George Bernard Shaw.

You Never Can Tell online

. (page 5 of 9)
Online LibraryGeorge Bernard ShawYou Never Can Tell → online text (page 5 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

hurry, no doubt. I know what his six weeks' earnings come to. (He
crosses the terrace to the iron table, and sits down.)

WAITER (philosophically). Well, sir, you never can tell. That's a
principle in life with me, sir, if you'll excuse my having such a thing,
sir. (Delicately sinking the philosopher in the waiter for a moment.)
Perhaps you haven't noticed that you hadn't touched that seltzer and
Irish, sir, when the party broke up. (He takes the tumbler from the
luncheon table, and sets if before Crampton.) Yes, sir, you never can
tell. There was my son, sir! who ever thought that he would rise to wear
a silk gown, sir? And yet to-day, sir, nothing less than fifty guineas,
sir. What a lesson, sir!

CRAMPTON. Well, I hope he is grateful to you, and recognizes what he
owes you.

WAITER. We get on together very well, very well indeed, sir, considering
the difference in our stations. (With another of his irresistible
transitions.) A small lump of sugar, sir, will take the flatness out of
the seltzer without noticeably sweetening the drink, sir. Allow me,
sir. (He drops a lump of sugar into the tumbler.) But as I say to him,
where's the difference after all? If I must put on a dress coat to show
what I am, sir, he must put on a wig and gown to show what he is. If
my income is mostly tips, and there's a pretence that I don't get them,
why, his income is mostly fees, sir; and I understand there's a pretence
that he don't get them! If he likes society, and his profession brings
him into contact with all ranks, so does mine, too, sir. If it's a
little against a barrister to have a waiter for his father, sir, it's
a little against a waiter to have a barrister for a son: many people
consider it a great liberty, sir, I assure you, sir. Can I get you
anything else, sir?

CRAMPTON. No, thank you. (With bitter humility.) I suppose that's no
objection to my sitting here for a while: I can't disturb the party on
the beach here.

WAITER (with emotion). Very kind of you, sir, to put it as if it was not
a compliment and an honour to us, Mr. Crampton, very kind indeed. The
more you are at home here, sir, the better for us.

CRAMPTON (in poignant irony). Home!

WAITER (reflectively). Well, yes, sir: that's a way of looking at it,
too, sir. I have always said that the great advantage of a hotel is that
it's a refuge from home life, sir.

CRAMPTON. I missed that advantage to-day, I think.

WAITER. You did, sir, you did. Dear me! It's the unexpected that always
happens, isn't it? (Shaking his head.) You never can tell, sir: you
never can tell. (He goes into the hotel.)

CRAMPTON (his eyes shining hardly as he props his drawn, miserable face
on his hands). Home! Home!! (He drops his arms on the table and bows his
head on them, but presently hears someone approaching and hastily sits
bolt upright. It is Gloria, who has come up the steps alone, with her
sunshade and her book in her hands. He looks defiantly at her, with
the brutal obstinacy of his mouth and the wistfulness of his eyes
contradicting each other pathetically. She comes to the corner of the
garden seat and stands with her back to it, leaning against the end of
it, and looking down at him as if wondering at his weakness: too curious
about him to be cold, but supremely indifferent to their kinship.) Well?

GLORIA. I want to speak with you for a moment.

CRAMPTON (looking steadily at her). Indeed? That's surprising. You meet
your father after eighteen years; and you actually want to speak to
him for a moment! That's touching: isn't it? (He rests his head on his
hands, and looks down and away from her, in gloomy reflection.)

GLORIA. All that is what seems to me so nonsensical, so uncalled for.
What do you expect us to feel for you - to do for you? What is it you
want? Why are you less civil to us than other people are? You are
evidently not very fond of us - why should you be? But surely we can meet
without quarrelling.

CRAMPTON (a dreadful grey shade passing over his face). Do you realize
that I am your father?

GLORIA. Perfectly.

CRAMPTON. Do you know what is due to me as your father?

GLORIA. For instance - -?

CRAMPTON (rising as if to combat a monster). For instance! For
instance!! For instance, duty, affection, respect, obedience -

GLORIA (quitting her careless leaning attitude and confronting him
promptly and proudly). I obey nothing but my sense of what is right.
I respect nothing that is not noble. That is my duty. (She adds, less
firmly) As to affection, it is not within my control. I am not sure
that I quite know what affection means. (She turns away with an evident
distaste for that part of the subject, and goes to the luncheon table
for a comfortable chair, putting down her book and sunshade.)

