List Of Contents | Contents of Man and Superman, by Bernard Shaw
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all been brought up to have advanced opinions. Why do you persist
in thinking me so narrow minded?

TANNER. That's the danger of it. I know you don't mind, because
you've found out that it doesn't matter. The boa constrictor
doesn't mind the opinions of a stag one little bit when once she
has got her coils round it.

ANN. [rising in sudden enlightenment] O-o-o-o-oh! NOW I
understand why you warned Tavy that I am a boa constrictor.
Granny told me. [She laughs and throws her boa around her neck].
Doesn't it feel nice and soft, Jack?

TANNER. [in the toils] You scandalous woman, will you throw away
even your hypocrisy?

ANN. I am never hypocritical with you, Jack. Are you angry? [She
withdraws the boa and throws it on a chair]. Perhaps I shouldn't
have done that.

TANNER. [contemptuously] Pooh, prudery! Why should you not, if it
amuses you?

ANN. [Shyly] Well, because--because I suppose what you really
meant by the boa constrictor was THIS [she puts her arms round
his neck].

TANNER. [Staring at her] Magnificent audacity! [She laughs and
pats his cheeks]. Now just to think that if I mentioned this
episode not a soul would believe me except the people who would
cut me for telling, whilst if you accused me of it nobody would
believe my denial.

ANN. [taking her arms away with perfect dignity] You are
incorrigible, Jack. But you should not jest about our affection
for one another. Nobody could possibly misunderstand it. YOU do
not misunderstand it, I hope.

TANNER. My blood interprets for me, Ann. Poor Ricky Tiky Tavy!

ANN. [looking quickly at him as if this were a new light] Surely
you are not so absurd as to be jealous of Tavy.

TANNER. Jealous! Why should I be? But I don't wonder at your
grip of him. I feel the coils tightening round my very self,
though you are only playing with me.

ANN. Do you think I have designs on Tavy?

TANNER. I know you have.

ANN. [earnestly] Take care, Jack. You may make Tavy very happy
if you mislead him about me.

TANNER. Never fear: he will not escape you.

ANN. I wonder are you really a clever man!

TANNER. Why this sudden misgiving on the subject?

ANN. You seem to understand all the things I don't understand;
but you are a perfect baby in the things I do understand.

TANNER. I understand how Tavy feels for you, Ann; you may depend
on that, at all events.

ANN. And you think you understand how I feel for Tavy, don't

TANNER. I know only too well what is going to happen to poor

ANN. I should laugh at you, Jack, if it were not for poor papa's
death. Mind! Tavy will be very unhappy.

TANNER. Yes; but he won't know it, poor devil. He is a thousand
times too good for you. That's why he is going to make the
mistake of his life about you.

ANN. I think men make more mistakes by being too clever than by
being too good [she sits down, with a trace of contempt for the
whole male sex in the elegant carriage of her shoulders].

TANNER. Oh, I know you don't care very much about Tavy. But
there is always one who kisses and one who only allows the kiss.
Tavy will kiss; and you will only turn the cheek. And you will
throw him over if anybody better turns up.

ANN. [offended] You have no right to say such things, Jack. They
are not true, and not delicate. If you and Tavy choose to be
stupid about me, that is not my fault.

TANNER. [remorsefully] Forgive my brutalities, Ann. They are
levelled at this wicked world, not at you. [She looks up at him,
pleased and forgiving. He becomes cautious at once]. All the
same, I wish Ramsden would come back. I never feel safe with
you: there is a devilish charm--or no: not a charm, a subtle
interest [she laughs]. Just so: you know it; and you triumph in
it. Openly and shamelessly triumph in it!

ANN. What a shocking flirt you are, Jack!

TANNER. A flirt!! I!!

ANN. Yes, a flirt. You are always abusing and offending people.
but you never really mean to let go your hold of them.

TANNER. I will ring the bell. This conversation has already gone
further than I intended.

Ramsden and Octavius come back with Miss Ramsden, a hardheaded
old maiden lady in a plain brown silk gown, with enough rings,
chains and brooches to show that her plainness of dress is a
matter of principle, not of poverty. She comes into the room very
determinedly: the two men, perplexed and downcast, following her.
Ann rises and goes eagerly to meet her. Tanner retreats to the
wall between the busts and pretends to study the pictures.
Ramsden goes to his table as usual; and Octavius clings to the
neighborhood of Tanner.

MISS RAMSDEN. [almost pushing Ann aside as she comes to Mr.
Whitefield's chair and plants herself there resolutely] I wash my
hands of the whole affair.

OCTAVIUS. [very wretched] I know you wish me to take Violet away,
Miss Ramsden. I will. [He turns irresolutely to the door].

