Thomas MacDonagh.

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dern : Play : in :Two : Conversations



The Talbot Press Ltd.

85 Talbot Street


T. Fisher Unwin Ltd.

1 Adelphi Terrace



A : Modern : Play : in : Two : Conversations





Presented for the first time in the Irish Theatre, Dublin,
on April 19th, 1915














HELEN NOBLE (an Artist)




The conversations take place in Mr. Fitzmaurice's
house in Dublin in the afternoon of a spring
day a year or two ago.



[The scene is FRANCES FITZMAURICE'S sitting-room.
The furniture that matters consists of an arm-
chair, with a cushion, a chair, a small table, a
stand or cabinet with some little ornaments on
it, a writing table or secretary, and a fire-
place with fire down left. The door opening
on the hall, is at the back, centre.]

[Wfyen the curtain rises, the room is empty.
Then the hall-door off is heard to open and shut.
FRANCES has let herself in. She enters the room.
She is in her wall-ing clothes, hat and frirs.]

FRANCES. He has not come. (She rings and
takes off her things. Enter SARAH).

FRANCES. No one called while I was out, Sarah?

SARAH. No, ma'am.

FRANCES. I'll have tea. Bring two cups.

SARAH. Yes, ma'am.

FRANCE^. Sarah, I thought the master might
come here this evening. I suppose he won't come
now, as he has not come till now. In case he does,
you may tell him that his study's ready : just let

5 P


him go up to it. I mean, you are not to remark
on his coming. You need not tell him I am in
unless he asks. Of course he may not come. If
he does come at any time you will do just as I
have told you. You understand.

SARAH. Yes, ma'am.

FRANCES. Of course if he asks for me you will
show him in here?

SARAH. Yes, ma'am.

[Pause. Exit SARAH.]

FRANCES. (Alone, goes to fire. Sits down in
armchair and warms her hands. Rises and stands
undecidedly, obviously at a loss for some occupa-
tion. Arranges the ornaments, speaks to herself,
almost inaudibly.}

Not at all ! Ah ! (Sits down again.}
[A ring is heard at the hall-door. Then SARAH'S

step. The hall-door is opened. FRANCES stands

up, excited, looking towards door. A knock at

the room door. FRANCES turns towards fire.~\

FRANCES. Come in. (Enter SARAH).

SARAH. Miss Helen Noble to see you, ma'am.

FRANCES. (Half relieved and half disappointed}.
Miss Helen Noble ?

SARAH. Yes, ma'am. She is in the drawing-

FRANCES. Very well, I'll go now. Ah, no, this
room is more comfortable. Ask her to come in
here. Bring up tea when I ring.

SARAH. Yes, ma'am. (Exit}.

FRANCES. (Remains standing at fire}.
[Enter HELEN NOBLE, shown in by SARAH. FRANCES

turns towards her with interest Exit SARAH. j


HELEN. You will excuse my calling like this, I
hope, Mrs. Fitzmaurice?

FRANCES, (shaking hands). Oh, you're very wel-
come. It's quite all right. I know you though
we've never met before. And I know your pictures.
Won't you sit down?

HELEN (sitting down). I have just come back
from France. I reached Dublin only last night.
To-day I felt anxious to see you.

FRANCES. It was very good of you to come.

HELEN. But now that I am here, I hardly know
what to say to you. It was from Mr. Fitzmaurice
you heard of me, I suppose. We were old friends.

FRANCES. Yes. I was never one of his circle
before our marriage, but I got to know some friends
of yours after only a few though. Fitzmaurice
went out very little after and we had few visitors.
You have been away quite a long time?

HELEN. Five years to-day.

FRANCES. We were married five years ago to-


FRANCES. You know that he is not here?

HELEN. Is he away?

FRANCES. He has been away three years an-
other anniversary. Three years ago to-day he left

HELEN. I'm afraid, Mrs. Fitzmaurice, I'm rather
stupid and gauche. I I hope I'm not troubling
you. '*

FRANCES (sadlii). No, no. I am glad you have
come. You are almost the only person I can think
of that I'm glad to talk to just now. I was feeling


queer and nervous before you came in. I suppose,
not having known you before and yet having
understood you a little all that makes it possible
to talk to you to say things that one does not say

HELEN. Yes, we have no tea-table conversation
between us.

FRANCES. Oh, by the way, I was going to have-
tea. You will join me. Let me ring for tea.

