At Shapters, George Farrant’s
house in Hertfordshire. Ten o’clock on a
Sunday evening in summer.
Facing you at her piano by the
window, from which she is protected by a little screen,
sits Mrs. Farrant; a woman of the
interesting age, clear-eyed and all her face serene,
except for a little pucker of the brows which shows
a puzzled mind upon some important matters. To
become almost an ideal hostess has been her achievement;
and in her own home, as now, this grace is written
upon every movement. Her eyes pass over the head
of a girl, sitting in a low chair by a little table,
with the shaded lamplight falling on her face.
This is Lucy Davenport; twenty-three,
undefeated in anything as yet and so unsoftened.
The book on her lap is closed, for she has been listening
to the music. It is possibly some German philosopher,
whom she reads with a critical appreciation of his
shortcomings. On the sofa near her lounges
Mrs. O’CONNELL; a charming woman, if
by charming you understand a woman who converts every
quality she possesses into a means of attraction,
and has no use for any others. On the sofa opposite
sits miss Trebell. In a few years,
when her hair is quite grey, she will assume as by
right the dignity of an old maid. Between these
two in a low armchair is Lady Davenport.
She has attained to many dignities. Mother
and grandmother, she has brought into the world and
nourished not merely life but character. A wonderful
face she has, full of proud memories and fearless of
the future. Behind her, on a sofa between the
windows, is Walter Kent. He is just
what the average English father would like his son
to be. You can see the light shooting out through
the windows and mixing with moonshine upon a smooth
lawn. On your left is a door. There are many
books in the room, hardly any pictures, a statuette
perhaps. The owner evidently sets beauty of form
before beauty of colour. It is a woman’s
room and it has a certain delicate austerity.
By the time you have observed everything Mrs.
Farrant has played Chopin’s prelude
opus 28, number 20 from beginning to end.
Lady Davenport. Thank you, my dear
Walter Kent. [Protesting.] No more?
Mrs. Farrant. I won’t play for
a moment longer than I feel musical.
Miss Trebell. Do you
think it right, Julia, to finish with that after an
Mrs. Farrant. I suddenly
came over Chopinesque, Fanny; ... what’s your
objection? [as she sits by her.]
Frances Trebell. What
... when Bach has raised me to the heights of unselfishness!
Amy O’CONNELL. [Grimacing
sweetly, her eyes only half lifted.] Does he?
I’m glad that I don’t understand him.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Putting mere
prettiness in its place.] One may prefer Chopin
when one is young.
AMY O’CONNELL. And is that a reproach or
WALTER KENT. [Boldly.] I do.
FRANCES TREBELL. Or a man may ... unless he’s
LADY DAVENPORT. [To the rescue.]
Miss Trebell, you’re very hard on mere humanity.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Completing the
reproof.] That’s my wretched training as
a schoolmistress, Lady Davenport ... one grew to fear
it above all things.
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Throwing in the
monosyllable with sharp youthful enquiry.] Why?
FRANCES TREBELL. There were no text books on
MRS. FARRANT. [Smiling at her friend.]
Yes, Fanny ... I think you escaped to look after
your brother only just in time.
FRANCES TREBELL. In another year
I might have been head-mistress, which commits you
to approve of the system for ever.
LADY DAVENPORT. [Shaking her wise
head.] I’ve watched the Education fever
FRANCES TREBELL. If I hadn’t
stopped teaching things I didn’t understand...!
AMY O’CONNELL. [Not without
mischief.] And what was the effect on the pupils?
LUCY DAVENPORT. I can tell you that.
AMY O’CONNELL. Frances never taught you.
LUCY DAVENPORT. No, I wish she had. But
I was at her sort of a school before
I went to Newnham. I know.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Very distastefully.] Up-to-date,
it was described as.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Well, it was
like a merry-go-round at top speed. You felt
things wouldn’t look a bit like that when you
came to a standstill.
AMY O’CONNELL. And they don’t?
LUCY DAVENPORT. [With great decision.] Not
AMY O’CONNELL. [In her velvet
tone.] I was taught the whole duty of woman by
a parson-uncle who disbelieved in his Church.
WALTER KENT. When a man at Jude’s was going
to take orders....
AMY O’CONNELL. Jude’s?
WALTER KENT. At Oxford.
The dons went very gingerly with him over bits of
science and history.
a fruitful thought in JULIA FARRANT’S brain.]
MRS. FARRANT. Mamma, have you
ever discussed so-called anti-Christian science with
FRANCES TREBELL ... Cantelupe?
MRS. FARRANT. Yes. It was
over appointing a teacher for the schools down here
... he was staying with us. The Vicar’s
his fervent disciple. However, we were consulted.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Didn’t
Lord Charles want you to send the boys there till
they were ready for Harrow?
MRS. FARRANT. Yes.
FRANCES TREBELL. Quite the last thing in Toryism!
MRS. FARRANT. Mamma made George say we were too
nouveau riche to risk it.
