[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
[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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
FRANK [looking round disparagingly] Do you intend to stick in this
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
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.
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.
FRANK. Have you ever had a brother?
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
VIVIE. No: it was not that. I didn't believe him. I only wish I could.
VIVIE. I think brother and sister would be a very suitable relation for
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
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
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
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
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
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
FRANK [bantering her] Checks your strong natural propensity that way,
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
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
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
[Frank points expressively to the door of the inner room, but says
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!
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
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
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
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
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