Part 2 out of 5
OCTAVIUS. Yes: I confess it.
TANNER. Take care, Tavy. The play with Ann as the heroine is all
right; but if you're not very careful, by Heaven she'll marry
OCTAVIUS. [sighing] No such luck, Jack!
TANNER. Why, man, your head is in the lioness's mouth: you are
half swallowed already--in three bites--Bite One, Ricky; Bite
Two, Ticky; Bite Three, Tavy; and down you go.
OCTAVIUS. She is the same to everybody, Jack: you know her ways.
TANNER. Yes: she breaks everybody's back with the stroke of her
paw; but the question is, which of us will she eat? My own
opinion is that she means to eat you.
OCTAVIUS. [rising, pettishly] It's horrible to talk like that
about her when she is upstairs crying for her father. But I do so
want her to eat me that I can bear your brutalities because they
give me hope.
TANNER. Tavy; that's the devilish side of a woman's fascination:
she makes you will your own destruction.
OCTAVIUS. But it's not destruction: it's fulfilment.
TANNER. Yes, of HER purpose; and that purpose is neither her
happiness nor yours, but Nature's. Vitality in a woman is a blind
fury of creation. She sacrifices herself to it: do you think she
will hesitate to sacrifice you?
OCTAVIUS. Why, it is just because she is self-sacrificing that
she will not sacrifice those she loves.
TANNER. That is the profoundest of mistakes, Tavy. It is the
self-sacrificing women that sacrifice others most recklessly.
Because they are unselfish, they are kind in little things.
Because they have a purpose which is not their own purpose, but
that of the whole universe, a man is nothing to them but an
instrument of that purpose.
OCTAVIUS. Don't be ungenerous, Jack. They take the tenderest care
TANNER. Yes, as a soldier takes care of his rifle or a musician
of his violin. But do they allow us any purpose or freedom of our
own? Will they lend us to one another? Can the strongest man
escape from them when once he is appropriated? They tremble when
we are in danger, and weep when we die; but the tears are not for
us, but for a father wasted, a son's breeding thrown away. They
accuse us of treating them as a mere means to our pleasure; but
how can so feeble and transient a folly as a man's selfish
pleasure enslave a woman as the whole purpose of Nature embodied
in a woman can enslave a man?
OCTAVIUS. What matter, if the slavery makes us happy?
TANNER. No matter at all if you have no purpose of your own, and
are, like most men, a mere breadwinner. But you, Tavy, are an
artist: that is, you have a purpose as absorbing and as
unscrupulous as a woman's purpose.
OCTAVIUS. Not unscrupulous.
TANNER. Quite unscrupulous. The true artist will let his wife
starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his
living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art. To
women he is half vivisector, half vampire. He gets into intimate
relations with them to study them, to strip the mask of
convention from them, to surprise their inmost secrets, knowing
that they have the power to rouse his deepest creative energies,
to rescue him from his cold reason, to make him see visions and
dream dreams, to inspire him, as he calls it. He persuades women
that they may do this for their own purpose whilst he really
means them to do it for his. He steals the mother's milk and
blackens it to make printer's ink to scoff at her and glorify
ideal women with. He pretends to spare her the pangs of
childbearing so that he may have for himself the tenderness and
fostering that belong of right to her children. Since marriage
began, the great artist has been known as a bad husband. But he
is worse: he is a child-robber, a bloodsucker, a hypocrite and a
cheat. Perish the race and wither a thousand women if only the
sacrifice of them enable him to act Hamlet better, to paint a
finer picture, to write a deeper poem, a greater play, a
profounder philosophy! For mark you, Tavy, the artist's work is
to show us ourselves as we really are. Our minds are nothing but
this knowledge of ourselves; and he who adds a jot to such
knowledge creates new mind as surely as any woman creates new
men. In the rage of that creation he is as ruthless as the woman,
as dangerous to her as she to him, and as horribly fascinating.
Of all human struggles there is none so treacherous and
remorseless as the struggle between the artist man and the mother
woman. Which shall use up the other? that is the issue between
them. And it is all the deadlier because, in your romanticist
cant, they love one another.
OCTAVIUS. Even if it were so--and I don't admit it for a moment--
it is out of the deadliest struggles that we get the noblest
TANNER. Remember that the next time you meet a grizzly bear or a
Bengal tiger, Tavy.
OCTAVIUS. I meant where there is love, Jack.
TANNER. Oh, the tiger will love you. There is no love sincerer
than the love of food. I think Ann loves you that way: she patted
your cheek as if it were a nicely underdone chop.
OCTAVIUS. You know, Jack, I should have to run away from you if I
did not make it a fixed rule not to mind anything you say. You
come out with perfectly revolting things sometimes.
Ramsden returns, followed by Ann. They come in quickly, with
their former leisurely air of decorous grief changed to one of
genuine concern, and, on Ramsden's part, of worry. He comes
between the two men, intending to address Octavius, but pulls
himself up abruptly as he sees Tanner.
RAMSDEN. I hardly expected to find you still here, Mr Tanner.
TANNER. Am I in the way? Good morning, fellow guardian [he goes
towards the door].
ANN. Stop, Jack. Granny: he must know, sooner or later.
RAMSDEN. Octavius: I have a very serious piece of news for you.
It is of the most private and delicate nature--of the most
painful nature too, I am sorry to say. Do you wish Mr Tanner to
be present whilst I explain?
OCTAVIUS. [turning pale] I have no secrets from Jack.
RAMSDEN. Before you decide that finally, let me say that the news
concerns your sister, and that it is terrible news.
OCTAVIUS. Violet! What has happened? Is she--dead?
RAMSDEN. I am not sure that it is not even worse than that.
OCTAVIUS. Is she badly hurt? Has there been an accident?
RAMSDEN. No: nothing of that sort.
TANNER. Ann: will you have the common humanity to tell us what
the matter is?
ANN. [half whispering] I can't. Violet has done something
dreadful. We shall have to get her away somewhere. [She flutters
to the writing table and sits in Ramsden's chair, leaving the
three men to fight it out between them].
OCTAVIUS. [enlightened] Is that what you meant, Mr Ramsden?
RAMSDEN. Yes. [Octavius sinks upon a chair, crushed]. I am afraid
there is no doubt that Violet did not really go to Eastbourne
three weeks ago when we thought she was with the Parry
Whitefields. And she called on a strange doctor yesterday with a
wedding ring on her finger. Mrs. Parry Whitefield met her there
by chance; and so the whole thing came out.
OCTAVIUS. [rising with his fists clenched] Who is the scoundrel?
ANN. She won't tell us.
OCTAVIUS. [collapsing upon his chair again] What a frightful
TANNER. [with angry sarcasm] Dreadful. Appalling. Worse than
death, as Ramsden says. [He comes to Octavius]. What would you
not give, Tavy, to turn it into a railway accident, with all her
bones broken or something equally respectable and deserving of
OCTAVIUS. Don't be brutal, Jack.
TANNER. Brutal! Good Heavens, man, what are you crying for? Here
is a woman whom we all supposed to be making bad water color
sketches, practising Grieg and Brahms, gadding about to concerts
and parties, wasting her life and her money. We suddenly learn
that she has turned from these sillinesses to the fulfilment of
her highest purpose and greatest function--to increase, multiply
and replenish the earth. And instead of admiring her courage and
rejoicing in her instinct; instead of crowning the completed
womanhood and raising the triumphal strain of "Unto us a child is
born: unto us a son is given," here you are--you who have been as
merry as Brigs in your mourning for the dead--all pulling long
faces and looking as ashamed and disgraced as if the girl had
committed the vilest of crimes.
RAMSDEN. [roaring with rage] I will not have these abominations
uttered in my house [he smites the writing table with his fist].
TANNER. Look here: if you insult me again I'll take you at your
word and leave your house. Ann: where is Violet now?
ANN. Why? Are you going to her?
TANNER. Of course I am going to her. She wants help; she wants
money; she wants respect and congratulation. She wants every
chance for her child. She does not seem likely to get it from
you: she shall from me. Where is she?
ANN. Don't be so headstrong, Jack. She's upstairs.
TANNER. What! Under Ramsden's sacred roof! Go and do your
miserable duty, Ramsden. Hunt her out into the street. Cleanse
your threshold from her contamination. Vindicate the purity of
your English home. I'll go for a cab,
ANN. [alarmed] Oh, Granny, you mustn't do that.
OCTAVIUS. [broken-heartedly, rising] I'll take her away, Mr
Ramsden. She had no right to come to your house.
RAMSDEN. [indignantly] But I am only too anxious to help her.
[turning on Tanner] How dare you, sir, impute such monstrous
intentions to me? I protest against it. I am ready to put down my
last penny to save her from being driven to run to you for
TANNER. [subsiding] It's all right, then. He's not going to act
up to his principles. It's agreed that we all stand by Violet.
OCTAVIUS. But who is the man? He can make reparation by marrying
her; and he shall, or he shall answer for it to me.
RAMSDEN. He shall, Octavius. There you speak like a man.
TANNER. Then you don't think him a scoundrel, after all?
