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Title: Exiles
Author: Joyce, James
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.

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

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Exiles

A Play in Three Acts

By James Joyce



Contents

First Act

Second Act

Third Act



Characters

RICHARD ROWAN, a writer.
BERTHA.
ARCHIE, their son, aged eight years.
ROBERT HAND, journalist.
BEATRICE JUSTICE, his cousin, music teacher.
BRIGID, an old servant of the Rowan family.
A FISHWOMAN.

At Merrion and Ranelagh, suburbs of Dublin.
Summer of the year 1912.



First Act

_The drawingroom in Richard Rowan’s house at Merrion, a suburb of
Dublin. On the right, forward, a fireplace, before which stands a low
screen. Over the mantelpiece a giltframed glass. Further back in the
right wall, folding doors leading to the parlour and kitchen. In the
wall at the back to the right a small door leading to a study. Left of
this a sideboard. On the wall above the sideboard a framed crayon
drawing of a young man. More to the left double doors with glass panels
leading out to the garden. In the wall at the left a window looking out
on the road. Forward in the same wall a door leading to the hall and the
upper part of the house. Between the window and door a lady’s davenport
stands against the wall. Near it a wicker chair. In the centre of the
room a round table. Chairs, upholstered in faded green plush, stand
round the table. To the right, forward, a smaller table with a smoking
service on it. Near it an easychair and a lounge. Cocoanut mats lie
before the fireplace, beside the lounge and before the doors. The floor
is of stained planking. The double doors at the back and the folding
doors at the right have lace curtains, which are drawn halfway. The
lower sash of the window is lifted and the window is hung with heavy
green plush curtains. The blind is pulled down to the edge of the
lifted lower sash. It is a warm afternoon in June and the room is
filled with soft sunlight which is waning._

[Brigid _and_ Beatrice Justice come in by the door on the left. Brigid
is an elderly woman, lowsized, with irongrey hair._ Beatrice Justice _is
a slender dark young woman of 27 years. She wears a wellmade navyblue
costume and an elegan simply trimmed black straw hat, and carries a
small portfolioshaped handbag.]

BRIGID.
The mistress and Master Archie is at the bath. They never expected you.
Did you send word you were back, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE.
No. I arrived just now.

BRIGID.
[_Points to the easychair._] Sit down and I’ll tell the master you are
here. Were you long in the train?

BEATRICE.
[_Sitting down._] Since morning.

BRIGID.
Master Archie got your postcard with the views of Youghal. You’re tired
out, I’m sure.

BEATRICE.
O, no. [_She coughs rather nervously._] Did he practise the piano while
I was away?

BRIGID.
[_Laughs heartily._] Practice, how are you! Is it Master Archie? He is
mad after the milkman’s horse now. Had you nice weather down there,
Miss Justice?

BEATRICE.
Rather wet, I think.

BRIGID.
[_Sympathetically._] Look at that now. And there is rain overhead too.
[_Moving towards the study._] I’ll tell him you are here.

BEATRICE.
Is Mr Rowan in?

BRIGID.
[_Points._] He is in his study. He is wearing himself out about
something he is writing. Up half the night he does be. [_Going._] I’ll
call him.

BEATRICE.
Don’t disturb him, Brigid. I can wait here till they come back if they
are not long.

BRIGID.
And I saw something in the letterbox when I was letting you in. [_She
crosses to the study door, opens it slightly and calls._] Master
Richard, Miss Justice is here for Master Archie’s lesson.

[Richard Rowan _comes in from the study and advances towards_ Beatrice,
holding out his hand. He is a tall athletic young man of a rather lazy
carriage. He has light brown hair and a moustache and wears glasses. He
is dressed in loose lightgrey tweed.]

RICHARD.
Welcome.

BEATRICE.
[_Rises and shakes hands, blushing slightly._] Good afternoon, Mr Rowan.
I did not want Brigid to disturb you.

RICHARD.
Disturb me? My goodness!

BRIGID.
There is something in the letterbox, sir.

RICHARD.
[_Takes a small bunch of keys from his pocket and hands them to her._]
Here.

[Brigid _goes out by the door at the left and is heard opening and
closing the box. A short pause. She enters with two newspapers in her
hands._]

RICHARD.
Letters?

BRIGID.
No, sir. Only them Italian newspapers.

RICHARD.
Leave them on my desk, will you?

[Brigid _hands him back the keys, leaves the newspapers in the study,
comes out again and goes out by the folding doors on the right._]

RICHARD.
Please, sit down. Bertha will be back in a moment.

[Beatrice _sits down again in the easychair._ Richard _sits beside
the table._]

RICHARD.
I had begun to think you would never come back. It is twelve days since
you were here.

BEATRICE.
I thought of that too. But I have come.

RICHARD.
Have you thought over what I told you when you were here last?

BEATRICE.
Very much.

RICHARD.
You must have known it before. Did you? [_She does not answer._] Do you
blame me?

BEATRICE.
No.

RICHARD.
Do you think I have acted towards you—badly? No? Or towards anyone?

BEATRICE.
[_Looks at him with a sad puzzled expression._] I have asked myself that
question.

RICHARD.
And the answer?

BEATRICE.
I could not answer it.

RICHARD.
If I were a painter and told you I had a book of sketches of you you
would not think it so strange, would you?

BEATRICE.
It is not quite the same case, is it?

RICHARD.
[_Smiles slightly._] Not quite. I told you also that I would not show
you what I had written unless you asked to see it. Well?

BEATRICE.
I will not ask you.

RICHARD.
[_Leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands joined._]
Would you like to see it?

BEATRICE.
Very much.

RICHARD.
Because it is about yourself?

BEATRICE.
Yes. But not only that.

RICHARD.
Because it is written by me? Yes? Even if what you would find there is
sometimes cruel?

BEATRICE.
[_Shyly._] That is part of your mind, too.

RICHARD.
Then it is my mind that attracts you? Is that it?

BEATRICE.
[_Hesitating, glances at him for an instant._] Why do you think I come
here?

RICHARD.
Why? Many reasons. To give Archie lessons. We have known one another so
many years, from childhood, Robert, you and I—haven’t we? You have
always been interested in me, before I went away and while I was away.
Then our letters to each other about my book. Now it is published. I am
here again. Perhaps you feel that some new thing is gathering in my
brain; perhaps you feel that you should know it. Is that the reason?

BEATRICE.
No.

RICHARD.
Why, then?

BEATRICE.
Otherwise I could not see you.

[_She looks at him for a moment and then turns aside quickly._]

RICHARD.
[_After a pause repeats uncertainly._] Otherwise you could not see me?

BEATRICE.
[_Suddenly confused._] I had better go. They are not coming back.
[_Rising._] Mr Rowan, I must go.

RICHARD.
[_Extending his arms._] But you are running away. Remain. Tell me what
your words mean. Are you afraid of me?

BEATRICE.
[_Sinks back again._] Afraid? No.

RICHARD.
Have you confidence in me? Do you feel that you know me?

BEATRICE.
[_Again shyly._] It is hard to know anyone but oneself.

RICHARD.
Hard to know me? I sent you from Rome the chapters of my book as I wrote
them; and letters for nine long years. Well, eight years.

BEATRICE.
Yes, it was nearly a year before your first letter came.

RICHARD.
It was answered at once by you. And from that on you have watched me in
my struggle. [_Joins his hands earnestly._] Tell me, Miss Justice, did
you feel that what you read was written for your eyes? Or that you
inspired me?

BEATRICE.
[_Shakes her head._] I need not answer that question.

RICHARD.
What then?

BEATRICE.
[_Is silent for a moment._] I cannot say it. You yourself must ask me,
Mr Rowan.

RICHARD.
[_With some vehemence._] Then that I expressed in those chapters and
letters, and in my character and life as well, something in your soul
which you could not—pride or scorn?

BEATRICE.
Could not?

RICHARD.
[_Leans towards her._] Could not because you dared not. Is that why?

BEATRICE.
[_Bends her head._] Yes.

RICHARD.
On account of others or for want of courage—which?

BEATRICE.
[_Softly._] Courage.

RICHARD.
[_Slowly._] And so you have followed me with pride and scorn also in
your heart?

BEATRICE.
And loneliness.

[_She leans her head on her hand, averting her face. Richard rises and
walks slowly to the window on the left. He looks out for some moments
and then returns towards her, crosses to the lounge and sits down near
her._]

RICHARD.
Do you love him still?

BEATRICE.
I do not even know.

RICHARD.
It was that that made me so reserved with you—then—even though I felt
your interest in me, even though I felt that I too was something in your
life.

BEATRICE.
You were.

RICHARD.
Yet that separated me from you. I was a third person, I felt. Your names
were always spoken together, Robert and Beatrice, as long as I can
remember. It seemed to me, to everyone...

BEATRICE.
We are first cousins. It is not strange that we were often together.

RICHARD.
He told me of your secret engagement with him. He had no secrets from
me; I suppose you know that.

BEATRICE.
[_Uneasily._] What happened—between us—is so long ago.
I was a child.

RICHARD.
[_Smiles maliciously._] A child? Are you sure? It was in the garden of
his mother’s house. No? [_He points towards the garden._] Over there.
You plighted your troth, as they say, with a kiss. And you gave him your
garter. Is it allowed to mention that?

BEATRICE.
[_With some reserve._] If you think it worthy of mention.

RICHARD.
I think you have not forgotten it. [_Clasping his hands quietly._] I do
not understand it. I thought, too, that after I had gone... Did my going
make you suffer?

BEATRICE.
I always knew you would go some day. I did not suffer; only I was
changed.

RICHARD.
Towards him?

BEATRICE.
Everything was changed. His life, his mind, even, seemed to change after
that.

RICHARD.
[_Musing._] Yes. I saw that you had changed when I received your first
letter after a year; after your illness, too. You even said so in your
letter.

BEATRICE.
It brought me near to death. It made me see things differently.

RICHARD.
And so a coldness began between you, little by little. Is that it?

BEATRICE.
[_Half closing her eyes._] No. Not at once. I saw in him a pale
reflection of you: then that too faded. Of what good is it to talk now?

RICHARD.
[_With a repressed energy._] But what is this that seems to hang over
you? It cannot be so tragic.

BEATRICE.
[_Calmly._] O, not in the least tragic. I shall become gradually better,
they tell me, as I grow older. As I did not die then they tell me I
shall probably live. I am given life and health again—when I cannot use
them. [_Calmly and bitterly._] I am convalescent.

RICHARD.
[_Gently._] Does nothing then in life give you peace? Surely it exists
for you somewhere.

BEATRICE.
If there were convents in our religion perhaps there. At least, I think
so at times.

RICHARD.
[_Shakes his head._] No, Miss Justice, not even there. You could not
give yourself freely and wholly.

BEATRICE.
[_Looking at him._] I would try.

RICHARD.
You would try, yes. You were drawn to him as your mind was drawn towards
mine. You held back from him. From me, too, in a different way. You
cannot give yourself freely and wholly.

BEATRICE.
[_Joins her hands softly._] It is a terribly hard thing to do, Mr
Rowan—to give oneself freely and wholly—and be happy.

RICHARD.
But do you feel that happiness is the best, the highest that we can
know?

BEATRICE.
[_With fervour._] I wish I could feel it.

RICHARD.
[_Leans back, his hands locked together behind his head._] O, if you
knew how I am suffering at this moment! For your case, too. But
suffering most of all for my own. [_With bitter force._] And how I pray
that I may be granted again my dead mother’s hardness of heart! For some
help, within me or without, I must find. And find it I will.

[_Beatrice rises, looks at him
intently, and walks away toward the garden door. She turns with
indecision, looks again at him and, coming back, leans over the
easychair._]

BEATRICE.
[_Quietly._] Did she send for you before she died, Mr Rowan?

RICHARD.
[_Lost in thought._] Who?

BEATRICE.
Your mother.

RICHARD.
[_Recovering himself, looks keenly at her for a moment._] So that, too,
was said of me here by my friends—that she sent for me before she died
and that I did not go?

BEATRICE.
Yes.

RICHARD.
[_Coldly._] She did not. She died alone, not having forgiven me, and
fortified by the rites of holy church.

BEATRICE.
Mr Rowan, why did you speak to me in such a way?

RICHARD.
[_Rises and walks nervously to and fro._] And what I suffer at this
moment you will say is my punishment.

BEATRICE.
Did she write to you? I mean before...

RICHARD.
[_Halting._] Yes. A letter of warning, bidding me break with the past,
and remember her last words to me.

BEATRICE.
[_Softly._] And does death not move you, Mr Rowan? It is an end.
Everything else is so uncertain.

RICHARD.
While she lived she turned aside from me and from mine. That is certain.

BEATRICE.
From you and from...?

RICHARD.
From Bertha and from me and from our child. And so I waited for the end
as you say; and it came.

BEATRICE.
[_Covers her face with her hands._] O, no. Surely no.

RICHARD.
[_Fiercely._] How can my words hurt her poor body that rots in the
grave? Do you think I do not pity her cold blighted love for me? I
fought against her spirit while she lived to the bitter end. [_He
presses his hand to his forehead._] It fights against me still—in here.

BEATRICE.
[_As before._] O, do not speak like that.

RICHARD.
She drove me away. On account of her I lived years in exile and poverty
too, or near it. I never accepted the doles she sent me through the
bank. I waited, too, not for her death but for some understanding of me,
her own son, her own flesh and blood; that never came.

BEATRICE.
Not even after Archie...?

RICHARD.
[_Rudely._] My son, you think? A child of sin and shame! Are you
serious? [_She raises her face and looks at him._] There were tongues
here ready to tell her all, to embitter her withering mind still more
against me and Bertha and our godless nameless child. [_Holding out his
hands to her._] Can you not hear her mocking me while I speak? You must
know the voice, surely, the voice that called you _the black
protestant_, the pervert’s daughter. [_With sudden selfcontrol._] In
any case a remarkable woman.

BEATRICE.
[_Weakly._] At least you are free now.

RICHARD.
[_Nods._] Yes, she could not alter the terms of my father’s will nor
live for ever.

BEATRICE.
[_With joined hands._] They are both gone now, Mr Rowan. They both loved
you, believe me. Their last thoughts were of you.

RICHARD.
[_Approaching, touches her lightly on the shoulder, and points to the
crayon drawing on the wall._] Do you see him there, smiling and
handsome? His last thoughts! I remember the night he died. [_He pauses
for an instant and then goes on calmly._] I was a boy of fourteen. He
called me to his bedside. He knew I wanted to go to the theatre to hear
_Carmen_. He told my mother to give me a shilling. I kissed him and
went. When I came home he was dead. Those were his last thoughts as far
as I know.

BEATRICE.
The hardness of heart you prayed for... [_She breaks off._]

RICHARD.
[_Unheeding._] That is my last memory of him. Is there not something
sweet and noble in it?

BEATRICE.
Mr Rowan, something is on your mind to make you speak like this.
Something has changed you since you came back three months ago.

RICHARD.
[_Gazing again at the drawing, calmly, almost gaily._] He will help me,
perhaps, my smiling handsome father.

[_A knock is heard at the hall door on the left._]

RICHARD.
[_Suddenly._] No, no. Not the smiler, Miss Justice. The old mother. It
is her spirit I need. I am going.

BEATRICE.
Someone knocked. They have come back.

RICHARD.
No, Bertha has a key. It is he. At least, I am going, whoever it is.

[_He goes out quickly on the left and comes back at once with his straw
hat in his hand._]

BEATRICE.
He? Who?

RICHARD.
O, probably Robert. I am going out through the garden. I cannot see him
now. Say I have gone to the post. Goodbye.

BEATRICE.
[_With growing alarm._] It is Robert you do not wish to see?

RICHARD.
[_Quietly._] For the moment, yes. This talk has upset me. Ask him to
wait.

BEATRICE.
You will come back?

RICHARD.
Please God.

[_He goes out quickly through the garden. Beatrice makes as if to follow
him and then stops after a few paces. Brigid enters by the folding doors
on the right and goes out on the left. The hall door is heard opening. A
few seconds after Brigid enters with Robert Hand. Robert Hand is a
middlesized, rather stout man between thirty and forty. He is
cleanshaven, with mobile features. His hair and eyes are dark and his
complexion sallow. His gait and speech are rather slow. He wears a dark
blue morning suit and carries in his hand a large bunch of red roses
wrapped in tissue paper._]

ROBERT.
[_Coming towards her with outstretched hand which she takes._] My
dearest coz! Brigid told me you were here. I had no notion. Did you send
mother a telegram?

BEATRICE.
[_Gazing at the roses._] No.

ROBERT.
[_Following her gaze._] You are admiring my roses. I brought them to the
mistress of the house. [_Critically._] I am afraid they are not nice.

BRIGID.
O, they are lovely, sir. The mistress will be delighted with them.

ROBERT.
[_Lays the roses carelessly on a chair out of sight._] Is nobody in?

BRIGID.
Yes, sir. Sit down, sir. They’ll be here now any moment. The master was
here.

[_She looks about her and with a half curtsey goes out on the right._]

ROBERT.
[_After a short silence._] How are you, Beatty? And how are all down in
Youghal? As dull as ever?

BEATRICE.
They were well when I left.

ROBERT.
[_Politely._] O, but I’m sorry I did not know you were coming. I would
have met you at the train. Why did you do it? You have some queer ways
about you, Beatty, haven’t you?

BEATRICE.
[_In the same tone._] Thank you, Robert. I am quite used to getting
about alone.

ROBERT.
Yes, but I mean to say... O, well, you have arrived in your own
characteristic way.

[_A noise is heard at the window and a boy’s voice is heard calling,
‘Mr Hand!’ Robert turns._]

By Jove, Archie, too, is arriving in a characteristic way!

[_Archie scrambles into the room through the open window on the left and
then rises to his feet, flushed and panting. Archie is a boy of eight
years, dressed in white breeches, jersey and cap. He wears spectacles,
has a lively manner and speaks with the slight trace of a foreign
accent._]

BEATRICE.
[_Going towards him._] Goodness gracious, Archie! What is the matter?

ARCHIE.
[_Rising, out of breath._] Eh! I ran all the avenue.

ROBERT.
[_Smiles and holds out his hand._] Good evening, Archie. Why did you
run?

