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´╗┐Title: Overruled
Author: Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Overruled" ***

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TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: In the printed version of this text, all
apostrophes for contractions such as "can't", "wouldn't" and "he'd"
were omitted, to read as "cant", "wouldnt" and "hed". This etext
restores the omitted apostrophes.






This piece is not an argument for or against polygamy. It is a clinical
study of how the thing actually occurs among quite ordinary people,
innocent of all unconventional views concerning it. The enormous
majority of cases in real life are those of people in that position.
Those who deliberately and conscientiously profess what are oddly
called advanced views by those others who believe them to be
retrograde, are often, and indeed mostly, the last people in the world
to engage in unconventional adventures of any kind, not only because
they have neither time nor disposition for them, but because the
friction set up between the individual and the community by the
expression of unusual views of any sort is quite enough hindrance to
the heretic without being complicated by personal scandals. Thus the
theoretic libertine is usually a person of blameless family life,
whilst the practical libertine is mercilessly severe on all other
libertines, and excessively conventional in professions of social

What is more, these professions are not hypocritical: they are for the
most part quite sincere. The common libertine, like the drunkard,
succumbs to a temptation which he does not defend, and against which he
warns others with an earnestness proportionate to the intensity of his
own remorse. He (or she) may be a liar and a humbug, pretending to be
better than the detected libertines, and clamoring for their condign
punishment; but this is mere self-defence. No reasonable person expects
the burglar to confess his pursuits, or to refrain from joining in the
cry of Stop Thief when the police get on the track of another burglar.
If society chooses to penalize candor, it has itself to thank if its
attack is countered by falsehood. The clamorous virtue of the libertine
is therefore no more hypocritical than the plea of Not Guilty which is
allowed to every criminal. But one result is that the theorists who
write most sincerely and favorably about polygamy know least about it;
and the practitioners who know most about it keep their knowledge very
jealously to themselves. Which is hardly fair to the practice.


Also it is impossible to estimate its prevalence. A practice to which
nobody confesses may be both universal and unsuspected, just as a
virtue which everybody is expected, under heavy penalties, to claim,
may have no existence. It is often assumed--indeed it is the official
assumption of the Churches and the divorce courts that a gentleman and
a lady cannot be alone together innocently. And that is manifest
blazing nonsense, though many women have been stoned to death in the
east, and divorced in the west, on the strength of it. On the other
hand, the innocent and conventional people who regard the gallant
adventures as crimes of so horrible a nature that only the most
depraved and desperate characters engage in them or would listen to
advances in that direction without raising an alarm with the noisiest
indignation, are clearly examples of the fact that most sections of
society do not know how the other sections live. Industry is the most
effective check on gallantry. Women may, as Napoleon said, be the
occupation of the idle man just as men are the preoccupation of the
idle woman; but the mass of mankind is too busy and too poor for the
long and expensive sieges which the professed libertine lays to virtue.
Still, wherever there is idleness or even a reasonable supply of
elegant leisure there is a good deal of coquetry and philandering. It
is so much pleasanter to dance on the edge of a precipice than to go
over it that leisured society is full of people who spend a great part
of their lives in flirtation, and conceal nothing but the humiliating
secret that they have never gone any further. For there is no pleasing
people in the matter of reputation in this department: every insult is
a flattery; every testimonial is a disparagement: Joseph is despised
and promoted, Potiphar's wife admired and condemned: in short, you are
never on solid ground until you get away from the subject altogether.
There is a continual and irreconcilable conflict between the natural
and conventional sides of the case, between spontaneous human relations
between independent men and women on the one hand and the property
relation between husband and wife on the other, not to mention the
confusion under the common name of love of a generous natural
attraction and interest with the murderous jealousy that fastens on and
clings to its mate (especially a hated mate) as a tiger fastens on a
carcase. And the confusion is natural; for these extremes are extremes
of the same passion; and most cases lie somewhere on the scale between
them, and are so complicated by ordinary likes and dislikes, by
incidental wounds to vanity or gratifications of it, and by class
feeling, that A will be jealous of B and not of C, and will tolerate
infidelities on the part of D whilst being furiously angry when they
are committed by E.


That jealousy is independent of sex is shown by its intensity in
children, and by the fact that very jealous people are jealous of
everybody without regard to relationship or sex, and cannot bear to
hear the person they "love" speak favorably of anyone under any
circumstances (many women, for instance, are much more jealous of their
husbands' mothers and sisters than of unrelated women whom they suspect
him of fancying); but it is seldom possible to disentangle the two
passions in practice. Besides, jealousy is an inculcated passion,
forced by society on people in whom it would not occur spontaneously.
In Brieux's Bourgeois aux Champs, the benevolent hero finds himself
detested by the neighboring peasants and farmers, not because he
preserves game, and sets mantraps for poachers, and defends his legal
rights over his land to the extremest point of unsocial savagery, but
because, being an amiable and public-spirited person, he refuses to do
all this, and thereby offends and disparages the sense of property in
his neighbors. The same thing is true of matrimonial jealousy; the man
who does not at least pretend to feel it and behave as badly as if he
really felt it is despised and insulted; and many a man has shot or
stabbed a friend or been shot or stabbed by him in a duel, or disgraced
himself and ruined his own wife in a divorce scandal, against his
conscience, against his instinct, and to the destruction of his home,
solely because Society conspired to drive him to keep its own lower
morality in countenance in this miserable and undignified manner.

Morality is confused in such matters. In an elegant plutocracy, a
jealous husband is regarded as a boor. Among the tradesmen who supply
that plutocracy with its meals, a husband who is not jealous, and
refrains from assailing his rival with his fists, is regarded as a
ridiculous, contemptible and cowardly cuckold. And the laboring class
is divided into the respectable section which takes the tradesman's
view, and the disreputable section which enjoys the license of the
plutocracy without its money: creeping below the law as its exemplars
prance above it; cutting down all expenses of respectability and even
decency; and frankly accepting squalor and disrepute as the price of
anarchic self-indulgence. The conflict between Malvolio and Sir Toby,
between the marquis and the bourgeois, the cavalier and the puritan,
the ascetic and the voluptuary, goes on continually, and goes on not
only between class and class and individual and individual, but in the
selfsame breast in a series of reactions and revulsions in which the
irresistible becomes the unbearable, and the unbearable the
irresistible, until none of us can say what our characters really are
in this respect.


Of one thing I am persuaded: we shall never attain to a reasonable
healthy public opinion on sex questions until we offer, as the data for
that opinion, our actual conduct and our real thoughts instead of a
moral fiction which we agree to call virtuous conduct, and which we
then--and here comes in the mischief--pretend is our conduct and our
thoughts. If the result were that we all believed one another to be
better than we really are, there would be something to be said for it;
but the actual result appears to be a monstrous exaggeration of the
power and continuity of sexual passion. The whole world shares the fate
of Lucrezia Borgia, who, though she seems on investigation to have been
quite a suitable wife for a modern British Bishop, has been invested by
the popular historical imagination with all the extravagances of a
Messalina or a Cenci. Writers of belles lettres who are rash enough to
admit that their whole life is not one constant preoccupation with
adored members of the opposite sex, and who even countenance La
Rochefoucauld's remark that very few people would ever imagine
themselves in love if they had never read anything about it, are
gravely declared to be abnormal or physically defective by critics of
crushing unadventurousness and domestication. French authors of saintly
temperament are forced to include in their retinue countesses of ardent
complexion with whom they are supposed to live in sin. Sentimental
controversies on the subject are endless; but they are useless, because
nobody tells the truth. Rousseau did it by an extraordinary effort,
aided by a superhuman faculty for human natural history, but the result
was curiously disconcerting because, though the facts were so
conventionally shocking that people felt that they ought to matter a
great deal, they actually mattered very little. And even at that
everybody pretends not to believe him.


The worst of that is that busybodies with perhaps rather more than a
normal taste for mischief are continually trying to make negligible
things matter as much in fact as they do in convention by deliberately
inflicting injuries--sometimes atrocious injuries--on the parties
concerned. Few people have any knowledge of the savage punishments that
are legally inflicted for aberrations and absurdities to which no
sanely instructed community would call any attention. We create an
artificial morality, and consequently an artificial conscience, by
manufacturing disastrous consequences for events which, left to
themselves, would do very little harm (sometimes not any) and be
forgotten in a few days.

