The Philanderer/Act II
- Next day at noon, in the Library of the Ibsen club. A spacious room, with glass doors right and left. At the back, in the middle, is the fireplace, surmounted by a handsome mantelpiece, with a bust of Ibsen, and decorated inscriptions of the titles of his plays. There are circular recesses at each side of fireplace, with divan seats running round them, and windows at the top, the space between the divan and the window sills being lined with books. A long settee is placed before the fire. Along the back of the settee, and touching it, is a green table, littered with journals. A revolving bookcase stands in the foreground, a little to the left, with an easy chair close to it. On the right, between the door and the recess, is a light library stepladder. Placards inscribed "silence" are conspicuously exhibited here and there.
- (Cuthbertson is seated in the easy chair at the revolving bookstand, reading the "Daily Graphic." Dr. Paramore is on the divan in the right hand recess, reading "The British Medical Journal." He is young as age is counted in the professions—barely forty. His hair is wearing bald on his forehead; and his dark arched eyebrows, coming rather close together, give him a conscientiously sinister appearance. He wears the frock coat and cultivates the "bedside manner" of the fashionable physician with scrupulous conventionality. Not at all a happy or frank man, but not consciously unhappy nor intentionally insincere, and highly self satisfied intellectually.
- Sylvia Craven is sitting in the middle of the settee before the fire, only the back of her head being visible. She is reading a volume of Ibsen. She is a girl of eighteen, small and trim, wearing a smart tailor-made dress, rather short, and a Newmarket jacket, showing a white blouse with a light silk sash and a man's collar and watch chain so arranged as to look as like a man's waistcoat and shirt-front as possible without spoiling the prettiness of the effect. A Page Boy's voice, monotonously calling for Dr. Paramore, is heard approaching outside on the right.)
PAGE (outside). Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore. (He enters carrying a salver with a card on it.) Dr. Par—
PARAMORE (sharply, sitting up). Here, boy. (The boy presents the salver. Paramore takes the card and looks at it.) All right: I'll come down to him. (The boy goes. Paramore rises, and comes from the recess, throwing his paper on the table.) Good morning, Mr. Cuthbertson (stopping to pull out his cuffs and shake his coat straight) Mrs. Tranfield quite well, I hope?
SYLVIA (turning her head indignantly). Sh—sh—sh! (Paramore turns, surprised. Cuthbertson rises energetically and looks across the bookstand to see who is the author of this impertinence.)
PARAMORE (to Sylvia—stiffly). I beg your pardon, Miss Craven: I did not mean to disturb you.
SYLVIA (flustered and self assertive). You may talk as much as you like if you will only have the common consideration to first ask whether the other people object. What I protest against is your assumption that my presence doesn't matter because I'm only a female member. That's all. Now go on, pray: you don't disturb me in the least. (She turns to the fire, and again buries herself in Ibsen.)
CUTHBERTSON (with emphatic dignity). No gentleman would have dreamt of objecting to our exchanging a few words, madam. (She takes no notice. He resumes angrily.) As a matter of fact I was about to say to Dr. Paramore that if he would care to bring his visitor up here, I should not object. The impudence! (Dashes his paper down on the chair.)
PARAMORE. Oh, many thanks; but it's only an instrument maker.
CUTHBERTSON. Any new medical discoveries, doctor?
PARAMORE. Well, since you ask me, yes—perhaps a most important one. I have discovered something that has hitherto been overlooked—a minute duct in the liver of the guinea pig. Miss Craven will forgive my mentioning it when I say that it may throw an important light on her father's case. The first thing, of course, is to find out what the duct is there for.
CUTHBERTSON (reverently—feeling that he is in the presence of science). Indeed. How will you do that?
PARAMORE. Oh, easily enough, by simply cutting the duct and seeing what will happen to the guinea pig. (Sylvia rises, horrified.) I shall require a knife specially made to get at it. The man who is waiting for me downstairs has brought me a few handles to try before fitting it and sending it to the laboratory. I am afraid it would not do to bring such weapons up here.
SYLVIA. If you attempt such a thing, Dr. Paramore, I will complain to the committee. The majority of the committee are anti-vivisectionists. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. (She flounces out at the right hand door.)
