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Library of the Voysey estate.
edward, in evening dress, enters the room, followed by alice, two young people perhaps in their thirties.
alice: You didn't say a word at dinner.
edward: Did I not?
alice: A more engagée response might be, "My dear cousin, forgive me . . . business matters," and so on.
edward: I beg your pardon.
alice: . . . Yes, or, perhaps, "My dear. You've found me out again. The press of work, so on . . . banishes e'en the thought of you from my mercantile soul."
edward: Forgive me.
edward: Father's still at the table.
alice: And you were late.
edward: I beg your pardon, Alice.
alice: Thank you, from which must one not conclude that you are working much too hard; or, if observant, that you have lost all interest in me?
(Enter mrs. voysey, a woman of a certain age.)
mrs. voysey: He has what, my dear?
alice: I say, your son has lost all interest in me.
mrs. voysey: We have lost interest? What is she saying, Edward? Why are you speaking of business; haven't we spoken enough of business?
edward: She isn't speaking of business, Mother.
mrs. voysey: If not, then she will be unique among our family. Edward. I take my oath. Have you seen my "work"?
alice: I believe I saw it in the blue room.
mrs. voysey: What?
alice: I believe, I saw it in the . . .
mrs. voysey: In the blue room.
(george booth, an older gentleman, enters.)
mrs. voysey: (Exiting) What is this interest that they say we've lost?
george booth: On my word, I've no idea. Edward: is there something I should know?
alice: I said he's lost interest in me . . .
george booth: Oh, good. Then we needn't tighten our belts, eh.
alice: That's right.
george booth: Lost interest in Alice, Edward.
alice: Yes, and the shame of it all, after these long years of protestations.
george booth: You staying up this weekend, Alice, or you going back to town?
alice: No, Mr. Booth, I am to stay here, pining, pining . . .
george booth: Over what? Our, our universal understanding is that it's you have been the long-sought quarry . . . Hugh coming up, Edward?
edward: I beg your pardon.
george booth: I say: Is Hugh coming up?
edward: I believe he is.
george booth: I wanted to tell him something. What did I want to tell him?
(mr. voysey, the paterfamilias, enters.)
george booth: Ah, ah, may we, now the cloth is drawn, proceed to business?
mr. voysey: At dinner, George, at dinner?
george booth: Uh, no, we're on to the port-we're on to the port, eh?
(Enter peacey, a middle-aged man in business attire, carrying his overcoat and hat.)
george booth: (Of peacey) And what is this, then?
peacey: Evening, Mr. Booth.
george booth: Good evening, Peacey, what news?
peacey: No news, such as is news, Mr. Booth, just these indents to sign . . . (He passes papers to mr. voysey, from the briefcase which he carries.) And I beg your pardon, to disturb your evening.
george booth: What of our Australian bonds, Mr. Peacey?
peacey: The bonds? Sound as a nut, sir.
george booth: There's no worry, then? No need for drastic measure, fear of want, and so on. (Pause)
mr. voysey: He's joking with you, Peacey.
peacey: Well, I know it, sir. (Noticing edward) Ah. Mr. Edward. Evening, sir . . . And Miss Alice.
alice: Good evening, Peacey . . .
mr. voysey: How's my boy doing, Peacey?
peacey: Like his father and his grandfather before him, sir, all business, through and through.
mr. voysey: High praise indeed. (He finishes with the forms.)
peacey: And in the office, working double tides all weekend.
mr. voysey: In the office on the weekend, was he, Peacey?
peacey: Yes, sir.
mr. voysey: Ah ha.
peacey: Like father like son, if I may.
mr. voysey: Yes. I understand.
peacey: I'm sorry to disturb your evening, sir.
mr. voysey: No, it's good you came. Good you came.
(The party enters from the dining room.)
mr. voysey: (To peacey) Tell Simmons that if he satisfies you on the details of the lease it'll be all right. Make a note for me of Mr. Garinger's address at Mentone, (Pause) and I'll take care of the Atkinson letter first thing Monday morning.
peacey: Very good, sir.
george booth: Peacey . . .
major booth voysey: (A strapping fellow in middle-age, entering) Of course I'm hot and strong for conscription.
george booth: (To peacey) Nothing urgent, eh? Eh?
major booth voysey: Get 'em out there, get their knees brown.
george booth: My dear boy, the country'll never stand for it.
major booth voysey: If we, if the Army, no, you're quite wrong George, if we lay the hand to the heart, the Army mind you, and say, to the country, on our honor, conscription is essential for your safety.
mr. voysey: Thank you, Peacey . . .
peacey: (Taking his leave) Sir . . . good evening, gentlemen.
major booth voysey: Then, what answer, eh?
peacey: Miss Alice.
major booth voysey: What answer has the country? Eh?
mr. voysey: Well, you ask the country.
major booth voysey: Perhaps I shall, perhaps I shall. Perhaps I'll chuck the service, and go into the House.
