If I Had A Father, a play by George MacDonald
|Table of content
_ ACT I
SCENE.--A Sculptor's studio. ARTHUR GERVAISE working at a clay figure and humming a tune. A knock.
War. How are you, Gervaise? I'm delighted to see you once more. I have but just heard of your return.
Ger. I've been home but a fortnight. I was just thinking of you.
War. I was certain I should find you at work.
Ger. You see my work can go on by any light. It is more independent than yours.
War. I wish it weren't, then.
War. Because there would be a chance of our getting you out of your den sometimes.
Ger. Like any other wild beast when the dark falls--eh?
War. Just so.
Ger. And where the good?
War. Why shouldn't you roar a little now and then like other honest lions?
Ger. I doubt if the roaring lions do much beyond roaring.
War. And I doubt whether the lion that won't even whisk his tail, will get food enough shoved through his bars to make it worth his while to keep a cage in London.
Ger. I certainly shall not make use of myself to recommend my work.
War. What is it now?
Ger. Oh, nothing!--only a little fancy of my own.
War. There again! The moment I set foot in your study, you throw the sheet over your clay, and when I ask you what you are working at--"Oh--a little fancy of my own!"
Ger. I couldn't tell it was you coming.
War. Let me see what you've been doing, then.
Ger. Oh, she's a mere Lot's-wife as yet!
War. (_approaching the figure_). Of course, of course! I understand all that.
Ger. (_laying his hand on his arm_). Excuse me: I would rather not show it.
War. I beg your pardon.--I couldn't believe you really meant it.
Ger. I'll show you the mould if you like.
War. I don't know what you mean by that: you would never throw a wet sheet over a cast! (GER. _lifts a painting from the floor and sets it on an easel_. WAR. _regards it for a few moments in silence_.) Ah! by Jove, Gervaise! some one sent you down the wrong turn: you ought to have been a painter. What a sky! And what a sea! Those blues and greens--rich as a peacock's feather-eyes! Superb! A tropical night! The dolphin at its last gasp in the west, and all above, an abyss of blue, at the bottom of which the stars lie like gems in the mineshaft of the darkness!
Ger. _You_ seem to have taken the wrong turn, Warren! _You_ ought to have been a poet.
War. Such a thing as that puts the slang out of a fellow's bend.
Ger. I'm glad you like it. I do myself, though it falls short of my intent sadly enough.
War. But I don't for the life of me see what _this_ has to do with _that_. You said something about a mould.
Ger. I will tell you what I meant. Every individual aspect of nature looks to me as if about to give birth to a human form, embodying that of which itself only dreams. In this way landscape-painting is, in my eyes, the mother of sculpture. That Apollo is of the summer dawn; that Aphrodite of the moonlit sea; this picture represents the mother of my Psyche.
War. Under the sheet there?
Ger. Yes. You shall see her some day; but to show your work too soon, is to uncork your champagne before dinner.
War. Well, you've spoiled my picture. I shall go home and scrape my canvas to the bone.
Ger. On second thoughts, I will show you my Psyche. (Uncovers the clay. WAR. stands in admiration. Enter WATERFIELD by same door.)
Wat. Ah, Warren! here you are before me! Mr. Gervaise, I hope I see you well.
War. Mr. Waterfield--an old friend of yours, Gervaise, I believe.
Ger. I cannot appropriate the honour.
Wat. I was twice in your studio at Rome, but it's six months ago, Mr. Gervaise. Ha! (_using his eye-glass_) What a charming figure! A Psyche! Wings suggested by--Very skilful! Contour lovely! Altogether antique in pose and expression!--Is she a commission?
Wat. Then I beg you will consider her one.
Ger. Excuse me; I never work on commission--at least never in this kind. A bust or two I have done.
Wat. By Jove!--I _should_ like to see your model!--This is perfect. Are you going to carve her?
Ger. If at all.
Wat. Well, I can't call it running any risk. What lines!--You will let me drop in some day when you've got your model here?
Wat. You don't mean--?
Ger. I had no model.
Wat. No model? Ha! ha!--You must excuse me! (GER. _takes up the wet sheet_.) I understand. Reasons. A little mystery enhances--eh?--is convenient too--balks intrusion--throws the drapery over the mignonette. I understand. (GER. _covers the clay_.) Oh! pray don't carry out my figure. That _is_ a damper now!
Ger. I am not fond of acting the showman. You must excuse me: I am busy.
Wat. Ah well!--some other time--when you've got on with her a bit. Good morning. Ta, ta, Warren.
Ger. Good morning. This way, if you please. (_Shows him out by the door to the street_.) How did the fellow find his way here?
War. I am the culprit, I'm sorry to say. He asked me for your address, and I gave it him.
Ger. How long have you known him?
War. A month or two.
Ger. Don't bring him here again.
War. Don't say I _brought_ him. I didn't do that. But I'm afraid you've not seen the last of him.
Ger. Oh yes, I have! Old Martha would let in anybody, but I've got a man now.--William!
[Enter COL. GERVAISE dressed as a servant.]
You didn't see the gentleman just gone, I'm afraid, William?
Col. G. No, sir.
Ger. Don't let in any one calling himself _Waterfield_.
Col. G. No, sir.
Ger. I'm going out with Mr. Warren. I shall be back shortly.
Col. G. Very well, sir. _Exit into the house_.
