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Act III

SCENE I:


MALISE'S sitting-room. An afternoon, three months later. On the table are an open bottle of claret, his hat, and some tea-things. Down in the hearth is a kettle on a lighted spirit-stand. Near the door stands HAYWOOD, a short, round-faced man, with a tobacco-coloured moustache; MALISE, by the table, is contemplating a piece of blue paper.


HAYWOOD. Sorry to press an old customer, sir, but a year and an 'alf without any return on your money----

MALISE. Your tobacco is too good, Mr. Haywood. I wish I could see my way to smoking another.

HAYWOOD. Well, sir--that's a funny remedy.

With a knock on the half-opened door, a Boy appears.

MALISE. Yes. What is it?

BOY. Your copy for "The Watchfire," please, sir.

MALISE. [Motioning him out] Yes. Wait!

The Boy withdraws. MALISE goes up to the pile of books, turns them over, and takes up some volumes.

MALISE. This is a very fine unexpurgated translation of Boccaccio's "Decameron," Mr. Haywood illustrated. I should say you would get more than the amount of your bill for them.

HAYWOOD. [Shaking his head] Them books worth three pound seven!

MALISE. It's scarce, and highly improper. Will you take them in discharge?

HAYWOOD. [Torn between emotions] Well, I 'ardly know what to say-- No, Sir, I don't think I'd like to 'ave to do with that.

MALISE. You could read them first, you know?

HAYWOOD. [Dubiously] I've got my wife at 'ome.

MALISE. You could both read them.

HAYWOOD. [Brought to his bearings] No, Sir, I couldn't.

MALISE. Very well; I'll sell them myself, and you shall have the result.

HAYWOOD. Well, thank you, sir. I'm sure I didn't want to trouble you.

MALISE. Not at all, Mr. Haywood. It's for me to apologize.

HAYWOOD. So long as I give satisfaction.

MALISE. [Holding the door for him] Certainly. Good evening.

HAYWOOD. Good evenin', sir; no offence, I hope.

MALISE. On the contrary.

Doubtfully HAYWOOD goes. And MALISE stands scratching his head; then slipping the bill into one of the volumes to remind him, he replaces them at the top of the pile. The Boy again advances into the doorway.

MALISE. Yes, now for you.

He goes to the table and takes some sheets of MS. from an old portfolio. But the door is again timidly pushed open, and HAYWOOD reappears.

MALISE. Yes, Mr. Haywood?

HAYWOOD. About that little matter, sir. If--if it's any convenience to you--I've--thought of a place where I could----

MALISE. Read them? You'll enjoy them thoroughly.

HAYWOOD. No, sir, no! Where I can dispose of them.

MALISE. [Holding out the volumes] It might be as well. [HAYWOOD takes the books gingerly] I congratulate you, Mr. Haywood; it's a classic.

HAYWOOD. Oh, indeed--yes, sir. In the event of there being any----

MALISE. Anything over? Carry it to my credit. Your bill--[He hands over the blue paper] Send me the receipt. Good evening!

HAYWOOD, nonplussed, and trying to hide the books in an evening paper, fumbles out. "Good evenin', sir!" and departs. MALISE again takes up the sheets of MS. and cons a sentence over to himself, gazing blankly at the stolid BOY.

MALISE. "Man of the world--good form your god! Poor buttoned-up philosopher" [the Boy shifts his feet] "inbred to the point of cretinism, and founded to the bone on fear of ridicule [the Boy breathes heavily]--you are the slave of facts!"

[There is a knock on the door]

MALISE. Who is it?

The door is pushed open, and REGINALD HUNTINGDON stands there.

HUNTINGDON. I apologize, sir; can I come in a minute?

[MALISE bows with ironical hostility]

HUNTINGDON. I don't know if you remember me--Clare Dedmond's brother.

MALISE. I remember you.

[He motions to the stolid Boy to go outside again]

HUNTINGDON. I've come to you, sir, as a gentleman----

MALISE. Some mistake. There is one, I believe, on the first floor.

