Idle Rich Class. OCTAVIUS. [smiling] But Jack-- RAMSDEN. [testily] For goodness' sake, don't call him Jack under my roof [he throws the book violently down on the table, Then, somewhat relieved, he comes past the table to Octavius, and addresses him at close quarters with impressive gravity]. Now, Octavius, I know that my dead friend was right when he said you were a generous lad. I know that this man was your schoolfellow, and that you feel bound to stand by him because there was a boyish friendship between you. But I ask you to consider the altered circumstances. You were treated as a son in my friend's house. You lived there; and your friends could not be turned from the door. This Tanner was in and out there on your account almost from his childhood. He addresses Annie by her Christian name as freely as you do. Well, while her father was alive, that was her father's business, not mine. This man Tanner was only a boy to him: his opinions were something to be laughed at, like a man's hat on a child's head. But now Tanner is a grown man and Annie a grown woman. And her father is gone. We don't as yet know the exact terms of his will; but he often talked it over with me; and I have no more doubt than I have that you're sitting there that the will appoints me Annie's trustee and guardian. [Forcibly] Now I tell you, once for all, I can't and I won't have Annie placed in such a position that she must, out of regard for you, suffer the intimacy of this fellow Tanner. It's not fair: it's not right: it's not kind. What are you going to do about it? OCTAVIUS. But Ann herself has told Jack that whatever his opinions are, he will always be welcome because he knew her dear father. RAMSDEN. [out of patience] That girl's mad about her duty to her parents. [He starts off like a goaded ox in the direction of John Bright, in whose expression there is no sympathy for him. As he speaks, he fumes down to Herbert Spencer, who receives him still more coldly] Excuse me, Octavius; but there are limits to social toleration. You know that I am not a bigoted or prejudiced man. You know that I am plain Roebuck Ramsden when other men who have done less have got handles to their names, because I have stood for equality and liberty of conscience while they were truckling to the Church and to the aristocracy. Whitefield and I lost chance after chance through our advanced opinions. But I draw the line at Anarchism and Free Love and that sort of thing. If I am to be Annie's guardian, she will have to learn that she has a duty to me. I won't have it: I will not have it. She must forbid John Tanner the house; and so must you. The parlormaid returns. OCTAVIUS. But-- RAMSDEN. [calling his attention to the servant] Ssh! Well? THE MAID. Mr Tanner wishes to see you, sir. RAMSDEN. Mr Tanner! OCTAVIUS. Jack! RAMSDEN. How dare Mr Tanner call on me! Say I cannot see him. OCTAVIUS. [hurt] I am sorry you are turning my friend from your door like that. THE MAID. [calmly] He's not at the door, sir. He's upstairs in the drawingroom with Miss Ramsden. He came with Mrs Whitefield and Miss Ann and Miss Robinson, sir. Ramsden's feelings are beyond words. OCTAVIUS. [grinning] That's very like Jack, Mr Ramsden. You must see him, even if it's only to turn him out. RAMSDEN. [hammering out his words with suppressed fury] Go upstairs and ask Mr Tanner to be good enough to step down here. [The parlormaid goes out; and Ramsden returns to the fireplace, as to a fortified position]. I must say that of all the confounded pieces of impertinence--well, if these are Anarchist manners I hope you like them. And Annie with him! Annie! A-- [he chokes]. OCTAVIUS. Yes: that's what surprises me. He's so desperately afraid of Ann. There must be something the matter. Mr John Tanner suddenly opens the door and enters. He is too young to be described simply as a big man with a beard. But it is already plain that middle life will find him in that category. He has still some of the slimness of youth; but youthfulness is not the effect he aims at: his frock coat would befit a prime minister; and a certain high chested carriage of the shoulders, a lofty pose of the head, and the Olympian majesty with which a mane, or rather a huge wisp, of hazel colored hair is thrown back from an imposing brow, suggest Jupiter rather than Apollo. He is prodigiously fluent of speech, restless, excitable (mark the snorting nostril and the restless blue eye, just the thirty-secondth of an inch too wide open), possibly a little mad. He is carefully dressed, not from the vanity that cannot resist finery, but from a sense of the importance of everything he does which leads him to make as much of paying a call as other men do of getting married or laying a foundation stone. A sensitive, susceptible, exaggerative, earnest man: a megalomaniac, who would be lost without a sense of humor. Just at present the sense of humor is in abeyance. To say that he is excited