WASTE: A TRAGEDY, IN FOUR ACTS, BY GRANVILLE BARKER
LONDON: SIDGWICK & JACKSON, LTD. 3 ADAM STREET, ADELPHI. MCMIX.
Entered at the Library of Congress, Washington, U.S.A. All rights reserved.
At Shapters, GEORGE FARRANT'S house in Hertfordshire. Ten o'clock on a Sunday evening in summer.
Facing you at her piano by the window, from which she is protected by a little screen, sits MRS. FARRANT; a woman of the interesting age, clear-eyed and all her face serene, except for a little pucker of the brows which shows a puzzled mind upon some important matters. To become almost an ideal hostess has been her achievement; and in her own home, as now, this grace is written upon every movement. Her eyes pass over the head of a girl, sitting in a low chair by a little table, with the shaded lamplight falling on her face. This is LUCY DAVENPORT; twenty-three, undefeated in anything as yet and so unsoftened. The book on her lap is closed, for she has been listening to the music. It is possibly some German philosopher, whom she reads with a critical appreciation of his shortcomings. On the sofa near her lounges MRS. O'CONNELL; a charming woman, if by charming you understand a woman who converts every quality she possesses into a means of attraction, and has no use for any others. On the sofa opposite sits MISS TREBELL. In a few years, when her hair is quite grey, she will assume as by right the dignity of an old maid. Between these two in a low armchair is LADY DAVENPORT. She has attained to many dignities. Mother and grandmother, she has brought into the world and nourished not merely life but character. A wonderful face she has, full of proud memories and fearless of the future. Behind her, on a sofa between the windows, is WALTER KENT. He is just what the average English father would like his son to be. You can see the light shooting out through the windows and mixing with moonshine upon a smooth lawn. On your left is a door. There are many books in the room, hardly any pictures, a statuette perhaps. The owner evidently sets beauty of form before beauty of colour. It is a woman's room and it has a certain delicate austerity. By the time you have observed everything MRS. FARRANT has played Chopin's prelude opus 28, number 20 from beginning to end.
LADY DAVENPORT. Thank you, my dear Julia.
WALTER KENT. [Protesting.] No more?
MRS. FARRANT. I won't play for a moment longer than I feel musical.
MISS TREBELL. Do you think it right, Julia, to finish with that after an hour's Bach?
MRS. FARRANT. I suddenly came over Chopinesque, Fanny; ... what's your objection? [as she sits by her.]
FRANCES TREBELL. What ... when Bach has raised me to the heights of unselfishness!
AMY O'CONNELL. [Grimacing sweetly, her eyes only half lifted.] Does he? I'm glad that I don't understand him.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Putting mere prettiness in its place.] One may prefer Chopin when one is young.
AMY O'CONNELL. And is that a reproach or a compliment?
WALTER KENT. [Boldly.] I do.
FRANCES TREBELL. Or a man may ... unless he's a philosopher.
LADY DAVENPORT. [To the rescue.] Miss Trebell, you're very hard on mere humanity.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Completing the reproof.] That's my wretched training as a schoolmistress, Lady Davenport ... one grew to fear it above all things.
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Throwing in the monosyllable with sharp youthful enquiry.] Why?
FRANCES TREBELL. There were no text books on the subject.
MRS. FARRANT. [Smiling at her friend.] Yes, Fanny ... I think you escaped to look after your brother only just in time.
FRANCES TREBELL. In another year I might have been head-mistress, which commits you to approve of the system for ever.
LADY DAVENPORT. [Shaking her wise head.] I've watched the Education fever take England....
FRANCES TREBELL. If I hadn't stopped teaching things I didn't understand...!
AMY O'CONNELL. [Not without mischief.] And what was the effect on the pupils?
LUCY DAVENPORT. I can tell you that.
AMY O'CONNELL. Frances never taught you.
LUCY DAVENPORT. No, I wish she had. But I was at her sort of a school before I went to Newnham. I know.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Very distastefully.] Up-to-date, it was described as.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Well, it was like a merry-go-round at top speed. You felt things wouldn't look a bit like that when you came to a standstill.
AMY O'CONNELL. And they don't?
LUCY DAVENPORT. [With great decision.] Not a bit.
AMY O'CONNELL. [In her velvet tone.] I was taught the whole duty of woman by a parson-uncle who disbelieved in his Church.
WALTER KENT. When a man at Jude's was going to take orders....
AMY O'CONNELL. Jude's?
WALTER KENT. At Oxford. The dons went very gingerly with him over bits of science and history.
[This wakes a fruitful thought in JULIA FARRANT'S brain.]
MRS. FARRANT. Mamma, have you ever discussed so-called anti-Christian science with Lord Charles?
FRANCES TREBELL ... Cantelupe?
MRS. FARRANT. Yes. It was over appointing a teacher for the schools down here ... he was staying with us. The Vicar's his fervent disciple. However, we were consulted.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Didn't Lord Charles want you to send the boys there till they were ready for Harrow?
MRS. FARRANT. Yes.
FRANCES TREBELL. Quite the last thing in Toryism!
MRS. FARRANT. Mamma made George say we were too nouveau riche to risk it.
LADY DAVENPORT. [As she laughs.] I couldn't resist that.
MRS. FARRANT. [Catching something of her subject's dry driving manner.] Lord Charles takes the superior line and says ... that with his consent the Church may teach the unalterable Truth in scientific language or legendary, whichever is easier understanded of the people.
LADY DAVENPORT. Is it the prospect of Disestablishment suddenly makes him so accommodating?
FRANCES TREBELL. [With large contempt.] He needn't be. The majority of people believe the world was made in an English week.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Oh, no!
FRANCES TREBELL. No Bishop dare deny it.
MRS. FARRANT. [From the heights of experience.] Dear Lucy, do you seriously think that the English spirit—the nerve that runs down the backbone—is disturbed by new theology ... or new anything?
LADY DAVENPORT. [Enjoying her epigram.] What a waste of persecution history shows us!
WALTER KENT now captures the conversation with a very young politician's fervour.
WALTER KENT. Once they're disestablished they must make up their minds what they do believe.
LADY DAVENPORT. I presume Lord Charles thinks it'll hand the Church over to him and his ... dare I say 'Sect'?
WALTER KENT. Won't it? He knows what he wants.
MRS. FARRANT. [Subtly.] There's the election to come yet.
WALTER KENT. But now both parties are pledged to a bill of some sort.
MRS. FARRANT. Political prophecies have a knack of not coming true; but, d'you know, Cyril Horsham warned me to watch this position developing ... nearly four years ago.
FRANCES TREBELL. Sitting on the opposition bench sharpens the eye-sight.
WALTER KENT. [Ironically.] Has he been pleased with the prospect?
MRS. FARRANT. [With perfect diplomacy] If the Church must be disestablished ... better done by its friends than its enemies.
FRANCES TREBELL. Still I don't gather he's pleased with his dear cousin Charles's conduct.
MRS. FARRANT. [Shrugging.] Oh, lately, Lord Charles has never concealed his tactics.
FRANCES TREBELL. And that speech at Leeds was the crowning move I suppose; just asking the Nonconformists to bring things to a head?
MRS. FARRANT. [Judicially.] I think that was precipitate.
WALTER KENT. [Giving them LORD CHARLES'S oratory.] Gentlemen, in these latter days of Radical opportunism!—You know, I was there ... sitting next to an old gentleman who shouted "Jesuit."
FRANCES TREBELL. But supposing Mallaby and the Nonconformists hadn't been able to force the Liberals' hand?
MRS. FARRANT. [Speaking as of inferior beings.] Why, they were glad of any cry going to the Country!
FRANCES TREBELL. [As she considers this.] Yes ... and Lord Charles would still have had as good a chance of forcing Lord Horsham's. It has been clever tactics.
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Who has been listening, sharp-eyed.] Contrariwise, he wouldn't have liked a Radical Bill though, would he?
WALTER KENT. [With aplomb.] He knew he was safe from that. The government must have dissolved before Christmas anyway ... and the swing of the pendulum's a sure thing.
MRS. FARRANT. [With her smile.] It's never a sure thing.
WALTER KENT. Oh, Mrs. Farrant, look how unpopular the Liberals are.
FRANCES TREBELL. What made them bring in Resolutions?
WALTER KENT. [Overflowing with knowledge of the subject.] I was told Mallaby insisted on their showing they meant business. I thought he was being too clever ... and it turns out he was. Tommy Luxmore told me there was a fearful row in the Cabinet about it. But on their last legs, you know, it didn't seem to matter, I suppose. Even then, if Prothero had mustered up an ounce of tact ... I believe they could have pulled them through....
FRANCES TREBELL. Not the Spoliation one.
WALTER KENT. Well, Mr. Trebell dished that!
FRANCES TREBELL. Henry says his speech didn't turn a vote.
MRS. FARRANT. [With charming irony.] How disinterested of him!
WALTER KENT. [Enthusiastic.] That speech did if ever a speech did.
FRANCES TREBELL. Is there any record of a speech that ever did? He just carried his own little following with him.
MRS. FARRANT. But the crux of the whole matter is and has always been ... what's to be done with the Church's money.
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Visualising sovereigns.] A hundred millions or so ... think of it!
FRANCES TREBELL. There has been from the start a good deal of anti-Nonconformist feeling against applying the money to secular uses.
MRS. FARRANT. [Deprecating false modesty, on anyone's behalf.] Oh, of course the speech turned votes ... twenty of them at least.
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Determined on information.] Then I was told Lord Horsham had tried to come to an understanding himself with the Nonconformists about Disestablishment—oh—a long time ago ... over the Education Bill.
FRANCES TREBELL. Is that true, Julia?
MRS. FARRANT. How should I know?
FRANCES TREBELL. [With some mischief] You might.
MRS. FARRANT. [Weighing her words.] I don't think it would have been altogether wise to make advances. They'd have asked more than a Conservative government could possibly persuade the Church to give up.
