The same room, with the lights turned up and the curtains drawn. Ellie comes in, followed by Mangan. Both are dressed for dinner. She strolls to the drawing-table. He comes between the table and the wicker chair.
Mangan. What a dinner! I don’t call it a dinner: I call it a meal.
Ellie. I am accustomed to meals, Mr Mangan, and very lucky to get them. Besides, the captain cooked some maccaroni for me.
Mangan [shuddering liverishly]. Too rich: I can’t eat such things. I suppose it’s because I have to work so much with my brain. That’s the worst of being a man of business: you are always thinking, thinking, thinking. By the way, now that we are alone, may I take the opportunity to come to a little understanding with you?
Ellie [settling into the draughtsman’s seat]. Certainly. I should like to.
Mangan [taken aback]. Should you? That surprises me; for I thought I noticed this afternoon that you avoided me all you could. Not for the first time either.
Ellie. I was very tired and upset. I wasn’t used to the ways of this extraordinary house. Please forgive me.
Mangan. Oh, that’s all right: I don’t mind. But Captain Shotover has been talking to me about you. You and me, you know.
Ellie [interested]. The captain! What did he say?
Mangan. Well, he noticed the difference between our ages.
Ellie. He notices everything.
Mangan. You don’t mind, then?
Ellie. Of course I know quite well that our engagement —
Mangan. Oh! you call it an engagement.
Ellie. Well, isn’t it?
Mangan. Oh, yes, yes: no doubt it is if you hold to it. This is the first time you’ve used the word; and I didn’t quite know where we stood: that’s all. [He sits down in the wicker chair; and resigns himself to allow her to lead the conversation]. You were saying —?
Ellie. Was I? I forget. Tell me. Do you like this part of the country? I heard you ask Mr Hushabye at dinner whether there are any nice houses to let down here.
Mangan. I like the place. The air suits me. I shouldn’t be surprised if I settled down here.
Ellie. Nothing would please me better. The air suits me too. And I want to be near Hesione.
Mangan [with growing uneasiness]. The air may suit us; but the question is, should we suit one another? Have you thought about that?
Ellie. Mr Mangan, we must be sensible, mustn’t we? It’s no use pretending that we are Romeo and Juliet. But we can get on very well together if we choose to make the best of it. Your kindness of heart will make it easy for me.
Mangan [leaning forward, with the beginning of something like deliberate unpleasantness in his voice]. Kindness of heart, eh? I ruined your father, didn’t I?
Ellie. Oh, not intentionally.
Mangan. Yes I did. Ruined him on purpose.
Ellie. On purpose!
Mangan. Not out of ill-nature, you know. And you’ll admit that I kept a job for him when I had finished with him. But business is business; and I ruined him as a matter of business.
Ellie. I don’t understand how that can be. Are you trying to make me feel that I need not be grateful to you, so that I may choose freely?
Mangan [rising aggressively]. No. I mean what I say.
Ellie. But how could it possibly do you any good to ruin my father? The money he lost was yours.
Mangan [with a sour laugh]. Was mine! It is mine, Miss Ellie, and all the money the other fellows lost too. [He shoves his hands into his pockets and shows his teeth]. I just smoked them out like a hive of bees. What do you say to that? A bit of shock, eh?
Ellie. It would have been, this morning. Now! you can’t think how little it matters. But it’s quite interesting. Only, you must explain it to me. I don’t understand it. [Propping her elbows on the drawingboard and her chin on her hands, she composes herself to listen with a combination of conscious curiosity with unconscious contempt which provokes him to more and more unpleasantness, and an attempt at patronage of her ignorance].
Mangan. Of course you don’t understand: what do you know about business? You just listen and learn. Your father’s business was a new business; and I don’t start new businesses: I let other fellows start them. They put all their money and their friends’ money into starting them. They wear out their souls and bodies trying to make a success of them. They’re what you call enthusiasts. But the first dead lift of the thing is too much for them; and they haven’t enough financial experience. In a year or so they have either to let the whole show go bust, or sell out to a new lot of fellows for a few deferred ordinary shares: that is, if they’re lucky enough to get anything at all. As likely as not the very same thing happens to the new lot. They put in more money and a couple of years’ more work; and then perhaps they have to sell out to a third lot. If it’s really a big thing the third lot will have to sell out too, and leave their work and their money behind them. And that’s where the real business man comes in: where I come in. But I’m cleverer than some: I don’t mind dropping a little money to start the process. I took your father’s measure. I saw that he had a sound idea, and that he would work himself silly for it if he got the chance. I saw that he was a child in business, and was dead certain to outrun his expenses and be in too great a hurry to wait for his market. I knew that the surest way to ruin a man who doesn’t know how to handle money is to give him some. I explained my idea to some friends in the city, and they found the money; for I take no risks in ideas, even when they’re my own. Your father and the friends that ventured their money with him were no more to me than a heap of squeezed lemons. You’ve been wasting your gratitude: my kind heart is all rot. I’m sick of it. When I see your father beaming at me with his moist, grateful eyes, regularly wallowing in gratitude, I sometimes feel I must tell him the truth or burst. What stops me is that I know he wouldn’t believe me. He’d think it was my modesty, as you did just now. He’d think anything rather than the truth, which is that he’s a blamed fool, and I am a man that knows how to take care of himself. [He throws himself back into the big chair with large self approval]. Now what do you think of me, Miss Ellie?
Ellie [dropping her hands]. How strange! that my mother, who knew nothing at all about business, should have been quite right about you! She always said not before papa, of course, but to us children — that you were just that sort of man.
Mangan [sitting up, much hurt]. Oh! did she? And yet she’d have let you marry me.
Ellie. Well, you see, Mr Mangan, my mother married a very good man — for whatever you may think of my father as a man of business, he is the soul of goodness — and she is not at all keen on my doing the same.
Mangan. Anyhow, you don’t want to marry me now, do you?
Ellie. [very calmly]. Oh, I think so. Why not?
Mangan. [rising aghast]. Why not!
Ellie. I don’t see why we shouldn’t get on very well together.
Mangan. Well, but look here, you know —[he stops, quite at a loss].
Ellie. [patiently]. Well?
Mangan. Well, I thought you were rather particular about people’s characters.
Ellie. If we women were particular about men’s characters, we should never get married at all, Mr Mangan.
Mangan. A child like you talking of “we women”! What next! You’re not in earnest?
Ellie. Yes, I am. Aren’t you?
Mangan. You mean to hold me to it?
Ellie. Do you wish to back out of it?
Mangan. Oh, no. Not exactly back out of it.
He has nothing to say. With a long whispered whistle, he drops into the wicker chair and stares before him like a beggared gambler. But a cunning look soon comes into his face. He leans over towards her on his right elbow, and speaks in a low steady voice.
Mangan. Suppose I told you I was in love with another woman!
Ellie [echoing him]. Suppose I told you I was in love with another man!
Mangan [bouncing angrily out of his chair]. I’m not joking.
Ellie. Who told you I was?
Mangan. I tell you I’m serious. You’re too young to be serious; but you’ll have to believe me. I want to be near your friend Mrs Hushabye. I’m in love with her. Now the murder’s out.
Ellie. I want to be near your friend Mr Hushabye. I’m in love with him. [She rises and adds with a frank air] Now we are in one another’s confidence, we shall be real friends. Thank you for telling me.
Mangan [almost beside himself]. Do you think I’ll be made a convenience of like this?
Ellie. Come, Mr Mangan! you made a business convenience of my father. Well, a woman’s business is marriage. Why shouldn’t I make a domestic convenience of you?
Mangan. Because I don’t choose, see? Because I’m not a silly gull like your father. That’s why.
Ellie [with serene contempt]. You are not good enough to clean my father’s boots, Mr Mangan; and I am paying you a great compliment in condescending to make a convenience of you, as you call it. Of course you are free to throw over our engagement if you like; but, if you do, you’ll never enter Hesione’s house again: I will take care of that.
Mangan [gasping]. You little devil, you’ve done me. [On the point of collapsing into the big chair again he recovers himself]. Wait a bit, though: you’re not so cute as you think. You can’t beat Boss Mangan as easy as that. Suppose I go straight to Mrs Hushabye and tell her that you’re in love with her husband.
Ellie. She knows it.
Mangan. You told her!!!
Ellie. She told me.
Mangan [clutching at his bursting temples]. Oh, this is a crazy house. Or else I’m going clean off my chump. Is she making a swop with you — she to have your husband and you to have hers?
Ellie. Well, you don’t want us both, do you?
Mangan [throwing himself into the chair distractedly]. My brain won’t stand it. My head’s going to split. Help! Help me to hold it. Quick: hold it: squeeze it. Save me. [Ellie comes behind his chair; clasps his head hard for a moment; then begins to draw her hands from his forehead back to his ears]. Thank you. [Drowsily]. That’s very refreshing. [Waking a little]. Don’t you hypnotize me, though. I’ve seen men made fools of by hypnotism.
Ellie [steadily]. Be quiet. I’ve seen men made fools of without hypnotism.
