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JOSEPHINE TEY
WRITING AS GORDON DAVIOT

SWEET COZ

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A PLAY IN THREE ACTS

First Published in Plays by Gordon Daviot, Vol. 3, Peter Davies, 1954

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2016
Produced by Colin Choat

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                            CHARACTERS

                            DINAH PARTRIDGE
                            HECTOR PARTRIDGE
                            JOB
                            MRS BINT
                            JEMIMA CLAMP


                                 ACT I


The living-room of a small flat on a morning in early Spring. It is a
pleasant room, modern in furnishing and decoration without being
mannered. It is also a woman's room, without being particularly
feminine. In the rear wall is the entrance to the passage, off which are
the bedrooms. In the left wall the fireplace, with an electric fire
burning. In the right wall the window, and down from it the door to the
vestibule and kitchen.

A table near the fire is half-set for breakfast.

Enter MRS BINT.

MRS BINT 'obliged' for years, owing to the 'ongoings' of her husband,
but when she met DINAH PARTRIDGE she ceased 'obliging' and slept in,
and so became a housekeeper. At the moment she is carrying a tray filled
with what she calls 'the rest of the dry things'. That is, with
everything necessary for breakfast except the actual food. She mutters
to herself in a worried fashion as she lays the things. When she has
finished she lingers in front of the table and tries what is apparently
a rehearsal.

  MRS BINT: (addressing an imaginary presence behind the table) If it's
all the same to you, miss, I'd like to—(Trying again) I'm sorry to
say it, miss, but I've decided—(She gives it up for the moment,
fetches a chair, places it on the side nearest the fire, and tries
again) Things bein' as they are, miss, I think it's only right to tell
you—(She pauses and gives it up once more. She picks up a teaspoon
from the saucer, beats on the edge of the saucer with it, replaces it,
and goes out to fetch the rest of the things. She comes back with a
substantial breakfast for one: coffee, eggs and bacon, and toast. No one
has come from the bedroom, so she beats a second tattoo with the spoon
and waits with it poised)

  DINAH: (off) Coming!

   [As MRS BINT is setting out the dishes, DINAH comes in from the
      passage. She is twenty-eight; good-looking without being a beauty,
      tailored without being mannish, independent without being
      farouche. A pleasant creature; just a little smug, just a little
      professionally bright, just a little too conscious of 'owing not
      any man'. But charming withal.]

  DINAH: (brightly) Good morning, Mrs Bint.

  MRS BINT: (with reserve) Good morning, miss.

  DINAH: (making straight for the table, with a glance at the clock as
she comes) Nearly half-past eight, I observe. That is the result of an
evening out. It is just as well that Annual Balls are annual. Is this
the new bacon?

  MRS BINT: That's the new bacon, miss.

  DINAH: Still very fat. Tell Rapson we like some protein.

  MRS BINT: Yes, miss.

  DINAH: (eating) It's very warm in here. You might turn down the fire
a little. What is the outside temperature?

  MRS BINT: I don't know. I haven't looked this morning.

  DINAH: (mildly) Look now, then.

  MRS BINT: (crossing to the window and opening it) I don't know what a
drop of mercury's likely to know about the weather.

  DINAH: (scenting the atmosphere) Your lumbago troubling you this
morning, Mrs Bint?

  MRS BINT: No, thank you, I've no lumbago. (She looks at the glass
hanging outside the window and gives the figure)

  DINAH: Mild for February. Everyone will be wanting tonics. Any
telephones when I was out last night, Mrs Bint?

  MRS BINT: Just one. The message is on the pad.

  DINAH: What did it say?

  MRS BINT: It said that Mrs Snitcher's stomach's settled nicely.

  DINAH: I find it in my heart to envy Mrs Snitcher. Either I am getting
too old for Hospital Balls, or I am developing a liver. I forgot to look
at my tongue this morning. All right, Mrs Bint, you needn't wait. Do
what you like about dinner. I'm too late to think about it. Chops,
fillet of sole, anything.

  MRS BINT: If I could speak to you for a minute, miss.

  DINAH: Won't it keep till tonight, you masterpiece of worry?

  MRS BINT: No, miss, I'd like to get it off my chest.

  DINAH: What is it? A breakage?

  MRS BINT: Oh, no. There ain't nothing broken.

  DINAH: Don't tell me your husband has turned up again.

  MRS BINT: Oh, no. According to the law of averages he ain't due yet a
bit.

  DINAH: What is it then?

  MRS BINT: (taking her fence with a rush) I should like to give a
week's notice dating from today, miss.

  DINAH: Mrs Bint! Why? Are you ill, or something?

  MRS BINT: No, miss. I'm very well, thank you.

  DINAH: Then why do you want to leave me? All suddenly like this. Have I
said anything to offend you?

  MRS BINT: No, it ain't anything you said—

  DINAH: I know I'm crotchety sometimes, but you must make allowances. In
my job the stink of iodoform gets into one's hair. You have always made
allowances so far. We have always agreed so well, I thought you—

  MRS BINT: Oh, yes, miss, I'm not denying that. A nicer lady in the way
of manners you couldn't meet—

  DINAH: I thought you had been so happy this last year—

  MRS BINT: I have, miss, I have indeed. After obliging by the day for
twenty years, it's been a grand life. I've always said so, and I shall
always continue to say so. You've been very kind to me, and a nicer lady
to work for there never was.

  DINAH: (losing her poise) Then if I'm an angel with seven haloes,
what in thunder do you want to leave me for?

  MRS BINT: I don't want to. I'm driven to it. You see, everyone has
something they won't stand for. Some doesn't like green, and some gets
sick at the sight of snails, and—

  DINAH: And what, may I ask, is your breaking-point?

  MRS BINT: Riotous living.

  DINAH: (taken aback) What!

  MRS BINT: Maybe I'm narrow-minded, but that's the way I was brought up,
and I can't help it any more than I can help the size of my feet. I'm a
respectable woman.

  DINAH: (dryly) No one ever doubted it. And if you refer to the goings
on of the artist creature in Number Forty, I can't see how riotous
living up two flights of stairs can make any—

  MRS BINT: (portentous with meaning) I was referring to events
nearer home, miss.

  DINAH: (having stared at her, incredulous) Do you seriously mean that
you are giving me notice because for once I've had a night out?

  MRS BINT: I'm sorry, miss, but I won't countenance light living.

  DINAH: Light living! My God! I go to bed at eleven o'clock for three
hundred and sixty-four nights in the year, and because I come home with
the milk on the three hundred and sixty-fifth you give me notice. It's
unbelievable.

  MRS BINT: It isn't just the coming in late—

  DINAH: (with heavy sarcasm) No, no, of course not; it's the
immorality of it all. (Coldly) Very well, Mrs Bint, if you want to
leave me, of course, I accept your notice.

  MRS BINT: I'm very sorry, miss. Of course, though I say a week, that
doesn't mean that I won't stay till you're suited. I wouldn't—

  DINAH: I shall telephone the agencies this morning, and by the end of
the week I shall no doubt have someone to take your place. Until then I
hope that you can steel your conscience sufficiently to condone my
purple life. Will you see if the porter has brought up the morning
paper.

  MRS BINT: I'd just like to say, miss, that I deeply regret—

  DINAH: Don't say anything, Mrs Bint.

  MRS BINT: Very good, miss. How many shall I prepare dinner for?

  DINAH: (faintly surprised) Just for myself, as usual.

  MRS BINT: (faintly surprised in turn) Oh? Very good, miss. Shall I
take some breakfast to the gentleman?

  DINAH: (who has resumed her breakfast, pausing) What? What gentleman?

  MRS BINT: The gentleman you brought home last night.

  DINAH: Have you taken leave of your senses?

  MRS BINT: (with a trace of smugness) Not me, I haven't, miss.

  DINAH: Do you seriously mean that--that someone stayed the night here?

  MRS BINT: Had you forgotten him, miss?

  DINAH: Forgotten? I don't even remember br—I don't believe it! Who
was it?

  MRS BINT: A complete stranger to me, miss.

  DINAH: When did you see him?

  MRS BINT: When I took his boots off. They were spoiling Mr Hector's
eiderdown, and Mr Hector's that particular.

  DINAH: You mean he was drunk?

  MRS BINT: Paralytic.

  DINAH: (in a small voice) I might as well tell you, Mrs Bint, that I
have no recollection at all of coming home last night. It's most
extraordinary. Complete aphasia. I think I must have been overworking.

  MRS BINT: (judicially) Well, some calls it that.

  DINAH: Did I seem--did I seem quite normal?

  MRS BINT: All but.

  DINAH: But what?

  MRS BINT: A strong smell of gin and a look in your eye.

  DINAH: But if he was as drunk as that how did I—? Did you? Did
I—?

  MRS BINT: The taxi-man put him to bed. You gave him a fiver.

  DINAH: (reviewing it; with conviction) I must have been drunk.

  MRS BINT: It was worth it. He's no bantam, your gentleman friend.

  DINAH: I didn't mean the money. Great heavens, what a mess. And you
mean that the man is actually in there at this moment?

                  [From the distance comes the crash of broken glass.]

  MRS BINT: I think that's him now. (There is the sound of movement in
the passage) If you'll excuse me, miss—

  DINAH: No, don't go, Mrs Bint, don't leave me.

  MRS BINT: But wouldn't it be better—?

  DINAH: Stay where you are.

   [From the passage door there enters tentatively a tall, unshaven
      figure clad in an expensive dressing-gown that is much too small
      for him, shabby trousers, brilliant bedroom slippers of the sort
      that are only sole and toe, and a muffler that matches the
      dressing-gown. He is bearing in one hand the remains of a
      drinking-glass.

   [And since for the rest of the play he is to be known as JOB, he
      may as well be called JOB straight away.]

  JOB: Good morning.

  DINAH: Good morning.

  JOB: I'm afraid I've broken a tumbler.

  DINAH: Oh, that's all right. It--they're quite inexpensive.

  JOB: I found the dressing-gown in the wardrobe.

  DINAH: Yes. Yes, it's my brother's.

  JOB: Thank God! (In reply to her eyebrows) I was afraid it was your
husband's.

  DINAH: (unable to take her eyes off him) I must have been very
drunk.

  JOB: I look better when I'm shaved.

  DINAH: (hastily) I didn't mean that.

                                          [There is an awkward pause.]

  MRS BINT: (briskly, into the silence) Bacon and egg, ham and egg,
scrambled eggs, or plain boiled.

  JOB: Oh, thank you. Whatever is going.

                                                      [Exit MRS BINT.]

  DINAH: Won't you sit down.

  JOB: Thank you.

  DINAH: I hope you slept well?

  JOB: Very well indeed, thank you. A most comfortable bed. And you?

  DINAH: Oh, I always sleep well.

  JOB: A most enviable accomplishment.

  DINAH: (into a pause) Would you like to begin on the toast while Mrs
Bint is getting your eggs?

  JOB: Good idea. Thank you.

  DINAH: Did you enjoy the ball?

  JOB: The ball?

  DINAH: Last night.

  JOB: I don't think I was there.

  DINAH: Oh.

  JOB: Should I have been?

  DINAH: Well, I naturally thought—(That it was there we met, she is
going to say, but recollects herself) Most people go.

  JOB: I have always been deficient in the herd instinct. One of my
greatest weaknesses.

  DINAH: Really? What are your others?

  JOB: Scotch, Irish, rye, and bourbon. Fair play: what are yours?

  DINAH: (seeing a chance to entrench) I--I do the oddest things.

  JOB: Yes, I thought swimming was a little odd.

  DINAH: Swimming? (As he crunches his toast heartily) You did say
swimming?

  JOB: It's just as well that I didn't listen to you, or we'd both have
pneumonia this morning.

  DINAH: Yes, perhaps you were right. (Remembering that if she is at a
disadvantage where the early history of the evening is concerned, he at
least can have no recollection of the end; brightly) It was kind of you
to see me home.

  JOB: Oh. Oh, that was nothing. I was delighted.

  DINAH: (pleased to have him doing the groping for a change) I'm sorry
you missed your last train.

  JOB: Train? Oh, it didn't matter. It was charming of you to put me up.

  DINAH: I hope you didn't have to be at business early this morning.

  JOB: Not at all. If I appeared in the office more than once a week
there would be a sensation.

  DINAH: What office is that?

  JOB: National Relief.

  DINAH: (at a loss again) A most interesting work.

  JOB: You know, it is a shocking thing to say to one's hostess, but I
can't remember your name.

  DINAH: My name is Partridge. Dinah Partridge.

  JOB: Thank you. A charming bird. So modest and--and plump.

  DINAH: (busy deciding that she will not confess to being unaware of
his name) Expensive though.

  JOB: I had not contemplated it from the point of view of possession.
(Before she can consider that) What a very lucky thing for me that
your brother was not at home!

  DINAH: (unguardedly) And for me!

  JOB: What?

  DINAH: (retrieving) I hate making up couch beds in the small hours of
the morning. And Hector wouldn't share his bed with anyone.

  JOB: (savouring it) Hector.

  DINAH: Hector is my brother.

  JOB: I can hardly blame your brother. It is a very pretty bed. Is
Hector a house decorator?

  DINAH: No, he is a poet.

  JOB: That might explain it.

  DINAH: Explain what?

  JOB: The bed. What kind of poet is he, by the way? 'And the reluctant
moon slid down the sky'? That kind? Or

                       'Six sticks
                        And why and wherefore
                        Corrugated, corrugated,
                        Because
                        And the cat's whiskers'?

  DINAH: Do you mean that you don't know Hector?

  JOB: (anxiously) Did I say that I did?

  DINAH: Oh, no. But most people seem to. He wrote Pink Daffodils, you
know.

  JOB: (politely reverent) No, I didn't know.

  DINAH: Do you care for reading?

  JOB: I find it useful.

                                    [Enter MRS BINT with breakfast.]

  DINAH: Ah, here is your breakfast.

  JOB: (staring) And when do you expect your brother back?

  DINAH: Tomorrow, I hope.

  JOB: Ah, that looks marvellous. What a very good cook you keep.

                                       [MRS BINT sniffs and goes out.]

  JOB: That missed the mark, I think.

  DINAH: (coldly) Probably. It was Mrs Bint who took your boots off
last night.

  JOB: Oh, then it wasn't you who put me to bed?

  DINAH: (indignant) Certainly not! Why should you imagine that I
would?

  JOB: Women are apt to become officious with a helpless male body at
their disposal.

  DINAH: The male body is no treat to me. It's my profession.

  JOB: (staring) I can't believe it! You look so—

  DINAH: I'm a doctor.

  JOB: (genuinely shocked) Good God!

  DINAH: And what is Good God about it?

  JOB: It makes me feel very undressed.

  DINAH: Does that worry you?

  JOB: No woman should know as much as that about any man. It isn't in
nature. You probably take one look at me and decide that I am suffering
from cirrhosis of the liver, hernia, and chronic constipation.

  DINAH: No. You are suffering from malnutrition, alcoholic poisoning,
the after-effects of pneumonia and incipient phthisis.

  JOB: (after the slightest pause) You are a very good doctor.
(Resuming his poise) And a charming hostess. I have never enjoyed a
breakfast so much. I'm afraid you are not making much headway with
yours.

