Part 2 out of 3
come in and let us have supper. Theyve no right to stay out
after dark like this.
CROFTS [aggressively] What harm are they doing you?
MRS WARREN. Well, harm or not, I dont like it.
FRANK. Better not wait for them, Mrs Warren. Praed will stay
out as long as possible. He has never known before what it is to
stray over the heath on a summer night with my Vivie.
CROFTS [sitting up in some consternation] I say, you know! Come!
REV. S. [rising, startled out of his professional manner into
real force and sincerity] Frank, once and for all, it's out of
the question. Mrs Warren will tell you that it's not to be
CROFTS. Of course not.
FRANK [with enchanting placidity] Is that so, Mrs Warren?
MRS WARREN [reflectively] Well, Sam, I dont know. If the girl
wants to get married, no good can come of keeping her unmarried.
REV. S. [astounded] But married to h i m!--your daughter to my
son! Only think: it's impossible.
CROFTS. Of course it's impossible. Dont be a fool, Kitty.
MRS WARREN [nettled] Why not? Isnt my daughter good enough for
REV. S. But surely, my dear Mrs Warren, you know the reasons--
MRS WARREN [defiantly] I know no reasons. If you know any, you
can tell them to the lad, or to the girl, or to your
congregation, if you like.
REV. S. [collapsing helplessly into his chair] You know very well
that I couldnt tell anyone the reasons. But my boy will believe
me when I tell him there a r e reasons.
FRANK. Quite right, Dad: he will. But has your boy's conduct
ever been influenced by your reasons?
CROFTS. You cant marry her; and thats all about it. [He gets up
and stands on the hearth, with his back to the fireplace,
MRS WARREN [turning on him sharply] What have you got to do with
FRANK [with his prettiest lyrical cadence] Precisely what I was
going to ask, myself, in my own graceful fashion.
CROFTS [to Mrs Warren] I suppose you dont want to marry the girl
to a man younger than herself and without either a profession or
twopence to keep her on. Ask Sam, if you dont believe me. [To
the parson] How much more money are you going to give him?
REV. S. Not another penny. He has had his patrimony; and he
spent the last of it in July. [Mrs Warren's face falls].
CROFTS [watching her] There! I told you. [He resumes his place
on the settle and puts his legs on the seat again, as if the
matter were finally disposed of].
FRANK [plaintively] This is ever so mercenary. Do you suppose
Miss Warren's going to marry for money? If we love one another--
MRS WARREN. Thank you. Your love's a pretty cheap commodity, my
lad. If you have no means of keeping a wife, that settles it;
you cant have Vivie.
FRANK [much amused] What do y o u say, gov'nor, eh?
REV. S. I agree with Mrs Warren.
FRANK. And good old Crofts has already expressed his opinion.
CROFTS [turning angrily on his elbow] Look here: I want none of
FRANK [pointedly] I'm e v e r so sorry to surprise you, Crofts;
but you allowed yourself the liberty of speaking to me like a
father a moment ago. One father is enough, thank you.
CROFTS [contemptuously] Yah! [He turns away again].
FRANK [rising] Mrs Warren: I cannot give my Vivie up, even for
MRS WARREN [muttering] Young scamp!
FRANK [continuing] And as you no doubt intend to hold out other
prospects to her, I shall lose no time in placing my case before
her. [They stare at him; and he begins to declaim gracefully] He
either fears his fate too much, Or his deserts are small, That
dares not put it to the touch, To gain or lose it all.
[The cottage doors open whilst he is reciting; and Vivie and
Praed come in. He breaks off. Praed puts his hat on the
dresser. There is an immediate improvement in the company's
behavior. Crofts takes down his legs from the settle and pulls
himself together as Praed joins him at the fireplace. Mrs Warren
loses her ease of manner and takes refuge in querulousness.]
MRS WARREN. Wherever have you been, Vivie?
VIVIE [taking off her hat and throwing it carelessly on the
table] On the hill.
MRS WARREN. Well, you shouldnt go off like that without letting
me know. How could I tell what had become of you? And night
coming on too!
VIVIE [going to the door of the kitchen and opening it, ignoring
her mother] Now, about supper? [All rise except Mrs Warren] We
shall be rather crowded in here, I'm afraid.
MRS WARREN. Did you hear what I said, Vivie?
VIVIE [quietly] Yes, mother. [Reverting to the supper
difficulty] How many are we? [Counting] One, two, three, four,
five, six. Well, two will have to wait until the rest are done:
Mrs Alison has only plates and knives for four.
PRAED. Oh, it doesnt matter about me. I--
VIVIE. You have had a long walk and are hungry, Mr Praed: you
shall have your supper at once. I can wait myself. I want one
person to wait with me. Frank: are you hungry?
FRANK. Not the least in the world. Completely off my peck, in
MRS WARREN [to Crofts] Neither are you, George. You can wait.
CROFTS. Oh, hang it, Ive eaten nothing since tea-time. Cant Sam
FRANK. Would you starve my poor father?
REV. S. [testily] Allow me to speak for myself, sir. I am
perfectly willing to wait.
VIVIE [decisively] There's no need. Only two are wanted. [She
opens the door of the kitchen]. Will you take my mother in, Mr
Gardner. [The parson takes Mrs Warren; and they pass into the
kitchen. Praed and Crofts follow. All except Praed clearly
disapprove of the arrangement, but do not know how to resist it.
Vivie stands at the door looking in at them]. Can you squeeze
past to that corner, Mr Praed: it's rather a tight fit. Take
care of your coat against the white-wash: that right. Now, are
you all comfortable?
PRAED [within] Quite, thank you.
MRS WARREN [within] Leave the door open, dearie. [Vivie frowns;
but Frank checks her with a gesture, and steals to the cottage
door, which he softly sets wide open]. Oh Lor, what a draught!
Youd better shut it, dear.
[Vivie shuts it with a slam, and then, noting with disgust that
her mother's hat and shawl are lying about, takes them tidily to
the window seat, whilst Frank noiselessly shuts the cottage
FRANK [exulting] Aha! Got rid of em. Well, Vivvums: what do you
think of my governor?
VIVIE [preoccupied and serious] Ive hardly spoken to him. He
doesnt strike me as a particularly able person.
FRANK. Well, you know, the old man is not altogether such a fool
as he looks. You see, he was shoved into the Church, rather; and
in trying to live up to it he makes a much bigger ass of himself
than he really is. I dont dislike him as much as you might
expect. He means well. How do you think youll get on with him?
VIVIE [rather grimly] I dont think my future life will be much
concerned with him, or with any of that old circle of my
mother's, except perhaps Praed. [She sits down on the settle]
What do you think of my mother?
FRANK. Really and truly?
VIVIE. Yes, really and truly.
FRANK. Well, she's ever so jolly. But she's rather a caution,
isnt she? And Crofts! Oh, my eye, Crofts! [He sits beside
VIVIE. What a lot, Frank!
FRANK. What a crew!
VIVIE [with intense contempt for them] If I thought that _I_ was
like that--that I was going to be a waster, shifting along from
one meal to another with no purpose, and no character, and no
grit in me, I'd open an artery and bleed to death without one
FRANK. Oh no, you wouldnt. Why should they take any grind when
they can afford not to? I wish I had their luck. No: what I
object to is their form. It isnt the thing: it's slovenly, ever
VIVIE. Do you think your form will be any better when youre as
old as Crofts, if you dont work?
FRANK. Of course I do. Ever so much better. Vivvums mustnt
lecture: her little boy's incorrigible. [He attempts to take her
face caressingly in his hands].
VIVIE [striking his hands down sharply] Off with you: Vivvums is
not in a humor for petting her little boy this evening. [She
rises and comes forward to the other side of the room].
FRANK [following her] How unkind!
VIVIE [stamping at him] Be serious. I'm serious.
FRANK. Good. Let us talk learnedly, Miss Warren: do you know
that all the most advanced thinkers are agreed that half the
diseases of modern civilization are due to starvation of the
affections of the young. Now, _I_--
VIVIE [cutting him short] You are very tiresome. [She opens the
inner door] Have you room for Frank there? He's complaining of
MRS WARREN [within] Of course there is [clatter of knives and
glasses as she moves the things on the table]. Here! theres room
now beside me. Come along, Mr Frank.
FRANK. Her little boy will be ever so even with his Vivvums for
this. [He passes into the kitchen].
MRS WARREN [within] Here, Vivie: come on you too, child. You
must be famished. [She enters, followed by Crofts, who holds the
door open with marked deference. She goes out without looking at
him; and he shuts the door after her]. Why George, you cant be
done: youve eaten nothing. Is there anything wrong with you?
CROFTS. Oh, all I wanted was a drink. [He thrusts his hands in
his pockets, and begins prowling about the room, restless and
MRS WARREN. Well, I like enough to eat. But a little of that
cold beef and cheese and lettuce goes a long way. [With a sigh
of only half repletion she sits down lazily on the settle].
CROFTS. What do you go encouraging that young pup for?
MRS WARREN [on the alert at once] Now see here, George: what are
you up to about that girl? Ive been watching your way of looking
at her. Remember: I know you and what your looks mean.
