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The Stepmother: A Play In One Act
by [?]

CHARACTERS

SIR JOHN PEMBURY, M.P.
LADY PEMBURY.
PERKINS.
THE STRANGER.

* * * * *

The first performance of this play was given at the Alhambra Theatre on November 16, 1920, with the following cast:

Sir John Pembury–GILBERT HARE.
Lady Pembury–WINIFRED EMERY.
Perkins–C.M. LOWNE.
The Stranger–GERALD DU MAURIER.

(A summer morning. The sunniest and perhaps the pleasantest room in the London house of SIR JOHN PEMBURY, M.P. For this reason LADY PEMBURY uses it a good deal, although it is not officially hers. It is plainly furnished, and probably set out to be a sort of waiting-room for SIR JOHN’S many callers, but LADY PEMBURY has left her mark upon it.)

(PERKINS, the butler, inclining to stoutness, but not yet past his prime, leads the may in, followed by THE STRANGER, PERKINS has already placed him as “one of the lower classes,” but the intelligent person in the pit perceives that he is something better than that, though whether he is in the process of falling from a higher estate, or of rising to it, is not so clear. He is thirty odd, shabbily dressed (but then, so are most of us nowadays), and ill at ease; not because he is shabby, but because he is ashamed of himself. To make up for this, he adopts a blustering manner, as if to persuade himself that he is a fine fellow after all. There is a touch of commonness about his voice, but he is not uneducated.)

PERKINS
. I’ll tell Sir John you’re here, but I don’t say he’ll see you, mind.

STRANGER
. Don’t you worry about that. He’ll see me right enough.

PERKINS
. He’s busy just now. Well—- (He looks at THE STRANGER doubtfully.)

STRANGER
(bitterly). I suppose you think I’ve got no business in a gentleman’s house. Is that it?

PERKINS
. Well, I didn’t say so, did I? Maybe you’re a constituent? Being in the ‘Ouse of Commons, we get some pretty queer ones at times. All sorts, as you might say. . . . P’raps you’re a deputation?

STRANGER
(violently). What the hell’s it got to do with you who I am. You go and tell your master I’m here–that’s all you’ve got to do. See?

PERKINS
(unruffled). Easy, now, easy. You ‘aven’t even told me your name yet. Is it the Shah of Persia or Mr. Bottomley?

STRANGER
. The less said about names the better. You say, “Somebody from Lambeth”–he’ll know what I mean.

PERKINS
(humorously). Ah, I beg your pardon–the Archbishop of Canterbury. I didn’t recognise your Grace.

STRANGER
(angrily). It’s people like you who make one sick of the world. Parasites–servile flunkeys, bolstering up an effete aristocracy. Why don’t you get some proper work to do?

PERKINS
(good-naturedly). Now, look here, young man, this isn’t the time for that sort of talk. If you’ve got anything you want to get off your chest about flunkeys or monkeys, or whatever it may be, keep it till Sunday afternoon–when I’m off duty. (He comes a little closer to THE STRANGER) Four o’clock Sunday afternoon–(jerking his thumb over his shoulder)–just round the corner–in the Bolton Mews. See? Nobody there to interrupt us. See? All quite gentlemanly and secluded, and a friend of mine to hold the watch. See? (He edges closer as he talks.)

STRANGER
(retreating nervously). No offence meant, mate. We’re in the same boat–you and me; we don’t want to get fighting. My quarrel isn’t with you. You go and tell Sir John that there’s a gentleman come to see him–wants a few minutes of his valuable time–from Lambeth way. He’ll know. That’s all right.