You Never Can Tell/Act IV

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The same room. Nine o'clock. Nobody present. The lamps are lighted; but the curtains are not drawn. The window stands wide open; and strings of Chinese lanterns are glowing among the trees outside, with the starry sky beyond. The band is playing dance-music in the garden, drowning the sound of the sea.
The waiter enters, shewing in Crampton and McComas. Crampton looks cowed and anxious. He sits down wearily and timidly on the ottoman.

WAITER. The ladies have gone for a turn through the grounds to see the fancy dresses, sir. If you will be so good as to take seats, gentlemen, I shall tell them. (He is about to go into the garden through the window when McComas stops him.)

McCOMAS. One moment. If another gentleman comes, shew him in without any delay: we are expecting him.

WAITER. Right, sir. What name, sir?

McCOMAS. Boon. Mr Boon. He is a stranger to Mrs Clandon; so he may give you a card. If so, the name is spelt B.O.H.U.N. You will not forget.

WAITER (smiling). You may depend on me for that, sir. My own name is Boon, sir, though I am best known down here as Balmy Walters, sir. By rights I should spell it with the aitch you, sir; but I think it best not to take that liberty, sir. There is Norman blood in it, sir; and Norman blood is not a recommendation to a waiter.

McCOMAS. Well, well: "True hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood."

WAITER. That depends a good deal on one's station in life, sir. If you were a waiter, sir, you'd find that simple faith would leave you just as short as Norman blood. I find it best to spell myself B. double-O.N., and to keep my wits pretty sharp about me. But I'm taking up your time, sir. You'll excuse me, sir: your own fault for being so affable, sir. I'll tell the ladies you're here, sir. (He goes out into the garden through the window.)

McCOMAS. Crampton: I can depend on you, can't I?

CRAMPTON. Yes, yes. I'll be quiet. I'll be patient. I'll do my best.

McCOMAS. Remember: I've not given you away. I've told them it was all their fault.

CRAMPTON. You told me that it was all my fault.

McCOMAS. I told you the truth.

CRAMPTON (plaintively). If they will only be fair to me!

McCOMAS. My dear Crampton, they won't be fair to you: it's not to be expected from them at their age. If you're going to make impossible conditions of this kind, we may as well go back home at once.

CRAMPTON. But surely I have a right—

McCOMAS (intolerantly). You won't get your rights. Now, once for all, Crampton, did your promises of good behavior only mean that you won't complain if there's nothing to complain of? Because, if so— (He moves as if to go.)

CRAMPTON (miserably). No, no: let me alone, can't you? I've been bullied enough: I've been tormented enough. I tell you I'll do my best. But if that girl begins to talk to me like that and to look at me like— (He breaks off and buries his head in his hands.)

McCOMAS (relenting). There, there: it'll be all right, if you will only bear and forbear. Come, pull yourself together: there's someone coming. (Crampton, too dejected to care much, hardly changes his attitude. Gloria enters from the garden; McComas goes to meet her at the window; so that he can speak to her without being heard by Crampton.) There he is, Miss Clandon. Be kind to him. I'll leave you with him for a moment. (He goes into the garden. Gloria comes in and strolls coolly down the middle of the room.)

CRAMPTON (looking round in alarm). Where's McComas?

GLORIA (listlessly, but not unsympathetically). Gone out—to leave us together. Delicacy on his part, I suppose. (She stops beside him and looks quaintly down at him.) Well, father?

CRAMPTON (a quaint jocosity breaking through his forlornness). Well, daughter? (They look at one another for a moment, with a melancholy sense of humor.)

GLORIA. Shake hands. (They shake hands.)

CRAMPTON (holding her hand). My dear: I'm afraid I spoke very improperly of your mother this afternoon.

GLORIA. Oh, don't apologize. I was very high and mighty myself; but I've come down since: oh, yes: I've been brought down. (She sits on the floor beside his chair.)

CRAMPTON. What has happened to you, my child?

GLORIA. Oh, never mind. I was playing the part of my mother's daughter then; but I'm not: I'm my father's daughter. (Looking at him funnily.) That's a come down, isn't it?

CRAMPTON (angry). What! (Her odd expression does not alter. He surrenders.) Well, yes, my dear: I suppose it is, I suppose it is. (She nods sympathetically.) I'm afraid I'm sometimes a little irritable; but I know what's right and reasonable all the time, even when I don't act on it. Can you believe that?

GLORIA. Believe it! Why, that's myself—myself all over. I know what's right and dignified and strong and noble, just as well as she does; but oh, the things I do! the things I do! the things I let other people do!!

CRAMPTON (a little grudgingly in spite of himself). As well as she does? You mean your mother?

GLORIA (quickly). Yes, mother. (She turns to him on her knees and seizes his hands.) Now listen. No treason to her: no word, no thought against her. She is our superior—yours and mine—high heavens above us. Is that agreed?

CRAMPTON. Yes, yes. Just as you please, my dear.

GLORIA (not satisfied, letting go his hands and drawing back from him). You don't like her?

CRAMPTON. My child: you haven't been married to her. I have. (She raises herself slowly to her feet, looking at him with growing coldness.) She did me a great wrong in marrying me without really caring for me. But after that, the wrong was all on my side, I dare say. (He offers her his hand again.)

