RICHARD ROWAN, a writer.
ARCHIE, their son, aged eight years.
ROBERT HAND, journalist.
BEATRICE JUSTICE, his cousin, music teacher.
BRIGID, an old servant of the Rowan family.
At Merrion and Ranelagh, suburbs of Dublin.
Summer of the year 1912.
(The drawingroom in Richard Rowan’s house at Merrion, a suburb of Dublin. On the right, forward, a fireplace, before which stands a low screen. Over the mantelpiece a giltframed glass. Further back in the right wall, folding doors leading to the parlour and kitchen. In the wall at the back to the right a small door leading to a study. Left of this a sideboard. On the wall above the sideboard a framed crayon drawing of a young man. More to the left double doors with glass panels leading out to the garden. In the wall at the left a window looking out on the road. Forward in the same wall a door leading to the hall and the upper part of the house. Between the window and door a lady’s davenport stands against the wall. Near it a wicker chair. In the centre of the room a round table. Chairs, upholstered in faded green plush, stand round the table. To the right, forward, a smaller table with a smoking service on it. Near it an easychair and a lounge. Cocoanut mats lie before the fireplace, beside the lounge and before the doors. The floor is of stained planking. The double doors at the back and the folding doors at the right have lace curtains, which are drawn halfway. The lower sash of the window is lifted and the window is hung with heavy green plush curtains. The blind is pulled down to the edge of the lifted lower sash. It is a warm afternoon in June and the room is filled with soft sunlight which is waning.)
(Brigid and Beatrice Justice come in by the door on the left. Brigid is an elderly woman, lowsized, with irongrey hair. Beatrice Justice is a slender dark young woman of 27 years. She wears a wellmade navyblue costume and an elegant simply trimmed black straw hat, and carries a small portfolioshaped handbag.)
The mistress and Master Archie is at the bath. They never expected you. Did you send word you were back, Miss Justice?
No. I arrived just now.
(Points to the easychair.) Sit down and I’ll tell the master you are here. Were you long in the train?
(Sitting down.) Since morning.
Master Archie got your postcard with the views of Youghal. You’re tired out, I’m sure.
O, no. (She coughs rather nervously.) Did he practise the piano while I was away?
(Laughs heartily.) Practice, how are you! Is it Master Archie? He is mad after the milkman’s horse now. Had you nice weather down there, Miss Justice?
Rather wet, I think.
(Sympathetically.) Look at that now. And there is rain overhead too. (Moving towards the study.) I’ll tell him you are here.
Is Mr Rowan in?
(Points.) He is in his study. He is wearing himself out about something he is writing. Up half the night he does be. (Going.) I’ll call him.
Don’t disturb him, Brigid. I can wait here till they come back if they are not long.
And I saw something in the letterbox when I was letting you in. (She crosses to the study door, opens it slightly and calls.) Master Richard, Miss Justice is here for Master Archie’s lesson.
(Richard Rowan comes in from the study and advances towards Beatrice, holding out his hand. He is a tall athletic young man of a rather lazy carriage. He has light brown hair and a moustache and wears glasses. He is dressed in loose lightgrey tweed.)
(Rises and shakes hands, blushing slightly.) Good afternoon, Mr Rowan. I did not want Brigid to disturb you.
Disturb me? My goodness!
There is something in the letterbox, sir.
(Takes a small bunch of keys from his pocket and hands them to her.) Here.
(Brigid goes out by the door at the left and is heard opening and closing the box. A short pause. She enters with two newspapers in her hands.)
No, sir. Only them Italian newspapers.
Leave them on my desk, will you?
(Brigid hands him back the keys, leaves the newspapers in the study, comes out again and goes out by the folding doors on the right.)
Please, sit down. Bertha will be back in a moment.
(Beatrice sits down again in the easychair. Richard sits beside the table.)
I had begun to think you would never come back. It is twelve days since you were here.
I thought of that too. But I have come.
Have you thought over what I told you when you were here last?
You must have known it before. Did you? (She does not answer.) Do you blame me?
Do you think I have acted towards you– badly? No? Or towards anyone?
(Looks at him with a sad puzzled expression.) I have asked myself that question.
And the answer?
I could not answer it.
If I were a painter and told you I had a book of sketches of you you would not think it so strange, would you?
It is not quite the same case, is it?
(Smiles slightly.) Not quite. I told you also that I would not show you what I had written unless you asked to see it. Well?
I will not ask you.
(Leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands joined.) Would you like to see it?
Because it is about yourself?
Yes. But not only that.
Because it is written by me? Yes? Even if what you would find there is sometimes cruel?
(Shyly.) That is part of your mind, too.
Then it is my mind that attracts you? Is that it?
(Hesitating, glances at him for an instant.) Why do you think I come here?
Why? Many reasons. To give Archie lessons. We have known one another so many years, from childhood, Robert, you and I– haven’t we? You have always been interested in me, before I went away and while I was away. Then our letters to each other about my book. Now it is published. I am here again. Perhaps you feel that some new thing is gathering in my brain; perhaps you feel that you should know it. Is that the reason?
Otherwise I could not see you.
(She looks at him for a moment and then turns aside quickly.)
(After a pause repeats uncertainly.) Otherwise you could not see me?
(Suddenly confused.) I had better go. They are not coming back. (Rising.) Mr Rowan, I must go.
(Extending his arms.) But you are running away. Remain. Tell me what your words mean. Are you afraid of me?
(Sinks back again.) Afraid? No.
Have you confidence in me? Do you feel that you know me?
(Again shyly.) It is hard to know anyone but oneself.
Hard to know me? I sent you from Rome the chapters of my book as I wrote them; and letters for nine long years. Well, eight years.
Yes, it was nearly a year before your first letter came.
It was answered at once by you. And from that on you have watched me in my struggle. (Joins his hands earnestly.) Tell me, Miss Justice, did you feel that what you read was written for your eyes? Or that you inspired me?
(Shakes her head.) I need not answer that question.
(Is silent for a moment.) I cannot say it. You yourself must ask me, Mr Rowan.
(With some vehemence.) Then that I expressed in those chapters and letters, and in my character and life as well, something in your soul which you could not– pride or scorn?
