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Act II

_The same room lighted more brilliantly an hour later in the
evening. On one side a table covered with packs of cards, pyramids,
etc., at which the_ CONJURER _in evening dress is standing quietly
setting out his tricks. A little more in the foreground the_ DUKE;
_and_ HASTINGS _with a number of papers._

HASTINGS. There are only a few small matters. Here are the programmes of
the entertainment your Grace wanted. Mr. Carleon wishes to see them very
much.

DUKE. Thanks, thanks. [_Takes the programmes._]

HASTINGS. Shall I carry them for your Grace?

DUKE. No, no; I shan't forget, I shan't forget. Why, you've no idea how
businesslike I am. We have to be, you know. [_Vaguely._] I know you're a
bit of a Socialist; but I assure you there's a good deal to do--stake
in the country, and all that. Look at remembering faces now! The King
never forgets faces. [_Waves the programmes about._] I never forget
faces. [_Catches sight of the_ CONJURER _and genially draws him into the
discussion._] Why, the Professor here who performs before the King
[_puts down the programmes_]--you see it on the caravans, you
know--performs before the King almost every night, I suppose....

CONJURER. [_Smiling._] I sometimes let his Majesty have an evening off.
And turn my attention, of course, to the very highest nobility. But
naturally I have performed before every sovereign potentate, white and
black. There never was a conjurer who hadn't.

DUKE. That's right, that's right! And you'll say with me that the great
business for a King is remembering people?

CONJURER. I should say it was remembering which people to remember.

DUKE. Well, well, now.... [_Looks round rather wildly for something._]
Being really businesslike....

HASTINGS. Shall I take the programmes for your Grace?

DUKE. [_Picking them up._] No, no, I shan't forget. Is there anything
else?

HASTINGS. I have to go down the village about the wire to Stratford. The
only other thing at all urgent is the Militant Vegetarians.

DUKE. Ah! The Militant Vegetarians! You've heard of them, I'm sure.
Won't obey the law [_to the_ CONJURER] so long as the Government serves
out meat.

CONJURER. Let them be comforted. There are a good many people who don't
get much meat.

DUKE. Well, well, I'm bound to say they're very enthusiastic. Advanced,
too--oh, certainly advanced. Like Joan of Arc.

[_Short silence, in which the_ CONJURER _stares at him._]

CONJURER. _Was_ Joan of Arc a Vegetarian?

DUKE. Oh, well, it's a very high ideal, after all. The Sacredness of
Life, you know--the Sacredness of Life. [_Shakes his head._] But they
carry it too far. They killed a policeman down in Kent.

CONJURER. Killed a policeman? How Vegetarian! Well, I suppose it was, so
long as they didn't eat him.

HASTINGS. They are asking only for small subscriptions. Indeed, they
prefer to collect a large number of half-crowns, to prove the popularity
of their movement. But I should advise....

DUKE. Oh, give them three shillings, then.

HASTINGS. If I might suggest....

DUKE. Hang it all! We gave the Anti-Vegetarians three shillings. It
seems only fair.

HASTINGS. If I might suggest anything, I think your Grace will be wise
not to subscribe in this case. The Anti-Vegetarians have already used
their funds to form gangs ostensibly to protect their own meetings. And
if the Vegetarians use theirs to break up the meetings--well, it will
look rather funny that we have paid roughs on both sides. It will be
rather difficult to explain when it comes before the magistrate.

DUKE. But I shall be the magistrate. [CONJURER _stares at him again._]
That's the system, my dear Hastings, that's the advantage of the system.
Not a logical system--no Rousseau in it--but see how well it works! I
shall be the very best magistrate that could be on the Bench. The others
would be biassed, you know. Old Sir Lawrence is a Vegetarian himself;
and might be hard on the Anti-Vegetarian roughs. Colonel Crashaw would
be sure to be hard on the Vegetarian roughs. But if I've paid both of
'em, of course I shan't be hard on either of 'em--and there you have it.
Just perfect impartiality.

HASTINGS. [_Restrainedly._] Shall I take the programmes, your Grace?

DUKE. [_Heartily._] No, no; I won't forget 'em. [_Exit_ HASTINGS.] Well,
Professor, what's the news in the conjuring world?

CONJURER. I fear there is never any news in the conjuring world.

DUKE. Don't you have a newspaper or something? Everybody has a newspaper
now, you know. The--er--Daily Sword-Swallower or that sort of thing?

