A lady and gentleman are making love to one another in
the drawing-room of a flat in Ashly Gardens in the
Victoria district of London. It is past ten at night.
The walls are hung with theatrical engravings and
photographs--Kemble as Hamlet, Mrs. Siddons as Queen
Katharine pleading in court, Macready as Werner (after
Maclise), Sir Henry Irving as Richard III (after Long),
Miss Ellen Terry, Mrs. Kendal, Miss Ada Rehan, Madame
Sarah Bernhardt, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, Mr. A. W.
Pinero, Mr. Sydney Grundy, and so on, but not the
Signora Duse or anyone connected with Ibsen. The room
is not a perfect square, the right hand corner at the
back being cut off diagonally by the doorway, and the
opposite corner rounded by a turret window filled up
with a stand of flowers surrounding a statue of
Shakespear. The fireplace is on the right, with an
armchair near it. A small round table, further forward
on the same side, with a chair beside it, has a
yellow-backed French novel lying open on it. The piano,
a grand, is on the left, open, with the keyboard in
full view at right angles to the wall. The piece of
music on the desk is "When other lips." Incandescent
lights, well shaded, are on the piano and mantelpiece.
Near the piano is a sofa, on which the lady and
gentleman are seated affectionately side by side, in
one another's arms.
The lady, Grace Tranfield, is about 32, slight of
build, delicate of feature, and sensitive in
expression. She is just now given up to the emotion of
the moment; but her well closed mouth, proudly set
brows, firm chin, and elegant carriage show plenty of
determination and self respect. She is in evening
The gentleman, Leonard Charteris, a few years older, is
unconventionally but smartly dressed in a velvet jacket
and cashmere trousers. His collar, dyed Wotan blue, is
part of his shirt, and turns over a garnet coloured
scarf of Indian silk, secured by a turquoise ring. He
wears blue socks and leather sandals. The arrangement
of his tawny hair, and of his moustaches and short
beard, is apparently left to Nature; but he has taken
care that Nature shall do him the fullest justice. His
amative enthusiasm, at which he is himself laughing,
and his clever, imaginative, humorous ways, contrast
strongly with the sincere tenderness and dignified
quietness of the woman.
CHARTERIS(impulsively clasping Grace)
My dearest love.
My darling. Are you happy?
My heart's love. (He sighs happily, and takes her hands in
his, looking quaintly at her.) That must positively be my last kiss,
Grace, or I shall become downright silly. Let us talk. (Releases her
and sits a little apart from her.) Grace: is this your first love
Have you forgotten that I am a widow? Do you think I married
Tranfield for money?
How do I know? Besides, you might have married him not
because you loved him, but because you didn't love anybody else. When
one is young, one marries out of mere curiosity, just to see what it's
Well, since you ask me, I never was in love with Tranfield,
though I only found that out when I fell in love with you. But I used
to like him for being in love with me. It brought out all the good in
him so much that I have wanted to be in love with some one ever since.
I hope, now that I am in love with you, you will like me for it just
as I liked Tranfield.
My dear, it is because I like you that I want to marry you.
I could love anybody--any pretty woman, that is.
Who told you that? (She shakes her head
mysteriously, and he turns away from her moodily and adds) You had
much better not have asked.
I'm sorry, dear. (She puts out her hand and pulls
softly at him to bring him near her again.)
CHARTERIS(yielding mechanically to the pull, and allowing her hand to
rest on his arm, but sitting squarely without the least attempt to
return the caress)
Do I feel harder to the touch than I did five
I feel as if my body had turned into the toughest of
hickory. That is what comes of reminding me of Julia Craven.
(Brooding, with his chin on his right hand and his elbow on his knee.)
I have sat alone with her just as I am sitting with you--
CHARTERIS(sitting upright and facing her steadily)
Just exactly. She
has put her hands in mine, and laid her cheek against mine, and
listened to me saying all sorts of silly things. (Grace, chilled to
the soul, rises from the sofa and sits down on the piano stool, with
her back to the keyboard.) Ah, you don't want to hear any more of the
story. So much the better.
GRACE(deeply hurt, but controlling herself)
When did you break it
She did what a woman like Julia always does. When I
explained personally, she said it was not not my better self that was
speaking, and that she knew I still really loved her. When I wrote it
to her with brutal explicitness, she read the letter carefully and
then sent it back to me with a note to say that she had not had the
courage to open it, and that I ought to be ashamed of having written
it. (Comes beside Grace, and puts his left hand caressingly round her
neck.) You see, dearie, she won't look the situation in the face.
