Exiles by James Joyce

Posted: August 19, 2007 in James Joyce

RICHARD ROWAN, a writer.
BERTHA.
ARCHIE, their son, aged eight years.
ROBERT HAND, journalist.
BEATRICE JUSTICE, his cousin, music teacher.
BRIGID, an old servant of the Rowan family.
A FISHWOMAN.

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.)

BRIGID

The mistress and Master Archie is at the bath. They never expected you. Did you send word you were back, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE

No. I arrived just now.

BRIGID

(Points to the easychair.) Sit down and I’ll tell the master you are here. Were you long in the train?

BEATRICE

(Sitting down.) Since morning.

BRIGID

Master Archie got your postcard with the views of Youghal. You’re tired out, I’m sure.

BEATRICE

O, no. (She coughs rather nervously.) Did he practise the piano while I was away?

BRIGID

(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?

BEATRICE

Rather wet, I think.

BRIGID

(Sympathetically.) Look at that now. And there is rain overhead too. (Moving towards the study.) I’ll tell him you are here.

BEATRICE

Is Mr Rowan in?

BRIGID

(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.

BEATRICE

Don’t disturb him, Brigid. I can wait here till they come back if they are not long.

BRIGID

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.)

RICHARD

Welcome.

BEATRICE

(Rises and shakes hands, blushing slightly.) Good afternoon, Mr Rowan. I did not want Brigid to disturb you.

RICHARD

Disturb me? My goodness!

BRIGID

There is something in the letterbox, sir.

RICHARD

(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.)

RICHARD

Letters?

BRIGID

No, sir. Only them Italian newspapers.

RICHARD

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.)

RICHARD

Please, sit down. Bertha will be back in a moment.

(Beatrice sits down again in the easychair. Richard sits beside the table.)

RICHARD

I had begun to think you would never come back. It is twelve days since you were here.

BEATRICE

I thought of that too. But I have come.

RICHARD

Have you thought over what I told you when you were here last?

BEATRICE

Very much.

RICHARD

You must have known it before. Did you? (She does not answer.) Do you blame me?

BEATRICE

No.

RICHARD

Do you think I have acted towards you– badly? No? Or towards anyone?

BEATRICE

(Looks at him with a sad puzzled expression.) I have asked myself that question.

RICHARD

And the answer?

BEATRICE

I could not answer it.

RICHARD

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?

BEATRICE

It is not quite the same case, is it?

RICHARD

(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?

BEATRICE

I will not ask you.

RICHARD

(Leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands joined.) Would you like to see it?

BEATRICE

Very much.

RICHARD

Because it is about yourself?

BEATRICE

Yes. But not only that.

RICHARD

Because it is written by me? Yes? Even if what you would find there is sometimes cruel?

BEATRICE

(Shyly.) That is part of your mind, too.

RICHARD

Then it is my mind that attracts you? Is that it?

BEATRICE

(Hesitating, glances at him for an instant.) Why do you think I come here?

RICHARD

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?

BEATRICE

No.

RICHARD

Why, then?

BEATRICE

Otherwise I could not see you.

(She looks at him for a moment and then turns aside quickly.)

RICHARD

(After a pause repeats uncertainly.) Otherwise you could not see me?

BEATRICE

(Suddenly confused.) I had better go. They are not coming back. (Rising.) Mr Rowan, I must go.

RICHARD

(Extending his arms.) But you are running away. Remain. Tell me what your words mean. Are you afraid of me?

BEATRICE

(Sinks back again.) Afraid? No.

RICHARD

Have you confidence in me? Do you feel that you know me?

BEATRICE

(Again shyly.) It is hard to know anyone but oneself.

RICHARD

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.

BEATRICE

Yes, it was nearly a year before your first letter came.

RICHARD

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?

BEATRICE

(Shakes her head.) I need not answer that question.

RICHARD

What then?

BEATRICE

(Is silent for a moment.) I cannot say it. You yourself must ask me, Mr Rowan.

RICHARD

(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?

BEATRICE

Could not?

RICHARD

(Leans towards her.) Could not because you dared not. Is that why?

BEATRICE

(Bends her head.) Yes.

RICHARD

On account of others or for want of courage– which?

BEATRICE

(Softly.) Courage.

RICHARD

(Slowly.) And so you have followed me with pride and scorn also in your heart?

BEATRICE

And loneliness.

(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.)

RICHARD

Do you love him still?

BEATRICE

I do not even know.

RICHARD

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.

BEATRICE

You were.

