Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Black Cat - A Play in Three Acts
Author: Todhunter, John, 1839-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Black Cat - A Play in Three Acts" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE BLACK CAT.
A PLAY IN THREE ACTS BY
JOHN TODHUNTER.
FIRST ACTED AT
THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE IN LONDON.


LONDON: HENRY AND CO. 93, ST. MARTIN'S LANE, W.C. 1895

_Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury._



Preface.


Mr. Grein has asked me to write a preface to THE BLACK CAT.
I cannot myself see much occasion for this. Why should an author be
called upon to make a speech before the curtain? Because, I presume,
people want to have something to talk about besides the play itself,
and an author must surely have "views." Well, it is a day of
views--and of talk.

THE BLACK CAT was produced at the Opera Comique on December
8th, 1893, at one of the Independent Theatre Society's performances.
It had a certain _succès d'estime_ before a special audience, for
whom, however, it was not written; and it has not been performed
since.

The critics were wonderfully kind. They actually praised the play;
some reluctantly, some with a reckless enthusiasm which quite
astonished me. I had expected a much less pleasant reception.

The main objection they made to the thing was that it had a tragic
ending, which they kindly suggested I had tacked on to my comedy, to
appeal to the morbid taste of an "Independent" audience.
Unfortunately I had done nothing of the kind. The play was conceived
before the Independent Theatre had come into existence. The end was
foreseen from the beginning; the tragedy being implicit in the
subject. The tragic motive lay deeper than the death of the heroine,
who might have been allowed to live, if that last symbolic pageantry
had not had its dramatic fitness. Given the characters and the
circumstances, the end is the absolutely right one.

Of course the circumstances might have been altered, and a sort of
reconciliation patched up between husband and wife. But this would
be a somewhat flat piece of cynicism, only justifiable on the ground
taken by the _Telegraph_, that modern actors cannot play, and ought
not to be expected to play, modern tragedy.

The conventional "happy ending" demanded by sentimental critics to
suit the taste of sentimental playgoers, the divided parents left
weeping in each other's arms over the recovered child, would also be
quite possible. But surely even a modern dramatist may for once be
allowed to preserve a grain of respect for nature and dramatic art?
This would be an outrage against both. It would not be decent
comedy, it would be mere burlesque, as sentimentality always is to
the judicious.

The only other alternative I see is the exodus of the wife, with or
without her child; or of the husband, with or without his mistress.
But this would be rank Ibsenism, and outrage British morality, which
would be still more dreadful. Only a "practical dramatist" could cut
the Gordian knot, and at the last moment introduce the erring Mrs.
Tremaine, still charming in the garb of a Sister of Mercy, to bring
down the curtain upon a tableau of Woman returning to her Duty, and
Man to his Morality. And I, alas! am not a "practical dramatist."

Still, if the play had been an experiment, I might have further
experimented with it, and rehandled its ending. But it was not in
its main lines an experiment. It was a thing seen and felt; and so
it must remain, in its printed form, at least--"a poor thing," it
may be, "but mine own!"

After the performance, came the managers, wanting to see the play,
and asking why I had not shown it to them before. Well, it never
occurred to me that any of them would seriously have considered the
production of a piece so far off the ordinary lines. They had not,
like the enterprising Director of the Independent Theatre,
undertaken the dreadful trade of educating the public. As a matter
of fact, they fought shy of a piece in which "the new hysteria" was
studied, and which ended badly, or at least sadly.

_A Comedy of Sighs_, produced at the Avenue last spring, _was_
really an experiment on the taste of the British public. I wished to
ascertain whether a play depending for its interest rather upon
character and dialogue than upon plot and sensational situations,
would be at first tolerated and afterwards enjoyed by an average
audience. Perhaps the experiment was too audaciously conceived, and
too carelessly conducted, by both author and management. It was
unfortunately vitiated by the presence of a prevalent bacillus, the
British bugbear, in the test-tubes.

The new play was received with inarticulate cries of horror by the
critics. The _Telegraph_ and the _World_, which had presided in
auspicious opposition over the birth of THE BLACK CAT, now
hung terrific in unnatural conjunction in the horoscope of _A Comedy
of Sighs_. Here was Ibsenism again--nay, worse than Ibsenism,
Dodoism, Sarah-Grandism, Keynotism, rampant on the English stage!
For had I not most impudently exhibited _The Modern Woman_ upon it?
And although there was no tragedy this time, but beautiful
reconciliation, and return to her Duty at the fall of the curtain,
was she not there, the Abomination of Desolation?

Now we know that the Modern Woman ought not to exist anywhere,
therefore she does _not_ exist, therefore she must be stamped out.
Mrs. Grundy and others have already begun the good work, and have
been diligently stamping her out ever since; with such success that
we may hope she will disappear, with infidelity, Ibsenism, the
struggle for existence, and other such objectionable things.
Meanwhile she has made her _début_, and may cry: _J'y suis, j'y
reste!_

The _Comedy of Sighs_ was slain, waving its tiny flag in the van of
a forlorn hope; and over its dead body "Arms and the Man," its
machine-guns volleying pellets of satire, marched to victory.

I do not solace myself with that belief, so comforting to the
unsuccessful, that a play fails merely because of its goodness, or
succeeds merely because it is bad; yet it is evident, I think, that
other things besides its merits or demerits as a piece of dramatic
writing may turn the scale for or against it. _A Comedy of Sighs_,
with its somewhat "impressionist" sketches of character, and
aberrations from the ordinary type of a "well-made play," proved to
be "too lightly tempered for so loud a wind" as blows upon British
bugbears--"Modern Women," and the like.

And now may I say a few words with regard to some misconceptions on
the part of the critics as to my aim in writing these two plays?
One of them, an enthusiast himself, did me the honour to hail me
as a brother enthusiast, albeit an erring one. Possibly I am. But
I have not been trying to educate the public, which is being educated
past its old standards day by day, without such philanthropic effort
on my part. I have not been trying to write "literary" plays. I
quite agree with those who think that a play must be a play first.
If it be "literature" afterwards, that is an added grace which
gives it a permanent value. If it be not, still it may be a good
play in its day and generation. I have not, for the sake of being
unconventional, deliberately set myself to violate all the received
canons of dramatic art, as practised by the "practical dramatist,"
thus making a convention of unconventionality. Unconventional art is
impossible, and the drama, like other arts, has its conventions. But
conventions change, and new ones are evolved, as new problems in art
and other things--even morality itself--come in with each new tide
of the human imagination. The "well-made play" of the day before
yesterday is not a canon for all time, even for the most
conservative playgoer.

No, what I have been trying to do is simply to write a good play. Ah
yes! But what _is_ a good play? The enthusiastic critic has a ready
answer: "The play that succeeds, that has a long run, that has money
in it!" I accept the answer for what it is worth. This potentiality
of money is, like "literature," an added grace: and it certainly,
in a sense, marks the survival of the fittest. But there are other
standards in the great workshop of the artist, Nature. Even the
plant or play that lives but a short time may cast its seed into the
soil, or imagination, of its day, and, like Banquo, beget a royal
race, though not itself a king.

Now, how does such a play as THE BLACK CAT differ from
those we see succeeding on the stage every day? Really not so very
much, after all. It merely accentuates a growing tendency in the
plays of the period to get more of the stuff of life, our every-day
human life, typically upon the stage; with less of the traditional
theatrical-academic element. The "well-made play" has itself
undergone evolution since the days when it was an aphorism that not
what is said but what is done on the stage is the essential thing.
This of course is at once true and false, like every other truism.
Without action there can be no play; and a play may be made fairly
intelligible without a single spoken word, just as a scene from
history or fiction may be quite recognisably depicted in a few
symbolic lines, dots, and dashes, though no single human figure be
decently drawn.

We must not, however, forget that action itself is language. What is
called the action of a play is simply a story told by the movements
of the players. But when we see a man stabbed, or a woman kissed,
our curiosity is excited. We want to know something more about the
people whose actions we see. This, indeed, may be roughly told by
gesture and facial expression, which are themselves language; but,
finally, to understand more than the barest outline of the story, we
are forced to demand words. And the more we are interested in human
nature the more we want to understand the thoughts, emotions,
motives, characters, of the personages in action before us. Hence by
gradual steps have come our latest attempts at studies of complex
characters, in their struggle to solve the problems of life; or what
are objected to as "problem plays." Well, why object? Every play,
from _Charley's Aunt_ to _Hamlet_, is a problem play. It is merely a
matter of degree. Every play deals with the struggle of men and
women to solve some problem of life, great or small: to outwit evil
fortune. It may be merely to persuade a couple of pretty girls to
stay to luncheon in your college rooms, when their chaperon has not
turned up. It may be something more important.

The more interest the public and the dramatist take in human
nature--that is to say, the better developed they are as regards
dramatic sympathy--the more, rich, vivid, and subtle will be the
play of character and passion, in the drama demanded and produced.
In a word, the less wooden-pated and wooden-hearted they become, the
less mechanical and commonplace will their drama be.

We are slowly emerging from the puppet-show conception of drama. Our
dramatists are beginning to do more than refurbish the old puppets,
and move them about the stage according to the rules of the
"well-made" play. They are not content, like their predecessors, to
leave their characters quite at the mercy of the actor who, in
"creating" them, gave them whatever small resemblance to humanity
they may have possessed. And as the play gains in vitality, the
playwright begins to feel the absolute necessity for writing decent
dialogue--not mere stage dialect that may be scamped and ranted _ad
libitum_ by the "star" to suit his own taste, or want of it, but
real dialogue, which, while ideally reflecting the colloquial
language of the day, taxes the intelligence and feeling of the actor
to deliver properly.

This means real progress; for the dialogue is the very life of the
play. It alone can bring out the essential import of the situation,
the relation of character to character, at any given moment. An
action, an incident, may have a thousand different shades of meaning
or motive. Language, tone, and gesture give it its precise value.
Plot and situations are at best but the skeleton; character and
emotion are the flesh and blood. The treatment is everything.

We still want more of life, of the vital movements of our own time,
upon the stage; and we shall get it by degrees. Sentimental
melodrama, with its male puppet, who is hero or villain, its female
puppet, who is angel or devil, may still continue to flourish among
us; for it still satisfies the natural craving for romance,
ideality, which the drama is bound to supply. But these things
belong to a decaying phase of romance; and our so-called realism is
but the first wave of a new romantic movement, on the stage as
elsewhere. For when the old ideals become decrepit, we must go back
to nature to get the stuff wherewith to make new ones.

As our dramatists advance with the times, people begin to go to the
theatre to see plays, and not merely an actor in a part. The
"well-made play," which was a piece of mechanical contrivance into
which the puppets were ingeniously fitted, may some day develop into
a work of art--a thing born rather than made--growing up like a
flower in the imagination of the dramatist.

When that day comes, the actor, who used to "create" the part, will
have to be content to let the part create him. The play will make
the actor, not the actor the play; to the great benefit of both play
and actor.

But why be so serious over an art whose end is only to amuse? To
amuse? Yes; but we are not all equally amused by the same things.
There may be forms of humour which tickle some people more
exquisitely than even that magnificent making of tea in an old
gentleman's hat, which convulses the _Charley's Aunt_ audience. And
if amusement be the object of the drama, we must take the word in an
extended sense. I should myself roughly define a good play as one
that, when adequately performed, can hold the attention of an
unprejudiced audience from beginning to end, whether it amuses or
merely interests them. It does not follow that because it may shock,
or even bore, some worthy people it is a bad play. Even farcical
comedy bores some people, with whom I cannot sympathise.

And now, if I have been rather hard upon the "well-made play," it
must not be assumed that it is because I do not value construction.
I do value it. But it should be vital, not academic, organic, not
mechanical. Still, even mechanical construction is better than none
at all. A play without plot is invertebrate, without bones. It is
at his peril that a dramatist departs from accepted rules, even
those respecting "strong" curtains and "strong" exits, though in
certain cases weak curtains and weak exits may be more really
dramatic. Then, valuable as dialogue is, it may be redundant, and
make a play "flabby." The actor's rule, that all talk that does not
carry on the action is bad, is worthy of all due respect. "You
literary fellows want to say everything twice over," was the shrewd
criticism of a stage-manager in a certain case. But an actor is
often so absorbed in his own part that he does not easily estimate
the bearing of any given speech, even his own, upon the whole play.
"Cuts" at rehearsal are not unfrequently found to be too hastily
made. Then, what is the action? Not merely the external incidents,
but the shifting phases of thought, emotion, character, in the
_dramatis personæ_. It is these that give the incidents their value,
and so give dramatic interest to the plot, or story. The dialogue
and the incidents are but two phases of the presentment of the
story. The action may be rapid or slow, direct, or with episodes.
All depends upon the treatment; and the play that one audience finds
detestable may delight another.

If THE BLACK CAT ever again come to the ordeal of the
footlights, I can only hope that it may find an audience as
sympathetic as that of the Independent Theatre.


    OPERA COMIQUE,
    STRAND, W.C.

    THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE.
    FOUNDER AND SOLE DIRECTOR, J.T. GREIN.

    Third Season, Fifteenth Performance.

    _FRIDAY, 8th December, 1893,_

    _THE BLACK CAT,_

    A PLAY IN THREE ACTS, BY

    JOHN TODHUNTER.


    DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.

    _Arthur Denham_      Mr. BUCKLAW.
    _Fitzgerald_         Mr. NEVILLE DOONE.
    _Cyril Vane_         Mr. ORLANDO BARNETT.
    _Constance Denham_   Miss HALL CAINE.
    _Blanche Tremaine_   Miss MARY KEEGAN.
    _Miss Macfarlane_    Miss GLADYS HOMFREY.
    _Undine_             Miss DORA BARTON.
    _Jane_               Miss FORRESTER.


    _The Play produced under the direction of_
    Mr. H. DE LANGE.


The ACTION of the play takes place in Denham's Studio in
London, at the PRESENT DAY.



The Black Cat.



Act I.