ARCHIE.
[_Shakes hands._] Good evening. We saw you on the top of the tram, and I
shouted _Mr Hand!_ But you did not see me. But we saw you, mamma and I.
She will be here in a minute. I ran.

BEATRICE.
[_Holding out her hand._] And poor me!

ARCHIE.
[_Shakes hands somewhat shyly._] Good evening, Miss Justice.

BEATRICE.
Were you disappointed that I did not come last Friday for the lesson?

ARCHIE.
[_Glancing at her, smiles._] No.

BEATRICE.
Glad?

ARCHIE.
[_Suddenly._] But today it is too late.

BEATRICE.
A very short lesson?

ARCHIE.
[_Pleased._] Yes.

BEATRICE.
But now you must study, Archie.

ROBERT.
Were you at the bath?

ARCHIE.
Yes.

ROBERT.
Are you a good swimmer now?

ARCHIE.
[_Leans against the davenport._] No. Mamma won’t let me into the deep
place. Can you swim well, Mr Hand?

ROBERT.
Splendidly. Like a stone.

ARCHIE.
[_Laughs._] Like a stone! [_Pointing down._] Down that
way?

ROBERT.
[_Pointing._] Yes, down; straight down. How do you say that over in
Italy?

ARCHIE.
That? _Giù._ [_Pointing down and up._] That is _giù_ and this is
_su_. Do you want to speak to my pappie?

ROBERT.
Yes. I came to see him.

ARCHIE.
[_Going towards the study._] I will tell him. He is in there, writing.

BEATRICE.
[_Calmly, looking at Robert._] No; he is out. He is gone to the post
with some letters.

ROBERT.
[_Lightly._] O, never mind. I will wait if he is only gone to the post.

ARCHIE.
But mamma is coming. [_He glances towards the window._] Here she is!

[_Archie runs out by the door on the left. Beatrice walks slowly towards
the davenport. Robert remains standing. A short silence. Archie and
Bertha come in through the door on the left. Bertha is a young woman of
graceful build. She has dark grey eyes, patient in expression, and soft
features. Her manner is cordial and selfpossessed. She wears a lavender
dress and carries her cream gloves knotted round the handle of her
sunshade._]

BERTHA.
[_Shaking hands._] Good evening, Miss Justice. We thought you were still
down in Youghal.

BEATRICE.
[_Shaking hands._] Good evening, Mrs Rowan.

BERTHA.
[_Bows._] Good evening, Mr Hand.

ROBERT.
[_Bowing._] Good evening, _signora!_ Just imagine, I didn’t know either
she was back till I found her here.

BERTHA.
[_To both._] Did you not come together?

BEATRICE.
No. I came first. Mr Rowan was going out. He said you would be back any
moment.

BERTHA.
I’m sorry. If you had written or sent over word by the girl this
morning...

BEATRICE.
[_Laughs nervously._] I arrived only an hour and a half ago. I thought
of sending a telegram but it seemed too tragic.

BERTHA.
Ah? Only now you arrived?

ROBERT.
[_Extending his arms, blandly._] I retire from public and private life.
Her first cousin and a journalist, I know nothing of her movements.

BEATRICE.
[_Not directly to him._] My movements are not very interesting.

ROBERT.
[_In the same tone._] A lady’s movements are always interesting.

BERTHA.
But sit down, won’t you? You must be very tired.

BEATRICE.
[_Quickly._] No, not at all. I just came for Archie’s lesson.

BERTHA.
I wouldn’t hear of such a thing, Miss Justice, after your long journey.

ARCHIE.
[_Suddenly to Beatrice._] And, besides, you didn’t bring the music.

BEATRICE.
[_A little confused._] That I forgot. But we have the old piece.

ROBERT.
[_Pinching Archie’s ear._] You little scamp. You want to get off the
lesson.

BERTHA.
O, never mind the lesson. You must sit down and have a cup of tea now.
[_Going towards the door on the right._] I’ll tell Brigid.

ARCHIE.
I will, mamma. [_He makes a movement to go._]

BEATRICE.
No, please Mrs Rowan. Archie! I would really prefer...

ROBERT.
[_Quietly._] I suggest a compromise. Let it be a half-lesson.

BERTHA.
But she must be exhausted.

BEATRICE.
[_Quickly._] Not in the least. I was thinking of the lesson in the
train.

ROBERT.
[_To Bertha._] You see what it is to have a conscience, Mrs Rowan.

ARCHIE.
Of my lesson, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE.
[_Simply._] It is ten days since I heard the sound of a piano.

BERTHA.
O, very well. If that is it...

ROBERT.
[_Nervously, gaily._] Let us have the piano by all means. I know what is
in Beatty’s ears at this moment. [_To Beatrice._] Shall I tell?

BEATRICE.
If you know.

ROBERT.
The buzz of the harmonium in her father’s parlour. [_To Beatrice._]
Confess.

BEATRICE.
[_Smiling._] Yes. I can hear it.

ROBERT.
[_Grimly._] So can I. The asthmatic voice of protestantism.

BERTHA.
Did you not enjoy yourself down there, Miss Justice?

ROBERT.
[_Intervenes._] She did not, Mrs Rowan. She goes there on retreat, when
the protestant strain in her prevails—gloom, seriousness, righteousness.

BEATRICE.
I go to see my father.

ROBERT.
[_Continuing._] But she comes back here to my mother, you see. The piano
influence is from our side of the house.

BERTHA.
[_Hesitating._] Well, Miss Justice, if you would like to play
something... But please don’t fatigue yourself with Archie.

ROBERT.
[_Suavely._] Do, Beatty. That is what you want.

BEATRICE.
If Archie will come?

ARCHIE.
[_With a shrug._] To listen.

BEATRICE.
[_Takes his hand._] And a little lesson, too. Very short.

BERTHA.
Well, afterwards you must stay to tea.

BEATRICE.
[_To Archie._] Come.

[_Beatrice and Archie go out together by the door on the left. Bertha
goes towards the davenport, takes off her hat and lays it with her
sunshade on the desk. Then taking a key from a little flowervase, she
opens a drawer of the davenport, takes out a slip of paper and closes
the drawer again. Robert stands watching her._]

BERTHA.
[_Coming towards him with the paper in her hand._] You put this into my
hand last night. What does it mean?

ROBERT.
Do you not know?

BERTHA.
[_Reads._] _There is one word which I have never dared to say to you._
What is the word?

ROBERT.
That I have a deep liking for you.

[_A short pause. The piano is heard faintly from the upper room._]

ROBERT.
[_Takes the bunch of roses from the chair._] I brought these for you.
Will you take them from me?

BERTHA.
[_Taking them._] Thank you. [_She lays them on the table and unfolds the
paper again._] Why did you not dare to say it last night?

ROBERT.
I could not speak to you or follow you. There were too many people on
the lawn. I wanted you to think over it and so I put it into your hand
when you were going away.

BERTHA.
Now you have dared to say it.

ROBERT.
[_Moves his hand slowly past his eyes._] You passed. The avenue was dim
with dusky light. I could see the dark green masses of the trees. And
you passed beyond them. You were like the moon.

BERTHA.
[_Laughs._] Why like the moon?

ROBERT.
In that dress, with your slim body, walking with little even steps. I
saw the moon passing in the dusk till you passed and left my sight.

BERTHA.
Did you think of me last night?

ROBERT.
[_Comes nearer._] I think of you always—as something beautiful and
distant—the moon or some deep music.

BERTHA.
[_Smiling._] And last night which was I?

ROBERT.
I was awake half the night. I could hear your voice. I could see your
face in the dark. Your eyes... I want to speak to you. Will you listen
to me? May I speak?

BERTHA.
[_Sitting down._] You may.

ROBERT.
[_Sitting beside her._] Are you annoyed with me?

BERTHA.
No.

ROBERT.
I thought you were. You put away my poor flowers so quickly.

BERTHA.
[_Takes them from the table and holds them close to her face._] Is this
what you wish me to do with them?

ROBERT.
[_Watching her._] Your face is a flower too—but more beautiful. A wild
flower blowing in a hedge. [_Moving his chair closer to her._] Why are
you smiling? At my words?

BERTHA.
[_Laying the flowers in her lap._] I am wondering if that is what you
say—to the others.

ROBERT.
[_Surprised._] What others?

BERTHA.
The other women. I hear you have so many admirers.

ROBERT.
[_Involuntarily._] And that is why you too...?

BERTHA.
But you have, haven’t you?

ROBERT.
Friends, yes.

BERTHA.
Do you speak to them in the same way?

ROBERT.
[_In an offended tone._] How can you ask me such a question? What kind
of person do you think I am? Or why do you listen to me? Did you not
like me to speak to you in that way?

BERTHA.
What you said was very kind. [_She looks at him for a moment._] Thank
you for saying it—and thinking it.

ROBERT.
[_Leaning forward._] Bertha!

BERTHA.
Yes?

ROBERT.
I have the right to call you by your name. From old times—nine years
ago. We were Bertha—and Robert—then. Can we not be so now, too?

BERTHA.
[_Readily._] O yes. Why should we not?

ROBERT.
Bertha, you knew. From the very night you landed on Kingstown pier. It
all came back to me then. And you knew it. You saw it.

BERTHA.
No. Not that night.

ROBERT.
When?

BERTHA.
The night we landed I felt very tired and dirty. [_Shaking her head._]
I did not see it in you that night.

ROBERT.
[_Smiling._] Tell me what did you see that night—your very first
impression.

BERTHA.
[_Knitting her brows._] You were standing with your back to the
gangway, talking to two ladies.

ROBERT.
To two plain middleaged ladies, yes.

BERTHA.
I recognized you at once. And I saw that you had got fat.

ROBERT.
[_Takes her hand._] And this poor fat Robert—do you dislike him then so
much? Do you disbelieve all he says?

BERTHA.
I think men speak like that to all women whom they like or admire. What
do you want me to believe?

ROBERT.
All men, Bertha?

BERTHA.
[_With sudden sadness._] I think so.

ROBERT.
I too?

BERTHA.
Yes, Robert. I think you too.

ROBERT.
All then—without exception? Or with one exception? [_In a lower tone._]
Or is he too—Richard too—like us all—in that at least? Or different?

BERTHA.
[_Looks into his eyes._] Different.

ROBERT.
Are you quite sure, Bertha?

BERTHA.
[_A little confused, tries to withdraw her hand._] I have answered you.

ROBERT.
[_Suddenly._] Bertha, may I kiss your hand? Let me. May I?

BERTHA.
If you wish.

[_He lifts her hand to his lips slowly. She rises suddenly and
listens._]

BERTHA.
Did you hear the garden gate?

ROBERT.
[_Rising also._] No.

[_A short pause. The piano can be heard faintly from the upper room._]

ROBERT.
[_Pleading._] Do not go away. You must never go away now. Your life is
here. I came for that too today—to speak to him—to urge him to accept
this position. He must. And you must persuade him to. You have a great
influence over him.

BERTHA.
You want him to remain here.

ROBERT.
Yes.

BERTHA.
Why?

ROBERT.
For your sake because you are unhappy so far away. For his sake too
because he should think of his future.

BERTHA.
[_Laughing._] Do you remember what he said when you spoke to him last
night?

ROBERT.
About...? [_Reflecting._] Yes. He quoted the _Our Father_ about our
daily bread. He said that to take care for the future is to destroy
hope and love in the world.

BERTHA.
Do you not think he is strange?

ROBERT.
In that, yes.

BERTHA.
A little—mad?

ROBERT.
[_Comes closer._] No. He is not. Perhaps we are. Why, do
you...?

BERTHA.
[_Laughs._] I ask you because you are intelligent.

ROBERT.
You must not go away. I will not let you.

BERTHA.
[_Looks full at him._] You?

ROBERT.
Those eyes must not go away. [_He takes her hands._] May I kiss your
eyes?

BERTHA.
Do so.

[_He kisses her eyes and then passes his hand over her hair._]

ROBERT.
Little Bertha!

BERTHA.
[_Smiling._] But I am not so little. Why do you call me little?

ROBERT.
Little Bertha! One embrace? [_He puts his arm around her._] Look into
my eyes again.

BERTHA.
[_Looks._] I can see the little gold spots. So many you have.

ROBERT.
[_Delighted._] Your voice! Give me a kiss, a kiss with your mouth.

BERTHA.
Take it.

ROBERT.
I am afraid. [_He kisses her mouth and passes his hand many times over
her hair._] At last I hold you in my arms!

BERTHA.
And are you satisfied?

ROBERT.
Let me feel your lips touch mine.

BERTHA.
And then you will be satisfied?

ROBERT.
[_Murmurs._] Your lips, Bertha!

BERTHA.
[_Closes her eyes and kisses him quickly._] There. [_Puts her hands on
his shoulders._] Why don’t you say: thanks?

ROBERT.
[_Sighs._] My life is finished—over.

BERTHA.
O, don’t speak like that now, Robert.

ROBERT.
Over, over. I want to end it and have done with it.

BERTHA.
[_Concerned but lightly._] You silly fellow!

ROBERT.
[_Presses her to him._] To end it all—death. To fall from a great high
cliff, down, right down into the sea.

BERTHA.
Please, Robert...

ROBERT.
Listening to music and in the arms of the woman I love—the sea, music
and death.

BERTHA.
[_Looks at him for a moment._] The woman you love?

ROBERT.
[_Hurriedly._] I want to speak to you, Bertha—alone—not here. Will you
come?

BERTHA.
[_With downcast eyes._] I too want to speak to you.

ROBERT.
[_Tenderly._] Yes, dear, I know. [_He kisses her again._] I will speak
to you; tell you all; then. I will kiss you, then, long long
kisses—when you come to me—long long sweet kisses.

BERTHA.
Where?

ROBERT.
[_In the tone of passion._] Your eyes. Your lips. All your divine body.

BERTHA.
[_Repelling his embrace, confused._] I meant where do you wish me to
come.

ROBERT.
To my house. Not my mother’s over there. I will write the address for
you. Will you come?

BERTHA.
When?

ROBERT.
Tonight. Between eight and nine. Come. I will wait for you tonight. And
every night. You will?

[_He kisses her with passion, holding her head between his hands. After
a few instants she breaks from him. He sits down._]

BERTHA.
[_Listening._] The gate opened.

ROBERT.
[_Intensely._] I will wait for you.

[_He takes the slip from the table. Bertha moves away from him slowly.
Richard comes in from the garden._]

RICHARD.
[_Advancing, takes off his hat._] Good afternoon.

ROBERT.
[_Rises, with nervous friendliness._] Good afternoon, Richard.

BERTHA.
[_At the table, taking the roses._] Look what lovely roses Mr Hand
brought me.

ROBERT.
I am afraid they are overblown.

RICHARD.
[_Suddenly._] Excuse me for a moment, will you?

[_He turns and goes into his study quickly. Robert takes a pencil from
his pocket and writes a few words on the slip; then hands it quickly to
Bertha._]

ROBERT.
[_Rapidly._] The address. Take the tram at Lansdowne Road and ask to be
let down near there.

BERTHA.
[_Takes it._] I promise nothing.

ROBERT.
I will wait.

[_Richard comes back from the study._]

BERTHA.
[_Going._] I must put these roses in water.

RICHARD.
[_Handing her his hat._] Yes, do. And please put my hat on the rack.

BERTHA.
[_Takes it._] So I will leave you to yourselves for your talk.
[_Looking round._] Do you want anything? Cigarettes?

RICHARD.
Thanks. We have them here.

BERTHA.
Then I can go?

[_She goes out on the left with Richard’s hat, which she leaves in the
hall, and returns at once; she stops for a moment at the davenport,
replaces the slip in the drawer, locks it, and replaces the key, and,
taking the roses, goes towards the right. Robert precedes her to open
the door for her. She bows and goes out._]

RICHARD.
[_Points to the chair near the little table on the right._] Your place
of honour.

ROBERT.
[_Sits down._] Thanks. [_Passing his hand over his brow._] Good Lord,
how warm it is today! The heat pains me here in the eye. The glare.

RICHARD.
The room is rather dark, I think, with the blind down but if you
wish...

ROBERT.
[_Quickly._] Not at all. I know what it is—the result of night work.

RICHARD.
[_Sits on the lounge._] Must you?

ROBERT.
[_Sighs._] Eh, yes. I must see part of the paper through every night.
And then my leading articles. We are approaching a difficult moment.
And not only here.

RICHARD.
[_After a slight pause._] Have you any news?

ROBERT.
[_In a different voice._] Yes. I want to speak to you seriously. Today
may be an important day for you—or rather, tonight. I saw the
vicechancellor this morning. He has the highest opinion of you,
Richard. He has read your book, he said.

RICHARD.
Did he buy it or borrow it?

ROBERT.
Bought it, I hope.

RICHARD.
I shall smoke a cigarette. Thirtyseven copies have now been sold in
Dublin.

[_He takes a cigarette from the box on the table, and lights it._]

ROBERT.
[_Suavely, hopelessly._] Well, the matter is closed for the present.
You have your iron mask on today.

RICHARD.
[_Smoking._] Let me hear the rest.

ROBERT.
[_Again seriously._] Richard, you are too suspicious. It is a defect in
you. He assured me he has the highest possible opinion of you, as
everyone has. You are the man for the post, he says. In fact, he told
me that, if your name goes forward, he will work might and main for you
with the senate and I... will do my part, of course, in the press and
privately. I regard it as a public duty. The chair of romance
literature is yours by right, as a scholar, as a literary personality.

RICHARD.
The conditions?

ROBERT.
Conditions? You mean about the future?

RICHARD.
I mean about the past.

ROBERT.
[_Easily._] That episode in your past is forgotten. An act of impulse.
We are all impulsive.

RICHARD.
[_Looks fixedly at him._] You called it an act of folly, then—nine
years ago. You told me I was hanging a weight about my neck.

ROBERT.
I was wrong. [_Suavely._] Here is how the matter stands, Richard.
Everyone knows that you ran away years ago with a young girl... How
shall I put it?... with a young girl not exactly your equal.
[_Kindly._] Excuse me, Richard, that is not my opinion nor my language.
I am simply using the language of people whose opinions I don’t share.

RICHARD.
Writing one of your leading articles, in fact.

