A lady and gentleman are making love to one another in the drawing-room of a flat in Ashly Gardens in the Victoria district of London. It is past ten at night. The walls are hung with theatrical engravings and photographs—Kemble as Hamlet, Mrs. Siddons as Queen Katharine pleading in court, Macready as Werner (after Maclise), Sir Henry Irving as Richard III (after Long), Miss Ellen Terry, Mrs. Kendal, Miss Ada Rehan, Madame Sarah Bernhardt, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, Mr. A. W. Pinero, Mr. Sydney Grundy, and so on, but not the Signora Duse or anyone connected with Ibsen. The room is not a perfect square, the right hand corner at the back being cut off diagonally by the doorway, and the opposite corner rounded by a turret window filled up with a stand of flowers surrounding a statue of Shakespear. The fireplace is on the right, with an armchair near it. A small round table, further forward on the same side, with a chair beside it, has a yellow-backed French novel lying open on it. The piano, a grand, is on the left, open, with the keyboard in full view at right angles to the wall. The piece of music on the desk is "When other lips." Incandescent lights, well shaded, are on the piano and mantelpiece. Near the piano is a sofa, on which the lady and gentleman are seated affectionately side by side, in one another's arms.
The lady, Grace Tranfield, is about 32, slight of build, delicate of feature, and sensitive in expression. She is just now given up to the emotion of the moment; but her well closed mouth, proudly set brows, firm chin, and elegant carriage show plenty of determination and self respect. She is in evening dress.
The gentleman, Leonard Charteris, a few years older, is unconventionally but smartly dressed in a velvet jacket and cashmere trousers. His collar, dyed Wotan blue, is part of his shirt, and turns over a garnet coloured scarf of Indian silk, secured by a turquoise ring. He wears blue socks and leather sandals. The arrangement of his tawny hair, and of his moustaches and short beard, is apparently left to Nature; but he has taken care that Nature shall do him the fullest justice. His amative enthusiasm, at which he is himself laughing, and his clever, imaginative, humorous ways, contrast strongly with the sincere tenderness and dignified quietness of the woman.
CHARTERIS (impulsively clasping Grace). My dearest love.
GRACE (responding affectionately). My darling. Are you happy?
CHARTERIS. In Heaven.
GRACE. My own.
CHARTERIS. My heart's love. (He sighs happily, and takes her hands in his, looking quaintly at her.) That must positively be my last kiss, Grace, or I shall become downright silly. Let us talk. (Releases her and sits a little apart from her.) Grace: is this your first love affair?
GRACE. Have you forgotten that I am a widow? Do you think I married Tranfield for money?
CHARTERIS. How do I know? Besides, you might have married him not because you loved him, but because you didn't love anybody else. When one is young, one marries out of mere curiosity, just to see what it's like.
GRACE. Well, since you ask me, I never was in love with Tranfield, though I only found that out when I fell in love with you. But I used to like him for being in love with me. It brought out all the good in him so much that I have wanted to be in love with some one ever since. I hope, now that I am in love with you, you will like me for it just as I liked Tranfield.
CHARTERIS. My dear, it is because I like you that I want to marry you. I could love anybody—any pretty woman, that is.
GRACE. Do you really mean that, Leonard?
CHARTERIS. Of course. Why not?
GRACE (reflecting). Never mind why. Now tell me, is this your first love affair?
CHARTERIS (amazed at the simplicity of the question). No, bless my soul. No—nor my second, nor my third.
GRACE. But I mean your first serious one.
CHARTERIS (with a certain hesitation). Yes. (There is a pause. She is not convinced. He adds, with a very perceptible load on his conscience.) It is the first in which I have been serious.
GRACE (searchingly). I see. The other parties were always serious.
CHARTERIS. No, not always—heaven forbid!
GRACE. How often?
CHARTERIS. Well, once.
GRACE. Julia Craven?
CHARTERIS (recoiling). Who told you that? (She shakes her head mysteriously, and he turns away from her moodily and adds) You had much better not have asked.
GRACE (gently). I'm sorry, dear. (She puts out her hand and pulls softly at him to bring him near her again.)
CHARTERIS (yielding mechanically to the pull, and allowing her hand to rest on his arm, but sitting squarely without the least attempt to return the caress). Do I feel harder to the touch than I did five minutes ago?
GRACE. What nonsense!
CHARTERIS. I feel as if my body had turned into the toughest of hickory. That is what comes of reminding me of Julia Craven. (Brooding, with his chin on his right hand and his elbow on his knee.) I have sat alone with her just as I am sitting with you—
GRACE (shrinking from him). Just!
CHARTERIS (sitting upright and facing her steadily). Just exactly. She has put her hands in mine, and laid her cheek against mine, and listened to me saying all sorts of silly things. (Grace, chilled to the soul, rises from the sofa and sits down on the piano stool, with her back to the keyboard.) Ah, you don't want to hear any more of the story. So much the better.
GRACE (deeply hurt, but controlling herself). When did you break it off?
CHARTERIS (guiltily). Break it off?
GRACE (firmly). Yes, break it off.
CHARTERIS. Well, let me see. When did I fall in love with you?
GRACE. Did you break it off then?
CHARTERIS (mischievously, making it plainer and plainer that it has not been broken off). It was clear then, of course, that it must be broken off.
GRACE. And did you break it off?
CHARTERIS. Oh, yes: I broke it off,
GRACE. But did she break it off?
CHARTERIS (rising). As a favour to me, dearest, change the subject. Come away from the piano: I want you to sit here with me. (Takes a step towards her.)
GRACE. No. I also have grown hard to the touch—much harder than hickory for the present. Did she break it off?
CHARTERIS. My dear, be reasonable. It was fully explained to her that it was to be broken off.
GRACE. Did she accept the explanation?
CHARTERIS. She did what a woman like Julia always does. When I explained personally, she said it was not not my better self that was speaking, and that she knew I still really loved her. When I wrote it to her with brutal explicitness, she read the letter carefully and then sent it back to me with a note to say that she had not had the courage to open it, and that I ought to be ashamed of having written it. (Comes beside Grace, and puts his left hand caressingly round her neck.) You see, dearie, she won't look the situation in the face.
GRACE. (shaking off his hand and turning a little away on the stool). I am afraid, from the light way in which you speak of it, you did not sound the right chord.
CHARTERIS. My dear, when you are doing what a woman calls breaking her heart, you may sound the very prettiest chords you can find on the piano; but to her ears it is just like this—(Sits down on the bass end of the keyboard. Grace puts her fingers in her ears. He rises and moves away from the piano, saying) No, my dear: I've been kind; I've been frank; I've been everything that a goodnatured man could be: she only takes it as the making up of a lover's quarrel. (Grace winces.) Frankness and kindness: one is as the other—especially frankness. I've tried both. (He crosses to the fireplace, and stands facing the fire, looking at the ornaments on the mantelpiece and warming his hands.)
GRACE (Her voice a little strained). What are you going to try now?
CHARTERIS (on the hearthrug, turning to face her). Action, my dear! Marriage!! In that she must believe. She won't be convinced by anything short of it, because, you see, I have had some tremendous philanderings before and have gone back to her after them.
GRACE. And so that is why you want to marry me?
CHARTERIS. I cannot deny it, my love. Yes: it is your mission to rescue me from Julia.
GRACE (rising). Then, if you please, I decline to be made use of for any such purpose. I will not steal you from another woman. (She begins to walk up and down the room with ominous disquiet.)
CHARTERIS. Steal me! (Comes towards her.) Grace: I have a question to put to you as an advanced woman. Mind! as an advanced woman. Does Julia belong to me? Am I her owner—her master?
GRACE. Certainly not. No woman is the property of a man. A woman belongs to herself and to nobody else.
CHARTERIS. Quite right. Ibsen for ever! That's exactly my opinion. Now tell me, do I belong to Julia; or have I a right to belong to myself?
GRACE (puzzled). Of course you have; but—
CHARTERIS (interrupting her triumphantly). Then how can you steal me from Julia if I don't belong to her? (Catching her by the shoulders and holding her out at arm's length in front of him.) Eh, little philosopher? No, my dear: if Ibsen sauce is good for the goose, it's good for the gander as well. Besides (coaxing her) it was nothing but a philander with Julia—nothing else in the world, I assure you.
GRACE (breaking away from him). So much the worse! I hate your philanderings: they make me ashamed of you and of myself. (Goes to the sofa and sits in the right hand corner of it, leaning gloomily on her elbow with her face averted.)
CHARTERIS. Grace: you utterly misunderstand the origin of my philanderings. (Sits down beside her.) Listen to me: am I a particularly handsome man?
GRACE (turning to him as if astonished at his conceit). No!
CHARTERIS (triumphantly). You admit it. Am I a well dressed man?
GRACE. Not particularly.
CHARTERIS. Of course not. Have I a romantic mysterious charm about me?—do I look as if a secret sorrow preyed on me?—am I gallant to women?
GRACE. Not in the least.
CHARTERIS. Certainly not. No one can accuse me of it. Then whose fault is it that half the women I speak to fall in love with me? Not mine: I hate it: it bores me to distraction. At first it flattered me—delighted me—that was how Julia got me, because she was the first woman who had the pluck to make me a declaration. But I soon had enough of it; and at no time have I taken the initiative and persecuted women with my advances as women have persecuted me. Never. Except, of course, in your case.
GRACE. Oh, you need not make any exception. I had a good deal of trouble to induce you to come and see us. You were very coy.
CHARTERIS (fondly, taking her hand). With you, dearest, the coyness was sheer coquetry. I loved you from the first, and fled only that you might pursue. But come! let us talk about something really interesting. (Takes her in his arms.) Do you love me better than anyone else in the world?
GRACE. I don't think you like to be loved too much.
CHARTERIS. That depends on who the person is. You (pressing her to his heart) cannot love me too much: you cannot love me half enough. I reproach you every day for your coldness—your— (Violent double knock heard without. They start and listen, still in one another's arms, hardly daring to breathe.) Who the deuce is calling at this hour?
