A fine October morning in the north east suburbs of London, a
vast district many miles away from the London of Mayfair and St.
James's, much less known there than the Paris of the Rue de
Rivoli and the Champs Elysees, and much less narrow, squalid,
fetid and airless in its slums; strong in comfortable, prosperous
middle class life; wide-streeted, myriad-populated; well-served
with ugly iron urinals, Radical clubs, tram lines, and a
perpetual stream of yellow cars; enjoying in its main
thoroughfares the luxury of grass-grown "front gardens,"
untrodden by the foot of man save as to the path from the gate to
the hall door; but blighted by an intolerable monotony of miles
and miles of graceless, characterless brick houses, black iron
railings, stony pavements, slaty roofs, and respectably ill
dressed or disreputably poorly dressed people, quite accustomed
to the place, and mostly plodding about somebody else's work,
which they would not do if they themselves could help it. The
little energy and eagerness that crop up show themselves in
cockney cupidity and business "push." Even the policemen and the
chapels are not infrequent enough to break the monotony.
The sun is shining cheerfully; there is no fog; and though the
smoke effectually prevents anything, whether faces and hands or
bricks and mortar, from looking fresh and clean, it is not
hanging heavily enough to trouble a Londoner.
This desert of unattractiveness has its oasis. Near the outer end
of the Hackney Road is a park of 217 acres, fenced in, not by
railings, but by a wooden paling, and containing plenty of
greensward, trees, a lake for bathers, flower beds with the
flowers arranged carefully in patterns by the admired cockney art
of carpet gardening and a sandpit, imported from the seaside for
the delight of the children, but speedily deserted on its
becoming a natural vermin preserve for all the petty fauna of
Kingsland, Hackney and Hoxton. A bandstand, an unfinished forum
for religious, anti-religious and political orators, cricket
pitches, a gymnasium, and an old fashioned stone kiosk are among
its attractions. Wherever the prospect is bounded by trees or
rising green grounds, it is a pleasant place. Where the ground
stretches far to the grey palings, with bricks and mortar, sky
signs, crowded chimneys and smoke beyond, the prospect makes it
desolate and sordid.
The best view of Victoria Park is from the front window of St.
Dominic's Parsonage, from which not a single chimney is visible.
The parsonage is a semi-detached villa with a front garden and a
porch. Visitors go up the flight of steps to the porch:
tradespeople and members of the family go down by a door under
the steps to the basement, with a breakfast room, used for all
meals, in front, and the kitchen at the back. Upstairs, on the
level of the hall door, is the drawing-room, with its large plate
glass window looking on the park. In this room, the only
sitting-room that can be spared from the children and the family
meals, the parson, the Reverend James Mavor Morell does his work.
He is sitting in a strong round backed revolving chair at the
right hand end of a long table, which stands across the window,
so that he can cheer himself with the view of the park at his
elbow. At the opposite end of the table, adjoining it, is a
little table; only half the width of the other, with a typewriter
on it. His typist is sitting at this machine, with her back to
the window. The large table is littered with pamphlets, journals,
letters, nests of drawers, an office diary, postage scales and
the like. A spare chair for visitors having business with the
parson is in the middle, turned to his end. Within reach of his
hand is a stationery case, and a cabinet photograph in a frame.
Behind him the right hand wall, recessed above the fireplace, is
fitted with bookshelves, on which an adept eye can measure the
parson's divinity and casuistry by a complete set of Browning's
poems and Maurice's Theological Essays, and guess at his politics
from a yellow backed Progress and Poverty, Fabian Essays, a Dream
of John Ball, Marx's Capital, and half a dozen other literary
landmarks in Socialism. Opposite him on the left, near the
typewriter, is the door. Further down the room, opposite the
fireplace, a bookcase stands on a cellaret, with a sofa near it.
There is a generous fire burning; and the hearth, with a
comfortable armchair and a japanned flower painted coal scuttle
at one side, a miniature chair for a boy or girl on the other, a
nicely varnished wooden mantelpiece, with neatly moulded shelves,
tiny bits of mirror let into the panels, and a travelling clock
in a leather case (the inevitable wedding present), and on the
wall above a large autotype of the chief figure in Titian's
Virgin of the Assumption, is very inviting. Altogether the room
is the room of a good housekeeper, vanquished, as far as the
table is concerned, by an untidy man, but elsewhere mistress of
the situation. The furniture, in its ornamental aspect, betrays
the style of the advertised "drawing-room suite" of the pushing
suburban furniture dealer; but there is nothing useless or
pretentious in the room. The paper and panelling are dark,
throwing the big cheery window and the park outside into strong
The Reverend James Mavor Morell is a Christian Socialist
clergyman of the Church of England, and an active member of the
Guild of St. Matthew and the Christian Social Union. A vigorous,
genial, popular man of forty, robust and goodlooking, full of
energy, with pleasant, hearty, considerate manners, and a sound,
unaffected voice, which he uses with the clean, athletic
articulation of a practised orator, and with a wide range and
perfect command of expression. He is a first rate clergyman, able
to say what he likes to whom he likes, to lecture people without
setting himself up against them, to impose his authority on them
without humiliating them, and to interfere in their business
without impertinence. His well-spring of spiritual enthusiasm and
sympathetic emotion has never run dry for a moment: he still eats
and sleeps heartily enough to win the daily battle between
exhaustion and recuperation triumphantly. Withal, a great baby,
pardonably vain of his powers and unconsciously pleased with
himself. He has a healthy complexion, a good forehead, with the
brows somewhat blunt, and the eyes bright and eager, a mouth
resolute, but not particularly well cut, and a substantial nose,
with the mobile, spreading nostrils of the dramatic orator, but,
like all his features, void of subtlety.
The typist, Miss Proserpine Garnett, is a brisk little woman of
about 30, of the lower middle class, neatly but cheaply dressed
in a black merino skirt and a blouse, rather pert and quick of
speech, and not very civil in her manner, but sensitive and
affectionate. She is clattering away busily at her machine whilst
Morell opens the last of his morning's letters. He realizes its
contents with a comic groan of despair.
PROSERPINE. Another lecture?
MORELL. Yes. The Hoxton Freedom Group want me to address them on
Sunday morning (great emphasis on "Sunday," this being the
unreasonable part of the business). What are they?
