Maud. Men don’t like freedom for anybody but themselves.
Builder. That’s not the way to put it. [Tapping out his pipe] Women in your class have never had to face realities.
Maud. No, but we want to.
Builder. [Good-humouredly] Well, I’ll bet you what you like, Athene’s dose of reality will have cured her.
Maud. And I’ll bet you—No, I won’t!
Builder. You’d better not. Athene will come home, and only too glad to do it. Ring for Topping and order the car at twelve.
As he opens the door
to pass out, Maud starts forward, but checks
Maud. [Looking at her watch] Half-past eleven! Good heavens!
She goes to the bell
and rings. Then goes back to the table, and
writes an address on a bit of paper.
Topping enters Right.
Topping. Did you ring, Miss?
Maud. [With the paper] Yes. Look here, Topping! Can you manage— on your bicycle—now at once? I want to send a message to Miss Athene —awfully important. It’s just this: “Look out! Father is coming.” [Holding out the paper] Here’s her address. You must get there and away again by twelve. Father and mother want the car then to go there. Order it before you go. It won’t take you twenty minutes on your bicycle. It’s down by the river near the ferry. But you mustn’t be seen by them either going or coming.
Topping. If I should fall into their hands, Miss, shall I eat the despatch?
Maud. Rather! You’re a brick, Topping. Hurry up!
Topping. Nothing more precise, Miss?
Topping. Very good, Miss Maud. [Conning
the address] “Briary Studio,
River Road. Look out! Father is coming!” I’ll go out the back way.
Topping nods his head and goes out.
Maud. [To herself] Well, it’s all I can do.
She stands, considering, as the curtain falls.
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.