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Title: Three Mrs. Madderleys Author: Josephine Tey (writing as Gordon Daviot) * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1600361h.html Language: English Date first posted: March 2016 Most recent update: March 2016 This eBook was produced by Colin Choat and Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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CHARACTERS In order of appearance MARY. MARGOT. WAITER. MARION. The scene is the terrace of a hotel in a fashionable holiday resort. At one of the little iron tables set among the potted shrubs is MARY MADDERLEY. She is going to be forty-one next month, and has never attempted to conceal the fact. Her rather long, kind face is innocent of make-up. Her features, like her clothes, are good; but both lack verve. Her manner is tinged with shyness, and there is an odd suggestion of immaturity about her; as of one who has always lived dependent on another. On the table in front of her is a half-drunk glass of pale sherry. Along the terrace comes MARGOT MADDERLEY. She is twenty. Self-confident, fashionable, very pretty. She has a bored expression and a faintly hard-boiled air; but neither is native to her. The boredom was merely "the thing" in the senior forms at her very expensive school; and the hard-boiled air was "the thing" with her set in the years since she left school. She is being pursued along the terrace, although she doesn't know it, by a waiter clutching a library book. She sits down at the table next to MARY'S, and begins a hunt through her bag for a lighter. MARY.: [Tentatively] If it is matches you are looking for, there are some here on my table. [Her voice is sweet and immature.] MARGOT.: [In a bored contralto drawl] Yes. My damned lighter's lost again. WAITER.: [Coming up, breathless] Madame Madderley? Madame left her book in the foyer. I thought Madame might miss it. [He has the air of a puppy retrieving a stick; proud and willing.] MARGOT.: [Receiving it without enthusiasm] Oh. Thanks. Bring me a pink gin, will you. WAITER.: At once, madame. [He goes.] MARGOT.: [Busy with her cigarette-lighting] Might as well be a convict. MARY.: [Startled] A convict? MARGOT.: As go about with a library book. Name and number indelibly fixed. MARY.: [Smiling a little] Oh. I see. Yes; Cash's used to give me the same feeling. MARGOT.: [Looking at her for the first time] Cash's? MARY.: Those names in tape on one's school clothes. One was labelled down to the very combinations. MARGOT.: Never wore the things. [Relenting] But I remember Cash's. MARY.: [Looking at her kindly] I should hope so. [In answer to MARGOT'S enquiring glance] It can't be very long since you stopped wearing school things. MARGOT.: Between five and six thousand years. MARY.: [Smiling at her a little] You wear remarkably well. [As this produces a more or less friendly glance from MARGOT] Forgive me, but I think I heard the waiter call you Madderley. That's odd, because it is not a very common name, and it happens to be mine too. [She is not being in the least curious; merely friendly.] MARGOT.: [Not interested] Really? Well, it won't be mine for very long. MARY.: Oh? You are going to be married? MARGOT.: No. Divorced. MARY.: Oh; I am sorry. MARGOT.: Don't be. It is what is known as a happy release. [MARY makes a small cooing noise of sympathy.] I made a horrible mistake. I married for love. MARY.: But surely that is the proper thing to marry for! MARGOT.: Next time, I promise you, I shall be highly improper. [Glancing at the ring on MARY'S hand] I see that you wear a ring. Did you marry for love? MARY.: [Warmly] Oh, yes. MARGOT.: And did it work? MARY.: For twenty years it did. MARGOT.: And then? MARY.: He fell in love with someone else. [After a slight pause] Is . . . that what has happened to you? MARGOT.: Oh, no. He dotes upon me. At least, he did until last night. MARY.: Last night? [Relieved] Oh, you mean you have just had a quarrel, and that all this talk of divorce— MARGOT.: [Incisively] Last night is when he will have had my lawyer's letter. MARY.: [Dashed] Oh. MARGOT.: [Pleased] It will be a shock to him. MARY.: Yes, I expect so. MARGOT.: He sees