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Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw

Part 2 out of 3

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will be calling on us to see that aeroplane? Bunny: come with me and
help me to get all the people out of the grounds: I declare they came
running as if theyd sprung up out of the earth _[she makes for the
inner door]._

TARLETON. No: dont you trouble, Chickabiddy: I'll tackle em.

MRS TARLETON. Indeed youll do nothing of the kind: youll stay here
quietly with Lord Summerhays. Youd invite them all to dinner. Come,
Bunny. _[She goes out, followed by Bentley. Lord Summerhays sits
down again]._

TARLETON. Singularly beautiful woman Summerhays. What do you make of
her? She must be a princess. Whats this family of warriors and
statesmen that risk their lives every day?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. They are evidently not warriors and statesmen, or
they wouldnt do that.

TARLETON. Well, then, who the devil are they?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. I think I know. The last time I saw that lady, she
did something I should not have thought possible.

TARLETON. What was that?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Well, she walked backwards along a taut wire without
a balancing pole and turned a somersault in the middle. I remember
that her name was Lina, and that the other name was foreign; though I
dont recollect it.

TARLETON. Szcz! You couldnt have forgotten that if youd heard it.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. I didnt hear it: I only saw it on a program. But
it's clear shes an acrobat. It explains how she saved Percival. And
it accounts for her family pride.

TARLETON. An acrobat, eh? Good, good, good! Summerhays: that
brings her within reach. Thats better than a princess. I steeled
this evergreen heart of mine when I thought she was a princess. Now I
shall let it be touched. She is accessible. Good.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. I hope you are not serious. Remember: you have a
family. You have a position. You are not in your first youth.

TARLETON. No matter.

Theres magic in the night
When the heart is young.

My heart is young. Besides, I'm a married man, not a widower like
you. A married man can do anything he likes if his wife dont mind. A
widower cant be too careful. Not that I would have you think me an
unprincipled man or a bad husband. I'm not. But Ive a superabundance
of vitality. Read Pepys' Diary.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. The woman is your guest, Tarleton.

TARLETON. Well, is she? A woman I bring into my house is my guest.
A woman you bring into my house is my guest. But a woman who drops
bang down out of the sky into my greenhouse and smashes every blessed
pane of glass in it must take her chance.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Still, you know that my name must not be associated
with any scandal. Youll be careful, wont you?

TARLETON. Oh Lord, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I was only joking,
of course.

_Mrs Tarleton comes back through the inner door._

MRS TARLETON. Well I never! John: I dont think that young woman's
right in her head. Do you know what shes just asked for?

TARLETON. Champagne?

MRS TARLETON. No. She wants a Bible and six oranges.

TARLETON. What?

MRS TARLETON. A Bible and six oranges.

TARLETON. I understand the oranges: shes doing an orange cure of
some sort. But what on earth does she want the Bible for?

MRS TARLETON. I'm sure I cant imagine. She cant be right in her
head.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Perhaps she wants to read it.

MRS TARLETON. But why should she, on a weekday, at all events. What
would you advise me to do, Lord Summerhays?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Well, is there a Bible in the house?

TARLETON. Stacks of em. Theres the family Bible, and the Dore Bible,
and the parallel revised version Bible, and the Doves Press Bible, and
Johnny's Bible and Bobby's Bible and Patsy's Bible, and the
Chickabiddy's Bible and my Bible; and I daresay the servants could
raise a few more between them. Let her have the lot.

MRS TARLETON. Dont talk like that before Lord Summerhays, John.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. It doesnt matter, Mrs Tarleton: in Jinghiskahn it
was a punishable offence to expose a Bible for sale. The empire has
no religion.

_Lina comes in. She has left her cap in Hypatia's room. She stops on
the landing just inside the door, and speaks over the handrail._

LINA. Oh, Mrs Tarleton, shall I be making myself very troublesome if
I ask for a music-stand in my room as well?

TARLETON. Not at all. You can have the piano if you like. Or the
gramophone. Have the gramophone.

LINA. No, thank you: no music.

MRS TARLETON. _[going to the steps]_ Do you think it's good for you
to eat so many oranges? Arnt you afraid of getting jaundice?

LINA. _[coming down]_ Not in the least. But billiard balls will do
quite as well.

MRS TARLETON. But you cant eat billiard balls, child!

TARLETON. Get em, Chickabiddy. I understand. _[He imitates a
juggler tossing up balls]._ Eh?

LINA. _[going to him, past his wife]_ Just so.

TARLETON. Billiard balls and cues. Plates, knives, and forks. Two
paraffin lamps and a hatstand.

LINA. No: that is popular low-class business. In our family we
touch nothing but classical work. Anybody can do lamps and hatstands.
_I_ can do silver bullets. That is really hard. _[She passes on to
Lord Summerhays, and looks gravely down at him as he sits by the
writing table]._

MRS TARLETON. Well, I'm sure I dont know what youre talking about;
and I only hope you know yourselves. However, you shall have what you
want, of course. _[She goes up the steps and leaves the room]._

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Will you forgive my curiosity? What is the Bible
for?

LINA. To quiet my soul.

LORD SUMMERHAYS _[with a sigh]_ Ah yes, yes. It no longer quiets
mine, I am sorry to say.

LINA. That is because you do not know how to read it. Put it up
before you on a stand; and open it at the Psalms. When you can read
them and understand them, quite quietly and happily, and keep six
balls in the air all the time, you are in perfect condition; and youll
never make a mistake that evening. If you find you cant do that, then
go and pray until you can. And be very careful that evening.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Is that the usual form of test in your profession?

LINA. Nothing that we Szczepanowskis do is usual, my lord.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Are you all so wonderful?

LINA. It is our profession to be wonderful.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Do you never condescend to do as common people do?
For instance, do you not pray as common people pray?

LINA. Common people do not pray, my lord: they only beg.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. You never ask for anything?

LINA. No.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Then why do you pray?

LINA. To remind myself that I have a soul.

TARLETON. _[walking about]_ True. Fine. Good. Beautiful. All
this damned materialism: what good is it to anybody? Ive got a soul:
dont tell me I havnt. Cut me up and you cant find it. Cut up a steam
engine and you cant find the steam. But, by George, it makes the
engine go. Say what you will, Summerhays, the divine spark is a fact.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Have I denied it?

TARLETON. Our whole civilization is a denial of it. Read Walt
Whitman.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. I shall go to the billiard room and get the balls
for you.

LINA. Thank you.

_Lord Summerhays goes out through the vestibule door._

TARLETON. _[going to her]_ Listen to me. _[She turns quickly]._
What you said just now was beautiful. You touch chords. You appeal
to the poetry in a man. You inspire him. Come now! Youre a woman of
the world: youre independent: you must have driven lots of men
crazy. You know the sort of man I am, dont you? See through me at a
glance, eh?

LINA. Yes. _[She sits down quietly in the chair Lord Summerhays has
just left]._

TARLETON. Good. Well, do you like me? Dont misunderstand me: I'm
perfectly aware that youre not going to fall in love at first sight
with a ridiculous old shopkeeper. I cant help that ridiculous old
shopkeeper. I have to carry him about with me whether I like it or
not. I have to pay for his clothes, though I hate the cut of them:
especially the waistcoat. I have to look at him in the glass while
I'm shaving. I loathe him because hes a living lie. My soul's not
like that: it's like yours. I want to make a fool of myself. About
you. Will you let me?

LINA. _[very calm]_ How much will you pay?

TARLETON. Nothing. But I'll throw as many sovereigns as you like
into the sea to shew you that I'm in earnest.

LINA. Are those your usual terms?

TARLETON. No. I never made that bid before.

LINA. _[producing a dainty little book and preparing to write in it]_
What did you say your name was?

TARLETON. John Tarleton. The great John Tarleton of Tarleton's
Underwear.

LINA. _[writing]_ T-a-r-l-e-t-o-n. Er--? _[She looks up at him
inquiringly]._

TARLETON. _[promptly]_ Fifty-eight.

LINA. Thank you. I keep a list of all my offers. I like to know
what I'm considered worth.

TARLETON. Let me look.

LINA. _[offering the book to him]_ It's in Polish.

TARLETON. Thats no good. Is mine the lowest offer?

LINA. No: the highest.

TARLETON. What do most of them come to? Diamonds? Motor cars?
Furs? Villa at Monte Carlo?

LINA. Oh yes: all that. And sometimes the devotion of a lifetime.

TARLETON. Fancy that! A young man offering a woman his old age as a
temptation!

LINA. By the way, you did not say how long.

TARLETON. Until you get tired of me.

LINA. Or until you get tired of me?

TARLETON. I never get tired. I never go on long enough for that.
But when it becomes so grand, so inspiring that I feel that everything
must be an anti-climax after that, then I run away.

LINA. Does she let you go without a struggle?

TARLETON. Yes. Glad to get rid of me. When love takes a man as it
takes me--when it makes him great--it frightens a woman.

LINA. The lady here is your wife, isnt she? Dont you care for her?

TARLETON. Yes. And mind! she comes first always. I reserve her
dignity even when I sacrifice my own. Youll respect that point of
honor, wont you?

LINA. Only a point of honor?

TARLETON. _[impulsively]_ No, by God! a point of affection as well.