PROSERPINE. Communist Anarchists, I think.
MORELL. Just like Anarchists not to know that they can't have a
parson on Sunday! Tell them to come to church if they want to
hear me: it will do them good. Say I can only come on Mondays and
Thursdays. Have you the diary there?
PROSERPINE (taking up the diary). Yes.
MORELL. Have I any lecture on for next Monday?
PROSERPINE (referring to diary). Tower Hamlets Radical Club.
MORELL. Well, Thursday then?
PROSERPINE. English Land Restoration League.
MORELL. What next?
PROSERPINE. Guild of St. Matthew on Monday. Independent Labor
Party, Greenwich Branch, on Thursday. Monday, Social-Democratic
Federation, Mile End Branch. Thursday, first Confirmation class--
(Impatiently). Oh, I'd better tell them you can't come. They're
only half a dozen ignorant and conceited costermongers without
five shillings between them.
MORELL (amused). Ah; but you see they're near relatives of mine,
PROSERPINE (staring at him). Relatives of YOURS!
MORELL. Yes: we have the same father--in Heaven.
PROSERPINE (relieved). Oh, is that all?
MORELL (with a sadness which is a luxury to a man whose voice
expresses it so finely). Ah, you don't believe it. Everybody says
it: nobody believes it--nobody. (Briskly, getting back to
business.) Well, well! Come, Miss Proserpine, can't you find a
date for the costers? What about the 25th?: that was vacant the
day before yesterday.
PROSERPINE (referring to diary). Engaged--the Fabian Society.
MORELL. Bother the Fabian Society! Is the 28th gone too?
PROSERPINE. City dinner. You're invited to dine with the
MORELL. That'll do; I'll go to the Hoxton Group of Freedom
instead. (She enters the engagement in silence, with implacable
disparagement of the Hoxton Anarchists in every line of her face.
Morell bursts open the cover of a copy of The Church Reformer,
which has come by post, and glances through Mr. Stewart Hendlam's
leader and the Guild of St. Matthew news. These proceedings are
presently enlivened by the appearance of Morell's curate, the
Reverend Alexander Mill, a young gentleman gathered by Morell
from the nearest University settlement, whither he had come from
Oxford to give the east end of London the benefit of his
university training. He is a conceitedly well intentioned,
enthusiastic, immature person, with nothing positively unbearable
about him except a habit of speaking with his lips carefully
closed for half an inch from each corner, a finicking
arthulation, and a set of horribly corrupt vowels, notably ow for
o, this being his chief means of bringing Oxford refinement
to bear on Hackney vulgarity. Morell, whom he has won over by a
doglike devotion, looks up indulgently from The Church Reformer
as he enters, and remarks) Well, Lexy! Late again, as usual.
LEXY. I'm afraid so. I wish I could get up in the morning.
MORELL (exulting in his own energy). Ha! ha! (Whimsically.) Watch
and pray, Lexy: watch and pray.
LEXY. I know. (Rising wittily to the occasion.) But how can I
watch and pray when I am asleep? Isn't that so, Miss Prossy?
PROSERPINE (sharply). Miss Garnett, if you please.
LEXY. I beg your pardon--Miss Garnett.
PROSERPINE. You've got to do all the work to-day.
PROSERPINE. Never mind why. It will do you good to earn your
supper before you eat it, for once in a way, as I do. Come: don't
dawdle. You should have been off on your rounds half an hour ago.
LEXY (perplexed). Is she in earnest, Morell?
MORELL (in the highest spirits--his eyes dancing). Yes. _I_ am
going to dawdle to-day.
LEXY. You! You don't know how.
MORELL (heartily). Ha! ha! Don't I? I'm going to have this day
all to myself--or at least the forenoon. My wife's coming back:
she's due here at 11.45.
LEXY (surprised). Coming back already--with the children? I
thought they were to stay to the end of the month.
MORELL. So they are: she's only coming up for two days, to get
some flannel things for Jimmy, and to see how we're getting on
LEXY (anxiously). But, my dear Morell, if what Jimmy and Fluffy
had was scarlatina, do you think it wise--
MORELL. Scarlatina!--rubbish, German measles. I brought it into
the house myself from the Pycroft Street School. A parson is like
a doctor, my boy: he must face infection as a soldier must face
bullets. (He rises and claps Lexy on the shoulder.) Catch the
measles if you can, Lexy: she'll nurse you; and what a piece of
luck that will be for you!--eh?
LEXY (smiling uneasily). It's so hard to understand you about
MORELL (tenderly). Ah, my boy, get married--get married to a good
woman; and then you'll understand. That's a foretaste of what
will be best in the Kingdom of Heaven we are trying to establish
on earth. That will cure you of dawdling. An honest man feels
that he must pay Heaven for every hour of happiness with a good
spell of hard, unselfish work to make others happy. We have no
more right to consume happiness without producing it than to
consume wealth without producing it. Get a wife like my Candida;
and you'll always be in arrear with your repayment. (He pats Lexy
affectionately on the back, and is leaving the room when Lexy
calls to him.)
LEXY. Oh, wait a bit: I forgot. (Morell halts and turns with the
door knob in his hand.) Your father-in-law is coming round to see
you. (Morell shuts the door again, with a complete change of
MORELL (surprised and not pleased). Mr. Burgess?
LEXY. Yes. I passed him in the park, arguing with somebody. He
gave me good day and asked me to let you know that he was coming.
MORELL (half incredulous). But he hasn't called here for--I may
almost say for years. Are you sure, Lexy? You're not joking, are
LEXY (earnestly). No, sir, really.
MORELL (thoughtfully). Hm! Time for him to take another look at
Candida before she grows out of his knowledge. (He resigns
himself to the inevitable, and goes out. Lexy looks after him
with beaming, foolish worship.)
LEXY. What a good man! What a thorough, loving soul he is!
(He takes Morell's place at the table, making himself very
comfortable as he takes out a cigaret.)
PROSERPINE (impatiently, pulling the letter she has been working
at off the typewriter and folding it.) Oh, a man ought to be able
to be fond of his wife without making a fool of himself about
LEXY (shocked). Oh, Miss Prossy!
PROSERPINE (rising busily and coming to the stationery case to
get an envelope, in which she encloses the letter as she speaks).
