Fiction > Bernard Shaw > Man and Superman
Bernard Shaw (1856–1950).  Man and Superman.  1903.

Act I
Roebuck Ramsden is in his study, opening the morning’s letters. The study, handsomely and solidly furnished, proclaims the man of means. Not a speck of dust is visible: it is clear that there are at least two housemaids and a parlormaid downstairs, and a housekeeper upstairs who does not let them spare elbow-grease. Even the top of Roebuck’s head is polished: on a sunshiny day he could heliograph his orders to distant camps by merely nodding. In no other respect, however, does he suggest the military man. It is in active civil life that men get his broad air of importance, his dignified expectation of deference, his determinate mouth disarmed and refined since the hour of his success by the withdrawal of opposition and the concession of comfort and precedence and power. He is more than a highly respectable man: he is marked out as a president of highly respectable men, a chairman among directors, an alderman among councillors, a mayor among aldermen. Four tufts of iron-grey hair, which will soon be as white as isinglass, and are in other respects not at all unlike it, grow in two symmetrical pairs above his ears and at the angles of his spreading jaws. He wears a black frock coat, a white waistcoat (it is bright spring weather), and trousers, neither black nor perceptibly blue, of one of those indefinitely mixed hues which the modern clothier has produced to harmonize with the religions of respectable men. He has not been out of doors yet to-day; so he still wears his slippers, his boots being ready for him on the hearthrug. Surmising that he has no valet, and seeing that he has no secretary with a shorthand notebook and a typewriter, one meditates on how little our great burgess domesticity has been disturbed by new fashions and methods, or by the enterprise of the railway and hotel companies which sell you a Saturday to Monday of life at Folkestone as a real gentleman for two guineas, first class fares both ways included.   1
  How old is Roebuck? The question is important on the threshold of a drama of ideas; for under such circumstances everything depends on whether his adolescence belonged to the sixties or to the eighties. He was born, as a matter of fact, in 1839, and was a Unitarian and Free Trader from his boyhood, and an Evolutionist from the publication of the Origin of Species. Consequently he has always classed himself as an advanced thinker and fearlessly outspoken reformer.   2
  Sitting at his writing table, he has on his right the windows giving on Portland Place. Through these, as through a proscenium, the curious spectator may contemplate his profile as well as the blinds will permit. On his left is the inner wall, with a stately bookcase, and the door not quite in the middle, but somewhat further from him. Against the wall opposite him are two busts on pillars: one, to his left, of John Bright; the other, to his right, of Mr Herbert Spencer. Between them hang an engraved portrait of Richard Cobden; enlarged photographs of Martineau, Huxley, and George Eliot; autotypes of allegories by Mr G. F. Watts (for Roebuck believes in the fine arts with all the earnestness of a man who does not understand them), and an impression of Dupont’s engraving of Delaroche’s Beaux Arts hemicycle, representing the great men of all ages. On the wall behind him, above the mantel-shelf, is a family Portrait of impenetrable obscurity.   3
  A chair stands near the writing table for the convenience of business visitors. Two other chairs are against the wall between the busts.   4
  A parlormaid enters with a visitor’s card. Roebuck takes it, and nods, pleased. Evidently a welcome caller.   5
  RAMSDEN. Shew him in.
  The parlormaid goes out and returns with the visitor.
  THE MAID. Mr Robinson.
  Mr Robinson is really an uncommonly nice looking young fellow. He must, one thinks, be the jeune premier; for it is not in reason to suppose that a second such attractive male figure should appear in one story. The slim, shapely frame, the elegant suit of new mourning, the small head and regular features, the pretty little moustache, the frank clear eyes, the wholesome bloom on the youthful complexion, the well brushed glossy hair, not curly, but of fine texture and good dark color, the arch of good nature in the eyebrows, the erect forehead and neatly pointed chin, all announce the man who will love and suffer later on. And that he will not do so without sympathy is guaranteed by an engaging sincerity and eager modest serviceableness which stamp him as a man of amiable nature. The moment he appears, Ramsden’s face expands into fatherly liking and welcome, an expression which drops into one of decorous grief as the young man approaches him with sorrow in his face as well as in his black clothes. Ramsden seems to know the nature of the bereavement. As the visitor advances silently to the writing table, the old man rises and shakes his hand across it without a word: a long, affectionate shake which tells the story of a recent sorrow common to both.
  RAMSDEN [concluding the handshake and cheering up] Well, well, Octavius, it’s the common lot. We must all face it some day. Sit down.
  Octavius takes the visitor’s chair. Ramsden replaces himself in his own.
  OCTAVIUS. Yes: we must face it, Mr Ramsden. But I owed him a great deal. He did everything for me that my father could have done if he had lived.   9
  RAMSDEN. He had no son of his own, you see.  10
  OCTAVIUS. But he had daughters; and yet he was as good to my sister as to me. And his death was so sudden! I always intended to thank him—to let him know that I had not taken all his care of me as a matter of course, as any boy takes his father’s care. But I waited for an opportunity; and now he is dead—dropped without a moment’s warning. He will never know what I felt. [He takes out his handkerchief and cries unaffectedly].  11
  RAMSDEN. How do we know that, Octavius? He may know it: we cannot tell. Come! dont grieve. [Octavius masters himself and puts up his handkerchief]. Thats right. Now let me tell you something to console you. The last time I saw him—it was in this very room—he said to me: “Tavy is a generous lad and the soul of honor; and when I see how little consideration other men get from their sons, I realize how much better than a son he’s been to me.” There! Doesnt that do you good?  12
  OCTAVIUS. Mr Ramsden: he used to say to me that he had met only one man in the world who was the soul of honor, and that was Roebuck  13
  RAMSDEN. Oh, that was his partiality: we were very old friends, you know. But there was something else he used to say about you. I wonder whether I ought to tell you or not!  14
  OCTAVIUS. You know best.  15
  RAMSDEN. It was something about his daughter.  16
  OCTAVIUS [eagerly] About Ann! Oh, do tell me that, Mr Ramsden.  17
  RAMSDEN. Well, he said he was glad, after all, you were not his son, because he thought that someday Annie and you—[Octavius blushes vividly]. Well, perhaps I shouldnt have told you. But he was in earnest.  18
  OCTAVIUS. Oh, if only I thought I had a chance! You know, Mr Ramsden, I dont care about money or about what people call position; and I cant bring myself to take an interest in the business of struggling for them. Well, Ann has a most exquisite nature; but she is so accustomed to be in the thick of that sort of thing that she thinks a man’s character incomplete if he is not ambitious. She knows that if she married me she would have to reason herself out of being ashamed of me for not being a big success of some kind.  19
  RAMSDEN [getting up and planting himself with his back to the fireplace] Nonsense, my boy, nonsense! Youre too modest. What does she know about the real value of men at her age? [More seriously] Besides, she’s a wonderfully dutiful girl. Her father’s wish would be sacred to her. Do you know that since she grew up to years of discretion, I dont believe she has ever once given her own wish as a reason for doing anything or not doing it. It’s always “Father wishes me to,” or “Mother wouldnt like it.” It’s really almost a fault in her. I have often told her she must learn to think for herself.  20
  OCTAVIUS [shaking his head] I couldnt ask her to marry me because her father wished it, Mr Ramsden.  21
  RAMSDEN. Well, perhaps not. No: of course not. I see that. No: you certainly couldnt. But when you win her on your own merits, it will be a great happiness to her to fulfil her father’s desire as well as her own. Eh? Come! youll ask her, wont you?  22
  OCTAVIUS [with sad gaiety] At all events I promise you I shall never ask anyone else.  23
  RAMSDEN. Oh, you shant need to. She’ll accept you, my boy—although [here he suddenly becomes very serious indeed] you have one great drawback.  24
  OCTAVIUS [anxiously] What drawback is that, Mr Ramsden? I should rather say which of my many drawbacks?  25
  RAMSDEN. I’ll tell you, Octavius. [He takes from the table a book bound in red cloth]. I have in my hand a copy of the most infamous, the most scandalous, the most mischievous, the most blackguardly book that ever escaped burning at the hands of the common hangman. I have not read it: I would not soil my mind with such filth; but I have read what the papers say of it. The title is quite enough for me. [He reads it]. The Revolutionist’s Handbook and Pocket Companion. By John Tanner, M.I.R.C., Member of the Idle Rich Class.  26
  OCTAVIUS [smiling] But Jack—  27
  RAMSDEN [testily] For goodness’ sake, dont call him Jack under my roof [he throws the book violently down on the table. Then, somewhat relieved, he comes past the table to Octavius, and addresses him at close quarters with impressive gravity]. Now, Octavius, I know that my dead friend was right when he said you were a generous lad. I know that this man was your schoolfellow, and that you feel bound to stand by him because there was a boyish friendship between you. But I ask you to consider the altered circumstances. You were treated as a son in my friend’s house. You lived there; and your friends could not be turned from the door. This man Tanner was in and out there on your account almost from his childhood. He addresses Annie by her Christian name as freely as you do. Well, while her father was alive, that was her father’s business, not mine. This man Tanner was only a boy to him: his opinions were something to be laughed at, like a man’s hat on a child’s head. But now Tanner is a grown man and Annie a grown woman. And her father is gone. We dont as yet know the exact terms of his will; but he often talked it over with me; and I have no more doubt than I have that youre sitting there that the will appoints me Annie’s trustee and guardian. [Forcibly] Now I tell you, once for all, I cant and I wont have Annie placed in such a position that she must, out of regard for you, suffer the intimacy of this fellow Tanner. It’s not fair: it’s not right: it’s not kind. What are you going to do about it?  28
  OCTAVIUS. But Ann herself has told Jack that whatever his opinions are, he will always be welcome because he knew her dear father.  29
  RAMSDEN [out of patience] That girl’s mad about her duty to her parents. [He starts off like a goaded ox in the direction of John Bright, in whose expression there is no sympathy for him. As he speaks he fumes down to Herbert Spencer, who receives him still more coldly]. Excuse me, Octavius; but there are limits to social toleration. You know that I am not a bigoted or prejudiced man. You know that I am plain Roebuck Ramsden when other men who have done less have got handles to their names, because I have stood for equality and liberty of conscience while they were truckling to the Church and to the aristocracy. Whitefield and I lost chance after chance through our advanced opinions. But I draw the line at Anarchism and Free Love and that sort of thing. If I am to be Annie’s guardian, she will have to learn that she has a duty to me. I wont have it: I will not have it. She must forbid John Tanner the house; and so must you.