CROFTS. Theres no harm in looking at her, is there?
MRS WARREN. I'd put you out and pack you back to London pretty
soon if I saw any of your nonsense. My girl's little finger is
more to me than your whole body and soul. [Crofts receives this
with a sneering grin. Mrs Warren, flushing a little at her
failure to impose on him in the character of a theatrically
devoted mother, adds in a lower key] Make your mind easy: the
young pup has no more chance than you have.
CROFTS. Maynt a man take an interest in a girl?
MRS WARREN. Not a man like you.
CROFTS. How old is she?
MRS WARREN. Never you mind how old she is.
CROFTS. Why do you make such a secret of it?
MRS WARREN. Because I choose.
CROFTS. Well, I'm not fifty yet; and my property is as good as
it ever was--
MRS [interrupting him] Yes; because youre as stingy as youre
CROFTS [continuing] And a baronet isnt to be picked up every day.
No other man in my position would put up with you for a mother-
in-law. Why shouldnt she marry me?
MRS WARREN. You!
CROFTS. We three could live together quite comfortably. I'd die
before her and leave her a bouncing widow with plenty of money.
Why not? It's been growing in my mind all the time Ive been
walking with that fool inside there.
MRS WARREN [revolted] Yes; it's the sort of thing that w o u l d
grow in your mind.
[He halts in his prowling; and the two look at one another, she
steadfastly, with a sort of awe behind her contemptuous disgust:
he stealthily, with a carnal gleam in his eye and a loose grin.]
CROFTS [suddenly becoming anxious and urgent as he sees no sign
of sympathy in her] Look here, Kitty: youre a sensible woman: you
neednt put on any moral airs. I'll ask no more questions; and
you need answer none. I'll settle the whole property on her; and
if you want a checque for yourself on the wedding day, you can
name any figure you like--in reason.
MRS WARREN. So it's come to that with you, George, like all the
other worn-out old creatures!
CROFTS [savagely] Damn you!
[Before she can retort the door of the kitchen is opened; and the
voices of the others are heard returning. Crofts, unable to
recover his presence of mind, hurries out of the cottage. The
clergyman appears at the kitchen door.]
REV. S. [looking round] Where is Sir George?
MRS WARREN. Gone out to have a pipe. [The clergyman takes his
hat from the table, and joins Mrs Warren at the fireside.
Meanwhile, Vivie comes in, followed by Frank, who collapses into
the nearest chair with an air of extreme exhaustion. Mrs Warren
looks round at Vivie and says, with her affectation of maternal
patronage even more forced than usual] Well, dearie: have you had
a good supper?
VIVIE. You know what Mrs Alison's suppers are. [She turns to
Frank and pets him] Poor Frank! was all the beef gone? did it get
nothing but bread and cheese and ginger beer? [Seriously, as if
she had done quite enough trifling for one evening] Her butter is
really awful. I must get some down from the stores.
FRANK. Do, in Heaven's name!
[Vivie goes to the writing-table and makes a memorandum to order
the butter. Praed comes in from the kitchen, putting up his
handkerchief, which he has been using as a napkin.]
REV. S. Frank, my boy: it is time for us to be thinking of home.
Your mother does not know yet that we have visitors.
PRAED. I'm afraid we're giving trouble.
FRANK [rising] Not the least in the world: my mother will be
delighted to see you. She's a genuinely intellectual artistic
woman; and she sees nobody here from one year's end to another
except the gov'nor; so you can imagine how jolly dull it pans out
for her. [To his father] Y o u r e not intellectual or artistic:
are you pater? So take Praed home at once; and I'll stay here
and entertain Mrs Warren. Youll pick up Crofts in the garden.
He'll be excellent company for the bull-pup.
PRAED [taking his hat from the dresser, and coming close to
Frank] Come with us, Frank. Mrs Warren has not seen Miss Vivie
for a long time; and we have prevented them from having a moment
FRANK [quite softened, and looking at Praed with romantic
admiration] Of course. I forgot. Ever so thanks for reminding
me. Perfect gentleman, Praddy. Always were. My ideal through
life. [He rises to go, but pauses a moment between the two older
men, and puts his hand on Praed's shoulder]. Ah, if you had only
been my father instead of this unworthy old man! [He puts his
other hand on his father's shoulder].
REV. S. [blustering] Silence, sir, silence: you are profane.
MRS WARREN [laughing heartily] You should keep him in better
order, Sam. Good-night. Here: take George his hat and stick
with my compliments.
REV. S. [taking them] Good-night. [They shake hands. As he
passes Vivie he shakes hands with her also and bids her good-
night. Then, in booming command, to Frank] Come along, sir, at
once. [He goes out].
MRS WARREN. Byebye, Praddy.
PRAED. Byebye, Kitty.
[They shake hands affectionately and go out together, she
accompanying him to the garden gate.]
FRANK [to Vivie] Kissums?
VIVIE [fiercely] No. I hate you. [She takes a couple of books
and some paper from the writing-table, and sits down with them at
the middle table, at the end next the fireplace].
FRANK [grimacing] Sorry. [He goes for his cap and rifle. Mrs
Warren returns. He takes her hand] Good-night, dear Mrs Warren.
[He kisses her hand. She snatches it away, her lips tightening,
and looks more than half disposed to box his ears. He laughs
mischievously and runs off, clapping-to the door behind him].
MRS WARREN [resigning herself to an evening of boredom now that
the men are gone] Did you ever in your life hear anyone rattle on
so? Isnt he a tease? [She sits at the table]. Now that I think
of it, dearie, dont you go encouraging him. I'm sure he's a
VIVIE [rising to fetch more books] I'm afraid so. Poor Frank! I
shall have to get rid of him; but I shall feel sorry for him,
though he's not worth it. That man Crofts does not seem to me to
be good for much either: is he? [She throws the books on the
table rather roughly].
MRS WARREN [galled by Vivie's indifference] What do you know of
men, child, to talk that way of them? Youll have to make up your
mind to see a good deal of Sir George Crofts, as he's a friend of
VIVIE [quite unmoved] Why? [She sits down and opens a book]. Do
you expect that we shall be much together? You and I, I mean?
MRS WARREN [staring at her] Of course: until youre married.
Youre not going back to college again.
VIVIE. Do you think my way of life would suit you? I doubt it.
MRS WARREN. Y o u r way of life! What do you mean?
VIVIE [cutting a page of her book with the paper knife on her
chatelaine] Has it really never occurred to you, mother, that I
have a way of life like other people?
MRS WARREN. What nonsense is this youre trying to talk? Do you
want to shew your independence, now that youre a great little
person at school? Dont be a fool, child.
VIVIE [indulgently] Thats all you have to say on the subject, is
MRS WARREN [puzzled, then angry] Dont you keep on asking me
questions like that. [Violently] Hold your tongue. [Vivie works
on, losing no time, and saying nothing]. You and your way of
life, indeed! What next? [She looks at Vivie again. No reply].
Your way of life will be what I please, so it will. [Another
pause]. Ive been noticing these airs in you ever since you got
that tripos or whatever you call it. If you think I'm going to
put up with them, youre mistaken; and the sooner you find it out,
the better. [Muttering] All I have to say on the subject,
indeed! [Again raising her voice angrily] Do you know who youre
speaking to, Miss?
VIVIE [looking across at her without raising her head from her
book] No. Who are you? What are you?
MRS WARREN [rising breathless] You young imp!
VIVIE. Everybody knows my reputation, my social standing, and
the profession I intend to pursue. I know nothing about you.
What is that way of life which you invite me to share with you
and Sir George Crofts, pray?
MRS WARREN. Take care. I shall do something I'll be sorry for
after, and you too.
VIVIE [putting aside her books with cool decision] Well, let us
drop the subject until you are better able to face it. [Looking
critically at her mother] You want some good walks and a little
lawn tennis to set you up. You are shockingly out of condition:
you were not able to manage twenty yards uphill today without
stopping to pant; and your wrists are mere rolls of fat. Look at
mine. [She holds out her wrists].
MRS WARREN [after looking at her helplessly, begins to whimper]
VIVIE [springing up sharply] Now pray dont begin to cry.
Anything but that. I really cannot stand whimpering. I will go
out of the room if you do.
MRS WARREN [piteously] Oh, my darling, how can you be so hard on
me? Have I no rights over you as your mother?
VIVIE. A r e you my mother?
MRS WARREN. A m I your mother? Oh, Vivie!
VIVIE. Then where are our relatives? my father? our family
friends? You claim the rights of a mother: the right to call me
fool and child; to speak to me as no woman in authority over me
at college dare speak to me; to dictate my way of life; and to
force on me the acquaintance of a brute whom anyone can see to be
the most vicious sort of London man about town. Before I give
myself the trouble to resist such claims, I may as well find out
whether they have any real existence.
MRS WARREN [distracted, throwing herself on her knees] Oh no, no.
Stop, stop. I a m your mother: I swear it. Oh, you cant mean to
turn on me--my own child! it's not natural. You believe me, dont
you? Say you believe me.
VIVIE. Who was my father?
MRS WARREN. You dont know what youre asking. I cant tell you.
