Heartbreak House/Act II, § iii
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.
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?
- Speaking together:
- HECTOR. 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]