LINA. _[smiling, pleased with him]_ Shake hands, old pal _[she rises
and offers him her hand frankly]._

TARLETON. _[giving his hand rather dolefully]_ Thanks. That means
no, doesnt it?

LINA. It means something that will last longer than yes. I like you.
I admit you to my friendship. What a pity you were not trained when
you were young! Youd be young still.

TARLETON. I suppose, to an athlete like you, I'm pretty awful, eh?

LINA. Shocking.

TARLETON. Too much crumb. Wrinkles. Yellow patches that wont come
off. Short wind. I know. I'm ashamed of myself. I could do nothing
on the high rope.

LINA. Oh yes: I could put you in a wheelbarrow and run you along,
two hundred feet up.

TARLETON. _[shuddering]_ Ugh! Well, I'd do even that for you. Read
The Master Builder.

LINA. Have you learnt everything from books?

TARLETON. Well, have you learnt everything from the flying trapeze?

LINA. On the flying trapeze there is often another woman; and her
life is in your hands every night and your life in hers.

TARLETON. Lina: I'm going to make a fool of myself. I'm going to
cry _[he crumples into the nearest chair]._

LINA. Pray instead: dont cry. Why should you cry? Youre not the
first I've said no to.

TARLETON. If you had said yes, should I have been the first then?

LINA. What right have you to ask? Have I asked am _I_ the first?

TARLETON. Youre right: a vulgar question. To a man like me,
everybody is the first. Life renews itself.

LINA. The youngest child is the sweetest.

TARLETON. Dont probe too deep, Lina. It hurts.

LINA. You must get out of the habit of thinking that these things
matter so much. It's linendraperish.

TARLETON. Youre quite right. Ive often said so. All the same, it
does matter; for I want to cry. _[He buries his face in his arms on
the work-table and sobs]._

LINA. _[going to him]_ O la la! _[She slaps him vigorously, but not
unkindly, on the shoulder]._ Courage, old pal, courage! Have you a
gymnasium here?

TARLETON. Theres a trapeze and bars and things in the billiard room.

LINA. Come. You need a few exercises. I'll teach you how to stop
crying. _[She takes his arm and leads him off into the vestibule]._

_A young man, cheaply dressed and strange in manner, appears in the
garden; steals to the pavilion door; and looks in. Seeing that there
is nobody, he enters cautiously until he has come far enough to see
into the hatstand corner. He draws a revolver, and examines it,
apparently to make sure that it is loaded. Then his attention is
caught by the Turkish bath. He looks down the lunette, and opens the
panels._

HYPATIA. _[calling in the garden]_ Mr Percival! Mr Percival! Where
are you?

_The young man makes for the door, but sees Percival coming. He turns
and bolts into the Turkish bath, which he closes upon himself just in
time to escape being caught by Percival, who runs in through the
pavilion, bareheaded. He also, it appears, is in search of a
hiding-place; for he stops and turns between the two tables to take a
survey of the room; then runs into the corner between the end of the
sideboard and the wall. Hypatia, excited, mischievous, her eyes
glowing, runs in, precisely on his trail; turns at the same spot; and
discovers him just as he makes a dash for the pavilion door. She
flies back and intercepts him._

HYPATIA. Aha! arnt you glad Ive caught you?

PERCIVAL. _[illhumoredly turning away from her and coming towards the
writing table]_ No I'm not. Confound it, what sort of girl are you?
What sort of house is this? Must I throw all good manners to the
winds?

HYPATIA. _[following him]_ Do, do, do, do, do. This is the house of
a respectable shopkeeper, enormously rich. This is the respectable
shopkeeper's daughter, tired of good manners. _[Slipping her left
hand into his right]_ Come, handsome young man, and play with the
respectable shopkeeper's daughter.

PERCIVAL. _[withdrawing quickly from her touch]_ No, no: dont you
know you mustnt go on like this with a perfect stranger?

HYPATIA. Dropped down from the sky. Dont you know that you must
always go on like this when you get the chance? You must come to the
top of the hill and chase me through the bracken. You may kiss me if
you catch me.

PERCIVAL. I shall do nothing of the sort.

HYPATIA. Yes you will: you cant help yourself. Come along. _[She
seizes his sleeve]._ Fool, fool: come along. Dont you want to?

PERCIVAL. No: certainly not. I should never be forgiven if I did
it.

HYPATIA. Youll never forgive yourself if you dont.

PERCIVAL. Nonsense. Youre engaged to Ben. Ben's my friend. What do
you take me for?

HYPATIA. Ben's old. Ben was born old. Theyre all old here, except
you and me and the man-woman or woman-man or whatever you call her
that came with you. They never do anything: they only discuss
whether what other people do is right. Come and give them something
to discuss.

PERCIVAL. I will do nothing incorrect.

HYPATIA. Oh, dont be afraid, little boy: youll get nothing but a
kiss; and I'll fight like the devil to keep you from getting that.
But we must play on the hill and race through the heather.

PERCIVAL. Why?

HYPATIA. Because we want to, handsome young man.

PERCIVAL. But if everybody went on in this way--

HYPATIA. How happy! oh how happy the world would be!

PERCIVAL. But the consequences may be serious.

HYPATIA. Nothing is worth doing unless the consequences may be
serious. My father says so; and I'm my father's daughter.

PERCIVAL. I'm the son of three fathers. I mistrust these wild
impulses.

HYPATIA. Take care. Youre letting the moment slip. I feel the first
chill of the wave of prudence. Save me.

PERCIVAL. Really, Miss Tarleton _[she strikes him across the face]_
--Damn you! _[Recovering himself, horrified at his lapse]_ I beg
your pardon; but since weve both forgotten ourselves, youll please
allow me to leave the house. _[He turns towards the inner door,
having left his cap in the bedroom]._

HYPATIA. _[standing in his way]_ Are you ashamed of having said
"Damn you" to me?

PERCIVAL. I had no right to say it. I'm very much ashamed of it. I
have already begged your pardon.

HYPATIA. And youre not ashamed of having said "Really, Miss
Tarleton."

PERCIVAL. Why should I?

HYPATIA. O man, man! mean, stupid, cowardly, selfish masculine male
man! You ought to have been a governess. I was expelled from school
for saying that the very next person that said "Really, Miss
Tarleton," to me, I would strike her across the face. You were the
next.

PERCIVAL. I had no intention of being offensive. Surely there is
nothing that can wound any lady in--_[He hesitates, not quite
convinced]._ At least--er--I really didnt mean to be disagreeable.

HYPATIA. Liar.

PERCIVAL. Of course if youre going to insult me, I am quite helpless.
Youre a woman: you can say what you like.

HYPATIA. And you can only say what you dare. Poor wretch: it isnt
much. _[He bites his lip, and sits down, very much annoyed]._
Really, Mr Percival! You sit down in the presence of a lady and leave
her standing. _[He rises hastily]._ Ha, ha! Really, Mr Percival!
Oh really, really, really, really, really, Mr Percival! How do you
like it? Wouldnt you rather I damned you?

PERCIVAL. Miss Tarleton--

HYPATIA. _[caressingly]_ Hypatia, Joey. Patsy, if you like.

PERCIVAL. Look here: this is no good. You want to do what you like?

HYPATIA. Dont you?

PERCIVAL. No. Ive been too well brought up. Ive argued all through
this thing; and I tell you I'm not prepared to cast off the social
bond. It's like a corset: it's a support to the figure even if it
does squeeze and deform it a bit. I want to be free.

HYPATIA. Well, I'm tempting you to be free.

PERCIVAL. Not at all. Freedom, my good girl, means being able to
count on how other people will behave. If every man who dislikes me
is to throw a handful of mud in my face, and every woman who likes me
is to behave like Potiphar's wife, then I shall be a slave: the slave
of uncertainty: the slave of fear: the worst of all slaveries. How
would you like it if every laborer you met in the road were to make
love to you? No. Give me the blessed protection of a good stiff
conventionality among thoroughly well-brought up ladies and gentlemen.

HYPATIA. Another talker! Men like conventions because men made them.
I didnt make them: I dont like them: I wont keep them. Now, what
will you do?

PERCIVAL. Bolt. _[He runs out through the pavilion]._

HYPATIA. I'll catch you. _[She dashes off in pursuit]._

_During this conversation the head of the scandalized man in the
Turkish bath has repeatedly risen from the lunette, with a strong
expression of moral shock. It vanishes abruptly as the two turn
towards it in their flight. At the same moment Tarleton comes back
through the vestibule door, exhausted by severe and unaccustomed
exercise._

TARLETON. _[looking after the flying figures with amazement]_ Hallo,
Patsy: whats up? Another aeroplane? _[They are far too preoccupied
to hear him; and he is left staring after them as they rush away
through the garden. He goes to the pavilion door and looks up; but
the heavens are empty. His exhaustion disables him from further
inquiry. He dabs his brow with his handkerchief, and walks stiffly to
the nearest convenient support, which happens to be the Turkish bath.
He props himself upon it with his elbow, and covers his eyes with his
hand for a moment. After a few sighing breaths, he feels a little
better, and uncovers his eyes. The man's head rises from the lunette
a few inches from his nose. He recoils from the bath with a violent
start]._ Oh Lord! My brain's gone. _[Calling piteously]_
Chickabiddy! _[He staggers down to the writing table]._

THE MAN. _[coming out of the bath, pistol in hand]_ Another sound;
and youre a dead man.

