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George Bernard Shaw



A fine October morning in the north east suburbs of London, a 
vast district many miles away from the London of Mayfair and St. 
James's, much less known there than the Paris of the Rue de 
Rivoli and the Champs Elysees, and much less narrow, squalid, 
fetid and airless in its slums; strong in comfortable, prosperous 
middle class life; wide-streeted, myriad-populated; well-served 
with ugly iron urinals, Radical clubs, tram lines, and a 
perpetual stream of yellow cars; enjoying in its main 
thoroughfares the luxury of grass-grown "front gardens," 
untrodden by the foot of man save as to the path from the gate to 
the hall door; but blighted by an intolerable monotony of miles 
and miles of graceless, characterless brick houses, black iron 
railings, stony pavements, slaty roofs, and respectably ill 
dressed or disreputably poorly dressed people, quite accustomed 
to the place, and mostly plodding about somebody else's work, 
which they would not do if they themselves could help it. The 
little energy and eagerness that crop up show themselves in 
cockney cupidity and business "push." Even the policemen and the 
chapels are not infrequent enough to break the monotony.
The sun is shining cheerfully; there is no fog; and though the 
smoke effectually prevents anything, whether faces and hands or 
bricks and mortar, from looking fresh and clean, it is not 
hanging heavily enough to trouble a Londoner.

This desert of unattractiveness has its oasis. Near the outer end 
of the Hackney Road is a park of 217 acres, fenced in, not by 
railings, but by a wooden paling, and containing plenty of 
greensward, trees, a lake for bathers, flower beds with the 
flowers arranged carefully in patterns by the admired cockney art 
of carpet gardening and a sandpit, imported from the seaside for 
the delight of the children, but speedily deserted on its 
becoming a natural vermin preserve for all the petty fauna of 
Kingsland, Hackney and Hoxton. A bandstand, an unfinished forum 
for religious, anti-religious and political orators, cricket 
pitches, a gymnasium, and an old fashioned stone kiosk are among 
its attractions. Wherever the prospect is bounded by trees or 
rising green grounds, it is a pleasant place. Where the ground 
stretches far to the grey palings, with bricks and mortar, sky 
signs, crowded chimneys and smoke beyond, the prospect makes it 
desolate and sordid.

The best view of Victoria Park is from the front window of St. 
Dominic's Parsonage, from which not a single chimney is visible. 
The parsonage is a semi-detached villa with a front garden and a 
porch. Visitors go up the flight of steps to the porch: 
tradespeople and members of the family go down by a door under 
the steps to the basement, with a breakfast room, used for all 
meals, in front, and the kitchen at the back. Upstairs, on the 
level of the hall door, is the drawing-room, with its large plate 
glass window looking on the park. In this room, the only 
sitting-room that can be spared from the children and the family 
meals, the parson, the Reverend James Mavor Morell does his work. 
He is sitting in a strong round backed revolving chair at the 
right hand end of a long table, which stands across the window, 
so that he can cheer himself with the view of the park at his 
elbow. At the opposite end of the table, adjoining it, is a 
little table; only half the width of the other, with a typewriter 
on it. His typist is sitting at this machine, with her back to 
the window. The large table is littered with pamphlets, journals, 
letters, nests of drawers, an office diary, postage scales and 
the like. A spare chair for visitors having business with the 
parson is in the middle, turned to his end. Within reach of his 
hand is a stationery case, and a cabinet photograph in a frame. 
Behind him the right hand wall, recessed above the fireplace, is 
fitted with bookshelves, on which an adept eye can measure the 
parson's divinity and casuistry by a complete set of Browning's 
poems and Maurice's Theological Essays, and guess at his politics 
from a yellow backed Progress and Poverty, Fabian Essays, a Dream 
of John Ball, Marx's Capital, and half a dozen other literary 
landmarks in Socialism. Opposite him on the left, near the 
typewriter, is the door. Further down the room, opposite the 
fireplace, a bookcase stands on a cellaret, with a sofa near it. 
There is a generous fire burning; and the hearth, with a 
comfortable armchair and a japanned flower painted coal scuttle 
at one side, a miniature chair for a boy or girl on the other, a 
nicely varnished wooden mantelpiece, with neatly moulded shelves, 
tiny bits of mirror let into the panels, and a travelling clock 
in a leather case (the inevitable wedding present), and on the 
wall above a large autotype of the chief figure in Titian's 
Virgin of the Assumption, is very inviting. Altogether the room 
is the room of a good housekeeper, vanquished, as far as the 
table is concerned, by an untidy man, but elsewhere mistress of 
the situation. The furniture, in its ornamental aspect, betrays 
the style of the advertised "drawing-room suite" of the pushing 
suburban furniture dealer; but there is nothing useless or 
pretentious in the room. The paper and panelling are dark, 
throwing the big cheery window and the park outside into strong 

The Reverend James Mavor Morell is a Christian Socialist 
clergyman of the Church of England, and an active member of the 
Guild of St. Matthew and the Christian Social Union. A vigorous, 
genial, popular man of forty, robust and goodlooking, full of 
energy, with pleasant, hearty, considerate manners, and a sound, 
unaffected voice, which he uses with the clean, athletic 
articulation of a practised orator, and with a wide range and 
perfect command of expression. He is a first rate clergyman, able 
to say what he likes to whom he likes, to lecture people without 
setting himself up against them, to impose his authority on them 
without humiliating them, and to interfere in their business 
without impertinence. His well-spring of spiritual enthusiasm and 
sympathetic emotion has never run dry for a moment: he still eats 
and sleeps heartily enough to win the daily battle between 
exhaustion and recuperation triumphantly. Withal, a great baby, 
pardonably vain of his powers and unconsciously pleased with 
himself. He has a healthy complexion, a good forehead, with the 
brows somewhat blunt, and the eyes bright and eager, a mouth 
resolute, but not particularly well cut, and a substantial nose, 
with the mobile, spreading nostrils of the dramatic orator, but, 
like all his features, void of subtlety.

The typist, Miss Proserpine Garnett, is a brisk little woman of 
about 30, of the lower middle class, neatly but cheaply dressed 
in a black merino skirt and a blouse, rather pert and quick of 
speech, and not very civil in her manner, but sensitive and 
affectionate. She is clattering away busily at her machine whilst 
Morell opens the last of his morning's letters. He realizes its 
contents with a comic groan of despair.

PROSERPINE. Another lecture?

MORELL. Yes. The Hoxton Freedom Group want me to address them on 
Sunday morning (great emphasis on "Sunday," this being the 
unreasonable part of the business). What are they?

PROSERPINE. Communist Anarchists, I think.

MORELL. Just like Anarchists not to know that they can't have a 
parson on Sunday! Tell them to come to church if they want to 
hear me: it will do them good. Say I can only come on Mondays and 
Thursdays. Have you the diary there?

PROSERPINE (taking up the diary). Yes.

MORELL. Have I any lecture on for next Monday? 

PROSERPINE (referring to diary). Tower Hamlets Radical Club.

MORELL. Well, Thursday then?

PROSERPINE. English Land Restoration League. 

MORELL. What next?

PROSERPINE. Guild of St. Matthew on Monday. Independent Labor 
Party, Greenwich Branch, on Thursday. Monday, Social-Democratic 
Federation, Mile End Branch. Thursday, first Confirmation class--
(Impatiently). Oh, I'd better tell them you can't come. They're 
only half a dozen ignorant and conceited costermongers without 
five shillings between them.

MORELL (amused). Ah; but you see they're near relatives of mine, 
Miss Garnett.

PROSERPINE (staring at him). Relatives of YOURS! 

MORELL. Yes: we have the same father--in Heaven. 

PROSERPINE (relieved). Oh, is that all?

MORELL (with a sadness which is a luxury to a man whose voice 
expresses it so finely). Ah, you don't believe it. Everybody says 
it: nobody believes it--nobody. (Briskly, getting back to 
business.) Well, well! Come, Miss Proserpine, can't you find a 
date for the costers? What about the 25th?: that was vacant the 
day before yesterday.

PROSERPINE (referring to diary). Engaged--the Fabian Society.

MORELL. Bother the Fabian Society! Is the 28th gone too?

PROSERPINE. City dinner. You're invited to dine with the 
Founder's Company.

MORELL. That'll do; I'll go to the Hoxton Group of Freedom 
instead. (She enters the engagement in silence, with implacable 
disparagement of the Hoxton Anarchists in every line of her face. 
Morell bursts open the cover of a copy of The Church Reformer, 
which has come by post, and glances through Mr. Stewart Hendlam's 
leader and the Guild of St. Matthew news. These proceedings are 
presently enlivened by the appearance of Morell's curate, the 
Reverend Alexander Mill, a young gentleman gathered by Morell 
from the nearest University settlement, whither he had come from 
Oxford to give the east end of London the benefit of his 
university training. He is a conceitedly well intentioned, 
enthusiastic, immature person, with nothing positively unbearable 
about him except a habit of speaking with his lips carefully 
closed for half an inch from each corner, a finicking 
arthulation, and a set of horribly corrupt vowels, notably ow for 
o, this being his chief means of bringing Oxford refinement
to bear on Hackney vulgarity. Morell, whom he has won over by a 
doglike devotion, looks up indulgently from The Church Reformer 
as he enters, and remarks) Well, Lexy! Late again, as usual.

LEXY. I'm afraid so. I wish I could get up in the morning.

MORELL (exulting in his own energy). Ha! ha! (Whimsically.) Watch 
and pray, Lexy: watch and pray.

LEXY. I know. (Rising wittily to the occasion.) But how can I 
watch and pray when I am asleep? Isn't that so, Miss Prossy?

PROSERPINE (sharply). Miss Garnett, if you please. 

LEXY. I beg your pardon--Miss Garnett. 

PROSERPINE. You've got to do all the work to-day. 

LEXY. Why?

PROSERPINE. Never mind why. It will do you good to earn your 
supper before you eat it, for once in a way, as I do. Come: don't 
dawdle. You should have been off on your rounds half an hour ago.

LEXY (perplexed). Is she in earnest, Morell?

MORELL (in the highest spirits--his eyes dancing). Yes. _I_ am 
going to dawdle to-day.

LEXY. You! You don't know how.
MORELL (heartily). Ha! ha! Don't I? I'm going to have this day 
all to myself--or at least the forenoon. My wife's coming back: 
she's due here at 11.45.

LEXY (surprised). Coming back already--with the children? I 
thought they were to stay to the end of the month. 

MORELL. So they are: she's only coming up for two days, to get 
some flannel things for Jimmy, and to see how we're getting on 
without her.

LEXY (anxiously). But, my dear Morell, if what Jimmy and Fluffy 
had was scarlatina, do you think it wise--

MORELL. Scarlatina!--rubbish, German measles. I brought it into 
the house myself from the Pycroft Street School. A parson is like 
a doctor, my boy: he must face infection as a soldier must face 
bullets. (He rises and claps Lexy on the shoulder.) Catch the 
measles if you can, Lexy: she'll nurse you; and what a piece of 
luck that will be for you!--eh?

LEXY (smiling uneasily). It's so hard to understand you about 
Mrs. Morell--

MORELL (tenderly). Ah, my boy, get married--get married to a good 
woman; and then you'll understand. That's a foretaste of what 
will be best in the Kingdom of Heaven we are trying to establish 
on earth. That will cure you of dawdling. An honest man feels 
that he must pay Heaven for every hour of happiness with a good 
spell of hard, unselfish work to make others happy. We have no 
more right to consume happiness without producing it than to 
consume wealth without producing it. Get a wife like my Candida; 
and you'll always be in arrear with your repayment. (He pats Lexy 
affectionately on the back, and is leaving the room when Lexy 
calls to him.)

LEXY. Oh, wait a bit: I forgot. (Morell halts and turns with the 
door knob in his hand.) Your father-in-law is coming round to see 
you. (Morell shuts the door again, with a complete change of 

MORELL (surprised and not pleased). Mr. Burgess?

LEXY. Yes. I passed him in the park, arguing with somebody. He 
gave me good day and asked me to let you know that he was coming.

MORELL (half incredulous). But he hasn't called here for--I may 
almost say for years. Are you sure, Lexy? You're not joking, are 

LEXY (earnestly). No, sir, really.

MORELL (thoughtfully). Hm! Time for him to take another look at 
Candida before she grows out of his knowledge. (He resigns 
himself to the inevitable, and goes out. Lexy looks after him 
with beaming, foolish worship.)

LEXY. What a good man! What a thorough, loving soul he is!
(He takes Morell's place at the table, making himself very 
comfortable as he takes out a cigaret.)

PROSERPINE (impatiently, pulling the letter she has been working 
at off the typewriter and folding it.) Oh, a man ought to be able 
to be fond of his wife without making a fool of himself about 

LEXY (shocked). Oh, Miss Prossy!

PROSERPINE (rising busily and coming to the stationery case to 
get an envelope, in which she encloses the letter as she speaks). 
Candida here, and Candida there, and Candida everywhere! (She 
licks the envelope.) It's enough to drive anyone out of their 
SENSES (thumping the envelope to make it stick) to hear a 
perfectly commonplace woman raved about in that absurd manner 
merely because she's got good hair, and a tolerable figure.

LEXY (with reproachful gravity). I think her extremely beautiful, 
Miss Garnett. (He takes the photograph up; looks at it; and adds, 
with even greater impressiveness) EXTREMELY beautiful. How fine 
her eyes are!

PROSERPINE. Her eyes are not a bit better than mine--now! (He 
puts down the photograph and stares austerely at her.) And you 
know very well that you think me dowdy and second rate enough.

LEXY (rising majestically). Heaven forbid that I should think of 
any of God's creatures in such a way! (He moves stiffly away from 
her across the room to the neighbourhood of the bookcase.)

PROSERPINE. Thank you. That's very nice and comforting.

LEXY (saddened by her depravity). I had no idea you had any 
feeling against Mrs. Morell.

PROSERPINE (indignantly). I have no feeling against her. She's 
very nice, very good-hearted: I'm very fond of her and can 
appreciate her real qualities far better than any man can. (He 
shakes his head sadly and turns to the bookcase, looking along 
the shelves for a volume. She follows him with intense 
pepperiness.) You don't believe me? (He turns and faces her. She 
pounces at him with spitfire energy.) You think I'm jealous. Oh, 
what a profound knowledge of the human heart you have, Mr. Lexy 
Mill! How well you know the weaknesses of Woman, don't you? It 
must be so nice to be a man and have a fine penetrating intellect 
instead of mere emotions like us, and to know that the reason we 
don't share your amorous delusions is that we're all jealous
of one another! (She abandons him with a toss of her shoulders, 
and crosses to the fire to warm her hands.)

LEXY. Ah, if you women only had the same clue to Man's strength 
that you have to his weakness, Miss Prossy, there would be no 
Woman Question.

PROSERPINE (over her shoulder, as she stoops, holding her hands 
to the blaze). Where did you hear Morell say that? You didn't 
invent it yourself: you're not clever enough.

LEXY. That's quite true. I am not ashamed of owing him that, as I 
owe him so many other spiritual truths. He said it at the annual 
conference of the Women's Liberal Federation. Allow me to add 
that though they didn't appreciate it, I, a mere man, did. (He 
turns to the bookcase again, hoping that this may leave her 

PROSERPINE (putting her hair straight at the little panel of 
mirror in the mantelpiece). Well, when you talk to me, give me 
your own ideas, such as they are, and not his. You never cut a 
poorer figure than when you are trying to imitate him.

LEXY (stung). I try to follow his example, not to imitate him.

