Part 3 out of 3
fate of men or of nations whose will is set to be free. No accident there!
That you were tied to a man you wouldn't live with, who wouldn't live with
you--was an accident. But our love was no accident; it was waiting for us
before we knew anything. You and I had each a star which shone at the
KATHARINE. Your star was mine, dearest. I hadn't one of my own.
PARNELL. Well, if nations wish to be fooled, let them go to the devil
their own way, not laying the blame of their own folly on others! But
having got _you_--would I ever have let you go for any power under
Heaven? Why (as soon as you were free) did I marry you? I knew that,
politically, it was a blunder: that over there it would go against us--
prove the case. Half Ireland cared nothing for the verdict of an English
jury. But when we married, they had to believe it then.... Well, I wanted
them to believe it. I know my love would have waited, had I asked her. And
it wasn't--it wasn't honour, my dear; it was much more pride: for I am a
proud man, that I own: and not less since I have won you.
KATHARINE. If you hadn't been proud, dearest, you would never have got my
PARNELL. Oh, yes, I should. Those who love, don't love for qualities good
or bad. They love them in the person they love--that's all. You have
qualities which I didn't care about till I found them in you. To love is
to see life--new!
KATHARINE. And whole. Some day--alone by ourselves--we will!
PARNELL. Don't we already?
KATHARINE. Yes, if only--these other things didn't interfere. But I
promised; so they must.
PARNELL. My dear, when they have quite broken me--they will in time--then
KATHARINE. You promise to go right away?
PARNELL. I promise, sweetheart.
(_Moving toward each other they are about to embrace, when the door
opens, and the Servant enters carrying a card upon a tray_.)
SERVANT. If you please, sir.
(_Parnell takes the card; there is a pause while he looks at the
PARNELL. Will you say I am engaged.
(_The Servant goes. Parnell hands the card to his wife_.)
I don't know the man. Do you?
KATHARINE. No. And yet I seem to remember. Yes; Willie had a man-servant
of that name.
(_The Servant returns, bearing a folded note upon her tray_)
SERVANT. If you please, sir, I was to give you this.
PARNELL (_having read the note_). Is the man still there?
SERVANT. Yes, sir.
(_There is a pause_.)
PARNELL. Show him in.
(_As the Servant goes he hands the note to Katharine, and watches while
she reads it_.)
So--you remember him?
KATHARINE. Only the name.... I may have seen him, now and then.
(_And then enters a smooth-shaven man, sprucely dressed, with the
irreproachable manners of a well-trained servant. First, with a murmured
apology, he bows to the lady; then, having respectfully waited till the
silence becomes marked, says_:)
MAN. Good evening, sir.
PARNELL (_glancing again at the note_). You are a valet?
MAN. Yes, sir.
PARNELL. Are you wanting a place?
MAN. No, sir. I have a place.
MAN. That gentleman, sir--my last employer, dismissed me without a
(_His reference is to the note which Parnell still holds open in his
MAN. That's all, sir.
PARNELL. Then what have you come here for?
MAN. To give you this, sir.
(_He draws out and presents a letter, rather soiled by keeping, which
has already been opened. There is a pause, while Parnell looks first at
the address, then runs his eye over the contents_)
PARNELL. May I show it to--this lady?
MAN. Oh, yes, sir.
PARNELL. Whom, I take it, you recognise?
MAN. Yes, sir. (_And meeting her glance, he bows once more_)
(_Parnell hands over the letter, and while Katharine reads there is a
PARNELL. Did you bring me this expecting money for it?
MAN. No, sir.
PARNELL. I see it has a date. You could have let me have it before?
MAN. Yes, sir.
PARNELL. More than--six months ago?
MAN. More than a year ago, sir.
PARNELL. Quite so. And you did not?
MAN (_eyeing him steadfastly_). No, sir. I was still comfortable in
his service then, sir.
PARNELL (_ironically, after a pause of scrutiny eye to eye_). I am
singularly obliged to you.... How did you come by it, may I ask?
MAN. Well, sir, he'd been dining out, sir. Left it in his pocket--hadn't
PARNELL. I see.... Had your dismissal anything to do with this?
MAN. Oh, no, sir. That only happened quite recently.
PARNELL. And then--he dismissed you without a character, you say? Do you
think you deserved one?
MAN. From him, sir?--yes, sir.
PARNELL (_coldly amused_). That is a good answer. Have you been put
to any expense coming here?
MAN. Just my return fare, sir.
PARNELL. And were you expecting me to--?
MAN. No, sir; I could have sent it in the post, if I'd wished.
PARNELL (_surprised_). Do you mean, then, that I may keep this
MAN. Yes, sir.
PARNELL. I may do what I like with it?
MAN. Just what you like, sir.
PARNELL. Thank you.
(_After a pause of meditation he very deliberately tears up the letter
and puts it into the fire. Then, with rather icy politeness:)_
I am much obliged to you; and I wish you a good evening.
(_A little crestfallen, but with quiet self possession, the man accepts
the termination of the interview_.)
MAN. Good evening, sir. (_He moves to the door_.)
(_The man turns as the other goes towards him, and they meet face to
You haven't given yourself a very good character, coming here, my man; but
you might have done worse. Anyway, you've washed your hands of it now.
Don't do things like that again.
MAN. No, sir.
(_And as he stands hesitating, Parnell opens the door_.)
Thank you, sir.
(_The man goes. Parnell closes the door after him, comes meditatively
across, and sits down. There is a long pause_)
KATHARINE. What are you--thinking?
PARNELL. A year ago! ... If he had come to me with that a year ago--what
should I have done?
KATHARINE. You would have done just the same.
PARNELL. Torn it up? And put it in the fire?--I'm not so sure.
KATHARINE. But I am. Hadn't he the same right as I had, to live his own
PARNELL. My dear, I said "a year ago." That means before the case came
on. That would have stopped it--for good.... If I had had it--I might have
(_Watching him, she sees him smile_.)
KATHARINE (_rather tremulously_). Are you glad--that you didn't have
PARNELL. And use it? Yes: I am--glad!
KATHARINE (_throwing herself into his arms_). Oh, my dear! Why, that
means everything. You're glad! You're glad!
PARNELL (_clasping her_). Oh, my own love, my own dear sweet!
KATHARINE. You regret--nothing?
PARNELL. Nothing. Haven't I made you sure of that--yet?
KATHARINE. Oh, my King!--my King!
(_And just then the paper in the grate kindling into flame, he points to
PARNELL. Look! there goes--our proof.
KATHARINE. It doesn't matter.
PARNELL. It never did.
KATHARINE. That's what I mean.
PARNELL. But, politically, it might have made a world of difference.
KATHARINE. Yes--to the world; not to us. We wanted to be as we are, didn't
PARNELL. As we are, and as we were--how long is it?--eleven years ago.
There's been no change since. When I go back to my star, I shall have
found what I came for. That's what matters most. Souls either find or lose
themselves--live or die. I lived: I shouldn't have done, on this earth,
but for you--but for you.
(_There is a pause. He sits meditating_.)
KATHARINE. And of what--now?
PARNELL. The next generation--possibly the next but one: you and I gone,
and Ireland free. In this last year we may have done more for that--than
we could ever have planned. We've given them a bone to bite on: and
there's meat on it--real meat. And because of that, they call you my ruin,
eh? I look rather like one, I suppose, just now. But as I came home
to-night, all my mind was filled with you; and I knew that to me you were
worth far more than all the rest. And then suddenly I thought--what am I
worth to you?
KATHARINE. This--that if now you told me to go--because it was for your
good--I'd go--glad--yes glad that you'd made me do for you, at last,
something that was hard to do--for the first time, dearest, for the first
PARNELL (_deeply moved_). That so? Not an accident, then, eh?
KATHARINE (_embracing him_). Oh, my dear, my dear, my dear!
PARNELL. How true to life love makes everything!--so clear and straight--
looking back now. Through you I've learned this truth at any rate--that
there are two things about which a man must never compromise--first his
own soul, the right to be himself--no matter what others may think or do.
KATHARINE. And the other?
PARNELL. His instinct, of trust or distrust, in the character of others. I
hadn't any real doubt, but I compromised with instinct to gain my end: did
things I didn't believe were any good--accepted the word of men I didn't
trust. Home Rule itself was a compromise that I made myself accept. But I
never really believed in it. For you can't limit the liberty of a nation,
if it's really alive. Then came the smash--that woke me. And that I was
awake at last our love came to be the proof...Something different has got
to be now. Ireland will have to become more real--more herself, more of a
rebel than ever she has been yet. If, thirty years hence, my failure shall
have helped to bring that about--an Ireland really free--then I've won....
(_The words come quietly, confidently; but it is the voice of an
exhausted man, whose physical resources are nearly at an end. For a long
time he sits quite still, holding his wife's hand, saying nothing, for he
has nothing more to say. A high screen behind the couch on which they rest
cuts off the gaslight; only the firelight plays fitfully upon the two
faces. Suddenly the brightness falls away, and over that foreshadowing of
death, now only three days distant, the scene closes_.)
The Man of Business
JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (_Ex-Minister_)
JESSE COLLINGS (_His Friend_)
A DISTINGUISHED VISITOR
The Man of Business
SCENE: _Highbury. August_ 1913.
