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- Belinda - 4/17 -


(_Moving up_ C., _arm in arm with_ DELIA.) You don't think you're going to be allowed to do it yourself, when so much depends on it, and husbands leave you because of it, and----

(BELINDA, _seeing_ BETTY _entering from house, hurries_ DELIA _up_ R., _and they bob down behind the yew hedge_ R. BETTY _comes from the house into the garden, crossing to centre and up stage looking for_ BELINDA, _followed by_ MR. BAXTER _and_ MR. DEVENISH. BAXTER _gives an angry look round at_ DEVENISH _as he enters._ MR. BAXTER _is forty-five, prim and erect, with close-trimmed moustache and side-whiskers. His clothes are dark and he wears a bowler-hat_. MR. DEVENISH _is a long-haired, good-looking boy in a n glig costume; perhaps twenty-two years old, and very scornful of the world._ BAXTER _crosses to_ L. _below_ BETTY, _and turns to her with a sharp inquiring glance_. DEVENISH _moves down_ R., _languidly admiring the garden_.)

BETTY (_looking about her surprised_). The mistress was here a moment ago. (_The two heads pop up from behind the hedge and then down again immediately_. BELINDA _and_ DELIA _exeunt_ R.). I expect she'll be back directly, if you'll just wait.

(_She goes back into the house_.)

(BAXTER, _crossing to_ R., _meets_ DEVENISH _who has moved up_ R. BAXTER _is annoyed and with an impatient gesture comes down between the tree and the table to chair_ L. _and sits_. DEVENISH _throws his felt hat on to the table and walks to the back of the hammock. He sees the review in the hammock and picks it up_.)

DEVENISH. Good heavens, Baxter, she's been reading your article!

BAXTER. I dare say she's not the only one.

DEVENISH. That's only guesswork (_going to back of table_); you don't know of anyone else.

BAXTER (_with contempt_). How many people, may I ask, have bought your poems?

DEVENISH (_loftily_). I don't write for the mob.

BAXTER. I think I may say that of my own work.

DEVENISH. Baxter, I don't want to disappoint you, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that you are one of the mob. (_Throws magazine down on table, annoyed_.) Dash it! what are you doing in the country at all in a bowler-hat?

BAXTER. If I wanted to be personal, I could say, "Why don't you get your hair cut?" Only that form of schoolboy humour doesn't appeal to me.

DEVENISH. This is not a personal matter; I am protesting on behalf of nature. (_Leaning against tree_.) What do the birds and the flowers and the beautiful trees think of your hat?

BAXTER. If one began to ask oneself what the _birds_ thought of things--(_He pauses_.)

DEVENISH. Well, and why shouldn't one ask oneself? It is better than asking oneself what the Stock Exchange thinks of things.

BAXTER. Well (_looking up at_ DEVENISH'S _extravagant hair_), it's the nesting season. Your hair! (_Suddenly_.) Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!

DEVENISH (_hastily smoothing it down_). Really, Baxter, you're vulgar. (_He turns away and resumes his promenading, going down R. and then round deck-chair to front of hammock. Suddenly he sees his book on the grass beneath the hammock and makes a dash for it_.) Ha, my book! (_Gloating over it_.) Baxter, she reads my book.

BAXTER. I suppose you gave her a copy.

DEVENISH (exultingly). Yes, I gave her a copy. My next book will be hers and hers alone.

BAXTER. Then let me say that, in my opinion, you took a very great liberty.

DEVENISH. Liberty! And this from a man who is continually forcing his unwelcome statistics upon her.

BAXTER. At any rate, I flatter myself that there is no suggestion of impropriety in anything that _I_ write.

DEVENISH. I'm not so sure about that, Baxter.

BAXTER. What do you mean, sir?

DEVENISH. Did you read The Times this month on the new reviews!

BAXTER. Well!

DEVENISH. Oh, nothing. It just said, "Mr. Baxter's statistics are extremely suggestive."

(BAXTER _makes a gesture of annoyance_.)

