Sitting-room in Paramore's apartments in Savile Row. The darkly respectable furniture is, so to speak, en suite with Paramore's frock coat and cuffs. Viewing the room from the front windows, the door is seen in the opposite wall near the left hand corner. Another door, a light, noiseless partition one covered with a green baize, is in the right hand wall toward the back, leading to Paramore's consulting room. The fireplace is on the left. At the nearest corner of it a couch is placed at right angles to the wall, settlewise. On the right the wall is occupied by a bookcase, further forward than the green baize door. Beyond the door is a cabinet of anatomical preparations, with a framed photograph of Rembrandt's School of Anatomy hanging on the wall above it. In front, a little to the right, a tea-table.
Paramore is seated in a round-backed chair, on castors, pouring out tea. Julia sits opposite him, with her back to the fire. He is in high spirits: she very downcast.
PARAMORE (handing her the cup he has just filled)
There! Making tea is one of the few things I consider myself able to do thoroughly well. Cake?
No, thank you. I don't like sweet things. (She sets down the cup untasted.)
Anything wrong with the tea?
No, it's very nice.
I'm afraid I'm a very bad entertainer. The fact is, I'm too professional. I only shine in consultation. I almost wish you had something the matter with you; so that you might call out my knowledge and sympathy. As it is, I can only admire you, and feel how pleasant it is to have you here.
And pet me, and say pretty things to me! I wonder you don't offer me a saucer of milk at once?
Because you seem to regard me very much as if I were a Persian cat.
PARAMORE (in strong remonstrance)
JULIA (cutting him short)
Oh, you needn't protest. I'm used to it: It's the only sort of attachment I seem always to inspire. (Ironically) You can't think how flattering it is!
My dear Miss Craven, what a cynical thing to say! You! who are loved at first sight by the people in the street as you pass. Why, in the club I can tell by the faces of the men whether you have been lately in the room or not.
JULIA (shrinking fiercely)
Oh, I hate that look in their faces. Do you know that I have never had one human being care for me since I was born?
That's not true, Miss Craven. Even if it were true of your father, and of Charteris, who loves you madly in spite of your dislike for him, it is not true of me.
Who told you that about Charteris?
Why, he himself.
JULIA (with deep, poignant conviction)
He cares for only one person in the world; and that is himself. There is not in his whole nature one unselfish spot. He would not spend one hour of his real life with-- (a sob chokes her: she rises passionately, crying) You are all alike, every one of you. Even my father only makes a pet of me. (She goes away to the fireplace and stands with her back to him.)
PARAMORE (following her humbly)
I don't deserve this from you: indeed I do not.
JULIA (rating him)
Then why do you talk about me with Charteris, behind my back?
We said nothing disparaging of you. Nobody shall ever do that in my presence. We spoke of the subject nearest our hearts.
His heart! Oh, God, his heart! (She sits down on the couch and hides her face.)
I am afraid you love him, for all that, Miss Craven.
JULIA (raising her head instantly)
If he says that, he lies. If ever you hear it said that I cared for him, contradict it: it is false.
PARAMORE (quickly advancing to her)
Miss Craven: is the way clear for me then?
JULIA (pettishly--losing interest in the conversation and looking crossly into the fire)
What do you mean?
You must see what I mean. Contradict the rumour of your attachment to Charteris, not by words--it has gone too far for that--but by becoming my wife. (Earnestly.) Believe me: it is not merely your beauty that attracts me: (Julia, interested, looks up at him quickly) I know other beautiful women. It is your heart, your sincerity, your sterling reality, (Julia rises and gazes at him, breathless with a new hope) your great gifts of character that are only half developed because you have never been understood by those about you.
JULIA (looking intently at him, and yet beginning to be derisively sceptical in spite of herself)
Have you really seen all that in me?
I have felt it. I have been alone in the world; and I need you, Julia. That is how I have divined that you, also, are alone in the world.
JULIA (with theatrical pathos)
You are right there. I am indeed alone in the world.
PARAMORE (timidly approaching her)
With you I should not be alone. And you?--with me?
