The hilly country in the middle of the north edge of Sussex, looking very pleasant on a fine evening at the end of September, is seen through the windows of a room which has been built so as to resemble the after part of an old-fashioned high-pooped ship, with a stern gallery; for the windows are ship built with heavy timbering, and run right across the room as continuously as the stability of the wall allows. A row of lockers under the windows provides an unupholstered windowseat interrupted by twin glass doors, respectively halfway between the stern post and the sides. Another door strains the illusion a little by being apparently in the ship’s port side, and yet leading, not to the open sea, but to the entrance hall of the house. Between this door and the stern gallery are bookshelves. There are electric light switches beside the door leading to the hall and the glass doors in the stern gallery. Against the starboard wall is a carpenter’s bench. The vice has a board in its jaws; and the floor is littered with shavings, overflowing from a waste-paper basket. A couple of planes and a centrebit are on the bench. In the same wall, between the bench and the windows, is a narrow doorway with a half door, above which a glimpse of the room beyond shows that it is a shelved pantry with bottles and kitchen crockery.
On the starboard side, but close to the middle, is a plain oak drawing-table with drawing-board, T-square, straightedges, set squares, mathematical instruments, saucers of water color, a tumbler of discolored water, Indian ink, pencils, and brushes on it. The drawing-board is set so that the draughtsman’s chair has the window on its left hand. On the floor at the end of the table, on its right, is a ship’s fire bucket. On the port side of the room, near the bookshelves, is a sofa with its back to the windows. It is a sturdy mahogany article, oddly upholstered in sailcloth, including the bolster, with a couple of blankets hanging over the back. Between the sofa and the drawing-table is a big wicker chair, with broad arms and a low sloping back, with its back to the light. A small but stout table of teak, with a round top and gate legs, stands against the port wall between the door and the bookcase. It is the only article in the room that suggests (not at all convincingly) a woman’s hand in the furnishing. The uncarpeted floor of narrow boards is caulked and holystoned like a deck.
The garden to which the glass doors lead dips to the south before the landscape rises again to the hills. Emerging from the hollow is the cupola of an observatory. Between the observatory and the house is a flagstaff on a little esplanade, with a hammock on the east side and a long garden seat on the west.
A young lady, gloved and hatted, with a dust coat on, is sitting in the window-seat with her body twisted to enable her to look out at the view. One hand props her chin: the other hangs down with a volume of the Temple Shakespeare in it, and her finger stuck in the page she has been reading.
A clock strikes six.
The young lady turns and looks at her watch. She rises with an air of one who waits, and is almost at the end of her patience. She is a pretty girl, slender, fair, and intelligent looking, nicely but not expensively dressed, evidently not a smart idler.
With a sigh of weary resignation she comes to the draughtsman’s chair; sits down; and begins to read Shakespeare. Presently the book sinks to her lap; her eyes close; and she dozes into a slumber.
An elderly womanservant comes in from the hall with three unopened bottles of rum on a tray. She passes through and disappears in the pantry without noticing the young lady. She places the bottles on the shelf and fills her tray with empty bottles. As she returns with these, the young lady lets her book drop, awakening herself, and startling the womanservant so that she all but lets the tray fall.
The Womanservant. God bless us! [The young lady picks up the book and places it on the table]. Sorry to wake you, miss, I’m sure; but you are a stranger to me. What might you be waiting here for now?
The Young Lady. Waiting for somebody to show some signs of knowing that I have been invited here.
The Womanservant. Oh, you’re invited, are you? And has nobody come? Dear! dear!
The Young Lady. A wild-looking old gentleman came and looked in at the window; and I heard him calling out, “Nurse, there is a young and attractive female waiting in the poop. Go and see what she wants.” Are you the nurse?
The Womanservant. Yes, miss: I’m Nurse Guinness. That was old Captain Shotover, Mrs Hushabye’s father. I heard him roaring; but I thought it was for something else. I suppose it was Mrs Hushabye that invited you, ducky?
The Young Lady. I understood her to do so. But really I think I’d better go.
Nurse Guinness. Oh, don’t think of such a thing, miss. If Mrs Hushabye has forgotten all about it, it will be a pleasant surprise for her to see you, won’t it?
The Young Lady. It has been a very unpleasant surprise to me to find that nobody expects me.
Nurse Guinness. You’ll get used to it, miss: this house is full of surprises for them that don’t know our ways.
Captain Shotover [looking in from the hall suddenly: an ancient but still hardy man with an immense white beard, in a reefer jacket with a whistle hanging from his neck]. Nurse, there is a hold-all and a handbag on the front steps for everybody to fall over. Also a tennis racquet. Who the devil left them there?
The Young Lady. They are mine, I’m afraid.
The Captain [advancing to the drawing-table]. Nurse, who is this misguided and unfortunate young lady?
Nurse Guinness. She says Miss Hessy invited her, sir.
The Captain. And had she no friend, no parents, to warn her against my daughter’s invitations? This is a pretty sort of house, by heavens! A young and attractive lady is invited here. Her luggage is left on the steps for hours; and she herself is deposited in the poop and abandoned, tired and starving. This is our hospitality. These are our manners. No room ready. No hot water. No welcoming hostess. Our visitor is to sleep in the toolshed, and to wash in the duckpond.
Nurse Guinness. Now it’s all right, Captain: I’ll get the lady some tea; and her room shall be ready before she has finished it. [To the young lady]. Take off your hat, ducky; and make yourself at home [she goes to the door leading to the hall].
The Captain [as she passes him]. Ducky! Do you suppose, woman, that because this young lady has been insulted and neglected, you have the right to address her as you address my wretched children, whom you have brought up in ignorance of the commonest decencies of social intercourse?
Nurse Guinness. Never mind him, doty. [Quite unconcerned, she goes out into the hall on her way to the kitchen].
The Captain. Madam, will you favor me with your name? [He sits down in the big wicker chair].
The Young Lady. My name is Ellie Dunn.
The Captain. Dunn! I had a boatswain whose name was Dunn. He was originally a pirate in China. He set up as a ship’s chandler with stores which I have every reason to believe he stole from me. No doubt he became rich. Are you his daughter?
Ellie [indignant]. No, certainly not. I am proud to be able to say that though my father has not been a successful man, nobody has ever had one word to say against him. I think my father is the best man I have ever known.
The Captain. He must be greatly changed. Has he attained the seventh degree of concentration?
Ellie. I don’t understand.
The Captain. But how could he, with a daughter? I, madam, have two daughters. One of them is Hesione Hushabye, who invited you here. I keep this house: she upsets it. I desire to attain the seventh degree of concentration: she invites visitors and leaves me to entertain them. [Nurse Guinness returns with the tea-tray, which she places on the teak table]. I have a second daughter who is, thank God, in a remote part of the Empire with her numskull of a husband. As a child she thought the figure-head of my ship, the Dauntless, the most beautiful thing on earth. He resembled it. He had the same expression: wooden yet enterprising. She married him, and will never set foot in this house again.
Nurse Guinness [carrying the table, with the tea-things on it, to Ellie’s side]. Indeed you never were more mistaken. She is in England this very moment. You have been told three times this week that she is coming home for a year for her health. And very glad you should be to see your own daughter again after all these years.
The Captain. I am not glad. The natural term of the affection of the human animal for its offspring is six years. My daughter Ariadne was born when I was forty-six. I am now eighty-eight. If she comes, I am not at home. If she wants anything, let her take it. If she asks for me, let her be informed that I am extremely old, and have totally forgotten her.
Nurse Guinness. That’s no talk to offer to a young lady. Here, ducky, have some tea; and don’t listen to him [she pours out a cup of tea].
The Captain [rising wrathfully]. Now before high heaven they have given this innocent child Indian tea: the stuff they tan their own leather insides with. [He seizes the cup and the tea-pot and empties both into the leathern bucket].
Ellie [almost in tears]. Oh, please! I am so tired. I should have been glad of anything.
Nurse Guinness. Oh, what a thing to do! The poor lamb is ready to drop.
The Captain. You shall have some of my tea. Do not touch that fly-blown cake: nobody eats it here except the dogs. [He disappears into the pantry].
Nurse Guinness. There’s a man for you! They say he sold himself to the devil in Zanzibar before he was a captain; and the older he grows the more I believe them.
