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Title: The Man who Ate the Popomack
Author: Walter J Turner
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Language: English
Date first posted: May 2013
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Man who Ate the Popomack
Author: Walter J Turner


*


The Man who Ate the Popomack
A Tragi-Comedy of Love in Four Acts (1922)
by Walter J. Turner (1884-1946)


*


PREFACE


I want to say a few words about the technique of this play. I have not
hesitated to allow two scenes existing only in the minds of some of
the characters to take their place on the stage. It is my belief that
the dramatic principles inculcated by all writers on the theatre have
only a narrow, logical foundation and that like the rules of harmony
and musical form with which unmusical professors have always tried to
throttle creative musicians, they are aesthetically worthless. I also
wish to add that actors must not think that the art of acting unlike
every other art has already reached perfection. I prophesy that ranges
of expression will be developed of which the present-day European or
American actor has no conception although, as with many new things, the
first beginnings of this new art may be traced back in the past, as far
as the fifteenth century in Japan and, probably, further elsewhere. The
actor who is not prepared to cope with the difficulty of suggesting
the various states of consciousness depicted in this play the dream,
the sub-conscious memory, the imagination is unworthy of his art. This
applies equally to the producer.

For the rest I hope no one will be so foolish as to say this play
is badly constructed. It may be a bad play, but it is certainly not
constructed according to the rules laid down by dramatic critics.

W.J.T.


*


SCENES

ACT i. Blair's Picture Gallery off Regent Street

ACT ii. Drawing room at Sir Solomon Raub's Town House in Charles Street, Mayfair

ACT iii. Three months later. Lord Belvoirs flat in Half Moon Street

ACT iv. The same. Some months later.


*


CHARACTERS

MAN ABOUT TOWN.
OLD MAN.
A WOMAN.
A MAN
FIRST YOUNG MAN.
SECOND YOUNG MAN
SIR SOLOMON RAUB, millionaire Jewish financier, head of Raub Bros,
                  China & East India merchants
MURIEL RAUB. Sir Solomon's Daughter
HARRINGHAM, butler to Sir Solomon Raub
LORD BELVOIR.
NOSEGAY, valet to Lord Belvoir, a simple stolid fellow of 28
PARLOUR MAID
LADY OLIVIA, daughter of the Marquis of Beaufort
LADY PHAORON, a woman of fifty, wife of Sir Philo
SIR PHILO PHAORON, famous Egyptologist, small, and about 60
HON. RUPERT CLAVELLY
CAPTAIN ANTHONY, a creation of Belvoir's imaginationon, made up exactly to
                 resemble the Old Man in Act i, but with a white beard.

IMAGINARY SCENE CHARACTERS

Mandarin
First Chinaman
Second Chinaman


*


THE MAN WHO ATE THE POPOMACK



ACT ONE


SCENE. A room on a Saturday morning at a London Picture Gallery. There
is an ottoman facing a picture on a side wall, its end facing the
audience. A man about middle-age, well-groomed, enters. He looks at a
huge landscape and then at his catalogue.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. Humph! Never saw anything like that in my life!

[Another OLD MAN enters, his clothes of beautifully soft material, but
hanging loosely about him. He stares at the same picture.]

OLD MAN. Mountains of the Imagination!

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. A diseased imagination, sir.

OLD MAN. Quite so; the imagination is a disease.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. I hate this modern fantastic stuff; it's morbid.

OLD MAN. It's the work of young men who cannot control their feelings.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. Exactly; they might as well print their family secrets
on the outside of their houses to amuse the milkman and the butcher-boy.

OLD MAN. Are you the milkman?

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN [taken aback]. What do you mean?

OLD MAN. Then I am the butcher-boy. [Reflectively] I thank you. I did
not know it, but I am the butcher-boy.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. I don't understand you.

OLD MAN. I am a critic. I came here to slaughter these so-called
artists, and as a butcher I tell you they make poor mincement.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN [interested]. Really! You are a critic, and what is your
honest opinion of modern art?

OLD MAN. Modern art has always been bad.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN [chuckling]. Ha, ha! Excellent! Splendid!

OLD MAN. But it is always more interesting than ancient art. You, sir,
go to every exhibition?

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. Almost all.

OLD MAN. How often do you go to the National Gallery?

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. Whenever I hear of some interesting addition.

OLD MAN. Yes, the National Gallery is visited only by tourists.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. You don't say so!

OLD MAN. It is so calm there; they are glad to get out of the traffic.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. Of course there is something stimulating about this
modern stuff, I must say.

OLD MAN. As a milkman, would you call at an empty house to read what
was chalked upon the door?

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN [chuckling], I see what you mean. I suppose not.

OLD MAN. Most modern paintings are mere chalk-marks on the door, but
the house is inhabited, that makes all the difference. There is a human
being inside. Have you ever travelled in the desert?

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. No.

OLD MAN. Well, when you travel in the desert, and you have been
hundreds of miles without meeting a soul and you come to some great
stone tomb beautifully carved, and alongside it a miserable mud and
willow hut, you find that you take no notice of the tomb but go eagerly
up to the hut, for it may be inhabited. Well, that is why people look
at modern pictures; we are really looking for the man who painted them,
and if we heard that he was dead we should pass on to the next.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. That's very interesting. I never thought of that, but I
believe...

[They pass out of sight. The room is empty. Presently a
fashionably-dressed couple enter. They stop before the same landscape.]

THE WOMAN. That's rather striking!

THE MAN. I suppose it is queer, though, isn't it? I wonder where that
is, or if it's any real place at all?

THE WOMAN. Look in the catalogue.

THE MAN. It says simply 'A Landscape.'

THE WOMAN. Whom is it by?

THE MAN. Oliver Bath ever heard of him?

THE WOMAN [interested]. Oliver Bath.

THE MAN. I see he's dead; he died last year.

THE WOMAN [her interest evaporating]. Oh!

[She turns away and they pass on out of sight. The room is again
empty. Presently two young men enter.]

FIRST YOUNG MAN [with a gesture round the room]. Why are all these
things painted? What does it mean?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Poor devils. They are unhappy in love.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. Say unhappy in life, and you've hit it, but perhaps
it's the same thing.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Of course it is.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. I don't know, but does one never work from joy?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Well, one wouldn't work long, would one?

FIRST YOUNG MAN. One might work better.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. I should think equally badly. Men who are either
happy or unhappy are not artists.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. Well; you must be one or the other, if you are a human
being.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Artists are not human beings. Look at this fellow now
[pointing to a picture and affecting an American accent]. Isn't he just
too human?

FIRST YOUNG MAN. I grant you that nearly all bad art has the human
touch. Still the artist and the man must meet somewhere, or a a
masterpiece, like a good hand at bridge, would be a sheer accident.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. And so it is the accident that brought the artist's
father and mother together. Life is full of accidents, and some of them
are masterpieces.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. What of?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Design.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. Whose design?

SECOND YOUNG MAN [shrugging his shoulders]. The Lord knows!

FIRST YOUNG MAN [pointing to the pictures']. What are these then?

SECOND YOUNG MAN [with deliberation]. Carefully planned mistakes.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. Well, we come back again to the question: Why do they
do it?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. If youare happy or unhappy you must do something.
Have you never noticed that? That's why men marry, go into business,
become bus conductors, or taxi-drivers, or politicians, paint
pictures, start wars, or try to reform something anything to forget
their feelings! It is unnatural to have feelings as well as being
uncomfortable. No cow is unhappy, no tree is miserable, and a stone
doesn't even feel the cold.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. So art is just an occupation like any other?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. But immensely more occupying!

FIRST YOUNG MAN. But why is it so satisfying?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Because it makes us forget our pain. It's like
holding up a bright banana to a hungry elephant: it arrests his
attention even if it doesn't fill him.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. There's more in it than that.

SECOND YOUNG MAN [ironically]. Heaps more!

FIRST YOUNG MAN. That landscape, for instance. [They sit and stare at
the picture.]

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Wilde was right: paint is much more interesting than
real scenery. That's good, because it hasn't any cows in it.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. That man could have painted a cow without reminding us
of milk.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Yes, there are no cliches. Just look at it!
Extraordinary! Don't you feel as if you were there and yet it's like
nothing on earth!

FIRST YOUNG MAN [slowly]. One feels it's not going to rain, and the
sun's not going to come out either.

SECOND YOUNG MAN [passionately]. No, nothing is ever going to happen,
and yet one wouldn't go away for anything. [After a long pause]. By
God! I've never seen anything so good! Whose is it?

FIRST YOUNG MAN [looking at the catalogue]. Oliver Bath. I see he's
dead.

SECOND YOUNG MAN [rising]. He's not dead, he's there! Let's go.

[They get up and pass out. The room is empty. Presently a tall young
woman with dark hair and eyes enters, accompanied by a young man. It is
MURIEL RAUB, the daughter of SIR SOLOMON RAUB. The man is LORD BELVOIR.]

BELVOIR. Let's sit down.

[They sit down opposite the same picture.]

MURIEL. What do you think of that?

BELVOIR. It's queer all those mountains! I feel nothing lives there.
It's rather fine.

MURIEL. It's depressing!

BELVOIR. It's very strange; don't you feel that you've been there?

MURIEL. No.

BELVOIR [looking straight in front of him.] When I look at you I feel
that I am far away, travelling in a country into which I have never
been. It is a country like that, uninhabited but full of passion; where
the mountains hang over the streams as if they were the invisible
silence which surrounds the world charmed into huge blocks of stone
by those toneless voices falling into the abyss of time. Like those
mountains whose melancholy is carved upon the air, I sit listening to
your voice which seems to come, clear but very small and faint, as if
it had barely struggled up from the very foundations of life to call me
out of oblivion, and then to vanish away.

MURIEL [moved, after a slight pause]. How romantic you are! One would
think we were sitting out a dance.

BELVOIR [vexed]. I never feel like this at dances. If I like my partner
I simply kiss her.

MURIEL. Really! And does she let you?

BELVOIR. Why not? What else is there to do?

MURIEL [ironically]. How nice to have someone so practical! What a
charming partner you must be.

BELVOIR. Have you never been kissed at a dance?

MURIEL. If it is a custom, I suppose I must have been. I've never
really noticed.

BELVOIR [biting his lip.] Really you are a maddening little devil!

MURIEL. Only a moment ago I was a voice from I forget where, but
somewhere deep and wonderful.

BELVOIR. So you are, you're everything, you've taken complete
possession of my senses. When I shave I cut myself thinking of you,
when I eat I don't notice what I'm eating; I gulp down blindly
everything that's put before me. Half the time I simply don't know what
I'm doing, for I'm thinking of you, of when I last saw you, of when I
shall see you again. Muriel, I adore you, I cannot live without
you, I...

MURIEL [Putting her hand softly upon his mouth]. Ssh!

[The MAN-ABOUT-TOWN and the OLD MAN re-enter. ]

OLD MAN [taking no notice of the couple]. Of all the follies of which
mankind is capable, love is the most absurd!

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN [impressed]. Really! Is that your serious opinion?

OLD MAN. No, sir, it is not my serious opinion. I have no serious
opinions. I gave them up long ago.

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. Still, you think love is absurd.

OLD MAN. It is absurd, because it is never re-ciprocated. The poets
tell us of couples who have loved equally, couples long ago in the
prehistoric past, but no one has ever met such couples. Love is like
hunger: whoever heard of a reciprocated hunger? You might as well
expect a mutton chop to desire to be eaten!

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. That's a novel idea. I must say it never occurred to me
before.

OLD MAN. It wouldn't, sir. Ideas don't occur to people in this country.
The question in every love-affair is which is the mutton chop? [He
suddenly sees the couple on the settee and stares abstractedly at them
for the moment. Then he turns and repeats aloud.] Which is the mutton
chop?

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN [embarrassed]. Well, what is your opinion, sir, of this
show as a whole?

OLD MAN. My opinion, sir, is that they are all mutton chops; never
a spark of life among them except that fellow! [He points to the
landscape.]

MAN-ABOUT-TOWN. What do you think is the reason of the low level of
modern art?

OLD MAN. The reason, sir, is that Nature produces too many fools.

[They move away and slowly go out. BELVOIR and MURIEL wait until their
footsteps are out of hearing.]

MURIEL. Now go on!

BELVOIR. What was I saying?

MURIEL. You were proposing to me.

BELVOIR. Was I? I didn't know it.

MURIEL [teasingly]. Do you mean to say you weren't going to propose to
me after all that preparation?

BELVOIR. What preparation? Do be serious, Muriel. I love you, I adore
you; it is impossible for me to say what you mean to me.

[He takes one of her hands.]

MURIEL [mischievously]. Are you proposing now?

BELVOIR [throwing aside her hand]. Damn it, Muriel, you really are
heartless! You don't care a rap!

MURIEL [smiling at him]. How do you know? You've never asked me!

