Dialogue Following Song No. 2
PEN. (striking bell). I wonder what has become of that girl? (Returning, standing by chair, R.C.) You must excuse the delay, but, ah,–the fact is we have had a little trouble with our servants lately, and Mrs. Pennyfather has gone down to Brighton to stay with her mother, and enquire about the character of a new parlour-maid. She did not give herself too much time, by the way. (SEL. sits. C.)
SEL. Mrs. Pennyfather? Then you’re married?
PEN. I can’t deny it.
SEL. How long have you been so?
PEN. Oh, about a hundred — I mean about ten years.
SEL. Ah, Pennyfather, if you only knew how I envy you; how a miserable bachelor, like the Peri outside Paradise, views with eager eyes the Eden he longs to enter!
PEN.Paradise is cheap. They’ll tie you up anywhere for two guineas, and half-crown to the pew-opener.
SEL. (still pensive). I would gladly emulate your happiness. I, too, would pass the crystal bar.
PEN. (puzzled). Don’t know it. Somewhere in Fleet Street, isn’t it?
SEL. Pennyfather, don’t be a brute! (Rising.) Can I confide in you?
PEN. Certainly, old man. Confide away.
SEL. (earnestly). For the last ten years I have been in love. (Watches for the effect of his remark.)
PEN. Well, I should say that you had had almost enough of it by this time. I’ve only been married five, and I — (shudders.)
SEL. The most charming, the loveliest of her sweet sex!
PEN. It always is.
SEL. Nature had formed us for each other, like — like two pieces of a dissected map.
PEN. Beautiful simile. Any more of them about you?
SEL. Her whole manner was so gentle, so timid, and retiring; shrinking, you know, from observation, like —
SEL. And then her eyes, so sweet and liquid in expression . . . (Sighs.)
PEN. It was her eyes that hooked you, evidently.
SEL. So dark and soft — like a gazelle’s, you know.
PEN. No, I don’t. Never knew a gazelle.
SEL. And then her voice, so sweet and melodious, and with that delicate timbre that you so seldom find in our Saxon races . . . (Overcome.) O, Pennyfather — that girl!
PEN. (rising, and going to bell). Yes, I wonder what’s keeping her. (Rings) Thank you for reminding me.
SEL. It has been the dream of my life to find her!
PEN. What, Maria? My servant?
SEL. No; my lost love. Will you assist me in my search?
PEN. Certainly, dear boy. (SEL. rises and grasps his hand.) But, let us begin at the beginning. Did you not correspond?
SEL. At first we did. Then came my misfortunes — and was I, a penniless beggar, to hold a girl to a disadvantageous bargain? Afterwards, when I wrote, my letters were returned to me through the post. They must have changed their address.
PEN. Well, in the course of ten years you know; people do move occasionally — especially about Quarter Day.
SEL. It is the object of my existence to find her; to tell her that through all my vicissitudes the remembrance of her has never entirely faded from my heart.
PEN. Very good. If you’ll excuse me a moment, I’ll go and see after your brandy-and-soda. (Going, L.)
SEL. Tell me, Pennyfather; when you were in love, did you ever feel like this?
PEN. Well, not much. (At door L., holding handle.) You see, when I married Perdita Price (SEL. starts and turns pale), it was a matter of business on both sides. I wanted a wife, and she wanted a husband.
SEL. (much agitated). “Perdita Price”? Daughter of old Sam Price, the contractor, of Queen’s Road, Chelsea?
PEN. That’s the individual. Ah, to be sure, you knew her. Excuse me–I really must go and see what Maria’s about. (Exit. L.) Maria! Maria!
(SELWORTHY’S head sinks upon his hands: he is utterly overcome. He rises suddenly.)
SEL. (passionately). Married? My Perdita — married? And to my friend? Pennyfather — robber! You have stolen from me my treasure! (More calmly.) And yet — he acted in ignorance: he knew not the misery he was destined to inflict. But . . . (More bitterly) can I ever forgive him? Can I bear to think that he can bask day after day in that angelic presence, that he can press kisses at will upon those perfect lips, which I (Catches wildly at hat and stick) — the thought is madness? I will leave this accursed spot! I will go back to the Silent Prairie, back to my lonely hut in the Sierras! (at French windows, C.), and not a thought shall remain to mar their happiness, of the miserable wretch who loved her alas! Not wisely — but too well!! (Exit, wildly, into garden). (Music ceases).
(Enter PENNYFATHER, L., followed by MARIA in a somewhat excited state, bearing tray with decanter of brandy and soda-water bottles.)
MAR. (agitated, putting down tray roughly on table). Its only to please you, sir, as I’m doing this — and this I will say, that a more civil-spoken gentleman never stepped in shoes — but I says to missus this morning, and I say it again to you, sir, not another stroke of work will I do in this blessed ‘ouse, not if you send me to the Tower of London for it!
PEN. Come, come, Maria, what is the matter? I am sure the work is not hard, as for the wages —
MAR. (forcibly). Its not the work I care about, and its not the wages I care about — its the way I’m treated! I’ve given missus notice to leave this morning, and leave her I will, come what may!
PEN. (aside). Given her notice to leave! I wish I could.
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