A woman’s voice [in the hall]. Is anyone at home? Hesione! Nurse! Papa! Do come, somebody; and take in my luggage.
Thumping heard, as of an umbrella, on the wainscot.
Nurse Guinness. My gracious! It’s Miss Addy, Lady Utterword, Mrs Hushabye’s sister: the one I told the captain about. [Calling]. Coming, Miss, coming.
She carries the table back to its place by the door and is harrying out when she is intercepted by Lady Utterword, who bursts in much flustered. Lady Utterword, a blonde, is very handsome, very well dressed, and so precipitate in speech and action that the first impression (erroneous) is one of comic silliness.
Lady Utterword. Oh, is that you, Nurse? How are you? You don’t look a day older. Is nobody at home? Where is Hesione? Doesn’t she expect me? Where are the servants? Whose luggage is that on the steps? Where’s papa? Is everybody asleep? [Seeing Ellie]. Oh! I beg your pardon. I suppose you are one of my nieces. [Approaching her with outstretched arms]. Come and kiss your aunt, darling.
Ellie. I’m only a visitor. It is my luggage on the steps.
Nurse Guinness. I’ll go get you some fresh tea, ducky. [She takes up the tray].
Ellie. But the old gentleman said he would make some himself.
Nurse Guinness. Bless you! he’s forgotten what he went for already. His mind wanders from one thing to another.
Lady Utterword. Papa, I suppose?
Nurse Guinness. Yes, Miss.
Lady Utterword [vehemently]. Don’t be silly, Nurse. Don’t call me Miss.
Nurse Guinness [placidly]. No, lovey [she goes out with the tea-tray].
Lady Utterword [sitting down with a flounce on the sofa]. I know what you must feel. Oh, this house, this house! I come back to it after twenty-three years; and it is just the same: the luggage lying on the steps, the servants spoilt and impossible, nobody at home to receive anybody, no regular meals, nobody ever hungry because they are always gnawing bread and butter or munching apples, and, what is worse, the same disorder in ideas, in talk, in feeling. When I was a child I was used to it: I had never known anything better, though I was unhappy, and longed all the time — oh, how I longed! — to be respectable, to be a lady, to live as others did, not to have to think of everything for myself. I married at nineteen to escape from it. My husband is Sir Hastings Utterword, who has been governor of all the crown colonies in succession. I have always been the mistress of Government House. I have been so happy: I had forgotten that people could live like this. I wanted to see my father, my sister, my nephews and nieces (one ought to, you know), and I was looking forward to it. And now the state of the house! the way I’m received! the casual impudence of that woman Guinness, our old nurse! really Hesione might at least have been here: some preparation might have been made for me. You must excuse my going on in this way; but I am really very much hurt and annoyed and disillusioned: and if I had realized it was to be like this, I wouldn’t have come. I have a great mind to go away without another word [she is on the point of weeping].
Ellie [also very miserable]. Nobody has been here to receive me either. I thought I ought to go away too. But how can I, Lady Utterword? My luggage is on the steps; and the station fly has gone.
The captain emerges from the pantry with a tray of Chinese lacquer and a very fine tea-set on it. He rests it provisionally on the end of the table; snatches away the drawing-board, which he stands on the floor against table legs; and puts the tray in the space thus cleared. Ellie pours out a cup greedily.
The Captain. Your tea, young lady. What! another lady! I must fetch another cup [he makes for the pantry].
Lady Utterword [rising from the sofa, suffused with emotion]. Papa! Don’t you know me? I’m your daughter.
The Captain. Nonsense! my daughter’s upstairs asleep. [He vanishes through the half door].
Lady Utterword retires to the window to conceal her tears.
Ellie [going to her with the cup]. Don’t be so distressed. Have this cup of tea. He is very old and very strange: he has been just like that to me. I know how dreadful it must be: my own father is all the world to me. Oh, I’m sure he didn’t mean it.
The captain returns with another cup.
The Captain. Now we are complete. [He places it on the tray].
Lady Utterword [hysterically]. Papa, you can’t have forgotten me. I am Ariadne. I’m little Paddy Patkins. Won’t you kiss me? [She goes to him and throws her arms round his neck].
The Captain [woodenly enduring her embrace]. How can you be Ariadne? You are a middle-aged woman: well preserved, madam, but no longer young.
Lady Utterword. But think of all the years and years I have been away, Papa. I have had to grow old, like other people.
The Captain [disengaging himself]. You should grow out of kissing strange men: they may be striving to attain the seventh degree of concentration.
Lady Utterword. But I’m your daughter. You haven’t seen me for years.
The Captain. So much the worse! When our relatives are at home, we have to think of all their good points or it would be impossible to endure them. But when they are away, we console ourselves for their absence by dwelling on their vices. That is how I have come to think my absent daughter Ariadne a perfect fiend; so do not try to ingratiate yourself here by impersonating her [he walks firmly away to the other side of the room].
Lady Utterword. Ingratiating myself indeed! [With dignity]. Very well, papa. [She sits down at the drawing-table and pours out tea for herself].
The Captain. I am neglecting my social duties. You remember Dunn? Billy Dunn?
Lady Utterword. DO you mean that villainous sailor who robbed you?
The Captain [introducing Ellie]. His daughter. [He sits down on the sofa].
Ellie [protesting]. No —
Nurse Guinness returns with fresh tea.
The Captain. Take that hogwash away. Do you hear?
Nurse. You’ve actually remembered about the tea! [To Ellie]. Oh, miss, he didn’t forget you after all! You HAVE made an impression.
The Captain [gloomily]. Youth! beauty! novelty! They are badly wanted in this house. I am excessively old. Hesione is only moderately young. Her children are not youthful.
Lady Utterword. How can children be expected to be youthful in this house? Almost before we could speak we were filled with notions that might have been all very well for pagan philosophers of fifty, but were certainly quite unfit for respectable people of any age.
Nurse. You were always for respectability, Miss Addy.
Lady Utterword. Nurse, will you please remember that I am Lady Utterword, and not Miss Addy, nor lovey, nor darling, nor doty? Do you hear?
Nurse. Yes, ducky: all right. I’ll tell them all they must call you My Lady. [She takes her tray out with undisturbed placidity].
Lady Utterword. What comfort? what sense is there in having servants with no manners?
Ellie [rising and coming to the table to put down her empty cup]. Lady Utterword, do you think Mrs Hushabye really expects me?
Lady Utterword. Oh, don’t ask me. You can see for yourself that I’ve just arrived; her only sister, after twenty-three years’ absence! and it seems that I am not expected.
The Captain. What does it matter whether the young lady is expected or not? She is welcome. There are beds: there is food. I’ll find a room for her myself [he makes for the door].
Ellie [following him to stop him]. Oh, please —[He goes out]. Lady Utterword, I don’t know what to do. Your father persists in believing that my father is some sailor who robbed him.
Lady Utterword. You had better pretend not to notice it. My father is a very clever man; but he always forgot things; and now that he is old, of course he is worse. And I must warn you that it is sometimes very hard to feel quite sure that he really forgets.
Mrs Hushabye bursts into the room tempestuously and embraces Ellie. She is a couple of years older than Lady Utterword, and even better looking. She has magnificent black hair, eyes like the fishpools of Heshbon, and a nobly modelled neck, short at the back and low between her shoulders in front. Unlike her sister she is uncorseted and dressed anyhow in a rich robe of black pile that shows off her white skin and statuesque contour.
Mrs Hushabye. Ellie, my darling, my pettikins [kissing her], how long have you been here? I’ve been at home all the time: I was putting flowers and things in your room; and when I just sat down for a moment to try how comfortable the armchair was I went off to sleep. Papa woke me and told me you were here. Fancy your finding no one, and being neglected and abandoned. [Kissing her again]. My poor love! [She deposits Ellie on the sofa. Meanwhile Ariadne has left the table and come over to claim her share of attention]. Oh! you’ve brought someone with you. Introduce me.
Lady Utterword. Hesione, is it possible that you don’t know me?
Mrs Hushabye [conventionally]. Of course I remember your face quite well. Where have we met?
Lady Utterword. Didn’t Papa tell you I was here? Oh! this is really too much. [She throws herself sulkily into the big chair].
Mrs Hushabye. Papa!
Lady Utterword. Yes, Papa. Our papa, you unfeeling wretch! [Rising angrily]. I’ll go straight to a hotel.
