Widowers' Houses/Act I

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In the garden restaurant of a hotel at Remagen on the Rhine, on a fine afternoon in August in the eighteen-eighties. Looking down the Rhine towards Bonn, the gate leading from the garden to the riverside is seen on the right. The hotel is on the left. It has a wooden annex with an entrance marked Table d'Hote. A waiter is in attendance.
A couple of English tourists come out of the hotel. The younger, Dr Harry Trench, is about 24, stoutly built, thick in the neck, close-cropped and black in the hair, with undignified medical-student manners, frank, hasty, rather boyish. The other, Mr William de Burgh Cokane, is older probably over 40, possibly 50 an ill-nourished, scanty-haired gentleman, with affected manners; fidgety, touchy, and constitutionally ridiculous in uncompassionate eyes.

COKANE [on the threshold of the hotel, calling peremptorily to the waiter] Two beers for us out here. [The waiter goes for the beer.] Cokane comes into the garden]. We have got the room with the best view in the hotel, Harry, thanks to my tact. We'll leave in the morning and do Mainz and Frankfurt. There is a very graceful female statue in the private house of a nobleman in Frankfurt. Also a zoo. Next day, Nuremberg! finest collection of instruments of torture in the world.

TRENCH All right. You look out the trains, will you? [He takes out a Continental Bradshaw, and tosses it on one of the tables].

COKANE [baulking himself in the act of sitting down] Pah! the seat is all dusty. These foreigners are deplorably unclean in their habits.

TRENCH [buoyantly] Never mind : It dont matter, old chappie. Buck up, Billy, buck up. Enjoy yourself. [He throws Cokane into the chair, and sits down opposite him, taking out his pipe, and singing noisily]

Pour out the Rhine wine: let it flow
Like a free and bounding river

COKANE [scandalized] In the name of common decency, Harry, will you remember that you are a gentleman and not a coster on Hampstead Heath on Bank Holiday? Would you dream of behaving like this in London?

TRENCH Oh, rot! Ive come abroad to enjoy myself. So would you if youd just passed an examination after four years in the medical school and walking the hospital. [He again bursts into song.]

COKANE [rising] Trench: either you travel as a gentleman, or you travel alone. This is what makes Englishmen unpopular on the Continent. It may not matter before the natives; but the people who came on board the steamer at Bonn are English. I have been uneasy all the afternoon about what they must think of us. Look at our appearance.

TRENCH Whats wrong with our appearance?

COKANE Negligé, my dear fellow, negligé. On the steamboat a little negligé was quite en regie; but here, in this hotel, some of them are sure to dress for dinner; and you have nothing but that Norfolk jacket. How are they to know that you are well connected if you do not shew it by your manners?

TRENCH Pooh! the steamboat people were the scum of the earth Americans and all sorts. They may go hang themselves, Billy. I shall not bother about them. [He strikes a match, and proceeds to light his pipe.]

COKANE Do drop calling me Billy in public, Trench. My name is Cokane. I am sure they were persons of consequence: you were struck with the distinguished appearance of the father yourself.

TRENCH [sobered at once] What! those people? [He blows out the match and puts up his pipe.]

COKANE [following up his advantage triumphantly] Here, Harry, here: at this hotel. I recognized the father's umbrella in the hall.

TRENCH [with a touch of genuine shame] I suppose I ought to have brought a change. But a lot of luggage is such a nuisance; and [rising abruptly] at all events we can go and have a wash. [He turns to go into the hotel, but stops in consternation, seeing some people coming up to the riverside gate]. Oh, I say! Here they are.

A lady and gentleman, followed by a porter with some light parcels, not luggage, but shop purchases, come into the garden. They are apparently father and daughter. The gentleman is 50, tall, well preserved, and of upright carriage. His incisive, domineering utterance and imposing style, with his strong aquiline nose and resolute clean-shaven mouth, give him an air of importance. He wears a light grey frock-coat with silk linings, a white hat, and a field-glass slung in a new leather case. A self-made man, formidable to servants, not easily accessible to anyone. His daughter is a well-dressed, well-fed, good-looking, strong-minded young woman, presentably ladylike, but still her father's daughter. Nevertheless fresh and attractive, and none the worse for being vital and energetic rather than delicate and refined.

COKANE [quickly taking the arm of Trench, who is staring as if transfixed] Recollect yourself, Harry: presence of mind, presence of mind! [He strolls with him towards the hotel. The waiter comes out with the beer]. Kellner: Ceci-la est notre table. Est-ce que vous comprenez Français?

