Bernard Shaw (1856–1950). Man and Superman. 1903.
The garden of a villa in Granada. Whoever wishes to know what it is like must go to Granada to see. One may prosaically specify a group of hills dotted with villas, the Alhambra on the top of one of the hills, and a considerable town in the valley, approached by dusty white roads in which the children, no matter what they are doing or thinking about, automatically whine for halfpence and reach out little clutching brown palms for them; but there is nothing in this description except the Alhambra, the begging, and the color of the roads, that does not fit Surrey as well as Spain. The difference is that the Surrey hills are comparatively small and ugly, and should properly be called the Surrey Protuberances; but these Spanish hills are of mountain stock: the amenity which conceals their size does not compromise their dignity.
This particular garden is on a hill opposite the Alhambra; and the villa is as expensive and pretentious as a villa must be if it is to be let furnished by the week to opulent American and English visitors. If we stand on the lawn at the foot of the garden and look uphill, our horizon is the stone balustrade of a flagged platform on the edge of infinite space at the top of the hill. Between us and this platform is a flower garden with a circular basin and fountain in the centre, surrounded by geometrical flower beds, gravel paths, and clipped yew trees in the genteelest order. The garden is higher than our lawn; so we reach it by a few steps in the middle of its embankment. The platform is higher again than the garden, from which we mount a couple more steps to look over the balustrade at a fine view of the town up the valley and of the hills that stretch away beyond it to where, in the remotest distance, they become mountains. On our left is the villa, accessible by steps from the left hand corner of the garden. Returning from the platform through the garden and down again to the lawn (a movement which leaves the villa behind us on our right) we find evidence of literary interests on the part of the tenants in the fact that there is no tennis net nor set of croquet hoops, but, on our left, a little iron garden table with books on it, mostly yellow-backed, and a chair beside it. A chair on the right has also a couple of open books upon it. There are no newspapers, a circumstance which, with the absence of games, might lead an intelligent spectator to the most far reaching conclusions as to the sort of people who live in the villa. Such speculations are checked, however, on this delightfully fine afternoon, by the appearance at a little gate in a paling on our left, of Henry Straker in his professional costume. He opens the gate for an elderly gentleman, and follows him on to the lawn.
This elderly gentleman defies the Spanish sun in a black frock coat, tall silk hat, trousers in which narrow stripes of dark grey and lilac blend into a highly respectable color, and a black necktie tied into a bow over spotless linen. Probably therefore a man whose social position needs constant and scrupulous affirmation without regard to climate: one who would dress thus for the middle of the Sahara or the top of Mont Blanc. And since he has not the stamp of the class which accepts as its life-mission the advertizing and maintenance of first rate tailoring and millinery, he looks vulgar in his finery, though in a working dress of any kind he would look dignified enough. He is a bullet cheeked man with a red complexion, stubbly hair, smallish eyes, a hard mouth that folds down at the corners, and a dogged chin. The looseness of skin that comes with age has attacked his throat and the laps of his cheeks; but he is still hard as an apple above the mouth; so that the upper half of his face looks younger than the lower. He has the self-confidence of one who has made money, and something of the truculence of one who has made it in a brutalizing struggle, his civility having under it a perceptible menace that he has other methods in reserve if necessary. Withal, a man to be rather pitied when he is not to be feared; for there is something pathetic about him at times, as if the huge commercial machine which has worked him into his frock coat had allowed him very little of his own way and left his affections hungry and baffled. At the first word that falls from him it is clear that he is an Irishman whose native intonation has clung to him through many changes of place and rank. One can only guess that the original material of his speech was perhaps the surly Kerry brogue; but the degradation of speech that occurs in London, Glasgow, Dublin, and big cities generally has been at work on it so long that nobody but an arrant cockney would dream of calling it a brogue now; for its music is almost gone, though its surliness is still perceptible. Straker, being a very obvious cockney, inspires him with implacable contempt, as a stupid Englishman who cannot even speak his own language properly. Straker, on the other hand, regards the old gentleman’s accent as a joke thoughtfully provided by Providence expressly for the amusement of the British race, and treats him normally with the indulgence due to an inferior and unlucky species, but occasionally with indignant alarm when the old gentleman shews signs of intending his Irish nonsense to be taken seriously.
STRAKER. I’ll go tell the young lady. She said youd prefer to stay here [he turns to go up through the garden to the villa].
THE IRISHMAN [who has been looking round him with lively curiosity] The young lady? Thats Miss Violet, eh?
STRAKER [stopping on the steps with sudden suspicion] Well, you know, dont you?
THE IRISHMAN. Do I?
STRAKER [his temper rising] Well, do you or dont you?
THE IRISHMAN. What business is that of yours?
Straker, now highly indignant, comes back from the steps and confronts the visitor.
STRAKER. I’ll tell you what business it is of mine. Miss Robinson—
THE IRISHMAN [interrupting] Oh, her name is Robinson, is it? Thank you.
STRAKER. Why, you dont know even her name?
THE IRISHMAN. Yes I do, now that youve told me.
STRAKER [after a moment of stupefaction at the old man’s readiness in repartee] Look here: what do you mean by gittin into my car and lettin me bring you here if youre not the person I took that note to?
THE IRISHMAN. Who else did you take it to, pray?
STRAKER. I took it to Mr Ector Malone, at Miss Robinson’s request, see? Miss Robinson is not my principal: I took it to oblige her. I know Mr Malone; and he aint you, not by a long chalk. At the hotel they told me that your name is Ector Malone—
MALONE. Hector Malone.
STRAKER [with calm superiority] Hector in your own country: thats what comes o livin in provincial places like Ireland and America. Over here youre Ector: if you avnt noticed it before you soon will.
The growing strain of the conversation is here relieved by Violet, who has sallied from the villa and through the garden to the steps, which she now descends, coming very opportunely between Malone and Straker.
VIOLET [to Straker] Did you take my message?
STRAKER. Yes, miss. I took it to the hotel and sent it up, expecting to see young Mr Malone. Then out walks this gent, and says it’s all right and he’ll come with me. So as the hotel people said he was Mr Ector Malone, I fetched him. And now he goes back on what he said. But if he isnt the gentleman you meant, say the word: it’s easy enough to fetch him back again.
MALONE. I should esteem it a great favor if I might have a short conversation with you, madam. I am Hector’s father, as this bright Britisher would have guessed in the course of another hour or so.
STRAKER [coolly defiant] No, not in another year or so. When weve ad you as long to polish up as weve ad im, perhaps youll begin to look a little bit up to is mark. At present you fall a long way short. Youve got too many aitches, for one thing. [To Violet, amiably] All right, Miss: you want to talk to him: I shant intrude. [He nods affably to Malone and goes out through the little gate in the paling].