You! (She gets quickly out of his reach, taking refuge at the tea-table.) No, no. I can't bring myself-- (She breaks off, perplexed, and looks uneasily about her.) Oh, I don't know what to do. You will expect too much from me. (She sits down.)
I have more faith in you than you have in yourself. Your nature is richer than you think.
Do you really believe that I am not the shallow, jealous, devilish tempered creature they all pretend I am?
I am ready to place my happiness in your hands. Does that prove what I think of you?
Yes: I believe you really care for me. (He approaches her eagerly: she has a violent revulsion, and rises with her hand raised as if to beat him off, crying) No, no, no, no. I cannot. It's impossible. (She goes towards the door.)
PARAMORE (looking wistfully after her)
Is it Charteris?
JULIA (stopping and turning)
Ah, you think that! (She comes back.) Listen to me. If I say yes, will you promise not to touch me--to give me time to accustom myself to the idea of our new relations?
I promise most faithfully. I would not press you for the world.
Then--then--yes: I promise. (He is about to utter his rapture; she will not have it.) Now, not another word of it. Let us forget it. (She resumes her seat at the table.) Give me some more tea. (He hastens to his former seat. As he passes, she puts her left hand on his arm and says) Be good to me, Percy, I need it sorely.
You have called me Percy! Hurrah! (Charteris and Craven come in. Paramore hastens to meet them, beaming.) Delighted to see you here with me, Colonel Craven. And you, too, Charteris. Sit down. (The Colonel sits down on the end of the couch.) Where are the others?
Sylvia has dragged Cuthbertson off into the Burlington Arcade to buy some caramels. He likes to encourage her in eating caramels: he thinks it's a womanly taste. Besides, he likes them himself. They'll be here presently. (He strolls across to the cabinet and pretends to study the Rembrandt photograph, so as to be as far out of Julia's reach as possible.)
Yes; and Charteris has been trying to persuade me that there's a short cut between Cork Street and Savile Row somewhere in Conduit Street. Now did you ever hear such nonsense? Then he said my coat was getting shabby, and wanted me to go into Poole's and order a new one. Paramore: is my coat shabby?
Not that I can see.
I should think not. Then he wanted to draw me into a dispute about the Egyptian war. We should have been here quarter of an hour ago only for his nonsense.
CHARTERIS (still contemplating Rembrandt)
I did my best to keep him from disturbing you, Paramore.
You have come in the nick of time. Colonel Craven: I have something very particular to say to you.
CRAVEN (springing up in alarm)
In private, Paramore: now really it must be in private.
Of course. I was about to suggest my consulting room: there's nobody there. Miss Craven: will you excuse me: Charteris will entertain you until I return. (He leads the way to the green baize door.)
Oh, I say, hadn't you better wait until the others come?
No need for further delay now, my best friend. (He wrings Charteris's hand.) Will you come, Colonel?
At your service, Paramore: at your service. (Craven and Paramore go into the consulting room. Julia turns her head and stares insolently at Charteris. His nerves play him false: he is completely out of countenance in a moment. She rises suddenly. He starts, and comes hastily forward between the table and the bookcase. She crosses to that side behind the table; and he immediately crosses to the opposite side in front of it, dodging her.)
Don't, Julia. Now don't abuse your advantage. You've got me here at your mercy. Be good for once; and don't make a scene.
Do you suppose I am going to touch you?
No. Of course not. (She comes forward on her side of the table. He retreats on his side of it. She looks at him with utter scorn; sweeps across to the couch; and sits down imperially. With a great sigh of relief he drops into Paramore's chair.)
Come here. I have something to say to you.
Yes? (He rolls the chair a few inches towards her.)
Come here, I say. I am not going to shout across the room at you. Are you afraid of me?
Horribly. (He moves the chair slowly, with great misgiving, to the end of the couch.)
JULIA (with studied insolence)
Has that woman told you that she has given you up to me without an attempt to defend her conquest?
CHARTERIS (whispering persuasively)
Shew that you are capable of the same sacrifice. Give me up, too.
