The Studio, to which are attached living rooms, might be rented at
eighty pounds a year--some painting and gear indeed, but an air of
life rather than of work. Things strewn about. Bare walls, a
sloping skylight, no windows; no fireplace visible; a bedroom door,
stage Right; a kitchen door, stage Left. A door, Centre back, into
the street. The door knocker is going.
From the kitchen door, Left, comes the very young person, ANNIE, in
blotting-paper blue linen, with a white Dutch cap. She is pretty, her
cheeks rosy, and her forehead puckered. She opens the street door.
Standing outside is TOPPING. He steps in a pace or two.
She goes across to the bedroom on the Right, and soon returns with a
suit of pyjamas, a toothbrush, a pair of slippers and a case of
razors, which she puts on the table, and disappears into the
kitchen. She reappears with a bread pan, which she deposits in the
centre of the room; then crosses again to the bedroom, and once more
reappears with a clothes brush, two hair brushes, and a Norfolk
jacket. As she stuffs all these into the bread pan and bears it
back into the kitchen, there is the sound of a car driving up and
stopping. ANNIE reappears at the kitchen door just as the knocker
Vexin' and provokin'! [Knocker again. She opens the door] Oh!
BUILDER [Placing a chair for his wife, and sitting down himself] Well,
we must wait, I suppose. Confound that Nixon legacy! If Athene hadn't
had that potty little legacy left her, she couldn't have done this.
Well, I daresay it's all spent by now. I made a mistake to lose my
temper with her.
Isn't it always a mistake to lose one's temper?
That's very nice and placid; sort of thing you women who live
sheltered lives can say. I often wonder if you women realise the strain
on a business man.
MRS BUILDER [In her softly ironical voice] It seems a shame to add the
strain of family life.
You've always been so passive. When I want a thing, I've got
to have it.
BUILDER [With a short laugh] Odd if you hadn't, in twenty-three years.
[Touching a canvas standing against the chair with his toe] Art! Just a
pretext. We shall be having Maud wanting to cut loose next. She's very
restive. Still, I oughtn't to have had that scene with Athene. I ought
to have put quiet pressure.
John, you mustn't. Athene has the tiny beginning of a
moustache, you know.
What! I shall stay and clear this up if I have to wait a week.
Men who let their daughters--! This age is the limit. [He makes a
vicious movement with the strop, as though laying it across someone's
She would never stand that. Even wives object, nowadays.
BUILDER [Grimly] The war's upset everything. Women are utterly out
of hand. Why the deuce doesn't she come?
Don't stand there opposing everything I say! I'll go and have
another look--[He is going towards the bedroom when the sound of a
latchkey in the outer door arrests him. He puts the strop and brush
behind his back, and adds in a low voice] Here she is!
MRS BUILDER has approached him, and they have both turned towards
the opening door. GUY HERRINGHAME comes in. They are a little out
of his line of sight, and he has shut the door before he sees them.
When he does, his mouth falls open, and his hand on to the knob of
the door. He is a comely young man in Harris tweeds. Moreover, he
is smoking. He would speak if he could, but his surprise is too
GUY [Soothingly] Don't try, sir. [He jerks up his chin, listening] I
think that's her. [Goes to the door] Yes. Now, please! [He opens the
door] Your father and mother, Athene.
ATHENE enters. She is flushed and graceful. Twenty-two, with a short
upper lip, a straight nose, dark hair, and glowing eyes. She wears
bright colours, and has a slow, musical voice, with a slight lisp.
Oh! How are you, mother dear? This is rather a surprise.
Father always keeps his word, so I certainly didn't expect him. [She
looks steadfastly at BUILDER, but does not approach].
BUILDER [Controlling himself with an effort] Now, Athene, what's this?
Confess that being a good husband and father has tried you terribly. It
has us, you know.
BUILDER [Taking refuge in sarcasm] When you've quite done being funny,
perhaps you'll tell me why you've behaved like a common street flapper.
ATHENE [Simply] I couldn't bear to think of Guy as a family man.
That's all--absolutely. It's not his fault; he's been awfully anxious to
You've disgraced us, then; that's what it comes to.
I don't want to be unkind, but you've brought it on yourself.
BUILDER [Genuinely distracted] I can't even get a glimmer of what you
mean. I've never been anything but firm. Impatient, perhaps. I'm not
an angel; no ordinary healthy man is. I've never grudged you girls any
comfort, or pleasure.
Love leads to marriage--and to nothing else, but the streets.
What an example to your sister!
You don't know Maud any more than you knew me. She's got a will
of her own too, I can tell you.
Now, look here, Athene. It's always been my way to face
accomplished facts. What's done can't be undone; but it can be remedied.
You must marry this young----at once, before it gets out. He's behaved
like a ruffian: but, by your own confession, you've behaved worse.
You've been bitten by this modern disease, this--this, utter lack of
common decency. There's an eternal order in certain things, and marriage
is one of them; in fact, it's the chief. Come, now. Give me a promise,
and I'll try my utmost to forget the whole thing.
When we quarrelled, father, you said you didn't care what became
As for you, sir, if you start by allowing a woman to impose her crazy
ideas about marriage on you, all I can say is--I despise you. [He
crosses to the outer door, followed by his wife. To ATHENE] I've done
So her father has a firm hand too. But it takes her back to the
nest. How's that, Athene?
ATHENE [Playing with a leathern button on his coat] If you'd watched
it ever since you could watch anything, seen it kill out all--It's having
power that does it. I know Father's got awfully good points.
With the best intentions. You see, he's a Town Councillor, and
a magistrate. I suppose they have to be "firm." Maud and I sneaked in
once to listen to him. There was a woman who came for protection from
her husband. If he'd known we were there, he'd have had a fit.