WAITER Yes, zare. Oil right, zare.

THE GENTLEMAN [to his porter] Place those things on that table. [The porter does not understand]

WAITER [interposing] Zese zhentellmen are using zis table, zare. Vould you mind?

THE GENTLEMAN [severely] You should have told me so before. [To Cokane, with fierce condescension] I regret the mistake, sir.

COKANE Dont mention it, my dear sir: dont mention it. Retain the place, I beg.

THE GENTLEMAN {coldly turning his back on him] Thank you. [To the porter] Place them on that table. [The porter makes no movement until the gentleman points to the parcels and peremptorily raps on another table, nearer the gate].

PORTER Ja wohl, gnad'g' Herr. [He puts down the parcels].

THE GENTLEMAN [taking out a handful of money] Waiter.

WAITER [awestruck] Yes, zare.

THE GENTLEMAN Tea. For two. Out here.

WAITER Yes, zare. [He goes into the hotel.]

The gentleman selects a small coin from his handful of money, and gives it to the porter, who receives it with a submissive touch to his cap, and goes out, not daring to speak. His daughter sits down and opens a parcel of photographs. The gentleman takes out a Baedeker; places a chair for himself; and then, before sitting down, looks truculently at Cokane,as if waiting for him to take himself off. Cokane, not at all abashed, resumes his place at the other table with an air of modest good breeding, and calls to Trench, who is prowling irresolutely in the background.

COKANE Trench, my dear fellow: your beer is waiting for you. [He drinks.]

TRENCH [glad of the excuse to come back to his chair] Thank you, Cokane. [He also drinks.]

COKANE By the way, Harry, I have often meant to ask you: is Lady Roxdale your mother's sister or your father's? [This shot tells immediately. The gentleman is perceptibly interested.]

TRENCH My mother's, of course. What put that into your head?

COKANE Nothing. I was just thinking hm! She will expect you to marry, Harry: a doctor ought to marry.

TRENCH What has she got to do with it?

COKANE A great deal, dear boy. She looks forward to floating your wife in society in London.

TRENCH What rot!

COKANE Ah, you are young, dear boy: You dont know the importance of these things apparently idle ceremonial trifles, really the springs and wheels of a great aristocratic system. [The waiter comes back with the tea things, which he brings to the gentleman's table. Cokane rises and addresses the gentleman] My dear sir, excuse my addressing you; but I cannot help feeling that you prefer this table and that we are in your way.

THE GENTLEMAN [grafiously] Thank you. Blanche: This gentleman very kindly offers us his table, if you would prefer it.

BLANCHE Oh, thanks: It makes no difference.

THE GENTLEMAN [to Cokane} We are fellow travellers, I believe, sir.

COKANE Fellow travellers and fellow countrymen. Ah, we rarely feel the charm of our own tongue until it reaches our ears under a foreign sky. You have no doubt noticed that?

THE GENTLEMAN [a little puzzled] Hm! From a romantic point of view, possibly, very possibly. As a matter of fact, the sound of English makes me feel at home; and I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad. It is not precisely what one goes to the expense for. [He looks at Trench] I think this gentleman travelled with us also.

COKANE [acting as master of the ceremonies] My valued friend, Dr Trench. [The gentleman and Trench rise.] Trench, my dear fellow, allow me to introduce you to er? [He looks enquiringly at the gentleman, waiting for the name.]

THE GENTLEMAN Permit me to shake your hand, Dr Trench. My name is Sartorius; and I have the honor of being known to Lady Roxdale, who is, I believe, a near relative of yours. Blanche, [She looks up.] Dr Trench. [They bow.]

TRENCH Perhaps I should introduce my friend Cokane to you, Mr Sartorius: Mr William de Burgh Cokane. [Cokane makes an elaborate bow. Sartorius accepts it with dignity. The waiter meanwhile returns with teapot, hot water, etc.]

SARTORIUS [to the waiter] Two more cups.

WAITER Yes, zare. [He goes into the hotel.]

BLANCHE Do you take sugar, Mr Cokane?

COKANE Thank you. [To Sartorius] This is really too kind. Harry: Bring your chair round.

SARTORIUS You are very welcome. [Trench brings his chair to the tea table; and they all sit round it. The waiter returns with two more cups.]

WAITER Table d'hote at 'alf past zix, zhentellmenn. Ahnyzing else now, zare?

SARTORIUS No. You can go. [The waiter goes.]

COKANE [very agreeably] Do you contemplate a long stay here, Miss Sartorius?