RICHARD

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…

BEATRICE

We are first cousins. It is not strange that we were often together.

RICHARD

He told me of your secret engagement with him. He had no secrets from me; I suppose you know that.

BEATRICE

(Uneasily.) What happened– between us– is so long ago. I was a child.

RICHARD

(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?

BEATRICE

(With some reserve.) If you think it worthy of mention.

RICHARD

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?

BEATRICE

I always knew you would go some day. I did not suffer; only I was changed.

RICHARD

Towards him?

BEATRICE

Everything was changed. His life, his mind, even, seemed to change after that.

RICHARD

(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.

BEATRICE

It brought me near to death. It made me see things differently.

RICHARD

And so a coldness began between you, little by little. Is that it?

BEATRICE

(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?

RICHARD

(With a repressed energy.) But what is this that seems to hang over you? It cannot be so tragic.

BEATRICE

(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.

RICHARD

(Gently.) Does nothing then in life give you peace? Surely it exists for you somewhere.

BEATRICE

If there were convents in our religion perhaps there. At least, I think so at times.

RICHARD

(Shakes his head.) No, Miss Justice, not even there. You could not give yourself freely and wholly.

BEATRICE

(Looking at him.) I would try.

RICHARD

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.

BEATRICE

(Joins her hands softly.) It is a terribly hard thing to do, Mr Rowan– to give oneself freely and wholly– and be happy.

RICHARD

But do you feel that happiness is the best, the highest that we can know?

BEATRICE

(With fervour.) I wish I could feel it.

RICHARD

(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.)

BEATRICE

(Quietly.) Did she send for you before she died, Mr Rowan?

RICHARD

(Lost in thought.) Who?

BEATRICE

Your mother.

RICHARD

(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?

BEATRICE

Yes.

RICHARD

(Coldly.) She did not. She died alone, not having forgiven me, and fortified by the rites of holy church.

BEATRICE

Mr Rowan, why did you speak to me in such a way?

RICHARD

(Rises and walks nervously to and fro.) And what I suffer at this moment you will say is my punishment.

BEATRICE

Did she write to you? I mean before…

RICHARD

(Halting.) Yes. A letter of warning, bidding me break with the past, and remember her last words to me.

BEATRICE

(Softly.) And does death not move you, Mr Rowan? It is an end. Everything else is so uncertain.

RICHARD

While she lived she turned aside from me and from mine. That is certain.

BEATRICE

From you and from…?

RICHARD

From Bertha and from me and from our child. And so I waited for the end as you say; and it came.

BEATRICE

(Covers her face with her hands.) O, no. Surely no.

RICHARD

(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.

BEATRICE

(As before.) O, do not speak like that.

RICHARD

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.

BEATRICE

Not even after Archie…?

RICHARD

(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.

BEATRICE

(Weakly.) At least you are free now.

RICHARD

(Nods.) Yes, she could not alter the terms of my father’s will nor live for ever.

BEATRICE

(With joined hands.) They are both gone now, Mr Rowan. They both loved you, believe me. Their last thoughts were of you.

RICHARD

(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.

BEATRICE

The hardness of heart you prayed for… (She breaks off.)

RICHARD

(Unheeding.) That is my last memory of him. Is there not something sweet and noble in it?

BEATRICE

Mr Rowan, something is on your mind to make you speak like this. Something has changed you since you came back three months ago.

RICHARD

(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.)

RICHARD

(Suddenly.) No, no. Not the smiler, Miss Justice. The old mother. It is her spirit I need. I am going.

BEATRICE

Someone knocked. They have come back.

RICHARD

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.)

BEATRICE

He? Who?

RICHARD

O, probably Robert. I am going out through the garden. I cannot see him now. Say I have gone to the post. Goodbye.

BEATRICE

(With growing alarm.) It is Robert you do not wish to see?

RICHARD

(Quietly.) For the moment, yes. This talk has upset me. Ask him to wait.

BEATRICE

You will come back?

RICHARD

Please God.

(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.)

ROBERT

(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?

BEATRICE

(Gazing at the roses.) No.

ROBERT

(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.

BRIGID

O, they are lovely, sir. The mistress will be delighted with them.

ROBERT

(Lays the roses carelessly on a chair out of sight.) Is nobody in?

BRIGID

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.)

ROBERT

(After a short silence.) How are you, Beatty? And how are all down in Youghal? As dull as ever?

BEATRICE

They were well when I left.

ROBERT

(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?

BEATRICE

(In the same tone.) Thank you, Robert. I am quite used to getting about alone.

ROBERT

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.)