  DINAH: I am not very hungry this morning. I—It is not very often
I—(The whole enormity of the situation floods over her in a rush,
and to her horror she finds tears rising)

  JOB: Are you crying, by any chance?

  DINAH: (indignantly) No! (Equally indignantly) Yes! Yes, I'm
crying, and why shouldn't I? I feel awful. I think I'm going to die.

  JOB: For a doctor who has just made an excellent diagnosis I think that
prognostication is nothing short of disgraceful.

  DINAH: (who is now crying openly into her handkerchief) Oh, don't be
so pompous!

  JOB: If you'll tell me where the whisky is, I'll prescribe without
pomp, charge, or delay.

  DINAH: I don't keep whisky in the flat. The stimulant habit is a very
bad one.

  JOB: Don't tell me you are T.T. Not after last night.

  DINAH: Of course not. There is plenty of wine, but only for drinking
with meals.

  JOB: And what, may I ask, do you usually do in a situation like this?

  DINAH: I've never been in a situation like this before.

  JOB: Oh, please don't cry. I'll go directly after breakfast.

  DINAH: (unmollified) Of course you will! If that were all. Mrs Bint's
given notice because of you.

  JOB: Because of you, you mean.

  DINAH: Me!

  JOB: I didn't bring home any strange man at three in the morning. (As
this produces a fresh burst of grief) Oh, my sweet partridge, so modest
and plump and expensive, please don't take on. If it will make you any
happier I shall jump out of the window.

  DINAH: I should only have you in hospital.

  JOB: If I jumped very hard I might make it the morgue.

  DINAH: You couldn't.

  JOB: Why not?

  DINAH: It's only the first floor. Oh, dear, I haven't cried since I
left school.

  JOB: You seem to be doing a lot of things for the first time in
twenty-four hours.

                                                [The telephone rings.]

  DINAH: (mopping her eyes and going to the telephone) And now I shall
have to go round the agencies, and it's practically impossible to get
anyone for housework. (Blowing her nose and lifting the receiver)
Hullo. Who?... Oh, Doctor Simmons. Good morning.... Yes, of course I'm
all right. Why shouldn't I be?... What nonsense!... What utter
nonsense!... Yes, certainly I am.... I never had a hangover in my life,
thank you.... What?... No, just a touch of catarrh.... Yes, certainly I
shall be at hospital at my usual hour. (Slams down the receiver)
Little whippersnapper!

  JOB: He sounded very considerate.

  DINAH: (furious) He said I was the sweetest case of acute alcoholism
he had ever seen. (As JOB laughs; viciously) He wasn't very kind
about you either. He said he wouldn't have guessed my condition--my
condition, indeed!--if it hadn't been for the pupils of my eyes, and my
taking a fancy to a frightful man at a coffee stall. He had to leave me
there, he says, because I wouldn't come away. He wanted to know if I was
all right.

  JOB: And you said you had catarrh.

  DINAH: So that is where I met you?

  JOB: At Toni's. Yes. Had you forgotten?

  DINAH: (luxuriating in the truth) I haven't the faintest recollection
of ever seeing you before in my life.

  JOB: You mean you don't remember any of last night?

  DINAH: (less certainly) Is there much to remember?

  JOB: Well, up to the point when I passed out myself it seemed to me a
pretty full evening. I thought I knew this town fairly well, but you
certainly showed me round.

  DINAH: I showed you round!

  JOB: And for a woman who doesn't keep whisky on tap, you gave a brave
display. I give you best, lady. No one has drunk me under the table in
twenty years.

  DINAH: Eat your eggs. They're getting cold. (She pours away her cold
coffee and pours out fresh)

  JOB: So I wasn't the only one who was surprised this morning.

  DINAH: Were you surprised?

  JOB: I was practically paralysed. I don't usually waken up in bedrooms
like Hector's.

  DINAH: What did you think?

  JOB: Well, after I had considered the pillows, I decided that I was
being rescued.

  DINAH: The pillows?

  JOB: Yes; the other one was virgin, you see. And then, after some deep
research, I remembered everything from Toni's up to the fire—

  DINAH: Fire?

  JOB: The fire at Timpson's warehouse.

  DINAH: Were we there?

  JOB: We were. And I decided that, all things considered, it couldn't be
rescue. Just bed and breakfast and no strings. The awkward part of it
was that you didn't have a face.

  DINAH: A face!

  JOB: I could see you arguing with the fire-engine man—

  DINAH: What was I arguing about?

  JOB: You wanted to buy his boots.

  DINAH: What on earth for?

  JOB: To grow geraniums in, you said. But you didn't have any face. You
didn't seem to have any face in anything we did together. So all I
could do was to purloin a dressing-gown and do some investigating.

  DINAH: (still with the same dream-like detachment) And did you
recognise me?

  JOB: I don't say I would have spotted you at a football match, but as
between you and Mrs Whatshername it was a cinch.

  DINAH: (considering it) It must have been overwork.

  JOB: What must?

  DINAH: My performance last night.

  JOB: Or the Spring, shall we say?

  DINAH: Nonsense. I've been through a lot of Springs.

  JOB: I suppose Spring to a doctor is merely a matter of purgatives.
Primrose in the hedgerows and treacle and brimstone in the home. Your
poor children! Never a picnic outside a given radius from a public
convenience.

  DINAH: (stung) I take it that your progeny, if you have any, greet
the flowering year by flitting fairy-like from bud to bud.

  JOB: I haven't any, but that is how they would carry on--approximately.

  DINAH: How charming. I hope you won't carry on too much when you have
to pay.

  JOB: Pay what?

  DINAH: Bills for shoe-leather and fines for uprooting blue-bells.

  JOB: You have a mundane mind. It distresses me. Last night you tilted
at every windmill, you threw your bonnet over and ran to catch it on the
other side, you were young and gay and—

  DINAH: And drunk.

  JOB: And now you sit there insisting that two and two make four.

  DINAH: (coldly) I find it the most convenient reckoning.

  JOB: Convenience! Expedience! Are these the gods of your idolatry! You
who were so—

  DINAH: Have some mustard. That bacon is very fat. And if I tell you
that my middle name is Martha it may save a lot of misunderstanding in
the future.

  JOB: The future?

  DINAH: (flashing out) For the rest of this abominable breakfast. (In
a sudden burst; glad to find a scapegoat) Have you ever considered
the creature?

  JOB: (startled) Who?

  DINAH: Mary! The smug, selfish, good-for-nothing! Being soulful in
the parlour while Martha sweated in the kitchen.

  JOB: Dinah, you shock me. What is a dish of curried mutton compared
with an idea?

  DINAH: Nothing; if your stomach's full. Have you ever thought that
Martha was struggling with supper for about twenty while Mary was
sitting with her hands folded about an Idea? And don't tell me this
world is built on ideas, because it isn't. It's built on Martha. If it
weren't for Martha we'd still be living in caves.

  JOB: But Mary is older than the caves, my dear, much older. When the
first mud-puppy crawled out of the primeval slime, that was Mary moved
by a great idea.

  DINAH: Not at all. It was Martha deciding that higher up the hill was
better for the children.

  JOB: I suppose that Socrates drank the hemlock merely to get away from
his wife's tongue—

  DINAH: I wouldn't wonder—

  JOB: --and Columbus, what did Columbus sail for? Curiosity?

  DINAH: Columbus sailed for ten per cent of the gross receipts, and he
refused to leave harbour till the contract was water-tight.

  JOB: (smiling at her) Were you born like that, or has living with a
Mary reduced you to Marthadom?

  DINAH: Living with one?

  JOB: I take it that Hector, being a poet, is a Mary.

  DINAH: You don't know much about poets, do you? Poets are the most
practical people on earth.

  JOB: How nice for you. Do they scramble their own eggs when they come
to supper?

  DINAH: Oh, we don't have poets here.

  JOB: Don't talk as if they were bugs.

  DINAH: Poets don't like each other, you know.

  JOB: Oh. Do doctors?

  DINAH: (considering it) Yes. We disapprove of each other, but we are
quite friendly.

  JOB: What made you become a doctor? (His tone says: 'You of all
people')

  DINAH: I wasn't made to.

  JOB: Oh. Did you have a 'call'?

  DINAH: No; I had a quite normal belief that I could do something a
great deal better than it had been done before.

  JOB: But why doctoring?

  DINAH: That seemed the department where stupidity was most rampant.

  JOB: Had you forgotten Parliament?

  DINAH: No. But if I must deal with wind I would rather deal with it in
the stomach. It's curable there.

  JOB: The Goddess of Common Sense.

  DINAH: (amending) Good sense. It's not very common. What is your
profession, by the way?

  JOB: I'm a window-box weeder.

  DINAH: I merely asked.

  JOB: In the summer, that is. In winter I make the holes in crumpets.

  DINAH: I suggest that next winter you do it in Switzerland. (Rising)
And now I must go, or Clamp will be coming to look for me.

  JOB: Oh, don't go yet. Please. It won't matter if you are late for
once. I'm quite sure you have never been as much as thirty seconds late
since first you went to that hospital.

  DINAH: (beginning to collect the various articles she has brought in
with her and thrown on the sofa; hat, coat, gloves, and bag) No, I
haven't.

  JOB: Then it is high time you were. No one appreciates an automaton.
I'm sorry I was fresh about my profession—

  DINAH: You had every right to be. What you do is no proper concern of
mine.

  JOB: It wasn't meant to be snubbing. One gets into the habit of
flippancy.

  DINAH: And anyhow, I have no time to listen to the story of anyone's
life at this hour of the morning.

  JOB: Perhaps not. But there is no need for any mystery about me. I was
an architect.

  DINAH: (relaxing slightly to interest) Why 'was'?

  JOB: Because to be an architect one must build things. And it is a long
time since I built anything.

  DINAH: Were you a good architect?

  JOB: Yes.

  DINAH: What did you build?

  JOB: Houses mostly. And I did a good theatre once. And then there was a
competition--for a county hall. Something good for itself, and good for
the fellow that did it. I put aside everything for that. I was cocksure
of getting it. Well, I didn't. And on the day I heard I had lost, my
wife left me for another man. I don't blame her; for months I hadn't
even noticed that she was around. I drank solidly for five weeks; then I
had pneumonia, as you so shrewdly observed. And now I pick up a living
by drawing straight lines on paper for other men.

  DINAH: I see. You didn't have to tell me, you know.

  JOB: Yes, I had to. I'm sorry, in a way. I think you're that woman in
every hundred who doesn't like a failure. You hate failure in
yourself--that's why you cried with rage this morning--and—

  DINAH: It wasn't with rage!

  JOB: --you despise it in others. However, last night changed my whole
life for me. I am beginning new this morning. No more coffee-stall
dinners at Toni's, no more drawing straight lines for other men. You
have opened new prospects to me.

  DINAH: What prospects?

  JOB: Blackmail, of course.

  DINAH: I should have thought of that and poisoned your breakfast.

  JOB: It's bad to have bodies around.

  DINAH: Not when you can sign the death certificate.

  JOB: Even dead, I would take a lot of explaining to Hector.

  DINAH: (at the window) Yes, the car is there. I must go. Clamp
mustn't come in and find you here.

  JOB: Can't Mrs Whatshername tell your chauffeur to wait a little?

  DINAH: Good gracious, Clamp isn't my chauffeur. She's the head masseuse
at hospital. She happens to live upstairs, and so she gives me a lift to
hospital in the mornings.

  JOB: Gives you a lift! You mean the nurse has a car and the doctor
walks? You're not much of a blackmail prospect, are you?

  DINAH: Oh, we have a car, but Hector has it in the country. And don't
ever let Clamp hear you call her a nurse. I'll leave you to finish your
breakfast. You'd better begin all over again and have it in peace.
(Catching sight of herself in a mirror) Heavens, what a face! (Begins
some hasty repairs)

  JOB: Tell me: there's just one thing: if we ever happen to meet in the
street, do we know each other?

  DINAH: (without turning) Why not? You sold me that terrier bitch I
gave my cousin last year.

  JOB: Oh, did I? That's nice. I can stop and ask about the dog, can't I?

  DINAH: In moderation. You'll find cigarettes in the box. You won't stay
too long, will you? Mrs Bint is very upset about last night,
and--well—

  JOB: I shall be gone in half an hour. I'm sorry I couldn't meet Hector.
Do you like Hector, by the way?

  DINAH: Like him? Of course I like him!

  JOB: Why of course?

  DINAH: He's my brother, isn't he?

  JOB: That's the oddest reason for liking anyone that I ever—

  DINAH: (snatching up her gloves) You know, Clamp is the salt of the
earth, but I shudder to think what she would make of the present
situation if she were to walk in and find this domestic scene—

  CLAMP: (off) Dinah!

  DINAH: Merciful heaven, there she is!

   [Enter JEMIMA CLAMP.

   [CLAMP is square, solid, and uncompromising, and her formidable
      muscles are rapidly being smoothed over by comfortable fat. She
      has a level eye and wildly unbecoming clothes.

   [She is carrying a square cardboard box, and she comes into the room
      as an habitué does, without looking round; aware only that
      DINAH is there, and talking to her without looking at her,
      meanwhile depositing her parcel on the side table between the
      window and the door.]

  CLAMP: If you don't hurry up, Dinah, you're going to create a record by
being late! I've brought you some of the eggs that my farm woman—(As
she turns from the table to the room again she sees JOB) Oh, pardon
me!

  DINAH: Oh, Clamp dear, I'm sorry to keep you, but things are in a
muddle this morning. I don't think you have met my cousin, have you?

  CLAMP: (shaking hands) Oh, are you George?

  DINAH: No; no, this is Job.

  CLAMP: (accepting it) I never knew you had a cousin called Job.

  DINAH: He's just home from Siam.

  CLAMP: (to JOB) Oh. Teak, I suppose.

  JOB: No, twins. Statistics, you know.

  CLAMP: Oh, yes. The incidence of the phenomenon.

  JOB: Eh? Oh, yes. Quite.

  CLAMP: That's very interesting. And what is the incidence, if you don't
mind my asking?

  JOB: Point nought six per thousand.

  CLAMP: As low as that! Why do they call them Siamese, then?

  JOB: Because they began there. The climate, you know.

  CLAMP: (intelligently, but with a shade of doubt) Oh, I see.

  DINAH: I'm ready, Clamp.

  CLAMP: (making no move) Well, now that you're home, perhaps Dinah
will step out a little more, and stop spending her evenings with
Beaumont and company.

  JOB: Who is Beaumont?

  CLAMP: Aren't you a doctor?

  JOB: God forbid.

  CLAMP: But, those twins and things?

  JOB: Oh, that's Civil Service.

  CLAMP: Is it, indeed. (That is comment, not question) Yes, I suppose
it is. Just counting things. Imagine being paid for just counting.
Something you do with beads in the kindergarten. (Hastily) Not that I
don't mean you were probably very good at it. Present company, and all
that.

  DINAH: Clamp, my dear—

  JOB: You haven't told me about this Beaumont she spends her leisure
with.

  CLAMP: What she usually spends her leisure with is Hector's socks,
but—

  DINAH: Oh, Clamp dear, don't be ridiculous. You know Hector would never
dream of wearing anything that was darned!