BLANCHE We were thinking of going on to Rolandseck. Is it as nice as this place?

COKANE Harry: The Baedeker. Thank you. [He consults the index, and looks out Rolandseck.]

BLANCHE Sugar, Dr Trench?

TRENCH Thanks. [She hands him the cup, and looks meaningly at him for an instant. He looks down hastily, and glances apprehensively at Sartorius, who is preoccupied with a piece of bread and butter].

COKANE Rolandseck appears to be an extremely interesting place. [Rereads] "It is one of the most beautiful and frequented spots on the river, and is surrounded with numerous villas and pleasant gardens, chiefly belonging to wealthy merchants from the Lower Rhine, and extending along the wooded slopes at the back of the village."

BLANCHE That sounds civilized and comfortable. I vote we go there.

SARTORIUS Quite like our place at Surbiton, my dear.

BLANCHE Quite.

COKANE You have a place down the river? Ah, I envy you.

SARTORIUS No: I have merely taken a furnished villa at Surbiton for the summer. I live in Bedford Square. I am a vestryman and must reside in the parish.

BLANCHE Another cup, Mr Cokane?

COKANE Thank you, no. [To Sartorius] I presume you have been round this little place. Not much to see here, except the Apollinaris Church.

SARTORIUS [scandalized] The what!

COKANE The Apollinaris Church.

SARTORIUS A strange name to give a church. Very continental, I must say.

COKANE Ah, yes, yes, yes. That is where our neighbors fall short sometimes, Mr Sartorius: Taste, taste is what they occasionally fail in. But in this instance they are not to blame. The water is called after the church, not the church after the water.

SARTORIUS [as if this were an extenuating circumstance but not a complete excuse] I am glad to hear it. Is the church a celebrated one?

COKANE Baedeker stars it.

SARTORIUS [respectfully] Oh, in that case I should like to see it.

COKANE [reading] "...erected in 1839 by Zwirner, the late eminent architect of the cathedral of Cologne, at the expense of Count Fiirstenberg-Stammheim."

SARTORIUS [much impressed] We must certainly see that, Mr Cokane. I had no idea that the architect of Cologne cathedral lived so recently.

BLANCHE Dont let us bother about any more churches, papa. Theyre all the same; and I'm tired to death of them.

SARTORIUS Well, my dear, if you think it sensible to take a long and expensive journey to see what there is to be seen, and then go away without seeing it

BLANCHE Not this afternoon, papa, please.

SARTORIUS My dear: I should like you to see everything. It is part of your education

BLANCHE [rising, with a petulant sigh] Oh, my education! Very well, very well: I suppose I must go through with it. Are you coming, Dr Trench? [with a grimace] I'm sure the Johannis Church will be a treat for you.

COKANE [laughing softly and archly] Ah, excellent, excellent: Very good, indeed. [Seriously] But do you know, Miss Sartorius, there actually are Johannis churches here several of them as well as Apollinaris ones?

SARTORIUS [Sententiously, taking out his field-glass and leading the way to the gate] There is many a true word spoken in jest, Mr Cokane.

COKANE [accompanying him] How true! How true! [They go out together, ruminating profoundly. Blanche makes no movement to follow them. She watches until they are safely out of sight, and then posts herself before Trench, looking at him with an enigmatic smile, which he returns with a half sheepish, half conceited grin.]

BLANCHE Well! So you have done it at last.

TRENCH Yes. At least Cokane's done it. I told you he'd manage it. He's rather an ass in some ways; but he has tremendous tact.

BLANCHE [contemptuously] Tact! Thats not tact : thats inquisitiveness. Inquisitive people always have a lot of practice in getting into conversation with strangers. Why didnt you speak to my father yourself on the boat? You were ready enough to speak to me without any introduction.

TRENCH I didnt particularly want to talk to him.

BLANCHE It didnt occur to you, I suppose, that you put me in a false position by that.

TRENCH Oh, I dont see that, exactly. Besides, your father isnt an easy man to tackle. Of course, now that I know him, I see that he's pleasant enough; but then youve got to know him first, havnt you?

BLANCHE [impatiently] Everybody is afraid of papa: I'm sure I dont know why. [She sits down again, pouting a little.]

TRENCH [tenderly] However, it's all right now: Isnt it? [He sits near her.]

BLANCHE [sharply] I dont know. How should I? You had no right to speak to me that day on board the steamer. You thought I was alone, because [with false pathos] I had no mother with me.

