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- Getting Married - 30/36 -
MRS GEORGE [sitting down comfortably] Come! Do you really think youre better suited to that young sauce box than her husband? You enjoyed her company when you were only the friend of the family-- when there was the husband there to shew off against and to take all the responsibility. Are you sure youll enjoy it as much when you are the husband? She isnt clever, you know. She's only silly- clever.
HOTCHKISS [uneasily leaning against the table and holding on to it to control his nervous movements] Need you tell me? fiend that you are!
MRS GEORGE. You amused the husband, didnt you?
HOTCHKISS. He has more real sense of humor than she. He's better bred. That was not my fault.
MRS GEORGE. My husband has a sense of humor too.
HOTCHKISS. The coal merchant?--I mean the slate merchant.
MRS GEORGE [appreciatively] He would just love to hear you talk. He's been dull lately for want of a change of company and a bit of fresh fun.
HOTCHKISS [flinging a chair opposite her and sitting down with an overdone attempt at studied insolence] And pray what is your wretched husband's vulgar conviviality to me?
MRS GEORGE. You love me?
HOTCHKISS. I loathe you.
MRS GEORGE. It's the same thing.
HOTCHKISS. Then I'm lost.
MRS GEORGE. You may come and see me if you promise to amuse George.
HOTCHKISS. I'll insult him, sneer at him, wipe my boots on him.
MRS GEORGE. No you wont, dear boy. Youll be a perfect gentleman.
HOTCHKISS [beaten; appealing to her mercy] Zenobia--
MRS GEORGE. Polly, please.
HOTCHKISS. Mrs Collins--
MRS GEORGE. Sir?
HOTCHKISS. Something stronger than my reason and common sense is holding my hands and tearing me along. I make no attempt to deny that it can drag me where you please and make me do what you like. But at least let me know your soul as you seem to know mine. Do you love this absurd coal merchant?
MRS GEORGE. Call him George.
HOTCHKISS. Do you love your Jorjy Porjy?
MRS GEORGE. Oh, I dont know that I love him. He's my husband, you know. But if I got anxious about George's health, and I thought it would nourish him, I would fry you with onions for his breakfast and think nothing of it. George and I are good friends. George belongs to me. Other men may come and go; but George goes on for ever.
HOTCHKISS. Yes: a husband soon becomes nothing but a habit. Listen: I suppose this detestable fascination you have for me is love.
MRS GEORGE. Any sort of feeling for a woman is called love nowadays.
HOTCHKISS. Do you love me?
MRS GEORGE [promptly] My love is not quite so cheap an article as that, my lad. I wouldnt cross the street to have another look at you--not yet. I'm not starving for love like the robins in winter, as the good ladies youre accustomed to are. Youll have to be very clever, and very good, and very real, if you are to interest me. If George takes a fancy to you, and you amuse him enough, I'll just tolerate you coming in and out occasionally for--well, say a month. If you can make a friend of me in that time so much the better for you. If you can touch my poor dying heart even for an instant, I'll bless you, and never forget you. You may try--if George takes to you.
HOTCHKISS. I'm to come on liking for the month?
MRS GEORGE. On condition that you drop Mrs Reginald.
HOTCHKISS. But she wont drop me. Do you suppose I ever wanted to marry her? I was a homeless bachelor; and I felt quite happy at their house as their friend. Leo was an amusing little devil; but I liked Reginald much more than I liked her. She didnt understand. One day she came to me and told me that the inevitable bad happened. I had tact enough not to ask her what the inevitable was; and I gathered presently that she had told Reginald that their marriage was a mistake and that she loved me and could no longer see me breaking my heart for her in suffering silence. What could I say? What could I do? What can I say now? What can I do now?
MRS GEORGE. Tell her that the habit of falling in love with other men's wives is growing on you; and that I'm your latest.
HOTCHKISS. What! Throw her over when she has thrown Reginald over for me!
MRS GEORGE [rising] You wont then? Very well. Sorry we shant meet again: I should have liked to see more of you for George's sake. Good-bye [she moves away from him towards the hearth].
HOTCHKISS [appealing] Zenobia--
MRS. GEORGE. I thought I lead made a difficult conquest. Now I see you are only one of those poor petticoat-hunting creatures that any woman can pick up. Not for me, thank you. [Inexorable, she turns towards the tower to go].
HOTCHKISS [following] Dont be an ass, Polly.
MRS GEORGE [stopping] Thats better.
HOTCHKISS. Cant you see that I maynt throw Leo over just because I should be only too glad to. It would be dishonorable.
MRS GEORGE. Will you be happy if you marry her?
HOTCHKISS. No, great heaven, NO!
MRS GEORGE. Will she be happy when she finds you out?
HOTCHKISS. She's incapable of happiness. But she's not incapable of the pleasure of holding a man against his will.
MRS GEORGE. Right, young man. You will tell her, please, that you love me: before everybody, mind, the very next time you see her.
MRS GEORGE. Those are my orders, Sinjon. I cant have you marry another woman until George is tired of you.
HOTCHKISS. Oh, if I only didnt selfishly want to obey you!
The General comes in from the garden. Mrs George goes half way to the garden door to speak to him. Hotchkiss posts himself on the hearth.
MRS GEORGE. Where have you been all this time?
THE GENERAL. I'm afraid my nerves were a little upset by our conversation. I just went into the garden and had a smoke. I'm all right now [he strolls down to the study door and presently takes a chair at that end of the big table].
MRS GEORGE. A smoke! Why, you said she couldnt bear it.
THE GENERAL. Good heavens! I forgot! It's such a natural thing to do, somehow.
Lesbia comes in through the tower.
MRS GEORGE. He's been smoking again.
LESBIA. So my nose tells me. [She goes to the end of the table nearest the hearth, and sits down].
THE GENERAL. Lesbia: I'm very sorry. But if I gave it up, I should become so melancholy and irritable that you would be the first to implore me to take to it again.
MRS GEORGE. Thats true. Women drive their husbands into all sorts of wickedness to keep them in good humor. Sinjon: be off with you: this doesnt concern you.
LESBIA. Please dont disturb yourself, Sinjon. Boxer's broken heart has been worn on his sleeve too long for any pretence of privacy.
THE GENERAL. You are cruel, Lesbia: devilishly cruel. [He sits down, wounded].
LESBIA. You are vulgar, Boxer.
HOTCHKISS. In what way? I ask, as an expert in vulgarity.
LESBIA. In two ways. First, he talks as if the only thing of any importance in life was which particular woman he shall marry. Second, he has no self-control.
THE GENERAL. Women are not all the same to me, Lesbia.
MRS GEORGE. Why should they be, pray? Women are all different: it's the men who are all the same. Besides, what does Miss Grantham know about either men or women? She's got too much self-
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