The same day. The same room. Late in the afternoon. The spare
chair for visitors has been replaced at the table, which is, if
possible, more untidy than before. Marchbanks, alone and idle, is
trying to find out how the typewriter works. Hearing someone at
the door, he steals guiltily away to the window and pretends to
be absorbed in the view. Miss Garnett, carrying the notebook in
which she takes down Morell's letters in shorthand from his
dictation, sits down at the typewriter and sets to work
transcribing them, much too busy to notice Eugene. Unfortunately
the first key she strikes sticks.
Bother! You've been meddling with my typewriter, Mr.
Marchbanks; and there's not the least use in your trying to look
as if you hadn't.
I'm very sorry, Miss Garnett. I only tried
to make it write.
I assure you I didn't touch the keys. I
didn't, indeed. I only turned a little wheel. [He points
irresolutely at the tension wheel.]
Oh, now I understand. [She sets the machine to
rights, talking volubly all the time.] I suppose you thought it
was a sort of barrel-organ. Nothing to do but turn the handle,
and it would write a beautiful love letter for you straight off,
I suppose a machine could be made to
write love-letters. They're all the same, aren't they!
PROSERPINE[somewhat indignantly: any such discussion, except by
way of pleasantry, being outside her code of manners]
How do I
know? Why do you ask me?
I beg your pardon. I thought clever people--people
who can do business and write letters, and that sort of thing--
always had love affairs.
Mr. Marchbanks! [She looks
severely at him, and marches with much dignity to the bookcase.]
MARCHBANKS[approaching her humbly]
I hope I haven't offended
you. Perhaps I shouldn't have alluded to your love affairs.
PROSERPINE[plucking a blue book from the shelf and turning
sharply on him]
I haven't any love affairs. How dare you say
such a thing?
Really! Oh, then you are shy, like me. Isn't
Certainly I am not shy. What do you mean?
You must be: that is the reason there are
so few love affairs in the world. We all go about longing for
love: it is the first need of our natures, the loudest cry Of our
hearts; but we dare not utter our longing: we are too shy. [Very
earnestly.] Oh, Miss Garnett, what would you not give to be
without fear, without shame--
MARCHBANKS[with petulant impatience]
Ah, don't say those stupid
things to me: they don't deceive me: what use are they? Why are
you afraid to be your real self with me? I am just like you.
Like me! Pray, are you flattering me or flattering
yourself? I don't feel quite sure which. [She turns to go back to
MARCHBANKS[stopping her mysteriously]
Hush! I go about in
search of love; and I find it in unmeasured stores in the bosoms
of others. But when I try to ask for it, this horrible shyness
strangles me; and I stand dumb, or worse than dumb, saying
meaningless things--foolish lies. And I see the affection I am
longing for given to dogs and cats and pet birds, because they
come and ask for it. [Almost whispering.] It must be asked for:
it is like a ghost: it cannot speak unless it is first spoken to.
[At his normal pitch, but with deep melancholy.] All the love in
the world is longing to speak; only it dare not, because it is
shy, shy, shy. That is the world's tragedy. [With a deep sigh he
sits in the spare chair and buries his face in his hands.]
PROSERPINE[amazed, but keeping her wits about her--her point of
honor in encounters with strange young men]
Wicked people get
over that shyness occasionally, don't they?
MARCHBANKS[scrambling up almost fiercely]
Wicked people means
people who have no love: therefore they have no shame. They have
the power to ask love because they don't need it: they have the
power to offer it because they have none to give. [He collapses
into his seat, and adds, mournfully] But we, who have love, and
long to mingle it with the love of others: we cannot utter a
word. [Timidly.] You find that, don't you?
Look here: if you don't stop talking like this, I'll
leave the room, Mr. Marchbanks: I really will. It's not proper.
[She resumes her seat at the typewriter, opening the blue book
and preparing to copy a passage from it.]
Nothing that's worth saying is proper.
[He rises, and wanders about the room in his lost way, saying] I
can't understand you, Miss Garnett. What am I to talk about?
Talk about indifferent things, talk
about the weather.
Would you stand and talk about indifferent things if
a child were by, crying bitterly with hunger?
