Heartbreak House/Act I, § i
- The hilly country in the middle of the north edge of Sussex, looking very pleasant on a fine evening at the end of September, is seen through the windows of a room which has been built so as to resemble the after part of an old-fashioned high-pooped ship, with a stern gallery; for the windows are ship built with heavy timbering, and run right across the room as continuously as the stability of the wall allows. A row of lockers under the windows provides an unupholstered windowseat interrupted by twin glass doors, respectively halfway between the stern post and the sides. Another door strains the illusion a little by being apparently in the ship's port side, and yet leading, not to the open sea, but to the entrance hall of the house. Between this door and the stern gallery are bookshelves. There are electric light switches beside the door leading to the hall and the glass doors in the stern gallery. Against the starboard wall is a carpenter's bench. The vice has a board in its jaws; and the floor is littered with shavings, overflowing from a waste-paper basket. A couple of planes and a centrebit are on the bench. In the same wall, between the bench and the windows, is a narrow doorway with a half door, above which a glimpse of the room beyond shows that it is a shelved pantry with bottles and kitchen crockery.
- On the starboard side, but close to the middle, is a plain oak drawing-table with drawing-board, T-square, straightedges, set squares, mathematical instruments, saucers of water color, a tumbler of discolored water, Indian ink, pencils, and brushes on it. The drawing-board is set so that the draughtsman's chair has the window on its left hand. On the floor at the end of the table,on its right, is a ship's fire bucket. On the port side of the room, near the bookshelves, is a sofa with its back to the windows. It is a sturdy mahogany article, oddly upholstered in sailcloth, including the bolster, with a couple of blankets hanging over the back. Between the sofa and the drawing-table is a big wicker chair, with broad arms and a low sloping back, with its back to the light. A small but stout table of teak, with a round top and gate legs, stands against the port wall between the door and the bookcase. It is the only article in the room that suggests (not at all convincingly) a woman's hand in the furnishing. The uncarpeted floor of narrow boards is caulked and holystoned like a deck.
- The garden to which the glass doors lead dips to the south before the landscape rises again to the hills. Emerging from the hollow is the cupola of an observatory. Between the observatory and the house is a flagstaff on a little esplanade, with a hammock on the east side and a long garden seat on the west.
- A young lady, gloved and hatted, with a dust coat on, is sitting in the window-seat with her body twisted to enable her to look out at the view. One hand props her chin: the other hangs down with a volume of the Temple Shakespeare in it, and her finger stuck in the page she has been reading.
- A clock strikes six.
- The young lady turns and looks at her watch. She rises with an air of one who waits, and is almost at the end of her patience. She is a pretty girl, slender, fair, and intelligent looking, nicely but not expensively dressed, evidently not a smart idler. With a sigh of weary resignation she comes to the draughtsman's chair; sits down; and begins to read Shakespeare. Presently the book sinks to her lap; her eyes close; and she dozes into a slumber.
- An elderly womanservant comes in from the hall with three unopened bottles of rum on a tray. She passes through and disappears in the pantry without noticing the young lady. She places the bottles on the shelf and fills her tray with empty bottles. As she returns with these, the young lady lets her book drop, awakening herself, and startling the womanservant so that she all but lets the tray fall.
THE WOMANSERVANT. God bless us! [The young lady picks up the book and places it on the table]. Sorry to wake you, miss, I'm sure; but you are a stranger to me. What might you be waiting here for now?
THE YOUNG LADY. Waiting for somebody to show some signs of knowing that I have been invited here.
THE WOMANSERVANT. Oh, you're invited, are you? And has nobody come? Dear! dear!
THE YOUNG LADY. A wild-looking old gentleman came and looked in at the window; and I heard him calling out, "Nurse, there is a young and attractive female waiting in the poop. Go and see what she wants." Are you the nurse?
THE WOMANSERVANT. Yes, miss: I'm Nurse Guinness. That was old Captain Shotover, Mrs Hushabye's father. I heard him roaring; but I thought it was for something else. I suppose it was Mrs Hushabye that invited you, ducky?