Mangan [humbly]. You don’t dislike touching me, I hope. You never touched me before, I noticed.
Ellie. Not since you fell in love naturally with a grown-up nice woman, who will never expect you to make love to her. And I will never expect him to make love to me.
Mangan. He may, though.
Ellie [making her passes rhythmically]. Hush. Go to sleep. Do you hear? You are to go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep; be quiet, deeply deeply quiet; sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep.
He falls asleep. Ellie steals away; turns the light out; and goes into the garden.
Nurse Guinness opens the door and is seen in the light which comes in from the hall.
Guinness [speaking to someone outside]. Mr Mangan’s not here, duckie: there’s no one here. It’s all dark.
Mrs Hushabye [without]. Try the garden. Mr Dunn and I will be in my boudoir. Show him the way.
Guinness. Yes, ducky. [She makes for the garden door in the dark; stumbles over the sleeping Mangan and screams]. Ahoo! O Lord, Sir! I beg your pardon, I’m sure: I didn’t see you in the dark. Who is it? [She goes back to the door and turns on the light]. Oh, Mr Mangan, sir, I hope I haven’t hurt you plumping into your lap like that. [Coming to him]. I was looking for you, sir. Mrs Hushabye says will you please [noticing that he remains quite insensible]. Oh, my good Lord, I hope I haven’t killed him. Sir! Mr Mangan! Sir! [She shakes him; and he is rolling inertly off the chair on the floor when she holds him up and props him against the cushion]. Miss Hessy! Miss Hessy! quick, doty darling. Miss Hessy! [Mrs Hushabye comes in from the hall, followed by Mazzini Dunn]. Oh, Miss Hessy, I’ve been and killed him.
Mazzini runs round the back of the chair to Mangan’s right hand, and sees that the nurse’s words are apparently only too true.
Mazzini. What tempted you to commit such a crime, woman?
Mrs Hushabye [trying not to laugh]. Do you mean, you did it on purpose?
Guinness. Now is it likely I’d kill any man on purpose? I fell over him in the dark; and I’m a pretty tidy weight. He never spoke nor moved until I shook him; and then he would have dropped dead on the floor. Isn’t it tiresome?
Mrs Hushabye [going past the nurse to Mangan’s side, and inspecting him less credulously than Mazzini]. Nonsense! he is not dead: he is only asleep. I can see him breathing.
Guinness. But why won’t he wake?
Mazzini [speaking very politely into Mangan’s ear]. Mangan! My dear Mangan! [he blows into Mangan’s ear].
Mrs Hushabye. That’s no good [she shakes him vigorously]. Mr Mangan, wake up. Do you hear? [He begins to roll over]. Oh! Nurse, nurse: he’s falling: help me.
Nurse Guinness rushes to the rescue. With Mazzini’s assistance, Mangan is propped safely up again.
Guinness [behind the chair; bending over to test the case with her nose]. Would he be drunk, do you think, pet?
Mrs Hushabye. Had he any of papa’s rum?
Mazzini. It can’t be that: he is most abstemious. I am afraid he drank too much formerly, and has to drink too little now. You know, Mrs Hushabye, I really think he has been hypnotized.
Guinness. Hip no what, sir?
Mazzini. One evening at home, after we had seen a hypnotizing performance, the children began playing at it; and Ellie stroked my head. I assure you I went off dead asleep; and they had to send for a professional to wake me up after I had slept eighteen hours. They had to carry me upstairs; and as the poor children were not very strong, they let me slip; and I rolled right down the whole flight and never woke up. [Mrs Hushabye splutters]. Oh, you may laugh, Mrs Hushabye; but I might have been killed.
Mrs Hushabye. I couldn’t have helped laughing even if you had been, Mr Dunn. So Ellie has hypnotized him. What fun!
Mazzini. Oh no, no, no. It was such a terrible lesson to her: nothing would induce her to try such a thing again.
Mrs Hushabye. Then who did it? I didn’t.
Mazzini. I thought perhaps the captain might have done it unintentionally. He is so fearfully magnetic: I feel vibrations whenever he comes close to me.
Guinness. The captain will get him out of it anyhow, sir: I’ll back him for that. I’ll go fetch him [she makes for the pantry].
Mrs Hushabye. Wait a bit. [To Mazzini]. You say he is all right for eighteen hours?
Mazzini. Well, I was asleep for eighteen hours.
Mrs Hushabye. Were you any the worse for it?
Mazzini. I don’t quite remember. They had poured brandy down my throat, you see; and —
Mrs Hushabye. Quite. Anyhow, you survived. Nurse, darling: go and ask Miss Dunn to come to us here. Say I want to speak to her particularly. You will find her with Mr Hushabye probably.
Guinness. I think not, ducky: Miss Addy is with him. But I’ll find her and send her to you. [She goes out into the garden].
Mrs Hushabye [calling Mazzini’s attention to the figure on the chair]. Now, Mr Dunn, look. Just look. Look hard. Do you still intend to sacrifice your daughter to that thing?
Mazzini [troubled]. You have completely upset me, Mrs Hushabye, by all you have said to me. That anyone could imagine that I— I, a consecrated soldier of freedom, if I may say so — could sacrifice Ellie to anybody or anyone, or that I should ever have dreamed of forcing her inclinations in any way, is a most painful blow to my — well, I suppose you would say to my good opinion of myself.
Mrs Hushabye [rather stolidly]. Sorry.
Mazzini [looking forlornly at the body]. What is your objection to poor Mangan, Mrs Hushabye? He looks all right to me. But then I am so accustomed to him.
Mrs Hushabye. Have you no heart? Have you no sense? Look at the brute! Think of poor weak innocent Ellie in the clutches of this slavedriver, who spends his life making thousands of rough violent workmen bend to his will and sweat for him: a man accustomed to have great masses of iron beaten into shape for him by steam-hammers! to fight with women and girls over a halfpenny an hour ruthlessly! a captain of industry, I think you call him, don’t you? Are you going to fling your delicate, sweet, helpless child into such a beast’s claws just because he will keep her in an expensive house and make her wear diamonds to show how rich he is?
Mazzini [staring at her in wide-eyed amazement]. Bless you, dear Mrs Hushabye, what romantic ideas of business you have! Poor dear Mangan isn’t a bit like that.
Mrs Hushabye [scornfully]. Poor dear Mangan indeed!
Mazzini. But he doesn’t know anything about machinery. He never goes near the men: he couldn’t manage them: he is afraid of them. I never can get him to take the least interest in the works: he hardly knows more about them than you do. People are cruelly unjust to Mangan: they think he is all rugged strength just because his manners are bad.
Mrs Hushabye. Do you mean to tell me he isn’t strong enough to crush poor little Ellie?
Mazzini. Of course it’s very hard to say how any marriage will turn out; but speaking for myself, I should say that he won’t have a dog’s chance against Ellie. You know, Ellie has remarkable strength of character. I think it is because I taught her to like Shakespeare when she was very young.
Mrs Hushabye [contemptuously]. Shakespeare! The next thing you will tell me is that you could have made a great deal more money than Mangan. [She retires to the sofa, and sits down at the port end of it in the worst of humors].
Mazzini [following her and taking the other end]. No: I’m no good at making money. I don’t care enough for it, somehow. I’m not ambitious! that must be it. Mangan is wonderful about money: he thinks of nothing else. He is so dreadfully afraid of being poor. I am always thinking of other things: even at the works I think of the things we are doing and not of what they cost. And the worst of it is, poor Mangan doesn’t know what to do with his money when he gets it. He is such a baby that he doesn’t know even what to eat and drink: he has ruined his liver eating and drinking the wrong things; and now he can hardly eat at all. Ellie will diet him splendidly. You will be surprised when you come to know him better: he is really the most helpless of mortals. You get quite a protective feeling towards him.
Mrs Hushabye. Then who manages his business, pray?
Mazzini. I do. And of course other people like me.
Mrs Hushabye. Footling people, you mean.
Mazzini. I suppose you’d think us so.
Mrs Hushabye. And pray why don’t you do without him if you’re all so much cleverer?
Mazzini. Oh, we couldn’t: we should ruin the business in a year. I’ve tried; and I know. We should spend too much on everything. We should improve the quality of the goods and make them too dear. We should be sentimental about the hard cases among the work people. But Mangan keeps us in order. He is down on us about every extra halfpenny. We could never do without him. You see, he will sit up all night thinking of how to save sixpence. Won’t Ellie make him jump, though, when she takes his house in hand!
Mrs Hushabye. Then the creature is a fraud even as a captain of industry!
Mazzini. I am afraid all the captains of industry are what you call frauds, Mrs Hushabye. Of course there are some manufacturers who really do understand their own works; but they don’t make as high a rate of profit as Mangan does. I assure you Mangan is quite a good fellow in his way. He means well.
Mrs Hushabye. He doesn’t look well. He is not in his first youth, is he?
Mazzini. After all, no husband is in his first youth for very long, Mrs Hushabye. And men can’t afford to marry in their first youth nowadays.