Ger. (_to_ WAR.) I can't touch clay again till I get that fellow out of my head.
War. Come along, then.
[Exeunt GER. and WAR.]
[Re-enter COL. G._polishing a boot. Regards it with dissatisfaction.]
Col. G. Confound the thing! I wish it were a scabbard. When I think I'm getting it all right--one rub more and it's gone dull again!
[The house-door opens slowly, and_ THOMAS _peeps cautiously in.]
Th. What sort of a plaze be this, maister?
Col. G. You ought to have asked that outside. How did you get in?
Th. By th' dur-hole. Iv yo leave th' dur oppen, th' dogs'll coom in.
Col. G. I must speak to Martha again. She _will_ leave the street-door open!--Well, you needn't look so frightened. It ain't a robbers' cave.
Th. That be more'n aw knaw--not for sartin sure, maister. Nobory mun keawnt upon nobory up to Lonnon, they tells mo. But iv a gentleman axes mo into his heawse, aw'm noan beawn to be afeard. Aw'll coom in, for mayhap yo can help mo. It be a coorous plaze. What dun yo mak here?
Col. G. What would you think now?
Th. It looks to mo like a mason's shed--a greight one.
Col. G. You're not so far wrong.
Th. (_advancing_). It do look a queer plaze. Aw be noan so sure abeawt it. But they wonnot coot mo throat beout warnin'. Aw'll bother noan. (_Sits down on the dais and wipes his face_.) Well, aw be a'most weary.
Col. G. Is there anything I can do for you?
Th. Nay, aw donnot know; but beout aw get somebory to help mo, aw dunnot think aw'll coom to th' end in haste. Aw're a lookin' for summut aw've lost, mou.
Col. G. Did you come all the way from Lancashire to look for it?
Th. Eh, lad! aw thowt thae'rt beawn to know wheer aw coom fro!
Col. G. Anybody could tell that, the first word you spoke. I mean no offence.
Th. (_looking disappointed_). Well, noan's ta'en. But thae dunnot say thae's ne'er been to Lancashire thisel'?
Col. G. No, I don't say that: I've been to Lancashire several times.
Th. Wheer to?
Col. G. Why, Manchester.
Th. That's noan ov it.
Col. G. And Lancaster.
Th. Tut! tut! That's noan of it, nayther.
Col. G. And Liverpool. I was once there for a whole week.
Th. Nay, nay. Noather o' those plazes. Fur away off 'em.
Col. G. But what does it matter where I have or haven't been?
Th. Mun aw tell tho again? Aw've lost summut, aw tell tho. Didsto ne'er hear tell ov th' owd woman 'at lost her shillin'? Hoo couldn't sit her deawn beawt hoo feawnd it! Yon's me. (_Hides his face in his hands_.)
Col. G. Ah! now I begin to guess! (_aside_).--You don't mean you've lost your--
Th. (_starting up and grasping his stick with both hands_). Aw _do_ mane aw've lost mo yung lass; and aw dunnot say thae's feawnd her, but aw do say thae knows wheer hoo is. Aw do. Theighur! Nea then!
Col. G. What on earth makes you think that? I don't know what you're after.
Th. Thae knows well enough. Thae knowed what aw'd lost afoor aw tou'd tho yo' be deny in' your own name. Thae knows. Aw'll tay tho afore the police, beout thou gie her oop. Aw wull.
Col. G. What story have you to tell the police then? They'll want to know.
Th. Story saysto? The dule's i' th' mon! Didn't aw seigh th' mon 'at stealed her away goo into this heawse not mich over hauve an hour ago?--Aw seigh him wi' mo own eighes.
Col. G. Why didn't you speak to him?
Th. He poppit in at th' same dur, and there aw've been a-watching ever since. Aw've not took my eighes off ov it. He's somewheeres now in this same heawse.
Col. G. He _may_ have been out in the morning (_aside_).--But you see there are more doors than one to the place. There is a back door; and there is a door out into the street.
Th. Eigh! eigh! Th' t'one has to do wi' th' t'other--have it? Three dur-holes to one shed! That looks bad!
Col. G. He's not here, whoever it was. There's not a man but myself in the place.
Th. Hea am aw to know yo're not playin' a marlock wi' mo? He'll be oop i' th' heawse theer. Aw mun go look (_going_).
Col. G. (_preventing him_). And how am _I_ to know you're not a housebreaker?
Th. Dun yo think an owd mon like mosel' would be of mich use for sich wark as that, mon?
Col. G. The more fit for a spy, though, to see what might be made of it.
Th. Eh, mon! Dun they do sich things as yon? But aw'm seechin' nothin', man nor meawse, that donnot belung me. Aw tell yo true. Gie mo mo Mattie, and aw'll trouble yo no moor. Aw winnot--if yo'll give mo back mo Mattie. (_Comes close up to him and lays his hand on his arm_.) Be yo a feyther, mon?
Col. G. Yes.
Th. Ov a pratty yung lass?
Col. G. Well, no. I have but a son.
Th. Then thae winnot help mo?
Col. G. I shall be very glad to help you, if you will tell me how.
Th. Tell yor maister 'at Mattie's owd feyther's coom a' the gait fro Rachda to fot her whoam, and aw'll be much obleeged to him iv he'll let her goo beout lunger delay, for her mother wants her to whoam: hoo's but poorly. Tell yor maister that.