  CLAMP: I was speaking in parables. She's much too clever, really, for
Beaumont—

  JOB: But who—

  CLAMP: (in patient explanation) We--ll, if you're a doctor, and you
can't decide whether your patient has malaria, D.T.s, or paralysis, you
say: 'Forgive me for a moment', and you jink into the office and look up
Beaumont.

  JOB: I see.

  CLAMP: Doctor's lifebelt, that's Beaumont. Other folks' too, if they
only knew it. And when you've decided between the mumps and the malaria,
there's the prescription all ready for you to write down when you get
back to the surgery, with the proper air of: 'Now, let me see. We
might try—' (In the course of her tale her eye has fallen on
DINAH. She stops abruptly, stares, and resumes in a tone of accusing
ferocity. To DINAH) I told you not to wear that frock!

  DINAH: What frock?

  CLAMP: Last night. Half a dozen miserable yards of tulle to cover your
body on a February evening--and now look at you!

  DINAH: What's the matter with me?

  CLAMP: A nose like an electric bulb, and eyes like a dribbling spaniel.
Have you gargled?

  DINAH: I haven't got a cold, you fool, I've only been sneezing.

  CLAMP: Have you gargled?

  DINAH: (losing her temper) No! I gargled yesterday, and I'll gargle
tomorrow, but today I was rushed, and getting to my job on time is much
more important than swilling a little permanganate round my throat.

  CLAMP: And so the whole of hospital has to be strewn with germs so that
you can clock in at—

  DINAH: I can gargle in hospital, can't I? Come along.

  CLAMP: And meanwhile, I suppose, I get enough germs in my car to put my
department out of action for a fortnight—

  DINAH: Come along!

  CLAMP: Doctor Partridge, you gargle or walk.

  DINAH: (evidently recognising the tone) Oh, blast you! (She flings
down her bag and gloves again and dashes angrily through the passage
door)

  CLAMP: (in her normal voice, to JOB) It was a pretty frock, wasn't
it? (She moves over to inspect the breakfast-table)

  JOB: Lovely.

  CLAMP: (helping herself to a scone and buttering it) Me, I've never
been able to wear a frill without bringing ham to people's minds, but I
like to see other women look nice. Women don't have so much of a time.

  JOB: Don't they?

  CLAMP: No, they don't, take it from me. I think, bar God, no one hears
so many sad tales from women as I do.

  JOB: But tales aren't evidence, are they?

  CLAMP: Oh, I'm dealing with the evidence while they're telling the
tale.

  JOB: Ah, well, perhaps it's retribution. It's thanks to a woman we were
all thrown out of the Garden.

  CLAMP: What authority are you quoting?

  JOB: The Bible, of course.

  CLAMP: According to the Bible, we were thrown out because a man
couldn't say no to something he wanted. You hadn't finished your
breakfast. Go on. Don't mind me.

  JOB: (amused) Would you like some more coffee too? (As well as her
scone, he means)

  CLAMP: I shouldn't mind a spot. (She pours the slops into DINAH'S
cup, and uses the slop-basin as cup) What was the matter with Dinah's
eggs?

  JOB: I think she's feeling a little after-the-ball, you know.

  CLAMP: (with a snort) H'm! She should go dancing oftener, then. Take
it in homeopathic doses. Now that you have stopped counting twins for a
bit, perhaps— (Struck by a horrible thought) Don't tell me you are
a devoted husband with a large family?

  JOB: No, I'm neither a husband nor a father. But why should Dinah need
to be rescued by me? Aren't there any followers?

  CLAMP: Weren't you at the ball?

  JOB: Well, then. What's to hinder her going out every night of her
life?

  CLAMP: Nothing. Nothing. Except the biggest obstacle of all.

  JOB: What is that?

  CLAMP: She likes staying at home. Can you imagine it? A woman who can
look the way she did last night 'liking to stay at home'! If I could
look like that I'd hire a float to convey me round town for a couple of
hours every night, like a holy image, so that no one would miss having a
good look.

  JOB: A woman who likes staying at home is so rare, I think that she
should be encouraged.

  CLAMP: Encouraged! Huh! Encouraged to take a nerve tonic and get
herself some vitality. (Reaching over and dabbing some marmalade on the
buttered scone she is eating) It's all that little blood-sucker,
Hector!

  JOB: So you don't like Hector?

  CLAMP: (pausing to stare at him) Does anyone like Hector?

  JOB: Dinah seems to.

  CLAMP: Oh, Dinah is daffy about him. 'My baby brother', and all that.
Baby brother! Man-sized boa-constrictor.

  JOB: Tell me, have you read Pink Daffodils?

  CLAMP: I have not. Neither has anyone else.

  JOB: Is it not a success, then?

  CLAMP: Oh, yes, people buy it. But that's as far as they go. I think
maybe Mrs Transom-Sills has read it.

  JOB: Mrs—Who is she?

  CLAMP: She is Hector's steady.

  JOB: Oh. And is there a Mr Transom-Sills?

  CLAMP: Not since the Grisons avalanche in '36.

  JOB: Rich widow?

  CLAMP: Very rich and quite a widow.

  JOB: Then why doesn't Hector marry her?

  CLAMP: Hector doesn't like being bothered, if you know what I mean.

  JOB: Do I know what you mean?

  CLAMP: I mean, Hector has been wrapped in cotton-wool so long that some
real fresh air on his skin would probably kill him. If he married Mrs
Transom-Sills he couldn't run home to Dinah any more, every time someone
kicked him in the pants.

  JOB: Doesn't the widow keep a good brand of embrocation?

  CLAMP: If she does it's for her own skin. She's a sensible woman.
That's what's wrong. Hector doesn't want a sensible woman, he wants an
unselfish fool like Dinah. And they don't grow on bushes. Don't think me
personal, will you, but is that Hector's dressing-gown you're wearing?

  JOB: It is.

  CLAMP: Cast-off? I mean, did he give it to you?

  JOB: Oh, no, I found it in his room.

  CLAMP: Then take a tip from a friend and don't be wearing it when he
comes home tomorrow, or there'll be another row for Dinah to smoothe
over. If he thought someone had worn it, he'd probably have prickly
heat.

  JOB: Right now it's giving me leprosy.

  CLAMP: What's wrong with your own one?

  JOB: I haven't got one. Not here, I mean. I saw Dinah home last night,
you see, and it was so late that she put me up.

  CLAMP: I suppose that meant Hector's pyjamas as well.

  JOB: Not--not exactly.

  CLAMP: And what does exactly mean?

  JOB: I sleep in my skin. Siam, you know.

  CLAMP: Why blame Siam? And while we're on the subject, I don't believe
that statistics story. What did you really do in Siam?

  JOB: Drank.

  CLAMP: And what else?

  JOB: And drank.

  CLAMP: The statistics on that must be staggering.

  JOB: You have a genius for the right word.

  CLAMP: It seems a long way to go just to drink. Halfway to China, isn't
it?

  JOB: If one goes that way.

  CLAMP: Is there another way?

  JOB: One could go west, I suppose.

  CLAMP: (dismissing it) Oh, well, who wants to go to China anyhow?

  JOB: (murmuring) Standard Oil, maybe.

  CLAMP: (summing up the Chinese empire) Floods, and rice, and people
flying kites.

  JOB: I think sailing a paper boat among the clouds is an endearing
pastime.

  CLAMP: They must fall over quite a bit.

  JOB: I would rather fall over because I had my eyes on the sky than
because I lost my balance kicking a muddy ball.

  CLAMP: I expect the ground feels the same. And the tetanus.

  JOB: Is your middle name Martha?

  CLAMP: No, Kedge. Jemima Kedge Clamp. You don't have to mind. I stopped
minding, myself, about twenty-five.

  JOB: What cured you?

  CLAMP: I found I could change it. Legally, you know. After that I
stopped worrying. It's wonderful what you can put up with when you don't
have to. Look at sport. If a man was condemned to have his feet tied to
skids and be shoved off a snow mountain for hours every day, so that he
was all black and blue, he'd yell his head off with rage. But if he does
it of his own accord that's all right. That's skiing, that is. Do you
ski?

  JOB: No, I curl.

  CLAMP: Curl what? Oh, yes; pushing stones about on ice. That's a sissy
sort of amusement for a man your size.

  JOB: (stung) What ought I to do? Balance elephants on the tip of my
tongue? What is Hector's game, by the way?

  CLAMP: Tag. How long is it since you saw Hector?

  JOB: Oh, long time.

  CLAMP: I shouldn't say you had much in common.

  JOB: No. No, we haven't. Not even an acquaintance.

  CLAMP: That's no great loss.

  JOB: Are Hector's acquaintances not what is called desirable?

  CLAMP: Only the way house-agents use the word. You know: This desirable
residence. Lovely outside, and crawling with beetles inside.

   [DINAH comes hurrying back, to find her boon companion and her
      colleague happily having breakfast together.]

  DINAH: Well! I thought you were in a hurry.

  CLAMP: Not me. I'm never in a hurry to get to hospital.

  DINAH: Oh, come along, Clamp.

  CLAMP: What you will never learn, Dinah, is that neither of us is in
the least necessary to that place.

  DINAH: Stop talking nonsense and eating other people's food, and—

  CLAMP: The higher up you get in your job, the less you count. If we
were both struck by lightning this minute, it wouldn't cause a ripple in
the day's work.

  DINAH: Speak for yourself.

  CLAMP: It's the rank and file that keep the world going, not geniuses
like you and me.

  DINAH: You're just talking so that you can eat another scone. For
Heaven's sake, will you pull yourself together and let us go. I'll get
Mrs Bint to make you a whole baking to yourself if you'll only—

  CLAMP: When?

  DINAH: Tomorrow.

  CLAMP: I may be dead tomorrow.

  DINAH: This evening. Any time you like.

  CLAMP: (preparing to make a move) Well, that's a good offer. I
suppose we might as well get along anyhow. We have to go sometime. (To
JOB; referring to a remnant of scone) Do you want that half? No? In
that case, I'll take it with me. Dinah can drive, and I'll eat. I
suppose, not being in the profession, you've never known the glory of
putting your patients on a diet that you have no intention of using
yourself. Well, I'll see you soon again, I expect. Perhaps you and Dinah
will come upstairs and have a drink with me after dinner tonight?

  DINAH: Oh, Job is not staying.

  CLAMP: (to JOB) But you're in town, aren't you?

  JOB: Only to see my tailor and my dentist, like a little gentleman.

  CLAMP: Oh, well, you'll be along to see Hector when he comes back
tomorrow, I expect, so I won't say good-bye.

   [DINAH and JOB turn to each other, but before either can say a
      word of farewell there is the sound of the outer door of the flat
      being closed with a bang.]

  CLAMP: Mrs Bint doesn't seem her sunny self this morning.

  DINAH: (faintly) I think someone's come in.

   [There are the sounds of a man's voice in converse with MRS BINT.]

  CLAMP: It sounds like our future Poet Laureate.

  DINAH: (in a wild wail) But it can't be!

  CLAMP: (arrested by the tone) Why not?

  DINAH: He's not coming back till tomorrow.

  CLAMP: Perhaps there weren't enough peeresses at that place. He always
gets a temperature if there aren't enough peeresses.

                                                        [Enter HECTOR.

   [When HECTOR was three people stopped his perambulator in the
      street to gloat over his beauty. At seventeen he looked very much
      as he looked in his perambulator: cherubic and charming. At
      twenty-six he looks merely an elderly baby; his contours blurred a
      little by incipient adipose tissue, his pink-and-white complexion
      gone a little yellow, his hair growing already thin. His manner
      varies from pompousness when he is not at ease to a naïve
      trustfulness which is the last remnant of his boyish 'charm'.
      Speaking generally, he is of the type that most women want to
      'shield' from life, and most men want to kick into the middle of
      next week.]

  DINAH: Hector! What is it? Are you ill?

  HECTOR: (staring; in a cold drawl) No, I am not ill--yet. Would
someone explain what that man is doing in my dressing-gown?

                                CURTAIN




                                 ACT II


Scene and time are continuous with the previous Act.

  HECTOR: What is that man doing in my dressing-gown?

  DINAH: Oh, Hector, this is the younger of the two Butchard boys.

  HECTOR: And since when have you entertained the tradesmen to breakfast?

  DINAH: Butchard, darling; with a D.... Aunt Cicely's boys.

  HECTOR: Aunt Cicely's name was Bartholomew.

  DINAH: Only after she married the bishop. The carpet manufacturer was
Butchard. This is Job, the younger of the two small boys who used to
play with us at Bude, you remember.

  JOB: How are you, Hector? I can hardly blame you for not remembering
me.

  HECTOR: Your hair used to be red.

  DINAH: No, darling, Alan was the red one.

  HECTOR: But I remember most distinctly—

  DINAH: You were only five last time you saw him, so you can't remember
very much.

  JOB: And I have done nothing to make myself memorable, I'm afraid. I
know all about you, of course.

  HECTOR: I hope you don't boast about me. I hate being boasted about by
people I don't know.

  JOB: On the contrary; I keep you dark.

  HECTOR: You keep me dark?

  JOB: One looks very shabby against a brilliant relation. I can't even
live up to your bath-slippers, my dear Hector. As for your bed, I have
never felt so embarrassed as I did in its embrace. During our brief
relationship it was one well-bred and silent protest.

  DINAH: (hastily) I refused to let Job go out again last night. He
took me home from the hospital affair, and it was very late and bitterly
cold.

  HECTOR: I can see it was very late. You are not looking your best this
morning, Dinah.

  CLAMP: (instantly) You don't look too chippy yourself, Hector.
Temperature, I shouldn't wonder.

  DINAH: Are you ill, Hector? Is that why you cut your visit short?

  HECTOR: I cut it short because I was bored. Bored. Bored.

  JOB: Cousin Hector, you thrill me. I never met anyone who was bored
with such passion that he fled from it at seven in the morning.

  HECTOR: (beginning to take off his coat) You have obviously never
stayed in a house with Shatty Pixton. She came down last night, and as
soon as I heard that she was coming I said to Tina: 'If that woman is to
be here I shall go.' Tina thought I was merely being amusing. But she
will know differently by now. Or will in about an hour, when she wakens
up. It is too bad of Tina. She knows very well what I think of Shatty
and all her poisonous crowd. It surprises me that she would even have
them under her roof. They are not in the same world as Tina.

  CLAMP: (for JOB'S benefit) Tina is the Duchess of Frisby; spelt
Featherstoneborough.

                                                     [Enter MRS BINT.]

  MRS BINT: What will Mr Hector have for breakfast?

  HECTOR: Coffee. Nothing but coffee.

  DINAH: But Hector, you must have a proper breakfast if you left Friston
so early. Have you had anything at all?

  HECTOR: I had early-morning tea. Even that choked me.

  DINAH: Mrs Bint will make you some fresh scones. They won't take a
moment.

  HECTOR: Will you stop fussing, Dinah. I'll have coffee. A great deal of
coffee. And then I shall go to bed. (To JOB) You have finished with
my bed?

  JOB: Oh, quite, quite. I am afraid the room is very untidy. I shall go
and clear up.

