Act Four

Scene One

The scene is the drawing-room at Highercoombe, the same evening. Paula is still seated on the ottoman, looking vacantly before her, with the little mirror in her hand. Lady Orreyed enters

LADY ORREYED There you are! You never came into the billiard- room. Isn't it maddening Cayley Drummle gives me sixty out of a hundred and beats me. I must be out of form, because I know I play remarkably well for a lady. Only last month- (Paula rises)

Whatever is the matter with you, old girl?


LADY ORREYED (staring) It's the light, I suppose. (Paula replaces the mirror on the table) By Aubrey's bolting from the billiard-table in that fashion I thought perhaps...

PAULA Yes; it s all right.

LADY ORREYED You've patched it up? (Paula nods) Oh, I am jolly glad ! [Kisses her] I mean--

PAULA Yes, I know what you mean. Thanks, Mabel.

L A D Y O R R E Y E D Now take my advice; for the future

PAULA Mabel, if I've been disagreeable to you while you've been staying here, I I beg your pardon.

She walks away and sits down

LADY ORREYED You, disagreeable, my dear? I haven't noticed it. Dodo and me both consider you make a first-class hostess, but then you've had such practice, haven't you? (Dropping on to the ottoman and gaping) Oh, talk about being sleepy

PAULA Why don't you?

LADY ORREYED Why, dear, I must hang about for Dodo. You may as well know it; he's in one of his moods.

PA ULA (under her breath) Oh

LADY ORREYED Now, its not his fault; it was deadly dull for him while we were playing billiards. Cayley Drummle did ask him to mark, but I stopped that; it's so easy to make a gentleman look like a billiard-marker. This is just how it always is; if poor old Dodo has nothing to do, he loses count, as you may say.

PA ULA Hark!

Sir George Orreyed enters, walking slowly and deliberately; he looks pale and watery-eyed

SIR GEORGE (with mournful indistinctness) I'm 'fraid we've left you a great deal to yourself tonight, Mrs Tanqueray. Attra'tions of billiards. I apol'gise. I say, where's ol' Aubrey?

PAULA MY husband has been obliged to go out to a neighbour's house.

SIR GEORGE I want his advice on a rather pressing matter connected with my family my family. (Sitting) Tomorrow will do just as well.

LADY ORREYED (to Paula) This is the mood I hate so--drivelling about his precious family.

SIR GEORGE The fact is, Mrs Tanqueray, I am not easy in my min' 'bout the way I am treatin' my poor ol' mother.

LADY ORREYED (to Paula) Do you hear that? That's his mother, but my mother he won't so much as look at!

SIR GEORGE I shall write to Bruton Street firs' thing in the morning.

LADY ORREYED (to Paula) amma has stuck to me through every- thing well, you know!

SIR GEORGE I'll get ol' Aubrey to figure out a letter. I'll drop line to Uncle Fitz too--dooced shame of the ol' feller to chuck me over ;o in this manner. (wiping his eyes) All my family have chucked me over.

LADY ORREYED (rising) Dodo!

SIR GEORGE JUS' because I've married beneath me, to be chucked over! Aunt Lydia, the General, Hooky Whitgrave, Lady Sugnall my own dear sister!--all turn their backs on me. It's more than I can stan'!

LADY ORREYED (approaching him ~Dith dignity) Sir George, wish Mrs Tanqueray good-night at once and come upstairs. Do you hear me?

S I R G E O R G E (rising angrily) Wha


SIR GEORGE YOU presoom to order me about!

LADY ORREYED You're making an exhibition of yourself!


L A D Y O R R E Y E D Come along, I tell you!

He hesitates, utters a few inarticulate sounds, then snatches up a fragile ornament from the table, and is about to dash it on to the ground. Lady Orreyed retreats, and Paula goes to him

PA UL A George!

He replaces the ornament

SIR GEORGE (shaking Paula's hand) Good ni', Mrs Tanqueray.

LADY ORREYED (to Paula) Good-night, darling. Wish Aubrey good- night for me. Now, Dodo?

She goes out

SIR GEORGE (to Paula) I say, are you goin' to sit up for ol' Aubrey?


