Next day at noon, in the Library of the Ibsen club. A
spacious room, with glass doors right and left. At the
back, in the middle, is the fireplace, surmounted by a
handsome mantelpiece, with a bust of Ibsen, and
decorated inscriptions of the titles of his plays.
There are circular recesses at each side of fireplace,
with divan seats running round them, and windows at the
top, the space between the divan and the window sills
being lined with books. A long settee is placed before
the fire. Along the back of the settee, and touching
it, is a green table, littered with journals. A
revolving bookcase stands in the foreground, a little
to the left, with an easy chair close to it. On the
right, between the door and the recess, is a light
library stepladder. Placards inscribed "silence" are
conspicuously exhibited here and there.
(Cuthbertson is seated in the easy chair at the revolving bookstand,
reading the "Daily Graphic." Dr. Paramore is on the divan in the right
hand recess, reading "The British Medical Journal." He is young as age
is counted in the professions--barely forty. His hair is wearing bald
on his forehead; and his dark arched eyebrows, coming rather close
together, give him a conscientiously sinister appearance. He wears the
frock coat and cultivates the "bedside manner" of the fashionable
physician with scrupulous conventionality. Not at all a happy or frank
man, but not consciously unhappy nor intentionally insincere, and
highly self satisfied intellectually.
Sylvia Craven is sitting in the middle of the settee before the fire,
only the back of her head being visible. She is reading a volume of
Ibsen. She is a girl of eighteen, small and trim, wearing a smart
tailor-made dress, rather short, and a Newmarket jacket, showing a
white blouse with a light silk sash and a man's collar and watch chain
so arranged as to look as like a man's waistcoat and shirt-front as
possible without spoiling the prettiness of the effect. A Page Boy's
voice, monotonously calling for Dr. Paramore, is heard approaching
outside on the right.)
Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore. (He enters
carrying a salver with a card on it.) Dr. Par--
PARAMORE(sharply, sitting up)
Here, boy. (The boy presents the
salver. Paramore takes the card and looks at it.) All right: I'll come
down to him. (The boy goes. Paramore rises, and comes from the recess,
throwing his paper on the table.) Good morning, Mr. Cuthbertson
(stopping to pull out his cuffs and shake his coat straight) Mrs.
Tranfield quite well, I hope?
SYLVIA(turning her head indignantly)
Sh--sh--sh! (Paramore turns,
surprised. Cuthbertson rises energetically and looks across the
bookstand to see who is the author of this impertinence.)
I beg your pardon, Miss Craven: I did
not mean to disturb you.
SYLVIA(flustered and self assertive)
You may talk as much as you
like if you will only have the common consideration to first ask
whether the other people object. What I protest against is your
assumption that my presence doesn't matter because I'm only a female
member. That's all. Now go on, pray: you don't disturb me in the
least. (She turns to the fire, and again buries herself in Ibsen.)
CUTHBERTSON(with emphatic dignity)
No gentleman would have dreamt of
objecting to our exchanging a few words, madam. (She takes no notice.
He resumes angrily.) As a matter of fact I was about to say to Dr.
Paramore that if he would care to bring his visitor up here, _I_
should not object. The impudence! (Dashes his paper down on the
Oh, many thanks; but it's only an instrument maker.
Well, since you ask me, yes--perhaps a most important one. I
have discovered something that has hitherto been overlooked--a minute
duct in the liver of the guinea pig. Miss Craven will forgive my
mentioning it when I say that it may throw an important light on her
father's case. The first thing, of course, is to find out what the
duct is there for.
CUTHBERTSON(reverently--feeling that he is in the presence of
Indeed. How will you do that?
Oh, easily enough, by simply cutting the duct and seeing
what will happen to the guinea pig. (Sylvia rises, horrified.) I shall
require a knife specially made to get at it. The man who is waiting
for me downstairs has brought me a few handles to try before fitting
it and sending it to the laboratory. I am afraid it would not do to
bring such weapons up here.
If you attempt such a thing, Dr. Paramore, I will complain to
the committee. The majority of the committee are anti-vivisectionists.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself. (She flounces out at the right
PARAMORE(with patient contempt)
That's the sort of thing we
scientific men have to put up with nowadays, Mr. Cuthbertson.
Ignorance, superstition, sentimentality: they are all one. A guinea
pig's convenience is set above the health and lives of the entire
It's not ignorance or superstition,
Paramore: it's sheer downright Ibsenism: that's what it is. I've been
wanting to sit comfortably at the fire the whole morning; but I've
never had a chance with that girl there. I couldn't go and plump
myself down on a seat beside her: goodness knows what she'd think I
wanted. That's one of the delights of having women in the club: when
they come in here they all want to sit at the fire and adore that
bust. I sometimes feel that I should like to take the poker and fetch
it a wipe across the nose--ugh!