  HECTOR: Mrs Bint will do that.

   [Exit MRS BINT to the kitchen, taking with her the remains of
      breakfast.]

  JOB: But I'm still wearing your dressing-gown. I had better—

  HECTOR: You may wear it a little longer.

  JOB: Thank you.

  HECTOR: It will conduce to a cosy atmosphere while you explain
yourself.

  JOB: Explain myself?

  HECTOR: You are my long-lost cousin, and you have been dancing with
Dinah. That leaves some gaps to be filled, doesn't it?

  DINAH: You won't forget that you have that dentist's appointment at
ten, will you, Job?

  JOB: Oh, that is for tomorrow.

  DINAH: (staggered by his refusal of her lifeline) Then it is the
tailor today.

  JOB: No, I have no appointment this morning.

  DINAH: (dismayed) But you said most distinctly—

  HECTOR: Don't be so possessive, Dinah. I know that you saw him first,
but he is equally related to me. Things which are equal to one another
are equal to the same thing. I forget whether that is an axiom or a
theorem.

  JOB: It's equally embarrassing either way.

  HECTOR: You and Miss Clamp run along to your hospital, and leave us to
look after ourselves.

  CLAMP: He has known me for four years, and he still calls me Miss
Clamp. It's by way of protest.

  HECTOR: Protest against what?

  CLAMP: The existence of women like me.

  DINAH: I must speak to Mrs Bint. Clamp, be an angel and (indicating
the telephone) tell them I shall be a little late.

                                            [Exit DINAH to kitchen.]

  JOB: (as CLAMP dials a number; to HECTOR, who is considering him)
Am I coming back to you?

  HECTOR: Your name used to be John, surely?

  JOB: Yes; it still is. Job is merely the way I used to say my name when
I was small, and my version stuck.

  CLAMP: (at telephone) A message for the matron. Tell her that Doctor
Partridge will not be—Hullo? Who are you, may I ask?... Oh. Are you
hanging round that telephone board again, Doctor Simmons? (JOB'S ears
prick at the name) Let me tell you, that girl is engaged to a detective
sergeant, six foot two in his socks.

  HECTOR: (who has taken a letter from the mantelpiece and is opening
it) The contrast between the private amusements of the medical
profession and their more public moments has always struck me as being
highly entertaining.

  JOB: (with one ear on the telephone conversation) Nothing to the
Church.

  CLAMP: (at the telephone) Of course she's coming! She's just going to
be a little late.

  JOB: I had an uncle who used to make breakfast a hell for everyone, an
hour before he preached a moving sermon on patience and brotherly love.

  HECTOR: What uncle was that?

  CLAMP: (at the telephone) Sober? Don't be silly. Did you ever know
her when she wasn't sober?

  JOB: Oh, a brother of my father's.

  CLAMP: (at the telephone) What!

  JOB: (hastily; talking for the sake of talking, while he watches
CLAMP'S face as she listens to SIMMONS'S story) He had a living in
Devon. Quite a character, he was. Wrote some books, I believe. Volumes
of sermons, or something like that. They like to write something so that
they can appear as the frontispiece. Ever noticed how like actors they
look?

  HECTOR: Who?

  JOB: The clergy. Fundamentally, I suppose, it is the same thing. It's
just a toss-up whether the inspiration is God or the prompt corner.

  HECTOR: You're not an actor, then?

  JOB: Good God, no. Do I look like one?

  HECTOR: It had crossed my mind. Which of the Dominions do you come
from?

  JOB: If not an actor, then certainly a remittance man.

  HECTOR: Not at all. Only, long-lost cousins usually come from the
bounds of Empire.

  JOB: I'm from Siam.

  HECTOR: You needn't be defiant about it. I have learned to accept the
improbable with equanimity.

  JOB: I'm an architect.

  HECTOR: Oh. Bungalows in Bangkok.

  JOB: Something like that.

  CLAMP: (contemplating JOB with a new eye, and slowly replacing the
receiver) Do you know a coffee-bar called Toni's--in Bangkok?

  JOB: Very well. That is where the woman was murdered.

  CLAMP: What woman?

  JOB: Oh, some woman who knew too much. She was put out of the way to
prevent her talking.

  CLAMP: All women don't talk.

  JOB: No?

  CLAMP: No!

   [Enter DINAH; and from the expression on her face the interview
      with MRS BINT would appear to have been satisfactory.]

  DINAH: Clamp, don't wait for me. There is no need for you to be late
too. Now that Hector has brought back the car I can drive myself. (To
JOB) And perhaps I can give Job a lift into town. (To CLAMP) Did you
get the hospital?

  CLAMP: Yes. I talked to Doctor Simmons.

  DINAH: (arrested) Doctor Simmons!

  CLAMP: (smoothly) He's hanging round that switchboard girl, you know.

  DINAH: (doubtfully) Yes. Yes; did he say--did he say if there was
anything urgent?

  CLAMP: He said a lot, but nothing of medical interest. His mind seems
to be still full of last night.

  DINAH: (viciously) If his stomach is still full of last night he
could hardly be talking sense.

  CLAMP: (with an air of taking no sides) It seems to have been a very
wet night altogether.

  HECTOR: I've always understood that that was the aim of a Hospital
Ball; that and charity. It must be so comforting when one is being sick
in hospital to know that the utensil was paid for by the sickness of the
staff.

  CLAMP: One of my dreams, Hector, is to have you as a patient. There's a
new gadget in the south clinic that I never use without thinking of you.
(Taking her leave) Well, I hope to know you better, Mr--Mr—

  DINAH: Butchard.

  CLAMP: Mr Butchard. You seem to be an enterprising young man. (With
the faintest flick of an eyelash in the direction of HECTOR) It's a
breed that seems to be growing scarce these days.

  DINAH: Wait, Clamp, I'll come along with you after all, I think.

  CLAMP: (airily) Don't let me hurry you, Dinah. Now you've got the
car—

  DINAH: (in a last appeal) Job, can't we give you a lift to town?

  JOB: Thank you, Dinah, but now that Hector has arrived so
providentially I look forward to making his acquaintance.

  DINAH: But Hector is going to bed—

  HECTOR: Will you very kindly not interfere, Dinah. If Job and I choose
to have breakfast together—

  DINAH: But he's had his breakfast.

  HECTOR: Then he can smoke while I have mine—

  DINAH: You know you hate people smoking while you are eating.

  HECTOR: I wish you wouldn't be so possessive, Dinah darling.

  DINAH: I'm not possessive. I'm just being sensible. If you want to go
to bed, what use is there in Job's staying? And if you go to bed there
won't be anyone to drive him into town, and—

  HECTOR: There is a public service of omnibuses, I believe. And a fleet
of taxi-cabs at the end of a telephone wire. Really, Dinah! Run along to
your hospital, my dear girl, and leave your find with me. It's my turn
now.

  DINAH: Oh, very well. Perhaps it is best that way, because you wouldn't
have much chance of seeing each other otherwise. Job is leaving town
tomorrow, to visit some other cousins. In Orkney.

  HECTOR: Does anyone live in Orkney? I thought it was one of those
islands that are always evacuating themselves on to the mainland.

  JOB: (since something seems to be expected of him) At the last census
the population was fifty-three thousand and seven.

  CLAMP: What was the seven for?

  JOB: Accuracy.

  CLAMP: I thought perhaps it was for luck.

  HECTOR: But fifty thousand people can't all gather gulls' eggs. What
do they do?

  JOB: Well, my cousins burn seaweed.

  HECTOR: Bonfires. How nice!

  JOB: No; they smell. In fact, they smell so badly that I don't think I
can bring myself to go at all.

  DINAH: Job! Think--think how you will disappoint the little one with
the stammer.

  JOB: But I always catch a stammer if I stay with one for any length of
time. No, on second thoughts, between the smell and the stammer, I don't
think I shall go after all.

  CLAMP: (ironic) I shouldn't. You might find the climate trying--after
Siam.

                                                         [Exit CLAMP.]

  DINAH: Nonsense. It's bracing and—(Noticing that CLAMP has gone)
Oh, I must go. Clamp—(Her thought is obviously: I can't allow CLAMP
to get away) I shall be so late. Oh, Job—

  JOB: Yes?

  HECTOR: Did you get the new notepaper, Dinah?

  DINAH: Yes, it's coming tomorrow.

  HECTOR: The pale grey, I hope.

  DINAH: Yes, the pale grey.

  HECTOR: And what did the man say about the radiator?

  DINAH: He said it would be quite simple, but rather expensive.

  HECTOR: If it is a simple affair, how can it be expensive? The thing is
a contradiction in terms. If it is not going to be any trouble to do,
how—

  DINAH: I don't know, Hector darling. That is what the engineer said.
I must go.

  HECTOR: But didn't you—

  DINAH: Yes, we discussed it for ages, back and fore and up and down,
and that's the answer. I must go. I have a lot to say to you, Job, but I
can't say it now.

  JOB: Save it up till you have more time.

  DINAH: Yes, I'll save it up.

                                                         [Exit DINAH.]

  JOB: What a charming woman.

  HECTOR: Who?

  JOB: Dinah.

  HECTOR: Do you think so? Most people find her a little farouche. She
seems extremely distrait this morning. Late nights don't agree with her.
Or perhaps it is you. Do you have an odd effect on people?

  JOB: Not when I'm sober.

  HECTOR: Some people are definitely allergic. I can tell when Shatty
Pixton has come into a room without turning my head.

  JOB: What is so repellent about Miss Pixton?

  HECTOR: (after a swift review of MISS PIXTON'S repellencies) She
gives imitations.

  JOB: (visualising the imitation) Oh! (The tone says: 'That is surely
not all?')

  HECTOR: She also reviews books.

  JOB: Distressing; but not necessarily damning.

  HECTOR: And she has the most evil tongue in London.

  JOB: That certainly is a distinction. But a great poet like you should
be above things like that, surely? Were they so very bad?

  HECTOR: Was what bad?

  JOB: The imitation, the review, and the gossip.

  HECTOR: (a little staggered, but mollified by the 'great poet'; with
exquisite pomp) There are some things no man can forgive.

  JOB: (full of honey) Quite, quite.

  HECTOR: (liking the honey) I suppose you don't know a game called
Labels?

  JOB: No. No, that has not been one of my amusements.

  HECTOR: Each person writes a label--preferably in rhyme--and the rest
tie it, metaphorically speaking, to the appropriate person. Well, Deenie
Stystable--Lord Manning's sister, you know--told me that they were
playing it one day at Wiskett--do you know Wiskett? A lovely place
looking out on the Vale of Aylesbury--and Shatty's label read:

                      'A frightful little blister
                       Who lives on his sister'.

  JOB: And did they guess correctly?

  HECTOR: Of course. Everyone knows that Shatty hates me like poison.
(Since JOB offers no immediate comment) I didn't think that in the
least funny.

  JOB: (in a voice that would make anyone but HECTOR stand from
under) No; I don't think it is funny either.

  HECTOR: It is intolerable that my devotion to Dinah should be
so--so—

                            [Enter MRS BINT with coffee and scones.]

  HECTOR: (eyeing the covered scone dish with anticipation) What I
should like, Mrs Bint, would be some toast melba. I have no appetite,
but I feel the need of some sustenance.

  MRS BINT: I made you a few scones, sir. I thought maybe—

  HECTOR: Oh, no. No food.

  MRS BINT: Very little, dainty ones, they are. Wouldn't stick in the
throat of a fly.

  HECTOR: Oh, very well. I don't want to bother you to make toast if you
have already gone to the trouble of baking.

  MRS BINT: Of course, if you're really pining, as you might say, for
that sawdust-tasting stuff, it won't take a minute to—

  HECTOR: (hastily) No, no. Leave the scones. I'll make do with them.

  MRS BINT: (with a baleful glance at JOB) I'll just tidy up your room,
sir.

  HECTOR: (to JOB) Would you like more coffee?

  JOB: Yes, I should. Very much. Mrs Bint makes excellent coffee.

  HECTOR: Another cup for Mr Butchard, please.

                                     [Exit MRS BINT to the kitchen.]

  HECTOR: I wish her brother wasn't a lawyer.

  JOB: Mrs Bint's!

  HECTOR: No, Shatty's. What she says in print is always vetted by her
brother, and what she says in the course of a game is not actionable.

  JOB: No libel on a Label.

  HECTOR: No.

   [Enter MRS BINT. As well as the extra cup, she is carrying a
      string-bag, half the size of a potato sack, filled with letters.
      She puts the cup on the table and deposits the sack on the floor
      at HECTOR'S feet without remark. It is apparently a routine
      proceeding. She then retires into the bedroom corridor with her
      duster.]

  JOB: (having stared at the letter-bag) Forgive my bluntness, my dear
Hector, but do you run a tipster's business on the side?

  HECTOR: Oh, no. That is just the weekly mail.

  JOB: My congratulations. I had no idea that anyone's poetry could raise
such public enthusiasm.

  HECTOR: Poetry? You don't imagine that they write to me because of my
poems, do you?

  JOB: Have you a side-line?

  HECTOR: I have a Page. Don't you read me in the Daily Clarion on
Wednesdays?

  JOB: I don't see much of the Press these days. In Siam, you see, they
only took The Times at the Club. And the Prince got only the
Bystander.

  HECTOR: The Prince?

  JOB: The man I was building the palace for. What do you write about in
your page?

  HECTOR: Well, if I see a woman with a funny hat, I talk about that. And
they like God, in moderation. And royalty. And fashionable parties. And
people arriving at Southampton. Who was the Prince that you—

  JOB: (indicating the sack) But what is all that about? Have you
appealed for something?

  HECTOR: Oh, no. They just write and tell me how their asparagus is
coming on, and ask advice about little Jimmy's tonsils, and whether
they'd better tell Ida how Basil is carrying on in the evenings when she
is working. Ever since the Reformation the British have felt the lack of
a confessional, and now they have one. From the Press point of view,
it's the greatest discovery since the invention of printing.

  JOB: And do you answer them?

  HECTOR: My secretary does.

  JOB: (with a glance round) Your secretary?

  HECTOR: The Clarion send a girl down from the office. They intended
me to work at the office originally, but I declined. A desk between the
Gardening and the Fashions—! She did her nails all day, the Fashions.
Milson-Bleeson at the Telegram has a room to himself, and a private
lavatory. And Bines, at the Revally, has a whole floor. But of course
he's daily. By the time I've had another year at it I shall have a
better room than Milson-Bleeson's. Perhaps you could design it for me. I
didn't know you had been doing important work in Siam.

  JOB: Oh, interesting, but not so important. Every house a royalty lives
in is called a palace in the East. Usually it's just a villa of forty or
fifty rooms. Actually the one I did for the Prince had sixty-four, but
that's a bit above the average. What kind of room had you in mind?

  HECTOR: Well, Milson-Bleeson's looks like something out of an Embassy.
I should like mine to look like something out of the White House.

  JOB: I see. Simple and distinguished. The ideal background.

  HECTOR: (impervious to irony) Yes. Of course, I might succeed
Milson-Bleeson on the Telegram.

  JOB: Is the gentleman slipping?

  HECTOR: Yes. His heart is always breaking. His heart breaks at least
four times a page. Even for the British public that is a little too
sentimental. Dinah was dreadfully sentimental too.