SIR GEORGE Shall I keep you company?

PA ULA No, thank you, George.


PAULA Yes, sure.

SIR GEORGE (shaking hands) Good-night again.

PA ULA Good-night.

She turns away. He goes out, steadying himself carefully.

Drummle appears outside the window, with a cap on his head, and smoking

DRUMMLE (looking into the room, and seeing Paula) My last cigar. Where's Aubrey?

PAULA Gone down to The Warren, to see Mrs Cortelyon home.

DRUMMLE (entering the room) Eh? Did you say Mrs Cortelyon?

PAULA Yes. She has brought Ellean back.

DRUMMLE Bless my soul! Why?

PAULA I - I'm too tired to tell you, Cayley. If you stroll along the lane you'll meet Aubrey. Get the news from him.

DRUMMLE (going up to the window) Yes, yes. (Returning to Paula) I don t want to bother you, only the anxious old woman, you know. Are you and Aubrey -?

PA ULA Good friends again?

D R U M M L E (nodding) Um.

PAULA (giving him her hand) Quite, Cayley auite-

LADY ORREYED (relenting her hand) That's capital. As I'm off so early tomorrow morning, let me say now -thank you for your hos- pitality.

DRUMMLE bends over her hand gallantly, then goes out by the window

PAULA (to herself) 'Are you and Aubrey 'Good friends again?'

Yes. Quite, Cayley, quite'.

There is a briefpause, then Aubrey enters hurriedly, wearing a light overcoat and carrying a cap

AUBREY Paula dear! Have you seen Ellean?

PAULA I found her here when I came down.

AUBREY She shes told you?

PAULA Yes, Aubrey.

AUBREY It's extraordinary, isn't it! Not that somebody should fall in love with Ellean or that Ellean herself should fall in love. All that's natural enough and was bound to happen, I suppose, sooner or later. But this young fellow! You know his history?

PAULA [startled] His history?

AUBREY You remember the papers were full of his name a few months ago?

PAULA Oh, yes.

AUBREY The man's as brave as a lion, there's no doubt about that; Tho, and, at the same time, he's like a big good-natured schoolboy, Mrs Cortelyon says. Have you ever pictured the kind of man Ellean would marry some day?

PAULA I can't say that I have.

AUBREY A grave, sedate fellow I've thought about- ah! She has fallen in love with the way in which Ardale practically laid down his life to save those poor people shut up in the Residency. (Taking out his coat) Well, I suppose if a man can do that sort of thing, one ought to be content. And yet (Throwing his coat on the settee) I should have met him tonight, but he'd gone out. Paula dear, tell me how you look upon this business.

PAULA Yes, I will I must. To begin with, I I've seen Mr Ardale.

AUBREY Captain Ardale?

P AU L A Captain Ardale.

AUBREY Seen him?

PAULA While you were away he came up here, through our grounds, to try to get a word with Ellean. I made her fetch him in and present him to me.

AusREY (frowning) Doesn't Captain Ardale know there's a lodge and a front door to this place? Never mind! What is your impression of him?

PAULA Aubrey, do you recollect my bringing you a letter--a letter giving you an account of myself to the Albany late one night the night before we got married?

AUBREY A letter?

PAIULA You burnt it; don't you know?

AUBREY Yes; I know.

PAI LA His name was in that letter.

AusREY (going back from her slowly, and staring at her) I don't understand.

PAULA Well Ardale and I once kept house together. (He remains silent, not moving) Why don't you strike me? Hit me in the face I'd rather you did! Hurt me! Hurt me!

AUBREY (after a pause) What did you and this man- say to each other just now?

PAULA I--hardly--know.


PAULA The end of it all was that I--I told him I must inform you of what had happened. . . he didn't want me to do that. . . I declared that I would . . . he dared me to. (Breaking down) Let me alone! Oh!

AUBREY Where was my daughter while this went on?

PAULA I- I had sent her out of the room . . . that is all right.

AUBREY Yes, yes yes, yes.

He turns his head towards the door

PAULA Who's that?