OCTAVIUS. Not a scoundrel! He is a heartless scoundrel.
RAMSDEN. A damned scoundrel. I beg your pardon, Annie; but I can
say no less.
TANNER. So we are to marry your sister to a damned scoundrel by
way of reforming her character! On my soul, I think you are all
ANN. Don't be absurd, Jack. Of course you are quite right, Tavy;
but we don't know who he is: Violet won't tell us.
TANNER. What on earth does it matter who he is? He's done his
part; and Violet must do the rest.
RAMSDEN. [beside himself] Stuff! lunacy! There is a rascal in our
midst, a libertine, a villain worse than a murderer; and we are
not to learn who he is! In our ignorance we are to shake him by
the hand; to introduce him into our homes; to trust our daughters
with him; to--to--
ANN. [coaxingly] There, Granny, don't talk so loud. It's most
shocking: we must all admit that; but if Violet won't tell us,
what can we do? Nothing. Simply nothing.
RAMSDEN. Hmph! I'm not so sure of that. If any man has paid
Violet any special attention, we can easily find that out. If
there is any man of notoriously loose principles among us--
RAMSDEN. [raising his voice] Yes sir, I repeat, if there is any
man of notoriously loose principles among us--
TANNER. Or any man notoriously lacking in self-control.
RAMSDEN. [aghast] Do you dare to suggest that I am capable of
such an act?
TANNER. My dear Ramsden, this is an act of which every man is
capable. That is what comes of getting at cross purposes with
Nature. The suspicion you have just flung at me clings to us all.
It's a sort of mud that sticks to the judge's ermine or the
cardinal's robe as fast as to the rags of the tramp. Come, Tavy:
don't look so bewildered: it might have been me: it might have
been Ramsden; just as it might have been anybody. If it had, what
could we do but lie and protest as Ramsden is going to protest.
RAMSDEN. [choking]] I--I--I--
TANNER. Guilt itself could not stammer more confusedly, And yet
you know perfectly well he's innocent, Tavy.
RAMSDEN. [exhausted] I am glad you admit that, sir. I admit,
myself, that there is an element of truth in what you say,
grossly as you may distort it to gratify your malicious humor. I
hope, Octavius, no suspicion of me is possible in your mind.
OCTAVIUS. Of you! No, not for a moment.
TANNER. [drily] I think he suspects me just a little.
OCTAVIUS. Jack: you couldn't--you wouldn't--
TANNER. Why not?
OCTAVIUS. [appalled] Why not!
TANNER. Oh, well, I'll tell you why not. First, you would feel
bound to quarrel with me. Second, Violet doesn't like me. Third,
if I had the honor of being the father of Violet's child, I
should boast of it instead of denying it. So be easy: our
Friendship is not in danger.
OCTAVIUS. I should have put away the suspicion with horror if
only you would think and feel naturally about it. I beg your
TANNER. MY pardon! nonsense! And now let's sit down and have a
family council. [He sits down. The rest follow his example, more
or less under protest]. Violet is going to do the State a
service; consequently she must be packed abroad like a criminal
until it's over. What's happening upstairs?
ANN. Violet is in the housekeeper's room--by herself, of course.
TANNER. Why not in the drawingroom?
ANN. Don't be absurd, Jack. Miss Ramsden is in the drawingroom
with my mother, considering what to do.
TANNER. Oh! the housekeeper's room is the penitentiary, I
suppose; and the prisoner is waiting to be brought before her
judges. The old cats!
ANN. Oh, Jack!
RAMSDEN. You are at present a guest beneath the roof of one of
the old cats, sir. My sister is the mistress of this house.
TANNER. She would put me in the housekeeper's room, too, if she
dared, Ramsden. However, I withdraw cats. Cats would have more
sense. Ann: as your guardian, I order you to go to Violet at once
and be particularly kind to her.
ANN. I have seen her, Jack. And I am sorry to say I am afraid she
is going to be rather obstinate about going abroad. I think Tavy
ought to speak to her about it.
OCTAVIUS. How can I speak to her about such a thing [he breaks
ANN. Don't break down, Ricky. Try to bear it for all our sakes.
RAMSDEN. Life is not all plays and poems, Octavius. Come! face it
like a man.
TANNER. [chafing again] Poor dear brother! Poor dear friends of
the family! Poor dear Tabbies and Grimalkins. Poor dear everybody
except the woman who is going to risk her life to create another
life! Tavy: don't you be a selfish ass. Away with you and talk to
Violet; and bring her down here if she cares to come. [Octavius
rises]. Tell her we'll stand by her.
RAMSDEN. [rising] No, sir--
TANNER. [rising also and interrupting him] Oh, we understand:
it's against your conscience; but still you'll do it.
OCTAVIUS. I assure you all, on my word, I never meant to be
selfish. It's so hard to know what to do when one wishes
earnestly to do right.
TANNER. My dear Tavy, your pious English habit of regarding the
world as a moral gymnasium built expressly to strengthen your
character in, occasionally leads you to think about your own
confounded principles when you should be thinking about other
people's necessities. The need of the present hour is a happy
mother and a healthy baby. Bend your energies on that; and you
will see your way clearly enough.
Octavius, much perplexed, goes out.
RAMSDEN. [facing Tanner impressively] And Morality, sir? What is
to become of that?
TANNER. Meaning a weeping Magdalen and an innocent child branded
with her shame. Not in our circle, thank you. Morality can go to
its father the devil.
RAMSDEN. I thought so, sir. Morality sent to the devil to please
our libertines, male and female. That is to be the future of
England, is it?
TANNER. Oh, England will survive your disapproval. Meanwhile, I
understand that you agree with me as to the practical course we
are to take?
RAMSDEN. Not in your spirit sir. Not for your reasons.
TANNER. You can explain that if anybody calls you to account,
here or hereafter. [He turns away, and plants himself in front of
Mr Herbert Spencer, at whom he stares gloomily].
ANN. [rising and coming to Ramsden] Granny: hadn't you better go
up to the drawingroom and tell them what we intend to do?
RAMSDEN. [looking pointedly at Tanner] I hardly like to leave you
alone with this gentleman. Will you not come with me?
ANN. Miss Ramsden would not like to speak about it before me,
Granny. I ought not to be present.
RAMSDEN. You are right: I should have thought of that. You are a
good girl, Annie.
He pats her on the shoulder. She looks up at him with beaming
eyes and he goes out, much moved. Having disposed of him, she
looks at Tanner. His back being turned to her, she gives a
moment's attention to her personal appearance, then softly goes
to him and speaks almost into his ear.
ANN. Jack [he turns with a start]: are you glad that you are my
guardian? You don't mind being made responsible for me, I hope.
TANNER. The latest addition to your collection of scapegoats,
ANN. Oh, that stupid old joke of yours about me! Do please drop
it. Why do you say things that you know must pain me? I do my
best to please you, Jack: I suppose I may tell you so now that
you are my guardian. You will make me so unhappy if you refuse to
be friends with me.
TANNER. [studying her as gloomily as he studied the dust] You
need not go begging for my regard. How unreal our moral judgments
are! You seem to me to have absolutely no conscience--only
hypocrisy; and you can't see the difference--yet there is a sort
of fascination about you. I always attend to you, somehow. I
should miss you if I lost you.
ANN. [tranquilly slipping her arm into his and walking about with
him] But isn't that only natural, Jack? We have known each other
since we were children. Do you remember?
TANNER. [abruptly breaking loose] Stop! I remember EVERYTHING.
ANN. Oh, I daresay we were often very silly; but--
TANNER. I won't have it, Ann. I am no more that schoolboy now
than I am the dotard of ninety I shall grow into if I live long
enough. It is over: let me forget it.
ANN. Wasn't it a happy time? [She attempts to take his arm
TANNER. Sit down and behave yourself. [He makes her sit down in
the chair next the writing table]. No doubt it was a happy time
for you. You were a good girl and never compromised yourself. And
yet the wickedest child that ever was slapped could hardly have
had a better time. I can understand the success with which you
bullied the other girls: your virtue imposed on them. But tell me
this: did you ever know a good boy?
ANN. Of course. All boys are foolish sometimes; but Tavy was
always a really good boy.
TANNER. [struck by this] Yes: you're right. For some reason you
never tempted Tavy.
ANN. Tempted! Jack!
TANNER. Yes, my dear Lady Mephistopheles, tempted. You were
insatiably curious as to what a boy might be capable of, and
diabolically clever at getting through his guard and surprising
his inmost secrets.
ANN. What nonsense! All because you used to tell me long stories
of the wicked things you had done--silly boys tricks! And you
call such things inmost secrets: Boys' secrets are just like
men's; and you know what they are!
TANNER. [obstinately] No I don't. What are they, pray?
ANN. Why, the things they tell everybody, of course.
TANNER. Now I swear I told you things I told no one else. You
lured me into a compact by which we were to have no secrets from
one another. We were to tell one another everything, I didn't
notice that you never told me anything.
