a pram and a nussmaid to wheel you in it as that car and me if you don't git the last inch out of us both. TANNER. [soothingly] All right, Henry, all right. We'll go out for half an hour presently. STRAKER. [in disgust] Arf an ahr! [He returns to his machine; seats himself in it; and turns up a fresh page of his paper in search of more news]. OCTAVIUS. Oh, that reminds me. I have a note for you from Rhoda. [He gives Tanner a note]. TANNER. [opening it] I rather think Rhoda is heading for a row with Ann. As a rule there is only one person an English girl hates more than she hates her mother; and that's her eldest sister. But Rhoda positively prefers her mother to Ann. She-- [indignantly] Oh, I say! OCTAVIUS. What's the matter? TANNER. Rhoda was to have come with me for a ride in the motor car. She says Ann has forbidden her to go out with me. Straker suddenly begins whistling his favorite air with remarkable deliberation. Surprised by this burst of larklike melody, and jarred by a sardonic note in its cheerfulness, they turn and look inquiringly at him. But he is busy with his paper; and nothing comes of their movement. OCTAVIUS. [recovering himself] Does she give any reason? TANNER. Reason! An insult is not a reason. Ann forbids her to be alone with me on any occasion. Says I am not a fit person for a young girl to be with. What do you think of your paragon now? OCTAVIUS. You must remember that she has a very heavy responsibility now that her father is dead. Mrs Whitefield is too weak to control Rhoda. TANNER. [staring at him] In short, you agree with Ann. OCTAVIUS. No; but I think I understand her. You must admit that your views are hardly suited for the formation of a young girl's mind and character. TANNER. I admit nothing of the sort. I admit that the formation of a young lady's mind and character usually consists in telling her lies; but I object to the particular lie that I am in the habit of abusing the confidence of girls. OCTAVIUS. Ann doesn't say that, Jack. TANNER. What else does she mean? STRAKER. [catching sight of Ann coming from the house] Miss Whitefield, gentlemen. [He dismounts and strolls away down the avenue with the air of a man who knows he is no longer wanted]. ANN. [coming between Octavius and Tanner]. Good morning, Jack. I have come to tell you that poor Rhoda has got one of her headaches and cannot go out with you to-day in the car. It is a cruel disappointment to her, poor child! TANNER. What do you say now, Tavy, OCTAVIUS. Surely you cannot misunderstand, Jack. Ann is showing you the kindest consideration, even at the cost of deceiving you. ANN. What do you mean? TANNER. Would you like to cure Rhoda's headache, Ann? ANN. Of course. TANNER. Then tell her what you said just now; and add that you arrived about two minutes after I had received her letter and read it. ANN. Rhoda has written to you! TANNER. With full particulars. OCTAVIUS. Never mind him, Ann. You were right, quite right. Ann was only doing her duty, Jack; and you know it. Doing it in the kindest way, too. ANN. [going to Octavius] How kind you are, Tavy! How helpful! How well you understand! Octavius beams. TANNER. Ay: tighten the coils. You love her, Tavy, don't you? OCTAVIUS. She knows I do. ANN. Hush. For shame, Tavy! TANNER. Oh, I give you leave. I am your guardian; and I commit you to Tavy's care for the next hour. ANN. No, Jack. I must speak to you about Rhoda. Ricky: will you go back to the house and entertain your American friend? He's rather on Mamma's hands so early in the morning. She wants to finish her housekeeping. OCTAVIUS. I fly, dearest Ann [he kisses her hand]. ANN. [tenderly] Ricky Ticky Tavy! He looks at her with an eloquent blush, and runs off. TANNER. [bluntly] Now look here, Ann. This time you've landed yourself; and if Tavy were not in love with you past all salvation he'd have found out what an incorrigible liar you are. ANN. You misunderstand, Jack. I didn't dare tell Tavy the truth. TANNER. No: your daring is generally in the opposite direction. What the devil do you mean by telling Rhoda that I am too vicious to associate with her? How can I ever have any human or decent relations with her again, now that you have poisoned her mind in that abominable way? ANN. I know you are incapable of behaving badly. TANNER. Then why did you lie to her? ANN. I had to. TANNER. Had to! ANN. Mother made me. TANNER. [his eye flashing] Ha! I might have known it. The mother! Always the mother! ANN. It was that dreadful book of yours. You know how timid mother is. All timid women are conventional: we must be conventional, Jack, or we are so cruelly, so vilely misunderstood. Even you, who are a man, cannot say what you think without being misunderstood and vilified--yes: I admit it: I have had to vilify you. Do you want to have poor Rhoda misunderstood and vilified to the same way? Would it be right for mother to let her expose herself to such treatment before she is old enough to judge for herself? TANNER. In short, the