THE YOUNG LADY. I understood her to do so. But really I think I'd better go.
NURSE GUINNESS. Oh, don't think of such a thing, miss. If Mrs Hushabye has forgotten all about it, it will be a pleasant surprise for her to see you, won't it?
THE YOUNG LADY. It has been a very unpleasant surprise to me to find that nobody expects me.
NURSE GUINNESS. You'll get used to it, miss: this house is full of surprises for them that don't know our ways.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER [looking in from the hall suddenly: an ancient but still hardy man with an immense white beard, in a reefer jacket with a whistle hanging from his neck]. Nurse, there is a hold-all and a handbag on the front steps for everybody to fall over. Also a tennis racquet. Who the devil left them there?
THE YOUNG LADY. They are mine, I'm afraid.
TAE CAPTAIN [advancing to the drawing-table]. Nurse, who is this misguided and unfortunate young lady?
NURSE GUINNESS. She says Miss Hessy invited her, sir.
THE CAPTAIN. And had she no friend, no parents, to warn her against my daughter's invitations? This is a pretty sort of house, by heavens! A young and attractive lady is invited here. Her luggage is left on the steps for hours; and she herself is deposited in the poop and abandoned, tired and starving. This is our hospitality. These are our manners. No room ready. No hot water. No welcoming hostess. Our visitor is to sleep in the toolshed, and to wash in the duckpond.
NURSE GUINNESS. Now it's all right, Captain: I'll get the lady some tea; and her room shall be ready before she has finished it. [To the young lady]. Take off your hat, ducky; and make yourself at home [she goes to the door leading to the hall].
THE CAPTAIN [as she passes him]. Ducky! Do you suppose, woman, that because this young lady has been insulted and neglected, you have the right to address her as you address my wretched children, whom you have brought up in ignorance of the commonest decencies of social intercourse?
NURSE GUINNESS. Never mind him, doty. [Quite unconcerned, she goes out into the hall on her way to the kitchen].
THE CAPTAIN. Madam, will you favor me with your name? [He sits down in the big wicker chair].
THE YOUNG LADY. My name is Ellie Dunn.
THE CAPTAIN. Dunn! I had a boatswain whose name was Dunn. He was originally a pirate in China. He set up as a ship's chandler with stores which I have every reason to believe he stole from me. No doubt he became rich. Are you his daughter?
ELLIE [indignant]. No, certainly not. I am proud to be able to say that though my father has not been a successful man, nobody has ever had one word to say against him. I think my father is the best man I have ever known.
THE CAPTAIN. He must be greatly changed. Has he attained the seventh degree of concentration?
ELLIE. I don't understand.
THE CAPTAIN. But how could he, with a daughter? I, madam, have two daughters. One of them is Hesione Hushabye, who invited you here. I keep this house: she upsets it. I desire to attain the seventh degree of concentration: she invites visitors and leaves me to entertain them. [Nurse Guinness returns with the tea-tray, which she places on the teak table]. I have a second daughter who is, thank God, in a remote part of the Empire with her numskull of a husband. As a child she thought the figure-head of my ship, the Dauntless, the most beautiful thing on earth. He resembled it. He had the same expression: wooden yet enterprising. She married him, and will never set foot in this house again.
NURSE GUINNESS [carrying the table, with the tea-things on it, to Ellie's side]. Indeed you never were more mistaken. She is in England this very moment. You have been told three times this week that she is coming home for a year for her health. And very glad you should be to see your own daughter again after all these years.
THE CAPTAIN. I am not glad. The natural term of the affection of the human animal for its offspring is six years. My daughter Ariadne was born when I was forty-six. I am now eighty-eight. If she comes, I am not at home. If she wants anything, let her take it. If she asks for me, let her be informed that I am extremely old, and have totally forgotten her.
NURSE GUINNESS. That's no talk to offer to a young lady. Here, ducky, have some tea; and don't listen to him [she pours out a cup of tea].
