THE MOB. A Play in Four Acts
PERSONS OF THE PLAY STEPHEN MORE, Member of Parliament KATHERINE, his wife OLIVE, their little daughter THE DEAN OF STOUR, Katherine's uncle GENERAL SIR JOHN JULIAN, her father CAPTAIN HUBERT JULIAN, her brother HELEN, his wife EDWARD MENDIP, editor of "The Parthenon" ALAN STEEL, More's secretary JAMES HOME, architect | CHARLES SHELDER, Solicitor |A deputation of More's MARK WACE, bookseller |constituents WILLIAM BANNING, manufacturer | NURSE WREFORD WREFORD (her son), Hubert's orderly HIS SWEETHEART THE FOOTMAN HENRY A DOORKEEPER SOME BLACK-COATED GENTLEMEN A STUDENT A GIRL
ACT I. The dining-room of More's town house, evening.
ACT II. The same, morning.
ACT III. SCENE I. An alley at the back of a suburban
ACT IV. The dining-room of More's house, late afternoon.
AFTERMATH. The corner of a square, at dawn.
Between ACTS I and II some days elapse. Between ACTS II and III three months. Between ACT III SCENE I and ACT III SCENE II no time . Between ACTS III and IV a few hours. Between ACTS IV and AFTERMATH an indefinite period.
THE DEAN. I disagree with you, Stephen; absolutely, entirely disagree.
MORE. I can't help it.
MENDIP. Remember a certain war, Stephen! Were your chivalrous notions any good, then? And, what was winked at in an obscure young Member is anathema for an Under Secretary of State. You can't afford——
MORE. To follow my conscience? That's new, Mendip.
MENDIP. Idealism can be out of place, my friend.
THE DEAN. The Government is dealing here with a wild lawless race, on whom I must say I think sentiment is rather wasted.
MORE. God made them, Dean.
MENDIP. I have my doubts.
THE DEAN. They have proved themselves faithless. We have the right to chastise.
MORE. If I hit a little man in the eye, and he hits me back, have I the right to chastise him?
SIR JOHN. We didn't begin this business.
MORE. What! With our missionaries and our trading?
THE DEAN. It is news indeed that the work of civilization may be justifiably met by murder. Have you forgotten Glaive and Morlinson?
SIR JOHN. Yes. And that poor fellow Groome and his wife?
MORE. They went into a wild country, against the feeling of the tribes, on their own business. What has the nation to do with the mishaps of gamblers?
SIR JOHN. We can't stand by and see our own flesh and blood ill-treated!
THE DEAN. Does our rule bring blessing—or does it not, Stephen?
MORE. Sometimes; but with all my soul I deny the fantastic superstition that our rule can benefit a people like this, a nation of one race, as different from ourselves as dark from light—in colour, religion, every mortal thing. We can only pervert their natural instincts.
THE DEAN. That to me is an unintelligible point of view.
MENDIP. Go into that philosophy of yours a little deeper, Stephen— it spells stagnation. There are no fixed stars on this earth . Nations can't let each other alone.
MORE. Big ones could let little ones alone.
MENDIP. If they could there'd be no big ones. My dear fellow, we know little nations are your hobby, but surely office should have toned you down.
SIR JOHN. I've served my country fifty years, and I say she is not in the wrong.
MORE. I hope to serve her fifty, Sir John, and I say she is .
MENDIP. There are moments when such things can't be said, More.
MORE. They'll be said by me to-night, Mendip.
MENDIP. In the House?
MENDIP. Mrs. More, you mustn't let him. It's madness.
MORE. [Rising] You can tell people that to-morrow, Mendip. Give it a leader in 'The Parthenon'.
MENDIP. Political lunacy! No man in your position has a right to fly out like this at the eleventh hour.
MORE. I've made no secret of my feelings all along. I'm against this war, and against the annexation we all know it will lead to.
MENDIP. My dear fellow! Don't be so Quixotic! We shall have war within the next twenty-four hours, and nothing you can do will stop it.
HELEN. Oh! No!
MENDIP. I'm afraid so, Mrs. Hubert.
SIR JOHN. Not a doubt of it, Helen.
MENDIP. [TO MORE] And you mean to charge the windmill?
MENDIP. 'C'est magnifique'!
MORE. I'm not out for advertisement.
MENDIP. You will get it!
MORE. Must speak the truth sometimes, even at that risk.
SIR JOHN. It is not the truth.
MENDIP. The greater the truth the greater the libel, and the greater the resentment of the person libelled.
THE DEAN. [Trying to bring matters to a blander level] My dear Stephen, even if you were right—which I deny—about the initial merits, there surely comes a point where the individual conscience must resign it self to the country's feeling. This has become a question of national honour.
SIR JOHN. Well said, James!
MORE. Nations are bad judges of their honour, Dean.
THE DEAN. I shall not follow you there.
MORE. No. It's an awkward word.
KATHERINE. [Stopping THE DEAN] Uncle James! Please!
SIR JOHN. So you're going to put yourself at the head of the cranks, ruin your career, and make me ashamed that you're my son-in-law?
MORE. Is a man only to hold beliefs when they're popular? You've stood up to be shot at often enough, Sir John.
SIR JOHN. Never by my country! Your speech will be in all the foreign press-trust 'em for seizing on anything against us. A show-up before other countries——!
MORE. You admit the show-up?
SIR JOHN. I do not, sir.
THE DEAN. The position has become impossible. The state of things out there must be put an end to once for all! Come, Katherine, back us up!
MORE. My country, right or wrong! Guilty—still my country!
MENDIP. That begs the question.
THE DEAN. [In a low voice] 'Quem Deus volt perdere'——!
SIR JOHN. Unpatriotic!
MORE. I'll have no truck with tyranny.
KATHERINE. Father doesn't admit tyranny. Nor do any of us, Stephen.
HUBERT JULIAN, a tall Soldier-like man, has come in.
SIR JOHN. What in God's name is your idea? We've forborne long enough, in all conscience.
MORE. Sir John, we great Powers have got to change our ways in dealing with weaker nations. The very dogs can give us lessons— watch a big dog with a little one.
MENDIP. No, no, these things are not so simple as all that.
MORE. There's no reason in the world, Mendip, why the rules of chivalry should not apply to nations at least as well as to—-dogs.
MENDIP. My dear friend, are you to become that hapless kind of outcast, a champion of lost causes?
MORE. This cause is not lost.
MENDIP. Right or wrong, as lost as ever was cause in all this world. There was never a time when the word "patriotism" stirred mob sentiment as it does now. 'Ware "Mob," Stephen—-'ware "Mob"!
MORE. Because general sentiment's against me, I—a public man—am to deny my faith? The point is not whether I'm right or wrong, Mendip, but whether I'm to sneak out of my conviction because it's unpopular.
THE DEAN. I'm afraid I must go. [To KATHERINE] Good-night, my dear! Ah! Hubert! [He greets HUBERT] Mr. Mendip, I go your way. Can I drop you?
MENDIP. Thank you. Good-night, Mrs. More. Stop him! It's perdition.
SIR JOHN. I knew your views were extreme in many ways, Stephen, but I never thought the husband of my daughter would be a Peace-at-any- price man!
MORE. I am not! But I prefer to fight some one my own size .
SIR JOHN. Well! I can only hope to God you'll come to your senses before you commit the folly of this speech. I must get back to the War Office. Good-night, Hubert.
HUBERT. Good-night, Father.
HUBERT. We've got our orders.
MORE. What? When d'you sail?
HUBERT. At once.
MORE. Poor Helen!