GLORIA (taking it firmly and warningly). Take care. That's a dangerous subject. My feelings—my miserable, cowardly, womanly feelings—may be on your side; but my conscience is on hers.

CRAMPTON. I'm very well content with that division, my dear. Thank you. (Valentine arrives. Gloria immediately becomes deliberately haughty.)

VALENTINE. Excuse me; but it's impossible to find a servant to announce one: even the never failing William seems to be at the ball. I should have gone myself; only I haven't five shillings to buy a ticket. How are you getting on, Crampton? Better, eh?

CRAMPTON. I am myself again, Mr Valentine, no thanks to you.

VALENTINE. Look at this ungrateful parent of yours, Miss Clandon! I saved him from an excruciating pang; and he reviles me!

GLORIA (coldly). I am sorry my mother is not here to receive you, Mr Valentine. It is not quite nine o'clock; and the gentleman of whom Mr McComas spoke, the lawyer, is not yet come.

VALENTINE. Oh, yes, he is. I've met him and talked to him. (With gay malice.) You'll like him, Miss Clandon: he's the very incarnation of intellect. You can hear his mind working.

GLORIA (ignoring the jibe). Where is he?

VALENTINE. Bought a false nose and gone into the fancy ball.

CRAMPTON (crustily, looking at his watch). It seems that everybody has gone to this fancy ball instead of keeping to our appointment here.

VALENTINE. Oh, he'll come all right enough: that was half an hour ago. I didn't like to borrow five shillings from him and go in with him; so I joined the mob and looked through the railings until Miss Clandon disappeared into the hotel through the window.

GLORIA. So it has come to this, that you follow me about in public to stare at me.

VALENTINE. Yes: somebody ought to chain me up.

Gloria turns her back on him and goes to the fireplace. He takes the snub very philosophically, and goes to the opposite side of the room. The waiter appears at the window, ushering in Mrs Clandon and McComas.

MRS CLANDON (hurrying in). I am so sorry to have kept you waiting.

A grotesquely majestic stranger, in a domino and false nose, with goggles, appears at the window.

WAITER (to the stranger). Beg pardon, sir; but this is a private apartment, sir. If you will allow me, sir, I will shew you to the American bar and supper rooms, sir. This way, sir.

He goes into the gardens, leading the way under the impression that the stranger is following him. The majestic one, however, comes straight into the room to the end of the table, where, with impressive deliberation, he takes off the false nose and then the domino, rolling up the nose into the domino and throwing the bundle on the table like a champion throwing down his glove. He is now seen to be a stout, tall man between forty and fifty, clean shaven, with a midnight oil pallor emphasized by stiff black hair, cropped short and oiled, and eyebrows like early Victorian horsehair upholstery. Physically and spiritually, a coarsened man: in cunning and logic, a ruthlessly sharpened one. His bearing as he enters is sufficiently imposing and disquieting; but when he speaks, his powerful, menacing voice, impressively articulated speech, strong inexorable manner, and a terrifying power of intensely critical listening raise the impression produced by him to absolute tremendousness.

THE STRANGER. My name is Bohun. (General awe.) Have I the honor of addressing Mrs Clandon? (Mrs Clandon bows. Bohun bows.) Miss Clandon? (Gloria bows. Bohun bows.) Mr Clandon?

CRAMPTON (insisting on his rightful name as angrily as he dares). My name is Crampton, sir.

BOHUN. Oh, indeed. (Passing him over without further notice and turning to Valentine.) Are you Mr Clandon?

VALENTINE (making it a point of honor not to be impressed by him). Do I look like it? My name is Valentine. I did the drugging.

BOHUN. Ah, quite so. Then Mr Clandon has not yet arrived?

WAITER (entering anxiously through the window). Beg pardon, ma'am; but can you tell me what became of that— (He recognizes Bohun, and loses all his self-possession. Bohun waits rigidly for him to pull himself together. After a pathetic exhibition of confusion, he recovers himself sufficiently to address Bohun weakly but coherently.) Beg pardon, sir, I'm sure, sir. Was—was it you, sir?

BOHUN (ruthlessly). It was I.

WAITER (brokenly). Yes, sir. (Unable to restrain his tears.) You in a false nose, Walter! (He sinks faintly into a chair at the table.) I beg pardon, ma'am, I'm sure. A little giddiness—

BOHUN (commandingly). You will excuse him, Mrs Clandon, when I inform you that he is my father.

WAITER (heartbroken). Oh, no, no, Walter. A waiter for your father on the top of a false nose! What will they think of you?

MRS CLANDON (going to the waiter's chair in her kindest manner). I am delighted to hear it, Mr Bohun. Your father has been an excellent friend to us since we came here. (Bohun bows gravely.)

WAITER (shaking his head). Oh, no, ma'am. It's very kind of you— very ladylike and affable indeed, ma'am; but I should feel at a great disadvantage off my own proper footing. Never mind my being the gentleman's father, ma'am: it is only the accident of birth after all, ma'am. (He gets up feebly.) You'll all excuse me, I'm sure, having interrupted your business. (He begins to make his way along the table, supporting himself from chair to chair, with his eye on the door.)

BOHUN. One moment. (The waiter stops, with a sinking heart.) My father was a witness of what passed to-day, was he not, Mrs Clandon?