(Leans towards her.) Could not because you dared not. Is that why?
(Bends her head.) Yes.
On account of others or for want of courage– which?
(Slowly.) And so you have followed me with pride and scorn also in your heart?
(She leans her head on her hand, averting her face. Richard rises and walks slowly to the window on the left. He looks out for some moments and then returns towards her, crosses to the lounge and sits down near her.)
Do you love him still?
I do not even know.
It was that that made me so reserved with you– then– even though I felt your interest in me, even though I felt that I too was something in your life.
Yet that separated me from you. I was a third person I felt. Your names were always spoken together, Robert and Beatrice, as long as I can remember. It seemed to me, to everyone…
We are first cousins. It is not strange that we were often together.
He told me of your secret engagement with him. He had no secrets from me; I suppose you know that.
(Uneasily.) What happened– between us– is so long ago. I was a child.
(Smiles maliciously.) A child? Are you sure? It was in the garden of his mother’s house. No? (He points towards the garden.) Over there. You plighted your troth, as they say, with a kiss. And you gave him your garter. Is it allowed to mention that?
(With some reserve.) If you think it worthy of mention.
I think you have not forgotten it. (Clasping his hands quietly.) I do not understand it. I thought, too, that after I had gone… Did my going make you suffer?
I always knew you would go some day. I did not suffer; only I was changed.
Everything was changed. His life, his mind, even, seemed to change after that.
(Musing.) Yes. I saw that you had changed when I received your first letter after a year; after your illness, too. You even said so in your letter.
It brought me near to death. It made me see things differently.
And so a coldness began between you, little by little. Is that it?
(Half closing her eyes.) No. Not at once. I saw in him a pale reflection of you: then that too faded. Of what good is it to talk now?
(With a repressed energy.) But what is this that seems to hang over you? It cannot be so tragic.
(Calmly.) O, not in the least tragic. I shall become gradually better, they tell me, as I grow older. As I did not die then they tell me I shall probably live. I am given life and health again– when I cannot use them. (Calmly and bitterly.) I am convalescent.
(Gently.) Does nothing then in life give you peace? Surely it exists for you somewhere.
If there were convents in our religion perhaps there. At least, I think so at times.
(Shakes his head.) No, Miss Justice, not even there. You could not give yourself freely and wholly.
(Looking at him.) I would try.
You would try, yes. You were drawn to him as your mind was drawn towards mine. You held back from him. From me, too, in a different way. You cannot give yourself freely and wholly.
(Joins her hands softly.) It is a terribly hard thing to do, Mr Rowan– to give oneself freely and wholly– and be happy.
But do you feel that happiness is the best, the highest that we can know?
(With fervour.) I wish I could feel it.
(Leans back, his hands locked together behind his head.) O, if you knew how I am suffering at this moment! For your case, too. But suffering most of all for my own. (With bitter force.) And how I pray that I may be granted again my dead mother’s hardness of heart! For some help, within me or without, I must find. And find it I will.
(Beatrice rises, looks at him intently, and walks away toward the garden door. She turns with indecision, looks again at him and, coming back, leans over the easychair.)
(Quietly.) Did she send for you before she died, Mr Rowan?
(Lost in thought.) Who?
(Recovering himself, looks keenly at her for a moment.) So that, too, was said of me here by my friends– that she sent for me before she died and that I did not go?
(Coldly.) She did not. She died alone, not having forgiven me, and fortified by the rites of holy church.
Mr Rowan, why did you speak to me in such a way?
(Rises and walks nervously to and fro.) And what I suffer at this moment you will say is my punishment.
Did she write to you? I mean before…
(Halting.) Yes. A letter of warning, bidding me break with the past, and remember her last words to me.
(Softly.) And does death not move you, Mr Rowan? It is an end. Everything else is so uncertain.
While she lived she turned aside from me and from mine. That is certain.
From you and from…?
From Bertha and from me and from our child. And so I waited for the end as you say; and it came.
(Covers her face with her hands.) O, no. Surely no.
(Fiercely.) How can my words hurt her poor body that rots in the grave? Do you think I do not pity her cold blighted love for me? I fought against her spirit while she lived to the bitter end. (He presses his hand to his forehead.) It fights against me still– in here.
(As before.) O, do not speak like that.
She drove me away. On account of her I lived years in exile and poverty too, or near it. I never accepted the doles she sent me through the bank. I waited, too, not for her death but for some understanding of me, her own son, her own flesh and blood; that never came.
Not even after Archie…?
(Rudely.) My son, you think? A child of sin and shame! Are you serious? (She raises her face and looks at him.) There were tongues here ready to tell her all, to embitter her withering mind still more against me and Bertha and our godless nameless child. (Holding out his hands to her.) Can you not hear her mocking me while I speak? You must know the voice, surely, the voice that called you the black protestant, the pervert’s daughter. (With sudden selfcontrol.) In any case a remarkable woman.
(Weakly.) At least you are free now.
(Nods.) Yes, she could not alter the terms of my father’s will nor live for ever.
(With joined hands.) They are both gone now, Mr Rowan. They both loved you, believe me. Their last thoughts were of you.
(Approaching, touches her lightly on the shoulder, and points to the crayon drawing on the wall.) Do you see him there, smiling and handsome? His last thoughts! I remember the night he died. (He pauses for an instant and then goes on calmly.) I was a boy of fourteen. He called me to his bedside. He knew I wanted to go to the theater to hear Carmen. He told my mother to give me a shilling. I kissed him and went. When I came home he was dead. Those were his last thoughts as far as I know.
The hardness of heart you prayed for… (She breaks off.)
(Unheeding.) That is my last memory of him. Is there not something sweet and noble in it?
Mr Rowan, something is on your mind to make you speak like this. Something has changed you since you came back three months ago.
(Gazing again at the drawing, calmly, almost gaily.) He will help me, perhaps, my smiling handsome father.
(A knock is heard at the hall door on the left.)
(Suddenly.) No, no. Not the smiler, Miss Justice. The old mother. It is her spirit I need. I am going.
Someone knocked. They have come back.
No, Bertha has a key. It is he. At least, I am going, whoever it is. (He goes out quickly on the left and comes back at once with his straw hat in his hand.)