BELVOIR [moodily]. Does one need to be asked? Did you ever ask me? I
love you! I can't help loving you! I want to shout it aloud from the
housetops! I want to take every man by the shoulder and say to him, 'I
love Muriel! Poor fellow, you don't know her!' I go about all day with
your name on my lips. I am always frightened it will come out before
I can stop it when anyone speaks to me. When I am in the country,
absolutely alone, I can then say your name aloud. It is wonderful to
hear it in that stillness among the hedges and the clouds.

MURIEL [softly]. But don't you want to know whether I love you?

BELVOIR [passionately], Muriel! My darling! Do you?

MURIEL [teasing him]. Well, I might do worse than marry you.

BELVOIR [rising]. Really, Muriel, you are the limit! I can't stand much
more of this sort of thing!

MURIEL [taking him by the arm and making him sit down]. I never said I
didn't love you.

BELVOIR. Well, do you?

MURIEL. It's possible.

BELVOIR. Possible be damned! Muriel, do you or do you not love me?

MURIEL. I don't dislike you.

BELVOIR. My God! you really are impossible!

MURIEL [provokingly]. Well, why have anything to do with me? I didn't
ask you to make love to me.

BELVOIR. How can I help it when I look at you? You shouldn't let me see
you. You are a cold blooded devil: I am going to leave you!

MURIEL. Very well.

BELVOIR [despairingly]. Muriel, you don't mean it!

MURIEL. Mean what?

BELVOIR [slowly]. I am going to ask you once more. Muriel, do you love
me or not? If you don't answer me, I shall go, and you'll never see me
again.

MURIEL. How absurd! I shan't answer it.

BELVOIR [rising]. Very well, I'm going.

MURIEL [taking his arm and drawing him to her, softly]. Kiss me!

BELVOIR. Muriel! [They embrace passionately.]

[The Two YOUNG MEN re-enter.]

SECOND YOUNG MAN. I want to look at that landscape again before we go.
[He observes BELVOIR who is busy buttoning MURIEL'S unfastened glove
and turns away. They stand regarding the picture in silence for a
few minutes.] I am not so sure that nothing is going to happen. That
picture gives me a most curious sensation. It's like the feeling that
you are standing in the midst of a scene but that at any moment the
whole of it may crack and give way, and you will fall right through.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. Where to?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Oh, God knows! Come on, let's go!

[They go out. As soon as they are out, MURIEL and BELVOIR turn and kiss
passionately.]

MURIEL [rising]. Let's go and have lunch.

BELVOIR [rising and kissing her hand]. Muriel darling, do you love me
much?

MURIEL [gaily]. Oh, infinitely! Come on, let's go.

BELVOIR. Wait a minute. I want to buy that picture. I feel it has
something to do with this. [They look at it.] Don't you like it?

MURIEL [with a slight shadow on her gaiety]. It's depressing.

BELVOIR. It's very fine. It has exactly the feeling I should have if I
lost you. What's its number in the catalogue?

MURIEL. Eighty-seven.

BELVOIR. Let's find the fellow in charge.

MURIEL [as they are going]. Reggie!

[He takes her in his arms and kisses her. They go out. The room is
empty. Presently an attendant comes in, goes up to the picture and
affixes in its corner on the glass the little red seal signifying that
the picture is sold.]

CURTAIN



ACT TWO


SCENE: The drawing room of SIR SOLOMON RAUB'S town house in Charles
Street, Mayfair, Folding doors L. to music room and door R. PARLOURMAID
enters through folding-doors carrying a large spray of roses, passes
through the room and goes to glass over the mantle-piece, where she
pins the roses in her dress, and goes out R. Shortly afterwards LADY
OLIVIA enters followed by MURIEL. LADY OLIVIA goes to settee near fire
and sits down.

MURIEL. [as she enters]. Roses! how beautiful they smell!

LADY OLIVIA. What roses, Muriel? There are none here.

MURIEL. There must have been. I can smell them.

LADYOLIVIA. You are always smelling things that no one else can
[peevishly]. It is a shocking habit, and very bad manners. [Holding her
bottle of smelling salts to her nose]. I can smell nothing.

MURIEL. You never can smell anything, mother.

LADY OLIVIA. Muriel! You are positively disgusting! Why should one
smell? In any decent house the sense of smell is unnecessary.

MURIEL. I get great pleasure from my sense of smell.

LADY OLIVIA [with a slight shudder]. Really, Muriel! Is smell a sense?

MURIEL. Of course it is one of the five senses.

LADY OLIVIA. Well, four is too many for any woman of breeding; why
should you try to cultivate a fifth? It can only lead you into more
mischief.

MURIEL. [coldly]. Mischief! Whatever do you mean?

LADY OLIVIA. Should I ever have married your father if I had not been
carried away by my four senses? Heaven knows whom I'd have married if
I'd had a fifth!

MURIEL. Someone still better.

LADY OLIVIA. Don't slight your father. It's probably from him you get
this wonderful sense of smell. When I first knew him, he was always
complaining that the English never wash. That's why he loathed going
where there would be crowds. I had the greatest difficulty in getting
him to take me to the Court balls, but I used to say 'it's a penalty
you pay for being a foreigner. It's not that they don't wash: it's that
they're English. If you were an Englishman, you wouldn't notice it, for
you would be the same yourself.

MURIEL. I think he is quite right. I have noticed it myself.

LADY OLIVIA. Yes, because you are only half English; and what I say
is, what is the good of your sense of smell? It's only an annoyance.
The best thing you can do with it is to lose it. There! I've said
something that I am sure is in the Bible!

[Enter SIR SOLOMON RAUB with LADY PHAORON who never rises with the
ladies, but always stays and smokes a very strong cigar and drinks
several glasses of port with the men; after them follows LORD BELVOIR
and SIR PHILO PHAORON.]

LADY PHAORON. I hope you don't mind if I smoke a pipe, Lady Olivia?

[MURIEL makes a wry grimace].

LADY OLIVIA. Oh dear no, not in the least, dear Lady Pharaon. I never
smell anything.

LADY PHAORON [throwing a half-smoked cigar into the fire and taking out
a pipe]. The cigars one gets now, since they put the extra duty on, are
so un-satisfying.

SIR SOLOMON [who is smoking one]. Like most European products, they are
for tired businessmen, not for connoisseurs, dear lady.

SIR PHILO. In ancient Egypt, women did not smoke. [Dreamily, as if
slowly tasting the comfort of it]. In fact, they did not eat with the
men, but had their meals in their own apartments.

LORD BELVOIR. Was there any special reason for that?

SIR PHILO. No special reason, Lord Belvoir, but it was an ancient
custom; and I venture to think originally an aesthetic one.

MURIEL. Do you mean that they idealized women and could not bear to see
them feeding like animals?

LADY PHAORON. The question is could the women bear to see the men
eating?

LADY OLIVIA. So long as they all ate together, my dear, I don't see
that it would matter. I always keep something loud to chew when
my neighbour is unfortunate in his teeth equipment. I've often
thought that the soup course is only tolerable because we all do it
simultaneously. As my mother always used to say to us girls in the
nursery, 'Keep together! Don't get scattered!'

SIR SOLOMON. Well, I wonder if the ancient Egyptians ever ate the fruit
we are going to have tonight.

SIR PHILO. Oh, is it something special?

SIR SOLOMON. Yes; in fact it is, I believe, the rarest and most
delicious fruit in the world and totally unknown in Europe.

LORD BELVOIR. What is it called?

SIR SOLOMON. It is called the popomack.

SIR PHILO. What does it taste like?

SIR SOLOMON. Well, I don't know. There are, I understand, very few
people in the world that do know.

SIR PHILO. But how do you know it's edible at all?

SIR SOLOMON. It has been celebrated as a great delicacy throughout the
East from ancient times. I believe Marco Polo refers to it somewhere.

LORD BELVOIR. Where, may I ask, did you get it?

SIR SOLOMON. Well, perhaps I had better tell you all about it. Years
ago when I was in Canton on a business visit to our house there, I
was invited to a banquet by Fu-chi-li, the governor of the province,
who was a Mandarin of very high rank. He had been a friend of Li Hung
Chang's and was immensely rich. In his day he had taken an active part
in politics, and had experienced many vicissitudes of fortune. During
some temporary reverse, it was my father's privilege and good luck to
render him a considerable service which he repaid a hundredfold, while
still, as is the custom in the East, considering himself not only my
father's debtor, but after his death his son's also. Well, days before
the banquet, I realized that something very special was going to
happen; in fact one might have said without exaggeration that the whole
town buzzed of it. When the eventful evening came I found that I had
been extraordinarily honoured. There were only two other guests, both
Chinese of exalted rank. We had a repast such as it is impossible to
describe.

MURIEL. How did you talk to them?

SIR SOLOMON. Oh, they spoke perfect English, but...[knitting his
brows] I can't remember what we talked about. Anyhow towards the end
of a delihtful meal, Fu-chi-li rose and struck a small silvergong. And
here I will follow his example and call Harringham. [He goes to the
gong and strikes it.]


SCENE CHANGE


[The lights immediately go out and they go up again upon the interior
of a Mandarin's House in China. Seated round a table are three Chinese
and an Englishman. The host, a Mandarin of high rank, has a gong beside
him. The remnants of a repast not yet quite completed are on the table.
There are no servants in the room.]

MANDARIN. I do not understand the Western ideas of love. I have been
reading an English novel called Maurice Guest, in which the young man
Maurice loves a woman who does not love him. How is that possible?

ENGLISHMAN. It is not only possible; it is the custom. Oscar Wilde
would have said it was the only form of real love known to man.

MANDARIN. Ah, Oscar Wilde. I have read him. He is another symptom of
your disease.

ENGLISHMAN. You think that the West is diseased?

MANDARIN. In everything you are looking for something else. That is
your disease. Here, when a man wants a woman, he takes a woman, any
man and any woman, it is all the same. What difference can there be?
You take a woman and you look at her. You look at her hair, her eyes,
her mouth, her limbs all sound; and yet you are doubtful; you look
again. What are you looking for? You do not know. Well, perhaps you
go away; perhaps you sleep with her or, as you say, marry. Well, you
embrace her, you enjoy her; but as you lie beside her during the night
gazing at the ceiling which you cannot see, you ask yourself: 'Is that
all?' No one answers you. You get more and more bitter, and you say
to yourself, lying there: 'My God, this is impossible!' But it is you
who are impossible. You have had your pleasure, and yet you are not
satisfied.

FIRST CHINAMAN. They call it 'divine discontent.'

ENGLISHMAN. I am a Jew, and I understand you. To my father,
unfaithfulness would have been impossible. The idea would have been
monstrous to him. He had his own woman; any other would have been
superfluous and meaningless. But [reflectively] I am not like that.

MANDARIN. You were born among these people, and you have become
contaminated.

ENGLISHMAN. I found an Englishwoman who attracted me more than any
woman of my own race. Why was that?

MANDARIN. I do not believe there was any difference. She was probably
less accessible socially, and your desire for her was the desire to
overcome resistance. Evidently you have not got her. When you do, you
will find she is just the same as the others.

ENGLISHMAN. I mean to marry her. To me she is more desirable.

MANDARIN. Yes, you too have got the disease. When you have her, you
will wonder what you saw in her, and you will think simply that you
have made a mistake, and will spend your life looking in other women
everywhere for what has never existed.

ENGLISHMAN. But these Western races are more subtle in love than we
are. You can see it in their poetry and music. No pure Jew has ever
been a first rate creative artist.

FIRST CHINAMAN. All Europeans have confused minds. They look at an
eyebrow, and they get an exquisite sensation. Then they embrace the
woman with the eyebrow, and they get another sensation, also exquisite;
but with this sensation they have lost the other. The eyebrow is now
merely an eyebrow, and they are vexed. But why cannot they embrace one
woman, and look at the eyebrow of another?

ENGLISHMAN. Well, I understand it. When you look at anything very
beautiful, you cannot bear the thought that presently it will be gone,
and gone perhaps for ever. So you desire to possess it, to fasten it to
you, so that it will always be there for you to look at.

MANDARIN. Fu-Chi-Wang bought a beautiful lacquer screen; for a few
days he saw it; for a few months his friends saw it; and now it is
seen only by strangers. Fu-Chi-Wang does not know it is there.

ENGLISHMAN. He would miss it if it were taken away.

MANDARIN. Yes, his eye would come to life again.

ENGLISHMAN. Well, that is what I say about women. How can one stick to
one woman as my father did without one's senses becoming dulled and
blunted?

MANDARIN. It is not the same thing. When you are thirsty, water will
always quench your thirst. You want thirst to be provoked, you want
to be always thirsty. Water will not make you thirsty, nor does a
wife awaken desire. Mistresses like alcohol tickle the palate without
satisfying the appetite, and in the end destroy both.

ENGLISHMAN. But if you were always surrounded with water, you would
never get thirsty.

MANDARIN. You soon get thirsty if you are not always drinking.

ENGLISHMAN. But in Europe when one mixes much with other women, one is
always being attracted. To me every woman is unique: I should like to
know them all. It is a pity there is not time enough.

