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Title: Three Plays by Granville-Barker - The Marrying of Ann Leete; The Voysey Inheritance; Waste
Author: Granville-Barker, Harley, 1877-1946
Language: English
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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.

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                           THREE PLAYS BY
                          GRANVILLE BARKER

_These plays may also be obtained separately: in cloth, 2s. net each; in
paper covers, 1s. 6d. net each._



             _Entered at the Library of Congress, Washington, U.S.A.
                             All rights reserved._

                        _First Impression, August 1909_
                      _Second Impression, September 1909_
                        _Third Impression, November 1909_

                        To the memory of my fellow-worker,
                                 St. John Hankin.

                              The Marrying of Ann Leete

                                      A COMEDY


                              THE MARRYING OF ANN LEETE

_The first three acts of the comedy pass in the garden at Markswayde_,
MR. CARNABY LEETE'S _house near Reading, during a summer day towards the
close of the eighteenth century: the first act at four in the morning,
the second shortly after mid-day, the third near to sunset. The fourth
act takes place one day in the following winter; the first scene in the
hall at Markswayde, the second scene in a cottage some ten miles off._

_This part of the Markswayde garden looks to have been laid out during
the seventeenth century. In the middle a fountain; the centrepiece the
figure of a nymph, now somewhat cracked, and pouring nothing from the
amphora; the rim of the fountain is high enough and broad enough to be a
comfortable seat._

_The close turf around is in parts worn bare. This plot of ground is
surrounded by a terrace three feet higher. Three sides of it are seen.
From two corners broad steps lead down; stone urns stand at the bottom
and top of the stone balustrades. The other two corners are rounded
convexly into broad stone seats._

_Along the edges of the terrace are growing rose trees, close together;
behind these, paths; behind those, shrubs and trees. No landscape is to
be seen. A big copper beech overshadows the seat on the left. A silver
birch droops over the seat on the right. The trees far to the left
indicate an orchard, the few to the right are more of the garden sort.
It is the height of summer, and after a long drought the rose trees are

_It is very dark in the garden. Though there may be by now a faint
morning light in the sky it has not penetrated yet among these trees. It
is very still, too. Now and then the leaves of a tree are stirred, as if
in its sleep; that is all. Suddenly a shrill, frightened, but not
tragical scream is heard. After a moment_ ANN LEETE _runs quickly down
the steps and on to the fountain, where she stops, panting_. LORD JOHN
CARP _follows her, but only to the top of the steps, evidently not
knowing his way_. ANN _is a girl of twenty; he an English gentleman,
nearer forty than thirty_.

LORD JOHN. I apologise.

ANN. Why is it so dark?

LORD JOHN. Can you hear what I'm saying?

ANN. Yes.

LORD JOHN. I apologise for having kissed you . . . almost

ANN. Thank you. Mind the steps down.

LORD JOHN. I hope I'm sober, but the air . . .

ANN. Shall we sit for a minute? There are several seats to sit on

LORD JOHN. This is a very dark garden.

_There is a slight pause._

ANN. You've won your bet.

LORD JOHN. So you did scream!

ANN. But it wasn't fair.

LORD JOHN. Don't reproach me.

ANN. Somebody's coming.

LORD JOHN. How d'you know?

ANN. I can hear somebody coming.

LORD JOHN. We're not sitting down.

ANN'S _brother_, GEORGE LEETE _comes to the top of the steps, and
afterwards down them. Rather an old young man._


ANN. Yes.

GEORGE. My lord!


GEORGE. I can't see you. I'm sent to say we're all anxious to know what
ghost or other bird of night or beast has frightened Ann to screaming
point, and won you . . . the best in Tatton's stables--so he says now.
He's quite annoyed.

LORD JOHN. The mare is a very good mare.

ANN. He betted it because he wanted to bet it; I didn't want him to bet it.

GEORGE. What frightened her?

ANN. I had rather, my lord, that you did not tell my brother why I

LORD JOHN. I kissed her.

GEORGE. Did you?

ANN. I had rather, Lord John, that you had not told my brother why I

LORD JOHN. I misunderstood you.

GEORGE. I've broke up the whist party. Ann, shall we return?

LORD JOHN. She's not here.


LADY COTTESHAM, ANN'S _sister and ten years older, and_ MR. DANIEL
TATTON, _a well-living, middle-aged country gentleman, arrive together_.
TATTON _carries a double candlestick. . . the lights out_.

MR. TATTON. Three steps?

SARAH. No . . . four.

LORD JOHN. Miss Leete.

TATTON _in the darkness finds himself close to_ GEORGE.

MR. TATTON. I am in a rage with you, my lord.

GEORGE. He lives next door.

MR. TATTON. My mistake. [_He passes on._] Confess that she did it to
please you.

LORD JOHN. Screamed!

MR. TATTON. Lost my bet. We'll say . . . won your bet . . . to please
you. Was skeered at the dark . . . oh, fie!

LORD JOHN. Miss Leete trod on a toad.

MR. TATTON. I barred toads . . . here.

LORD JOHN. I don't think it.

MR. TATTON. I barred toads. Did I forget to? Well . . . it's better to
be a sportsman.

SARAH. And whereabout is she?

ANN. [_From the corner she has slunk to._] Here I am, Sally.

MR. TATTON. Miss Ann, I forgive you. I'm smiling, I assure you, I'm

SARAH. We all laughed when we heard you.

MR. TATTON. Which reminds me, young George Leete, had you the ace?

GEORGE. King . . . knave . . . here are the cards, but I can't see.

MR. TATTON. I had the king.

ANN. [_Quietly to her sister._] He kissed me.

SARAH. A man would.

GEORGE. What were trumps?

MR. TATTON. What were we playing . . . cricket?

ANN. [_As quietly again._] D'you think I'm blushing?

SARAH. It's probable.

ANN. I am by the feel of me.

SARAH. George, we left Papa sitting quite still.

LORD JOHN. Didn't he approve of the bet?

MR. TATTON. He said nothing.

SARAH. Why, who doesn't love sport!

MR. TATTON. I'm the man to grumble. Back a woman's pluck again . . .
never. My lord . . . you weren't the one to go with her as umpire.

GEORGE. No. . . to be sure.

MR. TATTON. How was it I let that pass? Playing two games at once.
Haven't I cause of complaint? But a man must give and take.

_The master of the house, father of_ GEORGE _and_ SARAH COTTESHAM _and_
ANN, MR. CARNABY LEETE, _comes slowly down the steps, unnoticed by the
others. A man over fifty--à la Lord Chesterfield_.

GEORGE. [_To_ LORD JOHN.] Are you sure you're quite comfortable there?

LORD JOHN. Whatever I'm sitting on hasn't given way yet.

MR. TATTON. Don't forget that you're riding to Brighton with me.

LORD JOHN. Tomorrow.

GEORGE. To-day. Well . . . the hour before sunrise is no time at all.

MR. TATTON. Sixty-five miles.

LORD JOHN. What are we all sitting here for?

MR. TATTON. I say people ought to be in bed and asleep.

CARNABY. But the morning air is delightful.

MR. TATTON. [_Jumping at the new voice._] Leete! Now, had you the ace?

CARNABY. Of course.

MR. TATTON. We should have lost that too, Lady Charlie.

SARAH. Bear up, Mr. Tat.

MR. TATTON. Come, a game of whist is a game of whist.

CARNABY. And so I strolled out after you all.

MR. TATTON. She trod on a toad.

CARNABY. [_Carelessly._] Does she say so?

MR. TATTON. [_With mock roguishness._] Ah!

GEORGE _is on the terrace, looking to the left through the trees_.
TATTON _is sitting on the edge of the fountain_.

GEORGE. Here's the sun . . . to show us ourselves.

MR. TATTON. Leete, this pond is full of water!

CARNABY. Ann, if you are there . . .

ANN. Yes, Papa.

CARNABY. Apologise profusely; it's your garden.

ANN. Oh . . .

CARNABY. Coat-tails, Tatton . . . or worse?

MR. TATTON. [_Ruefully discovering damp spots about him._] Nothing
vastly to matter.

LORD JOHN. Hardy, well-preserved, country gentleman!

MR. TATTON. I bet I'm a younger man than you, my lord.

ANN. [_Suddenly to the company generally._] I didn't tread upon any toad
. . . I was kissed.

_There is a pause of some discomfort._

SARAH. Ann, come here to me.

LORD JOHN. I apologised.

GEORGE. [_From the terrace._] Are we to be insulted?

CARNABY. My dear Carp, say no more.

_There is another short pause. By this it is twilight, faces can be
plainly seen._

SARAH. Listen . . . the first bird.

MR. TATTON. Oh, dear no, they begin to sing long before this.

CARNABY. What is it now . . . a lark?

MR. TATTON. I don't know.

ANN. [_Quietly to_ SARAH.] That's a thrush.

SARAH. [_Capping her._] A thrush.

CARNABY. Charming!

MR. TATTON. [__ LORD JOHN.] I don't see why you couldn't have told me
how it was that she screamed.

CARNABY. Our dear Tatton! [_Sotto voce to his son._] Hold your tongue,

MR. TATTON. I did bar toads and you said I didn't, and anyway I had a
sort of right to know.

LORD JOHN. You know now.

SARAH. I wonder if this seat is dry.

LORD JOHN. There's been no rain for weeks.

SARAH. The roads will be dusty for you, Mr. Tat.

MR. TATTON. Just one moment. You don't mind me, Miss Ann, do you?

ANN. I don't mind much.

MR. TATTON. We said distinctly . . . To the orchard end of the garden
and back and if frightened--that's the word--so much as to scream . . . !
Now, what I want to know is. . .

LORD JOHN. Consider the bet off.

MR. TATTON. Certainly not. And we should have added. . . Alone.

CARNABY. Tatton has persistence.

SARAH. Mr. Tat, do you know where people go who take things seriously?

MR. TATTON. Miss Leete, were you frightened when Lord John kissed you?

GEORGE. Damnation!

CARNABY. My excellent Tatton, much as I admire your searchings after
truth I must here parentally intervene, regretting, my dear Tatton, that
my own carelessness of duennahood has permitted this--this . . . to

_After this, there is silence for a minute._

LORD JOHN. Can I borrow a horse of you, Mr. Leete?

CARNABY. My entire stable; and your Ronald shall be physicked.

SARAH. Spartans that you are to be riding!

LORD JOHN. I prefer it to a jolting chaise.

MR. TATTON. You will have my mare.

LORD JOHN. [_Ignoring him._] This has been a most enjoyable three weeks.


LORD JOHN. Is it four?

CARNABY. We bow to the compliment. Our duty to his grace.

LORD JOHN. When I see him.

GEORGE. To our dear cousin.

MR. TATTON. [_To_ LADY COTTESHAM.] Sir Charles at Brighton?

SARAH. [_Not answering._] To be sure . . . we did discover . . . our
mother was second cousin . . . once removed to you.

CARNABY. If the prince will be there . . . he is in waiting.

LORD JOHN. Any message, Lady Cottesham? . . . since we speak out of

SARAH. I won't trust you.

CARNABY. Or trouble you while I still may frank a letter. But my
son-in-law is a wretched correspondent. Do you admire men of small
vices? They make admirable husbands though their wives will be
grumbling--Silence, Sarah--but that's a good sign.

SARAH. Papa is a connoisseur of humanity.

ANN. [_To the company as before._] No, Mr. Tatton, I wasn't frightened
when Lord John . . . kissed me. I screamed because I was surprised, and
I'm sorry I screamed.

SARAH. [_Quietly to_ ANN.] My dear Ann, you're a fool.

ANN. [_Quietly to_ SARAH.] I will speak sometimes.

SARAH. Sit down again.

_Again an uncomfortable silence, a ludicrous air about it this time._

MR. TATTON. Now, we'll say no more about that bet, but I was right.

LORD JOHN. Do you know, Mr. Tatton, that I have a temper to lose?

MR. TATTON. What the devil does that matter to me, sir . . . my lord?

LORD JOHN. I owe you a saddle and bridle.

MR. TATTON. You'll oblige me by taking the mare.

LORD JOHN. We'll discuss it to-morrow.

MR. TATTON. I've said all I have to say.

GEORGE. The whole matter's ridiculous!

MR. TATTON. I see the joke. Good-night, Lady Cottesham, and I kiss your

SARAH. Good morning, Mr. Tat.

MR. TATTON. Good morning, Miss Ann, I . . .

SARAH. [_Shielding her sister._] Good morrow is appropriate.

MR. TATTON. I'll go by the fields. [_To_ CARNABY.] Thank you for a
pleasant evening. Good morrow, George. Do we start at mid-day, my lord?

LORD JOHN. Any time you please.

MR. TATTON. Not at all. [_He hands the candlestick--of which he has
never before left go--to_ GEORGE.] I brought this for a link. Thank you.

CARNABY. Mid-day will be midnight if you sleep at all now; make it two
or later.

MR. TATTON. We put up at Guildford. I've done so before. I haven't my
hat. It's a day and a half's ride.

TATTON _goes quickly up the other steps and away. It is now quite
light._ GEORGE _stands by the steps_, LORD JOHN _is on one of the
seats_, CARNABY _strolls round, now and then touching the rose trees_,
SARAH _and_ ANN _are on the other seat_.

GEORGE. Morning! These candles still smell.

SARAH. How lively one feels and isn't.

CARNABY. The flowers are opening.

ANN. [_In a whisper._] Couldn't we go in?

SARAH. Never run away.

ANN. Everything looks so odd.

SARAH. What's o'clock . . . my lord?

LORD JOHN. Half after four.

ANN. [_To_ SARAH.] My eyes are hot behind.

GEORGE. What ghosts we seem!

SARAH. What has made us spend such a night?

CARNABY. Ann incited me to it. [_He takes snuff._]

SARAH. In a spirit of rebellion against good country habits. . .

ANN. [_To her sister again._] Don't talk about me.

SARAH. They can see that you're whispering.

CARNABY. . . . Informing me now she was a woman and wanted excitement.

GEORGE. There's a curse.

CARNABY. How else d'ye conceive life for women?

SARAH. George is naturally cruel. Excitement's our education. Please
vary it, though.

CARNABY. I have always held that to colour in the world-picture is the
greatest privilege of the husband. Sarah.

SARAH. [_Not leaving_ ANN'S _side_.] Yes, Papa.

CARNABY. Sarah, when Sir Charles leaves Brighton. . .

SARAH _rises but will not move further_.

CARNABY. [_Sweetly threatening._] Shall I come to you?

_But she goes to him now._

CARNABY. By a gossip letter from town . . .

SARAH. [_Tensely._] What is it?

CARNABY. You mentioned to me something of his visiting Naples.

SARAH. Very well. I detest Italy.

CARNABY. Let's have George's opinion.

_He leads her towards_ GEORGE.


CARNABY. Upon Naples.

GEORGE. I remember Naples.

CARNABY. Sarah, admire those roses.

SARAH. [_Cynically echoing her father._] Let's have George's opinion.

_Now_ CARNABY _has drawn them both away, upon the terrace, and, the
coast being clear_, LORD JOHN _walks towards_ ANN, _who looks at him
very scaredly_.

CARNABY. Emblem of secrecy among the ancients.

SARAH. Look at this heavy head, won't it snap off?

_The three move out of sight._

LORD JOHN. I'm sober now.

ANN. I'm not.

LORD JOHN. Uncompromising young lady.

ANN. And, excuse me, I don't want to . . . play.

LORD JOHN. Don't you wish me to apologise quietly, to you?

ANN. Good manners are all mockery, I'm sure.

LORD JOHN. I'm very much afraid you're a cynic.

ANN. I'm not trying to be clever.

LORD JOHN. Do I tease you?

ANN. Do I amuse you?

LORD JOHN. How dare I say so!

ANN. [_After a moment._] I was not frightened.

LORD JOHN. You kissed me back.

ANN. Not on purpose. What do two people mean by behaving so . . . in the

LORD JOHN. I am exceedingly sorry that I hurt your feelings.

ANN. Thank you, I like to feel.

LORD JOHN. And you must forgive me.

ANN. Tell me, why did you do it?

LORD JOHN. Honestly I don't know. I should do it again.

ANN. That's not quite true, is it?

LORD JOHN. I think so.

ANN. What does it matter at all!

LORD JOHN. Nothing.

GEORGE, SARAH _and then_ CARNABY _move into sight and along the
terrace_, LORD JOHN _turns to them_.

LORD JOHN. Has this place been long in your family, Mr. Leete?

CARNABY. Markswayde my wife brought us, through the Peters's . . . old
Chiltern people . . . connections of yours, of course. There is no

LORD JOHN _walks back to_ ANN.

SARAH. George, you assume this republicanism as you would--no, would
not--a coat of latest cut.

CARNABY. Never argue with him . . . persist.

SARAH. So does he.

_The three pass along the terrace._

ANN. [_To_ LORD JOHN.] Will you sit down?

LORD JOHN. It's not worth while. Do you know I must be quite twice your

ANN. A doubled responsibility, my lord.

LORD JOHN. I suppose it is.

ANN. I don't say so. That's a phrase from a book . . . sounded well.

LORD JOHN. My dear Miss Ann. . . [_He stops._]

ANN. Go on being polite.

LORD JOHN. If you'll keep your head turned away.

ANN. Why must I?

LORD JOHN. There's lightning in the glances of your eye.

ANN. Do use vulgar words to me.

LORD JOHN. [_With a sudden fatherly kindness._] Go to bed . . . you're
dead tired. And good-bye . . . I'll be gone before you wake.

ANN. Good-bye.

_She shakes hands with him, then walks towards her father who is coming
down the steps._

ANN. Papa, don't my roses want looking to?

CARNABY. [_Pats her cheek._] These?

ANN. Those.

CARNABY. Abud is under your thumb, horticulturally speaking.

ANN. Where's Sally?

_She goes on to_ SARAH, _who is standing with_ GEORGE _at the top of the
steps_. CARNABY _looks_ LORD JOHN _up and down_.

LORD JOHN. [_Dusting his shoulder._] This cursed powder!

CARNABY. Do we respect innocence enough . . . any of us?

GEORGE _comes down the steps and joins them_.

GEORGE. Respectable politics will henceforth be useless to me.

CARNABY. My lord, was his grace satisfied with the young man's work
abroad or was he not?

LORD JOHN. My father used to curse everyone.

CARNABY. That's a mere Downing Street custom.

LORD JOHN. And I seem to remember that a letter of yours from . . .
where were you in those days?

GEORGE. Paris . . . Naples . . . Vienna.

LORD JOHN. One place . . . once lightened a fit of gout.

CARNABY. George, you have in you the makings of a minister.


CARNABY. Remember the Age tends to the disreputable.

GEORGE _moves away_, SARAH _moves towards them_.

CARNABY. George is something of a genius, stuffed with theories and
possessed of a curious conscience. But I am fortunate in my children.

LORD JOHN. All the world knows it.

CARNABY. [_To_ SARAH.] It's lucky that yours was a love match, too. I
admire you. Ann is 'to come,' so to speak.

SARAH. [_To_ LORD JOHN.] Were you discussing affairs?



ANN. Yes, George.

_She goes to him; they stroll together up the steps and along the

SARAH. I'm desperately fagged.

LORD JOHN. [_Politely._] A seat.

SARAH. Also tired of sitting.

CARNABY. Let's have the Brighton news, Carp.

LORD JOHN. If there's any.

CARNABY. Probably I still command abuse. Even my son-in-law must, by
courtesy, join in the cry . . . ah, poor duty-torn Sarah! You can spread
abroad that I am as a green bay tree.

CARNABY _paces slowly away from them_.

LORD JOHN. Your father's making a mistake.

SARAH. D'you think so?

LORD JOHN. He's played the game once.

SARAH. I was not then in the knowledge of things when he left you.

LORD JOHN. We remember it.

SARAH. I should like to hear it.

LORD JOHN. I have avoided this subject.

SARAH. With him, yes.

LORD JOHN. Oh! . . . why did I desert the army for politics?

SARAH. Better fighting.

LORD JOHN. It sat so nobly upon him . . . the leaving us for conscience
sake when we were strongly in power. Strange that six months later we
should be turned out.

SARAH. Papa was lucky.

LORD JOHN. But this second time . . . ?

SARAH. Listen. This is very much a private quarrel with Mr. Pitt, who
hates Papa . . . gets rid of him.

LORD JOHN. Shall I betray a confidence?

SARAH. Better not.

LORD JOHN. My father advised me to this visit.

SARAH. Your useful visit. More than kind of his Grace.

LORD JOHN. Yes . . . there's been a paragraph in the "Morning
Chronicle," 'The Whigs woo Mr. Carnaby Leete.'

SARAH. We saw to it.

LORD JOHN. My poor father seems anxious to discover whether the Leete
episode will repeat itself entirely. He is chronically unhappy in
opposition. Are your husband and his colleagues trembling in their

SARAH. I can't say.

LORD JOHN. Politics is a game for clever children, and women, and fools.
Will you take a word of warning from a soldier? Your father is past his

CARNABY _paces back towards them_.

CARNABY. I'm getting to be old for these all-night sittings. I must be
writing to your busy brother.

LORD JOHN. Arthur? . . . is at his home.

SARAH. Pleasantly sounding phrase.

CARNABY. His grace deserted?

SARAH. Quite secretaryless!

LORD JOHN. Lady Arthur lately has been brought to bed. I heard

SARAH. The seventh, is it not? Children require living up to. My

LORD JOHN. Won't you write them?

SARAH. We are not intimate.

LORD JOHN. A good woman.

SARAH. Evidently. Where's Ann? We'll go in.

LORD JOHN. You're a mother to your sister.


CARNABY. My wife went her ways into the next world; Sarah hers into
this; and our little Ann was left with a most admirable governess. One
must never reproach circumstances. Man educates woman in his own good

LORD JOHN. I suppose she, or any young girl, is all heart.

CARNABY. What is it that you call heart . . . sentimentally speaking?

SARAH. Any bud in the morning.

LORD JOHN. That man Tatton's jokes are in shocking taste.

CARNABY. Tatton is honest.

LORD JOHN. I'm much to blame for having won that bet.

CARNABY. Say no more.

LORD JOHN. What can Miss Ann think of me?

SARAH. Don't ask her.

CARNABY. Innocency's opinions are invariably entertaining.

LORD JOHN. Am I the first . . . ? I really beg your pardon.

GEORGE _and_ ANN _come down the steps together_.

CARNABY. Ann, what do you think . . . that is to say--and answer me
truthfully . . . what at this moment is your inclination of mind towards
my lord here?

ANN. I suppose I love him.

LORD JOHN. I hope not.

ANN. I suppose I love you.

CARNABY. No . . no . . no . . no . . no . . no . . no.

SARAH. Hush, dear.

ANN. I'm afraid, papa, there's something very ill-bred in me.

_Down the steps and into the midst of them comes_ JOHN ABUD, _carrying
his tools, among other things a twist of bass. A young gardener, honest,
clean and common._

ABUD. [_To_ CARNABY.] I ask pardon, sir.

CARNABY. So early, Abud! . . . this is your territory. So late . . . Bed.

ANN _starts away up the steps_, SARAH _is following her_.

LORD JOHN. Good-bye, Lady Cottesham.

_At this_ ANN _stops for a moment, but then goes straight on_.

SARAH. A pleasant journey.

SARAH _departs too_.

GEORGE. [_Stretching himself._] I'm roused.

CARNABY. [_To_ ABUD.] Leave your tools here for a few moments.

ABUD. I will, sir.

ABUD _leaves them, going along the terrace and out of sight_.

CARNABY. My head is hot. Pardon me.

CARNABY _is sitting on the fountain rim; he dips his handkerchief in the
water, and wrings it; then takes off his wig and binds the damp
handkerchief round his head_.

CARNABY. Wigs are most comfortable and old fashioned . . . unless you
choose to be a cropped republican like my son.

GEORGE. Nature!

CARNABY. Nature grows a beard, sir.

LORD JOHN. I've seen Turks.

CARNABY. Horrible . . . horrible! Sit down, Carp.

LORD JOHN _sits on the fountain rim_, GEORGE _begins to pace restlessly;
he has been nursing the candlestick ever since_ TATTON _handed it to

CARNABY. George, you look damned ridiculous strutting arm-in-arm with
that candlestick.

GEORGE. I am ridiculous.

CARNABY. If you're cogitating over your wife and her expectations . . .

GEORGE _paces up the steps and away. There is a pause._

CARNABY. D'ye tell stories . . . good ones?

LORD JOHN. Sometimes.

CARNABY. There'll be this.

LORD JOHN. I shan't.

CARNABY. Say no more. If I may so express myself, Carp, you have been
taking us for granted.

LORD JOHN. How wide awake you are! I'm not.

CARNABY. My head's cool. Shall I describe your conduct as an
unpremeditated insult?

LORD JOHN. Don't think anything of the sort.

CARNABY. There speaks your kind heart.

LORD JOHN. Are you trying to pick a quarrel with me?

CARNABY. As may be.


CARNABY. For the sake of appearances.

LORD JOHN. Damn all appearances.

CARNABY. Now I'll lose my temper. Sir, you have compromised my daughter.

LORD JOHN. Nonsense!

CARNABY. Villain! What's your next move?

_For a moment_ LORD JOHN _sits with knit brows_.

LORD JOHN. [_Brutally._] Mr. Leete, your name stinks.

CARNABY. My point of dis-ad-vantage!

LORD JOHN. [_Apologising._] Please say what you like. I might have put
my remark better.

CARNABY. I think not; the homely Saxon phrase is our literary dagger.
Princelike, you ride away from Markswayde. Can I trust you not to stab a
socially sick man? Why it's a duty you owe to society . . . to weed out
. . . us.

LORD JOHN. I'm not a coward. How?

CARNABY. A little laughter . . . in your exuberance of health.

LORD JOHN. You may trust me not to tell tales.

CARNABY. Of what . . . of whom?

LORD JOHN. Of here.

CARNABY. And what is there to tell of here?

LORD JOHN. Nothing.

CARNABY. But how your promise betrays a capacity for good-natured

LORD JOHN. If I lie call me out.

CARNABY. I don't deal in sentiment. I can't afford to be talked about
otherwise than as I choose to be. Already the Aunt Sally of the hour;
having under pressure of circumstances resigned my office; dating my
letters from the borders of the Chiltern Hundreds . . . I am a poor
politician, sir, and I must live.

LORD JOHN. I can't see that your family's infected . . . affected.

CARNABY. With a penniless girl you really should have been more

LORD JOHN. I might ask to marry her.

CARNABY. My lord!

_In the pause that ensues he takes up the twist of bass to play with._

LORD JOHN. What should you say to that?

CARNABY. The silly child supposed she loved you.


CARNABY. Is it a match?

LORD JOHN. [_Full in the other's face._] What about the appearances of

CARNABY. [_Compressing his thin lips._] Do you care for my daughter?

LORD JOHN. I could . . . at a pinch.

CARNABY. Now, my lord, you are insolent.

LORD JOHN. Is this when we quarrel?

CARNABY. I think I'll challenge you.

LORD JOHN. That will look well.

CARNABY. You'll value that kiss when you've paid for it. Kindly choose
Tatton as your second. I want his tongue to wag both ways.

LORD JOHN. I was forgetting how it all began.

CARNABY. George will serve me . . . protesting. His principles are vile,
but he has the education of a gentleman. Swords or . . . ? Swords. And
at noon shall we say? There's shade behind a certain barn, midway
between this and Tatton's.

LORD JOHN. [_Not taking him seriously yet._] What if we both die

CARNABY. You are at liberty to make me a written apology.

LORD JOHN. A joke's a joke.

CARNABY _deliberately strikes him in the face with the twist of bass_.

LORD JOHN. That's enough.

CARNABY. [_In explanatory apology._] My friend, you are so obtuse. Abud!

LORD JOHN. Mr. Leete, are you serious?

CARNABY. Perfectly serious. Let's go to bed. Abud, you can get to your

_Wig in hand_, MR. LEETE _courteously conducts his guest towards the
house_. ABUD _returns to his tools and his morning's work_.

                              THE SECOND ACT

_Shortly after mid-day, while the sun beats strongly upon the terrace_,
ABUD _is working dexterously at the rose trees_. DR. REMNANT _comes down
the steps, hatted, and carrying a stick and a book. He is an elderly man
with a kind manner; type of the eighteenth century casuistical parson.
On his way he stops to say a word to the gardener._

DR. REMNANT. Will it rain before nightfall?

ABUD. About then, sir, I should say.

_Down the other steps comes_ MRS. OPIE, _a prim, decorous, but well bred
and unobjectionable woman. She is followed by_ ANN.

MRS. OPIE. A good morning to you, Parson.

DR. REMNANT. And to you, Mrs. Opie, and to Miss Ann.

ANN. Good morning, Dr. Remnant. [_To_ ABUD.] Have you been here ever
since . . . ?

ABUD. I've had dinner, Miss.

ABUD'S _work takes him gradually out of sight_.

MRS. OPIE. We are but just breakfasted.

DR. REMNANT. I surmise dissipation.

ANN. [_To_ MRS. OPIE.] Thank you for waiting five hours.

MRS. OPIE. It is my rule to breakfast with you.

DR. REMNANT. [_Exhibiting the book._] I am come to return, and to

ANN. Show me.

DR. REMNANT. Ballads by Robert Burns.

ANN. [_Taking it._] I'll put it back.

MRS. OPIE. [_Taking it from her._] I've never heard of him.

DR. REMNANT. Oh, ma'am, a very vulgar poet!

GEORGE LEETE _comes quickly down the steps_.

GEORGE. [_To_ REMNANT.] How are you?

DR. REMNANT. Yours, sir.


ANN. Good morning, George.

GEORGE. Did you sleep well?

ANN. I always do . . . but I dreamt.

GEORGE. I must sit down for a minute. [_Nodding._] Mrs. Opie.

MRS. OPIE. I wish you a good morning, sir.

GEORGE. [_To_ ANN.] Don't look so solemn.

LADY COTTESHAM _comes quickly to the top of the steps_.

SARAH. Is Papa badly hurt?

ANN. [_Jumping up._] Oh, what has happened?

GEORGE. Not badly.

SARAH. He won't see me.

_His three children look at each other._

DR. REMNANT. [_Tactfully._] May I go my ways to the library?

SARAH. Please do, Doctor Remnant.

DR. REMNANT. I flatly contradicted all that was being said in the

SARAH. Thoughtful of you.

DR. REMNANT. But tell me nothing.

DR. REMNANT _bows formally and goes_. GEORGE _is about to speak when_
SARAH _with a look at_ MRS. OPIE _says_. . .

SARAH. George, hold your tongue.

MRS. OPIE. [_With much hauteur._] I am in the way.

_At this moment_ DIMMUCK, _an old but unbenevolent-looking butler, comes
to the top of the steps_.

DIMMUCK. The master wants Mrs. Opie.

MRS. OPIE. Thank you.

GEORGE. Your triumph!

MRS. OPIE _is departing radiant_.

DIMMUCK. How was I to know you was in the garden?

MRS. OPIE. I am sorry to have put you to the trouble of a search, Mr.

DIMMUCK. He's in his room.

_And he follows her towards the house._

GEORGE. Carp fought with him at twelve o'clock.

_The other two cannot speak from amazement._


GEORGE. Why, they didn't tell me and I didn't ask. Carp was laughing.
Tatton chuckled . . . afterwards.

SARAH. What had he to do?

GEORGE. Carp's second.

SARAH. Unaccountable children!

GEORGE. Feather parade . . . throw in . . . parry quarte: over the arm
. . . put by: feint . . . flanconade and through his arm . . . damned
easy. The father didn't wince or say a word. I bound it up . . . the
sight of blood makes me sick.

_After a moment_, SARAH _turns to_ ANN.

SARAH. Yes, and you've been a silly child.

GEORGE. Ah, give me a woman's guess and the most unlikely reason to
account for anything!

ANN. I hate that man. I'm glad Papa's not hurt. What about a surgeon?

GEORGE. No, you shall kiss the place well, and there'll be poetic
justice done.

SARAH. How did you all part?

GEORGE. With bows and without a word.

SARAH. Coming home with him?

GEORGE. Not a word.

SARAH. Papa's very clever; but I'm puzzled.

GEORGE. Something will happen next, no doubt.

ANN. Isn't this done with?

SARAH. So it seems.

ANN. I should like to be told just what the game has been.

GEORGE. Bravo, Ann.

ANN. Tell me the rules . . . for next time.

SARAH. It would have been most advantageous for us to have formed an
alliance with Lord John Carp, who stood here for his father and his
father's party . . . now in opposition.

GEORGE. Look upon yourself--not too seriously--Ann, as the instrument of
political destiny.

ANN. I'm afraid I take in fresh ideas very slowly. Why has Papa given up
the Stamp Office?

SARAH. His colleagues wouldn't support him.

ANN. Why was that?

SARAH. They disapproved of what he did.

ANN. Did he do right . . . giving it up?


GEORGE. We hope so. Time will tell. An irreverent quipster once named
him Carnaby Leech.

SARAH. I know.

GEORGE. I wonder if his true enemies think him wise to have dropped off
the Stamp Office?

ANN. Has he quarrelled with Sir Charles?

SARAH. Politically.

ANN. Isn't that awkward for you?

SARAH. Not a bit.

GEORGE. Hear a statement that includes our lives. Markswayde goes at his
death . . . see reversionary mortgage. The income's an annuity now. The
cash in the house will be ours. The debts are paid . . . at last.

ANN. And there remains me.

GEORGE. Bad grammar. Meanwhile our father is a tongue, which is worth
buying; but I don't think he ought to go over to the enemy . . . for the
second time.

SARAH. One party is as good as another; each works for the same end, I
should hope.

GEORGE. I won't argue about it.

ANN. I suppose that a woman's profession is marriage.

GEORGE. My lord has departed.

ANN. There'll be others to come. I'm not afraid of being married.

SARAH. What did Papa want Mrs. Opie for?

ANN. There'll be a great many things I shall want to know about men now.

GEORGE. Wisdom cometh with sorrow . . . oh, my sister.

SARAH. I believe you two are both about as selfish as you can be.

GEORGE. I am an egotist . . . with attachments.

ANN. Make use of me.

GEORGE. Ann, you marry--when you marry--to please yourself.

ANN. There's much in life that I don't like, Sally.

SARAH. There's much more that you will.

GEORGE. I think we three have never talked together before.

ABUD, _who has been in sight on the terrace for a few moments, now comes
down the steps_.

ABUD. May I make so bold, sir, as to ask how is Mrs. George Leete?

GEORGE. She was well when I last heard.

ABUD. Thank you, sir.

_And he returns to his work._

ANN. I wonder will it be a boy or a girl.

GEORGE. Poor weak woman.

SARAH. Be grateful to her.

ANN. A baby is a wonderful thing.

SARAH. Babyhood in the abstract . . . beautiful.

ANN. Even kittens . . .

_She stops, and then in rather childish embarrassment, moves away from

SARAH. Don't shudder, George.

GEORGE. I have no wish to be a father. Why?

SARAH. It's a vulgar responsibility.

GEORGE. My wayside flower!

SARAH. Why pick it?

GEORGE. Sarah, I love my wife.

SARAH. That's easily said.

GEORGE. She should be here.

SARAH. George, you married to please yourself.

GEORGE. By custom her rank is my own.

SARAH. Does she still drop her aitches?

GEORGE. Dolly . . .

SARAH. Pretty name.

GEORGE. Dolly aspires to be one of us.

SARAH. Child-bearing makes these women blowzy.

GEORGE. Oh heaven!

ANN. [_Calling to_ ABUD _on the terrace_.] Finish to-day, Abud. If it
rains . . .

_She stops, seeing_ MR. TETGEEN _standing at the top of the steps
leading from the house. This is an intensely respectable,
selfcontained-looking lawyer, but a man of the world too._

MR. TETGEEN. Lady Cottesham.


MR. TETGEEN. My name is Tetgeen.

SARAH. Mr. Tetgeen. How do you do?

MR. TETGEEN. The household appeared to be in some confusion and I took
the liberty to be my own messenger. I am anxious to speak with you.

SARAH. Ann, dear, ask if Papa will see you now.

DIMMUCK _appears_.

DIMMUCK. The master wants you, Miss Ann.

SARAH. Ask papa if he'll see me soon.

ANN _goes towards the house_.

SARAH. Dimmuck, Mr. Tetgeen has been left to find his own way here.

DIMMUCK. I couldn't help it, my lady.

_And he follows_ ANN.

SARAH. Our father is confined to his room.

GEORGE. By your leave.

_Then_ GEORGE _takes himself off up the steps, and out of sight. The old
lawyer bows to_ LADY COTTESHAM, _who regards him steadily_.

MR. TETGEEN. From Sir Charles . . . a talking machine.

SARAH. Please sit.

_He sits carefully upon the rim of the fountain, she upon the seat

SARAH. [_Glancing over her shoulder._] Will you talk nonsense until the
gardener is out of hearing? He is on his way away. You have had a tiring

MR. TETGEEN. Thank you, no . . . by the night coach to Reading and
thence I have walked.

SARAH. The country is pretty, is it not?

MR. TETGEEN. It compares favourably with other parts.

SARAH. Do you travel much, Mr. Tetgeen? He has gone.

MR. TETGEEN. [_Deliberately and sharpening his tone ever so little._]
Sir Charles does not wish to petition for a divorce.

SARAH. [_Controlling even her sense of humour._] I have no desire to
jump over the moon.

MR. TETGEEN. His scruples are religious. The case would be weak upon
some important points, and there has been no public scandal . . . at the
worst, very little.

SARAH. My good manners are, I trust, irreproachable, and you may tell
Sir Charles that my conscience is my own.

MR. TETGEEN. Your husband's in the matter of . . .

SARAH. Please say the word.

MR. TETGEEN. Pardon me . . . not upon mere suspicion.

SARAH. Now, is it good policy to suspect what is incapable of proof?

MR. TETGEEN. I advise Sir Charles, that, should you come to an open
fight, he can afford to lose.

SARAH. And have I no right to suspicions?

MR. TETGEEN. Certainly. Are they of use to you?

SARAH. I have been a tolerant wife, expecting toleration.

MR. TETGEEN. Sir Charles is anxious to take into consideration any
complaints you may have to make against him.

SARAH. I complain if he complains of me.

MR. TETGEEN. For the first time, I think . . . formally.

SARAH. Why not have come to me?

MR. TETGEEN. Sir Charles is busy.

SARAH. [_Disguising a little spasm of pain._] Shall we get to business?

MR. TETGEEN _now takes a moment to find his phrase_.

MR. TETGEEN. I don't know the man's name.

SARAH. This, surely, is how you might address a seduced housemaid.

MR. TETGEEN. But Sir Charles and he, I understand, have talked the
matter over.

_The shock of this brings_ SARAH _to her feet, white with anger_.

SARAH. Divorce me.

MR. TETGEEN. [_Sharply._] Is there ground for it?

SARAH. [_With a magnificent recovery of self control._] I won't tell you

MR. TETGEEN. I have said we have no case . . . that is to say, we don't
want one; but any information is a weapon in store.

SARAH. You did quite right to insult me.

MR. TETGEEN. As a rule I despise such methods.

SARAH. It's a lie that they met . . . those two men?

MR. TETGEEN. It may be.

SARAH. It must be.

MR. TETGEEN. I have Sir Charles's word.

_Now he takes from his pocket some notes, putting on his spectacles to
read them._

SARAH. What's this . . . a written lecture?

MR. TETGEEN. We propose . . . first: that the present complete severance
of conjugal relations shall continue. Secondly: that Lady Cottesham
shall be at liberty to remove from South Audley Street and Ringham
Castle all personal and private effects, excepting those family jewels
which have merely been considered her property. Thirdly: Lady Cottesham
shall undertake, formally and in writing not to molest--a legal
term--Sir Charles Cottesham. [_Her handkerchief has dropped, here he
picks it up and restores it to her._] Allow me, my lady.

SARAH. I thank you.

MR. TETGEEN. [_Continuing._] Fourthly: Lady Cottesham shall undertake
. . . etc. . . . not to inhabit or frequent the city and towns of London,
Brighthelmstone, Bath, The Tunbridge Wells, and York. Fifthly: Sir
Charles Cottesham will, in acknowledgement of the maintenance of this
agreement, allow Lady C. the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds per
annum, which sum he considers sufficient for the upkeep of a small
genteel establishment; use of the house known as Pater House, situate
some seventeen miles from the Manor of Barton-le-Street, Yorkshire;
coals from the mine adjoining; and from the home farm, milk, butter and
eggs. [_Then he finds a further note._] Lady Cottesham is not to play

SARAH. I am a little fond of play.

MR. TETGEEN. There is no question of jointure.

SARAH. None. Mr. Tetgeen . . . I love my husband.

MR. TETGEEN. My lady . . . I will mention it.

SARAH. Such a humorous answer to this. No . . . don't. What is
important? Bread and butter . . . and eggs. Do I take this?

MR. TETGEEN. [_Handing her the paper._] Please.

SARAH. [_With the ghost of a smile._] I take it badly.

MR. TETGEEN. [_Courteously capping her jest._] I take my leave.

SARAH. This doesn't call for serious notice? I've done nothing legal by
accepting it?

MR. TETGEEN. There's no law in the matter; it's one of policy.

SARAH. I might bargain for a bigger income. [MR. TETGEEN _bows_.] On the
whole I'd rather be divorced.

MR. TETGEEN. Sir Charles detests scandal.

SARAH. Besides there's no case . . . is there?

MR. TETGEEN. Sir Charles congratulates himself.

SARAH. Sir Charles had best not bully me so politely . . . tell him.

MR. TETGEEN. My lady!

SARAH. I will not discuss this impertinence. Did those two men meet and
talk . . . chat together? What d'you think of that?

MR. TETGEEN. 'Twas very practical. I know that the woman is somehow the

SARAH. A bad woman . . . an idle woman! But I've tried to do so much
that lay to my hands without ever questioning . . . ! Thank you, I don't
want this retailed to my husband. You'll take a glass of wine before you

MR. TETGEEN. Port is grateful.

_She takes from her dress two sealed letters._

SARAH. Will you give that to Sir Charles . . . a letter he wrote me
which I did not open. This, my answer, which I did not send.

_He takes the one letter courteously, the other she puts back._

SARAH. I'm such a coward, Mr. Tetgeen.

MR. TETGEEN. May I say how sorry . . . ?

SARAH. Thank you.

MR. TETGEEN. And let me apologise for having expressed one opinion of my

SARAH. He wants to get rid of me. He's a bit afraid of me, you know,
because I fight . . . and my weapons are all my own. This'll blow over.

MR. TETGEEN. [_With a shake of the head._] You are to take this offer as

SARAH. Beyond this?

MR. TETGEEN. As I hinted, I am prepared to advise legal measures.

SARAH. I could blow it over . . . but I won't perhaps. I must smile at
my husband's consideration in suppressing even to you . . . the man's
name. Butter and eggs . . . and milk. I should grow fat.

ANN _appears suddenly_.

ANN. We go to Brighton to-morrow! [_And she comes excitedly to her

SARAH. Was that duel a stroke of genius?

ANN. All sorts of things are to happen.

SARAH. [_Turning from her to_ MR. TETGEEN.] And you'll walk as far as

MR. TETGEEN. Dear me, yes.

SARAH. [_To_ ANN.] I'll come back.

SARAH _takes_ MR. TETGEEN _towards the house_. ANN _seats herself. After
a moment_ LORD JOHN CARP, _his clothes dusty with some riding appears
from the other quarter. She looks up to find him gazing at her._

LORD JOHN. Ann, I've ridden back to see you.

ANN. [_After a moment._] We're coming to Brighton tomorrow.


ANN. Papa's not dead.

LORD JOHN. [_With equal cheerfulness._] That's good.

ANN. And he said we should be seeing more of you.

LORD JOHN. Here I am. I love you, Ann. [_He goes on his knees._]

ANN. D'you want to marry me?


ANN. Thank you very much; it'll be very convenient for us all. Won't you
get up?

LORD JOHN. At your feet.

ANN. I like it.

LORD JOHN. Give me your hand.

ANN. No.

LORD JOHN. You're beautiful.

ANN. I don't think so. You don't think so.

LORD JOHN. I do think so.

ANN. I should like to say I don't love you.

LORD JOHN. Last night you kissed me.

ANN. Do get up, please.

LORD JOHN. As you wish.

_Now he sits by her._

ANN. Last night you were nobody in particular . . . to me.

LORD JOHN. I love you.

ANN. Please don't; I can't think clearly.

LORD JOHN. Look at me.

ANN. I'm sure I don't love you because you're making me feel very
uncomfortable and that wouldn't be so.

LORD JOHN. Then we'll think.

ANN. Papa . . . perhaps you'd rather not talk about Papa.

LORD JOHN. Give yourself to me.

ANN. [_Drawing away from him._] Four words! There ought to be more in
such a sentence . . . it's ridiculous. I want a year to think about its
meaning. Don't speak.

LORD JOHN. Papa joins our party.

ANN. That's what we're after . . . thank you.

LORD JOHN. I loathe politics.

ANN. Tell me something against them.

LORD JOHN. In my opinion your father's not a much bigger blackguard--I
beg your pardon--than the rest of us.

ANN. . . . Miserable sinners.

LORD JOHN. Your father turns his coat. Well . . . ?

ANN. I see nothing at all in that.

LORD JOHN. What's right and what's wrong?

ANN. Papa's right . . . for the present. When shall we be married?

LORD JOHN. Tomorrow?

ANN. [_Startled._] If you knew that it isn't easy for me to be practical
you wouldn't make fun.

LORD JOHN. Why not tomorrow?

ANN. Papa--

LORD JOHN. Papa says yes . . suppose.

ANN. I'm very young . . not to speak of clothes. I must have lots of new

LORD JOHN. Ask me for them.

ANN. Why do you want to marry me?

LORD JOHN. I love you.

ANN. It suddenly occurs to me that sounds unpleasant.

LORD JOHN. I love you.

ANN. Out of place.

LORD JOHN. I love you.

ANN. What if Papa were to die?

LORD JOHN. I want you.

ANN. I'm nothing . . I'm nobody . . I'm part of my family.

LORD JOHN. I want you.

ANN. Won't you please forget last night?

LORD JOHN. I want you. Look straight at me.

_She looks, and stays fascinated._

LORD JOHN. If I say now that I love you--

ANN. I know it.

LORD JOHN. And love me?

ANN. I suppose so.

LORD JOHN. Make sure.

ANN. But I hate you too . . I know that.

LORD JOHN. Shall I kiss you?

ANN. [_Helplessly._] Yes.

_He kisses her full on the lips._

ANN. I can't hate you enough.

LORD JOHN. [_Triumphantly._] Speak the truth now.

ANN. I feel very degraded.

LORD JOHN. Nonsense.

ANN. [_Wretchedly._] This is one of the things which don't matter.

LORD JOHN. Ain't you to be mine?

ANN. You want the right to behave like that as well as the power.

LORD JOHN. You shall command me.

ANN. [_With a poor laugh._] I rather like this in a way.

LORD JOHN. Little coquette!

ANN. It does tickle my vanity.

_For a moment he sits looking at her, then shakes himself to his feet._

LORD JOHN. Now I must go.

ANN. Yes . . I want to think.

LORD JOHN. For Heaven's sake . . no!

ANN. I came this morning straight to where we were last night.

LORD JOHN. As I hung about the garden my heart was beating.

ANN. I shall like you better when you're not here.

LORD JOHN. We're to meet in Brighton?

ANN. I'm afraid so.

LORD JOHN. Good-bye.

ANN. There's just a silly sort of attraction between certain people, I

LORD JOHN. Can you look me in the eyes and say you don't love me?

ANN. If I looked you in the eyes you'd frighten me again. I can say

LORD JOHN. You're a deep child.

GEORGE LEETE _appears on the terrace_.

GEORGE. My lord!

LORD JOHN. [_Cordially._] My dear Leete.

GEORGE. No . . I am not surprised to see you.

ANN. George, things are happening.

LORD JOHN. Shake hands.

GEORGE. I will not.

ANN. Lord John asks me to be married to him. Shake hands.

GEORGE. Why did you fight?

ANN. Why did you fight?

LORD JOHN. [_Shrugging._] Your father struck me.

ANN. Now you've hurt him . . that's fair.

_Then the two men do shake hands, not heartily._

GEORGE. We've trapped you, my lord.

LORD JOHN. I know what I want. I love your sister.

ANN. I don't like you . . but if you're good and I'm good we shall get

GEORGE. Why shouldn't one marry politically?

LORD JOHN. [_In_ ANN'S _ear_.] I love you.

ANN. No . . no . . no . . no . . no . . [_Discovering in this an echo of
her father, she stops short._]

GEORGE. We're a cold-blooded family.

LORD JOHN. I don't think so.

GEORGE. I married for love.

LORD JOHN. Who doesn't? But, of course there should be other reasons.

GEORGE. You won't receive my wife.

LORD JOHN. Here's your sister.

LADY COTTESHAM _comes from the direction of the house_.

SARAH. Back again?

LORD JOHN. You see.

_From the other side appears_ MR. TATTON.

MR. TATTON. As you all seem to be here I don't mind interrupting.

GEORGE. [_Hailing him._] Well . . neighbour?

MR. TATTON. Come . . come . . what's a little fighting more or less!

GEORGE. Bravo, English sentiment . . relieves a deal of awkwardness.

_The two shake hands._

SARAH. [_Who by this has reached_ LORD JOHN.] . . And back so soon?

ANN. Lord John asks to marry me.


MR. TATTON. I guessed so . . give me a bit of romance!

SARAH. [_Suavely._] This is perhaps a little sudden, my dear Lord John.
Papa may naturally be a little shocked.

GEORGE. Not at all, Sarah.

MR. TATTON. How's the wound?

GEORGE. Not serious . . nothing's serious.

SARAH. You are very masterful, wooing sword in hand.

ANN. George and I have explained to Lord John that we are all most
anxious to marry me to him and he doesn't mind--

LORD JOHN. Being made a fool of. I love--

ANN. I will like you.

GEORGE. Charming cynicism, my dear Sarah.

MR. TATTON. Oh, Lord!

ANN. [_To her affianced._] Good-bye now.

LORD JOHN. When do I see you?

ANN. Papa says soon.

LORD JOHN. Very soon, please. Tatton, my friend, Brighton's no nearer.

MR. TATTON. Lady Cottesham . . Miss Leete . . I kiss your hands.

LORD JOHN. [_Ebulliently clapping_ GEORGE _on the back_.] Look more
pleased. [_Then he bends over_ LADY COTTESHAM'S _hand_.] Lady Charlie . .
my service to you . . all. Ann. [_And he takes_ ANN'S _hand to kiss_.]

ANN. If I can think better of all this, I shall. Good-bye.

_She turns away from him. He stands for a moment considering her, but
follows_ TATTON _away through the orchard_. GEORGE _and_ SARAH _are
watching their sister, who then comments on her little affair with

ANN. I'm growing up. [_Then with a sudden tremor._] Sally, don't let me
be forced to marry.

GEORGE. Force of circumstances, my dear Ann.

ANN. Outside things. Why couldn't I run away from this garden and over
the hills? . . I suppose there's something on the other side of the

SARAH. You'd find yourself there . . and circumstances.

ANN. So I'm trapped as well as that Lord John.

SARAH. What's the injury?

ANN. I'm taken by surprise and I know I'm ignorant and I think I'm
learning things backwards.

GEORGE. You must cheer up and say: John's not a bad sort.

SARAH. A man of his age is a young man.

ANN. I wish you wouldn't recommend him to me.

SARAH. Let's think of Brighton. What about your gowns?

ANN. I've nothing to wear.

SARAH. We'll talk to Papa.

GEORGE. The war-purse is always a long one.

SARAH. George . . be one of us for a minute.

GEORGE. But I want to look on too, and laugh.

SARAH. [_Caustically._] Yes . . that's your privilege . . except
occasionally. [_Then to her sister._] I wish you all the happiness of
courtship days.

GEORGE. Arcadian expression!

ANN. I believe it means being kissed . . often.

SARAH. Have you not a touch of romance in you, little girl?

ANN. Am I not like Mr. Dan Tatton? He kisses dairy-maids and servants
and all the farmer's daughters . . I beg your pardon, George.

GEORGE. [_Nettled._] I'll say to you, Ann, that--in all essentials--one
woman is as good as another.

SARAH. That is not so in the polite world.

GEORGE. When you consider it no one lives in the polite world.

ANN. Do they come outside for air sooner or later?

SARAH. [_Briskly._] Three best dresses you must have and something very
gay if you're to go near the Pavilion.

ANN. You're coming to Brighton, Sally?


ANN. Why not?

SARAH. I don't wish to meet my husband.

GEORGE. That man was his lawyer.

ANN. The political difference, Sally?

SARAH. Just that. [_Then with a deft turn of the subject._] I don't say
that yours is a pretty face, but I should think you would have charm.

GEORGE. For fashion's sake cultivate sweetness.

SARAH. You dance as well as they know how in Reading.

ANN. Yes . . I can twiddle my feet.

SARAH. Do you like dancing?

ANN. I'd sooner walk.

GEORGE. What . . and get somewhere!

ANN. Here's George laughing.

SARAH. He's out of it.

ANN. Are you happy, George?

GEORGE. Alas . . Dolly's disgraceful ignorance of etiquette damns us
both from the beautiful drawing-room.

SARAH. That laugh is forced. But how can you. . . look on?

_There is a slight pause in their talk. Then . . ._

ANN. He'll bully me with love.

SARAH. Your husband will give you just what you ask for.

ANN. I hate myself too. I want to take people mentally.

GEORGE. You want a new world . . you new woman.

ANN. And I'm a good bit frightened of myself.

SARAH. We have our places to fill in this. My dear child, leave futile
questions alone.

GEORGE. Neither have I any good advice to give you.

ANN. I think happiness is a thing one talks too much about.

DIMMUCK _appears. And by now_ ABUD'S _work has brought him back to the

DIMMUCK. The master would like to see your Ladyship now.

SARAH. I'll say we've had a visitor . . Guess.

GEORGE. And you've had a visitor, Sarah.

ANN. Papa will know.

SARAH. Is he in a questioning mood?

ANN. I always tell everything.

SARAH. It saves time.

_She departs towards the house._

DIMMUCK. Mr. George.

GEORGE. What is it?

DIMMUCK. He said No to a doctor when I haven't even mentioned the
matter. Had I better send . . ?

GEORGE. Do . . if you care to waste the doctor's time.

DIMMUCK _gives an offended sniff and follows_ LADY COTTESHAM.

ANN. I could sit here for days. George, I don't think I quite believe in
anything I've been told yet.

GEORGE. What's that man's name?

ANN. John--John is a common name--John Abud.


ABUD. Sir?

GEORGE. Come here.

ABUD _obediently walks towards his young master and stands before him_.

GEORGE. Why did you ask after the health of Mrs. George Leete?

ABUD. We courted once.

GEORGE. [_After a moment._] Listen, Ann. Do you hate me, John Abud?

ABUD. No, sir.

GEORGE. You're a fine looking fellow. How old are you?

ABUD. Twenty-seven, sir.

GEORGE. Is Once long ago?

ABUD. Two years gone.

GEORGE. Did Mrs. Leete quarrel with you?

ABUD. No, sir.

GEORGE. Pray tell me more.

ABUD. I was beneath her.

GEORGE. But you're a fine-looking fellow.

ABUD. Farmer Crowe wouldn't risk his daughter being unhappy.

GEORGE. But she was beneath me.

ABUD. That was another matter, sir.

GEORGE. I don't think you intend to be sarcastic.

ABUD. And . . being near her time for the first time, sir . . I wanted
to know if she is in danger of dying yet.

GEORGE. Every precaution has been taken. . a nurse. . there is a
physician near. I need not tell you . . but I do tell you.

ABUD. Thank you, sir.

GEORGE. I take great interest in my wife.

ABUD. We all do, sir.

GEORGE. Was it ambition that you courted her?

ABUD. I thought to start housekeeping.

GEORGE. Did you aspire to rise socially?

ABUD. I wanted a wife to keep house, sir.

GEORGE. Are you content?

ABUD. I think so, sir.

GEORGE. With your humble position?

ABUD. I'm a gardener, and there'll always be gardens.

GEORGE. Frustrated affections . . I beg your pardon. . . To have been
crossed in love should make you bitter and ambitious.

ABUD. My father was a gardener and my son will be a gardener if he's no
worse a man than I and no better.

GEORGE. Are you married?

ABUD. No, sir.

GEORGE. Are you going to be married?

ABUD. Not especially, sir.

GEORGE. Yes . . you must marry . . some decent woman; we want gardeners.

ABUD. Do you want me any more now, sir?

GEORGE. You have interested me. You can go back to your work.

ABUD _obeys_.

GEORGE. [_Almost to himself._] I am hardly human.

_He slowly moves away and out of sight._

ANN. John Abud.

_He comes back and stands before her too._

ANN. I am very sorry for you.

ABUD. I am very much obligated to you, Miss.

ANN. Both those sayings are quite meaningless. Say something true about

ABUD. I'm not sorry for myself.

ANN. I won't tell. It's very clear you ought to be in a despairing
state. Don't stand in the sun with your hat off.

ABUD. [_Putting on his hat._] Thank you, Miss.

ANN. Have you nearly finished the rose-trees?

ABUD. I must work till late this evening.

ANN. Weren't you ambitious for Dolly's sake?

ABUD. She thought me good enough.

ANN. I'd have married her.

ABUD. She was ambitious for me.

ANN. And are you frightened of the big world?

ABUD. Fine things dazzle me sometimes.

ANN. But gardening is all that you're fit for?

ABUD. I'm afraid so, Miss.

ANN. But it's great to be a gardener . . to sow seeds and to watch
flowers grow and to cut away dead things.

ABUD. Yes, Miss.

ANN. And you're in the fresh air all day.

ABUD. That's very healthy.

ANN. Are you very poor?

ABUD. I get my meals in the house.

ANN. Rough clothes last a long time.

ABUD. I've saved money.

ANN. Where do you sleep?

ABUD. At Mrs. Hart's . . at a cottage . . it's a mile off.

ANN. And you want no more than food and clothes and a bed and you earn
all that with your hands.

ABUD. The less a man wants, Miss, the better.

ANN. But you mean to marry?

ABUD. Yes . . I've saved money.

ANN. Whom will you marry? Would you rather not say? Perhaps you don't
know yet?

ABUD. It's all luck what sort of a maid a man gets fond of. It won't be
a widow.

ANN. Be careful, John Abud.

ABUD. No . . I shan't be careful.

ANN. You'll do very wrong to be made a fool of.

ABUD. I'm safe, Miss; I've no eye for a pretty face.

DIMMUCK _arrives asthmatically at the top of the steps_.

DIMMUCK. Where's Mr. George? Here's a messenger come post.

ANN. Find him, Abud.

ABUD. [_To_ DIMMUCK.] From Dolly?

DIMMUCK. Speak respectful.

ABUD. Is it from his wife?

DIMMUCK. Go find him.

ANN. [_As_ ABUD _is immovable_.] Dimmuck . . . tell me about Mrs.

DIMMUCK. She's doing well, Miss.

ABUD. [_Shouting joyfully now._] Mr. George! Mr. George!

ANN. A boy or a girl, Dimmuck?

DIMMUCK. Yes, Miss.

ABUD. Mr. George! Mr. George!

DIMMUCK. Ecod . . is he somewhere else?

DIMMUCK, _somewhat excited himself, returns to the house_.

ANN. George!

ABUD. Mr. George! Mr. George!

GEORGE _comes slowly along the terrace, in his hand an open book, which
some people might suppose he was reading. He speaks with studied calm._

GEORGE. You are very excited, my good man.

ABUD. She's brought you a child, sir.

ANN. Your child!

GEORGE. Certainly.

ABUD. Thank God, Sir!

GEORGE. I will if I please.

ANN. And she's doing well.

ABUD. There's a messenger come post.

GEORGE. To be sure . . it might have been bad news.

_And slowly he crosses the garden towards the house._

ABUD. [_Suddenly, beyond all patience._] Run . . damn you!

GEORGE _makes one supreme effort to maintain his dignity, but fails
utterly. He gasps out . . ._

GEORGE. Yes, I will. [_And runs off as hard as he can._]

ABUD. [_In an ecstasy._] This is good. Oh, Dolly and God . . this is

ANN. [_Round eyed._] I wonder that you can be pleased.

