The Bakerís Dozen (A
Playlet) by Saki
Major Richard Dumbarton.
Scene—Deck of eastward-bound steamer. Major
Dumbarton seated on deck-chair, another chair by his side, with
the name “Mrs. Carewe” painted on it, a third near
(Enter R. Mrs. Carewe, seats herself leisurely in her
deck-chair, the Major affecting to ignore her presence.)
Major (turning suddenly): Emily! After all these
years! This is fate!
Em.: Fate! Nothing of the sort; it’s only
me. You men are always such fatalists. I deferred my
departure three whole weeks, in order to come out in the same
boat that I saw you were travelling by. I bribed the
steward to put out chairs side by side in an unfrequented corner, and I took enormous pains to be
looking particularly attractive this morning, and then you say
“This is fate.” I am looking particularly
attractive, am I not?
Maj.: More than ever. Time has only added a
ripeness to your charms.
Em.: I knew you’d put it exactly in those
words. The phraseology of love-making is awfully limited,
isn’t it? After all, the chief charm is in the fact
of being made love to. You are making love to me,
Maj.: Emily dearest, I had already begun making
advances, even before you sat down here. I also bribed the
steward to put our seats together in a secluded corner.
“You may consider it done, sir,” was his reply.
That was immediately after breakfast.
Em.: How like a man to have his breakfast first.
I attended to the seat business as soon as I left my cabin.
Maj.: Don’t be unreasonable. It was only at
breakfast that I discovered your blessed presence on the
boat. I paid violent and unusual attention to a flapper all
through the meal in order to make you jealous. She’s
probably in her cabin writing reams about me to a fellow-flapper
at this very moment.
Em.: You needn’t have taken all that
trouble to make me jealous, Dickie. You did that years ago,
when you married another woman.
Maj.: Well, you had gone and married another
man—a widower, too, at that.
Em.: Well, there’s no particular harm in marrying
a widower, I suppose. I’m ready to do it again, if I
meet a really nice one.
Maj.: Look here, Emily, it’s not fair to go at
that rate. You’re a lap ahead of me the whole
time. It’s my place to propose to you; all
you’ve got to do is to say “Yes.”
Em.: Well, I’ve practically said it already, so
we needn’t dawdle over that part.
Maj.: Oh, well—
(They look at each other, then suddenly embrace with
Maj.: We dead-heated it that time. (Suddenly
jumping to his feet) Oh, d--- I’d forgotten!
Em.: Forgotten what?
Maj.: The children. I ought to have told
you. Do you mind children?
Em.: Not in moderate quantities. How many have
Maj. (counting hurriedly on his fingers): Five.
Maj. (anxiously): Is that too many?
Em.: It’s rather a number. The worst of it
is, I’ve some myself.
Maj.: Eight in six years! Oh, Emily!
Em.: Only four were my own. The other four were
by my husband’s first marriage. Still, that
practically makes eight.
Maj.: And eight and five make thirteen. We
can’t start our married life with thirteen children; it
would be most unlucky. (Walks up and down in
agitation.) Some way must be found out of this. If we
could only bring them down to twelve. Thirteen is so
Em.: Isn’t there some way by which we could part
with one or two? Don’t the French want more children?
I’ve often seen articles about it in the Figaro.
Maj.: I fancy they want French children. Mine
don’t even speak French.
Em.: There’s always a chance that one of them
might turn out depraved and vicious, and then you could disown
him. I’ve heard of that being done.
Maj.: But, good gracious, you’ve got to educate him first. You can’t expect a boy
to be vicious till he’s been to a good school.
Em.: Why couldn’t he be naturally depraved?
Lots of boys are.
Maj.: Only when they inherit it from depraved
parents. You don’t suppose there’s any
depravity in me, do you?
Em.: It sometimes skips a generation, you know.
Weren’t any of your family bad?
Maj.: There was an aunt who was never spoken of.
Em.: There you are!
Maj.: But one can’t build too much on that.
In mid-Victorian days they labelled all sorts of things as
unspeakable that we should speak about quite tolerantly. I
dare say this particular aunt had only married a Unitarian, or
rode to hounds on both sides of her horse, or something of that
sort. Anyhow, we can’t wait indefinitely for one of
the children to take after a doubtfully depraved
great-aunt. Something else must be thought of.
