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- The Philanderer - 5/18 -
JULIA (with anguish in her voice). Daddy! (Cuthbertson looks inquiringly around at her.)
CRAVEN. There, there, my dear: I was wrong to talk of it. It's a sad subject. But it's better that Cuthbertson should know. We used to be very close friends, and are so still, I hope. (Cuthbertson goes to Craven and presses his hand silently; then returns to sofa and sits, pulling out his handkerchief and displaying some emotion. )
CHARTERIS (a little impatiently). The fact is, Cuthbertson, Craven's a devout believer in the department of witchcraft called medical science. He's celebrated in all the medical schools as an example of the newest sort of liver complaint. The doctors say he can't last another year; and he has fully made up his mind not to survive next Easter, just to oblige them.
CRAVEN (with military affectation). It's very kind of you to try to keep up my spirits by making light of it, Charteris. But I shall be ready when my time comes. I'm a soldier. (A sob from Julia.) Don't cry, Julia.
CUTHBERTSON (huskily). I hope you may long be spared, Dan.
CRAVEN. To oblige me, Jo, change the subject. (He gets up and again posts himself on the hearthrug with his back to the fire.)
CHARTERIS. Try and persuade him to join our club, Cuthbertson. He mopes.
JULIA. It's no use. Sylvia and I are always at him to join; but he won't.
CRAVEN. My child, I have my own club.
CHARTERIS (contemptuously). Yes, the Junior Army and Navy! Do you call that a club? Why, they daren't let a woman cross the doorstep!
CRAVEN (a little ruffled). Clubs are a matter of taste, Charteris. You like a cock and hen club: I don't. It's bad enough to have Julia and her sister--a girl under twenty--spending half their time at such a place. Besides, now really, such a name for a club! The Ibsen club! I should be laughed out of London. The Ibsen club! Come, Cuthbertson, back me up. I'm sure you agree with me.
CHARTERIS. Cuthbertson's a member.
CRAVEN (amazed). No! Why, he's been talking to me all the evening about the way in which everything is going to the dogs through advanced ideas in the younger generation.
CHARTERIS. Of course. He's been studying it in the club. He's always there.
CUTHBERTSON (warmly). Not always. Don't exaggerate, Charteris. You know very well that though I joined the club on Grace's account, thinking that her father's presence there would be a protection and a--a sort of sanction, as it were--I never approved of it.
CRAVEN (tactlessly harping on Cuthbertson's inconsistency). Well, you know, this is unexpected: now it's really very unexpected. I should never have thought it from hearing you talk, Jo. Why, you said the whole modern movement was abhorrent to you because your life had been passed in witnessing scenes of suffering nobly endured and sacrifice willingly rendered by womanly women and manly men and deuce knows what else. Is it at the Ibsen club that you see all this manliness and womanliness?
CHARTERIS. Certainly not: the rules of the club forbid anything of that sort. Every candidate for membership must be nominated by a man and a woman, who both guarantee that the candidate, if female, is not womanly, and if male, is not manly.
CRAVEN (chuckling cunningly and stooping to press his heated trousers against his legs, which are chilly). Won't do, Charteris. Can't take me in with so thin a story as that.
CUTHBERTSON (vehemently). It's true. It's monstrous, but it's true.
CRAVEN (with rising indignation, as he begins to draw the inevitable inferences). Do you mean to say that somebody had the audacity to guarantee that my Julia is not a womanly woman?
CHARTERIS (darkly). It sounds incredible; but a man was found ready to take that inconceivable lie on his conscience.
JULIA (firing up). If he has nothing worse than that on his conscience, he may sleep pretty well. In what way am I more womanly than any of the rest of them, I should like to know? They are always saying things like that behind my back--I hear of them from Sylvia. Only the other day a member of the committee said I ought never to have been elected--that you (to Charteris) had smuggled me in. I should like to see her say it to my face: that's all.
CRAVEN. But, my precious, I most sincerely hope she was right. She paid you the highest compliment. Why, the place must be a den of infamy.
CUTHBERTSON (emphatically). So it is, Craven, so it is.
