No Thoroughfare (Play)

Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens

No Thoroughfare (Play) Page 02

Wife. Mr. Jones, what do you mean by bringing me here?

Husband. You wanted to come here, dear.

Wife. I consider this place to be a sink of iniquity. How dare you to tell me I wanted to come to a sink of iniquity.

Husband. It seems to be pretty cheerful for a sink, dear.

Wife. When I think of the histories of these wretched children, I blush for human nature.

Husband. Human nature ought to be much obliged to you, dear.

Wife. A Foundling Hospital is an encouragement to vice. A man who brings his wife into a place which encourages vice, is a man lost to the commonest sense of decency. Give me your arm directly.

Husband. Yes, dear.

Wife. Mr. Jones, you are a fool!

Husband. Considering that I have married you, dear, perhaps you had better keep that opinion to yourself.

(Exeunt.) (A second husband and wife come forward.)

2nd Wife. Mr. Brown, this is the most interesting sight I ever saw in my life. I should like to kiss every one of those boys.

2nd Husband. Think of our own boys, my dear. They wouldn’t thank you for kissing them at dinner-time.

2nd Wife. I hope these poor little fellows are happy! It’s so sad to think that they never knew a mother’s love, and never climbed on a father’s knee!

2nd Husband. Look at them, my dear! Our own boys couldn’t eat a better dinner than that.

2nd Wife This is a noble charity! This is helping the helpless as Christians should.

2nd Husband. A noble charity, as you say. I have counted forty boys in this room, my dear, who are every one of them as fat as our Tom!

(They walk up, and join the other visitors. In the vacant space left on the stage, SALLY GOLDSTRAW and THE LADY suddenly meet.)

Sally. You here again! What did you promise me last night?

The Lady. I said I would never ask you to tell me more than you told me then. I don’t ask you to say another word. You can add to the debt of gratitude that I owe you, without speaking. Good Sally! Kind Sally! Show me my boy!

Sally (aside). Oh, dear, dear! I’m going wrong again!

The Lady. My heart is breaking, among all these children. Oh, think that my boy is here, and that I don’t know him!

Sally. Hush! not so loud. I am going to pass down the table. Follow me with your eyes. The boy that I stop and speak to, will not be your boy. But the boy that I touch will be Walter Wilding.

(She passes down the table. Speaks to one boy, and touches the boy next to him, keeping her hand on his shoulder, and patting it. Both boys are seated with their backs to the audience. SALLY, after lifting her hand from the boy, looks for the last time significantly at THE LADY, and goes out, following the line of the table, which is lost to view behind the scenes. THE LADY approaches the boy, and speaks to him.)

The Lady (stooping over him). How old are you?

The Boy. I am twelve, ma’am.

The Lady. Are you well and happy?

The Boy. Yes, ma’am.

The Lady. Would you like to be well provided for, and to be your own master when you grow up?

The Boy. Yes, ma’am.

The Lady. Would you like a home of your own? Would you like to find your mother who loves you?

The Boy. Oh yes, ma’am, dearly!

(THE LADY kisses him, and turns away to hide her tears. At the same moment three strokes are heard on the end of the table hidden behind the scenes. A voice says, “Silence, for grace!” The boys all rise. The men among the visitors remove their hats. The grace is sung by boys’ voices off the stage, to a simple hymn tune. At the last notes a double curtain closes slowly over the scene. On each division of the curtain is inscribed in large letters, visible to the whole audience: “TWELVE YEARS ELAPSE.” After a short interval, filled up by appropriate music, the curtain is withdrawn again, and the next scene opens on events which are supposed to occur, after the lapse of twelve years.)

THIRD SCENE.—The Court-yard in the establishment of WILDING AND CO., wine merchants, of Cripple Corner. A large counting-house with an open door, on one side. An entrance to the cellars, down steps. A large door in the flat, with a smaller door near it, various objects connected with the wine trade scattered about the yard. WALTER WILDING, dressed in mourning, and BINTREY, discovered seated at a little table in the court-yard, with a bottle of wine between them.

Wilding. Excuse my receiving you in the open air, Mr. Bintrey. What with the anxieties I have had lately, and what with the heat of the weather, I have been a good deal troubled with a giddiness in my head, and a singing in my ears.

Bintrey. And the fresh air clears your head, and quiets your ears? Just so, Mr. Walter Wilding—just so!

Wilding. Do you like this “forty-five,” sir?

Bintrey. (smacking his lips). Like it? I am a lawyer. Did you ever hear of a lawyer who didn’t like port? Capital wine, sir! In your place I shouldn’t be quite so free in giving such wine away, even to my lawyer!

Wilding. And now, as to my affairs, Mr. Bintrey. I think we have got everything straight. A partner secured.

Bintrey. A partner secured.

Wilding. A housekeeper advertised for—

Bintrey. Housekeeper advertised for. “Apply personally at Cripple Corner, Great Tower-street, from ten to twelve—” to-day.

Wilding. My late dear mother’s affairs wound up, and all charges paid—

Bintrey. And all charges paid. Without taxing the bill, which is the drollest professional circumstance I ever met with! (Observes WILDING looking through the counting-house door, and looks that way too.) I see you have had the portrait of your mother hung in the counting-house?

Wilding. My dear mother, as you know, placed me in this business, Mr. Bintrey. I have two portraits of her. One I keep in my own room. The other I hang in my counting-house, in remembrance of all that she has done for me. It seems like yesterday, when she came to the Foundling, and asked me if I should like to live in a home of my own, with the mother who loved me. From that time I became her confidentially acknowledged son. From that time, we were never separated till death took her from me, six months ago. Everything that I have—everything that may come to me in the future—I owe to her love. I hope my love consoled her for all that she had suffered in her earlier life. She had been cruelly deceived, Mr. Bintrey. But she never spoke of it—she never betrayed her betrayer!

Bintrey. She had made up her mind, and she could hold her peace. A devilish deal better than ever you will!

Wilding. I can no longer show my love and honour for her; but I can show that I am not ashamed of her. I mean, that I am not ashamed of having been a Foundling.

Wilkie Collins

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