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_Entered at the Library of Congress, Washington, U.S.A.
All rights reserved._




At Shapters, GEORGE FARRANT'S house in Hertfordshire. Ten o'clock on a
Sunday evening in summer.

_Facing you at her piano by the window, from which she is protected by a
little screen, sits_ MRS. FARRANT; _a woman of the interesting age,
clear-eyed and all her face serene, except for a little pucker of the brows
which shows a puzzled mind upon some important matters. To become almost an
ideal hostess has been her achievement; and in her own home, as now, this
grace is written upon every movement. Her eyes pass over the head of a girl,
sitting in a low chair by a little table, with the shaded lamplight falling
on her face. This is_ LUCY DAVENPORT; _twenty-three, undefeated in anything
as yet and so unsoftened. The book on her lap is closed, for she has been
listening to the music. It is possibly some German philosopher, whom she
reads with a critical appreciation of his shortcomings. On the sofa near her
lounges_ MRS. O'CONNELL; _a charming woman, if by charming you understand a
woman who converts every quality she possesses into a means of attraction,
and has no use for any others. On the sofa opposite sits_ MISS TREBELL. _In
a few years, when her hair is quite grey, she will assume as by right the
dignity of an old maid. Between these two in a low armchair is_ LADY
DAVENPORT. _She has attained to many dignities. Mother and grandmother, she
has brought into the world and nourished not merely life but character. A
wonderful face she has, full of proud memories and fearless of the future.
Behind her, on a sofa between the windows, is_ WALTER KENT. _He is just what
the average English father would like his son to be. You can see the light
shooting out through the windows and mixing with moonshine upon a smooth
lawn. On your left is a door. There are many books in the room, hardly any
pictures, a statuette perhaps. The owner evidently sets beauty of form
before beauty of colour. It is a woman's room and it has a certain delicate
austerity. By the time you have observed everything_ MRS. FARRANT _has
played Chopin's prelude opus 28, number 20 from beginning to end._

LADY DAVENPORT. Thank you, my dear Julia.

WALTER KENT. [_Protesting._] No more?

MRS. FARRANT. I won't play for a moment longer than I feel musical.

MISS TREBELL. Do you think it right, Julia, to finish with that after an
hour's Bach?

MRS. FARRANT. I suddenly came over Chopinesque, Fanny; ... what's your
objection? [_as she sits by her._]

FRANCES TREBELL. What ... when Bach has raised me to the heights of

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Grimacing sweetly, her eyes only half lifted._] Does he?
I'm glad that I don't understand him.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Putting mere prettiness in its place._] One may prefer
Chopin when one is young.

AMY O'CONNELL. And is that a reproach or a compliment?

WALTER KENT. [_Boldly._] I do.

FRANCES TREBELL. Or a man may ... unless he's a philosopher.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_To the rescue._] Miss Trebell, you're very hard on mere

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Completing the reproof._] That's my wretched training as
a schoolmistress, Lady Davenport ... one grew to fear it above all things.

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Throwing in the monosyllable with sharp youthful
enquiry._] Why?

FRANCES TREBELL. There were no text books on the subject.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Smiling at her friend._] Yes, Fanny ... I think you escaped
to look after your brother only just in time.

FRANCES TREBELL. In another year I might have been head-mistress, which
commits you to approve of the system for ever.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Shaking her wise head._] I've watched the Education fever
take England....

FRANCES TREBELL. If I hadn't stopped teaching things I didn't understand...!

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Not without mischief._] And what was the effect on the

LUCY DAVENPORT. I can tell you that.

AMY O'CONNELL. Frances never taught you.

LUCY DAVENPORT. No, I wish she had. But I was at her sort of a school before
I went to Newnham. I know.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Very distastefully._] Up-to-date, it was described as.

LUCY DAVENPORT. Well, it was like a merry-go-round at top speed. You felt
things wouldn't look a bit like that when you came to a standstill.

AMY O'CONNELL. And they don't?

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_With great decision._] Not a bit.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_In her velvet tone._] I was taught the whole duty of woman
by a parson-uncle who disbelieved in his Church.

WALTER KENT. When a man at Jude's was going to take orders....


WALTER KENT. At Oxford. The dons went very gingerly with him over bits of
science and history.

[_This wakes a fruitful thought in_ JULIA FARRANT'S _brain._]

MRS. FARRANT. Mamma, have you ever discussed so-called anti-Christian
science with Lord Charles?

FRANCES TREBELL ... Cantelupe?

MRS. FARRANT. Yes. It was over appointing a teacher for the schools down
here ... he was staying with us. The Vicar's his fervent disciple. However,
we were consulted.