Mrs Hushabye. Now if I said that, it would sound witty. Why can’t you say it wittily? What on earth is the matter with you? Why don’t you inspire everybody with confidence? with respect?
Mazzini [humbly]. I think that what is the matter with me is that I am poor. You don’t know what that means at home. Mind: I don’t say they have ever complained. They’ve all been wonderful: they’ve been proud of my poverty. They’ve even joked about it quite often. But my wife has had a very poor time of it. She has been quite resigned —
Mrs Hushabye [shuddering involuntarily!]
Mazzini. There! You see, Mrs Hushabye. I don’t want Ellie to live on resignation.
Mrs Hushabye. Do you want her to have to resign herself to living with a man she doesn’t love?
Mazzini [wistfully]. Are you sure that would be worse than living with a man she did love, if he was a footling person?
Mrs Hushabye [relaxing her contemptuous attitude, quite interested in Mazzini now]. You know, I really think you must love Ellie very much; for you become quite clever when you talk about her.
Mazzini. I didn’t know I was so very stupid on other subjects.
Mrs Hushabye. You are, sometimes.
Mazzini [turning his head away; for his eyes are wet]. I have learnt a good deal about myself from you, Mrs Hushabye; and I’m afraid I shall not be the happier for your plain speaking. But if you thought I needed it to make me think of Ellie’s happiness you were very much mistaken.
Mrs Hushabye [leaning towards him kindly]. Have I been a beast?
Mazzini [pulling himself together]. It doesn’t matter about me, Mrs Hushabye. I think you like Ellie; and that is enough for me.
Mrs Hushabye. I’m beginning to like you a little. I perfectly loathed you at first. I thought you the most odious, self-satisfied, boresome elderly prig I ever met.
Mazzini [resigned, and now quite cheerful]. I daresay I am all that. I never have been a favorite with gorgeous women like you. They always frighten me.
Mrs Hushabye [pleased]. Am I a gorgeous woman, Mazzini? I shall fall in love with you presently.
Mazzini [with placid gallantry]. No, you won’t, Hesione. But you would be quite safe. Would you believe it that quite a lot of women have flirted with me because I am quite safe? But they get tired of me for the same reason.
Mrs Hushabye [mischievously]. Take care. You may not be so safe as you think.
Mazzini. Oh yes, quite safe. You see, I have been in love really: the sort of love that only happens once. [Softly]. That’s why Ellie is such a lovely girl.
Mrs Hushabye. Well, really, you are coming out. Are you quite sure you won’t let me tempt you into a second grand passion?
Mazzini. Quite. It wouldn’t be natural. The fact is, you don’t strike on my box, Mrs Hushabye; and I certainly don’t strike on yours.
Mrs Hushabye. I see. Your marriage was a safety match.
Mazzini. What a very witty application of the expression I used! I should never have thought of it.
Ellie comes in from the garden, looking anything but happy.
Mrs Hushabye [rising]. Oh! here is Ellie at last. [She goes behind the sofa].
Ellie [on the threshold of the starboard door]. Guinness said you wanted me: you and papa.
Mrs Hushabye. You have kept us waiting so long that it almost came to — well, never mind. Your father is a very wonderful man [she ruffles his hair affectionately]: the only one I ever met who could resist me when I made myself really agreeable. [She comes to the big chair, on Mangan’s left]. Come here. I have something to show you. [Ellie strolls listlessly to the other side of the chair]. Look.
Ellie [contemplating Mangan without interest]. I know. He is only asleep. We had a talk after dinner; and he fell asleep in the middle of it.
Mrs Hushabye. You did it, Ellie. You put him asleep.
Mazzini [rising quickly and coming to the back of the chair]. Oh, I hope not. Did you, Ellie?
Ellie [wearily]. He asked me to.
Mazzini. But it’s dangerous. You know what happened to me.
Ellie [utterly indifferent]. Oh, I daresay I can wake him. If not, somebody else can.
Mrs Hushabye. It doesn’t matter, anyhow, because I have at last persuaded your father that you don’t want to marry him.
Ellie [suddenly coming out of her listlessness, much vexed]. But why did you do that, Hesione? I do want to marry him. I fully intend to marry him.
Mazzini. Are you quite sure, Ellie? Mrs Hushabye has made me feel that I may have been thoughtless and selfish about it.
Ellie [very clearly and steadily]. Papa. When Mrs. Hushabye takes it on herself to explain to you what I think or don’t think, shut your ears tight; and shut your eyes too. Hesione knows nothing about me: she hasn’t the least notion of the sort of person I am, and never will. I promise you I won’t do anything I don’t want to do and mean to do for my own sake.
Mazzini. You are quite, quite sure?
Ellie. Quite, quite sure. Now you must go away and leave me to talk to Mrs Hushabye.
Mazzini. But I should like to hear. Shall I be in the way?
Ellie [inexorable]. I had rather talk to her alone.
Mazzini [affectionately]. Oh, well, I know what a nuisance parents are, dear. I will be good and go. [He goes to the garden door]. By the way, do you remember the address of that professional who woke me up? Don’t you think I had better telegraph to him?
Mrs Hushabye [moving towards the sofa]. It’s too late to telegraph tonight.
Mazzini. I suppose so. I do hope he’ll wake up in the course of the night. [He goes out into the garden].
Ellie [turning vigorously on Hesione the moment her father is out of the room]. Hesione, what the devil do you mean by making mischief with my father about Mangan?
Mrs Hushabye [promptly losing her temper]. Don’t you dare speak to me like that, you little minx. Remember that you are in my house.
Ellie. Stuff! Why don’t you mind your own business? What is it to you whether I choose to marry Mangan or not?
Mrs Hushabye. Do you suppose you can bully me, you miserable little matrimonial adventurer?
Ellie. Every woman who hasn’t any money is a matrimonial adventurer. It’s easy for you to talk: you have never known what it is to want money; and you can pick up men as if they were daisies. I am poor and respectable —
Mrs Hushabye [interrupting]. Ho! respectable! How did you pick up Mangan? How did you pick up my husband? You have the audacity to tell me that I am a — a — a —
Ellie. A siren. So you are. You were born to lead men by the nose: if you weren’t, Marcus would have waited for me, perhaps.
Mrs Hushabye [suddenly melting and half laughing]. Oh, my poor Ellie, my pettikins, my unhappy darling! I am so sorry about Hector. But what can I do? It’s not my fault: I’d give him to you if I could.
Ellie. I don’t blame you for that.
Mrs Hushabye. What a brute I was to quarrel with you and call you names! Do kiss me and say you’re not angry with me.
Ellie [fiercely]. Oh, don’t slop and gush and be sentimental. Don’t you see that unless I can be hard — as hard as nails — I shall go mad? I don’t care a damn about your calling me names: do you think a woman in my situation can feel a few hard words?
Mrs Hushabye. Poor little woman! Poor little situation!
Ellie. I suppose you think you’re being sympathetic. You are just foolish and stupid and selfish. You see me getting a smasher right in the face that kills a whole part of my life: the best part that can never come again; and you think you can help me over it by a little coaxing and kissing. When I want all the strength I can get to lean on: something iron, something stony, I don’t care how cruel it is, you go all mushy and want to slobber over me. I’m not angry; I’m not unfriendly; but for God’s sake do pull yourself together; and don’t think that because you’re on velvet and always have been, women who are in hell can take it as easily as you.
Mrs Hushabye [shrugging her shoulders]. Very well. [She sits down on the sofa in her old place.] But I warn you that when I am neither coaxing and kissing nor laughing, I am just wondering how much longer I can stand living in this cruel, damnable world. You object to the siren: well, I drop the siren. You want to rest your wounded bosom against a grindstone. Well [folding her arms] here is the grindstone.
Ellie [sitting down beside her, appeased]. That’s better: you really have the trick of falling in with everyone’s mood; but you don’t understand, because you are not the sort of woman for whom there is only one man and only one chance.
Mrs Hushabye. I certainly don’t understand how your marrying that object [indicating Mangan] will console you for not being able to marry Hector.
Ellie. Perhaps you don’t understand why I was quite a nice girl this morning, and am now neither a girl nor particularly nice.
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, yes, I do. It’s because you have made up your mind to do something despicable and wicked.
Ellie. I don’t think so, Hesione. I must make the best of my ruined house.
Mrs Hushabye. Pooh! You’ll get over it. Your house isn’t ruined.
Ellie. Of course I shall get over it. You don’t suppose I’m going to sit down and die of a broken heart, I hope, or be an old maid living on a pittance from the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers’ Association. But my heart is broken, all the same. What I mean by that is that I know that what has happened to me with Marcus will not happen to me ever again. In the world for me there is Marcus and a lot of other men of whom one is just the same as another. Well, if I can’t have love, that’s no reason why I should have poverty. If Mangan has nothing else, he has money.
Mrs Hushabye. And are there no YOUNG men with money?
Ellie. Not within my reach. Besides, a young man would have the right to expect love from me, and would perhaps leave me when he found I could not give it to him. Rich young men can get rid of their wives, you know, pretty cheaply. But this object, as you call him, can expect nothing more from me than I am prepared to give him.