Yes: that is what it always comes to. We hold our
tongues. Does that stop the cry of your heart?--for it does cry:
doesn't it? It must, if you have a heart.
PROSERPINE[suddenly rising with her hand pressed on her heart]
Oh, it's no use trying to work while you talk like that. [She
leaves her little table and sits on the sofa. Her feelings are
evidently strongly worked on.] It's no business of yours, whether
my heart cries or not; but I have a mind to tell you, for all
You needn't. I know already that it must.
But mind: if you ever say I said so, I'll deny it.
Yes, I know. And so you haven't the
courage to tell him?
Whoever he is. The man you love. It might be anybody.
The curate, Mr. Mill, perhaps.
Mr. Mill!!! A fine man to break my
heart about, indeed! I'd rather have you than Mr. Mill.
No, really--I'm very sorry; but you
mustn't think of that. I--
PROSERPINE [testily, crossing to the fire and standing at it
with her back to him]. Oh, don't be frightened: it's not you.
It's not any one particular person.
I know. You feel that you could love anybody that
Anybody that offered! No, I do not.
What do you take me for?
No use. You won't make me real answers
--only those things that everybody says, [He strays to the sofa
and sits down disconsolately.]
PROSERPINE[nettled at what she takes to be a disparagement of
her manners by an aristocrat]
Oh, well, if you want original
conversation, you'd better go and talk to yourself.
That is what all poets do: they talk to themselves
out loud; and the world overhears them. But it's horribly lonely
not to hear someone else talk sometimes.
Wait until Mr. Morell comes. He'll talk to you.
[Marchbanks shudders.] Oh, you needn't make wry faces over him:
he can talk better than you. [With temper.] He'd talk your little
head off. [She is going back angrily to her place, when, suddenly
enlightened, he springs up and stops her.]
You do understand; and you know. [Determined to have
an answer.] Is it possible for a woman to love him?
PROSERPINE[looking him straight in the face]
Yes. [He covers his
face with his hands]. Whatever is the matter with you! [He takes
down his hands and looks at her. Frightened at the tragic mask
presented to her, she hurries past him at the utmost possible
distance, keeping her eyes on his face until he turns from her
and goes to the child's chair beside the hearth, where he sits in
the deepest dejection. As she approaches the door, it opens and
Burgess enters. On seeing him, she ejaculates] Praise heaven,
here's somebody! [and sits down, reassured, at her table. She
puts a fresh sheet of paper into the typewriter as Burgess
crosses to Eugene.]
BURGESS[bent on taking care of the distingished visitor]
so this is the way they leave you to yourself, Mr. Morchbanks.
I've come to keep you company. [Marchbanks looks up at him in
consternation, which is quite lost on him.] James is receivin' a
deppitation in the dinin' room; and Candy is hupstairs educatin'
of a young stitcher gurl she's hinterusted in. She's settin'
there learnin' her to read out of the "'Ev'nly Twins."
[Condolingly.] You must find it lonesome here with no one but the
typist to talk to. [He pulls round the easy chair above fire, and
He'll be all right now that he has
the advantage of your polished conversation: that's one comfort,
anyhow. [She begins to typewrite with clattering asperity.]
BURGESS[amazed at her audacity]
Hi was not addressin' myself to
you, young woman, that I'm awerr of.
PROSERPINE[tartly, to Marchbanks]
Did you ever see worse
manners, Mr. Marchbanks?
BURGESS[with pompous severity]
Mr. Morchbanks is a gentleman
and knows his place, which is more than some people do.
It's well you and I are not ladies and
gentlemen: I'd talk to you pretty straight if Mr. Marchbanks
wasn't here. [She pulls the letter out of the machine so crossly
that it tears.] There, now I've spoiled this letter--have to be
done all over again. Oh, I can't contain myself--silly old
BURGESS[rising, breathless with indignation]
Ho! I'm a silly
ole fathead, am I? Ho, indeed [gasping]. Hall right, my gurl!
Hall right. You just wait till I tell that to your employer.
You'll see. I'll teach you: see if I don't.
BURGESS[cutting her short]
No, you've done it now. No huse
a-talkin' to me. I'll let you know who I am. [Proserpine shifts
her paper carriage with a defiant bang, and disdainfully goes on
with her work.] Don't you take no notice of her, Mr. Morchbanks.