BEATRICE

(Going towards him.) Goodness gracious, Archie! What is the matter?

ARCHIE

(Rising, out of breath.) Eh! I ran all the avenue.

ROBERT

(Smiles and holds out his hand.) Good evening, Archie. Why did you run?

ARCHIE

(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.

BEATRICE

(Holding out her hand.) And poor me!

ARCHIE

(Shakes hands somewhat shyly.) Good evening, Miss Justice.

BEATRICE

Were you disappointed that I did not come last Friday for the lesson?

ARCHIE

(Glancing at her, smiles.) No.

BEATRICE

Glad?

ARCHIE

(Suddenly.) But today it is too late.

BEATRICE

A very short lesson?

ARCHIE

(Pleased.) Yes.

BEATRICE

But now you must study, Archie.

ROBERT

Were you at the bath?

ARCHIE

Yes.

ROBERT

Are you a good swimmer now?

ARCHIE

(Leans against the davenport.) No. Mamma won’t let me into the deep place. Can you swim well, Mr Hand?

ROBERT

Splendidly. Like a stone.

ARCHIE

(Laughs.) Like a stone! (Pointing down.) Down that way?

ROBERT

(Pointing.) Yes, down; straight down. How do you say that over in Italy?

ARCHIE

That? Giù. (Pointing down and up.) That is giù and this is sù. Do you want to speak to my pappie?

ROBERT

Yes. I came to see him.

ARCHIE

(Going towards the study) I will tell him. He is in there, writing.

BEATRICE

(Calmly, looking at Robert.) No; he is out. He is gone to the post with some letters.

ROBERT

(Lightly.) O, never mind. I will wait if he is only gone to the post.

ARCHIE

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.)

BERTHA

(Shaking hands.) Good evening, Miss Justice. We thought you were still down in Youghal.

BEATRICE

(Shaking hands.) Good evening, Mrs Rowan.

BERTHA

(Bows.) Good evening, Mr Hand.

ROBERT

(Bowing.) Good evening, signora! Just imagine, I didn’t know either she was back till I found her here.

BERTHA

(To both.) Did you not come together?

BEATRICE

No. I came first. Mr Rowan was going out. He said you would be back any moment.

BERTHA

I’m sorry. If you had written or sent over word by the girl this morning…

BEATRICE

(Laughs nervously.) I arrived only an hour and a half ago. I thought of sending a telegram but it seemed too tragic.

BERTHA

Ah? Only now you arrived?

ROBERT

(Extending his arms, blandly.) I retire from public and private life. Her first cousin and a journalist, I know nothing of her movements.

BEATRICE

(Not directly to him.) My movements are not very interesting.

ROBERT

(In the same tone.) A lady’s movements are always interesting.

BERTHA

But sit down, won’t you? You must be very tired.

BEATRICE

(Quickly.) No, not at all. I just came for Archie’s lesson.

BERTHA

I wouldn’t hear of such a thing, Miss Justice, after your long journey.

ARCHIE

(Suddenly to Beatrice.) And, besides, you didn’t bring the music.

BEATRICE

(A little confused.) That I forgot. But we have the old piece.

ROBERT

(Pinching Archie’s ear.) You little scamp. You want to get off the lesson.

BERTHA

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.

ARCHIE

I will, mamma. (He makes a movement to go.)

BEATRICE

No, please Mrs Rowan. Archie! I would really prefer…

ROBERT

(Quietly.) I suggest a compromise. Let it be a half-lesson.

BERTHA

But she must be exhausted.

BEATRICE

(Quickly.) Not in the least. I was thinking of the lesson in the train.

ROBERT

(To Bertha.) You see what it is to have a conscience, Mrs Rowan.

ARCHIE

Of my lesson, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE

(Simply.) It is ten days since I heard the sound of a piano.

BERTHA

O, very well. If that is it…

ROBERT

(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?

BEATRICE

If you know.

ROBERT

The buzz of the harmonium in her father’s parlour. (To Beatrice.) Confess.

BEATRICE

(Smiling.) Yes. I can hear it.

ROBERT

(Grimly.) So can I. The asthmatic voice of protestantism.

BERTHA

Did you not enjoy yourself down there, Miss Justice?

ROBERT

(Intervenes.) She did not, Mrs Rowan. She goes there on retreat, when the protestant strain in her prevails– gloom, seriousness, righteousness.

BEATRICE

I go to see my father.

ROBERT

(Continuing.) But she comes back here to my mother, you see. The piano influence is from our side of the house.