A servant enters with a letter

SERVANT The coachman has just run up with this from The Warren, sir. (Aubrey takes the letter) It's for Mrs Tanqueray, sir; there's no answer.

The servant withdraws. Aubrey goes to Paula and drops the letter into her lap; she opens it with uncertain hands

PAULA (reading it to herself) It's from--him. He's going away--or gonc I think. (Rising in a weak way) What does it say? I never could make out his writing.

She gives the letter to Aubrey and stands near him, looking at the letter over his shoulder as he reads

AUBREY (reading) I shall be in Paris by tomorrow evening. Shall wait there, at Meurice's, for a week, ready to receive any communica- tion you or your husband may address to me. Please invent some explanation to Ellean. Mrs Tanqueray, for God's sake, do what you can for me.'

Paula and Aubrey speak in low voices, both still looking at the letter

PAULA Has he left The Warren, I wonder, already?

AUBREY That doesn't matter.

PAULA No, but I can picture him going quietly off. Very likely he's walking on to Bridgeford or Cottering tonight, to get the first train in the morning. A pleasant stroll for him.

AUBREY We'll reckon he's gone, that's enough.

PAULA That isn't to be answered in any way?

.AUBREY Silence will answer that.

PAULA He'll soon recover his spirits, I know.

AUBREY You know (Oftering her the letter) You don't want this, I suppose?


AUBREY It's done with - done with.

He tears the letter into small pieces. She has dropped the envelope; she searches for it, finds it, and gives it to him


AUBREY (looking at the remnants of the letter) This is no good; I must burn it.

PAULA Burn it in your room.


PAULA Put it in your pocket for now.


He does so. Ellean enters and they both turn, guiltily, and stare at her

ELLEAN (after a short silence, wonderingly) Papa

.AUBREY What do you want, Ellean?

ELLEAN I heard from Willis that you had come in; I only want to wish you good-night.

Paula steals Aubrey, without looking back

What's the matter? Ah! Of course, Paula has told you about Captain Ardale?


ELLEAN Have you and he met?


ELLEA~ You are angry with him; so was I. But tomorrow when he calls and expresses his regret tomorrow

AUBR E Y Ellean Ellean !

E L L E A N Yes, Papa?

AUBREY I I can't let you see this man again.

He walks away from her in a paroxysm of distress, then, after a moment or two, he returns to her and takes her to his arms

Ellean! My child!

ELLEAN (releasing herself) What has happened, Papa? What is it?

.AUBREY (thinking out his words deliberately) Something has occurred, something has come to my knowledge, in relation to Captain Ardale, which puts any further acquaintanceship between you two out of the question.

ELLEAN Any further acquaintanceship . . . out of the question?


[She sits.] He advances to her quickly, but she shrinks from him

ELLEAN No, no--I am quite well. (After a short pause) It's not an hour ago since Mrs Cortelyon left you and me together here; you had nothing to urge against Captain Ardale then.


ELLEAN You don't know each other; you haven't even seen him this evening. Father!

AUBREY I have told you he and I have not met.

ELLEAN Mrs Cortelyon couldn't have spoken against him to you just now. No, no, no; she's too good a friend to both of us. Aren't you going to give me some explanation? You can't take this position towards me--towards Captain Ardalc- without affording me the fullest explanation.

AUBREY Ellean, there are circumstances connected with Gptain Ardale's career which you had better remain ignorant of. It must be sufficient for you that I consider these circumstances render him unfit to be your husband.

ELLEAN Father!

AUBREY You must trust me, Ellean; you must try to understand the depth of my love for you and the the agony it gives me to hurt you. You must trust me.

ELLEAN I will, father; but you must trust me a little too. Circum- stances connected with Captain Ardale's career?


ELLEAN When he presents himself here tomorrow of course you will see him and let him defend himself?

AUBREY Captain Ardale will not be here tomorrow.

ELLEAN Not! You have stopped his coming here?

A U B R E Y Indirectly yes.

ELLEAN But just now he was talking to me at that window! Nothing had taken place then! And since then nothing can have ! Oh! Why you have heard something against him from Paula.

AUBREY From Paula!

ELLEAN She knows him.

AUBREY She has told you so?

ELLEAN When I introduced Captain Ardale to her she said she had met him in London. Of course! It is Paula who has done this!

AUBREY (in a hard voice) I I hope you you'll refrain from rushing at conclusions. There's nothing to be gained by trying to avoid the main point, which is that you must drive Captain Ardale out of your thoughts. Understand that! You're able to obtain comfort from your religion, aren't you? I'm glad to think that's so. I talk to you in a harsh way, Ellean, but I feel your pain almost as acutely as you do. (Going to the door) I I can't say anything more to you tonight. Father! (He pauses at the door) Father, I'm obliged to ask you this; there's no help for it I've no mother to go to. Does what you have heard about Captain Ardale concern the time when he led a wild, a dissolute life in London?

AUBREY (returning to her slowly and staring at her) Explain yourself!

ELLEAN He has been quite honest with me. One day--in Paris--he confessed to me- what a man's life is what his life had been.

AUBREY (under his breath) Oh!

ELLEAN He offered to go away, not to approach me again.

AUBREY And you you accepted his view of what a man's life is! ELLEAN As far as I could forgive him, I forgave him.

AUBREY (with a groan) Why, when was it you left us? It hasn't taken you long to get your robe 'just a little dusty at the hem'!

ELLEAN What do you mean?

AUBREY Hah! A few weeks ago my one great desire was to keep you ignorant of evil.

ELLEAN' Father, it is impossible to be ignorant of evil. Instinct, common instinct, teaches us what is good and bad. Surely I am none the worse for knowing what is wicked and detesting it!

AUBREY Detesting it! Why, you love this fellow!

ELLEAN Ah, you don't understand! I have simply judged Captain Ardale as we all pray to be judged. I have lived in imagination through that one week in India when he deliberately offered his life back to God to save those wretched, desperate people. In his whole career I see now nothing but that one week; those few hours bring him nearer the saints, I believe, than fifty uneventful years of mere blamelessness would have done! And so, father, if Paula has reported anything to Captain Ardale's discredit


ELLEAN It must be Paula; it can't be anybody else.

AUBREY You you'll please keep Paula out of the question. Finally, Ellean, understand mc I have made up my mind.

He again goes to the door

ELLEAN But wait listen! I have made up my mind also.

AUBREY Ah! I recognise your mother in you now!

ELLEAN You need not speak against my mother because you are angry with me! AUBREY I I~hardly know what I'm saying to you. In the morning in the morning

He goes out. She remains standing, and turns her head to listen. Then, after a moment's hesitation, she goes softly to the window, and looks out under the veranda

ELLEAN (in a whisper) Paula! Paula!

Paula appears outside the window and steps into the room; her face is white and drawn, her hair is a little disordered

PA ULA (huskily) Well?

ELLEAN Have you been listening?

PAULA N--no.

ELLEAN Have you been under the veranda all the while listening?

ELLEAN You have overheard us--I see you have. And it is you who have been speaking to my father against Captain Ardale. Isn't it? Paula, why don't you own it or deny it?

PAULA Oh, I I don't mind owning it; why should I?

ELLEAN Ah! You seem to have been very very eager to tell your tale.

PAULA No, I wasn't eager, Ellean. I'd have given something not to have had to do it. I wasn't eager.

ELLEAN Not! Oh, I think you might safely have spared us all little while.

PAULA But, Ellean, you forget I I am your stepmother. It was my my duty to tell your father what I--what I knew

ELLEAN What you knew! Why, after all, what can you know! You can only speak from gossip, report, hearsay! How is it possible that you !

She stops abruptly. The two women stand staring at each other for a moment; then Ellean backs awav from Paula


PAULA What - what's the matter?

ELLEAN You -you knew Captain Ardale in London!

PAULA Why - what do you mean?


She makesfor the door, but Paula catches her by the arm

PAULA You shall tell me what you mean!

ELLEAN Ah! (Suddenly looking Paula down--) I mean- (Looking in Paulas face) You know what I mean.

PAULA You accuse me!

E LL E AN It's in your face!

PA ULA (hoarsely) You you think I'm that sort of creature, do you?