_Between double-doors, opening from living-room to conservatory, sits
the shadow of the once great and powerful Minister, State Secretary for
the Colonies. To the dark, sombre tones of the heavily furnished chamber
the gorgeous colours of the orchids, hanging in trails and festoons under
their luminous dome of glass, offer a vivid contrast. Yet even greater is
that which they present to the drawn and haggard features of the
catastrophically aged man whose public career is now over. In wheeled
chair, with lower limbs wrapped in a shawl and supported by a foot-rest,
he sits bent and almost motionless; and when he moves head or hand, it is
head or hand only, and the motion is slow, painful, and hesitating, as
though mind functioned on body with difficulty, uncertain of its ground.
Nevertheless, when the door opens, and the small squat figure of a very
old and dear friend advances towards him, his face lights instantly. With
tender reverence and affection the newcomer takes hold of his hand, lifts,
presses it, lays it back again. And when he has seated himself, the Shadow
CHAMBERLAIN. Well, Collings? Well?
JESSE COLLINGS. Well, my dear Chamberlain, how are you? I'm a little late,
CHAMBERLAIN. I hadn't noticed. Time doesn't matter to me now.
JESSE COLLINGS. No; but I like to be punctual. It's my nature.
CHAMBERLAIN. Habit...Habit and nature are different things, Collings. I've
been finding that out.
(_At this, for a diversion, Collings, readjusting his pince-nez, tilts
his head bird-like, and takes a genial look at his friend_)
JESSE COLLINGS. Joe, you are looking better to-day.
CHAMBERLAIN. Well, even looks are not to be despised, I suppose, when one
has nothing else left.
JESSE COLLINGS. Come, come!
JESSE COLLINGS. Nothing else left, indeed! Don't--don't be so _down_,
CHAMBERLAIN. Dear old friend!... Just now you called me "Joe." You don't
often do that. Why did you?
JESSE COLLINGS. A reversion to old habits, I suppose. One does as one gets
JESSE COLLINGS (_genially making conversation, which he sees to be
advisable_). I was reading only the other day that, as we get on in
years and begin to forget other things, our childhood comes back to us.
JESSE COLLINGS. Now I wonder if that's true?
CHAMBERLAIN. I wonder.
JESSE COLLINGS. Mine hasn't begun to come back to me.
CHAMBERLAIN. You aren't old yet.
JESSE COLLINGS. I'm over eighty.
CHAMBERLAIN. Good for another twenty years. And once you were my senior.
We weren't quite boys together, Collings; but we've been good friends.
JESSE COLLINGS. Thank God for that!--Joe.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, I do. More now than I used to.
JESSE COLLINGS. All the same, you haven't so much cause to thank Him as we
(_The listless monotone makes the little old man fear that he is not
JESSE COLLINGS. Is my talk tiring you?
CHAMBERLAIN. Not at all.... Please go on!
JESSE COLLINGS. I only want to say what I said just now: Don't be down,
dear friend. Your record will stand the test better than that of others.
Your work is still going on; it hasn't finished just because you are--laid
CHAMBERLAIN. "Laid up" is a kind way of putting it, Collins.
JESSE COLLINGS. Why, I needn't even have said that; when here--it's
_sitting_ up I find you.
CHAMBERLAIN. Sitting _out_.
JESSE COLLINGS. Well, "sitting out," if you like, for the time being. But
do you imagine that this phrase or that phrase (true for the moment)
states the case, counts, is worth troubling about?
CHAMBERLAIN. Do I imagine? No, I don't. I don't imagine anything. I was
never a man of imagination.
JESSE COLLINGS. You are, when you say that!
CHAMBERLAIN. No, Collings. When I've done anything, it has been because
I've had it in my hands to do.... My hands are empty now. Some men manage
to think with their heads only; others do it--with their stomachs you
might almost say. I've never been able to think properly unless I had hold
of things--had them here in my hands.... Look at them, now! (_With a
slow, faint gesture he indicates their helplessness; then continues:_)
I was the man of business,... and now, I'm out of business; so I can't
JESSE COLLINGS. But that business, as you call it, Chamberlain, which you
made so many of us understand for the first time--I was a "Little
Englander" myself, once--that's still going on.
CHAMBERLAIN (_bitterly_). Yes, it's a fine business!
JESSE COLLINGS (_startled)._ Don't you still believe in it?
CHAMBERLAIN. As a business? Yes. But it's going to fail all the same.
There's nobody to run it now.
JESSE COLLINGS. We mean to run it, Chamberlain! You'll see!
CHAMBERLAIN. I know you do, Collings. You are loyalty itself.
JESSE COLLINGS. There are others too. I'm not the only one.
CHAMBERLAIN. You are the best of them.
JESSE COLLINGS. No, I won't admit that.
JESSE COLLINGS. The best? Probably some one we don't yet even know. The
best are still to come. Time's with us.
CHAMBERLAIN. Is it?
JESSE COLLINGS. Don't you think so yourself?
CHAMBERLAIN. Not now. I did once.
JESSE COLLINGS. You always said so.
CHAMBERLAIN. I said it as long as I believed it: till the stars in their
courses turned against me. That broke me, Collings. If I could have gone
on having faith in myself, I shouldn't be--as I am now.
JESSE COLLINGS. But what--what made you lose it?
CHAMBERLAIN. Can't you guess?
(_Collings shakes his head, remains valiantly incredulous; and there is
I saw somebody else--whose cards weren't so good--playing with a better
hand. It was the hand beat me. My head's all right still, though it
sleeps. But I've lost my hand. Look at it! (_Again the gesture
illustrative of defeat_.) Threw it away. You know who I mean?
JESSE COLLINGS (_cautiously, _rather reluctantly_). I suppose I do.
CHAMBERLAIN (_watching to see the effect of his news_).
He's coming to-day: to see me.
COLLINGS (_surprised_). Coming here?
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, it's all been nicely arranged--just a call in passing.
To-morrow's papers will describe it as "a pathetic meeting." Well, when a
man has to meet his executioner on friendly terms, I suppose it is
"pathetic" for one of them.
(_All this is very disconcerting to poor Collings. He helps himself to a
half-sentence, and stops._)
JESSE COLLINGS. Did he himself----?
CHAMBERLAIN. Propose it? Oh, yes--in the most charming way possible. Isn't
it amazing how a man with charm can do things that nobody else dare? I
never managed to charm anybody.
JESSE COLLINGS. You made friends--and kept them.
CHAMBERLAIN. So does he. He has been successful all round: art, politics,
letters, society--he has friends in all. I've only been successful in
JESSE COLLINGS. My dear friend, aren't you forgetting yourself? You came
_out_ of business.
CHAMBERLAIN. No, I only changed to business on a larger scale--carried it
on under a bigger name. That's how I found myself. I had to make things
into a business in order to make a success of them. That was my method,
Collings: glorify it as much as you like. And up to a point it was good
business, I don't deny. That's how we ran local politics, invented the
Caucus: Corporation Street is the result. That's how we managed to run
Unionism: made a hard and fast contract of it, and made them stick to it.
That's how I ran the Colonies--and the Boer War. That's how I was going to
run the Empire on a Preferential Tariff. That came just too late. I'd made
JESSE COLLINGS. What mistake?
CHAMBERLAIN. Collings, the Boer War wasn't good business. It might have
been; but it lasted too long. Any modern war that isn't over in six months
now is a blunder, you'll find. They were able to hold out too long. That
did for me. There have been bees in my bonnet ever since--all because of
it. Boers first; then Bannerman; then--Balfour. Just once my business
instinct betrayed me, and I was done!
JESSE COLLINGS. But--wasn't the war necessary?
CHAMBERLAIN. To put the "business" on a sound footing? Yes, I thought so;
it looked like it. No, it wasn't! But before I quite knew, there'd come a
point where we couldn't go back; and so we just had to go on--and on.
D'you know what was the cleverest thing said or done during that war?...
You'd never guess ... but it's true. Campbell-Bannerman's "methods of
barbarism" speech. We downed him for it at the time, but it caught on--it
stuck. And it was on the strength of it (with C.-B. as their hope for the
future) that the Boers were persuaded to make peace: saved our face for
us. They might have gone on, till we got sick of it, and the world too.
JESSE COLLINGS. I don't--I can't think you are right, Chamberlain. You are
CHAMBERLAIN. No--I've had difficulty about thinking so myself; but, it has
come to me.
(_And so he sits and meditates over the point in his career where as a
business man he first jailed. Presently he resumes_:)
When two men, whose qualifications I used rather to despise, beat me at
business, Collings--it was a facer!
JESSE COLLINGS. Bannerman; and--the other?
CHAMBERLAIN. Comes to see me to-day. But it won't be a business meeting.
He'll not say anything about it--if he can help.
JESSE COLLINGS. And you?
CHAMBERLAIN. Perhaps I shall succumb to his charm. I've done so before
JESSE COLLINGS. Have you and he--had words ever?
CHAMBERLAIN. Differences of opinion, of course. "Words"? How should we? He
was always so wonderfully accommodating, so polite, so apologetic even.
Nobody ever had a finer contempt for his party than he--not even old
Dizzy, or Salisbury, or Churchill. So he could always say the handsome
thing to one--behind its back--even when he was making burnt-offerings to
JESSE COLLINGS. And when you left him?
CHAMBERLAIN. When I left him he did the thing beautifully. So genuinely
sorry to lose me; so sure of having me with him again, before long. How
could I have gone out and worked against him after that? But it's what--as
a business politician--I ought to have done.