Candida here, and Candida there, and Candida everywhere! (She
licks the envelope.) It's enough to drive anyone out of their
SENSES (thumping the envelope to make it stick) to hear a
perfectly commonplace woman raved about in that absurd manner
merely because she's got good hair, and a tolerable figure.
LEXY (with reproachful gravity). I think her extremely beautiful,
Miss Garnett. (He takes the photograph up; looks at it; and adds,
with even greater impressiveness) EXTREMELY beautiful. How fine
her eyes are!
PROSERPINE. Her eyes are not a bit better than mine--now! (He
puts down the photograph and stares austerely at her.) And you
know very well that you think me dowdy and second rate enough.
LEXY (rising majestically). Heaven forbid that I should think of
any of God's creatures in such a way! (He moves stiffly away from
her across the room to the neighbourhood of the bookcase.)
PROSERPINE. Thank you. That's very nice and comforting.
LEXY (saddened by her depravity). I had no idea you had any
feeling against Mrs. Morell.
PROSERPINE (indignantly). I have no feeling against her. She's
very nice, very good-hearted: I'm very fond of her and can
appreciate her real qualities far better than any man can. (He
shakes his head sadly and turns to the bookcase, looking along
the shelves for a volume. She follows him with intense
pepperiness.) You don't believe me? (He turns and faces her. She
pounces at him with spitfire energy.) You think I'm jealous. Oh,
what a profound knowledge of the human heart you have, Mr. Lexy
Mill! How well you know the weaknesses of Woman, don't you? It
must be so nice to be a man and have a fine penetrating intellect
instead of mere emotions like us, and to know that the reason we
don't share your amorous delusions is that we're all jealous
of one another! (She abandons him with a toss of her shoulders,
and crosses to the fire to warm her hands.)
LEXY. Ah, if you women only had the same clue to Man's strength
that you have to his weakness, Miss Prossy, there would be no
PROSERPINE (over her shoulder, as she stoops, holding her hands
to the blaze). Where did you hear Morell say that? You didn't
invent it yourself: you're not clever enough.
LEXY. That's quite true. I am not ashamed of owing him that, as I
owe him so many other spiritual truths. He said it at the annual
conference of the Women's Liberal Federation. Allow me to add
that though they didn't appreciate it, I, a mere man, did. (He
turns to the bookcase again, hoping that this may leave her
PROSERPINE (putting her hair straight at the little panel of
mirror in the mantelpiece). Well, when you talk to me, give me
your own ideas, such as they are, and not his. You never cut a
poorer figure than when you are trying to imitate him.
LEXY (stung). I try to follow his example, not to imitate him.
PROSERPINE (coming at him again on her way back to her work).
Yes, you do: you IMITATE him. Why do you tuck your umbrella under
your left arm instead of carrying it in your hand like anyone
else? Why do you walk with your chin stuck out before you,
hurrying along with that eager look in your eyes--you, who never
get up before half past nine in the morning? Why do you say
"knoaledge" in church, though you always say "knolledge" in
private conversation! Bah! do you think I don't know? (She goes
back to the typewriter.) Here, come and set about your work:
we've wasted enough time for one morning. Here's a copy of the
diary for to-day. (She hands him a memorandum.)
LEXY (deeply offended). Thank you. (He takes it and stands at the
table with his back to her, reading it. She begins to transcribe
her shorthand notes on the typewriter without troubling herself
about his feelings. Mr. Burgess enters unannounced. He is a man
of sixty, made coarse and sordid by the compulsory selfishness of
petty commerce, and later on softened into sluggish bumptiousness
by overfeeding and commercial success. A vulgar, ignorant,
guzzling man, offensive and contemptuous to people whose labor is
cheap, respectful to wealth and rank, and quite sincere and
without rancour or envy in both attitudes. Finding him without
talent, the world has offered him no decently paid work except
ignoble work, and he has become in consequence, somewhat hoggish.
But he has no suspicion of this himself, and honestly regards his
commercial prosperity as the inevitable and socially wholesome
triumph of the ability, industry, shrewdness and experience in
business of a man who in private is easygoing, affectionate and
humorously convivial to a fault. Corporeally, he is a podgy man,
with a square, clean shaven face and a square beard under his
chin; dust colored, with a patch of grey in the centre, and small
watery blue eyes with a plaintively sentimental expression, which
he transfers easily to his voice by his habit of pompously
intoning his sentences.)
BURGESS (stopping on the threshold, and looking round). They told
me Mr. Morell was here.
PROSERPINE (rising). He's upstairs. I'll fetch him for you.
BURGESS (staring boorishly at her). You're not the same young
lady as used to typewrite for him?
BURGESS (assenting). No: she was younger. (Miss Garnett stolidly
stares at him; then goes out with great dignity. He receives this
quite obtusely, and crosses to the hearth-rug, where he turns and
spreads himself with his back to the fire.) Startin' on your
rounds, Mr. Mill?
LEXY (folding his paper and pocketing it). Yes: I must be off
BURGESS (momentously). Don't let me detain you, Mr. Mill. What I
come about is private between me and Mr. Morell.
LEXY (huffily). I have no intention of intruding, I am sure, Mr.
Burgess. Good morning.
BURGESS (patronizingly). Oh, good morning to you. (Morell returns
as Lexy is making for the door.)
MORELL (to Lexy). Off to work?
LEXY. Yes, sir.
MORELL (patting him affectionately on the shoulder). Take my silk
handkerchief and wrap your throat up. There's a cold wind. Away
(Lexy brightens up, and goes out.)
BURGESS. Spoilin' your curates, as usu'l, James. Good mornin'.
When I pay a man, an' 'is livin' depen's on me, I keep him in his
MORELL (rather shortly). I always keep my curates in their places
as my helpers and comrades. If you get as much work out of your
clerks and warehousemen as I do out of my curates, you must be
getting rich pretty fast. Will you take your old chair?
(He points with curt authority to the arm chair beside the
fireplace; then takes the spare chair from the table and sits
down in front of Burgess.)
BURGESS (without moving). Just the same as hever, James!
MORELL. When you last called--it was about three years ago, I
think--you said the same thing a little more frankly. Your exact
words then were: "Just as big a fool as ever, James?"
