" The ladies press each other's hands.
MRS. CURWEN and the OTHERS
Mrs. Curwen: "You are goodness in person, Mrs. Somers, to say so."
Campbell: "And I am magnanimity embodied. Let me introduce myself, Mrs. Curwen!" He bows, and Mrs. Curwen deeply courtesies.
Mrs. Curwen: "I should never have known you."
Campbell, melodramatically, to Mrs. Somers: "Tea, ho! for Mrs. Curwen--impenetrably disguised as kindness."
Mrs. Curwen: "What shall I say to him?"
Mrs. Somers, pouring the tea: "Anything you like, Mrs. Curwen. Aren't we to see Mr. Curwen to-day?"
Mrs. Curwen, taking her tea: "No, I'm his insufficient apology. He's detained at his office--business."
Campbell: "Then you see they don't all come, Mrs. Somers."
Mrs. Curwen: "All what?"
Campbell: "Oh, all the--heroes."
Mrs. Curwen: "Is that what he was going to say, Mrs. Somers?"
Mrs. Somers: "You never can tell what he's going to say."
Five O'Clock Tea is a delightful little farce in the form of a stage play and written by the prolific William Dean Howells (1837-1920), an American realist author and literary critic.
Five O'Clock Tea was written in 1894 and the interaction between the characters is going to be greatly misunderstood by those not familiar with the cultural and social mores of the time. In today's society when conversation is to the point and direct, the interaction between the widow, Mrs. Amy Somers and Willis Campbell will frustrate the modern reader as they dance all around the main question, "Will Amy accept Willis' proposal of marriage?"
Also, the conversation between all the guests is quite witty by the standards of the day. Amazingly, there are quite a number of insults and jibes flying about, but so subtle by today's standards, the modern reader may miss them.
Give this short play a try, but read it slowly. You will have to sip it, not gulp it.