VIOLET [very civilly] I am so sorry, Mr Malone, if that man has been rude to you. But what can we do? He is our chauffeur.
MALONE. Your hwat?
VIOLET. The driver of our automobile. He can drive a motor car at seventy miles an hour, and mend it when it breaks down. We are dependent on our motor cars; and our motor cars are dependent on him; so of course we are dependent on him.
MALONE. Ive noticed, madam, that every thousand dollars an Englishman gets seems to add one to the number of people he’s dependent on. However, you neednt apologize for your man: I made him talk on purpose. By doing so I learnt that youre stayin here in Grannida with a party of English, including my son Hector.
VIOLET [conversationally] Yes. We intended to go to Nice; but we had to follow a rather eccentric member of our party who started first and came here. Wont you sit down? [She clears the nearest chair of the two books on it].
MALONE [impressed by this attention] Thank you. [He sits down, examining her curiously as she goes to the iron table to put down the books. When she turns to him again, he says] Miss Robinson, I believe?
VIOLET [sitting down] Yes.
MALONE [taking a letter from his pocket] Your note to Hector runs as follows [Violet is unable to repress a start. He pauses quietly to take out and put on his spectacles, which have gold rims]: “Dearest: they have all gone to the Alhambra for the afternoon. I have shammed headache and have the garden all to myself. Jump into Jack’s motor: Straker will rattle you here in a jiffy. Quick, quick, quick. Your loving Violet.” [He looks at her; but by this time she has recovered herself, and meets his spectacles with perfect composure. He continues slowly] Now I dont know on hwat terms young people associate in English society; but in America that note would be considered to imply a very considerable degree of affectionate intimacy between the parties.
VIOLET. Yes: I know your son very well, Mr Malone. Have you any objection?
MALONE [somewhat taken aback] No, no objection exactly. Provided it is understood that my son is altogether dependent on me, and that I have to be consulted in any important step he may propose to take.
VIOLET. I am sure you would not be unreasonable with him, Mr Malone.
MALONE. I hope not, Miss Robinson; but at your age you might think many things unreasonable that dont seem so to me.
VIOLET [with a little shrug] Oh, well, I suppose theres no use our playing at cross purposes, Mr Malone. Hector wants to marry me.
MALONE. I inferred from your note that he might. Well, Miss Robinson, he is his own master; but if he marries you he shall not have a rap from me. [He takes off his spectacles and pockets them with the note].
VIOLET [with some severity] That is not very complimentary to me, Mr Malone.
MALONE. I say nothing against you, Miss Robinson: I daresay you are an amiable and excellent young lady. But I have other views for Hector.
VIOLET. Hector may not have other views for himself, Mr Malone.
MALONE. Possibly not. Then he does without me: thats all. I daresay you are prepared for that. When a young lady writes to a young man to come to her quick, quick, quick, money seems nothing and love seems everything.
VIOLET [sharply] I beg your pardon, Mr Malone: I do not think anything so foolish. Hector must have money.
MALONE [staggered] Oh, very well, very well. No doubt he can work for it.
VIOLET. What is the use of having money if you have to work for it? [She rises impatiently]. It’s all nonsense, Mr Malone: you must enable your son to keep up his position. It is his right.
MALONE [grimly] I should not advise you to marry him on the strength of that right, Miss Robinson.
Violet, who has almost lost her temper, controls herself with an effort; unclenches her fingers; and resumes her seat with studied tranquillity and reasonableness.
VIOLET. What objection have you to me, pray? My social position is as good as Hector’s, to say the least. He admits it.
MALONE [shrewdly] You tell him so from time to time, eh? Hector’s social position in England, Miss Robinson, is just what I choose to buy for him. I have made him a fair offer. Let him pick out the most historic house, castle, or abbey that England contains. The very day he tells me he wants it for a wife worthy of its traditions, I buy it for him, and give him the means of keeping it up.
VIOLET. What do you mean by a wife worthy of its traditions? Cannot any well bred woman keep such a house for him?
MALONE. No: she must be born to it.
VIOLET. Hector was not born to it, was he?
MALONE. His granmother was a barefooted Irish girl that nursed me by a turf fire. Let him marry another such, and I will not stint her marriage portion. Let him raise himself socially with my money or raise somebody else: so long as there is a social profit somewhere, I’ll regard my expenditure as justified. But there must be a profit for someone. A marriage with you would leave things just where they are.
VIOLET. Many of my relations would object very much to my marrying the grandson of a common woman, Mr Malone. That may be prejudice; but so is your desire to have him marry a title prejudice.
MALONE [rising, and approaching her with a scrutiny in which there is a good deal of reluctant respect] You seem a pretty straightforward downright sort of a young woman.
VIOLET. I do not see why I should be made miserably poor because I cannot make profits for you. Why do you want to make Hector unhappy?
MALONE. He will get over it all right enough. Men thrive better on disappointments in love than on disappointments in money. I daresay you think that sordid; but I know what I’m talking about. Me father died of starvation in Ireland in the black 47. Maybe youve heard of it.
VIOLET. The Famine?
MALONE [with smouldering passion] No, the starvation. When a country is full o food, and exporting it, there can be no famine. Me father was starved dead; and I was starved out to America in me mother’s arms. English rule drove me and mine out of Ireland. Well, you can keep Ireland. Me and me like are coming back to buy England; and we’ll buy the best of it. I want no middle class properties and no middle class women for Hector. Thats straightforward, isnt it, like yourself?
VIOLET [icily pitying his sentimentality] Really, Mr Malone, I am astonished to hear a man of your age and good sense talking in that romantic way. Do you suppose English noblemen will sell their places to you for the asking?
MALONE. I have the refusal of two of the oldest family mansions in England. One historic owner cant afford to keep all the rooms dusted: the other cant afford the death duties. What do you say now?
VIOLET. Of course it is very scandalous; but surely you know that the Government will sooner or later put a stop to all these Socialistic attacks on property.
MALONE [grinning] D’y’think theyll be able to get that done before I buy the house—or rather the abbey? Theyre both abbeys.
VIOLET [putting that aside rather impatiently] Oh, well, let us talk sense, Mr Malone. You must feel that we havnt been talking sense so far.
MALONE. I cant say I do. I mean all I say.
VIOLET. Then you dont know Hector as I do. He is romantic and faddy—he gets it from you, I fancy—and he wants a certain sort of wife to take care of him. Not a faddy sort of person, you know.
MALONE. Somebody like you, perhaps?
VIOLET [quietly] Well, yes. But you cannot very well ask me to undertake this with absolutely no means of keeping up his position.
MALONE [alarmed] Stop a bit, stop a bit. Where are we getting to? I’m not aware that I’m asking you to undertake anything.