LUCY DAVENPORT. Didn't Lord Charles want you to send the boys there till
they were ready for Harrow?


FRANCES TREBELL. Quite the last thing in Toryism!

MRS. FARRANT. Mamma made George say we were too _nouveau riche_ to risk it.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_As she laughs._] I couldn't resist that.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Catching something of her subject's dry driving manner._]
Lord Charles takes the superior line and says ... that with his consent the
Church may teach the unalterable Truth in scientific language or legendary,
whichever is easier understanded of the people.

LADY DAVENPORT. Is it the prospect of Disestablishment suddenly makes him so

FRANCES TREBELL. [_With large contempt._] He needn't be. The majority of
people believe the world was made in an English week.


FRANCES TREBELL. No Bishop dare deny it.

MRS. FARRANT. [_From the heights of experience._] Dear Lucy, do you
seriously think that the English spirit - the nerve that runs down the
backbone - is disturbed by new theology ... or new anything?

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Enjoying her epigram._] What a waste of persecution
history shows us!

WALTER KENT _now captures the conversation with a very young
politician's fervour._

WALTER KENT. Once they're disestablished they must make up their minds what
they do believe.

LADY DAVENPORT. I presume Lord Charles thinks it'll hand the Church over to
him and his ... dare I say 'Sect'?

WALTER KENT. Won't it? He knows what he wants.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Subtly._] There's the election to come yet.

WALTER KENT. But now both parties are pledged to a bill of some sort.

MRS. FARRANT. Political prophecies have a knack of not coming true; but,
d'you know, Cyril Horsham warned me to watch this position developing ...
nearly four years ago.

FRANCES TREBELL. Sitting on the opposition bench sharpens the eye-sight.

WALTER KENT. [_Ironically._] Has he been pleased with the prospect?

MRS. FARRANT. [_With perfect diplomacy_] If the Church must be
disestablished ... better done by its friends than its enemies.

FRANCES TREBELL. Still I don't gather he's pleased with his dear cousin
Charles's conduct.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Shrugging._] Oh, lately, Lord Charles has never concealed
his tactics.

FRANCES TREBELL. And that speech at Leeds was the crowning move I suppose;
just asking the Nonconformists to bring things to a head?

MRS. FARRANT. [_Judicially._] I think that was precipitate.

WALTER KENT. [_Giving them_ LORD CHARLES'S _oratory._] Gentlemen, in these
latter days of Radical opportunism! - You know, I was there ... sitting next
to an old gentleman who shouted "Jesuit."

FRANCES TREBELL. But supposing Mallaby and the Nonconformists hadn't been
able to force the Liberals' hand?

MRS. FARRANT. [_Speaking as of inferior beings._] Why, they were glad of any
cry going to the Country!

FRANCES TREBELL. [_As she considers this._] Yes ... and Lord Charles would
still have had as good a chance of forcing Lord Horsham's. It has been
clever tactics.

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Who has been listening, sharp-eyed._] Contrariwise, he
wouldn't have liked a Radical Bill though, would he?

WALTER KENT. [_With aplomb._] He knew he was safe from that. The government
must have dissolved before Christmas anyway ... and the swing of the
pendulum's a sure thing.

MRS. FARRANT. [_With her smile._] It's never a sure thing.

WALTER KENT. Oh, Mrs. Farrant, look how unpopular the Liberals are.

FRANCES TREBELL. What made them bring in Resolutions?

WALTER KENT. [_Overflowing with knowledge of the subject._] I was told
Mallaby insisted on their showing they meant business. I thought he was
being too clever ... and it turns out he was. Tommy Luxmore told me there
was a fearful row in the Cabinet about it. But on their last legs, you know,
it didn't seem to matter, I suppose. Even then, if Prothero had mustered up
an ounce of tact ... I believe they could have pulled them through....

FRANCES TREBELL. Not the Spoliation one.

WALTER KENT. Well, Mr. Trebell dished that!

FRANCES TREBELL. Henry says his speech didn't turn a vote.

MRS. FARRANT. [_With charming irony._] How disinterested of him!

WALTER KENT. [_Enthusiastic._] That speech did if ever a speech did.

FRANCES TREBELL. Is there any record of a speech that ever did? He just
carried his own little following with him.

MRS. FARRANT. But the crux of the whole matter is and has always been ...
what's to be done with the Church's money.

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Visualising sovereigns._] A hundred millions or so ...
think of it!

FRANCES TREBELL. There has been from the start a good deal of
anti-Nonconformist feeling against applying the money to secular uses.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Deprecating false modesty, on anyone's behalf._] Oh, of
course the speech turned votes ... twenty of them at least.