ROBERT.
Put it so. Well, it made a great sensation at the time. A mysterious
disappearance. My name was involved too, as best man, let us say, on
that famous occasion. Of course, they think I acted from a mistaken
sense of friendship. Well, all that is known. [_With some hesitation._]
But what happened afterwards is not known.

RICHARD.
No?

ROBERT.
Of course, it is your affair, Richard. However, you are not so young
now as you were then. The expression is quite in the style of my
leading articles, isn’t it?

RICHARD.
Do you, or do you not, want me to give the lie to my past life?

ROBERT.
I am thinking of your future life—here. I understand your pride and
your sense of liberty. I understand their point of view also. However,
there is a way out; it is simply this. Refrain from contradicting any
rumours you may hear concerning what happened... or did not happen
after you went away. Leave the rest to me.

RICHARD.
You will set these rumours afloat?

ROBERT.
I will. God help me.

RICHARD.
[_Observing him._] For the sake of social conventions?

ROBERT.
For the sake of something else too—our friendship, our lifelong
friendship.

RICHARD.
Thanks.

ROBERT.
[_Slightly wounded._] And I will tell you the whole truth.

RICHARD.
[_Smiles and bows._] Yes. Do, please.

ROBERT.
Not only for your sake. Also for the sake of—your present partner in
life.

RICHARD.
I see.

[_He crushes his cigarette softly on the ashtray and then leans
forward, rubbing his hands slowly._]

RICHARD.
Why for her sake?

ROBERT.
[_Also leans forward, quietly._] Richard, have you been quite fair to
her? It was her own free choice, you will say. But was she really free
to choose? She was a mere girl. She accepted all that you proposed.

RICHARD.
[_Smiles._] That is your way of saying that she proposed what I would
not accept.

ROBERT.
[_Nods._] I remember. And she went away with you. But was it of her own
free choice? Answer me frankly.

RICHARD.
[_Turns to him, calmly._] I played for her against all that you say or
can say; and I won.

ROBERT.
[_Nodding again._] Yes, you won.

RICHARD.
[_Rises._] Excuse me for forgetting. Will you have some whisky?

ROBERT.
All things come to those who wait.

[_Richard goes to the sideboard and brings a small tray with the
decanter and glasses to the table where he sets it down._]

RICHARD.
[_Sits down again, leaning back on the lounge._] Will you please help
yourself?

ROBERT.
[_Does so._] And you? Steadfast? [_Richard shakes his head._] Lord,
when I think of our wild nights long ago—talks by the hour, plans,
carouses, revelry...

RICHARD.
In our house.

ROBERT.
It is mine now. I have kept it ever since though I don’t go there
often. Whenever you like to come let me know. You must come some night.
It will be old times again. [_He lifts his glass and drinks._]
_Prosit!_

RICHARD.
It was not only a house of revelry; it was to be the hearth of a new
life. [_Musing._] And in that name all our sins were committed.

ROBERT.
Sins! Drinking and blasphemy [_he points_] by me. And drinking and
heresy, much worse [_he points again_] by you—are those the sins you
mean?

RICHARD.
And some others.

ROBERT.
[_Lightly, uneasily._] You mean the women. I have no remorse of
conscience. Maybe you have. We had two keys on those occasions.
[_Maliciously._] Have you?

RICHARD.
[_Irritated._] For you it was all quite natural?

ROBERT.
For me it is quite natural to kiss a woman whom I like. Why not? She is
beautiful for me.

RICHARD.
[_Toying with the lounge cushion._] Do you kiss everything that is
beautiful for you?

ROBERT.
Everything—if it can be kissed. [_He takes up a flat stone which lies
on the table._] This stone, for instance. It is so cool, so polished,
so delicate, like a woman’s temple. It is silent, it suffers our
passion; and it is beautiful. [_He places it against his lips._] And so
I kiss it because it is beautiful. And what is a woman? A work of
nature, too, like a stone or a flower or a bird. A kiss is an act of
homage.

RICHARD.
It is an act of union between man and woman. Even if we are often led
to desire through the sense of beauty can you say that the beautiful is
what we desire?

ROBERT.
[_Pressing the stone to his forehead._] You will give me a headache if
you make me think today. I cannot think today. I feel too natural, too
common. After all, what is most attractive in even the most beautiful
woman?

RICHARD.
What?

ROBERT.
Not those qualities which she has and other women have not but the
qualities which she has in common with them. I mean... the commonest.
[_Turning over the stone, he presses the other side to his forehead._]
I mean how her body develops heat when it is pressed, the movement of
her blood, how quickly she changes by digestion what she eats into—what
shall be nameless. [_Laughing._] I am very common today. Perhaps that
idea never struck you?

RICHARD.
[_Drily._] Many ideas strike a man who has lived nine years with a
woman.

ROBERT.
Yes. I suppose they do.... This beautiful cool stone does me good. Is
it a paperweight or a cure for headache?

RICHARD.
Bertha brought it home one day from the strand. She, too, says that it
is beautiful.

ROBERT.
[_Lays down the stone quietly._] She is right.

[_He raises his glass and drinks. A pause._]

RICHARD.
Is that all you wanted to say to me?

ROBERT.
[_Quickly._] There is something else. The vicechancellor sends you,
through me, an invitation for tonight—to dinner at his house. You know
where he lives? [_Richard nods._] I thought you might have forgotten.
Strictly private, of course. He wants to meet you again and sends you
a very warm invitation.

RICHARD.
For what hour?

ROBERT.
Eight. But, like yourself, he is free and easy about time. Now,
Richard, you must go there. That is all. I feel tonight will be the
turningpoint in your life. You will live here and work here and think
here and be honoured here—among our people.

RICHARD.
[_Smiling._] I can almost see two envoys starting for the United States
to collect funds for my statue a hundred years hence.

ROBERT.
[_Agreeably._] Once I made a little epigram about statues. All statues
are of two kinds. [_He folds his arms across his chest._] The statue
which says: _How shall I get down?_ and the other kind [_he unfolds his
arms and extends his right arm, averting his head_] the statue which
says: _In my time the dunghill was so high._

RICHARD.
The second one for me, please.

ROBERT.
[_Lazily._] Will you give me one of those long cigars of yours?

[_Richard selects a Virginia cigar from the box on the table and hands
it to him with the straw drawn out._]

ROBERT.
[_Lighting it._] These cigars Europeanize me. If Ireland is to become
a new Ireland she must first become European. And that is what you are
here for, Richard. Some day we shall have to choose between England and
Europe. I am a descendant of the dark foreigners: that is why I like to
be here. I may be childish. But where else in Dublin can I get a bandit
cigar like this or a cup of black coffee? The man who drinks black
coffee is going to conquer Ireland. And now I will take just a half
measure of that whisky, Richard, to show you there is no ill feeling.

RICHARD.
[_Points._] Help yourself.

ROBERT.
[_Does so._] Thanks. [_He drinks and goes on as before._] Then you
yourself, the way you loll on that lounge: then your boy’s voice and
also—Bertha herself. Do you allow me to call her that, Richard? I mean
as an old friend of both of you.

RICHARD.
O why not?

ROBERT.
[_With animation._] You have that fierce indignation which lacerated
the heart of Swift. You have fallen from a higher world, Richard, and
you are filled with fierce indignation, when you find that life is
cowardly and ignoble. While I... shall I tell you?

RICHARD.
By all means.

ROBERT.
[_Archly._] I have come up from a lower world and I am filled with
astonishment when I find that people have any redeeming virtue at all.

RICHARD.
[_Sits up suddenly and leans his elbows on the table._] You are my
friend, then?

ROBERT.
[_Gravely._] I fought for you all the time you were away. I fought to
bring you back. I fought to keep your place for you here. I will fight
for you still because I have faith in you, the faith of a disciple in
his master. I cannot say more than that. It may seem strange to you...
Give me a match.

RICHARD.
[_Lights and offers him a match._] There is a faith still stranger than
the faith of the disciple in his master.

ROBERT.
And that is?

RICHARD.
The faith of a master in the disciple who will betray him.

ROBERT.
The church lost a theologian in you, Richard. But I think you look too
deeply into life. [_He rises, pressing Richard’s arm slightly._] Be
gay. Life is not worth it.

RICHARD.
[_Without rising._] Are you going?

ROBERT.
Must. [_He turns and says in a friendly tone._] Then it is all
arranged. We meet tonight at the vicechancellor’s. I shall look in at
about ten. So you can have an hour or so to yourselves first. You will
wait till I come?

RICHARD.
Good.

ROBERT.
One more match and I am happy.

[_Richard strikes another match, hands it to him and rises also. Archie
comes in by the door on the left, followed by Beatrice._]

ROBERT.
Congratulate me, Beatty. I have won over Richard.

ARCHIE.
[_Crossing to the door on the right, calls._] Mamma, Miss Justice is
going.

BEATRICE.
On what are you to be congratulated?

ROBERT.
On a victory, of course. [_Laying his hand lightly on Richard’s
shoulder._] The descendant of Archibald Hamilton Rowan has come home.

RICHARD.
I am not a descendant of Hamilton Rowan.

ROBERT.
What matter?

[_Bertha comes in from the right with a bowl of roses._]

BEATRICE.
Has Mr Rowan...?

ROBERT.
[_Turning towards Bertha._] Richard is coming tonight to the
vicechancellor’s dinner. The fatted calf will be eaten: roast, I hope.
And next session will see the descendant of a namesake of etcetera,
etcetera in a chair of the university. [_He offers his hand._] Good
afternoon, Richard. We shall meet tonight.

RICHARD.
[_Touches his hand._] At Philippi.

BEATRICE.
[_Shakes hands also._] Accept my best wishes, Mr Rowan.

RICHARD.
Thanks. But do not believe him.

ROBERT.
[_Vivaciously._] Believe me, believe me. [_To Bertha._] Good afternoon,
Mrs Rowan.

BERTHA.
[_Shaking hands, candidly._] I thank you, too. [_To Beatrice._] You
won’t stay to tea, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE.
No, thank you. [_Takes leave of her._] I must go. Good afternoon.
Goodbye, Archie [_going_].

ROBERT.
_Addio_, Archibald.

ARCHIE.
_Addio_.

ROBERT.
Wait, Beatty. I shall accompany you.

BEATRICE.
[_Going out on the right with Bertha._] O, don’t trouble.

ROBERT.
[_Following her._] But I insist—as a cousin.

[_Bertha, Beatrice and Robert go out by the door on the left. Richard
stands irresolutely near the table. Archie closes the door leading to
the hall and, coming over to him, plucks him by the sleeve._]

ARCHIE.
I say, pappie!

RICHARD.
[_Absently._] What is it?

ARCHIE.
I want to ask you a thing.

RICHARD.
[_Sitting on the end of the lounge, stares in front of him._] What is
it?

ARCHIE.
Will you ask mamma to let me go out in the morning with the milkman?

RICHARD.
With the milkman?

ARCHIE.
Yes. In the milkcar. He says he will let me drive when we get on to the
roads where there are no people. The horse is a very good beast. Can I
go?

RICHARD.
Yes.

ARCHIE.
Ask mamma now can I go. Will you?

RICHARD.
[_Glances towards the door._] I will.

ARCHIE.
He said he will show me the cows he has in the field. Do you know how
many cows he has?

RICHARD.
How many?

ARCHIE.
Eleven. Eight red and three white. But one is sick now. No, not sick.
But it fell.

RICHARD.
Cows?

ARCHIE.
[_With a gesture._] Eh! Not bulls. Because bulls give no milk. Eleven
cows. They must give a lot of milk. What makes a cow give milk?

RICHARD.
[_Takes his hand._] Who knows? Do you understand what it is to give a
thing?

ARCHIE.
To give? Yes.

RICHARD.
While you have a thing it can be taken from you.

ARCHIE.
By robbers? No?

RICHARD.
But when you give it, you have given it. No robber can take it from
you. [_He bends his head and presses his son’s hand against his
cheek._] It is yours then for ever when you have given it. It will be
yours always. That is to give.

ARCHIE.
But, pappie?

RICHARD.
Yes?

ARCHIE.
How could a robber rob a cow? Everyone would see him. In the night,
perhaps.

RICHARD.
In the night, yes.

ARCHIE.
Are there robbers here like in Rome?

RICHARD.
There are poor people everywhere.

ARCHIE.
Have they revolvers?

RICHARD.
No.

ARCHIE.
Knives? Have they knives?

RICHARD.
[_Sternly._] Yes, yes. Knives and revolvers.

ARCHIE.
[_Disengages himself._] Ask mamma now. She is coming.

RICHARD.
[_Makes a movement to rise._] I will.

ARCHIE.
No, sit there, pappie. You wait and ask her when she comes back. I
won’t be here. I’ll be in the garden.

RICHARD.
[_Sinking back again._] Yes. Go.

ARCHIE.
[_Kisses him swiftly._] Thanks.

[_He runs out quickly by the door at the back leading into the garden.
Bertha enters by the door on the left. She approaches the table and
stands beside it, fingering the petals of the roses, looking at
Richard._]

RICHARD.
[_Watching her._] Well?

BERTHA.
[_Absently._] Well. He says he likes me.

RICHARD.
[_Leans his chin in his hand._] You showed him his note?

BERTHA.
Yes. I asked him what it meant.

RICHARD.
What did he say it meant?

BERTHA.
He said I must know. I said I had an idea. Then he told me he liked me
very much. That I was beautiful—and all that.

RICHARD.
Since when!

BERTHA.
[_Again absently._] Since when—what?

RICHARD.
Since when did he say he liked you?

BERTHA.
Always, he said. But more since we came back. He said I was like the
moon in this lavender dress. [_Looking at him._] Had you any words with
him—about me?

RICHARD.
[_Blandly._] The usual thing. Not about you.

BERTHA.
He was very nervous. You saw that?

RICHARD.
Yes. I saw it. What else went on?

BERTHA.
He asked me to give him my hand.

RICHARD.
[_Smiling._] In marriage?

BERTHA.
[_Smiling._] No, only to hold.

RICHARD.
Did you?

BERTHA.
Yes. [_Tearing off a few petals._] Then he caressed my hand and asked
would I let him kiss it. I let him.

RICHARD.
Well?

BERTHA.
Then he asked could he embrace me—even once?... And then...

RICHARD.
And then?

BERTHA.
He put his arm round me.

RICHARD.
[_Stares at the floor for a moment, then looks at her again._] And
then?

BERTHA.
He said I had beautiful eyes. And asked could he kiss them. [_With a
gesture._] I said: _Do so._

RICHARD.
And he did?

BERTHA.
Yes. First one and then the other. [_She breaks off suddenly._] Tell
me, Dick, does all this disturb you? Because I told you I don’t want
that. I think you are only pretending you don’t mind. I don’t mind.

RICHARD.
[_Quietly._] I know, dear. But I want to find out what he means or
feels just as you do.

BERTHA.
[_Points at him._] Remember, you allowed me to go on. I told you the
whole thing from the beginning.

RICHARD.
[_As before._] I know, dear... And then?

BERTHA.
He asked for a kiss. I said: _Take it._

RICHARD.
And then?

BERTHA.
[_Crumpling a handful of petals._] He kissed me.

RICHARD.
Your mouth?

BERTHA.
Once or twice.

RICHARD.
Long kisses?

BERTHA.
Fairly long. [_Reflects._] Yes, the last time.

RICHARD.
[_Rubs his hands slowly; then._] With his lips? Or... the other way?

BERTHA.
Yes, the last time.

RICHARD.
Did he ask you to kiss him?

BERTHA.
He did.

RICHARD.
Did you?

BERTHA.
[_Hesitates, then looking straight at him._] I did. I kissed him.

RICHARD.
What way?

BERTHA.
[_With a shrug._] O simply.

RICHARD.
Were you excited?

BERTHA.
Well, you can imagine. [_Frowning suddenly._] Not much. He has not nice
lips... Still I was excited, of course. But not like with you, Dick.

RICHARD.
Was he?

BERTHA.
Excited? Yes, I think he was. He sighed. He was dreadfully nervous.

RICHARD.
[_Resting his forehead on his hand._] I see.

BERTHA.
[_Crosses towards the lounge and stands near him._] Are you jealous?

RICHARD.
[_As before._] No.

BERTHA.
[_Quietly._] You are, Dick.

RICHARD.
I am not. Jealous of what?

BERTHA.
Because he kissed me.

RICHARD.
[_Looks up._] Is that all?

BERTHA.
Yes, that’s all. Except that he asked me would I meet him.

RICHARD.
Out somewhere?

BERTHA.
No. In his house.

RICHARD.
[_Surprised._] Over there with his mother, is it?

BERTHA.
No, a house he has. He wrote the address for me.

[_She goes to the desk, takes the key from the flower vase, unlocks the
drawer and returns to him with the slip of paper._]

RICHARD.
[_Half to himself._] Our cottage.

BERTHA.
[_Hands him the slip._] Here.

RICHARD.
[_Reads it._] Yes. Our cottage.

BERTHA.
Your...?

RICHARD.
No, his. I call it ours. [_Looking at her._] The cottage I told you
about so often—that we had the two keys for, he and I. It is his now.
Where we used to hold our wild nights, talking, drinking, planning—at
that time. Wild nights; yes. He and I together. [_He throws the slip on
the couch and rises suddenly._] And sometimes I alone. [_Stares at
her._] But not quite alone. I told you. You remember?

BERTHA.
[_Shocked._] That place?

RICHARD.
[_Walks away from her a few paces and stands still, thinking, holding
his chin._] Yes.

BERTHA.
[_Taking up the slip again._] Where is it?

RICHARD.
Do you not know?

BERTHA.
He told me to take the tram at Lansdowne Road and to ask the man to let
me down there. Is it... is it a bad place?

RICHARD.
O no, cottages. [_He returns to the lounge and sits down._] What answer
did you give?

BERTHA.
No answer. He said he would wait.

RICHARD.
Tonight?

BERTHA.
Every night, he said. Between eight and nine.

RICHARD.
And so I am to go tonight to interview—the professor. About the
appointment I am to beg for. [_Looking at her._] The interview is
arranged for tonight by him—between eight and nine. Curious, isn’t it?
The same hour.

BERTHA.
Very.

RICHARD.
Did he ask you had I any suspicion?

