Infomotions, Inc.Mrs. Warren's Profession / Shaw, George Bernard, 1856-1950



Author: Shaw, George Bernard, 1856-1950
Title: Mrs. Warren's Profession
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): vivie; praed; warren; crofts; frank; warren's profession; miss vivie; miss warren
Contributor(s): Dakyns, Henry Graham, 1838-1911 [Translator]
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Size: 37,115 words (really short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 67 (easy)
Identifier: etext1097
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Title: Mrs. Warren's Profession

Author: George Bernard Shaw

Release Date: February 11, 2006 [EBook #1097]

Language: English

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Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer and David Widger





MRS WARREN'S PROFESSION


by George Bernard Shaw


1894


With The Author's Apology (1902)




THE AUTHOR'S APOLOGY


Mrs Warren's Profession has been performed at last, after a delay of
only eight years; and I have once more shared with Ibsen the triumphant
amusement of startling all but the strongest-headed of the London
theatre critics clean out of the practice of their profession. No
author who has ever known the exultation of sending the Press into an
hysterical tumult of protest, of moral panic, of involuntary and frantic
confession of sin, of a horror of conscience in which the power of
distinguishing between the work of art on the stage and the real life
of the spectator is confused and overwhelmed, will ever care for the
stereotyped compliments which every successful farce or melodrama
elicits from the newspapers. Give me that critic who rushed from my play
to declare furiously that Sir George Crofts ought to be kicked. What a
triumph for the actor, thus to reduce a jaded London journalist to
the condition of the simple sailor in the Wapping gallery, who shouts
execrations at Iago and warnings to Othello not to believe him! But
dearer still than such simplicity is that sense of the sudden earthquake
shock to the foundations of morality which sends a pallid crowd of
critics into the street shrieking that the pillars of society are
cracking and the ruin of the State is at hand. Even the Ibsen champions
of ten years ago remonstrate with me just as the veterans of those brave
days remonstrated with them. Mr Grein, the hardy iconoclast who first
launched my plays on the stage alongside Ghosts and The Wild Duck,
exclaimed that I have shattered his ideals. Actually his ideals! What
would Dr Relling say? And Mr William Archer himself disowns me because I
"cannot touch pitch without wallowing in it". Truly my play must be more
needed than I knew; and yet I thought I knew how little the others know.

Do not suppose, however, that the consternation of the Press reflects
any consternation among the general public. Anybody can upset the
theatre critics, in a turn of the wrist, by substituting for the
romantic commonplaces of the stage the moral commonplaces of the pulpit,
platform, or the library. Play Mrs Warren's Profession to an audience
of clerical members of the Christian Social Union and of women well
experienced in Rescue, Temperance, and Girls' Club work, and no moral
panic will arise; every man and woman present will know that as long
as poverty makes virtue hideous and the spare pocket-money of rich
bachelordom makes vice dazzling, their daily hand-to-hand fight against
prostitution with prayer and persuasion, shelters and scanty alms,
will be a losing one. There was a time when they were able to urge that
though "the white-lead factory where Anne Jane was poisoned" may be a
far more terrible place than Mrs Warren's house, yet hell is still more
dreadful. Nowadays they no longer believe in hell; and the girls among
whom they are working know that they do not believe in it, and would
laugh at them if they did. So well have the rescuers learnt that Mrs
Warren's defence of herself and indictment of society is the thing that
most needs saying, that those who know me personally reproach me, not
for writing this play, but for wasting my energies on "pleasant
plays" for the amusement of frivolous people, when I can build up such
excellent stage sermons on their own work. Mrs Warren's Profession is
the one play of mine which I could submit to a censorship without doubt
of the result; only, it must not be the censorship of the minor theatre
critic, nor of an innocent court official like the Lord Chamberlain's
Examiner, much less of people who consciously profit by Mrs Warren's
profession, or who personally make use of it, or who hold the widely
whispered view that it is an indispensable safety-valve for the
protection of domestic virtue, or, above all, who are smitten with a
sentimental affection for our fallen sister, and would "take her up
tenderly, lift her with care, fashioned so slenderly, young, and SO
fair." Nor am I prepared to accept the verdict of the medical gentlemen
who would compulsorily sanitate and register Mrs Warren, whilst leaving
Mrs Warren's patrons, especially her military patrons, free to destroy
her health and anybody else's without fear of reprisals. But I should be
quite content to have my play judged by, say, a joint committee of
the Central Vigilance Society and the Salvation Army. And the sterner
moralists the members of the committee were, the better.

Some of the journalists I have shocked reason so unripely that they will
gather nothing from this but a confused notion that I am accusing the
National Vigilance Association and the Salvation Army of complicity in
my own scandalous immorality. It will seem to them that people who would
stand this play would stand anything. They are quite mistaken. Such
an audience as I have described would be revolted by many of our
fashionable plays. They would leave the theatre convinced that the
Plymouth Brother who still regards the playhouse as one of the gates of
hell is perhaps the safest adviser on the subject of which he knows so
little. If I do not draw the same conclusion, it is not because I am one
of those who claim that art is exempt from moral obligations, and deny
that the writing or performance of a play is a moral act, to be treated
on exactly the same footing as theft or murder if it produces equally
mischievous consequences. I am convinced that fine art is the subtlest,
the most seductive, the most effective instrument of moral propaganda in
the world, excepting only the example of personal conduct; and I waive
even this exception in favor of the art of the stage, because it works
by exhibiting examples of personal conduct made intelligible and moving
to crowds of unobservant, unreflecting people to whom real life means
nothing. I have pointed out again and again that the influence of the
theatre in England is growing so great that whilst private conduct,
religion, law, science, politics, and morals are becoming more and
more theatrical, the theatre itself remains impervious to common
sense, religion, science, politics, and morals. That is why I fight the
theatre, not with pamphlets and sermons and treatises, but with plays;
and so effective do I find the dramatic method that I have no doubt I
shall at last persuade even London to take its conscience and its brains
with it when it goes to the theatre, instead of leaving them at home
with its prayer-book as it does at present. Consequently, I am the
last man in the world to deny that if the net effect of performing Mrs
Warren's Profession were an increase in the number of persons entering
that profession, its performance should be dealt with accordingly.

Now let us consider how such recruiting can be encouraged by the
theatre. Nothing is easier. Let the King's Reader of Plays, backed by
the Press, make an unwritten but perfectly well understood regulation
that members of Mrs Warren's profession shall be tolerated on the stage
only when they are beautiful, exquisitely dressed, and sumptuously
lodged and fed; also that they shall, at the end of the play, die of
consumption to the sympathetic tears of the whole audience, or step
into the next room to commit suicide, or at least be turned out by their
protectors and passed on to be "redeemed" by old and faithful lovers who
have adored them in spite of their levities. Naturally, the poorer girls
in the gallery will believe in the beauty, in the exquisite dresses, and
the luxurious living, and will see that there is no real necessity for
the consumption, the suicide, or the ejectment: mere pious forms, all
of them, to save the Censor's face. Even if these purely official
catastrophes carried any conviction, the majority of English girls
remain so poor, so dependent, so well aware that the drudgeries of such
honest work as is within their reach are likely enough to lead them
eventually to lung disease, premature death, and domestic desertion or
brutality, that they would still see reason to prefer the primrose path
to the strait path of virtue, since both, vice at worst and virtue at
best, lead to the same end in poverty and overwork. It is true that the
Board School mistress will tell you that only girls of a certain kind
will reason in this way. But alas! that certain kind turns out on
inquiry to be simply the pretty, dainty kind: that is, the only kind
that gets the chance of acting on such reasoning. Read the first report
of the Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes [Bluebook C
4402, 8d., 1889]; read the Report on Home Industries (sacred word,
Home!) issued by the Women's Industrial Council [Home Industries of
Women in London, 1897, 1s., 12 Buckingham Street, W. C.]; and ask
yourself whether, if the lot in life therein described were your lot
in life, you would not prefer the lot of Cleopatra, of Theodora, of the
Lady of the Camellias, of Mrs Tanqueray, of Zaza, of Iris. If you can
go deep enough into things to be able to say no, how many ignorant
half-starved girls will believe you are speaking sincerely? To them the
lot of Iris is heavenly in comparison with their own. Yet our King, like
his predecessors, says to the dramatist, "Thus, and thus only, shall
you present Mrs Warren's profession on the stage, or you shall starve.
Witness Shaw, who told the untempting truth about it, and whom We, by
the Grace of God, accordingly disallow and suppress, and do what in Us
lies to silence." Fortunately, Shaw cannot be silenced. "The harlot's
cry from street to street" is louder than the voices of all the kings.
I am not dependent on the theatre, and cannot be starved into making
my play a standing advertisement of the attractive side of Mrs Warren's
business.

Here I must guard myself against a misunderstanding. It is not the fault
of their authors that the long string of wanton's tragedies, from Antony
and Cleopatra to Iris, are snares to poor girls, and are objected to
on that account by many earnest men and women who consider Mrs Warren's
Profession an excellent sermon. Mr Pinero is in no way bound to suppress
the fact that his Iris is a person to be envied by millions of better
women. If he made his play false to life by inventing fictitious
disadvantages for her, he would be acting as unscrupulously as any tract
writer. If society chooses to provide for its Irises better than for
its working women, it must not expect honest playwrights to manufacture
spurious evidence to save its credit. The mischief lies in the
deliberate suppression of the other side of the case: the refusal to
allow Mrs Warren to expose the drudgery and repulsiveness of plying for
hire among coarse, tedious drunkards; the determination not to let the
Parisian girl in Brieux's Les Avaries come on the stage and drive into
people's minds what her diseases mean for her and for themselves. All
that, says the King's Reader in effect, is horrifying, loathsome.

Precisely: what does he expect it to be? would he have us represent it
as beautiful and gratifying? The answer to this question, I fear, must
be a blunt Yes; for it seems impossible to root out of an Englishman's
mind the notion that vice is delightful, and that abstention from it
is privation. At all events, as long as the tempting side of it is kept
towards the public, and softened by plenty of sentiment and sympathy, it
is welcomed by our Censor, whereas the slightest attempt to place it in
the light of the policeman's lantern or the Salvation Army shelter
is checkmated at once as not merely disgusting, but, if you please,
unnecessary.

Everybody will, I hope, admit that this state of things is intolerable;
that the subject of Mrs Warren's profession must be either tapu
altogether, or else exhibited with the warning side as freely displayed
as the tempting side. But many persons will vote for a complete tapu,
and an impartial sweep from the boards of Mrs Warren and Gretchen and
the rest; in short, for banishing the sexual instincts from the stage
altogether. Those who think this impossible can hardly have considered
the number and importance of the subjects which are actually banished
from the stage. Many plays, among them Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth,
Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, have no sex complications: the thread of
their action can be followed by children who could not understand a
single scene of Mrs Warren's Profession or Iris. None of our plays rouse
the sympathy of the audience by an exhibition of the pains of maternity,
as Chinese plays constantly do. Each nation has its own particular set
of tapus in addition to the common human stock; and though each of
these tapus limits the scope of the dramatist, it does not make drama
impossible. If the Examiner were to refuse to license plays with female
characters in them, he would only be doing to the stage what our tribal
customs already do to the pulpit and the bar. I have myself written a
rather entertaining play with only one woman in it, and she is quite
heartwhole; and I could just as easily write a play without a woman in
it at all. I will even go so far as to promise the Mr Redford my support
if he will introduce this limitation for part of the year, say during
Lent, so as to make a close season for that dullest of stock dramatic
subjects, adultery, and force our managers and authors to find out what
all great dramatists find out spontaneously: to wit, that people who
sacrifice every other consideration to love are as hopelessly unheroic
on the stage as lunatics or dipsomaniacs. Hector is the world's hero;
not Paris nor Antony.

But though I do not question the possibility of a drama in which love
should be as effectively ignored as cholera is at present, there is not
the slightest chance of that way out of the difficulty being taken by
the Mr Redford. If he attempted it there would be a revolt in which he
would be swept away in spite of my singlehanded efforts to defend him.
A complete tapu is politically impossible. A complete toleration is
equally impossible to Mr Redford, because his occupation would be gone
if there were no tapu to enforce. He is therefore compelled to maintain
the present compromise of a partial tapu, applied, to the best of his
judgement, with a careful respect to persons and to public opinion. And
a very sensible English solution of the difficulty, too, most readers
will say. I should not dispute it if dramatic poets really were what
English public opinion generally assumes them to be during their
lifetime: that is, a licentiously irregular group to be kept in order
in a rough and ready way by a magistrate who will stand no nonsense
from them. But I cannot admit that the class represented by Eschylus,
Sophocles, Aristophanes, Euripides, Shakespear, Goethe, Ibsen, and
Tolstoy, not to mention our own contemporary playwrights, is as much in
place in Mr Redford's office as a pickpocket is in Bow Street. Further,
it is not true that the Censorship, though it certainly suppresses Ibsen
and Tolstoy, and would suppress Shakespear but for the absurd rule that
a play once licensed is always licensed (so that Wycherly is permitted
and Shelley prohibited), also suppresses unscrupulous playwrights. I
challenge Mr Redford to mention any extremity of sexual misconduct which
any manager in his senses would risk presenting on the London stage that
has not been presented under his license and that of his predecessor.
The compromise, in fact, works out in practice in favor of loose plays
as against earnest ones.

To carry conviction on this point, I will take the extreme course of
narrating the plots of two plays witnessed within the last ten years
by myself at London West End theatres, one licensed by the late Queen
Victoria's Reader of Plays, the other by the present Reader to the King.
Both plots conform to the strictest rules of the period when La Dame aux
Camellias was still a forbidden play, and when The Second Mrs Tanqueray
would have been tolerated only on condition that she carefully explained
to the audience that when she met Captain Ardale she sinned "but in
intention."

Play number one. A prince is compelled by his parents to marry the
daughter of a neighboring king, but loves another maiden. The scene
represents a hall in the king's palace at night. The wedding has taken
place that day; and the closed door of the nuptial chamber is in view of
the audience. Inside, the princess awaits her bridegroom. A duenna is in
attendance. The bridegroom enters. His sole desire is to escape from a
marriage which is hateful to him. An idea strikes him. He will assault
the duenna, and get ignominiously expelled from the palace by his
indignant father-in-law. To his horror, when he proceeds to carry out
this stratagem, the duenna, far from raising an alarm, is flattered,
delighted, and compliant. The assaulter becomes the assaulted. He flings
her angrily to the ground, where she remains placidly. He flies. The
father enters; dismisses the duenna; and listens at the keyhole of
his daughter's nuptial chamber, uttering various pleasantries, and
declaring, with a shiver, that a sound of kissing, which he supposes to
proceed from within, makes him feel young again.

In deprecation of the scandalized astonishment with which such a story
as this will be read, I can only say that it was not presented on the
stage until its propriety had been certified by the chief officer of the
Queen of England's household.

Story number two. A German officer finds himself in an inn with a French
lady who has wounded his national vanity. He resolves to humble her by
committing a rape upon her. He announces his purpose. She remonstrates,
implores, flies to the doors and finds them locked, calls for help
and finds none at hand, runs screaming from side to side, and, after
a harrowing scene, is overpowered and faints. Nothing further being
possible on the stage without actual felony, the officer then relents
and leaves her. When she recovers, she believes that he has carried out
his threat; and during the rest of the play she is represented as vainly
vowing vengeance upon him, whilst she is really falling in love with
him under the influence of his imaginary crime against her. Finally she
consents to marry him; and the curtain falls on their happiness.

This story was certified by the present King's Reader, acting for the
Lord Chamberlain, as void in its general tendency of "anything immoral
or otherwise improper for the stage." But let nobody conclude therefore
that Mr Redford is a monster, whose policy it is to deprave the theatre.
As a matter of fact, both the above stories are strictly in order from
the official point of view. The incidents of sex which they contain,
though carried in both to the extreme point at which another step would
be dealt with, not by the King's Reader, but by the police, do not
involve adultery, nor any allusion to Mrs Warren's profession, nor to
the fact that the children of any polyandrous group will, when they grow
up, inevitably be confronted, as those of Mrs Warren's group are in my
play, with the insoluble problem of their own possible consanguinity.
In short, by depending wholly on the coarse humors and the physical
fascination of sex, they comply with all the formulable requirements of
the Censorship, whereas plays in which these humors and fascinations are
discarded, and the social problems created by sex seriously faced and
dealt with, inevitably ignore the official formula and are suppressed.
If the old rule against the exhibition of illicit sex relations on stage
were revived, and the subject absolutely barred, the only result would
be that Antony and Cleopatra, Othello (because of the Bianca episode),
Troilus and Cressida, Henry IV, Measure for Measure, Timon of Athens,
La Dame aux Camellias, The Profligate, The Second Mrs Tanqueray, The
Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith, The Gay Lord Quex, Mrs Dane's Defence, and
Iris would be swept from the stage, and placed under the same ban as
Tolstoy's Dominion of Darkness and Mrs Warren's Profession, whilst such
plays as the two described above would have a monopoly of the theatre as
far as sexual interest is concerned.

What is more, the repulsiveness of the worst of the certified plays
would protect the Censorship against effective exposure and criticism.
Not long ago an American Review of high standing asked me for an article
on the Censorship of the English stage. I replied that such an article
would involve passages too disagreeable for publication in a magazine
for general family reading. The editor persisted nevertheless; but
not until he had declared his readiness to face this, and had pledged
himself to insert the article unaltered (the particularity of the pledge
extending even to a specification of the exact number of words in the
article) did I consent to the proposal. What was the result?

The editor, confronted with the two stories given above, threw his
pledge to the winds, and, instead of returning the article, printed
it with the illustrative examples omitted, and nothing left but the
argument from political principles against the Censorship. In doing this
he fired my broadside after withdrawing the cannon balls; for neither
the Censor nor any other Englishman, except perhaps Mr Leslie Stephen
and a few other veterans of the dwindling old guard of Benthamism, cares
a dump about political principle. The ordinary Briton thinks that if
every other Briton is not kept under some form of tutelage, the more
childish the better, he will abuse his freedom viciously. As far as its
principle is concerned, the Censorship is the most popular institution
in England; and the playwright who criticizes it is slighted as a
blackguard agitating for impunity. Consequently nothing can really shake
the confidence of the public in the Lord Chamberlain's department except
a remorseless and unbowdlerized narration of the licentious fictions
which slip through its net, and are hallmarked by it with the approval
of the Throne. But since these narrations cannot be made public without
great difficulty, owing to the obligation an editor is under not to
deal unexpectedly with matters that are not _virginibus puerisque_, the
chances are heavily in favor of the Censor escaping all remonstrance.
With the exception of such comments as I was able to make in my own
critical articles in The World and The Saturday Review when the pieces
I have described were first produced, and a few ignorant protests by
churchmen against much better plays which they confessed they had not
seen nor read, nothing has been said in the press that could seriously
disturb the easygoing notion that the stage would be much worse than it
admittedly is but for the vigilance of the King's Reader. The truth is,
that no manager would dare produce on his own responsibility the pieces
he can now get royal certificates for at two guineas per piece.

I hasten to add that I believe these evils to be inherent in the
nature of all censorship, and not merely a consequence of the form the
institution takes in London. No doubt there is a staggering absurdity
in appointing an ordinary clerk to see that the leaders of European
literature do not corrupt the morals of the nation, and to restrain Sir
Henry Irving, as a rogue and a vagabond, from presuming to impersonate
Samson or David on the stage, though any other sort of artist may daub
these scriptural figures on a signboard or carve them on a tombstone
without hindrance. If the General Medical Council, the Royal College of
Physicians, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Incorporated Law Society, and
Convocation were abolished, and their functions handed over to the Mr
Redford, the Concert of Europe would presumably declare England mad, and
treat her accordingly. Yet, though neither medicine nor painting nor
law nor the Church moulds the character of the nation as potently as the
theatre does, nothing can come on the stage unless its dimensions admit
of its passing through Mr Redford's mind! Pray do not think that I
question Mr Redford's honesty. I am quite sure that he sincerely thinks
me a blackguard, and my play a grossly improper one, because, like
Tolstoy's Dominion of Darkness, it produces, as they are both meant to
produce, a very strong and very painful impression of evil. I do not
doubt for a moment that the rapine play which I have described, and
which he licensed, was quite incapable in manuscript of producing
any particular effect on his mind at all, and that when he was once
satisfied that the ill-conducted hero was a German and not an English
officer, he passed the play without studying its moral tendencies. Even
if he had undertaken that study, there is no more reason to suppose
that he is a competent moralist than there is to suppose that I am a
competent mathematician. But truly it does not matter whether he is a
moralist or not. Let nobody dream for a moment that what is wrong with
the Censorship is the shortcoming of the gentleman who happens at any
moment to be acting as Censor. Replace him to-morrow by an Academy of
Letters and an Academy of Dramatic Poetry, and the new and enlarged
filter will still exclude original and epoch-making work, whilst passing
conventional, old-fashioned, and vulgar work without question. The
conclave which compiles the index of the Roman Catholic Church is the
most august, ancient, learned, famous, and authoritative censorship in
Europe. Is it more enlightened, more liberal, more tolerant that the
comparatively infinitesimal office of the Lord Chamberlain? On the
contrary, it has reduced itself to a degree of absurdity which makes a
Catholic university a contradiction in terms. All censorships exist
to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing
institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current concepts,
and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the
first condition of progress is the removal of censorships. There is the
whole case against censorships in a nutshell.