GRACE. I can't imagine. (They listen guiltily. The door of the flat is opened without. They hastily get away from one another.)
A WOMAN'S VOICE OUTSIDE. Is Mr. Charteris here?
CHARTERIS (springing up). Julia! The devil! (Stands at the left of the sofa with his hands on it, bending forward with his eyes fixed on the door.)
GRACE (rising also). What can she want?
THE VOICE. Never mind: I will announce myself. (A beautiful, dark, tragic looking woman, in mantle and bonnet, appears at the door, raging furiously.) Oh, this is charming. I have interrupted a pretty tete-a-tete. Oh, you villain! (She comes straight at Grace. Charteris runs across behind the sofa and stops her. She struggles furiously with him. Grace preserves her self possession, but retreats quietly to the piano. Julia, finding Charteris too strong for her, gives up her attempt to get at Grace, but strikes him in the face as she frees herself.)
CHARTERIS (shocked). Oh, Julia, Julia! This is too bad.
JULIA. Is it, indeed, too bad? What are you doing up here with that woman? You scoundrel! But now listen to me; Leonard: you have driven me to desperation; and I don't care what I do, or who hears me. I'll not bear it. She shall not have my place with you—
JULIA. No, no: I don't care: I will expose her true character before everybody. You belong to me: you have no right to be here; and she knows it.
CHARTERIS. I think you had better let me take you home, Julia.
JULIA. I will not. I am not going home: I am going to stay here—here—until I have made you give her up.
CHARTERIS. My dear, you must be reasonable. You really cannot stay in Mrs. Tranfield's house if she objects. She can ring the bell and have us both put out.
JULIA. Let her do it then. Let her ring the bell if she dares. Let us see how this pure virtuous creature will face the scandal of what I will declare about her. Let us see how you will face it. I have nothing to lose. Everybody knows how you have treated me: you have boasted of your conquests, you poor pitiful, vain creature—I am the common talk of your acquaintances and hers. Oh, I have calculated my advantage (tearing off her mantle): I am a most unhappy and injured woman; but I am not the fool you take me to be. I am going to stay—see! (She flings the mantle on the round table; puts her bonnet on it, and sits down.) Now, Mrs. Tranfield: there is the bell: (pointing to the button beside the fireplace) why don't you ring? (Grace, looking attentively at Charteris, does not move.) Ha! ha! I thought so.
CHARTERIS (quietly, without relaxing his watch on Julia). Mrs. Tranfield: I think you had better go into another room. (Grace makes a movement towards the door, but stops and looks inquiringly at Charteris as Julia springs up. He advances a step so as to prevent her from getting to the door.)
JULIA. She shall not. She shall stay here. She shall know what you are, and how you have been in love with me—how it is not two days since you kissed me and told me that the future would be as happy as the past. (Screaming at him) You did: deny it if you dare.
CHARTERIS (to Grace in a low voice). Go!
GRACE (with nonchalant disgust—going). Get her away as soon as you can, Leonard.
(Julia, with a stifled cry of rage, rushes at Grace, who is crossing behind the sofa towards door. Charteris seizes her and prevents her from getting past the sofa. Grace goes out. Charteris, holding Julia fast, looks around to the door to see whether Grace is safely out of the room.)
JULIA (suddenly ceasing to struggle and speaking with the most pathetic dignity). Oh, there is no need to be violent. (He passes her across to the left end of the sofa, and leans against the right end, panting and mopping his forehead). That is worthy of you!—to use brute force—to humiliate me before her! (She breaks down and bursts into tears.)
CHARTERIS (to himself with melancholy conviction). This is going to be a cheerful evening. Now patience, patience, patience! (Sits on a chair near the round table.)
JULIA (in anguish). Leonard, have you no feeling for me?
CHARTERIS. Only an intense desire to get you safely out of this.
JULIA (fiercely). I am not going to stir.
CHARTERIS (wearily). Well, well. (Heaves a long sigh. They sit silent for awhile, Julia struggling, not to regain her self control, but to maintain her rage at boiling point.)
JULIA (rising suddenly). I am going to speak to that woman.
CHARTERIS (jumping up). No, no. Hang it, Julia, don't let's have another wrestling match. I have the strength, but not the wind: you're too young for me. Sit down or else let me take you home. Suppose her father comes in.
JULIA. I don't care. It rests with you. I am ready to go if she will give you up: until then I stay. Those are my terms: you owe me that, (She sits down determinedly. Charteris looks at her for a moment; then, making up his mind, goes resolutely to the couch, sits down near the right hand end of it, she being at the left; and says with biting emphasis)—
CHARTERIS. I owe you just exactly nothing.
JULIA (reproachfully). Nothing! You can look me in the face and say that? Oh, Leonard!
CHARTERIS. Let me remind you, Julia, that when first we became acquainted, the position you took up was that of a woman of advanced views.
JULIA. That should have made you respect me the more.
CHARTERIS (placably). So it did, my dear. But that is not the point. As a woman of advanced views, you were determined to be free. You regarded marriage as a degrading bargain, by which a woman sold herself to a man for the social status of a wife and the right to be supported and pensioned in old age out of his income. That's the advanced view—our view. Besides, if you had married me, I might have turned out a drunkard, a criminal, an imbecile, a horror to you; and you couldn't have released yourself. Too big a risk, you see. That's the rational view—our view. Accordingly, you reserved the right to leave me at any time if you found our companionship incompatible with—what was the expression you used?—with your full development as a human being: I think that was how you put the Ibsenist view—our view. So I had to be content with a charming philander, which taught me a great deal, and brought me some hours of exquisite happiness.
JULIA. Leonard: you confess then that you owe me something?
CHARTERIS (haughtily). No: what I received, I paid. Did you learn nothing from me?—was there no delight for you in our friendship?
JULIA (vehemently and movingly; for she is now sincere). No. You made me pay dearly for every moment of happiness. You revenged yourself on me for the humiliation of being the slave of your passion for me. I was never sure of you for a moment. I trembled whenever a letter came from you, lest it should contain some stab for me. I dreaded your visits almost as much as I longed for them. I was your plaything, not your companion. (She rises, exclaiming) Oh, there was such suffering in my happiness that I hardly knew joy from pain. (She sinks on the piano stool, and adds, as she buries her face in her hands and turns away from him) Better for me if I had never met you!
CHARTERIS (rising indignantly). You ungenerous wretch! Is this your gratitude for the way I have just been flattering you? What have I not endured from you—endured with angelic patience? Did I not find out, before our friendship was a fortnight old, that all your advanced views were merely a fashion picked up and followed like any other fashion, without understanding or meaning a word of them? Did you not, in spite of your care for your own liberty, set up claims on me compared to which the claims of the most jealous wife would have been trifles. Have I a single woman friend whom you have not abused as old, ugly, vicious—
JULIA (quickly looking up). So they are.
CHARTERIS. Well, then, I'll come to grievances that even you can understand. I accuse you of habitual and intolerable jealousy and ill temper; of insulting me on imaginary provocation: of positively beating me; of stealing letters of mine—
JULIA (rising). Yes, nice letters.
CHARTERIS. —of breaking your solemn promises not to do it again; of spending hours—aye, days! piecing together the contents of my waste paper basket in your search for more letters; and then representing yourself as an ill used saint and martyr wantonly betrayed and deserted by a selfish monster of a man.
JULIA. I was justified in reading your letters. Our perfect confidence in one another gave me the right to do it.
CHARTERIS. Thank you. Then I hasten to break off a confidence which gives such rights. (Sits down sulkily on sofa.)
JULIA (with her right hand on the back of the sofa, bending over him threateningly). You have no right to break it off.
CHARTERIS. I have. You refused to marry me because—
JULIA. I did not. You never asked me. If we were married, you would never dare treat me as you are doing now.
CHARTERIS (laboriously going back to his argument). It was understood between us as people of advanced views that we were not to marry because, as the law stands, I might have become a drunkard, a—
JULIA. —a criminal, an imbecile or a horror. You said that before. (Sits down beside him with a fling.)
CHARTERIS (politely). I beg your pardon, my dear. I know I have a habit of repeating myself. The point is that you reserved your freedom to give me up when you pleased.
JULIA. Well, what of that? I do not please to give you up; and I will not. You have not become a drunkard or a criminal.
CHARTERIS. You don't see the point yet, Julia. You seem to forget that in reserving your freedom to leave me in case I should turn out badly, you also reserved my freedom to leave you in case you should turn out badly.
JULIA. Very ingenious. And pray, have I become a drunkard, or a criminal, or an imbecile?
CHARTERIS (rising). You have become what is infinitely worse than all three together—a jealous termagant.
JULIA (shaking her head bitterly). Yes, abuse me—call me names.
CHARTERIS. I now assert the right I reserved—the right of breaking with you when I please. Advanced views, Julia, involve advanced duties: you cannot be an advanced woman when you want to bring a man to your feet, and a conventional woman when you want to hold him there against his will. Advanced people form charming friendships: conventional people marry. Marriage suits a good deal of people; and its first duty is fidelity. Friendship suits some people; and its first duty is unhesitating, uncomplaining acceptance of a notice of a change of feeling from either side. You chose friendship instead of marriage. Now do your duty, and accept your notice.
JULIA. Never! We are engaged in the eye of—the eye of—
CHARTERIS (sitting down quickly beside her). Yes, Julia. Can't you get it out? In the eye of something that advanced women don't believe in, en?
JULIA (throwing herself at his feet). O Leonard, don't be cruel. I am too miserable to argue—to think. I only know I love you. You reproach me with not wanting to marry you. I would have married you at any time after I came to love you, if you had asked me. I will marry you now if you will.
CHARTERIS. I won't, my dear. That's flat. We're intellectually incompatible.