Sacrifice! And so you think I'm dying to marry you, do you?
I am afraid your intentions have been honourable, Julia.
CHARTERIS (with a sigh)
I confess I am something either more or less than a gentleman, Julia. You once gave me the benefit of the doubt.
Indeed! _I_ never told you so. If you cannot behave like a gentleman, you had better go back to the society of the woman who has given you up--if such a cold-blooded, cowardly creature can be called a woman. (She rises majestically; he makes his chair fly back to the table.) I know you now, Leonard Charteris, through and through, in all your falseness, your petty spite, your cruelty and your vanity. The place you coveted has been won by a man more worthy of it.
CHARTERIS (springing up, and coming close to her, gasping with eagerness)
What do you mean? Out with it. Have you accep--
I am engaged to Dr. Paramore.
My own Julia! (He attempts to embrace her.)
JULIA (recoiling--he catching her hands and holding them)
How dare you! Are you mad? Do you wish me to call Dr. Paramore?
Call everybody, my darling--everybody in London. Now I shall no longer have to be brutal--to defend myself--to go in fear of you. How I have looked forward to this day! You know now that I don't want you to marry me or to love me: Paramore can have all that. I only want to look on and rejoice disinterestedly in the happiness of (kissing her hand) my dear Julia (kissing the other), my beautiful Julia. (She tears her hands away and raises them as if to strike him, as she did the night before at Cuthbertson's.) No use to threaten me now: I am not afraid of those hands--the loveliest hands in the world.
How have you the face to turn round like this after insulting and torturing me!
Never mind, dearest: you never did understand me; and you never will. Our vivisecting friend has made a successful experiment at last.
It is you who are the vivisector--a far crueller, more wanton vivisector than he.
Yes; but then I learn so much more from my experiments than he does! And the victims learn as much as I do. That's where my moral superiority comes in.
JULIA (sitting down again on the couch with rueful humour)
Well, you shall not experiment on me any more. Go to your Grace if you want a victim. She'll be a tough one.
CHARTERIS (reproachfully sitting down beside her)
And you drove me to propose to her to escape from you! Suppose she had accepted me, where should I be now?
Where _I_ am, I suppose, now that I have accepted Paramore.
But I should have made Grace unhappy. (Julia sneers). However, now I come to think of it, you'll make Paramore unhappy. And yet if you refused him he would be in despair. Poor devil!
JULIA (her temper flashing up for a moment again)
He is a better man than you.
I grant you that, my dear.
Don't call me your dear. And what do you mean by saying that I shall make him unhappy? Am I not good enough for him?
Well, that depends on what you mean by good enough.
You might have made me good if you had chosen to. You had a great power over me. I was like a child in your hands; and you knew it.
CHARTERIS (with comic acquiescence)
Yes, my dear. That means that whenever you got jealous and flew into a violent rage, I could always depend on it's ending happily if I only waited long enough, and petted you very hard all the time. When you had had your fling, and called the object of your jealousy every name you could lay your tongue to, and abused me to your heart's content for a couple of hours, then the reaction would come; and you would at last subside into a soothing rapture of affection which gave you a sensation of being angelically good and forgiving. Oh, I know that sort of goodness! You may have thought on these occasions that I was bringing out your latent amiability; but I thought you were bringing out mine, and using up rather more than your fair share of it.
According to you, then, I have no good in me! I am an utterly vile, worthless woman. Is that it?
Yes, if you are to be judged as you judge others. From the conventional point of view, there's nothing to be said for you, Julia--nothing. That's why I have to find some other point of view to save my self-respect when I remember how I have loved you. Oh, what I have learnt from you!--from you, who could learn nothing from me! I made a fool of you; and you brought me wisdom: I broke your heart; and you brought me joy: I made you curse your womanhood; and you revealed my manhood to me. Blessings forever and ever on my Julia's name! (With genuine emotion, he takes her hand to kiss it again.)
JULIA (snatching her hand away in disgust)
Oh, stop talking that nasty sneering stuff.
