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"Miss Prendergast"
by [?]

Enter Mary, followed by James Bootle.

Mary. Mr Bootle. (Exit finally.)

Jane. Good-morning, Mr Bootle!

Bootle. I beg–I thought–Why, of course! It’s Miss–er-h’m, yes–How do you do? Did you get back safely last night?

Jane. Yes, thank you, (Coyly.) I got your letter.

Bootle. My letter? (Sees his letter on the table. Furiously.) You opened my letter!

Jane (mistaking his fury for passion). Yes–James. And (looking down on the ground) the answer is “Yes.”

Bootle (realizing the situation). By George!

(Aside.) I have proposed to the wrong lady! Tchck!

Jane. You may kiss me, James.

Bootle. Have you a sister?

Jane (missing the connection). Yes, I have a younger sister, Alice. (Coldly.) But I hardly see–

Bootle (beginning to understand how he made the mistake). A younger sister! Then you are Miss Prendergast? And my letter–Ah!

Enter Alice.

Alice. You are wanted, Jane, a moment.

Jane. Will you excuse me, Mr Bootle? [Exit.

Bootle (to Alice, as she follows her sister out). Don’t go!

Alice (wanly–if she knows how). Am I to stay and congratulate you?

Bootle. Alice! (They approach the footlights, while Jane, having finished her business, comes in unobserved and watches from the back.) It is all a mistake! I didn’t know your Christian name–I didn’t know you had a sister. The letter I addressed to Miss Prendergast I meant for Miss Alice Prendergast.

Alice. James! My love! But what can we do?

Bootle (gloomily). Nothing. As a man of honour I cannot withdraw. So two lives are ruined!

Alice. You are right, James. Jane must never know. Good-bye!

[They give each other a farewell embrace.

Jane (aside). They love. (Fiercely.) But he is mine; I will hold him to his promise! (Picking up a photograph of Alice as a small child from an occasional table.) Little Alice! And I promised to take care of her–to protect her from the cruel world Baby Alice! (She puts her handkerchief to her eyes.) No! I will not spoil two lives! (Aloud.) Why “Good-bye,” Alice?

[Bootle and Alice, who have been embracing all this time–unless they can think of something else to do–break away in surprise.

Alice. Jane–we–I–

Jane (calmly). Dear Alice! I understand perfectly. Mr Bootle said in his letter to you that he was coming for his answer, and I see what answer you have given him. (To Bootle.) You remember I told you it would be “Yes.” I know my little sister, you see.

Bootle (tactlessly). But–you told me I could kiss you!

Jane (smiling). And I tell you again now. I believe it is usual for men to kiss their sisters-in-law? (She offers her cheek. Bootle, whose day it is, salutes her respectfully.) And now (gaily) perhaps I had better leave you young people alone!

[Exit, with a backward look at the audience expressive of the fact that she has been wearing the mask.

Bootle. Alice, then you are mine, after all.

Alice. James! (They k–No, perhaps better not. There has been quite enough for one evening.) And to think that she knew all the time! Now I am quite, quite happy. And James–you WILL remember in future that I am Miss ALICE Prendergast?

Bootle (gaily). My dear, I shall only be able to remember that you are The Future Mrs Bootle!