CRAMPTON (following her with his eyes). Do you really mean what you are

GLORIA (turning on him quickly and severely). Excuse me: that is an
uncivil question. I am speaking seriously to you; and I expect you to
take me seriously. (She takes one of the luncheon chairs; turns it away
from the table; and sits down a little wearily, saying) Can you not
discuss this matter coolly and rationally?

CRAMPTON. Coolly and rationally! No, I can't. Do you understand that? I

GLORIA (emphatically). No. That I c a n n o t understand. I have no
sympathy with -

CRAMPTON (shrinking nervously). Stop! Don't say anything more yet; you
don't know what you're doing. Do you want to drive me mad? (She frowns,
finding such petulance intolerable. He adds hastily) No: I'm not angry:
indeed I'm not. Wait, wait: give me a little time to think. (He
stands for a moment, screwing and clinching his brows and hands in his
perplexity; then takes the end chair from the luncheon table and
sits down beside her, saying, with a touching effort to be gentle and
patient) Now, I think I have it. At least I'll try.

GLORIA (firmly). You see! Everything comes right if we only think it
resolutely out.

CRAMPTON (in sudden dread). No: don't think. I want you to feel: that's
the only thing that can help us. Listen! Do you - but first - I forgot.
What's your name? I mean you pet name. They can't very well call you

GLORIA (with astonished disgust). Sophronia! My name is Gloria. I am
always called by it.

CRAMPTON (his temper rising again). Your name is Sophronia, girl: you
were called after your aunt Sophronia, my sister: she gave you your
first Bible with your name written in it.

GLORIA. Then my mother gave me a new name.

CRAMPTON (angrily). She had no right to do it. I will not allow this.

GLORIA. You had no right to give me your sister's name. I don't know

CRAMPTON. You're talking nonsense. There are bounds to what I will put
up with. I will not have it. Do you hear that?

GLORIA (rising warningly). Are you resolved to quarrel?

CRAMPTON (terrified, pleading). No, no: sit down. Sit down, won't you?
(She looks at him, keeping him in suspense. He forces himself to utter
the obnoxious name.) Gloria. (She marks her satisfaction with a slight
tightening of the lips, and sits down.) There! You see I only want to
shew you that I am your father, my - my dear child. (The endearment is
so plaintively inept that she smiles in spite of herself, and resigns
herself to indulge him a little.) Listen now. What I want to ask you is
this. Don't you remember me at all? You were only a tiny child when you
were taken away from me; but you took plenty of notice of things. Can't
you remember someone whom you loved, or (shyly) at least liked in a
childish way? Come! someone who let you stay in his study and look at
his toy boats, as you thought them? (He looks anxiously into her face
for some response, and continues less hopefully and more urgently)
Someone who let you do as you liked there and never said a word to you
except to tell you that you must sit still and not speak? Someone who
was something that no one else was to you - who was your father.

GLORIA (unmoved). If you describe things to me, no doubt I shall
presently imagine that I remember them. But I really remember nothing.

CRAMPTON (wistfully). Has your mother never told you anything about me?

GLORIA. She has never mentioned your name to me. (He groans
involuntarily. She looks at him rather contemptuously and continues)
Except once; and then she did remind me of something I had forgotten.

CRAMPTON (looking up hopefully). What was that?

GLORIA (mercilessly). The whip you bought to beat me with.

CRAMPTON (gnashing his teeth). Oh! To bring that up against me! To turn
from me! When you need never have known. (Under a grinding, agonized
breath.) Curse her!

GLORIA (springing up). You wretch! (With intense emphasis.) You wretch!!
You dare curse my mother!

CRAMPTON. Stop; or you'll be sorry afterwards. I'm your father.

GLORIA. How I hate the name! How I love the name of mother! You had
better go.

CRAMPTON. I - I'm choking. You want to kill me. Some - I - (His voice
stifles: he is almost in a fit.)

GLORIA (going up to the balustrade with cool, quick resourcefulness, and
calling over to the beach). Mr. Valentine!

VALENTINE (answering from below). Yes.

GLORIA. Come here a moment, please. Mr. Crampton wants you. (She returns
to the table and pours out a glass of water.)

CRAMPTON (recovering his speech). No: let me alone. I don't want him.
I'm all right, I tell you. I need neither his help nor yours. (He rises
and pulls himself together.) As you say, I had better go. (He puts on
his hat.) Is that your last word?