But the artificial morality is not therefore to be condemned offhand.
In many cases it may save mischief instead of making it: for example,
though the hanging of a murderer is the duplication of a murder, yet it
may be less murderous than leaving the matter to be settled by blood
feud or vendetta. As long as human nature insists on revenge, the
official organization and satisfaction of revenge by the State may be
also its minimization. The mischief begins when the official revenge
persists after the passion it satisfies has died out of the race.
Stoning a woman to death in the east because she has ventured to marry
again after being deserted by her husband may be more merciful than
allowing her to be mobbed to death; but the official stoning or burning
of an adulteress in the west would be an atrocity because few of us
hate an adulteress to the extent of desiring such a penalty, or of
being prepared to take the law into our own hands if it were withheld.
Now what applies to this extreme case applies also in due degree to the
other cases. Offences in which sex is concerned are often needlessly
magnified by penalties, ranging from various forms of social ostracism
to long sentences of penal servitude, which would be seen to be
monstrously disproportionate to the real feeling against them if the
removal of both the penalties and the taboo on their discussion made it
possible for us to ascertain their real prevalence and estimation.
Fortunately there is one outlet for the truth. We are permitted to
discuss in jest what we may not discuss in earnest. A serious comedy
about sex is taboo: a farcical comedy is privileged.


The little piece which follows this preface accordingly takes the form
of a farcical comedy, because it is a contribution to the very
extensive dramatic literature which takes as its special department the
gallantries of married people. The stage has been preoccupied by such
affairs for centuries, not only in the jesting vein of Restoration
Comedy and Palais Royal farce, but in the more tragically turned
adulteries of the Parisian school which dominated the stage until Ibsen
put them out of countenance and relegated them to their proper place as
articles of commerce. Their continued vogue in that department
maintains the tradition that adultery is the dramatic subject par
excellence, and indeed that a play that is not about adultery is not a
play at all. I was considered a heresiarch of the most extravagant kind
when I expressed my opinion at the outset of my career as a playwright,
that adultery is the dullest of themes on the stage, and that from
Francesca and Paolo down to the latest guilty couple of the school of
Dumas fils, the romantic adulterers have all been intolerable bores.


Later on, I had occasion to point out to the defenders of sex as the
proper theme of drama, that though they were right in ranking sex as an
intensely interesting subject, they were wrong in assuming that sex is
an indispensable motive in popular plays. The plays of Moliere are,
like the novels of the Victorian epoch or Don Quixote, as nearly
sexless as anything not absolutely inhuman can be; and some of
Shakespear's plays are sexually on a par with the census: they contain
women as well as men, and that is all. This had to be admitted; but it
was still assumed that the plays of the XIX century Parisian school
are, in contrast with the sexless masterpieces, saturated with sex; and
this I strenuously denied. A play about the convention that a man
should fight a duel or come to fisticuffs with his wife's lover if she
has one, or the convention that he should strangle her like Othello, or
turn her out of the house and never see her or allow her to see her
children again, or the convention that she should never be spoken to
again by any decent person and should finally drown herself, or the
convention that persons involved in scenes of recrimination or
confession by these conventions should call each other certain abusive
names and describe their conduct as guilty and frail and so on: all
these may provide material for very effective plays; but such plays are
not dramatic studies of sex: one might as well say that Romeo and
Juliet is a dramatic study of pharmacy because the catastrophe is
brought about through an apothecary. Duels are not sex; divorce cases
are not sex; the Trade Unionism of married women is not sex. Only the
most insignificant fraction of the gallantries of married people
produce any of the conventional results; and plays occupied wholly with
the conventional results are therefore utterly unsatisfying as sex
plays, however interesting they may be as plays of intrigue and plot

The world is finding this out rapidly. The Sunday papers, which in the
days when they appealed almost exclusively to the lower middle class
were crammed with police intelligence, and more especially with divorce
and murder cases, now lay no stress on them; and police papers which
confined themselves entirely to such matters, and were once eagerly
read, have perished through the essential dulness of their topics. And
yet the interest in sex is stronger than ever: in fact, the literature
that has driven out the journalism of the divorce courts is a
literature occupied with sex to an extent and with an intimacy and
frankness that would have seemed utterly impossible to Thackeray or
Dickens if they had been told that the change would complete itself
within fifty years of their own time.


It is ridiculous to say, as inconsiderate amateurs of the arts do, that
art has nothing to do with morality. What is true is that the artist's
business is not that of the policeman; and that such factitious
consequences and put-up jobs as divorces and executions and the
detective operations that lead up to them are no essential part of
life, though, like poisons and buttered slides and red-hot pokers, they
provide material for plenty of thrilling or amusing stories suited to
people who are incapable of any interest in psychology. But the fine
artists must keep the policeman out of his studies of sex and studies
of crime. It is by clinging nervously to the policeman that most of the
pseudo sex plays convince me that the writers have either never had any
serious personal experience of their ostensible subject, or else have
never conceived it possible that the stage door present the phenomena
of sex as they appear in nature.


But the stage presents much more shocking phenomena than those of sex.
There is, of course, a sense in which you cannot present sex on the
stage, just as you cannot present murder. Macbeth must no more really
kill Duncan than he must himself be really slain by Macduff. But the
feelings of a murderer can be expressed in a certain artistic
convention; and a carefully prearranged sword exercise can be gone
through with sufficient pretence of earnestness to be accepted by the
willing imaginations of the younger spectators as a desperate combat.

The tragedy of love has been presented on the stage in the same way. In
Tristan and Isolde, the curtain does not, as in Romeo and Juliet, rise
with the lark: the whole night of love is played before the spectators.
The lovers do not discuss marriage in an elegantly sentimental way:
they utter the visions and feelings that come to lovers at the supreme
moments of their love, totally forgetting that there are such things in
the world as husbands and lawyers and duelling codes and theories of
sin and notions of propriety and all the other irrelevancies which
provide hackneyed and bloodless material for our so-called plays of


To all stage presentations there are limits. If Macduff were to stab
Macbeth, the spectacle would be intolerable; and even the pretence
which we allow on our stage is ridiculously destructive to the illusion
of the scene. Yet pugilists and gladiators will actually fight and kill
in public without sham, even as a spectacle for money. But no sober
couple of lovers of any delicacy could endure to be watched. We in
England, accustomed to consider the French stage much more licentious
than the British, are always surprised and puzzled when we learn, as we
may do any day if we come within reach of such information, that French
actors are often scandalized by what they consider the indecency of the
English stage, and that French actresses who desire a greater license
in appealing to the sexual instincts than the French stage allows them,
learn and establish themselves on the English stage. The German and
Russian stages are in the same relation to the French and perhaps more
or less all the Latin stages. The reason is that, partly from a want of
respect for the theatre, partly from a sort of respect for art in
general which moves them to accord moral privileges to artists, partly
from the very objectionable tradition that the realm of art is Alsatia
and the contemplation of works of art a holiday from the burden of
virtue, partly because French prudery does not attach itself to the
same points of behavior as British prudery, and has a different code of
the mentionable and the unmentionable, and for many other reasons the
French tolerate plays which are never performed in England until they
have been spoiled by a process of bowdlerization; yet French taste is
more fastidious than ours as to the exhibition and treatment on the
stage of the physical incidents of sex. On the French stage a kiss is
as obvious a convention as the thrust under the arm by which Macduff
runs Macbeth through. It is even a purposely unconvincing convention:
the actors rather insisting that it shall be impossible for any
spectator to mistake a stage kiss for a real one. In England, on the
contrary, realism is carried to the point at which nobody except the
two performers can perceive that the caress is not genuine. And here
the English stage is certainly in the right; for whatever question
there arises as to what incidents are proper for representation on the
stage or not, my experience as a playgoer leaves me in no doubt that
once it is decided to represent an incident, it will be offensive, no
matter whether it be a prayer or a kiss, unless it is presented with a
convincing appearance of sincerity.