WALTER KENT. I don't see that Horsham's much better off now. He only turned the Radicals out on the Spoliation question by the help of Trebell. And so far ... I mean, till this election is over Trebell counts still as one of them, doesn't he, Miss Trebell? Oh ... perhaps he doesn't.
FRANCES TREBELL. He'll tell you he never has counted as one of them.
MRS. FARRANT. No doubt Lord Charles would sooner have done without his help. And that's why I didn't ask the gentle Jesuit this week-end if anyone wants to know.
WALTER KENT. [Stupent at this lack of party spirit.] What ... he'd rather have had the Liberals go to the country undefeated!
MRS. FARRANT. [With finesse.] The election may bring us back independent of Mr. Trebell and anything he stands for.
WALTER KENT. [Sharply.] But you asked Lord Horsham to meet him.
MRS. FARRANT. [With still more finesse.] I had my reasons. Votes aren't everything.
LADY DAVENPORT has been listening with rather a doubtful smile; she now caps the discussion.
LADY DAVENPORT. I'm relieved to hear you say so, my dear Julia. On the other hand democracy seems to have brought itself to a pretty pass. Here's a measure, which the country as a whole neither demands nor approves of, will certainly be carried, you tell me, because a minority on each side is determined it shall be ... for totally different reasons.
MRS. FARRANT. [Shrugging again.] It isn't our business to prevent popular government looking foolish, Mamma.
LADY DAVENPORT. Is that Tory cynicism or feminine?
At this moment GEORGE FARRANT comes through the window; a good natured man of forty-five. He would tell you that he was educated at Eton and Oxford. But the knowledge which saves his life comes from the thrusting upon him of authority and experience; ranging from the management of an estate which he inherited at twenty-four, through the chairmanship of a newspaper syndicate, through a successful marriage, to a minor post in the last Tory cabinet and the prospect of one in the near-coming next. Thanks to his agents, editors, permanent officials, and his own common sense, he always acquits himself creditably. He comes to his wife's side and waits for a pause in the conversation.
LADY DAVENPORT. I remember Mr. Disraeli once said to me ... Clever women are as dangerous to the State as dynamite.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Not to be impressed by Disraeli.] Well, Lady Davenport, if men will leave our intellects lying loose about....
FARRANT. Blackborough's going, Julia.
MRS. FARRANT. Yes, George.
LADY DAVENPORT. [Concluding her little apologue to MISS TREBELL.] Yes, my dear, but power without responsibility isn't good for the character that wields it either.
[There follows FARRANT through the window a man of fifty. He has about him that unmistakeable air of acquired wealth and power which distinguishes many Jews and has therefore come to be regarded as a solely Jewish characteristic. He speaks always with that swift decision which betokens a narrowed view. This is RUSSELL BLACKBOROUGH; manufacturer, politician ... statesman, his own side calls him.]
BLACKBOROUGH. [To his hostess.] If I start now, they tell me, I shall get home before the moon goes down. I'm sorry I must get back to-night. It's been a most delightful week-end.
MRS. FARRANT. [Gracefully giving him a good-bye hand.] And a successful one, I hope.
FARRANT. We talked Education for half an hour.
MRS. FARRANT. [Her eyebrows lifting a shade.] Education!
FARRANT. Then Trebell went away to work.
BLACKBOROUGH. I've missed the music, I fear.
MRS. FARRANT. But it's been Bach.
BLACKBOROUGH. No Chopin?
MRS. FARRANT. For a minute only.
BLACKBOROUGH. Why don't these new Italian men write things for the piano! Good-night, Lady Davenport.
LADY DAVENPORT. [As he bows over her hand.] And what has Education to do with it?
BLACKBOROUGH. [Non-committal himself.] Perhaps it was a subject that compromised nobody.
LADY DAVENPORT. Do you think my daughter has been wasting her time and her tact?
FARRANT. [Clapping him on the shoulder.] Blackborough's frankly flabbergasted at the publicity of this intrigue.
MRS. FARRANT. Intrigue! Mr. Trebell walked across the House ... actually into your arms.
BLACKBOROUGH. [With a certain dubious grimness.] Well ... we've had some very interesting talks since. And his views upon Education are quite ... Utopian. Good bye, Miss Trebell.
FRANCES TREBELL. Good-bye.
MRS. FARRANT. I wouldn't be so haughty till after the election, if I were you, Mr. Blackborough.
BLACKBOROUGH. [Indifferently.] Oh, I'm glad he's with us on the Church question ... so far.
MRS. FARRANT. So far as you've made up your minds? The electoral cat will jump soon.
BLACKBOROUGH. [A little beaten by such polite cynicism.] Well ... our conservative principles! After all we know what they are. Good-night, Mrs. O'Connell.
AMY O'CONNELL. Good-night.
FARRANT. Your neuralgia better?
AMY O'CONNELL. By fits and starts.
FARRANT. [Robustly.] Come and play billiards. Horsham and Maconochie started a game. They can neither of them play. We left them working out a theory of angles on bits of paper.
WALTER KENT. Professor Maconochie lured me on to golf yesterday. He doesn't suffer from theories about that.
BLACKBOROUGH. [With approval.] Started life as a caddie.
WALTER KENT. [Pulling a wry face.] So he told me after the first hole.
BLACKBOROUGH. What's this, Kent, about Trebell's making you his secretary?
WALTER KENT. He thinks he'll have me.
BLACKBOROUGH. [Almost reprovingly.] No question of politics?
FARRANT. More intrigue, Blackborough.
WALTER KENT. [With disarming candour.] The truth is, you see, I haven't any as yet. I was Socialist at Oxford ... but of course that doesn't count. I think I'd better learn my job under the best man I can find ... and who'll have me.
BLACKBOROUGH. [Gravely.] What does your father say?
WALTER KENT. Oh, as long as Jack will inherit the property in a Tory spirit! My father thinks it my wild oats.
A Footman has come in.
THE FOOTMAN. Your car is round, sir.
BLACKBOROUGH. Ah! Good-night, Miss Davenport. Good-bye again, Mrs. Farrant ... a charming week-end.
He makes a business-like departure, FARRANT follows him.
THE FOOTMAN. A telephone message from Dr. Wedgecroft, ma'am. His thanks; they stopped the express for him at Hitchin and he has reached London quite safely.
MRS. FARRANT. Thank you.
[The Footman goes out. MRS. FARRANT exhales delicately as if the air were a little refined by BLACKBOROUGH'S removal.]
MRS. FARRANT. Mr. Blackborough and his patent turbines and his gas engines and what not are the motive power of our party nowadays, Fanny.
FRANCES TREBELL. Yes, you claim to be steering plutocracy. Do you never wonder if it isn't steering you?
MRS. O'CONNELL, growing restless, has wandered round the room picking at the books in their cases.
AMY O'CONNELL. I always like your books, Julia. It's an intellectual distinction to know someone who has read them.
MRS. FARRANT. That's the Communion I choose.
FRANCES TREBELL. Aristocrat ... fastidious aristocrat.
MRS. FARRANT. No, now. Learning's a great leveller.
FRANCES TREBELL. But Julia ... books are quite unreal. D'you think life is a bit like them?
MRS. FARRANT. They bring me into touch with ... Oh, there's nothing more deadening than to be boxed into a set in Society! Speak to a woman outside it ... she doesn't understand your language.
FRANCES TREBELL. And do you think by prattling Hegel with Gilbert Wedgecroft when he comes to physic you—
MRS. FARRANT. [Joyously.] Excellent physic that is. He never leaves a prescription.
LADY DAVENPORT. Don't you think an aristocracy of brains is the best aristocracy, Miss Trebell?
FRANCES TREBELL. [With a little more bitterness than the abstraction of the subject demands.] I'm sure it is just as out of touch with humanity as any other ... more so, perhaps. If I were a country I wouldn't be governed by arid intellects.
MRS. FARRANT. Manners, Frances.
FRANCES TREBELL. I'm one myself and I know. They're either dead or dangerous.
GEORGE FARRANT comes back and goes straight to MRS. O'CONNELL.
FARRANT. [Still robustly.] Billiards, Mrs. O'Connell.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Declining sweetly.] I think not.
FARRANT. Billiards, Lucy?
LUCY DAVENPORT. [As robust as he.] Yes, Uncle George. You shall mark while Walter gives me twenty-five and I beat him.
WALTER KENT. [With a none-of-your-impudence air.] I'll give you ten yards start and race you to the billiard room.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Will you wear my skirt? Oh ... Grandmamma's thinking me vulgar.
LADY DAVENPORT. [Without prejudice.] Why, my dear, freedom of limb is worth having ... and perhaps it fits better with freedom of tongue.
FARRANT. [In the proper avuncular tone.] I'll play you both ... and I'd race you both if you weren't so disgracefully young.
AMY O'CONNELL has reached an open window.
AMY O'CONNELL. I shall go for a walk with my neuralgia.
MRS. FARRANT. Poor thing!
AMY O'CONNELL. The moon's good for it.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Shall you come, Aunt Julia?
MRS. FARRANT. [In flat protest.] No, I will not sit up while you play billiards.
MRS. O'CONNELL goes out through the one window, stands for a moment, wistfully romantic, gazing at KENT are standing at the other, looking across the lawn.
FARRANT. Horsham still arguing with Maconochie. They're got to Botany now.
WALTER KENT. Demonstrating something with a ... what's that thing?
WALTER goes out.
FARRANT. [With a throw of his head towards the distant HORSHAM.] He was so bored with our politics ... having to give his opinion too. We could just hear your piano.
And he follows WALTER.
MRS. FARRANT. Take Amy O'Connell that lace thing, will you, Lucy?
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Her tone expressing quite wonderfully her sentiments towards the owner.] Don't you think she'd sooner catch cold?
She catches it up and follows the two men; then after looking round impatiently, swings off in the direction MRS. O'CONNELL took. The three women now left together are at their ease.
FRANCES TREBELL. Did you expect Mr. Blackborough to get on well with Henry?
MRS. FARRANT. He has become a millionaire by appreciating clever men when he met them.