I must say I prefer the elder Miss Craven to her sister.
CUTHBERTSON(his eyes lighting up)
Ah, Julia! I believe you. A
splendid fine creature--every inch a woman. No Ibsenism about her!
I quite agree with you there, Mr. Cuthbertson. Er--by the
way, do you think is Miss Craven attached to Charteris at all?
What, that fellow! Not he. He hangs about after her; but
he's not man enough for her. A woman of that sort likes a strong,
manly, deep-throated, broad-chested man.
Hm, a sort of sporting character, you think?
Oh, no, no. A scientific man, perhaps, like yourself. But
you know what I mean--a MAN. (Strikes himself a sounding blow on the
Pah! you don't see what I mean. (The Page Boy returns
with his salver.)
PAGE BOY (calling monotonously as before)
Mr. Cuthbertson, Mr.
Cuthbertson, Mr. Cuth--
Here, boy. (He takes a card from the salver.) Bring the
gentleman up here. (The boy goes out.) It's Craven. He's coming to
lunch with me and Charteris. You might join us if you've nothing
better to do, when you've finished with the instrument man. If Julia
turns up I'll ask her too.
PARAMORE(flushing with pleasure)
I shall be very happy. Thank you.
(He is going out at the right hand door when Craven enters.) Good
morning, Colonel Craven.
CRAVEN(at the door)
Good morning--glad to see you. I'm looking for
CUTHBERTSON(greeting Craven effusively)
Delighted to see you. Now
will you come to the smoking room, or will you sit down here and have
a chat while we're waiting for Charteris. If you like company, the
smoking room is always full of women. Here we shall have it pretty
well all to ourselves until about three o'clock.
I don't like to see women smoking. I'll make myself
comfortable here. (Sits in an easy chair on the right.)
CUTHBERTSON(taking a chair beside him, on his left)
Neither do I.
There's not a room in this club where I can enjoy a pipe quietly
without a woman coming in and beginning to roll a cigarette. It's a
disgusting habit in a woman: it's not natural to her sex.
Ah, Jo, times have changed since we both courted
Molly Ebden all those years ago. I took my defeat well, old chap,
CUTHBERTSON(with earnest approval)
You did, Dan. The thought of it
has often helped me to behave well myself: it has, on my honour.
Yes, you always believe in hearth and home, Jo--in a true
English wife and a happy wholesome fireside. How did Molly turn out?
CUTHBERTSON(trying to be fair to Molly)
Well, not bad. She might
have been worse. You see I couldn't stand her relations: all the men
were roaring cads; and she couldn't get on with my mother. And then
she hated being in town; and of course I couldn't live in the country
on account of my work. But we hit it off as well as most people, until
Separated! (He is irresistibly amused.) Oh, that
was the end of the hearth and home, Jo, was it?
It was not my fault, Dan. (Sentimentally.) Some
day the world will know how I loved that woman. But she was incapable
of valuing a true man's affection. Do you know, she often said she
wished she'd married you instead.
CRAVEN(sobered by the suggestion)
Dear me, dear me! Well, perhaps it
was better as it was. You heard about my marriage, I suppose.
Well, Jo, I may as well make a clean breast of it--everybody
knew it. I married for money.
And why not, Dan, why not? We can't get
on without it, you know.
CRAVEN(with sincere feeling)
I got to be very fond of her, Jo. I had
a home until she died. Now everything's changed. Julia's always here.
Sylvia's of a different nature; but she's always here too.
I know. It's the same with Grace. She's
And now they want me to be always here. They're at me every
day to join the club--to stop my grumbling, I suppose. That's what I
want to consult you about. Do you think I ought to join?
Well, if you have no conscientious objection--
CRAVEN(testily interrupting him)
I object to the existence of the
place on principle; but what's the use of that? Here it is in spite of
my objection, and I may as well have the benefit of any good that may
be in it.
Of course: that's the only reasonable view
of the matter. Well, the fact is, it's not so inconvenient as you
might think. When you're at home, you have the house more to yourself;
and when you want to have your family about you, you can dine with
them at the club.
Besides, if you don't want to dine with them, you
True, very true. But don't they carry on here,
Oh, no, they don't exactly carry on. Of course the usual
tone of the club is low, because the women smoke and earn their own
living and all that; but still there's nothing actually to complain
of. And it's convenient, certainly. (Charteris comes in, looking round
Do you know, I've a great mind to join, just to see
what it's like. Would you mind putting me up?