  JOB: Dinah?

  HECTOR: When she did my letters. She—

  JOB: You mean Dinah worked for the paper once?

  HECTOR: No, no; not exactly. But when I first refused to work in that
office of theirs the Clarion were very peeved, and said that I should
have to find my own secretary.

  JOB: (in a dangerous voice) And couldn't you find a secretary?

  HECTOR: (blissfully unaware) Oh, Dinah loved doing it. It gave some
interest to her evenings. But she was always running amok and wanting to
investigate. The result of a scientific training on a naturally
sentimental mind.

  JOB: What did she want to investigate?

  HECTOR: Oh, if a man wrote that he hadn't the money for a pair of
boots, perhaps. She could never see that a man who hadn't the price of a
pair of boots could be of no interest to the Clarion. We run the page
for circulation purposes, not as a private charity.

  JOB: We?

  HECTOR: (conceding) They, then. (With a return to pomp at the hint
of criticism) Though I hope that as long as I am on the paper I am
loyal to it. (With a return to earth) Even if I go to the Telegram,
of course, I should insist on having that room of Milson-Bleeson's
redecorated. You are not going back to Siam, are you?

  JOB: Oh, no. I came home to do a country house for a rich old woman who
died before I got here. Leaving me with the plans of the most beautiful
house I ever did, and no one to build it.

  HECTOR: Perhaps I could get Deenie Stystable to build one. Is it large?

  JOB: Oh, no. Only eleven rooms.

  HECTOR: Five per cent of eleven rooms isn't much.

  JOB: Five per cent?

  HECTOR: My commission. But, still. You could line it with priceless
woods, couldn't you?

  JOB: Actually I think I shall build it for myself. It is much too
beautiful to waste on any client.

  HECTOR: Where are you living just now? At a hotel?

  JOB: No. At rooms I had in my student days. Squalid, but full of
sentiment, and good enough till I find a house I like.

  HECTOR: A flat, you mean.

  JOB: Oh, no. A house. There is no cachet in a flat. An architect--in
fact, any man who works in the arts--needs a setting. A background, a
designed proportion, vistas, detail, a beauty made to measure. Not just
a--just a cell in a piece of honeycomb. Forgive me; I left my cigarettes
in my coat pocket.

                                 [Exit JOB to the bedroom corridor.]

   [HECTOR looks dubiously round the flat.

   [At the door JOB passes MRS BINT, carrying sheets and duster
      under one arm, and in the other hand his boots.

   [HECTOR puts out his hand and absent-mindedly takes a letter from
      the sack, but his thoughts are obviously still with this new idea
      of himself as the inhabitant of a piece of honeycomb.]

  MRS BINT: (pausing) Your bed's ready, Mr Hector. Will you be
requiring lunch, sir?

  HECTOR: I should like some kidneys about two o'clock, I think.

  MRS BINT: It's an awkward day for kidneys. You wouldn't like a nice
ripe steak, maybe?

  HECTOR: No, I should like kidneys. Grilled. If our regular butcher
cannot supply them, go on telephoning till you find someone who can.

  MRS BINT: Very good, sir. And how many will there be for lunch?

  HECTOR: Oh, I don't think—(His eye comes to rest on JOB'S boots:
cracked, shapeless, and indescribably muddy. Unbelieving, he straightens
himself to have a better view) Where, in heaven's name, did you get
these?

  MRS BINT: They belong to the gentleman, sir.

  HECTOR: Am I to understand that these are the gentleman's
dancing-pumps?

  MRS BINT: Oh, he didn't have evening things, sir.

  HECTOR: You mean he went to the ball in those?

  MRS BINT: I couldn't say, sir. That's what he came home in.

  HECTOR: (taking the boots distastefully into a nearer view) Great
heavens, they're patched!

  MRS BINT: (grimly) Not enough.

  HECTOR: (recollecting himself) Thank you, Mrs Bint. (As she is going
to the door) What time did Mr Butchard arrive yesterday?

  MRS BINT: Well--well, I couldn't exactly say, sir.

  HECTOR: (coldly) Why couldn't you?

  MRS BINT: (anxious for the well-loved black sheep) I don't usually
wait up for Miss Dinah.

  HECTOR: Wait up?

  MRS BINT: When she's out late.

  HECTOR: Do you mean that it wasn't until this morning that
you—(Pulling himself up once more) Oh, very well, Mrs Bint. Thank
you.

   [Exit MRS BINT, and JOB comes back with his cigarettes.]

  HECTOR: (regarding JOB with a new eye, suspicion seething in him;
conversationally) I could have given you cigarettes.

  JOB: Thank you, but it's so long since I smoked a good cigarette that I
should probably be sick.

  HECTOR: Don't they keep good tobacco?

  JOB: They?

  HECTOR: In Siam.

  JOB: Oh, in my part of the country men didn't smoke. It's considered
womanish. So I used to get secret supplies from an old planter in the
village who smoked nothing but the ten-a-penny brands.

  HECTOR: What did he plant?

  JOB: (hastily rejecting both rubber and tea, just in case) French
beans.

  HECTOR: In Siam!

  JOB: (firmly) Yes. They make a kind of chutney out of them. You can
get it at Fortnum's, I believe.

  HECTOR: (threatening) I must ask for it.

  JOB: (happily) Yes, do.

  HECTOR: Did you enjoy the ball?

  JOB: What ball?

  HECTOR: Last night.

  JOB: Oh, the hospital affair. I didn't go to it.

  HECTOR: But you took my sister home from it!

  JOB: (aware of the change of atmosphere, but not of its cause) Yes.
That was all.

  HECTOR: Do you mind telling me how you met Dinah in the first place?

  JOB: I just discovered her. In a reference book. It was my first
evening in London, you see, and I wanted some company, but there were so
many Partridges in the telephone book, and I couldn't ring them all up
because I had only tuppence—

  HECTOR: Why had you only tuppence?

  JOB: The rest of my money was French. I got off the boat at Marseilles,
and walked home across France. And the banks were shut, and my landlady
thought French notes much too pretty to be real money. And then I
remembered that at least one of you was a public character. (Watching
with delight HECTOR'S reaction) So I looked up Dinah in a public
library.

  HECTOR: Dinah!

  JOB: Yes, of course. You can always find a doctor. It told me all about
her qualifications--quite a clever girl, Dinah, isn't she?--but not her
private address. So I rang up the hospital where she was said to work,
and got my money's worth.

  HECTOR: Your money's worth?

  JOB: Value for my last tuppence. They said Doctor Partridge was there
at that moment, and they were having a dance, and wouldn't I come along.
So along I went, frayed trousers, cracked boots, empty pockets, and all.
But I needn't have worried. They're used to down-and-outs in hospital.
There's a little sister there with chestnut hair that made me long to
have typhoid.

  HECTOR: Why typhoid?

  JOB: I've always understood that that required the most constant
nursing. And when Dinah had finished being the belle of the ball—

  HECTOR: Dinah!

  JOB: Certainly. Don't you take her to dances? (Meaning: 'Don't you
know that she is always the belle of a ball?')

  HECTOR: (stiffly) I don't dance, and Dinah does not care to. She goes
to hospital balls only because people would consider her impolite if she
didn't.

  JOB: (heartily) People certainly considered her beautiful when she
did.

  HECTOR: (having decided that anyone who invites suspicion so freely
and refutes it so impudently must be genuine, however odd his story;
testily) My dear Job! Dinah is a good creature, and I am very fond of
her, but she has never had more than the family share of good-looks.
(He turns to his letter)

  JOB: Ah, but when a woman is happy—Have you never seen a bride with
a face like a turnip looking like Helen of Troy?

  HECTOR: (without heat) I think brides are revolting. (Indicating the
sack of letters) Have you?

  JOB: (picking a letter automatically) She was happy last night.
(Remembering it for the first time) She put her empty cup down on the
counter and smiled at me.

  HECTOR: What counter?

  JOB: Oh, they had a sort of canteen--cafetaria—(Reading) 'Darling
Hector'—Oh, I beg your pardon. (Offering him the letter)

  HECTOR: (not taking it) Why?

  JOB: It seems to be a personal letter.

  HECTOR: Oh, no. Just someone who wants my photograph, probably.

  JOB: (staring) What for? I mean, what do they do with it?

  HECTOR: (suggesting, indifferently) Frame it, keep it under their
pillows—(With a shrug which says: 'How should I know?') Read it.

  JOB: (reading) 'I want you to know that I have put your photograph on
a little altar I have made.' (That was one you didn't think of,
HECTOR) 'Whenever I want to be alone I go there and look at it and feel
better.' There are eight pages. Do you think God likes this
understudying of yours, Hector?

  HECTOR: The Clarion likes it; that is all that concerns me. (As
JOB'S silence might imply disapproval) Can I help it if women are
silly about me?

  JOB: (thoughtfully; dropping the letter back and taking another) No;
I suppose if it wasn't you it would be some Pekingese or other.
(Referring to HECTOR'S letter) What have you got?

  HECTOR: (dropping his letter back and taking another) A free meal. I
must try the place sometime.

  JOB: A meal for a mention?

  HECTOR: Yes.

  JOB: (having looked at his letter) Could you mention Mouldem corsets,
do you think?

  HECTOR: What do they offer?

  JOB: Their Mr Francis would like to show you over their model factory
in the country. Ten acres of gardens and the prettiest girls in five
counties.

  HECTOR: Do they think I have nothing to do with my time but inspect
factories?

  JOB: I suppose poetry is a full-time job. (He drops the letter and
takes another)

  HECTOR: Being a successful poet is. One has obligations. To one's
publisher, if not to anyone else. No one buys the work of poets who sit
at home. By the way, is your Prince Whatshisname any relation of the
King of Siam?

  JOB: The son of a first cousin.

  HECTOR: (charmed) Indeed. Educated in England?

  JOB: No.

  HECTOR: How unfortunate.

  JOB: In Japan.

  HECTOR: How unfortunate. Does he come to this country at all?

  JOB: No, he doesn't think it is safe.

  HECTOR: Safe! England! Japanese propaganda.

  JOB: No, it's his own idea. He saw the place on a map, and thinks it is
much too small. It might be swept into the sea at any moment.
(Referring to the letter in his hand) Someone is coming to the office
on Friday morning to knock your block off.

  HECTOR: Why?

  JOB: (studying the letter) You have been putting ideas into his
wife's head.

  HECTOR: What! What ideas?

  JOB: Making the best of herself. Apparently you have revealed the
existence of the belle laide. (Reading) 'My wife was born plain, and
I married her plain, and washing her hair and gaping'--no,
'gawping'--'in a mirror isn't going to do her nor me no good.'

  HECTOR: Medieval. Quite medieval. You know, the average Briton would
have purdah tomorrow if he could.

  JOB: The average Briton has a very hard fist.

  HECTOR: Oh, I don't go to the office on Fridays. Besides, our doorman
is the ex-heavyweight champion of the Coldstream Guards.

  JOB: What a come-down.

  HECTOR: Being a doorman?

  JOB: No. Being nursemaid to a set of scribblers.

  HECTOR: (with dignity) Most scribblers tip very generously. By the
way, (feeling for his wallet) I can change those French notes for you
if you give them to me.

  JOB: (happily) Oh, Pierre changed them, thank you.

  HECTOR: Who is Pierre?

  JOB: The barman at the Nutmeg Tree.

  HECTOR: And what is the Nutmeg Tree?

  JOB: Oh, one of the low dives that Dinah and I stopped off at on our
way home last night.

  HECTOR: (jealous again) Not much wonder she is looking tired this
morning. You really should be more considerate, Job. Dinah is a working
woman, not a person of leisure like you, and her evening's amusement
must be governed by the fact that she has duty waiting for her in the
morning. At an early hour in the morning.

  JOB: Reprehensible of me. But there were no rags to warn me.

  HECTOR: Rags?

  JOB: Rags after twelve. How was I to know she was Cinderella? You
should have seen how lovely she looked by three o'clock.

  HECTOR: (tartly) She looks anything but lovely this morning. And I
expect her patients will find her anything but intelligent. (Referring
to the letter in his hand) Why, do you imagine, do people think that I
can buy them grand pianos?

  JOB: I don't know. Perhaps because your face is both kind and musical.
I suppose (offering his cigarette-case) I need not offer you one of my
cigarettes?

  HECTOR: (discarding his letter) Thank you, I have my cigarettes made
for me. (Catching sight of something inside the lid of JOB'S case)
What is that?

  JOB: What?

  HECTOR: The photograph.

  JOB: Oh, that? That is my house. The one I was going to build for the
old millionairess.

  HECTOR: But it is built!

  JOB: No. That is just a model. Making that model has been my sole
amusement of late. (There is a note of sincerity in this last)

  HECTOR: (taking the case and looking at the photograph) But it is
beautiful!

  JOB: Your surprise is hardly tactful, Hector.

  HECTOR: One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. You are a
genius, Job.

  JOB: As near as makes no difference.

  HECTOR: (gloating) Beautiful!

  JOB: (watching him) I'm glad you like it. When it is finished I shall
ask you to come and stay. Which room will you have?

  HECTOR: But you seriously mean to build this beautiful thing for
yourself? You can't!

  JOB: Why can't I? Wouldn't you like to have a cousin who had a famous
house? A famous house that everyone envied, that the glossier magazines
took photographs of, that people fought to come and stay in?

  HECTOR: (having looked a little longer) Clare would like this.

  JOB: Who is Clare?

  HECTOR: A great friend of mine.

  JOB: I thought you were going to wish it on to Deenie
Some-one-or-other?

  HECTOR: Oh, Deenie Stystable. Oh, I thought then that it was just
another house. I didn't know then that you could build. Do you realise
that a genius for domestic architecture is one of the rarest of human
qualities? Why, there hasn't been a first-rate man for two hundred
years! And here you turn up in my flat without warning, and turn out to
be my cousin. With a piece of sheer beauty stuck in the lid of your
cigarette-case. Why did you photograph it, by the way?

  JOB: I had to pa—(He was about to say 'pawn') to part with the
model. When I left Siam. I had a lot of bulky luggage. So I photographed
it before it went. (Hastily) Before I went, I mean.

  HECTOR: Do you mind if I show this to Clare?

  JOB: (with an effort appearing suitably bored) I still don't know who
Clare is.

  HECTOR: Clare Transom-Sills. A charming woman. Perhaps you remember her
husband. He wrote books on mountaineering.

  JOB: Oh, a widow.

  HECTOR: What's wrong with that?

  JOB: I'm in favour of suttee.

  HECTOR: Don't be tiresome, Job. Clare has all the money in the world.
She would give her right arm to possess a house like this. At the moment
she rents a manor, all beams and inglenooks. She is at the olde-worlde
stage of her development. But any day now she is due to graduate to the
eighteenth century--and this was made for her.

  JOB: (mildly) No, it was made for me.

  HECTOR: I thought you said it was commissioned by an old woman?

  JOB: Yes. But she died providentially. I should probably have stained
my honour by palming something else off on her. That is my house; the
best thing I shall ever do, very likely; and it is going to stay in the
family.

  HECTOR: I wish I had the money to buy it.