TRENCH [protesting] Oh, I say! Come! It was you who spoke to me. Of course I was only too glad of the chance; but on my word I shouldnt have moved an eyelid if you hadnt given me a lead.

BLANCHE I only asked you the name of a castle. There was nothing unladylike in that.

TRENCH Of course not. Why shouldnt you? [With renewed tenderness] But it's all right now: Isnt it?

BLANCHE [softly, looking subtly at him] Is it?

TRENCH [suddenly becoming shy] I, I suppose so. By the way, what about the Apollinaris Church? Your father expects us to follow him, doesnt he?

BLANCHE [with suppressed resentment] Dont let me detain you if you wish to see it.

TRENCH Wont you come?

BLANCHE No. [She turns her face away moodily.]

TRENCH [alarmed] I say: youre not offended, are you? [She looks round at him for a moment with a reproachful film on her eyes.] Blanche— [She bristles instantly; overdoes it and frightens him.] I beg your pardon for calling you by your name; but I er— [She corrects her mistake by softening her expression eloquently. He responds with a gush] You dont mind, do you? I felt sure you wouldnt, somehow. Well, look here. I have no idea how you will receive this: It must seem horribly abrupt; but the circumstances do not admit of— The fact is, my utter want of tact— [he founders more and more, unable to see that she can hardly contain her eagerness.] Now, if it were Cokane—

BLANCHE [impatiently] Cokane!

TRENCH [terrified] No, not Cokane. Though I assure you I was only going to say about him that—

BLANCHE That he will be back presently with papa.

TRENCH [stupidly] Yes: They cant be very long now. I hope I'm not detaining you.

BLANCHE I thought you were detaining me because you had something to say.

TRENCH [totally unnerved] Not at all. At least, nothing very particular. That is, I'm afraid you wouldnt think it very particular. Another time, perhaps—

BLANCHE What other time? How do you know that we shall ever meet again? [Desperately] Tell me now. I want you to tell me now.

TRENCH Well, I was thinking that if we could make up our minds to or not to at least er-[His nervousness deprives him of the power of speech]

BLANCHE [giving him up as hopeless] I dont think theres much danger of your making up your mind, Dr Trench.

TRENCH [stammering] I only thought— [He stops and looks at her piteously. She hesitates a moment, and then puts her hands into his with calculated impulsiveness. He catches her in his arms with a cry of relief.] Dear Blanche! I thought I should never have said it. I believe I should have stood stuttering here all day if you hadnt helped me out with it.

BLANCHE [trying to get away from him] I didnt help you out with it.

TRENCH [holding her] I dont mean that you did it on purpose, of course. Only instinctively.

BLANCHE [still a little anxious] But you havnt said anything.

TRENCH What more can I say than this? [He kisses her again.]

BLANCHE [overcome by the kiss, but holding on to her point] But Harry-

TRENCH [delighted at the name] Yes?

BLANCHE When shall we be married?

TRENCH At the first church we meet: the Apollinaris Church, if you like.

BLANCHE No, but seriously. This is serious, Harry: you musnt joke about it.

TRENCH [looking suddenly round to the riverside gate and quickly releasing her] Sh! Here they are back again.

BLANCHE Oh, d— [The word is drowned by the clangor of a bell from within the hotel. The waiter appears on the steps, ringing it. Cokane and Sartorius are seen returning by the river gate]

WAITER Table d'h6te in dwendy minutes, ladies and zhentellmenn. [He goes into the hotel.]

SARTORIUS [gravely] I intended you to accompany us, Blanche.

BLANCHE Yes, papa. We were just about to start.

SARTORIUS We are rather dusty : we must make ourselves presentable at the table d'hote. I think you had better come in with me, my child. Come. [He offers Blanche his arm. The gravity of his manner overawes them all. Blanche silently takes his arm and goes into the hotel with him. Cokane, hardly less momentous than Sartorius himself, contemplates Trench with the severity of a judge].

COKANE [with reprobation] No, my dear boy. No, no. Never. I blush for you was never so ashamed in my life. You have been taking advantage of that unprotected girl.

TRENCH [hotly] Cokane!

COKANE [inexorable] Her father seems to be a perfect gentleman. I obtained the privilege of his acquaintance: I introduced you: I allowed him to believe that he might leave his daughter in your charge with absolute confidence. And what did I see on our return? what did her father see? Oh, Trench, Trench! No, my dear fellow, no, no. Bad taste, Harry, bad form!

TRENCH Stuff! There was nothing to see.