GLORIA. I hope so. (He looks stubbornly at her for a moment; nods
grimly, as if he agreed to that; and goes into the hotel. She looks at
him with equal steadiness until he disappears, when she makes a gesture
of relief, and turns to speak to Valentine, who comes running up the

VALENTINE (panting). What's the matter? (Looking round.) Where's

GLORIA. Gone. (Valentine's face lights up with sudden joy, dread,
and mischief. He has just realized that he is alone with Gloria. She
continues indifferently) I thought he was ill; but he recovered himself.
He wouldn't wait for you. I am sorry. (She goes for her book and

VALENTINE. So much the better. He gets on my nerves after a while.
(Pretending to forget himself.) How could that man have so beautiful a

GLORIA (taken aback for a moment; then answering him with polite but
intentional contempt). That seems to be an attempt at what is called a
pretty speech. Let me say at once, Mr. Valentine, that pretty speeches
make very sickly conversation. Pray let us be friends, if we are to be
friends, in a sensible and wholesome way. I have no intention of getting
married; and unless you are content to accept that state of things, we
had much better not cultivate each other's acquaintance.

VALENTINE (cautiously). I see. May I ask just this one question? Is
your objection an objection to marriage as an institution, or merely an
objection to marrying me personally?

GLORIA. I do not know you well enough, Mr. Valentine, to have any
opinion on the subject of your personal merits. (She turns away from him
with infinite indifference, and sits down with her book on the garden
seat.) I do not think the conditions of marriage at present are such as
any self-respecting woman can accept.

VALENTINE (instantly changing his tone for one of cordial sincerity, as
if he frankly accepted her terms and was delighted and reassured by her
principles). Oh, then that's a point of sympathy between us already. I
quite agree with you: the conditions are most unfair. (He takes off his
hat and throws it gaily on the iron table.) No: what I want is to get
rid of all that nonsense. (He sits down beside her, so naturally that
she does not think of objecting, and proceeds, with enthusiasm) Don't
you think it a horrible thing that a man and a woman can hardly know one
another without being supposed to have designs of that kind? As if there
were no other interests - no other subjects of conversation - as if women
were capable of nothing better!

GLORIA (interested). Ah, now you are beginning to talk humanly and
sensibly, Mr. Valentine.

VALENTINE (with a gleam in his eye at the success of his hunter's
guile). Of course! - two intelligent people like us. Isn't it pleasant,
in this stupid, convention-ridden world, to meet with someone on the
same plane - someone with an unprejudiced, enlightened mind?

GLORIA (earnestly). I hope to meet many such people in England.

VALENTINE (dubiously). Hm! There are a good many people here - nearly
forty millions. They're not all consumptive members of the highly
educated classes like the people in Madeira.

GLORIA (now full of her subject). Oh, everybody is stupid and prejudiced
in Madeira - weak, sentimental creatures! I hate weakness; and I hate

VALENTINE. That's what makes you so inspiring.

GLORIA (with a slight laugh). Am I inspiring?

VALENTINE Yes. Strength's infectious.

GLORIA. Weakness is, I know.

VALENTINE (with conviction). Y o u're strong. Do you know that you
changed the world for me this morning? I was in the dumps, thinking of
my unpaid rent, frightened about the future. When you came in, I was
dazzled. (Her brow clouds a little. He goes on quickly.) That was silly,
of course; but really and truly something happened to me. Explain it
how you will, my blood got - (he hesitates, trying to think of a
sufficiently unimpassioned word) - oxygenated: my muscles braced; my
mind cleared; my courage rose. That's odd, isn't it? considering that I
am not at all a sentimental man.

GLORIA (uneasily, rising). Let us go back to the beach.

VALENTINE (darkly - looking up at her). What! you feel it, too?

GLORIA. Feel what?


GLORIA. Dread!

VALENTINE. As if something were going to happen. It came over me
suddenly just before you proposed that we should run away to the others.

GLORIA (amazed). That's strange - very strange! I had the same

VALENTINE. How extraordinary! (Rising.) Well: shall we run away?

GLORIA. Run away! Oh, no: that would be childish. (She sits down
again. He resumes his seat beside her, and watches her with a gravely
sympathetic air. She is thoughtful and a little troubled as she adds) I
wonder what is the scientific explanation of those fancies that cross us

VALENTINE. Ah, I wonder! It's a curiously helpless sensation: isn't it?

GLORIA (rebelling against the word). Helpless?

VALENTINE. Yes. As if Nature, after allowing us to belong to ourselves
and do what we judged right and reasonable for all these years, were
suddenly lifting her great hand to take us - her two little children - by
the scruff's of our little necks, and use us, in spite of ourselves, for
her own purposes, in her own way.

GLORIA. Isn't that rather fanciful?

VALENTINE (with a new and startling transition to a tone of utter
recklessness). I don't know. I don't care. (Bursting out reproachfully.)
Oh, Miss Clandon, Miss Clandon: how could you?