It will be asked whether theatrical managers are to be allowed to
produce what they like, without regard to the public interest. But that
is not the alternative. The managers of our London music-halls are not
subject to any censorship. They produce their entertainments on their
own responsibility, and have no two-guinea certificates to plead if
their houses are conducted viciously. They know that if they lose their
character, the County Council will simply refuse to renew their license
at the end of the year; and nothing in the history of popular art
is more amazing than the improvement in music-halls that this simple
arrangement has produced within a few years. Place the theatres on the
same footing, and we shall promptly have a similar revolution: a whole
class of frankly blackguardly plays, in which unscrupulous low comedians
attract crowds to gaze at bevies of girls who have nothing to exhibit
but their prettiness, will vanish like the obscene songs which were
supposed to enliven the squalid dulness, incredible to the younger
generation, of the music-halls fifteen years ago. On the other hand,
plays which treat sex questions as problems for thought instead of as
aphrodisiacs will be freely performed. Gentlemen of Mr Redford's way of
thinking will have plenty of opportunity of protesting against them
in Council; but the result will be that the Mr Redford will find his
natural level; Ibsen and Tolstoy theirs; so no harm will be done.

This question of the Censorship reminds me that I have to apologize
to those who went to the recent performance of Mrs Warren's Profession
expecting to find it what I have just called an aphrodisiac. That was
not my fault; it was Mr Redford's. After the specimens I have given of
the tolerance of his department, it was natural enough for thoughtless
people to infer that a play which overstepped his indulgence must be a
very exciting play indeed. Accordingly, I find one critic so explicit as
to the nature of his disappointment as to say candidly that "such airy
talk as there is upon the matter is utterly unworthy of acceptance as
being a representation of what people with blood in them think or do on
such occasions." Thus am I crushed between the upper millstone of the Mr
Redford, who thinks me a libertine, and the nether popular critic, who
thinks me a prude. Critics of all grades and ages, middle-aged fathers
of families no less than ardent young enthusiasts, are equally indignant
with me. They revile me as lacking in passion, in feeling, in manhood.
Some of them even sum the matter up by denying me any dramatic power: a
melancholy betrayal of what dramatic power has come to mean on our stage
under the Censorship! Can I be expected to refrain from laughing at
the spectacle of a number of respectable gentlemen lamenting because a
playwright lures them to the theatre by a promise to excite their senses
in a very special and sensational manner, and then, having successfully
trapped them in exceptional numbers, proceeds to ignore their senses and
ruthlessly improve their minds? But I protest again that the lure was
not mine. The play had been in print for four years; and I have spared
no pains to make known that my plays are built to induce, not voluptuous
reverie but intellectual interest, not romantic rhapsody but humane
concern. Accordingly, I do not find those critics who are gifted with
intellectual appetite and political conscience complaining of want of
dramatic power. Rather do they protest, not altogether unjustly, against
a few relapses into staginess and caricature which betray the young
playwright and the old playgoer in this early work of mine.

As to the voluptuaries, I can assure them that the playwright, whether
he be myself or another, will always disappoint them. The drama can do
little to delight the senses: all the apparent instances to the contrary
are instances of the personal fascination of the performers. The drama
of pure feeling is no longer in the hands of the playwright: it has been
conquered by the musician, after whose enchantments all the verbal arts
seem cold and tame. Romeo and Juliet with the loveliest Juliet is dry,
tedious, and rhetorical in comparison with Wagner's Tristan, even though
Isolde be both fourteen stone and forty, as she often is in Germany.
Indeed, it needed no Wagner to convince the public of this. The
voluptuous sentimentality of Gounod's Faust and Bizet's Carmen has
captured the common playgoer; and there is, flatly, no future now for
any drama without music except the drama of thought. The attempt to
produce a genus of opera without music (and this absurdity is what
our fashionable theatres have been driving at for a long time without
knowing it) is far less hopeful than my own determination to accept
problem as the normal materiel of the drama.

That this determination will throw me into a long conflict with our
theatre critics, and with the few playgoers who go to the theatre as
often as the critics, I well know; but I am too well equipped for the
strife to be deterred by it, or to bear malice towards the losing side.
In trying to produce the sensuous effects of opera, the fashionable
drama has become so flaccid in its sentimentality, and the intellect
of its frequenters so atrophied by disuse, that the reintroduction
of problem, with its remorseless logic and iron framework of fact,
inevitably produces at first an overwhelming impression of coldness and
inhuman rationalism. But this will soon pass away. When the intellectual
muscle and moral nerve of the critics has been developed in the struggle
with modern problem plays, the pettish luxuriousness of the clever ones,
and the sulky sense of disadvantaged weakness in the sentimental ones,
will clear away; and it will be seen that only in the problem play is
there any real drama, because drama is no mere setting up of the camera
to nature: it is the presentation in parable of the conflict between
Man's will and his environment: in a word, of problem. The vapidness of
such drama as the pseudo-operatic plays contain lies in the fact that
in them animal passion, sentimentally diluted, is shewn in conflict, not
with real circumstances, but with a set of conventions and assumptions
half of which do not exist off the stage, whilst the other half can
either be evaded by a pretence of compliance or defied with complete
impunity by any reasonably strong-minded person. Nobody can feel that
such conventions are really compulsory; and consequently nobody can
believe in the stage pathos that accepts them as an inexorable fate, or
in the genuineness of the people who indulge in such pathos. Sitting
at such plays, we do not believe: we make-believe. And the habit of
make-believe becomes at last so rooted that criticism of the theatre
insensibly ceases to be criticism at all, and becomes more and more a
chronicle of the fashionable enterprises of the only realities left on
the stage: that is, the performers in their own persons. In this
phase the playwright who attempts to revive genuine drama produces the
disagreeable impression of the pedant who attempts to start a serious
discussion at a fashionable at-home. Later on, when he has driven the
tea services out and made the people who had come to use the theatre as
a drawing-room understand that it is they and not the dramatist who are
the intruders, he has to face the accusation that his plays ignore human
feeling, an illusion produced by that very resistance of fact and law to
human feeling which creates drama. It is the _deus ex machina_ who, by
suspending that resistance, makes the fall of the curtain an immediate
necessity, since drama ends exactly where resistance ends. Yet the
introduction of this resistance produces so strong an impression of
heartlessness nowadays that a distinguished critic has summed up the
impression made on him by Mrs Warren's Profession, by declaring that
"the difference between the spirit of Tolstoy and the spirit of Mr
Shaw is the difference between the spirit of Christ and the spirit of
Euclid." But the epigram would be as good if Tolstoy's name were put in
place of mine and D'Annunzio's in place of Tolstoy. At the same time
I accept the enormous compliment to my reasoning powers with sincere
complacency; and I promise my flatterer that when he is sufficiently
accustomed to and therefore undazzled by problem on the stage to be able
to attend to the familiar factor of humanity in it as well as to the
unfamiliar one of a real environment, he will both see and feel that
Mrs Warren's Profession is no mere theorem, but a play of instincts
and temperaments in conflict with each other and with a flinty social
problem that never yields an inch to mere sentiment.

I go further than this. I declare that the real secret of the
cynicism and inhumanity of which shallower critics accuse me is the
unexpectedness with which my characters behave like human beings,
instead of conforming to the romantic logic of the stage. The axioms and
postulates of that dreary mimanthropometry are so well known that it is
almost impossible for its slaves to write tolerable last acts to
their plays, so conventionally do their conclusions follow from their
premises. Because I have thrown this logic ruthlessly overboard, I am
accused of ignoring, not stage logic, but, of all things, human feeling.
People with completely theatrified imaginations tell me that no girl
would treat her mother as Vivie Warren does, meaning that no stage
heroine would in a popular sentimental play. They say this just as they
might say that no two straight lines would enclose a space. They do not
see how completely inverted their vision has become even when I throw
its preposterousness in their faces, as I repeatedly do in this very
play. Praed, the sentimental artist (fool that I was not to make him a
theatre critic instead of an architect!) burlesques them by expecting
all through the piece that the feelings of others will be logically
deducible from their family relationships and from his "conventionally
unconventional" social code. The sarcasm is lost on the critics: they,
saturated with the same logic, only think him the sole sensible person
on the stage. Thus it comes about that the more completely the dramatist
is emancipated from the illusion that men and women are primarily
reasonable beings, and the more powerfully he insists on the ruthless
indifference of their great dramatic antagonist, the external world, to
their whims and emotions, the surer he is to be denounced as blind to
the very distinction on which his whole work is built. Far from ignoring
idiosyncrasy, will, passion, impulse, whim, as factors in human action,
I have placed them so nakedly on the stage that the elderly citizen,
accustomed to see them clothed with the veil of manufactured logic about
duty, and to disguise even his own impulses from himself in this way,
finds the picture as unnatural as Carlyle's suggested painting of
parliament sitting without its clothes.

I now come to those critics who, intellectually baffled by the problem
in Mrs Warren's Profession, have made a virtue of running away from it.
I will illustrate their method by quotation from Dickens, taken from the
fifth chapter of Our Mutual Friend:

"Hem!" began Wegg. "This, Mr Boffin and Lady, is the first chapter of
the first wollume of the Decline and Fall off----" here he looked hard
at the book, and stopped.

"What's the matter, Wegg?"

"Why, it comes into my mind, do you know, sir," said Wegg with an air of
insinuating frankness (having first again looked hard at the book), "that
you made a little mistake this morning, which I had meant to set you
right in; only something put it out of my head. I think you said Rooshan
Empire, sir?"

"It is Rooshan; ain't it, Wegg?"

"No, sir. Roman. Roman."

"What's the difference, Wegg?"

"The difference, sir?" Mr Wegg was faltering and in danger of breaking
down, when a bright thought flashed upon him. "The difference, sir?
There you place me in a difficulty, Mr Boffin. Suffice it to observe,
that the difference is best postponed to some other occasion when Mrs
Boffin does not honor us with her company. In Mrs Boffin's presence,
sir, we had better drop it."

Mr Wegg thus came out of his disadvantage with quite a chivalrous air,
and not only that, but by dint of repeating with a manly delicacy,
"In Mrs Boffin's presence, sir, we had better drop it!" turned the
disadvantage on Boffin, who felt that he had committed himself in a very
painful manner.

I am willing to let Mr Wegg drop it on these terms, provided I am
allowed to mention here that Mrs Warren's Profession is a play for
women; that it was written for women; that it has been performed and
produced mainly through the determination of women that it should be
performed and produced; that the enthusiasm of women made its first
performance excitingly successful; and that not one of these women had
any inducement to support it except their belief in the timeliness and
the power of the lesson the play teaches. Those who were "surprised to
see ladies present" were men; and when they proceeded to explain that
the journals they represented could not possibly demoralize the public
by describing such a play, their editors cruelly devoted the space saved
by their delicacy to an elaborate and respectful account of the progress
of a young lord's attempt to break the bank at Monte Carlo. A few days
sooner Mrs Warren would have been crowded out of their papers by an
exceptionally abominable police case. I do not suggest that the police
case should have been suppressed; but neither do I believe that regard
for public morality had anything to do with their failure to grapple
with the performance by the Stage Society. And, after all, there was no
need to fall back on Silas Wegg's subterfuge. Several critics saved the
faces of their papers easily enough by the simple expedient of saying
all they had to say in the tone of a shocked governess lecturing a
naughty child. To them I might plead, in Mrs Warren's words, "Well,
it's only good manners to be ashamed, dearie;" but it surprises me,
recollecting as I do the effect produced by Miss Fanny Brough's delivery
of that line, that gentlemen who shivered like violets in a zephyr as
it swept through them, should so completely miss the full width of its
application as to go home and straightway make a public exhibition of
mock modesty.

My old Independent Theatre manager, Mr Grein, besides that reproach to
me for shattering his ideals, complains that Mrs Warren is not wicked
enough, and names several romancers who would have clothed her black
soul with all the terrors of tragedy. I have no doubt they would; but
if you please, my dear Grein, that is just what I did not want to do.
Nothing would please our sanctimonious British public more than to throw
the whole guilt of Mrs Warren's profession on Mrs Warren herself. Now
the whole aim of my play is to throw that guilt on the British public
itself. You may remember that when you produced my first play, Widowers'
Houses, exactly the same misunderstanding arose. When the virtuous young
gentleman rose up in wrath against the slum landlord, the slum
landlord very effectively shewed him that slums are the product, not
of individual Harpagons, but of the indifference of virtuous young
gentlemen to the condition of the city they live in, provided they
live at the west end of it on money earned by someone else's labor. The
notion that prostitution is created by the wickedness of Mrs Warren
is as silly as the notion--prevalent, nevertheless, to some extent in
Temperance circles--that drunkenness is created by the wickedness of
the publican. Mrs Warren is not a whit a worse woman than the reputable
daughter who cannot endure her. Her indifference to the ultimate social
consequences of her means of making money, and her discovery of that
means by the ordinary method of taking the line of least resistance to
getting it, are too common in English society to call for any special
remark. Her vitality, her thrift, her energy, her outspokenness, her
wise care of her daughter, and the managing capacity which has enabled
her and her sister to climb from the fried fish shop down by the Mint
to the establishments of which she boasts, are all high English social
virtues. Her defence of herself is so overwhelming that it provokes the
St James Gazette to declare that "the tendency of the play is wholly
evil" because "it contains one of the boldest and most specious defences
of an immoral life for poor women that has ever been penned." Happily
the St James Gazette here speaks in its haste. Mrs Warren's defence of
herself is not only bold and specious, but valid and unanswerable.
But it is no defence at all of the vice which she organizes. It is
no defence of an immoral life to say that the alternative offered
by society collectively to poor women is a miserable life, starved,
overworked, fetid, ailing, ugly. Though it is quite natural and RIGHT
for Mrs Warren to choose what is, according to her lights, the least
immoral alternative, it is none the less infamous of society to offer
such alternatives. For the alternatives offered are not morality and
immorality, but two sorts of immorality. The man who cannot see
that starvation, overwork, dirt, and disease are as anti-social as
prostitution--that they are the vices and crimes of a nation, and
not merely its misfortunes--is (to put it as politely as possible) a
hopelessly Private Person.

The notion that Mrs Warren must be a fiend is only an example of the
violence and passion which the slightest reference to sex arouses in
undisciplined minds, and which makes it seem natural for our lawgivers
to punish silly and negligible indecencies with a ferocity unknown in
dealing with, for example, ruinous financial swindling. Had my play been
titled Mr Warren's Profession, and Mr Warren been a bookmaker, nobody
would have expected me to make him a villain as well. Yet gambling is
a vice, and bookmaking an institution, for which there is absolutely
nothing to be said. The moral and economic evil done by trying to get
other people's money without working for it (and this is the essence of
gambling) is not only enormous but uncompensated. There are no two sides
to the question of gambling, no circumstances which force us to tolerate
it lest its suppression lead to worse things, no consensus of opinion
among responsible classes, such as magistrates and military commanders,
that it is a necessity, no Athenian records of gambling made splendid by
the talents of its professors, no contention that instead of violating
morals it only violates a legal institution which is in many respects
oppressive and unnatural, no possible plea that the instinct on which it
is founded is a vital one. Prostitution can confuse the issue with all
these excuses: gambling has none of them. Consequently, if Mrs Warren
must needs be a demon, a bookmaker must be a cacodemon. Well, does
anybody who knows the sporting world really believe that bookmakers are
worse than their neighbors? On the contrary, they have to be a good deal
better; for in that world nearly everybody whose social rank does not
exclude such an occupation would be a bookmaker if he could; but the
strength of character for handling large sums of money and for strict
settlements and unflinching payment of losses is so rare that successful
bookmakers are rare too. It may seem that at least public spirit
cannot be one of a bookmaker's virtues; but I can testify from personal
experience that excellent public work is done with money subscribed
by bookmakers. It is true that there are abysses in bookmaking: for
example, welshing. Mr Grein hints that there are abysses in Mrs Warren's
profession also. So there are in every profession: the error lies in
supposing that every member of them sounds these depths. I sit on a
public body which prosecutes Mrs Warren zealously; and I can assure Mr
Grein that she is often leniently dealt with because she has conducted
her business "respectably" and held herself above its vilest branches.
The degrees in infamy are as numerous and as scrupulously observed as
the degrees in the peerage: the moralist's notion that there are depths
at which the moral atmosphere ceases is as delusive as the rich man's
notion that there are no social jealousies or snobberies among the very
poor. No: had I drawn Mrs Warren as a fiend in human form, the very
people who now rebuke me for flattering her would probably be the
first to deride me for deducing her character logically from occupation
instead of observing it accurately in society.

One critic is so enslaved by this sort of logic that he calls my
portraiture of the Reverend Samuel Gardner an attack on religion.

According to this view Subaltern Iago is an attack on the army, Sir
John Falstaff an attack on knighthood, and King Claudius an attack on
royalty. Here again the clamor for naturalness and human feeling, raised
by so many critics when they are confronted by the real thing on the
stage, is really a clamor for the most mechanical and superficial sort
of logic. The dramatic reason for making the clergyman what Mrs Warren
calls "an old stick-in-the-mud," whose son, in spite of much capacity
and charm, is a cynically worthless member of society, is to set up a
mordant contrast between him and the woman of infamous profession, with
her well brought-up, straightforward, hardworking daughter. The critics
who have missed the contrast have doubtless observed often enough that
many clergymen are in the Church through no genuine calling, but simply
because, in circles which can command preferment, it is the refuge
of "the fool of the family"; and that clergymen's sons are often
conspicuous reactionists against the restraints imposed on them in
childhood by their father's profession. These critics must know, too,
from history if not from experience, that women as unscrupulous as Mrs
Warren have distinguished themselves as administrators and rulers, both
commercially and politically. But both observation and knowledge are
left behind when journalists go to the theatre. Once in their stalls,
they assume that it is "natural" for clergymen to be saintly, for
soldiers to be heroic, for lawyers to be hard-hearted, for sailors to
be simple and generous, for doctors to perform miracles with little
bottles, and for Mrs Warren to be a beast and a demon. All this is not
only not natural, but not dramatic. A man's profession only enters into
the drama of his life when it comes into conflict with his nature. The
result of this conflict is tragic in Mrs Warren's case, and comic in the
clergyman's case (at least we are savage enough to laugh at it); but
in both cases it is illogical, and in both cases natural. I repeat,
the critics who accuse me of sacrificing nature to logic are so
sophisticated by their profession that to them logic is nature, and
nature absurdity.

Many friendly critics are too little skilled in social questions and
moral discussions to be able to conceive that respectable gentlemen like
themselves, who would instantly call the police to remove Mrs Warren if
she ventured to canvass them personally, could possibly be in any way
responsible for her proceedings. They remonstrate sincerely, asking me
what good such painful exposures can possibly do. They might as well ask
what good Lord Shaftesbury did by devoting his life to the exposure
of evils (by no means yet remedied) compared to which the worst things
brought into view or even into surmise by this play are trifles.
The good of mentioning them is that you make people so extremely
uncomfortable about them that they finally stop blaming "human nature"
for them, and begin to support measures for their reform.

Can anything be more absurd than the copy of The Echo which contains a
notice of the performance of my play? It is edited by a gentleman who,
having devoted his life to work of the Shaftesbury type, exposes social
evils and clamors for their reform in every column except one; and that
one is occupied by the declaration of the paper's kindly theatre critic,
that the performance left him "wondering what useful purpose the play
was intended to serve." The balance has to be redressed by the more
fashionable papers, which usually combine capable art criticism with
West-End solecism on politics and sociology. It is very noteworthy,
however, on comparing the press explosion produced by Mrs Warren's
Profession in 1902 with that produced by Widowers' Houses about ten
years earlier, that whereas in 1892 the facts were frantically denied
and the persons of the drama flouted as monsters of wickedness, in
1902 the facts are admitted and the characters recognized, though it is
suggested that this is exactly why no gentleman should mention them in
public. Only one writer has ventured to imply this time that the poverty
mentioned by Mrs Warren has since been quietly relieved, and need
not have been dragged back to the footlights. I compliment him on his
splendid mendacity, in which he is unsupported, save by a little plea in
a theatrical paper which is innocent enough to think that ten guineas a
year with board and lodging is an impossibly low wage for a barmaid. It
goes on to cite Mr Charles Booth as having testified that there are
many laborers' wives who are happy and contented on eighteen shillings
a week. But I can go further than that myself. I have seen an Oxford
agricultural laborer's wife looking cheerful on eight shillings a week;
but that does not console me for the fact that agriculture in England
is a ruined industry. If poverty does not matter as long as it is
contented, then crime does not matter as long as it is unscrupulous. The
truth is that it is only then that it does matter most desperately.
Many persons are more comfortable when they are dirty than when they are
clean; but that does not recommend dirt as a national policy.

