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´╗┐Title: The Doctor's Dilemma
Author: Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
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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THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA

By Bernard Shaw

1906


TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: The edition from which this play was taken was
printed with no contractions, thus "we've" is written as "weve",
"hadn't" as "hadnt", etc. There is no trailing period after Mr, Dr,
etc., and "show" is spelt "shew", "Shakespeare" is Shakespear.


I am grateful to Hesba Stretton, the authoress of "Jessica's First
Prayer," for permission to use the title of one of her stories for this
play.



ACT I

On the 15th June 1903, in the early forenoon, a medical student, surname
Redpenny, Christian name unknown and of no importance, sits at work in
a doctor's consulting-room. He devils for the doctor by answering his
letters, acting as his domestic laboratory assistant, and making himself
indispensable generally, in return for unspecified advantages involved
by intimate intercourse with a leader of his profession, and amounting
to an informal apprenticeship and a temporary affiliation. Redpenny is
not proud, and will do anything he is asked without reservation of his
personal dignity if he is asked in a fellow-creaturely way. He is a
wide-open-eyed, ready, credulous, friendly, hasty youth, with his hair
and clothes in reluctant transition from the untidy boy to the tidy
doctor.

Redpenny is interrupted by the entrance of an old serving-woman who
has never known the cares, the preoccupations, the responsibilities,
jealousies, and anxieties of personal beauty. She has the complexion
of a never-washed gypsy, incurable by any detergent; and she has, not a
regular beard and moustaches, which could at least be trimmed and waxed
into a masculine presentableness, but a whole crop of small beards and
moustaches, mostly springing from moles all over her face. She carries
a duster and toddles about meddlesomely, spying out dust so diligently
that whilst she is flicking off one speck she is already looking
elsewhere for another. In conversation she has the same trick, hardly
ever looking at the person she is addressing except when she is excited.
She has only one manner, and that is the manner of an old family nurse
to a child just after it has learnt to walk. She has used her ugliness
to secure indulgences unattainable by Cleopatra or Fair Rosamund,
and has the further great advantage over them that age increases her
qualification instead of impairing it. Being an industrious, agreeable,
and popular old soul, she is a walking sermon on the vanity of feminine
prettiness. Just as Redpenny has no discovered Christian name, she has
no discovered surname, and is known throughout the doctors' quarter
between Cavendish Square and the Marylebone Road simply as Emmy.

The consulting-room has two windows looking on Queen Anne Street.
Between the two is a marble-topped console, with haunched gilt legs
ending in sphinx claws. The huge pier-glass which surmounts it is mostly
disabled from reflection by elaborate painting on its surface of palms,
ferns, lilies, tulips, and sunflowers. The adjoining wall contains
the fireplace, with two arm-chairs before it. As we happen to face
the corner we see nothing of the other two walls. On the right of the
fireplace, or rather on the right of any person facing the fireplace, is
the door. On its left is the writing-table at which Redpenny sits. It is
an untidy table with a microscope, several test tubes, and a spirit lamp
standing up through its litter of papers. There is a couch in the
middle of the room, at right angles to the console, and parallel to the
fireplace. A chair stands between the couch and the windowed wall. The
windows have green Venetian blinds and rep curtains; and there is a
gasalier; but it is a convert to electric lighting. The wall paper and
carpets are mostly green, coeval with the gasalier and the Venetian
blinds. The house, in fact, was so well furnished in the middle of the
XIXth century that it stands unaltered to this day and is still quite
presentable.

EMMY [entering and immediately beginning to dust the couch] Theres a
lady bothering me to see the doctor.

REDPENNY [distracted by the interruption] Well, she cant see the doctor.
Look here: whats the use of telling you that the doctor cant take any
new patients, when the moment a knock comes to the door, in you bounce
to ask whether he can see somebody?

EMMY. Who asked you whether he could see somebody?

REDPENNY. You did.

EMMY. I said theres a lady bothering me to see the doctor. That isnt
asking. Its telling.

REDPENNY. Well, is the lady bothering you any reason for you to come
bothering me when I'm busy?

EMMY. Have you seen the papers?

REDPENNY. No.

EMMY. Not seen the birthday honors?

REDPENNY [beginning to swear] What the--

EMMY. Now, now, ducky!

REDPENNY. What do you suppose I care about the birthday honors? Get
out of this with your chattering. Dr Ridgeon will be down before I have
these letters ready. Get out.

EMMY. Dr Ridgeon wont never be down any more, young man.

She detects dust on the console and is down on it immediately.

REDPENNY [jumping up and following her] What?

EMMY. He's been made a knight. Mind you dont go Dr Ridgeoning him in
them letters. Sir Colenso Ridgeon is to be his name now.

REDPENNY. I'm jolly glad.

EMMY. I never was so taken aback. I always thought his great discoveries
was fudge (let alone the mess of them) with his drops of blood and tubes
full of Maltese fever and the like. Now he'll have a rare laugh at me.

REDPENNY. Serve you right! It was like your cheek to talk to him about
science. [He returns to his table and resumes his writing].

EMMY. Oh, I dont think much of science; and neither will you when youve
lived as long with it as I have. Whats on my mind is answering the
door. Old Sir Patrick Cullen has been here already and left first
congratulations--hadnt time to come up on his way to the hospital, but
was determined to be first--coming back, he said. All the rest will be
here too: the knocker will be going all day. What Im afraid of is
that the doctor'll want a footman like all the rest, now that he's Sir
Colenso. Mind: dont you go putting him up to it, ducky; for he'll never
have any comfort with anybody but me to answer the door. I know who
to let in and who to keep out. And that reminds me of the poor lady. I
think he ought to see her. Shes just the kind that puts him in a good
temper. [She dusts Redpenny's papers].

REDPENNY. I tell you he cant see anybody. Do go away, Emmy. How can I
work with you dusting all over me like this?

EMMY. I'm not hindering you working--if you call writing letters
working. There goes the bell. [She looks out of the window]. A doctor's
carriage. Thats more congratulations. [She is going out when Sir Colenso
Ridgeon enters]. Have you finished your two eggs, sonny?

RIDGEON. Yes.

EMMY. Have you put on your clean vest?

RIDGEON. Yes.

EMMY. Thats my ducky diamond! Now keep yourself tidy and dont go messing
about and dirtying your hands: the people are coming to congratulate
you. [She goes out].

Sir Colenso Ridgeon is a man of fifty who has never shaken off his
youth. He has the off-handed manner and the little audacities of
address which a shy and sensitive man acquires in breaking himself in
to intercourse with all sorts and conditions of men. His face is a good
deal lined; his movements are slower than, for instance, Redpenny's; and
his flaxen hair has lost its lustre; but in figure and manner he is more
the young man than the titled physician. Even the lines in his face are
those of overwork and restless scepticism, perhaps partly of curiosity
and appetite, rather than of age. Just at present the announcement of
his knighthood in the morning papers makes him specially self-conscious,
and consequently specially off-hand with Redpenny.

RIDGEON. Have you seen the papers? Youll have to alter the name in the
letters if you havnt.

REDPENNY. Emmy has just told me. I'm awfully glad. I--

RIDGEON. Enough, young man, enough. You will soon get accustomed to it.

REDPENNY. They ought to have done it years ago.

RIDGEON. They would have; only they couldnt stand Emmy opening the door,
I daresay.

EMMY [at the door, announcing] Dr Shoemaker. [She withdraws].

A middle-aged gentleman, well dressed, comes in with a friendly but
propitiatory air, not quite sure of his reception. His combination
of soft manners and responsive kindliness, with a certain unseizable
reserve and a familiar yet foreign chiselling of feature, reveal the
Jew: in this instance the handsome gentlemanly Jew, gone a little
pigeon-breasted and stale after thirty, as handsome young Jews often do,
but still decidedly good-looking.

THE GENTLEMAN. Do you remember me? Schutzmacher. University College
school and Belsize Avenue. Loony Schutzmacher, you know.

RIDGEON. What! Loony! [He shakes hands cordially]. Why, man, I thought
you were dead long ago. Sit down. [Schutzmacher sits on the couch:
Ridgeon on the chair between it and the window]. Where have you been
these thirty years?

SCHUTZMACHER. In general practice, until a few months ago. I've retired.

RIDGEON. Well done, Loony! I wish I could afford to retire. Was your
practice in London?

SCHUTZMACHER. No.

RIDGEON. Fashionable coast practice, I suppose.

SCHUTZMACHER. How could I afford to buy a fashionable practice? I hadnt
a rap. I set up in a manufacturing town in the midlands in a little
surgery at ten shillings a week.

RIDGEON. And made your fortune?

SCHUTZMACHER. Well, I'm pretty comfortable. I have a place in
Hertfordshire besides our flat in town. If you ever want a quiet
Saturday to Monday, I'll take you down in my motor at an hours notice.

RIDGEON. Just rolling in money! I wish you rich g.p.'s would teach me
how to make some. Whats the secret of it?

SCHUTZMACHER. Oh, in my case the secret was simple enough, though I
suppose I should have got into trouble if it had attracted any notice.
And I'm afraid you'll think it rather infra dig.

RIDGEON. Oh, I have an open mind. What was the secret?

SCHUTZMACHER. Well, the secret was just two words.

RIDGEON. Not Consultation Free, was it?

SCHUTZMACHER [shocked] No, no. Really!

RIDGEON [apologetic] Of course not. I was only joking.

SCHUTZMACHER. My two words were simply Cure Guaranteed.

RIDGEON [admiring] Cure Guaranteed!

SCHUTZMACHER. Guaranteed. After all, thats what everybody wants from a
doctor, isnt it?

RIDGEON. My dear loony, it was an inspiration. Was it on the brass
plate?

SCHUTZMACHER. There was no brass plate. It was a shop window: red, you
know, with black lettering. Doctor Leo Schutzmacher, L.R.C.P.M.R.C.S.
Advice and medicine sixpence. Cure Guaranteed.

RIDGEON. And the guarantee proved sound nine times out of ten, eh?

SCHUTZMACHER [rather hurt at so moderate an estimate] Oh, much oftener
than that. You see, most people get well all right if they are careful
and you give them a little sensible advice. And the medicine really
did them good. Parrish's Chemical Food: phosphates, you know. One
tablespoonful to a twelve-ounce bottle of water: nothing better, no
matter what the case is.

RIDGEON. Redpenny: make a note of Parrish's Chemical Food.

SCHUTZMACHER. I take it myself, you know, when I feel run down.
Good-bye. You dont mind my calling, do you? Just to congratulate you.

RIDGEON. Delighted, my dear Loony. Come to lunch on Saturday next week.
Bring your motor and take me down to Hertford.

SCHUTZMACHER. I will. We shall be delighted. Thank you. Good-bye. [He
goes out with Ridgeon, who returns immediately].

REDPENNY. Old Paddy Cullen was here before you were up, to be the first
to congratulate you.

RIDGEON. Indeed. Who taught you to speak of Sir Patrick Cullen as old
Paddy Cullen, you young ruffian?

REDPENNY. You never call him anything else.

RIDGEON. Not now that I am Sir Colenso. Next thing, you fellows will be
calling me old Colly Ridgeon.

REDPENNY. We do, at St. Anne's.

RIDGEON. Yach! Thats what makes the medical student the most disgusting
figure in modern civilization. No veneration, no manners--no--

EMMY [at the door, announcing]. Sir Patrick Cullen. [She retires].

Sir Patrick Cullen is more than twenty years older than Ridgeon, not
yet quite at the end of his tether, but near it and resigned to it.
His name, his plain, downright, sometimes rather arid common sense, his
large build and stature, the absence of those odd moments of ceremonial
servility by which an old English doctor sometimes shews you what the
status of the profession was in England in his youth, and an occasional
turn of speech, are Irish; but he has lived all his life in England and
is thoroughly acclimatized. His manner to Ridgeon, whom he likes, is
whimsical and fatherly: to others he is a little gruff and uninviting,
apt to substitute more or less expressive grunts for articulate speech,
and generally indisposed, at his age, to make much social effort. He
shakes Ridgeon's hand and beams at him cordially and jocularly.

SIR PATRICK. Well, young chap. Is your hat too small for you, eh?

RIDGEON. Much too small. I owe it all to you.

SIR PATRICK. Blarney, my boy. Thank you all the same. [He sits in one of
the arm-chairs near the fireplace. Ridgeon sits on the couch]. Ive come
to talk to you a bit. [To Redpenny] Young man: get out.

REDPENNY. Certainly, Sir Patrick [He collects his papers and makes for
the door].

SIR PATRICK. Thank you. Thats a good lad. [Redpenny vanishes]. They all
put up with me, these young chaps, because I'm an old man, a real old
man, not like you. Youre only beginning to give yourself the airs of
age. Did you ever see a boy cultivating a moustache? Well, a middle-aged
doctor cultivating a grey head is much the same sort of spectacle.

RIDGEON. Good Lord! yes: I suppose so. And I thought that the days of my
vanity were past. Tell me at what age does a man leave off being a fool?

SIR PATRICK. Remember the Frenchman who asked his grandmother at what
age we get free from the temptations of love. The old woman said she
didn't know. [Ridgeon laughs]. Well, I make you the same answer. But the
world's growing very interesting to me now, Colly.

RIDGEON. You keep up your interest in science, do you?

SIR PATRICK. Lord! yes. Modern science is a wonderful thing. Look at
your great discovery! Look at all the great discoveries! Where are
they leading to? Why, right back to my poor dear old father's ideas
and discoveries. He's been dead now over forty years. Oh, it's very
interesting.

RIDGEON. Well, theres nothing like progress, is there?

SIR PATRICK. Dont misunderstand me, my boy. I'm not belittling your
discovery. Most discoveries are made regularly every fifteen years;
and it's fully a hundred and fifty since yours was made last. Thats
something to be proud of. But your discovery's not new. It's only
inoculation. My father practised inoculation until it was made criminal
in eighteen-forty. That broke the poor old man's heart, Colly: he died
of it. And now it turns out that my father was right after all. Youve
brought us back to inoculation.

RIDGEON. I know nothing about smallpox. My line is tuberculosis and
typhoid and plague. But of course the principle of all vaccines is the
same.

SIR PATRICK. Tuberculosis? M-m-m-m! Youve found out how to cure
consumption, eh?

RIDGEON. I believe so.

SIR PATRICK. Ah yes. It's very interesting. What is it the old cardinal
says in Browning's play? "I have known four and twenty leaders of
revolt." Well, Ive known over thirty men that found out how to cure
consumption. Why do people go on dying of it, Colly? Devilment, I
suppose. There was my father's old friend George Boddington of Sutton
Coldfield. He discovered the open-air cure in eighteen-forty. He was
ruined and driven out of his practice for only opening the windows; and
now we wont let a consumptive patient have as much as a roof over his
head. Oh, it's very VERY interesting to an old man.

RIDGEON. You old cynic, you dont believe a bit in my discovery.

SIR PATRICK. No, no: I dont go quite so far as that, Colly. But still,
you remember Jane Marsh?

RIDGEON. Jane Marsh? No.

SIR PATRICK. You dont!

RIDGEON. No.

SIR PATRICK. You mean to tell me you dont remember the woman with the
tuberculosis ulcer on her arm?

RIDGEON [enlightened] Oh, your washerwoman's daughter. Was her name Jane
Marsh? I forgot.

SIR PATRICK. Perhaps youve forgotten also that you undertook to cure her
with Koch's tuberculin.

RIDGEON. And instead of curing her, it rotted her arm right off. Yes:
I remember. Poor Jane! However, she makes a good living out of that arm
now by shewing it at medical lectures.

SIR PATRICK. Still, that wasnt quite what you intended, was it?

RIDGEON. I took my chance of it.

SIR PATRICK. Jane did, you mean.

RIDGEON. Well, it's always the patient who has to take the chance
when an experiment is necessary. And we can find out nothing without
experiment.

SIR PATRICK. What did you find out from Jane's case?

RIDGEON. I found out that the inoculation that ought to cure sometimes
kills.

SIR PATRICK. I could have told you that. Ive tried these modern
inoculations a bit myself. Ive killed people with them; and Ive cured
people with them; but I gave them up because I never could tell which I
was going to do.

RIDGEON [taking a pamphlet from a drawer in the writing-table and
handing it to him] Read that the next time you have an hour to spare;
and youll find out why.

SIR PATRICK [grumbling and fumbling for his spectacles] Oh, bother your
pamphlets. Whats the practice of it? [Looking at the pamphlet] Opsonin?
What the devil is opsonin?

RIDGEON. Opsonin is what you butter the disease germs with to make your
white blood corpuscles eat them. [He sits down again on the couch].

SIR PATRICK. Thats not new. Ive heard this notion that the white
corpuscles--what is it that whats his name?--Metchnikoff--calls them?

RIDGEON. Phagocytes.

SIR PATRICK. Aye, phagocytes: yes, yes, yes. Well, I heard this theory
that the phagocytes eat up the disease germs years ago: long before you
came into fashion. Besides, they dont always eat them.

RIDGEON. They do when you butter them with opsonin.

SIR PATRICK. Gammon.

RIDGEON. No: it's not gammon. What it comes to in practice is this. The
phagocytes wont eat the microbes unless the microbes are nicely buttered
for them. Well, the patient manufactures the butter for himself all
right; but my discovery is that the manufacture of that butter, which
I call opsonin, goes on in the system by ups and downs--Nature being
always rhythmical, you know--and that what the inoculation does is to
stimulate the ups or downs, as the case may be. If we had inoculated
Jane Marsh when her butter factory was on the up-grade, we should have
cured her arm. But we got in on the downgrade and lost her arm for her.
I call the up-grade the positive phase and the down-grade the negative
phase. Everything depends on your inoculating at the right moment.
Inoculate when the patient is in the negative phase and you kill:
inoculate when the patient is in the positive phase and you cure.

SIR PATRICK. And pray how are you to know whether the patient is in the
positive or the negative phase?

RIDGEON. Send a drop of the patient's blood to the laboratory at St.
Anne's; and in fifteen minutes I'll give you his opsonin index in
figures. If the figure is one, inoculate and cure: if it's under point
eight, inoculate and kill. Thats my discovery: the most important that
has been made since Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood. My
tuberculosis patients dont die now.

SIR PATRICK. And mine do when my inoculation catches them in the
negative phase, as you call it. Eh?

RIDGEON. Precisely. To inject a vaccine into a patient without first
testing his opsonin is as near murder as a respectable practitioner can
get. If I wanted to kill s man I should kill him that way.

EMMY [looking in] Will you see a lady that wants her husband's lungs
cured?

RIDGEON [impatiently] No. Havnt I told you I will see nobody?[To Sir
Patrick] I live in a state of siege ever since it got about that I'm a
magician who can cure consumption with a drop of serum. [To Emmy] Dont
come to me again about people who have no appointments. I tell you I can
see nobody.

EMMY. Well, I'll tell her to wait a bit.

RIDGEON [furious] Youll tell her I cant see her, and send her away: do
you hear?

EMMY [unmoved] Well, will you see Mr Cutler Walpole? He dont want a
cure: he only wants to congratulate you.

RIDGEON. Of course. Shew him up. [She turns to go]. Stop. [To Sir
Patrick] I want two minutes more with you between ourselves. [To
Emmy] Emmy: ask Mr. Walpole to wait just two minutes, while I finish a
consultation.

EMMY. Oh, he'll wait all right. He's talking to the poor lady. [She goes
out].

SIR PATRICK. Well? what is it?

RIDGEON. Dont laugh at me. I want your advice.

SIR PATRICK. Professional advice?

RIDGEON. Yes. Theres something the matter with me. I dont know what it
is.

SIR PATRICK. Neither do I. I suppose youve been sounded.

RIDGEON. Yes, of course. Theres nothing wrong with any of the organs:
nothing special, anyhow. But I have a curious aching: I dont know where:
I cant localize it. Sometimes I think it's my heart: sometimes I suspect
my spine. It doesnt exactly hurt me; but it unsettles me completely. I
feel that something is going to happen. And there are other symptoms.
Scraps of tunes come into my head that seem to me very pretty, though
theyre quite commonplace.

SIR PATRICK. Do you hear voices?

RIDGEON. No.

SIR PATRICK. I'm glad of that. When my patients tell me that theyve made
a greater discovery than Harvey, and that they hear voices, I lock them
up.

RIDGEON. You think I'm mad! Thats just the suspicion that has come
across me once or twice. Tell me the truth: I can bear it.

SIR PATRICK. Youre sure there are no voices?

RIDGEON. Quite sure.

SIR PATRICK. Then it's only foolishness.

RIDGEON. Have you ever met anything like it before in your practice?

SIR PATRICK. Oh, yes: often. It's very common between the ages of
seventeen and twenty-two. It sometimes comes on again at forty or
thereabouts. Youre a bachelor, you see. It's not serious--if youre
careful.

RIDGEON. About my food?

SIR PATRICK. No: about your behavior. Theres nothing wrong with your
spine; and theres nothing wrong with your heart; but theres something
wrong with your common sense. Youre not going to die; but you may be
going to make a fool of yourself. So be careful.

RIDGEON. I sec you dont believe in my discovery. Well, sometimes I dont
believe in it myself. Thank you all the same. Shall we have Walpole up?