LADY DAVENPORT. [As she laughs.] I couldn’t
MRS. FARRANT. [Catching something
of her subject’s dry driving manner.] Lord
Charles takes the superior line and says ... that with
his consent the Church may teach the unalterable Truth
in scientific language or legendary, whichever is
easier understanded of the people.
LADY DAVENPORT. Is it the prospect
of Disestablishment suddenly makes him so accommodating?
FRANCES TREBELL. [With large contempt.]
He needn’t be. The majority of people believe
the world was made in an English week.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Oh, no!
FRANCES TREBELL. No Bishop dare deny it.
MRS. FARRANT. [From the heights
of experience.] Dear Lucy, do you seriously think
that the English spirit the nerve that runs
down the backbone is disturbed by new theology
... or new anything?
LADY DAVENPORT. [Enjoying her epigram.]
What a waste of persecution history shows us!
WALTER KENT now
captures the conversation with a very young
WALTER KENT. Once they’re
disestablished they must make up their minds what
they do believe.
LADY DAVENPORT. I presume Lord
Charles thinks it’ll hand the Church over to
him and his ... dare I say ‘Sect’?
WALTER KENT. Won’t it? He knows what
MRS. FARRANT. [Subtly.] There’s the election
to come yet.
WALTER KENT. But now both parties are pledged
to a bill of some sort.
MRS. FARRANT. Political prophecies
have a knack of not coming true; but, d’you
know, Cyril Horsham warned me to watch this position
developing ... nearly four years ago.
FRANCES TREBELL. Sitting on the opposition bench
sharpens the eye-sight.
WALTER KENT. [Ironically.] Has he been pleased
with the prospect?
MRS. FARRANT. [With perfect diplomacy]
If the Church must be disestablished ... better done
by its friends than its enemies.
FRANCES TREBELL. Still I don’t gather he’s
pleased with his dear cousin
MRS. FARRANT. [Shrugging.]
Oh, lately, Lord Charles has never concealed his tactics.
FRANCES TREBELL. And that speech
at Leeds was the crowning move I suppose; just asking
the Nonconformists to bring things to a head?
MRS. FARRANT. [Judicially.] I think that was
WALTER KENT. [Giving them LORD
CHARLES’S oratory.] Gentlemen, in these
latter days of Radical opportunism! You
know, I was there ... sitting next to an old gentleman
who shouted “Jesuit.”
FRANCES TREBELL. But supposing
Mallaby and the Nonconformists hadn’t been able
to force the Liberals’ hand?
MRS. FARRANT. [Speaking as of inferior
beings.] Why, they were glad of any cry going
to the Country!
FRANCES TREBELL. [As she considers
this.] Yes ... and Lord Charles would still have
had as good a chance of forcing Lord Horsham’s.
It has been clever tactics.
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Who has been listening,
sharp-eyed.] Contrariwise, he wouldn’t have
liked a Radical Bill though, would he?
WALTER KENT. [With aplomb.]
He knew he was safe from that. The government
must have dissolved before Christmas anyway ... and
the swing of the pendulum’s a sure thing.
MRS. FARRANT. [With her smile.] It’s
never a sure thing.
WALTER KENT. Oh, Mrs. Farrant, look how unpopular
the Liberals are.
FRANCES TREBELL. What made them bring in Resolutions?
WALTER KENT. [Overflowing with
knowledge of the subject.] I was told Mallaby
insisted on their showing they meant business.
I thought he was being too clever ... and it turns
out he was. Tommy Luxmore told me there was a
fearful row in the Cabinet about it. But on their
last legs, you know, it didn’t seem to matter,
I suppose. Even then, if Prothero had mustered
up an ounce of tact ... I believe they could
have pulled them through....
FRANCES TREBELL. Not the Spoliation one.
WALTER KENT. Well, Mr. Trebell dished that!
FRANCES TREBELL. Henry says his speech didn’t
turn a vote.
MRS. FARRANT. [With charming irony.] How disinterested
WALTER KENT. [Enthusiastic.] That speech did
if ever a speech did.
FRANCES TREBELL. Is there any
record of a speech that ever did? He just carried
his own little following with him.
MRS. FARRANT. But the crux of
the whole matter is and has always been ... what’s
to be done with the Church’s money.
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Visualising sovereigns.]
A hundred millions or so ... think of it!
FRANCES TREBELL. There has been
from the start a good deal of anti-Nonconformist feeling
against applying the money to secular uses.
MRS. FARRANT. [Deprecating false
modesty, on anyone’s behalf.] Oh, of course
the speech turned votes ... twenty of them at least.
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Determined on
information.] Then I was told Lord Horsham had
tried to come to an understanding himself with the
Nonconformists about Disestablishment oh a
long time ago ... over the Education Bill.
FRANCES TREBELL. Is that true, Julia?
MRS. FARRANT. How should I know?
