BERYL: Three tricks--thanks to dummy's trumps.
PHYLLIS: Thanks to Arthur's appalling foozling, you mean.
BERYL: Did he foozle?
PHYLLIS: Did you see his discards--I ask you?
ARTHUR: [quickly] That was the new Badminton discard. It's played at every decent Club.
PHYLLIS: It may be minton. There's no question about it's being jolly bad.
ARTHUR: [gathering up cards] Why didn't you play the seven of diamonds?
PHYLLIS: For the simple reason that I hadn't got it. You had it.
ARTHUR: Well, why didn't you ask for it?
PHYLLIS: [dealing] Because I didn't want it.
MRS. ROBERTSON: Oh, don't quarrel, dears.
MR. ROBERTSON: They're not quarreling, my love. They're playing Bridge, the silent game.
PHYLLIS: Cue for general laughter. [She pretends to laugh heartily, the others join in irritably.]
MRS. ROBERTSON: [to her husband] Harry's late tonight.
MR. ROBERTSON: Yes, there is no doubt about it. He is late; but he's not been run over by a motor-omnibus or blown up on the tube.
MRS. ROBERTSON: I wish you didn't find it necessary to make fun of me, Henry.
MR. ROBERTSON: [stretching out a hand and laying it on his wife's, tenderly] Fun of you! My dear, if the truth must be told, I'm rather worried about the boy myself, and I made a feeble attempt to be merry and bright.
MRS. ROBERTSON: [anxiously] Ah! So you've worried too! Why? What have you noticed?
PHYLLIS: Leave it to you, partner.
PHYLLIS: Oh, help!
ARTHUR: No comments permitted.
PHYLLIS: That wasn't a comment. That was merely an involuntary exclamation of despair.
BERYL: Look at dummy! Five hearts to the king.
PHYLLIS: That settles it. [She rises and turns her chair round three times.]
MRS. ROBERTSON: Two nights after Beryl came to stay, I found Harry walking about his room gloomily an hour after he'd said goodnight.
MRS. ROBERTSON: That was because he was so anxious for news of the examination, poor boy.
MR. ROBERTSON: No. I suggested that, but he said, "Oh, bosh! I've passed all right. It's indigestion;" and he more or less shot me out of the room. But when I listened at his door after I'd had my bath, he was still pacing about.
MRS. ROBERTSON: Oh dear, oh dear. There's certainly something on his mind. Is it money?
MR. ROBERTSON: No. I asked him this morning if he was hard up. He said he had plenty.
MRS. ROBERTSON: What do you think is the matter? He was in the highest spirits a week ago, making all sorts of plans for the future, when he should be a full-blown doctor.
MR. ROBERTSON: He worked very hard for the exam, and he's suffering from the reaction. Waiting for news is very trying. Like a good chap, his great ambition is to begin to earn money, so that he shan't be any longer a strain upon my anaemic Government Office purse. That's all. Directly he hears that he is through he'll be all right again.
MRS. ROBERTSON: I do hope so. He's been quite short with me the last day or two, and he seems to stay away from home as much as he can.
[Enter the COOK, an odd little figure, elderly, familiar, quarrellous, good-hearted.]
COOK: Here's a telegram.
MRS. ROBERTSON: A telegram!
MR. ROBERTSON: Who's it for?
COOK: Harry Robertson, it's got on it. It's for the boy, I suppose. No 'Enery is called 'Arry after 'e's settled darn and 'ad a child.
MR. ROBERTSON: Give it to me, please.
COOK: [peering at it] I think it says 'Arry. What I wish the Post Office did was to stamp telegrams with a post-mark, then you could pretty well guess 'oo they was from.
MR. ROBERTSON: Will you give me the telegram?
COOK: Well, I brought it in for you. But don't you go opening it unless you're sure it's for you.
MR. ROBERTSON: [taking it] I will use my own discretion, Cook, thank you. It is for Harry.
MRS. ROBERTSON: [excitedly] It's about the examination.
PHYLLIS: Oh, father, do open it, please do.
MR. ROBERTSON: It is not addressed to me.