Mrs Hushabye [seizing her by the shoulders]. My goodness gracious goodness, you don’t mean to say that you’re Addy!
Lady Utterword. I certainly am Addy; and I don’t think I can be so changed that you would not have recognized me if you had any real affection for me. And Papa didn’t think me even worth mentioning!
Mrs Hushabye. What a lark! Sit down [she pushes her back into the chair instead of kissing her, and posts herself behind it]. You DO look a swell. You’re much handsomer than you used to be. You’ve made the acquaintance of Ellie, of course. She is going to marry a perfect hog of a millionaire for the sake of her father, who is as poor as a church mouse; and you must help me to stop her.
Ellie. Oh, please, Hesione!
Mrs Hushabye. My pettikins, the man’s coming here today with your father to begin persecuting you; and everybody will see the state of the case in ten minutes; so what’s the use of making a secret of it?
Ellie. He is not a hog, Hesione. You don’t know how wonderfully good he was to my father, and how deeply grateful I am to him.
Mrs Hushabye [to Lady Utterword]. Her father is a very remarkable man, Addy. His name is Mazzini Dunn. Mazzini was a celebrity of some kind who knew Ellie’s grandparents. They were both poets, like the Brownings; and when her father came into the world Mazzini said, “Another soldier born for freedom!” So they christened him Mazzini; and he has been fighting for freedom in his quiet way ever since. That’s why he is so poor.
Ellie. I am proud of his poverty.
Mrs Hushabye. Of course you are, pettikins. Why not leave him in it, and marry someone you love?
Lady Utterword [rising suddenly and explosively]. Hesione, are you going to kiss me or are you not?
Mrs Hushabye. What do you want to be kissed for?
Lady Utterword. I DON’T want to be kissed; but I do want you to behave properly and decently. We are sisters. We have been separated for twenty-three years. You OUGHT to kiss me.
Mrs Hushabye. To-morrow morning, dear, before you make up. I hate the smell of powder.
Lady Utterword. Oh! you unfeeling —[she is interrupted by the return of the captain].
The Captain [to Ellie]. Your room is ready. [Ellie rises]. The sheets were damp; but I have changed them [he makes for the garden door on the port side].
Lady Utterword. Oh! What about my sheets?
The Captain [halting at the door]. Take my advice: air them: or take them off and sleep in blankets. You shall sleep in Ariadne’s old room.
Lady Utterword. Indeed I shall do nothing of the sort. That little hole! I am entitled to the best spare room.
The Captain [continuing unmoved]. She married a numskull. She told me she would marry anyone to get away from home.
Ladt Utterword. You are pretending not to know me on purpose. I will leave the house.
Mazzini Dunn enters from the hall. He is a little elderly man with bulging credulous eyes and earnest manners. He is dressed in a blue serge jacket suit with an unbuttoned mackintosh over it, and carries a soft black hat of clerical cut.
Ellie. At last! Captain Shotover, here is my father.
The Captain. This! Nonsense! not a bit like him [he goes away through the garden, shutting the door sharply behind him].
Lady Utterword. I will not be ignored and pretended to be somebody else. I will have it out with Papa now, this instant. [To Mazzini]. Excuse me. [She follows the captain out, making a hasty bow to Mazzini, who returns it].
Mrs Hushabye [hospitably shaking hands]. How good of you to come, Mr Dunn! You don’t mind Papa, do you? He is as mad as a hatter, you know, but quite harmless and extremely clever. You will have some delightful talks with him.
Mazzini. I hope so. [To Ellie]. So here you are, Ellie, dear. [He draws her arm affectionately through his]. I must thank you, Mrs Hushabye, for your kindness to my daughter. I’m afraid she would have had no holiday if you had not invited her.
Mrs Hushabye. Not at all. Very nice of her to come and attract young people to the house for us.
Mazzini [smiling]. I’m afraid Ellie is not interested in young men, Mrs Hushabye. Her taste is on the graver, solider side.
Mrs Hushabye [with a sudden rather hard brightness in her manner]. Won’t you take off your overcoat, Mr Dunn? You will find a cupboard for coats and hats and things in the corner of the hall.
Mazzini [hastily releasing Ellie]. Yes — thank you — I had better — [he goes out].
Mrs Hushabye [emphatically]. The old brute!
Mrs Hushabye. Who! Him. He. It [pointing after Mazzini]. “Graver, solider tastes,” indeed!
Ellie [aghast]. You don’t mean that you were speaking like that of my father!
Mrs Hushabye. I was. You know I was.
Ellie [with dignity]. I will leave your house at once. [She turns to the door].
Mrs Hushabye. If you attempt it, I’ll tell your father why.
Ellie [turning again]. Oh! How can you treat a visitor like this, Mrs Hushabye?
Mrs Hushabye. I thought you were going to call me Hesione.
Ellie. Certainly not now?
Mrs Hushabye. Very well: I’ll tell your father.
Ellie [distressed]. Oh!
Mrs Hushabye. If you turn a hair — if you take his part against me and against your own heart for a moment, I’ll give that born soldier of freedom a piece of my mind that will stand him on his selfish old head for a week.
Ellie. Hesione! My father selfish! How little you know —
She is interrupted by Mazzini, who returns, excited and perspiring.
Mazzini. Ellie, Mangan has come: I thought you’d like to know. Excuse me, Mrs Hushabye, the strange old gentleman —
Mrs Hushabye. Papa. Quite so.
Mazzini. Oh, I beg your pardon, of course: I was a little confused by his manner. He is making Mangan help him with something in the garden; and he wants me too —
A powerful whistle is heard.
The Captain’s Voice. Bosun ahoy! [the whistle is repeated].
Mazzini [flustered]. Oh dear! I believe he is whistling for me. [He hurries out].
Mrs Hushabye. Now MY father is a wonderful man if you like.
Ellie. Hesione, listen to me. You don’t understand. My father and Mr Mangan were boys together. Mr Ma —
Mrs Hushabye. I don’t care what they were: we must sit down if you are going to begin as far back as that. [She snatches at Ellie’s waist, and makes her sit down on the sofa beside her]. Now, pettikins, tell me all about Mr Mangan. They call him Boss Mangan, don’t they? He is a Napoleon of industry and disgustingly rich, isn’t he? Why isn’t your father rich?
Ellie. My poor father should never have been in business. His parents were poets; and they gave him the noblest ideas; but they could not afford to give him a profession.
Mrs Hushabye. Fancy your grandparents, with their eyes in fine frenzy rolling! And so your poor father had to go into business. Hasn’t he succeeded in it?
Ellie. He always used to say he could succeed if he only had some capital. He fought his way along, to keep a roof over our heads and bring us up well; but it was always a struggle: always the same difficulty of not having capital enough. I don’t know how to describe it to you.
Mrs Hushabye. Poor Ellie! I know. Pulling the devil by the tail.
Ellie [hurt]. Oh, no. Not like that. It was at least dignified.
Mrs Hushabye. That made it all the harder, didn’t it? I shouldn’t have pulled the devil by the tail with dignity. I should have pulled hard —[between her teeth] hard. Well? Go on.
Ellie. At last it seemed that all our troubles were at an end. Mr Mangan did an extraordinarily noble thing out of pure friendship for my father and respect for his character. He asked him how much capital he wanted, and gave it to him. I don’t mean that he lent it to him, or that he invested it in his business. He just simply made him a present of it. Wasn’t that splendid of him?
Mrs Hushabye. On condition that you married him?
Ellie. Oh, no, no, no! This was when I was a child. He had never even seen me: he never came to our house. It was absolutely disinterested. Pure generosity.
Mrs Hushabye. Oh! I beg the gentleman’s pardon. Well, what became of the money?
Ellie. We all got new clothes and moved into another house. And I went to another school for two years.
Mrs Hushabye. Only two years?
Ellie. That was all: for at the end of two years my father was utterly ruined.
Mrs Hushabye. How?
Ellie. I don’t know. I never could understand. But it was dreadful. When we were poor my father had never been in debt. But when he launched out into business on a large scale, he had to incur liabilities. When the business went into liquidation he owed more money than Mr Mangan had given him.
Mrs Hushabye. Bit off more than he could chew, I suppose.
Ellie. I think you are a little unfeeling about it.
