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- How He Lied to Her Husband - 3/6 -
SHE [fretfully] I have told you already that I hate diamonds; only Teddy insists on hanging me all over with them. You need not preach simplicity to me.
HE. I never thought of doing so, dearest: I know that these trivialities are nothing to you. What was I saying--oh yes. Instead of coming back here from the theatre, you will come with me to my home--now and henceforth our home--and in due course of time, when you are divorced, we shall go through whatever idle legal ceremony you may desire. I attach no importance to the law: my love was not created in me by the law, nor can it be bound or loosed by it. That is simple enough, and sweet enough, is it not? [He takes the flower from the table]. Here are flowers for you: I have the tickets: we will ask your husband to lend us the carriage to show that there is no malice, no grudge, between us. Come!
SHE [spiritlessly, taking the flowers without looking at them, and temporizing] Teddy isn't in yet.
HE. Well, let us take that calmly. Let us go to the theatre as if nothing had happened. and tell him when we come back. Now or three hours hence: to-day or to-morrow: what does it matter, provided all is done in honor, without shame or fear?
SHE. What did you get tickets for? Lohengrin?
HE. I tried; but Lohengrin was sold out for to-night. [He takes out two Court Theatre tickets].
SHE. Then what did you get?
HE. Can you ask me? What is there besides Lohengrin that we two could endure, except Candida?
SHE [springing up] Candida! No, I won't go to it again, Henry [tossing the flower on the piano]. It is that play that has done all the mischief. I'm very sorry I ever saw it: it ought to be stopped.
HE [amazed] Aurora!
SHE. Yes: I mean it.
HE. That divinest love poem! the poem that gave us courage to speak to one another! that revealed to us what we really felt for one another! That--
SHE. Just so. It put a lot of stuff into my head that I should never have dreamt of for myself. I imagined myself just like Candida.
HE [catching her hands and looking earnestly at her] You were right. You are like Candida.
SHE [snatching her hands away] Oh, stuff! And I thought you were just like Eugene. [Looking critically at him] Now that I come to look at you, you are rather like him, too. [She throws herself discontentedly into the nearest seat, which happens to be the bench at the piano. He goes to her].
HE [very earnestly] Aurora: if Candida had loved Eugene she would have gone out into the night with him without a moment's hesitation.
SHE [with equal earnestness] Henry: do you know what's wanting in that play?
HE. There is nothing wanting in it.
SHE. Yes there is. There's a Georgina wanting in it. If Georgina had been there to make trouble, that play would have been a true-to-life tragedy. Now I'll tell you something about it that I have never told you before.
HE. What is that?
SHE. I took Teddy to it. I thought it would do him good; and so it would if I could only have kept him awake. Georgina came too; and you should have heard the way she went on about it. She said it was downright immoral, and that she knew the sort of woman that encourages boys to sit on the hearthrug and make love to her. She was just preparing Teddy's mind to poison it about me.
HE. Let us be just to Georgina, dearest
SHE. Let her deserve it first. Just to Georgina, indeed!
HE. She really sees the world in that way. That is her punishment.
SHE. How can it be her punishment when she likes it? It'll be my punishment when she brings that budget of poems to Teddy. I wish you'd have some sense, and sympathize with my position a little.
HE. [going away from the piano and beginning to walk about rather testily] My dear: I really don't care about Georgina or about Teddy. All these squabbles belong to a plane on which I am, as you say, no use. I have counted the cost; and I do not fear the consequences. After all, what is there to fear? Where is the difficulty? What can Georgina do? What can your husband do? What can anybody do?
SHE. Do you mean to say that you propose that we should walk right bang up to Teddy and tell him we're going away together?
HE. Yes. What can be simpler?
SHE. And do you think for a moment he'd stand it, like that half-baked clergyman in the play? He'd just kill you.
HE [coming to a sudden stop and speaking with considerable confidence] You don't understand these things, my darling, how could you? In one respect I am unlike the poet in the play. I have followed the Greek ideal and not neglected the culture of my body. Your husband would make a tolerable second-rate heavy weight if he were in training and ten years younger. As it is, he could, if strung up to a great effort by a burst of passion, give a good account of himself for perhaps fifteen seconds. But I am active enough to keep out of his reach for fifteen seconds; and after that I should be simply all over him.
SHE [rising and coming to him in consternation] What do you mean by all over him?
HE [gently] Don't ask me, dearest. At all events, I swear to you that you need not be anxious about me.
SHE. And what about Teddy? Do you mean to tell me that you are going to beat Teddy before my face like a brutal prizefighter?
HE. All this alarm is needless, dearest. Believe me, nothing will happen. Your husband knows that I am capable of defending myself. Under such circumstances nothing ever does happen. And of course I shall do nothing. The man who once loved you is sacred to me.
SHE [suspiciously] Doesn't he love me still? Has he told you anything?
HE. No, no. [He takes her tenderly in his arms]. Dearest, dearest: how agitated you are! how unlike yourself! All these worries belong to the lower plane. Come up with me to the higher one. The heights, the solitudes, the soul world!
SHE [avoiding his gaze] No: stop: it's no use, Mr Apjohn.
HE [recoiling] Mr Apjohn!!!
SHE. Excuse me: I meant Henry, of course.
HE. How could you even think of me as Mr Apjohn? I never think of you as Mrs Bompas: it is always Cand-- I mean Aurora, Aurora, Auro--
SHE. Yes, yes: that's all very well, Mr Apjohn [He is about to interrupt again: but she won't have it] no: it's no use: I've suddenly begun to think of you as Mr Apjohn; and it's ridiculous to go on calling you Henry. I thought you were only a boy, a child, a dreamer. I thought you would be too much afraid to do anything. And now you want to beat Teddy and to break up my home and disgrace me and make a horrible scandal in the papers. It's cruel, unmanly, cowardly.
HE [with grave wonder] Are you afraid?
SHE. Oh, of course I'm afraid. So would you be if you had any common sense. [She goes to the hearth, turning her back to him, and puts one tapping foot on the fender].
HE [watching her with great gravity] Perfect love casteth out fear. That is why I am not afraid. Mrs Bompas: you do not love me.
SHE [turning to him with a gasp of relief] Oh, thank you, thank you! You really can be very nice, Henry.
HE. Why do you thank me?
SHE [coming prettily to him from the fireplace] For calling me Mrs Bompas again. I feel now that you are going to be reasonable and behave like a gentleman. [He drops on the stool; covers his face with his hand; and groans]. What's the matter?
HE. Once or twice in my life I have dreamed that I was exquisitely happy and blessed. But oh! the misgiving at the first stir of consciousness! the stab of reality! the prison walls of the bedroom! the bitter, bitter disappointment of waking! And this time! oh, this time I thought I was awake.
SHE. Listen to me, Henry: we really haven't time for all that sort of flapdoodle now. [He starts to his feet as if she had pulled a trigger and straightened him by the release of a powerful spring, and goes past her with set teeth to the little table]. Oh, take care: you nearly hit me in the chin with the top of your head.
HE [with fierce politeness] I beg your pardon. What is it you want me to do? I am at your service. I am ready to behave like a gentleman if you will be kind enough to explain exactly how.
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