As It Might Have Been.


Vanity Fair (UK), February 9, 1905

[Showing how, in the author’s opinion, the dramatic possibilities of “She’s” return to earth might have been developed a good deal more effectively than they have been developed by Mr. Rider Haggard in the Windsor Magazine.]

S   CENE: A bedroom. Leo Vincey is standing in his shirt-sleeves before the looking-glass. He holds a razor in his hand, which is shaking. He has filled out a good deal since we last met him, but might still be taken for a Young Greek God in the dusk with a light behind him.

Leo (looking at his hand): I daren’t. I’m as jumpy as a cat. If I once started shaving I should turn up at the church a mass of sticking-plaster. And whoever heard of a Greek God wearing sticking-plaster! On the other hand, no girl wants to marry a man with a chin like the roll of a musical-box. I must get a shave at the club. Jove! I shall be glad when it’s over. Holly’s just right for best man. No nerves and excitability. All solid, solid— (The door bursts open, and Holly rushes in, violently excited.) Hullo, Holly! Glad you’ve come. I say, look here. I’ve forgotten the rules. Do I take her left hand, or does she—?

Holly (with restraint, eyeing Leo’s razor with an assumption of unconcern): That looks a good bit of steel. Where did you get it? May I—? (Takes the razor from Leo, closes it, and throws it to the other end of the room.) Now, can you stand a shock?

Leo (in a pitiable state of nerves): What? What? What? What on earth is it, man? What’s happened? What?

Holly: She has come back!

Leo: She? Whom do you mean? Who?

Holly: Brace up, my dear old chap. Ayesha.

Leo (springing into the air): What!!

Holly: It’s a fact. It’s in the Mail, and all the papers.

Leo: But, confound it, man, you know as well as I do that she was burnt to a cinder. We stood and watched her do it.

Holly: I’m awfully sorry. Would have prevented it if I could. It’s all the fault of these novelists. Haggard, don’t you know, read that Sherlock Holmes hadn’t really fallen over the cliff, so he didn’t see why he shouldn’t try the same game. Said he was prepared to resurrect characters against Doyle any day in the week. So it seems She wasn’t burnt after all. The lady we saw shrivel up was a Miss Jane Smith, her double. Sister of John Smith. It runs in the family.

Leo: But what the dooce is going to happen? However (hopefully), she doesn’t know my address.

Holly (hesitatingly): Well, the fact is, old man—brace up, she—er in short, she does. Haggard gave it to her.

Leo: And now on my wedding-day she turns up! Oh, it’s a little hard. And, by Jingo! (Jumps.)

Holly: What? What?

Leo: Why, she’s dead certain to be jealous of poor little Molly. And when she’s jealous you know what that means! She’ll simply electrocute her, as she did that other girl Thingummy. You know the girl I mean.

Holly (thoughtfully): Ye-e-s. There will certainly be unpleasantness.

Leo: But half a second, Holly, I’ve got it. If I remember, you were fond of her yourself.

Holly (blushing): Well er— There were moments— That is to say— In short— Of course, I don’t deny that she had attractions, though hardly in my line. I prefer your slim, small, jolly little brown-haired type of girl, with dark blue eyes, don’t you know. She would behave like Sarah Bernhardt.

Leo: Well, anyhow, for the sake of a pal cut me out, old man. Take her to Cambridge, and show her the Backs. Take her up to the top of King’s, and show her the view. Then break it to her gently that all is over, and so on. See? What?

Holly (stiffly): My dear Leo, it is impossible. She used to make puns on my name.

(They stand looking at one another in silence. There is a knock at the door.)

Leo: Yes?

The Landlady (in her No. 7 voice, the shocked and surprised”): Mr. Vincey, there is a strange lady a-waiting for you in the sitting-room, and she says she’s going to wait till she sees you.

Holly: Did she give her name?

The Landlady: Yes, sir. Name of Asher.

[Rapid Curtain.]