Mrs Hushabye. My pettikins, you mustn’t mind my way of talking. I was quite as sensitive and particular as you once; but I have picked up so much slang from the children that I am really hardly presentable. I suppose your father had no head for business, and made a mess of it.
Ellie. Oh, that just shows how entirely you are mistaken about him. The business turned out a great success. It now pays forty-four per cent after deducting the excess profits tax.
Mrs Hushabye. Then why aren’t you rolling in money?
Ellie. I don’t know. It seems very unfair to me. You see, my father was made bankrupt. It nearly broke his heart, because he had persuaded several of his friends to put money into the business. He was sure it would succeed; and events proved that he was quite right. But they all lost their money. It was dreadful. I don’t know what we should have done but for Mr Mangan.
Mrs Hushabye. What! Did the Boss come to the rescue again, after all his money being thrown away?
Ellie. He did indeed, and never uttered a reproach to my father. He bought what was left of the business — the buildings and the machinery and things — from the official trustee for enough money to enable my father to pay six-and-eight-pence in the pound and get his discharge. Everyone pitied Papa so much, and saw so plainly that he was an honorable man, that they let him off at six-and-eight-pence instead of ten shillings. Then Mr. Mangan started a company to take up the business, and made my father a manager in it to save us from starvation; for I wasn’t earning anything then.
Mrs. Hushabye. Quite a romance. And when did the Boss develop the tender passion?
Ellie. Oh, that was years after, quite lately. He took the chair one night at a sort of people’s concert. I was singing there. As an amateur, you know: half a guinea for expenses and three songs with three encores. He was so pleased with my singing that he asked might he walk home with me. I never saw anyone so taken aback as he was when I took him home and introduced him to my father, his own manager. It was then that my father told me how nobly he had behaved. Of course it was considered a great chance for me, as he is so rich. And — and — we drifted into a sort of understanding — I suppose I should call it an engagement —[she is distressed and cannot go on].
Mrs Hushabye [rising and marching about]. You may have drifted into it; but you will bounce out of it, my pettikins, if I am to have anything to do with it.
Ellie [hopelessly]. No: it’s no use. I am bound in honor and gratitude. I will go through with it.
Mrs Hushabye [behind the sofa, scolding down at her]. You know, of course, that it’s not honorable or grateful to marry a man you don’t love. Do you love this Mangan man?
Ellie. Yes. At least —
Mrs Hushabye. I don’t want to know about “at least”: I want to know the worst. Girls of your age fall in love with all sorts of impossible people, especially old people.
Ellie. I like Mr Mangan very much; and I shall always be —
Mrs Hushabye [impatiently completing the sentence and prancing away intolerantly to starboard]. — grateful to him for his kindness to dear father. I know. Anybody else?
Ellie. What do you mean?
Mrs Hushabye. Anybody else? Are you in love with anybody else?
Ellie. Of course not.
Mrs Hushabye. Humph! [The book on the drawing-table catches her eye. She picks it up, and evidently finds the title very unexpected. She looks at Ellie, and asks, quaintly] Quite sure you’re not in love with an actor?
Ellie. No, no. Why? What put such a thing into your head?
Mrs Hushabye. This is yours, isn’t it? Why else should you be reading Othello?
Ellie. My father taught me to love Shakespeare.
Mrs Hushabye [flinging the book down on the table]. Really! your father does seem to be about the limit.
Ellie [naively]. Do you never read Shakespeare, Hesione? That seems to me so extraordinary. I like Othello.
Mrs Hushabye. Do you, indeed? He was jealous, wasn’t he?
Ellie. Oh, not that. I think all the part about jealousy is horrible. But don’t you think it must have been a wonderful experience for Desdemona, brought up so quietly at home, to meet a man who had been out in the world doing all sorts of brave things and having terrible adventures, and yet finding something in her that made him love to sit and talk with her and tell her about them?
Mrs Hushabye. That’s your idea of romance, is it?
Ellie. Not romance, exactly. It might really happen.
Ellie’s eyes show that she is not arguing, but in a daydream. Mrs Hushabye, watching her inquisitively, goes deliberately back to the sofa and resumes her seat beside her.
Mrs Hushabye. Ellie darling, have you noticed that some of those stories that Othello told Desdemona couldn’t have happened —?
Ellie. Oh, no. Shakespeare thought they could have happened.
Mrs Hushabye. Hm! Desdemona thought they could have happened. But they didn’t.
Ellie. Why do you look so enigmatic about it? You are such a sphinx: I never know what you mean.
Mrs Hushabye. Desdemona would have found him out if she had lived, you know. I wonder was that why he strangled her!
Ellie. Othello was not telling lies.
Mrs Hushabye. How do you know?
Ellie. Shakespeare would have said if he was. Hesione, there are men who have done wonderful things: men like Othello, only, of course, white, and very handsome, and —
Mrs Hushabye. Ah! Now we’re coming to it. Tell me all about him. I knew there must be somebody, or you’d never have been so miserable about Mangan: you’d have thought it quite a lark to marry him.
Ellie [blushing vividly]. Hesione, you are dreadful. But I don’t want to make a secret of it, though of course I don’t tell everybody. Besides, I don’t know him.
Mrs Hushabye. Don’t know him! What does that mean?
Ellie. Well, of course I know him to speak to.
Mrs Hushabye. But you want to know him ever so much more intimately, eh?
Ellie. No, no: I know him quite — almost intimately.
Mrs Hushabye. You don’t know him; and you know him almost intimately. How lucid!
Ellie. I mean that he does not call on us. I— I got into conversation with him by chance at a concert.
Mrs Hushabye. You seem to have rather a gay time at your concerts, Ellie.
Ellie. Not at all: we talk to everyone in the greenroom waiting for our turns. I thought he was one of the artists: he looked so splendid. But he was only one of the committee. I happened to tell him that I was copying a picture at the National Gallery. I make a little money that way. I can’t paint much; but as it’s always the same picture I can do it pretty quickly and get two or three pounds for it. It happened that he came to the National Gallery one day.
Mrs Hushabye. One students’ day. Paid sixpence to stumble about through a crowd of easels, when he might have come in next day for nothing and found the floor clear! Quite by accident?
Ellie [triumphantly]. No. On purpose. He liked talking to me. He knows lots of the most splendid people. Fashionable women who are all in love with him. But he ran away from them to see me at the National Gallery and persuade me to come with him for a drive round Richmond Park in a taxi.
Mrs Hushabye. My pettikins, you have been going it. It’s wonderful what you good girls can do without anyone saying a word.
Ellie. I am not in society, Hesione. If I didn’t make acquaintances in that way I shouldn’t have any at all.
Mrs Hushabye. Well, no harm if you know how to take care of yourself. May I ask his name?
Ellie [slowly and musically]. Marcus Darnley.
Mrs Hushabye [echoing the music]. Marcus Darnley! What a splendid name!
Ellie. Oh, I’m so glad you think so. I think so too; but I was afraid it was only a silly fancy of my own.
Mrs Hushabye. Hm! Is he one of the Aberdeen Darnleys?
Ellie. Nobody knows. Just fancy! He was found in an antique chest —
Mrs Hushabye. A what?
Ellie. An antique chest, one summer morning in a rose garden, after a night of the most terrible thunderstorm.
Mrs Hushabye. What on earth was he doing in the chest? Did he get into it because he was afraid of the lightning?
Ellie. Oh, no, no: he was a baby. The name Marcus Darnley was embroidered on his baby clothes. And five hundred pounds in gold.
Mrs Hushabye [Looking hard at her]. Ellie!
Ellie. The garden of the Viscount —
Mrs Hushabye. — de Rougemont?
Ellie [innocently]. No: de Larochejaquelin. A French family. A vicomte. His life has been one long romance. A tiger —
Mrs Hushabye. Slain by his own hand?
Ellie. Oh, no: nothing vulgar like that. He saved the life of the tiger from a hunting party: one of King Edward’s hunting parties in India. The King was furious: that was why he never had his military services properly recognized. But he doesn’t care. He is a Socialist and despises rank, and has been in three revolutions fighting on the barricades.
Mrs Hushabye. How can you sit there telling me such lies? You, Ellie, of all people! And I thought you were a perfectly simple, straightforward, good girl.
Ellie [rising, dignified but very angry]. Do you mean you don’t believe me?
