The time is morning, and the scene a level lawn, beyond which the river is running amongst fields. A huge old beech tree overshadows everything, in the darkness of whose hollow many things are hidden. A rustic seat encircles it. A low wall clothed in creepers, with two openings, divides this lawn from the flowery approaches to the house. Close to the wall there is a swing. The sky is clear and sunny. Colonel hope is seated in a garden-chair, reading a newspaper through pince-nez. He is fifty-five and bald, with drooping grey moustaches and a weather-darkened face. He wears a flannel suit and a hat from Panama; a tennis racquet leans against his chair. Mrs. Hope comes quickly through the opening of the wall, with roses in her hands. She is going grey; she wears tan gauntlets, and no hat. Her manner is decided, her voice emphatic, as though aware that there is no nonsense in its owner’s composition. Screened from sight, miss beech is seated behind the hollow tree; and joy is perched on a lower branch hidden by foliage.
Mrs. Hope. I told Molly in my letter that she’d have to walk up, Tom.
Colonel. Walk up in this heat? My dear, why didn’t you order Benson’s fly?
Mrs. Hope. Expense for nothing! Bob can bring up her things in the barrow. I’ve told Joy I won’t have her going down to meet the train. She’s so excited about her mother’s coming there’s no doing anything with her.
Colonel. No wonder, after two months.
Mrs. Hope. Well, she’s going home to-morrow; she must just keep herself fresh for the dancing tonight. I’m not going to get people in to dance, and have Joy worn out before they begin.
Colonel. [Dropping his paper.] I don’t like Molly’s walking up.
Mrs. Hope. A great strong woman like Molly Gwyn! It isn’t half a mile.
Colonel. I don’t like it, Nell; it’s not hospitable.
Mrs. Hope. Rubbish! If you want to throw away money, you must just find some better investment than those wretched 3 per cents. of yours. The greenflies are in my roses already! Did you ever see anything so disgusting? [They bend over the roses they have grown, and lose all sense of everything.] Where’s the syringe? I saw you mooning about with it last night, Tom.
Colonel. [Uneasily.] Mooning!
[He retires behind his
paper. Mrs. Hope enters the hollow
There’s an account of that West Australian swindle. Set of ruffians! Listen to this, Nell! “It is understood that amongst the share-holders are large numbers of women, clergymen, and Army officers.” How people can be such fools!
[Becoming aware that
his absorption is unobserved, he drops his
glasses, and reverses his chair towards the tree.]