BERTHA

(Hesitating.) Well, Miss Justice, if you would like to play something… But please don’t fatigue yourself with Archie.

ROBERT

(Suavely.) Do, Beatty. That is what you want.

BEATRICE

If Archie will come?

ARCHIE

(With a shrug.) To listen.

BEATRICE

(Takes his hand.) And a little lesson, too. Very short.

BERTHA

Well, afterwards you must stay to tea.

BEATRICE

(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.)

BERTHA

(Coming towards him with the paper in her hand.) You put this into my hand last night. What does it mean?

ROBERT

Do you not know?

BERTHA

(Reads.) There is one word which I have never dared to say to you. What is the word?

ROBERT

That I have a deep liking for you.

(A short pause. The piano is heard faintly from the upper room.)

ROBERT

(Takes the bunch of roses from the chair.) I brought these for you. Will you take them from me?

BERTHA

(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?

ROBERT

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.

BERTHA

Now you have dared to say it.

ROBERT

(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.

BERTHA

(Laughs.) Why like the moon?

ROBERT

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.

BERTHA

Did you think of me last night?

ROBERT

(Comes nearer.) I think of you always– as something beautiful and distant– the moon or some deep music.

BERTHA

(Smiling.) And last night which was I?

ROBERT

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?

BERTHA

(Sitting down.) You may.

ROBERT

(Sitting beside her.) Are you annoyed with me?

BERTHA

No.

ROBERT

I thought you were. You put away my poor flowers so quickly.

BERTHA

(Takes them from the table and holds them close to her face.) Is this what you wish me to do with them?

ROBERT

(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?

BERTHA

(Laying the flowers in her lap.) I am wondering if that is what you say– to the others.

ROBERT

(Surprised.) What others?

BERTHA

The other women. I hear you have so many admirers.

ROBERT

(Involuntarily.) And that is why you too…?

BERTHA

But you have, haven’t you?

ROBERT

Friends, yes.

BERTHA

Do you speak to them in the same way?

ROBERT

(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?

BERTHA

What you said was very kind. (She looks at him for a moment.) Thank you for saying it– and thinking it.

ROBERT

(Leaning forward.) Bertha!

BERTHA

Yes?

ROBERT

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?

BERTHA

(Readily.) O yes. Why should we not?

ROBERT

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.

BERTHA

No. Not that night.

ROBERT

When?

BERTHA

The night we landed I felt very tired and dirty. (Shaking her head.) I did not see it in you that night.

ROBERT

(Smiling.) Tell me what did you see that night– your very first impression.

BERTHA

(Knitting her brows.) You were standing with your back to the gangway, talking to two ladies.

ROBERT

To two plain middleaged ladies, yes.

BERTHA

I recognized you at once. And I saw that you had got fat.

ROBERT

(Takes her hand.) And this poor fat Robert– do you dislike him then so much? Do you disbelieve all he says?

BERTHA

I think men speak like that to all women whom they like or admire. What do you want me to believe?

ROBERT

All men, Bertha?

BERTHA

(With sudden sadness.) I think so.

ROBERT

I too?

BERTHA

Yes, Robert. I think you too.

ROBERT

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?

BERTHA

(Looks into his eyes.) Different.

ROBERT

Are you quite sure, Bertha?

BERTHA

(A little confused, tries to withdraw her hand.) I have answered you.

ROBERT

(Suddenly.) Bertha, may I kiss your hand? Let me. May I?

BERTHA

If you wish.

(He lifts her hand to his lips slowly. She rises suddenly. and listens.)

BERTHA

Did you hear the garden gate?

ROBERT

(Rising also.) No.

(A short pause. The piano can be heard faintly from the upper room.)

ROBERT

(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.

BERTHA

You want him to remain here.

ROBERT

Yes.

BERTHA

Why?

ROBERT

For your sake because you are unhappy so far away. For his sake too because he should think of his future.

BERTHA

(Laughing.) Do you remember what he said when you spoke to him last night?

ROBERT

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.

BERTHA

Do you not think he is strange?

ROBERT

In that, yes.

BERTHA

A little– mad?

ROBERT

(Comes closer.) No. He is not. Perhaps we are. Why, do you…?

BERTHA

(Laughs.) I ask you because you are intelligent.

ROBERT

You must not go away. I will not let you.

BERTHA

(Looks full at him.) You?

ROBERT

Those eyes must not go away. (He takes her hands.) May I kiss your eyes?

BERTHA

Do so.

(He kisses her eyes and then passes his hand over her hair.)

ROBERT

Little Bertha!

