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The Substitute by James Payn

CHARACTERS.

Mr. Nathaniel Nokes, a Retired Wine-Merchant.

Mr. Charles Nokes, his Nephew.

Mr. Robinson, Mr. Sponge, Mr. Rasper, Friends of Mr. Nokes the Elder.

Waiter.

Susan, Housemaid at the Hotel of the Four Seasons.

Mrs. Charles Nokes.

Landlady.


SCENE I.—A handsome first-floor apartment in the Hotel of the Four Seasons, Paris. Outside the window, the court-yard, with fountain, and little trees in large pots.

Enter Mr. Nathaniel Nokes, with a small book in his hand, very smartly dressed, but in great haste, and with his shirt-collar much dishevelled. [Rings the bell violently.]

What's the good of these confounded French phrase-books? Who wants to know how to ask for artichoke soup, or how far it is to Dijon? I want a button sewn on my shirt-collar, and there's not one word about that.

Enter Waiter.

Nokes. Hi! what's-your-name! Voulez-vous—avoir—la—bonté—de—[I'm always civil and very distinct, but, somehow, I can never make myself understood.] I am going to be married, my good man; to be married—tout de suite—immediately, and there is no time to change my—my chemise d'homme. [Come, he'll understand that.] I want this button—button, button, button sewn on. Here, here—here. [Points to his throat.] Don't you see, you fool? [He thinks I want him to cut my throat. I shall never be in time at the Legation!] Idiot! Dolt! Send Susan, Susan, à moi, to me—or I'll kick you into the court-yard. [Exit Waiter, with precipitation.]

Nokes [alone]. And this is what they call a highly-civilized country! Talk of "a strong government" at home: what's the use of its being strong, if it can't make foreigners speak our language? What's the good of missionary enterprise, when here's a Christian man, within twelve hours of London, who can't get a shirt-button sewn on for want of the Parisian accent? I said "button, button, button," plain enough, I'm sure; and a button's a button all the world over. If it had not been for that excellent Susan, the English chambermaid, I should have perished in this place, of what the coroner's inquests call "want of the necessaries of life." All depends, as every one knows, on a man's shirt-button: if that goes wrong, everything goes, and one's attire is a wreck. But I suppose after to-day my wife will see to that,—though she is a Montmorenci. Constance de Montmorenci, that's her name: she's descended (she says) from a Constable of France. It's a more English-seeming name than gendarme, and I like her for that; but I am afraid we shan't have much in common—except my property. She don't speak English very fluently: she called me "my dove" the other day, instead of "my duck," which is ridiculous. She is not twenty, and I am over sixty,—which is perhaps also ridiculous.

Well, it's all Charles's fault, not mine. If he chooses to go and marry a beggar-girl without my consent, he must take the consequences,—if there are a dozen of them,—and support them how he can. "If you persist in this wicked and perverse resolve," said I, "I'll marry also, before the year's out." And now I'm going to do it,—if I can only get this shirt-button sewn on. He shall not have a penny of what I have to leave behind me. The little Nokes-Montmorencis shall have it all. She's a most accomplished creature is Constance. Sings, they tell me,—for it's not in English, so I don't understand it,—divinely; plays ditto; draws ditto. Speaks every language (except English) with equal facility and—Thank goodness, here's Susan.

Enter Susan, with housemaid's broom.

Susan. What do you please to want, sir?

Nokes. You, Susan; you, first of all, and then a shirt-button. I have not five minutes to spare. My bride is probably already at the Embassy, expressing her impatience in various continental tongues. Vite,—look sharp, Susan. [Aside.] Admirable woman!—she carries buttons about with her. I wonder whether the Montmorenci will do that.—Take care!—don't run the needle into me!

Susan. You must not talk, sir, or else I can't help it. Please to hold your head up a little higher.

Nokes. I shall do that when I've married the Montmorenci. [She pricks him.] Oh! oh!

Susan. I'm sure I hope as you'll be happy with her, sir; but you seem so fond of old England that I doubt whether you ought not to have chosen your wife from your native land. It seems a pity to be marrying in such haste, just because your poor nephew—pray don't speak, sir, or I shall certainly run the needle into you—just because Mr. Charles has gone and wedded the girl of his choice.

Nokes [passionately]. Hold your tongue, Susan! [She pricks him again.] Oh! oh!