PHYLLIS: Oh, that's splitting straws. It must be about the exam, and therefore it's addressed to the family.
MRS. ROBERTSON: I think you might, Henry.
BERYL: Do, Mr. Robertson.
ARTHUR: If you do we could give Harry a rousing reception.
COOK: Yuss, and what price puttin' up the Mafekin' flags.
MR. ROBERTSON: [who has been fingering the telegram eagerly] No, no. [He rises.] This contains news that will effect Harry's whole life. He would prefer to open it himself.
COOK: Well, as I bank on his 'avin' passed, I shall trot off and get one of my special cakes all ready. Oh, what a night!
[She gives a hop and a skip, breaks into a cascade of shrill chuckles, and runs off.]
MR. ROBERTSON: [rising and going to mantel-piece] I'll put it here, where it will catch his eye.
PHYLLIS: You mustn't use the simple word eye when speaking of Dr. Robertson, father. You must say the glove or ball movable in the orbit.
MRS. ROBERTSON: [laughing excitedly] Yes, we must choose our words very carefully before the doctor.
MR. ROBERTSON: We don't know that he is a doctor yet. The telegram may say he's failed.
PHYLLIS: Who'll take sixpence to a rotten orange that it doesn't?
MRS. ROBERTSON: My dear child, don't use such vulgar expressions.
PHYLLIS: Why should a rotten orange be any more vulgar than a sleepy apple, or a bad potato? My dear mother, don't fall a victim to the code of manners of the Earl's Court Road.
COOK: [in a loud whisper] Now then, quick, are you in or out?
MRS. ROBERTSON: Why? Surely no one has called at this hour?
COOK: Yuss, the vicar.
MRS. ROBERTSON: The vicar!
COOK: So seein' as 'ow he 'ad on his beggin' expression, I thought I'd better ask.
MR. ROBERTSON: [hesitating] What do you think, dear?
PHYLLIS: He's collecting for the widows and orphans of missionaries made soup of by West African epicures.
MRS. ROBERTSON: I think we'd better be in.
COOK: In? Right--very feeble! [She goes out.]
MR. ROBERTSON: Well then, let's get it over. [He draws his hand out of his pocket.] I've just got five shillings.
MRS. ROBERTSON: Fancy Cook answering the door! Her curiosity is too wonderful. [She goes to door.]
MR. ROBERTSON: Don't let him sit down or he'll stay the whole evening.
MRS. ROBERTSON: He must sit down. [They go out.]
PHYLLIS: May I ask whether you're playing Bridge or Beggar-my-neighbour?
BERYL: Why? What's he doing?
PHYLLIS: Playing a wonderful and hideous game.
ARTHUR: Sorry. My mind's not on the game tonight. 'Er--would you mind reading this note? It's private. [He hands her a slip of paper.]
PHYLLIS: Oh, how touching. Private!--Is it proper? [Reads aloud.] "Will you please leave me alone with Miss MacMurdo, and guard the door for ten minutes? I want to propose." [She explodes with laughter.]
ARTHUR: [frightfully confused] Oh, look here! Dash it.
BERYL: [rising, also confused] I think we might have a little music now.
PHYLLIS: [rising and holding her arm] No, no. Stay and see it out. I've saved him all the preliminary beating about the bush. All he's got to do is ask you yes or no, and all you've got to do is say one or the other. It's quite easy. I'll keep cave for ten minutes. Be brave, and let who will be brilliant.
[PHYLLIS exits. There is a brief, uncomfortable silence. BERYL remains standing, running her fingers through the cards on the table. ARTHUR remains standing also, touching his tie nervously.]
ARTHUR: What did you think of the pictures in the Anglo-British Exhibition?
BERYL: Very good indeed, thank you. I mean--
ARTHUR: It's all right. I quite understand.
BERYL: [laughs softly] I don't know how you feel, I feel that I should like to be in the cellar, even among the beetles.
ARTHUR: I did, when Phyllis was idiot enough to read that thing aloud. I'm awfully sorry.
BERYL: I don't mind a bit. In fact, I believe I'm glad. It does save me from listening to an immense amount of remarks that have nothing to do with the subject.