FRANCES TREBELL. [With some mischief] You might.
MRS. FARRANT. [Weighing her words.]
I don’t think it would have been altogether
wise to make advances. They’d have asked
more than a Conservative government could possibly
persuade the Church to give up.
WALTER KENT. I don’t see
that Horsham’s much better off now. He only
turned the Radicals out on the Spoliation question
by the help of Trebell. And so far ... I
mean, till this election is over Trebell counts still
as one of them, doesn’t he, Miss Trebell?
Oh ... perhaps he doesn’t.
FRANCES TREBELL. He’ll
tell you he never has counted as one of them.
MRS. FARRANT. No doubt Lord Charles
would sooner have done without his help. And
that’s why I didn’t ask the gentle Jesuit
this week-end if anyone wants to know.
WALTER KENT. [Stupent at this lack
of party spirit.] What ... he’d rather have
had the Liberals go to the country undefeated!
MRS. FARRANT. [With finesse.]
The election may bring us back independent of Mr.
Trebell and anything he stands for.
WALTER KENT. [Sharply.] But
you asked Lord Horsham to meet him.
MRS. FARRANT. [With still more
finesse.] I had my reasons. Votes aren’t
has been listening with rather a doubtful smile;
now caps the discussion.
LADY DAVENPORT. I’m relieved
to hear you say so, my dear Julia. On the other
hand democracy seems to have brought itself to a pretty
pass. Here’s a measure, which the country
as a whole neither demands nor approves of, will certainly
be carried, you tell me, because a minority on each
side is determined it shall be ... for totally different
MRS. FARRANT. [Shrugging again.]
It isn’t our business to prevent popular government
looking foolish, Mamma.
LADY DAVENPORT. Is that Tory cynicism or feminine?
At this moment GEORGE FARRANT
comes through the window; a good natured
man of forty-five. He would tell you that he was
educated at Eton and Oxford. But the knowledge
which saves his life comes from the thrusting
upon him of authority and experience; ranging from
the management of an estate which he inherited
at twenty-four, through the chairmanship of
a newspaper syndicate, through a successful marriage,
to a minor post in the last Tory cabinet and
the prospect of one in the near-coming next.
Thanks to his agents, editors, permanent officials,
and his own common sense, he always acquits himself
creditably. He comes to his wife’s
side and waits for a pause in the conversation.
LADY DAVENPORT. I remember Mr.
Disraeli once said to me ... Clever women are
as dangerous to the State as dynamite.
FRANCES TREBELL. [Not to be impressed
by Disraeli.] Well, Lady Davenport, if men will
leave our intellects lying loose about....
FARRANT. Blackborough’s going, Julia.
MRS. FARRANT. Yes, George.
LADY DAVENPORT. [Concluding her
little apologue to MISS TREBELL.] Yes, my dear,
but power without responsibility isn’t good for
the character that wields it either.
[There follows FARRANT through
the window a man of fifty. He has about
him that unmistakeable air of acquired wealth and power
which distinguishes many Jews and has therefore
come to be regarded as a solely Jewish characteristic.
He speaks always with that swift decision which
betokens a narrowed view. This is RUSSELL
BLACKBOROUGH; manufacturer, politician ...
statesman, his own side calls him.]
BLACKBOROUGH. [To his hostess.]
If I start now, they tell me, I shall get home before
the moon goes down. I’m sorry I must get
back to-night. It’s been a most delightful
MRS. FARRANT. [Gracefully giving
him a good-bye hand.] And a successful one, I
FARRANT. We talked Education for half an hour.
MRS. FARRANT. [Her eyebrows lifting a shade.]
FARRANT. Then Trebell went away to work.
BLACKBOROUGH. I’ve missed the music, I
MRS. FARRANT. But it’s been Bach.
BLACKBOROUGH. No Chopin?
MRS. FARRANT. For a minute only.
BLACKBOROUGH. Why don’t these new Italian
men write things for the piano!
Good-night, Lady Davenport.
LADY DAVENPORT. [As he bows over
her hand.] And what has Education to do with it?
BLACKBOROUGH. [Non-committal himself.]
Perhaps it was a subject that compromised nobody.
LADY DAVENPORT. Do you think
my daughter has been wasting her time and her tact?
FARRANT. [Clapping him on the shoulder.]
Blackborough’s frankly flabbergasted at the
publicity of this intrigue.
MRS. FARRANT. Intrigue!
Mr. Trebell walked across the House ... actually into
BLACKBOROUGH. [With a certain dubious
grimness.] Well ... we’ve had some very
interesting talks since. And his views upon Education
are quite ... Utopian. Good bye, Miss Trebell.
FRANCES TREBELL. Good-bye.
MRS. FARRANT. I wouldn’t
be so haughty till after the election, if I were you,
Oh, I’m glad he’s with us on the Church
question ... so far.
MRS. FARRANT. So far as you’ve
made up your minds? The electoral cat will jump
BLACKBOROUGH. [A little beaten
by such polite cynicism.] Well ... our conservative
principles! After all we know what they are.