ANN. You didn't want to talk about me, Jack. You wanted to talk
TANNER. Ah, true, horribly true. But what a devil of a child you
must have been to know that weakness and to play on it for the
satisfaction of your own curiosity! I wanted to brag to you, to
make myself interesting. And I found myself doing all sorts of
mischievous things simply to have something to tell you about. I
fought with boys I didn't hate; I lied about things I might just
as well have told the truth about; I stole things I didn't want;
I kissed little girls I didn't care for. It was all bravado:
passionless and therefore unreal.
ANN. I never told of you, Jack.
TANNER. No; but if you had wanted to stop me you would have told
of me. You wanted me to go on.
ANN. [flashing out] Oh, that's not true: it's NOT true, Jack. I
never wanted you to do those dull, disappointing, brutal, stupid,
vulgar things. I always hoped that it would be something really
heroic at last. [Recovering herself] Excuse me, Jack; but the
things you did were never a bit like the things I wanted you to
do. They often gave me great uneasiness; but I could not tell on
you and get you into trouble. And you were only a boy. I knew you
would grow out of them. Perhaps I was wrong.
TANNER. [sardonically] Do not give way to remorse, Ann. At least
nineteen twentieths of the exploits I confessed to you were pure
lies. I soon noticed that you didn't like the true stories.
ANN. Of course I knew that some of the things couldn't have
TANNER. You are going to remind me that some of the most
disgraceful ones did.
ANN. [fondly, to his great terror] I don't want to remind you of
anything. But I knew the people they happened to, and heard about
TANNER. Yes; but even the true stories were touched up for
telling. A sensitive boy's humiliations may be very good fun for
ordinary thickskinned grown-ups; but to the boy himself they are
so acute, so ignominious, that he cannot confess them--cannot but
deny them passionately. However, perhaps it was as well for me
that I romanced a bit; for, on the one occasion when I told you
the truth, you threatened to tell of me.
ANN. Oh, never. Never once.
TANNER. Yes, you did. Do you remember a dark-eyed girl named
Rachel Rosetree? [Ann's brows contract for an instant
involuntarily]. I got up a love affair with her; and we met one
night in the garden and walked about very uncomfortably with our
arms round one another, and kissed at parting, and were most
conscientiously romantic. If that love affair had gone on, it
would have bored me to death; but it didn't go on; for the next
thing that happened was that Rachel cut me because she found out
that I had told you. How did she find it out? From you. You went
to her and held the guilty secret over her head, leading her a
life of abject terror and humiliation by threatening to tell on
ANN. And a very good thing for her, too. It was my duty to stop
her misconduct; and she is thankful to me for it now.
TANNER. Is she?
ANN. She ought to be, at all events.
TANNER. It was not your duty to stop my misconduct, I suppose.
ANN. I did stop it by stopping her.
TANNER. Are you sure of that? You stopped my telling you about
my adventures; but how do you know that you stopped the
ANN. Do you mean to say that you went on in the same way with
TANNER. No. I had enough of that sort of romantic tomfoolery
ANN. [unconvinced] Then why did you break off our confidences and
become quite strange to me?
TANNER. [enigmatically] It happened just then that I got
something that I wanted to keep all to myself instead of sharing
it with you.
ANN. I am sure I shouldn't have asked for any of it if you had
TANNER. It wasn't a box of sweets, Ann. It was something you'd
never have let me call my own.
ANN. [incredulously] What?
TANNER. My soul.
ANN. Oh, do be sensible, Jack. You know you're talking nonsense.
TANNER. The most solemn earnest, Ann. You didn't notice at that
time that you were getting a soul too. But you were. It was not
for nothing that you suddenly found you had a moral duty to
chastise and reform Rachel. Up to that time you had traded pretty
extensively in being a good child; but you had never set up a
sense of duty to others. Well, I set one up too. Up to that time
I had played the boy buccaneer with no more conscience than a fox
in a poultry farm. But now I began to have scruples, to feel
obligations, to find that veracity and honor were no longer
goody-goody expressions in the mouths of grown up people, but
compelling principles in myself.
ANN. [quietly] Yes, I suppose you're right. You were beginning to
be a man, and I to be a woman.
TANNER. Are you sure it was not that we were beginning to be
something more? What does the beginning of manhood and womanhood
mean in most people's mouths? You know: it means the beginning of
love. But love began long before that for me. Love played its
part in the earliest dreams and follies and romances I can
remember--may I say the earliest follies and romances we can
remember?--though we did not understand it at the time. No: the
change that came to me was the birth in me of moral passion; and
I declare that according to my experience moral passion is the
only real passion.
ANN. All passions ought to be moral, Jack.
TANNER. Ought! Do you think that anything is strong enough to
impose oughts on a passion except a stronger passion still?
ANN. Our moral sense controls passion, Jack. Don't be stupid.
TANNER. Our moral sense! And is that not a passion? Is the devil
to have all the passions as well as all the good times? If it
were not a passion--if it were not the mightiest of the passions,
all the other passions would sweep it away like a leaf before a
hurricane. It is the birth of that passion that turns a child
into a man.
ANN. There are other passions, Jack. Very strong ones.
TANNER. All the other passions were in me before; but they were
idle and aimless--mere childish greedinesses and cruelties,
curiosities and fancies, habits and superstitions, grotesque and
ridiculous to the mature intelligence. When they suddenly began
to shine like newly lit flames it was by no light of their own,
but by the radiance of the dawning moral passion. That passion
dignified them, gave them conscience and meaning, found them a
mob of appetites and organized them into an army of purposes and
principles. My soul was born of that passion.
ANN. I noticed that you got more sense. You were a dreadfully
destructive boy before that.
TANNER. Destructive! Stuff! I was only mischievous.
ANN. Oh Jack, you were very destructive. You ruined all the young
fir trees by chopping off their leaders with a wooden sword. You
broke all the cucumber frames with your catapult. You set fire to
the common: the police arrested Tavy for it because he ran away
when he couldn't stop you. You--
TANNER. Pooh! pooh! pooh! these were battles, bombardments,
stratagems to save our scalps from the red Indians. You have no
imagination, Ann. I am ten times more destructive now than I was
then. The moral passion has taken my destructiveness in hand and
directed it to moral ends. I have become a reformer, and, like
all reformers, an iconoclast. I no longer break cucumber frames
and burn gorse bushes: I shatter creeds and demolish idols.
ANN. [bored] I am afraid I am too feminine to see any sense in
destruction. Destruction can only destroy.
TANNER. Yes. That is why it is so useful. Construction cumbers
the ground with institutions made by busybodies. Destruction
clears it and gives us breathing space and liberty.
ANN. It's no use, Jack. No woman will agree with you there.
TANNER. That's because you confuse construction and destruction
with creation and murder. They're quite different: I adore
creation and abhor murder. Yes: I adore it in tree and flower,
in bird and beast, even in you. [A flush of interest and delight
suddenly clears the growing perplexity and boredom from her
face]. It was the creative instinct that led you to attach me to
you by bonds that have left their mark on me to this day. Yes,
Ann: the old childish compact between us was an unconscious love
TANNER. Oh, don't be alarmed--
ANN. I am not alarmed.
TANNER. [whimsically] Then you ought to be: where are your
ANN. Jack: are you serious or are you not?
TANNER. Do you mean about the moral passion?
ANN. No, no; the other one. [Confused] Oh! you are so silly; one
never knows how to take you.
TANNER. You must take me quite seriously. I am your guardian; and
it is my duty to improve your mind.
ANN. The love compact is over, then, is it? I suppose you grew
tired of me?
TANNER. No; but the moral passion made our childish relations
impossible. A jealous sense of my new individuality arose in me.
ANN. You hated to be treated as a boy any longer. Poor Jack!
TANNER. Yes, because to be treated as a boy was to be taken on
the old footing. I had become a new person; and those who knew
the old person laughed at me. The only man who behaved sensibly
was my tailor: he took my measure anew every time he saw me,
whilst all the rest went on with their old measurements and
expected them to fit me.
ANN. You became frightfully self-conscious.
TANNER. When you go to heaven, Ann, you will be frightfully
conscious of your wings for the first year or so. When you meet
your relatives there, and they persist in treating you as if you
were still a mortal, you will not be able to bear them. You will
try to get into a circle which has never known you except as an
ANN. So it was only your vanity that made you run away from us
TANNER. Yes, only my vanity, as you call it.
ANN. You need not have kept away from ME on that account.
TANNER. From you above all others. You fought harder than anybody
against my emancipation.
ANN. [earnestly] Oh, how wrong you are! I would have done
anything for you.
TANNER. Anything except let me get loose from you. Even then you
had acquired by instinct that damnable woman's trick of heaping
obligations on a man, of placing yourself so entirely and
helplessly at his mercy that at last he dare not take a step
without running to you for leave. I know a poor wretch whose one
desire in life is to run away from his wife. She prevents him by
threatening to throw herself in front of the engine of the train
he leaves her in. That is what all women do. If we try to go
where you do not want us to go there is no law to prevent us,
but when we take the first step your breasts are under our foot
as it descends: your bodies are under our wheels as we start. No
woman shall ever enslave me in that way.
ANN. But, Jack, you cannot get through life without considering
other people a little.