GRACE (shaking off his hand and turning a little away on the stool).
I am afraid, from the light way in which you speak of it, you did not
sound the right chord.
My dear, when you are doing what a woman calls breaking her
heart, you may sound the very prettiest chords you can find on the
piano; but to her ears it is just like this--(Sits down on the bass
end of the keyboard. Grace puts her fingers in her ears. He rises and
moves away from the piano, saying) No, my dear: I've been kind; I've
been frank; I've been everything that a goodnatured man could be: she
only takes it as the making up of a lover's quarrel. (Grace winces.)
Frankness and kindness: one is as the other--especially frankness.
I've tried both. (He crosses to the fireplace, and stands facing the
fire, looking at the ornaments on the mantelpiece and warming his
GRACE(Her voice a little strained)
What are you going to try now?
CHARTERIS(on the hearthrug, turning to face her)
Action, my dear!
Marriage!! In that she must believe. She won't be convinced by
anything short of it, because, you see, I have had some tremendous
philanderings before and have gone back to her after them.
CHARTERIS(interrupting her triumphantly)
Then how can you steal me
from Julia if I don't belong to her? (Catching her by the shoulders
and holding her out at arm's length in front of him.) Eh, little
philosopher? No, my dear: if Ibsen sauce is good for the goose, it's
good for the gander as well. Besides (coaxing her) it was nothing but
a philander with Julia--nothing else in the world, I assure you.
GRACE(breaking away from him)
So much the worse! I hate your
philanderings: they make me ashamed of you and of myself. (Goes to the
sofa and sits in the right hand corner of it, leaning gloomily on her
elbow with her face averted.)
Grace: you utterly misunderstand the origin of my
philanderings. (Sits down beside her.) Listen to me: am I a
particularly handsome man?
GRACE(turning to him as if astonished at his conceit)
You admit it. Am I a well dressed man?
Certainly not. No one can accuse me of it. Then whose fault
is it that half the women I speak to fall in love with me? Not mine:
I hate it: it bores me to distraction. At first it flattered
me--delighted me--that was how Julia got me, because she was the first
woman who had the pluck to make me a declaration. But I soon had
enough of it; and at no time have I taken the initiative and
persecuted women with my advances as women have persecuted me. Never.
Except, of course, in your case.
Oh, you need not make any exception. I had a good deal of
trouble to induce you to come and see us. You were very coy.
CHARTERIS(fondly, taking her hand)
With you, dearest, the coyness
was sheer coquetry. I loved you from the first, and fled only that you
might pursue. But come! let us talk about something really
interesting. (Takes her in his arms.) Do you love me better than
anyone else in the world?
I don't think you like to be loved too much.
That depends on who the person is. You (pressing her to his
heart) cannot love me too much: you cannot love me half enough. I
reproach you every day for your coldness--your-- (Violent double knock
heard without. They start and listen, still in one another's arms,
hardly daring to breathe.) Who the deuce is calling at this hour?
I can't imagine. (They listen guiltily. The door of the flat is
opened without. They hastily get away from one another.)
Never mind: I will announce myself. (A beautiful, dark,
tragic looking woman, in mantle and bonnet, appears at the door,
raging furiously.) Oh, this is charming. I have interrupted a pretty
tete-a-tete. Oh, you villain! (She comes straight at Grace. Charteris
runs across behind the sofa and stops her. She struggles furiously
with him. Grace preserves her self possession, but retreats quietly to
the piano. Julia, finding Charteris too strong for her, gives up her
attempt to get at Grace, but strikes him in the face as she frees
Oh, Julia, Julia! This is too bad.
Is it, indeed, too bad? What are you doing up here with that
woman? You scoundrel! But now listen to me; Leonard: you have driven
me to desperation; and I don't care what I do, or who hears me. I'll
not bear it. She shall not have my place with you--
No, no: I don't care: I will expose her true character before
everybody. You belong to me: you have no right to be here; and she
I think you had better let me take you home, Julia.
I will not. I am not going home: I am going to stay
here--here--until I have made you give her up.
My dear, you must be reasonable. You really cannot stay in
Mrs. Tranfield's house if she objects. She can ring the bell and have
us both put out.