TARLETON. _[braced]_ Am I? Well, youre a live one: thats one
comfort. I thought you were a ghost. _[He sits down, quite
undisturbed by the pistol]_ Who are you; and what the devil were you
doing in my new Turkish bath?

THE MAN. _[with tragic intensity]_ I am the son of Lucinda Titmus.

TARLETON. _[the name conveying nothing to him]_ Indeed? And how is
she? Quite well, I hope, eh?

THE MAN. She is dead. Dead, my God! and youre alive.

TARLETON. _[unimpressed by the tragedy, but sympathetic]_ Oh! Lost
your mother? Thats sad. I'm sorry. But we cant all have the luck to
survive our mothers, and be nursed out of the world by the hands that
nursed us into it.

THE MAN. Much you care, damn you!

TARLETON. Oh, dont cut up rough. Face it like a man. You see I
didnt know your mother; but Ive no doubt she was an excellent woman.

THE MAN. Not know her! Do you dare to stand there by her open grave
and deny that you knew her?

TARLETON. _[trying to recollect]_ What did you say her name was?

THE MAN. Lucinda Titmus.

TARLETON. Well, I ought to remember a rum name like that if I ever
heard it. But I dont. Have you a photograph or anything?

THE MAN. Forgotten even the name of your victim!

TARLETON. Oh! she was my victim, was she?

THE MAN. She was. And you shall see her face again before you die,
dead as she is. I have a photograph.

TARLETON. Good.

THE MAN. Ive two photographs.

TARLETON. Still better. Treasure the mother's pictures. Good boy!

THE MAN. One of them as you knew her. The other as she became when
you flung her aside, and she withered into an old woman.

TARLETON. She'd have done that anyhow, my lad. We all grow old.
Look at me! _[Seeing that the man is embarrassed by his pistol in
fumbling for the photographs with his left hand in his breast pocket]_
Let me hold the gun for you.

THE MAN. _[retreating to the worktable]_ Stand back. Do you take me
for a fool?

TARLETON. Well, youre a little upset, naturally. It does you credit.

THE MAN. Look here, upon this picture and on this. _[He holds out
the two photographs like a hand at cards, and points to them with the
pistol]._

TARLETON. Good. Read Shakespear: he has a word for every occasion.
_[He takes the photographs, one in each hand, and looks from one to
the other, pleased and interested, but without any sign of
recognition]_ What a pretty girl! Very pretty. I can imagine myself
falling in love with her when I was your age. I wasnt a bad-looking
young fellow myself in those days. _[Looking at the other]_ Curious
that we should both have gone the same way.

THE MAN. You and she the same way! What do you mean?

TARLETON. Both got stout, I mean.

THE MAN. Would you have had her deny herself food?

TARLETON. No: it wouldnt have been any use. It's constitutional.
No matter how little you eat you put on flesh if youre made that way.
_[He resumes his study of the earlier photograph]._

THE MAN. Is that all the feeling that rises in you at the sight of
the face you once knew so well?

TARLETON. _[too much absorbed in the portrait to heed him]_ Funny
that I cant remember! Let this be a lesson to you, young man. I
could go into court tomorrow and swear I never saw that face before in
my life if it wasnt for that brooch _[pointing to the photograph]._
Have you got that brooch, by the way? _[The man again resorts to his
breast pocket]._ You seem to carry the whole family property in that
pocket.

THE MAN. _[producing a brooch]_ Here it is to prove my bona fides.

TARLETON. _[pensively putting the photographs on the table and taking
the brooch]_ I bought that brooch in Cheapside from a man with a
yellow wig and a cast in his left eye. Ive never set eyes on him from
that day to this. And yet I remember that man; and I cant remember
your mother.

THE MAN. Monster! Without conscience! without even memory! You left
her to her shame--

TARLETON. _[throwing the brooch on the table and rising pepperily]_
Come, come, young man! none of that. Respect the romance of your
mother's youth. Dont you start throwing stones at her. I dont recall
her features just at this moment; but Ive no doubt she was kind to me
and we were happy together. If you have a word to say against her,
take yourself out of my house and say it elsewhere.

THE MAN. What sort of a joker are you? Are you trying to put me in
the wrong, when you have to answer to me for a crime that would make
every honest man spit at you as you passed in the street if I were to
make it known?

TARLETON. You read a good deal, dont you?

THE MAN. What if I do? What has that to do with your infamy and my
mother's doom?

TARLETON. There, you see! Doom! Thats not good sense; but it's
literature. Now it happens that I'm a tremendous reader: always was.
When I was your age I read books of that sort by the bushel: the Doom
sort, you know. It's odd, isnt it, that you and I should be like one
another in that respect? Can you account for it in any way?

THE MAN. No. What are you driving at?

TARLETON. Well, do you know who your father was?

THE MAN. I see what you mean now. You dare set up to be my father.
Thank heaven Ive not a drop of your vile blood in my veins.

TARLETON. _[sitting down again with a shrug]_ Well, if you wont be
civil, theres no pleasure in talking to you, is there? What do you
want? Money?

THE MAN. How dare you insult me?

TARLETON. Well, what do you want?

THE MAN. Justice.

TARLETON. Youre quite sure thats all?

THE MAN. It's enough for me.

TARLETON. A modest sort of demand, isnt it? Nobody ever had it since
the world began, fortunately for themselves; but you must have it,
must you? Well, youve come to the wrong shop for it: youll get no
justice here: we dont keep it. Human nature is what we stock.

THE MAN. Human nature! Debauchery! gluttony! selfishness! robbery of
the poor! Is that what you call human nature?

TARLETON. No: thats what you call it. Come, my lad! Whats the
matter with you? You dont look starved; and youve a decent suit of
clothes.

THE MAN. Forty-two shillings.

TARLETON. They can do you a very decent suit for forty-two shillings.
Have you paid for it?

THE MAN. Do you take me for a thief? And do you suppose I can get
credit like you?

TARLETON. Then you were able to lay your hand on forty-two shillings.
Judging from your conversational style, I should think you must spend
at least a shilling a week on romantic literature.

THE MAN. Where would I get a shilling a week to spend on books when I
can hardly keep myself decent? I get books at the Free Library.

TARLETON _[springing to his feet]_ What!!!

THE MAN. _[recoiling before his vehemence]_ The Free Library.
Theres no harm in that.

TARLETON. Ingrate! I supply you with free books; and the use you
make of them is to persuade yourself that it's a fine thing to shoot
me. _[He throws himself doggedly back into his chair]._ I'll never
give another penny to a Free Library.

THE MAN. Youll never give another penny to anything. This is the
end: for you and me.

TARLETON. Pooh! Come, come, man! talk business. Whats wrong? Are
you out of employment?

THE MAN. No. This is my Saturday afternoon. Dont flatter yourself
that I'm a loafer or a criminal. I'm a cashier; and I defy you to say
that my cash has ever been a farthing wrong. Ive a right to call you
to account because my hands are clean.

TARLETON. Well, call away. What have I to account for? Had you a
hard time with your mother? Why didnt she ask me for money?

THE MAN. She'd have died first. Besides, who wanted your money? Do
you suppose we lived in the gutter? My father maynt have been in as
large a way as you; but he was better connected; and his shop was as
respectable as yours.

TARLETON. I suppose your mother brought him a little capital.

THE MAN. I dont know. Whats that got to do with you?

TARLETON. Well, you say she and I knew one another and parted. She
must have had something off me then, you know. One doesnt get out of
these things for nothing. Hang it, young man: do you suppose Ive no
heart? Of course she had her due; and she found a husband with it,
and set him up in business with it, and brought you up respectably; so
what the devil have you to complain of?

THE MAN. Are women to be ruined with impunity?

TARLETON. I havnt ruined any woman that I'm aware of. Ive been the
making of you and your mother.

THE MAN. Oh, I'm a fool to listen to you and argue with you. I came
here to kill you and then kill myself.

TARLETON. Begin with yourself, if you dont mind. Ive a good deal of
business to do still before I die. Havnt you?

THE MAN. No. Thats just it: Ive no business to do. Do you know
what my life is? I spend my days from nine to six--nine hours of
daylight and fresh air--in a stuffy little den counting another man's
money. Ive an intellect: a mind and a brain and a soul; and the use
he makes of them is to fix them on his tuppences and his
eighteenpences and his two pound seventeen and tenpences and see how
much they come to at the end of the day and take care that no one
steals them. I enter and enter, and add and add, and take money and
give change, and fill cheques and stamp receipts; and not a penny of
that money is my own: not one of those transactions has the smallest
interest for me or anyone else in the world but him; and even he
couldnt stand it if he had to do it all himself. And I'm envied:
aye, envied for the variety and liveliness of my job, by the poor
devil of a bookkeeper that has to copy all my entries over again.
Fifty thousand entries a year that poor wretch makes; and not ten out
of the fifty thousand ever has to be referred to again; and when all
the figures are counted up and the balance sheet made out, the boss
isnt a penny the richer than he'd be if bookkeeping had never been
invented. Of all the damnable waste of human life that ever was
invented, clerking is the very worst.

TARLETON. Why not join the territorials?

