ACT II
 

BUILDER'S study. At the table, MAUD has just put a sheet of paper into a typewriter. She sits facing the audience, with her hands stretched over the keys.

MAUD
[To herself] I must get that expression.

Her face assumes a furtive, listening look. Then she gets up, whisks to the mirror over the fireplace, scrutinises the expression in it, and going back to the table, sits down again with hands outstretched above the keys, and an accentuation of the expression. The door up Left is opened, and TOPPING appears. He looks at MAUD, who just turns her eyes.

TOPPING
Lunch has been ready some time, Miss Maud.

MAUD
I don't want any lunch. Did you give it?

TOPPING
Miss Athene was out. I gave the message to a young party. She looked a bit green, Miss. I hope nothing'll go wrong with the works. Shall I keep lunch back?

MAUD
If something's gone wrong, they won't have any appetite, Topping.

TOPPING
If you think I might risk it, Miss, I'd like to slip round to my dentist. [He lays a finger on his cheek].

MAUD
[Smiling] Oh! What race is being run this afternoon, then, Topping?

TOPPING
[Twinkling, and shifting his finger to the side of his nose] Well, I don't suppose you've 'eard of it, Miss; but as a matter of fact it's the Cesarwitch.

MAUD
Got anything on?

TOPPING
Only my shirt, Miss.

MAUD
Is it a good thing, then?

TOPPING
I've seen worse roll up. [With a touch of enthusiasm] Dark horse, Miss Maud, at twenty to one.

MAUD
Put me ten bob on, Topping. I want all the money I can get, just now.

TOPPING
You're not the first, Miss.

MAUD
I say, Topping, do you know anything about the film?

TOPPING
[Nodding] Rather a specialty of mine, Miss.

MAUD
Well, just stand there, and give me your opinion of this.

TOPPING moves down Left. She crouches over the typewriter, lets her hands play on the keys; stops; assumes that listening, furtive look; listens again, and lets her head go slowly round, preceded by her eyes; breaks it off, and says:

What should you say I was?

TOPPING
Guilty, Miss.

MAUD
[With triumph] There! Then you think I've got it?

TOPPING
Well, of course, I couldn't say just what sort of a crime you'd committed, but I should think pretty 'ot stuff.

MAUD
Yes; I've got them here. [She pats her chest].

TOPPING
Really, Miss.

MAUD
Yes. There's just one point, Topping; it's psychological.

TOPPING
Indeed, Miss?

MAUD
Should I naturally put my hand on them; or would there be a reaction quick enough to stop me? You see, I'm alone--and the point is whether the fear of being seen would stop me although I knew I couldn't be seen. It's rather subtle.

TOPPING
I think there's be a rehaction, Miss.

MAUD
So do I. To touch them [She clasps her chest] is a bit obvious, isn't it?

TOPPING
If the haudience knows you've got 'em there.

MAUD
Oh! yes, it's seen me put them. Look here, I'll show you that too.

She opens an imaginary drawer, takes out some bits of sealing-wax, and with every circumstance of stealth in face and hands, conceals them in her bosom.

All right?

TOPPING
[Nodding] Fine, Miss. You have got a film face. What are they, if I may ask?

MAUD
[Reproducing the sealing-wax] The Fanshawe diamonds. There's just one thing here too, Topping.

In real life, which should I naturally do--put them in here [She touches her chest] or in my bag?

TOPPING
[Touching his waistcoat--earnestly] Well! To put 'em in here, Miss, I should say is more--more pishchological.

MAUD
[Subduing her lips] Yes; but--

TOPPING
You see, then you've got 'em on you.

MAUD
But that's just the point. Shouldn't I naturally think: Safer in my bag; then I can pretend somebody put them there. You see, nobody could put them on me.

TOPPING
Well, I should say that depends on your character. Of course I don't know what your character is.

MAUD
No; that's the beastly part of it--the author doesn't, either. It's all left to me.

TOPPING
In that case, I should please myself, Miss. To put 'em in 'ere's warmer.

