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- The Philanderer - 3/18 -

(She sits down determinedly. Charteris looks at her for a moment; then, making up his mind, goes resolutely to the couch, sits down near the right hand end of it, she being at the left; and says with biting emphasis)--

CHARTERIS. I owe you just exactly nothing.

JULIA (reproachfully). Nothing! You can look me in the face and say that? Oh, Leonard!

CHARTERIS. Let me remind you, Julia, that when first we became acquainted, the position you took up was that of a woman of advanced views.

JULIA. That should have made you respect me the more.

CHARTERIS (placably). So it did, my dear. But that is not the point. As a woman of advanced views, you were determined to be free. You regarded marriage as a degrading bargain, by which a woman sold herself to a man for the social status of a wife and the right to be supported and pensioned in old age out of his income. That's the advanced view--our view. Besides, if you had married me, I might have turned out a drunkard, a criminal, an imbecile, a horror to you; and you couldn't have released yourself. Too big a risk, you see. That's the rational view--our view. Accordingly, you reserved the right to leave me at any time if you found our companionship incompatible with--what was the expression you used?--with your full development as a human being: I think that was how you put the Ibsenist view--our view. So I had to be content with a charming philander, which taught me a great deal, and brought me some hours of exquisite happiness.

JULIA. Leonard: you confess then that you owe me something?

CHARTERIS (haughtily). No: what I received, I paid. Did you learn nothing from me?--was there no delight for you in our friendship?

JULIA (vehemently and movingly; for she is now sincere). No. You made me pay dearly for every moment of happiness. You revenged yourself on me for the humiliation of being the slave of your passion for me. I was never sure of you for a moment. I trembled whenever a letter came from you, lest it should contain some stab for me. I dreaded your visits almost as much as I longed for them. I was your plaything, not your companion. (She rises, exclaiming) Oh, there was such suffering in my happiness that I hardly knew joy from pain. (She sinks on the piano stool, and adds, as she buries her face in her hands and turns away from him) Better for me if I had never met you!

CHARTERIS (rising indignantly). You ungenerous wretch! Is this your gratitude for the way I have just been flattering you? What have I not endured from you--endured with angelic patience? Did I not find out, before our friendship was a fortnight old, that all your advanced views were merely a fashion picked up and followed like any other fashion, without understanding or meaning a word of them? Did you not, in spite of your care for your own liberty, set up claims on me compared to which the claims of the most jealous wife would have been trifles. Have I a single woman friend whom you have not abused as old, ugly, vicious--

JULIA (quickly looking up). So they are.

CHARTERIS. Well, then, I'll come to grievances that even you can understand. I accuse you of habitual and intolerable jealousy and ill temper; of insulting me on imaginary provocation: of positively beating me; of stealing letters of mine--

JULIA (rising). Yes, nice letters.

CHARTERIS. --of breaking your solemn promises not to do it again; of spending hours--aye, days! piecing together the contents of my waste paper basket in your search for more letters; and then representing yourself as an ill used saint and martyr wantonly betrayed and deserted by a selfish monster of a man.

JULIA. I was justified in reading your letters. Our perfect confidence in one another gave me the right to do it.

CHARTERIS. Thank you. Then I hasten to break off a confidence which gives such rights. (Sits down sulkily on sofa.)

JULIA (with her right hand on the back of the sofa, bending over him threateningly). You have no right to break it off.

CHARTERIS. I have. You refused to marry me because--

JULIA. I did not. You never asked me. If we were married, you would never dare treat me as you are doing now.

CHARTERIS (laboriously going back to his argument). It was understood between us as people of advanced views that we were not to marry because, as the law stands, I might have become a drunkard, a--

JULIA. --a criminal, an imbecile or a horror. You said that before. (Sits down beside him with a fling.)

CHARTERIS (politely). I beg your pardon, my dear. I know I have a habit of repeating myself. The point is that you reserved your freedom to give me up when you pleased.

JULIA. Well, what of that? I do not please to give you up; and I will not. You have not become a drunkard or a criminal.

