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- The Philanderer - 10/18 -
CHARTERIS. Just why she said it. How adorable of you to care! My darling. (He seizes her hands and presses them to his breast.)
GRACE. Remember! it's all broken off.
CHARTERIS. Ah yes: you have my heart in your hands. Break it. Throw my happiness out of the window.
GRACE. Oh, Leonard, does your happiness really depend on me?
CHARTERIS (tenderly). Absolutely. (She beams with delight. A sudden revulsion comes to him at the sight: he recoils, dropping her hands and crying) Ah no: why should I lie to you? (He folds his arms and adds firmly) My happiness depends on nobody but myself. I can do without you.
GRACE (nerving herself). So you shall. Thank you for the truth. Now _I_ will tell you the truth.
CHARTERIS (unfolding his arms and again recoiling). No, please. Don't. As a philosopher, it's my business to tell other people the truth; but it's not their business to tell it to me. I don't like it: it hurts.
GRACE (quietly). It's only that I love you.
CHARTERIS. Ah! that's not a philosophic truth. You may tell me that as often as you like. (He takes her in his arms.)
GRACE. Yes, Leonard; but I'm an advanced woman. (He checks himself and looks at her in some consternation.) I'm what my father calls a New Woman. (He lets her go and stares at her.) I quite agree with all your ideas.
CHARTERIS (scandalized). That's a nice thing for a respectable woman to say! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
GRACE. I am quite in earnest about them too, though you are not; and I will never marry a man I love too much. It would give him a terrible advantage over me: I should be utterly in his power. That's what the New Woman is like. Isn't she right, Mr. Philosopher?
CHARTERIS. The struggle between the Philosopher and the Man is fearful, Grace. But the Philosopher says you are right.
GRACE. I know I am right. And so we must part.
CHARTERIS. Not at all. You must marry some one else; and then I'll come and philander with you. (Sylvia comes back.)
SYLVIA (holding the door open). Oh, I say: come along. I'm starving.
CHARTERIS. So am I. I'll lunch with you if I may.
SYLVIA. I thought you would. I've ordered soup for three. (Grace passes out. Sylvia continues, to Charteris) You can watch Paramore from our table: he's pretending to read the British Medical Journal; but he must be making up his mind for the plunge: he looks green with nervousness.
CHARTERIS. Good luck to him. (He goes out, followed by Sylvia.)
END OF ACT II.
Still the library. Ten minutes later. Julia, angry and miserable, comes in from the dining room, followed by Craven. She crosses the room tormentedly, and throws herself into a chair.
CRAVEN (impatiently). What is the matter? Has everyone gone mad to-day? What do you mean by suddenly getting up from the table and tearing away like that? What does Paramore mean by reading his paper and not answering when he's spoken to? (Julia writhes impatiently.) Come, come (tenderly): won't my pet tell her own father what-- (irritably) what the devil is wrong with everybody? Do pull yourself straight, Julia, before Cuthbertson comes. He's only paying the bill: he'll be here in a moment.
JULIA. I couldn't bear it any longer. Oh, to see them sitting there at lunch together, laughing, chatting, making game of me! I should have screamed out in another moment--I should have taken a knife and killed her--I should have--(Cuthbertson appears with the luncheon bill in his hand. He stuffs it into his waistcoat pocket as he comes to them. He begins speaking the moment he enters.)
CUTHBERTSON. I'm afraid you've had a very poor lunch, Dan. It's disheartening to see you picking at a few beans and drinking soda water. I wonder how you live!
JULIA. That's all he ever takes, Mr. Cuthbertson, I assure you. He hates to be bothered about it.
CRAVEN. Where's Paramore?
CUTHBERTSON. Reading his paper, I asked him wasn't he coming; but he didn't hear me. It's amazing how anything scientific absorbs him. Clever man! Monstrously clever man!
CRAVEN (pettishly). Oh yes, that's all very well, Jo; but it's not good manners at table: he should shut up the shop sometimes. Heaven knows I am only too anxious to forget his science, since it has pronounced my doom. (He sits down with a melancholy air.)