MAUD
Yes, I think you're right. It's more human.

TOPPING
I didn't know you 'ad a taste this way, Miss Maud.

MAUD
More than a taste, Topping--a talent.

TOPPING
Well, in my belief, we all have a vice about us somewhere. But if I were you, Miss, I wouldn't touch bettin', not with this other on you. You might get to feel a bit crowded.

MAUD
Well, then, only put the ten bob on if you're sure he's going to win. You can post the money on after me. I'll send you an address, Topping, because I shan't be here.

TOPPING
[Disturbed] What! You're not going, too, Miss Maud?

MAUD
To seek my fortune.

TOPPING
Oh! Hang it all, Miss, think of what you'll leave behind. Miss Athene's leavin' home has made it pretty steep, but this'll touch bottom--this will.

MAUD
Yes; I expect you'll find it rather difficult for a bit when I'm gone. Miss Baldini, you know. I've been studying with her. She's got me this chance with the movie people. I'm going on trial as the guilty typist in "The Heartache of Miranda."

TOPPING
[Surprised out of politeness] Well, I never! That does sound like 'em! Are you goin' to tell the guv'nor, Miss?

MAUD nods. In that case, I think I'll be gettin' off to my dentist before the band plays.

MAUD
All right, Topping; hope you won't lose a tooth.

TOPPING
[With a grin] It's on the knees of the gods, Miss, as they say in the headlines.

He goes. MAUD stretches herself and listens.

MAUD
I believe that's them. Shivery funky.

She runs off up Left.

BUILDER
[Entering from the hall and crossing to the fireplace] Monstrous! Really monstrous!

CAMILLE enters from the hall. She has a little collecting book in her hand.

BUILDER
Well, Camille?

CAMILLE
A sistare from the Sacred 'Eart, Monsieur--her little book for the orphan children.

BUILDER
I can't be bothered--What is it?

CAMILLE
Orphan, Monsieur.

BUILDER
H'm! Well! [Feeling in his breast pocket] Give her that.

He hands her a five-pound note.

CAMILLE
I am sure she will be veree grateful for the poor little beggars. Madame says she will not be coming to lunch, Monsieur.

BUILDER
I don't want any, either. Tell Topping I'll have some coffee.

CAMILLE
Topping has gone to the dentist, Monsieur; 'e 'as the toothache.

BUILDER
Toothache--poor devil! H'm! I'm expecting my brother, but I don't know that I can see him.

CAMILLE
No, Monsieur?

BUILDER
Ask your mistress to come here.

He looks up, and catching her eye, looks away.

CAMILLE
Yes, Monsieur.

As she turns he looks swiftly at her, sweeping her up and down. She turns her head and catches his glance, which is swiftly dropped. Will Monsieur not 'ave anything to eat?

BUILDER
[Shaking his head-abruptly] No. Bring the coffee!

CAMILLE
Is Monsieur not well?

BUILDER
Yes--quite well.

CAMILLE
[Sweetening her eyes] A cutlet soubise? No?

BUILDER
[With a faint response in his eyes, instantly subdued] Nothing! nothing!

CAMILLE
And Madame nothing too--Tt! Tt! With her hand on the door she looks back, again catches his eyes in an engagement instantly broken off, and goes out.

BUILDER
[Stock-still, and staring at the door] That girl's a continual irritation to me! She's dangerous! What a life! I believe that girl--

The door Left is opened and MRS BUILDER comes in.

BUILDER
There's some coffee coming; do your head good. Look here, Julia. I'm sorry I beat on that door. I apologize. I was in a towering passion. I wish I didn't get into these rages. But--dash it all--! I couldn't walk away and leave you there.

MRS BUILDER
Why not?

BUILDER
You keep everything to yourself, so; I never have any notion what you're thinking. What did you say to her?

MRS BUILDER
Told her it would never work.

BUILDER
Well, that's something. She's crazy. D'you suppose she was telling the truth about that young blackguard wanting to marry her?

MRS BUILDER
I'm sure of it.