CONJURER. No, I have been a journalist myself; but I think journalism
and conjuring will always be incompatible.

DUKE. Incompatible--Oh, but that's where I differ--that's where I take
larger views! Larger laws, as old Buffle said. Nothing's _incompatible_,
you know--except husband and wife and so on; you must talk to Morris
about that. It's wonderful the way incompatibility has gone forward in
the States.

CONJURER. I only mean that the two trades rest on opposite principles.
The whole point of being a conjurer is that you won't explain a thing
that has happened.

DUKE. Well, and the journalist?

CONJURER. Well, the whole point of being a journalist is that you do
explain a thing that hasn't happened.

DUKE. But you'll want somewhere to discuss the new tricks.

CONJURER. There are no new tricks. And if there were we shouldn't want
'em discussed.

DUKE. I'm afraid you're not _really_ advanced. Are you interested in
modern progress?

CONJURER. Yes. We are interested in all tricks done by illusion.

DUKE. Well, well, I must go and see how Morris is. Pleasure of seeing
you later.

[_Exit_ DUKE, _leaving the programmes._

CONJURER. Why are nice men such asses? [_Turns to arrange the table._]
That seems all right. The pack of cards that is a pack of cards. And the
pack of cards that isn't a pack of cards. The hat that looks like a
gentleman's hat. But which, in reality, is no gentleman's hat. Only my
hat; and I am not a gentleman. I am only a conjurer, and this is only a
conjurer's hat. I could not take off this hat to a lady. I can take
rabbits out of it, goldfish out of it, snakes out of it. Only I mustn't
take my own head out of it. I suppose I'm a lower animal than a rabbit
or a snake. Anyhow they can get out of the conjurer's hat; and I can't.
I am a conjurer and nothing else but a conjurer. Unless I could show I
was something else, and that would be worse.

[_He begins to dash the cards rather irregularly about the table.
Enter_ PATRICIA.

PATRICIA. [_Coldly_] I beg your pardon. I came to get some programmes.
My uncle wants them.

[_She walks swiftly across and takes up the programmes._

CONJURER. [_Still dashing cards about the table._] Miss Carleon, might I
speak to you a moment? [_He puts his hands in his pockets, stares at the
table; and his face assumes a sardonic expression._] The question is
purely practical.

PATRICIA. [_Pausing at the door._] I can hardly imagine what the
question can be.

CONJURER. I am the question.

PATRICIA. And what have I to do with that?

CONJURER. You have everything to do with it. I am the question: you....

PATRICIA. [_Angrily._] Well, what am I?

CONJURER. You are the answer.

PATRICIA. The answer to what?

CONJURER. [_Coming round to the front of the table and sitting against
it._] The answer to me. You think I'm a liar because I walked about the
fields with you and said I could make stones disappear. Well, so I can.
I'm a conjurer. In mere point of fact, it wasn't a lie. But if it had
been a lie I should have told it just the same. I would have told twenty
such lies. You may or may not know why.

PATRICIA. I know nothing about such lies.

[_She puts her hand on the handle of the door, but the_ CONJURER,
_who is sitting on the table and staring at his boots, does not
notice the action, and goes on as in a sincere soliloquy._

CONJURER. I don't know whether you have any notion of what it means to a
man like me to talk to a lady like you, even on false pretences. I am an
adventurer. I am a blackguard, if one can earn the title by being in all
the blackguard societies of the world. I have thought everything out by
myself, when I was a guttersnipe in Fleet Street, or, lower still, a
journalist in Fleet Street. Before I met you I never guessed that rich
people ever thought at all. Well, that is all I have to say. We had some
good conversations, didn't we? I am a liar. But I told you a great deal
of the truth.

[_He turns and resumes the arrangement of the table._

PATRICIA. [_Thinking._] Yes, you did tell me a great deal of the truth.
You told me hundreds and thousands of truths. But you never told me the
truth that one wants to know.

CONJURER. And what is that?

PATRICIA. [_Turning back into the room._] You never told me the truth
about yourself. You never told me you were only the Conjurer.

CONJURER. I did not tell you that because I do not even know it. I do
not know whether I am only the Conjurer....

PATRICIA. What do you mean?

CONJURER. Sometimes I am afraid I am something worse than the Conjurer.