himself as a combination of King Arthur and Gabriel. The Archangel Gabriel. The letter is to say he is a poor fish, a crashing bore, and plain poison. Wrapped up legally, of course, but he will get the general idea. MARY.: Dear me. How long have you lived with this . . . horror? MARGOT.: Eighteen months. Seventeen months and twenty-nine days too long. But I was romantic about him. He looks a little like Gabriel, you see. Stern, and beautiful, and the perfect gent. MARY.: [A far-away look in her eyes] Ah, yes. MARGOT.: You recognise the type? MARY.: Yes. MARGOT.: [Examining her with more interest] You are still in love with your husband, aren't you? MARY.: [Matter-of-fact] Oh, yes. One doesn't fall out of love just because the other one does, you know. That is why I can't help being a little sorry for your poor archangel. If he loves you so much, he is not likely to be cured by a lawyer's letter. MARGOT.: John has never been in love with anyone but himself. MARY.: [Her attention wholly arrested] John? MARGOT.: He dotes on me just as he dotes on his old sherry, and his new golf clubs, and his old Spode. MARY.: [Her worst fears confirmed] Spode! MARGOT.: Yes; china, you know. He collected me, along with the other things. Ah, here is my drink! WAITER.: [Coming up with a tray] One pink gin for madame. MARY.: [In a faint voice] I think I should like one of those. MARGOT.: You haven't finished your sherry. Is it revolting? MARY.: No; but I think I could do with one of these. WAITER.: At once, madame. MARY.: I shall finish the sherry while you are bringing it. WAITER.: Very good, madame. [He goes.] MARGOT.: [Taking her first sip, with satisfaction] John didn't approve of pink gins. MARY.: [Unguardedly] No. MARGOT.: How do you mean, no? MARY.: [Retrieving hastily] I mean, the Gabriel type don't, do they? MARGOT.: No. That is one of the flaws I had as a collector's piece. He was always pointing out my flaws. [MARY'S ears prick a little, as if that had a familiar sound.] I was quite worried about them until I got wise to him. MARY.: Until you . . . ? MARGOT.: Until the halo dropped off. MARY.: [Faintly] Did that take long? MARGOT.: It began to slip towards the end of the second month. By the sixth it had gone. There was a tiny bald spot there instead. I told him about the bald spot, but he was furious and went and spent the night at Marion's. MARY.: Marion. MARGOT.: Marion is John's mother. He said it was to talk about her investments, but it was just because of the bald spot. His mental age is five and a half. MARY.: [Half fascinated, half repudiating] But he is a . . . He is very good at his profession, surely? MARGOT.: [In a that-proves-nothing tone] Oh, yes. A great many lunatics are mathematical geniuses. What a man does in an office is no guide to what he is capable of doing outside it. MARY.: No; no, I suppose not. MARGOT.: It was a shock to find I had married someone aged five and a half. MARY.: Yes. Yes, I suppose it must. MARGOT.: Especially when he is forty-two and looks like Gabriel. MARY.: But . . . [She looks round for some defence of John.] MARGOT.: But what? MARY.: But surely he has—has qualities; great charm, perhaps? MARGOT.: He has so much charm that it drips off him. After a little you don't notice anything but the pool on the floor. MARY.: And is he not faithful? And honest? MARGOT.: Oh, yes. He also washes behind his ears. MARY.: [Giving it up] I am sorry you couldn't make it a success. You are so young and—and vivid. John is bound to miss you frightfully. MARGOT.: [Equably] Oh, no. He has Mary. MARY.: [Electrified] Mary! MARGOT.: His first wife. We lived with Mary. MARY.: But—but how could you? MARGOT.: I couldn't. Mary licked me. MARY.: I don't understand. MARGOT.: Mary was perfect. There was nothing I did from morning till night but Mary had done it better. The only way I was Mary's successor was chronologically. No one arranged flowers like Mary, no one wore clothes like Mary, no one knew how to cure his colds in the head like Mary—and my God, what colds! No one was ever so wise, so kind, so lovely, so intelligent as Mary. Living with John was a bore, but living with Mary was unbearable. I never saw the woman, but if she