ARTHUR: Yes, but she hasn't made it any easier for me. I've still got to make the plunge. May I?
BERYL: Yes--I think so.
ARTHUR: I love you. Will you marry me?
BERYL: [with a laugh] This is where I sit down. [She sits down.]
ARTHUR: Why? Are you shocked?
BERYL: How could I be? It's a perfectly proper question.
ARTHUR: Then what do you mean?
BERYL: Well, I want to think about it.
ARTHUR: Think about it? Good Heavens, it isn't a thing that bears thinking about!
BERYL: I know it isn't with most people. That's why there are so many unhappy marriages.
ARTHUR: But do you love me? You know that without having to think, don't you, Beryl?
BERYL: Yes, I do.
ARTHUR: [bending forward] Yes you do, what?
BERYL: Why love you, of course.
ARTHUR: Oh, hurrah! Then you'll marry me! Beryl! [He puts his arms out.]
BERYL: [pushes them away] Not too fast. Wait a minute.
ARTHUR: I can't wait. You've said that you love me. I don't know whether I'm on my head or my heels!
BERYL: You're on your heels, Arthur.
ARTHUR: Oh, do be serious. This means so much to me.
BERYL: It means even more to me. That's why I'm more serious than I've ever been before. I do love you--
BERYL: But I'm not at all certain that I love you well enough to marry you.
ARTHUR: [aghast] But if you love me of course you love me well enough to marry me.
BERYL: Not at all. I love five men just as much as I love you.
BERYL: How do I know that one of them isn't the man I want to marry?
ARTHUR: Five men? Who are they?
BERYL: Four you don't know, and the fifth is Harry Robertson. I can't possibly make up my mind tonight.
ARTHUR: I don't want you to make up you mind. I don't agree with a girl having a mind.
BERYL: Be careful, Master Arthur!
ARTHUR: Oh dash it, I don't mean that. What I mean is that I think a man ought to make up a girls' mind for her. Let me make up your mind for you.
BERYL: But what's the good of my having a mind if someone else makes it up for me? It's like having a piano and letting the next door neighbour play on it.
PHYLLIS: [putting her head in] Through with it yet?
ARTHUR: No. Go away!
PHYLLIS: Well, hurry up. [She goes out and shuts the door.]
ARTHUR: Oh, good Lord, I'm getting jumpy.
BERYL: But that's absurd. This is a moment when you ought to be absolutely calm and collected. Excitement and haste may mean years of misery.
ARTHUR: Years of misery! Married to you!
BERYL: Well, years of misery for me, then. Evidently I don't count so long as you're happy.
ARTHUR: You couldn't love me if you thought I was that sort of creature! I think about you far more than I think about myself.
BERYL: It's very nice of you, but that's the way to become an angel, and if you become an angel you can't possibly marry me.
ARTHUR: Why not?
BERYL: Because there is no giving in marriage in heaven, and I hope it will be years before I join you there.
ARTHUR: How long have I got to wait before you make up your mind?
BERYL: Until I am quite certain that I can't marry Harry Robertson, Aubrey Reckett, Gerald Handers, Cyril Law, and Charlie Hackett.
ARTHUR: Have they asked you to marry them?
BERYL: No, but they all will as soon as I give them a moonlight opportunity.
ARTHUR: And, good Lord, before you come round to me again you may have met and loved another five men.
BERYL: I know. It is difficult, isn't it?
ARTHUR: [strongly] I insist on your marrying me! Do you hear?
BERYL: I like you more than ever for adopting the strong man tone, Arthur dear, but unfortunately Cupid has not yet shot an arrow into my heart. He has sent plenty of arrows at me, but has always missed the bull.
ARTHUR: [miserably] Where did he shoot for me?
BERYL: I'm afraid you're an outer, old boy.
ARTHUR: Will you give me a kiss to go on with until you make up your mind?
BERYL: Of course I will.
[She holds up her face. ARTHUR bends and kisses her cheek. HARRY ROBERTSON enters. He comes in quickly, and eagerly, sees ARTHUR kiss BERYL, and draws up sharply, with an expression of pain and anger.]