VIOLET. Of course, Mr Malone, you can make it very difficult for me to speak to you if you choose to misunderstand me.
MALONE [half bewildered] I dont wish to take any unfair advantage; but we seem to have got off the straight track somehow.
Straker, with the air of a man who has been making haste, opens the little gate, and admits Hector, who, snorting with indignation, comes upon the lawn, and is making for his father when Violet, greatly dismayed, springs up and intercepts him. Straker does not wait; at least he does not remain visibly within earshot.
VIOLET. Oh, how unlucky! Now please, Hector, say nothing. Go away until I have finished speaking to your father.
HECTOR [inexorably] No, Violet: I mean to have this thing out, right away. [He puts her aside; passes her by; and faces his father, whose cheeks darken as his Irish blood begins to simmer]. Dad: youve not played this hand straight.
MALONE. Hwat d’y’mean?
HECTOR. Youve opened a letter addressed to me. Youve impersonated me and stolen a march on this lady. Thats disawnerable.
MALONE [threateningly] Now you take care what youre saying, Hector. Take care, I tell you.
HECTOR. I have taken care. I am taking care. I’m taking care of my honor and my position in English society.
MALONE [hotly] Your position has been got by my money: do you know that?
HECTOR. Well, youve spoiled it all by opening that letter. A letter from an English lady, not addressed to you—a cawnfidential letter! a dullicate letter! a private letter! opened by my father! Thats a sort of thing a man cant struggle against in England. The sooner we go back together the better. [He appeals mutely to the heavens to witness the shame and anguish of two outcasts].
VIOLET [snubbing him with an instinctive dislike for scene making] Dont be unreasonable, Hector. It was quite natural for Mr Malone to open my letter: his name was on the envelope.
MALONE. There! Youve no common sense, Hector. I thank you, Miss Robinson.
HECTOR. I thank you, too. It’s very kind of you. My father knows no better.
MALONE [furiously clenching his fists] Hector—
HECTOR [with undaunted moral force] Oh, it’s no use hectoring me. A private letter’s a private letter, dad: you cant get over that.
MALONE [raising his voice] I wont be talked back to by you, d’y’hear?
VIOLET. Ssh! please, please. Here they all come.
Father and son, checked, glare mutely at one another as Tanner comes in through the little gate with Ramsden, followed by Octavius and Ann.
VIOLET. Back already!
TANNER. The Alhambra is not open this afternoon.
VIOLET. What a sell!
Tanner passes on, and presently finds himself between Hector and a strange elder, both apparently on the verge of personal combat. He looks from one to the other for an explanation. They sulkily avoid his eye, and nurse their wrath in silence.
RAMSDEN. Is it wise for you to be out in the sunshine with such a headache, Violet?
TANNER. Have you recovered too, Malone?
VIOLET. Oh, I forgot. We have not all met before. Mr Malone: wont you introduce your father?
HECTOR [with Roman firmness] No, I will not. He is no father of mine.
MALONE [very angry] You disown your dad before your English friends, do you?
VIOLET. Oh, please dont make a scene.
Ann and Octavius, lingering near the gate, exchange an astonished glance, and discreetly withdraw up the steps to the garden, where they can enjoy the disturbance without intruding. On their way to the steps Ann sends a little grimace of mute sympathy to Violet, who is standing with her back to the little table, looking on in helpless annoyance as her husband soars to higher and higher moral eminences without the least regard to the old man’s millions.
HECTOR. I’m very sorry, Miss Rawbnsn; but I’m contending for a principle. I am a son, and, I hope, a dutiful one; but before everything I’m a Mahn!!! And when dad treats my private letters as his own, and takes it on himself to say that I shant marry you if I am happy and fortunate enough to gain your consent, then I just snap my fingers and go my own way.
TANNER. Marry Violet!
RAMSDEN. Are you in your senses?
TANNER. Do you forget what we told you?
HECTOR [recklessly] I dont care what you told me.
RAMSDEN [scandalized] Tut tut, sir! Monstrous! [he flings away towards the gate, his elbows quivering with indignation].
TANNER. Another madman! These men in love should be locked up. [He gives Hector up as hopeless, and turns away towards the garden; but Malone, taking offence in a new direction, follows him and compels him by the aggressiveness of his tone, to stop].
MALONE. I dont understand this. Is Hector not good enough for this lady, pray?
TANNER. My dear sir, the lady is married already. Hector knows it; and yet he persists in his infatuation. Take him home and lock him up.
MALONE [bitterly] So this is the highborn social tone Ive spoilt be me ignorant, uncultivated behavior! Makin love to a married woman! [He comes angrily between Hector and Violet, and almost bawls into Hector’s left ear] Youve picked up that habit of the British aristocracy, have you?
HECTOR. Thats all right. Dont you trouble yourself about that. I’ll answer for the morality of what I’m doing.
TANNER [coming forward to Hector’s right hand with flashing eyes] Well said, Malone! You also see that mere marriage laws are not morality! I agree with you; but unfortunately Violet does not.
MALONE. I take leave to doubt that, sir. [Turning on Violet] Let me tell you, Mrs Robinson, or whatever your right name is, you had no right to send that letter to my son when you were the wife of another man.
HECTOR [outraged] This is the last straw. Dad: you have insulted my wife.
MALONE. Your wife!
TANNER. You the missing husband! Another moral impostor! [He smites his brow, and collapses into Malone’s chair].
MALONE. Youve married without my consent!
RAMSDEN. You have deliberately humbugged us, sir!
HECTOR. Here: I have had just about enough of being badgered. Violet and I are married: thats the long and the short of it. Now what have you got to say—any of you?
MALONE. I know what Ive got to say. She’s married a beggar.
HECTOR. No: shes married a Worker [his American pronunciation imparts an overwhelming intensity to this simple and unpopular word]. I start to earn my own living this very afternoon.
MALONE [sneering angrily] Yes: youre very plucky now, because you got your remittance from me yesterday or this morning, I reckon. Waitl it’s spent. You wont be so full of cheek then.
HECTOR [producing a letter from his pocketbook] Here it is [thrusting it on his father]. Now you just take your remittance and yourself out of my life. I’m done with remittances; and I’m done with you. I dont sell the privilege of insulting my wife for a thousand dollars.
MALONE [deeply wounded and full of concern] Hector: you dont know what poverty is.
HECTOR [fervidly] Well, I wawnt to know what it is. I wawnt’be a Mahn. Violet: you come along with me, to your own home: I’ll see you through.
OCTAVIUS [jumping down from the garden to the lawn and running to Hector’s left hand] I hope youll shake hands with me before you go, Hector. I admire and respect you more than I can say. [He is affected almost to tears as they shake hands].