TANNER. Ay; but what other people? It is this consideration of
other people or rather this cowardly fear of them which we
call consideration that makes us the sentimental slaves we are.
To consider you, as you call it, is to substitute your will for
my own. How if it be a baser will than mine? Are women taught
better than men or worse? Are mobs of voters taught better than
statesmen or worse? Worse, of course, in both cases. And then
what sort of world are you going to get, with its public men
considering its voting mobs, and its private men considering
their wives? What does Church and State mean nowadays? The
Woman and the Ratepayer.
ANN. [placidly] I am so glad you understand politics, Jack: it
will be most useful to you if you go into parliament [he
collapses like a pricked bladder]. But I am sorry you thought my
influence a bad one.
TANNER. I don't say it was a bad one. But bad or good, I didn't
choose to be cut to your measure. And I won't be cut to it.
ANN. Nobody wants you to, Jack. I assure you--really on my word--
I don't mind your queer opinions one little bit. You know we have
all been brought up to have advanced opinions. Why do you persist
in thinking me so narrow minded?
TANNER. That's the danger of it. I know you don't mind, because
you've found out that it doesn't matter. The boa constrictor
doesn't mind the opinions of a stag one little bit when once she
has got her coils round it.
ANN. [rising in sudden enlightenment] O-o-o-o-oh! NOW I
understand why you warned Tavy that I am a boa constrictor.
Granny told me. [She laughs and throws her boa around her neck].
Doesn't it feel nice and soft, Jack?
TANNER. [in the toils] You scandalous woman, will you throw away
even your hypocrisy?
ANN. I am never hypocritical with you, Jack. Are you angry? [She
withdraws the boa and throws it on a chair]. Perhaps I shouldn't
have done that.
TANNER. [contemptuously] Pooh, prudery! Why should you not, if it
ANN. [Shyly] Well, because--because I suppose what you really
meant by the boa constrictor was THIS [she puts her arms round
TANNER. [Staring at her] Magnificent audacity! [She laughs and
pats his cheeks]. Now just to think that if I mentioned this
episode not a soul would believe me except the people who would
cut me for telling, whilst if you accused me of it nobody would
believe my denial.
ANN. [taking her arms away with perfect dignity] You are
incorrigible, Jack. But you should not jest about our affection
for one another. Nobody could possibly misunderstand it. YOU do
not misunderstand it, I hope.
TANNER. My blood interprets for me, Ann. Poor Ricky Tiky Tavy!
ANN. [looking quickly at him as if this were a new light] Surely
you are not so absurd as to be jealous of Tavy.
TANNER. Jealous! Why should I be? But I don't wonder at your
grip of him. I feel the coils tightening round my very self,
though you are only playing with me.
ANN. Do you think I have designs on Tavy?
TANNER. I know you have.
ANN. [earnestly] Take care, Jack. You may make Tavy very happy
if you mislead him about me.
TANNER. Never fear: he will not escape you.
ANN. I wonder are you really a clever man!
TANNER. Why this sudden misgiving on the subject?
ANN. You seem to understand all the things I don't understand;
but you are a perfect baby in the things I do understand.
TANNER. I understand how Tavy feels for you, Ann; you may depend
on that, at all events.
ANN. And you think you understand how I feel for Tavy, don't
TANNER. I know only too well what is going to happen to poor
ANN. I should laugh at you, Jack, if it were not for poor papa's
death. Mind! Tavy will be very unhappy.
TANNER. Yes; but he won't know it, poor devil. He is a thousand
times too good for you. That's why he is going to make the
mistake of his life about you.
ANN. I think men make more mistakes by being too clever than by
being too good [she sits down, with a trace of contempt for the
whole male sex in the elegant carriage of her shoulders].
TANNER. Oh, I know you don't care very much about Tavy. But
there is always one who kisses and one who only allows the kiss.
Tavy will kiss; and you will only turn the cheek. And you will
throw him over if anybody better turns up.
ANN. [offended] You have no right to say such things, Jack. They
are not true, and not delicate. If you and Tavy choose to be
stupid about me, that is not my fault.
TANNER. [remorsefully] Forgive my brutalities, Ann. They are
levelled at this wicked world, not at you. [She looks up at him,
pleased and forgiving. He becomes cautious at once]. All the
same, I wish Ramsden would come back. I never feel safe with
you: there is a devilish charm--or no: not a charm, a subtle
interest [she laughs]. Just so: you know it; and you triumph in
it. Openly and shamelessly triumph in it!
ANN. What a shocking flirt you are, Jack!
TANNER. A flirt!! I!!
ANN. Yes, a flirt. You are always abusing and offending people.
but you never really mean to let go your hold of them.
TANNER. I will ring the bell. This conversation has already gone
further than I intended.
Ramsden and Octavius come back with Miss Ramsden, a hardheaded
old maiden lady in a plain brown silk gown, with enough rings,
chains and brooches to show that her plainness of dress is a
matter of principle, not of poverty. She comes into the room very
determinedly: the two men, perplexed and downcast, following her.
Ann rises and goes eagerly to meet her. Tanner retreats to the
wall between the busts and pretends to study the pictures.
Ramsden goes to his table as usual; and Octavius clings to the
neighborhood of Tanner.
MISS RAMSDEN. [almost pushing Ann aside as she comes to Mr.
Whitefield's chair and plants herself there resolutely] I wash my
hands of the whole affair.
OCTAVIUS. [very wretched] I know you wish me to take Violet away,
Miss Ramsden. I will. [He turns irresolutely to the door].
RAMSDEN. No no--
MISS RAMSDEN. What is the use of saying no, Roebuck? Octavius
knows that I would not turn any truly contrite and repentant
woman from your doors. But when a woman is not only wicked, but
intends to go on being wicked, she and I part company.
ANN. Oh, Miss Ramsden, what do you mean? What has Violet said?
RAMSDEN. Violet is certainly very obstinate. She won't leave
London. I don't understand her.
MISS RAMSDEN. I do. It's as plain as the nose on your face,
Roebuck, that she won't go because she doesn't want to be
separated from this man, whoever he is.
ANN. Oh, surely, surely! Octavius: did you speak to her?
OCTAVIUS. She won't tell us anything. She won't make any
arrangement until she has consulted somebody. It can't be anybody
else than the scoundrel who has betrayed her.
TANNER. [to Octavius] Well, let her consult him. He will be glad
enough to have her sent abroad. Where is the difficulty?
MISS RAMSDEN. [Taking the answer out of Octavius's mouth]. The
difficulty, Mr Jack, is that when he offered to help her I didn't
offer to become her accomplice in her wickedness. She either
pledges her word never to see that man again, or else she finds
some new friends; and the sooner the better.
[The parlormaid appears at the door. Ann hastily resumes her
seat, and looks as unconcerned as possible. Octavius
instinctively imitates her].
THE MAID. The cab is at the door, ma'am.
MISS RAMSDEN. What cab?
THE MAID. For Miss Robinson.
MISS RAMSDEN. Oh! [Recovering herself] All right. [The maid
withdraws]. She has sent for a cab.
TANNER. I wanted to send for that cab half an hour ago.
MISS RAMSDEN. I am glad she understands the position she has
placed herself in.
RAMSDEN. I don't like her going away in this fashion, Susan. We
had better not do anything harsh.
OCTAVIUS. No: thank you again and again; but Miss Ramsden is
quite right. Violet cannot expect to stay.
ANN. Hadn't you better go with her, Tavy?
OCTAVIUS. She won't have me.
MISS RAMSDEN. Of course she won't. She's going straight to that
TANNER. As a natural result of her virtuous reception here.
RAMSDEN. [much troubled] There, Susan! You hear! and there's some
truth in it. I wish you could reconcile it with your principles
to be a little patient with this poor girl. She's very young; and
there's a time for everything.
MISS RAMSDEN. Oh, she will get all the sympathy she wants from
the men. I'm surprised at you, Roebuck.
TANNER. So am I, Ramsden, most favorably.
Violet appears at the door. She is as impenitent and self-assured
a young lady as one would desire to see among the best behaved of
her sex. Her small head and tiny resolute mouth and chin; her
haughty crispness of speech and trimness of carriage; the
ruthless elegance of her equipment, which includes a very smart
hat with a dead bird in it, mark a personality which is as
formidable as it is exquisitely pretty. She is not a siren, like
Ann: admiration comes to her without any compulsion or even
interest on her part; besides, there is some fun in Ann, but in
this woman none, perhaps no mercy either: if anything restrains
her, it is intelligence and pride, not compassion. Her voice
might be the voice of a schoolmistress addressing a class of
girls who had disgraced themselves, as she proceeds with complete
composure and some disgust to say what she has come to say.
VIOLET. I have only looked in to tell Miss Ramsden that she will
find her birthday present to me, the filagree bracelet, in the
TANNER. Do come in, Violet, and talk to us sensibly.
VIOLET. Thank you: I have had quite enough of the family
conversation this morning. So has your mother, Ann: she has gone
home crying. But at all events, I have found out what some of my
pretended friends are worth. Good bye.