Here I must for the present break off my arduous work of educating the
Press. We shall resume our studies later on; but just now I am tired of
playing the preceptor; and the eager thirst of my pupils for improvement
does not console me for the slowness of their progress. Besides, I must
reserve space to gratify my own vanity and do justice to the six artists
who acted my play, by placing on record the hitherto unchronicled
success of the first representation. It is not often that an author,
after a couple of hours of those rare alternations of excitement and
intensely attentive silence which only occur in the theatre when actors
and audience are reacting on one another to the utmost, is able to step
on the stage and apply the strong word genius to the representation with
the certainty of eliciting an instant and overwhelming assent from the
audience. That was my good fortune on the afternoon of Sunday, the fifth
of January last. I was certainly extremely fortunate in my interpreters
in the enterprise, and that not alone in respect of their artistic
talent; for had it not been for their superhuman patience, their
imperturbable good humor and good fellowship, there could have been no
performance. The terror of the Censor's power gave us trouble enough to
break up any ordinary commercial enterprise. Managers promised and even
engaged their theatres to us after the most explicit warnings that the
play was unlicensed, and at the last moment suddenly realized that Mr
Redford had their livelihoods in the hollow of his hand, and backed
out. Over and over again the date and place were fixed and the tickets
printed, only to be canceled, until at last the desperate and overworked
manager of the Stage Society could only laugh, as criminals broken on
the wheel used to laugh at the second stroke. We rehearsed under great
difficulties. Christmas pieces and plays for the new year were being
produced in all directions; and my six actor colleagues were busy
people, with engagements in these pieces in addition to their current
professional work every night. On several raw winter days stages for
rehearsal were unattainable even by the most distinguished applicants;
and we shared corridors and saloons with them whilst the stage was
given over to children in training for Boxing night. At last we had to
rehearse at an hour at which no actor or actress has been out of bed
within the memory of man; and we sardonically congratulated one another
every morning on our rosy matutinal looks and the improvement wrought
by our early rising in our health and characters. And all this, please
observe, for a society without treasury or commercial prestige, for
a play which was being denounced in advance as unmentionable, for an
author without influence at the fashionable theatres! I victoriously
challenge the West End managers to get as much done for interested
motives, if they can.

Three causes made the production the most notable that has fallen to my
lot. First, the veto of the Censor, which put the supporters of the play
on their mettle. Second, the chivalry of the Stage Society, which, in
spite of my urgent advice to the contrary, and my demonstration of the
difficulties, dangers, and expenses the enterprise would cost, put my
discouragements to shame and resolved to give battle at all costs to
the attempt of the Censorship to suppress the play. Third, the artistic
spirit of the actors, who made the play their own and carried it through
triumphantly in spite of a series of disappointments and annoyances much
more trying to the dramatic temperament than mere difficulties.

The acting, too, required courage and character as well as skill and
intelligence. The veto of the Censor introduced quite a novel element of
moral responsibility into the undertaking. And the characters were very
unusual on the English stage. The younger heroine is, like her mother,
an Englishwoman to the backbone, and not, like the heroines of our
fashionable drama, a prima donna of Italian origin. Consequently she
was sure to be denounced as unnatural and undramatic by the critics.
The most vicious man in the play is not in the least a stage villain;
indeed, he regards his own moral character with the sincere complacency
of a hero of melodrama. The amiable devotee of romance and beauty is
shewn at an age which brings out the futilization which these worships
are apt to produce if they are made the staple of life instead of
the sauce. The attitude of the clever young people to their elders is
faithfully represented as one of pitiless ridicule and unsympathetic
criticism, and forms a spectacle incredible to those who, when young,
were not cleverer than their nearest elders, and painful to those
sentimental parents who shrink from the cruelty of youth, which pardons
nothing because it knows nothing. In short, the characters and their
relations are of a kind that the routineer critic has not yet learned
to place; so that their misunderstanding was a foregone conclusion.
Nevertheless, there was no hesitation behind the curtain. When it went
up at last, a stage much too small for the company was revealed to an
auditorium much too small for the audience. But the players, though it
was impossible for them to forget their own discomfort, at once made the
spectators forget theirs. It certainly was a model audience, responsive
from the first line to the last; and it got no less than it deserved in
return.

I grieve to add that the second performance, given for the edification
of the London Press and of those members of the Stage Society who cannot
attend the Sunday performances, was a less inspiriting one than the
first. A solid phalanx of theatre-weary journalists in an afternoon
humor, most of them committed to irreconcilable disparagement of problem
plays, and all of them bound by etiquette to be as undemonstrative
as possible, is not exactly the sort of audience that rises at the
performers and cures them of the inevitable reaction after an excitingly
successful first night. The artist nature is a sensitive and therefore
a vindictive one; and masterful players have a way with recalcitrant
audiences of rubbing a play into them instead of delighting them with
it. I should describe the second performance of Mrs Warren's Profession,
especially as to its earlier stages, as decidedly a rubbed-in one. The
rubbing was no doubt salutary; but it must have hurt some of the thinner
skins. The charm of the lighter passages fled; and the strong scenes,
though they again carried everything before them, yet discharged that
duty in a grim fashion, doing execution on the enemy rather than moving
them to repentance and confession. Still, to those who had not seen the
first performance, the effect was sufficiently impressive; and they
had the advantage of witnessing a fresh development in Mrs Warren, who,
artistically jealous, as I took it, of the overwhelming effect of the
end of the second act on the previous day, threw herself into the fourth
act in quite a new way, and achieved the apparently impossible feat of
surpassing herself. The compliments paid to Miss Fanny Brough by
the critics, eulogistic as they are, are the compliments of men
three-fourths duped as Partridge was duped by Garrick. By much of her
acting they were so completely taken in that they did not recognize it
as acting at all. Indeed, none of the six players quite escaped this
consequence of their own thoroughness. There was a distinct tendency
among the less experienced critics to complain of their sentiments and
behavior. Naturally, the author does not share that grievance.

PICCARD'S COTTAGE, JANUARY 1902.





MRS WARREN'S PROFESSION


[Mrs Warren's Profession was performed for the first time in the theatre
of the New Lyric Club, London, on the 5th and 6th January 1902, with
Madge McIntosh as Vivie, Julius Knight as Praed, Fanny Brough as Mrs
Warren, Charles Goodhart as Crofts, Harley Granville-Barker as Frank,
and Cosmo Stuart as the Reverend Samuel Gardner.]




ACT I


[Summer afternoon in a cottage garden on the eastern slope of a hill a
little south of Haslemere in Surrey. Looking up the hill, the cottage is
seen in the left hand corner of the garden, with its thatched roof and
porch, and a large latticed window to the left of the porch. A paling
completely shuts in the garden, except for a gate on the right. The
common rises uphill beyond the paling to the sky line. Some folded
canvas garden chairs are leaning against the side bench in the porch. A
lady's bicycle is propped against the wall, under the window. A little
to the right of the porch a hammock is slung from two posts. A big
canvas umbrella, stuck in the ground, keeps the sun off the hammock,
in which a young lady is reading and making notes, her head towards
the cottage and her feet towards the gate. In front of the hammock,
and within reach of her hand, is a common kitchen chair, with a pile of
serious-looking books and a supply of writing paper on it.]

[A gentleman walking on the common comes into sight from behind the
cottage. He is hardly past middle age, with something of the artist
about him, unconventionally but carefully dressed, and clean-shaven
except for a moustache, with an eager susceptible face and very amiable
and considerate manners. He has silky black hair, with waves of grey and
white in it. His eyebrows are white, his moustache black. He seems not
certain of his way. He looks over the palings; takes stock of the place;
and sees the young lady.]

THE GENTLEMAN [taking off his hat] I beg your pardon. Can you direct me
to Hindhead View--Mrs Alison's?

THE YOUNG LADY [glancing up from her book] This is Mrs Alison's. [She
resumes her work].

THE GENTLEMAN. Indeed! Perhaps--may I ask are you Miss Vivie Warren?

THE YOUNG LADY [sharply, as she turns on her elbow to get a good look at
him] Yes.

THE GENTLEMAN [daunted and conciliatory] I'm afraid I appear intrusive.
My name is Praed. [Vivie at once throws her books upon the chair, and
gets out of the hammock]. Oh, pray don't let me disturb you.

VIVIE [striding to the gate and opening it for him] Come in, Mr Praed.
[He comes in]. Glad to see you. [She proffers her hand and takes his
with a resolute and hearty grip. She is an attractive specimen of the
sensible, able, highly-educated young middle-class Englishwoman. Age 22.
Prompt, strong, confident, self-possessed. Plain business-like dress,
but not dowdy. She wears a chatelaine at her belt, with a fountain pen
and a paper knife among its pendants].

PRAED. Very kind of you indeed, Miss Warren. [She shuts the gate with a
vigorous slam. He passes in to the middle of the garden, exercising his
fingers, which are slightly numbed by her greeting]. Has your mother
arrived?

VIVIE [quickly, evidently scenting aggression] Is she coming?

PRAED [surprised] Didn't you expect us?

VIVIE. No.

PRAED. Now, goodness me, I hope I've not mistaken the day. That would be
just like me, you know. Your mother arranged that she was to come down
from London and that I was to come over from Horsham to be introduced to
you.

VIVIE [not at all pleased] Did she? Hm! My mother has rather a trick of
taking me by surprise--to see how I behave myself while she's away, I
suppose. I fancy I shall take my mother very much by surprise one of
these days, if she makes arrangements that concern me without consulting
me beforehand. She hasnt come.

PRAED [embarrassed] I'm really very sorry.

VIVIE [throwing off her displeasure] It's not your fault, Mr Praed, is
it? And I'm very glad you've come. You are the only one of my mother's
friends I have ever asked her to bring to see me.

PRAED [relieved and delighted] Oh, now this is really very good of you,
Miss Warren!

VIVIE. Will you come indoors; or would you rather sit out here and talk?

PRAED. It will be nicer out here, don't you think?

VIVIE. Then I'll go and get you a chair. [She goes to the porch for a
garden chair].

PRAED [following her] Oh, pray, pray! Allow me. [He lays hands on the
chair].

VIVIE [letting him take it] Take care of your fingers; theyre rather
dodgy things, those chairs. [She goes across to the chair with the books
on it; pitches them into the hammock; and brings the chair forward with
one swing].

PRAED [who has just unfolded his chair] Oh, now do let me take that
hard chair. I like hard chairs.

VIVIE. So do I. Sit down, Mr Praed. [This invitation she gives with a
genial peremptoriness, his anxiety to please her clearly striking her as
a sign of weakness of character on his part. But he does not immediately
obey].

PRAED. By the way, though, hadnt we better go to the station to meet
your mother?

VIVIE [coolly] Why? She knows the way.

PRAED [disconcerted] Er--I suppose she does [he sits down].

VIVIE. Do you know, you are just like what I expected. I hope you are
disposed to be friends with me.

PRAED [again beaming] Thank you, my _dear_ Miss Warren; thank you. Dear
me! I'm so glad your mother hasnt spoilt you!

VIVIE. How?

PRAED. Well, in making you too conventional. You know, my dear Miss
Warren, I am a born anarchist. I hate authority. It spoils the relations
between parent and child; even between mother and daughter. Now I was
always afraid that your mother would strain her authority to make you
very conventional. It's such a relief to find that she hasnt.

VIVIE. Oh! have I been behaving unconventionally?

PRAED. Oh no: oh dear no. At least, not conventionally unconventionally,
you understand. [She nods and sits down. He goes on, with a cordial
outburst] But it was so charming of you to say that you were disposed
to be friends with me! You modern young ladies are splendid: perfectly
splendid!

VIVIE [dubiously] Eh? [watching him with dawning disappointment as to
the quality of his brains and character].

PRAED. When I was your age, young men and women were afraid of each
other: there was no good fellowship. Nothing real. Only gallantry copied
out of novels, and as vulgar and affected as it could be. Maidenly
reserve! gentlemanly chivalry! always saying no when you meant yes!
simple purgatory for shy and sincere souls.

VIVIE. Yes, I imagine there must have been a frightful waste of time.
Especially women's time.

PRAED. Oh, waste of life, waste of everything. But things are improving.
Do you know, I have been in a positive state of excitement about meeting
you ever since your magnificent achievements at Cambridge: a thing
unheard of in my day. It was perfectly splendid, your tieing with the
third wrangler. Just the right place, you know. The first wrangler
is always a dreamy, morbid fellow, in whom the thing is pushed to the
length of a disease.

VIVIE. It doesn't pay. I wouldn't do it again for the same money.

PRAED [aghast] The same money!

VIVIE. Yes. Fifty pounds. Perhaps you don't know how it was. Mrs Latham,
my tutor at Newnham, told my mother that I could distinguish myself in
the mathematical tripos if I went in for it in earnest. The papers were
full just then of Phillipa Summers beating the senior wrangler. You
remember about it, of course.

PRAED [shakes his head energetically] !!!

VIVIE. Well, anyhow, she did; and nothing would please my mother but
that I should do the same thing. I said flatly that it was not worth
my while to face the grind since I was not going in for teaching; but I
offered to try for fourth wrangler or thereabouts for fifty pounds. She
closed with me at that, after a little grumbling; and I was better than
my bargain. But I wouldn't do it again for that. Two hundred pounds would
have been nearer the mark.

PRAED [much damped] Lord bless me! Thats a very practical way of looking
at it.

VIVIE. Did you expect to find me an unpractical person?

PRAED. But surely it's practical to consider not only the work these
honors cost, but also the culture they bring.

VIVIE. Culture! My dear Mr Praed: do you know what the mathematical
tripos means? It means grind, grind, grind for six to eight hours a day
at mathematics, and nothing but mathematics.

I'm supposed to know something about science; but I know nothing except
the mathematics it involves. I can make calculations for engineers,
electricians, insurance companies, and so on; but I know next to
nothing about engineering or electricity or insurance. I don't even know
arithmetic well. Outside mathematics, lawn-tennis, eating, sleeping,
cycling, and walking, I'm a more ignorant barbarian than any woman could
possibly be who hadn't gone in for the tripos.

PRAED [revolted] What a monstrous, wicked, rascally system! I knew it!
I felt at once that it meant destroying all that makes womanhood
beautiful!

VIVIE. I don't object to it on that score in the least. I shall turn it
to very good account, I assure you.

PRAED. Pooh! In what way?

VIVIE. I shall set up chambers in the City, and work at actuarial
calculations and conveyancing. Under cover of that I shall do some law,
with one eye on the Stock Exchange all the time. I've come down here by
myself to read law: not for a holiday, as my mother imagines. I hate
holidays.

PRAED. You make my blood run cold. Are you to have no romance, no beauty
in your life?

VIVIE. I don't care for either, I assure you.

PRAED. You can't mean that.

VIVIE. Oh yes I do. I like working and getting paid for it. When I'm
tired of working, I like a comfortable chair, a cigar, a little whisky,
and a novel with a good detective story in it.

PRAED [rising in a frenzy of repudiation] I don't believe it. I am an
artist; and I can't believe it: I refuse to believe it. It's only that
you havn't discovered yet what a wonderful world art can open up to you.

VIVIE. Yes I have. Last May I spent six weeks in London with Honoria
Fraser. Mamma thought we were doing a round of sightseeing together; but
I was really at Honoria's chambers in Chancery Lane every day, working
away at actuarial calculations for her, and helping her as well as a
greenhorn could. In the evenings we smoked and talked, and never dreamt
of going out except for exercise. And I never enjoyed myself more in my
life.

I cleared all my expenses and got initiated into the business without a
fee in the bargain.

PRAED. But bless my heart and soul, Miss Warren, do you call that
discovering art?

VIVIE. Wait a bit. That wasn't the beginning. I went up to town on an
invitation from some artistic people in Fitzjohn's Avenue: one of the
girls was a Newnham chum. They took me to the National Gallery--

PRAED [approving] Ah!! [He sits down, much relieved].

VIVIE [continuing]--to the Opera--

PRAED [still more pleased] Good!

VIVIE.--and to a concert where the band played all the evening:
Beethoven and Wagner and so on. I wouldn't go through that experience
again for anything you could offer me. I held out for civility's sake
until the third day; and then I said, plump out, that I couldn't stand
any more of it, and went off to Chancery Lane. N o w you know the sort
of perfectly splendid modern young lady I am. How do you think I shall
get on with my mother?

PRAED [startled] Well, I hope--er--

VIVIE. It's not so much what you hope as what you believe, that I want
to know.

PRAED. Well, frankly, I am afraid your mother will be a little
disappointed. Not from any shortcoming on your part, you know: I don't
mean that. But you are so different from her ideal.

VIVIE. Her what?!

PRAED. Her ideal.

VIVIE. Do you mean her ideal of ME?

PRAED. Yes.

VIVIE. What on earth is it like?

PRAED. Well, you must have observed, Miss Warren, that people who are
dissatisfied with their own bringing-up generally think that the world
would be all right if everybody were to be brought up quite differently.
Now your mother's life has been--er--I suppose you know--

VIVIE. Don't suppose anything, Mr Praed. I hardly know my mother. Since
I was a child I have lived in England, at school or at college, or with
people paid to take charge of me. I have been boarded out all my life.
My mother has lived in Brussels or Vienna and never let me go to her.
I only see her when she visits England for a few days. I don't complain:
it's been very pleasant; for people have been very good to me; and there
has always been plenty of money to make things smooth. But don't imagine
I know anything about my mother. I know far less than you do.

PRAED [very ill at ease] In that case--[He stops, quite at a loss. Then,
with a forced attempt at gaiety] But what nonsense we are talking! Of
course you and your mother will get on capitally. [He rises, and looks
abroad at the view]. What a charming little place you have here!

VIVIE [unmoved] Rather a violent change of subject, Mr Praed. Why won't
my mother's life bear being talked about?

PRAED. Oh, you mustn't say that. Isn't it natural that I should have a
certain delicacy in talking to my old friend's daughter about her behind
her back? You and she will have plenty of opportunity of talking about
it when she comes.

VIVIE. No: she won't talk about it either. [Rising] However, I daresay
you have good reasons for telling me nothing. Only, mind this, Mr
Praed, I expect there will be a battle royal when my mother hears of my
Chancery Lane project.

PRAED [ruefully] I'm afraid there will.

VIVIE. Well, I shall win because I want nothing but my fare to London
to start there to-morrow earning my own living by devilling for Honoria.
Besides, I have no mysteries to keep up; and it seems she has. I shall
use that advantage over her if necessary.

PRAED [greatly shocked] Oh no! No, pray. Youd not do such a thing.

VIVIE. Then tell me why not.

PRAED. I really cannot. I appeal to your good feeling. [She smiles at
his sentimentality]. Besides, you may be too bold. Your mother is not to
be trifled with when she's angry.

VIVIE. You can't frighten me, Mr Praed. In that month at Chancery Lane I
had opportunities of taking the measure of one or two women v e r y like
my mother. You may back me to win. But if I hit harder in my ignorance
than I need, remember it is you who refuse to enlighten me. Now, let us
drop the subject. [She takes her chair and replaces it near the hammock
with the same vigorous swing as before].

PRAED [taking a desperate resolution] One word, Miss Warren. I had
better tell you. It's very difficult; but--

[Mrs Warren and Sir George Crofts arrive at the gate. Mrs Warren is
between 40 and 50, formerly pretty, showily dressed in a brilliant
hat and a gay blouse fitting tightly over her bust and flanked by
fashionable sleeves. Rather spoilt and domineering, and decidedly
vulgar, but, on the whole, a genial and fairly presentable old
blackguard of a woman.]

[Crofts is a tall powerfully-built man of about 50, fashionably dressed
in the style of a young man. Nasal voice, reedier than might be expected
from his strong frame. Clean-shaven bulldog jaws, large flat ears, and
thick neck: gentlemanly combination of the most brutal types of city
man, sporting man, and man about town.]

VIVIE. Here they are. [Coming to them as they enter the garden] How do,
mater? Mr Praed's been here this half hour, waiting for you.

MRS WARREN. Well, if you've been waiting, Praddy, it's your own fault:
I thought youd have had the gumption to know I was coming by the 3.10
train. Vivie: put your hat on, dear: youll get sunburnt. Oh, I forgot to
introduce you. Sir George Crofts: my little Vivie.

[Crofts advances to Vivie with his most courtly manner. She nods, but
makes no motion to shake hands.]

CROFTS. May I shake hands with a young lady whom I have known by
reputation very long as the daughter of one of my oldest friends?

VIVIE [who has been looking him up and down sharply] If you like.

[She takes his tenderly proferred hand and gives it a squeeze that makes
him open his eyes; then turns away, and says to her mother] Will you
come in, or shall I get a couple more chairs? [She goes into the porch
for the chairs].

MRS WARREN. Well, George, what do you think of her?

CROFTS [ruefully] She has a powerful fist. Did you shake hands with her,
Praed?

PRAED. Yes: it will pass off presently.

CROFTS. I hope so. [Vivie reappears with two more chairs. He hurries to
her assistance]. Allow me.

MRS WARREN [patronizingly] Let Sir George help you with the chairs,
dear.

VIVIE [pitching them into his arms] Here you are. [She dusts her hands
and turns to Mrs Warren]. Youd like some tea, wouldn't you?

MRS WARREN [sitting in Praed's chair and fanning herself] I'm dying for
a drop to drink.

VIVIE. I'll see about it. [She goes into the cottage].

[Sir George has by this time managed to unfold a chair and plant it by
Mrs Warren, on her left. He throws the other on the grass and sits down,
looking dejected and rather foolish, with the handle of his stick in
his mouth. Praed, still very uneasy, fidgets around the garden on their
right.]