She's beneath it. [He sits down again loftily.]
MARCHBANKS[miserably nervous and disconcerted]
Hadn't we better
change the subject. I--I don't think Miss Garnett meant anything.
PROSERPINE[with intense conviction]
Oh, didn't I though, just!
I wouldn't demean myself to take notice on her.
PROSERPINE[gathering up her note-book and papers]
me. [She hurries out.]
BURGESS[calling after her]
Oh, we can spare you. [Somewhat
relieved by the triumph of having the last word, and yet half
inclined to try to improve on it, he looks after her for a
moment; then subsides into his seat by Eugene, and addresses him
very confidentially.] Now we're alone, Mr. Morchbanks, let me
give you a friendly 'int that I wouldn't give to everybody. 'Ow
long 'ave you known my son-in-law James here?
I don't know. I never can remember dates. A few
Mad as a Morch 'are. You take notice on him and you'll
But surely that is only because his
BURGESS[touching him with his forefinger on his knee, and
pressing it as if to hold his attention with it]
That's wot I
used tee think, Mr. Morchbanks. Hi thought long enough that it
was honly 'is hopinions; though, mind you, hopinions becomes
vurry serious things when people takes to hactin on 'em as 'e
does. But that's not wot I go on. [He looks round to make sure
that they are alone, and bends over to Eugene's ear.] Wot do you
think he says to me this mornin' in this very room?
He sez to me--this is as sure as we're settin' here
now--he sez: "I'm a fool," he sez;--"and yore a scounderl"--as
cool as possible. Me a scounderl, mind you! And then shook 'ands
with me on it, as if it was to my credit! Do you mean to tell me
that that man's sane?
MORELL [outside, calling to Proserpine, holding the door open].
Get all their names and addresses, Miss Garnett.
[Morell comes in, with the deputation's documents in his hands.]
BURGESS[aside to Marchbanks]
Yorr he is. Just you keep your
heye on him and see. [Rising momentously.] I'm sorry, James, to
'ave to make a complaint to you. I don't want to do it; but I
feel I oughter, as a matter o' right and duty.
Mr. Morchbanks will bear me out: he was a witness. [Very
solemnly.] Your young woman so far forgot herself as to call me a
silly ole fat 'ead.
MORELL[delighted--with tremendous heartiness]
Oh, now, isn't
that exactly like Prossy? She's so frank: she can't contain
herself! Poor Prossy! Ha! Ha!
BURGESS[trembling with rage]
And do you hexpec me to put up
with it from the like of 'er?
Pooh, nonsense! you can't take any notice of it. Never
mind. [He goes to the cellaret and puts the papers into one of
Oh, I don't mind. I'm above it. But is it right?--that's
what I want to know. Is it right?
That's a question for the Church, not for the laity. Has
it done you any harm, that's the question for you, eh? Of course,
it hasn't. Think no more of it. [He dismisses the subject by
going to his place at the table and setting to work at his
BURGESS[aside to Marchbanks]
What did I tell you? Mad as a
'atter. [He goes to the table and asks, with the sickly civility
of a hungry man] When's dinner, James?
BURGESS[with almost a yell of remonstrance]
pleasant, just to pass the time. [Morell takes an illustrated
paper from the table and offers it. He accepts it humbly.] Thank
yer, James. [He goes back to his easy chair at the fire, and sits
there at his ease, reading.]
MORELL[as he writes]
Candida will come to entertain you
presently. She has got rid of her pupil. She is filling the
MARCHBANKS[starting up in the wildest consternation]
will soil her hands. I can't bear that, Morell: it's a shame.
I'll go and fill them. [He makes for the door.]
You'd better not. [Marchbanks stops irresolutely.] She'd
only set you to clean my boots, to save me the trouble of doing
it myself in the morning.
BURGESS[with grave disapproval]
Don't you keep a servant now,
Yes; but she isn't a slave; and the house looks as if I
kept three. That means that everyone has to lend a hand. It's not
a bad plan: Prossy and I can talk business after breakfast whilst
we're washing up. Washing up's no trouble when there are two
people to do it.
Do you think every woman is as
coarse-grained as Miss Garnett?
That's quite right, Mr. Morchbanks.