HUNTINGDON. It's about my sister.

MALISE. D--n you! Don't you know that I've been shadowed these last three months? Ask your detectives for any information you want.

HUNTINGDON. We know that you haven't seen her, or even known where she is.

MALISE. Indeed! You've found that out? Brilliant!

HUNTINGDON. We know it from my sister.

MALISE. Oh! So you've tracked her down?

HUNTINGDON. Mrs. Fullarton came across her yesterday in one of those big shops--selling gloves.

MALISE. Mrs. Fullarton the lady with the husband. Well! you've got her. Clap her back into prison.

HUNTINGDON. We have not got her. She left at once, and we don't know where she's gone.

MALISE. Bravo!

HUNTINGDON. [Taking hold of his bit] Look here, Mr. Malise, in a way I share your feeling, but I'm fond of my sister, and it's damnable to have to go back to India knowing she must be all adrift, without protection, going through God knows what! Mrs. Fullarton says she's looking awfully pale and down.

MALISE. [Struggling between resentment and sympathy] Why do you come to me?

HUNTINGDON. We thought----

MALISE. Who?

HUNTINGDON. My--my father and myself.

MALISE. Go on.

HUNTINGDON. We thought there was just a chance that, having lost that job, she might come to you again for advice. If she does, it would be really generous of you if you'd put my father in touch with her. He's getting old, and he feels this very much. [He hands MALISE a card] This is his address.

MALISE. [Twisting the card] Let there be no mistake, sir; I do nothing that will help give her back to her husband. She's out to save her soul alive, and I don't join the hue and cry that's after her. On the contrary--if I had the power. If your father wants to shelter her, that's another matter. But she'd her own ideas about that.

HUNTINGDON. Perhaps you don't realize how unfit my sister is for rough and tumble. She's not one of this new sort of woman. She's always been looked after, and had things done for her. Pluck she's got, but that's all, and she's bound to come to grief.

MALISE. Very likely--the first birds do. But if she drops half-way it's better than if she'd never flown. Your sister, sir, is trying the wings of her spirit, out of the old slave market. For women as for men, there's more than one kind of dishonour, Captain Huntingdon, and worse things than being dead, as you may know in your profession.

HUNTINGDON. Admitted--but----

MALISE. We each have our own views as to what they are. But they all come to--death of our spirits, for the sake of our carcases. Anything more?

HUNTINGDON. My leave's up. I sail to-morrow. If you do see my sister I trust you to give her my love and say I begged she would see my father.

MALISE. If I have the chance--yes.

He makes a gesture of salute, to which HUNTINGDON responds. Then the latter turns and goes out.

MALISE. Poor fugitive! Where are you running now?

He stands at the window, through which the evening sunlight is powdering the room with smoky gold. The stolid Boy has again come in. MALISE stares at him, then goes back to the table, takes up the MS., and booms it at him; he receives the charge, breathing hard.

MALISE. "Man of the world--product of a material age; incapable of perceiving reality in motions of the spirit; having 'no use,' as you would say, for 'sentimental nonsense'; accustomed to believe yourself the national spine--your position is unassailable. You will remain the idol of the country--arbiter of law, parson in mufti, darling of the playwright and the novelist--God bless you!--while waters lap these shores."

He places the sheets of MS. in an envelope, and hands them to the Boy.

MALISE. You're going straight back to "The Watchfire"?

BOY. [Stolidly] Yes, sir.

MALISE. [Staring at him] You're a masterpiece. D'you know that?

BOY. No, sir.

MALISE. Get out, then.

He lifts the portfolio from the table, and takes it into the inner room. The Boy, putting his thumb stolidly to his nose, turns to go. In the doorway he shies violently at the figure of CLARE, standing there in a dark-coloured dress, skids past her and goes. CLARE comes into the gleam of sunlight, her white face alive with emotion or excitement. She looks round her, smiles, sighs; goes swiftly to the door, closes it, and comes back to the table. There she stands, fingering the papers on the table, smoothing MALISE's hat wistfully, eagerly, waiting.