_Scene: Denham's Studio. Large highlight window in sloping roof at
back. Under it, in back wall, door to landing. L of the
door the corner is curtained off for model's dressing-room.
R of door a large Spanish leather folding screen, which
runs on castors, shuts off from the door the other corner, in which
is a "throne," pushed up against the wall. Above the "throne" hangs
a large square mirror in a carved black frame. In front of the
"throne" is a light couch of Greek form, without back._

_Fireplace, with chimney-breasts panelled in old oak, and high
overmantel, in which are shelves and cupboards, L._

_Against R wall an old oak cabinet, with carved cornice,
and inlaid panelled doors. Close beside it stands on a pedestal a
bust of Demeter. Near the cabinet, halfway up stage R C,
an easel, on which is seen the back of a large picture._

_Beyond the fireplace, and at right angles to it, a large sofa, or
lounge, with square ends and back, broad low seat, loose cushions,
and valance. In front of the fireplace an armchair, with a book face
downward on one arm._

_The walls of the studio are distempered in greenish-blue, the
curtains of the model's dressing-room are in rich yellow plush or
brocade, the couch and sofa covered in greenish-yellow stuffs._

_Various artistic properties, tapestries, embroideries, etc.,
hanging up, or thrown carelessly over Chippendale chairs and the
screen._

_Canvases leaning against the walls, on which hang designs and
figure-studies in chalk and charcoal, with landscape-studies in oil
and watercolour, nailed up without much attempt at arrangement._

_Near the front, just R of the armchair, an oblong carved
oak table, with materials for wood-drawing, paint-box, water in a
tumbler, etc., is set end on to the footlights._

_At the upper end of this table Undine is discovered, as she sits
with a slate and arithmetic book before her, her elbows on the
table, her head supported on both hands, holding a slate pencil from
which a bit of sponge dangles by a string._


Undine.

(_pouting_) I hate these old sums! Mother's always making me do sums
in the holidays. It isn't fair. Seven times three is--what's father
reading? (_Rises, and takes up the book._) That's French, I know.
Father's always reading French. G.Y.P. Gyp? I wonder what it's
about. (_Puts the book down, sits, yawns, and takes up the pencil._)
Seven times three is--twenty-one. Put down one and carry two. Oh,
but it's pence and shillings. I can't do pence and shillings!
(_Throws down the pencil; it falls off the table._) Horrid old
things! they're always coming wrong. (_She rises lazily, and stoops
to pick up the pencil, then looks round her, stretching her arms and
yawning._) I say, what fun to make a libation to Demeter! I will!
Let's see. I wish I had mother's Greek dress. I must have one of
father's rags. This'll do. (_Drapes herself in a piece of
embroidery, runs up stage, jumps on "throne," and poses before the
mirror._) It's awfully jolly dressing up. But I have no wine. Oh, I
know--I'll take some of father's painting water--though it's rather
black-and-whity. (_Takes up the glass, and approaches the statue._)
Hail, Demeter! I have no wine for you, but here's some water.
(_Makes libation._) I suppose I should pray for something now. Oh, I
do wish you'd stop mother persecuting me in the holidays like this!
But you can't, you dear old thing. Father says the old gods are
dead. I wish they'd come alive again. (_Crosses to table._)

(_Enter Denham. Undine drops embroidery, kicks it under the table,
and sits._)

Denham.

Well, imp, what's up now? (_He comes to the fireplace, and takes a
pipe from the rack._) Rags again! I shall have to lock them up, I
see. (_Takes up the embroidery, and throws it over a chair._) Get to
your work at once! Sit up straight. (_He crosses L, seats
himself in the armchair, lights his pipe, and takes up the book,
Undine resumes her crouched position at the table._)

Undine.

(_pouting_) It's very hard to have to do sums in the holidays.

Denham.

(_crosses to table behind Undine_) You are behind your class, you
know. (_Looking over her._) Well, seven times three?

Undine.

Let's see--twenty-one?

Denham.

And how many shillings in that?

Undine.

I suppose two shillings and one penny.

Denham.

Nonsense! Don't suppose anything so un-English. How many pence in a
shilling?

Undine.

Twelve--I suppose.

Denham.

Well, twelve from twenty-one leaves--

(_Undine counts on her fingers_)

How many?

Undine.

About eight, I think.

Denham.

Try again, stupid!

Undine.

But, father, I think there _ought_ to be ten pence in a shilling.

Denham.

Why _ought_ there, you monkey?

Undine.

Oh, because then, don't you see, you could count on your fingers all
right, but now there are too many pennies for your fingers, and so
you never can tell how many are over.

Denham.

Very convenient. But come now, twelve from twenty-one?

Undine.

(_counting again_) Nine?

Denham.

(_resuming his book_) All right then. Down with it in the pence
column, and get on.

Undine.

(_kissing him_) Oh, you jolly old father! I should like to do my
sums with you always.

Denham.

Heaven forbid! Get on! Get on! (_Crosses to chair L._)

(_A pause._)

Undine.

Father! _Father!_

Denham.

H'm!

Undine.

I say, FATHER!

Denham.

Do let me read in peace.

Undine.

But, father--

Denham.

Well?

Undine.

Do the Greeks worship Demeter now?

Denham.

No, not now.

Undine.

The old Greeks were the cleverest people that ever lived, and they
had the nicest gods. Don't you wish there were goddesses now,
father? (_Rises, and leans against table._)

Denham.

(_absently_) Yes, of course.

Undine.

Goddesses sometimes fell in love with _people_, father--didn't they?

Denham.

People who didn't happen to be gods? It did occur sometimes, they
say.

Undine.

And one might fall in love with you, father. That _would_ be fun!

Denham.

That would be awful. But do stop this chatter, and get on.

Undine.

She'd give _me_ all sorts of jolly things.

(_A pause._)

_Mrs. Denham_ (_outside the door_) In a quarter of an hour will do,
Jane.

Denham.

Here comes mother!

Undine.

Oh, bother these horrid old sums! (_Flops into chair._)

(_Enter Mrs. Denham, with flowers. She comes to the cabinet to place
them in a vase, and sees the water spilt._)

Mrs. Denham.

What's all this mess? What have you been doing, miss? (_Crosses to
Undine._)

Undine.

(_rising and standing before her_) Please, mother, I only made a
libation.

Mrs. Denham.

You naughty, _wicked_ girl! Oh, this wicked, _wicked_ waste of time!

Undine.

(_whimpering_) But, mother, I only--

Mrs. Denham.

Hold your tongue, miss. Don't attempt to make excuses. (_Steps back,
looks at Undine._) And just _look_ at that pinafore, that was put on
you clean this morning, and now it is all over dirt! You have been
climbing trees again.

Undine.

(_whimpering_) I wasn't climbing trees. I only climbed _one_ tree.

Denham.

(_aside_) Well parried!

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, these mean prevarications! If I take my eye off you for a
moment, you disobey me. But you _shall_ obey me--you shall obey!
(_Shakes the child; she screams._)

Denham.

Dear! Dear!

Mrs. Denham.

How dare you scream at me like that?

Undine.

(_crying_) But you're hurting me.

Mrs. Denham.

Bear it then, bear it _decently_, without screaming like a beast.
Have you done your sums?

Undine.

Not all.

Mrs. Denham.

(_looking at sums_) Only one done, and that not right. Oh, this
_wicked_ waste of time! You are killing me and killing yourself.
When you waste your time you are wasting your life. Why _will_ you
waste your time?

Undine.

I don't know.

Mrs. Denham.

Then you must be taught to know.

Denham.

May I say a word? I am chiefly to blame. We were talking about the
Greek gods.

Mrs. Denham.

Oh well, if _you_ encourage her in her laziness, I can do nothing.
(_Crosses L as she speaks, then turns suddenly._) Get out
of my sight, miss! It is time for you to go out now. Go away, and
take off that pinafore. You are a disgrace to your father and to me.
(_Gives her a final shake. Undine runs out screaming._) Oh dear! Oh
dear! There! Listen to that precious daughter of yours, filling the
house with her yells. (_She presses her hands over her ears._) Oh,
that child will be the death of me! (_Throws herself down upon the
couch._) She ought never to have been born. Her existence is a
mistake and a curse.

Denham.

(_sighing_) Yes, we are all mistakes from the ideal standpoint.

Mrs. Denham.

It makes me mad to think that I--I--should have brought such an
idiot into the world!

Denham.

Yes, you are an over-populated woman, dear. (_Rises up to her._) The
modern woman is very easily over-populated.

Mrs. Denham.

You can joke about it, of course. To me it is a serious calamity.
(_Weeps._)

Denham.

Well, dear, at least we have not repeated our initial mistake.
(_Crosses to picture._)

Mrs. Denham.

Do you regret it?

Denham.

God forbid! I only regret that our relations were not always
strictly platonic. That is the highest practical ideal of the
age--modern woman being what she is.

Mrs. Denham.

Yes, I know you despise me in your heart. You are always sneering at
me as a modern woman. What do you mean?

Denham.

(_crosses to her_) I agree with Michelet: "_La femme est une
malade._"

Mrs. Denham.

And what is man?

Denham.

(_sits in armchair_) Oh, a sick creature too--that's the worst of
it. The world spirit is moulting, and we're all sick together.

Mrs. Denham.

Phrases, phrases, always phrases! When I am most in earnest you put
me off with a jest.

Denham.

"If I laugh at any mortal thing, 'tis that I may not weep."

Mrs. Denham.

(_sobbing_) I know I have disappointed you; I know you are not
satisfied with me; I have not made you happy.

Denham.

(_starting up and pacing_) Happy? Give me life! Give me life!
Happiness can take care of itself. But there is no use in crying
"Give, give!" like the horse-leech. If we want impossibilities we
must achieve them. (_Crosses R._)

Mrs. Denham.

You want incompatible things.

Denham.

Of course I do. So do you. Your reason and your instincts are at
war, just like mine. That is our sickness.

Mrs. Denham.

How at war?

Denham.

Your reason tells you that woman is independent, self-sufficing.
Your instincts cry feebly for passion, that savage outlaw which
still lies in wait for the modern woman, to carry her whither she
would not. Hence your lapse from strict agnostic morality into
matrimony, bondage, subjection, and the mistake, Undine.

Mrs. Denham.

That child has come between us. I think children often do.

Denham.

Is that one of the _necessary_ horrors of matrimony?

Mrs. Denham.

Heaven help me, that girl drives me mad!

Denham.

Nerves, nerves, as usual. She irritates you, and you irritate her.
The mere presence of a child sets your teeth on edge. (_Crosses, and
sits R of table._)

Mrs. Denham.

My brain has been torn to pieces by children all my life. I was a
slave to my own brothers and sisters, because I was the eldest.

Denham.

That was very hard, I know; but your own child is different, surely?

Mrs. Denham.

You seem to think I don't love her?

Denham.

Not wisely, but too well--as you love me.

(_Re-enter Undine, dressed to go out, and stands just inside door.
Mrs. Denham rises, and Undine comes slowly towards her._)

Mrs. Denham.

Well, dear, have you washed your hands and face?

Undine.

Yes, mother.

Mrs. Denham.

That's my nice clean little girl. (_She embraces and kisses her._)
Why does my little girl make mother angry?

Undine.

I don't know.

Mrs. Denham.

Well, kiss father, and go out while it is fine and bright.

Undine.

(_coming behind Denham, and pulling back his head_) Father, I'm
going to bring you some buttercups, to put on your table and make
your work look pretty.

Denham.

Thanks, my wee one. And bring me some sunshine in their cups, like a
good little fairy.

Undine.

I will.

Denham.

(_kissing her_) Good-bye, and now run away.

Undine.

I'll bring you some speedwell, mother.

Mrs. Denham.

(_kissing her_) Thanks, my little Undine.

(_Undine goes out, then peeps back through the door._)

Undine.

And I'll make a daisy chain for Demeter.

Mrs. Denham.

That _will_ be pretty. Good-bye.

Undine.

Good-bye. (_Kisses her hand to Denham._)

(_Exit Undine._)

Denham.

Well, it isn't such a very wicked idiot, after all. Now is it?
(_Crosses L, and sits._)

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, she is good enough when she hasn't to do what she dislikes.
(_Crosses back of table._)

Denham.

Children _are_ shockingly human, just like you and me. I wish I
could cure you of this intense irritability, Constance.

Mrs. Denham.

You have often lost your own temper with her when you have tried to
teach her anything--often enough. (_Sits L of table._)

Denham.

Yes, it was sheer stupidity. It is a bad educational method. It
involves loss of dignity on both sides. Be as stern as you please,
but not furious.

Mrs. Denham.

Furious! (_Rises_) Thank you for the word. (_Crosses R._) I
know I am making myself hated by her and despised by you; but I must
do my duty as best I can in the teeth of your cruel criticism. I
_must_ think of her future.

Denham.

(_rises, and lights pipe_) Oh, damn the future--and the past too!
You take life too seriously. You are a born self-tormentor, too full
of anxiety to live. You have the worst form of the great malady of
the age, conscience in the agnostic form. You suffer from the new
hysteria.

Mrs. Denham.

I am not hysterical.

Denham.

Pardon me, we are all hysterical nowadays. We have lost our
self-possession. You don't kick on the hearthrug and that kind of
thing. A bucket of cold water is not "indicated" in your case.

Mrs. Denham.

It seems to me you are always throwing buckets of cold water over
me.

Denham.

For heaven's sake, go and reform the world! That is the modern
woman's true vocation--and cure. Denounce our sensuality and
selfishness from the platform, as well as from the hearth. They are
the defects of our qualities. If you don't like us as we are, mould
us.

Mrs. Denham.

(_approaching_) That is what we are trying to do.

Denham.

Yes. You have not mastered your material yet. Your technique is a
little crude. (_He resumes his seat in the armchair, and puts down
his pipe as she comes._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_kneeling beside him_) Why will you push me away from you, Arthur?
You know I only want to be your wife. You are always implying that
our marriage is a failure. Why not say it directly?

Denham.

We are creatures of the transition. We have not quite found the new
centre of equilibrium. Marriage, except as a symbol, is either a
superfluous bond or the consecration of a mistake. You have taught
us this great truth, anyhow.

Mrs. Denham.

Why did you get married then?

Denham.

Practically it is still a necessary evil, like war and politics. The
brute world, howling, forces us into bonds. It is our business to
adjust them so as to gall us as little as possible.

Mrs. Denham.

(_starting up, crosses R_) If the bonds gall you so much,
break them. Don't spend your breath in this puling talk. If you are
tired of me, go! As far as I am concerned, I set you free. Find some
other woman, if you can, who will be more satisfactory.

Denham.

(_rising, and standing with his back to the fire_) But why one other
woman? Why not extend my freedom to two?

Mrs. Denham.

Two or a dozen, what is it to me?

Denham.

A dozen, Constance? Do you take me for a Turk? I have often told you
every man should be content with three wives. More than this verges
upon polygamy. But blessed is he who finds the three in one!