Mrs Hushabye. He will be your owner, remember. If he buys you, he will make the bargain pay him and not you. Ask your father.
Ellie [rising and strolling to the chair to contemplate their subject]. You need not trouble on that score, Hesione. I have more to give Boss Mangan than he has to give me: it is I who am buying him, and at a pretty good price too, I think. Women are better at that sort of bargain than men. I have taken the Boss’s measure; and ten Boss Mangans shall not prevent me doing far more as I please as his wife than I have ever been able to do as a poor girl. [Stooping to the recumbent figure]. Shall they, Boss? I think not. [She passes on to the drawing-table, and leans against the end of it, facing the windows]. I shall not have to spend most of my time wondering how long my gloves will last, anyhow.
Mrs Hushabye [rising superbly]. Ellie, you are a wicked, sordid little beast. And to think that I actually condescended to fascinate that creature there to save you from him! Well, let me tell you this: if you make this disgusting match, you will never see Hector again if I can help it.
Ellie [unmoved]. I nailed Mangan by telling him that if he did not marry me he should never see you again [she lifts herself on her wrists and seats herself on the end of the table].
Mrs Hushabye [recoiling]. Oh!
Ellie. So you see I am not unprepared for your playing that trump against me. Well, you just try it: that’s all. I should have made a man of Marcus, not a household pet.
Mrs Hushabye [flaming]. You dare!
Ellie [looking almost dangerous]. Set him thinking about me if you dare.
Mrs Hushabye. Well, of all the impudent little fiends I ever met! Hector says there is a certain point at which the only answer you can give to a man who breaks all the rules is to knock him down. What would you say if I were to box your ears?
Ellie [calmly]. I should pull your hair.
Mrs Hushabye [mischievously]. That wouldn’t hurt me. Perhaps it comes off at night.
Ellie [so taken aback that she drops off the table and runs to her]. Oh, you don’t mean to say, Hesione, that your beautiful black hair is false?
Mrs Hushabye [patting it]. Don’t tell Hector. He believes in it.
Ellie [groaning]. Oh! Even the hair that ensnared him false! Everything false!
Mrs Hushabye. Pull it and try. Other women can snare men in their hair; but I can swing a baby on mine. Aha! you can’t do that, Goldylocks.
Ellie [heartbroken]. No. You have stolen my babies.
Mrs Hushabye. Pettikins, don’t make me cry. You know what you said about my making a household pet of him is a little true. Perhaps he ought to have waited for you. Would any other woman on earth forgive you?
Ellie. Oh, what right had you to take him all for yourself! [Pulling herself together]. There! You couldn’t help it: neither of us could help it. He couldn’t help it. No, don’t say anything more: I can’t bear it. Let us wake the object. [She begins stroking Mangan’s head, reversing the movement with which she put him to sleep]. Wake up, do you hear? You are to wake up at once. Wake up, wake up, wake —
Mangan [bouncing out of the chair in a fury and turning on them]. Wake up! So you think I’ve been asleep, do you? [He kicks the chair violently back out of his way, and gets between them]. You throw me into a trance so that I can’t move hand or foot — I might have been buried alive! it’s a mercy I wasn’t — and then you think I was only asleep. If you’d let me drop the two times you rolled me about, my nose would have been flattened for life against the floor. But I’ve found you all out, anyhow. I know the sort of people I’m among now. I’ve heard every word you’ve said, you and your precious father, and [to Mrs Hushabye] you too. So I’m an object, am I? I’m a thing, am I? I’m a fool that hasn’t sense enough to feed myself properly, am I? I’m afraid of the men that would starve if it weren’t for the wages I give them, am I? I’m nothing but a disgusting old skinflint to be made a convenience of by designing women and fool managers of my works, am I? I’m —
Mrs Hushabye [with the most elegant aplomb]. Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh! Mr Mangan, you are bound in honor to obliterate from your mind all you heard while you were pretending to be asleep. It was not meant for you to hear.
Mangan. Pretending to be asleep! Do you think if I was only pretending that I’d have sprawled there helpless, and listened to such unfairness, such lies, such injustice and plotting and backbiting and slandering of me, if I could have up and told you what I thought of you! I wonder I didn’t burst.
Mrs Hushabye [sweetly]. You dreamt it all, Mr Mangan. We were only saying how beautifully peaceful you looked in your sleep. That was all, wasn’t it, Ellie? Believe me, Mr Mangan, all those unpleasant things came into your mind in the last half second before you woke. Ellie rubbed your hair the wrong way; and the disagreeable sensation suggested a disagreeable dream.
Mangan [doggedly]. I believe in dreams.
Mrs Hushabye. So do I. But they go by contraries, don’t they?
Mangan [depths of emotion suddenly welling up in him]. I shan’t forget, to my dying day, that when you gave me the glad eye that time in the garden, you were making a fool of me. That was a dirty low mean thing to do. You had no right to let me come near you if I disgusted you. It isn’t my fault if I’m old and haven’t a moustache like a bronze candlestick as your husband has. There are things no decent woman would do to a man — like a man hitting a woman in the breast.
Hesione, utterly shamed, sits down on the sofa and covers her face with her hands. Mangan sits down also on his chair and begins to cry like a child. Ellie stares at them. Mrs Hushabye, at the distressing sound he makes, takes down her hands and looks at him. She rises and runs to him.
Mrs Hushabye. Don’t cry: I can’t bear it. Have I broken your heart? I didn’t know you had one. How could I?
Mangan. I’m a man, ain’t I?
Mrs Hushabye [half coaxing, half rallying, altogether tenderly]. Oh no: not what I call a man. Only a Boss: just that and nothing else. What business has a Boss with a heart?
Mangan. Then you’re not a bit sorry for what you did, nor ashamed?
Mrs Hushabye. I was ashamed for the first time in my life when you said that about hitting a woman in the breast, and I found out what I’d done. My very bones blushed red. You’ve had your revenge, Boss. Aren’t you satisfied?
Mangan. Serve you right! Do you hear? Serve you right! You’re just cruel. Cruel.
Mrs Hushabye. Yes: cruelty would be delicious if one could only find some sort of cruelty that didn’t really hurt. By the way [sitting down beside him on the arm of the chair], what’s your name? It’s not really Boss, is it?
Mangan [shortly]. If you want to know, my name’s Alfred.
Mrs Hushabye [springs up]. Alfred!! Ellie, he was christened after Tennyson!!!
Mangan [rising]. I was christened after my uncle, and never had a penny from him, damn him! What of it?
Mrs Hushabye. It comes to me suddenly that you are a real person: that you had a mother, like anyone else. [Putting her hands on his shoulders and surveying him]. Little Alf!
Mangan. Well, you have a nerve.
Mrs Hushabye. And you have a heart, Alfy, a whimpering little heart, but a real one. [Releasing him suddenly]. Now run and make it up with Ellie. She has had time to think what to say to you, which is more than I had [she goes out quickly into the garden by the port door].
Mangan. That woman has a pair of hands that go right through you.
Ellie. Still in love with her, in spite of all we said about you?
Mangan. Are all women like you two? Do they never think of anything about a man except what they can get out of him? You weren’t even thinking that about me. You were only thinking whether your gloves would last.
Ellie. I shall not have to think about that when we are married.
Mangan. And you think I am going to marry you after what I heard there!
Ellie. You heard nothing from me that I did not tell you before.
Mangan. Perhaps you think I can’t do without you.
Ellie. I think you would feel lonely without us all, now, after coming to know us so well.
Mangan [with something like a yell of despair]. Am I never to have the last word?
Captain Shotover [appearing at the starboard garden door]. There is a soul in torment here. What is the matter?
Mangan. This girl doesn’t want to spend her life wondering how long her gloves will last.
Captain Shotover [passing through]. Don’t wear any. I never do [he goes into the pantry].
Lady Utterword [appearing at the port garden door, in a handsome dinner dress]. Is anything the matter?
Ellie. This gentleman wants to know is he never to have the last word?
Lady Utterword [coming forward to the sofa]. I should let him have it, my dear. The important thing is not to have the last word, but to have your own way.
Mangan. She wants both.
Lady Utterword. She won’t get them, Mr Mangan. Providence always has the last word.
Mangan [desperately]. Now you are going to come religion over me. In this house a man’s mind might as well be a football. I’m going. [He makes for the hall, but is stopped by a hail from the Captain, who has just emerged from his pantry].
Captain Shotover. Whither away, Boss Mangan?
Mangan. To hell out of this house: let that be enough for you and all here.
Captain Shotover. You were welcome to come: you are free to go. The wide earth, the high seas, the spacious skies are waiting for you outside.
Lady Utterword. But your things, Mr Mangan. Your bag, your comb and brushes, your pyjamas —
Hector [who has just appeared in the port doorway in a handsome Arab costume]. Why should the escaping slave take his chains with him?
Mangan. That’s right, Hushabye. Keep the pyjamas, my lady, and much good may they do you.