PATRICIA. [_Seriously._] I cannot think of anything worse than a
conjurer who does not call himself a conjurer.

CONJURER. [_Gloomily._] There is something worse. [_Rallying himself._]
But that is not what I want to say. Do you really find that very
unpardonable? Come, let me put you a case. Never mind about whether it
is our case. A man spends his time incessantly in going about in
third-class carriages to fifth-rate lodgings. He has to make up new
tricks, new patter, new nonsense, sometimes every night of his life.
Mostly he has to do it in the beastly black cities of the Midlands and
the North, where he can't get out into the country. Now and again he
does it at some gentleman's country-house, where he can get out into the
country. Well, you know that actors and orators and all sorts of people
like to rehearse their effects in the open air if they can. [_Smiles._]
You know that story of the great statesman who was heard by his own
gardener saying, as he paced the garden, "Had I, Mr. Speaker, received
the smallest intimation that I could be called upon to speak this
evening...." [PATRICIA _controls a smile, and he goes on with
overwhelming enthusiasm._] Well, conjurers are just the same. It takes
some time to prepare an impromptu. A man like that walks about the
woods and fields doing all his tricks beforehand, and talking all sorts
of gibberish because he thinks he is alone. One evening this man found
he was not alone. He found a very beautiful child was watching him.

PATRICIA. A child?

CONJURER. Yes. That was his first impression. He is an intimate friend
of mine. I have known him all my life. He tells me he has since
discovered she is not a child. She does not fulfil the definition.

PATRICIA. What is the definition of a child?

CONJURER. Somebody you can play with.

PATRICIA. [_Abruptly._] Why did you wear that cloak with the hood up?

CONJURER. [_Smiling._] I think it escaped your notice that it was
raining.

PATRICIA. [_Smiling faintly._] And what did this friend of yours do?

CONJURER. You have already told me what he did. He destroyed a fairy
tale, for he created a fairy tale that he was bound to destroy.
[_Swinging round suddenly on the table._] But do you blame a man very
much, Miss Carleon, if he enjoyed the only fairy tale he had had in his
life? Suppose he said the silly circles he was drawing for practice
were really magic circles? Suppose he said the bosh he was talking was
the language of the elves? Remember, he has read fairy tales as much as
you have. Fairy tales are the only democratic institutions. All the
classes have heard all the fairy tales. Do you blame him very much if
he, too, tried to have a holiday in fairyland?

PATRICIA. [_Simply._] I blame him less than I did. But I still say there
can be nothing worse than false magic. And, after all, it was he who
brought the false magic.

CONJURER. [_Rising from his seat._] Yes. It was she who brought the real
magic.

[_Enter_ MORRIS, _in evening-dress. He walks straight up to the
conjuring-table; and picks up one article after another, putting
each down with a comment._

MORRIS. I know that one. I know that. I know that. Let's see, that's the
false bottom, I think. That works with a wire. I know that; it goes up
the sleeve. That's the false bottom again. That's the substituted pack
of cards--that....

PATRICIA. Really, Morris, you mustn't talk as if you knew everything.

CONJURER. Oh, I don't mind anyone knowing everything, Miss Carleon.
There is something that is much more important than knowing how a thing
is done.

MORRIS. And what's that?

CONJURER. Knowing how to do it.

MORRIS. [_Becoming nasal again in anger._] That's so, eh? Being the
high-toned conjurer because you can't any longer take all the sidewalk
as a fairy.

PATRICIA. [_Crossing the room and speaking seriously to her brother._]
Really, Morris, you are very rude. And it's quite ridiculous to be rude.
This gentleman was only practising some tricks by himself in the garden.
[_With a certain dignity._] If there was any mistake, it was mine. Come,
shake hands, or whatever men do when they apologize. Don't be silly. He
won't turn you into a bowl of goldfish.

MORRIS. [_Reluctantly._] Well, I guess that's so. [_Offering his hand._]
Shake. [_They shake hands._] And you won't turn me into a bowl of
goldfish anyhow, Professor. I understand that when you do produce a
bowl of goldfish, they are generally slips of carrot. That is so,
Professor?

CONJURER. [_Sharply._] Yes. [_Produces a bowl of goldfish from his tail
pockets and holds it under the other's nose._] Judge for yourself.

MORRIS. [_In monstrous excitement._] Very good! Very good! But I know
how that's done--I know how that's done. You have an india-rubber cap,
you know, or cover....