Mrs. Denham.

Indeed. Have you found that in Gyp?

Denham.

No, not directly; though Gyp fills me with thoughts that do often
lie too deep for tears. Her cynicism is always illuminating.

Mrs. Denham.

I wish I could say the same of yours. But why three, and not a
dozen?

Denham.

There are only three possible women in the world, the Divine
Mistress--

Mrs. Denham.

And the "Divine Matron"--I have heard this sickening cant before.

Denham.

Cant? Philosophy! But don't forget the third, The Divine
Virgin--Womanhood fashioning itself independently after its own
ideal. She has driven us, naked and ashamed, into the desert of
disillusion.

Mrs. Denham.

Truth, truth--let me have truth, though it kill me! Men are cowards;
they dare not face the naked facts of life.

Denham.

Men are poets. Facts are but the crude stuff of life. Imagination is
all.

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, if you want romance, had you not better go and look for your
Divine Mistress? Perhaps you may find some ugly truths in her too.

Denham.

(_laughing_) One woman is surely enough for the purposes of
disillusion. It is too late to begin sowing one's wild oats. There
are no dangerous women about. If there were one healthy women in the
world--(_Crosses to picture._)

Mrs. Denham.

Well?

Denham.

You might have some cause for jealousy.

Mrs. Denham.

You would quit the wreck?

Denham.

If it were really a wreck--perhaps. But why should it be? (_He takes
her in his arms, and kisses her._) For Heaven's sake, cease to
wallow in the mud of pessimism! Have faith in yourself and
Nature--or at least Human-nature.

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, if I could, if I could! (_A knock at the door._)

Denham.

Come in.

(_Enter Jane with a telegram, which she hands to Mrs. Denham._)

Jane.

Please, m'm, a telegram; the boy's waiting!

(_Mrs. Denham tears open the telegram._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_pointing to spilt water_) Just wipe up that water, Jane, and push
back this table. (_Jane wipes up water, moves table against
R, wall, and takes away Undine's slate and book._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_reads_) "In town; will call this afternoon."

Jane.

Is there any answer, m'm?

Mrs. Denham.

No answer. (_Exit Jane._) Arthur! this is from Blanche Tremaine. She
is in town, and comes here to-day. Let me see; it must be more than
ten years since we've met--before we were married.

Denham.

Blanche Tremaine? Who is she?

Mrs. Denham.

My old class-fellow at our college in town. She played in our Greek
play. She was just seventeen then.

Denham.

Younger than you?

Mrs. Denham.

Two years. Yes; she must be about eight-and-twenty now. You know I
told you about her. She married a Mr. Overton.

Denham.

Overton? I seem to have heard the name. Didn't she run away from her
husband, or something?

Mrs. Denham.

Yes, poor thing! He led her an awful life.

Denham.

Oh, and then she married the co-respondent! I remember.

Mrs. Denham.

What an interest you take in these scandals!

Denham.

Of course, dear. A scandal is a typical case of the great social
disease.

Mrs. Denham.

She promised to be handsome.

Denham.

I wonder whether this woman is a weak fool, or a bold experimenter
in the art of life?

Mrs. Denham.

How so?

Denham.

Why, having had the courage to come down from the cross, should she
go back to it again?

Mrs. Denham.

What cross?

Denham.

What is woman's cross from the foundation of the world but man, man?
The cords are the bonds of marriage, her children are the nails, and
love her crown of thorns.

Mrs. Denham.

Very poetical, no doubt.

Denham.

Bitter truth, as you are never tired of demonstrating to me. Do you
think the unfortunate cross has not had his share of the torment?

Mrs. Denham.

Too light a share for his tyranny, cruelty, and, above all, his
_mean_ hypocrisy. May he burn in some spiritual fire for that!

Denham.

So he does; it runs in his veins. Well, something better may come of
it, some day. By-the-bye, I expect some men to see my picture.

Mrs. Denham.

Brynhild?

Denham.

Yes, such as she is. (_Crosses_ R, _and looks at the
picture._) Another failure, of course. (_Sighs._)

Mrs. Denham.

Why will you always speak of your work so despondently?

Denham.

Because I want to do better. Vanity, I suppose. (_He comes back
towards the fireplace._)

Mrs. Denham.

Just move out this sofa. (_They move sofa to_ C.) Who are
coming?

Denham.

Oh, Fitzgerald, of course, and possibly Cyril Vane.

Mrs. Denham. That little creature? You know I detest him.

Denham.

Why _little_? Do you estimate men of genius by the pound?

Mrs. Denham.

Men of genius, indeed? The man has a second-hand intellect.

Denham.

Really, you sometimes say a good thing--that is, an ill-natured one.
How you hate culture! (_Enter Jane, showing in Fitzgerald._)

Jane.

Mr. Fitzgerald! (_Exit Jane._)

(_Fitzgerald saunters up to Mrs. Denham, stops suddenly, straddling
his legs, and shakes hands loosely and absently._)

Fitzgerald.

Lovely day, eh? Have you heard the news?

Denham.

We never have heard the news.

Mrs. Denham.

You are the only gossip who comes our way.

Fitzgerald.

(_good-humouredly_) Gossip, eh? Oh, you needn't think I mind being
denounced from your domestic altar, Mrs. Denham! I know you're dying
to hear the last bit of scandal.

Mrs. Denham.

Take pity on me then.

Fitzgerald.

I know this'll interest you awfully. Pottleton Smith's wife's run
away at last. Now wasn't I right? (_Looks smilingly at both for
sympathy._) I always said she would, you know.

Mrs. Denham.

Poor silly little flirt! I'm very sorry.

Fitzgerald.

(_rubbing his hands_) I'm--I'm awfully glad. It'll be the saving of
poor Smith. Though he's awfully cut up about it, of course.

Denham.

Did she run away with--any one in particular?

Fitzgerald.

A Captain Crosby or Cosby, or something. He's in some horse
regiment, the cavalry or something. He's--he's an awful scamp, a
blackleg and all that, but an awfully nice fellow. I met him at
Smith's the other day, and they--they--they were carrying on all the
time under poor little Smith's nose. (_He saunters absently to the
easel and looks at the picture._) The picture--eh? It's--it's
awfully good, you know--an advance on your last.

(_During this speech Denham also goes to the easel._)

Mrs. Denham.

Don't you think so?

Fitzgerald.

Yes, it's an advance, decidedly. What is it, eh? I forget.

Denham.

Brynhild.

Fitzgerald.

Oh, Brynhild! The horse is awfully good, you know--savage and that;
but the woman isn't ugly enough--at least, you haven't quite got the
right kind of ugliness, eh?

Denham.

Unfortunately I meant her to be beautiful.

Mrs. Denham.

(_smiling_) And I gave him some sittings, Mr. Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald.

(_with a genial laugh_) Did you, now? Well, he tried to improve on
you--that was it. (_With great conviction to Denham._) But--but
surely you're wrong in that. Brynhild was an ugly, passionate woman.
The passionate woman is always ugly. The passionate woman has
character, and character is always ugly.

Denham.

Yes, I know what you mean. But I thought--no, the thing's a failure.
Don't bother about it, but come and sit down. Have a cigarette?
(_Gives him a cigarette._)

Fitzgerald.

Thanks.

(_They sit down, Fitzgerald lights cigarette, and puffs solemnly
before he speaks again._)

Mrs. Smith (_puff_), you didn't know her well? Did you, Mrs. Denham?
(_Puff._)

Mrs. Denham.

No--not well.

Fitzgerald.

You know I painted her portrait (_looks at lighted end of
cigarette_), portrait (_leans back in his chair, replaces cigarette
in his mouth, and puffs again. Then putting his hands behind his
head, he stretches out his legs, and looks at the ceiling_), so I
knew her like my own sister. (_Puff._) She was a pretty little devil
(_puff_), awfully aristocratic, mind you, vulgar, of course,
an'--an' poor refined little Smith just _didn't_ drop his H's.
(_Puffs, chuckles to himself._) Yes, she was a born jade. (_Puff._)
I--I liked her awfully. (_Puff._)

Mrs. Denham.

You seem to like every one awfully.

Fitzgerald.

(_with fervour, sitting up in his chair, and flinging away his
half-smoked cigarette_) So I do. I enjoy the Human Comedy. Now you
don't enjoy the Human Comedy a bit.

Mrs. Denham.

It comes too near me.

Denham.

A cab at the door; this may be Vane. (_Crosses_ L _to
fire._)

Fitzgerald.

Vane? That's splendid! He cuts me dead now, because I reviewed his
last Society Verses, with some other men's, under the head, "Our
Minor Poets," in _Free Lances_.

Denham.

Oh, an editorial? Serves you right, you Jack-of-all-trades. How if
some brother Minor Critic were to class you as a Minor Painter?

Fitzgerald.

For Heaven's sake introduce me to him.

(_Enter Jane, showing in Vane._)

Jane.

Mr. Vane!

(_Exit Jane._)

(_Vane shakes hands languidly with Mrs. Denham and Denham, and
stares at Fitzgerald, who smiles genially._)

Denham.

Ah, Vane, glad to see you.

Vane.

How d'ye do? Ah, Mrs. Denham, that tea-gown is charming.

Mrs. Denham.

Flattery from you, Mr. Vane, is more than flattery. Pray excuse me
for a moment.

(_Exit Mrs. Denham._)

Denham.

Fitzgerald, you know Vane, of course?

Fitzgerald.

Upon my word I scarcely know. _Do_ we know each other, Vane?

Vane.

My dear Fitzgerald, when will you learn that you can never know me?
(_Crosses to picture._)

Fitzgerald.

Then, my dear Vane, I must learn to be resigned. (_Fitzgerald turns
away, and takes up Gyp. Vane looks at the picture._) What's this?
"Autour du Marriage," eh? (_Opens book, and reads, then lies on
sofa, still reading._)

Vane.

Ah, the Brynhild! My dear Denham, why _will_ you do such things?

Denham.

What have I done?

Vane.

Not what you have tried to do--to paint an epic picture.

Denham.

Is that wrong?

Vane.

Worse than wrong; it is a _bêtise_. (_Comes to fire, and stands with
his back to it._) You might as well try to write a long poem. Such
things are certainly _long_, and as certainly not _poems_. That huge
thing is not a picture.

Denham.

Ah, you write quatrains. Should no poem exceed four lines?

Vane.

Not only should not, but in our present state of development,
_cannot_. The quatrain is the analogue of the Greek gem, the
_consummate_ flower of the national art of the period. It will take
at _least_ a century to perfect and exhaust it. Have you seen my
book, "Three Quatrains"?

Denham.

No; have you published it lately?

Vane.

My dear Denham! I never _publish_ anything. In a wilderness of
mediocrity obscurity is fame.

Denham.

Yes, a well-advertised obscurity. But surely you _have_ published
poems?

Vane.

Where have you lived, my dear fellow? I breathe a poem into the air,
and the world hears. If some one prints it, can I help it? One does
not print, wake, and become famous; one becomes famous, and the
world awakes, cackles, and prints one.

Fitzgerald.

By-the-bye, Vane, there's a quatrain in your "In the House of
Hathor" I wanted to ask you about.

Vane.

Which?

Fitzgerald.

Let me see--it begins:

    "I saw a serpent in my Lady's heart,"--

Vane.

Ah! spare me the torment of hearing--

Fitzgerald.

Your own lines?

Vane.

_Mur_-dered!

    "I saw the serpent of my Lady's heart,
    Lovely and leprous; and a violet sigh
    Shook the wan, yellowing leaves of threnody,
    Bruised in the holy chalice of my Art."

Fitzgerald.

Ah yes! I didn't quite catch the meaning.

Vane.

Meaning? It is a piece of _mu_-sic, in which I have skilfully
e-_lu_-ded ALL _meaning_.

Fitzgerald.

Oh, I see! (_Resumes his book._)

Denham.

(_to Vane_) Have a cigarette? (_Denham offers him a cigarette; he
takes one absently, then lets it drop back into the box._)

Vane.

Thanks, no--I never smoke. It has become so vulgar.

Denham.

Really? What do you do then--_absinthe_?

Vane.

For the purposes of art it is antiquated. (_He sighs._) I have tried
_haschish_.

Denham.

Well?

Vane.

Without distinct results--for one's style, that is.

Denham.

Oh!

Vane.

One sometimes sees oneself inventing the Narghilé. It involves the
black slave, of course, and might lead to a true retrogressive
progress--even to the _Harîm_. One pities the superfluous woman,
there are so many about.

Denham.

Yet Mormonism seems to be a failure.

Vane.

It was so _dreadfully_ upholstered!

Denham.

The _Harîm_ would be a new field for the collector. How prices would
run up!

Vane.

Ah, Denham, never touch a dream with the vulgarity of real things!
(_Crosses to picture._)

(_Fitzgerald, who has been reading Gyp, suddenly comes forward with
the book in his hand, and breaks in._)

Fitzgerald.

This Gyp's _awfully_ good. Who is he, eh?

Vane.

(_with patient scorn_) A woman!

Fitzgerald.

(_with conviction_) To be sure! That makes it--splendid! (_Chuckles
to himself, sits again on sofa, and goes on reading._)

Vane.

(_looking at picture_) Will you never learn to be an _artist_,
Denham? The modern picture should be a painted quatrain, with
colours for words--words which say nothing, because everything has
been said, but which _suggest_ all that has been felt and dreamed.
Art is the initiation into a mood, a mystery--a sphinx whose riddle
every one can answer, yet no one understand.

Fitzgerald.

(_shutting the book on his finger_) Bravo, Vane! 'Pon my word, I
begin to believe in you.

Vane.

I can endure even that.

Denham.

I am on the wrong tack then?

Vane.

My dear fellow, look at that canvas. What a method! You are like an
amateur pianist who tries laboriously to obtain tone, without having
mastered the keyboard. One cannot _blunder_ into great art. Only
Englishmen make the attempt. You are a nation of amateurs. (_He
turns away, and sees a sketch on the_ L _wall_) Did you do
this?

Denham.

My brush did it somehow.

Vane.

Ah! this is exquisite--or would be if you could paint. Why, _why_
not learn the technique of your art, and make these notes of a mood,
a moment, so as to give real delight?

Denham.

Upon my word, Vane, you are right. That sketch is worth a wilderness
of Brynhilds. But look here! (_Crosses to picture. He opens a pocket
knife, and makes a long cut across the figure of Brynhild._) There
goes a year's work.