JULIA. But why? We could be so happy. You love me—I know you love me—I feel it. You say "My dear" to me: you have said it several times this evening. I know I have been wicked, odious, bad. I say nothing in defence of myself. But don't be hard on me. I was distracted by the thought of losing you. I can't face life without you Leonard. I was happy when I met you: I had never loved anyone; and if you had only let me alone I could have gone on contentedly by myself. But I can't now. I must have you with me. Don't cast me off without a thought of all I have at stake. I could be a friend to you if you would only let me—if you would only tell me your plans—give me a share in your work—-treat me as something more than the amusement of an idle hour. Oh Leonard, Leonard, you've never given me a chance: indeed you haven't. I'll take pains; I'll read; I'll try to think; I'll conquer my jealousy; I'll— (She breaks down, rocking her head desperately on his knee and writhing.) Oh, I'm mad: I'm mad: you'll kill me if you desert me.
CHARTERIS (petting her). My dear love, don't cry—don't go on in this way. You know I can't help it.
JULIA (sobbing as he rises and coaxingly lifts her with him). Oh, you can, you can. One word from you will make us happy for ever.
CHARTERIS (diplomatically). Come, my dear: we really must go. We can't stay until Cuthbertson comes. (Releases her gently and takes her mantle from the table.) Here is your mantle: put it on and be good. You have given me a terrible evening: you must have some consideration for me.
JULIA (dangerous again). Then I am to be cast off.
CHARTERIS (coaxingly). You are to put on your bonnet, dearest. (He puts the mantle on her shoulders.)
JULIA (with a bitter half laugh, half sob). Well, I suppose I must do what I am told. (She goes to the table, and looks for her bonnet. She sees the yellow-backed French novel.) Ah, look at that! (holds it out to him.) Look—look at what the creature reads—filthy, vile French stuff that no decent woman would touch. And you—you have been reading it with her.
CHARTERIS. You recommended that book to me yourself.
JULIA. Faugh! (Dashes it on the floor.)
CHARTERIS (running anxiously to the book). Don't damage property, Julia. (He picks it up and dusts it.) Making scenes is an affair of sentiment: damaging property is serious. (Replaces it on the table.) And now do pray come along.
JULIA (implacably). You can go: there is nothing to prevent you. I will not stir. (She sits down stubbornly on the sofa.)
CHARTERIS (losing patience). Oh come! I am not going to begin all this over again. There are limits even to my forbearance. Come on.
JULIA. I will not, I tell you.
CHARTERIS. Then good night. (He makes resolutely for the door. With a rush, she gets there before him, and bars his way.) I thought you wanted me to go.
JULIA (at the door). You shall not leave me here alone.
CHARTERIS. Then come with me.
JULIA. Not until you have sworn to me to give up that woman.
CHARTERIS. My dear, I will swear anything if you will only come away and put an end to this.
JULIA (perplexed—doubting him). You will swear?
CHARTERIS. Solemnly. Propose the oath. I have been on the point of swearing for the last half hour.
JULIA (despairingly). You are only making fun of me. I want no oaths. I want your promise—your sacred word of honour.
CHARTERIS. Certainly—anything you demand, on condition that you come away immediately. On my sacred word of honour as a gentleman—as an Englishman—as anything you like—I will never see her again, never speak to her, never think of her. Now come.
JULIA. But are you in earnest? Will you keep your word?
CHARTERIS (smiling subtly). Now you are getting unreasonable. Do come along without any more nonsense. At any rate, I am going. I am not strong enough to carry you home; but I am strong enough to make my way through that door in spite of you. You will then have a new grievance against me for my brutal violence. (He takes a step towards the door.)
JULIA (solemnly). If you do, I swear I will throw myself from that window, Leonard, as you pass out.
CHARTERIS (unimpressed). That window is at the back of the building. I shall pass out at the front; so you will not hurt me. Good night. (He approaches the door.)
JULIA. Leonard: have you no pity?
CHARTERIS. Not in the least. When you condescend to these antics you force me to despise you. How can a woman who behaves like a spoiled child and talks like a sentimental novel have the audacity to dream of being a companion for a man of any sort of sense or character? (She gives an inarticulate cry and throws herself sobbing on his breast.) Come, don't cry, my dear Julia: you don't look half so beautiful as when you're happy; and it takes all the starch out of my shirt front. Come along.
JULIA (affectionately). I'll come, dear, if you wish it. Give me one kiss.
CHARTERIS (exasperated). This is too much. No: I'm dashed if I will. Here, let me go, Julia. (She clings to him.) Will you come without another word if I give you a kiss?
JULIA. I will do anything you wish, darling.
CHARTERIS. Well, here. (He takes her in his arms and gives her an unceremonious kiss.) Now remember your promise. Come along.
JULIA. That was not a nice kiss, dearest. I want one of our old real kisses.
CHARTERIS (furious). Oh, go to the deuce. (He disengages himself impulsively; and she, as if he had flung her down, falls pathetically with a stifled moan. With an angry look at her, he strides out and slams the door. She raises herself on one hand, listening to his retreating footsteps. They stop. Her face lights up with eager, triumphant cunning. The steps return hastily. She throws herself down again as before. Charteris reappears, in the utmost dismay, exclaiming) Julia: we're done. Cuthbertson's coming upstairs with your father—(she sits up quickly) do you hear?—the two fathers.
JULIA (sitting on the floor). Impossible. They don't know one another.
CHARTERIS (desperately). I tell you they are coming up together like brothers. What on earth are we to do?
JULIA (scrambling up with the help of his hand). Quick, the lift: we can go down in that. (She rushes to the table for her bonnet.)
CHARTERIS. No, the man's gone home; and the lift's locked.
JULIA (putting on bonnet at express speed). Let's go up to the next floor.
CHARTERIS. There's no next floor. We're at the top of the house. No, no, you must invent some thumping lie. I can't think of one: you can, Julia. Exercise all your genius. I'll back you up.
CHARTERIS. Sh-sh! Here they are. Sit down and look at home. (Julia tears off her bonnet and mantle; throws them on the table; and darts to the piano at which she seats herself.)
JULIA. Come and sing. (She plays the symphony to "When other lips." He stands at the piano, as if about to sing. Two elderly gentlemen enter. Julia stops playing.)
The elder of the two gentlemen, Colonel Daniel Craven, affects the bluff, simple veteran, and carries it off pleasantly and well, having a fine upright figure, and being, in fact, a goodnaturedly impulsive, credulous person who, after an entirely thoughtless career as an officer and a gentleman, is now being startled into some sort of self-education by the surprising proceedings of his children.
His companion, Mr. Joseph Cuthbertson, Grace's father, has none of the Colonel's boyishness. He is a man of fervent idealistic sentiment, so frequently outraged by the facts of life, that he has acquired an habitually indignant manner, which unexpectedly becomes enthusiastic or affectionate when he speaks.
The two men differ greatly in expression. The Colonel's face is lined with weather, with age, with eating and drinking, and with the cumulative effects of many petty vexations, but not with thought: he is still fresh, and he has by no means full expectations of pleasure and novelty. Cuthbertson has the lines of sedentary London brain work, with its chronic fatigue and longing for rest and recreative emotion, and its disillusioned indifference to adventure and enjoyment, except as a means of recuperation.
They are both in evening dress; and Cuthbertson wears his fur collared overcoat, which, with his vigilant, irascible eye, piled up hair, and the honorable earnestness with which he takes himself, gives him an air of considerable consequence.
CUTHBERTSON (with a hospitable show of delight at finding visitors). Don't stop, Miss Craven. Go on, Charteris. (He comes down behind the sofa, and hangs his overcoat on it, after taking an opera glass and a theatre programme from the pockets, and putting them down on the piano. Craven meanwhile goes to the fire-place and stands on the hearthrug.)
CHARTERIS. No, thank you. Miss Craven has just been taking me through an old song; and I've had enough of it. (He takes the song off the piano desk and lays it aside; then closes the lid over the keyboard.)
JULIA (passing between the sofa and piano to shake hands with Cuthbertson). Why, you've brought Daddy! What a surprise! (Looking across to Craven.) So glad you've come, Dad. (She takes a chair near the window, and sits there.)
CUTHBERTSON. Craven: let me introduce you to Mr. Leonard Charteris, the famous Ibsenist philosopher.
CRAVEN. Oh, we know one another already. Charteris is quite at home at our house, Jo.
CUTHBERTSON. I beg both your pardons. (Charteris sits down on the piano stool.) He's quite at home here too. By the bye, where's Grace?
JULIA and CHARTERIS. Er— (They stop and look at one another.)
JULIA (politely). I beg your pardon, Mr. Charteris: I interrupted you.
CHARTERIS. Not at all, Miss Craven. (An awkward pause.)
CUTHBERTSON (to help them out). You were going to tell about Grace, Charteris.
CHARTERIS. I was only going to say that I didn't know that you and Craven were acquainted.
CRAVEN. Why, I didn't know it until to-night. It's a most extraordinary thing. We met by chance at the theatre; and he turns out to be my oldest friend.
CUTHBERTSON (energetically). Yes, Craven; and do you see how this proves what I was saying to you about the breaking up of family life? Here are all our young people—Grace and Miss Julia and the rest—bosom friends, inseparables; and yet we two, who knew each other before they were born, might never have met again if you hadn't popped into the stall next to mine to-night by pure chance. Come, sit down (bustling over to him affectionately and pushing him into the arm chair above the fire): there's your place, by my fireside, whenever you choose to fill it. (He posts himself at the right end of the sofa, leaning against it and admiring Craven.) Just imagine your being Dan Craven!
CRAVEN. Just imagine your being Jo Cuthbertson, though! That's a far more extraordinary coincidence, because I'd got it into my head that your name was Tranfield.
CUTHBERTSON. Oh, that's my daughter's name. She's a widow, you know. How uncommonly well you look, Dan! The years haven't hurt you much.
CRAVEN (suddenly becoming unnaturally gloomy). I look well. I even feel well. But my days are numbered.
CUTHBERTSON (alarmed). Oh don't say that, my dear fellow. I hope not.
JULIA (with anguish in her voice). Daddy! (Cuthbertson looks inquiringly around at her.)