Hector [advancing to Lady Utterword’s left hand]. Let us all go out into the night and leave everything behind us.
Mangan. You stay where you are, the lot of you. I want no company, especially female company.
Ellie. Let him go. He is unhappy here. He is angry with us.
Captain Shotover. Go, Boss Mangan; and when you have found the land where there is happiness and where there are no women, send me its latitude and longitude; and I will join you there.
Lady Utterword. You will certainly not be comfortable without your luggage, Mr Mangan.
Ellie [impatient]. Go, go: why don’t you go? It is a heavenly night: you can sleep on the heath. Take my waterproof to lie on: it is hanging up in the hall.
Hector. Breakfast at nine, unless you prefer to breakfast with the captain at six.
Ellie. Good night, Alfred.
Hector. Alfred! [He runs back to the door and calls into the garden]. Randall, Mangan’s Christian name is Alfred.
Randall [appearing in the starboard doorway in evening dress]. Then Hesione wins her bet.
Mrs Hushabye appears in the port doorway. She throws her left arm round Hector’s neck: draws him with her to the back of the sofa: and throws her right arm round Lady Utterword’s neck.
Mrs Hushabye. They wouldn’t believe me, Alf.
They contemplate him.
Mangan. Is there any more of you coming in to look at me, as if I was the latest thing in a menagerie?
Mrs Hushabye. You are the latest thing in this menagerie.
Before Mangan can retort, a fall of furniture is heard from upstairs: then a pistol shot, and a yell of pain. The staring group breaks up in consternation.
Mazzini’s voice [from above]. Help! A burglar! Help!
Hector [his eyes blazing]. A burglar!!!
Mrs Hushabye. No, Hector: you’ll be shot [but it is too late; he has dashed out past Mangan, who hastily moves towards the bookshelves out of his way].
Captain Shotover [blowing his whistle]. All hands aloft! [He strides out after Hector].
Lady Utterword. My diamonds! [She follows the captain].
Randall [rushing after her]. No. Ariadne. Let me.
Ellie. Oh, is papa shot? [She runs out].
Mrs Hushabye. Are you frightened, Alf?
Mangan. No. It ain’t my house, thank God.
Mrs Hushabye. If they catch a burglar, shall we have to go into court as witnesses, and be asked all sorts of questions about our private lives?
Mangan. You won’t be believed if you tell the truth.
Mazzini, terribly upset, with a duelling pistol in his hand, comes from the hall, and makes his way to the drawing-table.
Mazzini. Oh, my dear Mrs Hushabye, I might have killed him. [He throws the pistol on the table and staggers round to the chair]. I hope you won’t believe I really intended to.
Hector comes in, marching an old and villainous looking man before him by the collar. He plants him in the middle of the room and releases him.
Ellie follows, and immediately runs across to the back of her father’s chair and pats his shoulders.
Randall [entering with a poker]. Keep your eye on this door, Mangan. I’ll look after the other [he goes to the starboard door and stands on guard there].
Lady Utterword comes in after Randall, and goes between Mrs Hushabye and Mangan.
Nurse Guinness brings up the rear, and waits near the door, on Mangan’s left.
Mrs Hushabye. What has happened?
Mazzini. Your housekeeper told me there was somebody upstairs, and gave me a pistol that Mr Hushabye had been practising with. I thought it would frighten him; but it went off at a touch.
The Burglar. Yes, and took the skin off my ear. Precious near took the top off my head. Why don’t you have a proper revolver instead of a thing like that, that goes off if you as much as blow on it?
Hector. One of my duelling pistols. Sorry.
Mazzini. He put his hands up and said it was a fair cop.
The Burglar. So it was. Send for the police.
Hector. No, by thunder! It was not a fair cop. We were four to one.
Mrs Hushabye. What will they do to him?
The Burglar. Ten years. Beginning with solitary. Ten years off my life. I shan’t serve it all: I’m too old. It will see me out.
Lady Utterword. You should have thought of that before you stole my diamonds.
The Burglar. Well, you’ve got them back, lady, haven’t you? Can you give me back the years of my life you are going to take from me?
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, we can’t bury a man alive for ten years for a few diamonds.
The Burglar. Ten little shining diamonds! Ten long black years!
Lady Utterword. Think of what it is for us to be dragged through the horrors of a criminal court, and have all our family affairs in the papers! If you were a native, and Hastings could order you a good beating and send you away, I shouldn’t mind; but here in England there is no real protection for any respectable person.
The Burglar. I’m too old to be giv a hiding, lady. Send for the police and have done with it. It’s only just and right you should.
Randall [who has relaxed his vigilance on seeing the burglar so pacifically disposed, and comes forward swinging the poker between his fingers like a well folded umbrella]. It is neither just nor right that we should be put to a lot of inconvenience to gratify your moral enthusiasm, my friend. You had better get out, while you have the chance.
The Burglar [inexorably]. No. I must work my sin off my conscience. This has come as a sort of call to me. Let me spend the rest of my life repenting in a cell. I shall have my reward above.
Mangan [exasperated]. The very burglars can’t behave naturally in this house.
Hector. My good sir, you must work out your salvation at somebody else’s expense. Nobody here is going to charge you.
The Burglar. Oh, you won’t charge me, won’t you?
Hector. No. I’m sorry to be inhospitable; but will you kindly leave the house?
The Burglar. Right. I’ll go to the police station and give myself up. [He turns resolutely to the door: but Hector stops him].
Hector. [speaking together] Oh, no. You mustn’t do that.
Randall. No no. Clear out man, can’t you; and don’t be a fool.
Mrs. Hushabye. Don’t be so silly. Can’t you repent at home?
Lady Utterword. You will have to do as you are told.
The Burglar. It’s compounding a felony, you know.
Mrs Hushabye. This is utterly ridiculous. Are we to be forced to prosecute this man when we don’t want to?
The Burglar. Am I to be robbed of my salvation to save you the trouble of spending a day at the sessions? Is that justice? Is it right? Is it fair to me?
Mazzini [rising and leaning across the table persuasively as if it were a pulpit desk or a shop counter]. Come, come! let me show you how you can turn your very crimes to account. Why not set up as a locksmith? You must know more about locks than most honest men?
The Burglar. That’s true, sir. But I couldn’t set up as a locksmith under twenty pounds.
Randall. Well, you can easily steal twenty pounds. You will find it in the nearest bank.
The Burglar [horrified]. Oh, what a thing for a gentleman to put into the head of a poor criminal scrambling out of the bottomless pit as it were! Oh, shame on you, sir! Oh, God forgive you! [He throws himself into the big chair and covers his face as if in prayer].
Lady Utterword. Really, Randall!
Hector. It seems to me that we shall have to take up a collection for this inopportunely contrite sinner.
Lady Utterword. But twenty pounds is ridiculous.
The Burglar [looking up quickly]. I shall have to buy a lot of tools, lady.
Lady Utterword. Nonsense: you have your burgling kit.
The Burglar. What’s a jimmy and a centrebit and an acetylene welding plant and a bunch of skeleton keys? I shall want a forge, and a smithy, and a shop, and fittings. I can’t hardly do it for twenty.
Hector. My worthy friend, we haven’t got twenty pounds.
The Burglar [now master of the situation]. You can raise it among you, can’t you?
Mrs Hushabye. Give him a sovereign, Hector, and get rid of him.
Hector [giving him a pound]. There! Off with you.
The Burglar [rising and taking the money very ungratefully]. I won’t promise nothing. You have more on you than a quid: all the lot of you, I mean.
Lady Utterword [vigorously]. Oh, let us prosecute him and have done with it. I have a conscience too, I hope; and I do not feel at all sure that we have any right to let him go, especially if he is going to be greedy and impertinent.
The Burglar [quickly]. All right, lady, all right. I’ve no wish to be anything but agreeable. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen; and thank you kindly.
He is hurrying out when he is confronted in the doorway by Captain Shotover.
Captain Shotover [fixing the burglar with a piercing regard]. What’s this? Are there two of you?
The Burglar [falling on his knees before the captain in abject terror]. Oh, my good Lord, what have I done? Don’t tell me it’s your house I’ve broken into, Captain Shotover.
The captain seizes him by the collar: drags him to his feet: and leads him to the middle of the group, Hector falling back beside his wife to make way for them.
Captain Shotover [turning him towards Ellie]. Is that your daughter? [He releases him].
The Burglar. Well, how do I know, Captain? You know the sort of life you and me has led. Any young lady of that age might be my daughter anywhere in the wide world, as you might say.
Captain Shotover [to Mazzini]. You are not Billy Dunn. This is Billy Dunn. Why have you imposed on me?
The Burglar [indignantly to Mazzini]. Have you been giving yourself out to be me? You, that nigh blew my head off! Shooting yourself, in a manner of speaking!
Mazzini. My dear Captain Shotover, ever since I came into this house I have done hardly anything else but assure you that I am not Mr William Dunn, but Mazzini Dunn, a very different person.