suffered John for twenty years and still kept his admiration she must have either the soul of a saint or the hide of a rhinoceros. I wish that man would come with your drink. I want another. [Considering MARY] You know, I wouldn't have said that gin was your tipple. MARY.: It isn't, usually. MARGOT.: I hope my matrimonial infelicities haven't brought yours to the surface again. MARY.: I'm afraid they have, rather. You see, I'm Mary. MARGOT.: [Caught off-balance for once] You are! [Considering her anew] Well! [Recovering her poise] That makes John a liar as well as a poor fish. MARY.: John? MARGOT.: He said you dressed better than any woman he ever knew. MARY.: [Humbly] No, I'm afraid I never took much interest in clothes. [Looking at MARGOT with simple admiration] They told me you were pretty. [The emphasis is on "told"; she is merely confirming the fact.] MARGOT.: [Drawling] Thanks. All my own work. Why don't you give chemistry a chance? MARY.: [At a loss] I don't under— MARGOT.: You are much better looking than I am. I know John said you were very economical— MARY.: He said that! MARGOT.: —but five pounds spent in the right places and you would be a raving beauty. MARY.: I suppose it's dreadful of me, but I would rather have the five pounds. MARGOT.: Didn't you do anything to keep John? I mean, when he began to slip. MARY.: It wasn't a slip; it was a landslide. He just came home one day and told me that he had fallen in love with someone else. MARGOT.: I can see him. Very grave, and frank, and noble. MARY.: There wasn't much I could do about it, was there? MARGOT.: You could have shot me, but I suppose it didn't occur to you. MARY.: No. I just hoped that you would make him happy. MARGOT.: [In simple comment] My God! [Cheerfully] Well, now I know why providence kept me from murdering John. MARY.: Why? MARGOT.: So that you could have him back intact. MARY.: [Sweetly and mildly] But I don't want him back. MARGOT.: [Staggered for once] You don't! MARY.: No; I have only just this moment got free of him. MARGOT.: But a minute ago you told me you were still in love with him. MARY.: That was before I heard about all my charming qualities. MARGOT.: What has that to— MARY.: You see, I lived with someone too. Only the person I lived with was my mother-in-law. MARGOT.: Marion. MARY.: Yes. MARGOT.: Not actually? MARY.: No, the way you lived with me. For twenty years I tried to be like Marion. John adored his mother, and I tried not to be a—an anti-climax. But it was difficult. What was it you said: "No one was ever so wise, so kind, so intelligent, so lovely"—as Marion. No one wore clothes like Marion, arranged flowers like Marion—and so on and so on and so on. MARGOT.: Well, I'll be . . .! MARY.: Marion is rather wonderful, of course. So I didn't mind trying to live up to her. MARGOT.: Didn't mind! MARY.: Not actively. I was very humble about myself. After twenty years I was a little tired but still humble, and still trying. When John fell in love with you I took it that I had failed. MARGOT.: And your heart broke. MARY.: My heart cracked wide open. It mended with a click five minutes ago. To be exact, on the word "economical". You're sure John told you I was economical? MARGOT.: Every time a bill came in. Are you not? MARY.: For twenty years he told me daily what a bad manager I was. He was very sweet about it; very patient; always hoping I would do better next time. MARGOT.: [Contemplating it] You know, all we've been, you and I, is a couple of donkeys with carrots dangled in front of our noses. MARY.: With a difference. [In answer to MARGOT'S eyebrows] I ran after my carrot. MARGOT.: You certainly ran. MARY.: You mustn't blame me too much. Marion brought him up to expect perfection. Do you know her? MARGOT.: [Extra sec] We have met. A strong-minded woman. MARY.: Yes. John was stamped in her image before we met. It seemed natural to conform to the mould. She rarely came to see us, and yet she pervaded the house. MARGOT.: You practically stank the place out when I lived there. MARY.: [With a laughing expulsion of her breath] I even came to this place because she used to talk about it. Her sister is married to a clergyman here. Ah, here is the