LADY DAVENPORT. Yes, Julia, but his political conscience is comparatively new-born.
MRS. FARRANT. Well, Mamma, can we do without Mr. Trebell?
LADY DAVENPORT. Everyone seems to think you'll come back with something of a majority.
MRS. FARRANT. [A little impatient.] What's the good of that? The Bill can't be brought into the Lords ... and who's going to take Disestablishment through the Commons for us? Not Eustace Fowler ... not Mr. Blackborough ... not Lord Charles ... not George!
LADY DAVENPORT. [Warningly.] Not all your brilliance as a hostess will keep Mr. Trebell in a Tory Cabinet.
MRS. FARRANT. [With wilful avoidance of the point.] Cyril Horsham is only too glad.
LADY DAVENPORT. Because you tell him he ought to be.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Coming to the rescue.] There is this. Henry has never exactly called himself a Liberal. He really is elected independently.
MRS. FARRANT. I wonder will all the garden-cities become pocket-boroughs.
FRANCES TREBELL. I think he has made a mistake.
MRS. FARRANT. It makes things easier now ... his having kept his freedom.
FRANCES TREBELL. I think it's a mistake to stand outside a system. There's an inhumanity in that amount of detachment ...
MRS. FARRANT. [Brilliantly.] I think a statesman may be a little inhuman.
LADY DAVENPORT. [With keenness.] Do you mean superhuman? It's not the same thing, you know.
MRS. FARRANT. I know.
LADY DAVENPORT. Most people don't know.
MRS. FARRANT. [Proceeding with her cynicism.] Humanity achieves ... what? Housekeeping and children.
FRANCES TREBELL. As far as a woman's concerned.
MRS. FARRANT. [A little mockingly.] Now, Mamma, say that is as far as a woman's concerned.
LADY DAVENPORT. My dear, you know I don't think so.
MRS. FARRANT. We may none of us think so. But there's our position ... bread and butter and a certain satisfaction until ... Oh, Mamma, I wish I were like you ... beyond all the passions of life.
LADY DAVENPORT. [With great vitality.] I'm nothing of the sort. It's my egoism's dead ... that's an intimation of mortality.
MRS. FARRANT. I accept the snub. But I wonder what I'm to do with myself for the next thirty years.
FRANCES TREBELL. Help Lord Horsham to govern the country.
JULIA FARRANT gives a little laugh and takes up the subject this time.
MRS. FARRANT. Mamma ... how many people, do you think, believe that Cyril's grande passion for me takes that form?
LADY DAVENPORT. Everyone who knows Cyril and most people who know you.
MRS. FARRANT. Otherwise I seem to have fulfilled my mission in life. The boys are old enough to go to school. George and I have become happily unconscious of each other.
FRANCES TREBELL. [With sudden energy of mind.] Till I was forty I never realised the fact that most women must express themselves through men.
MRS. FARRANT. [Looking at FRANCES a little curiously.] Didn't your instinct lead you to marry ... or did you fight against it?
FRANCES TREBELL. I don't know. Perhaps I had no vitality to spare.
LADY DAVENPORT. That boy is a long time proposing to Lucy.
This effectually startles the other two from their conversational reverie.
MRS. FARRANT. Walter? I'm not sure that he means to. She means to marry him if he does.
FRANCES TREBELL. Has she told you so?
MRS. FARRANT. No. I judge by her business-like interest in his welfare.
FRANCES TREBELL. He's beginning to feel the responsibility of manhood ... doesn't know whether to be frightened or proud of it.
LADY DAVENPORT. It's a pretty thing to watch young people mating. When they're older and marry from disappointment or deliberate choice, thinking themselves so worldly-wise....
MRS. FARRANT, [Back to her politely cynical mood.] Well ... then at least they don't develop their differences at the same fire-side, regretting the happy time when neither possessed any character at all.
LADY DAVENPORT. [Giving a final douche of common sense.] My dear, any two reasonable people ought to be able to live together.
FRANCES TREBELL. Granted three sitting rooms. That'll be the next middle-class political cry ... when women are heard.
MRS. FARRANT. [Suddenly as practical as her mother.] Walter's lucky ... Lucy won't stand any nonsense. She'll have him in the Cabinet by the time he's fifty.
LADY DAVENPORT. And are you the power behind your brother, Miss Trebell?
FRANCES TREBELL. [Gravely.] He ignores women. I've forced enough good manners on him to disguise the fact decently. His affections are two generations ahead.
MRS. FARRANT. People like him in an odd sort of way.
FRANCES TREBELL. That's just respect for work done ... one can't escape from it.
There is a slight pause in their talk. By some not very devious route MRS. FARRANT'S mind travels to the next subject.
MRS. FARRANT. Fanny ... how fond are you of Amy O'Connell?
FRANCES TREBELL. She says we're great friends.
MRS. FARRANT. She says that of me.
FRANCES TREBELL. It's a pity about her husband.
MRS. FARRANT. [Almost provokingly.] What about him?
FRANCES TREBELL. It seems to be understood that he treats her badly.
LADY DAVENPORT. [A little malicious.] Is there any particular reason he should treat her well?
FRANCES TREBELL. Don't you like her, Lady Davenport?
LADY DAVENPORT. [Dealing out justice.] I find her quite charming to look at and talk to ... but why shouldn't Justin O'Connell live in Ireland for all that? I'm going to bed, Julia.
She collects her belongings and gets up.
MRS. FARRANT. I must look in at the billiard room.
FRANCES TREBELL. I won't come, Julia.
MRS. FARRANT. What's your brother working at?
FRANCES TREBELL. I don't know. Something we shan't hear of for a year, perhaps.
MRS. FARRANT. On the Church business, I daresay.
FRANCES TREBELL. Did you hear Lord Horsham at dinner on the lack of dignity in an irreligious state?
MRS. FARRANT. Poor Cyril ... he'll have to find a way round that opinion of his now.
FRANCES TREBELL. Does he like leading his party?
MRS. FARRANT. [After due consideration.] It's an intellectual exercise. He's the right man, Fanny. You see it isn't a party in the active sense at all, except now and then when it's captured by someone with an axe to grind.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Humorously.] Such as my brother.
MRS. FARRANT. [As humorous.] Such as your brother. It expresses the thought of the men who aren't taken in by the claptrap of progress.
FRANCES TREBELL. Sometimes they've a queer way of expressing their love for the people of England.
MRS. FARRANT. But one must use democracy. Wellington wouldn't ... Disraeli did.
LADY DAVENPORT. [At the door.] Good-night, Miss Trebell.
FRANCES TREBELL. I'm coming ... it's past eleven.
MRS. FARRANT. [At the window.] What a gorgeous night! I'll come in and kiss you, Mamma.
FRANCES follows LADY DAVENPORT and MRS. FARRANT starts across the lawn to the billiard room.... An hour later you can see no change in the room except that only one lamp is alight on the table in the middle. AMY O'CONNELL and HENRY TREBELL walk past one window and stay for a moment in the light of the other. Her wrap is about her shoulders. He stands looking down at her.
AMY O'CONNELL. There goes the moon ... it's quieter than ever now. [She comes in.] Is it very late?
TREBELL. [As he follows.] Half-past twelve.
TREBELL is hard-bitten, brainy, forty-five and very sure of himself. He has a cold keen eye, which rather belies a sensitive mouth; hands which can grip, and a figure that is austere.
AMY O'CONNELL. I ought to be in bed. I suppose everyone has gone.
TREBELL. Early trains to-morrow. The billiard room lights are out.
AMY O'CONNELL. The walk has just tired me comfortably.
TREBELL. Sit down. [She sits by the table. He sits by her and says with the air of a certain buyer at a market.] You're very pretty.
AMY O'CONNELL. As well here as by moonlight? Can't you see any wrinkles?
TREBELL. One or two ... under the eyes. But they give character and bring you nearer my age. Yes, Nature hit on the right curve in making you.
She stretches herself, cat-like.
AMY O'CONNELL. Praise is the greatest of luxuries, isn't it, Henry? ... Henry ... [she caresses the name.]
TREBELL. Quite right ... Henry.
AMY O'CONNELL. Henry ... Trebell.
TREBELL. Having formally taken possession of my name....
AMY O'CONNELL. I'll go to bed.
His eyes have never moved from her. Now she breaks the contact and goes towards the door.
TREBELL. I wouldn't ... my spare time for love making is so limited.
She turns back, quite at ease, her eyes challenging him.
AMY O'CONNELL. That's the first offensive thing you've said.
TREBELL. Why offensive?
AMY O'CONNELL. I may flirt. Making love's another matter.
TREBELL. Sit down and explain the difference ... Mrs. O'Connell.
She sits down.
AMY O'CONNELL. Quite so. 'Mrs. O'Connell'. That's the difference.
TREBELL. [Provokingly.] But I doubt if I'm interested in the fact that your husband doesn't understand you and that your marriage was a mistake ... and how hard you find it to be strong.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Kindly.] I'm not quite a fool though you think so on a three months' acquaintance. But tell me this ... what education besides marriage does a woman get?
TREBELL. [His head lifting quickly.] Education....
AMY O'CONNELL. Don't be business-like.
TREBELL. I beg your pardon.
AMY O'CONNELL. Do you think the things you like to have taught in schools are any use to one when one comes to deal with you?
TREBELL. [After a little scrutiny of her-face.] Well, if marriage is only the means to an end ... what's the end? Not flirtation.
AMY O'CONNELL. [With an air of self-revelation.] I don't know. To keep one's place in the world, I suppose, one's self-respect and a sense of humour.
TREBELL. Is that difficult?
AMY O'CONNELL. To get what I want, without paying more than it's worth to me....?
TREBELL. Never to be reckless.
AMY O'CONNELL. [With a side-glance.] One isn't so often tempted.
TREBELL. In fact ... to flirt with life generally. Now, what made your husband marry you?
AMY O'CONNELL. [Dealing with the impertinence in her own fashion.] What would make you marry me? Don't say: Nothing on earth.
