now, Harry!

Harry. [Fiercely.] Well, now, Mr. Barron

Dolly. Why don’t you defend me? Why don’t you demand an apology?

Matt. What for?

Dolly. For everything! For to-night! For that night at Folkestone!

Harry. That night at Folkestone! Why, your father was quite on my side

Matt. What?

Dolly. He wasn’t; were you, Dad?

Matt. No no.

Harry. What? [Fiercely.] Do you remember exactly what passed between us in the smoking-room, Mr. Barron?

Matt. No.

Harry. Then I’ll tell you

Matt. [Retreating towards door.] No no I don’t want to know

Harry. [Following him up, shouting a little.] You said, “I know what she’s like in her high gales! I remember what the little devil was like at home.”

Dolly. [Pursuing him up to door.] Father! You didn’t say that!

Matt. No no, my darling quite a mistake quite a mistake altogether a mistake.

[Gets thankfully off at back.

Dolly. [Calls after him.] Then why don’t you stay and tell him so!

Harry. [Shouts after MATT.] It’s not a mistake!

Dolly. [Calls after MATT.] It’s cowardly of you to leave me here to be insulted.

Harry. [Goes up to door, shouts.] It’s not a mistake! You patted me on the back and said, “Poor chap! Poor chap!” You know you did! [Closes the door, comes fiercely down to DOLLY.] It’s not a mistake! He could see you had insulted Miss Smithson.

Dolly. I had not insulted her! I was far too civil to her, considering that the next evening you took her out on the Leas, when you ought to have been at billiards

Harry. I took her out on the Leas!

Dolly. Yes! You weren’t in the billiard-room! So where were you? Where were you?

Harry. I jolly well don’t know, and I I

Dolly. Say it! Say it!

Harry. I damned well don’t care!

Dolly. Ah!

[She seizes the box, brings it up to him, puts it irritatingly in front of him; he seizes it, they struggle for it, trying to take it out of each other’s hands; she screams, he tries to get it; there is a scuffle round the room; he tries to rub her knuckles; she makes a little feint to bite him; in the struggle the box drops on the floor a little below the table, right.

Dolly. Jobling! Jobling! Jobling!

Harry. Now, madam, for the last time, have I all your bills?

Dolly. Jobling! Jobling! Jobling!

Harry. Have I all your bills?

Dolly. Jobling! Jobling! Jobling!

Harry. Once more, madam, have I all your bills?

Dolly. No, you haven’t!

Harry. Then please hand them over to me this instant, so that I may take proceedings.

Dolly. [Laughing.] Proceedings! Ha! Take your proceedings!

Harry. By Jove! I will take proceedings.

Dolly. Take them! Take them!

Harry. [Walking about furiously with the bills.] So this is the way the money goes! [Banging the bills.] While I have to smoke twopenny cigars! And can’t get a decent dinner!

Dolly. You can’t get a decent dinner?

Harry. No! Look at those messes last night. They weren’t fit for a cook-shop.

Dolly. Oh! Oh! Oh! Get a housekeeper! Get a housekeeper!

Harry. By Jove! that’s what I mean to do!

Dolly. Have Miss Smithson! Send for her to-morrow morning! I’ll hand her over the keys!

Harry. [Shouting.] And please hand me over the rest of your bills! The rest of your bills, madam!

[DOLLY marches up to the desk.

MATT appears at door in dressing-gown.

Matt. I can’t get a wink of sleep

[DOLLY takes out about twenty more bills.

Harry. I insist on seeing the whole lot! So there!

Dolly. [Flourishing the bills, strewing them on the floor.] Well there! And there! And there! And there! Now you’ve got the whole lot! And I hope you’re satisfied. I’m going into Renie’s room! [Exit.

Harry. I insist on your going through these bills

[Following her off. Their voices are heard retreating upstairs, DOLLY saying, “go through the bills! Send for Miss Smithson! Have her here to-morrow morning! Take your proceedings,” HARRY saying, “I insist on going through the bills to-night! Do you hear, madam, I insist! Will you come down and go through these bills,” etc.

Matt. [Listens, as their voices die away. When the voices have ceased, he surveys the scene.] We’re making a splendid start for the New Year!

[Sees the box on the floor, picks it up, carefully places it on
table and goes off.

CURTAIN.

(A year passes between Acts III and IV.)