BUILDER
When you think of how she's been brought up. You would have thought that religion alone--

MRS BUILDER
The girls haven't wanted to go to church for years. They've always said they didn't see why they should go to keep up your position. I don't know if you remember that you once caned them for running off on a Sunday morning.

BUILDER
Well?

MRS BUILDER
They've never had any religion since.

BUILDER
H'm! [He takes a short turn up the room] What's to be done about Athene?

MRS BUILDER
You said you had done with her.

BUILDER
You know I didn't mean that. I might just as well have said I'd done with you! Apply your wits, Julia! At any moment this thing may come out. In a little town like this you can keep nothing dark. How can I take this nomination for Mayor?

MRS BUILDER
Perhaps Ralph could help.

BUILDER
What? His daughters have never done anything disgraceful, and his wife's a pattern.

MRS BUILDER
Yes; Ralph isn't at all a family man.

BUILDER
[Staring at her] I do wish you wouldn't turn things upside down in that ironical way. It isn't--English.

MRS BUILDER
I can't help having been born in Jersey.

BUILDER
No; I suppose it's in your blood. The French-- [He stops short].

MRS BUILDER
Yes?

BUILDER
Very irritating sometimes to a plain Englishman--that's all.

MRS BUILDER
Shall I get rid of Camille?

BUILDER
[Staring at her, then dropping his glance] Camille? What's she got to do with it?

MRS BUILDER
I thought perhaps you found her irritating.

BUILDER
Why should I?

CAMILLE comes in from the dining-room with the coffee.

Put it there. I want some brandy, please.

CAMILLE
I bring it, Monsieur.

She goes back demurely into the dining-room.

BUILDER
Topping's got toothache, poor chap! [Pouring out the coffee] Can't you suggest any way of making Athene see reason? Think of the example! Maud will be kicking over next. I shan't be able to hold my head up here.

MRS BUILDER
I'm afraid I can't do that for you.

BUILDER
[Exasperated] Look here, Julia! That wretched girl said something to me about our life together. What--what's the matter with that?

MRS BUILDER
It is irritating.

BUILDER
Be explicit.

MRS BUILDER
We have lived together twenty-three years, John. No talk will change such things.

BUILDER
Is it a question of money? You can always have more. You know that. [MRS BUILDER smiles] Oh! don't smile like that; it makes me feel quite sick!

CAMILLE enters with a decanter and little glasses, from the dining- room.

CAMILLE
The brandy, sir. Monsieur Ralph Builder has just come.

MRS BUILDER
Ask him in, Camille.

CAMILLE
Yes, Madame.

She goes through the doorway into the hall. MRS BUILDER, following towards the door, meets RALPH BUILDER, a man rather older than BUILDER and of opposite build and manner. He has a pleasant, whimsical face and grizzled hair.

MRS BUILDER
John wants to consult you, Ralph.

RALPH
That's very gratifying.

She passes him and goes out, leaving the two brothers eyeing one another.

About the Welsh contract?

BUILDER
No. Fact is, Ralph, something very horrible's happened.

RALPH
Athene gone and got married?

BUILDER
No. It's--it's that she's gone and--and not got married.

RALPH utters a sympathetic whistle.

Jolly, isn't it?

RALPH
To whom?

BUILDER
A young flying bounder.

RALPH
And why?

BUILDER
Some crazy rubbish about family life, of all things.

RALPH
Athene's a most interesting girl. All these young people are so queer and delightful.

BUILDER
By George, Ralph, you may thank your stars you haven't got a delightful daughter. Yours are good, decent girls.

RALPH
Athene's tremendously good and decent, John. I'd bet any money she's doing this on the highest principles.

BUILDER
Behaving like a--

RALPH
Don't say what you'll regret, old man! Athene always took things seriously--bless her!

BUILDER
Julia thinks you might help. You never seem to have any domestic troubles.

RALPH
No--o. I don't think we do.

BUILDER
How d'you account for it?

RALPH
I must ask at home.

BUILDER
Dash it! You must know!

RALPH
We're all fond of each other.

