A. A. MILNE
BETTY _a middle-aged servant is fastening a hammock--its first
appearance this year--to a tree down_ L. _In front there is a
garden-table with a deck-chair on the right of it and a straight-backed
one to the left. There are books papers and magazines on the
table_. BELINDA _of whom we shall know more presently is on the
other side of the open windows which look on to the garden talking
to_ BETTY _who crosses to_ R. _of hammock securing it to
BELINDA (_from inside the house_). Are you sure you're tying it up
tightly enough Betty?
BETTY (_coming to front of hammock_). Yes ma'am; I think it's
BELINDA. Because I'm not the fairy I used to be.
BETTY (_testing hammock_). Yes ma'am; it's quite firm this end
BELINDA (_entering from portico with sunshade open_). It's not the
ends I'm frightened of; it's the middle where the weight's coming.
(_Comes down_ R. _and admiring_.) It looks very nice. (_She crosses
at back of wicker table hanging her hand-bag on hammock. Closes and
places her sunshade at back of tree_ C.)
BETTY. Yes ma'am.
BELINDA (_trying the middle of it with her hand_). I asked them at
the Stores if they were quite _sure_ it would bear me and they
said it would take anything up to--I forget how many tons. I know I
thought it was rather rude of them. (_Looking at it anxiously and
trying to get in first with her right leg and then her left_.) How
does one get in! So trying to be a sailor!
BETTY. I think you sit in it ma'am and then (_explaining with her
hands_) throw your legs over.
BELINDA. I see. (_She sits gingerly in the hammock and then with a
sudden flutter of white does what_ BETTY _suggests_.) Yes.
(_Regretfully_.) I'm afraid that was rather wasted on you Betty.
We must have some spectators next time.
BETTY. Yea ma'am
(BETTY _moves to and takes a cushion from deck-chair_. BELINDA
_assists her to place it at back of her head_. BETTY _then goes
to back of hammock and arranges_ BELINDA'S _dress_.)
There! Now then Betty about callers.
BETTY. Yes ma'am.
BELINDA. If Mr. Baxter calls--he is the rather prim gentleman--
BETTY. Yea ma'am; the one who's been here several times before.
(_Moves to below and_ L. _of hammock_.)
BELINDA (_giving_ BETTY _a quick look_). Yes. Well if he
calls you'll say "Not at home."
BETTY. Yes ma'am.
BELINDA. He will say (_imitating_ MR. BAXTER) "Oh--er--oh--er--
really." Then you'll smile very sweetly and say "I beg your pardon was
it Mr_. BAXTER_?" And he'll say "Yes!" and you'll say "Oh I beg
your pardon sir; _this_ way please."
BETTY. Yes ma'am.
BELINDA. That's right Betty. Well now if Mr. Devenish calls--he is the
rather poetical gentleman--
BETTY. Yes ma'am; the one who's _always_ coming here.
BELINDA (_with a pleased smile_). Yes. Well if he calls you'll
say "Not at home."
BETTY. Yes ma'am.
BELINDA. He'll immediately (_extending her arms descriptively_)
throw down his bunch of flowers and dive despairingly into the moat.
You'll stop him just as he is going in and say "I beg your pardon
sir was it Mr_. DEVENISH_?" And he will say "Yes!" and you will
say "Oh I beg your pardon sir; _this_ way please."
BETTY. Yes ma'am. And suppose they both call together?
BELINDA (_non-plussed for a moment_). We won't suppose anything so
BETTY. No ma'am. And suppose any other gentleman calls?
BELINDA (_with a sigh_). There aren't any other gentlemen.
BETTY. It might be a clergyman come to ask for a subscription like.
BELINDA. If it's a clergyman Betty I shall--I shall want your
assistance out of the hammock first.
BETTY. Yes ma'am.
BELINDA. That's all.
(BETTY _crosses below table and chairs to porch_.)
To anybody else I'm not at home (_Trying to secure book on table and
nearly falling out of the hammock_.) Oh just give me that little
green book. (_Pointing to books on the table_.) The one at the
bottom there--that's the one. (BETTY _gives it to her_.) Thank you.
(_Reading the title_.) "The Lute of Love" by Claude Devenish.
(_To herself as she turns the pages_.) It doesn't seem much for
half-a-crown when you think of the _Daily Telegraph_ .... Lute ...
Lute .... I should have quite a pretty mouth if I kept on saying that.
(_With a great deal of expression_.) Lute! (_She pats her mouth
BETTY. Is that all ma'am?