PARAMORE (with patient contempt). That's the sort of thing we scientific men have to put up with nowadays, Mr. Cuthbertson. Ignorance, superstition, sentimentality: they are all one. A guinea pig's convenience is set above the health and lives of the entire human race.
CUTHBERTSON (vehemently). It's not ignorance or superstition, Paramore: it's sheer downright Ibsenism: that's what it is. I've been wanting to sit comfortably at the fire the whole morning; but I've never had a chance with that girl there. I couldn't go and plump myself down on a seat beside her: goodness knows what she'd think I wanted. That's one of the delights of having women in the club: when they come in here they all want to sit at the fire and adore that bust. I sometimes feel that I should like to take the poker and fetch it a wipe across the nose—ugh!
PARAMORE. I must say I prefer the elder Miss Craven to her sister.
CUTHBERTSON (his eyes lighting up). Ah, Julia! I believe you. A splendid fine creature—every inch a woman. No Ibsenism about her!
PARAMORE. I quite agree with you there, Mr. Cuthbertson. Er—by the way, do you think is Miss Craven attached to Charteris at all?
CUTHBERTSON. What, that fellow! Not he. He hangs about after her; but he's not man enough for her. A woman of that sort likes a strong, manly, deep-throated, broad-chested man.
PARAMORE (anxiously). Hm, a sort of sporting character, you think?
CUTHBERTSON. Oh, no, no. A scientific man, perhaps, like yourself. But you know what I mean—a MAN. (Strikes himself a sounding blow on the chest.)
PARAMORE. Of course; but Charteris is a man.
CUTHBERTSON. Pah! you don't see what I mean. (The Page Boy returns with his salver.)
PAGE BOY (calling monotonously as before). Mr. Cuthbertson, Mr. Cuthbertson, Mr. Cuth—
CUTHBERTSON. Here, boy. (He takes a card from the salver.) Bring the gentleman up here. (The boy goes out.) It's Craven. He's coming to lunch with me and Charteris. You might join us if you've nothing better to do, when you've finished with the instrument man. If Julia turns up I'll ask her too.
PARAMORE (flushing with pleasure). I shall be very happy. Thank you. (He is going out at the right hand door when Craven enters.) Good morning, Colonel Craven.
CRAVEN (at the door). Good morning—glad to see you. I'm looking for Cuthbertson.
PARAMORE (smiling). There he is. (He goes out.)
CUTHBERTSON (greeting Craven effusively). Delighted to see you. Now will you come to the smoking room, or will you sit down here and have a chat while we're waiting for Charteris. If you like company, the smoking room is always full of women. Here we shall have it pretty well all to ourselves until about three o'clock.
CRAVEN. I don't like to see women smoking. I'll make myself comfortable here. (Sits in an easy chair on the right.)
CUTHBERTSON (taking a chair beside him, on his left). Neither do I. There's not a room in this club where I can enjoy a pipe quietly without a woman coming in and beginning to roll a cigarette. It's a disgusting habit in a woman: it's not natural to her sex.
CRAVEN (sighing). Ah, Jo, times have changed since we both courted Molly Ebden all those years ago. I took my defeat well, old chap, didn't I?
CUTHBERTSON (with earnest approval). You did, Dan. The thought of it has often helped me to behave well myself: it has, on my honour.
CRAVEN. Yes, you always believe in hearth and home, Jo—in a true English wife and a happy wholesome fireside. How did Molly turn out?
CUTHBERTSON (trying to be fair to Molly). Well, not bad. She might have been worse. You see I couldn't stand her relations: all the men were roaring cads; and she couldn't get on with my mother. And then she hated being in town; and of course I couldn't live in the country on account of my work. But we hit it off as well as most people, until we separated.
CRAVEN (taken aback). Separated! (He is irresistibly amused.) Oh, that was the end of the hearth and home, Jo, was it?
CUTHBERTSON (warmly). It was not my fault, Dan. (Sentimentally.) Some day the world will know how I loved that woman. But she was incapable of valuing a true man's affection. Do you know, she often said she wished she'd married you instead.
CRAVEN (sobered by the suggestion). Dear me, dear me! Well, perhaps it was better as it was. You heard about my marriage, I suppose.
CUTHBERTSON. Oh yes: we all heard of it.
CRAVEN. Well, Jo, I may as well make a clean breast of it—everybody knew it. I married for money.
