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moment). My dear.

GLORIA (returning). Yes.

MRS. CLANDON. You know I never ask questions.

GLORIA (kneeling beside her chair). I know, I know. (She suddenly throws
her arms about her mother and embraces her almost passionately.)

MRS. CLANDON. (gently, smiling but embarrassed). My dear: you are
getting quite sentimental.

GLORIA (recoiling). Ah, no, no. Oh, don't say that. Oh! (She rises and
turns away with a gesture as if tearing herself.)

MRS. CLANDON (mildly). My dear: what is the matter? What - (The waiter
enters with the tea tray.)

WAITER (balmily). This was what you rang for, ma'am, I hope?

MRS. CLANDON. Thank you, yes. (She turns her chair away from the writing
table, and sits down again. Gloria crosses to the hearth and sits
crouching there with her face averted.)

WAITER (placing the tray temporarily on the centre table). I thought so,
ma'am. Curious how the nerves seem to give out in the afternoon without
a cup of tea. (He fetches the tea table and places it in front of Mrs.
Cladon, conversing meanwhile.) the young lady and gentleman have just
come back, ma'am: they have been out in a boat, ma'am. Very pleasant on
a fine afternoon like this - very pleasant and invigorating indeed. (He
takes the tray from the centre table and puts it on the tea table.)
Mr. McComas will not come to tea, ma'am: he has gone to call upon Mr.
Crampton. (He takes a couple of chairs and sets one at each end of the
tea table.)

GLORIA (looking round with an impulse of terror). And the other
gentleman?

WAITER (reassuringly, as he unconsciously drops for a moment into
the measure of "I've been roaming," which he sang as a boy.) Oh, he's
coming, miss, he's coming. He has been rowing the boat, miss, and has
just run down the road to the chemist's for something to put on the
blisters. But he will be here directly, miss - directly. (Gloria, in
ungovernable apprehension, rises and hurries towards the door.)

MRS. CLANDON. (half rising). Glo - (Gloria goes out. Mrs. Clandon looks
perplexedly at the waiter, whose composure is unruffled.)

WAITER (cheerfully). Anything more, ma'am?

MRS. CLANDON. Nothing, thank you.

WAITER. Thank you, ma'am. (As he withdraws, Phil and Dolly, in the
highest spirits, come tearing in. He holds the door open for them; then
goes out and closes it.)

DOLLY (ravenously). Oh, give me some tea. (Mrs. Clandon pours out a cup
for her.) We've been out in a boat. Valentine will be here presently.

PHILIP. He is unaccustomed to navigation. Where's Gloria?

MRS. CLANDON (anxiously, as she pours out his tea). Phil: there is
something the matter with Gloria. Has anything happened? (Phil and Dolly
look at one another and stifle a laugh.) What is it?

PHILIP (sitting down on her left). Romeo -

DOLLY (sitting down on her right). - and Juliet.

PHILIP (taking his cup of tea from Mrs. Clandon). Yes, my dear mother:
the old, old story. Dolly: don't take all the milk. (He deftly takes the
jug from her.) Yes: in the spring -

DOLLY. - a young man's fancy -

PHILIP. - lightly turns to - thank you (to Mrs. Clandon, who has passed
the biscuits) - thoughts of love. It also occurs in the autumn. The
young man in this case is -

DOLLY. Valentine.

PHILIP. And his fancy has turned to Gloria to the extent of -

DOLLY. - kissing her -

PHILIP. - on the terrace -

DOLLY (correcting him). - on the lips, before everybody.

MRS. CLANDON (incredulously). Phil! Dolly! Are you joking? (They shake
their heads.) Did she allow it?

PHILIP. We waited to see him struck to earth by the lightning of her
scorn; -

DOLLY. - but he wasn't.

PHILIP. She appeared to like it.

DOLLY. As far as we could judge. (Stopping Phil, who is about to pour
out another cup.) No: you've sworn off two cups.

MRS. CLANDON (much troubled). Children: you must not be here when Mr.
Valentine comes. I must speak very seriously to him about this.

PHILIP. To ask him his intentions? What a violation of Twentieth Century
principles!