MRS WARREN [to Praed, looking at Crofts] Just look at him, Praddy: he
looks cheerful, don't he? He's been worrying my life out these three
years to have that little girl of mine shewn to him; and now that Ive
done it, he's quite out of countenance. [Briskly] Come! sit up, George;
and take your stick out of your mouth. [Crofts sulkily obeys].

PRAED. I think, you know--if you don't mind my saying so--that we had
better get out of the habit of thinking of her as a little girl. You see
she has really distinguished herself; and I'm not sure, from what I have
seen of her, that she is not older than any of us.

MRS WARREN [greatly amused] Only listen to him, George! Older than any
of us! Well she _has_ been stuffing you nicely with her importance.

PRAED. But young people are particularly sensitive about being treated
in that way.

MRS WARREN. Yes; and young people have to get all that nonsense taken
out of them, and good deal more besides. Don't you interfere, Praddy: I
know how to treat my own child as well as you do. [Praed, with a grave
shake of his head, walks up the garden with his hands behind his back.
Mrs Warren pretends to laugh, but looks after him with perceptible
concern. Then, she whispers to Crofts] Whats the matter with him? What
does he take it like that for?

CROFTS [morosely] Youre afraid of Praed.

MRS WARREN. What! Me! Afraid of dear old Praddy! Why, a fly wouldn't be
afraid of him.

CROFTS. _You're_ afraid of him.

MRS WARREN [angry] I'll trouble you to mind your own business, and not
try any of your sulks on me. I'm not afraid of y o u, anyhow. If you
can't make yourself agreeable, youd better go home. [She gets up, and,
turning her back on him, finds herself face to face with Praed]. Come,
Praddy, I know it was only your tender-heartedness. Youre afraid I'll
bully her.

PRAED. My dear Kitty: you think I'm offended. Don't imagine that: pray
don't. But you know I often notice things that escape you; and though you
never take my advice, you sometimes admit afterwards that you ought to
have taken it.

MRS WARREN. Well, what do you notice now?

PRAED. Only that Vivie is a grown woman. Pray, Kitty, treat her with
every respect.

MRS WARREN [with genuine amazement] Respect! Treat my own daughter with
respect! What next, pray!

VIVIE [appearing at the cottage door and calling to Mrs Warren] Mother:
will you come to my room before tea?

MRS WARREN. Yes, dearie. [She laughs indulgently at Praed's gravity, and
pats him on the cheek as she passes him on her way to the porch]. Don't
be cross, Praddy. [She follows Vivie into the cottage].

CROFTS [furtively] I say, Praed.

PRAED. Yes.

CROFTS. I want to ask you a rather particular question.

PRAED. Certainly. [He takes Mrs Warren's chair and sits close to
Crofts].

CROFTS. Thats right: they might hear us from the window. Look here: did
Kitty every tell you who that girl's father is?

PRAED. Never.

CROFTS. Have you any suspicion of who it might be?

PRAED. None.

CROFTS [not believing him] I know, of course, that you perhaps might
feel bound not to tell if she had said anything to you. But it's very
awkward to be uncertain about it now that we shall be meeting the girl
every day. We don't exactly know how we ought to feel towards her.

PRAED. What difference can that make? We take her on her own merits.
What does it matter who her father was?

CROFTS [suspiciously] Then you know who he was?

PRAED [with a touch of temper] I said no just now. Did you not hear me?

CROFTS. Look here, Praed. I ask you as a particular favor. If you _do_
know [movement of protest from Praed]--I only say, if you know,
you might at least set my mind at rest about her. The fact is, I fell
attracted.

PRAED [sternly] What do you mean?

CROFTS. Oh, don't be alarmed: it's quite an innocent feeling. Thats what
puzzles me about it. Why, for all I know, _I_ might be her father.

PRAED. You! Impossible!

CROFTS [catching him up cunningly] You know for certain that I'm not?

PRAED. I know nothing about it, I tell you, any more than you. But
really, Crofts--oh no, it's out of the question. Theres not the least
resemblance.

CROFTS. As to that, theres no resemblance between her and her mother
that I can see. I suppose she's not y o u r daughter, is she?

PRAED [rising indignantly] Really, Crofts--!

CROFTS. No offence, Praed. Quite allowable as between two men of the
world.

PRAED [recovering himself with an effort and speaking gently and
gravely] Now listen to me, my dear Crofts. [He sits down again].

I have nothing to do with that side of Mrs Warren's life, and never had.
She has never spoken to me about it; and of course I have never spoken
to her about it. Your delicacy will tell you that a handsome woman needs
some friends who are not--well, not on that footing with her. The effect
of her own beauty would become a torment to her if she could not escape
from it occasionally. You are probably on much more confidential terms
with Kitty than I am. Surely you can ask her the question yourself.

CROFTS. I h a v e asked her, often enough. But she's so determined to
keep the child all to herself that she would deny that it ever had a
father if she could. [Rising] I'm thoroughly uncomfortable about it,
Praed.

PRAED [rising also] Well, as you are, at all events, old enough to be
her father, I don't mind agreeing that we both regard Miss Vivie in a
parental way, as a young girl who we are bound to protect and help. What
do you say?

CROFTS [aggressively] I'm no older than you, if you come to that.

PRAED. Yes you are, my dear fellow: you were born old. I was born a boy:
Ive never been able to feel the assurance of a grown-up man in my life.
[He folds his chair and carries it to the porch].

MRS WARREN [calling from within the cottage] Prad-dee! George!
Tea-ea-ea-ea!

CROFTS [hastily] She's calling us. [He hurries in].

[Praed shakes his head bodingly, and is following Crofts when he is
hailed by a young gentleman who has just appeared on the common, and is
making for the gate. He is pleasant, pretty, smartly dressed, cleverly
good-for-nothing, not long turned 20, with a charming voice and
agreeably disrespectful manners. He carries a light sporting magazine
rifle.]

THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN. Hallo! Praed!

PRAED. Why, Frank Gardner! [Frank comes in and shakes hands cordially].
What on earth are you doing here?

FRANK. Staying with my father.

PRAED. The Roman father?

FRANK. He's rector here. I'm living with my people this autumn for the
sake of economy. Things came to a crisis in July: the Roman father had
to pay my debts. He's stony broke in consequence; and so am I. What are
you up to in these parts? do you know the people here?

PRAED. Yes: I'm spending the day with a Miss Warren.

FRANK [enthusiastically] What! Do you know Vivie? Isn't she a jolly girl?
I'm teaching her to shoot with this [putting down the rifle]. I'm so
glad she knows you: youre just the sort of fellow she ought to know.
[He smiles, and raises the charming voice almost to a singing tone as he
exclaims] It's e v e r so jolly to find you here, Praed.

PRAED. I'm an old friend of her mother. Mrs Warren brought me over to
make her daughter's acquaintance.

FRANK. The mother! Is _she_ here?

PRAED. Yes: inside, at tea.

MRS WARREN [calling from within] Prad-dee-ee-ee-eee! The tea-cake'll be
cold.

PRAED [calling] Yes, Mrs Warren. In a moment. I've just met a friend
here.

MRS WARREN. A what?

PRAED [louder] A friend.

MRS WARREN. Bring him in.

PRAED. All right. [To Frank] Will you accept the invitation?

FRANK [incredulous, but immensely amused] Is that Vivie's mother?

PRAED. Yes.

FRANK. By Jove! What a lark! Do you think she'll like me?

PRAED. I've no doubt youll make yourself popular, as usual. Come in and
try [moving towards the house].

FRANK. Stop a bit. [Seriously] I want to take you into my confidence.

PRAED. Pray don't. It's only some fresh folly, like the barmaid at
Redhill.

FRANK. It's ever so much more serious than that. You say you've only just
met Vivie for the first time?

PRAED. Yes.

FRANK [rhapsodically] Then you can have no idea what a girl she is. Such
character! Such sense! And her cleverness! Oh, my eye, Praed, but I can
tell you she is clever! And--need I add?--she loves me.

CROFTS [putting his head out of the window] I say, Praed: what are you
about? Do come along. [He disappears].

FRANK. Hallo! Sort of chap that would take a prize at a dog show, ain't
he? Who's he?

PRAED. Sir George Crofts, an old friend of Mrs Warren's. I think we had
better come in.

[On their way to the porch they are interrupted by a call from the gate.
Turning, they see an elderly clergyman looking over it.]

THE CLERGYMAN [calling] Frank!

FRANK. Hallo! [To Praed] The Roman father. [To the clergyman] Yes,
gov'nor: all right: presently. [To Praed] Look here, Praed: youd better
go in to tea. I'll join you directly.

PRAED. Very good. [He goes into the cottage].

[The clergyman remains outside the gate, with his hands on the top of
it. The Rev. Samuel Gardner, a beneficed clergyman of the Established
Church, is over 50. Externally he is pretentious, booming, noisy,
important. Really he is that obsolescent phenomenon the fool of the
family dumped on the Church by his father the patron, clamorously
asserting himself as father and clergyman without being able to command
respect in either capacity.]

REV. S. Well, sir. Who are your friends here, if I may ask?

FRANK. Oh, it's all right, gov'nor! Come in.

REV. S. No, sir; not until I know whose garden I am entering.

FRANK. It's all right. It's Miss Warren's.

REV. S. I have not seen her at church since she came.

FRANK. Of course not: she's a third wrangler. Ever so intellectual. Took
a higher degree than you did; so why should she go to hear you preach?

REV. S. Don't be disrespectful, sir.

FRANK. Oh, it don't matter: nobody hears us. Come in. [He opens the gate,
unceremoniously pulling his father with it into the garden]. I want to
introduce you to her. Do you remember the advice you gave me last July,
gov'nor?

REV. S. [severely] Yes. I advised you to conquer your idleness and
flippancy, and to work your way into an honorable profession and live on
it and not upon me.

FRANK. No: thats what you thought of afterwards. What you actually said
was that since I had neither brains nor money, I'd better turn my good
looks to account by marrying someone with both. Well, look here. Miss
Warren has brains: you can't deny that.

REV. S. Brains are not everything.

FRANK. No, of course not: theres the money--

REV. S. [interrupting him austerely] I was not thinking of money, sir. I
was speaking of higher things. Social position, for instance.

FRANK. I don't care a rap about that.

REV. S. But I do, sir.

FRANK. Well, nobody wants y o u to marry her. Anyhow, she has what
amounts to a high Cambridge degree; and she seems to have as much money
as she wants.

REV. S. [sinking into a feeble vein of humor] I greatly doubt whether
she has as much money as y o u will want.

FRANK. Oh, come: I havn't been so very extravagant. I live ever so
quietly; I don't drink; I don't bet much; and I never go regularly to the
razzle-dazzle as you did when you were my age.

REV. S. [booming hollowly] Silence, sir.

FRANK. Well, you told me yourself, when I was making every such an ass
of myself about the barmaid at Redhill, that you once offered a woman
fifty pounds for the letters you wrote to her when--

REV. S. [terrified] Sh-sh-sh, Frank, for Heaven's sake! [He looks round
apprehensively Seeing no one within earshot he plucks up courage to boom
again, but more subduedly]. You are taking an ungentlemanly advantage of
what I confided to you for your own good, to save you from an error you
would have repented all your life long. Take warning by your father's
follies, sir; and don't make them an excuse for your own.

FRANK. Did you ever hear the story of the Duke of Wellington and his
letters?

REV. S. No, sir; and I don't want to hear it.

FRANK. The old Iron Duke didn't throw away fifty pounds: not he. He
just wrote: "Dear Jenny: publish and be damned! Yours affectionately,
Wellington." Thats what you should have done.

REV. S. [piteously] Frank, my boy: when I wrote those letters I put
myself into that woman's power. When I told you about them I put myself,
to some extent, I am sorry to say, in your power. She refused my money
with these words, which I shall never forget. "Knowledge is power" she
said; "and I never sell power."

Thats more than twenty years ago; and she has never made use of her
power or caused me a moment's uneasiness. You are behaving worse to me
than she did, Frank.

FRANK. Oh yes I dare say! Did you ever preach at her the way you preach
at me every day?

REV. S. [wounded almost to tears] I leave you, sir. You are
incorrigible. [He turns towards the gate].

FRANK [utterly unmoved] Tell them I shan't be home to tea, will you,
gov'nor, like a good fellow? [He moves towards the cottage door and is
met by Praed and Vivie coming out].

VIVIE [to Frank] Is that your father, Frank? I do so want to meet him.

FRANK. Certainly. [Calling after his father] Gov'nor. Youre wanted. [The
parson turns at the gate, fumbling nervously at his hat. Praed crosses
the garden to the opposite side, beaming in anticipation of civilities].
My father: Miss Warren.

VIVIE [going to the clergyman and shaking his hand] Very glad to see
you here, Mr Gardner. [Calling to the cottage] Mother: come along: youre
wanted.

[Mrs Warren appears on the threshold, and is immediately transfixed,
recognizing the clergyman.]

VIVIE [continuing] Let me introduce--

MRS WARREN [swooping on the Reverend Samuel] Why it's Sam Gardner, gone
into the Church! Well, I never! Don't you know us, Sam? This is George
Crofts, as large as life and twice as natural. Don't you remember me?

REV. S. [very red] I really--er--

MRS WARREN. Of course you do. Why, I have a whole album of your letters
still: I came across them only the other day.

REV. S. [miserably confused] Miss Vavasour, I believe.

MRS WARREN [correcting him quickly in a loud whisper] Tch! Nonsense! Mrs
Warren: don't you see my daughter there?




ACT II


[Inside the cottage after nightfall. Looking eastward from within
instead of westward from without, the latticed window, with its curtains
drawn, is now seen in the middle of the front wall of the cottage, with
the porch door to the left of it. In the left-hand side wall is the door
leading to the kitchen. Farther back against the same wall is a dresser
with a candle and matches on it, and Frank's rifle standing beside them,
with the barrel resting in the plate-rack. In the centre a table stands
with a lighted lamp on it. Vivie's books and writing materials are on a
table to the right of the window, against the wall. The fireplace is on
the right, with a settle: there is no fire. Two of the chairs are set
right and left of the table.]

[The cottage door opens, shewing a fine starlit night without; and Mrs
Warren, her shoulders wrapped in a shawl borrowed from Vivie, enters,
followed by Frank, who throws his cap on the window seat. She has had
enough of walking, and gives a gasp of relief as she unpins her hat;
takes it off; sticks the pin through the crown; and puts it on the
table.]

MRS WARREN. O Lord! I don't know which is the worst of the country, the
walking or the sitting at home with nothing to do. I could do with a
whisky and soda now very well, if only they had such a things in this
place.

FRANK. Perhaps Vivie's got some.

MRS WARREN. Nonsense! What would a young girl like her be doing with
such things! Never mind: it don't matter. I wonder how she passes her
time here! I'd a good deal rather be in Vienna.

FRANK. Let me take you there. [He helps her to take off her shawl,
gallantly giving her shoulders a very perceptible squeeze as he does
so].

MRS WARREN. Ah! would you? I'm beginning to think youre a chip of the
old block.

FRANK. Like the gov'nor, eh? [He hangs the shawl on the nearest chair,
and sits down].

MRS WARREN. Never you mind. What do you know about such things?

Youre only a boy. [She goes to the hearth to be farther from
temptation].

FRANK. Do come to Vienna with me? It'd be ever such larks.

MRS WARREN. No, thank you. Vienna is no place for you--at least not
until youre a little older. [She nods at him to emphasize this piece of
advice. He makes a mock-piteous face, belied by his laughing eyes.
She looks at him; then comes back to him]. Now, look here, little boy
[taking his face in her hands and turning it up to her]: I know you
through and through by your likeness to your father, better than you
know yourself. Don't you go taking any silly ideas into your head about
me. Do you hear?

FRANK [gallantly wooing her with his voice] Can't help it, my dear Mrs
Warren: it runs in the family.

[She pretends to box his ears; then looks at the pretty laughing
upturned face of a moment, tempted. At last she kisses him, and
immediately turns away, out of patience with herself.]

MRS WARREN. There! I shouldn't have done that. I _am_ wicked. Never you
mind, my dear: it's only a motherly kiss. Go and make love to Vivie.

FRANK. So I have.

MRS WARREN [turning on him with a sharp note of alarm in her voice]
What!

FRANK. Vivie and I are ever such chums.

MRS WARREN. What do you mean? Now see here: I won't have any young scamp
tampering with my little girl. Do you hear? I won't have it.

FRANK [quite unabashed] My dear Mrs Warren: don't you be alarmed. My
intentions are honorable: ever so honorable; and your little girl is
jolly well able to take care of herself. She don't need looking after
half so much as her mother. She ain't so handsome, you know.

MRS WARREN [taken aback by his assurance] Well, you have got a nice
healthy two inches of cheek all over you. I don't know where you got it.
Not from your father, anyhow.

CROFTS [in the garden] The gipsies, I suppose?

REV. S. [replying] The broomsquires are far worse.

MRS WARREN [to Frank] S-sh! Remember! you've had your warning.

[Crofts and the Reverend Samuel Gardner come in from the garden, the
clergyman continuing his conversation as he enters.]

REV. S. The perjury at the Winchester assizes is deplorable.

MRS WARREN. Well? what became of you two? And wheres Praddy and Vivie?

CROFTS [putting his hat on the settle and his stick in the chimney
corner] They went up the hill. We went to the village. I wanted a drink.
[He sits down on the settle, putting his legs up along the seat].

MRS WARREN. Well, she oughtn't to go off like that without telling me.
[To Frank] Get your father a chair, Frank: where are your manners?
[Frank springs up and gracefully offers his father his chair; then takes
another from the wall and sits down at the table, in the middle, with
his father on his right and Mrs Warren on his left]. George: where are
you going to stay to-night? You can't stay here. And whats Praddy going
to do?

CROFTS. Gardner'll put me up.

MRS WARREN. Oh, no doubt you've taken care of yourself! But what about
Praddy?

CROFTS. Don't know. I suppose he can sleep at the inn.

MRS WARREN. Havn't you room for him, Sam?

REV. S. Well--er--you see, as rector here, I am not free to do as I
like. Er--what is Mr Praed's social position?

MRS WARREN. Oh, he's all right: he's an architect. What an old
stick-in-the-mud you are, Sam!

FRANK. Yes, it's all right, gov'nor. He built that place down in Wales
for the Duke. Caernarvon Castle they call it. You must have heard of it.
[He winks with lightning smartness at Mrs Warren, and regards his father
blandly].

REV. S. Oh, in that case, of course we shall only be too happy. I
suppose he knows the Duke personally.

FRANK. Oh, ever so intimately! We can stick him in Georgina's old room.

MRS WARREN. Well, thats settled. Now if those two would only come in and
let us have supper. Theyve no right to stay out after dark like this.

CROFTS [aggressively] What harm are they doing you?

MRS WARREN. Well, harm or not, I don't like it.

FRANK. Better not wait for them, Mrs Warren. Praed will stay out as
long as possible. He has never known before what it is to stray over the
heath on a summer night with my Vivie.

CROFTS [sitting up in some consternation] I say, you know! Come!

REV. S. [rising, startled out of his professional manner into real force
and sincerity] Frank, once and for all, it's out of the question. Mrs
Warren will tell you that it's not to be thought of.

CROFTS. Of course not.

FRANK [with enchanting placidity] Is that so, Mrs Warren?

MRS WARREN [reflectively] Well, Sam, I don't know. If the girl wants to
get married, no good can come of keeping her unmarried.

REV. S. [astounded] But married to _him!_--your daughter to my son! Only
think: it's impossible.

CROFTS. Of course it's impossible. Don't be a fool, Kitty.

MRS WARREN [nettled] Why not? Isn't my daughter good enough for your son?

REV. S. But surely, my dear Mrs Warren, you know the reasons--

MRS WARREN [defiantly] I know no reasons. If you know any, you can tell
them to the lad, or to the girl, or to your congregation, if you like.

REV. S. [collapsing helplessly into his chair] You know very well that I
couldn't tell anyone the reasons. But my boy will believe me when I tell
him there a r e reasons.

FRANK. Quite right, Dad: he will. But has your boy's conduct ever been
influenced by your reasons?

CROFTS. You can't marry her; and thats all about it. [He gets up
and stands on the hearth, with his back to the fireplace, frowning
determinedly].

MRS WARREN [turning on him sharply] What have you got to do with it,
pray?

FRANK [with his prettiest lyrical cadence] Precisely what I was going to
ask, myself, in my own graceful fashion.

CROFTS [to Mrs Warren] I suppose you don't want to marry the girl to a
man younger than herself and without either a profession or twopence to
keep her on. Ask Sam, if you don't believe me. [To the parson] How much
more money are you going to give him?

REV. S. Not another penny. He has had his patrimony; and he spent the
last of it in July. [Mrs Warren's face falls].

CROFTS [watching her] There! I told you. [He resumes his place on
the settle and puts his legs on the seat again, as if the matter were
finally disposed of].

FRANK [plaintively] This is ever so mercenary. Do you suppose Miss
Warren's going to marry for money? If we love one another--

MRS WARREN. Thank you. Your love's a pretty cheap commodity, my lad.
If you have no means of keeping a wife, that settles it; you can't have
Vivie.

FRANK [much amused] What do y o u say, gov'nor, eh?

REV. S. I agree with Mrs Warren.