JESSE COLLINGS. If you had--should we have won, straight away?
CHAMBERLAIN. We should have won the party, and the party-machine too. For
the rest it wouldn't have mattered waiting a year or two. Yes, we should
have won. But here's this, Collings: we should have won then; we shan't
win now. Times are changing: the time for it is over. Something else is
coming along--what, I don't know. My old fox-scent has gone: wind's
against me. The Colonies are growing up too fast. They won't separate, but
they mean to stand on their own feet all the same: in their own way--not
mine. We ought to have got them when they were a bit younger: we could
have done it then. Once it flattered them to be called "Dominions "; now
they are going to be "Sovereign States." And he--he doesn't mind. He is
never for big constructive ideas--only for contrivances: takes things as
they come, makes the best of them--philosophically--and gets round them;
and sometimes does it brilliantly.
JESSE COLLINGS. What will he talk about?
CHAMBERLAIN. Anything that comes into his head: the weather, the garden,
the greenhouses, the theatres. He'll tell me, perhaps, of a book or two
that I ought to read, that he hasn't had time for. He'll say, as you said,
that I'm looking better than he expected. He'll say something handsome
about Austen--quite genuinely meaning it. Then he'll say he's afraid of
tiring me; then he'll go.... Have you noticed how he shakes hands? He
hasn't much of a hand--not a real hand--but he does it, like everything
JESSE COLLINGS (_a little crestfallen_). I thought you really liked
CHAMBERLAIN. So I do. Because he has beaten me, is that any reason for
hating him? If it were--after a lifetime of polls and politics, one would
have to be at hate with half the world. No, from his point of view he had
to beat me, and he has done it. What I stick at is that he has proved the
better business man! As I used head and hand--and heart (_and_ heart,
JESSE COLLINGS. Yes, yes, I know you did.
CHAMBERLAIN. Some people thought I hadn't a heart: "hard as nails" they
called me.... Well, as I used those, so he used his defeats, his doubts,
his indecision, his charm--and left his heart out. That was the real
business-stroke. That did for me.... I liked him: he knew it. Whether he
ever liked me, to this day, I don't know--for certain. If he did, it made
no difference. That's what I call business.
JESSE COLLINGS (_warmly_). But you've always been honourable.
CHAMBERLAIN. So has he. Don't be sentimental, Collings! But some men
manage in public life to give you a certain view of their character: so
that you count on it. And then, on occasion, they play another--and get
wonderful results. If I'd had that gift, I should have used it and done
better. He has used it, and he has done better. I don't whine about it.
But I'd rather, Collings (I suppose I'm prejudiced), I'd rather he hadn't
asked himself here--just now: not just now.
(_There is a pause, and Collings feels that he must say something; but
finding nothing of any value to say, he merely commentates with a
JESSE COLLINGS. What has "just now" to do with it?
CHAMBERLAIN. "Just now," dear Collings, only means the next few months or
so--possibly a year. That's all. I had rather he'd waited, and then just
sent a wreath with the right sort of inscription on it. He could have done
that charmingly too. And I haven't got wreaths here for _him_, for I
don't think that even a posy of these would really interest him.
(_And with a weary gesture he points to the orchids, as though they were
things of which, not impossibly, "posies" might be made_.)
JESSE COLLINGS (_a little perplexed by this introduction of wreaths and
flowers into political affairs_). What does really interest him? He's
so interesting himself.
CHAMBERLAIN. You've hit it, Collings. It's himself. Not selfishly. He
stands for so many things that he values--that he thinks good for the
world--necessary for the stability of the social order. He is their
embodiment: he is the most emblematic figure in the modern world that I
know--in this country, at any rate--representing so much that is good in
the great traditions which have got to go. And to stave off that day he
will do almost anything. He would even--if he thought it would enable him
the better to prick some of his bubbles--he would even take office under
(_At this point, unobtrusively, a Nurse enters and stands waiting_.)
JESSE COLLINGS. I don't think we shall live to see that!
CHAMBERLAIN. I shall not; you may.
JESSE COLLINGS (_impulsively_). Chamberlain, I don't want to live
CHAMBERLAIN (_cajolingly_). Oh, yes, you do! Anyway--I want you to.
You will send me a wreath that will be worth having.
(_Whereat his quaint little companion leans forward, and, putting his
two hands pleadingly on the swathed knees, wants to speak but cannot.
Slowly the sick man lets down his own and covers them. And so, hand
resting on hand, he continues speaking:_)
Say what you like about the business man--the man who failed: he has known
how to make friends--good ones. And you, Jesse Collings, have been one of
the best: I couldn't have had a better. There's someone been waiting
behind you to give you a hint that you are tiring me--staying too long.
But you haven't: you never have. Perhaps, in the future, I shan't see
enough of you; perhaps, from now on, my doctor will have to measure even
my friends for me: three a day before meals. But I shall get life in bits
still--as long as you are allowed to come. Yes, Nurse, you make take him
(_Jesse Collings rises, and stands by his friend with moist eyes_.)
JESSE COLLINGS. Good-bye, my dear Joe, and--God bless you.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes ... good-bye!
(_Hands press and part, and Jesse Callings tip-toes meekly out,
apologising for the length of his stay by the softness of his going.
Chamberlain's head drops, his face becomes more drawn, his hands more
rigid and helpless. Without a word, his Nurse arranges his pillows,
preparing him for the sleep to which his unresisting body gradually
* * * * *
(_Two hours later he is awake again, and the Nurse is removing a tray
from which he has just taken some nourishment. He lifts his head and looks
at her. At this sign that he is about to speak, she pauses. Presently the
CHAMBERLAIN. Is he in there, waiting to see me?
NURSE. Yes, sir.
CHAMBERLAIN. Ask him to come in.
NURSE. You want to see him alone, sir? (_There is a pause._)
CHAMBERLAIN. I think only one at a time is enough--better for me: don't
NURSE. It would be less tiring for you, sir.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes. Ask him to come in.
(_So that being settled, she goes, and he sits waiting. The afternoon
sunlight is making the orchids look more resplendently themselves than
ever. So still, so vivid, so alive, they hang their snake-like heads in
long pendulous clusters; and among them all there is not a single one
which shows the slightest sign of falling-off or decay. Presently the door
is softly opened, and the Nurse, entering only to retire again, ushers in
the Distinguished Visitor, whose brow, venerable with intellect, and grey
with the approach of age, crowns a figure still almost youthful in its
elasticity and grace, and perfect in the deliberate ease and deportment of
its entry into a situation which many would find difficult. As he
approaches the wheeled chair, the kindness, modesty, and distinction of
his bearing prepare the way before him, and his silence has already said
the nicest of nice things, in the nicest possible way, before he actually
speaks. This he does not do till he has already taken and held the hand
which the other has tried to offer_.)
DISTINGUISHED VISITOR. My dear Chamberlain, how very good of you to let me
CHAMBERLAIN. Not too much out of your way, I hope?
DIST. V. On the contrary, I could wish it were more, if that might help to
express my pleasure in seeing you again.
CHAMBERLAIN. Well, what there is of me, you see. You are looking well.
DIST. V. And you--much better than I expected.
CHAMBERLAIN. Did you expect anything?
DIST. V. I was told that you had bad days occasionally, and were unable to
see anybody. I hope I am fortunate, and that this is one of your good
CHAMBERLAIN. Well, as they've let you see me, I suppose so. I don't find
much difference between my good and bad days. (Won't you sit down?) I'm
still in the possession of my faculties; I sleep well, and I don't have
DIST. V. (_seating himself_). And my staying with you for a little is
not going to tire you?
CHAMBERLAIN. It's far more likely to tire you, I'm afraid.
DIST. V. No, indeed not! Apart from anything else it is a welcome respite
on the journey. Motoring bores me terribly.
CHAMBERLAIN. Then you had really meant coming this way, in any case?
DIST. V. I had been long intending to; and when, last week, Hewell
proposed itself, all fitted together perfectly.
CHAMBERLAIN. Are they having a house-party?
DIST. v. I think not: I trust not. No, I believe a hint was dropped to
them that it wasn't to be--that I was feeling far too stale for any such
CHAMBERLAIN. Are you? You don't look like it.
DIST. V. In politics one tries not to look like anything; but how at the
end of the session can one be otherwise?
CHAMBERLAIN. Is all going on there--as usual?
DIST. V. Yes...yes. I don't find being in opposition makes as much
difference as I expected, as regards work. One misses the permanent
official who always did it for one. Wonderful creatures--who first
invented them? Pitt, or was it Pepys? Oh, no, he was one of them. A
product, perhaps, of the seventeenth century.
CHAMBERLAIN. In Tudor times Prime Ministers were permanent, weren't they?
DIST. V. Their heads weren't. Executions took the place of elections in
those days. And there's something to be said for it.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes. There was more dignity about it; it gave a testimonial
of character; the other doesn't.
DIST. V. Still, electoral defeat is very refreshing. Rejection by one's
own constituents is sometimes a blessing in disguise: it saves one from
undue familiarity.... That has never happened to you, has it?
CHAMBERLAIN. It depends what one means by--constituents. In the strict
(_And now there is a pause, for something has been said that is not
merely conversation. Very charmingly, and with a wonderful niceness of
tone, the Distinguished Visitor accepts the opening that has been given
DIST. V. Chamberlain, I have been wanting to come and see you for a long
CHAMBERLAIN. Thank you. So I--guessed.