HARRY: I'm sorry. Why didn't you put a notice on the door?
BERYL: It doesn't matter in the least, thanks.
[Enter MR. and MRS. ROBERTSON and PHYLLIS, all with suppressed excitement.]
MRS. ROBERTSON: When did you get back, darling?
PHYLLIS: How long have you been in?
MR. ROBERTSON: Well, my boy, here you are then!
HARRY: [staring round] What's the excitement?
MRS. ROBERTSON: There's a telegram for you, dearest.
HARRY: [eagerly] A telegram? [In a carefully ordinary voice.] From Bartlett, I suppose, asking me down for a weekend.
PHYLLIS: [tartly] You know you don't think it's anything of the sort.
MR. ROBERTSON: [handing it to HARRY] We thought it might be about your exam, old man.
HARRY: Oh, that thing. Been playing Bridge?
BERYL: Yes, dummy.
ARTHUR: Held rather good hands.
HARRY: All the hearts, I see.
MRS. ROBERTSON: Won't you open your telegram, darling?
HARRY: Any time will do, mother.
PHYLLIS: Well, I never thought that you were sidey! For goodness sake open it and put us out of our misery.
HARRY: [to BERYL] I met Cyril Law today. He asked to be remembered to you.
BERYL: Oh, dear old Cyril.
HARRY: Yes, he's pretty long in the few teeth he has left, isn't he?
PHYLLIS: A nice sweet remark! You obviously like him.
HARRY: I've never thought about him. He's merely a drab wall to me.
MR. ROBERTSON: You might just see if that telegram is about the exam, old chap.
[Enter COOK. She fusses about, pretending to be busy.]
HARRY: It isn't, father. It's only from some idiot who has spent sixpence because he couldn't be bothered to write a card that would have cost a halfpenny. This room seems popular tonight.
PHYLLIS: Oh, I can't stand this. [She whips the telegram out of HARRY'S hand, opens it and reads it.] "Congrats, old man. You top the list of passes. E.G. Lloyd."
MRS. ROBERTSON: [flinging her arms round HARRY'S neck] Oh, my darling boy.
MR. ROBERTSON: [seizing his hand] Well done Harry.
PHYLLIS: Played indeed!
BERYL: Oh, I'm so glad.
ARTHUR: So am I. Simply delighted.
COOK: [flinging up her arms] Now then, all together, hip-hip--
HARRY: Oh, good Lord!
MRS. ROBERTSON: [tearfully] Dr. Robertson. Dr. Robertson. And at the head of the list.
MR. ROBERTSON: This is something to have lived for.
HARRY: Thanks very much. Er--isn't the drawing-room going to be used tonight?
MR. ROBERTSON: Yes, let's all go and play and sing.
MRS. ROBERTSON: Yes, come along, Beryl; come along, Arthur. Phyllis, run and light the candles on the piano.
COOK: I will. "Oh, it's all right in the summer-time, the summer-time"--
[COOK exits. PHYLLIS follows with a shriek of laughter, pulling off BERYL.]
MRS. ROBERTSON: Come along, darling.
HARRY: Later, mother. I want a word with father.
MR. ROBERTSON: Yes, exactly.
MRS. ROBERTSON: All right. But not too many words. [She kisses him again.] Come along, Arthur. [She goes out.]
ARTHUR: I'm afraid I must be going.
ARTHUR: I must write a letter or two for the last post. Well, I can't tell you how glad I am that you've done so frightfully well.
HARRY: Thanks. Goodnight. [He turns away.]
ARTHUR: Goodnight, Mr. Robertson.
MR. ROBERTSON: I'll see you out.
[They go out together. HARRY, left alone, remains standing quite still. A girl's voice singing to piano accompaniment can be heard. He listens and then goes sharply across the room and shuts the door. He goes to the card table where BERYL was sitting and picks up her cards tenderly, then flings them down. Enter MR. ROBERTSON. He leaves the door open.]
MR. ROBERTSON: [coming down and holding out his hand] Harry, old boy. [There is a note of great emotion in his voice.]
HARRY: [shakes hands] It was raining when I came in.