Col. G. But I don't believe my master knows anything about her.
Th. Aw're tellin' tho, aw seigh' th' mon goo into this heawse but a feow minutes agoo?
Col. G. You've mistaken somebody for him.
Th. Well, aw'm beawn to tell tho moore. Twothre days ago, aw seigh mo chylt coom eawt ov this same dur--aw mane th' heawsedur, yon.
Col. G. Are you sure of that?
Th. Sure as death. Aw seigh her back.
Col. G. Her back! Who could be sure of a back?
Th. By th' maskins! dosto think I dunnot know mo Mattie's back? I seign her coom eawt o' that dur, aw tell tho!
Col. G. Why didn't you speak to her?
Th. Aw co'd.
Col. G. And she didn't answer?
Th. Aw didn't co' leawd. Aw're not willin' to have ony mak ov a din.
Col. G. But you followed her surely?
Th. Aw did; but aw're noan so good at walkin' as aw wur when aw coom; th' stwons ha' blistered mo fet. An it're the edge o' dark like. Aw connot seigh weel at neet, wi o' th' lamps; an afoor aw geet oop wi' her, hoo's reawnd th' nook, and gwon fro mo seet.
Col. G. There are ten thousands girls in London you might take for your own under such circumstances--not seeing more than the backs of them.
Th. Ten theawsand girls like mo Mattie, saysto?--wi'her greight eighes and her lung yure?--Puh!
Col. G. But you've just said you didn't see her face!
Th. Dunnot aw know what th' face ov mo chylt be like, beout seem' ov it? Aw'm noan ov a lump-yed. Nobory as seigh her once wouldn't know her again.
Col. G. (_aside_). He's a lunatic!--I don't see what I can do for you, old fellow.
Th. (_rising_). And aw met ha' known it beout axin'! O'reet! Aw're a greight foo'! But aw're beawn to coom in: aw lung'd to goo through th' same dur wi' mo Mattie. Good day, sir. It be like maister, like mon! God's curse upon o' sich! (_Turns his back. After a moment turns again_.) Noa. Aw winnot say that; for mo Mattie's sake aw winnot say that. God forgie you! (_going by the house_).
Col. G. This way, please! (_opening the street-door_).
Th. Aw see. Aw'm not to have a chance ov seem' oather Mattie or th' mon. _Exit_.
[Col. G. resumes his boot absently. Re-enter THOMAS, shaking his fist.]
Th. But aw tell tho, aw'll stick to th' place day and neet, aw wull. Aw wull. Aw wull.
Col. G. Come back to-morrow.
Th. Coom back, saysto? Aw'll not goo away (_growing fierce_). Wilto gie mo mo Mattie? Aw'm noan beawn to ston here so mich lunger. Wilto gie mo mo Mattie?
Col. G. I cannot give you what I haven't got.
Th. Aw'll break thi yed, thou villain! (_threatening him with his stick_). Eh, Mattie! Mattie! to loe sich a mon's maister more'n me! I would dey fur thee, Mattie. _Exit_.
Col. G. It's all a mistake, of course. There are plenty of young men--but my Arthur's none of such. I cannot believe it of him. The daughter! If I could find _her, she_ would settle the question. (_It begins to grow dark_.) I must help the old man to find her. He's sure to come back. Arthur does _not_ look the least like it. But--(_polishes vigorously_). I can_not_ get this boot to look like a gentleman's. I wish I had taken a lesson or two first. I'll get hold of a shoeblack, and make him come for a morning or two. No, he does _not_ look like it. There he comes. (_Goes on polishing_.)
Col. G. (_turning_). Yes, sir.
Ger. Light the gas. Any one called?
Col. G. Yes, sir.
Col. G. I don't know, sir. (_Lighting the gas_.)
Ger. You should have asked his name. (_Stands before the clay, contemplating it_.)
Col. G. I'm sorry I forgot, sir. It was only an old man from the country--after his daughter, he said.
Ger. Came to offer his daughter, or himself perhaps. (_Begins to work at the figure_.)
Col. G. (_watching him stealthily_). He looked a respectable old party--from Lancashire, he said.
Ger. I dare say. You will have many such callers. Take the address. Models, you know.
Col. G. If he calls again, sir?
Ger. Ask him to leave his address, I say.
Col. G. But he told me you knew her.
Ger. Possibly. I had a good many models before I left. But it's of no consequence; I don't want any at present.
Col. G. He seemed in a great way, sir--and swore. I couldn't make him out.
Ger. Ah! hm!
Col. G. He says he saw her come out of the house.
Ger. Has_ there been any girl here? Have you seen any about?
Col. G. No, sir.
Ger. My aunt had a dressmaker to meet her here the other evening. I have had no model since I came back.
Col. G. The man was in a sad taking about her, sir. I didn't know what to make of it. There seemed some truth--something suspicious.