MRS CLANDON. Yes, most of it, I think.

BOHUN. In that case we shall want him.

WAITER (pleading). I hope it may not be necessary, sir. Busy evening for me, sir, with that ball: very busy evening indeed, sir.

BOHUN (inexorably). We shall want you.

MRS CLANDON (politely). Sit down, won't you?

WAITER (earnestly). Oh, if you please, ma'am, I really must draw the line at sitting down. I couldn't let myself be seen doing such a thing, ma'am: thank you, I am sure, all the same. (He looks round from face to face wretchedly, with an expression that would melt a heart of stone.)

GLORIA. Don't let us waste time. William only wants to go on taking care of us. I should like a cup of coffee.

WAITER (brightening perceptibly). Coffee, miss? (He gives a little gasp of hope.) Certainly, miss. Thank you, miss: very timely, miss, very thoughtful and considerate indeed. (To Mrs Clandon, timidly but expectantly.) Anything for you, ma'am?

MRS CLANDON Er—oh, yes: it's so hot, I think we might have a jug of claret cup.

WAITER (beaming). Claret cup, ma'am! Certainly, ma'am.

GLORIA Oh, well I'll have a claret cup instead of coffee. Put some cucumber in it.

WAITER (delighted). Cucumber, miss! yes, miss. (To Bohun.) Anything special for you, sir? You don't like cucumber, sir.

BOHUN. If Mrs Clandon will allow me—syphon—Scotch.

WAITER. Right, sir. (To Crampton.) Irish for you, sir, I think, sir? (Crampton assents with a grunt. The waiter looks enquiringly at Valentine.)

VALENTINE. I like the cucumber.

WAITER. Right, sir. (Summing up.) Claret cup, syphon, one Scotch and one Irish?

MRS CLANDON. I think that's right.

WAITER (perfectly happy). Right, ma'am. Directly, ma'am. Thank you. (He ambles off through the window, having sounded the whole gamut of human happiness, from the bottom to the top, in a little over two minutes.)

McCOMAS. We can begin now, I suppose?

BOHUN. We had better wait until Mrs Clandon's husband arrives.

CRAMPTON. What d'y' mean? I'm her husband.

BOHUN (instantly pouncing on the inconsistency between this and his previous statement). You said just now your name was Crampton.

CRAMPTON. So it is.


(All four speaking simultaneously –)  MRS CLANDON: I—, GLORIA: My—, McCOMAS: Mrs—, VALENTINE: You—

BOHUN (drowning them in two thunderous words). One moment. (Dead silence.) Pray allow me. Sit down everybody. (They obey humbly. Gloria takes the saddle-bag chair on the hearth. Valentine slips around to her side of the room and sits on the ottoman facing the window, so that he can look at her. Crampton sits on the ottoman with his back to Valentine's. Mrs Clandon, who has all along kept at the opposite side of the room in order to avoid Crampton as much as possible, sits near the door, with McComas beside her on her left. Bohun places himself magisterially in the centre of the group, near the corner of the table on Mrs Clandon's side. When they are settled, he fixes Crampton with his eye, and begins.) In this family, it appears, the husband's name is Crampton: the wife's Clandon. Thus we have on the very threshold of the case an element of confusion.

VALENTINE (getting up and speaking across to him with one knee on the ottoman). But it's perfectly simple.

BOHUN (annihilating him with a vocal thunderbolt). It is. Mrs Clandon has adopted another name. That is the obvious explanation which you feared I could not find out for myself. You mistrust my intelligence, Mr Valentine— (Stopping him as he is about to protest.) No: I don't want you to answer that: I want you to think over it when you feel your next impulse to interrupt me.

VALENTINE (dazed). This is simply breaking a butterfly on a wheel. What does it matter? (He sits down again.)

BOHUN. I will tell you what it matters, sir. It matters that if this family difference is to be smoothed over as we all hope it may be, Mrs Clandon, as a matter of social convenience and decency, will have to resume her husband's name. (Mrs Clandon assumes an expression of the most determined obstinacy.) Or else Mr Crampton will have to call himself Mr Clandon. (Crampton looks indomitably resolved to do nothing of the sort.) No doubt you think that an easy matter, Mr Valentine. (He looks pointedly at Mrs Clandon, then at Crampton.) I differ from you. (He throws himself back in his chair, frowning heavily.)

McCOMAS (timidly). I think, Bohun, we had perhaps better dispose of the important questions first.

BOHUN. McComas: there will be no difficulty about the important questions. There never is. It is the trifles that will wreck you at the harbor mouth. (McComas looks as if he considered this a paradox.) You don't agree with me, eh?

McCOMAS (flatteringly). If I did—

BOHUN (interrupting him). If you did, you would be me, instead of being what you are.

McCOMAS (fawning on him). Of course, Bohun, your specialty—

BOHUN (again interrupting him). My specialty is being right when other people are wrong. If you agreed with me I should be of no use here. (He nods at him to drive the point home; then turns suddenly and forcibly on Crampton.) Now you, Mr Crampton: what point in this business have you most at heart?

CRAMPTON (beginning slowly). I wish to put all considerations of self aside in this matter—

BOHUN (interrupting him). So do we all, Mr Crampton. (To Mrs Clandon.) Y o u wish to put self aside, Mrs Clandon?