MANDARIN. Fatal illusion! Each seems unique because there are
many, since each is in a different relation to you. But it is the
relationship which is unique. A rose in a garden affects me differently
from a rose in a bowl; a yellow rose is like a woman in a yellow
dress, and a red rose is like a woman in a red dress, but it is only a
difference in dress or in shape or in size or in voice or in colour.

FIRST CHINAMAN. You cannot embrace a colour or a voice, and does it
matter whether what you embrace is big or little? Perhaps your wife has
wit, but you cannot sleep with her wit.

ENGLISHMAN. But these qualities awaken desire.

MANDARIN. Only in fools. The wise man loves to hear a beautiful voice,
to see a beautiful colour. A voice is to be heard, not to be bought
and put in a bed, and colour is to be seen, not hidden in the dark.
But few men, and least of all Europeans, can enjoy with their eyes and
their ears; yet there is no other way of enjoying colour and sound, and
the body cannot rape the mind. [Silence: then turning to the SECOND
CHINAMAN who has not spoken]. But you who are wiser than all of us have
said nothing. Let us hear your opinion.

SECOND CHINAMAN. I think we are wiser, but I do not think we are right.

MANDARIN. What! You agree with the Europeans?

SECOND CHINAMAN. The finest types in the West are fastidious in love to
a degree we should think ridiculous, but I discovered that they do not
thereby lose virility. They are more, not less, passionate than coarser
men, and both bolder and more subtle. They live more intensely and more
deeply because their bodies are more conscious.

ENGLISHMAN. Do you, then, believe there is such a thing as love?

SECOND CHINAMAN. I do not know that perfect love may not be enjoyed by
man. In China, we try to separate our consciousness from our body. We
give our body to women with less thought than we give it to the table,
and our consciousness we keep for our friends. But there is no harmony
in such a life. Our mind and our body should be one. We despise the man
who eats grossly because he does not know what he eats. Shall we call
it love when men live with women they do not know?

MANDARIN. But it is just because we do not know them that they are
desirable.

SECOND CHINAMAN. The body and the spirit are one, but as the stone
is less conscious than the tree, and the tree than the man, so one
man is less conscious than another. Stones and trees love, for stones
and trees live, but we do not call it 'love' since it is not full and
conscious enough. Neither is lust full and conscious enough for that
man who desires to live more and more richly, and such a man will
inevitably turn away from it.

ENGLISHMAN. Then you believe that a man should sow his wild oats?

SECOND CHINAMAN. It is a strange expression but I believe the man who
fears nothing and lives, will live according to the power that is
within him. If it is a small power, he will satisfy it easily whether
with one woman or fifty is immaterial.

ENGLISHMAN. But what becomes of morals?

SECOND CHINAMAN. There is only one moral law which a man can break, and
that is to be satisfied with less than his soul demands. Does it matter
how many he breaks it with?

MANDARIN. Cannot the eye look with pleasure on a beautiful girl without
wanting her as a mistress?

SECOND CHINAMAN. It is unknown what the soul craves for, but when we
say a girl is beautiful we mean that our soul is suddenly more alive.
This feeling of life is so exquisite, that we seize her greedily in the
hope of more, and our life is as suddenly extinguished. Man must find
out how to live. There is no recipe, although your churches pretend to
give you one.

ENGLISHMAN. Do you believe in marriage as an institution?

SECOND CHINAMAN. Does a boatman believe in oars? Yes, until he is given
sails? Does he then believe in sails? Yes, until he finds he can go
easier and further with steam. Marriage has nothing to do with love.

ENGLISHMAN. Then you do not think that a man should be faithful to his
wife?

SECOND CHINAMAN. To embrace a woman because she is your wife is like
embracing her because she is your mother.

ENGLISHMAN. I do not understand you.

SECOND CHINAMAN. I mean that mere affection should not drive you
further than a mere affectionate embrace. To sleep with your wife when
you are merely fond of her is a sin against love. To sleep with a woman
whom you merely lust after is also a sin against love. In Europe both
these habits are extremely popular.

MANDARIN. I understand you. You mean that they are different symptoms
of the same disharmony.

SECOND CHINAMAN. The fruits of such unions are ugly in body and dull
in mind. I remember standing at your Charing-Cross station watching
the streams of young men and women going to business, and they looked
like herds of disgusting animals. Mongrels, bred not from harmonious
passion, but by accident! Naturally they mostly hate their parents.

ENGLISHMAN. Then the Western religious bodies are wrong in inculcating
faithfulness?

SECOND CHINAMAN. Physical union without passion is a sin against life.
Lovers who live together after their passion has died are disgusting to
the gods and obviously blunted in mind and body. There may be passions
so harmonious that they endure throughout the lovers' physical life;
that is the only faithfulness. There is no virtue in hypocrisy even
when it is called marriage.

MANDARIN. I do not believe that love is anything more than a pleasure
like eating and drinking. One likes some women more than others as one
likes some foods more than others, but too much of any one of them will
take away the appetite.

SECOND CHINAMAN [ironically]. In the beloved there is an infinity of
life. The lover who has just left her for ever is carrying away on his
sleeve a single hair.

FIRST CHINAMAN. One is quite enough, all the others are the same.

MANDARIN. I doubt the reality of this ideal Western love. It is too
much of an abstraction. I should like to see it tested.

ENGLISHMAN. Well if I couldn't have one woman, I'd have another. Of
course I might prefer the one I hadn't got.

MANDARIN. Only because you hadn't got her...all else is illusion.
It's the unknown that attracts us. [With a gesture as if concluding
the argument?] If the popomack were as common as the pineapple we
should not make such a fuss about it, but as we know that we shall be
accounted happy if we taste it once in our lives, it means a great deal
more to us.

ENGLISHMAN. Have you never tasted it?

MANDARIN. Never. I remember my father telling me that when he was a
young man the Governor of his province had one and held a great feast
to eat it.

ENGLISHMAN. I feel deeply sensible of the great honour you have done me
in inviting me to-night to partake of this popomack. I am most curious
to see it.

MANDARIN. Well my friends, the time has come for us to enjoy the
most exquisite delicacy known to man. [He strikes the gong, which
reverberates slowly through the silence].

SCENE CHANGE

[The lights go out as a servant enters, and the scene is as before,
with SIR SOLOMON RAUB standing by the side of the gong which is still
stirring from the blow he has given it. The door opens and HARRINGHAM
enters].

SIR SOLOMON. Bring in the popomack! [He turns to the guests.] No
doubt these were the very words Fu-Chi-li used to his servant, who
however returned rushing into the room, white with terror, and falling
prostrate, muttered something in Chinese at which the others started
in astonishment. Even Fu-Chi-li was, I saw, visibly disconcerted, in
spite of his extraordinary self control. But almost immediately he was
the urbane host again, and dismissing the servant he explained to us
with many apologies that some unforeseen and altogether extraordinary
circumstance had prevented his placing before us the unique dish with
which he had wished to honour our presence. In spite of his exterior
calm, the tone of his voice betrayed an emotion incompatible with any
ordinary feeling of disappointment, but the other guests remained
curiously impassive. I did not like to ask any questions, and when we
parted later, after a stay somewhat briefer than usual, nothing further
had been said.

LORD BELVOIR. And did you never learn what had happened?

SIR SOLOMON. Never!

SIR PHILO. But how did you know that he was going to give you a
popomack?

LADY OLIVIA. And what is a Popomack? You have never told us that.

SIR SOLOMON. Well, when I told Furse, the manager of our Canton branch,
what had happened, he said that Fu-Chi-li must have been going to
give us a popomack; in fact he said he had heard rumours of it. Furse
was a man of about fifty, the son of a Chinese missionary and born
in China, and an absolute mine of out-of-the-way knowledge. He told
me that every now and then, say once in fifty, or once in a hundred
or even a couple of hundred years, a single popomack fruit turns up
somewhere in the East, and that the knowledge of its existence spreads
with extraordinary rapidity and causes the greatest excitement. There
is tremendous competition to procure it, but all negotiations are
mysteriously elaborate and secret; for the life of any man known to
possess it would not be worth a string of cash. Specimens that have
turned up in the past have usually found their way to the Emperor or to
some high Mandarin.

LORD BELVOIR. Had Furse ever seen one?

SIR SOLOMON. No, nor ever heard of the existence of one before.

[HARRINGHAM enters carrying on a silver platter what looks like a huge
blue orange; it has the shape of an orange, but the hard rind of a
passion fruit or a pomegranate, and is as large as a good-sized melon
and a vivid bright blue. They all gaze at it as HARRINGHAM places it on
the table with a knife and a number of plates. He then goes out.]

MURIEL. What a lovely colour!

LADY PHAORON. I hope it won't give us indigestion

SIR PHILO. So that's a popomack! Extraordinary! Do you know, I believe
it may be the strange fruit mentioned at the banquet of Amenophis IV of
the XVMth dynasty about 1500 B.C. The reference to it has never been
understood.

SIR SOLOMON. What does it say about it?

SIR PHILO. The passage is obscure. All I remember is that it mentions
its colour as being remarkable and there was something else strange
about it, but I have forgotten.

LORD BELVOIR. May I ask how you came to get it?

SIR SOLOMON. Furse sent it to me from Canton; it arrived two days
ago. It was a piece of extraordinary luck and is really a remarkable
story, which I must tell you some time. I determined we should have it
to-night in honour of your engagement with Muriel. And now I think it
is time we cut this rarity. I am very curious to taste it.

LADY PHAORON. I hope it won't give me indigestion.

SIR SOLOMON. [as he takes a knife and proceeds to insert the point].
Well, I'm sure it would be worth it. The Chinese are great epicureans
and would never have made such a fuss about something that was merely
ordinarily pleasant. This rind is very tough. [He makes an effort and
succeeds in inserting the point, then pushes the blade down.] Good God!

ALL [excitedly]. What is it?

[The popomack rolls into two cut halves, and immediately a frightful
smell unlike anything they have ever experienced before pervades the
room.]

ALL. Faugh! Ugh! It's appalling! Take it away! It's unbearable.

SIR PHILO [jumping excitedly, holding his handkerchief to his
nose]. That's it! That's it! I remember now! It smells! _Une odeur
epouvantable Lefebure_ translates it. It's quite correct. It's the real
thing! Wonderful! A divine colour, lapis-lazuli blue, and a smell like
the plague!

SIR SOLOMON [who has retreated to afar corner of the room with his
handkerchief to his nose]. Then you don't think there's anything wrong
with it?

SIR PHILO. Wrong! Of course notl No, it's absolutely correct. This
proves it. [Almost dancing in his excitement.'] Marvellous!

LADY PHAORON [tartly]. Marvellous! It's disgusting!

LADY OLIVIA. [the only one who has taken no part in the excitement now
begins to sniff uneasily and suddenly puts her handkerchief to her
nose]. Oh, my fifth sense! I've found it!

[She shrieks and immediately faints. SIR SOLOMON rings the Bell.
HARRINGHAM enters in his usual imperturbable manner, but suddenly
visibly shrinks; he makes an involuntary movement towards his pocket,
but recollects himself, and suppresses it with a face fearfully
contorted.]

SIR SOLOMON. Help me to carry your mistress to her room, Harringham.
You had better come too, Muriel. [To his guests.] Excuse us one moment.

[Exeunt SIR SOLOMON and HARRINGHAM, carrying LADY OLIVIA, followed by
MURIEL.]

SIR PHILO [his face beaming, at least that part of it which is not
covered by his handkerchief]. This is really thrilling! I wouldn't have
missed it for anything. I'm going to taste it. [He cuts a slice of the
popomack and begins eating it]. Ah! heavenly! Come on Belvoir, you must
taste it. [To LADY PHAORON]. Will you try some, my dear?

LADY PHAORON. Certainly not, I shall go and see if I can be of any use
to Olivia. [Exit.]

SIR PHILO [cutting another two slices and beginning a fresh one
greedily]. Here, you must taste it, Belvoir; you can't imagine how
delicious it is!

LORD BELVOIR. Well, the smell is pretty awful, but I'll risk it.

SIR PHILO. That's right.

[LORD BELVOIR begins to eat reluctantly, but his expression at once
changes to one of intense satisfaction.]

LORD BELVOIR. You are quite right; it's really wonderful.

SIR PHILO. Yes, isn't it?

[The two men go on in silence, eating greedily and cutting more slices
until the popomack is more than half gone. Gradually they cease to hold
their handkerchiefs to their noses, and by the time SIR SOLOMON returns
they have put them back into their pockets. They are still eating when
he returns.]

SIR PHILO. How's Lady Olivia?

SIR SOLOMON. She's come round, thank you, but she's going to lie down
for a bit. This is really awful. I must apologize.

SIR PHILO. Apologize! Not at all! Taste it; it's wonderful! Heavenly!
Isn't it, Belvoir?

[BELVOIR nods, his mouth full.]