SIR PATRICK. Oh, have him up. [Ridgeon rings]. He's a clever operator,
is Walpole, though he's only one of your chloroform surgeons. In my
early days, you made your man drunk; and the porters and students
held him down; and you had to set your teeth and finish the job
fast. Nowadays you work at your ease; and the pain doesn't come until
afterwards, when youve taken your cheque and rolled up your bag and left
the house. I tell you, Colly, chloroform has done a lot of mischief.
It's enabled every fool to be a surgeon.

RIDGEON [to Emmy, who answers the bell] Shew Mr Walpole up.

EMMY. He's talking to the lady.

RIDGEON [exasperated] Did I not tell you--

Emmy goes out without heeding him. He gives it up, with a shrug, and
plants himself with his back to the console, leaning resignedly against
it.

SIR PATRICK. I know your Cutler Walpoles and their like. Theyve found
out that a man's body's full of bits and scraps of old organs he has no
mortal use for. Thanks to chloroform, you can cut half a dozen of them
out without leaving him any the worse, except for the illness and the
guineas it costs him. I knew the Walpoles well fifteen years ago. The
father used to snip off the ends of people's uvulas for fifty guineas,
and paint throats with caustic every day for a year at two guineas a
time. His brother-in-law extirpated tonsils for two hundred guineas
until he took up women's cases at double the fees. Cutler himself worked
hard at anatomy to find something fresh to operate on; and at last he
got hold of something he calls the nuciform sac, which he's made quite
the fashion. People pay him five hundred guineas to cut it out. They
might as well get their hair cut for all the difference it makes; but
I suppose they feel important after it. You cant go out to dinner now
without your neighbor bragging to you of some useless operation or
other.

EMMY [announcing] Mr Cutler Walpole. [She goes out].

Cutler Walpole is an energetic, unhesitating man of forty, with a
cleanly modelled face, very decisive and symmetrical about the shortish,
salient, rather pretty nose, and the three trimly turned corners made by
his chin and jaws. In comparison with Ridgeon's delicate broken lines,
and Sir Patrick's softly rugged aged ones, his face looks machine-made
and beeswaxed; but his scrutinizing, daring eyes give it life and force.
He seems never at a loss, never in doubt: one feels that if he made
a mistake he would make it thoroughly and firmly. He has neat,
well-nourished hands, short arms, and is built for strength and
compactness rather than for height. He is smartly dressed with a fancy
waistcoat, a richly colored scarf secured by a handsome ring, ornaments
on his watch chain, spats on his shoes, and a general air of the
well-to-do sportsman about him. He goes straight across to Ridgeon and
shakes hands with him.

WALPOLE. My dear Ridgeon, best wishes! heartiest congratulations! You
deserve it.

RIDGEON. Thank you.

WALPOLE. As a man, mind you. You deserve it as a man. The opsonin is
simple rot, as any capable surgeon can tell you; but we're all delighted
to see your personal qualities officially recognized. Sir Patrick: how
are you? I sent you a paper lately about a little thing I invented: a
new saw. For shoulder blades.

SIR PATRICK [meditatively] Yes: I got it. It's a good saw: a useful,
handy instrument.

WALPOLE [confidently] I knew youd see its points.

SIR PATRICK. Yes: I remember that saw sixty-five years ago.

WALPOLE. What!

SIR PATRICK. It was called a cabinetmaker's jimmy then.

WALPOLE. Get out! Nonsense! Cabinetmaker be--

RIDGEON. Never mind him, Walpole. He's jealous.

WALPOLE. By the way, I hope I'm not disturbing you two in anything
private.

RIDGEON. No no. Sit down. I was only consulting him. I'm rather out of
sorts. Overwork, I suppose.

WALPOLE [swiftly] I know whats the matter with you. I can see it in your
complexion. I can feel it in the grip of your hand.

RIDGEON. What is it?

WALPOLE. Blood-poisoning.

RIDGEON. Blood-poisoning! Impossible.

WALPOLE. I tell you, blood-poisoning. Ninety-five per cent of the human
race suffer from chronic blood-poisoning, and die of it. It's as simple
as A.B.C. Your nuciform sac is full of decaying matter--undigested food
and waste products--rank ptomaines. Now you take my advice, Ridgeon. Let
me cut it out for you. You'll be another man afterwards.

SIR PATRICK. Dont you like him as he is?

WALPOLE. No I dont. I dont like any man who hasnt a healthy circulation.
I tell you this: in an intelligently governed country people wouldnt
be allowed to go about with nuciform sacs, making themselves centres
of infection. The operation ought to be compulsory: it's ten times more
important than vaccination.

SIR PATRICK. Have you had your own sac removed, may I ask?

WALPOLE [triumphantly] I havnt got one. Look at me! Ive no symptoms. I'm
as sound as a bell. About five per cent of the population havnt got any;
and I'm one of the five per cent. I'll give you an instance. You know
Mrs Jack Foljambe: the smart Mrs Foljambe? I operated at Easter on her
sister-in-law, Lady Gorran, and found she had the biggest sac I ever
saw: it held about two ounces. Well, Mrs. Foljambe had the right
spirit--the genuine hygienic instinct. She couldnt stand her
sister-in-law being a clean, sound woman, and she simply a whited
sepulchre. So she insisted on my operating on her, too. And by George,
sir, she hadnt any sac at all. Not a trace! Not a rudiment!! I was so
taken aback--so interested, that I forgot to take the sponges out, and
was stitching them up inside her when the nurse missed them. Somehow,
I'd made sure she'd have an exceptionally large one. [He sits down on
the couch, squaring his shoulders and shooting his hands out of his
cuffs as he sets his knuckles akimbo].

EMMY [looking in] Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington.

A long and expectant pause follows this announcement. All look to the
door; but there is no Sir Ralph.

RIDGEON [at last] Were is he?

EMMY [looking back] Drat him, I thought he was following me. He's stayed
down to talk to that lady.

RIDGEON [exploding] I told you to tell that lady--[Emmy vanishes].

WALPOLE [jumping up again] Oh, by the way, Ridgeon, that reminds me. Ive
been talking to that poor girl. It's her husband; and she thinks it's
a case of consumption: the usual wrong diagnosis: these damned general
practitioners ought never to be allowed to touch a patient except under
the orders of a consultant. She's been describing his symptoms to me;
and the case is as plain as a pikestaff: bad blood-poisoning. Now she's
poor. She cant afford to have him operated on. Well, you send him to me:
I'll do it for nothing. Theres room for him in my nursing home. I'll put
him straight, and feed him up and make him happy. I like making people
happy. [He goes to the chair near the window].

EMMY [looking in] Here he is.

Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington wafts himself into the room. He is a tall
man, with a head like a tall and slender egg. He has been in his time a
slender man; but now, in his sixth decade, his waistcoat has filled out
somewhat. His fair eyebrows arch good-naturedly and uncritically. He
has a most musical voice; his speech is a perpetual anthem; and he never
tires of the sound of it. He radiates an enormous self-satisfaction,
cheering, reassuring, healing by the mere incompatibility of disease or
anxiety with his welcome presence. Even broken bones, it is said, have
been known to unite at the sound of his voice: he is a born healer, as
independent of mere treatment and skill as any Christian scientist. When
he expands into oratory or scientific exposition, he is as energetic as
Walpole; but it is with a bland, voluminous, atmospheric energy,
which envelops its subject and its audience, and makes interruption or
inattention impossible, and imposes veneration and credulity on all but
the strongest minds. He is known in the medical world as B. B.; and the
envy roused by his success in practice is softened by the conviction
that he is, scientifically considered, a colossal humbug: the fact
being that, though he knows just as much (and just as little) as his
contemporaries, the qualifications that pass muster in common men reveal
their weakness when hung on his egregious personality.

B. B. Aha! Sir Colenso. Sir Colenso, eh? Welcome to the order of
knighthood.

RIDGEON [shaking hands] Thank you, B. B.

B. B. What! Sir Patrick! And how are we to-day? a little chilly? a
little stiff? but hale and still the cleverest of us all. [Sir Patrick
grunts]. What! Walpole! the absent-minded beggar: eh?

WALPOLE. What does that mean?

B. B. Have you forgotten the lovely opera singer I sent you to have that
growth taken off her vocal cords?

WALPOLE [springing to his feet] Great heavens, man, you dont mean to say
you sent her for a throat operation!

B. B. [archly] Aha! Ha ha! Aha! [trilling like a lark as he shakes his
finger at Walpole]. You removed her nuciform sac. Well, well! force of
habit! force of habit! Never mind, ne-e-e-ver mind. She got back her
voice after it, and thinks you the greatest surgeon alive; and so you
are, so you are, so you are.

WALPOLE [in a tragic whisper, intensely serious] Blood-poisoning. I see.
I see. [He sits down again].

SIR PATRICK. And how is a certain distinguished family getting on under
your care, Sir Ralph?

B. B. Our friend Ridgeon will be gratified to hear that I have tried his
opsonin treatment on little Prince Henry with complete success.

RIDGEON [startled and anxious] But how--

B. B. [continuing] I suspected typhoid: the head gardener's boy had
it; so I just called at St Anne's one day and got a tube of your very
excellent serum. You were out, unfortunately.

RIDGEON. I hope they explained to you carefully--

B. B. [waving away the absurd suggestion] Lord bless you, my dear
fellow, I didnt need any explanations. I'd left my wife in the carriage
at the door; and I'd no time to be taught my business by your young
chaps. I know all about it. Ive handled these anti-toxins ever since
they first came out.

RIDGEON. But theyre not anti-toxins; and theyre dangerous unless you use
them at the right time.

B. B. Of course they are. Everything is dangerous unless you take it at
the right time. An apple at breakfast does you good: an apple at bedtime
upsets you for a week. There are only two rules for anti-toxins. First,
dont be afraid of them: second, inject them a quarter of an hour before
meals, three times a day.

RIDGEON [appalled] Great heavens, B. B., no, no, no.

B. B. [sweeping on irresistibly] Yes, yes, yes, Colly. The proof of the
pudding is in the eating, you know. It was an immense success. It acted
like magic on the little prince. Up went his temperature; off to bed I
packed him; and in a week he was all right again, and absolutely immune
from typhoid for the rest of his life. The family were very nice about
it: their gratitude was quite touching; but I said they owed it all to
you, Ridgeon; and I am glad to think that your knighthood is the result.

RIDGEON. I am deeply obliged to you. [Overcome, he sits down on the
chair near the couch].

B. B. Not at all, not at all. Your own merit. Come! come! come! dont
give way.

RIDGEON. It's nothing. I was a little giddy just now. Overwork, I
suppose.

WALPOLE. Blood-poisoning.

B. B. Overwork! Theres no such thing. I do the work of ten men. Am I
giddy? No. NO. If youre not well, you have a disease. It may be a slight
one; but it's a disease. And what is a disease? The lodgment in the
system of a pathogenic germ, and the multiplication of that germ. What
is the remedy? A very simple one. Find the germ and kill it.

SIR PATRICK. Suppose theres no germ?

B. B. Impossible, Sir Patrick: there must be a germ: else how could the
patient be ill?

SIR PATRICK. Can you shew me the germ of overwork?

B. B. No; but why? Why? Because, my dear Sir Patrick, though the germ
is there, it's invisible. Nature has given it no danger signal for us.
These germs--these bacilli--are translucent bodies, like glass, like
water. To make them visible you must stain them. Well, my dear Paddy, do
what you will, some of them wont stain. They wont take cochineal: they
wont take methylene blue; they wont take gentian violet: they wont take
any coloring matter. Consequently, though we know, as scientific
men, that they exist, we cannot see them. But can you disprove their
existence? Can you conceive the disease existing without them? Can you,
for instance, shew me a case of diphtheria without the bacillus?

SIR PATRICK. No; but I'll shew you the same bacillus, without the
disease, in your own throat.

B. B. No, not the same, Sir Patrick. It is an entirely different
bacillus; only the two are, unfortunately, so exactly alike that you
cannot see the difference. You must understand, my dear Sir Patrick,
that every one of these interesting little creatures has an imitator.
Just as men imitate each other, germs imitate each other. There is the
genuine diphtheria bacillus discovered by Loeffler; and there is the
pseudo-bacillus, exactly like it, which you could find, as you say, in
my own throat.

         SIR PATRICK. And how do you tell one from the other?

B. B. Well, obviously, if the bacillus is the genuine Loeffler, you have
diphtheria; and if it's the pseudobacillus, youre quite well. Nothing
simpler. Science is always simple and always profound. It is only
the half-truths that are dangerous. Ignorant faddists pick up some
superficial information about germs; and they write to the papers and
try to discredit science. They dupe and mislead many honest and worthy
people. But science has a perfect answer to them on every point.

         A little learning is a dangerous thing;
         Drink deep; or taste not the Pierian spring.

I mean no disrespect to your generation, Sir Patrick: some of you old
stagers did marvels through sheer professional intuition and clinical
experience; but when I think of the average men of your day, ignorantly
bleeding and cupping and purging, and scattering germs over their
patients from their clothes and instruments, and contrast all that with
the scientific certainty and simplicity of my treatment of the little
prince the other day, I cant help being proud of my own generation:
the men who were trained on the germ theory, the veterans of the great
struggle over Evolution in the seventies. We may have our faults; but at
least we are men of science. That is why I am taking up your treatment,
Ridgeon, and pushing it. It's scientific. [He sits down on the chair
near the couch].

EMMY [at the door, announcing] Dr Blenkinsop.

Dr Blenkinsop is a very different case from the others. He is clearly
not a prosperous man. He is flabby and shabby, cheaply fed and cheaply
clothed. He has the lines made by a conscience between his eyes, and
the lines made by continual money worries all over his face, cut all the
deeper as he has seen better days, and hails his well-to-do colleagues
as their contemporary and old hospital friend, though even in this he
has to struggle with the diffidence of poverty and relegation to the
poorer middle class.

RIDGEON. How are you, Blenkinsop?

BLENKINSOP. Ive come to offer my humble congratulations. Oh dear! all
the great guns are before me.

B. B. [patronizing, but charming] How d'ye do Blenkinsop? How d'ye do?

BLENKINSOP. And Sir Patrick, too [Sir Patrick grunts].

RIDGEON. Youve met Walpole, of course?

WALPOLE. How d'ye do?

BLENKINSOP. It's the first time Ive had that honor. In my poor little
practice there are no chances of meeting you great men. I know nobody
but the St Anne's men of my own day. [To Ridgeon] And so youre Sir
Colenso. How does it feel?

RIDGEON. Foolish at first. Dont take any notice of it.

BLENKINSOP. I'm ashamed to say I havnt a notion what your great
discovery is; but I congratulate you all the same for the sake of old
times.

B. B. [shocked] But, my dear Blenkinsop, you used to be rather keen on
science.

BLENKINSOP. Ah, I used to be a lot of things. I used to have two or
three decent suits of clothes, and flannels to go up the river on
Sundays. Look at me now: this is my best; and it must last till
Christmas. What can I do? Ive never opened a book since I was qualified
thirty years ago. I used to read the medical papers at first; but you
know how soon a man drops that; besides, I cant afford them; and
what are they after all but trade papers, full of advertisements? Ive
forgotten all my science: whats the use of my pretending I havnt? But
I have great experience: clinical experience; and bedside experience is
the main thing, isn't it?

B. B. No doubt; always provided, mind you, that you have a sound
scientific theory to correlate your observations at the bedside. Mere
experience by itself is nothing. If I take my dog to the bedside with
me, he sees what I see. But he learns nothing from it. Why? Because he's
not a scientific dog.

WALPOLE. It amuses me to hear you physicians and general practitioners
talking about clinical experience. What do you see at the bedside but
the outside of the patient? Well: it isnt his outside thats wrong,
except perhaps in skin cases. What you want is a daily familiarity with
people's insides; and that you can only get at the operating table. I
know what I'm talking about: Ive been a surgeon and a consultant for
twenty years; and Ive never known a general practitioner right in his
diagnosis yet. Bring them a perfectly simple case; and they diagnose
cancer, and arthritis, and appendicitis, and every other itis, when
any really experienced surgeon can see that it's a plain case of
blood-poisoning.

BLENKINSOP. Ah, it's easy for you gentlemen to talk; but what would you
say if you had my practice? Except for the workmen's clubs, my patients
are all clerks and shopmen. They darent be ill: they cant afford it. And
when they break down, what can I do for them? You can send your people
to St Moritz or to Egypt, or recommend horse exercise or motoring or
champagne jelly or complete change and rest for six months. I might as
well order my people a slice of the moon. And the worst of it is, I'm
too poor to keep well myself on the cooking I have to put up with.
Ive such a wretched digestion; and I look it. How am I to inspire
confidence? [He sits disconsolately on the couch].

RIDGEON [restlessly] Dont, Blenkinsop: its too painful. The most tragic
thing in the world is a sick doctor.

WALPOLE. Yes, by George: its like a bald-headed man trying to sell a
hair restorer. Thank God I'm a surgeon!

B. B. [sunnily] I am never sick. Never had a day's illness in my life.
Thats what enables me to sympathize with my patients.

WALPOLE [interested] What! youre never ill?

B. B. Never.

WALPOLE. Thats interesting. I believe you have no nuciform sac. If you
ever do feel at all queer, I should very much like to have a look.

B. B. Thank you, my dear fellow; but I'm too busy just now.

RIDGEON. I was just telling them when you came in, Blenkinsop, that I
have worked myself out of sorts.

BLENKINSOP. Well, it seems presumptuous of me to offer a prescription to
a great man like you; but still I have great experience; and if I might
recommend a pound of ripe greengages every day half an hour before
lunch, I'm sure youd find a benefit. Theyre very cheap.

RIDGEON. What do you say to that B. B.?

B. B. [encouragingly] Very sensible, Blenkinsop: very sensible indeed.
I'm delighted to see that you disapprove of drugs.

SIR PATRICK [grunts]!

B. B. [archly] Aha! Haha! Did I hear from the fireside armchair the
bow-wow of the old school defending its drugs? Ah, believe me, Paddy,
the world would be healthier if every chemist's shop in England were
demolished. Look at the papers! full of scandalous advertisements of
patent medicines! a huge commercial system of quackery and poison. Well,
whose fault is it? Ours. I say, ours. We set the example. We spread the
superstition. We taught the people to believe in bottles of doctor's
stuff; and now they buy it at the stores instead of consulting a medical
man.

WALPOLE. Quite true. Ive not prescribed a drug for the last fifteen
years.

B. B. Drugs can only repress symptoms: they cannot eradicate disease.
The true remedy for all diseases is Nature's remedy. Nature and Science
are at one, Sir Patrick, believe me; though you were taught differently.
Nature has provided, in the white corpuscles as you call them--in the
phagocytes as we call them--a natural means of devouring and destroying
all disease germs. There is at bottom only one genuinely scientific
treatment for all diseases, and that is to stimulate the phagocytes.
Stimulate the phagocytes. Drugs are a delusion. Find the germ of the
disease; prepare from it a suitable anti-toxin; inject it three times
a day quarter of an hour before meals; and what is the result? The
phagocytes are stimulated; they devour the disease; and the patient
recovers--unless, of course, he's too far gone. That, I take it, is the
essence of Ridgeon's discovery.

SIR PATRICK [dreamily] As I sit here, I seem to hear my poor old father
talking again.

B. B. [rising in incredulous amazement] Your father! But, Lord bless my
soul, Paddy, your father must have been an older man than you.

SIR PATRICK. Word for word almost, he said what you say. No more drugs.
Nothing but inoculation.

B. B. [almost contemptuously] Inoculation! Do you mean smallpox
inoculation?

SIR PATRICK. Yes. In the privacy of our family circle, sir, my father
used to declare his belief that smallpox inoculation was good, not only
for smallpox, but for all fevers.

B. B. [suddenly rising to the new idea with immense interest and
excitement] What! Ridgeon: did you hear that? Sir Patrick: I am more
struck by what you have just told me than I can well express. Your
father, sir, anticipated a discovery of my own. Listen, Walpole.
Blenkinsop: attend one moment. You will all be intensely interested in
this. I was put on the track by accident. I had a typhoid case and
a tetanus case side by side in the hospital: a beadle and a city
missionary. Think of what that meant for them, poor fellows! Can a
beadle be dignified with typhoid? Can a missionary be eloquent with
lockjaw? No. NO. Well, I got some typhoid anti-toxin from Ridgeon and a
tube of Muldooley's anti-tetanus serum. But the missionary jerked all
my things off the table in one of his paroxysms; and in replacing them I
put Ridgeon's tube where Muldooley's ought to have been. The consequence
was that I inoculated the typhoid case for tetanus and the tetanus
case for typhoid. [The doctors look greatly concerned. B. B., undamped,
smiles triumphantly]. Well, they recovered. THEY RECOVERED. Except for
a touch of St Vitus's dance the missionary's as well to-day as ever; and
the beadle's ten times the man he was.

BLENKINSOP. Ive known things like that happen. They cant be explained.