MALISE. [Returning] You!

CLARE. [With a faint smile] Not very glorious, is it?

He goes towards her, and checks himself, then slews the armchair round.

MALISE. Come! Sit down, sit down! [CLARE, heaving a long sigh, sinks down into the chair] Tea's nearly ready.

He places a cushion for her, and prepares tea; she looks up at him softly, but as he finishes and turns to her, she drops that glance.

CLARE. Do you think me an awful coward for coming? [She has taken a little plain cigarette case from her dress] Would you mind if I smoked?

MALISE shakes his head, then draws back from her again, as if afraid to be too close. And again, unseen, she looks at him.

MALISE. So you've lost your job?

CLARE. How did you----?

MALISE. Your brother. You only just missed him. [CLARE starts up] They had an idea you'd come. He's sailing to-morrow--he wants you to see your father.

CLARE. Is father ill?

MALI$E. Anxious about you.

CLARE. I've written to him every week. [Excited] They're still hunting me!

MALISE. [Touching her shoulder gently] It's all right--all right.

She sinks again into the chair, and again he withdraws. And once more she gives him that soft eager look, and once more averts it as he turns to her.

CLARE. My nerves have gone funny lately. It's being always on one's guard, and stuffy air, and feeling people look and talk about you, and dislike your being there.

MALISE. Yes; that wants pluck.

CLARE. [Shaking her head] I curl up all the time. The only thing I know for certain is, that I shall never go back to him. The more I've hated what I've been doing, the more sure I've been. I might come to anything--but not that.

MALISE. Had a very bad time?

CLARE. [Nodding] I'm spoilt. It's a curse to be a lady when you have to earn your living. It's not really been so hard, I suppose; I've been selling things, and living about twice as well as most shop girls.

MALISE. Were they decent to you?

CLARE. Lots of the girls are really nice. But somehow they don't want me, can't help thinking I've got airs or something; and in here [She touches her breast] I don't want them!

MALISE. I know.

CLARE. Mrs. Fullarton and I used to belong to a society for helping reduced gentlewomen to get work. I know now what they want: enough money not to work--that's all! [Suddenly looking up at him] Don't think me worse than I am-please! It's working under people; it's having to do it, being driven. I have tried, I've not been altogether a coward, really! But every morning getting there the same time; every day the same stale "dinner," as they call it; every evening the same "Good evening, Miss Clare," "Good evening, Miss Simpson," "Good evening, Miss Hart," "Good evening, Miss Clare." And the same walk home, or the same 'bus; and the same men that you mustn't look at, for fear they'll follow you. [She rises] Oh! and the feeling-always, always--that there's no sun, or life, or hope, or anything. It was just like being ill, the way I've wanted to ride and dance and get out into the country. [Her excitement dies away into the old clipped composure, and she sits down again] Don't think too badly of me--it really is pretty ghastly!

MALISE. [Gruffly] H'm! Why a shop?

CLARE. References. I didn't want to tell more lies than I could help; a married woman on strike can't tell the truth, you know. And I can't typewrite or do shorthand yet. And chorus--I thought--you wouldn't like.

MALISE. I? What have I----? [He checks himself ] Have men been brutes?

CLARE. [Stealing a look at him] One followed me a lot. He caught hold of my arm one evening. I just took this out [She draws out her hatpin and holds it like a dagger, her lip drawn back as the lips of a dog going to bite] and said: "Will you leave me alone, please?" And he did. It was rather nice. And there was one quite decent little man in the shop--I was sorry for him--such a humble little man!

MALISE. Poor devil--it's hard not to wish for the moon.

At the tone of his voice CLARE looks up at him; his face is turned away.

CLARE. [Softly] How have you been? Working very hard?

MALISE. As hard as God will let me.

CLARE. [Stealing another look] Have you any typewriting I could do? I could learn, and I've still got a brooch I could sell. Which is the best kind?

MALISE. I had a catalogue of them somewhere.