COKANE Nothing to see! She, a perfect lady, a person of the highest breeding, actually in your arms; and you say there was nothing to see! With a waiter there actually ringing a heavy bell to call attention to his presence. [Lecturing him with redoubled severity] Have you no principles, Trench? Have you no religious convictions? Have you no acquaintance with the usages of society? You actually kissed-

TRENCH You didnt see me kiss her.

COKANE We not only saw but heard it: The report positively reverberated down the Rhine. Dont condescend to subterfuge, Trench.

TRENCH Nonsense, my dear Billy. You—

COKANE There you go again. Dont use that low abbreviation. How am I to preserve the respect of fellow travellers of position and wealth, if I am to be Billied at every turn? My name is William : William de Burgh Cokane.

TRENCH Oh, bother! There: Dont be offended, old chap. Whats the use of putting your back up at every trifle? It comes natural to me to call you Billy: it suits you, somehow.

COKANE [mortified] You have no delicacy of feeling Trench, no tact. I never mention it to anyone; but nothing, I am afraid, will ever make a true gentleman of you. [Sartorius appears on the threshold of the hotel.] Here is my friend Sartorius, coming, no doubt, to ask you for an explanation of your conduct. I really should not have been surprised to see him bring a horsewhip with him. I shall not intrude on the painful scene.

TRENCH Dont go, confound it. I dont want to meet him alone just now.

COKANE [shaking his head] Delicacy, Harry, delicacy! Good taste! Savoir faire! [He walks away. Trench tries to escape in the opposite direction by strolling off towards the garden entrance.]

SARTORIUS [mesmerically] Dr Trench.

TRENCH [stopping and fuming] Oh, is that you, Mr Sartorius? How did you find the church?

[Sartorius, without a word, points to a seat. Trench, half hypnotized by his own nervousness and the impressiveness of Sartorius, sits down helplessly.]

SARTORIUS {also seating himself] You have been speaking to my daughter, Dr Trench.

TRENCH [with an attempt at ease of manner] Yes: we had a conversation quite a chat, in fact whilst you were at the church with Cokane. How did you get on with Cokane, Mr Sartorius? I always think he has such wonderful tact.

SARTORIUS [ignoring the digression] I have just had a word with my daughter, Dr Trench; and I find her underthe impression that something has passed between you which it is my duty as a father, the father of a motherless girl, to inquire into at once. My daughter, perhaps foolishly, has taken you quite seriously; and—

TRENCH But—

SARTORIUS One moment, if you will be so good. I have been a young man myself younger, perhaps, than you would suppose from my present appearance. I mean, of course, in character. If you were not serious—

TRENCH [ingenuously] But I was perfectly serious. I want to marry your daughter, Mr Sartorius. I hope you dont object.

SARTORIUS [condescending to Trench's humility from the mere instinct to seize an advantage, and yet deferring to Lady Roxdale's relative] So far, no. I may say that your proposal seems to be an honorable and straightforward one, and that it is very gratifying to me personally.

TRENCH [agreeably surprised] Then I suppose we may consider the affair as settled. It's really very good of you.

SARTORIUS Gently, Dr Trench, gently. Such a transaction as this cannot be settled offhand.

TRENCH Not offhand, no. There are settlements and things, of course. But it may be regarded as settled between ourselves, maynt it?

'SARTORIUS Hm! Have you nothing further to mention?

TRENCH Only that, that- No: I dont know that I have, except that I love—

SARTORIUS [interrupting] Anything about your family, for example? You do not anticipate any objection on their part, do you?

TRENCH Oh, they have nothing to do with it.

SARTORIUS [warmly] Excuse me, sir: They have a great deal to do with it. [Trench is abashed] I am resolved that my daughter shall approach no circle in which she will not be received with the full consideration to which her education and her breeding— [here his self-control slips a little; and he repeats, as if Trench had contradicted him] —I say, her breeding entitle her.

TRENCH {bewildered] Of course not. But what makes you think my family wont like Blanche? Of course my father was a younger son; and Ive had to take to a profession and all that; so my people wont expect us to entertain them: Theyll know we cant afford it. But theyll entertain us: They always ask me.

SARTORIUS That wont do for me, sir. Families often think it due to themselves to turn their backs on newcomers whom they may not think quite good enough for them.

TRENCH But I assure you my people arnt a bit snobbish. Blanche is a lady: thatll be good enough for them.

