Part 1 out of 3
Scanned & proofed by Ron Burkey (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Amy Thomte
by George Bernard Shaw
Notes on the editing: Italicized text is delimited with underlines
("_"). Punctuation and spelling are retained as in the printed text.
Shaw used a non-standard system of spelling and punctuation. For
example, contractions usually have no apostrophe: "don't" is given as
"dont", "you've" as "youve", and so on. Abbreviated honorifics have
no trailing period: "Dr." is given as "Dr", "Mrs." as "Mrs", and so
on. "Shakespeare" is given as "Shakespear". Where several characters
in the play are speaking at once, I have indicated it with vertical
bars ("|"). The pound (currency) symbol has been replaced by the word
BY BERNARD SHAW
_Johnny Tarleton, an ordinary young business man of thirty or less, is
taking his weekly Friday to Tuesday in the house of his father, John
Tarleton, who has made a great deal of money out of Tarleton's
Underwear. The house is in Surrey, on the slope of Hindhead; and
Johnny, reclining, novel in hand, in a swinging chair with a little
awning above it, is enshrined in a spacious half hemisphere of glass
which forms a pavilion commanding the garden, and, beyond it, a barren
but lovely landscape of hill profile with fir trees, commons of
bracken and gorse, and wonderful cloud pictures._
_The glass pavilion springs from a bridgelike arch in the wall of the
house, through which one comes into a big hall with tiled flooring,
which suggests that the proprietor's notion of domestic luxury is
founded on the lounges of week-end hotels. The arch is not quite in
the centre of the wall. There is more wall to its right than to its
left, and this space is occupied by a hat rack and umbrella stand in
which tennis rackets, white parasols, caps, Panama hats, and other
summery articles are bestowed. Just through the arch at this corner
stands a new portable Turkish bath, recently unpacked, with its crate
beside it, and on the crate the drawn nails and the hammer used in
unpacking. Near the crate are open boxes of garden games: bowls and
croquet. Nearly in the middle of the glass wall of the pavilion is a
door giving on the garden, with a couple of steps to surmount the
hot-water pipes which skirt the glass. At intervals round the
pavilion are marble pillars with specimens of Viennese pottery on
them, very flamboyant in colour and florid in design. Between them
are folded garden chairs flung anyhow against the pipes. In the side
walls are two doors: one near the hat stand, leading to the interior
of the house, the other on the opposite side and at the other end,
leading to the vestibule._
_There is no solid furniture except a sideboard which stands against
the wall between the vestibule door and the pavilion, a small writing
table with a blotter, a rack for telegram forms and stationery, and a
wastepaper basket, standing out in the hall near the sideboard, and a
lady's worktable, with two chairs at it, towards the other side of the
lounge. The writing table has also two chairs at it. On the
sideboard there is a tantalus, liqueur bottles, a syphon, a glass jug
of lemonade, tumblers, and every convenience for casual drinking.
Also a plate of sponge cakes, and a highly ornate punchbowl in the
same style as the keramic display in the pavilion. Wicker chairs and
little bamboo tables with ash trays and boxes of matches on them are
scattered in all directions. In the pavilion, which is flooded with
sunshine, is the elaborate patent swing seat and awning in which
Johnny reclines with his novel. There are two wicker chairs right and
left of him._
_Bentley Summerhays, one of those smallish, thinskinned youths, who
from 17 to 70 retain unaltered the mental airs of the later and the
physical appearance of the earlier age, appears in the garden and
comes through the glass door into the pavilion. He is unmistakably a
grade above Johnny socially; and though he looks sensitive enough, his
assurance and his high voice are a little exasperating._
JOHNNY. Hallo! Wheres your luggage?
BENTLEY. I left it at the station. Ive walked up from Haslemere.
_[He goes to the hat stand and hangs up his hat]._
JOHNNY _[shortly]_ Oh! And who's to fetch it?
BENTLEY. Dont know. Dont care. Providence, probably. If not, your
mother will have it fetched.
JOHNNY. Not her business, exactly, is it?
BENTLEY. _[returning to the pavilion]_ Of course not. Thats why one
loves her for doing it. Look here: chuck away your silly week-end
novel, and talk to a chap. After a week in that filthy office my
brain is simply blue-mouldy. Lets argue about something intellectual.
_[He throws himself into the wicker chair on Johnny's right]._
JOHNNY. _[straightening up in the swing with a yell of protest]_ No.
Now seriously, Bunny, Ive come down here to have a pleasant week-end;
and I'm not going to stand your confounded arguments. If you want to
argue, get out of this and go over to the Congregationalist
minister's. He's a nailer at arguing. He likes it.
BENTLEY. You cant argue with a person when his livelihood depends on
his not letting you convert him. And would you mind not calling me
Bunny. My name is Bentley Summerhays, which you please.
JOHNNY. Whats the matter with Bunny?
BENTLEY. It puts me in a false position. Have you ever considered
the fact that I was an afterthought?
JOHNNY. An afterthought? What do you mean by that?
JOHNNY. No, stop: I dont want to know. It's only a dodge to start
BENTLEY. Dont be afraid: it wont overtax your brain. My father was
44 when I was born. My mother was 41. There was twelve years between
me and the next eldest. I was unexpected. I was probably
unintentional. My brothers and sisters are not the least like me.
Theyre the regular thing that you always get in the first batch from
young parents: quite pleasant, ordinary, do-the-regular-thing sort:
all body and no brains, like you.
JOHNNY. Thank you.
BENTLEY. Dont mention it, old chap. Now I'm different. By the time
I was born, the old couple knew something. So I came out all brains
and no more body than is absolutely necessary. I am really a good
deal older than you, though you were born ten years sooner. Everybody
feels that when they hear us talk; consequently, though it's quite
natural to hear me calling you Johnny, it sounds ridiculous and
unbecoming for you to call me Bunny. _[He rises]._
JOHNNY. Does it, by George? You stop me doing it if you can: thats
BENTLEY. If you go on doing it after Ive asked you not, youll feel an
awful swine. _[He strolls away carelessly to the sideboard with his
eye on the sponge cakes]._ At least I should; but I suppose youre not
JOHNNY _[rising vengefully and following Bentley, who is forced to
turn and listen]_ I'll tell you what it is, my boy: you want a good
talking to; and I'm going to give it to you. If you think that
because your father's a K.C.B., and you want to marry my sister, you
can make yourself as nasty as you please and say what you like, youre
mistaken. Let me tell you that except Hypatia, not one person in this
house is in favor of her marrying you; and I dont believe shes happy
about it herself. The match isnt settled yet: dont forget that.
Youre on trial in the office because the Governor isnt giving his
daughter money for an idle man to live on her. Youre on trial here
because my mother thinks a girl should know what a man is like in the
house before she marries him. Thats been going on for two months now;
and whats the result? Youve got yourself thoroughly disliked in the
office; and youre getting yourself thoroughly disliked here, all
through your bad manners and your conceit, and the damned impudence
you think clever.
BENTLEY. _[deeply wounded and trying hard to control himself]_ Thats
enough, thank you. You dont suppose, I hope, that I should have come
down if I had known that that was how you felt about me. _[He makes
for the vestibule door]._
JOHNNY. _[collaring him]._ No: you dont run away. I'm going to
have this out with you. Sit down: d'y' hear? _[Bentley attempts to
go with dignity. Johnny slings him into a chair at the writing table,
where he sits, bitterly humiliated, but afraid to speak lest he should
burst into tears]._ Thats the advantage of having more body than
brains, you see: it enables me to teach you manners; and I'm going to
do it too. Youre a spoilt young pup; and you need a jolly good
licking. And if youre not careful youll get it: I'll see to that
next time you call me a swine.
BENTLEY. I didnt call you a swine. But _[bursting into a fury of
tears]_ you are a swine: youre a beast: youre a brute: youre a
cad: youre a liar: youre a bully: I should like to wring your
damned neck for you.
JOHNNY. _[with a derisive laugh]_ Try it, my son. _[Bentley gives
an inarticulate sob of rage]._ Fighting isnt in your line. Youre too
small and youre too childish. I always suspected that your cleverness
wouldnt come to very much when it was brought up against something
solid: some decent chap's fist, for instance.
BENTLEY. I hope your beastly fist may come up against a mad bull or a
prizefighter's nose, or something solider than me. I dont care about
your fist; but if everybody here dislikes me-- _[he is checked by a
sob]._ Well, I dont care. _[Trying to recover himself]_ I'm sorry I
intruded: I didnt know. _[Breaking down again]_ Oh you beast! you
pig! Swine, swine, swine, swine, swine! Now!
JOHNNY. All right, my lad, all right. Sling your mud as hard as you
please: it wont stick to me. What I want to know is this. How is it
that your father, who I suppose is the strongest man England has
produced in our time--
BENTLEY. You got that out of your halfpenny paper. A lot you know
JOHNNY. I dont set up to be able to do anything but admire him and
appreciate him and be proud of him as an Englishman. If it wasnt for
my respect for him, I wouldnt have stood your cheek for two days, let
alone two months. But what I cant understand is why he didnt lick it
out of you when you were a kid. For twenty-five years he kept a place
twice as big as England in order: a place full of seditious
coffee-colored heathens and pestilential white agitators in the middle
of a lot of savage tribes. And yet he couldnt keep you in order. I
dont set up to be half the man your father undoubtedly is; but, by
George, it's lucky for you you were not my son. I dont hold with my
own father's views about corporal punishment being wrong. It's
necessary for some people; and I'd have tried it on you until you
first learnt to howl and then to behave yourself.
BENTLEY. _[contemptuously]_ Yes: behavior wouldnt come naturally to
your son, would it?
JOHNNY. _[stung into sudden violence]_ Now you keep a civil tongue
in your head. I'll stand none of your snobbery. I'm just as proud of
Tarleton's Underwear as you are of your father's title and his K.C.B.,
and all the rest of it. My father began in a little hole of a shop in
Leeds no bigger than our pantry down the passage there. He--
BENTLEY. Oh yes: I know. Ive read it. "The Romance of Business, or
The Story of Tarleton's Underwear. Please Take One!" I took one the
day after I first met Hypatia. I went and bought half a dozen
unshrinkable vests for her sake.