VIVIE [determinedly] Oh yes you can, if you like. I have a right
to know; and you know very well that I have that right. You can
refuse to tell me if you please; but if you do, you will see the
last of me tomorrow morning.
MRS WARREN. Oh, it's too horrible to hear you talk like that.
You wouldnt--you c o u l d n t leave me.
VIVIE [ruthlessly] Yes, without a moment's hesitation, if you
trifle with me about this. [Shivering with disgust] How can I
feel sure that I may not have the contaminated blood of that
brutal waster in my veins?
MRS WARREN. No, no. On my oath it's not he, nor any of the rest
that you have ever met. I'm certain of that, at least.
[Vivie's eyes fasten sternly on her mother as the significance of
this flashes on her.]
VIVIE [slowly] You are certain of that, at l e a s t. Ah! You
mean that that is all you are certain of. [Thoughtfully] I see.
[Mrs Warren buries her face in her hands]. Dont do that, mother:
you know you dont feel it a bit. [Mrs Warren takes down her
hands and looks up deplorably at Vivie, who takes out her watch
and says] Well, that is enough for tonight. At what hour would
you like breakfast? Is half-past eight too early for you?
MRS WARREN [wildly] My God, what sort of woman are you?
VIVIE [coolly] The sort the world is mostly made of, I should
hope. Otherwise I dont understand how it gets its business done.
Come [taking her mother by the wrist and pulling her up pretty
resolutely]: pull yourself together. Thats right.
MRS WARREN [querulously] Youre very rough with me, Vivie.
VIVIE. Nonsense. What about bed? It's past ten.
MRS WARREN [passionately] Whats the use of my going to bed? Do
you think I could sleep?
VIVIE. Why not? I shall.
MRS WARREN. You! youve no heart. [She suddenly breaks out
vehemently in her natural tongue--the dialect of a woman of the
people--with all her affectations of maternal authority and
conventional manners gone, and an overwhelming inspiration of
true conviction and scorn in her] Oh, I wont bear it: I wont put
up with the injustice of it. What right have you to set yourself
up above me like this? You boast of what you are to me--to m e,
who gave you a chance of being what you are. What chance had I?
Shame on you for a bad daughter and a stuck-up prude!
VIVIE [sitting down with a shrug, no longer confident; for her
replies, which have sounded sensible and strong to her so far,
now begin to ring rather woodenly and even priggishly against the
new tone of her mother] Dont think for a moment I set myself
above you in any way. You attacked me with the conventional
authority of a mother: I defended myself with the conventional
superiority of a respectable woman. Frankly, I am not going to
stand any of your nonsense; and when you drop it I shall not
expect you to stand any of mine. I shall always respect your
right to your own opinions and your own way of life.
MRS WARREN. My own opinions and my own way of life! Listen to
her talking! Do you think I was brought up like you? able to
pick and choose my own way of life? Do you think I did what I
did because I liked it, or thought it right, or wouldnt rather
have gone to college and been a lady if I'd had the chance?
VIVIE. Everybody has some choice, mother. The poorest girl
alive may not be able to choose between being Queen of England or
Principal of Newnham; but she can choose between ragpicking and
flowerselling, according to her taste. People are always blaming
circumstances for what they are. I dont believe in
circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the
people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and,
if they cant find them, make them.
MRS WARREN. Oh, it's easy to talk, isnt it? Here! would you
like to know what m y circumstances were?
VIVIE. Yes: you had better tell me. Wont you sit down?
MRS WARREN. Oh, I'll sit down: dont you be afraid. [She plants
her chair farther forward with brazen energy, and sits down.
Vivie is impressed in spite of herself]. D'you know what your
MRS WARREN. No, you dont. I do. She called herself a widow and
had a fried-fish shop down by the Mint, and kept herself and four
daughters out of it. Two of us were sisters: that was me and
Liz; and we were both good-looking and well made. I suppose our
father was a well-fed man: mother pretended he was a gentleman;
but I dont know. The other two were only half sisters:
undersized, ugly, starved looking, hard working, honest poor
creatures: Liz and I would have half-murdered them if mother
hadnt half-murdered us to keep our hands off them. They were the
respectable ones. Well, what did they get by their
respectability? I'll tell you. One of them worked in a
whitelead factory twelve hours a day for nine shillings a week
until she died of lead poisoning. She only expected to get her
hands a little paralyzed; but she died. The other was always
held up to us as a model because she married a Government laborer
in the Deptford victualling yard, and kept his room and the three
children neat and tidy on eighteen shillings a week--until he
took to drink. That was worth being respectable for, wasnt it?
VIVIE [now thoughtfully attentive] Did you and your sister think
MRS WARREN. Liz didnt, I can tell you: she had more spirit. We
both went to a church school--that was part of the ladylike airs
we gave ourselves to be superior to the children that knew
nothing and went nowhere--and we stayed there until Liz went out
one night and never came back. I know the schoolmistress thought
I'd soon follow her example; for the clergyman was always warning
me that Lizzie'd end by jumping off Waterloo Bridge. Poor fool:
that was all he knew about it! But I was more afraid of the
whitelead factory than I was of the river; and so would you have
been in my place. That clergyman got me a situation as a
scullery maid in a temperance restaurant where they sent out for
anything you liked. Then I was a waitress; and then I went to
the bar at Waterloo station: fourteen hours a day serving drinks
and washing glasses for four shillings a week and my board. That
was considered a great promotion for me. Well, one cold,
wretched night, when I was so tired I could hardly keep myself
awake, who should come up for a half of Scotch but Lizzie, in a
long fur cloak, elegant and comfortable, with a lot of sovereigns
in her purse.
VIVIE [grimly] My aunt Lizzie!
MRS WARREN. Yes; and a very good aunt to have, too. She's
living down at Winchester now, close to the cathedral, one of the
most respectable ladies there. Chaperones girls at the country
ball, if you please. No river for Liz, thank you! You remind me
of Liz a little: she was a first-rate business woman--saved money
from the beginning--never let herself look too like what she was-
-never lost her head or threw away a chance. When she saw I'd
grown up good-looking she said to me across the bar "What are you
doing there, you little fool? wearing out your health and your
appearance for other people's profit!" Liz was saving money then
to take a house for herself in Brussels; and she thought we two
could save faster than one. So she lent me some money and gave
me a start; and I saved steadily and first paid her back, and
then went into business with her as a partner. Why shouldnt I
have done it? The house in Brussels was real high class: a much
better place for a woman to be in than the factory where Anne
Jane got poisoned. None of the girls were ever treated as I was
treated in the scullery of that temperance place, or at the
Waterloo bar, or at home. Would you have had me stay in them and
become a worn out old drudge before I was forty?
VIVIE [intensely interested by this time] No; but why did you
choose that business? Saving money and good management will
succeed in any business.
MRS WARREN. Yes, saving money. But where can a woman get the
money to save in any other business? Could y o u save out of
four shillings a week and keep yourself dressed as well? Not
you. Of course, if youre a plain woman and cant earn anything
more; or if you have a turn for music, or the stage, or
newspaper-writing: thats different. But neither Liz nor I had
any turn for such things at all: all we had was our appearance
and our turn for pleasing men. Do you think we were such fools
as to let other people trade in our good looks by employing us as
shopgirls, or barmaids, or waitresses, when we could trade in
them ourselves and get all the profits instead of starvation
wages? Not likely.
VIVIE. You were certainly quite justified--from the business
point of view.
MRS WARREN. Yes; or any other point of view. What is any
respectable girl brought up to do but to catch some rich man's
fancy and get the benefit of his money by marrying him?--as if a
marriage ceremony could make any difference in the right or wrong
of the thing! Oh, the hypocrisy of the world makes me sick! Liz
and I had to work and save and calculate just like other people;
elseways we should be as poor as any good-for-nothing drunken
waster of a woman that thinks her luck will last for ever. [With
great energy] I despise such people: theyve no character; and if
theres a thing I hate in a woman, it's want of character.
VIVIE. Come now, mother: frankly! Isnt it part of what you call
character in a woman that she should greatly dislike such a way
of making money?
MRS WARREN. Why, of course. Everybody dislikes having to work
and make money; but they have to do it all the same. I'm sure
Ive often pitied a poor girl, tired out and in low spirits,
having to try to please some man that she doesnt care two straws
for--some half-drunken fool that thinks he's making himself
agreeable when he's teasing and worrying and disgusting a woman
so that hardly any money could pay her for putting up with it.
But she has to bear with disagreeables and take the rough with
the smooth, just like a nurse in a hospital or anyone else. It's
not work that any woman would do for pleasure, goodness knows;
though to hear the pious people talk you would suppose it was a
bed of roses.
VIVIE. Still, you consider it worth while. It pays.
MRS WARREN. Of course it's worth while to a poor girl, if she
can resist temptation and is good-looking and well conducted and
sensible. It's far better than any other employment open to her.
I always thought that it oughtnt to be. It c a n t be right,
Vivie, that there shouldnt be better opportunities for women. I
stick to that: it's wrong. But it's so, right or wrong; and a
girl must make the best of it. But of course it's not worth
while for a lady. If you took to it youd be a fool; but I should
have been a fool if I'd taken to anything else.