TANNER. No, no: one moment. I have something to say which I beg
you to hear. [She looks at him without the slightest curiosity,
but waits, apparently as much to finish getting her glove on as
to hear what he has to say]. I am altogether on your side in this
matter. I congratulate you, with the sincerest respect, on having
the courage to do what you have done. You are entirely in the
right; and the family is entirely in the wrong.
Sensation. Ann and Miss Ramsden rise and turn toward the two.
Violet, more surprised than any of the others, forgets her glove,
and comes forward into the middle of the room, both puzzled and
displeased. Qctavius alone does not move or raise his head; he is
overwhelmed with shame.
ANN. [pleading to Tanner to be sensible] Jack!
MISS RAMSDEN. [outraged} Well, I must say!
VIOLET. [sharply to Tanner] Who told you?
TANNER. Why, Ramsden and Tavy of course. Why should they not?
VIOLET. But they don't know.
TANNER. Don't know what?
VIOLET. They don't know that I am in the right, I mean.
TANNER. Oh, they know it in their hearts, though they think
themselves bound to blame you by their silly superstitions about
morality and propriety and so forth. But I know, and the whole
world really knows, though it dare not say so, that you were
right to follow your instinct; that vitality and bravery are the
greatest qualities a woman can have, and motherhood her solemn
initiation into womanhood; and that the fact of your not being
legally married matters not one scrap either to your own worth or
to our real regard for you.
VIOLET. [flushing with indignation] Oh! You think me a wicked
woman, like the rest. You think I have not only been vile, but
that I share your abominable opinions. Miss Ramsden: I have borne
your hard words because I knew you would be sorry for them when
you found out the truth. But I won't bear such a horrible insult
as to be complimented by Jack on being one of the wretches of
whom he approves. I have kept my marriage a secret for my
husband's sake. But now I claim my right as a married woman not
to be insulted.
OCTAVIUS. [raising his head with inexpressible relief] You are
VIOLET. Yes; and I think you might have guessed it. What business
had you all to take it for granted that I had no right to wear my
wedding ring? Not one of you even asked me: I cannot forget that.
TANNER. [in ruins] I am utterly crushed. I meant well--I
VIOLET. I hope you will be more careful in future about the
things you say. Of course one does not take them seriously. But
they are very disagreeable, and rather in bad taste.
TANNER. [bowing to the storm] I have no defence: I shall know
better in future than to take any woman's part. We have all
disgraced ourselves in your eyes, I am afraid, except Ann, SHE
befriended you. For Ann's sake, forgive us.
VIOLET. Yes: Ann has been very kind; but then Ann knew.
MISS RAMSDEN. [stiffly] And who, pray, is the gentleman who does
not acknowledge his wife?
VIOLET. [promptly] That is my business, Miss Ramsden, and not
yours. I have my reasons for keeping my marriage a secret for the
RAMSDEN. All I can say is that we are extremely sorry, Violet. I
am shocked to think of how we have treated you.
OCTAVIUS. [awkwardly] I beg your pardon, Violet. I can say no
MISS RAMSDEN. [still loth to surrender] Of course what you say
puts a very different complexion on the matter. All the same, I
owe it to myself--
VIOLET. [cutting her short] You owe me an apology, Miss Ramsden:
that's what you owe both to yourself and to me. If you were a
married woman you would not like sitting in the housekeeper's
room and being treated like a naughty child by young girls and
old ladies without any serious duties and responsibilities.
TANNER. Don't hit us when we're down, Violet. We seem to have
made fools of ourselves; but really it was you who made fools of
VIOLET. It was no business of yours, Jack, in any case.
TANNER. No business of mine! Why, Ramsden as good as accused me
of being the unknown gentleman.
Ramsden makes a frantic demonstration; but Violet's cool keen
anger extinguishes it.
VIOLET. You! Oh, how infamous! how abominable! How disgracefully
you have all been talking about me! If my husband knew it he
would never let me speak to any of you again. [To Ramsden] I
think you might have spared me, at least.
RAMSDEN. But I assure you I never--at least it is a monstrous
perversion of something I said that--
MISS RAMSDEN. You needn't apologize, Roebuck. She brought it all
on herself. It is for her to apologize for having deceived us.
VIOLET. I can make allowances for you, Miss Ramsden: you cannot
understand how I feel on this subject though I should have
expected rather better taste from people of greater experience.
However, I quite feel that you have all placed yourselves in a
very painful position; and the most truly considerate thing for
me to do is to go at once. Good morning.
She goes, leaving them staring.
Miss RAMSDEN. Well, I must say--!
RAMSDEN. [plaintively] I don't think she is quite fair to us.
TANNER. You must cower before the wedding ring like the rest of
us, Ramsden. The cup of our ignominy is full.
On the carriage drive in the park of a country house near
Richmond a motor car has broken down. It stands in front of a
clump of trees round which the drive sweeps to the house, which
is partly visible through them: indeed Tanner, standing in the
drive with the car on his right hand, could get an unobstructed
view of the west corner of the house on his left were he not far
too much interested in a pair of supine legs in blue serge
trousers which protrude from beneath the machine. He is watching
them intently with bent back and hands supported on his knees.
His leathern overcoat and peaked cap proclaim him one of the
THE LEGS. Aha! I got him.
TANNER. All right now?
THE LEGS. All right now.
Tanner stoops and takes the legs by the ankles, drawing their
owner forth like a wheelbarrow, walking on his hands, with a
hammer in his mouth. He is a young man in a neat suit of blue
serge, clean shaven, dark eyed, square fingered, with short well
brushed black hair and rather irregular sceptically turned
eyebrows. When he is manipulating the car his movements are swift
and sudden, yet attentive and deliberate. With Tanner and
Tanner's friends his manner is not in the least deferential, but
cool and reticent, keeping them quite effectually at a distance
whilst giving them no excuse for complaining of him. Nevertheless
he has a vigilant eye on them always, and that, too, rather
cynically, like a man who knows the world well from its seamy
side. He speaks slowly and with a touch of sarcasm; and as he
does not at all affect the gentleman in his speech, it may be
inferred that his smart appearance is a mark of respect to
himself and his own class, not to that which employs him.
He now gets into the car to test his machinery and put his cap
and overcoat on again. Tanner takes off his leather overcoat and
pitches it into the car. The chauffeur (or automobilist or
motoreer or whatever England may presently decide to call him)
looks round inquiringly in the act of stowing away his hammer.
THE CHAUFFEUR. Had enough of it, eh?
TANNER. I may as well walk to the house and stretch my legs and
calm my nerves a little. [Looking at his watch] I suppose you
know that we have come from Hyde Park Corner to Richmond in
THE CHAUFFEUR. I'd have done it under fifteen if I'd had a clear
road all the way.
TANNER. Why do you do it? Is it for love of sport or for the fun
of terrifying your unfortunate employer?
THE CHAUFFEUR. What are you afraid of?
TANNER. The police, and breaking my neck.
THE CHAUFFEUR. Well, if you like easy going, you can take a bus,
you know. It's cheaper. You pay me to save your time and give you
the value of your thousand pound car. [He sits down calmly].
TANNER. I am the slave of that car and of you too. I dream of the
accursed thing at night.
THE CHAUFFEUR. You'll get over that. If you're going up to the
house, may I ask how long you're goin to stay there? Because if
you mean to put in the whole morning talkin to the ladies, I'11
put the car in the stables and make myself comfortable. If not,
I'll keep the car on the go about here til you come.
TANNER. Better wait here. We shan't be long. There's a young
American gentleman, a Mr Malone, who is driving Mr Robinson down
in his new American steam car.
THE CHAUFFEUR. [springing up and coming hastily out of the car to
Tanner] American steam car! Wot! racin us down from London!
TANNER. Perhaps they're here already.
THE CHAUFFEUR. If I'd known it! [with deep reproach] Why didn't
you tell me, Mr Tanner?
TANNER. Because I've been told that this car is capable of 84
miles an hour; and I already know what YOU are capable of when
there is a rival car on the road. No, Henry: there are things it
is not good for you to know; and this was one of them. However,
cheer up: we are going to have a day after your own heart. The
American is to take Mr Robinson and his sister and Miss
Whitefield. We are to take Miss Rhoda.
THE CHAUFFEUR. [consoled, and musing on another matter] That's
Miss Whitefield's sister, isn't it?
THE CHAUFFEUR. And Miss Whitefield herself is goin in the other
car? Not with you?
TANNER. Why the devil should she come with me? Mr Robinson will
be in the other car. [The Chauffeur looks at Tanner with cool
incredulity, and turns to the car, whistling a popular air softly
to himself. Tanner, a little annoyed, is about to pursue the
subject when he hears the footsteps of Octavius on the gravel.
Octavius is coming from the house, dressed for motoring, but
without his overcoat]. We've lost the race, thank Heaven: here's
Mr Robinson. Well, Tavy, is the steam car a success?
OCTAVIUS. I think so. We came from Hyde Park Corner here in
seventeen minutes. [The Chauffeur, furious, kicks the car with a
groan of vexation]. How long were you?
TANNER. Oh, about three quarters of an hour or so.
THE CHAUFFEUR. [remonstrating] Now, now, Mr Tanner, come now! We
could ha done it easy under fifteen.