O, probably Robert. I am going out through the garden. I cannot see him now. Say I have gone to the post. Goodbye.
(With growing alarm.) It is Robert you do not wish to see?
(Quietly.) For the moment, yes. This talk has upset me. Ask him to wait.
You will come back?
(He goes out quickly through the garden. Beatrice makes as if to follow him. and then stops after a few paces. Brigid enters by the folding doors on the right and goes out on the left. The hall door is heard opening. A few seconds after Brigid enters with Robert Hand. Robert Hand is a middlesized, rather stout man between thirty and forty. He is cleanshaven, with mobile features. His hair and eyes are dark and his complexion sallow. His gait and speech are rather slow. He wears a dark blue morning suit and carries in his hand a large bunch of red roses wrapped in tissue paper.)
(Coming toward. her with outstretched hand which she takes.) My dearest coz. Brigid told me you were here. I had no notion. Did you send mother a telegram?
(Gazing at the roses.) No.
(Following her gaze.) You are admiring my roses. I brought them to the mistress of the house. (Critically.) I am afraid they are not nice.
O, they are lovely, sir. The mistress will be delighted with them.
(Lays the roses carelessly on a chair out of sight.) Is nobody in?
Yes, sir. Sit down, sir. They’ll be here now any moment. The master was here. (She looks about her and with a half curtsey goes out on the right.)
(After a short silence.) How are you, Beatty? And how are all down in Youghal? As dull as ever?
They were well when I left.
(Politely.) O, but I’m sorry I did not know you were coming. I would have met you at the train. Why did you do it? You have some queer ways about you, Beatty, haven’t you?
(In the same tone.) Thank you, Robert. I am quite used to getting about alone.
Yes, but I mean to say… O, well, you have arrived in your own characteristic way. (A noise is heard at the window and a boy’s voice is heard calling, Mr Hand! Robert turns.) By Jove, Archie, too, is arriving in a characteristic way!
(Archie scrambles into the room through the open window on the left and then rises to his feet, flushed and panting. Archie is a boy of eight years, dressed in white breeches, jersey and cap. He wears spectacles, has a lively manner and speaks with the slight trace of a foreign accent.)
(Going towards him.) Goodness gracious, Archie! What is the matter?
(Rising, out of breath.) Eh! I ran all the avenue.
(Smiles and holds out his hand.) Good evening, Archie. Why did you run?
(Shakes hands.) Good evening. We saw you on the top of the tram, and I shouted Mr Hand! But you did not see me. But we saw you, mamma and I. She will be here in a minute. I ran.
(Holding out her hand.) And poor me!
(Shakes hands somewhat shyly.) Good evening, Miss Justice.
Were you disappointed that I did not come last Friday for the lesson?
(Glancing at her, smiles.) No.
(Suddenly.) But today it is too late.
A very short lesson?
But now you must study, Archie.
Were you at the bath?
Are you a good swimmer now?
(Leans against the davenport.) No. Mamma won’t let me into the deep place. Can you swim well, Mr Hand?
Splendidly. Like a stone.
(Laughs.) Like a stone! (Pointing down.) Down that way?
(Pointing.) Yes, down; straight down. How do you say that over in Italy?
That? Giù. (Pointing down and up.) That is giù and this is sù. Do you want to speak to my pappie?
Yes. I came to see him.
(Going towards the study) I will tell him. He is in there, writing.
(Calmly, looking at Robert.) No; he is out. He is gone to the post with some letters.
(Lightly.) O, never mind. I will wait if he is only gone to the post.
But mamma is coming. (He glances towards the window.) Here she is!
(Archie runs out by the door on the left. Beatrice walks slowly towards the davenport. Robert remains standing. A short silence. Archie and Bertha come in through the door on the left. Bertha is a young woman of graceful build. She has dark grey eyes, patient in expression, and soft features. Her manner is cordial and selfpossessed. She wears a lavender dress and carries her cream gloves knotted round the handle of her sunshade.)
(Shaking hands.) Good evening, Miss Justice. We thought you were still down in Youghal.
(Shaking hands.) Good evening, Mrs Rowan.
(Bows.) Good evening, Mr Hand.
(Bowing.) Good evening, signora! Just imagine, I didn’t know either she was back till I found her here.
(To both.) Did you not come together?
No. I came first. Mr Rowan was going out. He said you would be back any moment.
I’m sorry. If you had written or sent over word by the girl this morning…
(Laughs nervously.) I arrived only an hour and a half ago. I thought of sending a telegram but it seemed too tragic.
Ah? Only now you arrived?
(Extending his arms, blandly.) I retire from public and private life. Her first cousin and a journalist, I know nothing of her movements.
(Not directly to him.) My movements are not very interesting.
(In the same tone.) A lady’s movements are always interesting.
But sit down, won’t you? You must be very tired.
(Quickly.) No, not at all. I just came for Archie’s lesson.
I wouldn’t hear of such a thing, Miss Justice, after your long journey.
(Suddenly to Beatrice.) And, besides, you didn’t bring the music.
(A little confused.) That I forgot. But we have the old piece.
(Pinching Archie’s ear.) You little scamp. You want to get off the lesson.
O, never mind the lesson. You must sit down and have a cup of tea now. (Going towards the door on the right.) I’ll tell Brigid.
I will, mamma. (He makes a movement to go.)
No, please Mrs Rowan. Archie! I would really prefer…
(Quietly.) I suggest a compromise. Let it be a half-lesson.
But she must be exhausted.
(Quickly.) Not in the least. I was thinking of the lesson in the train.
(To Bertha.) You see what it is to have a conscience, Mrs Rowan.
Of my lesson, Miss Justice?
(Simply.) It is ten days since I heard the sound of a piano.
O, very well. If that is it…
(Nervously, gaily.) Let us have the piano by all means. I know what is in Beatty’s ears at this moment. (To Beatrice.) Shall I tell?
If you know.
The buzz of the harmonium in her father’s parlour. (To Beatrice.) Confess.
(Smiling.) Yes. I can hear it.
(Grimly.) So can I. The asthmatic voice of protestantism.
Did you not enjoy yourself down there, Miss Justice?