  The parlormaid returns.
  OCTAVIUS. But—  31
  RAMSDEN [calling his attention to the servant] Ssh! Well?  32
  THE MAID. Mr Tanner wishes to see you, sir.  33
  RAMSDEN. Mr Tanner!  34
  OCTAVIUS. Jack!  35
  RAMSDEN. How dare Mr Tanner call on me! Say I cannot see him.  36
  OCTAVIUS [hurt] I am sorry you are turning my friend from your door like that.  37
  THE MAID [calmly] He’s not at the door, sir. He’s upstairs in the drawing room with Miss Ramsden. He came with Mrs Whitefield and Miss Ann and Miss Robinson, sir.
  Ramsden’s feelings are beyond words.
  OCTAVIUS [grinning] Thats very like Jack, Mr Ramsden. You must see him, even if it’s only to turn him out.  39
  RAMSDEN. [hammering out his words with suppressed fury] Go upstairs and ask Mr Tanner to be good enough to step down here. [The parlormaid goes out; and Ramsden returns to the fireplace, as to a fortified position]. I must say that of all the confounded pieces of impertinence—well, if these are Anarchist manners, I hope you like them. And Annie with him! Annie! A— [he chokes].  40
  OCTAVIUS. Yes: thats what surprises me. He’s so desperately afraid of Ann. There must be something the matter.
  Mr John Tanner suddenly opens the door and enters. He is too young to be described simply as a big man with a beard. But it is already plain that middle life will find him in that category. He has still some of the slimness of youth; but youthfulness is not the effect he aims at: his frock coat would befit a prime minister; and a certain high chested carriage of the shoulders, a lofty pose of the head, and the Olympian majesty with which a mane, or rather a huge wisp, of hazel colored hair is thrown back from an imposing brow, suggest Jupiter rather than Apollo. He is prodigiously fluent of speech, restless, excitable (mark the snorting nostril and the restless blue eye, just the thirty-secondth of an inch too wide open), possibly a little mad. He is carefully dressed, not from the vanity that cannot resist finery, but from a sense of the importance of everything he does which leads him to make as much of paying a call as other men do of getting married or laying a foundation stone. A sensitive, susceptible, exaggerative, earnest man: a megalomaniac, who would be lost without a sense of humor.
  Just at present the sense of humor is in abeyance. To say that he is excited is nothing: all his moods are phases of excitement. He is now in the panic-stricken phase; and he walks straight up to Ramsden as if with the fixed intention of shooting him on his own hearthrug. But what he pulls from his breast pocket is not a pistol, but a foolscap document which he thrusts under the indignant nose of Ramsden as he exclaims—
  TANNER. Ramsden: do you know what that is?  42
  RAMSDEN. [loftily] No, sir.  43
  TANNER. It’s a copy of Whitefield’s will. Ann got it this morning.  44
  RAMSDEN. When you say Ann, you mean, I presume, Miss Whitefield.  45
  TANNER. I mean our Ann, your Ann, Tavy’s Ann, and now, heaven help me, my Ann!  46
  OCTAVIUS [rising, very pale] What do you mean?  47
  TANNER. Mean! [He holds up the will]. Do you know who is appointed Ann’s guardian by this will?  48
  RAMSDEN [coolly] I believe I am.  49
  TANNER. You! You and I, man. I! I!! I!!! Both of us! [He flings the will down on the writing table].  50
  RAMSDEN. You! Impossible.  51
  TANNER. It’s only too hideously true. [He throws himself into Octavius’s chair]. Ramsden: get me out of it somehow. You dont know Ann as well as I do. She’ll commit every crime a respectable woman can; and she’ll justify every one of them by saying that it was the wish of her guardians. She’ll put everything on us; and we shall have no more control over her than a couple of mice over a cat.  52
  OCTAVIUS. Jack: I wish you wouldnt talk like that about Ann.  53
  TANNER. This chap’s in love with her: thats another complication. Well, she’ll either jilt him and say I didnt approve of him, or marry him and say you ordered her to. I tell you, this is the most staggering blow that has ever fallen on a man of my age and temperament.  54
  RAMSDEN. Let me see that will, sir. [He goes to the writing table and picks it up]. I cannot believe that my old friend Whitefield would have shewn such a want of confidence in me as to associate me with—[His countenance falls as he reads].  55
  TANNER. It’s all my own doing: thats the horrible irony of it. He told me one day that you were to be Ann’s guardian; and like a fool I began arguing with him about the folly of leaving a young woman under the control of an old man with obsolete ideas.  56
  RAMSDEN [stupended] My ideas obsolete!!!!!!!  57
  TANNER. Totally. I had just finished an essay called Down with Government by the Greyhaired; and I was full of arguments and illustrations. I said the proper thing was to combine the experience of an old hand with the vitality of a young one. Hang me if he didnt take me at my word and alter his will—it’s dated only a fortnight after that conversation—appointing me as joint guardian with you!  58
  RAMSDEN [pale and determined] I shall refuse to act.  59
  TANNER. Whats the good of that? Ive been refusing all the way from Richmond; but Ann keeps on saying that of course she’s only an orphan; and that she cant expect the people who were glad to come to the house in her father’s time to trouble much about her now. Thats the latest game. An orphan! It’s like hearing an ironclad talk about being at the mercy of the wind and waves.  60
  OCTAVIUS. This is not fair, Jack. She is an orphan. And you ought to stand by her.  61
  TANNER. Stand by her! What danger is she in? She has the law on her side; she has popular sentiment on her side; she has plenty of money and no conscience. All she wants with me is to load up all her moral responsibilities on me, and do as she likes at the expense of my character. I cant control her; and she can compromise me as much as she likes. I might as well be her husband.  62
  RAMSDEN. You can refuse to accept the guardianship. I shall certainly refuse to hold it jointly with you.  63
  TANNER. Yes; and what will she say to that? what does she say to it? Just that her father’s wishes are sacred to her, and that she shall always look up to me as her guardian whether I care to face the responsibility or not. Refuse! You might as well refuse to accept the embraces of a boa constrictor when once it gets round your neck.  64
  OCTAVIUS. This sort of talk is not kind to me, Jack.  65
  TANNER [rising and going to Octavius to console him, but still lamenting] If he wanted a young guardian, why didnt he appoint Tavy?  66
  RAMSDEN. Ah! why indeed?  67
  OCTAVIUS. I will tell you. He sounded me about it; but I refused the trust because I loved her. I had no right to let myself be forced on her as a guardian by her father. He spoke to her about it; and she said I was right. You know I love her, Mr Ramsden; and Jack knows it too. If Jack loved a woman, I would not compare her to a boa constrictor in his presence, however much I might dislike her [he sits down between the busts and turns his face to the wall].  68
  RAMSDEN. I do not believe that Whitefield was in his right senses when he made that will. You have admitted that he made it under your influence.  69
  TANNER. You ought to be pretty well obliged to me for my influence. He leaves you two thousand five hundred for your trouble. He leaves Tavy a dowry for his sister and five thousand for himself.  70
  OCTAVIUS [his tears flowing afresh] Oh, I cant take it. He was too good to us.  71
  TANNER. You wont get it, my boy, if Ramsden upsets the will.  72
  RAMSDEN. Ha! I see. You have got me in a cleft stick.  73
  TANNER. He leaves me nothing but the charge of Ann’s morals, on the ground that I have already more money than is good for me. That shews that he had his wits about him, doesnt it?  74
  RAMSDEN [grimly] I admit that.  75
  OCTAVIUS [rising and coming from his refuge by the wall] Mr Ramsden: I think you are prejudiced against Jack. He is a man of honor, and incapable of abusing—  76
  TANNER. Dont, Tavy: youll make me ill. I am not a man of honor: I am a man struck down by a dead hand. Tavy: you must marry her after all and take her off my hands. And I had set my heart on saving you from her!  77
  OCTAVIUS. Oh, Jack, you talk of saving me from my highest happiness.  78
  TANNER. Yes, a lifetime of happiness. If it were only the first half hour’s happiness, Tavy, I would buy it for you with my last penny. But a lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.  79
  RAMSDEN [violently] Stuff, sir. Talk sense; or else go and waste someone else’s time: I have something better to do than listen to your fooleries [he positively kicks his way to his table and resumes his seat].  80
  TANNER. You hear him, Tavy! Not an idea in his head later than eighteensixty. We cant leave Ann with no other guardian to turn to.  81
  RAMSDEN. I am proud of your contempt for my character and opinions, sir. Your own are set forth in that book, I believe.  82
  TANNER [eagerly going to the table] What! Youve got my book! What do you think of it?  83
  RAMSDEN. Do you suppose I would read such a book, sir?  84
  TANNER. Then why did you buy it?  85
  RAMSDEN. I did not buy it, sir. It has been sent me by some foolish lady who seems to admire your views. I was about to dispose of it when Octavius interrupted me. I shall do so now, with your permission. [He throws the book into the waste paper basket with such vehemence that Tanner recoils under the impression that it is being thrown at his head].  86