Fitzgerald.

(_rising_) By Jove!

Vane.

My dear fellow, I congratulate you. The year's work is not thrown
away--now. (_Re-enter Mrs. Denham._)

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, Mr. Vane, what have you made him do?

Vane.

My dear Mrs. Denham, I have saved your husband's reputation for a
few months at least. He cannot do anything so _consummately_ bad in
_less_. Pray, pray, do not try to understand art! Women never can;
they have not yet developed the sixth sense--the sense of _Beauty_.
But I must really tear myself away.

(_Mrs. Denham sits gloomily on throne, ignoring Vane._)

Denham.

Won't you stay and have some tea?

Vane.

Thanks, no. Lady Mayfair made me promise to go and hear her new
tenor. One knows what one has to expect, but one goes.

(_Enter Jane, showing in Miss Macfarlane._)

Jane.

Miss Macfarlane!

(_Miss Macfarlane shakes hands with Mrs. Denham and Denham, and nods
to Fitzgerald and Vane._)

Miss Macfarlane.

How d'ye do, Fitz? Ah, Vane! you here? Don't run away.

Vane.

Unfortunately I must. The wounds of our last encounter are not yet
healed.

Miss Macfarlane.

Pshaw, man! _I_ don't use poisoned weapons.

Vane.

Ah, Miss Macfarlane, the broadsword is very effective in your hands!
(_Going._)

Fitzgerald.

Oh, Vane, will you dine with me at the Bohemians on Friday? I want
you to hear--

Vane.

The Bohemians? Impossible!

Fitzgerald.

You'll see life, at any rate.

Vane.

My dear fellow, I _have_ seen life. _Don't_ ask me to see it again.
It is a painful spectacle. Adieu!

(_Exit._)

Miss Macfarlane.

(_looking at picture_) Why, what's all this?

Mrs. Denham.

Arthur, I shall never forgive you for destroying your picture--just
because that wretched little creature was spiteful about it.

Denham.

Pooh! He wasn't spiteful. He only told me the truth about it, in his
own jargon. I knew it already.

Miss Macfarlane.

Oh, but it's none so bad, my dear boy--if it's a failure, it's a
good wholesome failure. (_Crosses_ L _to fire._)

(_Enter Jane, showing in Mrs. Tremaine._)

Jane.

Mrs. Tremaine! (_Exit Jane._)

Mrs. Denham.

My dear Blanche!

Mrs. Tremaine.

My dear Constance! (_They embrace._)

Mrs. Denham.

My husband, Mrs. Tremaine. Miss Macfarlane, Mr. Fitzgerald. (_She
introduces them._)

Fitzgerald.

(_thrusting the book into his side pocket_) Well, I must run away.
(_Crosses_ C.)

Denham.

Must you go?

Fitzgerald.

Yes--I've--I've a lot of things to do. Good-bye. (_Shakes hands
absently._)

Denham.

Oh, Fitz, I want to show you something. Will you excuse me for a
moment, Mrs. Tremaine?

(_Exeunt Denham and Fitzgerald._)

Mrs. Denham.

Do sit down, and let us have a little quiet talk.

(_They sit down. Mrs. Denham crosses and sits on sofa_ R;
_Mrs. Tremaine on sofa_ L, _and Miss Macfarlane in armchair
by fire, quietly observe each other._)

You are looking splendidly, Blanche.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes, I'm in very good form. But you're not looking well--rather
pale, you know.

Mrs. Denham.

I'm a little tired, that's all. I am so glad to see you again. Why
have you quite given me up?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Well, you see, I have been rather making a mess of my life, and I
have not been much in town. Besides, I was a little shy about
coming, after--all my escapades.

Mrs. Denham.

You know I'm not a censorious person, Blanche. I don't think our
conventional morality very admirable, and I never adored the patient
Griselda.

Mrs. Tremaine.

You don't know how I feel your kindness, Constance. I have had a
hard time of it, so far; but now I have taken my life into my own
hands, and I mean to live it out.

Mrs. Denham.

But your husband? You married again, did you not?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes. Fancy a woman making that mistake twice! But, you see, I was in
an equivocal position. I had left my first husband, Miss Macfarlane;
I don't want to conceal my misdeeds.

Miss Macfarlane.

Oh, don't expect paving stones from an old woman like me! I judge
every case on its own merits. I know what men are, though I've been
content to gain my experience at my friends' expense. I tell ye I
know more about the ins and outs of marriages than most married
women, just as the curler on the bank sees most of the game. You
mayn't have been anything worse than a fool, and ye mayn't have been
even that.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Thank you. I was a fool, of course. You see, my first marriage was a
mistake altogether. It was my mother's doing. I knew nothing of
marriage, or love either, for that matter. That came afterwards,
and--all the scandal.

Miss Macfarlane.

And may I ask, young woman, have you run away from your second
husband? You say that marriage was a mistake too.

Mrs. Tremaine.

No; he is dead now.

Miss Macfarlane.

But you don't--(_Looks at her dress._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

No, I don't _afficher_ eternal bereavement. We were separated for
two years.

Mrs. Denham.

Poor Blanche! Then it was not a success?

Mrs. Tremaine.

No; it was not a success.

Miss Macfarlane.

Well, we mustn't ask why?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Oh, I'm in the humour for confession. I think you can understand. We
got on well enough while I was--free. But he did the chivalrous
thing--asked me to marry him; and I was glad enough to scramble back
to the platform of respectability.

Miss Macfarlane.

Well, I understand that, anyhow.

Mrs. Tremaine.

That seemed to kill the romance, such as it was. I need not go into
the sordid details, but we quarrelled finally about money--my
money. My husband took to gambling in stocks. But I have managed to
keep my little pittance, fortunately. Well, that is enough of my
affairs. Have you any children, Constance?

Mrs. Denham.

One little girl, just nine. Have you any?

Mrs. Tremaine.

No--none.

Miss Macfarlane.

A woman who has had such unpleasant experiences ought to hate and
despise men. But of course _you_ don't?

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_laughing_) No--I don't think I hate men exactly. I despise some
men heartily.

Miss Macfarlane.

They're gey ill to live wi', eh?

Mrs. Tremaine.

I don't think marriage suits me, somehow. I suppose it suits some
people. But I think it often tends to reduce them to a dead level of
commonplace. The artificial bond makes people too sure of each
other. It does not do to take love too much for granted, I think.

(_Re-enter Denham._)

Mrs. Denham.

Well, Arthur, have you got rid of Mr. Fitzgerald?

Denham.

Yes--I'm so glad to have made your acquaintance, Mrs. Tremaine.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Thanks. It is so pleasant meeting unconventional people.

Miss Macfarlane.

(_Rising_) Eh! we've all been getting solemn and lugubrious. I must
be going, my dear. Won't you show me your drawing-room? (_Mrs.
Denham rises._) You wanted my advice about curtains, didn't you?

Mrs. Denham.

Will you excuse me, Blanche? We are refurnishing our drawing-room. I
don't want _you_ to come just yet. Arthur will entertain you.

Denham.

Oh, with pleasure! (_Exeunt Mrs. Denham and Miss Macfarlane._) How
do you think Constance is looking, Mrs. Tremaine? (_Draws chair
over, and sits near her._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

It struck me she was looking rather worn and ill.

Denham.

I'm afraid she is.

Mrs. Tremaine.

She has let herself run down too much. Does she go in for
exercise--tennis or anything?

Denham.

Nothing of the kind, I am sorry to say.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Oh, I could not live without exercise! I used to ride while I could
afford it, and I always try to do gymnastics or something.

Denham.

I'm sure you're right. Do you intend to stay in town now?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes, I hope to get some work. I have enough income to keep me going;
but I want some real employment.

Denham.

Quite right. (_Rises, and puts log of wood on fire, then stands with
tongs in his hand and looks at her; puts down tongs._) Well, until
you get something that suits you, I wish you would give me some
sittings. I'll give you the regular model's wages--a shilling an
hour--no, I'll give you two--two shillings an hour--there!

Mrs. Tremaine.

Thank you, it is a generous offer. I have sat before without the
shillings, and will again with pleasure--if you will promise to talk
to me?

Denham.

I won't promise, but I shall talk all the same. So you have sat
before?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes, artists seem to like painting me; I don't know why. I don't
profess to be a beauty.

Denham.

Of course no woman is beautiful; but some women have the art of
persuading you that they are. You have this art.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_laughing_) Really you are very polite. Am I to take that as a
compliment?

Denham.

No, as sincere praise. I am never polite to people I like, and I
like you.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Thanks. I like to be liked; and I can forgive your want of
politeness, if you are never more brutally rude than you have been.
I suppose I am to take it as the rudeness of a man of genius?

Denham.

No--like all unsuccessful people who worry themselves over art--I am
only a man of _some_ genius--a very different thing, I assure you.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Are _you_ unsuccessful?

Denham.

A man who paints pictures that please only his wife is surely
unsuccessful? But I don't want to bore you with myself. It only
means that I feel we are friends already.

Mrs. Tremaine.

You don't know how pleasant it is to be with people who don't look
upon me as a dreadfully wicked woman.

Denham.

No doubt, like all persons of distinction, you belong to the
criminal classes; but we are all emancipated here.

(_Re-enter Mrs. Denham and Miss Macfarlane, who goes straight to the
fire as she speaks._)

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, Arthur, that precious black cat of yours!

Miss Macfarlane.

We've settled the curtains, now for the cat.

Denham.

What has he been doing now?

Mrs. Denham.

In the larder again. Really that beast must be got rid of. I will
not stand such abominations any longer.

Denham.

Well, don't ask me to be executioner, that's all.

Mrs. Tremaine.

But surely you're not going to kill a black cat? It is awfully
unlucky.

(_Miss Macfarlane keeps Mrs. Tremaine under observation._)

Denham.

Are you superstitious?

Mrs. Tremaine.

I suppose I am. Those peacock feathers made me shiver when I came
in.

Mrs. Denham.

Are peacock's feathers unlucky?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes; didn't you know that?

Mrs. Denham.

No.

Denham.

Constance is not superstitious. It is her worst fault. A little
superstition gives colour to life.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Do let _me_ take the cat, Constance!

Mrs. Denham.

I am sure you are welcome to the beast.

Denham.

Thanks, Mrs. Tremaine.

Mrs. Denham.

Arthur, take Mrs. Tremaine down to have some tea.

Denham.

Will you come, Mrs. Tremaine?

(_Exeunt Denham and Mrs. Tremaine._)

Miss Macfarlane.

(_retaining Mrs. Denham_) My dear, beware of that woman! (_Crosses
to Mrs. Denham._)

Mrs. Denham.

Of Blanche--why?

Miss Macfarlane.

Ye have a husband, that's all.

Mrs. Denham.

But you don't suppose--

Miss Macfarlane.

Eh, I suppose nothing. But that woman loves men. I can see it with
half an eye.

Mrs. Denham.

If my husband does not love me, let him leave me. (_Crosses
C._)

Miss Macfarlane.

Fiddlesticks, my dear; don't go in for heroics. Of course he loves
you. Does it follow he can't love another woman into the bargain?
They think they can, at any rate.

Mrs. Denham.

I don't care for such love.

Miss Macfarlane.

Of course not. But in this world we must make sure of what we can
grab; and then we can grab a bit more, and a bit more, maybe.

Mrs. Denham.

I can trust my husband.

Miss Macfarlane.

(_coming to Mrs. Denham_) Right; but don't trust him into
temptation. Mind you, she's charming. Men haven't been flogged into
constancy, as we have. Remember that. I'm not old-maidish, my dear,
though I've escaped holy matrimony. I don't profess hatred of men,
they're none so much worse than we are; but they're different,
and--pardon my strong language--they're damnably brought up. (_They
go up stage towards door._) Beware of that woman, I tell ye. Don't
let her get a footing here. And now, give me some tea.


ACT DROP.



Act II.

_Scene: The Studio. Denham discovered at easel near the front
R, a small table with colours, etc., beside him, painting
Mrs. Tremaine, in a black evening dress. She sits in a chair upon
the "throne" a piece of tapestry behind her, up the stage
L. Oak table against L wall, above fireplace._


Denham.

Head a little more up. No, I don't want you like that.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Come and pose me then.

Denham.

All right. (_He poses her, then goes back to the easel._) By Jove!
this is getting serious. This is the best thing I have done.

Mrs. Tremaine.

So you say of them all. This is the third attempt. How many more do
you intend to make?

Denham.

Oh, I don't know! I should like to go on as long as I could make
headway. (_He paints in silence for some time._) There, I am getting
something I never got before--the real woman at last.

Mrs. Tremaine.

May I see?

Denham.

For Heaven's sake, don't stir! (_Paints again._) Blanche!

Mrs. Tremaine.

Well?

Denham.

Do you know I was a fool, to say you were not beautiful?

Mrs. Tremaine.

You only spoke the truth.

Denham.

It is a higher truth to say you are; and you seem to have grown
_more_ beautiful this last month.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Oh, I am happier now!

Denham.

Happier?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes. You don't know what an oasis this studio has been to me. I
shall be sorry to go back to the desert.

Denham.

Well, I never had a better model. I have learnt a lot since I began
to paint you.

Mrs. Tremaine.

I am so glad if I have been of any use. Have you ever painted
Constance?

Denham.

I have tried; but she's a fidgety sitter, and always looks like an
incarnation of despair. (_He approaches her._) May I arrange these
folds a little?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Certainly.

Denham.

(_arranging skirt of dress_) That will do. The fan so--head a
_little_ more to the left--so. (_He goes back, and paints in silence
again._) This is coming splendidly. I dare not do much more to the
head.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Can you finish it to-day?

Denham.

As much as I can finish anything. (_Paints again in silence._) I
wish Constance had some of your reposeful quality. I can't think
what ails her. She gets more irritable and pessimistic every day.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Perhaps you irritate her.

Denham.

I? But, good heavens!--(_Stops painting, and looks at her._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes, I know. You think you are very patient, while you treat her
with a--what shall I say?--a sort of contemptuous respect.

Denham.

Really? I am sorry if it seems so. I wish I could rouse her out of
the slough of despond.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Perhaps she is disappointed?

Denham.

We are all disappointed. It is the niggardliness of Nature--the old
woman in the shoe. (_Paints again in silence._) Do you believe in
love, Blanche? Still?

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_sighing_) Yes, I think I do. There is not very much else left for
one to believe in, nowadays.

Denham.

So do I--as a dream.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Ah! You are the pessimist now.