BERTHA.
No.

RICHARD.
Did he mention my name?

BERTHA.
No.

RICHARD.
Not once?

BERTHA.
Not that I remember.

RICHARD.
[_Bounding to his feet._] O yes! Quite clear!

BERTHA.
What?

RICHARD.
[_Striding to and fro._] A liar, a thief, and a fool! Quite clear! A
common thief! What else? [_With a harsh laugh._] My great friend! A
patriot too! A thief—nothing else! [_He halts, thrusting his hands into
his pockets._] But a fool also!

BERTHA.
[_Looking at him._] What are you going to do?

RICHARD.
[_Shortly._] Follow him. Find him. Tell him. [_Calmly._] A few words
will do. Thief and fool.

BERTHA.
[_Flings the slip on the couch._] I see it all!

RICHARD.
[_Turning._] Eh!

BERTHA.
[_Hotly._] The work of a devil.

RICHARD.
He?

BERTHA.
[_Turning on him._] No, you! The work of a devil to turn him against me
as you tried to turn my own child against me. Only you did not succeed.

RICHARD.
How? In God’s name, how?

BERTHA.
[_Excitedly._] Yes, yes. What I say. Everyone saw it. Whenever I tried
to correct him for the least thing you went on with your folly,
speaking to him as if he were a grownup man. Ruining the poor child, or
trying to. Then, of course, I was the cruel mother and only you loved
him. [_With growing excitement._] But you did not turn him against
me—against his own mother. Because why? Because the child has too much
nature in him.

RICHARD.
I never tried to do such a thing, Bertha. You know I cannot be severe
with a child.

BERTHA.
Because you never loved your own mother. A mother is always a mother,
no matter what. I never heard of any human being that did not love the
mother that brought him into the world, except you.

RICHARD.
[_Approaching her quietly._] Bertha, do not say things you will be
sorry for. Are you not glad my son is fond of me?

BERTHA.
Who taught him to be? Who taught him to run to meet you? Who told him
you would bring him home toys when you were out on your rambles in the
rain, forgetting all about him—and me? I did. I taught him to love you.

RICHARD.
Yes, dear. I know it was you.

BERTHA.
[_Almost crying._] And then you try to turn everyone against me. All is
to be for you. I am to appear false and cruel to everyone except to
you. Because you take advantage of my simplicity as you did—the first
time.

RICHARD.
[_Violently._] And you have the courage to say that to me?

BERTHA.
[_Facing him._] Yes, I have! Both then and now. Because I am simple you
think you can do what you like with me. [_Gesticulating._] Follow him
now. Call him names. Make him be humble before you and make him despise
me. Follow him!

RICHARD.
[_Controlling himself._] You forget that I have allowed you complete
liberty—and allow you it still.

BERTHA.
[_Scornfully._] Liberty!

RICHARD.
Yes, complete. But he must know that I know. [_More calmly._] I will
speak to him quietly. [_Appealing._] Bertha, believe me, dear! It is
not jealousy. You have complete liberty to do as you wish—you and he.
But not in this way. He will not despise you. You don’t wish to deceive
me or to pretend to deceive me—with him, do you?

BERTHA.
No, I do not. [_Looking full at him._] Which of us two is the deceiver?

RICHARD.
Of us? You and me?

BERTHA.
[_In a calm decided tone._] I know why you have allowed me what you
call complete liberty.

RICHARD.
Why?

BERTHA.
To have complete liberty with—that girl.

RICHARD.
[_Irritated._] But, good God, you knew about that this long time. I
never hid it.

BERTHA.
You did. I thought it was a kind of friendship between you—till we came
back, and then I saw.

RICHARD.
So it is, Bertha.

BERTHA.
[_Shakes her head._] No, no. It is much more; and that is why you give
me complete liberty. All those things you sit up at night to write
about [_pointing to the study_] in there—about her. You call that
friendship?

RICHARD.
Believe me, Bertha dear. Believe me as I believe you.

BERTHA.
[_With an impulsive gesture._] My God, I feel it! I know it! What else
is between you but love?

RICHARD.
[_Calmly._] You are trying to put that idea into my head but I warn you
that I don’t take my ideas from other people.

BERTHA.
[_Hotly._] It is, it is! And that is why you allow him to go on. Of
course! It doesn’t affect you. You love her.

RICHARD.
Love! [_Throws out his hands with a sigh and moves away from her._] I
cannot argue with you.

BERTHA.
You can’t because I am right. [_Following him a few steps._] What would
anyone say?

RICHARD.
[_Turns to her._] Do you think I care?

BERTHA.
But I care. What would he say if he knew? You, who talk so much of the
high kind of feeling you have for me, expressing yourself in that way
to another woman. If he did it, or other men, I could understand
because they are false pretenders. But you, Dick! Why do you not tell
him then?

RICHARD.
You can if you like.

BERTHA.
I will. Certainly I will.

RICHARD.
[_Coolly._] He will explain it to you.

BERTHA.
He doesn’t say one thing and do another. He is honest in his own way.

RICHARD.
[_Plucks one of the roses and throws it at her feet._] He is, indeed!
The soul of honour!

BERTHA.
You may make fun of him as much as you like. I understand more than you
think about that business. And so will he. Writing those long letters
to her for years, and she to you. For years. But since I came back I
understand it—well.

RICHARD.
You do not. Nor would he.

BERTHA.
[_Laughs scornfully._] Of course. Neither he nor I can understand it.
Only she can. Because it is such a deep thing!

RICHARD.
[_Angrily._] Neither he nor you—nor she either! Not one of you!

BERTHA.
[_With great bitterness._] She will! She will understand it! The
diseased woman!

[_She turns away and walks over to the little table on the right.
Richard restrains a sudden gesture. A short pause._]

RICHARD.
[_Gravely._] Bertha, take care of uttering words like that!

BERTHA.
[_Turning, excitedly._] I don’t mean any harm! I feel for her more than
you can because I am a woman. I do, sincerely. But what I say is true.

RICHARD.
Is it generous? Think.

BERTHA.
[_Pointing towards the garden._] It is she who is not generous.
Remember now what I say.

RICHARD.
What?

BERTHA.
[_Comes nearer; in a calmer tone._] You have given that woman very
much, Dick. And she may be worthy of it. And she may understand it all,
too. I know she is that kind.

RICHARD.
Do you believe that?

BERTHA.
I do. But I believe you will get very little from her in return—or from
any of her clan. Remember my words, Dick. Because she is not generous
and they are not generous. Is it all wrong what I am saying? Is it?

RICHARD.
[_Darkly._] No. Not all.

[_She stoops and, picking up the rose from the floor, places it in the
vase again. He watches her. Brigid appears at the folding doors on the
right._]

BRIGID.
The tea is on the table, ma’am.

BERTHA.
Very well.

BRIGID.
Is Master Archie in the garden?

BERTHA.
Yes. Call him in.

[_Brigid crosses the room and goes out into the garden. Bertha goes
towards the doors on the right. At the lounge she stops and takes up
the slip._]

BRIGID.
[_In the garden._] Master Archie! You are to come in to your tea.

BERTHA.
Am I to go to this place?

RICHARD.
Do you want to go?

BERTHA.
I want to find out what he means. Am I to go?

RICHARD.
Why do you ask me? Decide yourself.

BERTHA.
Do you tell me to go?

RICHARD.
No.

BERTHA.
Do you forbid me to go?

RICHARD.
No.

BRIGID.
[_From the garden._] Come quickly, Master Archie! Your tea is waiting
on you.

[_Brigid crosses the room and goes out through the folding doors.
Bertha folds the slip into the waist of her dress and goes slowly
towards the right. Near the door she turns and halts._]

BERTHA.
Tell me not to go and I will not.

RICHARD.
[_Without looking at her._] Decide yourself.

BERTHA.
Will you blame me then?

RICHARD.
[_Excitedly._] No, no! I will not blame you. You are free. I cannot
blame you.

[_Archie appears at the garden door._]

BERTHA.
I did not deceive you.

[_She goes out through the folding doors. Richard remains standing at
the table. Archie, when his mother has gone, runs down to Richard._]

ARCHIE.
[_Quickly._] Well, did you ask her?

RICHARD.
[_Starting._] What?

ARCHIE.
Can I go?

RICHARD.
Yes.

ARCHIE.
In the morning? She said yes?

RICHARD.
Yes. In the morning.

[_He puts his arm round his son’s shoulders and looks down at him
fondly._]



Second Act

_A room in Robert Hand’s cottage at Ranelagh. On the right, forward, a
small black piano, on the rest of which is an open piece of music.
Farther back a door leading to the street door. In the wall, at the
back, folding doors, draped with dark curtains, leading to a bedroom.
Near the piano a large table, on which is a tall oil lamp with a wide
yellow shade. Chairs, upholstered, near this table. A small cardtable
more forward. Against the back wall a bookcase. In the left wall, back,
a window looking out into the garden, and, forward, a door and porch,
also leading to the garden. Easychairs here and there. Plants in the
porch and near the draped folding doors. On the walls are many framed
black and white designs. In the right corner, back, a sideboard; and in
the centre of the room, left of the table, a group consisting of a
standing Turkish pipe, a low oil stove, which is not lit, and a
rocking-chair. It is the evening of the same day._

[_Robert Hand, in evening dress, is seated at the piano. The candles
are not lit but the lamp on the table is lit. He plays softly in the
bass the first bars of Wolfram’s song in the last act of
‘Tannhäuser’. Then he breaks off and, resting an elbow on the ledge
of the keyboard, meditates. Then he rises and, pulling out a pump from
behind the piano, walks here and there in the room ejecting from it
into the air sprays of perfume. He inhales the air slowly and then puts
the pump back behind the piano. He sits down on a chair near the table
and, smoothing his hair carefully, sighs once or twice. Then, thrusting
his hands into his trousers pockets, he leans back, stretches out his
legs, and waits. A knock is heard at the street door. He rises
quickly._]

ROBERT.
[_Exclaims._] Bertha!

[_He hurries out by the door on the right. There is a noise of confused
greeting. After a few moments Robert enters, followed by Richard Rowan,
who is in grey tweeds as before but holds in one hand a dark felt hat
and in the other an umbrella._]

ROBERT.
First of all let me put these outside.

[_He takes the hat and umbrella, leaves them in the hall and returns._]

ROBERT.
[_Pulling round a chair._] Here you are. You are lucky to find me in.
Why didn’t you tell me today? You were always a devil for surprises. I
suppose my evocation of the past was too much for your wild blood. See
how artistic I have become. [_He points to the walls._] The piano is an
addition since your time. I was just strumming out Wagner when you
came. Killing time. You see I am ready for the fray. [_Laughs._] I was
just wondering how you and the vicechancellor were getting on together.
[_With exaggerated alarm._] But are you going in that suit? O well, it
doesn’t make much odds, I suppose. But how goes the time? [_He takes
out his watch._] Twenty past eight already, I declare!

RICHARD.
Have you an appointment?

ROBERT.
[_Laughs nervously._] Suspicious to the last!

RICHARD.
Then I may sit down?

ROBERT.
Of course, of course. [_They both sit down._] For a few minutes,
anyhow. Then we can both go on together. We are not bound for time.
Between eight and nine, he said, didn’t he? What time is it, I wonder?
[_Is about to look again at his watch; then stops._] Twenty past eight,
yes.

RICHARD.
[_Wearily, sadly._] Your appointment also was for the same hour.
Here.

ROBERT.
What appointment?

RICHARD.
With Bertha.

ROBERT.
[_Stares at him._] Are you mad?

RICHARD.
Are you?

ROBERT.
[_After a long pause._] Who told you?

RICHARD.
She.

[_A short silence._]

ROBERT.
[_In a low voice._] Yes. I must have been mad. [_Rapidly._] Listen to
me, Richard. It is a great relief to me that you have come—the greatest
relief. I assure you that ever since this afternoon I have thought and
thought how I could break it off without seeming a fool. A great
relief! I even intended to send word... a letter, a few lines.
[_Suddenly._] But then it was too late... [_Passes his hand over his
forehead._] Let me speak frankly with you; let me tell you everything.

RICHARD.
I know everything. I have known for some time.

ROBERT.
Since when?

RICHARD.
Since it began between you and her.

ROBERT.
[_Again rapidly._] Yes, I was mad. But it was merely lightheadedness. I
admit that to have asked her here this evening was a mistake. I can
explain everything to you. And I will. Truly.

RICHARD.
Explain to me what is the word you longed and never dared to say to
her. If you can or will.

ROBERT.
[_Looks down, then raises his head._] Yes. I will. I admire very much
the personality of your... of... your wife. That is the word. I can say
it. It is no secret.

RICHARD.
Then why did you wish to keep secret your wooing?

ROBERT.
Wooing?

RICHARD.
Your advances to her, little by little, day after day, looks, whispers.
[_With a nervous movement of the hands._] _Insomma_, wooing.

ROBERT.
[_Bewildered._] But how do you know all this?

RICHARD.
She told me.

ROBERT.
This afternoon?

RICHARD.
No. Time after time, as it happened.

ROBERT.
You knew? From her? [_Richard nods._]. You were watching us all the
time?

RICHARD.
[_Very coldly._] I was watching you.

ROBERT.
[_Quickly._] I mean, watching me. And you never spoke! You had only to
speak a word—to save me from myself. You were trying me. [_Passes his
hand again over his forehead._] It was a terrible trial: now also.
[_Desperately._] Well, it is past. It will be a lesson to me for all my
life. You hate me now for what I have done and for...

RICHARD.
[_Quietly, looking at him._] Have I said that I hate you?

ROBERT.
Do you not? You must.

RICHARD.
Even if Bertha had not told me I should have known. Did you not see
that when I came in this afternoon I went into my study suddenly for a
moment?

ROBERT.
You did. I remember.

RICHARD.
To give you time to recover yourself. It made me sad to see your eyes.
And the roses too. I cannot say why. A great mass of overblown roses.

ROBERT.
I thought I had to give them. Was that strange? [_Looks at Richard with
a tortured expression._] Too many, perhaps? Or too old or common?

RICHARD.
That was why I did not hate you. The whole thing made me sad all at
once.

ROBERT.
[_To himself._] And this is real. It is happening—to us.

[_He stares before him for some moments in silence, as if dazed; then,
without turning his head, continues._]

ROBERT.
And she, too, was trying me; making an experiment with me for your
sake!

RICHARD.
You know women better than I do. She says she felt pity for you.

ROBERT.
[_Brooding._] Pitied me, because I am no longer... an ideal lover. Like
my roses. Common, old.

RICHARD.
Like all men you have a foolish wandering heart.

ROBERT.
[_Slowly._] Well, you spoke at last. You chose the right moment.

RICHARD.
[_Leans forward._] Robert, not like this. For us two, no. Years, a
whole life, of friendship. Think a moment. Since childhood, boyhood...
No, no. Not in such a way—like thieves—at night. [_Glancing about
him._] And in such a place. No, Robert, that is not for people like us.

ROBERT.
What a lesson! Richard, I cannot tell you what a relief it is to me
that you have spoken—that the danger is passed. Yes, yes. [_Somewhat
diffidently._] Because... there was some danger for you, too, if you
think. Was there not?

RICHARD.
What danger?

ROBERT.
[_In the same tone._] I don’t know. I mean if you had not spoken. If
you had watched and waited on until...

RICHARD.
Until?

ROBERT.
[_Bravely._] Until I had come to like her more and more (because I can
assure you it is only a lightheaded idea of mine), to like her deeply,
to love her. Would you have spoken to me then as you have just now?
[_Richard is silent. Robert goes on more boldly._] It would have been
different, would it not? For then it might have been too late while it
is not too late now. What could I have said then? I could have said
only: You are my friend, my dear good friend. I am very sorry but I
love her. [_With a sudden fervent gesture._] I love her and I will take
her from you, however I can, because I love her.

[_They look at each other for some moments in silence._]

RICHARD.
[_Calmly._] That is the language I have heard often and never believed
in. Do you mean by stealth or by violence? Steal you could not in my
house because the doors were open; nor take by violence if there were
no resistance.

ROBERT.
You forget that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence: and the kingdom
of heaven is like a woman.

RICHARD.
[_Smiling._] Go on.

ROBERT.
[_Diffidently, but bravely._] Do you think you have rights over
her—over her heart?

RICHARD.
None.

ROBERT.
For what you have done for her? So much! You claim nothing?

RICHARD.
Nothing.

ROBERT.
[_After a pause strikes his forehead with his hand._] What am I saying?
Or what am I thinking? I wish you would upbraid me, curse me, hate me
as I deserve. You love this woman. I remember all you told me long ago.
She is yours, your work. [_Suddenly._] And that is why I, too, was
drawn to her. You are so strong that you attract me even through her.

RICHARD.
I am weak.

ROBERT.
[_With enthusiasm._] You, Richard! You are the incarnation of strength.

RICHARD.
[_Holds out his hands._] Feel those hands.

ROBERT.
[_Taking his hands._] Yes. Mine are stronger. But I meant strength of
another kind.

RICHARD.
[_Gloomily._] I think you would try to take her by violence.

[_He withdraws his hands slowly._]

ROBERT.
[_Rapidly._] Those are moments of sheer madness when we feel an intense
passion for a woman. We see nothing. We think of nothing. Only to
possess her. Call it brutal, bestial, what you will.

RICHARD.
[_A little timidly._] I am afraid that that longing to possess a woman
is not love.

ROBERT.
[_Impatiently._] No man ever yet lived on this earth who did not long
to possess—I mean to possess in the flesh—the woman whom he loves. It
is nature’s law.

RICHARD.
[_Contemptuously._] What is that to me? Did I vote it?

ROBERT.
But if you love... What else is it?

RICHARD.
[_Hesitatingly._] To wish her well.

ROBERT.
[_Warmly._] But the passion which burns us night and day to possess
her. You feel it as I do. And it is not what you said now.

RICHARD.
Have you...? [_He stops for an instance._] Have you the luminous
certitude that yours is the brain in contact with which she must think
and understand and that yours is the body in contact with which her
body must feel? Have you this certitude in yourself?

ROBERT.
Have you?

RICHARD.
[_Moved._] Once I had it, Robert: a certitude as luminous as that of my
own existence—or an illusion as luminous.