JOHNNY. Well: did they shrink?
BENTLEY. Oh, dont be a fool.
JOHNNY. Never mind whether I'm a fool or not. Did they shrink?
Thats the point. Were they worth the money?
BENTLEY. I couldnt wear them: do you think my skin's as thick as
your customers' hides? I'd as soon have dressed myself in a nutmeg
JOHNNY. Pity your father didnt give your thin skin a jolly good
lacing with a cane--!
BENTLEY. Pity you havnt got more than one idea! If you want to know,
they did try that on me once, when I was a small kid. A silly
governess did it. I yelled fit to bring down the house and went into
convulsions and brain fever and that sort of thing for three weeks.
So the old girl got the sack; and serve her right! After that, I was
let do what I like. My father didnt want me to grow up a
broken-spirited spaniel, which is your idea of a man, I suppose.
JOHNNY. Jolly good thing for you that my father made you come into
the office and shew what you were made of. And it didnt come to much:
let me tell you that. When the Governor asked me where I thought we
ought to put you, I said, "Make him the Office Boy." The Governor
said you were too green. And so you were.
BENTLEY. I daresay. So would you be pretty green if you were shoved
into my father's set. I picked up your silly business in a fortnight.
Youve been at it ten years; and you havnt picked it up yet.
JOHNNY. Dont talk rot, child. You know you simply make me pity you.
BENTLEY. "Romance of Business" indeed! The real romance of
Tarleton's business is the story that you understand anything about
it. You never could explain any mortal thing about it to me when I
asked you. "See what was done the last time": that was the beginning
and the end of your wisdom. Youre nothing but a turnspit.
JOHNNY. A what!
BENTLEY. A turnspit. If your father hadnt made a roasting jack for
you to turn, youd be earning twenty-four shillings a week behind a
JOHNNY. If you dont take that back and apologize for your bad
manners, I'll give you as good a hiding as ever--
BENTLEY. Help! Johnny's beating me! Oh! Murder! _[He throws
himself on the ground, uttering piercing yells]._
JOHNNY. Dont be a fool. Stop that noise, will you. I'm not going to
touch you. Sh--sh--
_Hypatia rushes in through the inner door, followed by Mrs Tarleton,
and throws herself on her knees by Bentley. Mrs Tarleton, whose knees
are stiffer, bends over him and tries to lift him. Mrs Tarleton is a
shrewd and motherly old lady who has been pretty in her time, and is
still very pleasant and likeable and unaffected. Hypatia is a typical
English girl of a sort never called typical: that is, she has an
opaque white skin, black hair, large dark eyes with black brows and
lashes, curved lips, swift glances and movements that flash out of a
waiting stillness, boundless energy and audacity held in leash._
HYPATIA. _[pouncing on Bentley with no very gentle hand]_ Bentley:
whats the matter? Dont cry like that: whats the use? Whats
MRS TARLETON. Are you ill, child? _[They get him up. There, there,
pet! It's all right: dont cry _[they put him into a chair]_: there!
there! there! Johnny will go for the doctor; and he'll give you
something nice to make it well.
HYPATIA. What has happened, Johnny?
MRS TARLETON. Was it a wasp?
BENTLEY. _[impatiently]_ Wasp be dashed!
MRS TARLETON. Oh Bunny! that was a naughty word.
BENTLEY. Yes, I know: I beg your pardon. _[He rises, and extricates
himself from them]_ Thats all right. Johnny frightened me. You know
how easy it is to hurt me; and I'm too small to defend myself against
MRS TARLETON. Johnny: how often have I told you that you must not
bully the little ones. I thought youd outgrown all that.
HYPATIA. _[angrily]_ I do declare, mamma, that Johnny's brutality
makes it impossible to live in the house with him.
JOHNNY. _[deeply hurt]_ It's twenty-seven years, mother, since you
had that row with me for licking Robert and giving Hypatia a black eye
because she bit me. I promised you then that I'd never raise my hand
to one of them again; and Ive never broken my word. And now because
this young whelp begins to cry out before he's hurt, you treat me as
if I were a brute and a savage.
MRS TARLETON. No dear, not a savage; but you know you must not call
our visitor naughty names.
BENTLEY. Oh, let him alone--
JOHNNY. _[fiercely]_ Dont you interfere between my mother and me:
HYPATIA. Johnny's lost his temper, mother. We'd better go. Come,
MRS TARLETON. Yes: that will be best. _[To Bentley]_ Johnny doesnt
mean any harm, dear: he'll be himself presently. Come.
_The two ladies go out through the inner door with Bentley, who turns
at the door to grin at Johnny as he goes out._
_Johnny, left alone, clenches his fists and grinds his teeth, but can
find no relief in that way for his rage. After choking and stamping
for a moment, he makes for the vestibule door. It opens before he
reaches it; and Lord Summerhays comes in. Johnny glares at him,
speechless. Lord Summerhays takes in the situation, and quickly takes
the punchbowl from the sideboard and offers it to Johnny._
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Smash it. Dont hesitate: it's an ugly thing.
Smash it: hard. _[Johnny, with a stifled yell, dashes it in pieces,
and then sits down and mops his brow]._ Feel better now? _[Johnny
nods]._ I know only one person alive who could drive me to the point
of having either to break china or commit murder; and that person is
my son Bentley. Was it he? _[Johnny nods again, not yet able to
speak]._ As the car stopped I heard a yell which is only too familiar
to me. It generally means that some infuriated person is trying to
thrash Bentley. Nobody has ever succeeded, though almost everybody
has tried. _[He seats himself comfortably close to the writing table,
and sets to work to collect the fragments of the punchbowl in the
wastepaper basket whilst Johnny, with diminishing difficulty, collects
himself]._ Bentley is a problem which I confess I have never been
able to solve. He was born to be a great success at the age of fifty.
Most Englishmen of his class seem to be born to be great successes at
the age of twenty-four at most. The domestic problem for me is how to
endure Bentley until he is fifty. The problem for the nation is how
to get itself governed by men whose growth is arrested when they are
little more than college lads. Bentley doesnt really mean to be
offensive. You can always make him cry by telling him you dont like
him. Only, he cries so loud that the experiment should be made in the
open air: in the middle of Salisbury Plain if possible. He has a
hard and penetrating intellect and a remarkable power of looking facts
in the face; but unfortunately, being very young, he has no idea of
how very little of that sort of thing most of us can stand. On the
other hand, he is frightfully sensitive and even affectionate; so that
he probably gets as much as he gives in the way of hurt feelings.
Youll excuse me rambling on like this about my son.
JOHNNY. _[who has pulled himself together]_ You did it on purpose.
I wasnt quite myself: I needed a moment to pull round: thank you.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Not at all. Is your father at home?
JOHNNY. No: he's opening one of his free libraries. Thats another
nice little penny gone. He's mad on reading. He promised another
free library last week. It's ruinous. Itll hit you as well as me
when Bunny marries Hypatia. When all Hypatia's money is thrown away
on libraries, where will Bunny come in? Cant you stop him?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. I'm afraid not. Hes a perfect whirlwind.
Indefatigable at public work. Wonderful man, I think.
JOHNNY. Oh, public work! He does too much of it. It's really a sort
of laziness, getting away from your own serious business to amuse
yourself with other people's. Mind: I dont say there isnt another
side to it. It has its value as an advertisement. It makes useful
acquaintances and leads to valuable business connections. But it
takes his mind off the main chance; and he overdoes it.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. The danger of public business is that it never ends.
A man may kill himself at it.
JOHNNY. Or he can spend more on it than it brings him in: thats how
I look at it. What I say is that everybody's business is nobody's
business. I hope I'm not a hard man, nor a narrow man, nor unwilling
to pay reasonable taxes, and subscribe in reason to deserving
charities, and even serve on a jury in my turn; and no man can say I
ever refused to help a friend out of a difficulty when he was worth
helping. But when you ask me to go beyond that, I tell you frankly I
dont see it. I never did see it, even when I was only a boy, and had
to pretend to take in all the ideas the Governor fed me up with. I
didnt see it; and I dont see it.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. There is certainly no business reason why you should
take more than your share of the world's work.
JOHNNY. So I say. It's really a great encouragement to me to find
you agree with me. For of course if nobody agrees with you, how are
you to know that youre not a fool?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Quite so.
JOHNNY. I wish youd talk to him about it. It's no use my saying
anything: I'm a child to him still: I have no influence. Besides,
you know how to handle men. See how you handled me when I was making
a fool of myself about Bunny!
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Not at all.
JOHNNY. Oh yes I was: I know I was. Well, if my blessed father had
come in he'd have told me to control myself. As if I was losing my
temper on purpose!
_Bentley returns, newly washed. He beams when he sees his father, and
comes affectionately behind him and pats him on the shoulders._
BENTLEY. Hel-lo, commander! have you come? Ive been making a filthy
silly ass of myself here. I'm awfully sorry, Johnny, old chap: I beg
your pardon. Why dont you kick me when I go on like that?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. As we came through Godalming I thought I heard some
BENTLEY. I should think you did. Johnny was rather rough on me,
though. He told me nobody here liked me; and I was silly enough to
LORD SUMMERHAYS. And all the women have been kissing you and pitying
you ever since to stop your crying, I suppose. Baby!
BENTLEY. I did cry. But I always feel good after crying: it
relieves my wretched nerves. I feel perfectly jolly now.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Not at all ashamed of yourself, for instance?
BENTLEY. If I started being ashamed of myself I shouldnt have time
for anything else all my life. I say: I feel very fit and spry.
Lets all go down and meet the Grand Cham. _[He goes to the hatstand
and takes down his hat]._
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Does Mr Tarleton like to be called the Grand Cham,
do you think, Bentley?
