her hand, comes in through the gate and sees him. MRS WHITEFIELD. [running to him and lifting his head] What's the matter, Tavy? Are you ill? OCTAVIUS. No, nothing, nothing. MRS WHITEFIELD. [still holding his head, anxiously] But you're crying. Is it about Violet's marriage? OCTAVIUS. No, no. Who told you about Violet? MRS WHITEFIELD. [restoring the head to its owner] I met Roebuck and that awful old Irishman. Are you sure you're not ill? What's the matter? OCTAVIUS. [affectionately] It's nothing--only a man's broken heart. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? MRS WHITEFIELD. But what is it all about? Has Ann been doing anything to you? OCTAVIUS. It's not Ann's fault. And don't think for a moment that I blame you. MRS WHITEFIELD. [startled] For what? OCTAVIUS. [pressing her hand consolingly] For nothing. I said I didn't blame you. MRS WHITEFIELD. But I haven't done anything. What's the matter? OCTAVIUS. [smiling sadly] Can't you guess? I daresay you are right to prefer Jack to me as a husband for Ann; but I love Ann; and it hurts rather. [He rises and moves away from her towards the middle of the lawn]. MRS WHITEFIELD. [following him hastily] Does Ann say that I want her to marry Jack? OCTAVIUS. Yes: she has told me. MRS WHITEFIELD. [thoughtfully] Then I'm very sorry for you, Tavy. It's only her way of saying SHE wants to marry Jack. Little she cares what I say or what I want! OCTAVIUS. But she would not say it unless she believed it. Surely you don't suspect Ann of--of DECEIT!! MRS WHITEFIELD. Well, never mind, Tavy. I don't know which is best for a young man: to know too little, like you, or too much, like Jack. Tanner returns. TANNER. Well, I've disposed of old Malone. I've introduced him to Mendoza, Limited; and left the two brigands together to talk it out. Hullo, Tavy! anything wrong? OCTAVIUS. I must go wash my face, I see. [To Mrs Whitefield] Tell him what you wish. [To Tanner] You may take it from me, Jack, that Ann approves of it. TANNER. [puzzled by his manner] Approves of what? OCTAVIUS. Of what Mrs Whitefield wishes. [He goes his way with sad dignity to the villa]. TANNER. [to Mrs Whitefield] This is very mysterious. What is it you wish? It shall be done, whatever it is. MRS WHITEFIELD. [with snivelling gratitude] Thank you, Jack. [She sits down. Tanner brings the other chair from the table and sits close to her with his elbows on his knees, giving her his whole attention]. I don't know why it is that other people's children are so nice to me, and that my own have so little consideration for me. It's no wonder I don't seem able to care for Ann and Rhoda as I do for you and Tavy and Violet. It's a very queer world. It used to be so straightforward and simple; and now nobody seems to think and feel as they ought. Nothing has been right since that speech that Professor Tyndall made at Belfast. TANNER. Yes: life is more complicated than we used to think. But what am I to do for you? MRS WHITEFIELD. That's just what I want to tell you. Of course you'll marry Ann whether I like it myself or not-- TANNER. [starting] It seems to me that I shall presently be married to Ann whether I like it myself or not. MRS WHITEFIELD. [peacefully] Oh, very likely you will: you know what she is when she has set her mind on anything. But don't put it on me: that's all I ask. Tavy has just let out that she's been saying that I am making her marry you; and the poor boy is breaking his heart about it; for he is in love with her himself, though what he sees in her so wonderful, goodness knows: I don't. It's no use telling Tavy that Ann puts things into people's heads by telling them that I want them when the thought of them never crossed my mind. It only sets Tavy against me. But you know better than that. So if you marry her, don't put the blame on me. TANNER. [emphatically] I haven't the slightest intention of marrying her. MRS WHITEFIELD. [slyly] She'd suit you better than Tavy. She'd meet her match in you, Jack. I'd like to see her meet her match. TANNER. No man is a match for a woman, except with a poker and a pair of hobnailed boots. Not always even then. Anyhow, I can't take the poker to her. I should be a mere slave. MRS WHITEFIELD. No: she's afraid of you. At all events, you would tell her the truth about herself. She wouldn't be able to slip out of it as she does with me. TANNER. Everybody would call me a brute if I told Ann the truth about herself in terms of her own moral code. To begin with, Ann says things that are not strictly true. MRS WHITEFIELD. I'm glad somebody sees she is not an angel. TANNER. In short--to put it as a husband would put it when exasperated to the point of speaking out--she is a liar. And since she has plunged Tavy head over ears in love with her without any intention of marrying him, she is a coquette, according to the standard definition of a coquette as a woman who rouses passions she has no intention of gratifying. And as she has now reduced you to the