DIST. V. I wrote to you--a letter which you did not answer. Perhaps it did
not seem to require an answer. But I hoped for one. So, after not hearing,
I made up my mind to come and see you.
CHAMBERLAIN. That was very kind of you.
DIST. V. No, it wasn't; it was natural. We've worked together--so long.
And I wanted to assure myself that there was, personally--that there is
now--no cloud between us; no ill-feeling about anything. If I thought that
remotely possible, I should regret it more than I can say. Speaking for
CHAMBERLAIN. If you had not thought it possible--should you have come?
DIST. V. I cannot conceive how that would have made any difference.
CHAMBERLAIN. Still, if you had not thought it possible, you would hardly
have asked the question.
DIST. V. Well, now I have asked it. Speech is an overrated means of
communication--especially between friends; but it has to serve sometimes.
And you, at least, Chamberlain, have never used it as--Talleyrand, was it
not?--recommended that it should be used--for concealment.
CHAMBERLAIN. So you think that--in words at any rate--I've been honest?
DIST. V. I should say pre-eminently.
DIST. V. I have never had differences--political divergences--with any man
more loyal than you, Chamberlain.
CHAMBERLAIN. Thank you. I value that--from you. So the question's
answered. On my side there is no cloud, as you tell me I have nothing with
which to reproach myself.
DIST. V. Thank you for the reassurance. In that case the heavens are
CHAMBERLAIN. I hope they are properly grateful. Such a testimonial--from
two men looking in opposite directions--is an embracing one.
DIST. V. Opposite? Oh, I had hoped--though we may not see eye to eye in
everything--that still, in the main, we were in general agreement.
CHAMBERLAIN. Possibly. I daresay "a half-sheet of note-paper" might still
cover our "general agreement," so long as we only talked about it. That
served us for--two years, did it not? But I wasn't meaning--as to our
political opinions. I meant that you are still looking to the future; I
can only look back.
DIST. V. That, for you, must be a retrospect of deep satisfaction. It has
made much history.
CHAMBERLAIN. Catastrophes make history--sometimes.
DIST. V. You helped to avert them.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, for a time. But another may be coming, and I shan't be
here then. And if I were, I should be no use.
DIST. V. Oh, don't say that! Nor can I agree, either. No use? Your good
word is a power we still depend on. No, Chamberlain, we cannot do without
CHAMBERLAIN. You did--when you accepted my resignation.
DIST. V. For a fixed and an agreed purpose. In a way that only bound us
CHAMBERLAIN. I thought so then. But it has turned out differently.
DIST. V. Has it? I should not have said so. Am I not to count on you
CHAMBERLAIN. As a diminishing force? Yes; I shan't disappoint you.
DIST. V. Oh! (_Deprecatingly, as of something that need not have been
said_.) But not that at all!
CHAMBERLAIN (_rubbing it in_). Necessarily: one who, as I said, can
only look backward. Forward, I am nothing. Believe me, I have measured
myself at last. This is no miscalculation--like the other.
DIST. V. The other?
CHAMBERLAIN. My resignation.
DIST. V. Was that one?
CHAMBERLAIN. It certainly had not the effect I intended.
DIST. V. Surely you were not then intending to force me against my own
CHAMBERLAIN. No; but I thought you, and the rest, would follow.
DIST. V. I think we did: I think we still do. But sometimes, with
followers, following takes time.
CHAMBERLAIN. It will take more than my time. That is where I
DIST. V. But, my dear Chamberlain--if one may be personal--you are
maintaining your strength, are you not? The doctors--are hopeful?
CHAMBERLAIN. The regulation paragraphs are supplied to the papers, if
that's what you mean.
DIST. V. But I had this from members of your own family.
CHAMBERLAIN. Quite so; it is they who supply them.
DIST. V. Then, if the source is so authoritative, surely it must be true.
CHAMBERLAIN. Are newspaper paragraphs in such cases--ever true?
DIST. V. Perhaps I am no judge. As you know, I seldom read them.
CHAMBERLAIN. Aren't the probabilities that they will always overstate the
case--as far as possible?
DIST. V. That is a course which, as an old politician,--speaking
generally--I must own has its advantages. So often, when things are
uncertain, one has to act as if one were sure.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, you've done that--sometimes. Sometimes you haven't. I
shouldn't call you an old politician, though. Being old is the thing
you've always managed to avoid. And yet, you've been in at a good many
political deaths first and last.
DIST. V. That, in itself, is an ageing experience.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes? ... I wonder.
DIST. V. Oh, but surely!
CHAMBERLAIN. _I_ wasn't sure; but I take your word for it.
DIST. V. In politics, somehow, the deaths seem always to exceed the
births: those who go have become more intimate: one has got to know them.
Yes, the departures do certainly overshadow the arrivals.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yet sometimes they must have come to you as a relief.
DIST. V. My dear Chamberlain, don't say that! It isn't true.
CHAMBERLAIN. Oh! I wasn't thinking of myself just then.
DIST. V. You were thinking, then, of somebody?
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, I was. I was thinking of George Wyndham. What a
beautiful fellow he was! so clever, so handsome, so charming: a man cut
out for success, by the very look of him. And then, all at once, down and
out: the old pack had got him! How they hunted him! "Devolution!" Wouldn't
they be glad to get that now?
DIST. V. At the time it was impossible.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, you accepted that, I know. ... It broke his heart. ...
Did you go and see him--when he was dying?
DIST. V. I used to go and see him when I could--yes, frequently; we had
been great friends. Not immediately--a month or two before, was the last
time, I think.
CHAMBERLAIN. And so with him, too, you could say that you remained friends
to the last! You have had a wonderful career: friends, enemies, they all
loved you. Gladstone (who hadn't as a rule much love for his political
opponents) made an exception in your case.
DIST. V. Yes, I owed a great deal to his generous friendship. It gave me
CHAMBERLAIN. Harcourt, too, always spoke of you with affection.
DIST. V. Oh, yes; we had a brotherly feeling about Rosebery, you know.
CHAMBERLAIN (_ignoring his diversion_). Randolph hadn't though. He
DIST. V. Randolph was a performer who just once exceeded his promise, and
then could never get back to it. That was his tragedy. Strange how, when
he lost his following, his brilliancy all went with it.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, it was strange, in one so independent of others. He had
a great faculty, at one time, for not caring, for being (or seeming)
ruthless. It's a gift that a politician must envy. It hasn't been my way
to lose my heart in politics: it's not safe. But--you charmed me.
(_There is an implication here that the quiet tone has not obscured. And
so the direct question comes_:)
DIST. V. Chamberlain, I must ask. What is there between us?
CHAMBERLAIN. Nothing--nothing now at all--or very little.
DIST. V. No, no; you are too sincere to pretend to misunderstand me like
CHAMBERLAIN. In politics can one afford to be quite--sincere? Openly, I
DIST. V. You have been--far more than others I could name.
CHAMBERLAIN. That is a friendly judgment. Others wouldn't say so. If a man
stays in politics till he ceases to be important, while others remain
important, there's bound to be a change of relations.
DIST. V. In our case I don't admit that it has happened.
CHAMBERLAIN. Don't you? You were our partyleader. I broke away; so you had
to break me. From your point of view you were right. I thought I knew the
game better than you. I made a mistake.
DIST. V. Do you mean, then, that you intended to break _me_?
CHAMBERLAIN. Oh, no. But I meant to--persuade you.
DIST. V. My view is that you did--very thoroughly. Surely I went a long
way--conceded a great deal.
CHAMBERLAIN. "Half a sheet of note-paper" was the measure of it. Yes, that
speech was a great success, and you remained our leader. But your halving
of that sheet was the beginning of--my defeat, your victory.
DIST. V. I don't recognise either. At this moment we are both defeated, in
a sense: out of office, that is to say.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, but you will come back. I shan't.
DIST. V. But--in all its essentials--what you stand for will.
CHAMBERLAIN. As a hang-fire, perhaps, while parties temporise and readjust
themselves to a new balance. But never the same thing again. The time for
it has gone. I missed it.
DIST. V. You mustn't be depressed, Chamberlain. Great policies, new
orientations, need careful nursing--testing too. Conditions are changing
CHAMBERLAIN. Mine are getting worse. I have two nurses now--night and day:
and I obey orders.
DIST. V. You do well to remind me. You shouldn't have let me tire you.
(_And so saying he rises_.)
CHAMBERLAIN. You don't. You used to, now and then, when we didn't agree.
You had the deliberate mind, your own fixed rate of progression: one
couldn't hurry you. And your semitones, and semicircles, and semi-quavers
used sometimes to worry me, I own. They don't now: having become a
monotone myself, I acquiesce. _I'm_ the slow one, now: you've set me
my pace.... Here I sit, stock still.
DIST. V. (_lightly diverting the conversation from its impending
embarrassment_). With your old associates still round you, I see!
(_And he touches a trail of blossom admiringly, as he continues_:)
They, at least, in their reflected glory, look flourishing; for they, too,
have had a share in your career, have they not?
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, they helped me to get into _Punch_, I suppose, if
not into Parliament. Yet, I never thought of it, till it happened--'twas a
mere accident. Would you like to take one with you?