He goes into the inner room. The moment he is gone, CLARE stands up, her hands pressed to her cheeks as if she felt them flaming. Then, with hands clasped, she stands waiting. He comes back with the old portfolio.

MALISE. Can you typewrite where you are?

CLARE. I have to find a new room anyway. I'm changing--to be safe. [She takes a luggage ticket from her glove] I took my things to Charing Cross--only a bag and one trunk. [Then, with that queer expression on her face which prefaces her desperations] You don't want me now, I suppose.

MALISE. What?

CLARE. [Hardly above a whisper] Because--if you still wanted me-- I do--now.

[Etext editors note: In the 1924 revision, 11 years after this 1913 edition: "I do--now" is changed to "I could--now"-- a significant change in meaning. D.W.]

MALISE. [Staring hard into her face that is quivering and smiling] You mean it? You do? You care----?

CLARE. I've thought of you--so much! But only--if you're sure.

He clasps her and kisses her closed eyes; and so they stand for a moment, till the sound of a latchkey in the door sends them apart.

MALISE. It's the housekeeper. Give me that ticket; I'll send for your things.

Obediently she gives him the ticket, smiles, and goes quietly into the inner room. MRS. MILER has entered; her face, more Chinese than ever, shows no sign of having seen.

MALISE. That lady will stay here, Mrs. Miler. Kindly go with this ticket to the cloak-room at Charing Cross station, and bring back her luggage in a cab. Have you money?

MRS. MILER. 'Arf a crown. [She takes the ticket--then impassively] In case you don't know--there's two o' them men about the stairs now.

The moment she is gone MALISE makes a gesture of maniacal fury. He steals on tiptoe to the outer door, and listens. Then, placing his hand on the knob, he turns it without noise, and wrenches back the door. Transfigured in the last sunlight streaming down the corridor are two men, close together, listening and consulting secretly. They start back.

MALISE. [With strange, almost noiseless ferocity] You've run her to earth; your job's done. Kennel up, hounds! [And in their faces he slams the door]


CURTAIN.



SCENE II:


The Scene--The same, early on a winter afternoon, three months later. The room has now a certain daintiness. There are curtains over the doors, a couch, under the window, all the books are arranged on shelves. In small vases, over the fireplace, are a few violets and chrysanthemums. MALISE sits huddled in his armchair drawn close to the fore, paper on knee, pen in hand. He looks rather grey and drawn, and round his chair is the usual litter. At the table, now nearer to the window, CLARE sits working a typewriter. She finishes a line, puts sheets of paper together, makes a note on a card--adds some figures, and marks the total.


CLARE. Kenneth, when this is paid, I shall have made two pound seventeen in the three months, and saved you about three pounds. One hundred and seventeen shillings at tenpence a thousand is one hundred and forty thousand words at fourteen hundred words an hour. It's only just over an hour a day. Can't you get me more?

MALISE lifts the hand that holds his pen and lets it fall again. CLARE puts the cover on the typewriter, and straps it.

CLARE. I'm quite packed. Shall I pack for you? [He nods] Can't we have more than three days at the sea? [He shakes his head. Going up to him] You did sleep last night.

MALISE. Yes, I slept.

CLARE. Bad head? [MALISE nods] By this time the day after to-morrow the case will be heard and done with. You're not worrying for me? Except for my poor old Dad, I don't care a bit.

MALISE heaves himself out of the chair, and begins pacing up and down.

CLARE. Kenneth, do you understand why he doesn't claim damages, after what he said that day-here? [Looking suddenly at him] It is true that he doesn't?

MALISE. It is not.

CLARE. But you told me yourself

MALISE. I lied.

CLARE. Why?

MALISE. [Shrugging] No use lying any longer--you'd know it tomorrow.

CLARE. How much am I valued at?

MALISE. Two thousand. [Grimly] He'll settle it on you. [He laughs] Masterly! By one stroke, destroys his enemy, avenges his "honour," and gilds his name with generosity!

CLARE. Will you have to pay?