For example, the main objection to the use of illusive scenery (in most
modern plays scenery is not illusive; everything visible is as real as
in your drawing room at home) is that it is unconvincing; whilst the
imaginary scenery with which the audience provides a platform or
tribune like the Elizabethan stage or the Greek stage used by
Sophocles, is quite convincing. In fact, the more scenery you have the
less illusion you produce. The wise playwright, when he cannot get
absolute reality of presentation, goes to the other extreme, and aims
at atmosphere and suggestion of mood rather than at direct simulative
illusion. The theatre, as I first knew it, was a place of wings and
flats which destroyed both atmosphere and illusion. This was tolerated,
and even intensely enjoyed, but not in the least because nothing better
was possible; for all the devices employed in the productions of Mr.
Granville Barker or Max Reinhardt or the Moscow Art Theatre were
equally available for Colley Cibber and Garrick, except the intensity
of our artificial light. When Garrick played Richard II in slashed
trunk hose and plumes, it was not because he believed that the
Plantagenets dressed like that, or because the costumes could not have
made him a XV century dress as easily as a nondescript combination of
the state robes of George III with such scraps of older fashions as
seemed to playgoers for some reason to be romantic. The charm of the
theatre in those days was its makebelieve. It has that charm still, not
only for the amateurs, who are happiest when they are most unnatural
and impossible and absurd, but for audiences as well. I have seen
performances of my own plays which were to me far wilder burlesques
than Sheridan's Critic or Buckingham's Rehearsal; yet they have
produced sincere laughter and tears such as the most finished
metropolitan productions have failed to elicit. Fielding was entirely
right when he represented Partridge as enjoying intensely the
performance of the king in Hamlet because anybody could see that the
king was an actor, and resenting Garrick's Hamlet because it might have
been a real man. Yet we have only to look at the portraits of Garrick
to see that his performances would nowadays seem almost as
extravagantly stagey as his costumes. In our day Calve's intensely real
Carmen never pleased the mob as much as the obvious fancy ball
masquerading of suburban young ladies in the same character.


Theatrical art begins as the holding up to Nature of a distorting
mirror. In this phase it pleases people who are childish enough to
believe that they can see what they look like and what they are when
they look at a true mirror. Naturally they think that a true mirror can
teach them nothing. Only by giving them back some monstrous image can
the mirror amuse them or terrify them. It is not until they grow up to
the point at which they learn that they know very little about
themselves, and that they do not see themselves in a true mirror as
other people see them, that they become consumed with curiosity as to
what they really are like, and begin to demand that the stage shall be
a mirror of such accuracy and intensity of illumination that they shall
be able to get glimpses of their real selves in it, and also learn a
little how they appear to other people.

For audiences of this highly developed class, sex can no longer be
ignored or conventionalized or distorted by the playwright who makes
the mirror. The old sentimental extravagances and the old grossnesses
are of no further use to him. Don Giovanni and Zerlina are not gross:
Tristan and Isolde are not extravagant or sentimental. They say and do
nothing that you cannot bear to hear and see; and yet they give you,
the one pair briefly and slightly, and the other fully and deeply, what
passes in the minds of lovers. The love depicted may be that of a
philosophic adventurer tempting an ignorant country girl, or of a
tragically serious poet entangled with a woman of noble capacity in a
passion which has become for them the reality of the whole universe. No
matter: the thing is dramatized and dramatized directly, not talked
about as something that happened before the curtain rose, or that will
happen after it falls.


Now if all this can be done in the key of tragedy and philosophic
comedy, it can, I have always contended, be done in the key of farcical
comedy; and Overruled is a trifling experiment in that manner.
Conventional farcical comedies are always finally tedious because the
heart of them, the inevitable conjugal infidelity, is always evaded.
Even its consequences are evaded. Mr. Granville Barker has pointed out
rightly that if the third acts of our farcical comedies dared to
describe the consequences that would follow from the first and second
in real life, they would end as squalid tragedies; and in my opinion
they would be greatly improved thereby even as entertainments; for I
have never seen a three-act farcical comedy without being bored and
tired by the third act, and observing that the rest of the audience
were in the same condition, though they were not vigilantly
introspective enough to find that out, and were apt to blame one
another, especially the husbands and wives, for their crossness. But it
is happily by no means true that conjugal infidelities always produce
tragic consequences, or that they need produce even the unhappiness
which they often do produce. Besides, the more momentous the
consequences, the more interesting become the impulses and imaginations
and reasonings, if any, of the people who disregard them. If I had an
opportunity of conversing with the ghost of an executed murderer, I
have no doubt he would begin to tell me eagerly about his trial, with
the names of the distinguished ladies and gentlemen who honored him
with their presence on that occasion, and then about his execution. All
of which would bore me exceedingly. I should say, "My dear sir: such
manufactured ceremonies do not interest me in the least. I know how a
man is tried, and how he is hanged. I should have had you killed in a
much less disgusting, hypocritical, and unfriendly manner if the matter
had been in my hands. What I want to know about is the murder. How did
you feel when you committed it? Why did you do it? What did you say to
yourself about it? If, like most murderers, you had not been hanged,
would you have committed other murders? Did you really dislike the
victim, or did you want his money, or did you murder a person whom you
did not dislike, and from whose death you had nothing to gain, merely
for the sake of murdering? If so, can you describe the charm to me?
Does it come upon you periodically; or is it chronic? Has curiosity
anything to do with it?" I would ply him with all manner of questions
to find out what murder is really like; and I should not be satisfied
until I had realized that I, too, might commit a murder, or else that
there is some specific quality present in a murderer and lacking in me.
And, if so, what that quality is.

In just the same way, I want the unfaithful husband or the unfaithful
wife in a farcical comedy not to bother me with their divorce cases or
the stratagems they employ to avoid a divorce case, but to tell me how
and why married couples are unfaithful. I don't want to hear the lies
they tell one another to conceal what they have done, but the truths
they tell one another when they have to face what they have done
without concealment or excuse. No doubt prudent and considerate people
conceal such adventures, when they can, from those who are most likely
to be wounded by them; but it is not to be presumed that, when found
out, they necessarily disgrace themselves by irritating lies and
transparent subterfuges.

My playlet, which I offer as a model to all future writers of farcical
comedy, may now, I hope, be read without shock. I may just add that Mr.
Sibthorpe Juno's view that morality demands, not that we should behave
morally (an impossibility to our sinful nature) but that we shall not
attempt to defend our immoralities, is a standard view in England, and
was advanced in all seriousness by an earnest and distinguished British
moralist shortly after the first performance of Overruled. My objection
to that aspect of the doctrine of original sin is that no necessary and
inevitable operation of human nature can reasonably be regarded as
sinful at all, and that a morality which assumes the contrary is an
absurd morality, and can be kept in countenance only by hypocrisy. When
people were ashamed of sanitary problems, and refused to face them,
leaving them to solve themselves clandestinely in dirt and secrecy, the
solution arrived at was the Black Death. A similar policy as to sex
problems has solved itself by an even worse plague than the Black
Death; and the remedy for that is not Salvarsan, but sound moral
hygiene, the first foundation of which is the discontinuance of our
habit of telling not only the comparatively harmless lies that we know
we ought not to tell, but the ruinous lies that we foolishly think we
ought to tell.


A lady and gentleman are sitting together on a chesterfield in a
retired corner of the lounge of a seaside hotel. It is a summer night:
the French window behind them stands open. The terrace without
overlooks a moonlit harbor. The lounge is dark. The chesterfield,
upholstered in silver grey, and the two figures on it in evening dress,
catch the light from an arc lamp somewhere; but the walls, covered with
a dark green paper, are in gloom. There are two stray chairs, one on
each side. On the gentleman's right, behind him up near the window, is
an unused fireplace. Opposite it on the lady's left is a door. The
gentleman is on the lady's right.

The lady is very attractive, with a musical voice and soft appealing
manners. She is young: that is, one feels sure that she is under
thirty-five and over twenty-four. The gentleman does not look much
older. He is rather handsome, and has ventured as far in the direction
of poetic dandyism in the arrangement of his hair as any man who is not
a professional artist can afford to in England. He is obviously very
much in love with the lady, and is, in fact, yielding to an
irresistible impulse to throw his arms around her.

THE LADY. Don't--oh don't be horrid. Please, Mr. Lunn [she rises from
the lounge and retreats behind it]! Promise me you won't be horrid.