point of being willing to sacrifice me at the altar for the mere satisfaction of getting me to call her a liar to her face, I may conclude that she is a bully as well. She can't bully men as she bullies women; so she habitually and unscrupulously uses her personal fascination to make men give her whatever she wants. That makes her almost something for which I know no polite name. MRS WHITEFIELD. [in mild expostulation] Well, you can't expect perfection, Jack. TANNER. I don't. But what annoys me is that Ann does. I know perfectly well that all this about her being a liar and a bully and a coquette and so forth is a trumped-up moral indictment which might be brought against anybody. We all lie; we all bully as much as we dare; we all bid for admiration without the least intention of earning it; we all get as much rent as we can out of our powers of fascination. If Ann would admit this I shouldn't quarrel with her. But she won't. If she has children she'll take advantage of their telling lies to amuse herself by whacking them. If another woman makes eyes at me, she'll refuse to know a coquette. She will do just what she likes herself whilst insisting on everybody else doing what the conventional code prescribes. In short, I can stand everything except her confounded hypocrisy. That's what beats me. MRS WHITEFIELD. [carried away by the relief of hearing her own opinion so eloquently expressed] Oh, she is a hypocrite. She is: she is. Isn't she? TANNER. Then why do you want to marry me to her? MRS WHITEFIELD. [querulously] There now! put it on me, of course. I never thought of it until Tavy told me she said I did. But, you know, I'm very fond of Tavy: he's a sort of son to me; and I don't want him to be trampled on and made wretched. TANNER. Whereas I don't matter, I suppose. MRS WHITEFIELD. Oh, you are different, somehow: you are able to take care of yourself. You'd serve her out. And anyhow, she must marry somebody. TANNER. Aha! there speaks the life instinct. You detest her; but you feel that you must get her married. MRS WHITEFIELD. [rising, shocked] Do you mean that I detest my own daughter! Surely you don't believe me to be so wicked and unnatural as that, merely because I see her faults. TANNER. [cynically] You love her, then? MRS WHITEFIELD. Why, of course I do. What queer things you say, Jack! We can't help loving our own blood relations. TANNER. Well, perhaps it saves unpleasantness to say so. But for my part, I suspect that the tables of consanguinity have a natural basis in a natural repugnance [he rises]. MRS WHITEFIELD. You shouldn't say things like that, Jack. I hope you won't tell Ann that I have been speaking to you. I only wanted to set myself right with you and Tavy. I couldn't sit mumchance and have everything put on me. TANNER. [politely] Quite so. MRS WHITEFIELD. [dissatisfied] And now I've only made matters worse. Tavy's angry with me because I don't worship Ann. And when it's been put into my head that Ann ought to marry you, what can I say except that it would serve her right? TANNER. Thank you. MRS WHITEFIELD. Now don't be silly and twist what I say into something I don't mean. I ought to have fair play-- Ann comes from the villa, followed presently by Violet, who is dressed for driving. ANN. [coming to her mother's right hand with threatening suavity] Well, mamma darling, you seem to be having a delightful chat with Jack. We can hear you all over the place. MRS WHITEFIELD. [appalled] Have you overheard-- TANNER. Never fear: Ann is only--well, we were discussing that habit of hers just now. She hasn't heard a word. MRS WHITEFIELD. [stoutly] I don't care whether she has or not: I have a right to say what I please. VIOLET. [arriving on the lawn and coming between Mrs Whitefield and Tanner] I've come to say goodbye. I'm off for my honeymoon. MRS WHITEFIELD. [crying] Oh don't say that, Violet. And no wedding, no breakfast, no clothes, nor anything. VIOLET. [petting her] It won't be for long. MRS WHITEFIELD. Don't let him take you to America. Promise me that you won't. VIOLET. [very decidedly] I should think not, indeed. Don't cry, dear: I'm only going to the hotel. MRS WHITEFIELD. But going in that dress, with your luggage, makes one realize--[she chokes, and then breaks out again] How I wish you were my daughter, Violet! VIOLET. [soothing her] There, there: so I am. Ann will be jealous. MRS WHITEFIELD. Ann doesn't care a bit for me. ANN. Fie, mother! Come, now: you mustn't cry any more: you know Violet doesn't like it [Mrs Whitefzeld dries her eyes, and subsides]. VIOLET. Goodbye, Jack. TANNER. Goodbye, Violet. VIOLET. The sooner you get married too, the better. You will be much less misunderstood. TANNER. [restively] I quite expect to get married in the course of the afternoon. You all seem to have set your minds on it. VIOLET. You might do worse. [To Mrs Whitefield: putting her arm round her] Let me take you to the hotel with me: the drive will do you good. Come in and get a