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- Alice Sit-By-The-Fire - 6/19 -


ALICE, the belle of many stations, 'Yellow?' Her brain reels. 'Cosmo, do you think me plain?'

COSMO, gallantly, 'No, I don't. I'm not one of the kind who judge people by their looks. The soul, you know, is what I judge them by.'

ALICE. 'Plain? Me.'

COSMO, the comforter, 'Of course it's all right for girls to bother about being pretty.' He lures her away from the subject. 'I can tell you a funny thing about that. We had theatricals at Osborne one night, and we played a thing called "The Royal Boots."'

ALICE, clapping her hands, '_I_ played in that, too, last year.'

COSMO. 'You?'

ALICE. 'Yes. Why shouldn't I?'

COSMO. 'But we did it for fun.'

ALICE. 'So did we.'

COSMO, his views on the universe crumbling, 'You still like fun?'

ALICE. 'Take care, Cosmo.'

COSMO. 'But you're our mother.'

ALICE. 'Mustn't mothers have fun?

COSMO, heavily, 'Must they? I see. You had played the dowager.'

ALICE. 'No, I didn't. I played the girl in the Wellington boots.'

COSMO, blinking, 'Mother, _I_ played the girl in the Wellington boots.'

ALICE, happily, 'My son--this ought to bring us closer together.'

COSMO, who has not yet learned to leave well alone, 'But the reason I did it was that we were all boys. Were there no young ladies where you did it, mother?'

ALICE. 'Cosmo.' She is not a tamed mother yet, and in sudden wrath she flips his face with her hand. He accepts it as a smack. The Colonel foolishly chooses this moment to make his return. He is in high good-humour, and does not observe that two of his nearest relatives are glaring at each other.

COLONEL, purring offensively, 'It's all right now, Alice; she took to me at once.'

ALICE, tartly, 'Oh, did she!'

COLONEL. 'Gurgled at me--pulled my moustache.'

ALICE. 'I hope you got on with our dear son as well.'

COLONEL. 'Isn't he a fine fellow.'

ALICE. '_I_ have just been smacking his face.' She sits down and weeps, while her son stands haughtily at attention.

COLONEL, with a groan, 'Hst, I think you had better go and get that evening paper.'

Cosmo departs with his flag flying, and the bewildered husband seeks enlightenment.

'Smacked his face. But why, Alice?'

ALICE. 'He infuriated me.'

COLONEL. 'He seems such a good boy.'

ALICE, the lowly, 'No doubt he is. It must be very trying to have me for a mother.'

COLONEL. 'Perhaps you were too demonstrative?'

ALICE. 'I daresay. A woman he doesn't know! No wonder I disgusted him.'

COLONEL. 'I can't make it out.'

ALICE, abjectly, 'It's quite simple. He saw through me at once; so did baby.'

The Colonel flings up his hands. He hears whisperings outside the door. He peeps and returns excitedly.

COLONEL. 'Alice, there's a girl there with Cosmo.'

ALICE, on her feet, with a cry, 'Amy.'

COLONEL, trembling, 'I suppose so.'

ALICE, gripping him, 'Robert, if _she_ doesn't love me I shall die.'

COLONEL. 'She will, she will.' But he has grown nervous. 'Don't be too demonstrative, dearest.'

ALICE. 'I shall try to be cold. Oh, Amy, love me.'

Amy comes, her hair up, and is at once in her father's arms. Then she wants to leap into the arms of the mother who craves for her. But Alice is afraid of being too demonstrative, and restrains herself. She presses Amy's hands only.

ALICE. 'It is you, Amy. How are you, dear?' She ventures at last to kiss her. 'It is a great pleasure to your father and me to see you again.'

AMY, damped, 'Thank you, mother----Of course I have been looking forward to this meeting very much also.'

ALICE, shuddering, 'It is very sweet of you to say so.'

'Oh how cold,' they are both thinking, while the Colonel regards them uncomfortably. Amy turns to him. She knows already that there is safe harbourage there.

AMY. 'Would you have known me, father?'

COLONEL. 'I wonder. She's not like you, Alice?'

ALICE. 'No. _I_ used to be demonstrative, Amy----'

AMY, eagerly, 'Were you?'

ALICE, hurriedly, 'Oh, I grew out of it long ago.'

AMY, disappointed but sympathetic, 'The wear and tear of life.'

ALICE, wincing, 'No doubt.'

AMY, making conversation, 'You have seen Cosmo?'

ALICE. 'Yes.'

AMY, with pardonable curiosity, 'What did you think of him?'

ALICE. 'He--seemed a nice boy----'

AMY, hurt, 'And baby?'

ALICE. 'Yes--oh yes.'

AMY. 'Isn't she fat?'

ALICE. 'Is she?'

The nurse's head intrudes.

NURSE. 'If you please, sir--I think baby wants _you_ again.'

The Colonel's face exudes complacency, but he has the grace to falter.

COLONEL. 'What do you think, Alice?'

ALICE, broken under the blow, 'By all means go.'

COLONEL. 'Won't you come also? Perhaps if I am with you--'

ALICE, after giving him an annihilating look, 'No, I--I had quite a long time with her.'

The Colonel tiptoes off to his babe with a countenance of foolish rapture; and mother and daughter are alone.

AMY, wishing her father would come back, 'You can't have been very long with baby, mother.'

ALICE. 'Quite long enough.'

AMY. 'Oh.' Some seconds elapse before she can speak again. 'You will have some tea, won't you?'

ALICE. 'Thank you, dear.' They sit down to a chilly meal.

AMY, merely a hostess, 'Both milk and sugar.'

ALICE, merely a guest, 'No sugar.'

AMY. 'I hope you will like the house, mother.'

ALICE. 'I am sure you have chosen wisely. I see you are artistic.'

AMY. 'The decoration isn't finished. I haven't quite decided what this room is to be like yet.'

ALICE. 'One never can tell.'

AMY, making conversation, 'Did you notice that there is a circular drive to the house?'

ALICE. 'No, I didn't notice.'

AMY. 'That would be because the cab filled it; but you can see it if you are walking.'


Alice Sit-By-The-Fire - 6/19

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