Susan. There, sir, I told you what would happen. All I say is, I hope you may not marry in haste to repent at leisure. A fortnight is such a very short time to have known a lady before making her your bride. There, sir; I think the button will keep on now.

Nokes. Then I'm off, Susan. But, before I go, I must express my thanks to you for looking after me so attentively in this place. Here's a five-pound note for you. [Aside] I could almost find it in my heart to give her a kiss; but perhaps the Montmorenci wouldn't like it.

Susan [gratefully]. Oh, thank you, sir. May all happiness attend you, sir! and when you're married yourself, sir, don't be too hard upon that poor nephew of yours—

Nokes [angrily]. Be quiet. [Exit hastily.]

Susan [alone]. Now, there's as kind-hearted an old gentleman as ever lived,—and as good a one, too, if it was not for pigheadedness and tantrums. The idea of a five-pound note merely for helping him to get his victuals! He's been just like a baby in this 'ere 'otel, and I've been a mother to him. He couldn't 'a' got a drop o' milk if it hadn't been for me. Poor dear old soul! What a pity it is he should have such a temper! He is taking a wife to-day solely to keep a hasty word uttered agen his nephew and heir. Mademoiselle Constance de Montmorenci! ah, I've heard of her before to-day. Nanette, the head-chambermaid here, was once her lady's-maid. She's known her for more than a fortnight. Constance is a fine name, but it ain't quite the same as Constancy. Poor Mr. Nokes! What a mistake it was in him to drive all thoughts of matrimony off to the last, and then to come to Paris—of all places—to do it! What a curious thing is sympathy! He met her in the tidal train, and they were taken ill together on board the steamboat; that's how it came about. Poor old soul! He deserves a better fate. [Takes her broom and leans on it reflectively.] Heigh-ho! His honest English face was pleasant to look upon in this here outlandish spot; and none has been so kind to me since my poor missis died and left me under this roof, without money enough to pay my passage back to England. I was glad enough to take service here; for why should I go back to a country where there is not a soul to welcome me? And yet I should like to see dear old England again, too. [Tumult without. Mr. Nokes is seen rushing madly up the court-yard. Tumult in the passage; French and English voices at high pitch. Nokes without: Idiots! Frog-eaters! What is it I want? Nothing! nothing but to see France sunk in the sea!]

Enter Nokes (dishevelled and purple with passion, with an open letter in his hand; bangs the door behind him).

Susan. What is the matter, sir?

Nokes. Everything is the matter. You see this lily-white waistcoat; you see these matrimonial does [points to his trousers], these polished-leather boots, which are at this moment pinching me most confoundedly, though I don't feel it, because I'm in such a passion: well, they have been put on for nothing. I've been made a fool of by the Montmorenci. But if there's justice in heaven,—that is, in Paris,—if there's law in France, and blighted hopes are compensated in this country as they are at home, the hussy shall smart for it. Directly I'm married myself, I'll bring an action against her for breach of promise.

Susan. Married yourself, sir?

Nokes. Of course I'm going to be married,—at once, immediately,—within the week. There's only a week left to the end of the year. Do you suppose—does my nephew Charles suppose—no, for he knows me better—that I am not going to keep my word? that because the Montmorenci has played me false at the eleventh hour I am going to remain a bachelor for seven days longer? Never, Susan, never! [Walks hastily up and down the room.]

Susan. Lor, sir, do pray be a little quiet, I am sure if any young woman was to see you in this state she must be uncommonly courageous to take charge of such a husband. Do, pray, tell me what has happened.

Nokes. Nothing has happened. That's what I complain of. Just as I drove up to the Legation this letter was handed to me. It is from the brother of the Montmorenci, and is supposed to be written in the English tongue. He regrets that matters between Mademoiselle his sister and myself have been advanced with such precipitation.

Susan. Well, sir, you were rather in a hurry about it, I must say.

Nokes. Hurry! I was in nothing of the sort. We were in the same boat together for hours. We suffered agonies in company. And, besides, I had only three weeks at farthest to waste in making love to anybody. And now I've only one week,—all because this woman did not know her own mind.

Susan. How so, sir?