  TANNER. You have no more manners than I have myself. However, that saves ceremony between us. [He sits down again]. What do you intend to do about this will?  87
  OCTAVIUS. May I make a suggestion?  88
  RAMSDEN. Certainly, Octavius.  89
  OCTAVIUS. Arnt we forgetting that Ann herself may have some wishes in this matter?  90
  RAMSDEN. I quite intend that Annie’s wishes shall be consulted in every reasonable way. But she is only a woman, and a young and inexperienced woman at that.  91
  TANNER. Ramsden: I begin to pity you.  92
  RAMSDEN [hotly] I dont want to know how you feel towards me, Mr Tanner.  93
  TANNER. Ann will do just exactly what she likes. And whats more, she’ll force us to advise her to do it; and she’ll put the blame on us if it turns out badly. So, as Tavy is longing to see her—  94
  OCTAVIUS [shyly] I am not, Jack.  95
  TANNER. You lie, Tavy: you are. So lets have her down from the drawing room and ask her what she intends us to do. Off with you, Tavy, and fetch her. [Tavy turns to go]. And dont be long; for the strained relations between myself and Ramsden will make the interval rather painful. [Ramsden compresses his lips, but says nothing].  96
  OCTAVIUS. Never mind him, Mr Ramsden. He’s not serious. [He goes out].  97
  RAMSDEN [very deliberately] Mr Tanner: you are the most impudent person I have ever met.  98
  TANNER [seriously] I know it, Ramsden. Yet even I cannot wholly conquer shame. We live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinions, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins. Good Lord, my dear Ramsden, we are ashamed to walk, ashamed to ride in an omnibus, ashamed to hire a hansom instead of keeping a carriage, ashamed of keeping one horse instead of two and a groom-gardener instead of a coachman and footman. The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is. Why, youre ashamed to buy my book, ashamed to read it: the only thing youre not ashamed of is to judge me for it without having read it; and even that only means that youre ashamed to have heterodox opinions. Look at the effect I produce because my fairy godmother withheld from me this gift of shame. I have every possible virtue that a man can have except—  99
  RAMSDEN. I am glad you think so well of yourself. 100
  TANNER. All you mean by that is that you think I ought to be ashamed of talking about my virtues. You dont mean that I havnt got them: you know perfectly well that I am as sober and honest a citizen as yourself, as truthful personally, and much more truthful politically and morally. 101
  RAMSDEN [touched on his most sensitive point] I deny that. I will not allow you or any man to treat me as if I were a mere member of the British public. I detest its prejudices; I scorn its narrowness; I demand the right to think for myself. You pose as an advanced man. Let me tell you that I was an advanced man before you were born. 102
  TANNER. I knew it was a long time ago. 103
  RAMSDEN. I am as advanced as ever I was. I defy you to prove that I have ever hauled down the flag. I am more advanced than ever I was. I grow more advanced every day. 104
  TANNER. More advanced in years, Polonius. 105
  RAMSDEN. Polonius! So you are Hamlet, I suppose. 106
  TANNER. No: I am only the most impudent person youve ever met. Thats your notion of a thoroughly bad character. When you want to give me a piece of your mind, you ask yourself, as a just and upright man, what is the worst you can fairly say to me. Thief, liar, forger, adulterer, perjurer, glutton, drunkard? Not one of these names fits me. You have to fall back on my deficiency in shame. Well, I admit it. I even congratulate myself; for if I were ashamed of my real self, I should cut as stupid a figure as any of the rest of you. Cultivate a little impudence, Ramsden; and you will become quite a remarkable man. 107
  RAMSDEN. I have no— 108
  TANNER. You have no desire for that sort of notoriety. Bless you, I knew that answer would come as well as I know that a box of matches will come out of an automatic machine when I put a penny in the slot: you would be ashamed to say anything else.
  The crushing retort for which Mr Ramsden has been visibly collecting his forces is lost for ever; for at this point Octavius returns with Miss Ann Whitefield and her mother; and Ramsden springs up and hurries to the door to receive them. Whether Ann is good-looking or not depends upon your taste; also and perhaps chiefly on your age and sex. To Octavius she is an enchantingly beautiful woman, in whose presence the world becomes transfigured, and the puny limits of individual consciousness are suddenly made infinite by a mystic memory of the whole life of the race to its beginnings in the east, or even back to the paradise from which it fell. She is to him the reality of romance, the inner good sense of nonsense, the unveiling of his eyes, the freeing of his soul, the abolition of time, place, and circumstance, the etherealization of his blood into rapturous rivers of the very water of life itself, the revelation of all the mysteries and the sanctification of all the dogmas. To her mother she is, to put it as moderately as possible, nothing whatever of the kind. Not that Octavius’s admiration is in any way ridiculous or discreditable. Ann is a well formed creature, as far as that goes; and she is perfectly ladylike, graceful, and comely, with ensnaring eyes and hair. Besides, instead of making herself an eyesore, like her mother, she has devised a mourning costume of black and violet silk which does honor to her late father and reveals the family tradition of brave unconventionality by which Ramsden sets such store.
  But all this is beside the point as an explanation of Ann’s charm. Turn up her nose, give a cast to her eye, replace her black and violet confection by the apron and feathers of a flower girl, strike all the aitches out of her speech, and Ann would still make men dream. Vitality is as common as humanity; but, like humanity, it sometimes rises to genius; and Ann is one of the vital geniuses. Not at all, if you please, an oversexed person: that is a vital defect, not a true excess. She is a perfectly respectable, perfectly self-controlled woman, and looks it; though her pose is fashionably frank and impulsive. She inspires confidence as a person who will do nothing she does not mean to do; also some fear, perhaps, as a woman who will probably do everything she means to do without taking more account of other people than may be necessary and what she calls right. In short, what the weaker of her own sex sometimes call a cat.
  Nothing can be more decorous than her entry and her reception by Ramsden, whom she kisses. The late Mr Whitefield would be gratified almost to impatience by the long faces of the men (except Tanner, who is fidgety), the silent handgrasps, the sympathetic placing of chairs, the sniffing of the widow, and the liquid eye of the daughter, whose heart, apparently will not let her control her tongue to speech. Ramsden and Octavius take the two chairs from the wall, and place them for the two ladies; but Ann comes to Tanner and takes his chair, which he offers with a brusque gesture, subsequently relieving his irritation by sitting down on the corner of the writing table with studied indecorum. Octavius gives Mrs Whitefield a chair next Ann, and himself takes the vacant one which Ramsden has placed under the nose of the effigy of Mr. Herbert Spencer.
  Mrs. Whitefield, by the way, is a little woman, whose faded flaxen hair looks like straw on an egg. She has an expression of muddled shrewdness, a squeak of protest in her voice, and an odd air of continually elbowing away some larger person who is crushing her into a corner. One guesses her as one of those women who are conscious of being treated as silly and negligible, and who, without having strength enough to assert themselves effectually, at any rate never submit to their fate. There is a touch of chivalry in Octavius’s scrupulous attention to her, even whilst his whole soul is absorbed by Ann.
  Ramsden goes solemnly back to his magisterial seat at the writing table, ignoring Tanner, and opens the proceedings.
  RAMSDEN. I am sorry, Annie, to force business on you at a sad time like the present. But your poor dear father’s will has raised a very serious question. You have read it, I believe?
  Ann assents with a nod and a catch of her breath, too much affected to speak.
  I must say I am surprised to find Mr Tanner named as joint guardian and trustee with myself of you and Rhoda. [A pause. They all look portentous; but they have nothing to say. Ramsden, a little ruffled by the lack of any responses, continues] I dont know that I can consent to act under such conditions. Mr Tanner has, I understand, some objection also; but I do not profess to understand its nature: he will no doubt speak for himself. But we are agreed that we can decide nothing until we know your views. I am afraid I shall have to ask you to choose between my sole guardianship and that of Mr Tanner; for I fear it is impossible for us to undertake a joint arrangement.
  ANN [in a low musical voice] Mamma— 111
  MRS WHITEFIELD [hastily] Now, Ann, I do beg you not to put it on me. I have no opinion on the subject; and if I had, it would probably not be attended to. I am quite content with whatever you three think best.
  Tanner turns his head and looks fixedly at Ramsden, who angrily refuses to receive this mute communication.