is nothing: all his moods are phases of excitement. He is now in the panic-stricken phase; and he walks straight up to Ramsden as if with the fixed intention of shooting him on his own hearthrug. But what he pulls from his breast pocket is not a pistol, but a foolscap document which he thrusts under the indignant nose of Ramsden as he exclaims-- TANNER. Ramsden: do you know what that is? RAMSDEN. [loftily] No, Sir. TANNER. It's a copy of Whitefield's will. Ann got it this morning. RAMSDEN. When you say Ann, you mean, I presume, Miss Whitefield. TANNER. I mean our Ann, your Ann, Tavy's Ann, and now, Heaven help me, my Ann! OCTAVIUS. [rising, very pale] What do you mean? TANNER. Mean! [He holds up the will]. Do you know who is appointed Ann's guardian by this will? RAMSDEN. [coolly] I believe I am. TANNER. You! You and I, man. I! I!! I!!! Both of us! [He flings the will down on the writing table]. RAMSDEN. You! Impossible. TANNER. It's only too hideously true. [He throws himself into Octavius's chair]. Ramsden: get me out of it somehow. You don't know Ann as well as I do. She'll commit every crime a respectable woman can; and she'll justify every one of them by saying that it was the wish of her guardians. She'll put everything on us; and we shall have no more control over her than a couple of mice over a cat. OCTAVIUS. Jack: I wish you wouldn't talk like that about Ann. TANNER. This chap's in love with her: that's another complication. Well, she'll either jilt him and say I didn't approve of him, or marry him and say you ordered her to. I tell you, this is the most staggering blow that has ever fallen on a man of my age and temperament. RAMSDEN. Let me see that will, sir. [He goes to the writing table and picks it up]. I cannot believe that my old friend Whitefield would have shown such a want of confidence in me as to associate me with-- [His countenance falls as he reads]. TANNER. It's all my own doing: that's the horrible irony of it. He told me one day that you were to be Ann's guardian; and like a fool I began arguing with him about the folly of leaving a young woman under the control of an old man with obsolete ideas. RAMSDEN. [stupended] My ideas obsolete!!!!! TANNER. Totally. I had just finished an essay called Down with Government by the Greyhaired; and I was full of arguments and illustrations. I said the proper thing was to combine the experience of an old hand with the vitality of a young one. Hang me if he didn't take me at my word and alter his will--it's dated only a fortnight after that conversation--appointing me as joint guardian with you! RAMSDEN. [pale and determined] I shall refuse to act. TANNER. What's the good of that? I've been refusing all the way from Richmond; but Ann keeps on saying that of course she's only an orphan; and that she can't expect the people who were glad to come to the house in her father's time to trouble much about her now. That's the latest game. An orphan! It's like hearing an ironclad talk about being at the mercy of the winds and waves. OCTAVIUS. This is not fair, Jack. She is an orphan. And you ought to stand by her. TANNER. Stand by her! What danger is she in? She has the law on her side; she has popular sentiment on her side; she has plenty of money and no conscience. All she wants with me is to load up all her moral responsibilities on me, and do as she likes at the expense of my character. I can't control her; and she can compromise me as much as she likes. I might as well be her husband. RAMSDEN. You can refuse to accept the guardianship. I shall certainly refuse to hold it jointly with you. TANNER. Yes; and what will she say to that? what does she say to it? Just that her father's wishes are sacred to her, and that she shall always look up to me as her guardian whether I care to face the responsibility or not. Refuse! You might as well refuse to accept the embraces of a boa constrictor when once it gets round your neck. OCTAVIUS. This sort of talk is not kind to me, Jack. TANNER. [rising and going to Octavius to console him, but still lamenting] If he wanted a young guardian, why didn't he appoint Tavy? RAMSDEN. Ah! why indeed? OCTAVIUS. I will tell you. He sounded me about it; but I refused the trust because I loved her. I had no right to let myself be forced on her as a guardian by her father. He spoke to her about it; and she said I was right. You know I love her, Mr Ramsden; and Jack knows it too. If Jack loved a woman, I would not compare her to a boa constrictor in his presence, however much I might dislike her [he sits down between the busts and turns his face to the wall]. RAMSDEN. I do not believe that Whitefield was in his right senses when he made that will. You have admitted that he made it under your influence. TANNER. You ought to be pretty well obliged to me for my influence. He leaves you two thousand five hundred for your trouble. He leaves Tavy a dowry for his sister and five thousand for