BUILDER
Well, I'm fond of my girls too; I suppose I'm not amiable enough. H'm?

RALPH
Well, old man, you do get blood to the head. But what's Athene's point, exactly?

BUILDER
Family life isn't idyllic, so she thinks she and the young man oughtn't to have one.

RALPH
I see. Home experience?

BUILDER
Hang it all, a family's a family! There must be a head.

RALPH
But no tail, old chap.

BUILDER
You don't let your women folk do just as they like?

RALPH
Always.

BUILDER
What happens if one of your girls wants to do an improper thing? [RALPH shrugs his shoulders]. You don't stop her?

RALPH
Do you?

BUILDER
I try to.

RALPH
Exactly. And she does it. I don't and she doesn't.

BUILDER
[With a short laugh] Good Lord! I suppose you'd have me eat humble pie and tell Athene she can go on living in sin and offending society, and have my blessing to round it off.

RALPH
I think if you did she'd probably marry him.

BUILDER
You've never tested your theory, I'll bet.

RALPH
Not yet.

BUILDER
There you are.

RALPH
The 'suaviter in modo' pays, John. The times are not what they were.

BUILDER
Look here! I want to get to the bottom of this. Do you tell me I'm any stricter than nine out of ten men?

RALPH
Only in practice.

BUILDER
[Puzzled] How do you mean?

RALPH
Well, you profess the principles of liberty, but you practise the principles of government.

BUILDER
H'm! [Taking up the decanter] Have some?

RALPH
No, thank you.

BUILDER fills and raises his glass.

CAMILLE
[Entering] Madame left her coffee.

She comes forward, holds out a cup for BUILDER to pour into, takes it and goes out. BUILDER'S glass remains suspended. He drinks the brandy off as she shuts the door.

BUILDER
Life isn't all roses, Ralph.

RALPH
Sorry, old man.

BUILDER
I sometimes think I try myself too high. Well, about that Welsh contract?

RALPH
Let's take it.

BUILDER
If you'll attend to it. Frankly, I'm too upset.

As they go towards the door into the hall, MAUD comes in from the dining-room, in hat and coat.

RALPH
[Catching sight of her] Hallo! All well in your cosmogony, Maud?

MAUD
What is a cosmogony, Uncle?

RALPH
My dear, I--I don't know.

He goes out, followed by BUILDER. MAUD goes quickly to the table, sits down and rests her elbows on it, her chin on her hands, looking at the door.

BUILDER
[Re-entering] Well, Maud! You'd have won your bet!

MAUD
Oh! father, I--I've got some news for you.

BUILDER
[Staring at her] News--what?

MAUD
I'm awfully sorry, but I-I've got a job.

BUILDER
Now, don't go saying you're going in for Art, too, because I won't have it.

MAUD
Art? Oh! no! It's the--[With a jerk]--the Movies.

BUILDER. who has taken up a pipe to fill, puts it down.

BUILDER
[Impressively] I'm not in a joking mood.

MAUD
I'm not joking, father.

BUILDER
Then what are you talking about?

MAUD
You see, I--I've got a film face, and--

BUILDER
You've what? [Going up to his daughter, he takes hold of her chin] Don't talk nonsense! Your sister has just tried me to the limit.

MAUD
[Removing his hand from her chin] Don't oppose it, father, please! I've always wanted to earn my own living.

BUILDER
Living! Living!

MAUD
[Gathering determination] You can't stop me, father, because I shan't need support. I've got quite good terms.

BUILDER
[Almost choking, but mastering himself] Do you mean to say you've gone as far as that?

MAUD
Yes. It's all settled.

BUILDER
Who put you up to this?

MAUD
No one. I've been meaning to, ever so long. I'm twenty-one, you know.

BUILDER
A film face! Good God! Now, look here! I will not have a daughter of mine mixed up with the stage. I've spent goodness knows what on your education--both of you.

MAUD
I don't want to be ungrateful; but I--I can't go on living at home.

BUILDER
You can't--! Why? You've every indulgence.