Denham.

Why make mad efforts to realise it?

Mrs. Tremaine.

A necessity of our nature, I suppose.

Denham.

What does the modern woman desire or expect from a man? You are sick
of marriage, it seems.

Mrs. Tremaine.

As it exists--yes.

Denham.

Well, the instinctive _amourette_ had its poetry--in Arcadia. Keep
your hands quiet a moment.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Let me warm them first. Remember we are in the grip of a London
May.

Denham.

All right--come. (_She comes over to the picture. He stops her._)
No, you must not look yet.

Mrs. Tremaine.

You have become quite a tyrant, do you know?

(_She goes to the fire._)

Denham.

(_taking her hands_) Cold? Yes; I have kept you too long. You have
such good hands! I wish I could paint them.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_kneels at fire, and warms her hands_) One more chance!

Denham.

I shall make the most of it. Well, but what do you want? A
friendship, passionate and Platonic? Why, it takes all the tyranny
of a strong man like Swift to keep instinct within bounds. The
victory killed Stella and Vanessa.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Oh, we are more rational now! Then, there were two of them; that was
the difficulty there.

Denham.

Yes, there were two of them. Except in a desert island, there is
always a danger of that.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Why are men so inconstant?

Denham.

Why are women so charming--and unsatisfactory? We deceive ourselves,
and are deceived, just like you.

Mrs. Tremaine.

You amuse yourselves, and we pay.

Denham.

It is the will of God--of Nature, I should say. She is an artist;
but as for her morality--

Mrs. Tremaine.

One can't say much for that.

Denham.

Art is Nature's final aim. Love is the Art of Arts, and Art is long.

Mrs. Tremaine.

But could you not be a _little_ more constant, if you tried?

Denham.

Oh, _we_ can resist temptation, when we are not tempted--just like
women.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Your _capacity_ for temptation is wonderful.

Denham.

Yes. _We_ know our own frailty, _you_ never quite realise yours.

Mrs. Tremaine.

What has made you so cynical?

Denham.

The bitterness of life. Are your hands warm yet? (_Takes her
hands._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes, I can go back now.

(_She goes back to the "throne." He poses her, and returns to the
easel._)

Denham.

(_painting again_) Marriage must certainly be modified. A woman
should have some honourable way of escape, when her husband gets
tired of her.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_laughing_) How delicately you put it! But the wife? If you had to
bear all you so chivalrously inflict on us in "honourable" marriage,
I wonder how many marriages there would be?

Denham.

Instinct would be too strong for us still. But we should outscheme
Nature. We should invent. What has a woman ever invented since the
beginning of the world? Well, you can easily rail us out of
marriage. How will you live then?

Mrs. Tremaine.

As we are trying to live now.

Denham.

I believe woman's great ambition is to do all the work of the world,
and maintain man in idleness.

Mrs. Tremaine.

That would be awful! You would all be artists and minor poets then.

Denham.

You, I believe, prefer "the Free Union," as it is called, to
marriage?

Mrs. Tremaine.

If it were practicable.

Denham.

Ah yes! We can't live innocently and comfortably in "open sin,"
until the kingdom of heaven comes.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_laughing_) No, I fear there are still difficulties. But, after
all, one can do--well, almost anything; if one does it from
conscientious motives--and knows one's way about.

Denham.

Yes. And how charming the relationship might be made! Women would
really study the art of keeping a lover. But what, in Heaven's name,
is the sympathetic modern man to do, who feels that to love one of
these creatures of a finer clay, in his rough masculine fashion, is
to "insult," or "enslave," or injure her, in one way or another? "I
love you, therefore God forbid I should marry you!"--that is the
newest gospel.

Mrs. Tremaine.

We are not all such miserable creatures as you imagine. Treat us
decently well, and we can stand a good deal, without whining like
men--poor persecuted saints!

Denham.

It is quite impossible to treat you well in this "imperfect
dispensation." Bah! let us talk of something else.

(_Enter Mrs. Denham, dressed to go out._)

Mrs. Denham.

This letter has come for you, Blanche, sent on from your house.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Thanks so much. I have been expecting it. Will you excuse me?
(_Opens letter and reads._)

Mrs. Denham.

I am sorry to interrupt you, Arthur, but I am just going out. Can
you give me a cheque?

Denham.

Certainly. But first look at this.

Mrs. Denham.

(_looks at the picture_) Better, I think.

Denham.

Eyes too big now?

Mrs. Denham.

No, not now. Let me have the cheque, and I will go.

(_Denham crosses in front of easel to table, takes cheque book from
a drawer in the table, and writes. Mrs. Tremaine rises and crosses
C._)

Denham.

Is that all you have to say?

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, my opinion is of no value! I think you have improved; but, you
know, I like your ideal work best.

Denham.

This is miles ahead of anything I have done.

Mrs. Denham.

Perhaps--as a piece of painting.

Denham.

I am finding my way at last. Here is the cheque.

Mrs. Denham.

(_crosses L, takes cheque, and crosses C_) You
will stay to dinner, Blanche, of course?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Thanks very much, but I can't possibly.

Denham.

I am so sorry, but why?

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_waving the letter, crosses in front of easel, and goes down
R_) Work, work! I have got an engagement.

Mrs. Denham.

I congratulate you.

Denham.

But what is it? You have never told us what you have been working at
in secret.

Mrs. Tremaine.

No. It might have come to nothing. I am to sing three songs at a
private concert.

Denham.

A good house?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Capital--and good people to hear me. I may choose my own songs,
Italian, German, or English. I have a fortnight to prepare, and I am
to be _paid_!

Denham.

Brava!

Mrs. Denham.

You are not going just yet?

Mrs. Tremaine.

No, not immediately. (_Crosses to "throne" and sits again. Denham
follows her._)

Mrs. Denham.

We shall meet again then. Good-bye!

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_as Denham arranges her skirt_) _A bientôt!_

(_Exit Mrs. Denham. Denham begins to paint._)

Denham.

Well, you mysterious creature, I think you have chosen your
profession well. Your voice is lovely, and your style--well, not bad
in these days of execrable singing.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Do you know, it was your praise that made me think seriously of
this?

Denham.

(_absorbed in painting_) Really? But why would you never sing to me
since that evening?

Mrs. Tremaine.

I have been working so hard; I wanted to surprise you.

Denham.

And now you will?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Perhaps--some time. (_A pause, Denham painting in silence._)

Denham.

Come down and look at this thing now. I can do no more to it.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_comes over to the easel, Denham puts down brush and palette_) But
this is splendid!

Denham.

(_taking pipe_) Better, isn't it? (_Crosses L, to table,
and strikes a match._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

Oh _yes_! But how you _have_ flattered me! I shall be reduced to a
proper humility when I look in the glass. (_Turns and glances at
mirror, then again at picture._)

Denham.

Never mind the glass. That's how I see you.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_crosses C and drops him a curtsey_) Thank you, sir. An
uncynical compliment at last!

Denham.

(_bowing_) 'Tis but your due, madam, I protest. Come, sit down, and
let us be lazy. (_Pushes armchair round for Mrs. Tremaine, takes
chair from "throne" and sits near her._) We have worked very hard.
Do you ever go to the theatre?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Sometimes.

Denham.

Does it amuse you?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Oh yes! I like a good three act farce.

Denham.

So do I. But our serious plays are amusing in a deeper way--now that
we have begun timidly to scratch the surface of things. I wonder, if
you and I were put on the stage, what they would say of us?

Mrs. Tremaine.

But there is nothing to make a play about in _us_.

Denham.

They would certainly say there was "no situation," though perhaps--

Mrs. Tremaine.

What _is_ a situation?

Denham.

Oh, you know--something threadbare, the outraged husband driving his
erring wife about the stage--all that sort of thing.

Mrs. Tremaine.

I love an outraged husband; they are so magnificently moral!

Denham.

Unfortunately I am on no such pinnacle. (_Rises._) I can only humbly
ask you, when will you sit again?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Oh, now that you have painted that masterpiece, I must resign the
privilege of being your model.

Denham.

That is unkind of you, Blanche. But why? (_Puts his pipe down._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

You can't go on painting _me_ for ever.

Denham.

I _shall_ go on painting you for ever. But you will surely give me
an occasional sitting?

Mrs. Tremaine.

No; I must be stern. (_Rises and crosses C._) I must work
seriously now.

Denham.

At least you'll come and see us? You'll come and sing the savageness
out of this bear?

Mrs. Tremaine.

No; I must go back into the desert.

Denham.

Seriously?

Mrs. Tremaine. Yes.

Denham.

I knew it must come to an end, Blanche. (_Crosses C._)
Well, we have had a good time.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes. It has been pleasant here.

Denham.

You have been my good genius. Do you know, I was getting sick of it
all before you came?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Sick of what?

Denham.

Of myself, of art, of life.

Mrs. Tremaine.

That was foolish. I am glad if I have reconciled you to existence.

Denham.

You have made me alive again, opened a door to new possibilities,
let me out into the sunshine.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Well, don't go back into the shadow. (_Taking her hat, she goes
towards mirror._)

Denham.

No. I will go forward.

Mrs. Tremaine.

That is right; and now I must go. (_About to take cloak._)

Denham.

No, you must not go yet. Come and sit upon your throne once more.
(_Mrs. Tremaine stops._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

But you are not going to paint again?

Denham.

No. I only want to look at you. Do grant me this last grace! (_He
replaces chair on "throne."_)

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_puts down hat, and crosses L_) Really you are too absurd!
(_She sits on the "throne."_)

Denham.

(_crosses C_) Thanks. And now I want you to read something.
(_Goes to table and takes paper from drawer._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

What must I read?

Denham.

This sonnet.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Your own?

Denham.

Mine--and yours. Read it aloud.

Mrs. Tremaine.

I did not know you were a poet.

Denham.

Every man is a poet once in his life. You have made me one. (_He
sits at her feet on the "throne."_)

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_Reads_):

TO A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN.

(_Looks down at him and smiles._)

    Some women are Love's toys, kiss'd and flung by,
      Some his pale martyrs: thou art womanhood,
      Superbly symbol'd in rare flesh and blood.
    Eternal Beauty, she for whom we sigh,
    Dowers thee with her own eternity;
      Thou art Love's sibyl: in proud solitude
      O'er his old mysteries thy deep eyes brood,
    And at thy feet his rich dominions lie.
    Hast thou a heart? Let me desire it still.
      Torture my heart to life with thy disdain;
        Yet smile, give me immortal dreams, still be
    My Muse, my inspiration, vision, will!
      I ask no pity, I demand but pain:
        And if I love thee, what is that to thee?

It sounds very well; but I'm afraid I don't quite understand it.

Denham.

That is the highest praise you could give it; if it be
unintelligible it _must_ be fine. It means "_mes hommages_!"
(_Kisses her hand._) And now come down! (_He hands her down from the
"throne"._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_with a shy laugh, crosses_ R) But you don't mean to say
that you have said all those fine words about me?

Denham.

Yes--_to_ you, Blanche. I love you. What is that to you? (_Comes
down to fire._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

It is very flattering, no doubt, to be made love to in pretty
verses. (_With a mocking smile._) Is this your "situation" at last?

Denham.

Yes, it is a situation.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_sharply_) Oh, I see! I am to be a sort of lay figure for your
poetry, as well as your painting; the Laura of this new Petrarch.
Thank you! (_She bows with a little laugh._)

Denham.

I love you, Blanche, I love you!

Mrs. Tremaine.

Say it in verse as much as you like. It does not sound nice in
prose. Don't let us make fools of ourselves, Mr. Denham.

Denham.

We can't avoid it, Mrs. Tremaine. To do it with dignity is all that
can be expected of us.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_with increased vexation_) That's impossible. (_Crosses_ R, _and
takes cloak._) Don't let us spoil a pleasant friendship with nonsense
of this kind. Let me keep that--and your sonnet--and good-bye!

(_She comes down to_ L C. _Denham takes her cloak and puts
it on her, keeping his hands on her shoulders._)

Denham.

As you please. Call it friendship, or anything you like. To me it is
new life. You have simply taken possession of me from the
first--imagination, heart, soul, everything. I live in you, I see
your face, I hear your voice, I speak to you when you are absent,
just as if you were present. I call you aloud by your name--Blanche,
Blanche!

(_She starts away from him, and the cloak remains in his hands._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

Hush, hush, Mr. Denham! I ought not to listen to such words from
you. I never dreamed--

Denham.

(_throwing cloak over back of sofa_) I know, I know. Women never do;
they go on their way like blindfold fates. Is there such a thing as
a magnetic attraction--affinity? I never believed in it till I saw
you.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_laughs nervously_) With how little ingenuity men make love!

Denham.

Don't laugh at my raving, you cruel Blanche! I know it sounds as
foolish as a schoolboy's valentine; but it is as sincere--and
inadequate. Words are stupid things. (_He takes her hands, and looks
in her face._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

Do let us part friends. If you are in earnest, you must know this is
wicked as well as foolish.

Denham.

Yes, it is always wicked to snatch a moment's supreme happiness in
this world. _If_ I am in earnest! You know I am in earnest! (_He
strokes her hair, then, as she turns away, he puts his arm round her
waist and draws her to him._) Blanche, my beautiful Blanche! I did
not mean to say all this, but it was too strong for me.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Let me go, Mr. Denham!

Denham.

(_releasing her_) Well, go! (_Crosses L._) Go, if you can!

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_angrily_) I can and will. (_Turns to take her cloak._)

Denham.

Do you know, Blanche, I thought you loved me?

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_turning sharply_) Then you were more foolish than I thought.
(_Softening._) Perhaps I was to blame, but I meant nothing wrong.

Denham.

Oh, I acquit you completely! We drifted--that was all. Jest
sometimes turns to earnest. Well, go--go with those tears in your
eyes. There is nothing worth crying about--more than is becoming.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Don't say unkind things to me. I can't bear them, though I suppose I
deserve them. I liked you, and your admiration flattered my vanity;
and I suppose I may have made you think I cared more for you than--I
did.

Denham.

Well, you don't love me. What does it matter? _I_ love _you_; that
is the important thing to me. I thank you for that eternal
possession. Let it be a dream, austere and pure. Passion has its own
ascetic cell, where it can fast and scourge itself. I ask you for
nothing, Blanche. I am yours wholly. Do what you like with me.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Go back to your wife.

Denham.

Yes--my poor Constance! Well, Blanche, at least you and I can't
utterly spoil each other's lives. We can't _marry_ each other.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Don't say any more. Let us forget all this.