HELEN. Please don't ask me to have anything.
You'll excuse me, but don't ask me.
FRANCES. As you please.

HELEN. But do ring for yourself don't let me
interfere with you.

FRANCES. No, it will do later. I am going to
imitate your liberty and choose for myself, too.
Do you know that I have had more intimate con-
versation with you in three minutes than I have
had with anyone else for three years. But yet we
have said nothing that matters. I have told you
what you might have heard from hundreds that
my husband left me this day three years after we
had been married just two years. You had heard
that, I suppose?

HELEN. No, I had not. Mrs. Fitzmaurice, you
may not easily understand, but I have heard
nothing of anybody in Dublin for five years. I
simply disappeared then. Now I have reappeared.
I have had little time to look round me, but every-
thing here seems just the same as then. I recognise
a number of people in the streets. But in all that
time I have heard nothing of the people I knew
here. I met once or twice people indifferent


people from here, who were too courteous to ask
me questions or to tell me things I did not ask
about. If an Irishman that you know comes to
Paris YOU run across him the first day he arrives.
But very few Dublin people that I know seem to
have gone to Paris these five years. And I avoided
most of them that I saw.

FRANCES. I can quite understand your doing so.
And I am sure that Fitzmaurice would do the same.
It was to avoid people that he left here to lose
himself and to find himself, he said.

HELEN. Yes, he was not well suited to fit in to
things generally.

FRANCES. Well, now that you know of his leaving
of our unsuccessful marriage, you may call it
how does it strike you? I'm afraid I am horribly
self-conscious, but I feel as if I were overhearing
myself talking. Whose fault do you think it was?
You knew him. You may have known of me you
had heard of me.

HELEN. Fault ? I am sure there was no fault
at all in your separation. I know him, as you say.
I know him well enough to be sure that he acted
quite sincerely that he did what he thought was

FRANCES. And that I acted quite sincerely too?
That means that our separation was inevitable
that the mistake was farther back? You need not
hesitate to be frank with me. I have had three
years to analyse it all.

HELEN. Yes. The mistake was farther back.
I knew it at the time.

FRANCES. And why did you not say so? Oh, I


know that it would have been indelicate and the
rest. But then you you were known to be frank
to be above the conventions. Why did you not
warn us?

HELEN. Oh, why did I not? (standing). Why
did I let you two marry? That is my fault in the
matter. My fault was just that hesitancy. I knew
him better than anyone else. I knew th%t he and
you were not meant to marry. And I let you

FRANCES. Of course, you couldn't have prevented
us. Do not mistake me. I did not ask you why
you did not stop us. But why did you not warn
us ? To be sure we would have ignored the warning.
I would probably have thought you jealous.

HELEN. Oh, well, I suppose it was to be, then.

FRANCES. Yes. It was to be. If it were to do a
thousand times over, I would do it again and
again. I do not know why. The first time I saw
him I knew it. I knew that if I did not marry
him I should never be happy. I knew that I could
never let him marry another. I did marry him.
I had two years of life with him. And, though
there was something lacking between us though I
let him go I 'would give all the rest of all the
happiness I have known for a fraction of that time
back again. I would do anything to have him
back anything but ask him to come back.

HELEN. Why did you love him so. You were so
different from him.

FRANCES. Oh, what do I know of the whys of it?
Why did others love him ? You knew him for years
and came gradually to understand him. I saw his


dyes look into mine and knew that I loved him.
He loved me too as much as he could love and
we were married within a month.

HELEN. I remember your coming changed him.

FRANCES. I loved him, but I did not know him.
You are a woman. We understand each other
more easily. We have feelings and intuitions in

HELEN. I am not so sure of that. And at all
events it is not all a question of understanding
as indeed you have been saying.

FRANCES. Perhaps not, but at least one can talk
to another woman as one can never talk to any
man. One has a liberty. We know what we can
give and take what a man expects from us, and
what we expect from a man. We know that.

HELEN. Indeed we do not. All that about give
and take is so much nonsense, I am sure. To be
is more important than to give or to take.

FRANCES. Ah, it comes to the same thing. What
should I have been to him? What should I have
made of him?

HELEN. Why be anything to him but yourself?
Why make anything of him?