THE CAPTAIN [rising wrathfully]. Now before high heaven they have given this innocent child Indian tea: the stuff they tan their own leather insides with. [He seizes the cup and the tea-pot and empties both into the leathern bucket].
ELLIE [almost in tears]. Oh, please! I am so tired. I should have been glad of anything.
NURSE GUINNESS. Oh, what a thing to do! The poor lamb is ready to drop.
THE CAPTAIN. You shall have some of my tea. Do not touch that fly-blown cake: nobody eats it here except the dogs. [He disappears into the pantry].
NURSE GUINNESS. There's a man for you! They say he sold himself to the devil in Zanzibar before he was a captain; and the older he grows the more I believe them.
A WOMAN'S VOICE [in the hall]. Is anyone at home? Hesione! Nurse! Papa! Do come, somebody; and take in my luggage.
- Thumping heard, as of an umbrella, on the wainscot.
NURSE GUINNESS. My gracious! It's Miss Addy, Lady Utterword, Mrs Hushabye's sister: the one I told the captain about. [Calling]. Coming, Miss, coming.
- She carries the table back to its place by the door and is harrying out when she is intercepted by Lady Utterword, who bursts in much flustered. Lady Utterword, a blonde, is very handsome, very well dressed, and so precipitate in speech and action that the first impression (erroneous) is one of comic silliness.
LADY UTTERWORD. Oh, is that you, Nurse? How are you? You don't look a day older. Is nobody at home? Where is Hesione? Doesn't she expect me? Where are the servants? Whose luggage is that on the steps? Where's papa? Is everybody asleep? [Seeing Ellie]. Oh! I beg your pardon. I suppose you are one of my nieces. [Approaching her with outstretched arms]. Come and kiss your aunt, darling.
ELLIE. I'm only a visitor. It is my luggage on the steps.
NURSE GUINNESS. I'll go get you some fresh tea, ducky. [She takes up the tray].
ELLIE. But the old gentleman said he would make some himself.
NURSE GUINNESS. Bless you! he's forgotten what he went for already. His mind wanders from one thing to another.
LADY UTTERWORD. Papa, I suppose?
NURSE GUINNESS. Yes, Miss.
LADY UTTERWORD [vehemently]. Don't be silly, Nurse. Don't call me Miss.
NURSE GUINNESS [placidly]. No, lovey [she goes out with the tea-tray].
LADY UTTERWORD [sitting down with a flounce on the sofa]. I know what you must feel. Oh, this house, this house! I come back to it after twenty-three years; and it is just the same: the luggage lying on the steps, the servants spoilt and impossible, nobody at home to receive anybody, no regular meals, nobody ever hungry because they are always gnawing bread and butter or munching apples, and, what is worse, the same disorder in ideas, in talk, in feeling. When I was a child I was used to it: I had never known anything better, though I was unhappy, and longed all the time—oh, how I longed!—to be respectable, to be a lady, to live as others did, not to have to think of everything for myself. I married at nineteen to escape from it. My husband is Sir Hastings Utterword, who has been governor of all the crown colonies in succession. I have always been the mistress of Government House. I have been so happy: I had forgotten that people could live like this. I wanted to see my father, my sister, my nephews and nieces (one ought to, you know), and I was looking forward to it. And now the state of the house! the way I'm received! the casual impudence of that woman Guinness, our old nurse! really Hesione might at least have been here: some preparation might have been made for me. You must excuse my going on in this way; but I am really very much hurt and annoyed and disillusioned: and if I had realized it was to be like this, I wouldn't have come. I have a great mind to go away without another word [she is on the point of weeping].
ELLIE [also very miserable]. Nobody has been here to receive me either. I thought I ought to go away too. But how can I, Lady Utterword? My luggage is on the steps; and the station fly has gone.
- The captain emerges from the pantry with a tray of Chinese lacquer and a very fine tea-set on it. He rests it provisionally on the end of the table; snatches away the drawing-board, which
he stands on the floor against table legs; and puts the tray in the space thus cleared. Ellie pours out a cup greedily.