FRANK. And good old Crofts has already expressed his opinion.

CROFTS [turning angrily on his elbow] Look here: I want none of your
cheek.

FRANK [pointedly] I'm e v e r so sorry to surprise you, Crofts; but you
allowed yourself the liberty of speaking to me like a father a moment
ago. One father is enough, thank you.

CROFTS [contemptuously] Yah! [He turns away again].

FRANK [rising] Mrs Warren: I cannot give my Vivie up, even for your
sake.

MRS WARREN [muttering] Young scamp!

FRANK [continuing] And as you no doubt intend to hold out other
prospects to her, I shall lose no time in placing my case before her.
[They stare at him; and he begins to declaim gracefully] He either fears
his fate too much, Or his deserts are small, That dares not put it to
the touch, To gain or lose it all.

[The cottage doors open whilst he is reciting; and Vivie and Praed
come in. He breaks off. Praed puts his hat on the dresser. There is an
immediate improvement in the company's behavior. Crofts takes down his
legs from the settle and pulls himself together as Praed joins him at
the fireplace. Mrs Warren loses her ease of manner and takes refuge in
querulousness.]

MRS WARREN. Wherever have you been, Vivie?

VIVIE [taking off her hat and throwing it carelessly on the table] On
the hill.

MRS WARREN. Well, you shouldn't go off like that without letting me know.
How could I tell what had become of you? And night coming on too!

VIVIE [going to the door of the kitchen and opening it, ignoring her
mother] Now, about supper? [All rise except Mrs Warren] We shall be
rather crowded in here, I'm afraid.

MRS WARREN. Did you hear what I said, Vivie?

VIVIE [quietly] Yes, mother. [Reverting to the supper difficulty] How
many are we? [Counting] One, two, three, four, five, six. Well, two will
have to wait until the rest are done: Mrs Alison has only plates and
knives for four.

PRAED. Oh, it doesn't matter about me. I--

VIVIE. You have had a long walk and are hungry, Mr Praed: you shall have
your supper at once. I can wait myself. I want one person to wait with
me. Frank: are you hungry?

FRANK. Not the least in the world. Completely off my peck, in fact.

MRS WARREN [to Crofts] Neither are you, George. You can wait.

CROFTS. Oh, hang it, I've eaten nothing since tea-time. Can't Sam do it?

FRANK. Would you starve my poor father?

REV. S. [testily] Allow me to speak for myself, sir. I am perfectly
willing to wait.

VIVIE [decisively] There's no need. Only two are wanted. [She opens
the door of the kitchen]. Will you take my mother in, Mr Gardner. [The
parson takes Mrs Warren; and they pass into the kitchen. Praed and
Crofts follow. All except Praed clearly disapprove of the arrangement,
but do not know how to resist it. Vivie stands at the door looking in
at them]. Can you squeeze past to that corner, Mr Praed: it's rather a
tight fit. Take care of your coat against the white-wash: that right.
Now, are you all comfortable?

PRAED [within] Quite, thank you.

MRS WARREN [within] Leave the door open, dearie. [Vivie frowns; but
Frank checks her with a gesture, and steals to the cottage door, which
he softly sets wide open]. Oh Lor, what a draught! Youd better shut it,
dear.

[Vivie shuts it with a slam, and then, noting with disgust that her
mother's hat and shawl are lying about, takes them tidily to the window
seat, whilst Frank noiselessly shuts the cottage door.]

FRANK [exulting] Aha! Got rid of em. Well, Vivvums: what do you think of
my governor?

VIVIE [preoccupied and serious] I've hardly spoken to him. He doesn't
strike me as a particularly able person.

FRANK. Well, you know, the old man is not altogether such a fool as he
looks. You see, he was shoved into the Church, rather; and in trying to
live up to it he makes a much bigger ass of himself than he really is. I
don't dislike him as much as you might expect. He means well. How do you
think youll get on with him?

VIVIE [rather grimly] I don't think my future life will be much concerned
with him, or with any of that old circle of my mother's, except perhaps
Praed. [She sits down on the settle] What do you think of my mother?

FRANK. Really and truly?

VIVIE. Yes, really and truly.

FRANK. Well, she's ever so jolly. But she's rather a caution, isn't she?
And Crofts! Oh, my eye, Crofts! [He sits beside her].

VIVIE. What a lot, Frank!

FRANK. What a crew!

VIVIE [with intense contempt for them] If I thought that _I_ was like
that--that I was going to be a waster, shifting along from one meal to
another with no purpose, and no character, and no grit in me, I'd open
an artery and bleed to death without one moment's hesitation.

FRANK. Oh no, you wouldn't. Why should they take any grind when they can
afford not to? I wish I had their luck. No: what I object to is their
form. It isn't the thing: it's slovenly, ever so slovenly.

VIVIE. Do you think your form will be any better when youre as old as
Crofts, if you don't work?

FRANK. Of course I do. Ever so much better. Vivvums mustn't lecture: her
little boy's incorrigible. [He attempts to take her face caressingly in
his hands].

VIVIE [striking his hands down sharply] Off with you: Vivvums is not in
a humor for petting her little boy this evening. [She rises and comes
forward to the other side of the room].

FRANK [following her] How unkind!

VIVIE [stamping at him] Be serious. I'm serious.

FRANK. Good. Let us talk learnedly, Miss Warren: do you know that all
the most advanced thinkers are agreed that half the diseases of modern
civilization are due to starvation of the affections of the young. Now,
_I_--

VIVIE [cutting him short] You are very tiresome. [She opens the inner
door] Have you room for Frank there? He's complaining of starvation.

MRS WARREN [within] Of course there is [clatter of knives and glasses
as she moves the things on the table]. Here! theres room now beside me.
Come along, Mr Frank.

FRANK. Her little boy will be ever so even with his Vivvums for this.
[He passes into the kitchen].

MRS WARREN [within] Here, Vivie: come on you too, child. You must be
famished. [She enters, followed by Crofts, who holds the door open with
marked deference. She goes out without looking at him; and he shuts the
door after her]. Why George, you can't be done: you've eaten nothing. Is
there anything wrong with you?

CROFTS. Oh, all I wanted was a drink. [He thrusts his hands in his
pockets, and begins prowling about the room, restless and sulky].

MRS WARREN. Well, I like enough to eat. But a little of that cold
beef and cheese and lettuce goes a long way. [With a sigh of only half
repletion she sits down lazily on the settle].

CROFTS. What do you go encouraging that young pup for?

MRS WARREN [on the alert at once] Now see here, George: what are you
up to about that girl? I've been watching your way of looking at her.
Remember: I know you and what your looks mean.

CROFTS. Theres no harm in looking at her, is there?

MRS WARREN. I'd put you out and pack you back to London pretty soon if
I saw any of your nonsense. My girl's little finger is more to me than
your whole body and soul. [Crofts receives this with a sneering grin.
Mrs Warren, flushing a little at her failure to impose on him in the
character of a theatrically devoted mother, adds in a lower key] Make
your mind easy: the young pup has no more chance than you have.

CROFTS. Mayn't a man take an interest in a girl?

MRS WARREN. Not a man like you.

CROFTS. How old is she?

MRS WARREN. Never you mind how old she is.

CROFTS. Why do you make such a secret of it?

MRS WARREN. Because I choose.

CROFTS. Well, I'm not fifty yet; and my property is as good as it ever
was--

MRS [interrupting him] Yes; because youre as stingy as youre vicious.

CROFTS [continuing] And a baronet isn't to be picked up every day.

No other man in my position would put up with you for a mother-in-law.
Why shouldn't she marry me?

MRS WARREN. You!

CROFTS. We three could live together quite comfortably. I'd die before
her and leave her a bouncing widow with plenty of money. Why not? It's
been growing in my mind all the time I've been walking with that fool
inside there.

MRS WARREN [revolted] Yes; it's the sort of thing that _would_ grow in
your mind.

[He halts in his prowling; and the two look at one another, she
steadfastly, with a sort of awe behind her contemptuous disgust: he
stealthily, with a carnal gleam in his eye and a loose grin.]

CROFTS [suddenly becoming anxious and urgent as he sees no sign of
sympathy in her] Look here, Kitty: youre a sensible woman: you needn't
put on any moral airs. I'll ask no more questions; and you need answer
none. I'll settle the whole property on her; and if you want a checque
for yourself on the wedding day, you can name any figure you like--in
reason.

MRS WARREN. So it's come to that with you, George, like all the other
worn-out old creatures!

CROFTS [savagely] Damn you!

[Before she can retort the door of the kitchen is opened; and the
voices of the others are heard returning. Crofts, unable to recover his
presence of mind, hurries out of the cottage. The clergyman appears at
the kitchen door.]

REV. S. [looking round] Where is Sir George?

MRS WARREN. Gone out to have a pipe. [The clergyman takes his hat from
the table, and joins Mrs Warren at the fireside. Meanwhile, Vivie comes
in, followed by Frank, who collapses into the nearest chair with an air
of extreme exhaustion. Mrs Warren looks round at Vivie and says, with
her affectation of maternal patronage even more forced than usual] Well,
dearie: have you had a good supper?

VIVIE. You know what Mrs Alison's suppers are. [She turns to Frank and
pets him] Poor Frank! was all the beef gone? did it get nothing but
bread and cheese and ginger beer? [Seriously, as if she had done quite
enough trifling for one evening] Her butter is really awful. I must get
some down from the stores.

FRANK. Do, in Heaven's name!

[Vivie goes to the writing-table and makes a memorandum to order the
butter. Praed comes in from the kitchen, putting up his handkerchief,
which he has been using as a napkin.]

REV. S. Frank, my boy: it is time for us to be thinking of home.

Your mother does not know yet that we have visitors.

PRAED. I'm afraid we're giving trouble.

FRANK [rising] Not the least in the world: my mother will be delighted
to see you. She's a genuinely intellectual artistic woman; and she sees
nobody here from one year's end to another except the gov'nor; so you
can imagine how jolly dull it pans out for her. [To his father] Y o u
r e not intellectual or artistic: are you pater? So take Praed home at
once; and I'll stay here and entertain Mrs Warren. Youll pick up Crofts
in the garden. He'll be excellent company for the bull-pup.

PRAED [taking his hat from the dresser, and coming close to Frank] Come
with us, Frank. Mrs Warren has not seen Miss Vivie for a long time; and
we have prevented them from having a moment together yet.

FRANK [quite softened, and looking at Praed with romantic admiration]
Of course. I forgot. Ever so thanks for reminding me. Perfect gentleman,
Praddy. Always were. My ideal through life. [He rises to go, but
pauses a moment between the two older men, and puts his hand on Praed's
shoulder]. Ah, if you had only been my father instead of this unworthy
old man! [He puts his other hand on his father's shoulder].

REV. S. [blustering] Silence, sir, silence: you are profane.

MRS WARREN [laughing heartily] You should keep him in better order, Sam.
Good-night. Here: take George his hat and stick with my compliments.

REV. S. [taking them] Good-night. [They shake hands. As he passes Vivie
he shakes hands with her also and bids her good-night. Then, in booming
command, to Frank] Come along, sir, at once. [He goes out].

MRS WARREN. Byebye, Praddy.

PRAED. Byebye, Kitty.

[They shake hands affectionately and go out together, she accompanying
him to the garden gate.]

FRANK [to Vivie] Kissums?

VIVIE [fiercely] No. I hate you. [She takes a couple of books and some
paper from the writing-table, and sits down with them at the middle
table, at the end next the fireplace].

FRANK [grimacing] Sorry. [He goes for his cap and rifle. Mrs Warren
returns. He takes her hand] Good-night, dear Mrs Warren. [He kisses her
hand. She snatches it away, her lips tightening, and looks more than
half disposed to box his ears. He laughs mischievously and runs off,
clapping-to the door behind him].

MRS WARREN [resigning herself to an evening of boredom now that the men
are gone] Did you ever in your life hear anyone rattle on so? Isn't he a
tease? [She sits at the table]. Now that I think of it, dearie, don't you
go encouraging him. I'm sure he's a regular good-for-nothing.

VIVIE [rising to fetch more books] I'm afraid so. Poor Frank! I shall
have to get rid of him; but I shall feel sorry for him, though he's
not worth it. That man Crofts does not seem to me to be good for much
either: is he? [She throws the books on the table rather roughly].

MRS WARREN [galled by Vivie's indifference] What do you know of men,
child, to talk that way of them? Youll have to make up your mind to see
a good deal of Sir George Crofts, as he's a friend of mine.

VIVIE [quite unmoved] Why? [She sits down and opens a book]. Do you
expect that we shall be much together? You and I, I mean?

MRS WARREN [staring at her] Of course: until youre married. Youre not
going back to college again.

VIVIE. Do you think my way of life would suit you? I doubt it.

MRS WARREN. Y o u r way of life! What do you mean?

VIVIE [cutting a page of her book with the paper knife on her
chatelaine] Has it really never occurred to you, mother, that I have a
way of life like other people?

MRS WARREN. What nonsense is this youre trying to talk? Do you want to
shew your independence, now that youre a great little person at school?
Don't be a fool, child.

VIVIE [indulgently] Thats all you have to say on the subject, is it,
mother?

MRS WARREN [puzzled, then angry] Don't you keep on asking me questions
like that. [Violently] Hold your tongue. [Vivie works on, losing no
time, and saying nothing]. You and your way of life, indeed! What next?
[She looks at Vivie again. No reply].

Your way of life will be what I please, so it will. [Another pause].
Ive been noticing these airs in you ever since you got that tripos or
whatever you call it. If you think I'm going to put up with them, youre
mistaken; and the sooner you find it out, the better. [Muttering] All I
have to say on the subject, indeed! [Again raising her voice angrily] Do
you know who youre speaking to, Miss?

VIVIE [looking across at her without raising her head from her book] No.
Who are you? What are you?

MRS WARREN [rising breathless] You young imp!

VIVIE. Everybody knows my reputation, my social standing, and the
profession I intend to pursue. I know nothing about you. What is that
way of life which you invite me to share with you and Sir George Crofts,
pray?

MRS WARREN. Take care. I shall do something I'll be sorry for after, and
you too.

VIVIE [putting aside her books with cool decision] Well, let us drop the
subject until you are better able to face it. [Looking critically at her
mother] You want some good walks and a little lawn tennis to set you up.
You are shockingly out of condition: you were not able to manage twenty
yards uphill today without stopping to pant; and your wrists are mere
rolls of fat. Look at mine. [She holds out her wrists].

MRS WARREN [after looking at her helplessly, begins to whimper] Vivie--

VIVIE [springing up sharply] Now pray don't begin to cry. Anything but
that. I really cannot stand whimpering. I will go out of the room if you
do.

MRS WARREN [piteously] Oh, my darling, how can you be so hard on me?
Have I no rights over you as your mother?

VIVIE. A r e you my mother?

MRS WARREN. _Am_ I your mother? Oh, Vivie!

VIVIE. Then where are our relatives? my father? our family friends? You
claim the rights of a mother: the right to call me fool and child; to
speak to me as no woman in authority over me at college dare speak to
me; to dictate my way of life; and to force on me the acquaintance of
a brute whom anyone can see to be the most vicious sort of London man
about town. Before I give myself the trouble to resist such claims, I
may as well find out whether they have any real existence.

MRS WARREN [distracted, throwing herself on her knees] Oh no, no.

Stop, stop. I _am_ your mother: I swear it. Oh, you can't mean to turn on
me--my own child! it's not natural. You believe me, don't you? Say you
believe me.

VIVIE. Who was my father?

MRS WARREN. You don't know what youre asking. I can't tell you.

VIVIE [determinedly] Oh yes you can, if you like. I have a right to
know; and you know very well that I have that right. You can refuse
to tell me if you please; but if you do, you will see the last of me
tomorrow morning.

MRS WARREN. Oh, it's too horrible to hear you talk like that. You
wouldn't--you _couldn't_ leave me.

VIVIE [ruthlessly] Yes, without a moment's hesitation, if you trifle
with me about this. [Shivering with disgust] How can I feel sure that I
may not have the contaminated blood of that brutal waster in my veins?

MRS WARREN. No, no. On my oath it's not he, nor any of the rest that you
have ever met. I'm certain of that, at least.

[Vivie's eyes fasten sternly on her mother as the significance of this
flashes on her.]

VIVIE [slowly] You are certain of that, at _least_. Ah! You mean that
that is all you are certain of. [Thoughtfully] I see. [Mrs Warren buries
her face in her hands]. Don't do that, mother: you know you don't feel
it a bit. [Mrs Warren takes down her hands and looks up deplorably
at Vivie, who takes out her watch and says] Well, that is enough for
tonight. At what hour would you like breakfast? Is half-past eight too
early for you?

MRS WARREN [wildly] My God, what sort of woman are you?

VIVIE [coolly] The sort the world is mostly made of, I should hope.
Otherwise I don't understand how it gets its business done.

Come [taking her mother by the wrist and pulling her up pretty
resolutely]: pull yourself together. Thats right.

MRS WARREN [querulously] Youre very rough with me, Vivie.

VIVIE. Nonsense. What about bed? It's past ten.

MRS WARREN [passionately] Whats the use of my going to bed? Do you think
I could sleep?

VIVIE. Why not? I shall.

MRS WARREN. You! you've no heart. [She suddenly breaks out vehemently in
her natural tongue--the dialect of a woman of the people--with all her
affectations of maternal authority and conventional manners gone, and an
overwhelming inspiration of true conviction and scorn in her] Oh, I wont
bear it: I won't put up with the injustice of it. What right have you to
set yourself up above me like this? You boast of what you are to me--to
_me_, who gave you a chance of being what you are. What chance had I?
Shame on you for a bad daughter and a stuck-up prude!

VIVIE [sitting down with a shrug, no longer confident; for her replies,
which have sounded sensible and strong to her so far, now begin to ring
rather woodenly and even priggishly against the new tone of her mother]
Don't think for a moment I set myself above you in any way. You attacked
me with the conventional authority of a mother: I defended myself with
the conventional superiority of a respectable woman. Frankly, I am not
going to stand any of your nonsense; and when you drop it I shall not
expect you to stand any of mine. I shall always respect your right to
your own opinions and your own way of life.

MRS WARREN. My own opinions and my own way of life! Listen to her
talking! Do you think I was brought up like you? able to pick and choose
my own way of life? Do you think I did what I did because I liked it, or
thought it right, or wouldn't rather have gone to college and been a lady
if I'd had the chance?

VIVIE. Everybody has some choice, mother. The poorest girl alive may
not be able to choose between being Queen of England or Principal
of Newnham; but she can choose between ragpicking and flowerselling,
according to her taste. People are always blaming circumstances for what
they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in
this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they
want, and, if they can't find them, make them.

MRS WARREN. Oh, it's easy to talk, isn't it? Here! would you like to know
what _my_ circumstances were?

VIVIE. Yes: you had better tell me. Won't you sit down?

MRS WARREN. Oh, I'll sit down: don't you be afraid. [She plants her chair
farther forward with brazen energy, and sits down. Vivie is impressed in
spite of herself]. D'you know what your gran'mother was?

VIVIE. No.

MRS WARREN. No, you don't. I do. She called herself a widow and had a
fried-fish shop down by the Mint, and kept herself and four daughters
out of it. Two of us were sisters: that was me and Liz; and we were both
good-looking and well made. I suppose our father was a well-fed man:
mother pretended he was a gentleman; but I don't know. The other two
were only half sisters: undersized, ugly, starved looking, hard working,
honest poor creatures: Liz and I would have half-murdered them if
mother hadn't half-murdered us to keep our hands off them. They were the
respectable ones. Well, what did they get by their respectability? I'll
tell you. One of them worked in a whitelead factory twelve hours a day
for nine shillings a week until she died of lead poisoning. She only
expected to get her hands a little paralyzed; but she died. The other
was always held up to us as a model because she married a Government
laborer in the Deptford victualling yard, and kept his room and the
three children neat and tidy on eighteen shillings a week--until he took
to drink. That was worth being respectable for, wasn't it?

VIVIE [now thoughtfully attentive] Did you and your sister think so?

MRS WARREN. Liz didn't, I can tell you: she had more spirit. We both went
to a church school--that was part of the ladylike airs we gave ourselves
to be superior to the children that knew nothing and went nowhere--and
we stayed there until Liz went out one night and never came back. I
know the schoolmistress thought I'd soon follow her example; for
the clergyman was always warning me that Lizzie'd end by jumping off
Waterloo Bridge. Poor fool: that was all he knew about it! But I was
more afraid of the whitelead factory than I was of the river; and so
would you have been in my place. That clergyman got me a situation as
a scullery maid in a temperance restaurant where they sent out for
anything you liked. Then I was a waitress; and then I went to the bar
at Waterloo station: fourteen hours a day serving drinks and washing
glasses for four shillings a week and my board. That was considered a
great promotion for me. Well, one cold, wretched night, when I was so
tired I could hardly keep myself awake, who should come up for a half of
Scotch but Lizzie, in a long fur cloak, elegant and comfortable, with a
lot of sovereigns in her purse.

VIVIE [grimly] My aunt Lizzie!