Good-night, Mrs. O’Connell.
AMY O’CONNELL. Good-night.
FARRANT. Your neuralgia better?
AMY O’CONNELL. By fits and starts.
FARRANT. [Robustly.] Come and
play billiards. Horsham and Maconochie started
a game. They can neither of them play. We
left them working out a theory of angles on bits of
WALTER KENT. Professor Maconochie
lured me on to golf yesterday. He doesn’t
suffer from theories about that.
BLACKBOROUGH. [With approval.] Started life
as a caddie.
WALTER KENT. [Pulling a wry face.] So he told
me after the first hole.
BLACKBOROUGH. What’s this, Kent, about
Trebell’s making you his secretary?
WALTER KENT. He thinks he’ll have me.
BLACKBOROUGH. [Almost reprovingly.] No question
FARRANT. More intrigue, Blackborough.
WALTER KENT. [With disarming candour.]
The truth is, you see, I haven’t any as yet.
I was Socialist at Oxford ... but of course that doesn’t
count. I think I’d better learn my job
under the best man I can find ... and who’ll
BLACKBOROUGH. [Gravely.] What does your father
WALTER KENT. Oh, as long as Jack will inherit
the property in a Tory spirit!
My father thinks it my wild oats.
A Footman has
THE FOOTMAN. Your car is round, sir.
BLACKBOROUGH. Ah! Good-night,
Miss Davenport. Good-bye again, Mrs. Farrant
... a charming week-end.
He makes a
business-like departure, FARRANT follows him.
THE FOOTMAN. A telephone message
from Dr. Wedgecroft, ma’am. His thanks;
they stopped the express for him at Hitchin and he
has reached London quite safely.
MRS. FARRANT. Thank you.
goes out. MRS. FARRANT exhales delicately as
air were a little
refined by BLACKBOROUGH’S removal.]
MRS. FARRANT. Mr. Blackborough
and his patent turbines and his gas engines and what
not are the motive power of our party nowadays, Fanny.
FRANCES TREBELL. Yes, you claim
to be steering plutocracy. Do you never wonder
if it isn’t steering you?
growing restless, has wandered round the room picking
at the books in
AMY O’CONNELL. I always
like your books, Julia. It’s an intellectual
distinction to know someone who has read them.
MRS. FARRANT. That’s the Communion I choose.
FRANCES TREBELL. Aristocrat ... fastidious aristocrat.
MRS. FARRANT. No, now. Learning’s
a great leveller.
FRANCES TREBELL. But Julia ...
books are quite unreal. D’you think life
is a bit like them?
MRS. FARRANT. They bring me into
touch with ... Oh, there’s nothing more
deadening than to be boxed into a set in Society!
Speak to a woman outside it ... she doesn’t
understand your language.
FRANCES TREBELL. And do you think
by prattling Hegel with Gilbert Wedgecroft when he
comes to physic you
MRS. FARRANT. [Joyously.] Excellent
physic that is. He never leaves a prescription.
LADY DAVENPORT. Don’t you
think an aristocracy of brains is the best aristocracy,
FRANCES TREBELL. [With a little
more bitterness than the abstraction of the subject
demands.] I’m sure it is just as out of touch
with humanity as any other ... more so, perhaps.
If I were a country I wouldn’t be governed by
MRS. FARRANT. Manners, Frances.
FRANCES TREBELL. I’m one
myself and I know. They’re either dead or
comes back and goes straight to MRS. O’CONNELL.
FARRANT. [Still robustly.] Billiards, Mrs.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Declining sweetly.] I
FARRANT. Billiards, Lucy?
LUCY DAVENPORT. [As robust as he.] Yes, Uncle
George. You shall mark while
Walter gives me twenty-five and I beat him.
WALTER KENT. [With a none-of-your-impudence
air.] I’ll give you ten yards start and
race you to the billiard room.
LUCY DAVENPORT. Will you wear
my skirt? Oh ... Grandmamma’s thinking
LADY DAVENPORT. [Without prejudice.]
Why, my dear, freedom of limb is worth having ...
and perhaps it fits better with freedom of tongue.
FARRANT. [In the proper avuncular
tone.] I’ll play you both ... and I’d
race you both if you weren’t so disgracefully
AMY O’CONNELL has reached an open window.
AMY O’CONNELL. I shall go for a walk with
MRS. FARRANT. Poor thing!
AMY O’CONNELL. The moon’s good for
LUCY DAVENPORT. Shall you come, Aunt Julia?
MRS. FARRANT. [In flat protest.]
No, I will not sit up while you play billiards.
goes out through the one window, stands for a moment,
gazing at KENT are standing at the other,
FARRANT. Horsham still arguing with Maconochie.
They’re got to Botany now.
WALTER KENT. Demonstrating something with a ...
what’s that thing?