HUBERT. Not married a year; pretty bad luck! [MORE touches his arm in sympathy] Well! We've got to put feelings in our pockets. Look here, Stephen—don't make that speech! Think of Katherine—with the Dad at the War Office, and me going out, and Ralph and old George out there already! You can't trust your tongue when you're hot about a thing.
MORE. I must speak, Hubert.
HUBERT. No, no! Bottle yourself up for to-night. The next few hours 'll see it begin. [MORE turns from him] If you don't care whether you mess up your own career—don't tear Katherine in two!
MORE. You're not shirking your duty because of your wife.
HUBERT. Well! You're riding for a fall, and a godless mucker it'll be. This'll be no picnic. We shall get some nasty knocks out there. Wait and see the feeling here when we've had a force or two cut up in those mountains. It's awful country. Those fellows have got modern arms, and are jolly good fighters. Do drop it, Stephen!
MORE. Must risk something, sometimes, Hubert—even in my profession!
HUBERT. But it's hopeless, my dear chap—absolutely.
KATHERINE. Stephen! Are you really going to speak? [He nods] I ask you not.
MORE. You know my feeling.
KATHERINE. But it's our own country. We can't stand apart from it. You won't stop anything—only make people hate you. I can't bear that.
MORE. I tell you, Kit, some one must raise a voice. Two or three reverses—certain to come—and the whole country will go wild. And one more little nation will cease to live.
KATHERINE. If you believe in your country, you must believe that the more land and power she has, the better for the world.
MORE. Is that your faith?
MORE. I respect it; I even understand it; but—I can't hold it.
KATHERINE. But, Stephen, your speech will be a rallying cry to all the cranks, and every one who has a spite against the country. They'll make you their figurehead. [MORE smiles] They will. Your chance of the Cabinet will go—you may even have to resign your seat.
MORE. Dogs will bark. These things soon blow over.
KATHERINE. No, no! If you once begin a thing, you always go on; and what earthly good?
MORE. History won't say: "And this they did without a single protest from their public men!"
KATHERINE. There are plenty who——
KATHERINE. Do you remember that day on our honeymoon, going up Ben Lawers? You were lying on your face in the heather; you said it was like kissing a loved woman. There was a lark singing—you said that was the voice of one's worship. The hills were very blue; that's why we had blue here, because it was the best dress of our country. You do love her.
MORE. Love her!
KATHERINE. You'd have done this for me—then.
MORE. Would you have asked me—then, Kit?
KATHERINE. Yes. The country's our country! Oh! Stephen, think what it'll be like for me—with Hubert and the other boys out there. And poor Helen, and Father! I beg you not to make this speech.
MORE. Kit! This isn't fair. Do you want me to feel myself a cur?
KATHERINE. [Breathless] I—I—almost feel you'll be a cur to do it [She looks at him, frightened by her own words. Then, as the footman HENRY has come in to clear the table—very low] I ask you not!
MORE [To the servant] Later, please, Henry, later!
MORE. A cur!
MORE. . . . We have arrogated to our land the title Champion of Freedom, Foe of Oppression. Is that indeed a bygone glory? Is it not worth some sacrifice of our pettier dignity, to avoid laying another stone upon its grave; to avoid placing before the searchlight eyes of History the spectacle of yet one more piece of national cynicism? We are about to force our will and our dominion on a race that has always been free, that loves its country, and its independence, as much as ever we love ours. I cannot sit silent to-night and see this begin. As we are tender of our own land, so we should be of the lands of others. I love my country. It is because I love my country that I raise my voice. Warlike in spirit these people may be—but they have no chance against ourselves. And war on such, however agreeable to the blind moment, is odious to the future. The great heart of mankind ever beats in sense and sympathy with the weaker. It is against this great heart of mankind that we are going. In the name of Justice and Civilization we pursue this policy; but by Justice we shall hereafter be judged, and by Civilization—condemned.
OLIVE. Who were you speaking to, Daddy?
MORE. [Staring at her] The wind, sweetheart!
OLIVE. There isn't any!
MORE. What blew you down, then?
OLIVE. [Mysteriously] The music. Did the wind break the wine- glass, or did it come in two in your hand?
MORE. Now my sprite! Upstairs again, before Nurse catches you. Fly! Fly!
OLIVE. Oh! no, Daddy! [With confidential fervour] It feels like things to-night!
MORE. You're right there!
OLIVE. [Pulling him down to her, and whispering] I must get back again in secret. H'sh!
MORE. Hello, Steel!
STEEL. From Sir John—by special messenger from the War Office.
MORE. [Reading the note] "The ball is opened."
STEEL. I'm glad it's begun, sir. It would have been an awful pity to have made that speech.
MORE. You too, Steel!
STEEL. I mean, if it's actually started——
MORE. [Tearing tie note across] Yes. Keep that to yourself .
STEEL. Do you want me any more?
MORE. Answer these.
STEEL. [Going to the bureau] Fetherby was simply sickening . [He begins to write. Struggle has begun again in MORE] Not the faintest recognition that there are two sides to it.
STEEL. Chief gem: [Imitating] "We must show Impudence at last that Dignity is not asleep!"
MORE. [Moving out on to the terrace] Nice quiet night!
STEEL. This to the Cottage Hospital—shall I say you will preside?
KATHERINE. O my darling! How you startled me! What are you doing down here, you wicked little sinner!
OLIVE. I explained all that to Daddy. We needn't go into it again, need we?
KATHERINE. Where is Daddy?
OLIVE. Oh! only just, and Mr. Steel went after him like a rabbit. [The music stops] They haven't been paid, you know.
KATHERINE. Now, go up at once. I can't think how you got down here.
OLIVE. I can. [Wheedling] If you pay them, Mummy, they're sure to play another.
KATHERINE. Well, give them that! One more only.
OLIVE. Catch, please! And would you play just one more?
OLIVE. Have you got an ache?
KATHARINE. Right through me, darling!
OLIVE. Oh! Mummy! I must just dance!
HUBERT. Stephen gone!
KATHERINE. Yes—stop, Olive!
OLIVE. Are you good at my sort of dancing, Uncle?
HUBERT. Yes, chick—awfully!
KATHERINE. Now, Olive!
OLIVE. Listen, Uncle! Isn't it a particular noise?
KATHERINE. [Breathless] Yes! It is.
KATHERINE. Shut out those ghouls!
NURSE. Oh! don't say it's begun.
NURSE. Is the regiment to go, Mr. Hubert?
HUBERT. Yes, Nanny.
NURSE. Oh, dear! My boy!
KATHERINE. [Signing to where OLIVE stands with wide eyes] Nurse!
HUBERT. I'll look after him, Nurse.
NURSE. And him keepin' company. And you not married a year . Ah! Mr. Hubert, now do 'ee take care; you and him's both so rash.
HUBERT. Not I, Nurse!
OLIVE. [Perceiving new sensations before her, goes quietly] Good- night, Uncle! Nanny, d'you know why I was obliged to come down? [In a fervent whisper] It's a secret!
HUBERT. [Smothering emotion under a blunt manner] We sail on Friday, Kit. Be good to Helen, old girl.
KATHERINE. Oh! I wish——! Why—can't—women—fight?
HUBERT. Yes, it's bad for you, with Stephen taking it like this. But he'll come round now it's once begun.
SIR JOHN. Stephen get my note? I sent it over the moment I got to the War Office.
KATHERINE. I expect so. [Seeing the torn note on the table] Yes.
SIR JOHN. They're shouting the news now. Thank God, I stopped that crazy speech of his in time.
KATHERINE. Have you stopped it?
SIR JOHN. What! He wouldn't be such a sublime donkey?
KATHERINE. I think that is just what he might be. [Going to the window] We shall know soon.
SIR JOHN. Keep a good heart, my boy. The country's first. [They exchange a hand-squeeze.]