CHARTERIS (laughingly appealing to the heavens)
She calls it nasty sneering stuff! Well, well: I'll never talk like that to you again, dearest. It only means that you are a beautiful woman, and that we all love you.
Don't say that: I hate it. It sounds as if I were a mere animal.
Hm! A fine animal is a very wonderful thing. Don't let us disparage animals, Julia.
That is what you really think me.
Come, Julia: you don't expect me to admire you for your moral qualities, do you? (She turns and looks hard at him. He starts up apprehensively and backs away from her. She rises and follows him up slowly and intently.)
I have seen you very much infatuated with this depraved creature who has no moral qualities.
Keep off, Julia. Remember your new obligations to Paramore.
JULIA (overtaking him in the middle of the room)
Never mind Paramore: that is my business. (She grasps the lappels of his coat in her hands, and looks fixedly at him.) Oh, if the people you talk so cleverly to could only know you as I know you! Sometimes I wonder at myself for ever caring for you.
CHARTERIS (beaming at her)
You fraud! You humbug! You miserable little plaster saint! (He looks delighted.) Oh! (In a paroxysm half of rage, half of tenderness, she shakes him, growling over him like a tigress over her cub. Paramore and Craven at this moment return from the consulting room, and are thunderstruck at the spectacle.)
CRAVEN (shouting, utterly scandalized)
Julia!! (Julia releases Charteris, but stands her ground disdainfully as they come forward, Craven on her left, Paramore on her right.)
What's the matter?
Nothing, nothing. You'll soon get used to this, Paramore.
Now really, Julia, this is a very extraordinary way to behave. It's not fair to Paramore.
If Dr. Paramore objects he can break off our engagement. (To Paramore) Pray don't hesitate.
PARAMORE (looking doubtfully and anxiously at her)
Do you wish me to break it off?
Nonsense! don't act so hastily. It was my fault. I annoyed Miss Craven--insulted her. Hang it all, don't go and spoil everything like this.
This is most infernally perplexing. I can't believe that you insulted Julia, Charteris. I've no doubt you annoyed her--you'd annoy anybody; upon my soul you would--but insult!--now what do you mean by that?
PARAMORE (very earnestly)
Miss Craven; delicacy and sincerity I ask you to be frank with me. What are the relations between you and Charteris?
Ask him. (She goes to the fireplace, her back on them.)
Certainly: I'll confess. I'm in love with Miss Craven--always have been; and I've persecuted her with my addresses ever since I knew her. It's been no use: she utterly despises me. A moment ago the spectacle of a rival's happiness stung me to make a nasty, sneering speech; and she--well, she just shook me a little, as you saw.
I shall never forget that you helped me to win her, Charteris. (Julia quickly, a spasm of fury in her face.)
Sh! For Heaven's sake don't mention it.
This is a very different story to the one you told Cuthbertson and myself this morning. You'll excuse my saying that it sounds much more like the the truth. Come: you were humbugging us, weren't you?
Ask Julia. (Paramore and Craven turn to Julia. Charteris remains doggedly looking straight before him.)
It's quite true. He has been in love with me; he has persecuted me; and I utterly despise him.
Don't rub it in, Julia: it's not kind. No man is quite himself when he's crossed in love. (To Charteris.) Now listen to me, Charteris. When I was a young fellow, Cuthbertson and I fell in love with the same woman. She preferred Cuthbertson. I was taken aback: I won't deny it. But I knew my duty; and I did it. I gave her up and wished Cuthbertson joy. He told me this morning, when we met after many years, that he has respected and liked me ever since for it. And I believe him and feel the better for it. (Impressively.) Now, Charteris, Paramore and you stand to-day where Cuthbertson and I stood on a certain July evening thirty-five years ago. How are you going to take it?
How is he going to take it, indeed! Really, papa, this is too much. If Mrs. Cuthbertson wouldn't have you, it may have been very noble of you to make a virtue of giving her up, just as you made a virtue of being a teetotaller when Percy cut off your wine. But he shan't be virtuous over me. I have refused him; and if he doesn't like it he can--he can--
I can lump it. Precisely. Craven: you can depend on me. I'll lump it. (He moves off nonchalantly, and leans against the bookcase with his hands in his pockets.)