B. B. [severely] Blenkinsop: there is nothing that cannot be explained
by science. What did I do? Did I fold my hands helplessly and say that
the case could not be explained? By no means. I sat down and used my
brains. I thought the case out on scientific principles. I asked myself
why didnt the missionary die of typhoid on top of tetanus, and the
beadle of tetanus on top of typhoid? Theres a problem for you, Ridgeon.
Think, Sir Patrick. Reflect, Blenkinsop. Look at it without prejudice,
Walpole. What is the real work of the anti-toxin? Simply to stimulate
the phagocytes. Very well. But so long as you stimulate the phagocytes,
what does it matter which particular sort of serum you use for the
purpose? Haha! Eh? Do you see? Do you grasp it? Ever since that Ive used
all sorts of anti-toxins absolutely indiscriminately, with perfectly
satisfactory results. I inoculated the little prince with your stuff,
Ridgeon, because I wanted to give you a lift; but two years ago I
tried the experiment of treating a scarlet fever case with a sample of
hydrophobia serum from the Pasteur Institute, and it answered capitally.
It stimulated the phagocytes; and the phagocytes did the rest. That is
why Sir Patrick's father found that inoculation cured all fevers. It
stimulated the phagocytes. [He throws himself into his chair, exhausted
with the triumph of his demonstration, and beams magnificently on them].

EMMY [looking in] Mr Walpole: your motor's come for you; and it's
frightening Sir Patrick's horses; so come along quick.

WALPOLE [rising] Good-bye, Ridgeon.

RIDGEON. Good-bye; and many thanks.

B. B. You see my point, Walpole?

EMMY. He cant wait, Sir Ralph. The carriage will be into the area if he
dont come.

WALPOLE. I'm coming. [To B. B.] Theres nothing in your point:
phagocytosis is pure rot: the cases are all blood-poisoning; and the
knife is the real remedy. Bye-bye, Sir Paddy. Happy to have met you, Mr.
Blenkinsop. Now, Emmy. [He goes out, followed by Emmy].

B. B. [sadly] Walpole has no intellect. A mere surgeon. Wonderful
operator; but, after all, what is operating? Only manual labor.
Brain--BRAIN remains master of the situation. The nuciform sac is utter
nonsense: theres no such organ. It's a mere accidental kink in
the membrane, occurring in perhaps two-and-a-half per cent of the
population. Of course I'm glad for Walpole's sake that the operation
is fashionable; for he's a dear good fellow; and after all, as I always
tell people, the operation will do them no harm: indeed, Ive known the
nervous shake-up and the fortnight in bed do people a lot of good after
a hard London season; but still it's a shocking fraud. [Rising] Well,
I must be toddling. Good-bye, Paddy [Sir Patrick grunts] good-bye,
goodbye. Good-bye, my dear Blenkinsop, good-bye! Goodbye, Ridgeon. Dont
fret about your health: you know what to do: if your liver is sluggish,
a little mercury never does any harm. If you feel restless, try bromide,
If that doesnt answer, a stimulant, you know: a little phosphorus and
strychnine. If you cant sleep, trional, trional, trion--

SIR PATRICK [drily] But no drugs, Colly, remember that.

B. B. [firmly] Certainly not. Quite right, Sir Patrick. As temporary
expedients, of course; but as treatment, no, No. Keep away from the
chemist's shop, my dear Ridgeon, whatever you do.

RIDGEON [going to the door with him] I will. And thank you for the
knighthood. Good-bye.

B. B. [stopping at the door, with the beam in his eye twinkling a
little] By the way, who's your patient?

RIDGEON. Who?

B. B. Downstairs. Charming woman. Tuberculous husband.

RIDGEON. Is she there still?

Emmy [looking in] Come on, Sir Ralph: your wife's waiting in the
carriage.

B. B. [suddenly sobered] Oh! Good-bye. [He goes out almost
precipitately].

RIDGEON. Emmy: is that woman there still? If so, tell her once for all
that I cant and wont see her. Do you hear?

EMMY. Oh, she aint in a hurry: she doesnt mind how long she waits. [She
goes out].

BLENKINSOP. I must be off, too: every half-hour I spend away from my
work costs me eighteenpence. Good-bye, Sir Patrick.

SIR PATRICK. Good-bye. Good-bye.

RIDGEON. Come to lunch with me some day this week.

BLENKINSOP. I cant afford it, dear boy; and it would put me off my own
food for a week. Thank you all the same.

RIDGEON [uneasy at Blenkinsop's poverty] Can I do nothing for you?

BLENKINSOP. Well, if you have an old frock-coat to spare? you see what
would be an old one for you would be a new one for me; so remember the
next time you turn out your wardrobe. Good-bye. [He hurries out].

RIDGEON [looking after him] Poor chap! [Turning to Sir Patrick] So thats
why they made me a knight! And thats the medical profession!

SIR PATRICK. And a very good profession, too, my lad. When you know as
much as I know of the ignorance and superstition of the patients, youll
wonder that we're half as good as we are.

RIDGEON. We're not a profession: we're a conspiracy.

SIR PATRICK. All professions are conspiracies against the laity. And we
cant all be geniuses like you. Every fool can get ill; but every fool
cant be a good doctor: there are not enough good ones to go round. And
for all you know, Bloomfield Bonington kills less people than you do.

RIDGEON. Oh, very likely. But he really ought to know the difference
between a vaccine and an anti-toxin. Stimulate the phagocytes! The
vaccine doesnt affect the phagocytes at all. He's all wrong: hopelessly,
dangerously wrong. To put a tube of serum into his hands is murder:
simple murder.

EMMY [returning] Now, Sir Patrick. How long more are you going to keep
them horses standing in the draught?

SIR PATRICK. Whats that to you, you old catamaran?

EMMY. Come, come, now! none of your temper to me. And it's time for
Colly to get to his work.

RIDGEON. Behave yourself, Emmy. Get out.

EMMY. Oh, I learnt how to behave myself before I learnt you to do it.
I know what doctors are: sitting talking together about themselves when
they ought to be with their poor patients. And I know what horses are,
Sir Patrick. I was brought up in the country. Now be good; and come
along.

SIR PATRICK [rising] Very well, very well, very well. Good-bye, Colly.
[He pats Ridgeon on the shoulder and goes out, turning for a moment at
the door to look meditatively at Emmy and say, with grave conviction]
You are an ugly old devil, and no mistake.

EMMY [highly indignant, calling after him] Youre no beauty yourself. [To
Ridgeon, much flustered] Theyve no manners: they think they can say
what they like to me; and you set them on, you do. I'll teach them their
places. Here now: are you going to see that poor thing or are you not?

RIDGEON. I tell you for the fiftieth time I wont see anybody. Send her
away.

EMMY. Oh, I'm tired of being told to send her away. What good will that
do her?

RIDGEON. Must I get angry with you, Emmy?

EMMY [coaxing] Come now: just see her for a minute to please me: theres
a good boy. She's given me half-a-crown. She thinks it's life and death
to her husband for her to see you.

RIDGEON. Values her husband's life at half-a-crown!

EMMY. Well, it's all she can afford, poor lamb. Them others think
nothing of half-a-sovereign just to talk about themselves to you, the
sluts! Besides, she'll put you in a good temper for the day, because
it's a good deed to see her; and she's the sort that gets round you.

RIDGEON. Well, she hasnt done so badly. For half-a-crown she's had a
consultation with Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington and Cutler Walpole.
Thats six guineas' worth to start with. I dare say she's consulted
Blenkinsop too: thats another eighteenpence.

EMMY. Then youll see her for me, wont you?

RIDGEON. Oh, send her up and be hanged. [Emmy trots out, satisfied.
Ridgeon calls] Redpenny!

REDPENNY [appearing at the door] What is it?

RIDGEON. Theres a patient coming up. If she hasnt gone in five minutes,
come in with an urgent call from the hospital for me. You understand:
she's to have a strong hint to go.

REDPENNY. Right O! [He vanishes].

Ridgeon goes to the glass, and arranges his tie a little.

EMMY [announcing] Mrs Doobidad [Ridgeon leaves the glass and goes to the
writing-table].

The lady comes in. Emmy goes out and shuts the door. Ridgeon, who has
put on an impenetrable and rather distant professional manner, turns to
the lady, and invites her, by a gesture, to sit down on the couch.

Mrs Dubedat is beyond all demur an arrestingly good-looking young woman.
She has something of the grace and romance of a wild creature, with a
good deal of the elegance and dignity of a fine lady. Ridgeon, who is
extremely susceptible to the beauty of women, instinctively assumes
the defensive at once, and hardens his manner still more. He has an
impression that she is very well dressed, but she has a figure on which
any dress would look well, and carries herself with the unaffected
distinction of a woman who has never in her life suffered from those
doubts and fears as to her social position which spoil the manners of
most middling people. She is tall, slender, and strong; has dark
hair, dressed so as to look like hair and not like a bird's nest or a
pantaloon's wig (fashion wavering just then between these two models);
has unexpectedly narrow, subtle, dark-fringed eyes that alter her
expression disturbingly when she is excited and flashes them wide open;
is softly impetuous in her speech and swift in her movements; and is
just now in mortal anxiety. She carries a portfolio.

MRS DUBEDAT [in low urgent tones] Doctor--

RIDGEON [curtly] Wait. Before you begin, let me tell you at once that I
can do nothing for you. My hands are full. I sent you that message by my
old servant. You would not take that answer.

MRS DUBEDAT. How could I?

RIDGEON. You bribed her.

MRS DUBEDAT. I--

RIDGEON. That doesnt matter. She coaxed me to see you. Well, you must
take it from me now that with all the good will in the world, I cannot
undertake another case.

MRS DUBEDAT. Doctor: you must save my husband. You must. When I explain
to you, you will see that you must. It is not an ordinary case, not like
any other case. He is not like anybody else in the world: oh, believe
me, he is not. I can prove it to you: [fingering her portfolio] I have
brought some things to shew you. And you can save him: the papers say
you can.

RIDGEON. Whats the matter? Tuberculosis?

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes. His left lung--

RIDGEON Yes: you neednt tell me about that.

MRS DUBEDAT. You can cure him, if only you will. It is true that you
can, isnt it? [In great distress] Oh, tell me, please.

RIDGEON [warningly] You are going to be quiet and self-possessed, arnt
you?

MRs DUBEDAT. Yes. I beg your pardon. I know I shouldnt--[Giving way
again] Oh, please, say that you can; and then I shall be all right.

RIDGEON [huffily] I am not a curemonger: if you want cures, you must go
to the people who sell them. [Recovering himself, ashamed of the tone of
his own voice] But I have at the hospital ten tuberculous patients whose
lives I believe I can save.

MRS DUBEDAT. Thank God!

RIDGEON. Wait a moment. Try to think of those ten patients as ten
shipwrecked men on a raft--a raft that is barely large enough to save
them--that will not support one more. Another head bobs up through the
waves at the side. Another man begs to be taken aboard. He implores the
captain of the raft to save him. But the captain can only do that by
pushing one of his ten off the raft and drowning him to make room for
the new comer. That is what you are asking me to do.

MRS DUBEDAT. But how can that be? I dont understand. Surely--

RIDGEON. You must take my word for it that it is so. My laboratory, my
staff, and myself are working at full pressure. We are doing our utmost.
The treatment is a new one. It takes time, means, and skill; and there
is not enough for another case. Our ten cases are already chosen cases.
Do you understand what I mean by chosen?

MRS DUBEDAT. Chosen. No: I cant understand.

RIDGEON [sternly] You must understand. Youve got to understand and to
face it. In every single one of those ten cases I have had to consider,
not only whether the man could be saved, but whether he was worth
saving. There were fifty cases to choose from; and forty had to be
condemned to death. Some of the forty had young wives and helpless
children. If the hardness of their cases could have saved them they
would have been saved ten times over. Ive no doubt your case is a hard
one: I can see the tears in your eyes [she hastily wipes her eyes]: I
know that you have a torrent of entreaties ready for me the moment I
stop speaking; but it's no use. You must go to another doctor.

MRS DUBEDAT. But can you give me the name of another doctor who
understands your secret?

RIDGEON. I have no secret: I am not a quack.

MRS DUBEDAT. I beg your pardon: I didnt mean to say anything wrong. I
dont understand how to speak to you. Oh, pray dont be offended.

RIDGEON [again a little ashamed] There! there! never mind. [He relaxes
and sits down]. After all, I'm talking nonsense: I daresay I AM a quack,
a quack with a qualification. But my discovery is not patented.

MRS DUBEDAT. Then can any doctor cure my husband? Oh, why dont they do
it? I have tried so many: I have spent so much. If only you would give
me the name of another doctor.

RIDGEON. Every man in this street is a doctor. But outside myself and
the handful of men I am training at St Anne's, there is nobody as yet
who has mastered the opsonin treatment. And we are full up? I'm sorry;
but that is all I can say. [Rising] Good morning.

MRS DUBEDAT [suddenly and desperately taking some drawings from her
portfolio] Doctor: look at these. You understand drawings: you have good
ones in your waiting-room. Look at them. They are his work.

RIDGEON. It's no use my looking. [He looks, all the same] Hallo! [He
takes one to the window and studies it]. Yes: this is the real thing.
Yes, yes. [He looks at another and returns to her]. These are very
clever. Theyre unfinished, arnt they?

MRS DUBEDAT. He gets tired so soon. But you see, dont you, what a genius
he is? You see that he is worth saving. Oh, doctor, I married him just
to help him to begin: I had money enough to tide him over the hard years
at the beginning--to enable him to follow his inspiration until his
genius was recognized. And I was useful to him as a model: his drawings
of me sold quite quickly.

RIDGEON. Have you got one?

MRS DUBEDAT [producing another] Only this one. It was the first.

RIDGEON [devouring it with his eyes] Thats a wonderful drawing. Why is
it called Jennifer?

MRS DUBEDAT. My name is Jennifer.

RIDGEON. A strange name.

MRS DUBEDAT. Not in Cornwall. I am Cornish. It's only what you call
Guinevere.

RIDGEON [repeating the names with a certain pleasure in them] Guinevere.
Jennifer. [Looking again at the drawing] Yes: it's really a wonderful
drawing. Excuse me; but may I ask is it for sale? I'll buy it.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, take it. It's my own: he gave it to me. Take it. Take
them all. Take everything; ask anything; but save him. You can: you
will: you must.

REDPENNY [entering with every sign of alarm] Theyve just telephoned from
the hospital that youre to come instantly--a patient on the point of
death. The carriage is waiting.

RIDGEON [intolerantly] Oh, nonsense: get out. [Greatly annoyed] What do
you mean by interrupting me like this?

REDPENNY. But--

RIDGEON. Chut! cant you see I'm engaged? Be off.

Redpenny, bewildered, vanishes.

MRS DUBEDAT [rising] Doctor: one instant only before you go--

RIDGEON. Sit down. It's nothing.

MRS DUBEDAT. But the patient. He said he was dying.

RIDGEON. Oh, he's dead by this time. Never mind. Sit down.

MRS DUBEDAT [sitting down and breaking down] Oh, you none of you care.
You see people die every day.

RIDGEON [petting her] Nonsense! it's nothing: I told him to come in and
say that. I thought I should want to get rid of you.

MRS DUBEDAT [shocked at the falsehood] Oh! RIDGEON [continuing] Dont
look so bewildered: theres nobody dying.

MRS DUBEDAT. My husband is.

RIDGEON [pulling himself together] Ah, yes: I had forgotten your
husband. Mrs Dubedat: you are asking me to do a very serious thing?

MRS DUBEDAT. I am asking you to save the life of a great man.

RIDGEON. You are asking me to kill another man for his sake; for as
surely as I undertake another case, I shall have to hand back one of
the old ones to the ordinary treatment. Well, I dont shrink from that. I
have had to do it before; and I will do it again if you can convince me
that his life is more important than the worst life I am now saving. But
you must convince me first.

MRS DUBEDAT. He made those drawings; and they are not the best--nothing
like the best; only I did not bring the really best: so few people like
them. He is twenty-three: his whole life is before him. Wont you let me
bring him to you? wont you speak to him? wont you see for yourself?

RIDGEON. Is he well enough to come to a dinner at the Star and Garter at
Richmond?

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh yes. Why?

RIDGEON. I'll tell you. I am inviting all my old friends to a dinner to
celebrate my knighthood--youve seen about it in the papers, havnt you?

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, oh yes. That was how I found out about you.

RIDGEON. It will be a doctors' dinner; and it was to have been a
bachelors' dinner. I'm a bachelor. Now if you will entertain for me, and
bring your husband, he will meet me; and he will meet some of the most
eminent men in my profession: Sir Patrick Cullen, Sir Ralph Bloomfield
Bonington, Cutler Walpole, and others. I can put the case to them; and
your husband will have to stand or fall by what we think of him. Will
you come?

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, of course I will come. Oh, thank you, thank you. And
may I bring some of his drawings--the really good ones?

RIDGEON. Yes. I will let you know the date in the course of to-morrow.
Leave me your address.

MRS DUBEDAT. Thank you again and again. You have made me so happy: I
know you will admire him and like him. This is my address. [She gives
him her card].

RIDGEON. Thank you. [He rings].

MRS DUBEDAT [embarrassed] May I--is there--should I--I mean--[she
blushes and stops in confusion].

RIDGEON. Whats the matter?

MRS DUBEDAT. Your fee for this consultation?

RIDGEON. Oh, I forgot that. Shall we say a beautiful drawing of his
favorite model for the whole treatment, including the cure?

MRS DUBEDAT. You are very generous. Thank you. I know you will cure him.
Good-bye.

RIDGEON. I will. Good-bye. [They shake hands]. By the way, you know,
dont you, that tuberculosis is catching. You take every precaution, I
hope.

MRS DUBEDAT. I am not likely to forget it. They treat us like lepers at
the hotels.

EMMY [at the door] Well, deary: have you got round him?

RIDGEON. Yes. Attend to the door and hold your tongue.

EMMY. Thats a good boy. [She goes out with Mrs Dubedat].

RIDGEON [alone] Consultation free. Cure guaranteed. [He heaves a great
sigh].



ACT II

After dinner on the terrace at the Star and Garter, Richmond. Cloudless
summer night; nothing disturbs the stillness except from time to time
the long trajectory of a distant train and the measured clucking of oars
coming up from the Thames in the valley below. The dinner is over; and
three of the eight chairs are empty. Sir Patrick, with his back to the
view, is at the head of the square table with Ridgeon. The two chairs
opposite them are empty. On their right come, first, a vacant chair,
and then one very fully occupied by B. B., who basks blissfully in the
moonbeams. On their left, Schutzmacher and Walpole. The entrance to the
hotel is on their right, behind B. B. The five men are silently enjoying
their coffee and cigarets, full of food, and not altogether void of
wine.

Mrs Dubedat, wrapped up for departure, comes in. They rise, except
Sir Patrick; but she takes one of the vacant places at the foot of the
table, next B. B.; and they sit down again.

MRS DUBEDAT [as she enters] Louis will be here presently. He is shewing
Dr Blenkinsop how to work the telephone. [She sits.] Oh, I am so sorry
we have to go. It seems such a shame, this beautiful night. And we have
enjoyed ourselves so much.

RIDGEON. I dont believe another half-hour would do Mr Dubedat a bit of
harm.

SIR PATRICK. Come now, Colly, come! come! none of that. You take your
man home, Mrs Dubedat; and get him to bed before eleven.

B. B. Yes, yes. Bed before eleven. Quite right, quite right. Sorry to
lose you, my dear lady; but Sir Patrick's orders are the laws of--er--of
Tyre and Sidon.

WALPOLE. Let me take you home in my motor.

SIR PATRICK. No. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Walpole. Your
motor will take Mr and Mrs Dubedat to the station, and quite far enough
too for an open carriage at night.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, I am sure the train is best.

RIDGEON. Well, Mrs Dubedat, we have had a most enjoyable evening.

WALPOLE. {Most enjoyable. B. B. {Delightful. Charming. Unforgettable.

MRS DUBEDAT [with a touch of shy anxiety] What did you think of Louis?
Or am I wrong to ask?

RIDGEON. Wrong! Why, we are all charmed with him.

WALPOLE. Delighted.

B. B. Most happy to have met him. A privilege, a real privilege.

SIR PATRICK [grunts]!

MRS DUBEDAT [quickly] Sir Patrick: are YOU uneasy about him?

SIR PATRICK [discreetly] I admire his drawings greatly, maam.

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes; but I meant--

RIDGEON. You shall go away quite happy. He's worth saving. He must and
shall be saved.

Mrs Dubedat rises and gasps with delight, relief, and gratitude. They
all rise except Sir Patrick and Schutzmacher, and come reassuringly to
her.

B. B. Certainly, CER-tainly.

WALPOLE. Theres no real difficulty, if only you know what to do.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, how can I ever thank you! From this night I can begin
to be happy at last. You dont know what I feel.

She sits down in tears. They crowd about her to console her.

B. B. My dear lady: come come! come come! [very persuasively] come come!

WALPOLE. Dont mind us. Have a good cry.

RIDGEON. No: dont cry. Your husband had better not know that weve been
talking about him.

MRS DUBEDAT [quickly pulling herself together] No, of course not. Please
dont mind me. What a glorious thing it must be to be a doctor! [They
laugh]. Dont laugh. You dont know what youve done for me. I never knew
until now how deadly afraid I was--how I had come to dread the worst. I
never dared let myself know. But now the relief has come: now I know.