STEEL. Mr. More back?
KATHERINE. No. Has he spoken?
SIR JOHN. What? After!
KATHERINE. Yes, Mr. Steel?
STEEL. [Still breathless and agitated] We were here—he slipped away from me somehow. He must have gone straight down to the House. I ran over, but when I got in under the Gallery he was speaking already. They expected something—I never heard it so still there. He gripped them from the first word—deadly—every syllable. It got some of those fellows. But all the time, under the silence you could feel a—sort of—of—current going round. And then Sherratt—I think it was—began it, and you saw the anger rising in them; but he kept them down—his quietness! The feeling! I've never seen anything like it there.
Then there was a whisper all over the House that fighting had begun. And the whole thing broke out—regular riot—as if they could have killed him. Some one tried to drag him down by the coat-tails, but he shook him off, and went on. Then he stopped dead and walked out, and the noise dropped like a stone. The whole thing didn't last five minutes. It was fine, Mrs. More; like—like lava; he was the only cool person there. I wouldn't have missed it for anything—it was grand!
KATHERINE. Good-night, Mr. Steel.
STEEL. [Startled] Oh!—Good-night!
KATHERINE. You've cleared your conscience, then! I didn't think you'd hurt me so.
KATHERINE. I'm with the country, heart and soul, Stephen. I warn you.
FOOTMAN. These notes, sir, from the House of Commons.
KATHERINE. [Taking them] You can have the room directly.
MORE. Open them!
KATHERINE. What you might expect. Three of your best friends. It's begun.
MORE. 'Ware Mob! [He gives a laugh] I must write to the Chief.
KATHERINE. Let me make the rough draft. [She waits] Yes?
"DEAR SIR CHARLES, After my speech to-night, embodying my most unalterable convictions [KATHERINE turns and looks up at him, but he is staring straight before him, and with a little movement of despair she goes on writing] I have no alternative but to place the resignation of my Under-Secretaryship in your hands. My view, my faith in this matter may be wrong—but I am surely right to keep the flag of my faith flying. I imagine I need not enlarge on the reasons——"
THE CURTAIN FALLS.
HELEN. Is it true—what they're shouting?
HUBERT. Yes. Worse than we thought. They got our men all crumpled up in the Pass—guns helpless. Ghastly beginning.
HELEN. Oh, Hubert!
HUBERT. My dearest girl!
HENRY. Just wait here, will you, while I let Mrs. More know . [Catching sight of HUBERT] Beg pardon, sir!
HUBERT. All right, Henry. [Off-hand] Ah! Wreford! [The FOOTMAN withdraws] So you've brought her round. That's good! My sister'll look after her—don't you worry! Got everything packed? Three o'clock sharp.
WREFORD. [A broad faced soldier, dressed in khaki with a certain look of dry humour, now dimmed-speaking with a West Country burr] That's right, zurr; all's ready.
HELEN. [Quietly] Take care of him, Wreford.
HUBERT. We'll take care of each other, won't we, Wreford?
HELEN. How long have you been engaged?
THE GIRL. [A pretty, indeterminate young woman] Six months. [She sobs suddenly.]
HELEN. Ah! He'll soon be safe back.
WREFORD. I'll owe 'em for this. [In a lacy voice to her] Don't 'ee now! Don't 'ee!
HELEN. No! Don't cry, please!
WREFORD. Don't 'ee go on like that, Nance; I'll 'ave to take you 'ome. That's silly, now we've a-come. I might be dead and buried by the fuss you're makin'. You've a-drove the lady away. See!
KATHERINE. My brother told me; so glad you've brought her.
WREFORD. Ye—as, M'. She feels me goin', a bit.
KATHERINE. Yes, yes! Still, it's for the country, isn't it?
THE GIRL. That's what Wreford keeps tellin' me. He've got to go—so it's no use upsettin' 'im. And of course I keep tellin' him I shall be all right.
NURSE. [Whose eyes never leave her son's face] And so you will.
THE GIRL. Wreford thought it'd comfort him to know you were interested in me. 'E's so 'ot-headed I'm sure somethin'll come to 'im .
KATHERINE. We've all got some one going. Are you coming to the docks? We must send them off in good spirits, you know.
OLIVE. Perhaps he'll get a medal.
NURSE. You wouldn't like for him to be hanging back, one of them anti-patriot, stop-the-war ones.
KATHERINE. [Quickly] Let me see—I have your address. [Holding out her hand to WREFORD] We'll look after her.
OLIVE. [In a loud whisper] Shall I lend him my toffee?
KATHERINE. If you like, dear. [To WREFORD] Now take care of my brother and yourself, and we'll take care of her.
WREFORD. Ye—as, M'.
OLIVE. [Who has taken from the bureau a packet, places it in his hand] It's very nourishing!
WREFORD. Thank you, miss.
KATHERINE. Poor things!
OLIVE. What is an anti-patriot, stop-the-war one, Mummy?
KATHERINE. [Taking up a newspaper] Just a stupid name, dear—don't chatter!
OLIVE. But tell me just one weeny thing!
OLIVE. Is Daddy one?
KATHERINE. Olive! How much do you know about this war?
OLIVE. They won't obey us properly. So we have to beat them, and take away their country. We shall, shan't we?
KATHERINE. Yes. But Daddy doesn't want us to; he doesn't think it fair, and he's been saying so. People are very angry with him .
OLIVE. Why isn't it fair? I suppose we're littler than them .
OLIVE. Oh! in history we always are. And we always win. That's why I like history. Which are you for, Mummy—us or them?
OLIVE. Then I shall have to be. It's a pity we're not on the same side as Daddy. [KATHERINE shudders] Will they hurt him for not taking our side?
KATHERINE. I expect they will, Olive.
OLIVE. Then we shall have to be extra nice to him.
KATHERINE. If we can.
OLIVE. I can; I feel like it.
OLIVE. [Catching sight of him-softly] Is Uncle Hubert going to the front to-day? [KATHERINE nods] But not grandfather?
KATHERINE. No, dear.
OLIVE. That's lucky for them, isn't it?
HUBERT. Well, old girl, it's good-bye. [To OLIVE] What shall I bring you back, chick?
OLIVE. Are there shops at the front? I thought it was dangerous.
HUBERT. Not a bit.
OLIVE. [Disillusioned] Oh!
KATHERINE. Now, darling, give Uncle a good hug.
KATHERINE. The Dad and I'll be with you all in spirit. Good-bye, old boy!
KATHERINE. Come in, Mr. Steel.
STEEL. The deputation from Toulmin ought to be here, Mrs. More. It's twelve.
OLIVE. [Having made a little ball of newspaper-slyly] Mr. Steel, catch!
KATHERINE. Go upstairs, won't you, darling?
OLIVE. Mayn't I read in the window, Mummy? Then I shall see if any soldiers pass.
KATHERINE. No. You can go out on the terrace a little, and then you must go up.
STEEL. Awful news this morning of that Pass! And have you seen these? [Reading from the newspaper] "We will have no truck with the jargon of the degenerate who vilifies his country at such a moment . The Member for Toulmin has earned for himself the contempt of all virile patriots." [He takes up a second journal] "There is a certain type of public man who, even at his own expense, cannot resist the itch to advertise himself. We would, at moments of national crisis, muzzle such persons, as we muzzle dogs that we suspect of incipient rabies . . . ." They're in full cry after him!
KATHERINE. I mind much more all the creatures who are always flinging mud at the country making him their hero suddenly! You know what's in his mind?
STEEL. Oh! We must get him to give up that idea of lecturing everywhere against the war, Mrs. More; we simply must.
