DORA. That means telling me to mind my own business, doesnt it? Well, I’m off. Tootle Loo, Charlie Darling. [She kisses her hand to him and goes].
On the afternoon of the same day, Mrs Knox is writing notes in her drawing-room, at a writing-table which stands against the wall. Anyone placed so as to see Mrs Knox’s left profile, will have the door on the right and the window an the left, both further away than Mrs Knox, whose back is presented to an obsolete upright piano at the opposite side of the room. The sofa is near the piano. There is a small table in the middle of the room, with some gilt-edged books and albums on it, and chairs near it.
Mr Knox comes in almost furtively, a troubled man of fifty, thinner, harder, and uglier than his partner, Gilbey, Gilbey being a soft stoutish man with white hair and thin smooth skin, whilst Knox has coarse black hair, and blue jaws which no diligence in shaving can whiten. Mrs Knox is a plain woman, dressed without regard to fashion, with thoughtful eyes and thoughtful ways that make an atmosphere of peace and some solemnity. She is surprised to see her husband at home during business hours.
MRS KNOX. What brings you home at this hour? Have you heard anything?
KNOX. No. Have you?
MRS KNOX. No. Whats the matter?
KNOX. [sitting down on the sofa] I believe Gilbey has found out.
MRS KNOX. What makes you think that?
KNOX. Well, I dont know: I didnt like to tell you: you have enough to worry you without that; but Gilbey’s been very queer ever since it happened. I cant keep my mind on business as I ought; and I was depending on him. But hes worse than me. Hes not looking after anything; and he keeps out of my way. His manner’s not natural. He hasnt asked us to dinner; and hes never said a word about our not asking him to dinner, after all these years when weve dined every week as regular as clockwork. It looks to me as if Gilbey’s trying to drop me socially. Well, why should he do that if he hasnt heard?
MRS KNOX. I wonder! Bobby hasnt been near us either: thats what I cant make out.
KNOX. Oh, thats nothing. I told him Margaret was down in Cornwall with her aunt.
MRS KNOX. [reproachfully] Jo! [She takes her handkerchief from the writing-table and cries a little].
KNOX. Well, I got to tell lies, aint I? You wont. Somebody’s got to tell em.
MRS KNOX. [putting away her handkerchief] It only ends in our not knowing what to believe. Mrs Gilbey told me Bobby was in Brighton for the sea air. Theres something queer about that. Gilbey would never let the boy loose by himself among the temptations of a gay place like Brighton without his tutor; and I saw the tutor in Kensington High Street the very day she told me.