FARRANT. [With a throw of his head
towards the distant HORSHAM.] He was so bored
with our politics ... having to give his opinion too.
We could just hear your piano.
And he follows
MRS. FARRANT. Take Amy O’Connell
that lace thing, will you, Lucy?
LUCY DAVENPORT. [Her tone expressing
quite wonderfully her sentiments towards the owner.]
Don’t you think she’d sooner catch cold?
it up and follows the two men; then after looking round
off in the direction MRS. O’CONNELL took.
three women now
left together are at their ease.
FRANCES TREBELL. Did you expect
Mr. Blackborough to get on well with Henry?
MRS. FARRANT. He has become a
millionaire by appreciating clever men when he met
LADY DAVENPORT. Yes, Julia, but
his political conscience is comparatively new-born.
MRS. FARRANT. Well, Mamma, can we do without
LADY DAVENPORT. Everyone seems
to think you’ll come back with something of a
MRS. FARRANT. [A little impatient.]
What’s the good of that? The Bill can’t
be brought into the Lords ... and who’s going
to take Disestablishment through the Commons for us?
Not Eustace Fowler ... not Mr. Blackborough ... not
Lord Charles ... not George!
LADY DAVENPORT. [Warningly.]
Not all your brilliance as a hostess will keep Mr.
Trebell in a Tory Cabinet.
MRS. FARRANT. [With wilful avoidance
of the point.] Cyril Horsham is only too glad.
LADY DAVENPORT. Because you tell him he ought
FRANCES TREBELL. [Coming to the
rescue.] There is this. Henry has never exactly
called himself a Liberal. He really is elected
MRS. FARRANT. I wonder will all
the garden-cities become pocket-boroughs.
FRANCES TREBELL. I think he has made a mistake.
MRS. FARRANT. It makes things easier now ...
his having kept his freedom.
FRANCES TREBELL. I think it’s
a mistake to stand outside a system. There’s
an inhumanity in that amount of detachment ...
MRS. FARRANT. [Brilliantly.] I think a statesman
may be a little inhuman.
LADY DAVENPORT. [With keenness.]
Do you mean superhuman? It’s not the same
thing, you know.
MRS. FARRANT. I know.
LADY DAVENPORT. Most people don’t know.
MRS. FARRANT. [Proceeding with her cynicism.]
Humanity achieves ... what?
Housekeeping and children.
FRANCES TREBELL. As far as a woman’s concerned.
MRS. FARRANT. [A little mockingly.]
Now, Mamma, say that is as far as a woman’s
LADY DAVENPORT. My dear, you know I don’t
MRS. FARRANT. We may none of
us think so. But there’s our position ...
bread and butter and a certain satisfaction until
... Oh, Mamma, I wish I were like you ... beyond
all the passions of life.
LADY DAVENPORT. [With great vitality.]
I’m nothing of the sort. It’s my
egoism’s dead ... that’s an intimation
MRS. FARRANT. I accept the snub.
But I wonder what I’m to do with myself for
the next thirty years.
FRANCES TREBELL. Help Lord Horsham to govern
gives a little laugh and takes up the subject this
MRS. FARRANT. Mamma ... how many
people, do you think, believe that Cyril’s grande
passion for me takes that form?
LADY DAVENPORT. Everyone who
knows Cyril and most people who know you.
MRS. FARRANT. Otherwise I seem
to have fulfilled my mission in life. The boys
are old enough to go to school. George and I have
become happily unconscious of each other.
FRANCES TREBELL. [With sudden energy
of mind.] Till I was forty I never realised the
fact that most women must express themselves through
MRS. FARRANT. [Looking at FRANCES
a little curiously.] Didn’t your instinct
lead you to marry ... or did you fight against it?
FRANCES TREBELL. I don’t
know. Perhaps I had no vitality to spare.
LADY DAVENPORT. That boy is a long time proposing
startles the other two from their conversational
MRS. FARRANT. Walter? I’m
not sure that he means to. She means to marry
him if he does.
FRANCES TREBELL. Has she told you so?
MRS. FARRANT. No. I judge by her business-like
interest in his welfare.
FRANCES TREBELL. He’s beginning
to feel the responsibility of manhood ... doesn’t
know whether to be frightened or proud of it.
LADY DAVENPORT. It’s a
pretty thing to watch young people mating. When
they’re older and marry from disappointment or
deliberate choice, thinking themselves so worldly-wise....
MRS. FARRANT, [Back to her politely
cynical mood.] Well ... then at least they don’t
develop their differences at the same fire-side, regretting
the happy time when neither possessed any character
LADY DAVENPORT. [Giving a final
douche of common sense.] My dear, any two reasonable
people ought to be able to live together.
FRANCES TREBELL. Granted three
sitting rooms. That’ll be the next middle-class
political cry ... when women are heard.
MRS. FARRANT. [Suddenly as practical
as her mother.] Walter’s lucky ...