KATHERINE. [Listening] The deputation's come. Go and fetch him, Mr. Steel. He'll be in his room, at the House.
KATHERINE. How do you do, Mr. Home?
HOME. [Bowing rather extravagantly over her hand, as if to show his independence of women's influence] Mrs. More! We hardly expected— This is an honour.
WACE. How do you do, Ma'am?
KATHERINE. And you, Mr. Wace?
WACE. Thank you, Ma'am, well indeed!
SHELDER. How d'you do, Mrs. More?
KATHERINE. Very well, thank you, Mr. Shelder.
BANNING. [Speaking with a rather broad country accent] This is but a poor occasion, Ma'am.
KATHERINE. Yes, Mr. Banning. Do sit down, gentlemen.
KATHERINE. My husband will be here in two minutes. He's only over at the House.
SHELDER. [Who is of higher standing and education than the others] Charming position—this, Mrs. More! So near the—er—Centre of— Gravity um?
KATHERINE. I read the account of your second meeting at Toulmin.
BANNING. It's bad, Mrs. More—bad. There's no disguising it . That speech was moon-summer madness—Ah! it was! Take a lot of explaining away. Why did you let him, now? Why did you? Not your views, I'm sure!
BANNING. I tell you what hit me—what's hit the whole constituency— and that's his knowing we were over the frontier, fighting already, when he made it.
KATHERINE. What difference does it make if he did know?
HOME. Hitting below the belt—I should have thought—you'll pardon me!
BANNING. Till war's begun, Mrs. More, you're entitled to say what you like, no doubt—but after! That's going against your country. Ah! his speech was strong, you know—his speech was strong.
KATHERINE. He had made up his mind to speak. It was just an accident the news coming then.
BANNING. Well, that's true, I suppose. What we really want is to make sure he won't break out again.
HOME. Very high-minded, his views of course—but, some consideration for the common herd. You'll pardon me!
SHELDER. We've come with the friendliest feelings, Mrs. More—but, you know, it won't do, this sort of thing!
WACE. We shall be able to smooth him down. Oh! surely.
BANNING. We'd be best perhaps not to mention about his knowing that fighting had begun.
MORE. Good-morning, gentlemen.
BANNING. Well, Mr. More? You've made a woeful mistake, sir; I tell you to your face.
MORE. As everybody else does, Banning. Sit down again, please.
BANNING. You've seen the morning's telegrams? I tell you, Mr. More—another reverse like that, and the flood will sweep you clean away. And I'll not blame it. It's only flesh and blood.
MORE, Allow for the flesh and blood in me, too, please. When I spoke the other night it was not without a certain feeling here . [He touches his heart.]
BANNING. But your attitude's so sudden—you'd not been going that length when you were down with us in May.
MORE. Do me the justice to remember that even then I was against our policy. It cost me three weeks' hard struggle to make up my mind to that speech. One comes slowly to these things, Banning.
SHELDER. Case of conscience?
MORE. Such things have happened, Shelder, even in politics.
SHELDER. You see, our ideals are naturally low—how different from yours!
BANNING. There's one thing you forget, sir. We send you to Parliament, representing us; but you couldn't find six men in the whole constituency that would have bidden you to make that speech.
MORE. I'm sorry; but I can't help my convictions, Banning.
SHELDER. What was it the prophet was without in his own country?
BANNING. Ah! but we're not funning, Mr. More. I've never known feeling run so high. The sentiment of both meetings was dead against you. We've had showers of letters to headquarters. Some from very good men—very warm friends of yours.
SHELDER. Come now! It's not too late. Let's go back and tell them you won't do it again.
MORE. Muzzling order?
BANNING. [Bluntly] That's about it.
MORE. Give up my principles to save my Parliamentary skin. Then, indeed, they might call me a degenerate! [He touches the newspapers on the table.]
BANNING. Well, Well! I know. But we don't ask you to take your words back—we only want discretion in the future.
MORE. Conspiracy of silence! And have it said that a mob of newspapers have hounded me to it.
BANNING. They won't say that of you.
SHELDER. My dear More, aren't you rather dropping to our level? With your principles you ought not to care two straws what people say.
MORE. But I do. I can't betray the dignity and courage of public men. If popular opinion is to control the utterances of her politicians, then good-bye indeed to this country!
BANNING. Come now! I won't say that your views weren't sound enough before the fighting began. I've never liked our policy out there. But our blood's being spilled; and that makes all the difference. I don't suppose they'd want me exactly, but I'd be ready to go myself. We'd all of us be ready. And we can't have the man that represents us talking wild, until we've licked these fellows. That's it in a nutshell.
MORE. I understand your feeling, Banning. I tender you my resignation. I can't and won't hold on where I'm not wanted.
BANNING. No, no, no! Don't do that! [His accent broader and broader] You've 'ad your say, and there it is. Coom now! You've been our Member nine years, in rain and shine.
SHELDER. We want to keep you, More. Come! Give us your promise- that's a good man!
MORE. I don't make cheap promises. You ask too much.
SHELDER. There are very excellent reasons for the Government's policy.
MORE. There are always excellent reasons for having your way with the weak.
SHELDER. My dear More, how can you get up any enthusiasm for those cattle-lifting ruffians?
MORE. Better lift cattle than lift freedom.
SHELDER. Well, all we'll ask is that you shouldn't go about the country, saying so.
MORE. But that is just what I must do.
HOME. Not down our way, you'll pardon me.
WACE. Really—really, sir——
SHELDER. The time of crusades is past, More.
MORE. Is it?
BANNING. Ah! no, but we don't want to part with you, Mr. More. It's a bitter thing, this, after three elections. Look at the 'uman side of it! To speak ill of your country when there's been a disaster like this terrible business in the Pass. There's your own wife. I see her brother's regiment's to start this very afternoon. Come now—how must she feel?
MORE. [Turning] To try to muzzle me like this—is going too far.
BANNING. We just want to put you out of temptation.
MORE. I've held my seat with you in all weathers for nine years. You've all been bricks to me. My heart's in my work, Banning; I'm not eager to undergo political eclipse at forty.
SHELDER. Just so—we don't want to see you in that quandary .
BANNING. It'd be no friendliness to give you a wrong impression of the state of feeling. Silence—till the bitterness is overpast; there's naught else for it, Mr. More, while you feel as you do. That tongue of yours! Come! You owe us something. You're a big man; it's the big view you ought to take.
MORE. I am trying to.
HOME. And what precisely is your view—you'll pardon my asking?
MORE. [Turning on him] Mr. Home a great country such as ours—is trustee for the highest sentiments of mankind. Do these few outrages justify us in stealing the freedom of this little people?
BANNING. Steal—their freedom! That's rather running before the hounds.
MORE. Ah, Banning! now we come to it. In your hearts you're none of you for that—neither by force nor fraud. And yet you all know that we've gone in there to stay, as we've gone into other lands—as all we big Powers go into other lands, when they're little and weak. The Prime Minister's words the other night were these: "If we are forced to spend this blood and money now, we must never again be forced." What does that mean but swallowing this country?
SHELDER. Well, and quite frankly, it'd be no bad thing.
HOME. We don't want their wretched country—we're forced.
MORE. We are not forced.
SHELDER. My dear More, what is civilization but the logical, inevitable swallowing up of the lower by the higher types of man? And what else will it be here?
MORE. We shall not agree there, Shelder; and we might argue it all day. But the point is, not whether you or I are right—the point is: What is a man who holds a faith with all his heart to do? Please tell me.
BANNING. [Simply] I was just thinkin' of those poor fellows in the Pass.