SARTORIUS [moved] I am glad you think so. [He offers his hand. Trench, astonished, takes it] I think so myself. [He presses Trenctis hand gratefully and releases it.] And now, Dr Trench, since you have acted handsomely, you shall have no cause to complain of me. There shall be no difficulty about money: You shall entertain as much as you please: I will guarantee all that. But I must have a guarantee on my side that she will be received on equal terms by your family.

TRENCH Guarantee!

SARTORIUS Yes, a reasonable guarantee. I shall expect you to write to your relatives explaining your intention, and adding what you think proper as to my daughter's fitness for the best society. When you can shew me a few letters from the principal members of your family, congratulating you in a fairly cordial way, I shall be satisfied. Can I say more?

TRENCH [much puzzled, but grateful] No indeed. You are really very good. Many thanks. Since you wish it, I'll write to my people. But I assure you youll find them as jolly as possible over it. I'll make them write by return.

SARTORIUS Thank you. In the meantime, I must ask you not to regard the matter as settled.

TRENCH Oh! Not to regard the- I see. You mean between Blanche and—

SARTORIUS I mean between you and Miss Sartorius. When I interrupted your conversation here some time ago, you and she were evidently regarding it as settled. In case difficulties arise, and the match--you see I call it a match--be broken off, I should not wish Blanche to think that she had allowed a gentleman to, to- [Trench nods sympathetically] Quite so. May I depend on you to keep a fair distance, and so spare me the necessity of having to restrain an intercourse which promises to be very pleasant to us all?

TRENCH Certainly; since you prefer it. [They shake hands on it.]

SARTORIUS [rising] You will write to-day, I think you said?

TRENCH [eagerly] I'll write now, before I leave here, straight off.

SARTORIUS I will leave you to yourself then. [He hesitates, the conversation having made him self-conscious and embarrassed; then recovers himself with an effort and adds with dignity, as he turns to go] I am pleased to have come to an understanding with you. [He goes into the hotel and Cokane, who has been hanging about inquisitively , emerges from the shrubbery.]

TRENCH [excitedly] Billy, old chap: youre just in time to do me a favour. I want you to draft a letter for me to copy out.

COKANE I came with you on this tour as a friend, Trench: not as a secretary.

TRENCH Well, youll write as a friend. It's to my Aunt Maria, about Blanche and me. To tell her, you know.

COKANE Tell her about Blanche and you! Tell her about your conduct! Betray you, my friend; and forget that I am writing to a lady? Never!

TRENCH Bosh, Billy: dont pretend you dont understand. We're engaged engaged, my boy: What do you think of that? I must write by to-night's post. You are the man to tell me what to say. Come, old chap [coaxing him to sit down at one of the tables]: Here's a pencil. Have you a bit of oh, here: This'll do: Write it on the back of the map. [He tears the map out of his Baedeker and spreads it face downwards on the table. Cokane takes the pencil and prepares to write] Thats right. Thanks awfully, old chap! Now fire away. [Anxiously] Be careful how you word it, though, Cokane.

COKANE [putting down the pencil] If you doubt my ability to express myself becomingly to Lady Roxdale—

TRENCH [propitiating him] All right, old fellow, all right: theres not a man alive who could do it half so well as you. I only wanted to explain. You see, Sartorius has got it into his head, somehow, that my people will snub Blanche; and he wont consent unless they send letters and invitations and congratulations and the deuce knows what not. So just put it in such a way that Aunt Maria will write by return saying she is delighted, and asking us—Blanche and me—you know, to stay with her, and so forth. You know what I mean. Just tell her all about it in a chatty way; and—

COKANE [crushingly] If you will tell me all about it in a chatty way, I daresay I can communicate it to Lady Roxdale with proper delicacy. What is Sartorius?

TRENCH [taken aback] I dont know: I didnt ask. It's a sort of question you cant very well put to a man at least a man like him. Do you think you could word the letter so as to pass all that over? I really dont like to ask him.

COKANE I can pass it over if you wish. Nothing easier. But if you think Lady Roxdale will pass it over, I differ from you. I may be wrong: No doubt I am. I generally am wrong, I believe; but that is my opinion.

TRENCH [much perplexed] Oh, confound it! What the deuce am I to do? Cant you say he's a gentleman: That wont commit us to anything. If you dwell on his being well off, and Blanche an only child, Aunt Maria will be satisfied.

COKANE Henry Trench: when will you begin to get a little sense? This is a serious business. Act responsibly, Harry: Act responsibly.

TRENCH Bosh! Dont be moral!