BENTLEY. Well, he thinks hes too modest for it. He calls himself
Plain John. But you cant call him that in his own office: besides,
it doesnt suit him: it's not flamboyant enough.
JOHNNY. Flam what?
BENTLEY. Flamboyant. Lets go and meet him. Hes telephoned from
Guildford to say hes on the road. The dear old son is always
telephoning or telegraphing: he thinks hes hustling along like
anything when hes only sending unnecessary messages.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Thank you: I should prefer a quiet afternoon.
BENTLEY. Right O. I shant press Johnny: hes had enough of me for
one week-end. _[He goes out through the pavilion into the grounds]._
JOHNNY. Not a bad idea, that.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. What?
JOHNNY. Going to meet the Governor. You know you wouldnt think it;
but the Governor likes Bunny rather. And Bunny is cultivating it. I
shouldnt be surprised if he thought he could squeeze me out one of
LORD SUMMERHAYS. You dont say so! Young rascal! I want to consult
you about him, if you dont mind. Shall we stroll over to the Gibbet?
Bentley is too fast for me as a walking companion; but I should like a
JOHNNY. _[rising eagerly, highly flattered]_ Right you are. Thatll
suit me down to the ground. _[He takes a Panama and stick from the
_Mrs Tarleton and Hypatia come back just as the two men are going out.
Hypatia salutes Summerhays from a distance with an enigmatic lift of
her eyelids in his direction and a demure nod before she sits down at
the worktable and busies herself with her needle. Mrs Tarleton,
hospitably fussy, goes over to him._
MRS TARLETON. Oh, Lord Summerhays, I didnt know you were here. Wont
you have some tea?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. No, thank you: I'm not allowed tea. And I'm
ashamed to say Ive knocked over your beautiful punch-bowl. You must
let me replace it.
MRS TARLETON. Oh, it doesnt matter: I'm only too glad to be rid of
it. The shopman told me it was in the best taste; but when my poor
old nurse Martha got cataract, Bunny said it was a merciful provision
of Nature to prevent her seeing our china.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[gravely]_ That was exceedingly rude of Bentley,
Mrs Tarleton. I hope you told him so.
MRS TARLETON. Oh, bless you! I dont care what he says; so long as he
says it to me and not before visitors.
JOHNNY. We're going out for a stroll, mother.
MRS TARLETON. All right: dont let us keep you. Never mind about
that crock: I'll get the girl to come and take the pieces away.
_[Recollecting herself]_ There! Ive done it again!
JOHNNY. Done what?
MRS TARLETON. Called her the girl. You know, Lord Summerhays, its a
funny thing; but now I'm getting old, I'm dropping back into all the
ways John and I had when we had barely a hundred a year. You should
have known me when I was forty! I talked like a duchess; and if
Johnny or Hypatia let slip a word that was like old times, I was down
on them like anything. And now I'm beginning to do it myself at every
LORD SUMMERHAYS. There comes a time when all that seems to matter so
little. Even queens drop the mask when they reach our time of life.
MRS TARLETON. Let you alone for giving a thing a pretty turn! Youre
a humbug, you know, Lord Summerhays. John doesnt know it; and Johnny
doesnt know it; but you and I know it, dont we? Now thats something
that even you cant answer; so be off with you for your walk without
_Lord Summerhays smiles; bows; and goes out through the vestibule
door, followed by Johnny. Mrs Tarleton sits down at the worktable and
takes out her darning materials and one of her husband's socks.
Hypatia is at the other side of the table, on her mother's right.
They chat as they work.
HYPATIA. I wonder whether they laugh at us when they are by
MRS TARLETON. Who?
HYPATIA. Bentley and his father and all the toffs in their set.
MRS TARLETON. Oh, thats only their way. I used to think that the
aristocracy were a nasty sneering lot, and that they were laughing at
me and John. Theyre always giggling and pretending not to care much
about anything. But you get used to it: theyre the same to one
another and to everybody. Besides, what does it matter what they
think? It's far worse when theyre civil, because that always means
that they want you to lend them money; and you must never do that,
Hypatia, because they never pay. How can they? They dont make
anything, you see. Of course, if you can make up your mind to regard
it as a gift, thats different; but then they generally ask you again;
and you may as well say no first as last. You neednt be afraid of the
aristocracy, dear: theyre only human creatures like ourselves after
all; and youll hold your own with them easy enough.
HYPATIA. Oh, I'm not a bit afraid of them, I assure you.
MRS TARLETON. Well, no, not afraid of them, exactly; but youve got to
pick up their ways. You know, dear, I never quite agreed with your
father's notion of keeping clear of them, and sending you to a school
that was so expensive that they couldnt afford to send their daughters
there; so that all the girls belonged to big business families like
ourselves. It takes all sorts to make a world; and I wanted you to
see a little of all sorts. When you marry Bunny, and go among the
women of his father's set, theyll shock you at first.
HYPATIA. _[incredulously]_ How?
MRS TARLETON. Well, the things they talk about.
HYPATIA. Oh! scandalmongering?
MRS TARLETON. Oh no: we all do that: thats only human nature. But
you know theyve no notion of decency. I shall never forget the first
day I spent with a marchioness, two duchesses, and no end of Ladies
This and That. Of course it was only a committee: theyd put me on to
get a big subscription out of John. I'd never heard such talk in my
life. The things they mentioned! And it was the marchioness that
HYPATIA. What sort of things?
MRS TARLETON. Drainage!! She'd tried three systems in her castle;
and she was going to do away with them all and try another. I didnt
know which way to look when she began talking about it: I thought
theyd all have got up and gone out of the room. But not a bit of it,
if you please. They were all just as bad as she. They all had
systems; and each of them swore by her own system. I sat there with
my cheeks burning until one of the duchesses, thinking I looked out of
it, I suppose, asked me what system I had. I said I was sure I knew
nothing about such things, and hadnt we better change the subject.
Then the fat was in the fire, I can tell you. There was a regular
terror of a countess with an anaerobic system; and she told me,
downright brutally, that I'd better learn something about them before
my children died of diphtheria. That was just two months after I'd
buried poor little Bobby; and that was the very thing he died of, poor
little lamb! I burst out crying: I couldnt help it. It was as good
as telling me I'd killed my own child. I had to go away; but before I
was out of the door one of the duchesses--quite a young woman--began
talking about what sour milk did in her inside and how she expected to
live to be over a hundred if she took it regularly. And me listening
to her, that had never dared to think that a duchess could have
anything so common as an inside! I shouldnt have minded if it had
been children's insides: we have to talk about them. But grown-up
people! I was glad to get away that time.
HYPATIA. There was a physiology and hygiene class started at school;
but of course none of our girls were let attend it.
MRS TARLETON. If it had been an aristocratic school plenty would have
attended it. Thats what theyre like: theyve nasty minds. With
really nice good women a thing is either decent or indecent; and if
it's indecent, we just dont mention it or pretend to know about it;
and theres an end of it. But all the aristocracy cares about is
whether it can get any good out of the thing. Theyre what Johnny
calls cynical-like. And of course nobody can say a word to them for
it. Theyre so high up that they can do and say what they like.
HYPATIA. Well, I think they might leave the drains to their husbands.
I shouldnt think much of a man that left such things to me.
MRS TARLETON. Oh, dont think that, dear, whatever you do. I never
let on about it to you; but it's me that takes care of the drainage
here. After what that countess said to me I wasnt going to lose
another child or trust John. And I don't want my grandchildren to die
any more than my children.
HYPATIA. Do you think Bentley will ever be as big a man as his
father? I dont mean clever: I mean big and strong.
MRS TARLETON. Not he. Hes overbred, like one of those expensive
little dogs. I like a bit of a mongrel myself, whether it's a man or
a dog: theyre the best for everyday. But we all have our tastes:
whats one woman's meat is another woman's poison. Bunny's a dear
little fellow; but I never could have fancied him for a husband when I
was your age.
HYPATIA. Yes; but he has some brains. Hes not like all the rest.
One can't have everything.
MRS TARLETON. Oh, youre quite right, dear: quite right. It's a
great thing to have brains: look what it's done for your father!
Thats the reason I never said a word when you jilted poor Jerry
HYPATIA. _[excusing herself]_ I really couldnt stick it out with
Jerry, mother. I know you liked him; and nobody can deny that hes a
MRS TARLETON. _[shocked]_ Hypatia! How can you! The things that
girls say nowadays!
HYPATIA. Well, what else can you call him? If I'd been deaf or he'd
been dumb, I could have married him. But living with father, Ive got
accustomed to cleverness. Jerry would drive me mad: you know very
well hes a fool: even Johnny thinks him a fool.
MRS TARLETON. _[up in arms at once in defence of her boy]_ Now dont
begin about my Johnny. You know it annoys me. Johnny's as clever as
anybody else in his own way. I dont say hes as clever as you in some
ways; but hes a man, at all events, and not a little squit of a thing
like your Bunny.
HYPATIA. Oh, I say nothing against your darling: we all know
MRS TARLETON. Dont be cross, dearie. You let Johnny alone; and I'll
let Bunny alone. I'm just as bad as you. There!
HYPATIA. Oh, I dont mind your saying that about Bentley. It's true.
He is a little squit of a thing. I wish he wasnt. But who else is
there? Think of all the other chances Ive had! Not one of them has
as much brains in his whole body as Bentley has in his little finger.
Besides, theyve no distinction. It's as much as I can do to tell one
from the other. They wouldnt even have money if they werent the sons
of their fathers, like Johnny. Whats a girl to do? I never met
anybody like Bentley before. He may be small; but hes the best of the
bunch: you cant deny that.
MRS TARLETON. _[with a sigh]_ Well, my pet, if you fancy him, theres
no more to be said.
_A pause follows this remark: the two women sewing silently._
HYPATIA. Mother: do you think marriage is as much a question of
fancy as it used to be in your time and father's?