PROSERPINE (coming at him again on her way back to her work). 
Yes, you do: you IMITATE him. Why do you tuck your umbrella under 
your left arm instead of carrying it in your hand like anyone 
else? Why do you walk with your chin stuck out before you, 
hurrying along with that eager look in your eyes--you, who never 
get up before half past nine in the morning? Why do you say  
"knoaledge" in church, though you always say "knolledge" in 
private conversation! Bah! do you think I don't know? (She goes 
back to the typewriter.) Here, come and set about your work: 
we've wasted enough time for one morning. Here's a copy of the 
diary for to-day. (She hands him a memorandum.) 

LEXY (deeply offended). Thank you. (He takes it and stands at the 
table with his back to her, reading it. She begins to transcribe 
her shorthand notes on the typewriter without troubling herself 
about his feelings. Mr. Burgess enters unannounced. He is a man 
of sixty, made coarse and sordid by the compulsory selfishness of 
petty commerce, and later on softened into sluggish bumptiousness 
by overfeeding and commercial success. A vulgar, ignorant, 
guzzling man, offensive and contemptuous to people whose labor is 
cheap, respectful to wealth and rank, and quite sincere and 
without rancour or envy in both attitudes. Finding him without 
talent, the world has offered him no decently paid work except 
ignoble work, and he has become in consequence, somewhat hoggish. 
But he has no suspicion of this himself, and honestly regards his 
commercial prosperity as the inevitable and socially wholesome 
triumph of the ability, industry, shrewdness and experience in 
business of a man who in private is easygoing, affectionate and 
humorously convivial to a fault. Corporeally, he is a podgy man, 
with a square, clean shaven face and a square beard under his 
chin; dust colored, with a patch of grey in the centre, and small 
watery blue eyes with a plaintively sentimental expression, which 
he transfers easily to his voice by his habit of pompously 
intoning his sentences.)

BURGESS (stopping on the threshold, and looking round). They told 
me Mr. Morell was here.

PROSERPINE (rising). He's upstairs. I'll fetch him for you.

BURGESS (staring boorishly at her). You're not the same young 
lady as used to typewrite for him?


BURGESS (assenting). No: she was younger. (Miss Garnett stolidly 
stares at him; then goes out with great dignity. He receives this 
quite obtusely, and crosses to the hearth-rug, where he turns and 
spreads himself with his back to the fire.) Startin' on your 
rounds, Mr. Mill?

LEXY (folding his paper and pocketing it). Yes: I must be off 

BURGESS (momentously). Don't let me detain you, Mr. Mill. What I
come about is private between me and Mr. Morell.

LEXY (huffily). I have no intention of intruding, I am sure, Mr. 
Burgess. Good morning.

BURGESS (patronizingly). Oh, good morning to you. (Morell returns 
as Lexy is making for the door.)

MORELL (to Lexy). Off to work? 

LEXY. Yes, sir.

MORELL (patting him affectionately on the shoulder). Take my silk 
handkerchief and wrap your throat up. There's a cold wind. Away 
with you.

(Lexy brightens up, and goes out.)

BURGESS. Spoilin' your curates, as usu'l, James. Good mornin'. 
When I pay a man, an' 'is livin' depen's on me, I keep him in his 

MORELL (rather shortly). I always keep my curates in their places 
as my helpers and comrades. If you get as much work out of your 
clerks and warehousemen as I do out of my curates, you must be 
getting rich pretty fast. Will you take your old chair?

(He points with curt authority to the arm chair beside the 
fireplace; then takes the spare chair from the table and sits 
down in front of Burgess.)

BURGESS (without moving). Just the same as hever, James! 

MORELL. When you last called--it was about three years ago, I 
think--you said the same thing a little more frankly. Your exact 
words then were: "Just as big a fool as ever, James?"

BURGESS (soothingly). Well, perhaps I did; but (with conciliatory 
cheerfulness) I meant no offence by it. A clergyman is privileged 
to be a bit of a fool, you know: it's on'y becomin' in his 
profession that he should. Anyhow, I come here, not to rake up 
hold differences, but to let bygones be bygones. (Suddenly 
becoming very solemn, and approaching Morell.) James: three year 
ago, you done me a hill turn. You done me hout of a contrac'; an' 
when I gev you 'arsh words in my nat'ral disappointment, you 
turned my daughrter again me. Well, I've come to act the part of 
a Cherischin. (Offering his hand.) I forgive you, James.

MORELL (starting up). Confound your impudence! 

BURGESS (retreating, with almost lachrymose deprecation of this 
treatment). Is that becomin' language for a clergyman, James?--
and you so partic'lar, too?

MORELL (hotly). No, sir, it is not becoming language for a 
clergyman. I used the wrong word. I should have said damn your 
impudence: that's what St. Paul, or any honest priest would have 
said to you. Do you think I have forgotten that tender of yours 
for the contract to supply clothing to the workhouse? 

BURGESS (in a paroxysm of public spirit). I acted in the interest 
of the ratepayers, James. It was the lowest tender: you can't 
deny that.

MORELL. Yes, the lowest, because you paid worse wages than any 
other employer--starvation wages--aye, worse than starvation 
wages--to the women who made the clothing. Your wages would have 
driven them to the streets to keep body and soul together. 
(Getting angrier and. angrier.) Those women were my parishioners. 
I shamed the Guardians out of accepting your tender: I shamed the 
ratepayers out of letting them do it: I shamed everybody but you. 
(Boiling over.) How dare you, sir, come here and offer to forgive 
me, and talk about your daughter, and--

BURGESS. Easy, James, easy, easy. Don't git hinto a fluster about 
nothink. I've howned I was wrong.

MORELL (fuming about). Have you? I didn't hear you.

BURGESS. Of course I did. I hown it now. Come: I harsk your 
pardon for the letter I wrote you. Is that enough?

MORELL (snapping his fingers). That's nothing. Have you raised 
the wages?

BURGESS (triumphantly). Yes. 

MORELL (stopping dead). What!

BURGESS (unctuously). I've turned a moddle hemployer. I don't 
hemploy no women now: they're all sacked; and the work is done by 
machinery. Not a man 'as less than sixpence a hour; and the 
skilled 'ands gits the Trade Union rate. (Proudly.) What 'ave you 
to say to me now?

MORELL (overwhelmed). Is it possible! Well, there's more joy in 
heaven over one sinner that repenteth-- (Going to Burgess with an 
explosion of apologetic cordiality.) My dear Burgess, I most 
heartily beg your pardon for my hard thoughts of you. (Grasps his 
hand.) And now, don't you feel the better for the change? Come, 
confess, you're happier. You look happier.

BURGESS (ruefully). Well, p'raps I do. I s'pose I must, since you 
notice it. At all events, I git my contrax asseppit (accepted) by 
the County Council. (Savagely.) They dussent'ave nothink to do 
with me unless I paid fair wages--curse 'em for a parcel o' 
meddlin' fools!

MORELL (dropping his hand, utterly discouraged). So that was why 
you raised the wages! (He sits down moodily.) 

BURGESS (severely, in spreading, mounting tones). Why else should 
I do it? What does it lead to but drink and huppishness in 
workin' men? (He seats himself magisterially in the easy chair.) 
It's hall very well for you, James: it gits you hinto the papers 
and makes a great man of you; but you never think of the 'arm you 
do, puttin' money into the pockets of workin' men that they don't 
know 'ow to spend, and takin' it from people that might be makin' 
a good huse on it.

MORELL (with a heavy sigh, speaking with cold politeness). What 
is your business with me this morning? I shall not pretend to 
believe that you are here merely out of family sentiment.

BURGESS (obstinately). Yes, I ham--just family sentiment and 
nothink else.

MORELL (with weary calm). I don't believe you!

BURGESS (rising threateningly). Don't say that to me again, James 
Mavor Morell.

MORELL (unmoved). I'll say it just as often as may be necessary 
to convince you that it's true. I don't believe you.

BURGESS (collapsing into an abyss of wounded feeling). Oh, well, 
if you're determined to be unfriendly, I s'pose I'd better go. 
(He moves reluctantly towards the door. Morell makes no sign. He 
lingers.) I didn't hexpect to find a hunforgivin' spirit in you, 
James. (Morell still not responding, he takes a few more 
reluctant steps doorwards. Then he comes back whining.) We 
huseter git on well enough, spite of our different opinions. Why 
are you so changed to me? I give you my word I come here in pyorr 
(pure) frenliness, not wishin' to be on bad terms with my hown 
daughrter's 'usban'. Come, James: be a Cherishin and shake 'ands. 
(He puts his hand sentimentally on Morell's shoulder.) 

MORELL (looking up at him thoughtfully). Look here, Burgess. Do 
you want to be as welcome here as you were before you lost that 

BURGESS. I do, James. I do--honest.

MORELL. Then why don't you behave as you did then? 

BURGESS (cautiously removing his hand). 'Ow d'y'mean? 

MORELL. I'll tell you. You thought me a young fool then.

BURGESS (coaxingly). No, I didn't, James. I--

MORELL (cutting him short). Yes, you did. And I thought you an 
old scoundrel.

BURGESS (most vehemently deprecating this gross self-accusation 
on Morell's part). No, you didn't, James. Now you do yourself a 

MORELL. Yes, I did. Well, that did not prevent our getting on 
very well together. God made you what I call a scoundrel as he 
made me what you call a fool. (The effect of this observation on 
Burgess is to remove the keystone of his moral arch. He becomes 
bodily weak, and, with his eyes fixed on Morell in a helpless 
stare, puts out his hand apprehensively to balance himself, as if 
the floor had suddenly sloped under him. Morell proceeds in the 
same tone of quiet conviction.) It was not for me to quarrel with 
his handiwork in the one case more than in the other. So long as 
you come here honestly as a self-respecting, thorough, convinced 
scoundrel, justifying your scoundrelism, and proud of it, you are 
welcome. But (and now Morell's tone becomes formidable; and he 
rises and strikes the back of the chair for greater emphasis) I 
won't have you here snivelling about being a model employer and a 
converted man when you're only an apostate with your coat turned 
for the sake of a County Council contract. (He nods at him to 
enforce the point; then goes to the hearth-rug, where he takes up 
a comfortably commanding position with his back to the fire, and 
continues) No: I like a man to be true to himself, even in
wickedness. Come now: either take your hat and go; or else sit 
down and give me a good scoundrelly reason for wanting to be 
friends with me. (Burgess, whose emotions have subsided 
sufficiently to be expressed by a dazed grin, is relieved by this 
concrete proposition. He ponders it for a moment, and then, 
slowly and very modestly, sits down in the chair Morell has just 
left.) That's right. Now, out with it. 

BURGESS (chuckling in spite of himself.) Well, you ARE a queer 
bird, James, and no mistake. But (almost enthusiastically) one 
carnt 'elp likin' you; besides, as I said afore, of course one 
don't take all a clorgyman says seriously, or the world couldn't 
go on. Could it now? (He composes himself for graver discourse, 
and turning his eyes on Morell proceeds with dull seriousness.) 
Well, I don't mind tellin' you, since it's your wish we should be 
free with one another, that I did think you a bit of a fool once; 
but I'm beginnin' to think that p'r'aps I was be'ind the times a 

MORELL (delighted ). Aha! You're finding that out at last, are 

BURGESS (portentously). Yes, times 'as changed mor'n I could a 
believed. Five yorr (year) ago, no sensible man would a thought 
o' takin' up with your ideas. I hused to wonder you was let 
preach at all. Why, I know a clorgyman that 'as bin kep' hout of 
his job for yorrs by the Bishop of London, although the pore 
feller's not a bit more religious than you are. But to-day, if 
henyone was to offer to bet me a thousan' poun' that you'll end 
by bein' a bishop yourself, I shouldn't venture to take the bet. 
You and yore crew are gettin' hinfluential: I can see that. 
They'll 'ave to give you something someday, if it's only to stop 
yore mouth. You 'ad the right instinc' arter all, James: the line 
you took is the payin' line in the long run fur a man o' your 

MORELL (decisively--offering his hand). Shake hands, Burgess. Now 
you're talking honestly. I don't think they'll make me a bishop; 
but if they do, I'll introduce you to the biggest jobbers I can 
get to come to my dinner parties.

BURGESS (who has risen with a sheepish grin and accepted the hand 
of friendship). You will 'ave your joke, James. Our quarrel's 
made up now, isn't it?

A WOMAN'S VOICE. Say yes, James.

Startled, they turn quickly and find that Candida has just come 
in, and is looking at them with an amused maternal indulgence 
which is her characteristic expression. She is a woman of 33, 
well built, well nourished, likely, one guesses, to become 
matronly later on, but now quite at her best, with the double 
charm of youth and motherhood. Her ways are those of a woman who 
has found that she can always manage people by engaging their 
affection, and who does so frankly and instinctively without the 
smallest scruple. So far, she is like any other pretty woman who 
is just clever enough to make the most of her sexual attractions 
for trivially selfish ends; but Candida's serene brow, courageous 
eyes, and well set mouth and chin signify largeness of mind and 
dignity of character to ennoble her cunning in the affections. A 
wisehearted observer, looking at her, would at once guess that 
whoever had placed the Virgin of the Assumption over her hearth 
did so because he fancied some spiritual resemblance between 
them, and yet would not suspect either her husband or herself of 
any such idea, or indeed of any concern with the art of Titian.

Just now she is in bonnet and mantle, laden with a strapped rug 
with her umbrella stuck through it, a handbag, and a supply of 
illustrated papers.

MORELL (shocked at his remissness). Candida! Why--(looks at his 
watch, and is horrified to find it so late.) My darling! 
(Hurrying to her and seizing the rug strap, pouring forth his 
remorseful regrets all the time.) I intended to meet
you at the train. I let the time slip. (Flinging the rug on the 
sofa.) I was so engrossed by--(returning to her)--I forgot--
oh!(He embraces her with penitent emotion.) 

BURGESS (a little shamefaced and doubtful of his reception).
How ors you, Candy? (She, still in Morell's arms, offers
him her cheek, which he kisses.) James and me is come to
a unnerstandin'--a honourable unnerstandin'. Ain' we, James?

MORELL (impetuously). Oh, bother your understanding! You've kept 
me late for Candida. (With compassionate fervor.) My poor love: 
how did you manage about the luggage?--how--

CANDIDA (stopping him and disengaging herself ). There, there, 
there. I wasn't alone. Eugene came down yesterday; and we 
traveled up together.

MORELL (pleased). Eugene!

CANDIDA. Yes: he's struggling with my luggage, poor boy. Go out, 
dear, at once; or he will pay for the cab; and I don't want that. 
(Morell hurries out. Candida puts down her handbag; then takes 
off her mantle and bonnet and puts them on the sofa with the rug, 
chatting meanwhile.) Well, papa, how are you getting on at home?

BURGESS. The 'ouse ain't worth livin' in since you left it, 
Candy. I wish you'd come round and give the gurl a talkin' to. 
Who's this Eugene that's come with you? 

CANDIDA. Oh, Eugene's one of James's discoveries. He found him 
sleeping on the Embankment last June. Haven't you noticed our new 
picture (pointing to the Virgin)? He gave us that.

BURGESS (incredulously). Garn! D'you mean to tell me--your hown 
father!--that cab touts or such like, orf the Embankment, buys 
pictur's like that? (Severely.) Don't deceive me, Candy: it's a 
'Igh Church pictur; and James chose it hisself.

CANDIDA. Guess again. Eugene isn't a cab tout.

BURGESS. Then wot is he? (Sarcastically.) A nobleman, I 'spose.

CANDIDA (delighted--nodding). Yes. His uncle's a peer--a real 
live earl.