RAMSDEN. No no--

MISS RAMSDEN. What is the use of saying no, Roebuck? Octavius
knows that I would not turn any truly contrite and repentant
woman from your doors. But when a woman is not only wicked, but
intends to go on being wicked, she and I part company.

ANN. Oh, Miss Ramsden, what do you mean? What has Violet said?

RAMSDEN. Violet is certainly very obstinate. She won't leave
London. I don't understand her.

MISS RAMSDEN. I do. It's as plain as the nose on your face,
Roebuck, that she won't go because she doesn't want to be
separated from this man, whoever he is.

ANN. Oh, surely, surely! Octavius: did you speak to her?

OCTAVIUS. She won't tell us anything. She won't make any
arrangement until she has consulted somebody. It can't be anybody
else than the scoundrel who has betrayed her.

TANNER. [to Octavius] Well, let her consult him. He will be glad
enough to have her sent abroad. Where is the difficulty?

MISS RAMSDEN. [Taking the answer out of Octavius's mouth]. The
difficulty, Mr Jack, is that when he offered to help her I didn't
offer to become her accomplice in her wickedness. She either
pledges her word never to see that man again, or else she finds
some new friends; and the sooner the better.

[The parlormaid appears at the door. Ann hastily resumes her
seat, and looks as unconcerned as possible. Octavius
instinctively imitates her].

THE MAID. The cab is at the door, ma'am.


THE MAID. For Miss Robinson.

MISS RAMSDEN. Oh! [Recovering herself] All right. [The maid
withdraws]. She has sent for a cab.

TANNER. I wanted to send for that cab half an hour ago.

MISS RAMSDEN. I am glad she understands the position she has
placed herself in.

RAMSDEN. I don't like her going away in this fashion, Susan. We
had better not do anything harsh.

OCTAVIUS. No: thank you again and again; but Miss Ramsden is
quite right. Violet cannot expect to stay.

ANN. Hadn't you better go with her, Tavy?

OCTAVIUS. She won't have me.

MISS RAMSDEN. Of course she won't. She's going straight to that

TANNER. As a natural result of her virtuous reception here.

RAMSDEN. [much troubled] There, Susan! You hear! and there's some
truth in it. I wish you could reconcile it with your principles
to be a little patient with this poor girl. She's very young; and
there's a time for everything.

MISS RAMSDEN. Oh, she will get all the sympathy she wants from
the men. I'm surprised at you, Roebuck.

TANNER. So am I, Ramsden, most favorably.

Violet appears at the door. She is as impenitent and self-assured
a young lady as one would desire to see among the best behaved of
her sex. Her small head and tiny resolute mouth and chin; her
haughty crispness of speech and trimness of carriage; the
ruthless elegance of her equipment, which includes a very smart
hat with a dead bird in it, mark a personality which is as
formidable as it is exquisitely pretty. She is not a siren, like
Ann: admiration comes to her without any compulsion or even
interest on her part; besides, there is some fun in Ann, but in
this woman none, perhaps no mercy either: if anything restrains
her, it is intelligence and pride, not compassion. Her voice
might be the voice of a schoolmistress addressing a class of
girls who had disgraced themselves, as she proceeds with complete
composure and some disgust to say what she has come to say.

VIOLET. I have only looked in to tell Miss Ramsden that she will
find her birthday present to me, the filagree bracelet, in the
housekeeper's room.

TANNER. Do come in, Violet, and talk to us sensibly.

VIOLET. Thank you: I have had quite enough of the family
conversation this morning. So has your mother, Ann: she has gone
home crying. But at all events, I have found out what some of my
pretended friends are worth. Good bye.

TANNER. No, no: one moment. I have something to say which I beg
you to hear. [She looks at him without the slightest curiosity,
but waits, apparently as much to finish getting her glove on as
to hear what he has to say]. I am altogether on your side in this
matter. I congratulate you, with the sincerest respect, on having
the courage to do what you have done. You are entirely in the
right; and the family is entirely in the wrong.

Sensation. Ann and Miss Ramsden rise and turn toward the two.
Violet, more surprised than any of the others, forgets her glove,
and comes forward into the middle of the room, both puzzled and
displeased. Qctavius alone does not move or raise his head; he is
overwhelmed with shame.

ANN. [pleading to Tanner to be sensible] Jack!

MISS RAMSDEN. [outraged} Well, I must say!

VIOLET. [sharply to Tanner] Who told you?

TANNER. Why, Ramsden and Tavy of course. Why should they not?

VIOLET. But they don't know.

TANNER. Don't know what?

VIOLET. They don't know that I am in the right, I mean.