CHARTERIS. Exactly. That's what keeps it so select: nobody but people whose reputations are above suspicion dare belong to it. If we once got a good name, we should become a mere whitewashing shop for all the shady characters in London. Better join us, Craven. Let me put you up.
CRAVEN. What! Join a club where there's some scoundrel who guaranteed my daughter to be an unwomanly woman! If I weren't an invalid, I'd kick him.
CHARTERIS. Oh don't say that. It was I who did it.
CRAVEN (reproachfully). You! Now upon my soul, Charteris, this is very vexing. Now how could you bring yourself to do such a thing?
CHARTERIS. She made me. Why, I had to guarantee Cuthbertson as unmanly; and he's the leading representative of manly sentiment in London.
CRAVEN. That didn't do Jo any harm: but it took away my Julia's character.
JULIA (outraged). Daddy!
CHARTERIS. Not at the Ibsen club, quite the contrary. After all, what can we do? You know what breaks up most clubs for men and women. There's a quarrel--a scandal--cherchez la femme--always a woman at the bottom of it. Well, we knew this when we founded the club; but we noticed that the woman at the bottom of it was always a womanly woman. The unwomanly women who work for their living and know how to take care of themselves never give any trouble. So we simply said we wouldn't have any womanly women; and when one gets smuggled in she has to take care not to behave in a womanly way. We get on all right. (He rises.) Come to lunch with me there tomorrow and see the place.
CUTHBERTSON (rising). No, he's engaged to me. But you can join us.
CHARTERIS. What hour?
CUTHBERTSON. Any time after twelve. (To Craven) It's at 90 Cork street, at the other end of the Burlington Arcade.
CRAVEN (making a note). 90, you say. After twelve. (He suddenly relapses into gloom.) By the bye, don't order anything special for me. I'm not allowed wine--only Apollinaris. No meat either--only a scrap of fish occasionally. I'm to have a short life, but not a merry one. (Sighing.) Well, well. (Bracing himself up.) Now, Julia, it's time for us to be off. (Julia rises.)
CUTHBERTSON. But where on earth is Grace? I must go and look for her. (He turns to the door.)
JULIA (stopping him). Oh, pray don't disturb her, Mr. Cuthbertson. She's so tired.
CUTHBERTSON. But just for a moment to say good night. (Julia and Charteris look at one another in dismay. Cuthbertson looks quickly at them, perceiving that something is wrong.)
CHARTERIS. We must make a clean breast of it, I see.
CUTHBERTSON. Clean breast?
CHARTERIS. The truth is, Cuthbertson, Mrs. Tranfield, who is, as you know, the most thoughtful of women, took it into her head that I--well, that I particularly wanted to speak to Miss Craven alone. So she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed.
CRAVEN (scandalized). Tut! tut!
CUTHBERTSON. Oho! is that it? Then it's all right. She never goes to bed as early as this. I'll fetch her in a moment. (He goes out confidently, leaving Charteris aghast.)
JULIA. Now you've done it. (She rushes to the round table and snatches up her mantle and bonnet.) I'm off. (She makes for the door.)
CRAVEN (horrified). What are you doing, Julia? You can't go until you've said good night to Mrs. Tranfield. It would be horribly rude.
JULIA. You can stay if you like, Daddy: I can't. I'll wait for you in the hall. (She hurries out.)
CRAVEN (following her). But what on earth am I to say? (Stopping as she disappears, and turning to Charteris grumbling) Now really you know, Charteris, this is devilish awkward, upon my life it is. That was a most indelicate thing of you to say plump out before us all--that about you and Julia.
CHARTERIS. I'll explain it all to-morrow. Just at present we'd really better follow Julia's example and bolt. (He starts for the door.)
CRAVEN (intercepting him). Stop! don't leave me like this: I shall look like a fool. Now I shall really take it in bad part if you run away, Charteris.
CHARTERIS (resignedly). All right. I'll stay. (Lifts himself on to the shoulder of the grand piano and sits there swinging his legs and contemplating Craven resignedly.)
CRAVEN (pacing up and down). I'm excessively vexed about Julia's conduct, I am indeed. She can't bear to be crossed in the slightest
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