MALISE. Stones yield no blood.

CLARE. Can't you borrow?

MALISE. I couldn't even get the costs.

CLARE. Will they make you bankrupt, then? [MALISE nods] But that doesn't mean that you won't have your income, does it? [MALISE laughs] What is your income, Kenneth? [He is silent] A hundred and fifty from "The Watchfire," I know. What else?

MALISE. Out of five books I have made the sum of forty pounds.

CLARE. What else? Tell me.

MALISE. Fifty to a hundred pounds a year. Leave me to gnaw my way out, child.

CLARE stands looking at him in distress, then goes quickly into the room behind her. MALISE takes up his paper and pen. The paper is quite blank.

MALISE. [Feeling his head] Full of smoke.

He drops paper and pen, and crossing to the room on the left goes in. CLARE re-enters with a small leather box. She puts it down on her typing table as MALISE returns followed by MRS. MILER, wearing her hat, and carrying His overcoat.

MRS. MILER. Put your coat on. It's a bitter wind.

[He puts on the coat]

CLARE. Where are you going?

MALISE. To "The Watchfire."

The door closes behind him, and MRS. MILER goes up to CLARE holding out a little blue bottle with a red label, nearly full.

MRS. MILER. You know he's takin' this [She makes a little motion towards her mouth] to make 'im sleep?

CLARE. [Reading the label] Where was it?

MRS. MILER. In the bathroom chest o' drawers, where 'e keeps 'is odds and ends. I was lookin' for 'is garters.

CLARE. Give it to me!

MRS. MILER. He took it once before. He must get his sleep.

CLARE. Give it to me!

MRS. MILER resigns it, CLARE takes the cork out, smells, then tastes it from her finger. MRS. MILER, twisting her apron in her hands, speaks.

MILS. MILER. I've 'ad it on my mind a long time to speak to yer. Your comin' 'ere's not done 'im a bit o' good.

CLARE. Don't!

MRS. MILER. I don't want to, but what with the worry o' this 'ere divorce suit, an' you bein' a lady an' 'im havin' to be so careful of yer, and tryin' to save, not smokin' all day like 'e used, an' not gettin' 'is two bottles of claret regular; an' losin' his sleep, an' takin' that stuff for it; and now this 'ere last business. I've seen 'im sometimes holdin' 'is 'ead as if it was comin' off. [Seeing CLARE wince, she goes on with a sort of compassion in her Chinese face] I can see yer fond of him; an' I've nothin' against yer you don't trouble me a bit; but I've been with 'im eight years--we're used to each other, and I can't bear to see 'im not 'imself, really I can't.

She gives a sadden sniff. Then her emotion passes, leaving her as Chinese as ever.

CLARE. This last business--what do you mean by that?

MRS. MILER. If 'e a'n't told yer, I don't know that I've any call to.

CLARE. Please.

MRS. MILER. [Her hands twisting very fast] Well, it's to do with this 'ere "Watchfire." One of the men that sees to the writin' of it 'e's an old friend of Mr. Malise, 'e come 'ere this mornin' when you was out. I was doin' my work in there [She points to the room on the right] an' the door open, so I 'earl 'em. Now you've 'ung them curtains, you can't 'elp it.

CLARE. Yes?

MRS. MILER. It's about your divorce case. This 'ere "Watchfire," ye see, belongs to some fellers that won't 'ave their men gettin' into the papers. So this 'ere friend of Mr. Malise--very nice 'e spoke about it: "If it comes into Court," 'e says, "you'll 'ave to go," 'e says. "These beggars, these dogs, these dogs," 'e says, "they'll 'oof you out," 'e says. An' I could tell by the sound of his voice, 'e meant it--proper upset 'e was. So that's that!

CLARE. It's inhuman!

MRS. MILER. That's what I thinks; but it don't 'elp, do it? "'Tain't the circulation," 'e says, "it's the principle," 'e says; and then 'e starts in swearin' horrible. 'E's a very nice man. And Mr. Malise, 'e says: "Well, that about does for me!" 'e says.