CRAVEN. There, there, my dear: I was wrong to talk of it. It's a sad subject. But it's better that Cuthbertson should know. We used to be very close friends, and are so still, I hope. (Cuthbertson goes to Craven and presses his hand silently; then returns to sofa and sits, pulling out his handkerchief and displaying some emotion. )
CHARTERIS (a little impatiently). The fact is, Cuthbertson, Craven's a devout believer in the department of witchcraft called medical science. He's celebrated in all the medical schools as an example of the newest sort of liver complaint. The doctors say he can't last another year; and he has fully made up his mind not to survive next Easter, just to oblige them.
CRAVEN (with military affectation). It's very kind of you to try to keep up my spirits by making light of it, Charteris. But I shall be ready when my time comes. I'm a soldier. (A sob from Julia.) Don't cry, Julia.
CUTHBERTSON (huskily). I hope you may long be spared, Dan.
CRAVEN. To oblige me, Jo, change the subject. (He gets up and again posts himself on the hearthrug with his back to the fire.)
CHARTERIS. Try and persuade him to join our club, Cuthbertson. He mopes.
JULIA. It's no use. Sylvia and I are always at him to join; but he won't.
CRAVEN. My child, I have my own club.
CHARTERIS (contemptuously). Yes, the Junior Army and Navy! Do you call that a club? Why, they daren't let a woman cross the doorstep!
CRAVEN (a little ruffled). Clubs are a matter of taste, Charteris. You like a cock and hen club: I don't. It's bad enough to have Julia and her sister—a girl under twenty—spending half their time at such a place. Besides, now really, such a name for a club! The Ibsen club! I should be laughed out of London. The Ibsen club! Come, Cuthbertson, back me up. I'm sure you agree with me.
CHARTERIS. Cuthbertson's a member.
CRAVEN (amazed). No! Why, he's been talking to me all the evening about the way in which everything is going to the dogs through advanced ideas in the younger generation.
CHARTERIS. Of course. He's been studying it in the club. He's always there.
CUTHBERTSON (warmly). Not always. Don't exaggerate, Charteris. You know very well that though I joined the club on Grace's account, thinking that her father's presence there would be a protection and a—a sort of sanction, as it were—I never approved of it.
CRAVEN (tactlessly harping on Cuthbertson's inconsistency). Well, you know, this is unexpected: now it's really very unexpected. I should never have thought it from hearing you talk, Jo. Why, you said the whole modern movement was abhorrent to you because your life had been passed in witnessing scenes of suffering nobly endured and sacrifice willingly rendered by womanly women and manly men and deuce knows what else. Is it at the Ibsen club that you see all this manliness and womanliness?
CHARTERIS. Certainly not: the rules of the club forbid anything of that sort. Every candidate for membership must be nominated by a man and a woman, who both guarantee that the candidate, if female, is not womanly, and if male, is not manly.
CRAVEN (chuckling cunningly and stooping to press his heated trousers against his legs, which are chilly). Won't do, Charteris. Can't take me in with so thin a story as that.
CUTHBERTSON (vehemently). It's true. It's monstrous, but it's true.
CRAVEN (with rising indignation, as he begins to draw the inevitable inferences). Do you mean to say that somebody had the audacity to guarantee that my Julia is not a womanly woman?
CHARTERIS (darkly). It sounds incredible; but a man was found ready to take that inconceivable lie on his conscience.
JULIA (firing up). If he has nothing worse than that on his conscience, he may sleep pretty well. In what way am I more womanly than any of the rest of them, I should like to know? They are always saying things like that behind my back—I hear of them from Sylvia. Only the other day a member of the committee said I ought never to have been elected—that you (to Charteris) had smuggled me in. I should like to see her say it to my face: that's all.
CRAVEN. But, my precious, I most sincerely hope she was right. She paid you the highest compliment. Why, the place must be a den of infamy.
CUTHBERTSON (emphatically). So it is, Craven, so it is.
CHARTERIS. Exactly. That's what keeps it so select: nobody but people whose reputations are above suspicion dare belong to it. If we once got a good name, we should become a mere whitewashing shop for all the shady characters in London. Better join us, Craven. Let me put you up.
CRAVEN. What! Join a club where there's some scoundrel who guaranteed my daughter to be an unwomanly woman! If I weren't an invalid, I'd kick him.
CHARTERIS. Oh don't say that. It was I who did it.
CRAVEN (reproachfully). You! Now upon my soul, Charteris, this is very vexing. Now how could you bring yourself to do such a thing?
CHARTERIS. She made me. Why, I had to guarantee Cuthbertson as unmanly; and he's the leading representative of manly sentiment in London.
CRAVEN. That didn't do Jo any harm: but it took away my Julia's character.
JULIA (outraged). Daddy!
CHARTERIS. Not at the Ibsen club, quite the contrary. After all, what can we do? You know what breaks up most clubs for men and women. There's a quarrel—a scandal—cherchez la femme—always a woman at the bottom of it. Well, we knew this when we founded the club; but we noticed that the woman at the bottom of it was always a womanly woman. The unwomanly women who work for their living and know how to take care of themselves never give any trouble. So we simply said we wouldn't have any womanly women; and when one gets smuggled in she has to take care not to behave in a womanly way. We get on all right. (He rises.) Come to lunch with me there tomorrow and see the place.
CUTHBERTSON (rising). No, he's engaged to me. But you can join us.
CHARTERIS. What hour?
CUTHBERTSON. Any time after twelve. (To Craven) It's at 90 Cork street, at the other end of the Burlington Arcade.
CRAVEN (making a note). 90, you say. After twelve. (He suddenly relapses into gloom.) By the bye, don't order anything special for me. I'm not allowed wine—only Apollinaris. No meat either—only a scrap of fish occasionally. I'm to have a short life, but not a merry one. (Sighing.) Well, well. (Bracing himself up.) Now, Julia, it's time for us to be off. (Julia rises.)
CUTHBERTSON. But where on earth is Grace? I must go and look for her. (He turns to the door.)
JULIA (stopping him). Oh, pray don't disturb her, Mr. Cuthbertson. She's so tired.
CUTHBERTSON. But just for a moment to say good night. (Julia and Charteris look at one another in dismay. Cuthbertson looks quickly at them, perceiving that something is wrong.)
CHARTERIS. We must make a clean breast of it, I see.
CUTHBERTSON. Clean breast?
CHARTERIS. The truth is, Cuthbertson, Mrs. Tranfield, who is, as you know, the most thoughtful of women, took it into her head that I—well, that I particularly wanted to speak to Miss Craven alone. So she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed.
CRAVEN (scandalized). Tut! tut!
CUTHBERTSON. Oho! is that it? Then it's all right. She never goes to bed as early as this. I'll fetch her in a moment. (He goes out confidently, leaving Charteris aghast.)
JULIA. Now you've done it. (She rushes to the round table and snatches up her mantle and bonnet.) I'm off. (She makes for the door.)
CRAVEN (horrified). What are you doing, Julia? You can't go until you've said good night to Mrs. Tranfield. It would be horribly rude.
JULIA. You can stay if you like, Daddy: I can't. I'll wait for you in the hall. (She hurries out.)
CRAVEN (following her). But what on earth am I to say? (Stopping as she disappears, and turning to Charteris grumbling) Now really you know, Charteris, this is devilish awkward, upon my life it is. That was a most indelicate thing of you to say plump out before us all—that about you and Julia.
CHARTERIS. I'll explain it all to-morrow. Just at present we'd really better follow Julia's example and bolt. (He starts for the door.)
CRAVEN (intercepting him). Stop! don't leave me like this: I shall look like a fool. Now I shall really take it in bad part if you run away, Charteris.
CHARTERIS (resignedly). All right. I'll stay. (Lifts himself on to the shoulder of the grand piano and sits there swinging his legs and contemplating Craven resignedly.)
CRAVEN (pacing up and down). I'm excessively vexed about Julia's conduct, I am indeed. She can't bear to be crossed in the slightest thing, poor child. I'll have to apologize for her you know: her going away is a downright slap in the face for these people here. Cuthbertson may be offended already for all I know.
CHARTERIS. Oh never mind about him. Mrs. Tranfield bosses this establishment.
CRAVEN (cunningly). Ah, that's it, is it? He's just the sort of fellow that would have no control over his daughter. (He goes back to his former place on the hearthrug with his back to the fire.) By the bye, what the dickens did he mean by all that about passing his life amid—what was it?—" scenes of suffering nobly endured and sacrifice willingly rendered by womanly women and manly men" and a lot more of the same sort? I suppose he's something in a hospital.
CHARTERIS. Hospital! Nonsense: he's a dramatic critic. Didn't you hear me say that he was the leading representative of manly sentiment in London?
CRAVEN. You don't say so. Now really, who'd have thought it! How jolly it must be to be able to go to the theatre for nothing! I must ask him to get me a few tickets occasionally. But isn't it ridiculous for a man to talk like that! I'm hanged if he don't take what he sees on the stage quite seriously.
CHARTERIS. Of course: that's why he's a good critic. Besides, if you take people seriously off the stage, why shouldn't you take them seriously on it, where they're under some sort of decent restraint? (He jumps down off piano and goes up to the window. Cuthbertson comes back.)
CUTHBERTSON (to Craven, rather sheepishly). The fact is, Grace has gone to bed. I must apologize to you and Miss— (He turns to Julia's seat, and stops on seeing it vacant.)
CRAVEN (embarrassed). It is I who have to apologize for Julia, Jo. She—
CHARTERIS (interrupting). She said she was quite sure that if we didn't go, you'd persuade Mrs. Tranfield to get up to say good night for the sake of politeness; so she went straight off.
CUTHBERTSON. Very kind of her indeed. I'm really ashamed—
CRAVEN. Don't mention it, Jo, don't mention it. She's waiting for me below. (Going.) Good night. Good night, Charteris.
CHARTERIS. Good night.
CUTHBERTSON (seeing Craven out). Goodnight. Say good night and thanks to Miss Craven for me. To-morrow any time after twelve, remember. (They go out; and Charteris with a long sigh crosses to the fireplace, thoroughly tired out.)