TREBELL. [Speaking apparently of someone else.] A prolonged fit of idleness might make me marry ... a clever woman. But I've never been idle for more than a week. And I've never met a clever woman ... worth calling a woman.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Bringing their talk back to herself, and fastidiously.] Justin has all the natural instincts.
TREBELL. He's Roman Catholic, isn't he?
AMY O'CONNELL. So am I ... by profession.
TREBELL. It's a poor religion unless you really believe in it.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Appealing to him.] If I were to live at Linaskea and have as many children as God sent, I should manage to make Justin pretty miserable! And what would be left of me at all I should like to know?
TREBELL. So Justin lives at Linaskea alone?
AMY O'CONNELL. I'm told now there's a pretty housemaid ... [she shrugs.]
TREBELL. Does he drink too?
AMY O'CONNELL. Oh, no. You'd like Justin, I daresay. He's clever. The thirteenth century's what he knows about. He has done a book on its statutes ... has been doing another.
TREBELL. And after an evening's hard work I find you here ready to flirt with.
AMY O'CONNELL. What have you been working at?
TREBELL. A twentieth century statute perhaps. That's not any concern of yours either.
She does not follow his thought.
AMY O'CONNELL. No, I prefer you in your unprofessional moments.
TREBELL. Real flattery. I didn't know I had any.
AMY O'CONNELL. That's why you should flirt with me ... Henry ... to cultivate them. I'm afraid you lack imagination.
TREBELL. One must choose something to lack in this life.
AMY O'CONNELL. Not develop your nature to its utmost capacity.
TREBELL. And then?
AMY O'CONNELL. Well, if that's not an end in itself ... [With a touch of romantic piety.] I suppose there's the hereafter.
TREBELL. [Grimly material.] What, more developing! I watch people wasting time on themselves with amazement ... I refuse to look forward to wasting eternity.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Shaking her head.] You are very self-satisfied.
TREBELL. Not more so than any machine that runs smoothly. And I hope not self-conscious.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Rather attractively treating him as a child.] It would do you good to fall really desperately in love with me ... to give me the power to make you unhappy.
He suddenly becomes very definite.
TREBELL. At twenty-three I engaged myself to be married to a charming and virtuous fool. I broke it off.
AMY O'CONNELL. Did she mind much?
TREBELL. We both minded. But I had ideals of womanhood that I wouldn't sacrifice to any human being. Then I fell in with a woman who seduced me, and for a whole year led me the life of a French novel ... played about with my emotion as I had tortured that other poor girl's brains. Education you'd call it in the one case as I called it in the other. What a waste of time!
AMY O'CONNELL. And what has become of your ideal?
TREBELL. [Relapsing to his former mood.] It's no longer a personal matter.
AMY O'CONNELL. [With coquetry.] You're not interested in my character?
TREBELL. Oh, yes, I am ... up to kissing point.
She does not shrink, but speaks with just a shade of contempt.
AMY O'CONNELL. You get that far more easily than a woman. That's one of my grudges against men. Why can't women take love-affairs so lightly?
TREBELL. There are reasons. But make a good beginning with this one. Kiss me at once.
He leans towards her. She considers him quite calmly.
AMY O'CONNELL. No.
TREBELL. When will you, then?
AMY O'CONNELL. When I can't help myself ... if that time ever comes.
TREBELL. [Accepting the postponement in a business-like spirit.] Well ... I'm an impatient man.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Confessing engagingly.] I made up my mind to bring you within arms' length of me when we'd met at Lady Percival's. Do you remember? [His face shows no sign of it.] It was the day after your speech on the Budget.
TREBELL. Then I remember. But I haven't observed the process.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Subtly.] Your sister grew to like me very soon. That's all the cunning there has been.
TREBELL. The rest is just mutual attraction?
AMY O'CONNELL. And opportunities.
TREBELL. Such as this.
At the drop of their voices they become conscious of the silent house.
AMY O'CONNELL. Do you really think everyone has gone to bed?
TREBELL. [Disregardful.] And what is it makes my pressing attentions endurable ... if one may ask?
AMY O'CONNELL. Some spiritual need or other, I suppose, which makes me risk unhappiness ... in fact, welcome it.
TREBELL. [With great briskness.] Your present need is a good shaking.... I seriously mean that. You get to attach importance to these shades of emotion. A slight physical shock would settle them all. That's why I asked you to kiss me just now.
AMY O'CONNELL. You haven't very nice ideas, have you?
TREBELL. There are three facts in life that call up emotion ... Birth, Death, and the Desire for Children. The niceties are shams.
AMY O'CONNELL. Then why do you want to kiss me?
TREBELL. I don't ... seriously. But I shall in a minute just to finish the argument. Too much diplomacy always ends in a fight.
AMY O'CONNELL. And if I don't fight ... it'd be no fun for you, I suppose?
TREBELL. You would get that much good out of me. For it's my point of honour ... to leave nothing I touch as I find it.
He is very close to her.
AMY O'CONNELL. You're frightening me a little ...
TREBELL. Come and look at the stars again. Come along.
AMY O'CONNELL. Give me my wrap ... [He takes it up, but holds it.] Well, put it on me. [He puts it round her, but does not withdraw his arms.] Be careful, the stars are looking at you.
TREBELL. No, they can't see so far as we can. That's the proper creed.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Softly, almost shyly.] Henry.
TREBELL. [Bending closer to her.] Yes, pretty thing.
AMY O'CONNELL. Is this what you call being in love?
He looks up and listens.
TREBELL. Here's somebody coming.
AMY O'CONNELL. Oh!...
TREBELL. What does it matter?
AMY O'CONNELL. I'm untidy or something....
She slips out, for they are close to the window. The FOOTMAN enters, stops suddenly.
THE FOOTMAN. I beg your pardon, sir. I thought everyone had gone.
TREBELL. I've just been for a walk. I'll lock up if you like.
THE FOOTMAN. I can easily wait up, sir.
TREBELL. [At the window.] I wouldn't. What do you do ... just slide the bolt?
THE FOOTMAN. That's all, sir.
TREBELL. I see. Good-night.
THE FOOTMAN. Good-night, sir.
He goes. TREBELL'S demeanour suddenly changes, becomes alert, with the alertness of a man doing something in secret. He leans out of the window and whispers.
There is no answer, so he gently steps out. For a moment the room is empty and there is silence. Then AMY has flown from him into the safety of lights. She is flushed, trembling, but rather ecstatic, and her voice has lost all affectation now.
AMY O'CONNELL. Oh ... oh ... you shouldn't have kissed me like that!
TREBELL stands in the window-way; a light in his eyes, and speaks low but commandingly.
TREBELL. Come here.
Instinctively she moves towards him. They speak in whispers.
AMY O'CONNELL. He was locking up.
TREBELL. I've sent him to bed.
AMY O'CONNELL. He won't go.
TREBELL. Never mind him.
AMY O'CONNELL. We're standing full in the light ... anyone could see us.
TREBELL. [With fierce egotism.] Think of me ... not of anyone else. [He draws her from the window; then does not let her go.] May I kiss you again?
AMY O'CONNELL. [Her eyes closed.] Yes.
He kisses her. She stiffens in his arms; then laughs almost joyously, and is commonplace.
AMY O'CONNELL. Well ... let me get my breath.
TREBELL. [Letting her stand free.] Now ... go along.
Obediently she turns to the door, but sinks on the nearest chair.
AMY O'CONNELL. In a minute, I'm a little faint. [He goes to her quickly.] No, it's nothing.
TREBELL. Come into the air again. [Then half seriously.] I'll race you across the lawn.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Still breathless and a little hysterical.] Thank you!
TREBELL. Shall I carry you?
AMY O'CONNELL. Don't be silly. [She recovers her self-possession, gets up and goes to the window, then looks back at him and says very beautifully.] But the night's beautiful, isn't it?
He has her in his arms again, more firmly this time.
TREBELL. Make it so.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Struggling ... with herself] Oh, why do you rouse me like this?
TREBELL. Because I want you.
AMY O'CONNELL. Want me to...?
TREBELL. Want you to ... kiss me just once.
AMY O'CONNELL. [Yielding.] If I do ... don't let me go mad, will you?
TREBELL. Perhaps. [He bends over her, her head drops back.] Now.
AMY O'CONNELL. Yes!
She kisses him on the mouth. Then he would release her, but suddenly she clings again.
Oh ... don't let me go.
TREBELL. [With fierce pride of possession.] Not yet.
She is fragile beside him. He lifts her in his arms and carries her out into the darkness.
THE SECOND ACT
TREBELL'S house in Queen Anne Street, London. Eleven o'clock on an October morning.
TREBELL'S working room is remarkable chiefly for the love of sunlight it evidences in its owner. The walls are white; the window which faces you is bare of all but the necessary curtains. Indeed, lack of draperies testifies also to his horror of dust. There faces you besides a double door; when it is opened another door is seen. When that is opened you discover a writing table, and beyond can discern a book-case filled with heavy volumes—law reports perhaps. The little room beyond is, so to speak, an under-study. Between the two rooms a window, again barely curtained, throws light down the staircase. But in the big room, while the books are many the choice of them is catholic; and the book-cases are low, running along the wall. There is an armchair before the bright fire, which is on your right. There is a sofa. And in the middle of the room is an enormous double writing table piled tidily with much appropriate impedimenta, blue books and pamphlets and with an especial heap of unopened letters and parcels. At the table sits TREBELL himself, in good health and spirits, but eyeing askance the work to which he has evidently just returned. His sister looks in on him. She is dressed to go out and has a housekeeping air.
FRANCES. Are you busy, Henry?
TREBELL. More or less. Come in.
FRANCES. You'll dine at home?
TREBELL. Anyone coming?
FRANCES. Julia Farrant and Lucy have run up to town, I think. I thought of going round and asking them to come in ... but perhaps your young man will be going there. Amy O'Connell said something vague about our going to Charles Street ... but she may be out of town by now.
TREBELL. Well ... I'll be in anyhow.
FRANCES. [Going to the window as she buttons her gloves.] Were you on deck early this morning? It must have been lovely.