  ANN [resuming in the same gentle voice, ignoring her mother’s bad taste] Mamma knows that she is not strong enough to bear the whole responsibility for me and Rhoda without some help and advice. Rhoda must have a guardian; and though I am older, I do not think any young unmarried woman should be left quite to her own guidance. I hope you agree with me, Granny? 113
  TANNER [starting] Granny! Do you intend to call your guardians Granny? 114
  ANN. Dont be foolish, Jack. Mr Ramsden has always been Grandpapa Roebuck to me: I am Granny’s Annie; and he is Annie’s Granny. I christened him so when I first learned to speak. 115
  RAMSDEN [sarcastically] I hope you are satisfied, Mr Tanner. Go on, Annie: I quite agree with you. 116
  ANN. Well, if I am to have a guardian, can I set aside anybody whom my dear father appointed for me? 117
  RAMSDEN [biting his lip] You approve of your father’s choice, then? 118
  ANN. It is not for me to approve or disapprove. I accept it. My father loved me and knew best what was good for me. 119
  RAMSDEN. Of course I understand your feeling, Annie. It is what I should have expected of you; and it does you credit. But it does not settle the question so completely as you think. Let me put a case to you. Suppose you were to discover that I had been guilty of some disgraceful action—that I was not the man your poor dear father took me for! Would you still consider it right that I should be Rhoda’s guardian? 120
  ANN. I cant imagine you doing anything disgraceful, Granny. 121
  TANNER [to Ramsden] You havnt done anything of the sort, have you? 122
  RAMSDEN [indignantly] No, sir. 123
  MRS WHITEFIELD [placidly] Well, then, why suppose it? 124
  ANN. You see, Granny, Mamma would not like me to suppose it. 125
  RAMSDEN [much perplexed] You are both so full of natural and affectionate feeling in these family matters that it is very hard to put the situation fairly before you. 126
  TANNER. Besides, my friend, you are not putting the situation fairly before them. 127
  RAMSDEN [sulkily] Put it yourself, then. 128
  TANNER. I will. Ann: Ramsden thinks I am not fit to be your guardian; and I quite agree with him. He considers that if your father had read my book, he wouldnt have appointed me. That book is the disgraceful action he has been talking about. He thinks it’s your duty for Rhoda’s sake to ask him to act alone and to make me withdraw. Say the word; and I will. 129
  ANN. But I havnt read your book, Jack. 130
  TANNER [diving at the waste-paper basket and fishing the book out for her] Then read it at once and decide. 131
  RAMSDEN [vehemently] If I am to be your guardian, I positively forbid you to read that book, Annie. [He smites the table with his fist and rises]. 132
  ANN. Of course not if you dont wish it. [She puts the book on the table]. 133
  TANNER. If one guardian is to forbid you to read the other guardian’s book, how are we to settle it? Suppose I order you to read it! What about your duty to me? 134
  ANN [gently] I am sure you would never purposely force me into a painful dilemma, Jack. 135
  RAMSDEN [irritably] Yes, yes, Annie: this is all very well, and, as I said, quite natural and becoming. But you must make a choice one way or the other. We are as much in a dilemma as you. 136
  ANN. I feel that I am too young, too inexperienced, to decide. My father’s wishes are sacred to me. 137
  MRS WHITEFIELD. If you two men wont carry them out I must say it is rather hard that you should put the responsibility on Ann. It seems to me that people are always putting things on other people in this world. 138
  RAMSDEN. I am sorry you take it in that way. 139
  ANN [touchingly] Do you refuse to accept me as your ward, Granny? 140
  RAMSDEN. No: I never said that. I greatly object to act with Mr Tanner: thats all. 141
  MRS WHITEFIELD. Why? Whats the matter with poor Jack? 142
  TANNER. My views are too advanced for him. 143
  RAMSDEN [indignantly] They are not. I deny it. 144
  ANN. Of course not. What nonsense! Nobody is more advanced than Granny. I am sure it is Jack himself who has made all the difficulty. Come Jack! be kind to me in my sorrow. You dont refuse to accept me as your ward, do you? 145
  TANNER [gloomily] No. I let myself in for it; so I suppose I must face it. [He turns away to the bookcase, and stands there, moodily studying the titles of the volumes]. 146
  ANN [rising and expanding with subdued but gushing delight] Then we are all agreed; and my dear father’s will is to be carried out. You dont know what a joy that is to me and to my mother! [She goes to Ramsden and presses both his hands, saying] And I shall have my dear Granny to help and advise me. [She casts a glance at Tanner over her shoulder]. And Jack the Giant Killer. [She goes past her mother to Octavius]. And Jack’s inseparable friend Ricky-ticky-tavy [he blushes and looks inexpressibly foolish]. 147
  MRS WHITEFIELD [rising and shaking her widow’s weeds straight] Now that you are Ann’s guardian, Mr Ramsden, I wish you would speak to her about her habit of giving people nicknames. They cant be expected to like it. [She moves towards the door]. 148
  ANN. How can you say such a thing, Mamma! [Glowing with affectionate remorse] Oh, I wonder can you be right! Have I been inconsiderate! [She turns to Octavius, who is sitting astride his chair with his elbows on the back of it. Putting her hand on his forehead she turns his face up suddenly]. Do you want to be treated like a grown-up man? Must I call you Mr Robinson in future? 149
  OCTAVIUS [earnestly] Oh please call me Ricky-ticky-tavy. “Mr Robinson” would hurt me cruelly. [She laughs and pats his cheek with her finger; then comes back to Ramsden]. You know I’m beginning to think that Granny is rather a piece of impertinence. But I never dreamt of its hurting you. 150
  RAMSDEN [breezily, as he pats her affectionately on the back] My dear Annie, nonsense. I insist on Granny. I wont answer to any other name than Annie’s Granny. 151
  ANN [gratefully] You all spoil me, except Jack. 152
  TANNER [over his shoulder, from the bookcase] I think you ought to call me Mr Tanner. 153
  ANN [gently] No you dont, Jack. Thats like the things you say on purpose to shock people: those who know you pay no attention to them. But, if you like, I’ll call you after your famous ancestor Don Juan. 154
  RAMSDEN. Don Juan! 155
  ANN [innocently] Oh, is there any harm in it? I didnt know. Then I certainly wont call you that. May I call you Jack until I can think of something else? 156
  TANNER. Oh, for Heaven’s sake dont try to invent anything worse. I capitulate. I consent to Jack. I embrace Jack. Here endeth my first and last attempt to assert my authority. 157
  ANN. You see, Mamma, they all really like to have pet names. 158
  MRS WHITEFIELD. Well, I think you might at least drop them until we are out of mourning. 159
  ANN [reproachfully, stricken to the soul] Oh, how could you remind me, mother? [She hastily leaves the room to conceal her emotion]. 160
  MRS WHITEFIELD. Of course. My fault as usual! [She follows Ann]. 161
  TANNER [coming from the bookcase] Ramsden: we’re beaten—smashed—nonentitized, like her mother. 162
  RAMSDEN. Stuff, sir. [He follows Mrs Whitefield out of the room]. 163
  TANNER [left alone with Octavius, stares whimsically at him] Tavy: do you want to count for something in the world? 164
  OCTAVIUS. I want to count for something as a poet: I want to write a great play. 165
  TANNER. With Ann as the heroine? 166
  OCTAVIUS. Yes: I confess it. 167
  TANNER. Take care, Tavy. The play with Ann as the heroine is all right; but if youre not very careful, by heaven she’ll marry you. 168
  OCTAVIUS [sighing] No such luck, Jack! 169
  TANNER. Why, man, your head is in the lioness’s mouth: you are half swallowed already—in three bites—Bite One, Ricky; Bite Two, Ticky; Bite Three, Tavy; and down you go. 170
  OCTAVIUS. She is the same to everybody, Jack: you know her ways. 171
  TANNER. Yes: she breaks everybody’s back with the stroke of her paw; but the question is, which of us will she eat? My own opinion is that she means to eat you. 172
  OCTAVIUS [rising, pettishly] It’s horrible to talk like that about her when she is upstairs crying for her father. But I do so want her to eat me that I can bear your brutalities because they give me hope. 173
  TANNER. Tavy: thats the devilish side of a woman’s fascination: she makes you will your own destruction. 174
  OCTAVIUS. But it’s not destruction: it’s fulfilment. 175
  TANNER. Yes, of her purpose; and that purpose is neither her happiness nor yours, but Nature’s. Vitality in a woman is a blind fury of creation. She sacrifices herself to it: do you think she will hesitate to sacrifice you? 176
  OCTAVIUS. Why, it is just because she is self-sacrificing that she will not sacrifice those she loves. 177
  TANNER. That is the profoundest of mistakes, Tavy. It is the self-sacrificing women that sacrifice others most recklessly. Because they are unselfish, they are kind in little things. Because they have a purpose which is not their own purpose, but that of the whole universe, a man is nothing to them but an instrument of that purpose. 178
  OCTAVIUS. Dont be ungenerous, Jack. They take the tenderest care of us. 179
  TANNER. Yes, as a soldier takes care of his rifle or a musician of his violin. But do they allow us any purpose or freedom of our own? Will they lend us to one another? Can the strongest man escape from them when once he is appropriated? They tremble when we are in danger, and weep when we die; but the tears are not for us, but for a father wasted, a son’s breeding thrown away. They accuse us of treating them as a mere means to our pleasure; but how can so feeble and transient a folly as a man’s selfish pleasure enslave a woman as the whole purpose of Nature embodied in a woman can enslave a man? 180
  OCTAVIUS. What matter, if the slavery makes us happy? 181
  TANNER. No matter at all if you have no purpose of your own, and are, like most men, a mere breadwinner. But you, Tavy, are an artist: that is, you have a purpose as absorbing and as unscrupulous as a woman’s purpose. 182
  OCTAVIUS. Not unscrupulous. 183
  TANNER. Quite unscrupulous. The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art. To women he is half vivisector, half vampire. He gets into intimate relations with them to study them, to strip the mask of convention from them, to surprise their inmost secrets, knowing that they have the power to rouse his deepest creative energies, to rescue him from his cold reason, to make him see visions and dream dreams, to inspire him, as he calls it. He persuades women that they may do this for their own purpose whilst he really means them to do it for his. He steals the mother’s milk and blackens it to make printer’s ink to scoff at her and glorify ideal women with. He pretends to spare her the pangs of child-bearing so that he may have for himself the tenderness and fostering that belong of right to her children. Since marriage began, the great artist has been known as a bad husband. But he is worse: he is a child-robber, a blood-sucker, a hypocrite, and a cheat. Perish the race and wither a thousand women if only the sacrifice of them enable him to act Hamlet better, to paint a finer picture, to write a deeper poem, a greater play, a profounder philosophy! For mark you, Tavy, the artist’s work is to shew us ourselves as we really are. Our minds are nothing but this knowledge of ourselves; and he who adds a jot to such knowledge creates new mind as surely as any woman creates new men. In the rage of that creation he is as ruthless as the woman, as dangerous to her as she to him, and as horribly fascinating. Of all human struggles there is none so treacherous and remorseless as the struggle between the artist man and the mother woman. Which shall use up the other? that is the issue between them. And it is all the deadlier because, in your romanticist cant, they love one another. 184
  OCTAVIUS. Even if it were so—and I dont admit it for a moment—it is out of the deadliest struggles that we get the noblest characters. 185
  TANNER. Remember that the next time you meet a grizzly bear or a Bengal tiger, Tavy. 186
  OCTAVIUS. I meant where there is love, Jack. 187
  TANNER. Oh, the tiger will love you. There is no love sincerer than the love of food. I think Ann loves you that way: she patted your cheek as if it were a nicely underdone chop. 188
  OCTAVIUS. You know, Jack, I should have to run away from you if I did not make it a fixed rule not to mind anything you say. You come out with perfectly revolting things sometimes.