ELLEAN Let me go!

PAULA Answer me! You've always hated me! (Shaking her) Out with it!

E L L E A N You hurt me!

PAULA You've always hated me! You shall answer me!

ELLEAN Tell, then, I have always always--


ELLEAN I have always known what you were!

PAULA Ah! Who--who told you?

ELLEAN Nobody but yourself. From the first moment I saw you I knew vou were altogether unlike the good women I'd left; directlv I saw you I knew what my father had done. You've wondered why I've turned from you! There--that's the reason! Oh, but this is a horrible way for the truth to come home to everyone! Oh!

PAULA It's a lie! It's all a lie! (Forcing Ellean down upon her knees) You shall beg my pardon for it. (Ellean utters a loud shriek of terror) Ellean, I'm a good woman! I swear I am! I've always been a good woman! You dare to say I've ever been anything else! It's a lie! ( Throwing her down violently)

Aubrey re-enters

AUREY Paula!

Paula staggers back as Aubrey advances

(Raising Ellean) What's this? What's this?

ELLEAN (faintly) Nothing. It's my fault. Father, I I don't wish to see Captain Ardale again.

She goes out, Aubrey slowly following her to the door

P AU L A Aubrey, she guesses.

A UB R E Y Guesses?

P AUL A About me and Ardale.

.AUBREY About you--and Ardale? PAULA She says she suspected my character from the beginning. . . that's why she's always kept me at a distance . . . and now, she sees through

She falters; he helps her to the ottoman, where she sits

AUBREY (bending over her) Paula, you must have said something admitted something

PAULA I don't think so. It--it's in my face.


PAULA She tells me so. She's right! I'm tainted through and through; anybody can see it, anybody can find it out. You said much the same to me tonight.

AUBREY [partly to himself as if dazed] If she has got this idea into her head we must drive it out, that's all. We must take steps to--What shall we do? We had better better- sitting and staring before him) What was that?

PAULA Shes a regular woman too. She could forgive him easily enough but me! That man-

AUBREY What can we do?

PAULA Why, nothing! She'd have no difficulty in following up her suspicions. Suspicions! You should have seen how she looked at me!

He buries his head in his hands. There is silence for a time, then she rises calmly and goes to sit with him. Aubrey-

PAULA Would you like to keep her with you and--and leave me?


place . . . what a fool I was to come h-ore PAULA You lived here with your first wife!

AUBREY We'll get out of this place and go abroad again, and begin afresh

PAULA Begin afresh?

AUBREY There's no reason why the future shouldn't be happy for us no reason that I can see

P A UL A Aubrey!


PAULA You'll never forget this, you know.


PAULA Tonight, and everything that's led up to it. Our coming here, Ellean, our quarrels--cat and dog! Mrs Cortelyon, the Orreyeds, this man! What an everlasting nightmare for you!

AUBREY Oh, we can forget it, if we choose.

PAULA That was always your cry. How can one do it?

AUBREY We'll make our calculations solely for the future, talk about the future, think about the future.

PAULA I believe the future is only the past again, entered through another gate.

AUBREY Thats an awful belief.

PAULA Tonight proves it. You must see now that, do what we will, go where we will, you'll be continually reminded of what I was.

I see it.

AUBREY You're frightened tonight; meeting this man has frightened you. But that sort of thing isn't likely to recur. The world isn't quite so small as all that.

PAULA Isn't it! The only great distances it contains are those we carry within ourselves--the distances that separate husbands and wives, for instance. And so it'll be with us. You'll do your best--oh, I know that you're a good fellow. But circumstances will be too strong for you in the end, mark my words.


PAULA Of course I'm pretty now--I'm pretty still--and a pretty woman, whatever else she may be, is always well, endurable. But even now I notice that the lines of my face are getting deeper; so are the hollows about my eyes. Yes, my face is covered with little shadows that usen't to be there. Oh, I know I'm 'going off'. I hate paint and dye and those messes, but, by and by, I shall drift the way of the others; I shan't be able to help myself. And then, some day perhaps very suddenly, under a queer, fantastic light at night or in the glare of the morning that horrid, irresistible truth that physical repulsion forces on men and women will come to you, and you'll sicken at me.