TANNER. By the way, let me introduce you. Mr Octavius Robinson:
Mr Enry Straker.
STRAKER. Pleased to meet you, sir. Mr Tanner is gittin at you
with his Enry Straker, you know. You call it Henery. But I don't
mind, bless you.
TANNER. You think it's simply bad taste in me to chaff him, Tavy.
But you're wrong. This man takes more trouble to drop his aiches
than ever his father did to pick them up. It's a mark of caste to
him. I have never met anybody more swollen with the pride of
class than Enry is.
STRAKER. Easy, easy! A little moderation, Mr Tanner.
TANNER. A little moderation, Tavy, you observe. You would tell me
to draw it mild, But this chap has been educated. What's more, he
knows that we haven't. What was that board school of yours,
STRAKER. Sherbrooke Road.
TANNER. Sherbrooke Road! Would any of us say Rugby! Harrow! Eton!
in that tone of intellectual snobbery? Sherbrooke Road is a place
where boys learn something; Eton is a boy farm where we are sent
because we are nuisances at home, and because in after life,
whenever a Duke is mentioned, we can claim him as an old
STRAKER. You don't know nothing about it, Mr. Tanner. It's not
the Board School that does it: it's the Polytechnic.
TANNER. His university, Octavius. Not Oxford, Cambridge, Durham,
Dublin or Glasgow. Not even those Nonconformist holes in Wales.
No, Tavy. Regent Street, Chelsea, the Borough--I don't know half
their confounded names: these are his universities, not mere
shops for selling class limitations like ours. You despise
Oxford, Enry, don't you?
STRAKER. No, I don't. Very nice sort of place, Oxford, I should
think, for people that like that sort of place. They teach you to
be a gentleman there. In the Polytechnic they teach you to be an
engineer or such like. See?
TANNER. Sarcasm, Tavy, sarcasm! Oh, if you could only see into
Enry's soul, the depth of his contempt for a gentleman, the
arrogance of his pride in being an engineer, would appal you. He
positively likes the car to break down because it brings out my
gentlemanly helplessness and his workmanlike skill and resource.
STRAKER. Never you mind him, Mr Robinson. He likes to talk. We
know him, don't we?
OCTAVIUS. [earnestly] But there's a great truth at the bottom of
what he says. I believe most intensely in the dignity of labor.
STRAKER. [unimpressed] That's because you never done any Mr
Robinson. My business is to do away with labor. You'll get more
out of me and a machine than you will out of twenty laborers, and
not so much to drink either.
TANNER. For Heaven's sake, Tavy, don't start him on political
economy. He knows all about it; and we don't. You're only a
poetic Socialist, Tavy: he's a scientific one.
STRAKER. [unperturbed] Yes. Well, this conversation is very
improvin; but I've got to look after the car; and you two want
to talk about your ladies. I know. [He retires to busy himself
about the car; and presently saunters off towards the house].
TANNER. That's a very momentous social phenomenon.
OCTAVIUS. What is?
TANNER. Straker is. Here have we literary and cultured persons
been for years setting up a cry of the New Woman whenever some
unusually old fashioned female came along; and never noticing
the advent of the New Man. Straker's the New Man.
OOCTAVIUS. I see nothing new about him, except your way of
chaffing him. But I don't want to talk about him just now. I want
to speak to you about Ann.
TANNER. Straker knew even that. He learnt it at the Polytechnic,
probably. Well, what about Ann? Have you proposed to her?
OCTAVIUS. [self-reproachfully] I was brute enough to do so last
TANNER. Brute enough! What do you mean?
OCTAVIUS. [dithyrambically] Jack: we men are all coarse. We never
understand how exquisite a woman's sensibilities are. How could I
have done such a thing!
TANNER. Done what, you maudlin idiot?
OCTAVIUS. Yes, I am an idiot. Jack: if you had heard her voice!
if you had seen her tears! I have lain awake all night thinking
of them. If she had reproached me, I could have borne it better.
TANNER. Tears! that's dangerous. What did she say?
OCTAVIUS. She asked me how she could think of anything now but
her dear father. She stifled a sob--[he breaks down].
TANNER. [patting him on the back] Bear it like a man, Tavy, even
if you feel it like an ass. It's the old game: she's not tired of
playing with you yet.
OCTAVIUS. [impatiently] Oh, don't be a fool, Jack. Do you suppose
this eternal shallow cynicism of yours has any real bearing on a
nature like hers?
TANNER. Hm! Did she say anything else?
OCTAVIUS. Yes; and that is why I expose myself and her to your
ridicule by telling you what passed.
TANNER. [remorsefully] No, dear Tavy, not ridicule, on my honor!
However, no matter. Go on.
OCTAVIUS. Her sense of duty is so devout, so perfect, so--
TANNER. Yes: I know. Go on.
OCTAVIUS. You see, under this new arrangement, you and Ramsden
are her guardians; and she considers that all her duty to her
father is now transferred to you. She said she thought I ought to
have spoken to you both in the first instance. Of course she is
right; but somehow it seems rather absurd that I am to come to
you and formally ask to be received as a suitor for your ward's
TANNER. I am glad that love has not totally extinguished your
sense of humor, Tavy.
OCTAVIUS. That answer won't satisfy her.
TANNER. My official answer is, obviously, Bless you, my children:
may you be happy!
OCTAVIUS. I wish you would stop playing the fool about this. If
it is not serious to you, it is to me, and to her.
TANNER. You know very well that she is as free to choose as you.
She does not think so.
TANNER. Oh, doesn't she! just! However, say what you want me to
OCTAVIUS. I want you to tell her sincerely and earnestly what you
think about me. I want you to tell her that you can trust her to
me--that is, if you feel you can.
TANNER. I have no doubt that I can trust her to you. What worries
me is the idea of trusting you to her. Have you read
Maeterlinck's book about the bee?
OCTAVIUS. [keeping his temper with difficulty] I am not
discussing literature at present.
TANNER. Be just a little patient with me. I am not discussing
literature: the book about the bee is natural history. It's an
awful lesson to mankind. You think that you are Ann's suitor;
that you are the pursuer and she the pursued; that it is your
part to woo, to persuade, to prevail, to overcome. Fool: it is
you who are the pursued, the marked down quarry, the destined
prey. You need not sit looking longingly at the bait through the
wires of the trap: the door is open, and will remain so until it
shuts behind you for ever.
OCTAVIUS. I wish I could believe that, vilely as you put it.
TANNER. Why, man, what other work has she in life but to get a
husband? It is a woman's business to get married as soon as
possible, and a man's to keep unmarried as long as he can. You
have your poems and your tragedies to work at: Ann has nothing.
OCTAVIUS. I cannot write without inspiration. And nobody can give
me that except Ann.
TANNER. Well, hadn't you better get it from her at a safe
distance? Petrarch didn't see half as much of Laura, nor Dante
of Beatrice, as you see of Ann now; and yet they wrote
first-rate poetry--at least so I'm told. They never exposed their
idolatry to the test of domestic familiarity; and it lasted them
to their graves. Marry Ann and at the end of a week you'll find
no more inspiration than in a plate of muffins.
OCTAVIUS. You think I shall tire of her.
TANNER. Not at all: you don't get tired of muffins. But you don't
find inspiration in them; and you won't in her when she ceases to
be a poet's dream and becomes a solid eleven stone wife. You'll
be forced to dream about somebody else; and then there will be a
OCTAVIUS. This sort of talk is no use, Jack. You don't
understand. You have never been in love.
TANNER. I! I have never been out of it. Why, I am in love even
with Ann. But I am neither the slave of love nor its dupe. Go to
the bee, thou poet: consider her ways and be wise. By Heaven,
Tavy, if women could do without our work, and we ate their
children's bread instead of making it, they would kill us as
the spider kills her mate or as the bees kill the drone. And
they would be right if we were good for nothing but love.
OCTAVIUS. Ah, if we were only good enough for Love! There is
nothing like Love: there is nothing else but Love: without it
the world would be a dream of sordid horror.
TANNER. And this--this is the man who asks me to give him the
hand of my ward! Tavy: I believe we were changed in our cradles,
and that you are the real descendant of Don Juan.
OCTAVIUS. I beg you not to say anything like that to Ann.
TANNER. Don't be afraid. She has marked you for her own; and
nothing will stop her now. You are doomed. [Straker comes back
with a newspaper]. Here comes the New Man, demoralizing himself
with a halfpenny paper as usual.
STRAKER. Now, would you believe it: Mr Robinson, when we're
out motoring we take in two papers, the Times for him, the Leader
or the Echo for me. And do you think I ever see my paper? Not
much. He grabs the Leader and leaves me to stodge myself with his
OCTAVIUS. Are there no winners in the Times?
TANNER. Enry don't old with bettin, Tavy. Motor records are his
weakness. What's the latest?
STRAKER. Paris to Biskra at forty mile an hour average, not
countin the Mediterranean.
TANNER. How many killed?
