good fellow," and he'll blow his nose very loudly, and say, "Confound
this cigar, it won't draw properly." (She gives us a rough impression
of GEORGE doing it.)
BRIAN. Dinah, you're a heavenly idiot. And you've simply got to marry
me, uncles or no uncles.
DINAH. It will have to be "uncles," I'm afraid, because, you see, I'm
his ward, and I can get sent to Chancery or Coventry or somewhere
beastly, if I marry without his consent. Haven't _you_ got anybody who
objects to your marrying _me_?
BRIAN. Nobody, thank Heaven.
DINAH. Well, that's rather disappointing of you. I saw myself
fascinating your aged father at the same time that you were
fascinating George. I should have done it much better than you. As a
George-fascinator you aren't very successful, sweetheart.
BRIAN. What am I like as a Dinah-fascinator?
DINAH. Plus six, darling.
BRIAN. Then I'll stick to that and leave George to Olivia.
DINAH. I expect she'll manage him all right. I have great faith in
Olivia. But you'll marry me, anyhow, won't you, Brian?
BRIAN. I will.
DINAH. Even if we have to wait till I'm twenty-one?
BRIAN. Even if we have to wait till you're fifty-one.
DINAH (holding out her hands to him). Darling!
BRIAN (uneasily). I say, don't do that.
DINAH. Why not?
BRIAN. Well, I promised I wouldn't kiss you.
DINAH. Oh! . . . Well, you might just _send_ me a kiss. You can look the
other way as if you didn't know I was here.
BRIAN. Like this?
(He looks the other way, kisses the tips of his fingers, and flicks it
carelessly in her direction.)
DINAH. That was a lovely one. Now here's one coming for you.
(He catches it gracefully and conveys it to his mouth.)
BRIAN (with a low bow). Madam, I thank you.
DINAH (curtseying). Your servant, Mr. Strange.
OLIVIA (from outside). Dinah!
DINAH (jumping up). Hullo!
(OLIVIA comes in through the windows, followed by GEORGE and LADY
MARDEN, the latter a vigorous young woman of sixty odd, who always
looks as if she were beagling.)
OLIVIA. Aunt Julia wants to see the pigs, dear. I wish you'd take her
down. I'm rather tired, and your uncle has some business to attend to.
LADY MARDEN. I've always said that you don't take enough exercise,
Olivia. Look at me - sixty-five and proud of it.
OLIVIA. Yes, Aunt Julia, you're wonderful.
DINAH. How old would Olivia be if she took exercise?
GEORGE. Don't stand about asking silly questions, Dinah. Your aunt
hasn't much time.
BRIAN. May I come, too, Lady Marden?
LADY MARDEN. Well, a little exercise wouldn't do _you_ any harm, Mr.
Strange. You're an artist, ain't you?
BRIAN. Well, I try to paint.
DINAH. He sold a picture last March for -
GEORGE. Yes, yes, never mind that now.
LADY MARDEN. Unhealthy life. Well, come along.
[She strides out, followed by DINAH and BRIAN.
(GEORGE sits down at his desk with his head in his hand, and stabs the
blotting-paper with a pen. OLIVIA takes the curtains with her to the
sofa and begins to work on them.)
GEORGE (looking up and seeing them). Really, Olivia, we've got
something more important, more vital to us than curtains, to discuss,
now that we _are_ alone at last.
OLIVIA. I wasn't going to discuss them, dear.
GEORGE. I'm always glad to see Aunt Julia in my house, but I wish she
hadn't chosen this day of all days to come to lunch.
OLIVIA. It wasn't Aunt Julia's fault. It was really Mr. Pim who chose
the wrong day.
GEORGE (fiercely). Good Heavens, is it true?
OLIVIA. About Jacob Telworthy?
GEORGE. You told me he was dead. You always said that he was dead.
You - you -
OLIVIA. Well, I always thought that he was dead. He was as dead as
anybody could be. All the papers said he was dead.
GEORGE (scornfully). The papers!