That's quite right. She is corse-grained.
Oh, I don't know. [He comes back uneasily to the
sofa, as if to get as far as possible from Morell's questioning,
and sits down in great agony of mind, thinking of the paraffin.]
MORELL [very gravely]. So many that you don't know. [More
aggressively.] Anyhow, when there's anything coarse-grained to be
done, you ring the bell and throw it on to somebody else, eh?
That's one of the great facts in your existence, isn't it?
Oh, don't torture me. The one great fact now is that
your wife's beautiful fingers are dabbling in paraffin oil, and
that you are sitting here comfortably preaching about it--
everlasting preaching, preaching, words, words, words.
BURGESS[intensely appreciating this retort]
Ha, ha! Devil a
better. [Radiantly.] 'Ad you there, James, straight.
[Candida comes in, well aproned, with a reading lamp trimmed,
filled, and ready for lighting. She places it on the table near
Morell, ready for use.]
CANDIDA[brushing her finger tips together with a slight twitch
of her nose]
If you stay with us, Eugene, I think I will hand
over the lamps to you.
I will stay on condition that you hand over all the
rough work to me.
That's very gallant; but I think I should like to see
how you do it first. [Turning to Morell.] James: you've not been
looking after the house properly.
CANDIDA[with serious vexation]
My own particular pet scrubbing
brush has been used for blackleading. [A heart-breaking wail bursts
from Marchbanks. Burgess looks round, amazed. Candida hurries to
the sofa.] What's the matter? Are you ill, Eugene?
No, not ill. Only horror, horror, horror! [He bows
his head on his hands.]
What! Got the 'orrors, Mr. Morchbanks! Oh,
that's bad, at your age. You must leave it off grajally.
Oh, poetic 'orror, is it? I beg your
pordon, I'm shore. [He turns to the fire again, deprecating his
What is it, Eugene--the scrubbing brush? [He
shudders.] Well, there! never mind. [She sits down beside
him.] Wouldn't you like to present me with a nice new one, with
an ivory back inlaid with mother-of-pearl?
MARCHBANKS[softly and musically, but sadly and longingly]
not a scrubbing brush, but a boat--a tiny shallop to sail away
in, far from the world, where the marble floors are washed by the
rain and dried by the sun, where the south wind dusts the
beautiful green and purple carpets. Or a chariot--to carry us up
into the sky, where the lamps are stars, and don't need to be
filled with paraffin oil every day.
And where there is nothing to do but to be
idle, selfish and useless.
Oh, James, how could you spoil it all!
Yes, to be idle, selfish and useless:
that is to be beautiful and free and happy: hasn't every man
desired that with all his soul for the woman he loves? That's my
ideal: what's yours, and that of all the dreadful people who live
in these hideous rows of houses? Sermons and scrubbing brushes!
With you to preach the sermon and your wife to scrub.
He cleans the boots, Eugene. You will have to
clean them to-morrow for saying that about him.
Oh! don't talk about boots. Your feet should be
beautiful on the mountains.
My feet would not be beautiful on the Hackney Road
Come, Candy, don't be vulgar. Mr.
Morchbanks ain't accustomed to it. You're givin' him the 'orrors
again. I mean the poetic ones.
[Morell is silent. Apparently he is busy with his letters: really
he is puzzling with misgiving over his new and alarming
experience that the surer he is of his moral thrusts, the more
swiftly and effectively Eugene parries them. To find himself
beginning to fear a man whom he does not respect affects him
PROSERPINE[handing the telegram to Morell]
Reply paid. The
boy's waiting. [To Candida, coming back to her machine and
sitting down.] Maria is ready for you now in the kitchen, Mrs.
Morell. [Candida rises.] The onions have come.
He talks very pretty. I allus had a
turn for a bit of potery. Candy takes arter me that-a-way: huse
ter make me tell her fairy stories when she was on'y a little
kiddy not that 'igh [indicating a stature of two feet or
Ah, indeed. [He blots the telegram, and
Used you to make the fairy stories up out of your own
[Burgess, not deigning to reply, strikes an attitude of the
haughtiest disdain on the hearth-rug.]
I should never have supposed you had it in
you. By the way, I'd better warn you, since you've taken such a
fancy to Mr. Marchbanks. He's mad.