THE CAPTAIN. Your tea, young lady. What! another lady! I must fetch another cup [he makes for the pantry].
LADY UTTERWORD [rising from the sofa, suffused with emotion]. Papa! Don't you know me? I'm your daughter.
THE CAPTAIN. Nonsense! my daughter's upstairs asleep. [He vanishes through the half door].
Lady Utterword retires to the window to conceal her tears.
ELLIE [going to her with the cup]. Don't be so distressed. Have this cup of tea. He is very old and very strange: he has been just like that to me. I know how dreadful it must be: my own father is all the world to me. Oh, I'm sure he didn't mean it.
- The captain returns with another cup.
THE CAPTAIN. Now we are complete. [He places it on the tray].
LADY UTTERWORD [hysterically]. Papa, you can't have forgotten me. I am Ariadne. I'm little Paddy Patkins. Won't you kiss me? [She goes to him and throws her arms round his neck].
THE CAPTAIN [woodenly enduring her embrace]. How can you be Ariadne? You are a middle-aged woman: well preserved, madam, but no longer young.
LADY UTTERWORD. But think of all the years and years I have been away, Papa. I have had to grow old, like other people.
THE CAPTAIN [disengaging himself]. You should grow out of kissing strange men: they may be striving to attain the seventh degree of concentration.
LADY UTTERWORD. But I'm your daughter. You haven't seen me for years.
THE CAPTAIN. So much the worse! When our relatives are at home, we have to think of all their good points or it would be impossible to endure them. But when they are away, we console ourselves for their absence by dwelling on their vices. That is how I have come to think my absent daughter Ariadne a perfect fiend; so do not try to ingratiate yourself here by impersonating her [he walks firmly away to the other side of the room].
LADY UTTERWORD. Ingratiating myself indeed! [With dignity]. Very well, papa. [She sits down at the drawing-table and pours out tea for herself].
THE CAPTAIN. I am neglecting my social duties. You remember Dunn? Billy Dunn?
LADY UTTERWORD. DO you mean that villainous sailor who robbed you?
THE CAPTAIN [introducing Ellie]. His daughter. [He sits down on the sofa].
ELLIE [protesting]. No—
Nurse Guinness returns with fresh tea.
THE CAPTAIN. Take that hogwash away. Do you hear?
NURSE. You've actually remembered about the tea! [To Ellie]. Oh, miss, he didn't forget you after all! You HAVE made an impression.
THE CAPTAIN [gloomily]. Youth! beauty! novelty! They are badly wanted in this house. I am excessively old. Hesione is only moderately young. Her children are not youthful.
LADY UTTERWORD. How can children be expected to be youthful in this house? Almost before we could speak we were filled with notions that might have been all very well for pagan philosophers of fifty, but were certainly quite unfit for respectable people of any age.
NURSE. You were always for respectability, Miss Addy.
LADY UTTERWORD. Nurse, will you please remember that I am Lady Utterword, and not Miss Addy, nor lovey, nor darling, nor doty? Do you hear?
NURSE. Yes, ducky: all right. I'll tell them all they must call you My Lady. [She takes her tray out with undisturbed placidity].
LADY UTTERWORD. What comfort? what sense is there in having servants with no manners?
ELLIE [rising and coming to the table to put down her empty cup]. Lady Utterword, do you think Mrs Hushabye really expects me?
LADY UTTERWORD. Oh, don't ask me. You can see for yourself that I've just arrived; her only sister, after twenty-three years' absence! and it seems that I am not expected.
THE CAPTAIN. What does it matter whether the young lady is expected or not? She is welcome. There are beds: there is food. I'll find a room for her myself [he makes for the door].
ELLIE [following him to stop him]. Oh, please—[He goes out]. Lady Utterword, I don't know what to do. Your father persists in believing that my father is some sailor who robbed him.