ROBERT.
[_Cautiously._] And now?

RICHARD.
If you had it and I could feel that you had it—even now...

ROBERT.
What would you do?

RICHARD.
[_Quietly._] Go away. You, and not I, would be necessary to her. Alone
as I was before I met her.

ROBERT.
[_Rubs his hands nervously._] A nice little load on my conscience!

RICHARD.
[_Abstractedly._] You met my son when you came to my house this
afternoon. He told me. What did you feel?

ROBERT.
[_Promptly._] Pleasure.

RICHARD.
Nothing else?

ROBERT.
Nothing else. Unless I thought of two things at the same time. I am
like that. If my best friend lay in his coffin and his face had a comic
expression I should smile. [_With a little gesture of despair._] I am
like that. But I should suffer too, deeply.

RICHARD.
You spoke of conscience... Did he seem to you a child only—or an angel?

ROBERT.
[_Shakes his head._] No. Neither an angel nor an Anglo-Saxon. Two
things, by the way, for which I have very little sympathy.

RICHARD.
Never then? Never even... with her? Tell me. I wish to know.

ROBERT.
I feel in my heart something different. I believe that on the last day
(if it ever comes), when we are all assembled together, that the
Almighty will speak to us like this. We will say that we lived chastely
with one other creature...

RICHARD.
[_Bitterly._] Lie to Him?

ROBERT.
Or that we tried to. And He will say to us: Fools! Who told you that
you were to give yourselves to one being only? You were made to give
yourselves to many freely. I wrote that law with My finger on your
hearts.

RICHARD.
On woman’s heart, too?

ROBERT.
Yes. Can we close our heart against an affection which we feel deeply?
Should we close it? Should she?

RICHARD.
We are speaking of bodily union.

ROBERT.
Affection between man and woman must come to that. We think too much of
it because our minds are warped. For us today it is of no more
consequence than any other form of contact—than a kiss.

RICHARD.
If it is of no consequence why are you dissatisfied till you reach that
end? Why were you waiting here tonight?

ROBERT.
Passion tends to go as far as it can; but, you may believe me or not, I
had not that in my mind—to reach that end.

RICHARD.
Reach it if you can. I will use no arm against you that the world puts
in my hand. If the law which God’s finger has written on our hearts is
the law you say I too am God’s creature.

[_He rises and paces to and fro some moments in silence. Then he goes
towards the porch and leans against the jamb. Robert watches him._]

ROBERT.
I always felt it. In myself and in others.

RICHARD.
[_Absently._] Yes?

ROBERT.
[_With a vague gesture._] For all. That a woman, too, has the right to
try with many men until she finds love. An immoral idea, is it not? I
wanted to write a book about it. I began it...

RICHARD.
[_As before._] Yes?

ROBERT.
Because I knew a woman who seemed to me to be doing that—carrying out
that idea in her own life. She interested me very much.

RICHARD.
When was this?

ROBERT.
O, not lately. When you were away.

[_Richard leaves his place rather abruptly and again paces to and
fro._]

ROBERT.
You see, I am more honest than you thought.

RICHARD.
I wish you had not thought of her now—whoever she was, or is.

ROBERT.
[_Easily._] She was and is the wife of a stockbroker.

RICHARD.
[_Turning._] You know him?

ROBERT.
Intimately.

[_Richard sits down again in the same place and leans forward, his head
on his hands._]

ROBERT.
[_Moving his chair a little closer._] May I ask you a question?

RICHARD.
You may.

ROBERT.
[_With some hesitation._] Has it never happened to you in these years—I
mean when you were away from her, perhaps, or travelling—to... betray
her with another. Betray her, I mean, not in love. Carnally, I mean...
Has that never happened?

RICHARD.
It has.

ROBERT.
And what did you do?

RICHARD.
[_As before._] I remember the first time. I came home. It was night. My
house was silent. My little son was sleeping in his cot. She, too, was
asleep. I wakened her from sleep and told her. I cried beside her bed;
and I pierced her heart.

ROBERT.
O, Richard, why did you do that?

RICHARD.
Betray her?

ROBERT.
No. But tell her, waken her from sleep to tell her. It was piercing her
heart.

RICHARD.
She must know me as I am.

ROBERT.
But that is not you as you are. A moment of weakness.

RICHARD.
[_Lost in thought._] And I was feeding the flame of her innocence with
my guilt.

ROBERT.
[_Brusquely._] O, don’t talk of guilt and innocence. You have made her
all that she is. A strange and wonderful personality—in my eyes, at
least.

RICHARD.
[_Darkly._] Or I have killed her.

ROBERT.
Killed her?

RICHARD.
The virginity of her soul.

ROBERT.
[_Impatiently._] Well lost! What would she be without you?

RICHARD.
I tried to give her a new life.

ROBERT.
And you have. A new and rich life.

RICHARD.
Is it worth what I have taken from her—her girlhood, her laughter, her
young beauty, the hopes in her young heart?

ROBERT.
[_Firmly._] Yes. Well worth it. [_He looks at Richard for some moments
in silence._] If you had neglected her, lived wildly, brought her away
so far only to make her suffer...

[_He stops. Richard raises his head and looks at him._]

RICHARD.
If I had?

ROBERT.
[_Slightly confused._] You know there were rumours here of your life
abroad—a wild life. Some persons who knew you or met you or heard of
you in Rome. Lying rumours.

RICHARD.
[_Coldly._] Continue.

ROBERT.
[_Laughs a little harshly._] Even I at times thought of her as a
victim. [_Smoothly._] And of course, Richard, I felt and knew all the
time that you were a man of great talent—of something more than talent.
And that was your excuse—a valid one in my eyes.

RICHARD.
Have you thought that it is perhaps now—at this moment—that I am
neglecting her? [_He clasps his hands nervously and leans across toward
Robert._] I may be silent still. And she may yield to you at
last—wholly and many times.

ROBERT.
[_Draws back at once._] My dear Richard, my dear friend, I swear to you
I could not make you suffer.

RICHARD.
[_Continuing._] You may then know in soul and body, in a hundred forms,
and ever restlessly, what some old theologian, Duns Scotus, I think,
called a death of the spirit.

ROBERT.
[_Eagerly._] A death. No; its affirmation! A death! The supreme instant
of life from which all coming life proceeds, the eternal law of nature
herself.

RICHARD.
And that other law of nature, as you call it: change. How will it be
when you turn against her and against me; when her beauty, or what
seems so to you now, wearies you and my affection for you seems false
and odious?

ROBERT.
That will never be. Never.

RICHARD.
And you turn even against yourself for having known me or trafficked
with us both?

ROBERT.
[_Gravely._] It will never be like that, Richard. Be sure of that.

RICHARD.
[_Contemptuously._] I care very little whether it is or not because
there is something I fear much more.

ROBERT.
[_Shakes his head._] You fear? I disbelieve you, Richard. Since we were
boys together I have followed your mind. You do not know what moral
fear is.

RICHARD.
[_Lays his hand on his arm._] Listen. She is dead. She lies on my bed.
I look at her body which I betrayed—grossly and many times. And loved,
too, and wept over. And I know that her body was always my loyal slave.
To me, to me only she gave... [_He breaks off and turns aside, unable
to speak._]

ROBERT.
[_Softly._] Do not suffer, Richard. There is no need. She is loyal to
you, body and soul. Why do you fear?

RICHARD.
[_Turns towards him, almost fiercely._] Not that fear. But that I will
reproach myself then for having taken all for myself because I would
not suffer her to give to another what was hers and not mine to give,
because I accepted from her her loyalty and made her life poorer in
love. That is my fear. That I stand between her and any moments of life
that should be hers, between her and you, between her and anyone,
between her and anything. I will not do it. I cannot and I will not. I
dare not.

[_He leans back in his chair breathless, with shining eyes. Robert
rises quietly, and stands behind his chair._]

ROBERT.
Look here, Richard. We have said all there is to be said. Let the past
be past.

RICHARD.
[_Quickly and harshly._] Wait. One thing more. For you, too, must know
me as I am—now.

ROBERT.
More? Is there more?

RICHARD.
I told you that when I saw your eyes this afternoon I felt sad. Your
humility and confusion, I felt, united you to me in brotherhood. [_He
turns half round towards him._] At that moment I felt our whole life
together in the past, and I longed to put my arm around your neck.

ROBERT.
[_Deeply and suddenly touched._] It is noble of you, Richard, to
forgive me like this.

RICHARD.
[_Struggling with himself._] I told you that I wished you not to do
anything false and secret against me—against our friendship, against
her; not to steal her from me craftily, secretly, meanly—in the dark,
in the night—you, Robert, my friend.

ROBERT.
I know. And it was noble of you.

RICHARD.
[_Looks up at him with a steady gaze._] No. Not noble. Ignoble.

ROBERT.
[_Makes an involuntary gesture._] How? Why?

RICHARD.
[_Looks away again: in a lower voice._] That is what I must tell you
too. Because in the very core of my ignoble heart I longed to be
betrayed by you and by her—in the dark, in the night—secretly, meanly,
craftily. By you, my best friend, and by her. I longed for that
passionately and ignobly, to be dishonoured for ever in love and in
lust, to be...

ROBERT.
[_Bending down, places his hands over Richard’s mouth._] Enough.
Enough. [_He takes his hands away._] But no. Go on.

RICHARD.
To be for ever a shameful creature and to build up my soul again out of
the ruins of its shame.

ROBERT.
And that is why you wished that she...

RICHARD.
[_With calm._] She has spoken always of her innocence, as I have spoken
always of my guilt, humbling me.

ROBERT.
From pride, then?

RICHARD.
From pride and from ignoble longing. And from a motive deeper still.

ROBERT.
[_With decision._] I understand you.

[_He returns to his place and begins to speak at once, drawing his
chair closer._]

ROBERT.
May it not be that we are here and now in the presence of a moment
which will free us both—me as well as you—from the last bonds of what
is called morality. My friendship for you has laid bonds on me.

RICHARD.
Light bonds, apparently.

ROBERT.
I acted in the dark, secretly. I will do so no longer. Have you the
courage to allow me to act freely?

RICHARD.
A duel—between us?

ROBERT.
[_With growing excitement._] A battle of both our souls, different as
they are, against all that is false in them and in the world. A battle
of your soul against the spectre of fidelity, of mine against the
spectre of friendship. All life is a conquest, the victory of human
passion over the commandments of cowardice. Will you, Richard? Have you
the courage? Even if it shatters to atoms the friendship between us,
even if it breaks up for ever the last illusion in your own life? There
was an eternity before we were born: another will come after we are
dead. The blinding instant of passion alone—passion, free, unashamed,
irresistible—that is the only gate by which we can escape from the
misery of what slaves call life. Is not this the language of your own
youth that I heard so often from you in this very place where we are
sitting now? Have you changed?

RICHARD.
[_Passes his hand across his brow._] Yes. It is the language of my
youth.

ROBERT.
[_Eagerly, intensely._] Richard, you have driven me up to this point.
She and I have only obeyed your will. You yourself have roused these
words in my brain. Your own words. Shall we? Freely? Together?

RICHARD.
[_Mastering his emotion._] Together no. Fight your part alone. I will
not free you. Leave me to fight mine.

ROBERT.
[_Rises, decided._] You allow me, then?

RICHARD.
[_Rises also, calmly._] Free yourself.

[_A knock is heard at the hall door._]

ROBERT.
[_In alarm._] What does this mean?

RICHARD.
[_Calmly._] Bertha, evidently. Did you not ask her to come?

ROBERT.
Yes, but... [_Looking about him._] Then I am going, Richard.

RICHARD.
No. I am going.

ROBERT.
[_Desperately._] Richard, I appeal to you. Let me go. It is over. She
is yours. Keep her and forgive me, both of you.

RICHARD.
Because you are generous enough to allow me?

ROBERT.
[_Hotly._] Richard, you will make me angry with you if you say that.

RICHARD.
Angry or not, I will not live on your generosity. You have asked her to
meet you here tonight and alone. Solve the question between you.

ROBERT.
[_Promptly._] Open the door. I shall wait in the garden. [_He goes
towards the porch._] Explain to her, Richard, as best you can. I cannot
see her now.

RICHARD.
I shall go. I tell you. Wait out there if you wish.

[_He goes out by the door on the right. Robert goes out hastily through
the porch but comes back the same instant._]

ROBERT.
An umbrella! [_With a sudden gesture._] O!

[_He goes out again through the porch. The hall door is heard to open
and close. Richard enters, followed by Bertha, who is dressed in a
darkbrown costume and wears a small dark red hat. She has neither
umbrella nor waterproof._]

RICHARD.
[_Gaily._] Welcome back to old Ireland!

BERTHA.
[_Nervously, seriously._] Is this the place?

RICHARD.
Yes, it is. How did you find it?

BERTHA.
I told the cabman. I didn’t like to ask my way. [_Looking about her
curiously._] Was he not waiting? Has he gone away?

RICHARD.
[_Points towards the garden._] He is waiting. Out there. He was waiting
when I came.

BERTHA.
[_Selfpossessed again._] You see, you came after all.

RICHARD.
Did you think I would not?

BERTHA.
I knew you could not remain away. You see, after all you are like all
other men. You had to come. You are jealous like the others.

RICHARD.
You seem annoyed to find me here.

BERTHA.
What happened between you?

RICHARD.
I told him I knew everything, that I had known for a long time. He
asked how. I said from you.

BERTHA.
Does he hate me?

RICHARD.
I cannot read in his heart.

BERTHA.
[_Sits down helplessly._] Yes. He hates me. He believes I made a fool
of him—betrayed him. I knew he would.

RICHARD.
I told him you were sincere with him.

BERTHA.
He does not believe it. Nobody would believe it. I should have told him
first—not you.

RICHARD.
I thought he was a common robber, prepared to use even violence against
you. I had to protect you from that.

BERTHA.
That I could have done myself.

RICHARD.
Are you sure?

BERTHA.
It would have been enough to have told him that you knew I was here.
Now I can find out nothing. He hates me. He is right to hate me. I have
treated him badly, shamefully.

RICHARD.
[_Takes her hand._] Bertha, look at me.

BERTHA.
[_Turns to him._] Well?

RICHARD.
[_Gazes into her eyes and then lets her hand fall._] I cannot read in
your heart either.

BERTHA.
[_Still looking at him._] You could not remain away. Do you not trust
me? You can see I am quite calm. I could have hidden it all from you.

RICHARD.
I doubt that.

BERTHA.
[_With a slight toss of her head._] O, easily if I had wanted to.

RICHARD.
[_Darkly._] Perhaps you are sorry now that you did not.

BERTHA.
Perhaps I am.

RICHARD.
[_Unpleasantly._] What a fool you were to tell me! It would have been
so nice if you had kept it secret.

BERTHA.
As you do, no?

RICHARD.
As I do, yes. [_He turns to go._] Goodbye for a while.

BERTHA.
[_Alarmed, rises._] Are you going?

RICHARD.
Naturally. My part is ended here.

BERTHA.
To her, I suppose?

RICHARD.
[_Astonished._] Who?

BERTHA.
Her ladyship. I suppose it is all planned so that you may have a good
opportunity. To meet her and have an intellectual conversation!

RICHARD.
[_With an outburst of rude anger._] To meet the devil’s father!

BERTHA.
[_Unpins her hat and sits down._] Very well. You can go. Now I know
what to do.

RICHARD.
[_Returns, approaches her._] You don’t believe a word of what you say.

BERTHA.
[_Calmly._] You can go. Why don’t you?

RICHARD.
Then you have come here and led him on in this way on account of me. Is
that how it is?

BERTHA.
There is one person in all this who is not a fool. And that is you. I
am though. And he is.

RICHARD.
[_Continuing._] If so you have indeed treated him badly and shamefully.

BERTHA.
[_Points at him._] Yes. But it was your fault. And I will end it now. I
am simply a tool for you. You have no respect for me. You never had
because I did what I did.

RICHARD.
And has he respect?

BERTHA.
He has. Of all the persons I met since I came back he is the only one
who has. And he knows what they only suspect. And that is why I liked
him from the first and like him still. Great respect for me she has!
Why did you not ask her to come away with you nine years ago?

RICHARD.
You know why, Bertha. Ask yourself.

BERTHA.
Yes, I know why. You knew the answer you would get. That is why.

RICHARD.
That is not why. I did not even ask you.

BERTHA.
Yes. You knew I would go, asked or not. I do things. But if I do one
thing I can do two things. As I have the name I can have the gains.

RICHARD.
[_With increasing excitement._] Bertha, I accept what is to be. I have
trusted you. I will trust you still.

BERTHA.
To have that against me. To leave me then. [_Almost passionately._] Why
do you not defend me then against him? Why do you go away from me now
without a word? Dick, my God, tell me what you wish me to do?

RICHARD.
I cannot, dear. [_Struggling with himself._] Your own heart will tell
you. [_He seizes both her hands._] I have a wild delight in my soul,
Bertha, as I look at you. I see you as you are yourself. That I came
first in your life or before him then—that may be nothing to you. You
may be his more than mine.

BERTHA.
I am not. Only I feel for him, too.

RICHARD.
And I do too. You may be his and mine. I will trust you, Bertha, and
him too. I must. I cannot hate him since his arms have been around you.
You have drawn us near together. There is something wiser than wisdom
in your heart. Who am I that I should call myself master of your heart
or of any woman’s? Bertha, love him, be his, give yourself to him if
you desire—or if you can.

BERTHA.
[_Dreamily._] I will remain.

RICHARD.
Goodbye.

[_He lets her hand fall and goes out rapidly on the right. Bertha
remains sitting. Then she rises and goes timidly towards the porch. She
stops near it and, after a little hesitation, calls into the garden._]

BERTHA.
Is anyone out there?

[_At the same time she retreats towards the middle of the room. Then
she calls again in the same way._]

BERTHA.
Is anyone there?

[_Robert appears in the open doorway that leads in from the garden. His
coat is buttoned and the collar is turned up. He holds the doorposts
with his hands lightly and waits for Bertha to see him._]

BERTHA.
[_Catching sight of him, starts back: then, quickly._] Robert!

ROBERT.
Are you alone?

BERTHA.
Yes.

ROBERT.
[_Looking towards the door on the right._] Where is he?