GREGORY LUNN. I'm not being horrid, Mrs. Juno. I'm not going to be
horrid. I love you: that's all. I'm extraordinarily happy.

MRS. JUNO. You will really be good?

GREGORY. I'll be whatever you wish me to be. I tell you I love you. I
love loving you. I don't want to be tired and sorry, as I should be if
I were to be horrid. I don't want you to be tired and sorry. Do come
and sit down again.

MRS. JUNO [coming back to her seat]. You're sure you don't want
anything you oughtn't to?

GREGORY. Quite sure. I only want you [she recoils]. Don't be alarmed. I
like wanting you. As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living.
Satisfaction is death.

MRS. JUNO. Yes; but the impulse to commit suicide is sometimes

GREGORY. Not with you.

MRS. JUNO. What!

GREGORY. Oh, it sounds uncomplimentary; but it isn't really. Do you
know why half the couples who find themselves situated as we are now
behave horridly?

MRS. JUNO. Because they can't help it if they let things go too far.

GREGORY. Not a bit of it. It's because they have nothing else to do,
and no other way of entertaining each other. You don't know what it is
to be alone with a woman who has little beauty and less conversation.
What is a man to do? She can't talk interestingly; and if he talks that
way himself she doesn't understand him. He can't look at her: if he
does, he only finds out that she isn't beautiful. Before the end of
five minutes they are both hideously bored. There's only one thing that
can save the situation; and that's what you call being horrid. With a
beautiful, witty, kind woman, there's no time for such follies. It's so
delightful to look at her, to listen to her voice, to hear all she has
to say, that nothing else happens. That is why the woman who is
supposed to have a thousand lovers seldom has one; whilst the stupid,
graceless animals of women have dozens.

MRS. JUNO. I wonder! It's quite true that when one feels in danger one
talks like mad to stave it off, even when one doesn't quite want to
stave it off.

GREGORY. One never does quite want to stave it off. Danger is
delicious. But death isn't. We court the danger; but the real delight
is in escaping, after all.

MRS. JUNO. I don't think we'll talk about it any more. Danger is all
very well when you do escape; but sometimes one doesn't. I tell you
frankly I don't feel as safe as you do--if you really do.

GREGORY. But surely you can do as you please without injuring anyone,
Mrs. Juno. That is the whole secret of your extraordinary charm for me.

MRS. JUNO. I don't understand.

GREGORY. Well, I hardly know how to begin to explain. But the root of
the matter is that I am what people call a good man.

MRS. JUNO. I thought so until you began making love to me.

GREGORY. But you knew I loved you all along.

MRS. JUNO. Yes, of course; but I depended on you not to tell me so;
because I thought you were good. Your blurting it out spoilt it. And it
was wicked besides.

GREGORY. Not at all. You see, it's a great many years since I've been
able to allow myself to fall in love. I know lots of charming women;
but the worst of it is, they're all married. Women don't become
charming, to my taste, until they're fully developed; and by that time,
if they're really nice, they're snapped up and married. And then,
because I am a good man, I have to place a limit to my regard for them.
I may be fortunate enough to gain friendship and even very warm
affection from them; but my loyalty to their husbands and their hearths
and their happiness obliges me to draw a line and not overstep it. Of
course I value such affectionate regard very highly indeed. I am
surrounded with women who are most dear to me. But every one of them
has a post sticking up, if I may put it that way, with the inscription
Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted. How we all loathe that notice! In every
lovely garden, in every dell full of primroses, on every fair hillside,
we meet that confounded board; and there is always a gamekeeper round
the corner. But what is that to the horror of meeting it on every
beautiful woman, and knowing that there is a husband round the corner?
I have had this accursed board standing between me and every dear and
desirable woman until I thought I had lost the power of letting myself
fall really and wholeheartedly in love.

MRS. JUNO. Wasn't there a widow?

GREGORY. No. Widows are extraordinarily scarce in modern society.
Husbands live longer than they used to; and even when they do die,
their widows have a string of names down for their next.

MRS. JUNO. Well, what about the young girls?

GREGORY. Oh, who cares for young girls? They're sympathetic. They're
beginners. They don't attract me. I'm afraid of them.

MRS. JUNO. That's the correct thing to say to a woman of my age. But it
doesn't explain why you seem to have put your scruples in your pocket
when you met me.

GREGORY. Surely that's quite clear. I--

MRS. JUNO. No: please don't explain. I don't want to know. I take your
word for it. Besides, it doesn't matter now. Our voyage is over; and
to-morrow I start for the north to my poor father's place.

GREGORY [surprised]. Your poor father! I thought he was alive.

MRS. JUNO. So he is. What made you think he wasn't?

GREGORY. You said your POOR father.

MRS. JUNO. Oh, that's a trick of mine. Rather a silly trick, I Suppose;
but there's something pathetic to me about men: I find myself calling
them poor So-and-So when there's nothing whatever the matter with them.

GREGORY [who has listened in growing alarm]. But--I--is?-- wa--? Oh,

MRS. JUNO. What's the matter?

GREGORY. Nothing.

MRS. JUNO. Nothing! [Rising anxiously]. Nonsense: you're ill.

GREGORY. No. It was something about your late husband--

MRS. JUNO. My LATE husband! What do you mean? [clutching him,
horror-stricken]. Don't tell me he's dead.

GREGORY [rising, equally appalled]. Don't tell me he's alive.

MRS. JUNO. Oh, don't frighten me like this. Of course he's
alive--unless you've heard anything.

GREGORY. The first day we met--on the boat--you spoke to me of your
poor dear husband.

MRS. JUNO [releasing him, quite reassured]. Is that all?

GREGORY. Well, afterwards you called him poor Tops. Always poor Tops,
Our poor dear Tops. What could I think?

MRS. JUNO [sitting down again]. I wish you hadn't given me such a shock
about him; for I haven't been treating him at all well. Neither have

GREGORY [relapsing into his seat, overwhelmed]. And you mean to tell me
you're not a widow!

MRS. JUNO. Gracious, no! I'm not in black.

GREGORY. Then I have been behaving like a blackguard. I have broken my
promise to my mother. I shall never have an easy conscience again.

MRS. JUNO. I'm sorry. I thought you knew.

GREGORY. You thought I was a libertine?

MRS. JUNO. No: of course I shouldn't have spoken to you if I had
thought that. I thought you liked me, but that you knew, and would be

GREGORY [stretching his hands towards her breast]. I thought the burden
of being good had fallen from my soul at last. I saw nothing there but
a bosom to rest on: the bosom of a lovely woman of whom I could dream
without guilt. What do I see now?

MRS. JUNO. Just what you saw before.

GREGORY [despairingly]. No, no.

MRS. JUNO. What else?

GREGORY. Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted: Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted.

MRS. JUNO. They won't if they hold their tongues. Don't be such a
coward. My husband won't eat you.

GREGORY. I'm not afraid of your husband. I'm afraid of my conscience.

MRS. JUNO [losing patience]. Well! I don't consider myself at all a
badly behaved woman; for nothing has passed between us that was not
perfectly nice and friendly; but really! to hear a grown-up man talking
about promises to his mother!

GREGORY [interrupting her]. Yes, Yes: I know all about that. It's not
romantic: it's not Don Juan: it's not advanced; but we feel it all the
same. It's far deeper in our blood and bones than all the romantic
stuff. My father got into a scandal once: that was why my mother made
me promise never to make love to a married woman. And now I've done it
I can't feel honest. Don't pretend to despise me or laugh at me. You
feel it too. You said just now that your own conscience was uneasy when
you thought of your husband. What must it be when you think of my wife?

MRS. JUNO [rising aghast]. Your wife!!! You don't dare sit there and
tell me coolly that you're a married man!

GREGORY. I never led you to believe I was unmarried.

MRS. JUNO. Oh! You never gave me the faintest hint that you had a wife.

GREGORY. I did indeed. I discussed things with you that only married
people really understand.


GREGORY. I thought it the most delicate way of letting you know.

MRS. JUNO. Well, you ARE a daisy, I must say. I suppose that's vulgar;
but really! really!! You and your goodness! However, now we've found
one another out there's only one thing to be done. Will you please go?

GREGORY [rising slowly].  I OUGHT to go.