I haven't read them, so of course I don't know what you've been up to.

BAXTER (_rising, turning away in disgust and crossing up_ L). Pah!

DEVENISH. Poor old Baxter! (_Puts book of poems down on table and crosses below chair and gathers a daffodil from a large vase down_ R. _and saying_ "Poor old Baxter!" _ad lib_. BAXTER _moves round back of hammock and to_ R., _collides with_ DEVENISH _and much annoyed goes down between table and tree towards chair down_ L.) Baxter-- (_moving to and leaning against tree_ R.)

BAXTER (_turning to_ DEVENISH _crossly_). I wish you wouldn't keep calling me "Baxter."

DEVENISH. Harold.

(BAXTER _displays annoyance, and continues his walk to_ L.)

BAXTER. It is only by accident--an accident which we both deplore--that we have met at all, and in any case I am a considerably older man than yourself. (_Sits_ L.)

DEVENISH. Mr. Baxter--father--(_gesture of annoyance from_ BAXTER)-- I have a proposal to make. We will leave it to this beautiful flower to decide which of us the lady loves.

BAXTER (_turning round_). Eh?

DEVENISH (_pulling off the petals_). She loves me, she loves Mr. Baxter, she loves me, she loves Mr. Baxter--(BELINDA _appears in the porch_)--Heaven help her!--she loves me--

BELINDA (_coming down_ R.). What are you doing, Mr. Devenish!

DEVENISH (_throwing away the flower and bowing very low_). My lady.

(BAXTER _rises quickly_.)

BAXTER (removing his bowler-hat stiffly). Good afternoon, Mrs. Tremayne.

(_She gives her left hand to_ DEVENISH, _who kisses it, and her right to_ BAXTER, _who shakes it_.)

BELINDA. How nice of you both to come!

BAXTER. Mr. Devenish and I are inseparable--apparently.

BELINDA. You haven't told me what you were doing, Mr. Devenish. Was it (_plucking an imaginary flower_) "This year, next year?" or "Silk, satin--"

DEVENISH. My lady, it was even more romantic than that. I have the honour to announce to your ladyship that Mr. Baxter is to be a sailor. (_Dances round imitating the hornpipe_.)

BELINDA (_to_ BAXTER). Doesn't he talk nonsense?

BAXTER. He'll grow out of it. I did.

BELINDA (_moving down_ R. _and then to centre towards hammock_). Oh, I hope not. I love talking nonsense, and I'm ever so old. (_As they both start forward to protest_.) Now which one of you will say it first?

DEVENISH. You are as old as the stars and as young as the dawn.

BAXTER. You are ten years younger than I am.

BELINDA. What sweet things to say! I don't know which I like best.

DEVENISH. Where will my lady sit!

BELINDA (_with an exaggerated curtsy_). I will recline in the hammock, an it please thee, my lord------

(BAXTER _goes to the right of the hammock, saying_ "Allow me." DEVENISH _moves to the left of the hammock and holds it, takes up a cushion which_ BAXTER _snatches from him and places in hammock again_.)

--only it's rather awkward getting in, Mr. Baxter. Perhaps you'd both better look at the tulips for a moment.

BAXTER. Oh--ah--yes. (_Crosses down_ R., _turns his back to the hammock and examines the flowers_.)

DEVENISH (leaning over her). If only------

BELINDA. You'd better not say anything, Mr. Devenlsh. Keep it for your next volume. (_He turns away and examines flowers on_ L. _She sits on hammock_.) One, two, three--(_throws her legs over_)-- that was better than last time. (_They turn round to see her safely in the hammock_. DEVENISH _leans against the_ L. _tree at her feet, and_ BAXTER _draws the deck-chair from the right side of the table and turns it round towards her. He presses his hat more firmly on and sits down_.) I wonder if either of you can guess what I've been reading this afternoon!

DEVENISH (_looking at her lovingly_). I know.

BELINDA (_giving him a fleeting look_). How did you know?


Belinda - 4/17

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