MAUD
[Clearly and coldly] I can remember occasions when your indulgence hurt, father. [She wriggles her shoulders and back] We never forgot or forgave that.

BUILDER
[Uneasily] That! You were just kids.

MAUD
Perhaps you'd like to begin again?

BUILDER
Don't twist my tail, Maud. I had the most painful scene with Athene this morning. Now come! Give up this silly notion! It's really too childish!

MAUD
[Looking at him curiously] I've heard you say ever so many times that no man was any good who couldn't make his own way, father. Well, women are the same as men, now. It's the law of the country. I only want to make my own way.

BUILDER
[Trying to subdue his anger] Now, Maud, don't be foolish. Consider my position here--a Town Councillor, a Magistrate, and Mayor next year. With one daughter living with a man she isn't married to--

MAUD
[With lively interest] Oh! So you did catch them out?

BUILDER
D'you mean to say you knew?

MAUD
Of course.

BUILDER
My God! I thought we were a Christian family.

MAUD
Oh! father.

BUILDER
Don't sneer at Christianity!

MAUD
There's only one thing wrong with Christians--they aren't!

BUILDER seizes her by the shoulders and shakes her vigorously. When he drops her shoulders, she gets up, gives him a vicious look, and suddenly stamps her foot on his toe with all her might.

BUILDER
[With a yowl of pain] You little devil!

MAUD
[Who has put the table between them] I won't stand being shaken.

BUILDER
[Staring at her across the table] You've got my temper up and you'll take the consequences. I'll make you toe the line.

MAUD
If you knew what a Prussian expression you've got!

BUILDER passes his hand across his face uneasily, as if to wipe something off.

No! It's too deep!

BUILDER
Are you my daughter or are you not?

MAUD
I certainly never wanted to be. I've always disliked you, father, ever since I was so high. I've seen through you. Do you remember when you used to come into the nursery because Jenny was pretty? You think we didn't notice that, but we did. And in the schoolroom--Miss Tipton. And d'you remember knocking our heads together? No, you don't; but we do. And--

BUILDER
You disrespectful monkey! Will you be quiet?

MAUD
No; you've got to hear things. You don't really love anybody but yourself, father. What's good for you has to be good for everybody. I've often heard you talk about independence, but it's a limited company and you've got all the shares.

BUILDER
Rot; only people who can support themselves have a right to independence.

MAUD
That's why you don't want me to support myself.

BUILDER
You can't! Film, indeed! You'd be in the gutter in a year. Athene's got her pittance, but you--you've got nothing.

MAUD
Except my face.

BUILDER
It's the face that brings women to ruin, my girl.

MAUD
Well, when I'm there I won't come to you to rescue me.

BUILDER
Now, mind--if you leave my house, I've done with you.

MAUD
I'd rather scrub floors now, than stay.

BUILDER
[Almost pathetically] Well, I'm damned! Look here, Maud-- all this has been temper. You got my monkey up. I'm sorry I shook you; you've had your revenge on my toes. Now, come! Don't make things worse for me than they are. You've all the liberty you can reasonably want till you marry.

MAUD
He can't see it--he absolutely can't!

BUILDER
See what?

MAUD
That I want to live a life of my own.

He edges nearer to her, and she edges to keep her distance.

BUILDER
I don't know what's bitten you.

MAUD
The microbe of freedom; it's in the air.

BUILDER
Yes, and there it'll stay--that's the first sensible word you've uttered. Now, come! Take your hat off, and let's be friends!

MAUD looks at him and slowly takes off her hat.

BUILDER
[Relaxing his attitude, with a sigh of relief] That's right! [Crosses to fireplace].

MAUD
[Springing to the door leading to the hall] Good-bye, father!

BUILDER
[Following her] Monkey!

At the sound of a bolt shot, BUILDER goes up to the window. There is a fumbling at the door, and CAMILLE appears.

BUILDER
What's the matter with that door?

CAMILLE
It was bolted, Monsieur.

BUILDER
Who bolted it?

CAMILLE
[Shrugging her shoulders] I can't tell, Monsieur.