DIST. V. I don't usually so efface myself, but I will with pleasure. This
one is quite exquisite. May I? Thanks (_and the glory of it goes to his
buttonhole_). I notice, too, that it has a scent.
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes, that is a new kind, hard to rear. There are very few of
it in England yet, and nowhere growing so well as they do here.
DIST. V. That is so like you, Chamberlain--you are the born expert;
everything you touch--it's in your blood. Whatever you have done, you have
CHAMBERLAIN. So I have your word for it. I was saying to Collins this
morning that as a type of the really successful man you had beaten me.
DIST. V. I--a type of success? My dear Chamberlain! In my wildest dreams,
I aim only at safety; and if my hesitations have sometimes distressed you,
they have been far more distressing to myself. You yourself, in a moment
of friendly candour, once described me (so I was told) as the champion
CHAMBERLAIN. So I did, and it's true. But I said "champion." If you hadn't
been such a champion at it, the mud would have swallowed you up alive.
Instead of that, you have made it a tower of defence against your enemies.
That's why I regard you not only as so successful, but so British.
DIST. V. May I, at least, claim that even for self-defence I have not
slung it at my opponents?
CHAMBERLAIN. No. Why waste it? It's your use, not your misuse of it that I
so admire. If you hadn't been such a wonderful politician, you might have
been a great statesman.
DIST. V. Doesn't that rather indicate failure?
CHAMBERLAIN. No. Sometimes the political world has no use for statesmen--
except to down them. Sometimes it prefers politicians, and perhaps
rightly. Every age makes its own peculiar requirements; and those who find
out when the political line is the better one to follow, are the
successful ones. You and I have been--politicians; let's be honest and own
it. And now my particular politics are over. Circumstances have emptied me
out. That's different from mere failure. Great statesmen have been
failures; we've seen them go down, you and I--too big, too far-seeing for
their day. But they went down _full_, with all the weight of their
great convictions and principles still to their credit. I'm empty. Time
has played me out. That's the difference.
DIST. V. I am confident that history will give a different verdict.
CHAMBERLAIN. Will it? When exactly does history begin to get written? Is a
man's reputation for statesmanship safe, even after a hundred years? What
about Pitt? Can one be so sure of him now? His European policy may have
been a blunder; his great work in Ireland may yet have to be reversed.
DIST. V. In reversed circumstances, that may become logical. But what has
held good for a hundred year, I should incline to regard as statesmanship.
CHAMBERLAIN. "Held good"? Fetters a man can't break "hold good "; but they
make a prisoner of him all the same. Policies have done that to nations
before now. But would you, on that score, say of them that they have held
DIST. V. But let me understand, my dear Chamberlain, what exactly in
Pitt's policy you now question?
CHAMBERLAIN. Nothing: I can't see far enough ahead to question anything. I
only say, when does history begin to get written? We don't know.
DIST. V. What more can one do than direct it for the generation in which
one lives? That, it seems to me, is our main responsibility.
CHAMBERLAIN. Well, that's what you and I have done. How? Mainly by pulling
down bigger men than ourselves. Randolph, Parnell, Gladstone--we got the
better of them, didn't we? Have you never wondered why men of genius get
sent into the world--only to be defeated? Gladstone was a bigger man
than the whole lot of us; but we pulled him down--and I enjoyed doing it.
Parnell, for all his limitations, was a great man. Well, we got him down
too. And I confess that gave me satisfaction. You helped to pull Randolph
down; but you didn't enjoy doing it. That's where you and I were
DIST. V. I helped?
CHAMBERLAIN. Yes; it had to be done. And you were sorry for him while you
did it--just as you were sorry for Wyndham.
DIST. V. But I did nothing!
CHAMBERLAIN. Quite so. He came down here to fight us in the Central
division, and the Conservatives were keen for it. It was touch and go:
Unionists were not in such close alliance then; he might have succeeded.
You did nothing; wouldn't back him. (Quite right, from my point of view.)
Randolph went down: never the same man again.
DIST. V. But, my dear Chamberlain, we had our agreed compact.
CHAMBERLAIN. An official understanding, certainly. But that didn't prevent
me from going to the Round-Table conference. That also was touch and go;
it might have succeeded. Where would our compact have been, then?
DIST. V. The Round-Table was merely an interrogation covering a forlorn
hope. It failed because you remained loyal to your convictions.
CHAMBERLAIN. It failed because one day two of us lost our tempers--one
bragged, the other bullied. That was the real reason. If Gladstone had
given me a large enough hand over his first Bill, d'you suppose I
shouldn't have been a Home Ruler? I was to begin with, remember.
DIST. V. Standing for a very different Bill, I imagine.
CHAMBERLAIN. Which you would still have opposed. But I should have won.
DIST. V. Certainly, if we had lost you, it would have made a difference.
CHAMBERLAIN. I was younger then: I'd more push in me. But you would have
let me go, all the same. Yes, I've always admired your courage when the
odds were against you...So, when the time for it came, you pulled me down
too. It had to be done. ...And here I am.
DIST. V. My dear Chamberlain, you distress me deeply!
CHAMBERLAIN. Of course I do. D'you think I haven't distressed myself too?
Do I look like a man who hasn't been through anything?
DIST. V. Then--there is a cloud between us, after all.
CHAMBERLAIN. No. I see you clearly; I see myself clearly. There's no cloud
about it; it's all sharp, and clear, and hard--hard as nails. And
I've been able to put it into words--that now you understand. Poor
Randolph! Do you remember how his tongue stumbled, and tripped him, the
last time he spoke in the House? And I saw you looking on, pitying him.
You'd got a kind side to you, for all your efficiency. Men like you for
that--that charm...It's been a great asset to you. Parnell, how he tried
all his life to make a speech and couldn't. But what he said didn't
matter--there was the man! What a force he might have been--was! What a
Samson, when he pulled the whole Irish Party down--got them all on top of
him to pull with him. What d'you think he was doing then? Trying to give
his Irish nation a soul! It looked like pride, pique, mere wanton
destruction; but it was a great idea. And if ever they rise to it--if ever
the whole Irish nation puts its back to the wall as Parnell wanted it to
do then--shakes off dependence, alliance, conciliation, compromise, it may
beat us yet! They were afraid of defeat. That's why we won. A cause or a
nation that fears no defeat--nor any number of them--that's what wins in
the long run. But does any such nation--any such cause exist? I'm not
sure...I'm not really sure of anything now, only this: that it's better
not to live too long after one has failed. To go on living then--is the
worst failure of all.
(_As be thus talks himself out, his auditor's solicitous concern has
continually increased; and now when, for the first time, the voice breaks
with exhaustion and emotion, the other, half-rising from his seat,
interposes with gentle but insistent urgency.)_
DIST. V. My dear Chamberlain, you are overtaxing your strength; you are
doing yourself harm. You ought not to go on. Stop, I do beg of you!
CHAMBERLAIN. Stop? Why stop? What does it matter now?
(_But even as he speaks, mind and will cease to contest the point where
physical energy fails. His manner changes, his voice becomes dull and
listless of tone_)
Oh, yes...yes. You are quite right. It's time. I'm under orders now. Would
you mind--the bell?
(_Then, as the other is about to rise, he perceives that the Nurse has
already entered, and now stands, unobtrusive but firm, awaiting the moment
to reassert her sway_.)
Oh, it's not necessary. There's the Nurse come again, to remind me that I
mustn't tire myself in tiring you.
(_And so, under the presiding eye of professional attendance, the
Visitor rises and advances to take his leave._)
Thank you--for coming. Thank you--for hearing me so patiently...You always
did that, even though it made no difference...I wonder--shall I ever see
DIST. V. You shall. I promise.
CHAMBERLAIN. I wonder.
DIST. V. I assure you, I shall make a point of it. Believe me, I am very
grateful for this opportunity you have given me; and even more am I
grateful for all your long loyalty in the past. Through all differences,
through all difficulties, I have felt that you were indeed a friend. So,
till we meet again, my dear Chamberlain, good-bye!
(_The two hands meet and part, while the Nurse moves forward to resume
her professional duties. The Distinguished Visitor begins to retire_.)
CHAMBERLAIN. Good-bye...You can find your way?
DIST. V. (_turning gracefully as be goes_). Perfectly!
(_And treating the door with the same perfection of courtesy as be
treats all with whom he comes in contact, be goes to take his leave of
other members of the family. The door closes; the Nurse is punching the
pillows; Chamberlain speaks_:)
CHAMBERLAIN. So that's the end, eh?... Charming fellow!
(_And so saying, be settles back to the inattention of life to which he
has become accustomed_.)
WOODROW WILSON (_Ex-President of the United States of America_)
MR. TUMULTY (_His Secretary_)
A GRACIOUS PRESENCE
SCENE; _Washington. March 4th,_ 1921.
_Through, the large windows of this rather stiffly composed sitting-room
Washington conveys an ample and not unimpressive view of its official
character. The distant architecture, rising out of trees, is almost
beautiful, and would be quite, if only it could manage to look a little
less self-satisfied and prosperous. Outside is a jubilant spring day;
inside something which much more resembles the wintering of autumn. For
though this is an entry over which the door has just opened and closed, it
is in fact an exit, final and complete, from the stage of world-politics,
made by one who in his day occupied a commanding position of authority and
power. That day is now over. In the distance an occasional blare of brass
and the beat of drums tells that processions are still moving through the
streets of the capital, celebrating the inauguration of the new President.