Mrs Hushabye. Of course I don’t believe you. You’re inventing every word of it. Do you take me for a fool?
Ellie stares at her. Her candor is so obvious that Mrs Hushabye is puzzled.
Ellie. Goodbye, Hesione. I’m very sorry. I see now that it sounds very improbable as I tell it. But I can’t stay if you think that way about me.
Mrs Hushabye [catching her dress]. You shan’t go. I couldn’t be so mistaken: I know too well what liars are like. Somebody has really told you all this.
Ellie [flushing]. Hesione, don’t say that you don’t believe him. I couldn’t bear that.
Mrs Hushabye [soothing her]. Of course I believe him, dearest. But you should have broken it to me by degrees. [Drawing her back to her seat]. Now tell me all about him. Are you in love with him?
Ellie. Oh, no. I’m not so foolish. I don’t fall in love with people. I’m not so silly as you think.
Mrs Hushabye. I see. Only something to think about — to give some interest and pleasure to life.
Ellie. Just so. That’s all, really.
Mrs Hushabye. It makes the hours go fast, doesn’t it? No tedious waiting to go to sleep at nights and wondering whether you will have a bad night. How delightful it makes waking up in the morning! How much better than the happiest dream! All life transfigured! No more wishing one had an interesting book to read, because life is so much happier than any book! No desire but to be alone and not to have to talk to anyone: to be alone and just think about it.
Ellie [embracing her]. Hesione, you are a witch. How do you know? Oh, you are the most sympathetic woman in the world!
Mrs Hushabye [caressing her]. Pettikins, my pettikins, how I envy you! and how I pity you!
Ellie. Pity me! Oh, why?
A very handsome man of fifty, with mousquetaire moustaches, wearing a rather dandified curly brimmed hat, and carrying an elaborate walking-stick, comes into the room from the hall, and stops short at sight of the women on the sofa.
Ellie [seeing him and rising in glad surprise]. Oh! Hesione: this is Mr Marcus Darnley.
Mrs Hushabye [rising]. What a lark! He is my husband.
Ellie. But now —[she stops suddenly: then turns pale and sways].
Mrs Hushabye [catching her and sitting down with her on the sofa]. Steady, my pettikins.
The Man [with a mixture of confusion and effrontery, depositing his hat and stick on the teak table]. My real name, Miss Dunn, is Hector Hushabye. I leave you to judge whether that is a name any sensitive man would care to confess to. I never use it when I can possibly help it. I have been away for nearly a month; and I had no idea you knew my wife, or that you were coming here. I am none the less delighted to find you in our little house.
Ellie [in great distress]. I don’t know what to do. Please, may I speak to papa? Do leave me. I can’t bear it.
Mrs Hushabye. Be off, Hector.
Mrs Hushabye. Quick, quick. Get out.
Hector. If you think it better —[he goes out, taking his hat with him but leaving the stick on the table].
Mrs Hushabye [laying Ellie down at the end of the sofa]. Now, pettikins, he is gone. There’s nobody but me. You can let yourself go. Don’t try to control yourself. Have a good cry.
Ellie [raising her head]. Damn!
Mrs Hushabye. Splendid! Oh, what a relief! I thought you were going to be broken-hearted. Never mind me. Damn him again.
Ellie. I am not damning him. I am damning myself for being such a fool. [Rising]. How could I let myself be taken in so? [She begins prowling to and fro, her bloom gone, looking curiously older and harder].
Mrs Hushabye [cheerfully]. Why not, pettikins? Very few young women can resist Hector. I couldn’t when I was your age. He is really rather splendid, you know.
Ellie [turning on her]. Splendid! Yes, splendid looking, of course. But how can you love a liar?
Mrs Hushabye. I don’t know. But you can, fortunately. Otherwise there wouldn’t be much love in the world.
Ellie. But to lie like that! To be a boaster! a coward!
Mrs Hushabye [rising in alarm]. Pettikins, none of that, if you please. If you hint the slightest doubt of Hector’s courage, he will go straight off and do the most horribly dangerous things to convince himself that he isn’t a coward. He has a dreadful trick of getting out of one third-floor window and coming in at another, just to test his nerve. He has a whole drawerful of Albert Medals for saving people’s lives.
Ellie. He never told me that.
Mrs Hushabye. He never boasts of anything he really did: he can’t bear it; and it makes him shy if anyone else does. All his stories are made-up stories.
Ellie [coming to her]. Do you mean that he is really brave, and really has adventures, and yet tells lies about things that he never did and that never happened?
Mrs Hushabye. Yes, pettikins, I do. People don’t have their virtues and vices in sets: they have them anyhow: all mixed.
Ellie [staring at her thoughtfully]. There’s something odd about this house, Hesione, and even about you. I don’t know why I’m talking to you so calmly. I have a horrible fear that my heart is broken, but that heartbreak is not like what I thought it must be.
Mrs Hushabye [fondling her]. It’s only life educating you, pettikins. How do you feel about Boss Mangan now?
Ellie [disengaging herself with an expression of distaste]. Oh, how can you remind me of him, Hesione?
Mrs Hushabye. Sorry, dear. I think I hear Hector coming back. You don’t mind now, do you, dear?
Ellie. Not in the least. I am quite cured.
Mazzini Dunn and Hector come in from the hall.
Hector [as he opens the door and allows Mazzini to pass in]. One second more, and she would have been a dead woman!
Mazzini. Dear! dear! what an escape! Ellie, my love, Mr Hushabye has just been telling me the most extraordinary —
Ellie. Yes, I’ve heard it [she crosses to the other side of the room].
Hector [following her]. Not this one: I’ll tell it to you after dinner. I think you’ll like it. The truth is I made it up for you, and was looking forward to the pleasure of telling it to you. But in a moment of impatience at being turned out of the room, I threw it away on your father.
Ellie [turning at bay with her back to the carpenter’s bench, scornfully self-possessed]. It was not thrown away. He believes it. I should not have believed it.
Mazzini [benevolently]. Ellie is very naughty, Mr Hushabye. Of course she does not really think that. [He goes to the bookshelves, and inspects the titles of the volumes].
Boss Mangan comes in from the hall, followed by the captain. Mangan, carefully frock-coated as for church or for a diHectors’ meeting, is about fifty-five, with a careworn, mistrustful expression, standing a little on an entirely imaginary dignity, with a dull complexion, straight, lustreless hair, and features so entirely commonplace that it is impossible to describe them.
Captain Shotover [to Mrs Hushabye, introducing the newcomer]. Says his name is Mangan. Not able-bodied.
Mrs Hushabye [graciously]. How do you do, Mr Mangan?
Mangan [shaking hands]. Very pleased.
Captain Shotover. Dunn’s lost his muscle, but recovered his nerve. Men seldom do after three attacks of delirium tremens [he goes into the pantry].
Mrs Hushabye. I congratulate you, Mr Dunn.
Mazzini [dazed]. I am a lifelong teetotaler.
Mrs Hushabye. You will find it far less trouble to let papa have his own way than try to explain.
Mazzini. But three attacks of delirium tremens, really!
Mrs Hushabye [to Mangan]. Do you know my husband, Mr Mangan [she indicates Hector].
Mangan [going to Hector, who meets him with outstretched hand]. Very pleased. [Turning to Ellie]. I hope, Miss Ellie, you have not found the journey down too fatiguing. [They shake hands].
Mrs Hushabye. Hector, show Mr Dunn his room.
Hector. Certainly. Come along, Mr Dunn. [He takes Mazzini out].
Ellie. You haven’t shown me my room yet, Hesione.
Mrs Hushabye. How stupid of me! Come along. Make yourself quite at home, Mr Mangan. Papa will entertain you. [She calls to the captain in the pantry]. Papa, come and explain the house to Mr Mangan.
She goes out with Ellie. The captain comes from the pantry.
Captain Shotover. You’re going to marry Dunn’s daughter. Don’t. You’re too old.
Mangan [staggered]. Well! That’s fairly blunt, Captain.
Captain Shotover. It’s true.
Mangan. She doesn’t think so.
Captain Shotover. She does.
Mangan. Older men than I have —
Captain Shotover [finishing the sentence for him]. — made fools of themselves. That, also, is true.
Mangan [asserting himself]. I don’t see that this is any business of yours.