CUTHBERTSON (encouragingly). And why not, Dan, why not? We can't get on without it, you know.
CRAVEN (with sincere feeling). I got to be very fond of her, Jo. I had a home until she died. Now everything's changed. Julia's always here. Sylvia's of a different nature; but she's always here too.
CUTHBERTSON (sympathetically). I know. It's the same with Grace. She's always here.
CRAVEN. And now they want me to be always here. They're at me every day to join the club—to stop my grumbling, I suppose. That's what I want to consult you about. Do you think I ought to join?
CUTHBERTSON. Well, if you have no conscientious objection—
CRAVEN (testily interrupting him). I object to the existence of the place on principle; but what's the use of that? Here it is in spite of my objection, and I may as well have the benefit of any good that may be in it.
CUTHBERTSON (soothing him). Of course: that's the only reasonable view of the matter. Well, the fact is, it's not so inconvenient as you might think. When you're at home, you have the house more to yourself; and when you want to have your family about you, you can dine with them at the club.
CRAVEN (not much attracted by this). True.
CUTHBERTSON. Besides, if you don't want to dine with them, you needn't.
CRAVEN (convinced). True, very true. But don't they carry on here, rather?
CUTHBERTSON. Oh, no, they don't exactly carry on. Of course the usual tone of the club is low, because the women smoke and earn their own living and all that; but still there's nothing actually to complain of. And it's convenient, certainly. (Charteris comes in, looking round for them.)
CRAVEN (rising). Do you know, I've a great mind to join, just to see what it's like. Would you mind putting me up?
CUTHBERTSON. Delighted, Dan, delighted. (He grasps Craven's hand.)
CHARTERIS (putting one hand on Craven's shoulder and the other on Cuthbertson's). Bless you, my children! (Cuthbertson, a little wounded in his dignity, moves away. The Colonel takes the jest in the utmost good humor.)
CRAVEN (cordially). Hallo!
CHARTERIS (to Craven). Hope I haven't disturbed your chat by coming too soon.
CRAVEN. Not at all. Welcome, dear boy. (Shakes his hand.)
CHARTERIS. That's right. I'm earlier than I intended. The fact is, I have something rather pressing to say to Cuthbertson.
CHARTERIS. Not particularly. (To Cuthbertson.) Only what we were speaking of last night.
CUTHBERTSON. Well, Charteris, I think that is private, or ought to be.
CRAVEN (going up towards the table). I'll just take a look at the Times—
CHARTERIS (stopping him). Oh, it's no secret: everybody in the club guesses it. (To Cuthbertson.) Has Grace never mentioned to you that she wants to marry me?
CUTHBERTSON (indignantly). She has mentioned that you want to marry her.
CHARTERIS. Ah; but then it's not what I want, but what Grace wants, that will weigh with you.
CRAVEN (a little shocked). Excuse me Charteris: this is private. I'll leave you to yourselves. (Again moves towards the table.)
CHARTERIS. Wait a bit, Craven: you're concerned in this. Julia wants to marry me too.
CRAVEN (in a tone of the strongest remonstrance). Now really! Now upon my life and soul!
CHARTERIS. It's a fact, I assure you. Didn't it strike you as rather odd, our being up there last night and Mrs. Tranfield not with us?
CRAVEN. Well, yes it did. But you explained it. And now really, Charteris, I must say your explanation was in shocking bad taste before Julia.
CHARTERIS. Never mind. It was a good, fat, healthy, bouncing lie.
CRAVEN and CUTHBERTSON. Lie!
CHARTERIS. Didn't you suspect that?
CRAVEN. Certainly not. Did you, Jo?
CUTHBERTSON. No, most emphatically.
CRAVEN. What's more, I don't believe you. I'm sorry to have to say such a thing; but you forget that Julia was present and didn't contradict you.
CHARTERIS. She didn't want to.
CRAVEN. Do you mean to say that my daughter deceived me?
CHARTERIS. Delicacy towards me compelled her to, Craven.
CRAVEN (taking a very serious tone). Now look here, Charteris: have you any proper sense of the fact that you're standing between two fathers?
CUTHBERTSON. Quite right, Dan, quite right. I repeat the question on my own account.