COKANE I am not moral, Trench. At least I am not a moralist: that is the expression I should have used moral, but not a moralist. If you are going to get money with your wife, doesnt it concern your family to know how that money was made? Doesnt it concern you, Harry? [Trench looks at him helplessly, twisting his fngers nervously. Cokane throws down the pencil and leans back with ostentatious indifference.] Of course it is no business of mine: I only throw out the suggestion. Sartorius may be a retired burglar for all I know. [Sartorius and Blanche, ready for dinner, come from the hotel.]

TRENCH Sh! Here they come. Get the letter finished before dinner, like a good old chappie : I shall be awfully obliged to you.

COKANE [impatiently] Leave me, leave me: You disturb me. [He waves him off and begins to write.]

TRENCH [humbfy and gratefully] Yes, old chap. Thanks awfully.

[By this time Blanche has left her father and is strolling off towards the riverside. Sartorius comes down the garden, Baedeker in hand, and sits near Cokane, reading. Trench addresses him.]' You wont mind my taking Blanche in to dinner, I hope, sir?

SARTORIUS By all means, Dr Trench. Pray do so. [He graciously waves him off to join Blanche. Trench hurries after her through the gate. The light reddens as the Rhenish sunset begins. Cokane, making wry faces in the agonies of composition, is disconcerted to find Sartorius' eye upon him.]

SARTORIUS I do not disturb you, I hope, Mr Cokane.

COKANE By no means. Our friend Trench has entrusted me with a difficult and delicate task. He has requested me, as a friend of the family, to write to them on a subject that concerns you.

SARTORIUS Indeed, Mr Cokane. Well, the communication could not be in better hands.

COKANE [with an air of modesty] Ah, that is going too far, my dear sir, too far. Still, you see what Trench is. A capital fellow in his way, Mr Sartorius, an excellent young fellow. But family communications like these require good manners. They require tact; and tact is Trench's weak point. He has an excellent heart, but no tact--none whatever. Everything depends on the way the matter is put to Lady Roxdale. But as to that, you may rely on me. I understand the sex.

SARTORIUS Well, however she may receive it and I care as little as any man, Mr Cokane, how people may choose to receive me, I trust I may at least have the pleasure of seeing you sometimes at my house when we return to England.

COKANE [overwhelmed] My dear sir! You express yourself in the true spirit of an English gentleman.

SARTORIUS Not at all. You will always be most welcome. But I fear I have disturbed you in the composition of your letter. Pray resume it. I shall leave you to yourself. [He pretends to rise, but checks himself to add:] Unless indeed I can assist you in any way? By clearing up any point on which you are not informed, for instance; or even, if I may so far presume on my years, giving you the benefit of my experience as to the best way of wording the matter. [Cokane looks a little surprised at this. Sartorius looks hard at him, and continues deliberately and meaningly:] I shall always be happy to help any friend of Dr Trench's, in any way, to the best of my ability and of my means.

COKANE My dear sir : you are really very good. Trench and I were putting our heads together over the letter just now; and there certainly were one or two points on which we were a little in the dark. [Scrupulously] But I would not permit Harry to question you. No. I pointed out to him that, as a matter of taste, it would be more delicate to wait until you volunteered the necessary information.

SARTORIUS Hm! May I ask what you have said, so far?

COKANE "My dear Aunt Maria." That is, Trench's dear Aunt Maria, my friend Lady Roxdale. You understand that I am only drafting a letter for Trench to copy.

SARTORIUS Quite so. Will you proceed; or would it help you if I were to suggest a word or two?

COKANE [effusively] Your suggestions will be most valuable, my dear sir, most welcome.

'SARTORIUS I think I should begin in some such way as this: "In travelling with my friend Mr Cokane up the Rhine—"

COKANE [murmuring as he -writes] Invaluable, invaluable. The very thing. "—my friend Mr Cokane up the Rhine—"

SARTORIUS "I have made the acquaintance of" or you may say "picked up," or "come across," if you think that would suit your friend's style better. We must not be too formal.

COKANE " Picked up "! oh no : too dégagé, Mr Sartorius, too dégagé. I should say "had the privilege of becoming acquainted with—"

SARTORIUS [quickly] By no means: Lady Roxdale must judge of that for herself. Let it stand as I said. "I have made the acquaintance of a young lady, the daughter of—" [He hesitates]

COKANE [writing] "—acquaintance of a young lady, the daughter of—" yes?

SARTORIUS "of—you had better say—a gentleman."

COKANE [surprised] Of course.

SARTORIUS [with sudden passion] It is not of course, sir. [Cokane, startled, looks at him with dawning suspicion. Sartorius recovers himself somewhat shamefacedly]. Hm! "—of a gentleman of considerable wealth and position."