Ger. Perhaps my aunt can throw some light upon it. (COL. G. _lingers_.) That will do. (_Exit_ COL. G.) How oddly the man behaves! A sun-stroke in India, perhaps. Or he may have had a knock on the head. I must keep my eye on him. (_Stops working, steps backward, and gazes at the Psyche_.) She is growing very like some one! Who can it be? She knows she is puzzling me, the beauty! See how she is keeping back a smile! She knows if she lets one smile out, her whole face will follow it through the clay. How strange the half-lights of memory are! You know and you don't know--both at once. Like a bat in the twilight you are sure of it, and the same moment it is nowhere. Who _is_ my Psyche like?--The forehead above the eyebrow, and round by the temple? The half-playful, half-sorrowful curve of the lip? The hope in the lifted eyelid? There is more there than ever I put there. Some power has been shaping my ends. By heaven, I have it!--No--yes--it is--it is Constance--momently dawning out of the clay! What _does_ this mean? _She_ never gave me a sitting--at least, she has not done so for the last ten years--yet here she is--she, and no other! I never thought she was beautiful. When she came with my aunt the other day though, I did fancy I saw a new soul dawning through the lovely face. Here it is--the same soul breaking through the clay of my Psyche!--I will give just one touch to the corner of the mouth.
[Gives a few touches, then steps back again and contemplates the figure. Turns away and walks up and down. The light darkens to slow plaintive music, which lasts for a minute. Then the morning begins to dawn, gleaming blue upon the statues and casts, and revealing GER. seated before his Psyche, gazing at her. He rises, and exit. Enter COL. G. and looks about.]
Col. G. I don't know what to make of it! Or rather I'm afraid I do know what to make of it! It looks bad. He's not been in bed all night. But it shows he has some conscience left--and that's a comfort.
[Enter Mrs. CLIFFORD, peeping round cautiously.]
Col. G. What, Clara! you here so early!
Mrs. C. Well, you know, brother, you're so fond of mystery!
Col. G. It's very kind of you to come! But we must be very careful; I can't tell when my master may be home.
Mrs. C. Has he been out all night, then?
Col. G. Oh no; he's just gone.
Mrs. C. I never knew him such an early bird. I made sure he was safe in bed for a couple of hours yet. But I do trust, Walter, you have had enough of this fooling, and are prepared to act like a rational man and a gentleman.
Col. G. On the contrary, Clara, with my usual obstinacy, I am more determined than ever that my boy shall not know me, until, as I told you, I have rendered him such service as may prove me not altogether unworthy to be his father. Twenty years of neglect will be hard to surmount.
Mrs. C. But mere menial service cannot discharge the least portion of your obligations. As his father alone can you really serve him.
Col. G. You persist in misunderstanding me. This is not the service I mean. I scorn the fancy. This is only the means, as I told you plainly before, of finding out _how_ I may serve him--of learning what he really needs--or most desires. If I fail in discovering how to recommend myself to him, I shall go back to India, and content myself with leaving him a tolerable fortune.
Mrs. C. How ever a hair-brained fellow like you, Walter, could have made such a soldier!--Why don't you tell your boy you love him, and have done with it?
Col. G. I will, as soon as I have proof to back the assertion.
Mrs. C. I tell you it is rank pride.
Col. G. It may be pride, sister; but it is the pride of a repentant thief who puts off his confession until he has the money in his hand to prove the genuineness of his sorrow.
Mrs. C. It never _was_ of any use to argue with _you_, Walter; you know that, or at least I know it. So I give up.--I trust you have got over your prejudice against his profession. It is not my fault.
Col. G. In truth, I had forgotten the profession--as you call it--in watching the professor.
Mrs. C. And has it not once occurred to you to ask how he may take such watching?
Col. G. By the time he is aware of it, he will be ready to understand it.
Mrs. C. But suppose he should discover you before you have thus established your position?
Col. G. I must run the risk.
Mrs. C. Suppose then you should thus find out something he would not have you know?
Col. G. (_hurriedly_). Do you imagine his servant might know a thing he would hide from his father?
Mrs. C. I do not, Walter. I can trust him. But he might well resent the espionage of even his father. You cannot get rid of the vile look of the thing.
Col. G. Again I say, my boy shall be my judge, and my love shall be my plea. In any case I shall have to ask his forgiveness. But there is his key in the lock! Run into the house.
[Exit MRS. C. Enter GER., and goes straight to the Psyche.]
Col. G. Breakfast is waiting, sir.
Ger. By and by, William.
Col. G. You haven't been in bed, sir!
Ger. Well? What of that?
Col. G. I hope you're not ill, sir.
Ger. Not in the least: I work all night sometimes.--You can go. (COL. G. _lingers, with a searching gaze at the Psyche_.)--I don't want anything.
Col. G. Pardon me, sir, but I am sure you are ill. You've done no work since last night.
Ger. (_with displeasure_). I am quite well, and wish to be alone.
Col. G. Mayn't I go and fetch a doctor, sir? It is better to take things in time.
Ger. You are troublesome. (_Exit_ COL. G.)--What can the fellow mean? He looked at me so strangely too! He's officious--that's all, I dare say. A good sort of man, I do think! William!--What is it in the man's face?--(_Enter_ Col G.) Is the breakfast ready?
Col. G. Quite ready, sir.
Ger. I'm sorry I spoke to you so hastily. The fact is--
Col. G. Don't mention it, sir. Speak as you will to me; I shan't mind it. When there's anything on a man's conscience--I--I--I mean on a man's mind--
Ger. What _do_ you mean?
Col. G. I mean, when there is anything there, he can't well help his temper, sir.
Ger. I don't understand you; but, anyhow, you--go too far, William.