Louis Dubedat comes from the hotel, in his overcoat, his throat wrapped
in a shawl. He is a slim young man of 23, physically still a stripling,
and pretty, though not effeminate. He has turquoise blue eyes, and a
trick of looking you straight in the face with them, which, combined
with a frank smile, is very engaging. Although he is all nerves, and
very observant and quick of apprehension, he is not in the least shy. He
is younger than Jennifer; but he patronizes her as a matter of course.
The doctors do not put him out in the least: neither Sir Patrick's years
nor Bloomfield Bonington's majesty have the smallest apparent effect
on him: he is as natural as a cat: he moves among men as most men move
among things, though he is intentionally making himself agreeable to
them on this occasion. Like all people who can be depended on to take
care of themselves, he is welcome company; and his artist's power of
appealing to the imagination gains him credit for all sorts of qualities
and powers, whether he possesses them or not.

LOUIS [pulling on his gloves behind Ridgeon's chair] Now, Jinny-Gwinny:
the motor has come round.

RIDGEON. Why do you let him spoil your beautiful name like that, Mrs
Dubedat?

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, on grand occasions I am Jennifer.

B. B. You are a bachelor: you do not understand these things, Ridgeon.
Look at me [They look]. I also have two names. In moments of domestic
worry, I am simple Ralph. When the sun shines in the home, I am
Beedle-Deedle-Dumkins. Such is married life! Mr Dubedat: may I ask you
to do me a favor before you go. Will you sign your name to this menu
card, under the sketch you have made of me?

WALPOLE. Yes; and mine too, if you will be so good.

LOUIS. Certainly. [He sits down and signs the cards].

MRS DUBEDAT. Wont you sign Dr Schutzmacher's for him, Louis?

LOUIS. I dont think Dr Schutzmacher is pleased with his portrait. I'll
tear it up. [He reaches across the table for Schutzmacher's menu card,
and is about to tear it. Schutzmacher makes no sign].

RIDGEON. No, no: if Loony doesnt want it, I do.

LOUIS. I'll sign it for you with pleasure. [He signs and hands it to
Ridgeon]. Ive just been making a little note of the river to-night:
it will work up into something good [he shews a pocket sketch-book]. I
think I'll call it the Silver Danube.

B. B. Ah, charming, charming.

WALPOLE. Very sweet. Youre a nailer at pastel.

Louis coughs, first out of modesty, then from tuberculosis.

SIR PATRICK. Now then, Mr Dubedat: youve had enough of the night air.
Take him home, maam.

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes. Come, Louis.

RIDGEON. Never fear. Never mind. I'll make that cough all right.

B. B. We will stimulate the phagocytes. [With tender effusion, shaking
her hand] Good-night, Mrs Dubedat. Good-night. Good-night.

WALPOLE. If the phagocytes fail, come to me. I'll put you right.

LOUIS. Good-night, Sir Patrick. Happy to have met you.

SIR PATRICK. Night [half a grunt].

MRS DUBEDAT. Good-night, Sir Patrick.

SIR PATRICK. Cover yourself well up. Dont think your lungs are made of
iron because theyre better than his. Good-night.

MRS DUBEDAT. Thank you. Thank you. Nothing hurts me. Good-night.

Louis goes out through the hotel without noticing Schutzmacher. Mrs
Dubedat hesitates, then bows to him. Schutzmacher rises and bows
formally, German fashion. She goes out, attended by Ridgeon. The rest
resume their seats, ruminating or smoking quietly.

B. B. [harmoniously] Dee-lightful couple! Charming woman! Gifted lad!
Remarkable talent! Graceful outlines! Perfect evening! Great success!
Interesting case! Glorious night! Exquisite scenery! Capital dinner!
Stimulating conversation! Restful outing! Good wine! Happy ending!
Touching gratitude! Lucky Ridgeon--

RIDGEON [returning] Whats that? Calling me, B. B.? [He goes back to his
seat next Sir Patrick].

B. B. No, no. Only congratulating you on a most successful evening!
Enchanting woman! Thorough breeding! Gentle nature! Refined--

Blenkinsop comes from the hotel and takes the empty chair next Ridgeon.

BLENKINSOP. I'm so sorry to have left you like this, Ridgeon; but it was
a telephone message from the police. Theyve found half a milkman at
our level crossing with a prescription of mine in its pocket. Wheres Mr
Dubedat?

RIDGEON. Gone.

BLENKINSOP [rising, very pale] Gone!

RIDGEON. Just this moment--

BLENKINSOP. Perhaps I could overtake him--[he rushes into the hotel].

WALPOLE [calling after him] He's in the motor, man, miles off. You
can--[giving it up]. No use.

RIDGEON. Theyre really very nice people. I confess I was afraid the
husband would turn out an appalling bounder. But he's almost as charming
in his way as she is in hers. And theres no mistake about his being a
genius. It's something to have got a case really worth saving. Somebody
else will have to go; but at all events it will be easy to find a worse
man.

SIR PATRICK. How do you know?

RIDGEON. Come now, Sir Paddy, no growling. Have something more to drink.

SIR PATRICK. No, thank you.

WALPOLE. Do you see anything wrong with Dubedat, B. B.?

B. B. Oh, a charming young fellow. Besides, after all, what could be
wrong with him? Look at him. What could be wrong with him?

SIR PATRICK. There are two things that can be wrong with any man. One
of them is a cheque. The other is a woman. Until you know that a man's
sound on these two points, you know nothing about him.

B. B. Ah, cynic, cynic!

WALPOLE. He's all right as to the cheque, for a while at all events.
He talked to me quite frankly before dinner as to the pressure of
money difficulties on an artist. He says he has no vices and is very
economical, but that theres one extravagance he cant afford and yet cant
resist; and that is dressing his wife prettily. So I said, bang plump
out, "Let me lend you twenty pounds, and pay me when your ship comes
home." He was really very nice about it. He took it like a man; and it
was a pleasure to see how happy it made him, poor chap.

B. B. [who has listened to Walpole with growing perturbation]
But--but--but--when was this, may I ask?

WALPOLE. When I joined you that time down by the river.

B. B. But, my dear Walpole, he had just borrowed ten pounds from me.

WALPOLE. What!

SIR PATRICK [grunts]!

B. B. [indulgently] Well, well, it was really hardly borrowing; for he
said heaven only knew when he could pay me. I couldnt refuse. It appears
that Mrs Dubedat has taken a sort of fancy to me--

WALPOLE [quickly] No: it was to me.

B. B. Certainly not. Your name was never mentioned between us. He is so
wrapped up in his work that he has to leave her a good deal alone; and
the poor innocent young fellow--he has of course no idea of my position
or how busy I am--actually wanted me to call occasionally and talk to
her.

WALPOLE. Exactly what he said to me!

B. B. Pooh! Pooh pooh! Really, I must say. [Much disturbed, he rises and
goes up to the balustrade, contemplating the landscape vexedly].

WALPOLE. Look here, Ridgeon! this is beginning to look serious.

Blenkinsop, very anxious and wretched, but trying to look unconcerned,
comes back.

RIDGEON. Well, did you catch him?

BLENKINSOP. No. Excuse my running away like that. [He sits down at the
foot of the table, next Bloomfeld Bonington's chair].

WALPOLE. Anything the matter?

BLENKINSOP. Oh no. A trifle--something ridiculous. It cant be helped.
Never mind.

RIDGEON. Was it anything about Dubedat?

BLENKINSOP [almost breaking down] I ought to keep it to myself, I know.
I cant tell you, Ridgeon, how ashamed I am of dragging my miserable
poverty to your dinner after all your kindness. It's not that you wont
ask me again; but it's so humiliating. And I did so look forward to one
evening in my dress clothes (THEYRE still presentable, you see) with all
my troubles left behind, just like old times.

RIDGEON. But what has happened?

BLENKINSOP. Oh, nothing. It's too ridiculous. I had just scraped up four
shillings for this little outing; and it cost me one-and-fourpence to
get here. Well, Dubedat asked me to lend him half-a-crown to tip
the chambermaid of the room his wife left her wraps in, and for the
cloakroom. He said he only wanted it for five minutes, as she had his
purse. So of course I lent it to him. And he's forgotten to pay me. I've
just tuppence to get back with.

RIDGEON. Oh, never mind that--

BLENKINSOP [stopping him resolutely] No: I know what youre going to say;
but I wont take it. Ive never borrowed a penny; and I never will. Ive
nothing left but my friends; and I wont sell them. If none of you were
to be able to meet me without being afraid that my civility was leading
up to the loan of five shillings, there would be an end of everything
for me. I'll take your old clothes, Colly, sooner than disgrace you by
talking to you in the street in my own; but I wont borrow money. I'll
train it as far as the twopence will take me; and I'll tramp the rest.

WALPOLE. Youll do the whole distance in my motor. [They are all greatly
relieved; and Walpole hastens to get away from the painful subject by
adding] Did he get anything out of you, Mr Schutzmacher?

SCHUTZMACHER [shakes his head in a most expressive negative].

WALPOLE. You didnt appreciate his drawing, I think.

SCHUTZMACHER. Oh yes I did. I should have liked very much to have kept
the sketch and got it autographed.

B. B. But why didnt you?

SCHUTZMACHER. Well, the fact is, when I joined Dubedat after his
conversation with Mr Walpole, he said the Jews were the only people
who knew anything about art, and that though he had to put up with
your Philistine twaddle, as he called it, it was what I said about the
drawings that really pleased him. He also said that his wife was greatly
struck with my knowledge, and that she always admired Jews. Then he
asked me to advance him 50 pounds on the security of the drawings.

B. B. { [All } No, no. Positively! Seriously! WALPOLE { exclaiming }
What! Another fifty! BLENKINSOP { together] } Think of that! SIR PATRICK
{ } [grunts]!

SCHUTZMACHER. Of course I couldnt lend money to a stranger like that.

B. B. I envy you the power to say No, Mr Schutzmacher. Of course, I
knew I oughtnt to lend money to a young fellow in that way; but I simply
hadnt the nerve to refuse. I couldnt very well, you know, could I?

SCHUTZMACHER. I dont understand that. I felt that I couldnt very well
lend it.

WALPOLE. What did he say?

SCHUTZMACHER. Well, he made a very uncalled-for remark about a Jew not
understanding the feelings of a gentleman. I must say you Gentiles are
very hard to please. You say we are no gentlemen when we lend money; and
when we refuse to lend it you say just the same. I didnt mean to behave
badly. As I told him, I might have lent it to him if he had been a Jew
himself.

SIR PATRICK [with a grunt] And what did he say to that?

SCHUTZMACHER. Oh, he began trying to persuade me that he was one of the
chosen people--that his artistic faculty shewed it, and that his name
was as foreign as my own. He said he didnt really want 50 pounds; that
he was only joking; that all he wanted was a couple of sovereigns.

B. B. No, no, Mr Schutzmacher. You invented that last touch. Seriously,
now?

SCHUTZMACHER. No. You cant improve on Nature in telling stories about
gentlemen like Mr Dubedat.

BLENKINSOP. You certainly do stand by one another, you chosen people, Mr
Schutzmacher.

SCHUTZMACHER. Not at all. Personally, I like Englishmen better than
Jews, and always associate with them. Thats only natural, because, as
I am a Jew, theres nothing interesting in a Jew to me, whereas there is
always something interesting and foreign in an Englishman. But in money
matters it's quite different. You see, when an Englishman borrows, all
he knows or cares is that he wants money; and he'll sign anything to get
it, without in the least understanding it, or intending to carry out the
agreement if it turns out badly for him. In fact, he thinks you a cad
if you ask him to carry it out under such circumstances. Just like the
Merchant of Venice, you know. But if a Jew makes an agreement, he means
to keep it and expects you to keep it. If he wants money for a time, he
borrows it and knows he must pay it at the end of the time. If he knows
he cant pay, he begs it as a gift.

RIDGEON. Come, Loony! do you mean to say that Jews are never rogues and
thieves?

SCHUTZMACHER. Oh, not at all. But I was not talking of criminals. I was
comparing honest Englishmen with honest Jews.

One of the hotel maids, a pretty, fair-haired woman of about 25, comes
from the hotel, rather furtively. She accosts Ridgeon.

THE MAID. I beg your pardon, sir--

RIDGEON. Eh?

THE MAID. I beg pardon, sir. It's not about the hotel. I'm not allowed
to be on the terrace; and I should be discharged if I were seen speaking
to you, unless you were kind enough to say you called me to ask whether
the motor has come back from the station yet.

WALPOLE. Has it?

THE MAID. Yes, sir.

RIDGEON. Well, what do you want?

THE MAID. Would you mind, sir, giving me the address of the gentleman
that was with you at dinner?

RIDGEON [sharply] Yes, of course I should mind very much. You have no
right to ask.

THE MAID. Yes, sir, I know it looks like that. But what am I to do?

SIR PATRICK. Whats the matter with you?

THE MAID. Nothing, sir. I want the address: thats all.

B. B. You mean the young gentleman?

THE MAID. Yes, sir: that went to catch the train with the woman he
brought with him.

RIDGEON. The woman! Do you mean the lady who dined here? the gentleman's
wife?

THE MAID. Dont believe them, sir. She cant be his wife. I'm his wife.

B. B.   {[in amazed remonstrance] My good girl! RIDGEON {You his wife!
WALPOLE {What! whats that? Oh, this is getting perfectly
fascinating, Ridgeon.

THE MAID. I could run upstairs and get you my marriage lines in a
minute, sir, if you doubt my word. He's Mr Louis Dubedat, isnt he?

RIDGEON. Yes.

THE MAID. Well, sir, you may believe me or not; but I'm the lawful Mrs
Dubedat.

SIR PATRICK. And why arnt you living with your husband?

THE MAID. We couldnt afford it, sir. I had thirty pounds saved; and we
spent it all on our honeymoon in three weeks, and a lot more that he
borrowed. Then I had to go back into service, and he went to London
to get work at his drawing; and he never wrote me a line or sent me an
address. I never saw nor heard of him again until I caught sight of him
from the window going off in the motor with that woman.

SIR PATRICK. Well, thats two wives to start with.

B. B. Now upon my soul I dont want to be uncharitable; but really I'm
beginning to suspect that our young friend is rather careless.

SIR PATRICK. Beginning to think! How long will it take you, man, to find
out that he's a damned young blackguard?

BLENKINSOP. Oh, thats severe, Sir Patrick, very severe. Of course it's
bigamy; but still he's very young; and she's very pretty. Mr Walpole:
may I spunge on you for another of those nice cigarets of yours? [He
changes his seat for the one next Walpole].

WALPOLE. Certainly. [He feels in his pockets]. Oh bother! Where--?
[Suddenly remembering] I say: I recollect now: I passed my cigaret case
to Dubedat and he didnt return it. It was a gold one.

THE MAID. He didnt mean any harm: he never thinks about things like
that, sir. I'll get it back for you, sir, if youll tell me where to find
him.

RIDGEON. What am I to do? Shall I give her the address or not?

SIR PATRICK. Give her your own address; and then we'll see. [To the
maid] Youll have to be content with that for the present, my girl.
[Ridgeon gives her his card]. Whats your name?

THE MAID. Minnie Tinwell, sir.

SIR PATRICK. Well, you write him a letter to care of this gentleman; and
it will be sent on. Now be off with you.

THE MAID. Thank you, sir. I'm sure you wouldnt see me wronged. Thank you
all, gentlemen; and excuse the liberty.

She goes into the hotel. They match her in silence.

RIDGEON [when she is gone] Do you realize, chaps, that we have promised
Mrs Dubedat to save this fellow's life?

BLENKINSOP. Whats the matter with him?

RIDGEON. Tuberculosis.

BLENKINSOP [interested] And can you cure that?

RIDGEON. I believe so.

BLENKINSOP. Then I wish youd cure me. My right lung is touched, I'm
sorry to say.


 RIDGEON       }               { What! Your lung is going?
 B.B           }               { My dear Blenkinsop, what do you
               }   [all        { tell me? [full of concern for
               }    together]  { Blenkinsop he comes back from the
               }               { balustrade].
 SIR PATRICK   }               { Eh? Eh? Whats that?
 WALPOLE       }               { Hullo, you mustn't neglect this,
               }               { you know.


BLENKINSOP [putting his fingers in his ears] No, no: it's no use. I know
what youre going to say: Ive said it often to others. I cant afford to
take care of myself; and theres an end of it. If a fortnight's holiday
would save my life, I'd have to die. I shall get on as others have to
get on. We cant all go to St Moritz or to Egypt, you know, Sir Ralph.
Dont talk about it.

Embarrassed silence.

SIR PATRICK [grunts and looks hard at Ridgeon]!

SCHUTZMACHER [looking at his watch and rising] I must go. It's been a
very pleasant evening, Colly. You might let me have my portrait if you
dont mind. I'll send Mr Dubedat that couple of sovereigns for it.

RIDGEON [giving him the menu card] Oh dont do that, Loony. I dont think
he'd like that.

SCHUTZMACHER. Well, of course I shant if you feel that way about it. But
I dont think you understand Dubedat. However, perhaps thats because I'm
a Jew. Good-night, Dr Blenkinsop [shaking hands].

BLENKINSOP. Good-night, sir--I mean--Good-night.

SCHUTZMACHER [waving his hand to the rest] Goodnight, everybody.

WALPOLE { B. B. { SIR PATRICK { Good-night. RIDGEON {

B. B. repeats the salutation several times, in varied musical tones.
Schutzmacher goes out.

SIR PATRICK. Its time for us all to move. [He rises and comes between
Blenkinsop and Walpole. Ridgeon also rises]. Mr Walpole: take Blenkinsop
home: he's had enough of the open air cure for to-night. Have you a
thick overcoat to wear in the motor, Dr Blenkinsop?

BLENKINSOP. Oh, theyll give me some brown paper in the hotel; and a
few thicknesses of brown paper across the chest are better than any fur
coat.

WALPOLE. Well, come along. Good-night, Colly. Youre coming with us, arnt
you, B. B.?

B. B. Yes: I'm coming. [Walpole and Blenkinsop go into the hotel].
Good-night, my dear Ridgeon [shaking hands affectionately]. Dont let us
lose sight of your interesting patient and his very charming wife. We
must not judge him too hastily, you know. [With unction] G o o o o o o
o o d-night, Paddy. Bless you, dear old chap. [Sir Patrick utters a
formidable grunt. B. B. laughs and pats him indulgently on the shoulder]
Good-night. Good-night. Good-night. Good-night. [He good-nights himself
into the hotel].

The others have meanwhile gone without ceremony. Ridgeon and Sir Patrick
are left alone together. Ridgeon, deep in thought, comes down to Sir
Patrick.

SIR PATRICK. Well, Mr Savior of Lives: which is it to be? that honest
decent man Blenkinsop, or that rotten blackguard of an artist, eh?

RIDGEON. Its not an easy case to judge, is it? Blenkinsop's an honest
decent man; but is he any use? Dubedat's a rotten blackguard; but he's a
genuine source of pretty and pleasant and good things.

SIR PATRICK. What will he be a source of for that poor innocent wife of
his, when she finds him out?

RIDGEON. Thats true. Her life will be a hell.

SIR PATRICK. And tell me this. Suppose you had this choice put before
you: either to go through life and find all the pictures bad but all the
men and women good, or to go through life and find all the pictures good
and all the men and women rotten. Which would you choose?

RIDGEON. Thats a devilishly difficult question, Paddy. The pictures
are so agreeable, and the good people so infernally disagreeable and
mischievous, that I really cant undertake to say offhand which I should
prefer to do without.

SIR PATRICK. Come come! none of your cleverness with me: I'm too old for
it. Blenkinsop isnt that sort of good man; and you know it.

RIDGEON. It would be simpler if Blenkinsop could paint Dubedat's
pictures.

SIR PATRICK. It would be simpler still if Dubedat had some of
Blenkinsop's honesty. The world isnt going to be made simple for you,
my lad: you must take it as it is. Youve to hold the scales between
Blenkinsop and Dubedat. Hold them fairly.

RIDGEON. Well, I'll be as fair as I can. I'll put into one scale all the
pounds Dubedat has borrowed, and into the other all the half-crowns that
Blenkinsop hasnt borrowed.

SIR PATRICK. And youll take out of Dubedat's scale all the faith he has
destroyed and the honor he has lost, and youll put into Blenkinsop's
scale all the faith he has justified and the honor he has created.

RIDGEON. Come come, Paddy! none of your claptrap with me: I'm too
sceptical for it. I'm not at all convinced that the world wouldnt be a
better world if everybody behaved as Dubedat does than it is now that
everybody behaves as Blenkinsop does.

SIR PATRICK. Then why dont you behave as Dubedat does?

RIDGEON. Ah, that beats me. Thats the experimental test. Still, it's
a dilemma. It's a dilemma. You see theres a complication we havnt
mentioned.

SIR PATRICK. Whats that?

RIDGEON. Well, if I let Blenkinsop die, at least nobody can say I did it
because I wanted to marry his widow.

SIR PATRICK. Eh? Whats that?

RIDGEON. Now if I let Dubedat die, I'll marry his widow.

SIR PATRICK. Perhaps she wont have you, you know.

RIDGEON [with a self-assured shake of the head] I've a pretty good flair
for that sort of thing. I know when a woman is interested in me. She is.

SIR PATRICK. Well, sometimes a man knows best; and sometimes he knows
worst. Youd much better cure them both.