ABUD. [_Apologising . . without apology._] It's life.

ANN. [_Struck._] Yes, it is.

_And she goes towards the house, thinking this over._

                              THE THIRD ACT

_It is near to sunset. The garden is shadier than before._

ABUD _is still working_. CARNABY LEETE _comes from the house followed
by_ DR. REMNANT. _He wears his right arm in a sling. His face is
flushed, his speech rapid._

CARNABY. Parson, you didn't drink enough wine . . . damme, the wine was

DR. REMNANT. I am very grateful for an excellent dinner.

CARNABY. A good dinner, sir, is the crown to a good day's work.

DR. REMNANT. It may also be a comfort in affliction. Our philosophy does
ill, Mr. Leete, when it despises the more simple means of contentment.

CARNABY. And which will be the better lover of a woman, a hungry or a
well-fed man?

DR. REMNANT. A good meal digests love with it; for what is love but a
food to live by . . but a hungry love will ofttimes devour its owner.

CARNABY. Admirable! Give me a man in love to deal with. Vous l'avez vu?

DR. REMNANT. Speak Latin, Greek or Hebrew to me, Mr. Leete.

CARNABY. French is the language of little things. My poor France! Ours
is a little world, Parson . . . a man may hold it here. [_His open
hand._] Lord John Carp's a fine fellow.

DR. REMNANT. Son of a Duke.

CARNABY. And I commend to you the originality of his return. At twelve
we fight . . . at one-thirty he proposes marriage to my daughter. D'ye
see him humbly on his knees? Will there be rain, I wonder?

DR. REMNANT. We need rain . . Abud?

ABUD. Badly, sir.

CARNABY. Do we want a wet journey tomorrow! Where's Sarah?

DR. REMNANT. Lady Cottesham's taking tea.

CARNABY. [_To_ ABUD _with a sudden start_.] And why the devil didn't you
marry my daughter-in-law . . my own gardener?

GEORGE _appears dressed for riding_.

GEORGE. Good-bye, sir, for the present.

CARNABY. Boots and breeches!

GEORGE. You shouldn't be about in the evening air with a green wound in
your arm. You drank wine at dinner. Be careful, sir.

CARNABY. Off to your wife and the expected?

GEORGE. Yes, sir.

CARNABY. Riding to Watford?

GEORGE. From there alongside the North Coach, if I'm in time.

CARNABY. Don't founder my horse. Will ye leave the glorious news with
your grandfather at Wycombe?

GEORGE. I won't fail to. [_Then to_ ABUD.] We've been speaking of you.

ABUD. It was never any secret, sir.

GEORGE. Don't apologise.

_Soon after this_ ABUD _passes out of sight_.

CARNABY. Nature's an encumbrance to us, Parson.

DR. REMNANT. One disapproves of flesh uninspired.

CARNABY. She allows you no amusing hobbies . . always takes you

GEORGE. Good-bye, Parson.

DR. REMNANT. [_As he bows._] Your most obedient.

CARNABY. And you trifle with damnable democracy, with pretty theories of
the respect due to womanhood and now the result . . . hark to it

DR. REMNANT. Being fifty miles off might not one say: The cry of the

CARNABY. Ill-bred babies squall. There's no poetic glamour in the world
will beautify an undesired infant . . George says so.

GEORGE. I did say so.

CARNABY. I feel the whole matter deeply.

GEORGE _half laughs_.

CARNABY. George, after days of irritability, brought to bed of a smile.
That's a home thrust of a metaphor.

GEORGE _laughs again_.


GEORGE. Yes, a boy and a girl . . . I'm the father of a boy and a girl.

CARNABY. [_In dignified, indignant horror._] No one of you dared tell me
that much!

SARAH _and_ ANN _come from the house_.

GEORGE. You could have asked me for news of your grandchildren.

CARNABY. Twins is an insult.

SARAH. But you look very cheerful, George.

GEORGE. I am content.

SARAH. I'm surprised.

GEORGE. I am surprised.

SARAH. Now what names for them?

CARNABY. No family names, please.

GEORGE. We'll wait for a dozen years or so and let them choose their

DR. REMNANT. But, sir, christening will demand--

CARNABY. Your son should have had my name, sir.

GEORGE. I know the rule . . as I have my grandfather's which I take no
pride in.

SARAH. George!

GEORGE. Not to say that it sounds his, not mine.

CARNABY. Our hopes of you were high once.

GEORGE. Sarah, may I kiss you? [_He kisses her cheek._] Let me hear what
you decide to do.

CARNABY. The begetting you, sir, was a waste of time.

GEORGE. [_Quite pleasantly._] Don't say that.

_At the top of the steps_ ANN _is waiting for him_.

ANN. I'll see you into the saddle.

GEORGE. Thank you, sister Ann.

ANN. Why didn't you leave us weeks ago?


_They pace away, arm-in-arm._

CARNABY. [_Bitterly._] Glad to go! Brighton, Sarah.

SARAH. No, I shall not come, Papa.

CARNABY. Coward. [_Then to_ REMNANT.] Good-night.

DR. REMNANT. [_Covering the insolent dismissal._] With your kind
permission I will take my leave. [_Then he bows to_ SARAH.] Lady

SARAH. [_Curtseying._] Doctor Remnant, I am yours.

CARNABY. [_Sitting by the fountain, stamping his foot._] Oh, this
cracked earth! Will it rain . . will it rain?

DR. REMNANT. I doubt now. That cloud has passed.

CARNABY. Soft, pellucid rain! There's a good word and I'm not at all
sure what it means.

DR. REMNANT. Per . . lucere . . . letting light through.

REMNANT _leaves them_.

CARNABY. Soft, pellucid rain! . . thank you. Brighton, Sarah.

SARAH. Ann needs new clothes.

CARNABY. See to it.

SARAH. I shall not be there.

_She turns from him._

CARNABY. Pretty climax to a quarrel!

SARAH. Not a quarrel.

CARNABY. A political difference.

SARAH. Don't look so ferocious.

CARNABY. My arm is in great pain and the wine's in my head.

SARAH. Won't you go to bed?

CARNABY. I'm well enough . . to travel. This marriage makes us safe,
Sarah . . an anchor in each camp . . There's a mixed metaphor.

SARAH. If you'll have my advice, Papa, you'll keep those plans clear
from Ann's mind.

CARNABY. John Carp is so much clay . . a man of forty ignorant of

SARAH. But if the Duke will not . .

CARNABY. The Duke hates a scandal.

SARAH. Does he detest scandal!

CARNABY. The girl is well-bred and harmless . . why publicly quarrel
with John and incense her old brute of a father? There's the Duke in a
score of words. He'll take a little time to think it out so.

SARAH. And I say: Do you get on the right side of the Duke once
again,--that's what we've worked for--and leave these two alone.

CARNABY. Am I to lose my daughter?

SARAH. Papa . . your food's intrigue.

CARNABY. Scold at Society . . and what's the use?

SARAH. We're over-civilized.

ANN _rejoins them now. The twilight is gathering._

CARNABY. My mother's very old . . . your grandfather's younger and
seventy-nine . . he swears I'll never come into the title. There's
little else.

SARAH. You're feverish . . why are you saying this?

CARNABY. Ann . . George . . George via Wycombe . . Wycombe Court . . Sir
George Leete baronet, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant . . the
thought's tumbled. Ann, I first saw your mother in this garden . .

ANN. Was she like me?

SARAH. My age when she married.

CARNABY. She was not beautiful . . then she died.

ANN. Mr. Tatton thinks it a romantic garden.

CARNABY. [_Pause._] D'ye hear the wind sighing through that tree?

ANN. The air's quite still.

CARNABY. I hear myself sighing . . when I first saw your mother in this
garden . . . that's how it was done.

SARAH. For a woman must marry.

CARNABY. [_Rises._] You all take to it as ducks to water . . but apple
sauce is quite correct . . I must not mix metaphors.

MRS. OPIE _comes from the house_.

SARAH. Your supper done, Mrs. Opie?

MRS. OPIE. I eat little in the evening.

SARAH. I believe that saves digestion.

MRS. OPIE. Ann, do you need me more to-night?

ANN. Not any more.

MRS. OPIE. Ann, there is gossip among the servants about a wager . . .

ANN. Mrs. Opie, that was . . . yesterday.

MRS. OPIE. Ann, I should be glad to be able to contradict a reported . .

ANN. I was kissed.

MRS. OPIE. I am shocked.

CARNABY. Mrs. Opie, is it possible that all these years I have been
nourishing a prude in my . . back drawing-room?

MRS. OPIE. I presume I am discharged of Ann's education; but as the
salaried mistress of your household, Mr. Leete, I am grieved not to be
able to deny such a rumour to your servants.

_She sails back, righteously indignant._

CARNABY. Call out that you're marrying the wicked man . . comfort her.

SARAH. Mrs. Opie!

CARNABY. Consider that existence. An old maid . . so far as we know.
Brevet rank . . missis. Not pleasant.

ANN. She wants nothing better . . at her age.

SARAH. How forgetful!

CARNABY. [_The force of the phrase growing._] Brighton, Sarah.

SARAH. Now you've both read the love-letter which Tetgeen brought me.

CARNABY. Come to Brighton.

ANN. Come to Brighton, Sally.

SARAH. No. I have been thinking. I think I will accept the income, the
house, coals, butter and eggs.

CARNABY. I give you a fortnight to bring your husband to his knees . .
to your feet.

SARAH. I'm not sure that I could. My marriage has come naturally to an

CARNABY. Sarah, don't annoy me.

SARAH. Papa, you joined my bridegroom's political party . . now you see
fit to leave it.

_She glances at_ ANN, _who gives no sign, however_.

CARNABY. What have you been doing in ten years?

SARAH. Waiting for this to happen . . now I come to think.

CARNABY. Have ye the impudence to tell me that ye've never cared for
your husband?

SARAH. I was caught by the first few kisses; but he . . .

CARNABY. Has he ever been unkind to you?

SARAH. Never. He's a gentleman through and through . . . quite charming
to live with.

CARNABY. I see what more you expect. And he neither drinks nor . . nor
. . no one even could suppose your leaving him.

SARAH. No. I'm disgraced.

CARNABY. Fight for your honour.

SARAH. You surprise me sometimes by breaking out into cant phrases.

CARNABY. What is more useful in the world than honour?

SARAH. I think we never had any . . we!

CARNABY. Give me more details. Tell me, who is this man?

SARAH. I'm innocent . . if that were all.

ANN. Sally, what do they say you've done?

SARAH. I cry out like any poor girl.

CARNABY. There must be no doubt that you're innocent. Why not go for to
force Charles into court?

SARAH. My innocence is not of the sort which shows up well.

CARNABY. Hold publicity in reserve. No fear of the two men arranging to
meet, is there?

SARAH. They've met . . and they chatted about me.

CARNABY. [_After a moment._] There's sound humour in that.

SARAH. I shall feel able to laugh at them both from Yorkshire.

CARNABY. God forbid! Come to Brighton . . we'll rally Charles no end.

SARAH. Papa, I know there's nothing to be done.

CARNABY. Coward!

SARAH. Besides I don't think I want to go back to my happiness.

_They are silent for a little._

CARNABY. How still! Look . . leaves falling already. Can that man hear
what we're saying?

SARAH. [_To_ ANN.] Can Abud overhear?

ANN. I've never talked secrets in the garden before to-day. [_Raising
her voice but a very little._] Can you hear me, Abud?

_No reply comes._

CARNABY. Evidently not. There's brains shown in a trifle.

SARAH. Does your arm pain you so much?

ANN. Sarah, this man that you're fond of and that's not your husband is
not by any chance Lord John Carp?


ANN. Nothing would surprise me.

SARAH. You are witty . . but a little young to be so hard.

CARNABY. Keep to your innocent thoughts.

ANN. I must study politics.

SARAH. We'll stop talking of this.

ANN. No . . let me listen . . quite quietly.

CARNABY. Let her listen . . she's going to be married.

SARAH. Good luck, Ann.

CARNABY. I have great hopes of Ann.

SARAH. I hope she may be heartless. To be heartless is to be quite safe.

CARNABY. Now we detect a taste of sour grapes in your mouth.

SARAH. Butter and eggs.

CARNABY. We must all start early in the morning. Sarah will take you,
Ann, round the Brighton shops . . fine shops. You shall have the
money. . .

SARAH. I will not come with you.

CARNABY. [_Vexedly._] How absurd . . how ridiculous . . to persist in
your silly sentiment.

SARAH. [_Her voice rising._] I'm tired of that world . . which goes on
and on, and there's no dying . . . one grows into a ghost . . visible . .
then invisible. I'm glad paint has gone out of fashion. . . the
painted ghosts were very ill to see.

CARNABY. D'ye scoff at civilisation?

SARAH. Look ahead for me.

CARNABY. Banished to a hole in the damned provinces! But you're young
yet, you're charming . . you're the wife . . and the honest wife of one
of the country's best men. My head aches. D'ye despise good fortune's
gifts? Keep as straight in your place in the world as you can. A monthly
packet of books to Yorkshire . . no . . you never were fond of reading.
Ye'd play patience . . cultivate chess problems . . kill yourself!

SARAH. When one world fails take another.

CARNABY. You have no more right to commit suicide than to desert the
society you were born into. My head aches.

SARAH. George is happy.

CARNABY. D'ye dare to think so?

SARAH. No. . it's a horrible marriage.

CARNABY. He's losing refinement . . mark me . . he no longer polishes
his nails.

SARAH. But there are the children now.

CARNABY. You never have wanted children.

SARAH. I don't want a little child.

CARNABY. She to be Lady Leete . . someday . . soon! What has he done for
his family?

SARAH. I'll come with you. You are clever, Papa. And I know just what to
say to Charles.

CARNABY. [_With a curious change of tone._] If you study anatomy you'll
find that the brain, as it works, pressing forward the eyes . . thought
is painful. Never be defeated. Chapter the latest . . the tickling of
the Carp. And my throat is dry . . shall I drink that water?

SARAH. No, I wouldn't.

CARNABY. Not out of my hand?

ANN. [_Speaking in a strange quiet voice, after her long silence._] I
will not come to Brighton with you.

CARNABY. Very dry!

ANN. You must go back, Sally.

CARNABY. [_As he looks at her, standing stiffly._] Now what is Ann's
height . . five feet . . ?

ANN. Sally must go back, for she belongs to it . . but I'll stay here
where I belong.

CARNABY. You've spoken three times and the words are jumbling in at my
ears meaninglessly. I certainly took too much wine at dinner . . or
else. . . Yes . . Sally goes back. . and you'll go forward. Who stays
here? Don't burlesque your sister. What's in the air . . what disease is

ANN. I mean to disobey you . . to stay here . . never to be unhappy.

CARNABY. So pleased!

ANN. I want to be an ordinary woman . . not clever . . not fortunate.

CARNABY. I can't hear.

ANN. Not clever. I don't believe in you, Papa.

CARNABY. I exist . . I'm very sorry.

ANN. I won't be married to any man. I refuse to be tempted . . I won't
see him again.

CARNABY. Yes. It's raining.

SARAH. Raining!

CARNABY. Don't you stop it raining.

ANN. [_In the same level tones, to her sister now, who otherwise would
turn, alarmed, to their father._] And I curse you . . because, we being
sisters, I suppose I am much what you were, about to be married; and I
think, Sally, you'd have cursed your present self. I could become all
that you are and more . . but I don't choose.

SARAH. Ann, what is to become of you?

CARNABY. Big drops . . big drops!

_At this moment_ ABUD _is passing towards the house, his work finished_.

ANN. John Abud . . you mean to marry. When you marry . . will you marry

_A blank silence, into which breaks_ CARNABY'S _sick voice_.

CARNABY. Take me indoors. I heard you ask the gardener to marry you.

ANN. I asked him.

CARNABY. I heard you say that you asked him. Take me in . . but not out
of the rain.

ANN. Look . . he's straight-limbed and clear eyed . . and I'm a woman.

SARAH. Ann, are you mad?

ANN. If we two were alone here in this garden and everyone else in the
world were dead . . what would you answer?

ABUD. [_Still amazed._] Why . . yes.

CARNABY. Then that's settled . . pellucid.

_He attempts to rise, but staggers backwards and forwards._ SARAH _goes
to him alarmed_.

SARAH. Papa! . . there's no rain yet.

CARNABY. Hush, I'm dead.

ANN. [_Her nerves failing her._] Oh . . oh . . oh . . !

SARAH. Abud, don't ever speak of this.

ABUD. No, my lady.

ANN. [_With a final effort._] I mean it all. Wait three months.

CARNABY. Help me up steps . . son-in-law.

CARNABY _has started to grope his way indoors. But he reels and falls

ABUD. I'll carry him.

_Throwing down his tools_ ABUD _lifts the frail sick man and carries him
towards the house_. SARAH _follows_.

ANN. [_Sobbing a little, and weary._] Such a long day it has been . .
now ending.

_She follows too._

                              THE FOURTH ACT

_The hall at Markswayde is square; in decoration strictly eighteenth
century. The floor polished. Then comes six feet of soberly painted
wainscot and above the greenish blue and yellowish green wall painted
into panels. At intervals are low relief pilasters; the capitals of
these are gilded. The ceiling is white and in the centre of it there is
a frosted glass dome through which a dull light struggles. Two sides
only of the hall are seen._

_In the corner is a hat stand and on it are many cloaks and hats and
beneath it several pairs of very muddy boots._

_In the middle of the left hand wall are the double doors of the
dining-room led up to by three or four stairs with balusters, and on
either side standing against the wall long, formal, straight backed

_In the middle of the right hand wall is the front door; glass double
doors can be seen and there is evidently a porch beyond. On the left of
the front door a small window. On the right a large fireplace, in which
a large fire is roaring. Over the front door, a clock (the hands
pointing to half-past one.) Over the fireplace a family portrait (temp.
Queen Anne) below this a blunderbuss and several horse-pistols. Above
the sofa full-length family portraits (temp. George I.) Before the front
door a wooden screen, of lighter wood than the wainscot, and in the
middle of it a small glass panel. Before this a heavy square table on
which are whips and sticks, a hat or two and brushes; by the table a
wooden chair. On either side the fire stand tall closed-in armchairs,
and between the fireplace and the door a smaller red-baize screen._

_When the dining-room doors are thrown open another wooden screen is to
be seen._

_There are a few rugs on the floor, formally arranged._

MRS. OPIE _stands in the middle of the hall, holding out a woman's brown
cloak: she drops one side to fetch out her handkerchief and apply it to
her eye_. DIMMUCK _comes in by the front door, which he carefully closes
behind him. He is wrapped in a hooded cloak and carries a pair of boots
and a newspaper. The boots he arranges to warm before the fire. Then he
spreads the Chronicle newspaper upon the arm of a chair, then takes off
his cloak and hangs it upon a peg close to the door._

DIMMUCK. Mrs. Opie . . will you look to its not scorching?

MRS. OPIE _still mops her eyes_. DIMMUCK _goes towards the dining-room
door, but turns_.

DIMMUCK. Will you kindly see that the _Chronicle_ newspaper does not

MRS. OPIE. I was crying.

DIMMUCK. I leave this tomorrow sennight . . thankful, ma'am, to have
given notice in a dignified manner.

MRS. OPIE. I understand . . Those persons at table . .

DIMMUCK. You give notice.

MRS. OPIE. Mr. Dimmuck, this is my home.

LORD ARTHUR CARP _comes out of the dining-room. He is a thinner and more
earnest-looking edition of his brother_. MRS. OPIE _turns a chair and
hangs the cloak to warm before the fire, and then goes into the

LORD ARTHUR. My chaise round?

DIMMUCK. I've but just ordered it, my lord. Your lordship's man has give
me your boots.

LORD ARTHUR. Does it snow?

DIMMUCK. Rather rain than snow.

LORD ARTHUR _takes up the newspaper_.

DIMMUCK. Yesterday's, my lord.

LORD ARTHUR. I've seen it. The mails don't hurry hereabouts. Can I be in
London by the morning?

DIMMUCK. I should say you might be, my lord.

LORD ARTHUR _sits by the fire, while_ DIMMUCK _takes off his pumps and
starts to put on his boots_.

LORD ARTHUR. Is this a horse called "Ronald?"

DIMMUCK. Which horse, my lord?

LORD ARTHUR. Which I'm to take back with me . . my brother left here. I
brought the mare he borrowed.

DIMMUCK. I remember, my lord. I'll enquire.

LORD ARTHUR. Tell Parker . .

DIMMUCK. Your lordship's man?

LORD ARTHUR. . . he'd better ride the beast.

SARAH _comes out of the dining-room. He stands up; one boot, one shoe._

SARAH. Please put on the other.

LORD ARTHUR. Thank you . . I am in haste.

SARAH. To depart before the bride's departure.

LORD ARTHUR. Does the bride go with the bridegroom?

SARAH. She goes away.

LORD ARTHUR. I shall never see such a thing again.

SARAH. I think this entertainment is unique.

LORD ARTHUR. Any commissions in town?

SARAH. Why can't you stay to travel with us tomorrow and talk business
to Papa by the way?

DIMMUCK _carrying the pumps and after putting on his cloak goes out
through the front door. When it is closed, her voice changes._

SARAH. Why . . Arthur?

_He does not answer. Then_ MRS. OPIE _comes out of the dining-room to
fetch the cloak. The two, with an effort, reconstruct their casual
disjointed conversation._

SARAH. . . Before the bride's departure?

LORD ARTHUR. Does the bride go away with the bridegroom?

SARAH. She goes.

LORD ARTHUR. I shall never see such an entertainment again.

SARAH. We are quite unique.

LORD ARTHUR. Any commissions in town?

SARAH. Is she to go soon too, Mrs. Opie?

MRS. OPIE. It is arranged they are to walk . . in this weather . . ten
miles . . to the house.

SARAH. Cottage.


MRS. OPIE _takes the cloak into the dining-room. Then_ SARAH _comes a
little towards_ LORD ARTHUR, _but waits for him to speak_.

LORD ARTHUR. [_A little awkwardly._] You are not looking well.

SARAH. To our memory . . and beyond your little chat with my husband
about me . . I want to speak an epitaph.

LORD ARTHUR. Charlie Cottesham behaved most honourably.

SARAH. And I think you did. Why have you not let me tell you so in your
ear till now, to-day?

LORD ARTHUR. Sarah . . we had a narrow escape from. . .

SARAH. How's your wife?

LORD ARTHUR. Well . . thank you.

SARAH. Nervous, surely, at your travelling in winter?

LORD ARTHUR. I was so glad to receive a casual invitation from you and
to come . . casually.

SARAH. Fifty miles.

LORD ARTHUR. Your father has been ill?

SARAH. Very ill through the autumn.

LORD ARTHUR. Do you think he suspects us?

SARAH. I shouldn't care to peep into Papa's innermost mind. You are to
be very useful to him.


SARAH. Then he'll go back to the government.

LORD ARTHUR. If he pleases . . if they please . . if you please.

SARAH. I am not going back to my husband. Arthur . . be useful to him.

LORD ARTHUR. No . . you are not coming to me. Always your father!
[_After a moment._] It was my little home in the country somehow said
aloud you didn't care for me.

SARAH. I fooled you to small purpose.

LORD ARTHUR. I wish you had once made friends with my wife.

SARAH. If we . . this house I'm speaking of . . had made friends where
we've only made tools and fools we shouldn't now be cursed as we are . .
all. George, who is a cork, trying to sink socially. Ann is mad . . and
a runaway.

LORD ARTHUR. Sarah, I've been devilish fond of you.

SARAH. Be useful to Papa. [_He shakes his head, obstinately._] Praise me
a little. Haven't I worked my best for my family?

LORD ARTHUR. Suppose I could be useful to him now, would you, in spite
of all, come to me . . no half measures?

SARAH. Arthur . . [_He makes a little passionate movement towards her,
but she is cold._] It's time for me to vanish from this world, because
I've nothing left to sell.

LORD ARTHUR. I can't help him. I don't want you.

_He turns away._

SARAH. I feel I've done my best.

LORD ARTHUR. Keep your father quiet.

SARAH. I mean to leave him.

LORD ARTHUR. What does he say to that?

SARAH. I've not yet told him.

LORD ARTHUR. What happens?

SARAH. To sell my jewels . . spoils of a ten years' war. Three thousand
pound . . how much a year?

LORD ARTHUR. I'll buy them.

SARAH. And return them? You have almost the right to make such a

LORD ARTHUR. Stick to your father. He'll care for you?

SARAH. No . . we all pride ourselves on our lack of sentiment.

LORD ARTHUR. You must take money from your husband.

SARAH. I have earned that and spent it.

LORD ARTHUR. [_Yielding once again to temptation._] I'm devilish fond of
you . . .

_At that moment_ ABUD _comes out of the dining-room. He is dressed in
his best._ SARAH _responds readily to the interruption_.

SARAH. And you must give my kindest compliments to Lady Arthur and my . .
affectionately . . to the children and I'll let Papa know that you're

LORD ARTHUR. Letters under cover to your father?

SARAH. Papa will stay in town through the session of course . . but they
all tell me that seventy-five pounds a year is a comfortable income in . .

_She goes into the dining-room._ ABUD _has selected his boots from the
corner and now stands with them in his hand looking rather helpless.
After a moment_--

LORD ARTHUR. I congratulate you, Mr. Abud.

ABUD. My lord . . I can't speak of myself.

CARNABY _comes out of the dining-room. He is evidently by no means
recovered from his illness. He stands for a moment with an ironical eye

CARNABY. Son-in-law.

ABUD. I'm told to get on my boots, sir.

CARNABY. Allow me to assist you?

ABUD. I couldn't, sir.

CARNABY. Désolé!

_Then he passes on._ ABUD _sits on the sofa, furtively puts on his boots
and afterwards puts his shoes in his pockets_.

LORD ARTHUR. You were so busy drinking health to the two fat farmers
that I wouldn't interrupt you.

CARNABY. Good-bye. Describe all this to your brother John.

LORD ARTHUR. So confirmed a bachelor!

CARNABY. Please say that we missed him.

LORD ARTHUR _hands him the newspaper_.

LORD ARTHUR. I've out-raced your _Chronicle_ from London by some hours.
There's a paragraph . . second column . . near the bottom.

CARNABY. [_Looking at it blindly._] They print villainously now-a-days.

LORD ARTHUR. Inspired.

CARNABY. I trust his grace is well?


CARNABY. Now doesn't the social aspect of this case interest you?

LORD ARTHUR. I object to feeding with the lower classes.

CARNABY. There's pride! How useful to note their simple manners! From
the meeting of extremes new ideas spring . . new life.

LORD ARTHUR. Take that for a new social-political creed, Mr. Leete.

CARNABY. Do I lack one?

LORD ARTHUR. Please make my adieux to the bride.

CARNABY. Appropriate . . . 'à Dieu' . . she enters Nature's cloister. My

LORD ARTHUR. But . . good heavens . . are we to choose to be toiling

CARNABY. To be such is my daughter's ambition.

LORD ARTHUR. You have not read that.

CARNABY. [_Giving back the paper, vexedly._] I can't see.

LORD ARTHUR. "The Right Honourable Carnaby Leete is, we are glad to
hear, completely recovered and will return to town for the opening of

CARNABY. I mentioned it.

LORD ARTHUR. "We understand that although there has been no
reconciliation with the Government it is quite untrue that this
gentleman will in any way resume his connection with the Opposition."

CARNABY. Inspired?

LORD ARTHUR. I am here from my father to answer any questions.

CARNABY. [_With some dignity and the touch of a threat._] Not now, my

DIMMUCK _comes in at the front door_.

DIMMUCK. The chaise, my lord.

CARNABY. I will conduct you.

LORD ARTHUR. Please don't risk exposure.

CARNABY. Nay, I insist.

LORD ARTHUR. Health and happiness to you both, Mr. Abud.

LORD ARTHUR _goes out, followed by_ CARNABY, _followed by_ DIMMUCK. _At
that moment_ MR. SMALLPEICE _skips excitedly out of the dining-room. A
ferret-like little lawyer_.

MR. SMALLPEICE. Oh . . where is Mr. Leete?

_Not seeing him_ MR. SMALLPEICE _skips as excitedly back into the
dining-room_. DIMMUCK _returns and hangs up his cloak then goes towards_
ABUD, _whom he surveys_.


_With which insult he starts for the dining-room reaching the door just
in time to hold it open for_ SIR GEORGE LEETE _who comes out. He
surveys_ ABUD _for a moment, then explodes_.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. Damn you . . stand in the presence of your

ABUD _stands up_. CARNABY _returns coughing, and_ SIR GEORGE _looks him
up and down_.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. I shall attend your funeral.

CARNABY. My daughter Sarah still needs me.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. I wonder at you, my son.

CARNABY. Have you any money to spare?


CARNABY. For Sarah, my housekeeper; I foresee a busy session.

ABUD _is now gingerly walking up the stairs_.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. Carnaby . . look at that.

CARNABY. Sound in wind and limb. Tread boldly, son-in-law.

ABUD _turns, stands awkwardly for a moment and then goes into the

SIR GEORGE LEETE. [_Relapsing into a pinch of snuff._] I'm calm.

CARNABY. Regard this marriage with a wise eye . . as an amusing little


CARNABY. And forget its oddity. Now that the humiliation is irrevocable,
is it a personal grievance to you?

SIR GEORGE LEETE. Give me a dinner a day for the rest of my life and
I'll be content.

CARNABY. Lately, one by one, opinions and desires have been failing me . .
a flicker and then extinction. I shall shortly attain to being a most
able critic upon life.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. Shall I tell you again? You came into this world
without a conscience. That explains you and it's all that does. That
such a damnable coupling as this should be permitted by God Almighty . .
or that the law shouldn't interfere! I've said my say.

MR. SMALLPEICE _again comes out of the dining-room_.


CARNABY. [_Ironically polite._] Mr. Smallpeice.

MR. SMALLPEICE. Mr. Crowe is proposing your health.

MR. CROWE _comes out_. _A crop-headed beefy-looking farmer of sixty._


CARNABY. There's a good enemy!

MR. CROWE. Get out of my road . . lawyer Smallpeice.

CARNABY. Leave enough of him living to attend to my business.

MR. SMALLPEICE. [_wriggling a bow at_ CARNABY.] Oh . . dear sir!

SIR GEORGE LEETE. [_Disgustedly to_ MR. SMALLPEICE.] You!

MR. SMALLPEICE. Employed in a small matter . . as yet.

CARNABY. [_To_ CROWE.] I hope you spoke your mind of me.

MR. CROWE. Not behind your back, sir.

MRS. GEORGE LEETE _leads_ LADY LEETE _from the dining-room_. LADY LEETE
_is a very old, blind and decrepit woman_. DOLLY _is a buxom young
mother; whose attire borders on the gaudy_.

CARNABY. [_With some tenderness._] Well . . Mother . . dear?

MR. CROWE. [_Bumptiously to_ SIR GEORGE LEETE.] Did my speech offend
you, my lord?

SIR GEORGE LEETE. [_Sulkily._] I'm a baronet.

LADY LEETE. Who's this here?

CARNABY. Carnaby.

DOLLY. Step down . . grandmother.

LADY LEETE. Who did ye say you were?

DOLLY. Mrs. George Leete.

LADY LEETE. Take me to the fire-side.

_So_ CARNABY _and_ DOLLY _lead her slowly to a chair by the fire where
they carefully bestow her_.

MR. SMALLPEICE. [_To_ FARMER CROWE.] He's leaving Markswayde, you know . .
and me agent.

LADY LEETE. [_Suddenly bethinking her._] Grace was not said. Fetch my
chaplain . . at once.

MR. SMALLPEICE. I will run.

_He runs into the dining-room._

DOLLY. [_Calling after with her country accent._] Not parson Remnant . .
t'other one.

LADY LEETE. [_Demanding._] Snuff.

CARNABY. [_To his father._] Sir . . my hand is a little unsteady.

SIR GEORGE _and_ CARNABY _between them give_ LADY LEETE _her snuff_.

MR. CROWE. Dolly . . ought those children to be left so long?

DOLLY. All right, father . . I have a maid.

LADY LEETE _sneezes_.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. She'll do that once too often altogether.

LADY LEETE. I'm cold.

DOLLY. I'm cold . . I lack my shawl.

CROWE. Call out to your man for it.

DOLLY. [_Going to the dining-room door._] Will a gentleman please ask
Mr. George Leete for my Cache-y-mire shawl?

MR. CROWE. [_To_ CARNABY.] And I drank to the health of our grandson.

CARNABY. Now suppose George were to assume your name, Mr. Crowe?

MR. TOZER _comes out of the dining-room. Of the worst type of eighteenth
century parson, for which one may see Hogarth's 'Harlot's Progress.' He
is very drunk._

SIR GEORGE LEETE. [_In his wife's ear._] Tozer!

LADY LEETE. When . . why!

SIR GEORGE LEETE. To say grace.

LADY LEETE _folds her withered hands_.

MR. TOZER. [_through his hiccoughs._] Damn you all.

LADY LEETE. [_Reverently, thinking it is said._] Amen.

MR. TOZER. Only my joke.

CARNABY. [_Rising to the height of the occasion._] Mr. Tozer, I am
indeed glad to see you, upon this occasion so delightfully drunk.

MR. TOZER. Always a gen'elman . . by nature.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. Lie down . . you dog.

GEORGE _comes out carrying the cashmere shawl_.

GEORGE. [_To his father._] Dolly wants her father to rent Markswayde,

MR. CROWE. Not me, my son. You're to be a farmer-baronet.

SIR GEORGE. Curse your impudence!

CARNABY. My one regret in dying would be to miss seeing him so.

GEORGE _goes back into the dining-room_.

MR. CROWE. I am tickled to think that the man marrying your daughter
wasn't good enough for mine.

CARNABY. And yet at fisticuffs, I'd back John Abud against our son

DR. REMNANT _has come out of the dining-room_. TOZER _has stumbled
towards him and is wagging an argumentative finger_.

MR. TOZER. . . Marriage means enjoyment!

DR. REMNANT. [_Controlling his indignation._] I repeat that I have found
in my own copy of the prayer book no insistence upon a romantic passion.

MR. TOZER. My 'terpretation of God's word is 'bove criticism.

MR. TOZER _reaches the door and falls into the dining-room_.

CARNABY. [_Weakly to_ DR. REMNANT.] Give me your arm for a moment.

DR. REMNANT. I think Lady Cottesham has Mrs. John Abud prepared to
start, sir.

CARNABY. I trust Ann will take no chill walking through the mud.

DR. REMNANT. Won't you sit down, sir?


_For some moments_ CROWE _has been staring indignantly at_ SIR GEORGE.
_Now he breaks out._

MR. CROWE. The front door of this mansion is opened to a common gardener
and only then to me and mine!

SIR GEORGE LEETE. [_Virulently._] Damn you and yours and damn them . .
and damn you again for the worse disgrace.

MR. CROWE. Damn _you_, sir . . have you paid him to marry the girl?

_He turns away, purple faced and_ SIR GEORGE _chokes impotently_. ABUD
_and_ MR. PRESTIGE _come out talking. He is younger and less assertive

MR. PRESTIGE. [_Pathetically._] All our family always has got drunk at

ABUD. [_In remonstrance._] Please, uncle.

CARNABY. Mr. Crowe . . I have been much to blame for not seeking you

MR. CROWE. [_Mollified._] Shake hands.

CARNABY. [_Offering his with some difficulty._] My arm is stiff . .
from an accident. This is a maid's marriage, I assure you.

MR. PRESTIGE. [_Open mouthed to_ DR. REMNANT.] One =could= hang bacon

DOLLY. [_Very high and mighty._] The family don't.

CARNABY. [_To his father._] And won't you apologise for your remarks to
Mr. Crowe, sir?

LADY LEETE. [_Demanding._] Snuff!

CARNABY. And your box to my mother, sir.

SIR GEORGE _attends to his wife_.

DOLLY. [_Anxiously to_ DR. REMNANT.] Can a gentleman change his name?

MR. CROWE. Parson . . once noble always noble, I take it.

DR. REMNANT. Certainly . . but I hope you have money to leave them, Mr.

DOLLY. [_To_ ABUD.] John.

ABUD. Dorothy.

DOLLY. You've not seen my babies yet.

LADY LEETE _sneezes_.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. Carnaby . . d'ye intend to murder that Crowe fellow . .
or must I?

MR. SMALLPEICE _skips from the dining-room_.

MR. SMALLPEICE. Mr. John Abud . .

MR. CROWE. [_To_ DR. REMNANT _as he nods towards_ CARNABY.] Don't tell
me he's got over that fever yet.

MR. SMALLPEICE. . . The ladies say . . are you ready or are you not?

MR. PRESTIGE. I'll get thy cloak, John.

MR. PRESTIGE _goes for the cloak_. CARNABY _has taken a pistol from the
mantel-piece and now points it at_ ABUD.

CARNABY. He's fit for heaven!

GEORGE LEETE _comes from the dining-room and noticing his father's
action says sharply_ . .

GEORGE. I suppose you know that pistol's loaded.

_Which calls everyone's attention._ DOLLY _shrieks_.

CARNABY. What if there had been an accident!

_And he puts back the pistol._ ABUD _takes his cloak from_ PRESTIGE.

ABUD. Thank you, uncle.

MR. PRESTIGE. I'm a proud man. Mr. Crowe . .


GEORGE. [_Has a sudden inspiration and strides up to_ ABUD.] Here ends
the joke, my good fellow. Be off without your wife.

ABUD _stares, as do the others. Only_ CARNABY _suddenly catches_
REMNANT'S _arm_.

MR. PRESTIGE. [_Solemnly._] But it's illegal to separate them.

GEORGE. [_Giving up._] Mr. Prestige . . you are the backbone of England.

CARNABY. [_To_ REMNANT.] Where are your miracles?

MRS. PRESTIGE _comes out. A motherly farmer's wife, a mountain of a

MRS. PRESTIGE. John . . kiss your aunt.

ABUD _goes to her, and she obliterates him in an embrace_.

GEORGE. [_To his father._] Sense of humour . . Sense of humour!


_But no one heeds her this time._

CARNABY. It doesn't matter.

GEORGE. Smile. Let's be helpless gracefully.

CARNABY. There are moments when I'm not sure.

GEORGE. It's her own life.

TOZER _staggers from the dining-room drunker than ever. He falls against
the baluster and waves his arms._

MR. TOZER. Silence there for the corpse!

MR. CROWE. You beast!

MR. TOZER. Respect my cloth . . Mr. Prestige.

MR. CROWE. That's not my name.

MR. TOZER. I'll have you to know that I'm Sir George Leete's baronet's
most boon companion and her la'ship never goes nowhere without me. [_He
subsides into a chair._]

LADY LEETE. [_Tearfully._] Snuff.

_From the dining-room comes_ ANN; _her head bent. She is crossing the
hall when_ SARAH _follows, calling her_.


ANN _turns back to kiss her. The rest of the company stand gazing._ SIR
GEORGE _gives snuff to_ LADY LEETE.

ANN. Good-bye, Sally.

SARAH. [_In a whisper._] Forget us.

GEORGE. [_Relieving his feelings._] Good-bye, everybody . . good-bye,

ABUD _goes to the front door and opening it stands waiting for her. She
goes coldly, but timidly to her father, to whom she puts her face up to
be kissed._

ANN. Good-bye, Papa.

CARNABY. [_Quietly, as he kisses her cheek._] I can do without you.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. [_Raging at the draught._] Shut that door.

ANN. I'm gone.

_She goes with her husband._ MRS. OPIE _comes hurriedly out of the
dining-room, too late_.


DR. REMNANT. Run . . Mrs. Opie.

CARNABY. There has started the new century!

MRS. OPIE _opens the front door to look after them_.

SIR GEORGE LEETE. [_With double energy._] Shut that door.

LADY LEETE _sneezes and then chokes. There is much commotion in her

SIR GEORGE. Now she's hurt again.

DOLLY. Water!

MR. CROWE. Brandy!

SARAH. [_Going._] I'll fetch both.

GEORGE. We must all die . . some day.

MR. TOZER. [_Who has struggled up to see what is the matter._] And go

DR. REMNANT. Hell. You do believe in that, Mr. Toper.

MRS. OPIE. [_Fanning the poor old lady._] She's better.

CARNABY. [_To his guests._] Gentlemen . . punch.

towards the dining-room_.

MR. PRESTIGE. [_To_ SMALLPEICE.] You owe all this to me.

MR. CROWE. Dolly . . I'm going.

MRS. PRESTIGE. [_To her husband as she nods towards_ CARNABY.] Nathaniel
. . look at 'im.

GEORGE. [_To his father-in-law._] Must we come too?

MRS. PRESTIGE. [_As before._] I can't help it . . a sneerin' carpin'
cavillin' devil!

MRS. OPIE. Markswayde is to let . . as I hear . . Mr. Leete?

CARNABY. Markswayde is to let.

_He goes on his way to the dining-room meeting_ SARAH _who comes out
carrying a glass of water and a decanter of brandy_. SIR GEORGE LEETE
_is comfortably warming himself at the fire_.

                        *    *    *    *    *

_The living room of_ JOHN ABUD'S _new cottage has bare plaster walls and
its ceilings and floor are of red brick; all fresh looking but not new.
In the middle of the middle wall there is a latticed window, dimity
curtained; upon the plain shelf in front are several flower-pots._

_To the right of this, a door, cross beamed and with a large lock to it
besides the latch._

_Against the right hand wall, is a dresser, furnished with dishes and
plates: below it is a common looking grandfather clock; below this a
small door which when opened shows winding stairs leading to the
room above. In the left hand wall there is a door which is almost hidden
by the fireplace which juts out below it. In the fireplace a wood fire
is laid but not lit. At right angles to this stands a heavy oak settle
opposite a plain deal table; just beyond which is a little bench. On
either side of the window is a Windsor armchair. Between the window and
the door hangs a framed sampler._

_In the darkness the sound of the unlocking of a door and of_ ABUD
_entering is heard. He walks to the table, strikes a light upon a
tinder-box and lights a candle which he finds there._ ANN _is standing
in the doorway_. ABUD _is in stocking feet_.

ABUD. Don't come further. Here are your slippers.

_He places one of the Windsor chairs for her on which she sits while he
takes off her wet shoes and puts on her slippers which he found on the
table. Then he takes her wet shoes to the fireplace. She sits still.
Then he goes to the door and brings in his own boots from the little
porch and puts them in the fireplace too. Then he locks the door and
hangs up the key beside it. Then he stands looking at her; but she does
not speak, so he takes the candle, lifts it above his head and walks to
the dresser._

ABUD. [_Encouragingly._] Our dresser . . Thomas Jupp made that. Plates
and dishes. Here's Uncle Prestige's clock.

ANN. Past seven.

ABUD. That's upstairs. Table and bench, deal. Oak settle . . solid.

ANN. Charming.

ABUD. Windsor chairs . . Mother's sampler.

ANN. Home.

ABUD. Is it as you wish? I have been glad at your not seeing it until

ANN. I'm sinking into the strangeness of the place.

ABUD. Very weary? It's been a long nine miles.

_She does not answer. He goes and considers the flower-pots in the

ANN. I still have on my cloak.

ABUD. Hang it behind the door there . . no matter if the wet drips.

ANN. . . I can wipe up the puddle.

_She hangs up her cloak. He selects a flower-pot and brings it to her._

ABUD. Hyacinth bulbs for the spring.

ANN. [_After a glance._] I don't want to hold them.

_He puts back the pot, a little disappointed._

ABUD. Out there's the scullery.

ANN. It's very cold.

ABUD. If we light the fire now that means more trouble in the morning.

_She sits on the settle._

ANN. Yes, I am very weary.

ABUD. Go to bed.

ANN. Not yet. [_After a moment._] How much light one candle gives! Sit
where I may see you.

_He sits on the bench. She studies him curiously._

ANN. Well . . this is an experiment.

ABUD. [_With reverence._] God help us both.

ANN. Amen. Some people are so careful of their lives. If we fail
miserably we'll hold our tongues . . won't we?

ABUD. I don't know . . I can't speak of this.

ANN. These impossible things which are done mustn't be talked of . .
that spoils them. We don't want to boast of this, do we?

ABUD. I fancy nobody quite believes that we are married.

ANN. Here's my ring . . real gold.

ABUD. [_With a sudden fierce throw up of his head._] Never you remind me
of the difference between us.

ANN. Don't speak to me so.

ABUD. Now I'm your better.

ANN. My master . . The door's locked.

ABUD. [_Nodding._] I know that I must be . . or be a fool.

ANN. [_After a moment._] Be kind to me.

ABUD. [_With remorse._] Always I will.

ANN. You are master here.

ABUD. And I've angered you?

ANN. And if I fail . . I'll never tell you . . to make a fool of you.
And you're trembling. [_She sees his hand, which is on the table,

ABUD. Look at that now.

ANN. [_Lifting her own._] My white hands must redden. No more dainty
appetite . . no more pretty books.

ABUD. Have you learned to scrub?

ANN. Not this floor.

ABUD. Mother always did bricks with a mop. Tomorrow I go to work.
You'll be left for all day.

ANN. I must make friends with the other women around.

ABUD. My friends are very curious about you.

ANN. I'll wait to begin till I'm seasoned.

ABUD. Four o'clock's the hour for getting up.

ANN. Early rising always was a vice of mine.

ABUD. Breakfast quickly . . . and I take my dinner with me.

ANN. In a handkerchief.

ABUD. Hot supper, please.

ANN. It shall be ready for you.

_There is silence between them for a little. Then he says timidly._

ABUD. May I come near to you?

ANN. [_In a low voice._] Come.

_He sits beside her, gazing._

ABUD. Wife . . I never have kissed you.

ANN. Shut your eyes.

ABUD. Are you afraid of me?

ANN. We're not to play such games at love.

ABUD. I can't help wanting to feel very tender towards you.

ANN. Think of me . . not as a wife . . but as a mother of your children
. . if it's to be so. Treat me so.

ABUD. You are a part of me.

ANN. We must try and understand it . . as a simple thing.

ABUD. But shall I kiss you?

ANN. [_Lowering her head._] Kiss me.

_But when he puts his arms round her she shrinks._

ANN. No.

ABUD. But I will. It's my right.

_Almost by force he kisses her. Afterwards she clenches her hands and
seems to suffer._

ABUD. Have I hurt you?

_She gives him her hand with a strange little smile._

ANN. I forgive you.

ABUD. [_Encouraged._] Ann . . we're beginning life together.

ANN. Remember . . work's enough . . no stopping to talk.

ABUD. I'll work for you.

ANN. I'll do my part . . something will come of it.

_For a moment they sit together hand in hand. Then she leaves him and
paces across the room. There is a slight pause._

ANN. Papa . . I said . . we've all been in too great a hurry getting
civilised. False dawn. I mean to go back.

ABUD. He laughed.

ANN. So he saw I was of no use to him and he's penniless and he let me
go. When my father dies what will he take with him? . . . for you do
take your works with you into Heaven or Hell, I believe. Much wit. Sally
is afraid to die. Don't you aspire like George's wife. I was afraid to
live . . and now . . I am content.

_She walks slowly to the window and from there to the door against which
she places her ear. Then she looks round at her husband._

ANN. I can hear them chattering.

_Then she goes to the little door and opens it._ ABUD _takes up the

ABUD. I'll hold the light . . the stairs are steep.

_He lights her up the stairs._

                     The Voysey Inheritance


                      THE VOYSEY INHERITANCE

_The Office of Voysey and Son is in the best part of Lincoln's Inn. Its
panelled rooms give out a sense of grand-motherly comfort and security,
very grateful at first to the hesitating investor, the dubious litigant.
Mr. Voysey's own room into which he walks about twenty past ten of a
morning radiates enterprise besides. There is polish on everything; on
the windows, on the mahogany of the tidily packed writing table that
stands between them, on the brasswork of the fireplace in the other
wall, on the glass of the fire-screen which preserves only the
pleasantness of a sparkling fire, even on Mr. Voysey's hat as he takes
it off to place it on the little red curtained shelf behind the door.
Mr. Voysey is sixty or more and masterful; would obviously be master
anywhere from his own home outwards, or wreck the situation in his
attempt. Indeed there is a buccaneering air sometimes in the twist of
his glance, not altogether suitable to a family solicitor. On this
bright October morning, Peacey, the head clerk, follows just too late to
help him off with his coat, but in time to take it and hang it up with a
quite unnecessary subservience. Mr. Voysey is evidently not capable
enough to like capable men about him. Peacey, not quite removed from
Nature, has made some attempts to acquire protective colouring. A very
drunken client might mistake him for his master. His voice very easily
became a toneless echo of Mr. Voysey's; later his features caught a line
or two from that mirror of all the necessary virtues into which he was
so constantly gazing; but how his clothes even when new contrive to look
like old ones of Mr. Voysey's is a mystery, and to his tailor a most
annoying one. And Peacey is just a respectful number of years his
master's junior. Relieved of his coat, Mr. Voysey carries to his table
the bunch of beautiful roses he is accustomed to bring to the office
three times a week and places them for a moment only near the bowl of
water there ready to receive them while he takes up his letters. These
lie ready too, opened mostly, one or two private ones left closed and
discreetly separate. By this time the usual salutations have passed,
Peacey's "Good morning, sir;" Mr. Voysey's "Morning, Peacey." Then as he
gets to his letters Mr. Voysey starts his day's work._

MR. VOYSEY. Any news for me?

PEACEY. I hear bad accounts of Alguazils preferred, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. Oh . . from whom?

PEACEY. Merrit and James's head clerk in the train this morning.

MR. VOYSEY. They looked all right on . . Give me the Times. [PEACEY
_goes to the fireplace for the Times; it is warming there_. MR. VOYSEY
_waves a letter, then places it on the table_.] Here, that's for you . .
Gerrard Cross business. Anything else?

PEACEY. [_as he turns the Times to its Finance page._] I've made the
usual notes.

MR. VOYSEY. Thank'ee.

PEACEY. Young Benham isn't back yet.

MR. VOYSEY. Mr. Edward must do as he thinks fit about that. Alguazils,
Alg--oh, yes.

_He is running his eye down the columns._ PEACEY _leans over the

PEACEY. This is from Jackson, sir. Shall I take it?

MR. VOYSEY. From Jackson. . Yes. Alguazils. Mr. Edward's here, I

PEACEY. No, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. [_his eye twisting with some sharpness._] What!

PEACEY. [_almost alarmed._] I beg pardon, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. Mr. Edward.

PEACEY. Oh, yes, sir, been in his room some time. I thought you said
Headley; he's not due back till Thursday.

MR. VOYSEY _discards the Times and sits to his desk and his letters_.

MR. VOYSEY. Tell Mr. Edward I've come.

PEACEY. Yes, sir. Anything else?

MR. VOYSEY. Not for the moment. Cold morning, isn't it?

PEACEY. Quite surprising, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. We had a touch of frost down at Chislehurst.

PEACEY. So early!

MR. VOYSEY. I want it for the celery. All right, I'll call through about
the rest of the letters.

PEACEY _goes, having secured a letter or two, and_ MR. VOYSEY _having
sorted the rest (a proportion into the waste paper basket) takes up the
forgotten roses and starts setting them into a bowl with an artistic
hand. Then his son_ EDWARD _comes in_. MR. VOYSEY _gives him one glance
and goes on arranging the roses but says cheerily_. .

MR. VOYSEY. Good morning, my dear boy.

EDWARD _has little of his father in him and that little is undermost. It
is a refined face but self-consciousness takes the place in it of
imagination and in suppressing traits of brutality in his character it
looks as if the young man had suppressed his sense of humour too. But
whether or no, that would not be much in evidence now, for_ EDWARD _is
obviously going through some experience which is scaring him (there is
no better word). He looks not to have slept for a night or two, and his
standing there, clutching and unclutching the bundle of papers he
carries, his eyes on his father, half appealingly but half accusingly
too, his whole being altogether so unstrung and desperate, makes_ MR.
VOYSEY'S _uninterrupted arranging of the flowers seem very calculated
indeed. At last the little tension of silence is broken._

EDWARD. Father . .


EDWARD. I'm glad to see you.

_This is a statement of fact. He doesn't know that the commonplace
phrase sounds ridiculous at such a moment._

MR. VOYSEY. I see you've the papers there.


MR. VOYSEY. You've been through them?

EDWARD. As you wished me . .

MR. VOYSEY. Well? [EDWARD _doesn't answer. Reference to the papers seems
to overwhelm him with shame._ MR. VOYSEY _goes on with cheerful
impatience_.] Come, come, my dear boy, you mustn't take it like this.
You're puzzled and worried, of course. But why didn't you come down to
me on Saturday night? I expected you . . I told you to come. Then your
mother was wondering, of course, why you weren't with us for dinner

EDWARD. I went through all the papers twice. I wanted to make quite

MR. VOYSEY. Sure of what? I told you to come to me.

EDWARD. [_he is very near crying._] Oh, father.

MR. VOYSEY. Now look here, Edward, I'm going to ring and dispose of
these letters. Please pull yourself together. [_He pushes the little
button on his table._]

EDWARD. I didn't leave my rooms all day yesterday.

MR. VOYSEY. A pleasant Sunday! You must learn whatever the business may
be to leave it behind you at the Office. Why, life's not worth living

PEACEY _comes in to find_ MR. VOYSEY _before the fire ostentatiously
warming and rubbing his hands_.

Oh, there isn't much else, Peacey. Tell Simmons that if he satisfies you
about the details of this lease it'll be all right. Make a note for me
of Mr. Grainger's address at Mentone. I shall have several letters to
dictate to Atkinson. I'll whistle for him.

PEACEY. Mr. Burnett . . Burnett v Marks had just come in, Mr. Edward.

EDWARD. [_without turning._] It's only fresh instructions. Will you take

PEACEY. All right.

PEACEY _goes, lifting his eyebrow at the queerness of_ EDWARD'S _manner.
This_ MR. VOYSEY _sees, returning to his table with a little scowl_.

MR. VOYSEY. Now sit down. I've given you a bad forty-eight hours, it
seems. Well, I've been anxious about you. Never mind, we'll thresh the
thing out now. Go through the two accounts. Mrs. Murberry's first . .
how do you find it stands?

EDWARD. [_his feelings choking him._] I hoped you were playing some
trick on me.

MR. VOYSEY. Come now.

EDWARD _separates the papers precisely and starts to detail them; his
voice quite toneless. Now and then his father's sharp comments ring out
in contrast._

EDWARD. We've got the lease of her present house, several agreements . .
and here's her will. Here's also a sometime expired power of attorney
over her securities and her property generally . . it was for six

MR. VOYSEY. She was in South Africa.

EDWARD. Here's the Sheffield mortgage and the Henry Smith mortgage with
Banker's receipts . . hers to us for the interest up to date . . four
and a half and five per cent. Then . . Fretworthy Bonds. There's a
memorandum in your writing that they are at the Bank; but you didn't say
what Bank.

MR. VOYSEY. My own . . Stukeley's.

EDWARD. [_just dwelling on the words._] Your own. I marked that with a
query. There's eight thousand five hundred in three and a half India
stock. And there are her Banker's receipts for cheques on account of
those dividends. I presume for those dividends.

MR. VOYSEY. Why not?

EDWARD. [_gravely._] Because then, Father, there are Banker's half
yearly receipts for sums amounting to an average of four hundred and
twenty pounds a year. But I find no record of any capital to produce

MR. VOYSEY. Go on. What =do= you find?

EDWARD. Till about three years back there seems to have been eleven
thousand in Queenslands which would produce--did produce exactly the
same sum. But after January of that year I find no record of this.

MR. VOYSEY. In fact the Queenslands are missing?

EDWARD. [_hardly uttering the word._] Yes.

MR. VOYSEY. From which you conclude?

EDWARD. I concluded at first that you had not handed me all the papers
connected with----

MR. VOYSEY. Since Mrs. Murberry evidently gets another four twenty a
year somehow; lucky woman.

EDWARD. [_in agony._] Oh!

MR. VOYSEY. Well, we'll return to the good lady later. Now let's take
the other.

EDWARD. The Hatherley Trust.

MR. VOYSEY. Quite so.

EDWARD. [_with one accusing glance._] Trust.

MR. VOYSEY. Go on.

EDWARD. Oh, father . .

_His grief comes uppermost again and_ MR. VOYSEY _meets it kindly_.

MR. VOYSEY. I know, my dear boy. I shall have lots to say to you. But
let's get quietly through with these details first.

EDWARD. [_bitterly now._] Oh, this is simple enough. We're young
Hatherley's only trustees till his coming of age in about five years'
time. The property was eighteen thousand invested in Consols. Certain
sums were to be allowed for his education; these have been and are still
being paid. There is no record as to the rest of the capital.


EDWARD. Yes . . I beg your pardon, sir. There's a memorandum to refer to
the Bletchley Land Scheme.

MR. VOYSEY. That must be ten years ago. But he's credited with the
interest on his capital?

EDWARD. On paper, sir. The balance was to be reinvested. There's a
partial account in your hand writing. He's credited with the Consol

MR. VOYSEY. Quite so.

EDWARD. I think I've heard you say that the Bletchley scheme paid seven
and a half.

MR. VOYSEY. At one time. Have you taken the trouble to calculate what
will be due from us to the lad?

EDWARD. Capital and compound interest . . . about twenty six thousand

MR. VOYSEY. Yes, it's a large sum. In five years' time?

EDWARD. When he comes of age.

MR. VOYSEY. Well, that gives us, say four years and six months in which
to think about it.

EDWARD _waits, hopelessly, for his father to speak again; then says_ . .

EDWARD. Thank you for showing me these, sir. Shall I put them back in
your safe now?

MR. VOYSEY. Yes, you'd better. There's the key. [EDWARD _reaches for the
bunch, his face hidden_.] Put them down. Your hand shakes . . why, you
might have been drinking . . I'll put them away later. It's no use
having hysterics, Edward. Look the trouble in the face.

EDWARD'S _only answer is to go to the fire, as far from his father as
the room allows. And there he leans on the mantelpiece, his shoulders

MR. VOYSEY. I'm sorry, my dear boy. I wouldn't tell you if I could help

EDWARD. I can't believe it. And that you should be telling it me.

MR. VOYSEY. Let your feelings go and get that part of the business over.
It isn't pleasant, I know. It isn't pleasant to inflict it on you.

EDWARD. How I got through that outer office this morning, I don't know.
I came early but some of them were here. Peacey came into my room, he
must have seen there was something up.

MR. VOYSEY. That's no matter.

EDWARD. [_able to turn to his father again; won round by the kind
voice._] How long has it been going on? Why didn't you tell me before?
Oh, I know you thought you'd pull through; but I'm your partner . . I'm
responsible too. Oh, I don't want to shirk that . . don't think I mean
to shirk that, father. Perhaps I ought to have discovered, but those
affairs were always in your hands. I trusted . . I beg your pardon. Oh,
it's us . . not you. Everyone has trusted us.

MR. VOYSEY. [_calmly and kindly still._] You don't seem to notice that
I'm not breaking my heart like this.

EDWARD. What's the extent of the mischief? When did it begin? Father,
what made you begin it?

MR. VOYSEY. I didn't begin it.

EDWARD. You didn't. Who then?

MR. VOYSEY. My father before me. [EDWARD _stares_.] That calms you a

EDWARD. I'm glad . . my dear father! [_and he puts out his hand. Then
just a doubt enters his mind._] But I . . it's amazing.

MR. VOYSEY. [_shaking his head._] My inheritance, Edward.

EDWARD. My dear father!

MR. VOYSEY. I had hoped it wasn't to be yours.

EDWARD. D'you mean to tell me that this sort of thing has been going on
for years? For more than thirty years!


EDWARD. That's a little difficult to understand just at first, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. [_sententiously._] We do what we must in this world, Edward;
I have done what I had to do.

EDWARD. [_his emotion well cooled by now._] Perhaps I'd better just
listen quietly while you explain.

MR. VOYSEY. [_concentrating._] You know that I'm heavily into Northern


MR. VOYSEY. But you don't know how heavily. When I discovered the
Municipalities were organising the purchase, I thought of course the
stock'd be up a hundred and forty--a hundred and fifty in no time. Now
Leeds won't make up her quarrel with the other place . . there'll be no
bill brought in for ten years. I bought at ninety five. What are they

EDWARD. Eighty eight.