Col. G. I beg your pardon, sir: I forgot myself. I do humbly beg your pardon. Shall I make some fresh coffee, sir? It's not cold--only it's stood too long.
Ger. The coffee will do well enough. (_Exit_ COL. G.)--Is she so beautiful? (_turning to the Psyche_)--Is there a likeness?--I see it.--Nonsense! A mere chance confluence of the ideal and the actual.--Even then the chance must mean something. Such a _mere_ chance would indeed be a strange one!
Oh, my heart! here she comes! my Psyche herself!--Well, Constance!
Con. Oh, Arthur, I am _so_ glad I've found you! I want to talk to you about something. I know you don't care much about me now, but I _must_ tell you, for it would be wrong not.
Ger. (aside). How beautiful she is! What _can_ she have to tell me about? It cannot be--it _shall_ not be--. Sit down, won't you? (_offering her a chair_.)
Con. No. _You_ sit there (_pointing to the dais_), and I will sit here (_placing herself on the lower step_). It was here I used to sit so often when I was a little girl. Why can't one keep little? I was always with you then! (_Sighs_.)
Ger. It is not my fault, Constance.
Con. Oh no! I suppose it can't be. Only I don't see why. Oh, Arthur, where should I be but for you! I saw the old place yesterday. How dreadful and yet how dear it was!
Ger. Who took you there?
Con. Nobody. I went alone.
Ger. It was hardly safe.--I don't like your going out alone, Constance.
Con. Why, Arthur! I used to know every court and alley about Shoreditch better than I know Berkeley Square now!
Ger. But what made you go there?
Con. I went to find a dressmaker who has been working for my aunt, and lost my way. And--would you believe it?--I was actually frightened!
Ger. No wonder! There are rough people about there.
Con. I never used to think them rough when I lived among them with my father and mother. There must be just as good people there as anywhere else. Yet I could not help shuddering at the thought of living there again!--How strange it made me feel! You have been my angel, Arthur. What would have become of me if you hadn't taken me, I dare not think.
Ger. I have had my reward, Constance: you are happy.
Con. Not quite. There's something I want to tell you.
Ger. Tell on, child.
Con. Oh, thank you!--that is how you used to talk to me. (_Hesitates_.)
Ger. (_with foreboding_) Well, what is it?
Con. (_pulling the fingers of her gloves_) A gentleman--you know him--has been--calling upon aunt--and me. We have seen a good deal of him.
Ger. Who is he?
Con. Mr. Waterfield. (_Keeps her eyes on the floor_.)
Con. He says--he--he--he wants me to marry him.--Aunt likes him.
Ger. And you?
Con. I like him too. I don't think I like him enough--I dare say I shall. It is _so_ good of him to take poor me! He is _very_ rich, they say.
Ger. Have you accepted him?
Con. I am afraid he thinks so.--Ye--e--s.--I hardly know.
Ger. Haven't you--been rather--in a hurry--Constance?
Con. No, indeed! I haven't been in a hurry at all. He has been a long time trying to make me like him. I have been too long a burden to Mrs. Clifford.
Ger. So! it is her doing, then!
Con. You were away, you know.
Ger. (_bitterly_) Yes; too far--chipping stones and making mud-pies!
Con. I don't know what you mean by that, Arthur.
Ger. Oh--nothing. I mean that--that--Of course if you are engaged to him, then--
Con. I'm afraid I've done very wrong, Arthur. If I had thought you would care!--I knew aunt would be pleased!--she wanted me to have him, I knew.--I ought to do what I can to please her,--ought I not? I have no right to--
Ger. Surely, surely. Yes, yes; I understand. It was not your fault. Only you mustn't marry him, if you--. Thank you for telling me.
Con. I ought to have told you before--before I let him speak to me again. But I didn't think you would care--not much.
Ger. Yes, yes.
Con. (_looking up with anxiety_) Ah! you _are_ vexed with me, Arthur! I see how wrong it was now. I never saw you look like that. I am very, very sorry. (_Bursts into tears_.)
Ger. No, no, child! Only it is rather sudden, and I want to think about it. Shall I send William home with you?
Con. No, thank you. I have a cab waiting. You're not angry with your little beggar, Arthur?
Ger. What is there to be angry about, child?
Con. That I--did anything without asking you first.
Ger. Nonsense! You couldn't help it. _You_'re not to blame one bit.
Con. Oh, yes, I am! I ought to have asked you first. But indeed I did not know you would care. Good-bye.--Shall I go at once?
Ger. Good-bye. (Exit CON., looking back troubled.) Come at last! Oh fool! fool! fool! In love with her at last!--and too late! For three years I haven't seen her--have not once written to her! Since I came back I've seen her just twice,--and now in the very hell of love! The ragged little darling that used to lie coiled up there in that corner! If it were my sister, it would be hard to lose her so! And to such a fellow as that!--not even a gentleman! How _could_ she take him for one! That does perplex me! Ah, well! I suppose men _have_ borne such things before, and men will bear them again! I must work! Nothing but work will save me. (_Approaches the Psyche, but turns from it with a look of despair and disgust_.) What a fool I have been!--Constance! Constance!--A brute like that to touch one of her fingers! God in heaven! It will drive me mad. (_Rushes out, leaving the door open_.)
[Enter COL. GERVAISE.]