VIOLET [also almost in tears, but of vexation] Oh, dont be an idiot, Tavy. Hector’s about as fit to become a workman as you are.
TANNER [rising from his chair on the other side of Hector] Never fear: theres no question of his becoming a navvy, Mrs Malone. [To Hector] Theres really no difficulty about capital to start with. Treat me as a friend: draw on me.
OCTAVIUS [impulsively] Or on me.
MALONE [with fierce jealousy] Who wants your durty money? Who should he draw on but his own father? [Tanner and Octavius recoil, Octavius rather hurt, Tanner consoled by the solution of the money difficulty. Violet looks up hopefully]. Hector: dont be rash, my boy. I’m sorry for what I said: I never meant to insult Violet: I take it all back. She’s just the wife you want: there!
HECTOR [patting him on the shoulder] Well, thats all right, dad. Say no more: we’re friends again. Only, I take no money from anybody.
MALONE [pleading abjectly] Dont be hard on me, Hector. I’d rather you quarrelled and took the money than made friends and starved. You dont know what the world is: I do.
HECTOR. No, no, NO. Thats fixed: thats not going to change. [He passes his father inexorably by, and goes to Violet]. Come, Mrs Malone: youve got to move to the hotel with me, and take your proper place before the world.
VIOLET. But I must go in, dear, and tell Davis to pack. Wont you go on and make them give you a room overlooking the garden for me? I’ll join you in half an hour.
HECTOR. Very well. Youll dine with us, Dad, wont you?
MALONE [eager to conciliate him] Yes, yes.
HECTOR. See you all later. [He waves his hand to Ann, who has now been joined by Tanner, Octavius, and Ramsden in the garden, and goes out through the little gate, leaving his father and Violet together on the lawn].
MALONE. Youll try to bring him to his senses, Violet: I know you will.
VIOLET. I had no idea he could be so headstrong. If he goes on like that, what can I do?
MALONE. Dont be discurridged: domestic pressure may be slow; but it’s sure. Youll wear him down. Promise me you will.
VIOLET. I will do my best. Of course I think it’s the greatest nonsense deliberately making us poor like that.
MALONE. Of course it is.
VIOLET [after a moment’s reflection] You had better give me the remittance. He will want it for his hotel bill. I’ll see whether I can induce him to accept it. Not now, of course, but presently.
MALONE [eagerly] Yes, yes, yes: thats just the thing [he hands her the thousand dollar bill, and adds cunningly] Y’understand that this is only a bachelor allowance.
VIOLET [coolly] Oh, quite. [She takes it]. Thank you. By the way, Mr Malone, those two houses you mentioned—the abbeys.
VIOLET. Dont take one of them until Ive seen it. One never knows what may be wrong with these places.
MALONE. I wont. I’ll do nothing without consulting you, never fear.
VIOLET [politely, but without a ray of gratitude] Thanks: that will be much the best way. [She goes calmly back to the villa, escorted obsequiously by Malone to the upper end of the garden].
TANNER [drawing Ramsden’s attention to Malone’s cringing attitude as he takes leave of Violet] And that poor devil is a billionaire! one of the master spirits of the age! Led in a string like a pug dog by the first girl who takes the trouble to despise him! I wonder will it ever come to that with me. [He comes down to the lawn].
RAMSDEN [following him] The sooner the better for you.
MALONE [slapping his hands as he returns through the garden) That’ll be a grand woman for Hector. I wouldnt exchange her for ten duchesses. [He descends to the lawn and comes between Tanner and Ramsden].
RAMSDEN [very civil to the billionaire] It’s an unexpected pleasure to find you in this corner of the world, Mr Malone. Have you come to buy up the Alhambra?
MALONE. Well, I dont say I mightnt. I think I could do better with it than the Spanish government. But thats not what I came about. To tell you the truth, about a month ago I overheard a deal between two men over a bundle of shares. They differed about the price: they were young and greedy, and didnt know that if the shares were worth what was bid for them they must be worth what was asked, the margin being too small to be of any account, you see. To amuse meself, I cut in and bought the shares. Well, to this day I havnt found out what the business is. The office is in this town; and the name is Mendoza, Limited. Now whether Mendoza’s a mine, or a steamboat line, or a bank, or a patent article—
TANNER. Hes a man. I know him: his principles are thoroughly commercial. Let us take you round the town in our motor, Mr Malone, and call on him on the way.
MALONE. If youll be so kind, yes. And may I ask who—
TANNER. Mr Roebuck Ramsden, a very old friend of your daughter-in-law.
MALONE. Happy to meet you, Mr Ramsden.
RAMSDEN. Thank you. Mr Tanner is also one of our circle.
MALONE. Glad to know you also, Mr Tanner.
TANNER. Thanks. [Malone and Ramsden go out very amicably through the little gate. Tanner calls to Octavius, who is wandering in the garden with Ann] Tavy! [Tavy comes to the steps, Tanner whispers loudly to him] Violet has married a financier of brigands. [Tanner hurries away to overtake Malone and Ramsden. Ann strolls to the steps with an idle impulse to torment Octavius].
ANN. Wont you go with them, Tavy?
OCTAVIUS [tears suddenly flushing his eyes] You cut me to the heart, Ann, by wanting me to go [he comes down on the lawn to hide his face from her. She follows him caressingly].
ANN. Poor Ricky Ticky Tavy! Poor heart!
OCTAVIUS. It belongs to you, Ann. Forgive me: I must speak of it. I love you. You know I love you.
ANN. Whats the good, Tavy? You know that my mother is determined that I shall marry Jack.
OCTAVIUS [amazed] Jack!
ANN. It seems absurd, doesnt it?
OCTAVIUS [with growing resentment] Do you mean to say that Jack has been playing with me all this time? That he has been urging me not to marry you because he intends to marry you himself?
ANN [alarmed] No, no: you mustnt lead him to believe that I said that. I dont for a moment think that Jack knows his own mind. But it’s clear from my father’s will that he wished me to marry Jack. And my mother is set on it.
OCTAVIUS. But you are not bound to sacrifice yourself to the wishes of your parents.
ANN. My father loved me. My mother loves me. Surely their wishes are a better guide than my own selfishness.
OCTAVIUS. Oh, I know how unselfish you are, Ann. But believe me—though I know I am speaking in my own interest—there is another side to this question. Is it fair to Jack to marry him if you do not love him? Is it fair to destroy my happiness as well as your own if you can bring yourself to love me?
ANN [looking at him with a faint impulse of pity] Tavy, my dear, you are a nice creature—a good boy.
OCTAVIUS [humiliated] Is that all?
ANN [mischievously in spite of her pity] Thats a great deal, I assure you. You would always worship the ground I trod on, wouldnt you?