MR. VOYSEY. Eighty seven and a half. In ten years I may be . . ! That's
why you've had to be told.

EDWARD. With whose money are you so heavily into Northern Electrics?

MR. VOYSEY. The firm's money.

EDWARD. Clients' money?


EDWARD. [_coldly._] Well . . I'm waiting for your explanation, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. You seem to have recovered yourself pretty much.

EDWARD. No, sir, I'm trying to understand, that's all.

MR. VOYSEY. [_with a shrug._] Children always think the worst of their
parents. I did of mine. It's a pity.

EDWARD. Go on, sir, go on. Let me know the worst.

MR. VOYSEY. There's no immediate danger. I should think anyone could see
that from the state of these accounts. There's no actual danger at all.

EDWARD. Is that the worst?

MR. VOYSEY. [_his anger rising._] Have you studied these two accounts or
have you not?

EDWARD. Yes, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. Well, where's the deficiency in Mrs. Murberry's income . .
has she ever gone without a shilling? What has young Hatherley lost?

EDWARD. He stands to lose--

MR. VOYSEY. He stands to lose nothing if I'm spared for a little, and
you will only bring a little common sense to bear and try to understand
the difficulties of my position.

EDWARD. Father, I'm not thinking ill of you . . that is, I'm trying not
to. But won't you explain how you're justified--?

MR. VOYSEY. In putting our affairs in order.

EDWARD. Are you doing that?

MR. VOYSEY. What else?

EDWARD. [_starting patiently to examine the matter._] How bad were
things when you first came to control them?

MR. VOYSEY. Oh, I forget.

EDWARD. You can't forget.

MR. VOYSEY. Well . . pretty bad.

EDWARD. Do you know how it was my grandfather began to--

MR. VOYSEY. Muddlement, muddlement! Then the money went and what was he
to do. He'd no capital, no credit, and was in terror of his life. My
dear Edward, if I hadn't found it out, he'd have confessed to the first
man who came and asked for a balance sheet.

EDWARD. Well, what exact sum was he to the bad then?

MR. VOYSEY. I forget. Several thousands.

EDWARD. But surely it has not taken all these years to pay off--

MR. VOYSEY. Oh, hasn't it!

EDWARD. [_making his point._] But how does it happen, sir, that such a
comparatively recent trust as young Hatherley's had been broken into?

MR. VOYSEY. Well, what could be safer than to use that money? There's a
Consol investment and not a sight wanted of either capital or interest
for five years.

EDWARD. [_utterly beaten._] Father, are you mad?

MR. VOYSEY. Certainly not. My practice is to reinvest my clients' money
when it is entirely under my control. The difference between the income
this money has to bring to them and the income it is actually bringing
to me I utilise in my endeavour to fill up the deficit in the firm's
accounts . . in fact to try and put things straight. Doesn't it follow
that the more low interest bearing capital I can use the better . . the
less risky things I have to put it into. Most of young Hatherley's
Consol capital is out on mortgage at four and a half and five . . safe
as safe can be.

EDWARD. But he should have the benefit.

MR. VOYSEY. He has the amount of his consol interest.

EDWARD. Are the mortgages in his name?

MR. VOYSEY. Some of them . . some of them. That's a technical matter.
With regard to Mrs. Murberry . . those Fretworthy Bonds at my bank . .
I've raised five thousand on them. I can release her Bonds to-morrow if
she wants them.

EDWARD. Where's the five thousand?

MR. VOYSEY. I don't know . . it was paid into my private account. Yes, I
do remember. Some of it went to complete a purchase . . that and two
thousand more out of the Skipworth fund.

EDWARD. But, my dear father--


EDWARD. [_summing it all up very simply._] It's not right.

MR. VOYSEY _considers his son for a moment with a pitying shake of the

MR. VOYSEY. Oh . . why is it so hard for a man to see clearly beyond the
letter of the law! Will you consider a moment, Edward, the position in
which I found myself? Was I to see my father ruined and disgraced
without lifting a finger to help him? . . not to mention the interest of
the clients. I paid back to the man who would have lost most by my
father's mistakes every penny of his money. He never knew the danger
he'd been in . . never passed an uneasy moment about it. It was I who
lay awake. I have now somewhere a letter from that man to my father
thanking him effusively for the way in which he'd conducted some matter.
It comforted my poor father. Well, Edward, I stepped outside the letter
of the law to do that. Was that right or wrong?

EDWARD. In its result, sir, right.

MR. VOYSEY. Judge me by the result. I took the risk of failure . . I
should have suffered. I could have kept clear of the danger if I'd

EDWARD. But that's all past. The thing that concerns me is what you are
doing now.

MR. VOYSEY. [_gently reproachful now._] My boy, you must trust me a
little. It's all very well for you to come in at the end of the day and
criticise. But I who have done the day's work know how that work had to
be done. And here's our firm, prosperous, respected and without a stain
on its honour. That's the main point, isn't it? And I think that
achievement should earn me the right to be trusted a little . .
shouldn't it?

EDWARD. [_quite irresponsive to this pathetic appeal._] Look here, sir,
I'm dismissing from my mind all prejudice about speaking the truth . .
acting upon one's instructions, behaving as any honest firm of
solicitors must behave . .

MR. VOYSEY. You need not, I tell no unnecessary lies. If a man of any
business ability gives me definite instructions about his property, I
follow them.

EDWARD. Father, no unnecessary lies!

MR. VOYSEY. Well, my friend, go and tell Mrs. Murberry that four hundred
and twenty pounds of her income hasn't for the last eight years come
from the place she thinks it's come from and see how happy you'll make

EDWARD. But is that four hundred and twenty a year as safe to come to
her as it was before you meddled with the capital?

MR. VOYSEY. I see no reason why--

EDWARD. What's the security?

MR. VOYSEY. [_putting his coping stone on the argument._] My financial

EDWARD. [_really not knowing whether to laugh or cry._] Why, it seems as
if you were satisfied with this state of things.

MR. VOYSEY. Edward, you really are most unsympathetic and unreasonable.
I give all I have to the firm's work . . my brain . . my energies . . my
whole life. I can't turn my abilities into hard cash at par . . I wish I
could. Do you suppose that if I could establish every one of these
people with a separate and consistent bank balance to-morrow that I
shouldn't do it? Do you suppose that it's a pleasure . . that it's
relaxation to have these matters continually on one's mind? Do you

EDWARD. [_thankfully able to meet anger with anger._] I find it
impossible to believe that you couldn't somehow have put things right by

MR. VOYSEY. Oh, do you? Somehow!

EDWARD. In thirty years the whole system must either have come
hopelessly to grief . . or during that time there must have been

MR. VOYSEY. Well, if you're so sure, I hope that when I'm under ground,
you may find them.


MR. VOYSEY. And put everything right with a stroke of the pen, if it's
so easy!


MR. VOYSEY. You're my partner and my son, and you'll inherit the

EDWARD. [_realizing at last that he has been led to the edge of this
abyss._] Oh no, father.

MR. VOYSEY. Why else have I had to tell you all this?

EDWARD. [_very simply._] Father, I can't. I can't possibly. I don't
think you've any right to ask me.

MR. VOYSEY. Why not, pray?

EDWARD. It's perpetuating the dishonesty.

MR. VOYSEY _hardens at the unpleasant word_.

MR. VOYSEY. You don't believe that I've told you the truth.

EDWARD. I wish to believe it.

MR. VOYSEY. It's no proof . . that I've earned these twenty or thirty
people their incomes for the last--how many years?

EDWARD. Whether what you have done and are doing is wrong or right . . I
can't meddle in it.

_For the moment_ MR. VOYSEY _looks a little dangerous_.

MR. VOYSEY. Very well. Forget all I've said. Go back to your room. Get
back to your own mean drudgery. My life's work--my splendid life's
work--ruined! What does that matter?

EDWARD. Whatever did you expect of me?

MR. VOYSEY. [_making a feint at his papers._] Oh, nothing, nothing.
[_Then he slams them down with great effect._] Here's a great edifice
built up by years of labour and devotion and self sacrifice . . a great
arch you may call it . . a bridge which is to carry our firm to safety
with honour. [_This variation of Disraeli passes unnoticed._] My work!
And now, as I near the end of my life, it still lacks the key-stone.
Perhaps I am to die with my work just incomplete. Then is there nothing
that a son might do? Do you think I shouldn't be proud of you, Edward . .
that I shouldn't bless you from--wherever I may be, when you completed
my life's work . . with perhaps just one kindly thought of your father?

_In spite of this oratory, the situation is gradually impressing_

EDWARD. What will happen if I . . if I desert you?

MR. VOYSEY. I'll protect you as best I can.

EDWARD. I wasn't thinking of myself, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. [_with great nonchalance_.] Well, I shan't mind the
exposure, you know. It won't make me blush in my coffin . . and you're
not so foolish I hope as to be thinking of the feelings of your brothers
and sisters. Considering how simple it would have been for me to go to
my grave in peace and quiet and let you discover the whole thing
afterwards, the fact that I didn't, that I have taken some thought for
the future of all of you might perhaps have convinced you that I . . !
But there . . consult your own safety.

EDWARD _has begun to pace the room; indecision growing upon him_.

EDWARD. This is a queer thing to have to make up one's mind about, isn't
it, father?

MR. VOYSEY. [_watching him closely and modulating his voice._] My dear
boy, I understand the shock to your feelings that this disclosure must
have been.

EDWARD. Yes, I thought this morning that next week would see us in the
dock together.

MR. VOYSEY. And I suppose if I'd broken down and begged your pardon for
my folly, you'd have done anything for me, gone to prison smiling, eh?

EDWARD. I suppose so.

MR. VOYSEY. Yes, it's easy enough to forgive. I'm sorry I can't go in
sack cloth and ashes to oblige you. [_Now he begins to rally his son;
easy in his strength._] My dear Edward, you've lived a quiet humdrum
life up to now, with your books and your philosophy and your agnosticism
and your ethics of this and your ethics of that . . dear me, these are
the sort of garden oats which young men seem to sow now-a-days! . . and
you've never before been brought face to face with any really vital
question. Now don't make a fool of yourself just through inexperience.
Try and give your mind freely and unprejudicedly to the consideration of
this very serious matter. I'm not angry at what you've said to me. I'm
quite willing to forget it. And it's for your own sake and not for mine,
Edward, that I do beg you to--to--to be a man and try and take a
practical common sense view of the position you find yourself in. It's
not a pleasant position I know, but it's unavoidable.

EDWARD. You should have told me before you took me into partnership.
[_Oddly enough it is this last flicker of rebellion which breaks down_
MR. VOYSEY'S _caution. Now he lets fly with a vengeance._]

MR. VOYSEY. Should I be telling you at all if I could possibly help it?
Don't I know that you're about as fit for this job as a babe unborn?
Haven't I been worrying over that for these last three years? But I'm in
a corner . . and I won't see all this work of mine come to smash simply
because of your scruples. If you're a son of mine you'll do as I tell
you. Hadn't I the same choice to make? . . and this is a safer game for
you than it was for me then. D'you suppose I didn't have scruples? If
you run away from this, Edward, you're a coward. My father was a coward
and he suffered for it to the end of his days. I was sick-nurse to him
here more than partner. Good lord! . . of course it's pleasant and
comfortable to keep within the law . . then the law will look after you.
Otherwise you have to look pretty sharp after yourself. You have to
cultivate your own sense of right and wrong; deal your own justice. But
that makes a bigger man of you, let me tell you. How easily . . how
easily could I have walked out of my father's office and left him to his
fate; no one would have blamed me! But I didn't. I thought it my better
duty to stay and . . yes, I say it with all reverence . . to take up my
cross. Well, I've carried that cross pretty successfully. And what's
more, it's made a happy man of me . . a better, stronger man than
skulking about in shame and in fear of his life ever made of my poor
dear father. [_Relieved at having let out the truth, but doubtful of his
wisdom in doing so, he changes his tone._] I don't want what I've been
saying to influence you, Edward. You are a free agent . . and you must
decide upon your own course of action. Now don't let's discuss the
matter any more for the moment.

EDWARD _looks at his father with clear eyes_.

EDWARD. Don't forget to put these papers away.

_He restores them to their bundles and hands them back: it is his only
comment._ MR. VOYSEY _takes them and his meaning in silence_.

MR. VOYSEY. Are you coming down to Chislehurst soon? We've got Hugh and
his wife, and Booth and Emily, and Christopher for two or three days,
till he goes back to school.

EDWARD. How is Chris?

MR. VOYSEY. All right again now . . grows more like his father. Booth's
very proud of him. So am I.

EDWARD. I think I can't face them all just at present.

MR. VOYSEY. Nonsense.

EDWARD. [_a little wave of emotion going through him._] I feel as if
this thing were written on my face. How I shall get through business I
don't know!

MR. VOYSEY. You're weaker than I thought, Edward.

EDWARD. [_a little ironically._] A disappointment to you, father?

MR. VOYSEY. No, no.

EDWARD. You should have brought one of the others into the firm . .
Trenchard or Booth.

MR. VOYSEY. [_hardening._] Trenchard! [_he dismisses that._] Well,
you're a better man than Booth. Edward, you mustn't imagine that the
whole world is standing on its head merely because you've had an
unpleasant piece of news. You come down to Chislehurst to-night . .
well, say to-morrow night. It'll be good for you . . stop your brooding
. . that's your worst vice, Edward. You'll find the household as if
nothing had happened. Then you'll remember that nothing really has
happened. And presently you'll get to see that nothing need happen, if
you keep your head. I remember times, when things have seemed at their
worst, what a relief it's been to me . . my romp with you all in the
nursery just before your bed time. Do you remember?

EDWARD. Yes. I cut your head open once with that gun.

MR. VOYSEY. [_in a full glow of fine feeling._] And, my dear boy, if I
knew that you were going to inform the next client you met of what I've
just told you . .

EDWARD. [_with a shudder._] Oh, father!

MR. VOYSEY. . . And that I should find myself in prison to-morrow, I
wouldn't wish a single thing I've ever done undone. I have never
wilfully harmed man or woman. My life's been a happy one. Your dear
mother has been spared to me. You're most of you good children and a
credit to what I've done for you.

EDWARD. [_the deadly humour of this too much for him._] Father!

MR. VOYSEY. Run along now, run along. I must finish my letters and get
into the City.

_He might be scolding a schoolboy for some trifling fault._ EDWARD
_turns to have a look at the keen unembarrassed face_. MR. VOYSEY
_smiles at him and proceeds to select from the bowl a rose for his

EDWARD. I'll think it over, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. Of course, you will. And don't brood, Edward, don't brood.

_So_ EDWARD _leaves him; and having fixed the rose to his satisfaction,
he rings his table telephone and calls through it to the listening

Send Atkinson to me, please. [_Then he gets up, keys in hand to lock
away Mrs. Murberry's and the Hatherley trust papers._]

                              THE SECOND ACT

_The_ VOYSEY _dining-room at Chislehurst, when children and
grandchildren are visiting, is dining table and very little else. And at
this moment in the evening when five or six men are sprawling back in
their chairs, and the air is clouded with smoke, it is a very typical
specimen of the middle-class English domestic temple; the daily
sacrifice consummated, the acolytes dismissed, the women safely in the
drawing room, and the chief priests of it taking their surfeited ease
round the dessert-piled altar. It has the usual red-papered walls, (like
a refection, they are, of the underdone beef so much consumed within
them) the usual varnished woodwork which is known as grained oak; there
is the usual, hot, mahogany furniture; and, commanding point of the
whole room, there is the usual black-marble sarcophagus of a fireplace.
Above this hangs one of the two or three oil paintings, which are all
that break the red pattern of the walls, the portrait painted in 1880 of
an undistinguished looking gentleman aged sixty; he is shown sitting in
a more graceful attitude than it could ever have been comfortable for
him to assume._ MR. VOYSEY'S _father it is, and the brass plate at the
bottom of the frame tells us that the portrait was a presentation one.
On the mantelpiece stands, of course, a clock; at either end a china
vase filled with paper spills. And in front of the fire,--since that is
the post of vantage, stands at this moment_ MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. _He is
the second son, of the age that it is necessary for a Major to be, and
of an appearance that many ordinary Majors in ordinary regiments are. He
went into the army because he thought it would be like a schoolboy's
idea of it; and, being there, he does his little all to keep it so. He
stands astride, hands in pockets, coat-tails through his arms, cigar in
mouth, moustache bristling. On either side of him sits at the table an
old gentleman; the one is_ MR. EVAN COLPUS, _the vicar of their parish,
the other_ MR. GEORGE BOOTH, _a friend of long standing, and the Major's
godfather. Mr. Colpus is a harmless enough anachronism, except for the
waste of £400 a year in which his stipend involves the community.
Leaving most of his parochial work to an energetic curate, he devotes
his serious attention to the composition of two sermons a week. They
deal with the difficulties of living the christian life as experienced
by people who have nothing else to do. Published in series from time to
time, these form suitable presents for bedridden parishioners._ MR.
GEORGE BOOTH, _on the contrary, is as gay an old gentleman as can be
found in Chislehurst. An only son; his father left him at the age of
twenty-five a fortune of a hundred thousand pounds (a plum, as he called
it). At the same time he had the good sense to dispose of his father's
business, into which he had been most unwillingly introduced five years
earlier, for a like sum before he was able to depreciate its value. It
was_ MR. VOYSEY'S _invaluable assistance in this transaction which first
bound the two together in great friendship. Since that time Mr. Booth
has been bent on nothing but enjoying himself. He has even remained a
bachelor with that object. Money has given him all he wants, therefore
he loves and reverences money; while his imagination may be estimated
by the fact that he has now reached the age of sixty-five, still
possessing more of it than he knows what to do with. At the head of the
table, meditatively cracking walnuts, sits_ MR. VOYSEY. _He has his back
there to the conservatory door--you know it is the conservatory door
because there is a curtain to pull over it, and because half of it is
frosted glass with a purple key pattern round the edge. On_ MR. VOYSEY'S
_left is_ DENIS TREGONING, _a nice enough young man. And at the other
end of the table sits_ EDWARD, _not smoking, not talking, hardly
listening, very depressed. Behind him is the ordinary door of the room,
which leads out into the dismal draughty hall. The Major's voice is like
the sound of a cannon through the tobacco smoke._

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Of course I'm hot and strong for conscription . .

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. My dear boy, the country'd never stand it. No

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_dropping the phrase heavily upon the poor old
gentleman._] I beg your pardon. If we . . the Army . . say to the
country . . Upon our honour conscription is necessary for your safety . .
what answer has the country? What? [_he pauses defiantly._] There you
are . . none!

TREGONING. Booth will imagine because one doesn't argue that one has
nothing to say. You ask the country.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Perhaps I will. Perhaps I'll chuck the Service and
go into the House. [_then falling into the sing song of a favourite
phrase._] I'm not a conceited man . . but I believe that if I speak out
upon a subject I understand and only upon that subject the House will
listen . . and if others followed my example we should be a far more
business-like and go-ahead community.

_He pauses for breath and_ MR. BOOTH _seizes the opportunity_.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. If you think the gentlemen of England will allow
themselves to be herded with a lot of low fellers and made to carry

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_obliterating him once more._] Just one moment.
Have you thought of the physical improvement which conscription would
bring about in the manhood of the country? What England wants is Chest!
[_he generously inflates his own._] Chest and Discipline. I don't care
how it's obtained. Why, we suffer from a lack of it in our homes--

MR. VOYSEY. [_with the crack of a nut._] Your godson talks a deal, don't
he? You know, when Booth gets into a club, he gets on the committee . .
gets on any committee to enquire into anything . . and then goes on at
'em just like this. Don't you, Booth?

BOOTH _knuckles under easily enough to his father's sarcasm_.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Well, sir, people tell me I'm a useful man on

MR. VOYSEY. I don't doubt it . . your voice must drown all discussion.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. You can't say I don't listen to you, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. I don't . . and I'm not blaming you. But I must say I often
think what a devil of a time the family will have with you when I'm
gone. Fortunately for your poor mother, she's deaf.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. And wouldn't you wish me, sir, as eldest son . . .
Trenchard not counting . . .

MR. VOYSEY. [_with the crack of another nut._] Trenchard not counting.
By all means, bully them. Get up your subjects a bit better, and then
bully them. I don't manage things that way myself, but I think it's your
best chance . . if there weren't other people present I'd say your only
chance, Booth.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_with some discomfort._] Ha! If I were a conceited
man, sir, I could trust you to take it out of me.

MR. VOYSEY. [_as he taps_ MR. BOOTH _with the nut crackers_.] Help
yourself, George, and drink to your godson's health. Long may he keep
his chest notes! Never heard him on parade, have you?

TREGONING. I notice military men must display themselves . . that's why
Booth acts as a firescreen. I believe that after mess that position is
positively rushed.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_cheering to find an opponent he can tackle._] If
you want a bit of fire, say so, you sucking Lord Chancellor. Because I
mean to allow you to be my brother-in-law, you think you can be

_So_ TREGONING _moves to the fire and that changes the conversation_.

MR. VOYSEY. By the bye, Vicar, you were at Lady Mary's yesterday. Is she
giving us anything towards that window?

MR. COLPUS. Five pounds more; she has promised me five pounds.

MR. VOYSEY. Then how will the debt stand?

MR. COLPUS. Thirty-three . . no, thirty-two pounds.

MR. VOYSEY. We're a long time clearing it off.

MR. COLPUS. [_gently querulous._] Yes, now that the window is up, people
don't seem so ready to contribute as they were.

TREGONING. We must mention that to Hugh!

MR. COLPUS. [_tactful at once._] Not that the work is not universally
admired. I have heard Hugh's design praised by quite competent judges.
But certainly I feel now it might have been wiser to have delayed the
unveiling until the money was forthcoming.

TREGONING. Never deliver goods to the Church on credit.

MR. COLPUS. Eh? [TREGONING _knows he is a little hard of hearing_.]

MR. VOYSEY. Well, as it was my wish that my son should do the design, I
suppose in the end I shall have to send you a cheque.


MR. COLPUS. Oh, that would be--

MR. VOYSEY. No, why should I? Here, George Booth, you shall halve it
with me.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I'm damned if I do.

MR. COLPUS. [_proceeding, conveniently deaf._] You remember that at the
meeting we had of the parents and friends to decide on the positions of
the names of the poor fellows and the regiments and coats of arms and so
on . . when Hugh said so violently that he disapproved of the war and
made all those remarks about land-lords and Bibles and said he thought
of putting in a figure of Britannia blushing for shame or something . .
I'm beginning to fear that may have created a bad impression.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Why should they mind . . what on earth does Hugh
know about war? He couldn't tell a battery horse from a bandsman. I
don't pretend to criticise art. I think the window'd be very pretty if
it wasn't so broken up into bits.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_fortified by his "damned" and his last glass of
port._] These young men are so ready with their disapproval. Criticism
starts in the cradle nowadays. When I was young, people weren't always
questioning this and questioning that.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Lack of discipline.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_hurrying on._] The way a man now even stops to think
what he's eating and drinking. And in religious matters . . Vicar, I put
it to you . . there's no uniformity at all.

MR. COLPUS. Ah . . I try to keep myself free from the disturbing
influences of modern thought.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Young men must be forming their own opinions about
this and their opinions about that. You know, Edward, you're worse even
than Hugh is.

EDWARD. [_glancing up mildly at this sudden attack._] What have I done,
Mr. Booth?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_not the readiest of men._] Well . . aren't you one
of those young men who go about the world making difficulties?

EDWARD. What sort of difficulties?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_triumphantly._] Just so . . I never can make out.
Surely when you're young you can ask the advice of your elders and when
you grow up you find Laws . . lots of laws divine and human laid down
for our guidance. [_Well in possession of the conversation he spreads
his little self._] I look back over a fairly long life and . . perhaps I
should say by Heaven's help . . I find nothing that I can honestly
reproach myself with. And yet I don't think I ever took more than five
minutes to come to a decision upon any important point. One's private
life is, I think, one's own affair . . I should allow no one to pry into
that. But as to worldly things . . well, I have come into several sums
of money and my capital is still intact . . ask your father. [MR. VOYSEY
_nods gravely_.] I've never robbed any man. I've never lied over
anything that mattered. As a citizen I pay my taxes without grumbling
very much. Yes, and I sent conscience money too upon one occasion. I
consider that any man who takes the trouble can live the life of a
gentleman. [_and he finds that his cigar is out._]

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_not to be outdone by this display of virtue._]
Well, I'm not a conceited man, but--

TREGONING. Are you sure, Booth?

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Shut up. I was going to say when my young cub of a
brother-in-law-to-be interrupted me, that =Training=, for which we
all have to be thankful to you, Sir, has much to do with it. [_suddenly
he pulls his trousers against his legs._] I say, I'm scorching! D'you
want another cigar, Denis?

TREGONING. No, thank you.


_And he glances round, but_ TREGONING _sees a box on the table and
reaches it. The Vicar gets up._

MR. COLPUS. M-m-m-must be taking my departure.

MR. VOYSEY. Already!

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_frowning upon the cigar box._] No, not those.
Where are the Ramon Allones? What on earth has Honor done with them?

MR. VOYSEY. Spare time for a chat with Mrs. Voysey before you go. She
has ideas about a children's tea fight.

MR. COLPUS. Certainly I will.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_scowling helplessly around._] My goodness! . . one
can never find anything in this house.

MR. COLPUS. I won't say good-bye then.

_He is sliding through the half opened door when_ ETHEL _meets him
flinging it wide. She is the younger daughter, the baby of the family,
but twenty-three now._

MR. VOYSEY. I say, it's cold again to-night! An ass of an architect who
built this place . . such a draught between these two doors.

_He gets up to draw the curtain. When he turns_ COLPUS _has disappeared,
while_ ETHEL _has been followed into the room by_ ALICE MAITLAND, _who
shuts the door after her_. MISS ALICE MAITLAND _is a young lady of any
age to thirty. Nor need her appearance alter for the next fifteen years;
since her nature is healthy and well-balanced. She possesses indeed the
sort of athletic chastity which is a characteristic charm of Northern
spinsterhood. It mayn't be a pretty face, but it has alertness and
humour; and the resolute eyes and eyebrows are a more innocent edition
of_ MR. VOYSEY'S, _who is her uncle_. ETHEL _goes straight to her
father_ [_though her glance is on_ DENIS _and his on her_] _and chirps,
birdlike, in her spoiled-child way_.

ETHEL. We think you've stayed in here quite long enough.

MR. VOYSEY. That's to say, Ethel thinks Denis has been kept out of her
pocket much too long.

ETHEL. Ethel wants billiards . . not proper billiards . . snooker or
something. Oh, Papa, what a dessert you've eaten. Greedy pig!

ALICE _is standing behind_ EDWARD, _considering his hair-parting

ALICE. Crack me a filbert, please, Edward . . I had none.

EDWARD. [_jumping up, rather formally, well-mannered._] I beg your
pardon, Alice. Won't you sit down?


MR. VOYSEY. [_taking_ ETHEL _on his knee_.] Come here, puss. Have you
made up your mind yet what you want for a wedding present?

ETHEL. [_rectifying a stray hair in his beard._] After mature
consideration, I decide on a cheque.

MR. VOYSEY. Do you!

ETHEL. Yes, I think that a cheque will give most scope to your
generosity. Of course, if you desire to add any trimmings in the shape
of a piano or a Turkey carpet you may . . and Denis and I will be very
grateful. But I think I'd let yourself go over a cheque.

MR. VOYSEY. You're a minx.

ETHEL. What is the use of having money if you don't spend it on me?

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_giving up the cigar search._] Here, who's going to

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_pathetically as he gets up._] Well, if my wrist will
hold out . .

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_To_ TREGONING.] No, don't you bother to look for
them. [_He strides from the room, his voice echoing through the hall._]
Honor, where are those Ramon Allones?

ALICE. [_calling after._] She's in the drawing-room with Auntie and Mr.

MR. VOYSEY. Now I should suggest that you and Denis go and take off the
billiard table cover. You'll find folding it up is a very excellent

_He illustrates his meaning with his table napkin and by putting
together the tips of his forefingers, roguishly._

ETHEL. I am not going to blush. I do kiss Denis . . occasionally . .
when he asks me.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_teasing her._] You are blushing.

ETHEL. I am not. If you think we're ashamed of being in love, we're not,
we're very proud of it. We will go and take off the billiard table cover
and fold it up . . and then you can come in and play. Denis, my dear,
come along solemnly and if you flinch I'll never forgive you. [_she
marches off and reaches the door before her defiant dignity breaks down;
then suddenly_--] Denis, I'll race you.

_And she flashes out._ DENIS, _loyal, but with no histrionic instincts,
follows her rather sheepishly_.

DENIS. Ethel, I can't after dinner.

MR. VOYSEY. Women play that game better than men. A man shuffles through
courtship with one eye on her relations.

_The Major comes stalking back, followed in a fearful flurry by his
elder sister_, HONOR. _Poor_ HONOR [_her female friends are apt to refer
to her as Poor_ HONOR] _is a phenomenon common to most large families.
From her earliest years she has been bottle washer to her brothers.
While they were expensively educated she was grudged schooling; her
highest accomplishment was meant to be mending their clothes. Her fate
is a curious survival of the intolerance of parents towards her sex
until the vanity of their hunger for sons had been satisfied. In a less
humane society she would have been exposed at birth. But if a very
general though patronising affection, accompanied by no consideration at
all, can bestow happiness_, HONOR _is not unhappy in her survival. At this
moment, however, her life is a burden._

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Honor, they are not in the dining-room.

HONOR. But they must be!--Where else can they be?

_She has a habit of accentuating one word in each sentence and often the
wrong one._

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. That's what you ought to know.

MR. VOYSEY. [_as he moves towards the door._] Well . . will you have a

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I'll play you fifty up, not more. I'm getting old.

MR. VOYSEY. [_stopping at a dessert dish._] Yes, these are good apples
of Bearman's. I think six of my trees are spoilt this year.

HONOR. Here you are, Booth.

_She triumphantly discovers the discarded box, at which the Major
becomes pathetic with indignation._

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Oh, Honor, don't be such a fool. These are what
we've been smoking. I want the Ramon Allones.

HONOR. I don't know the difference.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. No, you don't, but you might learn.

MR. VOYSEY. [_in a voice like the crack of a very fine whip._] Booth.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_subduedly._] What is it, sir?

MR. VOYSEY. Look for your cigars yourself. Honor, go back to your
reading and your sewing or whatever you were fiddling at, and fiddle in

MR. VOYSEY _departs, leaving the room rather hushed_. MR. BOOTH _has not
waited for this parental display. Then_ ALICE _insinuates a remark very

ALICE. Have you looked in the Library?

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. [_relapsing to an injured mutter._] Where's Emily?

HONOR. Upstairs with little Henry, he woke up and cried.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Letting her wear herself to rags over the child . . !

HONOR. Well, she won't let me go.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Why don't you stop looking for those cigars?

HONOR. If you don't mind, I want a reel of blue silk now I'm here.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. I daresay they are in the Library. What a house!

_He departs._

HONOR. Booth is so trying.

ALICE. Honor, why do you put up with it?

HONOR. Someone has to.

ALICE. [_discreetly nibbling a nut, which_ EDWARD _has cracked for
her_.] I'm afraid I think Master Major Booth ought to have been taken in
hand early . . with a cane.

HONOR. [_as she vaguely burrows into corners._] Papa did. But it's never
prevented him booming at us . . oh, ever since he was a baby. Now he's
flustered me so I simply can't think where this blue silk is.

ALICE. All the Pettifers desired to be remembered to you, Edward.

HONOR. I must do without it. [_but she goes on looking._] I think,
Alice, that we're a very difficult family . . except perhaps Edward.

EDWARD. Why except me?

HONOR. [_Who has only excepted out of politeness to present company._]
Well, you may be difficult . . to yourself. [_Then she starts to go,
threading her way through the disarranged chairs._] Mr. Colpus will
shout so loud at Mother and she hates people to think she's so very
deaf. I thought Mary Pettifer looking old . . [_and she talks herself
out of the room._]

ALICE. [_after her._] She's getting old.

_Now_ ALICE _does sit down; as if she'd be glad of her tête-a-tête_.

ALICE. I was glad not to spend August abroad for once. We drove into
Cheltenham to a dance . . carpet. I golfed a lot.

EDWARD. How long were you with them?

ALICE. Not a fortnight. It doesn't seem three months since I was here,
does it?

EDWARD. I'm down so very little.

ALICE. I'm here a disgraceful deal.

EDWARD. You know they're always pleased.

ALICE. Well, being a homeless person! But what a cart-load to descend
all at once . . yesterday and to-day. The Major and Emily . . Emily's
not at all well. Hugh and Mrs. Hugh. And me. Are you staying?

EDWARD. No. I must get a word with my father . .

ALICE. A business life is not healthy for you, Edward. You look more
like half-baked pie-crust than usual.

EDWARD. [_a little enviously._] You're very well.

ALICE. I'm always well and nearly always happy.

MAJOR BOOTH _returns. He has the right sort of cigar in his mouth and is
considerably mollified._

ALICE. You found them?

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Of course, they were there. Thank you very much,
Alice. Now I want a knife.

ALICE. I must present you with a cigar-cutter, Booth.

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. I hate 'em. [_he eyes the dessert disparagingly._]
Nothing but silver ones.

EDWARD _hands him a carefully opened pocket knife_.

Thank you, Edward. And I must take one of the candles. Something's gone
wrong with the library ventilator and you never can see a thing in that

ALICE. Is Mrs. Hugh there?

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Writing letters. Things are neglected, Edward,
unless one is constantly on the look out. The Pater only cares for his
garden. I must speak seriously to Honor.

_He has returned the knife, still open, and now having lit his cigar at
the candle he carries this off._

ALICE. Honor has the patience of a . . of an old maid.

EDWARD. Her mission in life isn't a pleasant one. [_He gives her a nut,
about the fifteenth._] Here; 'scuse fingers.

ALICE. Thank you. [_looking at him, with her head on one side and her
face more humorous than ever._] Edward, why have you given up proposing
to me?

_He starts, flushes; then won't be outdone in humour._

EDWARD. One can't go on proposing for ever.

ALICE. [_reasonably._] Why not? Have you seen anyone you like better?


ALICE. Well . . I miss it.

EDWARD. What satisfaction did you find in refusing me?

ALICE. [_as she weighs the matter._] I find satisfaction in feeling that
I'm wanted.

EDWARD. Without any intention of giving yourself . . throwing yourself

ALICE. [_teasing his sudden earnestness._] Ah, now you come from mere
vanity to serious questions.

EDWARD. Mine were always serious questions to you.

ALICE. That's a fault I find in you, Edward; all questions are serious
to you. I call you a perfect little pocket-guide to life . . all
questions and answers; what to eat, drink and avoid, what to believe and
what to say . . all in the same type, the same importance attached to

EDWARD. [_sententiously._] Well . . everything matters.

ALICE. [_making a face._] D'you plan out every detail of your life . .
every step you take . . every mouthful?

EDWARD. That would be waste of thought. One must lay down principles.

ALICE. I prefer my plan, I always do what I know I want to do. Crack me
another nut.

EDWARD. Haven't you had enough?

ALICE. I =know= I want one more.

_He cracks another, with a sigh which sounds ridiculous in that

EDWARD. Well, if you've never had to decide anything very serious . .

ALICE. [_With great gravity._] Everything's serious.

EDWARD. Everything isn't vital.

ALICE. [_skilfully manoeuvring the subject._] I've answered vital
questions. I knew that I didn't want to marry you . . each time.

EDWARD. Oh, then you didn't just make a rule of saying no.

ALICE. As you proposed . . on principle? No, I always gave you a fair
chance. I'll give you one now if you like.

_He rouses himself to play up to this outrageous piece of flirting._

EDWARD. I'm not to be caught.

ALICE. Edward, how rude you are. [_She eats her nut contentedly._]

EDWARD. Do other men propose to you?

ALICE. Such a thing may have happened . . when I was young. Perhaps it
might even now if I were to allow it.

EDWARD. You encourage me shamelessly.

ALICE. It isn't everyone who proposes on principle. As a rule a man does
it because he can't help himself. And then to be said no to . . hurts.

_They are interrupted by the sudden appearance of_ MRS. HUGH VOYSEY, _a
brisk, bright little woman, in an evening gown, which she has bullied a
cheap dressmaker into making look exceedingly smart_. BEATRICE _is as
hard as nails and as clever as paint. But if she keeps her feelings
buried pretty deep it is because they are precious to her; and if she is
impatient with fools it is because her own brains have had to win her
everything in the world, so perhaps she does overvalue them a little.
She speaks always with great decision and little effort._

BEATRICE. I believe I could write important business letters upon an
island in the middle of Fleet Street. But while Booth is poking at a
ventilator with a billiard cue . . no, I can't.

_She goes to the fireplace, waving her half finished letter._

ALICE. [_soothingly._] Didn't you expect Hugh back to dinner?

BEATRICE. Not specially. . He went to rout out some things from his
studio. He'll come back in a filthy mess.

ALICE. Now if you listen . . Booth doesn't enjoy making a fuss by
himself . . you'll hear him rout out Honor.

_They listen. But what happens is that_ BOOTH _appears at the door,
billiard cue in hand, and says solemnly_ . .

MAJOR BOOTH VOYSEY. Edward, I wish you'd come and have a look at this
ventilator, like a good fellow.

_Then he turns and goes again, obviously with the weight of an important
matter on his shoulders. With the ghost of a smile_ EDWARD _gets up and
follows him_.

ALICE. If I belonged to this family I should hate Booth.

_With which comment she joins_ BEATRICE _at the fireplace_.

BEATRICE. A good day's shopping?

ALICE. 'M. The baby bride and I bought clothes all the morning. Then we
had lunch with Denis and bought furniture.

BEATRICE. Nice furniture?

ALICE. It'll be very good and very new. They neither of them know what
they want. [_Then suddenly throwing up her chin and exclaiming._] When
it's a question of money I can understand it . . but if one can provide
for oneself or is independent why get married! Especially having been
brought up on the sheltered life principle . . one may as well make the
most of its advantages . . one doesn't go falling in love all over the
place as men seem to . . most of them. Of course with Ethel and Denis
it's different. They've both been caught young. They're two little birds
building their nests and it's all ideal. They'll soon forget they've
ever been apart.

_Now_ HONOR _flutters into the room, patient but wild eyed_.

HONOR. Mother wants last week's Notes and Queries. Have you seen it?

BEATRICE. [_exasperated at the interruption._] No.

HONOR. It ought not to be in here. [_so she proceeds to look for it._]
She's having a long argument with Mr. Colpus over Oliver Cromwell's

ALICE. [_her eyes twinkling._] I thought Auntie didn't approve of Oliver

HONOR. She doesn't and she's trying to prove that he was a brewer or
something. I suppose someone has taken it away.

_So she gives up the search and flutters out again._

ALICE. This is a most unrestful house.

BEATRICE. I once thought of putting the Voyseys into a book of mine.
Then I concluded they'd be as dull there as they are anywhere else.

ALICE. They're not duller than most other people.

BEATRICE. But how very dull that is!

ALICE. They're a little noisier and perhaps not quite so well mannered.
But I love them.

BEATRICE. I don't. I should have thought Love was just what they
couldn't inspire.

ALICE. Of course, Hugh is unlike any of the others.

BEATRICE. He has most of their bad points. I don't love Hugh.

ALICE. [_her eyebrows up, though she smiles._] Beatrice, you shouldn't
say so.

BEATRICE. It sounds affected, doesn't it? Never mind; when he dies I'll
wear mourning . . but not weeds; I bargained against that when we were

ALICE. [_her face growing a little thoughtful._] Beatrice, I'm going to
ask questions. You were in love with Hugh when you married him?

BEATRICE. Well . . I married him for his money.

ALICE. He hadn't much.

BEATRICE. I had none . . and I wanted to write books. Yes, I loved him.

ALICE. And you thought you'd be happy?

BEATRICE. [_considering carefully._] No, I didn't. I hoped he'd be

ALICE. [_a little ironical._] Did you think your writing books would
make him so?

BEATRICE. My dear Alice, wouldn't you feel it a very degrading thing to
have your happiness depend upon somebody else?

ALICE. [_after pausing to find her phrase._] There's a joy of service.

BEATRICE. [_ironical herself now._] I forgot . . you've four hundred a

ALICE. What has that to do with it?

BEATRICE. [_putting her case very precisely._] I've had to earn my own
living, consequently there isn't one thing in my life that I have ever
done quite genuinely for its own sake . . but always with an eye towards
bread-and-butter, pandering to the people who were to give me that.
Happiness has been my only independence.

_The conservatory door opens and through it come_ MR. VOYSEY _and_ MR.
BOOTH _in the midst of a discussion_.

MR. VOYSEY. Very well, man, stick to the shares and risk it.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. No, of course, if you seriously advise me--

MR. VOYSEY. I never advise greedy children; I let 'em overeat 'emselves
and take the consequences--

ALICE. [_shaking a finger._] Uncle Trench, you've been in the garden
without a hat after playing billiards in that hot room.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. We had to give up . . my wrist was bad. They've
started pool.

BEATRICE. Is Booth going to play?

MR. VOYSEY. We left him instructing Ethel how to hold a cue.

BEATRICE. Perhaps I can finish my letter.

_Off she goes._ ALICE _is idly following with a little paper her hand
has fallen on behind the clock_.

MR. VOYSEY. Don't run away, my dear.

ALICE. I'm taking this to Auntie . . Notes and Queries . . she wants it.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Damn . . this gravel's stuck to my shoe.

MR. VOYSEY. That's a new made path.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Now don't you think it's too early to have put in
those plants?

MR. VOYSEY. No, we're getting frost at night already.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I should have kept that bed a good ten feet further
from the tree.

MR. VOYSEY. Nonsense, the tree's to the north of it. This room's cold.
Why don't they keep the fire up! [_He proceeds to put coals on it._]

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. You were too hot in that billiard room. You know,
Voysey . . about those Alguazils?

MR. VOYSEY. [_through the rattling of the coals._] What?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_trying to pierce the din._] Those Alguazils.

MR. VOYSEY _with surprising inconsequence points a finger at the silk
handkerchief across_ MR. BOOTH'S _shirt front_.

MR. VOYSEY. What d'you put your handkerchief there for?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Measure of precau--[_at that moment he sneezes._] Damn
it . . if you've given me a chill dragging me round your infernal

MR. VOYSEY. [_slapping him on the back._] You're an old crock.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Well, I'll be glad of this winter in Egypt. [_He
returns to his subject._] And if you think seriously, that I ought to
sell out of the Alguazils before I go . . ? [_He looks with childlike
enquiry at his friend, who is apparently yawning slightly._] Why can't
you take them in charge? . . and I'll give you a power of attorney or
whatever it is . . and you can sell out if things look bad.

_At this moment_ PHOEBE, _the middle aged parlour-maid comes in, tray in
hand. Like an expert fisherman_ MR. VOYSEY _once more lets loose the
thread of the conversation_.

MR. VOYSEY. D'you want to clear?

PHOEBE. It doesn't matter, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. No, go on . . go on.

_So_ MARY, _the young housemaid, comes in as well, and the two start to
clear the table. All of which fidgets poor_ MR. BOOTH _considerably. He
sits shrivelled up in the armchair by the fire; and now_ MR. VOYSEY
_attends to him_.

MR. VOYSEY. What d'you want with high interest at all . . you never
spend half your income?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I like to feel that my money is doing some good in the
world. These mines are very useful things and forty two per cent is

MR. VOYSEY. You're an old gambler.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_propitiatingly._] Ah, but then I've you to advise
me. I always do as you tell me in the end, now you can't deny that.

MR. VOYSEY. The man who don't know must trust in the man who does! [_He
yawns again._]

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_modestly insisting._] There's five thousand in
Alguazils--what else could we put it into?

MR. VOYSEY. I can get you something at four and a half.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Oh, Lord . . that's nothing.

MR. VOYSEY. [_with a sudden serious friendliness._] I wish, my dear
George, you'd invest more on your own account. You know--what with one
thing and the other--I've got control of practically all you have in the
world. I might be playing old Harry with it for all you know.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_overflowing with confidence._] My dear feller . . if
I'm satisfied! Ah, my friend, what'll happen to your firm when you
depart this life! . . not before my time, I hope, though.

MR. VOYSEY. [_with a little frown._] What d'ye mean?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Edward's no use.

MR. VOYSEY. I beg your pardon . . very sound in business.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. May be . . but I tell you he's no use. Too many
principles, as I said just now. Men have confidence in a personality,
not in principles. Where would you be without the confidence of your

MR. VOYSEY. [_candidly._] True!

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. He'll never gain that.

MR. VOYSEY. I fear you dislike Edward.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_with pleasant frankness._] Yes, I do.

MR. VOYSEY. That's a pity.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_with a flattering smile._] Well, he's not his father
and never will be. What's the time?

MR. VOYSEY. [_with inappropriate thoughtfulness._] Twenty to ten.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I must be trotting.

MR. VOYSEY. It's very early.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Oh, and I've not said a word to Mrs. Voysey . .

_As he goes to the door he meets_ EDWARD, _who comes in apparently
looking for his father; at any rate catches his eye immediately, while_
MR. BOOTH _obliviously continues_.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Will you stroll round home with me?

MR. VOYSEY. I can't.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_mildly surprised at the short reply._] Well, good
night. Good night, Edward.

_He trots away._

MR. VOYSEY. Leave the rest of the table, Phoebe.

PHOEBE. Yes, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. You can come back in ten minutes.

PHOEBE _and_ MARY _depart and the door is closed. Alone with his son_
MR. VOYSEY _does not move; his face grows a little keener, that's all_.

MR. VOYSEY. Well, Edward?

EDWARD _starts to move restlessly about, like a cowed animal in a cage;
silently for a moment or two. Then when he speaks, his voice is toneless
and he doesn't look at his father._

EDWARD. I should like you now, sir, if you don't mind, to drop with me
all these protestations about putting the firm's affairs straight, and
all your anxieties and sacrifices to that end. I see now, of course . .
what a cleverer man than I could have seen yesterday . . that for some
time, ever since, I suppose, you recovered from the first shock and got
used to the double dealing, this hasn't been your object at all. You've
used your clients' capital to produce your own income . . to bring us up
and endow us with. Booth's ten thousand pounds; what you are giving
Ethel on her marriage . . It's odd it never struck me yesterday that my
own pocket money as a boy was probably withdrawn from some client's
account. You've been very generous to us all, Father. I suppose about
half the sum you've spent on us would have put things rightfirm's
affairs straight, and all your anxieties and sacrifices to that end. I
see now, of course . . what a cleverer man than I could have seen
yesterday . . that for some time, ever since, I suppose, you recovered
from the first shock and got used to the double dealing, this hasn't
been your object at all. You've used your clients' capital to produce
your own income . . to bring us up and endow us with. Booth's ten
thousand pounds; what you are giving Ethel on her marriage . . It's odd
it never struck me yesterday that my own pocket money as a boy was
probably withdrawn from some client's account. You've been very generous
to us all, Father. I suppose about half the sum you've spent on us would
have put things right.

MR. VOYSEY. No, it would not.

EDWARD. [_appealing for the truth._] Oh . . at some time or other!

MR. VOYSEY. Well, if there have been good times there have been bad
times. At present the three hundred a year I'm to allow your sister is
going to be rather a pull.

EDWARD. Three hundred a year . . and yet you've never attempted to put a
single account straight. Since it isn't lunacy, sir . . I can only
conclude that you enjoy being in this position.

MR. VOYSEY. I have put accounts absolutely straight . . at the winding
up of a trust for instance . . at great inconvenience too. And to all
appearances they've been above suspicion. What's the object of all this
rodomontade, Edward?

EDWARD. If I'm to remain in the firm, it had better be with a very clear
understanding of things as they are.

MR. VOYSEY. [_firmly, not too anxiously._] Then you do remain?

EDWARD. [_in a very low voice._] Yes, I remain.

MR. VOYSEY. [_quite gravely._] That's wise of you . . I'm very glad.
[_and he is silent for a moment._] And now we needn't discuss the
impractical side of it any more.

EDWARD. But I want to make one condition. And I want some information.

MR. VOYSEY. [_his sudden cheerfulness relapsing again._] Well?

EDWARD. Of course no one has ever discovered . . and no one suspects
this state of things?

MR. VOYSEY. Peacey knows.

EDWARD. Peacey!

MR. VOYSEY. His father found out.

EDWARD. Oh. Does he draw hush money?

MR. VOYSEY. [_curling a little at the word._] It is my custom to make a
little present every Christmas. Not a cheque . . notes in an envelope.
[_He becomes benevolent._] I don't grudge the money . . Peacey's a
devoted fellow.

EDWARD. Naturally this would be a heavily taxed industry. [_then he
smiles at his vision of the mild old clerk._] Peacey! There's another
thing I want to ask, sir. Have you ever under stress of circumstances
done worse than just make use of a client's capital? You boasted to me
yesterday that no one had ever suffered in pocket because of you. Is
that absolutely true?

MR. VOYSEY _draws himself up, dignified and magniloquent_.

MR. VOYSEY. My dear Edward, for the future my mind is open to you, you
can discover for yourself how matters stand to-day. But I decline to
gratify your curiosity as to what is over and done with.

EDWARD. [_with entire comprehension._] Thank you, sir. The condition I
wish to make is that we should really do what we have pretended to be
doing . . try and put the accounts straight.

MR. VOYSEY. [_with a little polite shrug._] I've no doubt you'll prove
an abler man of business than I.

EDWARD. One by one.

MR. VOYSEY. Which one will you begin with?

EDWARD. I shall begin, Father, by halving the salary I draw from the

MR. VOYSEY. I see . . Retrenchment and Reform.

EDWARD. And I think you cannot give Ethel this five thousand pounds

MR. VOYSEY. [_shortly, with one of the quick twists of his eye._] I have
given my word to Denis.

EDWARD. The money isn't yours to give.

MR. VOYSEY. [_in an indignant crescendo._] I should not dream of
depriving Ethel of what, as my daughter, she has every right to expect.
I am surprised at your suggesting such a thing.

EDWARD. [_pale and firm._] I'm set on this, Father.

MR. VOYSEY. Don't be such a fool, Edward. What would it look like . .
suddenly to refuse without rhyme or reason? What would old Tregoning

EDWARD. [_distressed._] You could give them a reason.

MR. VOYSEY. Perhaps you'll invent one.

EDWARD. If need be, Ethel should be told the truth.


EDWARD. I know it would hurt her.

MR. VOYSEY. And Denis told too, I suppose?

EDWARD. Father, it is my duty to do whatever is necessary to prevent

MR. VOYSEY. It'll be necessary to tell the nearest policeman. It is my
duty to pay no more attention to these scruples of yours than a nurse
pays to her child's tantrums. Understand, Edward, I don't want to force
you to continue my partner. Come with me gladly or don't come at all.

EDWARD. [_dully._] It is my duty to be of what use I can to you, sir.
Father, I want to save you if I can.

_He flashes into this exclamation of almost broken-hearted affection._
MR. VOYSEY _looks at his son for a moment and his lip quivers. Then he
steels himself._

MR. VOYSEY. Thank you! I have saved myself quite satisfactorily for the
last thirty years, and you must please believe that by this time I know
my own business best.

EDWARD. [_hopelessly._] Let the money come some other way. How is your
own income regulated?

MR. VOYSEY. I have a bank balance and a cheque book, haven't I? I spend
what I think well to spend. What's the use of earmarking this or that as
my own? You say none of it is my own. I might say it's all my own. I
think I've earned it.

EDWARD. [_anger coming on him._] That's what I can't forgive. If you'd
lived poor . . if you'd really devoted your skill to your clients' good
and not to your aggrandisement . . then, even though things were only as
they are now, I could have been proud of you. But, Father, own the truth
to me, at least . . that's my due from you, considering how I'm placed
by all you've done. Didn't you simply seize this opportunity as a means
to your own end, to your own enriching?

MR. VOYSEY. [_with a sledge hammer irony._] Certainly. I sat that
morning in my father's office, studying the helmet of the policeman in
the street below, and thinking what a glorious path I had happened on to
wealth and honour and renown. [_Then he begins to bully_ EDWARD _in the
kindliest way._] My dear boy, you evidently haven't begun to grasp the
A. B. C. of my position. What has carried me to victory? The confidence
of my clients. What has earned that confidence? A decent life, my
integrity, my brains? No, my reputation for wealth . . that, and nothing
else. Business now-a-days is run on the lines of the confidence trick.
What makes old George Booth so glad to trust me with every penny he
possesses? Not affection . . he's never cared for anything in his life
but his collection of prints. No; he imagines that I have as big a stake
in the country, as he calls it, as he has and he's perfectly happy.

EDWARD. [_stupefied, helpless._] So he's involved!

MR. VOYSEY. Of course he's involved, and he's always after high interest
too . . it's little one makes out of him. But there's a further question
here, Edward. Should I have had confidence in myself, if I'd remained a
poor man? No, I should not. You must either be the master of money or
its servant. And if one is not opulent in one's daily life one loses
that wonderful . . financier's touch. One must be confident oneself . .
and I saw from the first that I must inspire confidence. My whole public
and private life has tended to that. All my surroundings . . you and
your brothers and sisters that I have brought into, and up, and put out
in the world so worthily . . you in your turn inspire confidence.

EDWARD. Not our worth, not our abilities, nor our virtues, but the fact
that we travel first class and ride in hansoms.

MR. VOYSEY. [_impatiently._] Well, I haven't organised Society upon a
basis of wealth.

EDWARD. Is every single person who trusts you involved in your system?

MR. VOYSEY. What new hole are you finding to pick in my conduct?

EDWARD. My mind travelled naturally from George Booth with his big
income to old Nursie with her savings which she brought you to invest.
You've let those be, at least.

MR. VOYSEY. I never troubled to invest them . . it wasn't worth while.

EDWARD. Father!

MR. VOYSEY. D'you know what she brought me? . . five hundred pounds.

EDWARD. That's damnable.

MR. VOYSEY. Indeed. I give her seventy five pounds a year for it. Would
you like to take charge of that account, Edward? I'll give you five
hundred to invest to-morrow.

EDWARD, _hopelessly beaten, falls into an almost comic state of

EDWARD. My dear Father, putting every moral question aside . . it's all
very well your playing Robin Hood in this magnificent manner; but have
you given a moment's thought to the sort of inheritance you'll be
leaving me?

MR. VOYSEY. [_pleased for the first time._] Ah! That is a question you
have every right to ask.

EDWARD. If you died to-morrow could we pay eight shillings in the pound
. . or seventeen . . or five? Do you know?

MR. VOYSEY. And my answer is, that by your help I have every intention,
when I die, of leaving a will behind me of property to you all running
into six figures. D'you think I've given my life and my talents to this
money making for a less result than that? I'm fond of you all . . and I
want you to be proud of me . . and I mean that the name of Voysey shall
be carried high in the world by my children and grandchildren. Don't you
be afraid, Edward. Ah, you lack experience, my boy . . you're not full
grown yet . . your impulses are a bit chaotic. You emotionalise over
your work, and you reason about your emotions. You must sort yourself.
You must realise that money making is one thing, and religion another,
and family-life a third . . and that if we apply our energies
whole-heartedly to each of these in turn, and realise that different
laws govern each, that there is a different end to be served, a
different ideal to be striven for in each,--

_His coherence is saved by the sudden appearance of his wife, who comes
round the door smiling benignly. Not in the least put out, in fact a
little relieved, he greets her with an affectionate shout, for she is
very deaf._

MR. VOYSEY. Hullo, Mother!

MRS. VOYSEY. Oh, there you are, Trench. I've been deserted.

MR. VOYSEY. George Booth gone?

MRS. VOYSEY. Are you talking business? Perhaps you don't want me.

MR. VOYSEY. No, no . . no business.

MRS. VOYSEY. [_who has not looked for his answer._] I suppose the others
are in the billiard room.

MR. VOYSEY. [_vociferously._] We're not talking business, old lady.

EDWARD. I'll be off, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. [_genial as usual._] Why don't you stay? I'll come up with
you in the morning.

EDWARD. No, thank you, sir.

MR. VOYSEY. Then I shall be up about noon to-morrow.

EDWARD. Good-night, Mother.

MRS. VOYSEY _places a plump kindly hand on his arm and looks up

MRS. VOYSEY. You look tired.

EDWARD. No, I'm not.

MRS. VOYSEY. What did you say?

EDWARD. [_too weary to repeat himself._] Nothing, Mother dear.

_He kisses her cheek, while she kisses the air._

MR. VOYSEY. Good-night, my boy.

_Then he goes._ MRS. VOYSEY _is carrying her Notes and Queries. This is
a dear old lady, looking older too than probably she is. Placid
describes her. She has had a life of little joys and cares, has never
measured herself against the world, never even questioned the shape and
size of the little corner of it in which she lives. She has loved an
indulgent husband and borne eight children, six of them surviving,
healthy. That is her history._

MRS. VOYSEY. George Booth went some time ago. He said he thought you'd
taken a chill walking round the garden.

MR. VOYSEY. I'm all right.

MRS. VOYSEY. D'you think you have?

MR. VOYSEY. [_in her ear._] No.

MRS. VOYSEY. You should be careful, Trench. What did you put on?

MR. VOYSEY. Nothing.

MRS. VOYSEY. How very foolish! Let me feel your hand. You are quite

MR. VOYSEY. [_affectionately._] You're a fuss-box, old lady.

MRS. VOYSEY. [_coquetting with him._] Don't be rude, Trench.

HONOR _descends upon them. She is well into that nightly turmoil of
putting everything and everybody to rights which always precedes her
bed-time. She carries a shawl which she clasps round her mother's
shoulders, her mind and gaze already on the next thing to be done._

HONOR. Mother, you left your shawl in the drawing-room. Can they finish

MR. VOYSEY. [_arranging the folds of the shawl with real tenderness._]
Now who's careless!

PHOEBE _comes into the room_.

HONOR. Phoebe, finish here and then you must bring in the tray for Mr.

MRS. VOYSEY. [_having looked at the shawl, and_ HONOR, _and connected
the matter in her mind_.] Thank you Honor. You'd better look after your
Father; he's been walking round the garden without his cape.

HONOR. Papa!

MR. VOYSEY. Phoebe, you get that little kettle and boil it, and brew me
some hot whiskey and water. I shall be all right.

HONOR. [_fluttering more than ever._] I'll get it. Where's the whiskey?
And Hugh coming back at ten o'clock with no dinner. No wonder his work
goes wrong. Here it is! Papa you do deserve to be ill.

_Clasping the whiskey decanter, she is off again._ MRS. VOYSEY _sits at
the dinner table and adjusts her spectacles. She returns to Notes and
Queries, one elbow firmly planted and her plump hand against her plump
cheek. This is her favourite attitude; and she is apt, when reading, to
soliloquise in her deaf woman's voice. At least, whether she considers
it soliloquy or conversation, is not easy to discover._ MR. VOYSEY
_stands with his back to the fire, grumbling and pulling faces_.

MRS. VOYSEY. This is a very perplexing correspondence about the Cromwell
family. One can't deny the man had good blood in him . . his grandfather
Sir Henry, his uncle Sir Oliver . . and it's difficult to discover where
the taint crept in.

MR. VOYSEY. There's a pain in my back. I believe I strained myself
putting in all those strawberry plants.

MARY, _the house parlour maid carries in a tray of warmed-up dinner for_
HUGH _and plants it on the table_.

MRS. VOYSEY. Yes, but then how was it he came to disgrace himself so? I
believe the family disappeared. Regicide is a root and branch curse. You
must read this letter signed C. W. A. . . it's quite interesting.
There's a misprint in mine about the first umbrella maker . . now where
was it . . [_and so the dear lady will ramble on indefinitely._]

                              THE THIRD ACT

_The dining room looks very different in the white light of a July noon.
Moreover on this particular day, it isn't even its normal self. There is
a peculiar luncheon spread on the table. The embroidered cloth is placed
cornerwise and on it are decanters of port and sherry; sandwiches,
biscuits and an uncut cake; two little piles of plates and one little
pile of napkins. There are no table decorations and indeed the whole
room has been made as bare and as tidy as possible. Such preparations
denote one of the recognised English festivities, and the appearance of_
PHOEBE, _the maid, who has just completed them, the set solemnity of her
face and the added touches of black to her dress and cap, suggest that
this is probably a funeral. When_ MARY _comes in the fact that she has
evidently been crying and that she decorously does not raise her voice
above an unpleasant whisper makes it quite certain_.