DOLLY. Quite right, mamma: bring him to book. Make the most of the
nineteenth century while it lasts.

PHILIP. Sh! Here he is. (Valentine comes in.)

VALENTINE Very sorry to be late for tea, Mrs. Clandon. (She takes up the
tea-pot.) No, thank you: I never take any. No doubt Miss Dolly and Phil
have explained what happened to me.

PHILIP (momentously rising). Yes, Valentine: we have explained.

DOLLY (significantly, also rising). We have explained very thoroughly.

PHILIP. It was our duty. (Very seriously.) Come, Dolly. (He offers Dolly
his arm, which she takes. They look sadly at him, and go out gravely,
arm in arm. Valentine stares after them, puzzled; then looks at Mrs.
Clandon for an explanation.)

MRS. CLANDON (rising and leaving the tea table). Will you sit down,
Mr. Valentine. I want to speak to you a little, if you will allow me.
(Valentine sits down slowly on the ottoman, his conscience presaging
a bad quarter of an hour. Mrs. Clandon takes Phil's chair, and seats
herself deliberately at a convenient distance from him.) I must begin by
throwing myself somewhat at your consideration. I am going to speak of a
subject of which I know very little - perhaps nothing. I mean love.

VALENTINE. Love!

MRS. CLANDON. Yes, love. Oh, you need not look so alarmed as that, Mr.
Valentine: I am not in love with you.

VALENTINE (overwhelmed). Oh, really, Mrs. - (Recovering himself.) I
should be only too proud if you were.

MRS. CLANDON. Thank you, Mr. Valentine. But I am too old to begin.

VALENTINE. Begin! Have you never - ?

MRS. CLANDON. Never. My case is a very common one, Mr. Valentine. I
married before I was old enough to know what I was doing. As you have
seen for yourself, the result was a bitter disappointment for both my
husband and myself. So you see, though I am a married woman, I have
never been in love; I have never had a love affair; and to be quite
frank with you, Mr. Valentine, what I have seen of the love affairs of
other people has not led me to regret that deficiency in my experience.
(Valentine, looking very glum, glances sceptically at her, and says
nothing. Her color rises a little; and she adds, with restrained anger)
You do not believe me?

VALENTINE (confused at having his thought read). Oh, why not? Why not?

MRS. CLANDON. Let me tell you, Mr. Valentine, that a life devoted to
the Cause of Humanity has enthusiasms and passions to offer which far
transcend the selfish personal infatuations and sentimentalities
of romance. Those are not your enthusiasms and passions, I take it?
(Valentine, quite aware that she despises him for it, answers in the
negative with a melancholy shake of the head.) I thought not. Well, I am
equally at a disadvantage in discussing those so-called affairs of the
heart in which you appear to be an expert.

VALENTINE (restlessly). What are you driving at, Mrs. Clandon?

MRS. CLANDON. I think you know.

VALENTINE. Gloria?

MRS. CLANDON. Yes. Gloria.

VALENTINE (surrendering). Well, yes: I'm in love with Gloria.
(Interposing as she is about to speak.) I know what you're going to say:
I've no money.

MRS. CLANDON. I care very little about money, Mr. Valentine.

VALENTINE. Then you're very different to all the other mothers who have
interviewed me.

MRS. CLANDON. Ah, now we are coming to it, Mr. Valentine. You are an old
hand at this. (He opens his mouth to protest: she cuts him short with
some indignation.) Oh, do you think, little as I understand these
matters, that I have not common sense enough to know that a man
who could make as much way in one interview with such a woman as my
daughter, can hardly be a novice!

VALENTINE. I assure you -

MRS. CLANDON (stopping him). I am not blaming you, Mr. Valentine. It is
Gloria's business to take care of herself; and you have a right to amuse
yourself as you please. But -

VALENTINE (protesting). Amuse myself! Oh, Mrs. Clandon!

MRS. CLANDON (relentlessly). On your honor, Mr. Valentine, are you in
earnest?

VALENTINE (desperately). On my honor I am in earnest. (She looks
searchingly at him. His sense of humor gets the better of him; and he
adds quaintly) Only, I always have been in earnest; and yet - here I am,
you see!