OCTAVIUS. I do. It sounds ridiculous; but it’s no exaggeration. I do; and I always shall.
ANN. Always is a long word, Tavy. You see, I shall have to live up always to your idea of my divinity; and I dont think I could do that if we were married. But if I marry Jack, youll never be disillusioned—at least not until I grow too old.
OCTAVIUS. I too shall grow old, Ann. And when I am eighty, one white hair of the woman I love will make me tremble more than the thickest gold tress from the most beautiful young head.
ANN [quite touched] Oh, thats poetry, Tavy, real poetry. It gives me that strange sudden sense of an echo from a former existence which always seems to me such a striking proof that we have immortal souls.
OCTAVIUS. Do you believe that it is true?
ANN. Tavy: if it is to come true, you must lose me as well as love me.
OCTAVIUS. Oh! [he hastily sits down at the little table and covers his face with his hands].
ANN [with conviction] Tavy: I wouldnt for worlds destroy your illusions. I can neither take you nor let you go. I can see exactly what will suit you. You must be a sentimental old bachelor for my sake.
OCTAVIUS [desperately] Ann: I’ll kill myself.
ANN. Oh no, you wont: that wouldnt be kind. You wont have a bad time. You will be very nice to women; and you will go a good deal to the opera. A broken heart is a very pleasant complaint for a man in London if he has a comfortable income.
OCTAVIUS [considerably cooled, but believing that he is only recovering his self-control] I know you mean to be kind, Ann. Jack has persuaded you that cynicism is a good tonic for me. [He rises with quiet dignity].
ANN [studying him slyly] You see, I’m disillusionizing you already. Thats what I dread.
OCTAVIUS. You do not dread disillusionizing Jack.
ANN [her face lighting up with mischievous ecstasy—whispering] I cant: he has no illusions about me. I shall surprise Jack the other way. Getting over an unfavorable impression is ever so much easier than living up to an ideal. Oh, I shall enrapture Jack sometimes!
OCTAVIUS [resuming the calm phase of despair, and beginning to enjoy his broken heart and delicate attitude without knowing it] I dont doubt that. You will enrapture him always. And he—the fool!—thinks you would make him wretched.
ANN. Yes: thats the difficulty, so far.
OCTAVIUS [heroically] Shall I tell him that you love him?
ANN [quickly] Oh no: he’d run away again.
OCTAVIUS [shocked] Ann: would you marry an unwilling man?
ANN. What a queer creature you are, Tavy! Theres no such thing as a willing man when you really go for him. [She laughs naughtily]. I’m shocking you, I suppose. But you know you are really getting a sort of satisfaction already in being out of danger yourself.
OCTAVIUS [startled] Satisfaction! [Reproachfully] You say that to me!
ANN. Well, if it were really agony, would you ask for more of it?
OCTAVIUS. Have I asked for more of it?
ANN. You have offered to tell Jack that I love him. Thats self-sacrifice, I suppose; but there must be some satisfaction in it. Perhaps it’s because youre a poet. You are like the bird that presses its breast against the sharp thorn to make itself sing.
OCTAVIUS. It’s quite simple. I love you; and I want you to be happy. You dont love me; so I cant make you happy myself; but I can help another man to do it.
ANN. Yes: it seems quite simple. But I doubt if we ever know why we do things. The only really simple thing is to go straight for what you want and grab it. I suppose I dont love you, Tavy; but sometimes I feel as if I should like to make a man of you somehow. You are very foolish about women.
OCTAVIUS [almost coldly] I am content to be what I am in that respect.
ANN. Then you must keep away from them, and only dream about them. I wouldnt marry you for worlds, Tavy.
OCTAVIUS. I have no hope, Ann: I accept my ill luck. But I dont think you quite know how much it hurts.
ANN. You are so softhearted! It’s queer that you should be so different from Violet. Violets as hard as nails.
OCTAVIUS. Oh no. I am sure Violet is thoroughly womanly at heart.
ANN [with some impatience] Why do you say that? Is it unwomanly to be thoughtful and businesslike and sensible? Do you want Violet to be an idiot—or something worse, like me?
OCTAVIUS. Something worse—like you! What do you mean, Ann?
ANN. Oh well, I dont mean that, of course. But I have a great respect for Violet. She gets her own way always.
OCTAVIUS [sighing] So do you.
ANN. Yes; but somehow she gets it without coaxing—without having to make people sentimental about her.
OCTAVIUS [with brotherly callousness] Nobody could get very sentimental about Violet, I think, pretty as she is.
ANN. Oh yes they could, if she made them.
OCTAVIUS. But surely no really nice woman would deliberately practise on men’s instincts in that way.
ANN [throwing up her hands] Oh, Tavy, Tavy, Ricky Ticky Tavy, heaven help the woman who marries you!
OCTAVIUS [his passion reviving at the name] Oh why, why, why do you say that? Dont torment me. I dont understand.
ANN. Suppose she were to tell fibs, and lay snares for men?
OCTAVIUS. Do you think I could marry such a woman—I, who have known and loved you?
ANN. Hm! Well, at all events, she wouldnt let you if she were wise. So thats settled. And now I cant talk any more. Say you forgive me, and that the subject is closed.
OCTAVIUS. I have nothing to forgive; and the subject is closed. And if the wound is open, at least you shall never see it bleed.
ANN. Poetic to the last, Tavy. Goodbye, dear. [She pats his cheek; has an impulse to kiss him and then another impulse of distaste which prevents her; finally runs away through the garden and into the villa].
Octavius again takes refuge at the table, bowing his head on his arms and sobbing softly. Mrs Whitefield, who has been pottering round the Granada shop, and has a net full of little parcels in her hand, comes in through the gate and sees him.
MRS WHITEFIELD [running to him and lifting his head] Whats the matter, Tavy? Are you ill?
OCTAVIUS. No, nothing, nothing.
MRS WHITEFIELD [still holding his head, anxiously] But youre crying. Is it about Violet’s marriage?
OCTAVIUS. No, no. Who told you about Violet?
MRS WHITEFIELD [restoring the head to its owner] I met Roebuck and that awful old Irishman. Are you sure youre not ill? Whats the matter?
OCTAVIUS [affectionately] It’s nothing. Only a man’s broken heart. Doesnt that sound ridiculous?
MRS WHITEFIELD. But what is it all about? Has Ann been doing anything to you?
OCTAVIUS. It’s not Ann’s fault. And dont think for a moment that I blame you.
MRS WHITEFIELD [startled] For what?
OCTAVIUS [pressing her hand consolingly] For nothing. I said I didnt blame you.
MRS WHITEFIELD. But I havnt done anything. Whats the matter?