BERTHA

(Smiling.) But I am not so little. Why do you call me little?

ROBERT

Little Bertha! One embrace? (He puts his arm around her.) Look into my eyes again.

BERTHA

(Looks.) I can see the little gold spots. So many you have.

ROBERT

(Delighted.) Your voice! Give me a kiss, a kiss with your mouth.

BERTHA

Take it.

ROBERT

I am afraid. (He kisses her mouth and passes his hand many times over her hair.) At last I hold you in my arms!

BERTHA

And are you satisfied?

ROBERT

Let me feel your lips touch mine.

BERTHA

And then you will be satisfied?

ROBERT

(Murmurs.) Your lips, Bertha!

BERTHA

(Closes her eyes and kisses him quickly.) There. (Puts her hands on his shoulders.) Why don’t you say: thanks?

ROBERT

(Sighs.) My life is finished– over.

BERTHA

O, don’t speak like that now, Robert.

ROBERT

Over, over. I want to end it and have done with it.

BERTHA

(Concerned but lightly.) You silly fellow!

ROBERT

(Presses her to him.) To end it all– death. To fall from a great high cliff, down, right down into the sea.

BERTHA

Please, Robert…

ROBERT

Listening to music and in the arms of the woman I love– the sea, music and death.

BERTHA

(Looks at him for a moment.) The woman you love?

ROBERT

(Hurriedly.) I want to speak to you, Bertha– alone– not here. Will you come?

BERTHA

(With downcast eyes.) I too want to speak to you.

ROBERT

(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.

BERTHA

Where?

ROBERT

(In tone of passion.) Your eyes. Your lips. All your divine body.

BERTHA

(Repelling his embrace, confused.) I meant where do you wish me to come.

ROBERT

To my house. Not my mother’s over there. 1 will write the address for you. Will you come?

BERTHA

When?

ROBERT

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.)

BERTHA

(Listening.) The gate opened.

ROBERT

(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.)

RICHARD

(Advancing, takes off his hat.) Good afternoon.

ROBERT

(Rises, with nervous friendliness.) Good afternoon, Richard.

BERTHA

(At the table, taking the roses.) Look what lovely roses Mr Hand brought me.

ROBERT

I am afraid they are overblown.

RICHARD

(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.)

ROBERT

(Rapidly.) The address. Take the tram at Lansdowne Road and ask to be let down near there.

BERTHA

(Takes it.) I promise nothing.

ROBERT

I will wait.

(Richard comes back from the study.)

BERTHA

(Going.) I must put these roses in water.

RICHARD

(Handing her his hat.) Yes, do. And please put my hat on the rack.

BERTHA

(Takes it.) So I will leave you to yourselves for your talk. (Looking round.) Do you want anything? Cigarettes?

RICHARD

Thanks. We have them here.

BERTHA

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.)

RICHARD

(Points to the chair near the little table on the right.) Your place of honour.

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

The room is rather dark, I think, with the blind down but if you wish…

ROBERT

(Quickly.) Not at all. I know what it is– the result of night work.

RICHARD

(Sits on the lounge.) Must you?

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

(After a slight pause.) Have you any news?

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

Did he buy it or borrow it?

ROBERT

Bought it, I hope.

RICHARD

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.)

ROBERT

(Suavely, hopelessly.) Well, the matter is closed for the present. You have your iron mask on today.

RICHARD

(Smoking.) Let me hear the rest.

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

The conditions?

ROBERT

Conditions? You mean about the future?

RICHARD

I mean about the past.

ROBERT

(Easily.) That episode in your past is forgotten. An act of impulse. We are all impulsive

RICHARD

(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.

ROBERT

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.

RICHARD

Writing one of your leading articles, in fact.

ROBERT

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.

RICHARD

No?

ROBERT

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?

RICHARD

Do you, or do you not, want me to give the lie to my past life?

ROBERT

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.

RICHARD

You will set these rumours afloat?

ROBERT

I will. God help me.

RICHARD

(Observing him.) For the sake of social conventions?

ROBERT

For the sake of something else too– our friendship, our lifelong friendship.

RICHARD

Thanks.

ROBERT

(Slightly wounded.) And I will tell you the whole truth.

RICHARD

(Smiles and bows.) Yes. Do, please.

ROBERT

Not only for your sake. Also for the sake of– your present partner in life.

RICHARD

I see.

(He crushes his cigarette softly on the ashtray and then leans forward, rubbing his hands slowly.)

RICHARD

Why for her sake?

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

(Smiles.) That is your way of saying that she proposed what I would not accept.