VIVIE [more and more deeply moved] Mother: suppose we were both
as poor as you were in those wretched old days, are you quite
sure that you wouldnt advise me to try the Waterloo bar, or marry
a laborer, or even go into the factory?
MRS WARREN [indignantly] Of course not. What sort of mother do
you take me for! How could you keep your self-respect in such
starvation and slavery? And whats a woman worth? whats life
worth? without self-respect! Why am I independent and able to
give my daughter a first-rate education, when other women that
had just as good opportunities are in the gutter? Because I
always knew how to respect myself and control myself. Why is Liz
looked up to in a cathedral town? The same reason. Where would
we be now if we'd minded the clergyman's foolishness? Scrubbing
floors for one and sixpence a day and nothing to look forward to
but the workhouse infirmary. Dont you be led astray by people
who dont know the world, my girl. The only way for a woman to
provide for herself decently is for her to be good to some man
that can afford to be good to her. If she's in his own station
of life, let her make him marry her; but if she's far beneath him
she cant expect it: why should she? it wouldnt be for her own
happiness. Ask any lady in London society that has daughters;
and she'll tell you the same, except that I tell you straight and
she'll tell you crooked. Thats all the difference.
VIVIE [fascinated, gazing at her] My dear mother: you are a
wonderful woman: you are stronger than all England. And are you
really and truly not one wee bit doubtful--or--or--ashamed?
MRS WARREN. Well, of course, dearie, it's only good manners to
be ashamed of it: it's expected from a woman. Women have to
pretend to feel a great deal that they dont feel. Liz used to be
angry with me for plumping out the truth about it. She used to
say that when every woman could learn enough from what was going
on in the world before her eyes, there was no need to talk about
it to her. But then Liz was such a perfect lady! She had the
true instinct of it; while I was always a bit of a vulgarian. I
used to be so pleased when you sent me your photos to see that
you were growing up like Liz: youve just her ladylike, determined
way. But I cant stand saying one thing when everyone knows I
mean another. Whats the use in such hypocrisy? If people
arrange the world that way for women, theres no good pretending
it's arranged the other way. No: I never was a bit ashamed
really. I consider I had a right to be proud of how we managed
everything so respectably, and never had a word against us, and
how the girls were so well taken care of. Some of them did very
well: one of them married an ambassador. But of course now I
darent talk about such things: whatever would they think of us!
[She yawns]. Oh dear! I do believe I'm getting sleepy after
all. [She stretches herself lazily, thoroughly relieved by her
explosion, and placidly ready for her night's rest].
VIVIE. I believe it is I who will not be able to sleep now.
[She goes to the dresser and lights the candle. Then she
extinguishes the lamp, darkening the room a good deal]. Better
let in some fresh air before locking up. [She opens the cottage
door, and finds that it is broad moonlight]. What a beautiful
night! Look! [She draws the curtains of the window. The
landscape is seen bathed in the radiance of the harvest moon
rising over Blackdown].
MRS WARREN [with a perfunctory glance at the scene] Yes, dear;
but take care you dont catch your death of cold from the night
VIVIE [contemptuously] Nonsense.
MRS WARREN [querulously] Oh yes: everything I say is nonsense,
according to you.
VIVIE [turning to her quickly] No: really that is not so, mother.
You have got completely the better of me tonight, though I
intended it to be the other way. Let us be good friends now.
MRS WARREN [shaking her head a little ruefully] So it h a s been
the other way. But I suppose I must give in to it. I always got
the worst of it from Liz; and now I suppose it'll be the same
VIVIE. Well, never mind. Come: good-night, dear old mother.
[She takes her mother in her arms].
MRS WARREN [fondly] I brought you up well, didnt I, dearie?
VIVIE. You did.
MRS WARREN. And youll be good to your poor old mother for it,
VIVIE. I will, dear. [Kissing her] Good-night.
MRS WARREN [with unction] Blessings on my own dearie darling! a
[She embraces her daughter protectingly, instinctively looking
upward for divine sanction.]
[In the Rectory garden next morning, with the sun shining from a
cloudless sky. The garden wall has a five-barred wooden gate,
wide enough to admit a carriage, in the middle. Beside the gate
hangs a bell on a coiled spring, communicating with a pull
outside. The carriage drive comes down the middle of the garden
and then swerves to its left, where it ends in a little gravelled
circus opposite the Rectory porch. Beyond the gate is seen the
dusty high road, parallel with the wall, bounded on the farther
side by a strip of turf and an unfenced pine wood. On the lawn,
between the house and the drive, is a clipped yew tree, with a
garden bench in its shade. On the opposite side the garden is
shut in by a box hedge; and there is a little sundial on the
turf, with an iron chair near it. A little path leads through
the box hedge, behind the sundial.]
[Frank, seated on the chair near the sundial, on which he has
placed the morning paper, is reading The Standard. His father
comes from the house, red-eyed and shivery, and meets Frank's eye
FRANK [looking at his watch] Half-past eleven. Nice your for a
rector to come down to breakfast!
REV. S. Dont mock, Frank: dont mock. I am a little--er--
FRANK. Off color?
REV. S. [repudiating the expression] No, sir: u n w e l l this
morning. Wheres your mother?
FRANK. Dont be alarmed: she's not here. Gone to town by the
11.13 with Bessie. She left several messages for you. Do you
feel equal to receiving them now, or shall I wait til youve
REV. S. I h a v e breakfasted, sir. I am surprised at your
mother going to town when we have people staying with us. Theyll
think it very strange.
FRANK. Possibly she has considered that. At all events, if
Crofts is going to stay here, and you are going to sit up every
night with him until four, recalling the incidents of your fiery
youth, it is clearly my mother's duty, as a prudent housekeeper,
to go up to the stores and order a barrel of whisky and a few
REV. S. I did not observe that Sir George drank excessively.
FRANK. You were not in a condition to, gov'nor.
REV. S. Do you mean to say that _I_--?
FRANK [calmly] I never saw a beneficed clergyman less sober. The
anecdotes you told about your past career were so awful that I
really dont think Praed would have passed the night under your
roof if it hadnt been for the way my mother and he took to one
REV. S. Nonsense, sir. I am Sir George Crofts' host. I must
talk to him about something; and he has only one subject. Where
is Mr Praed now?
FRANK. He is driving my mother and Bessie to the station.
REV. S. Is Crofts up yet?
FRANK. Oh, long ago. He hasnt turned a hair: he's in much
better practice than you. Has kept it up ever since, probably.
He's taken himself off somewhere to smoke.
[Frank resumes his paper. The parson turns disconsolately
towards the gate; then comes back irresolutely.]
REV. S. Er--Frank.
REV. S. Do you think the Warrens will expect to be asked here
after yesterday afternoon?
FRANK. Theyve been asked already.
REV. S. [appalled] What!!!
FRANK. Crofts informed us at breakfast that you told him to
bring Mrs Warren and Vivie over here to-day, and to invite them
to make this house their home. My mother then found she must go
to town by the 11.13 train.
REV. S. [with despairing vehemence] I never gave any such
invitation. I never thought of such a thing.
FRANK [compassionately] How do you know, gov'nor, what you said
and thought last night?
PRAED [coming in through the hedge] Good morning.
REV. S. Good morning. I must apologize for not having met you
at breakfast. I have a touch of--of--
FRANK. Clergyman's sore throat, Praed. Fortunately not chronic.
PRAED [changing the subject] Well I must say your house is in a
charming spot here. Really most charming.
REV. S. Yes: it is indeed. Frank will take you for a walk, Mr
Praed, if you like. I'll ask you to excuse me: I must take the
opportunity to write my sermon while Mrs Gardner is away and you
are all amusing yourselves. You wont mind, will you?
PRAED. Certainly not. Dont stand on the slightest ceremony with
REV. S. Thank you. I'll--er--er-- [He stammers his way to the
porch and vanishes into the house].
PRAED. Curious thing it must be writing a sermon every week.
FRANK. Ever so curious, if he did it. He buys em. He's gone
for some soda water.
PRAED. My dear boy: I wish you would be more respectful to your
father. You know you can be so nice when you like.
FRANK. My dear Praddy: you forget that I have to live with the
governor. When two people live together--it dont matter whether
theyre father and son or husband and wife or brother and sister--
they cant keep up the polite humbug thats so easy for ten minutes
on an afternoon call. Now the governor, who unites to many
admirable domestic qualities the irresoluteness of a sheep and
the pompousness and aggressiveness of a jackass--
PRAED. No, pray, pray, my dear Frank, remember! He is your
FRANK. I give him due credit for that. [Rising and flinging
down his paper] But just imagine his telling Crofts to bring the
Warrens over here! He must have been ever so drunk. You know,
my dear Praddy, my mother wouldnt stand Mrs Warren for a moment.
Vivie mustnt come here until she's gone back to town.
PRAED. But your mother doesnt know anything about Mrs Warren,
does she? [He picks up the paper and sits down to read it].
FRANK. I dont know. Her journey to town looks as if she did.