Col. G. Gone again! and without his breakfast! My poor boy! There's something very wrong with you! It's that girl! It must be! But there's conscience in him yet!--It is all my fault. If I had been a father to him, this would never have happened.--If he were to marry the girl now?--Only, who can tell but _she_ led _him_ astray? I have known such a thing. (_Sits down and buries his face in his hands_.)
Wat. Is Mr. Gervaise in?
Col. G. (_rising_) No, sir.
Wat. Tell him I called, will you? [_Exit_.]
Col. G. Yes, sir.--Forgot again. Young man;--gentleman or cad?--don't know; think the latter.
Th. Han yo heard speyk ov mo chylt yet, sir?
Col. G. (_starting up_). In the name of God, I know nothing of your child; but bring her here, and I will give you a hundred pounds--in golden sovereigns.
Th. Hea am aw to fot her yere, when I dunnot know wheer hoo be, sir?
Col. G. That's your business. Bring her, and there will be your money.
Th. Dun yo think, sir, o' the gouden suverings i' th' Bank ov England would put a sharper edge on mo oud eighes when they look for mo lass? Eh, mon! Yo dunnot know the heart ov a feyther--ov the feyther ov a lass-barn, sir. Han yo kilt and buried her, and nea be yo sorry for't? I' hoo be dead and gwoan, tell mo, sir, and aw'll goo whoam again, for mo oud lass be main lonesome beout mo, and we'll wait till we goo to her, for hoo winnot coom no moor to us.
Col. G. For anything I know, your daughter is alive and well. Bring her here, I say, and I will make you happy.
Th. Aw shannot want thes or thi silverings either to mak mo happy then, maister. Iv aw hed a houd o' mo lass, it's noan o' yere aw'd be a coomin' wi' her. It's reet streight whoam to her mother we'd be gooin', aw'll be beawn. Nay, nay, mon!--aw'm noan sich a greight foo as yo tak mo for.
[Exit. COL. G. follows him. Enter. GER. Sits down before the Psyche, but without looking at her.]
Ger. Oh those fingers! They are striking terrible chords on my heart! I _will_ conquer it. But I _will_ love her. The spear shall fill its own wound. To draw it out and die, would be no victory. "I'll but lie down and bleed awhile, and then I'll rise and fight again." Brave old Sir Andrew!
[Enter COL. G.]
Col. G. I beg your pardon, sir--a young man called while you were out.
Ger. (_listlessly_). Very well, William.
Col. G. Is there any message, if he calls again, sir? He said he would.
Ger. No. (COL. G. _lingers_.) You can go.
Col. G. I hope you feel better, sir?
Ger. Quite well.
Col. G. Can I get you anything, sir?
Ger. No, thank you; I want nothing.--Why do you stay?
Col. G. Can't you think of something I can do for you, sir?
Ger. Fetch that red cloth.
Col. G. Yes, sir.
Ger. Throw it over that--
Col. G. This, sir?
Ger. No, no--the clay there. Thank you. (_A knock at the door_.) See who that is.
Col. G. Are you at home, sir?
Ger. That depends. Not to Mr. Waterfield. Oh, my head! my head!
[Exit COL. G.]
[Enter CONSTANCE. GER. _starts, but keeps his head leaning on his hand.]
Con. I forgot to say to you, Arthur,--. But you are ill! What is the matter, dear Arthur?
Ger. (without looking up) Nothing--only a headache.
Con. Do come home with me, and let aunt and me nurse you. Don't be vexed with me any more. I will do whatever you like. I couldn't go home without seeing you again. And now I find you ill!
Ger. Not a bit. I am only dreadfully busy. I must go out of town. I am so busy! I can't stay in it a moment longer. I have so many things to do.
Con. Mayn't I come and see you while you work? I never used to interrupt you. I want so to sit once more in my old place. (_Draws a stool towards him_.)
Ger. No, no--not--not there! Constance used to sit there. William!
Con. You frighten me, Arthur!
[Enter COL. G.]
Ger. Bring a chair, William.
[Constance sits down like a chidden child. Exit COL. G.]
Con. I must have offended you more than I thought, Arthur! What can I say? It is so stupid to be always saying _I am sorry_.
Ger. No, no. But some one may call.
Con. You mean more than that. Will you not let me understand?
Ger. Your friend Mr. Waterfield called a few minutes ago. He will be here again presently, I dare say.
Con. (_indifferently_). Indeed!
Ger. I suppose you appointed--expected--to meet him here.
Con. Arthur! Do you think I would come to you to meet _him_? I saw him this morning; I don't want to see him again. I wish you knew him.
Ger. Why should you want me to know him?
Con. Because you would do him good.
Ger. What good does he want done him?
Con. He has got beautiful things in him--talks well--in bits--arms and feet and faces--never anything like--(_turning to the Psyche_) Why have you--? Has _she_ been naughty too?
Ger. Is it _only_ naughty things that must be put out of sight, Constance?
Con. Dear Arthur! you spoke like your own self then.
Ger. (_rising hurriedly_). Excuse me. I must go. It is very rude, but--William!
[Enter COL. G.]
Col. G. Yes, sir.
Ger. Fetch a hansom directly.
Col. G. Yes, sir. _Exit_.
Con. You do frighten me, Arthur! I am sure you are ill.
Ger. Not at all. I have an engagement.
Con. I must go then--must I?
Ger. Do not think me unkind?
Con. I will not think anything you would not have me think.