GLORIA. What have I done?

VALENTINE. Thrown this enchantment on me. I'm honestly trying to be
sensible - scientific - everything that you wish me to be. But - but - oh,
don't you see what you have set to work in my imagination?

GLORIA (with indignant, scornful sternness). I hope you are not going to
be so foolish - so vulgar - as to say love.

VALENTINE (with ironical haste to disclaim such a weakness). No, no, no.
Not love: we know better than that. Let's call it chemistry. You can't
deny that there is such a thing as chemical action, chemical affinity,
chemical combination - the most irresistible of all natural forces. Well,
you're attracting me irresistibly - chemically.

GLORIA (contemptuously). Nonsense!

VALENTINE. Of course it's nonsense, you stupid girl. (Gloria recoils
in outraged surprise.) Yes, stupid girl: t h a t's a scientific fact,
anyhow. You're a prig - a feminine prig: that's what you are. (Rising.)
Now I suppose you've done with me for ever. (He goes to the iron table
and takes up his hat.)

GLORIA (with elaborate calm, sitting up like a High-school-mistress
posing to be photographed). That shows how very little you understand my
real character. I am not in the least offended. (He pauses and puts his
hat down again.) I am always willing to be told of my own defects, Mr.
Valentine, by my friends, even when they are as absurdly mistaken about
me as you are. I have many faults - very serious faults - of character and
temper; but if there is one thing that I am not, it is what you call a
prig. (She closes her lips trimly and looks steadily and challengingly
at him as she sits more collectedly than ever.)

VALENTINE (returning to the end of the garden seat to confront her more
emphatically). Oh, yes, you are. My reason tells me so: my knowledge
tells me so: my experience tells me so.

GLORIA. Excuse my reminding you that your reason and your knowledge and
your experience are not infallible. At least I hope not.

VALENTINE. I must believe them. Unless you wish me to believe my eyes,
my heart, my instincts, my imagination, which are all telling me the
most monstrous lies about you.

GLORIA (the collectedness beginning to relax). Lies!

VALENTINE (obstinately). Yes, lies. (He sits down again beside her.) Do
you expect me to believe that you are the most beautiful woman in the

GLORIA. That is ridiculous, and rather personal.

VALENTINE. Of course it's ridiculous. Well, that's what my eyes tell
me. (Gloria makes a movement of contemptuous protest.) No: I'm not
flattering. I tell you I don't believe it. (She is ashamed to find that
this does not quite please her either.) Do you think that if you were
to turn away in disgust from my weakness, I should sit down here and cry
like a child?

GLORIA (beginning to find that she must speak shortly and pointedly to
keep her voice steady). Why should you, pray?

VALENTINE (with a stir of feeling beginning to agitate his voice).
Of course not: I'm not such an idiot. And yet my heart tells me I
should - my fool of a heart. But I'll argue with my heart and bring it to
reason. If I loved you a thousand times, I'll force myself to look the
truth steadily in the face. After all, it's easy to be sensible: the
facts are the facts. What's this place? it's not heaven: it's the Marine
Hotel. What's the time? it's not eternity: it's about half past one in
the afternoon. What am I? a dentist - a five shilling dentist!

GLORIA. And I am a feminine prig.

VALENTINE. (passionately). No, no: I can't face that: I must have one
illusion left - the illusion about you. I love you. (He turns towards her
as if the impulse to touch her were ungovernable: she rises and stands
on her guard wrathfully. He springs up impatiently and retreats a step.)
Oh, what a fool I am! - an idiot! You don't understand: I might as well
talk to the stones on the beach. (He turns away, discouraged.)

GLORIA (reassured by his withdrawal, and a little remorseful). I am
sorry. I do not mean to be unsympathetic, Mr. Valentine; but what can I

VALENTINE (returning to her with all his recklessness of manner replaced
by an engaging and chivalrous respect). You can say nothing, Miss
Clandon. I beg your pardon: it was my own fault, or rather my own bad
luck. You see, it all depended on your naturally liking me. (She is
about to speak: he stops her deprecatingly.) Oh, I know you mustn't tell
me whether you like me or not; but -

GLORIA (her principles up in arms at once). Must not! Why not? I am a
free woman: why should I not tell you?

VALENTINE (pleading in terror, and retreating). Don't. I'm afraid to

GLORIA (no longer scornful). You need not be afraid. I think you are
sentimental, and a little foolish; but I like you.

VALENTINE (dropping into the iron chair as if crushed). Then it's all
over. (He becomes the picture of despair.)

GLORIA (puzzled, approaching him). But why?