waiter. WAITER.: One pink gin for madame. MARGOT.: O—h, no! We have changed all that. You take that away and bring us a bottle of champagne. MARY.: But I would like to have the gin. I've never had one, you know. MARGOT.: Gin may be good for drowning one's sorrows in, but it is no drink for a celebration. You bring us some Pol Roger, waiter. The best vintage year you have. WAITER.: At once, Madame. MARY.: Very well. But I insist on tasting a pink gin, so you may leave it, waiter. WAITER.: Very good, madame. [He goes.] MARY.: John, as you remarked, didn't approve of gin. [She embarks on her drink with an air of having at last achieved equality with John.] MARGOT.: My blessing on your emancipation. MARY.: It tastes rather like wood shavings. MARGOT.: It gets better as you go on. MARY.: Poor darling John. MARGOT.: Hurrah! MARY.: Why? MARGOT.: You have reached the stage of patronising him. MARY.: I was thinking of the shock that lawyer's letter would be to him. MARGOT.: You were not. You were thinking how nice it was that he was going to be shocked. MARY.: Was I? Perhaps I was. How malicious of me. Oh, well; Marion will be there to hold his hand. MARGOT.: As it happens, she won't. MARY.: No? Why? MARGOT.: Because she is coming down the path from the annexe at this moment. MARY.: Marion is! This path? MARGOT.: In her black-and-white foulard and her garden-party hat. Good God, don't drink gin in a gulp like that! [Raising her voice to greet MARION as she approaches] Hello, there. MARION is a good-looking woman; tall, grey, slender, with a pleasant voice and a firm, composed manner. Her clothes are in excellent taste, and they are worn much better than MARY'S are. MARION.: Margot! My dear child! What are you doing here? MARGOT.: Waiting for a drink. MARION.: And Mary too! How nice. And how very surprising. MARGOT.: Will you have this chair. The champagne won't be long. MARION.: Champagne! You extravagant hussies. Are you celebrating something? MARY.: We are about to celebrate our coming of age. MARION.: My darling Mary, you sound as if you had been celebrating already. Where is John? MARGOT.: It being ten and one-half minutes to one o'clock, John is at this moment descending the second flight of stairs at the office on his way to lunch. MARION.: You mean that John is not here? MARGOT.: Not even in spirit. MARY.: Poor John. [She gives a sudden little giggle.] MARION.: Mary, my dear! [Glancing at MARY'S drink; quite uncensorious] Is that gin? MARY.: It's a pink gin. MARION.: Is that a good introduction to champagne, do you think? And anyhow, why "poor John"? MARGOT.: She is sorry for John because I have left him. MARION.: Left him? Behind? Or for good? MARGOT.: Both. [Genuine] I'm sorry if it distresses you. MARION.: [Slowly] I regret it, of course. It is a pity. But I must confess that from some points of view it may be an excellent thing. MARGOT.: [Aggressive; taking it for granted that MARION thinks that she is good riddance] You do! MARION.: Don't think me harsh, my dear—I'm devoted to John, you know—but I can't help thinking that—well, that he was becoming just the least little bit in the world smug. MARY.: [Into the astonished pause] Marion, you surprise me. MARGOT.: She staggers me. MARION.: Why? MARGOT.: One hadn't expected you to be critical of John. After all, he is your creation. MARION.: Only physically. The rest is Nannie's. MARY.: Nannie? MARION.: You didn't know Nannie. She was my mother's old nurse. A strong-minded woman. [This is what MARGOT has said of her, although she does not know it.] I, being a young widow with a profession to occupy me, had to leave John to Nannie. I may as well confess to you that I was inordinately jealous of Nannie. She always did everything better than I did. MARGOT.: [Her attention arrested] She what? MARION.: [Misunderstanding her emphasis] I mean, things for John. Domestic things. MARGOT.: For instance? MARION.: Oh . . . [she looks round for samples] if I bought him woollies they were too thick and scratched; if I told him stories at night Nannie had told him better ones; if I took him for a walk it wasn't as exciting as Nannie's, because Nannie's walks had ponds in them, and fish, and what not . . . [With