MRS. CLANDON. This is just what I suspected. (Severely.) Mr. Valentine:
you are one of those men who play with women's affections.

VALENTINE. Well, why not, if the Cause of Humanity is the only thing
worth being serious about? However, I understand. (Rising and taking his
hat with formal politeness.) You wish me to discontinue my visits.

MRS. CLANDON. No: I am sensible enough to be well aware that Gloria's
best chance of escape from you now is to become better acquainted with
you.

VALENTINE (unaffectedly alarmed). Oh, don't say that, Mrs. Clandon. You
don't think that, do you?

MRS. CLANDON. I have great faith, Mr. Valentine, in the sound training
Gloria's mind has had since she was a child.

VALENTINE (amazingly relieved). O-oh! Oh, that's all right. (He sits
down again and throws his hat flippantly aside with the air of a man who
has no longer anything to fear.)

MRS. CLANDON (indignant at his assurance). What do you mean?

VALENTINE (turning confidentially to her). Come: shall I teach you
something, Mrs. Clandon?

MRS. CLANDON (stiffly). I am always willing to learn.

VALENTINE. Have you ever studied the subject of
gunnery - artillery - cannons and war-ships and so on?

MRS. CLANDON. Has gunnery anything to do with Gloria?

VALENTINE. A great deal - by way of illustration. During this whole
century, my dear Mrs. Clandon, the progress of artillery has been a duel
between the maker of cannons and the maker of armor plates to keep the
cannon balls out. You build a ship proof against the best gun known:
somebody makes a better gun and sinks your ship. You build a heavier
ship, proof against that gun: somebody makes a heavier gun and sinks you
again. And so on. Well, the duel of sex is just like that.

MRS. CLANDON. The duel of sex!

VALENTINE. Yes: you've heard of the duel of sex, haven't you? Oh, I
forgot: you've been in Madeira: the expression has come up since your
time. Need I explain it?

MRS. CLANDON (contemptuously). No.

VALENTINE. Of course not. Now what happens in the duel of sex? The old
fashioned mother received an old fashioned education to protect her
against the wiles of man. Well, you know the result: the old fashioned
man got round her. The old fashioned woman resolved to protect her
daughter more effectually - to find some armor too strong for the old
fashioned man. So she gave her daughter a scientific education - your
plan. That was a corker for the old fashioned man: he said it wasn't
fair - unwomanly and all the rest of it. But that didn't do him any good.
So he had to give up his old fashioned plan of attack - you know - going
down on his knees and swearing to love, honor and obey, and so on.

MRS. CLANDON. Excuse me: that was what the woman swore.

VALENTINE. Was it? Ah, perhaps you're right - yes: of course it was.
Well, what did the man do? Just what the artillery man does - went one
better than the woman - educated himself scientifically and beat her at
that game just as he had beaten her at the old game. I learnt how to
circumvent the Women's Rights woman before I was twenty- three: it's all
been found out long ago. You see, my methods are thoroughly modern.

MRS. CLANDON (with quiet disgust). No doubt.

VALENTINE. But for that very reason there's one sort of girl against
whom they are of no use.

MRS. CLANDON. Pray which sort?

VALENTINE. The thoroughly old fashioned girl. If you had brought up
Gloria in the old way, it would have taken me eighteen months to get
to the point I got to this afternoon in eighteen minutes. Yes, Mrs.
Clandon: the Higher Education of Women delivered Gloria into my hands;
and it was you who taught her to believe in the Higher Education of
Women.

MRS. CLANDON (rising). Mr. Valentine: you are very clever.

VALENTINE (rising also). Oh, Mrs. Clandon!

MRS. CLANDON And you have taught me n o t h i n g. Good-bye.

VALENTINE (horrified). Good-bye! Oh, mayn't I see her before I go?

MRS. CLANDON. I am afraid she will not return until you have gone Mr.
Valentine. She left the room expressly to avoid you.

VALENTINE (thoughtfully). That's a good sign. Good-bye. (He bows and
makes for the door, apparently well satisfied.)