Let her do it then. Let her ring the bell if she dares. Let us
see how this pure virtuous creature will face the scandal of what I
will declare about her. Let us see how you will face it. I have
nothing to lose. Everybody knows how you have treated me: you have
boasted of your conquests, you poor pitiful, vain creature--I am the
common talk of your acquaintances and hers. Oh, I have calculated my
advantage (tearing off her mantle): I am a most unhappy and injured
woman; but I am not the fool you take me to be. I am going to
stay--see! (She flings the mantle on the round table; puts her bonnet
on it, and sits down.) Now, Mrs. Tranfield: there is the bell:
(pointing to the button beside the fireplace) why don't you ring?
(Grace, looking attentively at Charteris, does not move.) Ha! ha! I
CHARTERIS(quietly, without relaxing his watch on Julia)
Tranfield: I think you had better go into another room. (Grace makes a
movement towards the door, but stops and looks inquiringly at
Charteris as Julia springs up. He advances a step so as to prevent her
from getting to the door.)
She shall not. She shall stay here. She shall know what you
are, and how you have been in love with me--how it is not two days
since you kissed me and told me that the future would be as happy as
the past. (Screaming at him) You did: deny it if you dare.
GRACE(with nonchalant disgust--going)
Get her away as soon as you
(Julia, with a stifled cry of rage, rushes at Grace, who is crossing
behind the sofa towards door. Charteris seizes her and prevents her
from getting past the sofa. Grace goes out. Charteris, holding Julia
fast, looks around to the door to see whether Grace is safely out of
JULIA(suddenly ceasing to struggle and speaking with the most
Oh, there is no need to be violent. (He passes her
across to the left end of the sofa, and leans against the right end,
panting and mopping his forehead). That is worthy of you!--to use
brute force--to humiliate me before her! (She breaks down and bursts
CHARTERIS(to himself with melancholy conviction)
This is going to be
a cheerful evening. Now patience, patience, patience! (Sits on a chair
near the round table.)
Leonard, have you no feeling for me?
Only an intense desire to get you safely out of this.
Well, well. (Heaves a long sigh. They sit silent
for awhile, Julia struggling, not to regain her self control, but to
maintain her rage at boiling point.)
I am going to speak to that woman.
No, no. Hang it, Julia, don't let's have
another wrestling match. I have the strength, but not the wind: you're
too young for me. Sit down or else let me take you home. Suppose her
father comes in.
I don't care. It rests with you. I am ready to go if she will
give you up: until then I stay. Those are my terms: you owe me that,
(She sits down determinedly. Charteris looks at her for a moment;
then, making up his mind, goes resolutely to the couch, sits down near
the right hand end of it, she being at the left; and says with biting
Nothing! You can look me in the face and say
that? Oh, Leonard!
Let me remind you, Julia, that when first we became
acquainted, the position you took up was that of a woman of advanced
That should have made you respect me the more.
So it did, my dear. But that is not the point.
As a woman of advanced views, you were determined to be free. You
regarded marriage as a degrading bargain, by which a woman sold
herself to a man for the social status of a wife and the right to be
supported and pensioned in old age out of his income. That's the
advanced view--our view. Besides, if you had married me, I might have
turned out a drunkard, a criminal, an imbecile, a horror to you; and
you couldn't have released yourself. Too big a risk, you see. That's
the rational view--our view. Accordingly, you reserved the right to
leave me at any time if you found our companionship incompatible
with--what was the expression you used?--with your full development as
a human being: I think that was how you put the Ibsenist view--our
view. So I had to be content with a charming philander, which taught
me a great deal, and brought me some hours of exquisite happiness.
Leonard: you confess then that you owe me something?
No: what I received, I paid. Did you learn
nothing from me?--was there no delight for you in our friendship?
JULIA(vehemently and movingly; for she is now sincere)
No. You made
me pay dearly for every moment of happiness. You revenged yourself on
me for the humiliation of being the slave of your passion for me. I
was never sure of you for a moment. I trembled whenever a letter came
from you, lest it should contain some stab for me. I dreaded your
visits almost as much as I longed for them. I was your plaything, not
your companion. (She rises, exclaiming) Oh, there was such suffering
in my happiness that I hardly knew joy from pain. (She sinks on the
piano stool, and adds, as she buries her face in her hands and turns
away from him) Better for me if I had never met you!