CHARTERIS. Well, I'm a little dazed still by standing for so long between two daughters; but I think I grasp the situation. (Cuthbertson flings away with an exclamation of disgust.)
CRAVEN. Then I'm sorry for your manners, Charteris: that's all. (He turns away sulkily; then suddenly fires up and turns on Charteris.) How dare you tell me my daughter wants to marry you. Who are you, pray, that she should have any such ambition?
CHARTERIS. Just so; she couldn't have made a worse choice. But she won't listen to reason. I've talked to her like a father myself—I assure you, my dear Craven, I've said everything that you could have said; but it's no use: she won't give me up. And if she won't listen to me, what likelihood is there of her listening to you?
CRAVEN (in angry bewilderment). Cuthbertson: did you ever hear anything like this?
CUTHBERTSON. Never! Never!
CHARTERIS. Oh, bother? Come, don't behave like a couple of conventional old fathers: this is a serious affair. Look at these letters (producing a letter and a letter-card.) This (showing the card) is from Grace—by the way, Cuthbertson, I wish you'd ask her not to write on letter-cards: the blue colour makes it so easy for Julia to pick the bits out of my waste paper basket and piece them together. Now listen. "My dear Leonard: Nothing could make it worth my while to be exposed to such scenes as last night's. You had much better go back to Julia and forget me. Yours sincerely, Grace Tranfield."
CUTHBERTSON (infuriated). Damnation!
CHARTERIS (turning to Craven and preparing to read the letter). Now for Julia. (The Colonel turns away to hide his face from Charteris, anticipating a shock, and puts his hand on a chair to steady himself.) "My dearest boy. Nothing will make me believe that this odious woman can take my place in your heart. I send some of the letters you wrote me when we first met; and I ask you to read them. They will recall what you felt when you wrote them. You cannot have changed so much as to be indifferent to me: whoever may have struck your fancy for the moment, your heart is still mine"—and so on: you know the sort of thing—"Ever and always your loving Julia." (The Colonel sinks on the chair and covers his face with his hand.) You don't suppose she's serious, do you: that's the sort of thing she writes me three times a day. (To Cuthbertson) Grace is in earnest though, confound it. (He holds out Grace's letter.) A blue card as usual! This time I shall not trust the waste paper basket. (He goes to the fire, and throws the letters into it.)
CUTHBERTSON (facing him with folded arms as he comes down again). May I ask, Mr. Charteris, is this the New Humour?
CHARTERIS (still too preoccupied with his own difficulty to have any sense of the effect he is producing on the others). Oh, stuff! Do you suppose it's a joke to be situated as I am? You've got your head so stuffed with the New Humour and the New Woman and the New This, That and the Other, all mixed up with your own old Adam, that you've lost your senses.
CUTHBERTSON (strenuously). Do you see that old man, grown grey in the honoured service of his country, whose last days you have blighted?
CHARTERIS (surprised, looking at Craven and realizing his distress with genuine concern). I'm very sorry. Come, Craven; don't take it to heart. (Craven shakes his head.) I assure you it means nothing: it happens to me constantly.
CUTHBERTSON. There is only one excuse for you. You are not fully responsible for your actions. Like all advanced people, you have got neurasthenia.
CHARTERIS (appalled). Great Heavens! what's that?
CUTHBERTSON. I decline to explain. You know as well as I do. I am going downstairs now to order lunch. I shall order it for three; but the third place is for Paramore, whom I have invited, not for you. (He goes out through the left hand door.)
CHARTERIS (putting his hand on Craven's shoulder). Come, Craven; advise me. You've been in this sort of fix yourself probably.
CRAVEN. Charteris: no woman writes such letters to a man unless he has made advances to her.
CHARTERIS (mournfully). How little you know the world, Colonel! The New Woman is not like that.
CRAVEN. I can only give you very old fashioned advice, my boy; and that is that it's well to be off with the Old Woman before you're on with the New. I'm sorry you told me. You might have waited for my death: it's not far off now. (His head droops again. Julia and Paramore enter on the right. Julia stops as she catches sight of Charteris, her face clouding and her breast heaving. Paramore, seeing the Colonel apparently ill, hurries down to him with the bedside manner in full play.)
CHARTERIS (seeing Julia). Oh Lord! (He retreats under the lee of the revolving bookstand.)