Not that my mother would mind in the ordinary way: she has stuck
like a brick to lots of women who had got into trouble. But they
were all nice women. Thats what makes the real difference. Mrs
Warren, no doubt, has her merits; but she's ever so rowdy; and my
mother simply wouldnt put up with her. So--hallo! [This
exclamation is provoked by the reappearance of the clergyman, who
comes out of the house in haste and dismay].
REV. S. Frank: Mrs Warren and her daughter are coming across the
heath with Crofts: I saw them from the study windows. What a m I
to say about your mother?
FRANK. Stick on your hat and go out and say how delighted you
are to see them; and that Frank's in the garden; and that mother
and Bessie have been called to the bedside of a sick relative,
and were ever so sorry they couldnt stop; and that you hope Mrs
Warren slept well; and--and--say any blessed thing except the
truth, and leave the rest to Providence.
REV. S. But how are we to get rid of them afterwards?
FRANK. Theres no time to think of that now. Here! [He bounds
into the house].
REV. S. He's so impetuous. I dont know what to do with him, Mr
FRANK [returning with a clerical felt hat, which he claps on his
father's head]. Now: off with you. [Rushing him through the
gate]. Praed and I'll wait here, to give the thing an
unpremeditated air. [The clergyman, dazed but obedient, hurries
FRANK. We must get the old girl back to town somehow, Praed.
Come! Honestly, dear Praddy, do you like seeing them together?
PRAED. Oh, why not?
FRANK [his teeth on edge] Dont it make your flesh creep ever so
little? that wicked old devil, up to every villainy under the
sun, I'll swear, and Vivie--ugh!
PRAED. Hush, pray. Theyre coming.
[The clergyman and Crofts are seen coming along the road,
followed by Mrs Warren and Vivie walking affectionately
FRANK. Look: she actually has her arm round the old woman's
waist. It's her right arm: she began it. She's gone
sentimental, by God! Ugh! ugh! Now do you feel the creeps?
[The clergyman opens the gate: and Mrs Warren and Vivie pass him
and stand in the middle of the garden looking at the house.
Frank, in an ecstasy of dissimulation, turns gaily to Mrs Warren,
exclaiming] Ever so delighted to see you, Mrs Warren. This quiet
old rectory garden becomes you perfectly.
MRS WARREN. Well, I never! Did you hear that, George? He says
I look well in a quiet old rectory garden.
REV. S. [still holding the gate for Crofts, who loafs through it,
heavily bored] You look well everywhere, Mrs Warren.
FRANK. Bravo, gov'nor! Now look here: lets have a treat before
lunch. First lets see the church. Everyone has to do that.
It's a regular old thirteenth century church, you know: the
gov'nor's ever so fond of it, because he got up a restoration
fund and had it completely rebuilt six years ago. Praed will be
able to shew its points.
PRAED [rising] Certainly, if the restoration has left any to
REV. S. [mooning hospitably at them] I shall be pleased, I'm
sure, if Sir George and Mrs Warren really care about it.
MRS WARREN. Oh, come along and get it over.
CROFTS [turning back toward the gate] Ive no objection.
REV. S. Not that way. We go through the fields, if you dont
mind. Round here. [He leads the way by the little path through
the box hedge].
CROFTS. Oh, all right. [He goes with the parson].
[Praed follows with Mrs Warren. Vivie does not stir: she watches
them until they have gone, with all the lines of purpose in her
face marking it strongly.]
FRANK. Aint you coming?
VIVIE. No. I want to give you a warning, Frank. You were
making fun of my mother just now when you said that about the
rectory garden. That is barred in the future. Please treat my
mother with as much respect as you treat your own.
FRANK. My dear Viv: she wouldnt appreciate it: the two cases
require different treatment. But what on earth has happened to
you? Last night we were perfectly agreed as to your mother and
her set. This morning I find you attitudinizing sentimentally
with your arm around your parent's waist.
VIVIE [flushing] Attitudinizing!
FRANK. That was how it struck me. First time I ever saw you do
a second-rate thing.
VIVIE [controlling herself] Yes, Frank: there has been a change:
but I dont think it a change for the worse. Yesterday I was a
FRANK. And today?
VIVIE [wincing; then looking at him steadily] Today I know my
mother better than you do.
FRANK. Heaven forbid!
VIVIE. What do you mean?
FRANK. Viv: theres a freemasonry among thoroughly immoral people
that you know nothing of. Youve too much character. T h a t s
the bond between your mother and me: thats why I know her better
than youll ever know her.
VIVIE. You are wrong: you know nothing about her. If you knew
the circumstances against which my mother had to struggle--
FRANK [adroitly finishing the sentence for her] I should know why
she is what she is, shouldnt I? What difference would that make?
Circumstances or no circumstances, Viv, you wont be able to stand
VIVIE [very angry] Why not?
FRANK. Because she's an old wretch, Viv. If you ever put your
arm around her waist in my presence again, I'll shoot myself
there and then as a protest against an exhibition which revolts
VIVIE. Must I choose between dropping your acquaintance and
dropping my mother's?
FRANK [gracefully] That would put the old lady at ever such a
disadvantage. No, Viv: your infatuated little boy will have to
stick to you in any case. But he's all the more anxious that you
shouldnt make mistakes. It's no use, Viv: your mother's
impossible. She may be a good sort; but she's a bad lot, a very
VIVIE [hotly] Frank--! [He stands his ground. She turns away
and sits down on the bench under the yew tree, struggling to
recover her self-command. Then she says] Is she to be deserted
by the world because she's what you call a bad lot? Has she no
right to live?
FRANK. No fear of that, Viv: s h e wont ever be deserted. [He
sits on the bench beside her].
VIVIE. But I am to desert her, I suppose.
FRANK [babyishly, lulling her and making love to her with his
voice] Mustnt go live with her. Little family group of mother
and daughter wouldnt be a success. Spoil o u r little group.
VIVIE [falling under the spell] What little group?
FRANK. The babes in the wood: Vivie and little Frank. [He
nestles against her like a weary child]. Lets go and get covered
up with leaves.
VIVIE [rhythmically, rocking him like a nurse] Fast asleep, hand
in hand, under the trees.
FRANK. The wise little girl with her silly little boy.
VIVIE. The deal little boy with his dowdy little girl.
FRANK. Ever so peaceful, and relieved from the imbecility of the
little boy's father and the questionableness of the little girl's
VIVIE [smothering the word against her breast] Sh-sh-sh-sh!
little girl wants to forget all about her mother. [They are
silent for some moments, rocking one another. Then Vivie wakes
up with a shock, exclaiming] What a pair of fools we are! Come:
sit up. Gracious! your hair. [She smooths it]. I wonder do all
grown up people play in that childish way when nobody is looking.
I never did it when I was a child.
FRANK. Neither did I. You are my first playmate. [He catches
her hand to kiss it, but checks himself to look around first.
Very unexpectedly, he sees Crofts emerging from the box hedge].
VIVIE. Why damn, dear?
FRANK [whispering] Sh! Here's this brute Crofts. [He sits
farther away from her with an unconcerned air].
CROFTS. Could I have a few words with you, Miss Vivie?
CROFTS [to Frank] Youll excuse me, Gardner. Theyre waiting for
you in the church, if you dont mind.
FRANK [rising] Anything to oblige you, Crofts--except church. If
you should happen to want me, Vivvums, ring the gate bell. [He
goes into the house with unruffled suavity].
CROFTS [watching him with a crafty air as he disappears, and
speaking to Vivie with an assumption of being on privileged terms
with her] Pleasant young fellow that, Miss Vivie. Pity he has no
money, isnt it?
VIVIE. Do you think so?
CROFTS. Well, whats he to do? No profession. No property.
Whats he good for?
VIVIE. I realize his disadvantages, Sir George.
CROFTS [a little taken aback at being so precisely interpreted]
Oh, it's not that. But while we're in this world we're in it;
and money's money. [Vivie does not answer]. Nice day, isnt it?
VIVIE [with scarcely veiled contempt for this effort at
CROFTS [with brutal good humor, as if he liked her pluck] Well
thats not what I came to say. [Sitting down beside her] Now
listen, Miss Vivie. I'm quite aware that I'm not a young lady's
VIVIE. Indeed, Sir George?
CROFTS. No; and to tell you the honest truth I dont want to be
either. But when I say a thing I mean it; and when I feel a
sentiment I feel it in earnest; and what I value I pay hard money
for. Thats the sort of man I am.
VIVIE. It does you great credit, I'm sure.
CROFTS. Oh, I dont mean to praise myself. I have my faults,
Heaven knows: no man is more sensible of that than I am. I know
I'm not perfect: thats one of the advantages of being a middle-
aged man; for I'm not a young man, and I know it. But my code is
a simple one, and, I think, a good one. Honor between man and
man; fidelity between man and woman; and no cant about this
religion or that religion, but an honest belief that things are
making for good on the whole.
VIVIE [with biting irony] "A power, not ourselves, that makes for
CROFTS [taking her seriously] Oh certainly. Not ourselves, of
course. Y o u understand what I mean. Well, now as to practical
matters. You may have an idea that Ive flung my money about; but
I havnt: I'm richer today than when I first came into the
property. Ive used my knowledge of the world to invest my money
in ways that other men have overlooked; and whatever else I may
be, I'm a safe man from the money point of view.
