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The Stonor Case

Second Act

Scene One

A sitting-room in Stoke Place

Enter MRS STAUNTON showing in MR ARMITAGE

MRS STAUNTON: I can't tell how long the Doctor may be. It's not long since he went out.

ARMITAGE: Well, I'll wait for him, however long it is.

MRS STAUNTON: It's nothing I could do for you, I suppose.

ARMITAGE: No, it is not.

MRS STAUNTON: Well, you need not be so short. Perhaps after you've seen the Doctor you may be sorry.

MRS STAUNTON: There's the law of England watching over me, Mrs Staunton. I advise you not to forget it—nor your master either. I fear no man so long as I am doing my duty.

Enter ENID

Ah, Miss Stonor, I am very glad to see you.

ENID (bewildered): Good-day, Mr Armitage. What brings you up here?

ARMITAGE: I had a little business with the Doctor. But I should be very glad to have a chat with you also.

MRS STAUNTON I don't think the Doctor would like it, Miss Enid.

ARMITAGE: A pretty state of things. Isn't this young lady able to speak with whoever she likes? Do you call this a prison, or a private asylum, or what? There are fine doings in a free country.

MRS STAUNTON: I am sure the Doctor would not like it.

ARMITAGE: Look here, Mrs Staunton, two is company and three is none. If I'm not afraid of your master, I'm not afraid of you. You're a bit beyond your situation, you are. Get to the other side of that door and leave us alone, or else—

MRS STAUNTON: Or what, Mr Armitage?

ARMITAGE: As sure as my father was a Methodist I'll go down to the J.P. and swear an information that this young lady is under constraint.

MRS STAUNTON: You need not be so hot about it. It's nothing to me what you say to Miss Enid. But the Doctor won't like it.

Exit

ARMITAGE (looking at the door): You haven't such a thing as a hatpin?

ENID: No.

ARMITAGE: If I were to jab it through that keyhole?

ENID: Oh, no, Mr Armitage.

ARMITAGE: You'd hear Sister Jane's top note. But we'll speak low for I don't mean she shall hear. First of all, Miss Enid, how are they using you? Are you all right?

ENID: Mr Armitage, I know you mean it all for kindness, but I cannot discuss my personal affairs with you. I hardly know you.

ARMITAGE: Only the village grocer, too. I know all about that. But I've taken an interest in you, Miss Stonor, and I'm the kind of man that can't leave go his hold. I came here not to see you, but your stepfather.

ENID: Oh, Mr Armitage, I beg you to go away at once. You have no idea how violent he is if any one thwarts him. Please, please go at once.

ARMITAGE (sitting down): Well, Miss Stonor, your only chance of getting me to go is to answer my questions. When my conscience is clear I'll go, and not before. My conscience tell me that it is my duty to stay here till I have some satisfaction.

ENID: But what is it, Mr Armitage?

ARMITAGE: Well, I'll tell you. I make it my business to know what is going on in this house. It may be that I like you, or it may be that I dislike your stepfather. Or it may be that it's just my nature, but so it is. I've got my own way of finding out, and I do find out.

ENID: What have you found out?

ARMITAGE: Now look here, miss. Cast your mind back to that inquest two years ago.

ENID: Oh!

ARMITAGE: I'm sorry if it hurts you, but I must speak plain. When did your sister meet her death? It was shortly after her engagement, was it not?

ENID: Yes, it was.

ARMITAGE: Well, you're engaged now, are you not?

ENID: Yes, I am.

ARMITAGE: Point number one. Well now, have there not been repairs lately, and are you not forced to sleep in the very room your sister died in?

ENID: Only for a few nights.

ARMITAGE: Point number two. There was talk at the inquest of music heard in the house at night. Have you never heard music of late?

ENID: Good God! only last night I thought I heard it: and then persuaded myself that it was a dream. But how do you know these things, Mr Armitage, and what do they mean?

ARMITAGE: Well, I won't tell you how I know them, and I can't tell you what they mean. But it's devilish, Miss Stonor, devilish! Now I've come up to see your stepfather and to tell him, as man to man, that I've got my eye on him, and that if anything happens to you it will be a bad day's work for him.

ENID: Oh, Mr Armitage, he would beat you within an inch of your life. Mr Armitage, you cannot think what he is like when the fury is on him. He is terrible. For God's sake, Mr Armitage, don't see him. You want to help me, don't you? Well, it would be dreadful to me if anything befell you.