Denham.

Forget? No. But we must renounce. You, too, will wear the sackcloth.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_petulantly_) Why should _I_ wear sackcloth?

Denham.

My dear Blanche, you are not such a fine coquette as you imagine.
(_Going close up to her._) Do you think I can't read those beautiful
eyes of yours? You love me! Your love fills the air like the
fragrance of a flower. (_He clasps her in his arms._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_impatiently_) Suppose I did. _Après?_

Denham.

You do love me, Blanche? (_Kisses her._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_with inward rage_) Yes, I love you. (_Suddenly embracing him._) I
love you! What does it matter?

Denham.

Oh, it is the eternal tragedy! We must renounce.

(_Half releasing her._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

Why must we renounce? Now that you have gone so far, why turn back?

Denham.

(_releasing her_) It is the least of evils. How should I hide you
from the world's vile slanders? Let us keep our dream unsullied.
(_Crosses_ L.)

Mrs. Tremaine.

I have been through the fire already, and could face it again--for a
man I loved, and who loved me.

Denham.

But it would scorch you worse than before. Then, Constance!

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_with scorn_) Ay, Constance! You ought to have thought of her
before. (_Passionately._) Why have you spoken to me? Why have you
compelled _me_ to speak, if you are not bold enough to break the
bonds that are strangling you?

Denham.

Because I must. Don't tempt me, Blanche. We shall sometimes meet,
look in each other's eyes, and keep our secret. It is best so. I
love you so much that I would save you from yourself.

Mrs. Tremaine.

I don't understand such love. (_Turns away_ R.)

Denham.

Women never do. They prefer being treated like dogs. Is it nothing
that we have met heart to heart for one sweet moment, that you have
rested a moment in my arms? To me it is a glimpse of the
unattainable heaven of love. (_Going up to her._) Kiss me once,
Blanche, and farewell!

Mrs. Tremaine.

It must be for ever, then.

(_They kiss, and remain clasped in each other's arms._)

(_Enter Mrs. Denham suddenly._)

Mrs. Denham.

Arthur! Oh, I see, I am in the way! (_She is about to retire._)

Denham.

(_coming forward_) No; come in, Constance. Blanche is going away.
(_Crosses_ L.)

Mrs. Denham.

Indeed! I must apologise for interrupting a very pretty parting
scene. Had I not better retire until your interesting _tête-à-tête_
is over?

Denham.

There is no necessity. It is over.

Mrs. Denham.

(_coming down_ C) Then may I ask for an explanation
of--what I have unintentionally seen?

Denham.

Certainly. You have a right to ask anything you please.

Mrs. Denham.

Well?

Denham.

We have had our fit of madness. Now we are sane, and Blanche is
going away. That is all. (_Goes to table_ L.)

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, indeed! Arthur, Arthur, I trusted in your love, and you have
betrayed me. You love this woman!

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_coming down_) Let _me_ speak, Constance. If there be a fault or a
folly in the matter, it is mine. You hate me; you have cause. I
have--been vain and selfish. I thought, like many another woman, I
could play with temptation--

Mrs. Denham.

(_with fierce scorn_) And with your experience, too!

Mrs. Tremaine.

I know my own weakness now. But I am going away, Constance--going
away out of your lives for ever. If I have sinned, I can expiate.

Mrs. Denham.

Expiate! A fine word, with which we drug our consciences. You have
treated me basely, cruelly, treacherously, and you _will expiate_! A
common thief can at least make restitution. Can you do that? You are
going away, taking my husband's heart with you. Can you give me that
back? I would rather you had stabbed me--killed me with one merciful
stroke.

Mrs. Tremaine.

No, I am taking nothing with me--nothing but my own folly. I have
been the toy of your husband's imagination, that is all. To him this
has been nothing more than a passing flirtation.

Mrs. Denham.

You love him, and he loves you. Don't palter with the truth.
(_Crosses_ L.)

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes, I love him; but he does _not_ love me. If either of us have
cause for jealousy, it is not you.

Mrs. Denham.

(_laughing bitterly_) You jealous of me? You dare to say this?
(_Moves towards door._)

Denham.

For God's sake, Constance, don't let us lose our heads! Let us be
just to each other. This was our fate. Call it our fault, if you
will. We have been in the grip of a strong temptation; but we have
given each other up.

(_Mrs. Tremaine puts on her hat, cloak, and gloves._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_coming back_ C) Given each other up! Do you think you can
satisfy _me_ with such phrases? I am to be your faithful wife, I
suppose; content with whatever poor shreds of affection you choose
to dole out to me, while all your thoughts are with another woman.
It would have been more straightforward, (_with withering contempt_)
I won't say more _manly_, to have told me plainly: "I cannot love
you, therefore I must leave you." But this intrigue behind my back
is despicable--despicable!

Denham.

(_pacing about angrily_) Intrigue! Yes, of course. You always knew
the value of an ugly word. (_Restraining himself._) Otherwise you
have put the abstract morality of the thing admirably. But I am
unprincipled enough not to want to desert my wife and child, merely
because I love another woman.

Mrs. Denham.

Oh yes, compromise, compromise, the god that men worship! Go to your
mistress, if she will have you. I renounce you.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_laughing bitterly_) Excuse me, but our little comedy is played
out. I am out of the story. (_Exit._)

Denham.

(_crosses up to door_) Stay, Blanche! You must not go like this. One
moment, Constance.

(_Exit, following Mrs. Tremaine._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_flinging herself down on the sofa_) My God! my God! what am I to
do? How am I to live? I cannot stay in this house with a man who no
longer loves me. Oh, if _she_ had not come between us! Yes, yes! A
pretty face and a little flattery outweighs a life's devotion. Oh,
it is hard, it is hard!

(_A pause. Then enter Undine._)

Undine.

Mother! Are you sick?

Mrs. Denham.

No, dear. I have a headache, that's all.

Undine.

I'm sorry, mother. (_Kisses her._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_clasping her in her arms_) Well, what does my little girl want
now?

Undine.

May I go and play with Maude and Bertie after school to-morrow, and
stay to tea?

Mrs. Denham.

You may go and play; but you know I cannot let you stay to tea.

Undine.

Oh, but why? They want me to stay to tea.

Mrs. Denham.

You know you broke your promise the last time, and stayed without
leave.

Undine.

But I forgot--I really did.

Mrs. Denham.

You must be taught not to forget. Now I'll give you one more chance.
You may go and play, but you _must_ come back to tea. Promise me
that you will.

Undine.

Well, I promise. But it's very hard to remember promises, when you
want to do a thing very much.

Mrs. Denham.

Yes; but you must learn to be trustworthy. Now run away. (_Exit
Undine._)

The child hates me, I know. I suppose I must expect nothing but
dislike and contempt. She is her father's child. I wish I had died
long ago. (_Crosses_ R, _and sits by table._)

(_A pause, then re-enter Denham._)

Denham.

Well, Blanche is gone.

Mrs. Denham.

(_listlessly_) Indeed!

Denham.

(_seating himself_) To the advanced moralist, I know I am an object
of contempt. I can't help that.

Mrs. Denham.

(_rising_) If you have come here to insult me with sneering
speeches, I will go. (_Crosses_ C _up stage._)

Denham.

Let us leave this tone of falsetto, Constance, and speak seriously
to each other. I have come to you for help in this crisis of our
lives. Sit down. (_Gives her a chair._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_sitting_) To me! That is very magnanimous.

Denham.

No. You are the only friend I have.

Mrs. Denham.

Well?

Denham.

You bid me desert the nest?

Mrs. Denham.

Since it is cold.

Denham.

Is it so cold?

Mrs. Denham.

Need you ask? (_Shivers._) If you do not quit it, I will.

Denham.

I have no doubt you will do what you think right. The question is,
what _is_ right? (_Rises, and looks at her._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_looking away from him_) You have always held yourself aloof from
me. All my love has been powerless to gain an entrance into your
heart. Now it is too late. I give up the useless struggle.

(_Crosses_ L, _and sits in armchair crouching over fire._)

Denham.

(_passionately_) Held myself aloof! Good God! is that my fault? You
want something that you can neither excite nor reciprocate. (_With a
sudden change of manner._) No--it was my own dulness of heart. My
poor Constance! This has been a revelation for us both. But you
don't know how I have tried to conform to your ideals--to spare you
in every possible way.

Mrs. Denham.

(_bitterly_) Yes, you have been very patient, very forbearing, no
doubt. It is better to kill a woman than to tolerate her.

Denham.

You did not always think so. You wanted love in the form of an
unselfish intellectual friendship. Well, I have tried to love you
unselfishly, God knows! It is an impossible basis for marriage.
However, we _are_ married. May we not at least be friends? (_Comes
and stands by her chair._) Do you think marriage exists for the sake
of ideal love? What about Undine?

Mrs. Denham.

I presume you will provide for your daughter?

Denham.

Is she not yours too?

Mrs. Denham.

She loves you; she does not love me. I suppose I don't deserve it. I
know you think I have been a bad wife, a bad mother. I am better out
of your way. (_Weeps._)

Denham.

This is morbid. Oh, if I could have cured you! Constance! (_He
caresses her hair._)

Mrs. Denham.

Don't touch me! It is an insult.

Denham.

(_sighing_) I suppose I have lost the right of comforting you.
(_Crosses_ R.)

Mrs. Denham.

I don't want your pity. (_Rises._)

Denham.

Perhaps I want yours.

Mrs. Denham.

(_indignantly_) Suppose _you_ had caught _me_ in a low intrigue, and
I had dared to speak to you as you have spoken to me--without so
much as a word that implied sorrow or repentance, what would you say
to me?

Denham.

I would ask your forgiveness humbly enough if that were of any use.
It isn't, I know. Sins that are instinctive, not of malice, lie too
deep for forgiveness.

Mrs. Denham.

A fine aphorism, no doubt. How does it apply?

Denham.

You can't forgive insults that were not intended, and a "low
intrigue" which was only a mad, selfish leap for life. Let us part
then, if you please. We missed our moment for passion long ago, if
that is what you want.

Mrs. Denham.

My want aches deeper. Well, you love another woman. Go to her. Let
her make you happy if she can.

Denham.

Why should I go to her? I love her as a dream; let me keep her as a
dream. Why should I spoil her life as I have spoiled yours?

Mrs. Denham.

You could not spoil her life as you have spoiled mine, if you love
her.

Denham.

(_half to himself as he comes down stage_ R) It is a
magnificent temptation. To give one's passion its full reckless
swing, to feel the blood bounding in one's veins--

Mrs. Denham.

Why not? And leave the woman to pay.

Denham.

(_with a reckless bitterness_) Yes, that's the devil of it. You have
put me out of conceit with love. Your chamber of horrors haunts my
imagination. If a woman could give us all she promises, we should be
like gods. But she can't. Why should we worry about it? Why ask for
cakes and ale, when sermons and soda-water are so much better for
us?

Mrs. Denham.

You never loved me. Your cakes and ale are no concern of mine.
(_Crosses to table. Knock at door._) Come in!

(_Enter Jane, showing in Miss Macfarlane._)

Jane.

Miss Macfarlane!

(_Exit._)

Miss Macfarlane.

Well, my dear, how are you all? Eh! but what's the matter now? (_She
looks from one to the other._) Mrs. Tremaine, I suppose?

Denham.

Mrs. Tremaine has gone away--back to the desert, as she says.

Miss Macfarlane.

And high time for her, too. Upon my word, I should like to give that
fascinating person a bit of my mind.

Denham.

And me too, I am sure.

Miss Macfarlane.

Well, as you ask me, Mr. Denham, I think your conduct in bringing
that woman into the house, and carrying on a flirtation with her
under your wife's eyes, was simply abominable. It was an insult to
Constance. Did ye ever consider that? It was not the conduct of a
gentleman!

Denham.

No, a gentleman should throw a decent veil of secrecy over
his--flirtations. But, you see, if I had done that, I should have
been a hypocrite; now I'm only a brute.

Miss Macfarlane.

Oh, my dear boy, don't be a brute, and then you needn't be a
hypocrite. There's the way out of that.

Denham.

It is a narrow way.

Miss Macfarlane.

If ye can't have good morals, at least have good manners. (_Crosses
L._)

Denham.

Oh, good manners are becoming obsolete. They are too much trouble
for this Bohemian age. Ladies and gentlemen went out with gold
snuffboxes and hooped petticoats; we are trying to be men and women
now, frankly and brutally.

Miss Macfarlane.

Eh! and I suppose ye thought ye were learning to be a man by playing
at Adam and Eve with Mrs. Tremaine?

Denham.

(_crosses_ R) We drifted, we drifted.

Miss Macfarlane.

A man has no _right_ to _drift_, Mr. Denham. Ye have to look before
ye, and pick your steps in this world; at any rate, when other
people are hurt by your slips. An irresponsible animal isn't a man.

Denham.

I wish we had a Court of Love, Miss Macfarlane, with you for
President. But, if you'll excuse me, I shall leave you with
Constance now. I know she would like to speak to you.

(_Exit._)

Miss Macfarlane.

Well, my dear, what is it? You see I claim the privilege of an old
friend.

Mrs. Denham.

I can bear my burden alone, Miss Macfarlane. (_Crosses_ C.)

Miss Macfarlane.

Of course you can, my dear. But there's no harm in a little honest
sympathy.

Mrs. Denham.

(_sobbing and embracing her_) Oh, I beg your pardon! But I am so
miserable, so miserable!

Miss Macfarlane.

There, there--that's right. (_Leads Mrs. Denham to sofa._) And now
you can tell me or not, just as you like.

Mrs. Denham.

What is there to tell? It is all over--that is all. (_She sits down,
weeping._)

Miss Macfarlane.

But what's all over? We sometimes think things are all over, when
they're only beginning. A thunderstorm's not the Day of Judgment. It
clears the air.

Mrs. Denham.

This _is_ the Day of Judgment for me. I am weighed in the balance
and found wanting. I wish I were dead.

Miss Macfarlane.

Nonsense, dear; you're no failure. But I'll tell ye what the two of
you are--a pair of fools; that's what you are. You should have put
your foot down, my dear. _She_ was the Black Cat you ought to have
got rid of, and nipped this business in the bud. I don't know how
far it has gone. Does he want to run away with her?

Mrs. Denham.

No; he professes to have given her up.

Miss Macfarlane.

Then he's none such a fool, after all. That woman would have led him
a pretty dance!