STRAKER. Two silly sheep. What does it matter? Sheep don't cost
such a lot: they were glad to ave the price without the trouble
o sellin em to the butcher. All the same, d'y'see, there'll be a
clamor agin it presently; and then the French Government'll stop
it; an our chance will be gone see? That what makes me fairly
mad: Mr Tanner won't do a good run while he can.
TANNER. Tavy: do you remember my uncle James?
OCTAVIUS. Yes. Why?
TANNER. Uncle James had a first rate cook: he couldn't digest
anything except what she cooked. Well, the poor man was shy and
hated society. But his cook was proud of her skill, and wanted to
serve up dinners to princes and ambassadors. To prevent her from
leaving him, that poor old man had to give a big dinner twice a
month, and suffer agonies of awkwardness. Now here am I; and here
is this chap Enry Straker, the New Man. I loathe travelling; but
I rather like Enry. He cares for nothing but tearing along in a
leather coat and goggles, with two inches of dust all over him,
at sixty miles an hour and the risk of his life and mine. Except,
of course, when he is lying on his back in the mud under the
machine trying to find out where it has given way. Well, if I
don't give him a thousand mile run at least once a fortnight I
shall lose him. He will give me the sack and go to some American
millionaire; and I shall have to put up with a nice respectful
groom-gardener-amateur, who will touch his hat and know his
place. I am Enry's slave, just as Uncle James was his cook's
STRAKER. [exasperated] Garn! I wish I had a car that would go as
fast as you can talk, Mr Tanner. What I say is that you lose
money by a motor car unless you keep it workin. Might as well ave
a pram and a nussmaid to wheel you in it as that car and me if
you don't git the last inch out of us both.
TANNER. [soothingly] All right, Henry, all right. We'll go out
for half an hour presently.
STRAKER. [in disgust] Arf an ahr! [He returns to his machine;
seats himself in it; and turns up a fresh page of his paper in
search of more news].
OCTAVIUS. Oh, that reminds me. I have a note for you from
Rhoda. [He gives Tanner a note].
TANNER. [opening it] I rather think Rhoda is heading for a row
with Ann. As a rule there is only one person an English girl
hates more than she hates her mother; and that's her eldest
sister. But Rhoda positively prefers her mother to Ann. She--
[indignantly] Oh, I say!
OCTAVIUS. What's the matter?
TANNER. Rhoda was to have come with me for a ride in the motor
car. She says Ann has forbidden her to go out with me.
Straker suddenly begins whistling his favorite air with
remarkable deliberation. Surprised by this burst of larklike
melody, and jarred by a sardonic note in its cheerfulness, they
turn and look inquiringly at him. But he is busy with his paper;
and nothing comes of their movement.
OCTAVIUS. [recovering himself] Does she give any reason?
TANNER. Reason! An insult is not a reason. Ann forbids her to be
alone with me on any occasion. Says I am not a fit person for a
young girl to be with. What do you think of your paragon now?
OCTAVIUS. You must remember that she has a very heavy
responsibility now that her father is dead. Mrs Whitefield is
too weak to control Rhoda.
TANNER. [staring at him] In short, you agree with Ann.
OCTAVIUS. No; but I think I understand her. You must admit that
your views are hardly suited for the formation of a young girl's
mind and character.
TANNER. I admit nothing of the sort. I admit that the formation
of a young lady's mind and character usually consists in telling
her lies; but I object to the particular lie that I am in the
habit of abusing the confidence of girls.
OCTAVIUS. Ann doesn't say that, Jack.
TANNER. What else does she mean?
STRAKER. [catching sight of Ann coming from the house] Miss
Whitefield, gentlemen. [He dismounts and strolls away down the
avenue with the air of a man who knows he is no longer wanted].
ANN. [coming between Octavius and Tanner]. Good morning, Jack. I
have come to tell you that poor Rhoda has got one of her
headaches and cannot go out with you to-day in the car. It is a
cruel disappointment to her, poor child!
TANNER. What do you say now, Tavy,
OCTAVIUS. Surely you cannot misunderstand, Jack. Ann is showing
you the kindest consideration, even at the cost of deceiving you.
ANN. What do you mean?
TANNER. Would you like to cure Rhoda's headache, Ann?
ANN. Of course.
TANNER. Then tell her what you said just now; and add that you
arrived about two minutes after I had received her letter and
ANN. Rhoda has written to you!
TANNER. With full particulars.
OCTAVIUS. Never mind him, Ann. You were right, quite right. Ann
was only doing her duty, Jack; and you know it. Doing it in the
kindest way, too.
ANN. [going to Octavius] How kind you are, Tavy! How helpful!
How well you understand!
TANNER. Ay: tighten the coils. You love her, Tavy, don't you?
OCTAVIUS. She knows I do.
ANN. Hush. For shame, Tavy!
TANNER. Oh, I give you leave. I am your guardian; and I commit
you to Tavy's care for the next hour.
ANN. No, Jack. I must speak to you about Rhoda. Ricky: will you
go back to the house and entertain your American friend? He's
rather on Mamma's hands so early in the morning. She wants to
finish her housekeeping.
OCTAVIUS. I fly, dearest Ann [he kisses her hand].
ANN. [tenderly] Ricky Ticky Tavy!
He looks at her with an eloquent blush, and runs off.
TANNER. [bluntly] Now look here, Ann. This time you've landed
yourself; and if Tavy were not in love with you past all
salvation he'd have found out what an incorrigible liar you are.
ANN. You misunderstand, Jack. I didn't dare tell Tavy the truth.
TANNER. No: your daring is generally in the opposite direction.
What the devil do you mean by telling Rhoda that I am too vicious
to associate with her? How can I ever have any human or decent
relations with her again, now that you have poisoned her mind in
that abominable way?
ANN. I know you are incapable of behaving badly.
TANNER. Then why did you lie to her?
ANN. I had to.
TANNER. Had to!
ANN. Mother made me.
TANNER. [his eye flashing] Ha! I might have known it. The mother!
Always the mother!
ANN. It was that dreadful book of yours. You know how timid
mother is. All timid women are conventional: we must be
conventional, Jack, or we are so cruelly, so vilely misunderstood.
Even you, who are a man, cannot say what you think without being
misunderstood and vilified--yes: I admit it: I have had to vilify
you. Do you want to have poor Rhoda misunderstood and vilified to
the same way? Would it be right for mother to let her expose
herself to such treatment before she is old enough to judge for
TANNER. In short, the way to avoid misunderstanding is for
everybody to lie and slander and insinuate and pretend as hard as
they can. That is what obeying your mother comes to.
ANN. I love my mother, Jack.
TANNER. [working himself up into a sociological rage] Is that any
reason why you are not to call your soul your own? Oh, I protest
against this vile abjection of youth to age! look at fashionable
society as you know it. What does it pretend to be? An exquisite
dance of nymphs. What is it? A horrible procession of wretched
girls, each in the claws of a cynical, cunning, avaricious,
disillusioned, ignorantly experienced, foul-minded old woman whom
she calls mother, and whose duty it is to corrupt her mind and
sell her to the highest bidder. Why do these unhappy slaves marry
anybody, however old and vile, sooner than not marry at all?
Because marriage is their only means of escape from these
decrepit fiends who hide their selfish ambitions, their jealous
hatreds of the young rivals who have supplanted them, under the
mask of maternal duty and family affection. Such things are
abominable: the voice of nature proclaims for the daughter a
father's care and for the son a mother's. The law for father and
son and mother and daughter is not the law of love: it is the
law of revolution, of emancipation, of final supersession of the
old and worn-out by the young and capable. I tell you, the first
duty of manhood and womanhood is a Declaration of Independence:
the man who pleads his father's authority is no man: the woman
who pleads her mother's authority is unfit to bear citizens to a
ANN. [watching him with quiet curiosity] I suppose you will go in
seriously for politics some day, Jack.
TANNER. [heavily let down] Eh? What? Wh--? [Collecting his
scattered wits] What has that got to do with what I have been
ANN. You talk so well.
TANNER. Talk! Talk! It means nothing to you but talk. Well, go
back to your mother, and help her to poison Rhoda's imagination
as she has poisoned yours. It is the tame elephants who enjoy
capturing the wild ones.
ANN. I am getting on. Yesterday I was a boa constrictor: to-day I
am an elephant.
TANNER. Yes. So pack your trunk and begone; I have no more to say
ANN. You are so utterly unreasonable and impracticable. What can
TANNER. Do! Break your chains. Go your way according to your own
conscience and not according to your mother's. Get your mind
clean and vigorous; and learn to enjoy a fast ride in a motor car
instead of seeing nothing in it but an excuse for a detestable
intrigue. Come with me to Marseilles and across to Algiers and to
Biskra, at sixty miles an hour. Come right down to the Cape if
you like. That will be a Declaration of Independence with a
vengeance. You can write a book about it afterwards. That will
finish your mother and make a woman of you.
ANN. [thoughtfully] I don't think there would be any harm in
that, Jack. You are my guardian: you stand in my father's place,
by his own wish. Nobody could say a word against our travelling
together. It would be delightful: thank you a thousand times,
Jack. I'll come.
TANNER. [aghast] You'll come!!!
ANN. Of course.