MRS CLANDON. Yes: I am not consulting my own feelings in being here.

BOHUN. So do you, Miss Clandon?

GLORIA. Yes.

BOHUN. I thought so. We all do.

VALENTINE. Except me. My aims are selfish.

BOHUN. That's because you think an impression of sincerity will produce a better effect on Miss Clandon than an impression of disinterestedness. (Valentine, utterly dismantled and destroyed by this just remark, takes refuge in a feeble, speechless smile. Bohun, satisfied at having now effectually crushed all rebellion, throws himself back in his chair, with an air of being prepared to listen tolerantly to their grievances.) Now, Mr Crampton, go on. It's understood that self is put aside. Human nature always begins by saying that.

CRAMPTON. But I mean it, sir.

BOHUN. Quite so. Now for your point.

CRAMPTON. Every reasonable person will admit that it's an unselfish one—the children.

BOHUN. Well? What about the children?

CRAMPTON (with emotion). They have—

BOHUN (pouncing forward again). Stop. You're going to tell me about your feelings, Mr Crampton. Don't: I sympathize with them; but they're not my business. Tell us exactly what you want: that's what we have to get at.

CRAMPTON (uneasily). It's a very difficult question to answer, Mr Bohun.

BOHUN. Come: I'll help you out. What do you object to in the present circumstances of the children?

CRAMPTON. I object to the way they have been brought up.

BOHUN. How do you propose to alter that now?

CRAMPTON. I think they ought to dress more quietly.

VALENTINE. Nonsense.

BOHUN (instantly flinging himself back in his chair, outraged by the interruption). When you are done, Mr Valentine—when you are quite done.

VALENTINE. What's wrong with Miss Clandon's dress?

CRAMPTON (hotly to Valentine). My opinion is as good as yours.

GLORIA (warningly). Father!

CRAMPTON (subsiding piteously). I didn't mean you, my dear. (Pleading earnestly to Bohun.) But the two younger ones! you have not seen them, Mr Bohun; and indeed I think you would agree with me that there is something very noticeable, something almost gay and frivolous in their style of dressing.

MRS CLANDON (impatiently). Do you suppose I choose their clothes for them? Really this is childish.

CRAMPTON (furious, rising). Childish! (Mrs Clandon rises indignantly.)

(All rising and speaking together: ) McCOMAS: Crampton, you promised—  VALENTINE: Ridiculous. They dress charmingly.  GLORIA:  Pray let us behave reasonably.

Tumult. Suddenly they hear a chime of glasses in the room behind them. They turn in silent surprise and find that the waiter has just come back from the bar in the garden, and is jingling his tray warningly as he comes softly to the table with it.

WAITER (to Crampton, setting a tumbler apart on the table). Irish for you, sir. (Crampton sits down a little shamefacedly. The waiter sets another tumbler and a syphon apart, saying to Bohun) Scotch and syphon for you, sir. (Bohun waves his hand impatiently. The waiter places a large glass jug in the middle.) And claret cup. (All subside into their seats. Peace reigns.)

MRS CLANDON (humbly to Bohun). I am afraid we interrupted you, Mr Bohun.

BOHUN (calmly). You did. (To the waiter, who is going out.) Just wait a bit.

WAITER. Yes, sir. Certainly, sir. (He takes his stand behind Bohun's chair.)

MRS CLANDON (to the waiter). You don't mind our detaining you, I hope. Mr Bohun wishes it.

WAITER (now quite at his ease). Oh, no, ma'am, not at all, ma'am. It is a pleasure to me to watch the working of his trained and powerful mind—very stimulating, very entertaining and instructive indeed, ma'am.

BOHUN (resuming command of the proceedings). Now, Mr Crampton: we are waiting for you. Do you give up your objection to the dressing, or do you stick to it?

CRAMPTON (pleading). Mr Bohun: consider my position for a moment. I haven't got myself alone to consider: there's my sister Sophronia and my brother-in-law and all their circle. They have a great horror of anything that is at all—at all—well—

BOHUN. Out with it. Fast? Loud? Gay?

CRAMPTON. Not in any unprincipled sense of course; but—but— (blurting it out desperately) those two children would shock them. They're not fit to mix with their own people. That's what I complain of.

MRS CLANDON (with suppressed impatience). Mr Valentine: do you think there is anything fast or loud about Phil and Dolly?

VALENTINE. Certainly not. It's utter bosh. Nothing can be in better taste.

CRAMPTON. Oh, yes: of course you say so.

MRS CLANDON. William: you see a great deal of good English society. Are my children overdressed?

WAITER (reassuringly). Oh, dear, no, ma'am. (Persuasively.) Oh, no, sir, not at all. A little pretty and tasty no doubt; but very choice and classy—very genteel and high toned indeed. Might be the son and daughter of a Dean, sir, I assure you, sir. You have only to look at them, sir, to— (At this moment a harlequin and columbine, dancing to the music of the band in the garden, which has just reached the coda of a waltz, whirl one another into the room. The harlequin's dress is made of lozenges, an inch square, of turquoise blue silk and gold alternately. His hat is gilt and his mask turned up. The columbine's petticoats are the epitome of a harvest field, golden orange and poppy crimson, with a tiny velvet jacket for the poppy stamens. They pass, an exquisite and dazzling apparition, between McComas and Bohun, and then back in a circle to the end of the table, where, as the final chord of the waltz is struck, they make a tableau in the middle of the company, the harlequin down on his left knee, and the columbine standing on his right knee, with her arms curved over her head. Unlike their dancing, which is charmingly graceful, their attitudinizing is hardly a success, and threatens to end in a catastrophe.)