You ungenerous wretch! Is this your
gratitude for the way I have just been flattering you? What have I not
endured from you--endured with angelic patience? Did I not find out,
before our friendship was a fortnight old, that all your advanced
views were merely a fashion picked up and followed like any other
fashion, without understanding or meaning a word of them? Did you
not, in spite of your care for your own liberty, set up claims on me
compared to which the claims of the most jealous wife would have been
trifles. Have I a single woman friend whom you have not abused as old,
Well, then, I'll come to grievances that even you can
understand. I accuse you of habitual and intolerable jealousy and ill
temper; of insulting me on imaginary provocation: of positively
beating me; of stealing letters of mine--
--of breaking your solemn promises not to do it again; of
spending hours--aye, days! piecing together the contents of my waste
paper basket in your search for more letters; and then representing
yourself as an ill used saint and martyr wantonly betrayed and
deserted by a selfish monster of a man.
I was justified in reading your letters. Our perfect confidence
in one another gave me the right to do it.
Thank you. Then I hasten to break off a confidence which
gives such rights. (Sits down sulkily on sofa.)
JULIA(with her right hand on the back of the sofa, bending over him
You have no right to break it off.
I have. You refused to marry me because--
I did not. You never asked me. If we were married, you would
never dare treat me as you are doing now.
CHARTERIS(laboriously going back to his argument)
It was understood
between us as people of advanced views that we were not to marry
because, as the law stands, I might have become a drunkard, a--
--a criminal, an imbecile or a horror. You said that before.
(Sits down beside him with a fling.)
I beg your pardon, my dear. I know I have a
habit of repeating myself. The point is that you reserved your freedom
to give me up when you pleased.
Well, what of that? I do not please to give you up; and I will
not. You have not become a drunkard or a criminal.
You don't see the point yet, Julia. You seem to forget that
in reserving your freedom to leave me in case I should turn out badly,
you also reserved my freedom to leave you in case you should turn out
Very ingenious. And pray, have _I_ become a drunkard, or a
criminal, or an imbecile?
You have become what is infinitely worse than all
three together--a jealous termagant.
JULIA(shaking her head bitterly)
Yes, abuse me--call me names.
I now assert the right I reserved--the right of breaking
with you when I please. Advanced views, Julia, involve advanced
duties: you cannot be an advanced woman when you want to bring a man
to your feet, and a conventional woman when you want to hold him there
against his will. Advanced people form charming friendships:
conventional people marry. Marriage suits a good deal of people; and
its first duty is fidelity. Friendship suits some people; and its
first duty is unhesitating, uncomplaining acceptance of a notice of a
change of feeling from either side. You chose friendship instead of
marriage. Now do your duty, and accept your notice.
Never! We are engaged in the eye of--the eye of--
CHARTERIS(sitting down quickly beside her)
Yes, Julia. Can't you get
it out? In the eye of something that advanced women don't believe in,
JULIA(throwing herself at his feet)
O Leonard, don't be cruel. I am
too miserable to argue--to think. I only know I love you. You reproach
me with not wanting to marry you. I would have married you at any time
after I came to love you, if you had asked me. I will marry you now if
I won't, my dear. That's flat. We're intellectually
But why? We could be so happy. You love me--I know you love
me--I feel it. You say "My dear" to me: you have said it several times
this evening. I know I have been wicked, odious, bad. I say nothing in
defence of myself. But don't be hard on me. I was distracted by the
thought of losing you. I can't face life without you Leonard. I was
happy when I met you: I had never loved anyone; and if you had only
let me alone I could have gone on contentedly by myself. But I can't
now. I must have you with me. Don't cast me off without a thought of
all I have at stake. I could be a friend to you if you would only let
me--if you would only tell me your plans--give me a share in your
work---treat me as something more than the amusement of an idle hour.
Oh Leonard, Leonard, you've never given me a chance: indeed you
haven't. I'll take pains; I'll read; I'll try to think; I'll conquer
my jealousy; I'll-- (She breaks down, rocking her head desperately on
his knee and writhing.) Oh, I'm mad: I'm mad: you'll kill me if you
My dear love, don't cry--don't go on in this
way. You know I can't help it.
JULIA(sobbing as he rises and coaxingly lifts her with him)
can, you can. One word from you will make us happy for ever.
Come, my dear: we really must go. We can't
stay until Cuthbertson comes. (Releases her gently and takes her
mantle from the table.) Here is your mantle: put it on and be good.