THE MAN. Because I shouldnt be let. He hasnt even the sense to see
that it would pay him to get some cheap soldiering out of me. How can
a man tied to a desk from nine to six be anything--be even a man, let
alone a soldier? But I'll teach him and you a lesson. Ive had enough
of living a dog's life and despising myself for it. Ive had enough of
being talked down to by hogs like you, and wearing my life out for a
salary that wouldut keep you in cigars. Youll never believe that a
clerk's a man until one of us makes an example of one of you.

TARLETON. Despotism tempered by assassination, eh?

THE MAN. Yes. Thats what they do in Russia. Well, a business office
is Russia as far as the clerks are concerned. So dont you take it so
coolly. You think I'm not going to do it; but I am.

TARLETON. _[rising and facing him]_ Come, now, as man to man! It's
not my fault that youre poorer than I am; and it's not your fault that
I'm richer than you. And if you could undo all that passed between me
and your mother, you wouldnt undo it; and neither would she. But
youre sick of your slavery; and you want to be the hero of a romance
and to get into the papers. Eh? A son revenges his mother's shame.
Villain weltering in his gore. Mother: look down from heaven and
receive your unhappy son's last sigh.

THE MAN. Oh, rot! do you think I read novelettes? And do you suppose
I believe such superstitions as heaven? I go to church because the
boss told me I'd get the sack if I didnt. Free England! Ha! _[Lina
appears at the pavilion door, and comes swiftly and noiselessly
forward on seeing the man with a pistol in his hand]._

TARLETON. Youre afraid of getting the sack; but youre not afraid to
shoot yourself.

THE MAN. Damn you! youre trying to keep me talking until somebody
comes. _[He raises the pistol desperately, but not very resolutely]._

LINA. _[at his right elbow]_ Somebody has come.

THE MAN _[turning on her]_ Stand off. I'll shoot you if you lay a
hand on me. I will, by God.

LINA. You cant cover me with that pistol. Try.

_He tries, presenting the pistol at her face. She moves round him in
the opposite direction to the hands of a clock with a light dancing
step. He finds it impossible to cover her with the pistol: she is
always too far to his left. Tarleton, behind him, grips his wrist and
drags his arm straight up, so that the pistol points to the ceiling.
As he tries to turn on his assailant, Lina grips his other wrist._

LINA. Please stop. I cant bear to twist anyone's wrist; but I must
if you dont let the pistol go.

THE MAN. _[letting Tarleton take it from him]_ All right: I'm done.
Couldnt even do that job decently. Thats a clerk all over. Very
well: send for your damned police and make an end of it. I'm
accustomed to prison from nine to six: I daresay I can stand it from
six to nine as well.

TARLETON. Dont swear. Thats a lady. _[He throws the pistol on the
writing table]._

THE MAN. _[looking at Lina in amazement]_ Beaten by a female! It
needed only this. _[He collapses in the chair near the worktable, and
hides his face. They cannot help pitying him]._

LINA. Old pal: dont call the police. Lend him a bicycle and let him
get away.

THE MAN. I cant ride a bicycle. I never could afford one. I'm not
even that much good.

TARLETON. If I gave you a hundred pound note now to go and have a
good spree with, I wonder would you know how to set about it. Do you
ever take a holiday?

THE MAN. Take! I got four days last August.

TARLETON. What did you do?

THE MAN. I did a cheap trip to Folkestone. I spent sevenpence on
dropping pennies into silly automatic machines and peepshows of rowdy
girls having a jolly time. I spent a penny on the lift and fourpence
on refreshments. That cleaned me out. The rest of the time I was so
miserable that I was glad to get back to the office. Now you know.

LINA. Come to the gymnasium: I'll teach you how to make a man of
yourself. _[The man is about to rise irresolutely, from the mere
habit of doing what he is told, when Tarleton stops him]._

TARLETON. Young man: dont. Youve tried to shoot me; but I'm not
vindictive. I draw the line at putting a man on the rack. If you
want every joint in your body stretched until it's an agony to
live--until you have an unnatural feeling that all your muscles are
singing and laughing with pain--then go to the gymnasium with that
lady. But youll be more comfortable in jail.

LINA. _[greatly amused]_ Was that why you went away, old pal? Was
that the telegram you said you had forgotten to send?

_Mrs Tarleton comes in hastily through the inner door._

MRS TARLETON. _[on the steps]_ Is anything the matter, John? Nurse
says she heard you calling me a quarter of an hour ago; and that your
voice sounded as if you were ill. _[She comes between Tarleton and
the man.]_ Is anything the matter?

TARLETON. This is the son of an old friend of mine. Mr--er--Mr
Gunner. _[To the man, who rises awkwardly]._ My wife.

MRS TARLETON. Good evening to you.

GUNNER. Er-- _[He is too nervous to speak, and makes a shambling
bow]._

_Bentley looks in at the pavilion door, very peevish, and too
preoccupied with his own affairs to pay any attention to those of the
company._

BENTLEY. I say: has anybody seen Hypatia? She promised to come out
with me; and I cant find her anywhere. And wheres Joey?

GUNNER. _[suddenly breaking out aggressively, being incapable of any
middle way between submissiveness and violence]_ _I_ can tell you
where Hypatia is. I can tell you where Joey is. And I say it's a
scandal and an infamy. If people only knew what goes on in this
so-called respectable house it would be put a stop to. These are the
morals of our pious capitalist class! This is your rotten
bourgeoisie! This!--

MRS TARLETON. Dont you dare use such language in company. I wont
allow it.

TARLETON. All right, Chickabiddy: it's not bad language: it's only
Socialism.

MRS TARLETON. Well, I wont have any Socialism in my house.

TARLETON. _[to Gunner]_ You hear what Mrs Tarleton says. Well, in
this house everybody does what she says or out they go.

GUNNER. Do you suppose I want to stay? Do you think I would breathe
this polluted atmosphere a moment longer than I could help?

BENTLEY. _[running forward between Lina and Gunner]_ But what did
you mean by what you said about Miss Tarleton and Mr Percival, you
beastly rotter, you?

GUNNER. _[to Tarleton]_ Oh! is Hypatia your daughter? And Joey is
Mister Percival, is he? One of your set, I suppose. One of the smart
set! One of the bridge-playing, eighty-horse-power, week-ender set!
One of the johnnies I slave for! Well, Joey has more decency than
your daughter, anyhow. The women are the worst. I never believed it
til I saw it with my own eyes. Well, it wont last for ever. The
writing is on the wall. Rome fell. Babylon fell. Hindhead's turn
will come.

MRS TARLETON. _[naively looking at the wall for the writing]_
Whatever are you talking about, young man?

GUNNER. I know what I'm talking about. I went into that Turkish bath
a boy: I came out a man.

MRS TARLETON. Good gracious! hes mad. _[To Lina]_ Did John make him
take a Turkish bath?

LINA. No. He doesnt need Turkish baths: he needs to put on a little
flesh. I dont understand what it's all about. I found him trying to
shoot Mr Tarleton.

MRS TARLETON. _[with a scream]_ Oh! and John encouraging him, I'll
be bound! Bunny: you go for the police. _[To Gunner]_ I'll teach
you to come into my house and shoot my husband.

GUNNER. Teach away. I never asked to be let off. I'm ashamed to be
free instead of taking my part with the rest. Women--beautiful women
of noble birth--are going to prison for their opinions. Girl students
in Russia go to the gallows; let themselves be cut in pieces with the
knout, or driven through the frozen snows of Siberia, sooner than
stand looking on tamely at the world being made a hell for the toiling
millions. If you were not all skunks and cowards youd be suffering
with them instead of battening here on the plunder of the poor.

MRS TARLETON. _[much vexed]_ Oh, did you ever hear such silly
nonsense? Bunny: go and tell the gardener to send over one of his
men to Grayshott for the police.

GUNNER. I'll go with him. I intend to give myself up. I'm going to
expose what Ive seen here, no matter what the consequences may be to
my miserable self.

TARLETON. Stop. You stay where you are, Ben. Chickabiddy: youve
never had the police in. If you had, youd not be in a hurry to have
them in again. Now, young man: cut the cackle; and tell us, as short
as you can, what did you see?

GUNNER. I cant tell you in the presence of ladies.

MRS TARLETON. Oh, you are tiresome. As if it mattered to anyone what
you saw. Me! A married woman that might be your mother. _[To Lina]_
And I'm sure youre not particular, if youll excuse my saying so.

TARLETON. Out with it. What did you see?

GUNNER. I saw your daughter with my own eyes--oh well, never mind
what I saw.

BENTLEY. _[almost crying with anxiety]_ You beastly rotter, I'll get
Joey to give you such a hiding--

TARLETON. You cant leave it at that, you know. What did you see my
daughter doing?

GUNNER. After all, why shouldnt she do it? The Russian students do
it. Women should be as free as men. I'm a fool. I'm so full of your
bourgeois morality that I let myself be shocked by the application of
my own revolutionary principles. If she likes the man why shouldnt
she tell him so?

MRS TARLETON. I do wonder at you, John, letting him talk like this
before everybody. _[Turning rather tartly to Lina]_ Would you mind
going away to the drawing-room just for a few minutes, Miss
Chipenoska. This is a private family matter, if you dont mind.

LINA. I should have gone before, Mrs Tarleton, if there had been
anyone to protect Mr Tarleton and the young gentleman.

TARLETON. Youre quite right, Miss Lina: you must stand by. I could
have tackled him this morning; but since you put me through those
exercises I'd rather die than even shake hands with a man, much less
fight him.