CRAVEN (outside). All right.
CUTHBERTSON (outside). Take care of the stairs; they're rather steep. Good night. (The outside door shuts; and Cuthbertson returns. Instead of entering, he stands in the doorway with one hand in the breast of his waistcoat, eyeing Charteris sternly.)
CHARTERIS. What's the matter?
CUTHBERTSON (sternly). Charteris: what's been going on here? I insist on knowing. Grace has not gone to bed: I have seen and spoken with her. What is it all about?
CHARTERIS. Ask your theatrical experience, Cuthbertson. A man, of course.
CUTHBERTSON (coming forward and confronting him). Don't play the fool with me, Charteris: I'm too old a hand to be amused by it. I ask you, seriously, what's the matter?
CHARTERIS. I tell you, seriously, I'm the matter, Julia wants to marry me: I want to marry Grace. I came here to-night to sweetheart Grace. Enter Julia. Alarums and excursions. Exit Grace. Enter you and Craven. Subterfuges and excuses. Exeunt Craven and Julia. And here we are. That's the whole story. Sleep over it. Good night. (He leaves.)
CUTHBERTSON (staring after him). Well I'll be— (The act drop descends.)
END OF ACT I.
Next day at noon, in the Library of the Ibsen club. A spacious room, with glass doors right and left. At the back, in the middle, is the fireplace, surmounted by a handsome mantelpiece, with a bust of Ibsen, and decorated inscriptions of the titles of his plays. There are circular recesses at each side of fireplace, with divan seats running round them, and windows at the top, the space between the divan and the window sills being lined with books. A long settee is placed before the fire. Along the back of the settee, and touching it, is a green table, littered with journals. A revolving bookcase stands in the foreground, a little to the left, with an easy chair close to it. On the right, between the door and the recess, is a light library stepladder. Placards inscribed "silence" are conspicuously exhibited here and there.
(Cuthbertson is seated in the easy chair at the revolving bookstand, reading the "Daily Graphic." Dr. Paramore is on the divan in the right hand recess, reading "The British Medical Journal." He is young as age is counted in the professions—barely forty. His hair is wearing bald on his forehead; and his dark arched eyebrows, coming rather close together, give him a conscientiously sinister appearance. He wears the frock coat and cultivates the "bedside manner" of the fashionable physician with scrupulous conventionality. Not at all a happy or frank man, but not consciously unhappy nor intentionally insincere, and highly self satisfied intellectually.
Sylvia Craven is sitting in the middle of the settee before the fire, only the back of her head being visible. She is reading a volume of Ibsen. She is a girl of eighteen, small and trim, wearing a smart tailor-made dress, rather short, and a Newmarket jacket, showing a white blouse with a light silk sash and a man's collar and watch chain so arranged as to look as like a man's waistcoat and shirt-front as possible without spoiling the prettiness of the effect. A Page Boy's voice, monotonously calling for Dr. Paramore, is heard approaching outside on the right.)
PAGE (outside). Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore. (He enters carrying a salver with a card on it.) Dr. Par—
PARAMORE (sharply, sitting up). Here, boy. (The boy presents the salver. Paramore takes the card and looks at it.) All right: I'll come down to him. (The boy goes. Paramore rises, and comes from the recess, throwing his paper on the table.) Good morning, Mr. Cuthbertson (stopping to pull out his cuffs and shake his coat straight) Mrs. Tranfield quite well, I hope?
SYLVIA (turning her head indignantly). Sh—sh—sh! (Paramore turns, surprised. Cuthbertson rises energetically and looks across the bookstand to see who is the author of this impertinence.)
PARAMORE (to Sylvia—stiffly). I beg your pardon, Miss Craven: I did not mean to disturb you.
SYLVIA (flustered and self assertive). You may talk as much as you like if you will only have the common consideration to first ask whether the other people object. What I protest against is your assumption that my presence doesn't matter because I'm only a female member. That's all. Now go on, pray: you don't disturb me in the least. (She turns to the fire, and again buries herself in Ibsen.)
CUTHBERTSON (with emphatic dignity). No gentleman would have dreamt of objecting to our exchanging a few words, madam. (She takes no notice. He resumes angrily.) As a matter of fact I was about to say to Dr. Paramore that if he would care to bring his visitor up here, I should not object. The impudence! (Dashes his paper down on the chair.)
PARAMORE. Oh, many thanks; but it's only an instrument maker.
CUTHBERTSON. Any new medical discoveries, doctor?
PARAMORE. Well, since you ask me, yes—perhaps a most important one. I have discovered something that has hitherto been overlooked—a minute duct in the liver of the guinea pig. Miss Craven will forgive my mentioning it when I say that it may throw an important light on her father's case. The first thing, of course, is to find out what the duct is there for.
CUTHBERTSON (reverently—feeling that he is in the presence of science). Indeed. How will you do that?
PARAMORE. Oh, easily enough, by simply cutting the duct and seeing what will happen to the guinea pig. (Sylvia rises, horrified.) I shall require a knife specially made to get at it. The man who is waiting for me downstairs has brought me a few handles to try before fitting it and sending it to the laboratory. I am afraid it would not do to bring such weapons up here.
SYLVIA. If you attempt such a thing, Dr. Paramore, I will complain to the committee. The majority of the committee are anti-vivisectionists. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. (She flounces out at the right hand door.)
PARAMORE (with patient contempt). That's the sort of thing we scientific men have to put up with nowadays, Mr. Cuthbertson. Ignorance, superstition, sentimentality: they are all one. A guinea pig's convenience is set above the health and lives of the entire human race.
CUTHBERTSON (vehemently). It's not ignorance or superstition, Paramore: it's sheer downright Ibsenism: that's what it is. I've been wanting to sit comfortably at the fire the whole morning; but I've never had a chance with that girl there. I couldn't go and plump myself down on a seat beside her: goodness knows what she'd think I wanted. That's one of the delights of having women in the club: when they come in here they all want to sit at the fire and adore that bust. I sometimes feel that I should like to take the poker and fetch it a wipe across the nose—ugh!
PARAMORE. I must say I prefer the elder Miss Craven to her sister.
CUTHBERTSON (his eyes lighting up). Ah, Julia! I believe you. A splendid fine creature—every inch a woman. No Ibsenism about her!
PARAMORE. I quite agree with you there, Mr. Cuthbertson. Er—by the way, do you think is Miss Craven attached to Charteris at all?
CUTHBERTSON. What, that fellow! Not he. He hangs about after her; but he's not man enough for her. A woman of that sort likes a strong, manly, deep-throated, broad-chested man.
PARAMORE (anxiously). Hm, a sort of sporting character, you think?
CUTHBERTSON. Oh, no, no. A scientific man, perhaps, like yourself. But you know what I mean—a MAN. (Strikes himself a sounding blow on the chest.)
PARAMORE. Of course; but Charteris is a man.
CUTHBERTSON. Pah! you don't see what I mean. (The Page Boy returns with his salver.)
PAGE BOY (calling monotonously as before). Mr. Cuthbertson, Mr. Cuthbertson, Mr. Cuth—
CUTHBERTSON. Here, boy. (He takes a card from the salver.) Bring the gentleman up here. (The boy goes out.) It's Craven. He's coming to lunch with me and Charteris. You might join us if you've nothing better to do, when you've finished with the instrument man. If Julia turns up I'll ask her too.
PARAMORE (flushing with pleasure). I shall be very happy. Thank you. (He is going out at the right hand door when Craven enters.) Good morning, Colonel Craven.
CRAVEN (at the door). Good morning—glad to see you. I'm looking for Cuthbertson.
PARAMORE (smiling). There he is. (He goes out.)
CUTHBERTSON (greeting Craven effusively). Delighted to see you. Now will you come to the smoking room, or will you sit down here and have a chat while we're waiting for Charteris. If you like company, the smoking room is always full of women. Here we shall have it pretty well all to ourselves until about three o'clock.
CRAVEN. I don't like to see women smoking. I'll make myself comfortable here. (Sits in an easy chair on the right.)
CUTHBERTSON (taking a chair beside him, on his left). Neither do I. There's not a room in this club where I can enjoy a pipe quietly without a woman coming in and beginning to roll a cigarette. It's a disgusting habit in a woman: it's not natural to her sex.
CRAVEN (sighing). Ah, Jo, times have changed since we both courted Molly Ebden all those years ago. I took my defeat well, old chap, didn't I?
CUTHBERTSON (with earnest approval). You did, Dan. The thought of it has often helped me to behave well myself: it has, on my honour.
CRAVEN. Yes, you always believe in hearth and home, Jo—in a true English wife and a happy wholesome fireside. How did Molly turn out?
CUTHBERTSON (trying to be fair to Molly). Well, not bad. She might have been worse. You see I couldn't stand her relations: all the men were roaring cads; and she couldn't get on with my mother. And then she hated being in town; and of course I couldn't live in the country on account of my work. But we hit it off as well as most people, until we separated.
CRAVEN (taken aback). Separated! (He is irresistibly amused.) Oh, that was the end of the hearth and home, Jo, was it?
CUTHBERTSON (warmly). It was not my fault, Dan. (Sentimentally.) Some day the world will know how I loved that woman. But she was incapable of valuing a true man's affection. Do you know, she often said she wished she'd married you instead.
CRAVEN (sobered by the suggestion). Dear me, dear me! Well, perhaps it was better as it was. You heard about my marriage, I suppose.
CUTHBERTSON. Oh yes: we all heard of it.
CRAVEN. Well, Jo, I may as well make a clean breast of it—everybody knew it. I married for money.
CUTHBERTSON (encouragingly). And why not, Dan, why not? We can't get on without it, you know.
CRAVEN (with sincere feeling). I got to be very fond of her, Jo. I had a home until she died. Now everything's changed. Julia's always here. Sylvia's of a different nature; but she's always here too.
CUTHBERTSON (sympathetically). I know. It's the same with Grace. She's always here.