You have given me a terrible evening: you must have some consideration
You are to put on your bonnet, dearest. (He
puts the mantle on her shoulders.)
JULIA(with a bitter half laugh, half sob)
Well, I suppose I must do
what I am told. (She goes to the table, and looks for her bonnet. She
sees the yellow-backed French novel.) Ah, look at that! (holds it out
to him.) Look--look at what the creature reads--filthy, vile French
stuff that no decent woman would touch. And you--you have been reading
it with her.
You recommended that book to me yourself.
CHARTERIS(running anxiously to the book)
Don't damage property,
Julia. (He picks it up and dusts it.) Making scenes is an affair of
sentiment: damaging property is serious. (Replaces it on the table.)
And now do pray come along.
You can go: there is nothing to prevent you. I
will not stir. (She sits down stubbornly on the sofa.)
Oh come! I am not going to begin all this
over again. There are limits even to my forbearance. Come on.
Solemnly. Propose the oath. I have been on the point of
swearing for the last half hour.
You are only making fun of me. I want no oaths.
I want your promise--your sacred word of honour.
Certainly--anything you demand, on condition that you come
away immediately. On my sacred word of honour as a gentleman--as an
Englishman--as anything you like--I will never see her again, never
speak to her, never think of her. Now come.
But are you in earnest? Will you keep your word?
Now you are getting unreasonable. Do come
along without any more nonsense. At any rate, I am going. I am not
strong enough to carry you home; but I am strong enough to make my way
through that door in spite of you. You will then have a new grievance
against me for my brutal violence. (He takes a step towards the door.)
If you do, I swear I will throw myself from that
window, Leonard, as you pass out.
That window is at the back of the building. I
shall pass out at the front; so you will not hurt me. Good night. (He
approaches the door.)
Not in the least. When you condescend to these antics you
force me to despise you. How can a woman who behaves like a spoiled
child and talks like a sentimental novel have the audacity to dream of
being a companion for a man of any sort of sense or character? (She
gives an inarticulate cry and throws herself sobbing on his breast.)
Come, don't cry, my dear Julia: you don't look half so beautiful as
when you're happy; and it takes all the starch out of my shirt front.
I'll come, dear, if you wish it. Give me one
This is too much. No: I'm dashed if I will.
Here, let me go, Julia. (She clings to him.) Will you come without
another word if I give you a kiss?
Well, here. (He takes her in his arms and gives her an
unceremonious kiss.) Now remember your promise. Come along.
That was not a nice kiss, dearest. I want one of our old real
Oh, go to the deuce. (He disengages himself
impulsively; and she, as if he had flung her down, falls pathetically
with a stifled moan. With an angry look at her, he strides out and
slams the door. She raises herself on one hand, listening to his
retreating footsteps. They stop. Her face lights up with eager,
triumphant cunning. The steps return hastily. She throws herself down
again as before. Charteris reappears, in the utmost dismay,
exclaiming) Julia: we're done. Cuthbertson's coming upstairs with your
father--(she sits up quickly) do you hear?--the two fathers.
JULIA(sitting on the floor)
Impossible. They don't know one another.
I tell you they are coming up together like
brothers. What on earth are we to do?
JULIA(scrambling up with the help of his hand)
Quick, the lift: we
can go down in that. (She rushes to the table for her bonnet.)
No, the man's gone home; and the lift's locked.
JULIA(putting on bonnet at express speed)
Let's go up to the next
There's no next floor. We're at the top of the house. No,
no, you must invent some thumping lie. I can't think of one: you can,
Julia. Exercise all your genius. I'll back you up.
Sh-sh! Here they are. Sit down and look at home. (Julia
tears off her bonnet and mantle; throws them on the table; and darts
to the piano at which she seats herself.)
Come and sing. (She plays the symphony to "When other lips." He
stands at the piano, as if about to sing. Two elderly gentlemen enter.
Julia stops playing.)
The elder of the two gentlemen, Colonel Daniel Craven,
affects the bluff, simple veteran, and carries it off
pleasantly and well, having a fine upright figure, and
being, in fact, a goodnaturedly impulsive, credulous
person who, after an entirely thoughtless career as an
officer and a gentleman, is now being startled into
some sort of self-education by the surprising
proceedings of his children.