CONJURER. Yes.

[_Goes back gloomily to his table and sits on it, picking up a pack
of cards and balancing it in his hand._

MORRIS. Ah, most mysteries are tolerably plain if you know the
apparatus. [_Enter_ DOCTOR _and_ SMITH, _talking with grave faces, but
growing silent as they reach the group._] I guess I wish we had all the
old apparatus of all the old Priests and Prophets since the beginning of
the world. I guess most of the old miracles and that were a matter of
just panel and wires.

CONJURER. I don't quite understand you. What old apparatus do you want
so much?

MORRIS. [_Breaking out with all the frenzy of the young free-thinker._]
Well, sir, I just want that old apparatus that turned rods into snakes.
I want those smart appliances, sir, that brought water out of a rock
when old man Moses chose to hit it. I guess it's a pity we've lost the
machinery. I would like to have those old conjurers here that called
themselves Patriarchs and Prophets in your precious Bible....

PATRICIA. Morris, you mustn't talk like that.

MORRIS. Well, I don't believe in religion....

DOCTOR. [_Aside._] Hush, hush. Nobody but women believe in religion.

PATRICIA. [_Humorously._] I think this is a fitting opportunity to show
you another ancient conjuring trick.

DOCTOR. Which one is that?

PATRICIA. The Vanishing Lady!

[_Exit_ PATRICIA.

SMITH. There is one part of their old apparatus I regret especially
being lost.

MORRIS. [_Still excited._] Yes!

SMITH. The apparatus for writing the Book of Job.

MORRIS. Well, well, they didn't know everything in those old times.

SMITH. No, and in those old times they knew they didn't. [_Dreamily._]
Where shall wisdom be found, and what is the place of understanding?

CONJURER. Somewhere in America, I believe.

SMITH. [_Still dreamily._] Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is
it found in the land of the living. The deep sayeth it is not in me, the
sea sayeth it is not with me. Death and destruction say we have heard
tell of it. God understandeth the way thereof and He knoweth the place
thereof. For He looketh to the ends of the earth and seeth under the
whole Heaven. But to man He hath said: Behold the fear of the Lord that
is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding. [_Turns suddenly to
the_ DOCTOR.] How's that for Agnosticism, Dr. Grimthorpe? What a pity
that apparatus is lost.

MORRIS. Well, you may just smile how you choose, I reckon. But I say the
Conjurer here could be the biggest man in the big blessed centuries if
he could just show us how the Holy old tricks were done. We must say
this for old man Moses, that he was in advance of his time. When he did
the old tricks they were new tricks. He got the pull on the public. He
could do his tricks before grown men, great bearded fighting men who
could win battles and sing Psalms. But this modern conjuring is all
behind the times. That's why they only do it with schoolboys. There
isn't a trick on that table I don't know. The whole trade's as dead as
mutton; and not half so satisfying. Why he [_pointing to the_ CONJURER]
brought out a bowl of goldfish just now--an old trick that anybody could
do.

CONJURER. Oh, I quite agree. The apparatus is perfectly simple. By the
way, let me have a look at those goldfish of yours, will you?

MORRIS. [_Angrily._] I'm not a paid play-actor come here to conjure. I'm
not here to do stale tricks; I'm here to see through 'em. I say it's an
old trick and....

CONJURER. True. But as you said, we never show it except to schoolboys.

MORRIS. And may I ask you, Professor Hocus Pocus, or whatever your name
is, whom you are calling a schoolboy?

CONJURER. I beg your pardon. Your sister will tell you I am sometimes
mistaken about children.

MORRIS. I forbid you to appeal to my sister.

CONJURER. That is exactly what a schoolboy would do.

MORRIS. [_With abrupt and dangerous calm._] I am not a schoolboy,
Professor. I am a quiet business man. But I tell you in the country I
come from, the hand of a quiet business man goes to his hip pocket at an
insult like that.

CONJURER. [_Fiercely._] Let it go to his pocket! I thought the hand of a
quiet business man more often went to someone else's pocket.

MORRIS. You....

[_Puts his hand to his hip. The_ DOCTOR _puts his hand on his
shoulder._

DOCTOR. Gentlemen, I think you are both forgetting yourselves.

CONJURER. Perhaps. [_His tone sinks suddenly to weariness._] I ask
pardon for what I said. It was certainly in excess of the young
gentleman's deserts. [_Sighs._] I sometimes rather wish I could forget
myself.