ARMITAGE: The law will look after me.

ENID: It might avenge you, Mr Armitage, but it could not protect you. You would be at his mercy in this lonely house. And besides, Mr Armitage, you are quite mistaken in your fears. There is no possible danger. You know of my engagement to Lieutenant Curtis?

ARMITAGE: I hear he leaves tomorrow.

ENID: That is true. But the next day I am going on a visit to his mother at Fenton. Indeed, There is no danger. I will not deny that there have been times when my stepfather has been very harsh both to my dear sister and myself. But that was long ago. Lately he has been very kind. He made no opposition at all to my engagement. I assure you that I have nothing to fear.

ARMITAGE: Well, I won't deny that I am consoled by what you say and that it puts another colour upon things. It may be that he is just kind in order to deceive you, or it may be as you say. It's not for the pleasure of meeting him that I am here , and if my conscience would let me I would soon be out of it. Now look here, Miss Stonor, there's just one condition on which I would leave it.

ENID: What is that?

ARMITAGE: Well, I remember your friend, Dr Watson, at the inquest—and we've heard of his connection with Mr Sherlock Holmes. If you'll promise me that you'll slip away to London tomorrow, see those two gentlemen and get their advise, I'll wash my hands of it. I should feel that someone stronger than me was looking after you.

ENID: Oh, Mr Armitage, I couldn't.

ARMITAGE (folding his arms): Then I stay here.

ENID: It is Lieutenant Curtis's last day in England.

ARMITAGE: When does he leave?

ENID: In the evening.

ARMITAGE: Well, if you go in the morning, you'd be back in time.

ENID: But how can I get away?

ARMITAGE: Who's to stop you? Have you money?

ENID: Yes, I have enough.

ARMITAGE: Then, go.

ENID: It is really impossible.

ARMITAGE: Very good. Then I'll have it out with the Doctor.

ENID: There! there! I'll promise. I'll go. I won't have you hurt. I'll write and arrange it all.

ARMITAGE: Word of honour?

ENID: Yes, yes. Oh! do go. Through here. (Goes to French window.) If you keep among the laurels you can get to the high road and no one will meet you.

ARMITAGE: That dog about?

ENID: It is with the Doctor. Oh, do go! and thank you—thank you with all my heart.

ARMITAGE: My wife and I can always take you in. Don't forget it.

Exit

(ENID stands looking after him. As she does so, MRS STAUNTON enter the room.)

MRS STAUNTON: I saw Mr Armitage going off through the shrubbery.

ENID: Yes, he has gone.

MRS STAUNTON: But why did he not wait to see the Doctor?

ENID: He thought it was not necessary.

MRS STAUNTON: He is the most impertinent busybody in the whole village. Fancy the insolence of him coming up here without a with-your-leave or by-your-leave. What was it he wanted, Miss Enid?

ENID: It is not your place, Mrs Staunton, to ask such questions.

MRS STAUNTON: Oh, indeed! For that matter, Miss Enid, I should not have thought it was your place to have secrets with the village grocer. The Doctor will want to know all about it.

ENID: What my stepfather may do is another matter. I beg, Mrs Staunton, that you will attend to your own affairs and leave me alone. I wish to have nothing to do with you.

MRS STAUNTON (putting her arms akimbo): High and mighty, indeed! I'm to do all the work of the house, but the grocer can come in and turn me out of the room. If you think I am nobody you may find yourself mistaken some of these days.

ENID: You are and odious woman. (She makes for door.)

Enter RYLOTT

RYLOTT: Why, Enid, what's the matter? Any one been upsetting you? What's all this, Mrs Staunton?

ENID: This woman has been rude to me.

RYLOTT: Dear, dear! Here's a storm in a teacup. Well now, come and tell me all about it. No one shall bother my little Enid. What would her sailor boy say?

MRS STAUNTON: Mr Armitage from the village has been here.

RYLOTT: Armitage the grocer? What the devil did he want?

MRS STAUNTON: He would speak with Miss Enid alone. I didn't think it right. That is why Miss Enid is offended.

RYLOTT: Where is the fellow?

MRS STAUNTON: He is gone. He went off through the shrubbery.

RYLOTT: Upon my word, he seems to make himself at home. What did he want, Enid?

ENID: He wanted to know how I was. When I assured him that I was quite well, he left.

RYLOTT: This is too funny! You have made a conquest, Enid. You have a rustic admirer.