His companion, Mr. Joseph Cuthbertson, Grace's father,
has none of the Colonel's boyishness. He is a man of
fervent idealistic sentiment, so frequently outraged by
the facts of life, that he has acquired an habitually
indignant manner, which unexpectedly becomes
enthusiastic or affectionate when he speaks.
The two men differ greatly in expression. The Colonel's
face is lined with weather, with age, with eating and
drinking, and with the cumulative effects of many petty
vexations, but not with thought: he is still fresh, and
he has by no means full expectations of pleasure and
novelty. Cuthbertson has the lines of sedentary London
brain work, with its chronic fatigue and longing for
rest and recreative emotion, and its disillusioned
indifference to adventure and enjoyment, except as a
means of recuperation.
They are both in evening dress; and Cuthbertson wears
his fur collared overcoat, which, with his vigilant,
irascible eye, piled up hair, and the honorable
earnestness with which he takes himself, gives him an
air of considerable consequence.
CUTHBERTSON(with a hospitable show of delight at finding visitors)
Don't stop, Miss Craven. Go on, Charteris. (He comes down behind the
sofa, and hangs his overcoat on it, after taking an opera glass and a
theatre programme from the pockets, and putting them down on the
piano. Craven meanwhile goes to the fire-place and stands on the
No, thank you. Miss Craven has just been taking me through
an old song; and I've had enough of it. (He takes the song off the
piano desk and lays it aside; then closes the lid over the keyboard.)
JULIA(passing between the sofa and piano to shake hands with
Why, you've brought Daddy! What a surprise! (Looking
across to Craven.) So glad you've come, Dad. (She takes a chair near
the window, and sits there.)
Craven: let me introduce you to Mr. Leonard Charteris,
the famous Ibsenist philosopher.
Oh, we know one another already. Charteris is quite at home at
our house, Jo.
I beg both your pardons. (Charteris sits down on the
piano stool.) He's quite at home here too. By the bye, where's Grace?
JULIA and CHARTERIS
Er-- (They stop and look at one another.)
I beg your pardon, Mr. Charteris: I interrupted you.
Not at all, Miss Craven. (An awkward pause.)
CUTHBERTSON(to help them out)
You were going to tell about Grace,
I was only going to say that I didn't know that you and
Craven were acquainted.
Why, _I_ didn't know it until to-night. It's a most
extraordinary thing. We met by chance at the theatre; and he turns out
to be my oldest friend.
Yes, Craven; and do you see how this
proves what I was saying to you about the breaking up of family life?
Here are all our young people--Grace and Miss Julia and the
rest--bosom friends, inseparables; and yet we two, who knew each other
before they were born, might never have met again if you hadn't popped
into the stall next to mine to-night by pure chance. Come, sit down
(bustling over to him affectionately and pushing him into the arm
chair above the fire): there's your place, by my fireside, whenever
you choose to fill it. (He posts himself at the right end of the sofa,
leaning against it and admiring Craven.) Just imagine your being Dan
Just imagine your being Jo Cuthbertson, though! That's a far
more extraordinary coincidence, because I'd got it into my head that
your name was Tranfield.
Oh, that's my daughter's name. She's a widow, you know.
How uncommonly well you look, Dan! The years haven't hurt you much.
CRAVEN(suddenly becoming unnaturally gloomy)
I look well. I even
feel well. But my days are numbered.
Oh don't say that, my dear fellow. I hope not.
JULIA(with anguish in her voice)
Daddy! (Cuthbertson looks
inquiringly around at her.)
There, there, my dear: I was wrong to talk of it. It's a sad
subject. But it's better that Cuthbertson should know. We used to be
very close friends, and are so still, I hope. (Cuthbertson goes to
Craven and presses his hand silently; then returns to sofa and sits,
pulling out his handkerchief and displaying some emotion. )
CHARTERIS(a little impatiently)
The fact is, Cuthbertson, Craven's a
devout believer in the department of witchcraft called medical
science. He's celebrated in all the medical schools as an example of
the newest sort of liver complaint. The doctors say he can't last
another year; and he has fully made up his mind not to survive next
Easter, just to oblige them.
CRAVEN(with military affectation)
It's very kind of you to try to
keep up my spirits by making light of it, Charteris. But I shall be
ready when my time comes. I'm a soldier. (A sob from Julia.) Don't
I hope you may long be spared, Dan.
To oblige me, Jo, change the subject. (He gets up and again
posts himself on the hearthrug with his back to the fire.)
