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- Alice Sit-By-The-Fire - 10/19 -

AMY, risking a good deal, 'It is this: that woman is your wife.'

STEVE. 'What woman?'

AMY. 'The woman who dined with you here this evening.'

STEVE. 'With me?'

AMY, icily, 'This is useless; as I have already said, the game is up.'

STEVE, glancing in a mirror to make sure he is still the same person, 'You _look_ a nice girl but dash it all. Whom can you be taking me for? Tell me some more about myself.'

AMY. Please desist. I know everything, and in a way I am sorry for you. All these years you have kept the marriage a secret, for she is a horrid sort of woman, and now she has come back to blackmail you. That, however, is not my affair.'

STEVE, with unexpected power of irony, 'Oh, I wouldn't say that.'

AMY. 'I do say it, Mr. Stephen Rollo. I shall keep your secret--'

STEVE. 'Ought you?'

AMY. '--on one condition, and on one condition only, that you return me the letters.'

STEVE. 'The letters?'

AMY. 'The letters.'

Steve walks the length of his room, regarding her sideways.

STEVE. 'Look here, honestly I don't know what you are talking about. You know, I could be angry with you, but I feel sure you are sincere.'

AMY. 'Indeed I am.'

STEVE. 'Well, then, I assure you on my word of honour that no lady was dining with me this evening, and that I have no wife.'

AMY, blankly, 'No wife! You are sure? Oh, think.'

STEVE. 'I swear it.'

AMY. 'I am very sorry.' She sinks dispiritedly into a chair.

STEVE. 'Sorry I have no wife?' She nods through her tears. 'Don't cry. How could my having a wife be a boon to you?'

AMY, plaintively, 'It would have put you in the hollow of my hands.'

STEVE, idiotically, 'And they are nice hands, too.'

AMY, with a consciousness that he might once upon a time have been saved by a good woman, 'I suppose that is how you got round her.'

STEVE, stamping his foot, 'Haven't I told you that she doesn't exist?'

AMY. 'I don't mean her--I mean her--'

He decides that she is a little crazy.

STEVE, soothingly, 'Come now, we won't go into that again. It was just a mistake; and now that it is all settled and done with, I'll tell you what we shall do. You will let me get you a cab--' She shakes her head. 'I promise not to listen to the address; and after you have had a good night you--you will see things differently.'

AMY, ashamed of her momentary weakness, and deciding not to enter it in the diary, 'You are very clever, Mr. Stephen Rollo, but I don't leave this house without the letters.'

STEVE, groaning, 'Are they your letters?'

AMY. 'How dare you! They are the letters written to you, as you well know, by--'

STEVE, eagerly, 'Yes?'

AMY. '--by a certain lady. Spare me the pain, if you are a gentleman, of having to mention her name.'

STEVE, sulkily, 'Oh, all right.'

AMY. 'She is to pass out of your life to-night. To-morrow you go abroad for a long time.'

STEVE, with excusable warmth, 'Oh, do I! Where am I going?'

AMY. 'We thought--'

STEVE. 'We?'

AMY. 'A friend and I who have been talking it over. We thought of Africa--to shoot big game.'

STEVE, humouring her, 'You must be very fond of this lady.'

AMY. 'I would die for her.'

STEVE, feeling that he ought really to stick up a little for himself, 'After all, am I so dreadful? Why shouldn't she love me?'

AMY. 'A married woman!'

STEVE, gratified, 'Married?'

AMY. 'How can you play with me so, sir? She is my mother.'

STEVE. 'Your mother? Fond of me!'

AMY. 'How dare you look pleased.'

STEVE. 'I'm not--I didn't mean to. I say, I wish you would tell me who you are.'

AMY. 'As if you didn't know.'

STEVE, in a dream, 'Fond of me! I can't believe it.' Rather wistfully: 'How could she be?'

AMY. 'It was all your fault. Such men as you--pitiless men--you made her love you.'

STEVE, still elated, 'Do you think I am that kind of man?'

AMY. 'Oh, sir, let her go. You are strong and she is weak. Think of her poor husband, and give me back the letters.'

STEVE. 'On my word of honour--' Here arrives Richardson, so anxious to come that she is propelled into the room like a ball. 'What is it?'

RICHARDSON. 'A gentleman downstairs, sir, wanting to see you.'

AMY, saying the right thing at once, 'He must not find me here. My reputation--'

STEVE. 'I can guess who it is. Let me think.' He is really glad of the interruption. 'See here, I'll keep him downstairs for a moment. Richardson, take this lady to the upper landing until I have brought him in. Then show her out.'

RICHARDSON. 'Oh, lor'.'

AMY, rooting herself to the floor, 'The letters!'

STEVE, as he goes, 'Write to me, write to me. I must know more of this.'

RICHARDSON. 'Come quick, Miss.'

AMY, fixing her, 'You are not deceiving me? You are sure it isn't a lady?'

RICHARDSON. 'Yes, Miss--he said his name was Colonel Grey.'

Ginevra would have known that it must be the husband, but for the moment Amy is appalled.

AMY, quivering, 'Can he suspect!'

RICHARDSON, who has her own troubles, 'About the chop?'

AMY. 'If she should come while he is here!'

RICHARDSON. 'Come along, Miss. What's the matter?'

AMY. 'I can't go away. I am not going.'

She darts into the cupboard. It is as if she had heard Ginevra cry, 'Amy, the cupboard.'

RICHARDSON, tugging at the closed door, 'Come out of that. I promised to put you on the upper landing. You can't go hiding in there, lady.'

AMY, peeping out, 'I can and I will. Let go the door. I came here expecting to have to hide.'

She closes the door as her father enters with Steve. The Colonel is chatting, but his host sees that Richardson is in distress.

STEVE, who thinks that the lady has been got rid of, 'What is it?'

RICHARDSON. 'Would you speak with me a minute, sir?'

STEVE, pointedly, 'Go away. You have some work to do on the stair. Go and do it. I'm sorry, Colonel, that you didn't bring Alice with you.'

COLONEL. 'She is coming on later.'

STEVE. 'Good.'

COLONEL. 'I have come from Pall Mall. Wanted to look in at the club once more, so I had a chop there.'

RICHARDSON, with the old sinking, 'A chop!' She departs with her worst suspicions confirmed.

Alice Sit-By-The-Fire - 10/19

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