MRS WARREN. Yes; and a very good aunt to have, too. She's living down
at Winchester now, close to the cathedral, one of the most respectable
ladies there. Chaperones girls at the country ball, if you please.
No river for Liz, thank you! You remind me of Liz a little: she was a
first-rate business woman--saved money from the beginning--never let
herself look too like what she was--never lost her head or threw away a
chance. When she saw I'd grown up good-looking she said to me across the
bar "What are you doing there, you little fool? wearing out your health
and your appearance for other people's profit!" Liz was saving money
then to take a house for herself in Brussels; and she thought we two
could save faster than one. So she lent me some money and gave me a
start; and I saved steadily and first paid her back, and then went into
business with her as a partner. Why shouldn't I have done it? The house
in Brussels was real high class: a much better place for a woman to be
in than the factory where Anne Jane got poisoned. None of the girls were
ever treated as I was treated in the scullery of that temperance place,
or at the Waterloo bar, or at home. Would you have had me stay in them
and become a worn out old drudge before I was forty?

VIVIE [intensely interested by this time] No; but why did you choose
that business? Saving money and good management will succeed in any
business.

MRS WARREN. Yes, saving money. But where can a woman get the money to
save in any other business? Could y o u save out of four shillings a
week and keep yourself dressed as well? Not you. Of course, if youre
a plain woman and can't earn anything more; or if you have a turn for
music, or the stage, or newspaper-writing: thats different. But neither
Liz nor I had any turn for such things at all: all we had was our
appearance and our turn for pleasing men. Do you think we were such
fools as to let other people trade in our good looks by employing us
as shopgirls, or barmaids, or waitresses, when we could trade in them
ourselves and get all the profits instead of starvation wages? Not
likely.

VIVIE. You were certainly quite justified--from the business point of
view.

MRS WARREN. Yes; or any other point of view. What is any respectable
girl brought up to do but to catch some rich man's fancy and get the
benefit of his money by marrying him?--as if a marriage ceremony
could make any difference in the right or wrong of the thing! Oh, the
hypocrisy of the world makes me sick! Liz and I had to work and save and
calculate just like other people; elseways we should be as poor as any
good-for-nothing drunken waster of a woman that thinks her luck will
last for ever. [With great energy] I despise such people: theyve
no character; and if theres a thing I hate in a woman, it's want of
character.

VIVIE. Come now, mother: frankly! Isn't it part of what you call
character in a woman that she should greatly dislike such a way of
making money?

MRS WARREN. Why, of course. Everybody dislikes having to work and make
money; but they have to do it all the same. I'm sure I've often pitied
a poor girl, tired out and in low spirits, having to try to please some
man that she doesn't care two straws for--some half-drunken fool that
thinks he's making himself agreeable when he's teasing and worrying and
disgusting a woman so that hardly any money could pay her for putting up
with it. But she has to bear with disagreeables and take the rough with
the smooth, just like a nurse in a hospital or anyone else. It's not
work that any woman would do for pleasure, goodness knows; though to
hear the pious people talk you would suppose it was a bed of roses.

VIVIE. Still, you consider it worth while. It pays.

MRS WARREN. Of course it's worth while to a poor girl, if she can resist
temptation and is good-looking and well conducted and sensible. It's far
better than any other employment open to her.

I always thought that it oughtn't to be. It _can't_ be right, Vivie, that
there shouldn't be better opportunities for women. I stick to that: it's
wrong. But it's so, right or wrong; and a girl must make the best of it.
But of course it's not worth while for a lady. If you took to it youd be
a fool; but I should have been a fool if I'd taken to anything else.

VIVIE [more and more deeply moved] Mother: suppose we were both as poor
as you were in those wretched old days, are you quite sure that you
wouldn't advise me to try the Waterloo bar, or marry a laborer, or even
go into the factory?

MRS WARREN [indignantly] Of course not. What sort of mother do you take
me for! How could you keep your self-respect in such starvation
and slavery? And whats a woman worth? whats life worth? without
self-respect! Why am I independent and able to give my daughter
a first-rate education, when other women that had just as good
opportunities are in the gutter? Because I always knew how to respect
myself and control myself. Why is Liz looked up to in a cathedral town?
The same reason. Where would we be now if we'd minded the clergyman's
foolishness? Scrubbing floors for one and sixpence a day and nothing to
look forward to but the workhouse infirmary. Don't you be led astray by
people who don't know the world, my girl. The only way for a woman to
provide for herself decently is for her to be good to some man that can
afford to be good to her. If she's in his own station of life, let her
make him marry her; but if she's far beneath him she can't expect it: why
should she? it wouldn't be for her own happiness. Ask any lady in London
society that has daughters; and she'll tell you the same, except that I
tell you straight and she'll tell you crooked. Thats all the difference.

VIVIE [fascinated, gazing at her] My dear mother: you are a wonderful
woman: you are stronger than all England. And are you really and truly
not one wee bit doubtful--or--or--ashamed?

MRS WARREN. Well, of course, dearie, it's only good manners to be
ashamed of it: it's expected from a woman. Women have to pretend to
feel a great deal that they don't feel. Liz used to be angry with me for
plumping out the truth about it. She used to say that when every woman
could learn enough from what was going on in the world before her eyes,
there was no need to talk about it to her. But then Liz was such a
perfect lady! She had the true instinct of it; while I was always a bit
of a vulgarian. I used to be so pleased when you sent me your photos
to see that you were growing up like Liz: you've just her ladylike,
determined way. But I can't stand saying one thing when everyone knows
I mean another. Whats the use in such hypocrisy? If people arrange the
world that way for women, theres no good pretending it's arranged the
other way. No: I never was a bit ashamed really. I consider I had a
right to be proud of how we managed everything so respectably, and never
had a word against us, and how the girls were so well taken care of.
Some of them did very well: one of them married an ambassador. But of
course now I daren't talk about such things: whatever would they think
of us! [She yawns]. Oh dear! I do believe I'm getting sleepy after all.
[She stretches herself lazily, thoroughly relieved by her explosion, and
placidly ready for her night's rest].

VIVIE. I believe it is I who will not be able to sleep now. [She goes
to the dresser and lights the candle. Then she extinguishes the lamp,
darkening the room a good deal]. Better let in some fresh air before
locking up. [She opens the cottage door, and finds that it is broad
moonlight]. What a beautiful night! Look! [She draws the curtains of the
window. The landscape is seen bathed in the radiance of the harvest moon
rising over Blackdown].

MRS WARREN [with a perfunctory glance at the scene] Yes, dear; but take
care you don't catch your death of cold from the night air.

VIVIE [contemptuously] Nonsense.

MRS WARREN [querulously] Oh yes: everything I say is nonsense, according
to you.

VIVIE [turning to her quickly] No: really that is not so, mother.

You have got completely the better of me tonight, though I intended it
to be the other way. Let us be good friends now.

MRS WARREN [shaking her head a little ruefully] So it _has_ been the
other way. But I suppose I must give in to it. I always got the worst of
it from Liz; and now I suppose it'll be the same with you.

VIVIE. Well, never mind. Come: good-night, dear old mother. [She takes
her mother in her arms].

MRS WARREN [fondly] I brought you up well, didn't I, dearie?

VIVIE. You did.

MRS WARREN. And youll be good to your poor old mother for it, won't you?

VIVIE. I will, dear. [Kissing her] Good-night.

MRS WARREN [with unction] Blessings on my own dearie darling! a mother's
blessing!

[She embraces her daughter protectingly, instinctively looking upward
for divine sanction.]




ACT III


[In the Rectory garden next morning, with the sun shining from a
cloudless sky. The garden wall has a five-barred wooden gate, wide
enough to admit a carriage, in the middle. Beside the gate hangs a bell
on a coiled spring, communicating with a pull outside. The carriage
drive comes down the middle of the garden and then swerves to its left,
where it ends in a little gravelled circus opposite the Rectory porch.
Beyond the gate is seen the dusty high road, parallel with the wall,
bounded on the farther side by a strip of turf and an unfenced pine
wood. On the lawn, between the house and the drive, is a clipped yew
tree, with a garden bench in its shade. On the opposite side the garden
is shut in by a box hedge; and there is a little sundial on the turf,
with an iron chair near it. A little path leads through the box hedge,
behind the sundial.]

[Frank, seated on the chair near the sundial, on which he has placed the
morning paper, is reading The Standard. His father comes from the house,
red-eyed and shivery, and meets Frank's eye with misgiving.]

FRANK [looking at his watch] Half-past eleven. Nice your for a rector to
come down to breakfast!

REV. S. Don't mock, Frank: don't mock. I am a little--er--[Shivering]--

FRANK. Off color?

REV. S. [repudiating the expression] No, sir: _unwell_ this morning.
Where's your mother?

FRANK. Don't be alarmed: she's not here. Gone to town by the 11.13
with Bessie. She left several messages for you. Do you feel equal to
receiving them now, or shall I wait til you've breakfasted?

REV. S. I h a v e breakfasted, sir. I am surprised at your mother
going to town when we have people staying with us. They'll think it very
strange.

FRANK. Possibly she has considered that. At all events, if Crofts is
going to stay here, and you are going to sit up every night with him
until four, recalling the incidents of your fiery youth, it is clearly
my mother's duty, as a prudent housekeeper, to go up to the stores and
order a barrel of whisky and a few hundred siphons.

REV. S. I did not observe that Sir George drank excessively.

FRANK. You were not in a condition to, gov'nor.

REV. S. Do you mean to say that _I_--?

FRANK [calmly] I never saw a beneficed clergyman less sober. The
anecdotes you told about your past career were so awful that I really
don't think Praed would have passed the night under your roof if it hadnt
been for the way my mother and he took to one another.

REV. S. Nonsense, sir. I am Sir George Crofts' host. I must talk to him
about something; and he has only one subject. Where is Mr Praed now?

FRANK. He is driving my mother and Bessie to the station.

REV. S. Is Crofts up yet?

FRANK. Oh, long ago. He hasn't turned a hair: he's in much better
practice than you. Has kept it up ever since, probably. He's taken
himself off somewhere to smoke.

[Frank resumes his paper. The parson turns disconsolately towards the
gate; then comes back irresolutely.]

REV. S. Er--Frank.

FRANK. Yes.

REV. S. Do you think the Warrens will expect to be asked here after
yesterday afternoon?

FRANK. Theyve been asked already.

REV. S. [appalled] What!!!

FRANK. Crofts informed us at breakfast that you told him to bring Mrs
Warren and Vivie over here to-day, and to invite them to make this house
their home. My mother then found she must go to town by the 11.13 train.

REV. S. [with despairing vehemence] I never gave any such invitation. I
never thought of such a thing.

FRANK [compassionately] How do you know, gov'nor, what you said and
thought last night?

PRAED [coming in through the hedge] Good morning.

REV. S. Good morning. I must apologize for not having met you at
breakfast. I have a touch of--of--

FRANK. Clergyman's sore throat, Praed. Fortunately not chronic.

PRAED [changing the subject] Well I must say your house is in a charming
spot here. Really most charming.

REV. S. Yes: it is indeed. Frank will take you for a walk, Mr Praed,
if you like. I'll ask you to excuse me: I must take the opportunity
to write my sermon while Mrs Gardner is away and you are all amusing
yourselves. You won't mind, will you?

PRAED. Certainly not. Don't stand on the slightest ceremony with me.

REV. S. Thank you. I'll--er--er--[He stammers his way to the porch and
vanishes into the house].

PRAED. Curious thing it must be writing a sermon every week.

FRANK. Ever so curious, if he did it. He buys em. He's gone for some
soda water.

PRAED. My dear boy: I wish you would be more respectful to your father.
You know you can be so nice when you like.

FRANK. My dear Praddy: you forget that I have to live with the governor.
When two people live together--it don't matter whether theyre father and
son or husband and wife or brother and sister--they can't keep up the
polite humbug thats so easy for ten minutes on an afternoon call.
Now the governor, who unites to many admirable domestic qualities the
irresoluteness of a sheep and the pompousness and aggressiveness of a
jackass--

PRAED. No, pray, pray, my dear Frank, remember! He is your father.

FRANK. I give him due credit for that. [Rising and flinging down his
paper] But just imagine his telling Crofts to bring the Warrens over
here! He must have been ever so drunk. You know, my dear Praddy, my
mother wouldn't stand Mrs Warren for a moment. Vivie mustn't come here
until she's gone back to town.

PRAED. But your mother doesn't know anything about Mrs Warren, does she?
[He picks up the paper and sits down to read it].

FRANK. I don't know. Her journey to town looks as if she did. Not that
my mother would mind in the ordinary way: she has stuck like a brick to
lots of women who had got into trouble. But they were all nice women.
Thats what makes the real difference. Mrs Warren, no doubt, has her
merits; but she's ever so rowdy; and my mother simply wouldn't put up
with her. So--hallo! [This exclamation is provoked by the reappearance
of the clergyman, who comes out of the house in haste and dismay].

REV. S. Frank: Mrs Warren and her daughter are coming across the heath
with Crofts: I saw them from the study windows. What _am_ I to say about
your mother?

FRANK. Stick on your hat and go out and say how delighted you are to see
them; and that Frank's in the garden; and that mother and Bessie have
been called to the bedside of a sick relative, and were ever so
sorry they couldn't stop; and that you hope Mrs Warren slept well;
and--and--say any blessed thing except the truth, and leave the rest to
Providence.

REV. S. But how are we to get rid of them afterwards?

FRANK. Theres no time to think of that now. Here! [He bounds into the
house].

REV. S. He's so impetuous. I don't know what to do with him, Mr Praed.

FRANK [returning with a clerical felt hat, which he claps on his
father's head]. Now: off with you. [Rushing him through the gate].
Praed and I'll wait here, to give the thing an unpremeditated air. [The
clergyman, dazed but obedient, hurries off].

FRANK. We must get the old girl back to town somehow, Praed. Come!
Honestly, dear Praddy, do you like seeing them together?

PRAED. Oh, why not?

FRANK [his teeth on edge] Don't it make your flesh creep ever so little?
that wicked old devil, up to every villainy under the sun, I'll swear,
and Vivie--ugh!

PRAED. Hush, pray. Theyre coming.

[The clergyman and Crofts are seen coming along the road, followed by
Mrs Warren and Vivie walking affectionately together.]

FRANK. Look: she actually has her arm round the old woman's waist. It's
her right arm: she began it. She's gone sentimental, by God! Ugh! ugh!
Now do you feel the creeps? [The clergyman opens the gate: and Mrs
Warren and Vivie pass him and stand in the middle of the garden looking
at the house. Frank, in an ecstasy of dissimulation, turns gaily to Mrs
Warren, exclaiming] Ever so delighted to see you, Mrs Warren. This quiet
old rectory garden becomes you perfectly.

MRS WARREN. Well, I never! Did you hear that, George? He says I look
well in a quiet old rectory garden.

REV. S. [still holding the gate for Crofts, who loafs through it,
heavily bored] You look well everywhere, Mrs Warren.

FRANK. Bravo, gov'nor! Now look here: lets have a treat before lunch.
First lets see the church. Everyone has to do that. It's a regular old
thirteenth century church, you know: the gov'nor's ever so fond of it,
because he got up a restoration fund and had it completely rebuilt six
years ago. Praed will be able to shew its points.

PRAED [rising] Certainly, if the restoration has left any to shew.

REV. S. [mooning hospitably at them] I shall be pleased, I'm sure, if
Sir George and Mrs Warren really care about it.

MRS WARREN. Oh, come along and get it over.

CROFTS [turning back toward the gate] I've no objection.

REV. S. Not that way. We go through the fields, if you don't mind. Round
here. [He leads the way by the little path through the box hedge].

CROFTS. Oh, all right. [He goes with the parson].

[Praed follows with Mrs Warren. Vivie does not stir: she watches them
until they have gone, with all the lines of purpose in her face marking
it strongly.]

FRANK. Ain't you coming?

VIVIE. No. I want to give you a warning, Frank. You were making fun of
my mother just now when you said that about the rectory garden. That is
barred in the future. Please treat my mother with as much respect as you
treat your own.

FRANK. My dear Viv: she wouldn't appreciate it: the two cases require
different treatment. But what on earth has happened to you? Last night
we were perfectly agreed as to your mother and her set. This morning I
find you attitudinizing sentimentally with your arm around your parent's
waist.

VIVIE [flushing] Attitudinizing!

FRANK. That was how it struck me. First time I ever saw you do a
second-rate thing.

VIVIE [controlling herself] Yes, Frank: there has been a change: but I
don't think it a change for the worse. Yesterday I was a little prig.

FRANK. And today?

VIVIE [wincing; then looking at him steadily] Today I know my mother
better than you do.

FRANK. Heaven forbid!

VIVIE. What do you mean?

FRANK. Viv: theres a freemasonry among thoroughly immoral people that
you know nothing of. You've too much character. _That's_ the bond
between your mother and me: that's why I know her better than youll ever
know her.

VIVIE. You are wrong: you know nothing about her. If you knew the
circumstances against which my mother had to struggle--

FRANK [adroitly finishing the sentence for her] I should know why she is
what she is, shouldn't I? What difference would that make?

Circumstances or no circumstances, Viv, you won't be able to stand your
mother.

VIVIE [very angry] Why not?

FRANK. Because she's an old wretch, Viv. If you ever put your arm around
her waist in my presence again, I'll shoot myself there and then as a
protest against an exhibition which revolts me.

VIVIE. Must I choose between dropping your acquaintance and dropping my
mother's?

FRANK [gracefully] That would put the old lady at ever such a
disadvantage. No, Viv: your infatuated little boy will have to stick to
you in any case. But he's all the more anxious that you shouldn't make
mistakes. It's no use, Viv: your mother's impossible. She may be a good
sort; but she's a bad lot, a very bad lot.

VIVIE [hotly] Frank--! [He stands his ground. She turns away and
sits down on the bench under the yew tree, struggling to recover her
self-command. Then she says] Is she to be deserted by the world because
she's what you call a bad lot? Has she no right to live?

FRANK. No fear of that, Viv: _she_ won't ever be deserted. [He sits on
the bench beside her].

VIVIE. But I am to desert her, I suppose.

FRANK [babyishly, lulling her and making love to her with his voice]
Mustn't go live with her. Little family group of mother and daughter
wouldn't be a success. Spoil o u r little group.

VIVIE [falling under the spell] What little group?

FRANK. The babes in the wood: Vivie and little Frank. [He nestles
against her like a weary child]. Lets go and get covered up with leaves.

VIVIE [rhythmically, rocking him like a nurse] Fast asleep, hand in
hand, under the trees.

FRANK. The wise little girl with her silly little boy.

VIVIE. The deal little boy with his dowdy little girl.

FRANK. Ever so peaceful, and relieved from the imbecility of the little
boy's father and the questionableness of the little girl's--

VIVIE [smothering the word against her breast] Sh-sh-sh-sh! little girl
wants to forget all about her mother. [They are silent for some moments,
rocking one another. Then Vivie wakes up with a shock, exclaiming] What
a pair of fools we are! Come: sit up. Gracious! your hair. [She smooths
it]. I wonder do all grown up people play in that childish way when
nobody is looking.

I never did it when I was a child.

FRANK. Neither did I. You are my first playmate. [He catches her hand to
kiss it, but checks himself to look around first. Very unexpectedly, he
sees Crofts emerging from the box hedge]. Oh damn!

VIVIE. Why damn, dear?

FRANK [whispering] Sh! Here's this brute Crofts. [He sits farther away
from her with an unconcerned air].

CROFTS. Could I have a few words with you, Miss Vivie?

VIVIE. Certainly.

CROFTS [to Frank] Youll excuse me, Gardner. Theyre waiting for you in
the church, if you don't mind.

FRANK [rising] Anything to oblige you, Crofts--except church. If you
should happen to want me, Vivvums, ring the gate bell. [He goes into the
house with unruffled suavity].

CROFTS [watching him with a crafty air as he disappears, and speaking to
Vivie with an assumption of being on privileged terms with her] Pleasant
young fellow that, Miss Vivie. Pity he has no money, isn't it?

VIVIE. Do you think so?

CROFTS. Well, whats he to do? No profession. No property. Whats he good
for?

VIVIE. I realize his disadvantages, Sir George.

CROFTS [a little taken aback at being so precisely interpreted] Oh, it's
not that. But while we're in this world we're in it; and money's money.
[Vivie does not answer]. Nice day, isn't it?

VIVIE [with scarcely veiled contempt for this effort at conversation]
Very.

CROFTS [with brutal good humor, as if he liked her pluck] Well thats not
what I came to say. [Sitting down beside her] Now listen, Miss Vivie.
I'm quite aware that I'm not a young lady's man.

VIVIE. Indeed, Sir George?

CROFTS. No; and to tell you the honest truth I don't want to be either.
But when I say a thing I mean it; and when I feel a sentiment I feel it
in earnest; and what I value I pay hard money for. Thats the sort of man
I am.

VIVIE. It does you great credit, I'm sure.

CROFTS. Oh, I don't mean to praise myself. I have my faults, Heaven
knows: no man is more sensible of that than I am. I know I'm not
perfect: thats one of the advantages of being a middle-aged man; for
I'm not a young man, and I know it. But my code is a simple one, and, I
think, a good one. Honor between man and man; fidelity between man and
woman; and no can't about this religion or that religion, but an honest
belief that things are making for good on the whole.

VIVIE [with biting irony] "A power, not ourselves, that makes for
righteousness," eh?

