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- Fanny's First Play - 5/19 -
THE COUNT. The Stagirite? Do you mean to say you dont know?
FANNY. Havnt the least notion.
THE COUNT. The Stagirite was Aristotle. By the way, dont mention him to Mr Trotter.
_They go to the dining-room._
_In the dining-room of a house in Denmark Hill, an elderly lady sits at breakfast reading the newspaper. Her chair is at the end of the oblong dining-table furthest from the fire. There is an empty chair at the other end. The fireplace is behind this chair; and the door is next the fireplace, between it and the corner. An arm-chair stands beside the coal-scuttle. In the middle of the back wall is the sideboard, parallel to the table. The rest of the furniture is mostly dining-room chairs, ranged against the walls, and including a baby rocking-chair on the lady's side of the room. The lady is a placid person. Her husband, Mr Robin Gilbey, not at all placid, bursts violently into the room with a letter in his hand._
GILBEY. [grinding his teeth] This is a nice thing. This is a b--
MRS GILBEY. [cutting him short] Leave it at that, please. Whatever it is, bad language wont make it better.
GILBEY. [bitterly] Yes, put me in the wrong as usual. Take your boy's part against me. [He flings himself into the empty chair opposite her].
MRS GILBEY. When he does anything right, hes your son. When he does anything wrong hes mine. Have you any news of him?
GILBEY. Ive a good mind not to tell you.
MRS GILBEY. Then dont. I suppose hes been found. Thats a comfort, at all events.
GILBEY. No, he hasnt been found. The boy may be at the bottom of the river for all you care. [Too agitated to sit quietly, he rises and paces the room distractedly].
MRS GILBEY. Then what have you got in your hand?
GILBEY. Ive a letter from the Monsignor Grenfell. From New York. Dropping us. Cutting us. [Turning fiercely on her] Thats a nice thing, isnt it?
MRS GILBEY. What for?
GILBEY. [flinging away towards his chair] How do _I_ know what for?
MRS GILBEY. What does he say?
GILBEY. [sitting down and grumblingly adjusting his spectacles] This is what he says. "My dear Mr Gilbey: The news about Bobby had to follow me across the Atlantic: it did not reach me until to-day. I am afraid he is incorrigible. My brother, as you may imagine, feels that this last escapade has gone beyond the bounds; and I think, myself, that Bobby ought to be made to feel that such scrapes involve a certain degree of reprobation." "As you may imagine"! And we know no more about it than the babe unborn.
MRS GILBEY. What else does he say?
GILBEY. "I think my brother must have been just a little to blame himself; so, between ourselves, I shall, with due and impressive formality, forgive Bobby later on; but for the present I think it had better be understood that he is in disgrace, and that we are no longer on visiting terms. As ever, yours sincerely." [His agitation masters him again] Thats a nice slap in the face to get from a man in his position! This is what your son has brought on me.
MRS GILBEY. Well, I think it's rather a nice letter. He as good as tells you hes only letting on to be offended for Bobby's good.
GILBEY. Oh, very well: have the letter framed and hang it up over the mantelpiece as a testimonial.
MRS GILBEY. Dont talk nonsense, Rob. You ought to be thankful to know that the boy is alive after his disappearing like that for nearly a week.
GILBEY. Nearly a week! A fortnight, you mean. Wheres your feelings, woman? It was fourteen days yesterday.
MRS GILBEY. Oh, dont call it fourteen days, Rob, as if the boy was in prison.
GILBEY. How do you know hes not in prison? It's got on my nerves so, that I'd believe even that.
MRS GILBEY. Dont talk silly, Rob. Bobby might get into a scrape like any other lad; but he'd never do anything low.
_Juggins, the footman, comes in with a card on a salver. He is a rather low-spirited man of thirty-five or more, of good appearance and address, and iron self-command._
JUGGINS. [presenting the salver to Mr Gilbey] Lady wishes to see Mr Bobby's parents, sir.
GILBEY. [pointing to Mrs Gilbey] Theres Mr Bobby's parent. I disown him.
JUGGINS. Yes, sir. [He presents the salver to Mrs Gilbey].
MRS GILBEY. You mustnt mind what your master says, Juggins: he doesnt mean it. [She takes the card and reads it]. Well, I never!
GILBEY. Whats up now?
MRS GILBEY. [reading] "Miss D. Delaney. Darling Dora." Just like that--in brackets. What sort of person, Juggins?
GILBEY. Whats her address?
MRS GILBEY. The West Circular Road. Is that a respectable address, Juggins?
JUGGINS. A great many most respectable people live in the West Circular Road, madam; but the address is not a guarantee of respectability.
GILBEY. So it's come to that with him, has it?
MRS GILBEY. Dont jump to conclusions, Rob. How do you know? [To Juggins] Is she a lady, Juggins? You know what I mean.
JUGGINS. In the sense in which you are using the word, no, madam.
MRS GILBEY. I'd better try what I can get out of her. [To Juggins] Shew her up. You dont mind, do you, Rob?
GILBEY. So long as you dont flounce out and leave me alone with her. [He rises and plants himself on the hearth-rug].
_Juggins goes out._
MRS GILBEY. I wonder what she wants, Rob?
GILBEY. If she wants money, she shant have it. Not a farthing. A nice thing, everybody seeing her on our doorstep! If it wasnt that she may tell us something about the lad, I'd have Juggins put the hussy into the street.
JUGGINS. [returning and announcing] Miss Delaney. [He waits for express orders before placing a chair for this visitor].
_Miss Delaney comes in. She is a young lady of hilarious disposition, very tolerable good looks, and killing clothes. She is so affable and confidential that it is very difficult to keep her at a distance by any process short of flinging her out of the house._
DORA. [plunging at once into privileged intimacy and into the middle of the room] How d'ye do, both. I'm a friend of Bobby's. He told me all about you once, in a moment of confidence. Of course he never let on who he was at the police court.
GILBEY. Police court!
MRS GILBEY. [looking apprehensively at Juggins] Tch--! Juggins: a chair.
DORA. Oh, Ive let it out, have I! [Contemplating Juggins approvingly as he places a chair for her between the table and the sideboard] But hes the right sort: I can see that. [Buttonholing him] You wont let on downstairs, old man, will you?
JUGGINS. The family can rely on my absolute discretion. [He withdraws].
DORA. [sitting down genteelly] I dont know what youll say to me: you know I really have no right to come here; but then what was I to do? You know Holy Joe, Bobby's tutor, dont you? But of course you do.
GILBEY. [with dignity] I know Mr Joseph Grenfell, the brother of Monsignor Grenfell, if it is of him you are speaking.
DORA. [wide-eyed and much amused] No!!! You dont tell me that old geezer has a brother a Monsignor! And youre Catholics! And I never knew it, though Ive known Bobby ever so long! But of course the last thing you find out about a person is their religion, isnt it?
MRS GILBEY. We're not Catholics. But when the Samuelses got an Archdeacon's son to form their boy's mind, Mr Gilbey thought Bobby ought to have a chance too. And the Monsignor is a customer. Mr Gilbey consulted him about Bobby; and he recommended a brother of his
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