MRS. JUNO. Well, go.

GREGORY. Yes. Er--[he tries to go]. I--I somehow can't. [He sits down
again helplessly]. My conscience is active: my will is paralyzed. This
is really dreadful. Would you mind ringing the bell and asking them to
throw me out? You ought to, you know.

MRS. JUNO. What! make a scandal in the face of the whole hotel!
Certainly not. Don't be a fool.

GREGORY. Yes; but I can't go.

MRS. JUNO. Then I can. Goodbye.

GREGORY [clinging to her hand]. Can you really?

MRS. JUNO. Of course I--[she wavers]. Oh, dear! [They contemplate one
another helplessly]. I can't. [She sinks on the lounge, hand in hand
with him].

GREGORY. For heaven's sake pull yourself together. It's a question of

MRS. JUNO [dragging her hand away and retreating to the end of the
chesterfield]. No: it's a question of distance. Self-control is all
very well two or three yards off, or on a ship, with everybody looking
on. Don't come any nearer.

GREGORY. This is a ghastly business. I want to go away; and I can't.

MRS. JUNO. I think you ought to go [he makes an effort; and she adds
quickly] but if you try I shall grab you round the neck and disgrace
myself. I implore you to sit still and be nice.

GREGORY. I implore you to run away. I believe I can trust myself to let
you go for your own sake. But it will break my heart.

MRS. JUNO. I don't want to break your heart. I can't bear to think of
your sitting here alone. I can't bear to think of sitting alone myself
somewhere else. It's so senseless--so ridiculous--when we might be so
happy. I don't want to be wicked, or coarse. But I like you very much;
and I do want to be affectionate and human.

GREGORY. I ought to draw a line.

MRS. JUNO. So you shall, dear. Tell me: do you really like me? I don't
mean LOVE me: you might love the housemaid--

GREGORY [vehemently]. No!

MRS. JUNO. Oh, yes you might; and what does that matter, anyhow? Are
you really fond of me? Are we friends--comrades? Would you be sorry if
I died?

GREGORY [shrinking]. Oh, don't.

MRS. JUNO. Or was it the usual aimless man's lark: a mere shipboard

GREGORY. Oh, no, no: nothing half so bad, so vulgar, so wrong. I assure
you I only meant to be agreeable. It grew on me before I noticed it.

MRS. JUNO. And you were glad to let it grow?

GREGORY. I let it grow because the board was not up.

MRS. JUNO. Bother the board! I am just as fond of Sibthorpe as--

GREGORY. Sibthorpe!

MRS. JUNO. Sibthorpe is my husband's Christian name. I oughtn't to call
him Tops to you now.

GREGORY [chuckling]. It sounded like something to drink. But I have no
right to laugh at him. My Christian name is Gregory, which sounds like
a powder.

MRS. JUNO [chilled]. That is so like a man! I offer you my heart's
warmest friendliest feeling; and you think of nothing but a silly joke.
A quip like that makes you forget me.

GREGORY. Forget you! Oh, if I only could!

MRS. JUNO. If you could, would you?

GREGORY [burying his shamed face in his hands]. No: I'd die first. Oh,
I hate myself.

MRS. JUNO. I glory in myself. It's so jolly to be reckless. CAN a man
be reckless, I wonder.

GREGORY [straightening himself desperately]. No. I'm not reckless. I
know what I'm doing: my conscience is awake. Oh, where is the
intoxication of love? the delirium? the madness that makes a man think
the world well lost for the woman he adores? I don't think anything of
the sort: I see that it's not worth it: I know that it's wrong: I have
never in my life been cooler, more businesslike.

MRS. JUNO. [opening her arms to him] But you can't resist me.

GREGORY. I must. I ought [throwing himself into her arms]. Oh, my
darling, my treasure, we shall be sorry for this.

MRS. JUNO. We can forgive ourselves. Could we forgive ourselves if we
let this moment slip?

GREGORY. I protest to the last. I'm against this. I have been pushed
over a precipice. I'm innocent. This wild joy, this exquisite
tenderness, this ascent into heaven can thrill me to the uttermost
fibre of my heart [with a gesture of ecstasy she hides her face on his
shoulder]; but it can't subdue my mind or corrupt my conscience, which
still shouts to the skies that I'm not a willing party to this
outrageous conduct. I repudiate the bliss with which you are filling me.

MRS. JUNO. Never mind your conscience. Tell me how happy you are.

GREGORY. No, I recall you to your duty. But oh, I will give you my life
with both hands if you can tell me that you feel for me one millionth
part of what I feel for you now.

MRS. JUNO. Oh, yes, yes. Be satisfied with that. Ask for no more. Let
me go.

GREGORY. I can't. I have no will. Something stronger than either of us
is in command here. Nothing on earth or in heaven can part us now. You
know that, don't you?

MRS. JUNO. Oh, don't make me say it. Of course I know. Nothing--not
life nor death nor shame nor anything can part us.


The two recover with a violent start; release one another; and spring
back to opposite sides of the lounge.

GREGORY. That did it.

MRS. JUNO [in a thrilling whisper] Sh--sh--sh! That was my husband's

GREGORY. Impossible: it's only our guilty fancy.

A WOMAN'S VOICE. This is the way to the lounge. I know it.

GREGORY. Great Heaven! we're both mad. That's my wife's voice.

MRS. JUNO. Ridiculous! Oh! we're dreaming it all. We [the door opens;
and Sibthorpe Juno appears in the roseate glow of the corridor (which
happens to be papered in pink) with Mrs. Lunn, like Tannhauser in the
hill of Venus. He is a fussily energetic little man, who gives himself
an air of gallantry by greasing the points of his moustaches and
dressing very carefully. She is a tall, imposing, handsome, languid
woman, with flashing dark eyes and long lashes. They make for the
chesterfield, not noticing the two palpitating figures blotted against
the walls in the gloom on either side. The figures flit away
noiselessly through the window and disappear].

JUNO [officiously] Ah: here we are. [He leads the way to the sofa]. Sit
down: I'm sure you're tired. [She sits]. That's right. [He sits beside
her on her left]. Hullo! [he rises] this sofa's quite warm.

MRS. LUNN [bored] Is it? I don't notice it. I expect the sun's been on

JUNO. I felt it quite distinctly: I'm more thinly clad than you. [He
sits down again, and proceeds, with a sigh of satisfaction]. What a
relief to get off the ship and have a private room! That's the worst of
a ship. You're under observation all the time.

MRS. LUNN. But why not?

JUNO. Well, of course there's no reason: at least I suppose not. But,
you know, part of the romance of a journey is that a man keeps
imagining that something might happen; and he can't do that if there
are a lot of people about and it simply can't happen.

MRS. LUNN. Mr. Juno: romance is all very well on board ship; but when
your foot touches the soil of England there's an end of it.

JUNO. No: believe me, that's a foreigner's mistake: we are the most
romantic people in the world, we English. Why, my very presence here is
a romance.

MRS. LUNN [faintly ironical] Indeed?

JUNO. Yes. You've guessed, of course, that I'm a married man.

MRS. LUNN. Oh, that's all right. I'm a married woman.

JUNO. Thank Heaven for that! To my English mind, passion is not real
passion without guilt. I am a red-blooded man, Mrs. Lunn: I can't help
it. The tragedy of my life is that I married, when quite young, a woman
whom I couldn't help being very fond of. I longed for a guilty
passion--for the real thing--the wicked thing; and yet I couldn't care
twopence for any other woman when my wife was about. Year after year
went by: I felt my youth slipping away without ever having had a
romance in my life; for marriage is all very well; but it isn't
romance. There's nothing wrong in it, you see.

MRS. LUNN. Poor man! How you must have suffered!

JUNO. No: that was what was so tame about it. I wanted to suffer. You
get so sick of being happily married. It's always the happy marriages
that break up. At last my wife and I agreed that we ought to take a

MRS. LUNN. Hadn't you holidays every year?

JUNO. Oh, the seaside and so on! That's not what we meant. We meant a
holiday from one another.

MRS. LUNN. How very odd!

JUNO. She said it was an excellent idea; that domestic felicity was
making us perfectly idiotic; that she wanted a holiday, too. So we
agreed to go round the world in opposite directions. I started for Suez
on the day she sailed for New York.

