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- Fanny's First Play - 6/19 -
that was more sinned against than sinning.
GILBEY. [on tenderhooks] She dont want to hear about that, Maria. [To Dora] Whats your business?
DORA. I'm afraid it was all my fault.
GILBEY. What was all your fault? I'm half distracted. I dont know what has happened to the boy: hes been lost these fourteen days--
MRS GILBEY. A fortnight, Rob.
GILBEY. --and not a word have we heard of him since.
MRS GILBEY. Dont fuss, Rob.
GILBEY. [yelling] I will fuss. Youve no feeling. You dont care what becomes of the lad. [He sits down savagely].
DORA. [soothingly] Youve been anxious about him. Of course. How thoughtless of me not to begin by telling you hes quite safe. Indeed hes in the safest place in the world, as one may say: safe under lock and key.
GILBEY. [horrified, pitiable] Oh my-- [his breath fails him]. Do you mean that when he was in the police court he was in the dock? Oh, Maria! Oh, great Lord! What has he done? What has he got for it? [Desperate] Will you tell me or will you see me go mad on my own carpet?
DORA. [sweetly] Yes, old dear--
MRS GILBEY. [starting at the familiarity] Well!
DORA. [continuing] I'll tell you: but dont you worry: hes all right. I came out myself this morning: there was such a crowd! and a band! they thought I was a suffragette: only fancy! You see it was like this. Holy Joe got talking about how he'd been a champion sprinter at college.
MRS GILBEY. A what?
DORA. A sprinter. He said he was the fastest hundred yards runner in England. We were all in the old cowshed that night.
MRS GILBEY. What old cowshed?
GILBEY. [groaning] Oh, get on. Get on.
DORA. Oh, of course you wouldnt know. How silly of me! It's a rather go-ahead sort of music hall in Stepney. We call it the old cowshed.
MRS GILBEY. Does Mr Grenfell take Bobby to music halls?
DORA. No. Bobby takes him. But Holy Joe likes it: fairly laps it up like a kitten, poor old dear. Well, Bobby says to me, "Darling--"
MRS GILBEY. [placidly] Why does he call you Darling?
DORA. Oh, everybody calls me Darling: it's a sort of name Ive got. Darling Dora, you know. Well, he says, "Darling, if you can get Holy Joe to sprint a hundred yards, I'll stand you that squiffer with the gold keys."
MRS GILBEY. Does he call his tutor Holy Joe to his face [Gilbey clutches at his hair in his impatience].
DORA. Well, what would he call him? After all, Holy Joe is Holy Joe; and boys will be boys.
MRS GILBEY. Whats a squiffer?
DORA. Oh, of course: excuse my vulgarity: a concertina. Theres one in a shop in Green Street, ivory inlaid, with gold keys and Russia leather bellows; and Bobby knew I hankered after it; but he couldnt afford it, poor lad, though I knew he just longed to give it to me.
GILBEY. Maria: if you keep interrupting with silly questions, I shall go out of my senses. Heres the boy in gaol and me disgraced for ever; and all you care to know is what a squiffer is.
DORA. Well, remember it has gold keys. The man wouldnt take a penny less than 15 pounds for it. It was a presentation one.
GILBEY. [shouting at her] Wheres my son? Whats happened to my son? Will you tell me that, and stop cackling about your squiffer?
DORA. Oh, aint we impatient! Well, it does you credit, old dear. And you neednt fuss: theres no disgrace. Bobby behaved like a perfect gentleman. Besides, it was all my fault. I'll own it: I took too much champagne. I was not what you might call drunk; but I was bright, and a little beyond myself; and--I'll confess it--I wanted to shew off before Bobby, because he was a bit taken by a woman on the stage; and she was pretending to be game for anything. You see youve brought Bobby up too strict; and when he gets loose theres no holding him. He does enjoy life more than any lad I ever met.
GILBEY. Never you mind how hes been brought up: thats my business. Tell me how hes been brought down: thats yours.
MRS GILBEY. Oh, dont be rude to the lady, Rob.