ROBERT

(Nods.) I remember. And she went away with you. But was it of her own free choice? Answer me frankly.

RICHARD

(Turns to him, calmly.) I played for her against all that you say or can say; and I won.

ROBERT

(Nodding again.) Yes, you won.

RICHARD

(Rises.) Excuse me for forgetting. Will you have some whisky?

ROBERT

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.)

RICHARD

(Sits down again, leaning back on the lounge.) Will you please help yourself?

ROBERT

(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…

RICHARD

In our house.

ROBERT

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!

RICHARD

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.

ROBERT

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?

RICHARD

And some others.

ROBERT

(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?

RICHARD

(Irritated.) For you it was all quite natural?

ROBERT

For me it is quite natural to kiss a woman whom I like. Why not? She is beautiful for me.

RICHARD

(Toying with the lounge cushion.) Do you kiss everything that is beautiful for you?

ROBERT

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.

RICHARD

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?

ROBERT

(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?

RICHARD

What?

ROBERT

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?

RICHARD

(Drily.) Many ideas strike a man who has lived nine years with a woman.

ROBERT

Yes. I suppose they do…. This beautiful cool stone does me good. Is it a paperweight or a cure for headache?

RICHARD

Bertha brought it home one day from the strand. She, too, says that it is beautiful.

ROBERT

(Lays down the stone quietly.) She is right.

(He raises his glass, and drinks. A pause.)

RICHARD

Is that all you wanted to say to me?

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

For what hour?

ROBERT

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.

RICHARD

(Smiling.) I can almost see two envoys starting for the United States to collect funds for my statue a hundred years hence.

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

The second one for me, please.

ROBERT

(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.)

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

(Points.) Help yourself.

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

O, why not?

ROBERT

(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?

RICHARD

By all means.

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

(Sits up suddenly and leans his elbows on the table.) You are my friend, then?

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

(Lights and offers him a match.) There is a faith still stranger than the faith of the disciple in his master.

ROBERT

And that is?

RICHARD

The faith of a master in the disciple who will betray him.

ROBERT

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.

RICHARD

(Without rising.) Are you going?

ROBERT

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?

RICHARD

Good.

ROBERT

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.)

ROBERT

Congratulate me, Beatty. I have won over Richard.

ARCHIE

(Crossing to the door on the right, calls.) Mamma, Miss Justice is going.

BEATRICE

On what are you to be congratulated?

ROBERT

On a victory, of course. (Laying his hand lightly on Richard’s shoulder.) The descendant of Archibald Hamilton Rowan has come home.

RICHARD

I am not a descendant of Hamilton Rowan.

ROBERT

What matter? (Bertha comes in from the right with a bowl of roses.)

BEATRICE

Has Mr Rowan…?

ROBERT

(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.

RICHARD

(Touches his hand.) At Philippi.

BEATRICE

(Shakes hands also.) Accept my best wishes, Mr Rowan.

RICHARD

Thanks. But do not believe him.

ROBERT

(Vivaciously.) Believe me, believe me. (To Bertha.) Good afternoon, Mrs Rowan.

BERTHA

(Shaking hands, candidly.) I thank you, too. (To Beatrice.) You won’t stay to tea, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE

No, thank you. (Takes leave of her.) I must go. Good afternoon. Goodbye, Archie (going).

ROBERT

Addio, Archibald.

ARCHIE

Addio.

ROBERT

Wait, Beatty. I shall accompany you.

BEATRICE

(Going out on the right with Bertha.) O, don’t trouble.

ROBERT

(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.)

ARCHIE

I say, pappie!

RICHARD

(Absently.) What is it?

ARCHIE

I want to ask you a thing.

RICHARD

(Sitting on the end of the lounge, stares in front of him.) What is it?

ARCHIE

Will you ask mamma to let me go out in the morning with the milkman?

RICHARD

With the milkman?

ARCHIE

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?

RICHARD

Yes.

ARCHIE

Ask mamma now can I go. Will you?

RICHARD

(Glances towards the door.) I will.

ARCHIE

He said he will show me the cows he has in the field. Do you know how many cows he has?

RICHARD

How many?

ARCHIE

Eleven. Eight red and three white. But one is sick now. No, not sick. But it fell.

RICHARD

Cows?

ARCHIE

(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?

RICHARD

(Takes his hand.) Who knows? Do you understand what it is to give a thing?

ARCHIE

To give? Yes.

RICHARD

While you have a thing it can be taken from you.

ARCHIE

By robbers? No?

RICHARD

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.