CLARE. Thank you, Mrs. Miler--I'm glad to know.

MRS. MILER. Yes; I don't know as I ought to 'ave told you. [Desperately uncomfortable] You see, I don't take notice of Mr. MALISE, but I know 'im very well. 'E's a good 'arted gentleman, very funny, that'll do things to help others, and what's more, keep on doin' 'em, when they hurt 'im; very obstinate 'e is. Now, when you first come 'ere, three months ago, I says to meself: "He'll enjoy this 'ere for a bit, but she's too much of a lady for 'im." What 'e wants about 'im permanent is a woman that thinks an' talks about all them things he talks about. And sometimes I fancy 'e don't want nothin' permanent about 'im at all.

CLARE. Don't!

MRS. MILER. [With another sudden sniff] Gawd knows I don't want to upset ye. You're situated very hard; an' women's got no business to 'urt one another--that's what I thinks.

CLARE. Will you go out and do something for me? [MRS. MILER nods]

[CLARE takes up the sheaf of papers and from the leather box a note and an emerald pendant]

Take this with the note to that address--it's quite close. He'll give you thirty pounds for it. Please pay these bills and bring me back the receipts, and what's over.

MRS. MILER. [Taking the pendant and note] It's a pretty thing.

CLARE. Yes. It was my mother's.

MRS. MILER. It's a pity to part with it; ain't you got another?

CLARE. Nothing more, Mrs. Miler, not even a wedding ring.

MRS. MILER. [Without expression] You make my 'eart ache sometimes.

[She wraps pendant and note into her handkerchief and goes out to the door.]

MRS. MILER. [From the door] There's a lady and gentleman out here. Mrs. Fuller--wants you, not Mr. Malise.

CLARE. Mrs. Fullarton? [MRS. MILER nods] Ask them to come in.

MRS. MILER opens the door wide, says "Come in," and goes. MRS. FULLARTON is accompanied not by FULLARTON, but by the lawyer, TWISDON. They come in.

MRS. FULLARTON. Clare! My dear! How are you after all this time?

CLARE. [Her eyes fixed on TWISDEN] Yes?

MRS. FULLARTON. [Disconcerted by the strange greeting] I brought Mr. Twisden to tell you something. May I stay?

CLARE. Yes. [She points to the chair at the same table: MRS. FULLARTON sits down] Now!

[TWISDEN comes forward]

TWISDEN. As you're not defending this case, Mrs. Dedmond, there is nobody but yourself for me to apply to.

CLARE. Please tell me quickly, what you've come for.

TWISDEN. [Bowing slightly] I am instructed by Mr. Dedmond to say that if you will leave your present companion and undertake not to see him again, he will withdraw the suit and settle three hundred a year on you. [At CLARE's movement of abhorrence] Don't misunderstand me, please--it is not--it could hardly be, a request that you should go back. Mr. Dedmond is not prepared to receive you again. The proposal--forgive my saying so--remarkably Quixotic--is made to save the scandal to his family and your own. It binds you to nothing but the abandonment of your present companion, with certain conditions of the same nature as to the future. In other words, it assures you a position--so long as you live quietly by yourself.

CLARE. I see. Will you please thank Mr. Dedmond, and say that I refuse?

MRS. FULLARTON. Clare, Clare! For God's sake don't be desperate.

[CLARE, deathly still, just looks at her]

TWISDEN. Mrs. Dedmond, I am bound to put the position to you in its naked brutality. You know there's a claim for damages?

CLARE. I have just learnt it.

TWISDEN. You realize what the result of this suit must be: You will be left dependent on an undischarged bankrupt. To put it another way, you'll be a stone round the neck of a drowning man.

CLARE. You are cowards.

MRS. FULLARTON. Clare, Clare! [To TWISDEN] She doesn't mean it; please be patient.

CLARE. I do mean it. You ruin him because of me. You get him down, and kick him to intimidate me.

MRS. FULLARTON. My dear girl! Mr. Twisden is not personally concerned. How can you?