TREBELL. No, I turned in before we got out of le Havre. I left Kent on deck and found him there at six.
FRANCES. I don't think autumn means to come at all this year ... it'll be winter one morning. September has been like a hive of bees, busy and drowsy. By the way, Cousin Mary has another baby ... a girl.
TREBELL. [Indifferent to the information.] That's the fourth.
FRANCES. Fifth. They asked me down for the christening ... but I really couldn't.
TREBELL. September's the month for Tuscany. The car chose to break down one morning just as we were starting North again; so we climbed one of the little hills and sat for a couple of hours, while I composed a fifteenth century electioneering speech to the citizens of Siena.
FRANCES. [With a half smile.] Have you a vein of romance for holiday time?
TREBELL. [Dispersing the suggestion.] Not at all romantic ... nothing but figures and fiscal questions. That was the hardest commercial civilisation there has been, though you only think of its art and its murders now.
FRANCES. The papers on both sides have been very full of you ... saying you hold the moral balance ... or denying it.
TREBELL. An interviewer caught me at Basle. I offered to discuss the state of the Swiss navy.
FRANCES. Was that before Lord Horsham wrote to you?
TREBELL. Yes, his letter came to Innsbruck. He "expressed" it somehow. Why ... it isn't known that he will definitely ask me to join?
FRANCES. The Whitehall had a leader before the Elections were well over to say that he must ... but, of course, that was Mr. Farrant.
TREBELL. [Knowingly.] Mrs. Farrant. I saw it in Paris ... it just caught me up.
FRANCES. The Times is very shy over the whole question ... has a letter from a fresh bishop every day ... doesn't talk of you very kindly yet.
TREBELL. Tampering with the Establishment, even Cantelupe's way, will be a pill to the real old Tory right to the bitter end.
WALTER KENT comes in, very fresh and happy-looking. A young man started in life. TREBELL hails him.
TREBELL. Hullo ... you've not been long getting shaved.
KENT. How do you do, Miss Trebell? Lucy turned me out.
FRANCES. My congratulations. I've not seen you since I heard the news.
KENT. [Glad and unembarrassed.] Thank you. I do deserve them, don't I? Mrs. Farrant didn't come down ... she left us to breakfast together. But I've a message for you ... her love and she is in town. I went and saw Lord Charles, sir. He will come to you and be here at half past seven.
TREBELL. Look at these.
He smacks on the back, so to speak, the pile of parcels and letters.
KENT. Oh, lord! ... I'd better start on them.
FRANCES. [Continuing in her smooth oldmaidish manner.] Thank you for getting engaged just before you went off with Henry ... it has given me my only news of him, through Lucy and your postcards.
TREBELL. Oh, what about Wedgecroft?
KENT. I think it was he spun up just as I'd been let in.
TREBELL. Oh, well ... [And he rings at the telephone which is on his table.]
KENT. [Confiding in MISS TREBELL.] We're a common sense couple, aren't we? I offered to ask to stay behind but she....
SIMPSON, the maid, comes in.
SIMPSON. Dr. Wedgecroft, sir.
WEDGECROFT is on her heels. If you have an eye for essentials you may tell at once that he is a doctor, but if you only notice externals you will take him, for anything else. He is over forty and in perfect health of body and spirit. His enthusiasms are his vitality and he has too many of them ever to lose one. He squeezes MISS TREBELL'S hand with an air of fearless affection which is another of his characteristics and not the least loveable.
WEDGECROFT. How are you?
FRANCES. I'm very well, thanks.
WEDGECROFT. [To TREBELL, as they shake hands.] You're looking fit.
TREBELL. [With tremendous emphasis.] I am!
WEDGECROFT. You've got the motor eye though.
TREBELL. Full of dust?
WEDGECROFT. Look at Kent's. [He takes WALTER'S arm.] It's a slight but serious contraction of the pupil ... which I charge fifty guineas to cure.
FRANCES. It's the eye of faith in you and your homeopathic doses. Don't you interfere with it.
FRANCES TREBELL, housekeeper, goes out. KENT has seized on the letters and is carrying them to his room.
KENT. This looks like popularity and the great heart of the people, doesn't it?
WEDGECROFT. Trebell, you're not ill, and I've work to do.
TREBELL. I want ten minutes. Keep anybody out, Kent.
KENT. I'll switch that speaking tube arrangement to my room.
TREBELL, overflowing with vitality, starts to face the floor.
TREBELL. I've seen the last of Pump Court, Gilbert.
WEDGECROFT. The Bar ought to give you a testimonial ... to the man who not only could retire on twenty years' briefs, but has.
TREBELL. Fifteen. But I bled the City sharks with a good conscience ... quite freely.
WEDGECROFT. [With a pretence at grumbling.] I wish I could retire.
TREBELL. No you don't. Doctoring's a priestcraft ... you've taken vows.
WEDGECROFT. Then why don't you establish our church instead of ...
TREBELL. Yes, my friend ... but you're a heretic. I'd have to give the Medical Council power to burn you at the stake.
KENT. [With the book packages.] Parcel from the S.P.C.K., sir.
TREBELL. I know.... Disestablishment a crime against God; sermon preached by the Vicar of something Parva in eighteen seventy three. I hope you're aware it's your duty to read all those.
KENT. Suppose they convert me? Lucy wanted to know if she could see you.
TREBELL. [His eyebrows up.] Yes, I'll call at Mrs. Farrant's. Oh, wait. Aren't they coming to dinner?
KENT. To-night? No, I think they go back to Shapters by the five o'clock. I told her she might come round about twelve on the chance.
TREBELL. Yes ... if Cantelupe's punctual ... I'd sooner not have too long with him.
KENT. All right, then.
He goes, shutting the door; then you hear the door of his room shut too. The two friends face each other, glad of a talk.
WEDGECROFT. Well ... you'll never do it.
TREBELL. Yes, I shall.
WEDGECROFT. You can't carry any bill to be a credit to you with the coming Tory cabinet on your back. You know the Government is cursing you with its dying breath.
TREBELL. [Rubbing his hands.] Of course. They've been beaten out of the House and in now. I suppose they will meet Parliament.
WEDGECROFT. They must, I think. It's over a month since—
TREBELL. [His thoughts running quickly.] There'll only be a nominal majority of sixteen against them. The Labour lot are committed on their side ... and now that the Irish have gone—
WEDGECROFT. But they'll be beaten on the Address first go.
TREBELL. Yes ... Horsham hasn't any doubt of it.
WEDGECROFT. He'll be in office within a week of the King's speech.
TREBELL. [With another access of energy.] I'll pull the bill that's in my head through a Horsham cabinet and the House. Then I'll leave them ... they'll go to the country—
WEDGECROFT. You know Percival's pledge about that at Bristol wasn't very definite.
TREBELL. Horsham means to.
WEDGECROFT. [With friendly contempt.] Oh, Horsham!
TREBELL. Anyway, it's about Percival I want you. How ill is he?
WEDGECROFT. Not very.
TREBELL. Is he going to die?
WEDGECROFT. Well, I'm attending him.
TREBELL. [Pinked.] Yes ... that's a good answer. How does he stomach me in prospect as a colleague, so far?
WEDGECROFT. Sir, professional etiquette forbids me to disclose what a patient may confess in the sweat of his agony.
TREBELL. He'll be Chancellor again and lead the House.
WEDGECROFT. Why not? He only grumbles that he's getting old.
TREBELL. [Thinking busily again.] The difficulty is I shall have to stay through one budget with them. He'll have a surplus ... well, it looks like it ... and my only way of agreeing with him will be to collar it.
WEDGECROFT. But ... good heavens! ... you'll have a hundred million or so to give away when you've disendowed.
TREBELL. Not to give away. I'll sell every penny.
WEDGECROFT. [With an incredulous grin.] You're not going back to extending old-age pensions after turning the unfortunate Liberals out on it, are you?
TREBELL. No, no ... none of your half crown measures. They can wait to round off their solution of that till they've the courage to make one big bite of it.
WEDGECROFT. We shan't see the day.
TREBELL. [Lifting the subject off its feet.] Not if I come out of the cabinet and preach revolution?
WEDGECROFT. Or will they make a Tory of you?
TREBELL. [Acknowledging that stroke with a return grin.] It'll be said they have when the bill is out.
WEDGECROFT. It's said so already.
TREBELL. Who knows a radical bill when he sees it!
WEDGECROFT. I'm not pleased you have to be running a tilt against the party system. [He becomes a little dubious.] My friend ... it's a nasty windmill. Oh, you've not seen that article in the Nation on Politics and Society ... it's written at Mrs. Farrant and Lady Lurgashall and that set. They hint that the Tories would never have had you if it hadn't been for this bad habit of opposite party men meeting each other.
TREBELL. [Unimpressed.] Excellent habit! What we really want in this country is a coalition of all the shibboleths with the rest of us in opposition ... for five years only.
WEDGECROFT. [Smiling generously.] Well, it's a sensation to see you become arbiter. The Tories are owning they can't do without you. Percival likes you personally ... Townsend don't matter ... Cantelupe you buy with a price, I suppose ... Farrant you can put in your pocket. I tell you I think the man you may run up against is Blackborough.
TREBELL. No, all he wants is to be let look big ... and to have an idea given him when he's going to make a speech, which isn't often.
WEDGECROFT. Otherwise ... I suppose ... now I may go down to history as having been in your confidence. I'm very glad you've arrived.
TREBELL. [With great seriousness.] I've sharpened myself as a weapon to this purpose.
WEDGECROFT. [Kindly.] And you're sure of yourself, aren't you?
TREBELL. [Turning his wrist.] Try.
WEDGECROFT. [Slipping his doctor's fingers over the the pulse.] Seventy, I should say.
TREBELL. I promise you it hasn't varied a beat these three big months.
WEDGECROFT. Well, I wish it had. Perfect balance is most easily lost. How do you know you've the power of recovery? ... and it's that gets one up in the morning day by day.