THE COLUMBINE (screaming). Lift me down, somebody: I'm going to fall. Papa: lift me down.

CRAMPTON (anxiously running to her and taking her hands). My child!

DOLLY (jumping down with his help). Thanks: so nice of you. (Phil, putting his hat into his belt, sits on the side of the table and pours out some claret cup. Crampton returns to his place on the ottoman in great perplexity.) Oh, what fun! Oh, dear. (She seats herself with a vault on the front edge of the table, panting.) Oh, claret cup! (She drinks.)

BOHUN (in powerful tones). This is the younger lady, is it?

DOLLY (slipping down off the table in alarm at his formidable voice and manner). Yes, sir. Please, who are you?

MRS CLANDON. This is Mr Bohun, Dolly, who has very kindly come to help us this evening.

DOLLY. Oh, then he comes as a boon and a blessing—

PHILIP. Sh!

CRAMPTON. Mr Bohun—McComas: I appeal to you. Is this right? Would you blame my sister's family for objecting to this?

DOLLY (flushing ominously). Have you begun again?

CRAMPTON (propitiating her). No, no. It's perhaps natural at your age.

DOLLY (obstinately). Never mind my age. Is it pretty?

CRAMPTON. Yes, dear, yes. (He sits down in token of submission.)

DOLLY (following him insistently). Do you like it?

CRAMPTON. My child: how can you expect me to like it or to approve of it?

DOLLY (determined not to let him off). How can you think it pretty and not like it?

McCOMAS (rising, angry and scandalized). Really I must say— (Bohun, who has listened to Dolly with the highest approval, is down on him instantly.)

BOHUN. No: don't interrupt, McComas. The young lady's method is right. (To Dolly, with tremendous emphasis.) Press your questions, Miss Clandon: press your questions.

DOLLY (rising). Oh, dear, you are a regular overwhelmer! Do you always go on like this?

BOHUN (rising). Yes. Don't you try to put me out of countenance, young lady: you're too young to do it. (He takes McComas's chair from beside Mrs Clandon's and sets it beside his own.) Sit down. (Dolly, fascinated, obeys; and Bohun sits down again. McComas, robbed of his seat, takes a chair on the other side between the table and the ottoman.) Now, Mr Crampton, the facts are before you—both of them. You think you'd like to have your two youngest children to live with you. Well, you wouldn't— (Crampton tries to protest; but Bohun will not have it on any terms.) No, you wouldn't: you think you would; but I know better than you. You'd want this young lady here to give up dressing like a stage columbine in the evening and like a fashionable columbine in the morning. Well, she won't—never. She thinks she will; but—

DOLLY (interrupting him). No I don't. (Resolutely.) I'll n e v e r give up dressing prettily. Never. As Gloria said to that man in Madeira, never, never, never while grass grows or water runs.

VALENTINE (rising in the wildest agitation). What! What! (Beginning to speak very fast.) When did she say that? Who did she say that to?

BOHUN (throwing himself back with massive, pitying remonstrance). Mr Valentine—

VALENTINE (pepperily). Don't you interrupt me, sir: this is something really serious. I i n s i s t on knowing who Miss Clandon said that to.

DOLLY. Perhaps Phil remembers. Which was it, Phil? number three or number five?

VALENTINE. Number five!!!

PHILIP. Courage, Valentine. It wasn't number five: it was only a tame naval lieutenant that was always on hand—the most patient and harmless of mortals.

GLORIA (coldly). What are we discussing now, pray?

VALENTINE (very red). Excuse me: I am sorry I interrupted. I shall intrude no further, Mrs Clandon. (He bows to Mrs Clandon and marches away into the garden, boiling with suppressed rage.)

DOLLY. Hmhm!

PHILIP. Ahah!

GLORIA. Please go on, Mr Bohun.

DOLLY (striking in as Bohun, frowning formidably, collects himself for a fresh grapple with the case). You're going to bully us, Mr Bohun.

BOHUN. I—

DOLLY (interrupting him). Oh, yes, you are: you think you're not; but you are. I know by your eyebrows.

BOHUN (capitulating). Mrs Clandon: these are clever children— clear headed, well brought up children. I make that admission deliberately. Can you, in return, point out to me any way of inducting them to hold their tongues?

MRS CLANDON. Dolly, dearest—!

PHILIP. Our old failing, Dolly. Silence! (Dolly holds her mouth.)

MRS CLANDON. Now, Mr Bohun, before they begin again—

WAITER (softer). Be quick, sir: be quick.

DOLLY (beaming at him). Dear William!

PHILIP. Sh!

BOHUN (unexpectedly beginning by hurling a question straight at Dolly). Have you any intention of getting married?

DOLLY. I! Well, Finch calls me by my Christian name.

McCOMAS. I will not have this. Mr Bohun: I use the young lady's Christian name naturally as an old friend of her mother's.

DOLLY. Yes, you call me Dolly as an old friend of my mother's. But what about Dorothee-ee-a? (McComas rises indignantly.)