Nokes. Why, it seems she loves somebody else better. Her brother tells me—confound his impudence!—that this is only natural. At the same time, he allows I have some cause to complain, and therefore offers me the opportunity of a personal combat with what he is pleased to call the peculiar weapon of my countrymen, the pistol. Now, I should have said the peculiar weapon of my country was the umbrella. That is certainly the instrument I should choose if I were compelled to engage in mortal strife. But the idea of being shot in the liver in reparation for one's matrimonial injuries! To be laid up in that way when there is only a week left in which to woo and win another Mrs. Nokes! But what am I to do now? How am I to find a respectable young woman to take me at so short a notice?

Susan. There isn't many of that sort in Paris, sir, even if you gave 'em longer.

Nokes. Just so. Come, you're a sensible, good girl, and have helped me out of several difficulties; now, do you think you can help me out of this one?

Susan [demurely]. Have you got an almanac about you, sir?

Nokes. An almanac? Of course I have. I have given up the wine-trade, but I have not given up the habit so essential to business-men of carrying an almanac in my breast-pocket. Here it is.

Susan [takes almanac and looks through it attentively]. No, sir [sighs], it won't do.

Nokes. What won't do? What did you expect to find that would do—in an almanac—in such a crisis as this?

Susan. Well, sir [casting down her eyes], I was looking to see if it was leap-year; but it isn't.

Nokes. What! You were going to offer to fill the place of the Montmorenci. You impudent little hussy! [Aside] Gad, she's uncommonly pretty, though. Prettier than the other. I noticed that when she was sewing on my shirt-button; only I didn't think it right, under the circumstances, to dwell upon the idea. But there can't be any harm in it now.

Susan [sobbing]. I am afraid I have made you angry with me, Mr. Nokes. I was only in fun, but I see now that it was taking a liberty.

Nokes [very tenderly and chucking her under the chin]. We should never take liberties, Susan. [Kisses her.] Never. But don't cry, or you'll make your eyes red; and I rather like your eyes. [Aside] I didn't like to dwell upon the idea before, but she has got remarkably pretty eyes. It's a dreadful come-down from the Montmorenci, to be sure: still, one must marry somebody—within seven days. But then, again, I've written such flaming accounts of the other one to all my friends. I've asked Sponge and Rasper and Robinson to come down, and see us after the honeymoon at "the Tamarisks," my little place near Dover. And they are all eager to hear her sing and play, and to see her beautiful sketches in oil—Can you sing, and play, and sketch in oil, Susan?

Susan [gravely]. I don't know, sir; I never tried.

Nokes [aside]. Then there's her hands. The Montmorenci's, as I wrote to Rasper, were like the driven snow; and Susan's—though I didn't like to dwell upon the idea—are more like snow on the second day, in London. To be sure she will have nothing to do as Mrs. Nokes except to wash 'em. Then she can speak French like a native, or at least what will seem to Robinson and the others like a native. Upon my life, I think I might do worse. But then, again, she'll have relatives,—awful relatives, whom I shall have to buy off, or, worse, who will not be bought off. It's certainly a dreadful come-down. Susan [hesitatingly], Susan dear, what is your name?

Susan. Montem, sir; Susan Montem.

Nokes [aside]. By Jove! why, that's half-way to Montmorenci. It's not at all a bad name. But then what's the good of that if she's going to change it for Nokes? Oh, Montem, is it, Susan? And is your papa—your father—alive?

Susan [sorrowfully]. No, sir.

Nokes. That's capital!—I mean I'm so sorry. Poor girl! Your father's dead, is he? You're sure he's dead?

Susan [with her pocket-handkerchief to her eyes]. Quite sure, sir.

Nokes. And your mamma,—your excellent mamma,—she's alive, at all events?

Susan. No, sir; I am an orphan.

Nokes [aside]. How delightful! I love orphans. I'm an orphan myself. Ah, but then she's sure to have brothers and sisters,—pipe-smoking, gin-drinking brothers, and sisters who will have married idle mechanics, with executions in their houses every quarter-day. Susan, my dear, how many brothers and sisters have you?

Susan [sorrowfully]. I have none, sir. When my dear missis died I was left quite alone in the world.

Nokes. I'm charmed to hear it [embracing her], adorable young woman! [Bell rings without.] What are they pulling that bell about for? Confound them, it makes me nervous.

Susan [meekly]. I think they're wanting me, sir: you see, sir, I'm neglecting my work.

Nokes [kissing her]. No, you're not, Susan [kisses her again]: quite the contrary. So your name's Montem,—at present,—is it? How came that about?