The Burglar. He don’t belong to my branch, Captain. There’s two sets in the family: the thinking Dunns and the drinking Dunns, each going their own ways. I’m a drinking Dunn: he’s a thinking Dunn. But that didn’t give him any right to shoot me.
Captain Shotover. So you’ve turned burglar, have you?
The Burglar. No, Captain: I wouldn’t disgrace our old sea calling by such a thing. I am no burglar.
Lady Utterword. What were you doing with my diamonds?
Guinness. What did you break into the house for if you’re no burglar?
Randall. Mistook the house for your own and came in by the wrong window, eh?
The Burglar. Well, it’s no use my telling you a lie: I can take in most captains, but not Captain Shotover, because he sold himself to the devil in Zanzibar, and can divine water, spot gold, explode a cartridge in your pocket with a glance of his eye, and see the truth hidden in the heart of man. But I’m no burglar.
Captain Shotover. Are you an honest man?
The Burglar. I don’t set up to be better than my fellow-creatures, and never did, as you well know, Captain. But what I do is innocent and pious. I enquire about for houses where the right sort of people live. I work it on them same as I worked it here. I break into the house; put a few spoons or diamonds in my pocket; make a noise; get caught; and take up a collection. And you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get caught when you’re actually trying to. I have knocked over all the chairs in a room without a soul paying any attention to me. In the end I have had to walk out and leave the job.
Randall. When that happens, do you put back the spoons and diamonds?
The Burglar. Well, I don’t fly in the face of Providence, if that’s what you want to know.
Captain Shotover. Guinness, you remember this man?
Guinness. I should think I do, seeing I was married to him, the blackguard!
Hesione. [exclaiming together] Married to him!
Lady Utterword. Guinness!!
The Burglar. It wasn’t legal. I’ve been married to no end of women. No use coming that over me.
Captain Shotover. Take him to the forecastle [he flings him to the door with a strength beyond his years].
Guinness. I suppose you mean the kitchen. They won’t have him there. Do you expect servants to keep company with thieves and all sorts?
Captain Shotover. Land-thieves and water-thieves are the same flesh and blood. I’ll have no boatswain on my quarter-deck. Off with you both.
The Burglar. Yes, Captain. [He goes out humbly].
Mazzini. Will it be safe to have him in the house like that?
Guinness. Why didn’t you shoot him, sir? If I’d known who he was, I’d have shot him myself. [She goes out].
Mrs Hushabye. Do sit down, everybody. [She sits down on the sofa].
They all move except Ellie. Mazzini resumes his seat. Randall sits down in the window-seat near the starboard door, again making a pendulum of his poker, and studying it as Galileo might have done. Hector sits on his left, in the middle. Mangan, forgotten, sits in the port corner. Lady Utterword takes the big chair. Captain Shotover goes into the pantry in deep abstraction. They all look after him: and Lady Utterword coughs consciously.
Mrs Hushabye. So Billy Dunn was poor nurse’s little romance. I knew there had been somebody.
Randall. They will fight their battles over again and enjoy themselves immensely.
Lady Utterword [irritably]. You are not married; and you know nothing about it, Randall. Hold your tongue.
Mrs Hushabye. Well, we have had a very exciting evening. Everything will be an anticlimax after it. We’d better all go to bed.
Randall. Another burglar may turn up.
Mazzini. Oh, impossible! I hope not.
Randall. Why not? There is more than one burglar in England.
Mrs Hushabye. What do you say, Alf?
Mangan [huffily]. Oh, I don’t matter. I’m forgotten. The burglar has put my nose out of joint. Shove me into a corner and have done with me.
Mrs Hushabye [jumping up mischievously, and going to him]. Would you like a walk on the heath, Alfred? With me?
Ellie. Go, Mr Mangan. It will do you good. Hesione will soothe you.
Mrs Hushabye [slipping her arm under his and pulling him upright]. Come, Alfred. There is a moon: it’s like the night in Tristan and Isolde. [She caresses his arm and draws him to the port garden door].
Mangan [writhing but yielding]. How you can have the face-the heart-[he breaks down and is heard sobbing as she takes him out].
Lady Utterword. What an extraordinary way to behave! What is the matter with the man?
Ellie [in a strangely calm voice, staring into an imaginary distance]. His heart is breaking: that is all. [The captain appears at the pantry door, listening]. It is a curious sensation: the sort of pain that goes mercifully beyond our powers of feeling. When your heart is broken, your boats are burned: nothing matters any more. It is the end of happiness and the beginning of peace.
Lady Utterword [suddenly rising in a rage, to the astonishment of the rest]. How dare you?
Hector. Good heavens! What’s the matter?
Randall [in a warning whisper]. Tch — tch-tch! Steady.
Ellie [surprised and haughty]. I was not addressing you particularly, Lady Utterword. And I am not accustomed to being asked how dare I.
Lady Utterword. Of course not. Anyone can see how badly you have been brought up.
Mazzini. Oh, I hope not, Lady Utterword. Really!
Lady Utterword. I know very well what you meant. The impudence!
Ellie. What on earth do you mean?
Captain Shotover [advancing to the table]. She means that her heart will not break. She has been longing all her life for someone to break it. At last she has become afraid she has none to break.
Lady Utterword [flinging herself on her knees and throwing her arms round him]. Papa, don’t say you think I’ve no heart.
Captain Shotover [raising her with grim tenderness]. If you had no heart how could you want to have it broken, child?
Hector [rising with a bound]. Lady Utterword, you are not to be trusted. You have made a scene [he runs out into the garden through the starboard door].
Lady Utterword. Oh! Hector, Hector! [she runs out after him].
Randall. Only nerves, I assure you. [He rises and follows her, waving the poker in his agitation]. Ariadne! Ariadne! For God’s sake, be careful. You will —[he is gone].
Mazzini [rising]. How distressing! Can I do anything, I wonder?
Captain Shotover [promptly taking his chair and setting to work at the drawing-board]. No. Go to bed. Good-night.
Mazzini [bewildered]. Oh! Perhaps you are right.
Ellie. Good-night, dearest. [She kisses him].
Mazzini. Good-night, love. [He makes for the door, but turns aside to the bookshelves]. I’ll just take a book [he takes one]. Good-night. [He goes out, leaving Ellie alone with the captain].
The captain is intent on his drawing. Ellie, standing sentry over his chair, contemplates him for a moment.
Ellie. Does nothing ever disturb you, Captain Shotover?
Captain Shotover. I’ve stood on the bridge for eighteen hours in a typhoon. Life here is stormier; but I can stand it.
Ellie. Do you think I ought to marry Mr Mangan?
Captain Shotover [never looking up]. One rock is as good as another to be wrecked on.
Ellie. I am not in love with him.
Captain Shotover. Who said you were?
Ellie. You are not surprised?
Captain Shotover. Surprised! At my age!
Ellie. It seems to me quite fair. He wants me for one thing: I want him for another.
Captain Shotover. Money?
Captain Shotover. Well, one turns the cheek: the other kisses it. One provides the cash: the other spends it.
Ellie. Who will have the best of the bargain, I wonder?
Captain Shotover. You. These fellows live in an office all day. You will have to put up with him from dinner to breakfast; but you will both be asleep most of that time. All day you will be quit of him; and you will be shopping with his money. If that is too much for you, marry a seafaring man: you will be bothered with him only three weeks in the year, perhaps.
Ellie. That would be best of all, I suppose.
Captain Shotover. It’s a dangerous thing to be married right up to the hilt, like my daughter’s husband. The man is at home all day, like a damned soul in hell.
Ellie. I never thought of that before.
Captain Shotover. If you’re marrying for business, you can’t be too businesslike.
Ellie. Why do women always want other women’s husbands?
Captain Shotover. Why do horse-thieves prefer a horse that is broken-in to one that is wild?
Ellie [with a short laugh]. I suppose so. What a vile world it is!
Captain Shotover. It doesn’t concern me. I’m nearly out of it.
Ellie. And I’m only just beginning.
Captain Shotover. Yes; so look ahead.
Ellie. Well, I think I am being very prudent.
Captain Shotover. I didn’t say prudent. I said look ahead.
Ellie. What’s the difference?
Captain Shotover. It’s prudent to gain the whole world and lose your own soul. But don’t forget that your soul sticks to you if you stick to it; but the world has a way of slipping through your fingers.
Ellie [wearily, leaving him and beginning to wander restlessly about the room]. I’m sorry, Captain Shotover; but it’s no use talking like that to me. Old-fashioned people are no use to me. Old-fashioned people think you can have a soul without money. They think the less money you have, the more soul you have. Young people nowadays know better. A soul is a very expensive thing to keep: much more so than a motor car.
Captain Shotover. Is it? How much does your soul eat?
Ellie. Oh, a lot. It eats music and pictures and books and mountains and lakes and beautiful things to wear and nice people to be with. In this country you can’t have them without lots of money: that is why our souls are so horribly starved.
Captain Shotover. Mangan’s soul lives on pig’s food.
Ellie. Yes: money is thrown away on him. I suppose his soul was starved when he was young. But it will not be thrown away on me. It is just because I want to save my soul that I am marrying for money. All the women who are not fools do.