  JOB: Never mind. I shall ask you to stay. Often. But why haven't you
the money? The Clarion is no pauper; nor, if all reports are true, no
piker.

  HECTOR: Oh, no, they pay well enough, I suppose. But that is all I
have. Poetry is not a livelihood. I share the cost of this flat with
Dinah, of course. (Realising from JOB'S glance round that that is
obviously not much; testily) And I have heavy social expenses that
Dinah hasn't.

  JOB: (smoothly) Quite, quite. (Taking back the cigarette-case,
laughing) Well, I should marry your Mrs Whatshername and make her give
it to you as a wedding-present.

  HECTOR: Wait a minute. Do you mean that you would be willing to build
it for me?

  JOB: (looking very sober and surprised) My dear man, I was only
joking.

  HECTOR: Yes, I know. But supposing that I had the money, would you be
willing to let me build it?

  JOB: (still serious and surprised) But you don't seriously want a
house like that, do you? I thought you were very contented here.

  HECTOR: Oh, I stay here for Dinah's sake. But there is a great deal in
what you said about the setting for an artist. I feel that I haven't
taken enough care in--in presenting myself, as it were. It is time that
I returned hospitality; (hastily) elsewhere than at restaurants, I
mean. And now that my last poem is a best seller, the public will have
to be considered. They will have visualised a—

  JOB: But a house like that could only be built out of town. Would that
be convenient for Dinah?

  HECTOR: Oh, Dinah would stay on here, of course. She has her work.

  JOB: Wouldn't she be lonely?

  HECTOR: Oh, at first, perhaps. But she would get over it. Make friends
of her own.

  JOB: (the dangerous undercurrent in his voice again) Hasn't she any
of her own?

  HECTOR: Well, not intimates. (In extenuation) We have always been
very devoted to each other, you see. We find each other sufficient. Our
respective friends didn't mix very well; and so we don't have them here.

  JOB: I see. Well, I'm flattered that you like my work so much, Hector,
but I still want it more than you do. After all, you've only just had
the notion, and I have lived with it.

  HECTOR: (explaining what JOB has known for some time) But once I
want a thing, I have no happiness until I get it. I've been like that
ever since I was a baby. They had to give me a bear once, I cried so
hard for it. Five days I cried.

  JOB: (shaking his head) I even know where I'm going to build the
thing. I know just the hillock, with the sheltering wood behind, a slope
to the stream, and a fifty-mile view. I'm not going to put any
second-best building in that spot!

  HECTOR: Of course not! Put it there for me! Look, Job—

  JOB: What! Give up my chosen spot—

  HECTOR: Look, Job; let us go round and show Clare the photograph. That
doesn't commit you to anything.

  JOB: (with a great air of reluctance) But that would be very odd.
She'll think I'm trying to sell her a house.

  HECTOR: No, she won't. Just leave it to me. We'll show it to her
casually. Offer her your cigarettes. By the way, I must give you some of
mine. You can't offer her those. She might think you were a pauper.

  JOB: Would that make a difference?

  HECTOR: Well, she's a darling, but she is apt to gauge an artist by his
fees. You go and have a shave—

  JOB: But what about my clothes? After tramping across France they don't
look plutocratic. (With an air of dissuading a child from a dangerous
toy) Look here, Hector, you don't really want that house, it's just a
whim—

  HECTOR: You can explain about France. It's the kind of thing she
expects artists to do. And I never have whims. (The suggestion has
put the finishing touch to his desire for the house) What I want, I
want.

  JOB: All right, but you'll have to lend me a clean handkerchief. And
remember this: I never at any time said I would build that house for
you.

  HECTOR: No, no. We won't think about that just now. I just want Clare
to see—

   [Enter DINAH, leaning on the arm of MRS BINT, one foot
      stockingless and bandaged.]

  HECTOR: Dinah!

  DINAH: I sprained my foot on the hospital steps.

  JOB: (going forward to help her to a couch) My poor Dinah!

  HECTOR: (in the same breath, not moving) Dinah, how careless of you.

   [DINAH shows by her glance at HECTOR that she is aware of the
      difference of their greeting.]

  MRS BINT: I always said that troubles never come singly. Easy does it,
easy does it.

  HECTOR: (coldly) What other troubles have you, Mrs Bint?

  MRS BINT: You'd be surprised! (Settling DINAH) There now.

  DINAH: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much. I'm sorry to be so silly.

  MRS BINT: I'll get you a nice cup of tea. There's nothing like tea, be
it broken bone or broken heart, I always say.

  DINAH: No, no tea, thank you, Mrs Bint. I'm all right.

  HECTOR: Of course she's all right!

  MRS BINT: You're sure you wouldn't like just a—

  DINAH: No, nothing, thank you, nothing.

  MRS BINT: Well, if you happen to think of anything, there's always the
bell.

                                                      [Exit MRS BINT.]

  DINAH: Perhaps Hector would get me my smelling-salts.

  HECTOR: Smelling salts! Since when have you owned smelling-salts?

  DINAH: Every woman owns smelling-salts.

  HECTOR: Not since 1900.

  DINAH: You'll find them in the left-hand little drawer of my table.

  HECTOR: (going) It's extraordinary the things one doesn't know about
those nearest and dearest to one.

                                  [Exit HECTOR to bedroom corridor.]

  JOB: Miss Clamp made a very neat bandage.

  DINAH: (coldly) Naturally. Now will you please tell me why you stayed
when I made it easy for you to go?

  JOB: I told you. I wanted to meet Hector. Miss Clamp had painted such
an arresting picture of him.

  DINAH: That is nonsense.

  JOB: On the contrary, it is the most literal truth.

  DINAH: Then it is only because Hector is a celebrity. You wanted to
make his acquaintance so that you could make capital out of it.

  JOB: No one could make capital out of Hector.

  DINAH: Do you know what I think? I think you are just an adventurer.

  JOB: (considering it) Adventurer. Odd how that gay and courageous
word has become an epithet of scorn. A group name for confidence men,
three-card tricksters—

  DINAH: Will you stop chattering and stick to the point!

  JOB: (reproachful) Chattering! Oh, Dinah!

  DINAH: To be quite frank and vulgar, will you tell me what your little
game is?

  JOB: I'm playing Perseus.

  DINAH: What?

  JOB: The only difference between Perseus and me is that he had material
reward for his time and trouble, but I, like a genuine artist, will be
repaid only by pride in my work.

  DINAH: Will you stop talking in riddles, and tell me what you are doing
here!

  JOB: (with an air of patiently explaining the obvious) Getting
acquainted with the Gorgon.

                                                       [Enter HECTOR.]

  HECTOR: I can't find any smelling-salts.

  DINAH: Oh! I'm sorry, Hector; perhaps I put them in the other drawer.

  HECTOR: I've looked in the other drawer.

  DINAH: If they are not in the left-hand drawer, they are certainly in
the right. A little green bottle.

  HECTOR: There is no little green bottle. I don't believe you have any
smelling-salts at all.

  DINAH: Perhaps Job can find them.

  HECTOR: Oh, very well, I'll have another look.

                                                        [Exit HECTOR.]

  DINAH: Am I to understand that you are trying to break up my home?

  JOB: Oh, no. Just (he finds a word) fumigate it.

  DINAH: Your impudence leaves me breathless. But, why? What good is it
going to do you to make trouble between Hector and me?

  JOB: Good heavens, I am not going to make trouble! I am just going to
marry him off.

  DINAH: Marry! (Recovering a little from the shock) Hector will never
marry. Have you picked a bride for him too?

  JOB: Yes.

  DINAH: A princess of Tartary, I suppose.

  JOB: No. Mrs Transom-Sills.

  DINAH: (with a monosyllable of mockery) Ha! Clare has been trying to
marry Hector for the last five years.

  JOB: She never had the right sort of wedding-present before.

  DINAH: What sort has she now?

  JOB: A frame for Hector.

  DINAH: A frame? I don't know what you are talking about, and I still
don't see what you are going to get out of all this.

  JOB: I told you. Artistic satisfaction.

  DINAH: Artistic blackmail, more likely. Well, you might blackmail
Hector, if you can get anything on him, but you can't blackmail me. Or
Clare Transom-Sills.

  JOB: (agreeing) No. I've always understood that men were the greater
moral cowards. But I'm not in the blackmail business. My reward will be
complete when I see the Gorgon turning some other house to stone.

  DINAH: But why, why? What business is it of yours? How dare you come, a
stranger, and presume to interfere with our lives?

  JOB: If you saw a spider on someone's back, you would pick it off,
wouldn't you?

  DINAH: Hector isn't a spider. He's a nice harmless--limpet. (With a
trace of smugness) And if you think you are rescuing me from Hector by
marrying him to Clare, you don't know any of us. As long as I am
available, Clare will come second with Hector.

  JOB: (contemplatively) I hadn't thought of that.

                                                       [Enter HECTOR.]

  HECTOR: The only green bottle in all your possessions, Dinah, contains,
if I am to believe the label, disinfectant. Would you care for that?

  DINAH: Don't bother any more, Hector. Thank you for looking. I'll get
it myself in a moment.

  JOB: Let me look for it for you.

  DINAH: No, of course not.

  JOB: Please; I should like to. I may as well get used to doing things
for you.

  HECTOR: Get used to it? Do you anticipate making a habit of it?

  JOB: Well, more or less. You see—Well, I'd better break it to you,
Hector, that Dinah and I are thinking of getting married.

                              DINAH  }
                                     } WHAT!
                              HECTOR }

                                CURTAIN




                                ACT III


Scene and time are continuous with the previous Act.

  JOB: --Dinah and I are thinking of getting married.

                              DINAH  }
                                     } WHAT!
                              HECTOR }

  JOB: (sweetly) You don't mind, do you, Dinah? I know we said we would
keep it secret for a little. But after all, Hector is your brother. He
would have to know sooner or later.

  DINAH: (almost speechless) You--monster!

  HECTOR: (in a wild wail) But you can't marry Dinah!

  JOB: Why can't I?

  HECTOR: (incoherent with shock) You don't know her. She doesn't know
you. She has never considered getting married. She isn't the marrying
kind.

  DINAH: You can save your breath, Hector, because—

  JOB: But we love each other! I think she is beautiful, and she thinks
me a model of all the manly virtues, and we can't imagine a life spent
apart from each other, so the obvious thing is to get married.

  DINAH: I am notHECTOR: But you don't know anything about each other!

  DINAH: I tell you, I am not going to—

  JOB: If you mean about my snoring and Dinah putting cold cream on her
face and things like that, then of course we don't. But as to her
fitness to be my wife, I have no doubt: she dresses well, has a charming
voice, good teeth, and a pleasant expression--when she is not looking
like a shrew. And as for my fitness, (apparently struck by a thought)
I hope, Hector, you don't think I am unable to keep your sister in the
style to which she has been accustomed?

  HECTOR: No, no. You have a fortune at your finger-tips. But you must
see—

  DINAH: A fortune! Since when has he had a fortune!

  HECTOR: --the whole idea is ridiculous.

  DINAH: If he talks about a fortune, don't believe him. He hasn't a
penny in his pocket. Not a penny!

  JOB: (amiably) Well, you would have that last drink. Darling, I have
given Hector ample evidence of my power to provide for you. Not
chinchilla, of course. But anything up to the mink level can be
considered standard equipment.

  HECTOR: If Dinah wants mink coats, I can give them to her. She does not
have to get married for that.

  JOB: (as one shocked) Of course not. Such a thought would never cross
my mind. Have you a mink coat, Dinah?

  DINAH: No. (Hastily) I never wanted one. I can buy my own furs. Yes,
and jewels, and perfume, and silly thin stockings, and everything else
that a woman is supposed to want. I have never needed a man to provide
for me.

  JOB: But you would like to find a little package by your plate in the
morning, every now and then.

  HECTOR: (bewildered, furious, and jealous) Dinah is always very
grumpy in the mornings. (As an afterthought) She doesn't care for
packages.

  DINAH: (stung by the 'grumpy') How do you know?

  HECTOR: And I consider it an underhand business to invade a man's house
under the guise of friendliness and to bribe his sister to marry—

  DINAH: Bribe! Bribe! For Heaven's sake, Hector. The man couldn't give
me a Woolworth's thimble.

  HECTOR: Then why do you want to marry him?

  DINAH: I don't want to! I'm not going to! If you would listen for half
a moment I could tell you. I wouldn't marry him if he were the last man
in the world.

  JOB: (reproachful) Oh, Dinah, what a cliché!

  DINAH: I wouldn't marry him if he were the last man in the world and I
was the world's prize nymphomaniac.

  JOB: That's better. Oh, come, Dinah! Just because I let the cat out of
the bag when we had arranged to keep it a secret, you needn't—

  HECTOR: And why was it to be kept secret?

  DINAH: Listen, Hector. Just listen quietly and get this into your head.
There isn't any 'it'. There isn't any secret. There isn't anything
between us at all!

  HECTOR: My dear Dinah, a man doesn't just invent a story like that,
without foundation.

  DINAH: I tell you, the word marriage was never even mentioned!

  JOB: (surprised) Was that necessary?

  DINAH: (staggered by his impudence) What!

  JOB: (vox humana) Dinah, did last night mean nothing to you?

  HECTOR: Dinah, I insist on knowing what all this is about.

  DINAH: Are you going to take this man's word instead of mine?

  HECTOR: Job is our cousin, and a gentleman, and a first-rate artist,
and I hardly think that he—

  DINAH: How do you know that he is a first-rate artist?

  HECTOR: I have seen his work, and as an artist I can appreciate it.

  DINAH: You have seen his work? (To JOB) I thought you said you were
an architect.

  JOB: I am. I am going to build Hector's new house for him.

  DINAH: (largo rallentando) Hector's new house!

  HECTOR: (hastily) No, no. That is only a suggestion so far. Job has
designed one of the most beautiful houses imaginable, and I--I naturally
admired it.

  DINAH: I didn't know that you wanted to build a house, Hector.

  HECTOR: That is all in the air at the moment, and quite irrelevant.
What we are discussing—

  DINAH: But where would you get the money?

  JOB: If Mrs Transom-Sills likes it enough when I show her the
photograph—

  DINAH: Clare!

  JOB: Oh, I beg your pardon. Perhaps, strictly speaking, that is not my
business.

  DINAH: Hector, you can't do that!

  HECTOR: Do what?

  DINAH: Take a present like that from Clare.

  JOB: Oh, of course not. It would only be a loan.

  DINAH: (looking doubtfully at HECTOR) A loan?

  HECTOR: (full of virtue) Naturally.

  DINAH: But you could never—('Pay it back', she is going to say)

  JOB: (neatly timing his next blow) You would like Hector to have a
house in the country, wouldn't you?

  DINAH: In the country!

  JOB: He could have you for week-ends. You're not one of those doctors
that are called out on Sundays, are you? The country is lovely for
week-ends.

  DINAH: You seem to have arranged a lot of my life this morning, Hector.

  HECTOR: Darling, all that is entirely in the air.

  DINAH: In Clare's pocket, you mean.

  HECTOR: It was tactless of Job to mention it.

  DINAH: Very.