PARAMORE (sympathetically to the Colonel). Allow me. (Takes his wrist and begins to count his pulse.)
CRAVEN (looking up). Eh? (Withdraws his hand and rises rather crossly.) No, Paramore: it's not my liver now: it's private business. (A chase now begins between Julia and Charteris, all the more exciting to them because the huntress and her prey must alike conceal the real object of their movements from the others. Charteris first makes for the right hand door. Julia immediately moves back to it, barring his path. He doubles back round the bookstand, setting it whirling as he makes for the left door, Julia crossing in pursuit of him. He is about to escape when he is cut off by the return of Cuthbertson. He turns back and sees Julia close upon him. There being nothing else for it, he bolts up into the recess to the left of the fireplace.)
CUTHBERTSON. Good morning, Miss Craven. (They shake hands.) Won't you join us at lunch? Paramore's coming too.
JULIA. Thanks: I shall be very pleased. (She goes up with affected purposelessness towards the recess. Charteris, almost trapped in it, crosses to the right hand recess by way of the fender, knocking down the fire irons with a crash as he does so.)
CRAVEN (who has crossed to the whirling bookcase and stopped it). What the dickens are you doing there, Charteris?
CHARTERIS. Nothing. It's such a confounded room to get about in.
JULIA (maliciously). Yes, isn't it. (She is moving back to guard the right hand door, when Cuthbertson appears at it.)
CUTHBERTSON. May I take you down? (He offers her his arm.)
JULIA. No, really: you know it's against the rules of the club to coddle women in any way. Whoever is nearest to the door goes first.
CUTHBERTSON. Oh well, if you insist. Come, gentlemen: let us go to lunch in the Ibsen fashion—the unsexed fashion. (He goes out on the left followed by Paramore, laughing. Craven goes last. He turns at the door to see whether Julia is coming, and stops when he sees she is not.)
CRAVEN. Come, Julia.
JULIA (with patronising affection). Yes, Daddy, dear, presently. (Charteris is meanwhile stealing to the right hand door.) Don't wait for me: I'll come in a moment. (The Colonel hesitates.) It's all right, Daddy.
CRAVEN (very gravely). Don't be long, my dear. (He goes out.)
CHARTERIS. I'm off. (Makes a dash for the right hand door.)
JULIA (darting at him and seizing his wrist). Aren't you coming?
CHARTERIS. No. Unhand me Julia. (He tries to get away: she holds him.) If you don't let me go, I'll scream for help.
JULIA (reproachfully). Leonard! (He breaks away from her.) Oh, how can you be so rough with me, dear. Did you get my letter?
CHARTERIS. Burnt it—(she turns away, struck to the heart, and buries her face in her hands)—along with hers.
JULIA (quickly turning again). Hers! Has she written to you?
CHARTERIS. Yes, to break off with me on your account.
JULIA (her eyes gleaming). Ah!
CHARTERIS. You are pleased. Wretch! Now you have lost the last scrap of my regard. (He turns to go, but is stopped by the return of Sylvia. Julia turns away and stands pretending to read a paper which she picks up from the table.)
SYLVIA (offhandedly). Hallo, Charteris: how are you getting on? (She takes his arm familiarly and walks down the room with him.) Have you seen Grace Tranfield this morning? (Julia drops the paper and comes a step nearer to listen.) You generally know where she is to be found.
CHARTERIS. I shall never know any more, Sylvia. She's quarrelled with me.
SYLVIA. Sylvia! How often am I to tell you that I am not Sylvia at the club?
CHARTERIS. I forgot. I beg your pardon, Craven, old chap (slaps her on the shoulder).
SYLVIA. That's better—a little overdone, but better.
JULIA. Don't be a fool, Silly.
SYLVIA. Remember, Julia, if you please, that here we are members of the club, not sisters. I don't take liberties with you here on family grounds: don't you take any with me. (She goes to the settee and resumes her former place.)
CHARTERIS. Quite right, Craven. Down with the tyranny of the elder sister!
JULIA. You ought to know better than to encourage a child to make herself ridiculous, Leonard, even at my expense.
CHARTERIS (seating himself on the edge of the table). Your lunch will be cold, Julia. (Julia is about to retort furiously when she is checked by the reappearance of Cuthbertson at the left hand door.)