Try and persuade him to join our club, Cuthbertson. He
It's no use. Sylvia and I are always at him to join; but he
Yes, the Junior Army and Navy! Do you
call that a club? Why, they daren't let a woman cross the doorstep!
CRAVEN(a little ruffled)
Clubs are a matter of taste, Charteris. You
like a cock and hen club: I don't. It's bad enough to have Julia and
her sister--a girl under twenty--spending half their time at such a
place. Besides, now really, such a name for a club! The Ibsen club! I
should be laughed out of London. The Ibsen club! Come, Cuthbertson,
back me up. I'm sure you agree with me.
No! Why, he's been talking to me all the evening
about the way in which everything is going to the dogs through
advanced ideas in the younger generation.
Of course. He's been studying it in the club. He's always
Not always. Don't exaggerate, Charteris. You
know very well that though I joined the club on Grace's account,
thinking that her father's presence there would be a protection and
a--a sort of sanction, as it were--I never approved of it.
CRAVEN(tactlessly harping on Cuthbertson's inconsistency)
know, this is unexpected: now it's really very unexpected. I should
never have thought it from hearing you talk, Jo. Why, you said the
whole modern movement was abhorrent to you because your life had been
passed in witnessing scenes of suffering nobly endured and sacrifice
willingly rendered by womanly women and manly men and deuce knows what
else. Is it at the Ibsen club that you see all this manliness and
Certainly not: the rules of the club forbid anything of
that sort. Every candidate for membership must be nominated by a man
and a woman, who both guarantee that the candidate, if female, is not
womanly, and if male, is not manly.
CRAVEN(chuckling cunningly and stooping to press his heated trousers
against his legs, which are chilly)
Won't do, Charteris. Can't take
me in with so thin a story as that.
It's true. It's monstrous, but it's true.
CRAVEN(with rising indignation, as he begins to draw the inevitable
Do you mean to say that somebody had the audacity to
guarantee that my Julia is not a womanly woman?
It sounds incredible; but a man was found ready to
take that inconceivable lie on his conscience.
If he has nothing worse than that on his
conscience, he may sleep pretty well. In what way am I more womanly
than any of the rest of them, I should like to know? They are always
saying things like that behind my back--I hear of them from Sylvia.
Only the other day a member of the committee said I ought never to
have been elected--that you (to Charteris) had smuggled me in. I
should like to see her say it to my face: that's all.
But, my precious, I most sincerely hope she was right. She
paid you the highest compliment. Why, the place must be a den of
Exactly. That's what keeps it so select: nobody but people
whose reputations are above suspicion dare belong to it. If we once
got a good name, we should become a mere whitewashing shop for all the
shady characters in London. Better join us, Craven. Let me put you up.
What! Join a club where there's some scoundrel who guaranteed
my daughter to be an unwomanly woman! If I weren't an invalid, I'd
Not at the Ibsen club, quite the contrary. After all, what
can we do? You know what breaks up most clubs for men and women.
There's a quarrel--a scandal--cherchez la femme--always a woman at the
bottom of it. Well, we knew this when we founded the club; but we
noticed that the woman at the bottom of it was always a womanly woman.
The unwomanly women who work for their living and know how to take
care of themselves never give any trouble. So we simply said we
wouldn't have any womanly women; and when one gets smuggled in she has
to take care not to behave in a womanly way. We get on all right. (He
rises.) Come to lunch with me there tomorrow and see the place.
No, he's engaged to me. But you can join us.
Any time after twelve. (To Craven) It's at 90 Cork
street, at the other end of the Burlington Arcade.
CRAVEN(making a note)
90, you say. After twelve. (He suddenly
relapses into gloom.) By the bye, don't order anything special for me.
I'm not allowed wine--only Apollinaris. No meat either--only a scrap
of fish occasionally. I'm to have a short life, but not a merry one.
(Sighing.) Well, well. (Bracing himself up.) Now, Julia, it's time for
us to be off. (Julia rises.)
But where on earth is Grace? I must go and look for her.
(He turns to the door.)
Oh, pray don't disturb her, Mr. Cuthbertson.
She's so tired.
But just for a moment to say good night. (Julia and
Charteris look at one another in dismay. Cuthbertson looks quickly at
them, perceiving that something is wrong.)
We must make a clean breast of it, I see.