CRAMPTON (anxiously, rising to restrain him). Keep your temper, McComas. Don't let us quarrel. Be patient.

McCOMAS. I will not be patient. You are shewing the most wretched weakness of character, Crampton. I say this is monstrous.

DOLLY. Mr Bohun: please bully Finch for us.

BOHUN. I will. McComas: you're making yourself ridiculous. Sit down.

McCOMAS. I—

BOHUN (waving him down imperiously). No: sit down, sit down. (McComas sits down sulkily; and Crampton, much relieved, follows his example.)

DOLLY (to Bohun, meekly). Thank you.

BOHUN. Now, listen to me, all of you. I give no opinion, McComas, as to how far you may or may not have committed yourself in the direction indicated by this young lady. (McComas is about to protest.) No: don't interrupt me: if she doesn't marry you she will marry somebody else. That is the solution of the difficulty as to her not bearing her father's name. The other lady intends to get married.

GLORIA (flushing). Mr Bohun!

BOHUN. Oh, yes, you do: you don't know it; but you do.

GLORIA (rising). Stop. I warn you, Mr Bohun, not to answer for my intentions.

BOHUN (rising). It's no use, Miss Clandon: you can't put me down. I tell you your name will soon be neither Clandon nor Crampton; and I could tell you what it will be if I chose. (He goes to the other end of the table, where he unrolls his domino, and puts the false nose on the table. When he moves they all rise; and Phil goes to the window. Bohun, with a gesture, summons the waiter to help him in robing.) Mr Crampton: your notion of going to law is all nonsense: your children will be of age before you could get the point decided. (Allowing the waiter to put the domino on his shoulders.) You can do nothing but make a friendly arrangement. If you want your family more than they want you, you'll get the worse of the arrangement: if they want you more than you want them, you'll get the better of it. (He shakes the domino into becoming folds and takes up the false nose. Dolly gazes admiringly at him.) The strength of their position lies in their being very agreeable people personally. The strength of your position lies in your income. (He claps on the false nose, and is again grotesquely transfigured.)

DOLLY (running to him). Oh, now you look quite like a human being. Mayn't I have just one dance with you? C a n you dance? (Phil, resuming his part of harlequin, waves his hat as if casting a spell on them.)

BOHUN (thunderously). Yes: you think I can't; but I can. Come along. (He seizes her and dances off with her through the window in a most powerful manner, but with studied propriety and grace. The waiter is meanwhile busy putting the chairs back in their customary places.)

PHILIP. "On with the dance: let joy be unconfined." William!

WAITER. Yes, sir.

PHILIP. Can you procure a couple of dominos and false noses for my father and Mr McComas?

McCOMAS. Most certainly not. I protest—

CRAMPTON. No, no. What harm will it do, just for once, McComas? Don't let us be spoil-sports.

McCOMAS. Crampton: you are not the man I took you for. (Pointedly.) Bullies are always cowards. (He goes disgustedly towards the window.)

CRAMPTON (following him). Well, never mind. We must indulge them a little. Can you get us something to wear, waiter?

WAITER. Certainly, sir. (He precedes them to the window, and stands aside there to let them pass out before him.) This way, sir. Dominos and noses, sir?

McCOMAS (angrily, on his way out). I shall wear my own nose.

WAITER (suavely). Oh, dear, yes, sir: the false one will fit over it quite easily, sir: plenty of room, sir, plenty of room. (He goes out after McComas.)

CRAMPTON (turning at the window to Phil with an attempt at genial fatherliness). Come along, my boy, come along. (He goes.)

PHILIP (cheerily, following him). Coming, dad, coming. (On the window threshold, he stops; looking after Crampton; then turns fantastically with his bat bent into a halo round his head, and says with a lowered voice to Mrs Clandon and Gloria) Did you feel the pathos of that? (He vanishes.)

MRS CLANDON (left alone with Gloria). Why did Mr Valentine go away so suddenly, I wonder?

GLORIA (petulantly). I don't know. Yes, I d o know. Let us go and see the dancing. (They go towards the window, and are met by Valentine, who comes in from the garden walking quickly, with his face set and sulky.)

VALENTINE (stiffly). Excuse me. I thought the party had quite broken up.

GLORIA (nagging). Then why did you come back?

VALENTINE. I came back because I am penniless. I can't get out that way without a five shilling ticket.

MRS CLANDON. Has anything annoyed you, Mr Valentine?

GLORIA. Never mind him, mother. This is a fresh insult to me: that is all.

MRS CLANDON (hardly able to realize that Gloria is deliberately provoking an altercation). Gloria!

VALENTINE. Mrs Clandon: have I said anything insulting? Have I done anything insulting?

GLORIA. you have implied that my past has been like yours. That is the worst of insults.

VALENTINE. I imply nothing of the sort. I declare that my past has been blameless in comparison with yours.

MRS CLANDON (most indignantly). Mr Valentine!

VALENTINE. Well, what am I to think when I learn that Miss Clandon has made exactly the same speeches to other men that she has made to me—when I hear of at least five former lovers, with a tame naval lieutenant thrown in? Oh, it's too bad.

MRS CLANDON. But you surely do not believe that these affairs— mere jokes of the children's—were serious, Mr Valentine?