Susan. Well, sir, I was left a foundling in the parish workhouse, at Salthill, near Eton. Nobody knew anything about me, and as I made my appearance there one Montem day, the board of guardians named me Montem.

Nokes. And how came you to be chambermaid at this hotel?

Susan [seriously]. It was through good Mr. Woodward, the curate at Salthill, that it happened, sir: he was my benefactor through life. Always kind to me at the workhouse, where he was chaplain, he got me a situation, as soon as I was old enough, with a lady. I lived with her first as housemaid, and then as her personal attendant, till she died under this roof.

Nokes [aside]. I don't wonder at that.

Susan. The people of the hotel here wanted an English chambermaid, and offered me the place, which, since my benefactor the clergyman was dead, I accepted thankfully.

Nokes. Poor girl! poor girl! [Pats Susan's head.] There, there! your feelings do you the greatest credit; but don't cry, because it makes your eyes red. Now, look here, Susan; there's only one thing more. You are very soft-hearted, I perceive, and it must be distinctly understood between us that you need never intercede with me in favor of that scoundrel Charles. I won't have it. You wouldn't succeed, of course, but if I ever happen to get fond of you—I mean foolishly fond of you, of course—your importunity might be annoying. When you are once my wife, however, and keeping your own carriage, I confidently expect that you will behave as other people do in that station of life, and show no weakness in favor of your poor relations.

Susan. I will endeavor, sir, in case you are so good as to marry a humble girl like me, to do my dooty and please you in every way.

Nokes. That's well said, Susan. [Kisses her.] You have pleased me in a good many ways already. [Aside] I must say, though I didn't like to dwell upon the idea before—[Tremendous ringing of bells, and sudden appearance of the mistress of the hotel. Tableau.]

Mistress of the hotel [to Nokes]. O vieux polisson! [To Susan] Coquine abominable!

Nokes [to Susan]. What is this lunatic raving about?

Susan. She remarks that I haven't finished my work on the second floor.

Nokes [impatiently]. Tell her to go to—the ground floor. Tell her you are going to be married to me within the week, and order a wedding-breakfast—for two—immediately.

Susan [aside]. I can never tell her that, for she is a Frenchwoman, and wouldn't believe it. I'll tell her something more melodramatic. I'll say that Mr. Nokes is my father, who has suddenly recognized and discovered his long-lost child.—Madame, c'est mon père longtemps absent, qui vous en prie d'accepter ses remerciments pour votre bonté à son enfant.

Mistress of the hotel [all smiles, and with both hands outstretched]. Milor, I do congratulate you. Fortunate Susan! You will nevare forget to recommend de hotel?

Nokes. Thank you, thank you; you're a sensible old woman. [Aside] She evidently sees no absurd disproportion in our years.—Breakfast, breakfast!—déjeûner à la what-do-you-call-it! champagne! [Exit landlady, smiling and bowing.]

Nokes. In the mean time, Susan, put on your bonnet and let's go out to—whatever they call Doctors' Commons here—and order a special license. [Susan goes.] Stop a bit, Susan; you forget something. [Kisses her.] [Aside] I did not like to dwell upon the idea before, but she's got a most uncommon pretty mouth.


SCENE II.—Drawing-room at the Tamarisks. Garden and Sea in the distance. Grand piano, harp, sketch-book; and huge portfolio.

Nokes [less gayly attired: solus]. Gad, I feel rather nervous. There's Sponge, and Rasper, and Robinson, all coming down by the mid-day train to lunch with me and my new wife,—the Montmorenci, as they imagine. It's impossible that Susan can keep up such a delusion, and especially as she insists on talking English. She says her French is so vulgar. But there! I don't care how she talks or what she talks, bless her. Everything sounds well from those charming lips. She's a kind-hearted, good girl, and worth eight hundred dozen (as I should say if I hadn't left the wine-trade) of the other one. There was something wrong about that Montmorenci vintage, for all her sparkle; corked or something. Now, my Susan's all good,—good the second day, good the third day, good every day. She's like port—all the better for keeping; and she's not like port—because there's no crustiness about her. She's a deuced clever woman. To hear her talk broken English when the squire's wife called here the other day was as good as a play. Everybody hereabouts believes she's a Frenchwoman; but then they're all country-people, and they'll believe anything. Sponge and Rasper and Robinson are all London born,—especially Rasper,—and London people believe nothing. They only give credit.