Julia: you don't treat me respectfully. I don't wish to complain; but that was not a becoming speech.
JULIA (bursting into tears and throwing herself into the large chair)
Is there anyone in the world who has any feeling for me--who does not think me utterly vile? (Craven and Paramore hurry to her in the greatest consternation.)
My pet: I didn't for a moment mean--
Must I stand to be bargained for by two men--passed from one to the other like a slave in the market, and not say a word in my own defence?
But, my love--
Oh, go away, all of you. Leave me. I--oh-- (She gives way to a passion of tears.)
PARAMORE (reproachfully to Craven)
You've wounded her cruelly, Colonel Craven--cruelly.
But I didn't mean to: I said nothing. Charteris: was I harsh?
You forget the revolt of the daughters, Craven. And you certainly wouldn't have gone on like that to any grown up woman who was not your daughter.
Do you mean to say that I am expected to treat my daughter the same as I would any other girl?
I should say certainly, Colonel Craven.
Well, dash me if I will. There!
If you take that tone, I have nothing more to say. (He crosses the room with offended dignity and posts himself with his back to the bookcase beside Charteris.)
JULIA (with a sob)
CRAVEN (turning solicitously to her)
Yes, my love.
JULIA (looking up at him tearfully and kissing his hand)
Don't mind them. You didn't mean it, Daddy, did you?
No, no, my precious. Come: don't cry.
PARAMORE (to Charteris, looking at Julia with delight)
How beautiful she is!
CHARTERIS (throwing up his hands)
Oh, Lord help you, Paramore! (He leaves the bookcase and sits at the end of the couch farthest from the fire. Meanwhile Sylvia arrives.)
SYLVIA (contemplating Julia)
Crying again! Well, you are a womanly one!
Don't worry your sister, Sylvia. You know she can't bear it.
I speak for her good, Dad. All the world can't be expected to know that she's the family baby.
You will get your ears boxed presently, Silly.
Now, now, now, my dear children, really now! Come, Julia: put up your handkerchief before Mrs. Tranfield sees you. She's coming along with Jo.
That woman again!
Another row! Go it, Julia!
Hold your tongue, Sylvia. (He turns commandingly to Julia.) Now look here, Julia.
Hallo! A revolt of the fathers!
Silence, Charteris. (To Julia, unanswerably.) The test of a man or woman's breeding is how they behave in a quarrel. Anybody can behave well when things are going smoothly. Now you said to-day, at that iniquitous club, that you were not a womanly woman. Very well: I don't mind. But if you are not going to behave like a lady when Mrs. Tranfield comes into this room, you've got to behave like a gentleman; or fond as I am of you, I'll cut you dead exactly as I would if you were my son.
CRAVEN (cutting him short)
Don't be a fool, Paramore.
JULIA (tearfully excusing herself)
I'm sure, Daddy--
Stop snivelling. I'm not speaking as your Daddy now: I'm speaking as your commanding officer.
Good old Victoria Cross! (Craven turns sharply on her; and she darts away behind Charteris, and presently seats herself on the couch, so that she and Charteris are shoulder to shoulder, facing opposite ways. Cuthbertson arrives with Grace, who remains near the door whilst her father joins the others.)
Ah, Jo, here you are. Now, Paramore, tell 'em the news.
Mrs. Tranfield--Cuthbertson--allow me to introduce you to my future wife.
CUTHBERTSON (coming forward to shake hands with Paramore)
My heartiest congratulations! (Paramore goes to shake hands with Grace.) Miss Craven: you will accept Grace's congratulations as well as mine, I hope.
She will, Jo. (In a tone of command.) Now, Julia. (Julia slowly rises.)
Now, Grace. (He conducts her to Julia's right; then posts himself on the hearthrug, with his back to the fire, watching them. The Colonel keeps guard on the other side.)