MRS. CLANDON (alarmed). Why do you think it a good sign?

VALENTINE (turning near the door). Because I am mortally afraid of her;
and it looks as if she were mortally afraid of me. (He turns to go and
finds himself face to face with Gloria, who has just entered. She looks
steadfastly at him. He stares helplessly at her; then round at Mrs.
Clandon; then at Gloria again, completely at a loss.)

GLORIA (white, and controlling herself with difficulty). Mother: is what
Dolly told me true?

MRS. CLANDON. What did she tell you, dear?

GLORIA. That you have been speaking about me to this gentleman.

VALENTINE (murmuring). This gentleman! Oh!

MRS. CLANDON (sharply). Mr. Valentine: can you hold your tongue for a
moment? (He looks piteously at them; then, with a despairing shrug, goes
back to the ottoman and throws his hat on it.)

GLORIA (confronting her mother, with deep reproach). Mother: what right
had you to do it?

MRS. CLANDON. I don't think I have said anything I have no right to say,
Gloria.

VALENTINE (confirming her officiously). Nothing. Nothing whatever.
(Gloria looks at him with unspeakable indignation.) I beg your pardon.
(He sits down ignominiously on the ottoman.)

GLORIA. I cannot believe that any one has any right even to think about
things that concern me only. (She turns away from them to conceal a
painful struggle with her emotion.)

MRS. CLANDON. My dear, if I have wounded your pride -

GLORIA (turning on them for a moment). My p r i d e! My pride!! Oh, it's
gone: I have learnt now that I have no strength to be proud of. (Turning
away again.) But if a woman cannot protect herself, no one can protect
her. No one has any right to try - not even her mother. I know I have
lost your confidence, just as I have lost this man's respect; - (She
stops to master a sob.)

VALENTINE (under his breath). This man! (Murmuring again.) Oh!

MRS. CLANDON (in an undertone). Pray be silent, sir.

GLORIA (continuing). - but I have at least the right to be left alone in
my disgrace. I am one of those weak creatures born to be mastered by the
first man whose eye is caught by them; and I must fulfill my destiny,
I suppose. At least spare me the humiliation of trying to save me. (She
sits down, with her handkerchief to her eyes, at the farther end of the
table.)

VALENTINE (jumping up). Look here -

MRS. CLANDON. Mr. Va -

VALENTINE (recklessly). No: I will speak: I've been silent for nearly
thirty seconds. (He goes up to Gloria.) Miss Clandon -

GLORIA (bitterly). Oh, not Miss Clandon: you have found that it is quite
safe to call me Gloria.

VALENTINE. No, I won't: you'll throw it in my teeth afterwards and
accuse me of disrespect. I say it's a heartbreaking falsehood that I
don't respect you. It's true that I didn't respect your old pride: why
should I? It was nothing but cowardice. I didn't respect your intellect:
I've a better one myself: it's a masculine specialty. But when the
depths stirred! - when my moment came! - when you made me brave! - ah,
then, then, t h e n!

GLORIA. Then you respected me, I suppose.

VALENTINE. No, I didn't: I adored you. (She rises quickly and turns her
back on him.) And you can never take that moment away from me. So now I
don't care what happens. (He comes down the room addressing a cheerful
explanation to nobody in particular.) I'm perfectly aware that I'm
talking nonsense. I can't help it. (To Mrs. Clandon.) I love Gloria; and
there's an end of it.

MRS. CLANDON (emphatically). Mr. Valentine: you are a most dangerous
man. Gloria: come here. (Gloria, wondering a little at the command,
obeys, and stands, with drooping head, on her mother's right hand,
Valentine being on the opposite side. Mrs. Clandon then begins, with
intense scorn.) Ask this man whom you have inspired and made brave, how
many women have inspired him before (Gloria looks up suddenly with a
flash of jealous anger and amazement); how many times he has laid the
trap in which he has caught you; how often he has baited it with the
same speeches; how much practice it has taken to make him perfect in his
chosen part in life as the Duellist of Sex.

VALENTINE. This isn't fair. You're abusing my confidence, Mrs. Clandon.

MRS. CLANDON. Ask him, Gloria.