BURGESS (not daring to believe such good news). No!

CANDIDA. Yes. He had a seven day bill for 55 pounds in his pocket 
when James found him on the Embankment. He thought he couldn't 
get any money for it until the seven days were up; and he was too 
shy to ask for credit. Oh, he's a dear boy! We are very fond of 

BURGESS (pretending to belittle the aristocracy, but with his 
eyes gleaming). Hm, I thort you wouldn't git a piorr's (peer's) 
nevvy visitin' in Victoria Park unless he were a bit of a flat. 
(Looking again at the picture.) Of course I don't 'old with that 
pictur, Candy; but still it's a 'igh class, fust rate work of 
art: I can see that. Be sure you hintroduce me to him, Candy. (He 
looks at his watch anxiously.) I can only stay about two minutes.

Morell comes back with Eugene, whom Burgess contemplates 
moist-eyed with enthusiasm. He is a strange, shy youth of 
eighteen, slight, effeminate, with a delicate childish voice, and 
a hunted, tormented expression and shrinking manner that show the 
painful sensitiveness that very swift and acute apprehensiveness 
produces in youth, before the character has grown to its full 
strength. Yet everything that his timidity and frailty suggests 
is contradicted by his face. He is miserably irresolute, does 
not know where to stand or what to do with his hands and feet, is 
afraid of Burgess, and would run away into solitude if he dared; 
but the very intensity with which he feels a perfectly 
commonplace position shows great nervous force, and his nostrils 
and mouth show a fiercely petulant wilfulness, as to the quality 
of which his great imaginative eyes and fine brow are reassuring. 
He is so entirely uncommon as to be almost unearthly; and to 
prosaic people there is something noxious in this unearthliness, 
just as to poetic people there is something angelic in it. His
dress is anarchic. He wears an old blue serge jacket, unbuttoned 
over a woollen lawn tennis shirt, with a silk handkerchief for a 
cravat, trousers matching the jacket, and brown canvas shoes.
In these garments he has apparently lain in the heather and waded 
through the waters; but there is no evidence of his having ever 
brushed them.

As he catches sight of a stranger on entering, he stops, and 
edges along the wall on the opposite side of the room.

MORELL (as he enters). Come along: you can spare us quarter of an 
hour, at all events. This is my father-in-law, Mr. Burgess--Mr. 

MARCHBANKS (nervously backing against the bookcase). Glad to meet 
you, sir.

BURGESS (crossing to him with great heartiness, whilst Morell 
joins Candida at the fire). Glad to meet YOU, I'm shore, Mr. 
Morchbanks. (Forcing him to shake hands.) 'Ow do you find 
yoreself this weather? 'Ope you ain't lettin' James put no 
foolish ideas into your 'ed?

MARCHBANKS. Foolish ideas! Oh, you mean Socialism. No.

BURGESS. That's right. (Again looking at his watch.) Well, I must 
go now: there's no 'elp for it. Yo're not comin' my way, are you, 
Mr. Morchbanks?

MARCHBANKS. Which way is that? 

BURGESS. Victawriar Pork station. There's a city train at 12.25.

MORELL. Nonsense. Eugene will stay to lunch with us, I expect.

MARCHBANKS (anxiously excusing. himself ). No--I--I--

BURGESS. Well, well, I shan't press you: I bet you'd rather lunch 
with Candy. Some night, I 'ope, you'll come and dine with me at 
my club, the Freeman Founders in Nortn Folgit. Come, say you 

MARCHBANKS. Thank you, Mr. Burgess. Where is Norton Folgate--down 
in Surrey, isn't it? (Burgess, inexpressibly tickled, begins to 
splutter with laughter.)

CANDIDA (coming to the rescue). You'll lose your train, papa, if 
you don't go at once. Come back in the afternoon and tell Mr. 
Marchbanks where to find the club.

BURGESS (roaring with glee). Down in Surrey--har, har! that's not 
a bad one. Well, I never met a man as didn't know Nortn Folgit 
before.(Abashed at his own noisiness.) Good-bye, Mr. Morchbanks: 
I know yo're too 'ighbred to take my pleasantry in bad part. (He 
again offers his hand.) 

MARCHBANKS (taking it with a nervous jerk). Not at all.

BURGESS. Bye, bye, Candy. I'll look in again later on. So long, 

MORELL. Must you go?

BURGESS. Don't stir. (He goes out with unabated heartiness.)

MORELL. Oh, I'll see you out. (He follows him out. Eugene stares 
after them apprehensively, holding his breath until Burgess 

CANDIDA (laughing). Well, Eugene. (He turns with a start and 
comes eagerly towards her, but stops irresolutely as he meets her 
amused look.) What do you think of my father?

MARCHBANKS. I--I hardly know him yet. He seems to be a very nice 
old gentleman.

CANDIDA (with gentle irony). And you'll go to the Freeman 
Founders to dine with him, won't you?

MARCHBANKS (miserably, taking it quite seriously). Yes, if it 
will please you.

CANDIDA (touched). Do you know, you are a very nice boy, Eugene, 
with all your queerness. If you had laughed at my father I 
shouldn't have minded; but I like you ever so much better for 
being nice to him.

MARCHBANKS. Ought I to have laughed? I noticed that he said 
something funny; but I am so ill at ease with strangers; and I 
never can see a joke! I'm very sorry. (He sits down on the sofa, 
his elbows on his knees and his temples between his fists, with 
an expression of hopeless suffering.)

CANDIDA (bustling him goodnaturedly). Oh, come! You great baby, 
you! You are worse than usual this morning. Why were you so 
melancholy as we came along in the cab?

MARCHBANKS. Oh, that was nothing. I was wondering how much I 
ought to give the cabman. I know it's utterly silly; but you 
don't know how dreadful such things are to me--how I shrink from 
having to deal with strange people. (Quickly and reassuringly.) 
But it's all right. He beamed all over and touched his hat when 
Morell gave him two shillings. I was on the point of offering him 
ten. (Candida laughs heartily. Morell comes back with a few 
letters and newspapers which have come by the midday post.)

CANDIDA. Oh, James, dear, he was going to give the cabman ten 
shillings--ten shillings for a three minutes' drive--oh, dear!

MORELL (at the table, glancing through the letters). Never mind 
her, Marchbanks. The overpaying instinct is a generous one: 
better than the underpaying instinct, and not so common.

MARCHBANKS (relapsing into dejection). No: cowardice, 
incompetence. Mrs. Morell's quite right.

CANDIDA. Of course she is. (She takes up her handbag.) And now I 
must leave you to James for the present. I suppose you are too 
much of a poet to know the state a woman finds her house in when 
she's been away for three weeks. Give me my rug. (Eugene takes 
the strapped rug from the couch, and gives it to her. She takes 
it in her left hand, having the bag in her right.) Now hang my 
cloak across my arm. (He obeys.) Now my hat. (He puts it into the 
hand which has the bag.) Now open the door for me. (He hurries up 
before her and opens the door.) Thanks. (She goes out; and 
Marchbanks shuts the door.)

MORELL (still busy at the table). You'll stay to lunch, 
Marchbanks, of course.

MARCHBANKS (scared). I mustn't. (He glances quickly at Morell, 
but at once avoids his frank look, and adds, with obvious 
disingenuousness) I can't.

MORELL (over his shoulder). You mean you won't. 

MARCHBANKS (earnestly). No: I should like to, indeed. Thank you 
very much. But--but--

MORELL (breezily, finishing with the letters and coming close to 
him). But--but--but--but--bosh! If you'd like to stay, stay. You 
don't mean to persuade me you have anything else to do. If you're 
shy, go and take a turn in the park and write poetry until half 
past one; and then come in and have a good feed.

MARCHBANKS. Thank you, I should like that very much. But I really 
mustn't. The truth is, Mrs. Morell told me not to. She said she 
didn't think you'd ask me to stay to lunch, but that I was to 
remember, if you did, that you didn't really want me to. 
(Plaintively.) She said I'd understand; but I don't. Please don't 
tell her I told you.

MORELL (drolly). Oh, is that all? Won't my suggestion that you 
should take a turn in the park meet the difficulty? 


MORELL (exploding good-humoredly). Why, you duffer--(But this 
boisterousness jars himself as well as Eugene. He checks himself, 
and resumes, with affectionate seriousness) No: I won't put it in 
that way. My dear lad: in a happy marriage like ours, there is 
something very sacred in the return of the wife to her home. 
(Marchbanks looks quickly at him, half anticipating his meaning.) 
An old friend or a truly noble and sympathetic soul is not in the 
way on such occasions; but a chance visitor is. (The hunted, 
horrors-tricken expression comes out with sudden vividness in 
Eugene's face as he understands. Morell, occupied with his own
thought, goes on without noticing it.) Candida thought I
would rather not have you here; but she was wrong. I'm very fond 
of you, my boy, and I should like you to see for yourself what a 
happy thing it is to be married as I am.

MARCHBANKS, Happy!--YOUR marriage! You think that! You believe 

MORELL (buoyantly). I know it, my lad. La Rochefoucauld said that 
there are convenient marriages, but no delightful ones. You don't 
know the comfort of seeing through and through a thundering liar 
and rotten cynic like that fellow. Ha, ha! Now off with you to 
the park, and write your poem. Half past one, sharp, mind: we 
never wait for anybody.

MARCHBANKS (wildly). No: stop: you shan't. I'll force it into the 

MORELL (puzzled). Eh? Force what?

MARCHBANKS. I must speak to you. There is something that must be 
settled between us.

MORELL (with a whimsical glance at the clock). Now? 

MARCHBANKS (passionately). Now. Before you leave this room. (He 
retreats a few steps, and stands as if to bar Morell's way to the 

MORELL (without moving, and gravely, perceiving now that there is 
something serious the matter). I'm not going to leave it, my dear 
boy: I thought YOU were. (Eugene, baffled by his firm tone, turns 
his back on him, writhing with anger. Morell goes to him and puts 
his hand on his shoulder strongly and kindly, disregarding his 
attempt to shake it off) Come: sit down quietly; and tell me what 
it is. And remember; we are friends, and need not fear that 
either of us will be anything but patient and kind to the other, 
whatever we may have to say.

MARCHBANKS (twisting himself round on him). Oh, I am not 
forgetting myself: I am only (covering his face desperately with 
his hands) full of horror. (Then, dropping his hands, and 
thrusting his face forward fiercely at Morell, he goes on 
threateningly.) You shall see whether this is a time for patience 
and kindness. (Morell, firm as a rock, looks indulgently at him.) 
Don't look at me in that self-complacent way. You think yourself 
stronger than I am; but I shall stagger you if you have a heart 
in your breast.

MORELL (powerfully confident). Stagger me, my boy. Out with it.


MORELL. First? 

MARCHBANKS. I love your wife.

(Morell recoils, and, after staring at him for a moment in utter 
amazement, bursts into uncontrollable laughter. Eugene is taken 
aback, but not disconcerted; and he soon becomes indignant and 

MORELL (sitting down to have his laugh out). Why, my dear child, 
of course you do. Everybody loves her: they can't help it. I like 
it. But (looking up whimsically at him) I say, Eugene: do you 
think yours is a case to be talked about? You're under twenty: 
she's over thirty. Doesn't it look rather too like a case of calf 

MARCHBANKS (vehemently). YOU dare say that of her! You think that 
way of the love she inspires! It is an insult to her! 

MORELL (rising; quickly, in an altered tone). To her! Eugene:
take care. I have been patient. I hope to remain patient. But 
there are some things I won't allow. Don't force me to show you 
the indulgence I should show to a child. Be a man.

MARCHBANKS (with a gesture as if sweeping something behind him). 
Oh, let us put aside all that cant. It horrifies me when I think 
of the doses of it she has had to endure in all the weary years 
during which you have selfishly and blindly sacrificed her to 
minister to your self-sufficiency--YOU (turning on him) who have 
not one thought--one sense--in common with her.

MORELL (philosophically). She seems to bear it pretty well. 
(Looking him straight in the face.) Eugene, my boy: you are 
making a fool of yourself--a very great fool of yourself. There's 
a piece of wholesome plain speaking for you.

MARCHBANKS. Oh, do you think I don't know all that? Do you think 
that the things people make fools of themselves about are any 
less real and true than the things they behave sensibly about? 
(Morell's gaze wavers for the first time. He instinctively averts 
his face and stands listening, startled and thoughtful.) They are 
more true: they are the only things that are true. You are very 
calm and sensible and moderate with me because you can see that I 
am a fool about your wife; just as no doubt that old man who was 
here just now is very wise over your socialism, because he sees 
that YOU are a fool about it. (Morell's perplexity deepens 
markedly. Eugene follows up his advantage, plying him fiercely 
with questions.) Does that prove you wrong? Does your complacent 
superiority to me prove that I am wrong?

MORELL (turning on Eugene, who stands his ground). Marchbanks: 
some devil is putting these words into your mouth. It is easy--
terribly easy--to shake a man's faith in himself. To take 
advantage of that to break a man's spirit is devil's work. Take 
care of what you are doing. Take care.

MARCHBANKS (ruthlessly). I know. I'm doing it on purpose. I told 
you I should stagger you. 

(They confront one another threateningly for a moment. Then 
Morell recovers his dignity.)

MORELL (with noble tenderness). Eugene: listen to me. Some day, I 
hope and trust, you will be a happy man like me. (Eugene chafes 
intolerantly, repudiating the worth of his happiness. Morell, 
deeply insulted, controls himself with fine forbearance, and 
continues steadily, with great artistic beauty of delivery) You 
will be married; and you will be working with all your might and 
valor to make every spot on earth as happy as your own home. You 
will be one of the makers of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth; and
--who knows?--you may be a pioneer and master builder where I am 
only a humble journeyman; for don't think, my boy, that I cannot 
see in you, young as you are, promise of higher powers than I can 
ever pretend to. I well know that it is in the poet that the 
holy spirit of man--the god within him--is most godlike. It 
should make you tremble to think of that--to think that the heavy 
burthen and great gift of a poet may be laid upon you.

MARCHBANKS (unimpressed and remorseless, his boyish crudity of 
assertion telling sharply against Morell's oratory). It does not 
make me tremble. It is the want of it in others that makes me 

MORELL (redoubling his force of style under the stimulus of his 
genuine feelinq and Eugene's obduracy). Then help to kindle it in 
them--in ME---not to extinguish it. In the future--when you are 
as happy as I am--I will be your true brother in the faith. I 
will help you to believe that God has given us a world that 
nothing but our own folly keeps from being a paradise. I will 
help you to believe that every stroke of your work is sowing 
happiness for the great harvest that all--even the humblest--
shall one day reap. And last, but trust me, not least, I will 
help you to believe that your wife loves you and is happy in her 
home. We need such help, Marchbanks: we need it greatly and
always. There are so many things to make us doubt, if once we let 
our understanding be troubled. Even at home, we sit as if in 
camp, encompassed by a hostile army of doubts. Will you play the 
traitor and let them in on me?

MARCHBANKS (looking round him). Is it like this for her here 
always? A woman, with a great soul, craving for reality, truth, 
freedom, and being fed on metaphors, sermons, stale perorations, 
mere rhetoric. Do you think a woman's soul can live on your 
talent for preaching?

MORELL (Stung). Marchbanks: you make it hard for me to control 
myself. My talent is like yours insofar as it has any real worth 
at all. It is the gift of finding words for divine truth.