VALENTINE. Not to you—not to her, perhaps. But I know what the men felt. (With ludicrously genuine earnestness.) Have you ever thought of the wrecked lives, the marriages contracted in the recklessness of despair, the suicides, the—the—the—

GLORIA (interrupting him contemptuously). Mother: this man is a sentimental idiot. (She sweeps away to the fireplace.)

MRS CLANDON (shocked). Oh, my d e a r e s t Gloria, Mr Valentine will think that rude.

VALENTINE. I am not a sentimental idiot. I am cured of sentiment for ever. (He sits down in dudgeon.)

MRS CLANDON. Mr Valentine: you must excuse us all. Women have to unlearn the false good manners of their slavery before they acquire the genuine good manners of their freedom. Don't think Gloria vulgar (Gloria turns, astonished): she is not really so.

GLORIA. Mother! You apologize for me to h i m!

MRS CLANDON. My dear: you have some of the faults of youth as well as its qualities; and Mr Valentine seems rather too old fashioned in his ideas about his own sex to like being called an idiot. And now had we not better go and see what Dolly is doing? (She goes towards the window. Valentine rises.)

GLORIA. Do you go, mother. I wish to speak to Mr Valentine alone.

MRS CLANDON (startled into a remonstrance). My dear! (Recollecting herself.) I beg your pardon, Gloria. Certainly, if you wish. (She bows to Valentine and goes out.)

VALENTINE. Oh, if your mother were only a widow! She's worth six of you.

GLORIA. That is the first thing I have heard you say that does you honor.

VALENTINE. Stuff! Come: say what you want to say and let me go.

GLORIA. I have only this to say. You dragged me down to your level for a moment this afternoon. Do you think, if that had ever happened before, that I should not have been on my guard—that I should not have known what was coming, and known my own miserable weakness?

VALENTINE (scolding at her passionately). Don't talk of it in that way. What do I care for anything in you but your weakness, as you call it? You thought yourself very safe, didn't you, behind your advanced ideas! I amused myself by upsetting t h e m pretty easily.

GLORIA (insolently, feeling that now she can do as she likes with him). Indeed!

VALENTINE. But why did I do it? Because I was being tempted to awaken your heart—to stir the depths in you. Why was I tempted? Because Nature was in deadly earnest with me when I was in jest with her. When the great moment came, who was awakened? who was stirred? in whom did the depths break up? In myself— m y s e l f: I was transported: you were only offended—shocked. You were only an ordinary young lady, too ordinary to allow tame lieutenants to go as far as I went. That's all. I shall not trouble you with conventional apologies. Good-bye. (He makes resolutely for the door.)

GLORIA. Stop. (He hesitates.) Oh, will you understand, if I tell you the truth, that I am not making an advance to you?

VALENTINE. Pooh! I know what you're going to say. You think you're not ordinary—that I was right—that you really have those depths in your nature. It flatters you to believe it. (She recoils.) Well, I grant that you are not ordinary in some ways: you are a clever girl (Gloria stifles an exclamation of rage, and takes a threatening step towards him); but you've not been awakened yet. You didn't care: you don't care. It was my tragedy, not yours. Good-bye. (He turns to the door. She watches him, appalled to see him slipping from her grasp. As he turns the handle, he pauses; then turns again to her, offering his hand.) Let us part kindly.

GLORIA (enormously relieved, and immediately turning her back on him deliberately.) Good-bye. I trust you will soon recover from the wound.

VALENTINE (brightening up as it flashes on him that he is master of the situation after all). I shall recover: such wounds heal more than they harm. After all, I still have my own Gloria.

GLORIA (facing him quickly). What do you mean?

VALENTINE. The Gloria of my imagination.

GLORIA (proudly). Keep your own Gloria—the Gloria of your imagination. (Her emotion begins to break through her pride.) The real Gloria—the Gloria who was shocked, offended, horrified—oh, yes, quite truly—who was driven almost mad with shame by the feeling that all her power over herself had been broken down at her first real encounter with—with— (The color rushes over her face again. She covers it with her left hand, and puts her right on his left arm to support herself.)

VALENTINE. Take care. I'm losing my senses again. (Summoning all her courage, she takes away her hand from her face and puts it on his right shoulder, turning him towards her and looking him straight in the eyes. He begins to protest agitatedly.) Gloria: be sensible: it's no use: I haven't a penny in the world.

GLORIA. Can't you earn one? Other people do.

VALENTINE (half delighted, half frightened). I never could—you'd be unhappy— My dearest love: I should be the merest fortune-hunting adventurer if— (Her grip on his arms tightens; and she kisses him.) Oh, Lord! (Breathless.) Oh, I— (He gasps.) I don't know anything about women: twelve years' experience is not enough. (In a gust of jealousy she throws him away from her; and he reels her back into the chair like a leaf before the wind, as Dolly dances in, waltzing with the waiter, followed by Mrs Clandon and Finch, also waltzing, and Phil pirouetting by himself.)

DOLLY (sinking on the chair at the writing-table). Oh, I'm out of breath. How beautifully you waltz, William!

MRS CLANDON (sinking on the saddlebag seat on the hearth). Oh, how could you make me do such a silly thing, Finch! I haven't danced since the soiree at South Place twenty years ago.