SIR SOLOMON [hardly concealing his expression of disgust behind his
handkerchief which he holds carefully to his nose]. Faugh! I wouldn't
dream of touching the stuff. I can scarcely bear to stay in the room
with it.

SIR PHILO. Eat it, and you won't notice the smell; it's just the same
with cheese.

SIR SOLOMON. No, thank you! But if you like it, do you mind finishing
it quickly?

SIR PHILO. Delighted! But I warn you you're missing something; isn't
he, Belvoir? and you'll regret it.

[He cuts the last slice and hands half to BELVOIR after cutting off
the rind. The two men eat in silence. SIR SOLOMON watching them
with a curious expression. Presently he rings for the butler. Enter
HARRINGHAM.]

SIR SOLOMON. Take what's left of this away, and burn it!

CURTAIN



ACT THREE


SCENE: LORD BELVOIR'S rooms in Half Moon Street, three months later.
Morning. Enter NOSEGAY with a large scent-spray with a rubber grip;
he works carefully round the room, spraying curtains, carpet, chairs,
chesterfield and cushions. The room has two windows in the back wall,
facing the audience and looking on to the street; against the right
wall is a Bechstein grand with the stool at the far end, so that,
sitting at the piano, you have your back to the window wall and look
into the room. There are a few gilt upholstered chairs, a chesterfield
near the fireplace to the left, several comfortable arm-chairs, a
centre table with a few books, a book-case against the wall opposite
the fireplace, and on the wall the landscape of Oliver Bath, and
several water-colours. After spraying almost every article in the room
except the piano, NOSEGAY carefully closes the windows. Suddenly a ring
is heard, and he goes out, returning in a few moments preceded by the
HON. RUPERT CLAVELLY, a fresh looking young man of about thirty, with
a cheerful air. CLAVELLY lifts his head as he enters as if secretly
apprehensive of some invisible presence. He does this so adroitly that
an eye-witness could hardly describe his action as a sniff.

NOSEGAY. I will tell his lordship you are here.

CLAVELLY. Stop a moment, Nosegay. Tell me: does he, is it ... as
strong as ever?

NOSEGAY. I am afraid, sir, it is.

CLAVELLY. Good Lord, how awful! But here, this room ... it seems all
right, except...someone's upset a scent-bottle!

NOSEGAY. [going to the mantelpiece and taking the spray which he has
put down there]. No, sir, it's this, sir. I use it every morning, and
always after his lordship has been here. Not that it has much effect
then, sir!

CLAVELLY. Good heavens! Is it as bad as that?

NOSEGAY. Yes, sir; it's very bad, sir.

CLAVELLY. [his natural cheerfulness somewhat dampened]. Well, perhaps
you had better tell Lord Belvoir I'm here.

NOSEGAY. Yes, sir [he hesitates]. Perhaps you won't mind my making a
suggestion, sir, but...

CLAVELLY. Certainly, Nosegay, what is it?

NOSEGAY. Well, you see, sir, this is the first time you have seen his
lordship since...

CLAVELLY. Since the Raub dinner?

NOSEGAY. Yes, sir, and ... it will be a great shock, sir. It might
help you if you smoked. [Hesitating and in a lower voice]. And there's
another thing, sir, his face. It'll startle you, sir!

CLAVELLY. Oh, I see. Right! Thanks very much,

Nosegay. [He takes out his case and proceeds to light a cigarette.]

[NOSEGAY goes out carrying the scent-spray. After an interval of a
few minutes the door opens, and LORD BELVOIR enters in a dark silk
flowered dressing-gown. The change in the man is extraordinary. At
SIR SOLOMON'S dinner he would have passed as a good-looking young
Englishman of about thirty-three, rather dark, with a slightly uncommon
sensitive expression and the eyes of an artist, but very youthful,
almost immature in spite of his age, like many Englishmen of his class.
Now he looks every year of his age and more. There is a strange, almost
mocking, expression on his face, and his eyes seem extraordinarily
alive. His face has gone a bright blue, the colour of the Popomack.
As he enters, closing the door behind him, CLAVELLY gasps, but moves
towards him, holding out his hand.]

CLAVELLY. How are you, Reggie?

BELVOIR [letting his hand drop]. Smoking, Clavelly?

CLAVELLY [taken aback and fearfully disconcerted by the popomack smell
that proceeds from LORD BELVOIR]. I only ... I didn't know...I'll throw
it away. [He is about to throw the cigarette into the fireplace.]

BELVOIR. No, no, that's all right. They all do it. Everyone I see. Not
that I see many nowadays [grimly]. You'll find you need it.

CLAVELLY [finding himself unconsciously retreating from BELVOIR pulls
himself up sharply and comes nearer]. But, I say, can't anything be
done?

BELVOIR. Tell me, Clavelly, this is the first time you've seen me since
since the night. Do you find it very strong?

CLAVELLY [trying to look as if he were giving an opinion on a matter of
no importance]. Well, I don't know. Perhaps it's a bit of a shock at
first, but I daresay...

BELVOIR. It's no use, Clavelly. You should see your face.

CLAVELLY [with a burst of artificial energy]. Look here, Reggie, this
is damned unnatural! Surely something can be done?

BELVOIR [quietly]. No, nothing. I've tried everything, do you hear?
Everything!

CLAVELLY [helplessly]. But it'll wear off. It's sure to wear off.

BELVOIR [ironically]. You really think so?

CLAVELLY [stubbornly]. Yes, of course I do; it must.

BELVOIR. So many people have said that. Try and think of something more
original.

CLAVELLY [desperately]. Have you tried anything? Have you seen any
specialists?

BELVOIR [ironically]. Oh, no, of course not. Why should I? There's
nothing wrong with me, is there? Have another cigarette? Take one of
these; they're specially strong. I keep them on purpose.

CLAVELLY. Damn your cigarettes! Why don't you talk decently to a fellow?

BELVOIR [lifting his eyebrows]. What do you want me to say? That you
are the victim of your imagination? That this is a momentary illusion?
That all will be well to-morrow? Comfortable lies to soften a quarter
of an hour's unpleasantness! I've lied all my life, but I've done with
lies now!

CLAVELLY [obstinately]. I can't believe there's nothing to be done.

BELVOIR. You'll have to believe it [with a change of tone.] Not that
it really matters. For my part, I see no reason why anything should be
done.

CLAVELLY [sullenly]. I don't understand you.

BELVOIR. I am not conscious of this unpleasantness which apparently
afflicts my friends in my presence. To myself, I am a healthy, normal
person. Why should I fill the role they invent for me, and be the
catspaw of their diseased imaginations?

CLAVELLY. Do you mean to say you don't believe there is anything the
matter with you?

BELVOIR [frigidly]. I must ask you to be more careful in your language.
The fact that we have known each other for some time does not give you
the right to make insulting remarks before my face.

CLAVELLY [heatedly]. Well, if that's the way you are going to take
it...

BELVOIR [coldly]. Do you suppose there is any other way of taking it?
Shall I call you a fool, and wait for you to argue mildly that you
don't believe it? Or shall I say that you stink like a skunk?

CLAVELLY [Appalled], But...[He stammers incoherently.]

BELVOIR. There are no doubt people who accept their character as their
friends see it, and live the life their friends expect them to live.
People who have no existence except in the minds of others and who seek
to know what others think of them in order that they may live at all. I
am not one of those people.

CLAVELLY. But there is no getting away from facts.

BELVOIR. What are the facts? My presence, let us say, arouses a
particularly unpleasant sensation in you. Am I to pretend that I
share that sensation when I do not? Am I to regulate my life on the
assumption that my presence is an offence to you and a few others who,
I must say, seem to me in no way indispensable to my existence.

CLAVELLY. Well, you cannot ignore their feelings.

BELVOIR. If I cannot share them, or if they deprive me of my
self-respect, I must ignore them.

CLAVELLY. Look here, you know this is all nonsense! Why not be sensible
and let me help you? It must be possible to do something?

BELVOIR [deliberately]. Clavelly, I have had three months of being
sensible and allowing my friends to help me, and what have they done?
They have turned me into a perfectly useless, helpless object on which
to exercise their emotions. I might as well be paralysed in mind and
brain, and have lost control of every limb as lead the life I have led
since last November. I have become a mere phenomenon to be dragged from
one specialist to another, to be exhibited carefully to a few select
friends, to be taken out to lunch or dinner occasionally with as much
preparation and stage-management as would shift an army corps. I have
watched my friends actually blooming in health through their activity
in exploiting the emotional and theatrical possibilities of me. Yes, I
have become a mere puppet an interesting puppet, a puppet that eats and
walks and sleeps, but which exists solely for the amusement of those
who pull its strings, and has no life of its own to interfere with
theirs. Presently they will get tired of me, and I shall be handed on
to others. There always will be others, always an inexhaustible supply
of fresh people to whom I shall be a novelty and a curiosity. But I
have had enough of it: I am going to live my own life.

[During the conversation CLAVELLY smokes hard, and edges involuntarily
away from BELVOIR whenever he comes near. Now when he thinks that
BELVOIR is not looking, he takes one of the special cigarettes BELVOIR
pointed out to him.]

CLAVELLY [comfortably handing him the cigarette box]. Well, I don't see
what you are going to do. What about Muriel?

BELVOIR [hotly]. What has Muriel got to do with you!

CLAVELLY [flushing]. Nothing ... I only wondered how she was taking it.
[lamely] I haven't seen her for some time you know I've been away.

BELVOIR. Pity you ever came back. I should have thought Africa was just
the place for you.

CLAVELLY. Now my dear old chap you're not going to ruffle me. I take it
that your engagement is not yet broken off.

BELVOIR. What did you come here for? Have you no better way of spending
your time?

CLAVELLY. Look here isn't there anything I can do for you?

BELVOIR [with a deliberate sneer]. How much longer do you think you can
stand it?

CLAVELLY [flushing]. I didn't come here to be insulted by an old friend.

BELVOIR. Are you sure?

CLAVELLY [nettled]. Well, if you are determined to act in this manner
there is nothing for me but to go.

BELVOIR. Your limited intelligence is working at last.

[CLAVELLY, furious, seizes his hat and stick and leaves the room
without another word. BELVOIR paces about the room for a few minutes
and then, standing near the curtains, suddenly sniffs the air. He
frowns violently and rings the bell. Enter NOSEGAY.]

BELVOIR. What is this smell of scent?

NOSEGAY [blandly]. What scent, my lord?

BELVOIR. Damn you! Don't quibble with me! The place reeks of scent. Who
brought it.

[NOSEGAY does not reply. BELVOIR stares at him furiously as if about
to strike him, and then with a tremendous effort controls himself, and
walks away.]

NOSEGAY. You have never objected to it before, my lord, and I have been
doing it for the last month.

[BELVOIR is facing the window with his back to NOSEGAY; after a few
seconds he turns.]

BELVOIR. Nosegay, I want to talk to you. I have no fault to find with
you, but if you are to stay with me, we must understand each other.
It is possible that you would like to find another situation [NOSEGAY
shakes his head]. Wait a moment! If you do and in the circumstances it
would be only natural, and I should in no way resent it I shall make it
my business to find you a situation in every way as good as your place
with me before...before the event of three months ago.

NOSEGAY [after a slight pause, simply]. I have no wish to leave you, my
lord.

BELVOIR. Thank you, Nosegay. And I should feel parting with you deeply.
But we must not let any feeling of ... friendship blind us into
imagining that it will bear the strain of our ordinary daily life. The
situation must be a possible one without any feeling entering into it
on one side or the other. Do you understand me?

NOSEGAY. Perfectly, my lord.

BELVOIR. Good! [pauses, then resolutely,] Now, do you think you can put
up with and totally ignore this...this affliction of mine indefinitely?
Don't you feel that it will become too much for you?

NOSEGAY. May I ask, my lord, is it ... permanent?

BELVOIR. Yes. At all events, I am going to act henceforth as if it
were. I am going to seek no cure. I am going to put it completely out
of my mind and out of my life. It does not exist for me. It must not
exist for you. But is that possible?

NOSEGAY. Will you permit me to ask a personal question, my lord? I have
often wondered, but do you not notice it at all yourself?

BELVOIR. Absolutely not at all! Now can you live with me, and put it
completely out of your mind?

NOSEGAY [slowly]. Yes, my lord, I think I can. I never had a very keen
sense of ...

BELVOIR [smiling]. No! Or you couldn't have sprayed the room with that
filthy scent. Well, no more of that sort of thing, mind! And now we'll
consider it settled [the bell rings]. See who it is.

[Exit NOSEGAY and re-enters after a second, re-enter]

NOSEGAY. Sir Philo Phaoron, my lord.

BELVOIR. Show him up. [Exit NOSEGAY. A noise as of a man dragging
upstairs heavily is heard, then a curiously muffled voice shouting,
"Mind those pipes, Nosegay! This way! Be careful now!" Suddenly the door
flies open and SIR PHILO PHAORON enters clothed from head to foot in a
complete diving-dress, followed by NOSEGAY carrying the long air pipes
and communicating line. Heaving one hand to BELVOIR, he has a speaking
trumpet in the other with which he signals to NOSEGAY to deposit the
tubes on the floor.]

[Exit NOSEGAY closing the door].

BELVOIR. Whatever's the meaning of this, Phaoron? [Sir. Philo lumbers
heavily across to the window and opens it. Putting his trumpet to his
helmet he shouts More air! Pump harder, you devils! I'm suffocating!
Then he closes it, turns and waves both hands to BELVOIR, and shouts
through his speaking trumpet.]

SIR PHILO. Help me open this!

[BELVOIR unscrews a nut as he is directed and then the front of the
helmet swings open, revealing the beaming face of SIR PHILO covered
with perspiration.] Phew! it's hot in this rig-out. What a relief to
find no one here! Well, my boy, how are you? Isn't this a magnificent
idea? [Pointing to his diving suit. LORD BELVOIR continues to stare at
him in amazement.] I only thought of it the other day. Now I can go
anywhere. It's absolutely air-proof.

BELVOIR. Do you mean to say that you've been about in that get-up?

SIR PHILO. Certainly! and what is more, my boy, it's been an immense
success. Three nights ago I tried it for the first time at the Royal
Geographical Society's dinner. I had been fearfully upset at the
thought of missing it. You know life hasn't really been worth living
these last three months, and the idea that I should never go there
again just about put the finishing touch on. I was sitting at home
I hadn't been out for a couple of weeks reading some rotten book,
The Memoirs of a New Guinea Magistrate it was, and the fellow was
describing the diving in the pearl fisheries there when the idea
suddenly came to me. I jumped up, went to the telephone, ordered the
whole rig-out, and hired two seamen and a pumping engine Do you hear
it? It's outside and tried it. It was perfect. Now my man dresses me
in the morning, and when the fellows arrive they put the engine in the
car, and I can go anywhere.

BELVOIR. Good God! And how did you get on at the dinner?

SIR PHILO. Of course, I couldn't eat anything, but my reception was
tremendous. There was a fellow there who had just come back from
climbing Mount Everest, but he was an absolute frost. No one took the
slightest notice of him. At dinner I made a speech with this trumpet
and a special metal diaphragm in the helmet I can speak perfectly
I rose in a perfect storm of cheers. 'Gentlemen,' I said, 'you see
before you one who has suffered a severe blow at the hands of fate, a
calamity such as has hitherto befallen no living man' (Of course we
don't know about those Chinese fellows who have eaten it. Probably
they smelt so much already that they never noticed it.) 'But nothing,
gentlemen, can daunt the spirit of a member of the Royal Geographical
Society.' At this they positively yelled at me. Earl Brasston you know
old Copper-eye slapped me on the back; he was nearly delirious, poor
fellow, and drank my health, but they pulled him down, and shouted 'Go
on! go on!' So I went on I went on for nearly an hour. Upon my soul, I
couldn't have believed I was capable of such eloquence. And the scene
afterwards was terrific. They sent down drinks to my seamen, and I was
in a panic lest they should get drunk and forget to pump, but all went
well. And do you know, I'm simply loaded with invitations. And I've got
to spend next week-end at Brasston, the old boy absolutely insisted. I
say! I forgot to tell those fellows to stop pumping! [He rushes to the
window, opens it and shouts.] Stop pumping there, until I let you know!

BELVOIR. Well, I suppose you feel the problem's solved?

SIR PHILO [ever so slightly damped]. Well, it's a solution, isn't it?

BELVOIR. And what about the enquiries Professor Hermann was making?

SIR PHILO. About that antidote? I heard from him; he has found nothing;
but [cheerfully] I am not going to bother about that now.

BELVOIR. Do you propose to go about for the rest of your days like this?

SIR PHILO. Why not? As a matter of fact, I rather enjoy it. After
all, dress is a mere matter of convention. It's only a question of
getting used to it. Everybody I've seen so far has been thrilled by my
appearance.

BELVOIR. And how long do you think that's going to last?

SIR PHILO. Oh! I don't know, and in any case there'll always be fresh
worlds to conquer 'Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.' Just
imagine my first appearance in Paris at the Institut Francais. Old
Flammarion would think me a new star.

BELVOIR [sighing]. Ah, well! I suppose it's possible.

SIR PHILO. Possible, of course it's possible! It's rather different
for you, I admit. My life outside this apparatus is over. I can retire
to my shell, and the little society I need I can now get by taking my
shell along with me. In fact, I need never come out of it. All that
exists of me to-day at my age is a voice, still issuing from this
decaying body whose increasing foulness I henceforth disguise for ever.
Only my spirit shall move among men, like a sound issuing out of the
tomb.

BELVOIR [thoughtfully]. Do you know, I believe you are right.

SIR PHILO. I'm sure of it. I consider myself most fortunate. I am
like a man in the Arabian Nights to whom in a dream some marvellous
transformation has happened, but I am awake, and it is still true.
I wouldn't go back now to the days before I ate the popomack for
anything. That reminds me, have there been any answers to our
advertisement in the Times?

BELVOIR. Not yet, but of course it is still appearing.

SIR PHILO. Did you arrange for it to appear at the same time in the
Shanghai and Pekin papers?

BELVOIR. Yes, but I'm not very hopeful.

[The bell rings and presently NOSEGAY enters.]

NOSEGAY. Sir Solomon Raub. [Exit NOSEGAY.]

[Enter SIR SOLOMON, in top hat, morning coat, white spats, looking as
glossy and confident as ever, but with, for the curious observer, a
slight uneasiness beneath his outward smooth manner. In his ears and
nostrils are wads of cotton wool.]

SIR SOLOMON. How d'ye do, Belvoir?

[He suddenly sees SIR PHILO.]

SIR PHILO [foaming]. 'Morning, Sir Solomon. [He slaps him on the back,
and one of the cotton-wool wads drops out.] What's this? [Picking it up.]

SIR SOLOMON [slightly ruffled, snatching it and putting it in his nose
again, pointing to SIR PHILO'S diving-suit]. And what may I ask is this?

SIR PHILO. This is my new way of dressing, Sir Solomon. In future you
will always see me arrayed, not as the inferior mass of mankind, but as
one who has eaten the popomack.

SIR SOLOMON [glaring at him]. I'm glad you think it a subject for
tomfoolery. Four days ago you told me you couldn't stand it any longer,
and threatened to commit suicide. My health's getting ruined for want
of sleep. I've not slept for weeks. I'm worn out rushing from place to
place seeing people, to try to discover some means of getting rid of
this awful thing, and here you stand and joke about it!

SIR PHILO [cheerfully]. Have you seen the Times this morning?

SIR SOLOMON. No, I haven't. I've just glanced at it!

SIR PHILO. Well, you evidently did not read the account of the Royal
Geographical Society's dinner. I was the hero of it. The man from the
Himalayas was nowhere.

SIR SOLOMON. You! At the dinner!

SIR SOLOMON. How? Whatever do you mean?

SIR PHILO. I in my new popomack equipment. Didn't you notice the two
sailors and the vacuum cleaner outside the house as you came in?

SIR SOLOMON. Yes. I saw some sort of machine in a car. [Shortly.]

SIR PHILO [triumphantly]. Well, it's mine, but it's not a vacuum
cleaner, it's a diving pump for my diving dress. I was just going when
you came. I'll be off now and give you a demonstration. [He goes and
opens the window.] Hallo! Start pumping there! [He closes the window.
To BELVOIR]. Help me to screw this on [With the help of BELVOIR he
screws on the face of the diving helmet, then lifts his speaking
trumpet to his face.] Call Nosegay to help me down. [BELVOIR rings.]

[NOSEGAY enters and takes up his air pipes.]

Sir PHILO. Carefully, Nosegay! Goodbye, my boy. Au revoir, Sir Solomon.
Don't forget to read that article in the Times [at the door to
BELVOIR]. Let me know if you get any answer to the advertisement. [Exit
with NOSEGAY.]

[SIR SOLOMON and BELVOIR sit down gloomily and listen to the car
driving away. The noise fades. Silence.]

SIR SOLOMON. I always thought that man was a buffoon.

BELVOIR. Perhaps, but he has solved the problem.

SIR SOLOMON. You don't mean to say you think you can carry on like that?

BELVOIR. No, he has only solved his own problem. It remains for me to
solve mine.

SIR SOLOMON. Did he tell you what Hermann says?

BELVOIR. He told me they had no hope of being able to do anything.

SIR SOLOMON. And I've heard the same from the Oriental School of
Medicine in Paris.

BELVOIR. Well? I'm not going to trouble about anything of that sort in
the future.

SIR SOLOMON [alarmed]. What do you mean?

BELVOIR [as if thinking to himself]. It has nothing to do with my life.
To bother oneself with it at all is a mere concession to other people's
feelings like wearing a top hat at a wedding.

SIR SOLOMON [somewhat relieved]. Well, how many weddings would you be
asked to if you made a habit of appearing in flannels, or to use a much
nearer analogy, naked.

BELVOIR. More than you think, perhaps; but I don't grant your analogy.

SIR SOLOMON. The difference is very slight, I assure you. You find it
difficult to realize now. You probably forget at times that there is
anything the matter with you at all since you yourself cannot notice it
[BELVOIR winces]. But can't you remember, can't you recall what it was
like when I cut it before you ate it?

BELVOIR. Well, it can't be so unendurable when you've been sitting here
for some time...and there's Nosegay.

SIR SOLOMON [pointing to his nosepad]. This is a very inadequate
protection, I assure you, but nevertheless without it I could not stay
here much longer. Even so, I suffer extreme discomfort.

BELVOIR [rising]. I've no wish to inconvenience you.

SIR SOLOMON. Please sit down. Any formality of that sort is out of
place between us.

BELVOIR [bitterly]. Yes, you think I have lost even the right to a
conventional courtesy.

SIR SOLOMON. Well, it's no use living in a fool's paradise. If I have
to come into a man's presence padded like this he cannot be squeamish
about trifles.

BELVOIR [hostile]. I am not aware that I asked you to come.

SIR SOLOMON. What do you mean? Come, don't be foolish. I only want to
help you.

BELVOIR. And I am not aware of having asked for your help.

SIR SOLOMON [with a glance at him]. I fully understand what you must be
feeling. Believe me, I have the deepest sympathy for you; especially,
as you must realize, when I am in some sort the cause of your
misfortune.

BELVOIR [violently]. Misfortune? What misfortune?

SIR SOLOMON [a little uneasy]. Well, well, we won't quarrel over a
word. [Soothingly.] I have another matter to talk to you about.

BELVOIR [coldly]. Indeed! What is it? [SIR SOLOMON looks nettled for a
moment, then continues smoothly]. It's about Muriel. You, of course,
realize that in the circumstances a continuance of your engagement is
impossible.

BELVOIR. Impossible! Why?

SIR SOLOMON [beginning to get ruffled]. Surely you don't need me to
tell you why! Be reasonable!

BELVOIR. Reasonable? Why should I be reasonable?

SIR SOLOMON. [is about to retort, but checks himself, then speaks].
Lord Belvoir, I don't know why you are adopting this curious attitude,
but I am sure you would not wish to take advantage of Muriel's
reluctance to break off an engagement which she cannot possibly desire
to continue, but which in the circumstances her natural sensitiveness
may prevent her repudiating.

BELVOIR. You say she wishes to be released from our engagement.

SIR SOLOMON. [evasively but with an assumed vigour]. Naturally, she
must do so.

BELVOIR. [politely]. You must forgive me if I fail to see the necessity
or to accept the implication.

SIR SOLOMON [angrily]. That's nonsense! You must see that she can't
possibly marry you.

BELVOIR. I am sorry not to share your low opinion of me, but I don't.
I, on the contrary, think very highly of you. I think your manners are
charming.

SIR SOLOMON [exasperated]. Don't waste your irony on me! You refuse to
release her. Very well! It is not of any consequence, but I must say
I'm surprised, I expected you to act like a gentleman.

BELVOIR [with cold irony]. I! A gentleman! Do you come into a
gentleman's presence disinfected like that?

SIR SOLOMON [shrugging his shoulders], I've already said that you have
my deepest sympathy.

[Rising from his seat.]

BELVOIR [controlling himself with an effort]. Sympathy! Do you think
that if you were not Muriel's father I should tolerate these insults?
I accept you such as you are; I make no reference to your defects,
personal or moral, but do you therefore think yourself perfect? My God!
I have at least as much difficulty in stomaching you as you have me!
Tou have my deepest sympathy!

SIR SOLOMON. Thank you, but you see, unlike you, I do not need it. I at
least do not fill my daughter with repulsion.

BELVOIR [startled]. Repulsion!

SIR SOLOMON [mockingly]. Does that surprise you? Why have you never
been to our house during the last three months? You simply did not dare
to meet her?

BELVOIR. While there was hope I wished to spare her unnecessary
annoyance.

SIR SOLOMON. Annoyance! Three months' absence to spare a woman a little
annoyance! Well, let that pass, but now? Dare you see her now?

BELVOIR [after a slight pause]. Yes.

SIR SOLOMON [seeming surprised for a moment, then he laughs].
I've always said few men have the pluck to face the truth about
themselves...You'll have a rude awakening!

BELVOIR. Perhaps, but in that case I shall feel I have had a fortunate
escape.

SIR SOLOMON [sneering']. You do value yourself highly. What attraction
do you think you can possibly have for a woman?

BELVOIR. Am I so different a person to-day from the man I was three
months ago?

SIR SOLOMON. You are only physically abhorrent! But perhaps you believe
in the marriage of souls?

BELVOIR [with a slight shudder], I believe that I do do not exist
merely as a smell.

SIR SOLOMON. That is true, though there is very little a woman gets
from a man except through her senses. If there were no other man in
the world, no doubt any woman would accept you. But have you something
that no other man has got? [He bursts out into laughter.] Ha! Ha! Ha!
Of course you have! Ha! Ha! Ha! [BELVOIR waifs without stirring. SIR
SOLOMON suddenly stops laughing. He continues deliberately] Have you
anything else that no other man has got which a woman can share, can
appreciate and enjoy, which will make it worth her while to endure such
a sacrifice as marrying you entails?

BELVOIR [gloomily]. That is what I have got to find out.

SIR SOLOMON. Yes, and when in your presumption you have told yourself
you possess it, you have got to find that she desires it. Humph! like
most men you are a fool where women are concerned! I tell you that
in twelve months my daughter will be engaged to someone else. In
twenty-four months she will be married to someone else. In three years
she will have children by someone else, and the difference between
those children and the children she would have had by you will not
matter to her, or to the universe.

BELVOIR. It may be so, but I don't believe it.

SIR SOLOMON. Do you think that if you were blotted out to-morrow it
would make any difference to the future? Do you imagine the world
would cease to go on, or that it would be the poorer without you?
Every hen clucks when it has laid its egg, thinking it the only egg
in the Universe. Even supposing you are unique, that there is no one
living exactly like you, and which is quite another point that your
singularity is of value, do you really believe that Life which has
produced you once cannot produce you again?

BELVOIR. That is what I believe, what I must believe.

SIR SOLOMON. Millions of worms crawling in the Palaeozoic mud struggled
like you, each one for its existence, as if the future depended
upon it. But did any one worm matter? Did they matter even in their
millions? Poor blind existences, they could not conceive a world
without worms, as you perhaps cannot conceive a world without men, but
I tell you that men and worms are like the foam on the waves of the
sea, mere fleeting gestures of the wind signifying nothing.

BELVOIR. I do not believe it. The breath of life is not without but
within. You yourself do not believe it or why should you care who
marries your daughter?

SIR SOLOMON. I don't. Do you think I believe she matters, or that
whomever she married I should not despise, as I despise all men,
lusting after women because they can't help it, and slaving to
satisfy their lusts? It is all loathsome, but I can at least cloak
its loathsomeness in delighting my senses. I can feast my eyes on
the beauty of the bride and the male vigour of the bridegroom, and
in imagination enjoy their nuptial delight, drowning my disgust in
champagne; but I will not tolerate [with an expression of disgust]
an offence in my nostrils, as I would not keep a stinking weed in my
garden among my roses.

BELVOIR. [pale]. Are you sure that you may not fill your daughter with
repulsion?

SIR SOLOMON. [going to the door]. You do not know women, and Muriel is
not my daughter for nothing. If she never meets you again she may pity
you, and even remember you with what fools call affection, but if she
met you, you could inspire her only with disgust.

[Exit SIR SOLOMON. BELVOIR turns and stares into the empty fireplace.
Presently NOSEGAY enters with a note which he presents to BELVOIR].

NOSEGAY. Miss Raub is downstairs, my lord, and asked me to give you
this note.

BELVOIR [opening it]. Is she alone?

NOSEGAY. Yes, my lord.

BELVOIR [hesitates and walks about the room]. Ask her to come up.

NOSEGAY. [Exit and returns in a moment and opens the door]. Miss Raub.
[Exit NOSEGAY].

[MURIEL is charmingly dressed as usual. At the doorway she falters,
turns visibly pale, then walks into the room.]

MURIEL. I had to come. Why have you never been to see me?

BELVOIR [he does not attempt to approach her, but moves farther away
towards the piano]. Your father has just been here.

MURIEL [involuntarily]. What a narrow escape!

BELVOIR. Ah! You realize that!

MURIEL [nervously]. Why was he here, any news, anything special?

BELVOIR. If you mean, did he bring any good news, No!

MURIEL. Any bad?

BELVOIR. Not really. Tell me, Muriel, have you ever shared these
fatuous expectations of my being cured of this?

MURIEL. Why fatuous? [hesitatingly], I have always hoped...

BELVOIR. Well, there is no hope. Do you understand? Absolutely no hope!

MURIEL [desperately]. I don't believe it! I can't believe it!

BELVOIR. Professor Hermann says so. Your father has heard the same
thing from Paris. You see, it is something quite out of the ordinary,
and in a way natural. To alter it now is like trying to change the
colour of one's eyes.

MURIEL [faltering]. It's incredible!

BELVOIR. I have made up my mind. I am not going to waste my life going
from specialist to specialist and running after every new quack, who
thinks he can cure me of a disability of which I am not conscious,
which in no way affects my mental or physical vigour, and which is
really as irrelevant to my true personality as a wooden leg. If I am
not to become like one of these unhappy victims of imaginary diseases
who exist only as a subject for medical experiment and discussion, I
must abolish from my mind the very existence of this affliction. This
would be quite easy for me to do if I could live absolutely alone, but
as that is impossible, the only alternative is for my friends also to
be completely oblivious of it, to put it completely out of their minds
for ever. Those who cannot do this I shall not number among my friends,
and I will take care to show them that they are not wanted. [He pauses,
MURIEL does not speak. Anxiously] Muriel, you are silent! What are you
thinking?

MURIEL [softly]. You are asking a great deal from them. You, of course,
do not realize how much.

BELVOIR. Muriel! Is it so very much? To ignore a mere sensation an ugly
sensation, if you will, but do they never put up with ugliness in the
world about them? Are they so sensitive that they cannot tolerate a
slight physical discomfort for the sake of [He hesitates].

MURIEL [gently]. For the sake of what?

BELVOIR [stares in front of him: he does not dare to look at her]. I
have not always wholly liked the people I have known intimately. There
have been things about them, personal things, sometimes physical,
sometimes neither physical nor mental, but far deeper, which have
aroused in me profound distaste. I have even felt about some that they
were evil, a feeling far worse than any that can be caused by a mere
physical deformity, yet I have never turned my back on them without a
consciousness of loss.

MURIEL [with a slight shudder]. How one longs to be brave!

BELVOIR [he does not look at her]. Muriel!

MURIEL [as if in a dream]. I do not understand these things. One does
them, or one doesn't do them, and one never knows what one is going to
do. I am afraid of myself. What am I going to do? [She walks slowly
towards BELVOIR, who stands absolutely motionless, and puts her arms
around him.] Reg! [She faints].

[BELVOIR places her gently on the chesterfield and rings the bell.]

[NOSEGAY enters].

BELVOIR. Miss Raub has fainted. Call the house keeper, and bring some
brandy.

CURTAIN



ACT FOUR


SCENE: LORD BELVOIR'S old rooms in Half Moon Street. Time: Evening.
Nothing is changed except for a few books and miscellaneous articles.
Seated in an armchair facing the picture is the SECOND YOUNG MAN of
Act I. In another chair is the FIRST YOUNG MAN. They are smoking after
dinner.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. You say Lord Belvoir shot himself. Was it in this room?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. It isn't known whether it was here or in his bedroom.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. What was the reason?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. There were all sorts of stories about his having
eaten a Popomack and smelling horribly; it was a most mysterious affair.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. I wonder you care to live here.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. I didn't intend it. But I had always wanted that
picture. You remember how annoyed I was when we went back to the
gallery and discovered that it had just been bought. Then when I heard
all his things were to be sold I came here to see it, and when I was
here looking at it, I suddenly thought why shouldn't I buy everything,
and live here myself?

FIRST YOUNG MAN. What a strange idea?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Not at-all. I had always been attracted by what I had
heard of Lord Belvoir, although I had never met him; the very fact
that he had bought that picture seemed to be a link between us, and the
impulse came over me so suddenly and was so strong it was just as if I
was doing something that had always been inevitable.

FIRST YOUNG MAN [with a shudder]. I shouldn't like to live here.
There's something queer about the place, I should feel it was haunted.

SECOND YOUNG MAN [leaning forward]. It is haunted.

FIRST YOUNG MAN [startled]. Good God! What do you mean?

SECOND YOUNG MAN [in a strange voice]. I have been trying to understand
what happened to Lord Belvoir, and I often sit at night looking at that
picture, and slowly, as I sit there, I feel that I am getting very
near to what happened. I feel it is all round me, printed as it were
indelibly upon the air, and that it requires only a very little to make
it all suddenly visible. [In a lower tone]. That is why I have moved
nothing since I came here. Everything is exactly as it was when he went
out for the last time, or stood in this room and shot himself. And I'll
tell you something more. I believe I know exactly where he shot himself.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. Good God!

SECOND YOUNG MAN. He came and stood in front of this picture and shot
himself there [rising and continuing with suppressed excitement]. He
stood just here, do you see? Now why did he do that? [He clasps his
head and paces up and down].

FIRST YOUNG MAN. But how do you know all this?

SECOND YOUNG MAN [resuming his seat]. I suddenly saw it as I sat
looking at that picture. I believe if we look at it long enough and
surrender ourselves to the influence of this place, we shall see all
that happened in this room [in a whisper], Can't you feel that it is
all here?

FIRST YOUNG MAN [shivering]. There's something strange about this place.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. It's Belvoir! He's here! Everything that passed
through his mind as he stood gazing at that picture before he shot
himself! He lived it all over again that last day, and we shall see it.
Look there! Look! It's Belvoir.

SCENE CHANGE

[The lights go out and then rise again on the same scene. There is no
one in the room but BELVOIR and he is reading. Presently he looks at
his watch and goes to the telephone.]

BELVOIR. Mayfair 2713, yes, please. Hallo! Is that Mayfair 2713? I
want to speak to Miss Raub; will you put me through? Hallo! Is that
you, Muriel?...Yes, the same as usual! What have you been doing
to-day?...Did you enjoy it?...Who was there?...Yes...Was Clavelly
there?...Oh, did he?...Yes, but I felt nervous, going out for the
first time for weeks. However, it was splendidly arranged. There was
not even a commissionaire at the door. I had the whole gallery to
myself. Nosegay waited downstairs for me. I stayed there a couple
of hours, and looked at all my favourite pictures. The English loan
collection is admirable. There are some beautiful early Johns. One,
a dark gipsyish girl in a blue and yellow spotted frock, dark blue
blouse, and a curious bluish grey hat, lying by a mountain lake.
Extraordinarily rich, but strangely still and reposeful. That alone
was worth the trouble. They've got the Smiling Woman in there and a
lot of other good things. I saw the Orpen your father lent them ... I
thought it extremely clever, but unsatisfying, rather like him. Yes,
several water-colours: you know the Cotman I keep in this room and a
couple of others I had sent up from Belvoir. I suppose you're going
tomorrow to the private view...Who's going with you?...Oh! How is your
mother?...No, not one so far. Phaoron tells me our advertisement for
the popomack has been appearing in the Chinese papers for a good many
weeks now, but that's no reason to be despondent. There are not likely
to be many people alive even in China who have ever heard of it, and
the news that someone is advertising will only get about slowly...[he
looks at his watch]. It's just on half-past seven...Must you? Where
are you dining?...Yes, I've met them once, about a year ago...Good-bye,
darling. You've something to say to me! What is it! Tell me now! Oh,
very well, I'll ring up when you get back. About eleven, will that do?

[He rings off, walks about the room for a few minutes, and then returns
to his armchair and takes up the book he was reading. Presently he
seems to have fallen asleep. Enter NOSEGAY].

NOSEGAY. There's a man downstairs, my lord, who says he has come about
an advertisement. Did you expect anyone?

BELVOIR. About an advertisement. It must be about the popomack!
[Eagerly]. Show him up. Wait a moment. What sort of a man is he?

NOSEGAY. He's a man of about fifty, my lord, and looks rather like a
sailor.

BELVOIR. Very well, show him up.

[NOSEGAY goes out and presently returns with CAPTAIN ANTHONY, who is
carrying a large handkerchief which he holds to his nose. He wears the
soft loose clothes of the OLD MAN in Act i, whom he exactly resembles,
except that he has a white beard].

NOSEGAY. Captain Anthony. [Exit].

BELVOIR [rising and holding out his hand]. How do you do? My name is
Belvoir, Lord Belvoir.

ANTHONY. Very pleased to meet you, Lord Belvoir.

BELVOIR. Will you have a cigar? Do you mind helping yourself? They're
in that box. Take a chair. That's a comfortable one.

ANTHONY [takes one]. Thank you.

BELVOIR. I suppose it was the advertisement in the Times you saw?

ANTHONY. No, I never see the Times. I only got in yesterday.

BELVOIR. Then you've no doubt come from the East?

ANTHONY. Yes. Shanghai.

BELVOIR. Did you see the advertisement there?

ANTHONY. Well, not exactly, but I heard of it, and as I was coming
home, I found out all the particulars. I thought I might come and see
the person. That advertisement did not say much.

BELVOIR. It said a high price would be paid to anyone who could
procure, or could inform the advertiser how to procure a popomack
fruit. That seems to me quite enough.

ANTHONY. No doubt, no doubt, if it were a matter of ordinary business.
But the popomack is not ordinary business. I am curious to discover how
you came to know anything about it. I am astonished that you came to
eat it.

BELVOIR. Well, there is very little to tell. A friend of mine received
from China, where he has a business house, a popomack, and having heard
how rare a delicacy it was, he invited myself and others to dinner
some three months ago. One other guest beside myself ate this fruit
with the unfortunate result of which you are no doubt conscious, and
we simply want to obtain another popomack. That is the purpose of our
advertisement.

ANTHONY. I see. I suppose you know all about the popomack by now.

BELVOIR. Well, no one seems to know very much about it. Few people in
the world have ever heard of it, and it seems highly probable that my
friend and I are the only people living who have tasted one.

ANTHONY. No, that is not so!

BELVOIR. Ah! then you know where this fruit can be got?

ANTHONY. Do you mind telling me why you want another popomack?

BELVOIR. I am engaged to the daughter of the man who gave that dinner.
When she has eaten it, we are going to get married.

ANTHONY. Twenty years ago, when I was before the mast, I was in a
brig engaged in the island trade of the China sea. We had with us a
young man who had run away from home to be a sailor; his name was
Marjoribanks, but he called himself Marchbanks, same as your name is
Belvoir, but you call it Beaver. We had been driven out of our course
in a storm, and at daybreak one morning we found ourselves near a
small island. As we wanted water we manned a boat and landed a party
who scoured about to find a spring. Presently Marjoribanks returned
with a huge blue fruit which he had found growing. We decided to cut
it and try it, but on opening it there came forth such a stench that
no one could touch it except young Marjoribanks, who ate the whole
thing under our eyes before you could say Jack Robinson. When the fruit
was all gone, however, the stench remained, and seemed to come from
Marjoribanks. We ducked him in the sea, but still he smelt. We didn't
know what to do with him, it was almost impossible to go near him, and
so we left him on the island.

BELVOIR. You mean to say you left him alone on the island?

ANTHONY. Yes, we sailed away, and for all I know he's there to this day.

BELVOIR. Could you find that island again?

ANTHONY. I daresay I could.

BELVOIR. Well, will you take my yacht _Adventuress_, and bring back a
popomack, or as many as you can?

ANTHONY. Well that's a proposition; but I dare say I might accept it.
When shall I start?

BELVOIR. O, you can start at once.

ANTHONY. Excellent! Do you know I should rather like to see poor
Marjoribanks again. I have often thought about him.

BELVOIR. Well, I'll give you a letter to the officer in charge of the
_Adventuress_ at Southampton, he will supply you with all you require,
and when you return wire me and come straight here with the popomack.

ANTHONY. I will. [The scene fades. When it becomes visible again,
BELVOIR is still in his chair. The door opens, and NOSEGAY appears].

NOSEGAY. Captain Anthony has arrived, my lord.

BELVOIR [excitedly]. Show him up!

[The door opens and CAPTAIN ANTHONY enters].

ANTHONY. I hope you got my wire, sir.

BELVOIR. Yes, have you got it?

ANTHONY. Yes, here it is. [He takes from a large bag a popomack and
places it on the table].

BELVOIR. I have told Miss Raub; she will be here to eat it in a
few moments, and then, Anthony, we shall be married the day after
to-morrow, and you must come to our wedding.

ANTHONY. I shall be delighted.

[Enter NOSEGAY].

NOSEGAY. Miss Raub, my lord.

BELVOIR. Show her up; and, Nosegay, bring a knife and plate.

NOSEGAY. Yes, my lord.

[Exit. The door opens and MURIEL enters].

BELVOIR. Muriel! Allow me to introduce you to Captain Anthony.

[They shake hands, BELVOIR walks about the room in a state of great
excitement. MURIEL is pale and obviously distressed.]

MURIEL [hesitatingly], Reggie!

[At this moment the door opens and NOSEGAY enters with a knife and
plate which he places on the table. He goes out. BELVOIR at once takes
the knife and is about to insert it in the popomack.]

MURIEL [imploringly]. Stop, Reggie! I came to tell you. Oh, do forgive
me, but I can't!

[ANTHONY creeps out into the shadow].

BELVOIR [thunderstruck], Muriel! What do you mean?

MURIEL [clenching her gloved hands], I simply can't do it. I can't! I
can't!

BELVOIR [helplessly]. But, Muriel, you promised. We've been months
waiting for this day. I don't understand you!

MURIEL. I don't understand myself.

BELVOIR. But why this sudden change?

MURIEL. It isn't a sudden change. I've known all the time in my heart
that I couldn't do it, but I've been too great a coward to tell you.

BELVOIR. But...Muriel, don't you love me?

MURIEL. I'm very fond of you, Reggie, but I can't marry you.

BELVOIR. Can't marry me? Muriel darling, you're frightened, but it's
nothing. Now just eat this, and all will be well.

MURIEL [firmly]. Reggie, it's no good: I'm not going to marry you.

BELVOIR. I don't understand. What is the matter?

Muriel! [He moves towards her to take her in his arms, but she recoils].

MURIEL. Don't make it harder for me, Reggie!

BELVOIR [furiously]. Hard for you, but what about me? Do you expect
me to take any notice of such nonsense. [He seizes her and kisses her
passionately, but she resists strenuously and at last he lets her go.]

MURIEL. Give me some brandy quick!

[He rushes to a cupboard and pours out some in a tumbler. She drinks
it].

MURIEL [Coldly]. Now will you let me go?

BELVOIR [imploringly]. Muriel, what's the matter with you? Why have you
changed?

MURIEL. I am awfully sorry, Reggie, but I have found that my feelings
are not what I thought they were.

BELVOIR [scornfully]. Well, your father was right. He said you'd never
be able to stand me now.

MURIEL. It isn't that, I assure you.

BELVOIR. Oh, yes, it is.

MURIEL. You're wrong! Even if I ate the popomack it would make no
difference really!

BELVOIR [laughing almost hysterically]. Oh, wouldn't it? Do you think
the fellow you want to marry would have you then?

MURIEL [flushing]. I don't want to marry anyone.

BELVOIR [coldly]. Let me tell you you're a liar! Don't you think I
haven't known this would happen? Here while I have been cooped up
unable to take you about, other men have been seeing you, talking to
you, dancing with you, riding with you! My God, to think what I've
suffered! Day after day I have had to sit here absolutely helpless,
knowing that every minute I was losing you, and [with a change in tone]
losing you for ever to some worthless bounder who smells of tobacco
instead of popomack!

MURIEL. I am sorry, Reggie, really!

BELVOIR. Are you quite sure you love this one? Do you know anything
about love at all? How long do you think it will last?

MURIEL. I've told you before I'm not in love with anyone.

BELVOIR. I believe you. But now and then you want a man, and you're
not going to take a man who will be a nuisance as I shall be. Neither
are you going to sacrifice the pleasures you've been accustomed to in
order to go away and live with him. You haven't got it in you to make
yourself a new life with me.

MURIEL [desperately]. Will you believe me! I am acting on instinct. Do
you think I'd let anything stop me if I loved you?

BELVOIR. But, Muriel, you loved me; I know you loved me.

MURIEL. Perhaps I did. I don't understand it.

BELVOIR. You'll find you love me still. It is merely this unfortunate
affair. Everything will come right if you take this [offering her the
popomack]. Do, Muriel!

MURIEL. It's no use, Reggie, I can't.

BELVOIR. Well, there's nothing more to be said. I wonder if you know
what you do want.

MURIEL. I don't think what I want exists.

BELVOIR. No, and if it did, you wouldn't know it!

MURIEL. But I feel I ought not to do anything that I can resist doing.
Why can't you make me want you so badly, Reggie, that I should eat the
popomack, or do anything for you?

BELVOIR. Yes; blame me that you don't love me.

MURIEL. Well, you are to blame. There must be something lacking in you.

BELVOIR. My God! Why do I love you?

MURIEL. Perhaps you don't, perhaps you only think you do! [Holding out
her hand] Good-bye!

BELVOIR [speechless]. Oh...er good-bye.

[She goes immediately. BELVOIR stands motionless for a moment and then
walks about the room kicking every thing that is light enough to be
kicked painlessly]. Damnation! [He rings furiously. NOSEGAY enters.]
Where's Captain Anthony?

NOSEGAY. I don't know...

ANTHONY [emerging from the shadows]. Here I am.

[NOSEGAY vanishes].

BELVOIR. [looking towards the popomack]. She won't touch it.
[Furiously] She's got hold of some other man now! She's a heartless
minx! Her father was right, damn him!

ANTHONY [ironically] I thought she'd be a wonder if she took it.

BELVOIR. But she never seemed more desirable! Why did I let her go!
Fool! Why didn't I force her to eat it? My God! I am an idiot! She
doesn't know her own mind. Force is what she wants. My God, I am a fool!

ANTHONY. You can easily do the trick if you want to!

BELVOIR. What's that you're saying?

ANTHONY. You can easily get your own back on these folk.

BELVOIR. What do you mean? How?

ANTHONY. Give out that you're cured by an antidote I've brought back
from China. Invite them to a celebration dinner and give them the
popomack disguised in the soup. Then you'll all be in the same boat,
and she'll have to have you.

BELVOIR [staring in astonishment]. Splendid! My God, you're a marvel!
What an idea! I'll fix it up at once. [He goes to the bell and rings it.]

[NOSEGAY appears at the doorway. The scene fades].

SCENE CHANGE

[When the lights go up the table in BELVOIR's room is laid for a
small dinner-party. The room seems empty. Presently the door opens
and NOSEGAY ushers in SIR PHILO and LADY PHAORON: SIR PHILO is in his
diving-dress with helmet and trumpet.]

LADY PHAORON. Thank God he's discovered an antidote. Now you'll be able
to get rid of that ridiculous affair, and lead a decent life.

SIR PHILO [through his trumpet]. What's that, you say, my dear?

LADY PHAORON. For God's sake pull yourself together! You're not deaf,
yet, are you?

SIR PHILO. No, but your voice reverberates so, my dear, in this helmet,
you have no idea.

LADY PHAORON. I said thank God he's found an antidote, so that you'll
be able to walk about like a civilized human being again.

SIR PHILO. Civilized?

LADY PHAORON. You heard quite well what I said.

SIR PHILO. I don't want to be civilized. You wouldn't have thought
Thotmes III civilized.

LADY PHAORON. You're not Thotmes III. You're a Georgian knight.

SIR PHILO. A what?

LADY PHAORON [exasperated]. A Georgian knight, you fool!

SIR PHILO [shouting]. What's a Georgian knight, you fool?

LADY PHAORON. God knows why I married you!

SIR PHILO. God knows what? What does God know?

[LADY PHAORON gives him up and sits down with a resigned shrug. She
helps herself to one of BELVOIR'S cigars. They sit without speaking.
SIR PHILO, who is usually brisk and talkative is huddled up in a
dejected mass of tubes and gadgets with his trumpet dangling forlornly
upon his breast. Presently the door opens and NOSEGAY ushers in SIR
SOLOMON and LADY OLIVIA and MURIEL].

SIR SOLOMON. How d'ye do, Lady Phaoron? [Louuder.] Well, Philo, this is
a most fortunate affair. Aren't you looking forward to getting out of
that rig-out?

[SIR PHILO shakes hands spiritlessly and mumbles something
unintelligible inside his helmet].

LADY PHAORON. Of course, he is; it's a godsend!

SIR PHILO [shouting through his trumpet]. I'm sick of God and what He
sends.

LADY PHAORON [loudly]. There's no call for blasphemy. I thought you
couldn't hear unless one shouted.

SIR PHILO [shouting]. I didn't hear. I guessed.

LADY OLIVIA. I'm sure you must be delighted, Sir Philo. It must have
been awful for you these last three months.

LADY PHAORON. Awful! It's been positively ghastly! We've been nowhere;
we've seen noone, and, what with shouting and being shouted at, my
nerves are all in pieces.

SIR PHILO [to LADY OLIVIA]. I've had a delightful time, the best time
of my life.

[Re-enter NOSEGAY with another man-servant carrying soup-tureen].

NOSEGAY. Will you please to be seated? His lordship has instructed
me to ask you to begin; he has just telephoned and will be here
presently. He was very particular that you should on no account wait.

SIR SOLOMON [to NOSEGAY as they seat themselves where indicated].
Where's the antidote? Sir Philo Phaoron won't be able to eat until he
has it.

NOSEGAY [as he serves the soup]. I don't know, sir. Perhaps Lord
Belvoir will bring it with him.

SIR SOLOMON [who is in a good humour]. This is excellent soup, Philo.
It has a most delicious flavour. What is it, Nosegay? I've never tasted
it before.

NOSEGAY, It's a new recipe, sir; we've never had it before.

SIR SOLOMON. You must get Belvoir to give it to you, Olivia; don't you
think it's quite remarkable?

LADY OLIVIA. It is excellent.

[They all eat the soup except SIR PHILO].

SIR SOLOMON [shouting jovially to SIR PHILO]. Can't you put one of
those tubes in the soup?

LADY OLIVIA. You'll soon be able to enjoy a dinner party again. I'm
surprised you're not more excited about it. [The soup is cleared away.
NOSEGAY and the waiter go out].

SIR PHILO. I think people should eat alone. I don't know whatever
Belvoir wanted to find an antidote for. I was perfectly happy.

MURIEL. Well, you ask him. Here he is.

[The door opens and BELVOIR enters].

BELVOIR. Good evening! How d'ye do, Lady Olivia. [He shakes hands with
her and LADY PHAORON and bows to MURIEL], I must apologize for asking
you to sit down to dinner without me, but it was unavoidable.

SIR SOLOMON. Congratulations, Belvoir. It's a most wonderful bit of
fortune. How did it happen?

BELVOIR. I suppose you all notice that I've absolutely recovered.

SIR SOLOMON. Absolutely. [The rest nod].

BELVOIR. You can...smell nothing?

SIR SOLOMON. Nothing! It's wonderful!

BELVOIR. You don't seem very pleased, Sir Philo.

SIR SOLOMON. You know, I don't believe he wants to take the antidote;
he likes going about in that fantastic get-up.

LADY PHAORON. Ridiculous! he must take it. Make him take it at once,
Lord Belvoir.

SIR PHILO [lugubriously]. If there's an antidote I suppose I shall have
to take it. There's no point in going about like this if you can cure
yourself any minute. You'd simply be a fraud, and no one would take any
interest in you.

BELVOIR [quietly but very distinctly]. Well, Sir Philo, allow me to
tell you that you are cured already. [They all gasp in astonishment.]
I mean what I say! Take off that suit, and prove it. [SIR SOLOMON helps
him off with his helmet].

LADY PHAORON [delighted]. Cured! Oh, how can I thank you, my dear Lord
Belvoir?

[MURIEL, who has been silently watching, suddenly changes colour, the
truth of the situation bursts upon her].

MURIEL [starting forward]. My God, he's tricked us!

SIR SOLOMON [turning white]. What do you mean?

LADY OLIVIA [shocked], Muriel!

MURIEL. Can't you see why we can't smell him, and why we shan't be able
to smell Sir Philo? He's given us the popomack in the soup!

SIR SOLOMON. My God!

SIR PHILO [dancing excitedly, his head bare]. Hurray! Hurray!

SIR SOLOMON. Shut up, you blithering buffoon! [To BELVOIR, who is
standing calm but pale] Is this true?

BELVOIR [deliberately]. Yes, everyone of us in this room stinks worse
than a skunk, and like the skunk, we alone are unconscious of it.

LADY PHAORON [as it slowly dawns on her]. My God! [She reels backward
into a chair, half-fainting.]

SIR PHILO. [his expression changing from one of extreme joy to one of
disappointment and exasperation]. What! she smells too now?

BELVOIR [grimly]. Yes; you'll have to get another diving-suit for her.

SIR PHILO [beaming, as this new aspect dawns upon him]. Of course!
Splendid! We'll never be able to hear each other again!

LADY PHAORON [blubbering], I'll not wear one of those horrid things!
I think it's wicked of you, Lord Belvoir, wicked! What have I done to
deserve such treatment? I'd rather die than go about like that. [She
weeps].

SIR PHILO [jumping excitedly about]. Splendid! Splendid! Belvoir,
you're a marvel! She's human at last!

SIR SOLOMON [violently]. Do stop this idiotic jabber! You'll drive me
mad! Belvoir, I think you're a scoundrel!

BELVOIR [coldly]. Pardon me. I ate the popomack at your house; you
have now eaten it at mine. That is all.

SIR SOLOMON [hotly]. But I did not premeditate it. I acted in ignorance;
it was a pure accident!

BELVOIR. And it is now a pure accident that you have eaten it here. The
accident that Muriel no longer loves me [pause]. But I love her and no
one else is going to have her.

MURIEL [passionately]. Do you think I'd have anything to do with you
now? I'd rather die!

BELVOIR [grimly]. It is easy to say that, but wait until you have had
months of isolation as I have had, months without speaking to anyone
except through a telephone, and then you'll change your mind.

MURIEL [gloomily]. Do you think that matters? Do you think you've got
me even if I am forced to live with you because there's no one else in
all this world to live with? [She clenches her hands.] No one else in
all this world!

BELVOIR [bitterly]. Yes, imagine that yesterday you had the whole
world to live with! What is this wonderful world? A mass of squirming
reptiles walking on their hind legs! There is not a single man in this
universe whom you could put in my place at this moment, and say truly
that you would be prepared to abandon everything for him. You cannot
forgive me this trick, but there is no one, no one you could forgive,
and there never will be!

MURIEL. I hate the sight of you!

BELVOIR. Perhaps I also hate you. I cannot think that love would act
like this. But this way I shall win you, and if I had really loved you
I should have lost you.

MURIEL. O how I hate this talk about love! I don't want to love, I want
to live!

BELVOIR. Well, you shall live with me.

MURIEL. You will wish you were dead. Yes, perhaps I shall live with
you, a vile, hateful life because neither of us is free, bound to each
other by a hunger as basic as the need for food, yet only a partial
hunger, a hunger in which only a fragment of us takes part, dragging
the rest of us with it. Why couldn't you let me go, and wait?

BELVOIR. Wait! I've waited for thirty years, and now I should wait for
ever, for I should meet no one. Better have you than nothing.

MURIEL. You are wrong. This way you are not getting me! You are getting
nothing that will satisfy a man! You are no better than a dog or a
monkey!

BELVOIR. I am a monkey, an enlarged and more intelligent monkey. We are
all monkeys!

MURIEL [looking at him steadily]. Now I know why I couldn't love you. I
never could understand it, but now I know.

BELVOIR. I suppose you think you are perfect, you think you could fall
in love with nothing less than a god. I am not so ambitious.

MURIEL [scornfully]. You! Anyone would do for you. You'd fall into the
first woman's arms who would take pity on you.

BELVOIR. You underrate yourself. Do you think I would have taken this
trouble for anybody.

MURIEL. Oh, no doubt you have a good taste in clothes.

BELVOIR [intensely]. Do you know you are extraordinarily beautiful?

MURIEL. Oh, you'd be a judge of that too!

BELVOIR [passionately]. Muriel, I love you. Before your beauty God
would tremble. I cannot live without you.

MURIEL. That is another reason why I do not love you. I can love no man
who wants to find his life in me.

BELVOIR [gloomily], I should find no life in you, but you would be
something.

MURIEL. I don't want to be something. I want to be everything and
nothing.

SIR SOLOMON [grimly]. Well, Belvoir, you've got the best of us and
Muriel, too, for she'll never be able to marry anyone else unless she
does the same as you've done, and [the idea suddenly striking him] why
shouldn't we? Have you any of that popomack left?

BELVOIR [gloomily]. I don't know. I expect so.

SIR SOLOMON [rubbing his hands]. But of course, that's the thing to do.
Why, it will solve all our difficulties. I'll invite everyone I know;
we'll have a regular banquet. By God! all my friends and all my enemies
too. There are dozens of people who'd give their souls to be asked to
dinner by us. Well, they shall all come! Ha! ha! [He laughs fiendishly].

SIR PHILO [almost whining]. And what'll become of me when everyone's
eaten the popomack? [No one takes any notice of him and he goes on
mumbling disconsolately].

SIR SOLOMON. Well, Muriel, you won't need to marry our friend Belvoir
after all. You can invite the man you want.

MURIEL. Oh, you are all loathsome! I shall invite no one!

BELVOIR [to SIR SOLOMON]. You seem to take it for granted that I am
going to give you the popomack.

SIR SOLOMON [craftily]. Why should you refuse? The more people there
are who have eaten it the better for all of us.

BELVOIR [uneasily, evidently wrestling with himself]. And I shall
lose Muriel. I know the craftiness of women. She won't invite the man
she wants, but he'll be there, oh yes, he'll be there! [MURIEL says
nothing, but throws one profound look at him. He continues, turning to
MURIEL] You think I am weak because I need you so badly, but I tell you
you are wrong. I cannot live without your beauty. I cannot live without
you, divine spirit that you are. For there is no one who knows how
beautiful you are, no one but me; no one who will watch you fade day
by day upon the air with such passion and such pity. I want to possess
you, for you are me. I want to find myself, for you are myself. No one
will know you; you will go about the earth unrecognized, but I know
you. And because you are imperishable, and because no man will find
you, I will let you go free.

SCENE CHANGE

[The scene slowly fades. When it is light again, BELVOIR is seen seated
in his chair with his book on his knee exactly as he sat down after
speaking on the telephone to MURIEL. His eyes are closed, but it is
impossible to tell whether he is asleep. There is silence. Presently a
clock is heard striking. BELVOIR opens his eyes, and, surprised, gazes
round the room. He gets up and walks thoughtfully across to the bell,
which he rings. NOSEGAY enters].

BELVOIR. Has a Captain Anthony been here, Nosegay?

NOSEGAY. [puzzled.] No one of that name that I know of, my lord.

BELVOIR. [putting his hand to his head]. Has no one been here, not Sir
Solomon and Miss Raub?

NOSEGAY. No one, my lord. [BELVOIR walks away thoughtfully]. Is there
anything else?

BELVOIR. No, very well. [NOSEGAY goes out].

Extraordinary! [He looks at his watch. He walks to the telephone. He
takes off the receiver eagerly in obvious uneasiness]. Mayfair 2713!
Hullo! Is that Mayfair 2713? I want to speak to Miss Raub, please.
Hullo! Is that you, Muriel, back safely?...Who brought you home?...Tell
me what was it you wanted to say to me? What! You're going to marry
Clavelly! But, Muriel, you're engaged to me!...Muriel, I don't
understand...[He drops the receiver and walks into the centre of the
room.] I can do nothing, nothing!...[He walks about the room, stands a
moment in reflection and then crosses to the bell and rings it.]

[NOSEGAY enters].

NOSEGAY [after standing for a moment]. You rang for me, my lord.

BELVOIR. Go and buy me a cheap revolver.

NOSEGAY [surprised]. But I can't get one at this hour, my lord.

BELVOIR. What's that? Oh, of course not! Never mind, in the morning
will do. [NOSEGAY goes out].

SCENE CHANGE

[The lights fade and go up again on the two YOUNG MEN, sitting gazing
as if in a trance straight before them.]

SECOND YOUNG MAN [slowly moving and looking round with a shudder]. Did
you see?

FIRST YOUNG MAN [whispering]. Yes. My God! how awful! So that was how
it happened. But did I really see it, or have you been telling it to me
so vividly that I imagined it all happening as you spoke?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. But how did I know it? Did I imagine it? I wonder!

FIRST YOUNG MAN. I don't understand at the end Belvoir's waking up and
finding that no Captain Anthony had ever called and that there had been
no dinner party.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Well, you see, it's quite simple. Belvoir had been
advertising for a popomack, and Muriel had promised to take it when
they got it and then marry him; but they have been advertising for
some time without success, and Belvoir has been getting more and more
depressed as he never sees Muriel and he hears of her going about
everywhere with other men, so that when she tells him to ring her up
when she gets back home as she has something important to say, it makes
him at once uneasy and works on his mind sub-consciously to such an
extent that when he falls asleep in his chair he starts dreaming. When
he wakes and discovers it is a dream and telephones Muriel he finds
that his fear that he had lost her, which was the root of his dream,
has proved correct.

FIRST YOUNG MAN. But why did he shoot himself before that picture?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Do you remember the couple in the gallery that day we
saw that picture?

FIRST YOUNG MAN. I remember there was a couple sitting down.

SECOND YOUNG MAN. Yes, it was Belvoir and Miss Raub, and that picture
had evidently some cherished association for Belvoir.

FIRST YOUNG MAN [going up to the picture and looking at if]. I see
there's a red paper disc stuck in the corner of the glass. I have often
seen it on pictures at shows. What does it mean?

SECOND YOUNG MAN. It means [he suddenly bursts into savage laughter,
then stops dead and continues with slow emphasis] it means Sold.


CURTAIN


==THE END==



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