(Intervenes.) She did not, Mrs Rowan. She goes there on retreat, when the protestant strain in her prevails– gloom, seriousness, righteousness.
I go to see my father.
(Continuing.) But she comes back here to my mother, you see. The piano influence is from our side of the house.
(Hesitating.) Well, Miss Justice, if you would like to play something… But please don’t fatigue yourself with Archie.
(Suavely.) Do, Beatty. That is what you want.
If Archie will come?
(With a shrug.) To listen.
(Takes his hand.) And a little lesson, too. Very short.
Well, afterwards you must stay to tea.
(To Archie.) Come.
(Beatrice and Archie go out together by the door on the left. Bertha goes towards the davenport, takes off her hat and lays it with her sunshade on the desk. Then taking a key from a little flowervase, she opens a drawer of the davenport, takes out a slip of paper and closes the drawer again. Robert stands watching her.)
(Coming towards him with the paper in her hand.) You put this into my hand last night. What does it mean?
Do you not know?
(Reads.) There is one word which I have never dared to say to you. What is the word?
That I have a deep liking for you.
(A short pause. The piano is heard faintly from the upper room.)
(Takes the bunch of roses from the chair.) I brought these for you. Will you take them from me?
(Taking them.) Thank you. (She lays them on the table and unfolds the paper again.) Why did you not dare to say it last night?
I could not speak to you or follow you. There were too many people on the lawn. I wanted you to think over it and so I put it into your hand when you were going away.
Now you have dared to say it.
(Moves his hand slowly past his eyes.) You passed. The avenue was dim with dusky light. I could see the dark green masses of the trees. And you passed beyond them. You were like the moon.
(Laughs.) Why like the moon?
In that dress, with your slim body, walking with little even steps. I saw the moon passing in the dusk till you passed and left my sight.
Did you think of me last night?
(Comes nearer.) I think of you always– as something beautiful and distant– the moon or some deep music.
(Smiling.) And last night which was I?
I was awake half the night. I could hear your voice. I could see your face in the dark. Your eyes… I want to speak to you. Will you listen to me? May I speak?
(Sitting down.) You may.
(Sitting beside her.) Are you annoyed with me?
I thought you were. You put away my poor flowers so quickly.
(Takes them from the table and holds them close to her face.) Is this what you wish me to do with them?
(Watching her.) Your face is a flower too– but more beautiful. A wild flower blowing in a hedge. (Moving his chair closer to her.) Why are you smiling? At my words?
(Laying the flowers in her lap.) I am wondering if that is what you say– to the others.
(Surprised.) What others?
The other women. I hear you have so many admirers.
(Involuntarily.) And that is why you too…?
But you have, haven’t you?
Do you speak to them in the same way?
(In an offended tone.) How can you ask me such a question? What kind of person do you think I am? Or why do you listen to me? Did you not like me to speak to you in that way?
What you said was very kind. (She looks at him for a moment.) Thank you for saying it– and thinking it.
(Leaning forward.) Bertha!
I have the right to call you by your name. From old times– nine years ago. We were Bertha– and Robert– then. Can we not be so now, too?
(Readily.) O yes. Why should we not?
Bertha, you knew. From the very night you landed on Kingstown pier. It all came back to me then. And you knew it. You saw it.
No. Not that night.
The night we landed I felt very tired and dirty. (Shaking her head.) I did not see it in you that night.
(Smiling.) Tell me what did you see that night– your very first impression.
(Knitting her brows.) You were standing with your back to the gangway, talking to two ladies.
To two plain middleaged ladies, yes.
I recognized you at once. And I saw that you had got fat.
(Takes her hand.) And this poor fat Robert– do you dislike him then so much? Do you disbelieve all he says?
I think men speak like that to all women whom they like or admire. What do you want me to believe?
All men, Bertha?
(With sudden sadness.) I think so.
Yes, Robert. I think you too.
All then– without exception? Or with one exception? (In a lower tone.) Or is he too– Richard too– like us all– in that at least? Or different?
(Looks into his eyes.) Different.
Are you quite sure, Bertha?
(A little confused, tries to withdraw her hand.) I have answered you.
(Suddenly.) Bertha, may I kiss your hand? Let me. May I?
If you wish.
(He lifts her hand to his lips slowly. She rises suddenly. and listens.)
Did you hear the garden gate?
(Rising also.) No.
(A short pause. The piano can be heard faintly from the upper room.)
(Pleading.) Do not go away. You must never go away now. Your life is here. I came for that too today– to speak to him– to urge him to accept this position. He must. And you must persuade him to. You have a great influence over him.
You want him to remain here.
For your sake because you are unhappy so far away. For his sake too because he should think of his future.
(Laughing.) Do you remember what he said when you spoke to him last night?
About…? (Reflecting.) Yes. He quoted the Our Father about our daily bread. He said that to take care for the future is to destroy hope and love in the world.
Do you not think he is strange?
In that, yes.
A little– mad?
(Comes closer.) No. He is not. Perhaps we are. Why, do you…?
(Laughs.) I ask you because you are intelligent.
You must not go away. I will not let you.
(Looks full at him.) You?
Those eyes must not go away. (He takes her hands.) May I kiss your eyes?
(He kisses her eyes and then passes his hand over her hair.)
(Smiling.) But I am not so little. Why do you call me little?
Little Bertha! One embrace? (He puts his arm around her.) Look into my eyes again.
(Looks.) I can see the little gold spots. So many you have.
(Delighted.) Your voice! Give me a kiss, a kiss with your mouth.
I am afraid. (He kisses her mouth and passes his hand many times over her hair.) At last I hold you in my arms!
And are you satisfied?
Let me feel your lips touch mine.
And then you will be satisfied?
(Murmurs.) Your lips, Bertha!
(Closes her eyes and kisses him quickly.) There. (Puts her hands on his shoulders.) Why don’t you say: thanks?
(Sighs.) My life is finished– over.
O, don’t speak like that now, Robert.
Over, over. I want to end it and have done with it.
(Concerned but lightly.) You silly fellow!
(Presses her to him.) To end it all– death. To fall from a great high cliff, down, right down into the sea.