MORRIS. [_Sullenly, after a pause._] Well, the entertainment's coming
on; and you English don't like a scene. I reckon I'll have to bury the
blamed old hatchet too.

DOCTOR. [_With a certain dignity, his social type shining through his
profession._] Mr. Carleon, you will forgive an old man, who knew your
father well, if he doubts whether you are doing yourself justice in
treating yourself as an American Indian, merely because you have lived
in America. In my old friend Huxley's time we of the middle classes
disbelieved in reason and all sorts of things. But we did believe in
good manners. It is a pity if the aristocracy can't. I don't like to
hear you say you are a savage and have buried a tomahawk. I would rather
hear you say, as your Irish ancestors would have said, that you have
sheathed your sword with the dignity proper to a gentleman.

MORRIS. Very well. I've sheathed my sword with the dignity proper to a
gentleman.

CONJURER. And I have sheathed my sword with the dignity proper to a
conjurer.

MORRIS. How does the Conjurer sheath a sword?

CONJURER. Swallows it.

DOCTOR. Then we all agree there shall be no quarrel.

SMITH. May I say a word? I have a great dislike of a quarrel, for a
reason quite beyond my duty to my cloth.

MORRIS. And what is that?

SMITH. I object to a quarrel because it always interrupts an argument.
May I bring you back for a moment to the argument? You were saying that
these modern conjuring tricks are simply the old miracles when they have
once been found out. But surely another view is possible. When we speak
of things being sham, we generally mean that they are imitations of
things that are genuine. Take that Reynolds over there of the Duke's
great-grandfather. [_Points to a picture on the wall._] If I were to say
it was a copy....


MORRIS. Wal, the Duke's real amiable; but I reckon you'd find what you
call the interruption of an argument.

SMITH. Well, suppose I did say so, you wouldn't take it as meaning that
Sir Joshua Reynolds never lived. Why should sham miracles prove to us
that real Saints and Prophets never lived. There may be sham magic and
real magic also.

[_The_ CONJURER _raises his head and listens with a strange air of
intentness._

SMITH. There may be turnip ghosts precisely because there are real
ghosts. There may be theatrical fairies precisely because there are real
fairies. You do not abolish the Bank of England by pointing to a forged
bank-note.

MORRIS. I hope the Professor enjoys being called a forged bank-note.

CONJURER. Almost as much as being called the Prospectus of some American
Companies.

DOCTOR. Gentlemen! Gentlemen!

CONJURER. I am sorry.

MORRIS. Wal, let's have the argument first, then I guess we can have the
quarrel afterwards. I'll clean this house of some encumbrances. See
here, Mr. Smith, I'm not putting anything on your real miracle notion. I
say, and Science says, that there's a cause for everything. Science will
find out that cause, and sooner or later your old miracle will look
mighty mean. Sooner or later Science will botanise a bit on your turnip
ghosts; and make you look turnips yourselves for having taken any. I
say....

DOCTOR. [_In a low voice to_ SMITH.] I don't like this peaceful argument
of yours. The boy is getting much too excited.

MORRIS. You say old man Reynolds lived; and Science don't say no. [_He
turns excitedly to the picture._] But I guess he's dead now; and you'll
no more raise your Saints and Prophets from the dead than you'll raise
the Duke's great-grandfather to dance on that wall.

[_The picture begins to sway slightly to and fro on the wall._

DOCTOR. Why, the picture is moving!

MORRIS. [_Turning furiously on the_ CONJURER.] You were in the room
before us. Do you reckon that will take us in? You can do all that with
wires.

CONJURER. [_Motionless and without looking up from the table._] Yes, I
could do all that with wires.

MORRIS. And you reckoned I shouldn't know. [_Laughs with a high crowing
laugh._] That's how the derned dirty Spiritualists do all their tricks.
They say they can make the furniture move of itself. If it does move
they move it; and we mean to know how.

[_A chair falls over with a slight crash._

[MORRIS _almost staggers and momentarily fights for breath and
words._

MORRIS. You ... why ... that ... every one knows that ... a sliding
plank. It can be done with a sliding plank.

CONJURER. [_Without looking up._] Yes. It can be done with a sliding
plank.