Captain Shotover. It is everybody’s business. The stars in their courses are shaken when such things happen.
Mangan. I’m going to marry her all the same.
Captain Shotover. How do you know?
Mangan [playing the strong man]. I intend to. I mean to. See? I never made up my mind to do a thing yet that I didn’t bring it off. That’s the sort of man I am; and there will be a better understanding between us when you make up your mind to that, Captain.
Captain Shotover. You frequent picture palaces.
Mangan. Perhaps I do. Who told you?
Captain Shotover. Talk like a man, not like a movie. You mean that you make a hundred thousand a year.
Mangan. I don’t boast. But when I meet a man that makes a hundred thousand a year, I take off my hat to that man, and stretch out my hand to him and call him brother.
Captain Shotover. Then you also make a hundred thousand a year, hey?
Mangan. No. I can’t say that. Fifty thousand, perhaps.
Captain Shotover. His half brother only [he turns away from Mangan with his usual abruptness, and collects the empty tea-cups on the Chinese tray].
Mangan [irritated]. See here, Captain Shotover. I don’t quite understand my position here. I came here on your daughter’s invitation. Am I in her house or in yours?
Captain Shotover. You are beneath the dome of heaven, in the house of God. What is true within these walls is true outside them. Go out on the seas; climb the mountains; wander through the valleys. She is still too young.
Mangan [weakening]. But I’m very little over fifty.
Captain Shotover. You are still less under sixty. Boss Mangan, you will not marry the pirate’s child [he carries the tray away into the pantry].
Mangan [following him to the half door]. What pirate’s child? What are you talking about?
Captain Shotover [in the pantry]. Ellie Dunn. You will not marry her.
Mangan. Who will stop me?
Captain Shotover [emerging]. My daughter [he makes for the door leading to the hall].
Mangan [following him]. Mrs Hushabye! Do you mean to say she brought me down here to break it off?
Captain Shotover [stopping and turning on him]. I know nothing more than I have seen in her eye. She will break it off. Take my advice: marry a West Indian negress: they make excellent wives. I was married to one myself for two years.
Mangan. Well, I am damned!
Captain Shotover. I thought so. I was, too, for many years. The negress redeemed me.
Mangan [feebly]. This is queer. I ought to walk out of this house.
Captain Shotover. Why?
Mangan. Well, many men would be offended by your style of talking.
Captain Shotover. Nonsense! It’s the other sort of talking that makes quarrels. Nobody ever quarrels with me.
A gentleman, whose first-rate tailoring and frictionless manners proclaim the wellbred West Ender, comes in from the hall. He has an engaging air of being young and unmarried, but on close inspection is found to be at least over forty.
The Gentleman. Excuse my intruding in this fashion, but there is no knocker on the door and the bell does not seem to ring.
Captain Shotover. Why should there be a knocker? Why should the bell ring? The door is open.
The Gentleman. Precisely. So I ventured to come in.
Captain Shotover. Quite right. I will see about a room for you [he makes for the door].
The Gentleman [stopping him]. But I’m afraid you don’t know who I am.
Captain Shotover. DO you suppose that at my age I make distinctions between one fellow creature and another? [He goes out. Mangan and the newcomer stare at one another].
Mangan. Strange character, Captain Shotover, sir.
The Gentleman. Very.
Captain Shotover [shouting outside]. Hesione, another person has arrived and wants a room. Man about town, well dressed, fifty.
The Gentleman. Fancy Hesione’s feelings! May I ask are you a member of the family?
The Gentleman. I am. At least a connection.
Mrs Hushabye comes back.
Mrs Hushabye. How do you do? How good of you to come!
The Gentleman. I am very glad indeed to make your acquaintance, Hesione. [Instead of taking her hand he kisses her. At the same moment the captain appears in the doorway]. You will excuse my kissing your daughter, Captain, when I tell you that —
Captain Shotover. Stuff! Everyone kisses my daughter. Kiss her as much as you like [he makes for the pantry].
The Gentleman. Thank you. One moment, Captain. [The captain halts and turns. The gentleman goes to him affably]. Do you happen to remember but probably you don’t, as it occurred many years ago — that your younger daughter married a numskull?
Captain Shotover. Yes. She said she’d marry anybody to get away from this house. I should not have recognized you: your head is no longer like a walnut. Your aspect is softened. You have been boiled in bread and milk for years and years, like other married men. Poor devil! [He disappears into the pantry].
Mrs Hushabye [going past Mangan to the gentleman and scrutinizing him]. I don’t believe you are Hastings Utterword.
The Gentleman. I am not.
Mrs Hushabye. Then what business had you to kiss me?
The Gentleman. I thought I would like to. The fact is, I am Randall Utterword, the unworthy younger brother of Hastings. I was abroad diplomatizing when he was married.
Lady Utterword [dashing in]. Hesione, where is the key of the wardrobe in my room? My diamonds are in my dressing-bag: I must lock it up —[recognizing the stranger with a shock] Randall, how dare you? [She marches at him past Mrs Hushabye, who retreats and joins Mangan near the sofa].
Randall. How dare I what? I am not doing anything.
Lady Utterword. Who told you I was here?
Randall. Hastings. You had just left when I called on you at Claridge’s; so I followed you down here. You are looking extremely well.
Lady Utterword. Don’t presume to tell me so.
Mrs Hushabye. What is wrong with Mr Randall, Addy?
Lady Utterword [recollecting herself]. Oh, nothing. But he has no right to come bothering you and papa without being invited [she goes to the window-seat and sits down, turning away from them ill-humoredly and looking into the garden, where Hector and Ellie are now seen strolling together].
Mrs Hushabye. I think you have not met Mr Mangan, Addy.
Lady Utterword [turning her head and nodding coldly to Mangan]. I beg your pardon. Randall, you have flustered me so: I make a perfect fool of myself.
Mrs Hushabye. Lady Utterword. My sister. My younger sister.
Mangan [bowing]. Pleased to meet you, Lady Utterword.
Lady Utterword [with marked interest]. Who is that gentleman walking in the garden with Miss Dunn?
Mrs Hushabye. I don’t know. She quarrelled mortally with my husband only ten minutes ago; and I didn’t know anyone else had come. It must be a visitor. [She goes to the window to look]. Oh, it is Hector. They’ve made it up.
Lady Utterword. Your husband! That handsome man?
Mrs Hushabye. Well, why shouldn’t my husband be a handsome man?
Randall [joining them at the window]. One’s husband never is, Ariadne [he sits by Lady Utterword, on her right].
Mrs Hushabye. One’s sister’s husband always is, Mr Randall.
Lady Utterword. Don’t be vulgar, Randall. And you, Hesione, are just as bad.
Ellie and Hector come in from the garden by the starboard door. Randall rises. Ellie retires into the corner near the pantry. Hector comes forward; and Lady Utterword rises looking her very best.
Mrs. Hushabye. Hector, this is Addy.
Hector [apparently surprised]. Not this lady.
Lady Utterword [smiling]. Why not?
Hector [looking at her with a piercing glance of deep but respectful admiration, his moustache bristling]. I thought — [pulling himself together]. I beg your pardon, Lady Utterword. I am extremely glad to welcome you at last under our roof [he offers his hand with grave courtesy].
Mrs Hushabye. She wants to be kissed, Hector.
Lady Utterword. Hesione! [But she still smiles].
Mrs Hushabye. Call her Addy; and kiss her like a good brother-in-law; and have done with it. [She leaves them to themselves].
Hector. Behave yourself, Hesione. Lady Utterword is entitled not only to hospitality but to civilization.
Lady Utterword [gratefully]. Thank you, Hector. [They shake hands cordially].
Mazzini Dunn is seen crossing the garden from starboard to port.
Captain Shotover [coming from the pantry and addressing Ellie]. Your father has washed himself.
Ellie [quite self-possessed]. He often does, Captain Shotover.
Captain Shotover. A strange conversion! I saw him through the pantry window.
Mazzini Dunn enters through the port window door, newly washed and brushed, and stops, smiling benevolently, between Mangan and Mrs Hushabye.
Mrs Hushabye [introducing]. Mr Mazzini Dunn, Lady Ut — oh, I forgot: you’ve met. [Indicating Ellie] Miss Dunn.