MARCHBANKS (impetuously). It's the gift of the gab, nothing more 
and nothing less. What has your knack of fine talking to do with 
the truth, any more than playing the organ has? I've never been 
in your church; but I've been to your political meetings; and 
I've seen you do what's called rousing the meeting to enthusiasm: 
that is, you excited them until they behaved exactly as if they 
were drunk. And their wives looked on and saw clearly enough
what fools they were. Oh, it's an old story: you'll find it
in the Bible. I imagine King David, in his fits of enthusiasm, 
was very like you. (Stabbing him with the words.) "But his wife 
despised him in her heart."

MORELL (wrathfully). Leave my house. Do you hear? (He advances on 
him threateningly.)

MARCHBANKS (shrinking back against the couch). Let me alone. 
Don't touch me. (Morell grasps him powerfully by the lappell of 
his coat: he cowers down on the sofa and screams passionately.)
Stop, Morell, if you strike me, I'll kill myself. I won't bear 
it. (Almost in hysterics.) Let me go. Take your hand away.

MORELL (with slow, emphatic scorn.) You little snivelling, 
cowardly whelp. (Releasing him.) Go, before you frighten yourself 
into a fit.

MARCHBANKS (on the sofa, gasping, but relieved by the withdrawal 
of Morell's hand). I'm not afraid of you: it's you who are afraid 
of me.

MORELL (quietly, as he stands over him). It looks like it, 
doesn't it?

MARCHBANKS (with petulant vehemence). Yes, it does. (Morell turns 
away contemptuously. Eugene scrambles to his feet and follows 
him.) You think because I shrink from being brutally handled--
because (with tears in his voice) I can do nothing but cry with 
rage when I am met with violence--because I can't lift a heavy 
trunk down from the top of a cab like you--because I can't fight 
you for your wife as a navvy would: all that makes you think that 
I'm afraid of you. But you're wrong. If I haven't got what you 
call British pluck, I haven't British cowardice either: I'm not 
afraid of a clergyman's ideas. I'll fight your ideas. I'll rescue 
her from her slavery to them: I'll pit my own ideas against them. 
You are driving me out of the house because you daren't let her 
choose between your ideas and mine. You are afraid to let me see 
her again. (Morell, angered, turns suddenly on him. He flies to 
the door in involuntary dread.) Let me alone, I say. I'm going. 

MORELL (with cold scorn). Wait a moment: I am not going to touch 
you: don't be afraid. When my wife comes back she will want to 
know why you have gone. And when she finds that you are never 
going to cross our threshold again, she will want to have that 
explained, too. Now I don't wish to distress her by telling her 
that you have behaved like a blackguard.

MARCHBANKS (Coming back with renewed vehemence). You shall--you 
must. If you give any explanation but the true one, you are a 
liar and a coward.  Tell her what I said; and how you were strong 
and manly, and shook me as a terrier shakes a rat; and how I 
shrank and was terrified; and how you called me a snivelling 
little whelp and put me out of the house. If you don't tell her, 
I will: I'll write to her.

MORELL (taken aback.) Why do you want her to know this?

MARCHBANKS (with lyric rapture.) Because she will understand me, 
and know that I understand her. If you keep back one word of it 
from her--if you are not ready to lay the truth at her feet as I 
am--then you will know to the end of your days that she really 
belongs to me and not to you. Good-bye. (Going.)

MORELL (terribly disquieted). Stop: I will not tell her. 

MARCHBANKS (turning near the door). Either the truth or a lie 
you MUST tell her, if I go.

MORELL (temporizing). Marchbanks: it is sometimes justifiable.

MARCHBANKS (cutting him short). I know--to lie. It will
be useless. Good-bye, Mr. Clergyman.

(As he turns finally to the door, it opens and Candida enters in 
housekeeping attire.)

CANDIDA. Are you going, Eugene?(Looking more observantly at him.) 
Well, dear me, just look at you, going out into the street in 
that state! You ARE a poet, certainly. Look at him, James! (She 
takes him by the coat, and brings him forward to show him to 
Morell.) Look at his collar! look at his tie! look at his hair! 
One would think somebody had been throttling you. (The two men 
guard themselves against betraying their consciousness.) Here! 
Stand still. (She buttons his collar; ties his neckerchief in a 
bow; and arranges his hair.) There! Now you look so nice that I 
think you'd better stay to lunch after all, though I told you you 
mustn't. It will be ready in half an hour. (She puts a final 
touch to the bow. He kisses her hand.) Don't be silly.

MARCHBANKS. I want to stay, of course--unless the reverend 
gentleman, your husband, has anything to advance to the contrary.

CANDIDA. Shall he stay, James, if he promises to be a good boy 
and to help me to lay the table? (Marchbanks turns his head and 
looks steadfastly at Morell over his shoulder, challenging his 

MORELL (shortly). Oh, yes, certainly: he had better. (He goes to 
the table and pretends to busy himself with his papers there.)

MARCHBANKS (offering his arm to Candida). Come and lay the 
table.(She takes it and they go to the door together. As they go 
out he adds) I am the happiest of men.

MORELL. So was I--an hour ago.


The same day. The same room. Late in the afternoon. The spare 
chair for visitors has been replaced at the table, which is, if 
possible, more untidy than before. Marchbanks, alone and idle, is 
trying to find out how the typewriter works. Hearing someone at 
the door, he steals guiltily away to the window and pretends to 
be absorbed in the view. Miss Garnett, carrying the notebook in 
which she takes down Morell's letters in shorthand from his 
dictation, sits down at the typewriter and sets to work 
transcribing them, much too busy to notice Eugene. Unfortunately 
the first key she strikes sticks.

PROSERPINE. Bother! You've been meddling with my typewriter, Mr. 
Marchbanks; and there's not the least use in your trying to look 
as if you hadn't.

MARCHBANKS (timidly). I'm very sorry, Miss Garnett. I only tried 
to make it write.

PROSERPINE. Well, you've made this key stick. 

MARCHBANKS (earnestly). I assure you I didn't touch the keys. I 
didn't, indeed. I only turned a little wheel. (He points 
irresolutely at the tension wheel.)

PROSERPINE. Oh, now I understand. (She sets the machine to 
rights, talking volubly all the time.) I suppose you thought it 
was a sort of barrel-organ. Nothing to do but turn the handle, 
and it would write a beautiful love letter for you straight off, 

MARCHBANKS (seriously). I suppose a machine could be made to 
write love-letters. They're all the same, aren't they!

PROSERPINE (somewhat indignantly: any such discussion, except by 
way of pleasantry, being outside her code of manners). How do I 
know? Why do you ask me?

MARCHBANKS. I beg your pardon. I thought clever people--people 
who can do business and write letters, and that sort of thing--
always had love affairs.

PROSERPINE (rising, outraged). Mr. Marchbanks! (She looks 
severely at him, and marches with much dignity to the bookcase.)

MARCHBANKS (approaching her humbly). I hope I haven't offended 
you. Perhaps I shouldn't have alluded to your love affairs.

PROSERPINE (plucking a blue book from the shelf and turning 
sharply on him). I haven't any love affairs. How dare you say 
such a thing?

MARCHBANKS (simply). Really! Oh, then you are shy, like me. Isn't 
that so?

PROSERPINE. Certainly I am not shy. What do you mean?

MARCHBANKS (secretly). You must be: that is the reason there are 
so few love affairs in the world. We all go about longing for 
love: it is the first need of our natures, the loudest cry Of our 
hearts; but we dare not utter our longing: we are too shy. (Very 
earnestly.) Oh, Miss Garnett, what would you not give to be 
without fear, without shame--

PROSERPINE (scandalized), Well, upon my word! 

MARCHBANKS (with petulant impatience). Ah, don't say those stupid 
things to me: they don't deceive me: what use are they? Why are 
you afraid to be your real self with me? I am just like you.

PROSERPINE. Like me! Pray, are you flattering me or flattering 
yourself? I don't feel quite sure which. (She turns to go back to 
the typewriter.)

MARCHBANKS (stopping her mysteriously). Hush! I go about in 
search of love; and I find it in unmeasured stores in the bosoms 
of others. But when I try to ask for it, this horrible shyness 
strangles me; and I stand dumb, or worse than dumb, saying 
meaningless things--foolish lies. And I see the affection I am 
longing for given to dogs and cats and pet birds, because they 
come and ask for it. (Almost whispering.) It must be asked for: 
it is like a ghost: it cannot speak unless it is first spoken to. 
(At his normal pitch, but with deep melancholy.) All the love in 
the world is longing to speak; only it dare not, because it is 
shy, shy, shy. That is the world's tragedy. (With a deep sigh he 
sits in the spare chair and buries his face in his hands.) 

PROSERPINE (amazed, but keeping her wits about her--her point of 
honor in encounters with strange young men). Wicked people get 
over that shyness occasionally, don't they?

MARCHBANKS (scrambling up almost fiercely). Wicked people means 
people who have no love: therefore they have no shame. They have 
the power to ask love because they don't need it: they have the 
power to offer it because they have none to give. (He collapses 
into his seat, and adds, mournfully) But we, who have love, and 
long to mingle it with the love of others: we cannot utter a 
word. (Timidly.) You find that, don't you?

PROSERPINE. Look here: if you don't stop talking like this, I'll 
leave the room, Mr. Marchbanks: I really will. It's not proper.
(She resumes her seat at the typewriter, opening the blue book 
and preparing to copy a passage from it.)

MARCHBANKS (hopelessly). Nothing that's worth saying IS proper. 
(He rises, and wanders about the room in his lost way, saying) I 
can't understand you, Miss Garnett. What am I to talk about?

PROSERPINE (snubbing him). Talk about indifferent things, talk 
about the weather.

MARCHBANKS. Would you stand and talk about indifferent things if 
a child were by, crying bitterly with hunger? 

PROSERPINE. I suppose not.

MARCHBANKS. Well: I can't talk about indifferent things with my 
heart crying out bitterly in ITS hunger. 

PROSERPINE. Then hold your tongue.

MARCHBANKS. Yes: that is what it always comes to. We hold our 
tongues. Does that stop the cry of your heart?--for it does cry: 
doesn't it? It must, if you have a heart. 

PROSERPINE (suddenly rising with her hand pressed on her heart). 
Oh, it's no use trying to work while you talk like that. (She 
leaves her little table and sits on the sofa. Her feelings are 
evidently strongly worked on.) It's no business of yours, whether 
my heart cries or not; but I have a mind to tell you, for all 

MARCHBANKS. You needn't. I know already that it must. 

PROSERPINE. But mind: if you ever say I said so, I'll deny it.

MARCHBANKS (compassionately). Yes, I know. And so you haven't the 
courage to tell him?

PROSERPINE (bouncing up). HIM! Who?

MARCHBANKS. Whoever he is. The man you love. It might be anybody. 
The curate, Mr. Mill, perhaps.

PROSERPINE (with disdain). Mr. Mill!!! A fine man to break my 
heart about, indeed! I'd rather have you than Mr. Mill.

MARCHBANKS (recoiling). No, really--I'm very sorry; but you 
mustn't think of that. I--

PROSERPINE. (testily, crossing to the fire and standing at it 
with her back to him). Oh, don't be frightened: it's not you. 
It's not any one particular person.

MARCHBANKS. I know. You feel that you could love anybody that 

PROSERPINE (exasperated). Anybody that offered! No, I do not. 
What do you take me for?

MARCHBANKS (discouraged). No use. You won't make me REAL answers
--only those things that everybody says, (He strays to the sofa 
and sits down disconsolately.)

PROSERPINE (nettled at what she takes to be a disparagement of 
her manners by an aristocrat). Oh, well, if you want original 
conversation, you'd better go and talk to yourself.

MARCHBANKS. That is what all poets do: they talk to themselves 
out loud; and the world overhears them. But it's horribly lonely 
not to hear someone else talk sometimes.

PROSERPINE. Wait until Mr. Morell comes. HE'LL talk to you. 
(Marchbanks shudders.) Oh, you needn't make wry faces over him: 
he can talk better than you. (With temper.) He'd talk your little 
head off. (She is going back angrily to her place, when, suddenly 
enlightened, he springs up and stops her.)

MARCHBANKS. Ah, I understand now!

PROSERPINE (reddening). What do you understand? 

MARCHBANKS. Your secret. Tell me: is it really and truly possible 
for a woman to love him?

PROSERPINE (as if this were beyond all bounds). Well!! 

MARCHBANKS (passionately). No, answer me. I want to know: I MUST  
know. I can't understand it. I can see nothing in him but words, 
pious resolutions, what people call goodness. You can't love 

PROSERPINE (attempting to snub him by an air of cool propriety). 
I simply don't know what you're talking about. I don't understand 

MARCHBANKS (vehemently). You do. You lie--


MARCHBANKS. You DO understand; and you KNOW. (Determined to have 
an answer.) Is it possible for a woman to love him?

PROSERPINE (looking him straight in the face. Yes. (He covers his 
face with his hands.) Whatever is the matter with you! (He takes 
down his hands and looks at her. Frightened at the tragic mask 
presented to her, she hurries past him at the utmost possible 
distance, keeping her eyes on his face until he turns from her 
and goes to the child's chair beside the hearth, where he sits in 
the deepest dejection. As she approaches the door, it opens and 
Burgess enters. On seeing him, she ejaculates) Praise heaven, 
here's somebody! (and sits down, reassured, at her table. She 
puts a fresh sheet of paper into the typewriter as Burgess 
crosses to Eugene.) 

BURGESS (bent on taking care of the distingished visitor). Well: 
so this is the way they leave you to yourself, Mr. Morchbanks. 
I've come to keep you company. (Marchbanks looks up at him in 
consternation, which is quite lost on him.) James is receivin' a 
deppitation in the dinin' room; and Candy is hupstairs educatin' 
of a young stitcher gurl she's hinterusted in. She's settin' 
there learnin' her to read out of the "'Ev'nly Twins." 
(Condolingly.) You must find it lonesome here with no one but the 
typist to talk to. (He pulls round the easy chair above fire, and 
sits down.)

PROSERPINE (highly incensed). He'll be all right now that he has 
the advantage of YOUR polished conversation: that's one comfort, 
anyhow. (She begins to typewrite with clattering asperity.)

BURGESS (amazed at her audacity). Hi was not addressin' myself to 
you, young woman, that I'm awerr of.

PROSERPINE (tartly, to Marchbanks). Did you ever see worse 
manners, Mr. Marchbanks?

BURGESS (with pompous severity). Mr. Morchbanks is a gentleman 
and knows his place, which is more than some people do.

PROSERPINE (fretfully). It's well you and I are not ladies and 
gentlemen: I'd talk to you pretty straight if Mr. Marchbanks 
wasn't here. (She pulls the letter out of the machine so crossly 
that it tears.) There, now I've spoiled this letter--have to be 
done all over again. Oh, I can't contain myself--silly old 

BURGESS (rising, breathless with indignation). Ho! I'm a silly 
ole fathead, am I? Ho, indeed (gasping). Hall right, my gurl! 
Hall right. You just wait till I tell that to your employer. 
You'll see. I'll teach you: see if I don't. 


BURGESS (cutting her short). No, you've done it now. No huse 
a-talkin' to me. I'll let you know who I am. (Proserpine shifts 
her paper carriage with a defiant bang, and disdainfully goes on 
with her work.) Don't you take no notice of her, Mr. Morchbanks. 
She's beneath it. (He sits down again loftily.)

MARCHBANKS (miserably nervous and disconcerted). Hadn't we better 
change the subject. I--I don't think Miss Garnett meant anything.

PROSERPINE (with intense conviction). Oh, didn't I though, just!

BURGESS. I wouldn't demean myself to take notice on her. 

(An electric bell rings twice.)

PROSERPINE (gathering up her note-book and papers).  That's for 
me. (She hurries out.)