She collects the cups, and halts close to him. [Softly] Monsieur is not 'appy.

BUILDER
[Surprised] What? No! Who'd be happy in a household like mine?

CAMILLE
But so strong a man--I wish I was a strong man, not a weak woman.

BUILDER
[Regarding her with reluctant admiration] Why, what's the matter with you?

CAMILLE
Will Monsieur have another glass of brandy before I take it?

BUILDER
No! Yes--I will.

She pours it out, and he drinks it, hands her the glass and sits down suddenly in an armchair. CAMILLE puts the glass on a tray, and looks for a box of matches from the mantelshelf.

CAMILLE
A light, Monsieur?

BUILDER
Please.

CAMILLE
[She trips over his feet and sinks on to his knee] Oh! Monsieur!

BUILDER flames up and catches her in his arms

Oh! Monsieur--

BUILDER
You little devil!

She suddenly kisses him, and he returns the kiss. While they are engaged in this entrancing occupation, MRS BUILDER opens the door from the hall, watches unseen for a few seconds, and quietly goes out again.

BUILDER
[Pushing her back from him, whether at the sound of the door or of a still small voice] What am I doing?

CAMILLE
Kissing.

BUILDER
I--I forgot myself.

They rise.

CAMILLE
It was na-ice.

BUILDER
I didn't mean to. You go away--go away!

CAMILLE
Oh! Monsieur, that spoil it.

BUILDER
[Regarding her fixedly] It's my opinion you're a temptation of the devil. You know you sat down on purpose.

CAMILLE
Well, perhaps.

BUILDER
What business had you to? I'm a family man.

CAMILLE
Yes. What a pity! But does it matter?

BUILDER
[Much beset] Look here, you know! This won't do! It won't do! I--I've got my reputation to think of!

CAMILLE
So 'ave I! But there is lots of time to think of it in between.

BUILDER
I knew you were dangerous. I always knew it.

CAMILLE
What a thing to say of a little woman!

BUILDER
We're not in Paris.

CAMILLE
[Clasping her hands] Oh! 'Ow I wish we was!

BUILDER
Look here--I can't stand this; you've got to go. Out with you! I've always kept a firm hand on myself, and I'm not going to--

CAMILLE
But I admire you so!

BUILDER
Suppose my wife had come in?

CAMILLE
Oh! Don't suppose any such a disagreeable thing! If you were not so strict, you would feel much 'appier.

BUILDER
[Staring at her] You're a temptress!

CAMILLE
I lofe pleasure, and I don't get any. And you 'ave such a duty, you don't get any sport. Well, I am 'ere!

She stretches herself, and BUILDER utters a deep sound.

BUILDER
[On the edge of succumbing] It's all against my--I won't do it! It's--it's wrong!

CAMILLE
Oh! La, la!

BUILDER
[Suddenly revolting] No! If you thought it a sin--I--might. But you don't; you're nothing but a--a little heathen.

CAMILLE
Why should it be better if I thought it a sin?

BUILDER
Then--then I should know where I was. As it is--

CAMILLE
The English 'ave no idea of pleasure. They make it all so coarse and virtuous.

BUILDER
Now, out you go before I--! Go on!

He goes over to the door and opens it. His wife is outside in a hat and coat. She comes in.

[Stammering] Oh! Here you are--I wanted you.

CAMILLE, taking up the tray, goes out Left, swinging her hips a very little.

BUILDER
Going out?

MRS BUILDER
Obviously.

BUILDER
Where?

MRS BUILDER
I don't know at present.

BUILDER
I wanted to talk to you about Maud.

MRS BUILDER
It must wait.

BUILDER
She's-she's actually gone and--

MRS BUILDER
I must tell you that I happened to look in a minute ago.

BUILDER
[In absolute dismay] You! You what?

MRS BUILDER
Yes. I will put no obstacle in the way of your pleasures.

BUILDER
[Aghast] Put no obstacle? What do you mean? Julia, how can you say a thing like that? Why, I've only just--

MRS BUILDER
Don't! I saw.