MARY. Phoebe, they're coming . . and I forgot one of the blinds in the
drawing room.

PHOEBE. Well, pull it up quick and make yourself scarce. I'll open the

MARY _got rid of_, PHOEBE _composes her face still more rigorously into
the aspect of formal grief and with a touch to her apron as well goes to
admit the funeral party. The first to enter are_ MRS. VOYSEY _and_ MR.
BOOTH, _she on his arm; and the fact that she is in widow's weeds makes
the occasion clear. The little old man leads his old friend very

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Will you come in here?

MRS. VOYSEY. Thank you.

_With great solicitude he puts her in a chair; then takes her hand._

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Now I'll intrude no longer.

MRS. VOYSEY. You'll take some lunch?


MRS. VOYSEY. Not a glass of wine?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. If there's anything I can do just send round.

MRS. VOYSEY. Thank you.

_He reaches the door, only to be met by the Major and his wife. He
shakes hands with them both._

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. My dear Emily! My dear Booth!

EMILY _is a homely, patient, pale little woman of about thirty five. She
looks smaller than usual in her heavy black dress and is meeker than
usual on an occasion of this kind. The Major on the other hand, though
his grief is most sincere, has an irresistible air of being responsible
for, and indeed rather proud of the whole affair._

BOOTH. I think it all went off as he would have wished.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_feeling that he is called on for praise._] Great
credit . . great credit.

_He makes another attempt to escape and is stopped this time by_
TRENCHARD VOYSEY, _to whom he is extending a hand and beginning his
formula. But_ TRENCHARD _speaks first_.

TRENCHARD. Have you the right time?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_taken aback and fumbling for his watch._] I think so
. . I make it fourteen minutes to one. [_he seizes the occasion._]
Trenchard, as a very old and dear friend of your father's, you won't
mind me saying how glad I was that you were present to-day. Death closes
all. Indeed . . it must be a great regret to you that you did not see
him before . . before . .

TRENCHARD. [_his cold eye freezing this little gush._] I don't think he
asked for me.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_stoppered._] No? No! Well . . well. . .

_At this third attempt to depart he actually collides with someone in
the doorway. It is_ HUGH VOYSEY.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. My dear Hugh . . I won't intrude.

_Quite determined to escape he grasps his hand, gasps out his formula
and is off._ TRENCHARD _and_ HUGH, _eldest and youngest son, are as
unlike each other as it is possible for_ VOYSEYS _to be, but that isn't
very unlike_. TRENCHARD _has in excelsis the cocksure manner of the
successful barrister_; HUGH _the rather sweet though querulous air of
diffidence and scepticism belonging to the unsuccessful man of letters
or artist. The self-respect of_ TRENCHARD'S _appearance is immense, and
he cultivates that air of concentration upon any trivial matter, or even
upon nothing at all, which will some day make him an impressive figure
upon the Bench_. HUGH _is always vague, searching Heaven or the corners
of the room for inspiration, and even on this occasion his tie is
abominably crooked. The inspissated gloom of this assembly, to which
each member of the family as he arrives adds his share, is unbelievable.
Instinct apparently leads them to reproduce as nearly as possible the
appearance and conduct of the corpse on which their minds are fixed._
HUGH _is depressed partly at the inadequacy of his grief_; TRENCHARD
_conscientiously preserves an air of the indifference which he feels_;
BOOTH _stands statuesque at the mantelpiece; while_ EMILY _is by_ MRS.
VOYSEY, _whose face in its quiet grief is nevertheless a mirror of many
happy memories of her husband_.

BOOTH. I wouldn't hang over her, Emily.

EMILY. No, of course not.

_Apologetically, she sits by the table._

TRENCHARD. I hope your wife is well, Hugh?

HUGH. Thank you, Trench: I think so. Beatrice is in America . . on


_There comes in a small, well groomed, bullet headed boy in Etons. This
is the Major's eldest son. Looking scared and solemn he goes straight to
his mother._

EMILY. Now be very quiet, Christopher . .

_Then_ DENIS TREGONING _appears_.

TRENCHARD. Oh, Tregoning, did you bring Honor back?


BOOTH. [_at the table._] A glass of wine, Mother.


BOOTH _hardly knows how to turn his whisper decorously into enough of a
shout for his mother to hear. But he manages it._

BOOTH. Have a glass of wine?

MRS. VOYSEY. Sherry, please.

_While he pours it out with an air of its being medicine on this
occasion and not wine at all_, EDWARD _comes quickly into the room, his
face very set, his mind obviously on other matters than the funeral. No
one speaks to him for the moment and he has time to observe them all._
TRENCHARD _is continuing his talk to_ DENIS.

TRENCHARD. Give my love to Ethel. Is she ill that--

TREGONING. Not exactly, but she couldn't very well be with us. I thought
perhaps you might have heard. We're expecting . .

_He hesitates with the bashfulness of a young husband._ TRENCHARD _helps
him out with a citizen's bow of respect for a citizen's duty_.

TRENCHARD. Indeed. I congratulate you. I hope all will be well. Please
give my love . . my best love to Ethel.

BOOTH. [_in an awful voice._] Lunch, Emily?

EMILY. [_scared._] I suppose so, Booth, thank you.

BOOTH. I think the boy had better run away and play . . [_he checks
himself on the word._] Well, take a book and keep quiet; d'ye hear me,

CHRISTOPHER, _who looks incapable of a sound, gazes at his father with
round eyes_. EMILY _whispers "Library" to him and adds a kiss in
acknowledgement of his good behaviour. After a moment he slips out,

EDWARD. How's Ethel, Denis?

TREGONING. A little smashed, of course, but no harm done.

ALICE MAITLAND _comes in, brisk and businesslike; a little impatient of
this universal cloud of mourning_.

ALICE. Edward, Honor has gone to her room. I want to take her some food
and make her eat it. She's very upset.

EDWARD. Make her drink a glass of wine, and say it is necessary she
should come down here. And d'you mind not coming back yourself, Alice?

ALICE. [_her eyebrows up._] Certainly, if you wish.

BOOTH. [_overhearing._] What's this? What's this?

_Alice gets her glass of wine and goes. The Major is suddenly full of

BOOTH. What is this, Edward?

EDWARD. I have something to say to you all.

BOOTH. What?

EDWARD. Well, Booth, you'll hear when I say it.

BOOTH. Is it business? . . because I think this is scarcely the time for


BOOTH. Do you find it easy and reverent to descend from your natural
grief to the consideration of money . . ? I do not. [_he finds_
TRENCHARD _at his elbow._] I hope you are getting some lunch,

EDWARD. This is business and more than business, Booth. I choose now,
because it is something I wish to say to the family, not write to each
individually . . and it will be difficult to get us all together again.

BOOTH. [_determined at any rate to give his sanction._] Well, Trenchard,
as Edward is in the position of trustee--executor . . I don't know your
terms . . I suppose there's nothing more to be said.

TRENCHARD. I don't see what your objection is.

BOOTH. [_with some superiority._] Don't you? I should not have called
myself a sentimental man, but . .

EDWARD. You had better stay, Denis; you represent Ethel.

TREGONING. [_who has not heard the beginning of this._] Why? . .

HONOR _has obediently come down from her room. She is pale and thin,
shaken with grief and worn out besides; for needless to say the brunt of
her father's illness, the brunt of everything has been on her. Six weeks
nursing, part of it hopeless, will exhaust anyone. Her handkerchief to
her eyes and every minute or two she cascades tears._ EDWARD _goes and
affectionately puts his arm round her_.

EDWARD. My dear Honor, I am sorry to be so . . so merciless. There! . .
there! [_he hands her into the room; then shuts the door; then turns and
once more surveys the family, who this time mostly return the
compliment. Then he says shortly._] I think you might all sit down.
[_But he goes close to his mother and speaks very distinctly, very
kindly._] Mother, we're all going to have a little necessary talk over
matters . . now, because it's most convenient. I hope it won't . . I
hope you don't mind. Will you come to the table?

MRS. VOYSEY _looks up as if understanding more than he says_.

MRS. VOYSEY. Edward . .

EDWARD. Yes, mother?

BOOTH. [_commandingly._] You'll sit here, mother, of course.

_He places her in her accustomed chair at the foot of the table. One by
one the others sit down_, EDWARD _apparently last. But then he discovers
that_ HUGH _has lost himself in a corner of the room and is gazing into

EDWARD. Hugh, would you mind attending?

HUGH. What is it?

EDWARD. There's a chair.

HUGH _takes it. Then for a minute--while_ EDWARD _is trying to frame in
coherent sentences what he must say to them--for a minute there is
silence, broken only by_ HONOR'S _sniffs, which culminate at last in a
noisy little cascade of tears_.

BOOTH. Honor, control yourself.

_And to emphasise his own perfect control he helps himself majestically
to a glass of sherry. Then says_ . .

BOOTH. Well, Edward?

EDWARD. I'll come straight to the point which concerns you. Our father's
will gives certain sums to you all . . the gross amount something over a
hundred thousand pounds. There will be no money.

_He can get no further than the bare statement, which is received only
with varying looks of bewilderment, until_ MRS. VOYSEY, _discovering
nothing from their faces, breaks this second silence_.

MRS. VOYSEY. I didn't hear.

HUGH. [_in his mother's ear._] Edward says there's no money.

TRENCHARD. [_precisely._] I think you said . . 'will be.'

BOOTH. [_in a tone of mitigated thunder._] Why will there be no money?

EDWARD. [_letting himself go._] Because every penny by right belongs to
those clients whom our father spent his life in defrauding. When I say
defrauding, I mean it in its worst sense . . swindling . . thieving. I
have been in the swim of it, for the past year . . oh, you don't know
the sink of iniquity . . and therefore I mean to collect every penny,
any money that you can give me; put the firm into bankruptcy; pay back
all these people what we can. I'll stand my trial . . it'll come to that
with me . . and as soon as possible. [_he pauses, partly for breath, and
glares at them all._] Are none of you going to speak? Quite right, what
is there to be said! [_Then with a gentle afterthought._] I'm sorry to
hurt you, mother.

_The_ VOYSEY _family is simply buried deep by this avalanche of horror_.
MRS. VOYSEY, _though, who has been watching_ EDWARD _closely, says very

MRS. VOYSEY. I can't hear quite all you say, but I guess what it is. You
don't hurt me, Edward . . I have known of this for a long time.

EDWARD. [_with almost a cry._] Oh, mother, did he know you knew?

MRS. VOYSEY. What do you say?

TRENCHARD. [_collected and dry._] I may as well tell you, Edward, I
suspected everything wasn't right about the time of my last quarrel with
my father. Of course, I took care not to pursue my suspicions. Was
father aware that you knew, Mother?

MRS. VOYSEY. We never discussed it. There was once a great danger . .
when you were all younger . . of his being found out. But we never
discussed it.

EDWARD. [_swallowing a fresh bitterness._] I'm glad it isn't such a
shock to all of you.

HUGH. [_alive to a dramatic aspect of the matter._] My God . . before
the earth has settled on his grave!

EDWARD. I thought it wrong to postpone telling you.

HONOR, _the word swindling having spelt itself out in her mind, at last
gives way to a burst of piteous grief_.

HONOR. Oh, poor papa! . . poor papa!

EDWARD. [_comforting her kindly._] Honor, we shall want your help and

_The Major has recovered from the shock, to swell with importance. It
being necessary to make an impression he instinctively turns first to
his wife._

BOOTH. I think, Emily, there was no need for you to have been present at
this exposure, and that now you had better retire.

EMILY. Very well, Booth.

_She gets up to go, conscious of her misdemeanour. But as she reaches
the door, an awful thought strikes the Major._

BOOTH. Good Heavens . . I hope the servants haven't been listening! See
where they are, Emily . . and keep them away, distract them. Open the
door suddenly; [_she does so, more or less, and there is no one behind
it._] That's all right.

_Having watched his wife's departure, he turns with gravity to his

BOOTH. I have said nothing as yet, Edward. I am thinking.

TRENCHARD. [_a little impatient at this exhibition._] That's the worst
of these family practices . . a lot of money knocking around and no
audit ever required. The wonder to me is to find an honest solicitor at

BOOTH. Really, Trenchard!

TRENCHARD. Well, the more able a man is the less the word Honesty
bothers him . . and the Pater was an able man.

EDWARD. I thought that a year ago, Trenchard. I thought that at the
worst he was a splendid criminal.

BOOTH. Really . . really, Edward!

EDWARD. And everything was to come right in the end . . we were all to
be in reality as wealthy and as prosperous as we have seemed to be all
these years. But when he fell ill . . towards the last he couldn't keep
the facts from me any longer.

TRENCHARD. And those are?

EDWARD. Laughable. You wouldn't believe there were such fools in the
world as some of these wretched clients have been. I tell you the firm's
funds were just a lucky bag into which he dipped. Now sometimes their
money doesn't even exist.

BOOTH. Where's it gone?

EDWARD. [_very directly._] You've been living on it.

BOOTH. Good God!

TRENCHARD. What can you pay in the pound?

EDWARD. Without help? . . six or seven shillings, I daresay. But we must
do better than that.

_To which there is no response._

BOOTH. All this is very dreadful. Does it mean beggary for the whole

EDWARD. Yes, it should.

TRENCHARD. [_sharply._] Nonsense.

EDWARD. [_joining issue at once._] What right have we to a thing we

TRENCHARD. He didn't make you an allowance, Booth . . your capital's
your own, isn't it?

BOOTH. [_awkwardly placed between the two of them._] Really . . I--I
suppose so.

TRENCHARD. Then that's all right.

EDWARD. [_vehemently._] It's stolen money.

TRENCHARD. Booth took it in good faith.

BOOTH. I should hope so.

EDWARD. [_dwelling on the words._] It's stolen money.

BOOTH. [_bubbling with distress._] I say, what ought I to do?

TRENCHARD. Do . . my dear Booth? Nothing.

EDWARD. [_with great indignation._] Trenchard, we owe reparation--

TRENCHARD. [_readily._] To whom? From which account was Booth's money

EDWARD. [_side tracked for the moment._] I don't know . . I daresay from
none directly.

TRENCHARD. Very well then!

EDWARD. [_grieved._] Trenchard, you argue as he did--

TRENCHARD. Nonsense, my dear Edward. The law will take anything it has a
right to and all it can get; you needn't be afraid. There's no
obligation, legal or moral, for us to throw our pounds into the wreck
that they may become pence.

EDWARD. I can hear him.

TRENCHARD. But what about your own position . . can we get you clear?

EDWARD. That doesn't matter.

BOOTH'S _head has been turning incessantly from one to the other and by
this he is just a bristle of alarm_.

BOOTH. But I say, you know, this is awful! Will this have to be made

TRENCHARD. No help for it.

_The Major's jaw drops; he is speechless._ MRS. VOYSEY'S _dead voice
steals in_.

MRS. VOYSEY. What is all this?

TRENCHARD. Edward wishes us to completely beggar ourselves in order to
pay back to every client to whom father owed a pound perhaps ten
shillings instead of seven.

MRS. VOYSEY. He will find that my estate has been kept quite separate.

EDWARD _hides his face in his hands_.

TRENCHARD. I'm very glad to hear it, Mother.

MRS. VOYSEY. When Mr. Barnes died your father agreed to appointing
another trustee.

TREGONING. [_diffidently._] I suppose, Edward, I'm involved.

EDWARD. [_lifting his head quickly._] Denis, I hope not. I didn't know
that anything of yours--

TREGONING. Yes . . all that I got under my aunt's will.

EDWARD. You see how things are . . I've discovered no trace of that.
We'll hope for the best.

TREGONING. [_setting his teeth._] It can't be helped.

MAJOR BOOTH _leans over the table and speaks in the loudest of

BOOTH. Let me advise you to say nothing of this to Ethel at such a
critical time.

TREGONING. Thank you, Booth, naturally I shall not.

HUGH, _by a series of contortions, has lately been giving evidence of a
desire or intention to say something_.

EDWARD. Well, what is it, Hugh?

HUGH. I have been wondering . . if he can hear this conversation.

_Up to now it has all been meaningless to_ HONOR, _in her nervous
dilapidation, but this remark brings a fresh burst of tears_.

HONOR. Oh, poor papa . . poor papa!

MRS. VOYSEY. I think I'll go to my room. I can't hear what any of you
are saying. Edward can tell me afterwards.

EDWARD. Would you like to go too, Honor?

HONOR. [_through her sobs._] Yes, please, I would.

TREGONING. And I'll get out, Edward. Whatever you think fit to do . .
Oh, well, I suppose there's only one thing to be done.

EDWARD. Only that.

TREGONING. I wish I were in a better position as to work, for Ethel's
sake and--and the child's.

EDWARD. Shall I speak to Trenchard?

TREGONING. No . . he knows I exist in a wig and gown. If I can be
useful to him, he'll be useful to me, I daresay. Good bye, Hugh. Good
bye, Booth.

_By this time_ MRS. VOYSEY _and_ HONOR _have been got out of the room_:
TREGONING _follows them. So the four brothers are left together._ HUGH
_is vacant_, EDWARD _does not speak_, BOOTH _looks at_ TRENCHARD, _who
settles himself to acquire information_.

TRENCHARD. How long have things been wrong?

EDWARD. He told me the trouble began in his father's time and that he'd
been battling with it ever since.

TRENCHARD. [_smiling._] Oh, come now . . that's impossible.

EDWARD. But I believed him! Now I look through his papers I can find
only one irregularity that's more than ten years old, and that's only to
do with old George Booth's business.

BOOTH. But the Pater never touched his money . . why, he was a personal

EDWARD. Did you hear what Denis said?

TRENCHARD. Very curious his evolving that fiction about his father . . I
wonder why. I remember the old man. He was honest as the day.

EDWARD. To gain sympathy, I suppose.

TRENCHARD. I think one can trace the psychology of it deeper than that.
It would add a fitness to the situation . . his handing on to you an
inheritance he had received. You know every criminal has a touch of the
artist in him.

HUGH. [_suddenly roused._] That's true.

TRENCHARD. What position did you take up on the matter when he told you?

EDWARD. [_shrugging._] You know what the Pater was as well as I.

TRENCHARD. Well . . what did you attempt to do?

EDWARD. I urged him to start by making some of the smaller accounts
right. He said . . he said that would be penny wise and pound foolish.
So I did what I could myself.

TRENCHARD. With your own money?

EDWARD. The little I had.

TRENCHARD. Can you prove that you did that?

EDWARD. I suppose I could.

TRENCHARD. It's a good point.

BOOTH. [_not to be quite left out._] Yes, I must say--

TRENCHARD. You ought to have written him a letter, and left the firm the
moment you found out. Even then, legally . . ! But as he was your
father. What was his object in telling you? What did he expect you to

EDWARD. I've thought of every reason . . and now I really believe it was
that he might have someone to boast to of his financial exploits.

TRENCHARD. [_appreciatively._] I daresay.

BOOTH. Scarcely matters to boast of!

TRENCHARD. Oh, you try playing the fool with other people's money, and
keeping your neck out of the noose for twelve years. It's not so easy.

EDWARD. Then, of course, he always protested that things would come
right . . that he'd clear the firm and have a fortune to the good. Or
that if he were not spared I might do it. But he must have known that
was impossible.

TRENCHARD. But there's the gambler all over.

EDWARD. Why, he actually took the trouble to draw up this will!

TRENCHARD. That was childish.

EDWARD. I'm the sole executor.

TRENCHARD. So I should think . . Was I down for anything?


TRENCHARD. [_without resentment._] How he did hate me!

EDWARD. You're safe from the results of his affection anyway.

TRENCHARD. What on earth made you stay in the firm once you knew?

EDWARD _does not answer for a moment_.

EDWARD. I thought I might prevent things from getting any worse. I think
I did . . well, I should have done that if he'd lived.

TRENCHARD. You knew the risk you were running?

EDWARD. [_bowing his head._] Yes.

TRENCHARD, _the only one of the three who comprehends, looks at his
brother for a moment with something that might almost be admiration.
Then he stirs himself._

TRENCHARD. I must be off. Business waiting . . end of term, you know.

BOOTH. Shall I walk to the station with you?

TRENCHARD. I'll spend a few minutes with Mother. [_he says, at the door,
very respectfully._] You'll count on my professional assistance, please,

EDWARD. [_simply._] Thank you, Trenchard.

_So_ TRENCHARD _goes. And the Major, who has been endeavouring to fathom
his final attitude, then comments_--

BOOTH. No heart, y'know! Great brain! If it hadn't been for that
distressing quarrel he might have saved our poor father. Don't you think
so, Edward?

EDWARD. Perhaps.

HUGH. [_giving vent to his thoughts at last with something of a
relish._] The more I think this out, the more devilishly humorous it
gets. Old Booth breaking down by the grave . . Colpus reading the
service . .

EDWARD. Yes, the Vicar's badly hit.

HUGH. Oh, the Pater had managed his business for years.

BOOTH. Good God . . how shall we ever look old Booth in the face again?

EDWARD. I don't worry about him; he can die quite comfortably enough on
six shillings in the pound. It's one or two of the smaller fry who will

BOOTH. Now, just explain to me . . I didn't interrupt while Trenchard
was talking . . of what exactly did this defrauding consist?

EDWARD. Speculating with a client's capital . . pocketing the gains,
cutting the losses; meanwhile paying the client his ordinary income.

BOOTH. So that he didn't find it out?

EDWARD. Quite so.

BOOTH. In point of fact, he doesn't suffer?

EDWARD. He doesn't suffer till he finds it out.

BOOTH. And all that's wrong now is that some of their capital is

EDWARD. [_half amused, half amazed at this process of reasoning._] Yes,
that's all that's wrong.

BOOTH. What is the ah--deficit? [_the word rolls from his tongue._]

EDWARD. Anything between two and three hundred thousand pounds.

BOOTH. [_very impressed and not unfavourably._] Dear me . . this is a
big affair!

HUGH. [_following his own line of thought._] Quite apart from the rights
and wrongs of this, only a very able man could have kept a straight face
to the world all these years, as the Pater did.

BOOTH. I suppose he sometimes made money by these speculations.

EDWARD. Very often. His own expenditure was heavy, as you know.

BOOTH. [_with gratitude for favours received._] He was a very generous

HUGH. Did nobody ever suspect him?

EDWARD. You see, Hugh, when there was any danger . . when a trust had to
be wound up . . he'd make a great effort and put the accounts straight.

BOOTH. Then he did put some accounts straight?

EDWARD. Yes, when he couldn't help himself.

BOOTH _looks very enquiring and then squares himself up to the subject_.

BOOTH. Now look here, Edward. You told us that he told you that it was
the object of his life to put these accounts straight. Then you laughed
at that. Now you tell me that he did put some accounts straight.

EDWARD. [_wearily._] My dear Booth, you don't understand.

BOOTH. Well, let me understand . . I am anxious to understand.

EDWARD. We can't pay ten shillings in the pound.

BOOTH. That's very dreadful. But do you know that there wasn't a time
when we couldn't have paid five?

EDWARD. [_acquiescent._] I don't know.

BOOTH. Very well then! If what he said was true about his father and all
that . . and why shouldn't we believe him if we can? . . and he did
effect an improvement, that's all to his credit. Let us at least be
just, Edward.

EDWARD. [_patiently polite._] I am very sorry to appear unjust. He has
left me in a rather unfortunate position.

BOOTH. Yes, his death was a tragedy. It seems to me that if he had been
spared he might have succeeded at length in this tremendous task and
restored to us our family honour.

EDWARD. Yes, Booth, he spoke very feelingly of that.

BOOTH. [_Irony lost upon him._] I can well believe it. And I can tell
you that now . . I may be right or I may be wrong . . I am feeling far
less concerned about the clients' money than I am at the terrible blow
to the Family which this exposure will strike. Money, after all, can to
a certain extent be done without . . but Honour--

_This is too much for_ EDWARD.

EDWARD. Our honour! Does one of you mean to give me a single penny
towards undoing all the wrong that has been done?

BOOTH. I take Trenchard's word for it that that would be illegal.

EDWARD. Well . . don't talk to me of honour.

BOOTH. [_somewhat nettled at this outburst._] I am speaking of the
public exposure. Edward, can't that be prevented?

EDWARD. [_with quick suspicion._] How?

BOOTH. Well . . how was it being prevented before he died--before we
knew anything about it?

EDWARD. [_appealing to the spirits that watch over him._] Oh, listen to
this! First Trenchard . . and now you! You've the poison in your blood,
every one of you. Who am I to talk? I daresay so have I.

BOOTH. [_reprovingly._] I am beginning to think that you have worked
yourself into rather an hysterical state over this unhappy business.

EDWARD. [_rating him._] Perhaps you'd have been glad . . glad if I'd
held my tongue and gone on lying and cheating . . and married and
begotten a son to go on lying and cheating after me . . and to pay you
your interest . . your interest in the lie and the cheat.

BOOTH. [_with statesman-like calm._] Look here, Edward, this rhetoric is
exceedingly out of place. The simple question before us is . . What is
the best course to pursue?

EDWARD. There is no question before us. There's only one course to

BOOTH. [_crushingly._] You will let me speak, please. In so far as our
poor father was dishonest to his clients, I pray that he may be
forgiven. In so far as he spent his life honestly endeavouring to right
a wrong which he had found already committed . . I forgive him. I
admire him, Edward. And I feel it my duty to--er--reprobate most
strongly the--er--gusto with which you have been holding him up in
memory to us . . ten minutes after we have stood round his grave . . as
a monster of wickedness. I think I may say I knew him as well as you . .
better. And . . thank God! . . there was not between him and me
this--this unhappy business to warp my judgment of him. [_he warms to
his subject._] Did you ever know a more charitable man . . a
larger-hearted? He was a faithful husband . . and what a father to all
of us, putting us out into the world and fully intending to leave us
comfortably settled there. Further . . as I see this matter, Edward . .
when as a young man he was told this terrible secret and entrusted with
such a frightful task . . did he turn his back on it like a coward? No.
He went through it heroically to the end of his life. And as he died I
imagine there was no more torturing thought than that he had left his
work unfinished. [_he is very satisfied with this peroration._] And now
if all these clients can be kept receiving their natural income and if
Father's plan could be carried out of gradually replacing the capital--

EDWARD _at this raises his head and stares with horror_.

EDWARD. You're appealing to me to carry on this . . Oh, you don't know
what you're talking about!

_The Major, having talked himself back to a proper eminence remains

BOOTH. Well, I'm not a conceited man . . but I do think that I can
understand a simple financial problem when it has been explained to me.

EDWARD. You don't know the nerve . . the unscrupulous daring it requires

BOOTH. Of course, if you're going to argue round your own incompetence--

EDWARD. [_very straight._] D'you want your legacy?

BOOTH. [_with dignity._] In one moment I shall get very angry. Here am
I doing my best to help you and your clients . . and there you sit
imputing to me the most sordid motives. Do you suppose I should touch or
allow to be touched the money which father has left us till every
client's claim was satisfied?

EDWARD. My dear Booth, I'm sure you mean well--

BOOTH. I'll come down to your office and work with you.

_At this cheerful prospect even poor_ EDWARD _can't help smiling_.

EDWARD. Why, you'd be found out at once.

BOOTH. [_feeling that it is a chance lost._] Well, of course the Pater
never consulted me. I only know what I feel ought to be possible. I can
but make the suggestion.

_At this point_ TRENCHARD _looks round the door to say_ . .

TRENCHARD. Are you coming, Booth?

BOOTH. Yes, certainly. I'll talk this over with Trenchard. [_as he gets
up and automatically stiffens, he is reminded of the occasion and his
voice drops._] I say . . we've been speaking very loud. You must do
nothing rash. I've no doubt I can devise something which will obviate . .
and then I'm sure I shall convince you . . [_glancing into the hall he
apparently catches_ TRENCHARD'S _impatient eye, for he departs abruptly
saying_ . . ] All right, Trenchard, you've eight minutes.

BOOTH'S _departure leaves_ HUGH, _at any rate, really at his ease_.

HUGH. What an experience for you, Edward!

EDWARD. [_bitterly._] And I feared what the shock might be to you all!
Booth has made a good recovery.

HUGH. You wouldn't have him miss such a chance of booming at us all.

EDWARD. It's strange the number of people who believe you can do right
by means which they know to be wrong.

HUGH. [_taking great interest in this._] Come, what do we know about
right and wrong? Let's say legal and illegal. You're so down on the
Governor because he has trespassed against the etiquette of your own
profession. But now he's dead . . and if there weren't the disgrace to
think of . . it's no use the rest of us pretending to feel him a
criminal, because we don't. Which just shows that money . . and

_At this point he becomes conscious that_ ALICE MAITLAND _is standing
behind him, her eyes fixed on his brother. So he interrupts himself to
ask_ . .

HUGH. D'you want to speak to Edward?

ALICE. Please, Hugh.

HUGH. I'll go.

_He goes, a little martyrlike, to conclude the evolution of his theory
in soliloquy; his usual fate._ ALICE _still looks at_ EDWARD _with soft
eyes, and he at her rather appealingly_.

ALICE. Auntie has told me.

EDWARD. He was fond of you. Don't think worse of him than you can help.

ALICE. I'm thinking of you.

EDWARD. I may just escape.

ALICE. So Trenchard says.

EDWARD. My hands are clean, Alice.

ALICE. [_her voice falling lovingly._] I know that.

EDWARD. Mother's not very upset.

ALICE. She had expected a smash in his life time.

EDWARD. I'm glad that didn't happen.

ALICE. Yes . . as the fault was his it won't hurt you so much to stand
up to the blame.

EDWARD _looks puzzled at this for a moment, then gives it up_.

EDWARD. I'm hurt enough now.

ALICE. Why, what have the boys done? It was a mercy to tell Honor just
at this time. She can grieve for his death and his disgrace at the same
time . . and the one grief lessens the other perhaps.

EDWARD. Oh, they're all shocked enough at the disgrace . . but will they
open their purses to lessen the disgrace?

ALICE. Will it seem less disgraceful to have stolen ten thousand pounds
than twenty?

EDWARD. I should think so.

ALICE. I should think so, but I wonder if that's the Law. If it isn't,
Trenchard wouldn't consider the point. I'm sure Public Opinion doesn't
say so . . and that's what Booth is considering.

EDWARD. [_with contempt._] Yes.

ALICE. [_ever so gently ironical._] Well, he's in the Army . . he's
almost in Society . . and he has to get on in both; one mustn't blame
him. Of course if the money could have been given up with a flourish of
trumpets . . ! But even then I doubt whether the advertisement would
bring in what it cost.

EDWARD. [_very serious._] But when one thinks how the money was

ALICE. When one thinks how most money is obtained!

EDWARD. They've not earned it.

ALICE. [_her eyes humorous._] If they had they might have given it you
and earned more. Did I ever tell you what my guardian said to me when I
came of age?

EDWARD. I'm thankful your money's not been in danger.

ALICE. It might have been, but I was made to look after it myself . .
much against my will. My guardian was a person of great character and no
principles, the best and most loveable man I've ever met . . I'm sorry
you never knew him Edward . . and he said once to me . . You've no right
to your money. You've not earned it or deserved it in any way. Therefore
don't be surprised or annoyed if any enterprising person tries to get
it from you. He has at least as much right to it as you have . . if he
can use it better, he has more right. Shocking sentiments, aren't they?
No respectable man of business could own to them. But I'm not so sorry
for some of these clients as you are, Edward.

EDWARD _shakes his head, treating these paradoxes as they deserve_.

EDWARD. Alice . . one or two of them will be beggared.

ALICE. [_sincerely._] Yes, that is serious. What's to be done?

EDWARD. There's old nurse . . with her poor little savings gone!

ALICE. Surely those can be spared her?

EDWARD. The Law's no respecter of persons . . that's its boast. Old
Booth with more than he wants will keep enough. My old nurse, with just
enough, may starve. But it'll be a relief to clear out this nest of
lies, even though one suffers one's self. I've been ashamed to walk into
that office, Alice . . I'll hold my head high in prison though.

_He shakes himself stiffly erect, his chin high._ ALICE _quizzes him_.

ALICE. Edward, I'm afraid you're feeling heroic.


ALICE. Don't be so proud of your misfortune. You looked quite like Booth
for the moment. [_this effectually removes the starch._] It will be very
stupid to send you to prison and you must do your best to keep out.
[_she goes on very practically._] We were discussing if anything could
be done for these one or two people who'll be beggared.

EDWARD. Yes, Alice. I'm sorry nothing can be done for them.

ALICE. It's a pity.

EDWARD. I suppose I was feeling heroic. I didn't mean to.

_He has become a little like a child with her._

ALICE. That's the worst of acting on principle . . one begins thinking
of one's attitude instead of the use of what one is doing.

EDWARD. I'm exposing this fraud on principle.

ALICE. Perhaps that's what's wrong.

EDWARD. Wrong!

ALICE. My dear Edward, if people are to be ruined . . !

EDWARD. What else is there to be done?

ALICE. Well . . have you thought?

EDWARD. There's nothing else to be done.

ALICE. On principle.

_He looks at her, she is smiling, it is true, but smiling quite
gravely._ EDWARD _is puzzled. Then the yeast of her suggestion begins to
work in his mind slowly, perversely at first._

EDWARD. It had occurred to Booth. . .

ALICE. Oh, anything may occur to Booth.

EDWARD. . . In his grave concern for the family honour that I might
quietly cheat the firm back into credit again.

ALICE. How stupid of Booth!

EDWARD. Well . . like my father . . Booth believes in himself.

ALICE. Yes, he's rather a credulous man.

EDWARD. [_ignoring her little joke._] He might have been lucky and have
done some good. I'm a weak sort of creature, just a collection of
principles as you say. Look, all I've been able to do in this business . .
at the cost of my whole life perhaps . . has been to sit senselessly
by my father's side and prevent things going from bad to worse.

ALICE. That was worth doing. The cost is your own affair.

_She is watching him, stilly and closely. Suddenly his face lights a
little and he turns to her._

EDWARD. Alice . . there's something else I could do.

ALICE. What?

EDWARD. It's illegal.

ALICE. So much the better perhaps. Oh, I'm lawless by birthright, being
a woman.

EDWARD. I could take the money that's in my father's name and use it
only to put right the smaller accounts. It'd take a few months to do it
well . . and cover the tracks. That'd be necessary.

ALICE. Then you'd give yourself up as you'd meant to do now?

EDWARD. Yes . . practically.

ALICE. It'd be worse for you then at the trial?

EDWARD. [_with a touch of another sort of pride._] You said that was my

ALICE. [_pain in her voice and eyes._] Oh, Edward!

EDWARD. Shall I do this?

ALICE. [_turning away._] Why must you ask me?

EDWARD. You mocked at my principles, didn't you? You've taken them from
me. The least you can do is to give me advice in exchange.

ALICE. [_after a moment._] No . . decide for yourself.

_He jumps up and begins to pace about, doubtful, distressed._

EDWARD. Good Lord . . it means lying and shuffling!

ALICE. [_a little trembling._] In a good cause.

EDWARD. Ah . . but lying and shuffling takes the fine edge off one's

ALICE. [_laughing at the quaintness of her own little epigram._] Edward,
are you one of God's dandies?

EDWARD. And . . Alice, it wouldn't be easy work. It wants qualities I
haven't got. I should fail.

ALICE. Would you?

_He catches a look from her._

EDWARD. Well, I might not.

ALICE. And you don't need success for a lure. That's like a common man.

EDWARD. You want me to try to do this?

_For answer, she dares only put out her hand, and he takes it._

ALICE. Oh, my dear . . cousin!

EDWARD. [_excitedly._] My people will have to hold their tongues. I
needn't have told them all this to-day.

ALICE. Don't tell them the rest . . they won't understand. I shall be
jealous if you tell them.

EDWARD. [_looking at her as she at him._] Well, you've the right to be.
This deed . . it's not done yet . . is your property.

ALICE. Thank you. I've always wanted to have something useful to my
credit . . and I'd almost given up hoping.

_Then suddenly his face changes, his voice changes and he grips the hand
he is holding so tightly as to hurt her._

EDWARD. Alice, if my father's story were true . . he must have begun
like this. Trying to do the right thing in the wrong way . . then doing
the wrong thing . . then bringing himself to what he was . . and so me
to this. [_he flings away from her._] No, Alice, I won't do it. I
daren't take that first step down. It's a worse risk than any failure.
Think . . I might succeed.

ALICE _stands very still, looking at him_.

ALICE. It's a big risk. Well . . I'll take it.

_He turns to her, in wonder._


ALICE. I'll risk your becoming a bad man. That's a big risk for me.

_He understands, and is calmed and made happy._

EDWARD. Then there is no more to be said, is there?

ALICE. Not now. [_as she drops this gentle hint she hears something--the
hall door opening._] Here's Booth back again.

EDWARD. [_with a really mischievous grin._] He'll be so glad he's
convinced me.

ALICE. I must go back to Honor, poor girl. I wonder she has a tear left.

_She leaves him, briskly, brightly; leaves her cousin with his mouth set
and a light in his eyes._

                              THE FOURTH ACT

MR. VOYSEY'S _room at the office is_ EDWARD'S _now. It has somehow lost
that brilliancy which the old man's occupation seemed to give it.
Perhaps it is only because this December morning is dull and depressing,
but the fire isn't bright and the panels and windows don't shine as they
did. There are no roses on the table either._ EDWARD, _walking in as his
father did, hanging his hat and coat where his father's used to hang, is
certainly the palest shadow of that other masterful presence. A
depressed, drooping shadow too. This may be what_ PEACEY _feels, if no
more, for he looks very surly as he obeys the old routine of following
his chief to this room on his arrival. Nor has_ EDWARD _so much as a
glance for his clerk. They exchange the formalest of greetings._ EDWARD
_sits joylessly to his desk, on which the morning's pile of letters
lies, unopened now_.

PEACEY. Good morning, sir.

EDWARD. Good morning, Peacey. Have you any notes for me?

PEACEY. Well, I've hardly been through the letters yet, sir.

EDWARD. [_his eyebrows meeting._] Oh . . and I'm half an hour late
myself this morning.

PEACEY. I'm very sorry, sir.

EDWARD. If Mr. Bullen calls you had better show him all those papers I
gave you. Write to Metcalfe as soon as possible; say I interviewed Mr.
Vickery myself this morning and the houses will not be proceeded with.
Better let me see the letter.

PEACEY. Very good, sir.

EDWARD. That's all, thank you.

PEACEY _gets to the door, where he stops, looking not only surly but
nervous now_.

PEACEY. May I speak to you a moment, sir?

EDWARD. Certainly.

PEACEY, _after a moment, makes an effort, purses his mouth and begins_.

PEACEY. Bills are beginning to come in upon me as is usual at this
season, sir. My son's allowance at Cambridge is now rather a heavy item
of my expenditure. I hope that the custom of the firm isn't to be
neglected now that you are the head of it, Mr. Edward. Two hundred your
father always made it at Christmas . . in notes if you please.

_Towards the end of this_ EDWARD _begins to pay great attention. When he
answers his voice is harsh._

EDWARD. Oh, to be sure . . your hush money.

PEACEY. [_bridling._] That's not a very pleasant word.

EDWARD. This is a very unpleasant subject.

PEACEY. I'm sure it isn't my wish to bring out in cold conversation what
I know of the firm's position. Your father always gave me the notes in
an envelope when he shook hands with me at Christmas.

EDWARD. [_blandly._] And I've been waiting for you to ask me.

PEACEY. Well, we'll say no more about it. There's always a bit of
friction in coming to an understanding about anything, isn't there, sir?

_He is going when_ EDWARD'S _question stops him_.

EDWARD. Why didn't you speak to me about this last Christmas?

PEACEY. I knew you were upset at your father's death.

EDWARD. No, no, my father died the August before that.

PEACEY. Well . . truthfully, Mr. Edward?

EDWARD. As truthfully as you think suitable.

_The irony of this is wasted on_ PEACEY, _who becomes pleasantly

PEACEY. Well, I couldn't make you out last Christmas. I'd always thought
there must be a smash when your father died . . but it didn't come. But
then again at Christmas you seemed all on edge and I didn't know what
might happen. So I thought I'd better keep quiet and say nothing.

EDWARD. I see. This little pull of yours over the firm is an inheritance
from your father, isn't it?

PEACEY. [_discreetly._] When he retired, sir, he said to me . . I've
told the Governor you know what I know. And Mr. Voysey said to me . . I
treat you as I did your father, Peacey. I never had another word on the
subject with him.

EDWARD. A very decent arrangement. Your son's at Cambridge you say,


EDWARD. I wonder you didn't bring him into the firm.

PEACEY. [_taking this very kind._] Thank you, sir . . I thought of it.
But then I thought that two generations going in for this sort of thing
was enough.

EDWARD. That's a matter of taste.

PEACEY. And then, sir . . I don't want to hurt your feelings, but things
simply cannot go on for ever. The marvel to me is that the game has been
kept up as it has. So now, if he does well at Cambridge, I hope he'll go
to the bar. He has a distinct talent for patiently applying himself to
the details of a thing.

EDWARD. I hope he'll do well. I'm glad to have had this talk with you,
Peacey. I'm sorry you can't have the money you want.

_He returns to his letters, a little steely-eyed._ PEACEY _quite at his
ease, makes for the door yet again, saying_ . .

PEACEY. Oh, any time will do, sir.

EDWARD. You can't have the money at all.

PEACEY. [_brought up short._] Can't I?

EDWARD. [_very decidedly indeed._] No . . I made up my mind about that
eighteen months ago. Since my father's death the trust business of the
firm has not been conducted as it was formerly. We no longer make
illicit profits out of our clients. There are none for you to share.

_Having thus given the explanation he considers due, he goes on with his
work. But_ PEACEY _has flushed up_.

PEACEY. Look here, Mr. Edward, I'm sorry I began this discussion. You'll
give me my two hundred as usual, please, and we'll drop the subject.

EDWARD. By all means drop the subject.

PEACEY. [_his voice rising sharply._] I want the money. I think it is
not gentlemanly in you, Mr. Edward, to make these excuses to try to get
out of paying it me. Your father would never have made such an excuse.

EDWARD. [_flabbergasted._] Do you think I'm lying to you?

PEACEY. [_with a deprecating swallow._] I don't wish to criticise your
statements or your actions at all, sir. It was no concern of mine how
your father treated his clients.

EDWARD. I understand. And now it's no concern of yours how honest I am.
You want your money just the same.

PEACEY. Well, don't be sarcastic . . a man does get used to a state of
affairs whatever it may be.

EDWARD. [_with considerable force._] My friend, if I drop sarcasm I
shall have to tell you very candidly what I think of you.

PEACEY. That I'm a thief because I've taken money from a thief!

EDWARD. Worse than a thief. You're content that others should steal for

PEACEY. And who isn't?

EDWARD _is really pleased with the aptness of this. He at once changes
his tone, which indeed had become rather bullying._

EDWARD. Ah, Peacey, I perceive that you study sociology. Well, that's
too big a question to enter into now. The application of the present
portion of it is that I have for the moment, at some inconvenience to
myself, ceased to receive stolen goods and therefore am in a position to
throw a stone at you. I have thrown it.

PEACEY, _who would far sooner be bullied than talked to like this, turns
very sulky_.

PEACEY. And now I'm to leave the firm, I suppose?

EDWARD. Not unless you wish.

PEACEY. I happen to think the secret's worth its price.

EDWARD. Perhaps someone will pay it you.

PEACEY. [_feebly threatening._] You're presuming upon its not being
worth my while to make use of what I know.

EDWARD. [_not unkindly._] My good Peacey, it happens to be the truth I
told you just now. Well, how on earth do you suppose you can
successfully blackmail a man, who has so much to gain by exposure and so
little to lose as I?

PEACEY. [_peeving._] I don't want to ruin you, sir, and I have a great
regard for the firm . . but you must see that I can't have my income
reduced in this way without a struggle.

EDWARD. [_with great cheerfulness._] Very well, my friend, struggle

PEACEY. [_his voice rising high and thin._] For one thing, sir, I don't
think it fair dealing on your part to dock the money suddenly. I have
been counting on it most of the year, and I have been led into heavy
expenses. Why couldn't you have warned me?

EDWARD. That's true, Peacey, it was stupid of me. I apologise for the

PEACEY _is a little comforted by this quite candid acknowledgment_.

PEACEY. Perhaps things may be easier for you by next Christmas.

EDWARD. I hope so.

PEACEY. Then . . perhaps you won't be so particular.

_At this gentle insinuation_ EDWARD _looks up exasperated_.

EDWARD. So you don't believe what I told you?

PEACEY. Yes, I do.

EDWARD. Then you think that the fascination of swindling one's clients
will ultimately prove irresistible?

PEACEY. It's what happened to your father, I suppose you know.

_This gives_ EDWARD _such pause that he drops his masterful tone_.

EDWARD. I didn't.

PEACEY. He got things as right as rain once.

EDWARD. Did he?

PEACEY. . . My father told me. Then he started again.

EDWARD. But how did you find that out?

PEACEY. [_expanding pleasantly._] Well, being so long in his service, I
grew to understand your father. But when I first came into the firm, I
simply hated him. He was that sour; so snappy with everyone . . as if he
had a grievance against the whole world.

EDWARD. [_pensively._] It seems he had in those days.

PEACEY. Well, as I said, his dealings with his clients were no business
of mine. And I speak as I find. He was very kind to me . . always
thoughtful and considerate. He grew to be so pleasant and generous to

EDWARD. That you have great hopes of me yet?

PEACEY. [_who has a simple mind._] No, Mr. Edward, no. You're different
from your father . . one must make up one's mind to that. And you may
believe me or not but I should be very glad to know that the firm was
solvent and going straight. There have been times when I have sincerely
regretted my connection with it. If you'll let me say so, I think it's
very noble of you to have undertaken the work you have. [_then, as
everything seems smooth again._] And Mr. Edward, if you'll give me
enough to cover this year's extra expense I think I may promise you that
I shan't expect money again.

EDWARD. [_good-tempered, as he would speak to an importunate child._]
No, Peacey, no!

PEACEY. [_fretful again._] Well, sir, you make things very difficult for

EDWARD. Here's a letter from Mr. Cartwright which you might attend to.
If he wants an appointment with me, don't make one till the New Year.
His case can't come on before February.

PEACEY. [_taking the letter._] I am anxious to meet you in every
way--[_he is handed another._]

EDWARD. "Perceval Building Estate" . . that's yours too.

PEACEY. [_putting them both down resolutely._] But I refuse to be
ignored. I must consider my whole position. I hope I may not be tempted
to make use of the power I possess. But if I am driven to proceed to
extremities . .

EDWARD. [_breaking in upon this bunch of tags._] My dear Peacey, don't
talk nonsense . . you couldn't proceed to an extremity to save your
life. You've taken this money irresponsibly for all these years. You'll
find you're no longer capable even of such a responsible act as tripping
up your neighbour.

_This does completely upset the gentle blackmailer. He loses one
grievance in another._

PEACEY. Really, Mr. Edward, I am a considerably older man than you, and
I think that whatever our positions--

EDWARD. Don't let us argue, Peacey. You're quite at liberty to do
whatever you think worth your while.

PEACEY. It isn't that, sir. But these personalities--

EDWARD. Oh . . I apologise. Don't forget the letters.

PEACEY. I will not, sir.

_He takes them with great dignity and is leaving the room._

PEACEY. Here's Mr. Hugh waiting.

EDWARD. To see me? Ask him in.

PEACEY. Come in, Mr. Hugh, please.

HUGH _comes in_, PEACEY _holding the door for him with a frigid
politeness of which he is quite oblivious. At this final slight_ PEACEY
_goes out in dudgeon_.

EDWARD. How are you, Hugh?

HUGH. Good Lord!

_And he throws himself into the chair by the fire._ EDWARD _quite used
to this sort of thing, goes quietly on with his work, adding
encouragingly after a moment_ . .

EDWARD. How's Beatrice?

HUGH. She's very busy.

_He studies his boots with the gloomiest expression. And indeed, they
are very dirty and his turned up trousers are muddy at the edge. They
are dark trousers and well cut, but he wears with them a loose coat and
waistcoat of a peculiar light brown check. Add to this the roughest of
overcoats and a very soft hat. Add also the fact that he doesn't shave
well or regularly and that his hair wants cutting, and_ HUGH'S
_appearance this morning is described. As he is quite capable of sitting
silently by the fire for a whole morning_ EDWARD _asks him at last_ . .

EDWARD. What d'you want?

HUGH. [_with vehemence._] I want a machine gun planted in Regent Street
. . and one in the Haymarket . . and one in Leicester Square and one in
the Strand . . and a dozen in the City. An earthquake would be simpler.
Or why not a nice clean tidal wave? It's no good preaching and patching
up any longer, Edward. We must begin afresh. Don't you feel, even in
your calmer moments, that this whole country is simply hideous? The
other nations must look after themselves. I'm patriotic . . I only ask
that we should be destroyed.

EDWARD. It has been promised.

HUGH. I'm sick of waiting. [_then as_ EDWARD _says nothing_.] You say
this is the cry just of the weak man in despair! I wouldn't be anything
but a weak man in this world. I wouldn't be a king, I wouldn't be rich . .
I wouldn't be a Borough Councillor . . I should be so ashamed. I've
walked here this morning from Hampstead. I started to curse because the
streets were dirty. You'd think that an Empire could keep its streets
clean! But then I saw that the children were dirty too.

EDWARD. That's because of the streets.

HUGH. Yes, it's holiday time. Those that can cross a road safely are
doing some work now . . earning some money. You'd think a governing
race, grabbing responsibilities, might care for its children.

EDWARD. Come, we educate them now. And I don't think many work in
holiday time.

HUGH. [_encouraged by contradiction._] We teach them all that we're not
ashamed of . . and much that we ought to be . . and the rest they find
out for themselves. Oh, every man and woman I met was muddy eyed! They'd
joined the great conspiracy which we call our civilization. They've been
educated! They believe in the Laws and the Money-market and
Respectability. Well, at least they suffer for their beliefs. But I'm
glad I don't make the laws . . and that I haven't any money . . and that
I hate respectability . . or I should be so ashamed. By the bye, that's
what I've come for.

EDWARD. [_pleasantly._] What? I thought you'd only come to talk.

HUGH. You must take that money of mine for your clients. Of course you
ought to have had it when you asked for it. It has never belonged to me.
Well . . it has never done me any good. I have never made any use of it
and so it has been just a clog to my life.

EDWARD. [_surprised._] My dear Hugh . . this is very generous of you.

HUGH. Not a bit. I only want to start fresh and free.

EDWARD. [_sitting back from his work._] Hugh, do you really think that
money has carried a curse with it?

HUGH. [_with great violence._] Think! I'm the proof of it and look at
me. When I said I'd be an artist the governor gave me a hundred and
fifty a year . . the rent of a studio and the price of a velvet coat he
thought it; that was all he knew about art. Then my respectable training
got me engaged and married. Marriage in a studio puzzled the governor,
so he guessed it at _two_ hundred and fifty a year . . and looked for
lay figure-babies, I suppose. What had I to do with Art? Nothing I've
done yet but reflects our drawing-room at Chislehurst.

EDWARD. [_considering._] Yes . . What do you earn in a year? I doubt if
you can afford to give this up.

HUGH. Oh, Edward . . you clank the chain with the best of them. That
word Afford! I want to be free from my advantages. Don't you see I must
find out what I'm worth in myself . . whether I even exist or not?
Perhaps I'm only a pretence of a man animated by an income.

EDWARD. But you can't return to nature on the London pavements.

HUGH. No. Nor in England at all . . it's nothing but a big back garden.
[_now he collects himself for a final outburst._] But if there's no
place on this earth where a man can prove his right to live by some
other means than robbing his neighbour . . I'd better go and request
the next horse I meet to ride me . . to the nearest lunatic asylum.

EDWARD _waits till the effects of this explosion are over_.

EDWARD. And what does Beatrice say to your emigrating to the backwoods . .
if that is exactly what you mean?

HUGH. Now that we're separating--

EDWARD. [_taken aback._] What?

HUGH. We mean to separate.

EDWARD. This is the first I've heard of it.

HUGH. Beatrice is making some money by her books, so it has become

EDWARD. [_humorously._] Have you told anyone yet?

HUGH. We mean to now. I think a thing comes to pass quicker in public.

EDWARD. Say nothing at home until after Christmas.

HUGH. Oh Lord, I forgot! They'll discuss it solemnly. [_then he
whistles._] Emily knows!

EDWARD. [_having considered._] I shan't accept this money from you . .
there's no need. All the good has been done that I wanted to do. No one
will be beggared now. So why should you be?

HUGH. [_with clumsy affection._] We've taken a fine lot of interest in
your labours, haven't we, Hercules?

EDWARD. You hold your tongue about the office affairs, don't you? It's
not safe.

HUGH. When will you be quit of the beastly business?

EDWARD. [_becoming reserved and cold at once._] I'm in no hurry.

HUGH. What do you gain by hanging on now?

EDWARD. Occupation.

HUGH. But, Edward, it must be an awfully wearying state of things. I
suppose any moment a policeman may knock at the door . . so to speak?

EDWARD. [_appreciating the figure of speech._] Any moment. I take no
precautions. I suppose that's why he doesn't come. At first I listened
for him, day by day. Then I said to myself . . next week. But a year has
gone by and more. I've ceased expecting to hear the knock at all.

HUGH. But look here . . is all this worth while?

EDWARD. [_supremely ironical._] My dear Hugh, what a silly question!

HUGH. [_very seriously._] But have you the right to make a mean thing of
your life like this?

EDWARD. Does my life matter?

HUGH. Well . . of course!

EDWARD. I find no evidence to convince me of it. The World that you talk
about so finely is using me up. A little wantonly . . a little
needlessly, I do think. But she knows her own damn business . . or so
she says, if you try to teach it her. And why should I trouble to fit
myself for better work than she has given me to do . . nursing fools'

HUGH. [_responding at once to this vein._] Edward, we must turn this
world upside down. It's her stupidity that drives me mad. We all want a
lesson in values. We're never taught what is worth having and what
isn't. Why should your real happiness be sacrificed to the sham
happiness which people have invested in the firm?

EDWARD. I suppose their money means such happiness to them as they

HUGH. Then we want another currency. We must learn to express ourselves
in terms of vitality. There can be no other standard of worth in life,
can there? I never believed that money was valuable. I remember once
giving a crossing sweeper a sovereign. The sovereign was nothing. But
the sensation I gave him was an intrinsically valuable thing.

_He is fearfully pleased with his essay in philosophy._

EDWARD. He could buy other sensations with the sovereign.

HUGH. But none like the first. [_then the realities of life overwhelm
him again._] And yet . . we're slaves! Beatrice won't let me go until
we're each certain of two hundred a year. And she's quite right . . I
should only get into debt. You know that two fifty a year of mine is a
hundred and eighty now.

EDWARD. [_mischievous._] Why would you invest sensationally?

HUGH. [_with great seriousness._] I put money into things which I know
ought to succeed . .

_The telephone rings._ EDWARD _speaks through it_.

EDWARD. Certainly . . bring him in. [_then to his brother, who sits on
the table idly disarranging everything._] You'll have to go now, Hugh.

HUGH. [_shaking his head gloomily._] You're one of the few people I can
talk to, Edward.

EDWARD. I like listening.

HUGH. [_as much cheered as surprised._] Do you! I suppose I talk a lot
of rot . . but . .

_In comes old_ MR. GEORGE BOOTH, _older too in looks than he was
eighteen months back. Very dandyishly dressed, he still seems by no
means so happy as his clothes might be making him._

MR. BOOTH. 'Ullo, Hugh! I thought I should find you, Edward.

EDWARD. [_formally._] Good morning, Mr. Booth.

HUGH. [_as he collects his hat, his coat, his various properties._] Well
. . Beatrice and I go down to Chislehurst to-morrow. I say . . d'you
know that old Nursie is furious with you about something?

EDWARD. [_shortly._] Yes, I know. Good bye.

HUGH. How are you?

_He launches this enquiry at_ MR. BOOTH _with great suddenness just as
he leaves the room. The old gentleman jumps; then jumps again at the
slam of the door. And then he frowns at_ EDWARD _in a frightened sort of

EDWARD. Will you come here . . or will you sit by the fire?

MR. BOOTH. This'll do. I shan't detain you long.

_He takes the chair by the table and occupies the next minute or two,
carefully disposing of his hat and gloves._

EDWARD. Are you feeling all right again?

MR. BOOTH. A bit dyspeptic. How are you?

EDWARD. Quite well, thanks.

MR. BOOTH. I'm glad . . I'm glad. [_he now proceeds to cough a little,
hesitating painfully._] I'm afraid this isn't very pleasant business
I've come upon.

EDWARD. D'you want to go to Law with anyone?

MR. BOOTH. No . . oh, no. I'm getting too old to quarrel.

EDWARD. A pleasant symptom.

MR. BOOTH. [_with a final effort._] I mean to withdraw my securities
from the custody of your firm . . [_and he adds apologetically_] with
the usual notice, of course.

_It would be difficult to describe what_ EDWARD _feels at this moment.
Perhaps something of the shock that the relief of death may be as an end
to pain so long endured that it has been half forgotten. He answers very
quietly, without a sign of emotion._

EDWARD. Thank you . . May one ask why?

MR. BOOTH. [_relieved that the worst is over._] Certainly . . certainly.
My reason is straightforward and simple and well considered. I think you
must know, Edward, I have never been able to feel that implicit
confidence in your ability which I had in your father's. Well, it is
hardly to be expected, is it?

EDWARD. [_with a grim smile._] No.

MR. BOOTH. I can say that without unduly depreciating you. Men like
your father are few and far between. As far as I know things proceed at
this office as they have always done but . . since his death I have not
been happy about my affairs.

EDWARD. [_speaking as it is his duty to._] I think you need be under no
apprehension . .

MR. BOOTH. I daresay not. But that isn't the point. Now, for the first
time in my long life I am worried about money affairs; and I don't like
the feeling. The possession of money has always been a pleasure to me . .
and for what are perhaps my last years I don't wish that to be
otherwise. You must remember you have practically my entire property
unreservedly in your control.

EDWARD. Perhaps we can arrange to hand you over the reins to an extent
which will ease your mind, and at the same time not . .

MR. BOOTH. I thought of that. Believe me, I have every wish not to
slight unduly your father's son. I have not moved in the matter for
eighteen months. I have not been able to make up my mind to. Really, one
feels a little helpless . . and the transaction of business requires
more energy than . . But I saw my doctor yesterday, Edward, and he told
me . . well, it was a warning. And so I felt it my duty at once to . .
especially as I made up my mind to it some time ago. [_he comes to the
end of this havering at last and adds._] In point of fact, Edward, more
than a year before your father died I had quite decided that my affairs
could never be with you as they were with him.

EDWARD _starts almost out of his chair; his face pale, his eyes black_.

EDWARD. Did he know that?

MR. BOOTH. [_resenting this new attitude._] I think I never said it in
so many words. But he may easily have guessed.

EDWARD. [_as he relaxes and turns, almost shuddering, from the
possibility of dreadful knowledge._] No . . no . . he never guessed.
[_Then, with a sudden fresh impulse._] I hope you won't do this, Mr.

MR. BOOTH. I have quite made up my mind.

EDWARD. You must let me persuade you--

MR. BOOTH. [_conciliatory._] I shall make a point of informing your
family that you are in no way to blame in the matter. And in the event
of any personal legal difficulties I shall always be delighted to come
to you. My idea is for the future to employ merely a financial agent--

EDWARD. [_still quite unstrung really, and his nerves betraying him._]
If you had made up your mind before my father died to do this, you ought
to have told =him=.

MR. BOOTH. Please allow me to know my own business best. I did not
choose to distress him by--

EDWARD. [_pulling himself together: speaking half to himself._] Well . .
well . . this is one way out. And it's not my fault.