Lucy won’t stand any nonsense. She’ll
have him in the Cabinet by the time he’s fifty.
LADY DAVENPORT. And are you the
power behind your brother, Miss Trebell?
FRANCES TREBELL. [Gravely.]
He ignores women. I’ve forced enough good
manners on him to disguise the fact decently.
His affections are two generations ahead.
MRS. FARRANT. People like him in an odd sort
FRANCES TREBELL. That’s
just respect for work done ... one can’t escape
There is a
slight pause in their talk. By some not very devious
FARRANT’S mind travels to the next subject.
MRS. FARRANT. Fanny ... how fond are you of Amy
FRANCES TREBELL. She says we’re great friends.
MRS. FARRANT. She says that of me.
FRANCES TREBELL. It’s a pity about her
MRS. FARRANT. [Almost provokingly.] What about
FRANCES TREBELL. It seems to be understood that
he treats her badly.
LADY DAVENPORT. [A little malicious.]
Is there any particular reason he should treat her
FRANCES TREBELL. Don’t you like her, Lady
LADY DAVENPORT. [Dealing out justice.]
I find her quite charming to look at and talk to ...
but why shouldn’t Justin O’Connell live
in Ireland for all that? I’m going to bed,
her belongings and gets up.
MRS. FARRANT. I must look in at the billiard
FRANCES TREBELL. I won’t come, Julia.
MRS. FARRANT. What’s your brother working
FRANCES TREBELL. I don’t
know. Something we shan’t hear of for a
MRS. FARRANT. On the Church business, I daresay.
FRANCES TREBELL. Did you hear
Lord Horsham at dinner on the lack of dignity in an
MRS. FARRANT. Poor Cyril ...
he’ll have to find a way round that opinion of
FRANCES TREBELL. Does he like leading his party?
MRS. FARRANT. [After due consideration.]
It’s an intellectual exercise. He’s
the right man, Fanny. You see it isn’t a
party in the active sense at all, except now and then
when it’s captured by someone with an axe to
FRANCES TREBELL. [Humorously.] Such as my brother.
MRS. FARRANT. [As humorous.]
Such as your brother. It expresses the thought
of the men who aren’t taken in by the claptrap
FRANCES TREBELL. Sometimes they’ve
a queer way of expressing their love for the people
MRS. FARRANT. But one must use
democracy. Wellington wouldn’t ...
LADY DAVENPORT. [At the door.] Good-night,
FRANCES TREBELL. I’m coming ... it’s
MRS. FARRANT. [At the window.]
What a gorgeous night! I’ll come in and
kiss you, Mamma.
FRANCES follows LADY DAVENPORT
and MRS. FARRANT starts across the lawn
to the billiard room.... An hour later you can
see no change in the room except that only one
lamp is alight on the table in the middle.
AMY O’CONNELL and HENRY TREBELL walk
past one window and stay for a moment in the
light of the other. Her wrap is about her shoulders.
He stands looking down at her.
AMY O’CONNELL. There goes
the moon ... it’s quieter than ever now. [She
comes in.] Is it very late?
TREBELL. [As he follows.] Half-past twelve.
hard-bitten, brainy, forty-five and very sure of himself.
He has a cold
keen eye, which rather belies a sensitive mouth; hands
which can grip,
and a figure that is austere.
AMY O’CONNELL. I ought
to be in bed. I suppose everyone has gone.
TREBELL. Early trains to-morrow.
The billiard room lights are out.
AMY O’CONNELL. The walk has just tired
TREBELL. Sit down. [She sits
by the table. He sits by her and says with the
air of a certain buyer at a market.] You’re
AMY O’CONNELL. As well
here as by moonlight? Can’t you see any
TREBELL. One or two ... under
the eyes. But they give character and bring you
nearer my age. Yes, Nature hit on the right curve
in making you.
AMY O’CONNELL. Praise is
the greatest of luxuries, isn’t it, Henry? ...
Henry ... [she caresses the name.]
TREBELL. Quite right ... Henry.
AMY O’CONNELL. Henry ... Trebell.
TREBELL. Having formally taken possession of
AMY O’CONNELL. I’ll go to bed.
His eyes have
never moved from her. Now she breaks the contact
goes towards the
TREBELL. I wouldn’t ... my spare time for
love making is so limited.
She turns back,
quite at ease, her eyes challenging him.
AMY O’CONNELL. That’s the first offensive
thing you’ve said.
TREBELL. Why offensive?
AMY O’CONNELL. I may flirt. Making
love’s another matter.
TREBELL. Sit down and explain the difference
... Mrs. O’Connell.
She sits down.
AMY O’CONNELL. Quite so. ‘Mrs.
O’Connell’. That’s the difference.
TREBELL. [Provokingly.] But
I doubt if I’m interested in the fact that your
husband doesn’t understand you and that your
marriage was a mistake ... and how hard you find it
to be strong.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Kindly.]