Delighted, Dan, delighted. (He grasps Craven's hand.)
CHARTERIS(putting one hand on Craven's shoulder and the other on
Bless you, my children! (Cuthbertson, a little wounded
in his dignity, moves away. The Colonel takes the jest in the utmost
Do you mean to say that my daughter deceived me?
Delicacy towards me compelled her to, Craven.
CRAVEN(taking a very serious tone)
Now look here, Charteris: have
you any proper sense of the fact that you're standing between two
Quite right, Dan, quite right. I repeat the question on
my own account.
Well, I'm a little dazed still by standing for so long
between two daughters; but I think I grasp the situation. (Cuthbertson
flings away with an exclamation of disgust.)
Then I'm sorry for your manners, Charteris: that's all. (He
turns away sulkily; then suddenly fires up and turns on Charteris.)
How dare you tell me my daughter wants to marry you. Who are you,
pray, that she should have any such ambition?
Just so; she couldn't have made a worse choice. But she
won't listen to reason. I've talked to her like a father myself--I
assure you, my dear Craven, I've said everything that you could have
said; but it's no use: she won't give me up. And if she won't listen
to me, what likelihood is there of her listening to you?
CRAVEN(in angry bewilderment)
Cuthbertson: did you ever hear
anything like this?
Oh, bother? Come, don't behave like a couple of
conventional old fathers: this is a serious affair. Look at these
letters (producing a letter and a letter-card.) This (showing the
card) is from Grace--by the way, Cuthbertson, I wish you'd ask her not
to write on letter-cards: the blue colour makes it so easy for Julia
to pick the bits out of my waste paper basket and piece them together.
Now listen. "My dear Leonard: Nothing could make it worth my while to
be exposed to such scenes as last night's. You had much better go back
to Julia and forget me. Yours sincerely, Grace Tranfield."
CHARTERIS(turning to Craven and preparing to read the letter)
for Julia. (The Colonel turns away to hide his face from Charteris,
anticipating a shock, and puts his hand on a chair to steady himself.)
"My dearest boy. Nothing will make me believe that this odious woman
can take my place in your heart. I send some of the letters you wrote
me when we first met; and I ask you to read them. They will recall
what you felt when you wrote them. You cannot have changed so much as
to be indifferent to me: whoever may have struck your fancy for the
moment, your heart is still mine"--and so on: you know the sort of
thing--"Ever and always your loving Julia." (The Colonel sinks on the
chair and covers his face with his hand.) You don't suppose she's
serious, do you: that's the sort of thing she writes me three times a
day. (To Cuthbertson) Grace is in earnest though, confound it. (He
holds out Grace's letter.) A blue card as usual! This time I shall not
trust the waste paper basket. (He goes to the fire, and throws the
letters into it.)
CUTHBERTSON(facing him with folded arms as he comes down again)
I ask, Mr. Charteris, is this the New Humour?
CHARTERIS(still too preoccupied with his own difficulty to have any
sense of the effect he is producing on the others)
Oh, stuff! Do you
suppose it's a joke to be situated as I am? You've got your head so
stuffed with the New Humour and the New Woman and the New This, That
and the Other, all mixed up with your own old Adam, that you've lost
Do you see that old man, grown grey in the
honoured service of his country, whose last days you have blighted?
CHARTERIS(surprised, looking at Craven and realizing his distress
with genuine concern)
I'm very sorry. Come, Craven; don't take it to
heart. (Craven shakes his head.) I assure you it means nothing: it
happens to me constantly.
There is only one excuse for you. You are not fully
responsible for your actions. Like all advanced people, you have got
I decline to explain. You know as well as I do. I am
going downstairs now to order lunch. I shall order it for three; but
the third place is for Paramore, whom I have invited, not for you. (He
goes out through the left hand door.)
CHARTERIS(putting his hand on Craven's shoulder)
advise me. You've been in this sort of fix yourself probably.
Charteris: no woman writes such letters to a man unless he has
made advances to her.
How little you know the world, Colonel! The
New Woman is not like that.
I can only give you very old fashioned advice, my boy; and
that is that it's well to be off with the Old Woman before you're on
with the New. I'm sorry you told me. You might have waited for my
death: it's not far off now. (His head droops again. Julia and
Paramore enter on the right. Julia stops as she catches sight of
Charteris, her face clouding and her breast heaving. Paramore, seeing
the Colonel apparently ill, hurries down to him with the bedside
manner in full play.)
Oh Lord! (He retreats under the lee of the
PARAMORE(sympathetically to the Colonel)
Allow me. (Takes his wrist
and begins to count his pulse.)
Eh? (Withdraws his hand and rises rather
crossly.) No, Paramore: it's not my liver now: it's private business.