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Determined on information._] Then I was told Lord Horsham
had tried to come to an understanding himself with the Nonconformists about
Disestablishment - oh - a long time ago ... over the Education Bill.

FRANCES TREBELL. Is that true, Julia?

MRS. FARRANT. How should I know?

FRANCES TREBELL. [_With some mischief_] You might.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Weighing her words._] I don't think it would have been
altogether wise to make advances. They'd have asked more than a Conservative
government could possibly persuade the Church to give up.

WALTER KENT. I don't see that Horsham's much better off now. He only turned
the Radicals out on the Spoliation question by the help of Trebell. And so
far ... I mean, till this election is over Trebell counts still as one of
them, doesn't he, Miss Trebell? Oh ... perhaps he doesn't.

FRANCES TREBELL. He'll tell you he never has counted as one of them.

MRS. FARRANT. No doubt Lord Charles would sooner have done without his help.
And that's why I didn't ask the gentle Jesuit this week-end if anyone wants
to know.

WALTER KENT. [_Stupent at this lack of party spirit._] What ... he'd rather
have had the Liberals go to the country undefeated!

MRS. FARRANT. [_With finesse._] The election may bring us back independent
of Mr. Trebell and anything he stands for.

WALTER KENT. [_Sharply._] But you asked Lord Horsham to meet him.

MRS. FARRANT. [_With still more finesse._] I had my reasons. Votes aren't

LADY DAVENPORT _has been listening with rather a doubtful smile; she
now caps the discussion._

LADY DAVENPORT. I'm relieved to hear you say so, my dear Julia. On the other
hand democracy seems to have brought itself to a pretty pass. Here's a
measure, which the country as a whole neither demands nor approves of, will
certainly be carried, you tell me, because a minority on each side is
determined it shall be ... for totally different reasons.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Shrugging again._] It isn't our business to prevent popular
government looking foolish, Mamma.

LADY DAVENPORT. Is that Tory cynicism or feminine?

_At this moment_ GEORGE FARRANT _comes through the window; a good
natured man of forty-five. He would tell you that he was educated at
Eton and Oxford. But the knowledge which saves his life comes from the
thrusting upon him of authority and experience; ranging from the
management of an estate which he inherited at twenty-four, through the
chairmanship of a newspaper syndicate, through a successful marriage,
to a minor post in the last Tory cabinet and the prospect of one in
the near-coming next. Thanks to his agents, editors, permanent
officials, and his own common sense, he always acquits himself
creditably. He comes to his wife's side and waits for a pause in the

LADY DAVENPORT. I remember Mr. Disraeli once said to me ... Clever women are
as dangerous to the State as dynamite.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Not to be impressed by Disraeli._] Well, Lady Davenport,
if men will leave our intellects lying loose about....

FARRANT. Blackborough's going, Julia.

MRS. FARRANT. Yes, George.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Concluding her little apologue to_ MISS TREBELL.] Yes, my
dear, but power without responsibility isn't good for the character that
wields it either.

[_There follows_ FARRANT _through the window a man of fifty. He has
about him that unmistakeable air of acquired wealth and power which
distinguishes many Jews and has therefore come to be regarded as a
solely Jewish characteristic. He speaks always with that swift
decision which betokens a narrowed view. This is_ RUSSELL
BLACKBOROUGH; _manufacturer, politician ... statesman, his own side
calls him._]

BLACKBOROUGH. [_To his hostess._] If I start now, they tell me, I shall get
home before the moon goes down. I'm sorry I must get back to-night. It's
been a most delightful week-end.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Gracefully giving him a good-bye hand._] And a successful
one, I hope.

FARRANT. We talked Education for half an hour.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Her eyebrows lifting a shade._] Education!

FARRANT. Then Trebell went away to work.

BLACKBOROUGH. I've missed the music, I fear.

MRS. FARRANT. But it's been Bach.


MRS. FARRANT. For a minute only.

BLACKBOROUGH. Why don't these new Italian men write things for the piano!
Good-night, Lady Davenport.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_As he bows over her hand._] And what has Education to do
with it?

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Non-committal himself._] Perhaps it was a subject that
compromised nobody.

LADY DAVENPORT. Do you think my daughter has been wasting her time and her

FARRANT. [_Clapping him on the shoulder._] Blackborough's frankly
flabbergasted at the publicity of this intrigue.

MRS. FARRANT. Intrigue! Mr. Trebell walked across the House ... actually
into your arms.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_With a certain dubious grimness._] Well ... we've had some
very interesting talks since. And his views upon Education are quite ...
Utopian. Good bye, Miss Trebell.