It is the kind of noise which America knows how to make; a sound of
triumph insistent and strained, having in it no beauty and no joy.
The Ex-President moves slowly across the room, bearing heavily to one
side upon his stick, to the other upon the proudly protecting arm of his
friend, Mr. Secretary Tumulty. Into the first comfortable chair that
offers he lets himself down by slow and painful degrees, lay's his stick
carefully aside, then begins very deliberately to pull off his gloves.
When that is done, only then allowing himself complete relaxation, he
sinks back in his chair, and in a voice of resigned weariness speaks_.
EX-PRES. So ... that's over!
TUMULTY. It hasn't tired you too much, I hope?
EX-PRES. Too much for what, my dear Tumulty? I've time to be tired now.
What else, except to be tired, is there left for me to do?
TUMULTY. Obey doctor's orders.
EX-PRES. He let me go.
TUMULTY (_shrewdly_). You would have gone in any case.
(_Tumulty adjusts the cushions at his back_.)
TUMULTY (_seating himself_). Well, Governor, now you've seen him in
place, what do you think of him?
EX-PRES. Oh, I find him--quite--what I expected him to be. I think he
TUMULTY. A new President always does.
EX-PRES. (_slowly pondering his words_). Yes ... that's true ...
TUMULTY (_tactfully providing diversion_). The big crowd outside was
very friendly, I thought.
EX-PRES. Yes ... couldn't have been friendlier....It let me alone.
TUMULTY. Well, of course, they'd come mainly to see the new President.
EX-PRES. Of course. So had I. Yes, I believe Harding's a good man. He was
very kind, very considerate. I feel grateful.
TUMULTY (_with rich emotion_). That's how a good many of us are
feeling to you, Governor: to-day very specially. It's what I've come back
EX-PRES. That's very good of you. We've had--differences of opinion; but
you've always been loyal.
TUMULTY. I think, President--Forgive me; the word slipped out.
EX-PRES. No matter.
TUMULTY. I think there's been more loyalty--at heart--than you know.
Behind all our differences, in the party (as, with such big issues,
couldn't be avoided)--well; they didn't cut so deep as they seemed to.
They were all proud of you, even though we couldn't always agree. Of
course there've been exceptions.
EX-PRES. I don't want to judge the exceptions now (as perhaps I have done
in the past) more hardly than I judge myself ... Tumulty, I've failed.
TUMULTY (_extenuatingly_.) In a way--yes: for a time, no doubt.
TUMULTY. I don't agree.
EX-PRES. Because you don't know.
TUMULTY. Governor, I know a good deal.
EX-PRES. Oh, yes; you've been a right hand to me--all through. Others
weren't. So I had to leave them alone, and--be alone. When I made that
choice, it seemed not to matter: my case was so strong--and I had such
faith in it! It was that did for me!
TUMULTY. Chief, I'm not out to argue with you--to make you more tired than
you are already. But if I don't say anything, please don't think I'm
agreeing with you.
EX-PRES. I'm accustomed to people not agreeing with me, Tumulty.... Yes:
too much faith--not in what I stood for, but in myself: perhaps--though
there I'm not so sure--perhaps too little in others. To some I gave too
much: and the mischief was done before I knew.
TUMULTY. You don't need to name him, President.
EX-PRES. I don't need to name anyone now. Sometimes a man may know his own
points of weakness too well--guard against them to excess, be overcautious
because of them; and then, trying to correct himself, just for once he's
not cautious enough. But where I failed was in getting the loyalty and
cooperation of those who didn't agree with me so thoroughly as you did.
And I ought to have done it; for that is a part of government. Your good
executive is the man who gets all fish into his net. I failed: I caught
some good men, but I let others go. There was fine material to my hand
which I didn't recognise, or didn't use so well as I should have done. I
hadn't the faculty of letting others think for me: when I tried, it went
badly; they didn't respond. So--I did all myself.
TUMULTY (_airing himself a little_). You always listened to
EX-PRES. Yes, Tumulty, yes. And you weren't offended when I--didn't pay
TUMULTY. When you _had_ paid attention, you mean.
EX-PRES. Perhaps I do. My way of paying attention has struck others
differently. They think I'm one who doesn't listen--who doesn't want to
listen. It's a terrible thing, Tumulty, when one sees and knows the truth
so absolutely, but cannot convince others. That's been my fate: to be so
sure that I was right (I'm as sure of that now as ever) and yet to fail.
Here--there--it has been always the same. I went over to Paris thinking to
save the Peace: there came a point when I thought it was saved; it would
have been had the Senate backed me--it could have been done then. But when
I put the case to which already we stood pledged, I convinced nobody. They
did not want justice to be done.
TUMULTY. But you had a great following, Governor. You had a wonderful
reception when you got to Paris.
EX-PRES. Yes: in London too. It seemed then as if people were only waiting
to be led. But I'm talking of the politicians now. There was no room for
conviction there; each must stick to his brief. That's what wrecked us.
Not one--not one could I get to own that the right thing was the wise
thing to do: that to be just and fear not was the real policy which would
have saved Europe--and the world.... Look at it now! Step by step, their
failure is coming home to them; but still it is only as failure that they
see it--mere human inability to surmount insuperable difficulties: the
greed, the folly, the injustice, the blindness, the cruelty of it they
don't see. And the people don't teach it them. They can't. No nation--no
victorious nation--has gotten it at heart to say, "We, too, have sinned."
Lest such a thing should ever be said or thought, one of the terms of
peace was to hand over all the blame; so, when the enemy signed the
receipt of it, the rest were acquitted. And in that solemn farce the
Allies found satisfaction! What a picture for posterity!
And when they point and laugh, I shall be there with the rest. It's our
self-righteousness has undone us, Tumulty; it's that which has made us
blind and hard--and dishonest: for there has been dishonesty too. Because
we were exacting reparations for a great wrong, we didn't mind being
unjust to the wrongdoer. And so, in Paris, we spent months, arguing,
prevaricating, manoeuvring, so as to pretend that none had had any share
in bringing the evil about. When I spoke for considerate justice, there
was no living force behind me in that council of the Nations. They wanted
their revenge, and now they've got it: and look what it is costing them!
(_And then the door opens, and an Attendant enters, carrying a, covered
cup upon a tray. Upon this intrusion the Ex-President turns a little
grimly; but before he can speak, Tumulty interposes_.)
TUMULTY. You'll forgive this little interruption, Governor: I got domestic
orders to see that you took it.... You will?
(_The dictatorial expression softens: with a look of mild resignation
the Ex-President touches the table for the tray to be set down. And when
the Attendant has gone, he continues_:)
EX-PRES. No, they wouldn't believe me when I said that to be revengeful
would cost more than to be forgiving. And still they won't believe that
the trouble they are now in comes--not from the destructiveness of the
War, but from their own destruction of the Peace. I had the truth in me;
but I failed. I was a voice crying into the void--a President without a
people to back me: a dictator--of words! And they knew that my time was
short, and that I had no power of appeal--because the heart of my people
was not with me! If they had any doubt before, the vote of the Senate told
TUMULTY. You said "the people," Governor?
EX-PRES. The people's choice, Tumulty. The vote _for_ the Senate, and
the vote _of_ the Senate: where's the difference?
TUMULTY. Still, I don't think you know how many were with you right
through: and I'm not speaking only of our own people. Over there it was
your stand gave hope to the best of them, so long as hope was possible.
But they were all so busy holding their breath, maybe they didn't make
noise enough. Anyway--seems you didn't hear 'em.
EX-PRES. You can't reproach me with it, Tumulty----
TUMULTY (_expostulant_). I'm not doing that, Governor!
EX-PRES. ----more than I reproach myself. If that were true, then it was
my business to know it. But what I ought to have known I realised too
late. When I heard those shouting crowds--yes, then, for a while, I
thought it did mean--victory. But in the Conference at Versailles--Paris--
I was in another world: the shouting died out, and I was alone.... I
hadn't expected to be alone--in there, I mean. I had reckoned--was it
wrong?--on honour counting among those in high places of authority for
more than it did. We went in pledged up to the hilt: not in detail, not in
legal terms, not as politicians, perhaps; but as men of honour--speaking
each for the honour of our own nation. And that wasn't enough; for whom
people stand pledged twice over--first in secret, then publicly--it's
difficult to make them face where honour lies.
TUMULTY. You mean the secret treaties, Governor. That's been a puzzle to
many of us: what you knew about them, I mean.
EX-PRES. Tumulty, I willed not to know them. Rumour of them reached me, of
course. Had I then given them a Hearing, I might have been charged with
complicity, the silence which gave consent. Many were anxious that I
should know of them--at a time when opposition would have been very
difficult--premature, outside my province. And so--by not knowing--I was
free: and when I stated the basis of the Peace terms, I stated them (and I
was secure then in my power to do so) in terms which should in honour have
made those secret treaties no longer tenable. There was my first great
error--I acknowledge it, Tumulty: that I believed in honour.
TUMULTY (_reluctantly)._ Yes ... I see that. But it's the sort of
thing one can only see after it has happened. You must have got a pretty
deep-down insight into character, Governor, when you came to the top of
things over there, to the top people, I mean.