the breath of a rueful laugh] I spent the best years of my life trying to live up to Nannie. MARGOT.: [In great delight] MARY! She had a carrot too! MARION.: A what? MARY.: [Happily; making a sing-song chant of it] No one told stories like Nannie, no one arranged flowers like Nannie, no one wore clothes like Nannie, no one was ever so wise, so kind, so intelligent, so lovely— MARION.: Mary, my dear, you are drunk. You are behaving very strangely, you two. MARGOT.: You tell her, Mary. You're a graduate. MARION.: What is all this, Mary? MARY.: Marion, I hate to tell you, but you are a donkey. MARION.: Margot, you appear to be sober. Will you tell me. MARGOT.: It's not gin that Mary's drunk with, but relief. MARION.: Relief from what? MARGOT.: John. She has just discovered that he is a blackmailer. MARION.: Margot, do stop this absurdity, and tell me . . . MARGOT.: Remember the way he used to hold Nannie over your head? MARION.: I don't know that I should put it that way exactly. [But her tone is doubtful; that is just what he used to do.] MARGOT.: He dug a lot of extras out of you with Nannie for a lever, didn't he. [It is statement, not question.] MARION.: You don't put it very elegantly, my dear, but— MARGOT.: [Translating MARION'S "but" into her own idiom] But that was the set-up. Well, he has been using that Nannie technique ever since. For twenty years he held you over Mary's head. And for the last eighteen months he has held Mary over mine. MARION.: Mary! Is this true? Mary, pay attention! MARY.: [Dreamily] I never noticed before what a nice face you have, Marion. MARION.: [Sharply] Mary! Did John make me into a bogy for you? I could never forgive him for that. MARY.: [Kindly] Not a bogy, exactly. Just a carrot. MARION.: A carrot! Oh . . . [light dawns] Oh, I see what you mean about the donkey. Yes, of course. That is just what we have been. But to think that John . . . I can't believe it. MARY.: Do you mind if I ask you something, Marion? It's something rather personal. Are you very good at arranging flowers? MARION.: I loathe arranging flowers. A fiddling business. Why? MARY.: Yes, I was afraid of that. Dear me, the hours I have wasted. I remember once throwing away some lovely herbaceous things and starting again on sweet-peas at the last moment, because they wouldn't come right. MARION.: You mean, because I was coming? MARY.: I wouldn't be surprised if you're not even punctual. It was just John's way of getting his meals on time. MARION.: Is that how . . . [words fail her] The . . . [she looks round for an appropriate epithet for her son, and at last finds one] the MONSTER! You have no idea how much I tried to be a nice mother-in-law. Not coming too often, or interfering, or offering advice, or being last-generation about things. I was so pleased with myself, too! I prided myself on being a model mother-in-law. And all I've been is a bogy. MARY.: Not a bogy, Marion; just a— Before she can say "carrot", the WAITER comes up with the wine. WAITER.: The wine for madame. MARGOT.: Yes, that looks all right. Open it. WAITER.: Perhaps if it cooled a little longer . . . MARGOT.: No, we'll drink it now. Bring a third glass. Oh, you've brought one. WAITER.: I saw madame arrive. MARY.: Don't look so sad, Marion. MARGOT.: That isn't sorrow. It's helpless rage. MARION.: You are right, Margot. When I think of my wasted opportunities. The things I could have done. MARGOT.: With what? MARION.: The back of a hair-brush. MARGOT.: Don't take it too hard, Marion. John's a genius in his way. To use the same technique on three generations and get away with it . . . MARY.: Two generations, Margot. Only Marion and I were fools. You saved the honour of womanhood. MARION.: Mary darling, I doubt very much whether you should have champagne. What are we going to drink to? [Exit WAITER.] MARGOT.: To the damnation of John. MARION.: To our emancipation from John. MARY.: No; no, we will drink to Margot. MARION.: To Margot? MARY.: Because she belongs to a generation that will have no more Johns. MARION.: [Laughing] To you, Margot, with all my heart! MARY.: To Margot! MARGOT.: [Heartily agreeing] To me! CURTAIN
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