COKANE [echoing him with a new note of coldness in his voice as he writes the last words] "—and position—"

'SARTORIUS "—which, however, he has made entirely for himself." [Cokane, now fully enlightened, stares at him instead of writing.] Have you written that?

COKANE [expanding into an attitude of patronage and encouragement] Ah, indeed. Quite so, quite so. [He writes] "—entirely for himself." Just so. Proceed, Mr Sartorius, proceed. Very clearly expressed.

SARTORIUS "The young lady will inherit the bulk of her father's fortune, and will be liberally treated on her marriage. Her education has been of the most expensive and complete kind obtainable; and her surroundings have been characterized by the strictest refinement. She is in every essential particular—"

COKANE [interrupting] Excuse the remark; but dont you think this is rather too much in the style of a prospectus of the young lady? I throw out the suggestion as a matter of taste.

SARTORIUS [troubled] Perhaps you are right. I am of course not dictating the exact words-

COKANE Of course not: Of course not.

SARTORIUS —but I desire that there may be no wrong impression as to my daughter's —er— breeding. As to myself—

COKANE Oh, it will be sufficient to mention your profession, or pursuits, or— [He pauses; and they look pretty hard at one another].

SARTORIUS [very deliberately] My income, sir, is derived from the rental of a very extensive real estate in London. Lady Roxdale is one of the head landlords; and Dr Trench holds a mortgage from which, if I mistake not, his entire income is derived. The truth is, Mr Cokane, I am quite well acquainted with Dr Trench's position and affairs; and I have long desired to know him personally.

COKANE [again obsequious, but still inquisitive] What a remarkable coincidence! In what quarter is the estate situated, did you say?

SARTORIUS In London, sir. Its management occupies as much of my time as is not devoted to the ordinary pursuits of a gentleman. [He rises and takes out his card case]. The rest I leave to your discretion. [He leaves a card on the table]. That is my address at Surbiton. If it should unfortunately happen, Mr Cokane, that this leads to nothing but a disappointment for Blanche, probably she would rather not see you afterwards. But if all turns out as we hope, Dr Trench's best friends will then be our best friends.

COKANE [rising and confronting Sartorius confidently, pencil and paper in hand] Rely on me, Mr Sartorius. The letter is already finished here [pointing to his brain]. In five minutes it will be finished there [He points to the paper, nods to emphasize the assertion, and begins to pace up and down the garden, writing, and tapping his forehead from time to time as he goes, with every appearance of severe intellectual exertion.]

SARTORIUS [calling through the gate after a glance at his watch] Blanche.

BLANCHE [replying in the distance] Yes?

SARTORIUS Time, my dear. [He goes into the table d'hote].

BLANCHE [nearer] Coming. [She comes back through the gate, followed by Trench.]

TRENCH [in a half whisper, as Blanche goes towards the table d'hote] Blanche: stop one moment. [She stops.] We must be careful when your father is by. I had to promise him not to regard anything as settled until I hear from my people at home.

BLANCHE [chilled] Oh, I see. Your family may object to me; and then it will be all over between us. They are almost sure to.

TRENCH [anxiously] Dont say that, Blanche: It sounds as if you didnt care. I hope you regard it as settled. You havnt made any promise, you know.

BLANCHE [earnestly] Yes, I have : / promised papa too. But I have broken my promise for your sake. I suppose I am not so conscientious as you. And if the matter is not to be regarded as settled, family or no family, promise or no promise, let us break it off here and now.

TRENCH [intoxicated with affection] Blanche: On my most sacred honor, family or no family, promise or no promise [ The waiter reappears at the table d'hote entrance, ringing his bell loudly.] Damn that noise!

COKANE [as he comes to them, flourishing the letter] Finished, dear boy, finished. Done to a turn, punctually to the second. C'est fini, mon cher garçon, c'est fini. [Sartorius returns].

SARTORIUS. Will you take Blanche in, Dr Trench? [Trench takes Blanche into the table d'hote.] Is the letter finished, Mr Cokane?

COKANE [with an author's pride, handing his draft to Sartorius] There! [Sartorius reads it, nodding gravely over it with complete approval.]

SARTORIUS [returning the draft] Thank you, Mr Cokane. You have the pen of a ready writer.

COKANE [as they go in together] Not at all, not at all. A little tact, Mr Sartorius; a little knowledge of the world; a little experience of women. [They disappear into the annexe.]