Listening to music and in the arms of the woman I love– the sea, music and death.
(Looks at him for a moment.) The woman you love?
(Hurriedly.) I want to speak to you, Bertha– alone– not here. Will you come?
(With downcast eyes.) I too want to speak to you.
(Tenderly.) Yes, dear, I know. (He kisses her again.) I will speak to you; tell you all; then. I will kiss you, then, long long kisses– when you come to me– long long sweet kisses.
(In tone of passion.) Your eyes. Your lips. All your divine body.
(Repelling his embrace, confused.) I meant where do you wish me to come.
To my house. Not my mother’s over there. 1 will write the address for you. Will you come?
Tonight. Between eight and nine. Come. I will wait for you tonight. And every night. You will?
(He kisses her with passion, holding her head between his hands. After a few instants she breaks from him. He sits down.)
(Listening.) The gate opened.
(Intensely.) I will wait for you.
(He takes the slip from the table. Bertha moves away from him slowly. Richard comes in from the garden.)
(Advancing, takes off his hat.) Good afternoon.
(Rises, with nervous friendliness.) Good afternoon, Richard.
(At the table, taking the roses.) Look what lovely roses Mr Hand brought me.
I am afraid they are overblown.
(Suddenly.) Excuse me for a moment, will you?
(He turns and goes into his study quickly. Robert takes a pencil from his pocket and writes a few words on the slip; then hands it quickly to Bertha.)
(Rapidly.) The address. Take the tram at Lansdowne Road and ask to be let down near there.
(Takes it.) I promise nothing.
I will wait.
(Richard comes back from the study.)
(Going.) I must put these roses in water.
(Handing her his hat.) Yes, do. And please put my hat on the rack.
(Takes it.) So I will leave you to yourselves for your talk. (Looking round.) Do you want anything? Cigarettes?
Thanks. We have them here.
Then I can go?
(She goes out on the left with Richard’s hat, which she leaves in the hall, and returns at once; she stops for a moment at the davenport, replaces the slip do the drawer, locks it, and replaces the key, and, taking the roses, goes towards the right. Robert precedes her to open the door for her. She bows and goes out.)
(Points to the chair near the little table on the right.) Your place of honour.
(Sits down.) Thanks. (Passing his hand over his brow.) Good Lord, how warm it is today! The heat pains me here in the eye. The glare.
The room is rather dark, I think, with the blind down but if you wish…
(Quickly.) Not at all. I know what it is– the result of night work.
(Sits on the lounge.) Must you?
(Sighs.) Eh, yes. I must see part of the paper through every night. And then my leading articles. We are approaching a difficult moment. And not only here.
(After a slight pause.) Have you any news?
(In a different voice.) Yes. I want to speak to you seriously. Today may be an important day for you– or rather, tonight. I saw the vicechancellor this morning. He has the highest opinion of you, Richard. He has read your book, he said.
Did he buy it or borrow it?
Bought it, I hope.
I shall smoke a cigarette. Thirty-seven copies have now been sold in Dublin. (He takes a cigarette from the box on the table, and lights it.)
(Suavely, hopelessly.) Well, the matter is closed for the present. You have your iron mask on today.
(Smoking.) Let me hear the rest.
(Again seriously.) Richard, you are too suspicious. It is a defect in you. He assured me he has the highest possible opinion of you, as everyone has. You are the man for the post, he says. In fact, he told me that, if your name goes forward, he will work might and main for you with the senate and I… will do my part, of course, in the press and privately. I regard it as a public duty. The chair of romance literature is yours by right, as a scholar, as a literary personality.
Conditions? You mean about the future?
I mean about the past.
(Easily.) That episode in your past is forgotten. An act of impulse. We are all impulsive
(Looks fixedly at him.) You called it an act of folly, then– nine years ago. You told me I was hanging a weight about my neck.
I was wrong. (Suavely.) Here is how the matter stands, Richard. Everyone knows that you ran away years ago with a young girl… How shall I put it? …with a young girl not exactly your equal. (Kindly.) Excuse me, Richard, that is not my opinion nor my language. I am simply using the language of people whose opinions I don’t share.
Writing one of your leading articles, in fact.
Put it so. Well, it made a great sensation at the time. A mysterious disappearance. My name was involved too, as best man, let us say, on that famous occasion. Of course, they think I acted from a mistaken sense of friendship. Well, all that is known. (With some hesitation.) But what happened afterwards is not known.
Of course, it is your affair, Richard. However, you are not so young now as you were then. The expression is quite in the style of my leading articles, isn’t it?
Do you, or do you not, want me to give the lie to my past life?
I am thinking of your future life– here. I understand your pride and your sense of liberty. I understand their point of view also. However, there is a way out; it is simply this. Refrain from contradicting any rumours you may hear concerning what happened…. or did not happen after you went away. Leave the rest to me.
You will set these rumours afloat?
I will. God help me.
(Observing him.) For the sake of social conventions?
For the sake of something else too– our friendship, our lifelong friendship.
(Slightly wounded.) And I will tell you the whole truth.
(Smiles and bows.) Yes. Do, please.
Not only for your sake. Also for the sake of– your present partner in life.
(He crushes his cigarette softly on the ashtray and then leans forward, rubbing his hands slowly.)
Why for her sake?
(Also leans forward, quietly.) Richard, have you been quite fair to her? It was her own free choice, you will say. But was she really free to choose? She was a mere girl. She accepted all that you proposed.
(Smiles.) That is your way of saying that she proposed what I would not accept.
(Nods.) I remember. And she went away with you. But was it of her own free choice? Answer me frankly.
(Turns to him, calmly.) I played for her against all that you say or can say; and I won.
(Nodding again.) Yes, you won.
(Rises.) Excuse me for forgetting. Will you have some whisky?
All things come to those who wait.
(Richard goes to the sideboard and brings a small tray with the decanter and glasses to the table where he sets it down.)
(Sits down again, leaning back on the lounge.) Will you please help yourself?
(Does so.) And you? Steadfast? (Richard shakes his head.) Lord, when I think of our wild nights long ago– talks by the hour, plans, carouses, revelry…
In our house.