BURGESS (soothingly). Well, perhaps I did; but (with conciliatory
cheerfulness) I meant no offence by it. A clergyman is privileged
to be a bit of a fool, you know: it's on'y becomin' in his
profession that he should. Anyhow, I come here, not to rake up
hold differences, but to let bygones be bygones. (Suddenly
becoming very solemn, and approaching Morell.) James: three year
ago, you done me a hill turn. You done me hout of a contrac'; an'
when I gev you 'arsh words in my nat'ral disappointment, you
turned my daughrter again me. Well, I've come to act the part of
a Cherischin. (Offering his hand.) I forgive you, James.
MORELL (starting up). Confound your impudence!
BURGESS (retreating, with almost lachrymose deprecation of this
treatment). Is that becomin' language for a clergyman, James?--
and you so partic'lar, too?
MORELL (hotly). No, sir, it is not becoming language for a
clergyman. I used the wrong word. I should have said damn your
impudence: that's what St. Paul, or any honest priest would have
said to you. Do you think I have forgotten that tender of yours
for the contract to supply clothing to the workhouse?
BURGESS (in a paroxysm of public spirit). I acted in the interest
of the ratepayers, James. It was the lowest tender: you can't
MORELL. Yes, the lowest, because you paid worse wages than any
other employer--starvation wages--aye, worse than starvation
wages--to the women who made the clothing. Your wages would have
driven them to the streets to keep body and soul together.
(Getting angrier and. angrier.) Those women were my parishioners.
I shamed the Guardians out of accepting your tender: I shamed the
ratepayers out of letting them do it: I shamed everybody but you.
(Boiling over.) How dare you, sir, come here and offer to forgive
me, and talk about your daughter, and--
BURGESS. Easy, James, easy, easy. Don't git hinto a fluster about
nothink. I've howned I was wrong.
MORELL (fuming about). Have you? I didn't hear you.
BURGESS. Of course I did. I hown it now. Come: I harsk your
pardon for the letter I wrote you. Is that enough?
MORELL (snapping his fingers). That's nothing. Have you raised
BURGESS (triumphantly). Yes.
MORELL (stopping dead). What!
BURGESS (unctuously). I've turned a moddle hemployer. I don't
hemploy no women now: they're all sacked; and the work is done by
machinery. Not a man 'as less than sixpence a hour; and the
skilled 'ands gits the Trade Union rate. (Proudly.) What 'ave you
to say to me now?
MORELL (overwhelmed). Is it possible! Well, there's more joy in
heaven over one sinner that repenteth-- (Going to Burgess with an
explosion of apologetic cordiality.) My dear Burgess, I most
heartily beg your pardon for my hard thoughts of you. (Grasps his
hand.) And now, don't you feel the better for the change? Come,
confess, you're happier. You look happier.
BURGESS (ruefully). Well, p'raps I do. I s'pose I must, since you
notice it. At all events, I git my contrax asseppit (accepted) by
the County Council. (Savagely.) They dussent'ave nothink to do
with me unless I paid fair wages--curse 'em for a parcel o'
MORELL (dropping his hand, utterly discouraged). So that was why
you raised the wages! (He sits down moodily.)
BURGESS (severely, in spreading, mounting tones). Why else should
I do it? What does it lead to but drink and huppishness in
workin' men? (He seats himself magisterially in the easy chair.)
It's hall very well for you, James: it gits you hinto the papers
and makes a great man of you; but you never think of the 'arm you
do, puttin' money into the pockets of workin' men that they don't
know 'ow to spend, and takin' it from people that might be makin'
a good huse on it.
MORELL (with a heavy sigh, speaking with cold politeness). What
is your business with me this morning? I shall not pretend to
believe that you are here merely out of family sentiment.
BURGESS (obstinately). Yes, I ham--just family sentiment and
MORELL (with weary calm). I don't believe you!
BURGESS (rising threateningly). Don't say that to me again, James
MORELL (unmoved). I'll say it just as often as may be necessary
to convince you that it's true. I don't believe you.
BURGESS (collapsing into an abyss of wounded feeling). Oh, well,
if you're determined to be unfriendly, I s'pose I'd better go.
(He moves reluctantly towards the door. Morell makes no sign. He
lingers.) I didn't hexpect to find a hunforgivin' spirit in you,
James. (Morell still not responding, he takes a few more
reluctant steps doorwards. Then he comes back whining.) We
huseter git on well enough, spite of our different opinions. Why
are you so changed to me? I give you my word I come here in pyorr
(pure) frenliness, not wishin' to be on bad terms with my hown
daughrter's 'usban'. Come, James: be a Cherishin and shake 'ands.
(He puts his hand sentimentally on Morell's shoulder.)
MORELL (looking up at him thoughtfully). Look here, Burgess. Do
you want to be as welcome here as you were before you lost that
BURGESS. I do, James. I do--honest.
MORELL. Then why don't you behave as you did then?
BURGESS (cautiously removing his hand). 'Ow d'y'mean?
MORELL. I'll tell you. You thought me a young fool then.
BURGESS (coaxingly). No, I didn't, James. I--
MORELL (cutting him short). Yes, you did. And I thought you an
BURGESS (most vehemently deprecating this gross self-accusation
on Morell's part). No, you didn't, James. Now you do yourself a
MORELL. Yes, I did. Well, that did not prevent our getting on
very well together. God made you what I call a scoundrel as he
made me what you call a fool. (The effect of this observation on
Burgess is to remove the keystone of his moral arch. He becomes
bodily weak, and, with his eyes fixed on Morell in a helpless
stare, puts out his hand apprehensively to balance himself, as if
the floor had suddenly sloped under him. Morell proceeds in the
same tone of quiet conviction.) It was not for me to quarrel with
his handiwork in the one case more than in the other. So long as
you come here honestly as a self-respecting, thorough, convinced
scoundrel, justifying your scoundrelism, and proud of it, you are
welcome. But (and now Morell's tone becomes formidable; and he
rises and strikes the back of the chair for greater emphasis) I
won't have you here snivelling about being a model employer and a
converted man when you're only an apostate with your coat turned
for the sake of a County Council contract. (He nods at him to
enforce the point; then goes to the hearth-rug, where he takes up
a comfortably commanding position with his back to the fire, and
continues) No: I like a man to be true to himself, even in
wickedness. Come now: either take your hat and go; or else sit
down and give me a good scoundrelly reason for wanting to be
friends with me. (Burgess, whose emotions have subsided
sufficiently to be expressed by a dazed grin, is relieved by this
concrete proposition. He ponders it for a moment, and then,
slowly and very modestly, sits down in the chair Morell has just
left.) That's right. Now, out with it.