Mazzini [walking across the room to take Ellie’s hand, and beaming at his own naughty irony]. I have met Miss Dunn also. She is my daughter. [He draws her arm through his caressingly].
Mrs Hushabye. Of course: how stupid! Mr Utterword, my sister’s — er —
Randall [shaking hands agreeably]. Her brother-in-law, Mr Dunn. How do you do?
Mrs Hushabye. This is my husband.
Hector. We have met, dear. Don’t introduce us any more. [He moves away to the big chair, and adds] Won’t you sit down, Lady Utterword? [She does so very graciously].
Mrs Hushabye. Sorry. I hate it: it’s like making people show their tickets.
Mazzini [sententiously]. How little it tells us, after all! The great question is, not who we are, but what we are.
Captain Shotover. Ha! What are you?
Mazzini [taken aback]. What am I?
Captain Shotover. A thief, a pirate, and a murderer.
Mazzini. I assure you you are mistaken.
Captain Shotover. An adventurous life; but what does it end in? Respectability. A ladylike daughter. The language and appearance of a city missionary. Let it be a warning to all of you [he goes out through the garden].
Dunn. I hope nobody here believes that I am a thief, a pirate, or a murderer. Mrs Hushabye, will you excuse me a moment? I must really go and explain. [He follows the captain].
Mrs Hushabye [as he goes]. It’s no use. You’d really better — [but Dunn has vanished]. We had better all go out and look for some tea. We never have regular tea; but you can always get some when you want: the servants keep it stewing all day. The kitchen veranda is the best place to ask. May I show you? [She goes to the starboard door].
Randall [going with her]. Thank you, I don’t think I’ll take any tea this afternoon. But if you will show me the garden —
Mrs Hushabye. There’s nothing to see in the garden except papa’s observatory, and a gravel pit with a cave where he keeps dynamite and things of that sort. However, it’s pleasanter out of doors; so come along.
Randall. Dynamite! Isn’t that rather risky?
Mrs Hushabye. Well, we don’t sit in the gravel pit when there’s a thunderstorm.
Lady Utterword. That’s something new. What is the dynamite for?
Hector. To blow up the human race if it goes too far. He is trying to discover a psychic ray that will explode all the explosive at the well of a Mahatma.
Ellie. The captain’s tea is delicious, Mr Utterword.
Mrs Hushabye [stopping in the doorway]. Do you mean to say that you’ve had some of my father’s tea? that you got round him before you were ten minutes in the house?
Ellie. I did.
Mrs Hushabye. You little devil! [She goes out with Randall].
Mangan. Won’t you come, Miss Ellie?
Ellie. I’m too tired. I’ll take a book up to my room and rest a little. [She goes to the bookshelf].
Mangan. Right. You can’t do better. But I’m disappointed. [He follows Randall and Mrs Hushabye].
Ellie, Hector, and Lady Utterword are left. Hector is close to Lady Utterword. They look at Ellie, waiting for her to go.
Ellie [looking at the title of a book]. Do you like stories of adventure, Lady Utterword?
Lady Utterword [patronizingly]. Of course, dear.
Ellie. Then I’ll leave you to Mr Hushabye. [She goes out through the hall].
Hector. That girl is mad about tales of adventure. The lies I have to tell her!
Lady Utterword [not interested in Ellie]. When you saw me what did you mean by saying that you thought, and then stopping short? What did you think?
Hector [folding his arms and looking down at her magnetically]. May I tell you?
Lady Utterword. Of course.
Hector. It will not sound very civil. I was on the point of saying, “I thought you were a plain woman.”
Lady Utterword. Oh, for shame, Hector! What right had you to notice whether I am plain or not?
Hector. Listen to me, Ariadne. Until today I have seen only photographs of you; and no photograph can give the strange fascination of the daughters of that supernatural old man. There is some damnable quality in them that destroys men’s moral sense, and carries them beyond honor and dishonor. You know that, don’t you?
Lady Utterword. Perhaps I do, Hector. But let me warn you once for all that I am a rigidly conventional woman. You may think because I’m a Shotover that I’m a Bohemian, because we are all so horribly Bohemian. But I’m not. I hate and loathe Bohemianism. No child brought up in a strict Puritan household ever suffered from Puritanism as I suffered from our Bohemianism.
Hector. Our children are like that. They spend their holidays in the houses of their respectable schoolfellows.
Lady Utterword. I shall invite them for Christmas.
Hector. Their absence leaves us both without our natural chaperones.
Lady Utterword. Children are certainly very inconvenient sometimes. But intelligent people can always manage, unless they are Bohemians.
Hector. You are no Bohemian; but you are no Puritan either: your attraction is alive and powerful. What sort of woman do you count yourself?
Lady Utterword. I am a woman of the world, Hector; and I can assure you that if you will only take the trouble always to do the perfectly correct thing, and to say the perfectly correct thing, you can do just what you like. An ill-conducted, careless woman gets simply no chance. An ill-conducted, careless man is never allowed within arm’s length of any woman worth knowing.
Hector. I see. You are neither a Bohemian woman nor a Puritan woman. You are a dangerous woman.
Lady Utterword. On the contrary, I am a safe woman.
Hector. You are a most accursedly attractive woman. Mind, I am not making love to you. I do not like being attracted. But you had better know how I feel if you are going to stay here.
Lady Utterword. You are an exceedingly clever lady-killer, Hector. And terribly handsome. I am quite a good player, myself, at that game. Is it quite understood that we are only playing?
Hector. Quite. I am deliberately playing the fool, out of sheer worthlessness.
Lady Utterword [rising brightly]. Well, you are my brother-in-law, Hesione asked you to kiss me. [He seizes her in his arms and kisses her strenuously]. Oh! that was a little more than play, brother-in-law. [She pushes him suddenly away]. You shall not do that again.
Hector. In effect, you got your claws deeper into me than I intended.
Mrs Hushabye [coming in from the garden]. Don’t let me disturb you; I only want a cap to put on daddiest. The sun is setting; and he’ll catch cold [she makes for the door leading to the hall].
Lady Utterword. Your husband is quite charming, darling. He has actually condescended to kiss me at last. I shall go into the garden: it’s cooler now [she goes out by the port door].
Mrs Hushabye. Take care, dear child. I don’t believe any man can kiss Addy without falling in love with her. [She goes into the hall].
Hector [striking himself on the chest]. Fool! Goat!
Mrs Hushabye comes back with the captain’s cap.
Hector. Your sister is an extremely enterprising old girl. Where’s Miss Dunn!
Mrs Hushabye. Mangan says she has gone up to her room for a nap. Addy won’t let you talk to Ellie: she has marked you for her own.
Hector. She has the diabolical family fascination. I began making love to her automatically. What am I to do? I can’t fall in love; and I can’t hurt a woman’s feelings by telling her so when she falls in love with me. And as women are always falling in love with my moustache I get landed in all sorts of tedious and terrifying flirtations in which I’m not a bit in earnest.
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, neither is Addy. She has never been in love in her life, though she has always been trying to fall in head over ears. She is worse than you, because you had one real go at least, with me.
Hector. That was a confounded madness. I can’t believe that such an amazing experience is common. It has left its mark on me. I believe that is why I have never been able to repeat it.
Mrs Hushabye [laughing and caressing his arm]. We were frightfully in love with one another, Hector. It was such an enchanting dream that I have never been able to grudge it to you or anyone else since. I have invited all sorts of pretty women to the house on the chance of giving you another turn. But it has never come off.
Hector. I don’t know that I want it to come off. It was damned dangerous. You fascinated me; but I loved you; so it was heaven. This sister of yours fascinates me; but I hate her; so it is hell. I shall kill her if she persists.
Mrs. Hushabye. Nothing will kill Addy; she is as strong as a horse. [Releasing him]. Now I am going off to fascinate somebody.
Hector. The Foreign Office toff? Randall?
Mrs Hushabye. Goodness gracious, no! Why should I fascinate him?
Hector. I presume you don’t mean the bloated capitalist, Mangan?
Mrs Hushabye. Hm! I think he had better be fascinated by me than by Ellie. [She is going into the garden when the captain comes in from it with some sticks in his hand]. What have you got there, daddiest?
Captain Shotover. Dynamite.
Mrs Hushabye. You’ve been to the gravel pit. Don’t drop it about the house, there’s a dear. [She goes into the garden, where the evening light is now very red].
