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You Never Can Tell by [George] Bernard Shaw

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feelings---may be on your side; but my conscience is on hers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

GLORIA (ignoring the jibe). Where is he?

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

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

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

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

VALENTINE. Yes: somebody ought to chain me up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOHUN (ruthlessly). It was I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOHUN. In that case we shall want him.

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

BOHUN (inexorably). We shall want you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VALENTINE. I like the cucumber.

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

MRS. CLANDON. I think that's right.

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

McCOMAS. We can begin now, I suppose?

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

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

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

CRAMPTON. So it is.

MRS. CLANDON } (all four { I---

GLORIA } speaking { My---

McCOMAS } simul- { Mrs.---

VALENTINE } taneously). { You---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McCOMAS (flatteringly). If I did---

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOHUN. So do you, Miss Clandon?


BOHUN. I thought so. We all do.

VALENTINE. Except me. My aims are selfish.

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

CRAMPTON. But I mean it, sir.

BOHUN. Quite so. Now for your point.

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

BOHUN. Well? What about the children?

CRAMPTON (with emotion). They have---

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

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

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

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

BOHUN. How do you propose to alter that now?

CRAMPTON. I think they ought to dress more quietly.

VALENTINE. Nonsense.

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

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

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

GLORIA (warningly). Father!

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

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

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

McCOMAS } (all ris- } Crampton, you promised---

VALENTINE } ing and } Ridiculous. They dress

} speaking } charmingly.

GLORIA } together). } Pray let us behave reasonably.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

DOLLY (flushing ominously). Have you begun again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VALENTINE. Number five!!!

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

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

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

DOLLY. Hmhm!


GLORIA. Please go on, Mr. Bohun.

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


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

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

MRS. CLANDON. Dolly, dearest---!

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

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

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

DOLLY (beaming at him). Dear William!


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

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

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

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

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

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

DOLLY. Mr. Bohun: please bully Finch for us.

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


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

DOLLY (to Bohun, meekly). Thank you.

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

GLORIA (flushing). Mr. Bohun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

WAITER. Yes, sir.

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

McCOMAS. Most certainly not. I protest---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MRS. CLANDON. Has anything annoyed you, Mr. Valentine?

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

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

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

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

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

MRS. CLANDON (most indignantly). Mr. Valentine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VALENTINE. The Gloria of my imagination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DOLLY (breaking the silence). Number Six!


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

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

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

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

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

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

DOLLY (interposing). ---or our father?

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

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

GLORIA (determinedly). You shall not go.

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

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

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

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

VALENTINE. The point is, Mr. Bohun---

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

CRAMPTON. Possibly. I hope so.

VALENTINE. And the gentleman hasn't a rap.

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

GLORIA (proudly). He shall have a settlement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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