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TIME: The present. The action passes throughout midsummer day on the lawn of Colonel Hope's house, near the Thames above Oxford.
MRS. HOPE. I told Molly in my letter that she'd have to walk up, Tom.
COLONEL. Walk up in this heat? My dear, why didn't you order Benson's fly?
MRS. HOPE. Expense for nothing! Bob can bring up her things in the barrow. I've told Joy I won't have her going down to meet the train. She's so excited about her mother's coming there's no doing anything with her.
COLONEL. No wonder, after two months.
MRS. HOPE. Well, she's going home to-morrow; she must just keep herself fresh for the dancing tonight. I'm not going to get people in to dance, and have Joy worn out before they begin.
COLONEL. [Dropping his paper.] I don't like Molly's walking up.
MRS. HOPE. A great strong woman like Molly Gwyn! It isn't half a mile.
COLONEL. I don't like it, Nell; it's not hospitable.
MRS. HOPE. Rubbish! If you want to throw away money, you must just find some better investment than those wretched 3 per cents. of yours. The greenflies are in my roses already! Did you ever see anything so disgusting? [They bend over the roses they have grown, and lose all sense of everything.] Where's the syringe? I saw you mooning about with it last night, Tom.
COLONEL. [Uneasily.] Mooning!
There's an account of that West Australian swindle. Set of ruffians! Listen to this, Nell! "It is understood that amongst the share-holders are large numbers of women, clergymen, and Army officers." How people can be such fools!
MRS. HOPE. [Reappearing with a garden syringe.] I simply won't have Dick keep his fishing things in the tree; there's a whole potful of disgusting worms. I can't touch them. You must go and take 'em out, Tom.
MRS. HOPE. [Personally.] What on earth's the pleasure of it? I can't see! He never catches anything worth eating.
MRS. HOPE. [Jumping.] Don't put them near me!
MISS BEECH. [From behind the tree.] Don't hurt the poor creatures.
COLONEL. [Turning.] Hallo, Peachey? What are you doing round there?
MRS. HOPE. Tom, take the worms off that seat at once!
COLONEL. [Somewhat flurried.] Good gad! I don't know what to do with the beastly worms!
MRS. HOPE. It's not my business to look after Dick's worms. Don't put them on the ground. I won't have them anywhere where they can crawl about. [She flicks some greenflies off her roses.]
COLONEL. [Looking into the pot as though the worms could tell him where to put them.] Dash!
MISS BEECH. Give them to me.
MRS. HOPE. [Relieved.] Yes, give them to Peachey.
MISS BEECH. Poor creatures!
MRS. HOPE. Well, it's beyond me how you can make pets of worms— wriggling, crawling, horrible things!
What about Miss joy's frock, Rose?
ROSE. Please, 'm, I can't get on with the back without Miss Joy.
MRS. HOPE. Well, then you must just find her. I don't know where she is.
ROSE. [In a slow, sidelong manner.] If you please, Mum, I think Miss Joy's up in the——
MRS. HOPE. [Sharply.] What is it, Peachey?
MISS BEECH. [Selecting a finger.] Pricked meself!
MRS. HOPE. Let's look!
ROSE. [Glancing askance at the COLONEL.] If you please, Mum, it's below the waist; I think I can manage with the dummy.
MRS. HOPE. Well, you can try. [Opening her letter as ROSE retires.] Here's Molly about her train.
MISS BEECH. Is there a letter for me?
MRS. HOPE. No, Peachey.
MISS BEECH. There never is.
COLONEL. What's that? You got four by the first post.
MISS BEECH. Exceptions!
COLONEL. [Looking over his glasses.] Why! You know, you get 'em every day!
MRS. HOPE. Molly says she'll be down by the eleven thirty. [In an injured voice.] She'll be here in half an hour! [Reading with disapproval from the letter.] "MAURICE LEVER is coming down by the same train to see Mr. Henty about the Tocopala Gold Mine. Could you give him a bed for the night?"
COLONEL. [Calling into his aid his sacred hospitality.] Of course we must give him a bed!
MRS. HOPE. Just like a man! What room I should like to know!
MRS. HOPE. As if Molly wouldn't have the pink!
COLONEL. [Ruefully.] I thought she'd have the blue!
MRS. HOPE. You know perfectly well it's full of earwigs, Tom. I killed ten there yesterday morning.
MISS BEECH. Poor creatures!
MRS. HOPE. I don't know that I approve of this Mr. Lever's dancing attendance. Molly's only thirty-six.
COLONEL. [In a high voice.] You can't refuse him a bed; I never heard of such a thing.
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