BELINDA. That's all. (BETTY _prepares to go_.) Oh what am I
thinking of! (_Waving to the table_.) I want that review; I think
it's the blue one. (_As_ BETTY _begins to look_.) It has an
article by Mr. Baxter on the "Rise of Lunacy in the Eastern Counties"--
(BETTY _gives her "The Nineteenth Century" Magazine_.)
--yes that's the one. I'd better have that too; I'm just at the most
exciting place. You shall have it after _me _Betty.
BETTY. Is that all ma'am?
BELINDA. Yes that really is all.
(BETTY _goes into the house_.)
BELINDA (_reading to herself very pronouncedly_). "It is a matter of
grave concern to all serious students of social problems--" (_Putting
the review down in hammock and shaking her head gently_.) But not in
April. (_Lazily opening the book and reading_.) "Tell me where is
love"--well that's the question isn't it? (_She lies back in the
hammock lazily and the book of poems falls from her to the ground_.
DELIA _comes into the garden from Paris. She is decidedly a modern
girl pretty and self-possessed. Her hair is half-way up; waiting for
her birthday perhaps. She sees her mother suddenly stops and then
goes on tiptoe to the head of the hammock. She smiles and kisses her
mother on the forehead_. BELINDA _looking supremely unconscious
goes on sleeping_. DELIA _kisses her lightly again_. BELINDA
_wakes up with an extraordinarily natural start and is just about to
say _"Oh Mr. Devenish--you mustn't!"--_when she sees_ DELIA.)
Delia! (_They kiss each other frantically_.)
DELIA. Well mummy aren't you glad to see me?
BELINDA. My darling child!
DELIA. Say you're glad.
BELINDA (_sitting up_). My darling I'm absolutely--(DELIA
_crosses round to_ L. _of hammock_.) Hold the hammock while I
get out dear; we don't want an accident. (DELIA _holds the_ L.
_end of it and_ BELINDA _struggles out leaving the magazine and
her handkerchief in the hammock_.) They're all right when you're
there and they'll bear two tons but they're horrid getting in and out
of. (_Kissing her again_.) Darling it really _is_ you?
DELIA. Oh it is jolly seeing you again. I believe you were asleep.
BELINDA (_with dignity_). Certainly not child. I was reading
_The Nineteenth Century_--(_with an air_)--and after. (_Earnestly_)
Darling wasn't it next Thursday you were coming back?
DELIA. No this Thursday silly.
BELINDA (_penitently_). Oh my darling and I was going over to
Paris to bring you home.
DELIA. I half expected you.
BELINDA. So confusing their both being called Thursday. And you were
leaving school for the very last time. If you don't forgive me Delia I
DELIA (_kissing her and stroking her hand fondly_). Silly mother!
(BELINDA _sits down in the deck-chair and_ DELIA _sits on the
BELINDA. Isn't it a lovely day for April darling! I've wanted to say
that to somebody all day and you're the first person who's given me the
chance. Oh I said it to Betty but she only said "Yes ma'am."
DELIA. Poor mother!
BELINDA (_jumping up suddenly crossing to_ L. _of and
kissing_ DELIA _again_). I simply must have another one. And to
think that you're never going back to school any more. (_Looking at
her fondly and backing to_ L.) Darling you _are_ looking
DELIA. Am I?
BELINDA. Lovely. (_She kisses her once more then she takes the
cushion from the hammock moves at back of table and places it on the
head of the deck-chair_.) And now you're going to stay with me for
just as long as you want a mother. (_Anxiously moving to_ R. _of
deckchair_.) Darling you didn't mind being sent away to school did
you? It _is_ the usual thing you know.
DELIA. Silly mother! of course it is.
BELINDA (_relieved and sitting on deck-chair_). I'm so glad you
think so too.
DELIA. Have you been very lonely without me?
BELINDA (_with a sly look at_ DELIA). Very.
DELIA (_turning to_ BELINDA _and holding up a finger_). The
BELINDA. I've missed you horribly Delia. (_Primly_.) The absence
of female companionship of the requisite--
DELIA. Are you really all alone?
BELINDA (_smiling mysteriously and coyly_). Well not always of
DELIA (_excitedly at she slips off the table and backing to_ L.
_a little_). Mummy I believe you're being bad again.
BELINDA. Really darling you forget that I'm old enough to be--in fact
DELIA (_nodding her head_). You are being bad.
BELINDA (_rising with dignity and drawing herself up to her full
height moving_ L.). My child that is not the way to--Oh I say
what a lot taller I am than you! (_Turning her back to_ DELIA
_and comparing sizes_.)
DELIA. And prettier.
BELINDA (_playfully rubbing noses with_ DELIA). Oh do you think
so? (_Firmly but pleased_.) Don't be silly child.