Enter Susan, in an in-door morning dress, but gloved.

Nokes. Well, my darling, have you screwed your courage up to meet these three gentlemen? Upon my life, I think it would be better if I told them at once that I had been jilted, and instead of the Montmorenci had found The Substitute infinitely preferable to the original; for I'm sure I have, Susan [fondly].

Susan [holding up her finger]. Constance, if you please, my dear. I'm continually correcting that little mistake of yours. How can I possibly keep up my dignity as a Montmorenci while you are always calling me Susan?

Nokes. Then why keep it up at all, my dear? Why not stand at once upon your merits, which I am sure are quite sufficient? Of course it would be a little come-down for me just at first; but that's no matter.

Susan. My good, kind husband! [Kisses his forehead.] No, dear; let me first show your friends that you have no cause to be ashamed of me. It will be much easier to do that if they think I am a born lady. Appearances do such a deal in the world.

Nokes. Yes, my dear, I've noticed that in the wine-trade. If you were to sell cider at eighty shillings a dozen, it would be considered uncommon good tipple by the customer who bought it. Tell them Madeira has been twice to China—twice to China [chuckles to himself]—and how they smack their lips! That reminds me, by the bye [seriously], of another set of appearances, Susan, which we have to guard against,—the pretence and show of poverty. You must learn to steel your heart against that, my dear. There's that nephew of mine been writing one of his persistent and appealing letters again. He adjures me to have pity, if not upon him, at all events upon his innocent Clara. But she ought not to have been his innocent Clara, and so I've told him. She ought not to have been his Clara at all. Now, do you remember your solemn promise to me about that young man?

Susan [sighing]. Yes, sir, I remember.

Nokes [angrily]. Why do you call me "sir," Susan?

Susan. Because when you look so stern and talk so severely you don't seem to be the same good, kind-hearted husband that I know you are. I'll keep my promise, sir, not to hold out my hand to your unfortunate nephew, but please don't let us talk about it. It makes me feel less reverence, less respect, and even less gratitude, sir,—it does, indeed,—since your very generosity toward me has made me the instrument of punishment, and—as I feel—of wrong. I have been poor myself, and what must that young couple think of my never answering their touching letter, put in my hands as I first crossed this threshold?

Nokes [testily]. Touching letter, indeed! Any begging-letter impostor would have written as good a one. It's all humbug, Susan. Mrs. Charles would like to see you whipped, if I know women. And as for my nephew—[Noises of wheels heard, and bell rings.] But there's the front-door bell. Here are our visitors from town. Had you not better leave the room for a minute or two, to wash those tears away? It would never do, you know, to exhibit a Montmorenci with red eyes. [Exit Susan.]

Nokes [solus]. That's the only matter about which my dear Susan and I are ever likely to fall out,—the extending what she calls the hand of forgiveness to Charles and his wife, just because they've got a baby. I'll never do it if they have twelve. I said to myself I wouldn't when he wrote to me about this marriage, and I always keep my word.

Enter Sponge, Rasper, and Robinson.

Nokes [shaking hands with all]. Welcome, my friends, welcome to the Tamarisks.

Robinson. Thank ye, Nokes, thank ye. But how changed we are at the Tamarisks! [Pointing to the piano and portfolio.] I mean how changed we are for the better! ain't we, Sponge? ain't we, Rasper?

Sponge [fawningly]. It was always a charming retreat, but we now see everywhere, in addition to its former beauties, the magical influence of a female hand.

Rasper [vulgarly]. Yes; no doubt of that. Directly I saw the new coach-house, I said, "By Jove, that's Mrs. N——'s doing! She'll spend his money for him, will Mrs. N——."

Nokes [annoyed]. You were very good, I'm sure.

Sponge. But it is here, within-doors, my dear Nokes, that the great transformation-scene has been effected. Pianos, harpsichords, sketch-books,—these all bespeak the presence of lovely and accomplished woman.

Robinson. May we venture to peep into this portfolio, my good fellow?—that is, if the contents have the interest for us that we believe them to have. It holds Mrs. Nokes's sketches, I presume.

Nokes. Yes, yes; they are her sketches and nobody else's. [Aside] Certainly they are, for I bought them for her in Piccadilly.—But here she comes to answer for herself. [Enter Susan.] Sus—I mean Constance, my dear, let me introduce to you three friends of my bachelor days, Mr. Sponge, Mr. Rasper, Mr. Robinson.