MRS TARLETON. Oh, it wasnt much fancy with me, dear: your father
just wouldnt take no for an answer; and I was only too glad to be his
wife instead of his shop-girl. Still, it's curious; but I had more
choice than you in a way, because, you see, I was poor; and there are
so many more poor men than rich ones that I might have had more of a
pick, as you might say, if John hadnt suited me.
HYPATIA. I can imagine all sorts of men I could fall in love with;
but I never seem to meet them. The real ones are too small, like
Bunny, or too silly, like Jerry. Of course one can get into a state
about any man: fall in love with him if you like to call it that.
But who would risk marrying a man for love? _I_ shouldnt. I remember
three girls at school who agreed that the one man you should never
marry was the man you were in love with, because it would make a
perfect slave of you. Theres a sort of instinct against it, I think,
thats just as strong as the other instinct. One of them, to my
certain knowledge, refused a man she was in love with, and married
another who was in love with her; and it turned out very well.
MRS TARLETON. Does all that mean that youre not in love with Bunny?
HYPATIA. Oh, how could anybody be in love with Bunny? I like him to
kiss me just as I like a baby to kiss me. I'm fond of him; and he
never bores me; and I see that hes very clever; but I'm not what you
call gone about him, if thats what you mean.
MRS TARLETON. Then why need you marry him?
HYPATIA. What better can I do? I must marry somebody, I suppose.
Ive realized that since I was twenty-three. I always used to take it
as a matter of course that I should be married before I was twenty.
BENTLEY'S VOICE. _[in the garden]_ Youve got to keep yourself fresh:
to look at these things with an open mind.
JOHN TARLETON'S VOICE. Quite right, quite right: I always say so.
MRS TARLETON. Theres your father, and Bunny with him.
BENTLEY. Keep young. Keep your eye on me. Thats the tip for you.
_Bentley and Mr Tarleton (an immense and genial veteran of trade) come
into view and enter the pavilion._
JOHN TARLETON. You think youre young, do you? You think I'm old?
_[energetically shaking off his motoring coat and hanging it up with
BENTLEY. _[helping him with the coat]_ Of course youre old. Look at
your face and look at mine. What you call your youth is nothing but
your levity. Why do we get on so well together? Because I'm a young
cub and youre an old josser. _[He throws a cushion at Hypatia's feet
and sits down on it with his back against her knees]._
TARLETON. Old! Thats all you know about it, my lad. How do, Patsy!
_[Hypatia kisses him]._ How is my Chickabiddy? _[He kisses Mrs
Tarleton's hand and poses expansively in the middle of the picture]._
Look at me! Look at these wrinkles, these gray hairs, this repulsive
mask that you call old age! What is it? _[Vehemently]_ I ask you,
what is it?
BENTLEY. Jolly nice and venerable, old man. Dont be discouraged.
TARLETON. Nice? Not a bit of it. Venerable? Venerable be blowed!
Read your Darwin, my boy. Read your Weismann. _[He goes to the
sideboard for a drink of lemonade]._
MRS TARLETON. For shame, John! Tell him to read his Bible.
TARLETON. _[manipulating the syphon]_ Whats the use of telling
children to read the Bible when you know they wont. I was kept away
from the Bible for forty years by being told to read it when I was
young. Then I picked it up one evening in a hotel in Sunderland when
I had left all my papers in the train; and I found it wasnt half bad.
_[He drinks, and puts down the glass with a smack of enjoyment]._
Better than most halfpenny papers, anyhow, if only you could make
people believe it. _[He sits down by the writing-table, near his
wife]._ But if you want to understand old age scientifically, read
Darwin and Weismann. Of course if you want to understand it
romantically, read about Solomon.
MRS TARLETON. Have you had tea, John?
TARLETON. Yes. Dont interrupt me when I'm improving the boy's mind.
Where was I? This repulsive mask--Yes. _[Explosively]_ What is
MRS TARLETON. John!
HYPATIA. Death is a rather unpleasant subject, papa.
TARLETON. Not a bit. Not scientifically. Scientifically it's a
delightful subject. You think death's natural. Well, it isnt. You
read Weismann. There wasnt any death to start with. You go look in
any ditch outside and youll find swimming about there as fresh as
paint some of the identical little live cells that Adam christened in
the Garden of Eden. But if big things like us didnt die, we'd crowd
one another off the face of the globe. Nothing survived, sir, except
the sort of people that had the sense and good manners to die and make
room for the fresh supplies. And so death was introduced by Natural
Selection. You get it out of your head, my lad, that I'm going to die
because I'm wearing out or decaying. Theres no such thing as decay to
a vital man. I shall clear out; but I shant decay.
BENTLEY. And what about the wrinkles and the almond tree and the
grasshopper that becomes a burden and the desire that fails?
TARLETON. Does it? by George! No, sir: it spiritualizes. As to
your grasshopper, I can carry an elephant.
MRS TARLETON. You do say such things, Bunny! What does he mean by
the almond tree?
TARLETON. He means my white hairs: the repulsive mask. That, my
boy, is another invention of Natural Selection to disgust young women
with me, and give the lads a turn.
MRS TARLETON. John: I wont have it. Thats a forbidden subject.
TARLETON. They talk of the wickedness and vanity of women painting
their faces and wearing auburn wigs at fifty. But why shouldnt they?
Why should a woman allow Nature to put a false mask of age on her when
she knows that shes as young as ever? Why should she look in the
glass and see a wrinkled lie when a touch of fine art will shew her a
glorious truth? The wrinkles are a dodge to repel young men. Suppose
she doesnt want to repel young men! Suppose she likes them!
MRS TARLETON. Bunny: take Hypatia out into the grounds for a walk:
theres a good boy. John has got one of his naughty fits this evening.
HYPATIA. Oh, never mind me. I'm used to him.
BENTLEY. I'm not. I never heard such conversation: I cant believe
my ears. And mind you, this is the man who objected to my marrying
his daughter on the ground that a marriage between a member of the
great and good middle class with one of the vicious and corrupt
aristocracy would be a misalliance. A misalliance, if you please!
This is the man Ive adopted as a father!
TARLETON. Eh! Whats that? Adopted me as a father, have you?
BENTLEY. Yes. Thats an idea of mine. I knew a chap named Joey
Percival at Oxford (you know I was two months at Balliol before I was
sent down for telling the old woman who was head of that silly college
what I jolly well thought of him. He would have been glad to have me
back, too, at the end of six months; but I wouldnt go: I just let him
want; and serve him right!) Well, Joey was a most awfully clever
fellow, and so nice! I asked him what made such a difference between
him and all the other pups--they were pups, if you like. He told me
it was very simple: they had only one father apiece; and he had
MRS TARLETON. Dont talk nonsense, child. How could that be?
BENTLEY. Oh, very simple. His father--
TARLETON. Which father?
BENTLEY. The first one: the regulation natural chap. He kept a tame
philosopher in the house: a sort of Coleridge or Herbert Spencer kind
of card, you know. That was the second father. Then his mother was
an Italian princess; and she had an Italian priest always about. He
was supposed to take charge of her conscience; but from what I could
make out, she jolly well took charge of his. The whole three of them
took charge of Joey's conscience. He used to hear them arguing like
mad about everything. You see, the philosopher was a freethinker, and
always believed the latest thing. The priest didnt believe anything,
because it was sure to get him into trouble with someone or another.
And the natural father kept an open mind and believed whatever paid
him best. Between the lot of them Joey got cultivated no end. He
said if he could only have had three mothers as well, he'd have backed
himself against Napoleon.
TARLETON. _[impressed]_ Thats an idea. Thats a most interesting
idea: a most important idea.
MRS TARLETON. You always were one for ideas, John.
TARLETON. Youre right, Chickabiddy. What do I tell Johnny when he
brags about Tarleton's Underwear? It's not the underwear. The
underwear be hanged! Anybody can make underwear. Anybody can sell
underwear. Tarleton's Ideas: thats whats done it. Ive often thought
of putting that up over the shop.
BENTLEY. Take me into partnership when you do, old man. I'm wasted
on the underwear; but I shall come in strong on the ideas.
TARLETON. You be a good boy; and perhaps I will.
MRS TARLETON. _[scenting a plot against her beloved Johnny]_ Now,
John: you promised--
TARLETON. Yes, yes. All right, Chickabiddy: dont fuss. Your
precious Johnny shant be interfered with. _[Bouncing up, too
energetic to sit still]_ But I'm getting sick of that old shop.
Thirty-five years Ive had of it: same blessed old stairs to go up and
down every day: same old lot: same old game: sorry I ever started
it now. I'll chuck it and try something else: something that will
give a scope to all my faculties.
HYPATIA. Theres money in underwear: theres none in wild-cat ideas.
TARLETON. Theres money in me, madam, no matter what I go into.
MRS TARLETON. Dont boast, John. Dont tempt Providence.
TARLETON. Rats! You dont understand Providence. Providence likes to
be tempted. Thats the secret of the successful man. Read Browning.
Natural theology on an island, eh? Caliban was afraid to tempt
Providence: that was why he was never able to get even with Prospero.
What did Prospero do? Prospero didnt even tempt Providence: he was
Providence. Thats one of Tarleton's ideas; and dont you forget it.
BENTLEY. You are full of beef today, old man.
TARLETON. Beef be blowed! Joy of life. Read Ibsen. _[He goes into
the pavilion to relieve his restlessness, and stares out with his
hands thrust deep in his pockets]._
HYPATIA. _[thoughtful]_ Bentley: couldnt you invite your friend Mr
Percival down here?
BENTLEY. Not if I know it. Youd throw me over the moment you set
eyes on him.
MRS TARLETON. Oh, Bunny! For shame!
BENTLEY. Well, who'd marry me, dyou suppose, if they could get my
brains with a full-sized body? No, thank you. I shall take jolly
good care to keep Joey out of this until Hypatia is past praying for.
_Johnny and Lord Summerhays return through the pavilion from their
TARLETON. Welcome! welcome! Why have you stayed away so long?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[shaking hands]_ Yes: I should have come sooner.