himself. OCTAVIUS. [his tears flowing afresh] Oh, I can't take it. He was too good to us. TANNER. You won't get it, my boy, if Ramsden upsets the will. RAMSDEN. Ha! I see. You have got me in a cleft stick. TANNER. He leaves me nothing but the charge of Ann's morals, on the ground that I have already more money than is good for me. That shows that he had his wits about him, doesn't it? RAMSDEN. [grimly] I admit that. OCTAVIUS. [rising and coming from his refuge by the wall] Mr Ramsden: I think you are prejudiced against Jack. He is a man of honor, and incapable of abusing-- TANNER. Don't, Tavy: you'll make me ill. I am not a man of honor: I am a man struck down by a dead hand. Tavy: you must marry her after all and take her off my hands. And I had set my heart on saving you from her! OCTAVIUS. Oh, Jack, you talk of saving me from my highest happiness. TANNER. Yes, a lifetime of happiness. If it were only the first half hour's happiness, Tavy, I would buy it for you with my last penny. But a lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth. RAMSDEN. [violently] Stuff, sir. Talk sense; or else go and waste someone else's time: I have something better to do than listen to your fooleries [he positively kicks his way to his table and resumes his seat]. TANNER. You hear him, Tavy! Not an idea in his head later than eighteen-sixty. We can't leave Ann with no other guardian to turn to. RAMSDEN. I am proud of your contempt for my character and opinions, sir. Your own are set forth in that book, I believe. TANNER. [eagerly going to the table] What! You've got my book! What do you think of it? RAMSDEN. Do you suppose I would read such a book, sir? TANNER. Then why did you buy it? RAMSDEN. I did not buy it, sir. It has been sent me by some foolish lady who seems to admire your views. I was about to dispose of it when Octavius interrupted me. I shall do so now, with your permission. [He throws the book into the waste paper basket with such vehemence that Tanner recoils under the impression that it is being thrown at his head]. TANNER. You have no more manners than I have myself. However, that saves ceremony between us. [He sits down again]. What do you intend to do about this will? OCTAVIUS. May I make a suggestion? RAMSDEN. Certainly, Octavius. OCTAVIUS. Aren't we forgetting that Ann herself may have some wishes in this matter? RAMSDEN. I quite intend that Annie's wishes shall be consulted in every reasonable way. But she is only a woman, and a young and inexperienced woman at that. TANNER. Ramsden: I begin to pity you. RAMSDEN. [hotly] I don't want to know how you feel towards me, Mr Tanner. TANNER. Ann will do just exactly what she likes. And what's more, she'll force us to advise her to do it; and she'll put the blame on us if it turns out badly. So, as Tavy is longing to see her-- OCTAVIUS. [shyly] I am not, Jack. TANNER. You lie, Tavy: you are. So let's have her down from the drawing-room and ask her what she intends us to do. Off with you, Tavy, and fetch her. [Tavy turns to go]. And don't be long for the strained relations between myself and Ramsden will make the interval rather painful [Ramsden compresses his lips, but says nothing--]. OCTAVIUS. Never mind him, Mr Ramsden. He's not serious. [He goes out]. RAMSDEN [very deliberately] Mr Tanner: you are the most impudent person I have ever met. TANNER. [seriously] I know it, Ramsden. Yet even I cannot wholly conquer shame. We live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinions, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins. Good Lord, my dear Ramsden, we are ashamed to walk, ashamed to ride in an omnibus, ashamed to hire a hansom instead of keeping a carriage, ashamed of keeping one horse instead of two and a groom-gardener instead of a coachman and footman. The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is. Why, you're ashamed to buy my book, ashamed to read it: the only thing you're not ashamed of is to judge me for it without having read it; and even that only means that you're ashamed to have heterodox opinions. Look at the effect I produce because my fairy godmother withheld from me this gift of shame. I have every possible virtue that a man can have except-- RAMSDEN. I am glad you think so well of yourself. TANNER. All you mean by that is that you think I ought to be ashamed of talking about my virtues. You don't mean that I haven't got them: you know perfectly well that I am as sober and honest a citizen as yourself, as truthful personally, and much more truthful politically and morally. RAMSDEN. [touched on his most sensitive point] I deny that. I will not allow you or any man to treat me as if I were a mere member of the British public. I detest its prejudices; I scorn its narrowness; I demand the right to think for myself. You pose as an advanced man. Let me tell you that I was an advanced man before you were born.
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