GUNNER. It's all of a piece here. The men effeminate, the women
unsexed--

TARLETON. Dont begin again, old chap. Keep it for Trafalgar Square.

HYPATIA'S VOICE OUTSIDE. No, no. _[She breaks off in a stifled half
laugh, half scream, and is seen darting across the garden with
Percival in hot pursuit. Immediately afterwards she appears again,
and runs into the pavilion. Finding it full of people, including a
stranger, she stops; but Percival, flushed and reckless, rushes in and
seizes her before he, too, realizes that they are not alone. He
releases her in confusion]._

_Dead silence. They are all afraid to look at one another except Mrs
Tarleton, who stares sternly at Hypatia. Hypatia is the first to
recover her presence of mind._

HYPATIA. Excuse me rushing in like this. Mr Percival has been
chasing me down the hill.

GUNNER. Who chased him up it? Dont be ashamed. Be fearless. Be
truthful.

TARLETON. Gunner: will you go to Paris for a fortnight? I'll pay
your expenses.

HYPATIA. What do you mean?

GUNNER. There was a silent witness in the Turkish bath.

TARLETON. I found him hiding there. Whatever went on here, he saw
and heard. Thats what he means.

PERCIVAL. _[sternly approaching Gunner, and speaking with deep but
contained indignation]_ Am I to understand you as daring to put
forward the monstrous and blackguardly lie that this lady behaved
improperly in my presence?

GUNNER. _[turning white]_ You know what I saw and heard.

_Hypatia, with a gleam of triumph in her eyes, slips noiselessly into
the swing chair, and watches Percival and Gunner, swinging slightly,
but otherwise motionless._

PERCIVAL. I hope it is not necessary for me to assure you all that
there is not one word of truth--not one grain of substance--in this
rascally calumny, which no man with a spark of decent feeling would
have uttered even if he had been ignorant enough to believe it. Miss
Tarleton's conduct, since I have had the honor of knowing her, has
been, I need hardly say, in every respect beyond reproach. _[To
Gunner]_ As for you, sir, youll have the goodness to come out with me
immediately. I have some business with you which cant be settled in
Mrs Tarleton's presence or in her house.

GUNNER. _[painfully frightened]_ Why should I go out with you?

PERCIVAL. Because I intend that you shall.

GUNNER. I wont be bullied by you. _[Percival makes a threatening
step towards him]._ Police! _[He tries to bolt; but Percival seizes
him]._ Leave me go, will you? What right have you to lay hands on
me?

TARLETON. Let him run for it, Mr Percival. Hes very poor company.
We shall be well rid of him. Let him go.

PERCIVAL. Not until he has taken back and made the fullest apology
for the abominable lie he has told. He shall do that or he shall
defend himself as best he can against the most thorough thrashing I'm
capable of giving him. _[Releasing Gunner, but facing him ominously]_
Take your choice. Which is it to be?

GUNNER. Give me a fair chance. Go and stick at a desk from nine to
six for a month, and let me have your grub and your sport and your
lessons in boxing, and I'll fight you fast enough. You know I'm no
good or you darent bully me like this.

PERCIVAL. You should have thought of that before you attacked a lady
with a dastardly slander. I'm waiting for your decision. I'm rather
in a hurry, please.

GUNNER. I never said anything against the lady.

MRS TARLETON. | Oh, listen to that!
|
BENTLEY. | What a liar!
|
HYPATIA. | Oh!
|
TARLETON. | Oh, come!

PERCIVAL. We'll have it in writing, if you dont mind. _[Pointing to
the writing table]_ Sit down; and take that pen in your hand.
_[Gunner looks irresolutely a little way round; then obeys]._ Now
write. "I," whatever your name is--

GUNNER _[after a vain attempt]_ I cant. My hand's shaking too much.
You see it's no use. I'm doing my best. I cant.

PERCIVAL. Mr Summerhays will write it: you can sign it.

BENTLEY. _[insolently to Gunner]_ Get up. _[Gunner obeys; and
Bentley, shouldering him aside towards Percival, takes his place and
prepares to write]._

PERCIVAL. Whats your name?

GUNNER. John Brown.

TARLETON. Oh come! Couldnt you make it Horace Smith? or Algernon
Robinson?

GUNNER. _[agitatedly]_ But my name is John Brown. There are really
John Browns. How can I help it if my name's a common one?

BENTLEY. Shew us a letter addressed to you.

GUNNER. How can I? I never get any letters: I'm only a clerk. I
can shew you J. B. on my handkerchief. _[He takes out a not very
clean one]._

BENTLEY. _[with disgust]_ Oh, put it up again. Let it go at John
Brown.

PERCIVAL. Where do you live?

GUNNER. 4 Chesterfield Parade, Kentish Town, N.W.

PERCIVAL. _[dictating]_ I, John Brown, of 4 Chesterfield Parade,
Kentish Town, do hereby voluntarily confess that on the 31st May 1909
I-- _[To Tarleton]_ What did he do exactly?

TARLETON. _[dictating]_ --I trespassed on the land of John Tarleton
at Hindhead, and effected an unlawful entry into his house, where I
secreted myself in a portable Turkish bath--

BENTLEY. Go slow, old man. Just a moment. "Turkish bath"--yes?

TARLETON. _[continuing]_ --with a pistol, with which I threatened to
take the life of the said John Tarleton--

MRS TARLETON. Oh, John! You might have been killed.

TARLETON. --and was prevented from doing so only by the timely
arrival of the celebrated Miss Lina Szczepanowska.

MRS TARLETON. Is she celebrated? _[Apologetically]_ I never
dreamt--

BENTLEY. Look here: I'm awfully sorry; but I cant spell
Szczepanowska.

PERCIVAL. I think it's S, z, c, z-- _[Lina gives him her
visiting-card]._ Thank you. _[He throws it on Bentley's blotter]._

BENTLEY. Thanks awfully. _[He writes the name]._

TARLETON. _[to Percival]_ Now it's your turn.

PERCIVAL. _[dictating]_ I further confess that I was guilty of
uttering an abominable calumny concerning Miss Hypatia Tarleton, for
which there was not a shred of foundation.

_Impressive silence whilst Bentley writes._

BENTLEY. "foundation"?

PERCIVAL. I apologize most humbly to the lady and her family for my
conduct-- _[he waits for Bentley to write]._

BENTLEY. "conduct"?

PERCIVAL. --and I promise Mr Tarleton not to repeat it, and to amend
my life--

BENTLEY. "amend my life"?

PERCIVAL. --and to do what in me lies to prove worthy of his kindness
in giving me another chance--

BENTLEY. "another chance"?

PERCIVAL. --and refraining from delivering me up to the punishment I
so richly deserve.

BENTLEY. "richly deserve."

PERCIVAL. _[to Hypatia]_ Does that satisfy you, Miss Tarleton?

HYPATIA. Yes: that will teach him to tell lies next time.

BENTLEY. _[rising to make place for Gunner and handing him the pen]_
You mean it will teach him to tell the truth next time.

TARLETON. Ahem! Do you, Patsy?

PERCIVAL. Be good enough to sign. _[Gunner sits down helplessly and
dips the pen in the ink]._ I hope what you are signing is no mere
form of words to you, and that you not only say you are sorry, but
that you are sorry.

_Lord Summerhays and Johnny come in through the pavilion door._

MRS TARLETON. Stop. Mr Percival: I think, on Hypatia's account,
Lord Summerhays ought to be told about this.

_Lord Summerhays, wondering what the matter is, comes forward between
Percival and Lina. Johnny stops beside Hypatia._

PERCIVAL. Certainly.

TARLETON. _[uneasily]_ Take my advice, and cut it short. Get rid of
him.

MRS TARLETON. Hypatia ought to have her character cleared.

TARLETON. You let well alone, Chickabiddy. Most of our characters
will bear a little careful dusting; but they wont bear scouring.
Patsy is jolly well out of it. What does it matter, anyhow?

PERCIVAL. Mr Tarleton: we have already said either too much or not
enough. Lord Summerhays: will you be kind enough to witness the
declaration this man has just signed?

GUNNER. I havnt yet. Am I to sign now?

PERCIVAL. Of course. _[Gunner, who is now incapable of doing
anything on his own initiative, signs]._ Now stand up and read your
declaration to this gentleman. _[Gunner makes a vague movement and
looks stupidly round. Percival adds peremptorily]_ Now, please.

GUNNER _[rising apprehensively and reading in a hardly audible voice,
like a very sick man]_ I, John Brown, of 4 Chesterfield Parade,
Kentish Town, do hereby voluntarily confess that on the 31st May 1909
I trespassed on the land of John Tarleton at Hindhead, and effected an
unlawful entry into his house, where I secreted myself in a portable
Turkish bath, with a pistol, with which I threatened to take the life
of the said John Tarleton, and was prevented from doing so only by the
timely arrival of the celebrated Miss Lena Sh-Sh-sheepanossika. I
further confess that I was guilty of uttering an abominable calumny
concerning Miss Hypatia Tarleton, for which there was not a shred of
foundation. I apologize most humbly to the lady and her family for my
conduct; and I promise Mr Tarleton not to repeat it, and to amend my
life, and to do what in me lies to prove worthy of his kindness in
giving me another chance and refraining from delivering me up to the
punishment I so richly deserve.