  Ramsden returns, followed by Ann. They come in quickly, with their former leisurely air of decorous grief changed to one of genuine concern, and, on Ramsden’s part, of worry. He comes between the two men, intending to address Octavius, but pulls himself up abruptly as he sees Tanner.
  RAMSDEN. I hardly expected to find you still here, Mr Tanner. 190
  TANNER. Am I in the way? Good morning, fellow guardian [he goes towards the door]. 191
  ANN. Stop, Jack. Granny: he must know, sooner or later. 192
  RAMSDEN. Octavius: I have a very serious piece of news for you. It is of the most private and delicate nature—of the most painful nature too, I am sorry to say. Do you wish Mr Tanner to be present whilst I explain? 193
  OCTAVIUS [turning pale] I have no secrets from Jack. 194
  RAMSDEN. Before you decide that finally, let me say that the news concerns your sister, and that it is terrible news. 195
  OCTAVIUS. Violet! What has happened? Is she—dead? 196
  RAMSDEN. I am not sure that it is not even worse than that. 197
  OCTAVIUS. Is she badly hurt? Has there been an accident? 198
  RAMSDEN. No: nothing of that sort. 199
  TANNER. Ann: will you have the common humanity to tell us what the matter is? 200
  ANN [half whispering] I cant. Violet has done something dreadful. We shall have to get her away somewhere. [She flutters to the writing table and sits in Ramsden’s chair, leaving the three men to fight it out between them]. 201
  OCTAVIUS [enlightened] Is that what you meant, Mr Ramsden? 202
  RAMSDEN. Yes. [Octavius sinks upon a chair, crushed]. I am afraid there is no doubt that Violet did not really go to Eastbourne three weeks ago when we thought she was with the Parry Whitefields. And she called on a strange doctor yesterday with a wedding ring on her finger. Mrs Parry Whitefield met her there by chance; and so the whole thing came out. 203
  OCTAVIUS [rising with his fists clenched] Who is the scoundrel? 204
  ANN. She wont tell us. 205
  OCTAVIUS [collapsing into the chair again] What a frightful thing! 206
  TANNER [with angry sarcasm] Dreadful, Appalling. Worse than death, as Ramsden says. [He comes to Octavius]. What would you not give, Tavy, to turn it into a railway accident, with all her bones broken, or something equally respectable and deserving of sympathy? 207
  OCTAVIUS. Dont be brutal, Jack. 208
  TANNER. Brutal! Good Heavens, man, what are you crying for? Here is a woman we all supposed to be making bad water color sketches, practising Grieg and Brahms, gadding about to concerts and parties, wasting her life and her money. We suddenly learn that she has turned from these sillinesses to the fulfilment of her highest purpose and greatest function—to increase, multiply, and replenish the earth. And instead of admiring her courage and rejoicing in her instinct; instead of crowning the completed womanhood and raising the triumphal strain of “Unto us a child is born: unto us a son is given,” here you are—you who have been as merry as grigs in your mourning for the dead—all pulling long faces and looking as ashamed and disgraced as if the girl had committed the vilest of crimes. 209
  RAMSDEN [roaring with rage] I will not have these abominations uttered in my house [he smites the writing table with his fist]. 210
  TANNER. Look here: if you insult me again I’ll take you at your word and leave your house. Ann: where is Violet now? 211
  ANN. Why? Are you going to her? 212
  TANNER. Of course I am going to her. She wants help; she wants money; she wants respect and congratulation; she wants every chance for her child. She does not seem likely to get it from you: she shall from me. Where is she? 213
  ANN. Dont be so headstrong, Jack. She’s upstairs. 214
  TANNER. What! Under Ramsden’s sacred roof! Go and do your miserable duty, Ramsden. Hunt her out into the street. Cleanse your threshold from her contamination. Vindicate the purity of your English home. I’ll go for a cab. 215
  ANN [alarmed] Oh, Granny, you mustnt do that. 216
  OCTAVIUS [broken-heartedly, rising] I’ll take her away, Mr Ramsden. She had no right to come to your house. 217
  RAMSDEN [indignantly] But I am only too anxious to help her. [Turning on Tanner] How dare you, sir, impute such monstrous intentions to me? I protest against it. I am ready to put down my last penny to save her from being driven to run to you for protection. 218
  TANNER [subsiding] It’s all right, then. He’s not going to act up to his principles. It’s agreed that we all stand by Violet. 219
  OCTAVIUS. But who is the man? He can make reparation by marrying her; and he shall, or he shall answer for it to me. 220
  RAMSDEN. He shall, Octavius. There you speak like a man. 221
  TANNER. Then you dont think him a scoundrel, after all? 222
  OCTAVIUS. Not a scoundrel! He is a heartless scoundrel. 223
  RAMSDEN. A damned scoundrel. I beg your pardon, Annie; but I can say no less. 224
  TANNER. So we are to marry your sister to a damned scoundrel by way of reforming her character! On my soul, I think you are all mad. 225
  ANN. Dont be absurd, Jack. Of course you are quite right, Tavy; but we dont know who he is: Violet wont tell us. 226
  TANNER. What on earth does it matter who he is? He’s done his part; and Violet must do the rest. 227
  RAMSDEN [beside himself] Stuff! lunacy! There is a rascal in our midst, a libertine, a villain worse than a murderer; and we are not to learn who he is! In our ignorance we are to shake him by the hand; to introduce him into our homes; to trust our daughters with him; to—to— 228
  ANN [coaxingly] There, Granny, dont talk so loud. It’s most shocking: we must all admit that; but if Violet wont tell us, what can we do? Nothing. Simply nothing. 229
  RAMSDEN. Hmph! I’m not so sure of that. If any man has paid Violet any special attention, we can easily find that out. If there is any man of notoriously loose principles among us— 230
  TANNER. Ahem! 231
  RAMSDEN [raising his voice] Yes, sir, I repeat, if there is any man of notoriously loose principles among us— 232
  TANNER. Or any man notoriously lacking in self-control. 233
  RAMSDEN [aghast] Do you dare to suggest that I am capable of such an act? 234
  TANNER. My dear Ramsden, this is an act of which every man is capable. That is what comes of getting at cross purposes with Nature. The suspicion you have just flung at me clings to us all. It’s a sort of mud that sticks to the judge’s ermine or the cardinal’s robe as fast as to the rags of the tramp. Come, Tavy! dont look so bewildered: it might have been me: it might have been Ramsden; just as it might have been anybody. If it had, what could we do but lie and protest—as Ramsden is going to protest. 235
  RAMSDEN [choking] I—I—I— 236
  TANNER. Guilt itself could not stammer more confusedly. And yet you know perfectly well he’s innocent, Tavy. 237
  RAMSDEN [exhausted] I am glad you admit that, sir. I admit, myself, that there is an element of truth in what you say, grossly as you may distort it to gratify your malicious humor. I hope, Octavius, no suspicion of me is possible in your mind. 238
  OCTAVIUS. Of you! No, not for a moment. 239
  TANNER [drily] I think he suspects me just a little. 240
  OCTAVIUS. Jack: you couldnt—you wouldnt— 241
  TANNER. Why not? 242
  OCTAVIUS [appalled] Why not! 243
  TANNER. Oh, well, I’ll tell you why not. First, you would feel bound to quarrel with me. Second, Violet doesnt like me. Third, if I had the honor of being the father of Violet’s child, I should boast of it instead of denying it. So be easy: our friendship is not in danger. 244
  OCTAVIUS. I should have put away the suspicion with horror if only you would think and feel naturally about it. I beg your pardon. 245
  TANNER. My pardon! nonsense! And now lets sit down and have a family council. [He sits down. The rest follow his example, more or less under protest]. Violet is going to do the State a service; consequently she must be packed abroad like a criminal until it’s over. Whats happening upstairs? 246
  ANN. Violet is in the housekeeper’s room—by herself, of course. 247
  TANNER. Why not in the drawingroom? 248
  ANN. Dont be absurd, Jack. Miss Ramsden is in the drawing-room with my mother, considering what to do. 249
  TANNER. Oh! the housekeeper’s room is the penitentiary, I suppose; and the prisoner is waiting to be brought before her judges. The old cats! 250
  ANN. Oh, Jack! 251
  RAMSDEN. You are at present a guest beneath the roof of one of the old cats, sir. My sister is the mistress of this house. 252
  TANNER. She would put me in the housekeeper’s room, too, if she dared, Ramsden. However, I withdraw cats. Cats would have more sense. Ann: as your guardian, I order you to go to Violet at once and be particularly kind to her. 253
  ANN. I have seen her, Jack. And I am sorry to say I am afraid she is going to be rather obstinate about going abroad. I think Tavy ought to speak to her about it. 254
  OCTAVIUS. How can I speak to her about such a thing [he breaks down]? 255
  ANN. Dont break down, Ricky. Try to bear it for all our sakes. 256
  RAMSDEN. Life is not all plays and poems, Octavius. Come! face it like a man. 257
  TANNER [chafing again] Poor dear brother! Poor dear friends of the family! Poor dear Tabbies and Grimalkins! Poor dear everybody except the woman who is going to risk her life to create another life! Tavy: dont you be a selfish ass. Away with you and talk to Violet; and bring her down here if she cares to come. [Octavius rises]. Tell her we’ll stand by her. 258
  RAMSDEN [rising] No, sir— 259
  TANNER [rising also and interrupting him] Oh, we understand: it’s against your conscience; but still youll do it. 260
  OCTAVIUS. I assure you all, on my word, I never meant to be selfish. It’s so hard to know what to do when one wishes earnestly to do right. 261
  TANNER. My dear Tavy, your pious English habit of regarding the world as a moral gymnasium built expressly to strengthen your character in, occasionally leads you to think about your own confounded principles when you should be thinking about other people’s necessities. The need of the present hour is a happy mother and a healthy baby. Bend your energies on that; and you will see your way clearly enough.