MR. BOOTH. You're making a fearful fuss about a very simple matter,
Edward. The loss of one client, however important he may be . . Why,
this is one of the best family practices in London. I am surprised at
your lack of dignity.

EDWARD _yields smilingly to this assertiveness_.

EDWARD. True . . I have no dignity. Will you walk off with your papers

MR. BOOTH. What notice is usual?

EDWARD. To a good solicitor, five minutes. Ten to a poor one.

MR. BOOTH. You'll have to explain matters a bit to me.

_Now_ EDWARD _settles to his desk again; really with a certain grim
enjoyment of the prospect_.

EDWARD. Yes, I had better. Well, Mr. Booth, how much do you think you're

MR. BOOTH. [_easily._] I couldn't say off hand.

EDWARD. But you've a rough idea?

MR. BOOTH. To be sure.

EDWARD. You'll get not quite half that out of us.

MR. BOOTH. [_precisely._] I think I said I had made up my mind to
withdraw the whole amount.

EDWARD. You should have made up your mind sooner.

MR. BOOTH. I don't in the least understand you, Edward.

EDWARD. A great part of your capital doesn't exist.

MR. BOOTH. [_with some irritation._] Nonsense, it must exist. [_He
scans_ EDWARD'S _set face in vain_.] You mean that it won't be prudent
to realise? You can hand over the securities. I don't want to reinvest
simply because--

EDWARD. I can't hand over what I haven't got.

_This sentence falls on the old man's ears like a knell._

MR. BOOTH. Is anything . . =wrong=?

EDWARD. [_grim and patient._] How many more times am I to say that we
have robbed you of nearly half your property?

MR. BOOTH. [_his senses failing him._] Say that again.

EDWARD. It's quite true.

MR. BOOTH. My money . . =gone=?


MR. BOOTH. [_clutching at a straw of anger._] You've been the thief . .
you . . you . . ?

EDWARD. I wouldn't tell you if I could help it . . my father.

_That actually calls the old man back to something like dignity and
self-possession. He thumps on_ EDWARD'S _table furiously_.

MR. BOOTH. I'll make you prove that.

_And now_ EDWARD _buries his face in his arms and just goes off into

EDWARD. Oh, you've fired a mine!

MR. BOOTH. [_scolding him well._] Slandering your dead father . . and
lying to me, revenging yourself by frightening me . . because I detest

EDWARD. Why . . haven't I thanked you for putting an end to all my
troubles? I do . . I promise you I do.

MR. BOOTH. [_shouting, and his sudden courage failing as he shouts._]
Prove this . . prove it to me! I'm not to be frightened so easily. One
can't lose half of all one has and then be told of it in two minutes . .
sitting at a table. [_his voice tails off to a piteous whimper._]

EDWARD. [_quietly now and kindly._] If my father had told you this in
plain words you'd have believed him.

MR. BOOTH. [_bowing his head._] Yes.

EDWARD _looks at the poor old thing with great pity_.

EDWARD. What on earth did you want to withdraw your account for? You
need never have known . . you could have died happy. Settling with all
those charities in your will would certainly have smashed us up. But
proving your will is many years off yet we'll hope.

MR. BOOTH. [_pathetic and bewildered._] I don't understand. No, I don't
understand . . because your father . . But I =must= understand, Edward.

EDWARD. Don't shock yourself trying to understand my father, for you
never will. Pull yourself together, Mr. Booth. After all, this isn't a
vital matter to you. It's not even as if you had a family to consider . .
like some of the others.

MR. BOOTH. [_vaguely._] What others?

EDWARD. Don't imagine your money has been specially selected for

MR. BOOTH. [_with solemn incredulity._] One has read of this sort of
thing but . . I thought people always got found out.

EDWARD. [_brutally humorous._] Well . . we are found out. You've found
us out.

MR. BOOTH. [_rising to the full appreciation of his wrongs._] Oh . .
I've been foully cheated!

EDWARD. [_patiently._] I've told you so.

MR. BOOTH. [_his voice breaks, he appeals pitifully._] But by you,
Edward . . say it's by you.

EDWARD. [_unable to resist his quiet revenge._] I've not the ability or
the personality for such work, Mr. Booth . . nothing but principles,
which forbid me even to lie to you.

_The old gentleman draws a long breath and then speaks with great awe,
blending into grief._

MR. BOOTH. I think your father is in Hell . . I'd have gone there myself
to save him from it. I loved him very truly. How he could have had the
heart! We were friends for nearly fifty years. Am I to think now he only
cared for me to cheat me?

EDWARD. [_venturing the comfort of an explanation._] No . . he didn't
value money as you do.

MR. BOOTH. [_with sudden shrill logic._] But he took it. What d'you mean
by that?

EDWARD _leans back in his chair and changes the tenor of their talk_.

EDWARD. Well, you're master of the situation now. What are you going to

MR. BOOTH. To get my money back?

EDWARD. No, that's gone.

MR. BOOTH. Then give me what's left and--

EDWARD. Are you going to prosecute?

MR. BOOTH. [_shifting uneasily in his chair._] Oh, dear . . is that
necessary? Can't somebody else do that? I thought the Law--

EDWARD. You need not prosecute, you know.

MR. BOOTH. What'll happen if I don't.

EDWARD. What do you suppose I'm doing here now?

MR. BOOTH. [_as if he were being asked a riddle._] I don't know.

EDWARD. [_earnestly._] I'm trying to straighten things a little. I'm
trying to undo what my father did . . to do again what he undid. It's a
poor dull sort of work now . . throwing penny after penny hardly earned
into the pit of our deficit. But I've been doing that for what it's
worth in the time that was left to me . . till this should happen. I
never thought you'd bring it to pass. I can continue to do that if you
choose . . until the next smash comes. I'm pleased to call this my duty.
[_He searches_ MR. BOOTH'S _face and finds there only disbelief and
fear. He bursts out._] Oh, why won't you believe me? It can't hurt you
to believe it.

MR. BOOTH. You must admit, Edward, it isn't easy to believe anything in
this office . . just for the moment.

EDWARD. [_bowing to the extreme reasonableness of this._] I suppose not.
I can prove it to you. I'll take you through the books . . you won't
understand them . . but I could prove it.

MR. BOOTH. I think I'd rather not. D'you think I ought to hold any
further communication with you at all? [_and at this he takes his hat._]

EDWARD. [_with a little explosion of contemptuous anger._] Certainly
not. Prosecute . . prosecute!

MR. BOOTH. [_with dignity._] Don't lose your temper. You know it's my
place to be angry with you.

EDWARD. I beg your pardon. [_then he is elaborately explanatory._] I
shall be =grateful= if you'll prosecute.

MR. BOOTH. [_more puzzled than ever._] There's something in this which I
don't understand.

EDWARD. [_with deliberate unconcern._] Think it over.

MR. BOOTH. [_hesitating, fidgetting._] But surely I oughtn't to have to
make up my mind! There must be a right or a wrong thing to do. Edward,
can't =you= tell me?

EDWARD. I'm prejudiced.

MR. BOOTH. [_angrily._] What do you mean by placing me in a dilemma? I
believe you're simply trying to practise upon my goodness of heart.
Certainly I ought to prosecute at once . . Oughtn't I? [_then at the
nadir of helplessness._] Can't I consult another solicitor?

EDWARD. [_his chin in the air._] Write to the Times about it!

MR. BOOTH. [_shocked and grieved at his attitude._] Edward, how can you
be so cool and heartless?

EDWARD. [_changing his tone._] D'you think I shan't be glad to sleep at

MR. BOOTH. Perhaps you'll be put in prison?

EDWARD. I =am= in prison . . a less pleasant one than Wormwood Scrubbs.
But we're all prisoners, Mr. Booth.

MR. BOOTH. [_wagging his head._] Yes, this is what comes of your
philosophy. Why aren't you on your knees?

EDWARD. To you?

_This was not what_ MR. BOOTH _meant, but as he gets up from his chair
he feels all but mighty_.

MR. BOOTH. And why should you expect me to shrink from vindicating the

EDWARD. [_shortly._] I don't. I've explained you'll be doing me a
kindness. When I'm wanted you'll find me here at my desk. [_then as an
afterthought._] If you take long to decide . . don't alter your
behaviour to my family in the meantime. They know the main points of the
business and--

MR. BOOTH. [_knocked right off his balance._] Do they! Good God! . . I'm
invited to dinner the day after to-morrow . . that's Christmas Eve. The

EDWARD. [_unmoved._] I shall be there . . that will have given you two
days. Will you tell me then?

MR. BOOTH. [_protesting violently._] I can't go to dinner . . I can't
eat with them. I must be ill.

EDWARD. [_with a half smile._] I remember I went to dinner at
Chislehurst to tell my father of my decision.

MR. BOOTH. [_testily._] What decision?

EDWARD. To remain in the firm when I first knew of the difficulties.

MR. BOOTH. [_interested._] Was I present?

EDWARD. I daresay.

MR. BOOTH _stands there, hat, stick and gloves in hand, shaken by this
experience, helpless, at his wits' end. He falls into a sort of fretful
reverie, speaking half to himself but yet as if he hoped that_ EDWARD,
_who is wrapped in his own thoughts, would have the decency to answer,
or at least listen, to what he is saying_.

MR. BOOTH. Yes, how often I dined with him. Oh, it was monstrous! [_his
eyes fall on the clock._] It's nearly lunch time now. Do you know I
still can hardly believe all this? I wish I hadn't found it out. If he
hadn't died I should never have found it out. I hate to have to be
vindictive . . it's not my nature. Indeed I'm sure I'm more grieved than
angry. But it isn't as if it were a small sum. And I don't see that one
is called upon to forgive crimes . . or why does the Law exist? I feel
that this will go near to killing me. I'm too old to have such troubles
. . it isn't right. And now if I have to prosecute--

EDWARD. [_at last throwing in a word._] You need not.

MR. BOOTH. [_thankful for the provocation._] Don't you attempt to
influence me, sir.

_He turns to go._

EDWARD. With the money you have left. . .

EDWARD _follows him politely_. MR. BOOTH _flings the door open_.

MR. BOOTH. Make out a cheque for that at once and send it me.

EDWARD. You could . . .

MR. BOOTH. [_clapping his hat on, stamping his stick._] I shall do the
right thing, sir, never fear.

_So he marches off in fine style, having, he thinks, had the last word
and all. But_ EDWARD _closing the door after him, mutters_ . .

EDWARD. . . Save your soul! . . I'm afraid I was going to say.

                              THE FIFTH ACT

_Naturally it is the dining room--consecrated as it is to the
distinguishing orgie of the season--which bears the brunt of what an
English household knows as Christmas decorations. They consist chiefly
of the branches of holly (that unyielding tree), stuck cock-eyed behind
the top edges of the pictures. The one picture conspicuously not
decorated is that which now hangs over the fireplace, a portrait of_ MR.
VOYSEY, _with its new gilt frame and its brassplate marking it also as a
presentation_. HONOR, _hastily and at some bodily peril, pulled down the
large bunch of mistletoe, which a callous housemaid had suspended above
it, in time to obviate the shock to family feelings which such
impropriety would cause. Otherwise the only difference between the
dining room's appearance at half past nine on Christmas eve and on any
other evening in the year is that little piles of queer shaped envelopes
seem to be lying about, while there is quite a lot of tissue paper and
string to be seen peeping from odd corners. The electric light is
reduced to one bulb, but when the maid opens the door showing in_ MR.
GEORGE BOOTH _she switches on the rest_.

PHOEBE. This room is empty, sir. I'll tell Mr. Edward.

_She leaves him to fidget towards the fireplace and back, not removing
his comforter or his coat, scarcely turning down the collar, screwing
his cap in his hands. In a very short time_ EDWARD _comes in, shutting
the door and taking stock of the visitor before he speaks_.


MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_feebly._] I hope my excuse for not coming to dinner
was acceptable. I did have . . I have a very bad headache.

EDWARD. I daresay they believed it.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I have come immediately to tell you of my decision . .
perhaps this trouble will then be a little more off my mind.

EDWARD. What is it?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I couldn't think the matter out alone. I went this
afternoon to talk it all over with my old friend Colpus. [_at this news_
EDWARD'S _eyebrows contract and then rise_.] What a terrible shock to

EDWARD. Oh, nearly three of his four thousand pounds are quite safe.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. That you and your father . . you, whom he baptised . .
should have robbed him! I never saw a man so utterly prostrate with
grief. That it should have been your father! And his poor wife! . .
though she never got on with your father.

EDWARD. [_with cheerful irony._] Oh, Mrs. Colpus knows too, does she?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Of course he told Mrs. Colpus. This is an unfortunate
time for the storm to break on him. What with Christmas Day and Sunday
following so close they're as busy as can be. He has resolved that
during this season of peace and goodwill he must put the matter from him
if he can. But once Christmas is over . . ! [_he envisages the Christian
old vicar giving_ EDWARD _a hell of a time then_.]

EDWARD. [_coolly._] So I conclude you mean to prosecute. For if you
don't, you've given the Colpuses a lot of unnecessary pain . . and
inflicted a certain amount of loss by telling them.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_naïvely._] I never thought of that. No, Edward, I
have decided not to prosecute.

EDWARD _hides his face for a moment_.

EDWARD. And I've been hoping to escape! Well . . it can't be helped
[_and he sets his teeth_.]

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_with touching solemnity._] I think I could not bear
to see the family I have loved brought to such disgrace.

EDWARD. So you'll compound my felony?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_a little nervous._] That's only your joke!

EDWARD. You'll come to no harm.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. On the contrary. And I want to ask your pardon,
Edward, for some of the hard thoughts I have had of you. I consider this
effort of yours to restore to the firm the credit which your father lost
a very striking one. What improvements have you effected so far?

EDWARD. [_wondering what is coming now._] I took the money that my
father left . .

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. And I suppose you take the ordinary profits of the

EDWARD. Yes. It costs me very little to live.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Do you restore to the clients all round in proportion
to the amount they have lost?

EDWARD. [_cautiously._] That's the law.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. D'you think that's quite fair?

EDWARD. No, I don't.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. No, I consider the treachery to have been blacker in
some cases than in others.

EDWARD. [_his face brightening a little._] Are you going to help me in
this work of mine?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Surely by consenting not to prosecute I am doing so.

EDWARD. Will you do no more?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Well, as far as my own money is concerned, this is my
proposal. [_he coughs and proceeds very formally._] Considering how
absolutely I trusted your father and believed in him, I think you
should at once return me the balance of my capital that there is left.

EDWARD. [_cold again._] That is being done.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Good. That you should continue to pay me a fair
interest upon the rest of that capital, which ought to exist and does
not. And that you should, year by year, pay me back by degrees out of
the earnings of the firm as much of that capital as you can afford. We
will agree upon the sum . . say a thousand a year. I doubt if you can
ever restore me all that I have lost, but do your best and I shan't
complain. There . . I think that is fair dealing!

EDWARD _does not take his eyes off_ MR. BOOTH _until the whole meaning
of this proposition has settled in his brain. Then, without warning, he
goes off into peals of laughter, much to the alarm of_ MR. BOOTH, _who
has never thought him over-sane_.

EDWARD. How funny! How very funny!

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Edward, don't laugh.

EDWARD. I never heard anything quite so funny!

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Edward, stop laughing.

EDWARD. What will Colpus . . what will all the other Christian gentlemen
demand? Pounds of flesh! Pounds of flesh!

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Don't be hysterical. I demand what is mine . . in such
quantities as you can afford.

EDWARD'S _laughter gives way to the deepest anger of which he is

EDWARD. I'm giving my soul and body to restoring you and the rest of you
to your precious money bags . . and you'll wring me dry. Won't you?
Won't you?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Now be reasonable. Argue the point quietly.

EDWARD. Go to the devil, sir.

_And with that he turns away from the flabbergasted old gentleman._

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Don't be rude.

EDWARD. [_his anger vanishing._] I beg your pardon.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. You're excited. Take time to think of it. I'm

EDWARD. [_his sense of humour returning._] Most! Most! [_There is a
knock at the door._] Come in. Come in.

HONOR _intrudes an apologetic head_.

HONOR. Am I interrupting business? I'm so sorry.

EDWARD. [_crowing in a mirthless enjoyment of his joke._] No! Business
is over . . quite over. Come in, Honor.

HONOR _puts on the table a market basket bulging with little paper
parcels, and, oblivious to_ MR. BOOTH'S _distracted face, tries to fix
his attention_.

HONOR. I thought, dear Mr. Booth, perhaps you wouldn't mind carrying
round this basket of things yourself. It's so very damp underfoot that I
don't want to send one of the maids out to-night if I can possibly avoid
it . . and if one doesn't get Christmas presents the very first thing on
Christmas morning quite half the pleasure in them is lost, don't you

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Yes . . yes.

HONOR. [_fishing out the parcels one by one._] This is a bell for Mrs.
Williams . . something she said she wanted so that you can ring that for
her which saves the maids. Cap and apron for Mary. Cap and apron for
Ellen. Shawl for Davis when she goes out to the larder. All useful
presents. And that's something for you but you're not to look at it till
the morning.

_Having shaken each of these at the old gentleman, she proceeds to
re-pack them. He is now trembling with anxiety to escape before any more
of the family find him there._

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Thank you . . thank you! I hope my lot has arrived. I
left instructions . .

HONOR. Quite safely . . and I have hidden them. Presents are put on the
breakfast table to-morrow.

EDWARD. [_with an inconsequence that still further alarms_ MR. BOOTH.]
When we were all children our Christmas breakfast was mostly made off

_Before the basket is packed_, MRS. VOYSEY _sails slowly into the room,
as smiling and as deaf as ever_. MR. BOOTH _does his best not to scowl
at her_.

MRS. VOYSEY. Are you feeling better, George Booth?

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. No. [_then he elevates his voice with a show of
politeness._] No, thank you . . I can't say I am.

MRS. VOYSEY. You don't look better.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I still have my headache. [_with a distracted shout._]

MRS. VOYSEY. Bilious, perhaps! I quite understood you didn't care to
dine. But why not have taken your coat off? How foolish in this warm

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. Thank you. I'm just going.

_He seizes the market basket. At that moment_ MRS. HUGH _appears_.

BEATRICE. Your shawl, mother. [_and she clasps it round_ MRS. VOYSEY'S

MRS. VOYSEY. Thank you, Beatrice. I thought I had it on. [_then to_ MR.
BOOTH _who is now entangled in his comforter_.] A merry Christmas to

BEATRICE. Good evening, Mr. Booth.

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. I beg your pardon. Good evening, Mrs. Hugh.

HONOR. [_with sudden inspiration, to the company in general._] Why
shouldn't I write in here . . now the table's cleared!

MR. GEORGE BOOTH. [_sternly, now he is safe by the door._] Will you see
me out, Edward?


_He follows the old man and his basket, leaving the others to distribute
themselves about the room. It is a custom of the female members of the_
VOYSEY _family, especially about Christmas time, to return to the
dining room, when the table has been cleared and occupy themselves in
various ways which require space and untidiness. Sometimes as the
evening wears on they partake of cocoa, sometimes they abstain._
BEATRICE _has a little work-basket, containing a buttonless glove and
such things, which she is rectifying_. HONOR'S _writing is done with the
aid of an enormous blotting book, which bulges with apparently a year's
correspondence. She sheds its contents upon the end of the dining table
and spreads them abroad._ MRS. VOYSEY _settles to the fire, opens the
Nineteenth Century and is instantly absorbed in it_.

BEATRICE. Where's Emily?

HONOR. [_mysteriously._] Well, Beatrice, she's in the library talking to

BEATRICE. Talking to her husband; good Heavens! I know she has taken my

HONOR. I think she's telling him about you.

BEATRICE. What about me?

HONOR. You and Hugh.

BEATRICE. [_with a little movement of annoyance._] I suppose this is
Hugh's fault. It was carefully arranged no one was to be told till after

HONOR. Emily told me . . and Edward knows . . and Mother knows . .

BEATRICE. I warned Mother a year ago.

HONOR. Everyone seems to know but Booth . . so I thought he'd better be
told. I suggested one night so that he might have time to think over it
. . but Emily said that'd wake Alfred. Besides she's nearly always
asleep herself when he comes to bed.

BEATRICE. Why do they still have that baby in their room?

HONOR. Emily considers it her duty.

_At this moment_ EMILY _comes in, looking rather trodden upon_. HONOR
_concludes in the most audible of whispers_ . .

HONOR. Don't say anything . . it's my fault.

BEATRICE. [_fixing her with a severe forefinger._] Emily . . have you
taken my best scissors?

EMILY. [_timidly._] No, Beatrice.

HONOR. [_who is diving into the recesses of the blotting book._] Oh,
here they are! I must have taken them. I do apologise!

EMILY. [_more timidly still._] I'm afraid Booth's rather cross . . he's
gone to look for Hugh.

BEATRICE. [_with a shake of her head._] Honor . . I've a good mind to
make you sew on these buttons for me.

_In comes the Major, strepitant. He takes, so to speak, just time enough
to train himself on_ BEATRICE _and then fires_.

BOOTH. Beatrice, what on earth is this Emily has been telling me?

BEATRICE. [_with elaborate calm._] Emily, what have you been telling

BOOTH. Please . . please do not prevaricate. Where is Hugh?

MRS. VOYSEY. [_looking over her spectacles._] What did you say, Booth?

BOOTH. I want Hugh, Mother.

MRS. VOYSEY. I thought you were playing billiards together.

EDWARD _strolls back from despatching_ MR. BOOTH, _his face thoughtful_.

BOOTH. [_insistently._] Edward, where is Hugh?

EDWARD. [_with complete indifference._] I don't know.

BOOTH. [_in trumpet tones._] Honor, will you oblige me by finding Hugh
and saying I wish to speak to him, here, immediately?

HONOR, _who has leapt at the sound of her name, flies from the room
without a word_.

BEATRICE. I know quite well what you want to talk about, Booth. Discuss
the matter by all means if it amuses you . . but don't shout.

BOOTH. I use the voice Nature has gifted me with, Beatrice.

BEATRICE. [_as she searches for a glove button._] Certainly Nature did
let herself go over your lungs.

BOOTH. [_glaring round with indignation._] This is a family matter,
otherwise I should not feel it my duty to interfere . . as I do. Any
member of the family has a right to express an opinion. I want Mother's.
Mother, what do you think?

MRS. VOYSEY. [_amicably._] What about?

BOOTH. Hugh and Beatrice separating.

MRS. VOYSEY. They haven't separated.

BOOTH. But they mean to.

MRS. VOYSEY. Fiddle-de-dee!

BOOTH. I quite agree with you.

BEATRICE. [_with a charming smile._] This reasoning would convert a

BOOTH. Why have I not been told?

BEATRICE. You have just been told.

BOOTH. [_thunderously._] Before.

BEATRICE. The truth is, dear Booth, we're all so afraid of you.

BOOTH. [_a little mollified._] Ha . . I should be glad to think that.

BEATRICE. [_sweetly._] Don't you?

BOOTH. [_intensely serious._] Beatrice, your callousness shocks me! That
you can dream of deserting Hugh . . a man of all others who requires
constant care and attention.

BEATRICE. May I remark that the separation is as much Hugh's wish as

BOOTH. I don't believe that.

BEATRICE. [_her eyebrows up._] Really!

BOOTH. I don't imply that you're lying. But you must know that it's
Hugh's nature to wish to do anything that he thinks anybody wishes him
to do. All my life I've had to stand up for him . . and by Jove, I'll
continue to do so.

EDWARD. [_from the depths of his armchair._] If you'd taught him to
stand up for himself--

_The door is flung almost off its hinges by_ HUGH _who then stands
stamping and pale green with rage_.

HUGH. Look here, Booth . . I will not have you interfering with my
private affairs. Is one never to be free from your bullying?

BOOTH. You ought to be grateful.

HUGH. Well, I'm not.

BOOTH. This is a family affair.

HUGH. It is not!

BOOTH. [_at the top of his voice._] If all you can do is to contradict
me, you'd better listen to what I've got to say . . quietly.

HUGH, _quite shouted down, flings himself petulantly into a chair. A
hush falls._

EMILY. [_in a still small voice._] Would you like me to go, Booth?

BOOTH. [_severely._] No, Emily. Unless anything has been going on which
cannot be discussed before you . . [_then more severely still._] and I
hope that is not so.

HUGH. [_muttering rebelliously._] Oh, you have the mind of a . . cheap

BOOTH. Why do you wish to separate?

HUGH. What's the use of telling you? You won't understand.

BEATRICE. [_who sews on undisturbed._] We don't get on well together.

BOOTH. [_amazedly._] Is that all?

HUGH. [_snapping at him._] Yes, that's all. Can you find a better

BOOTH. [_with brotherly contempt._] I have given up expecting common
sense from you. But Beatrice--! [_his tone implores her to be

BEATRICE. It doesn't seem to me any sort of sense that people should
live together for purposes of mutual irritation.

BOOTH. [_protesting._] My dear girl! . . that sounds like a quotation
from your last book.

BEATRICE. It isn't. I do think, Booth, you might read that book . . for
the honour of the Family.

BOOTH. [_successfully side-tracked. ._ ] I have bought it, Beatrice,

BEATRICE. That's the principal thing, of course--

BOOTH. [_. . and discovering it._] But do let us keep to the subject.

BEATRICE. [_with flattering sincerity._] Certainly, Booth. And there is
hardly any subject that I wouldn't ask your advice about. But upon this
. . do let me know better. Hugh and I will be happier apart.

BOOTH. [_obstinately._] Why?

BEATRICE. [_with resolute patience, having vented a little sigh._] Hugh
finds that my opinions distress him. And I have at last lost patience
with Hugh.

MRS. VOYSEY. [_who has been trying to follow this through her
spectacles._] What does Beatrice say?

BOOTH. [_translating into a loud sing-song._] That she wishes to leave
her husband because she has lost patience!

MRS. VOYSEY. [_with considerable acrimony._] Then you must be a very
ill-tempered woman. Hugh has a sweet nature.

HUGH. [_shouting self-consciously._] Nonsense, mother.

BEATRICE. [_shouting good-humouredly._] I quite agree with you, mother.
[_she continues to her husband in an even just tone._] You have a sweet
nature, Hugh, and it is most difficult to get angry with you. I have
been seven years working up to it. But now that I am angry, I shall
never get pleased again.

_The Major returns to his subject, refreshed by a moment's repose._

BOOTH. How has he failed in his duty? Tell us. I'm not bigoted in his
favour. I know your faults, Hugh.

_He wags his head at_ HUGH, _who writhes with irritation_.

HUGH. Why can't you leave them alone . . leave us alone?

BEATRICE. I'd state my case against Hugh, if I thought he'd retaliate.

HUGH. [_desperately rounding on his brother._] If I tell you, you won't
understand. You understand nothing! Beatrice is angry with me because I
won't prostitute my art to make money.

BOOTH. [_glancing at his wife._] Please don't use metaphors of that

BEATRICE. [_reasonably._] Yes, I think Hugh ought to earn more money.

BOOTH. [_quite pleased to be getting along at last._] Well, why doesn't

HUGH. I don't want money.

BOOTH. You can't say you don't want money any more than you can say you
don't want bread.

BEATRICE. [_as she breaks off her cotton._] It's when one has known what
it is to be a little short of both . .

_Now the Major spreads himself and begins to be very wise, while_ HUGH,
_to whom this is more intolerable than all, can only clutch his hair_.

BOOTH. You know I never considered Art a very good profession for you,
Hugh. And you won't even stick to one department of it. It's a
profession that gets people into very bad habits, I consider. Couldn't
you take up something else? You could still do those wood-cuts in your
spare time to amuse yourself.

HUGH. [_commenting on this with two deliberate shouts of simulated
mirth._] Ha! Ha!

BOOTH. [_sublimely superior._] Well, it wouldn't much matter if you
didn't do them at all!

BEATRICE. [_subtly._] Booth, there speaks the true critic.

BOOTH. [_deprecating any title to omniscience._] Well, I don't pretend
to know much about Art but--

HUGH. It would matter to me. There speaks the artist.

BEATRICE. The arrogance of the artist!

HUGH. We have a right to be arrogant.

BEATRICE. Good workmen are humble.

HUGH. And look to their wages.

BEATRICE. Well, I'm only a workman.

_With that she breaks the contact of this quiet deadly hopeless little
quarrel by turning her head away. The Major, who has given it most
friendly attention, comments . ._

BOOTH. Of course! Quite so! I'm sure all that is a very interesting
difference of opinion.

MRS. VOYSEY _leaves her armchair for her favourite station at the dining

MRS. VOYSEY. Booth is the only one of you that I can hear at all
distinctly. But if you two foolish young people think you want to
separate . . try it. You'll soon come back to each other and be glad to.
People can't fight against Nature for long. And marriage is a natural
state . . once you're married.

BOOTH. [_with intense approval._] Quite right, Mother.

MRS. VOYSEY. I know.

_She resumes the Nineteenth Century. The Major, to the despair of
everybody, makes yet another start; trying oratory this time._

BOOTH. My own opinion is, Beatrice and Hugh, that you don't realise the
meaning of the word marriage. I don't call myself a religious man . .
but dash it all, you were married in church! . . And you then entered
upon an awful compact! . . Surely . . as a woman, Beatrice . . the
religious point of it ought to appeal to you. Good Lord, suppose
everybody were to carry on like this! And have you considered, Beatrice,
that . . whether you're right or whether you're wrong . . if you desert
Hugh, you cut yourself off from the Family.

BEATRICE. [_with the sweetest of smiles._] That will distress me

BOOTH. [_not doubting her for a moment._] Of course.

HUGH _flings up his head and finds relief at last in many words_.

HUGH. I wish to Heaven I'd ever been able to cut myself off from the
family! Look at Trenchard.

BOOTH. [_gobbling a little at this unexpected attack._] I do not forgive
Trenchard for quarreling with and deserting our father.

HUGH. Trenchard quarreled because that was his only way of escape.

BOOTH. Escape from what?

HUGH. From tyranny! . . from hypocrisy! . . from boredom! . . from his
Happy English Home!

BEATRICE. [_kindly._] Hugh . . Hugh . . it's no use.

BOOTH. [_attempting sarcasm._] Speak so that Mother can hear you!

_But_ HUGH _isn't to be stopped now_.

HUGH. Why are we all dull, cubbish, uneducated, hopelessly middle-class
. . that is hopelessly out of date.

BOOTH. [_taking this as very personal._] Cubbish!

HUGH. . . Because it's the middle-class ideal that you should respect
your parents . . live with them . . think with them . . grow like them.
Natural affection and gratitude! That's what's expected, isn't it?

BOOTH. [_not to be obliterated._] Certainly.

HUGH. Keep your children ignorant of all that you don't know, penniless
except for your good pleasure, dependent on you for permission to
breathe freely . . and be sure that their gratitude will be most
disinterested, and affection very natural. If your father's a drunkard
or poor; then perhaps you get free and can form an opinion or two of
your own . . and can love him or hate him as he deserves. But our father
and mother were models. They did their duty by us . . and taught us
ours. Trenchard escaped, as I say. You took to the Army . . so of course
you've never discovered how behind the times you are. [_the Major is
stupent._] I tried to express myself in art . . and found there was
nothing to express . . I'd been so well brought up. D'you blame me if I
wander about in search of a soul of some sort? And Honor--

BOOTH. [_disputing savagely._] Honor is very happy at home. Everyone
loves her.

HUGH. [_with fierce sarcasm._] Yes . . what do we call her? Mother's
right hand! I wonder they bothered to give her a name. By the time
little Ethel came they were tired of training children . . [_his voice
loses its sting; he doesn't complete this sentence._]

BEATRICE. Poor little Ethel . .

BOOTH. Poor Ethel!

_They speak as one speaks of the dead, and so the wrangling stops. Then_
EDWARD _interposes quietly_.

EDWARD. Yes, Hugh, if we'd been poor . .

HUGH. I haven't spoken of your fate, Edward. That's too shameful.

EDWARD. . . We should at least have learnt how to spend money.

BOOTH. [_pathetically._] Really, Edward, need you attack me?

HUGH. Well . . you're so proud of representing the family!

BOOTH. And may I ask what we're discussing now?

BEATRICE. Yes, Edward. I knew how to get the greatest possible
happiness out of a five pound note years before I had one.

EDWARD. The first man who saved a sovereign has made a prisoner of me.

BOOTH. [_determined to capture the conversation again._] Has made a . . ?

EDWARD. Will make . . if you understand that better, Booth.

BOOTH. I don't understand it at all. [_they leave him the field._] And
why for no earthly reason we must suddenly open up a--a street, which is
very painful . . I really cannot see. One never knows who may be
listening. [_he glances most uneasily towards the door and drops his
voice._] In that unhappy business, Edward, you very wisely did what we
all felt to be your duty. I'm sure we all hope you have succeeded in
your endeavours. But the least we can do now in respect to our poor
father's memory is to bury the matter in--in decent oblivion. And please
. . please don't talk of prison. I thought you'd given up that idea long
ago. [_having dismissed that subject unopposed, he takes a long
breath._] Now we will return to the original subject of discussion.
Hugh, this question of a separation--

_Past all patience_, HUGH _jumps up and flings his chair back to its

HUGH. Beatrice and I mean to separate. And nothing you may say will
prevent us. The only difficulty in the way is money. Can we command
enough to live apart comfortably?

BOOTH. Well?

HUGH. Well . . we can't.

BOOTH. Well?

HUGH. So we can't separate.

BOOTH. [_speaking with bewilderment._] Then what in Heaven's name have
we been discussing it for?

HUGH. I haven't discussed it! I don't want to discuss it! Why can't you
mind your own business? Now I'll go back to the billiard room and my

_He is gone before the poor Major can recover his lost breath._

BOOTH. [_as he does recover it._] I am not an impatient man . . but
really . . [_and then words fail him._]

BEATRICE. [_commenting calmly._] Of course Hugh was a spoilt child. They
grow to hate their parents sooner than others. He still cries for what
he wants. That makes him a wearisome companion.

BOOTH. [_very sulky now._] You married him with your eyes open, I

BEATRICE. How few women marry with their eyes open!

BOOTH. You have never made the best of Hugh.

BEATRICE. I have spared him that indignity.

BOOTH. [_vindictively._] I am very glad that you can't separate.

BEATRICE. As soon as I'm reasonably sure of earning an income I shall
walk off from him.

_The Major revives._

BOOTH. You will do nothing of the sort, Beatrice.

BEATRICE. [_unruffled._] How will you stop me, Booth?

BOOTH. I shall tell Hugh he must command you to stay.

BEATRICE. [_with a little smile._] Now that might make a difference. It
was one of the illusions of my girlhood that I should love a man who
would master me.

BOOTH. Hugh must assert himself.

_He begins to walk about, giving some indication of how it should be
done._ BEATRICE'S _smile has vanished_.

BEATRICE. Don't think I've enjoyed taking the lead in everything
throughout my married life. But someone had to plan and scheme and be
foreseeing . . we weren't sparrows or lilies of the field . . someone
had to get up and do something. [_she becomes conscious of his
strutting and smiles rather mischievously._] Ah . . if I'd married you,

BOOTH'S _face grows beatific_.

BOOTH. Well, I must own to thinking that I am a masterful man . . that
is the duty of every man to be so. [_he adds forgivingly._] Poor old

BEATRICE. [_unable to resist temptation._] If I'd tried to leave you,
Booth, you'd have whipped me . . wouldn't you?

BOOTH. [_ecstatically complacent._] Ha . . well . . !

BEATRICE. Do say yes. Think how it'll frighten Emily.

_The Major strokes his moustache and is most friendly._

BOOTH. Hugh's been a worry to me all my life. And now as Head of the
Family . . Well, I suppose I'd better go and give the dear old chap
another talking to. I quite see your point of view, Beatrice.

BEATRICE. Why disturb him at his book?

MAJOR BOOTH _leaves them, squaring his shoulders as becomes a lord of
creation. The two sisters-in-law go on with their work silently for a
moment; then_ BEATRICE _adds_ . .

BEATRICE. Do you find Booth difficult to manage, Emily?

EMILY. [_putting down her knitting to consider the matter._] No. It's
best to allow him to talk himself out. When he's done that he'll often
come to me for advice. I let him get his own way as much as possible . .
or think he's getting it. Otherwise he becomes so depressed.

BEATRICE. [_quietly amused._] Edward shouldn't hear this. What has he to
do with women's secrets?

EDWARD. I won't tell . . and I'm a bachelor.

EMILY. [_solemnly as she takes up her knitting again._] Do you really
mean to leave Hugh?

BEATRICE. [_slightly impatient._] Emily, I've said so.

_They are joined by_ ALICE MAITLAND, _who comes in gaily_.

ALICE. What's Booth shouting about in the billiard room?

EMILY. [_pained._] On Christmas Eve, too!

BEATRICE. Don't you take any interest in my matrimonial affairs?

MRS. VOYSEY _shuts up the Nineteenth Century and removes her

MRS. VOYSEY. That's a very interesting article. The Chinese Empire must
be in a shocking state! Is it ten o'clock yet?


MRS. VOYSEY. [_as_ EDWARD _is behind her_.] Can anyone see the clock?

ALICE. It's past ten, Auntie.

MRS. VOYSEY. Then I think I'll go to my room.

EMILY. Shall I come and look after you, Mother?

MRS. VOYSEY. If you'd find Honor for me, Emily.

EMILY _goes in search of the harmless necessary_ HONOR _and_ MRS. VOYSEY
_begins her nightly chant of departure_.

MRS. VOYSEY. Good night, Alice. Good night, Edward.

EDWARD. Good night, Mother.

MRS. VOYSEY. [_with sudden severity._] I'm not pleased with you,

BEATRICE. I'm sorry, Mother.

_But without waiting to be answered the old lady has sailed out of the
room._ BEATRICE, EDWARD, _and_ ALICE _are attuned to each other enough
to be able to talk with ease_.

BEATRICE. Hugh is right about his family. It'll never make any new life
for itself.

EDWARD. There are Booth's children.

BEATRICE. Poor little devils!

ALICE. [_judicially._] Emily is an excellent mother.

BEATRICE. Yes . . they'll grow up good men and women. And one will go
into the Army and one into the Navy and one into the Church . . and
perhaps one to the Devil and the Colonies. They'll serve their country
and govern it and help to keep it like themselves . . dull and
respectable . . hopelessly middle-class. [_she puts down her work now
and elevates an oratorical fist._] Genius and Poverty may exist in
England, if they'll hide their heads. For show days we've our
aristocracy. But never let us forget, gentlemen, that it is the plain
solid middle-class man who has made us . . what we are.

EDWARD. [_in sympathetic derision._] Hear hear . . ! and cries of bravo!

BEATRICE. Now, that is out of my book . . the next one. [_she takes up
her work again._] You know, Edward . . without wishing to open up
Painful Streets . . however scandalous it has been, your father left you
a man's work to do.

EDWARD. [_his face cloudy._] An outlaw's!

BEATRICE. [_whimsical, after a moment._] I meant that. At all events
you've not had to be your father's right arm . . or the instrument of
justice . . or a representative of the people . . or anything second
hand of that sort, have you?

EDWARD. [_with sudden excitement._] Do you know what I discovered the
other day about [_he nods at the portrait._] . . him?

BEATRICE. [_enquiring calmly._] Innocence or guilt?

EDWARD. He saved his firm once . . that was true. A most capable piece
of heroism. Then, fifteen years afterwards . . he started again.

BEATRICE. [_greatly interested._] Did he now?

EDWARD. One can't believe it was merely through weakness . .

BEATRICE. [_with artistic enthusiasm._] Of course not. He was a great
financier . . a man of imagination. He had to find scope for his
abilities or die. He despised these fat little clients living so snugly
on their unearned incomes . . and put them and their money to the best
use he could.

EDWARD. [_shaking his head solemnly._] That's all a fine phrase for

BEATRICE _turns her clever face to him and begins to follow up her
subject keenly_.

BEATRICE. My dear Edward . . I understand you've been robbing your rich
clients for the benefit of the poor ones?

ALICE. [_who hasn't missed a word._] That's true.

EDWARD. [_gently._] Well . . we're all a bit in debt to the poor, aren't

BEATRICE. Quite so. And you don't possess and your father didn't possess
that innate sense of the sacredness of property . . . [_she enjoys that
phrase._] which alone can make a truly honest man. Nor did the man
possess it who picked my pocket last Friday week . . nor does the
tax-gatherer . . . nor do I. Your father's freedom from prejudice was
tempered by a taste for Power and Display. Yours is by Charity. But
that's all the difference I'll admit between you. Robbery! . . it's a
beautiful word.

EDWARD. [_a little pained by as much of this as he takes to be
serious._] I think he might have told me the truth.

BEATRICE. Perhaps he didn't know it! Would you have believed him?

EDWARD. Perhaps not. But I loved him.

BEATRICE _looks again at the gentle, earnest face_.

BEATRICE. After as well as before?

EDWARD. Yes. And not from mere force of habit either.

BEATRICE. [_with reverence in her voice now._] That should silence a
bench of judges. Well . . well . .

_Her sewing finished, she stuffs the things into her basket, gets up in
her abrupt unconventional way and goes without another word. Her brain
is busy with the Voysey Inheritance._ EDWARD _and_ ALICE _are left in
chairs by the fire, facing each other like an old domestic couple_.

EDWARD. Stay and speak to me.

ALICE. I want to. Something more serious has happened since dinner.

EDWARD. I'm glad you can see that.

ALICE. What is it?

EDWARD. [_with sudden exultation._] The smash has come . . and not by my
fault. Old George Booth--

ALICE. Has he been here?

EDWARD. Can you imagine it? That old man forced me into telling him the
truth. I told him to take what money of his there was, and prosecute. He
won't prosecute, but he bargains to take the money . . and further to
bleed us, sovereign by sovereign, as I earn sovereign by sovereign with
the sweat of my soul. I'll see him in his Christian Heaven first . . the

ALICE. [_keeping her head._] You can't reason with him?

EDWARD. He thinks he has the whip hand and he means to use it. Also the
Vicar has been told . . who has told his wife. She knows how not to keep
a secret. The smash has come at last.

ALICE. So you're glad?

EDWARD. Thankful. My conscience is clear. I've done my best. [_then as
usual with him, his fervour collapses._] And oh, Alice . . has it been
worth doing?

ALICE. [_encouragingly._] Half a dozen people pulled out of the fire.

EDWARD. If only that isn't found out! I've bungled this job, Alice. I
feared all along I should. It was work for a strong man . . not for me.

ALICE. Work for a patient man.

EDWARD. You use kind words. But I've never shirked the truth about
myself. My father said mine was a weak nature. He knew.

ALICE. You have a religious nature.

EDWARD. [_surprised._] Oh no!

ALICE. [_proceeding to explain._] Therefore you're not fond of creeds
and ceremonies. Therefore . . as the good things of this wordly world
don't satisfy you, you shirk contact with it all you can. I understand
this temptation to neglect and despise practical things. But if one
yields to it one's character narrows and cheapens. That's a pity . . but
it's so.

EDWARD. [_his eyes far away._] D'you ever feel that there aren't enough
windows in a house?

ALICE. [_prosaically._] In this weather . . too many.

EDWARD. Well then . . in a house--especially in a big city--in my office
at work, then . . one is out of hearing of all the music of the world.
And when one does get back to Nature, instead of being all curves to her
roundness, one is all corners.

ALICE. [_smiling at him._] Yes, you love to think idly . . just as Hugh
does. You do it quite well, too. [_then briskly._] Edward, may I scold

EDWARD. For that?

ALICE. Because of that. You're grown to be a sloven lately . .
deliberately letting yourself be unhappy.

EDWARD. Is happiness under one's control?

ALICE. My friend, you shouldn't neglect your happiness any more than you
neglect to wash your face. Here has the squalour of your work been
making you poor. Because it was liable to be stopped at any moment
uncompleted . . why should that let your life be incomplete? Edward, for
the last eighteen months you've been more like a moral portent than a
man. You've not had a smile to throw to a friend . . or an opinion upon
any subject. You've dropped your Volunteering. [_he protests._] I know
there's something comic in volunteering . . though Heaven knows what it
is! I suppose you found it out of keeping with your unhappy fate. And
how slack you were in your politics last November. I don't believe you
even voted . .

EDWARD. [_contrite at this._] That was wrong of me!

ALICE. Yes, I expect a man to be a good citizen. And you don't even eat

_With that she completes the accusation and_ EDWARD _searches round for
a defence_.

EDWARD. Alice, it was always an effort with me to do all those things . .
and lately every effort has had to go to my work.

ALICE. You did them . . on principle.

EDWARD. Don't laugh at me.

ALICE. [_whispering the awful words._] Then truthfully, Edward, once
upon a time you were a bit of a prig.

EDWARD. [_with enough sense of humour to whisper back._] Was I?

ALICE. I'm afraid so! But the prig fell ill when your father died . .
and had to be buried in his grave. [_Then her voice rises stirringly._]
Oh, don't you see what a blessing this cursed work was meant to be to
you? Why must you stand stiff against it?

EDWARD. [_without a smile now._] But lately, Alice, I've hardly known
myself. Once or twice I've lost my temper . . I've been brutal.

ALICE. That's the best news in the world. There's your own wicked nature
coming out. That's what we've been waiting for . . that's what we want.
That's you.

EDWARD. [_still serious._] I'm sorry for it.

ALICE. Oh, Edward, be a little proud of poor humanity . . take your own
share in it gladly. It so discourages the rest of us if you don't.

_Suddenly he breaks down completely._

EDWARD. I can't let myself be glad and live. There's the future to think
of. And I'm so afraid of that. I must pretend I don't care . . even to
myself . . even to you.

ALICE. [_her mocking at an end._] What is it you fear most about the
future . . not just the obviously unpleasant things?

EDWARD. They'll put me in prison.

ALICE. Perhaps.

EDWARD. Who'll be the man who comes out?

ALICE. Yourself.

EDWARD. No, no! I'm a coward. I can't stand alone, it's too lonely. I
need affection . . I need friends. I cling to people that I don't care
for deeply . . just for the comfort of it. I've no home of my own. Every
house that welcomes me now I like to think of as something of a home.
And I know that this disgrace in store will leave me for a long time or
a short time . . homeless.

_There he sits shaken._ ALICE _waits a moment, not taking her eyes from
him; then speaks_.

ALICE. There's something else I want to scold you for. You've still
given up proposing to me. Certainly that shows a lack of courage . . and
of perseverance. Or is it the loss of what I always considered a very
laudable ambition?

EDWARD _is hardly able to trust his ears. Then he looks into her face
and his thankfulness frames itself into a single sentence._

EDWARD. Will you marry me?

ALICE. Yes, Edward.

_For a minute he just holds his breath with happiness. But he shakes
himself free of it, almost savagely._

EDWARD. No, no, no, we mustn't be stupid. I'm sorry I asked for that.

ALICE. [_with serene strength._] I'm glad that you want me. While I live
. . where I am will be Home.

EDWARD. [_struggling with himself._] No, it's too late. If you'd said
Yes before I came into my inheritance . . perhaps I shouldn't have
given myself to the work. So be glad that it's too late. I am.

ALICE. [_happily._] There was never any chance of my marrying you when
you were only a well-principled prig. I didn't want you . . and I don't
believe you really wanted me. Now you do. And you must always take what
you want.

EDWARD. [_turning to her again._] My dear, what have we to start life
upon . . to build our house upon? Poverty . . and prison for me.

ALICE. [_mischievous._] Edward, you seem to think that all the money in
the world was invested in your precious firm. I have four hundred a year
of my own. At least let that tempt you.

EDWARD _catches her in his arms with a momentary little burst of

EDWARD. You're tempting me.

_She did not resist, but nevertheless he breaks away from her,
disappointed with himself. She goes on, quietly, serenely._

ALICE. Am I? Am I playing upon your senses in any way? Am I a silly
child looking to you for protection in return for your favour? Shall I
hinder or help your life? If you don't think me your equal as woman to
man, we'll never speak of this again. But if you do . . look at me and
make your choice. To refuse me my work and happiness in life and to
cripple your own nature . . or to take my hand.

_She puts out her hand frankly, as a friend should. With only a second's
thought he, happy too now, takes it as frankly. Then she sits beside him
and quite cheerfully changes the subject._

ALICE. Now, referring to the subject of Mr. George Booth. What will he

EDWARD. [_responsive though impatient._] He'll do nothing. I shall be
before him.

ALICE. What about his proposal?

EDWARD. That needs no answer.

ALICE. Yes, it does. I know the temptation to hit back at him
mock-heroically . . it's natural. Well, we'll consider it done. But he's
a silly old man and he doesn't know what he's talking about. I think we
can bargain with him to keep the firm going somehow . . and if we can we

_At this_ EDWARD _makes a last attempt to abandon himself to his

EDWARD. No, Alice, no . . let it end here. It has done for me . . I'm
broken. And of course we can't be married . . that's absurd.

ALICE. [_with firmness enough for two._] We shall be married. And
nothing's broken . . except our pride and righteousness . . and several
other things we're better without. And now we must break our dignity in
to bargaining.

EDWARD. [_struggling in the toils of virtue._] But it'll be so useless.
Colpus'll be round in a day or two to make his conditions . . he'll tell
some intimate friend. They'll all come after their money like wasps
after honey. And if they know I won't lift a finger in my own defence . .
what sort of mercy will they have?

ALICE. [_triumphantly completing her case._] No, Edward, if you
surrender yourself entirely, you'll find them powerless against you. You
see, you had something to hope or fear from Mr. Booth . . you hoped in
your heart he'd end your trouble. But when you've conquered that last
little atom of the selfishness which gets in one's way, I think you'll
find you can do what you wish with these selfish men. [_and she adds
fervently._] Oh, it's a power so seldom used. But the man who is able,
and cares deeply, and yet has nothing to hope or fear is all powerful . .
even in little things.

EDWARD. Will nothing ever happen to set me free? Shall I never be able
to rest for a moment . . turn round and say I've succeeded or I've

ALICE. That isn't what matters.

EDWARD. If they could all meet and agree, they might syndicate
themselves and keep me at it for life.

ALICE. What more could you wish for?

EDWARD. Than that dreary round!

ALICE. My dear, the world must be put tidy. That's the work which
splendid criminals . . and others leave about for us poor commonplace
people to do.

EDWARD. [_with a little laugh._] And I don't believe in Heaven either.

ALICE. [_close to him._] But there's to be our life. What's wrong with

EDWARD. My dear, when they put me in prison for swindling--[_he makes
the word sound its worst._]

ALICE. I think they won't. But if they are so stupid . . I must be very

EDWARD. Of what?

ALICE. To avoid false pride. I shall be foolishly proud of you.

EDWARD. It's good to be praised sometimes . . by you.

ALICE. My heart praises you. Good night.

EDWARD. Good night.

_She kisses his forehead. But he puts up his face like a child, so she
bends down and for the first time their lips meet. Then she steps back
from him, adding happily, with perhaps just a touch of shyness._

ALICE. Till to-morrow.

EDWARD. [_echoing in gratitude the hope and promise in her voice._] Till

_She leaves him to sit there by the table for a few moments longer,
looking into his future, streaked as it is to be with trouble and joy.
As whose is not? From above . . from above the mantelpiece, that is to
say . . the face of the late_ MR. VOYSEY _seems to look down upon his
son not unkindly, though with that curious buccaneering twist of the
eyebrows which distinguished his countenance in life_.




At Shapters, GEORGE FARRANT'S house in Hertfordshire. Ten o'clock on a
Sunday evening in summer.

_Facing you at her piano by the window, from which she is protected by a
little screen, sits_ MRS. FARRANT; _a woman of the interesting age,
clear-eyed and all her face serene, except for a little pucker of the
brows which shows a puzzled mind upon some important matters. To become
almost an ideal hostess has been her achievement; and in her own home,
as now, this grace is written upon every movement. Her eyes pass over
the head of a girl, sitting in a low chair by a little table, with the
shaded lamplight falling on her face. This is_ LUCY DAVENPORT;
_twenty-three, undefeated in anything as yet and so unsoftened. The book
on her lap is closed, for she has been listening to the music. It is
possibly some German philosopher, whom she reads with a critical
appreciation of his shortcomings. On the sofa near her lounges_ MRS.
O'CONNELL; _a charming woman, if by charming you understand a woman who
converts every quality she possesses into a means of attraction, and has
no use for any others. On the sofa opposite sits_ MISS TREBELL. _In a
few years, when her hair is quite grey, she will assume as by right the
dignity of an old maid. Between these two in a low armchair is_ LADY
DAVENPORT. _She has attained to many dignities. Mother and grandmother,
she has brought into the world and nourished not merely life but
character. A wonderful face she has, full of proud memories and fearless
of the future. Behind her, on a sofa between the windows, is_ WALTER
KENT. _He is just what the average English father would like his son to
be. You can see the light shooting out through the windows and mixing
with moonshine upon a smooth lawn. On your left is a door. There are
many books in the room, hardly any pictures, a statuette perhaps. The
owner evidently sets beauty of form before beauty of colour. It is a
woman's room and it has a certain delicate austerity. By the time you
have observed everything_, MRS. FARRANT _has played Chopin's prelude
opus 28, number 20 from beginning to end_.

LADY DAVENPORT. Thank you, my dear Julia.

WALTER KENT. [_Protesting._] No more?

MRS. FARRANT. I won't play for a moment longer than I feel musical.

MISS TREBELL. Do you think it right, Julia, to finish with that after an
hour's Bach?

MRS. FARRANT. I suddenly came over Chopinesque, Fanny; . . what's your
objection? [_as she sits by her._]

FRANCES TREBELL. What . . when Bach has raised me to the heights of

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Grimacing sweetly, her eyes only half lifted._] Does
he? I'm glad that I don't understand him.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Putting mere prettiness in its place._] One may
prefer Chopin when one is young.

AMY O'CONNELL. And is that a reproach or a compliment?

WALTER KENT. [_Boldly._] I do.

FRANCES TREBELL. Or a man may . . unless he's a philosopher.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_To the rescue._] Miss Trebell, you're very hard on
mere humanity.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Completing the reproof._] That's my wretched training
as a schoolmistress, Lady Davenport . . one grew to fear it above all

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Throwing in the monosyllable with sharp youthful
enquiry._] Why?

FRANCES TREBELL. There were no text books on the subject.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Smiling at her friend._] Yes, Fanny . . I think you
escaped to look after your brother only just in time.

FRANCES TREBELL. In another year I might have been head-mistress, which
commits you to approve of the system for ever.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Shaking her wise head._] I've watched the Education
fever take England . . .

FRANCES TREBELL. If I hadn't stopped teaching things I didn't
understand . . !

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Not without mischief._] And what was the effect on the

LUCY DAVENPORT. I can tell you that.

AMY O'CONNELL. Frances never taught you.

LUCY DAVENPORT. No, I wish she had. But I was at her sort of a school
before I went to Newnham. I know.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Very distastefully._] Up-to-date, it was described

LUCY DAVENPORT. Well, it was like a merry-go-round at top speed. You
felt things wouldn't look a bit like that when you came to a standstill.

AMY O'CONNELL. And they don't?

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_With great decision._] Not a bit.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_In her velvet tone._] I was taught the whole duty of
woman by a parson-uncle who disbelieved in his Church.

WALTER KENT. When a man at Jude's was going to take orders . . .


WALTER KENT. At Oxford. The dons went very gingerly with him over bits
of science and history.

[_This wakes a fruitful thought in_ JULIA FARRANT'S _brain_.]

MRS. FARRANT. Mamma, have you ever discussed so-called anti-Christian
science with Lord Charles?

FRANCES TREBELL. . . Cantelupe?

MRS. FARRANT. Yes. It was over appointing a teacher for the schools down
here . . he was staying with us. The Vicar's his fervent disciple.
However, we were consulted.

LUCY DAVENPORT. Didn't Lord Charles want you to send the boys there till
they were ready for Harrow?


FRANCES TREBELL. Quite the last thing in Toryism!

MRS. FARRANT. Mamma made George say we were too _nouveau riche_ to risk

LADY DAVENPORT. [_As she laughs._] I couldn't resist that.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Catching something of her subject's dry driving
manner._] Lord Charles takes the superior line and says . . that with
his consent the Church may teach the unalterable Truth in scientific
language or legendary, whichever is easier understanded of the people.

LADY DAVENPORT. Is it the prospect of Disestablishment suddenly makes
him so accommodating?

FRANCES TREBELL. [_With large contempt._] He needn't be. The majority of
people believe the world was made in an English week.


FRANCES TREBELL. No Bishop dare deny it.

MRS. FARRANT. [_From the heights of experience._] Dear Lucy, do you
seriously think that the English spirit--the nerve that runs down the
backbone--is disturbed by new theology . . or new anything?

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Enjoying her epigram._] What a waste of persecution
history shows us!

WALTER KENT _now captures the conversation with a very young
politician's fervour_.

WALTER KENT. Once they're disestablished they must make up their minds
what they do believe.

LADY DAVENPORT. I presume Lord Charles thinks it'll hand the Church over
to him and his . . dare I say 'Sect'?

WALTER KENT. Won't it? He knows what he wants.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Subtly._] There's the election to come yet.

WALTER KENT. But now both parties are pledged to a bill of some sort.

MRS. FARRANT. Political prophecies have a knack of not coming true; but,
d'you know, Cyril Horsham warned me to watch this position developing . .
nearly four years ago.

FRANCES TREBELL. Sitting on the opposition bench sharpens the eye-sight.

WALTER KENT. [_Ironically._] Has he been pleased with the prospect?

MRS. FARRANT. [_With perfect diplomacy._] If the Church must be
disestablished . . better done by its friends than its enemies.

FRANCES TREBELL. Still I don't gather he's pleased with his dear cousin
Charles's conduct.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Shrugging._] Oh, lately, Lord Charles has never
concealed his tactics.

FRANCES TREBELL. And that speech at Leeds was the crowning move I
suppose; just asking the Nonconformists to bring things to a head?

MRS. FARRANT. [_Judicially._] I think that was precipitate.

WALTER KENT. [_Giving them_ LORD CHARLES'S _oratory_.] Gentlemen, in
these latter days of Radical opportunism!--You know, I was there . .
sitting next to an old gentleman who shouted "Jesuit."

FRANCES TREBELL. But supposing Mallaby and the Nonconformists hadn't
been able to force the Liberals' hand?

MRS. FARRANT. [_Speaking as of inferior beings._] Why, they were glad of
any cry going to the Country!

FRANCES TREBELL. [_As she considers this._] Yes . . and Lord Charles
would still have had as good a chance of forcing Lord Horsham's. It has
been clever tactics.

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Who has been listening, sharp-eyed._] Contrariwise, he
wouldn't have liked a Radical Bill though, would he?

WALTER KENT. [_With aplomb._] He knew he was safe from that. The
government must have dissolved before Christmas anyway . . and the swing
of the pendulum's a sure thing.

MRS. FARRANT. [_With her smile._] It's never a sure thing.

WALTER KENT. Oh, Mrs. Farrant, look how unpopular the Liberals are.

FRANCES TREBELL. What made them bring in Resolutions?

WALTER KENT. [_Overflowing with knowledge of the subject._] I was told
Mallaby insisted on their showing they meant business. I thought he was
being too clever . . and it turns out he was. Tommy Luxmore told me
there was a fearful row in the Cabinet about it. But on their last legs,
you know, it didn't seem to matter, I suppose. Even then, if Prothero
had mustered up an ounce of tact . . I believe they could have pulled
them through . .

FRANCES TREBELL. Not the Spoliation one.

WALTER KENT. Well, Mr. Trebell dished that!

FRANCES TREBELL. Henry says his speech didn't turn a vote.

MRS. FARRANT. [_With charming irony._] How disinterested of him!

WALTER KENT. [_Enthusiastic._] That speech did if ever a speech did.

FRANCES TREBELL. Is there any record of a speech that ever did? He just
carried his own little following with him.

MRS. FARRANT. But the crux of the whole matter is and has always been . .
what's to be done with the Church's money.

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Visualising sovereigns._] A hundred millions or so . .
think of it!

FRANCES TREBELL. There has been from the start a good deal of
anti-Nonconformist feeling against applying the money to secular uses.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Deprecating false modesty, on anyone's behalf._] Oh, of
course the speech turned votes . . twenty of them at least.

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Determined on information._] Then I was told Lord
Horsham had tried to come to an understanding himself with the
Nonconformists about Disestablishment--oh--a long time ago . . over the
Education Bill.