(mr. voysey goes after peacey.)
mr. voysey: Ah, Peacey, the one more thing . . . (He exits.)
major booth voysey: A life of service? I'm not a conceited man, but I believe, were I to speak out, on a subject, which I understand, Edward, eh? Eh?
major booth voysey: And only on that subject, then, the House will listen. Have to listen.
george booth: Do you think the gentlemen of England will allow themselves to be herded with a lot of shopkeepers and ploughmen, and be forced to carry guns?
alice: Yes, Major, what'd you say to that . . . ?
major booth voysey: One moment: have you thought, have you thought of the great physical improvement which conscription would bring in the manhood of the country?
george booth: I thought of it, dear boy, when you brought it up those many-several times during dinner.
major booth voysey: Yes, but Edward wasn't there, and I'd like his opinion. Where were you, boy, by the way?
alice: I believe he has a mistress. (Pause)
major booth voysey: Ah, no, he doesn't have a mistress. You don't have a mistress, do you? Then, where were you, boy?
edward: I was at work.
alice: A mistress might be a sign of passion.
major booth voysey: Quite right. Then, let me ask you, to think, of the moral and physical improvement which conscription would bring in the manhood of this country, Edward . . . S'what this country needs.
alice: What is that, Major?
major booth voysey: Chest. Chest and discipline. These are the fundaments of honor.
(mr. voysey reenters.)
mr. voysey: Ah, yes, son, back upon conscription?
major booth voysey: Edward didn't hear it.
mr. voysey: No, we must all hear it. Mustn't we?
major booth voysey: You've taught us to speak out, haven't you, sir?
mr. voysey: It seems I have. (To colpus, a clerical man, as he enters) Ah, Vicar . . .
major booth voysey: By the by, what was Peacey doing here?
mr. voysey: (To colpus) You were at Lady Mary's t'other evening, weren't you . . . ?
major booth voysey: Nothing wrong at the shop, eh?
colpus: Yes, I was.
mr. voysey: She giving us anything toward our chapel window?
colpus: Five pounds more. She's promised me five pounds.
mr. voysey: Then how will the debt stand?
major booth voysey: . . . Nothin' wrong at the shop . . . ?
george booth: Oh, please . . .
colpus: The debt will be, it will be thirty-three, no, I tell a lie, thirty-five pounds.
mr. voysey: Still . . .
colpus: Oh, yes.
mr. voysey: We're a long time, clearing it off.
colpus: Well, now that the window's up, people don't seem quite so willing to contribute.
major booth voysey: We must mention that to Hugh.
colpus: Not that Hugh's work ain't universally admired. I have heard Hugh's work praised by the most competent of judges.
major booth voysey: As it should be.
colpus: And Trenchard has subscribed two pounds.
mr. voysey: When is Hugh coming?
george booth: When is Hugh coming? I saw the window-that's what I wanted to tell him.
colpus: But perhaps . . .
george booth: . . . And I admired it.
coplus: Perhaps it would have been wise to delay the unveiling until the debt had been cleared.
mr. voysey: Well, it was my wish that my son should do the design. I suppose, in the end, I'll have to send a check. What do you say Edward?
george booth: I saw his design for the window and I thought it was quite pleasant.
mr. voysey: Edward?
mr. voysey: Are you sleeping, boy? You didn't eat enough to get you groggy . . .
george booth: Perhaps he's in love.
major booth voysey: He's been in love for years, why should it break out now?
alice: Why, indeed.
major booth voysey: He been neglecting you? Say the word, and I'll take him out and cane him.
alice: Thank you, sir.
major booth voysey: See if I don't. Girl like that. What's wrong with you, boy, you lack "initiative."
(ethel, a beautiful girl in her thirties, enters.)
ethel: Father. You men have been in here too long.
alice: Thank you, Ethel.
ethel: Oh, you know . . . And Mother asks: have you taken your pill?