RIDGEON. I cant. I'm at my limit. I can squeeze in one more case, but
not two. I must choose.

SIR PATRICK. Well, you must choose as if she didnt exist: thats clear.

RIDGEON. Is that clear to you? Mind: it's not clear to me. She troubles
my judgment.

SIR PATRICK. To me, it's a plain choice between a man and a lot of
pictures.

RIDGEON. It's easier to replace a dead man than a good picture.

SIR PATRICK. Colly: when you live in an age that runs to pictures and
statues and plays and brass bands because its men and women are not good
enough to comfort its poor aching soul, you should thank Providence that
you belong to a profession which is a high and great profession because
its business is to heal and mend men and women.

RIDGEON. In short, as a member of a high and great profession, I'm to
kill my patient.

SIR PATRICK. Dont talk wicked nonsense. You cant kill him. But you can
leave him in other hands.

RIDGEON. In B. B.'s, for instance: eh? [looking at him significantly].

SIR PATRICK [demurely facing his look] Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington is
a very eminent physician.

RIDGEON. He is.

SIR PATRICK. I'm going for my hat.

Ridgeon strikes the bell as Sir Patrick makes for the hotel. A waiter
comes.

RIDGEON [to the waiter] My bill, please.

WAITER. Yes, sir.

He goes for it.



ACT III

In Dubedat's studio. Viewed from the large window the outer door is
in the wall on the left at the near end. The door leading to the inner
rooms is in the opposite wall, at the far end. The facing wall has
neither window nor door. The plaster on all the walls is uncovered and
undecorated, except by scrawlings of charcoal sketches and memoranda.
There is a studio throne (a chair on a dais) a little to the left,
opposite the inner door, and an easel to the right, opposite the outer
door, with a dilapidated chair at it. Near the easel and against the
wall is a bare wooden table with bottles and jars of oil and medium,
paint-smudged rags, tubes of color, brushes, charcoal, a small last
figure, a kettle and spirit-lamp, and other odds and ends. By the table
is a sofa, littered with drawing blocks, sketch-books, loose sheets of
paper, newspapers, books, and more smudged rags. Next the outer door is
an umbrella and hat stand, occupied partly by Louis' hats and cloak and
muffler, and partly by odds and ends of costumes. There is an old piano
stool on the near side of this door. In the corner near the inner door
is a little tea-table. A lay figure, in a cardinal's robe and hat, with
an hour-glass in one hand and a scythe slung on its back, smiles with
inane malice at Louis, who, in a milkman's smock much smudged with
colors, is painting a piece of brocade which he has draped about his
wife.

She is sitting on the throne, not interested in the painting, and
appealing to him very anxiously about another matter.

MRS DUBEDAT. Promise.

LOUIS [putting on a touch of paint with notable skill and care and
answering quite perfunctorily] I promise, my darling.

MRS DUBEDAT. When you want money, you will always come to me.

LOUIS. But it's so sordid, dearest. I hate money. I cant keep always
bothering you for money, money, money. Thats what drives me sometimes to
ask other people, though I hate doing it.

MRS DUBEDAT. It is far better to ask me, dear. It gives people a wrong
idea of you.

LOUIS. But I want to spare your little fortune, and raise money on my
own work. Dont be unhappy, love: I can easily earn enough to pay it all
back. I shall have a one-man-show next season; and then there will be no
more money troubles. [Putting down his palette] There! I mustnt do any
more on that until it's bone-dry; so you may come down.

MRS DUBEDAT [throwing off the drapery as she steps down, and revealing a
plain frock of tussore silk] But you have promised, remember, seriously
and faithfully, never to borrow again until you have first asked me.

LOUIS. Seriously and faithfully. [Embracing her] Ah, my love, how right
you are! how much it means to me to have you by me to guard me against
living too much in the skies. On my solemn oath, from this moment forth
I will never borrow another penny.

MRS DUBEDAT [delighted] Ah, thats right. Does his wicked worrying wife
torment him and drag him down from the clouds. [She kisses him]. And
now, dear, wont you finish those drawings for Maclean?

LOUIS. Oh, they dont matter. Ive got nearly all the money from him in
advance.

MRS DUBEDAT. But, dearest, that is just the reason why you should finish
them. He asked me the other day whether you really intended to finish
them.

LOUIS. Confound his impudence! What the devil does he take me for? Now
that just destroys all my interest in the beastly job. Ive a good mind
to throw up the commission, and pay him back his money.

MRS DUBEDAT. We cant afford that, dear. You had better finish the
drawings and have done with them. I think it is a mistake to accept
money in advance.

LOUIS. But how are we to live?

MRS DUBEDAT. Well, Louis, it is getting hard enough as it is, now that
they are all refusing to pay except on delivery.

LOUIS. Damn those fellows! they think of nothing and care for nothing
but their wretched money.

MRS DUBEDAT. Still, if they pay us, they ought to have what they pay
for.

LOUIS [coaxing;] There now: thats enough lecturing for to-day. Ive
promised to be good, havnt I?

MRS DUDEBAT [putting her arms round his neck] You know that I hate
lecturing, and that I dont for a moment misunderstand you, dear, dont
you?

LOUIS [fondly] I know. I know. I'm a wretch; and youre an angel. Oh, if
only I were strong enough to work steadily, I'd make my darling's house
a temple, and her shrine a chapel more beautiful than was ever imagined.
I cant pass the shops without wrestling with the temptation to go in and
order all the really good things they have for you.

MRS DUBEDAT. I want nothing but you, dear. [She gives him a caress, to
which he responds so passionately that she disengages herself]. There!
be good now: remember that the doctors are coming this morning. Isnt it
extraordinarily kind of them, Louis, to insist on coming? all of them,
to consult about you?

LOUIS [coolly] Oh, I daresay they think it will be a feather in their
cap to cure a rising artist. They wouldnt come if it didnt amuse them,
anyhow. [Someone knocks at the door]. I say: its not time yet, is it?

MRS DUDEBAT. No, not quite yet.

LOUIS [opening the door and finding Ridgeon there] Hello, Ridgeon.
Delighted to see you. Come in.

MRS DUDEBAT [shaking hands] It's so good of you to come, doctor.

LOUIS. Excuse this place, wont you? Its only a studio, you know: theres
no real convenience for living here. But we pig along somehow, thanks to
Jennifer.

MRS DUBEDAT. Now I'll run away. Perhaps later on, when youre finished
with Louis, I may come in and hear the verdict. [Ridgeon bows rather
constrainedly]. Would you rather I didnt?

RIDGEON. Not at all. Not at all.

Mrs Dubedat looks at him, a little puzzled by his formal manner; then
goes into the inner room.

LOUIS [flippantly] I say: dont look so grave. Theres nothing awful going
to happen, is there?

RIDGEON. No.

LOUIS. Thats all right. Poor Jennifer has been looking forward to
your visit more than you can imagine. Shes taken quite a fancy to you,
Ridgeon. The poor girl has nobody to talk to: I'm always painting.
[Taking up a sketch] Theres a little sketch I made of her yesterday.

RIDGEON. She shewed it to me a fortnight ago when she first called on
me.

LOUIS [quite unabashed] Oh! did she? Good Lord! how time does fly! I
could have sworn I'd only just finished it. It's hard for her here,
seeing me piling up drawings and nothing coming in for them. Of course I
shall sell them next year fast enough, after my one-man-show; but while
the grass grows the steed starves. I hate to have her coming to me for
money, and having none to give her. But what can I do?

RIDGEON. I understood that Mrs Dubedat had some property of her own.

Louis. Oh yes, a little; but how could a man with any decency of feeling
touch that? Suppose I did, what would she have to live on if I died? I'm
not insured: cant afford the premiums. [Picking out another drawing] How
do you like that?

RIDGEON [putting it aside] I have not come here to-day to look at your
drawings. I have more serious and pressing business with you.

LOUIS. You want to sound my wretched lung. [With impulsive candor] My
dear Ridgeon: I'll be frank with you. Whats the matter in this house
isnt lungs but bills. It doesnt matter about me; but Jennifer has
actually to economize in the matter of food. Youve made us feel that we
can treat you as a friend. Will you lend us a hundred and fifty pounds?

RIDGEON. No.

LOUIS [surprised] Why not?

RIDGEON. I am not a rich man; and I want every penny I can spare and
more for my researches.

LOUIS. You mean youd want the money back again.

RIDGEON. I presume people sometimes have that in view when they lend
money.

LOUIS [after a moment's reflection] Well, I can manage that for you.
I'll give you a cheque--or see here: theres no reason why you shouldnt
have your bit too: I'll give you a cheque for two hundred.

RIDGEON. Why not cash the cheque at once without troubling me?

LOUIS. Bless you! they wouldnt cash it: I'm overdrawn as it is. No:
the way to work it is this. I'll postdate the cheque next October. In
October Jennifer's dividends come in. Well, you present the cheque. It
will be returned marked "refer to drawer" or some rubbish of that sort.
Then you can take it to Jennifer, and hint that if the cheque isnt taken
up at once I shall be put in prison. She'll pay you like a shot. Youll
clear 50 pounds; and youll do me a real service; for I do want the money
very badly, old chap, I assure you.

RIDGEON [staring at him] You see no objection to the transaction; and
you anticipate none from me!

LOUIS. Well, what objection can there be? It's quite safe. I can
convince you about the dividends.

RIDGEON. I mean on the score of its being--shall I say dishonorable?

LOUIS. Well, of course I shouldnt suggest it if I didnt want the money.

RIDGEON. Indeed! Well, you will have to find some other means of getting
it.

LOUIS. Do you mean that you refuse?

RIDGEON. Do I mean--! [letting his indignation loose] Of course I
refuse, man. What do you take me for? How dare you make such a proposal
to me?

LOUIS. Why not?

RIDGEON. Faugh! You would not understand me if I tried to explain. Now,
once for all, I will not lend you a farthing. I should be glad to help
your wife; but lending you money is no service to her.

LOUIS. Oh well, if youre in earnest about helping her, I'll tell you
what you might do. You might get your patients to buy some of my things,
or to give me a few portrait commissions.

RIDGEON. My patients call me in as a physician, not as a commercial
traveller.

A knock at the door.

Louis goes unconcernedly to open it, pursuing the subject as he goes.

LOUIS. But you must have great influence with them. You must know such
lots of things about them--private things that they wouldnt like to have
known. They wouldnt dare to refuse you.

RIDGEON [exploding] Well, upon my--

Louis opens the door, and admits Sir Patrick, Sir Ralph, and Walpole.

RIDGEON [proceeding furiously] Walpole: Ive been here hardly ten
minutes; and already he's tried to borrow 150 pounds from me. Then he
proposed that I should get the money for him by blackmailing his wife;
and youve just interrupted him in the act of suggesting that I should
blackmail my patients into sitting to him for their portraits.

LOUIS. Well, Ridgeon, if this is what you call being an honorable man! I
spoke to you in confidence.

SIR PATRICK. We're all going to speak to you in confidence, young man.

WALPOLE [hanging his hat on the only peg left vacant on the hat-stand]
We shall make ourselves at home for half an hour, Dubedat. Dont be
alarmed: youre a most fascinating chap; and we love you.

LOUIS. Oh, all right, all right. Sit down--anywhere you can. Take
this chair, Sir Patrick [indicating the one on the throne]. Up-z-z-z!
[helping him up: Sir Patrick grunts and enthrones himself]. Here you
are, B. B. [Sir Ralph glares at the familiarity; but Louis, quite
undisturbed, puts a big book and a sofa cushion on the dais, on Sir
Patrick's right; and B. B. sits down, under protest]. Let me take your
hat. [He takes B. B.'s hat unceremoniously, and substitutes it for
the cardinal's hat on the head of the lay figure, thereby ingeniously
destroying the dignity of the conclave. He then draws the piano stool
from the wall and offers it to Walpole]. You dont mind this, Walpole, do
you? [Walpole accepts the stool, and puts his hand into his pocket for
his cigaret case. Missing it, he is reminded of his loss].

WALPOLE. By the way, I'll trouble you for my cigaret case, if you dont
mind?

LOUIS. What cigaret case?

WALPOLE. The gold one I lent you at the Star and Garter.

LOUIS [surprised] Was that yours?

WALPOLE. Yes.

LOUIS. I'm awfully sorry, old chap. I wondered whose it was. I'm sorry
to say this is all thats left of it. [He hitches up his smock; produces
a card from his waistcoat pocket; and hands it to Walpole].

WALPOLE. A pawn ticket!

LOUIS [reassuringly] It's quite safe: he cant sell it for a year,
you know. I say, my dear Walpole, I am sorry. [He places his hand
ingenuously on Walpole's shoulder and looks frankly at him].

WALPOLE [sinking on the stool with a gasp] Dont mention it. It adds to
your fascination.

RIDGEON [who has been standing near the easel] Before we go any further,
you have a debt to pay, Mr Dubedat.

LOUIS. I have a precious lot of debts to pay, Ridgeon. I'll fetch you a
chair. [He makes for the inner door].

RIDGEON [stopping him] You shall not leave the room until you pay it.
It's a small one; and pay it you must and shall. I dont so much mind
your borrowing 10 pounds from one of my guests and 20 pounds from the
other--

WALPOLE. I walked into it, you know. I offered it.

RIDGEON.--they could afford it. But to clean poor Blenkinsop out of his
last half-crown was damnable. I intend to give him that half-crown and
to be in a position to pledge him my word that you paid it. I'll have
that out of you, at all events.

B. B. Quite right, Ridgeon. Quite right. Come, young man! down with the
dust. Pay up.

LOUIS. Oh, you neednt make such a fuss about it. Of course I'll pay it.
I had no idea the poor fellow was hard up. I'm as shocked as any of you
about it. [Putting his hand into his pocket] Here you are. [Finding
his pocket empty] Oh, I say, I havnt any money on me just at present.
Walpole: would you mind lending me half-a-crown just to settle this.

WALPOLE. Lend you half--[his voice faints away].

LOUIS. Well, if you dont, Blenkinsop wont get it; for I havnt a rap: you
may search my pockets if you like.

WALPOLE. Thats conclusive. [He produces half-a-crown].

LOUIS [passing it to Ridgeon] There! I'm really glad thats settled:
it was the only thing that was on my conscience. Now I hope youre all
satisfied.

SIR PATRICK. Not quite, Mr Dubedat. Do you happen to know a young woman
named Minnie Tinwell?

LOUIS. Minnie! I should think I do; and Minnie knows me too. She's a
really nice good girl, considering her station. Whats become of her?

WALPOLE. It's no use bluffing, Dubedat. Weve seen Minnie's marriage
lines.

LOUIS [coolly] Indeed? Have you seen Jennifer's?

RIDGEON [rising in irrepressible rage] Do you dare insinuate that Mrs
Dubedat is living with you without being married to you?

LOUIS. Why not?

B. B. { [echoing him in } Why not! SIR PATRICK { various tones of } Why
not! RIDGEON { scandalized } Why not! WALPOLE { amazement] } Why not!

LOUIS. Yes, why not? Lots of people do it: just as good people as you.
Why dont you learn to think, instead of bleating and bashing like a
lot of sheep when you come up against anything youre not accustomed to?
[Contemplating their amazed faces with a chuckle] I say: I should like
to draw the lot of you now: you do look jolly foolish. Especially you,
Ridgeon. I had you that time, you know.

RIDGEON. How, pray?

LOUIS. Well, you set up to appreciate Jennifer, you know. And you
despise me, dont you?

RIDGEON [curtly] I loathe you. [He sits down again on the sofa].

LOUIS. Just so. And yet you believe that Jennifer is a bad lot because
you think I told you so.

RIDGEON. Were you lying?

LOUIS. No; but you were smelling out a scandal instead of keeping your
mind clean and wholesome. I can just play with people like you. I only
asked you had you seen Jennifer's marriage lines; and you concluded
straight away that she hadnt got any. You dont know a lady when you see
one.

B. B. [majestically] What do you mean by that, may I ask?

LOUIS. Now, I'm only an immoral artist; but if YOUD told me that
Jennifer wasnt married, I'd have had the gentlemanly feeling and
artistic instinct to say that she carried her marriage certificate in
her face and in her character. But you are all moral men; and Jennifer
is only an artist's wife--probably a model; and morality consists in
suspecting other people of not being legally married. Arnt you ashamed
of yourselves? Can one of you look me in the face after it?

WALPOLE. Its very hard to look you in the face, Dubedat; you have such a
dazzling cheek. What about Minnie Tinwell, eh?

LOUIS. Minnie Tinwell is a young woman who has had three weeks of
glorious happiness in her poor little life, which is more than most
girls in her position get, I can tell you. Ask her whether she'd take it
back if she could. She's got her name into history, that girl. My little
sketches of her will be bought by collectors at Christie's. She'll have
a page in my biography. Pretty good, that, for a still-room maid at a
seaside hotel, I think. What have you fellows done for her to compare
with that?

RIDGEON. We havnt trapped her into a mock marriage and deserted her.

LOUIS. No: you wouldnt have the pluck. But dont fuss yourselves. I didnt
desert little Minnie. We spent all our money--

WALPOLE. All HER money. Thirty pounds.

LOUIS. I said all our money: hers and mine too. Her thirty pounds didnt
last three days. I had to borrow four times as much to spend on her. But
I didnt grudge it; and she didnt grudge her few pounds either, the brave
little lassie. When we were cleaned out, we'd had enough of it: you
can hardly suppose that we were fit company for longer than that: I an
artist, and she quite out of art and literature and refined living and
everything else. There was no desertion, no misunderstanding, no police
court or divorce court sensation for you moral chaps to lick your lips
over at breakfast. We just said, Well, the money's gone: weve had a good
time that can never be taken from us; so kiss; part good friends; and
she back to service, and I back to my studio and my Jennifer, both the
better and happier for our holiday.

WALPOLE. Quite a little poem, by George!'

B. B. If you had been scientifically trained, Mr Dubedat, you would
know how very seldom an actual case bears out a principle. In medical
practice a man may die when, scientifically speaking, he ought to have
lived. I have actually known a man die of a disease from which he
was scientifically speaking, immune. But that does not affect the
fundamental truth of science. In just the same way, in moral cases, a
man's behavior may be quite harmless and even beneficial, when he is
morally behaving like a scoundrel. And he may do great harm when he is
morally acting on the highest principles. But that does not affect the
fundamental truth of morality.

SIR PATRICK. And it doesnt affect the criminal law on the subject of
bigamy.

LOUIS. Oh bigamy! bigamy! bigamy! What a fascination anything connected
with the police has for you all, you moralists! Ive proved to you that
you were utterly wrong on the moral point: now I'm going to shew you
that youre utterly wrong on the legal point; and I hope it will be a
lesson to you not to be so jolly cocksure next time.

WALPOLE. Rot! You were married already when you married her; and that
settles it.

LOUIS. Does it! Why cant you think? How do you know she wasnt married
already too?

B.B. { [all } Walpole! Ridgeon! RIDGEON { crying } This is beyond
everything! WALPOLE { out } Well, damn me! SIR PATRICK { together] } You
young rascal.

LOUIS [ignoring their outcry] She was married to the steward of a liner.
He cleared out and left her; and she thought, poor girl, that it was the
law that if you hadnt heard of your husband for three years you might
marry again. So as she was a thoroughly respectable girl and refused
to have anything to say to me unless we were married I went through the
ceremony to please her and to preserve her self-respect.

RIDGEON. Did you tell her you were already married?

LOUIS. Of course not. Dont you see that if she had known, she wouldnt
have considered herself my wife? You dont seem to understand, somehow.

SIR PATRICK. You let her risk imprisonment in her ignorance of the law?

LOUIS. Well, _I_ risked imprisonment for her sake. I could have been had
up for it just as much as she. But when a man makes a sacrifice of that
sort for a woman, he doesnt go and brag about it to her; at least, not
if he's a gentleman.

WALPOLE. What are we to do with this daisy?

LOUIS. [impatiently] Oh, go and do whatever the devil you please. Put
Minnie in prison. Put me in prison. Kill Jennifer with the disgrace of
it all. And then, when youve done all the mischief you can, go to church
and feel good about it. [He sits down pettishly on the old chair at the
easel, and takes up a sketching block, on which he begins to draw]

WALPOLE. He's got us.

SIR PATRICK [grimly] He has.

B. B. But is he to be allowed to defy the criminal law of the land?

SIR PATRICK. The criminal law is no use to decent people. It only helps
blackguards to blackmail their families. What are we family doctors
doing half our time but conspiring with the family solicitor to keep
some rascal out of jail and some family out of disgrace?

B. B. But at least it will punish him.

SIR PATRICK. Oh, yes: Itll punish him. Itll punish not only him but
everybody connected with him, innocent and guilty alike. Itll throw his
board and lodging on our rates and taxes for a couple of years, and then
turn him loose on us a more dangerous blackguard than ever. Itll put the
girl in prison and ruin her: Itll lay his wife's life waste. You may put
the criminal law out of your head once for all: it's only fit for fools
and savages.

LOUIS. Would you mind turning your face a little more this way, Sir
Patrick. [Sir Patrick turns indignantly and glares at him]. Oh, thats
too much.