OCTAVIUS [smiling sadly] Cant you guess? I daresay you are right to prefer Jack to me as a husband for Ann; but I love Ann; and it hurts rather. [He rises and moves away from her towards the middle of the lawn].
MRS WHITEFIELD [following him hastily] Does Ann say that I want her to marry Jack?
OCTAVIUS. Yes: she has told me.
MRS WHITEFIELD [thoughtfully] Then I’m very sorry for you, Tavy. It’s only her way of saying she wants to marry Jack. Little she cares what I say or what I want!
OCTAVIUS. But she would not say it unless she believed it. Surely you dont suspect Ann of—of deceit!
MRS WHITEFIELD. Well, never mind, Tavy. I dont know which is best for a young man: to know too little, like you, or too much, like Jack.
TANNER. Well, Ive disposed of old Malone. Ive introduced him to Mendoza, Limited; and left the two brigands together to talk it out. Hullo, Tavy! anything wrong?
OCTAVIUS. I must go wash my face, I see. [To Mrs Whitefield] Tell him what you wish. [To Tanner] You may take it from me, Jack, that Ann approves of it.
TANNER [puzzled by his manner] Approves of what?
OCTAVIUS. Of what Mrs Whitefield wishes. [He goes his way with sad dignity to the villa].
TANNER [to Mrs Whitefield] This is very mysterious. What is it you wish? It shall be done, whatever it is.
MRS WHITEFIELD [with snivelling gratitude] Thank you, Jack. [She sits down. Tanner brings the other chair from the table and sits close to her with his elbows on his knees, giving her his whole attention]. I dont know why it is that other people’s children are so nice to me, and that my own have so little consideration for me. It’s no wonder I dont seem able to care for Ann and Rhoda as I do for you and Tavy and Violet. It’s a very queer world. It used to be so straightforward and simple; and now nobody seems to think and feel as they ought. Nothing has been right since that speech that Professor Tyndall made at Belfast.
TANNER. Yes: life is more complicated than we used to think. But what am I to do for you?
MRS WHITEFIELD. Thats just what I want to tell you. Of course youll marry Ann whether I like it or not—
TANNER [starting] It seems to me that I shall presently be married to Ann whether I like it myself or not.
MRS WHITEFIELD [peacefully] Oh, very likely you will: you know what she is when she has set her mind on anything. But dont put it on me: thats all I ask. Tavy has just let out that she’s been saying that I am making her marry you; and the poor boy is breaking his heart about it; for he is in love with her himself, though what he sees in her so wonderful, goodness knows: I dont. It’s no use telling Tavy that Ann puts things into people’s heads by telling them that I want them when the thought of them never crossed my mind. It only sets Tavy against me. But you know better than that. So if you marry her, dont put the blame on me.
TANNER [emphatically] I havnt the slightest intention of marrying her.
MRS WHITEFIELD [slyly] She’d suit you better than Tavy. She’d meet her match in you, Jack. I’d like to see her meet her match.
TANNER. No man is a match for a woman, except with a poker and a pair of hobnailed boots. Not always even then. Anyhow, I cant take the poker to her. I should be a mere slave.
MRS WHITEFIELD. No: she’s afraid of you. At all events, you would tell her the truth about herself. She wouldnt be able to slip out of it as she does with me.
TANNER. Everybody would call me a brute if I told Ann the truth about herself in terms of her own moral code. To begin with, Ann says things that are not strictly true.
MRS WHITEFIELD. I’m glad somebody sees she is not an angel.
TANNER. In short—to put it as a husband would put it when exasperated to the point of speaking out—she is a liar. And since she has plunged Tavy head over ears in love with her without any intention of marrying him, she is a coquette, according to the standard definition of a coquette as a woman who rouses passions she has no intention of gratifying. And as she has now reduced you to the point of being willing to sacrifice me at the altar for the mere satisfaction of getting me to call her a liar to her face, I may conclude that she is a bully as well. She cant bully men as she bullies women; so she habitually and unscrupulously uses her personal fascination to make men give her whatever she wants. That makes her almost something for which I know no polite name.
MRS WHITEFIELD [in mild expostulation] Well, you cant expect perfection, Jack.
TANNER. I dont. But what annoys me is that Ann does. I know perfectly well that all this about her being a liar and a bully and a coquette and so forth is a trumped-up moral indictment which might be brought against anybody. We all lie; we all bully as much as we dare; we all bid for admiration without the least intention of earning it; we all get as much rent as we can out of our powers of fascination. If Ann would admit this I shouldnt quarrel with her. But she wont. If she has children she’ll take advantage of their telling lies to amuse herself by whacking them. If another woman makes eyes at me, she’ll refuse to know a coquette. She will do just what she likes herself whilst insisting on everybody else doing what the conventional code prescribes. In short, I can stand everything except her confounded hypocrisy. Thats what beats me.
MRS WHITEFIELD [carried away by the relief of hearing her own opinion so eloquently expressed] Oh, she is a hypocrite. She is: she is. Isnt she?
TANNER. Then why do you want to marry me to her?
MRS WHITEFIELD [querulously] There now! put it on me, of course. I never thought of it until Tavy told me she said I did. But, you know, I’m very fond of Tavy: he’s a sort of son to me; and I dont want him to be trampled on and made wretched.
TANNER. Whereas I dont matter, I suppose.
MRS WHITEFIELD. Oh, you are different, somehow: you are able to take care of yourself. Youd serve her out. And anyhow, she must marry somebody.
TANNER. Aha! there speaks the life instinct. You detest her; but you feel that you must get her married.
MRS WHITEFIELD [rising, shocked] Do you mean that I detest my own daughter! Surely you dont believe me to be so wicked and unnatural as that, merely because I see her faults.
TANNER [cynically] You love her, then?
MRS WHITEFIELD. Why, of course I do. What queer things you say, Jack! We cant help loving our own blood relations.
TANNER. Well, perhaps it saves unpleasantness to say so. But for my part, I suspect that the tables of consanguinity have a natural basis in a natural repugnance [he rises].
MRS WHITEFIELD. You shouldnt say things like that, Jack. I hope you wont tell Ann that I have been speaking to you. I only wanted to set myself right with you and Tavy. I couldnt sit mumchance and have everything put on me.
TANNER [politely] Quite so.
MRS WHITEFIELD [dissatisfied] And now Ive only made matters worse. Tavy’s angry with me because I dont worship Ann. And when it’s been put into my head that Ann ought to marry you, what can I say except that it would serve her right?
TANNER. Thank you.
MRS WHITEFIELD. Now dont be silly and twist what I say into something I dont mean. I ought to have fair play—
Ann comes from the villa, followed presently by Violet, who is dressed for driving.
ANN [coming to her mother’s right hand with threatening suavity] Well, mamma darling, you seem to be having a delightful chat with Jack. We can hear you all over the place.