MRS. LUNN [suddenly becoming attentive] That's precisely what Gregory
and I did. Now I wonder did he want a holiday from me! What he said was
that he wanted the delight of meeting me after a long absence.

JUNO. Could anything be more romantic than that? Would anyone else than
an Englishman have thought of it? I daresay my temperament seems tame
to your boiling southern blood--

MRS. LUNN. My what!

JUNO. Your southern blood. Don't you remember how you told me, that
night in the saloon when I sang "Farewell and adieu to you dear Spanish
ladies," that you were by birth a lady of Spain? Your splendid
Andalusian beauty speaks for itself.

MRS. LUNN. Stuff! I was born in Gibraltar. My father was Captain
Jenkins. In the artillery.

JUNO [ardently] It is climate and not race that determines the
temperament. The fiery sun of Spain blazed on your cradle; and it
rocked to the roar of British cannon.

MRS. LUNN. What eloquence! It reminds me of my husband when he was in
love before we were married. Are you in love?

JUNO. Yes; and with the same woman.

MRS. LUNN. Well, of course, I didn't suppose you were in love with two

JUNO. I don't think you quite understand. I meant that I am in love
with you.

MRS. LUNN [relapsing into deepest boredom] Oh, that! Men do fall in
love with me. They all seem to think me a creature with volcanic
passions: I'm sure I don't know why; for all the volcanic women I know
are plain little creatures with sandy hair. I don't consider human
volcanoes respectable. And I'm so tired of the subject! Our house is
always full of women who are in love with my husband and men who are in
love with me. We encourage it because it's pleasant to have company.

JUNO. And is your husband as insensible as yourself?

MRS. LUNN. Oh, Gregory's not insensible: very far from it; but I am the
only woman in the world for him.

JUNO. But you? Are you really as insensible as you say you are?

MRS. LUNN. I never said anything of the kind. I'm not at all insensible
by nature; but (I don't know whether you've noticed it) I am what
people call rather a fine figure of a woman.

JUNO [passionately] Noticed it! Oh, Mrs. Lunn! Have I been able to
notice anything else since we met?

MRS. LUNN. There you go, like all the rest of them! I ask you, how do
you expect a woman to keep up what you call her sensibility when this
sort of thing has happened to her about three times a week ever since
she was seventeen? It used to upset me and terrify me at first. Then I
got rather a taste for it. It came to a climax with Gregory: that was
why I married him. Then it became a mild lark, hardly worth the
trouble. After that I found it valuable once or twice as a spinal tonic
when I was run down; but now it's an unmitigated bore. I don't mind
your declaration: I daresay it gives you a certain pleasure to make it.
I quite understand that you adore me; but (if you don't mind) I'd
rather you didn't keep on saying so.

JUNO. Is there then no hope for me?

MRS. LUNN. Oh, yes. Gregory has an idea that married women keep lists
of the men they'll marry if they become widows. I'll put your name
down, if that will satisfy you.

JUNO. Is the list a long one?

MRS. LUNN. Do you mean the real list? Not the one I show to Gregory:
there are hundreds of names on that; but the little private list that
he'd better not see?

JUNO. Oh, will you really put me on that? Say you will.

MRS. LUNN. Well, perhaps I will. [He kisses her hand]. Now don't begin
abusing the privilege.

JUNO. May I call you by your Christian name?

MRS. LUNN. No: it's too long. You can't go about calling a woman

JUNO [ecstatically] Seraphita!

MRS. LUNN. I used to be called Sally at home; but when I married a man
named Lunn, of course that became ridiculous. That's my one little pet
joke. Call me Mrs. Lunn for short. And change the subject, or I shall
go to sleep.

JUNO. I can't change the subject. For me there is no other subject. Why
else have you put me on your list?

MRS. LUNN. Because you're a solicitor. Gregory's a solicitor. I'm
accustomed to my husband being a solicitor and telling me things he
oughtn't to tell anybody.

JUNO [ruefully] Is that all? Oh, I can't believe that the voice of love
has ever thoroughly awakened you.

MRS. LUNN. No: it sends me to sleep. [Juno appeals against this by an
amorous demonstration]. It's no use, Mr. Juno: I'm hopelessly
respectable: the Jenkinses always were. Don't you realize that unless
most women were like that, the world couldn't go on as it does?

JUNO [darkly] You think it goes on respectably; but I can tell you as a

MRS. LUNN. Stuff! of course all the disreputable people who get into
trouble go to you, just as all the sick people go to the doctors; but
most people never go to a solicitor.

JUNO [rising, with a growing sense of injury] Look here, Mrs. Lunn: do
you think a man's heart is a potato? or a turnip? or a ball of knitting
wool? that you can throw it away like this?

MRS. LUNN. I don't throw away balls of knitting wool. A man's heart
seems to me much like a sponge: it sops up dirty water as well as clean.

JUNO. I have never been treated like this in my life. Here am I, a
married man, with a most attractive wife: a wife I adore, and who
adores me, and has never as much as looked at any other man since we
were married. I come and throw all this at your feet. I! I, a
solicitor! braving the risk of your husband putting me into the divorce
court and making me a beggar and an outcast! I do this for your sake.
And you go on as if I were making no sacrifice: as if I had told you
it's a fine evening, or asked you to have a cup of tea. It's not human.
It's not right. Love has its rights as well as respectability [he sits
down again, aloof and sulky].

MRS. LUNN. Nonsense! Here, here's a flower [she gives him one]. Go and
dream over it until you feel hungry. Nothing brings people to their
senses like hunger.

JUNO [contemplating the flower without rapture] What good's this?

MRS. LUNN [snatching it from him] Oh! you don't love me a bit.

JUNO. Yes I do. Or at least I did. But I'm an Englishman; and I think
you ought to respect the conventions of English life.

MRS. LUNN. But I am respecting them; and you're not.

JUNO. Pardon me. I may be doing wrong; but I'm doing it in a proper and
customary manner. You may be doing right; but you're doing it in an
unusual and questionable manner. I am not prepared to put up with that.
I can stand being badly treated: I'm no baby, and can take care of
myself with anybody. And of course I can stand being well treated. But
the thing I can't stand is being unexpectedly treated, It's outside my
scheme of life. So come now! you've got to behave naturally and
straightforwardly with me. You can leave husband and child, home,
friends, and country, for my sake, and come with me to some southern
isle--or say South America--where we can be all in all to one another.
Or you can tell your husband and let him jolly well punch my head if he
can. But I'm damned if I'm going to stand any eccentricity. It's not

GREGORY [coming in from the terrace and advancing with dignity to his
wife's end of the chesterfield]. Will you have the goodness, sir, in
addressing this lady, to keep your temper and refrain from using
profane language?

MRS. LUNN [rising, delighted] Gregory! Darling [she enfolds him in a
copious embrace]!

JUNO [rising] You make love to another man to my face!

MRS. LUNN. Why, he's my husband.

JUNO. That takes away the last rag of excuse for such conduct. A nice
world it would be if married people were to carry on their endearments
before everybody!

GREGORY. This is ridiculous. What the devil business is it of yours
what passes between my wife and myself? You're not her husband, are you?

JUNO. Not at present; but I'm on the list. I'm her prospective husband:
you're only her actual one. I'm the anticipation: you're the

MRS. LUNN. Oh, my Gregory is not a disappointment. [Fondly] Are you,

GREGORY. You just wait, my pet. I'll settle this chap for you. [He
disengages himself from her embrace, and faces Juno. She sits down
placidly]. You call me a disappointment, do you? Well, I suppose every
husband's a disappointment. What about yourself? Don't try to look like
an unmarried man. I happen to know the lady you disappointed. I
travelled in the same ship with her; and--

JUNO. And you fell in love with her.

GREGORY [taken aback] Who told you that?

JUNO. Aha! you confess it. Well, if you want to know, nobody told me.
Everybody falls in love with my wife.

GREGORY. And do you fall in love with everybody's wife?

JUNO. Certainly not. Only with yours.

MRS. LUNN. But what's the good of saying that, Mr. Juno? I'm married to
him; and there's an end of it.

JUNO. Not at all. You can get a divorce.

MRS. LUNN. What for?