It is mine now. I have kept it ever since though I don’t go there often. Whenever you like to come let me know. You must come some night. It will be old times again. (He lifts his glass, and drinks.) Prosit!
It was not only a house of revelry; it was to be the hearth of a new life. (Musing.) And in that name all our sins were committed.
Sins! Drinking and blasphemy (he points) by me. And drinking and heresy, much worse (he points again) by you– are those the sins you mean?
And some others.
(Lightly, uneasily.) You mean the women. I have no remorse of conscience. Maybe you have. We had two keys on those occasions. (Maliciously.) Have you?
(Irritated.) For you it was all quite natural?
For me it is quite natural to kiss a woman whom I like. Why not? She is beautiful for me.
(Toying with the lounge cushion.) Do you kiss everything that is beautiful for you?
Everything– if it can be kissed. (He takes up a flat stone which lies on the table.) This stone, for instance. It is so cool, so polished, so delicate, like a woman’s temple. It is silent, it suffers our passion; and it is beautiful. (He places it against his lips.) And so I kiss it because it is beautiful. And what is a woman? A work of nature, too, like a stone or a flower or a bird. A kiss is an act of homage.
It is an act of union between man and woman. Even if we are often led to desire through the sense of beauty can you say that the beautiful is what we desire?
(Pressing the stone to his forehead.) You will give me a headache if you make me think today. I cannot think today. I feel too natural, too common. After all, what is most attractive in even the most beautiful woman?
Not those qualities which she has and other women have not but the qualities which she has in common with them. I mean… the commonest. (Turning over the stone, he presses the other side to his forehead.) I mean how her body develops heat when it is pressed, the movement of her blood, how quickly she changes by digestion what she eats into– what shall be nameless. (Laughing.) I am very common today. Perhaps that idea never struck you?
(Drily.) Many ideas strike a man who has lived nine years with a woman.
Yes. I suppose they do…. This beautiful cool stone does me good. Is it a paperweight or a cure for headache?
Bertha brought it home one day from the strand. She, too, says that it is beautiful.
(Lays down the stone quietly.) She is right.
(He raises his glass, and drinks. A pause.)
Is that all you wanted to say to me?
(Quickly.) There is something else. The vicechancellor sends you, through me, an invitation for tonight– to dinner at his house. You know where he lives? (Richard nods.) I thought you might have forgotten. Strictly private, of course. He wants to meet you again and sends you a very warm invitation.
For what hour?
Eight. But, like yourself, he is free and easy about time. Now, Richard, you must go there. That is all. I feel tonight will be the turningpoint in your life. You will live here and work here and think here and be honoured here– among our people.
(Smiling.) I can almost see two envoys starting for the United States to collect funds for my statue a hundred years hence.
(Agreeably.) Once I made a little epigram about statues. All statues are of two kinds. (He folds his arms across his chest.) The statue which says: How shall I get down? and the other kind (he unfolds his arms and extends his right arm, averting his head) the statue which says: In my time the dunghill was so high.
The second one for me, please.
(Lazily.) Will you give me one of those long cigars of yours?
(Richard selects a Virginia cigar from the box on the table and hands it to him with the straw drawn out.)
(Lighting it.) These cigars Europeanize me. If Ireland is to become a new Ireland she must first become European. And that is what you are here for, Richard. Some day we shall have to choose between England and Europe. I am a descendant of the dark foreigners: that is why I like to be here. I may be childish. But where else in Dublin can I get a bandit cigar like this or a cup of black coffee? The man who drinks black coffee is going to conquer Ireland. And now I will take just a half measure of that whisky, Richard, to show you there is no ill feeling.
(Points.) Help yourself.
(Does so.) Thanks. (He drinks and goes on as before.) Then you yourself, the way you loll on that lounge: then your boy’s voice and also– Bertha herself. Do you allow me to call her that, Richard? I mean as an old friend of both of you.
O, why not?
(With animation.) You have that fierce indignation which lacerated the heart of Swift. You have fallen from a higher world, Richard, and you are filled with fierce indignation, when you find that life is cowardly and ignoble. While I… shall I tell you?
By all means.
(Archly.) I have come up from a lower world and I am filled with astonishment when I find that people have any redeeming virtue at all.
(Sits up suddenly and leans his elbows on the table.) You are my friend, then?
(Gravely.) I fought for you all the time you were away. I fought to bring you back. I fought to keep your place for you here. I will fight for you still because I have faith in you, the faith of a disciple in his master. I cannot say more than that. It may seem strange to you… Give me a match.
(Lights and offers him a match.) There is a faith still stranger than the faith of the disciple in his master.
And that is?
The faith of a master in the disciple who will betray him.
The church lost a theologian in you, Richard. But I think you look too deeply into life. (He rises, pressing Richard’s arm slightly.) Be gay. Life is not worth it.
(Without rising.) Are you going?
Must. (He turns and says in a friendly tone.) Then it is all arranged. We meet tonight at the vicechancellor’s. I shall look in at about ten. So you can have an hour or so to yourselves first. You will wait till I come?
One more match and I am happy.
(Richard strikes another match, hands it to him and rises also. Archie comes in by the door on the left, followed by Beatrice.)
Congratulate me, Beatty. I have won over Richard.
(Crossing to the door on the right, calls.) Mamma, Miss Justice is going.
On what are you to be congratulated?
On a victory, of course. (Laying his hand lightly on Richard’s shoulder.) The descendant of Archibald Hamilton Rowan has come home.
I am not a descendant of Hamilton Rowan.
What matter? (Bertha comes in from the right with a bowl of roses.)
Has Mr Rowan…?
(Turning towards Bertha.) Richard is coming tonight to the vicechancellor’s dinner. The fatted calf will be eaten: roast, I hope. And next session will see the descendant of a namesake of etcetera, etcetera in a chair of the university. (He offers his hand.) Good afternoon, Richard. We shall meet tonight.
(Touches his hand.) At Philippi.
(Shakes hands also.) Accept my best wishes, Mr Rowan.
Thanks. But do not believe him.
(Vivaciously.) Believe me, believe me. (To Bertha.) Good afternoon, Mrs Rowan.
(Shaking hands, candidly.) I thank you, too. (To Beatrice.) You won’t stay to tea, Miss Justice?
