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- The Philanderer - 6/18 -
thing, poor child. I'll have to apologize for her you know: her going away is a downright slap in the face for these people here. Cuthbertson may be offended already for all I know.
CHARTERIS. Oh never mind about him. Mrs. Tranfield bosses this establishment.
CRAVEN (cunningly). Ah, that's it, is it? He's just the sort of fellow that would have no control over his daughter. (He goes back to his former place on the hearthrug with his back to the fire.) By the bye, what the dickens did he mean by all that about passing his life amid--what was it?--" scenes of suffering nobly endured and sacrifice willingly rendered by womanly women and manly men" and a lot more of the same sort? I suppose he's something in a hospital.
CHARTERIS. Hospital! Nonsense: he's a dramatic critic. Didn't you hear me say that he was the leading representative of manly sentiment in London?
CRAVEN. You don't say so. Now really, who'd have thought it! How jolly it must be to be able to go to the theatre for nothing! I must ask him to get me a few tickets occasionally. But isn't it ridiculous for a man to talk like that! I'm hanged if he don't take what he sees on the stage quite seriously.
CHARTERIS. Of course: that's why he's a good critic. Besides, if you take people seriously off the stage, why shouldn't you take them seriously on it, where they're under some sort of decent restraint? (He jumps down off piano and goes up to the window. Cuthbertson comes back.)
CUTHBERTSON (to Craven, rather sheepishly). The fact is, Grace has gone to bed. I must apologize to you and Miss-- (He turns to Julia's seat, and stops on seeing it vacant.)
CRAVEN (embarrassed). It is I who have to apologize for Julia, Jo. She--
CHARTERIS (interrupting). She said she was quite sure that if we didn't go, you'd persuade Mrs. Tranfield to get up to say good night for the sake of politeness; so she went straight off.
CUTHBERTSON. Very kind of her indeed. I'm really ashamed--
CRAVEN. Don't mention it, Jo, don't mention it. She's waiting for me below. (Going.) Good night. Good night, Charteris.
CHARTERIS. Good night.
CUTHBERTSON (seeing Craven out). Goodnight. Say good night and thanks to Miss Craven for me. To-morrow any time after twelve, remember. (They go out; and Charteris with a long sigh crosses to the fireplace, thoroughly tired out.)
CRAVEN (outside). All right.
CUTHBERTSON (outside). Take care of the stairs; they're rather steep. Good night. (The outside door shuts; and Cuthbertson returns. Instead of entering, he stands in the doorway with one hand in the breast of his waistcoat, eyeing Charteris sternly.)
CHARTERIS. What's the matter?
CUTHBERTSON (sternly). Charteris: what's been going on here? I insist on knowing. Grace has not gone to bed: I have seen and spoken with her. What is it all about?
CHARTERIS. Ask your theatrical experience, Cuthbertson. A man, of course.
CUTHBERTSON (coming forward and confronting him). Don't play the fool with me, Charteris: I'm too old a hand to be amused by it. I ask you, seriously, what's the matter?
CHARTERIS. I tell you, seriously, I'm the matter, Julia wants to marry me: I want to marry Grace. I came here to-night to sweetheart Grace. Enter Julia. Alarums and excursions. Exit Grace. Enter you and Craven. Subterfuges and excuses. Exeunt Craven and Julia. And here we are. That's the whole story. Sleep over it. Good night. (He leaves.)
CUTHBERTSON (staring after him). Well I'll be-- (The act drop descends.)
END OF ACT I.
Next day at noon, in the Library of the Ibsen club. A spacious room, with glass doors right and left. At the back, in the middle, is the fireplace, surmounted by a handsome mantelpiece, with a bust of Ibsen, and decorated inscriptions of the titles of his plays. There are circular recesses at each side of fireplace, with divan seats running round them, and windows at the top, the space between the divan and the window sills being lined with books. A long settee is placed before the fire. Along the back of the settee, and touching it, is a green table, littered with journals. A revolving bookcase stands in the foreground, a little to the left, with an easy chair close to it. On the right, between the door and the recess, is a light library stepladder. Placards inscribed "silence" are conspicuously exhibited here and there.