Mad as a March hare. He did frighten me, I can tell
you just before you came in that time. Haven't you noticed the
queer things he says?
So that's wot the poetic 'orrors means. Blame me if it
didn't come into my head once or twyst that he must be off his
chump! [He crosses the room to the door, lifting up his voice as
he goes.] Well, this is a pretty sort of asylum for a man to be
in, with no one but you to take care of him!
PROSERPINE[as he passes her]
Yes, what a dreadful thing it
would be if anything happened to you!
Don't you address no remarks to me. Tell your
hemployer that I've gone into the garden for a smoke.
Goin' for a turn in the garden to smoke,
Oh, all right, all right. [Burgess goes out
pathetically in the character of the weary old man. Morell stands
at the table, turning over his papers, and adding, across to
Proserpine, half humorously, half absently] Well, Miss Prossy,
why have you been calling my father-in-law names?
PROSERPINE[blushing fiery red, and looking quickly up at him,
half scared, half reproachful]
I-- [She bursts into tears.]
MORELL[with tender gaiety, leaning across the table towards her,
and consoling her]
Oh, come, come, come! Never mind, Pross: he
is a silly old fathead, isn't he?
[With an explosive sob, she makes a dash at the door, and
vanishes, banging it. Morell, shaking his head resignedly, sighs,
and goes wearily to his chair, where he sits down and sets to
work, looking old and careworn.]
[Candida comes in. She has finished her household work and taken
of the apron. She at once notices his dejected appearance, and
posts herself quietly at the spare chair, looking down at him
attentively; but she says nothing.]
MORELL[looking up, but with his pen raised ready to resume his
Well? Where is Eugene?
Washing his hands in the scullery--under the tap. He
will make an excellent cook if he can only get over his dread of
Ha! No doubt. [He begins writing again.]
CANDIDA[going nearer, and putting her hand down softly on his to
stop him, as she says]
Come here, dear. Let me look at you. [He
drops his pen and yields himself at her disposal. She makes him
rise and brings him a little away from the table, looking at him
critically all the time.] Turn your face to the light. [She
places him facing the window.] My boy is not looking well. Has he
He looks very pale, and grey, and wrinkled, and old.
[His melancholy deepens; and she attacks it with wilful gaiety.]
Here [pulling him towards the easy chair] you've done enough
writing for to-day. Leave Prossy to finish it and come and talk
Yes, I must be talked to sometimes. [She makes him sit
down, and seats herself on the carpet beside his knee.] Now
[patting his hand] you're beginning to look better already. Why
don't you give up all this tiresome overworking--going out every
night lecturing and talking? Of course what you say is all very
true and very right; but it does no good: they don't mind what
you say to them one little bit. Of course they agree with you;
but what's the use of people agreeing with you if they go and do
just the opposite of what you tell them the moment your back is
turned? Look at our congregation at St. Dominic's! Why do they
come to hear you talking about Christianity every Sunday? Why,
just because they've been so full of business and money-making
for six days that they want to forget all about it and have a
rest on the seventh, so that they can go back fresh and make
money harder than ever! You positively help them at it instead of
MORELL[with energetic seriousness]
You know very well, Candida,
that I often blow them up soundly for that. But if there is
nothing in their church-going but rest and diversion, why don't
they try something more amusing--more self-indulgent? There must
be some good in the fact that they prefer St. Dominic's to worse
places on Sundays.
Oh, the worst places aren't open; and even if they were,
they daren't be seen going to them. Besides, James, dear, you
preach so splendidly that it's as good as a play for them. Why
do you think the women are so enthusiastic?
Oh, I know. You silly boy: you think it's your
Socialism and your religion; but if it was that, they'd do what
you tell them instead of only coming to look at you. They all
have Prossy's complaint.
Prossy's complaint! What do you mean, Candida?
Yes, Prossy, and all the other secretaries you ever had.
Why does Prossy condescend to wash up the things, and to peel
potatoes and abase herself in all manner of ways for six
shillings a week less than she used to get in a city office?
She's in love with you, James: that's the reason. They're all in
love with you. And you are in love with preaching because you do
it so beautifully. And you think it's all enthusiasm for the
kingdom of Heaven on earth; and so do they. You dear silly!
