The SCENE is the pretty drawing-room of a flat. There are two doors, one open into the hall, the other shut and curtained. Through a large bay window, the curtains of which are not yet drawn, the towers of Westminster can be seen darkening in a summer sunset; a grand piano stands across one corner. The man-servant PAYNTER, clean-shaven and discreet, is arranging two tables for Bridge. BURNEY, the maid, a girl with one of those flowery Botticellian faces only met with in England, comes in through the curtained door, which she leaves open, disclosing the glimpse of a white wall. PAYNTER looks up at her; she shakes her head, with an expression of concern.
PAYNTER. Where's she gone?
BURNEY. Just walks about, I fancy.
PAYNTER. She and the Governor don't hit it! One of these days she'll flityou'll see. I like hershe's a lady; but these thoroughbred 'unsit's their skin and their mouths. They'll go till they drop if they like the job, and if they don't, it's nothing but jibjibjib. How was it down there before she married him?
BURNEY. Oh! Quiet, of course.
PAYNTER. Country homesI know 'em. What's her father, the old Rector, like?
BURNEY. Oh! very steady old man. The mother dead long before I took the place.
PAYNTER. Not a penny, I suppose?
BURNEY. [Shaking her head] No; and seven of them.
PAYNTER. [At sound of the hall door] The Governor!
BURNEY withdraws through the curtained door. GEORGE DEDMOND enters from the hall. He is in evening dress, opera hat, and overcoat; his face is broad, comely, glossily shaved, but with neat moustaches. His eyes, clear, small, and blue-grey, have little speculation. His hair is well brushed.
GEORGE. [Handing PAYNTER his coat and hat] Look here, Paynter! When I send up from the Club for my dress things, always put in a black waistcoat as well.
PAYNTER. I asked the mistress, sir.
GEORGE. In futuresee?
PAYNTER. Yes, sir. [Signing towards the window] Shall I leave the sunset, sir?
But GEORGE has crossed to the curtained door; he opens it and says: "Clare!" Receiving no answer, he goes in. PAYNTER switches up the electric light. His face, turned towards the curtained door, is apprehensive.
GEORGE. [Re-entering] Where's Mrs. Dedmond?
PAYNTER. I hardly know, sir.
GEORGE. Dined in?
PAYNTER. She had a mere nothing at seven, sir.
GEORGE. Has she gone out, since?
PAYNTER. Yes, sirthat is, yes. Theermistress was not dressed at all. A little matter of fresh air, I think; sir.
GEORGE. What time did my mother say they'd be here for Bridge?
PAYNTER. Sir Charles and Lady Dedmond were coming at half-past nine; and Captain Huntingdon, tooMr. and Mrs. Fullarton might be a bit late, sir.