TANNER. Oh, they know it in their hearts, though they think
themselves bound to blame you by their silly superstitions about
morality and propriety and so forth. But I know, and the whole
world really knows, though it dare not say so, that you were
right to follow your instinct; that vitality and bravery are the
greatest qualities a woman can have, and motherhood her solemn
initiation into womanhood; and that the fact of your not being
legally married matters not one scrap either to your own worth or
to our real regard for you.

VIOLET. [flushing with indignation] Oh! You think me a wicked
woman, like the rest. You think I have not only been vile, but
that I share your abominable opinions. Miss Ramsden: I have borne
your hard words because I knew you would be sorry for them when
you found out the truth. But I won't bear such a horrible insult
as to be complimented by Jack on being one of the wretches of
whom he approves. I have kept my marriage a secret for my
husband's sake. But now I claim my right as a married woman not
to be insulted.

OCTAVIUS. [raising his head with inexpressible relief] You are

VIOLET. Yes; and I think you might have guessed it. What business
had you all to take it for granted that I had no right to wear my
wedding ring? Not one of you even asked me: I cannot forget that.

TANNER. [in ruins] I am utterly crushed. I meant well--I
apologize--abjectly apologize.

VIOLET. I hope you will be more careful in future about the
things you say. Of course one does not take them seriously. But
they are very disagreeable, and rather in bad taste.

TANNER. [bowing to the storm] I have no defence: I shall know
better in future than to take any woman's part. We have all
disgraced ourselves in your eyes, I am afraid, except Ann, SHE
befriended you. For Ann's sake, forgive us.

VIOLET. Yes: Ann has been very kind; but then Ann knew.


MISS RAMSDEN. [stiffly] And who, pray, is the gentleman who does
not acknowledge his wife?

VIOLET. [promptly] That is my business, Miss Ramsden, and not
yours. I have my reasons for keeping my marriage a secret for the

RAMSDEN. All I can say is that we are extremely sorry, Violet. I
am shocked to think of how we have treated you.

OCTAVIUS. [awkwardly] I beg your pardon, Violet. I can say no

MISS RAMSDEN. [still loth to surrender] Of course what you say
puts a very different complexion on the matter. All the same, I
owe it to myself--

VIOLET. [cutting her short] You owe me an apology, Miss Ramsden:
that's what you owe both to yourself and to me. If you were a
married woman you would not like sitting in the housekeeper's
room and being treated like a naughty child by young girls and
old ladies without any serious duties and responsibilities.

TANNER. Don't hit us when we're down, Violet. We seem to have
made fools of ourselves; but really it was you who made fools of

VIOLET. It was no business of yours, Jack, in any case.

TANNER. No business of mine! Why, Ramsden as good as accused me
of being the unknown gentleman.

Ramsden makes a frantic demonstration; but Violet's cool keen
anger extinguishes it.

VIOLET. You! Oh, how infamous! how abominable! How disgracefully
you have all been talking about me! If my husband knew it he
would never let me speak to any of you again. [To Ramsden] I
think you might have spared me, at least.

RAMSDEN. But I assure you I never--at least it is a monstrous
perversion of something I said that--

MISS RAMSDEN. You needn't apologize, Roebuck. She brought it all
on herself. It is for her to apologize for having deceived us.

VIOLET. I can make allowances for you, Miss Ramsden: you cannot
understand how I feel on this subject though I should have
expected rather better taste from people of greater experience.
However, I quite feel that you have all placed yourselves in a
very painful position; and the most truly considerate thing for
me to do is to go at once. Good morning.

She goes, leaving them staring.

Miss RAMSDEN. Well, I must say--!

RAMSDEN. [plaintively] I don't think she is quite fair to us.

TANNER. You must cower before the wedding ring like the rest of
us, Ramsden. The cup of our ignominy is full.

Act II

On the carriage drive in the park of a country house near
Richmond a motor car has broken down. It stands in front of a
clump of trees round which the drive sweeps to the house, which
is partly visible through them: indeed Tanner, standing in the
drive with the car on his right hand, could get an unobstructed
view of the west corner of the house on his left were he not far
too much interested in a pair of supine legs in blue serge
trousers which protrude from beneath the machine. He is watching
them intently with bent back and hands supported on his knees.
His leathern overcoat and peaked cap proclaim him one of the
dismounted passengers.

THE LEGS. Aha! I got him.

TANNER. All right now?

THE LEGS. All right now.

Tanner stoops and takes the legs by the ankles, drawing their
owner forth like a wheelbarrow, walking on his hands, with a
hammer in his mouth. He is a young man in a neat suit of blue
serge, clean shaven, dark eyed, square fingered, with short well
brushed black hair and rather irregular sceptically turned
eyebrows. When he is manipulating the car his movements are swift
and sudden, yet attentive and deliberate. With Tanner and

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