wrap. [She takes her towards the villa]. MRS WHITEFIELD. [as they go up through the garden] I don't know what I shall do when you are gone, with no one but Ann in the house; and she always occupied with the men! It's not to be expected that your husband will care to be bothered with an old woman like me. Oh, you needn't tell me: politeness is all very well; but I know what people think--[She talks herself and Violet out of sight and hearing]. Ann, musing on Violet's opportune advice, approaches Tanner; examines him humorously for a moment from toe to top; and finally delivers her opinion. ANN. Violet is quite right. You ought to get married. TANNER. [explosively] Ann: I will not marry you. Do you hear? I won't, won't, won't, won't, WON'T marry you. ANN. [placidly] Well, nobody axd you, sir she said, sir she said, sir she said. So that's settled. TANNER. Yes, nobody has asked me; but everybody treats the thing as settled. It's in the air. When we meet, the others go away on absurd pretexts to leave us alone together. Ramsden no longer scowls at me: his eye beams, as if he were already giving you away to me in church. Tavy refers me to your mother and gives me his blessing. Straker openly treats you as his future employer: it was he who first told me of it. ANN. Was that why you ran away? TANNER. Yes, only to be stopped by a lovesick brigand and run down like a truant schoolboy. ANN. Well, if you don't want to be married, you needn't be [she turns away from him and sits down, much at her ease]. TANNER. [following her] Does any man want to be hanged? Yet men let themselves be hanged without a struggle for life, though they could at least give the chaplain a black eye. We do the world's will, not our own. I have a frightful feeling that I shall let myself be married because it is the world's will that you should have a husband. ANN. I daresay I shall, someday. TANNER. But why me--me of all men? Marriage is to me apostasy, profanation of the sanctuary of my soul, violation of my manhood, sale of my birthright, shameful surrender, ignominious capitulation, acceptance of defeat. I shall decay like a thing that has served its purpose and is done with; I shall change from a man with a future to a man with a past; I shall see in the greasy eyes of all the other husbands their relief at the arrival of a new prisoner to share their ignominy. The young men will scorn me as one who has sold out: to the young women I, who have always been an enigma and a possibility, shall be merely somebody else's property--and damaged goods at that: a secondhand man at best. ANN. Well, your wife can put on a cap and make herself ugly to keep you in countenance, like my grandmother. TANNER. So that she may make her triumph more insolent by publicly throwing away the bait the moment the trap snaps on the victim! ANN. After all, though, what difference would it make? Beauty is all very well at first sight; but who ever looks at it when it has been in the house three days? I thought our pictures very lovely when papa bought them; but I haven't looked at them for years. You never bother about my looks: you are too well used to me. I might be the umbrella stand. TANNER. You lie, you vampire: you lie. ANN. Flatterer. Why are you trying to fascinate me, Jack, if you don't want to marry me? TANNER. The Life Force. I am in the grip of the Life Force. ANN. I don't understand in the least: it sounds like the Life Guards. TANNER. Why don't you marry Tavy? He is willing. Can you not be satisfied unless your prey struggles? ANN. [turning to him as if to let him into a secret] Tavy will never marry. Haven't you noticed that that sort of man never marries? TANNER. What! a man who idolizes women who sees nothing in nature but romantic scenery for love duets! Tavy, the chivalrous, the faithful, the tenderhearted and true! Tavy never marry! Why, he was born to be swept up by the first pair of blue eyes he meets in the street. ANN. Yes, I know. All the same, Jack, men like that always live in comfortable bachelor lodgings with broken hearts, and are adored by their landladies, and never get married. Men like you always get married. TANNER. [Smiting his brow] How frightfully, horribly true! It has been staring me in the face all my life; and I never saw it before. ANN. Oh, it's the same with women. The poetic temperament's a very nice temperament, very amiable, very harmless and poetic, I daresay; but it's an old maid's temperament. TANNER. Barren. The Life Force passes it by. ANN. If that's what you mean by the Life Force, yes. TANNER. You don't care for Tavy? ANN. [looking round carefully to make sure that Tavy is not within earshot] No. TANNER. And you do care for me? ANN. [rising quietly and shaking her finger at him] Now Jack! Behave yourself. TANNER. Infamous, abandoned woman! Devil! ANN. Boa-constrictor! Elephant! TANNER. Hypocrite! ANN. [Softly] I must be, for my future husband's sake.
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