Captain Shotover. There are other ways of getting money. Why don’t you steal it?
Ellie. Because I don’t want to go to prison.
Captain Shotover. Is that the only reason? Are you quite sure honesty has nothing to do with it?
Ellie. Oh, you are very very old-fashioned, Captain. Does any modern girl believe that the legal and illegal ways of getting money are the honest and dishonest ways? Mangan robbed my father and my father’s friends. I should rob all the money back from Mangan if the police would let me. As they won’t, I must get it back by marrying him.
Captain Shotover. I can’t argue: I’m too old: my mind is made up and finished. All I can tell you is that, old-fashioned or new-fashioned, if you sell yourself, you deal your soul a blow that all the books and pictures and concerts and scenery in the world won’t heal [he gets up suddenly and makes for the pantry].
Ellie [running after him and seizing him by the sleeve]. Then why did you sell yourself to the devil in Zanzibar?
Captain Shotover [stopping, startled]. What?
Ellie. You shall not run away before you answer. I have found out that trick of yours. If you sold yourself, why shouldn’t I?
Captain Shotover. I had to deal with men so degraded that they wouldn’t obey me unless I swore at them and kicked them and beat them with my fists. Foolish people took young thieves off the streets; flung them into a training ship where they were taught to fear the cane instead of fearing God; and thought they’d made men and sailors of them by private subscription. I tricked these thieves into believing I’d sold myself to the devil. It saved my soul from the kicking and swearing that was damning me by inches.
Ellie [releasing him]. I shall pretend to sell myself to Boss Mangan to save my soul from the poverty that is damning me by inches.
Captain Shotover. Riches will damn you ten times deeper. Riches won’t save even your body.
Ellie. Old-fashioned again. We know now that the soul is the body, and the body the soul. They tell us they are different because they want to persuade us that we can keep our souls if we let them make slaves of our bodies. I am afraid you are no use to me, Captain.
Captain Shotover. What did you expect? A Savior, eh? Are you old-fashioned enough to believe in that?
Ellie. No. But I thought you were very wise, and might help me. Now I have found you out. You pretend to be busy, and think of fine things to say, and run in and out to surprise people by saying them, and get away before they can answer you.
Captain Shotover. It confuses me to be answered. It discourages me. I cannot bear men and women. I have to run away. I must run away now [he tries to].
Ellie [again seizing his arm]. You shall not run away from me. I can hypnotize you. You are the only person in the house I can say what I like to. I know you are fond of me. Sit down. [She draws him to the sofa].
Captain Shotover [yielding]. Take care: I am in my dotage. Old men are dangerous: it doesn’t matter to them what is going to happen to the world.
They sit side by side on the sofa. She leans affectionately against him with her head on his shoulder and her eyes half closed.
Ellie [dreamily]. I should have thought nothing else mattered to old men. They can’t be very interested in what is going to happen to themselves.
Captain Shotover. A man’s interest in the world is only the overflow from his interest in himself. When you are a child your vessel is not yet full; so you care for nothing but your own affairs. When you grow up, your vessel overflows; and you are a politician, a philosopher, or an explorer and adventurer. In old age the vessel dries up: there is no overflow: you are a child again. I can give you the memories of my ancient wisdom: mere scraps and leavings; but I no longer really care for anything but my own little wants and hobbies. I sit here working out my old ideas as a means of destroying my fellow-creatures. I see my daughters and their men living foolish lives of romance and sentiment and snobbery. I see you, the younger generation, turning from their romance and sentiment and snobbery to money and comfort and hard common sense. I was ten times happier on the bridge in the typhoon, or frozen into Arctic ice for months in darkness, than you or they have ever been. You are looking for a rich husband. At your age I looked for hardship, danger, horror, and death, that I might feel the life in me more intensely. I did not let the fear of death govern my life; and my reward was, I had my life. You are going to let the fear of poverty govern your life; and your reward will be that you will eat, but you will not live.
Ellie [sitting up impatiently]. But what can I do? I am not a sea captain: I can’t stand on bridges in typhoons, or go slaughtering seals and whales in Greenland’s icy mountains. They won’t let women be captains. Do you want me to be a stewardess?
Captain Shotover. There are worse lives. The stewardesses could come ashore if they liked; but they sail and sail and sail.
Ellie. What could they do ashore but marry for money? I don’t want to be a stewardess: I am too bad a sailor. Think of something else for me.
Captain Shotover. I can’t think so long and continuously. I am too old. I must go in and out. [He tries to rise].
Ellie [pulling him back]. You shall not. You are happy here, aren’t you?
Captain Shotover. I tell you it’s dangerous to keep me. I can’t keep awake and alert.
Ellie. What do you run away for? To sleep?
Captain Shotover. No. To get a glass of rum.
Ellie [frightfully disillusioned]. Is that it? How disgusting! Do you like being drunk?
Captain Shotover. No: I dread being drunk more than anything in the world. To be drunk means to have dreams; to go soft; to be easily pleased and deceived; to fall into the clutches of women. Drink does that for you when you are young. But when you are old: very very old, like me, the dreams come by themselves. You don’t know how terrible that is: you are young: you sleep at night only, and sleep soundly. But later on you will sleep in the afternoon. Later still you will sleep even in the morning; and you will awake tired, tired of life. You will never be free from dozing and dreams; the dreams will steal upon your work every ten minutes unless you can awaken yourself with rum. I drink now to keep sober; but the dreams are conquering: rum is not what it was: I have had ten glasses since you came; and it might be so much water. Go get me another: Guinness knows where it is. You had better see for yourself the horror of an old man drinking.
Ellie. You shall not drink. Dream. I like you to dream. You must never be in the real world when we talk together.
Captain Shotover. I am too weary to resist, or too weak. I am in my second childhood. I do not see you as you really are. I can’t remember what I really am. I feel nothing but the accursed happiness I have dreaded all my life long: the happiness that comes as life goes, the happiness of yielding and dreaming instead of resisting and doing, the sweetness of the fruit that is going rotten.
Ellie. You dread it almost as much as I used to dread losing my dreams and having to fight and do things. But that is all over for me: my dreams are dashed to pieces. I should like to marry a very old, very rich man. I should like to marry you. I had much rather marry you than marry Mangan. Are you very rich?
Captain Shotover. No. Living from hand to mouth. And I have a wife somewhere in Jamaica: a black one. My first wife. Unless she’s dead.
Ellie. What a pity! I feel so happy with you. [She takes his hand, almost unconsciously, and pats it]. I thought I should never feel happy again.
Captain Shotover. Why?
Ellie. Don’t you know?
Captain Shotover. No.
Ellie. Heartbreak. I fell in love with Hector, and didn’t know he was married.
Captain Shotover. Heartbreak? Are you one of those who are so sufficient to themselves that they are only happy when they are stripped of everything, even of hope?
Ellie [gripping the hand]. It seems so; for I feel now as if there was nothing I could not do, because I want nothing.
Captain Shotover. That’s the only real strength. That’s genius. That’s better than rum.
Ellie [throwing away his hand]. Rum! Why did you spoil it?
Hector and Randall come in from the garden through the starboard door.
Hector. I beg your pardon. We did not know there was anyone here.
Ellie [rising]. That means that you want to tell Mr Randall the story about the tiger. Come, Captain: I want to talk to my father; and you had better come with me.
Captain Shotover [rising]. Nonsense! the man is in bed.
Ellie. Aha! I’ve caught you. My real father has gone to bed; but the father you gave me is in the kitchen. You knew quite well all along. Come. [She draws him out into the garden with her through the port door].
Hector. That’s an extraordinary girl. She has the Ancient Mariner on a string like a Pekinese dog.
Randall. Now that they have gone, shall we have a friendly chat?
Hector. You are in what is supposed to be my house. I am at your disposal.
Hector sits down in the draughtsman’s chair, turning it to face Randall, who remains standing, leaning at his ease against the carpenter’s bench.
Randall. I take it that we may be quite frank. I mean about Lady Utterword.
Hector. You may. I have nothing to be frank about. I never met her until this afternoon.
Randall [straightening up]. What! But you are her sister’s husband.
Hector. Well, if you come to that, you are her husband’s brother.
Randall. But you seem to be on intimate terms with her.
Hector. So do you.
Randall. Yes: but I AM on intimate terms with her. I have known her for years.
Hector. It took her years to get to the same point with you that she got to with me in five minutes, it seems.
Randall [vexed]. Really, Ariadne is the limit [he moves away huffishly towards the windows].
Hector [coolly]. She is, as I remarked to Hesione, a very enterprising woman.
Randall [returning, much troubled]. You see, Hushabye, you are what women consider a good-looking man.
Hector. I cultivated that appearance in the days of my vanity; and Hesione insists on my keeping it up. She makes me wear these ridiculous things [indicating his Arab costume] because she thinks me absurd in evening dress.
Randall. Still, you do keep it up, old chap. Now, I assure you I have not an atom of jealousy in my disposition.