Candida: what dreadful, what soul-destroying cynicism!
Are you jesting? Or--can it be?--are you jealous?
CANDIDA[with curious thoughtfulness]
Yes, I feel a little
It seems unfair that all the love should go to you, and
none to him, although he needs it so much more than you do. [A
convulsive movement shakes him in spite of himself.] What's the
matter? Am I worrying you?
Not at all. [Looking at her with troubled
intensity.] You know that I have perfect confidence in you,
You vain thing! Are you so sure of your irresistible
Candida: you are shocking me. I never thought of my
attractions. I thought of your goodness--your purity. That is
what I confide in.
What a nasty, uncomfortable thing to say to me! Oh, you
are a clergyman, James--a thorough clergyman.
MORELL[turning away from her, heart-stricken]
So Eugene says.
CANDIDA[with lively interest, leaning over to him with her arms
on his knee]
Eugene's always right. He's a wonderful boy: I have
grown fonder and fonder of him all the time I was away. Do you
know, James, that though he has not the least suspicion of it
himself, he is ready to fall madly in love with me?
Oh, he has no suspicion of it himself, hasn't
Not a bit. [She takes her arms from his knee, and turns
thoughtfully, sinking into a more restful attitude with her hands
in her lap.] Some day he will know when he is grown up and
experienced, like you. And he will know that I must have known.
I wonder what he will think of me then.
No evil, Candida. I hope and trust, no evil.
CANDIDA[looking at him]
Yes: it will depend on what happens to
him. [He look vacantly at her.] Don't you see? It will depend on
how he comes to learn what love really is. I mean on the sort of
woman who will teach it to him.
MORELL[quite at a loss]
Yes. No. I don't know what you mean.
If he learns it from a good woman, then it
will be all right: he will forgive me.
But suppose he learns it from a bad woman, as so many
men do, especially poetic men, who imagine all women are angels!
Suppose he only discovers the value of love when he has thrown it
away and degraded himself in his ignorance. Will he forgive me
then, do you think?
CANDIDA[realizing how stupid he is, and a little disappointed,
though quite tenderly so]
Don't you understand? [He shakes his
head. She turns to him again, so as to explain with the fondest
intimacy.] I mean, will he forgive me for not teaching him
myself? For abandoning him to the bad women for the sake of my
goodness--my purity, as you call it? Ah, James, how little you
understand me, to talk of your confidence in my goodness and
purity! I would give them both to poor Eugene as willingly as I
would give my shawl to a beggar dying of cold, if there were
nothing else to restrain me. Put your trust in my love for you,
James, for if that went, I should care very little for your
sermons--mere phrases that you cheat yourself and others with
every day. [She is about to rise.]
He is always right. He understands you; he
understands me; he understands Prossy; and you, James--you
understand nothing. [She laughs, and kisses him to console him.
He recoils as if stung, and springs up.]
How can you bear to do that when--oh, Candida [with
anguish in his voice] I had rather you had plunged a grappling
iron into my heart than given me that kiss.
My dear: what's the matter?
MORELL[frantically waving her off]
Don't touch me.
MORELL[deadly white, putting an iron constraint on himself]
Nothing but this: that either you were right this morning, or
Candida is mad.
BURGESS[in loudest protest]
Wot! Candy mad too! Oh, come, come,
come! [He crosses the room to the fireplace, protesting as he
goes, and knocks the ashes out of his pipe on the bars. Morell
sits down desperately, leaning forward to hide his face, and
interlacing his fingers rigidly to keep them steady.]
CANDIDA[to Morell, relieved and laughing]
Oh, you're only
shocked! Is that all? How conventional all you unconventional
Come: be'ave yourself, Candy. What'll Mr. Morchbanks
think of you?
This comes of James teaching me to think for myself, and
never to hold back out of fear of what other people may think of
me. It works beautifully as long as I think the same things as he
does. But now, because I have just thought something different!--
look at him--just look!
[She points to Morell, greatly amused. Eugene looks, and
instantly presses his band on his heart, as if some deadly pain
had shot through it, and sits down on the sofa like a man
witnessing a tragedy.]
BURGESS[on the hearth-rug]
Well, James, you certainly ain't as
himpressive lookin' as usu'l.