  HECTOR: (growing heated as she grows cool) And I don't like your
attitude, Dinah. All that I am proposing is to build a house. A normal
and quite praiseworthy proceeding which hardly calls for comment from a
woman who has entangled herself overnight. I am still waiting for an
explanation of this extraordinary scene.

  DINAH: (surveying him) You sound just like a schoolmaster. The kind
they burlesque in music-halls. But I'm not your pupil, you know, Hector.
Nor your stooge. I am Dinah Partridge; free, white, and twenty-one;
with a profession, a bank book, and a telephone number. If I entangled
myself every night of my life, and had a different scene with a
different lover every morning, why should I explain to anyone?

  HECTOR: You would have to explain sooner or later.

  DINAH: To whom?

  HECTOR: The Medical Council, I presume. In the meantime, I, as your
brother, seek an explanation, not because I am interested in your moral
welfare, but because I am anxious about your mental health.

  DINAH: That's a pretty roundabout way of saying you think I've taken
leave of my senses. Have you inquired about Job's mental health? How do
you know Siam wasn't an asylum? Ask him what evidence he has that he has
ever been in Siam?

  HECTOR: He has ample evidence in his pocket that he has a sane and
constructive mind.

  DINAH: Nonsense. The maddest lunatic I ever knew was a mathematical
genius. You never saw Job till this morning, you know nothing about him,
and yet you take his word in preference to your own sister's! Why?

  HECTOR: Because you know him better than I do, and you found no signs
of lunacy in him until he had blurted out your secret.

  JOB: (before she can recover; very sweet and apologetic) I am
terribly sorry I said anything, Dinah. You must forgive me. I was so
pleased, so happy, I didn't stop to think.

  DINAH: (yelling at him) Will you hold your tongue, you
mischief-making devil!

  HECTOR: (shocked) Dinah! I think you really have taken leave of
your senses.

  DINAH: (controlled again) I shall in about two minutes. (Regarding
them both with disfavour) What a pair for a good decent woman to be
landed with!

  JOB: I think perhaps it would make things better if I were to go.

  DINAH: You mean you'll go away?

  JOB: Until you send for me.

  DINAH: (doubtful that she understands) Go out of this flat, I mean?

  JOB: Certainly.

  DINAH: (relief giving way to suspicion) And now what have you in
your mind?

  JOB: Oh, Dinah, darling. You must know that the dearest wish of my
heart is for your happiness.

  DINAH: I don't think you have a heart.

  JOB: (all sweet reason) If you have decided that last night was just
an evening's amusement, then I am the last man to force you to an
interest that seems to you unacceptable in the sober light of morning.

  DINAH: You are rapidly forcing me to an interest in murder.

  JOB: I'm glad you thought of that first, and not suicide.

  DINAH: Why?

  JOB: It completes my picture of you. When you find lions in the path
you don't run away, you beat them over the head. You really would be a
lovely woman to marry.

  DINAH: (coldly) Would you like Mrs Bint to help you pack.

  JOB: Thank you, but I always tie my own ties. (Pausing at the corridor
entrance) Perhaps after all, it was a mistake to try to stand in your
shoes, Hector.

  HECTOR: Why, may I ask?

  JOB: They are four sizes too small.

                                                           [Exit JOB.]

  HECTOR: (looking after him, contemplatively) I don't think I
altogether like that remark. I wish the fellow wasn't a genius.

  DINAH: (with detached interest) Have you ever knocked anyone down,
Hector?

  HECTOR: Certainly not. Physical force proves nothing.

  DINAH: It improves the occasion, now and then.

  HECTOR: I find you altogether beyond my understanding this morning,
Dinah. I only hope that you are not sickening for something.

  DINAH: That would be an inconvenience, wouldn't it? Tell me, Hector,
are you serious about building a house in the country?

  HECTOR: (made brave by her apparent mildness) If I can raise a loan.

  DINAH: I don't know Clare Transom-Sills very well, but I am quite sure
she wouldn't give you a sum like that without--security. What security
are you going to offer her?

  HECTOR: The house itself will be that.

  DINAH: (with no apparent emotion) You're not thinking of marrying
Clare, are you?

  HECTOR: No, certainly not; certainly not. (It is obvious that that is
exactly what he is thinking of doing)

  DINAH: (after a pause; reverting to the matter of the house) Then if
you fail to pay and she claims the house as security, what would you do?

  HECTOR: Oh, I shall always keep this place as a pied à terre.
Somewhere to change for the theatre, and so forth. (He is beginning to
feel happier) The country is all very well--green grass and God's clean
air and all that--but getting into tails at half-past five for dinner in
town at seven-thirty is quite unthinkable. Besides, there is you, Dinah
darling. You may have been a little foolish last night--Job is
undoubtedly attractive, and it is probably some time since you met
someone who didn't smell of iodine--but I am devoted to you, you know
that. I can't remember a time when you weren't the foundation of my
existence.

  DINAH: No, I suppose you can't. You have singularly little faith in the
foundation.

  HECTOR: Faith?

  DINAH: I am terrified of what Mrs Benson will say.

  HECTOR: And who is Mrs Benson?

  DINAH: The woman on the fourth floor who lost her jewellery. If she
happens to say that I took it, you'll no doubt ask me to hand it back.

  HECTOR: That is being entirely un-adult, and you know it. What possible
reason would Mrs Benson have for suspecting you of stealing her
jewellery!

  DINAH: Just as much reason as Job had for saying that I was going to
marry him.

  HECTOR: Oh, come, Dinah. I don't want to be hard on you, but you must
certainly have--have led him on.

  DINAH: (springing up to protest, but controlling herself) For a poet,
your vocabulary can be singularly vulgar.

  HECTOR: It would be in the worst of taste to deal poetically with a
vulgar matter. I am not blaming you at all, Dinah. I know you work hard
and see few people outside the medical profession, which has neither wit
nor manners. And Job is, as I said, a personable creature with no little
charm. I find it quite forgivable that you should lose your head a
little—

  DINAH: Are you going to condone my lapse, Hector?

  HECTOR: Flippancy does not suit you, my dear.

  DINAH: With practice it will.

  HECTOR: (ignoring her) Now that you have made it clear to Job that
the whole thing was a misunderstanding, nothing more need be said by
anyone. (His relief is almost comic)

  DINAH: (absent-mindedly picking a letter from the string-bag) Did we
upset you much, Hector?

  HECTOR: (missing the quality of her solicitude) I admit you upset me
very gravely. I have always trusted and admired you, Dinah.
Extravagantly. The pinnacle I keep you on may be too high—

  DINAH: I didn't know you kept me anywhere.

  HECTOR: --but your mind has always seemed the perfect complement to
mine.

  DINAH: Hector! You won't let emotion run away with you? This is the
first time you have ever mentioned my mind.

  HECTOR: And I hope you will not let its grace and sobriety be infected
by a cheap flippancy. A detestable quality in women.

  DINAH: What quality in women do you find most desirable, Hector? Apart
from an appreciation of your poetry, I mean.

  HECTOR: (losing his poise again) You are impossible this morning,
Dinah. I hardly recognise you.

  DINAH: That isn't surprising.

  HECTOR: Here am I, doing my best to smooth over a disgraceful
scene--the kind of scene I never imagined I should see acted in my own
home. A scene, moreover, if not instigated by you, then directly
traceable to your conduct last night. And you treat my magnanimity with
a levity I consider deplorable.

  DINAH: Can you spare one of your neckties, do you think?

  HECTOR: (coming to earth at once) Any man who can beg for a necktie
is dead to shame.

  DINAH: It isn't a man; it's a girl. She wants to sleep on it.

  HECTOR: What!

  DINAH: To put it under her pillow, you know. Like bride's cake.
(Dropping her letter back) I think a slipper would do more good.
Applied in the right place.

  HECTOR: (who rather likes having his neckties slept on) As a doctor
you should know that physical punishment does nothing but harm.

  DINAH: (with a fleeting glance at him) I am beginning to wonder.
(Having a thought) And you know, it occurs to me for the first time
that we are for ever preaching the evils of frustration, we declare and
believe that frustration is the source of all mental and most bodily
ills, and yet we do nothing about the greatest frustration of all: the
person who is prevented from applying the slipper where it seems to be
needed. Think of it, Hector. The thwartings, the ingrowing resentment,
the vain longings, the inflamed imagination busy with beautiful
massacres—

  HECTOR: You had better write a book about it.

  DINAH: I think I shall. That will make us both authors.

  HECTOR: Why do you say it like that?

  DINAH: Like what?

  HECTOR: There is a--a resentment in your attitude this morning, Dinah,
that is new and disconcerting to someone who loves you. I am not aware
of having done anything to merit resentment.

  DINAH: (lightly) It's what you haven't done, Hector, what you haven't
done.

  HECTOR: (quickly) So you do resent something!

  DINAH: Not resent; deplore, shall we say?

  HECTOR: (stiffly) And what do you deplore?

  DINAH: Never in twenty years have you picked a spider off my back.

  HECTOR: You didn't drink anything odd last night, did you, Dinah? At
those 'low dives' that Job said you visited. You know, in America during
Prohibition people went mad, and blind even, through drinking bad—

  DINAH: (dryly) Don't worry, Hector. I'm seeing very clearly this
morning. And once Job is out of the house there will be no fear of my
sanity.

  HECTOR: I think you are treating him rather badly, you know, Dinah.

  DINAH: (smoothly) You think I should marry him?

  HECTOR: (as if pricked by a pin) Certainly not! (Recovering) That
is all settled. But since the misunderstanding must have been largely
your fault, it is--unbecoming to treat the victim of it as if he were a
criminal.

  DINAH: I know Job a great deal better than you do—

  HECTOR: I am sure you do.

  DINAH: (with a glance for his tone)--and I think that boiling oil
would be much too good for him.

  HECTOR: I repeat, you had nothing against Job until he gave away the
fact that you had a--flirtation with him last night. You are being
vindictive and childish, and quite unlike the Dinah I know.

  DINAH: What Dinah do you know?

  HECTOR: Job is an artist, with all an artist's sensitivity; a genius,
perhaps; and—

  DINAH: Talking of genius, if he builds houses, how could you have seen
his work?

  HECTOR: He has a photograph; the photograph of a model.

  DINAH: How do you know it isn't the model of a police-station in
Alberta?

  HECTOR: Really, Dinah. It is one of the most original and satisfying
conceptions imaginable.

  DINAH: Perhaps it is something left over from the World's Fair.

  HECTOR: When you see it you may change your attitude. I hope you will.
After all, the man is our guest—

  DINAH: (putting it bluntly into words) In fact, Job has something you
want, and therefore I must be nice to him.

   [JOB appears in the doorway, wearing a shabby suit, but still with
      the bath slippers on his feet.]

  JOB: Was I wearing boots, last night, Dinah?

  DINAH: Will you ring for Mrs Bint, Hector, please?

  JOB: Oh, no. Please don't bother to do that. I shall fetch them myself.

  DINAH: Mrs Bint doesn't like people in her kitchen.

  JOB: She has never yet experienced the Butchard charm. I get it from my
mother. Do you remember your Aunt Cicely, Hector?

  HECTOR: (anxious to be pleasant) Vaguely, vaguely. A very beautiful
woman. I have seen photographs of her.

  DINAH: (with heavy meaning) Photographs are mostly fakes.

  JOB: (smiling seraphically on her) By the way, you have no objection
to your servants being tipped, have you?

  DINAH: None whatever.

  JOB: Thank you.

  DINAH: What are you going to tip her with?

  JOB: Of course. I squandered all my worldly wealth on you, didn't I?
Lend me ten shillings, will you, Hector?

  HECTOR: Delighted.

  JOB: (as HECTOR is producing the note) It will be nice to see a
British note again.

  DINAH: I'm sure it will.

   [JOB takes the note, smiles at her, and goes out to the kitchen.]

  HECTOR: Why do you insist that he has no money? He could hardly
squander much in Siam. And the Prince must have paid him well.

  DINAH: The Prince?

  HECTOR: The man he built the palace for.

  DINAH: Oh. Yes.

  HECTOR: Then what makes you think that he—

  DINAH: He lost it all. He told me.

  HECTOR: Lost it? How?

  DINAH: Oh, some teak forest, or something. It burned down. And he spent
a lot, too. He used to have Saturday-night nautches.

  HECTOR: Saturday night what?

  DINAH: Nautches. You know, dancing girls and--and--(she cannot think
of anything more at the moment) orgies.

  HECTOR: If you were not the most truthful person in the world, Dinah, I
should suspect you of making that up to discredit the man.

  DINAH: Oh, I could tell you much worse than that about him.

  HECTOR: Then don't. (Kindly) I think you have been listening to
travellers' tales, my dear. Very few men can resist telling them.

  DINAH: (stung by the patronage) And I, of course, am just a poor
little innocent.

  HECTOR: I think you are very unworldly sometimes. To anyone who knows
the world, Job is obviously both prosperous and respectable.

  DINAH: As well as a genius? Don't you think that is a little weeny
bit too much?

  HECTOR: (ignoring her) Your down-and-out has that indefinable air of
apology. Unmistakable. And talking of apologies, there was a quite
unwarrantable remark of yours—

   [There is the sound of MRS BINT'S voice and JOB'S in gay
      conversation in the hall beyond. Enter JOB carrying a tray on
      which is a half-bottle of champagne and two glasses. He is wearing
      his boots, and is carrying the bedroom slippers under the tray arm
      so as to leave a hand for door-opening.]

  DINAH: Well, I'm—(Words fail her)

  JOB: (putting the tray down on the table matter-of-factly) Mrs Bint
has great charm, I think. (Taking the slippers from under his arm) And
so have your bath slippers, Hector. Exquisite. Spanish, are they?

  HECTOR: No, Mexican.

  JOB: Have you been to Mexico?

  HECTOR: No. No. (Feeling that he must defend his comparative
provincialism) Travel has been overdone lately, I think.

  JOB: You must try Siam one day. So colourful, and such scope for the
imagination. (Making for the bedroom)

  DINAH: Will you tell me what the champagne is for?

  JOB: Oh, Mrs Bint thought that you should have that.
What-with-your-ankle-and-all.

  DINAH: Mrs Bint thought!

  JOB: Well, it may have been a case of thought transference.

  DINAH: I don't want any champagne.

  JOB: And you'll need it anyhow to celebrate.

  DINAH: Celebrate what?

  JOB: Getting rid of an incubus.

  HECTOR: My dear Job, you mustn't think of yourself as an incubus.

  JOB: (airy and reassuring) Oh, I don't.

                                              [Exit JOB to bedroom.]

  HECTOR: (slightly at a loss, but deciding that he must mean that only
DINAH considers him an incubus) Well, he seems very light-hearted
about your bad manners. It seems to me that he is carrying off the
situation very well, and you are doing nothing to help him. (As DINAH
is still staring at the door through which JOB has disappeared, and
is apparently not listening) What are you thinking?

  DINAH: (still staring at the door) I'm wishing I had learned to play
chess. Tell me, Hector, do you like me very much?

  HECTOR: What an odd question.

  DINAH: You really do care for me, don't you?

  HECTOR: I'm devoted to you.

  DINAH: Then let's both go away before he comes back.