DELIA (_holding up a finger_). Now tell me all that's been
happening here at once.
BELINDA (_with a sigh_). And I was just going to ask you how you
were getting on with your French. (_Sits in deck-chair_.)
DELIA. Bother French! You've been having a much more interesting time
than I have so you've got to tell.
BELINDA (_with a happy sigh_). O-oh! (_She sinks back into her
DELIA (_taking off her coat_). Is it like the Count at Scarborough?
BELINDA (_surprised and pained_). My darling what do you mean?
DELIA. Don't you remember the Count who kept proposing to you at
Scarborough? I do. (_Places coat on hammock_.)
BELINDA (_reproachfully_). Dear one you were the merest child
paddling about on the beach and digging castles.
DELIA (_smiling to herself_). I was old enough to notice the Count.
BELINDA (_sadly_). And I'd bought her a perfectly new spade! How
one deceives oneself!
DELIA (_at table and leaning across with hands on table_). And
then there was the M.P. who proposed at Windermere.
BELINDA. Yes dear but it wasn't seconded--I mean he never got very far
DELIA. And the artist in Wales.
BELINDA. Darling child what a memory you have. No wonder your teachers
are pleased with you.
DELIA (_settling herself comfortably in deck-chair_ L. _of_
BELINDA _and lying in her arms_). Now tell me all about this one.
BELINDA (_meekly_). Which one?
DELIA (_excitedly_). Oh are there lots?
BELINDA (_severely_). Only two.
DELIA. Two! You abandoned woman!
BELINDA. It's something in the air darling. I've never been in
Devonshire in April before.
DELIA. Is it really serious this time?
BELINDA (_pained_). I wish you wouldn't say this time Delia. It
sounds so unromantic. If you'd only put it into French--_cette
fois_--it sounds so much better. _Cette fois_. (_Parentally_.)
When one's daughter has just returned from an expensive schooling in
Paris one likes to feel-----
DELIA. What I meant dear was am I to have a stepfather at last?
BELINDA. Now you're being too French darling.
DELIA. Why do you still think father may be alive?
BELINDA. Why not? It's only eighteen years since he left us and he was
quite a young man then.
DELIA. Yes but surely surely you'd have heard from him in all those
years if he'd been alive?
BELINDA. Well he hasn't heard from _me _and I'm still alive.
DELIA (_looking earnestly at her mother rises and moves_ L.C.). I
shall never understand it.
BELINDA. Understand what?
DELIA. Were you as heavenly when you were young as you are now?
BELINDA (_rapturously_). Oh I was sweet!
DELIA. And yet he left you after only six months.
BELINDA (_rather crossly sitting up_). I wish you wouldn't keep on
saying he left me. I left him too.
DELIA (_running to and kneeling in front of_ BELINDA _and looking
anxiously into her face_). Why?
BELINDA (_smiling to herself_). Well you see he was quite certain
he knew how to manage women and I was quite certain I knew how to
manage men. (_Thoughtfully_.) If only one of us had been certain
it would have been all right.
DELIA (_seriously_). What really happened mummy? I'm grown up now
so I think you ought to tell me.
BELINDA (_thoughtfully_). That was about all you know ... except
for his beard.
DELIA. Had he a beard? (_Laughing_.) How funny!
BELINDA (_roaring with laughter in which_ DELIA _joins_).
Yes dear it was; but he never would see it. He took it quite
DELIA. And did you say dramatically "If you really loved me you'd take
BELINDA (_apologetically_). I'm afraid I did darling.
DELIA. And what did he say?
BELINDA. He said--_very_ rudely--that if I loved _him _I'd
do my hair in a different way.
DELIA (_sinks down on her haunches facing the audience_). How
BELINDA (_touching her hair_). Of course I didn't do it like this
then. I suppose we never ought to have married really.
DELIA. Why did you?
BELINDA. Mother rather wanted it. (_Solemnly_.) Delia never get
married because your mother---- Oh I forgot; _I'm_ your mother.
DELIA. And I don't want a better one ... (_They embrace_.) And so
you left each other?
DELIA. But darling didn't you tell him there was going to be a Me?
BELINDA. Oh no!
DELIA. I wonder why not?
BELINDA. Well you see if I had he might have wanted to stay.
BELINDA (_hurt_). If he didn't want to stay for _me _I didn't
want him to stay for _you_. (_Penitently_.) Forgive me darling
but I didn't know you very well then. We've been very happy together
DELIA (_going to the hammock sitting in it and dangling her
legs_). I should think we have.
BELINDA (_leaning back in chair_). I don't want to deny you
anything and of course if you'd like a stepfather (_looking down
modestly_) or two--