EX PRES. (_after a pause reflectively_). Yes. it was very
interesting, when one got accustomed to it: highly selected humanity,
representative of things--it was afraid of. There daily sat four of us--if
one counts heads only; but we were, in fact, six, or seven, or eight
characters. And the characters sprang up and choked us. Patriots,
statesmen? oh yes! but also "careerists." Men whose future depends on
the popular vote can't always be themselves--at least, it seemed not; for
we should then have ceased to be "representative," and it was as
representatives that we had come. And so one would sit and listen, and
watch--one person, and two characters. Lloyd George, when his imagination
was not swamped in self-satisfaction, was quite evangelical to listen to--
sometimes. But there he was representative--not of principles, nor of
those visionary sparks which he struck so easily and threw off like
matches, but of a successful election cry for "hanging the Kaiser" and
"making Germany pay." And having got his majority, he and his majority had
become one. But for that, he might--he just might ... yet who can tell?
That tied him. I was alone.
TUMULTY (_coming nobly to the rescue_). Then take this from me,
Governor: for a man all alone you did wonders.
EX-PRES. I did my best; but I failed. My first mistake was when I believed
in honour; my second, when I let them shut the doors. Yes, to that he got
me to agree. Clever, clever; that was his first win.
TUMULTY. Who, Governor?
EX-PRES. (_with a dry laugh_). The man who told me he was on my side.
The reason?--a kindly means of saving faces for those whom he and I were
going to "persuade"--of making the "climb-down" easier for them! That
seemed a helpful, charitable sort of reason, didn't it? One it would have
been hard to refuse. I didn't; so the doors were shut to cover defeat and
disappointment over the secret treaties. Then they had me: three against
one! And their weight told--quite apart from mere argument; for each had
behind him the popular voice (and when one lost it--you may remember--
another came, and took his place). But against me the popular voice had
shut its mouth: I, too, was an electioneer--a defeated one. Of my lease of
power then, less than a year remained. After the Senate elections I was
nothing. In Paris they knew it: and I could see in their eyes that they
were glad. Yes, _he_ was glad, too.
(_As he speaks, his head sinks in depression. There is a pause._)
TUMULTY (_in his best sick-bed manner_). Governor, don't you think
that you'd better rest now?
EX-PRES. (_ignoring the remark_). And so the old secret diplomacy,
balancing for power, with war as the only sure end of it, came back to
life; and I--pledged to its secrecies with the rest--I had to stay dumb. I
was a drowning man, then, Tumulty--clutching at straws, till I became an
adept at it. There, perhaps, as you say, I did do "wonders"--of a kind:
all I could, anyway. That was my plight, while there in Paris we held high
court, and banqueted, and drank healths from dead men's skulls. Did nobody
guess--outside--what was going on? I gave one signal that I thought was
plain enough, when I sent for the _George Washington_ to bring me
home again. But, though I listened for it then, there seemed no response.
People were so busy, you say, holding their breath; and _that_ I
TUMULTY (_zealous, in a pause, to show his interest_). Well,
EX-PRES. And then, rather than let me so go and spoil the general effect
(the one power still left to me!), they began to make concessions--
concessions which, I see now, didn't amount to much; and so they persuaded
me, and I stayed on, and signed my failure with the rest.
TUMULTY (_for a diversion pointing to the covered cup_).
Pardon me, Governor, you must obey orders, you know. They are not mine.
EX-PRES. (_taking up the cup with a dry smile_). Executive authority
has taught me that obeying orders is much simpler than giving them: you
know when you've got them done. (_Removing the cover, he drains the cup
and sets it down again_.) There! now let your conscience be at rest.
(_After a pause he resumes_:) Tumulty, when I faced failure, when I
knew that I had failed----Yes; don't trouble to contradict me. I know,
dear friend, I know that you don't agree; and, God bless you! I also know
why.----When I knew _that_, after the whole thing was over, and I was
out again and free, do you suppose I wasn't tempted to go out and cry the
truth (as some were expecting and wishing for it to be cried) in the ears
of the whole world?--let all know that I _had_ failed, and so--that
way at least--separate myself from the Evil Thing which there sat smiling
at itself in its Hall of Mirrors--seeing no frustrate ghosts, no death's
heads at that feast, as I saw them?... I came out a haunted man--all the
more because those I was amongst didn't believe in ghosts--not then.
People who have been overwhelmingly victorious in a great war find that
difficult. But they will--some day.
TUMULTY. Well, Governor, and supposing you had yielded to this
"Temptation," as you call it, what's the proposition?
EX-PRES. This ... I had one power--one weapon, still left to me
unimpaired: to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, so help me God! And the proposition is just this: whether to be
stark honest, even against the apparent interests of the very cause you
are out to plead, is not in the long run the surest way--if it be of God--
to help it make good: whether defeat, with the whole truth told, isn't
better than defeat hidden away and disowned, in the hope that something
may yet come of it. You may get a truer judgment that way in the end;
though at the time it may seem otherwise. Yes, I _was_ tempted to cry
it aloud--to make a clean breast of it--to say, "We, the Governments of
the People, the Democracies, the Free Nations of the world, have failed--
have lost the peace which we could have won, because we would not give up
the things which we loved so much better--profit, revenge, our own too
good opinion of ourselves, our own self-righteous judgment of others."...
I was tempted to it; and yet it has been charged against me that I would
not admit failure because I wanted to save my face.
TUMULTY. You have never been much scared by what people _said_,
Governor. That didn't count, I reckon.
EX-PRES. No, Tumulty; but this did--that where all seemed dark, I still
saw light. Down there, among the wreckage, something was left--an
instrument of which I thought I saw the full future possibility more
clearly than others. I believe I do still. And my main thought then
was--how best to secure that one thing to which, half blindly, they had
agreed. To win that, I was willing to give up my soul.
TUMULTY. It's the Covenant, you mean, Governor?
EX-PRES. Yes, the Covenant! That at least was won--seemed won--whatever
else was lost. Some of them were willing to let me have it only because
they themselves believed it would prove useless--just to save my face for
all I had to give up in exchange. And so I--let them "save my face" for
me; let them think that it was so--just to give this one thing its chance.
And so, for that, and for that alone, I bound myself to the Treaty--stood
pledged to do my utmost to see it through: a different thing, that, from
telling the truth. Was I wrong, Tumulty--was I wrong?
TUMULTY. No, no, Governor! You did everything a man could--under the
EX-PRES. I have said that often to myself: and I hope, sometimes, that it
may be true. But a man who gives up anything of the truth, as he sees it,
for reasons however good--can he ever be sure of himself again?... It's a
new thing for me to ask another man if I have done wrong. But that's the
way I feel: I don't myself know. And once, once, I was so sure--that I was
right, and that I should win!
(_The situation has now become one which the friendly Tumulty would like
to control, but cannot. As a "soul-stirring revelation of character" he
finds it, no doubt, immensely interesting; but to be thus made Father
Confessor of the man whom he has followed with humble and dog-like
devotion, knocks the bottom out of his world altogether. Moreover, he has
received "domestic orders," and is not properly obeying them; and so,
dominated by the stronger will, he glances apprehensively, now and again,
toward the door, hoping that it may open and bring relief, but himself
sits and does nothing. Meanwhile, insistent and remorseless at
self-examination, the Ex-President continues to wear himself out_.)
When a man comes really to himself, Tumulty--sees clearly within--does it
help him toward seeing also what lies outside, beyond, and ahead--make him
more sure that, as regards others, he has done right? I don't know--I
would give my life to know--if what I did, when all else had failed, was
best. The political forces, prejudices, antagonisms, the powers of evil
around me, have been so dubiously deceiving and dark, that I do not know
now whether to have been uncompromisingly true to principle would have
done any good. Perhaps after to-day I shall know better; perhaps only now
have I become qualified to judge--a free man at last. Only in the secrecy
of my own heart--now finally removed from all the interests, ambitions,
fears, which gather about a man's public career--I do most earnestly and
humbly pray that in this one thing I did right--not to discredit myself
too utterly in the world's eyes, so that _that_, at least, might
TUMULTY (_doing his best_). It _will_ live, Governor!
EX-PRES. It _may_. But in what hands have I had to leave it? To men
who have no faith in it, to men who dislike it, to men who will try
persistently, sedulously, day in, day out, to turn it back to their own
selfish ends. There, in those hands, its fate will lie--perhaps for a
generation to come. And it is only by faith in the common people, not in
their politicians, that I dare look forward and hope that the instrument--
blunt and one-sided though it be now--may yet become mighty and two-edged
and sharp, a sword in the hand of a giant--of one whose balances are those
of justice, not of power. But _I_ shan't see it, Tumulty; it won't be
in my day. If America had come in, I should! That was the keystone of my
policy: that gone, my policy has failed. That was my faith--is still; for
faith can live on when policies lie dead. Think what it might have been!
America, with that weapon to her hand, could have shaped the world's
future, made it a democracy of free nations--image and superscription no
longer Caesar's--but Man's. That--that was what I saw!
TUMULTY. Perhaps they saw it too, Governor. If they did, it might help to
EX-PRES. The Covenant was the instrument--and would have sufficed. So
organised, America's voice in all future contentions would have been too
strong, and just, and decisive to be gainsayed. Then life would have been
in it, then it would have prospered and become mighty. It would have
meant--within a generation from now--world-peace. Of that I had a sure
sense: it would have come. To make that possible, what I had to yield to
present jealousies, discords, blindness, was of no account--only look far
enough! For there, in the future, was the instrument for correcting them--
the people's vote for the first time internationally applied. And I had in
me such faith that America, secure of her place in the world's councils,
would have wrought to make justice international, and peace no longer a
dream! Was I wrong, Tumulty, was I wrong?