FRANCES TREBELL. Is that true, Julia?

MRS. FARRANT. How should I know?

FRANCES TREBELL. [_With some mischief._] You might.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Weighing her words._] I don't think it would have been
altogether wise to make advances. They'd have asked more than a
Conservative government could possibly persuade the Church to give up.

WALTER KENT. I don't see that Horsham's much better off now. He only
turned the Radicals out on the Spoliation question by the help of
Trebell. And so far . . I mean, till this election is over Trebell
counts still as one of them, doesn't he, Miss Trebell? Oh . . perhaps he

FRANCES TREBELL. He'll tell you he never has counted as one of them.

MRS. FARRANT. No doubt Lord Charles would sooner have done without his
help. And that's why I didn't ask the gentle Jesuit this week-end if
anyone wants to know.

WALTER KENT. [_Stupent at this lack of party spirit._] What . . he'd
rather have had the Liberals go to the country undefeated!

MRS. FARRANT. [_With finesse._] The election may bring us back
independent of Mr. Trebell and anything he stands for.

WALTER KENT. [_Sharply._] But you asked Lord Horsham to meet him.

MRS. FARRANT. [_With still more finesse._] I had my reasons. Votes
aren't everything.

LADY DAVENPORT _has been listening with rather a doubtful smile; she now
caps the discussion_.

LADY DAVENPORT. I'm relieved to hear you say so, my dear Julia. On the
other hand democracy seems to have brought itself to a pretty pass.
Here's a measure, which the country as a whole neither demands nor
approves of, will certainly be carried, you tell me, because a minority
on each side is determined it shall be . . for totally different

MRS. FARRANT. [_Shrugging again._] It isn't our business to prevent
popular government looking foolish, Mamma.

LADY DAVENPORT. Is that Tory cynicism or feminine?

_At this moment_ GEORGE FARRANT _comes through the window; a
good-natured man of forty-five. He would tell you that he was educated
at Eton and Oxford. But the knowledge which saves his life comes from
the thrusting upon him of authority and experience; ranging from the
management of an estate which he inherited at twenty-four, through the
chairmanship of a newspaper syndicate, through a successful marriage,
to a minor post in the last Tory cabinet and the prospect of one in the
near-coming next. Thanks to his agents, editors, permanent officials,
and his own common sense, he always acquits himself creditably. He comes
to his wife's side and waits for a pause in the conversation._

LADY DAVENPORT. I remember Mr. Disraeli once said to me . . Clever women
are as dangerous to the State as dynamite.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Not to be impressed by Disraeli._] Well, Lady
Davenport, if men will leave our intellects lying loose about . .

FARRANT. Blackborough's going, Julia.

MRS. FARRANT. Yes, George.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Concluding her little apologue to_ MISS TREBELL.] Yes,
my dear, but power without responsibility isn't good for the character
that wields it either.

[_There follows_ FARRANT _through the window a man of fifty. He has
about him that unmistakeable air of acquired wealth and power which
distinguishes many Jews and has therefore come to be regarded as a
solely Jewish characteristic. He speaks always with that swift decision
which betokens a narrowed view. This is_ RUSSELL BLACKBOROUGH;
_manufacturer, politician . . statesman, his own side calls him_.]

BLACKBOROUGH. [_To his hostess._] If I start now, they tell me, I shall
get home before the moon goes down. I'm sorry I must get back to-night.
It's been a most delightful week-end.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Gracefully giving him a good-bye hand._] And a
successful one, I hope.

FARRANT. We talked Education for half an hour.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Her eyebrows lifting a shade._] Education!

FARRANT. Then Trebell went away to work.

BLACKBOROUGH. I've missed the music, I fear.

MRS. FARRANT. But it's been Bach.


MRS. FARRANT. For a minute only.

BLACKBOROUGH. Why don't these new Italian men write things for the
piano? Good-night, Lady Davenport.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_As he bows over her hand._] And what has Education to
do with it?

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Non-committal himself._] Perhaps it was a subject that
compromised nobody.

LADY DAVENPORT. Do you think my daughter has been wasting her time and
her tact?

FARRANT. [_Clapping him on the shoulder._] Blackborough's frankly
flabbergasted at the publicity of this intrigue.

MRS. FARRANT. Intrigue! Mr. Trebell walked across the House . . actually
into your arms.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_With a certain dubious grimness._] Well . . we've had
some very interesting talks since. And his views upon Education are
quite . . Utopian. Good-bye, Miss Trebell.


MRS. FARRANT. I wouldn't be so haughty till after the election, if I
were you, Mr. Blackborough.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Indifferently._] Oh, I'm glad he's with us on the Church
question . . so far.

MRS. FARRANT. So far as you've made up your minds? The electoral cat
will jump soon.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_A little beaten by such polite cynicism._] Well . . our
conservative principles! After all we know what they are. Good-night,
Mrs. O'Connell.

AMY O'CONNELL. Good-night.

FARRANT. Your neuralgia better?

AMY O'CONNELL. By fits and starts.

FARRANT. [_Robustly._] Come and play billiards. Horsham and Maconochie
started a game. They can neither of them play. We left them working out
a theory of angles on bits of paper.

WALTER KENT. Professor Maconochie lured me on to golf yesterday. He
doesn't suffer from theories about that.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_With approval._] Started life as a caddie.

WALTER KENT. [_Pulling a wry face._] So he told me after the first hole.

BLACKBOROUGH. What's this, Kent, about Trebell's making you his

WALTER KENT. He thinks he'll have me.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Almost reprovingly._] No question of politics?

FARRANT. More intrigue, Blackborough.

WALTER KENT. [_With disarming candour._] The truth is, you see, I
haven't any as yet. I was Socialist at Oxford . . but of course that
doesn't count. I think I'd better learn my job under the best man I can
find . . and who'll have me.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Gravely._] What does your father say?

WALTER KENT. Oh, as long as Jack will inherit the property in a Tory
spirit! My father thinks it my wild oats.

_A Footman has come in._

THE FOOTMAN. Your car is round, sir.

BLACKBOROUGH. Ah! Good-night, Miss Davenport. Good-bye again, Mrs.
Farrant . . a charming week-end.

_He makes a business-like departure_, FARRANT _follows him_.

THE FOOTMAN. A telephone message from Dr. Wedgecroft, ma'am. His thanks;
they stopped the express for him at Hitchin and he has reached London
quite safely.

MRS. FARRANT. Thank you.

[_The Footman goes out._ MRS. FARRANT _exhales delicately as if the air
were a little refined by_ BLACKBOROUGH'S _removal_.]

MRS. FARRANT. Mr. Blackborough and his patent turbines and his gas
engines and what not are the motive power of our party nowadays, Fanny.

FRANCES TREBELL. Yes, you claim to be steering plutocracy. Do you never
wonder if it isn't steering you?

MRS. O'CONNELL, _growing restless, has wandered round the room picking
at the books in their cases_.

AMY O'CONNELL. I always like your books, Julia. It's an intellectual
distinction to know someone who has read them.

MRS. FARRANT. That's the Communion I choose.

FRANCES TREBELL. Aristocrat . . fastidious aristocrat.

MRS. FARRANT. No, now. Learning's a great leveller.

FRANCES TREBELL. But Julia . . books are quite unreal. D'you think life
is a bit like them?

MRS. FARRANT. They bring me into touch with . . Oh, there's nothing more
deadening than to be boxed into a set in Society! Speak to a woman
outside it . . she doesn't understand your language.

FRANCES TREBELL. And do you think by prattling Hegel with Gilbert
Wedgecroft when he comes to physic you--

MRS. FARRANT. [_Joyously._] Excellent physic that is. He never leaves a

LADY DAVENPORT. Don't you think an aristocracy of brains is the best
aristocracy, Miss Trebell?

FRANCES TREBELL. [_With a little more bitterness than the abstraction of
the subject demands._] I'm sure it is just as out of touch with humanity
as any other . . more so, perhaps. If I were a country I wouldn't be
governed by arid intellects.

MRS. FARRANT. Manners, Frances.

FRANCES TREBELL. I'm one myself and I know. They're either dead or

GEORGE FARRANT _comes back and goes straight to_ MRS. O'CONNELL.

FARRANT. [_Still robustly._] Billiards, Mrs. O'Connell.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Declining sweetly._] I think not.

FARRANT. Billiards, Lucy?

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_As robust as he._] Yes, Uncle George. You shall mark
while Walter gives me twenty-five and I beat him.

WALTER KENT. [_With a none-of-your-impudence air._] I'll give you ten
yards start and race you to the billiard room.

LUCY DAVENPORT. Will you wear my skirt? Oh . . Grandmamma's thinking me

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Without prejudice._] Why, my dear, freedom of limb is
worth having . . and perhaps it fits better with freedom of tongue.

FARRANT. [_In the proper avuncular tone._] I'll play you both . . and
I'd race you both if you weren't so disgracefully young.

AMY O'CONNELL _has reached an open window_.

AMY O'CONNELL. I shall go for a walk with my neuralgia.

MRS. FARRANT. Poor thing!

AMY O'CONNELL. The moon's good for it.

LUCY DAVENPORT. Shall you come, Aunt Julia?

MRS. FARRANT. [_In flat protest._] No, I will not sit up while you play

MRS. O'CONNELL _goes out through the one window, stands for a moment,
wistfully romantic, gazing at the moon, then disappears_. FARRANT _and_
WALTER KENT _are standing at the other, looking across the lawn_.

FARRANT. Horsham still arguing with Maconochie. They're got to Botany

WALTER KENT. Demonstrating something with a . . what's that thing?

WALTER _goes out_.

FARRANT. [_With a throw of his head towards the distant_ HORSHAM.] He
was so bored with our politics . . having to give his opinion too. We
could just hear your piano.

_And he follows_ WALTER.

MRS. FARRANT. Take Amy O'Connell that lace thing, will you, Lucy?

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Her tone expressing quite wonderfully her sentiments
towards the owner._] Don't you think she'd sooner catch cold?

_She catches it up and follows the two men; then after looking round
impatiently, swings off in the direction_ MRS. O'CONNELL _took. The
three women now left together are at their ease._

FRANCES TREBELL. Did you expect Mr. Blackborough to get on well with

MRS. FARRANT. He has become a millionaire by appreciating clever men
when he met them.

LADY DAVENPORT. Yes, Julia, but his political conscience is
comparatively new-born.

MRS. FARRANT. Well, Mamma, can we do without Mr. Trebell?

LADY DAVENPORT. Everyone seems to think you'll come back with something
of a majority.

MRS. FARRANT. [_A little impatient._] What's the good of that? The Bill
can't be brought into the Lords . . and who's going to take
Disestablishment through the Commons for us? Not Eustace Fowler . . not
Mr. Blackborough . . not Lord Charles . . not George!

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Warningly._] Not all your brilliance as a hostess will
keep Mr. Trebell in a Tory Cabinet.

MRS. FARRANT. [_With wilful avoidance of the point._] Cyril Horsham is
only too glad.

LADY DAVENPORT. Because you tell him he ought to be.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Coming to the rescue._] There is this. Henry has
never exactly called himself a Liberal. He really is elected

MRS. FARRANT. I wonder will all the garden-cities become

FRANCES TREBELL. I think he has made a mistake.

MRS. FARRANT. It makes things easier now . . his having kept his

FRANCES TREBELL. I think it's a mistake to stand outside a system.
There's an inhumanity in that amount of detachment . .

MRS. FARRANT. [_Brilliantly._] I think a statesman may be a little

LADY DAVENPORT. [_With keenness._] Do you mean superhuman? It's not the
same thing, you know.


LADY DAVENPORT. Most people don't know.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Proceeding with her cynicism._] Humanity achieves . .
what? Housekeeping and children.

FRANCES TREBELL. As far as a woman's concerned.

MRS. FARRANT. [_A little mockingly._] Now, Mamma, say that is as far as
a woman's concerned.

LADY DAVENPORT. My dear, you know I don't think so.

MRS. FARRANT. We may none of us think so. But there's our position . .
bread and butter and a certain satisfaction until . . Oh, Mamma, I wish
I were like you . . beyond all the passions of life.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_With great vitality._] I'm nothing of the sort. It's
my egoism's dead . . that's an intimation of mortality.

MRS. FARRANT. I accept the snub. But I wonder what I'm to do with myself
for the next thirty years.

FRANCES TREBELL. Help Lord Horsham to govern the country.

JULIA FARRANT _gives a little laugh and takes up the subject this time_.

MRS. FARRANT. Mamma . . how many people, do you think, believe that
Cyril's _grande passion_ for me takes that form?

LADY DAVENPORT. Everyone who knows Cyril and most people who know you.

MRS. FARRANT. Otherwise I seem to have fulfilled my mission in life. The
boys are old enough to go to school. George and I have become happily
unconscious of each other.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_With sudden energy of mind._] Till I was forty I
never realised the fact that most women must express themselves through

MRS. FARRANT. [_Looking at_ FRANCES _a little curiously_.] Didn't your
instinct lead you to marry . . or did you fight against it?

FRANCES TREBELL. I don't know. Perhaps I had no vitality to spare.

LADY DAVENPORT. That boy is a long time proposing to Lucy.

_This effectually startles the other two from their conversational

MRS. FARRANT. Walter? I'm not sure that he means to. She means to marry
him if he does.

FRANCES TREBELL. Has she told you so?

MRS. FARRANT. No. I judge by her business-like interest in his welfare.

FRANCES TREBELL. He's beginning to feel the responsibility of manhood . .
doesn't know whether to be frightened or proud of it.

LADY DAVENPORT. It's a pretty thing to watch young people mating. When
they're older and marry from disappointment or deliberate choice,
thinking themselves so worldly-wise . .

MRS. FARRANT. [_Back to her politely cynical mood._] Well . . then at
least they don't develop their differences at the same fire-side,
regretting the happy time when neither possessed any character at all.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Giving a final douche of common sense._] My dear, any
two reasonable people ought to be able to live together.

FRANCES TREBELL. Granted three sitting rooms. That'll be the next
middle-class political cry . . when women are heard.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Suddenly as practical as her mother._] Walter's lucky . .
Lucy won't stand any nonsense. She'll have him in the Cabinet by the
time he's fifty.

LADY DAVENPORT. And are you the power behind your brother, Miss Trebell?

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Gravely._] He ignores women. I've forced enough good
manners on him to disguise the fact decently. His affections are two
generations ahead.

MRS. FARRANT. People like him in an odd sort of way.

FRANCES TREBELL. That's just respect for work done . . one can't escape
from it.

_There is a slight pause in their talk. By some not very devious route_
MRS. FARRANT'S _mind travels to the next subject_.

MRS. FARRANT. Fanny . . how fond are you of Amy O'Connell?

FRANCES TREBELL. She says we're great friends.

MRS. FARRANT. She says that of me.

FRANCES TREBELL. It's a pity about her husband.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Almost provokingly._] What about him?

FRANCES TREBELL. It seems to be understood that he treats her badly.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_A little malicious._] Is there any particular reason
he should treat her well?

FRANCES TREBELL. Don't you like her, Lady Davenport?

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Dealing out justice._] I find her quite charming to
look at and talk to . . but why shouldn't Justin O'Connell live in
Ireland for all that? I'm going to bed, Julia.

_She collects her belongings and gets up._

MRS. FARRANT. I must look in at the billiard room.

FRANCES TREBELL. I won't come, Julia.

MRS. FARRANT. What's your brother working at?

FRANCES TREBELL. I don't know. Something we shan't hear of for a year,

MRS. FARRANT. On the Church business, I daresay.

FRANCES TREBELL. Did you hear Lord Horsham at dinner on the lack of
dignity in an irreligious state?

MRS. FARRANT. Poor Cyril . . he'll have to find a way round that opinion
of his now.

FRANCES TREBELL. Does he like leading his party?

MRS. FARRANT. [_After due consideration._] It's an intellectual
exercise. He's the right man, Fanny. You see it isn't a party in the
active sense at all, except now and then when it's captured by someone
with an axe to grind.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Humorously._] Such as my brother.

MRS. FARRANT. [_As humorous._] Such as your brother. It expresses the
thought of the men who aren't taken in by the claptrap of progress.

FRANCES TREBELL. Sometimes they've a queer way of expressing their love
for the people of England.

MRS. FARRANT. But one must use democracy. Wellington wouldn't . .
Disraeli did.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_At the door._] Good-night, Miss Trebell.

FRANCES TREBELL. I'm coming . . it's past eleven.

MRS. FARRANT. [_At the window._] What a gorgeous night! I'll come in and
kiss you, Mamma.

FRANCES _follows_ LADY DAVENPORT _and_ MRS. FARRANT _starts across the
lawn to the billiard room_ . . _An hour later you can see no change in
the room except that only one lamp is alight on the table in the
middle._ AMY O'CONNELL _and_ HENRY TREBELL _walk past one window and
stay for a moment in the light of the other. Her wrap is about her
shoulders. He stands looking down at her._

AMY O'CONNELL. There goes the moon . . it's quieter than ever now. [_She
comes in._] Is it very late?

TREBELL. [_As he follows._] Half-past twelve.

TREBELL _is hard-bitten, brainy, forty-five and very sure of himself. He
has a cold keen eye, which rather belies a sensitive mouth; hands which
can grip, and a figure that is austere._

AMY O'CONNELL. I ought to be in bed. I suppose everyone has gone.

TREBELL. Early trains to-morrow. The billiard room lights are out.

AMY O'CONNELL. The walk has just tired me comfortably.

TREBELL. Sit down. [_She sits by the table. He sits by her and says with
the air of a certain buyer at a market._] You're very pretty.

AMY O'CONNELL. As well here as by moonlight? Can't you see any wrinkles?

TREBELL. One or two . . under the eyes. But they give character and
bring you nearer my age. Yes, Nature hit on the right curve in making

_She stretches herself cat-like._

AMY O'CONNELL. Praise is the greatest of luxuries, isn't it, Henry? . .
Henry . . [_she caresses the name._]

TREBELL. Quite right . . Henry.

AMY O'CONNELL. Henry . . Trebell.

TREBELL. Having formally taken possession of my name . .

AMY O'CONNELL. I'll go to bed.

_His eyes have never moved from her. Now she breaks the contact and goes
towards the door._

TREBELL. I wouldn't . . my spare time for love making is so limited.

_She turns back, quite at ease, her eyes challenging him._

AMY O'CONNELL. That's the first offensive thing you've said.

TREBELL. Why offensive?

AMY O'CONNELL. I may flirt. Making love's another matter.

TREBELL. Sit down and explain the difference . . Mrs. O'Connell.

_She sits down._

AMY O'CONNELL. Quite so. 'Mrs. O'Connell'. That's the difference.

TREBELL. [_Provokingly._] But I doubt if I'm interested in the fact that
your husband doesn't understand you and that your marriage was a mistake
. . and how hard you find it to be strong.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Kindly._] I'm not quite a fool though you think so on a
three months' acquaintance. But tell me this . . what education besides
marriage does a woman get?

TREBELL. [_His head lifting quickly._] Education . .

AMY O'CONNELL. Don't be business-like.

TREBELL. I beg your pardon.

AMY O'CONNELL. Do you think the things you like to have taught in
schools are any use to one when one comes to deal with you?

TREBELL. [_After a little scrutiny of her face._] Well, if marriage is
only the means to an end . . what's the end? Not flirtation.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_With an air of self-revelation._] I don't know. To keep
one's place in the world, I suppose, one's self-respect and a sense of

TREBELL. Is that difficult?

AMY O'CONNELL. To get what I want, without paying more than it's worth
to me . . ?

TREBELL. Never to be reckless.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_With a side-glance._] One isn't so often tempted.

TREBELL. In fact . . to flirt with life generally. Now, what made your
husband marry you?

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Dealing with the impertinence in her own fashion._]
What would make you marry me? Don't say: Nothing on earth.

TREBELL. [_Speaking apparently of someone else._] A prolonged fit of
idleness might make me marry . . a clever woman. But I've never been
idle for more than a week. And I've never met a clever woman . . worth
calling a woman.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Bringing their talk back to herself, and
fastidiously._] Justin has all the natural instincts.

TREBELL. He's Roman Catholic, isn't he?

AMY O'CONNELL. So am I . . by profession.

TREBELL. It's a poor religion unless you really believe in it.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Appealing to him._] If I were to live at Linaskea and
have as many children as God sent, I should manage to make Justin pretty
miserable! And what would be left of me at all I should like to know?

TREBELL. So Justin lives at Linaskea alone?

AMY O'CONNELL. I'm told now there's a pretty housemaid . . [_she

TREBELL. Does he drink too?

AMY O'CONNELL. Oh, no. You'd like Justin, I daresay. He's clever. The
thirteenth century's what he knows about. He has done a book on its
statutes . . has been doing another.

TREBELL. And after an evening's hard work I find you here ready to flirt

AMY O'CONNELL. What have you been working at?

TREBELL. A twentieth century statute perhaps. That's not any concern of
yours either.

_She does not follow his thought._

AMY O'CONNELL. No, I prefer you in your unprofessional moments.

TREBELL. Real flattery. I didn't know I had any.

AMY O'CONNELL. That's why you should flirt with me . . Henry . . to
cultivate them. I'm afraid you lack imagination.

TREBELL. One must choose something to lack in this life.

AMY O'CONNELL. Not develop your nature to its utmost capacity.

TREBELL. And then?

AMY O'CONNELL. Well, if that's not an end in itself . . [_With a touch
of romantic piety._] I suppose there's the hereafter.

TREBELL. [_Grimly material._] What, more developing! I watch people
wasting time on themselves with amazement . . I refuse to look forward
to wasting eternity.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Shaking her head._] You are very self-satisfied.

TREBELL. Not more so than any machine that runs smoothly. And I hope not

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Rather attractively treating him as a child._] It would
do you good to fall really desperately in love with me . . to give me
the power to make you unhappy.

_He suddenly becomes very definite._

TREBELL. At twenty-three I engaged myself to be married to a charming
and virtuous fool. I broke it off.

AMY O'CONNELL. Did she mind much?

TREBELL. We both minded. But I had ideals of womanhood that I wouldn't
sacrifice to any human being. Then I fell in with a woman who seduced
me, and for a whole year led me the life of a French novel . . played
about with my emotion as I had tortured that other poor girl's brains.
Education you'd call it in the one case as I called it in the other.
What a waste of time!

AMY O'CONNELL. And what has become of your ideal?

TREBELL. [_Relapsing to his former mood._] It's no longer a personal

AMY O'CONNELL. [_With coquetry._] You're not interested in my character?

TREBELL. Oh, yes, I am . . up to kissing point.

_She does not shrink, but speaks with just a shade of contempt._

AMY O'CONNELL. You get that far more easily than a woman. That's one of
my grudges against men. Why can't women take love-affairs so lightly?

TREBELL. There are reasons. But make a good beginning with this one.
Kiss me at once.

_He leans towards her. She considers him quite calmly._


TREBELL. When will you, then?

AMY O'CONNELL. When I can't help myself . . if that time ever comes.

TREBELL. [_Accepting the postponement in a business-like spirit._] Well
. . I'm an impatient man.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Confessing engagingly._] I made up my mind to bring you
within arms' length of me when we'd met at Lady Percival's. Do you
remember? [_His face shows no sign of it._] It was the day after your
speech on the Budget.

TREBELL. Then I remember. But I haven't observed the process.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Subtly._] Your sister grew to like me very soon. That's
all the cunning there has been.

TREBELL. The rest is just mutual attraction?

AMY O'CONNELL. And opportunities.

TREBELL. Such as this.

_At the drop of their voices they become conscious of the silent house._

AMY O'CONNELL. Do you really think everyone has gone to bed?

TREBELL. [_Disregardful._] And what is it makes my pressing attentions
endurable . . if one may ask?

AMY O'CONNELL. Some spiritual need or other, I suppose, which makes me
risk unhappiness . . in fact, welcome it.

TREBELL. [_With great briskness._] Your present need is a good shaking . .
I seriously mean that. You get to attach importance to these shades of
emotion. A slight physical shock would settle them all. That's why I
asked you to kiss me just now.

AMY O'CONNELL. You haven't very nice ideas, have you?

TREBELL. There are three facts in life that call up emotion . . Birth,
Death, and the Desire for Children. The niceties are shams.

AMY O'CONNELL. Then why do you want to kiss me?

TREBELL. I don't . . seriously. But I shall in a minute just to finish
the argument. Too much diplomacy always ends in a fight.

AMY O'CONNELL. And if I don't fight . . it'd be no fun for you, I

TREBELL. You would get that much good out of me. For it's my point of
honour . . to leave nothing I touch as I find it.

_He is very close to her._

AMY O'CONNELL. You're frightening me a little . .

TREBELL. Come and look at the stars again. Come along.

AMY O'CONNELL. Give me my wrap . . [_He takes it up, but holds it._]
Well, put it on me. [_He puts it round her, but does not withdraw his
arms._] Be careful, the stars are looking at you.

TREBELL. No, they can't see so far as we can. That's the proper creed.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Softly, almost shyly._] Henry.

TREBELL. [_Bending closer to her._] Yes, pretty thing.

AMY O'CONNELL. Is this what you call being in love?

_He looks up and listens._

TREBELL. Here's somebody coming.


TREBELL. What does it matter?

AMY O'CONNELL. I'm untidy or something . .

_She slips out, for they are close to the window. The_ FOOTMAN _enters,
stops suddenly_.

THE FOOTMAN. I beg your pardon, sir. I thought everyone had gone.

TREBELL. I've just been for a walk. I'll lock up if you like.

THE FOOTMAN. I can easily wait up, sir.

TREBELL. [_At the window._] I wouldn't. What do you do . . just slide
the bolt?

THE FOOTMAN. That's all, sir.

TREBELL. I see. Good-night.

THE FOOTMAN. Good-night, sir.

_He goes._ TREBELL'S _demeanour suddenly changes, becomes alert, with
the alertness of a man doing something in secret. He leans out of the
window and whispers._


_There is no answer, so he gently steps out. For a moment the room is
empty and there is silence. Then_ AMY _has flown from him into the
safety of lights. She is flushed, trembling, but rather ecstatic, and
her voice has lost all affectation now._

AMY O'CONNELL. Oh . . oh . . you shouldn't have kissed me like that!

TREBELL _stands in the window-way; a light in his eyes, and speaks low
but commandingly_.

TREBELL. Come here.

_Instinctively she moves towards him. They speak in whispers._

AMY O'CONNELL. He was locking up.

TREBELL. I've sent him to bed.

AMY O'CONNELL. He won't go.

TREBELL. Never mind him.

AMY O'CONNELL. We're standing full in the light . . anyone could see us.

TREBELL. [_With fierce egotism._] Think of me . . not of anyone else.
[_He draws her from the window; then does not let her go._] May I kiss
you again?

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Her eyes closed._] Yes.

_He kisses her. She stiffens in his arms; then laughs almost joyously,
and is commonplace._

AMY O'CONNELL. Well . . let me get my breath.

TREBELL. [_Letting her stand free._] Now . . go along.

_Obediently she turns to the door, but sinks on the nearest chair._

AMY O'CONNELL. In a minute, I'm a little faint. [_He goes to her
quickly._] No, it's nothing.

TREBELL. Come into the air again. [_Then half seriously._] I'll race you
across the lawn.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Still breathless and a little hysterical._] Thank you!

TREBELL. Shall I carry you?

AMY O'CONNELL. Don't be silly. [_She recovers her self-possession, gets
up and goes to the window, then looks back at him and says very
beautifully._] But the night's beautiful, isn't it?

_He has her in his arms again, more firmly this time._

TREBELL. Make it so.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Struggling . . with herself._] Oh, why do you rouse me
like this?

TREBELL. Because I want you.

AMY O'CONNELL. Want me to . . ?

TREBELL. Want you to . . kiss me just once.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Yielding._] If I do . . don't let me go mad, will you?

TREBELL. Perhaps. [_He bends over her, her head drops back._] Now.


_She kisses him on the mouth. Then he would release her, but suddenly
she clings again._

Oh . . don't let me go.

TREBELL. [_With fierce pride of possession._] Not yet.

_She is fragile beside him. He lifts her in his arms and carries her out
into the darkness._

                              THE SECOND ACT

TREBELL'S house in Queen Anne Street, London. Eleven o'clock on an
October morning.

TREBELL'S _working room is remarkable chiefly for the love of sunlight
it evidences in its owner. The walls are white; the window which faces
you is bare of all but the necessary curtains. Indeed, lack of draperies
testifies also to his horror of dust. There faces you besides a double
door; when it is opened another door is seen. When that is opened you
discover a writing table, and beyond can discern a book-case filled with
heavy volumes--law reports perhaps. The little room beyond is, so to
speak, an under-study. Between the two rooms a window, again barely
curtained, throws light down the staircase. But in the big room, while
the books are many the choice of them is catholic; and the book-cases
are low, running along the wall. There is an armchair before the bright
fire, which is on your right. There is a sofa. And in the middle of the
room is an enormous double writing table piled tidily with much
appropriate impedimenta, blue books and pamphlets and with an especial
heap of unopened letters and parcels. At the table sits_ TREBELL
_himself, in good health and spirits, but eyeing askance the work to
which he has evidently just returned. His sister looks in on him. She is
dressed to go out and has a housekeeping air._

FRANCES. Are you busy, Henry?

TREBELL. More or less. Come in.

FRANCES. You'll dine at home?

TREBELL. Anyone coming?

FRANCES. Julia Farrant and Lucy have run up to town, I think. I thought
of going round and asking them to come in . . but perhaps your young man
will be going there. Amy O'Connell said something vague about our going
to Charles Street . . but she may be out of town by now.

TREBELL. Well . . I'll be in anyhow.

FRANCES. [_Going to the window as she buttons her gloves._] Were you on
deck early this morning? It must have been lovely.

TREBELL. No, I turned in before we got out of le Havre. I left Kent on
deck and found him there at six.

FRANCES. I don't think autumn means to come at all this year . . it'll
be winter one morning. September has been like a hive of bees, busy and
drowsy. By the way, Cousin Mary has another baby . . a girl.

TREBELL. [_Indifferent to the information._] That's the fourth.

FRANCES. Fifth. They asked me down for the christening . . but I really

TREBELL. September's the month for Tuscany. The car chose to break down
one morning just as we were starting North again: so we climbed one of
the little hills and sat for a couple of hours, while I composed a
fifteenth century electioneering speech to the citizens of Siena.

FRANCES. [_With a half smile._] Have you a vein of romance for holiday

TREBELL. [_Dispersing the suggestion._] Not at all romantic . . nothing
but figures and fiscal questions. That was the hardest commercial
civilisation there has been, though you only think of its art and its
murders now.

FRANCES. The papers on both sides have been very full of you . . saying
you hold the moral balance . . or denying it.

TREBELL. An interviewer caught me at Basle. I offered to discuss the
state of the Swiss navy.

FRANCES. Was that before Lord Horsham wrote to you?

TREBELL. Yes, his letter came to Innsbruck. He "expressed" it somehow.
Why . . it isn't known that he will definitely ask me to join?

FRANCES. The Whitehall had a leader before the Elections were well over
to say that he must . . but, of course, that was Mr. Farrant.

TREBELL. [_Knowingly._] Mrs. Farrant. I saw it in Paris . . it just
caught me up.

FRANCES. The Times is very shy over the whole question . . has a letter
from a fresh bishop every day . . doesn't talk of you very kindly yet.

TREBELL. Tampering with the Establishment, even Cantelupe's way, will be
a pill to the real old Tory right to the bitter end.

WALTER KENT _comes in, very fresh and happy-looking. A young man started
in life_, TREBELL _hails him_.

TREBELL. Hullo . . you've not been long getting shaved.

KENT. How do you do, Miss Trebell? Lucy turned me out.

FRANCES. My congratulations. I've not seen you since I heard the news.

KENT. [_Glad and unembarrassed._] Thank you. I do deserve them, don't I?
Mrs. Farrant didn't come down . . she left us to breakfast together. But
I've a message for you . . her love and she is in town. I went and saw
Lord Charles, sir. He will come to you and be here at half past eleven.

TREBELL. Look at these.

_He smacks on the back, so to speak, the pile of parcels and letters._

KENT. Oh, lord! . . I'd better start on them.

FRANCES. [_Continuing in her smooth oldmaidish manner._] Thank you for
getting engaged just before you went off with Henry . . it has given me
my only news of him, through Lucy and your postcards.

TREBELL. Oh, what about Wedgecroft?

KENT. I think it was he spun up just as I'd been let in.

TREBELL. Oh, well . . [_And he rings at the telephone which is on his

KENT. [_Confiding in MISS TREBELL._] We're a common sense couple, aren't
we? I offered to ask to stay behind but she . . .

SIMPSON, _the maid, comes in_.

SIMPSON. Dr. Wedgecroft, sir.

WEDGECROFT _is on her heels. If you have an eye for essentials you may
tell at once that he is a doctor, but if you only notice externals you
will take him for anything else. He is over forty and in perfect health
of body and spirit. His enthusiasms are his vitality and he has too many
of them ever to lose one. He squeezes_ MISS TREBELL'S _hand with an air
of fearless affection which is another of his characteristics and not
the least loveable_.

WEDGECROFT. How are you?

FRANCES. I'm very well, thanks.

WEDGECROFT. [_To_ TREBELL, _as they shake hands_.] You're looking fit.

TREBELL. [_With tremendous emphasis._] I am!

WEDGECROFT. You've got the motor eye though.

TREBELL. Full of dust?

WEDGECROFT. Look at Kent's. [_He takes_ WALTER'S _arm_.] It's a slight
but serious contraction of the pupil . . which I charge fifty guineas to

FRANCES. It's the eye of faith in you and your homeopathic doses. Don't
you interfere with it.

FRANCES TREBELL, _housekeeper, goes out_. KENT _has seized on the
letters and is carrying them to his room_.

KENT. This looks like popularity and the great heart of the people,
doesn't it?

WEDGECROFT. Trebell, you're not ill, and I've work to do.

TREBELL. I want ten minutes. Keep anybody out, Kent.

KENT. I'll switch that speaking tube arrangement to my room.

TREBELL, _overflowing with vitality, starts to pace the floor_.

TREBELL. I've seen the last of Pump Court, Gilbert.

WEDGECROFT. The Bar ought to give you a testimonial . . to the man who
not only could retire on twenty years' briefs, but =has=.

TREBELL. Fifteen. But I bled the City sharks with a good conscience . .
quite freely.

WEDGECROFT. [_With a pretence at grumbling._] I wish I could retire.

TREBELL. No you don't. Doctoring's a priestcraft . . you've taken vows.

WEDGECROFT. Then why don't you establish =our= church instead of . .

TREBELL. Yes, my friend . . but you're a heretic. I'd have to give the
Medical Council power to burn you at the stake.

KENT. [_With the book packages._] Parcel from the S. P. C. K., sir.

TREBELL. I know . . Disestablishment a crime against God; sermon
preached by the Vicar of something Parva in eighteen seventy three. I
hope you're aware it's your duty to read all those.

KENT. Suppose they convert me? Lucy wanted to know if she could see you.

TREBELL. [_His eyebrows up._] Yes, I'll call at Mrs. Farrant's. Oh,
wait. Aren't they coming to dinner?

KENT. To-night? No, I think they go back to Shapters by the five
o'clock. I told her she might come round about twelve on the chance.

TREBELL. Yes . . if Cantelupe's punctual . . I'd sooner not have too
long with him.

KENT. All right, then.

_He goes, shutting the door; then you hear the door of his room shut
too. The two friends face each other, glad of a talk._


WEDGECROFT. Well . . you'll never do it.

TREBELL. Yes, I shall.

WEDGECROFT. You can't carry any bill to be a credit to you with the
coming Tory cabinet on your back. You know the Government is cursing you
with its dying breath.

TREBELL. [_Rubbing his hands._] Of course. They've been beaten out of
the House and in now. I suppose they will meet Parliament.

WEDGECROFT. They must, I think. It's over a month since--

TREBELL. [_His thoughts running quickly._] There'll only be a nominal
majority of sixteen against them. The Labour lot are committed on their
side . . and now that the Irish have gone--

WEDGECROFT. But they'll be beaten on the Address first go.

TREBELL. Yes . . Horsham hasn't any doubt of it.

WEDGECROFT. He'll be in office within a week of the King's speech.

TREBELL. [_With another access of energy._] I'll pull the bill that's in
my head through a Horsham cabinet and the House. Then I'll leave them . .
they'll go to the country--

WEDGECROFT. You know Percival's pledge about that at Bristol wasn't very

TREBELL. Horsham means to.

WEDGECROFT. [_With friendly contempt._] Oh, Horsham!

TREBELL. Anyway, it's about Percival I want you. How ill is he?


TREBELL. Is he going to die?

WEDGECROFT. Well, I'm attending him.

TREBELL. [_Pinked._] Yes . . that's a good answer. How does he stomach
me in prospect as a colleague, so far?

WEDGECROFT. Sir, professional etiquette forbids me to disclose what a
patient may confess in the sweat of his agony.

TREBELL. He'll be Chancellor again and lead the House.

WEDGECROFT. Why not? He only grumbles that he's getting old.

TREBELL. [_Thinking busily again._] The difficulty is I shall have to
stay through one budget with them. He'll have a surplus . . well, it
looks like it . . and my only way of agreeing with him will be to collar

WEDGECROFT. But . . good heavens! . . you'll have a hundred million or
so to give away when you've disendowed.

TREBELL. Not to give away. I'll sell every penny.

WEDGECROFT. [_With an incredulous grin._] You're not going back to
extending old-age pensions after turning the unfortunate Liberals out on
it, are you?

TREBELL. No, no . . none of your half crown measures. They can wait to
round off their solution of that till they've the courage to make one
big bite of it.

WEDGECROFT. We shan't see the day.

TREBELL. [_Lifting the subject off its feet._] Not if I come out of the
cabinet and preach revolution?

WEDGECROFT. Or will they make a Tory of you?

TREBELL. [_Acknowledging that stroke with a return grin._] It'll be said
they have when the bill is out.

WEDGECROFT. It's said so already.

TREBELL. Who knows a radical bill when he sees it!

WEDGECROFT. I'm not pleased you have to be running a tilt against the
party system. [_He becomes a little dubious._] My friend . . it's a
nasty windmill. Oh, you've not seen that article in the Nation on
Politics and Society . . it's written at Mrs. Farrant and Lady
Lurgashall and that set. They hint that the Tories would never have had
you if it hadn't been for this bad habit of opposite party men meeting
each other.

TREBELL. [_Unimpressed._] Excellent habit! What we really want in this
country is a coalition of all the shibboleths with the rest of us in
opposition . . for five years only.

WEDGECROFT. [_Smiling generously._] Well, it's a sensation to see you
become arbiter. The Tories are owning they can't do without you.
Percival likes you personally . . Townsend don't matter . . Cantelupe
you buy with a price, I suppose . . Farrant you can put in your pocket.
I tell you I think the man you may run up against is Blackborough.

TREBELL. No, all he wants is to be let look big . . and to have an idea
given him when he's going to make a speech, which isn't often.

WEDGECROFT. Otherwise . . I suppose . . now I may go down to history as
having been in your confidence. I'm very glad you've arrived.

TREBELL. [_With great seriousness._] I've sharpened myself as a weapon
to this purpose.

WEDGECROFT. [_Kindly._] And you're sure of yourself, aren't you?

TREBELL. [_Turning his wrist._] Try.

WEDGECROFT. [_Slipping his doctor's fingers over the pulse._]
Seventy, I should say.

TREBELL. I promise you it hasn't varied a beat these three big months.

WEDGECROFT. Well, I wish it had. Perfect balance is most easily lost.
How do you know you've the power of recovery? . . and it's that gets
one up in the morning day by day.

TREBELL. Is it? My brain works steadily on . . hasn't failed me yet. I
keep it well fed. [_He breathes deeply._] But I'm not sure one shouldn't
have been away from England for five years instead of five weeks . . to
come back to a job like this with a fresh mind. D'you know why really I
went back on the Liberals over this question? Not because they wanted
the church money for their pensions . . but because all they can see in
Disestablishment is destruction. Any fool can destroy! I'm not going to
let a power like the Church get loose from the State. A thirteen hundred
years' tradition of service . . and all they can think of is to cut it

WEDGECROFT. I think the Church is moribund.

TREBELL. Oh, yes, of course you do . . you sentimental agnostic
anarchist. Nonsense! The supernatural's a bit blown upon . . till we
re-discover what it means. But it's not essential. Nor is the Christian
doctrine. Put a Jesuit in a corner and shut the door and he'll own that.
No . . the tradition of self-sacrifice and fellowship in service for its
own sake . . that's the spirit we've to capture and keep.

WEDGECROFT. [_Really struck._] A secular Church!

TREBELL. [_With reasoning in his tone._] Well . . why not? Listen here.
In drafting an act of Parliament one must alternately imagine oneself
God Almighty and the most ignorant prejudiced little blighter who will
be affected by what's passed. God says: Let's have done with Heaven and
Hell . . it's the Earth that shan't pass away. Why not turn all those
theology mongers into doctors or schoolmasters?

WEDGECROFT. As to doctors--

TREBELL. Quite so, you naturally prejudiced blighter. That priestcraft
don't need re-inforcing.

WEDGECROFT. It needs recognition.

TREBELL. What! It's the only thing most people believe in. Talk about
superstition! However, there's more life in you. Therefore it's to be


TREBELL. Listen again, young man. In the youth of the world, when
priests were the teachers of men . . .

WEDGECROFT. [_Not to be preached at._] And physicians of men.

TREBELL. Shut up.

WEDGECROFT. If there's any real reform going, I want my profession made
into a state department. I won't shut up for less.

TREBELL. [_Putting this aside with one finger._] I'll deal with you
later. There's still Youth in the world in another sense; but the
priests haven't found out the difference yet, so they're wasting most of
their time.

WEDGECROFT. Religious education won't do now-a-days.

TREBELL. What's Now-a-days? You're very dull, Gilbert.

WEDGECROFT. I'm not duller than the people who will have to understand
your scheme.

TREBELL. They won't understand it. I shan't explain to them that
education is religion, and that those who deal in it are priests without
any laying on of hands.

WEDGECROFT. No matter what they teach?

TREBELL. No . . the matter is how they teach it. I see schools in the
future, Gilbert, not built next to the church, but on the site of the

WEDGECROFT. Do you think the world is grown up enough to do without

TREBELL. Yes, I do.

WEDGECROFT. What! . . and am I to write my prescriptions in English?

TREBELL. Yes, you are.

WEDGECROFT. Lord save us! I never thought to find you a visionary.

TREBELL. Isn't it absurd to think that in a hundred years we shall be
giving our best brains and the price of them not to training grown men
into the discipline of destruction . . not even to curing the ills which
we might be preventing . . but to teaching our children. There's nothing
else to be done . . nothing else matters. But it's work for a

WEDGECROFT. [_Affected; not quite convinced._] Do you think you can buy
a tradition and transmute it?

TREBELL. Don't mock at money.

WEDGECROFT. I never have.

TREBELL. But you speak of it as an end not as a means. That's unfair.

WEDGECROFT. I speaks as I finds.

TREBELL. I'll buy the Church, not with money, but with the promise of
new life. [_A certain rather gleeful cunning comes over him._] It'll
only look like a dose of reaction at first . . Sectarian Training
Colleges endowed to the hilt.

WEDGECROFT. What'll the Nonconformists say?

TREBELL. Bribe them with the means of equal efficiency. The crux of the
whole matter will be in the statutes I'll force on those colleges.

WEDGECROFT. They'll want dogma.

TREBELL. Dogma's not a bad thing if you've power to adapt it

WEDGECROFT. Instead of spending your brains in explaining it. Yes, I

TREBELL. [_With full voice._] But in the creed I'll lay down as
unalterable there shall be neither Jew nor Greek . . What do you think
of St. Paul, Gilbert?

WEDGECROFT. I'd make him the head of a college.

TREBELL. I'll make the Devil himself head of a college, if he'll
undertake to teach honestly all he knows.

WEDGECROFT. And he'll conjure up Comte and Robespierre for you to assist
in this little _rechauffée_ of their schemes.

TREBELL. Hullo! Comte I knew about. Have I stolen from Robespierre too?

WEDGECROFT. [_Giving out the epigram with an air._] Property to him who
can make the best use of it.

TREBELL. And then what we must do is to give the children power over
their teachers?

_Now he is comically enigmatic._ WEDGECROFT _echoes him_.

WEDGECROFT. And what exactly do you mean by that?

TREBELL. [_Serious again._] How positive a pedagogue would you be if you
had to prove your cases and justify your creed every century or so to
the pupils who had learnt just a little more than you could teach them?
Give power to the future, my friend . . not to the past. Give
responsibility . . even if you give it for your own discredit. What's
beneath trust deeds and last wills and testaments, and even acts of
Parliament and official creeds? Fear of the verdict of the next
generation . . fear of looking foolish in their eyes. Ah, we . . doing
our best now . . must be ready for every sort of death. And to provide
the means of change and disregard of the past is a secret of
statesmanship. Presume that the world will come to an end every thirty
years if it's not reconstructed. Therefore give responsibility . . give
responsibility . . give the children power.

WEDGECROFT. [_Disposed to whistle._] Those statutes will want some

TREBELL. [_Relapsing to a chuckle._] There's an incidental change to
foresee. Disappearance of the parson into the schoolmaster . . and the
Archdeacon into the Inspector . . and the Bishop into--I rather hope
he'll stick to his mitre, Gilbert.

WEDGECROFT. Some Ruskin will arise and make him.

TREBELL. [_As he paces the room and the walls of it fade away to him._]
What a church could be made of the best brains in England, sworn only to
learn all they could teach what they knew without fear of the future or
favour to the past . . sworn upon their honour as seekers after truth,
knowingly to tell no child a lie. It will come.

WEDGECROFT. A priesthood of women too? There's the tradition of service
with them.

TREBELL. [_With the sourest look yet on his face._] Slavery . . not
quite the same thing. And the paradox of such slavery is that they're
your only tyrants.

[_At this moment the bell of the telephone upon the table rings. He goes
to it talking the while._]

One has to be very optimistic not to advocate the harem. That's simple
and wholesome . . Yes?

KENT _comes in_.

KENT. Does it work?

TREBELL. [_Slamming down the receiver._] You and your new toy! What is

KENT. I'm not sure about the plugs of it . . I thought I'd got them
wrong. Mrs. O'Connell has come to see Miss Trebell, who is out, and she
says will we ask you if any message has been left for her.

TREBELL. No. Oh, about dinner? Well, she's round at Mrs. Farrant's.

KENT. I'll ring them up.

_He goes back into his room to do so leaving_ TREBELL'S _door open. The
two continue their talk._

TREBELL. My difficulties will be with Percival.

WEDGECROFT. Not over the Church.

TREBELL. You see I must discover how keen he'd be on settling the
Education quarrel, once and for all . . what there is left of it.

WEDGECROFT. He's not sectarian.

TREBELL. It'll cost him his surplus. When'll he be up and about?

WEDGECROFT. Not for a week or more.

TREBELL. [_Knitting his brow._] And I've to deal with Cantelupe. Curious
beggar, Gilbert.

WEDGECROFT. Not my sort. He'll want some dealing with over your bill as
introduced to me.

TREBELL. I've not cross-examined company promoters for ten years without
learning how to do business with a professional high churchman.

WEDGECROFT. Providence limited . . eh?

_They are interrupted by_ MRS. O'CONNELL'S _appearance in the doorway.
She is rather pale, very calm; but there is pain in her eyes and her
voice is unnaturally steady._

AMY. Your maid told me to come up and I'm interrupting business . . I
thought she was wrong.

TREBELL. [_With no trace of self-consciousness._] Well . . how are you,
after this long time?

AMY. How do you do? [_Then she sees_ WEDGECROFT _and has to control a
shrinking from him_.] Oh!

WEDGECROFT. How are you, Mrs. O'Connell?

TREBELL. Kent is telephoning to Frances. He knows where she is.

AMY. How are you, Dr. Wedgecroft? [_then to_ TREBELL.] Did you have a
good holiday? London pulls one to pieces wretchedly. I shall give up
living here at all.

WEDGECROFT. You look very well.

AMY. Do I!

TREBELL. A very good holiday. Sit down . . he won't be a minute.

_She sits on the nearest chair._

AMY. You're not ill . . interviewing a doctor?

TREBELL. The one thing Wedgecroft's no good at is doctoring. He keeps me
well by sheer moral suasion.

KENT _comes out of his room and is off downstairs_.

TREBELL _calls to him_.

TREBELL. Mrs. O'Connell's here.

KENT. Oh! [_He comes back and into the room._] Miss Trebell hasn't got
there yet.

WEDGECROFT _has suddenly looked at his watch_.

WEDGECROFT. I must fly. Good bye, Mrs. O'Connell.

AMY. [_Putting her hand, constrained by its glove, into his open hand._]
I am always a little afraid of you.

WEDGECROFT. That isn't the feeling a doctor wants to inspire.

KENT. [_To_ TREBELL.] David Evans--


KENT. The reverend one . . is downstairs and wants to see you.

WEDGECROFT. [_As he comes to them._] Hampstead Road Tabernacle . . Oh,
the mammon of righteousness!

TREBELL. Shut up! How long have I before Lord Charles--?

KENT. Only ten minutes.

MRS. O'CONNELL _goes to sit at the big table, and apparently idly takes
a sheet of paper to scribble on_.

TREBELL. [_Half thinking, half questioning._] He's a man I can say
nothing to politely.

WEDGECROFT. I'm off to Percival's now. Then I've another case and I'm
due back at twelve. If there's anything helpful to say I'll look in
again for two minutes . . not more.

TREBELL. You're a good man.

WEDGECROFT. [_As he goes._] Congratulations, Kent.

KENT. [_Taking him to the stairs._] Thank you very much.

AMY. [_Beckoning with her eyes._] What's this, Mr. Trebell?

TREBELL. Eh? I beg your pardon.

_He goes behind her and reads over her shoulder what she has written._
KENT _comes back_.

KENT. Shall I bring him up here?

TREBELL _looks up and for a moment stares at his secretary rather
sharply, then speaks in a matter-of-fact voice_.

TREBELL. See him yourself, downstairs. Talk to him for five minutes . .
find out what he wants. Tell him it will be as well for the next week or
two if he can say he hasn't seen me.

KENT. Yes.

_He goes._ TREBELL _follows him to the door which he shuts. Then he
turns to face_ AMY, _who is tearing up the paper she wrote on_.

TREBELL. What is it?

AMY. [_Her steady voice breaking, her carefully calculated control
giving way._] Oh Henry . . Henry!

TREBELL. Are you in trouble?

AMY. You'll hate me, but . . oh, it's brutal of you to have been away so

TREBELL. Is it with your husband?

AMY. Perhaps. Oh, come nearer to me . . do.

TREBELL. [_Coming nearer without haste or excitement._] Well? [_Her eyes
are closed._] My dear girl, I'm too busy for love-making now. If there
are any facts to be faced, let me have them . . quite quickly.

_She looks up at him for a moment; then speaks swiftly and sharply as
one speaks of disaster._

AMY. There's a danger of my having a child . . your child . . some time
in April. That's all.

TREBELL. [_A sceptic who has seen a vision._] Oh . . it's impossible.

AMY. [_Flashing at him, revengefully._] Why?

TREBELL. [_Brought to his mundane self._] Well . . are you sure?

AMY. [_In sudden agony._] D'you think I want it to be true? D'you think
I--? You don't know what it is to have a thing happening in spite of

TREBELL. [_His face set in thought._] Where have you been since we met?

AMY. Not to Ireland . . I haven't seen Justin for a year.

TREBELL. All the easier for you not to see him for another year.

AMY. That wasn't what you meant.

TREBELL. It wasn't . . but never mind.

_They are silent for a moment . . miles apart. . Then she speaks dully._

AMY. We do hate each other . . don't we!

TREBELL. Nonsense. Let's think of what matters.

AMY. [_Aimlessly._] I went to a man at Dover . . picked him out of the
directory . . didn't give my own name . . pretended I was off abroad. He
was a kind old thing . . said it was all most satisfactory. Oh, my God!

TREBELL. [_He goes to bend over her kindly._] Yes, you've had a
torturing month or two. That's been wrong, I'm sorry.

AMY. Even now I have to keep telling myself that it's so . . otherwise I
couldn't understand it. Any more than one really believes one will ever
die . . one doesn't believe that, you know.

TREBELL. [_On the edge of a sensation that is new to him._] I am told
that a man begins to feel unimportant from this moment forward. Perhaps
it's true.

AMY. What has it to do with you anyhow? We don't belong to each other.
How long were we together that night? Half an hour! You didn't seem to
care a bit until after you'd kissed me and . . this is an absurd

TREBELL. Nature's a tyrant.

AMY. Oh, it's my punishment . . I see that well enough . . for thinking
myself so clever . . forgetting my duty and religion . . not going to
confession, I mean. [_Then hysterically._] God can make you believe in
Him when he likes, can't he?

TREBELL. [_With comfortable strength._] My dear girl, this needs your
pluck. [_And he sits by her._] All we have to do is to prevent it being
found out.

AMY. Yes . . the scandal would smash you, wouldn't it?

TREBELL. There isn't going to be any scandal.

AMY. No . . if we're careful. You'll tell me what to do, won't you? Oh,
it's a relief to be able to talk about it.

TREBELL. For one thing, you must take care of yourself and stop

_It soothes her to feel that he is concerned; but it is not enough to be

AMY. Yes, I wouldn't like to have been the means of smashing you, Henry
. . especially as you don't care for me.

TREBELL. I intend to care for you.

AMY. Love me, I mean. I wish you did . . a little; then perhaps I
shouldn't feel so degraded.

TREBELL. [_A shade impatiently, a shade contemptuously._] I can say I
love you if that'll make things easier.

AMY. [_More helpless than ever._] If you'd said it at first I should be
taking it for granted . . though it wouldn't be any more true, I
daresay, than now . . when I should know you weren't telling the truth.

TREBELL. Then I'd do without so much confusion.

AMY. Don't be so heartless.

TREBELL. [_As he leaves her._] We seem to be attaching importance to
such different things.

AMY. [_Shrill even at a momentary desertion._] What do you mean? I want
affection now just as I want food. I can't do without it . . I can't
reason things out as you can. D'you think I haven't tried? [_Then in
sudden rebellion._] Oh, the physical curse of being a woman . . no
better than any savage in this condition . . worse off than an animal.
It's unfair.

TREBELL. Never mind . . you're here now to hand me half the
responsibility, aren't you?

AMY. As if I could! If I have to lie through the night simply shaking
with bodily fear much longer . . I believe I shall go mad.

_This aspect of the matter is meaningless to him. He returns to the
practical issue._

TREBELL. There's nobody that need be suspecting, is there?

AMY. My maid sees I'm ill and worried and makes remarks . . only to me
so far. Don't I look a wreck? I nearly ran away when I saw Dr.
Wedgecroft . . some of these men are so clever.

TREBELL. [_Calculating._] Someone will have to be trusted.

AMY. [_Burrowing into her little tortured self again._] And I ought to
feel as if I had done Justin a great wrong . . but I don't. I hate you
now; now and then. I was being myself. You've brought me down. I feel

_The last word strikes him. He stares at her._

TREBELL. Do you?

AMY. [_Pleadingly._] There's only one thing I'd like you to tell me,
Henry . . it isn't much. That night we were together . . it was for a
moment different to everything that has ever been in your life before,
wasn't it?

TREBELL. [_Collecting himself as if to explain to a child._] I must make
you understand . . I must get you to realise that for a little time to
come you're above the law . . above even the shortcomings and
contradictions of a man's affection.

AMY. But let us have one beautiful memory to share.

TREBELL. [_Determined she shall face the cold logic of her position._]
Listen. I look back on that night as one looks back on a fit of

AMY. [_Neither understanding nor wishing to; only shocked and hurt._]
You beast.

TREBELL. [_With bitter sarcasm._] No, don't say that. Won't it comfort
you to think of drunkenness as a beautiful thing? There are precedents
enough . . classic ones.

AMY. You mean I might have been any other woman.

TREBELL. [_Quite inexorable._] Wouldn't any other woman have served the
purpose . . and is it less of a purpose because we didn't know we had
it? Does my unworthiness then . . if you like to call it so . . make you
unworthy now? I must make you see that it doesn't.

AMY. [_Petulantly hammering at her idée fixe._] But you didn't love me . .
and you don't love me.

TREBELL. [_Keeping his patience._] No . . only within the last five
minutes have I really taken the smallest interest in you. And now I
believe I'm half jealous. Can you understand that? You've been talking a
lot of nonsense about your emotions and your immortal soul. Don't you
see it's only now that you've become a person of some importance to the
world . . and why?

AMY. [_Losing her patience, childishly._] What do you mean by the World?
You don't seem to have any personal feelings at all. It's horrible you
should have thought of me like that. There has been no other man than
you that I would have let come anywhere near me . . not for more than a

_He realises that she will never understand._

TREBELL. My dear girl, I'm sorry to be brutal. Does it matter so much to
you that I should have =wished= to be the father of your child?

AMY. [_Ungracious but pacified by his change of tone._] It doesn't
matter now.

TREBELL. [_Friendly still._] On principle I don't make promises. But I
think I can promise you that if you keep your head and will keep your
health, this shall all be made as easy for you as if everyone could
know. And let's think what the child may mean to you . . just the fact
of his birth. Nothing to me, of course! Perhaps that accounts for the
touch of jealousy. I've forfeited my rights because I hadn't honourable
intentions. You can't forfeit yours. Even if you never see him and he
has to grow up among strangers . . just to have had a child must make a
difference to you. Of course, it may be a girl. I wonder.

_As he wanders on so optimistically she stares at him and her face
changes. She realises . ._

AMY. Do you expect me to go through with this? Henry! . . I'd sooner
kill myself.

_There is silence between them. He looks at her as one looks at some
unnatural thing. Then after a moment he speaks, very coldly._

TREBELL. Oh . . indeed. Don't get foolish ideas into your head. You've
no choice now . . no reasonable choice.

AMY. [_Driven to bay; her last friend an enemy._] I won't go through
with it.

TREBELL. It hasn't been so much the fear of scandal then--

AMY. That wouldn't break my heart. You'd marry me, wouldn't you? We
could go away somewhere. I could be very fond of you, Henry.

TREBELL. [_Marvelling at these tangents._] Marry you! I should murder
you in a week.

_This sounds only brutal to her; she lets herself be shamed._

AMY. You've no more use for me than the use you've made of me.

TREBELL. [_Logical again._] Won't you realise that there's a third party
to our discussion . . that I'm of no importance beside him and you of
very little. Think of the child.

AMY _blazes into desperate rebellion_.

AMY. There's no child because I haven't chosen there shall be and there
shan't be because I don't choose. You'd have me first your plaything and
then Nature's, would you?

TREBELL. [_A little abashed._] Come now, you knew what you were about.

AMY. [_Thinking of those moments._] Did I? I found myself wanting you,
belonging to you suddenly. I didn't stop to think and explain. But are
we never to be happy and irresponsible . . never for a moment?

TREBELL. Well . . one can't pick and choose consequences.

AMY. Your choices in life have made you what you want to be, haven't
they? Leave me mine.

TREBELL. But it's too late to argue like that.

AMY. If it is, I'd better jump into the Thames. I've thought of it.

_He considers how best to make a last effort to bring her to her senses.
He sits by her._

TREBELL. Amy . . if you were my wife--

AMY. [_Unresponsive to him now._] I was Justin's wife, and I went away
from him sooner than bear him children. Had I the right to choose or had
I not?

TREBELL. [_Taking another path._] Shall I tell you something I believe?
If we were left to choose, we should stand for ever deciding whether to
start with the right foot or the left. We blunder into the best things
in life. Then comes the test . . have we faith enough to go on . . to go
through with the unknown thing?

AMY. [_So bored by these metaphysics._] Faith in what?

TREBELL. Our vitality. I don't give a fig for beauty, happiness, or
brains. All I ask of myself is . . can I pay Fate on demand?

AMY. Yes . . in imagination. But I've got physical facts to face.