MORELL[with a laugh which is half a sob]
I suppose not. I beg
all your pardons: I was not conscious of making a fuss. [Pulling
himself together.] Well, well, well, well, well! [He goes back to
his place at the table, setting to work at his papers again with
CANDIDA[going to the sofa and sitting beside Marchbanks, still
in a bantering humor]
Well, Eugene, why are you so sad? Did the
onions make you cry?
[Morell cannot prevent himself from watching them.]
MARCHBANKS[aside to her]
It is your cruelty. I hate cruelty. It
is a horrible thing to see one person make another suffer.
CANDIDA[petting him ironically]
Poor boy, have I been cruel?
Did I make it slice nasty little red onions?
Oh, stop, stop: I don't mean myself. You
have made him suffer frightfully. I feel his pain in my own
heart. I know that it is not your fault--it is something that
must happen; but don't make light of it. I shudder when you
torture him and laugh.
I torture James! Nonsense, Eugene: how
you exaggerate! Silly! [She looks round at Morell, who hastily
resumes his writing. She goes to him and stands behind his chair,
bending over him.] Don't work any more, dear. Come and talk to
MORELL[affectionately but bitterly]
Ah no: I can't talk. I can
He was to have spoken for them tonight.
They've taken the large hall in Mare Street and spent a lot of
money on posters. Morell's telegram was to say he couldn't come.
It came on them like a thunderbolt.
CANDIDA[surprized, and beginning to suspect something wrong]
Because I don't choose. These people
forget that I am a man: they think I am a talking machine to be
turned on for their pleasure every evening of my life. May I not
have one night at home, with my wife, and my friends?
[They are all amazed at this outburst, except Eugene. His
expression remains unchanged.]
Oh, James, you know you'll have an attack of bad
conscience to-morrow; and I shall have to suffer for that.
LEXY[intimidated, but urgent]
I know, of course, that they make
the most unreasonable demands on you. But they have been
telegraphing all over the place for another speaker: and they can
get nobody but the President of the Agnostic League.
Well, an excellent man. What better do they
But he always insists so powerfully on the divorce of
Socialism from Christianity. He will undo all the good we have
been doing. Of course you know best; but--[He hesitates.]
Oh, do go, James. We'll all go.
Look 'ere, Candy! I say! Let's stay at home
by the fire, comfortable. He won't need to be more'n a
You'll be just as comfortable at the meeting. We'll all
sit on the platform and be great people.
Oh, please don't let us go on the platform.
No--everyone will stare at us--I couldn't. I'll sit at the back
of the room.
Don't be afraid. They'll be too busy looking at James to
MORELL[turning his head and looking meaningly at her over his
Prossy's complaint, Candida! Eh?
Oh, don't put it like that, James. It's
only that it ain't Sunday, you know.
I'm sorry. I thought you might like to be introduced to
the chairman. He's on the Works Committee of the County Council
and has some influence in the matter of contracts. [Burgess wakes
up at once. Morell, expecting as much, waits a moment, and says]
Will you come?
Course I'll come, James. Ain' it
always a pleasure to 'ear you.
MORELL[turning from him]
I shall want you to take some notes at
the meeting, Miss Garnett, if you have no other engagement. [She
nods, afraid to speak.] You are coming, Lexy, I suppose.
I insist. You do not want to come; and
he does not want to come. [Candida is about to protest.] Oh,
don't concern yourselves: I shall have plenty of people without
you: your chairs will be wanted by unconverted people who have
never heard me before.
Eugene: wouldn't you like to come?
I should be afraid to let myself go before Eugene: he is
so critical of sermons. [Looking at him.] He knows I am afraid of
him: he told me as much this morning. Well, I shall show him how
much afraid I am by leaving him here in your custody, Candida.
MARCHBANKS[to himself, with vivid feeling]
That's brave. That's
beautiful. [He sits down again listening with parted lips.]
CANDIDA[with anxious misgiving]
But--but--Is anything the
matter, James? [Greatly troubled.] I can't understand--
Ah, I thought it was I who couldn't understand, dear. [He
takes her tenderly in his arms and kisses her on the forehead;
then looks round quietly at Marchbanks.]