GLORIA (peremptorily at Valentine). Get up. (Valentine gets up abjectly.) Now let us have no false delicacy. Tell my mother that we have agreed to marry one another. (A silence of stupefaction ensues. Valentine, dumb with panic, looks at them with an obvious impulse to run away.)

DOLLY (breaking the silence). Number Six!

PHILIP. Sh!

DOLLY (tumultuously). Oh, my feelings! I want to kiss somebody; and we bar it in the family. Where's Finch?

McCOMAS (starting violently). No, positively— (Crampton appears in the window.)

DOLLY (running to Crampton). Oh, you're just in time. (She kisses him.) Now (leading him forward) bless them.

GLORIA. No. I will have no such thing, even in jest. When I need a blessing, I shall ask my mother's.

CRAMPTON (to Gloria, with deep disappointment). Am I to understand that you have engaged yourself to this young gentleman?

GLORIA (resolutely). Yes. Do you intend to be our friend or—

DOLLY (interposing). —or our father?

CRAMPTON. I should like to be both, my child. But surely—! Mr Valentine: I appeal to your sense of honor.

VALENTINE. You're quite right. It's perfect madness. If we go out to dance together I shall have to borrow five shillings from her for a ticket. Gloria: don't be rash: you're throwing yourself away. I'd much better clear straight out of this, and never see any of you again. I shan't commit suicide: I shan't even be unhappy. It'll be a relief to me: I—I'm frightened, I'm positively frightened; and that's the plain truth.

GLORIA (determinedly). You shall not go.

VALENTINE (quailing). No, dearest: of course not. But—oh, will somebody only talk sense for a moment and bring us all to reason! I can't. Where's Bohun? Bohun's the man. Phil: go and summon Bohun—

PHILIP. From the vastly deep. I go. (He makes his bat quiver in the air and darts away through the window.)

WAITER (harmoniously to Valentine). If you will excuse my putting in a word, sir, do not let a matter of five shillings stand between you and your happiness, sir. We shall be only too pleased to put the ticket down to you: and you can settle at your convenience. Very glad to meet you in any way, very happy and pleased indeed, sir.

PHILIP (re-appearing). He comes. (He waves his bat over the window. Bohun comes in, taking off his false nose and throwing it on the table in passing as he comes between Gloria and Valentine.)

VALENTINE. The point is, Mr Bohun—

McCOMAS (interrupting from the hearthrug). Excuse me, sir: the point must be put to him by a solicitor. The question is one of an engagement between these two young people. The lady has some property, and (looking at Crampton) will probably have a good deal more.

CRAMPTON. Possibly. I hope so.

VALENTINE. And the gentleman hasn't a rap.

BOHUN (nailing Valentine to the point instantly). Then insist on a settlement. That shocks your delicacy: most sensible precautions do. But you ask my advice; and I give it to you. Have a settlement.

GLORIA (proudly). He shall have a settlement.

VALENTINE. My good sir, I don't want advice for myself. Give h e r some advice.

BOHUN. She won't take it. When you're married, she won't take yours either— (turning suddenly on Gloria) oh, no, you won't: you think you will; but you won't. He'll set to work and earn his living— (turning suddenly to Valentine) oh, yes, you will: you think you won't; but you will. She'll make you.

CRAMPTON (only half persuaded). Then, Mr Bohun, you don't think this match an unwise one?

BOHUN. Yes, I do: all matches are unwise. It's unwise to be born; it's unwise to be married; it's unwise to live; and it's unwise to die.

WAITER (insinuating himself between Crampton and Valentine). Then, if I may respectfully put in a word in, sir, so much the worse for wisdom! (To Valentine, benignly.) Cheer up, sir, cheer up: every man is frightened of marriage when it comes to the point; but it often turns out very comfortable, very enjoyable and happy indeed, sir—from time to time. I never was master in my own house, sir: my wife was like your young lady: she was of a commanding and masterful disposition, which my son has inherited. But if I had my life to live twice over, I'd do it again, I'd do it again, I assure you. You never can tell, sir: you never can tell.

PHILIP. Allow me to remark that if Gloria has made up her mind—

DOLLY. The matter's settled and Valentine's done for. And we're missing all the dances.

VALENTINE (to Gloria, gallantly making the best of it). May I have a dance—

BOHUN (interposing in his grandest diapason). Excuse me: I claim that privilege as counsel's fee. May I have the honor—thank you. (He dances away with Gloria and disappears among the lanterns, leaving Valentine gasping.)

VALENTINE (recovering his breath). Dolly: may I— (offering himself as her partner)?

DOLLY. Nonsense! (Eluding him and running round the table to the fireplace.) Finch—my Finch! (She pounces on McComas and makes him dance.)

McCOMAS (protesting). Pray restrain — really — (He is borne off dancing through the window.)

VALENTINE (making a last effort). Mrs Clandon: may I—

PHILIP (forestalling him). Come, mother. (He seizes his mother and whirls her away.)

MRS CLANDON (remonstrating). Phil, Phil— (She shares McComas's fate.)

CRAMPTON (following them with senile glee). Ho! ho! He! he! he! (He goes into the garden chuckling at the fun.)

VALENTINE (collapsing on the ottoman and staring at the waiter). I might as well be a married man already. (The waiter contemplates the captured Duellist of Sex with affectionate commiseration, shaking his head slowly.)

CURTAIN.