MRS. FARRANT. I wouldn't be so haughty till after the election, if I were
you, Mr. Blackborough.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Indifferently._] Oh, I'm glad he's with us on the Church
question ... so far.

MRS. FARRANT. So far as you've made up your minds? The electoral cat will
jump soon.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_A little beaten by such polite cynicism._] Well ... our
conservative principles! After all we know what they are. Good-night, Mrs.

AMY O'CONNELL. Good-night.

FARRANT. Your neuralgia better?

AMY O'CONNELL. By fits and starts.

FARRANT. [_Robustly._] Come and play billiards. Horsham and Maconochie
started a game. They can neither of them play. We left them working out a
theory of angles on bits of paper.

WALTER KENT. Professor Maconochie lured me on to golf yesterday. He doesn't
suffer from theories about that.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_With approval._] Started life as a caddie.

WALTER KENT. [_Pulling a wry face._] So he told me after the first hole.

BLACKBOROUGH. What's this, Kent, about Trebell's making you his secretary?

WALTER KENT. He thinks he'll have me.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Almost reprovingly._] No question of politics?

FARRANT. More intrigue, Blackborough.

WALTER KENT. [_With disarming candour._] The truth is, you see, I haven't
any as yet. I was Socialist at Oxford ... but of course that doesn't count.
I think I'd better learn my job under the best man I can find ... and who'll
have me.

BLACKBOROUGH. [_Gravely._] What does your father say?

WALTER KENT. Oh, as long as Jack will inherit the property in a Tory spirit!
My father thinks it my wild oats.

_A Footman has come in._

THE FOOTMAN. Your car is round, sir.

BLACKBOROUGH. Ah! Good-night, Miss Davenport. Good-bye again, Mrs. Farrant
... a charming week-end.

_He makes a business-like departure_, FARRANT _follows him._

THE FOOTMAN. A telephone message from Dr. Wedgecroft, ma'am. His thanks;
they stopped the express for him at Hitchin and he has reached London quite

MRS. FARRANT. Thank you.

[_The Footman goes out._ MRS. FARRANT _exhales delicately as if the
air were a little refined by_ BLACKBOROUGH'S _removal._]

MRS. FARRANT. Mr. Blackborough and his patent turbines and his gas engines
and what not are the motive power of our party nowadays, Fanny.

FRANCES TREBELL. Yes, you claim to be steering plutocracy. Do you never
wonder if it isn't steering you?

MRS. O'CONNELL, _growing restless, has wandered round the room picking
at the books in their cases._

AMY O'CONNELL. I always like your books, Julia. It's an intellectual
distinction to know someone who has read them.

MRS. FARRANT. That's the Communion I choose.

FRANCES TREBELL. Aristocrat ... fastidious aristocrat.

MRS. FARRANT. No, now. Learning's a great leveller.

FRANCES TREBELL. But Julia ... books are quite unreal. D'you think life is a
bit like them?

MRS. FARRANT. They bring me into touch with ... Oh, there's nothing more
deadening than to be boxed into a set in Society! Speak to a woman outside
it ... she doesn't understand your language.

FRANCES TREBELL. And do you think by prattling Hegel with Gilbert Wedgecroft
when he comes to physic you -

MRS. FARRANT. [_Joyously._] Excellent physic that is. He never leaves a

LADY DAVENPORT. Don't you think an aristocracy of brains is the best
aristocracy, Miss Trebell?

FRANCES TREBELL. [_With a little more bitterness than the abstraction of the
subject demands._] I'm sure it is just as out of touch with humanity as any
other ... more so, perhaps. If I were a country I wouldn't be governed by
arid intellects.

MRS. FARRANT. Manners, Frances.

FRANCES TREBELL. I'm one myself and I know. They're either dead or

GEORGE FARRANT _comes back and goes straight to_ MRS. O'CONNELL.

FARRANT. [_Still robustly._] Billiards, Mrs. O'Connell.

AMY O'CONNELL. [_Declining sweetly._] I think not.

FARRANT. Billiards, Lucy?

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_As robust as he._] Yes, Uncle George. You shall mark while
Walter gives me twenty-five and I beat him.

WALTER KENT. [_With a none-of-your-impudence air._] I'll give you ten yards
start and race you to the billiard room.

LUCY DAVENPORT. Will you wear my skirt? Oh ... Grandmamma's thinking me

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Without prejudice._] Why, my dear, freedom of limb is
worth having ... and perhaps it fits better with freedom of tongue.

FARRANT. [_In the proper avuncular tone._] I'll play you both ... and I'd
race you both if you weren't so disgracefully young.