CLARE. If I were dying, and it would save me, I wouldn't take a penny from my husband.

TWISDEN. Nothing could be more bitter than those words. Do you really wish me to take them back to him?

CLARE. Yes. [She turns from them to the fire]

MRS. FULLARTON. [In a low voice to TWISDEN] Please leave me alone with her, don't say anything to Mr. Dedmond yet.

TWISDEN. Mrs. Dedmond, I told you once that I wished you well. Though you have called me a coward, I still do that. For God's sake, think--before it's too late.

CLARE. [Putting out her hand blindly] I'm sorry I called you a coward. It's the whole thing, I meant.

TWISDEN. Never mind that. Think!

With the curious little movement of one who sees something he does not like to see, he goes. CLARE is leaning her forehead against the mantel-shelf, seemingly unconscious that she is not alone. MRS. FULLARTON approaches quietly till she can see CLARE'S face.

MRS. FULLARTON. My dear sweet thing, don't be cross with met [CLARE turns from her. It is all the time as if she were trying to get away from words and people to something going on within herself] How can I help wanting to see you saved from all this ghastliness?

CLARE. Please don't, Dolly! Let me be!

MRS. FULLARTON. I must speak, Clare! I do think you're hard on George. It's generous of him to offer to withdraw the suit-- considering. You do owe it to us to try and spare your father and your sisters and--and all of us who care for you.

CLARE. [Facing her] You say George is generous! If he wanted to be that he'd never have claimed these damages. It's revenge he wants--I heard him here. You think I've done him an injury. So I did--when I married him. I don't know what I shall come to, Dolly, but I shan't fall so low as to take money from him. That's as certain as that I shall die.

MRS. FULLARTON. Do you know, Clare, I think it's awful about you! You're too fine, and not fine enough, to put up with things; you're too sensitive to take help, and you're not strong enough to do without it. It's simply tragic. At any rate, you might go home to your people.

CLARE. After this!

MRS. FULLARTON. To us, then?

CLARE. "If I could be the falling bee, and kiss thee all the day!" No, Dolly!

MRS. FULLARTON turns from her ashamed and baffled, but her quick eyes take in the room, trying to seize on some new point of attack.

MRS. FULLARTON. You can't be--you aren't-happy, here?

CLARE. Aren't I?

MRS. FULLARTON. Oh! Clare! Save yourself--and all of us!

CLARE. [Very still] You see, I love him.

MRS. FULLARTON. You used to say you'd never love; did not want it-- would never want it.

CLARE. Did I? How funny!

MRS. FULLARTON. Oh! my dear! Don't look like that, or you'll make me cry.

CLARE. One doesn't always know the future, does one? [Desperately] I love him! I love him!

MRS. FULLARTON. [Suddenly] If you love him, what will it be like for you, knowing you've ruined him?

CLARE. Go away! Go away!

MRS. FULLARTON. Love!--you said!

CLARE. [Quivering at that stab-suddenly] I must--I will keep him. He's all I've got.

MRS. FULLARTON. Can you--can you keep him?

CLARE. Go!

MRS. FULLARTON. I'm going. But, men are hard to keep, even when you've not been the ruin of them. You know whether the love this man gives you is really love. If not--God help you! [She turns at the door, and says mournfully] Good-bye, my child! If you can----

Then goes. CLARE, almost in a whisper, repeats the words: "Love! you said!" At the sound of a latchkey she runs as if to escape into the bedroom, but changes her mind and stands blotted against the curtain of the door. MALISE enters. For a moment he does not see her standing there against the curtain that is much the same colour as her dress. His face is that of a man in the grip of a rage that he feels to be impotent. Then, seeing her, he pulls himself together, walks to his armchair, and sits down there in his hat and coat.

CLARE. Well? "The Watchfire?" You may as well tell me.

MALISE. Nothing to tell you, child.

At that touch of tenderness she goes up to his chair and kneels down beside it. Mechanically MALISE takes off his hat.