MRS WHITEFIELD [appalled] Have you overheard—
TANNER. Never fear: Ann is only—well, we were discussing that habit of hers just now. She hasnt heard a word.
MRS WHITEFIELD [stoutly] I dont care whether she has or not: I have a right to say what I please.
VIOLET [arriving on the lawn and coming between Mrs Whitefield and Tanner] Ive come to say goodbye. I’m off for my honeymoon.
MRS WHITEFIELD [crying] Oh, dont say that, Violet. And no wedding, no breakfast, no clothes, nor anything.
VIOLET [petting her] It wont be for long.
MRS WHITEFIELD. Dont let him take you to America. Promise me that you wont.
VIOLET [very decidedly] I should think not, indeed. Dont cry, dear: I’m only going to the hotel.
MRS WHITEFIELD. But going in that dress, with your luggage, makes one realize—[she chokes, and then breaks out again] How I wish you were my daughter, Violet!
VIOLET [soothing her] There, there: so I am. Ann will be jealous.
MRS WHITEFIELD. Ann doesnt care a bit for me.
ANN. Fie, mother! Come, now: you mustnt cry any more: you know Violet doesnt like it [Mrs Whitefield dries her eyes, and subsides].
VIOLET. Goodbye, Jack.
TANNER. Goodbye, Violet.
VIOLET. The sooner you get married too, the better. You will be much less misunderstood.
TANNER [restively] I quite expect to get married in the course of the afternoon. You all seem to have set your minds on it.
VIOLET. You might do worse. [To Mrs Whitefield: putting her arm round her] Let me take you to the hotel with me: the drive will do you good. Come in and get a wrap. [She takes her towards the villa].
MRS WHITEFIELD [as they go up through the garden] I dont know what I shall do when you are gone, with no one but Ann in the house; and she always occupied with the men! It’s not to be expected that your husband will care to be bothered with an old woman like me. Oh, you neednt tell me: politeness is all very well; but I know what people think—[She talks herself and Violet out of sight and hearing].
Ann, musing on Violet’s opportune advice, approaches Tanner; examines him humorously for a moment from toe to top; and finally delivers her opinion.
ANN. Violet is quite right. You ought to get married.
TANNER [explosively] Ann: I will not marry you. Do you hear? I wont, wont, wont, wont, WONT marry you.
ANN [placidly] Well, nobody axd you, sir she said, sir she said, sir she said. So thats settled.
TANNER. Yes, nobody has asked me; but everybody treats the thing as settled. It’s in the air. When we meet, the others go away on absurd pretexts to leave us alone together. Ramsden no longer scowls at me: his eye beams, as if he were already giving you away to me in church. Tavy refers me to your mother and gives me his blessing. Straker openly treats you as his future employer: it was he who first told me of it.
ANN. Was that why you ran away?
TANNER. Yes, only to be stopped by a lovesick brigand and run down like a truant schoolboy.
ANN. Well, if you dont want to be married, you neednt be [she turns away from him and sits down, much at her ease].
TANNER [following her] Does any man want to be hanged? Yet men let themselves be hanged without a struggle for life, though they could at least give the chaplain a black eye. We do the world’s will, not our own. I have a frightful feeling that I shall let myself be married because it is the world’s will that you should have a husband.
ANN. I daresay I shall, someday.
TANNER. But why me—me of all men? Marriage is to me apostasy, profanation of the sanctuary of my soul, violation of my manhood, sale of my birthright, shameful surrender, ignominious capitulation, acceptance of defeat. I shall decay like a thing that has served its purpose and is done with; I shall change from a man with a future to a man with a past; I shall see in the greasy eyes of all the other husbands their relief at the arrival of a new prisoner to share their ignominy. The young men will scorn me as one who has sold out: to the women I, who have always been an enigma and a possibility, shall be merely somebody else’s property—and damaged goods at that: a secondhand man at best.
ANN. Well, your wife can put on a cap and make herself ugly to keep you in countenance, like my grandmother.
TANNER. So that she may make her triumph more insolent by publicly throwing away the bait the moment the trap snaps on the victim!
ANN. After all, though, what difference would it make? Beauty is all very well at first sight; but who ever looks at it when it has been in the house three days? I thought our pictures very lovely when Papa bought them; but I havnt looked at them for years. You never bother about my looks: you are too well used to me. I might be the umbrella stand.
TANNER. You lie, you vampire: you lie.
ANN. Flatterer. Why are you trying to fascinate me, Jack, if you dont want to marry me?
TANNER. The Life Force. I am in the grip of the Life Force.
ANN. I dont understand in the least: it sounds like the Life Guards.
TANNER. Why dont you marry Tavy? He is willing. Can you not be satisfied unless your prey struggles?
ANN [turning to him as if to let him into a secret] Tavy will never marry. Havnt you noticed that that sort of man never marries?
TANNER. What! a man who idolizes women! who sees nothing in nature but romantic scenery for love duets! Tavy, the chivalrous, the faithful, the tenderhearted and true! Tavy, never marry! Why, he was born to be swept up by the first pair of blue eyes he meets in the street.
ANN. Yes, I know. All the same, Jack, men like that always live in comfortable bachelor lodgings with broken hearts, and are adored by their landladies, and never get married. Men like you always get married.
TANNER [smiting his brow] How frightfully, horribly true! It has been staring me in the face all my life; and I never saw it before.
ANN. Oh, it’s the same with women. The poetic temperament’s a very nice temperament, very amiable, very harmless and poetic, I daresay; but it’s an old maid’s temperament.
TANNER. Barren. The Life Force passes it by.
ANN. If thats what you mean by the Life Force, yes.
TANNER. You dont care for Tavy?
ANN [looking round carefully to make sure that Tavy is not within earshot] No.
TANNER. And you do care for me?
ANN [rising quietly and shaking her finger at him] Now, Jack! Behave yourself.
TANNER. Infamous, abandoned woman! Devil!
ANN. Boa-constrictor! Elephant!
ANN [softly] I must be, for my future husband’s sake.
TANNER. For mine! [Correcting himself savagely] I mean for his.
ANN [ignoring the correction] Yes, for yours. You had better marry what you call a hypocrite, Jack. Women who are not hypocrites go about in rational dress and are insulted and get into all sorts of hot water. And then their husbands get dragged in too, and live in continual dread of fresh complications. Wouldnt you prefer a wife you could depend on?
TANNER. No: a thousand times no: hot water is the revolutionist’s element. You clean men as you clean milk-pails, by scalding them.
ANN. Cold water has its uses too. It’s healthy.