CRAVEN. And now they want me to be always here. They're at me every day to join the club—to stop my grumbling, I suppose. That's what I want to consult you about. Do you think I ought to join?
CUTHBERTSON. Well, if you have no conscientious objection—
CRAVEN (testily interrupting him). I object to the existence of the place on principle; but what's the use of that? Here it is in spite of my objection, and I may as well have the benefit of any good that may be in it.
CUTHBERTSON (soothing him). Of course: that's the only reasonable view of the matter. Well, the fact is, it's not so inconvenient as you might think. When you're at home, you have the house more to yourself; and when you want to have your family about you, you can dine with them at the club.
CRAVEN (not much attracted by this). True.
CUTHBERTSON. Besides, if you don't want to dine with them, you needn't.
CRAVEN (convinced). True, very true. But don't they carry on here, rather?
CUTHBERTSON. Oh, no, they don't exactly carry on. Of course the usual tone of the club is low, because the women smoke and earn their own living and all that; but still there's nothing actually to complain of. And it's convenient, certainly. (Charteris comes in, looking round for them.)
CRAVEN (rising). Do you know, I've a great mind to join, just to see what it's like. Would you mind putting me up?
CUTHBERTSON. Delighted, Dan, delighted. (He grasps Craven's hand.)
CHARTERIS (putting one hand on Craven's shoulder and the other on Cuthbertson's). Bless you, my children! (Cuthbertson, a little wounded in his dignity, moves away. The Colonel takes the jest in the utmost good humor.)
CRAVEN (cordially). Hallo!
CHARTERIS (to Craven). Hope I haven't disturbed your chat by coming too soon.
CRAVEN. Not at all. Welcome, dear boy. (Shakes his hand.)
CHARTERIS. That's right. I'm earlier than I intended. The fact is, I have something rather pressing to say to Cuthbertson.
CHARTERIS. Not particularly. (To Cuthbertson.) Only what we were speaking of last night.
CUTHBERTSON. Well, Charteris, I think that is private, or ought to be.
CRAVEN (going up towards the table). I'll just take a look at the Times—
CHARTERIS (stopping him). Oh, it's no secret: everybody in the club guesses it. (To Cuthbertson.) Has Grace never mentioned to you that she wants to marry me?
CUTHBERTSON (indignantly). She has mentioned that you want to marry her.
CHARTERIS. Ah; but then it's not what I want, but what Grace wants, that will weigh with you.
CRAVEN (a little shocked). Excuse me Charteris: this is private. I'll leave you to yourselves. (Again moves towards the table.)
CHARTERIS. Wait a bit, Craven: you're concerned in this. Julia wants to marry me too.
CRAVEN (in a tone of the strongest remonstrance). Now really! Now upon my life and soul!
CHARTERIS. It's a fact, I assure you. Didn't it strike you as rather odd, our being up there last night and Mrs. Tranfield not with us?
CRAVEN. Well, yes it did. But you explained it. And now really, Charteris, I must say your explanation was in shocking bad taste before Julia.
CHARTERIS. Never mind. It was a good, fat, healthy, bouncing lie.
CRAVEN and CUTHBERTSON. Lie!
CHARTERIS. Didn't you suspect that?
CRAVEN. Certainly not. Did you, Jo?
CUTHBERTSON. No, most emphatically.
CRAVEN. What's more, I don't believe you. I'm sorry to have to say such a thing; but you forget that Julia was present and didn't contradict you.
CHARTERIS. She didn't want to.
CRAVEN. Do you mean to say that my daughter deceived me?
CHARTERIS. Delicacy towards me compelled her to, Craven.
CRAVEN (taking a very serious tone). Now look here, Charteris: have you any proper sense of the fact that you're standing between two fathers?
CUTHBERTSON. Quite right, Dan, quite right. I repeat the question on my own account.
CHARTERIS. Well, I'm a little dazed still by standing for so long between two daughters; but I think I grasp the situation. (Cuthbertson flings away with an exclamation of disgust.)
CRAVEN. Then I'm sorry for your manners, Charteris: that's all. (He turns away sulkily; then suddenly fires up and turns on Charteris.) How dare you tell me my daughter wants to marry you. Who are you, pray, that she should have any such ambition?
CHARTERIS. Just so; she couldn't have made a worse choice. But she won't listen to reason. I've talked to her like a father myself—I assure you, my dear Craven, I've said everything that you could have said; but it's no use: she won't give me up. And if she won't listen to me, what likelihood is there of her listening to you?
CRAVEN (in angry bewilderment). Cuthbertson: did you ever hear anything like this?
CUTHBERTSON. Never! Never!
CHARTERIS. Oh, bother? Come, don't behave like a couple of conventional old fathers: this is a serious affair. Look at these letters (producing a letter and a letter-card.) This (showing the card) is from Grace—by the way, Cuthbertson, I wish you'd ask her not to write on letter-cards: the blue colour makes it so easy for Julia to pick the bits out of my waste paper basket and piece them together. Now listen. "My dear Leonard: Nothing could make it worth my while to be exposed to such scenes as last night's. You had much better go back to Julia and forget me. Yours sincerely, Grace Tranfield."
CUTHBERTSON (infuriated). Damnation!
CHARTERIS (turning to Craven and preparing to read the letter). Now for Julia. (The Colonel turns away to hide his face from Charteris, anticipating a shock, and puts his hand on a chair to steady himself.) "My dearest boy. Nothing will make me believe that this odious woman can take my place in your heart. I send some of the letters you wrote me when we first met; and I ask you to read them. They will recall what you felt when you wrote them. You cannot have changed so much as to be indifferent to me: whoever may have struck your fancy for the moment, your heart is still mine"—and so on: you know the sort of thing—"Ever and always your loving Julia." (The Colonel sinks on the chair and covers his face with his hand.) You don't suppose she's serious, do you: that's the sort of thing she writes me three times a day. (To Cuthbertson) Grace is in earnest though, confound it. (He holds out Grace's letter.) A blue card as usual! This time I shall not trust the waste paper basket. (He goes to the fire, and throws the letters into it.)
CUTHBERTSON (facing him with folded arms as he comes down again). May I ask, Mr. Charteris, is this the New Humour?
CHARTERIS (still too preoccupied with his own difficulty to have any sense of the effect he is producing on the others). Oh, stuff! Do you suppose it's a joke to be situated as I am? You've got your head so stuffed with the New Humour and the New Woman and the New This, That and the Other, all mixed up with your own old Adam, that you've lost your senses.
CUTHBERTSON (strenuously). Do you see that old man, grown grey in the honoured service of his country, whose last days you have blighted?
CHARTERIS (surprised, looking at Craven and realizing his distress with genuine concern). I'm very sorry. Come, Craven; don't take it to heart. (Craven shakes his head.) I assure you it means nothing: it happens to me constantly.
CUTHBERTSON. There is only one excuse for you. You are not fully responsible for your actions. Like all advanced people, you have got neurasthenia.
CHARTERIS (appalled). Great Heavens! what's that?
CUTHBERTSON. I decline to explain. You know as well as I do. I am going downstairs now to order lunch. I shall order it for three; but the third place is for Paramore, whom I have invited, not for you. (He goes out through the left hand door.)
CHARTERIS (putting his hand on Craven's shoulder). Come, Craven; advise me. You've been in this sort of fix yourself probably.
CRAVEN. Charteris: no woman writes such letters to a man unless he has made advances to her.
CHARTERIS (mournfully). How little you know the world, Colonel! The New Woman is not like that.
CRAVEN. I can only give you very old fashioned advice, my boy; and that is that it's well to be off with the Old Woman before you're on with the New. I'm sorry you told me. You might have waited for my death: it's not far off now. (His head droops again. Julia and Paramore enter on the right. Julia stops as she catches sight of Charteris, her face clouding and her breast heaving. Paramore, seeing the Colonel apparently ill, hurries down to him with the bedside manner in full play.)
CHARTERIS (seeing Julia). Oh Lord! (He retreats under the lee of the revolving bookstand.)
PARAMORE (sympathetically to the Colonel). Allow me. (Takes his wrist and begins to count his pulse.)
CRAVEN (looking up). Eh? (Withdraws his hand and rises rather crossly.) No, Paramore: it's not my liver now: it's private business. (A chase now begins between Julia and Charteris, all the more exciting to them because the huntress and her prey must alike conceal the real object of their movements from the others. Charteris first makes for the right hand door. Julia immediately moves back to it, barring his path. He doubles back round the bookstand, setting it whirling as he makes for the left door, Julia crossing in pursuit of him. He is about to escape when he is cut off by the return of Cuthbertson. He turns back and sees Julia close upon him. There being nothing else for it, he bolts up into the recess to the left of the fireplace.)
CUTHBERTSON. Good morning, Miss Craven. (They shake hands.) Won't you join us at lunch? Paramore's coming too.
JULIA. Thanks: I shall be very pleased. (She goes up with affected purposelessness towards the recess. Charteris, almost trapped in it, crosses to the right hand recess by way of the fender, knocking down the fire irons with a crash as he does so.)
CRAVEN (who has crossed to the whirling bookcase and stopped it). What the dickens are you doing there, Charteris?
CHARTERIS. Nothing. It's such a confounded room to get about in.
JULIA (maliciously). Yes, isn't it. (She is moving back to guard the right hand door, when Cuthbertson appears at it.)
CUTHBERTSON. May I take you down? (He offers her his arm.)
JULIA. No, really: you know it's against the rules of the club to coddle women in any way. Whoever is nearest to the door goes first.
CUTHBERTSON. Oh well, if you insist. Come, gentlemen: let us go to lunch in the Ibsen fashion—the unsexed fashion. (He goes out on the left followed by Paramore, laughing. Craven goes last. He turns at the door to see whether Julia is coming, and stops when he sees she is not.)
CRAVEN. Come, Julia.
JULIA (with patronising affection). Yes, Daddy, dear, presently. (Charteris is meanwhile stealing to the right hand door.) Don't wait for me: I'll come in a moment. (The Colonel hesitates.) It's all right, Daddy.