MR. ROBERTSON: [blowing his nose] Glass has been going down all day. Shall we smoke a pipe?
HARRY: Try some of this. [He hands his pouch.]
MR. ROBERTSON: Looks good.
HARRY: It isn't bad.
[The singing has been heard through this. HARRY goes and shuts the door with a bang.]
MR. ROBERTSON: [standing with his back to the fireplace] The next thing to do, is to look out for a partnership for you. What do you think? Town or country? [He lights a match.]
HARRY: Neither. I shan't practise.
MR. ROBERTSON: Wait!--Oh, I see. You mean you'll take up a hospital appointment.
HARRY: As a matter of fact, I don't, father. I'm going to chuck doctoring.
MR. ROBERTSON: [with a gasp of amazement] Chuck--doctoring?
HARRY: Yes. [He gives a laugh.] Sounds almost funny, doesn't it, after working for it and passing?
MR. ROBERTSON: The word funny doesn't seem to me to be the one.
HARRY: No, I suppose it doesn't. Call it ingratitude, waste of time and money, whatever you like. They are all the right words. I'm very sorry about it, but there it is. I'm a fool, and you can't alter me.
MR. ROBERTSON: I think you owe me some sort of explanation, Harry.
HARRY: Yes, I do. I was working to do well in my M.D. for two reasons. First because I wanted to show you that I understood and was--awfully grateful to you for having gone without things to pay my fees and keep me.
MR. ROBERTSON: Thanks, old man.
HARRY: And second--Well, that's it. The second reason has suddenly crumbled. I've worked for nothing as far as that's concerned. I didn't know until just now.
MR. ROBERTSON: Just now? Since you've been in?
HARRY: Yes. Don't ask me what it is. It sounds feeble enough. But I'm the sort of idiot who goes in for building up castles in the air, and a castle is no good to me unless the right person is going to share it with me. I've made a hopeless mistake, and so I shall chuck everything and go out to Canada, or somewhere, and get on to something else.
BERYL: I know I'm disturbing you, but I was told to ask you both to come into the drawing-room.
MR. ROBERTSON: [looks from her to HARRY and smiles] Oh yes, the drawing-room. To be sure. [He goes out shutting the door.]
BERYL: And so you've passed.
HARRY: Why don't you go into the drawing-room?
BERYL: [sitting down] I want to be alone with you. Do you object?
HARRY: [scornfully] Alone with me! Bosh.
BERYL: It was no surprise and no news to me that Mr. Lloyd telegraphed. I knew you'd pass.
BERYL: Because I know you. You said you would.
HARRY: Why waste those--those beautiful things on me? Unless, of course, you want to say them to me to keep your hand in.
BERYL: I don't think being successful quite suits you, Harry.
HARRY: Oh! Why!
BERYL: You've been quite a different Harry this evening.
HARRY: And I'm likely to be the same different Harry in the future.
BERYL: Oh, so you know you've been different then?
HARRY: In exactly the same way that a man knows that his arms have been snicked off by machinery--yes. However, it doesn't matter. Do you want a well-built castle in the air--south aspect, drawing-room 25 by 25, water hot and cold, an acre of garden, suitable to a young married couple? No offer refused. Must be sold, by order of the devil.
BERYL: You're talking like the reckless, bitter hero of a romantic drama.
HARRY: Well, why quarrel with me for that? They always talk fifty percent better than anybody else. Make the most of it. You'll soon hear nothing but Arthur's commonplace prattling.
BERYL: I shall? Why?
HARRY: Well, I suppose you won't gag the man when you're his wife, will you?
BERYL: [thoughtfully] Arthur's wife? I hadn't intended to think about that for some time. But when I do think of it, I don't want to think of it. No. My mind's made up.
HARRY: You don't appear to be talking Chinese.
BERYL: I'm not. I've just settled rather an important point, that's all. Arthur asked me to marry him just now.
HARRY: When I clumsily plumped in on the kissing episode.
BERYL: Yes, that's right. What a memory you've got. I'd forgotten that.
HARRY: Wish I had. Well, what would you like me to give you? I've got a beautiful collection of medical books you can have. Bright reading.