No, thank you. (Takes leave of her.) I must go. Good afternoon. Goodbye, Archie (going).
Wait, Beatty. I shall accompany you.
(Going out on the right with Bertha.) O, don’t trouble.
(Following her.) But I insist– as a cousin.
(Bertha, Beatrice and Robert go out by the door on the left. Richard stands irresolutely near the table. Archie closes the door leading to the hall and, coming over to him, plucks him by the sleeve.)
I say, pappie!
(Absently.) What is it?
I want to ask you a thing.
(Sitting on the end of the lounge, stares in front of him.) What is it?
Will you ask mamma to let me go out in the morning with the milkman?
With the milkman?
Yes. In the milkcar. He says he will let me drive when we get on to the roads where there are no people. The horse is a very good beast. Can I go?
Ask mamma now can I go. Will you?
(Glances towards the door.) I will.
He said he will show me the cows he has in the field. Do you know how many cows he has?
Eleven. Eight red and three white. But one is sick now. No, not sick. But it fell.
(With a gesture.) Eh! Not bulls. Because bulls give no milk. Eleven cows. They must give a lot of milk. What makes a cow give milk?
(Takes his hand.) Who knows? Do you understand what it is to give a thing?
To give? Yes.
While you have a thing it can be taken from you.
By robbers? No?
But when you give it, you have given it. No robber can take it from you. (He bends his head and presses his son’s hand against his cheek.) It is yours then for ever when you have given it. It will be yours always. That is to give.
How could a robber rob a cow? Everyone would see him. In the night, perhaps.
In the night, yes.
Are there robbers here like in Rome?
There are poor people everywhere.
Have they revolvers?
Knives? Have they knives?
(Sternly.) Yes, yes. Knives and revolvers.
(Disengages himself.) Ask mamma now. She is coming.
(Makes a movement to rise.) I will.
No, sit there, pappie. You wait and ask her when she comes back. I won’t be here. I’ll be in the garden.
(Sinking back again.) Yes. Go.
(Kisses him swiftly.) Thanks.
(He runs out quickly by the door at the back leading into the garden. Bertha enters by the door on the left. She approaches the table and stands beside it, fingering the petals of the roses, looking at Richard.)
(Watching her.) Well?
(Absently.) Well. He says he likes me.
(Leans his chin in his hand.) You showed him his note?
Yes. I asked him what it meant.
What did he say it meant?
He said I must know. I said I had an idea. Then he told me he liked me very much. That I was beautiful– and all that.
(Again absently.) Since when– what?
Since when did he say he liked you?
Always, he said. But more since we came back. He said I was like the moon in this lavender dress. (Looking at him.) Had you any words with him– about me?
(Blandly.) The usual thing. Not about you.
He was very nervous. You saw that?
Yes. I saw it. What else went on?
He asked me to give him my hand.
(Smiling.) In marriage?
(Smiling.) No, only to hold.
Yes. (Tearing off a few petals.) Then he caressed my hand and asked would I let him kiss it. I let him.
Then he asked could he embrace me– even once? ..and then…
He put his arm round me.
(Stares at the floor for a moment, then looks at her again.) And then?
He said I had beautiful eyes. And asked could he kiss them. (With a gesture.) I said: Do so.
And he did?
Yes. First one and then the other. (She breaks off suddenly.) Tell me, Dick, does all this disturb you? Because I told you I don’t want that. I think you are only pretending you don’t mind. I don’t mind.
(Quietly.) I know, dear. But I want to find out what he means or feels just as you do.
(Points at him.) Remember, you allowed me to go on. I told you the whole thing from the beginning.
(As before.) I know, dear… And then?
He asked for a kiss. I said: Take it.
(Crumpling a handful of petals.) He kissed me.
Once or twice.
Fairly long. (Reflects.) Yes, the last time.
(Rubs his hands slowly; then:) With his lips? Or… the other way?
Yes, the last time.
Did he ask you to kiss him?
(Hesitates, then looking straight at him.) I did. I kissed him.
(With a shrug.) O simply.
Were you excited?
Well, you can imagine. (Frowning suddenly.) Not much. He has not nice lips… Still I was excited, of course. But not like with you, Dick.
Excited? Yes, I think he was. He sighed. He was dreadfully nervous.
(Resting his forehead on his hand.) I see.
(Crosses towards the lounge and stands near him.) Are you jealous?
(As before.) No.
(Quietly.) You are, Dick.
I am not. Jealous of what?
Because he kissed me.
(Looks up.) Is that all?
Yes, that’s all. Except that he asked me would I meet him.
No. In his house.
(Surprised.) Over there with his mother, is it?
No, a house he has. He wrote the address for me.
(She goes to the desk, takes the key from the flower vase, unlocks the drawer and returns to him with the slip of paper.)
(Half to himself.) Our cottage.
(Hands him the slip.) Here.
(Reads it.) Yes. Our cottage.
No, his. I call it ours. (Looking at her.) The cottage I told you about so often– that we had the two keys for, he and I. It is his now. Where we used to hold our wild nights, talking, drinking, planning– at that time. Wild nights; yes. He and I together. (He throws the slip on the couch and rises suddenly.) And sometimes I alone. (Stares at her.) But not quite alone. I told you. You remember?
(Shocked.) That place?
(Walks away from her a few paces and stands still, thinking, holding his chin.) Yes.
(Taking up the slip again.) Where is it?
Do you not know?
He told me to take the tram at Lansdowne Road and to ask the man to let me down there. Is it… is it a bad place?
O no, cottages. (He returns to the lounge and sits down.) What answer did you give?
No answer. He said he would wait.
Every night, he said. Between eight and nine.
And so I am to go tonight to interview– the professor. About the appointment I am to beg for. (Looking at her.) The interview is arranged for tonight by him– between eight and nine. Curious, isn’t it? The same hour.
Did he ask you had I any suspicion?
Did he mention my name?
Not that I remember.
(Bounding to his feet.) O yes! Quite clear!
(Striding to and fro.) A liar, a thief, and a fool! Quite clear! A common thief! What else? (With a harsh laugh.) My great friend! A patriot too! A thief– nothing else! (He halts, thrusting his hands into his pockets.) But a fool also!