FRANCES. It is easy for you to talk. When a
man and a woman marry, they must conform to
each other. Even in ordinary intercourse a man
must conform, must change somewhat and a
woman must conform and change too to make
intercourse right. I think that is the essence of

HELEN. What? Conformity? Social intercourses?

FRANCES. To bring men and women to a common

12 - PAGANS.

standpoint or convention, I suppose that needs
give and take.

HELEN. 1 think you have created a myth.

FRANCES. These are no myth. John Fitzmaurico
is no myth, and he is a man. My failure was that
I was not able either to give enough or to make him

HELEN. Could you not take him as he was 1 ?
Could you not let him be? And let yourself be?

FRANCES. Well, I did not understand men. I
had no brothers. I had no experience of men.

HELEN. I cannot think or talk of people as men
and women always in that way. I cannot think
that it is always a matter of sex or even of the
conventions or social regulations or whatever you
may call them, that depend on sex. I prefer to
think of people as individuals.

FRANCES. Ah, but you cannot help other people
reckoning so. And for that matter you do reckon
so in spite of your theory or your wish. Marriages
are made in heaven that's what it all comes to
whether they are successful marriages or not. Your
individualism is all wrong.

HELEN. Well, I suppose I have not said just what
I intended to say. To my mind the thing that
makes intercourse between people is the free play
of individuality. We should let others be just
what they are. If we don't like that we should
avoid it, I suppose.

FRANCES. Ah, we cannot avoid things so easily.

HELEN. Well, make a sacrifice then. What I was
thinking of was the individuality of two people


that love each other. One will make any sacrifice
rather than ask the other to change, to conform.

FRANCES. And if one cannot make that sacrifice?
If one ought not to? Can you not understand that
one may have an ideal that one may want another
a husband, say to be that ideal that one may see
that he could be so that he is so at times? Is it
wrong to wish him to have no other times no other
moods? He may spoil it by being lower than him-
self. Ah, but what is the good of talking like this?

HELEN. Mrs. Fitzmaurice, I am going for once
to take my courage in my hands and to make a
sacrifice, too. I am going to tell you something
that I have never quite admitted to myself till now.
I loved your husband. He was not my ideal, be-
cause I have never had any ideal beforehand of
anything that I desired. I loved him. I knew
that if I married him I should have accepted him
as he was. I would have cared nothing at all for
the opinions of others. I would have had no
opinions of my own about him as I can truthfully
say I have none about you or others. I would have
gone my way too, and I know that he would not
have interfered with me.

FRANCES. Do you mean to say that you have
discovered all this only now?

HELEN. Oh, no. What I have discovered now is
another thing. Your defect is that ideal you have
been talking about to which you wanted your
husband to conform. It is a defect. It has spoiled
your life. What I have discovered is my defect.
You wanted that man for your husband. You got



him. You took him you don't mind me speaking
so frankly?

FRANCES. Oh, no. It is quite true. I should
never have let him ask me to marry him if I had
not wanted him to do so.

HELEN. Yes. You have that sureness, that
courage. I have not ; I cannot have. It is not in
me. I wanted him, too. I wanted him more than
you did. I knew oh, you will never understand
how certainly I knew that I should marry him
that he and I could go our own ways and yet go
together. And I failed to make him see that.

FRANCES. And what about love?

HELEN. That is love. You have some selfishness
in you. That is your defect. That is what made
you have an ideal for him to conform to. I was
not selfish enough I was not selfish at all. I had
nothing to impose upon him no standard, no
measure. I loved him. I accepted him as he was.
Had he moods and ways that I did not know?
What of it if he had? I would have accepted them
too I would have expected them the heights and
depths. It may sound absurd, but it was because I
loved him so that I let him marry you. He wanted
to, then.

FRANCES. And he? Do you think he was the
man to be chosen in this way to be marked down
in this way by you or by me?

HELEN. Yes, he was. He was something of a
pessimist. You know how he waited for things to
choose themselves. He was a fatalist, who waited
for his destiny. If another took a decisive course
he was willing to let it carry him on, so long as


he did not feel that it was against his nature and
the truth. I knew this in him because I knew it
in myself.

FRANCES. Yes, you are like him too like for
love. You should have been his sister. Have you
ever wished you were his sister ?

HELEN. I have never wished for anything that
was not. That may be why I was not his wife
before he ever saw you. And all that justifies you
too. We cannot be ourselves by halves. You were
yourself in getting him. After you had him you
went on being yourself

FRANCES. And lost him?