LADY UTTERWORD. You had better pretend not to notice it. My father is a very clever man; but he always forgot things; and now that he is old, of course he is worse. And I must warn you that it is sometimes very hard to feel quite sure that he really forgets.
- Mrs Hushabye bursts into the room tempestuously and embraces Ellie. She is a couple of years older than Lady Utterword, and even better looking. She has magnificent black hair, eyes like the fishpools of Heshbon, and a nobly modelled neck, short at the back and low between her shoulders in front. Unlike her sister she is uncorseted and dressed anyhow in a rich robe of black pile that shows off her white skin and statuesque contour.
MRS HUSHABYE. Ellie, my darling, my pettikins [kissing her], how long have you been here? I've been at home all the time: I was putting flowers and things in your room; and when I just sat down for a moment to try how comfortable the armchair was I went off to sleep. Papa woke me and told me you were here. Fancy your finding no one, and being neglected and abandoned. [Kissing her again]. My poor love! [She deposits Ellie on the sofa. Meanwhile Ariadne has left the table and come over to claim her share of attention]. Oh! you've brought someone with you. Introduce me.
LADY UTTERWORD. Hesione, is it possible that you don't know me?
MRS HUSHABYE [conventionally]. Of course I remember your face quite well. Where have we met?
LADY UTTERWORD. Didn't Papa tell you I was here? Oh! this is really too much. [She throws herself sulkily into the big chair].
MRS HUSHABYE. Papa!
LADY UTTERWORD. Yes, Papa. Our papa, you unfeeling wretch! [Rising angrily]. I'll go straight to a hotel.
MRS HUSHABYE [seizing her by the shoulders]. My goodness gracious goodness, you don't mean to say that you're Addy!
LADY UTTERWORD. I certainly am Addy; and I don't think I can be so changed that you would not have recognized me if you had any real affection for me. And Papa didn't think me even worth mentioning!
MRS HUSHABYE. What a lark! Sit down [she pushes her back into the chair instead of kissing her, and posts herself behind it]. You DO look a swell. You're much handsomer than you used to be. You've made the acquaintance of Ellie, of course. She is going to marry a perfect hog of a millionaire for the sake of her father, who is as poor as a church mouse; and you must help me to stop her.
ELLIE. Oh, please, Hesione!
MRS HUSHABYE. My pettikins, the man's coming here today with your father to begin persecuting you; and everybody will see the state of the case in ten minutes; so what's the use of making a secret of it?
ELLIE. He is not a hog, Hesione. You don't know how wonderfully good he was to my father, and how deeply grateful I am to him.
MRS HUSHABYE [to Lady Utterword]. Her father is a very remarkable man, Addy. His name is Mazzini Dunn. Mazzini was a celebrity of some kind who knew Ellie's grandparents. They were both poets, like the Brownings; and when her father came into the world Mazzini said, "Another soldier born for freedom!" So they christened him Mazzini; and he has been fighting for freedom in his quiet way ever since. That's why he is so poor.
ELLIE. I am proud of his poverty.
MRS HUSHABYE. Of course you are, pettikins. Why not leave him in it, and marry someone you love?
LADY UTTERWORD [rising suddenly and explosively]. Hesione, are you going to kiss me or are you not?
MRS HUSHABYE. What do you want to be kissed for?
LADY UTTERWORD. I DON'T want to be kissed; but I do want you to behave properly and decently. We are sisters. We have been separated for twenty-three years. You OUGHT to kiss me.
MRS HUSHABYE. To-morrow morning, dear, before you make up. I hate the smell of powder.
LADY UTTERWORD. Oh! you unfeeling—[she is interrupted by the return of the captain].
THE CAPTAIN [to Ellie]. Your room is ready. [Ellie rises]. The sheets were damp; but I have changed them [he makes for the garden door on the port side].
LADY UTTERWORD. Oh! What about my sheets?
THE CAPTAIN [halting at the door]. Take my advice: air them: or take them off and sleep in blankets. You shall sleep in Ariadne's old room.
