Her face assumes a furtive, listening look. Then she gets up,
whisks to the mirror over the fireplace, scrutinises the expression
in it, and going back to the table, sits down again with hands
outstretched above the keys, and an accentuation of the expression.
The door up Left is opened, and TOPPING appears. He looks at MAUD,
who just turns her eyes.
Lunch has been ready some time, Miss Maud.
I say, Topping, do you know anything about the film?
TOPPING [Nodding] Rather a specialty of mine, Miss.
Well, just stand there, and give me your opinion of this.
TOPPING moves down Left. She crouches over the typewriter, lets her
hands play on the keys; stops; assumes that listening, furtive look;
listens again, and lets her head go slowly round, preceded by her
eyes; breaks it off, and says:
Should I naturally put my hand on them; or would there be a
reaction quick enough to stop me? You see, I'm alone--and the point is
whether the fear of being seen would stop me although I knew I couldn't
be seen. It's rather subtle.
Oh! Hang it all, Miss, think of what you'll leave behind.
Miss Athene's leavin' home has made it pretty steep, but this'll touch
Yes; I expect you'll find it rather difficult for a bit when I'm
gone. Miss Baldini, you know. I've been studying with her. She's got
me this chance with the movie people. I'm going on trial as the guilty
typist in "The Heartache of Miranda."
TOPPING [Surprised out of politeness] Well, I never! That does sound
like 'em! Are you goin' to tell the guv'nor, Miss?
MAUD nods. In that case, I think I'll be gettin' off to my dentist
before the band plays.
All right, Topping; hope you won't lose a tooth.
TOPPING [With a grin] It's on the knees of the gods, Miss, as they say
in the headlines.
There's some coffee coming; do your head good. Look here,
Julia. I'm sorry I beat on that door. I apologize. I was in a towering
passion. I wish I didn't get into these rages. But--dash it all--! I
couldn't walk away and leave you there.
When you think of how she's been brought up. You would have
thought that religion alone--
The girls haven't wanted to go to church for years.
They've always said they didn't see why they should go to keep up your
position. I don't know if you remember that you once caned them for
running off on a Sunday morning.
You know I didn't mean that. I might just as well have said
I'd done with you! Apply your wits, Julia! At any moment this thing may
come out. In a little town like this you can keep nothing dark. How can
I take this nomination for Mayor?
Topping's got toothache, poor chap! [Pouring out the coffee]
Can't you suggest any way of making Athene see reason? Think of the
example! Maud will be kicking over next. I shan't be able to hold my
head up here.
She goes through the doorway into the hall. MRS BUILDER, following
towards the door, meets RALPH BUILDER, a man rather older than
BUILDER and of opposite build and manner. He has a pleasant,
whimsical face and grizzled hair.
Don't twist my tail, Maud. I had the most painful scene with
Athene this morning. Now come! Give up this silly notion! It's really
MAUD [Looking at him curiously] I've heard you say ever so many times
that no man was any good who couldn't make his own way, father. Well,
women are the same as men, now. It's the law of the country. I only
want to make my own way.
BUILDER [Trying to subdue his anger] Now, Maud, don't be foolish.
Consider my position here--a Town Councillor, a Magistrate, and Mayor
next year. With one daughter living with a man she isn't married to--
MAUD [With lively interest] Oh! So you did catch them out?
I certainly never wanted to be. I've always disliked you, father,
ever since I was so high. I've seen through you. Do you remember when
you used to come into the nursery because Jenny was pretty? You think we
didn't notice that, but we did. And in the schoolroom--Miss Tipton. And
d'you remember knocking our heads together? No, you don't; but we do.
You disrespectful monkey! Will you be quiet?
No; you've got to hear things. You don't really love anybody but
yourself, father. What's good for you has to be good for everybody.
I've often heard you talk about independence, but it's a limited company
and you've got all the shares.
Rot; only people who can support themselves have a right to
That's why you don't want me to support myself.
You can't! Film, indeed! You'd be in the gutter in a year.
Athene's got her pittance, but you--you've got nothing.
BUILDER [Almost pathetically] Well, I'm damned! Look here, Maud--
all this has been temper. You got my monkey up. I'm sorry I shook you;
you've had your revenge on my toes. Now, come! Don't make things worse
for me than they are. You've all the liberty you can reasonably want
till you marry.
She suddenly kisses him, and he returns the kiss. While they are
engaged in this entrancing occupation, MRS BUILDER opens the door
from the hall, watches unseen for a few seconds, and quietly goes
BUILDER [Pushing her back from him, whether at the sound of the door or
of a still small voice] What am I doing?
BUILDER [After staring at her] I've given you no real reason. I'll
send the girl away. You ought to thank me for resisting a temptation
that most men would have yielded to. After twenty-three years of married
life, to kick up like this--you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
BUILDER [Almost pathetically] Don't rile me Julia! I've had an awful
day. First Athene--then Maud--then that girl--and now you! All at once
like this! Like a swarm of bees about one's head. [Pleading] Come,
now, Julia, don't be so--so im practicable! You'll make us the laughing-
stock of the whole town. A man in my position, and can't keep his own
family; it's preposterous!
Your own family have lives and thoughts and feelings of
Oh! This damned Woman's business! I knew how it would be when
we gave you the vote. You and I are married, and our daughters are our
daughters. Come, Julia. Where's your commonsense? After twenty-three
years! You know I can't do without you!
You could--quite easily. You can tell people what you
My God! I never heard anything so immoral in all my life from
the mother of two grownup girls. No wonder they've turned out as they
have! What is it you want, for goodness sake?
We just want to be away from you, that's all. I assure you
it's best. When you've shown some consideration for our feelings and
some real sign that we exist apart from you--we could be friends again--
perhaps--I don't know.
Friends! Good heavens! With one's own wife and daughters!
[With great earnestness] Now, look here, Julia, you haven't lived with
me all this time without knowing that I'm a man of strong passions; I've
been a faithful husband to you--yes, I have. And that means resisting
all sorts of temptations you know nothing of. If you withdraw from my
society I won't answer for the consequences. In fact, I can't have you
withdrawing. I'm not going to see myself going to the devil and losing
the good opinion of everybody round me. A bargain's a bargain. And
until I've broken my side of it, and I tell you I haven't--you've no
business to break yours. That's flat. So now, put all that out of your