BERTHA.
Gone. [_Nervously._] You startled me. Where did you come from?

ROBERT.
[_With a movement of his head._] Out there. Did he not tell you I was
out there—waiting?

BERTHA.
[_Quickly._] Yes, he told me. But I was afraid here alone. With the
door open, waiting. [_She comes to the table and rests her hand on the
corner._] Why do you stand like that in the doorway?

ROBERT.
Why? I am afraid too.

BERTHA.
Of what?

ROBERT.
Of you.

BERTHA.
[_Looks down._] Do you hate me now?

ROBERT.
I fear you. [_Clasping his hands at his back, quietly but a little
defiantly._] I fear a new torture—a new trap.

BERTHA.
[_As before._] For what do you blame me?

ROBERT.
[_Comes forward a few steps, halts: then impulsively:_] Why did you
lead me on? Day after day, more and more. Why did you not stop me? You
could have—with a word. But not even a word! I forgot myself and him.
You saw it. That I was ruining myself in his eyes, losing his
friendship. Did you want me to?

BERTHA.
[_Looking up._] You never asked me.

ROBERT.
Asked you what?

BERTHA.
If he suspected—or knew.

ROBERT.
And would you have told me?

BERTHA.
Yes.

ROBERT.
[_Hesitatingly._] Did you tell him—everything?

BERTHA.
I did.

ROBERT.
I mean—details.

BERTHA.
Everything.

ROBERT.
[_With a forced smile._] I see. You were making an experiment for his
sake. On me. Well, why not? It seems I was a good subject. Still, it
was a little cruel of you.

BERTHA.
Try to understand me, Robert. You must try.

ROBERT.
[_With a polite gesture._] Well, I will try.

BERTHA.
Why do you stand like that near the door? It makes me nervous to look
at you.

ROBERT.
I am trying to understand. And then I am afraid.

BERTHA.
[_Holds out her hand._] You need not be afraid.

[_Robert comes towards her quickly
and takes her hand._]

ROBERT.
[_Diffidently._] Used you to laugh over me—together? [_Drawing his
hand away._] But now I must be good or you may laugh over me
again—tonight.

BERTHA.
[_Distressed, lays her hand on his arm._] Please listen to me,
Robert... But you are all wet, drenched! [_She passes her hands over
his coat._] O, you poor fellow! Out there in the rain all that time! I
forgot that.

ROBERT.
[_Laughs._] Yes, you forgot the climate.

BERTHA.
But you are really drenched. You must change your coat.

ROBERT.
[_Takes her hands._] Tell me, it is pity then that you feel for me, as
he—as Richard—says?

BERTHA.
Please change your coat, Robert, when I ask you. You might get a very
bad cold from that. Do, please.

ROBERT.
What would it matter now?

BERTHA.
[_Looking round her._] Where do you keep your clothes here?

ROBERT.
[_Points to the door at the back._] In there. I fancy I have a jacket
here. [_Maliciously._] In my bedroom.

BERTHA.
Well, go in and take that off.

ROBERT.
And you?

BERTHA.
I will wait here for you.

ROBERT.
Do you command me to?

BERTHA.
[_Laughing._] Yes, I command you.

ROBERT.
[_Promptly._] Then I will. [_He goes quickly towards the bedroom door;
then turns round._] You won’t go away?

BERTHA.
No, I will wait. But don’t be long.

ROBERT.
Only a moment.

[_He goes into the bedroom, leaving the door open. Bertha looks
curiously about her and then glances in indecision towards the door at
the back._]

ROBERT.
[_From the bedroom._] You have not gone?

BERTHA.
No.

ROBERT.
I am in the dark here. I must light the lamp.

[_He is heard striking a match, and putting a glass shade on a lamp. A
pink light comes in through the doorway. Bertha glances at her watch at
her wristlet and then sits at the table._]

ROBERT.
[_As before._] Do you like the effect of the light?

BERTHA.
O, yes.

ROBERT.
Can you admire it from where you are?

BERTHA.
Yes, quite well.

ROBERT.
It was for you.

BERTHA.
[_Confused._] I am not worthy even of that.

ROBERT.
[_Clearly, harshly._] Love’s labour lost.

BERTHA.
[_Rising nervously._] Robert!

ROBERT.
Yes?

BERTHA.
Come here, quickly! Quickly, I say!

ROBERT.
I am ready.

[_He appears in the doorway, wearing a darkgreen velvet jacket. Seeing
her agitation, he comes quickly towards her._]

ROBERT.
What is it, Bertha?

BERTHA.
[_Trembling._] I was afraid.

ROBERT.
Of being alone?

BERTHA.
[_Catches his hands._] You know what I mean. My nerves are all upset.

ROBERT.
That I...?

BERTHA.
Promise me, Robert, not to think of such a thing. Never. If you like me
at all. I thought that moment...

ROBERT.
What an idea?

BERTHA.
But promise me if you like me.

ROBERT.
If I like you, Bertha! I promise. Of course, I promise. You are
trembling all over.

BERTHA.
Let me sit down somewhere. It will pass in a moment.

ROBERT.
My poor Bertha! Sit down. Come.

[_He leads her towards a chair near the table. She sits down. He stands
beside her._]

ROBERT.
[_After a short pause._] Has it passed?

BERTHA.
Yes. It was only for a moment. I was very silly. I was afraid that... I
wanted to see you near me.

ROBERT.
That... that you made me promise not to think of?

BERTHA.
Yes.

ROBERT.
[_Keenly._] Or something else?

BERTHA.
[_Helplessly._] Robert, I feared something. I am not sure what.

ROBERT.
And now?

BERTHA.
Now you are here. I can see you. Now it has passed.

ROBERT.
[_With resignation._] Passed. Yes. Love’s labour lost.

BERTHA.
[_Looks up at him._] Listen, Robert. I want to explain to you about
that. I could not deceive Dick. Never. In nothing. I told him
everything—from the first. Then it went on and on; and still you never
spoke or asked me. I wanted you to.

ROBERT.
Is that the truth, Bertha?

BERTHA.
Yes, because it annoyed me that you could think I was like... like the
other women I suppose you knew that way. I think that Dick is right
too. Why should there be secrets?

ROBERT.
[_Softly._] Still, secrets can be very sweet. Can they not?

BERTHA.
[_Smiles._] Yes, I know they can. But, you see, I could not keep things
secret from Dick. Besides, what is the good? They always come out in
the end. Is it not better for people to know?

ROBERT.
[_Softly and a little shyly._] How could you, Bertha, tell him
everything? Did you? Every single thing that passed between us?

BERTHA.
Yes. Everything he asked me.

ROBERT.
Did he ask you—much?

BERTHA.
You know the kind he is. He asks about everything. The ins and outs.

ROBERT.
About our kissing, too?

BERTHA.
Of course. I told him all.

ROBERT.
[_Shakes his head slowly._] Extraordinary little person! Were you not
ashamed?

BERTHA.
No.

ROBERT.
Not a bit?

BERTHA.
No. Why? Is that terrible?

ROBERT.
And how did he take it? Tell me. I want to know everything, too.

BERTHA.
[_Laughs._] It excited him. More than usual.

ROBERT.
Why? Is he excitable—still?

BERTHA.
[_Archly._] Yes, very. When he is not lost in his philosophy.

ROBERT.
More than I?

BERTHA.
More than you? [_Reflecting._] How could I answer that? You both are, I
suppose?

[_Robert turns aside and gazes
towards the porch, passing his hand once or twice thoughtfully over his
hair._]

BERTHA.
[_Gently._] Are you angry with me again?

ROBERT.
[_Moodily._] You are with me.

BERTHA.
No, Robert. Why should I be?

ROBERT.
Because I asked you to come to this place. I tried to prepare it for
you. [_He points vaguely here and there._] A sense of quietness.

BERTHA.
[_Touching his jacket with her fingers._] And this, too. Your nice
velvet coat.

ROBERT.
Also. I will keep no secrets from you.

BERTHA.
You remind me of someone in a picture. I like you in it... But you are
not angry, are you?

ROBERT.
[_Darkly._] Yes. That was my mistake. To ask you to come here. I felt
it when I looked at you from the garden and saw you—you,
Bertha—standing here. [_Hopelessly._] But what else could I have done?

BERTHA.
[_Quietly._] You mean because others have been here?

ROBERT.
Yes.

[_He walks away from her a few paces. A gust of wind makes the lamp on
the table flicker. He lowers the wick slightly._]

BERTHA.
[_Following him with her eyes._] But I knew that before I came. I am
not angry with you for it.

ROBERT.
[_Shrugs his shoulders._] Why should you be angry with me after all?
You are not even angry with him—for the same thing—or worse.

BERTHA.
Did he tell you that about himself?

ROBERT.
Yes. He told me. We all confess to one another here. Turn about.

BERTHA.
I try to forget it.

ROBERT.
It does not trouble you?

BERTHA.
Not now. Only I dislike to think of it.

ROBERT.
It is merely something brutal, you think? Of little importance?

BERTHA.
It does not trouble me—now.

ROBERT.
[_Looking at her over his shoulder._] But there is something that would
trouble you very much and that you would not try to forget?

BERTHA.
What?

ROBERT.
[_Turning towards her._] If it were not only something brutal with this
person or that—for a few moments. If it were something fine and
spiritual—with one person only—with one woman. [_Smiles._] And perhaps
brutal too. It usually comes to that sooner or later. Would you try to
forget and forgive that?

BERTHA.
[_Toying with her wristlet._] In whom?

ROBERT.
In anyone. In me.

BERTHA.
[_Calmly._] You mean in Dick.

ROBERT.
I said in myself. But would you?

BERTHA.
You think I would revenge myself? Is Dick not to be free too?

ROBERT.
[_Points at her._] That is not from your heart, Bertha.

BERTHA.
[_Proudly._] Yes, it is; let him be free too. He leaves me free also.

ROBERT.
[_Insistently._] And you know why? And understand? And you like it? And
you want to be? And it makes you happy? And has made you happy? Always?
This gift of freedom which he gave you—nine years ago?

BERTHA.
[_Gazing at him with wide open eyes._] But why do you ask me such a lot
of questions, Robert?

ROBERT.
[_Stretches out both hands to her._] Because I had another gift to
offer you then—a common simple gift—like myself. If you want to know it
I will tell you.

BERTHA.
[_Looking at her watch._] Past is past, Robert. And I think I ought to
go now. It is nine almost.

ROBERT.
[_Impetuously._] No, no. Not yet. There is one confession more and we
have the right to speak.

[_He crosses before the table rapidly and sits down beside her._]

BERTHA.
[_Turning towards him, places her left hand on his shoulder._] Yes,
Robert. I know that you like me. You need not tell me. [_Kindly._] You
need not confess any more tonight.

[_A gust of wind enters through the porch, with a sound of moving
leaves. The lamp flickers quickly._]

BERTHA.
[_Pointing over his shoulder._] Look! It is too high.

[_Without rising, he bends towards the table, and turns down the wick
more. The room is half dark. The light comes in more strongly through
the doorway of the bedroom._]

ROBERT.
The wind is rising. I will close that door.

BERTHA.
[_Listening._] No, it is raining still. It was only a gust of wind.

ROBERT.
[_Touches her shoulder._] Tell me if the air is too cold for you.
[_Half rising._] I will close it.

BERTHA.
[_Detaining him._] No. I am not cold. Besides, I am going now, Robert.
I must.

ROBERT.
[_Firmly._] No, no. There is no _must_ now. We were left here for this.
And you are wrong, Bertha. The past is not past. It is present here
now. My feeling for you is the same now as it was then, because
then—you slighted it.

BERTHA.
No, Robert. I did not.

ROBERT.
[_Continuing._] You did. And I have felt it all these years without
knowing it—till now. Even while I lived—the kind of life you know and
dislike to think of—the kind of life to which you condemned me.

BERTHA.
I?

ROBERT.
Yes, when you slighted the common simple gift I had to offer you—and
took his gift instead.

BERTHA.
[_Looking at him._] But you never...

ROBERT.
No. Because you had chosen him. I saw that. I saw it on the first night
we met, we three together. Why did you choose him?

BERTHA.
[_Bends her head._] Is that not love?

ROBERT.
[_Continuing._] And every night when we two—he and I—came to that
corner to meet you I saw it and felt it. You remember the corner,
Bertha?

BERTHA.
[_As before._] Yes.

ROBERT.
And when you and he went away for your walk and I went along the street
alone I felt it. And when he spoke to me about you and told me he was
going away—then most of all.

BERTHA.
Why then most of all?

ROBERT.
Because it was then that I was guilty of my first treason towards him.

BERTHA.
Robert, what are you saying? Your first treason against Dick?

ROBERT.
[_Nods._] And not my last. He spoke of you and himself. Of how your
life would be together—free and all that. Free, yes! He would not even
ask you to go with him. [_Bitterly._] He did not. And you went all the
same.

BERTHA.
I wanted to be with him. You know... [_Raising her head and looking at
him._] You know how we were then—Dick and I.

ROBERT.
[_Unheeding._] I advised him to go alone—not to take you with him—to
live alone in order to see if what he felt for you was a passing thing
which might ruin your happiness and his career.

BERTHA.
Well, Robert. It was unkind of you towards me. But I forgive you
because you were thinking of his happiness and mine.

ROBERT.
[_Bending closer to her._] No, Bertha. I was not. And that was my
treason. I was thinking of myself—that you might turn from him when he
had gone and he from you. Then I would have offered you my gift. You
know what it was now. The simple common gift that men offer to women.
Not the best perhaps. Best or worst—it would have been yours.

BERTHA.
[_Turning away from him._] He did not take your advice.

ROBERT.
[_As before._] No. And the night you ran away together—O, how happy I
was!

BERTHA.
[_Pressing his hands._] Keep calm, Robert. I know you liked me always.
Why did you not forget me?

ROBERT.
[_Smiles bitterly._] How happy I felt as I came back along the quays
and saw in the distance the boat lit up going down the black river,
taking you away from me! [_In a calmer tone._] But why did you choose
him? Did you not like me at all?

BERTHA.
Yes. I liked you because you were his friend. We often spoke about you.
Often and often. Every time you wrote or sent papers or books to Dick.
And I like you still, Robert. [_Looking into his eyes._] I never forgot
you.

ROBERT.
Nor I you. I knew I would see you again. I knew it the night you went
away—that you would come back. And that was why I wrote and worked to
see you again—here.

BERTHA.
And here I am. You were right.

ROBERT.
[_Slowly._] Nine years. Nine times more beautiful!

BERTHA.
[_Smiling._] But am I? What do you see in me?

ROBERT.
[_Gazing at her._] A strange and beautiful lady.

BERTHA.
[_Almost disgusted._] O, please don’t call me such a
thing!

ROBERT.
[_Earnestly._] You are more. A young and beautiful queen.

BERTHA.
[_With a sudden laugh._] O, Robert!

ROBERT.
[_Lowering his voice and bending nearer to her._] But do you not know
that you are a beautiful human being? Do you not know that you have a
beautiful body? Beautiful and young?

BERTHA.
[_Gravely._] Some day I will be old.

ROBERT.
[_Shakes his head._] I cannot imagine it. Tonight you are young and
beautiful. Tonight you have come back to me. [_With passion._] Who
knows what will be tomorrow? I may never see you again or never see you
as I do now.

BERTHA.
Would you suffer?

ROBERT.
[_Looks round the room, without answering._] This room and this hour
were made for your coming. When you have gone—all is gone.

BERTHA.
[_Anxiously._] But you will see me again, Robert... as before.

ROBERT.
[_Looks full at her._] To make him—Richard—suffer.

BERTHA.
He does not suffer.

ROBERT.
[_Bowing his head._] Yes, yes. He does.

BERTHA.
He knows we like each other. Is there any harm, then?

ROBERT.
[_Raising his head._] No there is no harm. Why should we not? He does
not know yet what I feel. He has left us alone here at night, at this
hour, because he longs to know it—he longs to be delivered.

BERTHA.
From what?

ROBERT.
[_Moves closer to her and presses her arm as he speaks._] From every
law, Bertha, from every bond. All his life he has sought to deliver
himself. Every chain but one he has broken and that one we are to
break. Bertha—you and I.

BERTHA.
[_Almost inaudibly._] Are you sure?

ROBERT.
[_Still more warmly._] I am sure that no law made by man is sacred
before the impulse of passion. [_Almost fiercely._] Who made us for one
only? It is a crime against our own being if we are so. There is no law
before impulse. Laws are for slaves. Bertha, say my name! Let me hear
your voice say it. Softly!

BERTHA.
[_Softly._] Robert!

ROBERT.
[_Puts his arm about her shoulder._] Only the impulse towards youth and
beauty does not die. [_He points towards the porch._] Listen!

BERTHA.
[_In alarm._] What?

ROBERT.
The rain falling. Summer rain on the earth. Night rain. The darkness
and warmth and flood of passion. Tonight the earth is loved—loved and
possessed. Her lover’s arms around her; and she is silent. Speak,
dearest!

BERTHA.
[_Suddenly leans forward and listens intently._] Hush!

ROBERT.
[_Listening, smiles._] Nothing. Nobody. We are alone.

[_A gust of wind blows in through the porch, with a sound of shaken
leaves. The flame of the lamp leaps._]

BERTHA.
[_Pointing to the lamp._] Look!

ROBERT.
Only the wind. We have light enough from the other room.

[_He stretches his hand across the table and puts out the lamp. The
light from the doorway of the bedroom crosses the place where they sit.
The room is quite dark._]

ROBERT.
Are you happy? Tell me.

BERTHA.
I am going now, Robert. It is very late. Be satisfied.

ROBERT.
[_Caressing her hair._] Not yet, not yet. Tell me, do you love me a
little?

BERTHA.
I like you, Robert. I think you are good. [_Half rising._] Are you
satisfied?

ROBERT.
[_Detaining her, kisses her hair._] Do not go, Bertha! There is time
still. Do you love me too? I have waited a long time. Do you love us
both—him and also me? Do you, Bertha? The truth! Tell me. Tell me with
your eyes. Or speak!