BURGESS (chuckling in spite of himself.) Well, you ARE a queer
bird, James, and no mistake. But (almost enthusiastically) one
carnt 'elp likin' you; besides, as I said afore, of course one
don't take all a clorgyman says seriously, or the world couldn't
go on. Could it now? (He composes himself for graver discourse,
and turning his eyes on Morell proceeds with dull seriousness.)
Well, I don't mind tellin' you, since it's your wish we should be
free with one another, that I did think you a bit of a fool once;
but I'm beginnin' to think that p'r'aps I was be'ind the times a
MORELL (delighted ). Aha! You're finding that out at last, are
BURGESS (portentously). Yes, times 'as changed mor'n I could a
believed. Five yorr (year) ago, no sensible man would a thought
o' takin' up with your ideas. I hused to wonder you was let
preach at all. Why, I know a clorgyman that 'as bin kep' hout of
his job for yorrs by the Bishop of London, although the pore
feller's not a bit more religious than you are. But to-day, if
henyone was to offer to bet me a thousan' poun' that you'll end
by bein' a bishop yourself, I shouldn't venture to take the bet.
You and yore crew are gettin' hinfluential: I can see that.
They'll 'ave to give you something someday, if it's only to stop
yore mouth. You 'ad the right instinc' arter all, James: the line
you took is the payin' line in the long run fur a man o' your
MORELL (decisively--offering his hand). Shake hands, Burgess. Now
you're talking honestly. I don't think they'll make me a bishop;
but if they do, I'll introduce you to the biggest jobbers I can
get to come to my dinner parties.
BURGESS (who has risen with a sheepish grin and accepted the hand
of friendship). You will 'ave your joke, James. Our quarrel's
made up now, isn't it?
A WOMAN'S VOICE. Say yes, James.
Startled, they turn quickly and find that Candida has just come
in, and is looking at them with an amused maternal indulgence
which is her characteristic expression. She is a woman of 33,
well built, well nourished, likely, one guesses, to become
matronly later on, but now quite at her best, with the double
charm of youth and motherhood. Her ways are those of a woman who
has found that she can always manage people by engaging their
affection, and who does so frankly and instinctively without the
smallest scruple. So far, she is like any other pretty woman who
is just clever enough to make the most of her sexual attractions
for trivially selfish ends; but Candida's serene brow, courageous
eyes, and well set mouth and chin signify largeness of mind and
dignity of character to ennoble her cunning in the affections. A
wisehearted observer, looking at her, would at once guess that
whoever had placed the Virgin of the Assumption over her hearth
did so because he fancied some spiritual resemblance between
them, and yet would not suspect either her husband or herself of
any such idea, or indeed of any concern with the art of Titian.
Just now she is in bonnet and mantle, laden with a strapped rug
with her umbrella stuck through it, a handbag, and a supply of
MORELL (shocked at his remissness). Candida! Why--(looks at his
watch, and is horrified to find it so late.) My darling!
(Hurrying to her and seizing the rug strap, pouring forth his
remorseful regrets all the time.) I intended to meet
you at the train. I let the time slip. (Flinging the rug on the
sofa.) I was so engrossed by--(returning to her)--I forgot--
oh!(He embraces her with penitent emotion.)
BURGESS (a little shamefaced and doubtful of his reception).
How ors you, Candy? (She, still in Morell's arms, offers
him her cheek, which he kisses.) James and me is come to
a unnerstandin'--a honourable unnerstandin'. Ain' we, James?
MORELL (impetuously). Oh, bother your understanding! You've kept
me late for Candida. (With compassionate fervor.) My poor love:
how did you manage about the luggage?--how--
CANDIDA (stopping him and disengaging herself ). There, there,
there. I wasn't alone. Eugene came down yesterday; and we
traveled up together.
MORELL (pleased). Eugene!
CANDIDA. Yes: he's struggling with my luggage, poor boy. Go out,
dear, at once; or he will pay for the cab; and I don't want that.
(Morell hurries out. Candida puts down her handbag; then takes
off her mantle and bonnet and puts them on the sofa with the rug,
chatting meanwhile.) Well, papa, how are you getting on at home?
BURGESS. The 'ouse ain't worth livin' in since you left it,
Candy. I wish you'd come round and give the gurl a talkin' to.
Who's this Eugene that's come with you?
CANDIDA. Oh, Eugene's one of James's discoveries. He found him
sleeping on the Embankment last June. Haven't you noticed our new
picture (pointing to the Virgin)? He gave us that.
BURGESS (incredulously). Garn! D'you mean to tell me--your hown
father!--that cab touts or such like, orf the Embankment, buys
pictur's like that? (Severely.) Don't deceive me, Candy: it's a
'Igh Church pictur; and James chose it hisself.
CANDIDA. Guess again. Eugene isn't a cab tout.
BURGESS. Then wot is he? (Sarcastically.) A nobleman, I 'spose.
CANDIDA (delighted--nodding). Yes. His uncle's a peer--a real
BURGESS (not daring to believe such good news). No!
CANDIDA. Yes. He had a seven day bill for 55 pounds in his pocket
when James found him on the Embankment. He thought he couldn't
get any money for it until the seven days were up; and he was too
shy to ask for credit. Oh, he's a dear boy! We are very fond of
BURGESS (pretending to belittle the aristocracy, but with his
eyes gleaming). Hm, I thort you wouldn't git a piorr's (peer's)
nevvy visitin' in Victoria Park unless he were a bit of a flat.
(Looking again at the picture.) Of course I don't 'old with that
pictur, Candy; but still it's a 'igh class, fust rate work of
art: I can see that. Be sure you hintroduce me to him, Candy. (He
looks at his watch anxiously.) I can only stay about two minutes.