[_The_ DOCTOR _draws nearer to_ MORRIS, _who faces about,
addressing him passionately._

MORRIS. You were right on the spot, Doc, when you talked about that red
lamp of yours. That red lamp is the light of science that will put out
all the lanterns of your turnip ghosts. It's a consuming fire, Doctor,
but it is the red light of the morning. [_Points at it in exalted
enthusiasm._] Your priests can no more stop that light from shining or
change its colour and its radiance than Joshua could stop the sun and
moon. [_Laughs savagely._] Why, a real fairy in an elfin cloak strayed
too near the lamp an hour or two ago; and it turned him into a common
society clown with a white tie.

[_The lamp at the end of the garden turns blue. They all look at it
in silence._

MORRIS. [_Splitting the silence on a high unnatural note._] Wait a bit!
Wait a bit! I've got you! I'll have you!... [_He strides wildly up and
down the room, biting his finger._] You put a wire ... no, that can't be
it....

DOCTOR. [_Speaking to him soothingly._] Well, well, just at this moment
we need not inquire....

MORRIS. [_Turning on him furiously._] You call yourself a man of
science, and you dare to tell me not to inquire!

SMITH. We only mean that for the moment you might let it alone.

MORRIS. [_Violently._] No, Priest, I will not let it alone. [_Pacing the
room again._] Could it be done with mirrors? [_He clasps his brow._] You
have a mirror.... [_Suddenly, with a shout._] I've got it! I've got it!
Mixture of lights! Why not? If you throw a green light on a red
light....

[_Sudden silence._

SMITH. [_Quietly to the_ DOCTOR.] You don't get blue.

DOCTOR. [_Stepping across to the_ CONJURER.] If you have done this
trick, for God's sake undo it.

[_After a silence, the light turns red again._

MORRIS. [_Dashing suddenly to the glass doors and examining them._] It's
the glass! You've been doing something to the glass!

[_He stops suddenly and there is a long silence._

CONJURER. [_Still without moving._] I don't think you will find anything
wrong with the glass.

MORRIS. [_Bursting open the glass doors with a crash._] Then I'll find
out what's wrong with the lamp.

[_Disappears into the garden._

DOCTOR. It is still a wet night, I am afraid.

SMITH. Yes. And somebody else will be wandering about the garden now.

[_Through the broken glass doors_ MORRIS _can be seen marching
backwards and forwards with swifter and swifter steps._

SMITH. I suppose in this case the Celtic twilight will not get on the
chest.

DOCTOR. Oh, if it were only the chest!

_Enter_ PATRICIA.

PATRICIA. Where is my brother?

[_There is an embarrassed silence, in which the_ CONJURER
_answers._

CONJURER. I am afraid he is walking about in Fairyland.

PATRICIA. But he mustn't go out on a night like this; it's very
dangerous!

CONJURER. Yes, it is very dangerous. He might meet a fairy.

PATRICIA. What do you mean?

CONJURER. You went out in this sort of weather and you met this sort of
fairy, and so far it has only brought you sorrow.

PATRICIA. I am going out to find my brother.

[_She goes out into the garden through the open doors._

SMITH. [_After a silence, very suddenly._] What is that noise? She is
not singing those songs to him, is she?

CONJURER. No. He does not understand the language of the elves.

SMITH. But what are all those cries and gasps I hear?

CONJURER. The normal noises, I believe, of a quiet business man.

DOCTOR. Sir, I can understand your being bitter, for I admit you have
been uncivilly received; but to speak like that just now....

[PATRICIA _reappears at the garden doors, very pale._

PATRICIA. Can I speak to the Doctor?

DOCTOR. My dear lady, certainly. Shall I fetch the Duke?

PATRICIA. I would prefer the Doctor.

SMITH. Can I be of any use?

PATRICIA. I only want the Doctor.

[_She goes out again, followed by_ DR. GRIMTHORPE. _The others look
at each other._

SMITH. [_Quietly._] That last was a wonderful trick of yours.

CONJURER. Thank you. I suppose you mean it was the only one you didn't
see through.

SMITH. Something of the kind, I confess. Your last trick was the best
trick I have ever seen. It is so good that I wish you had not done it.

CONJURER. And so do I.

SMITH. How do you mean? Do you wish you had never been a conjurer?

CONJURER. I wish I had never been born.

[_Exit_ CONJURER.

[_A silence. The_ DOCTOR _enters, very grave._

DOCTOR. It is all right so far. We have brought him back.

