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The Eldest Son   By: (1867-1933)

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By John Galsworthy

PERSONS OF THE PLAY SIR WILLIAM CHESHIRE, a baronet LADY CHESHIRE, his wife BILL, their eldest son HAROLD, their second son RONALD KEITH(in the Lancers), their son in law CHRISTINE (his wife), their eldest daughter DOT, their second daughter JOAN, their third daughter MABEL LANFARNE, their guest THE REVEREND JOHN LATTER, engaged to Joan OLD STUDDENHAM, the head keeper FREDA STUDDENHAM, the lady's maid YOUNG DUNNING, the under keeper ROSE TAYLOR, a village girl JACKSON, the butler CHARLES, a footman

TIME: The present. The action passes on December 7 and 8 at the Cheshires' country house, in one of the shires.

ACT I SCENE I. The hall; before dinner. SCENE II. The hall; after dinner.

ACT II. Lady Cheshire's morning room; after breakfast.

ACT III. The smoking room; tea time.

A night elapses between Acts I. and II.



The scene is a well lighted, and large, oak panelled hall, with an air of being lived in, and a broad, oak staircase. The dining room, drawing room, billiard room, all open into it; and under the staircase a door leads to the servants' quarters. In a huge fireplace a log fire is burning. There are tiger skins on the floor, horns on the walls; and a writing table against the wall opposite the fireplace. FREDA STUDDENHAM, a pretty, pale girl with dark eyes, in the black dress of a lady's maid, is standing at the foot of the staircase with a bunch of white roses in one hand, and a bunch of yellow roses in the other. A door closes above, and SIR WILLIAM CHESHIRE, in evening dress, comes downstairs. He is perhaps fifty eight, of strong build, rather bull necked, with grey eyes, and a well coloured face, whose choleric autocracy is veiled by a thin urbanity. He speaks before he reaches the bottom.

SIR WILLIAM. Well, Freda! Nice roses. Who are they for?

FREDA. My lady told me to give the yellow to Mrs. Keith, Sir William, and the white to Miss Lanfarne, for their first evening.

SIR WILLIAM. Capital. [Passing on towards the drawing room] Your father coming up to night?


SIR WILLIAM. Be good enough to tell him I specially want to see him here after dinner, will you?

FREDA. Yes, Sir William.

SIR WILLIAM. By the way, just ask him to bring the game book in, if he's got it.

He goes out into the drawing room; and FREDA stands restlessly tapping her foot against the bottom stair. With a flutter of skirts CHRISTINE KEITH comes rapidly down. She is a nice looking, fresh coloured young woman in a low necked dress.

CHRISTINE. Hullo, Freda! How are YOU?

FREDA. Quite well, thank you, Miss Christine Mrs. Keith, I mean. My lady told me to give you these.

CHRISTINE. [Taking the roses] Oh! Thanks! How sweet of mother!

FREDA. [In a quick, toneless voice] The others are for Miss Lanfarne. My lady thought white would suit her better.

CHRISTINE. They suit you in that black dress.

[FREDA lowers the roses quickly.]

What do you think of Joan's engagement?

FREDA. It's very nice for her.

CHRISTINE. I say, Freda, have they been going hard at rehearsals?

FREDA. Every day. Miss Dot gets very cross, stage managing.

CHRISTINE. I do hate learning a part. Thanks awfully for unpacking. Any news?

FREDA. [In the same quick, dull voice] The under keeper, Dunning, won't marry Rose Taylor, after all.

CHRISTINE. What a shame! But I say that's serious. I thought there was she was I mean

FREDA. He's taken up with another girl, they say.

CHRISTINE. Too bad! [Pinning the roses] D'you know if Mr. Bill's come?

FREDA. [With a swift upward look] Yes, by the six forty.

RONALD KEITH comes slowly down, a weathered firm lipped man, in evening dress, with eyelids half drawn over his keen eyes, and the air of a horseman... Continue reading book >>

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