Susan [speaking broken English]. Gentlemens, I am mos glad to see you. My husband—hees friends are mai friends.

Rasper [aside]. She's devilish civil. If she had been English I should almost think she was afraid of us.

Sponge [bowing]. You are most kind, madam. The noble are always kind. [Aside to Nokes.] She's all blood, my dear fellow.

Nokes [looking toward her in alarm]. What? Where?

Sponge. No, no; don't misunderstand me. I mean she's all high birth. If I had met your wife anywhere—in an omnibus, for instance—and only heard her speak, I should have exclaimed, "There's a Montmorenci!"

Nokes [pleased]. Should you really, now, my dear Sponge? Well, that shows you are a man of discernment.

Robinson [to Susan]. It is such a real pleasure to us, Mrs. Nokes, that you speak English. We were afraid we should find it difficult to converse with you. Sponge is the only one of us who understands—

Sponge. Yes, madam, we did fear that since no other tongue is spoken in courts and camps—or, at all events, in courts—we should have some difficulty in following your ideas. But you speak English like a native.

Susan [emphatically]. I believe you. [Recollecting and correcting herself] Dat is, I do trai mai best. It please my mari—my what ees it?—my husband. He don't talk French heemself—not mooch.

Nokes. Well, I don't think you should quite say that, my dear. I could always make myself understood abroad, you know, though my accent is perhaps a little anglicized.

Susan [laughing]. Rayther so.

[Guests exchange looks of astonishment.]

Nokes [with precipation]. My dear, what an expression! The fact is, my friends, that madame has a young brother—Count Maximilian de Montmorenci—at school in England, and what she knows of our language she has mainly acquired from him. The consequence is, she occasionally talks—in point of fact—slang.

Susan [in broken English]. Cherk the tinklare, coot your luckies, whos your hattar? [To Rasper] Have your moder sold her mangle?

[Nokes, Sponge, and Robinson roar with laughter.]

Rasper [aside]. Confound that Nokes! He must have told her about my family. [With indignation] Madam, I—[Points by accident to the portfolio.]

Susan. What? you weesh to see mai sketch? Oh, yas! [Opens the portfolio; the three guests crowd round it. Nokes comes down to the front.]

Nokes [aside]. I wish they'd take their lunch and go away. They put me in a profuse perspiration. I know they'll find her out.

Robinson [with a sketch-book in his hand]. Beautiful!

Sponge [looking over his shoulder on tiptoe]. Exquisite! most lovely! it's what I call perfection.

Rasper. First-rate—only I've seen something like it before. [Aside] If I haven't seen that in some print-shop. I'll be hanged. [Blows.]

Susan. Ha! ha! you halve seen eet beefore, Mr.—Gasper? Think of that, my husband,—Mr. Gasper has seen it beefore!

Nokes [laughing uncomfortably]. Ha! ha! What a funny idea!

Rasper [obstinately]. But I have, though; and in a shop-window, too.

Susan [delightedly]. That is superbe, magnifique! I am so happy, so proud! My husband, they have copied this leetle work of mine in London!

[Robinson and Sponge clap their hands applaudingly.]

Rasper [shakes his head; aside]. Dashed if I don't believe it's a chromolithograph! [To Nokes] I say, Nokes, you wrote to us in such raptures about your wife's hands. Why does she keep her gloves on?

Nokes [confused]. Keep her gloves on? You mean why does she wear them in-doors? Well, the fact is, the Montmorencis always do it. It's been a family peculiarity for centuries,—like the Banshee. And, besides, she does it to keep her hands delicate: they're just like roses—I mean white roses,—if you could only see 'em. But then she always wears gloves.

Rasper [grunts disapproval]. Then I suppose it's no use asking her to give us a tune on the piano?

Nokes [hastily]. Not a bit, not a bit; of course not; and, besides, we shall have lunch directly.

Susan [approaching them]. What is dat, Mr. Gasper? Did you not ask for a leetle music? What you like for me to play?

Nokes [aside to Susan]. How can you be such a fool? Why, this is suicide! [To Rasper] My dear fellow, my wife would be delighted, but the fact is the piano is out of order. The tuner is coming to-morrow.