TANNER. But-- [he stops, utterly appalled; then resumes feebly]
No: look here, Ann: if there's no harm in it there's no point in
ANN. How absurd you are! You don't want to compromise me, do you?
TANNER. Yes: that's the whole sense of my proposal.
ANN. You are talking the greatest nonsense; and you know it. You
would never do anything to hurt me.
TANNER. Well, if you don't want to be compromised, don't come.
ANN. [with simple earnestness] Yes, I will come, Jack, since you
wish it. You are my guardian; and think we ought to see more of
one another and come to know one another better. [Gratefully]
It's very thoughtful and very kind of you, Jack, to offer me this
lovely holiday, especially after what I said about Rhoda. You
really are good--much better than you think. When do we start?
The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Mrs Whitefield
from the house. She is accompanied by the American gentleman, and
followed by Ramsden and Octavius.
Hector Malone is an Eastern American; but he is not at all
ashamed of his nationality. This makes English people of fashion
think well of him, as of a young fellow who is manly enough to
confess to an obvious disadvantage without any attempt to conceal
or extenuate it. They feel that he ought not to be made to suffer
for what is clearly not his fault, and make a point of being
specially kind to him. His chivalrous manners to women, and his
elevated moral sentiments, being both gratuitous and unusual,
strike them as being a little unfortunate; and though they find
his vein of easy humor rather amusing when it has ceased to
puzzle them (as it does at first), they have had to make him
understand that he really must not tell anecdotes unless they
are strictly personal and scandalous, and also that oratory is an
accomplishment which belongs to a cruder stage of civilization
than that in which his migration has landed him. On these points
Hector is not quite convinced: he still thinks that the British
are apt to make merits of their stupidities, and to represent
their various incapacities as points of good breeding. English
life seems to him to suffer from a lack of edifying rhetoric
(which he calls moral tone); English behavior to show a want of
respect for womanhood; English pronunciation to fail very
vulgarly in tackling such words as world, girl, bird, etc.;
English society to be plain spoken to an extent which stretches
occasionally to intolerable coarseness; and English intercourse
to need enlivening by games and stories and other pastimes; so he
does not feel called upon to acquire these defects after taking
great paths to cultivate himself in a first rate manner before
venturing across the Atlantic. To this culture he finds English
people either totally indifferent as they very commonly are to
all culture, or else politely evasive, the truth being that
Hector's culture is nothing but a state of saturation with our
literary exports of thirty years ago, reimported by him to be
unpacked at a moment's notice and hurled at the head of English
literature, science and art, at every conversational opportunity.
The dismay set up by these sallies encourages him in his belief
that he is helping to educate England. When he finds people
chattering harmlessly about Anatole France and Nietzsche, he
devastates them with Matthew Arnold, the Autocrat of the
Breakfast Table, and even Macaulay; and as he is devoutly
religious at bottom, he first leads the unwary, by humorous
irreverences, to wave popular theology out of account in
discussing moral questions with him, and then scatters them in
confusion by demanding whether the carrying out of his ideals of
conduct was not the manifest object of God Almighty in creating
honest men and pure women. The engaging freshness of his
personality and the dumbfoundering staleness of his culture make
it extremely difficult to decide whether he is worth knowing; for
whilst his company is undeniably pleasant and enlivening, there
is intellectually nothing new to be got out of him, especially as
he despises politics, and is careful not to talk commercial shop,
in which department he is probably much in advance of his English
capitalist friends. He gets on best with romantic Christians of
the amoristic sect: hence the friendship which has sprung up
between him and Octavius.
In appearance Hector is a neatly built young man of twenty-four,
with a short, smartly trimmed black beard, clear, well shaped
eyes, and an ingratiating vivacity of expression. He is, from the
fashionable point of view, faultlessly dressed. As he comes along
the drive from the house with Mrs Whitefield he is sedulously
making himself agreeable and entertaining, and thereby placing on
her slender wit a burden it is unable to bear. An Englishman
would let her alone, accepting boredom and indifference of their
common lot; and the poor lady wants to be either let alone or let
prattle about the things that interest her.
Ramsden strolls over to inspect the motor car. Octavius joins
ANN. [pouncing on her mother joyously] Oh, mamma, what do you
think! Jack is going to take me to Nice in his motor car. Isn't
it lovely? I am the happiest person in London.
TANNER. [desperately] Mrs Whitefield objects. I am sure she
objects. Doesn't she, Ramsden?
RAMSDEN. I should think it very likely indeed.
ANN. You don't object, do you, mother?
MRS WHITEFIELD. I object! Why should I? I think it will do you
good, Ann. [Trotting over to Tanner] I meant to ask you to take
Rhoda out for a run occasionally: she is too much in the house;
but it will do when you come back.
TANNER. Abyss beneath abyss of perfidy!
ANN. [hastily, to distract attention from this outburst] Oh, I
forgot: you have not met Mr Malone. Mr Tanner, my guardian: Mr
HECTOR. Pleased to meet you, Mr Tanner. I should like to suggest
an extension of the travelling party to Nice, if I may.
ANN. Oh, we're all coming. That's understood, isn't it?
HECTOR. I also am the modest possessor of a motor car. If Miss
Robinson will allow me the privilege of taking her, my car is at
ANN. [subduedly] Come, mother: we must leave them to talk over
the arrangements. I must see to my travelling kit.
Mrs Whitefield looks bewildered; but Ann draws her discreetly
away; and they disappear round the corner towards the house.
HECTOR. I think I may go so far as to say that I can depend on
Miss Robinson's consent.
OCTAVIUS. I'm afraid we must leave Violet behind, There are
circumstances which make it impossible for her to come on such an
HECTOR. [amused and not at all convinced] Too American, eh? Must
the young lady have a chaperone?
OCTAVIUS. It's not that, Malone--at least not altogether.
HECTOR. Indeed! May I ask what other objection applies?
TANNER. [impatiently] Oh, tell him, tell him. We shall never be
able to keep the secret unless everybody knows what it is. Mr
Malone: if you go to Nice with Violet, you go with another man's
wife. She is married.
HECTOR. (thunderstruck] You don't tell me so!
TANNER. We do. In confidence.
RAMSDEN. [with an air of importance, lest Malone should suspect a
misalliance] Her marriage has not yet been made known: she
desires that it shall not be mentioned for the present.
HECTOR. I shall respect the lady's wishes. Would it be indiscreet
to ask who her husband is, in case I should have an opportunity
of consulting him about this trip?
TANNER. We don't know who he is.
HECTOR. [retiring into his shell in a very marked manner] In that
case, I have no more to say.
They become more embarrassed than ever.
OCTAVIUS. You must think this very strange.
HECTOR. A little singular. Pardon me for saving so.
RAMSDEN. [half apologetic, half huffy] The young lady was married
secretly; and her husband has forbidden her, it seems, to declare
his name. It is only right to tell you, since you are interested
in Miss--er--in Violet.
OCTAVIUS. [sympathetically] I hope this is not a disappointment
HECTOR. [softened, coming out of his shell again] Well it is a
blow. I can hardly understand how a man can leave a wife in such
a position. Surely it's not customary. It's not manly. It's not
OCTAVIUS. We feel that, as you may imagine, pretty deeply.
RAMSDEN. [testily] It is some young fool who has not enough
experience to know what mystifications of this kind lead to.
HECTOR. [with strong symptoms of moral repugnance] I hope so. A
man need be very young and pretty foolish too to be excused for
such conduct. You take a very lenient view, Mr Ramsden. Too
lenient to my mind. Surely marriage should ennoble a man.
TANNER. [sardonically] Ha!
HECTOR. Am I to gather from that cacchination that you don't
agree with me, Mr Tanner?
TANNER. [drily] Get married and try. You may find it delightful
for a while: you certainly won't find it ennobling. The greatest
common measure of a man and a woman is not necessarily greater
than the man's single measure.
HECTOR. Well, we think in America that a woman's moral number is
higher than a man's, and that the purer nature of a woman lifts a
man right out of himself, and makes him better than he was.
OCTAVIUS. [with conviction] So it does.
TANNER. No wonder American women prefer to live in Europe! It's
more comfortable than standing all their lives on an altar to be
worshipped. Anyhow, Violet's husband has not been ennobled. So
what's to be done?
HECTOR. [shaking his head] I can't dismiss that man's conduct as
lightly as you do, Mr Tanner. However, I'll say no more. Whoever
he is, he's Miss Robinson's husband; and I should be glad for her
sake to think better of him.
OCTAVIUS. [touched; for he divines a secret sorrow] I'm very
sorry, Malone. Very sorry.
HECTOR. [gratefully] You're a good fellow, Robinson, Thank you.
TANNER. Talk about something else. Violet's coming from the
HECTOR. I should esteem it a very great favor, men, if you would
take the opportunity to let me have a few words with the lady
alone. I shall have to cry off this trip; and it's rather a
RAMSDEN. [glad to escape] Say no more. Come Tanner, Come, Tavy.
[He strolls away into the park with Octavius and Tanner, past the
Violet comes down the avenue to Hector.
VIOLET. Are they looking?
She kisses him.