VIVIE. It's very kind of you to tell me all this.
CROFTS. Oh well, come, Miss Vivie: you neednt pretend you dont
see what I'm driving at. I want to settle down with a Lady
Crofts. I suppose you think me very blunt, eh?
VIVIE. Not at all: I am very much obliged to you for being so
definite and business-like. I quite appreciate the offer: the
money, the position, L a d y C r o f t s, and so on. But I
think I will say no, if you dont mind, I'd rather not. [She
rises, and strolls across to the sundial to get out of his
CROFTS [not at all discouraged, and taking advantage of the
additional room left him on the seat to spread himself
comfortably, as if a few preliminary refusals were part of the
inevitable routine of courtship] I'm in no hurry. It was only
just to let you know in case young Gardner should try to trap
you. Leave the question open.
VIVIE [sharply] My no is final. I wont go back from it.
[Crofts is not impressed. He grins; leans forward with his
elbows on his knees to prod with his stick at some unfortunate
insect in the grass; and looks cunningly at her. She turns away
CROFTS. I'm a good deal older than you. Twenty-five years:
quarter of a century. I shant live for ever; and I'll take care
that you shall be well off when I'm gone.
VIVIE. I am proof against even that inducement, Sir George.
Dont you think youd better take your answer? There is not the
slightest chance of my altering it.
CROFTS [rising, after a final slash at a daisy, and coming nearer
to her] Well, no matter. I could tell you some things that would
change your mind fast enough; but I wont, because I'd rather win
you by honest affection. I was a good friend to your mother: ask
her whether I wasnt. She'd never have make the money that paid
for your education if it hadnt been for my advice and help, not
to mention the money I advanced her. There are not many men who
would have stood by her as I have. I put not less than forty
thousand pounds into it, from first to last.
VIVIE [staring at him] Do you mean to say that you were my
mother's business partner?
CROFTS. Yes. Now just think of all the trouble and the
explanations it would save if we were to keep the whole thing in
the family, so to speak. Ask your mother whether she'd like to
have to explain all her affairs to a perfect stranger.
VIVIE. I see no difficulty, since I understand that the business
is wound up, and the money invested.
CROFTS [stopping short, amazed] Wound up! Wind up a business
thats paying 35 per cent in the worst years! Not likely. Who
told you that?
VIVIE [her color quite gone] Do you mean that it is still--?
[She stops abruptly, and puts her hand on the sundial to support
herself. Then she gets quickly to the iron chair and sits down].
What business are you talking about?
CROFTS. Well, the fact is it's not what would considered exactly
a high-class business in my set--the country set, you know--o u r
set it will be if you think better of my offer. Not that theres
any mystery about it: dont think that. Of course you know by
your mother's being in it that it's perfectly straight and
honest. Ive known her for many years; and I can say of her that
she'd cut off her hands sooner than touch anything that was not
what it ought to be. I'll tell you all about it if you like. I
dont know whether youve found in travelling how hard it is to
find a really comfortable private hotel.
VIVIE [sickened, averting her face] Yes: go on.
CROFTS. Well, thats all it is. Your mother has got a genius for
managing such things. We've got two in Brussels, one in Ostend,
one in Vienna, and two in Budapest. Of course there are others
besides ourselves in it; but we hold most of the capital; and
your mother's indispensable as managing director. Youve noticed,
I daresay, that she travels a good deal. But you see you cant
mention such things in society. Once let out the word hotel and
everybody thinks you keep a public-house. You wouldnt like
people to say that of your mother, would you? Thats why we're so
reserved about it. By the way, youll keep it to yourself, wont
you? Since it's been a secret so long, it had better remain so.
VIVIE. And this is the business you invite me to join you in?
CROFTS. Oh no. My wife shant be troubled with business. Youll
not be in it more than youve always been.
VIVIE. _I_ always been! What do you mean?
CROFTS. Only that youve always lived on it. It paid for your
education and the dress you have on your back. Dont turn up your
nose at business, Miss Vivie: where would your Newnhams and
Girtons be without it?
VIVIE [rising, almost beside herself] Take care. I know what
this business is.
CROFTS [starting, with a suppressed oath] Who told you?
VIVIE. Your partner. My mother.
CROFTS [black with rage] The old--
VIVIE. Just so.
[He swallows the epithet and stands for a moment swearing and
raging foully to himself. But he knows that his cue is to be
sympathetic. He takes refuge in generous indignation.]
CROFTS. She ought to have had more consideration for you. _I_'d
never have told you.
VIVIE. I think you would probably have told me when we were
married: it would have been a convenient weapon to break me in
CROFTS [quite sincerely] I never intended that. On my word as a
gentleman I didnt.
[Vivie wonders at him. Her sense of the irony of his protest
cools and braces her. She replies with contemptuous self-
VIVIE. It does not matter. I suppose you understand that when
we leave here today our acquaintance ceases.
CROFTS. Why? Is it for helping your mother?
VIVIE. My mother was a very poor woman who had no reasonable
choice but to do as she did. You were a rich gentleman; and you
did the same for the sake of 35 per cent. You are a pretty
common sort of scoundrel, I think. That is my opinion of you.
CROFTS [after a stare: not at all displeased, and much more at
his ease on these frank terms than on their former ceremonious
ones] Ha! ha! ha! ha! Go it, little missie, go it: it doesnt
hurt me and it amuses you. Why the devil shouldnt I invest my
money that way? I take the interest on my capital like other
people: I hope you dont think I dirty my own hands with the work.
Come! you wouldnt refuse the acquaintance of my mother's cousin
the Duke of Belgravia because some of the rents he gets are
earned in queer ways. You wouldnt cut the Archbishop of
Canterbury, I suppose, because the Ecclesiastical Commissioners
have a few publicans and sinners among their tenants. Do you
remember your Crofts scholarship at Newnham? Well, that was
founded by my brother the M.P. He gets his 22 per cent out of a
factory with 600 girls in it, and not one of them getting wages
enough to live on. How d'ye suppose they manage when they have
no family to fall back on? Ask your mother. And do you expect
me to turn my back on 35 per cent when all the rest are pocketing
what they can, like sensible men? No such fool! If youre going
to pick and choose your acquaintances on moral principles, youd
better clear out of this country, unless you want to cut yourself
out of all decent society.
VIVIE [conscience stricken] You might go on to point out that I
myself never asked where the money I spent came from. I believe
I am just as bad as you.
CROFTS [greatly reassured] Of course you are; and a very good
thing too! What harm does it do after all? [Rallying her
jocularly] So you dont think me such a scoundrel now you come to
think it over. Eh?
VIVIE. I have shared profits with you: and I admitted you just
now to the familiarity of knowing what I think of you.
CROFTS [with serious friendliness] To be sure you did. You wont
find me a bad sort: I dont go in for being superfine
intellectually; but Ive plenty of honest human feeling; and the
old Crofts breed comes out in a sort of instinctive hatred of
anything low, in which I'm sure youll sympathize with me.
Believe me, Miss Vivie, the world isnt such a bad place as the
croakers make out. As long as you dont fly openly in the face of
society, society doesnt ask any inconvenient questions; and it
makes precious short work of the cads who do. There are no
secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses. In the
class of people I can introduce you to, no lady or gentleman
would so far forget themselves as to discuss my business affairs
or your mothers. No man can offer you a safer position.
VIVIE [studying him curiously] I suppose you really think youre
getting on famously with me.
CROFTS. Well, I hope I may flatter myself that you think better
of me than you did at first.
VIVIE [quietly] I hardly find you worth thinking about at all
now. When I think of the society that tolerates you, and the
laws that protect you! when I think of how helpless nine out of
ten young girls would be in the hands of you and my mother! the
unmentionable woman and her capitalist bully--
CROFTS [livid] Damn you!
VIVIE. You need not. I feel among the damned already.
[She raises the latch of the gate to open it and go out. He
follows her and puts his hand heavily on the top bar to prevent
CROFTS [panting with fury] Do you think I'll put up with this
from you, you young devil?
VIVIE [unmoved] Be quiet. Some one will answer the bell.
[Without flinching a step she strikes the bell with the back of
her hand. It clangs harshly; and he starts back involuntarily.
Almost immediately Frank appears at the porch with his rifle].
FRANK [with cheerful politeness] Will you have the rifle, Viv; or
shall I operate?
VIVIE. Frank: have you been listening?
FRANK [coming down into the garden] Only for the bell, I assure
you; so that you shouldnt have to wait. I think I shewed great
insight into your character, Crofts.
CROFTS. For two pins I'd take that gun from you and break it
across your head.
FRANK [stalking him cautiously] Pray dont. I'm ever so careless
in handling firearms. Sure to be a fatal accident, with a
reprimand from the coroner's jury for my negligence.
VIVIE. Put the rifle away, Frank: it's quite unnecessary.