way to avoid misunderstanding is for everybody to lie and slander and insinuate and pretend as hard as they can. That is what obeying your mother comes to. ANN. I love my mother, Jack. TANNER. [working himself up into a sociological rage] Is that any reason why you are not to call your soul your own? Oh, I protest against this vile abjection of youth to age! look at fashionable society as you know it. What does it pretend to be? An exquisite dance of nymphs. What is it? A horrible procession of wretched girls, each in the claws of a cynical, cunning, avaricious, disillusioned, ignorantly experienced, foul-minded old woman whom she calls mother, and whose duty it is to corrupt her mind and sell her to the highest bidder. Why do these unhappy slaves marry anybody, however old and vile, sooner than not marry at all? Because marriage is their only means of escape from these decrepit fiends who hide their selfish ambitions, their jealous hatreds of the young rivals who have supplanted them, under the mask of maternal duty and family affection. Such things are abominable: the voice of nature proclaims for the daughter a father's care and for the son a mother's. The law for father and son and mother and daughter is not the law of love: it is the law of revolution, of emancipation, of final supersession of the old and worn-out by the young and capable. I tell you, the first duty of manhood and womanhood is a Declaration of Independence: the man who pleads his father's authority is no man: the woman who pleads her mother's authority is unfit to bear citizens to a free people. ANN. [watching him with quiet curiosity] I suppose you will go in seriously for politics some day, Jack. TANNER. [heavily let down] Eh? What? Wh--? [Collecting his scattered wits] What has that got to do with what I have been saying? ANN. You talk so well. TANNER. Talk! Talk! It means nothing to you but talk. Well, go back to your mother, and help her to poison Rhoda's imagination as she has poisoned yours. It is the tame elephants who enjoy capturing the wild ones. ANN. I am getting on. Yesterday I was a boa constrictor: to-day I am an elephant. TANNER. Yes. So pack your trunk and begone; I have no more to say to you. ANN. You are so utterly unreasonable and impracticable. What can I do? TANNER. Do! Break your chains. Go your way according to your own conscience and not according to your mother's. Get your mind clean and vigorous; and learn to enjoy a fast ride in a motor car instead of seeing nothing in it but an excuse for a detestable intrigue. Come with me to Marseilles and across to Algiers and to Biskra, at sixty miles an hour. Come right down to the Cape if you like. That will be a Declaration of Independence with a vengeance. You can write a book about it afterwards. That will finish your mother and make a woman of you. ANN. [thoughtfully] I don't think there would be any harm in that, Jack. You are my guardian: you stand in my father's place, by his own wish. Nobody could say a word against our travelling together. It would be delightful: thank you a thousand times, Jack. I'll come. TANNER. [aghast] You'll come!!! ANN. Of course. TANNER. But-- [he stops, utterly appalled; then resumes feebly] No: look here, Ann: if there's no harm in it there's no point in doing it. ANN. How absurd you are! You don't want to compromise me, do you? TANNER. Yes: that's the whole sense of my proposal. ANN. You are talking the greatest nonsense; and you know it. You would never do anything to hurt me. TANNER. Well, if you don't want to be compromised, don't come. ANN. [with simple earnestness] Yes, I will come, Jack, since you wish it. You are my guardian; and think we ought to see more of one another and come to know one another better. [Gratefully] It's very thoughtful and very kind of you, Jack, to offer me this lovely holiday, especially after what I said about Rhoda. You really are good--much better than you think. When do we start? TANNER. But-- The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Mrs Whitefield from the house. She is accompanied by the American gentleman, and followed by Ramsden and Octavius. Hector Malone is an Eastern American; but he is not at all ashamed of his nationality. This makes English people of fashion think well of him, as of a young fellow who is manly enough to confess to an obvious disadvantage without any attempt to conceal or extenuate it. They feel that he ought not to be made to suffer for what is clearly not his fault, and make a point of being specially kind to him. His chivalrous manners to women, and his elevated moral sentiments, being both gratuitous and unusual, strike them as being a little unfortunate; and though they find his vein of easy humor rather amusing when it has ceased to puzzle them (as it does at first), they have had to make him understand that he really must not tell anecdotes unless they are strictly personal and scandalous, and also that oratory is an accomplishment which belongs to a cruder stage