But I'm still rather lost in England. _[Johnny takes his hat and
hangs it up beside his own]._ Thank you. _[Johnny returns to his
swing and his novel. Lord Summerhays comes to the writing table]._
The fact is that as Ive nothing to do, I never have time to go
anywhere. _[He sits down next Mrs Tarleton]._
TARLETON. _[following him and sitting down on his left]_ Paradox,
paradox. Good. Paradoxes are the only truths. Read Chesterton. But
theres lots for you to do here. You have a genius for government.
You learnt your job out there in Jinghiskahn. Well, we want to be
governed here in England. Govern us.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Ah yes, my friend; but in Jinghiskahn you have to
govern the right way. If you dont, you go under and come home. Here
everything has to be done the wrong way, to suit governors who
understand nothing but partridge shooting (our English native princes,
in fact) and voters who dont know what theyre voting about. I dont
understand these democratic games; and I'm afraid I'm too old to
learn. What can I do but sit in the window of my club, which consists
mostly of retired Indian Civil servants? We look on at the muddle and
the folly and amateurishness; and we ask each other where a single
fortnight of it would have landed us.
TARLETON. Very true. Still, Democracy's all right, you know. Read
Mill. Read Jefferson.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Yes. Democracy reads well; but it doesnt act well,
like some people's plays. No, no, my friend Tarleton: to make
Democracy work, you need an aristocratic democracy. To make
Aristocracy work, you need a democratic aristocracy. Youve got
neither; and theres an end of it.
TARLETON. Still, you know, the superman may come. The superman's an
idea. I believe in ideas. Read Whatshisname.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Reading is a dangerous amusement, Tarleton. I wish
I could persuade your free library people of that.
TARLETON. Why, man, it's the beginning of education.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. On the contrary, it's the end of it. How can you
dare teach a man to read until youve taught him everything else first?
JOHNNY. _[intercepting his father's reply by coming out of the swing
and taking the floor]_ Leave it at that. Thats good sense. Anybody
on for a game of tennis?
BENTLEY. Oh, lets have some more improving conversation. Wouldnt you
JOHNNY. If you ask me, no.
TARLETON. Johnny: you dont cultivate your mind. You dont read.
JOHNNY. _[coming between his mother and Lord Summerhays, book in
hand]_ Yes I do. I bet you what you like that, page for page, I read
more than you, though I dont talk about it so much. Only, I dont read
the same books. I like a book with a plot in it. You like a book
with nothing in it but some idea that the chap that writes it keeps
worrying, like a cat chasing its own tail. I can stand a little of
it, just as I can stand watching the cat for two minutes, say, when
Ive nothing better to do. But a man soon gets fed up with that sort
of thing. The fact is, you look on an author as a sort of god. _I_
look on him as a man that I pay to do a certain thing for me. I pay
him to amuse me and to take me out of myself and make me forget.
TARLETON. No. Wrong principle. You want to remember. Read Kipling.
"Lest we forget."
JOHNNY. If Kipling wants to remember, let him remember. If he had to
run Tarleton's Underwear, he'd be jolly glad to forget. As he has a
much softer job, and wants to keep himself before the public, his cry
is, "Dont you forget the sort of things I'm rather clever at writing
about." Well, I dont blame him: it's his business: I should do the
same in his place. But what he wants and what I want are two
different things. I want to forget; and I pay another man to make me
forget. If I buy a book or go to the theatre, I want to forget the
shop and forget myself from the moment I go in to the moment I come
out. Thats what I pay my money for. And if I find that the author's
simply getting at me the whole time, I consider that hes obtained my
money under false pretences. I'm not a morbid crank: I'm a natural
man; and, as such, I dont like being got at. If a man in my
employment did it, I should sack him. If a member of my club did it,
I should cut him. If he went too far with it, I should bring his
conduct before the committee. I might even punch his head, if it came
to that. Well, who and what is an author that he should be privileged
to take liberties that are not allowed to other men?
MRS TARLETON. You see, John! What have I always told you? Johnny
has as much to say for himself as anybody when he likes.
JOHNNY. I'm no fool, mother, whatever some people may fancy. I dont
set up to have as many ideas as the Governor; but what ideas I have
are consecutive, at all events. I can think as well as talk.
BENTLEY. _[to Tarleton, chuckling]_ Had you there, old man, hadnt
he? You are rather all over the shop with your ideas, aint you?
JOHNNY. _[handsomely]_ I'm not saying anything against you,
Governor. But I do say that the time has come for sane, healthy,
unpretending men like me to make a stand against this conspiracy of
the writing and talking and artistic lot to put us in the back row.
It isnt a fact that we're inferior to them: it's a put-up job; and
it's they that have put the job up. It's we that run the country for
them; and all the thanks we get is to be told we're Philistines and
vulgar tradesmen and sordid city men and so forth, and that theyre all
angels of light and leading. The time has come to assert ourselves
and put a stop to their stuck-up nonsense. Perhaps if we had nothing
better to do than talking or writing, we could do it better than they.
Anyhow, theyre the failures and refuse of business (hardly a man of
them that didnt begin in an office) and we're the successes of it.
Thank God I havnt failed yet at anything; and I dont believe I should
fail at literature if it would pay me to turn my hand to it.
BENTLEY. Hear, hear!
MRS TARLETON. Fancy you writing a book, Johnny! Do you think he
could, Lord Summerhays?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Why not? As a matter of fact all the really
prosperous authors I have met since my return to England have been
very like him.
TARLETON. _[again impressed]_ Thats an idea. Thats a new idea. I
believe I ought to have made Johnny an author. Ive never said so
before for fear of hurting his feelings, because, after all, the lad
cant help it; but Ive never thought Johnny worth tuppence as a man of
JOHNNY. _[sarcastic]_ Oh! You think youve always kept that to
yourself, do you, Governor? I know your opinion of me as well as you
know it yourself. It takes one man of business to appreciate another;
and you arnt, and you never have been, a real man of business. I know
where Tarleton's would have been three of four times if it hadnt been
for me. _[With a snort and a nod to emphasize the implied warning, he
retreats to the Turkish bath, and lolls against it with an air of
TARLETON. Well, who denies it? Youre quite right, my boy. I don't
mind confessing to you all that the circumstances that condemned me to
keep a shop are the biggest tragedy in modern life. I ought to have
been a writer. I'm essentially a man of ideas. When I was a young
man I sometimes used to pray that I might fail, so that I should be
justified in giving up business and doing something: something
first-class. But it was no good: I couldnt fail. I said to myself
that if I could only once go to my Chickabiddy here and shew her a
chartered accountant's statement proving that I'd made 20 pounds less
than last year, I could ask her to let me chance Johnny's and
Hypatia's future by going into literature. But it was no good. First
it was 250 pounds more than last year. Then it was 700 pounds. Then
it was 2000 pounds. Then I saw it was no use: Prometheus was chained
to his rock: read Shelley: read Mrs Browning. Well, well, it was
not to be. _[He rises solemnly]._ Lord Summerhays: I ask you to
excuse me for a few moments. There are times when a man needs to
meditate in solitude on his destiny. A chord is touched; and he sees
the drama of his life as a spectator sees a play. Laugh if you feel
inclined: no man sees the comic side of it more than I. In the
theatre of life everyone may be amused except the actor.
_[Brightening]_ Theres an idea in this: an idea for a picture. What
a pity young Bentley is not a painter! Tarleton meditating on his
destiny. Not in a toga. Not in the trappings of the tragedian or the
philosopher. In plain coat and trousers: a man like any other man.
And beneath that coat and trousers a human soul. Tarleton's
Underwear! _[He goes out gravely into the vestibule]._
MRS TARLETON. _[fondly]_ I suppose it's a wife's partiality, Lord
Summerhays; but I do think John is really great. I'm sure he was
meant to be a king. My father looked down on John, because he was a
rate collector, and John kept a shop. It hurt his pride to have to
borrow money so often from John; and he used to console himself by
saying, "After all, he's only a linendraper." But at last one day he
said to me, "John is a king."
BENTLEY. How much did he borrow on that occasion?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[sharply]_ Bentley!
MRS TARLETON. Oh, dont scold the child: he'd have to say something
like that if it was to be his last word on earth. Besides, hes quite
right: my poor father had asked for his usual five pounds; and John
gave him a hundred in his big way. Just like a king.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Not at all. I had five kings to manage in
Jinghiskahn; and I think you do your husband some injustice, Mrs
Tarleton. They pretended to like me because I kept their brothers
from murdering them; but I didnt like them. And I like Tarleton.
MRS TARLETON. Everybody does. I really must go and make the cook do
him a Welsh rabbit. He expects one on special occasions. _[She goes
to the inner door]._ Johnny: when he comes back ask him where we're
to put that new Turkish bath. Turkish baths are his latest. _[She
JOHNNY. _[coming forward again]_ Now that the Governor has given
himself away, and the old lady's gone, I'll tell you something, Lord
Summerhays. If you study men whove made an enormous pile in business
without being keen on money, youll find that they all have a slate
off. The Governor's a wonderful man; but hes not quite all there, you
know. If you notice, hes different from me; and whatever my failings
may be, I'm a sane man. Erratic: thats what he is. And the danger
is that some day he'll give the whole show away.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Giving the show away is a method like any other
method. Keeping it to yourself is only another method. I should keep
an open mind about it.
JOHNNY. Has it ever occurred to you that a man with an open mind must
be a bit of a scoundrel? If you ask me, I like a man who makes up his
mind once for all as to whats right and whats wrong and then sticks to
it. At all events you know where to have him.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. That may not be his object.
BENTLEY. He may want to have you, old chap.
JOHNNY. Well, let him. If a member of my club wants to steal my
umbrella, he knows where to find it. If a man put up for the club who
had an open mind on the subject of property in umbrellas, I should
blackball him. An open mind is all very well in clever talky-talky;
but in conduct and in business give me solid ground.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Yes: the quicksands make life difficult. Still,
there they are. It's no use pretending theyre rocks.