_But he has her attention now and pursues the advantage._

TREBELL. Very well then . . let the meaning of them go. Look forward
simply to a troublesome illness. In a little while you can go abroad
quietly and wait patiently. We're not fools and we needn't find fools to
trust in. Then come back to England . . .

AMY. And forget. That seems simple enough, doesn't it?

TREBELL. If you don't want the child let it be mine . . not yours.

AMY. [_Wondering suddenly at this bond between them._] Yours! What would
you do with it?

TREBELL. [_Matter-of-fact._] Provide for it, of course.

AMY. Never see it, perhaps.

TREBELL. Perhaps not. If there were anything to be gained . . for the
child. I'll see that he has his chance as a human being.

AMY. How hopeful! [_Now her voice drops. She is looking back, perhaps at
a past self._] If you loved me . . perhaps I might learn to love the
thought of your child.

TREBELL. [_As if half his life depended on her answer._] Is that true?

AMY. [_Irritably._] Why are you picking me to pieces? I think that is
true. If you had been loving me for a long, long time-- [_The agony
rushes back on her._] But now I'm only afraid. You might have some pity
for me . . I'm so afraid.

TREBELL. [_Touched._] Indeed . . indeed, I'll take what share of this I

_She shrinks from him unforgivingly._

AMY. No, let me alone. I'm nothing to you. I'm a sick beast in danger of
my life, that's all . . cancerous!

_He is roused for the first time, roused to horror and protest._

TREBELL. Oh, you unhappy woman! . . . if life is like death to you . . .

AMY. [_Turning on him._] Don't lecture me! If you're so clever put a
stop to this horror. Or you might at least say you're sorry.

TREBELL. Sorry! [_The bell on the table rings jarringly._] Cantelupe!

_He goes to the telephone. She gets up cold and collected, steadied
merely by the unexpected sound._

AMY. I mustn't keep you from governing the country. I'm sure you'll do
it very well.

TREBELL. [_At the telephone._] Yes, bring him up, of course . . isn't
Mr. Kent there? [_then to her._] I may be ten minutes with him or half
an hour. Wait and we'll come to a conclusion.

KENT _comes in, an open letter in his hand_.

KENT. This note, sir. Had I better go round myself and see him?

TREBELL. [_As he takes the note._] Cantelupe's come.

KENT. [_Glancing at the telephone._] Oh, has he!

TREBELL. [_As he reads._] Yes I think you had.

KENT. Evans was very serious.

_He goes back into his room._ AMY _moves swiftly to where_ TREBELL _is
standing and whispers_.

AMY. Won't you tell me whom to go to?


AMY. Oh, really . . what unpractical sentimental children you men are!
You and your consciences . . you and your laws. You drive us to
distraction and sometimes to death by your stupidities. Poor women--!

_The Maid comes in to announce_ LORD CHARLES CANTELUPE, _who follows
her_. CANTELUPE _is forty, unathletic, and a gentleman in the best and
worst sense of the word. He moves always with a caution which may betray
his belief in the personality of the Devil. He speaks cautiously too,
and as if not he but something inside him were speaking. One feels that
before strangers he would not if he could help it move or speak at all.
A pale face: the mouth would be hardened by fanaticism were it not for
the elements of Christianity in his religion: and he has the limpid eye
of the enthusiast._

TREBELL. Glad to see you. You know Mrs. O'Connell.

CANTELUPE _bows in silence_.

AMY. We have met.

_She offers her hand. He silently takes it and drops it._

TREBELL. Then you'll wait for Frances.

AMY. Is it worth while?

KENT _with his hat on leaves his room and goes downstairs_.

TREBELL. Have you anything better to do?

AMY. There's somewhere I can go. But I mustn't keep you chatting of my
affairs. Lord Charles is impatient to disestablish the Church.

CANTELUPE. [_Unable to escape a remark._] Forgive me, since that is also
your affair.

AMY. Oh . . but I was received at the Oratory when I was married.

CANTELUPE. [_With contrition._] I beg your pardon.

_Then he makes for the other side of the room._ TREBELL _and_ MRS.
O'CONNELL _stroll to the door, their eyes full of meaning_.

AMY. I think I'll go on to this place that I've heard of. If I wait . .
for your sister . . she may disappoint me again.


KENT'S _room is vacant_.

AMY. Well . . in here?

TREBELL. If you like law-books.

AMY. I haven't been much of an interruption now, have I?

TREBELL. Please wait.

AMY. Thank you.

TREBELL _shuts her in, for a moment seems inclined to lock her in, but
he comes back into his own room and faces_ CANTELUPE, _who having primed
and trained himself on his subject like a gun, fires off a speech,
without haste, but also apparently without taking breath_.

CANTELUPE. I was extremely thankful, Mr. Trebell, to hear last week from
Horsham that you will see your way to join his cabinet and undertake the
disestablishment bill in the House of Commons. Any measure of mine, I
have always been convinced, would be too much under the suspicion of
blindly favouring Church interests to command the allegiance of that
heterogeneous mass of thought . . in some cases, alas, of free thought . .
which now-a-days composes the Conservative party. I am more than
content to exercise what influence I may from a seat in the cabinet
which will authorise the bill.

TREBELL. Yes. That chair's comfortable.

CANTELUPE _takes another_.

CANTELUPE. Horsham forwarded to me your memorandum upon the conditions
you held necessary and I incline to think I may accept them in principle
on behalf of those who honour me with their confidences.

_He fishes some papers from his pocket._ TREBELL _sits squarely at his
table to grapple with the matter_.

TREBELL. Horsham told me you did accept them . . it's on that I'm

CANTELUPE. Yes . . in principle.

TREBELL. Well . . we couldn't carry a bill you disapproved of, could we?

CANTELUPE. [_With finesse._] I hope not.

TREBELL. [_A little dangerously._] And I have no intention of being made
the scapegoat of a wrecked Tory compromise with the Nonconformists.

CANTELUPE. [_Calmly ignoring the suggestion._] So far as I am concerned
I meet the Nonconformists on their own ground . . that Religion had
better be free from all compromise with the State.

TREBELL. Quite so . . if you're set free you'll look after yourselves.
My discovery must be what to do with the men who think more of the state
than their Church . . the majority of parsons, don't you think? . . if
the question's really put and they can be made to understand it.

CANTELUPE. [_With sincere disdain._] There are more profitable

TREBELL. And less. Will you allow me that it is statecraft to make a
profession profitable?

CANTELUPE _picks up his papers, avoiding theoretical discussion_.

CANTELUPE. Well now . . will you explain to me this project for endowing
Education with your surplus?

TREBELL. Putting Appropriation, the Buildings and the Representation
question on one side for the moment?

CANTELUPE. Candidly, I have yet to master your figures . . .

TREBELL. The roughest figures so far.

CANTELUPE. Still I have yet to master them on the first two points.

TREBELL. [_Firmly premising._] We agree that this is not diverting
church money to actually secular uses.

CANTELUPE. [_As he peeps from under his eyelids._] I can conceive that
it might not be. You know that we hold Education to be a Church
function. But . . .

TREBELL. Can you accept thoroughly now the secular solution for all
Primary Schools?

CANTELUPE. Haven't we always preferred it to the undenominational? Are
there to be facilities for any of the teachers giving dogmatic

TREBELL. I note your emphasis on any. I think we can put the burden of
that decision on local authorities. Let us come to the question of
Training Colleges for your teachers. It's on that I want to make my

CANTELUPE. [_Alert and cautious._] You want to endow colleges?

TREBELL. Heavily.

CANTELUPE. Under public control?

TREBELL. Church colleges under Church control.

CANTELUPE. There'd be others?

TREBELL. To preserve the necessary balance in the schools.

CANTELUPE. Not founded with church money?

TREBELL. Think of the grants in aid that will be released. I must ask
the Treasury for a further lump sum and with that there may be
sufficient for secular colleges . . if you can agree with me upon the
statutes of those over which you'd otherwise have free control.

TREBELL _is weighing his words_.

CANTELUPE. "You" meaning, for instance . . what authorities in the

TREBELL. Bishops, I suppose . . and others. [CANTELUPE _permits himself
to smile._] On that point I shall be weakness itself and . . may I
suggest . . your seat in the cabinet will give you some control.

CANTELUPE. Statutes?

TREBELL. To be framed in the best interests of educational efficiency.

CANTELUPE. [_Finding an opening._] I doubt if we agree upon the meaning
to be attached to that term.

TREBELL. [_Forcing the issue._] What meaning do you attach to it?

CANTELUPE. [_Smiling again._] I have hardly a sympathetic listener.

TREBELL. You have an unprejudiced one . . the best you can hope for. I
was not educated myself. I learnt certain things that I desired to know
. . from reading my first book--Don Quixote it was--to mastering Company
Law. You see, as a man without formulas either for education or
religion, I am perhaps peculiarly fitted to settle the double question.
I have no grudges . . no revenge to take.

CANTELUPE. [_Suddenly congenial._] Shelton's translation of Don Quixote
I hope . . the modern ones have no flavour. And you took all the
adventures as seriously as the Don did?

TREBELL. [_Not expecting this._] I forget.

CANTELUPE. It's the finer attitude . . the child's attitude. And it
would enable you immediately to comprehend mine towards an education
consisting merely of practical knowledge. The life of Faith is still the
happy one. What is more crushingly finite than knowledge? Moral
discipline is a nation's only safety. How much of your science tends in
support of the great spiritual doctrine of sacrifice!

TREBELL _returns to his subject as forceful as ever_.

TREBELL. The Church has assimilated much in her time. Do you think it
wise to leave agnostic science at the side of the plate? I think, you
know, that this craving for common knowledge is a new birth in the mind
of man; and if your church won't recognise that soon, by so much will
she be losing her grip for ever over men's minds. What's the test of
godliness, but your power to receive the new idea in whatever form it
comes and give it life? It is blasphemy to pick and choose your good.
[_For a moment his thoughts seem to be elsewhere._] That's an unhappy
man or woman or nation . . I know it if it has only come to me this
minute . . and I don't care what their brains or their riches or their
beauty or any of their triumph may be . . they're unhappy and useless if
they can't tell life from death.

CANTELUPE. [_Interested in the digression._] Remember that the Church's
claim has ever been to know that difference.

TREBELL. [_Fastening to his subject again._] My point is this: A man's
demand to know the exact structure of a fly's wing, and his assertion
that it degrades any child in the street not to know such a thing, is a
religious revival . . a token of spiritual hunger. What else can it be?
And we commercialise our teaching!

CANTELUPE. I wouldn't have it so.

TREBELL. Then I'm offering you the foundation of a new Order of men and
women who'll serve God by teaching his children. Now shall we finish the
conversation in prose?

CANTELUPE. [_Not to be put down._] What is the prose for God?

TREBELL. [_Not to be put down either._] That's what we irreligious
people are giving our lives to discover. [_He plunges into detail._] I'm
proposing to found about seventy-two new colleges, and of course, to
bring the ones there are up to the new standard. Then we must gradually
revise all teaching salaries in government schools . . to a scale I have
in mind. Then the course must be compulsory and the training time

CANTELUPE. Doubled! Four years?

TREBELL. Well, a minimum of three . . a university course. Remember
we're turning a trade into a calling.

CANTELUPE. There's more to that than taking a degree.

TREBELL. I think so. You've fought for years for your tests and your
atmosphere with plain business men not able to understand such lunacy.
Quite right . . atmosphere's all that matters. If one and one don't make
two by God's grace . . .

CANTELUPE. Poetry again!

TREBELL. I beg your pardon. Well . . you've no further proof. If you
can't plant your thumb on the earth and your little finger on the pole
star you know nothing of distances. We must do away with text-book

CANTELUPE _is opening out a little in spite of himself_.

CANTELUPE. I'm waiting for our opinions to differ.

TREBELL. [_Businesslike again._] I'll send you a draft of the statutes I
propose within a week. Meanwhile shall I put the offer this way. If I
accept your tests will you accept mine?

CANTELUPE. What are yours?

TREBELL. I believe if one provides for efficiency one provides for the
best part of truth . . honesty of statement. I shall hope for a little
more elasticity in your dogmas than Becket or Cranmer or Laud would have
allowed. When you've a chance to re-formulate the reasons of your faith
for the benefit of men teaching mathematics and science and history and
political economy, you won't neglect to answer or allow for criticisms
and doubts. I don't see why . . in spite of all the evidence to the
contrary . . such a thing as progress in a definite religious faith is

CANTELUPE. Progress is a soiled word. [_And now he weighs his words._] I
shall be very glad to accept on the Church's behalf control of the
teaching of teachers in these colleges.

TREBELL. Good. I want the best men.

CANTELUPE. You are surprisingly inexperienced if you think that creeds
can ever become mere forms except to those who have none.

TREBELL. But teaching--true teaching--is learning, and the wish to know
is going to prevail against any creed . . so I think. I wish you cared
as little for the form in which a truth is told as I do. On the whole,
you see, I think I shall manage to plant your theology in such soil this
spring that the garden will be fruitful. On the whole I'm a believer in
Churches of all sorts and their usefulness to the State. Your present
use is out-worn. Have I found you in this the beginnings of a new one?

CANTELUPE. The Church says: Thank you, it is a very old one.

TREBELL. [_Winding up the interview._] To be sure, for practical
politics our talk can be whittled down to your accepting the secular
solution for Primary Schools, if you're given these colleges under such
statutes as you and I shall agree upon.

CANTELUPE. And the country will accept.

TREBELL. The country will accept any measure if there's enough money in
it to bribe all parties fairly.

CANTELUPE. You expect very little of the constancy of my Church to her
Faith, Mr. Trebell.

TREBELL. I have only one belief myself. That is in human progress--yes,
progress--over many obstacles and by many means. I have no ideals. I
believe it is statesmanlike to use all the energy you find . . turning
it into the nearest channel that points forward.

CANTELUPE. Forward to what?

TREBELL. I don't know . . and my caring doesn't matter. We do know . .
and if we deny it it's only to be encouraged by contradiction . . that
the movement is forward and with some gathering purpose. I'm friends
with any fellow traveller.

CANTELUPE _has been considering him very curiously. Now he gets up to

CANTELUPE. I should like to continue our talk when I've studied your
draft of the statutes. Of course the political position is favourable to
a far more comprehensive bill than we had ever looked for . . and you've
the advantage now of having held yourself very free from party ties. In
fact not only will you give us the bill we shall most care to accept,
but I don't know what other man would give us a bill we and the other
side could accept at all.

TREBELL. I can let you have more Appropriation figures by Friday. The
details of the Fabrics scheme will take a little longer.

CANTELUPE. In a way there's no such hurry. We're not in office yet.

TREBELL. When I'm building with figures I like to give the foundations
time to settle. Otherwise they are the inexactest things.

CANTELUPE. [_Smiling to him for the first time._] We shall have you
finding Faith the only solvent of all problems some day.

TREBELL. I hope my mind is not afraid . . even of the Christian

CANTELUPE. I am sure that the needs of the human soul . . be it dressed
up in whatever knowledge . . do not alter from age to age . .

_He opens the door to find_ WEDGECROFT _standing outside, watch in

TREBELL. Hullo . . . waiting?

WEDGECROFT. I was giving you two minutes by my watch. How are you,

CANTELUPE, _with a gesture which might be mistaken for a bow, folds
himself up_.

TREBELL. Shall I bring you the figures on Friday . . that might save

CANTELUPE, _by taking a deeper fold in himself seems to assent_.

TREBELL. Will the afternoon do? Kent shall fix the hour.

CANTELUPE. [_With an effort._] Kent?

TREBELL. My secretary.

CANTELUPE. Friday. Any hour before five. I know my way.

_The three phrases having meant three separate efforts_, CANTELUPE
_escapes_. WEDGECROFT _has walked to the table, his brows a little
puckered. Now_ TREBELL _notices that_ KENT'S _door is open; he goes
quickly into the room and finds it empty. Then he stands for a moment
irritable and undecided before returning._

TREBELL. Been here long?

WEDGECROFT. Five minutes . . more, I suppose.

TREBELL. Mrs. O'Connell gone?

WEDGECROFT. To her dressmaker's.

TREBELL. Frances forgot she was coming and went out.

WEDGECROFT. Pretty little fool of a woman! D'you know her husband?


WEDGECROFT. Says she's been in Ireland with him since we met at
Shapters. He has trouble with his tenantry.

TREBELL. Won't he sell or won't they purchase?

WEDGECROFT. Curious chap. A Don at Balliol when I first knew him. Warped
of late years . . perhaps by his marriage.

TREBELL. [_Dismissing that subject._] Well . . how's Percival?

WEDGECROFT. Better this morning. I told him I'd seen you . . and in a
little calculated burst of confidence what I'd reason to think you were
after. He said you and he could get on though you differed on every
point; but he didn't see how you'd pull with such a blasted weak-kneed
lot as the rest of the Horsham's cabinet would be. He'll be up in a week
or ten days.

TREBELL. Can I see him?

WEDGECROFT. You might. I admire the old man . . the way he sticks to his
party, though they misrepresent now most things he believes in!

TREBELL. What a damnable state to arrive at . . doubly damned by the
fact you admire it.

WEDGECROFT. And to think that at this time of day you should need
instructing in the ethics of party government. But I'll have to do it.

TREBELL. Not now. I've been at ethics with Cantelupe.

WEDGECROFT. Certainly not now. What about my man with the stomach-ache
at twelve o'clock sharp! Good-bye.

_He is gone._ TREBELL _battles with uneasiness and at last mutters_.
"Oh . . why didn't she wait?" _Then the telephone bell rings. He goes
quickly as if it were an answer to his anxiety._ "Yes?" _Of course, it
isn't . ._ "Yes." _He paces the room, impatient, wondering what to do.
The Maid comes in to announce_ MISS DAVENPORT. LUCY _follows her. She
has gained lately perhaps a little of the joy which was lacking and at
least she brings now into this room a breath of very wholesome

LUCY. It's very good of you to let me come; I'm not going to keep you
more than three minutes.

TREBELL. Sit down.

_Only women unused to busy men would call him rude._

LUCY. What I want to say is . . don't mind my being engaged to Walter.
It shan't interfere with his work for you. If you want a proof that it
shan't . . it was I got Aunt Julia to ask you to take him . . Though he
didn't know . . so don't tell him that.

TREBELL. You weren't engaged then.

LUCY. I . . thought that we might be.

TREBELL. [_With cynical humour._] Which I'm not to tell him either?

LUCY. Oh, that wouldn't matter.

TREBELL. [_With decision._] I'll make sure you don't interfere.

LUCY. [_Deliberately . . not to be treated as a child._] You couldn't,
you know, if I wanted to.

TREBELL. Why, is Walter a fool?

LUCY. He's very fond of me, if that's what you mean?

TREBELL _looks at her for the first time and changes his tone a little_.

TREBELL. If it was what I meant . . I'm disposed to withdraw the

LUCY. And, because I'm fond of his work as well, I shan't therefore ask
him to tell me things . . secrets.

TREBELL. [_Reverting to his humour._] It'll be when you're a year or two
married that danger may occur . . in his desperate effort to make

LUCY _considers this and him quite seriously_.

LUCY. You're rather hard on women, aren't you . . just because they
don't have the chances men do.

TREBELL. Do you want the chances?

LUCY. I think I'm as clever as most men I meet, though I know less, of

TREBELL. Perhaps I should have offered you the secretaryship instead.

LUCY. [_Readily._] Don't you think I'm taking it in a way . . by
marrying Walter? That's fanciful of course. But marriage is a very
general and complete sort of partnership, isn't it? At least, I'd like
to make mine so.

TREBELL. He'll be more under your thumb in some things if you leave him
free in others.

_She receives the sarcasm in all seriousness and then speaks to him as
she would to a child._

LUCY. Oh . . I'm not explaining what I mean quite well perhaps. Walter
has been everywhere and done everything. He speaks three languages . .
which all makes him an ideal private secretary.


LUCY. Do you think he'd develop into anything else . . but for me?

TREBELL. So I have provided just a first step, have I?

LUCY. [_With real enthusiasm._] Oh, Mr. Trebell, it's a great thing for
us. There isn't anyone worth working under but you. You'll make him
think and give him ideas instead of expecting them from him. But just
for that reason he'd get so attached to you and be quite content to grow
old in your shadow . . if it wasn't for me.

TREBELL. True . . I should encourage him in nothingness. What's more, I
want extra brains and hands. It's not altogether a pleasant thing, is
it . . the selfishness of the hard worked man?

LUCY. If you don't grudge your own strength, why should you be tender of
other people's?

_He looks at her curiously._

TREBELL. Your ambition is making for only second-hand satisfaction

LUCY. What's a woman to do? She must work through men, mustn't she?

TREBELL. I'm told that's degrading . . the influencing of husbands and
brothers and sons.

LUCY. [_Only half humorously._] But what else is one to do with them? Of
course, I've enough money to live on . . so I could take up some woman's
profession. . . What are you smiling at?

TREBELL. [_Who has smiled very broadly._] As you don't mean to . . don't
stop while I tell you.

LUCY. But I'd sooner get married. I want to have children. [_The words
catch him and hold him. He looks at her reverently this time. She
remembers she has transgressed convention; then, remembering that it is
only convention, proceeds quite simply._] I hope we shall have children.

TREBELL. I hope so.

LUCY. Thank you. That's the first kind thing you've said.

TREBELL. Oh . . you can do without compliments, can't you?

_She considers for a moment._

LUCY. Why have you been talking to me as if I were someone else?

TREBELL. [_Startled._] Who else?

LUCY. No one particular. But you've shaken a moral fist so to speak. I
don't think I provoked it.

TREBELL. It's a bad parliamentary habit. I apologise.

_She gets up to go._

LUCY. Now I shan't keep you longer . . you're always busy. You've been
so easy to talk to. Thank you very much.

TREBELL. Why . . I wonder?

LUCY. I knew you would be or I shouldn't have come. You think Life's an
important thing, don't you? That's priggish, isn't it? Good-bye. We're
coming to dinner . . Aunt Julia and I. Miss Trebell arrived to ask us
just as I left.

TREBELL. I'll see you down.

LUCY. What waste of time for you. I know how the door opens.

_As she goes out_ WALTER KENT _is on the way to his room. The two nod to
each other like old friends._ TREBELL _turns away with something of a

KENT. Just come?

LUCY. Just going.

KENT. I'll see you at dinner.

LUCY. Oh, are you to be here? . . that's nice.

LUCY _departs as purposefully as she came_. KENT _hurries to_ TREBELL,
_whose thoughts are away again by now_.

KENT. I haven't been long there and back, have I? The Bishop gave me
these letters for you. He hasn't answered the last . . but I've his
notes of what he means to say. He'd like them back to-night. He was just
going out. I've one or two notes of what Evans said. Bit of a charlatan,
don't you think?


KENT. Well, he talked of his Flock. There are quite fifteen letters
you'll have to deal with yourself, I'm afraid.

TREBELL _stares at him: then, apparently, making up his mind_ . .

TREBELL. Ring up a messenger, will you . . I must write a note and send

KENT. Will you dictate?

TREBELL. I shall have done it while you're ringing . . it's only a
personal matter. Then we'll start work.

KENT _goes into his room and tackles the telephone there_. TREBELL _sits
down to write the note, his face very set and anxious_.

                              THE THIRD ACT

At LORD HORSHAM'S house in Queen Anne's Gate, in the evening, a week

_If rooms express their owners' character, the grey and black of_ LORD
HORSHAM'S _drawing room, the faded brocade of its furniture, reveal him
as a man of delicate taste and somewhat thin intellectuality. He stands
now before a noiseless fire, contemplating with a troubled eye either
the pattern of the Old French carpet, or the black double doors of the
library opposite, or the moulding on the Adams ceiling, which the
flicker of all the candles casts into deeper relief. His grey hair and
black clothes would melt into the decoration of his room, were the
figure not rescued from such oblivion by the British white glaze of his
shirt front and--to a sympathetic eye--by the loveable perceptive face
of the man. Sometimes he looks at the sofa in front of him, on which
sits_ WEDGECROFT, _still in the frock coat of a busy day, depressed and
irritable. With his back to them, on a sofa with its back to them, is_
GEORGE FARRANT, _planted with his knees apart, his hands clasped, his
head bent; very glum. And sometimes_ HORSHAM _glances at the door, as if
waiting for it to open. Then his gaze will travel back, up the long
shiny black piano, with a volume of the Well Tempered Clavichord open on
its desk, to where_ CANTELUPE _is perched uncomfortably on the bench;
paler than ever; more self-contained than ever, looking, to one who
knows him as well as_ HORSHAM _does, a little dangerous. So he returns
to contemplation of the ceiling or the carpet. They wait there as men
wait who have said all they want to say upon an unpleasant subject and
yet cannot dismiss it. At last_ FARRANT _breaks the silence_.

FARRANT. What time did you ask him to come, Horsham?

HORSHAM. Eh . . O'Connell? I didn't ask him directly. What time did you
say, Wedgecroft?

WEDGECROFT. Any time after half past ten, I told him.

FARRANT. [_Grumbling._] It's a quarter to eleven. Doesn't Blackborough
mean to turn up at all?

HORSHAM. He was out of town . . my note had to be sent after him. I
couldn't wire, you see.


CANTELUPE. It was by the merest chance your man caught me, Cyril. I was
taking the ten fifteen to Tonbridge and happened to go to James Street
first for some papers.

_The conversation flags again._

CANTELUPE. But since Mrs. O'Connell is dead what is the excuse for a

_At this unpleasant dig into the subject of their thoughts the three
other men stir uncomfortably._

HORSHAM. Because the inquest is unavoidable . . apparently.

WEDGECROFT. [_Suddenly letting fly._] I declare I'd have risked penal
servitude and given a certificate, but just before the end O'Connell
would call in old Fielding Andrews, who has moral scruples about
everything--it's his trademark--and of course about this . . !

FARRANT. Was he told of the whole business?

WEDGECROFT. No . . O'Connell kept things up before him. Well . . the
woman was dying.

HORSHAM. Couldn't you have kept the true state of the case from Sir

WEDGECROFT. And been suspected of the malpractice myself if he'd found
it out? . . which he would have done . . he's no fool. Well . . I
thought of trying that. . .

FARRANT. My dear Wedgecroft . . how grossly quixotic! You have a duty to

HORSHAM. [_Rescuing the conversation from unpleasantness._] I'm afraid I
feel that our position to-night is most irregular, Wedgecroft.

WEDGECROFT. Still if you can make O'Connell see reason. And if you all
can't . . [_He frowns at the alternative._]

CANTELUPE. Didn't you say she came to you first of all?

WEDGECROFT. I met her one morning at Trebell's.

FARRANT. Actually at Trebell's!

WEDGECROFT. The day he came back from abroad.

FARRANT. Oh! No one seems to have noticed them together much at any
time. My wife. . . No matter!

WEDGECROFT. She tackled me as a doctor with one part of her trouble . .
added she'd been with O'Connell in Ireland, which of course it turns out
wasn't true . . asked me to help her. I had to say I couldn't.

HORSHAM. [_Echoing rather than querying._] You couldn't.

FARRANT. [_Shocked._] My dear Horsham!

WEDGECROFT. Well, if she'd told me the truth! . . No, anyhow I couldn't.
I'm sure there was no excuse. One can't run these risks.

FARRANT. Quite right, quite right.

WEDGECROFT. There are men who do on one pretext or another.

FARRANT. [_Not too shocked to be curious._] Are there really?

WEDGECROFT. Oh yes, men well known . . in other directions. I could give
you four addresses . . but of course I wasn't going to give her one.
Though there again . . if she'd told me the whole truth! . . My God,
women are such fools! And they prefer quackery . . look at the decent
doctors they simply turn into charlatans. Though, there again, that all
comes of letting a trade work mysteriously under the thumb of a
benighted oligarchy . . which is beside the question. But one day I'll
make you sit up on the subject of the Medical Council, Horsham.

HORSHAM _assumes an impenetrable air of statesmanship_.

HORSHAM. I know. Very interesting . . very important . . very difficult
to alter the status quo.

WEDGECROFT. Then the poor little liar said she'd go off to an
appointment with her dressmaker; and I heard nothing more till she sent
for me a week later, and I found her almost too ill to speak. Even then
she didn't tell me the truth! So, when O'Connell arrived, of course I
spoke to him quite openly and all he told me in reply was that it
wouldn't have been his child.

FARRANT. Poor devil!


FARRANT. Yes, of course.

WEDGECROFT. I wonder. Perhaps she didn't realize he'd been sent for . .
or felt then she was dying and didn't care . . or lost her head. I don't

FARRANT. Such a pretty little woman!

WEDGECROFT. If I could have made him out and dealt with him, of course,
I shouldn't have come to you. Farrant's known him even longer than I

FARRANT. I was with him at Harrow.

WEDGECROFT. So I went to Farrant first.

_That part of the subject drops._ CANTELUPE, _who has not moved, strikes
in again_.

CANTELUPE. How was Trebell's guilt discovered?

FARRANT. He wrote her one letter which she didn't destroy. O'Connell
found it.

WEDGECROFT. Picked it up from her desk . . it wasn't even locked up.

FARRANT. Not twenty words in it . . quite enough though.

HORSHAM. His habit of being explicit . . of writing things down . . I

_He shakes his head, deprecating all rashness. There is another pause._
FARRANT, _getting up to pace about, breaks it_.

FARRANT. Look here, Wedgecroft, one thing is worrying me. Had Trebell
any foreknowledge of what she did and the risk she was running and could
he have stopped it?

WEDGECROFT. [_Almost ill-temperedly._] How could he have stopped it?

FARRANT. Because . . well, I'm not a casuist . . but I know by instinct
when I'm up against the wrong thing to do; and if he can't be cleared on
that point I won't lift a finger to save him.

HORSHAM. [_With nice judgment._] In using the term Any Foreknowledge,
Farrant, you may be more severe on him than you wish to be.

FARRANT, _unappreciative, continues_.

FARRANT. Otherwise . . well, we must admit, Cantelupe, that if it hadn't
been for the particular consequence of this it wouldn't be anything to
be so mightily shocked about.

CANTELUPE. I disagree.

FARRANT. My dear fellow, it's our business to make laws and we know the
difference of saying in one of 'em you may or you must. Who ever
proposed to insist on pillorying every case of spasmodic adultery? One
would never have done! Some of these attachments do more harm . . to the
third party, I mean . . some less. But it's only when a menage becomes
socially impossible that a sensible man will interfere. [_He adds quite
unnecessarily._] I'm speaking quite impersonally, of course.

CANTELUPE. [_As coldly as ever._] Trebell is morally responsible for
every consequence of the original sin.

WEDGECROFT. That is a hard saying.

FARRANT. [_Continuing his own remarks quite independently._] And I put
aside the possibility that he deliberately helped her to her death to
save a scandal because I don't believe it is a possibility. But if that
were so I'd lift my finger to help him to his. I'd see him hanged with

WEDGECROFT. [_Settling this part of the matter._] Well, Farrant, to all
intents and purposes he didn't know and he'd have stopped it if he

FARRANT. Yes, I believe that. But what makes you so sure?

WEDGECROFT. I asked him and he told me.

FARRANT. That's no proof.

WEDGECROFT. You read the letter that he sent her . . unless you think it
was written as a blind.

FARRANT. Oh . . to be sure . . yes. I might have thought of that.

_He settles down again. Again no one has anything to say._

CANTELUPE. What is to be said to Mr. O'Connell when he comes?

HORSHAM. Yes . . what exactly do you propose we shall say to O'Connell,

WEDGECROFT. Get him to open his oyster of a mind and . . .

FARRANT. So it is and his face like a stone wall yesterday. Absolutely
refused to discuss the matter with me!

CANTELUPE. May I ask, Cyril, why are we concerning ourselves with this
wickedness at all?

HORSHAM. Just at this moment when we have official weight without
official responsibility, Charles . .

WEDGECROFT. I wish I could have let Percival out of bed, but these first
touches of autumn are dangerous to a convalescent of his age.

HORSHAM. But you saw him, Farrant . . and he gave you his opinion,
didn't he?

FARRANT. Last night . . yes.

HORSHAM. I suppose it's a pity Blackborough hasn't turned up.

FARRANT. Never mind him.

HORSHAM. He gets people to agree with him. That's a gift.

FARRANT. Wedgecroft, what is the utmost O'Connell will be called upon to
do for us . . for Trebell?

WEDGECROFT. Probably only to hold his tongue at the inquest to-morrow.
As far as I know there's no one but her maid to prove that Mrs.
O'Connell didn't meet her husband some time in the summer. He'll be
called upon to tell a lie or two by implication.

FARRANT. Cantelupe . . what does perjury to that extent mean to a Roman

CANTELUPE'S _face melts into an expression of mild amazement_.

CANTELUPE. Your asking such a question shows that you would not
understand my answer to it.

FARRANT. [_Leaving the fellow to his subtleties._] Well, what about the

WEDGECROFT. She may suspect facts but not names, I think. Why should
they question her on such a point if O'Connell says nothing?

HORSHAM. He's really very late. I told . . [_He stops._] Charles, I've
forgotten that man's name again.

CANTELUPE. Edmunds, you said it was.

HORSHAM. Edmunds. Everybody's down at Lympne . . I've been left with a
new man here and I don't know his name. [_He is very pathetic._] I told
him to put O'Connell in the library there. I thought that either Farrant
or I might perhaps see him first and--

_At this moment_ EDMUNDS _comes in, and, with that air of discreet tact
which he considers befits the establishment of a Prime Minister,
announces_, "Mr. O'Connell, my lord." _As_ O'CONNELL _follows him_,
HORSHAM _can only try not to look too disconcerted_. O'CONNELL, _in his
tightly buttoned frock coat, with his shaven face and close-cropped iron
grey hair, might be mistaken for a Catholic priest; except that he has
not also acquired the easy cheerfulness which professional familiarity
with the mysteries of that religion seems to give. For the moment, at
least, his features are so impassive that they may tell either of the
deepest grief or the purest indifference; or it may be, merely of
reticence on entering a stranger's room. He only bows towards_ HORSHAM'S
_half-proffered hand. With instinctive respect for the situation of this
tragically made widower the men have risen and stand in various uneasy

HORSHAM. Oh . . how do you do? Let me see . . do you know my cousin
Charles Cantelupe? Yes . . we were expecting Russell Blackborough. Sir
Henry Percival is ill. Do sit down.

O'CONNELL _takes the nearest chair and gradually the others settle
themselves_; FARRANT _seeking an obscure corner. But there follows an
uncomfortable silence, which_ O'CONNELL _at last breaks_.

O'CONNELL. You have sent for me, Lord Horsham?

HORSHAM. I hope that by my message I conveyed no impression of sending
for you.

O'CONNELL. I am always in some doubt as to by what person or persons in
or out of power this country is governed. But from all I hear you are at
the present moment approximately entitled to send for me.

_The level music of his Irish tongue seems to give finer edge to his

HORSHAM. Well, Mr. O'Connell . . you know our request before we make it.

O'CONNELL. Yes, I understand that if the fact of Mr. Trebell's adultery
with my wife were made as public as its consequences to her must be
to-morrow, public opinion would make it difficult for you to include
him in your cabinet.

HORSHAM. Therefore we ask you . . though we have no right to ask you . .
to consider the particular circumstances and forget the man in the
statesman, Mr. O'Connell.

O'CONNELL. My wife is dead. What have I to do at all with Mr. Trebell as
a man? As a statesman I am in any case uninterested in him.

_Upon this throwing of cold water_, EDMUNDS _returns to mention even
more discreetly_ . . .

EDMUNDS. Mr. Blackborough is in the library, my lord.

HORSHAM. [_Patiently impatient._] No, no . . here.

WEDGECROFT. Let me go.

HORSHAM. [_To the injured_ EDMUNDS.] Wait . . wait.

WEDGECROFT. I'll put him _au fait_. I shan't come back.

HORSHAM. [_Gratefully._] Yes, yes. [_Then to_ EDMUNDS _who is waiting
with perfect dignity_.] Yes . . yes . . yes.

EDMUNDS _departs and_ WEDGECROFT _makes for the library door, glad to

O'CONNELL. If you are not busy at this hour, Wedgecroft, I should be
grateful if you'd wait for me. I shall keep you, I think, but a very few

WEDGECROFT. [_In his most matter-of-fact tone._] All right, O'Connell.

_He goes into the library._

CANTELUPE. Don't you think, Cyril, it would be wiser to prevent your man
coming into the room at all while we're discussing this?

HORSHAM. [_Collecting his scattered tact._] Yes, I thought I had
arranged that he shouldn't. I'm very sorry. He's a fool. However,
there's no one else to come. Once more, Mr. O'Connell . . [_He frames no

O'CONNELL. I am all attention, Lord Horsham.

CANTELUPE _with a self-denying effort has risen to his feet_.

CANTELUPE. Mr. O'Connell, I remain here almost against my will. I cannot
think quite calmly about this double and doubly heinous sin. Don't
listen to us while we make light of it. If we think of it as a political
bother and ask you to smooth it away . . I am ashamed. But I believe I
may not be wrong if I put it to you that, looking to the future and for
the sake of your own Christian dignity, it may become you to be
merciful. And I pray too . . I think we may believe . . that Mr. Trebell
is feeling need of your forgiveness. I have no more to say. [_He sits
down again._]

O'CONNELL. It may be. I have never met Mr. Trebell.

HORSHAM. I tell you, Mr. O'Connell, putting aside Party, that your
country has need of this man just at this time.

_They hang upon_ O'CONNELL'S _reply. It comes with deliberation_.

O'CONNELL. I suppose my point of view must be an unusual one. I notice,
at least, that twenty four hours and more has not enabled Farrant to
grasp it.

FARRANT. For God's sake, O'Connell, don't be so cold-blooded. You have
the life or death of a man's reputation to decide on.

O'CONNELL. [_With a cold flash of contempt._] That's a petty enough
thing now-a-days it seems to me. There are so many clever men . . and
they are all so alike . . surely one will not be missed.

CANTELUPE. Don't you think that is only sarcasm, Mr. O'Connell?

_The voice is so gently reproving that_ O'CONNELL _must turn to him_.

O'CONNELL. Will you please to make allowance, Lord Charles, for a
mediaeval scholar's contempt of modern government? =You= at least will
partly understand his horror as a Catholic at the modern superstitions
in favour of popular opinion and control which it encourages. You see,
Lord Horsham, I am not a party man, only a little less enthusiastic for
the opposite cries than for his own. You appealed very strangely to my
feelings of patriotism for this country; but you see even my own is--in
the twentieth century--foreign to me. From my point of view neither Mr.
Trebell, nor you, nor the men you have just defeated, nor any
discoverable man or body of men will make laws which matter . . or
differ in the slightest. You are all part of your age and you all
voice--though in separate keys, or even tunes they may be--only the
greed and follies of your age. That you should do this and nothing more
is, of course, the democratic ideal. You will forgive my thinking
tenderly of the statesmanship of the =first= Edward.

_The library door opens and_ RUSSELL BLACKBOROUGH _comes in. He has on
evening clothes, complicated by a long silk comforter and the motoring
cap which he carries._

HORSHAM. You know Russell Blackborough.

O'CONNELL. I think not.

BLACKBOROUGH. How d'you do?

O'CONNELL _having bowed_, BLACKBOROUGH _having nodded, the two men sit
down_, BLACKBOROUGH _with an air of great attention_, O'CONNELL _to
continue his interrupted speech_.

O'CONNELL. And you are as far from me in your code of personal morals as
in your politics. In neither do you seem to realise that such a thing as
passion can exist. No doubt you use the words Love and Hatred; but do
you know that love and hatred for principles or persons should come from
beyond a man? I notice you speak of forgiveness as if it were a penny in
my pocket. You have been endeavouring for these two days to rouse me
from my indifference towards Mr. Trebell. Perhaps you are on the point
of succeeding . . but I do not know what you may rouse.

HORSHAM. I understand. We are much in agreement, Mr. O'Connell. What can
a man be--who has any pretensions to philosophy--but helplessly
indifferent to the thousands of his fellow creatures whose fates are
intertwined with his?

O'CONNELL. I am glad that you understand. But, again . . have I been
wrong to shrink from personal relations with Mr. Trebell? Hatred is as
sacred a responsibility as love. And you will not agree with me when I
say that punishment can be the salvation of a man's soul.

FARRANT. [_With aggressive common sense._] Look here, O'Connell, if
you're indifferent it doesn't hurt you to let him off. And if you hate
him . . ! Well, one shouldn't hate people . . there's no room for it in
this world.

CANTELUPE. [_Quietly as ever._] We have some authority for thinking that
the punishment of a secret sin is awarded by God secretly.

O'CONNELL. We have very poor authority, sir, for using God's name merely
to fill up the gaps in an argument, though we may thus have our way
easily with men who fear God more than they know him. I am not one of
those. Yes, Farrant, you and your like have left little room in this
world except for the dusty roads on which I notice you beginning once
more to travel. The rule of them is the same for all, is it not . . from
the tramp and the labourer to the plutocrat in his car? This is the age
of equality; and it's a fine practical equality . . the equality of the
road. But you've fenced the fields of human joy and turned the very
hillsides into hoardings. Commercial opportunity is painted on them, I

FARRANT. [_Not to be impressed._] Perhaps it is O'Connell. My father
made his money out of newspapers and I ride in a motor car and you came
from Holyhead by train. What has all that to do with it? Why can't you
make up your mind? You know in this sort of case one talks a lot . .
and then does the usual thing. You must let Trebell off and that's all
about it.

O'CONNELL. Indeed. And do they still think it worth while to administer
an oath to your witnesses?

_He is interrupted by the flinging open of the door and the triumphant
right-this-time-anyhow voice in which_ EDMUNDS _announces_ "Mr. Trebell,
my lord." _The general consternation expresses itself through_ HORSHAM,
_who complains aloud and unreservedly_.

HORSHAM. Good God . . No! Charles, I must give him notice at once . .
he'll have to go. [_He apologises to the company._] I beg your pardon.

_By this time_ TREBELL _is in the room and has discovered the stranger,
who stands to face him without emotion or anger_. BLACKBOROUGH'S _face
wears the grimmest of smiles_, CANTELUPE _is sorry_, FARRANT _recovers
from the fit of choking which seemed imminent and_ EDMUNDS, _dimly
perceiving by now some fly in the perfect amber of his conduct, departs.
The two men still face each other._ FARRANT _is prepared to separate
them should they come to blows, and indeed is advancing in that
anticipation when_ O'CONNELL _speaks_.

O'CONNELL. I am Justin O'Connell.

TREBELL. I guess that.

O'CONNELL. There's a dead woman between us, Mr. Trebell.

_A tremor sweeps over_ TREBELL; _then he speaks simply_.

TREBELL. I wish she had not died.

O'CONNELL. I am called upon by your friends to save you from the
consequences of her death. What have you to say about that?

TREBELL. I have been wondering what sort of expression the last of your
care for her would find . . but not much. My wonder is at the power
over me that has been given to something I despised.

_Only_ O'CONNELL _grasps his meaning. But he, stirred for the first time
and to his very depths, drives it home._

O'CONNELL. Yes . . If I wanted revenge I have it. She was a worthless
woman. First my life and now yours! Dead because she was afraid to bear
your child, isn't she?

TREBELL. [_In agony._] I'd have helped that if I could.

O'CONNELL. Not the shame . . not the wrong she had done me . . but just
fear--fear of the burden of her woman-hood. And because of her my
children are bastards and cannot inherit my name. And I must live in sin
against my church, as--God help me--I can't against my nature. What are
men to do when this is how women use the freedom we have given them? Is
the curse of barrenness to be nothing to a man? And that's the death in
life to which you gentlemen with your fine civilisation are bringing us.
I think we are brothers in misfortune, Mr. Trebell.

TREBELL. [_Far from responding._] Not at all, sir. If you wanted
children you did the next best thing when she left you. My own problem
is neither so simple nor is it yet anyone's business but my own. I
apologise for alluding to it.

HORSHAM _takes advantage of the silence that follows_.

HORSHAM. Shall we . .

O'CONNELL. [_Measuring_ TREBELL _with his eyes_.] And by which shall I
help you to a solution . . telling lies or the truth to-morrow?

TREBELL. [_Roughly, almost insolently._] If you want my advice . . I
should do the thing that comes more easily to you, or that will content
you most. If you haven't yet made up your mind as to the relative
importance of my work and your conscience, it's too late to begin now.
Nothing you may do can affect =me=.

HORSHAM. [_Fluttering fearfully into this strange dispute._] O'Connell . .
if you and I were to join Wedgecroft . .

O'CONNELL. You value your work more than anything else in the world?

TREBELL. Have I anything else in the world?

O'CONNELL. Have you not? [_With grim ambiguity._] Then I am sorry for
you, Mr. Trebell. [_Having said all he had to say, he notices_ HORSHAM.]
Yes, Lord Horsham, by all means . .

_Then_ HORSHAM _opens the library door and sees him safely through. He
passes_ TREBELL _without any salutation, nor does_ TREBELL _turn after
him; but when_ HORSHAM _also is in the library and the door is closed,
comments viciously_.

TREBELL. The man's a sentimentalist . . like all men who live alone or
shut away. [_Then surveying his three glum companions, bursts out._]
Well . . ? We can stop thinking of this dead woman, can't we? It's a
waste of time.

FARRANT. Trebell, what did you want to come here for?

TREBELL. Because you thought I wouldn't. I knew you'd be sitting round,
incompetent with distress, calculating to a nicety the force of a
scandal. . .

BLACKBOROUGH. [_With the firmest of touches._] Horsham has called some
of us here to discuss the situation. I am considering my opinion.

TREBELL. You are not, Blackborough. You haven't recovered yet from the
shock of your manly feelings. Oh, cheer up. You know we're an adulterous
and sterile generation. Why should you cry out at a proof now and then
of what's always in the hearts of most of us?

FARRANT. [_Plaintively._] Now, for God's sake, Trebell . . O'Connell has
been going on like that.

TREBELL. Well then . . think of what matters.

BLACKBOROUGH. Of you and your reputation in fact.

FARRANT. [_Kindly._] Why do you pretend to be callous?

_He strokes_ TREBELL'S _shoulder, who shakes him off impatiently_.

TREBELL. Do you all mean to out-face the British Lion with me after
to-morrow . . dare to be Daniels?

BLACKBOROUGH. Bravado won't carry this off.

TREBELL. Blackborough . . it would immortalize you. I'll stand up in my
place in the House of Commons and tell everything that has befallen
soberly and seriously. Why should I flinch?

FARRANT. My dear Trebell, if your name comes out at the inquest--

TREBELL. If it does! . . whose has been the real offence against Society
. . hers or mine? It's I who am most offended . . if I choose to think

BLACKBOROUGH. You seem to forget the adultery.

TREBELL. Isn't Death divorce enough for her? And . . oh, wasn't I right?
. . What do you start thinking of once the shock's over? Punishment . .
revenge . . uselessness . . waste of me.

FARRANT. [_With finality._] If your name comes out at the inquest, to
talk of anything but retirement from public life is perfect lunacy . .
and you know it.

HORSHAM _comes back from the passage. He is a little distracted; then
the more so at finding himself again in a highly-charged atmosphere._

HORSHAM. He's gone off with Wedgecroft.

TREBELL. [_Including_ HORSHAM _now in his appeal._] Does anyone think he
knows me now to be a worse man . . less fit, less able . . than he did a
week ago?

_From the piano-stool comes_ CANTELUPE'S _quiet voice_.

CANTELUPE. Yes, Trebell . . I do.

TREBELL _wheels round at this and ceases all bluster_.

TREBELL. On what grounds?

CANTELUPE. Unarguable ones.

HORSHAM. [_Finding refuge again in his mantelpiece._] You know, he has
gone off without giving me his promise.

FARRANT. That's your own fault, Trebell.

HORSHAM. The fool says I didn't give him explicit instructions.

FARRANT. What fool?

HORSHAM. That man . . [_The name fails him._] . . my new man. One of
those touches of Fate's little finger, really.

_He begins to consult the ceiling and the carpet once more._ TREBELL
_tackles_ CANTELUPE _with gravity_.

TREBELL. I have only a logical mind, Cantelupe. I know that to make
myself a capable man I've purged myself of all the sins . . I never was
idle enough to commit. I know that if your God didn't make use of men,
sins and all . . what would ever be done in the world? That one natural
action, which the slight shifting of a social law could have made as
negligible as eating a meal, can make me incapable . . takes the
linch-pin out of one's brain, doesn't it?

HORSHAM. Trebell, we've been doing our best to get you out of this mess.
Your remarks to O'Connell weren't of any assistance, and . .

CANTELUPE _stands up, so momentously that_ HORSHAM'S _gentle flow of
speech dries up_.

CANTELUPE. Perhaps I had better say at once that, whatever hushing up
you may succeed in, it will be impossible for me to sit in a cabinet
with Mr. Trebell.

_It takes even_ FARRANT _a good half minute to recover his power of
speech on this new issue_.

FARRANT. What perfect nonsense, Cantelupe! I hope you don't mean that.

BLACKBOROUGH. Complication number one, Horsham.

FARRANT. [_Working up his protest._] Why on earth not? You really
mustn't drag your personal feelings and prejudices into important
matters like this . . matters of state.

CANTELUPE. I think I have no choice, when Trebell stands convicted of a
mortal sin, of which he has not even repented.

TREBELL. [_With bitterest cynicism._] Dictate any form of repentance you
like . . my signature is yours.

CANTELUPE. Is this a matter for intellectual jugglery?

TREBELL. [_His defence failing at last._] I offered to face the scandal
from my place in the House. That was mad, wasn't it . .

BLACKBOROUGH--_his course mapped out--changes the tone of the

BLACKBOROUGH. Horsham, I hope Trebell will believe I have no personal
feelings in this matter, but we may as well face the fact even now that
O'Connell holding his tongue to-morrow won't stop gossip in the House,
club gossip, gossip in drawing rooms. What do the Radicals really care
so long as a scandal doesn't get into the papers! There's an inner
circle with its eye on us.

FARRANT. Well, what does that care as long as scandal's its own
copyright? Do you know, my dear father refused a peerage because he felt
it meant putting blinkers on his best newspaper.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_A little subtly._] Still . . now you and Horsham are
cousins, aren't you?

FARRANT. [_Off the track and explanatory._] No, no . . my wife's mother
. . .

BLACKBOROUGH. I'm inaccurate, for I'm not one of the family circle
myself. My money gets me here and any skill I've used in making it. It
wouldn't keep me at a pinch. And Trebell . . [_He speaks through his
teeth._] . . do you think your accession to power in the party is
popular at the best? Who is going to put out a finger to make it less
awkward for Horsham to stick to you if there's a chance of your going

TREBELL _smiles at some mental picture he is making_.

TREBELL. Can your cousins and aunts make it so awkward for you, Horsham?

HORSHAM. [_Repaying humour with humour._] I bear up against their
affectionate attentions.

TREBELL. But I quite understand how uncongenial I may be. What made you
take up with me at all?

FARRANT. Your brains, Trebell.

TREBELL. He should have enquired into my character first, shouldn't he,

CANTELUPE. [_With crushing sincerity._] Yes.

TREBELL. Oh, the old unnecessary choice . . Wisdom or Virtue. We all
think we must make it . . and we all discover we can't. But if you've to
choose between Cantelupe and me, Horsham, I quite see you've no choice.

HORSHAM _now takes the field, using his own weapons_.

HORSHAM. Charles, it seems to me that we are somewhat in the position of
men who have overheard a private conversation. Do you feel justified in
making public use of it?

CANTELUPE. It is not I who am judge. God knows I would not sit in
judgment upon anyone.

TREBELL. Cantelupe, I'll take your personal judgment if you can give it

FARRANT. Good Lord, Cantelupe, didn't you sit in a cabinet with . .
Well, we're not here to rake up old scandals.

BLACKBOROUGH. I am concerned with the practical issue.

HORSHAM. We know, Blackborough. [_Having quelled the interruption he
proceeds._] Charles, you spoke, I think, of a mortal sin.

CANTELUPE. In spite of your lifted eyebrows at the childishness of the

HORSHAM. Theoretically, we must all wish to guide ourselves by eternal
truths. But you would admit, wouldn't you, that we can only deal with
temporal things?

CANTELUPE. [_Writhing slightly under the sceptical cross-examination._]
There are divine laws laid down for our guidance . . I admit no
disbelief in them.

HORSHAM. Do they place any time-limit to the effect of a mortal sin? If
this affair were twenty years old would you do as you are doing? Can you
forecast the opinion you will have of it six months hence?

CANTELUPE. [_Positively._] Yes.

HORSHAM. Can you? Nevertheless I wish you had postponed your decision
even till to-morrow.

_Having made his point he looks round almost for approval._

BLACKBOROUGH. What had Percival to say on the subject, Farrant?

FARRANT. I was only to make use of his opinion under certain

BLACKBOROUGH. So it isn't favourable to your remaining with us, Mr.

FARRANT. [_Indignantly emerging from the trap._] I never said that.

_Now_ TREBELL _gives the matter another turn, very forcefully_.

TREBELL. Horsham . . I don't bow politely and stand aside at this
juncture as a gentleman should, because I want to know how the work's to
be done if I leave you what I was to do.

BLACKBOROUGH. Are we so incompetent?

TREBELL. I daresay not. I want to know . . that's all.

CANTELUPE. Please understand, Mr. Trebell, that I have in no way altered
my good opinion of your proposals.

BLACKBOROUGH. Well, I beg to remind you, Horsham, that from the first
I've reserved myself liberty to criticise fundamental points in the

HORSHAM. [_Pacifically._] Quite so . . quite so.

BLACKBOROUGH. That nonsensical new standard of teachers' salaries for
one thing . . you'd never pass it.

HORSHAM. Quite easily. It's an administrative point, so leave the
legislation vague. Then, as the appropriation money falls in, the
qualifications rise and the salaries rise. No one will object because no
one will appreciate it but administrators past or future . . and they
never cavil at money. [_He remains lost in the beauty of this

TREBELL. Will you take charge of the bill, Blackborough?

BLACKBOROUGH. Are you serious?

HORSHAM. [_Brought to earth._] Oh no! [_He corrects himself smiling._] I
mean, my dear Blackborough, why not stick to the Colonies?

BLACKBOROUGH. You see, Trebell, there's still the possibility that
O'Connell may finally spike your gun tomorrow. You realise that, don't

TREBELL. Thank you. I quite realise that.

CANTELUPE. Can nothing further be done?

BLACKBOROUGH. Weren't we doing our best?

HORSHAM. Yes . . if we were bending our thoughts to that difficulty
now . . .

TREBELL. [_Hardly._] May I ask you to interfere on my behalf no further?

FARRANT. My dear Trebell!

TREBELL. I assure you that I am interested in the Disestablishment Bill.

_So they turn readily enough from the more uncomfortable part of their

BLACKBOROUGH. Well . . here's Farrant.

FARRANT. I'm no good. Give me Agriculture.

BLACKBOROUGH. Pity you're in the Lords, Horsham.

TREBELL. Horsham, I'll devil for any man you choose to name . . feed him
sentence by sentence. . .

HORSHAM. That's impossible.

TREBELL. Well, what's to become of my bill? I want to know.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Casting his care on Providence._] We shall manage
somehow. Why, if you had died suddenly . . or let us say, never been
born. . .

TREBELL. Then, Blackborough . . speaking as a dying man . . if you go
back on the integrity of this scheme, I'll haunt you. [_Having said this
with some finality, he turns his back._]

CANTELUPE. Cyril, I agree with what Trebell is saying. Whatever happens
there must be no tampering with the comprehensiveness of the scheme.
Remember you are in the hands of the extremists . . on both sides. I
won't support a compromise on one . . nor will they on the other.

HORSHAM. Well, I'll confess to you candidly, Trebell, that I don't know
of any man available for this piece of work but you.

TREBELL. Then I should say it would be almost a relief to you if
O'Connell tells on me to-morrow.

FARRANT. We seem to have got off that subject altogether. [_There comes
a portentous tap at the door._] Good Lord! . . I'm getting jumpy.

HORSHAM. Excuse me.

_A note is handed to him through the half opened door; and obviously it
is at_ EDMUNDS _whom he frowns. Then he returns fidgetting for his

Oh, it turns out . . I'm so sorry you were blundered in here, Trebell . .
this man . . what's his name . . Edwards . . had been reading the
papers and thought it was a cabinet council . . seemed proud of himself.
This is from Wedgecroft . . scribbled in a messenger office. I never can
read his writing . . it's like prescriptions. Can you?

_It has gradually dawned on the three men and then on_ TREBELL _what
this note may have in it_. FARRANT'S _hand even trembles a little as he
takes it. He gathers the meaning himself and looks at the others with a
smile before he reads the few words aloud._

FARRANT. "All right. He has promised."


FARRANT. Thank God. [_He turns enthusiastically to_ TREBELL _who stands
rigid_.] My dear fellow . . I hope you know how glad I am.

CANTELUPE. I am very glad.

BLACKBOROUGH. Of course we're all very glad indeed, Trebell . . very
glad we persuaded him.

FARRANT. That's dead and buried now, isn't it?

TREBELL _moves away from them all and leaves them wondering. When he
turns round his face is as hard as ever; his voice, if possible,

TREBELL. But, Horsham, returning to the more important question . .
you've taken trouble, and O'Connell's to perjure himself for nothing if
you still can't get me into your child's puzzle . . to make the pretty
picture that a Cabinet should be.

HORSHAM _looks at_ BLACKBOROUGH _and scents danger_.

HORSHAM. We shall all be glad, I am sure, to postpone any further
discussion. . .

TREBELL. I shall not.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Encouragingly._] Quite so, Trebell. We're on the
subject, and it won't discount our pleasure that you're out of this
mess, to continue it. This habit of putting off the hour of disagreement
is . . well, Horsham, it's contrary to my business instincts.

TREBELL. If one time's as good as another for you . . this moment is
better than most for me.

HORSHAM. [_A little irritated at the wantonness of this dispute._] There
is nothing before us on which we are capable of coming to any decision . .
in a technical sense.

BLACKBOROUGH. That's a quibble. [_Poor_ HORSHAM _gasps_.] I'm not going
to pretend either now or in a month's time that I think Trebell anything
but a most dangerous acquisition to the party. I pay you a compliment in
that, Trebell. Now, Horsham proposes that we should go to the country
when Disestablishment's through.

HORSHAM. It's the condition of Nonconformist support.

BLACKBOROUGH. One condition. Then you'd leave us, Trebell?

HORSHAM. I hope not.

BLACKBOROUGH. And carry with you the credit of our one big measure.
Consider the effect upon our reputation with the Country.

FARRANT. [_Waking to_ BLACKBOROUGH'S _line of action_.] Why on earth
should you leave us, Trebell? You've hardly been a Liberal, even in

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Vigorously making his point._] Then what would be the
conditions of your remaining? You're not a party man, Trebell. You
haven't the true party feeling. You are to be bought. Of course you take
your price in measures, not in money. But you are preeminently a man of
ideas . . an expert. And a man of ideas is often a grave embarrassment
to a government.

HORSHAM. And vice-versa . . vice-versa!

TREBELL. [_Facing_ BLACKBOROUGH _across the room_.] Do I understand that
you for the good of the Tory party . . just as Cantelupe for the good of
his soul . . will refuse to sit in a cabinet with me.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Unembarrassed._] I don't commit myself to saying that.

CANTELUPE. No, Trebell . . it's that I must believe your work could not
prosper . . in God's way.

TREBELL _softens to his sincerity_.

TREBELL. Cantelupe, I quite understand. You may be right . . it's a very
interesting question. Blackborough, I take it that you object first of
all to the scheme that I'm bringing you.

BLACKBOROUGH. I object to those parts of it which I don't think you'll
get through the House.

FARRANT. [_Feeling that he must take part._] For instance?

BLACKBOROUGH. I've given you one already.

CANTELUPE. [_His eye on_ BLACKBOROUGH.] Understand there are things in
that scheme we must stand or fall by.

_Suddenly_ TREBELL _makes for the door_. HORSHAM _gets up concernedly_.

TREBELL. Horsham, make up your mind to-night whether you can do with me
or not. I have to see Percival again to-morrow . . we cut short our
argument at the important point. Good-bye . . don't come down. Will you
decide to-night?

HORSHAM. I have made up my own mind.

TREBELL. Is that sufficient?

HORSHAM. A collective decision is a matter of development.

