Dialogue Following Song No. 3
(Enter SELWORTHY, much dejected, from Garden. PENNYFATHER is opening
SEL. (aside). The garden-gate is locked.
PEN. (seeing him). Oh, there you are. Been taking a look at the garden? Nothing but last year’s holly-hocks, and an occasional ambulatory slug. Sit down, and make yourself comfortable.
SEL. (aside, bitterly). Comfortable!! (Seats himself, C.) Shall I tell him all? No, it would pain them both too deeply were they to know — but, can I ever forgive him?
PEN. (bringing soda-water). What’s the matter? You seem unhappy.
SEL. Not at all. (With hollow gaiety.) Never felt jollier in my life. (Aside.) Can I forgive him? I must try and do so.
PEN. Well, you don’t look very joyful. Try the brandy.
SEL. (drinking). Thanks. (With effort.) Besides, were I inclined to be gloomy, the sight of my old friend’s happiness would be sufficient to cheer me.
PEN. (puzzled). Eh? My what?
SEL. Your happiness. Are you not (sighs) married?
PEN. (enlightened). Oh — ah — yes.
SEL. Is it not happiness to live beneath the same roof with one you love, to breathe the same air —
PEN. I should object to that arrangement most decidedly. Every human being requires a certain number of cubic feet of air, for his or her exclusive consumption. Mrs. Pennyfather consumers her own atmosphere; I consume mine. At present she is probably inhaling the exquisitely pure ether of the Underground Railway.
SEL. Pennyfather, you cannot deceive me.
PEN. Don’t want to, dear boy.
SEL. You shrink from avowing your real happiness. You feel too keenly what a treasure you posses.
PEN. Well, that’s true; sometimes I do.
SEL. Believe me, if anything could console me for my unhappy — I mean, my solitary — condition, it would be to see my old friend calmly peacefully happy.
PEN. It must be jolly to be like that.
SEL. What do you mean? Is it possible that (earnestly) — you are not happy altogether Pennyfather?
PEN. Oh, so-so. We lead a husband-and-wife sort of existence.
SEL. (aside). Perhaps he abuses her, tyrannises over her. Poor Perdita! (Aloud, seriously.) Tell me Pennyfather, as a friend, as one who would wish to see you and Per — Mrs. Pennyfather happy together — do you ever take advantage of your superior position as a man to be overbearing or tyrannical with your wife?
PEN. I never do. (Aside.) I wish I could.
SEL. Think, Pennyfather, what Woman is.
PEN. Think! By Jove, I know. (Rises and crosses.)
SEL. Think how delicate and fragile her organisation.
PEN. Mrs. Pennyfather certainly isn’t delicate or fragile.
SEL. (aside). At least, then, she enjoys too health. But can I ever forgive him? (Aloud.) Pennyfather, tell me on your word of honour (with great intensity) if anyone had robbed you of Per — of your wife, of Mrs. Pennyfather . . . could you forgive him?
PEN. (taking his hand). Upon my honour as a husband, Harry, . . . . . I could.
SEL. (aside). Noble fellow! (Aloud.) Pennyfather, I have a trouble.
PEN. (aside). So have I. But it’s well on it’s way to Brighton by this time.
SEL. But, situated as I am, I cannot confide it, even to you. My great want is Sympathy; and, situated as I am, I cannot obtain it.
PEN. Well, our great want is Servants; and situated as we are, we often have to do without ‘em.
SEL. What, do servants ever trouble you?
PEN. Invariably. They pass through our household like the apparitions in Macbeth. We have a new house-maid every fortnight, and a fresh cook for every month in the year. In short, our kitchen is a sort of caravanserai, where the greater part of the female domestic population of London has made a short (but stirring) stay.
SEL. I daresay servants are tiresome sometimes.
PEN. You’d say so if you came home at seven, and found the cook hopelessly intoxicated in the back-kitchen, the housemaid in hysterics on the hearth-rug, no dinner, and Mrs. Pennyfather driving off at full gallop in a cab to the Registry Office.
SEL. The Registry Office? What’s that?
PEN. Don’t you know? It’s a sort of breeding establishment, I believe, where they keep a stock of them on hand. I believe they give Mrs. Pennyfather the screws when they want to weed out the stud. If they do, it’s a great shame, for she’s a munificent patron on these establishments; in fact there’s one in the next street which she keeps going by her patronage alone.
SEL. (aside). Poor Perdita! (Aloud.) And how does your wife bear all this?
PEN. Bear it. She positively revels in it! She is perpetually travelling from place to place enquiring from late mistresses the characters of late servants: in fact she might be called the female Vanderdecken of domestic service.
SEL. And is her voice what is was?
PEN. Stronger and louder, if possible.
SEL. (pensively). Ah, I can imagine her developed. Tall, dignified, commanding.
PEN. She’s certainly commanding.
SEL. And has she retained all those pretty little ways of hers?
PEN. Yes: she has a great many pretty little ways.
SEL. And does she enjoy good health?
PEN. Yes, pretty well. But she’s getting fearfully fat.
SEL. Ah, I can imagine her a trifle — just a trifle inclined to embonpoint.
PEN. Here, I say — You can hardly call thirteen stone “a little inclined to embonpoint.”
SEL. Thirteen stone?
PEN. That’s Mrs. Pennyfather’s fighting-weight at present.
SEL. And is she quite well?
PEN. (slightly annoyed.) I say, what are you cross-examining me about my wife for? Yes, yes, she’s quite well — no, though, lately she’s suffered severely from —
SEL. (excitedly.) Don’t say consumption?
PEN. Consumption? Nonsense! What’s the matter with you?
SEL. (confused.) I know it was in the family.
PEN. Well, it isn’t in this family. No, indigestion.
PEN. Yes, she will eat too much.
SEL. “Eat too much?” Impossible!
PEN. She has an over-weening fancy for pork chops and porter. And just before going to bed, too. I always tell her it will ruin her digestive organs.
SEL. And does she look pale?
PEN. No, rather red and fat in the face than otherwise.
SEL. (sinking into chair and with shaking hand, filling out glass of brandy — aside.) “Fat” — “red-in-the-face” — “pork chops and porter!” (Drinks a dram.) Well, Pennyfather, miserable bachelor as I am, it’s no use my giving way to the miserables.
PEN. Of course not. Why should you, dear boy? I’ll tell you what. An idea has just struck me. Mrs. Pennyfather is out of the way — it’s an opportunity that oughtn’t to be lost — suppose we go and dine together somewhere, drop in at the Opera Comique and see part of the Pinafore, and finish up with a kidney and something else — just as we used to do in the good old times — you remember, eh?
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