  Octavius, much perplexed, goes out.
  RAMSDEN [facing Tanner impressively] And Morality, sir? What is to become of that? 263
  TANNER. Meaning a weeping Magdalen and an innocent child branded with her shame. Not in our circle, thank you. Morality can go to its father the devil. 264
  RAMSDEN. I thought so, sir. Morality sent to the devil to please our libertines, male and female. That is to be the future of England, is it? 265
  TANNER. Oh, England will survive your disapproval. Meanwhile, I understand that you agree with me as to the practical course we are to take? 266
  RAMSDEN. Not in your spirit, sir. Not for your reasons. 267
  TANNER. You can explain that if anybody calls you to account, here or hereafter. [He turns away, and plants himself in front of Mr Herbert Spencer, at whom he stares gloomily]. 268
  ANN [rising and coming to Ramsden] Granny: hadnt you better go up to the drawing room and tell them what we intend to do? 269
  RAMSDEN [looking pointedly at Tanner] I hardly like to leave you alone with this gentleman. Will you not come with me? 270
  ANN. Miss Ramsden would not like to speak about it before me, Granny. I ought not to be present. 271
  RAMSDEN. You are right: I should have thought of that. You are a good girl, Annie.
  He pats her on the shoulder. She looks up at him with beaming eyes; and he goes out, much moved. Having disposed of him, she looks at Tanner. His back being turned to her, she gives a moment’s attention to her personal appearance, then softly goes to him and speaks almost into his ear.
  ANN. Jack [he turns with a start]: are you glad that you are my guardian? You dont mind being made responsible for me, I hope. 273
  TANNER. The latest addition to your collection of scapegoats, eh? 274
  ANN. Oh, that stupid old joke of yours about me! Do please drop it. Why do you say things that you know must pain me? I do my best to please you, Jack: I suppose I may tell you so now that you are my guardian. You will make me so unhappy if you refuse to be friends with me. 275
  TANNER [studying her as gloomily as he studied the bust] You need not go begging for my regard. How unreal our moral judgments are! You seem to me to have absolutely no conscience—only hypocrisy; and you cant see the difference—yet there is a sort of fascination about you. I always attend to you, somehow. I should miss you if I lost you. 276
  ANN [tranquilly slipping her arm into his and walking about with him] But isnt that only natural, Jack? We have known each other since we were children. Do you remember— 277
  TANNER [abruptly breaking loose] Stop! I remember everything. 278
  ANN. Oh, I daresay we were often very silly; but— 279
  TANNER. I wont have it, Ann. I am no more that schoolboy now than I am the dotard of ninety I shall grow into if I live long enough. It is over: let me forget it. 280
  ANN. Wasnt it a happy time? [She attempts to take his arm again]. 281
  TANNER. Sit down and behave yourself. [He makes her sit down in the chair next the writing table]. No doubt it was a happy time for you. You were a good girl and never compromised yourself. And yet the wickedest child that ever was slapped could hardly have had a better time. I can understand the success with which you bullied the other girls: your virtue imposed on them. But tell me this: did you ever know a good boy? 282
  ANN. Of course. All boys are foolish sometimes; but Tavy was always a really good boy. 283
  TANNER [struck by this] Yes: youre right. For some reason you never tempted Tavy. 284
  ANN. Tempted! Jack! 285
  TANNER. Yes, my dear Lady Mephistopheles, tempted. You were insatiably curious as to what a boy might be capable of, and diabolically clever at getting through his guard and surprising his inmost secrets. 286
  ANN. What nonsense! All because you used to tell me long stories of the wicked things you had done—silly boy’s tricks! And you call such things inmost secrets! Boys’ secrets are just like men’s; and you know what they are! 287
  TANNER [obstinately] No I dont. What are they, pray? 288
  ANN. Why, the things they tell everybody, of course. 289
  TANNER. Now I swear I told you things I told no one else. You lured me into a compact by which we were to have no secrets from one another. We were to tell one another everything. I didnt notice that you never told me anything. 290
  ANN. You didnt want to talk about me, Jack. You wanted to talk about yourself. 291
  TANNER. Ah, true, horribly true, But what a devil of a child you must have been to know that weakness and to play on it for the satisfaction of your own curiosity! I wanted to brag to you, to make myself interesting. And I found myself doing all sorts of mischievous things simply to have something to tell you about. I fought with boys I didnt hate; I lied about things I might just as well have told the truth about; I stole things I didnt want; I kissed little girls I didnt care for. It was all bravado: passionless and therefore unreal. 292
  ANN. I never told of you, Jack. 293
  TANNER. No; but if you had wanted to stop me you would have told of me. You wanted me to go on. 294
  ANN [flashing out] Oh, thats not true: it’s not true, Jack. I never wanted you to do those dull, disappointing, brutal, stupid, vulgar things. I always hoped that it would be something really heroic at last. [Recovering herself] Excuse me, Jack; but the things you did were never a bit like the things I wanted you to do. They often gave me great uneasiness; but I could not tell of you and get you into trouble. And you were only a boy. I knew you would grow out of them. Perhaps I was wrong. 295
  TANNER [sardonically] Do not give way to remorse, Ann. At least nineteen twentieths of the exploits I confessed to you were pure lies. I soon noticed that you didnt like the true stories. 296
  ANN. Of course I knew that some of the things couldnt have happened. But— 297
  TANNER. You are going to remind me that some of the most disgraceful ones did. 298
  ANN [fondly, to his great terror] I dont want to remind you of anything. But I knew the people they happened to, and heard about them. 299
  TANNER. Yes; but even the true stories were touched up for telling. A sensitive boy’s humiliations may be very good fun for ordinary thickskinned grown-ups; but to the boy himself they are so acute, so ignominious, that he cannot confess them—cannot but deny them passionately. However, perhaps it was as well for me that I romanced a bit; for, on the one occasion when I told you the truth, you threatened to tell of me. 300
  ANN. Oh, never. Never once. 301
  TANNER. Yes, you did. Do you remember a dark-eyed girl named Rachel Rosetree? [Ann’s brows contract for an instant involuntarily]. I got up a love affair with her; and we met one night in the garden and walked about very uncomfortably with our arms round one another, and kissed at parting, and were most conscientiously romantic. If that love affair had gone on, it would have bored me to death; but it didnt go on; for the next thing that happened was that Rachel cut me because she found out that I had told you. How did she find it out? From you. You went to her and held the guilty secret over her head, leading her a life of abject terror and humiliation by threatening to tell on her. 302
  ANN. And a very good thing for her, too. It was my duty to stop her misconduct; and she is thankful to me for it now. 303
  TANNER. Is she? 304
  ANN. She ought to be, at all events. 305
  TANNER. It was not your duty to stop my misconduct, I suppose. 306
  ANN. I did stop it by stopping her. 307
  TANNER. Are you sure of that? You stopped my telling you about my adventures; but how do you know that you stopped the adventures? 308
  ANN. Do you mean to say that you went on in the same way with other girls? 309
  TANNER. No. I had enough of that sort of romantic tomfoolery with Rachel. 310
  ANN [unconvinced] Then why did you break off our confidences and become quite strange to me? 311
  TANNER [enigmatically] It happened just then that I got something that I wanted to keep all to myself instead of sharing it with you. 312
  ANN. I am sure I shouldnt have asked for any of it if you had grudged it. 313
  TANNER. It wasnt a box of sweets, Ann. It was something youd never have let me call my own. 314
  ANN [incredulously] What? 315
  TANNER. My soul. 316
  ANN. Oh, do be sensible, Jack. You know youre talking nonsense. 317
  TANNER. The most solemn earnest, Ann. You didnt notice at that time that you were getting a soul too. But you were. It was not for nothing that you suddenly found you had a moral duty to chastise and reform Rachel. Up to that time you had traded pretty extensively in being a good child; but you had never set up a sense of duty to others. Well, I set one up too. Up to that time I had played the boy buccaneer with no more conscience than a fox in a poultry farm. But now I began to have scruples, to feel obligations, to find that veracity and honor were no longer goody-goody expressions in the mouths of grown-up people, but compelling principle in myself. 318
  ANN [quietly] Yes, I suppose youre right. You were beginning to be a man, and I to be a woman. 319
  TANNER. Are you sure it was not that we were beginning to be something more? What does the beginning of manhood and womanhood mean in most people’s mouths? You know: it means the beginning of love. But love began long before that for me. Love played its part in the earliest dreams and follies and romances I can remember—may I say the earliest follies and romances we can remember?—though we did not understand it at the time. No: the change that came to me was the birth in me of moral passion; and I declare that according to my experience moral passion is the only real passion. 320
  ANN. All passions ought to be moral, Jack. 321
  TANNER. Ought! Do you think that anything is strong enough to impose oughts on a passion except a stronger passion still? 322
  ANN. Our moral sense controls passion, Jack. Dont be stupid. 323
  TANNER. Our moral sense! And is that not a passion? Is the devil to have all the passions as well as all the good tunes? If it were not a passion—if it were not the mightiest of the passions, all the other passions would sweep it away like a leaf before a hurricane. It is the birth of that passion that turns a child into a man. 324