(A chase now begins between Julia and Charteris, all the more exciting
to them because the huntress and her prey must alike conceal the real
object of their movements from the others. Charteris first makes for
the right hand door. Julia immediately moves back to it, barring his
path. He doubles back round the bookstand, setting it whirling as he
makes for the left door, Julia crossing in pursuit of him. He is about
to escape when he is cut off by the return of Cuthbertson. He turns
back and sees Julia close upon him. There being nothing else for it,
he bolts up into the recess to the left of the fireplace.)
Good morning, Miss Craven. (They shake hands.) Won't you
join us at lunch? Paramore's coming too.
Thanks: I shall be very pleased. (She goes up with affected
purposelessness towards the recess. Charteris, almost trapped in it,
crosses to the right hand recess by way of the fender, knocking down
the fire irons with a crash as he does so.)
CRAVEN(who has crossed to the whirling bookcase and stopped it)
the dickens are you doing there, Charteris?
Nothing. It's such a confounded room to get about in.
Yes, isn't it. (She is moving back to guard the
right hand door, when Cuthbertson appears at it.)
May I take you down? (He offers her his arm.)
No, really: you know it's against the rules of the club to
coddle women in any way. Whoever is nearest to the door goes first.
Oh well, if you insist. Come, gentlemen: let us go to
lunch in the Ibsen fashion--the unsexed fashion. (He goes out on the
left followed by Paramore, laughing. Craven goes last. He turns at the
door to see whether Julia is coming, and stops when he sees she is
JULIA(with patronising affection)
Yes, Daddy, dear, presently.
(Charteris is meanwhile stealing to the right hand door.) Don't wait
for me: I'll come in a moment. (The Colonel hesitates.) It's all
Don't be long, my dear. (He goes out.)
I'm off. (Makes a dash for the right hand door.)
JULIA(darting at him and seizing his wrist)
Aren't you coming?
No. Unhand me Julia. (He tries to get away: she holds him.)
If you don't let me go, I'll scream for help.
Leonard! (He breaks away from her.) Oh, how can
you be so rough with me, dear. Did you get my letter?
Burnt it--(she turns away, struck to the heart, and buries
her face in her hands)--along with hers.
JULIA(quickly turning again)
Hers! Has she written to you?
Yes, to break off with me on your account.
You are pleased. Wretch! Now you have lost the last scrap
of my regard. (He turns to go, but is stopped by the return of Sylvia.
Julia turns away and stands pretending to read a paper which she picks
up from the table.)
Hallo, Charteris: how are you getting on? (She
takes his arm familiarly and walks down the room with him.) Have you
seen Grace Tranfield this morning? (Julia drops the paper and comes a
step nearer to listen.) You generally know where she is to be found.
I shall never know any more, Sylvia. She's quarrelled with
Sylvia! How often am I to tell you that I am not Sylvia at the
I forgot. I beg your pardon, Craven, old chap (slaps her on
That's better--a little overdone, but better.
Remember, Julia, if you please, that here we are members of
the club, not sisters. I don't take liberties with you here on family
grounds: don't you take any with me. (She goes to the settee and
resumes her former place.)
Quite right, Craven. Down with the tyranny of the elder
You ought to know better than to encourage a child to make
herself ridiculous, Leonard, even at my expense.
CHARTERIS(seating himself on the edge of the table)
Your lunch will
be cold, Julia. (Julia is about to retort furiously when she is
checked by the reappearance of Cuthbertson at the left hand door.)
What has become of you, Miss Craven? Your father is
getting quite uneasy. We're all waiting for you.
So I have just been reminded, thank you. (She goes out angrily
past him, Sylvia looking round to see.)
CUTHBERTSON(looking first after her, then at Charteris)
neurasthenia. (He follows her.)
SYLVIA(jumping up on her knees on the settee and speaking over the
back of it)
What's up, Charteris? Julia been making love to you?
CHARTERIS(speaking to her over his shoulder)
No. Blowing me up for
making love to Grace.
Serve you right. You are an awful devil for philandering.
Do you consider it good club form to talk that way
to a man who might nearly be your father?
Then you know that I never pay any special attention to any
Do you know, Leonard, I really believe you. I
don't think you care a bit more for one woman than for another.
You mean I don't care a bit less for one woman than
That makes it worse. But what I mean is that you never bother
about their being only women: you talk to them just as you do to me or
any other fellow. That's the secret of your success. You can't think
how sick they get of being treated with the respect due to their sex.
Ah, if Julia only had your wisdom, Craven! (He gets off the
table with a sigh and perches himself reflectively on the stepladder.)