TREBELL. Is it? My brain works steadily on ... hasn't failed me yet. I keep it well fed. [He breathes deeply.] But I'm not sure one shouldn't have been away from England for five years instead of five weeks ... to come back to a job like this with a fresh mind. D'you know why really I went back on the Liberals over this question? Not because they wanted the church money for their pensions ... but because all they can see in Disestablishment is destruction. Any fool can destroy! I'm not going to let a power like the Church get loose from the State. A thirteen hundred years, tradition of service ... and all they can think of is to cut it adrift!
WEDGECROFT. I think the Church is moribund.
TREBELL. Oh, yes, of course you do ... you sentimental agnostic anarchist. Nonsense! The supernatural's a bit blown upon ... till we re-discover what it means. But it's not essential. Nor is the Christian doctrine. Put a Jesuit in a corner and shut the door and he'll own that. No ... the tradition of self-sacrifice and fellowship in service for its own sake ... that's the spirit we've to capture and keep.
WEDGECROFT. [Really struck.] A secular Church!
TREBELL. [With reasoning in his tone.] Well ... why not? Listen here. In drafting an act of Parliament one must alternately imagine oneself God Almighty and the most ignorant prejudiced little blighter who will be affected by what's passed. God says: Let's have done with Heaven and Hell ... it's the Earth that shan't pass away. Why not turn all those theology mongers into doctors or schoolmasters?
WEDGECROFT. As to doctors—
TREBELL. Quite so, you naturally prejudiced blighter. That priestcraft don't need re-inforcing.
WEDGECROFT. It needs recognition.
TREBELL. What! It's the only thing most people believe in. Talk about superstition! However, there's more life in you. Therefore it's to be schoolmasters.
TREBELL. Listen again, young man. In the youth of the world, when priests were the teachers of men....
WEDGECROFT. [Not to be preached at.] And physicians of men.
TREBELL. Shut up.
WEDGECROFT. If there's any real reform going, I want my profession made into a state department. I won't shut up for less.
TREBELL. [Putting this aside with one finger.] I'll deal with you later. There's still Youth in the world in another sense; but the priests haven't found out the difference yet, so they're wasting most of their time.
WEDGECROFT. Religious education won't do now-a-days.
TREBELL. What's Now-a-days? You're very dull, Gilbert.
WEDGECROFT. I'm not duller than the people who will have to understand your scheme.
TREBELL. They won't understand it. I shan't explain to them that education is religion, and that those who deal in it are priests without any laying on of hands.
WEDGECROFT. No matter what they teach?
TREBELL. No ... the matter is how they teach it. I see schools in the future, Gilbert, not built next to the church, but on the site of the church.
WEDGECROFT. Do you think the world is grown up enough to do without dogma?
TREBELL. Yes, I do.
WEDGECROFT. What!... and am I to write my prescriptions in English?
TREBELL. Yes, you are.
WEDGECROFT. Lord save us! I never thought to find you a visionary.
TREBELL. Isn't it absurd to think that in a hundred years we shall be giving our best brains and the price of them not to training grown men into the discipline of destruction ... not even to curing the ills which we might be preventing ... but to teaching our children. There's nothing else to be done ... nothing else matters. But it's work for a priesthood.
WEDGECROFT. [Affected; not quite convinced.] Do you think you can buy a tradition and transmute it?
TREBELL. Don't mock at money.
WEDGECROFT. I never have.
TREBELL. But you speak of it as an end not as a means. That's unfair.
WEDGECROFT. I speaks as I finds.
TREBELL. I'll buy the Church, not with money, but with the promise of new life. [A certain rather gleeful cunning comes over him.] It'll only look like a dose of reaction at first ... Sectarian Training Colleges endowed to the hilt.
WEDGECROFT. What'll the Nonconformists say?
TREBELL. Bribe them with the means of equal efficiency. The crux of the whole matter will be in the statutes. I'll force on those colleges.
WEDGECROFT. They'll want dogma.
TREBELL. Dogma's not a bad thing if you've power to adapt it occasionally.
WEDGECROFT. Instead of spending your brains in explaining it. Yes, I agree.
TREBELL. [With full voice.] But in the creed I'll lay down as unalterable there shall be neither Jew nor Greek.... What do you think of St. Paul, Gilbert?
WEDGECROFT. I'd make him the head of a college.
TREBELL. I'll make the Devil himself head of a college, if he'll undertake to teach honestly all he knows.
WEDGECROFT. And he'll conjure up Comte and Robespierre for you to assist in this little rechauffe of their schemes.
TREBELL. Hullo! Comte I knew about. Have I stolen from Robespierre too?
WEDGECROFT. [Giving out the epigram with an air.] Property to him who can make the best use of it.
TREBELL. And then what we must do is to give the children power over their teachers?
Now he is comically enigmatic. WEDGECROFT echoes him.
WEDGECROFT. And what exactly do you mean by that?
TREBELL. [Serious again.] How positive a pedagogue would you be if you had to prove your cases and justify your creed every century or so to the pupils who had learnt just a little more than you could teach them? Give power to the future, my friend ... not to the past. Give responsibility ... even if you give it for your own discredit. What's beneath trust deeds and last wills and testaments, and even acts of Parliament and official creeds? Fear of the verdict of the next generation ... fear of looking foolish in their eyes. Ah, we ... doing our best now ... must be ready for every sort of death. And to provide the means of change and disregard of the past is a secret of statesmanship. Presume that the world will come to an end every thirty years if it's not reconstructed. Therefore give responsibility ... give responsibility ... give the children power.
WEDGECROFT. [Disposed to whistle.] Those statutes will want some framing.
TREBELL. [Relapsing to a chuckle.] There's an incidental change to foresee. Disappearance of the parson into the schoolmaster ... and the Archdeacon into the Inspector ... and the Bishop into—I rather hope he'll stick to his mitre, Gilbert.
WEDGECROFT. Some Ruskin will arise and make him.
TREBELL. [As he paces the room and the walls of it fade away to him.] What a church could be made of the best brains in England, sworn only to learn all they could teach what they knew without fear of the future or favour to the past ... sworn upon their honour as seekers after truth, knowingly to tell no child a lie. It will come.
WEDGECROFT. A priesthood of women too? There's the tradition of service with them.
TREBELL. [With the sourest look yet on his face.] Slavery ... not quite the same thing. And the paradox of such slavery is that they're your only tyrants.
[At this moment the bell of the telephone upon the table rings. He goes to it talking the while.]
One has to be very optimistic not to advocate the harem. That's simple and wholesome.... Yes?
KENT comes in.
KENT. Does it work?
TREBELL. [Slamming down the receiver.] You and your new toy! What is it?
KENT. I'm not sure about the plugs of it ... I thought I'd got them wrong. Mrs. O'Connell has come to see Miss Trebell, who is out, and she says will we ask you if any message has been left for her.
TREBELL. No. Oh, about dinner? Well, she's round at Mrs. Farrant's.
KENT. I'll ring them up.
He goes back into his room to do so leaving TREBELL'S door open. The two continue their talk.
TREBELL. My difficulties will be with Percival.
WEDGECROFT. Not over the Church.
TREBELL. You see I must discover how keen he'd be on settling the Education quarrel, once and for all ... what there is left of it.
WEDGECROFT. He's not sectarian.
TREBELL. It'll cost him his surplus. When'll he be up and about?
WEDGECROFT. Not for a week or more.
TREBELL. [Knitting his brow.] And I've to deal with Cantelupe. Curious beggar, Gilbert.
WEDGECROFT. Not my sort. He'll want some dealing with over your bill as introduced to me.
TREBELL. I've not cross-examined company promoters for ten years without learning how to do business with a professional high churchman.
WEDGECROFT. Providence limited ... eh?
They are interrupted by MRS. O'CONNELL'S appearance in the doorway. She is rather pale, very calm; but there is pain in her eyes and her voice is unnaturally steady.
AMY. Your maid told me to come up and I'm interrupting business.... I thought she was wrong.
TREBELL. [With no trace of self-consciousness.] Well ... how are you, after this long time?
AMY. How do you do? [Then she sees WEDGECROFT and has to control a shrinking from him.] Oh!
WEDGECROFT. How are you, Mrs. O'Connell?
TREBELL. Kent is telephoning to Frances. He knows where she is.
AMY. How are you, Dr. Wedgecroft? [then to TREBELL.] Did you have a good holiday? London pulls one to pieces wretchedly. I shall give up living here at all.
WEDGECROFT. You look very well.
AMY. Do I!
TREBELL. A very good holiday. Sit down ... he won't be a minute.
She sits on the nearest chair.
AMY. You're not ill ... interviewing a doctor?
TREBELL. The one thing Wedgecroft's no good at is doctoring. He keeps me well by sheer moral suasion.
KENT comes out of his room and is off downstairs.
TREBELL calls to him.
TREBELL. Mrs. O'Connell's here.
KENT. Oh! [He comes back and into the room.] Miss Trebell hasn't got there yet.
WEDGECROFT has suddenly looked at his watch.
WEDGECROFT. I must fly. Good bye, Mrs. O'Connell.
AMY. [Putting her hand, constrained by its glove, into his open hand.] I am always a little afraid of you.
WEDGECROFT. That isn't the feeling a doctor wants to inspire.
KENT. [To TREBELL.] David Evans—
KENT. The reverend one ... is downstairs and wants to see you.
WEDGECROFT. [As he comes to them.] Hampstead Road Tabernacle ... Oh, the mammon of righteousness!
TREBELL. Shut up! How long have I before Lord Charles—?
KENT. Only ten minutes.
MRS. O'CONNELL goes to sit at the big table, and apparently idly takes a sheet of paper to scribble on.
TREBELL. [Half thinking, half questioning.] He's a man I can say nothing to politely.
WEDGECROFT. I'm off to Percival's now. Then I've another case and I'm due back at twelve. If there's anything helpful to say I'll look in again for two minutes ... not more.
TREBELL. You're a good man.
WEDGECROFT. [As he goes.] Congratulations, Kent.