  ANN. There are other passions, Jack. Very strong ones. 325
  TANNER. All the other passions were in me before; but they were idle and aimless—mere childish greedinesses and cruelties, curiosities and fancies, habits and superstitions, grotesque and ridiculous to the mature intelligence. When they suddenly began to shine like newly lit flames it was by no light of their own, but by the radiance of the dawning moral passion. That passion dignified them, gave them conscience and meaning, found them a mob of appetites and organized them into an army of purposes and principles. My soul was born of that passion. 326
  ANN. I noticed that you got more sense. You were a dreadfully destructive boy before that. 327
  TANNER. Destructive! Stuff! I was only mischievous. 328
  ANN. Oh, Jack, you were very destructive. You ruined all the young fir trees by chopping off their leaders with a wooden sword. You broke all the cucumber frames with your catapult. You set fire to the common: the police arrested Tavy for it because he ran away when he couldnt stop you. You— 329
  TANNER. Pooh! pooh! pooh! these were battles, bombardments, stratagems to save our scalps from the red Indians. You have no imagination, Ann. I am ten times more destructive now than I was then. The moral passion has taken my destructiveness in hand and directed it to moral ends. I have become a reformer, and, like all reformers, an iconoclast. I no longer break cucumber frames and burn gorse bushes: I shatter creeds and demolish idols. 330
  ANN [bored] I am afraid I am too feminine to see any sense in destruction. Destruction can only destroy. 331
  TANNER. Yes. That is why it is so useful. Construction cumbers the ground with institutions made by busybodies. Destruction clears it and gives us breathing space and liberty. 332
  ANN. It’s no use, Jack. No woman will agree with you there. 333
  TANNER. Thats because you confuse construction and destruction with creation and murder. Theyre quite different: I adore creation and abhor murder. Yes: I adore it in tree and flower, in bird and beast, even in you. [A flush of interest and delight suddenly chases the growing perplexity and boredom from her face]. It was the creative instinct that led you to attach me to you by bonds that have left their mark on me to this day. Yes, Ann: the old childish compact between us was an unconscious love compact— 334
  ANN. Jack! 335
  TANNER. Oh, dont be alarmed— 336
  ANN. I am not alarmed. 337
  TANNER [whimisically] Then you ought to be: where are your principles? 338
  ANN. Jack: are you serious or are you not? 339
  TANNER. Do you mean about the moral passion? 340
  ANN. No, no: the other one. [Confused] Oh! you are so silly: one never knows how to take you. 341
  TANNER. You must take me quite seriously. I am your guardian; and it is my duty to improve your mind. 342
  ANN. The love compact is over, then, is it? I suppose you grew tired of me? 343
  TANNER. No; but the moral passion made our childish relations impossible. A jealous sense of my new individuality arose in me— 344
  ANN. You hated to be treated as a boy any longer. Poor Jack! 345
  TANNER. Yes, because to be treated as a boy was to be taken on the old footing. I had become a new person; and those who knew the old person laughed at me. The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor: he took my measure anew every time he saw me, whilst all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me. 346
  ANN. You became frightfully self-conscious. 347
  TANNER. When you go to heaven, Ann, you will be frightfully conscious of your wings for the first year or so. When you meet your relatives there, and they persist in treating you as if you were still a mortal, you will not be able to bear them. You will try to get into a circle which has never known you except as an angel. 348
  ANN. So it was only your vanity that made you run away from us after all? 349
  TANNER. Yes, only my vanity, as you call it. 350
  ANN. You need not have kept away from me on that account. 351
  TANNER. From you above all others. You fought harder than anybody against my emancipation. 352
  ANN [earnestly] Oh, how wrong you are! I would have done anything for you. 353
  TANNER. Anything except let me get loose from you. Even then you had acquired by instinct that damnable woman’s trick of heaping obligations on a man, of placing yourself so entirely and helplessly at his mercy that at last he dare not take a step without running to you for leave. I know a poor wretch whose one desire in life is to run away from his wife. She prevents him by threatening to throw herself in front of the engine of the train he leaves her in. That is what all women do. If we try to go where you do not want us to go there is no law to prevent us; but when we take the first step your breasts are under our foot as it descends: your bodies are under our wheels as we start. No woman shall ever enslave me in that way. 354
  ANN. But, Jack, you cannot get through life without considering other people a little. 355
  TANNER. Ay; but what other people? It is this consideration of other people—or rather this cowardly fear of them which we call consideration—that makes us the sentimental slaves we are. To consider you, as you call it, is to substitute your will for my own. How if it be a baser will than mine? Are women taught better than men or worse? Are mobs of voters taught better than statesmen or worse? Worse, of course, in both cases. And then what sort of world are you going to get, with its public men considering its voting mobs, and its private men considering their wives? What does Church and State mean nowadays? The Woman and the Ratepayer. 356
  ANN [placidly] I am so glad you understand politics, Jack: it will be most useful to you if you go into parliament [he collapses like a pricked bladder]. But I am sorry you thought my influence a bad one. 357
  TANNER. I dont say it was a bad one. But bad or good, I didnt choose to be cut to your measure. And I wont be cut to it. 358
  ANN. Nobody wants you to, Jack. I assure you—really on my word—I dont mind your queer opinions one little bit. You know we have all been brought up to have advanced opinions. Why do you persist in thinking me so narrow minded? 359
  TANNER. Thats the danger of it. I know you dont mind, because youve found out that it doesnt matter. The boa constrictor doesnt mind the opinions of a stag one little bit when once she has got her coils round it. 360
  ANN [rising in sudden enlightenment] O-o-o-o-oh! now I understand why you warned Tavy that I am a boa constrictor. Granny told me. [She laughs and throws her boa round his neck]. Doesnt it feel nice and soft, Jack? 361
  TANNER [in the toils] You scandalous woman, will you throw away even your hypocrisy? 362
  ANN. I am never hypocritical with you, Jack. Are you angry? [She withdraws the boa and throws it on a chair]. Perhaps I shouldnt have done that. 363
  TANNER [contemptuously] Pooh, prudery! Why should you not, if it amuses you? 364
  ANN [shyly] Well, because—because I suppose what you really meant by the boa constrictor was this [she puts her arms round his neck]. 365
  TANNER [staring at her] Magnificent audacity! [She laughs and pats his cheeks]. Now just to think that if I mentioned this episode not a soul would believe me except the people who would cut me for telling, whilst if you accused me of it nobody would believe my denial! 366
  ANN [taking her arms away with perfect dignity] You are incorrigible, Jack. But you should not jest about our affection for one another. Nobody could possibly misunderstand it. You do not misunderstand it, I hope. 367
  TANNER. My blood interprets for me, Ann. Poor Ricky Ticky Tavy! 368
  ANN [looking quickly at him as if this were a new light] Surely you are not so absurd as to be jealous of Tavy. 369
  TANNER. Jealous! Why should I be? But I dont wonder at your grip of him. I feel the coils tightening round my very self, though you are only playing with me. 370
  ANN. Do you think I have designs on Tavy? 371
  TANNER. I know you have. 372
  ANN [earnestly] Take care, Jack. You may make Tavy very unhappy if you mislead him about me. 373
  TANNER. Never fear: he will not escape you. 374
  ANN. I wonder are you really a clever man! 375
  TANNER. Why this sudden misgiving on the subject? 376
  ANN. You seem to understand all the things I dont understand; but you are a perfect baby in the things I do understand. 377
  TANNER. I understand how Tavy feels for you, Ann: you may depend on that, at all events. 378
  ANN. And you think you understand how I feel for Tavy, dont you? 379
  TANNER. I know only too well what is going to happen to poor Tavy. 380
  ANN. I should laugh at you, Jack, if it were not for poor papa’s death. Mind! Tavy will be very unhappy. 381
  TANNER. Yes; but he wont know it, poor devil. He is a thousand times too good for you. Thats why he is going to make the mistake of his life about you. 382
  ANN. I think men make more mistakes by being too clever than by being too good [she sits down, with a trace of contempt for the whole male sex in the elegant carriage of her shoulders]. 383
  TANNER. Oh, I know you dont care very much about Tavy. But there is always one who kisses and one who only allows the kiss. Tavy will kiss; and you will only turn the cheek. And you will throw him over if anybody better turns up. 384
  ANN [offended] You have no right to say such things, Jack. They are not true, and not delicate. If you and Tavy choose to be stupid about me, that is not my fault. 385
  TANNER [remorsefully] Forgive my brutalities, Ann. They are levelled at this wicked world, not at you. [She looks up at him, pleased and forgiving. He becomes cautious at once]. All the same, I wish Ramsden would come back. I never feel safe with you: there is a devilish charm—or no: not a charm, a subtle interest [she laughs]—Just so: you know it; and you triumph in it. Openly and shamelessly triumph in it! 386
  ANN. What a shocking flirt you are, Jack! 387
  TANNER. A flirt!! I!!! 388
  ANN. Yes, a flirt. You are always abusing and offending people; but you never really mean to let go your hold of them. 389
  TANNER. I will ring the bell. This conversation has already gone further than I intended.