(Looking at him.) What are you going to do?
(Shortly.) Follow him. Find him. Tell him. (Calmly.) A few words will do. Thief and fool.
(Flings the slip on the couch.) I see it all!
(Hotly.) The work of a devil.
(Turning on him.) No, you! The work of a devil to turn him against me as you tried to turn my own child against me. Only you did not succeed.
How? In God’s name, how?
(Excitedly.) Yes, yes. What I say. Everyone saw it. Whenever I tried to correct him for the least thing you went on with your folly, speaking to him as if he were a grownup man. Ruining the poor child, or trying to. Then, of course, I was the cruel mother and only you loved him. (With growing excitement.) But you did not turn him against me– against his own mother. Because why? Because the child has too much nature in him.
I never tried to do such a thing, Bertha. You know I cannot be severe with a child.
Because you never loved your own mother. A mother is always a mother, no matter what. I never heard of any human being that did not love the mother that brought him into the world, except you.
(Approaching her quietly.) Bertha, do not say things you will be sorry for. Are you not glad my son is fond of me?
Who taught him to be? Who taught him to run to meet you? Who told him you would bring him home toys when you were out on your rambles in the rain, forgetting all about him– and me? I did. I taught him to love you.
Yes, dear. I know it was you.
(Almost crying.) And then you try to turn everyone against me. All is to be for you. I am to appear false and cruel to everyone except to you. Because you take advantage of my simplicity as you did– the first time.
(Violently.) And you have the courage to say that to me?
(Facing him.) Yes, I have! Both then and now. Because I am simple you think you can do what you like with me. (Gesticulating.) Follow him now. Call him names. Make him be humble before you and make him despise me. Follow him!
(Controlling himself.) You forget that I have allowed you complete liberty– and allow you it still.
Yes, complete. But he must know that I know. (More calmly.) I will speak to him quietly. (Appealing.) Bertha, believe me, dear! It is not jealousy. You have complete liberty to do as you wish– you and he. But not in this way. He will not despise you. You don’t wish to deceive me or to pretend to deceive me– with him, do you?
No, I do not. (Looking full at him.) Which of us two is the deceiver?
Of us? You and me?
(In a calm decided tone.) I know why you have allowed me what you call complete liberty.
To have complete liberty with– that girl.
(Irritated.) But, good God, you knew about that this long time. I never hid it.
You did. I thought it was a kind of friendship between you– till we came back, and then I saw.
So it is, Bertha.
(Shakes her head.) No, no. It is much more; and that is why you give me complete liberty. All those things you sit up at night to write about (pointing to the study) in there– about her. You call that friendship?
Believe me, Bertha dear. Believe me as I believe you.
(With an impulsive gesture) My God, I feel it! I know it! What else is between you but love?
(Calmly.) You are trying to put that idea into my head but I warn you that I don’t take my ideas from other people.
(Hotly.) It is, it is! And that is why you allow him to go on. Of course! It doesn’t affect you. You love her.
Love! (Throws out his hands with a sigh and moves away from her.) I cannot argue with you.
You can’t because I am right. (Following him a few steps.) What would anyone say?
(Turns to her.) Do you think I care?
But I care. What would he say if he knew? You, who talk so much of the high kind of feeling you have for me, expressing yourself in that way to another woman. If he did it, or other men, I could understand because they are all false pretenders. But you, Dick! Why do you not tell him then?
You can if you like.
I will. Certainly I will.
(Coolly.) He will explain it to you.
He doesn’t say one thing and do another. He is honest in his own way.
(Plucks one of the roses and throws it at her feet.) He is, indeed! The soul of honour!
You may make fun of him as much as you like. I understand more than you think about that business. And so will he. Writing those long letters to her for years, and she to you. For years. But since I came back I understand it– well.
You do not. Nor would he.
(Laughs scornfully.) Of course. Neither he nor I can understand it. Only she can. Because it is such a deep thing!
(Angrily.) Neither he nor you– nor she either! Not one of you!
(With great bitterness.) She will! She will understand it! The diseased woman!
(She turns away and walks over to the little table on the right. Richard restrains a sudden gesture. A short pause.)
(Gravely.) Bertha, take care of uttering words like that!
(Turning, excitedly.) I don’t mean any harm! I feel for her more than you can because I am a woman. I do, sincerely. But what I say is true.
Is it generous? Think.
(Pointing towards the garden.) It is she who is not generous. Remember now what I say.
(Comes nearer; in a calmer tone.) You have given that woman very much, Dick. And she may be worthy of it. And she may understand it all, too. I know she is that kind.
Do you believe that?
I do. But I believe you will get very little from her in return– or from any of her clan. Remember my words, Dick. Because she is not generous and they are not generous. Is it all wrong what I am saying? Is it?
(Darkly.) No. Not all.
(She stoops and, picking up the rose from the floor, places it in the vase again. He watches her. Brigid appears at the folding doors on the right.)
The tea is on the table, ma’am.
Is Master Archie in the garden?
Yes. Call him in.
(Brigid crosses the room and goes out into the garden. Bertha goes towards the doors on the right. At the lounge she stops and takes up the slip.)
(In the garden.) Master Archie! You are to come in to your tea.
Am I to go to this place?
Do you want to go?
I want to find out what he means. Am I to go?
Why do you ask me? Decide yourself.
Do you tell me to go?
Do you forbid me to go?
(From the garden.) Come quickly, Master Archie! Your tea is waiting on you.
(Brigis crosses the room and goes out through the folding doors. Bertha folds the slip into the waist of her dress and goes slowly towards the right. Near the door she turns and halts.)
Tell me not to go and I will not.
(Without looking at her.) Decide yourself.
Will you blame me then?
(Excitedly.) No, no! I will not blame you. You are free. I cannot blame you.
(Archie appears at the garden door.)
I did not deceive you. (She goes out through the folding doors. Richard remains standing at the table. Archie, when his mother has gone, runs down to Richard.)
(Quickly.) Well, did you ask her?
Can I go?
In the morning? She said yes?
Yes. In the morning.
(He puts his arm round his son’s shoulders and looks down at him fondly.)