In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

Short Cuts: Ubu Unchained

August Kleinzahler

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Surplus Sons

Clare Bucknell

Oliver Lee Jackson

Adam Shatz

The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

The Old Bailey

Francis FitzGibbon

Jiggers, Rods and Barleycorns

James Vincent

More Marple than Poirot

J. Robert Lennon

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

Blessed Isles

Mary Wellesley

At the Movies: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’

Michael Wood

Redeeming Winnie

Heribert Adam

Diary: A Friendly Fighting Force

Nick McDonell

Cynthia and Elise – an extract from Noël Coward’s unpublished play ‘Semi-Monde’Noël Coward
Close
Close
Vol. 2 No. 23 · 4 December 1980
Story

Cynthia and Elise – an extract from Noël Coward’s unpublished play ‘Semi-Monde’

620 words

A bar on the Rue Gilon.

ELISE: What do you want, dear?

CYNTHIA: I don’t care.

ELISE: Stingers are delicious.

CYNTHIA: Stingers?

ELISE: Yes, very potent – crème de menthe and brandy.

CYNTHIA: We shall be under the table.

ELISE: Never mind; we ought to celebrate really.

CYNTHIA: Darling. (She squeezes ELISE’s hand under the table.)

ELISE: Garçon.

WAITER: Madame?

ELISE: Two Stingers.

WAITER: Bien, madame.

He goes off.

ELISE: Does Inez know – d’you think?

CYNTHIA: I can’t help it if she does.

ELISE: But does she?

CYNTHIA: She suspects.

ELISE: I shouldn’t think that was anything new.

CYNTHIA: You’re right – it isn’t.

ELISE: I can’t imagine how you’ve stood it for so long.

CYNTHIA: Neither can I – now.

ELISE: Will she make a scene?

CYNTHIA: I expect so.

ELISE: You don’t seem to mind much.

CYNTHIA: I’m used to them.

ELISE: Poor Inez.

CYNTHIA: It serves her right really – she’s always so untrusting.

ELISE: (laughing) Darling – that’s funny!

CYNTHIA: (laughing too) Yes, I suppose it is rather.

ELISE: I feel a bit guilty.

CYNTHIA: Why?

ELISE: It was my fault in the first place.

CYNTHIA: No, it wasn’t. I saw you before you ever saw me.

ELISE: Where?

CYNTHIA: Phillipe’s about two years ago – dining with a red-haired woman.

ELISE: Nadia Balaishieff.

CYNTHIA: Where is she now?

ELISE: New York, I think. I really don’t know.

CYNTHIA: Tell me, Elise – are you as utterly ruthless as you pretend to be?

ELISE: I don’t pretend ever.

CYNTHIA: I’m glad.

ELISE: It’s funny you remembering me all that time – life’s made up of circles, isn’t it?

CYNTHIA: Perhaps.

ELISE: Are you going to tell Inez?

CYNTHIA: Yes, I suppose so.

ELISE: When?

CYNTHIA: I don’t know.

ELISE: Soon?

CYNTHIA: She’s bound to know – very soon indeed.

ELISE: Why don’t you get it over at once?

CYNTHIA: The opportunity will occur of its own accord.

ELISE: That’s rather cowardly of you.

CYNTHIA: She’s got to go to Dresden next month anyhow.

ELISE: Will you come to me then?

CYNTHIA: Yes.

ELISE: Next month – it’s a long way ahead.

The WAITER appears with their cocktails.

CYNTHIA: (sipping her drink) – This is delicious.

ELISE: They’re awfully easy to make.

INEZ enters wrapped in furs and looking extremely sullen – she sees them and approaches the table.

(affably) Good morning, Inez.

INEZ: (ignoring her to CYNTHIA) I want to speak to you.

ELISE: (half rising) Shall I go?

CYNTHIA: Certainly not – stay where you are.

INEZ: I should like you to go, please.

CYNTHIA: Don’t be a fool, Inez.

ELISE: This is very embarrassing.

INEZ: I’m surprised that you find it so – it’s a situation you must be well accustomed to.

ELISE: I shouldn’t raise your voice quite so much if I were you.

INEZ: Mind your own business.

CYNTHIA: Inez!

INEZ: You’ve lied to me.

CYNTHIA: You’re behaving fantastically.

INEZ: Will you go back to the flat sometime during the afternoon and pack your things.

CYNTHIA: (rising, furiously) How dare you!

ELISE: (pulling her down) Ssh, Cynthia.

INEZ: (softly) I hate you – I hate you – I hate you! She walks out.

CYNTHIA: (after a pause – shuddering) How horrible!

ELISE: Are you going after her?

CYNTHIA: No.

ELISE: Good! (She finishes her drink.)

CYNTHIA: How dare she talk to me like that – how dare she! (She breaks into tears.)

ELISE: Cynthia – for heaven’s sake – don’t be an idiot. (She presses her arm.)

CYNTHIA: Don’t touch me.

From Act One, Scene Three. ©Estate of the late Noël Coward.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences