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Title:      The Fight for Barbara (1912)
Author:     D. H. Lawrence
eBook No.:  0400851h.html
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     HTML--Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          December 2004
Date most recently updated: December 2004

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THE FIGHT FOR BARBARA


A COMEDY IN FOUR ACTS

 

by

 

D. H. Lawrence

 

(1912)

 

 


 

 

CHARACTERS


FRANCESCA

WESSON

BARBARA

DR FREDERICK TRESSIDER

LADY CHARLCOTE

 

Scene: A Villa in Italy

 

 


 

ACT I ACT II ACT III ACT IV

 


 

 

ACT I

 

8.30 in the morning. The kitchen of an Italian villa--a big open fire-place of stone, with a little charcoal grate--fornello--on either side--cupboards, table, rush-bottom chairs with high backs--many bright copper pans of all sizes hanging up. The door-bell rings in the kitchen--rings hard--after a minute a door is heard to bang.

Enter WESSON, in dressing-gown and pyjamas: a young man of about twenty-six, with thick hair ruffled from sleep. He crosses and goes through door R. Sounds of voices. Re-enter WESSON, followed by Italian maid-servant, FRANCESCA, young, fair, pretty--wears a black lace scarf over her head. She carries a saucepan full of milk. On the table stand a soup-tureen and an enamel jug.

 

FRANCESCA: Questa? (Puts her hand on the jug.)

WESSON: No, in the other. (She pours the milk into the tureen.)

FRANCESCA (smiling): Abondante misura!

WESSON: What's that? Come?

FRANCESCA: Abondante misura latte!

WESSON: Oh--full measure. Si!--running over!

FRANCESCA: Ranning ova. (Both laugh.)

WESSON: Right you are--you're learning English.

FRANCESCA: Come?

WESSON: Vous apprenez anglais--voi--inglese!

FRANCESCA: O--non--niente inglese!

WESSON: Nothing English? Oh yes! Er--fa tempo cattivo!

FRANCESCA: Tempo cattivo--si.

WESSON: Rotten weather--

FRANCESCA: Come?

WESSON: It's all the same. (She puts the lid on her saucepan and turns away.) Er--what day is it?--er--giorno che giorno?

FRANCESCA: Oggi? Domenica.

WESSON: Domenica!--dimanche--Sonntag--Sunday.

FRANCESCA: Come?

WESSON: Sunday!

FRANCESCA: Sendy!

WESSON: That's it. (Both laugh--she blushes and turns away--bows.)

FRANCESCA: Buon giorno, Signore.

WESSON: Buon giorno.

Exit FRANCESCA R. He drinks some milk, wipes his mouth and begins to whistle: "Put me among the girls!"--takes some branches of olive and ilex from a box near the fire--puts them in the fireplace. As he is so doing, enter Left--BARBARA--age about twenty-six--fair--rather a fine young woman, holding her blue silk dressing-gown about her. She stands in the doorway L., holding up her finger.

BARBARA: Yes, you may well whistle that! I heard you, Giacometti.

WESSON (turning round): And did it fetch you out of bed?

BARBARA: Yes, it did. I heard your dulcet tones.

WESSON: They were no dulcetter than usual.

BARBARA: And, pray, what right had they to be as dulcet!--(draws herself up)--to a little servant-maid, indeed!

WESSON: She's awfully nice, and quite a lady.

BARBARA: Yes--yes--I know you! She's pretty, is she?

WESSON: Awfully pretty! (Lighting the heap of branches in the fire.) These matches are the stinking devil.

BARBARA: Aren't they! I tried to light a cigarette with them, and I thought I should have died!

WESSON: You should have waited till the sulphur had burned away (laughing). And the pretty maid had got a mantilla on this morning.

BARBARA: Ah! I suppose the poor thing had been to church.

WESSON: It took my breath away when I opened the door, and I said "Oh!"

BARBARA: Giacomo!

WESSON: Do call me Jimmy--I hate to be Italianized!--and she blushed like fury.

BARBARA: Poor thing! Really, Giacometti, really, you are impossible.

WESSON: What for?

BARBARA: Fancy saying "Oh!" to the young maid! Remember, you're a gentleman in her eyes.

WESSON: And what's wrong with saying "Oh!" when she's got a fascinating mantilla on? I can't say delicate things in Italian--and--"Oh!"--who can't say "Oh!"--after all, what is there in it?

BARBARA: What could have been more expressive! Think of the poor thing, how embarrassed she must feel.

The fire blazes up in the big chimney.

Oh, how beautiful! Now that makes me perfectly happy. How gorgeous! How adorable! No, but, Wesson, I don't like it.

WESSON: What's that, the fire?

BARBARA: No, the little servant-maid. And you made her feel so uncomfortable.

WESSON: I didn't.

BARBARA: You must have done! Think--to her, at any rate, you're a gentleman.

WESSON: A thundering lot of a gentleman, when she finds me lighting the fire and grinding the coffee--

BARBARA: Yes, but no doubt she thinks that's an eccentricity.

WESSON: There's a lot of eccentricity about living on a hundred-and-twenty a year, the pair of us.

BARBARA: And you must remember how fearfully poor these Italians are--

WESSON: It's enough for me how fearfully poor we are ourselves--you in your silk dressing-gown! It'll be some time before you get such a one out of our purse.

BARBARA: Well, it doesn't matter--you are a gentleman here. Look, this flat is quite grand.

WESSON: It will be when you have to clean it.

BARBARA: I don't mind cleaning it; don't be horrid! This adorable fire! But you won't do it, will you?

WESSON: What?

BARBARA: Say "Oh!" to the little maid. It's not nice, really.

WESSON: Well, you see, it popped out when I saw the mantilla. I s'll be used to it another time.

BARBARA: And you won't say it?

WESSON: I won't say "Oh!"; oh dear, oh no, never no more, I won't. (Sings.)

BARBARA (kissing him): Dear!

WESSON (kissing her): What d'yer want?

BARBARA: I love you.

WESSON: So you ought.

BARBARA: Why ought I?

WESSON (at the fire): There you are, you see, that's how to set a fornello going.

BARBARA (teasing): Oh--oh, is it? And now you're going to make coffee l'ltalienne, aren't you? Oh, you wonderful person!

WESSON: I am.

Gets the coffee-mill from cupboard--grinds coffee on the table, singing:

Johnny used to grind the coffee-mill,
Mix the sugar with the sand;
But he got run in and all through mixing
His master's money with his own.

BARBARA: What is that beautiful and classic song?

WESSON sings it again.

BARBARA (laughing): Oh, you common, common brat! Anybody could tell your father was a coal-miner.

WESSON: A butty collier--and I wish yours had been ditto--you'd ha' been more use. Think of me, Lord of Creation, getting the breakfast ready. (She takes his head between her hands, and ruffles his hair.) While you stand messing about.

BARBARA: Oh, your lovely hair!--it makes waves just like the Apollo Belvedere.

WESSON: And come again to-morrer.

BARBARA: Don't--don't laugh at yourself--or at me when I say it's nice hair. It is, Giacomo, it's really beautiful.

WESSON: I know; it's the Apollo Belvedere, and my beautiful nose is Antinous, and my lovely chin is Endymion--clear out.

BARBARA: You are horrid to yourself! Why won't you let me say you're nice?

WESSON: Because the water's boiling.

BARBARA: You're not a bit nice.

WESSON: Mind!--my water's boiling! (Breaks away--making coffee in a brass jug.) If this was Pimlico or Bloomsbury, and this was a London kitchen, you wouldn't love me, would you?

BARBARA: If you could do anything so horrid as to stifle me in a poor part of London, I would not love you--I would hate you for ever. Think of me!

WESSON: But because we come careering to Italy, and the pans are of copper and brass, you adore me, don't you?

BARBARA: Yes--on the whole.

WESSON: That is, for the first month or two. We've been here six weeks.

BARBARA: Think of it--Giacomo mio, it seems like six minutes-- it frightens me.

WESSON (hesitating): It doesn't seem three months since we left England, does it?

BARBARA: I can't believe we're here yet. Giacomo, Giacomo, why is it so new, every day? Giacomo, why is it always more? It's always more, isn't it?

WESSON (putting his arms round her): You're a Judy! (Kisses her.)

BARBARA: Do you love me?

WESSON: Not a bit.

BARBARA: Not a teenty bit?

WESSON: Not a seroddy atom. (Laughs--tightens her in his arms--kisses her.)

BARBARA: You're a common thing!

WESSON: Am I no gentleman, as Frederick said?

BARBARA: No, no one could ever accuse you of being a gentleman.

WESSON: Am I a lout?

BARBARA: Oh--did it call him a lout!

WESSON: Am I a clodhopper?

BARBARA: Now--that makes me happy! That Frederick should call you a clodhopper--no, that is too much joy!

WESSON: Have they called me any more names?

BARBARA: You forget the clumsy clown--

WESSON: That your papa would have kicked downstairs--think of the poor old winded baronet--

BARBARA: Who's had his Selma all his life! And then says you're a degraded scoundrel for running away with me.

WESSON: Yes--his rotten old cheek.

BARBARA: He's a failure, too, you know--Papa's a failure! Why are all people failures?

WESSON: Couldn't say.

BARBARA: It's because their women have been so rotten to them. Mama treated my father badly, she did, just because of his Selma.

WESSON: You'd let me have a Selma, wouldn't you?

BARBARA: What! I'd show you--I'll show you if you try any of your little games on me. But poor Papa--everything he has done has gone wrong--his money--he had no son--

WESSON: So there'll be no fifth baronet--how sad--what an awful loss to society!

BARBARA: And here am I, his favourite daughter, have run away with the son of a coal-miner, from my good and loving husband.

WESSON: The right worthy Frederick Tressider, doctor of medicine. Gentleman of means. Worth a dozen of me.

BARBARA: Oh, how I hated his wooden face!

WESSON: Well, you knocked spots off it pretty roughly.

BARBARA: How common, how inexpressibly common your language is.

WESSON: There goes the milk. (Dashes to the fire.) Are you going to have bregger in the kitchen, or in the bedroom?

BARBARA: We'll have it here for once. Should we--because of this lovely fire--put some more sticks on.

WESSON: Put 'em on yourself--or, wait a minute--want eggs, or don't you?

BARBARA: Yes, let's have eggs.

WESSON: You're a lazy little devil.

BARBARA: Think--think how I worked yesterday!

WESSON: Yes--it nearly killed you, didn't it!

Silence for a moment.

BARBARA: Poor Frederick. He does love me! If I'd seen it before I'd left him--I don't think I could have done it. Why did he always hide it from me?

WESSON: He didn't. You merely never saw it.

BARBARA: Oh, but it never came out!

WESSON: What did you want him to do! He loved you right enough; you merely didn't love him--and there it stands.

BARBARA: But--I knew he was in love with me--but--why could I never feel his love? Why could I never feel it warm me?

WESSON: Because you never wanted to. You were non-conductive to this particular form of love, that's all.

BARBARA: Think, I was married to him for three years, and I was no nearer to him than I am to that fornello.

WESSON: Poor devil--it wasn't his fault.

BARBARA: Yes, I have treated him badly.

WESSON: You might have done worse by staying with him.

BARBARA: But think--how he adored me! Why did it never seem anything to me, his love? But think, Giacomo, how he must suffer--such a highly esteemed man, and so proud and sensitive--

WESSON: And we'd only known each other three weeks.

BARBARA: Oh, Giacomo; it makes me tremble! Do you think we shall bring it off?

WESSON: We shall--if we make up our minds to. But if you keep footling with the idea of Frederick, and your people, and duty--then we shan't.

BARBARA: But, Giacomo--they loved me so.

WESSON: So do I.

BARBARA: Yes, but they needed me more. And I belonged to them! And they say love wears off--and if it does!

WESSON: You were saying only a minute since it was always more.

BARBARA: Giacomo, I'm frightened.

WESSON: What of?

BARBARA: Of everything--and sometimes I wonder--don't be cross if I say it, will you?

WESSON: Say what you like.

BARBARA: Sometimes I wonder--it seems horrid--I wonder if I can trust you.

WESSON: Why?

BARBARA: You are so queer--and I am so all alone--and if you weren't good to me--

WESSON: I think you needn't be mean--

BARBARA: But look--you seem to want to take me away from everything and everybody. I feel as if you wanted to swallow me, and take my will away. You won't do it, will you, Giacomo?

WESSON: You're fatter than I am--ask a cat not to swallow a camel.

BARBARA: But do you think Frederick will divorce me?

WESSON: You'll have to insist on it.

BARBARA: No--I can't--it seems so cruel. I can't, dear. He's so cut up. You know, he says he can't publicly accuse me.

WESSON: If he'd hate you and have done with it, it would be easier. Or if he loved you, he would offer you divorce. But no, he messes about between one thing and another, and sentimentalizes.

BARBARA: But he does love me, Giacomo.

WESSON: And a fat lot of use it is to you. But he sees you don't clearly want a divorce and so he hangs on. Now he talks about your going to live with your mother, and repenting, then he'll have you back. But you like to leave a loophole by which you could creep out and go back, don't you? Ah, you do.

BARBARA: No--no--don't say it--don't say it. Only I'm frightened.

WESSON: You know your people have given out you've gone into a convent in France, for a little while, because you had got religious ideas or something like that. And I know they think you'll come crawling back at last--and Frederick is waiting for you--he's waiting--and you like to have it so--you do.

BARBARA (putting her arms round his neck): No, it's not true, Giacometti, it's not true. I do love you, don't I?

WESSON: You only don't want to belong to me.

BARBARA: But I do belong to you.

WESSON: You don't--you tamper with the idea of Frederick.

BARBARA: He'd never do to me what you want to do.

WESSON: What?

BARBARA: Humble me, and make me nothing--and then swallow me. And it's wrong. It's wrong for you to want to swallow me. I am myself--and you ought to leave me free.

WESSON: Well, so I do.

BARBARA: You don't. All the time you're at me. Oh, and I hate you so sometimes, Giacomo. Now you're cross with me.

WESSON: I should think the eggs are done.

BARBARA (seating herself): I'm hungry, Giacomo--are you?

WESSON: No--it makes me sick, the way you're always bleeding my self-respect.

BARBARA: I! I! Why it's I who've given you your self-respect. Think of the crumpled up, despairing, hating creature that came into Mrs Kelly's drawing-room--and now look at yourself.

WESSON: But you won't love me--you want to keep upper hand.

BARBARA (laughing with scorn): There you are quite mistaken. I want there to be no upper hand. I only want both of us to be free to be ourselves--and you seem as if you can't have it--you want to bully me, you want to bully me inside.

WESSON: All right--eat your breakfast then.

BARBARA: And it makes me feel as if I want to run--I want to run from you.

WESSON: Back to Frederick.

BARBARA: Yes--poor Frederick--he never made me feel like this. I was always a free woman with him.

WESSON: And mightily you regretted it.

BARBARA: No--no! Not that! Your idea of marriage is like the old savages: hit a woman on the head and run off with her.

WESSON: Very well.

The bell rings noisily.

There's the butcher.

Goes out door R--voices--re-enter WESSON.

What do you want?

BARBARA: I don't know--what do we?

WESSON: I!--

He turns round. The butcher, a handsome young fellow of about twenty, has followed him and stands in the doorway.

BARBARA: Oh!--Buon giorno!

BUTCHER: Buon giorno, signora.

BARBARA: Piove?

BUTCHER: Si.

BARBARA: Ah!--e il lago--?

BUTCHER: È burrascoso.

BARBARA: Ah--tempo cattivo per voi.

The butcher laughs.

WESSON: What do you want?

BARBARA: Er--ha vitello?

BUTCHER: Si--Si--quanto?

BARBARA: How much do we want?

WESSON: Mezzo chilo.

BARBARA: Mezzo chilo.

BUTCHER (touching his hood): Grazia--buon giorno.

The door is heard to close.

BARBARA: Oh, I like him, I like him--you said he wasn't nice.

WESSON: He's not--look at the way he comes in.

BARBARA: I like it. It's so decided, at any rate. I hate English people for the way they always hang fire.

WESSON: Do you?

BARBARA: Yes! I like him as he stands there--he looks like a wild young bull or something, peering out of his hood.

WESSON: And you flirt with him.

BARBARA: Wesson!

WESSON: I know it's a great insult to say so. But he is good-looking--and see the way you stretch out your arm, and show your throat.

BARBARA: But Wesson, how can you. I simply spoke to him. And when you think of yourself with the servant maid--

WESSON: I only laugh--you sort of show yourself.

BARBARA: Well, really, this is too much!

WESSON: True, whether or not. And you're always doing it. You always want men to think I don't keep you. You write to your mother like that, you write to Frederick like that--always as if I didn't keep you, as if you were rather undecided, you would make up your mind to walk away from me in a little while, probably.

BARBARA: How can you be so false? It would serve you right if I did leave you.

WESSON: I know that, you've said it before.

BARBARA: Really--no one but a common man would say I flirted with that butcher--

WESSON: Well, I am common--what's the odds? You've lived with me for three months.

BARBARA: That doesn't say I shall live with you for ever.

WESSON: You can go the minute you want to go.

BARBARA: Ha, could I! It's easy for you to talk. You'd see, when it came to it, how you would let me go.

WESSON: I wouldn't try to stop you, if you really, really wanted to leave me. But you've got to convince me of that first.

BARBARA: You think there's not another like you, don't you?

WESSON: For you, there isn't.

BARBARA: I'm not so sure.

WESSON: I am! But try, only try. Only try, and make your mistake. But it'll be too late, once you've done it.

BARBARA: Pooh! you needn't think you'll threaten me.

WESSON: I only tell you. Can I give you anything?

BARBARA: The honey.

He rises and gets it from the cupboard.

WESSON: I wait on you, yet I want to bully you.

BARBARA: Yes, it's subtler than that.

WESSON: If you let me wait on you, you leave yourself in my hands.

BARBARA: Not a bit of it--not a bit of it! Do you think it makes any difference to me? Frederick would have waited on me on his knees.

WESSON: Then it's time somebody taught you you're not as great as you think. You imagine you're the one and only phoenix.

BARBARA (laughing): And I am, aren't I, Giacometti? Say I am.

WESSON: I say you're a pecky, scratchy one, at that rate.

BARBARA: No--no! Say I'm nice--say I'm ever so nice.

WESSON: On rare occasions.

BARBARA: Always--say always.

WESSON: It wouldn't be true.

BARBARA: Yes--yes, it would, Giacomo. See, I'm ever so nice, aren't I? I'm ever so nice! Look at my nice arms, how they love you.

WESSON: Better than you do.

BARBARA: No--not better than I do. Come and kiss them. Come and give them a little kiss.

WESSON (going and kissing her arms): You're cruel, if you're nothing else.

BARBARA: No, I'm not. Say I'm not. Kiss me!

WESSON, laughing shakily, kisses her--A voice is heard outside. "La posta."

WESSON: Oh, Lord, there's the postman--he's the serpent in my Eden.

VOICE: La posta!

WESSON goes to the door, re-enters with letters.

WESSON (tearing open an envelope): The serpent's left his venom.

BARBARA (making a frightened face): Is it Frederick?

WESSON: And your mother.

BARBARA: Oh dear! Gia, I can't stand it.

WESSON: Why not?

BARBARA: I can't stand it--I can't--poor Frederick. If he was ill, Giacomo?

WESSON: He'd have to get better.

BARBARA: He might die.

WESSON: He wouldn't be such a fool. What's up in your letter?

BARBARA (wiping her eyes): It seems so cruel!

WESSON: Your father's ill.

BARBARA (starting and snatching the letter from his hand): Papa!

She reads, crying quietly. WESSON sits waiting--he has read Frederick's letter.

BARBARA (looking up): Is he very ill, Giacomo?

WESSON: No.

BARBARA: They'll say it's me.

WESSON: Let 'em. It's the whisky, as a matter of fact.

BARBARA: Look how cruel mama is, "Your father is very ill, but he does not wish to see you while you continue your present mode of life. The doctor says he is to be spared all strain and anxiety."

WESSON: And they're thinking of going to Harrogate, so he's not at death's door.

BARBARA: And look at Frederick's letter--"Ever since you drove a spike into my brain, on February the 24th, I have been mad." Do you think he is mad, Giacomo?

WESSON: A bit, perhaps--but so were you when you lived with him--going clean cracked.

BARBARA: He won't commit suicide, will he?

WESSON: No--no more than I shall.

BARBARA (reading): "There are some nights when I never sleep at all--I try to work, but my brain has gone." (Shudders.)

WESSON: It is vile--but I can't help it. Think of the hell if you went back to him.

BARBARA (reading--laughs): "Do not speak of Wesson. I do not wish to hear of his existence, or to know that he exists. Only, if ever he crosses my path, I will crush him like a beetle." How strong his feelings are!

WESSON: His words, you mean.

BARBARA: No, he is passionate--you don't know. And he can hate.

WESSON: He can sound like it.

BARBARA: But if he came here and killed you?

WESSON: I should offer myself to the knife, of course. I must practise being "daggerous" in readiness. (Puts a pointed kitchen knife between his teeth.) So!

BARBARA: Oh, you are lovely! (Laughs.) Let me kiss you. (He takes the knife from between his teeth--she kisses him.) Oh, the way he submits! Doesn't he like it, then?

WESSON: He likes it all right--but he's sick of this tragedy.

BARBARA: Are you tired of me, Giacomo?

WESSON: Tired of the mess we're in, that's all.

BARBARA: Do you want to be rid of me?

WESSON: I want to be sure of you.

BARBARA: Well, and you are. Do you think Frederick will ever let me go?

WESSON: You must insist on his divorcing you.

BARBARA: But I daren't, Giacomo, I daren't.

WESSON: You'd rather remain as we are?

BARBARA: No--no! Only he seems something so sure--you know--like when he said: "You have dishonoured our marriage vow, but I never will."

WESSON: That's as he pleases.

BARBARA: But it's rather fine.

WESSON: He is fine, in a thousand ways where I'm not. But you never loved him.

BARBARA: No--I never loved him. Poor Frederick, it doesn't seem fair, does it?

WESSON: It does not. You were rottenly unfair to him.

BARBARA: In what way?

WESSON: Holding him cheap. Holding his love for you lightly, when it was the biggest thing about him.

BARBARA: Why did it never seem so much to me, till I'd left him?

WESSON: You hated him. While he could keep you, he felt a man--but you didn't mean to be kept--you tortured him--you fought against him--you undermined him--you were killing him.

BARBARA: Oh no--oh no! I never hated him. I did a lot for him.

WESSON: You, perhaps, had plenty of good-will towards him--but you tortured him like hell. You, with your kindness, are one of the cruellest things going.

BARBARA: How can you say so, Giacomo! Am I cruel to you?

WESSON: You are.

BARBARA (laughing): It seems to me only funny when you say I'm cruel--I, who wouldn't hurt a fly.

WESSON: Then I wish I was a fly, and not a man.

BARBARA: Aw, did it be a man!--did it be a little man in trousers, then, did it!

WESSON: It did!--I think they're getting a bit impatient, your people. You'll see they'll combine forces just now to get you back.

BARBARA: Even if they did, I'd be gone again in three weeks.

WESSON: But if they got hold of the right handle, they'd get you back and keep you.

BARBARA: What handle?

WESSON: Oh, I dunno. Your pity, your self-sacrifice, your desire to be straight.

BARBARA: Self-sacrifice! There's a lot of self-sacrifice about me. (Laughs.) They'd find I don't work well with that handle.

WESSON: You don't know yourself. You keep them dangling.

BARBARA: Why do you hate me?

WESSON: Go to hell.

BARBARA (plaintive): Are you cross with me? But you are! (very plaintive). Why are you cross with me, Giacomo, when I love you?

WESSON: You--you only love yourself.

BARBARA: No, Giacometti, no, I don't. See how loving I am, really--see how unselfish I am--

WESSON: So unselfish you'd rob Peter to pay Paul, then go back to Peter to console him.

BARBARA: You're horrid to me.

WESSON: And you are worse to me.

BARBARA: But I'm not.

WESSON: Hm.

BARBARA (mocking him): "Hm!"--what common grunts! Kiss me (pleading): Don't you want to kiss me?

WESSON: No.

BARBARA (sadly): Aw!

WESSON (turning and taking her in his arms): You're a baggage.

BARBARA: Do you want to kiss me? (She draws back.)

WESSON: Resigned, I kiss the rod.

BARBARA: And am I the rod? Oh, Giacomo, think of me as a rod.

WESSON: You see if Frederick and your mother aren't up to some little trick just now.

BARBARA: I'm frightened, Giacomo.

WESSON: Then you're frightened of yourself, of your own hesitating, half-and-half, neither-fish-flesh-fowl--nor--good-red-herring self.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

ACT II

 

Evening, several days after the first act. The dining-room of the same villa--a rather large room, with piano, writing-desk and old furniture. In the big bay window, which looks over a garden on to the lake, is a large couch. BARBARA is lying on the couch. WESSON, without his collar and tie, sits beside her.

 

WESSON: You've got a nice chin.

BARBARA: Frederick used to adore it.

WESSON: Then he'd no business to.

BARBARA (putting her arms round his neck): Dear!

WESSON: Don't you wish there'd never been any Frederick--or anybody else--

BARBARA: Well, you haven't much room to talk; look what a mess your women had got you into.

WESSON: But don't you wish we could have come straight to each other, and been married simply, before we'd knocked about?

BARBARA: I don't trust marriage.

WESSON: Because you were stupid and married wrong--that's not the fault of marriage.

BARBARA: No--but I don't trust it.

WESSON: Folk are such fools, they should marry the right people.

BARBARA: Even when the right people are married, they go wrong.

WESSON: No--I don't believe it--and I don't believe you love me--and whether you do or not, I do love you.

BARBARA: Because you've decided to.

WESSON: Yes, because I know. I may hate you, I may rage against you, I may sneer at you--very well! It doesn't alter the fact that I love you.

BARBARA: It seems to me so queer, to make up your mind that you love anybody.

WESSON: You poke holes in me--well, I'll patch 'em up--I won't give in.

BARBARA: Oh--oh--the dear! He's on his nice little high horse, is he? Oh!--he should be on the roundabouts, on his wooden prancer!

WESSON: Or on a round-about chicken.

BARBARA: And he looks so pathetic on his chicken--the dear. (Kisses him.)

WESSON: Will you stick to me, Barbara?

BARBARA: Oh, did it want to be stuck to? It shall then--Oh, it's nice hair!

WESSON: Till death do us part--

BARBARA: Aw, is it talking about death, is it--aw!

WESSON: It's ten-past-six. What train did your mother say--the five-to-six?

BARBARA (starting): No, half-past seven.

WESSON: The six train has just gone.

BARBARA: Are you frightened?

WESSON: No--no--I'm not frightened. Only we're rather raw, really, about the business. It seems funny that we're a scandal.

BARBARA: Doesn't it!

WESSON: I'll go and look if I can see anybody, shall I?

BARBARA: Yes! Kiss me first. (He kisses her.)

Exit WESSON. BARBARA sits up straightening her hair. She is in Bavarian peasant dress, with bare arms and throat. WESSON comes running in.

WESSON: I don't think it's she--but there is a woman--

BARBARA: Good gracious--and look at us! (She flies out--her voice is heard, excited): yes--it's she. Quick!

WESSON: Well, I must get my collar on first.

In a great flurry, he ties his tie, then runs out. The stage is empty. Then voices are heard.

VOICE OF BARBARA: Poor Mama!

They both laugh--there is silence. The door-bell rings loudly. BARBARA rushes in and stands near the door. WESSON is heard outside.

VOICE OF WESSON: Oh, how do you do! This is earlier than we thought.

VOICE OF LADY CHARLCOTE: How do you do, Mr Wesson?

Enter LADY CHARLCOTE--about sixty--white hair, shortish, stout, rather handsome--looks resentful--uglily dressed.

BARBARA: Oh--Mama!

Runs forward, laughing shakily--does not kiss--takes her mother's hand--then stands embarrassed.

LADY CHARLCOTE (looking round): Yes--

BARBARA: Take your things off--

LADY CHARLCOTE: But I mustn't stay--I mustn't stay. (Taking off her gloves--nervous.) I want to say to you, Mr Wesson, why don't you do something for Barbara?

WESSON (astonished): But I do.

LADY CHARLCOTE: But you don't. A married woman, and you keep her here with you as she is. It is wrong, quite wrong.

WESSON: But you don't know--you don't understand.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Yes, yes, I do understand. It is you who don't understand. What right have you to do it? Barbara has a husband in England, a good honest gentleman, who is going mad because of her. She is here, but she can go back.

BARBARA: But, Mama, what I do, I do of myself. (She is crocheting nervously.)

LADY CHARLCOTE: Yes. (Turning to WESSON.) You have not got even enough money to keep her. She has to have money from her sister, from her friends. She is the daughter of a high-born and highly cultured gentleman.

BARBARA: But if I choose to do it, Mama, it is my own affair.

LADY CHARLCOTE: No, it isn't. Think of your father--think of Frederick. (Turning to WESSON.) And do you expect to build up happiness on the ruins of this life? You cannot. Think of your future. You can do nothing with my daughter. You can't put her in her own station, you can't even give her an honest name. Is she to live with you, and take money from her husband and her friends?

WESSON: She needn't take any money from anybody.

LADY CHARLCOTE: And you say you will live here. You try it for six months, Mr Wesson, and you will wish yourself dead, you will find it so dull. And Barbara is to be the servant, and she is to have no friends, no, not a friend in the world, but is to live buried here among these common Italians. Another man's wedding ring and engagement ring on her finger at this minute. The very bills of her last dresses left for her husband to pay.

BARBARA: But, Mama, I'm not a horse that is to be kept. You don't consider me.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Yes, it is you I consider. How can any man say he loves you, when he brings you into this shame. Where will you live?

WESSON: But if there were a divorce--

LADY CHARLCOTE (to him): You think only of yourself. Think of her father. He is getting old now. Where will he go, that he can hold his head up. It is a shame that will kill him. It will kill everybody. (Beginning to cry--looking in her handbag for a hanky.) We are old, and hoped to live at last in peace. Haven't we had trouble enough in our lives? And how can I sleep at night, thinking of my daughter, and what is to become of her. Her father does not want to see her again. (Cries.) There is no rest, and no peace. Her husband comes, and it nearly kills me to see the state he is in. A woman--what is to become of her, what is to become of her. And you keep her here.

WESSON: No--I don't keep her.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Yes, you keep her here--the daughter of a highly cultured gentleman, as your mistress. It is impossible. And her husband is so good. He will have her back in spite of all, and everything can be hushed up--

BARBARA: I don't want things to be hushed up. What I do I want to be done openly--

LADY CHARLCOTE: Don't be a fool--you can't live on ideas.

WESSON: No--I don't want people to talk--

LADY CHARLCOTE: But they will talk. Sir William and I have come out here because they've started--and his heart so bad! We expect to be considered by our children, but they turn on us. It's not natural that we should have all this trouble now, when we're not expecting it. Everything begins to look comfortable, and Barbara so well settled, when this happens. As her mother, as a woman older than yourself, I've got to tell you it's wrong, absolutely wrong, and can only end in sorrow. You will see in a few years' time where you will be. It is my duty to warn you. And you must let Barbara go back with me.

WESSON shakes his head--BARBARA crochets nervously--there is silence.

BARBARA: Has Papa come with you, then?

LADY CHARLCOTE: Yes--we're staying a month with Laura in Gardone.

WESSON (rising): Let me give you something to eat.

LADY CHARLCOTE: No--no--I must be going at once. I must be going. It's such a long way to the station.

WESSON: Excuse me.

Exit WESSON.

BARBARA (quietly): How does Frederick look?

LADY CHARLCOTE: Oh, poor fellow! If you saw him, you could never do it.

BARBARA (bending her head over her work): Is he ill?

LADY CHARLCOTE: Ill!--poor fellow! He is three parts mad! And he loves you, Barbara, he loves you! How can you throw away the love of a man like that?

BARBARA: Does he really want me, or does he want his reputation--or rather mine.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Poor fellow--such a position to leave him in. And has he ever been anything but good to you? You have had everything you wanted--

BARBARA: I haven't. He has been good to me--I wish he hadn't, it would have been easier. He has been good to me, and he's given me everything he could. But I haven't had what I wanted, no, and he couldn't give it me.

LADY CHARLCOTE: And do you mean that this man can?

BARBARA crochets in silence--they wait for each other.

BARBARA: Will it kill him?

LADY CHARLCOTE: I tell him, at this rate he won't live long.

Enter WESSON with a tray, wine, biscuits, bread and butter.

WESSON: Will you have a glass of wine--it's "vin de pays", but it's--at any rate, it's all right for me, though I'm no connoisseur.

LADY CHARLCOTE: No, thank you.

WESSON: Could I make you a cup of tea?

LADY CHARLCOTE: Oh no, thank you very much.

BARBARA: Is Papa in Gardone?

LADY CHARLCOTE: In Brescia--but he doesn't want to see you. Oh, thank you--But he expects you to come back in a proper state of mind--I think it's all you can do, to make the best of it now. This is impossible. (Neither of them answers.) And we are staying at the Monte Baldo. You will write to me, Barbara.

BARBARA: Yes. Good-bye, Mama. (They shake hands.)

LADY CHARLCOTE: Good-bye. (To WESSON): Oh, don't you trouble to come out.

WESSON: I think it is no good for Barbara to go back to Frederick. It would only be misery for them both. They can't--

Exit talking. BARBARA remains alone. Her hands fall in her lap, and she broods. There is sound of a carriage--re-enter WESSON--he flings his cap on the table. When BARBARA hears him coming she picks up her crocheting. When he enters she looks up with a laugh.

BARBARA: Poor Mama--always full of commonsense. She was always a good one at showing the sensible side of the affair. But didn't it seem common to you--like any of the women of the common people you've told me about?

WESSON: Just. Only it's natural. At any rate she wasn't lofty.

BARBARA: Oh no--Mama would never have been that. She would have said just the same to a Grand Duke.

WESSON: She wouldn't--look at the money business. You don't need any of their money--we can live on what I earn.

BARBARA: And I don't mind making your bed. I wouldn't do it for any man--no, I wouldn't. But I don't mind.

WESSON: If I can't give you much money, well, I give you everything I've got.

BARBARA: Yes, it was mean of her, bringing that up--it's like kicking a man when he's down.

WESSON: But I suppose anybody would do it. She doesn't seem superior, that's one thing. But I hate them! Why can't they leave us alone! What do I care what the old Mrs Baronet says.

BARBARA (laughing): You looked as if you didn't care--the way you sat in that chair. (Imitates him, half crouching.)

WESSON: Well--that coming all at once--

BARBARA: When we'd been so happy--yes, it was a bit overwhelming!

WESSON: I thought the heavens had opened and the last day come.

BARBARA: You looked it--the way you sat crumpled up in that chair. (Laughs.)

WESSON: What could I do?

BARBARA (laughing): You looked so frightened, so crumpled up! I expected you every minute to wither away into nothing. (Laughs uncontrollably) I thought there'd be nothing left of you (interrupted by her laughter). You--you seemed to get less and less--till--(helpless with laughter) I thought you'd be gone. (laughing) I was frightened--I wanted to get hold of your coat-tails (laugh) to keep you.

WESSON: Well, what could I do?

BARBARA: I thought you were going to creep under that desk. (Shaking and helpless with laughter, she points to the hole under the writing desk, by which he sits.) I thought you were going to crawl inside like a dog into a kennel (helpless laughter) and pop your head out, and look sideways at her, and say "Yap--yap" in a little, frightened voice--then rush inside.

WESSON: Well--if she'd been a man, I might have shouted--but what else could I do?

BARBARA: You looked so crumpled up, with your little tail between your legs. (Laughs.) You did want to get into that corner. (Laughs helplessly--then rises.) Mind, let me show you. (Laughing, she almost falls to the floor, then creeps inside the space under the desk--pokes out her head--falls face forward on the floor with laughter--lifts up her face, peering sideways.) Yap--yapyap! Yap!--the little dog! (She shrieks with laughter--he giggles from time to time--she rises again.)

WESSON: No--I wasn't as bad as that.

BARBARA (shrieking): You were, you were! I thought I should have died. And every minute I had visions of you collapsing under the desk and barking at Mama. (Laughing.) Poor Mama, what would she have done if you had?

WESSON: I wish I had.

BARBARA: I wish you had, I wish you had! (Drying her eyes.) But no, you sat there getting less and less. You can go so little, like a dying pig.

WESSON: Well, you were impressed, you know you were.

BARBARA: I wasn't--I wanted to scream. Why didn't you suddenly get up and flap your arms like a cockerel and crow?

WESSON: But what good would it have done?

BARBARA: It would have been so beautiful. Or you might have got astride on a chair and gone riding round the room, shouting.

WESSON: I might have done a lot of things.

BARBARA: Oh, you might, and you did nothing but crumple up! What a pity! (Beginning to laugh again.) You looked anything but a hero that time.

WESSON: I didn't feel a hero. And if I'd crowed like a cock I shouldn't have looked a hero.

BARBARA: Mama little thought what havoc she'd work in our little ménage. (Laughing.) But why do you take it so seriously?

WESSON: I don't take it seriously, but I reckon it's rather rotten of her. We thought she was coming friendlily, to help. . . . What will you eat?

BARBARA: I don't mind a bit.

WESSON (drinking wine): Drink?

BARBARA: Thank you. (She drinks a little.)

WESSON: I told her the only thing possible was a divorce.

BARBARA: You know what a muddler she is. She blows with every wind.

WESSON: I don't care how she blows, so long as we can get that divorce.

BARBARA: If she goes and gets Frederick's back up now, God knows when you'll get it, I tell you.

WESSON: I don't care--they can all go to hell! But until you stand up in front of me and say, "I want definitely to go back to Frederick--you're no good to me", I shall tell them to go to blazes.

BARBARA: It looks as if you'll tell them a lot. Poor little dog, is his tail coming up again? Come here and be kissed.

WESSON: I don't want to be kissed. Will you eat now?

BARBARA: Just as you like.

WESSON: A tray is ready.

Goes out--returns immediately with the supper tray.

BARBARA: Poor Frederick--it does twist my inside to think about him.

WESSON: And a lot of good may it do you.

BARBARA: Do you think he really might go mad?

WESSON: Not unless he's weak-minded to start with.

BARBARA: Well, he isn't--his mind is stronger than yours, if it came to it.

WESSON (rather ashamed): I know he's not--and he won't go mad.

BARBARA: But he loves me so. (Plaintively.)

WESSON: He should have more sense, then, for you don't love him.

BARBARA: But I do, Giacomo.

WESSON: Very well, you do, then.

BARBARA: And I can't bear him to suffer.

WESSON: You made him suffer worse underneath, twisting your spear in his secret wound, before you left him, than you do now that it's open. He can doctor an open wound. A secret one drives him mad.

BARBARA: But I didn't torture him. I was a joy to him. And think of it, Giacomo, I was the only joy he'd ever had in his life.

WESSON: And the only sorrow.

BARBARA: Why do you want to say horrid things about me?

WESSON: I don't.

BARBARA: But you do! Look, you say I tortured Frederick.

WESSON: So you did. So you torture me.

BARBARA: But how?--tell me how, Giacomo.

WESSON: You needn't laugh at me when I'm feeling a fool.

BARBARA: You hate me, Giacomo.

WESSON: Does it please you?

BARBARA: Why should it please me? Why should it please me, Giacomo?

WESSON: It appears to. You seem to exult.

BARBARA: I exult because you wither away when Mama scolds you! I assure you I don't exult in your heroic appearance then.

WESSON: I don't ask you to.

BARBARA: What does he want then--does he want me to fall at his feet and worship him, does he then? (She does so--goes on her knees at his feet, puts her forehead to the ground--raises it up and down--in a consoling, mocking voice.) La--di-da--di-da!--did it want to be worshipped?

WESSON (seizing her by the arm): Get up, you lunatic.

BARBARA: But don't you like to be worshipped?

WESSON (gripping her arm): Get up.

She rises slowly--he grips both her arms.

You love! You love only yourself!

BARBARA (putting her tongue out at him): Tra--la-la--la!

WESSON: Yes.

BARBARA: Tra--la-la--la! (He remains holding her--she says, almost pleading): Let me go.

WESSON: I won't.

BARBARA: I'll make you.

WESSON: Try!

BARBARA: I will!

WESSON: Try! (A moment of silence.)

BARBARA (subduedly): You hurt my arms.

WESSON (through his teeth): And why shouldn't I?

BARBARA: Don't be horrid.

WESSON puts his arms round her, fastens her close.

WESSON: Oh, you're not faithful to me!

His voice is like a cry. He reaches forward, his mouth to her throat.

BARBARA (thickly): I am.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

ACT III

 

SCENE I

 

Morning, the next day. BARBARA in walking-out dress, WESSON in an old jacket.

 

BARBARA: What time did the man say Mama would be here?

WESSON: I understood she would come for you in a carriage at ten o'clock.

BARBARA: And did she really say you mustn't come?

WESSON: She said she wished to drive alone with you.

BARBARA: Put your coat on and come, too.

WESSON: No--perhaps she wants to talk to you, and to have you to herself a bit. It's natural. You needn't do anything that you don't want to do.

BARBARA: Why should she ask me for a drive without you? It's like her impudence--I won't go!

WESSON: Yes, you'd better.

BARBARA: You'd say I'd better do any miserable thing they liked to ask me.

WESSON: Alright.

BARBARA: Why don't you say I oughtn't to go for a drive with Mama without you?

WESSON: Because I don't care--your mother can use all her persuasions and reasons till she's sick of it.

BARBARA: But why should she?

WESSON: It's probably the shortest way, if we stick to ourselves all through.

BARBARA: A fine lot of sticking to yourself you do, don't you? Think of the shrivelling creature whom Mama scolded yesterday.

WESSON: I was true to myself, then--and to you.

BARBARA: Were you--were you! Then I'll have another kind of fidelity, thank you.

WESSON: You won't. And now you'd better go.

BARBARA: Go!

WESSON: For your drive. You'll find Lady Charlcote before you get to the Piazza.

BARBARA: And if I don't choose to?

WESSON (shrugging): You'll please yourself.

BARBARA: Tra--la-la--la!

WESSON: I wish you'd go.

BARBARA: Why do you wish I'd go? I will, then.

Exit--the door is heard to bang. WESSON watches her.

WESSON: There goes the carriage, and the old lady. I should like to murder the twopence-ha'penny lot of them, with their grizzling and whining and chuffing. If they'd leave us alone we should be alright--damn them! Miserable bits of shouters! My mother was worth a million of 'em, for they've none of 'em the backbone of a flea--She doesn't want to stick to me--she doesn't want to love me--she won't let herself love me. She wants to save some rotten rag of independence--she's afraid to let herself go and to belong to me.

He goes to the sideboard, drinks wine, looks at a book, throws it down, plays a dozen chords on the piano, gets up, drinks more wine, sits down to write, and remains perfectly still, as if transfixed--all the time he has moved quietly--the door-bell rings--he does not hear--it rings louder--he starts up and goes to the door--is heard saying, "How do you do? Will you come in?" Enter SIR WILLIAM CHARLCOTE--short, stout, a gentleman--grey bristling moustache.

WESSON: Will you sit down?

SIR WILLIAM (taking a seat near the door): Thank you.

WESSON (offering cigarettes in a threepenny packet): Excuse the packet.

SIR WILLIAM: Thank you, I have some of my own.

WESSON throws the packet on the table and sits on the couch.

WESSON: It's a nice day.

SIR WILLIAM: Yes. (Clearing his throat.) I called to hear from yourself an account of what you intend to do.

WESSON (knitting his fingers): I intend to do nothing but what I am doing.

SIR WILLIAM: And what is that?

WESSON: Living here--working--

SIR WILLIAM: And keeping my daughter under the present conditions?

WESSON: Barbara stays as long as she will. I am here for her while she wants me.

SIR WILLIAM: But you have no right to be here for her to want.

WESSON: But I say, while ever she wants me, I am here for her.

SIR WILLIAM: Don't you see that is cowardly and base.

WESSON: Is it the morality of it you want to discuss?

SIR WILLIAM: Yes--yes--it is the right of it. You may perhaps think I have no room to talk. That is like your damned impudence.

WESSON: But that's not the point.

SIR WILLIAM: A man has a right to any woman whom he can get, so long as she's not a married woman. Go with all the unmarried women you like. But touch a married woman, and you are a scoundrel.

WESSON: So!

SIR WILLIAM: It destroys the whole family system, and strikes at the whole of society. A man who does it is as much a criminal as a thief, a burglar, or even a murderer. You see my point?

WESSON: Your point of view.

SIR WILLIAM: You see so much. Then you see what you are doing: a criminal act against the State, against the rights of man altogether, against Dr Tressider, and against my daughter.

WESSON: So!

SIR WILLIAM: And seeing that, only an--only a criminal by conviction can continue in what he is doing--a fellow who deserves to be locked up.

WESSON: If life went according to deserts.

SIR WILLIAM: If you intend to behave in the least like a man, you will clear out of this place--

WESSON: I've got the house on a six months' lease.

SIR WILLIAM: I will pay the lease.

WESSON: It is paid--but I like the place, and prefer to stay.

SIR WILLIAM: That is, you will continue to keep my daughter in--in--in this shame and scandal--

WESSON: She chooses to stay.

SIR WILLIAM: If plain reasoning will not convince you, we must try other methods.

WESSON: Very well.

SIR WILLIAM: You--whom I thought to be doing a service by asking you to my house--

The bell rings.

WESSON (rising): Excuse me a moment.

Exit--voices--enter BARBARA, followed by LADY CHARLCOTE and WESSON.

BARBARA: Papa!

SIR WILLIAM: I came to speak with this man.

BARBARA: But why behind my back?

SIR WILLIAM: I will come when I like. I will not have women, and especially women like you, about me when I have anything to say.

BARBARA: Nor more will I have men like you interfering with my affairs behind my back, Papa!

LADY CHARLCOTE: For shame, Barbara.

BARBARA (turning, flashing): What right has he to come bullying Wesson behind my back. I came away with him--it was I who suggested he should come to Italy with me when I was coming to see Laura. So when you have anything to say, Papa, say it to me--if you dare.

SIR WILLIAM: Dare! Dare!

BARBARA: Whom are you talking to, Papa--and you of all people! I did not love Frederick, and I won't live with him--so there--and you may go.

SIR WILLIAM (picking up his hat): I never want to see you again.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Barbara, you should respect your father.

BARBARA: Mama--you--you--then let him respect me, and the man I live with.

Exit SIR WILLIAM.

LADY CHARLCOTE: What has he said?

WESSON: It does not matter.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Well--now you must make the best of your own affairs--for you've cut off all your own people from you, Barbara.

BARBARA: I have not cut myself off--it's you who have left me in the lurch. I was miserable with Frederick. I felt I couldn't stand it. You would have helped me to have had lovers, Mama. But because I come away decently and openly you all turn on me.

LADY CHARLCOTE: You know it is impossible--

BARBARA: Very well, I will be impossible!

LADY CHARLCOTE: I shall never leave you in the lurch. (Crying.) You are my daughter, whatever happens.

Exit--WESSON hurries to the door after her--it is heard to close--he returns.

BARBARA: Why do you let them trample on you? Why do you play the poor worm? It drives me mad!

WESSON: But you don't want me to insult your father.

BARBARA: But why do you let yourself be bullied and treated like dirt?

WESSON: I don't.

BARBARA: You do--you do--and I hate you for it.

WESSON: Very well. (She sits down on the couch, twisting her handkerchief. He seats himself beside her and takes her hand.) Never mind, they'll get over it.

BARBARA: Papa won't--and I have loved him so.

WESSON: He will.

BARBARA: He won't! Oh, but I hate him--a mean funker! But he always was a funker. He had his Selma on the sly, and when Mama found him out--it positively broke him. What did he say to you?

WESSON: He explained his point of view, which seems to me perfectly logical.

BARBARA: And I suppose you agreed with him?

WESSON: No; I didn't agree with him--only I understood.

BARBARA: And you cringed to him, I know you did.

WESSON: I don't think so.

BARBARA: And now they've left me.

WESSON: Never mind--they can slam at us, but we can stand it.

BARBARA: But it's so horrible--and I have to fight for you, as if you weren't a man.

WESSON: I don't think you have any need.

BARBARA: Yes, but I have--and all the burden falls on me--you don't take your share.

WESSON: Surely I do! Never mind, I know it's horrid for you. But you will stick to me, won't you?

BARBARA: I didn't think it would be so hard--I have to fight you, and them, and everybody. Not a soul in the world gives me the tiniest bit of help.

WESSON: That's only because you feel rotten. I love you, Barbara.

BARBARA: Doesn't it make you hate me, all this horridness?

WESSON: Why should it? I don't care what comes, so that we get a little closer.

BARBARA: But it's worth it, isn't it, Giacomo?--say I'm worth it.

WESSON (putting his arms round her and kissing her): You're the only thing in life and in the world that I've got--you are.

BARBARA: Are you sure?

WESSON: I've got my work, which isn't life. Then there's nothing else but you--not a thing--and if you leave me--well, I've done.

BARBARA: How do you mean, done?

WESSON: Only my effort at life. I shall feel as if I had made my big effort--put all my money down--and lost. The only thing remaining would be to go on and make the best of it.

BARBARA: I suppose that's how Frederick feels.

WESSON: I suppose it is--if only he would get a grip on and try to make the best of it.

BARBARA: But it's not so easy.

WESSON: No, it isn't, poor devil. But if he's got to do it, he may as well.

BARBARA: Oh, do you love me enough, Giacomo?

WESSON: I love you enough for whatever you want me for.

BARBARA: Sure?

WESSON: Sure! The question is, do you love me enough?

BARBARA: I love you better than you love me.

WESSON: Take your hat off, I can't kiss you.

BARBARA (obediently removing her hat): Mama told me Papa was coming--I was furious, it seemed such a mean dodge. They are mean, though, and sordid. Did he say horrid things to you?

WESSON: He said he'd thrash me.

BARBARA (laughing): Fancy little Papa!

WESSON: Are you miserable? Are you sorry you're done out of your drive?

BARBARA: No, I'm thankful to be back with you. If only they left us in peace, we could be so happy.

WESSON: They seem to grudge it us, don't they?

BARBARA: Yes! And Mama says perhaps Frederick's coming.

WESSON: At any rate we s'll have had 'em all, then.

BARBARA: But I couldn't bear to see him, Giacomo!

WESSON: Then don't see him.

BARBARA: But he might do something mad.

WESSON: Let him.

BARBARA: No--I couldn't bear it. I couldn't bear it if anything happened to him.

WESSON: Why should anything happen to him?

BARBARA: And what would he do if he saw me? Would he go quite mad?

WESSON: You're not such a magical person as all that.

BARBARA: But you don't know him.

WESSON: Quite sufficiently.

BARBARA: Isn't it funny--when I was first engaged to him, and was reading Othello, I thought what a good Othello he'd make, better than the real one.

WESSON: You feel sure he'll slay you, poor Desdemona.

BARBARA (laughing): Yes--he's so Othelloish.

WESSON: And you so Desdemoniacal, aren't you?

BARBARA (laughing): What does that mean?

WESSON: It means you sit sighing by a sycamore tree, you poor soul.

BARBARA (kissing him): O, I love you!

WESSON: Do you?

 

CURTAIN

 

 

SCENE II

 

Evening of the same day, WESSON sits alone, writing. Enter BARBARA, resplendent in an evening dress, with ornament in her hair. She stands in the doorway, looking across at herself in a mirror.

 

BARBARA: You've never seen me in this before. (He looks up--puts his pen between his teeth--she preens herself.)

WESSON (after a moment): I hate it.

BARBARA (hurt): But why?--I look nice. Don't I look nice?

WESSON: I hate it--I hate it--you belong to those others in it.

BARBARA: But how nasty of you, Giacometti! It's only the dress--the woman is just the same.

WESSON: She's not. She's according to her frock, which is Frederick's. You put it on for Frederick, not for me.

BARBARA: I didn't. I want you to see how grand I can look. Don't you really think I look nice?

WESSON: No--I'd rather see you in your kitchen pinafore.

BARBARA: See how you want to drag me down. But you've got an evening suit. (Laughing): Does it really hurt you? (Sits down and begins to play a dance on the piano--it is the "Blue Danube"--she breaks off.) It's the dearest dress I ever had.

WESSON: Take it off, Barbara.

BARBARA (slowing down--she is very quiet): Yes.

Rises--exit slowly. He sits chewing his pen--in a moment she rushes back, lays her hands on his shoulder.

BARBARA: There's Frederick!

WESSON: Rubbish!--Where?

BARBARA: At the gate--with Mama--I saw them from the bedroom window.

LADY CHARLCOTE'S voice is heard calling "Barbara!"

BARBARA: Quick! I'll call to them from the window I'm coming--I will--(Moves to the window.)

WESSON: What's the good? Let them go away again.

BARBARA: I'll call now--

WESSON: Damn!

He moves grudgingly to the door.

BARBARA stands with her hands clasped over her bare breast, terrified--listening. The gate is heard to bang open--voices--enter FREDERICK, alone--a haggard, handsome man of forty, brown moustache, dark brown eyes, greying at the temples. He hesitates at the door.

FREDERICK (ironically): May I come in?

BARBARA (frightened): What do you want?

FREDERICK: Merely permission to speak to you.

BARBARA: You know you may speak to me.

They hesitate--enter WESSON, followed by LADY CHARLCOTE.

WESSON: Barbara, do you want me to go with Lady Charlcote to the Hotel Cervo for half an hour?

BARBARA: I don't know. (Sinks on to the couch.)

WESSON: You must tell me to go.

DR TRESSIDER looks at him sideways and shows his teeth, but does not speak--BARBARA watches the two men in terror.

BARBARA: Perhaps you'd better go--Mama can stay with me.

LADY CHARLCOTE: I think Frederick has the right to speak to you alone, Barbara.

BARBARA (almost whispering): But why--?

FREDERICK: Are you afraid that I may abduct you?

LADY CHARLCOTE: No, Frederick, I don't think it is fair to leave her alone with you.

FREDERICK (nastily): Don't you? Perhaps it isn't safe--

LADY CHARLCOTE: You might not be responsible for what you did.

FREDERICK: So the only place for me is the lunatic asylum.

BARBARA: If you are like that, Frederick, I don't know what you can want to speak to me at all for.

FREDERICK: It is a question for surprise.

BARBARA: I'd much rather you did treat me as dirt, and left me alone.

WESSON: Will you sit down, Lady Charlcote?

FREDERICK (to WESSON): Will you please take yourself away, while I speak to my wife?

BARBARA: Yes, go, Wesson.

LADY CHARLCOTE: I would go for a few minutes, Mr Wesson. It can't do you any harm. Things will settle themselves then.

WESSON (to BARBARA): Must I?

BARBARA: Only to the--to one of the other rooms.

WESSON: I'll go to the bedroom, then.

Exit sullenly.

FREDERICK (taking a seat): I'm glad you look so well, Barbara.

LADY CHARLCOTE: You won't do any good that way, Frederick.

FREDERICK (turning slowly to her): Perhaps you'll tell me what to say!

LADY CHARLCOTE: You needn't behave like a fool, at any rate.

BARBARA: I'm afraid you've been ill, Frederick.

FREDERICK: Yes--I am ill! I am glad to see you are so well.

BARBARA: Don't, Frederick--what is the good of this--what is the good of it? Let us make the best we can now--

FREDERICK: Exactly!

BARBARA: Then the only sane thing would be to say what you came to say and let us get it over.

FREDERICK: I came for your instructions, of course.

BARBARA: It seems rather stupid, don't you think?

FREDERICK: I've no doubt I always was stupid--a trusting fool--

BARBARA: You know it wasn't like that. Do you really wish to speak to me?

FREDERICK: Yes, I think I can honestly say I do. It, no doubt, surprises you.

BARBARA: Then for God's sake don't torture me any longer.

FREDERICK: It would be a pity! But what I have to say I have to say to my wife, not to the world at large, or even to my mother-in-law, or your paramour.

BARBARA: Perhaps you had better leave us alone, Mama.

FREDERICK: Hadn't you better consider again, Barbara? Wouldn't that be giving me too much encouragement? I might take a liberty. I might even ask you to gallivant with me, like a seductive footman, or dustman. (There is silence.)

LADY CHARLCOTE: I can go into another room. (Making signs to BARBARA.) Where can I go, Barbara?

BARBARA rises--they go out together--FREDERICK looks round--gnaws the ends of his moustache. Re-enter BARBARA--she leaves the door open--he glances, sees it, but makes no remark.

BARBARA (taking her former seat): Mama is in my bedroom.

FREDERICK: Anything to say to me?

BARBARA: Don't be horrid with me, Frederick. I know I deserve it--

FREDERICK: I'll try not to be. (He sits devouring her with his eyes.)You're in full-dress to-night, madam! Was it a great occasion?

BARBARA: No--I put it on--it's the first time.

FREDERICK: You look the thing in it. I turned up to see you on your mettle, by good luck.

BARBARA: Don't.

FREDERICK: Beautiful good luck. War-paint, I suppose!

BARBARA: You told me once you'd never be hard on a woman.

FREDERICK: I'm sorry if I'm hard on you--that would be unjust!

BARBARA: Don't talk like that--Frederick.

FREDERICK: What shall we talk about--you or me?

BARBARA: Tell me about yourself--

FREDERICK: Ha!--how I suffered, you mean?

BARBARA: I know it's been awful for you.

FREDERICK: Do you really--I shouldn't have thought it.

BARBARA: Oh, but I do! It's nearly driven me cracked sometimes.

FREDERICK: Ha! It was kind of you.

BARBARA (going forward impulsively and putting her hand on his knee): Don't--

FREDERICK: I won't--but tell me what--I must--

BARBARA: Don't be like this--I can't bear it.

FREDERICK: You might tell me what you can bear.

BARBARA: Why can't you cast me off--why can't you find some other woman--there's Annabel, who adores you--or Lizzie Burroughs--

FREDERICK: You think they'd make good successors to you?

BARBARA: You might love them better than me--you might! See, I was not faithful to you.

FREDERICK (laughing): I wouldn't rub it in, if I were you.

BARBARA (frightened): But I'm not!

FREDERICK: So you think I might do well to marry again?

BARBARA: I thought--I can't bear--to think of you being lonely.

FREDERICK: And you'd give me a wedding present, I dare say, and give the woman advice how to fool me.

BARBARA: No--no--I won't let you say these things--

FREDERICK: I dare say. You were wasted on me, weren't you?

BARBARA: You were good to me--but you never understood me--

FREDERICK: I'm sorry! I understood you wanted a decent life, and I worked hard for you. I understood you wanted some amusement--you did exactly as you liked--you had everything I had--and had your own way. I was faithful to you from the day I saw you--and before that. You might have called me a model husband. I suppose that was my fault.

BARBARA (crying): No--it wasn't your fault to be a good husband--that's why I love you still--in a way--you were so good to me--but--you weren't near to me--

FREDERICK: I think I was as near as ever you'd let me come.

BARBARA: No--no--can't you remember--when we were first married--I thought marriage would be a jolly thing--I thought I could have lovely games with the man. Can you remember, when I climbed to the top of the cupboard, in Lucerne? I thought you'd look for me, and laugh, and fetch me down. No, you were terrified. You daren't even come in the room. You stood in the door looking frightened to death. And I climbed down. And that's how it always was. I had to climb down.

FREDERICK: And so you left me?

BARBARA: Yes! I couldn't live with you.

FREDERICK: Because I didn't drag you by the ankle from the cupboard tops!

BARBARA: Yes--that's it.

FREDERICK: And how long did it take you to find this out?

BARBARA: You know very well that I was only introduced to Wesson about a month before--you knew all about it.

FREDERICK: And may I inquire after the predecessors of this clown?

BARBARA: Yourself.

FREDERICK: I enjoy that honour alone, do I--with the miserable clown--

BARBARA: You were not going to speak of him.

FREDERICK: And pray, when did you find out then that I had not--not found the real you.

BARBARA: The first night of our marriage--when I stood on that balcony and wanted to drown myself--and you were asleep.

FREDERICK: And afterwards--I suppose you forgot it?

BARBARA: Sometimes. You were good to me--and I didn't think then there could be anything else.

FREDERICK: Than what?

BARBARA: Than going on as I was--as your wife.

FREDERICK: And you never loved me?

BARBARA: Sometimes--when you were so nice to me--

FREDERICK: Out of gratitude, as it were, and feeling you ought to love me.

BARBARA: I always felt I ought to love you.

FREDERICK: But could never bring it off. Ha!--thank you for the try, at any rate.

BARBARA: And of course sometimes I hated you.

FREDERICK: Naturally.

BARBARA: And now it's over.

FREDERICK: As you say--it's over.

There is a long silence.

FREDERICK (in a sudden outburst): Woman, do you know I've given my life to you? Do you know, everything I did, everything I thought, everywhere I went, was for you? I have worked till I reeled, I was so tired. I have been your slave--

BARBARA: That's it--I didn't want you to be my slave--

FREDERICK: I--I--I have done everything. How often have I asked you, "What do you want of me?" Why didn't you tell me then? Why didn't you say? Why have you deceived me all this while, letting me think you loved me?

BARBARA: I didn't deceive you; (crying) I didn't know myself.

FREDERICK: How many times have you had your arms round my neck, and said, "Do you love me?"--I might well answer, "Malheureusement." What was that but deceit--

BARBARA: It wasn't lying to you, Frederick--you did love me, and I wanted you to love me--

FREDERICK: What right had you to want me to love you, when you cared not a couple of straws about me?

BARBARA: I did want you to love me--you were all I had--

FREDERICK: Until another came along, and then you threw my love away like a piece of dirty paper wrapping.

BARBARA: No--no--I didn't!

FREDERICK: What else have you done? You have thrown me away like a bit of paper off a parcel. You got all the goods out of the packet, and threw me away--I gave you everything, my life, everything, and it is not worth the stump of a cigarette, when it comes to--I tell you, this is the end of me. I could work then, but now my brain has gone.

BARBARA: No, Frederick, no--you will work again.

FREDERICK: I tell you I can no more work now than you can row a boat when you have lost the oars. I am done for--as a man you see me here a ruin. Some nights I sleep, some nights I never close my eyes. I force myself to keep sane. But in the end my brain will go--and then I shall make an end--

BARBARA (going over to him, kneeling with her hand on his knee, crying): No--no, Frederick--no--no!

FREDERICK: Then I shall go to Wood Norton--do you remember, where I saw you first--a girl of eighteen with a sash? I shall go to that pine wood where the little grove of larches is, and I shall make an end.

BARBARA (her head on his knee--weeping): Oh, what can I do--what can I do?

FREDERICK: I've no doubt it all sounds very melodramatic--but it's the truth for me. Then your work will be finished. I have loved you. I would have spilt my blood on every paving stone in Bromley for you, if you had wanted me to--

BARBARA: But I didn't want you to. I wanted you to come near to me and make me yours and you be mine. But you went on worshipping me instead of loving me--kissing my feet instead of helping me. You put me on a pedestal, and I was miserable.

FREDERICK: And you never loved me all the time!

BARBARA: I did love you--I did love you!

FREDERICK (his fists clenched--shuddering): I could strangle you!

BARBARA (terrified): Don't--don't--I shall scream! (She gets up afraid and draws back. He gets hold of one of her arms.)

FREDERICK: You devil--you devil--you devil! But you belong to me, do you hear?--you belong to me!

BARBARA (pushing him away): Don't--don't--let me go--I shall call Mama--oh--

He releases her--she flings herself face down on the sofa--he sits crouching, glaring. Silence for some time.

FREDERICK: Well, have you been there long enough?

BARBARA (sitting up): Yes--long enough to know that it never was any good, and it never would be any good.

FREDERICK: "It never was any good, and never would be any good"--what?

BARBARA: You and me.

FREDERICK: You and me! Do you mean to tell me that my life has been a lie and a falsity?

BARBARA: Why?

FREDERICK: You were my life--you--and you say it was never any good between us.

BARBARA: But you had your work. Think, if you had to choose between me and your work.

FREDERICK: You might as well ask an apple-tree to choose between enjoying the sunshine and growing its own apples: the one depends on the other and is the result of the other.

BARBARA: No, Frederick. Why, look how happy you could be with your work when I was miserable.

FREDERICK: But you had no reason to be. I gave you everything you asked for. What did you want?

BARBARA: I suppose I wanted something you could not give.

FREDERICK (glaring at her--after a silence, suddenly): I had a good mind to murder you.

BARBARA (frightened): Why?

FREDERICK: I had a good mind to murder you as you sit there.

BARBARA (frightened): See--see how you loved me!

FREDERICK: How I loved you! Yes--you see! You see how I loved you, you callous devil! Haven't I loved you with every breath I've fetched--haven't I?

BARBARA: But what was the good of loving me if you had all the fun out of it? It didn't seem anything to me because I didn't realize--I didn't know--

FREDERICK: You didn't love me!

BARBARA: No--well--you should have seen that I did. It doesn't do me any good, if a man dies for love of me, unless there is some answer in me, so that it lives in me.

FREDERICK: I ought to have killed myself rather than marry you.

BARBARA: But I couldn't help that, could I?

FREDERICK: No, you could help nothing. You could only throw me away like waste-paper that had wrapped up a few years of your life.

BARBARA: I'm sorry, Frederick. I'll do what I can; I will, really.

FREDERICK: What will you do?

BARBARA: Don't you trust me?

FREDERICK: Trust you, yes! You can go on doing as you like with me.

BARBARA: There you are, you see, resigned. Resigned from the very start--resigned to lose. You are, and you always were.

FREDERICK: Very well, you little devil--it seems you were determined--

BARBARA: What?

FREDERICK: To destroy me.

BARBARA (going and putting her arms round his neck): No--no, Frederick. I'd do an awful lot for you--I really would--I have loved you.

FREDERICK: What, for example?

BARBARA: I'd help you with the people in Chislehurst--come and live for a time in the same house.

FREDERICK (holding her by the arms and looking in her eyes): Will you give up this man and come back to me?

BARBARA: Oh--what's the good of promising, Frederick--I might only break it again. Don't force me.

FREDERICK: Will you try? Will you try me again for three months?

BARBARA: Come and live with you again?

FREDERICK: Yes.

BARBARA: As your wife?

FREDERICK: Yes.

BARBARA: Altogether as your wife?

FREDERICK: Yes--or even--at first--

BARBARA (piteously): I don't know, Frederick.

FREDERICK: Will you think about it?

BARBARA: But I don't know! What is the good of thinking about it? But I don't know, Frederick.

FREDERICK: You can make up your mind.

BARBARA: But I can't--I can't--it pulls both ways. I don't know, Frederick.

FREDERICK: Will you know better to-morrow--will you come, then, and tell me--will you?

BARBARA: But I shan't know any better to-morrow. It's now! And I can't tell. Don't make me decide, Frederick!

FREDERICK: What?

BARBARA: Which way. Don't make me decide! (She goes and sits on the couch, hiding her face in a cushion.)

FREDERICK (suddenly flings his arms on the table and sobs): Oh, good God--I can't bear it!

BARBARA (looks at him, goes and puts her hand on his shoulder): Don't, Frederick--don't! I will make up my mind, I will!

FREDERICK (his face muffled): I can't stand it.

BARBARA: No, dear. (He sobs--she touches his hair.) Don't! Don't! You shall--I will do--what I can.

FREDERICK (his face still hidden): It will kill me, Barbara.

BARBARA: No, dear--no, it won't. I must think of something. I will tell you to-morrow. I will come and tell you--

FREDERICK (his face still hidden): What?

BARBARA: I don't know, dear--but I will see--I will come. Look at me--look at me. (He lifts his face.) Dear! (He folds her in his arms--she puts her head back as he kisses her.) There's Mama! He listens--hears a sound, snatches his hat and dashes out--BARBARA turns to the piano--straightens her hair--stands waiting. Enter LADY CHARLCOTE.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Has Frederick gone?

BARBARA: Yes.

Enter WESSON.

LADY CHARLCOTE: What have you decided?

BARBARA: I don't know.

LADY CHARLCOTE: That's no answer. Have you decided nothing?

BARBARA: No.

LADY CHARLCOTE: I hope he won't go and jump in the lake.

BARBARA: I said I'd see him to-morrow.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Then he won't be such a fool. How did he behave?

BARBARA: Oh, don't talk about it, Mama!

LADY CHARLCOTE: And are you coming to the Monte Baldo tomorrow then?

BARBARA: Yes.