BUILDER
The girl fell on my knees. Julia, she did. She's--she's a little devil. I--I resisted her. I give you my word there's been nothing beyond a kiss, under great provocation. I--I apologise.

MRS BUILDER
[Bows her head] Thank you! I quite understand. But you must forgive my feeling it impossible to remain a wet blanket any longer.

BUILDER
What! Because of a little thing like that--all over in two minutes, and I doing my utmost.

MRS BUILDER
My dear John, the fact that you had to do your utmost is quite enough. I feel continually humiliated in your house, and I want to leave it--quite quietly, without fuss of any kind.

BUILDER
But--my God! Julia, this is awful--it's absurd! How can you? I'm your husband. Really--your saying you don't mind what I do--it's not right; it's immoral!

MRS BUILDER
I'm afraid you don't see what goes on in those who live with you. So, I'll just go. Don't bother!

BUILDER
Now, look here, Julia, you can't mean this seriously. You can't! Think of my position! You've never set yourself up against me before.

MRS BUILDER
But I do now.

BUILDER
[After staring at her] I've given you no real reason. I'll send the girl away. You ought to thank me for resisting a temptation that most men would have yielded to. After twenty-three years of married life, to kick up like this--you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

MRS BUILDER
I'm sure you must think so.

BUILDER
Oh! for heaven's sake don't be sarcastic! You're my wife, and there's an end of it; you've no legal excuse. Don't be absurd!

MRS BUILDER
Good-bye!

BUILDER
D'you realise that you're encouraging me to go wrong? That's a pretty thing for a wife to do. You ought to keep your husband straight.

MRS BUILDER
How beautifully put!

BUILDER
[Almost pathetically] Don't rile me Julia! I've had an awful day. First Athene--then Maud--then that girl--and now you! All at once like this! Like a swarm of bees about one's head. [Pleading] Come, now, Julia, don't be so--so im practicable! You'll make us the laughing- stock of the whole town. A man in my position, and can't keep his own family; it's preposterous!

MRS BUILDER
Your own family have lives and thoughts and feelings of their own.

BUILDER
Oh! This damned Woman's business! I knew how it would be when we gave you the vote. You and I are married, and our daughters are our daughters. Come, Julia. Where's your commonsense? After twenty-three years! You know I can't do without you!

MRS BUILDER
You could--quite easily. You can tell people what you like.

BUILDER
My God! I never heard anything so immoral in all my life from the mother of two grownup girls. No wonder they've turned out as they have! What is it you want, for goodness sake?

MRS BUILDER
We just want to be away from you, that's all. I assure you it's best. When you've shown some consideration for our feelings and some real sign that we exist apart from you--we could be friends again-- perhaps--I don't know.

BUILDER
Friends! Good heavens! With one's own wife and daughters! [With great earnestness] Now, look here, Julia, you haven't lived with me all this time without knowing that I'm a man of strong passions; I've been a faithful husband to you--yes, I have. And that means resisting all sorts of temptations you know nothing of. If you withdraw from my society I won't answer for the consequences. In fact, I can't have you withdrawing. I'm not going to see myself going to the devil and losing the good opinion of everybody round me. A bargain's a bargain. And until I've broken my side of it, and I tell you I haven't--you've no business to break yours. That's flat. So now, put all that out of your head.

MRS BUILDER
No.

BUILDER
[Intently] D'you realise that I've supported you in luxury and comfort?

MRS BUILDER
I think I've earned it.

BUILDER
And how do you propose to live? I shan't give you a penny. Come, Julia, don't be such an idiot! Fancy letting a kiss which no man could have helped, upset you like this!

MRS BUILDER
The Camille, and the last straw!

BUILDER
[Sharply] I won't have it. So now you know.

But MRS BUILDER has very swiftly gone.

Julia, I tell you-- [The outer door is heard being c1osed] Damnation! I will not have it! They're all mad! Here--where's my hat?

He looks distractedly round him, wrenches open the door, and a moment later the street door is heard to shut with a bang.

CURTAIN.