HELEN. And lost him or rather drove him away
to find himself again. If things had been right he
would have found himself here.

FRANCES. Was it not selfish of him to go away
according to your way of looking at things?

HELEN. Perhaps so. I suppose, indeed, that .he
is selfish, too and I and every one only all in
different ways.

FRANCES. You have not asked me where he went
when he left here.


FRANCES. He has been wandering about. He
writes to me occasionally every time from a
different place.

HELEN. Yes. I could have known that. I have
been in the one place ever since I left. I am no

FRANCES. I wonder will he find what he Wants
anywhere ?


HKI.KN. What he wants is to be foumJ vci v-
where 1

FRANCES (after a pnvsf). We had no child.

HELEN. And no religion.

FRANCES. Yes. That counted too, I suppose.

HELEN. Yes, it counted in your case.

FRANCES. Ah, well. There's no use in going
over and over one's life. I cannot say I have been,
unhappy these three years. I have kept on my
friendships or rather resumed them. While he
was here my friends did not know quite what to
make of us. He was so peculiar. He talked so
strangely, seeing symbols in common things. And
he never could do the usual things happily. He
never would dine out. At least he did twice.
(Haughtily). And then he was so unhappy about it
that I let him off that. Even those two times he
would not dress for dinner. He had no conversa-
tion about the things that interested us. He could
not dance or play cards or billiards or anything.
No club. His .friends were people in libraries and
societies of antiquaries and things, and revolu-
tionary societies and artists like you.

HELEN. You knew all that before you married

FRANCES. Oh, yes. But somehow I suppose I
expected that we would settle down to life after
marriage. That month before our marriage was
so unlike anything else I had known that I did not
judge by it. And he, too, became quite one of
ourselves for that matter, but after things were

HELEN. You wanted to go back to your way of


life and you could not understand him going back
to his.

FRANCES. Ah, but mine was not mine alone. It
is the way that people live. His was different.
And people began to remark it when I did not go
to things and when I went alone and indeed we
were more remarkable when we went together. I
got to hate it all. I knew how fine he was. Do
not think that I ever regarded him as they did.
No one ever admired a man more. But I hated
them not to admire him, too. And when he was
different from them, and was ill at ease, they were
so nice about it they patronised him. I hated
them for it. But he took it all gently and would
not let me say anything. I knew that he was some-
body and that they were a pack of nobodies. The
whole thing was horrible to rne. These three years
have been almost happy by comparison. They pity
me now.

HELEN. I sympathise sincerely with you, Mrs.

FRANCES (laughing'). Great goodness, I did
not think you capable of saying a commonplace
like that. Oh, yes, it's much pleasanter to be the
deserted wife of a remarkable man than to see one's
husband treated as a parvenu. Well, of course,
you are quite right. There is something wrong
about the whole thing.

HELEN. And do you not wish him back? You
said just now that you did.

FRANCES. I wish him back every hour of the day
and every hour of the night. Why should I not
wish my husband back? And yet ah, I suppose


it would be all the same old thing over again if he
were back the same, or something as bad. I can
see the rights and the wrongs of the matter, but I
have to act in my own way. "What heart and
brain went ever matched?" Is that the right
quotation ?

HELEN. It sounds to me very like what I was
saying just now what you called my individual-
ism. You want to go your own way.

FRANCES. Heaven knows what any of vis wants.
I wonder what did you want when you came to stir
up all these things in me though it was not alto-
gether you either. I was expecting something all
day something with reference to him. Why have
you come just now, this day?

HELEN. My coming to-day was an accident,
believe me as much of an accident as anything
ever is. I have already told you one thing that
1 had not intended to tell you. I will tell you
another thing that I might not have told you. I
saw your husband three days ago.

FRANCES. You have been meeting him? Where?

HELEN. In Paris. Twice.

FRANCES. Why did you not tell me this at first ?
Why do you tell me now ? Tell me the truth. Tell
me all.

HELEN. That is all all the truth everything
there is to tell you.

FRANCES. You saw him?

HELEN. Twice. The first time in the Louvre. He
was looking at the Victory of Samothrace. I was
coming up the stairs.



HELEN. I turned and went away as quietly as
I could. It was like like Robinson Crusoe, find-
ing the footprint in the sand. I went straight
home to my room and shut myself in for the rest
of the evening.

FRANCES. And the second time?