CROFTS [taking her seriously] Oh certainly. Not ourselves, of course. Y
o u understand what I mean. Well, now as to practical matters. You may
have an idea that I've flung my money about; but I havn't: I'm richer
today than when I first came into the property. I've used my knowledge of
the world to invest my money in ways that other men have overlooked; and
whatever else I may be, I'm a safe man from the money point of view.

VIVIE. It's very kind of you to tell me all this.

CROFTS. Oh well, come, Miss Vivie: you needn't pretend you don't see what
I'm driving at. I want to settle down with a Lady Crofts. I suppose you
think me very blunt, eh?

VIVIE. Not at all: I am very much obliged to you for being so definite
and business-like. I quite appreciate the offer: the money, the
position, _Lady Crofts_, and so on. But I think I will say no, if you
don't mind, I'd rather not. [She rises, and strolls across to the
sundial to get out of his immediate neighborhood].

CROFTS [not at all discouraged, and taking advantage of the additional
room left him on the seat to spread himself comfortably, as if a few
preliminary refusals were part of the inevitable routine of courtship]
I'm in no hurry. It was only just to let you know in case young Gardner
should try to trap you. Leave the question open.

VIVIE [sharply] My no is final. I won't go back from it.

[Crofts is not impressed. He grins; leans forward with his elbows on his
knees to prod with his stick at some unfortunate insect in the grass;
and looks cunningly at her. She turns away impatiently.]

CROFTS. I'm a good deal older than you. Twenty-five years: quarter of
a century. I shan't live for ever; and I'll take care that you shall be
well off when I'm gone.

VIVIE. I am proof against even that inducement, Sir George. Don't you
think youd better take your answer? There is not the slightest chance of
my altering it.

CROFTS [rising, after a final slash at a daisy, and coming nearer to
her] Well, no matter. I could tell you some things that would change
your mind fast enough; but I wont, because I'd rather win you by honest
affection. I was a good friend to your mother: ask her whether I wasn't.
She'd never have make the money that paid for your education if it hadnt
been for my advice and help, not to mention the money I advanced her.
There are not many men who would have stood by her as I have. I put not
less than forty thousand pounds into it, from first to last.

VIVIE [staring at him] Do you mean to say that you were my mother's
business partner?

CROFTS. Yes. Now just think of all the trouble and the explanations
it would save if we were to keep the whole thing in the family, so to
speak. Ask your mother whether she'd like to have to explain all her
affairs to a perfect stranger.

VIVIE. I see no difficulty, since I understand that the business is
wound up, and the money invested.

CROFTS [stopping short, amazed] Wound up! Wind up a business thats
paying 35 per cent in the worst years! Not likely. Who told you that?

VIVIE [her color quite gone] Do you mean that it is still--? [She stops
abruptly, and puts her hand on the sundial to support herself. Then she
gets quickly to the iron chair and sits down].

What business are you talking about?

CROFTS. Well, the fact is it's not what would considered exactly a
high-class business in my set--the country set, you know--o u r set it
will be if you think better of my offer. Not that theres any mystery
about it: don't think that. Of course you know by your mother's being
in it that it's perfectly straight and honest. I've known her for many
years; and I can say of her that she'd cut off her hands sooner than
touch anything that was not what it ought to be. I'll tell you all about
it if you like. I don't know whether you've found in travelling how hard
it is to find a really comfortable private hotel.

VIVIE [sickened, averting her face] Yes: go on.

CROFTS. Well, thats all it is. Your mother has got a genius for managing
such things. We've got two in Brussels, one in Ostend, one in Vienna,
and two in Budapest. Of course there are others besides ourselves in
it; but we hold most of the capital; and your mother's indispensable
as managing director. You've noticed, I daresay, that she travels a good
deal. But you see you can't mention such things in society. Once let out
the word hotel and everybody thinks you keep a public-house. You wouldn't
like people to say that of your mother, would you? Thats why we're so
reserved about it. By the way, youll keep it to yourself, won't you?
Since it's been a secret so long, it had better remain so.

VIVIE. And this is the business you invite me to join you in?

CROFTS. Oh no. My wife shan't be troubled with business. Youll not be in
it more than you've always been.

VIVIE. _I_ always been! What do you mean?

CROFTS. Only that you've always lived on it. It paid for your education
and the dress you have on your back. Don't turn up your nose at business,
Miss Vivie: where would your Newnhams and Girtons be without it?

VIVIE [rising, almost beside herself] Take care. I know what this
business is.

CROFTS [starting, with a suppressed oath] Who told you?

VIVIE. Your partner. My mother.

CROFTS [black with rage] The old--

VIVIE. Just so.

[He swallows the epithet and stands for a moment swearing and raging
foully to himself. But he knows that his cue is to be sympathetic. He
takes refuge in generous indignation.]

CROFTS. She ought to have had more consideration for you. _I'd_ never
have told you.

VIVIE. I think you would probably have told me when we were married: it
would have been a convenient weapon to break me in with.

CROFTS [quite sincerely] I never intended that. On my word as a
gentleman I didn't.

[Vivie wonders at him. Her sense of the irony of his protest cools and
braces her. She replies with contemptuous self-possession.]

VIVIE. It does not matter. I suppose you understand that when we leave
here today our acquaintance ceases.

CROFTS. Why? Is it for helping your mother?

VIVIE. My mother was a very poor woman who had no reasonable choice but
to do as she did. You were a rich gentleman; and you did the same for
the sake of 35 per cent. You are a pretty common sort of scoundrel, I
think. That is my opinion of you.

CROFTS [after a stare: not at all displeased, and much more at his ease
on these frank terms than on their former ceremonious ones] Ha! ha! ha!
ha! Go it, little missie, go it: it doesn't hurt me and it amuses you.
Why the devil shouldn't I invest my money that way? I take the interest
on my capital like other people: I hope you don't think I dirty my own
hands with the work.

Come! you wouldn't refuse the acquaintance of my mother's cousin the Duke
of Belgravia because some of the rents he gets are earned in queer ways.
You wouldn't cut the Archbishop of Canterbury, I suppose, because the
Ecclesiastical Commissioners have a few publicans and sinners among
their tenants. Do you remember your Crofts scholarship at Newnham? Well,
that was founded by my brother the M.P. He gets his 22 per cent out of
a factory with 600 girls in it, and not one of them getting wages enough
to live on. How d'ye suppose they manage when they have no family to
fall back on? Ask your mother. And do you expect me to turn my back on
35 per cent when all the rest are pocketing what they can, like sensible
men? No such fool! If youre going to pick and choose your acquaintances
on moral principles, youd better clear out of this country, unless you
want to cut yourself out of all decent society.

VIVIE [conscience stricken] You might go on to point out that I myself
never asked where the money I spent came from. I believe I am just as
bad as you.

CROFTS [greatly reassured] Of course you are; and a very good thing too!
What harm does it do after all? [Rallying her jocularly] So you don't
think me such a scoundrel now you come to think it over. Eh?

VIVIE. I have shared profits with you: and I admitted you just now to
the familiarity of knowing what I think of you.

CROFTS [with serious friendliness] To be sure you did. You won't find
me a bad sort: I don't go in for being superfine intellectually; but Ive
plenty of honest human feeling; and the old Crofts breed comes out in
a sort of instinctive hatred of anything low, in which I'm sure youll
sympathize with me. Believe me, Miss Vivie, the world isn't such a bad
place as the croakers make out. As long as you don't fly openly in the
face of society, society doesn't ask any inconvenient questions; and
it makes precious short work of the cads who do. There are no secrets
better kept than the secrets everybody guesses. In the class of people
I can introduce you to, no lady or gentleman would so far forget
themselves as to discuss my business affairs or your mothers. No man can
offer you a safer position.

VIVIE [studying him curiously] I suppose you really think youre getting
on famously with me.

CROFTS. Well, I hope I may flatter myself that you think better of me
than you did at first.

VIVIE [quietly] I hardly find you worth thinking about at all now. When
I think of the society that tolerates you, and the laws that protect
you! when I think of how helpless nine out of ten young girls would
be in the hands of you and my mother! the unmentionable woman and her
capitalist bully--

CROFTS [livid] Damn you!

VIVIE. You need not. I feel among the damned already.

[She raises the latch of the gate to open it and go out. He follows her
and puts his hand heavily on the top bar to prevent its opening.]

CROFTS [panting with fury] Do you think I'll put up with this from you,
you young devil?

VIVIE [unmoved] Be quiet. Some one will answer the bell. [Without
flinching a step she strikes the bell with the back of her hand. It
clangs harshly; and he starts back involuntarily. Almost immediately
Frank appears at the porch with his rifle].

FRANK [with cheerful politeness] Will you have the rifle, Viv; or shall
I operate?

VIVIE. Frank: have you been listening?

FRANK [coming down into the garden] Only for the bell, I assure you; so
that you shouldn't have to wait. I think I shewed great insight into your
character, Crofts.

CROFTS. For two pins I'd take that gun from you and break it across your
head.

FRANK [stalking him cautiously] Pray don't. I'm ever so careless in
handling firearms. Sure to be a fatal accident, with a reprimand from
the coroner's jury for my negligence.

VIVIE. Put the rifle away, Frank: it's quite unnecessary.

FRANK. Quite right, Viv. Much more sportsmanlike to catch him in a
trap. [Crofts, understanding the insult, makes a threatening movement].
Crofts: there are fifteen cartridges in the magazine here; and I am a
dead shot at the present distance and at an object of your size.

CROFTS. Oh, you needn't be afraid. I'm not going to touch you.

FRANK. Ever so magnanimous of you under the circumstances! Thank you.

CROFTS. I'll just tell you this before I go. It may interest you, since
youre so fond of one another. Allow me, Mister Frank, to introduce you
to your half-sister, the eldest daughter of the Reverend Samuel Gardner.
Miss Vivie: you half-brother. Good morning! [He goes out through the
gate and along the road].

FRANK [after a pause of stupefaction, raising the rifle] Youll testify
before the coroner that it's an accident, Viv. [He takes aim at the
retreating figure of Crofts. Vivie seizes the muzzle and pulls it round
against her breast].

VIVIE. Fire now. You may.

FRANK [dropping his end of the rifle hastily] Stop! take care. [She lets
it go. It falls on the turf]. Oh, you've given your little boy such
a turn. Suppose it had gone off! ugh! [He sinks on the garden seat,
overcome].

VIVIE. Suppose it had: do you think it would not have been a relief to
have some sharp physical pain tearing through me?

FRANK [coaxingly] Take it ever so easy, dear Viv. Remember: even if the
rifle scared that fellow into telling the truth for the first time in
his life, that only makes us the babes in the woods in earnest. [He
holds out his arms to her]. Come and be covered up with leaves again.

VIVIE [with a cry of disgust] Ah, not that, not that. You make all my
flesh creep.

FRANK. Why, whats the matter?

VIVIE. Goodbye. [She makes for the gate].

FRANK [jumping up] Hallo! Stop! Viv! Viv! [She turns in the gateway]
Where are you going to? Where shall we find you?

VIVIE. At Honoria Fraser's chambers, 67 Chancery Lane, for the rest of
my life. [She goes off quickly in the opposite direction to that taken
by Crofts].

FRANK. But I say--wait--dash it! [He runs after her].




ACT IV


[Honoria Fraser's chambers in Chancery Lane. An office at the top of New
Stone Buildings, with a plate-glass window, distempered walls, electric
light, and a patent stove. Saturday afternoon. The chimneys of Lincoln's
Inn and the western sky beyond are seen through the window. There is a
double writing table in the middle of the room, with a cigar box, ash
pans, and a portable electric reading lamp almost snowed up in heaps of
papers and books. This table has knee holes and chairs right and left
and is very untidy. The clerk's desk, closed and tidy, with its high
stool, is against the wall, near a door communicating with the inner
rooms. In the opposite wall is the door leading to the public corridor.
Its upper panel is of opaque glass, lettered in black on the outside,
FRASER AND WARREN. A baize screen hides the corner between this door and
the window.]

[Frank, in a fashionable light-colored coaching suit, with his stick,
gloves, and white hat in his hands, is pacing up and down in the office.
Somebody tries the door with a key.]

FRANK [calling] Come in. It's not locked.

[Vivie comes in, in her hat and jacket. She stops and stares at him.]

VIVIE [sternly] What are you doing here?

FRANK. Waiting to see you. I've been here for hours. Is this the way you
attend to your business? [He puts his hat and stick on the table, and
perches himself with a vault on the clerk's stool, looking at her with
every appearance of being in a specially restless, teasing, flippant
mood].

VIVIE. I've been away exactly twenty minutes for a cup of tea. [She takes
off her hat and jacket and hangs them behind the screen]. How did you
get in?

FRANK. The staff had not left when I arrived. He's gone to play cricket
on Primrose Hill. Why don't you employ a woman, and give your sex a
chance?

VIVIE. What have you come for?

FRANK [springing off the stool and coming close to her] Viv: lets go and
enjoy the Saturday half-holiday somewhere, like the staff.

What do you say to Richmond, and then a music hall, and a jolly supper?

VIVIE. Can't afford it. I shall put in another six hours work before I go
to bed.

FRANK. Can't afford it, can't we? Aha! Look here. [He takes out a handful
of sovereigns and makes them chink]. Gold, Viv: gold!

VIVIE. Where did you get it?

FRANK. Gambling, Viv: gambling. Poker.

VIVIE. Pah! It's meaner than stealing it. No: I'm not coming. [She sits
down to work at the table, with her back to the glass door, and begins
turning over the papers].

FRANK [remonstrating piteously] But, my dear Viv, I want to talk to you
ever so seriously.

VIVIE. Very well: sit down in Honoria's chair and talk here. I like ten
minutes chat after tea. [He murmurs]. No use groaning: I'm inexorable.
[He takes the opposite seat disconsolately]. Pass that cigar box, will
you?

FRANK [pushing the cigar box across] Nasty womanly habit. Nice men don't
do it any longer.

VIVIE. Yes: they object to the smell in the office; and we've had to take
to cigarets. See! [She opens the box and takes out a cigaret, which she
lights. She offers him one; but he shakes his head with a wry face. She
settles herself comfortably in her chair, smoking]. Go ahead.

FRANK. Well, I want to know what you've done--what arrangements you've
made.

VIVIE. Everything was settled twenty minutes after I arrived here.
Honoria has found the business too much for her this year; and she was
on the point of sending for me and proposing a partnership when I walked
in and told her I hadn't a farthing in the world. So I installed myself
and packed her off for a fortnight's holiday. What happened at Haslemere
when I left?

FRANK. Nothing at all. I said youd gone to town on particular business.

VIVIE. Well?

FRANK. Well, either they were too flabbergasted to say anything, or else
Crofts had prepared your mother. Anyhow, she didn't say anything; and
Crofts didn't say anything; and Praddy only stared. After tea they got up
and went; and I've not seen them since.

VIVIE [nodding placidly with one eye on a wreath of smoke] Thats all
right.

FRANK [looking round disparagingly] Do you intend to stick in this
confounded place?

VIVIE [blowing the wreath decisively away, and sitting straight up] Yes.
These two days have given me back all my strength and self-possession. I
will never take a holiday again as long as I live.

FRANK [with a very wry face] Mps! You look quite happy. And as hard as
nails.

VIVIE [grimly] Well for me that I am!

FRANK [rising] Look here, Viv: we must have an explanation. We parted
the other day under a complete misunderstanding. [He sits on the table,
close to her].

VIVIE [putting away the cigaret] Well: clear it up.

FRANK. You remember what Crofts said.

VIVIE. Yes.

FRANK. That revelation was supposed to bring about a complete change in
the nature of our feeling for one another. It placed us on the footing
of brother and sister.

VIVIE. Yes.

FRANK. Have you ever had a brother?

VIVIE. No.

FRANK. Then you don't know what being brother and sister feels like? Now
I have lots of sisters; and the fraternal feeling is quite familiar to
me. I assure you my feeling for you is not the least in the world like
it. The girls will go _their_ way; I will go mine; and we shan't care
if we never see one another again. Thats brother and sister. But as to
you, I can't be easy if I have to pass a week without seeing you. Thats
not brother and sister. Its exactly what I felt an hour before Crofts
made his revelation. In short, dear Viv, it's love's young dream.

VIVIE [bitingly] The same feeling, Frank, that brought your father to my
mother's feet. Is that it?

FRANK [so revolted that he slips off the table for a moment] I very
strongly object, Viv, to have my feelings compared to any which the
Reverend Samuel is capable of harboring; and I object still more to a
comparison of you to your mother. [Resuming his perch] Besides, I don't
believe the story. I have taxed my father with it, and obtained from him
what I consider tantamount to a denial.

VIVIE. What did he say?

FRANK. He said he was sure there must be some mistake.

VIVIE. Do you believe him?

FRANK. I am prepared to take his word against Crofts'.

VIVIE. Does it make any difference? I mean in your imagination or
conscience; for of course it makes no real difference.

FRANK [shaking his head] None whatever to _me_.

VIVIE. Nor to me.

FRANK [staring] But this is ever so surprising! [He goes back to his
chair]. I thought our whole relations were altered in your imagination
and conscience, as you put it, the moment those words were out of that
brute's muzzle.

VIVIE. No: it was not that. I didn't believe him. I only wish I could.

FRANK. Eh?

VIVIE. I think brother and sister would be a very suitable relation for
us.

FRANK. You really mean that?

VIVIE. Yes. It's the only relation I care for, even if we could afford
any other. I mean that.

FRANK [raising his eyebrows like one on whom a new light has dawned, and
rising with quite an effusion of chivalrous sentiment] My dear Viv:
why didn't you say so before? I am ever so sorry for persecuting you. I
understand, of course.

VIVIE [puzzled] Understand what?

FRANK. Oh, I'm not a fool in the ordinary sense: only in the Scriptural
sense of doing all the things the wise man declared to be folly, after
trying them himself on the most extensive scale. I see I am no longer
Vivvums's little boy. Don't be alarmed: I shall never call you Vivvums
again--at least unless you get tired of your new little boy, whoever he
may be.

VIVIE. My new little boy!

FRANK [with conviction] Must be a new little boy. Always happens that
way. No other way, in fact.

VIVIE. None that you know of, fortunately for you.

[Someone knocks at the door.]

FRANK. My curse upon yon caller, whoe'er he be!

VIVIE. It's Praed. He's going to Italy and wants to say goodbye. I asked
him to call this afternoon. Go and let him in.

FRANK. We can continue our conversation after his departure for Italy.
I'll stay him out. [He goes to the door and opens it]. How are you,
Praddy? Delighted to see you. Come in.

[Praed, dressed for travelling, comes in, in high spirits.]

PRAED. How do you do, Miss Warren? [She presses his hand cordially,
though a certain sentimentality in his high spirits jars upon her]. I
start in an hour from Holborn Viaduct. I wish I could persuade you to
try Italy.

VIVIE. What for?

PRAED. Why, to saturate yourself with beauty and romance, of course.

[Vivie, with a shudder, turns her chair to the table, as if the work
waiting for her there were a support to her. Praed sits opposite to her.
Frank places a chair near Vivie, and drops lazily and carelessly into
it, talking at her over his shoulder.]

FRANK. No use, Praddy. Viv is a little Philistine. She is indifferent to
_my_ romance, and insensible to _my_ beauty.

VIVIE. Mr Praed: once for all, there is no beauty and no romance in life
for me. Life is what it is; and I am prepared to take it as it is.

PRAED [enthusiastically] You will not say that if you come with me to
Verona and on to Venice. You will cry with delight at living in such a
beautiful world.

FRANK. This is most eloquent, Praddy. Keep it up.

PRAED. Oh, I assure you _I_ have cried--I shall cry again, I hope--at
fifty! At your age, Miss Warren, you would not need to go so far as
Verona. Your spirits would absolutely fly up at the mere sight of
Ostend. You would be charmed with the gaiety, the vivacity, the happy
air of Brussels.

VIVIE [springing up with an exclamation of loathing] Agh!

PRAED [rising] Whats the matter?

FRANK [rising] Hallo, Viv!

VIVIE [to Praed, with deep reproach] Can you find no better example of
your beauty and romance than Brussels to talk to me about?

PRAED [puzzled] Of course it's very different from Verona. I don't
suggest for a moment that--

VIVIE [bitterly] Probably the beauty and romance come to much the same
in both places.

PRAED [completely sobered and much concerned] My dear Miss Warren:
I--[looking enquiringly at Frank] Is anything the matter?

FRANK. She thinks your enthusiasm frivolous, Praddy. She's had ever such
a serious call.

VIVIE [sharply] Hold your tongue, Frank. Don't be silly.

FRANK [sitting down] Do you call this good manners, Praed?

PRAED [anxious and considerate] Shall I take him away, Miss Warren? I
feel sure we have disturbed you at your work.

VIVIE. Sit down: I'm not ready to go back to work yet. [Praed sits]. You
both think I have an attack of nerves. Not a bit of it. But there are
two subjects I want dropped, if you don't mind.

One of them [to Frank] is love's young dream in any shape or form: the
other [to Praed] is the romance and beauty of life, especially Ostend
and the gaiety of Brussels. You are welcome to any illusions you may
have left on these subjects: I have none. If we three are to remain
friends, I must be treated as a woman of business, permanently single
[to Frank] and permanently unromantic [to Praed].