SIR PATRICK. Put down your foolish pencil, man; and think of your
position. You can defy the laws made by men; but there are other laws to
reckon with. Do you know that youre going to die?

LOUIS. We're all going to die, arnt we?

WALPOLE. We're not all going to die in six months.

LOUIS. How do you know?

This for B. B. is the last straw. He completely loses his temper and
begins to walk excitedly about.

B. B. Upon my soul, I will not stand this. It is in questionable taste
under any circumstances or in any company to harp on the subject
of death; but it is a dastardly advantage to take of a medical man.
[Thundering at Dubedat] I will not allow it, do you hear?

LOUIS. Well, I didn't begin it: you chaps did. It's always the way with
the inartistic professions: when theyre beaten in argument they fall
back on intimidation. I never knew a lawyer who didnt threaten to put me
in prison sooner or later. I never knew a parson who didnt threaten me
with damnation. And now you threaten me with death. With all your talk
youve only one real trump in your hand, and thats Intimidation. Well,
I'm not a coward; so it's no use with me.

B. B. [advancing upon him] I'll tell you what you are, sir. Youre a
scoundrel.

LOUIS. Oh, I don't mind you calling me a scoundrel a bit. It's only a
word: a word that you dont know the meaning of. What is a scoundrel?

B. B. You are a scoundrel, sir.

LOUIS. Just so. What is a scoundrel? I am. What am I? A Scoundrel. It's
just arguing in a circle. And you imagine youre a man of science!

B. B. I--I--I--I have a good mind to take you by the scruff of your
neck, you infamous rascal, and give you a sound thrashing.

LOUIS. I wish you would. Youd pay me something handsome to keep it
out of court afterwards. [B. B., baffled, flings away from him with a
snort]. Have you any more civilities to address to me in my own house? I
should like to get them over before my wife comes back. [He resumes his
sketching].

RIDGEON. My mind's made up. When the law breaks down, honest men must
find a remedy for themselves. I will not lift a finger to save this
reptile.

B. B. That is the word I was trying to remember. Reptile.

WALPOLE. I cant help rather liking you, Dubedat. But you certainly are a
thoroughgoing specimen.

SIR PATRICK. You know our opinion of you now, at all events.

LOUIS [patiently putting down his pencil] Look here. All this is no
good. You dont understand. You imagine that I'm simply an ordinary
criminal.

WALPOLE. Not an ordinary one, Dubedat. Do yourself justice.

LOUIS. Well youre on the wrong tack altogether. I'm not a criminal. All
your moralizings have no value for me. I don't believe in morality. I'm
a disciple of Bernard Shaw.

SIR PATRICK [puzzled] Eh?

B.B. [waving his hand as if the subject was now disposed of] Thats
enough, I wish to hear no more.

LOUIS. Of course I havnt the ridiculous vanity to set up to be exactly
a Superman; but still, it's an ideal that I strive towards just as any
other man strives towards his ideal.

B. B. [intolerant] Dont trouble to explain. I now understand you
perfectly. Say no more, please. When a man pretends to discuss science,
morals, and religion, and then avows himself a follower of a notorious
and avowed anti-vaccinationist, there is nothing more to be said.
[Suddenly putting in an effusive saving clause in parenthesis to
Ridgeon] Not, my dear Ridgeon, that I believe in vaccination in the
popular sense any more than you do: I neednt tell you that. But there
are things that place a man socially; and anti-vaccination is one of
them. [He resumes his seat on the dais].

SIR PATRICK. Bernard Shaw? I never heard of him. He's a Methodist
preacher, I suppose.

LOUIS [scandalized] No, no. He's the most advanced man now living: he
isn't anything.

SIR PATRICK. I assure you, young man, my father learnt the doctrine of
deliverance from sin from John Wesley's own lips before you or Mr. Shaw
were born. It used to be very popular as an excuse for putting sand in
sugar and water in milk. Youre a sound Methodist, my lad; only you don't
know it.

LOUIS [seriously annoyed for the first time] Its an intellectual insult.
I don't believe theres such a thing as sin.

SIR PATRICK. Well, sir, there are people who dont believe theres such
a thing as disease either. They call themselves Christian Scientists, I
believe. Theyll just suit your complaint. We can do nothing for you. [He
rises]. Good afternoon to you.

LOUIS [running to him piteously] Oh dont get up, Sir Patrick. Don't go.
Please dont. I didnt mean to shock you, on my word. Do sit down again.
Give me another chance. Two minutes more: thats all I ask.

SIR PATRICK [surprised by this sign of grace, and a little touched]
Well--[He sits down]

LOUIS [gratefully] Thanks awfully.

SIR PATRICK [continuing] I don't mind giving you two minutes more. But
dont address yourself to me; for Ive retired from practice; and I dont
pretend to be able to cure your complaint. Your life is in the hands of
these gentlemen.

RIDGEON. Not in mine. My hands are full. I have no time and no means
available for this case.

SIR PATRICK. What do you say, Mr. Walpole?

WALPOLE. Oh, I'll take him in hand: I dont mind. I feel perfectly
convinced that this is not a moral case at all: it's a physical one.
Theres something abnormal about his brain. That means, probably,
some morbid condition affecting the spinal cord. And that means the
circulation. In short, it's clear to me that he's suffering from an
obscure form of blood-poisoning, which is almost certainly due to an
accumulation of ptomaines in the nuciform sac. I'll remove the sac--

LOUIS [changing color] Do you mean, operate on me? Ugh! No, thank you.

WALPOLE. Never fear: you wont feel anything. Youll be under an
anaesthetic, of course. And it will be extraordinarily interesting.

LOUIS. Oh, well, if it would interest you, and if it wont hurt, thats
another matter. How much will you give me to let you do it?

WALPOLE [rising indignantly] How much! What do you mean?

LOUIS. Well, you dont expect me to let you cut me up for nothing, do
you?

WALPOLE. Will you paint my portrait for nothing?

LOUIS. No; but I'll give you the portrait when its painted; and you
can sell it afterwards for perhaps double the money. But I cant sell my
nuciform sac when youve cut it out.

WALPOLE. Ridgeon: did you ever hear anything like this! [To Louis]
Well, you can keep your nuciform sac, and your tubercular lung, and your
diseased brain: Ive done with you. One would think I was not conferring
a favor on the fellow! [He returns to his stool in high dudgeon].

SIR PATRICK. That leaves only one medical man who has not withdrawn from
your case, Mr. Dubedat. You have nobody left to appeal to now but Sir
Ralph Bloomfield Bonington.

WALPOLE. If I were you, B. B., I shouldnt touch him with a pair of
tongs. Let him take his lungs to the Brompton Hospital. They wont cure
him; but theyll teach him manners.

B. B. My weakness is that I have never been able to say No, even to the
most thoroughly undeserving people. Besides, I am bound to say that I
dont think it is possible in medical practice to go into the question of
the value of the lives we save. Just consider, Ridgeon. Let me put it to
you, Paddy. Clear your mind of cant, Walpole.

WALPOLE [indignantly] My mind is clear of cant.

B. B. Quite so. Well now, look at my practice. It is what I suppose you
would call a fashionable practice, a smart practice, a practice among
the best people. You ask me to go into the question of whether my
patients are of any use either to themselves or anyone else. Well, if
you apply any scientific test known to me, you will achieve a reductio
ad absurdum. You will be driven to the conclusion that the majority
of them would be, as my friend Mr J. M. Barrie has tersely phrased it,
better dead. Better dead. There are exceptions, no doubt. For instance,
there is the court, an essentially social-democratic institution,
supported out of public funds by the public because the public wants
it and likes it. My court patients are hard-working people who give
satisfaction, undoubtedly. Then I have a duke or two whose estates are
probably better managed than they would be in public hands. But as to
most of the rest, if I once began to argue about them, unquestionably
the verdict would be, Better dead. When they actually do die, I
sometimes have to offer that consolation, thinly disguised, to the
family. [Lulled by the cadences of his own voice, he becomes drowsier
and drowsier]. The fact that they spend money so extravagantly
on medical attendance really would not justify me in wasting my
talents--such as they are--in keeping them alive. After all, if my fees
are high, I have to spend heavily. My own tastes are simple: a camp
bed, a couple of rooms, a crust, a bottle of wine; and I am happy and
contented. My wife's tastes are perhaps more luxurious; but even she
deplores an expenditure the sole object of which is to maintain
the state my patients require from their medical attendant.
The--er--er--er--[suddenly waking up] I have lost the thread of these
remarks. What was I talking about, Ridgeon?

RIDGEON. About Dubedat.

B. B. Ah yes. Precisely. Thank you. Dubedat, of course. Well, what is
our friend Dubedat? A vicious and ignorant young man with a talent for
drawing.

LOUIS. Thank you. Dont mind me.

B. B. But then, what are many of my patients? Vicious and ignorant young
men without a talent for anything. If I were to stop to argue about
their merits I should have to give up three-quarters of my practice.
Therefore I have made it a rule not so to argue. Now, as an honorable
man, having made that rule as to paying patients, can I make an
exception as to a patient who, far from being a paying patient, may more
fitly be described as a borrowing patient? No. I say No. Mr Dubedat:
your moral character is nothing to me. I look at you from a purely
scientific point of view. To me you are simply a field of battle in
which an invading army of tubercle bacilli struggles with a patriotic
force of phagocytes. Having made a promise to your wife, which my
principles will not allow me to break, to stimulate those phagocytes,
I will stimulate them. And I take no further responsibility. [He digs
himself back in his seat exhausted].

SIR PATRICK. Well, Mr Dubedat, as Sir Ralph has very kindly offered to
take charge of your case, and as the two minutes I promised you are up,
I must ask you to excuse me. [He rises].

LOUIS. Oh, certainly. Ive quite done with you. [Rising and holding up
the sketch block] There! While youve been talking, Ive been doing. What
is there left of your moralizing? Only a little carbonic acid gas which
makes the room unhealthy. What is there left of my work? That. Look at
it [Ridgeon rises to look at it].

SIR PATRICK [who has come down to him from the throne] You young rascal,
was it drawing me you were?

LOUIS. Of course. What else?

SIR PATRICK [takes the drawing from him and grunts approvingly] Thats
rather good. Dont you think so, Lolly?

RIDGEON. Yes. So good that I should like to have it.

SIR PATRICK. Thank you; but _I_ should like to have it myself. What d'ye
think, Walpole?

WALPOLE [rising and coming over to look] No, by Jove: _I_ must have
this.

LOUIS. I wish I could afford to give it to you, Sir Patrick. But I'd pay
five guineas sooner than part with it.

RIDGEON. Oh, for that matter, I will give you six for it.

WALPOLE. Ten.

LOUIS. I think Sir Patrick is morally entitled to it, as he sat for it.
May I send it to your house, Sir Patrick, for twelve guineas?

SIR PATRICK. Twelve guineas! Not if you were President of the Royal
Academy, young man. [He gives him back the drawing decisively and turns
away, taking up his hat].

LOUIS [to B. B.] Would you like to take it at twelve, Sir Ralph?

B. B. [coming between Louis and Walpole] Twelve guineas? Thank you: I'll
take it at that. [He takes it and presents it to Sir Patrick]. Accept it
from me, Paddy; and may you long be spared to contemplate it.

SIR PATRICK. Thank you. [He puts the drawing into his hat].

B. B. I neednt settle with you now, Mr Dubedat: my fees will come to
more than that. [He also retrieves his hat].

LOUIS [indignantly] Well, of all the mean--[words fail him]! I'd let
myself be shot sooner than do a thing like that. I consider youve stolen
that drawing.

SIR PATRICK [drily] So weve converted you to a belief in morality after
all, eh?

LOUIS. Yah! [To Walpole] I'll do another one for you, Walpole, if youll
let me have the ten you promised.

WALPOLE. Very good. I'll pay on delivery.

LOUIS. Oh! What do you take me for? Have you no confidence in my honor?

WALPOLE. None whatever.

LOUIS. Oh well, of course if you feel that way, you cant help it. Before
you go, Sir Patrick, let me fetch Jennifer. I know she'd like to see
you, if you dont mind. [He goes to the inner door]. And now, before
she comes in, one word. Youve all been talking here pretty freely about
me--in my own house too. I dont mind that: I'm a man and can take care
of myself. But when Jennifer comes in, please remember that she's a
lady, and that you are supposed to be gentlemen. [He goes out].

WALPOLE. Well!!! [He gives the situation up as indescribable, and goes
for his hat].

RIDGEON. Damn his impudence!

B. B. I shouldnt be at all surprised to learn that he's well connected.
Whenever I meet dignity and self-possession without any discoverable
basis, I diagnose good family.

RIDGEON. Diagnose artistic genius, B. B. Thats what saves his
self-respect.

SIR PATRICK. The world is made like that. The decent fellows are always
being lectured and put out of countenance by the snobs.

B. B. [altogether refusing to accept this] _I_ am not out of
countenance. I should like, by Jupiter, to see the man who could put me
out of countenance. [Jennifer comes in]. Ah, Mrs. Dubedat! And how are
we to-day?

MRS DUBEDAT [shaking hands with him] Thank you all so much for coming.
[She shakes Walpole's hand]. Thank you, Sir Patrick [she shakes Sir
Patrick's]. Oh, life has been worth living since I have known you. Since
Richmond I have not known a moment's fear. And it used to be nothing but
fear. Wont you sit down and tell me the result of the consultation?

WALPOLE. I'll go, if you dont mind, Mrs. Dubedat. I have an appointment.
Before I go, let me say that I am quite agreed with my colleagues here
as to the character of the case. As to the cause and the remedy, thats
not my business: I'm only a surgeon; and these gentlemen are physicians
and will advise you. I may have my own views: in fact I HAVE them; and
they are perfectly well known to my colleagues. If I am needed--and
needed I shall be finally--they know where to find me; and I am always
at your service. So for to-day, good-bye. [He goes out, leaving Jennifer
much puzzled by his unexpected withdrawal and formal manner].

SIR PATRICK. I also will ask you to excuse me, Mrs Dubedat.

RIDGEON [anxiously] Are you going?

SIR PATRICK. Yes: I can be of no use here; and I must be getting back.
As you know, maam, I'm not in practice now; and I shall not be in
charge of the case. It rests between Sir Colenso Ridgeon and Sir Ralph
Bloomfield Bonington. They know my opinion. Good afternoon to you, maam.
[He bows and makes for the door].

MRS DUBEDAT [detaining him] Theres nothing wrong, is there? You dont
think Louis is worse, do you?

SIR PATRICK. No: he's not worse. Just the same as at Richmond.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, thank you: you frightened me. Excuse me.

SIR PATRICK. Dont mention it, maam. [He goes out].

B. B. Now, Mrs Dubedat, if I am to take the patient in hand--

MRS DUBEDAT [apprehensively, with a glance at Ridgeon] You! But I
thought that Sir Colenso--

B. B. [beaming with the conviction that he is giving her a most
gratifying surprise] My dear lady, your husband shall have Me.

MRS DUBEDAT. But--

B. B. Not a word: it is a pleasure to me, for your sake. Sir Colenso
Ridgeon will be in his proper place, in the bacteriological laboratory.
_I_ shall be in my proper place, at the bedside. Your husband shall
be treated exactly as if he were a member of the royal family. [Mrs
Dubedat, uneasy, again is about to protest]. No gratitude: it would
embarrass me, I assure you. Now, may I ask whether you are particularly
tied to these apartments. Of course, the motor has annihilated distance;
but I confess that if you were rather nearer to me, it would be a little
more convenient.

MRS DUBEDAT. You see, this studio and flat are self-contained. I have
suffered so much in lodgings. The servants are so frightfully dishonest.

B. B. Ah! Are they? Are they? Dear me!

MRS DUBEDAT. I was never accustomed to lock things up. And I missed
so many small sums. At last a dreadful thing happened. I missed a
five-pound note. It was traced to the housemaid; and she actually said
Louis had given it to her. And he wouldnt let me do anything: he is so
sensitive that these things drive him mad.

B. B. Ah--hm--ha--yes--say no more, Mrs. Dubedat: you shall not move.
If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must come to the
mountain. Now I must be off. I will write and make an appointment. We
shall begin stimulating the phagocytes on--on--probably on Tuesday next;
but I will let you know. Depend on me; dont fret; eat regularly; sleep
well; keep your spirits up; keep the patient cheerful; hope for the
best; no tonic like a charming woman; no medicine like cheerfulness;
no resource like science; goodbye, good-bye, good-bye. [Having shaken
hands--she being too overwhelmed to speak--he goes out, stopping to say
to Ridgeon] On Tuesday morning send me down a tube of some really stiff
anti-toxin. Any kind will do. Dont forget. Good-bye, Colly. [He goes
out.]

RIDGEON. You look quite discouraged again. [She is almost in tears].
What's the matter? Are you disappointed?

MRS DUBEDAT. I know I ought to be very grateful. Believe me, I am very
grateful. But--but--

RIDGEON. Well?

hills DUBEDAT. I had set my heart YOUR curing Louis.

RIDGEON. Well, Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington--

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, I know, I know. It is a great privilege to have
him. But oh, I wish it had been you. I know it's unreasonable; I cant
explain; but I had such a strong instinct that you would cure him. I
dont I cant feel the same about Sir Ralph. You promised me. Why did you
give Louis up?

RIDGEON. I explained to you. I cannot take another case.

MRS DUBEDAT. But at Richmond?

RIDGEON. At Richmond I thought I could make room for one more case. But
my old friend Dr Blenkinsop claimed that place. His lung is attacked.

MRS DUBEDAT [attaching no importance whatever to Blenkinsop] Do you mean
that elderly man--that rather--

RIDGEON [sternly] I mean the gentleman that dined with us: an excellent
and honest man, whose life is as valuable as anyone else's. I have
arranged that I shall take his case, and that Sir Ralph Bloomfield
Bonington shall take Mr Dubedat's.

MRS DUBEDAT [turning indignantly on him] I see what it is. Oh! it is
envious, mean, cruel. And I thought that you would be above such a
thing.

RIDGEON. What do you mean?

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, do you think I dont know? do you think it has never
happened before? Why does everybody turn against him? Can you not
forgive him for being superior to you? for being cleverer? for being
braver? for being a great artist?

RIDGEON. Yes: I can forgive him for all that.

MRS DUBEDAT. Well, have you anything to say against him? I have
challenged everyone who has turned against him--challenged them face to
face to tell me any wrong thing he has done, any ignoble thought he has
uttered. They have always confessed that they could not tell me one. I
challenge you now. What do you accuse him of?

RIDGEON. I am like all the rest. Face to face, I cannot tell you one
thing against him.

MRS DUBEDAT [not satisfied] But your manner is changed. And you have
broken your promise to me to make room for him as your patient.

RIDGEON. I think you are a little unreasonable. You have had the very
best medical advice in London for him; and his case has been taken in
hand by a leader of the profession. Surely--

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, it is so cruel to keep telling me that. It seems all
right; and it puts me in the wrong. But I am not in the wrong. I have
faith in you; and I have no faith in the others. We have seen so many
doctors: I have come to know at last when they are only talking and can
do nothing. It is different with you. I feel that you know. You must
listen to me, doctor. [With sudden misgiving] Am I offending you by
calling you doctor instead of remembering your title?

RIDGEON. Nonsense. I AM a doctor. But mind you, dont call Walpole one.

MRS DUBEBAT. I dont care about Mr Walpole: it is you who must befriend
me. Oh, will you please sit down and listen to me just for a few
minutes. [He assents with a grave inclination, and sits on the sofa.
She sits on the easel chair] Thank you. I wont keep you long; but I must
tell you the whole truth. Listen. I know Louis as nobody else in the
world knows him or ever can know him. I am his wife. I know he has
little faults: impatiences, sensitivenesses, even little selfishnesses
that are too trivial for him to notice. I know that he sometimes
shocks people about money because he is so utterly above it, and cant
understand the value ordinary people set on it. Tell me: did he--did he
borrow any money from you?

RIDGEON. He asked me for some once.

MRS DUBEDAT [tears again in her eyes] Oh, I am so sorry--so sorry. But
he will never do it again: I pledge you my word for that. He has given
me his promise: here in this room just before you came; and he is
incapable of breaking his word. That was his only real weakness; and now
it is conquered and done with for ever.

RIDGEON. Was that really his only weakness?

MRS DUBEDAT. He is perhaps sometimes weak about women, because they
adore him so, and are always laying traps for him. And of course when he
says he doesnt believe in morality, ordinary pious people think he must
be wicked. You can understand, cant you, how all this starts a great
deal of gossip about him, and gets repeated until even good friends get
set against him?

RIDGEON. Yes: I understand.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, if you only knew the other side of him as I do! Do you
know, doctor, that if Louis honored himself by a really bad action, I
should kill myself.

RIDGEON. Come! dont exaggerate.

MRS DUBEDAT. I should. You don't understand that, you east country
people.

RIDGEON. You did not see much of the world in Cornwall, did you?

MRS DUBEDAT [naively] Oh yes. I saw a great deal every day of the beauty
of the world--more than you ever see here in London. But I saw very few
people, if that is what you mean. I was an only child.

RIDGEON. That explains a good deal.

MRS DUBEDAT. I had a great many dreams; but at last they all came to one
dream.

RIDGEON [with half a sigh] Yes, the usual dream.

