Cynthia and Elise – an extract from Noël Coward’s unpublished play ‘Semi-Monde’

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.