GLORIA (in a flush of rage, going over to him with her fists clenched).
Is that true?

VALENTINE. Don't be angry -

GLORIA (interrupting him implacably). Is it true? Did you ever say that
before? Did you ever feel that before - for another woman?

VALENTINE (bluntly). Yes. (Gloria raises her clenched hands.)

MRS. CLANDON (horrified, springing to her side and catching her uplifted
arm). Gloria!! My dear! You're forgetting yourself. (Gloria, with a deep
expiration, slowly relaxes her threatening attitude.)

VALENTINE. Remember: a man's power of love and admiration is like any
other of his powers: he has to throw it away many times before he learns
what is really worthy of it.

MRS. CLANDON. Another of the old speeches, Gloria. Take care.

VALENTINE (remonstrating). Oh!

GLORIA (to Mrs. Clandon, with contemptuous self-possession). Do you
think I need to be warned now? (To Valentine.) You have tried to make me
love you.

VALENTINE. I have.

GLORIA. Well, you have succeeded in making me hate you - passionately.

VALENTINE (philosophically). It's surprising how little difference
there is between the two. (Gloria turns indignantly away from him. He
continues, to Mrs. Clandon) I know men whose wives love them; and they
go on exactly like that.

MRS. CLANDON. Excuse me, Mr. Valentine; but had you not better go?

GLORIA. You need not send him away on my account, mother. He is nothing
to me now; and he will amuse Dolly and Phil. (She sits down with
slighting indifference, at the end of the table nearest the window.)

VALENTINE (gaily). Of course: that's the sensible way of looking at it.
Come, Mrs. Clandon: you can't quarrel with a mere butterfly like me.

MRS. CLANDON. I very greatly mistrust you, Mr. Valentine. But I do
not like to think that your unfortunate levity of disposition is mere
shamelessness and worthlessness; -

GLORIA (to herself, but aloud). It is shameless; and it is worthless.

MRS. CLANDON. - so perhaps we had better send for Phil and Dolly and
allow you to end your visit in the ordinary way.

VALENTINE (as if she had paid him the highest compliment). You overwhelm
me, Mrs. Clandon. Thank you. (The waiter enters.)

WAITER. Mr. McComas, ma'am.

MRS. CLANDON. Oh, certainly. Bring him in.

WAITER. He wishes to see you in the reception-room, ma'am.

MRS. CLANDON. Why not here?

WAITER. Well, if you will excuse my mentioning it, ma'am, I think Mr.
McComas feels that he would get fairer play if he could speak to you
away from the younger members of your family, ma'am.

MRS. CLANDON. Tell him they are not here.

WAITER. They are within sight of the door, ma'am; and very watchful, for
some reason or other.

MRS. CLANDON (going). Oh, very well: I'll go to him.

WAITER (holding the door open for her). Thank you, ma'am. (She goes out.
He comes back into the room, and meets the eye of Valentine, who wants
him to go.) All right, sir. Only the tea-things, sir. (Taking the tray.)
Excuse me, sir. Thank you sir. (He goes out.)

VALENTINE (to Gloria). Look here. You will forgive me, sooner or later.
Forgive me now.

GLORIA (rising to level the declaration more intensely at him). Never!
While grass grows or water runs, never, never, never!!!

VALENTINE (unabashed). Well, I don't care. I can't be unhappy about
anything. I shall never be unhappy again, never, never, never, while
grass grows or water runs. The thought of you will always make me wild
with joy. (Some quick taunt is on her lips: he interposes swiftly.) No:
I never said that before: that's new.

GLORIA. It will not be new when you say it to the next woman.

VALENTINE. Oh, don't, Gloria, don't. (He kneels at her feet.)

GLORIA. Get up. Get up! How dare you? (Phil and Dolly, racing, as usual,
for first place, burst into the room. They check themselves on seeing
what is passing. Valentine springs up.)

PHILIP (discreetly). I beg your pardon. Come, Dolly. (He turns to go.)

GLORIA (annoyed). Mother will be back in a moment, Phil. (Severely.)
Please wait here for her. (She turns away to the window, where she
stands looking out with her back to them.)