  HECTOR: Dinah! Great heavens, what a—

  DINAH: The car is still at the door, isn't it? Then help me as far as
the lift. I must get out of this room.

  HECTOR: But, Dinah, that's ridiculous!

  DINAH: Please, Hector! He's very unconventional himself. He won't mind.
If we're not here when he comes back he'll go away quietly and
everything will be—

  HECTOR: I never heard a crazier—

  DINAH: (losing control; her quick, conspiratorial tones giving way to
rage) Can't you feel anything at all, you insensitive stick of a
creature! Can't you feel the air in the room bulging, bulging—

  HECTOR: Dinah!

  DINAH: --like something that is going to burst at any moment!

  HECTOR: (light dawning) Oh, darling, what a brute I've been. What a
blind brute! But I understand now. It's all clear.

  DINAH: What is clear?

  HECTOR: All your oddities, your wild talk, your bad temper. Of course,
it's your foot!

  DINAH: (relaxing into despair; drawling) Yes, Hector, it's my foot.

  HECTOR: It's when you said the room was bulging that it dawned on me.
That is just how I felt when I had that gumboil. You had better have the
foot X-rayed, hadn't you?

  DINAH: Yes, I shall have it X-rayed.

  HECTOR: I'll drive you in to hospital when—(As JOB comes in
carrying hat and overcoat) Oh, there you are. How are you going to get
into town? Shall we give you a lift as far as the hospital? Dinah is
going to have her foot seen to.

  JOB: Oh, no, thank you, I'll get a bus. If you will advance me the
fourpence, or whatever it is.

  HECTOR: Shall I give you a fiver?

  JOB: No, bus conductors don't like them. Give me half a crown.

  HECTOR: But—

  JOB: Just half a crown. Well, Dinah darling, it was fun while it
lasted.

  HECTOR: Will you have lunch with me at my club tomorrow? The Addison.
Two-fifteen?

  JOB: I'm afraid not.

  HECTOR: The day after, then?

  JOB: No, I'm afraid not.

  HECTOR: Then when can we go and see Clare? You set a time.

  JOB: I think in the circumstances, Hector, it would be better if we
called that arrangement off.

  HECTOR: You mean, because of the misunderstanding with Dinah you want
to back out of building the house? Oh, but Job, you can't do that. I
know Dinah behaved badly, but she is not herself this morning. She—

  JOB: It is not because of anything Dinah said. (To DINAH) I have had
a bad attack of conscience, Dinah.

  DINAH: So you ought.

  JOB: I like your brother so well that I can't find it in my heart to
deceive him any longer.

  DINAH: (protesting wildly) Oh, no, Job!

  HECTOR: Deceive me?

  JOB: This is going to hurt you, Hector, much more than it will hurt me.
I have always wanted a poet in the family. And you are so obviously
destined for the Abbey.

  DINAH: Job, please!

  JOB: Hector, you have to know it. I am not the little boy you used to
play with at Bude.

  HECTOR: You're not my cousin? Who are you, then?

  JOB: A waif. (As HECTOR stares at this exceedingly solid waif) You
see, I was very drunk last night, and Dinah picked me up and brought me
to your beautiful home.

  HECTOR: Dinah! Why should she do a thing like that?

  JOB: She was very drunk too.

  HECTOR: Dinah was! I don't believe it.

  JOB: (in a tolerant, you-know-best manner) Does she bring strange men
home when she is sober?

  HECTOR: Dinah, is this true?

  DINAH: (in level tones) Quite true.

  HECTOR: You were intoxicated?

  DINAH: I was drunk.

  HECTOR: And you brought a stranger home to spend the night here?

  DINAH: No, to sleep off the night.

  HECTOR: Don't quibble. You brought this man home and gave him my bed.

  DINAH: I needed my own.

  HECTOR: And you had the impudence to--to—

  DINAH: And I introduced him to you as our cousin. I'm not going to
quarrel with you, Hector. That is just what he wants.

  HECTOR: Quarrel! You cannot quarrel unless there are two sides to a
question.

  DINAH: I see. Just a lecture. Well, you can save the lecture too. If I
overwork, and get drunk, and waken up with a headache and a hanger-on,
that is no one's business but my own.

  HECTOR: It is my business if you use my home for entertaining your
vagrants. If you want male society so badly that you have to go to the
gutter for it, it would be—

  DINAH: (flaring) Hector! How dare you!

  HECTOR: How dare you palm off a good-for-nothing nobody as a genius!

  DINAH: It was you who decided that he was a genius.

  JOB: (happily) But I am a genius.

  HECTOR: (turning to him) Were you ever in Siam at all?

  JOB: Never.

  HECTOR: Or built a palace for a Prince?

  JOB: Alas, no.

  HECTOR: No, of course you didn't. You have probably never done an
honest day's work in your life. (To DINAH) And because I come home
unexpectedly and interrupt your disgraceful amour—

  DINAH: Oh, don't be ridiculous!

  HECTOR: --You lie like a shoplifter. You—

  DINAH: Hector, I am sufficiently ashamed of my backslidings. There is
no need for you to get excited about them.

  HECTOR: No need! No need! (His voice running up and cracking at the
enormity of it) Why, I almost introduced him to Clare! You not only lie
yourself out of a predicament, but you lie other people into one.

  DINAH: (seeing it for the first time) If you had been a more
understanding sort of person, I wouldn't have had to lie at all. But if
you must talk about it, I suggest that we postpone this discussion
until—

  HECTOR: Understanding! Am I supposed to find it funny that my sister
gets intoxicated—

  DINAH: Drunk.

  HECTOR: --and brings a complete stranger home to occupy my bed.

  DINAH: No; not funny, but—

  HECTOR: You take part in a horrible escapade (this is almost too much
for JOB), you lie with a facility that indicates either a depraved
natural capacity or a great deal of practice, and then you have the
impudence to suggest that if I were more sympathetic—

  DINAH: (shouting at him) Oh, don't be so smug! (Into the sudden
silence, in a quieter voice) My God, Hector, you must be the smuggest
thing in human form since Nero. I can't think why I bother to keep you
around.

  HECTOR: (not sure that he can believe his ears) Keep me around!

  DINAH: For twenty years I've wiped your nose, and pulled your socks up,
and parted your hair for you, and—(She catches JOB'S eye, and her
flood of oratory dries up abruptly. Conciliatory) All right, Hector.
Forget I said that. I'm upset this morning.

  HECTOR: Forget you said it! What do you think I am made of? Putty?

  DINAH: (flaring again) Yes. No! You're nothing as solid and kind as
putty. I like putty. It--it responds. You're just an empty skin filled
with hot air.

  HECTOR: A balloon, in fact.

  DINAH: Yes. The kind that has a silly face painted on it. A woman can't
live with a balloon for twenty years and go on liking it. I don't know
why I haven't put a cigarette-end to you long ago.

  HECTOR: You seem to be doing it now. But let me remind you that once
you have used the cigarette-end, there is no getting back the balloon.

  DINAH: Who wants it back? What good is it? What can you do with a
balloon but keep on patting it? I'm tired of patting you, Hector. I want
someone to pat me for a change.

  HECTOR: Dinah, this is outrageous nonsense, and you know it. Have I
ever said an unkind word, or done an unkind thing to you?

  DINAH: You cut off my doll's head.

  HECTOR: What!

  DINAH: You said she was Ann Boleyn. I tied her head on again, but her
eyes wouldn't work any more. And ever since, it's been like that. If you
wanted something of mine to be Ann Boleyn it had to be Ann Boleyn, or
life in the same house as you wasn't worth living.

  HECTOR: Really, Dinah, that is a—

  DINAH: Because you write a lot of highfalutin' capers that no one can
understand—

  HECTOR: Dinah!

  DINAH: --you patronise your poor low-brow sister, who does nothing more
intellectual than save lives, but when there is proof-reading to be
done—

  HECTOR: Never in my life have I asked you to read proofs!

  DINAH: Oh, no, you never ask me. They just lie around in mute appeal.
And you always have neuralgia at proof-reading time, or an invitation to
Cornwall, or an inspiration for a new poem that would be ruined by the
drudgery of proof-reading. So the poor fool Dinah does it.

  HECTOR: If you didn't want to correct my proofs there was not the
slightest reason why you should.

  DINAH: Of course not. Except that I'm a fool. But the fact that I'm a
poor fool doesn't make you any the less of a poor specimen.

  HECTOR: If you think that by reviling me you can obscure your own
misdemeanours, you are mistaken, my dear sister. You merely add to your
iniquities. First you behave like a street-woman, and now you prove to
be a shrew, and, if I may say so, a monster of ingratitude.

  DINAH: Ingratitude? What am I supposed to be grateful for?

  HECTOR: All those years I have stayed by you, lived with—

  DINAH: Stayed by me? What do you think this is? A sinking ship?

  HECTOR: --lived with you in this small flat because I was all you had.

  DINAH: Because the rent was sure, you mean.

  HECTOR: Dinah! Are you accusing me of mercenariness?

  DINAH: And because no one else would put up with your selfishness. I
used to be sorry for you when they didn't like you; you looked so like a
child someone has taken a sweet from; but I'll never be sorry for you
any more, Hector.

  HECTOR: You won't have to. Be assured of that. I am going to someone
who does not find me either an object of pity or a monument of
selfishness. If I had known the thoughts you were harbouring in your
mind, Dinah, I would have gone long ago.

  DINAH: I wasn't harbouring anything. They just came out in a rash.

  HECTOR: It will no doubt be a relief to you to have the flat free for
your own uses without the necessity of lying about it (this with a
stare at JOB), so I shall leave now.

  DINAH: (stung to fury again by his reference to her purple life)
Well, go, you silly little old maid, and don't talk so much about it.

   [HECTOR is lingering with a subconscious hope of capitulation on her
      part.]

  DINAH: And you can tell Clare that she has my sympathy. I hope she puts
you across her knee and spanks you.

  HECTOR: Will you please have my things sent to Clinton Terrace--all of
them. I shall take the car, and Clare's chauffeur will bring it back to
you.

  DINAH: (sweetly) Perhaps he'll bring back your share of the last two
quarters' rent as well.

  HECTOR: Certainly.

  DINAH: If Clare happens to have the cash.

   [HECTOR goes out, banging the door behind him.]

  DINAH: Oh, Hector! Come back. (To JOB) Call him back.

  JOB: (moving between her and the door) What, already! Oh, Dinah!

  DINAH: He's gone without his coat. (Rising) He'll catch his death of
cold. (Making for the door) Hector! (Her ankle gives way, and she
stumbles into JOB'S arms) Oh, damn!

  JOB: (holding her; surprised) Have you really sprained your ankle?

  DINAH: Of course I've sprained my ankle, you fool!

  JOB: (full of compunction) Dinah, my dear. (He picks her up and
deposits her on the couch) Yes, I should have known that you wouldn't
do that. (Fake an injury and miss a morning's work, he means)

  DINAH: (a little bewildered by her sudden passage through the air; to
herself more than to him) I thought that only happened in films.

  JOB: What did? (He is opening the champagne)

  DINAH: Men carrying women about.

  JOB: You've been living too long with Hector.

  DINAH: (not listening; still busy with her own thoughts) It's my
private belief that all this is just a nightmare. Presently I'll wake up
and have breakfast and go to hospital just as usual. Things like this
could never happen to me.

  JOB: That's what they all say.

  DINAH: Who?

  JOB: People things happen to.

  DINAH: (still detached) Have you said it?

  JOB: Often.

  DINAH: (taking the glass of champagne he offers her) But I could
never have got drunk--I don't drink, you know--and taken home someone I
didn't know at all, and got rid of Hector at last, and—

  JOB: So you wanted to get rid of him?

  DINAH: Oh, no. Only in a dream. When I'm awake I'm devoted to Hector.
I'm very proud of him. (She takes a sip or two of her champagne) Poor
Clare. (This with a small chuckle) But she's very fond of him.
(Between sips) And she's clever, you know. She'll ride him on the
snaffle. It will do him good to fetch and carry for a change. It is all
my fault, you know. I spoiled him. He was very sweet when he was young.
Have you got a sister? (Before he can answer) But of course I needn't
ask.

  JOB: Why? Is the number branded on my—

  DINAH: Nothing you say might be the truth. It's a great bar to any kind
of social intercourse. (Beginning to be aware of him again) How could
I have quarrelled with my brother over an impudent good-for-nothing like
you?

  JOB: I gather that your doll's head had a lot to do with it.

  DINAH: (not listening) I can't think why Clamp likes you.

  JOB: Does she?

  DINAH: She doesn't like many men.

  JOB: So I deduced. I am touched by her approval. Did you tell her the
whole sad story?

  DINAH: I had to. Simmons had told her first. I expect Simmons has told
the whole hospital by this time. There's one comfort: they won't believe
it any more than I do. They'll think it's just one of Simmons' stories.

  JOB: But Miss Clamp? Doesn't she talk?

  DINAH: (simply) Clamp hates Simmons.

  JOB: I see. What a power for good hate can be. It's a difficult world
for reformers.

  DINAH: Simmons was right when he called you 'a frightful man'. I had no
idea so much frightfulness could be compressed into one morning.

  JOB: But not blackmail?

  DINAH: Not so far.

                                                [The telephone rings.]

  JOB: (as DINAH struggles to rise) Shall I? (At the telephone)
Hullo?... No, it's Job.... (Without bothering to cover the mouthpiece)
Miss Clamp wants to know what has happened?

  DINAH: Tell her that my brother has left me, and I am on the point of
being blackmailed by the Other Man. (She is mellowing rapidly)

  JOB: (at the telephone) She says to tell you that her brother has
left her and she is on the point of being blackmailed by the Other
Man.... (Having listened with a growing smile) She says:
'Congratulations, and (replacing the receiver) could I blackmail you
into asking me to lunch?'

  DINAH: No, you couldn't. As soon as you finish that drink you are
leaving this house, and I hope that I never see you again. Perhaps
Hector will come back. Do you think so?

  JOB: Not to you. You shouldn't have called him an old maid. But he'll
come back to me, I think.

  DINAH: To you!

  JOB: Yes. He wants that house.

  DINAH: But--is it a real house?

  JOB: Real? That house has been my hobby for the last two years.

  DINAH: Oh. I thought it was probably something cut out of a magazine.
Or picked out of someone's pocket, for all I knew.

  JOB: All my crimes have been unskilled ones.

  DINAH: And would you build it for Hector?

  JOB: If I managed to stay sober long enough.

  DINAH: (a little dismayed) Oh, dear. I hope I haven't put Hector off
you. I painted a dreadful picture of your life in Siam. (Beginning to
laugh to herself) I said you had Saturday-night nautches.

  JOB: Oh, well, he knows now that I was never in Siam, so that
needn't—(What she has said penetrates his consciousness) I had
WHAT!

  DINAH: (her laughter growing) Saturday-night nautches.

   [He joins in her laughter with a roar. They laugh together
      hysterically. As she sobers up, she moves her feet
      half-consciously to make room on the couch for him to sit, and he,
      automatically and still laughing, takes the proffered seat.]

  DINAH: (just before the curtain comes down) What is your name, Job?

                                CURTAIN

[The end of Sweet Coz by Gordon Daviot]



THE END


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