I’m not quite a fool though you think so on a
three months’ acquaintance. But tell me
this ... what education besides marriage does a woman
TREBELL. [His head lifting quickly.] Education....
AMY O’CONNELL. Don’t be business-like.
TREBELL. I beg your pardon.
AMY O’CONNELL. Do you think
the things you like to have taught in schools are
any use to one when one comes to deal with you?
TREBELL. [After a little scrutiny
of her-face.] Well, if marriage is only the means
to an end ... what’s the end? Not flirtation.
AMY O’CONNELL. [With an air
of self-revelation.] I don’t know. To
keep one’s place in the world, I suppose, one’s
self-respect and a sense of humour.
TREBELL. Is that difficult?
AMY O’CONNELL. To get what
I want, without paying more than it’s worth to
TREBELL. Never to be reckless.
AMY O’CONNELL. [With a side-glance.]
One isn’t so often tempted.
TREBELL. In fact ... to flirt
with life generally. Now, what made your husband
AMY O’CONNELL. [Dealing with
the impertinence in her own fashion.] What would
make you marry me? Don’t say: Nothing
TREBELL. [Speaking apparently of
someone else.] A prolonged fit of idleness might
make me marry ... a clever woman. But I’ve
never been idle for more than a week. And I’ve
never met a clever woman ... worth calling a woman.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Bringing
their talk back to herself, and fastidiously.]
Justin has all the natural instincts.
TREBELL. He’s Roman Catholic, isn’t
AMY O’CONNELL. So am I ... by profession.
TREBELL. It’s a poor religion unless you
really believe in it.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Appealing
to him.] If I were to live at Linaskea and have
as many children as God sent, I should manage to make
Justin pretty miserable! And what would be left
of me at all I should like to know?
TREBELL. So Justin lives at Linaskea alone?
AMY O’CONNELL. I’m told now there’s
a pretty housemaid ... [she shrugs.]
TREBELL. Does he drink too?
AMY O’CONNELL. Oh, no.
You’d like Justin, I daresay. He’s
clever. The thirteenth century’s what he
knows about. He has done a book on its statutes
... has been doing another.
TREBELL. And after an evening’s
hard work I find you here ready to flirt with.
AMY O’CONNELL. What have you been working
TREBELL. A twentieth century
statute perhaps. That’s not any concern
of yours either.
She does not
follow his thought.
AMY O’CONNELL. No, I prefer
you in your unprofessional moments.
TREBELL. Real flattery. I didn’t know
I had any.
AMY O’CONNELL. That’s
why you should flirt with me ... Henry ... to
cultivate them. I’m afraid you lack imagination.
TREBELL. One must choose something to lack in
AMY O’CONNELL. Not develop your nature
to its utmost capacity.
TREBELL. And then?
AMY O’CONNELL. Well, if
that’s not an end in itself ... [With a touch
of romantic piety.] I suppose there’s the
TREBELL. [Grimly material.]
What, more developing! I watch people wasting
time on themselves with amazement ... I refuse
to look forward to wasting eternity.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Shaking her
head.] You are very self-satisfied.
TREBELL. Not more so than any
machine that runs smoothly. And I hope not self-conscious.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Rather attractively
treating him as a child.] It would do you good
to fall really desperately in love with me ... to give
me the power to make you unhappy.
becomes very definite.
TREBELL. At twenty-three I engaged
myself to be married to a charming and virtuous fool.
I broke it off.
AMY O’CONNELL. Did she mind much?
TREBELL. We both minded.
But I had ideals of womanhood that I wouldn’t
sacrifice to any human being. Then I fell in with
a woman who seduced me, and for a whole year led me
the life of a French novel ... played about with my
emotion as I had tortured that other poor girl’s
brains. Education you’d call it in the
one case as I called it in the other. What a waste
AMY O’CONNELL. And what has become of your
TREBELL. [Relapsing to his former mood.] It’s
no longer a personal matter.
AMY O’CONNELL. [With coquetry.] You’re
not interested in my character?
TREBELL. Oh, yes, I am ... up to kissing point.
She does not
shrink, but speaks with just a shade of contempt.
AMY O’CONNELL. You get
that far more easily than a woman. That’s
one of my grudges against men. Why can’t
women take love-affairs so lightly?
TREBELL. There are reasons.
But make a good beginning with this one. Kiss
me at once.
He leans towards
her. She considers him quite calmly.
AMY O’CONNELL. No.
TREBELL. When will you, then?
AMY O’CONNELL. When I can’t help
myself ... if that time ever comes.
TREBELL. [Accepting the postponement in a business-like
spirit.] Well ...
I’m an impatient man.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Confessing
engagingly.] I made up my mind to bring you within
arms’ length of me when we’d met at Lady
Percival’s. Do you remember? [His face
shows no sign of it.] It was the day after your
speech on the Budget.
TREBELL. Then I remember. But I haven’t
observed the process.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Subtly.]
