THE THIRD ACT
At LORD HORSHAM’S house in Queen Anne’s Gate, in the evening, a week later.
If rooms express their owners’ character, the grey and black of LORD HORSHAM’S drawing room, the faded brocade of its furniture, reveal him as a man of delicate taste and somewhat thin intellectuality. He stands now before a noiseless fire, contemplating with a troubled eye either the pattern of the Old French carpet, or the black double doors of the library opposite, or the moulding on the Adams ceiling, which the flicker of all the candles casts into deeper relief. His grey hair and black clothes would melt into the decoration of his room, were the figure not rescued from such oblivion by the British white glaze of his shirt front and—to a sympathetic eye—by the loveable perceptive face of the man. Sometimes he looks at the sofa in front of him, on which sits WEDGECROFT, still in the frock coat of a busy day, depressed and irritable. With his back to them, on a sofa with its back to them, is GEORGE FARRANT, planted with his knees apart, his hands clasped, his head bent; very glum. And sometimes HORSHAM glances at the door, as if waiting for it to open. Then his gaze will travel back, up the long shiny black piano, with a volume of the Well Tempered Clavichord open on its desk, to where CANTELUPE is perched uncomfortably on the bench; paler than ever; more self-contained than ever, looking, to one who knows him as well as Horsham does, a little dangerous. So he returns to contemplation of the ceiling or the carpet. They wait there as men wait who have said all they want to say upon an unpleasant subject and yet cannot dismiss it. At last FARRANT breaks the silence.
FARRANT. What time did you ask him to come, Horsham?
HORSHAM. Eh ... O’Connell? I
didn’t ask him directly. What time did you
WEDGECROFT. Any time after half past ten, I told him.
FARRANT. [Grumbling.] It’s a quarter to eleven. Doesn’t Blackborough mean to turn up at all?
HORSHAM. He was out of town ... my note had to be sent after him. I couldn’t wire, you see.
CANTELUPE. It was by the merest chance your man caught me, Cyril. I was taking the ten fifteen to Tonbridge and happened to go to James Street first for some papers.
The conversation flags again.
CANTELUPE. But since Mrs. O’Connell is dead what is the excuse for a scandal?
At this unpleasant
dig into the subject of their thoughts the three
other men stir uncomfortably.
HORSHAM. Because the inquest is unavoidable ... apparently.
WEDGECROFT. [Suddenly letting fly.] I declare I’d I’d have risked penal servitude and given a certificate, but just before the end O’Connell would call in old Fielding Andrews, who has moral scruples about everything—it’s his trademark—and of course about this...!