MRS DUBEDAT [surprised] Is it usual?

RIDGEON. As I guess. You havnt yet told me what it was.

MRS DUBEDAT. I didn't want to waste myself. I could do nothing myself;
but I had a little property and I could help with it. I had even
a little beauty: dont think me vain for knowing it. I always had a
terrible struggle with poverty and neglect at first. My dream was to
save one of them from that, and bring some charm and happiness into his
life. I prayed Heaven to send me one. I firmly believe that Louis was
guided to me in answer to my prayer. He was no more like the other men
I had met than the Thames Embankment is like our Cornish coasts. He saw
everything that I saw, and drew it for me. He understood everything.
He came to me like a child. Only fancy, doctor: he never even wanted to
marry me: he never thought of the things other men think of! I had to
propose it myself. Then he said he had no money. When I told him I had
some, he said "Oh, all right," just like a boy. He is still like that,
quite unspoiled, a man in his thoughts, a great poet and artist in his
dreams, and a child in his ways. I gave him myself and all I had that he
might grow to his full height with plenty of sunshine. If I lost faith
in him, it would mean the wreck and failure of my life. I should go back
to Cornwall and die. I could show you the very cliff I should jump off.
You must cure him: you must make him quite well again for me. I know
that you can do it and that nobody else can. I implore you not to refuse
what I am going to ask you to do. Take Louis yourself; and let Sir Ralph
cure Dr Blenkinsop.

RIDGEON [slowly] Mrs Dubedat: do you really believe in my knowledge and
skill as you say you do?

MRS DUBEDAT. Absolutely. I do not give my trust by halves.

RIDGEON. I know that. Well, I am going to test you--hard. Will you
believe me when I tell you that I understand what you have just told me;
that I have no desire but to serve you in the most faithful friendship;
and that your hero must be preserved to you.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh forgive me. Forgive what I said. You will preserve him
to me.

RIDGEON. At all hazards. [She kisses his hand. He rises hastily]. No:
you have not heard the rest. [She rises too]. You must believe me when I
tell you that the one chance of preserving the hero lies in Louis being
in the care of Sir Ralph.

MRS DUBEDAT [firmly] You say so: I have no more doubt: I believe you.
Thank you.

RIDGEON. Good-bye. [She takes his hand]. I hope this will be a lasting
friendship.

MRS DUBEDAT. It will. My friendships end only with death.

RIDGEON. Death ends everything, doesnt it? Goodbye.

With a sigh and a look of pity at her which she does not understand, he
goes.



ACT IV

The studio. The easel is pushed back to the wall. Cardinal Death,
holding his scythe and hour-glass like a sceptre and globe, sits on the
throne. On the hat-stand hang the hats of Sir Patrick and Bloomfield
Bonington. Walpole, just come in, is hanging up his beside them. There
is a knock. He opens the door and finds Ridgeon there.

WALPOLE. Hallo, Ridgeon!

They come into the middle of the room together, taking off their gloves.

RIDGEON. Whats the matter! Have you been sent for, too?

WALPOLE. Weve all been sent for. Ive only just come: I havnt seen him
yet. The charwoman says that old Paddy Cullen has been here with B. B.
for the last half-hour. [Sir Patrick, with bad news in his face, enters
from the inner room]. Well: whats up?

SIR PATRICK. Go in and see. B. B. is in there with him.

Walpole goes. Ridgeon is about to follow him; but Sir Patrick stops him
with a look.

RIDGEON. What has happened?

SIR PATRICK. Do you remember Jane Marsh's arm?

RIDGEON. Is that whats happened?

SIR PATRICK. Thats whats happened. His lung has gone like Jane's arm.
I never saw such a case. He has got through three months galloping
consumption in three days.

RIDGEON. B. B. got in on the negative phase.

SIR PATRICK. Negative or positive, the lad's done for. He wont last out
the afternoon. He'll go suddenly: Ive often seen it.

RIDGEON. So long as he goes before his wife finds him out, I dont care.
I fully expected this.

SIR PATRICK [drily] It's a little hard on a lad to be killed because his
wife has too high an opinion of him. Fortunately few of us are in any
danger of that.

Sir Ralph comes from the inner room and hastens between them, humanely
concerned, but professionally elate and communicative.

B. B. Ah, here you are, Ridgeon. Paddy's told you, of course.

RIDGEON. Yes.

B. B. It's an enormously interesting case. You know, Colly, by Jupiter,
if I didnt know as a matter of scientific fact that I'd been stimulating
the phagocytes, I should say I'd been stimulating the other things.
What is the explanation of it, Sir Patrick? How do you account for it,
Ridgeon? Have we over-stimulated the phagocytes? Have they not only
eaten up the bacilli, but attacked and destroyed the red corpuscles as
well? a possibility suggested by the patient's pallor. Nay, have they
finally begun to prey on the lungs themselves? Or on one another? I
shall write a paper about this case.

Walpole comes back, very serious, even shocked. He comes between B. B.
and Ridgeon.

WALPOLE. Whew! B. B.: youve done it this time.

B. B. What do you mean?

WALPOLE. Killed him. The worst case of neglected blood-poisoning I ever
saw. It's too late now to do anything. He'd die under the anaesthetic.

B. B. [offended] Killed! Really, Walpole, if your monomania were not
well known, I should take such an expession very seriously.

SIR PATRICK. Come come! When youve both killed as many people as I have
in my time youll feel humble enough about it. Come and look at him,
Colly.

Ridgeon and Sir Patrick go into the inner room.

WALPOLE. I apologize, B. B. But it's blood-poisoning.

B. B. [recovering his irresistible good nature] My dear Walpole,
everything is blood-poisoning. But upon my soul, I shall not use any of
that stuff of Ridgeon's again. What made me so sensitive about what you
said just now is that, strictly between ourselves, Ridgeon cooked our
young friend's goose.

Jennifer, worried and distressed, but always gentle, comes between them
from the inner room. She wears a nurse's apron.

MRS. DUBEDAT. Sir Ralph: what am I to do? That man who insisted on
seeing me, and sent in word that business was important to Louis, is
a newspaper man. A paragraph appeared in the paper this morning saying
that Louis is seriously ill; and this man wants to interview him about
it. How can people be so brutally callous?

WALPOLE [moving vengefully towards the door] You just leave me to deal
with him!

MRS DUBEDAT [stopping him] But Louis insists on seeing him: he almost
began to cry about it. And he says he cant bear his room any longer. He
says he wants to [she struggles with a sob]--to die in his studio. Sir
Patrick says let him have his way: it can do no harm. What shall we do?

B B. [encouragingly] Why, follow Sir Patrick's excellent advice, of
course. As he says, it can do him no harm; and it will no doubt do him
good--a great deal of good. He will be much the better for it.

MRS DUBEDAT [a little cheered] Will you bring the man up here, Mr
Walpole, and tell him that he may see Louis, but that he mustnt exhaust
him by talking? [Walpole nods and goes out by the outer door]. Sir
Ralph, dont be angry with me; but Louis will die if he stays here. I
must take him to Cornwall. He will recover there.

B. B. [brightening wonderfully, as if Dubedat were already saved]
Cornwall! The very place for him! Wonderful for the lungs. Stupid of me
not to think of it before. You are his best physician after all, dear
lady. An inspiration! Cornwall: of course, yes, yes, yes.

MRS DUBEDAT [comforted and touched] You are so kind, Sir Ralph. But dont
give me much or I shall cry; and Louis cant bear that.

B. B. [gently putting his protecting arm round her shoulders] Then let
us come back to him and help to carry him in. Cornwall! of course, of
course. The very thing! [They go together into the bedroom].

Walpole returns with The Newspaper Man, a cheerful, affable young
man who is disabled for ordinary business pursuits by a congenital
erroneousness which renders him incapable of describing accurately
anything he sees, or understanding or reporting accurately anything he
hears. As the only employment in which these defects do not matter is
journalism (for a newspaper, not having to act on its description and
reports, but only to sell them to idly curious people, has nothing but
honor to lose by inaccuracy and unveracity), he has perforce become a
journalist, and has to keep up an air of high spirits through a
daily struggle with his own illiteracy and the precariousness of his
employment. He has a note-book, and occasionally attempts to make a note;
but as he cannot write shorthand, and does not write with ease in
any hand, he generally gives it up as a bad job before he succeeds in
finishing a sentence.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN [looking round and making indecisive attempts at
notes] This is the studio, I suppose.

WALPOLE. Yes.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN [wittily] Where he has his models, eh?

WALPOLE [grimly irresponsive] No doubt.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. Cubicle, you said it was?

WALPOLE. Yes, tubercle.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. Which way do you spell it: is it c-u-b-i-c-a-l or
c-l-e?

WALPOLE. Tubercle, man, not cubical. [Spelling it for him]
T-u-b-e-r-c-l-e.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. Oh! tubercle. Some disease, I suppose. I thought he
had consumption. Are you one of the family or the doctor?

WALPOLE. I'm neither one nor the other. I am Mister Cutler Walpole. Put
that down. Then put down Sir Colenso Ridgeon.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. Pigeon?

WALPOLE. Ridgeon. [Contemptuously snatching his book] Here: youd better
let me write the names down for you: youre sure to get them wrong. That
comes of belonging to an illiterate profession, with no qualifications
and no public register. [He writes the particulars].

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. Oh, I say: you have got your knife into us, havnt
you?

WALPOLE [vindictively] I wish I had: I'd make a better man of you. Now
attend. [Shewing him the book] These are the names of the three doctors.
This is the patient. This is the address. This is the name of the
disease. [He shuts the book with a snap which makes the journalist
blink, and returns it to him]. Mr Dubedat will be brought in here
presently. He wants to see you because he doesnt know how bad he is.
We'll allow you to wait a few minutes to humor him; but if you talk to
him, out you go. He may die at any moment.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN [interested] Is he as bad as that? I say: I am in
luck to-day. Would you mind letting me photograph you? [He produces a
camera]. Could you have a lancet or something in your hand?

WALPOLE. Put it up. If you want my photograph you can get it in Baker
Street in any of the series of celebrities.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. But theyll want to be paid. If you wouldnt mind
[fingering the camera]--?

WALPOLE. I would. Put it up, I tell you. Sit down there and be quiet.

The Newspaper Man quickly sits down on the piano stool as Dubedat, in an
invalid's chair, is wheeled in by Mrs Dubedat and Sir Ralph. They place
the chair between the dais and the sofa, where the easel stood before.
Louis is not changed as a robust man would be; and he is not scared. His
eyes look larger; and he is so weak physically that he can hardly move,
lying on his cushions, with complete languor; but his mind is active; it
is making the most of his condition, finding voluptuousness in languor
and drama in death. They are all impressed, in spite of themselves,
except Ridgeon, who is implacable. B.B. is entirely sympathetic and
forgiving. Ridgeon follows the chair with a tray of milk and stimulants.
Sir Patrick, who accompanies him, takes the tea-table from the corner
and places it behind the chair for the tray. B. B. takes the easel chair
and places it for Jennifer at Dubedat's side, next the dais, from which
the lay figure ogles the dying artist. B. B. then returns to Dubedat's
left. Jennifer sits. Walpole sits down on the edge of the dais. Ridgeon
stands near him.

LOUIS [blissfully] Thats happiness! To be in a studio! Happiness!

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, dear. Sir Patrick says you may stay here as long as
you like.

LOUIS. Jennifer.

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, my darling.

LOUIS. Is the newspaper man here?

THE NEWSPAPER MAN [glibly] Yes, Mr Dubedat: I'm here, at your service. I
represent the press. I thought you might like to let us have a few words
about--about--er--well, a few words on your illness, and your plans for
the season.

LOUIS. My plans for the season are very simple. I'm going to die.

MRS DUBEDAT [tortured] Louis--dearest--

LOUIS. My darling: I'm very weak and tired. Dont put on me the horrible
strain of pretending that I dont know. Ive been lying there listening to
the doctors--laughing to myself. They know. Dearest: dont cry. It makes
you ugly; and I cant bear that. [She dries her eyes and recovers herself
with a proud effort]. I want you to promise me something.

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, yes: you know I will. [Imploringly] Only, my love, my
love, dont talk: it will waste your strength.

LOUIS. No: it will only use it up. Ridgeon: give me something to keep me
going for a few minutes--one of your confounded anti-toxins, if you dont
mind. I have some things to say before I go.

RIDGEON [looking at Sir Patrick] I suppose it can do no harm? [He
pours out some spirit, and is about to add soda water when Sir Patrick
corrects him].

SIR PATRICK. In milk. Dont set him coughing.

LOUIS [after drinking] Jennifer.

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, dear.

LOUIS. If theres one thing I hate more than another, it's a widow.
Promise me that youll never be a widow.

MRS DUBEDAT. My dear, what do you mean?

LOUIS. I want you to look beautiful. I want people to see in your eyes
that you were married to me. The people in Italy used to point at Dante
and say "There goes the man who has been in hell." I want them to point
at you and say "There goes a woman who has been in heaven." It has been
heaven, darling, hasnt it--sometimes?

MRs DUBEDAT. Oh yes, yes. Always, always.

LOUIS. If you wear black and cry, people will say "Look at that
miserable woman: her husband made her miserable."

MRS DUBEDAT. No, never. You are the light and the blessing of my life. I
never lived until I knew you.

LOUIS [his eyes glistening] Then you must always wear beautiful dresses
and splendid magic jewels. Think of all the wonderful pictures I shall
never paint.

[She wins a terrible victory over a sob] Well, you must be transfigured
with all the beauty of those pictures. Men must get such dreams from
seeing you as they never could get from any daubing with paints and
brushes. Painters must paint you as they never painted any mortal woman
before. There must be a great tradition of beauty, a great atmosphere
of wonder and romance. That is what men must always think of when they
think of me. That is the sort of immortality I want. You can make that
for me, Jennifer. There are lots of things you dont understand that
every woman in the street understands; but you can understand that and
do it as nobody else can. Promise me that immortality. Promise me you
will not make a little hell of crape and crying and undertaker's horrors
and withering flowers and all that vulgar rubbish.

MRS DUBEDAT. I promise. But all that is far off, dear. You are to come
to Cornwall with me and get well. Sir Ralph says so.

LOUIS. Poor old B. B.

B. B. [affected to tears, turns away and whispers to Sir Patrick] Poor
fellow! Brain going.

LOUIS. Sir Patrick's there, isn't he?

SIR PATRICK. Yes, yes. I'm here.

LOUIS. Sit down, wont you? It's a shame to keep you standing about.

SIR PATRICK. Yes, Yes. Thank you. All right.

LOUIS. Jennifer.

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, dear.

LOUIS [with a strange look of delight] Do you remember the burning bush?

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, Yes. Oh, my dear, how it strains my heart to remember
it now!

LOUIS. Does it? It fills me with joy. Tell them about it.

MRS DUBEDAT. It was nothing--only that once in my old Cornish home we
lit the first fire of the winter; and when we looked through the window
we saw the flames dancing in a bush in the garden.

LOUIS. Such a color! Garnet color. Waving like silk. Liquid lovely flame
flowing up through the bay leaves, and not burning them. Well, I shall
be a flame like that. I'm sorry to disappoint the poor little worms; but
the last of me shall be the flame in the burning bush. Whenever you see
the flame, Jennifer, that will be me. Promise me that I shall be burnt.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, if I might be with you, Louis!

LOUIS. No: you must always be in the garden when the bush flames. You
are my hold on the world: you are my immortality. Promise.

MRS DUBEDAT. I'm listening. I shall not forget. You know that I promise.

LOUIS. Well, thats about all; except that you are to hang my pictures at
the one-man show. I can trust your eye. You wont let anyone else touch
them.

MRS DUBEDAT. You can trust me.

LOUIS. Then theres nothing more to worry about, is there? Give me some
more of that milk. I'm fearfully tired; but if I stop talking I shant
begin again. [Sir Ralph gives him a drink. He takes it and looks up
quaintly]. I say, B. B., do you think anything would stop you talking?

B. B. [almost unmanned] He confuses me with you, Paddy. Poor fellow!
Poor fellow!

LOUIS [musing] I used to be awfully afraid of death; but now it's come I
have no fear; and I'm perfectly happy. Jennifer.

MRS DUBEDAT. Yes, dear?

LOUIS. I'll tell you a secret. I used to think that our marriage was all
an affectation, and that I'd break loose and run away some day. But
now that I'm going to be broken loose whether I like it or not, I'm
perfectly fond of you, and perfectly satisfied because I'm going to live
as part of you and not as my troublesome self.

MRS DUBEDAT [heartbroken] Stay with me, Louis. Oh, dont leave me,
dearest.

LOUIS. Not that I'm selfish. With all my faults I dont think Ive ever
been really selfish. No artist can: Art is too large for that. You will
marry again, Jennifer.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, how can you, Louis?

LOUIS [insisting childishly] Yes, because people who have found marriage
happy always marry again. Ah, I shant be jealous. [Slyly.] But dont
talk to the other fellow too much about me: he wont like it. [Almost
chuckling] I shall be your lover all the time; but it will be a secret
from him, poor devil!

SIR PATRICK. Come! youve talked enough. Try to rest awhile.

LOUIS [wearily] Yes: I'm fearfully tired; but I shall have a long rest
presently. I have something to say to you fellows. Youre all there, arnt
you? I'm too weak to see anything but Jennifer's bosom. That promises
rest.

RIDGEON. We are all here.

LOUIS [startled] That voice sounded devilish. Take care, Ridgeon: my
ears hear things that other people's cant. Ive been thinking--thinking.
I'm cleverer than you imagine.

SIR PATRICK [whispering to Ridgeon] Youve got on his nerves, Colly. Slip
out quietly.

RIDGEON [apart to Sir Patrick] Would you deprive the dying actor of his
audience?

LOUIS [his face lighting up faintly with mischievous glee] I heard
that, Ridgeon. That was good. Jennifer dear: be kind to Ridgeon always;
because he was the last man who amused me.

RIDGEON [relentless] Was I?

LOUIS. But it's not true. It's you who are still on the stage. I'm half
way home already.

MRS DUBEDAT [to Ridgeon] What did you say?

LOUIS [answering for him] Nothing, dear. Only one of those little
secrets that men keep among themselves. Well, all you chaps have thought
pretty hard things of me, and said them.

B. B. [quite overcome] No, no, Dubedat. Not at all.

LOUIS. Yes, you have. I know what you all think of me. Dont imagine I'm
sore about it. I forgive you.

WALPOLE [involuntarily] Well, damn me! [Ashamed] I beg your pardon.

LOUIS. That was old Walpole, I know. Don't grieve, Walpole. I'm
perfectly happy. I'm not in pain. I don't want to live. Ive escaped from
myself. I'm in heaven, immortal in the heart of my beautiful Jennifer.
I'm not afraid, and not ashamed. [Reflectively, puzzling it out for
himself weakly] I know that in an accidental sort of way, struggling
through the unreal part of life, I havnt always been able to live up
to my ideal. But in my own real world I have never done anything wrong,
never denied my faith, never been untrue to myself. Ive been threatened
and blackmailed and insulted and starved. But Ive played the game. Ive
fought the good fight. And now it's all over, theres an indescribable
peace. [He feebly folds his hands and utters his creed] I believe in
Michael Angelo, Velasquez, and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the
mystery of color, the redemption of all things by Beauty everlasting,
and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed. Amen. Amen.
[He closes his eyes and lies still].

MRS DUBEDAT [breathless] Louis: are you--

Walpole rises and comes quickly to see whether he is dead.

LOUIS. Not yet, dear. Very nearly, but not yet. I should like to rest my
head on your bosom; only it would tire you.

MRS DUBEDAT. No, no, no, darling: how could you tire me? [She lifts him
so that he lies on her bosom].

LOUIS. Thats good. Thats real.

MRS DUBEDAT. Dont spare me, dear. Indeed, indeed you will not tire me.
Lean on me with all your weight.

LOUIS [with a sudden half return of his normal strength and comfort]
Jinny Gwinny: I think I shall recover after all. [Sir Patrick looks
significantly at Ridgeon, mutely warning him that this is the end].

MRS DUBEDAT [hopefully] Yes, yes: you shall.

LOUIS. Because I suddenly want to sleep. Just an ordinary sleep.

MRS DUBEDAT [rocking him] Yes, dear. Sleep. [He seems to go to sleep.
Walpole makes another movement. She protests]. Sh--sh: please dont
disturb him. [His lips move]. What did you say, dear? [In great
distress] I cant listen without moving him. [His lips move again;
Walpole bends down and listens].

WALPOLE. He wants to know is the newspaper man here.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN [excited; for he has been enjoying himself enormously]
Yes, Mr Dubedat. Here I am.

Walpole raises his hand warningly to silence him. Sir Ralph sits down
quietly on the sofa and frankly buries his face in his handkerchief.

MRS DUBEDAT [with great relief] Oh thats right, dear: dont spare me:
lean with all your weight on me. Now you are really resting.

Sir Patrick quickly comes forward and feels Louis's pulse; then takes
him by the shoulders.

SIR PATRICK. Let me put him back on the pillow, maam. He will be better
so.

MRS DUBEDAT [piteously] Oh no, please, please, doctor. He is not tiring
me; and he will be so hurt when he wakes if he finds I have put him
away.