[Re-enter COL. G.]
Col. G. The cab is at the door, sir.
Ger. Thank you. Then show Miss Lacordère out. Stay. I will open the door for her myself. _Exeunt_ GER. _and_ CON.
Col. G. He speaks like one in despair, forcing every word! If he should die! Oh, my God!
[Re-enter GER. Walks up and down the room.]
Col. G. Ain't you going, sir?
Ger. No. I have sent the lady in the cab.
Col. G. Then hadn't you better lie down, sir?
Ger. Lie down! What do you mean? I'm not in the way of lying down except to sleep.
Col. G. And let me go for the doctor, sir?
Ger. The doctor! Ha! ha ha!--You are a soldier, you say?
Col. G. Yes, sir.
Ger. Right. We're all soldiers--or ought to be. I will put you to your catechism. What is a soldier's first duty?
Col. G. Obedience, sir.
[GER. sits down and leans his head on his hands. COL. G. watches him.]
Ger. Ah! obedience, is it? Then turn those women out. They will hurt you--may kill you; but you must not mind that. They burn, they blister, and they blast, for as white as they look! The hottest is the white fire. But duty, old soldier!--obedience, you know!--Ha! ha! Oh, my head! my head! I believe I am losing my senses, William. I was in a bad part of the town this morning. I went to see a place I knew long ago. It had gone to hell--but the black edges of it were left. There was a smell--and I can't get it out of me. Oh, William! William! take hold of me. Don't let them come near me. Psyche is laughing at me. I told you to throw the red cloth over her.
Col. G. My poor boy!
Ger. Don't fancy you're my father, though! I wish you were. But I cannot allow that.--Why the devil didn't you throw the red cloth over that butterfly? She's sucking the blood from my heart.
Col. G. You said the Psyche, sir! The red cloth _is_ over the Psyche, sir. Look.
Ger. Yes. Yes. I beg your pardon. Take it off. It is too red. It will scorch her wings. It burns my brain. Take it off, I say! (COL. G. _uncovers the Psyche_.) There! I told you! She's laughing at me! Ungrateful child! _I_'m not her Cupid. Cover her up. Not the red cloth again. It's too hot, I say. I won't torture _her_. I am a man and I can bear it. She's a woman and she shan't bear it.
_Sinks back in his chair_. COL. G. _lays him on the dais, and sits down beside him_.
Col. G. His heart's all right! And when a fellow's miserable over his faults, there must be some way out of them.--But the consequences?--Ah! there's the rub.
Ger. What's the matter? Where am I?
Col. G. I must fetch a doctor, sir. You've been in a faint.
Ger. Why couldn't I keep in it? It was very nice: you know nothing--and that's the nicest thing of all. Why is it we can't stop, William?
Col. G. I don't understand you, sir.
Ger. Stop living, I mean. It's no use killing yourself, for you don't stop then. At least they say you go on living all the same. If I thought it did mean stopping, William--
Col. G. Do come to your room, sir.
Ger. I won't. I'll stop here. How hot it is! Don't let anybody in.
[Stretches out his hand. COL. G. holds it. He falls asleep.]
Col. G. What _shall_ I do? If he married her, he'd be miserable, and make her miserable too. I'll take her away somewhere. I'll be a father to her; I'll tend her as if she were his widow. But what confusions would follow! Alas! alas! one crime is the mother of a thousand miseries! And now he's in for a fever--typhus, perhaps!--I _must_ find this girl!--What a sweet creature that Miss Lacordère is! If only he might have _her_! I don't care what she was.
Ger. Don't let them near me, William! They will drive me mad. They think I shall love them. I _will_ not. If she comes one step nearer, I shall strike her. You Diana! Hecate! Hell-cat!--Fire-hearted Chaos is burning me to ashes! My brain is a cinder! Some water, William!
Col. G. Here it is, sir.
Ger. But just look to Psyche there. Ah. she's off! There she goes! melting away in the blue, like a dissolving vapour. Bring me my field-glass, William. I may catch a glimpse of her yet. Make haste.
Col. G. Pray don't talk so, sir. Do be quiet, or you will make yourself very ill. Think what will become of me if--
Ger. What worse would _you_ be, William? You are a soldier. I must talk. You are all wrong about it: it keeps me quiet (_holding his head with both hands_). I should go raving mad else (_wildly_). Give me some water. (_He drinks eagerly, then looks slowly round the room_.) Now they _are_ gone, and I do believe they won't come again! I see everything--and your face, William. You are very good to me--very patient! I should die if it weren't for you.
Col. G. I would die for you, sir.
Ger. Would you? But perhaps you don't care much for your life. Anybody might have _my_ life for the asking. I dare say it's just as good to be dead.--Ah! there is a toad--a toad with a tail! No; it's a toad with a slow-worm after him. Take them away, William!--Thank you.--I used to think life pleasant, but now--somehow there's nothing in it. She told me the truth about it--Constance did. Don't let those women come back. What if I _should_ love them, William!--love and hate them both at once! William! William! (_A knock at the door_.) See who that is. Mind you don't let _them_ in.
Col. G. Martha is there, sir.
Ger. She's but an old woman; she can't keep them out. They would walk over her. All the goddesses have such long legs! You go and look. You'll easily know them: if they've got no irises to their eyes, don't let them in, for the love of God, William! Real women have irises to their eyes: those have none--those frightful snowy beauties.--And yet snow is very nice! And I'm so hot! _There_ they come again! _Exit_ COL. G.