TREBELL. Well, I shall expect to hear.

HORSHAM. By hurrying one only reaches a rash conclusion.

TREBELL. Then be rash for once and take the consequences. Good-night.

_He is gone before_ HORSHAM _can compose another epigram_.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Deprecating such conduct._] Lost his temper!

FARRANT. [_Ruffling considerably._] Horsham, if Trebell is to be hounded
out of your cabinet . . he won't go alone.

HORSHAM. [_Bitter-sweet._] My dear Farrant . . I have yet to form my

CANTELUPE. You are forming it to carry disestablishment, are you not,
Cyril? Therefore you will form it in the best interests of the best
scheme possible.

HORSHAM. Trebell was and is the best man I know of for the purpose. I'm
a little weary of saying that.

_He folds his arms and awaits further developments. After a moment_
CANTELUPE _gets up as if to address a meeting_.

CANTELUPE. Then if you would prefer not to include me . . I shall feel
justified in giving independent support to a scheme I have great faith
in. [_And he sits down again._]

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Impatiently._] My dear Cantelupe, if you think Horsham
can form a disestablishment cabinet to include Trebell and exclude you,
you're vastly mistaken. I for one . . .

FARRANT. But do both of you consider how valuable, how vital Trebell is
to us just at this moment? The Radicals trust him. . .

BLACKBOROUGH. They hate him.

HORSHAM. [_Elucidating._] Their front bench hates him because he turned
them out. The rest of them hate their front bench. After six years of
office, who wouldn't?

BLACKBOROUGH. That's true.

FARRANT. Oh, of course, we must stick to Trebell, Blackborough.

BLACKBOROUGH _is silent; so_ HORSHAM _turns his attention to his

HORSHAM. Well, Charles, I won't ask you for a decision now. I know how
hard it is to accept the dictates of other men's consciences . . but a
necessary condition of all political work; believe me.

CANTELUPE. [_Uneasily._] You can form your cabinet without me, Cyril.

_At this_ BLACKBOROUGH _charges down on them, so to speak_.

BLACKBOROUGH. No, I tell you, I'm damned if he can. Leaving the whole
high church party to blackmail all they can out of us and vote how they
like! Here . . I've got my Yorkshire people to think of. I can bargain
for them with you in a cabinet . . not if you've the pull of being out
of it.

HORSHAM. [_With charming insinuation._] And have you calculated,
Blackborough, what may become of us if Trebell has the pull of being out
of it?

BLACKBOROUGH _makes a face_.

BLACKBOROUGH. Yes . . I suppose he might turn nasty.

FARRANT. I should hope he would.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Tackling_ FARRANT _with great ease_.] I should hope he
would consider the matter not from the personal, but from the political
point of view . . as I am trying to do.

HORSHAM. [_Tasting his epigram with enjoyment._] Introspection is the
only bar to such an honourable endeavour, [BLACKBOROUGH _gapes_.] You
don't suffer from that as--for instance--Charles here, does.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Pugnaciously._] D'you mean I'm just pretending not to
attack him personally?

HORSHAM. [_Safe on his own ground._] It's only a curious metaphysical
point. Have you never noticed your distaste for the colour of a man's
hair translate itself ultimately into an objection to his religious
opinions . . or what not? I am sure--for instance--I could trace
Charles's scruples about sitting in a cabinet with Trebell back to a
sort of academic reverence for women generally which he possesses. I am
sure I could . . if he were not probably now doing it himself. But this
does not make the scruples less real, less religious, or less political.
We must be humanly biased in expression . . or not express ourselves.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Whose thoughts have wandered._] The man's less of a
danger than he was . . I mean he'll be alone. The Liberals won't have
him back. He smashed his following there to come over to us.

FARRANT. [_Giving a further meaning to this._] Yes, Blackborough, he

BLACKBOROUGH. To gain his own ends! Oh, my dear Horsham, can't you see
that if O'Connell had blabbed to-morrow it really would have been a
blessing in disguise? I don't pretend to Cantelupe's standard . . but
there must be something radically wrong with a man who could get
himself into such a mess as that . . now mustn't there? Ah! . . you have
a fatal partiality for clever people. I tell you . . though this might
be patched up . . Trebell would fail us in some other way before we were
six months older.

_This speech has its effect; but_ HORSHAM _looks at him a little

HORSHAM. And am I to conclude that you don't want Charles to change his

BLACKBOROUGH. [_On another tack._] Farrant has not yet allowed us to
hear Percival's opinion.

FARRANT _looks rather alarmed_.

FARRANT. It has very little reference to the scandal.

BLACKBOROUGH. As that is at an end . . all the more reason we should
hear it.

HORSHAM. [_Ranging himself with_ FARRANT.] I called this quite informal
meeting, Blackborough, only to dispose of the scandal, if possible.

BLACKBOROUGH. Well, of course, if Farrant chooses to insult Percival so
gratuitously by burking his message to us . .

_There is an unspoken threat in this._ HORSHAM _sees it and without
disguising his irritation_. . .

HORSHAM. Let us have it, Farrant.

FARRANT. [_With a sort of puzzled discontent._] Well . . I never got to
telling him of the O'Connell affair at all. He started talking to me . .
saying that he couldn't for a moment agree to Trebell's proposals for
the finance of his bill . . I couldn't get a word in edgeways. Then his
wife came up. . .

HORSHAM _takes something in this so seriously that he actually

HORSHAM. Does he definitely disagree? What is his point?

FARRANT. He says Disestablishment's a bad enough speculation for the
party as it is.

BLACKBOROUGH. It is inevitable.

FARRANT. He sees that. But then he says . . to go to the country again
having bolstered up Education and quarrelled with everybody will be bad
enough . . to go having spent fifty millions on it will dish us all for
our lifetimes.

HORSHAM. What does he propose?

FARRANT. He'll offer to draft another bill and take it through himself.
He says . . do as many good turns as we can with the money . . don't put
it all on one horse.

BLACKBOROUGH. He's your man, Horsham. That's one difficulty settled.

HORSHAM'S _thoughts are evidently beyond_ BLACKBOROUGH, _beyond the
absent_ PERCIVAL _even_.

HORSHAM. Oh . . any of us could carry that sort of a bill.

CANTELUPE _has heard this last passage with nothing less than horror and
pale anger, which he contains no longer_.

CANTELUPE. I won't have this. I won't have this opportunity frittered
away for party purposes.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Expostulating reasonably._] My dear Cantelupe . . you'll
get whatever you think it right for the Church to have. You carry a
solid thirty eight votes with you.

HORSHAM'S _smooth voice intervenes. He speaks with finesse._

HORSHAM. Percival, as an old campaigner, expresses himself very roughly.
The point is, that we are after all only the trustees of the party. If
we know that a certain step will decimate it . . clearly we have no
right to take the step.

CANTELUPE. [_Glowing to white heat._] Is this a time to count the
consequences to ourselves?

HORSHAM. [_Unkindly._] By your action this evening, Charles, you
evidently think not. [_He salves the wound._] No matter, I agree with
you . . the bill should be a comprehensive one, whoever brings it in.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Not without enjoyment of the situation._] Whoever brings
it in will have to knuckle under to Percival over its finance.

FARRANT. Trebell won't do that. I warned Percival.

HORSHAM. Then what did he say?

FARRANT. He only swore.

HORSHAM _suddenly becomes peevish_.

HORSHAM. I think, Farrant, you should have given me this message before.

FARRANT. My dear Horsham, what had it to do with our request to

HORSHAM. [_Scolding the company generally._] Well then, I wish he hadn't
sent it. I wish we were not discussing these points at all. The proper
time for them is at a cabinet meeting. And when we have actually assumed
the responsibilities of government . . then threats of resignation are
not things to be played about with.

FARRANT. Did you expect Percival's objection to the finance of the

HORSHAM. Perhaps . . perhaps. I knew Trebell was to see him last
Tuesday. I expect everybody's objections to any parts of every scheme to
come at a time when I am in a proper position to reconcile them . . not

_Having vented his grievances he sits down to recover._ BLACKBOROUGH
_takes advantage of the ensuing pause_.

BLACKBOROUGH. It isn't so easy for me to speak against Trebell, since he
evidently dislikes me personally as much as I dislike him . . but I'm
sure I'm doing my duty. Horsham . . here you have Cantelupe who won't
stand in with the man, and Percival who won't stand in with his measure,
while I would sooner stand in with neither. Isn't it better to face the
situation now than take trouble to form the most makeshift of Cabinets,
and if that doesn't go to pieces, be voted down in the House by your
own party?

_There is an oppressive silence._ HORSHAM _is sulky. The matter is
beyond_ FARRANT. CANTELUPE _whose agonies have expressed themselves in
slight writhings, at last, with an effort, writhes himself to his feet_.

CANTELUPE. I think I am prepared to reconsider my decision.

FARRANT. That's all right then!

_He looks round wonderingly for the rest of the chorus to find that
neither_ BLACKBOROUGH _nor_ HORSHAM _have stirred_.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Stealthily._] Is it, Horsham?

HORSHAM. [_Sotto voce._] Why did you ever make it?


BLACKBOROUGH. You're afraid for the integrity of the bill.

CANTELUPE. It must be comprehensive . . that's vital.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Very forcefully._] I give you my word to support its
integrity, if you'll keep with me in persuading Horsham that the
inclusion of Trebell in his cabinet will be a blow to the whole
Conservative Cause. Horsham, I implore you not to pursue this
short-sighted policy. All parties have made up their minds to
Disestablishment . . surely nothing should be easier than to frame a
bill which will please all parties.

FARRANT. [_At last perceiving the drift of all this._] But good Lord,
Blackborough . . now Cantelupe has come round and will stand in . . .

BLACKBOROUGH. That's no longer the point. And what's all this nonsense
about going to the country again next year?

HORSHAM. [_Mildly._] After consulting me Percival said at Bristol. . .

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Quite unchecked._] I know. But if we pursue a thoroughly
safe policy and the bye-elections go right . . there need be no vote of
censure carried for three or four years. The Radicals want a rest with
the country and they know it. And one has no right, what's more, to go
wantonly plunging the country into the expenses of these constant
general elections. It ruins trade.

FARRANT. [_Forlornly sticking to his point._] What has all this to do
with Trebell?

HORSHAM. [_Thoughtfully._] Farrant, beyond what you've told us, Percival
didn't recommend me to throw him over.

FARRANT. No, he didn't . . that is, he didn't exactly.

HORSHAM. Well . . he didn't?

FARRANT. I'm trying to be accurate! [_Obviously their nerves are now on
edge._] He said we should find him tough to assimilate--as he warned

HORSHAM _with knit brows, loses himself in thought again_. BLACKBOROUGH
_quietly turns his attention to_ FARRANT.

BLACKBOROUGH. Farrant, you don't seriously think that . . outside his
undoubted capabilities . . Trebell is an acquisition to the party?

FARRANT. [_Unwillingly._] Perhaps not. But if you're going to chuck a
man . . don't chuck him when he's down.

BLACKBOROUGH. He's no longer down. We've got him O'Connell's promise and
jolly grateful he ought to be. I think the least we can do is to keep
our minds clear between Trebell's advantage and the party's.

CANTELUPE. [_From the distant music-stool._] And the party's and the

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Countering quite deftly._] Cantelupe, either we think it
best for the country to have our party in power or we don't.

FARRANT. [_In judicious temper._] Certainly, I don't feel our
responsibility towards him is what it was ten minutes ago. The man has
other careers besides his political one.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Ready to praise._] Clever as paint at the Bar--best
Company lawyer we've got.

CANTELUPE. It is not what he loses, I think . . but what we lose in
losing him.

_He says this so earnestly that_ HORSHAM _pays attention_.

HORSHAM. No, my dear Charles, let us be practical. If his position with
us is to be made impossible it is better that he shouldn't assume it.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Soft and friendly._] How far are you actually pledged to

HORSHAM _looks up with the most ingenuous of smiles_.

HORSHAM. That's always such a difficult sort of point to determine,
isn't it? He thinks he is to join us. But I've not yet been commanded to
form a cabinet. If neither you--nor Percival--nor perhaps others will
work with him . . what am I to do? [_He appeals to them generally to
justify this attitude._]

BLACKBOROUGH. He no longer thinks he's to join us . . it's the question
he left us to decide.

_He leaves_ HORSHAM, _whose perplexity is diminishing_. FARRANT _makes
an effort_.

FARRANT. But the scandal won't weaken his position with us now. There
won't be any scandal . . there won't, Blackborough.

HORSHAM. There may be. Though, I take it we're all guiltless of having
mentioned the matter.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Very detached._] I've only known of it since I came into
this house . . but I shall not mention it.

FARRANT. Oh, I'm afraid my wife knows. [_He adds hastily._] My fault . .
my fault entirely.

BLACKBOROUGH. I tell you Rumour's electric.

HORSHAM _has turned to_ FARRANT _with a sweet smile and with the air of
a man about to be relieved of all responsibility_.

HORSHAM. What does she say?

FARRANT. [_As one speaks of a nice woman._] She was horrified.

HORSHAM. Of course. [_Once more he finds refuge and comfort on the
hearthrug, to say, after a moment, with fine resignation._] I suppose I
must let him go.

CANTELUPE. [_On his feet again._] Cyril!

HORSHAM. Yes, Charles?

_With this query he turns an accusing eye on_ CANTELUPE, _who is

BLACKBOROUGH. Have you made up your mind to that?

FARRANT. [_In great distress._] You're wrong, Horsham. [_Then in
greater._] That is . . I =think= you're wrong.

HORSHAM. I'd sooner not let him know to-night.

BLACKBOROUGH. But he asked you to.

HORSHAM. [_All show of resistance gone._] Did he? Then I suppose I must.
[_He sighs deeply._]

BLACKBOROUGH. Then I'll get back to Aylesbury.

_He picks up his motor-cap from the table and settles it on his head
with immense aplomb._

HORSHAM. So late?

BLACKBOROUGH. Really one can get along quicker at night if one knows the
road. You're in town, aren't you, Farrant? Shall I drop you at Grosvenor

FARRANT. [_Ungraciously._] Thank you.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_With a conqueror's geniality._] I don't mind telling you
now, Horsham, that ever since we met at Shapters I've been wondering how
you'd escape from this association with Trebell. Thought he was being
very clever when he crossed the House to us! It's needed a special
providence. You'd never have got a cabinet together to include him.

HORSHAM. [_With much intention._] No.

FARRANT. [_Miserably._] Yes, I suppose that intrigue was a mistake from
the beginning.

BLACKBOROUGH. Well, good-night. [_As he turns to go he finds_ CANTELUPE
_upright, staring very sternly at him_.] Good-night, Cantelupe.

CANTELUPE. From what motives have we thrown Trebell over?

BLACKBOROUGH. Never mind the motives if the move is the right one.
[_Then he nods at_ HORSHAM.] I shall be up again next week if you want

_And he flourishes out of the room; a man who has done a good hour's
work._ FARRANT, _who has been mooning depressedly around, now backs
towards the door_.

FARRANT. In one way, of course, Trebell won't care a damn. I mean, he
knows as well as we do that office isn't worth having . . he has never
been a place-hunter. On the other hand . . what with one thing and the
other . . Blackborough is a sensible fellow. I suppose it can't be

HORSHAM. Blackborough will tell you so. Good-night.

_So_ FARRANT _departs, leaving the two cousins together_. CANTELUPE _has
not moved and now faces_ HORSHAM _just as accusingly_.

CANTELUPE. Cyril, this is tragic.

HORSHAM. [_More to himself than in answer._] Yes . . most annoying.

CANTELUPE. Lucifer, son of the morning! Why is it always the highest who

HORSHAM _shies fastidiously at this touch of poetry_.

HORSHAM. No, my dear Charles, let us above all things keep our mental
balance. Trebell is a most capable fellow. I'd set my heart on having
him with me . . he'll be most awkward to deal with in opposition. But we
shall survive his loss and so would the country.

CANTELUPE. [_Desperately._] Cyril, promise me there shall be no
compromise over this measure.

HORSHAM. [_Charmingly candid._] No . . no unnecessary compromise, I
promise you.

CANTELUPE. [_With a sigh._] If we had done what we have done to-night in
the right spirit! Blackborough was almost vindictive.

HORSHAM. [_Smiling without amusement._] Didn't you keep thinking . . I
did . . of that affair of his with Mrs. Parkington . . years ago?

CANTELUPE. There was never any proof of it.

HORSHAM. No . . he bought off the husband.

CANTELUPE. [_Uneasily._] His objections to Trebell were--political.

HORSHAM. Yours weren't.

CANTELUPE. [_More uneasily still._] I withdrew mine.

HORSHAM. [_With elderly reproof._] I don't think, Charles, you have the
least conception of what a nicely balanced machine a cabinet is.

CANTELUPE. [_Imploring comfort._] But should we have held together
through Trebell's bill?

HORSHAM. [_A little impatient._] Perhaps not. But once I had them all
round a table . . Trebell is very keen on office for all his independent
airs . . he and Percival could have argued the thing out. However, it's
too late now.


_For a moment_ HORSHAM _is tempted to indulge in the luxury of changing
his mind; but he puts Satan behind him with a shake of the head_.

HORSHAM. Well, you see . . Percival I can't do without. Now that
Blackborough knows of his objections to the finance he'd go to him and
take Chisholm and offer to back them up. I know he would . . he didn't
take Farrant away with him for nothing. [_Then he flashes out rather
shrilly._] It's Trebell's own fault. He ought not to have committed
himself definitely to any scheme until he was safely in office. I warned
him about Percival . . I warned him not to be explicit. One cannot work
with men who will make up their minds prematurely. No, I shall not
change my mind. I shall write to him.

_He goes firmly to his writing desk leaving_ CANTELUPE _forlorn_.

CANTELUPE. What about a messenger?

HORSHAM. Not at this time of night. I'll post it.

CANTELUPE. I'll post it as I go.

_He seeks comfort again in the piano and this time starts to play, with
one finger and some hesitation, the first bars of a Bach fugue._
HORSHAM'S _pen-nib is disappointing him and the letter is not easy to

HORSHAM. But I hate coming to immediate decisions. The administrative
part of my brain always tires after half an hour. Does yours, Charles?

CANTELUPE. What do you think Trebell will do now?

HORSHAM. [_A little grimly._] Punish us all he can.

_On reaching the second voice in the fugue_ CANTELUPE'S _virtuosity
breaks down_.

CANTELUPE. All that ability turned to destructiveness . . what a pity!
That's the paradox of human activities . .

_Suddenly_ HORSHAM _looks up and his face is lighted with a seraphic

HORSHAM. Charles . . I wish we could do without Blackborough.

CANTELUPE. [_Struck with the idea._] Well . . why not?

HORSHAM. Yes . . I must think about it. [_They both get up, cheered
considerably._] You won't forget this, will you?

CANTELUPE. [_The letter in_ HORSHAM'S _hand accusing him_.] No . . no. I
don't think I have been the cause of your dropping Trebell, have I?

HORSHAM, _rid of the letter, is rid of responsibility and his charming
equable self again. He comforts his cousin paternally._

HORSHAM. I don't think so. The split would have come when Blackborough
checkmated my forming a cabinet. It would have pleased him to do that . .
and he could have, over Trebell. But now that question's out of the
way . . you won't get such a bad measure with Trebell in opposition.
He'll frighten us into keeping it up to the mark, so to speak.

CANTELUPE. [_A little comforted._] But I shall miss one or two of those
ideas . .

HORSHAM. [_So pleasantly sceptical._] Do you think they'd have outlasted
the second reading? Dullness in the country one expects. Dullness in the
House one can cope with. But do you know, I have never sat in a cabinet
yet that didn't greet anything like a new idea in chilling silence.

CANTELUPE. Well, I should regret to have caused you trouble, Cyril.

HORSHAM. [_His hand on the other's shoulder._] Oh . . we don't take
politics so much to heart as that, I hope.

CANTELUPE. [_With sweet gravity._] I take politics very much to heart.
Yes, I know what you mean . . but that's the sort of remark that makes
people call you cynical. [HORSHAM _smiles as if at a compliment and
starts with_ CANTELUPE _towards the door_. CANTELUPE, _who would not
hurt his feelings, changes the subject_.] By the bye, I'm glad we met
this evening! Do you hear Aunt Mary wants to sell the Burford Holbein?
Can she?

HORSHAM. [_Taking as keen, but no keener, an interest in this than in
the difficulty he has just surmounted._] Yes, by the will she can, but
she mustn't. Dear me, I thought I'd put a stop to that foolishness. Well
now, we must take that matter up very seriously. . .

_They go out talking arm in arm._

                              THE FOURTH ACT

At TREBELL'S again; later, the same evening.

_His room is in darkness but for the flicker the fire makes and the
streaks of moonlight between the curtains. The door is open, though, and
you see the light of the lamp on the stairs. You hear his footstep too.
On his way he stops to draw back the curtains of the passage-way window;
the moonlight makes his face look very pale. Then he serves the curtains
of his own window the same; flings it open, moreover, and stands looking
out. Something below draws his attention. After leaning over the balcony
with a short_ "Hullo" _he goes quickly downstairs again. In a minute_
WEDGECROFT _comes up_. TREBELL _follows, pausing by the door a moment to
light up the room_. WEDGECROFT _is radiant_.

TREBELL. [_With a twist of his mouth._] Promised, has he?

WEDGECROFT. Suddenly broke out as we walked along, that he liked the
look of you and that men must stand by one another nowadays against
these women. Then he said good-night and walked away.

TREBELL. Back to Ireland and the thirteenth century.

WEDGECROFT. After to-morrow.

TREBELL. [_Taking all the meaning of to-morrow._] Yes. Are you in for
perjury, too?

WEDGECROFT. [_His thankfulness checked a little._] No . . not exactly.

TREBELL _walks away from him_.

TREBELL. It's a pity the truth isn't to be told, I think. I suppose the
verdict will be murder.

WEDGECROFT. They won't catch the man.

TREBELL. You don't mean . . me.

WEDGECROFT. No, no . . my dear fellow.

TREBELL. You might, you know. But nobody seems to see this thing as I
see it. If I were on that jury I'd say murder too and accuse . . so many
circumstances, Gilbert, that we should go home . . and look in the
cupboards. What a lumber of opinions we inherit and keep!

WEDGECROFT. [_Humouring him._] Ought we to burn the house down?

TREBELL. Rules and regulations for the preservation of rubbish are the
laws of England . . and I was adding to their number.

WEDGECROFT. And so you shall . . to the applause of a grateful country.

TREBELL. [_Studying his friend's kindly encouraging face._] Gilbert, it
is not so much that you're an incorrigible optimist . . but why do you
subdue your mind to flatter people into cheerfulness?

WEDGECROFT. I'm a doctor, my friend.

TREBELL. You're a part of our tendency to keep things alive by hook or
by crook . . not a spark but must be carefully blown upon. The world's
old and tired; it dreads extinction. I think I disapprove . . I think
I've more faith.

WEDGECROFT. [_Scolding him._] Nonsense . . you've the instinct to
preserve your life as everyone else has . . and I'm here to show you

TREBELL. [_Beyond the reach of his kindness._] I assure you that these
two days while you've been fussing around O'Connell--bless your kind
heart--I've been waiting events, indifferent enough to understand his

WEDGECROFT. Not indifferent.

TREBELL. Lifeless enough already, then. [_Suddenly a thought strikes
him._] D'you think it was Horsham and his little committee persuaded

WEDGECROFT. On the contrary.

TREBELL. So you need not have let them into the secret?


TREBELL. Think of that.

_He almost laughs; but_ WEDGECROFT _goes on quite innocently_.

WEDGECROFT. Yes . . I'm sorry.

TREBELL. Upsetting their moral digestion for nothing.

WEDGECROFT. But when O'Connell wouldn't listen to us we had to rope in
the important people.

TREBELL. With their united wisdom. [_Then he breaks away again into
great bitterness._] No . . what do they make of this woman's death? I
saw them in that room, Gilbert, like men seen through the wrong end of a
telescope. D'you think if the little affair with Nature . . her offence
and mine against the conveniences of civilization . . had ended in my
death too . . then they'd have stopped to wonder at the misuse and waste
of the only force there is in the world . . come to think of it, there
is no other . . than this desire for expression . . in words . . or
through children. Would they have thought of that and stopped whispering
about the scandal?

_Through this_ WEDGECROFT _has watched him very gravely_.

WEDGECROFT. Trebell . . if the inquest to-morrow had put you out of
action . .

TREBELL. Should I have grown a beard and travelled abroad and after ten
years timidly tried to climb my way back into politics? When public
opinion takes its heel from your face it keeps it for your finger-tips.
After twenty years to be forgiven by your more broad-minded friends and
tolerated as a dotard by a new generation. . .

WEDGECROFT. Nonsense. What age are you now . . forty-six . .

TREBELL. Well . . let's instance a good man. Gladstone had done his best
work by sixty-five. Then he began to be popular. Think of his last years
of oratory.

_He has gone to his table and now very methodically starts to tidy his
papers_, WEDGECROFT _still watching him_.

WEDGECROFT. You'd have had to thank Heaven for a little that there were
more lives than one to lead.

TREBELL. That's another of your faults, Gilbert . . it's a comfort just
now to enumerate them. You're an anarchist . . a kingdom to yourself.
You make little treaties with Truth and with Beauty, and what can
disturb you? I'm a part of the machine I believe in. If my life as I've
made it is to be cut short . . the rest of me shall walk out of the
world and slam the door . . with the noise of a pistol shot.

WEDGECROFT. [_Concealing some uneasiness._] Then I'm glad it's not to be
cut short. You and your cabinet rank and your disestablishment bill!

TREBELL _starts to enjoy his secret_.

TREBELL. Yes . . our minds have been much relieved within the last half
hour, haven't they?

WEDGECROFT. I scribbled Horsham a note in a messenger office and sent it
as soon as O'Connell had left me.

TREBELL. He'd be glad to get that.

WEDGECROFT. He has been most kind about the whole thing.

TREBELL. Oh, he means well.

WEDGECROFT. [_Following up his fancied advantage._] But, my friend . .
suicide whilst of unsound mind would never have done . . The hackneyed
verdict hits the truth, you know.

TREBELL. You think so?

WEDGECROFT. I don't say there aren't excuses enough in this miserable
world, but fundamentally . . no sane person will destroy life.

TREBELL. [_His thoughts shifting their plane._] Was she so very mad? I'm
not thinking of her own death.

WEDGECROFT. Don't brood, Trebell. Your mind isn't healthy yet about her

TREBELL. And my child.

_Even_ WEDGECROFT'S _kindness is at fault before the solemnity of this_.

WEDGECROFT. Is that how you're thinking of it?

TREBELL. How else? It's very inexplicable . . this sense of fatherhood.
[_The eyes of his mind travel down--what vista of possibilities. Then he
shakes himself free._] Let's drop the subject. To finish the list of
shortcomings, you're a bit of an artist too . . therefore I don't think
you'll understand.

WEDGECROFT. [_Successfully decoyed into argument._] Surely an artist is
a man who understands.

TREBELL. Everything about life, but not life itself. That's where art
fails a man.

WEDGECROFT. That's where everything but living fails a man. [_Drifting
into introspection himself._] Yes, it's true. I can talk cleverly and
I've written a book . . but I'm barren. [_Then the healthy mind
re-asserts itself._] No, it's not true. Our thoughts are children . .
and marry and intermarry. And we're peopling the world . . not badly.

TREBELL. Well . . either life is too little a thing to matter or it's so
big that such specks of it as we may be are of no account. These are two
points of view. And then one has to consider if death can't be sometimes
the last use made of life.

_There is a tone of menace in this which recalls_ WEDGECROFT _to the
present trouble_.

WEDGECROFT. I doubt the virtue of sacrifice . . or the use of it.

TREBELL. How else could I tell Horsham that my work matters? Does he
think so now? . . not he.

WEDGECROFT. You mean if they'd had to throw you over?

_Once again_ TREBELL _looks up with that secretive smile_.

TREBELL. Yes . . if they'd had to.

WEDGECROFT. [_Unreasonably nervous, so he thinks._] My dear fellow,
Horsham would have thought it was the shame and disgrace if you'd shot
yourself after the inquest. That's the proper sentimental thing for you
so-called strong men to do on like occasions. Why, if your name were to
come out to-morrow, your best meaning friends would be sending you
pistols by post, requesting you to use them like a gentleman. Horsham
would grieve over ten dinner-tables in succession and then return to his
philosophy. One really mustn't waste a life trying to shock polite
politicians. There'd even be a suspicion of swagger in it.

TREBELL. Quite so . . the bomb that's thrown at their feet must be
something otherwise worthless.

FRANCES _comes in quickly, evidently in search of her brother. Though
she has not been crying, her eyes are wide with grief._

FRANCES. Oh, Henry . . I'm so glad you're still up. [_She notices_
WEDGECROFT.] How d'you do, Doctor?

TREBELL. [_Doubling his mask of indifference._] Meistersinger's over


TREBELL. Not much past twelve yet.

FRANCES. [_The little gibe lost on her._] It was Tristan to-night. I'm
quite upset. I heard just as I was coming away . . Amy O'Connell's dead.
[_Both men hold their breath._ TREBELL _is the first to find control of
his and give the cue_.]

TREBELL. Yes . . Wedgecroft has just told me.

FRANCES. She was only taken ill last week . . it's so extraordinary.
[_She remembers the doctor._] Oh . . have you been attending her?


FRANCES. I hear there's to be an inquest.


FRANCES. But what has been the matter?

TREBELL. [_Sharply forestalling any answer._] You'll know to-morrow.

FRANCES. [_The little snub almost bewildering her._] Anything private? I
mean . .

TREBELL. No . . I'll tell you. Don't make Gilbert repeat a story twice . .
He's tired with a good day's work.

WEDGECROFT. Yes . . I'll be getting away.

FRANCES _never heeds this flash of a further meaning between the two

FRANCES. And I meant to have gone to see her to-day. Was the end very
sudden? Did her husband arrive in time?


FRANCES. They didn't get on . . he'll be frightfully upset.

TREBELL _resists a hideous temptation to laugh_.

WEDGECROFT. Good night, Trebell.

TREBELL. Good night, Gilbert. Many thanks.

_There is enough of a caress in_ TREBELL'S _tone to turn_ FRANCES
_towards their friend, a little remorseful for treating him so casually,
now as always_.

FRANCES. He's always thanking you. You're always doing things for him.

WEDGECROFT. Good night. [_Seeing the tears in her eyes._] Oh, don't

FRANCES. One shouldn't be sorry when people die, I know. But she liked
me more than I liked her. . [_This time_ TREBELL _does laugh,
silently_.] . . so I somehow feel in her debt and unable to pay now.

TREBELL. [_An edge on his voice._] Yes . . people keep on dying at all
sorts of ages, in all sorts of ways. But we seem never to get used to it
. . narrow-minded as we are.

WEDGECROFT. Don't you talk nonsense.

TREBELL. [_One note sharper yet._] One should occasionally test one's
sanity by doing so. If we lived in the logical world we like to believe
in, I could also prove that black was white. As it is . . there are more
ways of killing a cat than hanging it.

WEDGECROFT. Had I better give you a sleeping draught?

FRANCES. Are you doctoring him for once? Henry, have you at last managed
to overwork yourself?

TREBELL. No . . I started the evening by a charming little dinner at the
Van Meyer's . . sat next to Miss Grace Cutler, who is writing a _vie
intime_ of Louis Quinze and engaged me with anecdotes of the same.

FRANCES. A champion of her sex, whom I do not like.

WEDGECROFT. She's writing such a book to prove that women are equal to

_He goes towards the door and_ FRANCES _goes with him_. TREBELL _never
turns his head_.

TREBELL. I shall not come and open the door for you . . but mind you
shut it.

FRANCES _comes back_.

FRANCES. Henry . . this is dreadful about that poor little woman.

TREBELL. An unwelcome baby was arriving. She got some quack to kill her.

_These exact words are like a blow in the face to her, from which, being
a woman of brave common sense, she does not shrink._

TREBELL. What do you say to that?

_She walks away from him, thinking painfully._

FRANCES. She had never had a child. There's the common-place thing to
say . . Ungrateful little fool! But . .

TREBELL. If you had been in her place?

FRANCES. [_Subtly._] I have never made the mistake of marrying. She grew
frightened, I suppose. Not just physically frightened. How can a man

TREBELL. The fear of life . . do you think it was . . which is the
beginning of all evil?

FRANCES. A woman must choose what her interpretation of life is to be . .
as a man must too in his way . . as you and I have chosen, Henry.

TREBELL. [_Asking from real interest in her._] Was yours a deliberate
choice and do you never regret it?

FRANCES. [_Very simply and clearly._] Perhaps one does nothing quite
deliberately and for a definite reason. My state has its compensations . .
if one doesn't value them too highly. I've travelled in thought over
all this question. You mustn't blame a woman for wishing not to bear
children. But . . well, if one doesn't like the fruit one mustn't
cultivate the flower. And I suppose that saying condemns poor Amy . .
condemned her to death . . [_Then her face hardens as she concentrates
her meaning._] and brands most men as . . let's unsentimentally call it
=illogical=, doesn't it?

_He takes the thrust in silence._

TREBELL. Did you notice the light in my window as you came in?

FRANCES. Yes . . in both as I got out of the cab. Do you want the
curtains drawn back?

TREBELL. Yes . . don't touch them.

_He has thrown himself into his chair by the fire. She lapses into
thought again._

FRANCES. Poor little woman.

TREBELL. [_In deep anger._] Well, if women will be little and poor . .

_She goes to him and slips an arm over his shoulder._

FRANCES. What is it you're worried about . . if a mere sister may ask?

TREBELL. [_Into the fire._] I want to think. I haven't thought for

FRANCES. Why, you have done nothing else.

TREBELL. I've been working out problems in legal and political algebra.

FRANCES. You want to think of =yourself=.


FRANCES. [_Gentle and ironic._] Have you ever, for one moment, thought
in that sense of anyone else?

TREBELL. Is that a complaint?

FRANCES. The first in ten years' housekeeping.

TREBELL. No, I never have . . but I've never thought selfishly either.

FRANCES. That's a paradox I don't quite understand.

TREBELL. Until women do they'll remain where they are . . and what they

FRANCES. Oh, I know you hate us.

TREBELL. Yes, dear sister, I'm afraid I do. And I hate your influence on
men . . compromise, tenderness, pity, lack of purpose. Women don't know
the values of things, not even their own value.

_For a moment she studies him, wonderingly._

FRANCES. I'll take up the counter-accusation to-morrow. Now I'm tired
and I'm going to bed. If I may insult you by mothering you, so should
you. You look tired and I've seldom seen you.

TREBELL. I'm waiting up for a message.

FRANCES. So late?

TREBELL. It's a matter of life and death.

FRANCES. Are you joking?

TREBELL. Yes. If you want to spoil me find me a book to read.

FRANCES. What will you have?

TREBELL. Huckleberry Finn. It's on a top shelf towards the end somewhere
. . or should be.

_She finds the book. On her way back with it she stops and shivers._

FRANCES. I don't think I shall sleep to-night. Poor Amy O'Connell!

TREBELL. [_Curiously._] Are you afraid of death?

FRANCES. [_With humorous stoicism._] It will be the end of me, perhaps.

_She gives him the book, with its red cover; the '86 edition, a boy's
friend evidently. He fingers it familiarly._

TREBELL. Thank you. Mark Twain's a jolly fellow. He has courage . .
comic courage. That's what's wanted. Nothing stands against it. You
be-little yourself by laughing . . then all this world and the last and
the next grow little too . . and so you grow great again. Switch off
some light, will you?

FRANCES. [_Clicking off all but his reading lamp._] So?

TREBELL. Thanks. Good night, Frankie.

_She turns at the door, with a glad smile._

FRANCES. Good night. When did you last use that nursery name?

_Then she goes, leaving him still fingering the book, but looking into
the fire and far beyond. Behind him through the open window one sees how
cold and clear the night is._

                        *    *    *    *    *

_At eight in the morning he is still here. His lamp is out, the fire is
out and the book laid aside. The white morning light penetrates every
crevice of the room and shows every line on_ TREBELL'S _face. The spirit
of the man is strained past all reason. The door opens suddenly and_
FRANCES _comes in, troubled, nervous. Interrupted in her dressing, she
has put on some wrap or other._

FRANCES. Henry . . Simpson says you've not been to bed all night.

_He turns his head and says with inappropriate politeness--_

TREBELL. No. Good morning.

FRANCES. Oh, my dear . . what is wrong?

TREBELL. The message hasn't come . . and I've been thinking.

FRANCES. Why don't you tell me? [_He turns his head away._] I think you
haven't the right to torture me.

TREBELL. Your sympathy would only blind me towards the facts I want to

SIMPSON, _the maid, undisturbed in her routine, brings in the morning's
letters_. FRANCES _rounds on her irritably_.

FRANCES. What is it, Simpson?

MAID. The letters, Ma'am.

TREBELL _is on his feet at that_.

TREBELL. Ah . . I want them.

FRANCES. [_Taking the letters composedly enough._] Thank you.

SIMPSON _departs and_ TREBELL _comes to her for his letters. She looks
at him with baffled affection._

FRANCES. Can I do nothing? Oh, Henry!

TREBELL. Help me to open my letters.

FRANCES. Don't you leave them to Mr. Kent?

TREBELL. Not this morning.

FRANCES. But there are so many.

TREBELL. [_For the first time lifting his voice from its dull
monotony._] What a busy man I was.

FRANCES. Henry . . you're a little mad.

TREBELL. Do you find me so? That's interesting.

FRANCES. [_With the ghost of a smile._] Well . . maddening.

_By this time he is sitting at his table; she near him watching
closely. They halve the considerable post and start to open it._

TREBELL. We arrange them in three piles . . personal . . political . .
and preposterous.

FRANCES. This is an invitation . . the Anglican League.

TREBELL. I can't go.

_She looks sideways at him as he goes on mechanically tearing the

FRANCES. I heard you come upstairs about two o'clock.

TREBELL. That was to dip my head in water. Then I made an instinctive
attempt to go to bed . . got my tie off even.

FRANCES. [_Her anxiety breaking out._] If you'd tell me that you're only
ill . . .

TREBELL. [_Forbiddingly commonplace._] What's that letter? Don't fuss . .
and remember that abnormal conduct is sometimes quite rational.

FRANCES _returns to her task with misty eyes_.

FRANCES. It's from somebody whose son can't get into something.

TREBELL. The third heap . . Kent's . . the preposterous. [_Talking on
with steady monotony._] But I saw it would not do to interrupt that
logical train of thought which reached definition about half past six. I
had then been gleaning until you came in.

FRANCES. [_Turning the neat little note in her hand._] This is from Lord
Horsham. He writes his name small at the bottom of the envelope.

TREBELL. [_Without a tremor._] Ah . . give it me.

_He opens this as he has opened the others, carefully putting the
envelope to one side._ FRANCES _has ceased for the moment to watch him_.

FRANCES. That's Cousin Robert's handwriting. [_She puts a square
envelope at his hand._] Is a letter marked private from the Education
Office political or personal?

_By this he has read_ HORSHAM'S _letter twice. So he tears it up and
speaks very coldly._

TREBELL. Either. It doesn't matter.

_In the silence her fears return._

FRANCES. Henry, it's a foolish idea . . I suppose I have it because I
hardly slept for thinking of her. Your trouble is nothing to do with Amy
O'Connell, is it?

TREBELL. [_His voice strangled in his throat._] Her child should have
been my child too.

FRANCES. [_Her eyes open, the whole landscape of her mind suddenly
clear._] Oh, I . . no, I didn't think so . . but. . .

TREBELL. [_Dealing his second blow as remorselessly as dealt to him._]
Also I'm not joining the new Cabinet, my dear sister.

FRANCES. [_Her thoughts rushing now to the present--the future._] Not!
Because of . . ? Do people know? Will they . ? You didn't . . ?

_As mechanically as ever he has taken up_ COUSIN ROBERT'S _letter and,
in some sense, read it. Now he recapitulates, meaninglessly, that his
voice may just deaden her pain and his own._

TREBELL. Robert says . . that we've not been to see them for some time . .
but that now I'm a greater man than ever I must be very busy. The
vicarage has been painted and papered throughout and looks much fresher.
Mary sends you her love and hopes you have no return of the rheumatism.
And he would like to send me the proof sheets of his critical commentary
on First Timothy . . for my alien eye might possibly detect some logical
lapses. Need he repeat to me his thankfulness at my new attitude upon
Disestablishment . . or assure me again that I have his prayers. Could
we not go and stay there only for a few days? Possibly his opinion--

_She has borne this cruel kindness as long as she can and she breaks
out . ._

FRANCES. Oh . . don't . . don't!

_He falls from his seeming callousness to the very blankness of

TREBELL. No, we'll leave that . . and the rest . . and everything.

_Her agony passes._

FRANCES. What do you mean to do?

TREBELL. There's to be no public scandal.

FRANCES. Why has Lord Horsham thrown you over then . . or hasn't that
anything to do with it?

TREBELL. It has to do with it.

FRANCES. [_Lifting her voice; some tone returning to it._] Unconsciously
. . I've known for years that this sort of thing might happen to you.


FRANCES. Power over men and women and contempt for them! Do you think
they don't take their revenge sooner or later?

TREBELL. Much good may it do them!

FRANCES. Human nature turns against you . . by instinct . . in

TREBELL. And my own human-nature!

FRANCES. [_Shocked into great pity, by his half articulate pain._] Yes . .
you must have loved her, Henry . . in some odd way. I'm sorry for you

TREBELL. I'm hating her now . . as a man can only hate his own silliest

FRANCES. [_Flashing into defence._] That's wrong of you. If you thought
of her only as a pretty little fool . . Bearing your child . . all her
womanly life belonged to you . . and for that time there was no other
sort of life in her. So she became what you thought her.

TREBELL. That's not true.

FRANCES. It's true enough . . it's true of men towards women. You can't
think of them through generations as one thing and then suddenly find
them another.

TREBELL. [_Hammering at his fixed idea._] She should have brought that
child into the world.

FRANCES. You didn't love her enough!

TREBELL. I didn't love her at all.

FRANCES. Then why should she value your gift?

TREBELL. For its own sake.

FRANCES. [_Turning away._] It's hopeless . . you don't understand.

TREBELL. [_Helpless; almost like a deserted child._] I've been trying to
. . all through the night.

FRANCES. [_Turning back enlightened a little._] That's more the trouble
then than the Cabinet question?

_He shakes himself to his feet and begins to pace the room; his keenness
coming back to him, his brow knitting again with the delight of

TREBELL. Oh . . as to me against the world . . I'm fortified with comic
courage. [_Then turning on her like any examining professor._] Now which
do you believe . . that Man is the reformer, or that the Time brings
forth such men as it needs and lobster-like can grow another claw?

FRANCES. [_Watching this new mood carefully._] I believe that you'll be
missed from Lord Horsham's Cabinet.

TREBELL. The hand-made statesman and his hand-made measure! They were
out of place in that pretty Tory garden. Those men are the natural
growth of the time. Am I?

FRANCES. Just as much. And wasn't your bill going to be such a good
piece of work? That can't be thrown away . . wasted.

TREBELL. Can one impose a clever idea upon men and women? I wonder.

FRANCES. That rather begs the question of your very existence, doesn't

_He comes to a standstill._

TREBELL. I know.

_His voice shows her that meaning in her words and beyond it a threat.
She goes to him, suddenly shaking with fear._

FRANCES. Henry, I didn't mean that.

TREBELL. You think I've a mind to put an end to that same?

FRANCES. [_Belittling her fright._] No . . for how unreasonable. . .

TREBELL. In view of my promising past. I've stood for success, Fanny; I
still stand for success. I could still do more outside the Cabinet than
the rest of them, inside, will do. But suddenly I've a feeling the work
would be barren. [_His eyes shift beyond her; beyond the room._] What is
it in your thoughts and actions which makes them bear fruit? Something
that the roughest peasant may have in common with the best of us
intellectual men . . something that a dog might have. It isn't
successful cleverness.

_She stands . . his trouble beyond her reach._

FRANCES. Come now . . you've done very well with your life.

TREBELL. Do you know how empty I feel of all virtue at this moment?

_He leaves her. She must bring him back to the plane on which she can
help him._

FRANCES. We must think what's best to be done . . now . . and for the

TREBELL. Why, I could go on earning useless money at the Bar . . think
how nice that would be. I could blackmail the next judgeship out of
Horsham. I think I could even smash his Disestablishment Bill . . and
perhaps get into the next Liberal Cabinet and start my own all over
again, with necessary modifications. I shan't do any such things.

FRANCES. No one knows about you and poor Amy?

TREBELL. Half a dozen friends. Shall I offer to give evidence at the
inquest this morning?

FRANCES. [_With a little shiver._] They'll say bad enough things about
her without your blackening her good name.

_Without warning, his anger and anguish break out again._

TREBELL. All she had . . all there is left of her! She was a nothingness
. . silly . . vain. And I gave her this power over me!

_He is beaten, exhausted. Now she goes to him, motherlike._

FRANCES. My dear, listen to me for a little. Consider that as a sorrow
and put it behind you. And think now . . whatever love there may be
between us has neither hatred nor jealousy in it, has it, Henry? Since
I'm not a mistress or a friend but just the likest fellow-creature to
you . . perhaps.

TREBELL. [_Putting out his hand for hers._] Yes, my sister. What I've
wanted to feel for vague humanity has been what I should have felt for
you . . if you'd ever made a single demand on me.

_She puts her arms round him; able to speak._

FRANCES. Let's go away somewhere . . I'll make demands. I need
refreshing as much as you. My joy of life has been withered in me . .
oh, for a long time now. We must kiss the earth again . . take interest
in common things, common people. There's so much of the world we don't
know. There's air to breathe everywhere. Think of the flowers in a Tyrol
valley in the early spring. One can walk for days, not hurrying, as soon
as the passes are open. And the people are kind. There's Italy . .
there's Russia full of simple folk. When we've learned to be friends
with them we shall both feel so much better.

TREBELL. [_Shaking his head, unmoved._] My dear sister . . I should be
bored to death. The life contemplative and peripatetic would literally
bore me into a living death.

FRANCES. [_Letting it be a fairy tale._] Is your mother the Wide World
nothing to you? Can't you open your heart like a child again?

TREBELL. No, neither to the beauty of Nature nor the particular human
animals that are always called a part of it. I don't even see them with
your eyes. I'm a son of the anger of Man at men's foolishness, and
unless I've that to feed upon . . .! [_Now he looks at her, as if for
the first time wanting to explain himself, and his voice changes._]
Don't you know that when a man cuts himself shaving, he swears? When he
loses a seat in the Cabinet he turns inward for comfort . . and if he
only finds there a spirit which should have been born, but is dead . .
what's to be done then?

FRANCES. [_In a whisper._] You mustn't think of that woman. . .

TREBELL. I've reasoned my way through life. . .

FRANCES. I see how awful it is to have the double blow fall.

TREBELL. [_The wave of his agony rising again._] But here's something in
me which no knowledge touches . . some feeling . . some power which
should be the beginning of new strength. But it has been killed in me
unborn before I had learnt to understand . . and that's killing me.

FRANCES. [_Crying out._] Why . . why did no woman teach you to be
gentle? Why did you never believe in any woman? Perhaps even I am to
blame. . .

TREBELL. The little fool, the little fool . . why did she kill my child?
What did it matter what I thought her? We were committed together to
that one thing. Do you think I didn't know that I was heartless and that
she was socially in the wrong? But what did Nature care for that? And
Nature has broken us.

FRANCES. [_Clinging to him as he beats the air._] Not you. She's dead,
poor girl . . but not you.

TREBELL. Yes . . that's the mystery no one need believe till he has
dipped in it. The man bears the child in his soul as the woman carries
it in her body.

_There is silence between them, till she speaks low and tonelessly,
never loosing his hand._

FRANCES. Henry, I want your promise that you'll go on living till . .
till . .

TREBELL. Don't cry, Fanny, that's very foolish.

FRANCES. Till you've learnt to look at all this calmly. Then I can trust

TREBELL _smiles, not at all grimly_.

TREBELL. But, you see, it would give Horsham and Blackborough such a
shock if I shot myself . . it would make them think about things.

FRANCES. [_With one catch of wretched laughter._] Oh, my dear, if
shooting's wanted . . shoot them. Or I'll do it for you.

_He sits in his chair just from weariness. She stands by him, her hand
still grasping his._

TREBELL. You see, Fanny, as I said to Gilbert last night . . our lives
are our own and yet not our own. We understand living for others and
dying for others. The first is easy . . it's a way out of boredom. To
make the second popular we had to invent a belief in personal
resurrection. Do you think we shall ever understand dying in the sure
and certain hope that it really doesn't matter . . that God is
infinitely economical and wastes perhaps less of the power in us after
our death than men do while we live?

FRANCES. I want your promise, Henry.

TREBELL. You know I never make promises . . it's taking oneself too
seriously. Unless indeed one has the comic courage to break them too.
I've upset you very much with my troubles. Don't you think you'd better
go and finish dressing? [_She doesn't move._] My dear . . you don't
propose to hold my right hand so safely for years to come. Even so, I
still could jump out of a window.

FRANCES. I'll trust you, Henry.

_She looks into his eyes and he does not flinch. Then, with a final grip
she leaves him. When she is at the door he speaks more gently than

TREBELL. Your own life is sufficient unto itself, isn't it?

FRANCES. Oh yes. I can be pleasant to talk to and give good advice
through the years that remain. [_Instinctively she rectifies some little
untidiness in the room._] What fools they are to think they can run that
government without you!

TREBELL. Horsham will do his best. [_Then, as for the second time she
reaches the door._] Don't take away my razors, will you? I only use them
for shaving.

FRANCES. [_Almost blushing._] I half meant to . . I'm sorry. After all,
Henry, just because they are forgetting in personal feelings what's best
for the country . . it's your duty not to. You'll stand by and do what
you can, won't you?

TREBELL. [_His queer smile returning, in contrast to her seriousness._]
Disestablishment. It's a very interesting problem. I must think it out.

FRANCES. [_Really puzzled._] What do you mean?

_He gets up with a quick movement of strange strength, and faces her.
His smile changes into a graver gladness._

TREBELL. Something has happened . . in spite of me. My heart's clean
again. I'm ready for fresh adventures.

FRANCES. [_With a nod and answering gladness._] That's right.

_So she leaves him, her mind at rest. For a minute he does not move.
When his gaze narrows it falls on the heaps of letters. He carries them
carefully into_ WALTER KENT'S _room and arranges them as carefully on
his table. On his way out he stops for a moment; then with a sudden
movement bangs the door._

_Two hours later the room has been put in order. It is even more full of
light and the shadows are harder than usual. The doors are open, showing
you_ KENT'S _door still closed. At the big writing table in_ TREBELL'S
_chair sits_ WEDGECROFT, _pale and grave, intent on finishing a letter_.
FRANCES _comes to find him. For a moment she leans on the table
silently, her eyes half closed. You would say a broken woman. When she
speaks it is swiftly, but tonelessly._

FRANCES. Lord Horsham is in the drawing room . . and I can't see him, I
really can't. He has come to say he is sorry . . and I should tell him
that it is his fault, partly. I know I should . . and I don't want to.
Won't you go in? What are you writing?

WEDGECROFT, _with his physicianly pre-occupation, can attend,
understand, sympathise, without looking up at her_.

WEDGECROFT. Never mind. A necessary note . . to the Coroner's office.
Yes, I'll see Horsham.

FRANCES. I've managed to get the pistol out of his hand. Was that wrong
. . oughtn't I to have touched it?

WEDGECROFT. Of course you oughtn't. You must stay away from the room.
I'd better have locked the door.

FRANCES. [_Pitifully._] I'm sorry . . but I couldn't bear to see the
pistol in his hand. I won't go back. After all he's not there in the
room, is he? But how long do you think the spirit stays near the body . .
how long? When people die gently of age or weakness . . . But when
the spirit and body are so strong and knit together and all alive as
his . . .

WEDGECROFT. [_His hand on hers._] Hush . . hush.

FRANCES. His face is very eager . . as if it still could speak. I know

MRS. FARRANT _comes through the open doorway_. FRANCES _hears her steps
and turning falls into her outstretched arms to cry there_.

FRANCES. Oh, Julia!

MRS. FARRANT. Oh my dear Fanny! I came with Cyril Horsham . . I don't
think Simpson even saw me.

FRANCES. I can't go in and talk to him.

MRS. FARRANT. He'll understand. But I heard you come in here . .

WEDGECROFT. I'll tell Horsham.

_He has finished and addressed his letter, so he goes out with it._
FRANCES _lifts her head. These two are in accord and can speak their
feelings without disguise or preparation._

FRANCES. Julia, Julia . . isn't it unbelievable?

MRS. FARRANT. I'd give . . oh, what wouldn't I give to have it undone!

FRANCES. I knew he meant to . . and yet I thought I had his promise. If
he really meant to . . I couldn't have stopped it, could I?

MRS. FARRANT. Walter sent to tell me and I sent round to . . .

FRANCES. Walter came soon after, I think. Julia, I was in my room . . it
was nearly breakfast time . . when I heard the shot. Oh . . don't you
think it was cruel of him?

MRS. FARRANT. He had a right to. We must remember that.

FRANCES. You say that easily of my brother . . you wouldn't say it of
your husband.

_They are apart by this._ JULIA FARRANT _goes to her gently_.

MRS. FARRANT. Fanny . . will it leave you so very lonely?

FRANCES. Yes . . lonelier than you can ever be. You have children. I'm
just beginning to realise. . .

MRS. FARRANT. [_Leading her from the mere selfishness of sorrow._]
There's loneliness of the spirit, too.

FRANCES. Ah, but once you've tasted the common joys of life . . once
you've proved all your rights as a man or woman . . .

MRS. FARRANT. Then there are subtler things to miss. As well be alone
like you, or dead like him, without them . . I sometimes think.

FRANCES. [_Responsive, lifted from egoism, reading her friend's mind._]
You demand much.

MRS. FARRANT. I wish that he had demanded much of any woman.

FRANCES. You know how this misery began? That poor little wretch . .
she's lying dead too. They're both dead together now. Do you think
they've met . . ?

JULIA _grips both her hands and speaks very steadily to help her friend
back to self control_.

MRS. FARRANT. George told me as soon as he was told. I tried to make him
understand my opinion, but he thought I was only shocked.

FRANCES. I was sorry for her. Now I can't forgive her either.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Angry, remorseful, rebellious._] When will men learn to
know one woman from another?

FRANCES. [_With answering bitterness._] When will all women care to be
one thing rather than the other?

_They are stopped by the sound of the opening of_ KENT'S _door_. WALTER
_comes from his room, some papers from his table held listlessly in one
hand. He is crying, undisguisedly, with a child's grief._

KENT. Oh . . am I in your way . . ?

FRANCES. I didn't know you were still here, Walter.

KENT. I've been going through the letters as usual. I don't know why,
I'm sure. They won't have to be answered now . . will they?

WEDGECROFT _comes back, grave and tense_.

WEDGECROFT. Horsham has gone. He thought perhaps you'd be staying with
Miss Trebell for a bit.

MRS. FARRANT. Yes, I shall be.

WEDGECROFT. I must go too . . it's nearly eleven.

FRANCES. To the =other= inquest?

_This stirs her two listeners to something of a shudder._


MRS. FARRANT. [_In a low voice._] It will make no difference now . . I
mean . . still nothing need come out? We needn't know why he . . why he
did it.

WEDGECROFT. When he talked to me last night, and I didn't know what he
was talking of. . .

FRANCES. He was waiting this morning for Lord Horsham's note. . .

MRS. FARRANT. [_In real alarm._] Oh, it wasn't because of the Cabinet
trouble . . you must persuade Cyril Horsham of that. You haven't told
him . . he's so dreadfully upset as it is. I've been swearing it had
nothing to do with that.

WEDGECROFT. [_Cutting her short, bitingly._] Has a time ever come to you
when it was easier to die than to go on living? Oh . . I told Lord
Horsham just what I thought.

_He leaves them, his own grief unexpressed._

FRANCES. [_Listlessly._] Does it matter why?

MRS. FARRANT. Need there be more suffering and reproaches? It's not as
if even grief would do any good. [_Suddenly with nervous caution._]
Walter, you don't know, do you?

WALTER _throws up his tear-marked face and a man's anger banishes the
boyish grief_.

WALTER. No, I don't know why he did it . . and I don't care. And grief
is no use. I'm angry . . just angry at the waste of a good man. Look at
the work undone . . think of it! Who is to do it! Oh . . the waste . . !

_"The Marrying of Ann Leete" was produced by the Stage Society at the
Royalty Theatre on the evening of January 26th, 1902._

Ann Leete                 _Miss Winifred Fraser_
Lord John Carp            _Julian Royce_
George Leete              _Kenneth Douglas_
Mr. Daniel Tatton         _J. Malcolm Dunn_
Lady Cottesham            _Miss Henrietta Watson_
Carnaby Leete             _H. A. Saintsbury_
John Abud                 _C. M. Hallard_
The Rev. Dr. Remnant      _Howard Sturge_
Mrs. Opie                 _Miss Helen Rous_
Dimmuck                   _George Trollope_
Mr. Tetgeen               _A. E. George_
Lord Arthur Carp          _Charles V. France_
Mr. Smallpeice            _J. Y. F. Cooke_
Sir George Leete          _Arthur Grenville_
Mr. Crowe                 _Sydney Paxton_
Lady Leete                _Miss Bessie Page_
Mrs. George Leete         _Miss Florence Neville_
The Rev. Mr. Tozer        _Ivan Berlin_
Mr. Prestige              _Howard Templeton_
Mrs. Prestige             _Mrs. Gordon Gray_

_"The Voysey Inheritance" was first played at the Court Theatre, a
Vedrenne-Barker performance, on the afternoon of November 7th 1905._

Mr. Voysey                   _A. E. George_
Mrs. Voysey                  _Miss Florence Haydon_
Trenchard Voysey, K. C.      _Eugene Mayeur_
Honor Voysey                 _Miss Geraldine Olliffe_
Major Booth Voysey           _Charles Fulton_
Mrs. Booth Voysey            _Miss Grace Edwin_
Christopher                  _Harry C. Duff_
Edward Voysey                _Thalberg Corbett_
Hugh Voysey                  _Dennis Eadie_
Mrs. Hugh Voysey             _Miss Henrietta Watson_
Ethel Voysey                 _Miss Alexandra Carlisle_
Denis Tregoning              _Frederick Lloyd_
Alice Maitland               _Miss Mabel Hackney_
Mr. Booth                    _O. B. Clarence_
The Rev. Evan Colpus         _Edmund Gwenn_
Peacey                       _Trevor Lowe_
Phoebe                       _Miss Gwynneth Galton_
Mary                         _Mrs. Fordyce_

_"Waste" was produced by the Stage Society at the Imperial Theatre,
Westminster, on the evening of November 24th, 1907._

Lady Davenport                  _Miss Amy Coleman_
Walter Kent                     _Vernon Steel_
Mrs. Farrant                    _Miss Beryl Faber_
Miss Trebell                    _Miss Henrietta Watson_
Mrs. O'Connell                  _Miss Aimée De Burgh_
Lucy Davenport                  _Miss Dorothy Thomas_
George Farrant                  _Frederick Lloyd_
Russell Blackborough            _A. Holmes-Gore_
A Footman                       _Allan Wade_
Henry Trebell                   _Granville Barker_
Simpson                         _Miss Mary Barton_
Gilbert Wedgecroft              _Berte Thomas_
Lord Charles Cantelupe          _Dennis Eadie_
The Earl of Horsham             _Henry Vibart_
Edmunds                         _Trevor Lowe_
Justin O'Connell                _J. Fisher White_

Transcriber's Notes:-

Ellipses and hyphenation have been kept as in the original.

P. 16 "Innocency's opininons are invariably entertaining."==>"Innocency's
      opinions are invariably entertaining."

P. 79 "[_Disgustedly to_ MR. SMALLPIECE]"==>"[_Disgustedly to_ MR.

P. 103 "In ten years years I may be"==>"In ten years I may be"

P. 145 "one can trace the pyschology"==>"one can trace the psychology"

G e s p e r r t spacing has been replaced with bold markup.

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