SIR PATRICK. He will never wake again. [He takes the body from her and
replaces it in the chair. Ridgeon, unmoved, lets down the back and makes
a bier of it].

MRS DUBEDAT [who has unexpectedly sprung to her feet, and stands
dry-eyed and stately] Was that death?

WALPOLE. Yes.

MRS DUBEDAT [with complete dignity] Will you wait for me a moment? I
will come back. [She goes out].

WALPOLE. Ought we to follow her? Is she in her right senses?

SIR PATRICK [with quiet conviction]. Yes. Shes all right. Leave her
alone. She'll come back.

RIDGEON [callously] Let us get this thing out of the way before she
comes.

B. B. [rising, shocked] My dear Colly! The poor lad! He died splendidly.

SIR PATRICK. Aye! that is how the wicked die.

      For there are no bands in their death;
      But their strength is firm:
      They are not in trouble as other men.

No matter: its not for us to judge. Hes in another world now.

WALPOLE. Borrowing his first five-pound note there, probably.

RIDGEON. I said the other day that the most tragic thing in the world is
a sick doctor. I was wrong. The most tragic thing in the world is a man
of genius who is not also a man of honor.

Ridgeon and Walpole wheel the chair into the recess.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN [to Sir Ralph] I thought it shewed a very nice
feeling, his being so particular about his wife going into proper
mourning for him and making her promise never to marry again.

B. B. [impressively] Mrs Dubedat is not in a position to carry the
interview any further. Neither are we.

SIR PATRICK. Good afternoon to you.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. Mrs. Dubedat said she was coming back.

B. B. After you have gone.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. Do you think she would give me a few words on How It
Feels to be a Widow? Rather a good title for an article, isnt it?

B. B. Young man: if you wait until Mrs Dubedat comes back, you will be
able to write an article on How It Feels to be Turned Out of the House.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN [unconvinced] You think she'd rather not--

B. B. [cutting him short] Good day to you. [Giving him a visiting-card]
Mind you get my name correctly. Good day.

THE NEWSPAPER MAN. Good day. Thank you. [Vaguely trying to read the
card] Mr--

B. B. No, not Mister. This is your hat, I think [giving it to him].
Gloves? No, of course: no gloves. Good day to you. [He edges him out at
last; shuts the door on him; and returns to Sir Patrick as Ridgeon and
Walpole come back from the recess, Walpole crossing the room to the
hat-stand, and Ridgeon coming between Sir Ralph and Sir Patrick].
Poor fellow! Poor young fellow! How well he died! I feel a better man,
really.

SIR PATRICK. When youre as old as I am, youll know that it matters very
little how a man dies. What matters is, how he lives. Every fool that
runs his nose against a bullet is a hero nowadays, because he dies for
his country. Why dont he live for it to some purpose?

B. B. No, please, Paddy: dont be hard on the poor lad. Not now, not now.
After all, was he so bad? He had only two failings: money and women.
Well, let us be honest. Tell the truth, Paddy. Dont be hypocritical,
Ridgeon. Throw off the mask, Walpole. Are these two matters so well
arranged at present that a disregard of the usual arrangements indicates
real depravity?

WALPOLE. I dont mind his disregarding the usual arrangements. Confound
the usual arrangements! To a man of science theyre beneath contempt both
as to money and women. What I mind is his disregarding everything
except his own pocket and his own fancy. He didn't disregard the
usual arrangements when they paid him. Did he give us his pictures
for nothing? Do you suppose he'd have hesitated to blackmail me if I'd
compromised myself with his wife? Not he.

SIR PATRICK. Dont waste your time wrangling over him. A blackguard's a
blackguard; an honest man's an honest man; and neither of them will ever
be at a loss for a religion or a morality to prove that their ways are
the right ways. It's the same with nations, the same with professions,
the same all the world over and always will be.

B. B. Ah, well, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Still, de mortuis nil
nisi bonum. He died extremely well, remarkably well. He has set us an
example: let us endeavor to follow it rather than harp on the weaknesses
that have perished with him. I think it is Shakespear who says that
the good that most men do lives after them: the evil lies interred with
their bones. Yes: interred with their bones. Believe me, Paddy, we are
all mortal. It is the common lot, Ridgeon. Say what you will, Walpole,
Nature's debt must be paid. If tis not to-day, twill be to-morrow.

     To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
     After life's fitful fever they sleep well
     And like this insubstantial bourne from which
     No traveller returns
     Leave not a wrack behind.

Walpole is about to speak, but B. B., suddenly and vehemently
proceeding, extinguishes him.

     Out, out, brief candle:
     For nothing canst thou to damnation add
     The readiness is all.

WALPOLE [gently; for B. B.'s feeling, absurdly expressed as it is, is
too sincere and humane to be ridiculed] Yes, B. B. Death makes people go
on like that. I dont know why it should; but it does. By the way, what
are we going to do? Ought we to clear out; or had we better wait and see
whether Mrs Dubedat will come back?

SIR PATRICK. I think we'd better go. We can tell the charwoman what to
do.

They take their hats and go to the door.

MRS DUBEDAT [coming from the inner door wonderfully and beautifully
dressed, and radiant, carrying a great piece of purple silk, handsomely
embroidered, over her arm] I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting.

SIR PATRICK } [amazed, all { Dont mention it, madam. B.B. } together {
Not at all, not at all. RIDGEON } in a confused { By no means. WALPOLE }
murmur] { It doesnt matter in the least.

MRS. DUBEDAT [coming to them] I felt that I must shake hands with his
friends once before we part to-day. We have shared together a great
privilege and a great happiness. I dont think we can ever think of
ourselves ordinary people again. We have had a wonderful experience; and
that gives us a common faith, a common ideal, that nobody else can
quite have. Life will always be beautiful to us: death will always be
beautiful to us. May we shake hands on that?

SIR PATRICK [shaking hands] Remember: all letters had better be left to
your solicitor. Let him open everything and settle everything. Thats the
law, you know.

MRS DUBEDAT. Oh, thank you: I didnt know. [Sir Patrick goes].

WALPOLE. Good-bye. I blame myself: I should have insisted on operating.
[He goes].

B.B. I will send the proper people: they will know it to do: you shall
have no trouble. Good-bye, my dear lady. [He goes].

RIDGEON. Good-bye. [He offers his hand].

MRS DUBEDAT [drawing back with gentle majesty] I said his friends, Sir
Colenso. [He bows and goes].

She unfolds the great piece of silk, and goes into the recess to cover
her dead.



ACT V

One of the smaller Bond Street Picture Galleries. The entrance is from
a picture shop. Nearly in the middle of the gallery there is a
writing-table, at which the Secretary, fashionably dressed, sits with
his back to the entrance, correcting catalogue proofs. Some copies of a
new book are on the desk, also the Secretary's shining hat and a couple
of magnifying glasses. At the side, on his left, a little behind him,
is a small door marked PRIVATE. Near the same side is a cushioned bench
parallel to the walls, which are covered with Dubedat's works. Two
screens, also covered with drawings, stand near the corners right and
left of the entrance.

Jennifer, beautifully dressed and apparently very happy and prosperous,
comes into the gallery through the private door.

JENNIFER. Have the catalogues come yet, Mr Danby?

THE SECRETARY. Not yet.

JENNIFER. What a shame! It's a quarter past: the private view will begin
in less than half an hour.

THE SECRETARY. I think I'd better run over to the printers to hurry them
up.

JENNIFER. Oh, if you would be so good, Mr Danby. I'll take your place
while youre away.

THE SECRETARY. If anyone should come before the time dont take any
notice. The commissionaire wont let anyone through unless he knows
him. We have a few people who like to come before the crowd--people
who really buy; and of course we're glad to see them. Have you seen the
notices in Brush and Crayon and in The Easel?

JENNIFER [indignantly] Yes: most disgraceful. They write quite
patronizingly, as if they were Mr Dubedat's superiors. After all the
cigars and sandwiches they had from us on the press day, and all they
drank, I really think it is infamous that they should write like that. I
hope you have not sent them tickets for to-day.

THE SECRETARY. Oh, they wont come again: theres no lunch to-day. The
advance copies of your book have come. [He indicates the new books].

JENNIFER [pouncing on a copy, wildly excited] Give it to me. Oh! excuse
me a moment [she runs away with it through the private door].

The Secretary takes a mirror from his drawer and smartens himself before
going out. Ridgeon comes in.

RIDGEON. Good morning. May I look round, as well, before the doors open?

THE SECRETARY. Certainly, Sir Colenso. I'm sorry catalogues have not
come: I'm just going to see about them. Heres my own list, if you dont
mind.

RIDGEON. Thanks. Whats this? [He takes up one the new books].

THE SECRETARY. Thats just come in. An advance copy of Mrs Dubedat's Life
of her late husband.

RIDGEON [reading the title] The Story of a King By His Wife. [He
looks at the portrait frontise]. Ay: there he is. You knew him here, I
suppose.

THE SECRETARY. Oh, we knew him. Better than she did, Sir Colenso, in
some ways, perhaps.

RIDGEON. So did I. [They look significantly at one another]. I'll take a
look round.

The Secretary puts on the shining hat and goes out. Ridgeon begins
looking at the pictures. Presently he comes back to the table for a
magnifying glass, and scrutinizes a drawing very closely. He sighs;
shakes his head, as if constrained to admit the extraordinary
fascination and merit of the work; then marks the Secretary's list.
Proceeding with his survey, he disappears behind the screen. Jennifer
comes back with her book. A look round satisfies her that she is alone.
She seats herself at the table and admires the memoir--her first printed
book--to her heart's content. Ridgeon re-appears, face to the wall,
scrutinizing the drawings. After using his glass again, he steps back
to get a more distant view of one of the larger pictures. She hastily
closes the book at the sound; looks round; recognizes him; and stares,
petrified. He takes a further step back which brings him nearer to her.

RIDGEON [shaking his head as before, ejaculates] Clever brute! [She
flushes as though he had struck her. He turns to put the glass down on
the desk, and finds himself face to face with her intent gaze]. I beg
your pardon. I thought I was alone.

JENNIFER [controlling herself, and speaking steadily and meaningly] I am
glad we have met, Sir Colenso Ridgeon. I met Dr Blenkinsop yesterday. I
congratulate you on a wonderful cure.

RIDGEON [can find no words; makes an embarrassed gesture of assent after
a moment's silence, and puts down the glass and the Secretary's list on
the table].

JENNIFER. He looked the picture of health and strength and prosperity.
[She looks for a moment at the walls, contrasting Blenkinsop's fortune
with the artist's fate].

RIDGEON [in low tones, still embarrassed] He has been fortunate.

JENNIFER. Very fortunate. His life has been spared.

RIDGEON. I mean that he has been made a Medical Officer of Health. He
cured the Chairman of the Borough Council very successfully.

JENNIFER. With your medicines?

RIDGEON. No. I believe it was with a pound of ripe greengages.

JENNIFER [with deep gravity] Funny!

RIDGEON. Yes. Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more
than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.

JENNIFER. Dr Blenkinsop said one very strange thing to me.

RIDGEON. What was that?

JENNIFER. He said that private practice in medicine ought to be put down
by law. When I asked him why, he said that private doctors were ignorant
licensed murderers.

RIDGEON. That is what the public doctor always thinks of the private
doctor. Well, Blenkinsop ought to know. He was a private doctor long
enough himself. Come! you have talked at me long enough. Talk to me. You
have something to reproach me with. There is reproach in your face, in
your voice: you are full of it. Out with it.

JENNIFER. It is too late for reproaches now. When I turned and saw
you just now, I wondered how you could come here coolly to look at his
pictures. You answered the question. To you, he was only a clever brute.

RIDGEON [quivering] Oh, dont. You know I did not know you were here.

JENNIFER [raising her head a little with a quite gentle impulse of
pride] You think it only mattered because I heard it. As if it could
touch me, or touch him! Dont you see that what is really dreadful is
that to you living things have no souls.

RIDGEON [with a sceptical shrug] The soul is an organ I have not come
across in the course of my anatomical work.

JENNIFER. You know you would not dare to say such a silly thing as that
to anybody but a woman whose mind you despise. If you dissected me you
could not find my conscience. Do you think I have got none?

RIDGEON. I have met people who had none.

JENNIFER. Clever brutes? Do you know, doctor, that some of the dearest
and most faithful friends I ever had were only brutes! You would have
vivisected them. The dearest and greatest of all my friends had a sort
of beauty and affectionateness that only animals have. I hope you may
never feel what I felt when I had to put him into the hands of men who
defend the torture of animals because they are only brutes.

RIDGEON. Well, did you find us so very cruel, after all? They tell me
that though you have dropped me, you stay for weeks with the Bloomfield
Boningtons and the Walpoles. I think it must be true, because they never
mention you to me now.

JENNIFER. The animals in Sir Ralph's house are like spoiled children.
When Mr. Walpole had to take a splinter out of the mastiff's paw, I had
to hold the poor dog myself; and Mr Walpole had to turn Sir Ralph out
of the room. And Mrs. Walpole has to tell the gardener not to kill wasps
when Mr. Walpole is looking. But there are doctors who are naturally
cruel; and there are others who get used to cruelty and are callous
about it. They blind themselves to the souls of animals; and that blinds
them to the souls of men and women. You made a dreadful mistake about
Louis; but you would not have made it if you had not trained yourself
to make the same mistake about dogs. You saw nothing in them but dumb
brutes; and so you could see nothing in him but a clever brute.

RIDGEON [with sudden resolution] I made no mistake whatever about him.

JENNIFER. Oh, doctor!

RIDGEON [obstinately] I made no mistake whatever about him.

JENNIFER. Have you forgotten that he died?

RIDGEON [with a sweep of his hand towards the pictures] He is not dead.
He is there. [Taking up the book] And there.

JENNIFER [springing up with blazing eyes] Put that down. How dare you
touch it?

Ridgeon, amazed at the fierceness of the outburst, puts it down with a
deprecatory shrug. She takes it up and looks at it as if he had profaned
a relic.

RIDGEON. I am very sorry. I see I had better go.

JENNIFER [putting the book down] I beg your pardon. I forgot myself. But
it is not yet--it is a private copy.

RIDGEON. But for me it would have been a very different book.

JENNIFER. But for you it would have been a longer one.

RIDGEON. You know then that I killed him?

JENNIFER [suddenly moved and softened] Oh, doctor, if you acknowledge
that--if you have confessed it to yourself--if you realize what you
have done, then there is forgiveness. I trusted in your strength
instinctively at first; then I thought I had mistaken callousness for
strength. Can you blame me? But if it was really strength--if it was
only such a mistake as we all make sometimes--it will make me so happy
to be friends with you again.

RIDGEON. I tell you I made no mistake. I cured Blenkinsop: was there any
mistake there?

JENNIFER. He recovered. Oh, dont be foolishly proud, doctor. Confess to
a failure, and save our friendship. Remember, Sir Ralph gave Louis your
medicine; and it made him worse.

RIDGEON. I cant be your friend on false pretences. Something has got me
by the throat: the truth must come out. I used that medicine myself on
Blenkinsop. It did not make him worse. It is a dangerous medicine: it
cured Blenkinsop: it killed Louis Dubedat. When I handle it, it cures.
When another man handles it, it kills--sometimes.

JENNIFER [naively: not yet taking it all in] Then why did you let Sir
Ralph give it to Louis?

RIDGEON. I'm going to tell you. I did it because I was in love with you.

JENNIFER [innocently surprised] In lo-- You! elderly man!

RIDGEON [thunderstruck, raising his fists to heaven] Dubedat: thou
art avenged! [He drops his hands and collapses on the bench]. I never
thought of that. I suppose I appear to you a ridiculous old fogey.

JENNIFER. But surely--I did not mean to offend you, indeed--but you must
be at least twenty years older than I am.

RIDGEON. Oh, quite. More, perhaps. In twenty years you will understand
how little difference that makes.

JENNIFER. But even so, how could you think that I--his wife--could ever
think of YOU--

RIDGEON [stopping her with a nervous waving of his fingers] Yes, yes,
yes, yes: I quite understand: you neednt rub it in.

JENNIFER. But--oh, it is only dawning on me now--I was so surprised
at first--do you dare to tell me that it was to gratify a miserable
jealousy that you deliberately--oh! oh! you murdered him.

RIDGEON. I think I did. It really comes to that.

      Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive
      Officiously to keep alive.

I suppose--yes: I killed him.

JENNIFER. And you tell me that! to my face! callously! You are not
afraid!

RIDGEON. I am a doctor: I have nothing to fear. It is not an indictable
offense to call in B. B. Perhaps it ought to be; but it isnt.

JENNIFER. I did not mean that. I meant afraid of my taking the law into
my own hands, and killing you.

RIDGEON. I am so hopelessly idiotic about you that I should not mind it
a bit. You would always remember me if you did that.

JENNIFER. I shall remember you always as a little man who tried to kill
a great one.

RIDGEON. Pardon me. I succeeded.

JENNIFER [with quiet conviction] No. Doctors think they hold the keys
of life and death; but it is not their will that is fulfilled. I dont
believe you made any difference at all.

RIDGEON. Perhaps not. But I intended to.

JENNIFER [looking at him amazedly: not without pity] And you tried to
destroy that wonderful and beautiful life merely because you grudged him
a woman whom you could never have expected to care for you!

RIDGEON. Who kissed my hands. Who believed in me. Who told me her
friendship lasted until death.

JENNIFER. And whom you were betraying.

RIDGEON. No. Whom I was saving.

JENNIFER [gently] Pray, doctor, from what?

RIDGEON. From making a terrible discovery. From having your life laid
waste.

JENNIFER. How?

RIDGEON. No matter. I have saved you. I have been the best friend you
ever had. You are happy. You are well. His works are an imperishable joy
and pride for you.

JENNIFER. And you think that is your doing. Oh doctor, doctor! Sir
Patrick is right: you do think you are a little god. How can you be so
silly? You did not paint those pictures which are my imperishable joy
and pride: you did not speak the words that will always be heavenly
music in my ears. I listen to them now whenever I am tired or sad. That
is why I am always happy.

RIDGEON. Yes, now that he is dead. Were you always happy when he was
alive?

JENNIFER [wounded] Oh, you are cruel, cruel. When he was alive I did not
know the greatness of my blessing. I worried meanly about little things.
I was unkind to him. I was unworthy of him.

RIDGEON [laughing bitterly] Ha!

JENNIFER. Dont insult me: dont blaspheme. [She snatches up the book and
presses it to her heart in a paroxysm of remorse, exclaiming] Oh, my
King of Men!

RIDGEON. King of Men! Oh, this is too monstrous, too grotesque. We cruel
doctors have kept the secret from you faithfully; but it is like all
secrets: it will not keep itself. The buried truth germinates and breaks
through to the light.

JENNIFER. What truth?

RIDGEON. What truth! Why, that Louis Dubedat, King of Men, was the most
entire and perfect scoundrel, the most miraculously mean rascal, the
most callously selfish blackguard that ever made a wife miserable.

JENNIFER [unshaken: calm and lovely] He made his wife the happiest woman
in the world, doctor.

RIDGEON. No: by all thats true on earth, he made his WIDOW the happiest
woman in the world; but it was I who made her a widow. And her happiness
is my justification and my reward. Now you know what I did and what I
thought of him. Be as angry with me as you like: at least you know me as
I really am. If you ever come to care for an elderly man, you will know
what you are caring for.

JENNIFER [kind and quiet] I am not angry with you any more, Sir Colenso.
I knew quite well that you did not like Louis; but it is not your fault:
you dont understand: that is all. You never could have believed in him.
It is just like your not believing in my religion: it is a sort of sixth
sense that you have not got. And [with a gentle reassuring movement
towards him] dont think that you have shocked me so dreadfully. I know
quite well what you mean by his selfishness. He sacrificed everything
for his art. In a certain sense he had even to sacrifice everybody--

RIDGEON. Everybody except himself. By keeping that back he lost the
right to sacrifice you, and gave me the right to sacrifice him. Which I
did.

JENNIFER [shaking her head, pitying his error] He was one of the men who
know what women know: that self-sacrifice is vain and cowardly.

RIDGEON. Yes, when the sacrifice is rejected and thrown away. Not when
it becomes the food of godhead.

JENNIFER. I dont understand that. And I cant argue with you: you are
clever enough to puzzle me, but not to shake me. You are so utterly, so
wildly wrong; so incapable of appreciating Louis--

RIDGEON. Oh! [taking up the Secretary's list] I have marked five
pictures as sold to me.

JENNIFER. They will not be sold to you. Louis' creditors insisted on
selling them; but this is my birthday; and they were all bought in for
me this morning by my husband.

RIDGEON. By whom?!!!

JENNIFER. By my husband.

RIDGEON [gabbling and stuttering] What husband? Whose husband? Which
husband? Whom? how? what? Do you mean to say that you have married
again?

JENNIFER. Do you forget that Louis disliked widows, and that people who
have married happily once always marry again?

The Secretary returns with a pile of catalogues.

THE SECRETARY. Just got the first batch of catalogues in time. The doors
are open.

JENNIFER [to Ridgeon, politely] So glad you like the pictures, Sir
Colenso. Good morning.

RIDGEON. Good morning. [He goes towards the door; hesitates; turns to
say something more; gives it up as a bad job; and goes].





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