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We are looking at the inner hall of MR. HENRY KNOWLE'S country house, at about 9.15 of a June evening. There are doors R. and L.—on the right leading to the drawing-room, on the left to the entrance hall, the dining-room and the library. At the back are windows—French windows on the right, then an interval of wall, then casement windows.
MRS. HENRY KNOWLE, her daughter, MELISANDE, and her niece, JANE BAGOT, are waiting for their coffee, MRS. KNOWLE, short and stoutish, is reclining on the sofa; JANE, pleasant-looking and rather obviously pretty, is sitting in a chair near her, glancing at a book; MELISANDE, the beautiful, the romantic, is standing by the open French windows, gazing into the night.
ALICE, the parlourmaid, comes in with the coffee. She stands in front of MRS. KNOWLE, a little embarrassed because MRS. KNOWLE'S eyes are closed. She waits there until JANE looks up from her book.
JANE. Aunt Mary, dear, are you having coffee?
MRS. KNOWLE (opening her eyes with a start). Coffee. Oh, yes, coffee. Jane, put the milk in for me. And no sugar. Dr. Anderson is very firm about that. "No sugar, Mrs. Knowle," he said. "Oh, Dr. Anderson!" I said.
(ALICE has taken the tray to JANE, who pours out her own and her aunt's coffee, and takes her cup off the tray.)
JANE. Thank you.
(ALICE takes the tray to MRS. KNOWLE.)
MRS. KNOWLE. Thank you.
(ALICE goes over to MELISANDE, who says nothing, but waves her away.)
MRS. KNOWLE (as soon as ALICE is gone). Jane!
JANE. Yes, Aunt Mary?
MRS. KNOWLE. Was my mouth open?
JANE. Oh, no, Aunt Mary.
MRS. KNOWLE. Ah, I'm glad of that. It's so bad for the servants. (She finishes her coffee.)
JANE (getting up). Shall I put it down for you?
MRS. KNOWLE. Thank you, dear.
(JANE puts the two cups down and goes back to her book. MRS. KNOWLE fidgets a little on her sofa.)
MRS. KNOWLE. Sandy! (There is no answer) Sandy!
(MELISANDE turns round and comes slowly towards her mother.)
MELISANDE. Did you call me, Mother?
MRS. KNOWLE. Three times, darling. Didn't you hear me?
MELISANDE. I am sorry, Mother, I was thinking of other things.
MRS. KNOWLE. You think too much, dear. You remember what the great poet tells us. "Do noble things, not dream them all day long." Tennyson, wasn't it? I know I wrote it in your album for you when you were a little girl. It's so true.
MELISANDE. Kingsley, Mother, not Tennyson.
JANE (nodding). Kingsley, that's right.
MRS. KNOWLE. Well, it's the same thing. I know when my mother used to call me I used to come running up, saying, "What is it, Mummy, darling?" And even if it was anything upstairs, like a handkerchief or a pair of socks to be mended, I used to trot off happily, saying to myself, "Do noble things, not dream them all day long."
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