LADY UTTERWORD. Indeed I shall do nothing of the sort. That little hole! I am entitled to the best spare room.
THE CAPTAIN [continuing unmoved]. She married a numskull. She told me she would marry anyone to get away from home.
LADT UTTERWORD. You are pretending not to know me on purpose. I will leave the house.
- Mazzini Dunn enters from the hall. He is a little elderly man with bulging credulous eyes and earnest manners. He is dressed in a blue serge jacket suit with an unbuttoned mackintosh over it, and carries a soft black hat of clerical cut.
ELLIE. At last! Captain Shotover, here is my father.
THE CAPTAIN. This! Nonsense! not a bit like him [he goes away through the garden, shutting the door sharply behind him].
LADY UTTERWORD. I will not be ignored and pretended to be somebody else. I will have it out with Papa now, this instant. [To Mazzini]. Excuse me. [She follows the captain out, making a hasty bow to Mazzini, who returns it].
MRS HUSHABYE [hospitably shaking hands]. How good of you to come, Mr Dunn! You don't mind Papa, do you? He is as mad as a hatter, you know, but quite harmless and extremely clever. You will have some delightful talks with him.
MAZZINI. I hope so. [To Ellie]. So here you are, Ellie, dear. [He draws her arm affectionately through his]. I must thank you, Mrs Hushabye, for your kindness to my daughter. I'm afraid she would have had no holiday if you had not invited her.
MRS HUSHABYE. Not at all. Very nice of her to come and attract young people to the house for us.
MAZZINI [smiling]. I'm afraid Ellie is not interested in young men, Mrs Hushabye. Her taste is on the graver, solider side.
MRS HUSHABYE [with a sudden rather hard brightness in her manner]. Won't you take off your overcoat, Mr Dunn? You will find a cupboard for coats and hats and things in the corner of the hall.
MAZZINI [hastily releasing Ellie]. Yes—thank you—I had better— [he goes out].
MRS HUSHABYE [emphatically]. The old brute!
MRS HUSHABYE. Who! Him. He. It [pointing after Mazzini]. "Graver, solider tastes," indeed!
ELLIE [aghast]. You don't mean that you were speaking like that of my father!
MRS HUSHABYE. I was. You know I was.
ELLIE [with dignity]. I will leave your house at once. [She turns to the door].
MRS HUSHABYE. If you attempt it, I'll tell your father why.
ELLIE [turning again]. Oh! How can you treat a visitor like this, Mrs Hushabye?
MRS HUSHABYE. I thought you were going to call me Hesione.
ELLIE. Certainly not now?
MRS HUSHABYE. Very well: I'll tell your father.
ELLIE [distressed]. Oh!
MRS HUSHABYE. If you turn a hair—if you take his part against me and against your own heart for a moment, I'll give that born soldier of freedom a piece of my mind that will stand him on his selfish old head for a week.
ELLIE. Hesione! My father selfish! How little you know—
- She is interrupted by Mazzini, who returns, excited and perspiring.
MAZZINI. Ellie, Mangan has come: I thought you'd like to know. Excuse me, Mrs Hushabye, the strange old gentleman—
MRS HUSHABYE. Papa. Quite so.
MAZZINI. Oh, I beg your pardon, of course: I was a little confused by his manner. He is making Mangan help him with something in the garden; and he wants me too—
- A powerful whistle is heard.
THE CAPTAIN'S VOICE. Bosun ahoy! [the whistle is repeated].
MAZZINI. [flustered] Oh dear! I believe he is whistling for me. [He hurries out].
MRS HUSHABYE. Now MY father is a wonderful man if you like.
ELLIE. Hesione, listen to me. You don't understand. My father and Mr Mangan were boys together. Mr Ma—
MRS HUSHABYE. I don't care what they were: we must sit down if you are going to begin as far back as that. [She snatches at Ellie's waist, and makes her sit down on the sofa beside her]. Now, pettikins, tell me all about Mr Mangan.