OLIVIA (as if this would settle it for GEORGE). The _Times_ said he
was dead. There was a paragraph about him. Apparently even his death
GEORGE. Yes, yes, I'm not blaming you, Olivia, but what are we going
to do, that's the question, what are we going to do? My God, it's
horrible! You've never been married to me at all! You don't seem to
OLIVIA. It is a little difficult to realise. You see, it doesn't seem
to have made any difference to our happiness.
GEORGE. No, that's what's so terrible. I mean - well, of course, we
were quite innocent in the matter. But, at the same time, nothing can
get over the fact that we - we had no right to - to be happy.
OLIVIA. Would you rather we had been miserable?
GEORGE. You're Telworthy's wife, that's what you don't seem to
understand. You're Telworthy's wife. You - er - forgive me, Olivia, but
it's the horrible truth - you committed bigamy when you married me. (In
OLIVIA. It is an ugly word, isn't it?
GEORGE. Yes, but don't you understand - (He jumps up and comes over to
her) Look here, Olivia, old girl, the whole thing is nonsense, eh? It
isn't your husband, it's some other Telworthy that this fellow met.
That's right, isn't it? Some other shady swindler who turned up on the
boat, eh? This sort of thing doesn't happen to people like
_us_ - committing bigamy and all that. Some other fellow.
OLIVIA (shaking her head). I knew all the shady swindlers in Sydney,
George. . . . They came to dinner. . . . There were no others called
(GEORGE goes back despondently to his seat.)
GEORGE. Well, what are we going to do?
OLIVIA. You sent Mr. Pim away so quickly. He might have told us
things. Telworthy's plans. Where he is now. You hurried him away so
GEORGE. I've sent a note round to ask him to come back. My one idea at
the moment was to get him out of the house - to hush things up.
OLIVIA. You can't hush up two husbands.
GEORGE (in despair). You can't. Everybody will know. Everybody!
OLIVIA. The children, Aunt Julia, they may as well know now as later.
Mr. Pim must, of course.
GEORGE. I do not propose to discuss my private affairs with Mr.
Pim - -
OLIVIA. But he's mixed himself up in them rather, hasn't he, and if
you're going to ask him questions - -
GEORGE. I only propose to ask him one question. I shall ask him if he
is absolutely certain of the man's name. I can do that quite easily
without letting him know the reason for my inquiry.
OLIVIA. You couldn't make a mistake about a name like Telworthy. But
he might tell us something about Telworthy's plans. Perhaps he's going
back to Australia at once. Perhaps he thinks I'm dead, too. Perhaps -
oh, there are so many things I want to know.
GEORGE. Yes, yes, dear. It would be interesting to - that is, one
naturally wants to know these things, but of course it doesn't make
any real difference.
OLIVIA (surprised). No difference?
GEORGE. Well, that is to say, you're as much his wife if he's in
Australia as you are if he's in England.
OLIVIA. I am not his wife at all.
GEORGE. But, Olivia, surely you understand the position - -
OLIVIA (shaking her head). Jacob Telworthy may be alive, but I am not
his wife. I ceased to be his wife when I became yours.
GEORGE. You never _were_ my wife. That is the terrible part of it. Our
union - you make me say it, Olivia - has been unhallowed by the Church.
Unhallowed even by the Law. Legally, we have been living in - living
in - well, the point is, how does the Law stand? I imagine that
Telworthy could get a - a divorce. . . . Oh, it seems impossible that
things like this can be happening to _us_.
OLIVIA (Joyfully). A divorce?
GEORGE. I - I imagine so.
OLIVIA. But then we could _really_ get married, and we shouldn't be
living in - living in - whatever we were living in before.
GEORGE. I can't understand you, Olivia. You talk about it so calmly,
as if there was nothing blameworthy in being divorced, as if there was
nothing unusual in my marrying a divorced woman, as if there was
nothing wrong in our having lived together for years without having
OLIVIA. What seems wrong to me is that I lived for five years with a
bad man whom I hated. What seems right to me is that I lived for five
years with a good man whom I love.
GEORGE. Yes, yes, my dear, I know. But right and wrong don't settle
themselves as easily as that. We've been living together when you were
Telworthy's wife. That's _wrong_.