MORE. I can see them, as well as you, Banning. But, imagine! Up in our own country—the Black Valley—twelve hundred foreign devils dead and dying—the crows busy over them—in our own country, our own valley—ours—ours—violated. Would you care about "the poor fellows" in that Pass?—Invading, stealing dogs! Kill them—kill them! You would, and I would, too!
MORE. Well! What's the difference out there? I'm not so inhuman as not to want to see this disaster in the Pass wiped out. But once that's done, in spite of my affection for you; my ambitions, and they're not few; [Very low] in spite of my own wife's feeling, I must be free to raise my voice against this war.
BANNING. [Speaking slowly, consulting the others, as it were, with his eyes] Mr. More, there's no man I respect more than yourself. I can't tell what they'll say down there when we go back; but I, for one, don't feel it in me to take a hand in pressing you farther against your faith.
SHELDER. We don't deny that—that you have a case of sorts.
SHELDER. A—man should be free, I suppose, to hold his own opinions.
MORE. Thank you, Shelder.
BANNING. Well! well! We must take you as you are; but it's a rare pity; there'll be a lot of trouble——
HOME. [Suddenly] Bagpipes!
HOME. [In a strange, almost threatening voice] It won't do, Mr. More. Give us your word, to hold your peace!
SHELDER. Come! More.
WACE. Yes, indeed—indeed!
BANNING. We must have it.
MORE. [Without lifting his head] I—I——
BANNING. Can you hear that go by, man—when your country's just been struck?
MORE. I give you——
MORE. [Flinging up his head] That's reality! By Heaven! No!
SHELDER. In that case, we'll go.
BANNING. You mean it? You lose us, then!
HOME. Good riddance! [Venomously—his eyes darting between MORE and KATHERINE] Go and stump the country! Find out what they think of you! You'll pardon me!
OLIVE. They were nice ones! Such a lot of dirty people following, and some quite clean, Mummy. [Conscious from her mother's face that something is very wrong, she looks at her father, and then steals up to his side] Uncle Hubert's gone, Daddy; and Auntie Helen's crying. And—look at Mummy!
OLIVE. Do be on our side! Do!
THE CURTAIN FALLS
DOORKEEPER. It's all clear. You can get away down here, gentlemen. Keep to the left, then sharp to the right, round the corner .
THE THREE. [Dusting themselves, and settling their ties] Thanks, very much! Thanks!
FIRST BLACK-COATED GENTLEMAN. Where's More? Isn't he coming?
FOURTH BLACK-COATED GENTLEMAN. Just behind. [TO the DOORKEEPER] Thanks.
STEEL. Come along, sir, come!
MORE. It sticks in my gizzard, Steel.
STEEL. [Running his arm through MORE'S, and almost dragging him down the steps] You owe it to the theatre people. [MORE still hesitates] We might be penned in there another hour; you told Mrs. More half- past ten; it'll only make her anxious. And she hasn't seen you for six weeks.
MORE. All right; don't dislocate my arm.
STEEL. Quick, Sir, quick!
MORE. That is the end of the limit, as the foreign ambassador remarked.
STEEL. [Pulling him back towards the door] Well! come inside again, anyway!
A GIRL. [At the edge] Which is 'im! The old 'un or the young?
TALL YOUTH. [With lank black hair under a bowler hat] You blasted traitor!
A ROUGH GIRL. Don't frighten the poor feller!
STEEL. [Tugging at MORE's arm] Come along, sir.
MORE. [Shaking his arm free—to the crowd] Well, what do you want?
A VOICE. Speech.
MORE. Indeed! That's new.
ROUGH VOICE. [At the back of the crowd] Look at his white liver. You can see it in his face.
A BIG NAVY. [In front] Shut it! Give 'im a chanst!
TALL YOUTH. Silence for the blasted traitor?
MORE. You shall have it in a nutshell!
A SHOPBOY. [Flinging a walnut-shell which strikes MORE on the shoulder] Here y'are!
MORE. Go home, and think! If foreigners invaded us, wouldn't you be fighting tooth and nail like those tribesmen, out there?
TALL YOUTH. Treacherous dogs! Why don't they come out in the open?
MORE. They fight the best way they can.
MORE. My friend there in khaki led that hooting. I've never said a word against our soldiers. It's the Government I condemn for putting them to this, and the Press for hounding on the Government, and all of you for being led by the nose to do what none of you would do, left to yourselves.
MORE. I say not one of you would go for a weaker man.
VOICES IN THE CROWD.
A NAVVY. [Suddenly shouldering forward] Look 'ere, Mister! Don't you come gaflin' to those who've got mates out there, or it'll be the worse for you-you go 'ome!
COCKNEY VOICE. And git your wife to put cottonwool in yer ears.
A FRIENDLY VOICE. [From the outskirts] Shame! there! Bravo, More! Keep it up!
MORE. [With vehemence] Stop that! Stop that! You—-!
TALL YOUTH. Traitor!
AN ARTISAN. Who black-legged?
MIDDLE-AGED MAN. Ought to be shot-backin' his country's enemies!
MORE. Those tribesmen are defending their homes.
TWO VOICES. Hear! hear!
TALL YOUTH. Wind-bag!
MORE. [With sudden passion] Defending their homes! Not mobbing unarmed men!
ROUGH. Shut it, or we'll do you in!
MORE. [Recovering his coolness] Ah! Do me in by all means! You'd deal such a blow at cowardly mobs as wouldn't be forgotten in your time.
STEEL. For God's sake, sir!
MORE. [Shaking off his touch] Well!
COCKNEY VOICE. Don't 'e speak well! What eloquence!
ROUGH VOICE. That's it! Give 'im some encouragement.
A TALL YOUTH. Traitor!
A VOICE. Don't stand there like a stuck pig.
A ROUGH. Let's 'ave 'im dahn off that!
THE CROWD. Speak up, or get down! Get off! Get away, there—or we'll make you! Go on!
A YOUTH. [In a lull of disconcertion] I'll make 'im speak! See!
TALL YOUTH. [Out of murmuring] Shift! or you'll get it!
A VOICE. Enough of your ugly mug!
A ROUGH. Give 'im one!
A GIRL'S VOICE. Shame!
FRIENDLY VOICE. Bravo, More! Stick to it!
A ROUGH. Give 'im another!
A VOICE. No!
A GIRL'S VOICE. Let 'im alone! Come on, Billy, this ain't no fun!
THE NAVVY. Let 'im be!
MORE. [As if coming to, out of a trance-wiping his hand and dusting his coat] Well, Steel!
THE CURTAIN FALLS.
The window-end of KATHERINE'S bedroom, panelled in cream-coloured wood. The light from four candles is falling on KATHERINE, who is sitting before the silver mirror of an old oak dressing-table, brushing her hair. A door, on the left, stands ajar. An oak chair against the wall close to a recessed window is all the other furniture. Through this window the blue night is seen, where a mist is rolled out flat amongst trees, so that only dark clumps of boughs show here and there, beneath a moonlit sky. As the curtain rises, KATHERINE, with brush arrested, is listening. She begins again brushing her hair, then stops, and taking a packet of letters from a drawer of her dressing-table, reads. Through the just open door behind her comes the voice of OLIVE.
OLIVE. Mummy! I'm awake!
OLIVE. [At KATHERINE'S elbow—examining her watch on its stand] It's fourteen minutes to eleven.
KATHERINE. Olive, Olive!
OLIVE. I just wanted to see the time. I never can go to sleep if I try—it's quite helpless, you know. Is there a victory yet? [KATHERINE, shakes her head] Oh! I prayed extra special for one in the evening papers. [Straying round her mother] Hasn't Daddy come?
KATHERINE. Not yet.
OLIVE. Are you waiting for him? [Burying her face in her mother's hair] Your hair is nice, Mummy. It's particular to-night.
OLIVE. How long has Daddy been away?