HELEN. Oh, that was weeks after. The morning
after I saw him first I was ridiculing myself for
not going up and speaking to him. I began
actually to look for him then. If I had met him
any time within a week or two I should have spoken
to him. You need not fear that I should have
shown him how I felt for him.

FRANCES. But you did meet him again?

HELEN. Ah, but that was after

FRANCES. After what?

HELEN. After I had come to understand that my
first impulse was right that I should not meet
him. But indeed by that time I had quite decided
that he was not in Paris. I thought that he and
you must have been passing through or staying for
a tew days. I did not know that you were not
living together.

FRANCES. Where did you see him the second

HELEN. In the same spot, looking at the winged
Victory of Samothrace. I was coming up the

FRANCES. And then?

HELEN. And then I did precisely the same thing
over again.

FRANCES. Turned back?

HELEN. Bolted (laughing) and lx>lted myself in,


too. Not that I had the slightest notion that he
had seen me or that he or anyone else was follow-
ing me. I wanted to be alone.

FRANCES. Three days ago you said that was?

HELEN. Three days ago. I knew then that he
must be staying in Paris for a time. I packed up
my things that night. Next morning I sold the
little furniture I had to the concierge, gave up my
room and left. I hardly knew why I came back to
Dublin. It is the only other place I know well
except my native place, and I never go there. I
arrived last night, and here 1 am. (Rising}. Or
rather here I have been. I must be getting off. I
have promised a friend of mine that I met to-day
to go and stay with her for a few days at Howth.
I am due there in an hour, so I had better start. I
am very glad I came to see you.

FRANCES. So am I. Will you not come again?

HELEN. Thanks, but I do not know.
[A ring is heard off.}

FRANCES. Excuse me. Please wait a moment.
(Goes to the door and listens. SARAH opens the
door off. After a moment FRANCES speaks) :

FRANCES. Will you stay here a moment? I want
to see if that is a visitor I was expecting. That
stupid girl may have shown her into another room.

HELEN. Yes, but I am going. I'll just slip right

FRANCES. No, no. Sta'y, please one moment.

[Exit FRANCES. HELEN alone, puzzled. After a

minute or two re-enter FRANCES excited.]

FRANCES. I'm so sorry for having kept you.


Good-bye and thanks for calling. I've enjoyed our
conversation so much.

HELEN (smiling}. Enjoyed? I thought it a very
serious conversation.

FRANCES. I mean, of course, it was so kind of
you. You won't mind my asking* you not to allude
to our conversation 1

HELEN. Allude to -it? Of course not. How could

FRANCES. I mean to John to Fitzmaurice in
case you meet him again in Paris or anywhere.

HELEN. Oh, you need not ask me to promise that.
It is not likely that I shall see him or speak to him.
Besides I am not going back to Paris. I am stay-
ing here. And at all events we should hardly pour
out our hearts to each other. So you see I need
not promise and you need not worry. Good after-
noon and thanks.

FRANCES. You are not offended, I hope?

HELEN. Oh, not at all, believe me.. I am very
glad to have had such a conversation. Good-bye.
[FRANCES shows her out, going to hall-door with
her. Then returns. Stands with her hand to her
mouth. Sings for SARAH. Enter SARAH.]

FRANCES. Well, Sarah?

SARAH. It's the master, ma'am. He asked if you
were in, and said he would come down as soon as
the visitor was gone.

FRANCES. He did not know who was here?

SARAH. No, ma'am.

FRANCES. Well, Sarah, you must not trouble him
by telling him.

SARAH. Of course not, ma'am.


FRANCES. Well, you may tell him that I'm alone
now. (SARAH turns to go). And, Sarah have you
asked him if he would have anything to eat?

SARAH. Yes, ma'am. He said he had just had
something. I told him you were going to have tea.

FRANCES. He will have tea with me.

SARAH. Yes, ma'am.
[Exit SARAH. Pause. FRANCES stands centre

expectant, her back to the door. Suddenly she

(joes to armchair down left and arranges a

cushion in it. Then resumes her expectant posi-
tion, centre. Enter JOHN FITZMAURICE.]

JOHN. Frances !


[They kiss Once, formally.]

FRANCES. Welcome home.

JOHN. It's very good of you to say that, Frances.
It's very good of you to have that study upstairs


Online LibraryThomas MacDonaghPagans : a modern play in two conversations → online text (page 1 of 2)