KENT. [Taking him to the stairs.] Thank you very much.
AMY. [Beckoning with her eyes.] What's this, Mr. Trebell?
TREBELL. Eh? I beg your pardon.
He goes behind her and reads over her shoulder what she has written. KENT comes back.
KENT. Shall I bring him up here?
TREBELL looks up and for a moment stares at his secretary rather sharply, then speaks in a matter-of-fact voice.
TREBELL. See him yourself, downstairs. Talk to him for five minutes ... find out what he wants. Tell him it will be as well for the next week or two if he can say he hasn't seen me.
He goes. TREBELL follows him to the door which he shuts. Then he turns to face AMY, who is tearing up the paper she wrote on.
TREBELL. What is it?
AMY. [Her steady voice breaking, her carefully calculated control giving way.] Oh Henry ... Henry!
TREBELL. Are you in trouble?
AMY. You'll hate me, but ... oh, it's brutal of you to have been away so long.
TREBELL. Is it with your husband?
AMY. Perhaps. Oh, come nearer to me ... do.
TREBELL. [Coming nearer without haste or excitement.] Well? [Her eyes are closed.] My dear girl, I'm too busy for love-making now. If there are any facts to be faced, let me have them ... quite quickly.
She looks up at him for a moment; then speaks swiftly and sharply as one speaks of disaster.
AMY. There's a danger of my having a child ... your child ... some time in April. That's all.
TREBELL. [A sceptic who has seen a vision.] Oh ... it's impossible.
AMY. [Flashing at him, revengefully.] Why?
TREBELL. [Brought to his mundane self] Well ... are you sure?
AMY. [In sudden agony.] D'you think I want it to be true? D'you think I—? You don't know what it is to have a thing happening in spite of you.
TREBELL. [His face set in thought.] Where have you been since we met?
AMY. Not to Ireland ... I haven't seen Justin for a year.
TREBELL. All the easier for you not to see him for another year.
AMY. That wasn't what you meant.
TREBELL. It wasn't ... but never mind.
They are silent for a moment ... miles apart ... Then she speaks dully.
AMY. We do hate each other ... don't we!
TREBELL. Nonsense. Let's think of what matters.
AMY. [Aimlessly.] I went to a man at Dover ... picked him out of the directory ... didn't give my own name ... pretended I was off abroad. He was a kind old thing ... said it was all most satisfactory. Oh, my God!
TREBELL. [He goes to bend over her kindly.] Yes, you've had a torturing month or two. That's been wrong, I'm sorry.
AMY. Even now I have to keep telling myself that it's so ... otherwise I couldn't understand it. Any more than one really believes one will ever die ... one doesn't believe that, you know.
TREBELL. [On the edge of a sensation that is new to him.] I am told that a man begins to feel unimportant from this moment forward. Perhaps it's true.
AMY. What has it to do with you anyhow? We don't belong to each other. How long were we together that night? Half an hour! You didn't seem to care a bit until after you'd kissed me and ... this is an absurd consequence.
TREBELL. Nature's a tyrant.
AMY. Oh, it's my punishment ... I see that well enough ... for thinking myself so clever ... forgetting my duty and religion ... not going to confession, I mean. [Then hysterically.] God can make you believe in Him when he likes, can't he?
TREBELL. [With comfortable strength.] My dear girl, this needs your pluck. [And he sits by her.] All we have to do is to prevent it being found out.
AMY. Yes ... the scandal would smash you, wouldn't it?
TREBELL. There isn't going to be any scandal.
AMY. No ... if we're careful. You'll tell me what to do, won't you? Oh, it's a relief to be able to talk about it.
TREBELL. For one thing, you must take care of yourself and stop worrying.
It soothes her to feel that he is concerned; but it is not enough to be soothed.
AMY. Yes, I wouldn't like to have been the means of smashing you, Henry ... especially as you don't care for me.
TREBELL. I intend to care for you.
AMY. Love me, I mean. I wish you did ... a little; then perhaps I shouldn't feel so degraded.
TREBELL. [A shade impatiently, a shade contemptuously] I can say I love you if that'll make things easier.
AMY. [More helpless than ever.] If you'd said it at first I should be taking it for granted ... though it wouldn't be any more true, I daresay, than now ... when I should know you weren't telling the truth.
TREBELL. Then I'd do without so much confusion.
AMY. Don't be so heartless.
TREBELL. [As he leaves her.] We seem to be attaching importance to such different things.
AMY. [Shrill even at a momentary desertion.] What do you mean? I want affection now just as I want food. I can't do without it ... I can't reason things out as you can. D'you think I haven't tried? [Then in sudden rebellion.] Oh, the physical curse of being a woman ... no better than any savage in this condition ... worse off than an animal. It's unfair.
TREBELL. Never mind ... you're here now to hand me half the responsibility, aren't you?
AMY. As if I could! If I have to lie through the night simply shaking with bodily fear much longer ... I believe I shall go mad.
This aspect of the matter is meaningless to him. He returns to the practical issue.
TREBELL. There's nobody that need be suspecting, is there?
AMY. My maid sees I'm ill and worried and makes remarks ... only to me so far. Don't I look a wreck? I nearly ran away when I saw Dr. Wedgecroft ... some of these men are so clever.
TREBELL. [Calculating.] Someone will have to be trusted.
AMY. [Burrowing into her little tortured self again.] And I ought to feel as if I had done Justin a great wrong ... but I don't. I hate you now; now and then. I was being myself. You've brought me down. I feel worthless.
The last word strikes him. He stares at her.
TREBELL. Do you?
AMY. [Pleadingly.] There's only one thing I'd like you to tell me, Henry ... it isn't much. That night we were together ... it was for a moment different to everything that has ever been in your life before, wasn't it?
TREBELL. [Collecting himself as if to explain to a child.] I must make you understand ... I must get you to realise that for a little time to come you're above the law ... above even the shortcomings and contradictions of a man's affection.
AMY. But let us have one beautiful memory to share.
TREBELL. [Determined she shall face the cold logic of her position.] Listen. I look back on that night as one looks back on a fit of drunkenness.
AMY. [Neither understanding nor wishing to; only shocked and hurt.] You beast.
TREBELL. [With bitter sarcasm.] No, don't say that. Won't it comfort you to think of drunkenness as a beautiful thing? There are precedents enough ... classic ones.
AMY. You mean I might have been any other woman.
TREBELL. [Quite inexorable.] Wouldn't any other woman have served the purpose ... and is it less of a purpose because we didn't know we had it? Does my unworthiness then ... if you like to call it so ... make you unworthy now? I must make you see that it doesn't.
AMY. [Petulantly hammering at her ide fixe.] But you didn't love me ... and you don't love me.
TREBELL. [Keeping his patience.] No ... only within the last five minutes have I really taken the smallest interest in you. And now I believe I'm half jealous. Can you understand that? You've been talking a lot of nonsense about your emotions and your immortal soul. Don't you see it's only now that you've become a person of some importance to the world ... and why?
AMY. [Losing her patience, childishly.] What do you mean by the World? You don't seem to have any personal feelings at all. It's horrible you should have thought of me like that. There has been no other man than you that I would have let come anywhere near me ... not for more than a year.
He realises that she will never understand.
TREBELL. My dear girl, I'm sorry to be brutal. Does it matter so much to you that I should have wished to be the father of your child?
AMY. [Ungracious but pacified by his change of tone.] It doesn't matter now.
TREBELL. [Friendly still.] On principle I don't make promises. But I think I can promise you that if you keep your head and will keep your health, this shall all be made as easy for you as if everyone could know. And let's think what the child may mean to you ... just the fact of his birth. Nothing to me, of course! Perhaps that accounts for the touch of jealousy. I've forfeited my rights because I hadn't honourable intentions. You can't forfeit yours. Even if you never see him and he has to grow up among strangers ... just to have had a child must make a difference to you. Of course, it may be a girl. I wonder.
As he wanders on so optimistically she stares at him and her face changes. She realises....
AMY. Do you expect me to go through with this? Henry! ... I'd sooner kill myself.
There is silence between them. He looks at her as one looks at some unnatural thing. Then after a moment he speaks, very coldly.
TREBELL. Oh ... indeed. Don't get foolish ideas into your head. You've no choice now ... no reasonable choice.
AMY. [Driven to bay; her last friend an enemy.] I won't go through with it.
TREBELL. It hasn't been so much the fear of scandal then—
AMY. That wouldn't break my heart. You'd marry me, wouldn't you? We could go away somewhere. I could be very fond of you, Henry.
TREBELL. [Marvelling at these tangents.] Marry you! I should murder you in a week.
This sounds only brutal to her; she lets herself be shamed.
AMY. You've no more use for me than the use you've made of me.
TREBELL. [Logical again.] Won't you realise that there's a third party to our discussion ... that I'm of no importance beside him and you of very little. Think of the child.
AMY blazes into desperate rebellion.
AMY. There's no child because I haven't chosen there shall be and there shan't be because I don't choose. You'd have me first your plaything and then Nature's, would you?
TREBELL. [A little abashed.] Come now, you knew what you were about.
AMY. [Thinking of those moments.] Did I? I found myself wanting you, belonging to you suddenly. I didn't stop to think and explain. But are we never to be happy and irresponsible ... never for a moment?
TREBELL. Well ... one can't pick and choose consequences.
AMY. Your choices in life have made you what you want to be, haven't they? Leave me mine.
TREBELL. But it's too late to argue like that.
AMY. If it is, I'd better jump into the Thames. I've thought of it.
He considers how best to make a last effort to bring her to her senses. He sits by her.
TREBELL. Amy ... if you were my wife—
AMY. [Unresponsive to him now.] I was Justin's wife, and I went away from him sooner than bear him children. Had I the right to choose or had I not?
TREBELL. [Taking another path.] Shall I tell you something I believe? If we were left to choose, we should stand for ever deciding whether to start with the right foot or the left. We blunder into the best things in life. Then comes the test ... have we faith enough to go on ... to go through with the unknown thing?
AMY. [So bored by these metaphysics.] Faith in what?