KATHERINE. Six weeks.
OLIVE. It seems about a hundred years, doesn't it? Has he been making speeches all the time?
OLIVE. To-night, too?
OLIVE. The night that man was here whose head's too bald for anything—oh! Mummy, you know—the one who cleans his teeth so termendously—I heard Daddy making a speech to the wind. It broke a wine-glass. His speeches must be good ones, mustn't they!
OLIVE. It felt funny; you couldn't see any wind, you know.
KATHERINE. Talking to the wind is an expression, Olive.
OLIVE. Does Daddy often?
KATHERINE. Yes, nowadays.
OLIVE. What does it mean?
KATHERINE. Speaking to people who won't listen.
OLIVE. What do they do, then?
KATHERINE. Just a few people go to hear him, and then a great crowd comes and breaks in; or they wait for him outside, and throw things, and hoot.
OLIVE. Poor Daddy! Is it people on our side who throw things?
KATHERINE. Yes, but only rough people.
OLIVE. Why does he go on doing it? I shouldn't.
KATHERINE. He thinks it is his duty.
OLIVE. To your neighbour, or only to God?
KATHERINE. To both.
OLIVE. Oh! Are those his letters?
OLIVE. [Reading from the letter] "My dear Heart." Does he always call you his dear heart, Mummy? It's rather jolly, isn't it? "I shall be home about half-past ten to-morrow night. For a few hours the fires of p-u-r-g-a-t-or-y will cease to burn—" What are the fires of p-u-r-g-a-t-o-r-y?
KATHERINE. [Putting away the letters] Come, Olive!
OLIVE. But what are they?
KATHERINE. Daddy means that he's been very unhappy.
OLIVE. Have you, too?
OLIVE. [Cheerfully] So have I. May I open the window?
KATHERINE. No; you'll let the mist in.
OLIVE. Isn't it a funny mist-all flat!
KATHERINE. Now, come along, frog!
OLIVE. [Making time] Mummy, when is Uncle Hubert coming back?
KATHERINE. We don't know, dear.
OLIVE. I suppose Auntie Helen'll stay with us till he does.
OLIVE. That's something, isn't it?
KATHERINE. [Picking her up] Now then!
OLIVE. [Deliciously limp] Had I better put in the duty to your neighbour if there isn't a victory soon? [As they pass through the door] You're tickling under my knee! [Little gurgles of pleasure follow. Then silence. Then a drowsy voice] I must keep awake for Daddy.
KATHERINE. [Shutting OLIVE's door, and going up to her] What is it, Nurse?
NURSE. [Speaking in a low voice] I've been meaning to—I'll never do it in the daytime. I'm giving you notice.
KATHERINE. Nurse! You too!
NURSE. I want to go right away at once.
KATHERINE. Leave Olive! That is the sins of the fathers with a vengeance.
NURSE. I've had another letter from my son. No, Miss Katherine, while the master goes on upholdin' these murderin' outlandish creatures, I can't live in this house, not now he's coming back.
KATHERINE. But, Nurse——!
NURSE. It's not like them [With an ineffable gesture] downstairs, because I'm frightened of the mob, or of the window's bein' broke again, or mind what the boys in the street say. I should think not— no! It's my heart. I'm sore night and day thinkin' of my son, and him lying out there at night without a rag of dry clothing, and water that the bullocks won't drink, and maggots in the meat; and every day one of his friends laid out stark and cold, and one day—'imself perhaps. If anything were to 'appen to him. I'd never forgive meself—here. Ah! Miss Katherine, I wonder how you bear it—bad news comin' every day—And Sir John's face so sad—And all the time the master speaking against us, as it might be Jonah 'imself.
KATHERINE. But, Nurse, how can you leave us, you?
NURSE. [Smudging at her cheeks] There's that tells me it's encouragin' something to happen, if I stay here; and Mr. More coming back to-night. You can't serve God and Mammon, the Bible says.
KATHERINE. Don't you know what it's costing him?
NURSE. Ah! Cost him his seat, and his reputation; and more than that it'll cost him, to go against the country.
KATHERINE. He's following his conscience.
NURSE. And others must follow theirs, too. No, Miss Katherine, for you to let him—you, with your three brothers out there, and your father fair wasting away with grief. Sufferin' too as you've been these three months past. What'll you feel if anything happens to my three young gentlemen out there, to my dear Mr. Hubert that I nursed myself, when your precious mother couldn't? What would she have said —with you in the camp of his enemies?
KATHERINE. Nurse, Nurse!
NURSE. In my paper they say he's encouraging these heathens and makin' the foreigners talk about us; and every day longer the war lasts, there's our blood on this house.
KATHERINE. [Turning away] Nurse, I can't—I won't listen.
NURSE. [Looking at her intently] Ah! You'll move him to leave off! I see your heart, my dear. But if you don't, then go I must!
KATHERINE. My dear, what is it?
HELEN. I've seen—a vision!
KATHERINE. Hssh! You'll wake Olive!
HELEN. [Staring before her] I'd just fallen asleep, and I saw a plain that seemed to run into the sky—like—that fog. And on it there were—dark things. One grew into a body without a head, and a gun by its side. And one was a man sitting huddled up, nursing a wounded leg. He had the face of Hubert's servant, Wreford. And then I saw—Hubert. His face was all dark and thin; and he had—a wound, an awful wound here [She touches her breast]. The blood was running from it, and he kept trying to stop it—oh! Kit—by kissing it [She pauses, stifled by emotion]. Then I heard Wreford laugh, and say vultures didn't touch live bodies. And there came a voice, from somewhere, calling out: "Oh! God! I'm dying!" And Wreford began to swear at it, and I heard Hubert say: "Don't, Wreford; let the poor fellow be!" But the voice went on and on, moaning and crying out: "I'll lie here all night dying—and then I'll die!" And Wreford dragged himself along the ground; his face all devilish, like a man who's going to kill.
KATHERINE. My dear! HOW ghastly!
HELEN. Still that voice went on, and I saw Wreford take up the dead man's gun. Then Hubert got upon his feet, and went tottering along, so feebly, so dreadfully—but before he could reach and stop him, Wreford fired at the man who was crying. And Hubert called out: "You brute!" and fell right down. And when Wreford saw him lying there, he began to moan and sob, but Hubert never stirred. Then it all got black again—and I could see a dark woman—thing creeping, first to the man without a head; then to Wreford; then to Hubert, and it touched him, and sprang away. And it cried out: "A-ai-ah!" [Pointing out at the mist] Look! Out there! The dark things!
KATHERINE. [Putting her arms round her] Yes, dear, yes! You must have been looking at the mist.
HELEN. [Strangely calm] He's dead!
KATHERINE. It was only a dream.
HELEN. You didn't hear that cry. [She listens] That's Stephen. Forgive me, Kit; I oughtn't to have upset you, but I couldn't help coming.
KATHERINE. Ah! [She has mastered her emotion.]
MORE. Let me look at you!
MORE. What have you done to your hair?
MORE. It's wonderful to-night.
KATHERINE. [Drawing her hair away] Well?
MORE. At last!
KATHERINE. [Pointing to OLIVE's room] Hssh!
MORE. How is she?
KATHERINE. All right.
MORE. And you?
MORE. Six weeks!
KATHERINE. Why have you come?
KATHERINE. You begin again the day after tomorrow. Was it worth while?
KATHERINE. It makes it harder for me, that's all.
MORE. [Staring at her] What's come to you?
KATHERINE. Six weeks is a long time to sit and read about your meetings.
MORE. Put that away to-night. [He touches her] This is what travellers feel when they come out of the desert to-water.
KATHERINE. [Suddenly noticing the cut on his forehead] Your forehead! It's cut.