Morell comes back with Eugene, whom Burgess contemplates
moist-eyed with enthusiasm. He is a strange, shy youth of
eighteen, slight, effeminate, with a delicate childish voice, and
a hunted, tormented expression and shrinking manner that show the
painful sensitiveness that very swift and acute apprehensiveness
produces in youth, before the character has grown to its full
strength. Yet everything that his timidity and frailty suggests
is contradicted by his face. He is miserably irresolute, does
not know where to stand or what to do with his hands and feet, is
afraid of Burgess, and would run away into solitude if he dared;
but the very intensity with which he feels a perfectly
commonplace position shows great nervous force, and his nostrils
and mouth show a fiercely petulant wilfulness, as to the quality
of which his great imaginative eyes and fine brow are reassuring.
He is so entirely uncommon as to be almost unearthly; and to
prosaic people there is something noxious in this unearthliness,
just as to poetic people there is something angelic in it. His
dress is anarchic. He wears an old blue serge jacket, unbuttoned
over a woollen lawn tennis shirt, with a silk handkerchief for a
cravat, trousers matching the jacket, and brown canvas shoes.
In these garments he has apparently lain in the heather and waded
through the waters; but there is no evidence of his having ever
As he catches sight of a stranger on entering, he stops, and
edges along the wall on the opposite side of the room.
MORELL (as he enters). Come along: you can spare us quarter of an
hour, at all events. This is my father-in-law, Mr. Burgess--Mr.
MARCHBANKS (nervously backing against the bookcase). Glad to meet
BURGESS (crossing to him with great heartiness, whilst Morell
joins Candida at the fire). Glad to meet YOU, I'm shore, Mr.
Morchbanks. (Forcing him to shake hands.) 'Ow do you find
yoreself this weather? 'Ope you ain't lettin' James put no
foolish ideas into your 'ed?
MARCHBANKS. Foolish ideas! Oh, you mean Socialism. No.
BURGESS. That's right. (Again looking at his watch.) Well, I must
go now: there's no 'elp for it. Yo're not comin' my way, are you,
MARCHBANKS. Which way is that?
BURGESS. Victawriar Pork station. There's a city train at 12.25.
MORELL. Nonsense. Eugene will stay to lunch with us, I expect.
MARCHBANKS (anxiously excusing. himself ). No--I--I--
BURGESS. Well, well, I shan't press you: I bet you'd rather lunch
with Candy. Some night, I 'ope, you'll come and dine with me at
my club, the Freeman Founders in Nortn Folgit. Come, say you
MARCHBANKS. Thank you, Mr. Burgess. Where is Norton Folgate--down
in Surrey, isn't it? (Burgess, inexpressibly tickled, begins to
splutter with laughter.)
CANDIDA (coming to the rescue). You'll lose your train, papa, if
you don't go at once. Come back in the afternoon and tell Mr.
Marchbanks where to find the club.
BURGESS (roaring with glee). Down in Surrey--har, har! that's not
a bad one. Well, I never met a man as didn't know Nortn Folgit
before.(Abashed at his own noisiness.) Good-bye, Mr. Morchbanks:
I know yo're too 'ighbred to take my pleasantry in bad part. (He
again offers his hand.)
MARCHBANKS (taking it with a nervous jerk). Not at all.
BURGESS. Bye, bye, Candy. I'll look in again later on. So long,
MORELL. Must you go?
BURGESS. Don't stir. (He goes out with unabated heartiness.)
MORELL. Oh, I'll see you out. (He follows him out. Eugene stares
after them apprehensively, holding his breath until Burgess
CANDIDA (laughing). Well, Eugene. (He turns with a start and
comes eagerly towards her, but stops irresolutely as he meets her
amused look.) What do you think of my father?
MARCHBANKS. I--I hardly know him yet. He seems to be a very nice
CANDIDA (with gentle irony). And you'll go to the Freeman
Founders to dine with him, won't you?
MARCHBANKS (miserably, taking it quite seriously). Yes, if it
will please you.
CANDIDA (touched). Do you know, you are a very nice boy, Eugene,
with all your queerness. If you had laughed at my father I
shouldn't have minded; but I like you ever so much better for
being nice to him.
MARCHBANKS. Ought I to have laughed? I noticed that he said
something funny; but I am so ill at ease with strangers; and I
never can see a joke! I'm very sorry. (He sits down on the sofa,
his elbows on his knees and his temples between his fists, with
an expression of hopeless suffering.)
CANDIDA (bustling him goodnaturedly). Oh, come! You great baby,
you! You are worse than usual this morning. Why were you so
melancholy as we came along in the cab?
MARCHBANKS. Oh, that was nothing. I was wondering how much I
ought to give the cabman. I know it's utterly silly; but you
don't know how dreadful such things are to me--how I shrink from
having to deal with strange people. (Quickly and reassuringly.)
But it's all right. He beamed all over and touched his hat when
Morell gave him two shillings. I was on the point of offering him
ten. (Candida laughs heartily. Morell comes back with a few
letters and newspapers which have come by the midday post.)
CANDIDA. Oh, James, dear, he was going to give the cabman ten
shillings--ten shillings for a three minutes' drive--oh, dear!
MORELL (at the table, glancing through the letters). Never mind
her, Marchbanks. The overpaying instinct is a generous one:
better than the underpaying instinct, and not so common.
MARCHBANKS (relapsing into dejection). No: cowardice,
incompetence. Mrs. Morell's quite right.
CANDIDA. Of course she is. (She takes up her handbag.) And now I
must leave you to James for the present. I suppose you are too
much of a poet to know the state a woman finds her house in when
she's been away for three weeks. Give me my rug. (Eugene takes
the strapped rug from the couch, and gives it to her. She takes
it in her left hand, having the bag in her right.) Now hang my
cloak across my arm. (He obeys.) Now my hat. (He puts it into the
hand which has the bag.) Now open the door for me. (He hurries up
before her and opens the door.) Thanks. (She goes out; and
Marchbanks shuts the door.)
MORELL (still busy at the table). You'll stay to lunch,
Marchbanks, of course.
MARCHBANKS (scared). I mustn't. (He glances quickly at Morell,
but at once avoids his frank look, and adds, with obvious
disingenuousness) I can't.
MORELL (over his shoulder). You mean you won't.
MARCHBANKS (earnestly). No: I should like to, indeed. Thank you
very much. But--but--
MORELL (breezily, finishing with the letters and coming close to
him). But--but--but--but--bosh! If you'd like to stay, stay. You
don't mean to persuade me you have anything else to do. If you're
shy, go and take a turn in the park and write poetry until half
past one; and then come in and have a good feed.