[_She does not answer. In the silence the rain is heard falling._]



Third Act

_The drawingroom of Richard Rowan’s house at Merrion. The folding doors
at the right are closed and also the double doors leading to the
garden. The green plush curtains are drawn across the window on the
left. The room is half dark. It is early in the morning of the next
day. Bertha sits beside the window looking out between the curtains.
She wears a loose saffron dressing gown. Her hair is combed loosely
over the ears and knotted at the neck. Her hands are folded in her lap.
Her face is pale and drawn._

[_Brigid comes in through the folding doors on the right with a
featherbroom and duster. She is about to cross but, seeing Bertha, she
halts suddenly and blesses herself instinctively._]

BRIGID.
Merciful hour, ma’am. You put the heart across me. Why did you get up
so early?

BERTHA.
What time is it?

BRIGID.
After seven, ma’am. Are you long up?

BERTHA.
Some time.

BRIGID.
[_Approaching her._] Had you a bad dream that woke you?

BERTHA.
I didn’t sleep all night. So I got up to see the sun rise.

BRIGID.
[_Opens the double doors._] It’s a lovely morning now after all the
rain we had. [_Turns round._] But you must be dead tired, ma’am. What
will the master say at your doing a thing like that? [_She goes to the
door of the study and knocks._] Master Richard!

BERTHA.
[_Looks round._] He is not there. He went out an hour ago.

BRIGID.
Out there, on the strand, is it?

BERTHA.
Yes.

BRIGID.
[_Comes towards her and leans over the back of a chair._] Are you
fretting yourself, ma’am, about anything?

BERTHA.
No, Brigid.

BRIGID.
Don’t be. He was always like that, meandering off by himself somewhere.
He is a curious bird, Master Richard, and always was. Sure there isn’t
a turn in him I don’t know. Are you fretting now maybe because he does
be in there [_pointing to the study_] half the night at his books?
Leave him alone. He’ll come back to you again. Sure he thinks the sun
shines out of your face, ma’am.

BERTHA.
[_Sadly._] That time is gone.

BRIGID.
[_Confidentially._] And good cause I have to remember it—that time when
he was paying his addresses to you. [_She sits down beside Bertha. In a
lower voice._] Do you know that he used to tell me all about you and
nothing to his mother, God rest her soul? Your letters and all.

BERTHA.
What? My letters to him?

BRIGID.
[_Delighted._] Yes. I can see him sitting on the kitchen table,
swinging his legs and spinning out of him yards of talk about you and
him and Ireland and all kinds of devilment—to an ignorant old woman
like me. But that was always his way. But if he had to meet a grand
highup person he’d be twice as grand himself. [_Suddenly looks at
Bertha._] Is it crying you are now? Ah, sure, don’t cry. There’s good
times coming still.

BERTHA.
No, Brigid, that time comes only once in a lifetime. The rest of life
is good for nothing except to remember that time.

BRIGID.
[_Is silent for a moment: then says kindly._] Would you like a cup of
tea, ma’am? That would make you all right.

BERTHA.
Yes, I would. But the milkman has not come yet.

BRIGID.
No. Master Archie told me to wake him before he came. He’s going out
for a jaunt in the car. But I’ve a cup left overnight. I’ll have the
kettle boiling in a jiffy. Would you like a nice egg with it?

BERTHA.
No, thanks.

BRIGID.
Or a nice bit of toast?

BERTHA.
No, Brigid, thanks. Just a cup of tea.

BRIGID.
[_Crossing to the folding doors._] I won’t be a moment. [_She stops,
turns back and goes towards the door on the left._] But first I must
waken Master Archie or there’ll be ructions.

[_She goes out by the door on the left. After a few moments Bertha
rises and goes over to the study. She opens the door wide and looks in.
One can see a small untidy room with many bookshelves and a large
writingtable with papers and an extinguished lamp and before it a
padded chair. She remains standing for some time in the doorway, then
closes the door again without entering the room. She returns to her
chair by the window and sits down. Archie, dressed as before, comes in
by the door on the right, followed by Brigid._]

ARCHIE.
[_Comes to her and, putting up his face to be kissed, says:_] _Buon
giorno_, mamma!

BERTHA.
[_Kissing him._] _Buon giorno_, Archie! [_To Brigid._] Did you put
another vest on him under that one?

BRIGID.
He wouldn’t let me, ma’am.

ARCHIE.
I’m not cold, mamma.

BERTHA.
I said you were to put it on, didn’t I?

ARCHIE.
But where is the cold?

BERTHA.
[_Takes a comb from her head and combs his hair back at both sides._]
And the sleep is in your eyes still.

BRIGID.
He went to bed immediately after you went out last night,
ma’am.

ARCHIE.
You know he’s going to let me drive, mamma.

BERTHA.
[_Replacing the comb in her hair, embraces him suddenly._] O, what a
big man to drive a horse!

BRIGID.
Well, he’s daft on horses, anyhow.

ARCHIE.
[_Releasing himself._] I’ll make him go quick. You will see from the
window, mamma. With the whip. [_He makes the gesture of cracking a whip
and shouts at the top of his voice._] _Avanti!_

BRIGID.
Beat the poor horse, is it?

BERTHA.
Come here till I clean your mouth. [_She takes her handkerchief from
the pocket of her gown, wets it with her tongue and cleans his mouth._]
You’re all smudges or something, dirty little creature you are.

ARCHIE.
[_Repeats, laughing._] Smudges! What is smudges?

[_The noise is heard of a milkcan rattled on the railings before the
window._]

BRIGID.
[_Draws aside the curtains and looks out._] Here he is!

ARCHIE.
[_Rapidly._] Wait. I’m ready. Goodbye, mamma! [_He kisses her hastily
and turns to go._] Is pappie up?

BRIGID.
[_Takes him by the arm._] Come on with you now.

BERTHA.
Mind yourself, Archie, and don’t be long or I won’t let you go any
more.

ARCHIE.
All right. Look out of the window and you’ll see me. Goodbye.

[_Brigid and Archie go out by the door on the left. Bertha stands up
and, drawing aside the curtains still more, stands in the embrasure of
the window looking out. The hall door is heard opening: then a slight
noise of voices and cans is heard. The door is closed. After a moment
or two Bertha is seen waving her hand gaily in a salute. Brigid enters
and stands behind her, looking over her shoulder._]

BRIGID.
Look at the sit of him! As serious as you like.

BERTHA.
[_Suddenly withdrawing from her post._] Stand out of the window. I
don’t want to be seen.

BRIGID.
Why, ma’am, what is it?

BERTHA.
[_Crossing towards the folding doors._] Say I’m not up, that I’m not
well. I can’t see anyone.

BRIGID.
[_Follows her._] Who is it, ma’am?

BERTHA.
[_Halting._] Wait a moment.

[_She listens. A knock is heard at the hall door._]

BERTHA.
[_Stands a moment in doubt, then._] No, say I’m in.

BRIGID.
[_In doubt._] Here?

BERTHA.
[_Hurriedly._] Yes. Say I have just got up.

[_Brigid goes out on the left. Bertha goes towards the double doors and
fingers the curtains nervously, as if settling them. The hall door is
heard to open. Then Beatrice Justice enters and, as Bertha does not
turn at once, stands in hesitation near the door on the left. She is
dressed as before and has a newspaper in her hand._]

BEATRICE.
[_Advances rapidly._] Mrs Rowan, excuse me for coming at such an hour.

BERTHA.
[_Turns._] Good morning, Miss Justice. [_She comes towards her._] Is
anything the matter?

BEATRICE.
[_Nervously._] I don’t know. That is what I wanted to ask you.

BERTHA.
[_Looks curiously at her._] You are out of breath. Won’t you sit down?

BEATRICE.
[_Sitting down._] Thank you.

BERTHA.
[_Sits opposite her, pointing to her paper._] Is there something in the
paper?

BEATRICE.
[_Laughs nervously: opens the paper._] Yes.

BERTHA.
About Dick?

BEATRICE.
Yes. Here it is. A long article, a leading article, by my cousin. All
his life is here. Do you wish to see it?

BERTHA.
[_Takes the paper, and opens it._] Where is it?

BEATRICE.
In the middle. It is headed: _A Distinguished Irishman._

BERTHA.
Is it... for Dick or against him?

BEATRICE.
[_Warmly._] O, for him! You can read what he says about Mr Rowan. And I
know that Robert stayed in town very late last night to write it.

BERTHA.
[_Nervously._] Yes. Are you sure?

BEATRICE.
Yes. Very late. I heard him come home. It was long after two.

BERTHA.
[_Watching her._] It alarmed you? I mean to be awakened at that hour of
the morning.

BEATRICE.
I am a light sleeper. But I knew he had come from the office and
then... I suspected he had written an article about Mr Rowan and that
was why he came so late.

BERTHA.
How quick you were to think of that!

BEATRICE.
Well, after what took place here yesterday afternoon—I mean what Robert
said, that Mr Rowan had accepted this position. It was only natural I
should think...

BERTHA.
Ah, yes. Naturally.

BEATRICE.
[_Hastily._] But that is not what alarmed me. But immediately after I
heard a noise in my cousin’s room.

BERTHA.
[_Crumples together the paper in her hands, breathlessly._] My God!
What is it? Tell me.

BEATRICE.
[_Observing her._] Why does that upset you so much?

BERTHA.
[_Sinking back, with a forced laugh._] Yes, of course, it is very
foolish of me. My nerves are all upset. I slept very badly, too. That
is why I got up so early. But tell me what was it then?

BEATRICE.
Only the noise of his valise being pulled along the floor. Then I heard
him walking about his room, whistling softly. And then locking it and
strapping it.

BERTHA.
He is going away!

BEATRICE.
That was what alarmed me. I feared he had had a quarrel with Mr Rowan
and that his article was an attack.

BERTHA.
But why should they quarrel? Have you noticed anything between them?

BEATRICE.
I thought I did. A coldness.

BERTHA.
Lately?

BEATRICE.
For some time past.

BERTHA.
[_Smoothing the paper out._] Do you know the reason?

BEATRICE.
[_Hesitatingly._] No.

BERTHA.
[_After a pause._] Well, but if this article is for him, as you say,
they have not quarrelled. [_She reflects a moment._] And written last
night, too.

BEATRICE.
Yes. I bought the paper at once to see. But why, then, is he going away
so suddenly? I feel that there is something wrong. I feel that
something has happened between them.

BERTHA.
Would you be sorry?

BEATRICE.
I would be very sorry. You see, Mrs Rowan, Robert is my first cousin
and it would grieve me very deeply if he were to treat Mr Rowan badly,
now that he has come back, or if they had a serious quarrel especially
because...

BERTHA.
[_Toying with the paper._] Because?

BEATRICE.
Because it was my cousin who urged Mr Rowan always to come back. I have
that on my conscience.

BERTHA.
It should be on Mr Hand’s conscience, should it not?

BEATRICE.
[_Uncertainly._] On mine, too. Because—I spoke to my cousin about Mr
Rowan when he was away and, to a certain extent, it was I...

BERTHA.
[_Nods slowly._] I see. And that is on your conscience. Only that?

BEATRICE.
I think so.

BERTHA.
[_Almost cheerfully._] It looks as if it was you, Miss Justice, who
brought my husband back to Ireland.

BEATRICE.
I, Mrs Rowan?

BERTHA.
Yes, you. By your letters to him and then by speaking to your cousin as
you said just now. Do you not think that you are the person who brought
him back?

BEATRICE.
[_Blushing suddenly._] No. I could not think that.

BERTHA.
[_Watches her for a moment; then turning aside._] You know that my
husband is writing very much since he came back.

BEATRICE.
Is he?

BERTHA.
Did you not know? [_She points towards the study._] He passes the
greater part of the night in there writing. Night after night.

BEATRICE.
In his study?

BERTHA.
Study or bedroom. You may call it what you please. He sleeps there,
too, on a sofa. He slept there last night. I can show you if you don’t
believe me.

[_She rises to go towards the study. Beatrice half rises quickly and
makes a gesture of refusal._]

BEATRICE.
I believe you, of course, Mrs Rowan, when you tell me.

BERTHA.
[_Sitting down again._] Yes. He is writing. And it must be about
something which has come into his life lately—since we came back to
Ireland. Some change. Do you know that any change has come into his
life? [_She looks searchingly at her._] Do you know it or feel it?

BEATRICE.
[_Answers her look steadily._] Mrs Rowan, that is not a question to ask
me. If any change has come into his life since he came back you must
know and feel it.

BERTHA.
You could know it just as well. You are very intimate in this house.

BEATRICE.
I am not the only person who is intimate here.

[_They both look at each other coldly in silence for some moments.
Bertha lays aside the paper and sits down on a chair nearer to
Beatrice._]

BERTHA.
[_Placing her hand on Beatrice’s
knee._] So you also hate me, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE.
[_With an effort._] Hate you? I?

BERTHA.
[_Insistently but softly._] Yes. You know what it means to hate a
person?

BEATRICE.
Why should I hate you? I have never hated anyone.

BERTHA.
Have you ever loved anyone? [_She puts her hand on Beatrice’s wrist._]
Tell me. You have?

BEATRICE.
[_Also softly._] Yes. In the past.

BERTHA.
Not now?

BEATRICE.
No.

BERTHA.
Can you say that to me—truly? Look at me.

BEATRICE.
[_Looks at her._] Yes, I can.

[_A short pause. Bertha withdraws her hand, and turns away her head in
some embarrassment._]

BERTHA.
You said just now that another person is intimate in this house. You
meant your cousin... Was it he?

BEATRICE.
Yes.

BERTHA.
Have you not forgotten him?

BEATRICE.
[_Quietly._] I have tried to.

BERTHA.
[_Clasping her hands._] You hate me. You think I am happy. If you only
knew how wrong you are!

BEATRICE.
[_Shakes her head._] I do not.

BERTHA.
Happy! When I do not understand anything that he writes, when I cannot
help him in any way, when I don’t even understand half of what he says
to me sometimes! You could and you can. [_Excitedly._] But I am afraid
for him, afraid for both of them. [_She stands up suddenly and goes
towards the davenport._] He must not go away like that. [_She takes a
writing pad from the drawer and writes a few lines in great haste._]
No, it is impossible! Is he mad to do such a thing? [_Turning to
Beatrice._] Is he still at home?

BEATRICE.
[_Watching her in wonder._] Yes. Have you written to him to ask him to
come here?

BERTHA.
[_Rises._] I have. I will send Brigid across with it. Brigid!

[_She goes out by the door on the left rapidly._]

BEATRICE.
[_Gazing after her, instinctively:_] It is true, then!

[_She glances toward the door of Richard’s study and catches her head
in her hands. Then, recovering herself, she takes the paper from the
little table, opens it, takes a spectacle case from her handbag and,
putting on a pair of spectacles, bends down, reading it. Richard Rowan
enters from the garden. He is dressed as before but wears a soft hat
and carries a thin cane._]

RICHARD.
[_Stands in the doorway, observing her for some moments._] There are
demons [_he points out towards the strand_] out there. I heard them
jabbering since dawn.

BEATRICE.
[_Starts to her feet._] Mr Rowan!

RICHARD.
I assure you. The isle is full of voices. Yours also, _Otherwise I
could not see you,_ it said. And her voice. But, I assure you, they are
all demons. I made the sign of the cross upside down and that silenced
them.

BEATRICE.
[_Stammering._] I came here, Mr Rowan, so early because... to show you
this... Robert wrote it... about you... last night.

RICHARD.
[_Takes off his hat._] My dear Miss Justice, you told me yesterday, I
think, why you came here and I never forget anything. [_Advancing
towards her, holding out his hand._] Good morning.

BEATRICE.
[_Suddenly takes off her spectacles and places the paper in his
hands._] I came for this. It is an article about you. Robert wrote it
last night. Will you read it?

RICHARD.
[_Bows._] Read it now? Certainly.

BEATRICE.
[_Looks at him in despair._] O, Mr Rowan, it makes me suffer to look at
you.

RICHARD.
[_Opens and reads the paper._] _Death of the Very Reverend Canon
Mulhall_. Is that it?

[_Bertha appears at the door on the left and stands to listen._]

RICHARD.
[_Turns over a page._] Yes, here we are! _A Distinguished Irishman._
[_He begins to read in a rather loud hard voice._] Not the least vital
of the problems which confront our country is the problem of her
attitude towards those of her children who, having left her in her hour
of need, have been called back to her now on the eve of her longawaited
victory, to her whom in loneliness and exile they have at last learned
to love. In exile, we have said, but here we must distinguish. There is
an economic and there is a spiritual exile. There are those who left
her to seek the bread by which men live and there are others, nay, her
most favoured children, who left her to seek in other lands that food
of the spirit by which a nation of human beings is sustained in life.
Those who recall the intellectual life of Dublin of a decade since will
have many memories of Mr Rowan. Something of that fierce indignation
which lacerated the heart...

[_He raises his eyes from the paper and sees Bertha standing in the
doorway. Then he lays aside the paper and looks at her. A long
silence._]

BEATRICE.
[_With an effort._] You see, Mr Rowan, your day has dawned at last.
Even here. And you see that you have a warm friend in Robert, a friend
who understands you.

RICHARD.
Did you notice the little phrase at the beginning: _those who left her
in her hour of need?_

[_He looks searchingly at Bertha, turns and walks into his study,
closing the door behind him._]

BERTHA.
[_Speaking half to herself._] I gave up everything for him, religion,
family, my own peace.

[_She sits down heavily in an armchair. Beatrice comes towards her._]

BEATRICE.
[_Weakly._] But do you not feel also that Mr Rowan’s ideas...

BERTHA.
[_Bitterly._] Ideas and ideas! But the people in this world have other
ideas or pretend to. They have to put up with him in spite of his ideas
because he is able to do something. Me, no. I am nothing.

BEATRICE.
You stand by his side.

BERTHA.
[_With increasing bitterness._] Ah, nonsense, Miss Justice! I am only a
thing he got entangled with and my son is—the nice name they give those
children. Do you think I am a stone? Do you think I don’t see it in
their eyes and in their manner when they have to meet me?

BEATRICE.
Do not let them humble you, Mrs Rowan.

BERTHA.
[_Haughtily._] Humble me! I am very proud of myself, if you want to
know. What have they ever done for him? I made him a man. What are they
all in his life? No more than the dirt under his boots! [_She stands up
and walks excitedly to and fro._] He can despise me, too, like the rest
of them—now. And you can despise me. But you will never humble me, any
of you.