She can't take things easy, can she, old man? But don't you be
afraid of breaking her heart: she gets over her little tragedies. We
found that out at home when our great sorrow came.
I mean when we learned that poor papa had Paramore's disease.
But it was too late to inoculate papa. All they could do was to
prolong his life for two years more by putting him on a strict diet.
Poor old boy! they cut off his liquor; and he's not allowed to eat
Your father appears to me to be uncommonly well.
Yes, you would think he was a great deal better. But the
microbes are at work, slowly but surely. In another year it will be
all over. Poor old Dad! it's unfeeling to talk about him in this
attitude: I must sit down properly. (She comes down from the settee
and takes the chair near the bookstand.) I should like papa to live
for ever just to take the conceit out of Paramore. I believe he's in
love with Julia.
CHARTERIS(starting up excitedly)
In love with Julia! A ray of hope
on the horizon! Do you really mean it?
I should think I do. Why do you suppose he's hanging about the
club to-day in a beautiful new coat and tie instead of attending to
his patients? That lunch with Julia will finish him. He'll ask Daddy's
consent before they come back--I'll bet you three to one he will, in
anything you please.
Done! But what does she think about it? Does she give him
Oh, the usual thing. Enough to keep any other woman from
Just so. I understand. Now listen to me: I am going to
speak as a philosopher. Julia is jealous of everybody--everybody. If
she saw you flirting with Paramore she'd begin to value him directly.
You might play up a little, Craven, for my sake--eh?
You're too awful, Leonard. For shame? However,
anything to oblige a fellow Ibsenite. I'll bear your affair in mind.
But I think it would be more effective if you got Grace to do it.
CHARTERIS(to the page)
Off with you, my boy: Dr. Paramore's waiting
breathless with expectation.
PAGE BOY (seriously)
Indeed, sir. (He hurries off.)
That boy will make his way in this country. He has no sense
of humour. (Grace comes in. Her dress, very convenient and
businesslike, is made to please herself and serve her own purposes
without the slightest regard to fashion, though by no means without a
careful concern for her personal elegance. She enters briskly, like an
habitually busy woman.)
SYLVIA(running to her)
Here you are at last Tranfield, old girl.
I've been waiting for you this last hour. I'm starving.
All right, dear. (To Charteris.) Did you get my letter?
Yes. I wish you wouldn't write on those confounded blue
Shall I go down first and secure a table?
CHARTERIS(taking the reply out of Grace's mouth)
Do, old boy.
Don't be too long. (She goes into the dining room.)
Then you ought to. Ugh! it was hideous--an insult--an
outrage. A nice end to all my plans for making you happy--for making
you an exception to all the women who swear I have made them
GRACE(sitting down placidly)
I am not at all miserable. I'm sorry;
but I shan't break my heart.
No: yours is a thoroughbred heart: you don't scream and cry
every time it's pinched. That's why you are the only possible woman
Jilted again! The fickleness of women I love is only
equaled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me. Well,
well! I see how it is, Grace: you can't get over that horrible scene
last night. Imagine her saying I had kissed her within the last two
Ah yes: you have my heart in your hands. Break it. Throw my
happiness out of the window.
Oh, Leonard, does your happiness really depend on me?
Absolutely. (She beams with delight. A sudden
revulsion comes to him at the sight: he recoils, dropping her hands
and crying) Ah no: why should I lie to you? (He folds his arms and
adds firmly) My happiness depends on nobody but myself. I can do
So you shall. Thank you for the truth. Now
_I_ will tell you the truth.
CHARTERIS(unfolding his arms and again recoiling)
No, please. Don't.
As a philosopher, it's my business to tell other people the truth; but
it's not their business to tell it to me. I don't like it: it hurts.
Ah! that's not a philosophic truth. You may tell me that as
often as you like. (He takes her in his arms.)
Yes, Leonard; but I'm an advanced woman. (He checks himself
and looks at her in some consternation.) I'm what my father calls a
New Woman. (He lets her go and stares at her.) I quite agree with all
That's a nice thing for a respectable woman
to say! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
I am quite in earnest about them too, though you are not; and I
will never marry a man I love too much. It would give him a terrible
advantage over me: I should be utterly in his power. That's what the
New Woman is like. Isn't she right, Mr. Philosopher?
The struggle between the Philosopher and the Man is
fearful, Grace. But the Philosopher says you are right.
I thought you would. I've ordered soup for three. (Grace
passes out. Sylvia continues, to Charteris) You can watch Paramore
from our table: he's pretending to read the British Medical Journal;
but he must be making up his mind for the plunge: he looks green with
Good luck to him. (He goes out, followed by Sylvia.)