Hector. Listen, O sage. How long dare you concentrate on a feeling without risking having it fixed in your consciousness all the rest of your life?
Captain Shotover. Ninety minutes. An hour and a half. [He goes into the pantry].
Hector, left alone, contracts his brows, and falls into a day-dream. He does not move for some time. Then he folds his arms. Then, throwing his hands behind him, and gripping one with the other, he strides tragically once to and fro. Suddenly he snatches his walking stick from the teak table, and draws it; for it is a swordstick. He fights a desperate duel with an imaginary antagonist, and after many vicissitudes runs him through the body up to the hilt. He sheathes his sword and throws it on the sofa, falling into another reverie as he does so. He looks straight into the eyes of an imaginary woman; seizes her by the arms; and says in a deep and thrilling tone, “Do you love me!” The captain comes out of the pantry at this moment; and Hector, caught with his arms stretched out and his fists clenched, has to account for his attitude by going through a series of gymnastic exercises.
Captain Shotover. That sort of strength is no good. You will never be as strong as a gorilla.
Hector. What is the dynamite for?
Captain Shotover. To kill fellows like Mangan.
Hector. No use. They will always be able to buy more dynamite than you.
Captain Shotover. I will make a dynamite that he cannot explode.
Hector. And that you can, eh?
Captain Shotover. Yes: when I have attained the seventh degree of concentration.
Hector. What’s the use of that? You never do attain it.
Captain Shotover. What then is to be done? Are we to be kept forever in the mud by these hogs to whom the universe is nothing but a machine for greasing their bristles and filling their snouts?
Hector. Are Mangan’s bristles worse than Randall’s lovelocks?
Captain Shotover,. We must win powers of life and death over them both. I refuse to die until I have invented the means.
Hector. Who are we that we should judge them?
Captain Shotover. What are they that they should judge us? Yet they do, unhesitatingly. There is enmity between our seed and their seed. They know it and act on it, strangling our souls. They believe in themselves. When we believe in ourselves, we shall kill them.
Hector. It is the same seed. You forget that your pirate has a very nice daughter. Mangan’s son may be a Plato: Randall’s a Shelley. What was my father?
Captain Shotover. The damnedst scoundrel I ever met. [He replaces the drawing-board; sits down at the table; and begins to mix a wash of color].
Hector. Precisely. Well, dare you kill his innocent grandchildren?
Captain Shotover. They are mine also.
Hector. Just so — we are members one of another. [He throws himself carelessly on the sofa]. I tell you I have often thought of this killing of human vermin. Many men have thought of it. Decent men are like Daniel in the lion’s den: their survival is a miracle; and they do not always survive. We live among the Mangans and Randalls and Billie Dunns as they, poor devils, live among the disease germs and the doctors and the lawyers and the parsons and the restaurant chefs and the tradesmen and the servants and all the rest of the parasites and blackmailers. What are our terrors to theirs? Give me the power to kill them; and I’ll spare them in sheer —
Captain Shotover [cutting in sharply]. Fellow feeling?
Hector. No. I should kill myself if I believed that. I must believe that my spark, small as it is, is divine, and that the red light over their door is hell fire. I should spare them in simple magnanimous pity.
Captain Shotover. You can’t spare them until you have the power to kill them. At present they have the power to kill you. There are millions of blacks over the water for them to train and let loose on us. They’re going to do it. They’re doing it already.
Hector. They are too stupid to use their power.
Captain Shotover [throwing down his brush and coming to the end of the sofa]. Do not deceive yourself: they do use it. We kill the better half of ourselves every day to propitiate them. The knowledge that these people are there to render all our aspirations barren prevents us having the aspirations. And when we are tempted to seek their destruction they bring forth demons to delude us, disguised as pretty daughters, and singers and poets and the like, for whose sake we spare them.
Hector [sitting up and leaning towards him]. May not Hesione be such a demon, brought forth by you lest I should slay you?
Captain Shotover. That is possible. She has used you up, and left you nothing but dreams, as some women do.
Hector. Vampire women, demon women.
Captain Shotover. Men think the world well lost for them, and lose it accordingly. Who are the men that do things? The husbands of the shrew and of the drunkard, the men with the thorn in the flesh. [Walking distractedly away towards the pantry]. I must think these things out. [Turning suddenly]. But I go on with the dynamite none the less. I will discover a ray mightier than any X-ray: a mind ray that will explode the ammunition in the belt of my adversary before he can point his gun at me. And I must hurry. I am old: I have no time to waste in talk [he is about to go into the pantry, and Hector is making for the hall, when Hesione comes back].
Mrs Hushabye. Daddiest, you and Hector must come and help me to entertain all these people. What on earth were you shouting about?
Hector [stopping in the act of turning the door handle]. He is madder than usual.
Mrs Hushabye. We all are.
Hector. I must change [he resumes his door opening].
Mrs Hushabye. Stop, stop. Come back, both of you. Come back. [They return, reluctantly]. Money is running short.
Hector. Money! Where are my April dividends?
Mrs Hushabye. Where is the snow that fell last year?
Captain Shotover. Where is all the money you had for that patent lifeboat I invented?
Mrs Hushabye. Five hundred pounds; and I have made it last since Easter!
Captain Shotover. Since Easter! Barely four months! Monstrous extravagance! I could live for seven years on 500 pounds.
Mrs Hushabye. Not keeping open house as we do here, daddiest.
Captain Shotover. Only 500 pounds for that lifeboat! I got twelve thousand for the invention before that.
Mrs Hushabye. Yes, dear; but that was for the ship with the magnetic keel that sucked up submarines. Living at the rate we do, you cannot afford life-saving inventions. Can’t you think of something that will murder half Europe at one bang?
Captain Shotover. No. I am ageing fast. My mind does not dwell on slaughter as it did when I was a boy. Why doesn’t your husband invent something? He does nothing but tell lies to women.
Hector. Well, that is a form of invention, is it not? However, you are right: I ought to support my wife.
Mrs Hushabye. Indeed you shall do nothing of the sort: I should never see you from breakfast to dinner. I want my husband.
Hector [bitterly]. I might as well be your lapdog.
Mrs Hushabye. Do you want to be my breadwinner, like the other poor husbands?
Hector. No, by thunder! What a damned creature a husband is anyhow!
Mrs Hushabye [to the captain]. What about that harpoon cannon?
Captain Shotover. No use. It kills whales, not men.
Mrs Hushabye. Why not? You fire the harpoon out of a cannon. It sticks in the enemy’s general; you wind him in; and there you are.
Hector. You are your father’s daughter, Hesione.
Captain Shotover. There is something in it. Not to wind in generals: they are not dangerous. But one could fire a grapnel and wind in a machine gun or even a tank. I will think it out.
Mrs Hushabye [squeezing the captain’s arm affectionately]. Saved! You are a darling, daddiest. Now we must go back to these dreadful people and entertain them.
Captain Shotover. They have had no dinner. Don’t forget that.
Hector. Neither have I. And it is dark: it must be all hours.
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, Guinness will produce some sort of dinner for them. The servants always take jolly good care that there is food in the house.
Captain Shotover [raising a strange wail in the darkness]. What a house! What a daughter!
Mrs Hushabye [raving]. What a father!
Hector [following suit]. What a husband!
Captain Shotover. Is there no thunder in heaven?
Hector. Is there no beauty, no bravery, on earth?
Mrs Hushabye. What do men want? They have their food, their firesides, their clothes mended, and our love at the end of the day. Why are they not satisfied? Why do they envy us the pain with which we bring them into the world, and make strange dangers and torments for themselves to be even with us?
Captain Shotover [weirdly chanting].
I builded a house for my daughters, and opened the doors
That men might come for their choosing, and their betters
spring from their love;
But one of them married a numskull;
Hector [taking up the rhythm].
The other a liar wed;
Mrs Hushabye [completing the stanza].
And now must she lie beside him, even as she made her bed.
Lady Utterword [calling from the garden]. Hesione! Hesione! Where are you?
Hector. The cat is on the tiles.
Mrs Hushabye. Coming, darling, coming [she goes quickly into the garden].
The captain goes back to his place at the table.
Hector [going out into the hall]. Shall I turn up the lights for you?
Captain Shotover. No. Give me deeper darkness. Money is not made in the light.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00