VALENTINE. Because liking is not enough. Now that I think down into it
seriously, I don't know whether I like you or not.

GLORIA (looking down at him with wondering concern). I'm sorry.

VALENTINE (in an agony of restrained passion). Oh, don't pity me. Your
voice is tearing my heart to pieces. Let me alone, Gloria. You go down
into the very depths of me, troubling and stirring me - I can't struggle
with it - I can't tell you -

GLORIA (breaking down suddenly). Oh, stop telling me what you feel: I
can't bear it.

VALENTINE (springing up triumphantly, the agonized voice now solid,
ringing, and jubilant). Ah, it's come at last - my moment of courage. (He
seizes her hands: she looks at him in terror.) Our moment of courage!
(He draws her to him; kisses her with impetuous strength; and laughs
boyishly.) Now you've done it, Gloria. It's all over: we're in love with
one another. (She can only gasp at him.) But what a dragon you were! And
how hideously afraid I was!

PHILIP'S VOICE (calling from the beach). Valentine!

DOLLY'S VOICE. Mr. Valentine!

VALENTINE. Good-bye. Forgive me. (He rapidly kisses her hands, and runs
away to the steps, where he meets Mrs. Clandon, ascending. Gloria, quite
lost, can only start after him.)

MRS. CLANDON. The children want you, Mr. Valentine. (She looks anxiously
around.) Is he gone?

VALENTINE (puzzled). He? (Recollecting.) Oh, Crampton. Gone this long
time, Mrs. Clandon. (He runs off buoyantly down the steps.)

GLORIA (sinking upon the seat). Mother!

MRS. CLANDON (hurrying to her in alarm). What is it, dear?

GLORIA (with heartfelt, appealing reproach). Why didn't you educate me

MRS. CLANDON (amazed). My child: I did my best.

GLORIA. Oh, you taught me nothing - nothing.

MRS. CLANDON. What is the matter with you?

GLORIA (with the most intense expression). Only shame - shame - shame.
(Blushing unendurably, she covers her face with her hands and turns away
from her mother.)



The Clandon's sitting room in the hotel. An expensive apartment on the
ground floor, with a French window leading to the gardens. In the centre
of the room is a substantial table, surrounded by chairs, and draped
with a maroon cloth on which opulently bound hotel and railway guides
are displayed. A visitor entering through the window and coming down to
this central table would have the fireplace on his left, and a writing
table against the wall on his right, next the door, which is further
down. He would, if his taste lay that way, admire the wall decoration
of Lincrusta Walton in plum color and bronze lacquer, with dado and
cornice; the ormolu consoles in the corners; the vases on pillar
pedestals of veined marble with bases of polished black wood, one on
each side of the window; the ornamental cabinet next the vase on the
side nearest the fireplace, its centre compartment closed by an inlaid
door, and its corners rounded off with curved panes of glass protecting
shelves of cheap blue and white pottery; the bamboo tea table, with
folding shelves, in the corresponding space on the other side of
the window; the pictures of ocean steamers and Landseer's dogs; the
saddlebag ottoman in line with the door but on the other side of the
room; the two comfortable seats of the same pattern on the hearthrug;
and finally, on turning round and looking up, the massive brass
pole above the window, sustaining a pair of maroon rep curtains with
decorated borders of staid green. Altogether, a room well arranged
to flatter the occupant's sense of importance, and reconcile him to a
charge of a pound a day for its use.

Mrs. Clandon sits at the writing table, correcting proofs. Gloria is
standing at the window, looking out in a tormented revery.

The clock on the mantelpiece strikes five with a sickly clink, the bell
being unable to bear up against the black marble cenotaph in which it is

MRS. CLANDON. Five! I don't think we need wait any longer for the
children. The are sure to get tea somewhere.

GLORIA (wearily). Shall I ring?

MRS. CLANDON. Do, my dear. (Gloria goes to the hearth and rings.) I have
finished these proofs at last, thank goodness!

GLORIA (strolling listlessly across the room and coming behind her
mother's chair). What proofs?

MRS. CLANDON The new edition of Twentieth Century Women.

GLORIA (with a bitter smile). There's a chapter missing.

MRS. CLANDON (beginning to hunt among her proofs). Is there? Surely not.

GLORIA. I mean an unwritten one. Perhaps I shall write it for you - when
I know the end of it. (She goes back to the window.)

MRS. CLANDON. Gloria! More enigmas!

GLORIA. Oh, no. The same enigma.

MRS. CLANDON (puzzled and rather troubled; after watching her for a

1 2 3 5 7 8 9

Online LibraryGeorge Bernard ShawYou Never Can Tell → online text (page 5 of 9)