OLIVIA. Do you mean wicked?
GEORGE. Well, no doubt the Court would consider that we acted in
perfect innocence -
OLIVIA. What Court?
GEORGE. These things have to be done legally, of course. I believe the
proper method is a nullity suit, declaring our marriage null
and - er - void. It would, so to speak, wipe out these years of - er -
GEORGE. Of irregular union, and - er - then -
OLIVIA. Then I could go back to Jacob. . . . Do you really mean that,
GEORGE (uneasily). Well, dear, you see - that's how things are - one
can't get away from - er - -
OLIVIA. What you feel is that Telworthy has the greater claim? You are
prepared to - make way for him?
GEORGE. Both the Church and the Law would say that I had no claim at
all, I'm afraid. I - I suppose I haven't.
OLIVIA. I see. (She looks at him curiously) Thank you for making it so
GEORGE. Of course, whether or not you go back to - er - Telworthy is
another matter altogether. That would naturally be for you to decide.
OLIVIA (cheerfully). For me and Jacko to decide.
GEORGE. Er - Jacko?
OLIVIA. I used to call my first husband - I mean my only
husband - Jacko. I didn't like the name of Jacob, and Jacko seemed to
suit him somehow. . . . He had very long arms. Dear Jacko.
GEORGE (annoyed). You don't seem to realise that this is not a joke,
OLIVIA (a trifle hysterically). It may not be a joke, but it _is_
funny, isn't it?
GEORGE. I must say I don't see anything funny in a tragedy that has
wrecked two lives.
OLIVIA. Two? Oh, but Jacko's life isn't wrecked. It has just been
miraculously restored to him. And a wife, too. There's nothing tragic
for Jacko in it.
GEORGE (stiffly). I was referring to _our_ two lives - yours and mine.
OLIVIA. Yours, George? Your life isn't wrecked. The Court will absolve
you of all blame; your friends will sympathise with you, and tell you
that I was a designing woman who deliberately took you in; your Aunt
Julia - -
GEORGE (overwrought). Stop it! What do you mean? Have you no heart? Do
you think I _want_ to lose you, Olivia? Do you think I _want_ my home
broken up like this? Haven't you been happy with me these last five
OLIVIA. Very happy.
GEORGE. Well then, how can you talk like that?
OLIVIA (pathetically). But you want to send me away.
GEORGE. There you go again. I don't _want_ to. I have hardly had time
to realise just what it will mean to me when you go. The fact is I
simply daren't realise it. I daren't think about it.
OLIVIA (earnestly). Try thinking about it, George.
GEORGE. And you talk as if I _wanted_ to send you away!
OLIVIA. Try thinking about it, George.
GEORGE. You don't seem to understand that I'm not _sending_ you away.
You simply aren't mine to keep.
OLIVIA. Whose am I?
GEORGE. Your husband's. Telworthy's.
OLIVIA (gently). If I belong to anybody but myself, I think I belong
GEORGE. Not in the eyes of the Law. Not in the eyes of the Church. Not
even in the eyes of - er - -
OLIVIA. The County?
GEORGE (annoyed). I was about to say "Heaven."
OLIVIA (unimpressed). Oh!
GEORGE. That this should happen to _us_! (He gets up and walks about
the room, wondering when he will wake up from this impossible dream,
OLIVIA works in silence. Then she stands up and shakes out her
OLIVIA (looking at them). I do hope Jacko will like these.
GEORGE. What! You - - (Going up to her) Olivia, Olivia, have you no
OLIVIA. Ought you to talk like that to another man's wife?
GEORGE. Confound it, is this just a joke to you?
OLIVIA. You must forgive me, George; I am a little over-excited - at
the thought of returning to Jacob, I suppose.
GEORGE. Do you _want_ to return to him?
OLIVIA. One wants to do what is right. In the eyes of - er - Heaven.
GEORGE. Seeing what sort of man he is, I have no doubt that you could
get a separation, supposing that he didn't - er - divorce you. I don't
know _what_ is best. I must consult my solicitor. The whole position
has been sprung on us, and - (miserably) I don't know, I don't know. I
can't take it all in.