BURGESS (calling after her). Oh, we can spare you. (Somewhat 
relieved by the triumph of having the last word, and yet half 
inclined to try to improve on it, he looks after her for a 
moment; then subsides into his seat by Eugene, and addresses him 
very confidentially.) Now we're alone, Mr. Morchbanks, let me 
give you a friendly 'int that I wouldn't give to everybody. 'Ow 
long 'ave you known my son-in-law James here?

MARCHBANKS. I don't know. I never can remember dates. A few 
months, perhaps. 

BURGESS. Ever notice anything queer about him?

MARCHBANKS. I don't think so. 

BURGESS (impressively). No more you wouldn't. That's the danger 
in it. Well, he's mad. 


BURGESS. Mad as a Morch 'are. You take notice on him and you'll 

MARCHBANKS (beginning). But surely that is only because his 

BURGESS (touching him with his forefinger on his knee, and 
pressing it as if to hold his attention with it). That's wot I 
used tee think, Mr. Morchbanks. Hi thought long enough that it 
was honly 'is hopinions; though, mind you, hopinions becomes 
vurry serious things when people takes to hactin on 'em as 'e 
does. But that's not wot I go on. (He looks round to make sure 
that they are alone, and bends over to Eugene's ear.) Wot do you 
think he says to me this mornin' in this very room?


BURGESS. He sez to me--this is as sure as we're settin' here 
now--he sez: "I'm a fool," he sez;--"and yore a scounderl"--as 
cool as possible. Me a scounderl, mind you! And then shook 'ands 
with me on it, as if it was to my credit! Do you mean to tell me 
that that man's sane? 

MORELL. (outside, calling to Proserpine, holding the door open). 
Get all their names and addresses, Miss Garnett. 

PROSERPINE (in the distance). Yes, Mr. Morell.

(Morell comes in, with the deputation's documents in his hands.)

BURGESS (aside to Marchbanks). Yorr he is. Just you keep your 
heye on him and see. (Rising momentously.) I'm sorry, James, to 
'ave to make a complaint to you. I don't want to do it; but I 
feel I oughter, as a matter o' right and duty.

MORELL. What's the matter?

BURGESS. Mr. Morchbanks will bear me out: he was a witness. (Very 
solemnly.) Your young woman so far forgot herself as to call me a 
silly ole fat 'ead.

MORELL (delighted--with tremendous heartiness). Oh, now, isn't 
that EXACTLY like Prossy? She's so frank: she can't contain 
herself! Poor Prossy! Ha! Ha!

BURGESS (trembling with rage). And do you hexpec me to put up 
with it from the like of 'ER?

MORELL. Pooh, nonsense! you can't take any notice of it. Never 
mind. (He goes to the cellaret and puts the papers into one of 
the drawers.)

BURGESS. Oh, I don't mind. I'm above it. But is it RIGHT?--that's 
what I want to know. Is it right? 

MORELL. That's a question for the Church, not for the laity. Has 
it done you any harm, that's the question for you, eh? Of course, 
it hasn't. Think no more of it. (He dismisses the subject by 
going to his place at the table and setting to work at his 

BURGESS (aside to Marchbanks). What did I tell you? Mad as a 
'atter. (He goes to the table and asks, with the sickly civility 
of a hungry man) When's dinner, James? 

MORELL. Not for half an hour yet.

BURGESS (with plaintive resignation). Gimme a nice book to read 
over the fire, will you, James: thur's a good chap. 

MORELL. What sort of book? A good one?

BURGESS (with almost a yell of remonstrance). Nah-oo! Summat 
pleasant, just to pass the time. (Morell takes an illustrated 
paper from the table and offers it. He accepts it humbly.) Thank 
yer, James. (He goes back to his easy chair at the fire, and sits 
there at his ease, reading.)

MORELL (as he writes). Candida will come to entertain you 
presently. She has got rid of her pupil. She is filling the 

MARCHBANKS (starting up in the wildest consternation). But that 
will soil her hands. I can't bear that, Morell: it's a shame. 
I'll go and fill them. (He makes for the door.)

MORELL. You'd better not. (Marchbanks stops irresolutely.) She'd 
only set you to clean my boots, to save me the trouble of doing 
it myself in the morning.

BURGESS (with grave disapproval). Don't you keep a servant now, 

MORELL. Yes; but she isn't a slave; and the house looks as if I 
kept three. That means that everyone has to lend a hand. It's not 
a bad plan: Prossy and I can talk business after breakfast whilst 
we're washing up. Washing up's no trouble when there are two 
people to do it.

MARCHBANKS (tormentedly). Do you think every woman is as 
coarse-grained as Miss Garnett?

BURGESS (emphatically). That's quite right, Mr. Morchbanks. 
That's quite right. She IS corse-grained. 

MORELL (quietly and significantly). Marchbanks!


MORELL. How many servants does your father keep? 

MARCHBANKS. Oh, I don't know. (He comes back uneasily to the 
sofa, as if to get as far as possible from Morell's questioning, 
and sits down in great agony of mind, thinking of the paraffin.)

MORELL. (very gravely). So many that you don't know. (More 
aggressively.) Anyhow, when there's anything coarse-grained to be 
done, you ring the bell and throw it on to somebody else, eh? 
That's one of the great facts in YOUR existence, isn't it?

MARCHBANKS. Oh, don't torture me. The one great fact now is that 
your wife's beautiful fingers are dabbling in paraffin oil, and 
that you are sitting here comfortably preaching about it--
everlasting preaching, preaching, words, words, words.

BURGESS (intensely appreciating this retort). Ha, ha! Devil a 
better. (Radiantly.) 'Ad you there, James, straight.

(Candida comes in, well aproned, with a reading lamp trimmed, 
filled, and ready for lighting. She places it on the table near 
Morell, ready for use.)

CANDIDA (brushing her finger tips together with a slight twitch 
of her nose). If you stay with us, Eugene, I think I will hand 
over the lamps to you.

MARCHBANKS. I will stay on condition that you hand over all the 
rough work to me.

CANDIDA. That's very gallant; but I think I should like to see 
how you do it first. (Turning to Morell.) James: you've not been 
looking after the house properly.

MORELL. What have I done--or not done--my love? 

CANDIDA (with serious vexation). My own particular pet scrubbing 
brush has been used for blackleading. (A heart-breaking wail bursts
from Marchbanks. Burgess looks round, amazed. Candida hurries to 
the sofa.) What's the matter? Are you ill, Eugene?

MARCHBANKS. No, not ill. Only horror, horror, horror! (He bows 
his head on his hands.)

BURGESS (shocked). What! Got the 'orrors, Mr. Morchbanks! Oh, 
that's bad, at your age. You must leave it off grajally.

CANDIDA (reassured). Nonsense, papa. It's only poetic horror, 
isn't it, Eugene? (Petting him.)

BURGESS (abashed). Oh, poetic 'orror, is it? I beg your
pordon, I'm shore. (He turns to the fire again, deprecating his 
hasty conclusion.)

CANDIDA. What is it, Eugene--the scrubbing brush? (He
shudders.) Well, there! never mind. (She sits down beside
him.) Wouldn't you like to present me with a nice new one, with 
an ivory back inlaid with mother-of-pearl? 

MARCHBANKS (softly and musically, but sadly and longingly). No, 
not a scrubbing brush, but a boat--a tiny shallop to sail away 
in, far from the world, where the marble floors are washed by the 
rain and dried by the sun, where the south wind dusts the 
beautiful green and purple carpets. Or a chariot--to carry us up 
into the sky, where the lamps are stars, and don't need to be 
filled with paraffin oil every day. 

MORELL (harshly). And where there is nothing to do but to be 
idle, selfish and useless.

CANDIDA (jarred). Oh, James, how could you spoil it all!

MARCHBANKS (firing up). Yes, to be idle, selfish and useless: 
that is to be beautiful and free and happy: hasn't every man 
desired that with all his soul for the woman he loves? That's my 
ideal: what's yours, and that of all the dreadful people who live 
in these hideous rows of houses? Sermons and scrubbing brushes! 
With you to preach the sermon and your wife to scrub.

CANDIDA (quaintly). He cleans the boots, Eugene. You will have to 
clean them to-morrow for saying that about him. 

MARCHBANKS. Oh! don't talk about boots. Your feet should be 
beautiful on the mountains.

CANDIDA. My feet would not be beautiful on the Hackney Road 
without boots.

BURGESS (scandalized). Come, Candy, don't be vulgar. Mr. 
Morchbanks ain't accustomed to it. You're givin' him the 'orrors 
again. I mean the poetic ones.

(Morell is silent. Apparently he is busy with his letters: really 
he is puzzling with misgiving over his new and alarming 
experience that the surer he is of his moral thrusts, the more 
swiftly and effectively Eugene parries them. To find himself 
beginning to fear a man whom he does not respect affects him 

(Miss Garnett comes in with a telegram.)

PROSERPINE (handing the telegram to Morell). Reply paid. The 
boy's waiting. (To Candida, coming back to her machine and 
sitting down.) Maria is ready for you now in the kitchen, Mrs. 
Morell. (Candida rises.) The onions have come.

MARCHBANKS (convulsively). Onions!

CANDIDA. Yes, onions. Not even Spanish ones--nasty little red 
onions. You shall help me to slice them. Come along.

(She catches him by the wrist and runs out, pulling him after 
her. Burgess rises in consternation, and stands aghast on the 
hearth-rug, staring after them.)

BURGESS. Candy didn't oughter 'andle a peer's nevvy like that. 
It's goin' too fur with it. Lookee 'ere, James: do 'e often git 
taken queer like that?

MORELL (shortly, writing a telegram). I don't know. 

BURGESS (sentimentally). He talks very pretty. I allus had a 
turn for a bit of potery. Candy takes arter me that-a-way: huse 
ter make me tell her fairy stories when she was on'y a little 
kiddy not that 'igh (indicating a stature of two feet or 

MORELL (preoccupied). Ah, indeed. (He blots the telegram, and 
goes out.)

PROSERPINE. Used you to make the fairy stories up out of your own 

(Burgess, not deigning to reply, strikes an attitude of the 
haughtiest disdain on the hearth-rug.)

PROSERPINE (calmly). I should never have supposed you had it in 
you. By the way, I'd better warn you, since you've taken such a 
fancy to Mr. Marchbanks. He's mad.

BURGESS. Mad! Wot! 'Im too!!

PROSERPINE. Mad as a March hare. He did frighten me, I can tell 
you just before you came in that time. Haven't you noticed the 
queer things he says?

BURGESS. So that's wot the poetic 'orrors means. Blame me if it 
didn't come into my head once or twyst that he must be off his 
chump! (He crosses the room to the door, lifting up his voice as 
he goes.) Well, this is a pretty sort of asylum for a man to be 
in, with no one but you to take care of him! 

PROSERPINE (as he passes her). Yes, what a dreadful thing it 
would be if anything happened to YOU!

BURGESS (loftily). Don't you address no remarks to me. Tell your 
hemployer that I've gone into the garden for a smoke.

PROSERPINE (mocking). Oh!

(Before Burgess can retort, Morell comes back.)

BURGESS (sentimentally). Goin' for a turn in the garden to smoke, 

MORELL (brusquely). Oh, all right, all right. (Burgess goes out 
pathetically in the character of the weary old man. Morell stands 
at the table, turning over his papers, and adding, across to 
Proserpine, half humorously, half absently) Well, Miss Prossy, 
why have you been calling my father-in-law names?

PROSERPINE (blushing fiery red, and looking quickly up at him, 
half scared, half reproachful). I-- (She bursts into tears.)

MORELL (with tender gaiety, leaning across the table towards her, 
and consoling her). Oh, come, come, come! Never mind, Pross: he 
IS a silly old fathead, isn't he?

(With an explosive sob, she makes a dash at the door, and 
vanishes, banging it. Morell, shaking his head resignedly, sighs, 
and goes wearily to his chair, where he sits down and sets to 
work, looking old and careworn.)

(Candida comes in. She has finished her household work and taken 
of the apron. She at once notices his dejected appearance, and 
posts herself quietly at the spare chair, looking down at him 
attentively; but she says nothing.)

MORELL (looking up, but with his pen raised ready to resume his 
work). Well? Where is Eugene?

CANDIDA. Washing his hands in the scullery--under the tap. He 
will make an excellent cook if he can only get over his dread of 

MORELL (shortly). Ha! No doubt. (He begins writing again.)

CANDIDA (going nearer, and putting her hand down softly on his to 
stop him, as she says). Come here, dear. Let me look at you. (He 
drops his pen and yields himself at her disposal. She makes him 
rise and brings him a little away from the table, looking at him 
critically all the time.) Turn your face to the light. (She 
places him facing the window.) My boy is not looking well. Has he 
been overworking? 

MORELL. Nothing more than usual.

CANDIDA. He looks very pale, and grey, and wrinkled, and old. 
(His melancholy deepens; and she attacks it with wilful gaiety.) 
Here (pulling him towards the easy chair) you've done enough 
writing for to-day. Leave Prossy to finish it and come and talk 
to me.


CANDIDA. Yes, I MUST be talked to sometimes. (She makes him sit 
down, and seats herself on the carpet beside his knee.) Now 
(patting his hand) you're beginning to look better already. Why 
don't you give up all this tiresome overworking--going out every 
night lecturing and talking? Of course what you say is all very 
true and very right; but it does no good: they don't mind what 
you say to them one little bit. Of course they agree with you; 
but what's the use of people agreeing with you if they go and do 
just the opposite of what you tell them the moment your back is
turned? Look at our congregation at St. Dominic's! Why do they 
come to hear you talking about Christianity every Sunday? Why, 
just because they've been so full of business and money-making 
for six days that they want to forget all about it and have a 
rest on the seventh, so that they can go back fresh and make 
money harder than ever! You positively help them at it instead of 
hindering them.

MORELL (with energetic seriousness). You know very well, Candida, 
that I often blow them up soundly for that. But if there is 
nothing in their church-going but rest and diversion, why don't 
they try something more amusing--more self-indulgent? There must 
be some good in the fact that they prefer St. Dominic's to worse 
places on Sundays.

CANDIDA. Oh, the worst places aren't open; and even if they were, 
they daren't be seen going to them. Besides, James, dear, you 
preach so splendidly that it's as good as a play for them. Why 
do you think the women are so enthusiastic? 

MORELL (shocked). Candida!

CANDIDA. Oh, _I_ know. You silly boy: you think it's your 
Socialism and your religion; but if it was that, they'd do what 
you tell them instead of only coming to look at you. They all 
have Prossy's complaint.

MORELL. Prossy's complaint! What do you mean, Candida?

CANDIDA. Yes, Prossy, and all the other secretaries you ever had. 
Why does Prossy condescend to wash up the things, and to peel 
potatoes and abase herself in all manner of ways for six 
shillings a week less than she used to get in a city office? 
She's in love with you, James: that's the reason. They're all in 
love with you. And you are in love with preaching because you do 
it so beautifully. And you think it's all enthusiasm for the 
kingdom of Heaven on earth; and so do they. You dear silly!

MORELL. Candida: what dreadful, what soul-destroying cynicism! 
Are you jesting? Or--can it be?--are you jealous?

CANDIDA (with curious thoughtfulness). Yes, I feel a little 
jealous sometimes.

MORELL (incredulously). What! Of Prossy?

CANDIDA (laughing). No, no, no, no. Not jealous of anybody. 
Jealous for somebody else, who is not loved as he ought to be.


CANDIDA. You! Why, you're spoiled with love and worship: you get 
far more than is good for you. No: I mean Eugene.

MORELL (startled). Eugene!