ENID: I believe he is a true friend who means well to me.

RYLOTT: It was an astounding performance. Perhaps it is as well for him that he did not prolong his visit. But now, my dear girl, go to your room until I send for you. I am very sorry that you have been upset, and I will see that such a thing does not happen again. Tut! tut! my little girl shall not be worried. Leave it to me.

Exit ENID.

Well, what is it, then? Why have you upset her?

MRS STAUNTON: Why has she upset me? Why should I be always the last to be considered?

RYLOTT: Why should you be considered at all?

MRS STAUNTON: You dare to say that to me—you that promised me marriage only a year ago. If I was what I should be, then there would be no talk as to who is the mistress of this house. I'll put up with no more of her tantrums, talking to me as if I were the kitchen-maid.

RYLOTT: You forget yourself.

MRS STAUNTON: I forget nothing. I don't forget your promise, and it will be a bad day for you if you don't keep it.

RYLOTT: I'll put you out on the roadside if you dare speak so to me.

MRS STAUNTON: You will, will you? Try it, and see. I save you once. Maybe I could do the other thing, if I tried.

RYLOTT: Saved me!

MRS STAUNTON: Yes, saved you. If it hadn't been for my evidence at that inquest, that fellow Armitage would have taken the Jury with him. Yes, he would. I've had it from them since.

RYLOTT: Well, you only spoke the truth.

MRS STAUNTON: The truth! Do you think I don't know?

RYLOTT: What do you know?

(She is silent, and looks hard at him.)

What do you know?

(She is still silent.)

Don't look at me like that, woman. Have you lost your wits? What do you know?

MRS STAUNTON: I know enough.

RYLOTT: Tell me, then! How did she die?

MRS STAUNTON: Only you know that.

RYLOTT: Come, come, you're raving!

MRS STAUNTON: I may not know how she died, but I know very well—

RYLOTT (interrupting): There! there! enough said. You were always fanciful, Kate, but I know very well that you have only my own interests at heart. Put it out of your head if I have said anything unkind. Don't quarrel with this little fool, or you may interfere with my plans. Just wait a little longer, and things will come straight with us. You know that I have a hasty temper, but it is soon over.

MRS STAUNTON: You can always talk me round, and you know it. Now, listen to me, for I am the only friend you've got. Don't try it again. You've got clear once. But a second would be too much.

RYLOTT: They would make no more of the second than of the first. No one in the world can tell. It's impossible, I tell you. If she marries, half my income is gone.

MRS STAUNTON: Couldn't she sign it to you?

RYLOTT: She can be strong enough when she likes. She would never sign it to me. I hinted at it once, and she talked of a lawyer. But if anything should happen to her––well, there's an end to all our trouble.

MRS STAUNTON: They must suspect.

RYLOTT: Let them suspect. But they can prove nothing.

MRS STAUNTON: Not yet.

RYLOTT: On Wednesday she goes a-visiting, and who knows when she may return? No, it's tomorrow or never.

MRS STAUNTON: Then let it be never.

RYLOTT: And lose half my income without a struggle? No, Kate, it's all or nothing with me now.

MRS STAUNTON: Well, look out for Armitage.

RYLOTT: What about him?

MRS STAUNTON: He must have known something before he dared to come here.

RYLOTT: What can he know of our affairs?

MRS STAUNTON: But there's Rodgers. You think he's half-witted. So he is. But he may know more and say more than we think. He's a deal down in the village. Maybe Armitage gets hold of him.

RYLOTT (striking the bell): We'll soon settle that. I'll twist the old rogue's neck if he has dared to play me false. There's one thing—he can't hold anything in if I want it to come out. Did you ever see a snake and a white mouse?

Enter RODGERS

Come here, Rodgers.

RODGERS: Yes, sir.

RYLOTT: Sit here, where the light falls on your face, Rodgers. I can tell then if you are telling me the truth.

RODGERS: The truth, sir. Surely I would tell that.

RYLOTT (taking his neck and pressing him into chair): Sit there! Don't move! Now look a me. That's right. You can't lie to me now. You've been down to see Mr Armitage in the village.

RODGERS: Sir—I hope—there was no harm in that.

RYLOTT: How often?

RODGERS: Two or three times.

RYLOTT: How often?

RODGERS: Two or three—

RYLOTT: How often?

RODGERS: When I go to the village I always see him.

MRS STAUNTON: That's nearly every day.

RODGERS: Yes.