TREBELL. Our vitality. I don't give a fig for beauty, happiness, or brains. All I ask of myself is ... can I pay Fate on demand?
AMY. Yes ... in imagination. But I've got physical facts to face.
But he has her attention now and pursues the advantage.
TREBELL. Very well then ... let the meaning of them go. Look forward simply to a troublesome illness. In a little while you can go abroad quietly and wait patiently. We're not fools and we needn't find fools to trust in. Then come back to England....
AMY. And forget. That seems simple enough, doesn't it?
TREBELL. If you don't want the child let it be mine ... not yours.
AMY. [Wondering suddenly at this bond between them.] Yours! What would you do with it?
TREBELL. [Matter-of-fact.] Provide for it, of course.
AMY. Never see it, perhaps.
TREBELL. Perhaps not. If there were anything to be gained ... for the child. I'll see that he has his chance as a human being.
AMY. How hopeful! [Now her voice drops. She is looking back, perhaps at a past self.] If you loved me ... perhaps I might learn to love the thought of your child.
TREBELL. [As if half his life depended on her answer.] Is that true?
AMY. [Irritably.] Why are you picking me to pieces? I think that is true. If you had been loving me for a long, long time—[The agony rushes back on her.] But now I'm only afraid. You might have some pity for me ... I'm so afraid.
TREBELL. [Touched.] Indeed ... indeed, I'll take what share of this I can.
She shrinks from him unforgivingly.
AMY. No, let me alone. I'm nothing to you. I'm a sick beast in danger of my life, that's all ... cancerous!
He is roused for the first time, roused to horror and protest.
TREBELL. Oh, you unhappy woman! ... if life is like death to you....
AMY. [Turning on him.] Don't lecture me! If you're so clever put a stop to this horror. Or you might at least say you're sorry.
TREBELL. Sorry! [The bell on the table rings jarringly.] Cantelupe!
He goes to the telephone. She gets up cold and collected, steadied merely by the unexpected sound.
AMY. I mustn't keep you from governing the country. I'm sure you'll do it very well.
TREBELL. [At the telephone.] Yes, bring him up, of course ... isn't Mr. Kent there? [then to her.] I may be ten minutes with him or half an hour. Wait and we'll come to a conclusion.
KENT comes in, an open letter in his hand.
KENT. This note, sir. Had I better go round myself and see him?
TREBELL. [As he takes the note.] Cantelupe's come.
KENT. [Glancing at the telephone.] Oh, has he!
TREBELL. [As he reads.] Yes I think you had.
KENT. Evans was very serious.
He goes back into his room. AMY moves swiftly to where TREBELL is standing and whispers.
AMY. Won't you tell me whom to go to?
AMY. Oh, really ... what unpractical sentimental children you men are! You and your consciences ... you and your laws. You drive us to distraction and sometimes to death by your stupidities. Poor women—!
The Maid comes in to announce LORD CHARLES CANTELUPE, who follows her. CANTELUPE is forty, unathletic, and a gentleman in the best and worst sense of the word. He moves always with a caution which may betray his belief in the personality of the Devil. He speaks cautiously too, and as if not he but something inside him were speaking. One feels that before strangers he would not if he could help it move or speak at all. A pale face: the mouth would be hardened by fanaticism were it not for the elements of Christianity in his religion: and he has the limpid eye of the enthusiast.
TREBELL. Glad to see you. You know Mrs O'Connell.
CANTELUPE bows in silence.
AMY. We have met.
She offers her hand. He silently takes it and drops it.
TREBELL. Then you'll wait for Frances.
AMY. Is it worth while?
KENT with his hat on leaves his room and goes downstairs.
TREBELL. Have you anything better to do?
AMY. There's somewhere I can go. But I mustn't keep you chatting of my affairs. Lord Charles is impatient to disestablish the Church.
CANTELUPE. [Unable to escape a remark.] Forgive me, since that is also your affair.
AMY. Oh ... but I was received at the Oratory when I was married.
CANTELUPE. [With contrition.] I beg your pardon.
Then he makes for the other side of the room, TREBELL and MRS. O'CONNELL stroll to the door, their eyes full of meaning.
AMY. I think I'll go on to this place that I've heard of. If I wait ... for your sister ... she may disappoint me again.
KENT'S room is vacant.
AMY. Well ... in here?
TREBELL. If you like law-books.
AMY. I haven't been much of an interruption now, have I?
TREBELL. Please wait.
AMY. Thank you.
TREBELL shuts her in, for a moment seems inclined to lock her in, but he comes back into his own room and faces CANTELUPE, who having primed and trained himself on his subject like a gun, fires off a speech, without haste, but also apparently without taking breath.
CANTELUPE. I was extremely thankful, Mr. Trebell, to hear last week from Horsham that you will see your way to join his cabinet and undertake the disestablishment bill in the House of Commons. Any measure of mine, I have always been convinced, would be too much under the suspicion of blindly favouring Church interests to command the allegiance of that heterogeneous mass of thought ... in some cases, alas, of free thought ... which now-a-days composes the Conservative party. I am more than content to exercise what influence I may from a seat in the cabinet which will authorise the bill.
TREBELL. Yes. That chair's comfortable.
CANTELUPE takes another.
CANTELUPE. Horsham forwarded to me your memorandum upon the conditions you held necessary and I incline to think I may accept them in principle on behalf of those who honour me with their confidences.
He fishes some papers from his pocket. TREBELL sits squarely at his table to grapple with the matter.
TREBELL. Horsham told me you did accept them ... it's on that I'm joining.
CANTELUPE. Yes ... in principle.
TREBELL. Well ... we couldn't carry a bill you disapproved of, could we?
CANTELUPE. [With finesse.] I hope not.
TREBELL. [A little dangerously.] And I have no intention of being made the scapegoat of a wrecked Tory compromise with the Nonconformists.
CANTELUPE. [Calmly ignoring the suggestion.] So far as I am concerned I meet the Nonconformists on their own ground ... that Religion had better be free from all compromise with the State.
TREBELL. Quite so ... if you're set free you'll look after yourselves. My discovery must be what to do with the men who think more of the state than their Church ... the majority of parsons, don't you think? ... if the question's really put and they can be made to understand it.
CANTELUPE. [With sincere disdain.] There are more profitable professions.
TREBELL. And less. Will you allow me that it is statecraft to make a profession profitable?
CANTELUPE picks up his papers, avoiding theoretical discussion.
CANTELUPE. Well now ... will you explain to me this project for endowing Education with your surplus?
TREBELL. Putting Appropriation, the Buildings and the Representation question on one side for the moment?
CANTELUPE. Candidly, I have yet to master your figures....
TREBELL. The roughest figures so far.
CANTELUPE. Still I have yet to master them on the first two points.
TREBELL. [Firmly premising.] We agree that this is not diverting church money to actually secular uses.
CANTELUPE. [As he peeps from under his eyelids.] I can conceive that it might not be. You know that we hold Education to be a Church function. But....
TREBELL. Can you accept thoroughly now the secular solution for all Primary Schools?
CANTELUPE. Haven't we always preferred it to the undenominational? Are there to be facilities for any of the teachers giving dogmatic instruction?
TREBELL. I note your emphasis on any. I think we can put the burden of that decision on local authorities. Let us come to the question of Training Colleges for your teachers. It's on that I want to make my bargain.
CANTELUPE. [Alert and cautious.] You want to endow colleges?
CANTELUPE. Under public control?
TREBELL. Church colleges under Church control.
CANTELUPE. There'd be others?
TREBELL. To preserve the necessary balance in the schools.
CANTELUPE. Not founded with church money?
TREBELL. Think of the grants in aid that will be released. I must ask the Treasury for a further lump sum and with that there may be sufficient for secular colleges ... if you can agree with me upon the statutes of those over which you'd otherwise have free control.
TREBELL is weighing his words.
CANTELUPE. "You" meaning, for instance ... what authorities in the Church?
TREBELL. Bishops, I suppose ... and others, [CANTELUPE permits himself to smile.] On that point I shall be weakness itself and ... may I suggest ... your seat in the cabinet will give you some control.
TREBELL. To be framed in the best interests of educational efficiency.
CANTELUPE. [Finding an opening.] I doubt if we agree upon the meaning to be attached to that term.
TREBELL. [Forcing the issue.] What meaning do you attach to it?
CANTELUPE. [Smiling again.] I have hardly a sympathetic listener.
TREBELL. You have an unprejudiced one ... the best you can hope for. I was not educated myself. I learnt certain things that I desired to know ... from reading my first book—Don Quixote it was—to mastering Company Law. You see, as a man without formulas either for education or religion, I am perhaps peculiarly fitted to settle the double question. I have no grudges ... no revenge to take.
CANTELUPE. [Suddenly congenial.] Shelton's translation of Don Quixote I hope ... the modern ones have no flavour. And you took all the adventures as seriously as the Don did?
TREBELL. [Not expecting this.] I forget.
CANTELUPE. It's the finer attitude ... the child's attitude. And it would enable you immediately to comprehend mine towards an education consisting merely of practical knowledge. The life of Faith is still the happy one. What is more crushingly finite than knowledge? Moral discipline is a nation's only safety. How much of your science tends in support of the great spiritual doctrine of sacrifice!
TREBELL returns to his subject as forceful as ever.
TREBELL. The Church has assimilated much in her time. Do you think it wise to leave agnostic science at the side of the plate? I think, you know, that this craving for common knowledge is a new birth in the mind of man; and if your church won't recognise that soon, by so much will she be losing her grip for ever over men's minds. What's the test of godliness, but your power to receive the new idea in whatever form it comes and give it life? It is blasphemy to pick and choose your good. [For a moment his thoughts seem to be elsewhere.] That's an unhappy man or woman or nation ... I know it if it has only come to me this minute ... and I don't care what their brains or their riches or their beauty or any of their triumph may be ... they're unhappy and useless if they can't tell life from death.
CANTELUPE. [Interested in the digression] Remember that the Church's claim has ever been to know that difference.