BEATRICE.
Why do you accuse me?

BERTHA.
[_Going to her impulsively._] I am in such suffering. Excuse me if I
was rude. I want us to be friends. [_She holds out her hands._] Will
you?

BEATRICE.
[_Taking her hands._] Gladly.

BERTHA.
[_Looking at her._] What lovely long eyelashes you have! And your eyes
have such a sad expression!

BEATRICE.
[_Smiling._] I see very little with them. They are very weak.

BERTHA.
[_Warmly._] But beautiful.

[_She embraces her quietly and kisses her. Then withdraws from her a
little shyly. Brigid comes in from the left._]

BRIGID.
I gave it to himself, ma’am.

BERTHA.
Did he send a message?

BRIGID.
He was just going out, ma’am. He told me to say he’d be here after me.

BERTHA.
Thanks.

BRIGID.
[_Going._] Would you like the tea and the toast now, ma’am?

BERTHA.
Not now, Brigid. After perhaps. When Mr Hand comes show him in at once.

BRIGID.
Yes, ma’am.

[_She goes out on the left._]

BEATRICE.
I will go now, Mrs Rowan, before he comes.

BERTHA.
[_Somewhat timidly._] Then we are friends?

BEATRICE.
[_In the same tone._] We will try to be. [_Turning._] Do you allow me
to go out through the garden? I don’t want to meet my cousin now.

BERTHA.
Of course. [_She takes her hand._] It is so strange that we spoke like
this now. But I always wanted to. Did you?

BEATRICE.
I think I did, too.

BERTHA.
[_Smiling._] Even in Rome. When I went out for a walk with Archie I
used to think about you, what you were like, because I knew about you
from Dick. I used to look at different persons, coming out of churches
or going by in carriages, and think that perhaps they were like you.
Because Dick told me you were dark.

BEATRICE.
[_Again nervously._] Really?

BERTHA.
[_Pressing her hand._] Goodbye then—for the present.

BEATRICE.
[_Disengaging her hand._] Good morning.

BERTHA.
I will see you to the gate.

[_She accompanies her out through the double doors. They go down
through the garden. Richard Rowan comes in from the study. He halts
near the doors, looking down the garden. Then he turns away, comes to
the little table, takes up the paper and reads. Bertha, after some
moments, appears in the doorway and stands watching him till he has
finished. He lays down the paper again and turns to go back to his
study._]

BERTHA.
Dick!

RICHARD.
[_Stopping._] Well?

BERTHA.
You have not spoken to me.

RICHARD.
I have nothing to say. Have you?

BERTHA.
Do you not wish to know—about what happened last night?

RICHARD.
That I will never know.

BERTHA.
I will tell you if you ask me.

RICHARD.
You will tell me. But I will never know. Never in this world.

BERTHA.
[_Moving towards him._] I will tell you the truth, Dick, as I always
told you. I never lied to you.

RICHARD.
[_Clenching his hands in the air, passionately._] Yes, yes. The truth!
But I will never know, I tell you.

BERTHA.
Why, then, did you leave me last night?

RICHARD.
[_Bitterly._] In your hour of need.

BERTHA.
[_Threateningly._] You urged me to it. Not because you love me. If you
loved me or if you knew what love was you would not have left me. For
your own sake you urged me to it.

RICHARD.
I did not make myself. I am what I am.

BERTHA.
To have it always to throw against me. To make me humble before you, as
you always did. To be free yourself. [_Pointing towards the garden._]
With her! And that is your love! Every word you say is false.

RICHARD.
[_Controlling himself._] It is useless to ask you to listen to me.

BERTHA.
Listen to you! She is the person for listening. Why would you waste
your time with me? Talk to her.

RICHARD.
[_Nods his head._] I see. You have driven her away from me now, as you
drove everyone else from my side—every friend I ever had, every human
being that ever tried to approach me. You hate her.

BERTHA.
[_Warmly._] No such thing! I think you have made her unhappy as you
have made me and as you made your dead mother unhappy and killed her.
Womankiller! That is your name.

RICHARD.
[_Turns to go._] _Arrivederci!_

BERTHA.
[_Excitedly._] She is a fine and high character. I like her. She is
everything that I am not—in birth and education. You tried to ruin her
but you could not. Because she is well able for you—what I am not. And
you know it.

RICHARD.
[_Almost shouting._] What the devil are you talking about her for?

BERTHA.
[_Clasping her hands._] O, how I wish I had never met you! How I curse
that day!

RICHARD.
[_Bitterly._] I am in the way, is it? You would like to be free now.
You have only to say the word.

BERTHA.
[_Proudly._] Whenever you like I am ready.

RICHARD.
So that you could meet your lover—freely?

BERTHA.
Yes.

RICHARD.
Night after night?

BERTHA.
[_Gazing before her and speaking with intense passion._] To meet my
lover! [_Holding out her arms before her._] My lover! Yes! My lover!

[_She bursts suddenly into tears and sinks down on a chair, covering
her face with her hands. Richard approaches her slowly and touches her
on the shoulder._]

RICHARD.
Bertha! [_She does not answer._] Bertha, you are free.

BERTHA.
[_Pushes his hand aside and starts to her feet._] Don’t touch me! You
are a stranger to me. You do not understand anything in me—not one
thing in my heart or soul. A stranger! I am living with a stranger!

[_A knock is heard at the hall door. Bertha dries her eyes quickly with
her handkerchief and settles the front of her gown. Richard listens for
a moment, looks at her keenly and, turning away, walks into his study.
Robert Hand enters from the left. He is dressed in dark brown and
carries in his hand a brown Alpine hat._]

ROBERT.
[_Closing the door quietly behind him._] You sent for me.

BERTHA.
[_Rises._] Yes. Are you mad to think of going away like that—without
even coming here—without saying anything?

ROBERT.
[_Advancing towards the table on which the paper lies, glances at it._]
What I have to say I said here.

BERTHA.
When did you write it? Last night—after I went away?

ROBERT.
[_Gracefully._] To be quite accurate, I wrote part of it—in my
mind—before you went away. The rest—the worst part—I wrote after.
Much later.

BERTHA.
And you could write last night!

ROBERT.
[_Shrugs his shoulders._] I am a welltrained animal. [_He comes closer
to her._] I passed a long wandering night after... in my office, at the
vicechancellor’s house, in a nightclub, in the streets, in my room.
Your image was always before my eyes, your hand in my hand. Bertha, I
will never forget last night. [_He lays his hat on the table and takes
her hand._] Why do you not look at me? May I not touch you?

BERTHA.
[_Points to the study._] Dick is in there.

ROBERT.
[_Drops her hand._] In that case children be good.

BERTHA.
Where are you going?

ROBERT.
To foreign parts. That is, to my cousin Jack Justice, _alias_ Doggy
Justice, in Surrey. He has a nice country place there and the air is
mild.

BERTHA.
Why are you going?

ROBERT.
[_Looks at her in silence._] Can you not guess one reason?

BERTHA.
On account of me?

ROBERT.
Yes. It is not pleasant for me to remain here just now.

BERTHA.
[_Sits down helplessly._] But this is cruel of you, Robert. Cruel to me
and to him also.

ROBERT.
Has he asked... what happened?

BERTHA.
[_Joining her hands in despair._] No. He refuses to ask me anything. He
says he will never know.

ROBERT.
[_Nods gravely._] Richard is right there. He is always right.

BERTHA.
But, Robert, you must speak to him.

ROBERT.
What am I to say to him?

BERTHA.
The truth! Everything!

ROBERT.
[_Reflects._] No, Bertha. I am a man speaking to a man. I cannot tell
him everything.

BERTHA.
He will believe that you are going away because you are afraid to face
him after last night.

ROBERT.
[_After a pause._] Well, I am not a coward any more than he. I will see
him.

BERTHA.
[_Rises._] I will call him.

ROBERT.
[_Catching her hands._] Bertha! What happened last night? What is the
truth that I am to tell? [_He gazes earnestly into her eyes._] Were you
mine in that sacred night of love? Or have I dreamed it?

BERTHA.
[_Smiles faintly._] Remember your dream of me. You dreamed that I was
yours last night.

ROBERT.
And that is the truth—a dream? That is what I am to tell?

BERTHA.
Yes.

ROBERT.
[_Kisses both her hands._] Bertha! [_In a softer voice._] In all my
life only that dream is real. I forget the rest. [_He kisses her hands
again._] And now I can tell him the truth. Call him.

[_Bertha goes to the door of Richard’s study and knocks. There is no
answer. She knocks again._]

BERTHA.
Dick! [_There is no answer._] Mr Hand is here. He wants to speak to
you, to say goodbye. He is going away. [_There is no answer. She beats
her hand loudly on the panel of the door and calls in an alarmed
voice._] Dick! Answer me!

[_Richard Rowan comes in from the study. He comes at once to Robert but
does not hold out his hand._]

RICHARD.
[_Calmly._] I thank you for your kind article about me. Is it true that
you have come to say goodbye?

ROBERT.
There is nothing to thank me for, Richard. Now and always I am your
friend. Now more than ever before. Do you believe me, Richard?

[_Richard sits down on a chair and buries his face in his hands. Bertha
and Robert gaze at each other in silence. Then she turns away and goes
out quietly on the right. Robert goes towards Richard and stands near
him, resting his hands on the back of a chair, looking down at him.
There is a long silence. A Fishwoman is heard crying out as she passes
along the road outside._]

THE FISHWOMAN.
Fresh Dublin bay herrings! Fresh Dublin bay herrings! Dublin bay
herrings!

ROBERT.
[_Quietly._] I will tell you the truth, Richard. Are you listening?

RICHARD.
[_Raises his face and leans back to listen._] Yes.

[_Robert sits on the chair beside him. The Fishwoman is heard calling
out farther away._]

THE FISHWOMAN.
Fresh herrings! Dublin bay herrings!

ROBERT.
I failed, Richard. That is the truth. Do you believe me?

RICHARD.
I am listening.

ROBERT.
I failed. She is yours, as she was nine years ago, when you met her
first.

RICHARD.
When we met her first, you mean.

ROBERT.
Yes. [_He looks down for some moments._] Shall I go on?

RICHARD.
Yes.

ROBERT.
She went away. I was left alone—for the second time. I went to the
vicechancellor’s house and dined. I said you were ill and would come
another night. I made epigrams new and old—that one about the statues
also. I drank claret cup. I went to my office and wrote my article.
Then...

RICHARD.
Then?

ROBERT.
Then I went to a certain nightclub. There were men there—and also
women. At least, they looked like women. I danced with one of them. She
asked me to see her home. Shall I go on?

RICHARD.
Yes.

ROBERT.
I saw her home in a cab. She lives near Donnybrook. In the cab took
place what the subtle Duns Scotus calls a death of the spirit. Shall I
go on?

RICHARD.
Yes.

ROBERT.
She wept. She told me she was the divorced wife of a barrister. I
offered her a sovereign as she told me she was short of money. She
would not take it and wept very much. Then she drank some melissa water
from a little bottle which she had in her satchel. I saw her enter her
house. Then I walked home. In my room I found that my coat was all
stained with the melissa water. I had no luck even with my coats
yesterday: that was the second one. The idea came to me then to change
my suit and go away by the morning boat. I packed my valise and went to
bed. I am going away by the next train to my cousin, Jack Justice, in
Surrey. Perhaps for a fortnight. Perhaps longer. Are you disgusted?

RICHARD.
Why did you not go by the boat?

ROBERT.
I slept it out.

RICHARD.
You intended to go without saying goodbye—without coming here?

ROBERT.
Yes.

RICHARD.
Why?

ROBERT.
My story is not very nice, is it?

RICHARD.
But you have come.

ROBERT.
Bertha sent me a message to come.

RICHARD.
But for that...?

ROBERT.
But for that I should not have come.

RICHARD.
Did it strike you that if you had gone without coming here I should
have understood it—in my own way?

ROBERT.
Yes, it did.

RICHARD.
What, then, do you wish me to believe?

ROBERT.
I wish you to believe that I failed. That Bertha is yours now as she
was nine years ago, when you—when we—met her first.

RICHARD.
Do you want to know what I did?

ROBERT.
No.

RICHARD.
I came home at once.

ROBERT.
Did you hear Bertha return?

RICHARD.
No. I wrote all the night. And thought. [_Pointing to the study._] In
there. Before dawn I went out and walked the strand from end to end.

ROBERT.
[_Shaking his head._] Suffering. Torturing yourself.

RICHARD.
Hearing voices about me. The voices of those who say they love me.

ROBERT.
[_Points to the door on the right._] One. And mine?

RICHARD.
Another still.

ROBERT.
[_Smiles and touches his forehead with his right forefinger._] True. My
interesting but somewhat melancholy cousin. And what did they tell you?

RICHARD.
They told me to despair.

ROBERT.
A queer way of showing their love, I must say! And will you despair?

RICHARD.
[_Rising._] No.

[_A noise is heard at the window. Archie’s face is seen flattened
against one of the panes. He is heard calling._]

ARCHIE.
Open the window! Open the window!

ROBERT.
[_Looks at Richard._] Did you hear his voice, too, Richard, with the
others—out there on the strand? Your son’s voice. [_Smiling._] Listen!
How full it is of despair!

ARCHIE.
Open the window, please, will you?

ROBERT.
Perhaps, there, Richard, is the freedom we seek—you in one way, I in
another. In him and not in us. Perhaps...

RICHARD.
Perhaps...?

ROBERT.
I said _perhaps_. I would say almost surely if...

RICHARD.
If what?

ROBERT.
[_With a faint smile._] If he were mine.

[_He goes to the window and opens it. Archie scrambles in._]

ROBERT.
Like yesterday—eh?

ARCHIE.
Good morning, Mr Hand. [_He runs to Richard and kisses him:_] _Buon
giorno, babbo_.

RICHARD.
_Buon giorno_, Archie.

ROBERT.
And where were you, my young gentleman?

ARCHIE.
Out with the milkman. I drove the horse. We went to Booterstown. [_He
takes off his cap and throws it on a chair._] I am very hungry.

ROBERT.
[_Takes his hat from the table._] Richard, goodbye. [_Offering his
hand._] To our next meeting!

RICHARD.
[_Rises, touches his hand._] Goodbye.

[_Bertha appears at the door on the right._]

ROBERT.
[_Catches sight of her: to Archie._] Get your cap. Come on with me.
I’ll buy you a cake and I’ll tell you a story.

ARCHIE.
[_To Bertha._] May I, mamma?

BERTHA.
Yes.

ARCHIE.
[_Takes his cap._] I am ready.

ROBERT.
[_To Richard and Bertha._] Goodbye to pappa and mamma. But not a big
goodbye.

ARCHIE.
Will you tell me a fairy story, Mr Hand?

ROBERT.
A fairy story? Why not? I am your fairy godfather.

[_They go out together through the double doors and down the garden.
When they have gone Bertha goes to Richard and puts her arm round his
waist._]

BERTHA.
Dick, dear, do you believe now that I have been true to you? Last night
and always?

RICHARD.
[_Sadly._] Do not ask me, Bertha.

BERTHA.
[_Pressing him more closely._] I have been, dear. Surely you believe
me. I gave you myself—all. I gave up all for you. You took me—and you
left me.

RICHARD.
When did I leave you?

BERTHA.
You left me: and I waited for you to come back to me. Dick, dear, come
here to me. Sit down. How tired you must be!

[_She draws him towards the lounge. He sits down, almost reclining,
resting on his arm. She sits on the mat before the lounge, holding his
hand._]

BERTHA.
Yes, dear. I waited for you. Heavens, what I suffered then—when we
lived in Rome! Do you remember the terrace of our house?

RICHARD.
Yes.

BERTHA.
I used to sit there, waiting, with the poor child with his toys,
waiting till he got sleepy. I could see all the roofs of the city and
the river, the _Tevere_. What is its name?

RICHARD.
The Tiber.

BERTHA.
[_Caressing her cheek with his hand._] It was lovely, Dick, only I was
so sad. I was alone, Dick, forgotten by you and by all. I felt my life
was ended.

RICHARD.
It had not begun.

BERTHA.
And I used to look at the sky, so beautiful, without a cloud and the
city you said was so old: and then I used to think of Ireland and about
ourselves.

RICHARD.
Ourselves?

BERTHA.
Yes. Ourselves. Not a day passes that I do not see ourselves, you and
me, as we were when we met first. Every day of my life I see that. Was
I not true to you all that time?

RICHARD.
[_Sighs deeply._] Yes, Bertha. You were my bride in exile.

BERTHA.
Wherever you go, I will follow you. If you wish to go away now I will
go with you.

RICHARD.
I will remain. It is too soon yet to despair.

BERTHA.
[_Again caressing his hand._] It is not true that I want to drive
everyone from you. I wanted to bring you close together—you and him.
Speak to me. Speak out all your heart to me. What you feel and what you
suffer.

RICHARD.
I am wounded, Bertha.

BERTHA.
How wounded, dear? Explain to me what you mean. I will try to
understand everything you say. In what way are you wounded?

RICHARD.
[_Releases his hand and, taking her head between his hands, bends it
back and gazes long into her eyes._] I have a deep, deep wound of doubt
in my soul.

BERTHA.
[_Motionless._] Doubt of me?

RICHARD.
Yes.

BERTHA.
I am yours. [_In a whisper._] If I died this moment, I am yours.

RICHARD.
[_Still gazing at her and speaking as if to an absent person._] I have
wounded my soul for you—a deep wound of doubt which can never be
healed. I can never know, never in this world. I do not wish to know or
to believe. I do not care. It is not in the darkness of belief that I
desire you. But in restless living wounding doubt. To hold you by no
bonds, even of love, to be united with you in body and soul in utter
nakedness—for this I longed. And now I am tired for a while, Bertha. My
wound tires me.

[_He stretches himself out wearily along the lounge. Bertha holds his
hand still, speaking very softly._]

BERTHA.
Forget me, Dick. Forget me and love me again as you did the first time.
I want my lover. To meet him, to go to him, to give myself to him. You,
Dick. O, my strange wild lover, come back to me again!

[_She closes her eyes._]





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