FRANK. Quite right, Viv. Much more sportsmanlike to catch him
in a trap. [Crofts, understanding the insult, makes a
threatening movement]. Crofts: there are fifteen cartridges in
the magazine here; and I am a dead shot at the present distance
and at an object of your size.
CROFTS. Oh, you neednt be afraid. I'm not going to touch you.
FRANK. Ever so magnanimous of you under the circumstances!
CROFTS. I'll just tell you this before I go. It may interest
you, since youre so fond of one another. Allow me, Mister Frank,
to introduce you to your half-sister, the eldest daughter of the
Reverend Samuel Gardner. Miss Vivie: you half-brother. Good
morning! [He goes out through the gate and along the road].
FRANK [after a pause of stupefaction, raising the rifle] Youll
testify before the coroner that it's an accident, Viv. [He takes
aim at the retreating figure of Crofts. Vivie seizes the muzzle
and pulls it round against her breast].
VIVIE. Fire now. You may.
FRANK [dropping his end of the rifle hastily] Stop! take care.
[She lets it go. It falls on the turf]. Oh, youve given your
little boy such a turn. Suppose it had gone off! ugh! [He sinks
on the garden seat, overcome].
VIVIE. Suppose it had: do you think it would not have been a
relief to have some sharp physical pain tearing through me?
FRANK [coaxingly] Take it ever so easy, dear Viv. Remember: even
if the rifle scared that fellow into telling the truth for the
first time in his life, that only makes us the babes in the woods
in earnest. [He holds out his arms to her]. Come and be covered
up with leaves again.
VIVIE [with a cry of disgust] Ah, not that, not that. You make
all my flesh creep.
FRANK. Why, whats the matter?
VIVIE. Goodbye. [She makes for the gate].
FRANK [jumping up] Hallo! Stop! Viv! Viv! [She turns in the
gateway] Where are you going to? Where shall we find you?
VIVIE. At Honoria Fraser's chambers, 67 Chancery Lane, for the
rest of my life. [She goes off quickly in the opposite direction
to that taken by Crofts].
FRANK. But I say--wait--dash it! [He runs after her].
[Honoria Fraser's chambers in Chancery Lane. An office at the
top of New Stone Buildings, with a plate-glass window,
distempered walls, electric light, and a patent stove. Saturday
afternoon. The chimneys of Lincoln's Inn and the western sky
beyond are seen through the window. There is a double writing
table in the middle of the room, with a cigar box, ash pans, and
a portable electric reading lamp almost snowed up in heaps of
papers and books. This table has knee holes and chairs right and
left and is very untidy. The clerk's desk, closed and tidy, with
its high stool, is against the wall, near a door communicating
with the inner rooms. In the opposite wall is the door leading
to the public corridor. Its upper panel is of opaque glass,
lettered in black on the outside, FRASER AND WARREN. A baize
screen hides the corner between this door and the window.]
[Frank, in a fashionable light-colored coaching suit, with his
stick, gloves, and white hat in his hands, is pacing up and down
in the office. Somebody tries the door with a key.]
FRANK [calling] Come in. It's not locked.
[Vivie comes in, in her hat and jacket. She stops and stares at
VIVIE [sternly] What are you doing here?
FRANK. Waiting to see you. Ive been here for hours. Is this
the way you attend to your business? [He puts his hat and stick
on the table, and perches himself with a vault on the clerk's
stool, looking at her with every appearance of being in a
specially restless, teasing, flippant mood].
VIVIE. Ive been away exactly twenty minutes for a cup of tea.
[She takes off her hat and jacket and hangs them behind the
screen]. How did you get in?
FRANK. The staff had not left when I arrived. He's gone to play
cricket on Primrose Hill. Why dont you employ a woman, and give
your sex a chance?
VIVIE. What have you come for?
FRANK [springing off the stool and coming close to her] Viv: lets
go and enjoy the Saturday half-holiday somewhere, like the staff.
What do you say to Richmond, and then a music hall, and a jolly
VIVIE. Cant afford it. I shall put in another six hours work
before I go to bed.
FRANK. Cant afford it, cant we? Aha! Look here. [He takes out
a handful of sovereigns and makes them chink]. Gold, Viv: gold!
VIVIE. Where did you get it?
FRANK. Gambling, Viv: gambling. Poker.
VIVIE. Pah! It's meaner than stealing it. No: I'm not coming.
[She sits down to work at the table, with her back to the glass
door, and begins turning over the papers].
FRANK [remonstrating piteously] But, my dear Viv, I want to talk
to you ever so seriously.
VIVIE. Very well: sit down in Honoria's chair and talk here. I
like ten minutes chat after tea. [He murmurs]. No use groaning:
I'm inexorable. [He takes the opposite seat disconsolately].
Pass that cigar box, will you?
FRANK [pushing the cigar box across] Nasty womanly habit. Nice
men dont do it any longer.
VIVIE. Yes: they object to the smell in the office; and weve had
to take to cigarets. See! [She opens the box and takes out a
cigaret, which she lights. She offers him one; but he shakes his
head with a wry face. She settles herself comfortably in her
chair, smoking]. Go ahead.
FRANK. Well, I want to know what youve done--what arrangements
VIVIE. Everything was settled twenty minutes after I arrived
here. Honoria has found the business too much for her this year;
and she was on the point of sending for me and proposing a
partnership when I walked in and told her I hadnt a farthing in
the world. So I installed myself and packed her off for a
fortnight's holiday. What happened at Haslemere when I left?
FRANK. Nothing at all. I said youd gone to town on particular
FRANK. Well, either they were too flabbergasted to say anything,
or else Crofts had prepared your mother. Anyhow, she didnt say
anything; and Crofts didnt say anything; and Praddy only stared.
After tea they got up and went; and Ive not seen them since.
VIVIE [nodding placidly with one eye on a wreath of smoke] Thats
FRANK [looking round disparagingly] Do you intend to stick in
this confounded place?
VIVIE [blowing the wreath decisively away, and sitting straight
up] Yes. These two days have given me back all my strength and
self-possession. I will never take a holiday again as long as I
FRANK [with a very wry face] Mps! You look quite happy. And as
hard as nails.
VIVIE [grimly] Well for me that I am!
FRANK [rising] Look here, Viv: we must have an explanation. We
parted the other day under a complete misunderstanding. [He sits
on the table, close to her].
VIVIE [putting away the cigaret] Well: clear it up.
FRANK. You remember what Crofts said.
FRANK. That revelation was supposed to bring about a complete
change in the nature of our feeling for one another. It placed
us on the footing of brother and sister.
FRANK. Have you ever had a brother?
FRANK. Then you dont know what being brother and sister feels
like? Now I have lots of sisters; and the fraternal feeling is
quite familiar to me. I assure you my feeling for you is not the
least in the world like it. The girls will go t h e i r way; I
will go mine; and we shant care if we never see one another
again. Thats brother and sister. But as to you, I cant be easy
if I have to pass a week without seeing you. Thats not brother
and sister. Its exactly what I felt an hour before Crofts made
his revelation. In short, dear Viv, it's love's young dream.
VIVIE [bitingly] The same feeling, Frank, that brought your
father to my mother's feet. Is that it?
FRANK [so revolted that he slips off the table for a moment] I
very strongly object, Viv, to have my feelings compared to any
which the Reverend Samuel is capable of harboring; and I object
still more to a comparison of you to your mother. [Resuming his
perch] Besides, I dont believe the story. I have taxed my father
with it, and obtained from him what I consider tantamount to a
VIVIE. What did he say?
FRANK. He said he was sure there must be some mistake.
VIVIE. Do you believe him?
FRANK. I am prepared to take his word against Crofts'.
VIVIE. Does it make any difference? I mean in your imagination
or conscience; for of course it makes no real difference.
FRANK [shaking his head] None whatever to m e.
VIVIE. Nor to me.
FRANK [staring] But this is ever so surprising! [He goes back to
his chair]. I thought our whole relations were altered in your
imagination and conscience, as you put it, the moment those words
were out of that brute's muzzle.
VIVIE. No: it was not that. I didnt believe him. I only wish I
VIVIE. I think brother and sister would be a very suitable
relation for us.
FRANK. You really mean that?
VIVIE. Yes. It's the only relation I care for, even if we could
afford any other. I mean that.
FRANK [raising his eyebrows like one on whom a new light has
dawned, and rising with quite an effusion of chivalrous
sentiment] My dear Viv: why didnt you say so before? I am ever
so sorry for persecuting you. I understand, of course.
VIVIE [puzzled] Understand what?
FRANK. Oh, I'm not a fool in the ordinary sense: only in the
Scriptural sense of doing all the things the wise man declared to
be folly, after trying them himself on the most extensive scale.
I see I am no longer Vivvums's little boy. Dont be alarmed: I
shall never call you Vivvums again--at least unless you get tired
of your new little boy, whoever he may be.
VIVIE. My new little boy!
FRANK [with conviction] Must be a new little boy. Always happens
that way. No other way, in fact.
VIVIE. None that you know of, fortunately for you.
[Someone knocks at the door.]
FRANK. My curse upon yon caller, whoe'er he be!
VIVIE. It's Praed. He's going to Italy and wants to say
goodbye. I asked him to call this afternoon. Go and let him in.