MORE. It's nothing.
KATHERINE. Oh! Let me bathe it!
MORE. No, dear! It's all right.
KATHERINE. [Turning away] Helen has just been telling me a dream she's had of Hubert's death.
MORE. Poor child!
KATHERINE. Dream bad dreams, and wait, and hide oneself—there's been nothing else to do. Nothing, Stephen—nothing!
MORE. Hide? Because of me?
MORE. [With a movement of distress] I see. I thought from your letters you were coming to feel——. Kit! You look so lovely!
MORE. My dear, don't cry! God knows I don't want to make things worse for you. I'll go away.
MORE. Never look forward. After the time I've had—I thought— tonight—it would be summer—I thought it would be you—and everything!
KATHERINE. Ah! yes! But-to-morrow it begins again. Oh! Stephen! How long—how long am I to be torn in two? [Drawing back in his arms] I can't—can't bear it.
MORE. My darling!
KATHERINE. Give it up! For my sake! Give it up! [Pressing closer to him] It shall be me—and everything——
KATHERINE. It shall be—if—if——
MORE. [Aghast] You're not making terms? Bargaining? For God's sake, Kit!
KATHERINE. For God's sake, Stephen!
MORE. You!—of all people—you!
MORE. A bargain! It's selling my soul!
THE CURTAIN FALLS
STEEL. [Reading over the letter] "No doubt we shall have trouble. But, if the town authorities at the last minute forbid the use of the hall, we'll hold the meeting in the open. Let bills be got out, and an audience will collect in any case."
MORE. They will.
STEEL. "Yours truly"; I've signed for you.
STEEL. [Blotting and enveloping the letter] You know the servants have all given notice—except Henry.
MORE. Poor Henry!
STEEL. It's partly nerves, of course—the windows have been broken twice—but it's partly——
MORE. Patriotism. Quite! they'll do the next smashing themselves. That reminds me—to-morrow you begin holiday, Steel.
STEEL. Oh, no!
MORE. My dear fellow—yes. Last night ended your sulphur cure. Truly sorry ever to have let you in for it.
STEEL. Some one must do the work. You're half dead as it is .
MORE. There's lots of kick in me.
STEEL. Give it up, sir. The odds are too great. It isn't worth it.
MORE. To fight to a finish; knowing you must be beaten—is anything better worth it?
STEEL. Well, then, I'm not going.
MORE. This is my private hell, Steel; you don't roast in it any longer. Believe me, it's a great comfort to hurt no one but yourself.
STEEL. I can't leave you, sir.
MORE. My dear boy, you're a brick—but we've got off by a miracle so far, and I can't have the responsibility of you any longer. Hand me over that correspondence about to-morrow's meeting.
STEEL takes some papers from his pocket, but does not hand them .
MORE. Come! [He stretches out his hand for the papers. As STEEL still draws back, he says more sharply] Give them to me, Steel! [STEEL hands them over] Now, that ends it, d'you see?
MENDIP. [Taking MORE'S hand] Give me credit for a little philosophy, my friend. Mrs. More told me you'd be back to-day. Have you heard?
MENDIP. There's been a victory.
MORE. Thank God!
MENDIP. Ah! So you actually are flesh and blood.
MENDIP. Take off the martyr's shirt, Stephen. You're only flouting human nature.
MORE. So—even you defend the mob!
MENDIP. My dear fellow, you're up against the strongest common instinct in the world. What do you expect? That the man in the street should be a Quixote? That his love of country should express itself in philosophic altruism? What on earth do you expect? Men are very simple creatures; and Mob is just conglomerate essence of simple men.
MORE. Conglomerate excrescence. Mud of street and market-place gathered in a torrent—This blind howling "patriotism"—what each man feels in here? [He touches his breast] No!
MENDIP. You think men go beyond instinct—they don't. All they know is that something's hurting that image of themselves that they call country. They just feel something big and religious, and go it blind.
MORE. This used to be the country of free speech. It used to be the country where a man was expected to hold to his faith.
MENDIP. There are limits to human nature, Stephen.
MORE. Let no man stand to his guns in face of popular attack . Still your advice, is it?
MENDIP. My advice is: Get out of town at once. The torrent you speak of will be let loose the moment this news is out. Come, my dear fellow, don't stay here!
MORE. Thanks! I'll see that Katherine and Olive go.
MENDIP. Go with them! If your cause is lost, that's no reason why you should be.
MORE. There's the comfort of not running away. And—I want comfort.
MENDIP. This is bad, Stephen; bad, foolish—foolish. Well! I'm going to the House. This way?
MORE. Down the steps, and through the gate. Good-bye?
MORE. You're wise to go, Nurse.
NURSE. You've treated my poor dear badly, sir. Where's your heart?
MORE. In full use.
NURSE. On those heathens. Don't your own hearth and home come first? Your wife, that was born in time of war, with her own father fighting, and her grandfather killed for his country. A bitter thing, to have the windows of her house broken, and be pointed at by the boys in the street.
NURSE. It's unnatural, sir—what you're doing! To think more of those savages than of your own wife! Look at her! Did you ever see her look like that? Take care, sir, before it's too late!
MORE. Enough, please!
MORE. [Quietly] There has been a victory.
KATHERINE. At last! A victory!
SIR JOHN. Thank God! [He hands her the paper.]
KATHERINE. Oh, Dad!
KATHERINE. At last!
KATHERINE. [Suddenly conscious of his gravity] Father!
SIR JOHN. There is other news.
KATHERINE. One of the boys? Hubert?
KATHERINE. The dream! [She covers her face] Poor Helen!
SIR JOHN. [Huskily] Whom the gods love——
SIR JOHN. And hulks like me go on living!
KATHERINE. Dear Dad!
SIR JOHN. But we shall drive the ruffians now! We shall break them. Stephen back?
KATHERINE. Last night.
SIR JOHN. Has he finished his blasphemous speech-making at last? [KATHERINE shakes her head] Not?
SIR JOHN. My dear! Death is in many houses!
KATHERINE. I must go to Helen. Tell Stephen, Father. I can't.
SIR JOHN. If you wish, child.
MORE. Yes, Sir John. You wanted me?
SIR JOHN. Hubert is killed.
SIR JOHN. By these—whom you uphold. Katherine asked me to let you know. She's gone to Helen. I understand you only came back last night from your——No word I can use would give what I feel about that. I don't know how things stand now between you and Katherine; but I tell you this, Stephen: you've tried her these last two months beyond what any woman ought to bear!
SIR JOHN. When you chose your course——
SIR JOHN. You placed yourself in opposition to every feeling in her. You knew this might come. It may come again with another of my sons
MORE. I would willingly change places with any one of them.
SIR JOHN. Yes—I can believe in your unhappiness. I cannot conceive of greater misery than to be arrayed against your country. If I could have Hubert back, I would not have him at such a price—no, nor all my sons. 'Pro patri mori'—My boy, at all events, is happy!
SIR JOHN. Yet you can go on doing what you are! What devil of pride has got into you, Stephen?
MORE. Do you imagine I think myself better than the humblest private fighting out there? Not for a minute.
SIR JOHN. I don't understand you. I always thought you devoted to Katherine.
MORE. Sir John, you believe that country comes before wife and child?
SIR JOHN. I do.
MORE. So do I.
SIR JOHN. [Bewildered] Whatever my country does or leaves undone, I no more presume to judge her than I presume to judge my God. [With all the exaltation of the suffering he has undergone for her] My country!
MORE. I would give all I have—for that creed.
SIR JOHN. [Puzzled] Stephen, I've never looked on you as a crank; I always believed you sane and honest. But this is—visionary mania.