CUTHBERTSON. What has become of you, Miss Craven? Your father is getting quite uneasy. We're all waiting for you.
JULIA. So I have just been reminded, thank you. (She goes out angrily past him, Sylvia looking round to see.)
CUTHBERTSON (looking first after her, then at Charteris). More neurasthenia. (He follows her.)
SYLVIA (jumping up on her knees on the settee and speaking over the back of it). What's up, Charteris? Julia been making love to you?
CHARTERIS (speaking to her over his shoulder). No. Blowing me up for making love to Grace.
SYLVIA. Serve you right. You are an awful devil for philandering.
CHARTERIS (calmly). Do you consider it good club form to talk that way to a man who might nearly be your father?
SYLVIA (knowingly). Oh, I know you, my lad.
CHARTERIS. Then you know that I never pay any special attention to any woman.
SYLVIA (thoughtfully). Do you know, Leonard, I really believe you. I don't think you care a bit more for one woman than for another.
CHARTERIS. You mean I don't care a bit less for one woman than another.
SYLVIA. That makes it worse. But what I mean is that you never bother about their being only women: you talk to them just as you do to me or any other fellow. That's the secret of your success. You can't think how sick they get of being treated with the respect due to their sex.
CHARTERIS. Ah, if Julia only had your wisdom, Craven! (He gets off the table with a sigh and perches himself reflectively on the stepladder.)
SYLVIA. She can't take things easy, can she, old man? But don't you be afraid of breaking her heart: she gets over her little tragedies. We found that out at home when our great sorrow came.
CHARTERIS. What was that?
SYLVIA. I mean when we learned that poor papa had Paramore's disease. But it was too late to inoculate papa. All they could do was to prolong his life for two years more by putting him on a strict diet. Poor old boy! they cut off his liquor; and he's not allowed to eat meat.
CHARTERIS. Your father appears to me to be uncommonly well.
SYLVIA. Yes, you would think he was a great deal better. But the microbes are at work, slowly but surely. In another year it will be all over. Poor old Dad! it's unfeeling to talk about him in this attitude: I must sit down properly. (She comes down from the settee and takes the chair near the bookstand.) I should like papa to live for ever just to take the conceit out of Paramore. I believe he's in love with Julia.
CHARTERIS (starting up excitedly). In love with Julia! A ray of hope on the horizon! Do you really mean it?
SYLVIA. I should think I do. Why do you suppose he's hanging about the club to-day in a beautiful new coat and tie instead of attending to his patients? That lunch with Julia will finish him. He'll ask Daddy's consent before they come back—I'll bet you three to one he will, in anything you please.
SYLVIA. No: cigarettes.
CHARTERIS. Done! But what does she think about it? Does she give him any encouragement?
SYLVIA. Oh, the usual thing. Enough to keep any other woman from getting him.
CHARTERIS. Just so. I understand. Now listen to me: I am going to speak as a philosopher. Julia is jealous of everybody—everybody. If she saw you flirting with Paramore she'd begin to value him directly. You might play up a little, Craven, for my sake—eh?
SYLVIA (rising). You're too awful, Leonard. For shame? However, anything to oblige a fellow Ibsenite. I'll bear your affair in mind. But I think it would be more effective if you got Grace to do it.
CHARTERIS. Think so? Hm! perhaps you're right.
PAGE BOY (outside as before). Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore—
SYLVIA. They ought to get that boy's voice properly cultivated: it's a disgrace to the club. (She goes into the recess on Ibsen's left. The page enters carrying the British Medical Journal.)
CHARTERIS (calling to the page). Dr. Paramore is in the dining room.
PAGE BOY. Thank you, sir. (He is about to go into the dining room when Sylvia swoops on him.)
SYLVIA. Here: where are you taking that paper? It belongs to this room.
PAGE BOY. It's Dr. Paramore's particular orders, miss. The British Medical Journal has always to be brought to him dreckly it comes.
SYLVIA. What cheek? Charteris: oughtn't we to stop this on principle?
CHARTERIS. Certainly not. Principle's the poorest reason I know for making yourself nasty.
SYLVIA. Bosh! Ibsen!
CHARTERIS (to the page). Off with you, my boy: Dr. Paramore's waiting breathless with expectation.