Mrs. Denham.

He loves her--let him go to her. (_Rises and crosses_ L.
_Stopped by Miss Macfarlane._)

Miss Macfarlane.

Fiddlesticks, my dear! Don't force him into her arms. Mind you, he
has vowed to cherish you as well as to love you; and how can he do
that if you drive him away? Do ye remember one of his misquotations
from Byron:

    "Man's love is from his life a thing apart,
    'Tis woman's main subsistence?"

There's truth in that.

Mrs. Denham.

Men make love, like everything else, a mere _game_.

Miss Macfarlane.

Ay, you're right there. But until _we_ hold the purse strings, it's
hard to keep them to the strict rules o' the game.

Mrs. Denham.

That is a vile injustice! I may not be able to fight on equal terms,
but I will never submit. If he does not go, I will. (_Crosses_
R.)

Miss Macfarlane.

Don't wreck your lives for a man's passing fancy. If that's your new
morality, I prefer the old. Don't turn this comedy into a tragedy.
That's all very well on the stage, but we're not acting an Ibsen
play; it doesn't pay in real life.

Mrs. Denham.

A good tragedy is better than a bad comedy.

Miss Macfarlane.

Come to your room, my dear. Have your cry out, sponge your eyes, and
we'll have a quiet talk.

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, this sense of failure! It will drive me mad!

ACT DROP.



Act III.

_Scene: The Studio. Mrs. Denham lying on sofa_ R C, _a
shawl over her feet, her face buried in her hands, moaning
inarticulately. Table as in_ ACT II.


(_Enter Denham excitedly._)

Denham.

Constance!

Mrs. Denham.

(_moving and raising her head_) Well?

Denham.

Where is Undine?

Mrs. Denham.

Undine?

Denham.

Yes. Do you know where she is?

Mrs. Denham.

In her room, I suppose. I told her to stay there.

Denham.

She is not in the room--not in the house.

Mrs. Denham.

But--I locked the door.

Denham.

She must have got out of the window.

Mrs. Denham.

She can't have dropped from the balcony.

Denham.

Stay a moment. (_Exit._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_resuming her position_) No peace! No peace!

(_Re-enter Denham._)

Denham.

Yes. Her skipping rope is tied to the rails. She must have dropped
into the garden. She's as active as a cat.

Mrs. Denham.

And as sly. Another act of disobedience.

Denham.

Tell me, Constance, have you had a--I mean, have you punished her?

Mrs. Denham.

(_bitterly_) I beat her, since you are kind enough to inquire--beat
her for her utter untrustworthiness and mean prevarication. I said I
would, if she disobeyed me again.

Denham.

Poor little wretch! But what did you say to her? A mother's tongue
is sometimes worse than her hands.

Mrs. Denham.

Yes, I know you think me a vulgar scold.

Denham.

I think you sometimes say more than you mean--more than you realise
at the time. I wonder where the child has gone?

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, she has slunk away to some of her friends. (_Throwing off the
shawl, and letting her feet drop on the ground._) Arthur, are you
uneasy about her?

Denham.

Yes, rather. Jane heard her sobbing in her room, and saying she
would run away.

Mrs. Denham.

Why didn't you tell me that before? (_Rises, and moves to and fro._)
Oh, what have I done? What have I done?

Denham.

We must look for her. Some one may have seen her. Wait a moment.
(_He opens the door, and meets Fitzgerald, who comes in smiling._)
Fitzgerald!

Fitzgerald.

(_coming down to back of sofa_) Well, I've brought you back your
little waif, Mrs. Denham.

Mrs. Denham.

Undine?

Fitzgerald.

Ay, Undine!

Mrs. Denham.

Oh, I am so thankful! But where is she?

Fitzgerald.

Well, I left her below, having some milk or something. She seemed
quite done up--excitement or something--eh?

Denham.

Where did you meet her, Fitz?

Fitzgerald.

I was going to my studio, and I met--met her running along the road
with--with a little white scared face, and no hat on her--and her
curls flying behind her--an'--an'--'pon my word, I could hardly stop
her But we met a little girl with a goat, an' we stroked the
goat--eh, stroked the goat--an' that comforted her a bit.

Mrs. Denham.

But where was she going?

Fitzgerald.

Oh, that's the cream o' the joke! I had a great piece of work to get
out of her what ailed her, an'--an'--would you believe it?--that
Undine of yours--that Undine of yours was going back to her native
element. The--the mite was looking for the Thames, to drown herself!

Mrs. Denham.

To drown herself?

Fitzgerald.

Ay. She told me, "Mother said--said she was too wicked to live--an'
she--she didn't want her any more." By Jove! Mrs. Denham, you must
be careful what you say to that imp. She'll take you at your
word--eh?

Mrs. Denham.

How can we ever thank you, Mr. Fitzgerald?

Denham.

Well, we can laugh at it now; but it was rather a ghastly bit of
tragi-comedy. A thousand thanks, Fitz, old fellow!

Fitzgerald.

Well, I hope she's none the worse for it. I carried her home on my
back; an' I can tell you her heart was beating like--like the heart
of a hunted mouse. I must be off, Arthur; I have a model coming.
You'll bring the drawing round, eh? I must have it by five o'clock.

Denham.

I have about ten minutes' work on the background--the figures are
all right. I'll bring it round just now.

Fitzgerald.

All right. Good-bye. (_Shakes hands, and exit._)

Denham.

Stay here, Constance. I'll bring the child to you.

(_Exit, following Fitzgerald._)

Mrs. Denham.

Undine, my little Undine! Have I been a bad mother to you? And I
have tried to do right. Oh, how I have tried! All in vain--all in
vain. (_Paces up and down, then sits listlessly on the sofa._) Utter
wreck! Utter wreck! Utter failure in everything!

(_Re-enter Denham, with Undine. Mrs. Denham starts up._)

Denham.

Here's our little truant come back to mother.

(_Undine comes down the stage slowly, looking dazed. Mrs. Denham
embraces the child passionately._)

Mrs. Denham.

My little Undine! My little girl! Did she think mother wanted to get
rid of her?

Undine.

(_with sorrowful indignation_) You said you wished I was dead, and I
thought you didn't want me any more. I thought perhaps you were
going to kill me with a knife, like Medea, and I didn't like that. I
thought the river would be kinder.

Mrs. Denham.

That was foolish, Undine. Mother would not kill her own little girl.

(_Sits down on sofa with Undine. Denham shrugs his shoulders, and
sits down at the table to work at his drawing._)

Undine.

But I thought you meant what you said. You oughtn't to say what you
don't mean, mother.

Mrs. Denham.

No, my darling, I ought not. But I was angry with you for being
disobedient, and I suppose I said more than I meant. I don't
remember, Arthur, I don't remember what I said.

Denham.

I quite understand that, dear.

Mrs. Denham.

Will my little girl forgive mother?

Undine.

Yes, you know I'll _always_ forgive you, mother. But you said I had
brought shame upon father. (_Going up to Denham, bursting into
indignant tears._) I don't _want_ to bring shame upon father!
(_Takes out her handkerchief, and mops her face._)

Denham.

(_comforting her_) Of course not. But you know you should be
obedient to mother, Undine, and keep your promises. Then we sha'n't
be ashamed of our little girl.

Undine.

(_sobbing_) But there's no _use_ promising. Oh, I _am_ so tired!
(_Yawns._)

Denham.

Well, suppose you go to sleep for a while?

Mrs. Denham.

She can lie on her bed, and I'll put mother's cloak over her. Would
you like that?

Undine.

(_sleepily_) Yes.

(_Mrs. Denham leads her away, the handkerchief falls on the floor._)

Denham.

(_gets up from the table, takes his pipe, lights it, and sits down
again_) Everything seems torn up by the roots here. What is to
become of that monkey? She has routed her mother, horse, foot, and
dragoons, this time. Well, it's a wise mother that knows her own
daughter. (_Works on again._) Going to drown herself! Perhaps it
would have been better if her father had hung himself long ago.
There's always that question of: To be or not to be?

(_Re-enter Mrs. Denham._)

Mrs. Denham.

She's asleep, Arthur.

Denham.

Poor little ugly duck!

Mrs. Denham.

I suppose you think I have acted very injudiciously?

Denham.

(_sighing_) Oh, what does it matter what I think? You always act on
principle. I _must_ try to get this drawing done.

Mrs. Denham.

Don't send me away, Arthur. You will soon be rid of me altogether.

Denham.

Don't say that, dear. I know you are very miserable about
Undine--and other things. So am I. I wonder whether we are all going
mad.

Mrs. Denham.

I think _I_ have gone mad.

Denham.

Do you say that in earnest?

Mrs. Denham.

You know there was--something in our family.

Denham.

Oh, nonsense, Constance! For Heaven's sake don't brood over that.
There is something in every family, if one only inquires. Your
nerves are over-strained. I wish you'd go to bed, and let me have
some one to see you. You are looking like a ghost.

Mrs. Denham.

I feel like one. But I am not going to haunt the scene of my crimes
any longer. I am going away--going away!

Denham.

Well, I'm going with you, then, to take care of you. We'll send
Undine somewhere, and go abroad for a while.

Mrs. Denham.

Oh yes. You can be kind enough, if that were all.

Denham.

Will you never make peace?

Mrs. Denham.

The only peace I _can_ make.

Denham.

What do you mean?

Mrs. Denham.

I shall trouble you no longer.

Denham.

My dear girl, don't talk like that. It is ghastly. Constance, I must
go to Fitzgerald with this wretched drawing. I have to give some
directions about the reproduction. I sha'n't be long. Promise me
that you won't do anything foolish--that I shall find you here when
I come back.

Mrs. Denham.

Yes--you shall find me here.

Denham.

That's right. (_Goes to settee, and takes up shawl._) And now lie
down here, and let me cover you with this shawl.

Mrs. Denham.

Very well. (_She lies down._) Arthur!

Denham.

Yes, dear.

Mrs. Denham.

Kiss me once before you go.

Denham.

Oh, if I may! (_Kisses her._) My poor Constance! I would give my
heart's blood to comfort you. And meanwhile I'll send you a better
thing--tea.

Mrs. Denham.

Thank you, dear. You have always tried to be good to me. You could
not help being cruel, I suppose.

Denham.

I want to be good to you always. Well, good-bye, and God bless you!
(_Kisses her._)

Mrs. Denham.

God bless you! (_Exit Denham._)

Mrs. Denham.

(_listens for a while, then starts up_) He had tears in his eyes
when he kissed me. Poor Arthur! he thinks we are going to patch it
up, I suppose. I am to live on pity--a man's pity, more akin to
contempt than to love. Why _should_ he love me? I was not born to
be loved, not made to be loved. And yet I wanted love so much. I
wanted all or nothing, and I have got pity--pity that puts you in a
madhouse, and comfortably leaves you to rot! Oh, my God! is this
madness--this horror of darkness that seems pressing on my brain?
(_A knock at the door._) What's that? Come in! (_Enter Jane with
tea._) No, not there, Jane--the small table; and bring another cup,
will you?

Jane.

Yes, m'm.

(_Jane places tea-things, and exit._)

Mrs. Denham.

What have I to do? Ah, yes. (_Sits at the table and writes
hurriedly. Re-enter Jane with a cup._) Jane, take this note to Mrs.
Tremaine's at once. You know the house?

Jane.

Yes, m'm.

Mrs. Denham.

(_giving note_) Take it at once.

Jane.

Yes, m'm. Was I to wait for an answer, please?

Mrs. Denham.

No, Jane; no answer. (_Exit Jane._) She will be here directly. She
_must_ come--and I? Yes--yes. There is no other way of quitting the
wreck for _me_. The key? (_Searches her pockets._) Yes! (_She goes
to the cupboard, opens it, and takes out a small bottle, places it
on the tea-table, and looks at it; then takes out the stopper, and
smells the poison._) It smells like some terrible flower. (_Re-stops
and replaces the bottle._) And now to arrange--to arrange it all
decently. (_Pushes the couch behind the screen, returns to the
table, and pours out a cup of tea._) My throat is parched. (_Drinks
eagerly._) Poor Arthur! He will be sorry--perhaps he will understand
a little now. (_She pours the contents of the bottle into the cup._)
The Black Cat had a friend; I am not so fortunate. It is a survival
of the fittest, I suppose. The world was made for the sleek and
treacherous. (_She replaces the bottle in the cupboard, then
returns, and lays the keys on the table._) Yes, my little Undine,
mother is tired too--so tired! Oh, sleep, sleep! If it were but
eternal sleep--if I could be _sure_ I should never wake again! No
more life. And yet I want to live. Oh, my God, I want to live!
(_Paces to and fro, mechanically putting things in order; sees
Undine's handkerchief on the ground, and picks it up._) Undine's
little handkerchief, still wet with her tears--the last human thing
on the brink of the abyss. Poor little rag; it will give me courage
to face the darkness. (_Kisses it, and thrusts it into her bosom,
then goes back to the table._) Perhaps I _do_ think too much of
things--even of death. And now! (_Takes up the cup and shudders._)
Who said "Poor Constance"? (_Puts it down again, and presses her
hands to her ears._) There are voices in my brain--voices that burn
like the flames of hell. Sleep, sleep--we must cheat the madness.
(_Takes the cup, and passes_ R, _as if to go behind screen._) How
awfully things look at you when you're going to die! I did not know
this. There's Demeter with Undine's wreath of daisies withered on
her head. My life has withered with them, since that day she made the
libation. She forgot the speedwell for me. Mother! Mother! Mother!
This is my libation! (_Drinks the poison, and lets the cup fall._) It
is done! (_She stands a moment perfectly still._) My God! not sleep,
but horror! Quick! Quick! (_Staggers behind the screen, and throws
herself on the couch, where she is hidden from the audience._) Arthur!
Arthur! Oh! save me! Arthur--oh! (_Moans and dies._)

(_A pause, then enter Denham and Mrs. Tremaine._)

Denham.

Constance! I left her here on the sofa, and now--Constance! She must
have gone to her room--she sometimes does. Have some tea, won't you?

(_They approach the tea-table._)

Mrs. Tremaine.

I don't know why I have come here, I am sure. I never meant to see
this place again; and yet, here I am, like the good-natured fool I
always was.

(_He places a chair for her by the table._)

Denham.

It was awfully good of you to come. That's such a strange letter for
Constance to have written. She asked you to come here at once, for
my sake and your own?

Mrs. Tremaine.