Susan [seats herself at the piano]. My dear husband, it weel do very well. He only said we must note "thomp, thomp" until he had seen it; dat is all. Now, gentlemens, what would you like?

Sponge [with an armful of music-books]. Nay, madam, what will you do us the favor to choose? [Aside] There is nothing I love so much in this world as turning over the leaves of a music-book for a lady of birth!

Susan. Ah, I am so sorry, because I do only play by de ear, here [points to her ear]. But what would you like, gentlemens? Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, it is all exactly de same to me.

Robinson. Oh, then, pray let us have Mendelssohn,—one of those exquisite Songs without Words of his.

Susan. Yas? with plaisir. I like dose songs best myself,—de songs without words.

Nokes [aside, despairingly]. It's impossible she can get out of this. Now we shall have an éclaircissement, an exposure, an explosion.

Susan [strikes piano violently with both hands, and a string breaks with a loud report]. Ah, quel dommage! How stupide, too, when he told me not to "thomp, thomp"! I am so sorry, gentlemens! I did hope to give you a song, but I cannot sing without an accompaniment.

Rasper [maliciously]. There's the harp, ma'am,—unless its strings are in the same unsatisfactory state as those of the piano.

Susan [with affected delight]. What, you play de harp, Mr. Gasper? I am so glad, because I do not play it yet myself: I am only learning. Come, I shall sing, and you shall play upon de harp.

Rasper [angrily]. I play the harp, madam! what rubbish! of course I can't.

Sponge [eagerly]. But I can, just a little,—just enough to accompany one of Mrs. Nokes's charming songs. [Brings the harp down to the front, and sits down to it, trying the strings.]

Nokes [aside]. The nasty little accomplished beast! He'll ruin everything. Susan is at her wits' end. [Aside to Susan] What on earth are we to do now?

Enter Servant.

[In stentorian tones] Luncheon is on the table! [Then, approaching Susan, he adds, in lower but distinct tones] A lady wishes to see you, madam, upon very particular business.

Susan [surprised]. A lady! what lady?

Nokes [to Susan, aside and impatiently]. Never mind what lady; see her at once, whoever she is: it will be an excuse for getting away from these people.—My wife is engaged for the present, my good friends, so we'll sit down to lunch without her.

[All bow and leave the room, receiving in return from Susan a stately courtesy. Nokes, the last to leave, kisses his hand to her.] Adorable Susan, you have conquered, you remain in possession of the field; but you must not risk another engagement. I will see to that. Champagne shall do its work on Rasper—Gasper.

Enter Mrs. Charles Nokes, neatly but cheaply attired. Susan rises, bows, and looks toward her interrogatively.

Mrs. Charles Nokes. I did not send in my name, madam, because I feared it would but prejudice you against your visitor. I am Charles's—that is, your husband's niece by marriage; not a near relation to yourself, you might say, if you wished to be unkind,—which [with earnestness] I do not think you do.

Susan [distressed, but endeavoring to remain firm]. Oh, but I do, ma'am. I wish to be as hard as a stone. [Aside] Only I can't. What a pretty, modest young creature she is!

Mrs. C.N. The poor give you no such severe character, madam; and, taking courage by their report, and being poor myself, and, alas! having been the innocent cause of making others poor, I have ventured hither.

Susan [aside]. Oh, I wish she wouldn't! I can't stand this. There's something in her face, too, that reminds me—but there! have I not promised my husband to be brutal and unfeeling? [Aloud] Madame, I am sorry, but I have noting for you. Mr. Noke, mai husband, he tell me dat hees nephew is very foolish, weeked jeune homme

Mrs. C.N. [interrupting]. Foolish, madam, he may have been, nay, he was, to fall in love with a poor orphan like myself, who had nothing to give him but my love,—but not wicked. He has a noble heart. His sorrow is not upon his own account, but for his wife and child. He has bent his proud spirit twice to entreat his uncle's forgiveness, but in vain. And now I have come to appeal to you,—though you are not of my own country,—a woman to a woman.

Susan [aside]. Dear heart alive! I'm melting like a tallow candle.

Mrs. C.N. I was a poor Berkshire curate's daughter—

Susan [interrupting hastily]. A what? [Recollecting herself.] A poor curé's daughter—yas, yas—in Berkishire, qu'est-ce que c'est Berkishire?