LADY CHARLCOTE: What time?

BARBARA: In the morning--about eleven.

LADY CHARLCOTE: And you'll bring him your answer then?

BARBARA: Yes.

LADY CHARLCOTE: Well, you must decide for the best for yourself. Only don't go and make a double mess of it, that's all.

BARBARA: How do you mean, a double mess?

LADY CHARLCOTE: You'll have to stick to one or the other now, at any rate--so you'd better stick to the one you can live with, and not to the one you can do without--for if you get the wrong one, you might as well drown two people then instead of one.

BARBARA: I don't know--I shall know to-morrow, Mama. Good night.

LADY CHARLCOTE (kissing her--crying): Well--all you can do now is to make the bed for yourself. Good night! Oh, don't trouble to come out, Mr Wesson, don't.

WESSON follows her. Exit both. BARBARA sits down and begins to play a waltz on the piano. Re-enter WESSON.

WESSON: Frederick wasn't far off--he hadn't drowned himself.

BARBARA goes on playing.

WESSON: I don't particularly want to hear that piano, Barbara.

BARBARA: Don't you? (Plays a few more bars, then stops.) What do you want?

WESSON: So you are going to see him to-morrow.

BARBARA: I am.

WESSON: What for?

BARBARA (hesitating): To tell him I'll go back to him.

She remains with her back to WESSON--he sits at the table. There is dead silence.

WESSON: Did you tell him that tonight?

BARBARA: No.

WESSON: Why not?

BARBARA: Because I didn't want to.

WESSON: Did you give him hopes of that answer?

BARBARA: I don't know.

WESSON: You do! Tell me.

BARBARA: I say I don't know.

WESSON: Then you're lying. I don't believe you intended to tell him that. I believe you say it to make me wild.

BARBARA: I don't.

WESSON: Then go now.

BARBARA: I said I'd go to-morrow.

WESSON: If you're going back to Frederick in the morning, you're not going to spend a night under this roof--hear that?

BARBARA: Why not? I've spent a good many nights under this roof--what does one more or less matter?

WESSON: While you've been with me here I considered you as a woman who wanted to stick to me as a wife--and as anything else I don't want you.

BARBARA: Very much as a wife you considered me at first--you were as unsure of us as ever I was.

WESSON: That was at the very first.

BARBARA: Was it--was it?

WESSON: Whether or not--that's what I say now.

BARBARA: "Whether or not!"--you would say that. At any rate, Frederick wouldn't say "whether or not".

WESSON: And you want to go back to him?

BARBARA: All men are alike. They don't care what a woman wants. They try to get hold of what they want themselves, as if it were a pipe. As for the woman, she's not considered--and so--that's where you make your mistake, gentlemen.

WESSON: Want? What do you want?

BARBARA: That's for you to find out.

WESSON: What you want is some of the conceit knocking out of you.

BARBARA: You do it, Mr Tuppeny-ha'penny.

WESSON: If Frederick hadn't been such a damn fool he'd have taken you down a peg or two. Now, you think yourself so blighted high and mighty that nobody's good enough to dangle after you.

BARBARA: Only a little puppy-dog that barks at my skirts.

WESSON: Very well, then the little puppy-dog will bark. Are you going to see Frederick in the morning?

BARBARA: Yes.

WESSON: And are you going to tell him, then, that you're going back to him?

BARBARA: I don't know.

WESSON: You must know then, because if you are, you're not going to stop the night in this house.

BARBARA: Pooh! What do I care about your house?

WESSON: You know it was really you who wanted it, and whose it is.

BARBARA: As if I care for this house--I'd leave it any minute. I'll leave it now.

WESSON: If you're going to go back to Frederick, leave it now. I ask you to.

BARBARA: Oh, very well--that is soon done.

She goes out quickly.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

ACT IV

 

Ten minutes later. WESSON is smoking. Enter BARBARA, dressed, with her hat on.

 

BARBARA: Here I am, then!

WESSON: Are you going straight to Gardone, to the Monte Baldo?

BARBARA: No--I'm going to the Hotel Cervo.

WESSON: But you can't--she knows us, the landlady--and thinks we're man and wife. You can't make that mess. If you're going, go straight to Frederick to-night--I'll see you there.

BARBARA: I'm not going to Frederick to-night--I'm not going to Gardone--I'm going to the Hotel Cervo.

WESSON: How much money have you got?

BARBARA: None.

WESSON: Then I won't give you any.

BARBARA: Don't you trouble--I wouldn't take any of your money.

WESSON: Have you got your night-things in the handbag?

BARBARA: Yes.

WESSON: Some soap--some hankies?

BARBARA: No--forgotten 'em.

WESSON: You would.

Exit--comes running back in a moment, puts the things in her bag.

BARBARA: Thank you.

WESSON: And your box I'll pack to-morrow. The things you said were mine I shall put in.

BARBARA: You needn't.

WESSON: I shall. I've never given you anything, so you've nothing to return.

BARBARA: No--you were always stingy.

WESSON: Very well--Frederick isn't.

BARBARA: I suppose it's having been brought up so poor, you can't help it.

WESSON: We won't discuss me now, nor my bringing-up.

BARBARA: Oh, alright!

WESSON: I consider I owe you, of money you had, about eleven pounds. I'll be stingy and keep one of them. Here's ten out of the forty we'd got.

BARBARA: I shan't have them.

WESSON: You can't go without any money.

BARBARA: Yes, I can.

WESSON: No, you can't. If you don't have these ten pounds, I'll post them to Frederick to you.

BARBARA: Alright.

WESSON (feeling in his pocket): Well, have ten lire, at any rate.

BARBARA: No, I won't have anything.

WESSON: You ought to be murdered for your obstinacy.

BARBARA: Not twice in one night.

WESSON: Very well, then--I will come with you down the village, since you're frightened of the men.

BARBARA: You needn't--I'm not frightened.

WESSON: No--you're too damned high and mighty to possess a single one of the human virtues or vices, you are! (A silence.) Do you want to go, really?

BARBARA: Yes.

WESSON: Liar!--Liar!--you are showing off! (Snatches the handbag and flings it into the kitchen.) Fool's idiotic theatrical game. Take that hat off.

BARBARA: You're giving your orders.

WESSON: Alright. (Seizes the hat, flings it through the door.)

BARBARA (flashing): What are you doing?

WESSON: Stopping you being a fool. Take your coat off.

BARBARA: I shall take my coat off when I please. Indeed, you needn't show off, for the minute I want to walk out of this house I shall walk out, and you nor anybody else will prevent me.

WESSON (taking up his position with his back to the door): Alright--you want to walk out now, and see!

BARBARA: If I want to--

WESSON: Want to, then--

BARBARA (with a laugh of scorn): Ha--you stop me! (Marches up to him with her breast high. He stands immovable.) Come out! (He shakes his head.) Come out!

WESSON: I told you I wouldn't.

BARBARA: Won't you?

Seizes him. He grapples with her. They struggle. He forces her backward, flings her with a smash on to the couch.

WESSON: You shan't! (Goes and locks the door--stands at a loss.)

BARBARA (recovering): It's very heroic--but I go to-morrow, whether or not.

WESSON: You'll pass the night in this room then. (He sits down--there is silence for some minutes--at last he looks up, speaks falteringly.) You don't want to leave me, do you, Barbara? (No answer.) You don't want to? (Silence.) Well, whether you think you do or not, I shall never believe you want to leave me, not really--so there! (A silence.)

BARBARA: A woman couldn't want to leave such a wonder as you, you think.

WESSON: You can't want to leave me.

BARBARA: Why not?

WESSON (sulkily): Because I don't believe you can. (There is a silence.)

BARBARA (with difficulty): A sort of faith performance!

He looks at her steadily, rises, goes and sits beside her.

WESSON: Barbican!

BARBARA (dropping her head on his shoulder with a cry): It's so hard on him, Giacomo.

WESSON (putting his arms round her): Never mind, he'll suffer at first, then he'll get better.

BARBARA (crying): He won't.

WESSON: He will--he shall--he shall! And you'll see he will. He'll be alright in the end. You were too big a mouthful for him to swallow, and he was choking.

BARBARA: But I make him suffer so.

WESSON (kissing and kissing her): No--it's my fault. You don't want to leave me, do you?

BARBARA: I don't know what to do.

WESSON: Stay with me, Barbican, my darling, and we'll manage that he's alright.

BARBARA: It's not fair when a man goes loving you so much when you don't love him--it makes you feel as if you'd have to go back to him.

WESSON: You can't go back to him--it would be wrong. His love isn't living for you.

BARBARA: It isn't, is it, Giacomo?

WESSON: No--kiss me, Barbara, will you? (She kisses him.) I love you, Barbara.

BARBARA: Do you really love me?

WESSON: Malheureusement.

BARBARA: He says that.

WESSON: And I don't mean it. I'm glad I love you, even if you torture me into hell.

BARBARA: But do you love me an awful lot?

WESSON: More than enough.

BARBARA: Really?

WESSON: Truly.

BARBARA: But if he dies, I shall torment the life out of you.

WESSON: You'll do that anyway.

BARBARA (looking up--taking his face between her hands): Shall I?--No!--Say no--say I am a joy to you.

WESSON: You are a living joy to me, you are--especially this evening.

BARBARA (laughs): No--but am I really?

WESSON: Yes.

BARBARA: Kiss me--kiss me--and love me--love me a fearful lot--love me a fearful lot.

WESSON: I do. And to-morrow you'll just say to Frederick, "I can't come back--divorce me if you love me." You'll say it, won't you? (kissing her.)

BARBARA: Yes.

WESSON: If it kills him--it won't kill him--but you'll say it?

BARBARA (hiding her face): Must I, Giacomo?

WESSON: Yes.

BARBARA: Then I s'll have to--oh dear! But you'll love me--love me a lot. (She clings to him wildly.)

WESSON: I do--and I will.

BARBARA: Love me a fearful lot!

 

CURTAIN

 

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The Fight for Barbara by D. H. Lawrence

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