OLIVIA. Wouldn't you like to consult your Aunt Julia too? She could
tell you what the County - I mean what Heaven really thought about it.
GEORGE. Yes, yes. Aunt Julia has plenty of common sense. You're quite
right, Olivia. This isn't a thing we can keep from the family.
OLIVIA. Do I still call her _Aunt_ Julia?
GEORGE (looking up from his pacings). What? What? (ANNE comes in.)
Well, what is it?
ANNE. Mr. Pim says he will come down at once, sir.
GEORGE. Oh, thank you, thank you.
[ANNE goes out.
OLIVIA. George, Mr. Pim has got to know.
GEORGE. I don't see the necessity.
OLIVIA. Not even for me? When a woman suddenly hears that her
long-lost husband is restored to her, don't you think she wants to ask
questions? Where is he living, and how is he looking, and - -
GEORGE (coldly). Of course, if you are interested in these things -
OLIVIA. How can I help being? Don't be so silly, George. We _must_
know what Jacko -
GEORGE (annoyed). I wish you wouldn't call him by that ridiculous
OLIVIA. My husband -
GEORGE (wincing). Yes, well - your husband?
OLIVIA. Well, we must know his plans - where we can communicate with
him, and so on.
GEORGE. I have no wish to communicate with him.
OLIVIA. I'm afraid you'll have to, dear.
GEORGE. I don't see the necessity.
OLIVIA. Well, you'll want to - to apologise to him for living with his
wife for so long. And as I belong to him, he ought to be told where he
can - call for me.
GEORGE (after a struggle). You put it in a very peculiar way, but I
see your-point. (With a shudder) Oh, the horrible publicity of it all!
OLIVIA (going up to him and comforting him). Poor George. Dear, don't
think I don't sympathise with you. I understand so exactly what you
are feeling. The publicity! It's terrible.
GEORGE (miserably). I want to do what's right, Olivia. You believe
OLIVIA. Of course I do. It's only that we don't quite agree as to what
is right and what is wrong.
GEORGE. It isn't a question of agreeing. Right is right, and wrong is
wrong, all the world over.
OLIVIA (with a sad little smile). But more particularly in
Buckinghamshire, I think.
GEORGE. If I only considered myself, I should say: "Let us pack this
man Telworthy back to Australia. He would make no claim. He would
accept money to go away and say nothing about it." If I consulted
simply my own happiness, Olivia, that is what I should say. But when I
consult - er - -
OLIVIA (surprised). Mine?
GEORGE. My conscience - -
GEORGE. Then I can't do it. It's wrong. (He is at the window as he
OLIVIA (making her first and last appeal). George, aren't I worth a
little - -
GEORGE (turning round). H'sh! Dinah! (Loudly for DINAH'S benefit)
Well, then I'll write to him and - Ah, Dinah, where's Aunt Julia?
DINAH (coming in). We've seen the pigs, and now she's discussing the
Art of Landseer with Brian. I just came to ask - -
OLIVIA. Dinah, dear, bring Aunt Julia here. And Brian too. We have
things we want to talk about with you all.
GEORGE (outraged). Olivia!
DINAH. Righto. What fun!
GEORGE. Olivia, you don't seriously suggest that we should discuss
these things with a child like Dinah and a young man like Strange, a
OLIVIA. Dinah will have to know. I'm very fond of her, George. You
can't send me away without telling Dinah. And Brian is my friend. You
have your solicitor and your aunt and your conscience to
consult - mayn't I even have Brian?
GEORGE (forgetting). I should have thought that your _husband_ - -
OLIVIA. Yes, but we don't know where Jacko is.
GEORGE. I was not referring to - er - Telworthy.
OLIVIA. Well then?
GEORGE. Well, naturally I - you mustn't - Oh, this is horrible!
(He comes back to his desk as the others come in.)
OLIVIA (getting up). George and I have had some rather bad news, Aunt
Julia. We wanted your advice. Where will you sit?