PAGE BOY (seriously). Indeed, sir. (He hurries off.)
CHARTERIS. That boy will make his way in this country. He has no sense of humour. (Grace comes in. Her dress, very convenient and businesslike, is made to please herself and serve her own purposes without the slightest regard to fashion, though by no means without a careful concern for her personal elegance. She enters briskly, like an habitually busy woman.)
SYLVIA (running to her). Here you are at last Tranfield, old girl. I've been waiting for you this last hour. I'm starving.
GRACE. All right, dear. (To Charteris.) Did you get my letter?
CHARTERIS. Yes. I wish you wouldn't write on those confounded blue letter cards.
SYLVIA (to Grace). Shall I go down first and secure a table?
CHARTERIS (taking the reply out of Grace's mouth). Do, old boy.
SYLVIA. Don't be too long. (She goes into the dining room.)
CHARTERIS. I'm afraid to face you after last night. Can you imagine a more horrible scene? Don't you hate the very sight of me after it?
GRACE. Oh, no.
CHARTERIS. Then you ought to. Ugh! it was hideous—an insult—an outrage. A nice end to all my plans for making you happy—for making you an exception to all the women who swear I have made them miserable!
GRACE (sitting down placidly). I am not at all miserable. I'm sorry; but I shan't break my heart.
CHARTERIS. No: yours is a thoroughbred heart: you don't scream and cry every time it's pinched. That's why you are the only possible woman for me.
GRACE (shaking her head). Not now. Never any more.
CHARTERIS. Never! What do you mean?
GRACE. What I say, Leonard.
CHARTERIS. Jilted again! The fickleness of women I love is only equaled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me. Well, well! I see how it is, Grace: you can't get over that horrible scene last night. Imagine her saying I had kissed her within the last two days!
GRACE (rising eagerly). Was that not true?
CHARTERIS. True! No: a thumping lie.
GRACE. Oh, I'm so glad. That was the only thing that really hurt me.
CHARTERIS. Just why she said it. How adorable of you to care! My darling. (He seizes her hands and presses them to his breast.)
GRACE. Remember! it's all broken off.
CHARTERIS. Ah yes: you have my heart in your hands. Break it. Throw my happiness out of the window.
GRACE. Oh, Leonard, does your happiness really depend on me?
CHARTERIS (tenderly). Absolutely. (She beams with delight. A sudden revulsion comes to him at the sight: he recoils, dropping her hands and crying) Ah no: why should I lie to you? (He folds his arms and adds firmly) My happiness depends on nobody but myself. I can do without you.
GRACE (nerving herself). So you shall. Thank you for the truth. Now I will tell you the truth.
CHARTERIS (unfolding his arms and again recoiling). No, please. Don't. As a philosopher, it's my business to tell other people the truth; but it's not their business to tell it to me. I don't like it: it hurts.
GRACE (quietly). It's only that I love you.
CHARTERIS. Ah! that's not a philosophic truth. You may tell me that as often as you like. (He takes her in his arms.)
GRACE. Yes, Leonard; but I'm an advanced woman. (He checks himself and looks at her in some consternation.) I'm what my father calls a New Woman. (He lets her go and stares at her.) I quite agree with all your ideas.
CHARTERIS (scandalized). That's a nice thing for a respectable woman to say! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
GRACE. I am quite in earnest about them too, though you are not; and I will never marry a man I love too much. It would give him a terrible advantage over me: I should be utterly in his power. That's what the New Woman is like. Isn't she right, Mr. Philosopher?
CHARTERIS. The struggle between the Philosopher and the Man is fearful, Grace. But the Philosopher says you are right.
GRACE. I know I am right. And so we must part.
CHARTERIS. Not at all. You must marry some one else; and then I'll come and philander with you. (Sylvia comes back.)
SYLVIA (holding the door open). Oh, I say: come along. I'm starving.
CHARTERIS. So am I. I'll lunch with you if I may.
SYLVIA. I thought you would. I've ordered soup for three. (Grace passes out. Sylvia continues, to Charteris) You can watch Paramore from our table: he's pretending to read the British Medical Journal; but he must be making up his mind for the plunge: he looks green with nervousness.
CHARTERIS. Good luck to him. (He goes out, followed by Sylvia.)