CUTHBERTSON (compassionately). You mustn't think about that, Craven: perhaps he was mistaken. (He sighs deeply and sits down.) But he is certainly a very clever fellow. He thinks twice before he commits himself. (They sit in silence, full of the gloomiest thoughts. Suddenly Paramore enters, pale and in the utmost disorder, with the British Medical Journal in his clenched hand. They rise in alarm. He tries to speak, but chokes, clutches at his throat, and staggers. Cuthbertson quickly takes his chair and places it behind Paramore, who sinks into it as they crowd about him, Craven at his right shoulder, Cuthbertson on his left, and Julia behind Craven.)
CRAVEN. What's the matter, Paramore?
JULIA. Are you ill?
CUTHBERTSON. No bad news, I hope?
PARAMORE (despairingly). The worst of news! Terrible news! Fatal news! My disease--
CRAVEN (quickly). Do you mean my disease?
PARAMORE (fiercely). I mean my disease--Paramore's disease--the disease I discovered--the work of my life. Look here (pointing to the B. M. J. with a ghastly expression of horror.) If this is true, it was all a mistake: there is no such disease. (Cuthbertson and Julia look at one another, hardly daring to believe the good news.)
CRAVEN (in strong remonstrance). And you call this bad news! Now really, Paramore--
PARAMORE (cutting him short hoarsely). It's natural for you to think only of yourself. I don't blame you: all invalids are selfish. Only a scientific man can feel what I feel now. (Writhing under a sense of intolerable injustice.) It's the fault of the wickedly sentimental laws of this country. I was not able to make experiments enough--only three dogs and a monkey. Think of that, with all Europe full of my professional rivals--men burning to prove me wrong! There is freedom in France--enlightened republican France. One Frenchman experiments on two hundred monkeys to disprove my theory. Another sacrifices 36 pounds--three hundred dogs at three francs apiece--to upset the monkey experiments. A third proves them to be both wrong by a single experiment in which he gets the temperature of a camel's liver 60 degrees below zero. And now comes this cursed Italian who has ruined me. He has a government grant to buy animals with, besides the run of the largest hospital in Italy. (With desperate resolution) But I won't be beaten by any Italian. I'll go to Italy myself. I'll re-discover my disease: I know it exists; I feel it; and I'll prove it if I have to experiment on every mortal animal that's got a liver at all. (He folds his arms and breathes hard at them.)
CRAVEN (his sense of injury growing upon him). Am I to understand, Paramore, that you took it on yourself to pass sentence of death--yes, of Death--on me, on the strength of three dogs and an infernal monkey?
PARAMORE (utterly contemptuous of Craven's narrow personal view of the matter). Yes. That was all I could get a license for.
CRAVEN. Now upon my soul, Paramore, I'm vexed at this. I don't wish to be unfriendly; but I'm extremely vexed, really. Why, confound it, do you realize what you've done? You've cut off my meat and drink for a year--made me an object of public scorn--a miserable vegetarian and a teetotaller.
PARAMORE (rising). Well, you can make up for lost time now. (Bitterly, shewing Craven the Journal) There! you can read for yourself. The camel was fed on beef dissolved in alcohol; and he gained weight under it. Eat and drink as much as you please. (Still unable to stand without support, he makes his way past Cuthbertson to the revolving bookcase and stands there with his back to them, leaning on it with his head on his hand.)
CRAVEN (grumbling). Oh yes, it's very easy for you to talk, Paramore. But what am I to say to the Humanitarian societies and the Vegetarian societies that have made me a Vice President?
CUTHBERTSON (chuckling). Aha! You made a virtue of it, did you, Dan?
CRAVEN (warmly). I made a virtue of necessity, Jo. No one can blame me.
JULIA (soothing him). Well, never mind, Daddy. Come back to the dining room and have a good beefsteak.
CRAVEN (shuddering). Ugh! (Plaintively) No: I've lost my old manly taste for it. My very nature's been corrupted by living on pap. (To Paramore.) That's what comes of all this vivisection. You go experimenting on horses; and of course the result is that you try to get me into condition by feeding me on beans.
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