Em.: Don’t people ever adopt children from other
Maj.: I’ve heard of it being done by childless
couples, and those sort of people—
Em.: Hush! Some one’s coming.
Who is it?
Maj.: Mrs. Paly-Paget.
Em.: The very person!
Maj.: What, to adopt a child? Hasn’t she
Em.: Only one miserable hen-baby.
Maj.: Let’s sound her on the subject.
(Enter Mrs. Paly-Paget, R.)
Ah, good morning. Mrs. Paly-Paget. I was just
wondering at breakfast where did we meet last?
Mrs. P.-P.: At the Criterion, wasn’t it?
(Drops into vacant chair.)
Maj.: At the Criterion, of course.
Mrs. P.-P.: I was dining with Lord and Lady
Slugford. Charming people, but so mean. They took us
afterwards to the Velodrome, to see some dancer interpreting
Mendelssohn’s “song without clothes.” We were
all packed up in a little box near the roof, and you may imagine
how hot it was. It was like a Turkish bath. And, of
course, one couldn’t see anything.
Maj.: Then it was not like a Turkish bath.
Mrs. P.-P.: Major!
Em.: We were just talking of you when you joined
Mrs. P.-P.: Really! Nothing very dreadful,
Em.: Oh dear, no! It’s too early on the
voyage for that sort of thing. We were feeling rather sorry
Mrs. P.-P.: Sorry for me? Whatever for?
Maj.: Your childless hearth and all that, you
know. No little pattering feet.
Mrs. P.-P.: Major! How dare you? I’ve
got my little girl, I suppose you know. Her feet can patter
as well as other children’s.
Maj.: Only one pair of feet.
Mrs. P.-P.: Certainly. My child isn’t a
centipede. Considering the way they move us about in those
horrid jungle stations, without a decent bungalow to set
one’s foot in, I consider I’ve got a hearthless
child, rather than a childless hearth. Thank you for your
sympathy all the same. I dare say it was well meant.
Impertinence often is.
Em.: Dear Mrs. Paly-Paget, we were only feeling sorry
for your sweet little girl when she grows older, you know.
No little brothers and sisters to play with.
Mrs. P.-P.: Mrs. Carewe, this conversation strikes me
as being indelicate, to say the least of it. I’ve
only been married two and a half years,
and my family is naturally a small one.
Maj.: Isn’t it rather an exaggeration to talk of
one little female child as a family? A family suggests
Mrs. P.-P.: Really, Major, you language is
extraordinary. I dare say I’ve only got a little
female child, as you call it, at present—
Maj.: Oh, it won’t change into a boy later on, if
that’s what you’re counting on. Take our word
for it; we’ve had so much more experience in these affairs
than you have. Once a female, always a female. Nature
is not infallible, but she always abides by her mistakes.
Mrs. P.-P. (rising): Major Dumbarton, these boats are
uncomfortably small, but I trust we shall find ample
accommodation for avoiding each other’s society during the
rest of the voyage. The same wish applies to you, Mrs.
(Exit Mrs. Paly-Paget, L.)
Maj.: What an unnatural mother! (Sinks into
Em.: I wouldn’t trust a child with any one who
had a temper like hers. Oh, Dickie, why did you go and have
such a large family? You always
said you wanted me to be the mother of your children.
Maj.: I wasn’t going to wait while you were
founding and fostering dynasties in other directions. Why
you couldn’t be content to have children of your own,
without collecting them like batches of postage stamps I
can’t think. The idea of marrying a man with four
Em.: Well, you’re asking me to marry one with
Maj.: Five! (Springing to his feet) Did I
Em.: You certainly said five.
Maj.: Oh, Emily, supposing I’ve miscounted
them! Listen now, keep count with me.
Richard—that’s after me, of course.
Maj.: Albert-Victor—that must have been in
Maj.: Maud. She’s called after—
Em.: Never mind who’s she’s called
Maj.: And Gerald.
Maj.: That’s the lot.
Em.: Are you sure?
Maj.: I swear that’s the lot. I must
have counted Albert-Victor as two.