FRANK. We can continue our conversation after his departure for
Italy. I'll stay him out. [He goes to the door and opens it].
How are you, Praddy? Delighted to see you. Come in.
[Praed, dressed for travelling, comes in, in high spirits.]
PRAED. How do you do, Miss Warren? [She presses his hand
cordially, though a certain sentimentality in his high spirits
jars upon her]. I start in an hour from Holborn Viaduct. I wish
I could persuade you to try Italy.
VIVIE. What for?
PRAED. Why, to saturate yourself with beauty and romance, of
[Vivie, with a shudder, turns her chair to the table, as if the
work waiting for her there were a support to her. Praed sits
opposite to her. Frank places a chair near Vivie, and drops
lazily and carelessly into it, talking at her over his shoulder.]
FRANK. No use, Praddy. Viv is a little Philistine. She is
indifferent to m y romance, and insensible to m y beauty.
VIVIE. Mr Praed: once for all, there is no beauty and no romance
in life for me. Life is what it is; and I am prepared to take it
as it is.
PRAED [enthusiastically] You will not say that if you come with
me to Verona and on to Venice. You will cry with delight at
living in such a beautiful world.
FRANK. This is most eloquent, Praddy. Keep it up.
PRAED. Oh, I assure you _I_ have cried--I shall cry again, I
hope--at fifty! At your age, Miss Warren, you would not need to
go so far as Verona. Your spirits would absolutely fly up at the
mere sight of Ostend. You would be charmed with the gaiety, the
vivacity, the happy air of Brussels.
VIVIE [springing up with an exclamation of loathing] Agh!
PRAED [rising] Whats the matter?
FRANK [rising] Hallo, Viv!
VIVIE [to Praed, with deep reproach] Can you find no better
example of your beauty and romance than Brussels to talk to me
PRAED [puzzled] Of course it's very different from Verona. I
dont suggest for a moment that--
VIVIE [bitterly] Probably the beauty and romance come to much the
same in both places.
PRAED [completely sobered and much concerned] My dear Miss
Warren: I-- [looking enquiringly at Frank] Is anything the
FRANK. She thinks your enthusiasm frivolous, Praddy. She's had
ever such a serious call.
VIVIE [sharply] Hold your tongue, Frank. Dont be silly.
FRANK [sitting down] Do you call this good manners, Praed?
PRAED [anxious and considerate] Shall I take him away, Miss
Warren? I feel sure we have disturbed you at your work.
VIVIE. Sit down: I'm not ready to go back to work yet. [Praed
sits]. You both think I have an attack of nerves. Not a bit of
it. But there are two subjects I want dropped, if you dont mind.
One of them [to Frank] is love's young dream in any shape or
form: the other [to Praed] is the romance and beauty of life,
especially Ostend and the gaiety of Brussels. You are welcome to
any illusions you may have left on these subjects: I have none.
If we three are to remain friends, I must be treated as a woman
of business, permanently single [to Frank] and permanently
unromantic [to Praed].
FRANK. I also shall remain permanently single until you change
your mind. Praddy: change the subject. Be eloquent about
PRAED [diffidently] I'm afraid theres nothing else in the world
that I c a n talk about. The Gospel of Art is the only one I can
preach. I know Miss Warren is a great devotee of the Gospel of
Getting On; but we cant discuss that without hurting your
feelings, Frank, since you are determined not to get on.
FRANK. Oh, dont mind my feelings. Give me some improving advice
by all means: it does me ever so much good. Have another try to
make a successful man of me, Viv. Come: lets have it all:
energy, thrift, foresight, self-respect, character. Dont you
hate people who have no character, Viv?
VIVIE [wincing] Oh, stop, stop. Let us have no more of that
horrible cant. Mr Praed: if there are really only those two
gospels in the world, we had better all kill ourselves; for the
same taint is in both, through and through.
FRANK [looking critically at her] There is a touch of poetry
about you today, Viv, which has hitherto been lacking.
PRAED [remonstrating] My dear Frank: arnt you a little
VIVIE [merciless to herself] No: it's good for me. It keeps me
from being sentimental.
FRANK [bantering her] Checks your strong natural propensity that
way, dont it?
VIVIE [almost hysterically] Oh yes: go on: dont spare me. I was
sentimental for one moment in my life--beautifully sentimental--
by moonlight; and now--
FRANK [quickly] I say, Viv: take care. Dont give yourself away.
VIVIE. Oh, do you think Mr Praed does not know all about my
mother? [Turning on Praed] You had better have told me that
morning, Mr Praed. You are very old fashioned in your
delicacies, after all.
PRAED. Surely it is you who are a little old fashioned in your
prejudices, Miss Warren. I feel bound to tell you, speaking as
an artist, and believing that the most intimate human
relationships are far beyond and above the scope of the law, that
though I know that your mother is an unmarried woman, I do not
respect her the less on that account. I respect her more.
FRANK [airily] Hear! hear!
VIVIE [staring at him] Is that a l l you know?
PRAED. Certainly that is all.
VIVIE. Then you neither of you know anything. Your guesses are
innocence itself compared with the truth.
PRAED [rising, startled and indignant, and preserving his
politeness with an effort] I hope not. [More emphatically] I
hope not, Miss Warren.
FRANK [whistles] Whew!
VIVIE. You are not making it easy for me to tell you, Mr Praed.
PRAED [his chivalry drooping before their conviction] If there is
anything worse--that is, anything else--are you sure you are
right to tell us, Miss Warren?
VIVIE. I am sure that if I had the courage I should spend the
rest of my life in telling everybody--stamping and branding it
into them until they all felt their part in its abomination as I
feel mine. There is nothing I despise more than the wicked
convention that protects these things by forbidding a woman to
mention them. And yet I cant tell you. The two infamous words
that describe what my mother is are ringing in my ears and
struggling on my tongue; but I cant utter them: the shame of them
is too horrible for me. [She buries her face in her hands. The
two men, astonished, stare at one another and then at her. She
raises her head again desperately and snatches a sheet of paper
and a pen]. Here: let me draft you a prospectus.
FRANK. Oh, she's mad. Do you hear, Viv? mad. Come! pull
VIVIE. You shall see. [She writes]. "Paid up capital: not less
than forty thousand pounds standing in the name of Sir George
Crofts, Baronet, the chief shareholder. Premises at Brussels,
Ostend, Vienna, and Budapest. Managing director: Mrs Warren";
and now dont let us forget h e r qualifications: the two words.
[She writes the words and pushes the paper to them]. There! Oh
no: dont read it: dont! [She snatches it back and tears it to
pieces; then seizes her head in her hands and hides her face on
[Frank, who has watched the writing over her shoulder, and opened
his eyes very widely at it, takes a card from his pocket;
scribbles the two words on it; and silently hands it to Praed,
who reads it with amazement, and hides it hastily in his pocket.]
FRANK [whispering tenderly] Viv, dear: thats all right. I read
what you wrote: so did Praddy. We understand. And we remain, as
this leaves us at present, yours ever so devotedly.
PRAED. We do indeed, Miss Warren. I declare you are the most
splendidly courageous woman I ever met.
[This sentimental compliment braces Vivie. She throws it away
from her with an impatient shake, and forces herself to stand up,
though not without some support from the table.]
FRANK. Dont stir, Viv, if you dont want to. Take it easy.
VIVIE. Thank you. You an always depend on me for two things:
not to cry and not to faint. [She moves a few steps towards the
door of the inner room, and stops close to Praed to say] I shall
need much more courage than that when I tell my mother that we
have come to a parting of the ways. Now I must go into the next
room for a moment to make myself neat again, if you dont mind.
PRAED. Shall we go away?
VIVIE. No: I'll be back presently. Only for a moment. [She
goes into the other room, Praed opening the door for her].
PRAED. What an amazing revelation! I'm extremely disappointed
in Crofts: I am indeed.
FRANK. I'm not in the least. I feel he's perfectly accounted
for at last. But what a facer for me, Praddy! I cant marry her
PRAED [sternly] Frank! [The two look at one another, Frank
unruffled, Praed deeply indignant]. Let me tell you, Gardner,
that if you desert her now you will behave very despicably.
FRANK. Good old Praddy! Ever chivalrous! But you mistake: it's
not the moral aspect of the case: it's the money aspect. I
really cant bring myself to touch the old woman's money now.
PRAED. And was that what you were going to marry on?
FRANK. What else? _I_ havnt any money, nor the smallest turn
for making it. If I married Viv now she would have to support
me; and I should cost her more than I am worth.
PRAED. But surely a clever bright fellow like you can make
something by your own brains.
FRANK. Oh yes, a little. [He takes out his money again]. I
made all that yesterday in an hour and a half. But I made it in
a highly speculative business. No, dear Praddy: even if Bessie
and Georgina marry millionaires and the governor dies after
cutting them off with a shilling, I shall have only four hundred
a year. And he wont die until he's three score and ten: he hasnt
originality enough. I shall be on short allowance for the next
twenty years. No short allowance for Viv, if I can help it. I
withdraw gracefully and leave the field to the gilded youth of
England. So that settled. I shant worry her about it: I'll just