  Ramsden and Octavius come back with Miss Ramsden, a hardheaded old maiden lady in a plain brown silk gown, with enough rings, chains, and brooches to shew that her plainness of dress is a matter of principle, not of poverty. She comes into the room very determinedly: the two men, perplexed and downcast, following her. Ann rises and goes eagerly to meet her. Tanner retreats to the wall between the busts and pretends to study the pictures. Ramsden goes to his table as usual; and Octavius clings to the neighborhood of Tanner.
  MISS RAMSDEN [almost pushing Ann aside as she comes to Mrs Whitefield’s chair and plants herself there resolutely] I wash my hands of the whole affair. 391
  OCTAVIUS [very wretched] I know you wish me to take Violet away, Miss Ramsden. I will. [He turns irresolutely to the door]. 392
  RAMSDEN. No no— 393
  MISS RAMSDEN. What is the use of saying no, Roebuck? Octavius knows that I would not turn any truly contrite and repentant woman from your doors. But when a woman is not only wicked, but intends to go on being wicked, she and I part company. 394
  ANN. Oh, Miss Ramsden, what do you mean? What has Violet said? 395
  RAMSDEN. Violet is certainly very obstinate. She wont leave London. I dont understand her. 396
  MISS RAMSDEN. I do. It’s as plain as the nose on your face, Roebuck, that she wont go because she doesnt want to be separated from this man, whoever he is. 397
  ANN. Oh, surely, surely! Octavius: did you speak to her? 398
  OCTAVIUS. She wont tell us anything. She wont make any arrangement until she has consulted somebody. It cant be anybody else than the scoundrel who has betrayed her. 399
  TANNER [to Octavius] Well, let her consult him. He will be glad enough to have her sent abroad. Where is the difficulty? 400
  MISS RAMSDEN [taking the answer out of Octavius’s mouth] The difficulty, Mr Jack, is that when I offered to help her I didnt offer to become her accomplice in her wickedness. She either pledges her word never to see that man again, or else she finds some new friends; and the sooner the better.
  The parlormaid appears at the door. Ann hastily resumes her seat, and looks as unconcerned as possible. Octavius instinctively imitates her.
  THE MAID. The cab is at the door, maam. 402
  MISS RAMSDEN. What cab? 403
  THE MAID. For Miss Robinson. 404
  MISS RAMSDEN. Oh! [Recovering herself] All right. [The maid withdraws]. She has sent for a cab. 405
  TANNER. I wanted to send for that cab half an hour ago. 406
  MISS RAMSDEN. I am glad she understands the position she has placed herself in. 407
  RAMSDEN. I dont like her going away in this fashion, Susan. We had better not do anything harsh. 408
  OCTAVIUS. No: thank you again and again; but Miss Ramsden is quite right. Violet cannot expect to stay. 409
  ANN. Hadnt you better go with her, Tavy? 410
  OCTAVIUS. She wont have me. 411
  MISS RAMSDEN. Of course she wont. She’s going straight to that man. 412
  TANNER. As a natural result of her virtuous reception here. 413
  RAMSDEN [much troubled] There, Susan! You hear! and theres some truth in it. I wish you could reconcile it with your principles to be a little patient with this poor girl. She’s very young; and theres a time for everything. 414
  MISS RAMSDEN. Oh, she will get all the sympathy she wants from the men. I’m surprised at you, Roebuck. 415
  TANNER. So am I, Ramsden, most favorably.
  Violet appears at the door. She is as impenitent and self-possessed a young lady as one would desire to see among the best behaved of her sex. Her small head and tiny resolute mouth and chin; her haughty crispness of speech and trimness of carriage; the ruthless elegance of her equipment, which includes a very smart hat with a dead bird in it, mark a personality which is as formidable as it is exquisitely pretty. She is not a siren, like Ann: admiration comes to her without any compulsion or even interest on her part; besides, there is some fun in Ann, but in this woman none, perhaps no mercy either: if anything restrains her, it is intelligence and pride, not compassion. Her voice might be the voice of a schoolmistress addressing a class of girls who had disgraced themselves, as she proceeds with complete composure and some disgust to say what she has come to say.
  VIOLET. I have only looked in to tell Miss Ramsden that she will find her birthday present to me, the filagree bracelet, in the housekeeper’s room. 417
  TANNER. Do come in, Violet; and talk to us sensibly. 418
  VIOLET. Thank you: I have had quite enough of the family conversation this morning. So has your mother, Ann: she has gone home crying. But at all events, I have found out what some of my pretended friends are worth. Good bye. 419
  TANNER. No, no: one moment. I have something to say which I beg you to hear. [She looks at him without the slightest curiosity, but waits, apparently as much to finish getting her glove on as to hear what he has to say]. I am altogether on your side in this matter. I congratulate you, with the sincerest respect, on having the courage to do what you have done. You are entirely in the right; and the family is entirely in the wrong.
  Sensation. Ann and Miss Ramsden rise and turn towards the two. Violet, more surprised than any of the others, forgets her glove, and comes forward into the middle of the room, both puzzled and displeased. Octavius alone does not move nor raise his head: he is overwhelmed with shame.
  ANN [pleading to Tanner to be sensible] Jack! 421
  MISS RAMSDEN [outraged] Well, I must say! 422
  VIOLET [sharply to Tanner] Who told you? 423
  TANNER. Why, Ramsden and Tavy of course. Why should they not? 424
  VIOLET. But they dont know. 425
  TANNER. Dont know what? 426
  VIOLET. They dont know that I am in the right, I mean. 427
  TANNER. Oh, they know it in their hearts, though they think themselves bound to blame you by their silly superstitions about morality and propriety and so forth. But I know, and the whole world really knows, though it dare not say so, that you were right to follow your instinct; that vitality and bravery are the greatest qualities a woman can have, and motherhood her solemn initiation into womanhood; and that the fact of your not being legally married matters not one scrap either to your own worth or to our real regard for you. 428
  VIOLET [flushing with indignation] Oh! You think me a wicked woman, like the rest. You think I have not only been vile, but that I share your abominable opinions. Miss Ramsden: I have borne your hard words because I knew you would be sorry for them when you found out the truth. But I wont bear such a horrible insult as to be complimented by Jack on being one of the wretches of whom he approves. I have kept my marriage a secret for my husband’s sake. But now I claim my right as a married woman not to be insulted. 429
  OCTAVIUS [raising his head with inexpressible relief] You are married! 430
  VIOLET. Yes; and I think you might have guessed it. What business had you all to take it for granted that I had no right to wear my wedding ring? Not one of you even asked me: I cannot forget that. 431
  TANNER [in ruins] I am utterly crushed. I meant well. I apologize—abjectly apologize. 432
  VIOLET. I hope you will be more careful in future about the things you say. Of course one does not take them seriously; but they are very disagreeable, and rather in bad taste, I think. 433
  TANNER [bowing to the storm] I have no defence: I shall know better in future than to take any woman’s part. We have all disgraced ourselves in your eyes, I am afraid, except Ann. She befriended you. For Ann’s sake, forgive us. 434
  VIOLET. Yes: Ann has been kind; but then Ann knew. 435
  TANNER. Oh! 436
  MISS RAMSDEN [stiffly] And who, pray, is the gentleman who does not acknowledge his wife? 437
  VIOLET [promptly] That is my business, Miss Ramsden, and not yours. I have my reasons for keeping my marriage a secret for the present. 438
  RAMSDEN. All I can say is that we are extremely sorry, Violet. I am shocked to think of how we have treated you. 439
  OCTAVIUS [awkwardly] I beg your pardon, Violet. I can say no more. 440
  MISS RAMSDEN [still loth to surrender] Of course what you say puts a very different complexion on the matter. All the same, I owe it to myself— 441
  VIOLET [cutting her short] You owe me an apology, Miss Ramsden: thats what you owe both to yourself and to me. If you were a married woman you would not like sitting in the housekeeper’s room and being treated like a naughty child by young girls and old ladies without any serious duties and responsibilities. 442
  TANNER. Dont hit us when we’re down, Violet . We seem to have made fools of ourselves; but really it was you who made fools of us. 443
  VIOLET. It was no business of yours, Jack, in any case. 444
  TANNER. No business of mine! Why, Ramsden as good as accused me of being the unknown gentleman.
  Ramsden makes a frantic demonstration; but Violet’s cool keen anger extinguishes it.
  VIOLET. You! Oh, how infamous! how abominable! how disgracefully you have all been talking about me! If my husband knew it he would never let me speak to any of you again. [To Ramsden] I think you might have spared me that, at least. 446
  RAMSDEN. But I assure you I never—at least it is a monstrous perversion of something I said that— 447
  MISS RAMSDEN. You neednt apologize, Roebuck. She brought it all on herself. It is for her to apologize for having deceived us. 448
  VIOLET. I can make allowances for you, Miss Ramsden: you cannot understand how I feel on this subject, though I should have expected rather better taste from people of greater experience. However, I quite feel that you have placed yourselves in a very painful position; and the most truly considerate thing for me to do is to go at once. Good morning.
  She goes, leaving them staring.
  MISS RAMSDEN. Well, I must say! 450
  RAMSDEN [plaintively] I dont think she is quite fair to us. 451
  TANNER. You must cower before the wedding ring like the rest of us, Ramsden. The cup of our ignominy is full. 452

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.