JUNO. For his misconduct with my wife.

GREGORY [deeply indignant] How dare you, sir, asperse the character of
that sweet lady? a lady whom I have taken under my protection.

JUNO. Protection!

MRS. JUNO [returning hastily] Really you must be more careful what you
say about me, Mr. Lunn.

JUNO. My precious! [He embraces her]. Pardon this betrayal of my
feeling; but I've not seen my wife for several weeks; and she is very
dear to me.

GREGORY. I call this cheek. Who is making love to his own wife before
people now, pray?

MRS. LUNN. Won't you introduce me to your wife, Mr. Juno?

MRS. JUNO. How do you do? [They shake hands; and Mrs. Juno sits down
beside Mrs. Lunn, on her left].

MRS. LUNN. I'm so glad to find you do credit to Gregory's taste. I'm
naturally rather particular about the women he falls in love with.

JUNO [sternly] This is no way to take your husband's unfaithfulness.
[To Lunn] You ought to teach your wife better. Where's her feelings?
It's scandalous.

GREGORY. What about your own conduct, pray?

JUNO. I don't defend it; and there's an end of the matter.

GREGORY. Well, upon my soul! What difference does your not defending it

JUNO. A fundamental difference. To serious people I may appear wicked.
I don't defend myself: I am wicked, though not bad at heart. To
thoughtless people I may even appear comic. Well, laugh at me: I have
given myself away. But Mrs. Lunn seems to have no opinion at all about
me. She doesn't seem to know whether I'm wicked or comic. She doesn't
seem to care. She has no more sense. I say it's not right. I repeat, I
have sinned; and I'm prepared to suffer.

MRS. JUNO. Have you really sinned, Tops?

MRS. LUNN [blandly] I don't remember your sinning. I have a shocking
bad memory for trifles; but I think I should remember that--if you mean

JUNO [raging] Trifles! I have fallen in love with a monster.

GREGORY. Don't you dare call my wife a monster.

MRS. JUNO [rising quickly and coming between them]. Please don't lose
your temper, Mr. Lunn: I won't have my Tops bullied.

GREGORY. Well, then, let him not brag about sinning with my wife. [He
turns impulsively to his wife; makes her rise; and takes her proudly on
his arm]. What pretension has he to any such honor?

JUNO. I sinned in intention. [Mrs. Juno abandons him and resumes her
seat, chilled]. I'm as guilty as if I had actually sinned. And I insist
on being treated as a sinner, and not walked over as if I'd done
nothing, by your wife or any other man.

MRS. LUNN. Tush! [She sits down again contemptuously].

JUNO [furious] I won't be belittled.

MRS. LUNN [to Mrs. Juno] I hope you'll come and stay with us now that
you and Gregory are such friends, Mrs. Juno.

JUNO. This insane magnanimity--

MRS. LUNN. Don't you think you've said enough, Mr. Juno? This is a
matter for two women to settle. Won't you take a stroll on the beach
with my Gregory while we talk it over. Gregory is a splendid listener.

JUNO. I don't think any good can come of a conversation between Mr.
Lunn and myself. We can hardly be expected to improve one another's
morals. [He passes behind the chesterfield to Mrs. Lunn's end; seizes a
chair; deliberately pushes it between Gregory and Mrs. Lunn; and sits
down with folded arms, resolved not to budge].

GREGORY. Oh! Indeed! Oh, all right. If you come to that--[he crosses to
Mrs. Juno; plants a chair by her side; and sits down with equal

JUNO. Now we are both equally guilty.

GREGORY. Pardon me. I'm not guilty.

JUNO. In intention. Don't quibble. You were guilty in intention, as I

GREGORY. No. I should rather describe myself guilty in fact, but not in

  JUNO            { rising and     }  What!
  MRS. JUNO       { exclaiming     }  No, really--
  MRS. LUNN       { simultaneously }  Gregory!

GREGORY. Yes: I maintain that I am responsible for my intentions only,
and not for reflex actions over which I have no control. [Mrs. Juno
sits down, ashamed]. I promised my mother that I would never tell a
lie, and that I would never make love to a married woman. I never have
told a lie--

MRS. LUNN [remonstrating] Gregory! [She sits down again].

GREGORY. I say never. On many occasions I have resorted to
prevarication; but on great occasions I have always told the truth. I
regard this as a great occasion; and I won't be intimidated into
breaking my promise. I solemnly declare that I did not know until this
evening that Mrs. Juno was married. She will bear me out when I say
that from that moment my intentions were strictly and resolutely
honorable; though my conduct, which I could not control and am
therefore not responsible for, was disgraceful--or would have been had
this gentleman not walked in and begun making love to my wife under my
very nose.

JUNO [flinging himself back into his chair] Well, I like this!

MRS. LUNN. Really, darling, there's no use in the pot calling the
kettle black.

GREGORY. When you say darling, may I ask which of us you are addressing?

MRS. LUNN. I really don't know. I'm getting hopelessly confused.

JUNO. Why don't you let my wife say something? I don't think she ought
to be thrust into the background like this.

MRS. LUNN. I'm sorry, I'm sure. Please excuse me, dear.

MRS. JUNO [thoughtfully] I don't know what to say. I must think over
it. I have always been rather severe on this sort of thing; but when it
came to the point I didn't behave as I thought I should behave. I
didn't intend to be wicked; but somehow or other, Nature, or whatever
you choose to call it, didn't take much notice of my intentions.
[Gregory instinctively seeks her hand and presses it]. And I really did
think, Tops, that I was the only woman in the world for you.

JUNO [cheerfully] Oh, that's all right, my precious. Mrs. Lunn thought
she was the only woman in the world for him.

GREGORY [reflectively] So she is, in a sort of a way.

JUNO [flaring up] And so is my wife. Don't you set up to be a better
husband than I am; for you're not. I've owned I'm wrong. You haven't.

MRS. LUNN. Are you sorry, Gregory?

GREGORY [perplexed] Sorry?

MRS. LUNN. Yes, sorry. I think it's time for you to say you're sorry,
and to make friends with Mr. Juno before we all dine together.

GREGORY. Seraphita: I promised my mother--

MRS. JUNO [involuntarily] Oh, bother your mother! [Recovering herself]
I beg your pardon.

GREGORY. A promise is a promise. I can't tell a deliberate lie. I know
I ought to be sorry; but the flat fact is that I'm not sorry. I find
that in this business, somehow or other, there is a disastrous
separation between  my moral principles and my conduct.

JUNO. There's nothing disastrous about it. It doesn't matter about your
principles if your conduct is all right.

GREGORY. Bosh! It doesn't matter about your principles if your conduct
is all right.

JUNO. But your conduct isn't all right; and my principles are.

GREGORY. What's the good of your principles being right if they won't

JUNO. They WILL work, sir, if you exercise self-sacrifice.

GREGORY. Oh yes: if, if, if. You know jolly well that self-sacrifice
doesn't work either when you really want a thing. How much have you
sacrificed yourself, pray?

MRS. LUNN. Oh, a great deal, Gregory. Don't be rude. Mr. Juno is a very
nice man: he has been most attentive to me on the voyage.

GREGORY. And Mrs. Juno's a very nice woman. She oughtn't to be; but she

JUNO. Why oughtn't she to be a nice woman, pray?

GREGORY. I mean she oughtn't to be nice to me. And you oughtn't to be
nice to my wife. And your wife oughtn't to like me. And my wife
oughtn't to like you. And if they do, they oughtn't to go on liking us.
And I oughtn't to like your wife; and you oughtn't to like mine; and if
we do we oughtn't to go on liking them. But we do, all of us. We
oughtn't; but we do.

JUNO. But, my dear boy, if we admit we are in the wrong where's the
harm of it? We're not perfect; but as long as we keep the ideal before


JUNO. By admitting we were wrong.

MRS. LUNN [springing up, out of patience, and pacing round the lounge
intolerantly] Well, really, I must have my dinner. These two men, with
their morality, and their promises to their mothers, and their
admissions that they were wrong, and their sinning and suffering, and
their going on at one another as if it meant anything, or as if it
mattered, are getting on my nerves. [Stooping over the back of the
chesterfield to address Mrs. Juno] If you will be so very good, my
dear, as to take my sentimental husband off my hands occasionally, I
shall be more than obliged to you: I'm sure you can stand more male
sentimentality than I can. [Sweeping away to the fireplace] I, on my
part, will do my best to amuse your excellent husband when you find him

JUNO. I call this polyandry.