TANNER [despairingly] Oh, you are witty: at the supreme moment the Life Force endows you with every quality. Well, I too can be a hypocrite. Your father’s will appointed me your guardian, not your suitor. I shall be faithful to my trust.
ANN [in low siren tones] He asked me who I would have as my guardian before he made that will. I chose you!
TANNER. The will is yours then! The trap was laid from the beginning.
ANN [concentrating all her magic] From the beginning—from our childhood—for both of us—by the Life Force.
TANNER. I will not marry you. I will not marry you.
ANN. Oh, you will, you will.
TANNER. I tell you, no, no, no.
ANN. I tell you, yes, yes, yes.
ANN [coaxing—imploring—almost exhausted] Yes. Before it is too late for repentance. Yes.
TANNER [struck by the echo from the past] When did all this happen to me before? Are we two dreaming?
ANN [suddenly losing her courage, with an anguish that she does not conceal] No. We are awake; and you have said no: that is all.
TANNER [brutally] Well?
ANN. Well, I made a mistake: you do not love me.
TANNER [seizing her in his arms] It is false: I love you. The Life Force enchants me: I have the whole world in my arms when I clasp you. But I am fighting for my freedom, for my honor, for my self, one and indivisible.
ANN. Your happiness will be worth them all.
TANNER. You would sell freedom and honor and self for happiness?
ANN. It will not be all happiness for me. Perhaps death.
TANNER [groaning] Oh, that clutch holds and hurts. What have you grasped in me? Is there a father’s heart as well as a mother’s?
ANN. Take care, Jack: if anyone comes while we are like this, you will have to marry me.
TANNER. If we two stood now on the edge of a precipice, I would hold you tight and jump.
ANN [panting, failing more and more under the strain] Jack: let me go. I have dared so frightfully—it is lasting longer than I thought. Let me go: I cant bear it.
TANNER. Nor I. Let it kill us.
ANN. Yes: I dont care. I am at the end of my forces. I dont care. I think I am going to faint.
At this moment Violet and Octavius come from the villa with Mrs Whitefield, who is wrapped up for driving. Simultaneously Malone and Ramsden, followed by Mendoza and Straker, come in through the little gate in the paling. Tanner shamefacedly releases Ann, who raises her hand giddily to her forehead.
MALONE. Take care. Something’s the matter with the lady.
RAMSDEN. What does this mean?
VIOLET [running between Ann and Tanner] Are you ill?
ANN [reeling, with a supreme effort] I have promised to marry Jack. [She swoons. Violet kneels by her and chafes her hand. Tanner runs round to her other hand, and tries to lift her head. Octavius goes to Violet’s assistance, but does not know what to do. Mrs Whitefield hurries back into the villa. Octavius, Malone, and Ramsden run to Ann and crowd round her, stooping to assist. Straker coolly comes to Ann’s feet, and Mendoza to her head, both upright and self-possessed].
STRAKER. Now then, ladies and gentlemen: she dont want a crowd round her: she wants air—all the air she can git. If you please, gents—[Malone and Ramsden allow him to drive them gently past Ann and up the lawn towards the garden, where Octavius, who has already become conscious of his uselessness, joins them. Straker, following them up, pauses for a moment to instruct Tanner]. Dont lift er ed, Mr Tanner: let it go flat so’s the blood can run back into it.
MENDOZA. He is right, Mr. Tanner. Trust to the air of the Sierra. [He withdraws delicately to the garden steps].
TANNER [rising] I yield to your superior knowledge of physiology, Henry. [He withdraws to the corner of the lawn; and Octavius immediately hurries down to him].
TAVY [aside to Tanner, grasping his hand] Jack: be very happy.
TANNER [aside to Tavy] I never asked her. It is a trap for me. [He goes up the lawn towards the garden. Octavius remains petrified].
MENDOZA [intercepting Mrs Whitefield, who comes from the villa with a glass of brandy] What is this, Madam [he takes it from her]?
MRS WHITEFIELD. A little brandy.
MENDOZA. The worst thing you could give her. Allow me. [He swallows it]. Trust to the air of the Sierra, madam.
For a moment the men all forget Ann and stare at Mendoza.
ANN [in Violet’s ear, clutching her round the neck] Violet: did Jack say anything when I fainted?
ANN. Ah! [with a sigh of intense relief she relapses].
MRS WHITEFIELD. Oh, she’s fainted again.
They are about to rush back to her; but Mendoza stops them with a warning gesture.
ANN [supine] No, I havnt. I’m quite happy.
TANNER [suddenly walking determinedly to her, and snatching her hand from Violet to feel her pulse] Why, her pulse is positively bounding. Come! get up. What nonsense! Up with you. [He hauls her up summarily].
ANN. Yes: I feel strong enough now. But you very nearly killed me, Jack, for all that.
MALONE. A rough wooer, eh? Theyre the best sort, Miss Whitefield. I congratulate Mr Tanner; and I hope to meet you and him as frequent guests at the Abbey.
ANN. Thank you. [She goes past Malone to Octavius] Ricky Ticky Tavy: congratulate me. [Aside to him] I want to make you cry for the last time.
TAVY [steadfastly] No more tears. I am happy in your happiness. And I believe in you in spite of everything.
RAMSDEN [coming between Malone and Tanner] You are a happy man, Jack Tanner. I envy you.
MENDOZA [advancing between Violet and Tanner] Sir: there are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it. Mine and yours, sir.
TANNER. Mr Mendoza: I have no heart’s desires. Ramsden: it is very easy for you to call me a happy man: you are only a spectator. I am one of the principals; and I know better. Ann: stop tempting Tavy, and come back to me.
ANN [complying] You are absurd, Jack. [She takes his proffered arm].
TANNER [continuing] I solemnly say that I am not a happy man. Ann looks happy; but she is only triumphant, successful, victorious. That is not happiness, but the price for which the strong sell their happiness. What we have both done this afternoon is to renounce happiness, renounce freedom, renounce tranquillity, above all, renounce the romantic possibilities of an unknown future, for the cares of a household and a family. I beg that no man may seize the occasion to get half drunk and utter imbecile speeches and coarse pleasantries at my expense. We propose to furnish our own house according to our own taste; and I hereby give notice that the seven or eight travelling clocks, the four or five dressing cases, the carvers and fish slices, the copies of Patmore’s Angel In The House in extra morocco, and the other articles you are preparing to heap upon us, will be instantly sold, and the proceeds devoted to circulating free copies of the Revolutionist’s Handbook. The wedding will take place three days after our return to England, by special licence, at the office of the district superintendent registrar, in the presence of my solicitor and his clerk, who, like his clients, will be in ordinary walking dress—
VIOLET [with intense conviction] You are a brute, Jack.
ANN [looking at him with fond pride and caressing his arm] Never mind her, dear. Go on talking.