TUMULTY (_expanding himself_). No man who believes in America as much
as I do will ever say you were wrong, Governor.
EX-PRES. But when America stood out--when the Senate refused to ratify--
then I _was_ wrong. For then, what I had backed--all that remained
then--was a thing of shreds and patches. Nobody can think worse of the
Treaty than I do with America out of it, with the Covenant left the
one-sided and precarious thing it now is. Had we only been in it--the rest
wouldn't have mattered. Call it a dung-heap, if you like; yet out of it
would have sprung life. It may still; but _I_ shan't see it, Tumulty;
and that vision, which was then so clear, has become a doubt. Was I
wrong--was I wrong to pretend that I had won anything worth winning? Would
it not have been better to say "I have failed"?
TUMULTY. Forgive me, Governor: you are looking at things from a tired-out
mind. That's not fair, you know.
EX-PRES. But if you knew, oh, if you knew against what odds I fought even
to get that! They knew that they had got me down; and the only card left
me at last was their own reluctance to let a discredited President go back
to his own people and show them his empty hands, and tell them that he had
failed. So a bargain was struck, and this one thing was given me, that
peradventure it might have life--if I, for my part, would come back here
and plead the ratification of the Treaty which they--and I--had made.
Could I have done that with any effect, had I said that in almost
everything I had failed?
TUMULTY. Chief, I think you did right. But I still feel I'm up a back
street. How could things have come to fail as much as they did? After all,
it was a just war.
EX-PRES. Tumulty, I have been asking myself whether there can be such a
thing as a "just war." There can be--please God!--there must be sometimes
a just _cause_ for war. When one sees great injustice done, sees it
backed by the power of a blindly militarised nation, marching confidently
to victory, then, if justice has any place in the affairs of men, there is
sometimes just cause for war. But can there be--a just war? I mean--when
the will to war takes hold of a people--does it remain the same people?
Does war in its hands remain an instrument that can be justly used? Can it
be waged justly? Can it be won justly? Can it, having been won, make to a
just peace? No! Something happens: there comes a change; war in a people's
mind drives justice out.... Can soldiers fight without "seeing red"--can a
nation? Not when nations have to fight on the tremendous scale of modern
war. Then they are like those monstrous mechanisms of long-range
destructiveness, which we so falsely call "weapons of precision," but
which are in fact so horribly unprecise that, once let loose, we cannot
know what lives of harmlessness, of innocence, of virtue, they are going
to destroy. You find your range, you fix your elevation, you touch a
button: you hear your gun go off. And over there, among the unarmed--the
weak, the defenceless, the infirm--it has done--what? Singled out for
destruction what life or lives; ten, twenty, a hundred?--you do not know.
So with nations, when once they have gone to war; their imprecision
becomes--horrible; though the cause of your war may be just.
(_Tumulty gives a profound nod, paying his chief the compliment of
letting it be seen that he is causing him to think deeply_.)
That's what happened here. Do you remember, did you realise, Tumulty, what
a power my voice was in the world--till we went in?--that, because I had
the power to keep them back from war (for there my constitutional
prerogative was absolute), even my opponents had to give weight to my
words. They were angry, impatient, but they had to obey. And, because they
could not help themselves, they accepted point by point my building up of
the justice of our cause. They didn't care for justice; but I spoke for
the Nation then; and, with justice as my one end, I drove home my point.
And then--we went in. After that, justice became vengeance. When our men
went over the trenches, fighting with short arms, "_Lusitania!_" was
their cry: and they took few prisoners--you know that, Tumulty.
(_Over that point the Ex-President pauses, though Tumulty sees no
special reason why he should pause._)
The _Lusitania_ had been sunk, and still we had not gone to war, and
no crowds came to cry it madly outside the White House as they might have
done--if that was how they felt then. The _Lusitania_ lies at the
bottom of the sea. There are proposals for salving her; but I think that
there she will remain. The salving might tell too much.
TUMULTY. You mean that talk about fuse caps being on board might have been
true? Would it matter now?
EX-PRES. Yes. It was a horrible thing in any case--disproportionate, like
most other acts of war--and it did immeasurable harm to those who thought
to benefit. But this--I still only guess--might do too much good--bring
things a little nearer to proportion again, which the Treaty did not try
to do.... What I've been realising these last two years is a terrible
thing. You go to war, you get up to it from your knees--God driving you to
it--unable, yes, unable to do else. Your will is to do right, your cause
is just, you are a united nation, a people convinced, glad, selfless, with
hearts heroic and clean. And then war takes hold of it, and it all changes
under your eyes; you see the heart of your people becoming fouled, getting
hard, self-righteous, revengeful. Your cause remains, in theory, what it
was at the beginning; but it all goes to the Devil. And the Devil makes on
it a pile that he can make no otherwise--because of the virtue that is in
it, the love, the beauty, the heroism, the giving-up of so much that man's
heart desires. That's where he scores! Look at all that valiance, that
beauty of life gone out to perish for a cause it knows to be right; think
of the generosity of that giving by the young men; think of the faithful
courage of the women who steel themselves to let them go; think of the
increase of spirit and selflessness which everywhere rises to meet the
claim. All over the land which goes to war that is happening (and in the
enemy's land it is the same), making war a sacred and a holy thing. And
having got it so sanctified, then the Devil can do with it almost what he
likes. That's what he has done, Tumulty. If angels led horses by the
bridle at the Marne (as a pious legend tells), at Versailles the Devil had
his muzzled oxen treading out the corn. And of those--I was one! Yes; war
muzzles you. You cannot tell the truth; if you did, it wouldn't be
believed. And so, finally, comes peace; and over that, too, the Devil runs
up his flag--cross-bones and a skull.
TUMULTY (_struggling in the narrow path between wrong and right_).
But what else, Governor, is your remedy? We had to go to war; we were left
with no choice in the matter.
EX-PRES. No, we _had_ no choice. And what others had any choice?--
what people, I mean? But that is what everyone--once we were at war--
refused to remember. And so we cried "_Lusitania!_" against thousands
of men who had no choice in the matter at all. Remedy? There's only one.
Somehow we must get men to believe that Christ wasn't a mad idealist when
He preached His Sermon on the Mount; that what He showed for the world's
salvation then was not a sign only, but the very Instrument itself. We've
got to make men see that there's something in human nature waiting to
respond to a new law. There are two things breeding in the world--love and
hatred; breeding the one against the other. And there's fear making hatred
breed fast, and there's fear making love breed slow. Even as things now
are, it has managed--it has just managed to keep pace; but only just. If
men were not afraid--Love would win.
That, I've come to see, is the simple remedy; but it's going to be the
hardest thing to teach--because all the world is so much afraid.
(_And then, the worn, haggard man, having thus talked himself out, there
enters by the benign intervention of Providence a Gracious Presence, more
confident than he in her own ruling power. She moves quietly toward them,
and her voice, when she speaks, is corrective of a situation she does not
THE PRESENCE. Mr. Tumulty ... my dear.
(_Resting her hands on the back of the Ex-President's chair, she surveys
them benevolently but critically. Then her attention is directed to the
covered cup standing on its tray_!)
Have you taken your----
EX-PRES. My medicine? Yes. Your orders came through, and have been obeyed.
THE PRESENCE. It wasn't medicine. I made it myself.
EX-PRES. Then I beg its pardon--and yours.
THE PRESENCE. Will you please to remember that your holiday began at
twelve o'clock to-day? I'm not going to allow any overtime now.
EX-PRES. That settles it, then, Tumulty. And that means you are to go. I
had just been saying, my dear, how much simpler it was to obey orders than
to give and to get them obeyed.
THE PRESENCE. Getting them obeyed is quite simple. It is merely a matter
of how you give them.
EX-PRES. You see, Tumulty--it's all a matter of "how."
THE PRESENCE. There's someone waiting to speak to you on the 'phone: wants
to know how you are. I thought I would come and see first.
EX-PRES. Who is it?
THE PRESENCE (_indicating the receiver_). He's there.
(_The Ex-President reaches out his hand, and Tumulty from an adjoining
table gives him the instrument. As he listens, they stand watching
EX-PRES. Oh, yes.... That's very kind of him.... Please will you tell the
President, with my best thanks, that I am greatly enjoying my holiday....
Thank you.... Good-bye.
(_He gives the instrument back to the waiting Tumulty._)
TUMULTY (_with swelling-bosom_). Governor, that was a great answer!
EX-PRES. Easily said, Tumulty. But is it true?
(_But Tumulty's breast is such a platform for the generous emotions that
he does not really care whether it is true or not. And therein, between
himself and his hero, lies the difference. Grasping his fallen leader
forcefully by the hand and murmuring his adieux in a voice of nobly
controlled emotion, he obeys the waiting eye of the Gracious Presence, and
goes. And as she sees him serenely to the door, the Ex-President looks
ruefully at his painfully oversqueezed hand, and begins rubbing it softly.
Even the touch of a friend sometimes hurts._)
(_The door closes: the two are alone. She who-must-be-obeyed stands
looking at him with a benevolent eye_.)