CANDIDA. It seems unfair that all the love should go to you, and 
none to him, although he needs it so much more than you do. (A 
convulsive movement shakes him in spite of himself.) What's the 
matter? Am I worrying you?

MORELL (hastily). Not at all. (Looking at her with troubled 
intensity.) You know that I have perfect confidence in you, 

CANDIDA. You vain thing! Are you so sure of your irresistible 

MORELL. Candida: you are shocking me. I never thought of my 
attractions. I thought of your goodness--your purity. That is 
what I confide in.

CANDIDA. What a nasty, uncomfortable thing to say to me! Oh, you 
ARE a clergyman, James--a thorough clergyman.

MORELL (turning away from her, heart-stricken). So Eugene says.

CANDIDA (with lively interest, leaning over to him with her arms 
on his knee). Eugene's always right. He's a wonderful boy: I have 
grown fonder and fonder of him all the time I was away. Do you 
know, James, that though he has not the least suspicion of it 
himself, he is ready to fall madly in love with me?

MORELL (grimly). Oh, he has no suspicion of it himself, hasn't 

CANDIDA. Not a bit. (She takes her arms from his knee, and turns 
thoughtfully, sinking into a more restful attitude with her hands 
in her lap.) Some day he will know when he is grown up and 
experienced, like you. And he will know that I must have known. 
I wonder what he will think of me then.

MORELL. No evil, Candida. I hope and trust, no evil. 

CANDIDA (dubiously). That will depend.

MORELL (bewildered). Depend!

CANDIDA (looking at him). Yes: it will depend on what happens to 
him. (He look vacantly at her.) Don't you see? It will depend on 
how he comes to learn what love really is. I mean on the sort of 
woman who will teach it to him.

MORELL (quite at a loss). Yes. No. I don't know what you mean.

CANDIDA (explaining). If he learns it from a good woman, then it 
will be all right: he will forgive me.

MORELL. Forgive!

CANDIDA. But suppose he learns it from a bad woman, as so many 
men do, especially poetic men, who imagine all women are angels! 
Suppose he only discovers the value of love when he has thrown it 
away and degraded himself in his ignorance. Will he forgive me 
then, do you think? 

MORELL. Forgive you for what?

CANDIDA (realizing how stupid he is, and a little disappointed, 
though quite tenderly so). Don't you understand? (He shakes his 
head. She turns to him again, so as to explain with the fondest 
intimacy.) I mean, will he forgive me for not teaching him 
myself? For abandoning him to the bad women for the sake of my 
goodness--my purity, as you call it? Ah, James, how little you 
understand me, to talk of your confidence in my goodness and 
purity! I would give them both to poor Eugene as willingly as I 
would give my shawl to a beggar dying of cold, if there were 
nothing else to restrain me. Put your trust in my love for you, 
James, for if that went, I should care very little for your 
sermons--mere phrases that you cheat yourself and others with 
every day. (She is about to rise.) 

MORELL. HIS words!

CANDIDA (checking herself quickly in the act of getting up, so 
that she is on her knees, but upright). Whose words?

MORELL. Eugene's.

CANDIDA (delighted). He is always right. He understands you; he 
understands me; he understands Prossy; and you, James--you 
understand nothing. (She laughs, and kisses him to console him. 
He recoils as if stung, and springs up.)

MORELL. How can you bear to do that when--oh, Candida (with 
anguish in his voice) I had rather you had plunged a grappling 
iron into my heart than given me that kiss.

CANDIDA (rising, alarmed). My dear: what's the matter? 

MORELL (frantically waving her off). Don't touch me. 

CANDIDA (amazed). James!

(They are interrupted by the entrance of Marchbanks, with 
Burgess, who stops near the door, staring, whilst Eugene hurries 
forward between them.)

MARCHBANKS. Is anything the matter?

MORELL (deadly white, putting an iron constraint on himself). 
Nothing but this: that either you were right this morning, or 
Candida is mad.

BURGESS (in loudest protest). Wot! Candy mad too! Oh, come, come, 
come! (He crosses the room to the fireplace, protesting as he 
goes, and knocks the ashes out of his pipe on the bars. Morell 
sits down desperately, leaning forward to hide his face, and 
interlacing his fingers rigidly to keep them steady.)

CANDIDA (to Morell, relieved and laughing). Oh, you're only 
shocked! Is that all? How conventional all you unconventional 
people are!

BURGESS. Come: be'ave yourself, Candy. What'll Mr. Morchbanks 
think of you?

CANDIDA. This comes of James teaching me to think for myself, and 
never to hold back out of fear of what other people may think of 
me. It works beautifully as long as I think the same things as he 
does. But now, because I have just thought something different!--
look at him--just look!

(She points to Morell, greatly amused. Eugene looks, and 
instantly presses his band on his heart, as if some deadly pain
had shot through it, and sits down on the sofa like a man 
witnessing a tragedy.)

BURGESS (on the hearth-rug). Well, James, you certainly ain't as 
himpressive lookin' as usu'l.

MORELL (with a laugh which is half a sob). I suppose not. I beg 
all your pardons: I was not conscious of making a fuss. (Pulling 
himself together.) Well, well, well, well, well! (He goes back to 
his place at the table, setting to work at his papers again with 
resolute cheerfulness.)

CANDIDA (going to the sofa and sitting beside Marchbanks, still 
in a bantering humor). Well, Eugene, why are you so sad? Did the 
onions make you cry?

(Morell cannot prevent himself from watching them.) 

MARCHBANKS (aside to her). It is your cruelty. I hate cruelty. It 
is a horrible thing to see one person make another suffer.

CANDIDA (petting him ironically). Poor boy, have I been cruel? 
Did I make it slice nasty little red onions? 

MARCHBANKS (earnestly). Oh, stop, stop: I don't mean myself. You 
have made him suffer frightfully. I feel his pain in my own 
heart. I know that it is not your fault--it is something that 
must happen; but don't make light of it. I shudder when you 
torture him and laugh.

CANDIDA (incredulously). I torture James! Nonsense, Eugene: how 
you exaggerate! Silly! (She looks round at Morell, who hastily 
resumes his writing. She goes to him and stands behind his chair, 
bending over him.) Don't work any more, dear. Come and talk to 

MORELL (affectionately but bitterly). Ah no: I can't talk. I can 
only preach.

CANDIDA (caressing him). Well, come and preach. 

BURGESS (strongly remonstrating). Aw, no, Candy. 'Ang it all!
(Lexy Mill comes in, looking anxious and important.)

LEXY (hastening to shake hands with Candida). How do you do, Mrs. 
Morell? So glad to see you back again.

CANDIDA. Thank you, Lexy. You know Eugene, don't you?

LEXY. Oh, yes. How do you do, Marchbanks? 

MARCHBANKS. Quite well, thanks.

LEXY (to Morell). I've just come from the Guild of St. Matthew. 
They are in the greatest consternation about your telegram. 
There's nothing wrong, is there? 

CANDIDA. What did you telegraph about, James?

LEXY (to Candida). He was to have spoken for them tonight. 
They've taken the large hall in Mare Street and spent a lot of 
money on posters. Morell's telegram was to say he couldn't come. 
It came on them like a thunderbolt.

CANDIDA (surprized, and beginning to suspect something wrong). 
Given up an engagement to speak!

BURGESS. First time in his life, I'll bet. Ain' it, Candy? 

LEXY (to Morell). They decided to send an urgent telegram to you 
asking whether you could not change your mind. Have you received 

MORELL (with restrained impatience). Yes, yes: I got it.

LEXY. It was reply paid.

MORELL. Yes, I know. I answered it. I can't go.

CANDIDA. But why, James?

MORELL (almost fiercely). Because I don't choose. These people 
forget that I am a man: they think I am a talking machine to be 
turned on for their pleasure every evening of my life. May I not 
have ONE night at home, with my wife, and my friends?

(They are all amazed at this outburst, except Eugene. His 
expression remains unchanged.)

CANDIDA. Oh, James, you know you'll have an attack of bad 
conscience to-morrow; and _I_ shall have to suffer for that.

LEXY (intimidated, but urgent). I know, of course, that they make 
the most unreasonable demands on you. But they have been 
telegraphing all over the place for another speaker: and they can 
get nobody but the President of the Agnostic League.

MORELL (promptly). Well, an excellent man. What better do they 

LEXY. But he always insists so powerfully on the divorce of 
Socialism from Christianity. He will undo all the good we have 
been doing. Of course you know best; but--(He hesitates.)

CANDIDA (coaxingly). Oh, DO go, James. We'll all go. 

BURGESS (grumbling). Look 'ere, Candy! I say! Let's stay at home 
by the fire, comfortable. He won't need to be more'n a 
couple-o'-hour away.

CANDIDA. You'll be just as comfortable at the meeting. We'll all 
sit on the platform and be great people.

EUGENE (terrified). Oh, please don't let us go on the platform. 
No--everyone will stare at us--I couldn't. I'll sit at the back 
of the room.

CANDIDA. Don't be afraid. They'll be too busy looking at James to 
notice you.

MORELL (turning his head and looking meaningly at her over his 
shoulder). Prossy's complaint, Candida! Eh?

CANDIDA (gaily). Yes. 

BURGESS (mystified). Prossy's complaint. Wot are you talking 
about, James?

MORELL (not heeding him, rises; goes to the door; and holds it 
open, shouting in a commanding voice). Miss Garnett. 

PROSERPINE (in the distance). Yes, Mr. Morell. Coming. (They all 
wait, except Burgess, who goes stealthily to Lexy and draws him 

BURGESS. Listen here, Mr. Mill. Wot's Prossy's complaint? Wot's 
wrong with 'er?

LEXY (confidentially). Well, I don't exactly know; but she spoke 
very strangely to me this morning. I'm afraid she's a little out 
of her mind sometimes.

BURGESS (overwhelmed). Why, it must be catchin'! Four in the same 
'ouse! (He goes back to the hearth, quite lost before the 
instability of the human intellect in a clergyman's house.)

PROSERPINE (appearing on the threshold). What is it, Mr. Morell?

MORELL. Telegraph to the Guild of St. Matthew that I am coming.

PROSERPINE (surprised). Don't they expect you? 

MORELL (peremptorily). Do as I tell you.

(Proserpine frightened, sits down at her typewriter, and obeys. 
Morell goes across to Burgess, Candida watching his movements all 
the time with growing wonder and misgiving.) 

MORELL. Burgess: you don't want to come?

BURGESS (in deprecation). Oh, don't put it like that, James. It's 
only that it ain't Sunday, you know.

MORELL. I'm sorry. I thought you might like to be introduced to 
the chairman. He's on the Works Committee of the County Council 
and has some influence in the matter of contracts. (Burgess wakes 
up at once. Morell, expecting as much, waits a moment, and says) 
Will you come?

BURGESS (with enthusiasm). Course I'll come, James. Ain' it 
always a pleasure to 'ear you.

MORELL (turning from him). I shall want you to take some notes at 
the meeting, Miss Garnett, if you have no other engagement. (She 
nods, afraid to speak.) You are coming, Lexy, I suppose.

LEXY. Certainly.

CANDIDA. We are all coming, James.

MORELL. No: you are not coming; and Eugene is not coming. You 
will stay here and entertain him--to celebrate your return home. 
(Eugene rises, breathless.) 

CANDIDA. But James--

MORELL (authoritatively). I insist. You do not want to come; and 
he does not want to come. (Candida is about to protest.) Oh, 
don't concern yourselves: I shall have plenty of people without 
you: your chairs will be wanted by unconverted people who have 
never heard me before.

CANDIDA (troubled). Eugene: wouldn't you like to come?

MORELL. I should be afraid to let myself go before Eugene: he is 
so critical of sermons. (Looking at him.) He knows I am afraid of 
him: he told me as much this morning. Well, I shall show him how 
much afraid I am by leaving him here in your custody, Candida.

MARCHBANKS (to himself, with vivid feeling). That's brave. That's 
beautiful. (He sits down again listening with parted lips.)

CANDIDA (with anxious misgiving). But--but--Is anything the 
matter, James? (Greatly troubled.) I can't understand--

MORELL. Ah, I thought it was I who couldn't understand, dear. (He 
takes her tenderly in his arms and kisses her on the forehead; 
then looks round quietly at Marchbanks.)


Late in the evening. Past ten. The curtains are drawn, and the 
lamps lighted. The typewriter is in its case; the large table has 
been cleared and tidied; everything indicates that the day's work 
is done.

Candida and Marchbanks are seated at the fire. The reading lamp 
is on the mantelshelf above Marchbanks, who is sitting on the 
small chair reading aloud from a manuscript. A little pile of 
manuscripts and a couple of volumes of poetry are on the carpet 
beside him. Candida is in the easy chair with the poker, a light 
brass one, upright in her hand. She is leaning back and looking 
at the point of it curiously, with her feet stretched towards the 
blaze and her heels resting on the fender, profoundly unconscious 
of her appearance and surroundings.

MARCHBANKS (breaking off in his recitation): Every poet that ever 
lived has put that thought into a sonnet. He must: he can't help 
it. (He looks to her for assent, and notices her absorption in 
the poker.) Haven't you been listening? (No response.) Mrs. 

CANDIDA (starting). Eh?

MARCHBANKS. Haven't you been listening?

CANDIDA (with a guilty excess of politeness). Oh, yes. It's very 
nice. Go on, Eugene. I'm longing to hear what happens to the 

MARCHBANKS (crushed--the manuscript dropping from his hand to the 
floor). I beg your pardon for boring you.

CANDIDA. But you are not boring me, I assure you. Please go on. 
Do, Eugene.

MARCHBANKS. I finished the poem about the angel quarter of an 
hour ago. I've read you several things since.

CANDIDA (remorsefully). I'm so sorry, Eugene. I think the poker 
must have fascinated me. (She puts it down.) 

MARCHBANKS. It made me horribly uneasy.

CANDIDA. Why didn't you tell me? I'd have put it down at once.

MARCHBANKS. I was afraid of making you uneasy, too. It looked as 
if it were a weapon. If I were a hero of old, I should have laid 
my drawn sword between us. If Morell had come in he would have 
thought you had taken up the poker because there was no sword 
between us.

CANDIDA (wondering). What? (With a puzzled glance at him.) I 
can't quite follow that. Those sonnets of yours have perfectly 
addled me. Why should there be a sword between us?

MARCHBANKS (evasively). Oh, never mind. (He stoops to pick up the 

CANDIDA. Put that down again, Eugene. There are limits to my 
appetite for poetry--even your poetry. You've been reading to me 
for more than two hours--ever since James went out. I want to 

MARCHBANKS (rising, scared). No: I mustn't talk. (He looks round 
him in his lost way, and adds, suddenly) I think I'll go out and 
take a walk in the park. (Making for the door.)

CANDIDA. Nonsense: it's shut long ago. Come and sit down on the 
hearth-rug, and talk moonshine as you usually do. I want to be 
amused. Don't you want to? 

MARCHBANKS (in half terror, half rapture). Yes.

CANDIDA. Then come along. (She moves her chair back a little to 
make room. He hesitates; then timidly stretches himself on the 
hearth-rug, face upwards, and throws back his head across her 
knees, looking up at her.)

MARCHBANKS. Oh, I've been so miserable all the evening,
because I was doing right. Now I'm doing wrong; and I'm happy.

CANDIDA (tenderly amused at him). Yes: I'm sure you feel a great 
grown up wicked deceiver--quite proud of yourself, aren't you?