GRACE (speaking in a low voice to Julia alone)
So you have shewn him that you can do without him! Now I take back everything I said. Will you shake hands with me? (Julia gives her hand painfully, with her face averted.) They think this a happy ending, Julia--these men--our lords and masters! (The two stand silent, hand in hand.)
SYLVIA (leaning back across the couch, aside to Charteris)
Has she really chucked you? (He nods assent. She looks at him dubiously, and adds) I expect you chucked her.
And now, Paramore, mind you don't stand any chaff from Charteris about this. He's in the same predicament himself. He's engaged to Grace.
JULIA (dropping Grace's hand, and speaking with breathless anguish, but not violently)
CHARTERIS (rising hastily)
Don't be alarmed. It's all off.
SYLVIA (rising indignantly)
What! You've chucked Grace too! What a shame! (She goes to the other side of the room, fuming.)
CHARTERIS (following her and putting his hand soothingly on her shoulder)
She won't have me, old chap--that is (turning to the others) unless Mrs. Tranfield has changed her mind again.
No: we shall remain very good friends, I hope; but nothing would induce me to marry you. (She goes to chair above the fireplace and sits down with perfect composure.)
Ah! (She sits down with a great sigh of relief.)
SYLVIA (consoling Charteris)
Poor old Leonard!
Yes: this is the doom of the philanderer. I shall have to go on philandering now all my life. No domesticity, no fireside, no little ones, nothing at all in Cuthbertson's line! Nobody will marry me--unless you, Sylvia--eh?
Not if I know it, Charteris.
CHARTERIS (to them all)
CRAVEN (coming between Charteris and Sylvia)
Now you really shouldn't make a jest of these things: upon my life and soul you shouldn't, Charteris.
CUTHBERTSON (on the hearthrug)
The only use he can find for sacred things is to make a jest of them. That's the New Order. Thank Heaven, we belong to the Old Order, Dan!
Cuthbertson: don't be symbolic.
Symbolic! That is an accusation of Ibsenism. What do you mean?
Symbolic of the Old Order. Don't persuade yourself that you represent the Old Order. There never was any Old Order.
There I flatly contradict you and stand up for Jo. I'd no more have behaved as you do when I was a young man than I'd have cheated at cards. _I_ belong to the Old Order.
You're getting old, Craven; and you want to make a merit of it, as usual.
Come, now, Charteris: you're not offended, I hope. (With a conciliatory outburst.) Well, perhaps I shouldn't have said that about cheating at cards. I withdraw it (offering his hand).
CHARTERIS (taking Craven's hand)
No offence, my dear Craven: none in the world. I didn't mean to shew any temper. But (aside, after looking round to see whether the others are listening) only just consider!--the spectacle of a rival's happiness!
CRAVEN (aloud, decisively)
Charteris: now you've got to behave like a man. Your duty's plain before you. (To Cuthbertson.) Am I right, Jo?
You are, Dan.
CRAVEN (to Charteris)
Go straight up and congratulate Julia. And do it like a gentleman, smiling.
Colonel: I will. Not a muscle shall betray the conflict within.
Julia: Charteris has not congratulated you yet. He's coming to do it. (Julia rises and fixes a dangerous look on Charteris.)
SYLVIA (whispering quickly behind Charteris as he is about to advance)
Take care. She's going to hit you. I know her. (Charteris stops and looks cautiously at Julia, measuring the situation. They regard one another steadfastly for a moment. Grace softly rises and gets close to Julia.)
CHARTERIS (whispering over his shoulder to Sylvia)
I'll chance it. (He walks confidently up to Julia.) Julia? (He proffers his hand.)
JULIA (exhausted, allowing herself to take it)
You are right. I am a worthless woman.
CHARTERIS (triumphant, and gaily remonstrating)
Because I am not brave enough to kill you.
GRACE (taking her in her arms as she sinks, almost fainting, away from him)
Oh, no. Never make a hero of a philanderer. (Charteris, amused and untouched, shakes his head laughingly. The rest look at Julia with concern, and even a little awe, feeling for the first time the presence of a keen sorrow.)