PHILIP (significantly). Oh, indeed. Hmhm!

DOLLY. Ahah!

PHILIP. You seem in excellent spirits, Valentine.

VALENTINE. I am. (Comes between them.) Now look here. You both know
what's going on, don't you? (Gloria turns quickly, as if anticipating
some fresh outrage.)

DOLLY. Perfectly.

VALENTINE. Well, it's all over. I've been refused - scorned. I'm only
here on sufferance. You understand: it's all over. Your sister is in no
sense entertaining my addresses, or condescending to interest herself
in me in any way. (Gloria, satisfied, turns back contemptuously to the
window.) Is that clear?

DOLLY. Serve you right. You were in too great a hurry.

PHILIP (patting him on the shoulder). Never mind: you'd never have been
able to call your soul your own if she'd married you. You can now begin
a new chapter in your life.

DOLLY. Chapter seventeen or thereabouts, I should imagine.

VALENTINE (much put out by this pleasantry). No: don't say things like
that. That's just the sort of thoughtless remark that makes a lot of
mischief.

DOLLY. Oh, indeed. Hmhm!

PHILIP. Ahah! (He goes to the hearth and plants himself there in his
best head-of-the-family attitude.)

McComas, looking very serious, comes in quickly with Mrs. Clandon, whose
first anxiety is about Gloria. She looks round to see where she is, and
is going to join her at the window when Gloria comes down to meet her
with a marked air of trust and affection. Finally, Mrs. Clandon takes
her former seat, and Gloria posts herself behind it. McComas, on his way
to the ottoman, is hailed by Dolly.

DOLLY. What cheer, Finch?

McCOMAS (sternly). Very serious news from your father, Miss Clandon.
Very serious news indeed. (He crosses to the ottoman, and sits down.
Dolly, looking deeply impressed, follows him and sits beside him on his
right.)

VALENTINE. Perhaps I had better go.

McCOMAS. By no means, Mr. Valentine. You are deeply concerned in this.
(Valentine takes a chair from the table and sits astride of it, leaning
over the back, near the ottoman.) Mrs. Clandon: your husband demands the
custody of his two younger children, who are not of age. (Mrs. Clandon,
in quick alarm, looks instinctively to see if Dolly is safe.)

DOLLY (touched). Oh, how nice of him! He likes us, mamma.

McCOMAS. I am sorry to have to disabuse you of any such idea, Miss
Dorothea.

DOLLY (cooing ecstatically). Dorothee-ee-ee-a! (Nestling against his
shoulder, quite overcome.) Oh, Finch!

McCOMAS (nervously, moving away). No, no, no, no!

MRS. CLANDON (remonstrating). D e a r e s t Dolly! (To McComas.) The
deed of separation gives me the custody of the children.

McCOMAS. It also contains a covenant that you are not to approach or
molest him in any way.

MRS. CLANDON. Well, have I done so?

McCOMAS. Whether the behavior of your younger children amounts to legal
molestation is a question on which it may be necessary to take counsel's
opinion. At all events, Mr. Crampton not only claims to have been
molested; but he believes that he was brought here by a plot in which
Mr. Valentine acted as your agent.

VALENTINE. What's that? Eh?

McCOMAS. He alleges that you drugged him, Mr. Valentine.

VALENTINE. So I did. (They are astonished.)

McCOMAS. But what did you do that for?

DOLLY. Five shillings extra.

McCOMAS (to Dolly, short-temperedly). I must really ask you, Miss
Clandon, not to interrupt this very serious conversation with irrelevant
interjections. (Vehemently.) I insist on having earnest matters
earnestly and reverently discussed. (This outburst produces an
apologetic silence, and puts McComas himself out of countenance. He
coughs, and starts afresh, addressing himself to Gloria.) Miss Clandon:
it is my duty to tell you that your father has also persuaded himself
that Mr. Valentine wishes to marry you -

VALENTINE (interposing adroitly). I do.

McCOMAS (offended). In that case, sir, you must not be surprised to find


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Online LibraryGeorge Bernard ShawYou Never Can Tell → online text (page 6 of 9)