PAULA You'll see me then, at last, with other people's eyes; you'll see me just as your daughter does now, as all wholesome folks see women like me. And I shall have no weapon to fight with not one serviceable little bit of prettiness left me to defend myself with! A worn-out creature broken up, very likely, some time before I 4~o ought to be my hair bright, my eyes dull, my body too thin or too stout, my cheeks raddled and ruddled a ghost, a wreck, a caricature, a candle that gutters, call such an end what you like! Oh, Aubrey, what shall I be able to say to you then? And this is the future you talk about! I know it I know it! (He is still sitting staring forward; she rocks herself to and fro as if in a daze) oh A Oh! Oh!

AUBREY (trying to comfort her) Paula-

PAULA (resting her. head upon his shoulder) Oh, and I wanted so much to sleep tonight!

From the distance, in the garden, there comes the sound of Drummle's voice; he is singing as he approaches the house (Starting up) That's Cayley, coming back from The Warren. He doesn't know, evidently. I I won't see him!

She goes out quickly. Drummle s voice comes nearer. Aubrey rouses himself and snatches up a book from the table, making a pretence of reading. After a moment or two, Drummle appears at the window and looks in

DRUMMLE Aha! My dear chap!

A UB R E Y Cayley?

DRUMMLE (coming into the room) I went down to The Warren after you.


DRUMMLE Missed you. Well? I've been gossiping with Mrs Corte- lyon. Confound you, I've heard the news!

AUBREY What have you heard?

DRUMMLE What have I heard! Why Ellean and young Ardale!

(Looking at Aubrey keenly) My dear Aubrey! Alice is under the impression that you are inclined to look on the affair favour- ably.

AUBREY (rising and advancing to Drummle) You've not met Captain Ardale?

DRUMMLE No. Why do you ask? By the bye~ I don't know that I need tell you but it's rather strange. He's not at The Warren tonight.


DRUMMLE He left the house half an hour ago, to stroll about the lanes; just now a note came from him, a scribble in pencil, simply telling Alice that she would receive a letter from him tomorrow. what's the matter? There's nothing very wrong, is there! My dear chap, pray forgive me if I'm asking too much.

AUBREY Cayley, you you urged me to send her away!

DRUMMLE Ellean! Yes, yes. But but--by all accounts this is quite an eligible young fellow. Alice has been giving me the history

AUBREY Curse him! (Hurling his book to the floor) Curse him! Yes, I do curse him him and his class! Perhaps I curse myself too in doing it. He has only led 'a man's life' just as I, how many of us, have done! The misery he has brought on me and mine, it's likely enough we, in our time, have helped to bring on others by this leading 'a man's life'! But I do curse him for all that. Holy God, nothing more to fear Ive paid my fine! And so I can curse him in safety. Curse him! Curse him!

DRUMMLE In Heaven's name, tell me what's happened?

.ABREY (gripping Drummles arm) Paula! Paula!


.AUBREY They met tonight here. They they--they're not strangers to each other.

D R UMM L E Aubrey !

AUBREY Curse him! My poor, wretched wife! My poor, wretched wife!

The Window opens and Ellean appears. The two men turn to her. There is a moment's silence

ELLEAN Father . . . father. . .!

AUBREY Ellean?

ELLEAN Its Paula

He goes to her

Father. . . go to Paula! (He looks into her face, startled) Quickly-- Quickly!

He passes her to go out, she seizes his arm, with a cry no, no; don't go!

He shakes her off and goes. Ellean staggers back towards Drummle DRUMMLE (to Ellean) What do you mean? What do you mean?

ELLEAN I I went to her room to tell her I was sorry for something I had said to her. And I was sorry I was sorry. I heard the fall.

I I've seen her. It's horrible!

DRUMMLE She--she has ELLEAN Killed herself? Yes yes. So everybody will say. But I know -- I helped to kill her. If I'd only been merciful!

{She faints upon the ottoman. He pauses for a moment iirresolutely--then he goes to the door, opens it, and stands looking out]