CRAVEN (very gravely). Don't be long, my dear. (He goes out.)
CHARTERIS. I'm off. (Makes a dash for the right hand door.)
JULIA (darting at him and seizing his wrist). Aren't you coming?
CHARTERIS. No. Unhand me Julia. (He tries to get away: she holds him.) If you don't let me go, I'll scream for help.
JULIA (reproachfully). Leonard! (He breaks away from her.) Oh, how can you be so rough with me, dear. Did you get my letter?
CHARTERIS. Burnt it—(she turns away, struck to the heart, and buries her face in her hands)—along with hers.
JULIA (quickly turning again). Hers! Has she written to you?
CHARTERIS. Yes, to break off with me on your account.
JULIA (her eyes gleaming). Ah!
CHARTERIS. You are pleased. Wretch! Now you have lost the last scrap of my regard. (He turns to go, but is stopped by the return of Sylvia. Julia turns away and stands pretending to read a paper which she picks up from the table.)
SYLVIA (offhandedly). Hallo, Charteris: how are you getting on? (She takes his arm familiarly and walks down the room with him.) Have you seen Grace Tranfield this morning? (Julia drops the paper and comes a step nearer to listen.) You generally know where she is to be found.
CHARTERIS. I shall never know any more, Sylvia. She's quarrelled with me.
SYLVIA. Sylvia! How often am I to tell you that I am not Sylvia at the club?
CHARTERIS. I forgot. I beg your pardon, Craven, old chap (slaps her on the shoulder).
SYLVIA. That's better—a little overdone, but better.
JULIA. Don't be a fool, Silly.
SYLVIA. Remember, Julia, if you please, that here we are members of the club, not sisters. I don't take liberties with you here on family grounds: don't you take any with me. (She goes to the settee and resumes her former place.)
CHARTERIS. Quite right, Craven. Down with the tyranny of the elder sister!
JULIA. You ought to know better than to encourage a child to make herself ridiculous, Leonard, even at my expense.
CHARTERIS (seating himself on the edge of the table). Your lunch will be cold, Julia. (Julia is about to retort furiously when she is checked by the reappearance of Cuthbertson at the left hand door.)
CUTHBERTSON. What has become of you, Miss Craven? Your father is getting quite uneasy. We're all waiting for you.
JULIA. So I have just been reminded, thank you. (She goes out angrily past him, Sylvia looking round to see.)
CUTHBERTSON (looking first after her, then at Charteris). More neurasthenia. (He follows her.)
SYLVIA (jumping up on her knees on the settee and speaking over the back of it). What's up, Charteris? Julia been making love to you?
CHARTERIS (speaking to her over his shoulder). No. Blowing me up for making love to Grace.
SYLVIA. Serve you right. You are an awful devil for philandering.
CHARTERIS (calmly). Do you consider it good club form to talk that way to a man who might nearly be your father?
SYLVIA (knowingly). Oh, I know you, my lad.
CHARTERIS. Then you know that I never pay any special attention to any woman.
SYLVIA (thoughtfully). Do you know, Leonard, I really believe you. I don't think you care a bit more for one woman than for another.
CHARTERIS. You mean I don't care a bit less for one woman than another.
SYLVIA. That makes it worse. But what I mean is that you never bother about their being only women: you talk to them just as you do to me or any other fellow. That's the secret of your success. You can't think how sick they get of being treated with the respect due to their sex.
CHARTERIS. Ah, if Julia only had your wisdom, Craven! (He gets off the table with a sigh and perches himself reflectively on the stepladder.)
SYLVIA. She can't take things easy, can she, old man? But don't you be afraid of breaking her heart: she gets over her little tragedies. We found that out at home when our great sorrow came.
CHARTERIS. What was that?
SYLVIA. I mean when we learned that poor papa had Paramore's disease. But it was too late to inoculate papa. All they could do was to prolong his life for two years more by putting him on a strict diet. Poor old boy! they cut off his liquor; and he's not allowed to eat meat.
CHARTERIS. Your father appears to me to be uncommonly well.
SYLVIA. Yes, you would think he was a great deal better. But the microbes are at work, slowly but surely. In another year it will be all over. Poor old Dad! it's unfeeling to talk about him in this attitude: I must sit down properly. (She comes down from the settee and takes the chair near the bookstand.) I should like papa to live for ever just to take the conceit out of Paramore. I believe he's in love with Julia.
CHARTERIS (starting up excitedly). In love with Julia! A ray of hope on the horizon! Do you really mean it?
SYLVIA. I should think I do. Why do you suppose he's hanging about the club to-day in a beautiful new coat and tie instead of attending to his patients? That lunch with Julia will finish him. He'll ask Daddy's consent before they come back—I'll bet you three to one he will, in anything you please.
SYLVIA. No: cigarettes.
CHARTERIS. Done! But what does she think about it? Does she give him any encouragement?
SYLVIA. Oh, the usual thing. Enough to keep any other woman from getting him.
CHARTERIS. Just so. I understand. Now listen to me: I am going to speak as a philosopher. Julia is jealous of everybody—everybody. If she saw you flirting with Paramore she'd begin to value him directly. You might play up a little, Craven, for my sake—eh?
SYLVIA (rising). You're too awful, Leonard. For shame? However, anything to oblige a fellow Ibsenite. I'll bear your affair in mind. But I think it would be more effective if you got Grace to do it.
CHARTERIS. Think so? Hm! perhaps you're right.
PAGE BOY (outside as before). Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore—
SYLVIA. They ought to get that boy's voice properly cultivated: it's a disgrace to the club. (She goes into the recess on Ibsen's left. The page enters carrying the British Medical Journal.)
CHARTERIS (calling to the page). Dr. Paramore is in the dining room.
PAGE BOY. Thank you, sir. (He is about to go into the dining room when Sylvia swoops on him.)
SYLVIA. Here: where are you taking that paper? It belongs to this room.
PAGE BOY. It's Dr. Paramore's particular orders, miss. The British Medical Journal has always to be brought to him dreckly it comes.
SYLVIA. What cheek? Charteris: oughtn't we to stop this on principle?
CHARTERIS. Certainly not. Principle's the poorest reason I know for making yourself nasty.
SYLVIA. Bosh! Ibsen!
CHARTERIS (to the page). Off with you, my boy: Dr. Paramore's waiting breathless with expectation.
PAGE BOY (seriously). Indeed, sir. (He hurries off.)
CHARTERIS. That boy will make his way in this country. He has no sense of humour. (Grace comes in. Her dress, very convenient and businesslike, is made to please herself and serve her own purposes without the slightest regard to fashion, though by no means without a careful concern for her personal elegance. She enters briskly, like an habitually busy woman.)
SYLVIA (running to her). Here you are at last Tranfield, old girl. I've been waiting for you this last hour. I'm starving.
GRACE. All right, dear. (To Charteris.) Did you get my letter?
CHARTERIS. Yes. I wish you wouldn't write on those confounded blue letter cards.
SYLVIA (to Grace). Shall I go down first and secure a table?
CHARTERIS (taking the reply out of Grace's mouth). Do, old boy.
SYLVIA. Don't be too long. (She goes into the dining room.)
CHARTERIS. I'm afraid to face you after last night. Can you imagine a more horrible scene? Don't you hate the very sight of me after it?
GRACE. Oh, no.
CHARTERIS. Then you ought to. Ugh! it was hideous—an insult—an outrage. A nice end to all my plans for making you happy—for making you an exception to all the women who swear I have made them miserable!
GRACE (sitting down placidly). I am not at all miserable. I'm sorry; but I shan't break my heart.
CHARTERIS. No: yours is a thoroughbred heart: you don't scream and cry every time it's pinched. That's why you are the only possible woman for me.
GRACE (shaking her head). Not now. Never any more.
CHARTERIS. Never! What do you mean?
GRACE. What I say, Leonard.
CHARTERIS. Jilted again! The fickleness of women I love is only equaled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me. Well, well! I see how it is, Grace: you can't get over that horrible scene last night. Imagine her saying I had kissed her within the last two days!
GRACE (rising eagerly). Was that not true?
CHARTERIS. True! No: a thumping lie.
GRACE. Oh, I'm so glad. That was the only thing that really hurt me.
CHARTERIS. Just why she said it. How adorable of you to care! My darling. (He seizes her hands and presses them to his breast.)
GRACE. Remember! it's all broken off.
CHARTERIS. Ah yes: you have my heart in your hands. Break it. Throw my happiness out of the window.
GRACE. Oh, Leonard, does your happiness really depend on me?
CHARTERIS (tenderly). Absolutely. (She beams with delight. A sudden revulsion comes to him at the sight: he recoils, dropping her hands and crying) Ah no: why should I lie to you? (He folds his arms and adds firmly) My happiness depends on nobody but myself. I can do without you.
GRACE (nerving herself). So you shall. Thank you for the truth. Now I will tell you the truth.
CHARTERIS (unfolding his arms and again recoiling). No, please. Don't. As a philosopher, it's my business to tell other people the truth; but it's not their business to tell it to me. I don't like it: it hurts.
GRACE (quietly). It's only that I love you.
CHARTERIS. Ah! that's not a philosophic truth. You may tell me that as often as you like. (He takes her in his arms.)
GRACE. Yes, Leonard; but I'm an advanced woman. (He checks himself and looks at her in some consternation.) I'm what my father calls a New Woman. (He lets her go and stares at her.) I quite agree with all your ideas.
CHARTERIS (scandalized). That's a nice thing for a respectable woman to say! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
GRACE. I am quite in earnest about them too, though you are not; and I will never marry a man I love too much. It would give him a terrible advantage over me: I should be utterly in his power. That's what the New Woman is like. Isn't she right, Mr. Philosopher?
CHARTERIS. The struggle between the Philosopher and the Man is fearful, Grace. But the Philosopher says you are right.
GRACE. I know I am right. And so we must part.