ARCHIE

But, pappie?

RICHARD

Yes?

ARCHIE

How could a robber rob a cow? Everyone would see him. In the night, perhaps.

RICHARD

In the night, yes.

ARCHIE

Are there robbers here like in Rome?

RICHARD

There are poor people everywhere.

ARCHIE

Have they revolvers?

RICHARD

No.

ARCHIE

Knives? Have they knives?

RICHARD

(Sternly.) Yes, yes. Knives and revolvers.

ARCHIE

(Disengages himself.) Ask mamma now. She is coming.

RICHARD

(Makes a movement to rise.) I will.

ARCHIE

No, sit there, pappie. You wait and ask her when she comes back. I won’t be here. I’ll be in the garden.

RICHARD

(Sinking back again.) Yes. Go.

ARCHIE

(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.)

RICHARD

(Watching her.) Well?

BERTHA

(Absently.) Well. He says he likes me.

RICHARD

(Leans his chin in his hand.) You showed him his note?

BERTHA

Yes. I asked him what it meant.

RICHARD

What did he say it meant?

BERTHA

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.

RICHARD

Since when!

BERTHA

(Again absently.) Since when– what?

RICHARD

Since when did he say he liked you?

BERTHA

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?

RICHARD

(Blandly.) The usual thing. Not about you.

BERTHA

He was very nervous. You saw that?

RICHARD

Yes. I saw it. What else went on?

BERTHA

He asked me to give him my hand.

RICHARD

(Smiling.) In marriage?

BERTHA

(Smiling.) No, only to hold.

RICHARD

Did you?

BERTHA

Yes. (Tearing off a few petals.) Then he caressed my hand and asked would I let him kiss it. I let him.

RICHARD

Well?

BERTHA

Then he asked could he embrace me– even once? ..and then…

RICHARD

And then?

BERTHA

He put his arm round me.

RICHARD

(Stares at the floor for a moment, then looks at her again.) And then?

BERTHA

He said I had beautiful eyes. And asked could he kiss them. (With a gesture.) I said: Do so.

RICHARD

And he did?

BERTHA

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.

RICHARD

(Quietly.) I know, dear. But I want to find out what he means or feels just as you do.

BERTHA

(Points at him.) Remember, you allowed me to go on. I told you the whole thing from the beginning.

RICHARD

(As before.) I know, dear… And then?

BERTHA

He asked for a kiss. I said: Take it.

RICHARD

And then?

BERTHA

(Crumpling a handful of petals.) He kissed me.

RICHARD

Your mouth?

BERTHA

Once or twice.

RICHARD

Long kisses?

BERTHA

Fairly long. (Reflects.) Yes, the last time.

RICHARD

(Rubs his hands slowly; then:) With his lips? Or… the other way?

BERTHA

Yes, the last time.

RICHARD

Did he ask you to kiss him?

BERTHA

He did.

RICHARD

Did you?

BERTHA

(Hesitates, then looking straight at him.) I did. I kissed him.

RICHARD

What way?

BERTHA

(With a shrug.) O simply.

RICHARD

Were you excited?

BERTHA

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.

RICHARD

Was he?

BERTHA

Excited? Yes, I think he was. He sighed. He was dreadfully nervous.

RICHARD

(Resting his forehead on his hand.) I see.

BERTHA

(Crosses towards the lounge and stands near him.) Are you jealous?

RICHARD

(As before.) No.

BERTHA

(Quietly.) You are, Dick.

RICHARD

I am not. Jealous of what?

BERTHA

Because he kissed me.

RICHARD

(Looks up.) Is that all?

BERTHA

Yes, that’s all. Except that he asked me would I meet him.

RICHARD

Out somewhere?

BERTHA

No. In his house.

RICHARD

(Surprised.) Over there with his mother, is it?

BERTHA

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.)

RICHARD

(Half to himself.) Our cottage.

BERTHA

(Hands him the slip.) Here.

RICHARD

(Reads it.) Yes. Our cottage.

BERTHA

Your…?

RICHARD

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?

BERTHA

(Shocked.) That place?

RICHARD

(Walks away from her a few paces and stands still, thinking, holding his chin.) Yes.

BERTHA

(Taking up the slip again.) Where is it?

RICHARD

Do you not know?

BERTHA

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?

RICHARD

O no, cottages. (He returns to the lounge and sits down.) What answer did you give?

BERTHA

No answer. He said he would wait.

RICHARD

Tonight?

BERTHA

Every night, he said. Between eight and nine.

RICHARD

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.

BERTHA

Very.