Yes. It's a mad kind of letter. (_She sits down._)

Denham.

I am very uneasy about her.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Well, what's that to me?

Denham.

Nothing, of course. Blanche, we have been living in hell since
yesterday.

Mrs. Tremaine.

I daresay. I have not been in Paradise, I assure you. What are you
going to do? (_Pours out some tea._)

Denham.

I don't know.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_puts in sugar_) Will she--stay with you?

Denham.

What else can she do?

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_stirring her tea_) Then I wish you joy of the _ménage_. You don't
seem to have gained much by making a fool of me.

Denham.

You have renewed the world for me. The mere thought of you is
sunshine. Here we have always been at loggerheads with life.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Then why--? (_Sips her tea._) Bah! Upon my word, Arthur Denham, that
woman has drained you of your manhood like a vampire, made you the
limp coward that you are.

Denham.

Not a word against Constance, or I shall hate you, Blanche. No--I am
haunted by a ghost.

Mrs. Tremaine.

A metaphorical one?

Denham.

The ghost that came to Hamlet in the shape of his father--duty. It
is a trick of my British bourgeois blood, I suppose.

Mrs. Tremaine.

What duty? To that internal Mrs. Grundy we call conscience? To the
thing called Society? To the sacred bond of marriage? Her own
principles are against you there. No--she holds you in some deeper
way than this.

Denham.

It is true--she does.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_rising_) Is it because you love _her_ that you abandon _me_? If
so, say so; and I shall understand that I am a toy goddess, nothing
more.

Denham.

She loves me.

Mrs. Tremaine.

Ah! a woman's love can blight as terribly as a man's--almost. Well,
I like you none the worse for this curious spice of loyalty. It is
so rare in a man.

Denham.

No--not so rare. Don't let us talk any more about it now. I think
you begin to understand. But where can she be? I seem to feel her
presence here. (_He looks behind the screen, then thrusts it aside,
showing Mrs. Denham lying dead on the couch._) Blanche! Blanche!
Look here! Is she--?

Mrs. Tremaine.

She has fainted--let me--!

Denham.

(_throws himself down beside the couch and puts his finger on her
wrist_) Oh my God! Dead! Dead!

Mrs. Tremaine.

No, no, no! It is too terrible! Let us try if----(_Attempts to open
dress, then recoils in horror._) And I had begun to hate her--yes,
to _hate_ her. My poor good Constance!

Denham.

But how--? (_Rising._) _Is_ she dead, Blanche?

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_mastering her agitation_) Yes, dear, dead! She has taken poison.
See here! (_Picks up the cup._) What a horrible death! Her face is
awful!

Denham.

Oh, Constance, why did I leave you? I had a vague fear of
something--but not this! (_Throws himself down again, and stoops to
kiss her._) Ha! Prussic acid! No help! No hope! Yet she is warm.
(_He starts up._) Could we--? But death is a matter of seconds with
that infernal stuff. Blanche, Blanche, I have killed her!

Mrs. Tremaine.

I claim my share in the guilt.

Denham.

No, no. Leave me! Let the dead bury their dead!

Mrs. Tremaine.

If you wish me to leave you, dear, I will go.

Denham.

Yes--for God's sake, go! (_She moves towards the door._) But,
Blanche, don't leave the house. I can't bear this alone.

Mrs. Tremaine.

(_returns to him_) You know, dear, I am yours always. Oh, don't hate
me! I dare to say it in this presence. (_She kisses his hand. He
shrinks from her._) Now I can go. (_She goes to the door and looks
back as Denham kneels and clasps the body in his arms._) Will he
hate me now? (_Exit Mrs. Tremaine._)

Denham.

Constance! I meant to have kept you from all the thorns of life! It
was fate! It was fate!


CURTAIN.



       *       *       *       *       *

Printed by Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.



=THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE SERIES OF PLAYS.=

EDITED BY J.T. GREIN.

_Crown 8vo, 2s. 6d. net._

       *       *       *       *       *

The undermentioned are now ready:--

I.

=WIDOWERS' HOUSES=. By GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, with a Preface
by the Author, an Address to Dramatic Critics, and an Appendix
treating of the discussion raised by the performance.


II.

=ALAN'S WIFE=. Anonymous. With a Preface by WILLIAM ARCHER.


III.

=THE HEIRS OF RABOURDIN=. By EMILE ZOLA. Translated by
A. TEIXEIRA DE MATTOS. With a Preface by the Author.


IV.

=THE BLACK CAT=. By Dr. TODHUNTER. With an Introduction by
the Author.

       *       *       *       *       *

=DRAMA.=


I.

=THE GARDEN OF CITRONS=. By EMILIO MONTANARO. Translated by J.T. GREIN.
With a Preface by JOHN GRAY. Paper Covers, 1s. net.


II.

=TWO PLAYS=. By MEYRICK MILTON. With a Preface by the Author.
Crown 8vo, 2s. 6d. net.



=ASK TO SEE A SPECIMEN COPY.=

_NOW PUBLISHING._

THE NEW ART SERIAL.

The Most Exhaustive Work ever Published.

THE HISTORY

OF

MODERN PAINTING

_OVER 2,300 PAGES AND 1,300 ILLUSTRATIONS._

Describes and Illustrates the Art of

    =ENGLAND=,
    =NORWAY & SWEDEN=,
    =HOLLAND=,
    =JAPAN=,
    =FRANCE=,
    =SCOTLAND=,
    =RUSSIA=,
    =BELGIUM=,
    =SPAIN=,
    =GERMANY=,
    =AMERICA=,
    =ITALY=, Etc.

In 36 Monthly Parts, 1s. net, or 16 Monthly Parts

Half-a-Crown net.

Also in 3 Volumes, cloth gilt, Imperial 8vo, £2 15s. net, and

Half Morocco, Library Edition, £3 15s. net.

=WRITE FOR ILLUSTRATED PROSPECTUS.=


_NOW READY._

NEW NOVEL BY JOHN OLIVER HOBBES.

=THE GODS, SOME MORTALS AND LORD WICKENHAM=.

_By the Author of "Some Emotions and a Moral," "The Sinners'
Comedy," etc._

IN ONE VOL., 6s.

       *       *       *       *       *

BY JOCELYN QUILP.

=BARON VERDIGRIS:=

=A ROMANCE OF THE REVERSED DIRECTION.=

WITH A FRONTISPIECE BY AUBREY BEARDSLEY.

_Crown 8vo, 3s. 6d._

       *       *       *       *       *

By ANTHONY DEANE.

=HOLIDAY RHYMES=.

From "Punch," "Pall Mall," "St. James's," and "Westminster Gazettes,"
etc.

_Crown 8vo, 3s. 6d._

       *       *       *       *       *

EDITED BY THE MARQUIS DE RUVIGNY AND RAINEVAL.

=THE LEGITIMIST KALENDAR=

=FOR 1895.=

Containing a full account of the claims of the Carlists in Spain,
the Miguelists in Portugal, the _Blancs d'Espagne_ in France, and
the Jacobite Party in England. Illustrated with Portraits of their
Most Christian and Catholic Majesties the King and Queen of France,
Spain, and Navarre. Published by Subscription only at 5s. net.
Twenty-Five Copies on Dutch Hand-made Paper at One Guinea.
Prospectus forwarded on application.


=IN THE GREEN PARK=.

By F. NORREYS CONNELL.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY F.H. TOWNSEND.

_Crown 8vo, 3s. 6d._

"Excellent fooling. Teems with classical chaff and latter-day
badinage. The chief attraction is the uninterrupted flow of
exuberant animal spirits which permeates its pages. Mr. Townsend's
illustrations to this quaint work are decidedly funny."--_Daily
Telegraph._

"Full of clever and whimsical conceits. Will best be appreciated by
Londoners, and welcome to the general reader."--_Morning Post._

"Not at all a bad specimen of the New Humour."--_Truth._

"The newest New Humour."--_National Observer._

"Very clever. Mr. Connell's next volume is sure to be good."--_Black
and White._

"A fantastic and amusing work. Mr. Connell is a humorist, and a
humorist of a distinctly original type. We have laughed heartily
over this book. The whole is so piquantly flavoured and seasoned.
Stories of the after-dinner type, audacious occasionally, but never
coarse, and always redeemed by a pretty and nimble art. The author
is a good fellow with his quips, and jests, and cranks; and nobody
will regret making his acquaintance."--_Weekly Sun._

       *       *       *       *       *

=THE BACHELORS' CLUB=.

By I. ZANGWILL.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY GEORGE HUTCHINSON.

_Crown 8vo, 3s. 6d._

ST. JAMES'S GAZETTE: "Some exceedingly clever fooling, and
a happy audacity of whimsical invention."

DAILY GRAPHIC: "A genuine humorist. We own to having
laughed heartily, and appreciated the cleverness and the cynicism."

STAR: "Mr. Zangwill has an original way of being funny. He
is full of clever and witty, paradoxical and epigrammatical,
surprises. His book is a splendid tonic for gloomy spirits."

EVENING NEWS: "Not one in a score of the amusing books
which come from the press is nearly so amusing as this."

SUNDAY TIMES: "Read, laugh over, and profit by the history
of 'The Bachelors' Club,' capitally told by a fresh young writer."

GLOBE: "A clever and interesting book. Agreeable satire.
Store of epigram."

REFEREE: "A new comic writer. There is a touch of the
devilry of Heine in Mr. Zangwill's wit."

SCOTSMAN: "Any one who has listened to what the wild waves
say as they beat the shores of Bohemia will read the book with
enjoyment and appreciate its careless merriment."

FREEMAN'S JOURNAL: "Very clever and amusing; highly
interesting, humorous and instructive."

PICTORIAL WORLD: "One of the smartest books of the season.
Brimful of funny ideas, comically expressed."

MAN OF THE WORLD: "Witty to excess. To gentlemen who dine
out, the book will furnish a stock of 'good things' upon every
conceivable subject of conversation."

GRANTA: "A book of genuine humour. Full of amusing things.
The style is fresh and original."


DISILLUSION:

_A STORY WITH A PREFACE._

BY DOROTHY LEIGHTON,

_Author of "As a Man is Able."_

THREE VOLS. AT ALL LIBRARIES.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The leading characters in this typically modern tale are very
well drawn, and the author has distanced all her fellow-novelists
of her own sex in the delineation of a woman whose heartlessness
may be truly called devilish. The strength of this portrait is
remarkable. The other woman is effective too, and the tangle of
the relations of the three is put right by a device of startling
originality."--_World._

"Few cleverer books have come under our notice for many months
past."--_Daily Telegraph._

"A story with the one supreme merit of originality."--_Daily
Chronicle._

"Another study of the New Woman, and a most brilliant and convincing
study. Celia Adair is almost an inspiration. Such a woman has never
been drawn with more absolute truthfulness.... A very powerful and
pathetic piece of work."--_Speaker._

"A very clever story; ... it is on the crest of the wave."--_Review
of Reviews._

"Had we space, we should like to make a good many quotations from
the sayings of Celia. Her principles are abominable, and her morals
are of the laxest; but many of her remarks are original, pungent,
and entertaining. A good deal of thought has evidently been expended
upon this book,"--_Saturday Review._

       *       *       *       *       *

THE PENTAMERONE;

OR,

=The Tale of Tales=.

_BEING A TRANSLATION FROM THE NEAPOLITAN._

BY THE LATE

CAPTAIN SIR RICHARD BURTON, K.C.M.G.

A limited Edition in Two Volumes, demy 8vo, £3 3s.

_A Large Paper Edition on Hand-made Paper, limited to_ 150 _numbered
Copies_, £5 5s. _nett_.

Prospectus on application.


NEW WORK BY BARRY PAIN.


THE KINDNESS OF THE CELESTIAL.

By the Author of "In a Canadian Canoe," etc.

_Crown 8vo, 3s. 6d._

"Has a quaintness and distinction of its own, an elusive quality
of style, a personal touch, that lends to it a whimsical
fascination,"--_Daily News._


BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

IN A CANADIAN CANOE.

_Fourth Edition. Crown 8vo, cloth, 2s. 6d._

"The pleasant and even remarkable book which Mr. Barry Pain has
contributed to the Whitefriars Library. The best thing in the book,
to our mind, is 'The Celestial Grocery,' a quaint and thoroughly
original blending of effervescent humour with grim pathos."--_Pall
Mall Gazette._

"Mr. Barry Pain has a decided sense of humour. The best things in
the volume are the classical burlesques grouped under the title of
'The Nine Muses minus One.' They are really clever and full of
_esprit_."--_Academy._

"Nor is he deficient in fancy, and 'The Celestial Grocery' is as
whimsical as it is fresh. 'Bill' is in yet another vein, and proves
that Mr. Pain can handle the squalor of reality: while the last half
of 'The Girl and the Beetle,' the best of the book, suggests a
certain comprehension of character."--_National Observer._

"An original worker, a man who copies no one either in treatment or
style--this, his first volume, should find a wide popularity."--_The
Review of Reviews._

"If you want a really refreshing book, a book whose piquant savour
and quaint originality of style are good for jaded brains, buy and
read _In a Canadian Canoe_.... There is in these stories a curious
mixture of humour, insight, and pathos, with here and there a dash
of grimness and a sprinkling of that charming irrelevancy which is
of the essence of true humour. As for 'The Celestial Grocery,' I can
only say that it is in its way a masterpiece."--_Punch._


STORIES AND INTERLUDES.

_Second Edition. Crown 8vo, cloth, 3s. 6d._

"Mr. Pain has a delicate fancy and a graceful style, a bitter-sweet
humour, and a plentiful endowment of 'the finer perceptions.'"_--Punch._

"Amazingly clever.... Teems with satire and good
things."--_Speaker._

"'The Magic Morning,' though dealing with a young city man and his
wife, has the atmosphere of far-away dreaminess which is so charming
in some of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories."--_Saturday Review._

"There is something delightfully, because unsatisfactorily,
fascinating in these stories, with their touch of _diablerie_, their
elusiveness."--_National Review._

"If we laugh less over these pages than over the grotesque
absurdities that abounded in the former collection of sketches, we
are the more fascinated by the quiet subtlety of their humour, their
irony and pathos."--_Evening News and Post._

"There is a great charm about these stories and
interludes."--_Vanity Fair._

"Full of charm, fantasy, and pathos."--_Ladies' Pictorial._

"The book as a whole is decidedly clever."--_Guardian._





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Black Cat - A Play in Three Acts" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home