LADY MARDEN. Thank you, Olivia. I can sit down by myself. (She does
so, near GEORGE. DINAH sits on the sofa with OLIVIA, and BRIAN half
leans against the back of it. There is a hush of expectation. . . .) What
is it? Money, I suppose. Nobody's safe nowadays.
GEORGE (signalling for help). Olivia -
OLIVIA. We've just heard that my first husband is still alive.
BRIAN. Good Lord!
LADY MARDEN. George!
DINAH (excitedly). And only this morning I was saying that nothing
ever happened in this house! (Remorsefully to OLIVIA) Darling, I don't
mean that. Darling one!
LADY MARDEN. What does this mean, George? I leave you for ten
minutes - barely ten minutes - to go and look at the pigs, and when I
come back you tell me that Olivia is a bigamist.
BRIAN (indignantly). I say -
OLIVIA (restraining him). H'sh!
BRIAN (to OLIVIA). If this is a row, I'm on your side.
LADY MARDEN. Well, George?
GEORGE. I'm afraid it's true, Aunt Julia. We heard the news just
before lunch - just before you came. We've only this moment had an
opportunity of talking about it, of wondering what to do.
LADY MARDEN. What was his name - Tel - something -
OLIVIA. Jacob Telworthy.
LADY MARDEN. So he's alive still?
GEORGE. Apparently. There seems to be no doubt about it.
LADY MARDEN (to OLIVIA). Didn't you _see_ him die? I should always
want to _see_ my husband die before I married again. Not that I
approve of second marriages, anyhow. I told you so at the time,
OLIVIA. _And_ me, Aunt Julia.
LADY MARDEN. Did I? Well, I generally say what I think.
GEORGE. I ought to tell you, Aunt Julia, that no blame attaches to
Olivia over this. Of that I am perfectly satisfied. It's nobody's
fault, except - -
LADY MARDEN. Except Telworthy's. _He_ seems to have been rather
careless. Well, what are you going to do about it?
GEORGE. That's just it. It's a terrible situation. There's bound to be
so much publicity. Not only all this, but - but Telworthy's past
and - and everything.
LADY MARDEN. I should have said that it was Telworthy's present which
was the trouble. Had he a past as well?
OLIVIA. He was a fraudulent company promoter. He went to prison a good
LADY MARDEN. George, you never told me this!
GEORGE. I - er - -
OLIVIA. I don't see _why_ he should want to talk about it.
DINAH (indignantly). What's it got to do with Olivia, anyhow? It's not
LADY MARDEN (sarcastically). Oh no, I daresay it's mine.
OLIVIA (to GEORGE). YOU wanted to ask Aunt Julia what was the right
thing to do.
BRIAN (bursting out). Good Heavens, what _is_ there to do except the
one and only thing? (They all look at him and he becomes embarrassed)
I'm sorry. You don't want _me_ to -
OLIVIA. _I_ do, Brian.
LADY MARDEN. Well, go on, Mr. Strange. What would _you_ do in George's
BRIAN. Do? Say to the woman I loved, "You're _mine_, and let this
other damned fellow come and take you from me if he can!" And he
couldn't - how could he? - not if the woman chose _me_.
(LADY MARDEN gazes at BRIAN in amazement, GEORGE in anger, OLIVIA
presses his hand gratefully. He has said what she has been
waiting - oh, so eagerly - for GEORGE to say.)
DINAH (adoringly). Oh, Brian! (In a whisper) It _is_ me, isn't it, and
BRIAN. You baby, of course!
LADY MARDEN. I'm afraid, Mr. Strange, your morals are as peculiar as
your views on Art. If you had led a more healthy life -
BRIAN. This is not a question of morals or of art, it's a question of
DINAH. Hear, hear!
LADY MARDEN (to GEORGE). Isn't it that girl's bedtime yet?
OLIVIA (to DINAH). We'll let her sit up a little longer if she's good.
DINAH. I will be good, Olivia, only I thought anybody, however
important a debate was, was allowed to say "Hear, hear!"
GEORGE (coldly) I really think we could discuss this better if Mr.
Strange took Dinah out for a walk. Strange, if you - er -
OLIVIA. Tell them what you have settled first, George.