(Cuthbertson is seated in the easy chair at the revolving bookstand, reading the "Daily Graphic." Dr. Paramore is on the divan in the right hand recess, reading "The British Medical Journal." He is young as age is counted in the professions--barely forty. His hair is wearing bald on his forehead; and his dark arched eyebrows, coming rather close together, give him a conscientiously sinister appearance. He wears the frock coat and cultivates the "bedside manner" of the fashionable physician with scrupulous conventionality. Not at all a happy or frank man, but not consciously unhappy nor intentionally insincere, and highly self satisfied intellectually.
Sylvia Craven is sitting in the middle of the settee before the fire, only the back of her head being visible. She is reading a volume of Ibsen. She is a girl of eighteen, small and trim, wearing a smart tailor-made dress, rather short, and a Newmarket jacket, showing a white blouse with a light silk sash and a man's collar and watch chain so arranged as to look as like a man's waistcoat and shirt-front as possible without spoiling the prettiness of the effect. A Page Boy's voice, monotonously calling for Dr. Paramore, is heard approaching outside on the right.)
PAGE (outside). Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore, Dr. Paramore. (He enters carrying a salver with a card on it.) Dr. Par--
PARAMORE (sharply, sitting up). Here, boy. (The boy presents the salver. Paramore takes the card and looks at it.) All right: I'll come down to him. (The boy goes. Paramore rises, and comes from the recess, throwing his paper on the table.) Good morning, Mr. Cuthbertson (stopping to pull out his cuffs and shake his coat straight) Mrs. Tranfield quite well, I hope?
SYLVIA (turning her head indignantly). Sh--sh--sh! (Paramore turns, surprised. Cuthbertson rises energetically and looks across the bookstand to see who is the author of this impertinence.)
PARAMORE (to Sylvia--stiffly). I beg your pardon, Miss Craven: I did not mean to disturb you.
SYLVIA (flustered and self assertive). You may talk as much as you like if you will only have the common consideration to first ask whether the other people object. What I protest against is your assumption that my presence doesn't matter because I'm only a female member. That's all. Now go on, pray: you don't disturb me in the least. (She turns to the fire, and again buries herself in Ibsen.)
CUTHBERTSON (with emphatic dignity). No gentleman would have dreamt of objecting to our exchanging a few words, madam. (She takes no notice. He resumes angrily.) As a matter of fact I was about to say to Dr. Paramore that if he would care to bring his visitor up here, _I_ should not object. The impudence! (Dashes his paper down on the chair.)
PARAMORE. Oh, many thanks; but it's only an instrument maker.
CUTHBERTSON. Any new medical discoveries, doctor?
PARAMORE. Well, since you ask me, yes--perhaps a most important one. I have discovered something that has hitherto been overlooked--a minute duct in the liver of the guinea pig. Miss Craven will forgive my mentioning it when I say that it may throw an important light on her father's case. The first thing, of course, is to find out what the duct is there for.
CUTHBERTSON (reverently--feeling that he is in the presence of science). Indeed. How will you do that?
PARAMORE. Oh, easily enough, by simply cutting the duct and seeing what will happen to the guinea pig. (Sylvia rises, horrified.) I shall require a knife specially made to get at it. The man who is waiting for me downstairs has brought me a few handles to try before fitting it and sending it to the laboratory. I am afraid it would not do to bring such weapons up here.
SYLVIA. If you attempt such a thing, Dr. Paramore, I will complain to the committee. The majority of the committee are anti-vivisectionists. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. (She flounces out at the right hand door.)
PARAMORE (with patient contempt). That's the sort of thing we scientific men have to put up with nowadays, Mr. Cuthbertson. Ignorance, superstition, sentimentality: they are all one. A guinea pig's convenience is set above the health and lives of the entire human race.
CUTHBERTSON (vehemently). It's not ignorance or superstition, Paramore: it's sheer downright Ibsenism: that's what it is. I've been wanting to sit comfortably at the fire the whole morning; but I've never had a chance with that girl there. I couldn't go and plump myself down on a seat beside her: goodness knows what she'd think I wanted. That's one of the delights of having women in the club: when they come in here they all want to sit at the fire and adore that bust. I sometimes feel that I should like to take the poker and fetch
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