[Enter MRS. CLIFFORD.]
Ger. Aunt! aunt! help me! There they come!
Mrs. C. What is it, my Arthur? They shan't hurt you. I am here. I will take care of you.
Ger. Yes, yes, you will! I am not a bit afraid of them now. Do you know them, aunt? I'll tell you a secret: they are Juno and Diana and Venus.--They hate sculptors. But I never wronged them. Three white women--only, between their fingers and behind their knees they are purple--and inside their lips, when they smile--and in the hollows of their eyes--ugh! They want me to love them; and they say you are all--all of you women--no better than they are. I _know_ that is a lie; for they have no eyelids and no irises to their eyes.
Mrs. C. Dear boy, they shan't come near you. Shall I sing to you, and drive them away?
Ger. No, don't. I can't bear birds in my brain.
Mrs. C. How long have you had this headache? (_laying her hand on his forehead_.)
Ger. Only a year or two--since the white woman came--that woman (_pointing to the Psyche_). She's been buried for ages, and won't grow brown.
Mrs. C. There's no woman there, Arthur.
Ger. Of course not. It was an old story that bothered me. Oh, my head! my head!--There's my father standing behind the door and won't come in!--_He_ could help me now, if he would. William! show my father in. But he isn't in the story--so he can't.
Mrs. C. Do try to keep yourself quiet, Arthur. The doctor will be here in a few minutes.
Ger. He shan't come here! He would put the white woman out. She does smell earthy, but I won't part with her. (_A knock_.) What a devil of a noise! Why don't they use the knocker? What's the use of taking a sledge-hammer?
Mrs. C. It's that stupid James!
[Enter CONSTANCE. MRS. C. goes to meet her.]
Mrs. C. Constance, you go and hurry the doctor. I will stay with Arthur.
Con. Is he _very_ ill, aunt?
Mrs. C. I'm afraid he is.
Ger. (_sitting up_). Constance! Constance!
Con. Here I am! (running to him).
Ger. Oh, my head! I wish I could find somewhere to lay it!--Sit by me, Constance, and let me lay my head on your shoulder--for one minute--only one minute. It aches so! (_She sits down by him. His head sinks on her shoulder_. MRS. C. _looks annoyed, and exit_.)
Con. Thank you, thank you, dear Arthur! (_sobbing_). You used to like me! I could not believe you hated me now. You _have_ forgiven me? Dear head!
[He closes his eyes. Slow plaintive music.]
Ger. (_half waking_). I can't read. When I get to the bottom of the page, I wonder what it was all about. I shall never get to Garibaldi! and if I don't, I shall never get farther. If I could but keep that one line away! It drives me mad, mad. "He took her by the lily-white hand."--I could strangle myself for thinking of such things, but they _will_ come!--I _won't_ go mad. I should never get to Garibaldi, and never be rid of this red-hot ploughshare ploughing up my heart. I will _not_ go mad! I will die like a man.
Con. Arthur! Arthur!
Ger. God in heaven! she is there! And the others are behind her!--Psyche! Psyche! Don't speak to those women! Come alone, and I will tear my heart out and give it you.--It is Psyche herself now, and the rest are gone! Psyche--listen.
Con. It's only me, Arthur! your own little Constance! If aunt would but let me stay and nurse you! But I don't know what's come to her: she's not like herself at all.
Ger. Who's that behind you?
Con. Behind me? (_looking round_). There's nobody behind me.
Ger. I thought there was somebody behind you. William!--What can have become of William?
Con. I dare say aunt has sent him somewhere.
Ger. Then he's gone! he's gone!
Con. You're not afraid of being left alone with me, Arthur?
Ger. Oh no! of course not?--What can have become of William? Don't you know they sent him--not those women, but the dead people--to look after me? He's a good fellow. He said he would die for me. Ha! ha! ha! Not much in that--is there?
Con. Don't laugh so, dear Arthur.
Ger. Well, I won't. I have something to tell you, Constance. I will try to keep my senses till I've told you.
Con. Do tell me. I hope I haven't done anything more to vex you. Indeed I am sorry. I won't speak to that man again, if you like. I would rather not--if you wish it.
Ger. What right have I to dictate to you, my child?
Con. Every right. I am yours. I belong to you. Nobody owned me when you took me.
Ger. Don't talk like that; you will drive me mad.
Con. Arthur! Arthur!
Ger. Listen to me, Constance. I am going to Garibaldi. He wants soldiers. I must not live an idle life any longer.--We must part, Constance.--Good-bye, my darling!
Con. No, no; not yet; we'll talk about it by-and-by. You see I shall have ever so many things to make for you before you can go! (_smiling_).
Ger. Garibaldi can't wait, Constance--and _I_ can't wait. I shall die if I stop here.
Con. Oh, Arthur, you are in some trouble, and you won't tell me what it is, so I can't help you!
Ger. I shall be killed, I know. I mean to be. Will you think of me sometimes? Give me one kiss. I may have a last kiss.
Con. (_weeping_.) My heart will break if you talk like that, Arthur. I will do anything you please. There's something wrong, dreadfully wrong! And it must be my fault!--Oh! there's that man! (_starting up_.) He shall _not_ come here.