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- Heartbreak House - 20/33 -


MRS HUSHABYE. Do you mean to tell me he isn't strong enough to crush poor little Ellie?

MAZZINI. Of course it's very hard to say how any marriage will turn out; but speaking for myself, I should say that he won't have a dog's chance against Ellie. You know, Ellie has remarkable strength of character. I think it is because I taught her to like Shakespeare when she was very young.

MRS HUSHABYE [contemptuously]. Shakespeare! The next thing you will tell me is that you could have made a great deal more money than Mangan. [She retires to the sofa, and sits down at the port end of it in the worst of humors].

MAZZINI [following her and taking the other end]. No: I'm no good at making money. I don't care enough for it, somehow. I'm not ambitious! that must be it. Mangan is wonderful about money: he thinks of nothing else. He is so dreadfully afraid of being poor. I am always thinking of other things: even at the works I think of the things we are doing and not of what they cost. And the worst of it is, poor Mangan doesn't know what to do with his money when he gets it. He is such a baby that he doesn't know even what to eat and drink: he has ruined his liver eating and drinking the wrong things; and now he can hardly eat at all. Ellie will diet him splendidly. You will be surprised when you come to know him better: he is really the most helpless of mortals. You get quite a protective feeling towards him.

MRS HUSHABYE. Then who manages his business, pray?

MAZZINI. I do. And of course other people like me.

MRS HUSHABYE. Footling people, you mean.

MAZZINI. I suppose you'd think us so.

MRS HUSHABYE. And pray why don't you do without him if you're all so much cleverer?

MAZZINI. Oh, we couldn't: we should ruin the business in a year. I've tried; and I know. We should spend too much on everything. We should improve the quality of the goods and make them too dear. We should be sentimental about the hard cases among the work people. But Mangan keeps us in order. He is down on us about every extra halfpenny. We could never do without him. You see, he will sit up all night thinking of how to save sixpence. Won't Ellie make him jump, though, when she takes his house in hand!

MRS HUSHABYE. Then the creature is a fraud even as a captain of industry!

MAZZINI. I am afraid all the captains of industry are what you call frauds, Mrs Hushabye. Of course there are some manufacturers who really do understand their own works; but they don't make as high a rate of profit as Mangan does. I assure you Mangan is quite a good fellow in his way. He means well.

MRS HUSHABYE. He doesn't look well. He is not in his first youth, is he?

MAZZINI. After all, no husband is in his first youth for very long, Mrs Hushabye. And men can't afford to marry in their first youth nowadays.

MRS HUSHABYE. Now if I said that, it would sound witty. Why can't you say it wittily? What on earth is the matter with you? Why don't you inspire everybody with confidence? with respect?

MAZZINI [humbly]. I think that what is the matter with me is that I am poor. You don't know what that means at home. Mind: I don't say they have ever complained. They've all been wonderful: they've been proud of my poverty. They've even joked about it quite often. But my wife has had a very poor time of it. She has been quite resigned--

MRS HUSHABYE [shuddering involuntarily!!

MAZZINI. There! You see, Mrs Hushabye. I don't want Ellie to live on resignation.

MRS HUSHABYE. Do you want her to have to resign herself to living with a man she doesn't love?

MAZZINI [wistfully]. Are you sure that would be worse than living with a man she did love, if he was a footling person?

MRS HUSHABYE [relaxing her contemptuous attitude, quite interested in Mazzini now]. You know, I really think you must love Ellie very much; for you become quite clever when you talk about her.

MAZZINI. I didn't know I was so very stupid on other subjects.

MRS HUSHABYE. You are, sometimes.

MAZZINI [turning his head away; for his eyes are wet]. I have learnt a good deal about myself from you, Mrs Hushabye; and I'm afraid I shall not be the happier for your plain speaking. But if you thought I needed it to make me think of Ellie's happiness you were very much mistaken.

MRS HUSHABYE [leaning towards him kindly]. Have I been a beast?

MAZZINI [pulling himself together]. It doesn't matter about me, Mrs Hushabye. I think you like Ellie; and that is enough for me.

MRS HUSHABYE. I'm beginning to like you a little. I perfectly loathed you at first. I thought you the most odious, self-satisfied, boresome elderly prig I ever met.

MAZZINI [resigned, and now quite cheerful]. I daresay I am all that. I never have been a favorite with gorgeous women like you. They always frighten me.

MRS HUSHABYE [pleased]. Am I a gorgeous woman, Mazzini? I shall fall in love with you presently.

MAZZINI [with placid gallantry]. No, you won't, Hesione. But you would be quite safe. Would you believe it that quite a lot of women have flirted with me because I am quite safe? But they get tired of me for the same reason.

MRS HUSHABYE [mischievously]. Take care. You may not be so safe as you think.

MAZZINI. Oh yes, quite safe. You see, I have been in love really: the sort of love that only happens once. [Softly]. That's why Ellie is such a lovely girl.

MRS HUSHABYE. Well, really, you are coming out. Are you quite sure you won't let me tempt you into a second grand passion?

MAZZINI. Quite. It wouldn't be natural. The fact is, you don't strike on my box, Mrs Hushabye; and I certainly don't strike on yours.

MRS HUSHABYE. I see. Your marriage was a safety match.

MAZZINI. What a very witty application of the expression I used! I should never have thought of it.

Ellie comes in from the garden, looking anything but happy.

MRS HUSHABYE [rising]. Oh! here is Ellie at last. [She goes behind the sofa].

ELLIE [on the threshold of the starboard door]. Guinness said you wanted me: you and papa.

MRS HUSHABYE. You have kept us waiting so long that it almost came to--well, never mind. Your father is a very wonderful man [she ruffles his hair affectionately]: the only one I ever met who could resist me when I made myself really agreeable. [She comes to the big chair, on Mangan's left]. Come here. I have something to show you. [Ellie strolls listlessly to the other side of the chair]. Look.

ELLIE [contemplating Mangan without interest]. I know. He is only asleep. We had a talk after dinner; and he fell asleep in the middle of it.

MRS HUSHABYE. You did it, Ellie. You put him asleep.

MAZZINI [rising quickly and coming to the back of the chair]. Oh, I hope not. Did you, Ellie?

ELLIE [wearily]. He asked me to.

MAZZINI. But it's dangerous. You know what happened to me.

ELLIE [utterly indifferent]. Oh, I daresay I can wake him. If not, somebody else can.

MRS HUSHABYE. It doesn't matter, anyhow, because I have at last persuaded your father that you don't want to marry him.

ELLIE [suddenly coming out of her listlessness, much vexed]. But why did you do that, Hesione? I do want to marry him. I fully intend to marry him.

MAZZINI. Are you quite sure, Ellie? Mrs Hushabye has made me feel that I may have been thoughtless and selfish about it.

ELLIE [very clearly and steadily]. Papa. When Mrs. Hushabye takes it on herself to explain to you what I think or don't think, shut your ears tight; and shut your eyes too. Hesione knows nothing about me: she hasn't the least notion of the sort of person I am, and never will. I promise you I won't do anything I don't want to do and mean to do for my own sake.

MAZZINI. You are quite, quite sure?

ELLIE. Quite, quite sure. Now you must go away and leave me to talk to Mrs Hushabye.

MAZZINI. But I should like to hear. Shall I be in the way?

ELLIE [inexorable]. I had rather talk to her alone.

MAZZINI [affectionately]. Oh, well, I know what a nuisance


Heartbreak House - 20/33

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