MORE. Vision of what might be.
SIR JOHN. Why can't you be content with what the grandest nation— the grandest men on earth—have found good enough for them? I've known them, I've seen what they could suffer, for our country.
MORE. Sir John, imagine what the last two months have been to me! To see people turn away in the street—old friends pass me as if I were a wall! To dread the post! To go to bed every night with the sound of hooting in my ears! To know that my name is never referred to without contempt——
SIR JOHN. You have your new friends. Plenty of them, I understand.
MORE. Does that make up for being spat at as I was last night? Your battles are fool's play to it.
SIR JOHN. You've heard there's been a victory. Do you carry your unnatural feeling so far as to be sorry for that? [MORE shakes his head] That's something! For God's sake, Stephen, stop before it's gone past mending. Don't ruin your life with Katherine. Hubert was her favourite brother; you are backing those who killed him . Think what that means to her! Drop this—mad Quixotism—idealism—whatever you call it. Take Katherine away. Leave the country till the thing's over—this country of yours that you're opposing, and—and— traducing. Take her away! Come! What good are you doing? What earthly good? Come, my boy! Before you're utterly undone.
MORE. Sir John! Our men are dying out there for, the faith that's in them! I believe my faith the higher, the better for mankind—Am I to slink away? Since I began this campaign I've found hundreds who've thanked me for taking this stand. They look on me now as their leader. Am I to desert them? When you led your forlorn hope— did you ask yourself what good you were doing, or, whether you'd come through alive? It's my forlorn hope not to betray those who are following me; and not to help let die a fire—a fire that's sacred— not only now in this country, but in all countries, for all time.
SIR JOHN. [After a long stare] I give you credit for believing what you say. But let me tell you whatever that fire you talk of—I'm too old-fashioned to grasp—one fire you are letting die—your wife's love. By God! This crew of your new friends, this crew of cranks and jays, if they can make up to you for the loss of her love—of your career, of all those who used to like and respect you—so much the better for you. But if you find yourself bankrupt of affection— alone as the last man on earth; if this business ends in your utter ruin and destruction—as it must—I shall not pity—I cannot pity you. Good-night!
KATHERINE. You rang!
MORE. For them to shut this room up.
KATHERINE. The servants have gone out. They're afraid of the house being set on fire.
MORE. I see.
KATHERINE. They have not your ideals to sustain them. [MORE winces] I am going with Helen and Olive to Father's.
MORE. [Trying to take in the exact sense of her words] Good! You prefer that to an hotel? [KATHERINE nods. Gently] Will you let me say, Kit, how terribly I feel for you—Hubert's——
KATHERINE. Don't. I ought to have made what I meant plainer . I am not coming back.
MORE. Not? Not while the house——
KATHERINE. Not—at all.
KATHERINE. I warned you from the first. You've gone too far!
MORE. [Terribly moved] Do you understand what this means? After ten years—and all—our love!
KATHERINE. Was it love? How could you ever have loved one so unheroic as myself!
MORE. This is madness, Kit—Kit!
KATHERINE. Last night I was ready. You couldn't. If you couldn't then, you never can. You are very exalted, Stephen. I don't like living—I won't live, with one whose equal I am not. This has been coming ever since you made that speech. I told you that night what the end would be.
MORE. [Trying to put his arms round her] Don't be so terribly cruel!
KATHERINE. No! Let's have the truth! People so wide apart don't love! Let me go!
MORE. In God's name, how can I help the difference in our faiths?
KATHERINE. Last night you used the word—bargain. Quite right. I meant to buy you. I meant to kill your faith. You showed me what I was doing. I don't like to be shown up as a driver of bargains, Stephen.
MORE. God knows—I never meant——
KATHERINE. If I'm not yours in spirit—I don't choose to be your— mistress.
KATHERINE. Yes, that's cruel! It shows the heights you live on. I won't drag you down.
MORE. For God's sake, put your pride away, and see! I'm fighting for the faith that's in me. What else can a man do? What else? Ah! Kit! Do see!
KATHERINE. I'm strangled here! Doing nothing—sitting silent—when my brothers are fighting, and being killed. I shall try to go out nursing. Helen will come with me. I have my faith, too; my poor common love of country. I can't stay here with you. I spent last night on the floor—thinking—and I know!
MORE. And Olive?
KATHERINE. I shall leave her at Father's, with Nurse; unless you forbid me to take her. You can.
MORE. [Icily] That I shall not do—you know very well. You are free to go, and to take her.
KATHERINE. [Very low] Thank you! [Suddenly she turns to him, and draws his eyes on her. Without a sound, she puts her whole strength into that look] Stephen! Give it up! Come down to me!
MORE. And drown in—that?
KATHERINE turns swiftly to the door. There she stands and again looks at him. Her face is mysterious, from the conflicting currents of her emotions.
MORE. So—you're going?
KATHERINE. [In a whisper] Yes.
OLIVE. Aren't you coming with us, Daddy?
OLIVE. Why not?
MORE. Never mind, my dicky bird.
OLIVE. The motor'll have to go very slow. There are such a lot of people in the street. Are you staying to stop them setting the house on fire? [MORE nods] May I stay a little, too? [MORE shakes his head] Why?
MORE. [Putting his hand on her head] Go along, my pretty!
OLIVE. Oh! love me up, Daddy!
MORE. Trot, my soul!
MORE. Alone as the last man on earth!
VOICE. There 'e is! That's 'im! More! Traitor! More!
MORE. Ah! Henry, I thought you'd gone.
FOOTMAN. I came back, sir.
MORE. Good fellow!
FOOTMAN. They're trying to force the terrace gate, sir. They've no business coming on to private property—no matter what!
CHIEF STUDENT. Speech! Speech!
CHIEF STUDENT. Now then, you, sir.
MORE. [In a quiet voice] Very well. You are here by the law that governs the action of all mobs—the law of Force. By that law, you can do what you like to this body of mine.
A VOICE. And we will, too.
MORE. I don't doubt it. But before that, I've a word to say .
A VOICE. You've always that.
MORE. You—Mob—are the most contemptible thing under the sun. When you walk the street—God goes in.
CHIEF STUDENT. Be careful, you—sir.
VOICES. Down him! Down with the beggar!
MORE. [Above the murmurs] My fine friends, I'm not afraid of you. You've forced your way into my house, and you've asked me to speak. Put up with the truth for once! [His words rush out] You are the thing that pelts the weak; kicks women; howls down free speech. This to-day, and that to-morrow. Brain—you have none. Spirit—not the ghost of it! If you're not meanness, there's no such thing. If you're not cowardice, there is no cowardice [Above the growing fierceness of the hubbub] Patriotism—there are two kinds—that of our soldiers, and this of mine. You have neither!
CHIEF STUDENT. [Checking a dangerous rush] Hold on! Hold on! [To MORE] Swear to utter no more blasphemy against your country: Swear it!
CROWD. Ah! Ay! Ah!
MORE. My country is not yours. Mine is that great country which shall never take toll from the weakness of others. [Above the groaning] Ah! you can break my head and my windows; but don't think that you can break my faith. You could never break or shake it, if you were a million to one.
GIRL. You're friends with them that killed my lad! [MORE smiles down at her, and she swiftly plucks the knife from the belt of a Boy Scout beside her] Smile, you—cur!
CHIEF STUDENT. Give him air!
CHIEF STUDENT. By the Lord, it's over!
THE CURTAIN FALLS, BUT RISES AGAIN ALMOST AT ONCE.
High above, the face of MORE looks straight before him with a faint smile. On one shoulder and on his bare head two sparrows have perched, and from the gardens, behind, comes the twittering and singing of birds.
[THE CURTAIN FALLS.]
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