CHARTERIS. Not at all. You must marry some one else; and then I'll come and philander with you. (Sylvia comes back.)
SYLVIA (holding the door open). Oh, I say: come along. I'm starving.
CHARTERIS. So am I. I'll lunch with you if I may.
SYLVIA. I thought you would. I've ordered soup for three. (Grace passes out. Sylvia continues, to Charteris) You can watch Paramore from our table: he's pretending to read the British Medical Journal; but he must be making up his mind for the plunge: he looks green with nervousness.
CHARTERIS. Good luck to him. (He goes out, followed by Sylvia.)
END OF ACT II.
Still the library. Ten minutes later. Julia, angry and miserable, comes in from the dining room, followed by Craven. She crosses the room tormentedly, and throws herself into a chair.
CRAVEN (impatiently). What is the matter? Has everyone gone mad to-day? What do you mean by suddenly getting up from the table and tearing away like that? What does Paramore mean by reading his paper and not answering when he's spoken to? (Julia writhes impatiently.) Come, come (tenderly): won't my pet tell her own father what— (irritably) what the devil is wrong with everybody? Do pull yourself straight, Julia, before Cuthbertson comes. He's only paying the bill: he'll be here in a moment.
JULIA. I couldn't bear it any longer. Oh, to see them sitting there at lunch together, laughing, chatting, making game of me! I should have screamed out in another moment—I should have taken a knife and killed her—I should have—(Cuthbertson appears with the luncheon bill in his hand. He stuffs it into his waistcoat pocket as he comes to them. He begins speaking the moment he enters.)
CUTHBERTSON. I'm afraid you've had a very poor lunch, Dan. It's disheartening to see you picking at a few beans and drinking soda water. I wonder how you live!
JULIA. That's all he ever takes, Mr. Cuthbertson, I assure you. He hates to be bothered about it.
CRAVEN. Where's Paramore?
CUTHBERTSON. Reading his paper, I asked him wasn't he coming; but he didn't hear me. It's amazing how anything scientific absorbs him. Clever man! Monstrously clever man!
CRAVEN (pettishly). Oh yes, that's all very well, Jo; but it's not good manners at table: he should shut up the shop sometimes. Heaven knows I am only too anxious to forget his science, since it has pronounced my doom. (He sits down with a melancholy air.)
CUTHBERTSON (compassionately). You mustn't think about that, Craven: perhaps he was mistaken. (He sighs deeply and sits down.) But he is certainly a very clever fellow. He thinks twice before he commits himself. (They sit in silence, full of the gloomiest thoughts. Suddenly Paramore enters, pale and in the utmost disorder, with the British Medical Journal in his clenched hand. They rise in alarm. He tries to speak, but chokes, clutches at his throat, and staggers. Cuthbertson quickly takes his chair and places it behind Paramore, who sinks into it as they crowd about him, Craven at his right shoulder, Cuthbertson on his left, and Julia behind Craven.)
CRAVEN. What's the matter, Paramore?
JULIA. Are you ill?
CUTHBERTSON. No bad news, I hope?
PARAMORE (despairingly). The worst of news! Terrible news! Fatal news! My disease—
CRAVEN (quickly). Do you mean my disease?
PARAMORE (fiercely). I mean my disease—Paramore's disease—the disease I discovered—the work of my life. Look here (pointing to the B. M. J. with a ghastly expression of horror.) If this is true, it was all a mistake: there is no such disease. (Cuthbertson and Julia look at one another, hardly daring to believe the good news.)
CRAVEN (in strong remonstrance). And you call this bad news! Now really, Paramore—
PARAMORE (cutting him short hoarsely). It's natural for you to think only of yourself. I don't blame you: all invalids are selfish. Only a scientific man can feel what I feel now. (Writhing under a sense of intolerable injustice.) It's the fault of the wickedly sentimental laws of this country. I was not able to make experiments enough—only three dogs and a monkey. Think of that, with all Europe full of my professional rivals—men burning to prove me wrong! There is freedom in France—enlightened republican France. One Frenchman experiments on two hundred monkeys to disprove my theory. Another sacrifices 36 pounds—three hundred dogs at three francs apiece—to upset the monkey experiments. A third proves them to be both wrong by a single experiment in which he gets the temperature of a camel's liver 60 degrees below zero. And now comes this cursed Italian who has ruined me. He has a government grant to buy animals with, besides the run of the largest hospital in Italy. (With desperate resolution) But I won't be beaten by any Italian. I'll go to Italy myself. I'll re-discover my disease: I know it exists; I feel it; and I'll prove it if I have to experiment on every mortal animal that's got a liver at all. (He folds his arms and breathes hard at them.)
CRAVEN (his sense of injury growing upon him). Am I to understand, Paramore, that you took it on yourself to pass sentence of death—yes, of Death—on me, on the strength of three dogs and an infernal monkey?
PARAMORE (utterly contemptuous of Craven's narrow personal view of the matter). Yes. That was all I could get a license for.
CRAVEN. Now upon my soul, Paramore, I'm vexed at this. I don't wish to be unfriendly; but I'm extremely vexed, really. Why, confound it, do you realize what you've done? You've cut off my meat and drink for a year—made me an object of public scorn—a miserable vegetarian and a teetotaller.
PARAMORE (rising). Well, you can make up for lost time now. (Bitterly, shewing Craven the Journal) There! you can read for yourself. The camel was fed on beef dissolved in alcohol; and he gained weight under it. Eat and drink as much as you please. (Still unable to stand without support, he makes his way past Cuthbertson to the revolving bookcase and stands there with his back to them, leaning on it with his head on his hand.)
CRAVEN (grumbling). Oh yes, it's very easy for you to talk, Paramore. But what am I to say to the Humanitarian societies and the Vegetarian societies that have made me a Vice President?
CUTHBERTSON (chuckling). Aha! You made a virtue of it, did you, Dan?
CRAVEN (warmly). I made a virtue of necessity, Jo. No one can blame me.
JULIA (soothing him). Well, never mind, Daddy. Come back to the dining room and have a good beefsteak.
CRAVEN (shuddering). Ugh! (Plaintively) No: I've lost my old manly taste for it. My very nature's been corrupted by living on pap. (To Paramore.) That's what comes of all this vivisection. You go experimenting on horses; and of course the result is that you try to get me into condition by feeding me on beans.
PARAMORE (curtly, without changing his position). Well, if they've done you good, so much the better for you.
CRAVEN (querulously). That's all very well; but it's very vexing. You don't half see how serious it is to make a man believe that he has only another year to live: you really don't, Paramore: I can't help saying it. I've made my will, which was altogether unnecessary; and I've been reconciled to a lot of people I'd quarrelled with—people I can't stand under ordinary circumstances. Then I've let the girls get round me at home to an extent I should never have done if I'd had my life before me. I've done a lot of serious thinking and reading and extra church going. And now it turns out simple waste of time. On my soul, it's too disgusting: I'd far rather die like a man when I said I would.
PARAMORE (as before). Perhaps you may. Your heart's shaky, if that's any satisfaction to you.
CRAVEN (offended). You must excuse me, Paramore, if I say that I no longer feel any confidence in your opinion as a medical man. (Paramore's eye flashes: he straightens himself and listens.) I paid you a pretty stiff fee for that consultation when you condemned me; and I can't say I think you gave me value for it.
PARAMORE (turning and facing Craven with dignity). That's unanswerable, Colonel Craven. I shall return the fee.
CRAVEN. Oh, it's not the money; but I think you ought to realize your position. (Paramore turns stiffly away. Craven follows him impulsively, exclaiming remorsefully) Well, perhaps it was a nasty thing of me to allude to it. (He offers Paramore his hand.)
PARAMORE (conscientiously taking it). Not at all. You are quite in the right, Colonel Craven. My diagnosis was wrong; and I must take the consequences.
CRAVEN (holding his hand). No, don't say that. It was natural enough: my liver is enough to set any man's diagnosis wrong. (A long handshake, very trying to Paramore's nerves. Paramore then retires to the recess on Ibsen's left, and throws himself on the divan with a half suppressed sob, bending over the British Medical Journal with his head on his hands and his elbows on his knees.)
CUTHBERTSON (who has been rejoicing with Julia at the other side of the room). Well, let's say no more about it. I congratulate you, Craven, and hope you may long be spared. (Craven offers his hand.) No, Dan: your daughter first. (He takes Julia's hand gently and hands her across to Craven, into whose arms she flies with a gush of feeling.)
JULIA. Dear old Daddy!
CRAVEN. Ah, is Julia glad that the old Dad is let off for a few years more?
JULIA (almost crying). Oh, so glad: so glad! (Cuthbertson sobs audibly. The Colonel is affected. Sylvia, entering from the dining room, stops abruptly at the door on seeing the three. Paramore, in the recess, escapes her notice.)
CRAVEN. Tell her the news, Julia: it would sound ridiculous from me. (He goes to the weeping Cuthbertson, and pats him consolingly on the shoulder.)
JULIA. Silly: only think! Dad's not ill at all. It was only a mistake of Dr. Paramore's. Oh, dear! (She catches Craven's left hand and stoops to kiss it, his right hand being still on Cuthbertson's shoulder.)
SYLVIA (contemptuously). I knew it. Of course it was nothing but eating too much. I always said Paramore was an ass. (Sensation. Cuthbertson, Craven and Julia turn in consternation.)
PARAMORE (without malice). Never mind, Miss Craven. That is what is being said all over Europe now. Never mind.
SYLVIA (a little abashed). I'm so sorry, Dr. Paramore. You must excuse a daughter's feelings.
CRAVEN (huffed). It evidently doesn't make much difference to you, Sylvia.
SYLVIA. I'm not going to be sentimental over it, Dad, you may bet. (Coming to Craven.) Besides, I knew it was nonsense all along. (Petting him.) Poor dear old Dad! why should your days be numbered any more than any one else's? (He pats her cheek, mollified. Julia impatiently turns away from them.) Come to the smoking room, and let's see what you can do after teetotalling for a year.