(honor, the older sister, follows ethel into the library.)
ethel: And you're to come back.
honor: (Prompting ethel) "Has he taken his pill?"
ethel: And you're to come back.
mr. voysey: And, why, why does she want us back? Honor?
honor: It's not Mother wants us back.
mr. voysey: Who is it, then?
honor: Ethel wants to convene a free and frank discussion of her wedding present.
ethel: That's not true. Well, it is true, but it's not pleasant.
mr. voysey: Why not, darling?
ethel: It's not pleasant to be tagged as avaricious, really, Honor.
edward: Really, Honor.
honor: Yes, yes . . .
ethel: And, in fact, in fact, if you will, I have decided, Dennis and I have decided that we want no wedding present.
edward: What do you want, a check?
ethel: That's right. We want a check.
major booth voysey: Well, that's blunt, that's awfully blunt, innit?
ethel: (To mr. voysey) We feel a check will give greater scope to your generosity. Of course, if you, in your benevolence, decide to add some "trimmin's," in the shape of a piano, or a turkey carpet, well. But, all in all, Dennis and I would be over the moon for a check.
mr. voysey: You're a minx.
ethel: What's the use of having money, if you don't spend it on me?
mr. voysey: What am I going to do with you?
ethel: Come to the billiard room, I want to play billiards.
mr. voysey: Now she wants us to play billiards, why?
ethel: To display my innate superiority.
mr. voysey: To hear is to obey . . .
(He rises, and all except edward begin to follow him.)
ethel: And Mother asks have you taken your pill.
mr. voysey: I've had my pill.
ethel: Scout's honor. Seriously.
mr. voysey: Yes. I have.
ethel: Come on, then.
(edward remains seated.)
ethel: Edward, you, too.
edward: Yes, I'll be right along. Father . . .
george booth: Eh? And the bonds. What of the Australian bonds?
mr. voysey: No, no business . . .
edward: Father . . .
mr. voysey: No more business tonight . . . And where are my Havanas? Honor?
honor: In the billiard room.
mr. voysey: They're in the billiard room, well, then . . .
major booth voysey: (Exiting) You coming, Edward . . . ?
george booth: Stick with the bonds, eh? Should I stick with the bonds?
mr. voysey: Well, I'll ask you: why stick with 'em?
george booth: The high interest.
mr. voysey: Question, then, what do you want with it, you never spend half your income.
george booth: Forty-two percent is pleasing.
mr. voysey: That's what it is: you're a buccaneer.
george booth: As long as I have you to advise me.
mr. voysey: The man who don't know must trust in the man who does.
george booth: Oh, my Lord, what shall I do when you're gone . . .
mr. voysey: Well, there's Edward . . .
george booth: Well, Edward, yes . . . (To edward) No offense . . . No offense, Edward, I meant no offense.
edward: I'm sure you did not, sir . . .
george booth: (To honor) But, he's not his father, is he . . . ? (He exits.)
honor: Now, he knows the Havanas live in the billiard room. Wherever else would they be?
alice: Where, indeed.
honor: What a difficult, difficult family, Alice. All except Edward.
edward: Why me?
alice: Yes, I shall save the city, should you find me just the one honorable man.
mr. voysey: (Calling, offstage) Honor.
honor: Yes, Father . . . (Leading edward and alice)
alice: (Pause) The Pettifers asked after you.
edward: Were they here?
alice: Yes. They left early . . .
alice: I spent August with them, you know. (Pause) Did you know that?
edward: Yes, I knew.
alice: May I suppose you missed me? (Pause) What is it, Edward?
edward: No, it's nothing.
alice: You haven't, you haven't even proposed to me, since I've got back.
alice: I miss it. My word, how you've become disagreeable.
(mr. voysey sticks his head back into the library.)
mr. voysey: Are you coming, Edward?
alice: Your son's turned cold, Mr. Voysey.
mr. voysey: Cold toward you? Then that's cold, indeed. What's wrong with the boy?
alice: I fear he has found someone else. (Pause) And I had so looked forward to his arrival. (She exits.)
mr. voysey: (Pause) S'all right between you and her, is it? (Pause) You should have seen her primping all this afternoon, eh, in respect of your arrival. (Pause) Good girl. (Pause) Come on, then, join the party.
mr. voysey: What is it? (Pause) What is it? (He goes to the door and closes it.) Mmm?
edward: I, uh . . .
mr. voysey: All right, whatever it is. Whatever the mess is: you won't have been the first. And you won't be the first to get clear of it. Now, you tell me: what is it? It's some girl, eh?
mr. voysey: (Pause) It wouldn't be the first time in life. If that's what it is-it can be dealt with, but it must be faced.
(ethel comes into the library.)
ethel: Mother says come now, the both of you, or it'll be the worse for you.
mr. voysey: We'll be right there.
ethel: No, I'm to fetch you.
mr. voysey: Thank you, dear, we'll be right along.
ethel: Having a heart-to-heart, are we?
mr. voysey: Just a chat.
ethel: Don't turn lugubrious, I've told you, now, that you're wanted.
mr. voysey: I've known few things, in my life, couldn't be threshed out in a quarter-hour.
ethel: I'm going to hold you to it. (She exits.)
mr. voysey: Now: You didn't come down Saturday, you come home tonight, two hours late. Where have you been and what is it?
edward: I've been at the office.
From the Trade Paperback edition.