JOHNNY. I dont know. You can draw a line and make other chaps toe
it. Thats what I call morality.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Very true. But you dont make any progress when
youre toeing a line.
HYPATIA. _[suddenly, as if she could bear no more of it]_ Bentley:
do go and play tennis with Johnny. You must take exercise.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Do, my boy, do. _[To Johnny]_ Take him out and
make him skip about.
BENTLEY. _[rising reluctantly]_ I promised you two inches more round
my chest this summer. I tried exercises with an indiarubber expander;
but I wasnt strong enough: instead of my expanding it, it crumpled me
up. Come along, Johnny.
JOHNNY. Do you no end of good, young chap. _[He goes out with
Bentley through the pavilion]._
_Hypatia throws aside her work with an enormous sigh of relief._
LORD SUMMERHAYS. At last!
HYPATIA. At last. Oh, if I might only have a holiday in an asylum
for the dumb. How I envy the animals! They cant talk. If Johnny
could only put back his ears or wag his tail instead of laying down
the law, how much better it would be! We should know when he was
cross and when he was pleased; and thats all we know now, with all his
talk. It never stops: talk, talk, talk, talk. Thats my life. All
the day I listen to mamma talking; at dinner I listen to papa talking;
and when papa stops for breath I listen to Johnny talking.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. You make me feel very guilty. I talk too, I'm
HYPATIA. Oh, I dont mind that, because your talk is a novelty. But
it must have been dreadful for your daughters.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. I suppose so.
HYPATIA. If parents would only realize how they bore their children!
Three or four times in the last half hour Ive been on the point of
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Were we very dull?
HYPATIA. Not at all: you were very clever. Thats whats so hard to
bear, because it makes it so difficult to avoid listening. You see,
I'm young; and I do so want something to happen. My mother tells me
that when I'm her age, I shall be only too glad that nothing's
happened; but I'm not her age; so what good is that to me? Theres my
father in the garden, meditating on his destiny. All very well for
him: hes had a destiny to meditate on; but I havnt had any destiny
yet. Everything's happened to him: nothing's happened to me. Thats
why this unending talk is so maddeningly uninteresting to me.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. It would be worse if we sat in silence.
HYPATIA. No it wouldnt. If you all sat in silence, as if you were
waiting for something to happen, then there would be hope even if
nothing did happen. But this eternal cackle, cackle, cackle about
things in general is only fit for old, old, OLD people. I suppose it
means something to them: theyve had their fling. All I listen for is
some sign of it ending in something; but just when it seems to be
coming to a point, Johnny or papa just starts another hare; and it all
begins over again; and I realize that it's never going to lead
anywhere and never going to stop. Thats when I want to scream. I
wonder how you can stand it.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Well, I'm old and garrulous myself, you see.
Besides, I'm not here of my own free will, exactly. I came because
you ordered me to come.
HYPATIA. Didnt you want to come?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. My dear: after thirty years of managing other
people's business, men lose the habit of considering what they want or
HYPATIA. Oh, dont begin to talk about what men do, and about thirty
years experience. If you cant get off that subject, youd better send
for Johnny and papa and begin it all over again.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. I'm sorry. I beg your pardon.
HYPATIA. I asked you, didnt you want to come?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. I did not stop to consider whether I wanted or not,
because when I read your letter I knew I had to come.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Oh come, Miss Tarleton! Really, really! Dont force
me to call you a blackmailer to your face. You have me in your power;
and I do what you tell me very obediently. Dont ask me to pretend I
do it of my own free will.
HYPATIA. I dont know what a blackmailer is. I havnt even that much
LORD SUMMERHAYS. A blackmailer, my dear young lady, is a person who
knows a disgraceful secret in the life of another person, and extorts
money from that other person by threatening to make his secret public
unless the money is paid.
HYPATIA. I havnt asked you for money.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. No; but you asked me to come down here and talk to
you; and you mentioned casually that if I didnt youd have nobody to
talk about me to but Bentley. That was a threat, was it not?
HYPATIA. Well, I wanted you to come.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. In spite of my age and my unfortunate talkativeness?
HYPATIA. I like talking to you. I can let myself go with you. I can
say things to you I cant say to other people.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. I wonder why?
HYPATIA. Well, you are the only really clever, grown-up, high-class,
experienced man I know who has given himself away to me by making an
utter fool of himself with me. You cant wrap yourself up in your toga
after that. You cant give yourself airs with me.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. You mean you can tell Bentley about me if I do.
HYPATIA. Even if there wasnt any Bentley: even if you didnt care
(and I really dont see why you should care so much) still, we never
could be on conventional terms with one another again. Besides, Ive
got a feeling for you: almost a ghastly sort of love for you.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[shrinking]_ I beg you--no, please.
HYPATIA. Oh, it's nothing at all flattering: and, of course, nothing
wrong, as I suppose youd call it.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Please believe that I know that. When men of my
HYPATIA. _[impatiently]_ Oh, do talk about yourself when you mean
yourself, and not about men of your age.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. I'll put it as bluntly as I can. When, as you say,
I made an utter fool of myself, believe me, I made a poetic fool of
myself. I was seduced, not by appetites which, thank Heaven, Ive long
outlived: not even by the desire of second childhood for a child
companion, but by the innocent impulse to place the delicacy and
wisdom and spirituality of my age at the affectionate service of your
youth for a few years, at the end of which you would be a grown,
strong, formed--widow. Alas, my dear, the delicacy of age reckoned,
as usual, without the derision and cruelty of youth. You told me that
you didnt want to be an old man's nurse, and that you didnt want to
have undersized children like Bentley. It served me right: I dont
reproach you: I was an old fool. But how you can imagine, after
that, that I can suspect you of the smallest feeling for me except the
inevitable feeling of early youth for late age, or imagine that I have
any feeling for you except one of shrinking humiliation, I cant
HYPATIA. I dont blame you for falling in love with me. I shall be
grateful to you all my life for it, because that was the first time
that anything really interesting happened to me.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Do you mean to tell me that nothing of that kind had
ever happened before? that no man had ever--
HYPATIA. Oh, lots. Thats part of the routine of life here: the very
dullest part of it. The young man who comes a-courting is as familiar
an incident in my life as coffee for breakfast. Of course, hes too
much of a gentleman to misbehave himself; and I'm too much of a lady
to let him; and hes shy and sheepish; and I'm correct and
self-possessed; and at last, when I can bear it no longer, I either
frighten him off, or give him a chance of proposing, just to see how
he'll do it, and refuse him because he does it in the same silly way
as all the rest. You dont call that an event in one's life, do you?
With you it was different. I should as soon have expected the North
Pole to fall in love with me as you. You know I'm only a
linen-draper's daughter when all's said. I was afraid of you: you, a
great man! a lord! and older than my father. And then what a
situation it was! Just think of it! I was engaged to your son; and
you knew nothing about it. He was afraid to tell you: he brought you
down here because he thought if he could throw us together I could get
round you because I was such a ripping girl. We arranged it all: he
and I. We got Papa and Mamma and Johnny out of the way splendidly;
and then Bentley took himself off, and left us--you and me!--to take a
walk through the heather and admire the scenery of Hindhead. You
never dreamt that it was all a plan: that what made me so nice was
the way I was playing up to my destiny as the sweet girl that was to
make your boy happy. And then! and then! _[She rises to dance and
clap her hands in her glee]._
LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[shuddering]_ Stop, stop. Can no woman understand
a man's delicacy?
HYPATIA. _[revelling in the recollection]_ And then--ha, ha!--you
proposed. You! A father! For your son's girl!
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Stop, I tell you. Dont profane what you dont
HYPATIA. That was something happening at last with a vengeance. It
was splendid. It was my first peep behind the scenes. If I'd been
seventeen I should have fallen in love with you. Even as it is, I
feel quite differently towards you from what I do towards other old
men. So _[offering her hand]_ you may kiss my hand if that will be
any fun for you.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[rising and recoiling to the table, deeply
revolted]_ No, no, no. How dare you? _[She laughs mischievously]._
How callous youth is! How coarse! How cynical! How ruthlessly
HYPATIA. Stuff! It's only that youre tired of a great many things
Ive never tried.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. It's not alone that. Ive not forgotten the
brutality of my own boyhood. But do try to learn, glorious young
beast that you are, that age is squeamish, sentimental, fastidious.
If you cant understand my holier feelings, at least you know the
bodily infirmities of the old. You know that I darent eat all the
rich things you gobble up at every meal; that I cant bear the noise
and racket and clatter that affect you no more than they affect a
stone. Well, my soul is like that too. Spare it: be gentle with it
_[he involuntarily puts out his hands to plead: she takes them with a
laugh]._ If you could possibly think of me as half an angel and half
an invalid, we should get on much better together.
HYPATIA. We get on very well, I think. Nobody else ever called me a
glorious young beast. I like that. Glorious young beast expresses
exactly what I like to be.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[extricating his hands and sitting down]_ Where on
earth did you get these morbid tastes? You seem to have been well
brought up in a normal, healthy, respectable, middle-class family.
Yet you go on like the most unwholesome product of the rankest
HYPATIA. Thats just it. I'm fed up with--
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Horrible expression. Dont.
HYPATIA. Oh, I daresay it's vulgar; but theres no other word for it.
I'm fed up with nice things: with respectability, with propriety!
When a woman has nothing to do, money and respectability mean that
nothing is ever allowed to happen to her. I dont want to be good; and
I dont want to be bad: I just dont want to be bothered about either
good or bad: I want to be an active verb.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. An active verb? Oh, I see. An active verb
signifies to be, to do, or to suffer.
HYPATIA. Just so: how clever of you! I want to be; I want to do;
and I'm game to suffer if it costs that. But stick here doing nothing
but being good and nice and ladylike I simply wont. Stay down here
with us for a week; and I'll shew you what it means: shew it to you
going on day after day, year after year, lifetime after lifetime.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Shew me what?
