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- How He Lied to Her Husband - 4/6 -


SHE [a little frightened] Thank you, Henry: I was sure you would. You're not angry with me, are you?

HE. Go on. Go on quickly. Give me something to think about, or I will--I will--[he suddenly snatches up her fan and it about to break it in his clenched fists].

SHE [running forward and catching at the fan, with loud lamentation] Don't break my fan--no, don't. [He slowly relaxes his grip of it as she draws it anxiously out of his hands]. No, really, that's a stupid trick. I don't like that. You've no right to do that. [She opens the fan, and finds that the sticks are disconnected]. Oh, how could you be so inconsiderate?

HE. I beg your pardon. I will buy you a new one.

SHE [querulously] You will never be able to match it. And it was a particular favorite of mine.

HE [shortly] Then you will have to do without it: that's all.

SHE. That's not a very nice thing to say after breaking my pet fan, I think.

HE. If you knew how near I was to breaking Teddy's pet wife and presenting him with the pieces, you would be thankful that you are alive instead of--of--of howling about five shillings worth of ivory. Damn your fan!

SHE. Oh! Don't you dare swear in my presence. One would think you were my husband.

HE [again collapsing on the stool] This is some horrible dream. What has become of you? You are not my Aurora.

SHE. Oh, well, if you come to that, what has become of you? Do you think I would ever have encouraged you if I had known you were such a little devil?

HE. Don't drag me down--don't--don't. Help me to find the way back to the heights.

SHE [kneeling beside him and pleading] If you would only be reasonable, Henry. If you would only remember that I am on the brink of ruin, and not go on calmly saying it's all quite simple.

HE. It seems so to me.

SHE [jumping up distractedly] If you say that again I shall do something I'll be sorry for. Here we are, standing on the edge of a frightful precipice. No doubt it's quite simple to go over and have done with it. But can't you suggest anything more agreeable?

HE. I can suggest nothing now. A chill black darkness has fallen: I can see nothing but the ruins of our dream. [He rises with a deep sigh].

SHE. Can't you? Well, I can. I can see Georgina rubbing those poems into Teddy. [Facing him determinedly] And I tell you, Henry Apjohn, that you got me into this mess; and you must get me out of it again.

HE [polite and hopeless] All I can say is that I am entirely at your service. What do you wish me to do?

SHE. Do you know anybody else named Aurora?

HE. No.

SHE. There's no use in saying No in that frozen pigheaded way. You must know some Aurora or other somewhere.

HE. You said you were the only Aurora in the world. And [lifting his clasped fists with a sudden return of his emotion] oh God! you were the only Aurora in the world to me. [He turns away from her, hiding his face].

SHE [petting him] Yes, yes, dear: of course. It's very nice of you; and I appreciate it: indeed I do; but it's not reasonable just at present. Now just listen to me. I suppose you know all those poems by heart.

HE. Yes, by heart. [Raising his head and looking at her, with a sudden suspicion] Don't you?

SHE. Well, I never can remember verses; and besides, I've been so busy that I've not had time to read them all; though I intend to the very first moment I can get: I promise you that most faithfully, Henry. But now try and remember very particularly. Does the name of Bompas occur in any of the poems?

HE [indignantly] No.

SHE. You're quite sure?

HE. Of course I am quite sure. How could I use such a name in a poem?

SHE. Well, I don't see why not. It rhymes to rumpus, which seems appropriate enough at present, goodness knows! However, you're a poet, and you ought to know.

HE. What does it matter--now?

SHE. It matters a lot, I can tell you. If there's nothing about Bompas in the poems, we can say that they were written to some other Aurora, and that you showed them to me because my name was Aurora too. So you've got to invent another Aurora for the occasion.

HE [very coldly] Oh, if you wish me to tell a lie--

SHE. Surely, as a man of honor--as a gentleman, you wouldn't tell the truth, would you?

HE. Very well. You have broken my spirit and desecrated my dreams. I will lie and protest and stand on my honor: oh, I will play the gentleman, never fear.

SHE. Yes, put it all on me, of course. Don't be mean, Henry.

HE [rousing himself with an effort] You are quite right, Mrs Bompas: I beg your pardon. You must excuse my temper. I have got growing pains, I think.

SHE. Growing pains!

HE. The process of growing from romantic boyhood into cynical maturity usually takes fifteen years. When it is compressed into fifteen minutes, the pace is too fast; and growing pains are the result.

SHE. Oh, is this a time for cleverness? It's settled, isn't it, that you're going to be nice and good, and that you'll brazen it out to Teddy that you have some other Aurora?

HE. Yes: I'm capable of anything now. I should not have told him the truth by halves; and now I will not lie by halves. I'll wallow in the honor of a gentleman.

SHE. Dearest boy, I knew you would. I--Sh! [she rushes to the door, and holds it ajar, listening breathlessly].

HE. What is it?

SHE [white with apprehension] It's Teddy: I hear him tapping the new barometer. He can't have anything serious on his mind or he wouldn't do that. Perhaps Georgina hasn't said anything. [She steals back to the hearth]. Try and look as if there was nothing the matter. Give me my gloves, quick. [He hands them to her. She pulls on one hastily and begins buttoning it with ostentatious unconcern]. Go further away from me, quick. [He walks doggedly away from her until the piano prevents his going farther]. If I button my glove, and you were to hum a tune, don't you think that--

HE. The tableau would be complete in its guiltiness. For Heaven's sake, Mrs Bompas, let that glove alone: you look like a pickpocket.

Her husband comes in: a robust, thicknecked, well groomed city man, with a strong chin but a blithering eye and credulous mouth. He has a momentous air, but shows no sign of displeasure: rather the contrary.

HER HUSBAND. Hallo! I thought you two were at the theatre.

SHE. I felt anxious about you, Teddy. Why didn't you come home to dinner?

HER HUSBAND. I got a message from Georgina. She wanted me to go to her.

SHE. Poor dear Georgina! I'm sorry I haven't been able to call on her this last week. I hope there's nothing the matter with her.

HER HUSBAND. Nothing, except anxiety for my welfare and yours. [She steals a terrified look at Henry]. By, the way, Apjohn, I should like a word with you this evening, if Aurora can spare you for a moment.

HE [formally] I am at your service.

HER HUSBAND. No hurry. After the theatre will do.

HE. We have decided not to go.

HER HUSBAND. Indeed! Well, then, shall we adjourn to my snuggery?

SHE. You needn't move. I shall go and lock up my diamonds since I'm not going to the theatre. Give me my things.

HER HUSBAND [as he hands her the cloud and the mirror] Well, we shall have more room here.

HE [looking about him and shaking his shoulders loose] I think I should prefer plenty of room.

HER HUSBAND. So, if it's not disturbing you, Rory--?


How He Lied to Her Husband - 4/6

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