CLARE. Then you are to lose that, too? [MALISE stares at her] I know about it--never mind how.

MALISE. Sanctimonious dogs!

CLARE. [Very low] There are other things to be got, aren't there?

MALISE. Thick as blackberries. I just go out and cry, "MALISE, unsuccessful author, too honest journalist, freethinker, co-respondent, bankrupt," and they tumble!

CLARE. [Quietly] Kenneth, do you care for me? [MALISE stares at her] Am I anything to you but just prettiness?

MALISE. Now, now! This isn't the time to brood! Rouse up and fight.

CLARE. Yes.

MALISE. We're not going to let them down us, are we? [She rubs her cheek against his hand, that still rests on her shoulder] Life on sufferance, breath at the pleasure of the enemy! And some day in the fullness of his mercy to be made a present of the right to eat and drink and breathe again. [His gesture sums up the rage within him] Fine! [He puts his hat on and rises] That's the last groan they get from me.

CLASS. Are you going out again? [He nods] Where?

MALISE. Blackberrying! Our train's not till six.

He goes into the bedroom. CLARE gets up and stands by the fire, looking round in a dazed way. She puts her hand up and mechanically gathers together the violets in the little vase. Suddenly she twists them to a buttonhole, and sinks down into the armchair, which he must pass. There she sits, the violets in her hand. MALISE comes out and crosses towards the outer door. She puts the violets up to him. He stares at them, shrugs his shoulders, and passes on. For just a moment CLARE sits motionless.

CLARE. [Quietly] Give me a kiss!

He turns and kisses her. But his lips, after that kiss, have the furtive bitterness one sees on the lips of those who have done what does not suit their mood. He goes out. She is left motionless by the armchair, her throat working. Then, feverishly, she goes to the little table, seizes a sheet of paper, and writes. Looking up suddenly she sees that MRS. MILER has let herself in with her latchkey.

MRS. MILER. I've settled the baker, the milk, the washin' an' the groceries--this 'ere's what's left.

She counts down a five-pound note, four sovereigns, and two shillings on to the little table. CLARE folds the letter into an envelope, then takes up the five-pound note and puts it into her dress.

CLARE. [Pointing to the money on the table] Take your wages; and give him this when he comes in. I'm going away.

MRS. MILER. Without him? When'll you be comin' back?

CLARE. [Rising] I shan't be coming back. [Gazing at MRS. MILER'S hands, which are plaiting at her dress] I'm leaving Mr. Malise, and shan't see him again. And the suit against us will be withdrawn--the divorce suit--you understand?

MRS. MILER. [Her face all broken up] I never meant to say anything to yer.

CLARE. It's not you. I can see for myself. Don't make it harder; help me. Get a cab.

MRS. MILER. [Disturbed to the heart] The porter's outside, cleanin' the landin' winder.

CLARE. Tell him to come for my trunk. It is packed. [She goes into the bedroom]

MRS. MILER. [Opening the door-desolately] Come 'ere!

[The PORTER appears in shirt-sleeves at the door]

MRS. MILER. The lady wants a cab. Wait and carry 'er trunk down.

CLARE comes from the bedroom in her hat and coat.

MRS. MILER. [TO the PORTER] Now.

They go into the bedroom to get the trunk. CLARE picks up from the floor the bunch of violets, her fingers play with it as if they did not quite know what it was; and she stands by the armchair very still, while MRS. MILER and the PORTER pass her with trunk and bag. And even after the PORTER has shouldered the trunk outside, and marched away, and MRS. MILER has come back into the room, CLARE still stands there.

MRS. MILER. [Pointing to the typewriter] D'you want this 'ere, too?

CLARE. Yes.

MRS. MILER carries it out. Then, from the doorway, gazing at CLARE taking her last look, she sobs, suddenly. At sound of that sob CLARE throws up her head.

CLARE. Don't! It's all right. Good-bye!

She walks out and away, not looking back. MRS. MILER chokes her sobbing into the black stuff of her thick old jacket.


CURTAIN


John Galsworthy

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