Mrs. C.N. It is in the south of England, madam. We were poor, I say, and I had been used to straits, even before my poor father died. But my husband has been always accustomed to luxury and comfort, and now that poverty has come suddenly upon us—

Susan [interrupting with emotion, but still speaking broken English.] Were you considaired like your fader? Mrs. C.N. Yes, madam, very like.

Susan [anxiously and tremblingly]. What was his name?

Mrs. C.N. Woodward, madam. He was curate of Salthill, near Eton.

Susan [throwing herself at her feet and kissing her hands]. Why, you're Miss Clara! and I'm Susan,—Susan Montem, to whom he was so kind and noble [sobbing]. I'm no more a Montmorenci than you are,—nor half as much. I'm a workhouse orphan, and—and—your aunt by marriage. [Aside, and clasping her hands]. Oh, what can I do to help them? what can I do?

Mrs. C.N. [fervently]. I thank heaven. There is genuine gratitude in your kind face. I remember you now, though I am sure I should never have recognized you, Susan.

Susan. I dare say not, Miss Clara [rising and wiping her eyes]. Fine feathers make fine birds. Lor, how I should like to have a talk with you about old times! But there, we've got something else to do first. Where's your good husband?

Mrs. C.N. In the garden, hiding in the laurel-bed, with Chickabiddy. That's our baby, you know.

[Carriage heard departing; they listen. Enter Mr. Nokes, slightly elevated with champagne, and not perceiving Mrs. C.N.]

Nokes. Hurrah, my dear! they're off, all three of them,—all five of them, for each of them sees two of the others; they have no notion that your name is Susan—[sees Mrs. C.N.] I mean Constance. [Aside] Oh, Lor! just as I thought we'd weathered the storm, too, and got into still water!

Susan [gravely]. She knows all about it, husband. That lady is the daughter of my benefactor, Mr. Woodward, to whom I owed everything on earth till I met you.

Nokes [with enthusiasm, and holding out both hands]. The deuce she is! I am most uncommonly glad to see you, ma'am, under this roof. [Aside to Susan] She don't look very prosperous, Susan: if there's anything that money can get for her, I'll see she has it; mind that.

Susan [aloud]. She is poor, sir, and much in need of home and friends.

Nokes [to Mrs. C.N.]. Then you have found them here, ma'am. You're a fixture at "the Tamarisks" for life, if it so pleases you.

Mrs. C.N. You are most kind, sir, but I have a husband and one little child.

Nokes. Never mind that: he'll grow. There's room here for you and your husband and the little child, even if he does grow. Where are they? Show them up.

Mrs. C.N. runs to window and calls, "Charles, Charles."

Nokes [aside]. I think I've had quite as much champagne as is good for me; just enough; the golden mean.

Enter Charles with baby, which he holds at full stretch of his arms.

Nokes [indignantly]. You young scoundrel! How dare you show your face in this house?

Mrs. C.N. [interfering]. You sent for him, sir.

Nokes. I sent for nothing of the sort. I sent for your husband.

Mrs. C.N. That is my husband, sir, and our little child. You promised us an asylum for life under your roof; and I am certain you will keep your word.

Nokes [to Susan, endeavoring to be severe]. Now, this is all your fault; and yet you promised me never to interfere on behalf of these people.

Susan. Nor did I, my dear husband. You have done it all yourself.

Nokes [aside]. It was all that last glass of champagne.

Charles [giving up the baby to his wife, and coming up with outstretched hand to his uncle]. Come, sir, pray forgive me. I could not enjoy your favors without your forgiveness, believe me.

Nokes [holding out his hand unwillingly]. There. [Aside] How could I be such a fool, knowing so well what champagne is made of?—Well, sir, if you have regained your place here, remember it has all happened through your aunt's goodness. Let nobody ever show any of their airs to my Susan.

Charles and his wife [together]. We shall never forget her kindness, sir.

Nokes. Mind you don't, then. For, you see, it's to her own disadvantage, since when I die—and supposing I have forgiven you—the child that has to grow will inherit everything, and Susan only have a life-interest in it.

Charles [hopefully]. I don't see that, sir. Why shouldn't you have children of your own?

Nokes [complacently]. True, true. Why shouldn't we? I didn't like to dwell upon the idea before, but why shouldn't we? At all events, Susan [comes forward with Susan], I am sure I shall never repent having shot at the pigeon—I mean, having wooed the Montmorenci, but won THE SUBSTITUTE.