MRS. LUNN. I wish you wouldn't call innocent things by offensive names,
Mr. Juno. What do you call your own conduct?

JUNO [rising] I tell you I have admitted--

  GREGORY    {          } What's the good of keeping on at that?
  MRS. JUNO  { together } Oh, not that again, please.
  MRS. LUNN  {          } Tops: I'll scream if you say that again.

JUNO. Oh, well, if you won't listen to me--! [He sits down again].

MRS. JUNO. What is the position now exactly? [Mrs. Lunn shrugs her
shoulders and gives up the conundrum. Gregory looks at Juno. Juno turns
away his head huffily]. I mean, what are we going to do?

MRS. LUNN. What would you advise, Mr. Juno?

JUNO. I should advise you to divorce your husband.

MRS. LUNN. Do you want me to drag your wife into court and disgrace her?

JUNO. No: I forgot that. Excuse me; but for the moment I thought I was
married to you.

GREGORY. I think we had better let bygones be bygones. [To Mrs. Juno,
very tenderly] You will forgive me, won't you? Why should you let a
moment's forgetfulness embitter all our future life?

MRS. JUNO. But it's Mrs. Lunn who has to forgive you.

GREGORY. Oh, dash it, I forgot. This is getting ridiculous.

MRS. LUNN. I'm getting hungry.

MRS. JUNO. Do you really mind, Mrs. Lunn?

MRS. LUNN. My dear Mrs. Juno, Gregory is one of those terribly uxorious
men who ought to have ten wives. If any really nice woman will take him
off my hands for a day or two occasionally, I shall be greatly obliged
to her.

GREGORY. Seraphita: you cut me to the soul [he weeps].

MRs. LUNN. Serve you right! You'd think it quite proper if it cut me to
the soul.

MRS. JUNO. Am I to take Sibthorpe off your hands too, Mrs. Lunn?

JUNO [rising] Do you suppose I'll allow this?

MRS. JUNO. You've admitted that you've done wrong, Tops. What's the use
of your allowing or not allowing after that?

JUNO. I do not admit that I have done wrong. I admit that what I did
was wrong.

GREGORY. Can you explain the distinction?

JUNO. It's quite plain to anyone but an imbecile. If you tell me I've
done something wrong you insult me. But if you say that something that
I did is wrong you simply raise a question of morals. I tell you flatly
if you say I did anything wrong you will have to fight me. In fact I
think we ought to fight anyhow. I don't particularly want to; but I
feel that England expects us to.

GREGORY. I won't fight. If you beat me my wife would share my
humiliation. If I beat you, she would sympathize with you and loathe me
for my brutality.

MRS. LUNN. Not to mention that as we are human beings and not reindeer
or barndoor fowl, if two men presumed to fight for us we couldn't
decently ever speak to either of them again.

GREGORY. Besides, neither of us could beat the other, as we neither of
us know how to fight. We should only blacken each other's eyes and make
fools of ourselves.

JUNO. I don't admit that. Every Englishman can use his fists.

GREGORY. You're an Englishman. Can you use yours?

JUNO. I presume so: I never tried.

MRS. JUNO. You never told me you couldn't fight, Tops. I thought you
were an accomplished boxer.

JUNO. My precious: I never gave you any ground for such a belief.

MRS. JUNO. You always talked as if it were a matter of course. You
spoke with the greatest contempt of men who didn't kick other men

JUNO. Well, I can't kick Mr. Lunn downstairs. We're on the ground floor.

MRS. JUNO. You could throw him into the harbor.

GREGORY. Do you want me to be thrown into the harbor?

MRS. JUNO. No: I only want to show Tops that he's making a ghastly fool
of himself.

GREGORY [rising and prowling disgustedly between the chesterfield and
the windows] We're all making fools of ourselves.

JUNO [following him] Well, if we're not to fight, I must insist at
least on your never speaking to my wife again.

GREGORY. Does my speaking to your wife do you any harm?

JUNO. No. But it's the proper course to take. [Emphatically]. We MUST
behave with some sort of decency.

MRS. LUNN. And are you never going to speak to me again, Mr. Juno?

JUNO. I'm prepared to promise never to do so. I think your husband has
a right to demand that. Then if I speak to you after, it will not be
his fault. It will be a breach of my promise; and I shall not attempt
to defend my conduct.

GREGORY [facing him] I shall talk to your wife as often as she'll let

MRS. JUNO. I have no objection to your speaking to me, Mr. Lunn.

JUNO. Then I shall take steps.

GREGORY. What steps?

Juno. Steps. Measures. Proceedings. What steps as may seem advisable.

MRS. LUNN [to Mrs. Juno] Can your husband afford a scandal, Mrs. Juno?


MRS. LUNN. Neither can mine.

GREGORY. Mrs. Juno: I'm very sorry I let you in for all this. I don't
know how it is that we contrive to make feelings like ours, which seems
to me to be beautiful and sacred feelings, and which lead to such
interesting and exciting adventures, end in vulgar squabbles and
degrading scenes.

JUNO. I decline to admit that my conduct has been vulgar or degrading.

GREGORY. I promised--

JUNO. Look here, old chap: I don't say a word against your mother; and
I'm sorry she's dead; but really, you know, most women are mothers; and
they all die some time or other; yet that doesn't make them infallible
authorities on morals, does it?

GREGORY. I was about to say so myself. Let me add that if you do things
merely because you think some other fool expects you to do them, and he
expects you to do them because he thinks you expect him to expect you
to do them, it will end in everybody doing what nobody wants to do,
which is in my opinion a silly state of things.

JUNO. Lunn: I love your wife; and that's all about it.

GREGORY. Juno: I love yours. What then?

JUNO. Clearly she must never see you again.

MRS. JUNO. Why not?

JUNO. Why not! My love: I'm surprised at you.

MRS. JUNO. Am I to speak only to men who dislike me?

JUNO. Yes: I think that is, properly speaking, a married woman's duty.

MRS. JUNO. Then I won't do it: that's flat. I like to be liked. I like
to be loved. I want everyone round me to love me. I don't want to meet
or speak to anyone who doesn't like me.

JUNO. But, my precious, this is the most horrible immorality.

MRS. LUNN. I don't intend to give up meeting you, Mr. Juno. You amuse
me very much. I don't like being loved: it bores me. But I do like to
be amused.

JUNO. I hope we shall meet very often. But I hope also we shall not
defend our conduct.

MRS. JUNO [rising] This is unendurable. We've all been flirting. Need
we go on footling about it?

JUNO [huffily] I don't know what you call footling--

MRS. JUNO [cutting him short] You do. You're footling. Mr. Lunn is
footling. Can't we admit that we're human and have done with it?

JUNO. I have admitted it all along. I--

MRS. JUNO [almost screaming] Then stop footling.

The dinner gong sounds.

MRS. LUNN [rising] Thank heaven! Let's go in to dinner. Gregory: take
in Mrs. Juno.

GREGORY. But surely I ought to take in our guest, and not my own wife.

MRS. LUNN. Well, Mrs. Juno is not your wife, is she?

GREGORY. Oh, of course: I beg your pardon. I'm hopelessly confused. [He
offers his arm to Mrs. Juno, rather apprehensively].

MRS. JUNO. You seem quite afraid of me [she takes his arm].

GREGORY. I am. I simply adore you. [They go out together; and as they
pass through the door he turns and says in a ringing voice to the other
couple] I have said to Mrs. Juno that I simply adore her. [He takes her
out defiantly].

MRS. LUNN [calling after him] Yes, dear. She's a darling. [To Juno]
Now, Sibthorpe.

JUNO [giving her his arm gallantly] You have called me Sibthorpe! Thank
you. I think Lunn's conduct fully justifies me in allowing you to do it.

MRS. LUNN. Yes: I think you may let yourself go now.

JUNO. Seraphita: I worship you beyond expression.

MRS. LUNN. Sibthorpe: you amuse me beyond description. Come. [They go
in to dinner together].

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