HYPATIA. Girls withering into ladies. Ladies withering into old
maids. Nursing old women. Running errands for old men. Good for
nothing else at last. Oh, you cant imagine the fiendish selfishness
of the old people and the maudlin sacrifice of the young. It's more
unbearable than any poverty: more horrible than any
regular-right-down wickedness. Oh, home! home! parents! family! duty!
how I loathe them! How I'd like to see them all blown to bits! The
poor escape. The wicked escape. Well, I cant be poor: we're rolling
in money: it's no use pretending we're not. But I can be wicked; and
I'm quite prepared to be.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. You think that easy?
HYPATIA. Well, isnt it? Being a man, you ought to know.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. It requires some natural talent, which can no doubt
be cultivated. It's not really easy to be anything out of the common.
HYPATIA. Anyhow, I mean to make a fight for living.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Living your own life, I believe the Suffragist
HYPATIA. Living any life. Living, instead of withering without even
a gardener to snip you off when youre rotten.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Ive lived an active life; but Ive withered all the
HYPATIA. No: youve worn out: thats quite different. And youve some
life in you yet or you wouldnt have fallen in love with me. You can
never imagine how delighted I was to find that instead of being the
correct sort of big panjandrum you were supposed to be, you were
really an old rip like papa.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. No, no: not about your father: I really cant bear
it. And if you must say these terrible things: these heart-wounding
shameful things, at least find something prettier to call me than an
HYPATIA. Well, what would you call a man proposing to a girl who
LORD SUMMERHAYS. His daughter: yes, I know.
HYPATIA. I was going to say his granddaughter.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. You always have one more blow to get in.
HYPATIA. Youre too sensitive. Did you ever make mud pies when you
were a kid--beg pardon: a child.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. I hope not.
HYPATIA. It's a dirty job; but Johnny and I were vulgar enough to
like it. I like young people because theyre not too afraid of dirt to
live. Ive grown out of the mud pies; but I like slang; and I like
bustling you up by saying things that shock you; and I'd rather put up
with swearing and smoking than with dull respectability; and there are
lots of things that would just shrivel you up that I think rather
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Ive not the slightest doubt of it. Dont insist.
HYPATIA. It's not your ideal, is it?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. No.
HYPATIA. Shall I tell you why? Your ideal is an old woman. I
daresay shes got a young face; but shes an old woman. Old, old, old.
Squeamish. Cant stand up to things. Cant enjoy things: not real
things. Always on the shrink.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. On the shrink! Detestable expression.
HYPATIA. Bah! you cant stand even a little thing like that. What
good are you? Oh, what good are you?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Dont ask me. I dont know. I dont know.
_Tarleton returns from the vestibule. Hypatia sits down demurely._
HYPATIA. Well, papa: have you meditated on your destiny?
TARLETON. _[puzzled]_ What? Oh! my destiny. Gad, I forgot all
about it: Jock started a rabbit and put it clean out of my head.
Besides, why should I give way to morbid introspection? It's a sign
of madness. Read Lombroso. _[To Lord Summerhays]_ Well, Summerhays,
has my little girl been entertaining you?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Yes. She is a wonderful entertainer.
TARLETON. I think my idea of bringing up a young girl has been rather
a success. Dont you listen to this, Patsy: it might make you
conceited. Shes never been treated like a child. I always said the
same thing to her mother. Let her read what she likes. Let her do
what she likes. Let her go where she likes. Eh, Patsy?
HYPATIA. Oh yes, if there had only been anything for me to do, any
place for me to go, anything I wanted to read.
TARLETON. There, you see! Shes not satisfied. Restless. Wants
things to happen. Wants adventures to drop out of the sky.
HYPATIA. _[gathering up her work]_ If youre going to talk about me
and my education, I'm off.
TARLETON. Well, well, off with you. _[To Lord Summerhays]_ Shes
active, like me. She actually wanted me to put her into the shop.
HYPATIA. Well, they tell me that the girls there have adventures
sometimes. _[She goes out through the inner door]_
TARLETON. She had me there, though she doesnt know it, poor innocent
lamb! Public scandal exaggerates enormously, of course; but moralize
as you will, superabundant vitality is a physical fact that cant be
talked away. _[He sits down between the writing table and the
sideboard]._ Difficult question this, of bringing up children.
Between ourselves, it has beaten me. I never was so surprised in my
life as when I came to know Johnny as a man of business and found out
what he was really like. How did you manage with your sons?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Well, I really hadnt time to be a father: thats the
plain truth of the matter. Their poor dear mother did the usual thing
while they were with us. Then of course, Harrow, Cambridge, the usual
routine of their class. I saw very little of them, and thought very
little about them: how could I? with a whole province on my hands.
They and I are--acquaintances. Not perhaps, quite ordinary
acquaintances: theres a sort of--er--I should almost call it a sort
of remorse about the way we shake hands (when we do shake hands) which
means, I suppose, that we're sorry we dont care more for one another;
and I'm afraid we dont meet oftener than we can help. We put each
other too much out of countenance. It's really a very difficult
relation. To my mind not altogether a natural one.
TARLETON. _[impressed, as usual]_ Thats an idea, certainly. I dont
think anybody has ever written about that.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Bentley is the only one who was really my son in any
serious sense. He was completely spoilt. When he was sent to a
preparatory school he simply yelled until he was sent home. Harrow
was out of the question; but we managed to tutor him into Cambridge.
No use: he was sent down. By that time my work was over; and I saw a
good deal of him. But I could do nothing with him--except look on. I
should have thought your case was quite different. You keep up the
middle-class tradition: the day school and the business training
instead of the university. I believe in the day school part of it.
At all events, you know your own children.
TARLETON. Do you? I'm not so sure of it. Fact is, my dear
Summerhays, once childhood is over, once the little animal has got
past the stage at which it acquires what you might call a sense of
decency, it's all up with the relation between parent and child. You
cant get over the fearful shyness of it.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Shyness?
TARLETON. Yes, shyness. Read Dickens.
LORD SUMMERHAYS _[surprised]_ Dickens!! Of all authors, Charles
Dickens! Are you serious?
TARLETON. I dont mean his books. Read his letters to his family.
Read any man's letters to his children. Theyre not human. Theyre not
about himself or themselves. Theyre about hotels, scenery, about the
weather, about getting wet and losing the train and what he saw on the
road and all that. Not a word about himself. Forced. Shy. Duty
letters. All fit to be published: that says everything. I tell you
theres a wall ten feet thick and ten miles high between parent and
child. I know what I'm talking about. Ive girls in my employment:
girls and young men. I had ideas on the subject. I used to go to the
parents and tell them not to let their children go out into the world
without instruction in the dangers and temptations they were going to
be thrown into. What did every one of the mothers say to me? "Oh,
sir, how could I speak of such things to my own daughter?" The men
said I was quite right; but they didnt do it, any more than I'd been
able to do it myself to Johnny. I had to leave books in his way; and
I felt just awful when I did it. Believe me, Summerhays, the relation
between the young and the old should be an innocent relation. It
should be something they could talk about. Well, the relation between
parent and child may be an affectionate relation. It may be a useful
relation. It may be a necessary relation. But it can never be an
innocent relation. Youd die rather than allude to it. Depend on it,
in a thousand years itll be considered bad form to know who your
father and mother are. Embarrassing. Better hand Bentley over to me.
I can look him in the face and talk to him as man to man. You can
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Thank you. Ive lived so long in a country where a
man may have fifty sons, who are no more to him than a regiment of
soldiers, that I'm afraid Ive lost the English feeling about it.
TARLETON. _[restless again]_ You mean Jinghiskahn. Ah yes. Good
thing the empire. Educates us. Opens our minds. Knocks the Bible
out of us. And civilizes the other chaps.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Yes: it civilizes them. And it uncivilizes us.
Their gain. Our loss, Tarleton, believe me, our loss.
TARLETON. Well, why not? Averages out the human race. Makes the
nigger half an Englishman. Makes the Englishman half a nigger.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Speaking as the unfortunate Englishman in question,
I dont like the process. If I had my life to live over again, I'd
stay at home and supercivilize myself.
TARLETON. Nonsense! dont be selfish. Think how youve improved the
other chaps. Look at the Spanish empire! Bad job for Spain, but
splendid for South America. Look at what the Romans did for Britain!
They burst up and had to clear out; but think of all they taught us!
They were the making of us: I believe there was a Roman camp on
Hindhead: I'll shew it to you tomorrow. Thats the good side of
Imperialism: it's unselfish. I despise the Little Englanders:
theyre always thinking about England. Smallminded. I'm for the
Parliament of man, the federation of the world. Read Tennyson. _[He
settles down again]._ Then theres the great food question.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[apprehensively]_ Need we go into that this
TARLETON. No; but I wish youd tell the Chickabiddy that the
Jinghiskahns eat no end of toasted cheese, and that it's the secret of
their amazing health and long life!
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Unfortunately they are neither healthy nor long
lived. And they dont eat toasted cheese.
TARLETON. There you are! They would be if they ate it. Anyhow,
say what you like, provided the moral is a Welsh rabbit for my supper.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. British morality in a nutshell!
TARLETON. _[hugely amused]_ Yes. Ha ha! Awful hypocrites, aint we?
_They are interrupted by excited cries from the grounds._
HYPATIA. | Papa! Mamma! Come out as fast as you can.
| Quick. Quick.
BENTLEY. | Hello, governor! Come out. An aeroplane.
| Look, look.
TARLETON. _[starting up]_ Aeroplane! Did he say an aeroplane?
LORD SUMMERHAYS. Aeroplane! _[A shadow falls on the pavilion; and
some of the glass at the top is shattered and falls on the floor]._
_Tarleton and Lord Summerhays rush out through the pavilion into the
HYPATIA. | Take care. Take care of the chimney.
BENTLEY. | Come this side: it's coming right
| where youre standing.
TARLETON. | Hallo! where the devil are you
| coming? youll have my roof off.