AMY O'CONNELL _has reached an open window._

AMY O'CONNELL. I shall go for a walk with my neuralgia.

MRS. FARRANT. Poor thing!

AMY O'CONNELL. The moon's good for it.

LUCY DAVENPORT. Shall you come, Aunt Julia?

MRS. FARRANT. [_In flat protest._] No, I will not sit up while you play

MRS. O'CONNELL _goes out through the one window, stands for a moment,
wistfully romantic, gazing at_ KENT _are standing at the other,
looking across the lawn._

FARRANT. Horsham still arguing with Maconochie. They're got to Botany now.

WALTER KENT. Demonstrating something with a ... what's that thing?

WALTER _goes out._

FARRANT. [_With a throw of his head towards the distant_ HORSHAM.] He was so
bored with our politics ... having to give his opinion too. We could just
hear your piano.

_And he follows_ WALTER.

MRS. FARRANT. Take Amy O'Connell that lace thing, will you, Lucy?

LUCY DAVENPORT. [_Her tone expressing quite wonderfully her sentiments
towards the owner._] Don't you think she'd sooner catch cold?

_She catches it up and follows the two men; then after looking round
impatiently, swings off in the direction_ MRS. O'CONNELL _took. The
three women now left together are at their ease._

FRANCES TREBELL. Did you expect Mr. Blackborough to get on well with Henry?

MRS. FARRANT. He has become a millionaire by appreciating clever men when he
met them.

LADY DAVENPORT. Yes, Julia, but his political conscience is comparatively

MRS. FARRANT. Well, Mamma, can we do without Mr. Trebell?

LADY DAVENPORT. Everyone seems to think you'll come back with something of a

MRS. FARRANT. [_A little impatient._] What's the good of that? The Bill
can't be brought into the Lords ... and who's going to take Disestablishment
through the Commons for us? Not Eustace Fowler ... not Mr. Blackborough ...
not Lord Charles ... not George!

LADY DAVENPORT. [_Warningly._] Not all your brilliance as a hostess will
keep Mr. Trebell in a Tory Cabinet.

MRS. FARRANT. [_With wilful avoidance of the point._] Cyril Horsham is only
too glad.

LADY DAVENPORT. Because you tell him he ought to be.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_Coming to the rescue._] There is this. Henry has never
exactly called himself a Liberal. He really is elected independently.

MRS. FARRANT. I wonder will all the garden-cities become pocket-boroughs.

FRANCES TREBELL. I think he has made a mistake.

MRS. FARRANT. It makes things easier now ... his having kept his freedom.

FRANCES TREBELL. I think it's a mistake to stand outside a system. There's
an inhumanity in that amount of detachment ...

MRS. FARRANT. [_Brilliantly._] I think a statesman may be a little inhuman.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_With keenness._] Do you mean superhuman? It's not the same
thing, you know.


LADY DAVENPORT. Most people don't know.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Proceeding with her cynicism._] Humanity achieves ... what?
Housekeeping and children.

FRANCES TREBELL. As far as a woman's concerned.

MRS. FARRANT. [_A little mockingly._] Now, Mamma, say that is as far as a
woman's concerned.

LADY DAVENPORT. My dear, you know I don't think so.

MRS. FARRANT. We may none of us think so. But there's our position ... bread
and butter and a certain satisfaction until ... Oh, Mamma, I wish I were
like you ... beyond all the passions of life.

LADY DAVENPORT. [_With great vitality._] I'm nothing of the sort. It's my
egoism's dead ... that's an intimation of mortality.

MRS. FARRANT. I accept the snub. But I wonder what I'm to do with myself for
the next thirty years.

FRANCES TREBELL. Help Lord Horsham to govern the country.

JULIA FARRANT _gives a little laugh and takes up the subject this

MRS. FARRANT. Mamma ... how many people, do you think, believe that Cyril's
_grande passion_ for me takes that form?

LADY DAVENPORT. Everyone who knows Cyril and most people who know you.

MRS. FARRANT. Otherwise I seem to have fulfilled my mission in life. The
boys are old enough to go to school. George and I have become happily
unconscious of each other.

FRANCES TREBELL. [_With sudden energy of mind._] Till I was forty I never
realised the fact that most women must express themselves through men.

MRS. FARRANT. [_Looking at_ FRANCES _a little curiously._] Didn't your
instinct lead you to marry ... or did you fight against it?

FRANCES TREBELL. I don't know. Perhaps I had no vitality to spare.

LADY DAVENPORT. That boy is a long time proposing to Lucy.

_This effectually startles the other two from their conversational

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