LADY MARDEN. Settled? What is there to be settled? It settles itself.
GEORGE (sadly). That's just it.
LADY MARDEN. The marriage must be annulled - is that the word, George?
GEORGE. I presume so.
LADY MARDEN. One's solicitor will know all about that of course.
BRIAN. And when the marriage has been annulled, what then?
LADY MARDEN. Presumably Olivia will return to her husband.
BRIAN (bitterly). And _that's_ morality! As expounded by Bishop
GEORGE (angered). I don't know what you mean by Bishop Landseer.
Morality is acting in accordance with the Laws of the Land and the
Laws of the Church. I am quite prepared to believe that _your_ creed
embraces neither marriage nor monogamy, but my creed is different.
BRIAN (fiercely). My creed includes both marriage _and_ monogamy, and
monogamy means sticking to the woman you love, as long as she wants
LADY MARDEN (calmly). You suggest that George and Olivia should go on
living together, although they have never been legally married, and
wait for this Telworthy man to divorce her, and then - bless the man,
what do you think the County would say?
BRIAN (scornfully). Does it matter?
DINAH. Well, if you really want to know, the men would say, "Gad,
she's a fine woman; I don't wonder he sticks to her," and the women
would say, "I can't _think_ what he sees in her to stick to her like
that," and they'd both say, "After all, he may be a damn fool, but you
can't deny he's a sportsman." That's what the County would say.
GEORGE (indignantly) Was it for this sort of thing, Olivia, that you
insisted on having Dinah and Mr. Strange in here? To insult me in my
LADY MARDEN. I can't think what young people are coming to nowadays.
OLIVIA. I think, dear, you and Brian had better go.
DINAH (getting up). We will go. But I'm just going to say one thing,
Uncle George. Brian and I _are_ going to marry each other, and when we
are married we'll stick to each other, _however_ many of our dead
husbands and wives turn up!
[She goes out indignantly, followed by BRIAN.
GEORGE. Upon my word, this is a pleasant discussion.
OLIVIA. I think the discussion is over, George. It is only a question
of where I shall go, while you are bringing your - what sort of suit
did you call it?
LADY MARDEN (to GEORGE). Nullity suit. I suppose that _is_ the best
GEORGE. It's horrible. The awful publicity. That it should be
happening to _us_, that's what I can't get over.
LADY MARDEN. I don't remember anything of the sort in the Marden
Family before, ever.
GEORGE (absently). Lady Fanny.
LADY MARDEN (recollecting). Yes, of course; but that was two hundred
years ago. The standards were different then. Besides, it wasn't quite
the same, anyhow.
GEORGE (absently). No, it wasn't quite the same.
LADY MARDEN. No. We shall all feel it. Terribly.
GEORGE (his apology). If there were any other way! Olivia, what _can_
I do? It _is_ the only way, isn't it? All that that fellow said - of
course, it sounds very well - but as things are. . . . _Is_ there anything
in marriage, or isn't there? You believe that there is, don't you? You
aren't one of these Socialists. Well, then, _can_ we go on living
together when you're another man's wife? It isn't only what people
will say, but it _is_ wrong, isn't it? . . . And supposing he doesn't
divorce you, are we to go on living together, unmarried, for _ever_?
Olivia, you seem to think that I'm just thinking of the
publicity - what people will say. I'm not. I'm not. That comes in any
way. But I want to do what's right, what's best. I don't mean what's
best for _us_, what makes us happiest, I mean what's really best,
what's rightest. What anybody else would do in my place. _I_ don't
know. It's so unfair. You're not my wife at all, but I want to do
what's right. . . . Oh, Olivia, Olivia, you do understand, don't you?
(They have both forgotten LADY MARDEN. OLIVIA has never taken her eyes
off him as he makes his last attempt to convince himself.)
OLIVIA (almost tenderly). So very very well, George. Oh, I understand
just what you are feeling. And oh, I do so wish that you could - (with
a little sigh) - but then it wouldn't be George, not the George I
married - (with a rueful little laugh) - or didn't quite marry.