LORD SUMMERHAYS| He's lost control.
MRS TARLETON. Look, look, Hypatia. There are two people in it.
BENTLEY. Theyve cleared it. Well steered!
TARLETON. | Yes; but theyre coming slam into the greenhouse.
LORD SUMMERHAYS| Look out for the glass.
MRS TARLETON. | Theyll break all the glass. Theyll
| spoil all the grapes.
BENTLEY. | Mind where youre coming. He'll
| save it. No: theyre down.
_An appalling crash of breaking glass is heard. Everybody shrieks._
MRS TARLETON. | Oh, are they killed? John: are they killed?
LORD SUMMERHAYS| Are you hurt? Is anything broken? Can you stand?
HYPATIA. | Oh, you must be hurt. Are you sure? Shall I get
| you some water? Or some wine?
TARLETON. | Are you all right? Sure you wont have some
| brandy just to take off the shock.
THE AVIATOR. No, thank you. Quite right. Not a scratch. I assure
you I'm all right.
BENTLEY. What luck! And what a smash! You are a lucky chap, I can
_The Aviator and Tarleton come in through the pavilion, followed by
Lord Summerhays and Bentley, the Aviator on Tarleton's right. Bentley
passes the Aviator and turns to have an admiring look at him. Lord
Summerhays overtakes Tarleton less pointedly on the opposite side with
the same object._
THE AVIATOR. I'm really very sorry. I'm afraid Ive knocked your
vinery into a cocked hat. (_Effusively_) You dont mind, do you?
TARLETON. Not a bit. Come in and have some tea. Stay to dinner.
Stay over the week-end. All my life Ive wanted to fly.
THE AVIATOR. _[taking off his goggles]_ Youre really more than kind.
BENTLEY. Why, its Joey Percival.
PERCIVAL. Hallo, Ben! That you?
TARLETON. What! The man with three fathers!
PERCIVAL. Oh! has Ben been talking about me?
TARLETON. Consider yourself as one of the family--if you will do me
the honor. And your friend too. Wheres your friend?
PERCIVAL. Oh, by the way! before he comes in: let me explain. I
dont know him.
PERCIVAL. Havnt even looked at him. I'm trying to make a club record
with a passenger. The club supplied the passenger. He just got in;
and Ive been too busy handling the aeroplane to look at him. I havnt
said a word to him; and I cant answer for him socially; but hes an
ideal passenger for a flyer. He saved me from a smash.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. I saw it. It was extraordinary. When you were
thrown out he held on to the top bar with one hand. You came past him
in the air, going straight for the glass. He caught you and turned
you off into the flower bed, and then lighted beside you like a bird.
PERCIVAL. How he kept his head I cant imagine. Frankly, _I_ didnt.
_The Passenger, also begoggled, comes in through the pavilion with
Johnny and the two ladies. The Passenger comes between Percival and
Tarleton, Mrs Tarleton between Lord Summerhays and her husband,
Hypatia between Percival and Bentley, and Johnny to Bentley's right._
TARLETON. Just discussing your prowess, my dear sir. Magnificent.
Youll stay to dinner. Youll stay the night. Stay over the week. The
Chickabiddy will be delighted.
MRS TARLETON. Wont you take off your goggles and have some tea?
_The Passenger begins to remove the goggles._
TARLETON. Do. Have a wash. Johnny: take the gentleman to your
room: I'll look after Mr Percival. They must--
_By this time the passenger has got the goggles off, and stands
revealed as a remarkably good-looking woman._
MRS TARLETON. | Well I never!!! |
BENTLEY. | [_in a whisper_] Oh, I say! |
JOHNNY. | By George! |
| | _All
LORD SUMMERHAYS| A lady! | to-
| | gether._
HYPATIA. | A woman! |
TARLETON. | [_to Percival_] You never told me-- |
PERCIVAL. | I hadnt the least idea-- |
_An embarrassed pause._
PERCIVAL. I assure you if I'd had the faintest notion that my
passenger was a lady I shouldnt have left you to shift for yourself in
that selfish way.
LORD SUMMERHAYS. The lady seems to have shifted for both very
PERCIVAL. Saved my life. I admit it most gratefully.
TARLETON. I must apologize, madam, for having offered you the
civilities appropriate to the opposite sex. And yet, why opposite?
We are all human: males and females of the same species. When the
dress is the same the distinction vanishes. I'm proud to receive in
my house a lady of evident refinement and distinction. Allow me to
introduce myself: Tarleton: John Tarleton (_seeing conjecture in the
passenger's eye_)--yes, yes: Tarleton's Underwear. My wife, Mrs
Tarleton: youll excuse me for having in what I had taken to be a
confidence between man and man alluded to her as the Chickabiddy. My
daughter Hypatia, who has always wanted some adventure to drop out of
the sky, and is now, I hope, satisfied at last. Lord Summerhays: a
man known wherever the British flag waves. His son Bentley, engaged
to Hypatia. Mr Joseph Percival, the promising son of three highly
HYPATIA. _[startled]_ Bentley's friend? _[Bentley nods]._
TARLETON. _[continuing, to the passenger]_ May I now ask to be
allowed the pleasure of knowing your name?
THE PASSENGER. My name is Lina Szczepanowska _[pronouncing it
PERCIVAL. Sh-- I beg your pardon?
PERCIVAL. _[dubiously]_ Thank you.
TARLETON. _[very politely]_ Would you mind saying it again?
LINA. Say fish.
LINA. Say church.
LINA. Say fish church.
TARLETON. _[remonstrating]_ But it's not good sense.
LINA. _[inexorable]_ Say fish church.
TARLETON. Fish church.
TARLETON. No, but--_[resigning himself]_ fish church.
LINA. Now say Szczepanowska.
TARLETON. Szczepanowska. Got it, by Gad. _[A sibilant whispering
becomes audible: they are all saying Sh-ch to themselves]._
Szczepanowska! Not an English name, is it?
LINA. Polish. I'm a Pole.
TARLETON. Ah yes. Interesting nation. Lucky people to get the
government of their country taken off their hands. Nothing to do but
cultivate themselves. Same as we took Gibraltar off the hands of the
Spaniards. Saves the Spanish taxpayer. Jolly good thing for us if
the Germans took Portsmouth. Sit down, wont you?
_The group breaks up. Johnny and Bentley hurry to the pavilion and
fetch the two wicker chairs. Johnny gives his to Lina. Hypatia and
Percival take the chairs at the worktable. Lord Summerhays gives the
chair at the vestibule end of the writing table to Mrs Tarleton; and
Bentley replaces it with a wicker chair, which Lord Summerhays takes.
Johnny remains standing behind the worktable, Bentley behind his
MRS TARLETON. _[to Lina]_ Have some tea now, wont you?
LINA. I never drink tea.
TARLETON. _[sitting down at the end of the writing table nearest
Lina]_ Bad thing to aeroplane on, I should imagine. Too jumpy. Been
LINA. Not in an aeroplane. Ive parachuted; but thats child's play.
MRS TARLETON. But arnt you very foolish to run such a dreadful risk?
LINA. You cant live without running risks.
MRS TARLETON. Oh, what a thing to say! Didnt you know you might have
LINA. That was why I went up.
HYPATIA. Of course. Cant you understand the fascination of the
thing? the novelty! the daring! the sense of something happening!
LINA. Oh no. It's too tame a business for that. I went up for
TARLETON. Eh? What? Family reasons?
MRS TARLETON. I hope it wasnt to spite your mother?
PERCIVAL. _[quickly]_ Or your husband?
LINA. I'm not married. And why should I want to spite my mother?
HYPATIA. _[aside to Percival]_ That was clever of you, Mr Percival.
HYPATIA. To find out.
TARLETON. I'm in a difficulty. I cant understand a lady going up in
an aeroplane for family reasons. It's rude to be curious and ask
questions; but then it's inhuman to be indifferent, as if you didnt
LINA. I'll tell you with pleasure. For the last hundred and fifty
years, not a single day has passed without some member of my family
risking his life--or her life. It's a point of honor with us to keep
up that tradition. Usually several of us do it; but it happens that
just at this moment it is being kept up by one of my brothers only.
Early this morning I got a telegram from him to say that there had
been a fire, and that he could do nothing for the rest of the week.
Fortunately I had an invitation from the Aerial League to see this
gentleman try to break the passenger record. I appealed to the
President of the League to let me save the honor of my family. He
arranged it for me.
TARLETON. Oh, I must be dreaming. This is stark raving nonsense.
LINA. _[quietly]_ You are quite awake, sir.
JOHNNY. We cant all be dreaming the same thing, Governor.
TARLETON. Of course not, you duffer; but then I'm dreaming you as
well as the lady.
MRS TARLETON. Dont be silly, John. The lady is only joking, I'm
sure. _[To Lina]_ I suppose your luggage is in the aeroplane.
PERCIVAL. Luggage was out of the question. If I stay to dinner I'm
afraid I cant change unless youll lend me some clothes.
MRS TARLETON. Do you mean neither of you?
PERCIVAL. I'm afraid so.
MRS TARLETON. Oh well, never mind: Hypatia will lend the lady a
LINA. Thank you: I'm quite comfortable as I am. I am not accustomed
to gowns: they hamper me and make me feel ridiculous; so if you dont
mind I shall not change.
MRS TARLETON. Well, I'm beginning to think I'm doing a bit of
HYPATIA. _[impatiently]_ Oh, it's all right, mamma. Johnny: look
after Mr. Percival. _[To Lina, rising]_ Come with me.
_Lina follows her to the inner door. They all rise._
JOHNNY. _[to Percival]_ I'll shew you.
PERCIVAL. Thank you.
_Lina goes out with Hypatia, and Percival with Johnny._
MRS TARLETON. Well, this is a nice thing to happen! And look at the
greenhouse! Itll cost thirty pounds to mend it. People have no right
to do such things. And you invited them to dinner too! What sort of
woman is that to have in our house when you know that all Hindhead