of civilization than that in which his migration has landed him. On these points Hector is not quite convinced: he still thinks that the British are apt to make merits of their stupidities, and to represent their various incapacities as points of good breeding. English life seems to him to suffer from a lack of edifying rhetoric (which he calls moral tone); English behavior to show a want of respect for womanhood; English pronunciation to fail very vulgarly in tackling such words as world, girl, bird, etc.; English society to be plain spoken to an extent which stretches occasionally to intolerable coarseness; and English intercourse to need enlivening by games and stories and other pastimes; so he does not feel called upon to acquire these defects after taking great paths to cultivate himself in a first rate manner before venturing across the Atlantic. To this culture he finds English people either totally indifferent as they very commonly are to all culture, or else politely evasive, the truth being that Hector's culture is nothing but a state of saturation with our literary exports of thirty years ago, reimported by him to be unpacked at a moment's notice and hurled at the head of English literature, science and art, at every conversational opportunity. The dismay set up by these sallies encourages him in his belief that he is helping to educate England. When he finds people chattering harmlessly about Anatole France and Nietzsche, he devastates them with Matthew Arnold, the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, and even Macaulay; and as he is devoutly religious at bottom, he first leads the unwary, by humorous irreverences, to wave popular theology out of account in discussing moral questions with him, and then scatters them in confusion by demanding whether the carrying out of his ideals of conduct was not the manifest object of God Almighty in creating honest men and pure women. The engaging freshness of his personality and the dumbfoundering staleness of his culture make it extremely difficult to decide whether he is worth knowing; for whilst his company is undeniably pleasant and enlivening, there is intellectually nothing new to be got out of him, especially as he despises politics, and is careful not to talk commercial shop, in which department he is probably much in advance of his English capitalist friends. He gets on best with romantic Christians of the amoristic sect: hence the friendship which has sprung up between him and Octavius. In appearance Hector is a neatly built young man of twenty-four, with a short, smartly trimmed black beard, clear, well shaped eyes, and an ingratiating vivacity of expression. He is, from the fashionable point of view, faultlessly dressed. As he comes along the drive from the house with Mrs Whitefield he is sedulously making himself agreeable and entertaining, and thereby placing on her slender wit a burden it is unable to bear. An Englishman would let her alone, accepting boredom and indifference of their common lot; and the poor lady wants to be either let alone or let prattle about the things that interest her. Ramsden strolls over to inspect the motor car. Octavius joins Hector. ANN. [pouncing on her mother joyously] Oh, mamma, what do you think! Jack is going to take me to Nice in his motor car. Isn't it lovely? I am the happiest person in London. TANNER. [desperately] Mrs Whitefield objects. I am sure she objects. Doesn't she, Ramsden? RAMSDEN. I should think it very likely indeed. ANN. You don't object, do you, mother? MRS WHITEFIELD. I object! Why should I? I think it will do you good, Ann. [Trotting over to Tanner] I meant to ask you to take Rhoda out for a run occasionally: she is too much in the house; but it will do when you come back. TANNER. Abyss beneath abyss of perfidy! ANN. [hastily, to distract attention from this outburst] Oh, I forgot: you have not met Mr Malone. Mr Tanner, my guardian: Mr Hector Malone. HECTOR. Pleased to meet you, Mr Tanner. I should like to suggest an extension of the travelling party to Nice, if I may. ANN. Oh, we're all coming. That's understood, isn't it? HECTOR. I also am the modest possessor of a motor car. If Miss Robinson will allow me the privilege of taking her, my car is at her service. OCTAVIUS. Violet! General constraint. ANN. [subduedly] Come, mother: we must leave them to talk over the arrangements. I must see to my travelling kit. Mrs Whitefield looks bewildered; but Ann draws her discreetly away; and they disappear round the corner towards the house. HECTOR. I think I may go so far as to say that I can depend on Miss Robinson's consent. Continued embarrassment. OCTAVIUS. I'm afraid we must leave Violet behind, There are circumstances which make it impossible for her to come on such an expedition. HECTOR. [amused and not at all convinced] Too American, eh? Must the young lady have a chaperone? OCTAVIUS. It's not that, Malone--at least not altogether.
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