MARCHBANKS (raising his head quickly and turning a little to look 
round at her). Take care. I'm ever so much older than you, if you 
only knew. (He turns quite over on his knees, with his hands 
clasped and his arms on her lap, and speaks with growing impulse, 
his blood beginning to stir.) May I say some wicked things to 

CANDIDA (without the least fear or coldness, quite nobly, and 
with perfect respect for his passion, but with a touch of her 
wise-hearted maternal humor). No. But you may say anything you 
really and truly feel. Anything at all, no matter what it is. I 
am not afraid, so long as it is your real self that speaks, and 
not a mere attitude--a gallant attitude, or a wicked attitude, or 
even a poetic attitude. I put you on your honor and truth. Now 
say whatever you want to.

MARCHBANKS (the eager expression vanishing utterly from his lips 
and nostrils as his eyes light up with pathetic spirituality). 
Oh, now I can't say anything: all the words I know belong to some 
attitude or other--all except one.

CANDIDA. What one is that?

MARCHBANKS (softly, losing himself in the music of the name). 
Candida, Candida, Candida, Candida, Candida. I must say that now, 
because you have put me on my honor and truth; and I never think 
or feel Mrs. Morell: it is always Candida.

CANDIDA. Of course. And what have you to say to Candida?

MARCHBANKS. Nothing, but to repeat your name a thousand times. 
Don't you feel that every time is a prayer to you? 

CANDIDA. Doesn't it make you happy to be able to pray?

MARCHBANKS. Yes, very happy.

CANDIDA. Well, that happiness is the answer to your prayer. Do 
you want anything more?

MARCHBANKS (in beatitude). No: I have come into heaven, where 
want is unknown.

(Morell comes in. He halts on the threshold, and takes in the 
scene at a glance.)

MORELL (grave and self-contained). I hope I don't disturb you.
(Candida starts up violently, but without the smallest 
embarrassment, laughing at herself. Eugene, still kneeling, saves 
himself from falling by putting his hands on the seat of the 
chair, and remains there, staring open mouthed at Morell.)

CANDIDA (as she rises). Oh, James, how you startled me! I was so 
taken up with Eugene that I didn't hear your latch-key. How did 
the meeting go off? Did you speak well?

MORELL. I have never spoken better in my life.

CANDIDA. That was first rate! How much was the collection?

MORELL. I forgot to ask.

CANDIDA (to Eugene). He must have spoken splendidly, or he would 
never have forgotten that. (To Morell.) Where are all the others?

MORELL. They left long before I could get away: I thought I 
should never escape. I believe they are having supper somewhere.

CANDIDA (in her domestic business tone). Oh; in that case, Maria 
may go to bed. I'll tell her. (She goes out to the kitchen.)

MORELL (looking sternly down at Marchbanks). Well?

MARCHBANKS (squatting cross-legged on the hearth-rug, and  
actually at ease with Morell--even impishly humorous). Well? 

MORELL. Have you anything to tell me?

MARCHBANKS. Only that I have been making a fool of myself here in 
private whilst you have been making a fool of yourself in public.

MORELL. Hardly in the same way, I think.

MARCHBANKS (scrambling up--eagerly). The very, very, VERY same 
way. I have been playing the good man just like you. When you 
began your heroics about leaving me here with Candida--

MORELL (involuntarily). Candida?

MARCHBANKS. Oh, yes: I've got that far. Heroics are infectious: I 
caught the disease from you. I swore not to say a word in your 
absence that I would not have said a month ago in your presence.

MORELL. Did you keep your oath?

MARCHBANKS. (suddenly perching himself grotesquely on the easy 
chair). I was ass enough to keep it until about ten minutes ago. 
Up to that moment I went on desperately reading to her--reading 
my own poems--anybody's poems--to stave off a conversation. I was 
standing outside the gate of Heaven, and refusing to go in. Oh, 
you can't think how heroic it was, and how uncomfortable! Then--

MORELL (steadily controlling his suspense). Then?

MARCHBANKS (prosaically slipping down into a quite ordinary 
attitude in the chair). Then she couldn't bear being read to any 

MORELL. And you approached the gate of Heaven at last?


MORELL. Well? (Fiercely.) Speak, man: have you no feeling for me?

MARCHBANKS (softly and musically). Then she became an angel; and 
there was a flaming sword that turned every way, so that I 
couldn't go in; for I saw that that gate was really the gate of 

MORELL (triumphantly). She repulsed you!

MARCHBANKS (rising in wild scorn). No, you fool: if she had done 
that I should never have seen that I was in Heaven already. 
Repulsed me! You think that would have saved me--virtuous 
indignation! Oh, you are not worthy to live in the same world 
with her. (He turns away contemptuously to the other side of the 

MORELL (who has watched him quietly without changing his place). 
Do you think you make yourself more worthy by reviling me, 

MARCHBANKS. Here endeth the thousand and first lesson. Morell: I 
don't think much of your preaching after all: I believe I could 
do it better myself. The man I want to meet is the man that 
Candida married.

MORELL. The man that--? Do you mean me? 

MARCHBANKS. I don't mean the Reverend James Mavor Morell, 
moralist and windbag. I mean the real man that the Reverend James 
must have hidden somewhere inside his black coat--the man that 
Candida loved. You can't make a woman like Candida love you by 
merely buttoning your collar at the back instead of in front.

MORELL (boldly and steadily). When Candida promised to marry me, 
I was the same moralist and windbag that you now see. I wore my 
black coat; and my collar was buttoned behind instead of in 
front. Do you think she would have loved me any the better for 
being insincere in my profession?

MARCHBANKS (on the sofa hugging his ankles). Oh, she forgave you, 
just as she forgives me for being a coward, and a weakling, and 
what you call a snivelling little whelp and all the rest of it. 
(Dreamily.) A woman like that has divine insight: she loves our 
souls, and not our follies and vanities and illusions, or our 
collars and coats, or any other of the rags and tatters we are 
rolled up in. (He reflects on this for an instant; then turns 
intently to question Morell.) What I want to know is how you got 
past the flaming sword that stopped me.

MORELL (meaningly). Perhaps because I was not interrupted at the 
end of ten minutes.

MARCHBANKS (taken aback). What!

MORELL. Man can climb to the highest summits; but he cannot dwell 
there long.

MARCHBANKS. It's false: there can he dwell for ever and there 
only. It's in the other moments that he can find no rest, no 
sense of the silent glory of life. Where would you have me spend 
my moments, if not on the summits? 

MORELL. In the scullery, slicing onions and filling lamps.

MARCHBANKS. Or in the pulpit, scrubbing cheap earthenware souls?

MORELL. Yes, that, too. It was there that I earned my golden 
moment, and the right, in that moment, to ask her to love me. I 
did not take the moment on credit; nor did I use it to steal 
another man's happiness.

MARCHBANKS (rather disgustedly, trotting back towards the 
fireplace). I have no doubt you conducted the transaction as 
honestly as if you were buying a pound of cheese. (He stops on 
the brink of the, hearth-rug and adds, thoughtfully, to
himself, with his back turned to Morell) I could only go to her 
as a beggar.

MORELL (starting). A beggar dying of cold--asking for her shawl?

MARCHBANKS (turning, surprised). Thank you for touching up my 
poetry. Yes, if you like, a beggar dying of cold asking for her 

MORELL (excitedly). And she refused. Shall I tell you why she 
refused? I CAN tell you, on her own authority. It was because 

MARCHBANKS. She didn't refuse.


MARCHBANKS. She offered me all I chose to ask for, her shawl, her 
wings, the wreath of stars on her head, the lilies in her hand, 
the crescent moon beneath her feet--

MORELL (seizing him). Out with the truth, man: my wife is my 
wife: I want no more of your poetic fripperies. I know well that 
if I have lost her love and you have gained it, no law will bind 

MARCHBANKS (quaintly, without fear or resistance). Catch me by 
the shirt collar, Morell: she will arrange it for me afterwards 
as she did this morning. (With quiet rapture.) I shall feel her 
hands touch me.

MORELL. You young imp, do you know how dangerous it is to say 
that to me? Or (with a sudden misgiving) has something made you 

MARCHBANKS. I'm not afraid now. I disliked you before: that was 
why I shrank from your touch. But I saw to-day--when she tortured 
you--that you love her. Since then I have been your friend: you 
may strangle me if you like.

MORELL (releasing him). Eugene: if that is not a heartless lie--
if you have a spark of human feeling left in you--will you tell 
me what has happened during my absence?

MARCHBANKS. What happened! Why, the flaming sword--(Morell stamps 
with impatience.) Well, in plain prose, I loved her so 
exquisitely that I wanted nothing more than the happiness of 
being in such love. And before I had time to come down from the 
highest summits, you came in.

MORELL (suffering deeply). So it is still unsettled--still the 
misery of doubt.

MARCHBANKS. Misery! I am the happiest of men. I desire nothing 
now but her happiness. (With dreamy enthusiasm.) Oh, Morell, let 
us both give her up. Why should she have to choose between a 
wretched little nervous disease like me, and a pig-headed parson 
like you? Let us go on a pilgrimage, you to the east and I to the 
west, in search of a worthy lover for her--some beautiful 
archangel with purple wings--

MORELL. Some fiddlestick. Oh, if she is mad enough to leave me 
for you, who will protect her? Who will help her? who will work 
for her? who will be a father to her children? (He sits down 
distractedly on the sofa, with his elbows on his knees and his 
head propped on his clenched fists.)

MARCHBANKS (snapping his fingers wildly). She does not ask those 
silly questions. It is she who wants somebody to protect, to 
help, to work for--somebody to give her children to protect, to 
help and to work for. Some grown up man who has become as a 
little child again. Oh, you fool, you fool, you triple fool! I am 
the man, Morell: I am the man. (He dances about excitedly, 
crying.) You don't understand what a woman is. Send for her, 
Morell: send for her and let her choose between--(The door opens 
and Candida enters. He stops as if petrified.)

CANDIDA (amazed, on the threshold). What on earth are you at, 

MARCHBANKS (oddly). James and I are having a preaching match; and 
he is getting the worst of it. (Candida looks quickly round at 
Morell. Seeing that he is distressed, she hurries down to him, 
greatly vexed, speaking with vigorous reproach to Marchbanks.)

CANDIDA. You have been annoying him. Now I won't have it, Eugene: 
do you hear? (Putting her hand on Morell's shoulder, and quite 
forgetting her wifely tact in her annoyance.) My boy shall not be 
worried: I will protect him.

MORELL (rising proudly). Protect!

CANDIDA (not heeding him--to Eugene). What have you been saying?

MARCHBANKS (appalled). Nothing--

CANDIDA. Eugene! Nothing?

MARCHBANKS (piteously). I mean--I--I'm very sorry. I won't do it 
again: indeed I won't. I'll let him alone. 

MORELL (indignantly, with an aggressive movement towards Eugene). 
Let me alone! You young--

CANDIDA (Stopping him). Sh--no, let me deal with him, James.

MARCHBANKS. Oh, you're not angry with me, are you? 

CANDIDA (severely). Yes, I am--very angry. I have a great mind to 
pack you out of the house.

MORELL (taken aback by Candida's vigor, and by no means relishing 
the sense of being rescued by her from another man). Gently, 
Candida, gently. I am able to take care of myself.

CANDIDA (petting him). Yes, dear: of course you are. But you 
mustn't be annoyed and made miserable.

MARCHBANKS (almost in tears, turning to the door). I'll go.

CANDIDA. Oh, you needn't go: I can't turn you out at this time of 
night. (Vehemently.) Shame on you! For shame!

MARCHBANKS (desperately). But what have I done? 

CANDIDA. I know what you have done--as well as if I had been here 
all the time. Oh, it was unworthy! You are like a child: you 
cannot hold your tongue. 

MARCHBANKS. I would die ten times over sooner than give you a 
moment's pain.

CANDIDA (with infinite contempt for this puerility). Much good 
your dying would do me!

MORELL. Candida, my dear: this altercation is hardly quite 
seemingly. It is a matter between two men; and I am the right 
person to settle it.

CANDIDA. Two MEN! Do you call that a man? (To Eugene.) You bad 

MARCHBANKS (gathering a whimsically affectionate courage from the 
scolding). If I am to be scolded like this, I must make a boy's 
excuse. He began it. And he's bigger than I am.

CANDIDA (losing confidence a little as her concern for Morell's 
dignity takes the alarm). That can't be true. (To Morell.) You 
didn't begin it, James, did you?

MORELL (contemptuously). No. 

MARCHBANKS (indignant). Oh!

MORELL (to Eugene). YOU began it--this morning. (Candida, 
instantly connecting this with his mysterious allusion in the 
afternoon to something told him by Eugene in the morning, looks 
quickly at him, wrestling with the enigma. Morell proceeds with 
the emphasis of offended superiority.) But your other point is 
true. I am certainly the bigger of the two, and, I hope, the 
stronger, Candida. So you had better leave the matter in my 

CANDIDA (again soothing him). Yes, dear; but--(Troubled.) I don't 
understand about this morning.

MORELL (gently snubbing her). You need not understand, my dear.

CANDIDA. But, James, I--(The street bell rings.) Oh, bother! Here 
they all come. (She goes out to let them in.) 

MARCHBANKS (running to Morell ). Oh, Morell, isn't it dreadful? 
She's angry with us: she hates me. What shall I do?

MORELL (with quaint desperation, clutching himself by the hair). 
Eugene: my head is spinning round. I shall begin to laugh 
presently. (He walks up and down the middle of the room.)

MARCHBANKS (following him anxiously). No, no: she'll think I've 
thrown you into hysterics. Don't laugh. (Boisterous voices and 
laughter are heard approaching. Lexy Mill, his eyes sparkling, 
and his bearing denoting unwonted elevation of spirit, enters 
with Burgess, who is greasy and self-complacent, but has all his 
wits about him. Miss Garnett, with her smartest hat and jacket 
on, follows them; but though her eyes are brighter than before, 
she is evidently a prey to misgiving. She places herself with her 
back to her typewriting table, with one hand on it to rest 
herself, passes the other across her forehead as if she were a 
little tired and giddy. Marchbanks relapses into shyness and 
edges away into the corner near the window, where Morell's books 

MILL (exhilaratedly). Morell: I MUST congratulate you. (Grasping 
his hand.) What a noble, splendid, inspired address you gave us! 
You surpassed yourself.

BURGESS. So you did, James. It fair kep' me awake to the last 
word. Didn't it, Miss Garnett?

PROSERPINE (worriedly). Oh, I wasn't minding you: I was trying to 
make notes. (She takes out her note-book, and looks at her 
stenography, which nearly makes her cry.)

MORELL. Did I go too fast, Pross?

PROSERPINE. Much too fast. You know I can't do more than a 
hundred words a minute. (She relieves her feelings by throwing 
her note-book angrily beside her machine, ready for use next 

MORELL (soothingly). Oh, well, well, never mind, never mind, 
never mind. Have you all had supper?

LEXY. Mr. Burgess has been kind enough to give us a really 
splendid supper at the Belgrave.

BURGESS (with effusive magnanimity). Don't mention it, Mr. Mill. 
(Modestly.) You're 'arty welcome to my little treat.

PROSERPINE. We had champagne! I never tasted it before. I feel 
quite giddy.

MORELL (surprised). A champagne supper! That was very handsome. 
Was it my eloquence that produced all this extravagance?

MILL (rhetorically). Your eloquence, and Mr. Burgess's goodness 
of heart. (With a fresh burst of exhilaration.) And what a very 
fine fellow the chairman is, Morell! He came to supper with us.

MORELL (with long drawn significance, looking at Burgess). 
O-o-o-h, the chairman. NOW I understand.