RICHARD

Did he ask you had I any suspicion?

BERTHA

No.

RICHARD

Did he mention my name?

BERTHA

No.

RICHARD

Not once?

BERTHA

Not that I remember.

RICHARD

(Bounding to his feet.) O yes! Quite clear!

BERTHA

What?

RICHARD

(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!

BERTHA

(Looking at him.) What are you going to do?

RICHARD

(Shortly.) Follow him. Find him. Tell him. (Calmly.) A few words will do. Thief and fool.

BERTHA

(Flings the slip on the couch.) I see it all!

RICHARD

(Turning.) Eh!

BERTHA

(Hotly.) The work of a devil.

RICHARD

He?

BERTHA

(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.

RICHARD

How? In God’s name, how?

BERTHA

(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.

RICHARD

I never tried to do such a thing, Bertha. You know I cannot be severe with a child.

BERTHA

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.

RICHARD

(Approaching her quietly.) Bertha, do not say things you will be sorry for. Are you not glad my son is fond of me?

BERTHA

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.

RICHARD

Yes, dear. I know it was you.

BERTHA

(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.

RICHARD

(Violently.) And you have the courage to say that to me?

BERTHA

(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!

RICHARD

(Controlling himself.) You forget that I have allowed you complete liberty– and allow you it still.

BERTHA

(Scornfully.) Liberty!

RICHARD

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?

BERTHA

No, I do not. (Looking full at him.) Which of us two is the deceiver?

RICHARD

Of us? You and me?

BERTHA

(In a calm decided tone.) I know why you have allowed me what you call complete liberty.

RICHARD

Why?

BERTHA

To have complete liberty with– that girl.

RICHARD

(Irritated.) But, good God, you knew about that this long time. I never hid it.

BERTHA

You did. I thought it was a kind of friendship between you– till we came back, and then I saw.

RICHARD

So it is, Bertha.

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?

RICHARD

Believe me, Bertha dear. Believe me as I believe you.

BERTHA

(With an impulsive gesture) My God, I feel it! I know it! What else is between you but love?

RICHARD

(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.

BERTHA

(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.

RICHARD

Love! (Throws out his hands with a sigh and moves away from her.) I cannot argue with you.

BERTHA

You can’t because I am right. (Following him a few steps.) What would anyone say?

RICHARD

(Turns to her.) Do you think I care?

BERTHA

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?

RICHARD

You can if you like.

BERTHA

I will. Certainly I will.

RICHARD

(Coolly.) He will explain it to you.

BERTHA

He doesn’t say one thing and do another. He is honest in his own way.

RICHARD

(Plucks one of the roses and throws it at her feet.) He is, indeed! The soul of honour!

BERTHA

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.

RICHARD

You do not. Nor would he.

BERTHA

(Laughs scornfully.) Of course. Neither he nor I can understand it. Only she can. Because it is such a deep thing!

RICHARD

(Angrily.) Neither he nor you– nor she either! Not one of you!

BERTHA

(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.)

RICHARD

(Gravely.) Bertha, take care of uttering words like that!

BERTHA

(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.

RICHARD

Is it generous? Think.

BERTHA

(Pointing towards the garden.) It is she who is not generous. Remember now what I say.

RICHARD

What?

BERTHA

(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.

RICHARD

Do you believe that?

BERTHA

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?

RICHARD

(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.)

BRIGID

The tea is on the table, ma’am.

BERTHA

Very well.

BRIGID

Is Master Archie in the garden?

BERTHA

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.)

BRIGID

(In the garden.) Master Archie! You are to come in to your tea.

BERTHA

Am I to go to this place?

RICHARD

Do you want to go?

BERTHA

I want to find out what he means. Am I to go?

RICHARD

Why do you ask me? Decide yourself.

BERTHA

Do you tell me to go?

RICHARD

No.

BERTHA

Do you forbid me to go?

RICHARD

No.

BRIGID

(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.)

BERTHA

Tell me not to go and I will not.

RICHARD

(Without looking at her.) Decide yourself.

BERTHA

Will you blame me then?

RICHARD

(Excitedly.) No, no! I will not blame you. You are free. I cannot blame you.

(Archie appears at the garden door.)

BERTHA

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.)

ARCHIE

(Quickly.) Well, did you ask her?

RICHARD

(Starting.) What?

ARCHIE

Can I go?

RICHARD

Yes.

ARCHIE

In the morning? She said yes?

RICHARD

Yes. In the morning.

(He puts his arm round his son’s shoulders and looks down at him fondly.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s