_A short and painful silence follows. Then Percival speaks._

PERCIVAL. Do you consider that sufficient, Lord Summerhays?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Oh quite, quite.

PERCIVAL. _[to Hypatia]_ Lord Summerhays would probably like to hear
you say that you are satisfied, Miss Tarleton.

HYPATIA. _[coming out of the swing, and advancing between Percival
and Lord Summerhays]_ I must say that you have behaved like a perfect
gentleman, Mr. Percival.

PERCIVAL. _[first bowing to Hypatia, and then turning with cold
contempt to Gunner, who is standing helpless]_ We need not trouble
you any further. _[Gunner turns vaguely towards the pavilion]._

JOHNNY _[with less refined offensiveness, pointing to the pavilion]_
Thats your way. The gardener will shew you the shortest way into the
road. Go the shortest way.

GUNNER. _[oppressed and disconcerted, hardly knows how to get out of
the room]_ Yes, sir. I-- _[He turns again, appealing to Tarleton]_
Maynt I have my mother's photographs back again? _[Mrs Tarleton
pricks up her ears]._

TARLETON. Eh? What? Oh, the photographs! Yes, yes, yes: take
them. _[Gunner takes them from the table, and is creeping away, when
Mrs Tarleton puts out her hand and stops him]._

MRS TARLETON. Whats this, John? What were you doing with his
mother's photographs?

TARLETON. Nothing, nothing. Never mind, Chickabiddy: it's all
right.

MRS TARLETON. _[snatching the photographs from Gunner's irresolute
fingers, and recognizing them at a glance]_ Lucy Titmus! Oh John,
John!

TARLETON. _[grimly, to Gunner]_ Young man: youre a fool; but youve
just put the lid on this job in a masterly manner. I knew you would.
I told you all to let well alone. You wouldnt; and now you must take
the consequences--or rather _I_ must take them.

MRS TARLETON. _[to Gunner]_ Are you Lucy's son?

GUNNER. Yes.

MRS TARLETON. And why didnt you come to me? I didnt turn my back on
your mother when she came to me in her trouble. Didnt you know that?

GUNNER. No. She never talked to me about anything.

TARLETON. How could she talk to her own son? Shy, Summerhays, shy.
Parent and child. Shy. _[He sits down at the end of the writing
table nearest the sideboard like a man resigned to anything that fate
may have in store for him]._

MRS TARLETON. Then how did you find out?

GUNNER. From her papers after she died.

MRS TARLETON. _[shocked]_ Is Lucy dead? And I never knew! _[With
an effusion of tenderness]_ And you here being treated like that,
poor orphan, with nobody to take your part! Tear up that foolish
paper, child; and sit down and make friends with me.

JOHNNY. | Hallo, mother this is all very well, you know--
|
PERCIVAL. | But may I point out, Mrs Tarleton, that--
|
BENTLEY. | Do you mean that after what he said of--
|
HYPATIA. | Oh, look here, mamma: this is really--

MRS TARLETON. Will you please speak one at a time?

_Silence._

PERCIVAL _[in a very gentlemanly manner]_ Will you allow me to remind
you, Mrs Tarleton, that this man has uttered a most serious and
disgraceful falsehood concerning Miss Tarleton and myself?

MRS TARLETON. I dont believe a word of it. If the poor lad was there
in the Turkish bath, who has a better right to say what was going on
here than he has? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Patsy; and so
ought you too, Mr Percival, for encouraging her. _[Hypatia retreats
to the pavilion, and exchanges grimaces with Johnny, shamelessly
enjoying Percival's sudden reverse. They know their mother]._

PERCIVAL. _[gasping]_ Mrs Tarleton: I give you my word of honor--

MRS TARLETON. Oh, go along with you and your word of honor. Do you
think I'm a fool? I wonder you can look the lad in the face after
bullying him and making him sign those wicked lies; and all the time
you carrying on with my daughter before youd been half an hour in my
house. Fie, for shame!

PERCIVAL. Lord Summerhays: I appeal to you. Have I done the correct
thing or not?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Youve done your best, Mr Percival. But the correct
thing depends for its success on everybody playing the game very
strictly. As a single-handed game, it's impossible.

BENTLEY. _[suddenly breaking out lamentably]_ Joey: have you taken
Hypatia away from me?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[severely]_ Bentley! Bentley! Control yourself,
sir.

TARLETON. Come, Mr Percival! the shutters are up on the gentlemanly
business. Try the truth.

PERCIVAL. I am in a wretched position. If I tell the truth nobody
will believe me.

TARLETON. Oh yes they will. The truth makes everybody believe it.

PERCIVAL. It also makes everybody pretend not to believe it. Mrs
Tarleton: youre not playing the game.

MRS TARLETON. I dont think youve behaved at all nicely, Mr Percival.

BENTLEY. I wouldnt have played you such a dirty trick, Joey.
_[Struggling with a sob]_ You beast.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Bentley: you must control yourself. Let me say at
the same time, Mr Percival, that my son seems to have been mistaken in
regarding you either as his friend or as a gentleman.

PERCIVAL. Miss Tarleton: I'm suffering this for your sake. I ask
you just to say that I am not to blame. Just that and nothing more.

HYPATIA. _[gloating mischievously over his distress]_ You chased me
through the heather and kissed me. You shouldnt have done that if you
were not in earnest.

PERCIVAL. Oh, this is really the limit. _[Turning desperately to
Gunner]_ Sir: I appeal to you. As a gentleman! as a man of honor!
as a man bound to stand by another man! You were in that Turkish
bath. You saw how it began. Could any man have behaved more
correctly than I did? Is there a shadow of foundation for the
accusations brought against me?

GUNNER. _[sorely perplexed]_ Well, what do you want me to say?

JOHNNY. He has said what he had to say already, hasnt he? Read that
paper.

GUNNER. When I tell the truth, you make me go back on it. And now
you want me to go back on myself! What is a man to do?

PERCIVAL. _[patiently]_ Please try to get your mind clear, Mr Brown.
I pointed out to you that you could not, as a gentleman, disparage a
lady's character. You agree with me, I hope.

GUNNER. Yes: that sounds all right.

PERCIVAL. But youre also bound to tell the truth. Surely youll not
deny that.

GUNNER. Who's denying it? I say nothing against it.

PERCIVAL. Of course not. Well, I ask you to tell the truth simply
and unaffectedly. Did you witness any improper conduct on my part
when you were in the bath?

GUNNER. No, sir.

JOHNNY. | Then what do you mean by saying that--
|
HYPATIA. | Do you mean to say that I--
|
BENTLEY. | Oh, you are a rotter. Youre afraid--

TARLETON. _[rising]_ Stop. _[Silence]._ Leave it at that. Enough
said. You keep quiet, Johnny. Mr Percival: youre whitewashed. So
are you, Patsy. Honors are easy. Lets drop the subject. The next
thing to do is to open a subscription to start this young man on a
ranch in some far country thats accustomed to be in a disturbed state.
He--

MRS TARLETON. Now stop joking the poor lad, John: I wont have it.
Has been worried to death between you all. _[To Gunner]_ Have you
had your tea?

GUNNER. Tea? No: it's too early. I'm all right; only I had no
dinner: I didnt think I'd want it. I didnt think I'd be alive.

MRS TARLETON. Oh, what a thing to say! You mustnt talk like that.

JOHNNY. Hes out of his mind. He thinks it's past dinner-time.

MRS TARLETON. Oh, youve no sense, Johnny. He calls his lunch his
dinner, and has his tea at half-past six. Havnt you, dear?

GUNNER. _[timidly]_ Hasnt everybody?

JOHNNY. _[laughing]_ Well, by George, thats not bad.

MRS TARLETON. Now dont be rude, Johnny: you know I dont like it.
_[To Gunner]_ A cup of tea will pick you up.

GUNNER. I'd rather not. I'm all right.

TARLETON. _[going to the sideboard]_ Here! try a mouthful of sloe
gin.

GUNNER. No, thanks. I'm a teetotaler. I cant touch alcohol in any
form.

TARLETON. Nonsense! This isnt alcohol. Sloe gin. Vegetarian, you
know.

GUNNER. _[hesitating]_ Is it a fruit beverage?

TARLETON. Of course it is. Fruit beverage. Here you are. _[He
gives him a glass of sloe gin]._

GUNNER. _[going to the sideboard]_ Thanks. _[he begins to drink it
confidently; but the first mouthful startles and almost chokes him]._
It's rather hot.

TARLETON. Do you good. Dont be afraid of it.

MRS TARLETON. _[going to him]_ Sip it, dear. Dont be in a hurry.

_Gunner sips slowly, each sip making his eyes water._

JOHNNY. _[coming forward into the place left vacant by Gunner's visit
to the sideboard]_ Well, now that the gentleman has been attended to,
I should like to know where we are. It may be a vulgar business
habit; but I confess I like to know where I am.

TARLETON. I dont. Wherever you are, youre there anyhow. I tell you
again, leave it at that.

BENTLEY. I want to know too. Hypatia's engaged to me.

HYPATIA. Bentley: if you insult me again--if you say another word,
I'll leave the house and not enter it until you leave it.

JOHNNY. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, my boy.

BENTLEY. _[inarticulate with fury and suppressed tears]_ Oh!
Beasts! Brutes!

MRS TARLETON. Now dont hurt his feelings, poor little lamb!

LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[very sternly]_ Bentley: you are not behaving
well. You had better leave us until you have recovered yourself.

_Bentley goes out in disgrace, but gets no further than half way to
the pavilion door, when, with a wild sob, he throws himself on the
floor and begins to yell._

MRS TARLETON. | _[running to him]_ Oh, poor child,
| poor child! Dont cry, duckie:
| he didnt mean it: dont cry.
|
LORD SUMMERHAYS| Stop that infernal noise, sir: do you
| hear? Stop it instantly.
|
JOHNNY. | Thats the game he tried on me.
| There you are! Now, mother!
| Now, Patsy! You see for yourselves.
|
HYPATIA. | _[covering her ears]_ Oh you little
| wretch! Stop him, Mr Percival. Kick him.
|
TARLETON. | Steady on, steady on. Easy, Bunny, easy.

LINA. Leave him to me, Mrs Tarleton. Stand clear, please.

_She kneels opposite Bentley; quickly lifts the upper half of him from
the ground; dives under him; rises with his body hanging across her
shoulders; and runs out with him._

BENTLEY. _[in scared, sobered, humble tones as he is borne off]_
What are you doing? Let me down. Please, Miss Szczepanowska--
_[they pass out of hearing]._

_An awestruck silence falls on the company as they speculate on
Bentley's fate._

JOHNNY. I wonder what shes going to do with him.

HYPATIA. Spank him, I hope. Spank him hard.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. I hope so. I hope so. Tarleton: I'm beyond
measure humiliated and annoyed by my son's behavior in your house. I
had better take him home.

TARLETON. Not at all: not at all. Now, Chickabiddy: as Miss Lina
has taken away Ben, suppose you take away Mr Brown for a while.

GUNNER. _[with unexpected aggressiveness]_ My name isnt Brown.
_[They stare at him: he meets their stare defiantly, pugnacious with
sloe gin; drains the last drop from his glass; throws it on the
sideboard; and advances to the writing table]._ My name's Baker:
Julius Baker. Mister Baker. If any man doubts it, I'm ready for him.

MRS TARLETON. John: you shouldnt have given him that sloe gin. It's
gone to his head.

GUNNER. Dont you think it. Fruit beverages dont go to the head; and
what matter if they did? I say nothing to you, maam: I regard you
with respect and affection. _[Lachrymosely]_ You were very good to
my mother: my poor mother! _[Relapsing into his daring mood]_ But I
say my name's Baker; and I'm not to be treated as a child or made a
slave of by any man. Baker is my name. Did you think I was going to
give you my real name? Not likely. Not me.

TARLETON. So you thought of John Brown. That was clever of you.

GUNNER. Clever! Yes: we're not all such fools as you think: we
clerks. It was the bookkeeper put me up to that. It's the only name
that nobody gives as a false name, he said. Clever, eh? I should
think so.

MRS TARLETON. Come now, Julius--

GUNNER. _[reassuring her gravely]_ Dont you be alarmed, maam. I
know what is due to you as a lady and to myself as a gentleman. I
regard you with respect and affection. If you had been my mother, as
you ought to have been, I should have had more chance. But you shall
have no cause to be ashamed of me. The strength of a chain is no
greater than its weakest link; but the greatness of a poet is the
greatness of his greatest moment. Shakespear used to get drunk.
Frederick the Great ran away from a battle. But it was what they
could rise to, not what they could sink to, that made them great.
They werent good always; but they were good on their day. Well, on my
day--on my day, mind you--I'm good for something too. I know that Ive
made a silly exhibition of myself here. I know I didnt rise to the
occasion. I know that if youd been my mother, youd have been ashamed
of me. I lost my presence of mind: I was a contemptible coward. But
_[slapping himself on the chest]_ I'm not the man I was then. This
is my day. Ive seen the tenth possessor of a foolish face carried out
kicking and screaming by a woman. _[To Percival]_ You crowed pretty
big over me. You hypnotized me. But when you were put through the
fire yourself, you were found wanting. I tell you straight I dont
give a damn for you.

MRS TARLETON. No: thats naughty. You shouldnt say that before me.

GUNNER. I would cut my tongue out sooner than say anything vulgar in
your presence; for I regard you with respect and affection. I was not
swearing. I was affirming my manhood.

MRS TARLETON. What an idea! What puts all these things into your
head?

GUNNER. Oh, dont you think, because I'm a clerk, that I'm not one of
the intellectuals. I'm a reading man, a thinking man. I read in a
book--a high class six shilling book--this precept: Affirm your
manhood. It appealed to me. Ive always remembered it. I believe in
it. I feel I must do it to recover your respect after my cowardly
behavior. Therefore I affirm it in your presence. I tell that man
who insulted me that I dont give a damn for him. And neither I do.

TARLETON. I say, Summerhays: did you have chaps of this sort in
Jinghiskahn?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Oh yes: they exist everywhere: they are a most
serious modern problem.

GUNNER. Yes. Youre right. _[Conceitedly]_ I'm a problem. And I
tell you that when we clerks realize that we're problems! well, look
out: thats all.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[suavely, to Gunner]_ You read a great deal, you
say?

GUNNER. Ive read more than any man in this room, if the truth were
known, I expect. Thats whats going to smash up your Capitalism. The
problems are beginning to read. Ha! We're free to do that here in
England. What would you do with me in Jinghiskahn if you had me
there?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Well, since you ask me so directly, I'll tell you.
I should take advantage of the fact that you have neither sense enough
nor strength enough to know how to behave yourself in a difficulty of
any sort. I should warn an intelligent and ambitious policeman that
you are a troublesome person. The intelligent and ambitious policeman
would take an early opportunity of upsetting your temper by ordering
you to move on, and treading on your heels until you were provoked
into obstructing an officer in the discharge of his duty. Any trifle
of that sort would be sufficient to make a man like you lose your
self-possession and put yourself in the wrong. You would then be
charged and imprisoned until things quieted down.

GUNNER. And you call that justice!

LORD SUMMERHAYS. No. Justice was not my business. I had to govern a
province; and I took the necessary steps to maintain order in it. Men
are not governed by justice, but by law or persuasion. When they
refuse to be governed by law or persuasion, they have to be governed
by force or fraud, or both. I used both when law and persuasion
failed me. Every ruler of men since the world began has done so, even
when he has hated both fraud and force as heartily as I do. It is as
well that you should know this, my young friend; so that you may
recognize in time that anarchism is a game at which the police can
beat you. What have you to say to that?

GUNNER. What have I to say to it! Well, I call it scandalous: thats
what I have to say to it.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Precisely: thats all anybody has to say to it,
except the British public, which pretends not to believe it. And now
let me ask you a sympathetic personal question. Havnt you a headache?

GUNNER. Well, since you ask me, I have. Ive overexcited myself.

MRS TARLETON. Poor lad! No wonder, after all youve gone through!
You want to eat a little and to lie down. You come with me. I want
you to tell me about your poor dear mother and about yourself. Come
along with me. _[She leads the way to the inner door]._

GUNNER. _[following her obediently]_ Thank you kindly, madam. _[She
goes out. Before passing out after her, he partly closes the door and
stops an the landing for a moment to say]_ Mind: I'm not knuckling
down to any man here. I knuckle down to Mrs Tarleton because shes a
woman in a thousand. I affirm my manhood all the same. Understand:
I dont give a damn for the lot of you. _[He hurries out, rather
afraid of the consequences of this defiance, which has provoked Johnny
to an impatient movement towards him]._

HYPATIA. Thank goodness hes gone! Oh, what a bore! WHAT a bore!!!
Talk, talk, talk!

TARLETON. Patsy: it's no good. We're going to talk. And we're
going to talk about you.

JOHNNY. It's no use shirking it, Pat. We'd better know where we are.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Come, Miss Tarleton. Wont you sit down? I'm very
tired of standing. _[Hypatia comes from the pavilion and takes a
chair at the worktable. Lord Summerhays takes the opposite chair, an
her right. Percival takes the chair Johnny placed for Lina on her
arrival. Tarleton sits down at the end of the writing table. Johnny
remains standing. Lord Summerhays continues, with a sigh of relief at
being seated.]_ We shall now get the change of subject we are all
pining for.

JOHNNY. _[puzzled]_ Whats that?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. The great question. The question that men and women
will spend hours over without complaining. The question that occupies
all the novel readers and all the playgoers. The question they never
get tired of.

JOHNNY. But what question?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. The question which particular young man some young
woman will mate with.

PERCIVAL. As if it mattered!

HYPATIA. _[sharply]_ Whats that you said?

PERCIVAL. I said: As if it mattered.

HYPATIA. I call that ungentlemanly.

PERCIVAL. Do you care about that? you who are so magnificently
unladylike!

JOHNNY. Look here, Mr Percival: youre not supposed to insult my
sister.

HYPATIA. Oh, shut up, Johnny. I can take care of myself. Dont you
interfere.

JOHNNY. Oh, very well. If you choose to give yourself away like
that--to allow a man to call you unladylike and then to be unladylike,
Ive nothing more to say.

HYPATIA. I think Mr Percival is most ungentlemanly; but I wont be
protected. I'll not have my affairs interfered with by men on
pretence of protecting me. I'm not your baby. If I interfered
between you and a woman, you would soon tell me to mind my own
business.

TARLETON. Children: dont squabble. Read Dr Watts. Behave
yourselves.