(Burgess, covering a lively satisfaction in his diplomatic 
cunning with a deprecatory cough, retires to the hearth. Lexy 
folds his arms and leans against the cellaret in a high-spirited 
attitude. Candida comes in with glasses, lemons, and a jug of hot 
water on a tray.)

CANDIDA. Who will have some lemonade? You know our rules: total 
abstinence. (She puts the tray on the table, and takes up the 
lemon squeezers, looking enquiringly round at them.)

MORELL. No use, dear. They've all had champagne. Pross has broken 
her pledge.

CANDIDA (to Proserpine). You don't mean to say you've been 
drinking champagne!

PROSERPINE (stubbornly). Yes, I do. I'm only a beer teetotaller, 
not a champagne teetotaller. I don't like beer. Are there any 
letters for me to answer, Mr. Morell? 

MORELL. No more to-night.

PROSERPINE. Very well. Good-night, everybody.

LEXY (gallantly). Had I not better see you home, Miss Garnett?

PROSERPINE. No, thank you. I shan't trust myself with anybody 
to-night. I wish I hadn't taken any of that stuff. (She walks 
straight out.)

BURGESS (indignantly). Stuff, indeed! That gurl dunno wot 
champagne is! Pommery and Greeno at twelve and six a bottle. She 
took two glasses a'most straight hoff. 

MORELL (a little anxious about her). Go and look after her, Lexy.

LEXY (alarmed). But if she should really be--Suppose she began 
to sing in the street, or anything of that sort.

MORELL. Just so: she may. That's why you'd better see her safely 

CANDIDA. Do, Lexy: there's a good fellow. (She shakes his hand 
and pushes him gently to the door.)

LEXY. It's evidently my duty to go. I hope it may not be 
necessary. Good-night, Mrs. Morell. (To the rest.) Good-night. 
(He goes. Candida shuts the door.)

BURGESS. He was gushin' with hextra piety hisself arter two sips. 
People carn't drink like they huseter. (Dismissing the subject 
and bustling away from the hearth.) Well, James: it's time to 
lock up. Mr. Morchbanks: shall I 'ave the pleasure of your 
company for a bit of the way home?

MARCHBANKS (affrightedly). Yes: I'd better go. .(He hurries 
across to the door; but Candida places herself before it, barring 
his way.)

CANDIDA (with quiet authority). You sit down. You're not going 

MARCHBANKS (quailing). No: I--I didn't mean to. (He comes back 
into the room and sits down abjectly on the sofa.) 

CANDIDA. Mr. Marchbanks will stay the night with us, papa.

BURGESS. Oh, well, I'll say good-night. So long, James. (He 
shakes hands with Morell and goes on to Eugene.) Make 'em give 
you a night light by your bed, Mr. Morchbanks: it'll comfort you 
if you wake up in the night with a touch of that complaint of 
yores. Good-night.

MARCHBANKS. Thank you: I will. Good-night, Mr. Burgess. (They 
shake hands and Burgess goes to the door.) 

CANDIDA (intercepting Morell, who is following Burgess). Stay 
here, dear: I'll put on papa's coat for him. (She goes out with 

MARCHBANKS. Morell: there's going to be a terrible scene. Aren't 
you afraid?

MORELL. Not in the least.

MARCHBANKS. I never envied you your courage before. (He rises 
timidly and puts his hand appealingly on Morell's forearm.) Stand 
by me, won't you?

MORELL (casting him off gently, but resolutely). Each for
himself, Eugene. She must choose between us now. (He goes to the 
other side of the room as Candida returns. Eugene sits down again 
on the sofa like a guilty schoolboy on his best behaviour.)

CANDIDA (between them, addressing Eugene). Are you sorry?

MARCHBANKS (earnestly). Yes, heartbroken.

CANDIDA. Well, then, you are forgiven. Now go off to bed like a 
good little boy: I want to talk to James about you.

MARCHBANKS (rising in great consternation). Oh, I can't do that, 
Morell. I must be here. I'll not go away. Tell her.

CANDIDA (with quick suspicion). Tell me what? (His eyes avoid 
hers furtively. She turns and mutely transfers the question to 

MORELL (bracing himself for the catastrophe). I have nothing to 
tell her, except (here his voice deepens to a measured and 
mournful tenderness) that she is my greatest treasure on earth--
if she is really mine.

CANDIDA (coldly, offended by his yielding to his orator's 
instinct and treating her as if she were the audience at the 
Guild of St. Matthew). I am sure Eugene can say no less, if that 
is all.

MARCHBANKS (discouraged). Morell: she's laughing at us. 

MORELL (with a quick touch of temper). There is nothing to laugh 
at. Are you laughing at us, Candida?

CANDIDA (with quiet anger). Eugene is very quick-witted, James. I 
hope I am going to laugh; but I am not sure that I am not going 
to be very angry. (She goes to the fireplace, and stands there 
leaning with her arm on the mantelpiece and her foot on the 
fender, whilst Eugene steals to Morell and plucks him by the 

MARCHBANKS (whispering). Stop Morell. Don't let us say anything.

MORELL (pushing Eugene away without deigning to look at him). I 
hope you don't mean that as a threat, Candida. 

CANDIDA (with emphatic warning). Take care, James. Eugene: I 
asked you to go. Are you going?

MORELL (putting his foot down). He shall not go. I wish him to 

MARCHBANKS. I'll go. I'll do whatever you want. (He turns to the 

CANDIDA. Stop! (He obeys.) Didn't you hear James say he wished 
you to stay? James is master here. Don't you know that?

MARCHBANKS (flushing with a young poet's rage against tyranny). 
By what right is he master?

CANDIDA (quietly). Tell him, James.

MORELL (taken aback). My dear: I don't know of any right that 
makes me master. I assert no such right. 

CANDIDA (with infinite reproach). You don't know! Oh, James, 
James! (To Eugene, musingly.) I wonder do you understand, Eugene! 
No: you're too young. Well, I give you leave to stay--to stay and 
learn. (She comes away from the hearth and places herself between 
them.) Now, James: what's the matter? Come: tell me.

MARCHBANKS (whispering tremulously across to him). Don't. 

CANDIDA. Come. Out with it!

MORELL (slowly). I meant to prepare your mind carefully, Candida, 
so as to prevent misunderstanding.

CANDIDA. Yes, dear: I am sure you did. But never mind: I shan't 

MORELL. Well--er--(He hesitates, unable to find the long 
explanation which he supposed to be available.)


MORELL (baldly). Eugene declares that you are in love with him.

MARCHBANKS (frantically). No, no, no, no, never. I did not, Mrs. 
Morell: it's not true. I said I loved you, and that he didn't. I 
said that I understood you, and that he couldn't. And it was not 
after what passed there before the fire that I spoke: it was not, 
on my word. It was this morning.

CANDIDA (enlightened). This morning!

MARCHBANKS. Yes. (He looks at her, pleading for credence, and 
then adds, simply) That was what was the matter with my collar. 

CANDIDA (after a pause; for she does not take in his meaning at 
once). His collar! (She turns to Morell, shocked.) Oh, James: did 
you--(she stops)?

MORELL (ashamed). You know, Candida, that I have a temper to 
struggle with. And he said (shuddering) that you despised me in 
your heart. 

CANDIDA (turning quickly on Eugene). Did you say that?

MARCHBANKS (terrified). No!

CANDIDA (severely). Then James has just told me a falsehood.
Is that what you mean?

MARCHBANKS. No, no: I--I-- (blurting out the explanation 
desperately) --it was David's wife. And it wasn't at home: it was 
when she saw him dancing before all the people.

MORELL (taking the cue with a debater's adroitness). Dancing 
before all the people, Candida; and thinking he was moving their 
hearts by his mission when they were only suffering from--
Prossy's complaint. (She is about to protest: he raises his hand 
to silence her, exclaiming) Don't try to look indignant, 

CANDIDA (interjecting). Try!

MORELL (continuing). Eugene was right. As you told me a few hours 
after, he is always right. He said nothing that you did not say 
far better yourself. He is the poet, who sees everything; and I 
am the poor parson, who understands nothing.

CANDIDA (remorsefully). Do you mind what is said by a foolish 
boy, because I said something like it again in jest? 

MORELL. That foolish boy can speak with the inspiration of a 
child and the cunning of a serpent. He has claimed that you 
belong to him and not to me; and, rightly or wrongly, I have come 
to fear that it may be true. I will not go about tortured with 
doubts and suspicions. I will not live with you and keep a secret 
from you. I will not suffer the intolerable degradation of 
jealousy. We have agreed--he and I--that you shall choose between 
us now. I await your decision.

CANDIDA (slowly recoiling a step, her heart hardened by his 
rhetoric in spite of the sincere feeling behind it). Oh! I am to 
choose, am I? I suppose it is quite settled that I must belong to 
one or the other.

MORELL (firmly). Quite. You must choose definitely. 

MARCHBANKS (anxiously). Morell: you don't understand. She means 
that she belongs to herself.

CANDIDA (turning on him). I mean that and a good deal more, 
Master Eugene, as you will both find out presently. And pray, my 
lords and masters, what have you to offer for my choice? I am up 
for auction, it seems. What do you bid, James?

MORELL (reproachfully). Cand-- (He breaks down: his eyes and 
throat fill with tears: the orator becomes the wounded animal.) I 
can't speak--

CANDIDA (impulsively going to him). Ah, dearest--

MARCHBANKS (in wild alarm). Stop: it's not fair. You mustn't show 
her that you suffer, Morell. I am on the rack, too; but I am not 

MORELL (rallying all his forces). Yes: you are right. It is not 
for pity that I am bidding. (He disengages himself from Candida.)

CANDIDA (retreating, chilled). I beg your pardon, James; I did 
not mean to touch you. I am waiting to hear your bid.

MORELL (with proud humility). I have nothing to offer you but my 
strength for your defence, my honesty of purpose for your surety, 
my ability and industry for your livelihood, and my authority and 
position for your dignity. That is all it becomes a man to offer 
to a woman.

CANDIDA (quite quietly). And you, Eugene? What do you offer?

MARCHBANKS. My weakness! my desolation! my heart's need!

CANDIDA (impressed). That's a good bid, Eugene. Now I know how to 
make my choice.

She pauses and looks curiously from one to the other, as if 
weighing them. Morell, whose lofty confidence has changed into 
heartbreaking dread at Eugene's bid, loses all power of
concealing his anxiety. Eugene, strung to the highest tension, 
does not move a muscle.

MORELL (in a suffocated voice--the appeal bursting from the 
depths of his anguish). Candida! 

MARCHBANKS (aside, in a flash of contempt). Coward! 

CANDIDA (significantly). I give myself to the weaker of the two.

Eugene divines her meaning at once: his face whitens like steel 
in a furnace that cannot melt it.

MORELL (bowing his head with the calm of collapse). I accept your 
sentence, Candida.

CANDIDA. Do you understand, Eugene?

MARCHBANKS. Oh, I feel I'm lost. He cannot bear the burden.

MORELL (incredulously, raising his bead with prosaic abruptness). 
Do you mean, me, Candida?

CANDIDA (smiling a little). Let us sit and talk comfortably over 
it like three friends. (To Morell.) Sit down, dear. (Morell takes 
the chair from the fireside--the children's chair.) Bring me that 
chair, Eugene. (She indicates the easy chair. He fetches it 
silently, even with something like cold strength, and places it 
next Morell, a little behind him. She sits down. He goes to the 
sofa and sits there, still silent and inscrutable. When they are 
all settled she begins, throwing a spell of quietness on them by 
her calm, sane, tender tone.) You remember what you told me about 
yourself, Eugene: how nobody has cared for you since your old 
nurse died: how those clever, fashionable sisters and successful 
brothers of yours were your mother's and father's pets: how 
miserable you were at Eton: how your father is trying to starve 
you into returning to Oxford: how you have had to live without 
comfort or welcome or refuge, always lonely, and nearly always 
disliked and misunderstood, poor boy!

MARCHBANKS (faithful to the nobility of his lot). I had my books. 
I had Nature. And at last I met you.

CANDIDA. Never mind that just at present. Now I want you to look 
at this other boy here--MY boy--spoiled from his cradle. We go 
once a fortnight to see his parents. You should come with us, 
Eugene, and see the pictures of the hero of that household. James 
as a baby! the most wonderful of all babies. James holding his 
first school prize, won at the ripe age of eight! James as the 
captain of his eleven! James in his first frock coat! James 
under all sorts of glorious circumstances! You know how strong he 
is (I hope he didn't hurt you)--how clever he is--how happy! 
(With deepening gravity.) Ask James's mother and his three 
sisters what it cost to save James the trouble of doing anything 
but be strong and clever and happy. Ask ME what it costs to be 
James's mother and three sisters and wife and mother to his 
children all in one. Ask Prossy and Maria how troublesome the 
house is even when we have no visitors to help us to slice the 
onions. Ask the tradesmen who want to worry James and spoil his 
beautiful sermons who it is that puts them off. When there is 
money to give, he gives it: when there is money to refuse, I 
refuse it. I build a castle of comfort and indulgence and love 
for him, and stand sentinel always to keep little vulgar cares 
out. I make him master here, though he does not know it, and 
could not tell you a moment ago how it came to be so. (With sweet 
irony.) And when he thought I might go away with you, his only 
anxiety was what should become of ME! And to tempt me to stay he 
offered me (leaning forward to stroke his hair caressingly at 
each phrase) his strength for MY defence, his industry for my 
livelihood, his position for my dignity, his-- (Relenting.) Ah, I 
am mixing up your beautiful sentences and spoiling them, am I 
not, darling? (She lays her cheek fondly against his.)

MORELL (quite overcome, kneeling beside her chair and embracing 
her with boyish ingenuousness). It's all true, every word. What 
I am you have made me with the labor of your hands and the love 
of your heart! You are my wife, my mother, my sisters: you are 
the sum of all loving care to me.

CANDIDA (in his arms, smiling, to Eugene). Am I YOUR mother and 
sisters to you, Eugene?

MARCHBANKS (rising with a fierce gesture of disgust). Ah, never. 
Out, then, into the night with me!

CANDIDA (rising quickly and intercepting him). You are not going 
like that, Eugene?

MARCHBANKS (with the ring of a man's voice--no longer a boy's--in 
the words). I know the hour when it strikes. I am impatient to do 
what must be done.

MORELL (rising from his knee, alarmed). Candida: don't let him do 
anything rash.

CANDIDA (confident, smiling at Eugene). Oh, there is no fear. He 
has learnt to live without happiness.

MARCHBANKS. I no longer desire happiness: life is nobler than 
that. Parson James: I give you my happiness with both hands: I 
love you because you have filled the heart of the woman I loved. 
Good-bye. (He goes towards the door.)

CANDIDA. One last word. (He stops, but without turning to her.) 
How old are you, Eugene?

MARCHBANKS. As old as the world now. This morning I was eighteen. 

CANDIDA (going to him, and standing behind him with one hand 
caressingly on his shoulder). Eighteen! Will you, for my sake, 
make a little poem out of the two sentences I am going to say to 
you? And will you promise to repeat it to yourself whenever you 
think of me?

MARCHBANKS (without moving). Say the sentences. 

CANDIDA. When I am thirty, she will be forty-five. When I am 
sixty, she will be seventy-five.

MARCHBANKS (turning to her). In a hundred years, we shall be the 
same age. But I have a better secret than that in my heart. Let 
me go now. The night outside grows impatient.

CANDIDA. Good-bye. (She takes his face in her hands; and as he 
divines her intention and bends his knee, she kisses his 
forehead. Then he flies out into the night. She turns to
Morell, holding out her arms to him.) Ah, James! (They
embrace. But they do not know the secret in the poet's heart.)


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