Hector. The question would seem to be rather whether your brother has any touch of that sort.
Randall. What! Hastings! Oh, don’t trouble about Hastings. He has the gift of being able to work sixteen hours a day at the dullest detail, and actually likes it. That gets him to the top wherever he goes. As long as Ariadne takes care that he is fed regularly, he is only too thankful to anyone who will keep her in good humor for him.
Hector. And as she has all the Shotover fascination, there is plenty of competition for the job, eh?
Randall [angrily]. She encourages them. Her conduct is perfectly scandalous. I assure you, my dear fellow, I haven’t an atom of jealousy in my composition; but she makes herself the talk of every place she goes to by her thoughtlessness. It’s nothing more: she doesn’t really care for the men she keeps hanging about her; but how is the world to know that? It’s not fair to Hastings. It’s not fair to me.
Hector. Her theory is that her conduct is so correct
Randall. Correct! She does nothing but make scenes from morning till night. You be careful, old chap. She will get you into trouble: that is, she would if she really cared for you.
Hector. Doesn’t she?
Randall. Not a scrap. She may want your scalp to add to her collection; but her true affection has been engaged years ago. You had really better be careful.
Hector. Do you suffer much from this jealousy?
Randall. Jealousy! I jealous! My dear fellow, haven’t I told you that there is not an atom of —
Hector. Yes. And Lady Utterword told me she never made scenes. Well, don’t waste your jealousy on my moustache. Never waste jealousy on a real man: it is the imaginary hero that supplants us all in the long run. Besides, jealousy does not belong to your easy man-of-the-world pose, which you carry so well in other respects.
Randall. Really, Hushabye, I think a man may be allowed to be a gentleman without being accused of posing.
Hector. It is a pose like any other. In this house we know all the poses: our game is to find out the man under the pose. The man under your pose is apparently Ellie’s favorite, Othello.
Randall. Some of your games in this house are damned annoying, let me tell you.
Hector. Yes: I have been their victim for many years. I used to writhe under them at first; but I became accustomed to them. At last I learned to play them.
Randall. If it’s all the same to you I had rather you didn’t play them on me. You evidently don’t quite understand my character, or my notions of good form.
Hector. Is it your notion of good form to give away Lady Utterword?
Randall [a childishly plaintive note breaking into his huff]. I have not said a word against Lady Utterword. This is just the conspiracy over again.
Hector. What conspiracy?
Randall. You know very well, sir. A conspiracy to make me out to be pettish and jealous and childish and everything I am not. Everyone knows I am just the opposite.
Hector [rising]. Something in the air of the house has upset you. It often does have that effect. [He goes to the garden door and calls Lady Utterword with commanding emphasis]. Ariadne!
Lady Utterword [at some distance]. Yes.
Randall. What are you calling her for? I want to speak —
Lady Utterword [arriving breathless]. Yes. You really are a terribly commanding person. What’s the matter?
Hector. I do not know how to manage your friend Randall. No doubt you do.
Lady Utterword. Randall: have you been making yourself ridiculous, as usual? I can see it in your face. Really, you are the most pettish creature.
Randall. You know quite well, Ariadne, that I have not an ounce of pettishness in my disposition. I have made myself perfectly pleasant here. I have remained absolutely cool and imperturbable in the face of a burglar. Imperturbability is almost too strong a point of mine. But [putting his foot down with a stamp, and walking angrily up and down the room] I insist on being treated with a certain consideration. I will not allow Hushabye to take liberties with me. I will not stand your encouraging people as you do.
Hector. The man has a rooted delusion that he is your husband.
Lady Utterword. I know. He is jealous. As if he had any right to be! He compromises me everywhere. He makes scenes all over the place. Randall: I will not allow it. I simply will not allow it. You had no right to discuss me with Hector. I will not be discussed by men.
Hector. Be reasonable, Ariadne. Your fatal gift of beauty forces men to discuss you.
Lady Utterword. Oh indeed! what about YOUR fatal gift of beauty?
Hector. How can I help it?
Lady Utterword. You could cut off your moustache: I can’t cut off my nose. I get my whole life messed up with people falling in love with me. And then Randall says I run after men.
Lady Utterword. Yes you do: you said it just now. Why can’t you think of something else than women? Napoleon was quite right when he said that women are the occupation of the idle man. Well, if ever there was an idle man on earth, his name is Randall Utterword.
Randall. Ariad —
Lady Utterword [overwhelming him with a torrent of words]. Oh yes you are: it’s no use denying it. What have you ever done? What good are you? You are as much trouble in the house as a child of three. You couldn’t live without your valet.
Randall. This is —
Lady Utterword. Laziness! You are laziness incarnate. You are selfishness itself. You are the most uninteresting man on earth. You can’t even gossip about anything but yourself and your grievances and your ailments and the people who have offended you. [Turning to Hector]. Do you know what they call him, Hector?
Hector. [speaking together] Please don’t tell me.
Randall. I’ll not stand it —
Lady Utterword. Randall the Rotter: that is his name in good society.
Randall [shouting]. I’ll not bear it, I tell you. Will you listen to me, you infernal —[he chokes].
Lady Utterword. Well: go on. What were you going to call me? An infernal what? Which unpleasant animal is it to be this time?
Randall [foaming]. There is no animal in the world so hateful as a woman can be. You are a maddening devil. Hushabye, you will not believe me when I tell you that I have loved this demon all my life; but God knows I have paid for it [he sits down in the draughtsman’s chair, weeping].
Lady Utterword [standing over him with triumphant contempt]. Cry-baby!
Hector [gravely, coming to him]. My friend, the Shotover sisters have two strange powers over men. They can make them love; and they can make them cry. Thank your stars that you are not married to one of them.
Lady Utterword [haughtily]. And pray, Hector —
Hector [suddenly catching her round the shoulders: swinging her right round him and away from Randall: and gripping her throat with the other hand]. Ariadne, if you attempt to start on me, I’ll choke you: do you hear? The cat-and-mouse game with the other sex is a good game; but I can play your head off at it. [He throws her, not at all gently, into the big chair, and proceeds, less fiercely but firmly]. It is true that Napoleon said that woman is the occupation of the idle man. But he added that she is the relaxation of the warrior. Well, I am the warrior. So take care.
Lady Utterword [not in the least put out, and rather pleased by his violence]. My dear Hector, I have only done what you asked me to do.
Hector. How do you make that out, pray?
Lady Utterword. You called me in to manage Randall, didn’t you? You said you couldn’t manage him yourself.
Hector. Well, what if I did? I did not ask you to drive the man mad.
Lady Utterword. He isn’t mad. That’s the way to manage him. If you were a mother, you’d understand.
Hector. Mother! What are you up to now?
Lady Utterword. It’s quite simple. When the children got nerves and were naughty, I smacked them just enough to give them a good cry and a healthy nervous shock. They went to sleep and were quite good afterwards. Well, I can’t smack Randall: he is too big; so when he gets nerves and is naughty, I just rag him till he cries. He will be all right now. Look: he is half asleep already [which is quite true].
Randall [waking up indignantly]. I’m not. You are most cruel, Ariadne. [Sentimentally]. But I suppose I must forgive you, as usual [he checks himself in the act of yawning].
Lady Utterword [to Hector]. Is the explanation satisfactory, dread warrior?
Hector. Some day I shall kill you, if you go too far. I thought you were a fool.
Lady Utterword [laughing]. Everybody does, at first. But I am not such a fool as I look. [She rises complacently]. Now, Randall, go to bed. You will be a good boy in the morning.
Randall [only very faintly rebellious]. I’ll go to bed when I like. It isn’t ten yet.
Lady Utterword. It is long past ten. See that he goes to bed at once, Hector. [She goes into the garden].
Hector. Is there any slavery on earth viler than this slavery of men to women?
Randall [rising resolutely]. I’ll not speak to her tomorrow. I’ll not speak to her for another week. I’ll give her such a lesson. I’ll go straight to bed without bidding her good-night. [He makes for the door leading to the hall].
Hector. You are under a spell, man. Old Shotover sold himself to the devil in Zanzibar. The devil gave him a black witch for a wife; and these two demon daughters are their mystical progeny. I am tied to Hesione’s apron-string; but I’m her husband; and if I did go stark staring mad about her, at least we became man and wife. But why should you let yourself be dragged about and beaten by Ariadne as a toy donkey is dragged about and beaten by a child? What do you get by it? Are you her lover?
Randall. You must not misunderstand me. In a higher sense — in a Platonic sense —
Hector. Psha! Platonic sense! She makes you her servant; and when pay-day comes round, she bilks you: that is what you mean.
Randall [feebly]. Well, if I don’t mind, I don’t see what business it is of yours. Besides, I tell you I am going to punish her. You shall see: I know how to deal with women. I’m really very sleepy. Say good-night to Mrs Hushabye for me, will you, like a good chap. Good-night. [He hurries out].
Hector. Poor wretch! Oh women! women! women! [He lifts his fists in invocation to heaven]. Fall. Fall and crush. [He goes out into the garden].
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00