CHARTERIS. You don't see the point yet, Julia. You seem to forget that in reserving your freedom to leave me in case I should turn out badly, you also reserved my freedom to leave you in case you should turn out badly.

JULIA. Very ingenious. And pray, have _I_ become a drunkard, or a criminal, or an imbecile?

CHARTERIS (rising). You have become what is infinitely worse than all three together--a jealous termagant.

JULIA (shaking her head bitterly). Yes, abuse me--call me names.

CHARTERIS. I now assert the right I reserved--the right of breaking with you when I please. Advanced views, Julia, involve advanced duties: you cannot be an advanced woman when you want to bring a man to your feet, and a conventional woman when you want to hold him there against his will. Advanced people form charming friendships: conventional people marry. Marriage suits a good deal of people; and its first duty is fidelity. Friendship suits some people; and its first duty is unhesitating, uncomplaining acceptance of a notice of a change of feeling from either side. You chose friendship instead of marriage. Now do your duty, and accept your notice.

JULIA. Never! We are engaged in the eye of--the eye of--

CHARTERIS (sitting down quickly beside her). Yes, Julia. Can't you get it out? In the eye of something that advanced women don't believe in, en?

JULIA (throwing herself at his feet). O Leonard, don't be cruel. I am too miserable to argue--to think. I only know I love you. You reproach me with not wanting to marry you. I would have married you at any time after I came to love you, if you had asked me. I will marry you now if you will.

CHARTERIS. I won't, my dear. That's flat. We're intellectually incompatible.

JULIA. But why? We could be so happy. You love me--I know you love me--I feel it. You say "My dear" to me: you have said it several times this evening. I know I have been wicked, odious, bad. I say nothing in defence of myself. But don't be hard on me. I was distracted by the thought of losing you. I can't face life without you Leonard. I was happy when I met you: I had never loved anyone; and if you had only let me alone I could have gone on contentedly by myself. But I can't now. I must have you with me. Don't cast me off without a thought of all I have at stake. I could be a friend to you if you would only let me--if you would only tell me your plans--give me a share in your work---treat me as something more than the amusement of an idle hour. Oh Leonard, Leonard, you've never given me a chance: indeed you haven't. I'll take pains; I'll read; I'll try to think; I'll conquer my jealousy; I'll-- (She breaks down, rocking her head desperately on his knee and writhing.) Oh, I'm mad: I'm mad: you'll kill me if you desert me.

CHARTERIS (petting her). My dear love, don't cry--don't go on in this way. You know I can't help it.

JULIA (sobbing as he rises and coaxingly lifts her with him). Oh, you can, you can. One word from you will make us happy for ever.

CHARTERIS (diplomatically). Come, my dear: we really must go. We can't stay until Cuthbertson comes. (Releases her gently and takes her mantle from the table.) Here is your mantle: put it on and be good. You have given me a terrible evening: you must have some consideration for me.

JULIA (dangerous again). Then I am to be cast off.

CHARTERIS (coaxingly). You are to put on your bonnet, dearest. (He puts the mantle on her shoulders.)

JULIA (with a bitter half laugh, half sob). Well, I suppose I must do what I am told. (She goes to the table, and looks for her bonnet. She sees the yellow-backed French novel.) Ah, look at that! (holds it out to him.) Look--look at what the creature reads--filthy, vile French stuff that no decent woman would touch. And you--you have been reading it with her.

CHARTERIS. You recommended that book to me yourself.

JULIA. Faugh! (Dashes it on the floor.)

CHARTERIS (running anxiously to the book). Don't damage property, Julia. (He picks it up and dusts it.) Making scenes is an affair of sentiment: damaging property is serious. (Replaces it on the table.) And now do pray come along.

JULIA (implacably). You can go: there is nothing to prevent you. I will not stir. (She sits down stubbornly on the sofa.)

CHARTERIS (losing patience). Oh come! I am not going to begin all this over again. There are limits even to my forbearance. Come on.

JULIA. I will not, I tell you.

CHARTERIS. Then good night. (He makes resolutely for the door. With a rush, she gets there before him, and bars his way.) I thought you

The Philanderer - 3/18

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