SMITH. [_Drawing near to him._] You told me there was mental trouble
with the girl.

DOCTOR. [_Looking at him steadily._] No. I told you there was mental
trouble in the family.

SMITH. [_After a silence._] Where is Mr. Morris Carleon?

DOCTOR. I have got him into bed in the next room. His sister is looking
after him.

SMITH. His sister! Oh, then do you believe in fairies?

DOCTOR. Believe in fairies? What do you mean?

SMITH. At least you put the person who does believe in them in charge of
the person who doesn't.

DOCTOR. Well, I suppose I do.

SMITH. You don't think she'll keep him awake all night with fairy tales?

DOCTOR. Certainly not.

SMITH. You don't think she'll throw the medicine-bottle out of window
and administer--er--a dewdrop, or anything of that sort? Or a
four-leaved clover, say?

DOCTOR. No; of course not.

SMITH. I only ask because you scientific men are a little hard on us
clergymen. You don't believe in a priesthood; but you'll admit I'm more
really a priest than this Conjurer is really a magician. You've been
talking a lot about the Bible and the Higher Criticism. But even by the
Higher Criticism the Bible is older than the language of the
elves--which was, as far as I can make out, invented this afternoon. But
Miss Carleon believed in the wizard. Miss Carleon believed in the
language of the elves. And you put her in charge of an invalid without
a flicker of doubt: because you trust women.

DOCTOR. [_Very seriously._] Yes, I trust women.

SMITH. You trust a woman with the practical issues of life and death,
through sleepless hours when a shaking hand or an extra grain would
kill.

DOCTOR. Yes.

SMITH. But if the woman gets up to go to early service at my church, you
call her weak-minded and say that nobody but women can believe in
religion.

DOCTOR. I should never call this woman weak-minded--no, by God, not even
if she went to church.

SMITH. Yet there are many as strong-minded who believe passionately in
going to church.

DOCTOR. Weren't there as many who believed passionately in Apollo?

SMITH. And what harm came of believing in Apollo? And what a mass of
harm may have come of not believing in Apollo? Does it never strike you
that doubt can be a madness, as well be faith? That asking questions may
be a disease, as well as proclaiming doctrines? You talk of religious
mania! Is there no such thing as irreligious mania? Is there no such
thing in the house at this moment?

DOCTOR. Then you think no one should question at all.

SMITH. [_With passion, pointing to the next room._] I think _that_ is
what comes of questioning! Why can't you leave the universe alone and
let it mean what it likes? Why shouldn't the thunder be Jupiter? More
men have made themselves silly by wondering what the devil it was if it
wasn't Jupiter.

DOCTOR. [_Looking at him._] Do you believe in your own religion?

SMITH. [_Returning the look equally steadily._] Suppose I don't: I
should still be a fool to question it. The child who doubts about Santa
Claus has insomnia. The child who believes has a good night's rest.

DOCTOR. You are a Pragmatist.

_Enter_ DUKE, _absent-mindedly._

SMITH. That is what the lawyers call vulgar abuse. But I do appeal to
practise. Here is a family over which you tell me a mental calamity
hovers. Here is the boy who questions everything and a girl who can
believe anything. Upon which has the curse fallen?

DUKE. Talking about the Pragmatists. I'm glad to hear.... Ah, very
forward movement! I suppose Roosevelt now.... [_Silence._] Well, we move
you know, we move! First there was the Missing Link. [_Silence._] No!
_First_ there was Protoplasm--and _then_ there was the Missing Link; and
Magna Carta and so on. [_Silence._] Why, look at the Insurance Act!

DOCTOR. I would rather not.

DUKE. [_Wagging a playful finger at him._] Ah, prejudice, prejudice! You
doctors, you know! Well, I never had any myself.

[_Silence._

DOCTOR. [_Breaking the silence in unusual exasperation._] Any what?

DUKE. [_Firmly._] Never had any Marconis myself. Wouldn't touch 'em.
[_Silence._] Well, I must speak to Hastings.

[_Exit_ DUKE, _aimlessly._

DOCTOR. [_Exploding._] Well, of all the.... [_Turns to_ SMITH.] You
asked me just now which member of the family had inherited the family
madness.

SMITH. Yes; I did.

DOCTOR. [_In a low, emphatic voice._] On my living soul, I believe it
must be the Duke.


CURTAIN

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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