The truth is, Cuthbertson, Mrs. Tranfield, who is, as you
know, the most thoughtful of women, took it into her head that
I--well, that I particularly wanted to speak to Miss Craven alone. So
she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed.
Oho! is that it? Then it's all right. She never goes to
bed as early as this. I'll fetch her in a moment. (He goes out
confidently, leaving Charteris aghast.)
Now you've done it. (She rushes to the round table and snatches
up her mantle and bonnet.) I'm off. (She makes for the door.)
What are you doing, Julia? You can't go until
you've said good night to Mrs. Tranfield. It would be horribly rude.
You can stay if you like, Daddy: I can't. I'll wait for you in
the hall. (She hurries out.)
But what on earth am I to say? (Stopping as
she disappears, and turning to Charteris grumbling) Now really you
know, Charteris, this is devilish awkward, upon my life it is. That
was a most indelicate thing of you to say plump out before us
all--that about you and Julia.
I'll explain it all to-morrow. Just at present we'd really
better follow Julia's example and bolt. (He starts for the door.)
Stop! don't leave me like this: I shall
look like a fool. Now I shall really take it in bad part if you run
All right. I'll stay. (Lifts himself on to the
shoulder of the grand piano and sits there swinging his legs and
contemplating Craven resignedly.)
CRAVEN(pacing up and down)
I'm excessively vexed about Julia's
conduct, I am indeed. She can't bear to be crossed in the slightest
thing, poor child. I'll have to apologize for her you know: her going
away is a downright slap in the face for these people here.
Cuthbertson may be offended already for all I know.
Oh never mind about him. Mrs. Tranfield bosses this
Ah, that's it, is it? He's just the sort of fellow
that would have no control over his daughter. (He goes back to his
former place on the hearthrug with his back to the fire.) By the bye,
what the dickens did he mean by all that about passing his life
amid--what was it?--" scenes of suffering nobly endured and sacrifice
willingly rendered by womanly women and manly men" and a lot more of
the same sort? I suppose he's something in a hospital.
Hospital! Nonsense: he's a dramatic critic. Didn't you hear
me say that he was the leading representative of manly sentiment in
You don't say so. Now really, who'd have thought it! How jolly
it must be to be able to go to the theatre for nothing! I must ask him
to get me a few tickets occasionally. But isn't it ridiculous for a
man to talk like that! I'm hanged if he don't take what he sees on the
stage quite seriously.
Of course: that's why he's a good critic. Besides, if you
take people seriously off the stage, why shouldn't you take them
seriously on it, where they're under some sort of decent restraint?
(He jumps down off piano and goes up to the window. Cuthbertson comes
CUTHBERTSON(to Craven, rather sheepishly)
The fact is, Grace has
gone to bed. I must apologize to you and Miss-- (He turns to Julia's
seat, and stops on seeing it vacant.)
It is I who have to apologize for Julia, Jo.
She said she was quite sure that if we
didn't go, you'd persuade Mrs. Tranfield to get up to say good night
for the sake of politeness; so she went straight off.
Very kind of her indeed. I'm really ashamed--
Don't mention it, Jo, don't mention it. She's waiting for me
below. (Going.) Good night. Good night, Charteris.
CUTHBERTSON(seeing Craven out)
Goodnight. Say good night and thanks
to Miss Craven for me. To-morrow any time after twelve, remember.
(They go out; and Charteris with a long sigh crosses to the fireplace,
thoroughly tired out.)
Take care of the stairs; they're rather steep.
Good night. (The outside door shuts; and Cuthbertson returns. Instead
of entering, he stands in the doorway with one hand in the breast of
his waistcoat, eyeing Charteris sternly.)
Charteris: what's been going on here? I insist
on knowing. Grace has not gone to bed: I have seen and spoken with
her. What is it all about?
Ask your theatrical experience, Cuthbertson. A man, of
CUTHBERTSON(coming forward and confronting him)
Don't play the fool
with me, Charteris: I'm too old a hand to be amused by it. I ask you,
seriously, what's the matter?
I tell you, seriously, I'm the matter, Julia wants to marry
me: I want to marry Grace. I came here to-night to sweetheart Grace.
Enter Julia. Alarums and excursions. Exit Grace. Enter you and Craven.
Subterfuges and excuses. Exeunt Craven and Julia. And here we are.
That's the whole story. Sleep over it. Good night. (He leaves.)
CUTHBERTSON(staring after him)
Well I'll be--
(The act drop descends.)