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The Foundations

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LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S mansion in Park Lane. Eight o'clock of the evening. LITTLE ANNE DROMONDY and the large footman, JAMES, gaunt and grin, discovered in the wine cellar, by light of gas. JAMES, in plush breeches, is selecting wine.

L. ANNE: James, are you really James?

JAMES. No, my proper name's John.

L. ANNE. Oh! [A pause] And is Charles's an improper name too?

JAMES. His proper name's Mark.

L. ANNE. Then is Thomas Matthew?

JAMES. Miss Anne, stand clear o' that bin. You'll put your foot through one o' those 'ock bottles.

L. ANNE. No, but James—Henry might be Luke, really?

JAMES. Now shut it, Miss Anne!

L. ANNE. Who gave you those names? Not your godfathers and godmothers?

JAMES. Poulder. Butlers think they're the Almighty. [Gloomily] But his name's Bartholomew.

L. ANNE. Bartholomew Poulder? It's rather jolly.

JAMES. It's hidjeous.

L. ANNE. Which do you like to be called—John or James?

JAMES. I don't give a darn.

L. ANNE. What is a darn?

JAMES. 'Tain't in the dictionary.

L. ANNE. Do you like my name? Anne Dromondy? It's old, you know. But it's funny, isn't it?

JAMES. [Indifferently] It'll pass.

L. ANNE. How many bottles have you got to pick out?

JAMES. Thirty-four.

L. ANNE. Are they all for the dinner, or for the people who come in to the Anti-Sweating Meeting afterwards?

JAMES. All for the dinner. They give the Sweated—tea.

L. ANNE. All for the dinner? They'll drink too much, won't they?

JAMES. We've got to be on the safe side.

L. ANNE. Will it be safer if they drink too much?

[JAMES pauses in the act of dusting a bottle to look at her, asif suspecting irony.]

[Sniffing] Isn't the smell delicious here-like the taste of cherries when they've gone bad—[She sniffs again] and mushrooms; and boot blacking.

JAMES. That's the escape of gas.

L. ANNE. Has the plumber's man been?


L. ANNE. Which one?

JAMES. Little blighter I've never seen before.

L. ANNE. What is a little blighter? Can I see?

JAMES. He's just gone.

L. ANNE. [Straying] Oh!... James, are these really the foundations?

JAMES. You might 'arf say so. There's a lot under a woppin' big house like this; you can't hardly get to the bottom of it.

L. ANNE. Everything's built on something, isn't it? And what's THAT built on?

JAMES. Ask another.

L. ANNE. If you wanted to blow it up, though, you'd have to begin from here, wouldn't you?

JAMES. Who'd want to blow it up?

L. ANNE. It would make a mess in Park Lane.

JAMES. I've seen a lot bigger messes than this'd make, out in the war.

L. ANNE. Oh! but that's years ago! Was it like this in the trenches, James?

JAMES. [Grimly] Ah! 'Cept that you couldn't lay your 'and on a bottle o' port when you wanted one.

L. ANNE. Do you, when you want it, here?

JAMES. [On guard] I only suggest it's possible.

L. ANNE. Perhaps Poulder does.

JAMES. [Icily] I say nothin' about that.

L. ANNE. Oh! Do say something!

JAMES. I'm ashamed of you, Miss Anne, pumpin' me!

L. ANNE. [Reproachfully] I'm not pumpin'! I only want to make Poulder jump when I ask him....