MARCHBANKS. Thank you, I should like that very much. But I really
mustn't. The truth is, Mrs. Morell told me not to. She said she
didn't think you'd ask me to stay to lunch, but that I was to
remember, if you did, that you didn't really want me to.
(Plaintively.) She said I'd understand; but I don't. Please don't
tell her I told you.
MORELL (drolly). Oh, is that all? Won't my suggestion that you
should take a turn in the park meet the difficulty?
MORELL (exploding good-humoredly). Why, you duffer--(But this
boisterousness jars himself as well as Eugene. He checks himself,
and resumes, with affectionate seriousness) No: I won't put it in
that way. My dear lad: in a happy marriage like ours, there is
something very sacred in the return of the wife to her home.
(Marchbanks looks quickly at him, half anticipating his meaning.)
An old friend or a truly noble and sympathetic soul is not in the
way on such occasions; but a chance visitor is. (The hunted,
horrors-tricken expression comes out with sudden vividness in
Eugene's face as he understands. Morell, occupied with his own
thought, goes on without noticing it.) Candida thought I
would rather not have you here; but she was wrong. I'm very fond
of you, my boy, and I should like you to see for yourself what a
happy thing it is to be married as I am.
MARCHBANKS, Happy!--YOUR marriage! You think that! You believe
MORELL (buoyantly). I know it, my lad. La Rochefoucauld said that
there are convenient marriages, but no delightful ones. You don't
know the comfort of seeing through and through a thundering liar
and rotten cynic like that fellow. Ha, ha! Now off with you to
the park, and write your poem. Half past one, sharp, mind: we
never wait for anybody.
MARCHBANKS (wildly). No: stop: you shan't. I'll force it into the
MORELL (puzzled). Eh? Force what?
MARCHBANKS. I must speak to you. There is something that must be
settled between us.
MORELL (with a whimsical glance at the clock). Now?
MARCHBANKS (passionately). Now. Before you leave this room. (He
retreats a few steps, and stands as if to bar Morell's way to the
MORELL (without moving, and gravely, perceiving now that there is
something serious the matter). I'm not going to leave it, my dear
boy: I thought YOU were. (Eugene, baffled by his firm tone, turns
his back on him, writhing with anger. Morell goes to him and puts
his hand on his shoulder strongly and kindly, disregarding his
attempt to shake it off) Come: sit down quietly; and tell me what
it is. And remember; we are friends, and need not fear that
either of us will be anything but patient and kind to the other,
whatever we may have to say.
MARCHBANKS (twisting himself round on him). Oh, I am not
forgetting myself: I am only (covering his face desperately with
his hands) full of horror. (Then, dropping his hands, and
thrusting his face forward fiercely at Morell, he goes on
threateningly.) You shall see whether this is a time for patience
and kindness. (Morell, firm as a rock, looks indulgently at him.)
Don't look at me in that self-complacent way. You think yourself
stronger than I am; but I shall stagger you if you have a heart
in your breast.
MORELL (powerfully confident). Stagger me, my boy. Out with it.
MARCHBANKS. I love your wife.
(Morell recoils, and, after staring at him for a moment in utter
amazement, bursts into uncontrollable laughter. Eugene is taken
aback, but not disconcerted; and he soon becomes indignant and
MORELL (sitting down to have his laugh out). Why, my dear child,
of course you do. Everybody loves her: they can't help it. I like
it. But (looking up whimsically at him) I say, Eugene: do you
think yours is a case to be talked about? You're under twenty:
she's over thirty. Doesn't it look rather too like a case of calf
MARCHBANKS (vehemently). YOU dare say that of her! You think that
way of the love she inspires! It is an insult to her!
MORELL (rising; quickly, in an altered tone). To her! Eugene:
take care. I have been patient. I hope to remain patient. But
there are some things I won't allow. Don't force me to show you
the indulgence I should show to a child. Be a man.
MARCHBANKS (with a gesture as if sweeping something behind him).
Oh, let us put aside all that cant. It horrifies me when I think
of the doses of it she has had to endure in all the weary years
during which you have selfishly and blindly sacrificed her to
minister to your self-sufficiency--YOU (turning on him) who have
not one thought--one sense--in common with her.
MORELL (philosophically). She seems to bear it pretty well.
(Looking him straight in the face.) Eugene, my boy: you are
making a fool of yourself--a very great fool of yourself. There's
a piece of wholesome plain speaking for you.
MARCHBANKS. Oh, do you think I don't know all that? Do you think
that the things people make fools of themselves about are any
less real and true than the things they behave sensibly about?
(Morell's gaze wavers for the first time. He instinctively averts
his face and stands listening, startled and thoughtful.) They are
more true: they are the only things that are true. You are very
calm and sensible and moderate with me because you can see that I
am a fool about your wife; just as no doubt that old man who was
here just now is very wise over your socialism, because he sees
that YOU are a fool about it. (Morell's perplexity deepens
markedly. Eugene follows up his advantage, plying him fiercely
with questions.) Does that prove you wrong? Does your complacent
superiority to me prove that I am wrong?
MORELL (turning on Eugene, who stands his ground). Marchbanks:
some devil is putting these words into your mouth. It is easy--
terribly easy--to shake a man's faith in himself. To take
advantage of that to break a man's spirit is devil's work. Take
care of what you are doing. Take care.
MARCHBANKS (ruthlessly). I know. I'm doing it on purpose. I told
you I should stagger you.
(They confront one another threateningly for a moment. Then
Morell recovers his dignity.)
MORELL (with noble tenderness). Eugene: listen to me. Some day, I
hope and trust, you will be a happy man like me. (Eugene chafes
intolerantly, repudiating the worth of his happiness. Morell,
deeply insulted, controls himself with fine forbearance, and
continues steadily, with great artistic beauty of delivery) You
will be married; and you will be working with all your might and
valor to make every spot on earth as happy as your own home. You
will be one of the makers of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth; and
--who knows?--you may be a pioneer and master builder where I am
only a humble journeyman; for don't think, my boy, that I cannot
see in you, young as you are, promise of higher powers than I can
ever pretend to. I well know that it is in the poet that the
holy spirit of man--the god within him--is most godlike. It
should make you tremble to think of that--to think that the heavy
burthen and great gift of a poet may be laid upon you.