Your sister grew to like me very soon. That’s
all the cunning there has been.
TREBELL. The rest is just mutual attraction?
AMY O’CONNELL. And opportunities.
TREBELL. Such as this.
At the drop
of their voices they become conscious of the silent
AMY O’CONNELL. Do you really think everyone
has gone to bed?
TREBELL. [Disregardful.] And
what is it makes my pressing attentions endurable
... if one may ask?
AMY O’CONNELL. Some spiritual
need or other, I suppose, which makes me risk unhappiness
... in fact, welcome it.
TREBELL. [With great briskness.]
Your present need is a good shaking.... I seriously
mean that. You get to attach importance to these
shades of emotion. A slight physical shock would
settle them all. That’s why I asked you
to kiss me just now.
AMY O’CONNELL. You haven’t very nice
ideas, have you?
TREBELL. There are three facts in life that call
up emotion ... Birth,
Death, and the Desire for Children. The niceties
AMY O’CONNELL. Then why do you want to
TREBELL. I don’t ... seriously.
But I shall in a minute just to finish the argument.
Too much diplomacy always ends in a fight.
AMY O’CONNELL. And if I don’t fight
... it’d be no fun for you, I suppose?
TREBELL. You would get that much
good out of me. For it’s my point of honour
... to leave nothing I touch as I find it.
He is very
close to her.
AMY O’CONNELL. You’re frightening
me a little ...
TREBELL. Come and look at the stars again.
AMY O’CONNELL. Give me
my wrap ... [He takes it up, but holds it.]
Well, put it on me. [He puts it round her, but
does not withdraw his arms.] Be careful, the stars
are looking at you.
TREBELL. No, they can’t see so far as we
can. That’s the proper creed.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Softly, almost shyly.]
TREBELL. [Bending closer to her.] Yes, pretty
AMY O’CONNELL. Is this what you call being
He looks up
TREBELL. Here’s somebody coming.
AMY O’CONNELL. Oh!...
TREBELL. What does it matter?
AMY O’CONNELL. I’m untidy or something....
She slips out,
for they are close to the window. The FOOTMAN
THE FOOTMAN. I beg your pardon, sir. I thought
everyone had gone.
TREBELL. I’ve just been for a walk.
I’ll lock up if you like.
THE FOOTMAN. I can easily wait up, sir.
TREBELL. [At the window.] I
wouldn’t. What do you do ... just slide
THE FOOTMAN. That’s all, sir.
TREBELL. I see. Good-night.
THE FOOTMAN. Good-night, sir.
TREBELL’S demeanour suddenly changes, becomes
of a man doing something in secret. He leans out
window and whispers.
There is no answer, so he gently
steps out. For a moment the room is empty
and there is silence. Then AMY has flown
from him into the safety of lights. She
is flushed, trembling, but rather ecstatic, and her
voice has lost all affectation now.
AMY O’CONNELL. Oh ... oh ... you shouldn’t
have kissed me like that!
in the window-way; a light in his eyes, and speaks
TREBELL. Come here.
she moves towards him. They speak in whispers.
AMY O’CONNELL. He was locking up.
TREBELL. I’ve sent him to bed.
AMY O’CONNELL. He won’t go.
TREBELL. Never mind him.
AMY O’CONNELL. We’re standing full
in the light ... anyone could see us.
TREBELL. [With fierce egotism.]
Think of me ... not of anyone else. [He draws her
from the window; then does not let her go.] May
I kiss you again?
AMY O’CONNELL. [Her eyes closed.] Yes.
He kisses her.
She stiffens in his arms; then laughs almost joyously,
and is commonplace.
AMY O’CONNELL. Well ... let me get my breath.
TREBELL. [Letting her stand free.] Now ...
she turns to the door, but sinks on the nearest chair.
AMY O’CONNELL. In a minute, I’m a
little faint. [He goes to her quickly.]
No, it’s nothing.
TREBELL. Come into the air again.
[Then half seriously.] I’ll race you
across the lawn.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Still breathless and a little
hysterical.] Thank you!
TREBELL. Shall I carry you?
AMY O’CONNELL. Don’t
be silly. [She recovers her self-possession, gets
up and goes to the window, then looks back at him
and says very beautifully.] But the night’s
beautiful, isn’t it?
He has her
in his arms again, more firmly this time.
TREBELL. Make it so.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Struggling
... with herself] Oh, why do you rouse me like
TREBELL. Because I want you.
AMY O’CONNELL. Want me to...?
TREBELL. Want you to ... kiss me just once.
AMY O’CONNELL. [Yielding.] If I do ...
don’t let me go mad, will you?
TREBELL. Perhaps. [He bends over her, her
head drops back.] Now.
AMY O’CONNELL. Yes!
him on the mouth. Then he would release her, but
she clings again.
Oh ... don’t let me go.
TREBELL. [With fierce pride of possession.]
She is fragile
beside him. He lifts her in his arms and carries
out into the darkness.