JOHNNY. Ive nothing more to say; and as I dont seem to be wanted
here, I shall take myself off. _[He goes out with affected calm
through the pavilion]._

TARLETON. Summerhays: a family is an awful thing, an impossible
thing. Cat and dog. Patsy: I'm ashamed of vou.

HYPATIA. I'll make it up with Johnny afterwards; but I really cant
have him here sticking his clumsy hoof into my affairs.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. The question is, Mr Percival, are you really a
gentleman, or are you not?

PERCIVAL. Was Napoleon really a gentleman or was he not? He made the
lady get out of the way of the porter and said, "Respect the burden,
madam." That was behaving like a very fine gentleman; but he kicked
Volney for saying that what France wanted was the Bourbons back again.
That was behaving rather like a navvy. Now I, like Napoleon, am not
all one piece. On occasion, as you have all seen, I can behave like a
gentleman. On occasion, I can behave with a brutal simplicity which
Miss Tarleton herself could hardly surpass.

TARLETON. Gentleman or no gentleman, Patsy: what are your
intentions?

HYPATIA. My intentions! Surely it's the gentleman who should be
asked his intentions.

TARLETON. Come now, Patsy! none of that nonsense. Has Mr Percival
said anything to you that I ought to know or that Bentley ought to
know? Have you said anything to Mr Percival?

HYPATIA. Mr Percival chased me through the heather and kissed me.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. As a gentleman, Mr Percival, what do you say to
that?

PERCIVAL. As a gentleman, I do not kiss and tell. As a mere man: a
mere cad, if you like, I say that I did so at Miss Tarleton's own
suggestion.

HYPATIA. Beast!

PERCIVAL. I dont deny that I enjoyed it. But I did not initiate it.
And I began by running away.

TARLETON. So Patsy can run faster than you, can she?

PERCIVAL. Yes, when she is in pursuit of me. She runs faster and
faster. I run slower and slower. And these woods of yours are full
of magic. There was a confounded fern owl. Did you ever hear the
churr of a fern owl? Did you ever hear it create a sudden silence by
ceasing? Did you ever hear it call its mate by striking its wings
together twice and whistling that single note that no nightingale can
imitate? That is what happened in the woods when I was running away.
So I turned; and the pursuer became the pursued.

HYPATIA. I had to fight like a wild cat.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Please dont tell us this. It's not fit for old
people to hear.

TARLETON. Come: how did it end?

HYPATIA. It's not ended yet.

TARLETON. How is it going to end?

HYPATIA. Ask him.

TARLETON. How is it going to end, Mr Percival?

PERCIVAL. I cant afford to marry, Mr Tarleton. Ive only a thousand a
year until my father dies. Two people cant possibly live on that.

TARLETON. Oh, cant they? When _I_ married, I should have been jolly
glad to have felt sure of the quarter of it.

PERCIVAL. No doubt; but I am not a cheap person, Mr Tarleton. I was
brought up in a household which cost at least seven or eight times
that; and I am in constant money difficulties because I simply dont
know how to live on the thousand a year scale. As to ask a woman to
share my degrading poverty, it's out of the question. Besides, I'm
rather young to marry. I'm only 28.

HYPATIA. Papa: buy the brute for me.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[shrinking]_ My dear Miss Tarleton: dont be so
naughty. I know how delightful it is to shock an old man; but there
is a point at which it becomes barbarous. Dont. Please dont.

HYPATIA. Shall I tell Papa about you?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Tarleton: I had better tell you that I once asked
your daughter to become my widow.

TARLETON. _[to Hypatia]_ Why didnt you accept him, you young idiot?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. I was too old.

TARLETON. All this has been going on under my nose, I suppose. You
run after young men; and old men run after you. And I'm the last
person in the world to hear of it.

HYPATIA. How could I tell you?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Parents and children, Tarleton.

TARLETON. Oh, the gulf that lies between them! the impassable,
eternal gulf! And so I'm to buy the brute for you, eh?

HYPATIA. If you please, papa.

TARLETON. Whats the price, Mr Percival?

PERCIVAL. We might do with another fifteen hundred if my father would
contribute. But I should like more.

TARLETON. It's purely a question of money with you, is it?

PERCIVAL. _[after a moment's consideration]_ Practically yes: it
turns on that.

TARLETON. I thought you might have some sort of preference for Patsy,
you know.

PERCIVAL. Well, but does that matter, do you think? Patsy fascinates
me, no doubt. I apparently fascinate Patsy. But, believe me, all
that is not worth considering. One of my three fathers (the priest)
has married hundreds of couples: couples selected by one another,
couples selected by the parents, couples forced to marry one another
by circumstances of one kind or another; and he assures me that if
marriages were made by putting all the men's names into one sack and
the women's names into another, and having them taken out by a
blindfolded child like lottery numbers, there would be just as high a
percentage of happy marriages as we have here in England. He said
Cupid was nothing but the blindfolded child: pretty idea that, I
think! I shall have as good a chance with Patsy as with anyone else.
Mind: I'm not bigoted about it. I'm not a doctrinaire: not the
slave of a theory. You and Lord Summerhays are experienced married
men. If you can tell me of any trustworthy method of selecting a
wife, I shall be happy to make use of it. I await your suggestions.
_[He looks with polite attention to Lord Summerhays, who, having
nothing to say, avoids his eye. He looks to Tarleton, who purses his
lips glumly and rattles his money in his pockets without a word]._
Apparently neither of you has anything to suggest. Then Patsy will do
as well as another, provided the money is forthcoming.

HYPATIA. Oh, you beauty, you beauty!

TARLETON. When I married Patsy's mother, I was in love with her.

PERCIVAL. For the first time?

TARLETON. Yes: for the first time.

PERCIVAL. For the last time?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. _[revolted]_ Sir: you are in the presence of his
daughter.

HYPATIA. Oh, dont mind me. I dont care. I'm accustomed to Papa's
adventures.

TARLETON. _[blushing painfully]_ Patsy, my child: that was not--not
delicate.

HYPATIA. Well, papa, youve never shewn any delicacy in talking to me
about my conduct; and I really dont see why I shouldnt talk to you
about yours. It's such nonsense! Do you think young people dont
know?

LORD SUMMERHAYS. I'm sure they dont feel. Tarleton: this is too
horrible, too brutal. If neither of these young people have
any--any--any--

PERCIVAL. Shall we say paternal sentimentality? I'm extremely sorry
to shock you; but you must remember that Ive been educated to discuss
human affairs with three fathers simultaneously. I'm an adult person.
Patsy is an adult person. You do not inspire me with veneration.
Apparently you do not inspire Patsy with veneration. That may
surprise you. It may pain you. I'm sorry. It cant be helped. What
about the money?

TARLETON. You dont inspire me with generosity, young man.

HYPATIA. _[laughing with genuine amusement]_ He had you there, Joey.

TARLETON. I havnt been a bad father to you, Patsy.

HYPATIA. I dont say you have, dear. If only I could persuade you Ive
grown up, we should get along perfectly.

TARLETON. Do you remember Bill Burt?

HYPATIA. Why?

TARLETON. _[to the others]_ Bill Burt was a laborer here. I was
going to sack him for kicking his father. He said his father had
kicked him until he was big enough to kick back. Patsy begged him
off. I asked that man what it felt like the first time he kicked his
father, and found that it was just like kicking any other man. He
laughed and said that it was the old man that knew what it felt like.
Think of that, Summerhays! think of that!

HYPATIA. I havnt kicked you, papa.

TARLETON. Youve kicked me harder than Bill Burt ever kicked.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. It's no use, Tarleton. Spare yourself. Do you
seriously expect these young people, at their age, to sympathize with
what this gentleman calls your paternal sentimentality?

TARLETON. _[wistfully]_ Is it nothing to you but paternal
sentimentality, Patsy?

HYPATIA. Well, I greatly prefer your superabundant vitality, papa.

TARLETON. _[violently]_ Hold your tongue, you young devil. The
young are all alike: hard, coarse, shallow, cruel, selfish,
dirty-minded. You can clear out of my house as soon as you can coax
him to take you; and the sooner the better. _[To Percival]_ I think
you said your price was fifteen hundred a year. Take it. And I wish
you joy of your bargain.

PERCIVAL. If you wish to know who I am--

TARLETON. I dont care a tinker's curse who you are or what you are.
Youre willing to take that girl off my hands for fifteen hundred a
year: thats all that concerns me. Tell her who you are if you like:
it's her affair, not mine.

HYPATIA. Dont answer him, Joey: it wont last. Lord Summerhays, I'm
sorry about Bentley; but Joey's the only man for me.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. It may--

HYPATIA. Please dont say it may break your poor boy's heart. It's
much more likely to break yours.

LORD SUMMERHAYS. Oh!

TARLETON. _[springing to his feet]_ Leave the room. Do you hear:
leave the room.

PERCIVAL. Arnt we getting a little cross? Dont be angry, Mr
Tarleton. Read Marcus Aurelius.

TARLETON. Dont you dare make fun of me. Take your aeroplane out of
my vinery and yourself out of my house.

PERCIVAL. _[rising, to Hypatia]_ I'm afraid I shall have to dine at
the Beacon, Patsy.

HYPATIA. _[rising]_ Do. I dine with you.

TARLETON. Did you hear me tell you to leave the room?

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