MARCHBANKS (unimpressed and remorseless, his boyish crudity of
assertion telling sharply against Morell's oratory). It does not
make me tremble. It is the want of it in others that makes me
MORELL (redoubling his force of style under the stimulus of his
genuine feelinq and Eugene's obduracy). Then help to kindle it in
them--in ME---not to extinguish it. In the future--when you are
as happy as I am--I will be your true brother in the faith. I
will help you to believe that God has given us a world that
nothing but our own folly keeps from being a paradise. I will
help you to believe that every stroke of your work is sowing
happiness for the great harvest that all--even the humblest--
shall one day reap. And last, but trust me, not least, I will
help you to believe that your wife loves you and is happy in her
home. We need such help, Marchbanks: we need it greatly and
always. There are so many things to make us doubt, if once we let
our understanding be troubled. Even at home, we sit as if in
camp, encompassed by a hostile army of doubts. Will you play the
traitor and let them in on me?
MARCHBANKS (looking round him). Is it like this for her here
always? A woman, with a great soul, craving for reality, truth,
freedom, and being fed on metaphors, sermons, stale perorations,
mere rhetoric. Do you think a woman's soul can live on your
talent for preaching?
MORELL (Stung). Marchbanks: you make it hard for me to control
myself. My talent is like yours insofar as it has any real worth
at all. It is the gift of finding words for divine truth.
MARCHBANKS (impetuously). It's the gift of the gab, nothing more
and nothing less. What has your knack of fine talking to do with
the truth, any more than playing the organ has? I've never been
in your church; but I've been to your political meetings; and
I've seen you do what's called rousing the meeting to enthusiasm:
that is, you excited them until they behaved exactly as if they
were drunk. And their wives looked on and saw clearly enough
what fools they were. Oh, it's an old story: you'll find it
in the Bible. I imagine King David, in his fits of enthusiasm,
was very like you. (Stabbing him with the words.) "But his wife
despised him in her heart."
MORELL (wrathfully). Leave my house. Do you hear? (He advances on
MARCHBANKS (shrinking back against the couch). Let me alone.
Don't touch me. (Morell grasps him powerfully by the lappell of
his coat: he cowers down on the sofa and screams passionately.)
Stop, Morell, if you strike me, I'll kill myself. I won't bear
it. (Almost in hysterics.) Let me go. Take your hand away.
MORELL (with slow, emphatic scorn.) You little snivelling,
cowardly whelp. (Releasing him.) Go, before you frighten yourself
into a fit.
MARCHBANKS (on the sofa, gasping, but relieved by the withdrawal
of Morell's hand). I'm not afraid of you: it's you who are afraid
MORELL (quietly, as he stands over him). It looks like it,
MARCHBANKS (with petulant vehemence). Yes, it does. (Morell turns
away contemptuously. Eugene scrambles to his feet and follows
him.) You think because I shrink from being brutally handled--
because (with tears in his voice) I can do nothing but cry with
rage when I am met with violence--because I can't lift a heavy
trunk down from the top of a cab like you--because I can't fight
you for your wife as a navvy would: all that makes you think that
I'm afraid of you. But you're wrong. If I haven't got what you
call British pluck, I haven't British cowardice either: I'm not
afraid of a clergyman's ideas. I'll fight your ideas. I'll rescue
her from her slavery to them: I'll pit my own ideas against them.
You are driving me out of the house because you daren't let her
choose between your ideas and mine. You are afraid to let me see
her again. (Morell, angered, turns suddenly on him. He flies to
the door in involuntary dread.) Let me alone, I say. I'm going.
MORELL (with cold scorn). Wait a moment: I am not going to touch
you: don't be afraid. When my wife comes back she will want to
know why you have gone. And when she finds that you are never
going to cross our threshold again, she will want to have that
explained, too. Now I don't wish to distress her by telling her
that you have behaved like a blackguard.
MARCHBANKS (Coming back with renewed vehemence). You shall--you
must. If you give any explanation but the true one, you are a
liar and a coward. Tell her what I said; and how you were strong
and manly, and shook me as a terrier shakes a rat; and how I
shrank and was terrified; and how you called me a snivelling
little whelp and put me out of the house. If you don't tell her,
I will: I'll write to her.
MORELL (taken aback.) Why do you want her to know this?
MARCHBANKS (with lyric rapture.) Because she will understand me,
and know that I understand her. If you keep back one word of it
from her--if you are not ready to lay the truth at her feet as I
am--then you will know to the end of your days that she really
belongs to me and not to you. Good-bye. (Going.)
MORELL (terribly disquieted). Stop: I will not tell her.
MARCHBANKS (turning near the door). Either the truth or a lie
you MUST tell her, if I go.
MORELL (temporizing). Marchbanks: it is sometimes justifiable.
MARCHBANKS (cutting him short). I know--to lie. It will
be useless. Good-bye, Mr. Clergyman.
(As he turns finally to the door, it opens and Candida enters in
CANDIDA. Are you going, Eugene?(Looking more observantly at him.)
Well, dear me, just look at you, going out into the street in
that state! You ARE a poet, certainly. Look at him, James! (She
takes him by the coat, and brings him forward to show him to
Morell.) Look at his collar! look at his tie! look at his hair!
One would think somebody had been throttling you. (The two men
guard themselves against betraying their consciousness.) Here!
Stand still. (She buttons his collar; ties his neckerchief in a
bow; and arranges his hair.) There! Now you look so nice that I
think you'd better stay to lunch after all, though I told you you
mustn't. It will be ready in half an hour. (She puts a final
touch to the bow. He kisses her hand.) Don't be silly.
MARCHBANKS. I want to stay, of course--unless the reverend
gentleman, your husband, has anything to advance to the contrary.
CANDIDA. Shall he stay, James, if he promises to be a good boy
and to help me to lay the table? (Marchbanks turns his head and
looks steadfastly at Morell over his shoulder, challenging his
MORELL (shortly). Oh, yes, certainly: he had better. (He goes to
the table and pretends to busy himself with his papers there.)
MARCHBANKS (offering his arm to Candida). Come and lay the
table.(She takes it and they go to the door together. As they go
out he adds) I am the happiest of men.
MORELL. So was I--an hour ago.