DORA. I'm coming to it, old dear: dont you be so headstrong. Well, it was a beautiful moonlight night; and we couldnt get a cab on the nod; so we started to walk, very jolly, you know: arm in arm, and dancing along, singing and all that. When we came into Jamaica Square, there was a young copper on point duty at the corner. I says to Bob: "Dearie boy: is it a bargain about the squiffer if I make Joe sprint for you?" "Anything you like, darling," says he: "I love you." I put on my best company manners and stepped up to the copper. "If you please, sir," says I, "can you direct me to Carrickmines Square?" I was so genteel, and talked so sweet, that he fell to it like a bird. "I never heard of any such Square in these parts," he says. "Then," says I, "what a very silly little officer you must be!"; and I gave his helmet a chuck behind that knocked it over his eyes, and did a bunk.
MRS GILBEY. Did a what?
DORA. A bunk. Holy Joe did one too all right: he sprinted faster than he ever did in college, I bet, the old dear. He got clean off, too. Just as he was overtaking me half-way down the square, we heard the whistle; and at the sound of it he drew away like a streak of lightning; and that was the last I saw of him. I was copped in the Dock Road myself: rotten luck, wasn't it? I tried the innocent and genteel and all the rest; but Bobby's hat done me in.
GILBEY. And what happened to the boy?
DORA. Only fancy! he stopped to laugh at the copper! He thought the copper would see the joke, poor lamb. He was arguing about it when the two that took me came along to find out what the whistle was for, and brought me with them. Of course I swore I'd never seen him before in my life; but there he was in my hat and I in his. The cops were very spiteful and laid it on for all they were worth: drunk and disorderly and assaulting the police and all that. I got fourteen days without the option, because you see--well, the fact is, I'd done it before, and been warned. Bobby was a first offender and had the option; but the dear boy had no money left and wouldnt give you away by telling his name; and anyhow he couldnt have brought himself to buy himself off and leave me there; so hes doing his time. Well, it was two forty shillingses; and Ive only twenty-eight shillings in the world. If I pawn my clothes I shant be able to earn any more. So I cant pay the fine and get him out; but if youll stand 3 pounds I'll stand one; and thatll do it. If youd like to be very kind and nice you could pay the lot; but I cant deny that it was my fault; so I wont press you.
GILBEY. [heart-broken] My son in gaol!
DORA. Oh, cheer up, old dear: it wont hurt him: look at me after fourteen days of it; I'm all the better for being kept a bit quiet. You mustnt let it prey on your mind.
GILBEY. The disgrace of it will kill me. And it will leave a mark on him to the end of his life.
DORA. Not a bit of it. Dont you be afraid: Ive educated Bobby a bit: hes not the mollycoddle he was when you had him in hand.
MRS GILBEY. Indeed Bobby is not a mollycoddle. They wanted him to go in for singlestick at the Young Men's Christian Association; but, of course, I couldnt allow that: he might have had his eye knocked out.
GILBEY. [to Dora, angrily] Listen here, you.
DORA. Oh, aint we cross!
GILBEY. I want none of your gaiety here. This is a respectable household. Youve gone and got my poor innocent boy into trouble. It's the like of you thats the ruin of the like of him.
DORA. So you always say, you old dears. But you know better. Bobby came to me: I didnt come to him.
GILBEY. Would he have gone if you hadnt been there for him to go to? Tell me that. You know why he went to you, I suppose?
DORA. [charitably] It was dull for him at home, poor lad, wasnt it?
MRS GILBEY. Oh no. I'm at home on first Thursdays. And we have the Knoxes to dinner every Friday. Margaret Knox and Bobby are as good as engaged. Mr Knox is my husband's partner. Mrs Knox is very religious; but shes quite cheerful. We dine with them on Tuesdays. So thats two evenings pleasure every week.
GILBEY. [almost in tears] We done what we could for the boy. Short of letting him go into temptations of all sorts, he can do what he likes. What more does he want?
DORA. Well, old dear, he wants me; and thats about the long and short of it. And I must say youre not very nice to me about it. Ive talked to him like a mother, and tried my best to keep him straight; but I dont deny I like a bit of fun myself; and we both get a bit giddy when we're lighthearted. Him and me is a pair, I'm afraid.
GILBEY. Dont talk foolishness, girl. How could you and he be a pair, you being what you are, and he brought up as he has been, with the
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