BERYL: I'm not marrying, thanks.
HARRY: You're talking like an idiot. What do you mean?
[He takes her by the arms and stands her in front of him.]
BERYL: Don't hurt my arms, Harry.
HARRY: Blow your arms, what are you babbling about? I saw Arthur kiss you. Are you or are you not engaged to him?
BERYL: No, I'm not.
HARRY: Then why did he kiss you?
BERYL: Because I told him he might.
BERYL: Because he loves me and I love him.
HARRY: You love him and yet you're not going to marry him? You're talking rot.
BERYL: Why call a thing rot simply because you don't understand it? I love several men, but I'm not going to marry them.
HARRY: Several men?
BERYL: Of course. I love you, but I don't think I'm going to marry you.
HARRY: [shouting] What did you say?
BERYL: My dear Harry, if you shout like that your mother will think I'm hurting you.
HARRY: [lowering his voice, holding BERYL'S arms tight, and peering into her eyes] Did you say that you love me, or am I off my head?
BERYL: You're really hurting my arms.
HARRY: [shaking her] Don't quibble!
BERYL: You'll shake all my hairpins out.
HARRY: Tell me what you said.
BERYL: When? I forget! I do wish you wouldn't shake me as though you were going to take me.
HARRY: I will take you, you little wretch. You said you loved me.
BERYL: You pretended you didn't hear.
HARRY: And if you love me you've got to marry me.
BERYL: Why, pray?
HARRY: Because I love you as only a really colossal ass is capable of loving.
BERYL: I quite understand what you mean, but--
HARRY: But be hanged.
BERYL: I've already told Arthur that I can't promise to marry him until I've made up my mind that I want to. I say exactly the same thing to you.
HARRY: Yes, well, and I say this to you. I don't care tuppence for your mind and whether you make it up or not. You're going to marry me. I'll hold your arms and put up with your wagging tongue until you do. Otherwise--
BERYL: Otherwise--what? Your hands are so strong that I'm certain you'd get all your pennies back in the try-your-strength machines.
HARRY: Otherwise I chuck doctoring and England and the whole game and go to Canada.
BERYL: That would be silly.
HARRY: A man in love is always silly.
BERYL: It would also be very rough on your father and mother.
HARRY: A man in love forgets his father and mother. Marry me, do you hear?
BERYL: All the bullying, all the threats, all the bruises in the world won't make me marry you until I know for certain that I want you.
HARRY: How will you----?
BERYL: Shhh! Keep quite still. Don't breathe.
HARRY: What's the matter?
BERYL: [in a whisper] Did you see someone come into the room just then?
HARRY: No. What the dickens do you mean?
BERYL: Someone came in, I'll swear.
HARRY: What sort of someone?
BERYL: A boy, all creasy and pink with curly hair and dancing eyes and a bow and arrow. Oh!
[She starts and falls into his arms.]
HARRY: What's up? What's wrong?
BERYL: Nothing. Everything's right. This time he got me clean in the centre of the heart.
HARRY: I don't understand a blessed word of all this!
BERYL: It doesn't matter. It's only quite a little private affair of my own. You may be interested to hear that I'm quite ready to----
HARRY: To what?
BERYL: Marry you, idiot.
HARRY: Ah! [He seizes her and kisses her. Then he puts her into a chair and goes to the door.]
BERYL: Where are you going?
HARRY: Sit still and be quiet. [He calls.] Father! Mother! Phyllis! Here, quickly.
MRS. ROBERTSON: [without] What is it, darling? What is it? [She enters, followed by Mr. ROBERTSON and PHYLLIS.]
HARRY: I said I was going to chuck doctoring. Well, I'm not. I thought you'd like to know. That's all.
MRS. ROBERTSON: What's happened?
MR. ROBERTSON: Beril.
MRS. ROBERTSON & PHYLLIS: Beryl!
HARRY: She's suddenly made up her absurd mind that I'm the man she's going to marry, and so I'm all right. What did it I don't know.
BERYL: I'll tell you. An arrow did it.
OTHERS: An arrow?
BERYL: Yes. That's why Cupid came to Earl's Court.