RYLOTT: What have you told him about me?

RODGERS: Oh, sir, nothing.

RYLOTT: What have you told him?

RODGERS: Just the news of the house, sir.

RYLOTT: What news?

RODGERS: Well, about Miss Enid's engagement, sir, and Siva biting the gardener, and the cook giving notice, and the like.

RYLOTT: Nothing more than this?

RODGERS: No, sir.

RYLOTT: Nothing more about Miss Enid?

RODGERS: No, sir.

RYLOTT: You swear it?

RODGERS: No, sir, no. I said nothing more.

RYLOTT (shaking him): You doddering old rascal, how came you to say anything at all? I kept you here out of charity, and you dare to gossip about my affairs. I've had enough of you. I'll go to London tomorrow and get a younger man. You pack up your things and go. D'you hear?

RODGERS: Won't you look it over, sir? I'm an old man, sir, and I have no place to go to. Where am I to go?

RYLOTT: You can go to the devil for all I care, or to your friend Armitage, the grocer. There is no place for you here. Get out of the room.

RODGERS: Yes, sir.

RYLOTT: And tell Miss Enid I want her.

RODGERS: Yes, sir.

Exit RODGERS

MRS STAUNTON: You have done wisely. He was not safe.

RYLOTT: The old devil suited me, too, in a way. A younger man may give more trouble.

MRS STAUNTON: You'll soon break him in.

RYLOTT: Yes, I expect I will. Now, make it right with Enid for my sake. You must play the game to the end.

MRS STAUNTON: It is a long game and a hard game, but the day will come when I shall claim the stakes. It is all right, I'm ready for her.

Enter ENID

RYLOTT: My dear, Mrs Staunton is very sorry if she had given you any annoyance. I hope you will accept her apology in the same spirit that it is offered.

MRS STAUNTON: I meant no harm, Miss Enid, and I was only thinking of the master's interests. I hope you'll forgive me.

ENID: Certainly I forgive you, Mrs Staunton.

RYLOTT: There's a good little girl. Now, Mrs Staunton, you had better leave us.

Exit MRS STAUNTON

Now, my dear, you must not be vexed with poor Mrs Staunton, for she is a very hard-working woman and devoted to her duty, though of course her manners are often wanting in polish. Come now, dear, say that it is all right.

ENID: I have said that I forgive her.

RYLOTT: You must tell me anything I can do, dear, to make you happier. Of course you have someone else now, but I would not like you to forget your old stepfather altogether. Until the day when you have to leave me, I wish to do the very best for you.

ENID: You are very kind.

RYLOTT: Can you suggest anything that I can do?

ENID: No, no, there is nothing.

RYLOTT: I was a little too rough last week. I am sorry for that. I am sure that you will often look back to the days which you spent in the dear old house. I should wish your future husband to like me. You will tell him, when you see him, that I have done what I could to make you happy?

ENID: Yes, yes.

RYLOTT: You see him tomorrow?

ENID: Yes.

RYLOTT: And he leaves us tomorrow evening?

ENID: Yes.

RYLOTT: You have all my sympathy, dear, in the sad privation. But he will soon be back again, and then, of course, you will part no more. In his absence you will have this pleasant visit and the time will soon slip by. You will be sorry to hear that old Rodgers has been behaving badly and that I must get rid of him.

ENID: Rodgers! what has he done?

RYLOTT: He grows more foolish and incompetent every day. I propose to go to London myself tomorrow to get a new butler. Would you send a line in my name to the agents to say that I shall call about two o'clock?

ENID: I will do so.

RYLOTT: There's a good little girl. There's nothing on your mind, is there?

ENID: Oh, no.

RYLOTT: Well, then, run away and get your letter written. I dare bet you have another of your own to write. One a day—or two a day? What is his allowance? Well, well, we have all done it at some time.

Enter ALI with milk, jug, glass, and saucer on tray

ALI: I beg pardon, sahib, I go.

RYLOTT: Come in! Come in! Put my milk down on the table.

Exit ENID

You fool! why did you not make sure I was alone?

ALI: I thought no one here but sahib.

RYLOTT: Well, as it happens, there's no harm done. (Goes to door and locks it. Pulls down blind of window.)

(While he does so ALI opens a cupboard and takes out a peculiar square wicker-work basket. RYLOTT pours milk into saucer and puts it before basket. Then he cracks his fingers and whistles while ALI plays on a Eastern flute.)


CURTAIN



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