FRANK. I also shall remain permanently single until you change your
mind. Praddy: change the subject. Be eloquent about something else.

PRAED [diffidently] I'm afraid theres nothing else in the world that I
_can_ talk about. The Gospel of Art is the only one I can preach. I know
Miss Warren is a great devotee of the Gospel of Getting On; but we
can't discuss that without hurting your feelings, Frank, since you are
determined not to get on.

FRANK. Oh, don't mind my feelings. Give me some improving advice by
all means: it does me ever so much good. Have another try to make a
successful man of me, Viv. Come: lets have it all: energy, thrift,
foresight, self-respect, character. Don't you hate people who have no
character, Viv?

VIVIE [wincing] Oh, stop, stop. Let us have no more of that horrible
cant. Mr Praed: if there are really only those two gospels in the world,
we had better all kill ourselves; for the same taint is in both, through
and through.

FRANK [looking critically at her] There is a touch of poetry about you
today, Viv, which has hitherto been lacking.

PRAED [remonstrating] My dear Frank: aren't you a little unsympathetic?

VIVIE [merciless to herself] No: it's good for me. It keeps me from
being sentimental.

FRANK [bantering her] Checks your strong natural propensity that way,
don't it?

VIVIE [almost hysterically] Oh yes: go on: don't spare me. I was
sentimental for one moment in my life--beautifully sentimental--by
moonlight; and now--

FRANK [quickly] I say, Viv: take care. Don't give yourself away.

VIVIE. Oh, do you think Mr Praed does not know all about my mother?
[Turning on Praed] You had better have told me that morning, Mr Praed.
You are very old fashioned in your delicacies, after all.

PRAED. Surely it is you who are a little old fashioned in your
prejudices, Miss Warren. I feel bound to tell you, speaking as an
artist, and believing that the most intimate human relationships are
far beyond and above the scope of the law, that though I know that your
mother is an unmarried woman, I do not respect her the less on that
account. I respect her more.

FRANK [airily] Hear! hear!

VIVIE [staring at him] Is that _all_ you know?

PRAED. Certainly that is all.

VIVIE. Then you neither of you know anything. Your guesses are innocence
itself compared with the truth.

PRAED [rising, startled and indignant, and preserving his politeness
with an effort] I hope not. [More emphatically] I hope not, Miss Warren.

FRANK [whistles] Whew!

VIVIE. You are not making it easy for me to tell you, Mr Praed.

PRAED [his chivalry drooping before their conviction] If there is
anything worse--that is, anything else--are you sure you are right to
tell us, Miss Warren?

VIVIE. I am sure that if I had the courage I should spend the rest of my
life in telling everybody--stamping and branding it into them until they
all felt their part in its abomination as I feel mine. There is nothing
I despise more than the wicked convention that protects these things
by forbidding a woman to mention them. And yet I can't tell you. The two
infamous words that describe what my mother is are ringing in my ears
and struggling on my tongue; but I can't utter them: the shame of them
is too horrible for me. [She buries her face in her hands. The two men,
astonished, stare at one another and then at her. She raises her head
again desperately and snatches a sheet of paper and a pen]. Here: let me
draft you a prospectus.

FRANK. Oh, she's mad. Do you hear, Viv? mad. Come! pull yourself
together.

VIVIE. You shall see. [She writes]. "Paid up capital: not less than
forty thousand pounds standing in the name of Sir George Crofts,
Baronet, the chief shareholder. Premises at Brussels, Ostend, Vienna,
and Budapest. Managing director: Mrs Warren"; and now don't let us forget
h e r qualifications: the two words. [She writes the words and pushes
the paper to them]. There! Oh no: don't read it: don't! [She snatches it
back and tears it to pieces; then seizes her head in her hands and hides
her face on the table].

[Frank, who has watched the writing over her shoulder, and opened his
eyes very widely at it, takes a card from his pocket; scribbles the
two words on it; and silently hands it to Praed, who reads it with
amazement, and hides it hastily in his pocket.]

FRANK [whispering tenderly] Viv, dear: thats all right. I read what you
wrote: so did Praddy. We understand. And we remain, as this leaves us at
present, yours ever so devotedly.

PRAED. We do indeed, Miss Warren. I declare you are the most splendidly
courageous woman I ever met.

[This sentimental compliment braces Vivie. She throws it away from her
with an impatient shake, and forces herself to stand up, though not
without some support from the table.]

FRANK. Don't stir, Viv, if you don't want to. Take it easy.

VIVIE. Thank you. You an always depend on me for two things: not to cry
and not to faint. [She moves a few steps towards the door of the inner
room, and stops close to Praed to say] I shall need much more courage
than that when I tell my mother that we have come to a parting of the
ways. Now I must go into the next room for a moment to make myself neat
again, if you don't mind.

PRAED. Shall we go away?

VIVIE. No: I'll be back presently. Only for a moment. [She goes into the
other room, Praed opening the door for her].

PRAED. What an amazing revelation! I'm extremely disappointed in Crofts:
I am indeed.

FRANK. I'm not in the least. I feel he's perfectly accounted for at
last. But what a facer for me, Praddy! I can't marry her now.

PRAED [sternly] Frank! [The two look at one another, Frank unruffled,
Praed deeply indignant]. Let me tell you, Gardner, that if you desert
her now you will behave very despicably.

FRANK. Good old Praddy! Ever chivalrous! But you mistake: it's not the
moral aspect of the case: it's the money aspect. I really can't bring
myself to touch the old woman's money now.

PRAED. And was that what you were going to marry on?

FRANK. What else? _I_ havn't any money, nor the smallest turn for making
it. If I married Viv now she would have to support me; and I should cost
her more than I am worth.

PRAED. But surely a clever bright fellow like you can make something by
your own brains.

FRANK. Oh yes, a little. [He takes out his money again]. I made all that
yesterday in an hour and a half. But I made it in a highly speculative
business. No, dear Praddy: even if Bessie and Georgina marry
millionaires and the governor dies after cutting them off with a
shilling, I shall have only four hundred a year. And he won't die until
he's three score and ten: he hasn't originality enough. I shall be on
short allowance for the next twenty years. No short allowance for Viv,
if I can help it. I withdraw gracefully and leave the field to the
gilded youth of England. So that settled. I shan't worry her about it:
I'll just send her a little note after we're gone. She'll understand.

PRAED [grasping his hand] Good fellow, Frank! I heartily beg your
pardon. But must you never see her again?

FRANK. Never see her again! Hang it all, be reasonable. I shall come
along as often as possible, and be her brother. I can _not_ understand
the absurd consequences you romantic people expect from the most
ordinary transactions. [A knock at the door]. I wonder who this is.
Would you mind opening the door? If it's a client it will look more
respectable than if I appeared.

PRAED. Certainly. [He goes to the door and opens it. Frank sits down in
Vivie's chair to scribble a note]. My dear Kitty: come in: come in.

[Mrs Warren comes in, looking apprehensively around for Vivie. She has
done her best to make herself matronly and dignified. The brilliant hat
is replaced by a sober bonnet, and the gay blouse covered by a costly
black silk mantle. She is pitiably anxious and ill at ease: evidently
panic-stricken.]

MRS WARREN [to Frank] What! Y o u r e here, are you?

FRANK [turning in his chair from his writing, but not rising] Here, and
charmed to see you. You come like a breath of spring.

MRS WARREN. Oh, get out with your nonsense. [In a low voice] Where's
Vivie?

[Frank points expressively to the door of the inner room, but says
nothing.]

MRS WARREN [sitting down suddenly and almost beginning to cry] Praddy:
won't she see me, don't you think?

PRAED. My dear Kitty: don't distress yourself. Why should she not?

MRS WARREN. Oh, you never can see why not: youre too innocent. Mr Frank:
did she say anything to you?

FRANK [folding his note] She _must_ see you, if [very expressively] you
wait til she comes in.

MRS WARREN [frightened] Why shouldn't I wait?

[Frank looks quizzically at her; puts his note carefully on the
ink-bottle, so that Vivie cannot fail to find it when next she dips her
pen; then rises and devotes his attention entirely to her.]

FRANK. My dear Mrs Warren: suppose you were a sparrow--ever so tiny
and pretty a sparrow hopping in the roadway--and you saw a steam roller
coming in your direction, would you wait for it?

MRS WARREN. Oh, don't bother me with your sparrows. What did she run away
from Haslemere like that for?

FRANK. I'm afraid she'll tell you if you rashly await her return.

MRS WARREN. Do you want me to go away?

FRANK. No: I always want you to stay. But I _advise_ you to go away.

MRS WARREN. What! And never see her again!

FRANK. Precisely.

MRS WARREN [crying again] Praddy: don't let him be cruel to me. [She
hastily checks her tears and wipes her eyes]. She'll be so angry if she
sees I've been crying.

FRANK [with a touch of real compassion in his airy tenderness] You know
that Praddy is the soul of kindness, Mrs Warren. Praddy: what do you
say? Go or stay?

PRAED [to Mrs Warren] I really should be very sorry to cause you
unnecessary pain; but I think perhaps you had better not wait. The fact
is--[Vivie is heard at the inner door].

FRANK. Sh! Too late. She's coming.

MRS WARREN. Don't tell her I was crying. [Vivie comes in. She
stops gravely on seeing Mrs Warren, who greets her with hysterical
cheerfulness]. Well, dearie. So here you are at last.

VIVIE. I am glad you have come: I want to speak to you. You said you
were going, Frank, I think.

FRANK. Yes. Will you come with me, Mrs Warren? What do you say to a
trip to Richmond, and the theatre in the evening? There is safety in
Richmond. No steam roller there.

VIVIE. Nonsense, Frank. My mother will stay here.

MRS WARREN [scared] I don't know: perhaps I'd better go. We're disturbing
you at your work.

VIVIE [with quiet decision] Mr Praed: please take Frank away. Sit down,
mother. [Mrs Warren obeys helplessly].

PRAED. Come, Frank. Goodbye, Miss Vivie.

VIVIE [shaking hands] Goodbye. A pleasant trip.

PRAED. Thank you: thank you. I hope so.

FRANK [to Mrs Warren] Goodbye: youd ever so much better have taken my
advice. [He shakes hands with her. Then airily to Vivie] Byebye, Viv.

VIVIE. Goodbye. [He goes out gaily without shaking hands with her].

PRAED [sadly] Goodbye, Kitty.

MRS WARREN [snivelling]--oobye!

[Praed goes. Vivie, composed and extremely grave, sits down in Honoria's
chair, and waits for her mother to speak. Mrs Warren, dreading a pause,
loses no time in beginning.]

MRS WARREN. Well, Vivie, what did you go away like that for without
saying a word to me! How could you do such a thing! And what have you
done to poor George? I wanted him to come with me; but he shuffled
out of it. I could see that he was quite afraid of you. Only fancy:
he wanted me not to come. As if [trembling] I should be afraid of you,
dearie. [Vivie's gravity deepens]. But of course I told him it was all
settled and comfortable between us, and that we were on the best
of terms. [She breaks down]. Vivie: whats the meaning of this? [She
produces a commercial envelope, and fumbles at the enclosure with
trembling fingers]. I got it from the bank this morning.

VIVIE. It is my month's allowance. They sent it to me as usual the other
day. I simply sent it back to be placed to your credit, and asked them
to send you the lodgment receipt. In future I shall support myself.

MRS WARREN [not daring to understand] Wasn't it enough? Why didn't
you tell me? [With a cunning gleam in her eye] I'll double it: I was
intending to double it. Only let me know how much you want.

VIVIE. You know very well that that has nothing to do with it. From this
time I go my own way in my own business and among my own friends. And
you will go yours. [She rises]. Goodbye.

MRS WARREN [rising, appalled] Goodbye?

VIVIE. Yes: goodbye. Come: don't let us make a useless scene: you
understand perfectly well. Sir George Crofts has told me the whole
business.

MRS WARREN [angrily] Silly old--[She swallows an epithet, and then turns
white at the narrowness of her escape from uttering it].

VIVIE. Just so.

MRS WARREN. He ought to have his tongue cut out. But I thought it was
ended: you said you didn't mind.

VIVIE [steadfastly] Excuse me: I _do_ mind.

MRS WARREN. But I explained--

VIVIE. You explained how it came about. You did not tell me that it is
still going on [She sits].

[Mrs Warren, silenced for a moment, looks forlornly at Vivie, who waits,
secretly hoping that the combat is over. But the cunning expression
comes back into Mrs Warren's face; and she bends across the table, sly
and urgent, half whispering.]

MRS WARREN. Vivie: do you know how rich I am?

VIVIE. I have no doubt you are very rich.

MRS WARREN. But you don't know all that that means; youre too young. It
means a new dress every day; it means theatres and balls every night;
it means having the pick of all the gentlemen in Europe at your feet;
it means a lovely house and plenty of servants; it means the choicest of
eating and drinking; it means everything you like, everything you want,
everything you can think of. And what are you here? A mere drudge,
toiling and moiling early and late for your bare living and two cheap
dresses a year. Think over it. [Soothingly] Youre shocked, I know. I can
enter into your feelings; and I think they do you credit; but trust me,
nobody will blame you: you may take my word for that. I know what young
girls are; and I know youll think better of it when you've turned it over
in your mind.

VIVIE. So that's how it is done, is it? You must have said all that to
many a woman, to have it so pat.

MRS WARREN [passionately] What harm am I asking you to do? [Vivie turns
away contemptuously. Mrs Warren continues desperately] Vivie: listen to
me: you don't understand: you were taught wrong on purpose: you don't know
what the world is really like.

VIVIE [arrested] Taught wrong on purpose! What do you mean?

MRS WARREN. I mean that youre throwing away all your chances for
nothing. You think that people are what they pretend to be: that the way
you were taught at school and college to think right and proper is the
way things really are. But it's not: it's all only a pretence, to keep
the cowardly slavish common run of people quiet. Do you want to find
that out, like other women, at forty, when you've thrown yourself away
and lost your chances; or won't you take it in good time now from your
own mother, that loves you and swears to you that it's truth: gospel
truth? [Urgently] Vivie: the big people, the clever people, the managing
people, all know it. They do as I do, and think what I think. I know
plenty of them. I know them to speak to, to introduce you to, to make
friends of for you. I don't mean anything wrong: thats what you don't
understand: your head is full of ignorant ideas about me. What do the
people that taught you know about life or about people like me? When did
they ever meet me, or speak to me, or let anyone tell them about me? the
fools! Would they ever have done anything for you if I hadn't paid them?
Havn't I told you that I want you to be respectable? Havn't I brought you
up to be respectable? And how can you keep it up without my money and my
influence and Lizzie's friends? Can't you see that youre cutting your own
throat as well as breaking my heart in turning your back on me?

VIVIE. I recognize the Crofts philosophy of life, mother. I heard it all
from him that day at the Gardners'.

MRS WARREN. You think I want to force that played-out old sot on you! I
don't, Vivie: on my oath I don't.

VIVIE. It would not matter if you did: you would not succeed. [Mrs
Warren winces, deeply hurt by the implied indifference towards her
affectionate intention. Vivie, neither understanding this nor concerning
herself about it, goes on calmly] Mother: you don't at all know the sort
of person I am. I don't object to Crofts more than to any other coarsely
built man of his class. To tell you the truth, I rather admire him
for being strongminded enough to enjoy himself in his own way and
make plenty of money instead of living the usual shooting, hunting,
dining-out, tailoring, loafing life of his set merely because all
the rest do it. And I'm perfectly aware that if I'd been in the same
circumstances as my aunt Liz, I'd have done exactly what she did.

I don't think I'm more prejudiced or straitlaced than you: I think
I'm less. I'm certain I'm less sentimental. I know very well that
fashionable morality is all a pretence, and that if I took your money
and devoted the rest of my life to spending it fashionably, I might be
as worthless and vicious as the silliest woman could possibly be without
having a word said to me about it. But I don't want to be worthless. I
shouldn't enjoy trotting about the park to advertize my dressmaker
and carriage builder, or being bored at the opera to shew off a
shopwindowful of diamonds.

MRS WARREN [bewildered] But--

VIVIE. Wait a moment: I've not done. Tell me why you continue your
business now that you are independent of it. Your sister, you told me,
has left all that behind her. Why don't you do the same?

MRS WARREN. Oh, it's all very easy for Liz: she likes good society, and
has the air of being a lady. Imagine _me_ in a cathedral town! Why, the
very rooks in the trees would find me out even if I could stand
the dulness of it. I must have work and excitement, or I should go
melancholy mad. And what else is there for me to do? The life suits me:
I'm fit for it and not for anything else. If I didn't do it somebody else
would; so I don't do any real harm by it. And then it brings in money;
and I like making money. No: it's no use: I can't give it up--not for
anybody. But what need you know about it? I'll never mention it. I'll
keep Crofts away. I'll not trouble you much: you see I have to be
constantly running about from one place to another. Youll be quit of me
altogether when I die.

VIVIE. No: I am my mother's daughter. I am like you: I must have work,
and must make more money than I spend. But my work is not your work, and
my way is not your way. We must part. It will not make much difference
to us: instead of meeting one another for perhaps a few months in twenty
years, we shall never meet: thats all.

MRS WARREN [her voice stifled in tears] Vivie: I meant to have been more
with you: I did indeed.

VIVIE. It's no use, mother: I am not to be changed by a few cheap tears
and entreaties any more than you are, I daresay.

MRS WARREN [wildly] Oh, you call a mother's tears cheap.

VIVIE. They cost you nothing; and you ask me to give you the peace
and quietness of my whole life in exchange for them. What use would my
company be to you if you could get it? What have we two in common that
could make either of us happy together?

MRS WARREN [lapsing recklessly into her dialect] We're mother and
daughter. I want my daughter. I've a right to you. Who is to care for me
when I'm old? Plenty of girls have taken to me like daughters and cried
at leaving me; but I let them all go because I had you to look forward
to. I kept myself lonely for you. You've no right to turn on me now and
refuse to do your duty as a daughter.

VIVIE [jarred and antagonized by the echo of the slums in her mother's
voice] My duty as a daughter! I thought we should come to that
presently. Now once for all, mother, you want a daughter and Frank wants
a wife. I don't want a mother; and I don't want a husband. I have spared
neither Frank nor myself in sending him about his business. Do you think
I will spare you?

MRS WARREN [violently] Oh, I know the sort you are: no mercy for
yourself or anyone else. _I_ know. My experience has done that for me
anyhow: I can tell the pious, canting, hard, selfish woman when I meet
her. Well, keep yourself to yourself: _I_ don't want you. But listen to
this. Do you know what I would do with you if you were a baby again?
aye, as sure as there's a Heaven above us.

VIVIE. Strangle me, perhaps.

MRS WARREN. No: I'd bring you up to be a real daughter to me, and not
what you are now, with your pride and your prejudices and the college
education you stole from me: yes, stole: deny it if you can: what was it
but stealing? I'd bring you up in my own house, I would.

VIVIE [quietly] In one of your own houses.

MRS WARREN [screaming] Listen to her! listen to how she spits on her
mother's grey hairs! Oh, may you live to have your own daughter tear and
trample on you as you have trampled on me. And you will: you will. No
woman ever had luck with a mother's curse on her.

VIVIE. I wish you wouldn't rant, mother. It only hardens me. Come: I
suppose I am the only young woman you ever had in your power that you
did good to. Don't spoil it all now.

MRS WARREN. Yes, Heaven forgive me, it's true; and you are the only
one that ever turned on me. Oh, the injustice of it! the injustice! the
injustice! I always wanted to be a good woman. I tried honest work; and
I was slave-driven until I cursed the day I ever heard of honest work. I
was a good mother; and because I made my daughter a good woman she turns
me out as if I were a leper. Oh, if I only had my life to live over
again! I'd talk to that lying clergyman in the school. From this time
forth, so help me Heaven in my last hour, I'll do wrong and nothing but
wrong. And I'll prosper on it.

VIVIE. Yes: it's better to choose your line and go through with it. If
I had been you, mother, I might have done as you did; but I should not
have lived one life and believed in another. You are a conventional
woman at heart. That is why I am bidding you goodbye now. I am right, am
I not?

MRS WARREN [taken aback] Right to throw away all my money!

VIVIE. No: right to get rid of you? I should be a fool not to. Isn't that
so?

MRS WARREN [sulkily] Oh well, yes, if you come to that, I suppose you
are. But Lord help the world if everybody took to doing the right thing!
And now I'd better go than stay where I'm not wanted. [She turns to the
door].

VIVIE [kindly] Won't you shake hands?

MRS WARREN [after looking at her fiercely for a moment with a savage
impulse to strike her] No, thank you. Goodbye.

VIVIE [matter-of-factly] Goodbye. [Mrs Warren goes out, slamming
the door behind her. The strain on Vivie's face relaxes; her grave
expression breaks up into one of joyous content; her breath goes out
in a half sob, half laugh of intense relief. She goes buoyantly to her
place at the writing table; pushes the electric lamp out of the way;
pulls over a great sheaf of papers; and is in the act of dipping her pen
in the ink when she finds Frank's note. She opens it unconcernedly
and reads it quickly, giving a little laugh at some quaint turn of
expression in it]. And goodbye, Frank. [She tears the note up and tosses
the pieces into the wastepaper basket without a second thought. Then
she goes at her work with a plunge, and soon becomes absorbed in its
figures].





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